The year is 2120 and you are attending Space Camp. You are going on a field trip to Eccos-1 30 light-years away from Earth. The trip aboard the Katy J. transport takes 30 days traveling at 10 times the speed of light. You spend most of the transit time asleep in hibernation. The plan is when you get to Eccos-1, you will help guide the landing craft on its descent and spend 3 weeks on the ground exploring the vast national park and attending classes on xenobiology at Space Camps research facility.
You awake from hibernation to the smell of ozone, a sign that the fire suppression systems have gone off. You look around and see other members of your Space Camp class waking up and walking around confused.
I don’t know much more than that, but I can't help but feel apprehensive not knowing what could be lurking in the shadows. I feel eyes on me. Can it be a rescue party? I dismiss that idea quickly, knowing that we are way off course and far beyond the boundary of our current mission. Could it be an unknown native population? Maybe. Could it be a threat? I don’t know. Do I have time to figure any of that out? No! We have more pressing issues at hand.
I hear the sound of people arguing down the corridor.
“Where are we, Sally? It was your job to do the jump calculation,” Juliette shouts as she pounds a dead console.
“I did them right. I check my work. I did them right,” Sally said in a calm emotionless voice, apparently in shock.
“You’ve killed us all,” Juliette shouted.
“I did them right. It wasn’t me. It's not my fault,” Sally continued as she backed away from the console on the pedestal, let herself slide down along the adjacent wall, and hug her knees.
I take a step toward her, my emotions equally raw when my foot kicks something across the floor. I catch my breath, reach down with a small prayer, and pick up the tablet like device.
“It works!” I say with a smile as the tablet lights up.
“What?” Juliett asked, still sounding frustrated.
“A Gentotmatrix!, We should be able to check all of the ship’s systems with this,” I said.
“Good. Start a scan to see what we’ve got to work with,” Juliett ordered.
I wasn’t sure who put her in charge, but it was the right plan of action so I kept my mouth shut and initiated the scan.
“Hey, guys. What’s going on here?” Charles said while pushing some dangling cables out of the way and letting Izzy pass under his arm.
“We’ve got a Gentotmatrix,” I said holding up the pad as it cycled through the systems.
“You find anyone else?” Juliett asked.
“No, but I did find one massive hole in the hull.” Charles gestured behind him.
“Okay. We’ll have to find a way to patch that,” she replied.
“I’m not sure what we’re going to use.” Charles began.
“Guys, guys,” I said to get their attention and turned the pad around to show them, “I won’t matter. The rest of the ship isn’t here.”
The image from the scanner shows a diagram of all the systems it was connected to, and it appears the only part of the ship to crash was our pod.
Hina suddenly appears out of the smoke from a nearby corridor. “Well, we’re really in a mess.”
“You could say that,” Juliett said.
“I found a communication panel and got a message to the captain. He said we were struck by a meteorite and tumbled out of light speed, and our pod broke off due to the high G’s. The rest of the ship is in orbit,” Hina reported.
“That’s great news,” Charles interjects.
“They can come get us,” Izzy says, a bit of relief in her voice.
“Not, quite. The only reason the ship wasn’t destroyed was because we took the impact in the service shuttle… It's been destroyed. Captain Chang said we need to get to an abandoned military installation about 50 miles from here. He said there might be an old shuttle or at least a shelter and supplies we could use until someone answers the distress call.”
“Okay then. We should take a look outside and find some supplies,” Charles says, shrugging his shoulders.
The five of us walk through the corridors filled with smoldering circuits as Charles leads us back toward the opening in the side of the pod. I take a deep breath as I step down from the metal remnants of the hull onto the mixture of mud and torn up grass surrounding the ship. The air feels remarkably clear compared to the ozone filled air of our crashed vessel.
“Look,” Sally says, pointing toward two figures heading our way.
The blue trademark of our jumpsuits stands out from the surrounding, letting us identify it quickly. It must be the remaining members of our team, Gerado and Aadesh.
“Did you guys find anything?” Juliett asks.
“I climbed up on top of the wreckage and took a look. We crashed in a valley with two large mountains on both sides, but I couldn't see any snow on top of them. There are few trees around the crash site and even fewer in the valley. However, it was clear enough to see where the valley went. If you looked south down the valley, you can see dense forest, and the north is a massive plain. You can see a river running along the valley floor and it appears to flow into a much larger body of water, like a bay or massive lake,” says Gerado, pointing in the directions as he explained the landmarks.
“Well, that's great. The message from Captain Chang says that the body of water on the other side is the abandoned base we need to head to,” Hina adds.
“Well, I’ve been doing a bit of scavenging,” says Aadesh, setting the bag on the ground. “So far I’ve found a small toolkit, flashlights, some two-way communicators, and an antique laptop.”
“I don’t think you need to drag that around,” says I.
“Contraire, my friend. An old piece of tech like this is great for tapping into other systems since it doesn’t have those modern protocols,” says Aadesh. “We could probably use it to hack into any long-distance comm at this old base if we have to.”
“How far is it to the base?” asks Gerado.
“About 50 miles,” Hina answers.
“50?” he replies.
“It could be worse. We could have been attacked by space pirates,” Charles suggests.
“Don’t. Don’t just jinx us like that,” says Izzy, letting Charles know why he punched him in the arm.
“It looks like the sun is going to set in about an hour and we don’t know how cold it's going to get,” states Juliett. “We need to gather some firewood and probably build it by the entrance. It hopefully deters any animals from venturing too close.”
“Yes, ma'am,” says Gerado, offering a salute.
“Who put her in charge?” Charles asks.
“I guess she did it herself,” Hina answers. “She’s the one coming up with ideas, so why not?”
Charles eventually just shrugs and shakes his head, knowing it is easier to go along for now.
Looking around the wreckage, a few things become apparent. First of all, Sally, being a technology expert, and Hina, having a knack as to how contraptions work, will become extremely useful. On the other hand, Izzy, who is a chatterbox, and Juliette, who is lazy, won’t bring much to the table and will probably become dead weight and slow us down. Juliette is also not the best person during these situations; she complains too much and gets on everyones’ nerves. She is also scared to leave the crash site because she is hopeless and has doubts about the mission. Izzy agrees with her. While Gerado is by far the best in xenobiology, he has little confidence in himself. Charles and Aadesh aren’t idiots, but Charles has a tendency to boss people around, and Aadesh will rather work by himself than with others.
After resting, it is time for an exploration. A couple of my classmates and I decide to go out and explore the wildlife. I, along with Hina, Gerado, and Charles, start our exploration not that far from where we are. Since we are in a type of rainforest, we expect to find typical animals, but we also have no idea what we can find given the fact that we are on a different planet. We see a couple of birds,--we know they are birds because they are flying--but they look nothing like our birds. Hina is a bit further from us. As we hear her scream, we rapidly run to where she is and ask her what’s wrong.
“You didn’t see it?” Hina asks. We disagree with our heads, and she proceeds to explain. “I saw this big, weird animal running really fast. When it saw me, it stopped for a few seconds to look at me, and I took a glance at it and realized what it was.” Hina stops and there’s a long pause before she continues, “It looked like a lion. A big one with... wings I guess. And horns! I freaked out. That’s why I screamed.”
“Where is it now?” Gerado asks.
“I don’t know. When I started screaming, it took off.” We are all shocked and decide to go back with the others for today.
As I look around at the endless rainforest surrounding us, I realize we are not exactly dressed for this weather. My army green cargo pants begin to feel heavier and my boots are making me sweat. The whole crew is required to wear the same uniform to make us more united. I roll up the sleeves of my blue long sleeves and pull my hair into a ponytail. The Eccos-1 is supposed to have a cooler climate than whatever planet this is, so our clothes aren’t ideal.
From what I see, we land in what seems like a tropical rainforest. It is very humid, but it feels to be of room temperature. It has probably just rained from how wet it is outside. When I first saw it, I thought it was just a regular forest. That is until I feel the atmosphere’s humidity.
Walking around and exploring this strange land, I find a really large bay that seems really sandy. I'm really insecure to tell my friends to cross it since I'm not sure what is hiding underneath. Another really weird fact that scares me is that the water is not clear… It seems to be light green. From here, I can see something moving inside, but I can’t really tell what it is. I feel like it is something really big. I'm trying to call my friends, but they can't hear me. I'm too far away from them. I may have to walk all the way there and bring them here.
We get to the point where we have to make a decision. Cut across or take 3 days to walk. Sally thinks that we should walk, but Charles thinks we should build a boat, then cross to make things quicker. They start to argue as to which solutions will be best. I give them my input. “Guys, I think building a boat is the best way to get us out of here. It may take some time, but frankly, if we walk, I don’t think everyone will make it.”
Sally says, “Okay, I guess. But it will take us about a day to build this boat.”
“Yes it will. That’s why we should start doing it now,” I explain.
Looking across the horizon, I notice some trees and reeds peeking to a great bay. I am able to acquire the reeds and make rope, but the trees need to be cut down first. I search aimlessly for something that could chop down the trees. Suddenly, I see something glistening in the grass. It looks like some kind of weapon, but it’s dull. Luckily, there’s a rock nearby, and I’m able to sharpen the blade. Despite its size, it manages to cut the trees. With that, I assemble a raft using the trunks and reeds. There is even a large cloth of sorts floating in the bay. I use it to make a makeshift sail.
I hear someone yell, and a splash follows shortly. I turn around and look into the unknown bay to see Sally drenched in who-knows-what. We don’t know what could be in the water, so we will have to get her out quickly and without risking another one falling in. Charles and Hina find a rope that we can use to pull her out. For all we know, there can be massive alien sharks craving to dig their razor sharp teeth into some soft human flesh. Everyone grabs the rope and manages to pull her up before anything worse can happen.
We reluctantly decide to explore the ruins. After having a heated debate on whether we should go or not, Charles, Sally, and I notice that the ruins seem to be harmless and empty from afar. It looks like no one has been there in thousands of years. I start to wonder what has happened to the people who once lived here. We have to travel through the thick, dense jungle. Charles leads the way. He starts clearing a pathway with a machete. The trees seem to be very sappy, purple, and with silver glowing leaves. Each time Charles cuts through the trees, the sap sticks to his machete. After an hour-long trek, we reach a beautiful grand entrance to the ruins. Through the doorway, we can see several temples.
I’ve decided to take the two strongest people in our group, Charles and Sally. We approach the ruins this planet has to offer. Upon arriving, I notice that the ruins have this mystical feel to it- like in Zelda games. The architecture seems to be mainly made out of stone and marble with all sorts of plants growing around them. It almost seems… abandoned? As if civilians used to thrive here millennials ago. We walk towards the rugged architecture, and Sally notices that there are many different temples that lead underground; into the unknown. We dare not go into the temples. Instead, we take a picture and save our location to [hopefully] come back later.
Because these ruins are so archaic, trees and bushes have taken over these lands. There are many different creatures that have made these ancient relics their home. We have been walking for a while now. We find ourselves trudging along massive mountains where we then discover a part of the ruins that looks absolutely jaw-dropping from on top of this mountain. It was a vast open area with the brightest grayish-white buildings I, personally, have ever seen. Turquoise outlines these buildings to make the colors pop. Small broken statues of creatures unknown to us are scattered throughout this ‘city’. At the center of this vast area lies yet another statue but this one is different. The statue is of some sword wielding human hybrid pointing it towards the various moons plaguing the sky. It seems to have some sort of symbolism, but we can’t figure out what it can possibly mean. Charles, Sally, and I have come to the conclusion that people must have lived on this planet millennia ago, but have already left the planet. We have also concluded that this particular ruin holds a lot of religious meaning and value to the fallen people, and it's almost saddening to see that this place is no longer populated.
As I walk through the ruins, the strange aroma of the ocean and the sound of rocks being thrown against a hollow wall echo from within. I continue walking until I can hear slight whispers from behind a large boulder about 30 meters from my current position. I straddle close to the rock faced wall, as I don't want to be seen by whatever lay beneath these ruins. My hands run against the rough surface and my breaths become deeper and deeper as my heart begins to pound with a sense of unknowingness. It looks like a bunch of neanderthals who have been sitting here mating all day long without leaving the ruins.
I look at them and yell, “HEY! I’m kind of hungry. Do you know where the nearest McDonald’s is?”
With glazed eyes, they turn towards my direction and start screaming in some unknown language. I close my eyes as I come to figure that they don't know what a McDonalds is. I start to weep, and they cradle me with their hairy arms and make me one of their own.
While walking towards the base, we are able to see a tower. Some of us immediately started to wonder what is inside. what are we going to find there? Maybe some wildlife or it can also just be a bunch of empty rooms. What we are sure of is that we all want to find hope and supplements to survive this crash. When we arrive, all we can see is a huge plain white tower, with some windows here and there and a single door acting as both the entrance and the exit.
From our perspective, it seems to be abandoned. The appearance of the structure is somewhat spooky. The paint is worn, some windows are broken, and no lights are visibly on. We all asks ourselves thousands of questions regarding that building,
At that time, Hina said, “Why don't we stop guessing and explore the place?” Everyone agrees that was the best thing to do.
Gerado asks with a terrified face, “What if we meet hostile people inside the building?”
I tell him, “If we do not, we will not know if they exist. Our survival heavily depends on exploring the base and what we can find in it..
Charles emphasizes agreeing with my plan.
As we approach the base, Sally and I are in front. The rest of the group are about three meters behind, but around ten meters away from the main door, a bell rings. The elevator suddenly works. This horrifies us because the elevator looks like it is broken and there are no lights in the corridor. At that moment, my partner, Charles, quickly moves towards the elevator door. After staring at us, he stands still, eyeing the metal door.
Two seconds later, the door opens. We can not see what was inside, but my partner can. His face announces the signs of terror that sleep within the machine.
He does not answer us.
“Charles, what is happening?” Hina asked?
None of us move, and my companion looks back into the darkness inside the elevator without reacting. The elevator closes, but Charles keeps staring at the door. Then, he turns his face and I can see a tear rolling down his cheek, the expression of fear still fresh. Now, I am the one who can’t react. At that moment, our companion turns quickly towards us, then runs with a terrified expression, as if he has seen a ghost.
While exploring the abandoned base, our team gets split up. Once Charles comes back running with terror in his eyes, we know something is up. Once he collects himself and is calm enough to speak, he explains that he has found a shuttle south of this abandoned base. He has seen that it too has also crashed and is still smoking. That means that the crash has happened recently. The cockpit has chairs that fits the average size of a human, but he isn’t sure if the shuttle even looks like it belongs to our human race. His first reaction is to come get us before something else gets him. We then have decided to head out and see what this shuttle really has to offer.
Upon arriving at the base, we decide to search for anything that could be of use. We split up and search different levels. Charles has the task of searching the underground levels. He finds an outdated shuttle in an abandoned hangar. The shuttle appears to be a prototype from a few decades ago. Several components are missing or broken but it isn’t beyond repair.
The lightspeed engines have overheated from being used for too long. Being overheated, it causes further damage to some of the fuel lines, which are barely intact. To fix the fuel lines, we can reinforce them with a steel plate on its sides to prevent further damage to the gas lines. For now, we have to avoid using the lightspeed engines to help them cool down.
The shuttle pilot has used all of its fuel when it is hit by the meteorite. The diver also has to find a safe place to land while it is getting repaired. While they are doing that, I go towards the abandoned base to find resources. While I’m walking around, I have found a lot of jet fuel. The jet fuel can take us straight back home, so I grab it, as well as the other resources. I, then, have taken it into the ship.
“Hey, do you think we should launch or not?” asks Charles. “It is a critical decision. If we decide to launch, do we have to do it right away or will we do it later on?”
“We think there’s no need to wait,” Sally and I say in chorus. “We have to do it now.”
“There is a chance that it would explode as soon as we start the engine so we have to be careful,” reminds Asdesh.
“Whatever we do has to be right and will not harm anyone,” Hina chips in.
“So, are we doing it?” asks Charles.
“Yes,” everybody replies in unison.
I try switching the engine on, but it doesn’t want to start. It seems that the engines are still damaged and need to be repaired. Charles quickly exits the shuttle to fix the engine for take off, but a storm suddenly appears on the radar. It’s quickly coming towards the shuttle. Charles races towards the storm. He is blasted by a strong gust of wind and hangs on to the shuttle. At last, he has finished fixing the engine. I reach my hand out to him and pull him into the shuttle. We are ready to take off before the storm creates any further damage.
Suddenly, one of the engine’s plugs exploded slightly. I can see that the engine is not gonna work without that component. Instead of panicking, I have decided to ask my companion. Charles has an extra engine plug. He quickly gets out of the ship to put the new plug into the engine. The storm is very quick, but we, somehow, get the ship out of this planet’s atmosphere.
The shuttle is flying smoothly for a while, but it suddenly starts to judder. We don’t know what to do, and we are flabbergasted when we have heard a piece of the shuttle detach. It starts to make some unusual thumping and clumping noises. The shuttle is rocking and swaying, but it suddenly stops, as if nothing has happened. We are on a smooth ride again. Though we are relieved, we have taken caution as to what might happen next.