T2Z2 — CHAPTER 2 — ARRIVAL

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This is a new short story that I am working on. A group of young adults has been sent to a new plant for crimes committed, to find adventure or to escape the dying Earth. #LGBT focus. A story of discovery, identity and finding new love in a remote, unexplored planet. Survival is key.

For the second time, I emerged from the darkness, the familiar humming of the space shuttles’ engines had become somewhat of an alarm clock for me. However, this time, was different. For one I knew exactly where I was and how I happened to be here, but secondly, and quite obvious was the group of six faces looking down at me. All with the same worried expression across their faces.

“He’s coming round.”

“Give him some space” I heard the girl who called out hello earlier say. “We don’t want to scare him unconscious again.”

“Yes, move back, let him get some breathing space. He doesn’t need all of you gawking at him. That’s enough to make anyone pass out.” I recognised that voice too, it was the guy who spoke earlier, the one who sounded to be of similar age to me, but I didn’t see his face amongst the others. “We need to get ready for landing, I’ve checked a few of these monitors, and it looks like we are just under an hour away from our destination.”

“Where ever that is!” another boy called out.

“Home” a girl responded, “And you’re gonna love it.”

“How can you be so sure about that, Clare? You haven’t even seen the place yet.”

“Well, when you’ve got your big sister lookin’ out for you, you don’t need much else. Besides anything is bound to be better than that dump we left behind. So it‘ll be difficult not to love it, right?”

I propped myself up and saw the owner of the two voices.   Instantly you could tell they were related. Both had dark red, almost maroon hair. The girl, Clare, had hair which was cut at shoulder length. The boy had short hair, it was spiked fashionably. Both were very slender, and the black clothing made them look much slimmer than they probably were. Although slight in build they had an athletic look about them, with sun-kissed skin. They must have spent a lot of time outdoors. They were both the same height and honestly had Clare not mentioned that she was older, I would have thought them to be twins. Unless they were twins and Clare was born first. That train of thought ended abruptly with an interruption.

“Well, we will soon find out. Forty-five minutes until atmosphere breach and it will be a quick, downward journey from there.”

The Atmosphere breach meant we had arrived at our destination. Known as Colony T2Z2. The second test planet in zone two. The Global Government of Earth had been sending test flights to potential colonies for a number of years.

Seventy-five percent of Earth’s surface had become uninhabitable, resulting in the majority of the population being concentrated in the few remaining cities, known commonly as the Metro Cities. When the Global Government was established there were Six Metro Cities, but overtime, four of these had been abandoned by the government, leaving the inhabitants to fend for themselves. The two remaining Metro Cities reaped an unfair proportion of the resources.   The Earth’s natural resources were already at levels so low that it was close to impossible to support the current population of Earth needless to say with the governments repopulation plans. Even with the endeavours of the government, maintaining law and order outside of the Metro Cities had become increasingly more difficult and the shadow of a new Global War always lingered at the forefront of many minds.

The New Home project was launched with two objectives, decrease the number of bodies to support on Earth, and secondly and probably most importantly find a new home or homes for the Human Race. Each shuttle mission which was sent from Earth contained eight passengers, some were looking for an adventure, to make a name for themselves. Others saw it as an opportunity to escape poverty and a challenging life back on Earth though in reality there was no guarantee that the destination planets would be any better than what was left behind. Finally, there were those being sent as punishment. Crimes such as murder were dealt with more harshly back on Earth, but for the crimes of inconvenience for the government, these were always answered with a seat on the next shuttle off-world. Our shuttle was the last to be sent to T2Z2

We didn’t know how many shuttles had been sent previously to T2Z2, perhaps none, and we were the last and only shuttle to be sent. We had no idea what sort of planet we were being sent to, other than it had an atmosphere that supported human life. Indigenous life if any, was to be identified and reported once we arrived. Vegetation was to be sampled to determine if it was suitable for food.  

With more of my memory returning I could recall that we had all received training in various aspects, basic survival, to ensure we lasted more than one night on any planet we had been sent to. Combat training for defence and offense, should it be necessary. Construction skills and some relatively straightforward science training, covering physics, biology, and chemistry. Each shuttle also included a data library for future learning or research, should a situation arise when additional information was required to ensure continued survival or growth. Enough to help us survive providing the destination planet had a suitable climate, useful resources and an environment that could sustain life. If not we had no means of leaving, and there would be no rescue. We all hoped for the best.

An alert sounded throughout the circular room. Blue lights flashed as a calm computerised female voice spoke.

“Attention Colonists, Shuttle Pulse Orbit, Mark 2 is approaching planetary atmosphere breach in thirty seconds. Ensure safety life harnesses are securely fastened and prepare for atmosphere entry. Atmosphere breach in twenty-five seconds.”

There was the sound of a few panicked shuffles about the room as the others returned to their stasis pods. I could feel that there were straps of a tough material around my shoulders and across my waist. The re-entry harness I assumed.   The others climbed back into their chambers and refastened the security belts.

“Ten”

The shuttle started to vibrate as we approached the atmosphere of T2Z2, the gentle humming noise that had become the ambient background was now more like a rumbling and roaring as the shuttle hurtled towards the planet’s surface.

“Five”

It was at this point that I realised the worst of the re-entry was still to come. the forty-five-second descent.

“Two”

“Woooo” one of the other guys screamed!

“One”

There was a deafening boom in the room as our shuttle made atmosphere breach. The vibrating was intense, and nothing would have been able to prepare anyone for this experience, other than the experience itself.

The humming was now a high pitched whistling.

“Landing Phase in 30 Seconds” The computerised voice called out, with an eerily calm tone. Although it was almost difficult to hear the other noises in the chamber.

I could hear others scream, and shout. Some with exhilaration, a few sounded intensely afraid. I didn’t know if I was excited or terrified, perhaps both.

“Twenty seconds until target surface.”

Twenty-five seconds of this shaking, rumbling, roaring in my ears had already passed, it felt like it had been much longer, my vision was shaking, and the only thing I could focus on was the pulsing blue lights. Dark for a second, blue for a second.

“fifteen seconds.” The pneumatic hissing sounds of values opening and closing, levers and gears moving and various parts of machinery moving into different positions sounded alongside the roaring, creating a deafening mechanical orchestra.

“Ten Seconds. Landing gear deployed prepared for landing phase.”

The computerised voice could easily have described the next phase of this journey as back pulling, stomach wrenching, muscles twisting and pulling experience of torture. The Shuttle came to an almost complete stop as the landing boosters activated.

The calm voice continued. “landing in Five, four, three, two.” There was a thud.

“Landing completed. System checks initiating” a brief moment of silence followed. “All systems functional. Starting Colonist status check.” more silence. “All colonist at healthy levels. Planetary checks initiating. Confirmation of planetary atmosphere positive, environmental evaluation, positive. All checks complete. Activating Colonisation program 1.”

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