Actium

By @warmachinerox
Actium

When a terrorist attack on a space station separates Caleb from his friend, he is left to fend for himself on an old cargo ship with a pickpocket, a mercenary, a spy, and a pilot who seems to completely detest him.

Chapter 1

Journal 1

Day 29, Month 10, 1011

           There was a new girl in class today. I would write down the planet she said she was from but I can’t spell it out, let alone, pronounce it right. Our first class today was history, and she definitely made an impression there this morning. In retrospect, it probably was not the best first impression for a planetary exchange student, but she got my attention for sure…

           The bell had rang to signal the start of class for the morning. Mrs. Karry was taking her usual morning attendance record for the class as she looked up from the clipboard to scan each row of seats for possible missing students. When she got to the last row of desks and marked off the one lazy kid that always seemed to be skipping class, she turned her stern looking gaze to the new girl, who she chose to seat right in front of me, and gave her a very welcoming smile; she may have had her fooled, but the rest of us could see straight through the ********. She was warm and welcoming to newcomers, but she was a witch to those she learned not to like.

           “Good morning, class,” she said to the whole room, “I would like to bring your attention to a new student we have today…” she pointed to the chair in front of me and ushered the girl to stand up, “She is an exchange student, and I would like you all to allow her to introduce herself. Come un up here, my dear.”

           We’re sorta new to the whole student-planetary-exchange program, or whatever the Galactic Federation called it. Apparently it was a common practice among most star systems but our planet never really joined in despite countless invitations. Maybe we were just the xenophobic race or we just didn’t share the same interest in it that all the other planets did. Nonetheless, Gaia, our planet, seems to be a planet of interest for other students around the galaxy.

           We all, naturally, began to chatter amongst ourselves as the new girl walked up to the front of the room to introduce herself. Despite being in a “ready” position to speak to us, she quietly waited for everyone to stop speaking. Whether out of politeness or just proper upbringing, she definitely had a lot more patience than I would have had if I was in her position.

           “Class!” Mrs. Karry spoke up, “She is waiting patiently for you to shut up, please let her speak.”

           “Thank you, Mrs. Karry,” The new girl said in a quiet voice. She looked up at the class and brushed her light hair away from her bright purple eyes. “Hello everyone!” she greeted with a big smile, she was clearly not as shy as anyone was expecting; it was certainly a contrast to her meek gesture to the teacher, “My name is Saphron Diaz. I am from Axis—well actually its moon, Karrijeeki, in the Farra Prime system—but I normally attend school on the planet. I decided I wanted to go to school here for a semester because Gaia is a lesser known planet and less talked about throughout the galaxy and I thought it would be interesting to see for myself.” I was surprised in how confident she seemed in her speech. I would have expected a foreign species, or race or whatever, to be more cautious with her words, but apparently Axians are not unlike us, very outspoken and they even look like us—except for those giant purple eyes, of course, but that’s a different story. “I also have a big interest in intragalactic cultural studies and I think it would be fascinating to learn about Human culture.” She gave a shallow bow to signal the end of her introduction and returned to her seat.

           “Thank you, Saphron,” Mrs. Karry said before abruptly changing the topic, “Now that we got that out of the way, it is time for a little history. Since we spend so much time talking about Earth history, I thought, since Landing Day is approaching us this weekend, we would spend a day talking about our journey from Earth to Gaia.”

           …And right about here is where it all started falling apart. I loved history. I could spend all my life learning about people like Martin Luther King Jr. and Ronald Reagan and all the good things they did for the world. I love learning about all the, what was considered, abnormal craziness of President Trump or the hypocrisy of ****** and the *****. I even love all kinds of entertainment that they had way back then on Earth. The one thing I hated most in history classes, though, was the yearly lecture about Landing Day. Don’t get me wrong, the actual holiday and festivities are awesome and never last long enough, but the history behind it always bothered me; and clearly I was not the only one bothered by it today…

           “As you all know, after so many years of exposure to a vast amount of knowledge, we humans are not native to this planet nor this galaxy. We came from Earth,” Mrs. Karry began her lecture; I wouldn’t say it was the cheesiest introduction she ever started a lesson with but it was certainly up there. “But why did we come from Earth? Why did we travel such a vast distance from our home to end up here on Gaia? Can anyone suggest an answer to us?” She paused about fifteen seconds looking around the room at the very few hands that were actually raised up. We all knew the answer to her question (the information had been ground into our brains from birth) but actually answering felt like too much of a redundancy. “Ah, Liam, what do you have?” She said looking to one of the boys in the front row who was a try-hard to put it lightly.

           “Humans were using up all the resources on Earth,” the kid answered, “The resources necessary to our society like oil and natural gas were being used up faster than they could be renewed. That, combined with the countless futile attempts to lower pollution in the atmosphere, led to total war on a global scale.” Good God, the kid definitely was a know-it-all; I don’t even think he took a breath in lengthy sentence.

           “That is correct, Liam,” Mrs. Karry replied, “Our entire society on Earth fell into a massive global war over the thinning resources. After several years of constant destruction of the different nations over resources that we simply refused to find alternatives for, several allied nations, most notably, the United States, China, and Russia, pooled together their efforts into what would become the largest and most advanced space exploration vehicle in our history, The Deliverance. The massive machine was constructed in space and, over the course of ten years, was completed even after countless delays due to sabotage and attacks from other warring nations. Many citizens from the collaborating countries were selected to live on The Deliverance as it set off to locate a new world were humans could thrive without the terror of war. It was just over a thousand years ago that they stumbled across this galaxy and the Planet we now know as Gaia.”

           “How did they supply the ship long enough to make it here?” One of the students in the back of the room asked, “I mean, they had to have been using a ton of resources for however many years it took them to get here and food and water would be used up quickly by so many people.”

           “That’s a good question, Blake. The reality is that only the flight crew ever used any of the resources. All of the passengers were subjected to cryogenic stasis for the entirely of the voyage so the only people that needed food or water were the flight crew. To account for how long the voyage took, each flight crew took turns going in and out of the cryogenic stasis every few years so that they could all rotate their duties.”

           Immedieately when the teacher finished her explanation, Saphron’s hand shot up in the air.

           “Yes, Saphron?” Mrs. Karry acknowledged.

           “How exactly did your people manage to make it here in the first place?” The new girl asked.

           “I’m not sure I understand your question, Saphron.”

           “No one in the history of our galaxy has ever been able to create a ship that could survive the voyage to another galaxy, the distance is just too far.”

           “But here we are,” Mrs. Karry began, and we have kept the ship logs from the voyage. Unfortunately, the actual construction records of the Deliverance became corrupted during a series of complications that arose during our landing, but we are here so clearly we must have had very skilled engineers.” It was almost as if she did not want to answer her question.

           It became even clearer with Saphron’s next argument that she was a skeptic; not that I blamed her, I sometimes questioned the stories of the Deliverance myself, but Saphron definitely tried to stir up a controversy, “Doesn’t it seem odd to you that your civilization has never been able to duplicate the technology used on your Deliverance?”

           “What use would we have for such a ship now?” Mrs. Karry challenged, “We are right at home here on Gaia and we have no need to travel such vast intergalactic distances again.”

           “Yes but that technology, in general, could still be useful to you and you don’t even try to use it when you could easily compete with spacecraft manufacturers like InterStar. We have single pilot spacecraft that are more advanced than your entire public transit system and what you call a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ trip to your moon I call a daily commute.”

           Although I couldn’t disagree with Saphron’s argument, I couldn’t help but feel she had gone a little too far with it. Throughout her qualm with our history, I could visibly see Mrs. Karry’s eyes get wider, and those weird looking veins just above her wrinkled temples began bulging out slightly with aggravation.

           “Are you doubting the history of the very civilization you came here to study, Ms. Diaz?”

           “I don’t mean to, it’s just that something doesn’t seem like it adds up,” Saphron’s demeanor very quickly turned to the defensive as she could clearly make out our teacher’s irritation.

           “For someone who wishes to learn about the native cultures of other worlds, it seems you have a thing or two to learn about respect for their history and why they exist in the first place.”

           There was one thing we all learned in our school through the years that Saphron never had the chance to figure out until know; and that was that you never get on Mrs. Karry’s bad side. It was even worse in regards to the widely known fact in our class the Mrs. Karry was also a very staunch believer that everything written in the history books was absolute fact, even when there was no empirical evidence to back anything up. But even through Saphron’s simple lack of understanding, I think she was a little harsh on her.

           I didn’t see the new girl much the rest of the day; must have had a different class schedule or something. I did happen to see her at lunch though, and not to my surprise, or anyone else’s probably, she was sitting alone at a corner table with her tray full of school cafeteria food. As I had mentioned before, I didn’t exactly think she was in the right to openly attempt to discredit our history in front of the whole class. Regardless, I was very intrigued by her willingness to do so, so I dropped my bagged lunch down across from her and sat down to have a chat.

           “That was quite a show earlier today,” I told her as I brushed the filth of the chair that probably hadn’t been washed in two or three days.

           “Come again?” She replied.

           “History,” I raised my eyebrows back at her. I was somewhat surprised she didn’t make that connection at first.

           “Oh,” she continued to stare at the table for a moment before shifting her vivid purple eyes straight into mine, “Listen, I am so sorry if you took that the wrong way before. I never wanted to offend anybody, it’s just that—”

           “So, maybe you shouldn’t have brought that up right in the middle of class like that,” I could see her spirits lowering slightly, “but I can guarantee you that you are not the only skeptic on this planet.”

           “You question your own history?”

           “Earth history is just fine, it makes perfect sense,” I began, “Gaia history also makes perfect sense, for the most part. What doesn’t make sense to me is how or why we ended up on this planet in the first place.”

           “Because the technology doesn’t exist,” She answered while firmly reiterating the claim she made in class.

           “You did bring up a good point. It does seem strange that even the most advanced societies in your Galactic Federation don’t even have the technology to travel between galaxies. My issue comes more or less from the combination of circumstance and coincidence in regards to our planet now.”

           “Go on,” she told me eagerly as I was pausing to think of how I wanted to word my thoughts.

           “The way it was always explained to us over the years, it never seemed like the crew of the Deliverance ever had a plan in place to begin with. It kinda begs the question as to why, of all galaxies in the universe, this is the one we ended up at. Furthermore, this is a very populated galaxy, much more so than the Milky Way, so why is it that, one, we chose a planet that was not already populated, and two, how the planet we chose just happened to be completely habitable and completely unclaimed at the same time.”

           “That does seem a little strange,” she agreed.

           “Saphron, right?” I asked, making sure I remember her name right.

           “Yeah,” She smiled in return.

           “Caleb Sheppard,” I introduced, “Something tells me you and I are going to get along just fine.”

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