In the shadow of the stolen light
“And I’ll come with you.”
“If the operation is approved, the level of personnel competence shall be A-4,” clarified her companion.
“I have A-2, it is more than enough.”
“What about the project? Weren’t you writing a report about the Lactians?”
“It’s ready!” Lora was grinning contentedly. “There’s nothing that can keep me back!”
The expedition team of five was quickly appointed by Doctor Blake. Three of them were Paul’s crew members accompanied by an expert from the Universe Exploration lab and, finally, a junior Council member, Lora Merion. In only a matter of hours, all of them set off on a journey in a small shuttle.
Having entered the coordinates of their destination, Paul switched on the autopilot and slightly stretched his body placing his hands behind his head.
“Are we entering hyperspace?” Lora glanced at the panoramic view opening from the front part of the shuttle, dashing into the endless darkness of the space.
“Yes, without the speed of light it would take forever to get there,” chuckled the young man.
“I see,” the girl nodded, “I just can’t wait… I want to know who or what is in there so much! It’s been more than 200 years since we last contacted home.”
“You’re probably the only one who calls Earth ‘home’,” grinned Paul.
“I can’t help it,” admitted Lora honestly.
“We lost our home,” said Jane Forest, the lab expert, who sat next to Lora, compassionately patting her on the shoulder. “The time will come when we’ll find a new home; a place where we can live in harmony and build our future without fear that someone may encroach on our way of thinking, abuse our knowledge or use it to their profit.”
“But people on Earth could also change for the better,” objected Lora confidently, “We haven’t heard from them for so long!”
Jane shrugged her shoulders.
“Facts of our history are very obstinate. Earthly civilizations appear and perish, one after another. Throughout the thousands years of human history, our kind failed to tame the energy of destruction. Except us.”
“But if we could, it means others can, too!”
“Andre thought so, too,” Oleg Butoff, who was sitting silently till now, joined the discussion. “He died with this belief in his heart…”
Lora remembered a video recording of the clash shown in their history lessons and her hazel eyes filled with sadness. It happened a long time ago.
Back then the ‘Solar Flotilla’ was only one of the many scientific projects developed by the ‘Unity of Opposites’ society, founded by Andre Mendez. Within ten years, a small group of his followers who accepted his philosophy turned into a movement of people able to control the energy of self-destruction, inherent to their consciousness and, thus, able to increase the creative power of the mind. Their great scientific discoveries in energy-saving technologies, ozone layer recovery, treatment of deadly diseases and the revival of the endangered species of plants and animals were made for the good of the people and the whole planet. However, harmony and equilibrium in the society were not easy to sustain in a world where politicians strive for power, industrialists crave super profits, and religious leaders try to manipulate minds. Sometimes facts really are obstinate things.
“Our voyage won’t last forever,” added Jane. “I’m sure about it.”
Lora nodded, staring out the window. The blue glow of Titanium and bright contours of Taria, the planet orbited by the space city, vanished in the pitch black space and her eyes got lost in the dark, as if pierced by silver-blue threads, endless hyperspace.
The autopilot was confidently leading the shuttle to its destination. The majority of the crew members were sound asleep except Lora who could not really understand why she was the only one waiting for this encounter so restlessly. Since 22
July, 2025, the day when the ancestors of the contemporary Titanium inhabitants left Earth on board five spaceships made by the ‘Unity of Opposites’ society, their descendants never looked back; never sought any information about their home planet. There were many reasons for that.
“Arrival to the destination point in two minutes and thirty seconds,” uttered the autopilot quietly.
Then there was a light jerk and the shuttle slid out of hyperspace.
“Oleg, assume the manual control,” ordered Paul. “Chris, start preparing to seize the object. Jane, what do the scanners show?”
“The object is drifting in the open space. Its coordinates and the images are displayed on the holographic interface,” answered the girl.
Paul approached the monitor on the bridge, while Lora froze looking at the panoramic front window. At first, she didn’t see anything in the darkness that swallowed even the light of the distant stars. But then, in that obscurity, a small dot appeared, which grew bigger and more distinct with every moment.
“According to the data, it’s a rescue unit: spherical in shape and 32 tons in weight. No external marks, it has been heavily damaged by the meteorites. The inside is filled with air. The scanner shows there’s one biological object with weak signs of life.”
“There’s a human being inside!” Lora looked at the hologram and jumped from her seat, pointing at the pulsing red light in the corner of the single deck.
“The ark’s too big for the cargo compartment…” said Paul rubbing his neck. “But, from the looks of it, the ship’s sheathing allows for towing in the hyperspace…”
“Wait!” exclaimed Lora, grabbing the young man’s hand. “We cannot tow a ship in the hyperspace with a dying human being in it! What if there’s some kind of malfunction?”
“We cannot dock to the unit, its technology is outdated…” said Oleg shrugging and pointed at the hologram. “But it’s possible to moor closer to it and throw out the flexible bridge… Here’s the trapdoor, as the scanner shows, and behind it there is an airlock. Let’s get there and see…”
“We also need to assess the level of biological and other threats,” added Jane.
“OK, let’s do that,” agreed the captain. “Time for preparation: 30 minutes.”
“I’m coming too!” Lora dashed to the compartment with the space suits.
“No; Oleg, Jane and I are going. You and Chris will be watching the monitors and following any changes on the scanner.”
“I’m in charge of this expedition, Lora” Paul interrupted her.
The girl sighed resignedly.
“That’s better. We’ll be in touch.”
The airlock could hardly be called spacious; nevertheless, it easily accommodated three members of the crew.
“Everything is so old here… I can’t even remember this technology” Oleg reached for the adaptable control panel and connected it to the lifeless console on the wall. A minute later the air was filling the surrounding space with a characteristic hiss. “Oxygen level is normal; we can enter the ship,” he pressed some more keys and the portal door creaked and moved aside revealing the dimly lit deck.
“How do you like the picture?” asked Paul to the ones left back on the ship.
“It’s clear, the signal is strong, the majority of the machines are switched off and it’s interference-free. There’s no trouble,” reported Chris.
“You can say that again! The ship’s in the minimum energy consumption state…” Jane looked at the screen of the portable scanner. “The signal of the biological object is on the right.”
“And on the left there is some kind of an engine room… Oxygen level is stable around the entire perimeter,” Oleg added.
“OK! Let’s split,” ordered Paul. “Oleg, check the engine room, while Jane and I will assess the condition of the biological object. Stay in touch.”
“Got it!” sounded the young man and the beam of the one of the flashlights went sliding further down the narrow corridor, going to the left of the airlock.