Nika Veresk
In the shadow of the stolen light

In the shadow of the stolen light
Nika Veresk

In 2270 millions of people live on an artificial planet called Titanium – in a world of total social wellbeing and endless technological progress. For more than 250 years they have had no knowledge about those who were left on Earth, went through a global ecological catastrophe and formed a military alliance with powerful aliens to survive. For a long time these two human civilizations have been hundreds of light years apart, but now they are destined to reunite in order to face the only true enemy of mankind and fight for their future.

May you live in interesting times,

may you find what you are looking for…

We have no knowledge about what happened to Earth. Having left our planet a long time ago, we have been travelling through the Milky Way in search of a new abode for two hundred and fifty years. We avoid talking about it, but I sometimes think that no matter how great the Universe is, we will never find a place that we can truly think of as ‘home’.

From Lora Merion’s diary

Twentieth day, fifth month, year 2270 according to the Earth calendar

Chapter 1

A subtle alarm buzz and a dim light, that turned on softly afterwards, broke the quiet cosiness of the room. A young lady, who had been sleeping peacefully and tucked up in her bed just a second ago, winced discontentedly. She opened her eyes, her glance resting upon the light colour ceiling. A moment before she could feel a light wind caressing her skin, warm sun rays getting tangled in her dark hair; while a soft floral scent fascinated and intoxicated her mind. But it was only a dream, nothing more. Lora got out of bed and stretched her arms. She then reached a small control panel on the wall, making it flash many colourful lights.

“Good morning, Lora! I hope you slept well!” a warm female voice greeted her.

“Yes, thanks,” answered Lora, somewhat indifferently, to the computer programme.

“You have no new messages. Today’s schedule of the Council meetings is already on your personal communicator. Your breakfast will be ready in 10 minutes. Have a good day!” added the electronic voice and stopped, leaving the room in total silence.

Lora nodded and then froze for a moment. A picturesque landscape from her dream was still haunting her, so she shook her head confusedly in an attempt to get rid of the pleasant hallucination and to finally come back to her small flat. Her eyes swept the interior: transparent furniture of nude colour, deliberately made in order not to limit the already tiny space of the flat; while the soft light reflecting off the milky-white floor was never meant to hurt the eyes.

“Switch on the video panel,” said Lora quietly, looking into the space in front of her. “Display a sunrise over a lake.”

In response to her words, a rainbow flash lit the walls around and, a second later, she could see tranquil waters of a mountain lake under a sky as clear as a bell. Following the first rays of sunrise, a warm gentle breeze burst into the room. It softly touched the girl’s hair and she smiled dreamily.

After having a shower and putting on a lightly-coloured uniform, Lora sat at a small table on which she found a glass of orange juice and a fresh sandwich waiting for her. Finishing her breakfast quickly as usual she fastened the Universal Communication Device (UCD), an absolute must-have for information exchange and communication between people, to her temple before reaching for a transparent tablet the size of her palm from a shelf. She activated it by pressing her thumb on the sensor and nodded in response to the message that flashed on the screen “Personal access codes have been updated”.

“Power off,” said the girl. The video panels went black, plunging the room into darkness for a short while before one of them moved aside silently. A dim blue light of the space city slipped through the opened window and Lora said quietly, “Good morning, Titanium!”

Lora had already been working on the report for over an hour when she heard a familiar voice.

“Hi! I knew I was going to find you here!” Paul sat next to her on the bench and adjusted his slightly dishevelled blond hair. “You still don’t like working at the office?”

“Hi! No, I prefer a more spacious environment!”

The girl glanced at the cosy little garden. Since the time she had started working in the Council, this garden with neatly clipped bushes, bright flowers and benches nestling in the shadows of small trees, had become her true treasure…

“You do realize that you are on the forty-seventh floor of the “Unity” building?” chuckled the young man.

“I keep forgetting,” admitted Lora, honestly smiling and looking into his kind grey eyes, and added, “I’m glad to see you!”

“Same here! When did you get back?”

“Yesterday. And, the truth is, I missed Titanium.”

“No kidding! After a month away in the Lactian capital! How do you like our new allies?”

The girl shook the transparent tablet in the air. “It’s all here! How’ve you been?”

“It depends,” said Paul, avoiding the straight answer.

“Oh! I know that voice!” Lora hastily put the tablet away into a case on her belt and looked at her companion with genuine curiosity. “Tell me!”

“I guess I should create some suspense,” the young man lowered his voice and went silent for a second.

“Come on, don’t keep me waiting!”Lora was pulling at his sleeve, showing her impatience.

“OK! Here it is… Our Laboratory of Universe Exploration has received a message from the inhabitants of a distant planet that we collaborated with about half a century ago. Our location systems on their orbit have been receiving information all this time…”

Lora frowned.

“OK! I got it! To cut a long story short, they have discovered an object of Earth origin drifting in space.”

“Is it something from Earth?!” Lora’s eyes became wide with amazement.

“A number of tests have been carried out and the majority of them confirm that fact.”

“What’s in there?” Lora did not understand why she was whispering now. The city had no secrets. Any information about absolutely everything – be it about space finds, negotiations with whatever races, or discoveries – was stored in the central computer and was available to everyone.

“A Rescue unit, an ark… Something like that. The distance is more than five light-years away, that’s why the information is not detailed enough. They’d never have noticed this piece of metal if the signal it transmitted didn’t look so much like the SOS signal. Its frequency band sounds very much like the one transmitted from our ships.”

“An ark?” Lora could hardly hold back the avalanche of questions that was about to befall her friend. “Are there any signs of life?” She was nailing him with an intense gaze.

“Doctor Blake thinks that the ark probably holds a cryogenic capsule…”

“That means there’s a human being inside!” Lora jumped from her seat, ready to run and do something, but she knew not what exactly.

“Hey, calm down!” Paul was a bit shocked by this wild outburst of Lora’s emotions. “Have a seat…”

“It’s just that it’s so amazing!” said Lora, trying hard to breathe normally and getting back to her chair.

“You give too much importance to that,” the young man was trying to calm her down. “Earth is many thousands of light-years away; besides, the object’s energy resources are meagre…”

“You can’t know for sure! When’s Doctor Blake going to send a team to the place where the object was discovered?”

“He has no reasons to hurry.”

“And what if there is a human being? What if he or she is dying?”

“Please, calm down…” said Paul again desperately. “I’ll talk to Doctor Blake. My team has no immediate tasks for the next three days. We are in reserve so there is a big chance that we’ll be able to quickly organise a small expedition there…”

“Now” said Lora more calmly and confidently this time, “Talk to him now.”