Hermes II

arriving_by_martydesign-d8d6ifo

Art by martydesign – Arriving

A transport ship swings down and enters the first runway gate. It moves slow. Its two plasma engines glowing a dull yellow. The craft’s designation on the grey hull is written in chipped white paint, it reads SF 92/902.

A little boy sits on his daddy’s shoulders watching. He asks, “is that them?” The boy could be five or six. He is skinny, maybe too skinny. Large black bags hang from under his eyes. Eyes that hold an excitement that only those new to life can have.

The father answers, “I don’t know.” The air is dry and cool, he stifles a small cough. His face looks gaunt, hollow, haunted.

The child is quiet as if thinking. He reaches a hand out and lays it against the triple layered glass in front of him. The space station’s observation portal is cold to the touch. Voices around them are hushed and conversations are whispered as if the crowd is witnessing a great thing.

Outside the observation deck is the carved out asteroid named Hermes II.

Hermes II was mined empty of useful ore and almost deemed useless, until a mining unit fell into a wormhole.

They were lost, but with their deaths some of humanity might be saved.

A flash of blue light fills the tunnel and several people utter involuntary exclamations of wonder and delight.

“Wow,” the little boy yells.

The father pats his son’s knee while trying to keep his body from coughing again.

Over an intercom a three note chime sounds proceeding a woman’s voice. She asks for, “Attention please.’ and is silent before asking again, “Attention. Will 8th battalion, 24th regiment please proceed to the boarding area. Will the Marines attached to 8th battalion, 24 regiment please report to the bordering area for immediate launch. Thank you.”

“That’s mommy’s unit!” the little boy screams delighted.

“Yes Sebastian, that’s Mommy’s unit,” the man’s voice sounds strained. As if even talking about his wife is difficult. He coughs again, this time he hides his face in his elbow. He coughs for a full minute. Afterward he looks around embarrassed, no one seems to notice.

There are a few other muttered responses to the woman’s announcement. 8th battalion is famous. Eight-hundred men and women in that unit which has been asked to fight often over the last century.

Their most infamous battle was the one against the Manhattan Brotherhood, a supposed Jihadist movement that killed indiscriminately. In reality they were a group of undesirables that were starving and desperate and the Marines planned military action took them by surprise as they scratched out a living.

Maybe a bit of history?

Remember, New York got the bomb in the last part of the twenty-first century. As with any huge event who dropped it depends on which literature you read. Some thought it was the Saudi’s, others thought America did it to herself.

This whole war was started over oil.

Again it depends who is talking.

The word humanitarian-action was thrown around a bunch also as a cause of the conflict.

That’s funny though.

Throughout the twenty-second century close to a hundred million people died. Half the planet is now considered unlivable. Millions more die every year just due to the way things were left. Old age for many is a fantasy.

It has been a century of hard fighting. From the Middle East, Asia, Europe and South America into Mexico. The Texas border war was brutal. Most of southern California is still a nuclear wasteland.

Eventually the war ended, or dwindled, and people find it hard to accept that they or their ancestors fought for anything but a better world.

Some think the war ended because there was no more oil to fight for anyway.

The planet is dry.

But really there is no one left to fight really. Many places were forced back into paleolithic lifestyles.

Cave dwellers. Rock throwers. But that was putting it lightly. Making a joke out of horribly desperate situations that weren’t going to ever improve.

The Earth is dying.

Earthquakes and volcanic eruption happened all the time. The oceans aren’t rising they are disappearing. Wildlife is a thing of fairy tales.

There just isn’t anything to fight for down there anymore.

New York wasn’t as bad as say Caracas, but for over a century those that choose to live there were not considered desirable citizens. They were called desperates, as if it were their fault. In actuality, it was hard to call Manhattan home and not support the Brotherhood, unless you lived like a rat sneaking around at night, or through the defunct sewer system.

The Marines were called to do their thing when “satellite imagery” showed the Brotherhood was building strength and looked like they might try for an invasion into Old New Jersey. A foothold on the mainland could not be tolerated. They were tolerated isolated on the island, because the radiation made the land uninhabitable, but anywhere else they could be dangerous.

The brotherhood fought with swords and spears. They fought in serwals bare-chested and barefooted.

The 24th killed hundreds of thousands of them.

It was a massacre. Wiped the island clean. Humanitarian groups called it a war crime.

No one was going to prosecute. War crimes happened all the time down on Earth.

They won. Neutralized the threat. Protected the mainland. That’s all that mattered in the end.

Whew, right?

In North America things continue to be okay. Corn and wheat continue to be grown. Cows, pigs and chickens are slaughtered by the millions every year. Shrimp, salmon and dolphin fish are grown in salt water vats. Ships are sent to Europe with food stuffs and goods and money is exchanged.

But in Russia rocket after rocket continue to be launched into space on ion engines.

You see, time is growing short. A fix is needed to what some humans did to their home world.

But there is no fix, only what exists on the other side of this gate.

A virgin planet.

An unpolluted world.

A place with creatures that aren’t human.

Yet.

Another blue light flashes as a transport ship enters the wormhole.

“Whoa, that is amazing,” exclaims an older man with a shock of white hair and a severely bent spine.

The man with his son on his shoulders coughs again. He wipes bright red tinged phlegm off on the sleeve of his green jumpsuit stained with black grease smears and other signs of hard work. He eyes the old man. It’s easy to see the hate.

The old man is oblivious.

A ship with pale yellow engines causes another blue flash and he taps his cane excitedly on the metal floor.

‘Was that one Mommy?” the little boy asks.

The father coughs again before answering breathlessly, “I don’t know son, maybe.”

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Author: Bryan Aiello

I call NYC home and wish the subway went everywhere and Times Square didn't suck. I saw John Turturro once. Maybe it was him. He was wearing a yellow shirt and smiled at me like he knew I knew. I am an Army vet who writes. I like characters who want more then they deserve. I like genre fiction. I love space. I love paladins. One day I might write a paladin in space story. Just you wait. The university of South Florida spit me out with a degree in creative writing and I find myself questioning the sanity of going to a school that advertises a fake beach on its brochure ever since. I intuit grammar. I Got married in 2012 We had twins in 2015. I do a lot of cooking and dog walking and ranting about the unfairness of sentience. You can follow me on Twitter: @bryaiello Wattpad: https://www.wattpad.com/user/BryanAiello My Subreddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/Voyage_of_Roadkill/ My Reddit profile: https://www.reddit.com/user/Voyage_of_Roadkill/ Like my work? Become a patron at: https://www.patreon.com/BryanAiello

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