Memory Planet by Hania Zdunek
Chapter Index Chapter 1
PAGE 3 - 5
PAGE 6 - 9
PAGE 10 - 15
PAGE 16 - 20
PAGE 21 - 25
PAGE 26 - 32
PAGE 33 - 41
PAGE 42 - 53
PAGE 54 - 59
PAGE 60 - 65
PAGE 66 - 78
END TERM 1
Term 2 release date: October 22, 2013
There's a planet in space. There are many, but this specific one is called Scoron. It's kind of like Earth; there's a government, people, jobs, entertainers, children and schools. They rely on technology for all of their daily doings and need energy to power said technology. The planet originally was formed in a galaxy, much like our own. With a sun and moon, stars and other planets surrounding it. And, much like our own planet, was propelled through space by it's gravitational pull around a star equivalent to our sun. Throughout millions of years, the inhabitants of this planet evolved and created a home for themselves. There were wars, revolutions, discoveries, inventions, space exploration and with that; peace. The greatests minds all pooled together and found a self sustainable source of energy for the people of Scoron, thus eliminating the need to pay for power. Machines were built to grow food, make clothing, build other machines such as electric cars and telecommunication devices; all without cost to the people. Everything became free and plentiful for the public. Peace was sustained for decades upon decades; the people grew to love their government, love their jobs and their technology.
We begin our story by following one specific individual. Simon. He's just the average guy living in one of the many amazing cities of Planet Scoron. An average build, brown eyes, brown hair. He lives on his own in a 700sq foot apartment on the 34th floor and today, he's making juice! The juicer pops up from his black granite counter; he still doesn't quite understand how that all works, but regardless he peels his oranges and starts up the machine. Throwing each peeled orange into the juicer, the gentle hum of the machine at work takes it upon itself to squeeze out every last drop of delicious orange juice. Simon picks up the cup and takes a long, satisfying gulp. He puts the glass down on the counter and walks to his kitchen table, beads of sweat appearing on his forehead. He grabs at his chest and then at his head. His pupils become small and sharp. His mouth opens to let out a scream but nothing comes out. He's shaking. His legs give out from under him and he collapses to the floor. His head pounds, his hands sweat and throb. He clutches at his kneecap and finally lets out a blood curdling scream. Simon passes out on the floor.
Around her are war ships. Soldiers marching ‘left right, left right’ into the people; into their homes. Tubes are being carried towards her. She runs. Shrenas heart is pounding as she dives behind a neighbour’s fence. She peers behind her and looks briefly into their window; they’re dead. She can feel it. She can smell it. Fresh blood, the air is tainted with the smell of iron and wetness. She knows that it isn’t safe to stay here but Shrena can’t move. She’s paralyzed with fear. She notices that she’s clutching to a patch of grass that Mr Pronant never seemed to mow. It must have been too close to the fence for him to notice. But he’s dead now. He’ll never get to mow this patch of grass. Legs shaking, knees buckling, Shrena sprints to the garage; forgetting to let go of the grass, it rips out from the ground and remains in her tightly clasped hand. Her good deed for the day. Inside she finds Mr Pronant’s cordless nail gun. Her hands still stained with grass and dirt, grab at the handle and fumble in a long chord of nails, swinging the rest over her shoulder. She turns it to the “ON” position and turns to flee.
Shrena first feels a numb bump to the head; the sounds of the world, the screams, the fire, the drilling... all disappear. Then the pain begins. It’s as though she could feel the bruise raising up beneath her skin. Feeling the blood escaping her broken veins and the flesh swelling, she notices that whatever did this was far from gone. She opens her eyes and the noises start flooding back into her ears. Just enough time to realize a fist flying into her chest. Shrena is knocked backwards, wind completely taken from her. She gasps for breath, raising her hand with the nail gun upwards - towards whatever it was, it is, it’s there. The eyes of a monster. Sharp spikes form from the head; tipped with what seems to be dried blood. With each step that it takes, a loud THUD. Left, right, left, right and it’s upon her. Struggling to keep a hold of the nail gun, Shrena tries to shoot. Shoot. Just shoot. She can’t scream; her lungs won’t allow it from the pain, she can hardly breathe. The gun is ripped from her hand and observed by this thing, studying it like a spider studies it’s meal.
Pointing the nail gun back at her, it shoots. Shoots. Just... shoots. Shrena falls to the ground, staring at her legs; or what’s left of them. Giant nails line her calves and shins, blood exploding from each hole. Whatever held the gun took great joy in one area of her leg; exposing the bone completely, cracking into it with several nails. In disbelief, Shrena tries to shuffle backwards; this isn’t happening, this can’t be happening. The monster takes one more step towards her but this time, onto the very nails lodged deep into her bone. Snap. Her screams were the loudest it had ever heard.
Jenny was a typical 12 year old at school however not so typical was that she never became sick. Ever. When all the children came down with a cold from the seasons changing or their allergies flared, Jenny would be the one tending to their snotty noses. In fact, her teacher; Mrs. Willow, spoke to her parents at one point asking them how they keep her so healthy! “Inku Tank” replied Jenny’s father. “We acquired it from one of my co-workers at the lab. New technology! Should be available to the general public in a matter of weeks!” The Inku Tank. That was Jenny’s secret. A bed within a capsule. Technology at it’s finest. Rejuvenating cells during sleep so that the young and bright Jenny Shill could continue her days in perfect health. Weeks went by and as Mr Shill had predicted, the Inku Tank became available to any and all who had an extra power outlet in their home. Mrs. Willow was one of the first to purchase as she was privy to the effects of this amazing machine. “To never be sick again!” Mrs. Willow cheers herself before setting in for the night. Her capsule was pink. She always liked pink.
With the press of a button, the lid of the capsule slid into place and Mrs. Willow was in darkness. Suddenly, a voice began to speak and a dim light appeared on the roof of the lid. “Welcome to your first night in the Inku Tank! In order to contain all the good stuff in and around your body, this lid is required to stay shut for the duration of your sleep. Never fear, our special technology will sense when you begin to wake and unlock the lid as you drift back into consciousness.” Oh that’s nice Mrs. Willow thinks. The voice continues... “ We’ve installed this little intro to allow you to familiarise yourself with the controls of the Inku Tank however we understand that your day has been long and draining; so this introduction is optional. Simply say “Continue” or “Good Night” to continue or discontinue this introduction.” “Continue” Mrs Willow speaks, feeling a little silly but then remembering her cheering herself moments earlier.
“You have chosen to continue the introduction. At this point, we ask you to lay back and relax as we take you through the controls on your right hand side. You will be able to feel the control panel to your right, perfectly positioned to fit your height and arm length. The largest button is the safety button. If you should become afraid or overwhelmed during this experience, hit this button for immediate release from the tank. The smaller button to the right is the Quiet button. At any point if you would like to shut this introduction off, press this button and sleep mode will immediately commence.” Mrs. Willow considers turning this off. In fact yes, it’s time to rest and she’s not in the mood to listen to any more. Mrs. Willow presses the little button as instructed. “You have pressed the Quiet button. You need to be quiet because if they hear you, you’ll get shot.” Mrs. Willow’s heart stopped in her chest. What? The voice continued “be quiet! I don’t know who they are... but you’re going to die if you stay out here. Don’t say a word and hide. Run. Oh God they’re outside. Run!”
*PRESS PRESS PRESS* the big round button clicks in and out, in and out. But nothing is stopping, the lid isn’t opening, the darkness isn’t fading. Mrs. Willow begins to run in her capsule. I’m still breathing. It’s ok. I’m still breathing. She’s hiding now in a dark cupboard. She can hear screaming around her. Gun shots. Sobbing … her mother... her mother is sobbing, screaming out “Mercy! Mercy!” Another shot is fired and the begging stops. Hours pass. Mrs. Willow steps out of the darkness. Her family is murdered, laying around her. Murdered. She picks up a photo frame from the table and holds it to her chest. She thinks of the times that she played in the yard with her brother Matthew and her sister Meredith. The sun was so bright and warm that day, her mother had to bring extra lemonade to them all! Mrs. Willow opens her eyes to see a dark, dank house and her brother and sister, Mother and Father; murdered.
Clutching to the photo frame, she walks outside to a dusty road. Turning the corner she looks up at the assassins. She’s so small. They’re so big. Without hesitation, they fire at her and she’s hit in the chest. As though this was all a slow motion film, she sees the frame shattering from the bullet which impacts in her chest, sending her backwards towards the ground. As she hits, her head bounces and flops to the left, where she can see the top of the photo flapping half out of the broken glass. Her brother, her sister and a little boy. The reflection of the remaining glass confuses her as staring back at her is that same little boy. Who... are you? Mrs Willow wonders as she takes her last breath. Paramedics couldn't understand what caused Mrs. Willow’s death. They had to pry open the Inku Tank before finding her body, stiff and cold. Strangely, a young girl by the name of Jenny Shill had also died that night.
The air is cold, the steel is cold, the gun is cold. Roger holds his rifle to his chest, pointing it up in the uniform position. His team follow as he leads them out of the craft taking them into strange new terrain. There’s an enemy this time; and it’s time to fight. He never witnessed such brutality. Roger looks around around, seeing monsters. He wonders if he looks the same. He knows deep down that this is all wrong - this isn’t the way life is meant to be, or be ended. He signals his troop to scatter and protect. He watches. They obey. Roger watches the most important element of this mission travel down the centre of the massacre. Blood doesn’t phase the cargo. Screams don’t effect the cargo. It glides silently alongside the death until it has reached the position. A steel pipe is all you would see if you were an onlooker. But this was so much more. Inside are thousands of wires, all ending in metal pads that look like miniature Automated External Defibrillator handles. AED’s give life Roger thought to himself, not take it away.
The men transporting this silent giant pipe signal to each other that it is time to connect. The pipe begins to curve until the end is laying flat on the earth. He can’t see the reason why the ground starts shaking, but he knows the mechanics behind it. Drills protrude from the pipe and burrow into the ground, with each drill, a wire follows - further and further into the earth. From the wires, sprout more wires horizontally; like roots of a tree, grasping the earth from every angle. Electric pulses start shooting up into the pipe - through the pipe - along the pipe - back into the craft it was transported from. The noise. The heart beating drone sound makes Roger’s spine tingle. But still he stands; observing the process. It takes 40 men to relocate this pipe from the craft to the earth. Roger’s communicator buzzes. He holds it to his mouth and speaks “In position and collecting.” “Affirmative.” comes the response. “All 800 accounted for area 21034G. Move to 21034H to repeat.” Roger looks around. He knows area 21034G now has 800 pipes connected, but he can only see twenty. This is a big place.
The air is cold, the steel is cold, the gun is cold. He hasn’t shot anything; anyone. Roger grasps at his rifle as he holds it pointing upwards in the uniform position. He leads his men out for the 8th time this week. A new area. A new position. He hears the guns, the slaughter and wonders why he hasn’t been killed. How is this mission going ahead? Who is allowing it to happen?
The pipe connects, the drone heart beat begins to sound and his spine tingles. The communicator buzzes. The words are spoken and the order is given to move onto the next area. The final area for this day. “Move to 21034I to repeat then retreat” Roger counts his men and finds 3 missing. “What happened to Privates Samson, Jacob and Prune?” he asks. A brutish tower of muscle steps forward “Sir they found enemies hiding Sir! They are protecting the cargo Sir! Two clicks left in the alley Sir!”
The craft is ready for take off; he will not leave his crew. He orders a 3 minute hold and runs out to the ground. He only needs to reach the corner of the block to find his 3 men enjoying a cigarette. â€œPrivates you are holding up the troops progress! Return to the ship immediately!â€? he shouts. Turning around he sees the enemy and shoots. The air is cold, the steel is cold, his gun is burning. It was as though he was in slow motion. His men racing back to the craft for take off, the dust picking up around his feet, and the boy that he had just shot in the chest falling backwards onto the ground. Roger walks past the boy to return to the craft. He makes a decision in his mind to not pay attention to the face. And while he looks the other way, a single drill emerges from the soil near the boy and shortly after a wire follows. It escapes the ground and plunges into the boys forehead. Roger does not see. But that night, he noticed the drones were louder than ever.
The outer shell is 34,000 miles in circumference. Beneath it rests a city of thousands. Each with their own task, their own bed, their own gun. Their home is steel and power. Their orders are to steal the power. Mark sits in the mess hall scoffing his meal in the 7 minutes he has to consume his daily breakfast. A mix of mashed proteins and gravied vitamins. It tastes worse than what it looks like, and it looks worse than what it is. At 6 minutes and 45 seconds, he stands and takes his metal tray to the bin labeled ‘Metal’. He wonders if all metal can be placed in this bin or if it’s specifically designed for just the trays. Another thought arises; the word ‘Metal’ needed to be placed there by someone - who is in charge of labeling? A loud SLAM echo’s through the mess hall as Sargent Grobe throws the door back on it’s hinges. “Code Black!” Grobe yells. The entire hall scrambles. It’s like watching ants at the first sight of rain. Mark drops his tray into the Metal Bin and is the first to run out to the ships. He, and all the others, already have their gun.
It’s protocol to carry your weapon at all times. Especially these days when there are enemies. Enemies. Mark charges into the craft and straps himself into the seat. There have never been enemies before. They seem more like “We take off in 3 - 2 - 1!” The engines scream as they lift several hundred souls up and out of the shell. Into the darkness. Fuel propels them further towards their target. It’s like looking into a bowl of noodles. “There is no end of noodle.” Mark mumbles. Troopman Ryan lifts an eyebrow. “What?” Mark realizes that he’s talking out loud again. “The pipes.” He says. “The pipes just keep folding into each other, like never ending noodles.” He’s drawn a crowd of onlookers now. He can almost feel the eyebrows tweaking upwards in unison. “They should make a union for your bloody eyebrows.” He smirks and looks back at the view. The troopmen huff out a giggle and slowly all turn towards the view; it’s not a bowl of noodles, but any reminder of life with noodles is welcomed. Ryan lets out a sigh as the craft speaker spits out the landing command.
Mark and his troop unbuckle as the craft lands on the crumbling ground. Each step causes the ground to crack. “Careful men,” a voice advises through their ear piece “this area is going through Stage 2. Watch your step.” Mark places his feet in the footsteps of those before him. They all walk silently towards the blinking red dot on their visors. Stage 2. Mark thinks. No one should be here at Stage 2. As Mark is about to place his foot on the next print, he halts - the prints have stopped. In their place are shoes of the troopmen before him. Mark looks ahead to see why they’ve all stopped dead in their tracks. A young girl in pinned to the side of her garage. Her leg hacked at the knee with what looks to be nails piercing through bone. She’s being held by wires. Hundreds of wires. They’re in her flesh, her face, down her throat... “She’s still alive!” One of the troopmen yell. The blue pulse of light creates a drone sound felt by each troopman. Their spines tingle. The girl starts to convulse, the wires seem to tighten their grip and she is once again still. Everyone is still now.
“What do we do?” Ryan manages to force the question that is clearly on everybody’s mind. But before a reply can be spoken, the girl opens her eyes. The piercing glare is of pure pain. The blood vessels have visibly burst in her eyeballs - blood starts to drip from her tear ducts. Her screams are muffled by the wires blocking her vocal chords. She starts to struggle again and almost instantly the wires grip her tighter; this time too tight. Her wrist is being squeezed by several wires that have twisted their way up her leg, around her wrist and into her forearm. With a pop, her hand is severed but before it can even reach the ground, some wires that were in her mouth lash outwards and stick themselves into her hand; catching it in mid air and holding it there with ease. They start to pulse again. The removal of those wires allows her to expel a gargled, bloody scream. “Put her down!” Comes the order. Guns fire and the blue pulsing light stops. In an instant, the wires retract into the ground and disappear. “What the hell was that?” Mark whispers. “Noodles.” Comes the reply.
Science. It’s a glorious thing. It can help unify a civilization and bring peace to an entire planet. It can also be the cause of destruction and suffering. How the people of Scoron chose to use science is remarkable. To provide energy to all living beings on this lonely planet, so deep in space is almost unthinkable. We turn our attention to Scoron’s Lead Scientist; Dr. Robertson. He’s going through a moral dilemma today, because today, he’s found life. “We never thought it possible for there to be life outside of Scoron” Robertson explains to the current President of Energy. “But there is, and we’ ve found it!” His eyes are gleaming. His mouth is salivating from the very thought of aliens, another species of intelligent beings. “It’s a dream come true! You know what this could teach us? What this means?” “Enough!” President Murdoch’s voice could send terror into fish if he were ever near a lake. The booming voice commanded all who heard it. “Enough of this.” He relaxes a little. “It’s not up for discussion, Dr. We simply can’t afford to let them stick around the galaxy when we’re so far out.”
Robertson knows the saying. Life for life. But it’s never been real life before. “This time it’s different!” Robertson yells. President Murdoch begins to walk away, his face has returned to the usual frown and his voice announces every feeling ticking away in his brain. He turns back towards Robertson and booms “But we are still the same!” He turns on his heel and sternly walks to his chambers; the steel door sliding into place behind him with an electric whoosh. To any outsider this conversation would seem confusing. Luckily, Dr. Robertson resided in The Shell; a place where no secrets were kept, and up until today, no second thoughts had been given. But today will change everything. He is to announce life to the crew of The Shell. And there will be confusion and panic. He knows this, he fears this. Because in his mind, this should end it all. The bright flat screens line the walls, each room is connected to the feed.
Dr. Robertson makes his way to the Communications Room and is greeted by the crew. They prep the set and make sure his appearance is tidy. They help him up to the podium and blast the lamps at his face. The camera lenses stare into his soul as he begins his speech. “Today I have undeniable evidence that there is life on Planet 21034. The beings are humanoids and are in their two thousandth year. They have evolved much like our own kind and require technology to survive. Like us, they have family units; parents, children, pets and like us, they feel pain. After consulting with our esteemed President of Energy, the decision has been made that we will be descending on Planet 21034 and connecting.” Dr. Robertson swallows and reaches for the glass of water prepared for him by one of the crew. His hand is shaking so he quickly puts the glass down with a clink and clears his throat. He continues “The procedure will remain the same however you will each be required to carry your weapons at all times in case we have any alien
interference. There is no way to judge how the technology will affect these lifeforms and so our scientists will be working around the clock to ensure minimal discomfort to them. In saying this, the more you put down, the easier - “ he can hear the murmurs starting. He tries again “the easier it will be - “ They’re getting louder. Robertson raises his voice to match those in the room “the easier it will be to connect.” He finally finishes and reaches for the glass again but is pushed out of the way by President Murdoch before he can get a good hold. President Murdoch raises his hand and silence is made. He takes a good look around the people in the room; the operators of communication don’t dare to breathe. They realize that their muttering was being transmitted throughout The Shell; a crime to their profession. “You are being given orders by your Lead Scientist and yet you mutter. This discovery of life was never the plan for our people. It has never been our intent to take from conscious beings. We never thought it possible; after so many years of space exploration, we had determined that we were the only ones. Space has been our mine and you are the mining engineers.”
The silence that had overcome the room seems to have embraced the entire Shell. President Murdoch continues â€œWe are at a crossroad where we need to either choose ourselves or a species we have only just discovered. I am making this decision for you. We need to either choose to continue as we always have, or delay and possibly destroy our planet. I am making this decision for you. And we need to decide what is truly right; if right means survival of the ones we hold dear. I will make this decision for you today. And I decide that the procedure will remain the same however you will be required to keep your weapons at your side at all times in case of alien interference. Dr Robertson and his team will strive to work out any hiccups along the way in order to minimize any discomfort to these beings. However in saying this, the more you put down, the easier it will be to connect. And ultimately, move on.â€?
No one moves. His face is as stern as ever. President Murdoch’s frown peers into the camera lense and outwards to all. The people of The Shell all seem to be frozen. “Life,” Murdoch booms “for life.”
President Egard Murdoch; President of Energy on The Shell.
Concept art by Hania
The Shell is buzzing. It has been for the past 3 days. The halls are filled with residents returning from their missions, stories of epic battles and victories. Cheers and high hopes for their world to continue being alive, to keep their families on the surface safe and comfortable. Then there are those that are buzzing internally; the ones that have never needed to kill another species but under these circumstances, have taken a liking to it. These individuals are the ones that slunk to their chambers and reminisce of the horrors theyâ€™ve just seen. Peter decides to take a shower. He undresses and places his armour into the clearly labeled USED ARMOUR bin. He slides the lid back across the top and hears the armour whizz down a chute to somewhere unknown. He takes a few things out from his pant pockets and carefully places one in the cabinet behind his mirror, then throws the others onto his bed; an access card and a necklace. He strips off his shirt and pants, socks and briefs and turns on the water.
The hot water flowing into his hair, spilling over his face and down his muscular body is just what he needs after a day like today. He tilts his head upwards, opens his eyes and feels the hot drips of water thud onto his eyeballs, sending a jolt through his body as they make contact. He keeps his eyes open for as long as he can. The floor of the shower is steel, like most other things in The Shell, but regardless of the material, itâ€™s covered in blood. Peter checks himself for any cuts but there are none. This blood belongs to the parents of a little girl. He smiles to himself. He wonders what the President of Energy is going to do with her. If it were up to Peter, he would have the most sensational plan; Another species, harnessed through technology, forever his to command. Peter notices some blood on his wrist that the hot water hasnâ€™t been able to wash off. As he scratches at it, he remembers how this blood came to be on him... Her mother was pleading with him to spare them. A different language, but he could see it in her eyes. She was crying so loudly that the very sight of her tears bothered him.
He remembers slapping her in the face; how good that felt. But it felt better when he noticed that his glove had slipped off to expose his hand and wrist. This was a good feeling because it had made him angrier. At her. The tears were still running out of her large, blue eyes. He remembers being mesmerised by those eyes. Those big, deep blue eyes. He just had to have them. Peter’s thoughts are interrupted by a loud knock at the door. He turns the water off and scrambles for a towel “Just a second. Hang on!” He opens the door to find a woman standing with her hands on her hips, tapping her foot on the steel floor. “Hello Lisha” he mumbles. “You were supposed to come and get me the moment you landed, Peter!” she pushes past him into his chamber. “Or did you forget?” Peter shifts uncomfortably on his feet and scratches his bicep then the back of his head. He gives Lisha the cutest smile he can muster up and throws his towel on the floor.
His bare body is almost glowing red from the heat of the water, and steam is still lifting off his flesh. Lisha looks him up and down. “You’re a lobster.” She chuckles. “A handsome lobster, but still... a lobster. What do you expect me to do with you, Mr. Crustacean?” Lisha sits down on his bed and crosses her legs and arms as a sign of ABSOLUTELY NOT. Her stare doesn’t shift from him though. “Well,” begins Peter “if I am a Lobster, then you should technically boil me up and eat me, in a tossed salad.” His eyebrows rise up and down comically. Lisha stands, walks back to the door, but not without a last little glance and slap on his bare red bum, lets herself out and is gone from the room. Peter lifts his towel and takes it back to the bathroom. He did not enjoy that at all. He tries to calm himself down by thinking back to the killing. The father, laying with his throat cut. The blood spilling under the bed where he found her. The little girl.
Peter had made it a habit to take something to remember each of his missions from this new world. He had dropped his memorabilia and when he went to retrieve it from under the bed, there she was. “Peter!” Lisha’s voice muffled through the door. “Peter I’m still waiting. We’ re going to be so incredibly late! Hurry up!” Damn it. Peter walks to his wardrobe and picks out some black pants, a crisp red shirt and a red satin tie; he’ll continue the Lobster joke with this outfit. He slides on some business socks and wiggles his feet into his polished black shoes. He’s almost ready. “I’m almost ready!” He yells out. Peter checks himself over in the wall mirror and breathes into his hand. Oh, awful! His breath smells horrible! He heads back into the bathroom and starts brushing his teeth. As he looks out to his room, he sees the necklace twinkling in the dim light. He’ll need to remember to take that and give it to Lisha. She’ll stop being so angry with him if she has something pretty. At least for a week.
He remembers pulling the child out from under the bed and staring at her. She wasn’t crying. Her face was blank and empty. He wanted so much to just sit her down and test how much she could handle before breaking down, like her mother. But he wouldn’t have the chance. The President of Energy was visiting the missions today and had just landed at his scene. “President Murdoch.” Peter announced after putting the little girl down to the floor. She stood there calmly at his side, looking up at him. “Cadet.” Murdoch boomed. “After tonight, Sir, I’ll be a fully fledged Troopman.” Peter stated proudly. President Murdoch huffed a congratulations and turned his attention to the little girl and the dead parents. “Explain this... excessive use of violence, Cadet.” “A grenade had exploded in this room a moment before I entered. The little girl was lucky to be hiding under the bed, where I found her, Sir.” Peter lied. The President knelt down to the child and she tilted her head at him, still no tears. Peter could see a connection between them. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but they were connecting. Like an unspoken truce.
“You’re coming with me.” President Murdoch picked up the girl and walked out of the room. With her chin on his right shoulder, the girl’s glare did not leave Peter. Emotionally challenged. Peter remembers thinking to himself. Peter finishes up and looks at himself in the mirror. Still slightly pink from the heat in his skin, he admires himself. What a good looking guy. He stares into his brown eyes, smiles and remembers his memorabilia. A spark of excitement rushes through him as he quickly opens up the mirror to look inside the cabinet. “Peter!” Yells Lisha. “The Troopman ceremony starts in 10 minutes! Get out here, NOW!” Peter is ready to be a Troopman. But not before he takes a moment to admire his prize from the mission. There, inside the cabinet, in a small, clear glass jar, are two, big, deep blue eyes.
President Murdoch taking the child away from her dead parents.
Concept art by Hania
The ceremony to turn Cadets into Troopmen is being held in the Grand Hall. Knowing that they might be late, Peter and Lisha sprint down the steel corridors of The Shell to make it in time. There are two guards positioned outside the door; each hosting a smile as the two cadets slow their pace, and approach with huffs and puffs from their run. “It’s already started.” One guard chimes, his smile broadening as he watches Peter hold himself up by leaning against the adjacent wall. “No chance.” huff puff “We’re early!” Peter manages to exhale out. The guards look down at their digital Time Keeps, look at each other and then look back at Peter, who is now sitting on the floor with his legs straight out and his back against the cold steel wall. “Your Time Keep is broken.” That same guard informs. “It’s already started.” The other guard echo’s.
“But,” Lisha straightens her pencil skirt “we’re part of the ceremony! We have to go in! My dad is going to KILL me if I don’t graduate today!” There’s desperation in her words. Her heart is beating not only from the sprinting, but from the anxiety she’s feeling. It’s all Peter’s fault. The two guards scratch at their heads and mutter incoherent words to each other. One puts his gun down between his legs, keeping it safe between his tightly squeezed thighs, and starts making stupid looking hand symbols to the other guard... to Peter and Lisha, it’s all very strange. “But the Time Keep! Murmermurmer...” They hear one say . “They’ll need to spend another year as Cadets! Grumblegrumble” they hear the other state. Lisha interjects “I can’t be a Cadet for another year. Especially not with Peter!” She places her hand on her chest, tears welling in her eyes. Why is this happening to me?
The doors to the Grand Hall buzz open and a third guard steps through. It’s as though he’s been standing behind the doors the whole time. He doesn’t walk off, he’s just standing still. He takes one look at his friends; at that point the one with the gun between his legs is also sporting a floppy tongue dangling outside of his mouth. He slurps his tongue back in and smiles. “Troopman Crayson!” he exclaims. “How long have you been standing behind that door?” Crayson peers down at Peter and looks at Lisha. Still clutching her chest. “Why are you just sitting here?” Troopman Crayson asks her, and flashes another look at the guards. Taking this opportunity to speak up and perhaps gain access, Lisha timidly makes her plea. She explains that they were running late, but if he can find it in his heart to let them through... “These Guards won’t let us in!” Peter hops up and stomps towards the group.
One of the guards has a chuckle. “We never said you couldn’t go in. We just said you’re late.” The other wipes a tear from his eye; he’s sporting the largest smile. “Get in. There are two seats on the 3rd row near the middle aisle.”Troopman Crayson motions with a wave of his hand. Peter and Lisha run into the Grand Hall. They stop and look around this monstrous area. There are so many seats available! Where is everyone? Back outside, the doors shut and Crayson sighs at his fellow Troopmen. “If we’re going to do this to every young cadet that makes their way through these doors, I need a go at being out front. All I’m doing is ushering confused cadets to their seats after they present me with a sob story! You guys are having all the fun.” He smiles. The guards burst out laughing. “No worries, Cray! One more cadet! Please! We’ve almost got this whole gibberish routine perfected!”
Crayson spins on his heel and enters the code for the doors to unlock and buzz open again. “One more! Then it’s my turn!” He walks through the doors and they close behind him. Peter and Lisha take a seat in the 10th row near the middle. They’re still so confused. They hear footsteps and turn to see Doctor Robertson walking down the aisle; nose deep in his calculations. Peter stands up. “Doctor Roberston, Sir.” he speaks out, with a little wave of his hand in case the Doctor needed some visual stimulation to look away from his work. Robertson lifts his head and walks over to Peter. “What is it, Cadet?” He mumbles. “The ceremony isn’t for another hour.” He smiles sweetly at Lisha and then looks back at Peter, almost smirking at this point. Doctor Robertson knows the tradition. A stupid scare ritual each cadet will face before they turn into Troopmen. A last ditch effort to get their heart pumping about not making it out of Cadetship after 3 full years of brutal training. After all, he came up with this when he first started at The Shell. So long ago.
He normally doesn’t walk around the hall to watch the reactions, but today, it was different. He noticed a lot of cadets sitting silently, working it through their heads. Some cadets figured it out and were spreading the news to others, others were still mulling it over. Peter had no idea. “Sir, the men at the door -” he’s cut off by Lisha. “It’s a prank, isn’t it.” She puts her head into her hands and sighs, then starts giggling. I must have looked so stupid! Dr. Robertson huffs out a little laugh and taps his nose with his finger, turns and heads back up the aisle to row 12, where he takes a seat. “That’s insane! This whole thing was a trick?” Peter sits down with a slump. “And now we need to wait until this stupid ceremony starts?” He kicks the chair in front of him. “Oh hush.” Lisha smiles. “At least we know that next year... it’s our turn.” She grins and closes her hands in a praying position then taps her fingers together, smiling to herself.
57 minutes later, all the Cadets are seated and talking about their experience coming through the door. The chit chatter is rather high in volume but starts to die down as the lights begin to dim. A screen folds out from the ceiling and lights up the room with the bright text: WELCOME, CADETS! Peter leans over to Lisha and whispers “Finally.” The speakers click on and a voice starts to speak. “Welcome, Cadets! Or should I say, Troopmen of The Shell!” The crowd goes wild! Cadets are standing, some hooting, some whistling. Lisha remains calm. A few moments pass and silence returns to the hall. “We will now begin the ceremony. When your name is called, stand, salute and sit. Remain seated until this ceremony is completed. Afterwards, you may exit through any door and collect your new uniform.”
The voice begins rattling off names and one by one, the new Troopmen of The Shell stand, salute and sit down. “Sue Bastin, Freddy Battern, Michael Bavotte...” 50 minutes have gone by and finally Peter's name is called. He stands, salutes and sits down. “Congratulations.” Lisha whispers as she taps him on his back. Within a second, all the lights in the Grand Hall shut off then return in red. Alarms start to sound. The voice on the speakers blasts “Lock Down. Lock Down. Remain seated. Lock Down Lock Down. Remain Seated.” “Another joke, I’m sure.” Lisha huffs. “Honestly, how gullible do they think we all are?” She turns to see if Doctor Robertson is still smiling. He’s not. Instead, he’s running down the aisle to the stage. He jumps up and grabs a microphone. He’s talking, but nothing is coming out. The mic isn’t on. He’s yelling. The alarms are too loud to hear him. His face is going red from his efforts to scream out instructions. His hand is above his head,
pointing to the microphone, staring at the control room at the back of the hall. He’s still yelling. “This is so stupid.” Peter crosses his arms. “You’d think one joke is enough for an army like ours.” He looks around and sees many others sitting in their chairs in disbelief, commenting on how unprofessional this is. Suddenly the mic is on and they hear Robertson scream “Has escaped!” The room falls silent and only the alarm can be heard. He repeats “An alien is on The Shell; they were being held under supervision but they’ve escaped.” He presses a few buttons on the microphone and the walls begin to shift. “Stand away from the walls. They are going to open.” And just as he stated, the walls open to reveal weapons. Guns upon guns all neatly lined up along the insides of the walls. “Take a gun, and find her. Um, it.” No one moves. “You think this is a joke?!” Robertson shouts. At that moment, the lights flash back to their bright yellow self, the alarms stop sounding and President Murdoch is being projected on the screen above Dr. Robertson.
“False Alarm. Continue the ceremony.” He booms. The feed stops and the text returns: WELCOME, CADETS! Immediately following the President’s announcement, the ceremony voice starts back up; clearly stating names as though it had never stopped. “Francine Reison, Graham Remming, Susan Reppear...” The walls are already closed. Dr. Robertson jumps off stage and makes his way to the exit. Lisha sees him hold his chest and sigh. Peter's fiddling in his chair. “I was right! Even the President wants this ceremony to just be over!” He smiles and she smiles back, but keeps an eye on the Doctor. She knows he was being serious. She knows that look of desperation. It’s the same look she gets when things are going wrong.
The voice announces "Lisha Robertson..." Lisha stands, salutes and sits down. She can see the Doctor turn to look at her and for a moment he forgets whatever it is that he was thinking and his face relaxes to a smile. She returns the smile. Love you, Dad.
“Michael Burner is a school teacher. He’s 28, with reddish brown hair, hazel eyes and a 5 o’clock shadow at all times of the day. His parents live around an hour and a half away by skytrain and his sister Simone lives two buildings away with her boyfriend. Each week, Michael visits his parents; compliments his mother on her latest baking efforts and helps his dad out in the shed. He makes sure that he gives his father a firm handshake when he decides to go back to his apartment, and he always remembers to give his mother a tight squeeze and a kiss on the cheek. Each fortnight, Michael will swing by his sister’s place and they’ll go out for a few drinks together. The dynamic of this family is calm and secure. Each family member is happy, and feels safe.” Michael stops reading and looks up to encounter his fiance, sitting on the couch with her arms and legs crossed. Her brow is frowned and she’s biting the inside of her mouth. She looks at the ceiling, then back at Michael and huffs.
“What?!” He asks. “You don’t like the beginning of my awesome epic Fiction? A tale of Michael and his family of...Aliens! You haven’t said a word!” Silence. Sophie looks down at her feet this time, still biting the inside of her mouth. She looks back at Michael, almost with a glare. “Sophie!” He starts to get a little louder “Use your words. What did you think of my first story efforts? Why are you so quiet?” He’s sporting a smile but there’s uncertainty with his tone. Does she hate it? Sophie uncrosses all her limbs and stands. Michael stands too. She starts to walk away but stops herself. Turning to look directly at her handsome fiance, she finally utters the words plaguing her mind. “I get that it’s fiction. But why does Michael not have a fiance? You’ve written yourself and your entire family into this first part and totally forgotten about me! Michael Burner!”
She laughs sarcastically. “Your name is Michael Turner! And your brother, Simon, lives two buildings down; provided, you’ve given him, her, but really him, a partner. Your parents are pretty much exactly how you’ve written them in and I’m … I’m...” “You’re the love interest that will enter this amazing tale in chapters to come!” Michael steps towards Sophie and puts his arms around her tiny shoulders. He always forgets how small she really is until he’s holding her. “You’re so tiny.” He kisses her on the forehead and squeezes her a little tighter. Sophie giggles and pecks him on his chin. “I know.” Is her answer. “So I’m going to come into it later?” She’s looking up at him with soft eyes now, and using a happier tone. Michael smiles and runs his fingers through her hair. “Yes.” He says sweetly. “You are going to make your grand entrance in the next few chapters. You’re also very important to this story, honey.” Sophie stares at the wall in thought. Michael can always tell when she’s mulling over information; forming ideas and questions.
“Well good. And as far as the first part goes, it’s a little too factual. It feels more like you’re writing a report for one of your students than a best selling novel.” And with that, she smiles and pulls herself out of his grip. “I’m going to turn the air conditioning on. Summer is well and truly here, don’t you think!” Sophie grabs the remote and presses the large ON button. Nothing happens. She peers at it curiously and presses it again. There’s a *click* and cool air starts to flow from the vents in the ceiling. Jumping back onto the couch like a 5 year old, she claps her hands and says “TV ON”. The flat screen television emerges from their wall and switches itself onto the news channel. “Come on honey,” she says “leave the story for now and come watch some news. It’s been a while since we’ve caught up on what’s happening in the real world.” Her arms are open and her hands are motioning Michael to come. He takes a seat on the couch, and she tucks herself into his side. With his arm around her little frame, he tunes into the news reporter.
“Dale, these reports are coming in faster than I can report them! It seems as though the entire block has experienced some sort of tragic episode. There have been 6 deaths so far and each of the 420 households have been affected. Symptoms such as nightmares are most common, but there are some individuals that have slipped into a coma, and others that have... well I said it before, others are dying. Officials still have no idea what is causing these episodes and how to stop them...” “Michael!” Sophie is holding her heart “Michael, that’s Simon’s block!” A wave of fear flows over Michael as though someone dipped him by his heels into ice cold water then drained him of his blood as they pulled him out. His heart is now racing, and he’s clutching onto Sophie; both their eyes are glued to the TV screen, to try and see if any of the names on the PERSONS AFFECTED LIST resemble ‘Simon Turner’. Michael’s mumbling “Scott Frogle, Jenny Shill, Tamara Styrel, Betty Mordansiehm, Charley Lawson, Mitta Willow...” “There!” Sophie yells and runs to the TV, pointing at Simon’s name. “Here! Here!” She draws a line from the name to the symptom. “Coma. Honey... he’s in a coma!”
The sound of the Electrocardiograph Machine is the only thing momentarily breaking silence in the hospital room. A sharp, high pitched beeping strikes the air as Simon’s heart makes another shallow pump. The sound is slowly driving Michael insane. Each BEEP is like an arrow to the brain. Michael almost shudders at the noise, but remembers that this sound is the only thing telling him that Simon is still alive. It’s been 5 days since Michael and Sophie were at home watching the TV and saw that Michael’s brother, Simon, was in a coma. While Michael watches over Simon in the room, Sophie is in the hospital cafeteria preparing a coffee. She watches as the complimentary coffee machine aptly named “The Freshest Grind” grinds her selected beans in a opaque grinder. The base of the grinder slides open and allows the ground coffee beans to fall through a tube into a deep spoon which is then mechanically lifted into a socket where hot water drips through. As this is all going on, milk delicately spills into a separate part of the machine through tubes of its own. Sophie stares at the milk being steamed; creamy foam starts to rise and quickly, the milk is double in volume. The two liquids come together in a cup that pops up from the base of the machine and a little ‘ping’ noise sounds to notify her of the completed coffee product. What a wonderful invention. She thinks to herself.
Sophie makes her way to Simon’s room where Michael is waiting. She makes sure to close the door behind her. She passes Michael the coffee he requested and pulls up a chair next to him. Even the chairs have soft felt on the base of the feet to stop any floor scraping noises from escaping and possibly disturbing the other patients. Another BEEP escapes the machine. “I was speaking with a nurse outside,” Sophie says in a soft, low voice. “she said that there are a lot of people with his condition in the hospital… but no one can figure out what’s wrong.” Sophie takes the coffee from Michaels hand; he wasn’t drinking it anyway. She takes a sip and decides that she wants to put it down somewhere. Sophie walks over to a medical countertop. She’s seen these in hospital rooms before. The cabinets and drawers are filled with medical equipment, there are gloves hanging in a dispenser on the wall to the right and paper towels. Perfect. She takes a paper towel, places it on the counter top and sits her coffee onto it. She walks back to Michael and sees Simon in the bed. The small distraction of placing a coffee cup on a countertop had made her forget why she was there in the first place. As she watches Simon’s face; lifeless, and his chest rising and falling slowly, she hears the high pitched BEEP to signify that his heart is still working. It’s like he’s just sleeping.
“It’s like he’s just stuck in a dream.” She says “It’s been 5 days, Michael, and they don’t know what’s wrong with him.” Her voice is starting to quiver as she sits down on her chair. “Can’t we just shake him to wake him up?” Sophie’s face begins to scrunch up as tears start flowing out. She turns towards Michael and buries herself into his broad shoulders, sobbing profusely. He wraps his arms around her and holds her so tightly, beginning to cry himself. Michael puts his hand on her face and pulls away slightly, she’s clutching onto his shirt. He looks at the mascara running down her face and tries his best at wiping it away, along with her tears. “He’s going to be O.K.” He reassures her. “Simon’s going to be O.K” He states again; this time, he’s saying it to convince himself. Michael kisses Sophie on the cheek and then on the forehead and puts her face back onto his chest. He can feel her calming down. Her sobs have turned into sniffles and her hands have loosened their grip. Sophie sits back upright and brushes her hair into a ponytail with her hands. “It was a momentary freak-out. I’m sorry.” Sophie takes a hold of Michael’s hand and squeezes tightly. They look at each other and stay silent. With a loud sigh, Sophie decides that she needs to busy herself, so she heads back over to the coffee and takes another drink.
As she turns towards Michael, she hears him say “Stop! Sophie! Stop!” Then she hears him shouting as he’s falling over his chair to reach her “Stop! Sophie!!” and now he’s screaming “NO! HELP! SOPHIE STOP! SOMEONE HELP!” Nurses rush into the room to see Sophie being held against a wall by Michael, there’s a surgical knife covered in blood on the floor. Sophie’s pupils are the size of a pinhead and her teeth are pressing their way into Michael’s left shoulder. The nurses run towards the two, pressing their emergency bracelets for backup. As three try and restrain Sophie, one starts to tend to the bite on Michael’s shoulder. Sophie is bleeding from her stomach. Her hands are covered in blood, the floor is slowly becoming covered in blood. Her blood. Her mind is focusing on the task at hand. She struggles as hard as she can to get out of the tubes holding her in place. All she can think of is the knife on the floor. She hears her name, but she can’t see the person calling. It’s a trap. She keeps grabbing for the knife, but it disappears from sight. She hears her name again and calls back out “Where are you?” her head jolting left and right to try and see someone, anyone…
“Sophie! I’m right here!” Come the sobs. “I’m right here Babygirl, I’m right here!” Michael is standing, clutching at the bandaged wound on his shoulder. His heart is racing. One of the nurses come towards him and try to move him from the room but he stands strong. He won’t leave her. “Sophie! Honey, I’m here, honey, what’s going on!?” The struggle stops. Sophie becomes instantly still. Her pupils widen and she looks directly at Michael, takes a deep breath and screams “They’re eating me alive!”
Philip is dreaming. His mind has put him into a field. It’s the field he rode on horseback with his father; twice a week. They had named his horse Bob and his father's horse was called Bill. Philip always thought that it was fantastic to have two horses named after people. Bill was their local butcher who, despite his efforts of being manly, would always succumb to making tea and chatting for a good hour each time someone came into the store. It was a fantastic sales tactic as being the only Butcher in town, people needed to visit him, but when they did, they stocked up on meats so they wouldn't have to return for the month. However huge sales meant that Bill could hire a staff to take care of the meat, while he purchased fancier tea sets, fancier teas and had more time to pull the next customer off from the floor, sit them down and gossip the day away! A perfect pairing of name to character as Bill the horse was just as... prissy. He’d fuss when being saddled up, he’d shift and huff whenever Philip and his father stopped to chat, and if you’d walk away from him without saying goodbye, Bill would take offence and follow you until you turned around and gave him a proper farewell.
Bob the horse was named after Robert Decker; the Mayor. But this name wasn't in light of a characteristic oddity. The name was picked with honor. Mayor Decker was the best thing to have happened to their town; it was only a few months ago that a gang of strangers tried to run a muck through the land and Mayor Decker devised a plan for the people to fight back. He had such fantastic battle logic as well as loyalty, strength and a protective nature towards the town. He single handedly fought the leader of this estranged gang and not only won the fight, but ensured that this “leader” and his band of criminals were handcuffed and taken to prison after a fair trial. The Mayor didn't believe in justice from death. When Philip picked out Bob the horse, he had taken him for a sort of ‘test run’ per say. Everything was going fine until a branch found Philip’s face too interesting and couldn't help but take a closer look; meaning; he hit his face on a branch as they were racing through the forest part of the property, and fell HARD to the ground. It seemed like only moments later, he was waking up with his father and the horse by his side.
“How did you know I was here?” Philip had mumbled out. “Your new horse,” Philip’s father pointed at the horse, who was standing so intently, peering down at Philip, his head had gotten closer and closer to Philip’s face that his father had to shove the nose away gently “came bolting out of the woods, straight to me, almost flung me onto his back with his giant nose and took me straight to you!” His father had looked him over and given Philip the all-clear to “stand on up”. They both climbed onto Bob’s back and he gently returned them to the ranch office. Philip paid in full and immediately took the horse home with his father, and on the way, they drove past Mayor Decker. It turned out that the Mayor was one of the owners of the ranch and when he saw his favorite horse being driven away, he had to congratulate the new owners. Philip received a handshake, a congratulations and a promise that this horse was raised by the Mayor himself. That settled it; Bob the horse became ‘Bob’, the horse. The dream suddenly takes Philip to the sound of trees falling. Like bombs hitting ground; tree after tree, they crash down and shake the earth. The trees are falling closer to him now; the shaking is more severe.
“Get up, Philip!” he hears as his eyes slowly start to open and immediately start to tear from the smoke in his room. His dad is pulling him from his bed, screaming for him to wake up. Philip finds his feet and starts to run alongside his father; not quite understanding what’s going on, but seeing the fire in his house, quickly realizes this is not a joke. “Get to the stables! I’ll meet you there!” he hears his dad yell through the smoke, so he runs. The stable is around 100 feet from the house, stones and dry grass cut into his feet as Philip starts to run towards it. As he gets closer to the stables, he can hear Bill and Bob panicking. Neighs escape the large wooden enclosure, so Philip runs faster. As he reaches the stable, he sees Bill and Bob bucking in their stalls. Bob has almost broken through his door but calms down at the sight of Philip. “It’s OK, Bob!” Philip yells as another tree falls in the not so far distance. He grabs his boots begins to put one on as he hops towards Bob on the other foot so to not waste any time.
He slips on the other boot and grabs the saddle. Just as he is about to open the door to enter Bob’s enclosure, his father runs into the stable and screams “No time! Get on him and ride to Becker’s Ranch!” Philip drops the saddle, opens the door and is almost flung onto Bob’s back, by Bob’s nose. They’re already at a canter as he holds onto Bob’s mane and squeezes his knees into the shoulders. “Sorry Bob!” He yells out “I've never barebacked before!” They’re heading in the right direction. Philip looks behind him and sees his father galloping close behind. Then his face goes pale as he realizes what is happening. The view behind his father is one from a horror story. Fire engulfs the ground, their house is almost a flaming pile of rubble. The trees are on fire, the grass is on fire. The smoke rising up leads his eyes to the giant, metal spaceship, hovering in the night sky. A shell the size of a car is dropping from the ship explodes as it hits the ground. A mushroom cloud begins to form but doesn't quite reach it’s full form as it’s smothered by the looming death ship.
Philip’s father races towards his son, screaming “Don’t look back!”. The ranch is at least another hour away at the speed they’re going. Bob and Bill are almost racing with each other. When one takes the lead, the other picks up the pace. Whatever it is that’s behind them, neither horse wants to be the first to know. “Here!” Philips father yells out. “I grabbed our guns and knives from the house!” His father taps at his back. Philip sees two shotguns slung across his father’s back, and the shine of the knives in his boot strap. 45 minutes has passed and they’re almost at the ranch. The fire and death ship have not moved any closer and are now hovering in the distance. Philip and his father slow their pace as they arrive outside of the ranch gates. The air is still. Philip’s father opens the gate while remaining on Bill’s back and they both trot into the property.
There are no cars and no sign of life. All the horses are gone, all the lights are off and the air… the air is too still. Bob’s nostrils flare and Philip feels his ears twitching. There’s something here. “Let’s gather some supplies and ride on.” His dad whispers. “There’s no one here to help us.” Philip looks back in the direction of the flames; they haven’t moved closer. The ship is still there, but the explosions have stopped. He urges Bob with his feet to move forwards to the ranch home, but Bob stays put. “Bob,” Philip whispers “move on, we need to grab a few things before we get going, boy.” But Bob stays put. “Dad,” Philip whispers a little louder to catch his father’s attention. “he’s not moving.” He raises his hands in the air almost comically and points to Bob; ears still twitching. “Not moving.” He repeats.
His father looks around. There’s nothing here. “Stay put.” He whisper-shouts back. “I’ll grab what we need and come back.” And with that he turns Bill away and starts heading towards the house. He stops. Turns to Philip and says “Son, I love yo- - - RUN!” Philip sees his father’s face in complete terror. He kicks his heels into Bob and they start sprinting; but in no direction. Bob runs forward and stops, runs sideways then halts, then runs back towards their home, then stops. He kicks his hind legs and Philip is thrown off onto the ground.
He hears his father grunt with fear as he too is flung towards Philip’s side on the ground. They hold onto each other as they hear the most awful high pitched, wailing screams. Horse hooves trample around them, not letting them stand or move away. Both Bill and Bob are surrounding Philip and his father. They’re kicking, neighing, grunting and stomping their hooves on the ground. They’re preparing for battle.
Philips father grabs a knife from his boot and hands it to his son, their hands are shaking as they make the transaction. “Take this knife and stab anything that comes at you!” He screams. “I love you, son! I love you!” As Philip is fighting through his tears and sobs, he wants to say “I love you” back to his Dad. But at that very moment, Bill the horse falls to his knees and a clearing is made. In the time it takes Philip to look up, his father is gone. Philip is in shock. His face is numb, his body is paralyzed with fear. And now Bob’s teeth are holding onto his shirt and he’s racing away, dragging Philip’s frozen body along the ground beside him. Philip passes out. It seems like a bad dream that he has finally woken from. He’s alive. He sits up with a start and breaths in as though it’s his first breath on earth. It was a dream. He thinks to himself. Then he sees the knife at his side, and the figures approaching him. Where is Bob?
As though his mind was read, Bob neighs in the distance and Philip can see him tied to the trees. But the restraints don’t look like normal ropes. None of the figures approaching him look back towards the horse. They just keep moving forward; towards him. In an instant, they’re at his body and he’s hanging in the air by the scruff of his shirt. He has no plan of escape. His mind keeps flicking back to his burning home, his screaming father and his horse; Philip looks to Bob, who is struggling with such strength to get loose. No, Philip has no plan of escape. But he has his knife. He slashes at the beast holding him and cuts into the flesh. It bleeds. He continues slicing but his hand is stopped and the knife that could have been his savior is plunged straight into his belly. The pain forces his hand open and the knife falls to the ground. The beast flings him over his spikes where shoulders would normally be and walks on. Philip can hear Bob in the background, flailing, stomping, trying to get free. But he can’t help. He’s bleeding out.
The knife. The figures just left him there, and his knife. He begins to crawl towards it. If he can get to it, he’ll be able to crawl towards Bob, cut him loose and they can race off. The theory is sound, but his foot won’t move. Philip turns to see the same type of rope restraint that they used on Bob, now on his foot. But it’s… moving! The rope plunges into his ankle, through the boot, and burrows into his flesh. Screams escape his mouth as he desperately tries to reach the knife only a few feet away. Another rope creature pops out from the ground and thrusts itself into his calf muscle. He can’t move forward so he begins to stretch himself out, struggling, fighting to reach even just the handle of the knife. He looks back at his leg and his muscle is gone. His foot has been severed and the rope creature is finding its way to his thigh. The pain is unbearable and his screams are deafening. He looks back at his thigh and it’s now half the size it was before. He looks at Bob, who is looking at him, their eyes meet, and Philip notices that Bob no longer has two of his legs either. The rope creatures have been eating away at him this whole time as well.
Philip and Bob scream to each other as they watch each other be consumed. With his last bit of strength, Bob neighs with such loyalty and love and this time, Philip doesn't hesitate. â€œI love you too, boy!â€? he cries back; the ropes reach his throat and devour him completely.
Rough sketch of what could be Bob; however color and design is not set in stone.
President Murdoch has a situation. He’s an instant father figure to a girl who watched both her parents die in front of her. And she’s sick. Dr. Robertson had mentioned something earlier about the gravitational difference in the Shell as the potential illness culprit, but President Murdoch didn’t really listen at the time. Her pale face held his full attention. He presses his wrist communicator and calls for Dr. Robertson to return to the room. “It’s only been 5 minutes. We managed to stabilize her, President.” Robertson states. “She’s not getting better.” Murdoch mumbles in a low voice. “We’re running tests, but nothing can be said for sure.” Robertson shifts from one foot to the other “As I said earlier, she’s not used to the gravitational difference on The Shell. The best thing for her is to put her back on the planet. Sir, she doesn’t belong here.”
President Murdoch is fully aware that she doesn’t belong on The Shell. It’s a military base of operations to say the least. And she’s just a girl. An idea comes to him. “Take her to a hospital on the surface.” He looks at Dr. Robertson with utter seriousness. “Her town’s hospital is damaged, if not totally destroyed.” Robertson lifts his hand to his forehead and rubs his eyebrows. “Not hers, take her to our city.” Murdoch orders. Dr. Robertson is shocked. “This is not up for discussion, Doctor. Get a shuttle and go now.” Murdoch begins to rise to leave the room. “Mr. President,” Robertson pleads “I’m needed here. The troopmen are returning with more evidence and the tests we’re running need my attention…” he trails off. “Then get your daughter to take her.” The President orders and leaves the room.
Lisha is combing her hair when her fathers shows up at the door. She runs to him and gives him a giant hug as she hasn’t seen him since the graduation. Her hug falls short as she realises the tense atmosphere. “What’s wrong? What happened at the graduation?” “I have been given direct orders from the President, and it involves you, Lisha.” Robertson grabs his daughters hands and sits her down. “You are to leave The Shell and take someone to the surface for medical attention.” Lisha is overwhelmed. “I’m leaving? He wants me to leave? Who am I taking? Why can’t our medical staff attend to them? We have the best medical science right here!” Robertson tightens his grip on her hands and it settles her down. “The person you are taking,” he pauses “is the President’s adopted daughter and he’s trusting you to keep her safe.” He’s looking right into her eyes now, silently begging for her to just accept and do this one thing. As though Lisha can read his thoughts, she agrees. “You leave today.” Robertson stands, pulls her to her feet and gives her the tightest hug he can.
The shuttle is small; enough for two people. Lisha notices the President holding a little girl and approaches them. She knew he had adopted, but didn’t know when and certainly had no idea his daughter was visiting! “Mr. President, Sir.” She address President Murdoch and salutes. “At ease.” He replies. “This is my daughter. You are to take her to the City Hospital on Scoron. If anyone asks,” he clears his throat “she’s your little sister.” Lisha flashes a look at her father who is standing next to her. He nods his head and pushes her forward with his hand. Lisha looks at this little girl. The girl stares blankly at her and doesn’t speak. “Yes, Sir.” Lisha confirms. She enters the shuttle and buckles in. Behind her, the President secures his daughter and closes the shuttle door. She starts the engines and takes off. They will be on the surface within 5 hours. Back on the Shell, Robertson turns to his President and with a sincere sigh of uncertainty, he says “I hope we know what we’re doing.” The City Hospital is overcrowded. Lisha hasn’t been on the surface for years, but she can’t ever remember there being this many people needing medical attention at one time.
She is carrying her little sister next to a nurse who is taking them to their room. “You’ll need to share a room with two other patients.” The nurse explains “We have so many people ill at the moment, space is a little tight.” They all enter the small hospital room that is to be her little sisters home for the next… however long. The nurse begins to prepare the chart. “What’s her name?” Lisha is stumped. She looks at the little girl who says nothing. “Maya” Lisha blurts out. “Maya Robertson” The nurse continues “And where do you live?” Lisha know the answer to this one “Upper West quadrant, apartment 214, Tomber Towers” She lies. “Excellent. Now, you’re sharing this room with two people in a coma, so don’ t be alarmed if they aren’t waking up.” And with that, the Nurse leaves the room. Lisha wonders when the doctor will come to check on Maya. The little girl seems to look better. Color has come back to her face and she is not longer wheezing as she was the entire trip down to the surface.
She’s looking around as though this is the first time she’s seen a hospital room. Michael comes in. Lisha stands and introduces herself. They shake hands and smile. But his smile is empty as he looks at his sleeping Sophie. “Is this your wife?” Lisha asks “Fiance.” Michael replies. “And the one next to her is my brother.” He forces a fake, tight lipped smile and sits down. “I’m so sorry. What happened?” Lisha pulls a chair from the corner of the room and also takes a seat. Michael looks at Lisha, then at the girl, then back at Lisha. “They doctors don’t know why my brother is in a coma, and my Fiance,” he looks back at the little girl “I’d rather not say what happened in front of her.” The girl known now as Maya, looks up at him and says “Ich versual mon famiel slurtre.” Michael looks to Lisha for answers, but she’s sitting there just as dumbfounded as him. Trying to think on her feet, she begins creating an excuse. “The illness is affecting her speech. I’m not sure why. No one knows
why.” She trails off to make herself sound more upset about the whole situation. Maya sits up straight and throws her pillow on the floor. She starts repeating “Ich versual mon famiel slurtre. Ich versual mon famiel slurtre.” Over and over again, her voice getting louder and louder. She throws her second; and last pillow. This time towards Sophie. It hits her in the face. Michael races to his fiance’s bed and stands guard. “Call the doctor; is she always like this?” He yells at Lisha; who is finding it hard to not fall apart herself at this time. Maya stops and turns her ear towards Sophie. She jumps out of bed and runs towards Michael to try and get to Sophie, but he holds her up and keeps her in his arms. They both look at Sophie. She’s awake. “Sophie!” Cries Michael. “Sophie! Honey!” He’s still holding Maya, tighter than before.
Sophie’s eyes are open but she doesn’t seem to recognize Michael. “Ich versual mon famiel slurtre.” She starts to say. “Ich versual mon famiel slurtre. Ich versual mon family slurtre. I versual mon family slurtre. I watched mon family slurtre. I watched my family die.” With those words, she blinks, her eyes are now showing signs of life and she’s holding Michael’s face with her hands. “Michael. I watched my family die. My dad. He was taken. My horse. I watched the ropes eat him. Michael. They were eating me too. I was in this strange place and there were beasts invading my home. They were killing everything, dropping bombs. Michael, I died!” Sophie breaks down and starts to sob uncontrollably. He puts Maya down and comforts Sophie as best as he can, but none of this is making sense to him. Lisha takes Maya by the hand and pulls her away from the couple. She always wondered if people in coma’s would dream. In between Sophie’s sobbing, Lisha continues to hear the words “invaders” “ropes” “cables” and then a word which makes her blood cold… “Troopmen.”
As though Maya was mirroring Lisha’s reaction, she too freezes on the word. Frowning, she whispers “Ich versual Troopmen cadet slurtre mon famiel.” Michael turns towards the two, tears in his eyes. “What?” As though Maya could understand him, she repeats “Ich versual cadet troopmen slurtre mon famiel.” Michael starts to spell out the words “I watched cadet troopmen die my family. I don’t know this language, but they’re both speaking it and I can’t understand why. Little girl, Maya,” he pleads “please tell me what you mean, sweetie. Please. Help us understand. What does cadet mean?” Maya takes a moment to look down at Sophie, still weeping tears of pain, and Michael, his strength still showing through his face regardless of how much he’s crying. They remind her of her parents. She points at Lisha and says “Cadet troopmen.” She points again, but harder; almost causing a bruise on Lisha’s arm and says “Cadet. Troopmen.” Lisha lets go of Maya and stands. She doesn’t understand any of this. Lifting her hands into the air as though she’s being arrested, she starts to whisper “No, no no, I am not a cadet troopman. No no no…”
“Troop - man? You’ve made this word singular? Do you know who she’s talking about?” He’s angry now. “Lisha, or whoever you are, tell me what you know. Right now.” He has Lisha up against a wall. He’s breathing heavily, his eyes are red and sore from crying, but he doesn’t blink. He just keeps staring at her. Maya is watching from the chair. It’s almost as though she’s enjoying this. “It’s the beast that invaded my planet. They thought they had killed me; I thought they had killed me. But I was still alive. I hid and watched them connect giant tubes to the ground. When they got back into their space ships, I watched smaller rope-like tubes rise from the earth and connect into my flesh. I couldn’t move. I saw pulses of light escape my body and feed into the tubes. I felt my energy being drained, my thoughts being taken. And finally, when the Troopmen returned, they found it in their hearts to finally kill me.” a voice says on the far end of the room. Sophie, Michael, Lisha and Maya all look at the other hospital bed in the room. The voice is coming from Simon. He’s sitting, looking straight at Maya, tears in his eyes.
Michael lets go of Lisha and turns to his brother “Simon?” Simon turns his head to look behind him. Then turns back at Michael with a sad, lost expression. “Who’s Simon? My name is Shrena.” Simon points to Maya. “And that’s Shiwa. My best friend.” An alarm sounds and Lisha sees nurses scurrying around the hallways shouting; “They’re all waking up!”
THIS CONCLUDES THE FIRST TERM OF MEMORY PLANET. BUT IT’S FAR FROM OVER! WHILE YOU WAIT FOR TERM TWO,CONNECT WITH OTHER READERS ON FACEBOOK AND TWITTER! ...ARE YOU ALL CONNECTING THE DOTS YET? TWITTER: @MEMORYPLANET FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/memoryplanetbook
END TERM 1 TERM 2 (Chap. 13) RELEASE DATE: October 22, 2013
Original story by Hania Zdunek. Includes all of Term 1. Chapters 1 - 12.