Chapter one of Pegasus Colony
Lieutenant Jessica Hewitt
The New Assignment
I was never supposed to set foot on Akiane, nor did I want to. I mean, why would I? It was an ice planet, so cold that in winter a thick sheet of ice covered the salty ocean.
I’m not sure why I joined the space program, moved to World Space Coalition’s moon base or why I volunteered for the Akiane Project.
World Space Coalition was a partnership of the world’s nations that combined their financial resources and their scientists to explore and study space, and establish off-world colonies.
WSC built its headquarters on Earth’s moon so no one country could lay claim to it. After they colonized Mars and Europa, they wanted to expand beyond Earth’s solar system. The first galactic colony was to be in the Pegasus Constellation on the planet Akiane.
The colonists were to land and establish the colony in the year 2144, but WSC lost contact with the colony. After repeated tries, it was thought everyone had died and because WSC didn’t want to risk any more lives, the project was abandoned.
A little over 297 years later, in the year 2429, to the astonishment of Earth, WSC and it’s colonies, it was discovered that not only had the colonists survived, but they had procreated.
WSC was excited to reclaim its colony and provide any assistance needed to its people. It took three years to prepare WSC Britannia and her crew for the journey.
I wanted to escape my life on Earth. I wanted to get away from overbearing media and my dad’s obsessive fans.
With all the excitement of reestablishing Earth’s first galactic colony, I thought I’d be lost in the shuffle. And I was … at first. I should have stayed on the base.
What I wanted was a hole to crawl into and to be forgotten so I could forget my life, forget me, forget what happened to Dad.
I signed on to the mission to get even farther away from everything — Earth, family, myself. Six years, five months to reach Akiane, seven days layover, then six years, five months for the return trip. By the time I returned to Earth, everything would be different. I’d start my life over and this time, I’d get it right.
Somehow I became the focus of media attention throughout the entire world. My name would be firmly set in history. I’m still not sure how it happened.
At the time, I was Ensign Jessica M. Hewitt, Communications Tech. My assignment was to sit at the radio in Command Center on the Transport Ship WSC Britannia and wait for messages from World Space Coalition, which I would relay to Captain Norris. I’d then relay his reply back. In fiction, working in command is exciting; in reality, it’s brain numbing.
My other job was to listen for space anomalies. Space is silent. No, not silent; it’s dead. My job was to listen in case there was something out there, in case something happened.
Nothing happened. Ever.
Then something did happen that changed everything.
While at my station, in 2447, August 27, I received the first of five messages from the colony on Akiane.
The first message read:
We have no need of your presence. We are not your colony.
Captain Norris apologized, but stated, “We were already on our way.” His orders did not allow him to turn around and return to Earth.
Each message over the next two years was increasingly more forceful in its demands that we turn back, which made Captain Norris all the more determined to continue on.
Then the messages stopped. I thought the colony had resigned to our coming.
Exactly four years, eight months, one day, and fifteen hours after leaving Earth, Captain Norris called me into his office. He sat straight-backed, with his forearms resting on the desk. He didn’t look happy.
I could think of nothing I’d done wrong that would have so soured his mood.
“What did you say to those people on Akiane?” His voice was calm, but challenging. He stared at me over his hawk-like nose.
I had no idea what he was talking about. “Excuse me, Sir?”
He didn’t offer me a chair or say, “At ease.” I stood, arms at my side, feet together, and head held high, looking straight ahead at the blank wall behind him.
“You received several communications from the colony on Akiane. Is that correct?” he asked.
“Yes, Sir, I did. Five messages in all, Sir,” I said, still not sure where he was headed.
“With whom did you communicate?” He was obviously irritated. Clearly, I had done something wrong.
“I don’t know, Sir. They sent text. I spoke to no one, Sir.”
“You must have spoken to someone, Ensign. Made a friend with someone,” he insisted.
“Friend, Sir? I don’t understand. Did I offend someone, Sir?”
He rose and rested his hands on the desk so his face was directly in my line of sight. His stormy gray eyes locked onto mine. “If you were unhappy at your post, you should have come to me instead of trying to go over my head, Ensign.” He said each word clearly and distinctly.
I couldn’t ask him directly what the problem was. There were rules and a pecking order, and at that moment, I was the one being pecked. I bit my tongue and waited for him to get to the point.
“Someone from Akiane has requested you. By name.”
I blinked. What? “Me, Sir?” I gulped. “I can’t imagine why, Sir.”
His hairy brows furled. “I have relayed all messages from the colony and the request for your presence to WSC. They have made their decision.” He paused.
“But I never received such a message.” If I had, I would have refused the request.
“Some one spoke to the on-duty tech while you were off duty.” He made it sound like I was to blame. He straightened to his full height, while he glared.
“Sir?” I weakly asked.
“Seems someone on Akiane likes you.”
“Sir?” I could think of nothing else to say.
“They want a negotiator. You’ve been requested by name. WSC has agreed.”
“Negotiator? Me? Negotiate what?” I was so surprised, I forgot myself. I relaxed my stance.
I snapped to attention.
“Sir,” I finished.
He continued. “Since you’ve read most of the communications from Akiane, you are already aware that the colonists don’t want us on their little planet,” Captain Norris stated. “They insist the planet belongs to them.” He snorted as if their feelings were not a consideration. “World Space Coalition claims all natural resources and scientific finds, as well as the planet and the inhabitants, as its property. WSC did, after all, plan the project, train the crew, and pay for the original expedition, as well as this one.”
He focused his full attention on me as though I’d created the problem entirely by myself. “The colonists won’t even discuss it with me. I’ve tried. It seems they want you to open the dialogue.”
What? Open a dialogue? I barely knew how to carry a normal conversation.
“Once you’re on Akiane, you’ll have seven Earth-Standard days, the length of our layover, to accomplish your mission,” he barked.
What mission? I wanted to scream.
“Your mission is to convince them they are Earth’s colony,” he said as if he heard my thoughts.
“And if I don’t finish in the allotted time, Sir?”
“Then you will stay on Akiane until you do complete your mission, and only then will you return on the next ship.”
“But, Sir, the next transport is two years behind us!” I didn’t want to stay on Akiane for two whole years.
“Correct!” he replied with a little too much enthusiasm. “So don’t fail.”
Captain Norris shifted his stance.
“You’ve been promoted. Pack your things. You will spend the rest of the trip living with the civilians. They will help you with your studies of Akiane, so you will be properly prepared when you arrive.”
“Sir?” I was confused. I couldn’t think clearly.
“Your station on the bridge has been assigned to another,” he said.
He was exiling me.
I’d done nothing wrong. “Sir, permission to speak.”
I couldn’t even defend myself.
He sat down and leaned back in his chair, placed one hand on the armrest and the other on his knee. “There is one good thing to come from all of this.”
Good? I wanted to yell at him, What possible good? Instead I said, “Sir?”
“You’ll be famous. Every person on Earth will know your name.”
My knees turned to jelly. I thought they’d give out. I became light-headed. I almost lost my balance.
My father was a well-known, and well-loved, author. His death was headline news, which brought my life, alongside his, into intense media interest. Practically everywhere I went, someone either took my photograph or asked questions about me and Dad. Okay, so the entire world wasn’t interested, just his fans. It’s just that there were so many of them. I hated it.
My family was just as bad, five aunts and uncles, all married, thirty-five first cousins, all of which wanted to console me and felt they needed to repeatedly check in on me to see how I was dealing with Dad’s death. They drove me crazy.
I joined Space Force mainly because the paparazzi and fans are not allowed on the moon, and family contact was limited. I hoped that the twelve years and ten months journey to and from another planet would be long enough for everyone to move on and forget about me.
The captain’s words, “Every person on Earth will know your name,” vibrated in my head.
I’d become Earth’s representative to their long-lost sisters and brothers on Akiane. Now the entire world would want to know everything about me. I would become a worldwide household name. So much for anonymity.
“You’ll be responsible for the reunion of two worlds,” the captain said.
I lowered my head to look at him. “Why me, Sir? What if I fail?”
He grimaced. “Then you will be responsible for Earth’s first galactic military takeover. The Akiane Project is an effort to rejoin two worlds. If those people are unwilling to accept their status as colonists, then they will be taken by force,” he said.
No pressure there.
Like any other empire builder, WSC was not about to give up its colony. You’d think Earth’s history regarding imperialism would have taught the bureaucrats something. I guess not.
“For the rest of our journey, your new orders are to study and learn all you can about Akiane and its people.”
I tried to process what he was saying. For the next thirteen months and nine days, I was to study a planet and its people. I’d have no other responsibilities.
I’d thought communications was boring. Now I’d truly know what a dreary existence was.
Damn protocol. “But, Sir, why me?” I desperately asked. “Surely, there must be someone, almost anyone, who is better qualified. I don’t know how to deal with people from another planet, much less negotiate peace.” Then as an afterthought I said, “Sir.”
“Your name is on the orders,” he said, settling the matter, and for him it did. “Once you’re on Akiane, someone will contact you.”
To say I was surprised at my promotion was more than an understatement. This was not one that I wanted nor was it one I could refuse. Once I’d signed the contract, my life belonged to Space Force. If they gave me an assignment, I had no choice but to obey. There was nothing I could do to get out of it. Nothing I could say to change my orders.
The captain picked an envelope off his desk and handed to me.
I opened it and pulled out a single piece of paper. On the top of the page, bold letters said: “Lieutenant Jessica M. Hewitt.” Everything else was a blur.
Pegasus Colony is a available on Amazon as a Pbook and an Ebook.