"What are you doing?" Greyson Walker asked as he put his head far too close to my own for my liking.
"Nothing," I lied as I slammed my laptop shut.
"I saw exactly what you were doing," he sneered.
"Well then what did you bloody ask for?" I snapped.
"To check if you would lie. How am I expected to work with you when I can't even trust you?" he started. I kept my mouth shut and refrained myself from throwing him through the window of our twelfth storey office.
"I know you were looking at naughty sights on company property," he announced. Fellow workers at surrounding cubicles stopped what they were doing to try and have a peek at what I could possibly be looking at. I groaned inwardly when one of them winked at me.
"For every ones information it wasn't one of those sites. I was simply looking at videos of solar flares and their potential effect on a theoretical wormhole," I explained. Our acne prone work experience guy had turned beet red and was trying to hide his face behind the research he was doing into the next lunar eclipse.
Suddenly the room hushed and the excited chatter about me being a closet porn addict died down. Which only meant one thing. The boss was here.
"Walker, Benson my office," he barked. A trip to the office usually only meant one thing: re-assignment. "Now," the boss added as he continued down the hall. I jumped to my feet and followed.
"You are in so much trouble," Greyson taunted.
"You must be as well since you are coming too," I sniped. He didn't utter another word for the rest of the walk down the hallway.
"I've got a new assignment," the boss started before I even shut the door behind me. Luc Dempsey had been in the industry a long time and was not a man to be messed with.
"Yes sir," Greyson and I replied in unison.
"You will be relocated to our facility in the middle of the desert," he started. I could already feel my enthusiasm for a reassignment starting to fade.
"In these dire times it is becoming more necessary to find other inhabitable planets and your focus will be the constellation Sagittarius." I couldn't contain it any longer.
"But sir, they have looked and found nothing remotely inhabitable in that constellation, it's situated in the densest part of the universe it is just so unlikely...."
He held up a finger to shush me.
"I thought you would appreciate this one with your link," he snapped as his gaze drifted to my ankle. Although hidden beneath slacks and never visible in the workplace there was no hiding anything from the boss.
"It's not..." I started.
"Don't make me say it," he warned as he glanced at Greyson who was leeching on every word of the conversation.
“What about Gliese 581g?” I asked.
“What about it?” he asked.
“Isn’t there a team investigating its in-habitability? I’m sure they will find that it is inhabitable and we won't have to worry about finding other planets,” I added.
“Do you honestly think that the powers that be want to stop at one planet? Think how boring life would be with only one flavour of ice cream,” he explained.
“Oh good, use ice cream as a reference to the lactose intolerant one,” I groaned.
"You leave Monday," he said. "I have organised for another colleague to take care of Astro in your absence," he informed me. I shuddered at the thought of my baby in the care of someone he didn't know. There was a knock on the door and without waiting for a response a knock-out blonde entered the room. Her legs seemed to go forever, unlike the mini skirt she had on.
"You wanted to see me sir?" she asked.
"Yes this is Agent Benson, Astros owner. Get acquainted," he ordered.
"Thank you sir," with a wave of his hand we were all dismissed. Numbly I walked back to my desk. I had always known there was the potential to be sent out to the middle of nowhere but it had never actually come up and to have it happen so quickly was a little startling.
"Better get all that porn off your computer before you leave," Greyson laughed.
"Better get that smirk off your face before I throw the computer at your head," I grumbled. The worst part about the situation was that I was being posted to a remote location with Greyson Walker. I would have preferred one of the work experience boys that would hardly use my name without wetting their pants. But for some reason the boss had decided that the one colleague I most hated would accompany me.
"What did the boss mean by your link to it?" he asked.
"I haven't the slightest clue what you are talking about," I lied.
"I was thinking I would come over tonight and get to know Astro before you leave," the leggy blonde said as she approached my desk. I discovered her name was Felicity Blythe.
"Maybe you should bring pyjamas as well so I can get you used to his morning routine," I announced. My words were followed by the clatter of pens, a spilt coffee and even one colleague ending up on the floor.
"Oh that would be wonderful," she cried twirling her hair around her fingers.
When I arrived home that afternoon Astro was practically beside himself with excitement. After a momentary leg hump I sat on the dining room chair and he practically climbed into my lap and started to lick my face. I was both flattered and disgusted by his expression of love for me. I was even less impressed when I found one of my throw cushions had been torn to shreds. How was the poor dear going to cope when I was gone for what could be months. I didn't make it much further than the chair, I just sat there and patted Astro. I didn't realise how much time passed and suddenly there was a knock at the door. I opened it to find Felicity standing there. She had a small overnight bag. I’d been unsure if she would take the offer of the overnight stay seriously because of the way our colleagues had reacted.
“I only have the one bed…” I started.
“That’s fine by me,” she replied as she dropped her bag and took my hands in hers. Before I knew it her lips had found mine. I was glad she had picked up on my subtle hints.
“Imagine if the guys found out…”
“I know,” she laughed as she pushed me against the wall. I led her to the bedroom and what followed was one of the most amazing nights of my life. We were lying there afterwards and she sat at my feet and started massaging them.
“Nice tattoo,” she said. I groaned. I’d been meaning to get it removed for a long time. I tried to pull my foot away but she hung onto it.
“It was my mother’s idea,” I explained.
“You don’t get along?” she asked. I shook my head. She crawled up the bed and wrapped her arms around me.
“She wanted me to get into Astrology when all I wanted to do was Astronomy and she was very nasty about letting me know that my life choices were wrong,” I explained.
The following morning I introduced her to Astro and showed her everything that she would need to know while I was gone. She stayed the next two nights and then on Monday morning I had to say goodbye. I’d had the most fantastic couple of days of my life and now I was off into the middle of nowhere for who knows how long to look for something that more than likely didn’t exist. We agreed it would be easier for her to stay in my house since she had been sharing with a friend recently. It would be easier on Astro as well. My suitcase was packed and sitting in the doorway. Felicity looking from me to the suitcase.
“Life’s pretty shit sometimes,” she announced,
“Tell me about it,” I groaned as I headed for the door. Before I got there she caught up for one final kiss. I couldn’t bring myself to it and rested my head on her shoulder. She pulled back and looked at me quizzically. I tried to smile but my throat closed up and tears threatened to spill over. I turned my head but held her hand until I was out the door and our fingers could no longer reach. I could feel her standing in the doorway but didn’t have the strength to look back. I went downstairs to the front of my apartment block and got in the company vehicle that was waiting to take me to the airport. I fell into the back seat and the tears spilled over. I could see the driver looking in the rear view mirror but I didn’t know him and he didn’t need an explanation. I managed to pull myself together as I arrived at our second destination to pick up Greyson. If my chest had once been a star it was threatening to collapse to form a black hole. Part of me wished it could so that the event horizon could suck the rest of me out of this place. I’d never felt so emotional in my whole life and couldn’t understand how someone I had only known such a short time could cause such heartache. I finally found someone who was just right and had to leave her behind.
I could feel Greysons eyes boring into the side of my head like a space probe. I kept my eyes glued to the road ahead. We were seated together on the plane and I still hadn’t even acknowledged his presence. Then we were transferred onto a light aircraft to take us to our final remote destination.
“You know if you can’t even speak to me on the plane things will be very difficult at the new facility,” he announced.
I swallowed hard and tried to think of something witty to say to him but I just found I had to swallow again to get rid of the lump in my throat.
“I..” was all I managed to croak out my dry throat. He tilted his head in concern when he realised that I wasn’t just being a bitch and that something was genuinely up. He reached out he let it hover for a little while above my arm and then let it rest. I placed my hand over his and squeezed it in thanks. Then we hit some turbulence.
“This isn’t on my radar at all,” the pilot yelled. We buckled ourselves in and held tight, the small aircraft felt like it was being thrown around the sky.
“This is a bad sign,” I whined as I clung onto Greysons arm. Finally the craft landed miraculously in one piece but with enough of a jolt that it caused Greysons skull to crack heavily onto mine.
I awoke the next morning; at least I thought it was until they told me it had been days. Greyson popped in to visit raving about all the equipment the facility had and how much it was going to change the world when we discovered what we needed. I was restricted to light duty for a few weeks and then finally allowed to check out the equipment. Greyson was so excited about taking me to the lab.
“You are going to love this,” he exclaimed like a kid that had just found a candy factory. The elevator binged and the doors slid open. In front of me were miles and miles of lab. The walls were silver but made of no material I had ever seen before.
“It’s Nebulargentum,” he said reading my mind. I could feel my mouth dropping involuntarily. “You know what that means?” He led me through the maze of the lab and introduced me to our new boss. I kept scanning the room wondering what wonderful piece of equipment I would be able to work on first. I was shown to a desk with a computer. Great. All these wonderful toys around and all I get to play with is one that has been around for decades. I was introduced to a team of guys all with thick rimmed glasses, acne, plaid shirts and calloused hands from hours of video games or computer programming. One of them nearly choked on his doughnut when he was told I would be joining the team. I stood around the computer that they were all looking intently at. Thankfully it was one of those new age computers that were a glass plane that could be seen from either side. The guy who seemed to be the head of the group was touching the screen and sliding through a number of images of stars and planets I didn’t recognise.
“What is this?” I asked. They laughed at me like I should have known.
“That’s Epsilon Sagittarius,” one of them finally told me.
“No way,” I huffed like someone who had just been introduced to Jesus.
“And these…” the leader said as he flicked through. “Are her planets.”
“But she’s too far away for any of our technology to get this good of pictures,” I protested.
“You haven’t shown her the hanger yet?,” he stated to Greyson.
“What hanger?” I asked.
Greyson rolled his eyes and led me away from the group. He took me up the elevator and we climbed into an extra-terrestrial looking buggy. He took me across the grounds and once we cleared security we were allowed down the elevator. There stood the most magnificent looking spacecraft I had ever seen in my life.
“Are you saying…” I started.
“Yes hyperspace capabilities,” he confirmed.
“Am I in a coma?” I asked touching my throbbing head. He laughed and showed me around the craft. When we came back round the front one of the men who had been looking at the computer screen before was blocking our path to leave. I noticed his name tag said Sankeys.
“You don’t belong here,” Sankeys said.
“Security said it was ok,” I explained.
“No I meant at this facility,” Sankeys growled.
“We have worked just as hard as anyone else that is here…” Greyson started.
“Not you, her,” he pointed at me like I was some sort of diseased creature.
“You would think in all the years of feminist progression…”
“It’s not because you are a woman,” he growled pointing at my ankle. I looked down to see a blue glow through my trousers.
“What is that?” Greyson asked. When we looked again Sankeys had disappeared and the glow died down. I had been too shocked to lift my trousers to see what was actually happening to my tattoo.
We headed back to the office and watched the others work. I noticed as one of them swiped his finger across the screen that he had an arrow tattooed on his finger, the same design as my own Sagittarius Arrow. I looked closely at the other five members of the team and saw one who had it behind his ear, another I could see the faint outline on his bicep, through his white shirt. I figured the rest had it somewhere hidden like me.
“We have thus far found 5 planets around the star,” explained a man with the name tag Masters.
“To my knowledge most of them are gaseous planets,” I piped in.
“Your knowledge would be correct except we have discovered an earth like planet,” Masters added.
“What exactly are we looking for?” I asked.
“Inhabitable planets,” he groaned rolling his eyes like he had already explained it numerous times.
“I know that,” I sighed like a sixteen year old cheerleader. “For who?” He responded with a raised eyebrow. “Are we looking for a planet inhabitable for human beings or are we looking for it to be inhabitable for other life forms.”
“We have yet to see evidence of any other life,” Masters scolded me like I had suggested that we should look for heaven.
“So for us then?” I asked. They didn’t respond to me. “So why are we looking at a sun that is 145 light years away when we could easily make Mars inhabitable with our current technology.”
Still no response.
“Just let it go,” Greyson warned.
“No. I’ve been dragged away from my life for a project that isn’t feasible,” I replied.
“You know we have developed hyperspace travel right?” Masters snapped.
“But why start with somewhere so far?” I asked.
“There are a number of facilities on Earth and each one is focusing on a different constellation,” Greyson explained.
“And what if somebody is already home?” I asked.
“There are no signs…”
“In your eyes. How do you know those gas planets aren’t inhabited by something that we can’t get near enough to see,” I snapped.
“And what sort of being would inhabit a gas planet?” Masters laughed.
“One that you would never want to meet,” I replied. “Besides our technology is likely so vastly inferior to those inhabiting the gas planets that they could be invisible to us until it’s too late.”
“Do you remember what happened to the indigenous people when Cook landed in Australia?” Masters asked.
“I do but you’re no Cook. I’m pretty sure any mission to inhabit would fail,” I grumbled.
“You are not aware of the mission are you?” Masters smiled. I felt my heart sink. What wasn’t I aware of?
“We already know it’s inhabited,” Greyson told me. I felt my eyes open wide and my jaw followed suite.
“Wh-wh-wh..” was all I managed to stutter out. They laughed at me and showed me pictures of a race not too unlike our own. Mixed in were photos of a few centaurs. Then I laughed.
“Now I know you are pulling my leg,” I smiled. Greyson shook his head and pulled me aside. He started to lift his shirt.
“For the last time I’m not interested,” I announced.
“Will you just look,” he ordered. I looked to see the Sagittarius arrow tattooed on his hip.
“I don’t understand,” I whispered.
“Maybe I can help,” came a familiar voice behind me.
“Mum?” I cried as I turned to face the woman that I had so readily cut out of my life. Instead I came face to face with another being. Her features had been re-arranged, but she was one of the most exquisite creatures I had ever seen.
“Mum?” I asked again.
“We’ve been working on a way to get home,” she explained.
“Home?” I whispered. Greyson swiped at the computer screen and it zoomed in on what appeared to be a live feed of the planet that we had been looking at. It was beautiful. Untouched by man. Such natural beauty but still so much more advanced than Earth.
“Why isn’t she freaking out like I did?” Greyson asked. I felt a drip on my hand and looked down to see blood. I brought my hand to my nose to find it flowing like a river. Then I remembered my head injury. This had to be a dream. Mum started humming and it rose in pitch until it was a very high sound. I felt my skin start to constrict around my bones as some of my muscles moved and my body changed shape. This was most definitely the weirdest dream I had ever had.
“Gosh Lorena you are beautiful,” Greyson sighed. I turned to see that his form had also changed, along with that of everyone in the complex. I shut my eyes and opened them trying to wake myself up.
“Come Sagara it’s time for you to take your rightful place as ruler of Saggattarii 3X52Y,” Mum said.
“Sagara?” I asked. She nodded. Then clicked her fingers and the guys grabbed my arms and dragged me to the ship in the hanger. I struggled with all my might, but to no avail. So here I am in a holding cell on a ship travelling through hyperspace to rule a planet I never knew existed. I wonder what awaits me when I arrive.
CHALLENGE- To write a 3500 word Hard Sci- Fi
ACTUAL WORD COUNT- 3481