I hate to go back to this but I really have to comment on something that I find very weird with Star Trek and, to a lesser extent, Star Wars.
The Star Trek stories are written, presumably, by humans who grew up on the planet Earth. Planet Earth, you’ll remember, is divided into continents, countries, cities, and towns. There are many different governments, different colors, and different cultures. Just about every planet in the Star Trek universe, though, appears to be custom made. There are “resort” planets that the starships visit for shore leave. Most planets appear to have colonies, no matter how long people have lived there. There is rarely more than one government. Indeed, most planets seem to be sparsely populated and everyone is usually crammed into one small section. With one ruler.
This is similar to Star Wars where planets are passé and moons are the place to be. Yavin IV is a moon of Yavin, I would guess. Endor was a moon. A forest moon, that is, so I assume the whole place was covered in trees.
I don’t have much to write about today, so I will turn to fiction. My first short-short story in about 13 years. First new story. I Write Like says it’s written in the style of J.K. Rowlings (ack!), but I consider it more an homage to Robert Sheckley. Hell, he may have already written this for all I know. He probably did. Anyway, enjoy.
Harry The Explorer
Harry was nervous. His right leg jiggled continuously unless he realized it was moving up and down and willed it to stop. He sat in a chair across from a large wooden desk where the large Major Weinstein sat.
"You do understand what you’re volunteering for, don’t you Mister Wilson?" the Major asked, leaning forward on the desk and steepling his fingers.
"Oh, yes," said Harry. "I would be going into stasis and launched towards a star that has a planet that may be Earth-like."
"That’s right, Mister Wilson. The star in question is HD 70642 and it’s 93.8 light years away. You understand that even though you’ll be approaching light speed you’re still looking at a journey of almost three hundred years, right?"
"Oh yes. That’s no problem for me," said Harry. "I don’t have any family, an orphan, you know, and no friends. I have a crappy office job so it’s not like I’ll be leaving behind a life of luxury. Really, I’m a nobody. But," Harry’s voice raised slightly in excitement, "if I could be the first person on another planet then that would give my life some meaning."
"Indeed. In fact, you’ll be a hero just for making the attempt," agreed the Major.
"Attempt?" asked Harry.
The Major leaned back in his big leather chair. "Well, yes. It’s a long trip and there’s a lot of things that could go wrong. Asteroids, rogue planets, maybe even aliens picking you up," said the Major with a chuckle.
Harry chuckled along with him but noticed that the Major only seemed happy when thinking about things that could go wrong. He developed a minor dislike for the man.
And now it was time to go. He had ridden the space elevator up to the orbiting station, ignoring everything but the receding Earth in the thick glass windows. Then he had taken a Chinese shuttle to the Russian-run space station that oversaw the struggling Martian colonists.
Harry looked out of porthole at the gigantic spaceship, the Leif Ericson, where he’d be spending the next couple of hundred years in a deep sleep.
"It’s not really sleeping," said the technician, typing in information on his datapad. "All your functions will be slowed to a near stop. You won’t dream or anything."
Harry was disappointed, slightly. He had been dreaming of walking off the landing module and taking step on the first planet out of the solar system. He day dreamed about being the first human being to be on that planet. A planet pure and pristine and ignorant of human beings. He had hoped he could keep dreaming his dreams on the way to HD 70642. Also, he’d be changing the name of the star once he got there.
He lay down in the stasis pod, the technicians went about doing their techie things, and then the world turned dark.
An alarm was going off. Harry tried to reach out to hit the snooze button but his hand banged against something. He opened his eyes and saw the lid to the pod. Consciousness started up and the confusion drained away. He pushed on the button that opened the stasis pod and climbed out.
The cockpit was a smoking mess. Something must have hit the ship while he was in stasis. Harry started to panic and he looked for a terminal that was still working and not sparking or smoking. He found one and saw, with relief, that he was in orbit around an Earth sized planet around what he was now calling "Wilson’s Star." As long as the landing module was still intact his dreams could still be met.
He rushed around making preparations, of which there were little. The module was already stocked with things he may need. Self-building structures which could be made airtight if the atmosphere was not breathable. Radio equipment to signal Earth, even though it would take nearly a hundred years to get there. There were seeds to plant if the soil was good and packaged food if it was not.
Finally, he crawled into the module and started the descent sequence. Harry wished they had outfitted it with windows or some kind of way of seeing outside. It would have been a beautiful counterpoint to see his new planet growing larger as Earth had gotten smaller when he was on the elevator. But they didn’t so he would have to wait until he landed.
The module dropped, passing through the atmosphere of "Wilson’s Planet." It seemed to take forever but eventually the cabin was filled, in the blink of an eye, by impact foam and hit the planet surface.
It took a few minutes to recover but Harry was excited now. He made sure his helmet was secure as the impact foam fizzled into the air. He popped the hatch and climbed out.
A crowd of people stood around the module. They looked human. Disoriented, Harry spun around looking at everyone. He appeared to be in a parking lot for a shopping mall. His confused brain noted that there were signs written in English. His heart sank. A lump grew in his stomach making him feel queesy. He hadn’t gone anywhere. There must have been a problem and he fell back to Earth, hopefully not crushing anyone in the parking lot.
A man in a dark suit and thick rimmed glasses pushed through the crowd to reach Harry. Deftly, he unlocked the helmet and got it off before Harry could object.
"You must be Harry Wilson," cried the man happily over the hubbub of the crowd. "Come with me, please."
"Wait!" yelled Harry. "Who are you? Where am I? What’s going on?"
"I’ll explain everything in the car, sir!"
They got to the car, which floated above the ground in front of a McDonald’s. Two burly guards stripped Harry of the burly suit and now they were speeding down a road.
"Are you aliens? Are you tapping into my mind to look human?" asked Harry.
The government looking man laughed. "No, Mister Wilson. We’re all quite human."
The man, Clarkson, explained that after Harry’s ship had left the scientists had not been idle. Within twenty years of Harry’s departure they had developed a faster propulsion system and sent another ship. A few years later they developed even faster methods of travel and launched yet another. Clarkson was the great-grandson of the members of the Earhart, the fastest ship.
"So, you see," explained Clarkson, "since we were able to travel further in a shorter amount of time we overtook you and arrived earlier."
"I’m not the first human here then," said Harry woodenly.
"I’m afraid not."
"I’m not even the first immigrant of the a new colony."
"No, that was the crew of the Cortez."
Harry sighed, disappointed beyond words.
All was not lost for Harry, though. Even though he had no friends or family on this planet the government had set him up with a job as an office worker.