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 in an alien orbit [open], what if the sun disappeared?
munbird
 Posted: Sep 6 2014, 11:38 PM
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In the far future, humanity has achieved a long sought dream: ships capable of simulating Earth's gravity and atmosphere well enough to live on, even allowing people to be born aboard them while they were in space. Luxury cruise ships were the first implementation of these for the public, all previous iterations being military ships.

Celebration over this huge leap forward in technology were short lived, however. From an unknown point in space, a huge, badly damaged ship--seemingly of alien design--suddenly jumped through what looked like a wormhole, dangerously close to the sun. The ship had barely started to exit into space before the sun itself started to get "eaten" by the hole next to it, and by the time the huge vessel was clear Earth's star had been completely swallowed.

Many military ships, as well as a few civilian cruisers, were in space at the time, well within visual range of the sun (they rarely strayed too far). By the time they knew what was happening Earth had already been sent on a trajectory out into empty space, and all the ships could do was follow it. Two smaller military vessels stayed behind to investigate the alien ship. There has yet to be any word of their fate, or what they found.

The ships followed Earth for its entire journey. Few vessels were equipped to land on it to pick up civilians stuck on the stray planet; fewer still could do so as it froze. Of the population left, most managed to make it underground. Until Earth eventually thaws there would be no way of knowing if they survived. It took thousands of years before things changed. Many human generations were born and grew up without ever setting foot on their home planet.

Eventually it was discovered that Earth's path would be intercepted by a star, orbited by only four other planets. One was in the "Goldilocks zone," the region of a star within which a planet could support liquid water, given the right atmosphere. Earth fell into a safe orbit around the star--a wonderful development for humanity, even if it would be quite some time yet before it thawed out and there was no telling if it would regain a habitable atmosphere.

-----


She'd spent her entire life on a ship.

Earlier in humanity's history, such a thing would have been impossible. Being born in space would have come with no small number of complications, and who knew what a person living entirely in zero gravity would have been like. These questions never got an answer; instead, humanity built ships that could simulate Earth's gravity, and protect people from the dangers of space. These ships were luxuries, and while Siomae had been born in such a place, it was the military ships--the sterile, almost lonely environment--where she'd grown up and been trained. She was one of the many who had never set foot on Earth, and more than likely never would.

She came from a military family that took quite a bit of pride in the medals they'd earned and the feats they'd achieved. It was difficult for her to keep from wanting something else for herself, but would have been that much harder to deny the future her parents had already planned for her. Especially when it was impossible to run away. So instead of trying to argue, she did what she was told--this turned out to be an invaluable trait during her service, at least.

Her ship was the smallest of the fleet, and even so they hadn't given her a full crew. Only the essentials, they'd said, and people can do double duty if it came down to it. Even out in space, long generations after the sun's untimely demise, bureaucrats were still assholes. It was something all soldiers learned to deal with--or, at the very least, not complain openly about. Not in the presence of the people that paid them, anyway. She ran a tight ship and her crew second-guessed her orders or authority at their own risk. She was a tall, broad-shouldered woman, built like one would expect a soldier to be, despite not having seen real combat throughout her military career. Intimidation was easy for her even among other military personnel.

Her ship was the closest to Earth, being faster than the bigger, heavier varieties also in pursuit of the planet. It meant little, considering the sheer speed at which it was traveling, but for her and her crew it meant they were the first to detect the star in Earth's path. Well before it was in visual range, it was picked up by their equipment. Before they ever got a glimpse of its four planets, their navigator noted the slight deviation in Earth's course as it gradually fell into orbit.

The planet was safe, orbiting in a fairly optimal zone without being on a collision course with the other planets. It was remarkable, but not a guaranteed win for humanity. It would still be a long time before Earth thawed, and there would be no telling how long it would take to become habitable once more. While it was difficult to admit, even after these small victories, they weren't home free just yet.

So it was that Siomae received orders, instructing her to take as many soldiers as she had available to the surface of the planet most likely to sustain life. They'd dubbed it “Goldilocks,” after the colloquial name for the zone its orbit inhabited, the one area around a star that was the best for sustaining life as humans knew it. There were no guarantees; she knew as much, as did her crew, and she suspected so did everyone else. That didn't take away the fact there was still hope. Besides her soldiers, she'd be the first to set foot on this alien planet. That was both exhilarating and terribly daunting.

She let out a quiet breath, almost a sigh, as one of the soldiers approached her. The short, stocky man was a pain in her ass, and had been since he'd joined her crew. Someone somewhere had wanted to get rid of him. They'd burdened her with this layabout who didn't know how to take orders like a soldier should. She'd come so close to cutting off his damn stupid rat-tail hair so many times she'd lost count.

"So what's the deal with this mission, Cap'n?" Siomae didn't look at him, only narrowed her eye slightly and clasped her hands together behind her back more tightly.

"I've told you all I'm allowed to, soldier."

"Yeah, yeah, need t' know basis, I getcha." Abigaile King was a middle-aged man from an Australian family who, despite his years of training, managed to stay slightly portly. "But what do we even know 'bout this planet?"

"Shut your insufferable trap and get the rest of your suit on." Her patience was too low for this today. She moved past Abigaile briskly, going to her locker to get suited up herself. This was the first real mission her crew had had in years, there was no way she wouldn't be there to make sure things ran smoothly. "Double time, everyone! I want you good-for-nothing lumps ready in ten minutes or less!"
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