The light was flickering.
People all around were casting it disconcerted glances, doubt creeping into their minds about the safety of the trip. It didn’t help that this artificial light mimicked the natural light the sun gave us. It wasn’t like the old school fluorescent fittings, which used to adorn all inside space, it didn’t cause a headache epidemic or have the annoying humming sound accompanying it. In fact, as far as everyone was concerned it was real daylight. Hence the concern that sprouted on everyone’s face every time it dipped out. Imagine being on Earth and the sun suddenly decides to flicker. It’s not going to fill you with confidence.
With a harsh crackle the speaker system buzzed to life and the captain attempted to reassure his passengers.
“Please do not be alarmed, we’re experiencing the force of a flyby. There is nothing to be concerned about,” at that he crackled away again. There was some nervous chatter, a few people laughed and I shook my head at their jittery constitution. We were off to fight and they were ready to wet themselves at the equivalent of an aeroplane’s turbulence.
The light continued to flicker and people pushed it to the back of their minds, desperate to think about something else. Not that there was anything better to think about. We were all strapped into our seats, after a millennia of technological advancement this was still the best way of defying zero gravity, and being unable to get up and walk about meant there was very little to do apart from follow your mind down the various paths it decided to take. Naturally, being in a glorified bucket of nuts and bolts, with an apparently temperamental light system, hurtling to the centre of No Man’s land between Earth and Mars, your mind tends to drift to the ‘what if’ scenarios.
Not that I’m any sort of expert. This was my first time heading to the training station. Any time I spent up in space was on routine scouting missions, orbiting the Earth in a high tech craft equipped with a long range sensory system. Just in case any of our crafts needed a helping hand getting home. You wouldn’t believe how easy it was to get lost in a place with no obstructions, space did pretty much live up to its name. It was a mission that didn’t require much specialised training and meant I never needed to come out this far, so I was in the same boat as everyone else.
Still, it was shameful to think we’d been through the same training together and a lot of the new recruits could barely keep it together. The guy next to me was humming to himself, eyes squeezed shut. I hoped he just had a fear of flying and would be fine once we touched down. Although, if that was the case I’m not sure the training station would be the place for him. It might not be flying through space but it could hardly be called solid ground when structural damage could mean the whole community implodes.
Meanwhile, the woman next to me kept twitching her feet and jostling mine. When I looked at her face her eyes were gleaming, in my pessimistic view of my comrades I at first thought she was holding back tears. Turns out she was just really excited. Travelling into deep space was a lifelong dream of hers, she’d always wanted to be an explorer, like captain Scott but with stars surrounding her instead of ice. When the deteriorating relationship between Earth and Mars ended any such programmes she decided to join Space Flight, the military programme that trained fighter pilots for orbital and deep space conflict, just so she wouldn’t be stuck on Earth for the rest of her life. Ironically, her name was Terra.
As for mine, you probably want to know if you’re reading what I have to say, it’s Scarlett. Just to give context, some of it you’ve probably already guessed, I’m currently speeding my way through space to the training station. This is where I’ll finish my Space Flight training and graduate to the Earth’s military. If I’m good enough that is. Only the best of the best get to represent Earth in its military. It’s like being a league player called up to join their country’s rugby team. We’re not at war, but it’s likely we will be soon. A once thriving relationship with Mars has deteriorated rapidly and any friendship there once was between the governments seems to mean nothing anymore.
Don’t worry though, this isn’t another alien story, as far as we know we’re still the only life form in the galaxy. We colonised Mars a few centuries ago, decided to make it Earth 2.0. Afraid that we’ll send it plummeting in the wrong direction, like we did Earth, a political party sprung up on Mars wanting the space to govern itself. Which is fair enough, pretty much everyone on Earth agreed, except for the people who make the decisions. We were on the brink of an interplanetary war, or as most people disrespectfully called it – the First Worlds War.
Anyway, there’s not really anything special about me, definitely nothing that’ll make you think I know what I’m talking about. I’m London born and London bred and I never really saw anything of the world until I was looking down on it from space. I went to school with no ambition and I ambled through college and straight into university with no real goal in mind. I took an interest in athletics and started running in my spare time while I studied engineering. Apparently this was enough to pique the interest of the English government and they recruited me into the military with the view to get me where I am now. So I dropped out of uni and took up my training. I did transfer my course to an online one and carried on between my training. After my earthbound training was complete I spent a couple of years serving in the Royal Air Force to get more experience under my belt, thankfully never drafted into a war, until I was finally qualified to enter the Space Flight programme. Because of my studies I had the capabilities to look after and maintain my own craft and that made me into the perfect candidate. I’m not here because I’m particularly skilled, I just sort of fell into it. Untested in battle, yet to properly fly a craft in deep space – if war broke out now the likelihood of me dying was extremely high. That thought didn’t scare me like it should.
The humming and jostling were getting highly irritating now, I was a great believer in personal space but there was no room for it in this tight container. Looking around everyone seemed to be in their own private ritual; more than one person was praying, a guy on the opposite bench and two people down was trying to draw his knees to his chest in an attempt to curl into the foetal position. Another was clenching and unclenching his fists, the lady next to him was muttering to herself and the woman next to the hummer was incessantly tapping her nails. Everyone was in their own little world except for a guy, he was facing my direction but wasn’t directly opposite me. His neck was craned as he looked around. I realised that’s probably what I looked like a moment before. As he turned back to face straight ahead his eyes met mine and there was a moment when he seemed to blush at being caught, I simply shrugged – I didn’t care if he was curious and I also didn’t see why he would be apologetic for it.
“Please be advised, we are coming into land in five minutes,” the speaker spluttered into silence as suddenly as it came to life. Terra almost squealed with delight.
“Aren’t you just so excited?” She stage whispered to me.
“Not really,” I replied in a flat monotone.
“What is up with you?” Came her exasperated reply. Rhetorical of course. She knew better than to expect anything else from me.
The ship slowed as it prepared to dock at the station. Everyone held their breath, expecting something to go wrong but hoping against hope it wouldn’t. There were some mechanical whirrings as the technology around us worked its scientific magic.
“We have arrived. Please vacate your seats and make your way off the ship. Welcome to the Carlson Development Centre.”