While Earth Sleeps

Written by Atlas on . Posted in AE Stories

34 earthsleeps_01General Bruce Wilkinson of Tiger Rock Communications HQ adjusted his headset and paused before initiating uplink with the cleanup crew commissioned in K42. He was the highest ranking at the communications facility, but he certainly wasn’t the most skilled man for the task of telling others the exact date and time, to the very splittest of seconds, that they will die.

“Volture Fleet 9, this is General Bruce Wilkinson – do you copy?” 
“Loud and clear, General. What’s our status?”
“Enemy offensive heading towards you at full warp, Captain. You have three days.”
“Three... days, General? Three days until what?” 

General Wilkinson knew he was risking his career by abandoning protocol. But there was one thing Wilkinson knew about protocol and it was that silently woven into the fabric of every military rule there was a hidden protocol. A protocol that, under certain circumstances, made it imperative to disregard all protocol.  The Captain of Volture Fleet 9 had not heard the word ‘day’ since he was a young boy, having been relocated to the pilot training program on Tiger Rock, 25 light years from Earth, at the age of sixteen. 

The Tiger Fist War Council had banned the word, and countless others, from the lexicon of all military personnel on duty as well as in private life. This had some negative effects, of course, but the Council, which comprised distinguished professors in military strategy, astrophysics, philosophy and intergalactic relations, had spent over five years researching and drafting new communications standards that would improve accuracy and, ultimately, military efficiency. Hearing the word ‘day’ had jolted the Captain’s mind with a flurry of fleeting memories, of Earthly sunshine and waking up to the scent of spiced porridge back at his foster home in California, and in that instant he smiled. 

“You have three days to live, Captain.” 
“What do you mean, sir? Three days? How many space hours is that?”
“I have already told you more than you are authorized to know. I am sorry, Captain.”

An hour before the first photon beams tore the Recycler’s armor to space shrapnel, Volture Fleet Captain James Parker lay down in his sleeping pod and smiled one last time. He had just remembered a poem he had read back on Earth. It was the poem that brought him here, and the poem that would see him off forever. 
“We wanderers, ever seeking the lonelier way, begin no day where we have ended another day; and no sunrise finds us where sunset left us. Even while the Earth sleeps we travel.”

Story sent by Atlas for the AE Stories event.