The Search. Short Story.

Hope everyone’s weekend went well, mine was pretty relaxing, played some video games (Grand Theft Auto 5) and did some reading. I quite enjoyed the reading as I haven’t been reading that much lately. Normally I read before I go asleep but I’ve been too tired to read when I get to bed most nights so I haven’t been able to.

On with the show!

__________________________________________________________

“How do you lose a planet?”
“How do you lose your phone?”
“What? That’s completely different! It’s a phone, it’s easy to misplace, it isn’t a giant thing, surrounded by other giant things. Do we not have maps?”
“They’ve been lost for a long time.”
“So I don’t get it, what are we supposed to do, just go around and hope we stumble into it?”
“No, don’t worry, it’s mostly research. We have some records that link us back to some places that have been abandoned, but there should be some information stored there that will lead us to other places.”
“So it’s like a treasure hunt, follow the clues?”
“If you like. Though a fairly long and tedious treasure hunt.”
“Why? Just hook the system in and boom, done.”
“Yeah, their systems probably won’t be compatible, assuming they even kept a digital archive.”
“like they’d have kept everything on paper, they knew how easily damaged that could be and it degrades over time.”
“Perhaps. We’ll see when we get there, won’t we.”
“So, what are we getting paid?”
“The usual, plus a hefty bonus when we find the planet.”
“What’s the bonus?”
Silence.
Jake looked up from the computer at Sarah, “You’re not going to tell me, are you?”
“Nope. It’ll distract you.”
“Fine, fine. When are we leaving?”
“About twenty minutes or so.”
“What!? I need time to get ready! I need to pack!”
“it’s all been taken care of, you just need to get to the ship and then we’re away.”
“Ya know, one of these days you’re gonna have to let me pack for myself.”
“Yeah well, I’m faster at it and I know what you’ll need. I haven’t steered you wrong yet, have I?”
“No, but that isn’t the point.”
Jake looked back at the computer and started to work, Sarah shook her head and did the same, he’d stop his pouting in a moment or two, then he’d start speculating on what, exactly, the bonus was and how much of it they were getting, that would keep him occupied until boarding the ship and through the launch, then he’d bury himself in research. Smiling, Sarah stood from the console and went to double check that they had everything they needed.
John looked up from what he was doing, “how long will this leg of the journey take?”
“Not too long, we got some upgrades.”
He pulled up the schematic of the ship, “Wow, they really want to find this planet.”
“Yeah, they really do. We’ve also got special passes for the gates, free usage.”
“Wow. That’s awesome. I’ve never been through one of them before.”
“I have, it isn’t that great.”
“What? When? You never told me about it.”
“It was before I met you. About fifteen years back now at this rate. It was when my father was sick, they had to bring him through to Alpha One for treatment. I went with in the ambulance.”
“Oh. So I guess you weren’t like…watching or anything?”
“No, I was a little distracted at the time.”
John nodded, then they lapsed into silence. He looked at the computers projected time for arrival, they were to be at the first planet in a little under sixteen hours. It was amazing, travelling so far through the universe so quickly, without the gates it would take them months, if not years to get even half way there.
Jake looked at the planet through the viewer, “huh, I expected it to be all ruined and crater-y”
“Well, it’s been abandoned for a long time, plenty of time for growth to start up.”
“Any natives?”
“Not that I know of, we’ll have to be careful about animals, but everyone pretty much left. There’s no registered settlers either so we shouldn’t have to worry about that.”
“Eh. They’re usually pretty nice people anyway.”
“You only say that because you haven’t met the crazies out there.”

They stood in the centre of what used to be a plaza, around them plants and trees grew wild. The buildings were tall and straight, none of the windows were broken. Jake was still weirded out by that, he had expected everything to be all broken and overgrown, but the buildings seemed to have remained in perfect condition while the plants grew along the roads. They approached the library casually, keeping an eye out for any large animals, but so far they had seen none.
“Ok, we go in, search then regroup in the main section, agreed?”
“Yup, that’s fine with me.”
Sarah stopped at the door and plugged something in, there was a brief glow as the door slid open and they stepped inside. It smelled musty and old, the air was dry and Jake was thankful for that, “I don’t think mould had much chance to start growing here. Every second floor?”
“Wait. Over there, it’s the help desk, might as well check that out first.”
Jake nodded, he didn’t expect to find anything there, but it was always worth a shot.
Sarah stood at the desk, trying to get the system to work. Jake stood from where he had been sitting and stretched, “While you tangle with that I’m gonna go explore, might find something helpful.”
“Ok, you do that.” Sarah didn’t look at him
“Did you hear what I said?”
“Not a word.”
Smiling, Jake headed towards the stairs. It was laid out pretty well, but he found it a bit difficult to read it, the writing was clear, but it seemed like everything was just a few letters away from making sense. Coming across a history section he started scanning for relevant books and, when he found them, he scanned the pages. It was long and boring work. he heard someone approaching behind him and he glanced back, “Any luck?”
“Yeah, I got in eventually, everything was so confusing, not intuitive at all.”
“So can I stop this?”
“Might be best to finish it off, here, I’ll help.”
Back on the ship they waited as the ships computer went through everything, backing up their conclusions and next destination.
“Did they say what was so special about the planet we’re looking for?”
“Not really. Something about family history. I think it’s mostly a status thing for him. Plus he wanted some artefacts brought back, nothing too hard to find, plant samples, that sort of thing.”
“It’s nothing evil right? Cos I don’t want another Anivar on our hands.”
“No, nothing like that at all.”
John looked at her for a second, “Ok, I’m trusting you on this, but if it does turn out that way you’re gonna own me big.”
Sarah rolled her eyes, “you make one mistake.”
“Yeah well, it was more than a mistake. I don’t want to get caught up in that kind of thing again.”
“We won’t. Besides, if it was that important he’d have sent more than us and we’re the only ones going.”
“He signed an exclusivity?”
“Yep. I was kind of surprised actually. He seemed pretty insistent that we find it.”
“More money, less danger. Nothing wrong with that.”
the ship alerted them that it was finished with its calculations, then started to move.
“I just hope the rest of the trip gets more interesting, I mean I want to see something cool, some ruins at the very least. Actual ruins, not whatever the hell that was down there, maybe a big ass animal or two”
“They were ruins.”
“No, ruins implies they are ruined. Those buildings were in perfect condition. You could move in there tomorrow and be fine.” Sarah shook her head, “I wouldn’t risk it. They left for a reason.”
“Yeah, overcrowding, a few plagues and because everyone else was moving on. Then the poor died out or scraped enough together to move on too. It’s the same with all abandoned planets. Well…except the ones that were destroyed. I wouldn’t be surprised if, in a few years, repopulating these places comes into vogue and all the rich flee to them.”
“I dunno, there’s places that are more interesting out there, why would they settle? There’s always more planets, new wonders.”
“Maybe.”

“It feels weird being this far out. I mean, there’s no one else even close to us.”
“We’re not the only life forms out here.”
“Yeah, but most of the ones out there aren’t intelligent. I mean think about it. Completely alone.”
“Well, that’s uplifting. Let’s hope we don’t get into any trouble out here then.”
“You know what I mean.”
It had been three weeks, and sixteen different planets which started to blend together, and endless parade of boring.
“How long until we find this damn planet?”
“Not too long. Another week or two I think. Then we’ll be back in no time. Just think of the money. After this we can do whatever we like for maybe ten years or so.”

“There it is. The God Star. I really didn’t expect it to actually look like a face, especially after all this time.”
“They must have used something to keep it that way.”
Sarah shivered, the eyes were brighter than she expected, to shining points, almost like miniature stars. It was creepy, she couldn’t imagine living on the planet below and having that thing staring out of the sky at you, all day and all night.
“C’mon, the planets there, we have to find what we’re looking for.”
“How are we gonna do that?”
“I have a map. Copy of a family heirloom, we let the ship scan and match it up then we head to it, grab a few things and we’re done.”

“Well, you wanted ruins.”
Jake looked at the rubble, “Ok, I take it back. I want the perfect buildings again. I don’t think whatever he wanted is still here, how could it be? It has to have been destroyed.”
“C’mon, no time like the present.”
She could feel it, glaring at her as she worked, never ceasing, never blinking. Jake would occasionally crack a joke about it, but Sarah never laughed. It seemed disrespectful, even if it was only a lump of celestial rock.
Back on the ship they carefully stored the items they had gotten, a few dented metal souvenirs, pried from the ruins of what was once a home. A few plants that they had never seen before, but were strangely beautiful were carefully placed into pots. “Well, at least we know why they left that planet.”
“Why?”
“Fleeing big ugly in the sky no doubt.”
Sarah smiled, she felt better being on the ship, away from its gaze. “I think we should come back, after this is over.”
“What? Why?”
“I don’t know. Have a better look around, maybe see how far back we can go for the fun of it.”
“If you want to look around some more we’re right here, we can stall for a few days.”
“No, we should get back. I don’t know. I just like the idea of coming back here someday.”
“yeah. Maybe.”
The ship moved from the planet, following the plotted course for home. Jake was talking to her, but she wasn’t listening to what he was saying. She could feel it, those eyes, staring after her, waiting for her return. She shuddered once, then shook her head, trying to cast those great bit shining eyes from her mind.

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About Alan James Keogh

I am a 24 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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