A distant rumble called for storm. The wind drew dark clouds closer and before long the first raindrops eased the thirsty ground. The rain fell strong, but soft and Hank Cheswick pushed back his hat to feel it running down his face. He loved when it rained. It washed away the dirt and the heat.
“Best we take the cattle in. I don’t want them all getting sick. We can’t afford more loses. C’mon.” Wesley Jix rode his horse past Hank towards the small herd, grazing nearby. Hank narrowed his hat and followed.
A loud thunder hit, echoing in the vast space of the open field. There was a shared “moo”. The animals began to bump each other, visibly startled by something. Their panic was escalating along with the range of their cries. A few began to toss their heads upwards and on a hunch Hank looked up too. His eyes widened.
As the rain started pouring, clouds gathered up in an unusual manner, swirling down in a spiral that thickened and began to float; a giant creature above the green field. Inside their black bellies, raging lightning flickered ferociously, thunders following in a series of deafening reiterations.
Hank dismounted his horse and held him tight by the halter, restraining his attempts to escape, and shouted over the weather.
“Wesley, look!” Wesley watched as the super cell storm took final formation.
“Well I’d be damned.”
A monstrous cloud stood motionless before them. It looked as if uprising from earth to heaven, blocking the horizon, the day, the world. The thunders and the lightning stopped; the cattle calmed, and the horses ceased their protest. They waited, their black eyes staring into the cloud. Hank was about to speak when a bright object pierced the formation, the wave caused by the passing dispersing the clouds at once. The object descended fast, landing in the forest, half a mile ahead.
A beam of light erupted from where it had fallen, scouting the sky and the surrounding in close distance, before dying out. Wesley and Hank looked at each other.
“Let’s go see.”
Wesley nodded, than whistled. Two shepherd dogs came by his feet, soaking wet, waiting for orders.
“I reckon Skip and Jo can take the herd close to the farm. They know their way. Get em home boys!” The dogs took on their master’s task.
Wesley and Hank mounted their horses and rode towards the site. Outside the forest they tied them and proceeded on foot further into the woods.
Half sank into the river laid a small spaceship visibly in poor shape, the left wing almost torn away. Hank and Wesley carefully slid down the muddy narrow of the river bank. They stood knee-deep into the cold water hesitating to go near. Even from a distance they could feel the heat from the engines.
“What’d you reckon? Aliens?”
Wesley laughed. “I wish.”
There was movement from inside followed by loud thumps. The door finally slid open and a man climbed out from the cockpit, tumbling backwards and falling into the river. Wesley approached fast and grabbed him, dragging him to the river bank. The stranger sat, spitting water, his hair sticky on his forehead. Wesley took a step back studying the man. He wore an orange and grey jumpsuit without an indication on it except for a serial number. His hands were locked by a rectangular set of cuffs.
He spoke first, his voice barely shaking:
“What year am I in?”
Wesley looked the man straight in the eyes.
“No, no… I need to go back.” The man looked at Wesley first, then Hank, his voice beginning to tremble. “Please help me.”
Wesley narrowed his head.
Hank stepped closer, and knelt before the man taking his entrapped hands. He observed the device, than felt the bottom surface and the edges. He found and pressed the hidden buttons on both sides. The cuffs fell apart, releasing the man’s hands.
“How did you..?” He rubbed his freed wrists.
Wesley and Hank left the man and went back to the spaceship. Wesley climbed into the cockpit. “The control system has launched the virus. There won’t be anything left in about a minute. The engines and the hyperdrive are not working either. But there’s something else here. Come look.”
Hank climbed, peeking inside.
Wesley entered a code and visual appeared on one of the screens, narrated by a female voice. It was a profile for the man outside.
“Prisoner X7USSG Abel, Erran. Position: Deputy Chief Commander of Battlestar Purgatory; Current status: released of duty; Sentence: treason; Punishment: deportation into the past; Data: Unknown. Self-destruction of all information in: 54 seconds and counting down.”
Hank and Wesley exchanged looks. “Shit.”
“How many time jumps did it take you with this junk to get here?”
Erran Abel found himself in absolute confusion. “Six, with an hour recharging between jumps…Listen, I need to get back to my own time. I don’t belong here. There’s been a mistake”
“There’s no mistake Mr. Abel. That message, which I’m sure you’ve heard, tells me this is a one way ticket. There is no going back.” Hank shook his head.
“Wait, who the fuck are you two? What is going on here?”
Wesley extended his hand.
“Wesley Jix, commander of Second Fleet of the Government’s Army, Battlestation Leviathan, location the red plains of Yendell, serial number F63191, current status: exiled, sent to damnation on Earth. Sentence: rebellion against the government.”
“Hank Cheswick, Chief of security to the President of the Colonies, current status: exiled, sent to damnation back to planet Earth, no fixed time or date; sentence: assistance to rebellion squads.”
Erran Abel stared at them in disbelief.
“You are from the future… I know you two, I know your names! But you were killed, in the riot you both died. The President himself confirmed that.”
“I bet he did. This time jumping program was never approved. It operates in stealth. But we’re from the same star deputy.”
“How long have you been here?”
“About 10 years now, ain’t that right Hank?”
Erran stood up.
“They left you for dead. They abandoned you, even the people who supported you. I can’t be condemned to die here, I need to fix this bird and get back home. I have a wife! I have a home! This is..this is..”
Wesley grabbed him by the arms.
“You had them. Now they’re gone. There in the future you have been erased. Maybe they spared your wife and altered her memory.”
“This is bullshit! I’d rather be dead!”
“You knew the risks when you took on that task. We tried and now we’re paying for our anarchy, but the effect of our stand will remain for the next ones that will try to bring down the silent regime. Your sacrifice is they’re key, they’re hope. We’ll be the heroes that fell.”
“How did you survive? How did you stay… sane?”
Wesley whispered to him.
“Let you in on a secret. This here might seem like hell, like prison, cast away from your loved ones, from your life and from your world, forever. But that feeling goes away after a while. You get back on your feet after nostalgia for home lets you go. You adjust. At first you dream about it, the silver lines of the finest ships, the expression on your face in the mirror when you put that uniform for the first time, her smile as you wait for the green shine of passing Halox to appear, just before dawn. And then you wake up. You bury yourself in dust and work and you start building and planning. You create a new life. The past becomes your present and that lost future…it rarely comes by your mind. You die here, but you die happy, because you truly live. You feel the rain and you have the sun, still normal. There are no aircrafts flying around, no gunfire. You live in peace. You have a life. They think they condemn you to suffering here, passing you into the hands of madness and self- poisoning with memories, but you prove them wrong. You live.”
Erran looked at the sky, the clouds clearing off for a night full of stars. He closed his eyes imagining the stars and the vast blackness, letting that image fill him, make him stronger. He imagined his house, the front door opening, Yana’s lips gently kissing him. With his thoughts he reached there, sending a prayer for wife to be safe. He told her good night, billions of light years away and asked for her forgiveness. He hoped her face doesn’t fade away.”
“Maybe in another life.”
Hank and Wesley waited for him.
“Come on. Tomorrow a new life for you begins, Erran Abel.”
I always imagine the vastness of space when listening to this folklore song. There is a dramatic tone to it. It fits doesn’t it?