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Flying Through Space
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By Ana

‘Every 17 year old is reminded that Careers Day is today and EVERYONE is to attend. I’m talking to you Mister Malet.’

I join the mass of students that flood the hallway at the end of the lesson. Using my tablet, I check what subject I have next. History, oh joy. A short siren goes off signalling another anti-matter explosion. I barely have enough time to grab the closest window frame before the explosion happens. The whole ship lurches forward a bit but nobody else seems to notice. My parents keep telling me that I’ll get used to it eventually, but in all the 17 years I’ve lived on this giant piece of metal, I still haven’t.

‘I see you haven’t put your sea legs on yet Rocks.’ A cocky voice says somewhere in front of me.

‘How would you even know what “sea legs” are Jason?’ I ask the tall guy now standing directly in front of me. ‘You haven’t even seen the sea, let alone stood on one.’

‘You can’t stand on the sea,’ he corrects me.

Jason is my only friend on ‘The Planet’, the ship. He is relatively tall for anybody here, and when you match that with his long dark brown hair and startling green eyes, it’s not that hard to see why most girls like him. I wouldn't be surprised if I was the only girl on this entire ship that hasn't had a crush on him at some point. He has always been my best friend and that’s the way we both like to keep it.

‘Oh I’m sorry. It’s not like I haven’t seen it or anything.’ I retort back. He leans down to me so that we’re eye to eye.

‘Well if you paid attention in class you’d know that the sea was a liquid. Just like the stuff you drink.’ He says a smile playing on his face. I shove him hard in the shoulder so that he stumbles back. ‘Ouch. You’re as hard as rock Rocks.’

‘Gosh, you are such a history geek.’

‘What!?’ He exclaims. ‘It’s cool! I mean all that dust gathering together than being compacted to create a heavy solid object. It is so cool!’

‘I swear, if you use me in a rock explanation again, I WILL throw you overboard.’ I threaten pointing my finger at him to get the point across.

‘Alright, fine.’ He says backing away. ‘I won’t use you in a rock explanation again.’

‘Good.’ I turn to look out the window. From here on the schooling deck it’s hard to see the stardust that’s closer to the ship but it isn’t hard to see the stars that burn multiple light years away.

‘I’ll just use you for the Continents presentation next week.’ Jason shouts back laughing from the other side of the nearly empty hallway. I quickly take off my flat and hurl it at him. My aim has always been pretty much perfect so nobody had to duck but Jason. A few girls squealed though.

‘Miss Hilton, no throwing shoes in the hallway!’ Mr Poiner barks over the intercom.

‘Yeah, yeah, my bad.’ I shout back collecting my shoe.

‘I suggest you hurry to class now Miss Hilton. Class starts soon.’ Mr Poiner says.

Taking his advice I trudge my way along the metal corridors that make up the large spaceship called home. A few hundred years ago a Neutron star started to make its way towards Earth. This caused the people of Earth to pack and leave. They made this ship and set off to the stars, trying to find a planet like Earth to inhabit. This is why I don’t get Jason’s fascination with Earth. It died years ago. We aren’t ever going to get to see it, so what’s the point?

‘The point,’ Jason would tell me every time I brought this topic up, ‘is that that’s where we started. We were created because small particles of dust joined with other small particles of dust that joined with another small grain of dust that collided with another small clump of rock, and so on and so on and so on, until that tiny particle of dust is a giant solid planet. From there we just had to cool to let life start. But even then, we were still having trouble. We were colliding with other planets; the Sun was destroying life; no water and… ’

‘If that were true, then Earth isn’t home. Out there is.’ I would tell Jason pointing to which ever window was closest.

‘You’re right. But Earth is where humanity started. When we were still on Earth, 50 million years before that, Earth didn’t exist. It took less than 150 million years for water to come to Earth via comets or meteors. Then we had the difficulty of getting free oxygen into the air. Life started as just micro-organisms but now we are flying through space.’

At this point I would call him a history geek (again) and he would threaten to dress me up as a rock for whatever was coming up soon. My real name is Roxie; Jason’s the only one to call me ‘Rocks’. He started calling me that when we learnt about them in Kindergarten. The teacher said the word “rocks”, so I put my hand up and said ‘Here I am Miss!’ Jason hasn’t let me live it down since.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I walk into the already bustling History room just in time for Randall Driscoll to single me out. Randall is what you’d call “proud of his heritage”. One of his ancestors, Bernard Driscoll, was the one that created the current vacuum chamber (with built-in magnetic fields) that stores the anti-matter on a secure part of the ship. They say that without Bernard Driscoll’s creation of this vacuum chamber (with built-in magnetic fields); anti-matter would have been deemed too unsafe for the journey. Randall makes sure that everybody knows this and that it was his ancestor that gave the answer to saving the human race.

‘Throwing shoes in the hallway Roxie? Very bad idea.’ Randall says giving a fake condescending look behind the blonde hair in his face.

‘Well then it’s a good thing we’re not in a hallway.’ I say taking off my shoe.
‘Miss Hilton, for the second time today, please put your shoe back on.’ Miss Minshall tells me walking into the classroom. Miss Minshall is a nice-ish sort of teacher. She is kind of like the grandmother of the school. She’ll bake you pancakes but won’t be afraid to tell you that you have to eat your vegetables. I put my shoe back on again and walk up the stairs finding my seat in the back corner of the classroom. This is where I make the most mischief.

‘Good morning class.’ Miss Minshall says starting the lesson. ‘If you could all please take out your tablets, today we will be talking about the destruction of Earth and the creation of this ship.’

‘Do we have to Miss? Randall’s ego is already the size of half the ship. It doesn’t need to get any larger.’ I call out from my seat while I twirl a piece of my wavy jet black hair round my finger. Everybody in the classroom laughs.

Miss Minshall sighs. ‘Yes, Miss Hilton, we do. Whether Mister Driscoll chooses to increase his ego with this lesson or not.’ A few people snicker at the teacher calling Randall out. I smile. ‘The planet Earth was a part of the Milky Way galaxy. One of the things that made Earth unique was its ability to support life. While there was a time when we thought that the planet Mars would be able to support life, Earth has always been the primary home of humanity. One of the things that allowed humans to survive there were the cycles that took place. As you all know we cannot survive without oxygen, it is a necessity for us to breath. But there are other cycles that were just as important. Nitrogen is the 7th element on the periodic table and is found in amino acids. Amino acids are a contributing factor to the growth and development of muscles. Nitrogen was originally found in the Earth’s atmosphere but passed through many different stages before it got back to that position.’

‘What was the cycle Miss?’ Janet, our class’s version of Jason, asks.

‘The nitrogen started in the air before either being taken in by nitrogen-fixing bacteria or mixing with Oxygen and Hydrogen to make nitrate. From there, it stays as nitrate in the soil before moving into plants and animals or has bacteria removing the nitrogen from the soil before releasing it back into the air and starting the process again. A similar cycle happens with carbon. Every living thing is made of carbon. You, me, your pet cat, even some of the stars have carbon in them. On Earth, carbon was commonly found in the air as carbon dioxide and was what all plants needed to survive. They used photosynthesis to convert sunlight, water and carbon dioxide into sugars and oxygen, something I am hoping that you have all learnt about in science.’ she adds making those who are listening giggle a little bit. A lot of people have already zoned out and I’m well on my way. If you’re not a History geek like Jason or Janet, this is the worst subject to be in. ‘The carbon had a number of different choices after this. It could have been transferred into animals that have eaten the plants, which could have died and decomposed in the ground before turning into coal or respiring back into the air. It could have been turned into oil and gas in the ground or it could have just continued with to exhale out into the atmosphere to start the cycle all over again. Now there were many other cycles but I want you all to find them and how they were used on Earth and what their purpose is.’

The entire class groans. ‘But Miss Minshall, we have the Careers Day thing for the rest of the day after lunch!’ Randal calls out.

‘Well then, this will give you more of a reason to listen in. I know for a fact that you will come across at least one of these cycles in you exploration of careers.’ She says calling Randall out again.
‘Moving on.’ Miss Minshall says when most of the talking had died down. ‘Now Earth’s atmosphere was very delicate, so when the neutron star came closer to our solar system, it started to create holes in our atmosphere. These holes then allowed radiation from our Sun and other things in space to pass through and kill anyone who wasn’t underground. This sparked all kinds of scientists to create a way for humanity to survive. Research stared in many different areas; how to get off Earth, how to sustain a way of life once off Earth, where to go, and many other fields. In the early 21st Century some scientist found a planet that resembled Earth called Kepler -186f. This gave us a destination, one that we are still heading towards today. Kepler-186f is roughly the same size as Earth and is a little cooler than what a normal day on Earth was.’

‘So does that mean that it’s going to colder there than it is here on The Planet?’ One of the students asks.

‘No.’ Miss Minshall replies. ‘Over the years the temperature here has been lowered to what we estimate the temperature will be on Kepler-186f. Getting there has been a problem though. Kepler-186f was 500 light years away from Earth and back when it was discovered the people of Earth hadn’t even flown to Mars yet.’

‘Cavemen!’ Someone shouts from my row sparking laughter and interest across the class.

‘I won’t go calling them that; they were the ones that invented the computer and the internet.’

‘They didn’t!’ Someone else calls out.

‘They did. The very first computer was invented in 1946. It was this simple invention that started many things, including dozens of things to do with this ship.’ Miss Minshall says getting back on task, earning a groan from the class. ‘To be able to make anything, you first have to meet the requirements. In this case the requirements being everything that humanity needs to survive. The five basic needs for all humans are; oxygen, water, food, shelter and sleep. While shelter and sleep are easy to get even when in space, it was the first three that gave the scientist a difficult time. Oxygen is easy to get and store but only a certain amount. And with the thousands of people, the oxygen wouldn’t last long. They only option then was to bring what makes oxygen onto the ship - plants. This also solved half of the food dilemma. But in order for the plants to grow, it too needs water. Water has been taken into space before with all the pervious launches, but if the journey is as long as ours and with this amount of people, plants and animals to cater for, then the amount of water needed to be taken into orbit would be substantial. The amount of plant and animal life would need to have been enough to start an ecosystem and farms. If all those could have been managed then we still would have needed some sort of artificial gravity and something to give us light and heat. The gravity could have been accomplished by merely rotating the ship to an acceleration of 9.8m/s/s, as it is now, but the light and heat would have had to be created via electricity. Something that caused a bit of a problem. On Earth, electricity was created by burning coal, oil and gas, but up here in space, we don’t have that. Instead, the designers decided to use tidal-power as the water would already be on the ship in high amounts. When all these problems were catered for, it gave the builders a rough idea of what the minimum size for ‘The Planet’. This was around 18 km long and 11km wide for just what we need to survive, not with the number of humans in the equation.’

‘How many people were chosen?’ Janet asks.

‘Only two thousand were chosen.’ She replies igniting my interest. I’ve always been super interested in political problems like this.

‘How were they chosen?’ I ask. Miss Minshall looks at me with a confused look. I don’t really pay that much attention in any class except Science or Business, let alone ask any questions.

‘They were chosen for a variety of different reasons. Culture was one of them. That is why you have an Australian accent and I have a British one.’ She finally replies. She is right, a lot of people do have different cultures, it’s hard to find someone that you’re not related to that has the same culture as you, but that doesn’t mean you can leave people on a planet doomed to die. I don’t say anything back; I just sit back and start to actually pay attention.

‘Right now, where was I? Ah yes the size of the ship. When the number of people that would venture into space was decided, builders started to make designs for a space craft that would hold everything that was needed to build a life on it and on another planet. When this was finished the size was somewhere around 50 km long and 50 km wide. What you see and walk on today has been expanded and built on while in orbit when necessary. You all remember when the new hospital was getting built and they had to stop turning the ship so that they could build on the outside.’

Everyone laughs. When they were building the hospital they stopped spinning the ship so that they could work and ‘The Planet’ lost all gravity. School was cancelled that day because nobody could get anywhere on time. Jason and I ended up have a contest to see who could climb to the ceiling then push off and touch the floor. Jason won.

‘While that provided the structure of the ship,’ she continues, ‘it did not provided any protection from what lay waiting out in the stars.’

‘ALIENS!’ Someone shouts adding in a strangled scream at the end. Miss Minshall did not look pleased.

‘Meteoroids, Mister Woodman, meteoroids - and a simple Whipple shield takes care of them. A Whipple shield is an outer layer that is smaller than the thickness of the ship’s outer layer and when a meteoroid collided with it, it will explode. A mini-magnetosphere also takes care of the solar particles that endanger us. We are entirely safe.’

‘Now,’ she starts again, her temper cooling. ‘The only other essential component for allowing the ship to start its journey is the engines. There were five possible engines for ‘The Planet’; regular fuel, plasma, anti-matter, solar sails, and nuclear propulsion. Regular fuel was what astronauts had been using for many years before the neutron star was even spotted. All the knowledge for its use was already there, it had been used before, it was relatively safe, and it was their first choice. There was one problem though. The more fuel, the bigger the space that was needed. And if there was a bigger space there was more mass, and if there was more mass then there would have to be more fuel to push the extra mass. This created a “dog chasing its tail” effect. Plasma was also a promising engine but like the fuel it had a fatal flaw. Plasma ran off electricity and with the tidal power already only supplying enough electricity for the engines, oxygen, heat, light, the hospital and other important parts to the ship, we are lucky to get eight hours of electricity. When the journey first started, civilians only had three hours of commercial electricity. It also used fuel to move creating the same problem as ordinary fuel. So that was ruled out. The next bright candidate was nuclear propulsion. This idea first came about after the Second World War. It took the idea that any sort of craft might have been able to be propelled by nuclear explosions under the craft pushing it forward. This was cast out as the prospect of have a large amount of nuclear bombs in one area was deemed too dangerous. The last two are what we use today. Solar sails and Anti-matter. Solar sails use ions that are transmitted from stars to move the ship via a thin sheet of Kapton. The disadvantage to this is as the ship moves away from the star, fewer ions hit the sail causing it to slow down. This is when Anti-matter comes into play. The explosion that occurs happens when matter collides with anti-matter cancelling each other out. Anti-matter is high unstable and very dangerous. It was this that almost threw Anti-matter out of the equation. However, a major development in the storage of Anti-matter caused it to be re-looked.’

Randall sits up a bit in his chair. Even from back where I’m sitting I can tell he’s got a look of pure importance in his brown eyes and a smug smile creeping across his face. I sink deeper into my chair and start to lose interest again.

‘Bernard Driscoll was a highly respected scientist that miraculously managed to discover a way to contain Anti-matter for safe transport into space. His discovery made this journey possible but not without starting some controversy.’ Miss Minshall says sparking my interest again. Even if it did have something to do with Randall and his ego. ‘Some people believed that even though there was a breakthrough, Anti-matter was still too unsafe to use. This was disproved by scientists across Earth.’

Just before we’re put through any more torture, the bell for next lesson goes. ‘Alright, along with the homework on cycles, I want you all to research one of the types of engines that did not make it through to being used on ‘The Planet’.’ She adds in.

Most of us make a quick retreat after this so we don’t get any more homework than we already have.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Making my way down the hall way, I see Jason standing in the doorway of the Science Lab.

‘So, how was history with Randall?’ he ask with a know-all smile.

I narrow my eyes at him. ‘You knew that we were learning about the ship and its engines! You said your class was behind.’

Jason laughs and retreats back into the classroom. ‘My class is behind. I, however, am not.’

We take our seats in the first row and wait for the three other people in our class to turn up. Our science class is the smallest class on the whole ship. We even beat Music. Our teacher though, is the coolest. Because our class is so small, Miss Toscan makes all of our lessons so much fun. As if on cue, Miss Toscan walks in.

‘Hello, hello, hello.’ She says cheerily. While she sets up at her desk the other three people in our class walk in. One of them is Janet from my history. The other two are Karen and Matt. Matt is the one person that has no competition for his dream job. He is probably the smartest person ever and has always wanted to be doctor. And I’m not talking about some little-kids-have-a-bad-cold doctor; I’m talking full on surgeon doctor. As for Karen, she just wants to go waltzing about outside in a spacesuit.

‘Since everybody’s here, we might get started.’ Miss Toscan says when Matt and Karen have taken their seats. ‘So today we’re going to be learning about the Universe and all the things in it.’

‘All the things?’ I ask her mischief laced through my voice.

‘Stars and galaxies and systems.’ She specifies. ‘We’ll also be looking at the creation of the Universe.’

Matt makes an explosion sound and moves his hands further away from each other. He may want the hardest job on this ship, but he still has a sense of humour. We all laugh.

‘Yes, we will be looking at the Big Bang Theory along with the Steady State Theory.’

‘What’s the Steady State Theory?’ I ask with actual interest. Miss Toscan isn’t as surprised as Miss Minshall was. I actually pay attention in Science.

‘The Steady State Theory is the theory that the Universe has always stayed the same. It still expands but it doesn’t change its look over time. It also says that the Universe has no beginning or end and it looks the same from every spot.’

‘How can it look the same from every angle?’ Karen asks.

‘That’s something that the Steady State Theory has against it. Another flaw it has is the Cosmic Microwave background.’ Miss Toscan starts.

‘You mean the radiation that we think is left over from the Big Bang?’ Jason asks. I give him a weird look. While he may like Science, it’s not like his fascination with History.

‘What?’ He mocks. ‘I know stuff.’

‘I believe you. I just don’t believe that you could know that.’ I say back.
‘Either way he’s right.’ Miss Toscan says getting back on track. ‘A Cosmic Microwave background is believed to have be left over radiation from the Big Bang.’

‘If there’s Cosmic Microwave background then why is the Big Bang still a theory?’ Janet asks, posing a very good question.

‘The thing is, the Big Bang Theory is totally different from the Steady State Theory. As the name suggests, the theory is that the Big Bang was a cosmic explosion that created the Universe. Before it, there was nothing. No time, no space, no matter. Nothing. The Big Bang created everything.’

‘But if there was nothing before the Big Bang, how can something be made from nothing?’ I ask.

‘That’s where the Big Bang Theory has a flaw. We can’t be certain that the Big Bang actually happened, we just have more evidence supporting the Big Bang Theory than the Steady State Theory.’

‘Like the Cosmic Microwave background.’ Jason says a small smirk hovering over his face.

‘Yes like the Cosmic Microwave background. But we also have things like the Doppler Effect and the Red and Blue Shift supporting it. This gives us more of a reason to believe that the Big Bang Theory is what actually happened.’

‘In short, we were created because something went boom.’ Matt sums up making us all laugh a bit.

‘The Big Bang happened in less than a second but it took 30 thousand years for the Universe to be made after that.’ Miss Toscan says rounding up the creation of the Universe. ‘When the Big Bang did cool, it left behind clouds of dust that, after a while, started to clump together.’

Jason perks up a bit in his seat and I immediately know what he’s thinking. ‘Don’t you dare!’ I half shout at him. His face falls and he slumps a bit in his seat. Everybody gives me a really confused look. ‘Don’t ask.’ I say. ‘It will only encourage him.’

Miss Toscan gives me one last weird look before turning back to the class. ‘This is how everything started to form.’

‘Like galaxies?’ Karen asks.

‘We don’t actually know how galaxies are formed yet but we do know that they are a large group of stars.’ She replies. Using the habit my Grandad got me into; I pull out my tablet and look up the definition of ‘galaxy’. I do this with all one word things that hold my interest.

‘“Galaxy”,’ I start. ‘“A large system of stars held together by mutual gravitation and isolated from similar systems by vast regions of space.” Looks like the internet knows more than Miss does.’ We all break out laughing at that.

‘I was getting there!’ Miss Toscan says defending herself. ‘Well I bet I know more about solar systems than the internet.’

I pull up the definition of “solar system”. ‘“Solar system, the sun together with all the planets and other bodies that revolve around it.”’ We all start smiling and holding in our laughter.

‘What about stars?’

‘“Star”,’ I say looking it up. ‘“Astronomy, any of the large, self-luminous, heavenly bodies, as the sun, Polaris, etc.” That basically sums a star.’ We all giggle.

‘Yeah but that didn’t tell you about the different types of stars or what stars are made of.’ She says.

‘That was just the definition.’ I state. We all laugh at that.

‘Oh alright, settle down. One thing that that definition didn’t tell us was the order in which galaxies, stars and systems come.’

‘Well Miss, what order do they come in?’ Matt asks sarcastically.

‘Why thank-you for asking.’ Miss Toscan says with the same amount of sarcasm. ‘Stars and planets make up solar systems, solar systems make up galaxies, and galaxies and empty space make up the Universe.’

We all start clapping with fake serious faces. ‘Bravo.’ She takes a few small bows.

Just then the bell goes and we all start packing up. ‘Before you all head off, make sure that you bring your notebooks next lesson.’

We all groan. Surprisingly, it’s Janet that asks what we’re all thinking. ‘But why? We have our tablets; we don’t need to write out everything.’

Unsurprisingly, Miss Toscan gives us the same answer as always. ‘Because when you write things down you actually have to read it. And if your ancestors could do it on a planet, what’s stoping you from doing it on a ship.’ 'Gravity' I think.

We all walk out and head to my favourite place on the ship - The Mess Hall.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I push my now empty tray to the side as I pull out my tablet. Jason casts me a confused look.

‘What are you doing?’ He asks with a mouth full of sandwich.

‘Miss Minshall gave us homework.’ I tell him.

‘What do you have to do?’ He asks putting his second half of his sandwich down to look over my shoulder.

‘I first have to look up another cycle that was on Earth, then I have to research stuff on one type of engine that was a possibility for ‘The Planet’ but didn’t get picked.’ I say eyeing the second half of his sandwich. ‘You gonna eat that?’ He sighs and drags his plate across the table to right in front of me. I pick it up and shove half of it in my mouth. Chicken and lettuce, same as always.

‘So what cycle are you going to choose?’ He asks.

‘I fik m joft gonna oose fa warfa cykel.’ I try to say with my mouth still full. Jason raises an eyebrow at me. I swallow what’s left in my mouth. ‘I said “I think I’m just going to choose the water cycle”.’

‘You expected me to get that?’

‘You’ve been my best friend for years, yes.’

‘Right.’ He says stretching it out.

I sigh. ‘It’s the easiest to do, we got taught it when we were like 4.’ I put on a small high voice. ‘“The water goes up, evaporation. The water comes from trees, transpiration. The water forms clouds, condensation. The water falls down, precipitation. Then we start the process again.” I hated that teacher.’
‘Didn’t you kick her in the shins?’ Jason says trying to think back. I do too.

‘Yeah I did!’ I exclaim.

‘You’re proud of that?’

‘What? Randall was flaunting about saying how he was the best coz his ancestor created our engines and she expected me to just leave it. Like I would do that.’

‘Fair enough. Moving on, what engine you going to choose?’ He says changing the subject.

‘I think I’m just going to look up stuff on fuel because it’ll have the most stuff about it, but first I want to look up something about the anti-matter engines.’ I turn to my tablet and start searching for the oldest documents on anti-matter ‘The Planet’ has. Jason looks at me as if I had just said that going to jump out the airlock.

‘Why are you going to do that?’ He asks cautiously.

‘A bunch of people believed that anti-matter was still unsafe even after they apparently fixed it.’ I say still sifting through the documents on my tablet.

Jason relaxes a bit. ‘That’s why. Well if you’re looking for old documents, you’re going to have to pay attention to Miss Toscan.’ I look sideways at him. ‘The people of Earth used paper.’

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We crept into the old Archives room like we had done a thousand times before. Neither of us liked writing on paper much but we love reading off the old paper. Generally we would turn left to get to all the old fiction book section; our favourites are the old sci-fi books because we would sit there for ages correcting things that they got wrong. This time we turn right heading to the non-fiction section. It doesn’t take too long before we come across the section titled ‘Project Planet’.

‘Gee I wonder what’s in here.’ I say sarcastically shining the torch in Jason face. It gives him an eerie look. We slide the door out and see a corridor of shelves upon shelves of folders filled with paper. The first thought that comes to mind is 'Those poor trees.' The second, and more reasonable, thought is 'This is going to take a while.'

‘Where shall we start?’ Jason asks me.

I sigh. ‘How about you take the right and I’ll take the left.’ I suggest.

He too sighs. ‘Sounds good.’ We each turn to our respective sides before we start pull out random folders and checking their titles. Water. Water. Water. Oxygen. Heat. Heat. Gravity. Gravity. Light. Food. Food. Food. Food. Food. Food. Electricity. Electricity. Electricity. Electricity. People. People. People. People. It takes about 10 minutes before I start to see a running theme.

‘Hey.’ I say turning to Jason. ‘Are your folders about the exterior of the ship?’

He stops what he’s doing and looks back down his row of shelves. ‘Yeah, actually.’ He says realising what I’m suggesting. ‘Looks like they do have some order to this mess.’

I smile and shove the folder I’m holding back into its place. ‘I’ll go down the other end and work my way up.’ I tell him. When I get down there I start the process again. Shields. Shields. Shields. Earth like planets. Earth like planets. Earth like planets. Earth like planets. Storage. Storage. Storage. Structure. Structure. Structure. Structure. Structure.

‘This is repetitious and boring.’ I tell Jason, who is now standing right next to me, 15 minutes later.

‘You have got to be kidding me?’ Jason says pulling out a folder from the 5th last set of shelves. He holds it up for me and shines his torch on it. In plain black block writing is the word 'Engines'.

‘You have got to be kidding me?’ I say ripping the folder from Jason’s hands. Neither of us laugh as we’re too mad to find it funny. Out of the top of my vision I see Jason check his watch.

‘We’d better hurry this up,’ he says ‘we’ve got 10 minutes until the bell.’

I snort. ‘Like it matters if we’re late. You’d rather poke out your eyes with a spoon than be anything other than a historian. As for me, I only have one major interest.’

‘Rocks, you can’t get a job constantly annoying Randall.’

‘All right fine. Two major interests.’

‘Annoying other people still isn’t a job.’

‘Let’s just get started.’ I say opening the folder I stole from Jason. As soon as I open it I see the words ‘Anti-matter’. ‘Well that was easy.’ I show Jason and this time we do laugh. I split the stack of paper in half and give the bottom half to him. Flicking through the papers, half of it doesn’t even make sense. It takes a few pages before I finally see something that does make sense. Before and after designs and equations of the Anti-matter engines. Without looking up, I walk over to where Jason is sitting and kick him.

‘Mmm.’ He groans.

I turn my stack of paper around so he can read it. ‘Spot the difference.’ I tell him.

His eyes dart backwards and forwards over the pages lazily for a while before they starts becoming frantic. He finally looks up at me. ‘There is no difference.’

I run a hand through my hair. ‘So it wasn’t just me, great.’ I start pacing up and down the hall. ‘If they didn’t change it at all back on Earth and they were actually telling us the truth about how it was dangerous, then that means that at any time the whole ship could explode! What are we going to do?’

Jason sighs. ‘Getting overreacted won’t help. The first thing we should do is see if anybody actually knew about it.’ He says calmly.

I stop pacing. Jason has always had the ability to calm anybody down. ‘How are we going to do that?’ I ask. ‘Announce it over the PA system so everybody can hear it?’

‘No.’ Jason says shaking his head. ‘When scientists first found out about the Neutron star and announced it to the public everything basically erupted into chaos. Some people killed themselves, others became super religious, and some became psychotic and dangerous. It’s because of them that the building of ‘The Planet’ was delayed for 18 years.’

‘History geek.’ I say looking at him from the corner of my eye. He smiles.

‘Our best shot is informing the UN. Hopefully they will be able to deal with it in the safest way and keep the peace throughout the ship.’ He says.

‘Why do they even call themselves the ‘United Nations’ anymore? We don’t have nations, we’re on a spaceship.’ I say collecting the papers off the floor.

‘Habit I guess.’ Jason says.

I sigh one last time before putting the papers back into their folder. ‘Let’s get going. We don’t need people asking why we’re late to the Careers Day.’ I help him to his feet and we head down what now seems like a never ending corridor. Suddenly we hear the beeping of the security lock. We’ve been in this situation before. Guards sometimes come through and make sure everything is in order. When that happens, Jason and I just run to the nearest air vent and hide in there before the guard moves on. I look at Jason and we have one of our famous silent conversations.

'Do we hide or get caught?' I ask.

'If we get caught we can tell them we need to see the UN.' He counters back.

'Yeah but do you really think that will work.'

'It’s worth a try.'

We keep walking down the hall making as much noise as we can while making it look like we’re trying to be silent. I doesn’t take long before the guard finds us. The first thing I notice about him is his size. He’s only slightly smaller than Jason but much musclier. He has a light-ish sort of brown hair colour that’s greying around the edges. He also has a look of authority and determination written all over his face.

‘And what are you two doing in here?’ He asks.

‘We’re not dating if that’s what you’re thinking.’ I say my confidence coming back.

‘Then what are you doing here?’ He asks again.

‘We need to see the United Nations.’ Jason says.

The guard chuckles a little. ‘And why is that?’ He says.

‘World peace and personal satisfaction. Though not necessarily in that order.’ I say quoting a T.V. show I’m into.

This really starts to annoy him. ‘How about you tell me why you want to see the United Nations or I’ll take you to the Law floor and we can chat down there.’

I fake a gasp. ‘I’m so scared.’

‘Roxie.’ Jason warns.

‘Fine.’ I say taking the sarcasm out of my voice. ‘We’ll tell you why we want to see the UN while we’re telling them.’

‘You two are desperate to see them aren’t you?’

Jason nods. ‘We really need to see them. And soon.’

Just as Jason finishes saying that the siren signalling the Anti-matter goes off. Jason and I quickly look at each other. I don’t know about him but internally, I’m freaking out. The ship lurches forward knocking me forward with it. The guard catches me right before I plummet to the floor. ‘Thanks.’ I say breathing a sigh of relief. Jason looks about as relieved as I am. The guard studies us both quickly.

‘This visit to the United Nations wouldn’t have anything to do with the Anti-matter engines would it?’ He asks.

I look at Jason and an agreement passes in-between us. ‘Yeah.’ Jason finally answers. ‘Yeah it does.’

The guard nods a little as if he were expecting it. ‘I’ve had my suspicions about the engines for a while. I’ve just never done anything about it. Come on, I’ll take you two to see the UN.’ He turns for the door and doesn’t wait for us. I cast a quick look at Jason who returns it before we follow the guard.

‘My name’s Peter by the way.’ The guard, Peter, tells us as we walk out of the Archives room.

‘I’m Roxie and that’s Jason.’ I say introduction us.

‘So what made you two question our engines?’ Peter asks.

‘It’s kind of my fault actually.’ I explain how I’m into political stuff and how I’ve always had it out for Randall. ‘So when I found out there were political doubts about the new engine, I got interested. Jason’s just my partner in crime.’

Peter laughs. ‘If you were looking for that then you should have been looking in the Media section. It would have been under News.’

‘Oh, oops.’ I say. Jason laughs at me. I take off my shoe and throw it at him again. This time it hits him square in the shoulder.

‘Are you sure you two aren’t dating?’ Peter asks a small smile crossing his face.

‘YES!’ Both Jason and I shout.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We manage to get to see the UN without too much trouble. Peter had higher authority than I first thought. But standing here in the assembly hall in front of them all, it’s really freaky.

‘Miss Hilton and Mister Parker, these are very serious allegations you’re making. Are you sure that what you are saying is true?’ One of the members asks us.

‘Do you really think this folder would be this dusty if it were new?’ I counter back.

‘Rocks.’ Jason warns me again for the 10th time.

‘Sorry.’ I say back for the 10th time.

‘Well, I propose we take this matter very seriously. We should shut down the Anti-matter engines until we can know for certain that what Miss Hilton and Mister Parker has said is either true or false.’ Another member says. A lot of the other members nod in agreement but a few sit there with scowls on their faces.

‘All in favour.’ A completely new member asks. A lot more than half the room raises their hand. ‘All against.’ Only two or three hands go up. ‘It’s settled then. A message will be sent to the engine room and control room to cease all Anti-matter explosions. As for you two,’ the member says turning to us, ‘you may have been found in an of limits area, but you did bring to light a very serious matter. For that neither of you will be punished while the threat looms.’

‘So basically, you guys aren’t going to punish us as long as the Anti-matter is found unsafe.’ I shrug. ‘I can live with that. Jason?’ I ask.

‘Works for me.’ He says.

‘Well, I suggest you two head off to the Careers Day then.’ One of the members that voted against says.

Jason checks his watch. ‘What Careers Day?’ He asks. ‘It’s over.’

I laugh. ‘That is how long you lot take to decide on one thing.’

‘Rocks!’ Jason shouts for the 11th time.

‘Sorry!’ I shout for the 11th time.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

‘So, that’s that.’ Jason says as we walk out of the assembly hall.

‘That’s that.’ I agree. ‘But you know we’re not entirely done.’ I look up at him and give him my best “I’m up to so much mischief” smile.

‘And what exactly haven’t we finished yet?’ he asks with his usual raise of an eyebrow.

‘Well,’ I say giving it extra emphasis. ‘There is the matter of whether or not we should tell people.’

‘The United Nations said they’re going to tell people and for us not too.’

‘I’m not taking about that,’ waving a hand in dismissal, ‘I’m talking about whether or not we tell people that we were the ones that found out about the Anti-matter engines. I mean we could just ask to be left out of everything and let Peter get all the praise. He did get us into the UN meeting away. Or we could totally get thrown in the middle of it and boast about it for the rest of eternity.’

‘You mean boast about it to Randall for the rest of eternity.’

‘There is that too.’

He laughs. ‘If you did that you’d be as bad as him.’

‘No!’ I say stopping. ‘I would make sure my descendants do it with class, grace and dignity.’

‘Oh coz you have those things to start off with.’ He says walking backwards further and further away from me with a cocky grin on his face just like this morning, which now feels like millions of years before.

‘Hey!’ I shout at him. I take off my shoe just as I did that morning, and throw it at him. But my shoe doesn’t hit its target. Not because it misses, but because it never makes it. Just as the shoe leaves my hand, the siren for the Anti-matter explosion goes off, even though they should have stopped right after the United Nations meeting. When I was half way to hitting its target, the whole ship should have lurched forward sending me forward with it. But it doesn’t. Just a few millimetres away from hitting Jason, who now had his hands in front of his face, the whole ship lurched in every direction. Not a millisecond after that a searing heat passed over the whole ship, obliterating it all.



Brian Falkner Books