The Finding Of Another World

Chapter 1

Aiken Young sat in the space-shuttle, gazing out of the window, his vision un-hindered by the fact that he didn’t need to wear his spacesuit while in the shuttle. He was able to see his reflection in the window, his eyes scanning over himself as if he was trying to clarify that it was really him who was in space again. He could see every detail; his styled, gelled, black hair hung above his head, strands of it dangling against his forehead, his fairly pale skin which he could attribute to his Scandinavian ancestry, his bright, blue eyes which, again, came from his ancestors, his tall height of a little more than six feet, his fairly broad shoulders and muscular arms which he’d gained from his training... Yeah, it was definitely him who was being reflected in the window.

 

Aiken was an astronaut who’d not long completed his training. He’d been to visit the International Space Station a few weeks before to essentially run a few errands for the United Kingdom’s Space Program. Initially, he’d been looking to work with NASA, but being British, he felt more comfortable working for the space program of his home country given that he wouldn’t be too far away from his family as much, something which Aiken had recognised immediately as fairly ironic. He couldn’t be further away from them than when in space.

 

The reason why Aiken had returned to the vast, empty void was because of some unidentified satellites. Ten of them had been sent into the Earth’s orbit, yet nobody knew where they’d come from. They weren’t licenced, and it was beginning to scare a few of the governments around the world. The ten satellites ranged everywhere, in seemingly random places, not all of the ten countries which they were directly orbiting over being the enemies of a single country or a single group of countries in the world, so no-one could attribute them as being there for the purpose of an attack. There was one above Germany, one above Chad, one above South Africa, one above the United States, one above Chile, one above North Korea, one above India, one above Australia, one above Russia and one above Saudi Arabia. It had been estimated that, if something were to be broadcasted from all of these satellites at once- assuming that they were for illegal broadcasting in the first place- the signals would cover the entire planet. There wouldn’t be even a single stretch of land that these signals wouldn’t be able to reach.

 

And so, some countries had decided to send some astronauts into space to deal with the satellites, but they couldn’t all go at once. No-one wanted to risk sending all of the astronauts into space at once as, if the satellites were there for the purpose of an attack, they’d be endangering the lives of the astronauts who’d going to try to disarm them or, at the very least, identify them. The conclusion, given that it wouldn’t be safe to leave the satellites alone while not knowing what they were for, was to send one rocket and one astronaut at a time to deal with two or three satellites, to have them return and to give a detailed report on the situation, then for the next astronaut to go. It just so happened that Britain had volunteered to go first and, as a result, that Aiken, because he’d volunteered to execute the mission, thinking that it wouldn’t be very dangerous, was the first to go.

 

The shuttle had broken-away from the rest of the rocket already, giving Aiken control of it, able to steer it in the direction of the satellite above Germany. He was supposed to head towards it, to hop out of shuttle, examine the satellite and hopefully be able to deal with it. Then, he was supposed to do the same with the satellite which was stationed above Saudi Arabia.

 

The satellite wasn’t too far from him. In fact, he could see it, knew that it was the correct one to be looking for because it had been marked on a radar within the shuttle.

 

Aiken slowly approached the satellite, getting closer and closer, preparing himself for the fact that he was about to climb out of the shuttle and attempt to disable the satellite. Anything could go wrong. He knew that. He knew that there was a chance that he wouldn’t be able to return to the shuttle, that the satellite- or the person who’d sent the satellites into space- would kill him… Why had he volunteered to partake in this mission?

 

Still, Aiken grew closer and closer. He was currently above Belgium. The satellite was closer to being above Berlin, so he had a small amount of distance to continue travelling, but he knew that the distance wasn’t as much in space as it was on Earth. He’d be beside the satellite in a matter of minutes.

Then something started to jam his controls.

 

Aiken paused, confused, worried, wondering what was happening. After a moment of trying his best to accelerate the shuttle, he found that he couldn’t move. He was simply stuck in Earth’s orbit. He couldn’t even rotate the shuttle to face another direction- he was just stuck.

 

And he couldn’t contact mission control, either. Something was blocking the signal, evidently, and Aiken realised within an instant that it was the satellite… How the hell had it managed to halt his shuttle? How was it connecting to the controls? Was it linked to it via mission control?

 

Had the building housing the stationary controls been infiltrated and captured by whomever had sent the satellites into orbit?

 

Aiken leaned back in his chair. He didn’t know what to do. He simply stared at the satellite in front of him. He definitely wasn’t close-enough to it to be able to even graze it with his fingertips from where he was, so trying to disable it and, by doing so, possibly regaining control of his shuttle was out of the question. He was stranded in space, close enough to Earth that it wasn’t impossible for him to get home, but he had no idea as to what he could do, what anyone could do. Any other shuttle would most likely face the same problem when approaching him, and even if they were able to resist being controlled by a third party, how would Aiken get to the other shuttle? It wasn’t as if he could pull his helmet back on, smash a window and take a leap of faith. He’d no-doubt end up going in the wrong direction, being pulled into the Earth, or something- not to mention the insane vacuum which smashing a window would create in the first place. Something would go wrong, he just knew it… Besides, it wasn’t as if there’d be a rescue mission for one man. He’d been warned of the dangers of going first, of approaching a satellite which was being controlled by an anonymous person- or group of people. If he was going to die, it could easily be seen as his fault.

 

But there was still some hope, right?

 

Well, Aiken had thought so until the shuttle began to rotate outside of his control, turning to face the gap between the Earth’s moon and Mars, the boosters initialising and beginning to send Aiken deeper and deeper into space, away from Earth, away from home, and into the void.

 

Frantically, Aiken tried his best to fight for control, but nothing worked. The shuttle was being controlled by an external force, and there wasn’t a chance to stop it, to even have a tiny levy against it. He was doomed.

 

And so, realising that he was on-course to death, Aiken leaned further back in his chair, took a few deep breaths, and felt himself beginning to cry. He felt hopeless. Someone was actively murdering him, and he was going to have to deal with the knowledge that he was going to die for the extent of the time that he had left. He didn’t have any food on the shuttle, only had a small amount of water which would maybe last him for two or three days if he could ration it. That wouldn’t be nearly long-enough to live and be rescued. Even if he’d be entirely out of range of the external control, he’d be doomed…

 

Out of range…

 

The satellite, assuming that it was the satellite which was being used to somehow control the shuttle, had only been able to control the shuttle once he’d gotten within a few-hundred kilometres of it. Maybe he’d fall out of range and would be able to turn around, to head away from the satellite, then to return to Earth.

Maybe there was a chance after all!

 

But, no, as it turned out, there wasn’t.

 

Once Aiken was certain that he was just as far away from the satellite as he’d been before an external force had taken control of the shuttle, he tried to steer it.

Nothing.

 

Aiken waited for another minute or two to ensure that he was definitely further away from it than he’d previously been.

 

Nothing.

 

He couldn’t control the boosters, he couldn’t steer the shuttle as all, couldn’t even wiggle it the slightest amount. Whatever it was that was controlling the shuttle had probably been able to control it earlier than it had started to, yet it hadn’t, had waited for him to get much closer to it for whatever reason. Maybe it was being controlled by a single person on Earth and they’d simply noticed Aiken approaching one of their satellites and had taken action to ensure that he wouldn’t damage it. To Aiken, it seemed as if the external control would be continuing for a while. Maybe all of the satellites were capable of being used to control surrounding shuttles, and the fact that there were ten of those satellites surrounding the planet was only boosting the signal. Aiken didn’t know if his shuttle would reach Mars before the external control wouldn’t be able to lead him anywhere, but he didn’t doubt it. After all, the interference hadn’t stopped yet, and he was only getting further and further away from Earth…

 

And the interference only continued until he was passing the moon.

 

The three days which it had taken for Aiken to be as far away from Earth as the moon was were incredibly exhausting, boring and stressful. He’d managed to ration his water consumption and had prevented himself as best as possible from losing water to sweat by having stripped out of his spacesuit, but he knew that he wasn’t going to last much longer. Given that he knew that he could survive for three days without water normally, he estimated that he’d be able to go for four days at a push given that he’d only be sitting in the same seat, waiting, essentially, trying to pass the time as best as possible, mostly by only thinking. He also knew that he had enough water to drink on that fourth day to get him to the sixth or seventh, and so he went with that plan, going for three full days without even a drop of fresh water, the only thing which he drunk being, as he didn’t want there to be any waste and as he wanted to prolong the tiny amount of his life which remained, his urine. He guessed that doing so could boost his chances slightly, but the act was incredibly reluctant. After all, he knew that he was going to die. Did he really want to go not long after having consumed his own piss?

 

Even though he was as far away from Earth as the moon was, the controls of the shuttle still weren’t responding to him. Aiken had begun to wonder whether they were on some sort of autopilot, though he’d found no way to disable it if that were the case. Then, following that, he’d assumed that the person or the machine which had been controlling his shuttle had made it so that it would be controlled indefinitely, probably so that he’d be drifting in one direction with no way to stop it until he’d run out of fuel. After all, he was fairly far away from Earth, and he didn’t think that anyone would be sitting at a computer and telling his shuttle what to do for three, consecutive days.

 

Time dragged on, and so did Aiken’s boredom. He even began to wonder whether it would be easier to simply kill himself, to get it over-with sooner given that he knew that he didn’t have any longer than a few days left at most. Besides, the pain in his stomach from the hunger was maddening. With no distractions, the only two things which Aiken could do to pass the time were to sleep or to think about something, and neither of those things masked the pain of his hunger.

 

 And time continued, the shuttle gliding away from Earth at a consistent, slow speed for another day, the end of which being when Aiken realised that something was wrong. There was something ahead of him, directly in his path.

 

A tiny, black hole.

 

He could see it, he could see how it was morphing light, could see how the stars which were hidden on the other side of it were obscured, coming in and out of view as his shuttle progressed towards it.

 

And then the shuttle began to get pulled into it, the gravitational pull of even such a tiny black hole too difficult for the shuttle to escape.

 

“Oh, God,” Aiken whispered to himself, unable to believe what was happening. He was going to die. Well, he’d known that before, but he’d expected to die from dehydration, not from being sucked into a black hole!

 

The shuttle grew closer and closer, beginning to orbit the black hole, the spinning growing faster and faster as the distance between the shuttle and the black hole shortened.

 

Aiken took a deep breath, then held it in his lungs.

 

This was it.

 

The shuttle sped-up more and more, making Aiken begin to feel nauseated, making him want to vomit, but he couldn’t. He didn’t know what he was about to face. No human had been sucked into a black hole before. No-one knew what would happen. Aiken knew that his atoms would likely just be torn from him with nothing more to it, but still... What if he’d somehow be alive in some sort of limbo? He at least wanted to see what would happen, didn’t want to perish from asphyxiation before even being sucked into it…

 

Pieces of the shuttle began to be yanked away, being engulfed by the black hole, making it grow slightly.

 

Then an entire side of the shuttle was pulled away and, only a moment later, so was Aiken.

The Finding Of Another World