The Finding Of Another World
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.
Aiken waited for another minute or two to ensure that he was definitely further away from it than he’d previously been.
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
Aiken opened his eyes.
He was alive.
After looking around himself for a few moments, he realised that the shuttle was even intact.
Had being sucked into the black hole been a dream?
After turning his attention to look out of the window, wondering where he really was, wanting confirmation as to whether or not encountering the black hole had been a dream or not, Aiken saw a planet in front of him; a planet which largely resembled Earth, though Aiken could tell that it wasn’t Earth. The landmass was completely different. From the side which was he was on, Aiken couldn’t recognise any of the shapes which the land was creating. There was a tiny portion of it which seemed to resemble Japan, though the island was much wider, shorter, and it was almost connected to a larger island which, had what Aiken was looking at really been Japan, would have been China on its own, separated from the rest of Asia.
“Where the hell am I?” Aiken breathed to himself, wondering if he was dreaming this, though he poked himself in the arm, pinched his skin, then slapped himself across the face.
He was definitely awake.
A sudden surge of excitement flooded into Aiken’s body in that moment. He’d just found an Earth-like planet, and from what he could judge given the largely-green landmass, the yellowish portions of ground, the occasional, white peaks and the vast amount of blue, it was very similar to Earth. It seemed as if there were fields, forests, deserts, mountains and, of course, wide oceans. For it to look so similar to Earth, sharing many of the same characteristics, maybe it could support life? Well, from the greenery, it was clear that it did support plant-life, so it would probably be fine for humans to live on.
Aiken immediately moved to contact mission-control, wanting to inform them of the discovery, though he remembered that he couldn’t. There was something jamming the signal and, regardless of that, he was clearly very far away from home. This planet, to his knowledge, hadn’t been discovered before- it would have been giant news had it been- so he must have been extremely far from Earth, probably thousands of lightyears away at the very least.
He had no hope of contacting mission-control, and, alongside that, no hope of returning home. Ever.
Aiken slumped in his chair. What was he supposed to do? He couldn’t get home, couldn’t even inform anyone of his discovery… He was so unbelievably hungry, and Aiken knew that he was going to die from dehydration soon. He could probably last another day or two, at the very most... What was he supposed to do?
But a thought came to him: if he was so far away from home, whatever had been remotely controlling his shuttle wouldn’t have a signal anymore, would it? And, if, somehow, it could reach his location, the fact that he’d just passed-through a black hole, his shuttle having been dismantled to its atoms and then rebuilt, probably meant that the signal had been interrupted. So, as a result, maybe he could take control of the shuttle again…
Aiken tried and, sure enough, it worked. He could steer the shuttle and, seeing nothing else to do, nowhere else to go, Aiken began to head towards the planet. He’d awoken extremely close to it, probably so close that he was actually in orbit of the planet, so it wasn’t as if he was in danger of dying before he could even arrive. It would take, most likely, a few hours to land.
A thought suddenly struck Aiken’s brain and sent a wave of panic through his body: he’d gotten here, presumably, by a black hole having teleported him across the universe. Where was the black hole which he’d exited from? Was it behind him, possibly close-enough that he was in danger of being sucked into it again? Was it possibly close-enough to the planet that it could devour the only remaining chance of Aiken’s survival?
But after veering the shuttle around, wanting to look behind him to see, Aiken couldn’t see a black hole anywhere. Maybe there had been one and it had been destroyed as he’d come out of it. Maybe it had been a wormhole, or something, instead of a black hole, and it had collapsed following his exit from it. Whatever it was which had spat him beside the planet, it was gone. There wasn’t any danger behind him.
Aiken turned the shuttle to face the planet again and accelerated.
As the shuttle began to approach the planet, getting closer and closer to it, Aiken’s mind began to race with the possibilities of what he’d find. Would there be another intelligent lifeform? He’d always believed in aliens, had always told people that, given the scope of the universe, it was almost guaranteed that there would be other beings out there, even if they ended up being as tiny and seemingly useless as headlice. If there were aliens on this planet, how would they react to him arriving? Would he just be killed on arrival?
For a moment, a wave on uneasiness washed over Aiken, making him wonder whether his only chance at survival wasn’t going to be as broad as simply landing on the planet, finding the necessities and figuring everything out from there.
The shuttle grew closer and closer to the planet until it eventually breached the atmosphere of it. A shield of flames began to ignite around the shuttle as it fell faster and faster towards the ground, Aiken doing his best to steer it. He was heading for land, an area which, he could see, was almost a perfect circle of fields, forest, hills and small mountains, the circle of land surrounded by vast mountains which stretched much higher into the sky than the smaller ones within the circle. After a moment, he realised that he’d definitely land within the circle after gliding the shuttle to the ground.
Speed continued to accelerate, the heat outside of the shuttle continued to increase, and the force was astronomical. Yet Aiken continued to focus as hard as he could on landing, knowing that distracting himself with thoughts as to the contents of the land which he was about to land on would most likely result in him fumbling the controls, crashing and dying.
Aiken began to glide the shuttle towards the ground, not taking any notice of the landscape until he’d passed over the tall mountains surrounding the circle of land, realising that he was passing over a town which looked as if it had been destroyed by something. The buildings were in ruins, holes in walls, some missing walls and roofs altogether. From what Aiken could make-out from the design of the remaining ruins of the buildings, however, they almost resembled the Italian architecture found in Florence: red rooves, holes in the walls which acted as windows, the occasional, tiny balcony... They clearly would have been packed-together had there not been giant holes separating the buildings which were still, barely standing.
Aiken simply wondered what had happened to the town, but he’d passed it entirely before he could take another look, needing to keep his attention on landing.
A sudden thought hit Aiken which made him fumble the controls slightly, too distracted with the sudden realisation that, with a town, there were people. Well, maybe not people, but some form of intelligent life who’d definitely be willing to help him… or oppose him.
And that it was where it started to go wrong.
The shuttle had slowed to a point where it wasn’t too hard to control, yet the distracting thoughts about the town and the possible people had made Aiken tilt the shuttle downwards too much, making it begin to pick-up more speed as it zoomed to the ground.
Aiken tried his best, but he couldn’t stabilise the shuttle, making him panic.
Could he jump out of it?
There was a parachute in case of emergencies, so…
Aiken tried once more to stabilise the shuttle, but despite bringing it to be more central, Aiken knew that there was no way of slowing it enough to have a safe landing, not even if he deployed the landing gear- which was basically a giant parachute which was attached to the back of the shuttle to increase the drag. There was no way to slow it enough to have a safe landing…
And so Aiken pulled the parachute onto his back hastily, found the door, threw it open and dove out of the shuttle, deploying the parachute after a moment. He was maybe only one-hundred metres above the ground. He’d been close to crashing with the shuttle.
A giant explosion sounded as the shuttle slammed into the ground, the sudden stop no-doubt rupturing the fuel canister, the pressure causing a giant explosion.
Aiken looked over his shoulder only a split-second after the explosion had sounded and saw a cloud of flame expanding, approaching him.
Panicked, Aiken looked below him. He was around twenty metres from the ground.
Glancing over his shoulder, Aiken saw the flaming cloud as it barely managed to catch the back of his parachute.
Fifteen metres to the ground.
Aiken pulled the parachute from his back, falling to the floor, leaving the parachute to float down slowly. He could have used it to land, probably, but by the time that he’d have landed, the fire would have spread to the majority of the parachute, possibly enough to spread down the rope which was directly attached to him, not to mention that the burning safety net would have landed on top of him.
Aiken slammed into the ground, landing on his back, knowing to disperse his weight for a safer landing.
It stung and ached like hell, Aiken realising that he’d somehow managed to land on a sharpish rock which was now jabbing into the underside of his left bicep. Brilliant.
Quickly rolling off of the stone and to the right, Aiken found his feet and sprinted ahead, wanting to get away from the falling, flaming parachute.
Then a realisation struck Aiken.
He could breathe.
“Thank God,” he muttered to himself, having not thought about the possibility of him not being able to breathe the air of this planet when jumping out of the shuttle. Had he been unlucky, he’d have needed the spacesuit which was now burning in the destroyed shuttle, doomed to suffocate and die after having just escaped exploding alongside his entrance to the planet. Yeah, there was plant-life to provide him with oxygen, but what if there had been a deficiency of the other elements which made-up Earth’s breathable air?
Aiken looked around himself. He couldn’t see any other life around him. Part of him had been hoping that, upon arriving, there would be intelligent life flocking around him, wondering where he’d come from, what he was, giving him an idea of what he was going to have to face on this planet, but no. There wasn’t anyone or anything like that around him, at least in terms of living, breathing life. The grass underneath his feet, the small, natural, untouched bushes, the occasional trees littered around the vast, un-bordered field which he’d landed in reminded him that there was definitely life around him, at least, just it was plant-life, nothing more.
Aiken let a deep breath fill his lungs before cascading out of his mouth. What now? He’d “landed,” had lost any supplies which had been on the shuttle because of his impeccable “landing,” and was now only just realising that he was stranded on a foreign planet with no idea as to what inhabited it. Did he need to find shelter to protect himself from any wildlife who’d be a danger to him? Would it be better to try to find or make a weapon just in case? Would it be better to secure food and water first? Or, knowing from the buildings which he’d seen from the sky that there was intelligent life, would it be better to try to find whatever had constructed those buildings? Maybe they could help him, provide him with the sustenance and the safety which he needed to find regardless…
He looked around himself a little more, trying to see into the distance. He could make-out the tiny shape of one of the destroyed houses which made-up the ruined town that he’d passed over…
Aiken took a deep breath, trying to stop himself from panicking. All which he needed to do was to look around and hope that he wouldn’t get killed. If he’d come across any water, he’d have some of it depending on the purity of it. That was the only basis of a plan which he had.
But then Aiken heard some distant, very faint noises. They sounded like shouts.
Aiken turned to peer in the direction of the sounds, frightened, wondering whether he was about to be attacked, the noises which he was hearing being battle cries, but he realised after a moment that he could see something happening in the distance. It was small as he was far away, but there seemed to be figures… Dancing? They looked human-like, at least, so even if they were insane, dancing in the middle of a field and shouting, maybe he’d be able to communicate with them and get some help?
With no better idea in mind, Aiken began to make his way towards the commotion in the distance, noting how the level of gravity on the planet felt slightly less than what it had been on Earth, every step feeling a lot easier than he’d expected it to feel. Was this planet smaller or larger than Earth? Aiken couldn’t remember… Everything since having woken-up after being teleported across the universe was fuzzy because of the sheer panic, excitement, adrenaline and relief which he’d felt, all of which having come from the discovery of the planet. Those emotions were consuming all of his memory.
As a quick test, wanting to see if the gravity was less than Earth’s, Aiken jumped into the air and found that he jumped higher than he was used to. Falling back to the ground took a similar amount of time as it did on Earth, or, if there was a difference, Aiken couldn’t notice it, but he was definitely jumping higher. Without having pulled his feet as close to him as possible while in the air, he’d jumped at least a metre. Maybe, with more effort and adaptation, he’d be able to jump a metre and a half?
The prospect of experiencing a weaker gravity for a prolonged period excited Aiken and consumed his focus until he realised that the shouts were getting louder, more consistent. It seemed as if the noises had been being produced constantly, the occasional, louder shout being what Aiken had heard previously. Along with the shouts, Aiken could hear what seemed to be growling, screams, cries of pain.
Looking ahead, Aiken could tell that the humanoid-figures weren’t dancing, but, in fact, fighting. They weren’t fighting each other, however, something which brought a wave of relief to Aiken once he’d realised. Had he simply turned up, neither side would accept him, probably thinking of him as a spy for the enemy. No, what the humans were fighting were… giant… pigs? No, that was wrong. Aiken couldn’t make-out what they were, exactly, still too far away, but he could tell that they weren’t human. They were taller than any human was either on Earth or ahead of Aiken, probably eight-foot in height at least, wider on average, too, probably about three-foot wide, with grey skin. They were holding swords, too, all of them equipped with a short, iron sword which- Aiken couldn’t tell given the distance- could have been more dagger-like than sword-like. These creatures which Aiken couldn’t recognise, couldn’t put any type of name to, were hammering against who Aiken could now tell were definitely humans who were armoured and armed with swords and shields. It seemed as if the monsters were winning…
Aiken began to run, but not away. He knew that it was probably stupid, but he couldn’t risk running away and not being able to find the humans again. He’d found humans- at least, he thought so- on a different planet. If he had any hope of survival, it would be with them, therefore, it would be foolish to run away when there was the chance that he’d never find them again.
Sprinting towards the battle which was probably still a few hundred metres away, Aiken began to veer to the left, towards the human’s side, away from the grey, massive monsters who wore scarce pieces of either leather or chainmail armour with heads which didn’t seem to be the correct proportions to their bodies, fangs which descended from the top-half of their jaws, protruding from their mouths. He didn’t know whether he was guaranteed to be safe with the humanoids, but he hoped that he’d be able to communicate, somehow, with one of the people, be able to be guided to safety. Maybe he’d be seen and thought of as a civilian? Maybe he’d be escorted away, the people fighting scared of him getting hurt, mistaking him for one of their own and taking him somewhere safe?
The noises kept getting louder. Aiken heard a sloshing sound as a human decapitated one of the monsters, then heard a horrible crunching noise as two other monsters double-teamed that same human, avenging their ally by crushing the person, one pinning them to the floor, the other jumping onto their chest.
The high-pitched scraping of swords colliding and fighting for dominance cut into Aiken’s mind. He felt incredibly out-of-place, felt his fight-or-flight response kicking-in, leaning heavily towards trying to make him escape, but Aiken forced himself to keep going. He wasn’t too close to the fighting- it wasn’t as if he was running through the middle of the battlefield. He was simply darting around the battling crowd, trying to get behind the humans, but just as he was about to reach the back of the humanoid crowd, one of the humans cried a word which Aiken was shocked to understand.
“Retreat!” The man bellowed before beginning to lead everyone away, turning and sprinting in Aiken’s direction, no-one paying any attention to him, no-one noticing the fact that they were dressed in plated, iron or steel armour and that Aiken was in a dark, grey t-shirt and blue jeans. It was as if he was invisible to them.
As Aiken ran with the humans, retreating from the monsters who tried to chase them, catching a few straggling soldiers who’d either been injured or were simply too slow, he wondered about how he’d understood the word “retreat.” Had the man been speaking English? Or had he simply said “retreat” in the language of this, foreign world, and the word just happened to sound like the English translation?
The thought bugged Aiken until the group stopped, Aiken happy to be able to collapse to his hands and knees, able to catch his breath. Adrenaline was fuelling him given the fact that he’d been running for his life, but he’d also been running for a minute or two after having walked for at least ten minutes, that having followed the stress of jumping out of a crashing space-shuttle. It was fair to say that Aiken was exhausted, and that no amount of adrenaline could keep him running for much longer- especially given that he hadn’t drunken any water for a few days.
“Have… we… lost… them?” A man panted, looking towards another man, who, Aiken assumed, trying to distract himself from the realisation that he could perfectly understand what these people were saying, was the leader.
“I think so,” the man replied, almost grunting the words through his heavy breathing.
“Um,” came from beside Aiken making him look towards the person who’d made the noise, only to find that she’d removed her helmet and that she was gazing at him, looking incredibly confused.
One-by-one, more and more of the soldiers turned to look at Aiken, some removing their helmets, other not, the sound of a few of them sheathing their swords which they’d dangerously been running with making Aiken think that, instead, they were unsheathing their swords, getting ready to attack him, making him panic.
Aiken threw his hands into the air, holding himself upright with only his knees. “Can you understand me?” He asked quickly, not knowing what to say, watching as the expressions on the soldiers’ faces which he could see changed to ones of deeper confusion.
“Yes?” The man who Aiken only assumed of as the leader replied, taking a step towards Aiken and removing his helmet, clearly able to tell that Aiken was afraid.
In the second before the man continued to speak, Aiken took-in the man’s details, noting that he seemed to be in his forties- an age which Aiken deemed unfit to be running around, sword-fighting monsters, but he didn’t know the situation of this world. The man’s dark, bushy eyebrows, his blue eyes and his short, greying, black hair being the only details which Aiken fully processed alongside his apparent age before the man spoke. “Are you okay, son?”
Aiken paused. The man seemed compassionate, seemed as if he wouldn’t turn on him in a split-second… Maybe he was safe.
“I… think so,” Aiken replied, nodding lightly before he put his hands down and stood up, the man following. “I’m just… lost.”
“Lost?” The man asked, seeming surprised. “How come you’ve left the city?”
“There’s a city?” Aiken asked stupidly, realising that the dumb question had probably only made everyone realise that he wasn’t from their territory.
The man was quiet, seemed hesitant. “Listen, boy,” he began, his voice deeper and more menacing, almost as if he was losing his patience. “Don’t play games with me. It’s dangerous to be outside of those walls, especially with a war going-on!”
Aiken was taken-aback. A war? It was clearly against those monsters, but Aiken hadn’t expected for the battling to be a full-scale war. Then again, what else could it have been?
His thought-process only made Aiken realise that he couldn’t think straight. It was probably just because of the shock of everything which had happened within the last hour. He’d genuinely thought that he was going to die when approaching that black hole, had felt so much relief to find that he was still alive afterwards, had felt so much excitement upon the discovery of the planet, had felt so much stress and fear when about to crash the shuttle, had felt more relief upon landing, had felt confusion and wonder once he’d realised that there were humans on the planet, had felt pure fear when approaching and retreating from the battle, had felt overwhelming shock when realising that he could understand the humans, and now felt extremely… out-of-place.
Aiken realised that he had to try to convince the soldiers that he was on their side. Maybe they were thinking that, given his clear lack of knowledge regarding the way that they lived, he was on the opposing side. He had to convince them that he was with them, lest he’d probably be killed as a precaution.
“L-Listen- I’m not from around here,” Aiken stuttered, forcing the first words which came to mind out of his mouth.
The man furrowed his eyebrows slightly and moved his hand towards his sword.
“No- No! I’m not with those… monsters,” Aiken panicked, forcing more and more out of his mouth, but that seemed to have done the trick, the leader letting-go of his sword in pure surprise.
“You don’t know what orcs are?”
“Orcs?” Aiken repeated, his eyebrows rising, his fear draining for a moment as he processed the name and tried to link it to what he’d believed to have been a fictional species to images in his head, but it didn’t add-up. “Those are orcs?”
The leader tilted his head very slightly, clearly bewildered by Aiken’s lack of knowledge, but Aiken realised in that moment that he couldn’t explain why he lacked the understanding which the group- and, presumably, the rest of the humans- had about the world around them. They were still fighting with swords, shields and armour! How could they grasp the concept of space-travel, let alone teleportation via black holes? Hell, they probably still hadn’t figured-out much past steel!
“Do you know anything about our world?” The man asked, seeming to be genuinely asking the question, not just giving a sarcastic remark.
Aiken paused. “I know that…” Nothing came to mind. “I guess not, no.”
The group around him seemed to whisper to each other, and the leader noticed, holding his hand in the air to silence them before pausing and thinking of something. “Tell me what species you are.”
“Yeah, what species are you?”
Aiken squinted a little at the man, confused by the question. It seemed like such a random thing to ask given the situation. The man could clearly tell that Aiken wasn’t from the area, the country, maybe he could even tell that he wasn’t from the same planet as everyone else, so why was he starting by asking about what Aiken considered his species to be? He could have asked so many other questions…
“I’m a human,” Aiken replied, confused, but trying not to let it show, not wanting the man to possibly interpret his confusion as Aiken trying to name the same species which surrounded him. “Just like all of you, right?”
“Not a dark mage, no?” Another soldier asked, catching Aiken’s attention.
“Dark… mage?” Aiken repeated, flabbergasted. “A mage as in someone who can… cast spells?”
He didn’t receive a reply, being distracted from the thought of real mages by the leader sighing to himself, seeming to be debating something, intriguing Aiken.
“I think I should… take you to the king,” he said after a moment, staring at Aiken with an intimidating expression. “But I’m going to be keeping my eye on you,” he continued. “If you try anything, I’ll cut your head off faster than I decided to fight for our empire.”
Aiken stared at the man, his mouth agape, unable to say anything. He simply nodded. He was being taken to see the king. Maybe he’d be able to get some answers from the king, at least. Maybe he’d be able to have a chance to explain everything... Well, if that was a good idea to begin with. There was a chance that everyone could start thinking of him as crazy, not as an outsider or an enemy. After all, Aiken knew that, if he’d travel back in time and tell the ancient Egyptians about the internet, they’d probably kill him, thinking of him as an insane person who was spouting nonsense purely to confuse them. Aiken knew that the people of this world would probably have a similar reaction if he’d start telling them about how he’d crashed his shuttle into the planet. Then again, he could show them. The wreckage of the shuttle was somewhere, but he didn’t know where, exactly, and given that it had exploded following the impact with the ground, Aiken wasn’t entirely certain whether much of it would be left...
Aiken shook his head to himself slightly as everyone began to lead him to the king. Just don’t make them think that you’re crazy, he told himself, both anticipating and dreading the approaching conversation.