Just Outside New York City, USA
9:37am Thursday 14th July 3011
“Sir, they’re about to break the perimeter.” The soldier announced.
The President hung his head. He knew the soldier was right. Outside the watchtower he could see the army of robot aliens, there were millions of them, all mounted with machine guns and RPGs, just outside the border of the last US army stronghold still standing. They were firing weapons over the high wall where they exploded, sending soldiers flying through the air.
“We will be overwhelmed.” The General said beside him, standing with his back straight and his chin up.
“I know.” The President had known for a long time.
“What do you suggest we do?” The General asked.
The President turned to the General. “We have no choice, we must evacuate planet Earth.”
“If we aren’t wiped out by aliens, then we will die anyway. In three days time the Sun will reach the end of its life, and Earth, along with the rest of the Solar System, will be destroyed.”
A Safe Place, USA
9:37am Thursday 14th July 3011
“The time has come.”
Kyle looked up at his Father. “Time for what?”
The walls were bare and white-washed; there was one window high up. The floor was plain concrete, cold under Kyle’s feet.
“Time to leave this place.” His Father replied.
Kyle nodded. His Father had been talking about the end of the world for months. Now that it was finally here, it seemed so unreal. Like a nightmare whose key has been thrown away and never found, and so there is no escape.
He hauled himself up off the floor and brushed the dust off his trousers. He slid his hand into the pocket of his hooded jacket. It was still there, bent and crumpled, but the feel of the thin paper in his hand, the familiarity and knowledge of what was etched into the material, comforted him as his Father led him out through the plain, metal door.
He looked back. The door closed shut on a world he would never return to.
1:37pm Thursday 14th July 3011
“The President has ordered the immediate evacuation of Earth. It is not yet clear as to the reasons why the evacuation has been ordered. The President says that everyone must adhere to the evacuation plan and go to their nearest Space Port immediately for departure…”
“Mum! Have you seen the news?” Nylie exclaimed. She jumped up from the sofa and ran into the kitchen where her mum was staring at the small television screen screwed onto the wall.
“Come on, we have to go.” She put down her coffee and grabbed her daughters’ hand, then dragged her to the front door.
“Aren’t we bringing anything?” Nylie cried.
“There is no time.” Her mother replied.
Nylie was bundled into her mother’s car and soon they were speeding away. Tears bloomed from her eyes. She didn’t understand.
SC-5648, the edge of the Solar System
7:55am Sunday 17th July 3011
Kyle walked down the corridor hurriedly, struggling through the crowds of people. He was hot, squashed in alongside all the other people like sardines. His father had told him not to go exploring, but how could he suppress the temptation? The SC-5648 was so large it was the same size as the small state he used the live in when he was in America. Of course he had been evacuated when the aliens landed, just outside his little town. His mother and little sister hadn’t survived that attack.
Suddenly, he saw something out of the corner of his eye. A young girl was hunched by the wall, her knees pulled up to her chest. She was sobbing quietly, her small, fragile body shaking.
Kyle pushed his way through the crowds to her and sat down next to her.
The girl looked up. The skin around her sparkling green eyes was red and sore from crying. Her pale, freckled cheeks were streaked with tears. Her light, creamy coloured hair was hanging limply around her face.
“Who are you?” She asked. The boy staring at her had dark brown eyes and shoulder-length hair that matched his eyes perfectly, his skin was tanned. He made her nervous, but she didn’t know why.
“I’m Kyle, I’m here to help. What’s your name?” He replied soothingly.
“Nylie.” She whimpered.
“That’s a nice name. How old are you?” He smiled.
“I’m nine. How old are you?” She questioned.
“I’m thirteen.” Kyle said. “What are you doing here?”
“Why wouldn’t let they let mummy come?”
“What do you mean?”
“They took her away; the man said she couldn’t come.” Nylie sobbed.
“Do you have any other family?” He asked.
She shook her head and tears gushed from her eyes like a waterfall.
Kyle edged closer and put his arm around her, pulling her into him. Soon his shoulder was soaked with salty tears.
There was a deafening boom and the ship began to shake ferociously.
“What was that?” Nylie exclaimed worriedly.
“I don’t know.” Kyle pulled Nylie to her feet and held her hand in his.
He led her down the corridor to one of the large, glass windows along the corridor. He lifted her up so she could see.
Outside the window, in the distance there was a bright light, there was another boom, and a shock wave vibrated from the light, causing the ship to shudder.
The Sun had exploded.
Seven years later . . .
Nylie swung the metal door shut behind her and thumped down the rusting, metal stairs. The two suns were blaring hot in the sky, radiating heat down onto the top of her head. She held her hand up to shelter her eyes and looked out across the city of Salvus.
The city was a vast sprawl of buildings made from metal and concrete with flat roofs, there was no pattern to their layout. It was as if someone had dropped them randomly from a crane. The roads and paths were hard and dusty with a layer of pale sand covering them. In the centre of the city was a large, modern building, built in a circular shape, towering over all the other buildings. It had many reinforced glass windows and in the middle of the building was a large tower with numerous instruments clinging to the sides.
Beyond the corrugated, metal wall of the city, stretching out for miles around was sand and hard ground, with hardy bushes and trees sprouting from them. Beyond the Harsh Land were craggy mountains, far taller than any had been on Earth.
Nylie hurried down the road, kicking up dust as her boots beat the ground rhythmically. A group of kids playing by the side of the street looked up as she passed and became silent, only resuming their game once she had passed. She was used to it. The staring.
There were many other people milling about in the street smiling, laughing and talking. Nylie glanced at her watch and began to run through the city, everything a blur. She was going to be late.
She only just managed to reach the Expeditionary Tower in time. The Expeditionary Tower was a large building made of concrete with dishes attached to it. Around the Tower were a dozen sprawling, one-storey buildings made of stone, they were separate from the other buildings.
Next to the Tower were a group of people dressed in combat gear facing a group of people of her age dressed similarly to her: in trousers, boots and a plain shirt, with a knapsack over their shoulder.
She hurried over to the group and tried to be inconspicuous.
“Now, for most of you this will be your first expedition. You have each been assigned a guide to take you out there and make sure you come back alive.” The person who had spoken was a burly man with a shaven head and a scar down his left cheek. His face was stern and as hard as rock. He was wearing khaki with an assault rifle strapped to his back. “Does everyone understand?”
There were some hesitant nods from the assembled group.
“Right then.” The man said. “Let’s get moving!”
The people around her slowly began to spread out to find their assigned guide. Nylie peered around for her guide. Someone tapped her lightly and she spun around on her heel.
“Kyle!” She exclaimed.
“How’d you know my…” Kyle trailed off. “Nylie? Is that really you?”
She embraced him in a quick hug before stepping back, blushing.
“It’s good to see you after so long.” She admitted.
“It is.” Kyle agreed. “How old are you now?”
“Sixteen.” She replied.
“Wow, time seems to pass so quickly!” Kyle said.
He had changed. His hair was cut off to his ears and he was taller and leaner, with a muscular build and strong features. But he still had the same deep eyes and his skin was the same shade of tan. It was then she realized he must be twenty now.
There was an awkward silence before Kyle finally said. “We’d, uh, better get going.” He motioned towards the large gate with his thumb while running his free hand through his hair.
He led her to the red, corrugated iron gate which was twice as high as her and five times as wide. They passed through quickly and then the gates were shut behind them.
The Harsh Land
Several hours later. . .
“I said we should have gone right.” Nylie insisted.
Kyle was muttering under his breath while stalking ahead so fast Nylie had trouble keeping up.
The sun was blaring down on them and the barren land around them. You could see the heat waves, the view in the distance a haze. The mountains were close and imposing. But there was no sign of Salvus.
“Don’t you know where we are?” Nylie asked.
Kyle spun around. “If I knew where we were do you think I’d be traipsing round the middle of nowhere? We should be back by now! And if you hadn’t insisted on going to look at that stupid lake then we wouldn’t be in this stupid mess!” He bellowed.
Tears bloomed in Nylie’s eyes. She was lost, scared and being shouted at. “Well…seeing as I’m so useless I might as well just go and find my own way back!” She shouted, trembling.
She spun around and stalked away from Kyle.
Kyle ran his fingers through his mangled hair, cursed under his breath and dashed after Nylie. He grabbed her wrist and spun her round. She tried to pull away but he grabbed her other wrist and pulled her back.
“Let go of me!” She screamed. Her cheeks were streaked with tears and her eyes were sore from the glaring sun.
“Calm down Nylie!” Kyle said.
“Leave me alone.” She cried, still struggling to get away from his grip.
“It’s going to be ok. Calm down! You need to stay calm. I’ll keep you safe. I’m sorry I shouted at you, I was frustrated.” He said.
Nylie’s sobs turned into small whimpers and her breathing slowed down.
“That’s it.” Kyle encouraged. “Deep breaths.”
Nylie slumped forward and rested her head on Kyle’s chest, she was exhausted, he wrapped his arms around her and stroked her hair soothingly.
One day later. . .
When Nylie woke up she found herself in a dark space. The ground underneath her was hard. She pulled herself up and looked around her. She was in a small, rocky cave, looking out over the Harsh Lands. She was wrapped in a rough travelling blanket that was as plain and boring as the cave.
She turned around. A few metres away, Kyle was sat at the back of the cave, his back against the wall. As soon as he saw that she was awake he leapt to his feet and began collecting their minimal belongings into his knapsack.
“Are we going?” Asked Nylie as she scrambled to her feet and brushed the sand off her clothes.
“Yes, it’s early, so it’s not so hot.” Kyle explained.
He handed Nylie her knapsack and she lifted it onto her shoulders. “Let’s go adventuring.”
Two hours later. . .
“What’s that?” Nylie asked.
“Probably your imagination again.” Kyle muttered.
“No, I’m serious.” Nylie insisted. “Look! Over there!”
Kyle looked to where Nylie was pointing and gasped.
Not too far away was a sight he thought he’d never see. A tropical rainforest clung to the side of a gently sloping hill, a multitude of shades of green more diverse than he could ever have imagined.
Their eyes met and they began to run towards the forest, smiling and laughing as they tried to reach the trees first. Nylie stumbled but Kyle took her hand and pulled her up, dragging her along after him.
They soon reached the forest, gulping in air as they collapsed on the forest floor. The towering trees provided much needed shade; the air was cool in the shadows which was incredibly refreshing. There were sounds of birdsong and the smell of soft soil and flowers was thick.
Once she had got her breath back Nylie stood up and stepped curiously further into the forest. There was so much greenery and the trees were so tall she could barely see their canopies.
One tree in particular caught her eye. It was smaller than most of the others with grey bark covered in yellow moss. The branches were thin and wiry, covered in pale green leaves shaped like scoops.
“I never knew this place was here.” Kyle said, awestruck.
“Me neither.” Nylie replied.
Suddenly a figure sprung out from behind the tree. Nylie screamed and almost tripped over the roots of the tree in an attempt to get away from the creature.
His skin was tinted pale green and there were triangular, brown markings on his cheeks. His wild hair was brown and his piercing eyes were the same grey as the tree bark. His frame was lean and wiry; he was probably six foot tall at least. His clothes were made of fine, natural fabrics that were thin and airy. His loose t-shirt was made of a creamy woven fabric and his breeches were pale brown. His feet were bare.
He pulled a sword from the scabbard at his belt and held the tip to her throat. The sword was double-bladed with engravings down the fuller, a swirling pattern of intricate letters. The hilt was wound with pale leather and the metal used for the guard and pommel was a pale metal of a colour that Nylie could never have imagined. It was a dusted, sandy colour, but there were many other colours as well, depending how the light caught it.
“Put down that weapon!” Kyle ordered, pulling his pistol from the holster at his waist.
Suddenly, many others like the green man jumped out from the trees, surrounding the pair. They were all dressed similarly to the first man, all almost as tall as him with the same markings on their faces. They were also all bearing weapons.
“Put your gun down Kyle.” Nylie said.
“No!” He exclaimed.
“For Christ’s sake put the gun down!” She shouted.
Kyle obeyed, placing the pistol gently down on the forest floor.
“Come.” Said the first man, eying them suspiciously.
He turned and walked further into the forest, the rest of the alien species following obediently, not lowering their weapons.
Nylie wished they were back in the Harsh Lands. At least there things made more sense.