The chair’s wicker backing creaked as Serrah reclined into it. The worn and bent sketchbook she had been hunched over was placed on the small wooden table beside her. It wobbled and her stubby pencil rolled away, only stopping at the table’s raised edge. The image on the page was a grey copy of the sunset in front of her. The sun itself had just set over the top of the not so distant low lying mountain.
A little impatient, Serrah twitched her foot. Every day was the same as before. And every day after will probably be the same. But, maybe someday it won’t.
Everything looked so peaceful. Like what had happened three years ago, never did. She had done this every day for the last two years. Sit on the back veranda and draw whatever she wanted. All the while waiting to see if something would happen. But nothing ever does happen. Even with her scavenging and tinkering of their machines.
Closing her eyes, Serrah exhaled and took in the sounds around her. Turning her head towards the back door, she waited for the radio to begin. She heard the ever-constant beep coming from the machines in her father’s room. Then the voice began.
‘The Daily District Bulletin. The skirmishes between the outer reaches of the Augusta Cluster have resumed a full month before the cease-fire was to end. The war is now in its third year and it appears that the Or-Red-Bah Nation is not relenting in its persistence of occupying the region. To date, they have edged closer to us, by one planet.’
Serrah’s expression was neutral as she played with the ends of her long tan flowy sleeve. She looked at her bare fingers. For the first time since it all began, there was no grey tinge to them, but it was not the same for the rest of her body. Bizarrely her face never did tell the story of the virus she had miraculously survived.
It all started here, in this little patch of the galaxy, and then it politically snowballed into the surrounding regions of habitable space. The repercussions of what had happened caused the beginning of the unrest in the Augusta Cluster. The remote, and until then harmless, Or-Red-Bah humans, who had retreated from the world at large, had mysteriously sent a ship full of diseased people down onto this planet. With limited contact, there appeared to be no real reason for them to do this, apart from the theory that it was intentional. But this place wasn’t that important in the whole scheme of things. Serrah rubbed her face in frustration. How could everything have changed so much in three short years?
She had never even heard of the Or-Red-Bah until a year after that fateful day. Even now they were still a secretive group. She stared at the mountain as it cast its shadow over her and the house. The land around her was now an inactive farm, barren except for the occasional native succulent. Inedible of course, but useful in off-world cosmetics.
‘It has been years since the emergence of the uncooperative human nation. Communication has been limited and difficult. It appears that they may not wish to open a dialogue. . . or seem unable to.’
Serrah wanted to talk to them as well. Why had all this happened? What was the purpose to it all? She put her hand to her chest to control her breathing and squinted her eyes. Thinking about them brought out a lot of bad feelings. The memories of her long-dead mother and half-sister and all the pain that the virus had left behind. Abruptly, she got out of her chair and walked through the wicker door, letting it slam behind her.
‘Today also marks the twelfth day that off-world trading and reduced global quarantine has been lifted.’ Serrah didn’t want to be reminded of a life she couldn’t access. She ignored the small soft pulsing light coming from under her sister’s bedroom door, took a broom of out a closet and returned to the veranda. Dirt and dust had crept up and over to wooden floorboards in recent days. What would her mother say if she had seen the state of it?
‘Serrah!’ her voice would have called out in that tone that indicated trouble. ‘It’s one of your chores to keep this clean.’ She might have even clipped her over the ear. She smiled before her face hardened once more.
Out of habit, she slid her rubber-soled, cloth shoes over the worn wooden floorboards to feel if she missed any pieces of dirt. There were none. She banged her broom on the edge of the veranda to loosen up the embedded granules, but it was a different bang that made her look up.
It was a distinctly foreign but also something she had heard once before. Her mouth opened when she saw what was falling to the ground. A second spaceship? Her thoughts were dashed when, as it approached, it appeared a lot smaller. The trail of fire and smoke was followed by an explosion of dirt, more then she would have expected for something of that small size. It had landed quite some distance from her house, but not too far she couldn’t run to it.
It’s from them. That device that she had managed to turn on. It must have brought them here like she had hoped against hope. There was no way she was going to let this opportunity go to waste.
She raced off the veranda and hit the dirt running, broom still in hand, but then skidded to a halt. She returned to the house, tossing the broom away, and upon her exit, she was carrying a hunting staff. A spear-like object that at the other end held a netting device.
Long ago had she shaken off the fatigue that came with the virus and with her arrival at the crash site she was not afflicted, except by a normal amount of exhaustion. Hiding behind a particularly large wild grown, broad-leafed, grey succulent, she watched the smouldering rubble. Serrah you idiot, you didn’t bring a light. But she could still make out the impact crater not ten meters away from her, wisps of smoke were still rising.
There were crackling noises coming from it, but it sounded a bit off like it wasn’t from a smouldering fire. Then some distinctly metallic sounds made her jump. Despite her eagerness, she contained herself. Three years of nothing until now.
Something small rose straight up out of the crater and emitted a faint whirr. The hovering object must have been no more than the length of her foot. At first, it looked like it was rectangular, but when it hovered away from her it revealed that it was disc-shaped, with an indent running along the side. At certain angles, it shone in the moonlight.
She shuffled trying to get a better look at it and accidentally bumped the succulent. The device paused and when she saw it approach, Serrah hid. She gritted her teeth and felt her heart pound in her chest. What is it? What did it want? The whirr from it grew closer.
Her hand, moist from sweat, squeaked on the wooden pole as she tightened her grip. Then just as the object rounded the succulent she threw the net over it.
Acting like an insect, the device darted around in the net. Left then right, up and down. It was stronger than it appeared, but not a problem for Serrah and she flung it to the ground. Just like her sister had taught her when hunting for the critters that lived in this area.