She gazed down on the expanse before her. It was so beautiful and serene, but still filled with turmoil. Not for the first time she wondered: was it worth it? So pitiful what they had done, and what they had become. They never learned from their mistakes, and though it was killing them and their life source- dooming them to extinction- they were still greedy. They continued to torture the one thing keeping them alive. Their petty squabbles were more important than the screams of protest from their fragile supporter. Did they deserve to survive? Did they deserve to continue in their hollow and petty lives?
"Who are we to decide?"
The voice came from behind her, and she turned to regard one of her six companions watching her.
"But we are, aren't we? What we do up here will decide the fate of billions." She replied. They had never spoken of this before, but all of her companions knew she felt mankind was undeserving of salvation.
"And what of everything else? Should every form of life, sentient or not, suffer for the mistakes and sins of man? Would you let all of it go to atone for their grievances?" He asked gently.
Lani sighed, and turned away to gaze once more on the blue and green orb below her. He was right of course. The vibrate light of Earth shouldn't be extinguished just because humans were fallible and flawed. That was how they were. "So we save it all, and pray that in a century or two we aren't back to here again."
She closed her eyes. Lani hated it, but she couldn't walk away. She opened her eyes and turned back to the one behind her once more. "I guess we will see if man will have the chance to redeem themselves."
"And let us pray we do." He paused, and glanced over the view. "Now come, I believe it is only a few minutes longer until lights out, and I would have you stop brooding on this. Besides you will have sufficient time tomorrow."
Lani groaned. "Do you have to remind me Yaun?"
He grinned, "Yes."
She walked toward him, and he took up stride beside her. Lani glanced over her shoulder one more time at her home, and prayed that seven people could save it all.
Lani woke to the usual faint gravity she was used to, and groaned. After breakfast and exercise she was going to be stuck in the Brick all day. The Brick was what everyone involved with the program called the shuttle. It was the same general version used in the early twenty first century, and exactly what the name implied, a Brick. However unwieldy it was, it was the only way back to Earth alive.
The program was a joint effort between all the major super powers in the world. After World War III it was decided, to prevent further war and to develop a new potential energy, one scientist from every major country would work the program together, but the greater public was still unknowing of their mission. The scientist all got along great, but dealing with each paranoid government below was a hassle. Still the project was moving along nicely. Once a week all of the developments, notes ideas, research, test and results would be transmitted back to earth. Every week it was a different scientist. This week it was Lani's turn.
As she collected all of the memory sticks, hand helds, and voice note, she had a moment of foreboding. She shook it off thinking it was simply apprehension of the fight that always broke out every week between the government officials after the transmission was received and distributed.
Lani smiled weakly at the other scientists as she headed off to the Brick. She locked herself in per procedures, and went to the main pilot seat where she buckled in. Lani followed all of the outline rules, as they were second nature now, setting the files to be copied and compressed, then stowed all the originals in a zipped bag which she strapped to the seat next to her. Finally she sat back to read while the files were compressed, and then streamed to Earth.
Lani was fully consumed in her book when a warning went off. Lani looked up at the readouts instantly, hoping for a nice solar flare, but horror struck her deep. She toggled the intercom for all of the station. "Solar flare heading this way fast! Brace for impact estimated in-" Lani never finished. As the flare hit Lani was dimly aware that not only were the sensors were wrong, but that it was much stronger than it was supposed to be. An explosion sent Lani into unconsciousness.
A shuttering woke her. Lani would have launched out of the chair if she hadn't been strapped in. The shutter caressed the Brick again, and Lani started scanning the readings before her. With fear coursing in her veins, she realized she was falling to Earth. Lani quickly assessed her position, and then took the control. She managed to right the craft, and then opened her radio to all earth frequencies. Lani attempted to make contact with anyone through the bumpy ride of entering the atmosphere.
Once she was safely in the atmosphere, and wouldn't burn up, she opened the view screen. A wide expanse of blue met her eyes as far as they could see. "Good international waters," Lani said to herself. That meant she was in the jurisdiction of the U.N. However, as she descended coastline sprung into view. Lani cursed. She didn't know where she was. Her G.P.S. was malfunctioning.
The land came and left again, and then blue greeted her. It was too short lived though. As the land showed again Lani surmised she was over Europe, but had to question herself as she coaxed the Brick slower. The land looked nothing like Europe that she knew, but it was the only way the geography made any sense. Where were the roads, cities, power lines, anything?
Lani didn't have too much more time to dwell on it as she was descending to the farm land. Lani held the Brick as steady as she could even as she readied for impact. When it came blackness whelmed up around her, and consumed her.
Lani came to again, this time much slower. She had a long moment of confusion until her memories came back to her as to why all she could see was green. Lani attempt radio contact again, but was unfazed by the lack of response. Likely her radio had been damaged in the explosion. She wasted no time in releasing her straps, and those of the pack next to her. Lani hid the bag, and switched the main conduit relay with another identical one. That insured all the information was safe as the computer would read random error codes, and would look like nothing was out of place.
Then Lani began the laborious work of trying to get the damaged hatch open. As she worked at the door her mind was full throttle into what had happened. She could think of no simple explanation, and then with a grunt the door jerked open. Lani braced all her weight against it, and slowly shoved it open enough for her to slip out.
Gratefully Lani stepped out onto the wing, and into the sun shine and gravity she had been away from for over a year. She scanned around, and found no definite markers anywhere, nor signs of life. There was only farm land, thick with crops, as far as she could see. Lani sat down to wait as she thought about how all of this seemed wrong and just off. Even the sun seemed weird to her.
Lani wasn't waiting long when she spotted a truck approaching, and she rose to wait. It stopped not too far off, and a man got out. Lani was amazed to see that he was unarmed from what she could tell, but she wasn't convinced. Lani smiled as he approached, and raised her hands to show she was unarmed.
When the man stopped before she slowly said, "Hello."
The man just looked at her ship. "Got a haul out a here?"
Lani's smiled faltered as she was caught off guard. Haul out? What could he mean? "I'm sure if we contact the American embassy they will-"
"Lady, I appreciate a well-planned recreation as much as the next guy, but I'm not going to play." He told her.
Lani's smile was completely gone as she tried to understand. Recreation? This man was unhappy, but still somehow understanding. Slowly she said, "I'm not sure what you mean, but I was up at the station, and there was an explosion-"
"Happened while you were in the shuttle doing the transmit. You're landed, the station exploded, and now everyone is dead. I know the theories. Just because I'm a farmer doesn't mean I don't know history too… Miss… Are you ok?"
Lani sat as her knees gave way. "They- they are all de- dead?" Her voice cracked and broke over the last word. How could it be? What had happened up there? She was breathing hard as she absorbed that her companions- fellow scientist and friends- were gone.
The man approached her. Either she was really good at acting, or she was for real. "Miss?" He said hesitantly. He reached for her hand, and saw it. He froze as his eyes locked onto the one thing that was outlawed, and made her very likely real. She had the mark- a barcode- on the back of her hand. They weren't around anymore, and it was forbidden to have one even penned on.
Lani looked at the man to see him gapping at her I.D., and something else hit her full force making her breathless. History. "You said history?" She felt like she was near panic.
"You're really her aren't you?" He asked then met her eyes. She was real. "You're Lani Gandit."
Lani was astonished. "Yes," she said slowly and carefully. What the hell was going on? She felt like she was in the twilight zone. "You said recreation."
The man helped her down, and went to answer when something buzzed. He looked at his wrist, and smiled in what he hoped was a reassuring way. "Yeah?" He paused, and seemed to listen to something. "No I'm good, and will explain later, but I need you to get Don out here quickly and quiet."
Then he focused back on her, and took her hand leading her to the truck. He got her settled sitting on the tailgate, and then sat next to her. He sighed, and then plunged in. "This may be hard for you to accept. Three hundred and ninety years ago the space station was working with an experimental engine that ran on ions from solar flares. Things went bad, and the whole thing exploded, station and all. It was assumed that, though there were no remains, everyone perished, and everything was destroyed including the shuttle and you."
Lani stared at him astonished and speechless. Her mind was blank for a moment then began rolling over everything she knew about the engine. Was it possible that with enough ions and the uncontrolled burst of energy she could have been propelled forward in time? Lani would have to look over everything again to know. Then a horrid thought struck her: would it even matter? Obviously this future Earth was green and alive just like she had wanted. Was it worth it to bother with such an unstable engine now? If humans got a hold of time travel…she shuttered at the thought. Lani briefly considered that this might be a ruse to get the research on the engine, but what was the point of that? All the governments had access to that, and it couldn't possibly explain the lack of civilization she had noted.
Lani took a deep breath. She might actually be almost four hundred years in the future.
Lani looked at the man beside her now. He was well tan with hazel eyes, and blondish hair. She saw no unusual technology about him, and bore no mark for identification. "What's your name?"
He looked at her aslant. She seemed relatively calm for finding out she was in her 'future' and everyone she once knew was dead. Perhaps she was simply a product of her time with all of the wars and violence. Or she could be in shock. He made a mental note to scan her when he got home. "Chip."
Lani held his eyes and nodded. That was when she saw the other truck coming. She eyed it dubiously. It was old even by her standards, a classic tow truck from the late 2010's. How was that thing to move her Brick? Lani held her tongue though and waited till Don got out.
He looked over her Brick, and the addressed Chip. "'Nother recreationist Chipster?"
"Something like that," Chip answered hoping off his truck, and shaking Don's hand. "Can you put it in the hanger?"
Don looked at Chip closely, and then at Lani. "Sure, but why the personal involvement?"
Chip glanced over his shoulder at Lani whom still held Don's eyes. "I will explain later, but do me a favor, and keep it quiet?"
Don chuckled as he went back to his truck and pulled out a few flat disks. "So lie to my wife?" He chuckled again and Chip's expression. "No problem." Then he went to Lani's shuttle. He placed the disks on the hull, and then hooked a bar and hook to a hook he placed on the nose. Don hit a button on his dash, and then began driving away with the Brick.
Lani stared wide eyed. "How-"
Chip smiled. "Anti-mass disks," he replied.
He had Lani get down, and directed her to get in the truck by opening a door for her. Lani climbed in, and looked around for any kind technology. If there was some they were excellent at hiding it. Chip climbed in, and Lani watched as he started the car with a button.
On the way to wherever Chip was taking her Lani let her mind wander. She was alone in a strange world that was different, but still similar. Every time her mind touched on the thoughts of her friends dead she would shield away. Lani didn't want to think about it, and she had other things to worry about.
Lani was pulled from her thoughts as Chip stopped the truck. She looked over to see Don removing his devises from the Brick which was now stashed in a massive hanger. Not too far away was a small house that looked completely normal to her. Lani saw no power lines as far as she could see.
Lani followed Chip's example, and exited the truck, and then followed him over where he shook Don's hand. Lani offered her hand as well, and Don took it. He lifted it to kiss it then froze, and looked up at her with wide eyes. Her smile faltered, "Why is it that my identification has such a reaction?"
Don straightened up and patted her hand, looking at Chip. Chip answered for him, "Well, they are outlawed now. It is how I know you are the real Lani, and not another recreationist. If you were found to have it, being from our time, then you would be subject to punishment." Chip said matter-of-factly.
Don released her hand, and Lani gazed down at her barcode. She couldn't help but wonder why the I.D. had been outlawed. They suited their function well, but maybe the fear it was the mark of the beast had finally won out. She couldn't decide if it was a good or bad thing.
Lani pushed the thoughts away, and tried to focus. What was she going to do now?
Then Don excused himself, and Chip led her to the house. As soon as they were inside a young man was in front of them. He shot a glare at Lani, and then looked at Chip.
"We are not footing this for a stupid recreationist!"
Lani's eyes widened and Chip glared back at Zack. "Please excuse my nephew; it appears he has lost all his manners along with his faith in me." Chip said to Lani.
Zack sneered at Chip, "At least I'm not letting a silly fantasy lover walk all over me!" He shot back.
Lani felt like backing away, and leaving. She had obviously caused this dissention, and she didn't like it. Though this time seemed peaceful enough it was clear to her that humans were still the same. Lani wondered how they could achieve such strides, and still be as they were in her time.
Before she could make a move Chip grabbed her wrist, and held up her hand. Zack's eyes widened, and all anger that was writ on his face vanished. Then he began shaking his head as Chip released her. Lani stepped back warily. She didn't want any part of violence or fighting between the two. She felt she should just leave.
"That's just not possible!" Zack declared. He was becoming animated.
Chip clenched his jaw, but kept his anger in control. "And what idiot would risk having that mark permanent or not?"
Zack locked eyes with Lani. "She can't be… That would mean…" He looked back at Chip. "What do we do with her?"
Chip sighed. "This is for me to deal with, but I was thinking your mom's old room."
Zack nodded, and looked back at Lani, only she wasn't there. Zack's eyes widened, "Where did she go?"
Chip whirled around. He stepped through the open door, looking around, and then jogged over to the hanger. He climbed up to the hatch, and squeezed inside. Lani was sitting in the pilots chair staring at the controls, and Chip breathed a sigh of relief.
"Sorry you had to see that, he can be a bit defiant sometimes." Chip said walking over to Lani.
"I don't want you two fighting because of me. I was going to leave, but I have nowhere to go. This," she gestured to the Brick, "is all I have, and it can't even move." Lani chuckled. "It's probably so ancient that it's barely fit for a museum… presuming you still have those." It was starting to hit her- the full meaning of being in the future. She had nothing her, and was forced to depend on a stranger to even survive. Everyone she had ever known was dead, and she didn't belong. Lani was a stranger on a foreign planet.
Chip sighed. He could tell that Lani was not in the best of shape. "We have had quite a few more recreationists since the four hundred mark is coming up lately, and there are bound to be more. I raised him to respect history and others. He just sees these people as having no respect for us because they destroy our crops, and he is right. He just gets a bit hot headed about it. This argument only happened because of his temper, and him not having all the information. It was in no way your fault." He paused to gage her reaction. Lani was nodding, but her face was blank. "Will you come back inside?" He asked her softly.
Wordlessly Lani rose, and followed Chip. There was nothing else she could do.
Chip looked up at Zack only mildly interested. He already had a good idea of where Lani would be. He walked over to the sliding door that led to the porch, and looked outside. Then he exited through the door, and went back to the hanger. He climbed up into the shuttle, and found Lani curled, in what had to be an uncomfortable position, in the pilot seat. He woke her gently not wanting to scare her.
"Lani, it's morning."
Lani looked at him through blurry eyes, and then followed Chip back inside. She drank the coffee placed in front of her in a daze, and then followed Chip as he led her to the bathroom. Waiting was Zack.
He held out several pieces of clothing which he handed to Lani, "These were my mom's; you can have them."
Lani looked at the pieces she held now. "I don't think I should-"
"It's ok, she's never coming back." He stated, and then left to do his chores.
Lani stared after him, and then looked to Chip behind her.
"His mom left to Titan. She writes, and calls, sometimes, but she doesn't have room in her life for her son outside of that." Chip explained. When Lani was about to ask something he shooed her into the bathroom. "Later, you shower, and I have to tend to the farm." He closed the door on her, and then left too.