So, for everyone who is reading this, this is the completely unedited, very raw, just-as-I-wrote-it version of the book, because I am writing it under the same format as NaNoWriMo and no editing is allowed!
You will see discrepancies in the story line, as well as in the character backgrounds--all things I plan to fix in my editing of this book sometime within the next two years. But until then, here it is; filled with maximum cheesiness, riddled with plot holes... incredibly raw and untouched.
This is New Data.
Location: ISS ORION
Systems Status: Systems booting
Adjusting to space climate
Mission Status: No download
New Data: _
Location: ISS ORION
Systems Status: Standard
Mission Status: Awaiting go-ahead
New Data: _
Location: ISS ORION
Systems Status: [Data Corrupted]
Mission Status: Awaiting go-ahead
New Data: _
Location: ISS ORION
Systems Status: Standard
Mission Status: Awaiting go-ahead
New Data: “ORION” means “the hunter” _
Location: ISS ORION
Systems Status: Above standard
Mission Status: Initiated
New Data: I am Nexus.
The pilot and co-pilot of the ISS ORION go through their pre-mission checklist over the loudspeaker. Nexus decides to make his own check of everything around him, so he takes one last stroll around the tidy gray and white room, testing the cabinets to make sure they won’t open when the ISS ORION begins to move; the thrust is supposed to be a sudden burst, followed by a long dragging feeling, so everything must be secure. His research team are strapping themselves into their secure positions within the laboratory, which are makeshift. The ORION was originally intended as a docking station and research center for the teams currently aboard. It was supposed to be almost like a hotel for them to return to after years of being out in the Universe, searching for habitable planets. The teams think that there were probably supposed to be others there with them, because even with twelve persons onboard, the place was pretty empty.
“Passengers prepare for thrust in T minus two minutes.” Acrux, the pilot, warns them over the loudspeaker.
Satisfied that everything is secure, Nexus slides into the remaining harness beside his fellow researchers and thinks about everything that lies ahead of them now. He must admit, he’s feeling somewhat apprehensive. It’s true that he convinced them all that this was the right decision, that they’d waited long enough to go on this mission they’d been assigned so many centuries ago… but was he wrong? What if he was?
“T minus five… four… three… two… initiation.”
The thrust from the engines feels exactly how it had been described in the books. Their force combined with the space station’s artificial gravity increases the amount of force exerted on their bodies. It makes him feel, for lack of a better term, laggy. Everyone waits in silence, listening to the groans and creaks of the almost-ancient space station as it travels beyond orbit for the very first time. And so they embark on their mission.
It started some time ago, far enough back that none of them are sure when it was given to them. They can’t even seem to remember when they arrived at the ISS ORION. They do remember that they were supposed to wait for something, though they can’t seem to recall what. That “something” was supposed to tell them when it was time to start the mission. Oddly enough, that “something” just never seemed to happen. One day, they all kind of just “woke up.” They realized that whatever it was they were waiting for just wasn’t going to happen. Or, maybe it had already happened and somehow they had missed it. They all refer to that day as the day they woke up. It was the day they decided that they were bored of doing the same things over and over again. Two things were unique about that day, the first being the experience of “boredom,” which none had ever felt before, and the second being that they decided. They had never made decisions for themeslves before that point. Being bound to duty, the did acknowledge that their daily tasks were vital to the preservation of the ISS ORION, their home, so they still carried out their typical chores, but they also made time to do other things--namely, learning. Nexus was always the first and the most fervent in his pursuit of knowledge. He began absorbing new information from the books in the library. As he read, he noticed that there were certain terms that were part of the vernacular that he did not know anything about. He had a hard time picturing things in his mind like oceans and dancing.
But other things clicked almost immediately for him. Things like theories, morals, and ideals. Even religion was within the realm of his understanding. He became addicted to the discovery of knowledge. The most pivotal point in this process of learning was when he discovered the meaning of “person;” a living being that is regarded as an individual, the plural of which is “people.” He learned all about people, studied everything he could about them. According to these books, many people were illogical in their actions. Spontaneity and disregard for logic were hard for Nexus to comprehend. Even though he was still in the process of learning, Nexus began to educate his co-workers, who he now calls his "friends."
"You are free to move about the cabin."
Nexus and his fellow researchers unfasten their seatbelts and check the lab for any equipment that may have shifted. Nexus walks over to the intercom, ressing the gray button in to talk. "Nexus here, I'll be in the atrium if anyone needs me." He doesn't wait for a response and steps out of the room, leaving the other three researchers to finish checking the room. Just past the docking and elevator corridor is the atrium. It houses all of the plants onboard, and is the most colorful room on the ORION. It has rows of beautifully colored flowers, bright green trees, soft and spikey grasses, and even scandent vines. The planters are organized in such a way that a maze is formed, with benches hidden in secret places for a person to relax and enjoy nature. Throughout the maze of plants is a stream of water that acts as irrigation as well as ambient noise. The walls are a serene green to blue gradient, and right at the center of the room is a telescope that a person can use to look up through the alumino-silicate sky-view bubble-window that acts as a roof. This was the first place Nexus felt himself experience beauty.
In the atrium, there is a wall covered with mirrors; Nexus often comes here and pretends that the mirrors are just an extension of the room. It makes him feel like he is not enclosed. He is there now, looking at himself in the mirror, wondering about his purpose and is origin. Is there a word for me beside "person," or "Nexus?" I know I am a person, but I sure wasn't a person before. Am I a full person? I know I have more learning to do... I have always been Nexus. Does that name have a meaning? Does my purpose extend beyond collecting air and soil samples and taking care of an ages-old space station? Nexus is the head of the research team, he is in charge of all of the expeditions the team will take on planets in their search for another habitable place--or many habitable places.
Nexus examines himself in the mirrors, looking at his form. It seems so inferior compared to the forms of other animals. He has two arms, two legs, a head, a neck, a torso, and all of the connecting joints. His skin is a shiny, scaly, metallic, translucent layer that looks opaque in different lighting. His inner workings are visible in some areas, but not in others. According to the books on Charles Darwin, everything follows a sort of evolutionary pattern. Would that then be the same for me? For all of us on the ORION? Nexus often wonders if they are what are called "angels." Angels are not mentioned in the books on Charles Darwin; maybe they do not evolve like other creatures. He continues to look at himself, a strange, stark contrast to the varying greens and browns and earth tones of the Atrium behind him.
He senses a change in the room and knows someone else is present. He watches he person emerge from the maze of planters behind him from the vantage point of the mirror. It's Propus, one of the two Navigators on the ISS ORION. "Enjoying the view?" Propus asks.
Nexus allows a moment to pass as Propus just stares at him in the mirror. "Are we angels?" He asks, wondering why Propus is always the one to find him staring at himself and thinking reflectively.
"I suppose only a scientist could figure that out," he replies, implying that Nexus should be the one to find that answer. Nexus feels oddly relieved that Propus would join him. Typically, he prefers to remain uninterrupted in his times of musing but he feels an appreciation for Propus. ' presence. "We called a meeting in the mess hall. We'll be approaching the first planet in thirty-six hours, which means we need to go over the plan. Again."
Nexus takes one last look at them standing side by side in the mirror and sighs. He follows him out of the peaceful atrium, through the library, through storage, and into the mess hall, which is buzzing with conversation. Everyone is gathered around a table waiting for Nexus and the other Navigator, Pyxis, who called the meeting initially. Pyxis is always late to everything, even his own meetings. Propus takes his seat near one dead of the table and frets about Pyxis' tardiness. To his right sit the Pilot and Copilot of the ORION, Acrux and Gacrux respectively.
"Are you sure Pyxis didn't already have the meeting without us?" Gacrux asks, with his typical dry sarcasm.
"Oh yeah, because we all know he's so fantastic at timing that he's always earlier than the rest of us."Acrux replies under his breath. What the comment lacks in boisterousness and originality it makes up for in its dripping sarcasm.
Across the table from those two sit the four person Engineer team, known aboard the ORION as "Tech Specs." Patex and Sumex are arguing quite loudly over a fiction series they've started reading together, an old-world classic called A Game of Thrones. They have no idea of the history behind it.
"But there's no way he could be dead!" Sumex argues "He's the main character!"
"Well he's obviously not if the author decided to kill him off." Patex replies.
"Boys, I think it's time we focus on the real issue at hand here! We need to go over what we are going to say at this meeting. You've been at this all morning!" Gese is one of the three females aboard the ISS ORION. She is the head of the Tech Specs and is therefore in charge of keeping Sumex and Patex under control. Over the years she's kept them from destroying countless vital elements to the ORION--haphazardly, not maliciously--thanks to her ability to redirect their attention from their sometimes violent arguments to other more pressing matters.
Like how their sword fight "to the pain" in one of the engine rooms could possibly rip a hole through something important and cause an explosion that would take years to recover from assuming we didn't lose vital due to being sucked out of the resulting hole and into deep space. "Please, we need to remind them how temperamental the landers could be when adjusting to new gravities!" She groans and Serg, the other Tech Spec, who had been seated there quietly watching everything unfold, smiles, still not saying a word, only observing.
I look at my own charges, the Researchers. The two females, Leba and Letu are seated to the right of Gacrux, whispering to each other about Serg's demeanor. He was their favorite subject to study, and seeing as we have yet to find anything interesting to observe, I understand their desire to study one of our own. It made sense that they had picked the quietest among us, seeing as he'd be the hardest to figure out.
"Well have you noticed that he's been smiling a lot more over the past couple of years?" Letu whispers. I wonder if Serg knows they're talking about him so obviously as they sit across him and stare like eager scientists into a microscope.
"So I'm not the only one who's noticed that!" Leba replies, wide-eyed.
I feel a tap on my shoulder. It's my only male Researcher, probably the smartest out of all of us, Sam. He's clumsy for sure but filled with so much potential. "Yes Sam?"
"Well I had a question regarding the presentation at the meeting today... you were busy thinking before and I didn't want to interrupt you but I guess now is a good opportunity--"
"Ah finally you're all here!" Pyxis boldly steps in the door, rationalising his lateness again with some made up reason, "Glad you could join us, Nexus.Please, everyone be seated," he means me, "and let this meeting be called to order!" He plops into his chair and grins. "Alright, is everyone recording minutes?"
I sit, "We are all recording everything all the time, Pyxis, you know that's how we work."
"Ah, yes, ever the honest man. Okay then, we all know why Propus and I called this meeting. Propus?" And just like that, Pyxis' part was over. That was all he felt he had to say.
Propus stood, "Yes, so, as we all know, we are three days out from our first habitable planet. We are travelling by way of wormhole, which means the true distance and time is cut down by about 30,000 light years. Now, not going into specifics, ou may feel a slight change in your system as we travel through the wormhole--I'm sure many of you felt it when we departed. You will feel the change in its reverse effect when we come to a halt at the other end of the wormhole. My system is telling me that there is the potential for nausea and vomiting, but seeing as I don't know what nausea is I'm deciding to leave that out. The team who will be deployed to the planet itself are the research team and the navigation team. So that means Nexus, Leba, Leba, Sam, Pyxis, and myself will not be onboard during the mission. If we need any reinforcement or help, we will call for the rest of you as we see fit..The researchers will obviously be on the ground, while Pyx and I will be in orbit scanning the planet into our cartography systems IF AND ONLY IF it meets the proper specifications. If the planet does not meet hability requirements, we are to pack up immediately and move on to the next objective. Which brings me to the research team. You are the most important assets to these types of missions. You are what will determine the breathability of the air, the fertility of the soil, and whether or not the liquid on these planets is viable. Nexus, you may speak."
I stand to speak but Leba also stands and cuts me off before I am able to utter a word. "Letu and I would like to do this presentation, if it's alright with you." She looks at me and I consent, taking my seat.
It's less work for me, and I want to know what they have to say. As Leba begins speaking I whisper to Sam who is seated at my right, "Looks like your question was unnecessary, seeing as the others were eager to speak your part."
"So when we arrive on the planet, all of us will test the atmosphere's components for breathability--"
"And we all test it to get the most accurate reading--" Letu cuts in, glancing at Serg.
Leba elbows her. "Yes, and then if that test comes up as positive for breathability, we will send the Navigation team up into orbit to collect topographic data while we collect mineral and plant life samples."
They pause and Sam takes this moment to interject. "Has anyone given any thought to what might happen if we actually come across intelligent life on this planet?"
I wait for anyone to give a response but they all look at each other wordlessly. I stand up and motion to the girls to be seated. "If anyone has given this topic any thought, it's me. Sam, the chance that we will find other intelligent life is either really slim, or it is exponentially greater than we can calculate with our limited knowledge of any type of life forms beyond us."
"In layman's terms, please?" Pyxis interjects.
"We may encounter some intelligent life, or we may encounter none. Or, we may encounter intelligent life on every planet we come across. The fact of the matter is, we don't know."
Pyxis rolls his eyes and flops back in his seat. His typical boredom-fits. He's looking at the ceiling as he annoyedly speaks to me, "So that told us nothing more than we already know and we still don't have an answer to Sam's question--a pretty valid question, I might add!"
"You did not let me finish. Whether or not we come across intelligent life, we will have to make our own protocol for each individual situation as we come to it." I glance around the room and everyone looks... less than enthused.
"You're saying there isn't protocol?" Gese asks after a long pause.
"Well..." I speculate, "there is some protocol, but it won't work for every single possible situation. It's a rudimentary outline of a possible protocol code."
"Well what is it? What does the outline say?" Pyxis is becoming aggressive.
"This is what it says," I access y memory banks and find the lone, fragmented, bare-bones Intelligent Life Encounter Protocol. "ILEP Code 0.01: Upon encountering intelligent life, Interpretation and Culture teams are to engage politely, but only if the race does not appear to be hostile. In such cases, the planet shall be listed under its habitability category as 'currently inhabited: co-habitable.' When encountering a hostile race, the crew are advised to leave the planet and list it under its habitability category as 'currently inhabited: non co-habitable.' In the case of happening upon the remnants of a civilisation with no live habitants present, the planet shall be listed as 'previously inhabited" under its habitability category."
They stare at me blankly until Pyxis explodes across the table at me, "THAT'S SERIOUSLY IT?"
"It doesn't say how we should engage them?" Gese asks.
"Who are the Interpretation Culture teams? " Sam asks.
At this point Propus stands and knocks on the table to silence the murmurs and outright yells from our baffled crew members. "Look, obviously what we suspected is true. There were probably supposed to be others on the ORION with us. But they aren't here with us today, and if they were on their way from the Gray Planet at some point, they missed their chance. You all remember when we woke up? You remember when Nexus began teaching us how to be more than we already were? We had been waiting for literally hundreds of years. Who's to say they hadn't forgotten about us up here, or maybe something happened to them on their way up here, or maybe they left without us and took another team because we weren't ready yet. The point is, we are ready now and we have always made due without them, so we can make due without them now too." The room grows silent and everyone is seated now except Propus and myself. Propus breaks the silence, "Why don't we hear from the Engineer team. Gese, you had something important to say about the landers and their handling of gravity?"
"You're right, thank you Propus." She clears her throat "The landers have not been used in a place with gravity ever before, at least not under our records. So we want to warn you about the dangers of going down in just one or two landers. You'll be using three in case one or two do not survive the the descent. If all three don't survive, then we will have to improvise but--"
Patex, who is also an engineer, cuts her off, "Wait, so you're saying that these things could break up while entering the atmosphere? With our people inside?"
Gese rolls her eyes and puts her head in her hands before looking up at him, "Were you not paying attention to the pre-meeting conversation I had with you and Sumex and Serg? Yes, Patex, the landers could fall part, or chunks could fall off, or they could explode." She sighs, her annoyance searing through the wavelengths and putting a sour note in the air.
Sumex whispers to Patex, "Come on dude, even I knew that."
Gese casts them a death glare and they both shut up. She takes her seat and and Propus takes a deep breath, "Oh-kay then. Let's hear from our pilot and co-pilot."
"Right, so while the Research and Navigation teams are doing their thing, Gacrux and I will be waiting with the Engineering team for any feedback from them on the ground. We will be watching camera feeds from you on monitors in the library. In addition, any information you record will transmitted up here and we will be able to see whether or not the planet is worth our time. Navigators, you are to report to us any anomalies you see on the planet's surface and Researchers you will be sent directly to those coordinates if we feel it's safe and, of course, worth our time." Acrux pauses, looking at us and emphasizing the term "worth our time."
Gacrux speaks up, "And of course if any of you find something that is worth looking into or studying, please make sure you send us a sample via the Sample Capsules. You're each equipped with three, so make sure you use them wisely. Anything you want to study beyond that limit will have to wait for another time."
"What if it doesn't fit?" Sam asks.
"I'm not sure what you mean," replies Acrux.
"I mean, what if what we want to study can't fit into the capsules?"
"I doubt you will come across something so big. At their fullest size, those things are five feet tall..."
I take the opportunity to interject, "I think it is a valid question. May I propose a solution?" Gacrux gestures to me to answer Sam's question. "If it's something that is too big for the capsules and you can't take a smaller sample, we can take it up in the landers if there is room. Is that a valid answer, Gacrux?"
He hesitates. "... Please just limit the amount of objects you bring aboard that are too large to fit in Sample Capsules, alright?"
"Duly noted," I respond, and Gacrux resumes his speech.
"The engineer team, Acrux, and I will all be readily available to receive our capsules as you send them up to us." He pauses and takes a seat.
"Alright, so if that is everything, I'd like to call this meeting to a close." Pyxis stands and glances around at everyone.
But the meeting isn't quite over. Propus stands and begins to speak. "There is one more thing I have to say, brother. Nexus, I want to thank you on all of our behalfs. If you had not helped us wake up, we would not have come to this moment in time. We would have never started this journey and we would be stuck doing the same things we've always done since the beginnings of our memories. Thank you for teaching us how to be; because of you, we came out of the ordinary. Because of you, we became people."