Orbital, p.1
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       Orbital, p.1

           Bill Zhao
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  By Bill Zhao

  Copyright 2017 Bill Zhao



  Eight year old Derek stared out the port window. The cold emptiness of space consumed his vision. There was nothing to see. Small rocks and debris slowly floated aimlessly outside. The only light source outside was the sun. A good 165 million kilometres away. Derek turned his head downwards to catch a glimpse of the Earth below him. He could only just see the massive orange spot on its side. It was growing. Noise was all around him. The yelling and pushing of the crew. But Derek knew that he was safe. His dad promised. That he would never let anything happen to him.

  A loud rumble came from his right. It shook his room. He turned. His door suddenly opened and an old injured man clutching his left shoulder came weakly in. He wore a dark formal suit with white gloves. There was gunfire and shouting behind him. The door closed behind him. “Derek…” he said weakly. “Your father... I…” He collapsed. Derek was uncertain what just happened and whatever was going on. The man on the floor looked up at him. Derek recognised him. It was Gerry. The chef. He liked him. But what had happened?

  Derek stared helplessly as the man on the floor stared at him and says “Your father… he needs you…” The man collapsed and just as he did, the door opened once again. An armoured security guard stood at the door. He was dressed in a black and white uniform with a black set of body armour on his chest.

  “Ah shit, Gerry… Damn it! Hey Kid, come here! You must be Derek” He smiled. “Come with me. I’ll take you to your dad. Don’t worry I’m a friend.” He held out his hand. “I’m Stan”. Derek quietly greeted him and took his hand. The two left the dark bedroom and out into the hallway. The hallway was a mess. It was loud. Not with talking but with gunfire. It was chaos. There were bloody bodies spread out across the floor and bullet holes and dents across the previously sleek and elegant furniture.

  Thankfully, the chaos seemed far from them but Derek wasn’t scared. At least he tried not to be. The hallway was large and split into two separate but obvious lanes with gaps in between them. An explosion fired upon their right side. No shrapnel in their bodies so far. Stan drew out his sidearm. A small, sleek handgun. Its cold, dark steel plated sides shone in contrast to the complete white and grey of the hallways. The two kept walking, ignoring the mass amounts of gunfire surrounding them. They didn’t talk and both knew that the handgun was probably their only chance of survival. Surprised, Derek stood still when Stan stopped, bent down and held his handgun out towards him to take.


  Stan looked back with an assuring look and Derek took the handgun. “Thanks” Stan bent down once again and picked up a large, grey assault rifle. It had a heavy looking stock, long barrel and curved magazine. It was fitted with a set of Holographic range sights. Derek always liked to play with them. They were a set of trapezium shaped metal objects which projected small reticules above them when turned on. This one in particular generated a chevron. “What are you waiting for?” Stan gently asked.

  Derek replied “nothing” and the two continued onwards towards the captain’s deck.


  The Icarus

  The captain’s deck was just up ahead. Derek saw the shining grey steel tag on the hallway wall which read “Control” and pointed ahead. The two continued running. The more they ran, the more bodies lay on the floor and the more blood. A giant “Sector 01” was painted in light grey on the walls beside them and they knew they were there. “Help…” a small voice cried somewhere around them. Without even thinking about acknowledging the request, Stan swiftly turned, aimed his weapon at the source, paused for a second and then fired a burst of gunfire. Derek looked at the body. A uniformed United Space Order Control officer (USOC) – lay on the ground. Lifeless. Derek has absolutely no idea what was going on. Why had the USOC suddenly boarded and attacked the ship? Why was there suddenly a huge orange spot on Earth’s surface?

  The two faced the door to the captain’s deck. Derek knew that all his questions would be answered through that door. “Come on” Stan said quietly and opened the door.

  Derek slowly stepped in to the spherical room and saw his dad. He was standing over a control panel and was vigorously hitting the controls. He looked angry, frustrated and hopeless. He slowly turned and looked at his son. “Derek… my boy…” He said in a weak and noticeably damaged voice. He walked towards him with a limp, bleeding from his right leg. He wore a slightly torn tan coloured suit and dark grey trousers.

  “Get to Jane, Derek… I’m sorry but you have to go to her. I’ll explain everything later.”


  “Go. Please.” Derek obeyed as his father faced Stan.

  “Stanley… Thank god you’re alive. I need you to hold the Sector 8 entrance… by all costs”

  “Yes, Mr Ragston” he replied and hurried off to do his job. A few ship security guards stood around the room. Some injured, some not. Derek who sat by Jane Davis, the Vice Captain, stared at his father.

  “Look son, I’m sorry for this mess… for your mother. But you have to know what’s going on. That space police… The USOC are trying to get me but they’ve made a mistake. They are coming after the wrong person. You believe me, right? You know your daddy wouldn’t do anything bad… right?” Derek found himself speechless. He knows something’s wrong. He knows that he’s in danger.

  “Don’t you worry. I’ll protect you. No matter what. They are boarding our ship, The Icarus to find me.” The gunfire echoed closer. “They want to take me to prison! Don’t worry. I’m not going anywhere” Suddenly Stan’s yells interrupted the father son talk.

  “SHIT! THEY’RE HERE! I’M HIT! GET OUTTA THERE! GO!” Derek’s dad stands. “I’m sorry. I’ve got to take care of this.” He draws his silver handgun. An antique relic from centuries past. He strides towards the door leading to Sector 8. Along his way ordering the idle guards to different directions. A few left, a few stayed. The gunfire was now right outside the Sector 8 door and just before his dad reached it, the door blew open - thrusting him back into the centre of the room.

  “Derek! GET DOWN! HIDE!” Jane escorted Derek into a corner, behind a toppled bookshelf. The guards in the room began to open fire on the USOC troops entering the room. The sound of automatic gunfire engulfed the room. And his dad was right in the middle of it. Bullets whooshed past, hitting all of the security guards in the room. When the battle smoke cleared, Derek peeked through a hole in the bookshelf and saw his dad on his knees. Several USOC troops lay dead on the floor but several more surrounded his dad. A noticeably higher ranking troop walked past the others and stood in front of the father who looked up at him. And spat on his non-armoured coat. Derek could see the wounds his father had taken during the fight. His legs were filled with bullets and bleeding out. His arms were bloody and fell limp at his side, a crimson red dripping out of a large gash on his back.

  The lieutenant uttered “Cameron James Ragston. You are under arrest for the crimes of murder, torture, arms dealing and mass genocide…” He leant closer towards him. “Personally, I’d like to just put a nice bullet into you right now…”

  He stands back up. “But no… they want you alive… You have the right to-”

  Cameron grabbed his arm. “I’m not going anywhere…” He pulled out a spherical object and rotated it. “… So why don’t you come WITH ME!” The lieutenant instantly backed away, pulled out his sidearm, and shot Cameron James Ragston in the head.

  As his lifeless body fell to the floor with a thump, the USOC troops fled the room. An explosion spread across the centre of the room. Derek and Jane faced heads d
own behind the bookshelf, away from the explosion.

  Derek moved his head to peek again but was stopped by Jane. “Derek… I’m sorry, but we must go.” She tried to pull Derek away from the battlefield but he wouldn’t move. Despite his efforts, Jane managed to carry the distraught boy to the escape wing. She entered a passcode. Rows of escape pods lined up the sides. Not a single one had been used. Nobody else had escaped. Jane brought Derek to the first one and placed him in there. There was only room for one in each. Jane looked back at Derek who was yelling and screaming both at her and for what just happened. Jane couldn’t hear him due to the sealed glass of the pods. Just as she was going to ready her own pod, the door blew open and USOC troops stormed in. Instantly, Jane decided to activate Derek’s pod but was opened fire upon by the troops who had now been given orders to kill all non-personnel aboard the ship. Just as she fell she was able to make her final action the activation of Derek’s pod which suddenly burst into life and detached itself from the ship. It fell. With a set of pre-determined coordinates and custom Earth traffic scan bypass module, the pod automatically thrusted itself towards its destination, away from the ship. Derek’s hands slammed at the heavily reinforced glass uselessly. Behind him, a screen lit up and displayed the latest newspaper.

  15th August 2482 4:28 PM


  Private Military Company USOC (United Space Order Control) has recovered intel which has led to the uncovering of the decade long hidden space vessel, The Icarus commanded by criminal mastermind Cameron James Ragston. The man is known for infamous crimes such as the 2468 simultaneous bank robbery, the 2474 Portland Massacre and just a 12 hours ago at 4AM where he fired an unidentified nuclear weapon at Earth. Whether this was unintentional, intentional or provoked is unknown, but the rumour going around is that the warhead was a threat to USOC to stay back. This has obviously gone wrong. USOC is not responding to our questions nor have given us any sort of communication whatsoever towards the current situation. A boarding and raid of the ship is expected to take place today at approximately 5PM.



  Derek couldn’t understand a few of the words said by the article but he saw enough. He stared at it in shock and disbelief. Was his dad really a criminal? Did he deserve to die? The fact that he had spent his entire life on the ship and knew his mother very little was supported by this very piece of evidence. So what now? That very thought had just crossed his mind for a second when he realised that he was flying through space. The on-board display showed 124 hours until destination reached. Luckily all the escape pods were equipped with more than enough for the pre designated journey. The small, cosy interior of the pod would probably seem dull after spending a couple of days in it but it was home. Derek stared at the Earth in the distance. What will he encounter?

  5 Days later

  The on-board display beeped once again, waking Derek up. On the screen showed: ETA 4 HOURS LEFT TO DESTINATION. Derek adjusted his focus towards the now large and intimidating Earth. The large orange spot was still there… only now Derek could see it in detail. He squinted. It was no longer just an orange spot. It was a massive cyclone of fire and destruction which spanned across (from the pods display) parts of Russia to China. He looked at the news:


  Derek was in no way planned for this. He never could have expected this to happen. He was also excited. For Earth. What will he find there? What can he do when he gets there? The on-board display now accurately drew a virtual line showing their exact destination. Colorado, North America.

  Derek stared at the planet’s atmosphere and surface. The soft blues and greens slowly started to engulf his vision. He wasn’t keeping track of how much time has passed. However long that may be, his heart started up again as suddenly, the exterior of the pod burst into flames. Derek hid back and watched as the only window turned red – orange. Horrid thoughts filled his mind such as burning to death or crashing in a fiery demise. These thoughts, however disappeared instantly when the screen cleared and all became clear. He could see the land and the sea. He saw the urban terrain which surrounded his destination. The pod couldn’t be more accurate as it came closer and closer to the river it was aimed at. As Derek didn’t know of any free flowing rivers, he braced for impact, just like anyone else would.

  The sound of the crash was to him, muffled and distorted. The pod was smart. It opened its compartments and out came flotation devices. Derek knew how to swim. All that time spent of the ships pool. Was it training just for this? The pod’s screen displayed instructions on how to safely exit but Derek knew all this since he was taught when he was six. Slowly, he turned the red latch and the shuttle door swung open. He exited his carefully built home after taking a few essential items. He plopped into the water. Instantly, he jerked the second his body felt the coldness of the water. He was used to the warmth and heat of the ships pool too much. He knew that this couldn’t deter him. He swam towards the nearest patch of land he could find.

  Gripping on to the mud and dirt with his fingers he crawled his way onto the land and lay down on his back with his wet ‘essentials pack’ sat beside him. He decided to stand up, walk around and explore. He flipped himself onto his front feeling extremely weak. He felt heavier and wobblier. He tried standing. He couldn’t. Looking around, all Derek saw were trees, bushes and water. He reached for his pack and took out a snack. Chewing it, he took his time to recover his energy, stretch and try to stand. To him, right now this seemed like an impossible task and was unmanageable in any way. So he lay there.

  His track of time was lost. Not to be found. Derek found himself staring at a small fern not too far from him. He set himself a goal. To reach it. By any means possible. He couldn’t give up. Not now. Not just because gravity was too strong or that he gained a hundred kilograms aboard the pod. No. He had to persevere this otherwise what did his dad die for? Surprisingly when he tried, Derek could crawl fast. Maybe he got used to the gravity. Maybe now he could stand up. He tried. His legs shook more than the pod when it was entering the atmosphere. But he knew he had to do this. Right now it was his goal. To stand. And he knew that if he couldn’t even finish such a simple goal, how proud would his father have been? He stood up. Dizzy at how he could see further. He picked up his pack and took his first steps on planet Earth.

  The first few steps were difficult, but he got used to it. The rest were a lot easier. Derek kept walking in one direction. Away from the pod he crashed in. He saw a triangular shape ahead. It was soon revealed to be a small house just out there. A humanoid figure was sat down on a chair on the porch. Derek hopes he can communicate with him. Peacefully. He kept walking. He felt dizzier and the house just didn’t seem to get any closer. He walked as fast as he could. His head was spinning and his vision was a blur. The house stood in the distance, mocking and laughing at his useless efforts to reach it. Before he knew it, a darkness engulfed the boy and he fell to the ground.



  20 Years Later, Colorado

  The year is 2102. Derek Simmons is out on his morning jog. His wrist display cycled through the songs and music he listened to whilst doing so. The audio transference was flawless today. Some days it’s jumpy, some days it’s not. This doesn’t matter though. He was on his way to get it fixed anyway. Derek never liked getting people to go to his house. He thought it troubled them too much. He walked through the entrance of the shop.

  Derek’s Apartment, 2130 Hours

  Derek Simmons set his bed up. The same as yesterday and the day before that. The same process, the same phone by the bedside and the same .45 ACP Colt M1911 under his pillow. He bought it at a USOC auction. No of course not. He stole it because it was rightfully his. It belonged to his father and no matter what kind of criminal he was, he was still fami
ly. Derek checked it one last time before going to sleep.

  Derek’s Apartment, 0245 Hours

  The same dream every night… the same memories. Nothing significant but what bothered him was why. 20th August 2482. When he crashed to Earth. He was picked up… found by a couple of mountain hikers sleeping at a lodge for the night. They couldn’t take care of him of course let alone raise him, so they sent him off to an orphanage. Derek lied about his last name. The one smart thing he did there. Simmons was as far from Ragston as he could think of. The first couple of nights were rough. There was no control. Control was a thing of the past in that orphanage but luckily, adoption rates were high and two days later he was with a middle aged couple. They were mugged the next day. Costs were too great so he went back. For some reason, he stayed at the orphanage for the next seven years. Nobody wanted an older child anymore. All they cared about were the young ones. The babies. Some part of Derek was actually glad he never got adopted again even if the two nights which he was were the best nights on Earth he had.

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