“Where are we?” Morayo asked, falling to his knees in frustration.
Tanimola looked over at her brother. He looked exhausted. They had been travelling in the shuttle for three days. The star charts she had bought from the Benglian antiques merchant must have been fake. They were now lost. When she realised that she had no clue where they were, she set the shuttle down on the nearest planet with a breathable atmosphere. The planet was empty of intelligent life. Only plants and basic organisms could be detected, though there were clear signs of an ancient, and somewhat advanced civilisation.
“The map was a dud,” Tanimola conceded. “But we can figure this out.”
“Tani, we barely have enough fuel to get out of this galaxy,” said Morayo. “The closest Ventura class planet is too far away.”
Tanimola sat down. She needed to think. It was not the first time they had gotten lost in space, and if she could just figure out a way to get home, it would not be the last.
Five years ago, her brother had announced that he too wanted to be an archaeologist. It had nearly broken their mother’s heart. Both of her children gallivanting across the universe was a terrifying disappointment for her, but not a surprise. The two were five years apart in age, but from Morayo’s birth they had been practically inseparable. As soon as he learned how to crawl, Morayo had followed his sister. Learning to walk delighted him because it meant he could keep up with her. Now, with his pilot’s licence and his Multi-Science degree, he could follow her into adventures and mischief beyond the stars.
“Let’s look at our options,” Tanimola said. “Option 1, we fly the ship to the edge of the galaxy and send out a subspace beacon.”
“Option 2, we put ourselves in cryo and put the shuttle in auto-pilot,” said Morayo. “It will get further, and if we’re lucky, we’ll be in range of some border scout drones.
“Option 3, we find some fuel here,” said Tanimola.
Morayo rolled his eyes, “Sure, because I’m sure this deserted planet has some antimatter just lying around somewhere.”
“Option 4, we make some fuel here,” Tanimola said, her eyes widening. “This planet is ancient, but there might be a particle accelerator somewhere.”
She stood up and stood in front of her brother, resting her hands on his shoulders.
“Option 5, the boy genius builds a particle accelerator.”
“Tanimola!” Morayo said in exasperation.
“No, no, it’s actually a viable plan,” Tanimola said insistently. “Our scans showed that this planet has metals, alloys, and conductors. This was, by the looks of things, a semi-advanced civilisation. There’s a really good chance we’ll find the materials we need.”
Morayo looked up at his sister. This was why he could follow her to the furthest reaches of the universe. No matter how much trouble they got into, she always had a plan. She saw the world differently, that was her gift. Hers was a world of mysteries to be solved and possibilities to be explored.
“I guess we have enough fuel to make a couple of trips round this planet and still have some left in the tank for one of the other options,” said Morayo.
“Yes!” said Tanimola. “We can do this.”
She held out her hand to her brother. He took her hand and hoisted himself up.
“We can do this,” said Morayo.
Using their ship’s sensors, Tanimola and Morayo searched the planet for a particle accelerator. They found a few promising sites, but the first two turned out to be false starts. The third was located in an underground facility in an area just north of the planet’s equator, on a large continent. As they stepped into the structure, they were surprised to see it in better condition than most of the locations they had encountered thus far on the planet. They descended a flight of stairs into an open space. As their feet touched the bottom, the place was filled with a bright light. A man appeared in front of them, a hologram. He began to speak.
“What language is that? asked Morayo.
“No language I’ve ever come across,” Tanimola replied. “But if this holo is working, there must be a data bank nearby, we can tap into it and use it to update our language models.”
She brushed the frecks on her face, and a data stream appeared before her eyes. After a few minutes, the holo man stopped abruptly, coughed and began to speak again.
“You have been identified as intelligent life forms. If you are receiving this message, we have all gone. It is for the best.” the hologram said, finally comprehensible. “So it falls to me to say, welcome to Earth.”
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