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The Aether Backstory Part 2 "You Will Remember Us" "Row upon row, heap upon heap. This is our fate, left to perish. Stride after stride, leap after leap. All our glory, naught but a wish. Cry after cry, "Weep", I hear. "Weep." Terror fills us, as we vanish. You were our hope, our wish, our light. You let us die, by war, by blight. Know this traitor, alone you'll die. Screaming, shouting, alone. Goodbye." Graffiti writing on Terra Ulterior. Author: Unknown I couldn’t believe this was happening. Of all things to go wrong, why propulsion and why now? Gritting my teeth, I looked at the screen. The new planet’s gravity field was just over seven hundred and sixty thousand miles away and the ship was moving at 324,857 metres per second. I did some calculations in my head and sighed. I had just over an hour and fifty-four minutes to avert a catastrophe. “Eidolon.” I called, my voice shaking a bit. He materialised in front of me. “Are the retro-thrusters in good condition?” He shook his head. “Sixty five percent of the retro-thrusters can squeeze out a performance of thirty-three percent capacity. Thirty percent are working in good condition while the remaining five are all but destroyed.” My mouth twitched. Well, if around a third of the thrusters could work, my plan might be feasible. “Where are the majority of the thrusters located?” “At the rear—facing the rear.” I gritted my teeth again. For all the peace that the Aether was meant to offer, I felt none of it. This was going to be one bloody day in the history of Oethe—and probably it’s last. As I glanced at the grim looking AI, an idea blossomed in my head. “Can you to maintain the ship’s current course, while reversing its direction?” “You want me to spin the ship on its vertical axis?” Stupid computer. “Yes, of course. I can. It’ll take me no less than thirty minutes to perform that little trick.” I nodded. “Get to work.” While Eidolon began to slowly position the ship aright, I jogged down the barely lighted corridors, checking for information on the ship that would provide an overlay of the ship’s structure. Somehow, I had forgotten what the ship even looked like, although I was pretty sure I knew at one point. IO.EARS kept on trying to reboot and dynamically repair Section 53, even though it had failed to do so over two million times. My search ended up being nothing but a dangerous waste of time. Eidolon stated that the information was securely locked—another way of saying that I didn’t have the required access level. After thirty-three minutes, the axis manoeuvre was eighty-three percent complete. The most disturbing thing was this: I was completely powerless to do anything, but wait as I left a crucial part of the survival plan to be handled by a computer. Was this the punishment we had to face for leaving our fellow humans behind? I scowled at the idea, disgusted that anyone would even blame us for leaving. Our selection had been determined by the masses, billions of people cast their opinions for who should and who shouldn’t leave. In essence, we didn’t pick ourselves, the people on earth did. While fidgeting with the unease of imminent death, I wiped my wet hands on my shirt. Eidolon had just a few more minutes to complete this manoeuvre, or there was no way I was going to be able to make this work. “You will survive.” I remembered Nora telling me. She was the kind of person that’s a mother and a friend to a younger in-law. “You will survive. You’ll go out there and you’ll make sure that nothing goes wrong. You have no choice. You’ll remember us and survive.” “I will survive…” I muttered to myself, lost in thought. “Grand Architect, the manoeuvre is complete.” Eidolon said, pretending to be out of breath. I acknowledged him with a small grunt, and he growled. Ignoring him, I set to work. “How much fuel do we have left in the retro-thrusters?” I asked, keeping my eyes glued to the screen as the control interface rose from the floor. “Fifty-three percent is left.” My mouth twitched again. “Good.” Carefully and slowly, I pushed the rear-facing retro thrusters to half capacity, using the side retro-thrusters to stabilise the ship and maintain the course. Eidolon aided me by showing the simulated course and the jargon of calculations only a mad man would need at this time. Reduction in speed was minimal at first, but the structure began to slow…by 0.184 percent. “This is crazy…” I muttered to myself. The AI chuckled. “Can’t you even pretend to be bothered?!” I demanded in frustration. He shook his head. “No, my dear friend. I can’t. But, I could override IO.EARS and attempt to force the engines to start—ignoring any errors that could wipe us all out, of course.” I gaped at him, somewhat excited, more infuriated. “Couldn’t you have told me sooner?” He shrugged in a carefree manner. “You didn’t ask.” I dismissed him with one sweaty palm and wiped my face with the other. Ten minutes left and Section 53 finally came online, although at less than five percent capacity. With all retro-thrusters working overtime, we had dropped our velocity to 240,000 metres per second. Once we entered, the planet’s gravitational field, things could change drastically. For one, our gained progress could be nullified in mere minutes. An alarm blared, sending me out of my skin and I heard the structure make a terrible groan. “Eidolon! What did you do?!” “We have lost control of all the thrusters at the front of the ship. They are accelerating. I warned there could be errors, Grand Architect.” I was about to scream out my life on the emotionless AI, until I had another crazy idea. “Switch off the Section 53.” “What?” I shot him a sharp glance and turned off all the retro-thrusters. An hour later, we were moving at blistering speed of 417,087 metres per second and three-quarter of a million miles away from the planet’s surface. “Restart Section 53—at full capacity.” I said, lost in stupor. “You’re a mad man.” “Maybe so. But, I am the Grand Architect and you have no choice but to obey.” He nodded and brought the main propulsion online. The ship groaned in a terrifying manner, the stress sure to cause some loss in the structure’s integrity. “How many detachable Sections are there on the ship?” He acted like he was thinking and replied at his leisure. “Fifty-nine.” “The majority of the people are housed in Section 32, yes?” “No. The majority are housed in Section 39. Two hundred and ninety thousands of them.” I snapped my neck in his direction. “You were unaware that your batch was the smallest and by no means the only one. Oethe wanted it that way—and to answer your next question, there are over a million people on this ship; all of them housed in detachable individual structures that came together to form Terra Ulterior while all of you were in cryo chambers.” I felt like I’d been slammed with a planet. A timely alarm warned me that I was about to be. We were less than two hundred thousand miles away from the looming planet’s surface and our speed was still dangerously fast. “Looks like this is it, Grand Architect. It’s been quite a ride.” I shook my head and stood up from the Prime Seat. “Prepare for immediate detachment of all sections. When I give the word, you force one last blast of all the engines to drop our speed one final time. When I tell you to split the ship up, you do so on my word. Understand?” Eidolon gave a wry smile. “Yes, of course.” With that, I ran off to my Cocoon and activated it. “One hundred and twenty-thousand miles away from contact.” The AI said over the almighty blaring of alarms that engulfed the ship. I waited for a few minutes and Eidolon updated me again. “Seventy thousand miles, Grand Architect.” After a few seconds, I gave the word. “Now!” The ship groaned and jerked. Somewhere in the ship, a lot of things ripped open. “We’ve dropped speed to 298,800 metres per second and dropping.” I waited for hours, it seemed, while Eidolon kept telling me our distance to the planet. At a distance of two thousand miles, I gave him the command to detach. Our current speed was still 75,908 metres per second, but as individual pieces, we had a greater chance of reduction in speed. Once we entered the planet’s atmosphere, the friction would drop our speed even further and each Section’s retro thrusters and parachutes would provide a safe fall. “I have detected signs of human life on Alioth, Grand Architect.” Eidolon said as I felt my section jerk. “That’s a nice name, Alioth…” I thought back of Nora and Kyle. “I will remember you, and I will survive. I promise.” Darkness covered everything and silence enveloped my being. An eternity passed and finally we touched down on Alioth’s surface. Shaking, ecstatic and tired, I stepped out onto the lush surface. My space suit said the pressure was stable and friendly and from the looks of the landscape, there were miles upon miles of inhabitable land. A small spherical pod flew up to me and sighed. “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” Eidolon asked. I nodded. “Not the planet. Up there in the sky.” I looked up at the fiery debris burning up in Alioth’s atmosphere. Terra Ulterior had performed its first and last mission well. Oethe had nothing to fear: it would rise again. “The Aether is a dangerous place, don’t you think, Grand Architect? A single mistake and space would’ve been our grave.” I shrugged and turned back to catch the sight of the remaining Sections gracefully falling down in the clear skies and bright sun. “Whatever, it might have been, to the people that were on earth, it’s their hope and our home.”