Escape Velocity

As Human Civilisation reaches further out to the stars, the first 12 'Habitats' are launched, each with a population in the thousands. Ericeta is one of the last to board the newest of the Habitats - Haverdine - before launch.


3. Hervande

Chapter 3 - Hervande

The rest of the journey passed by in a blur of stars and dust, the occasional comet's trail bursting through the dark, a streak of chalk on the blackboard that surrounded us. We passed the derelict remains of Pluto, I had heard about the collapse that had revealed a Russian experiment into 'Planetary Carving', but never dreamt I'd see the resulting mess of frozen rubble. Half of the planet had fallen in on itself, after a supporting column was mistakenly removed. The base of operations was destroyed, buried under tonnes of ancient rock. Slowly, the wound was healing, gravity pulling the rocks back in to the centre of the dwarf planet. With the absence of heat however, they could not fuse, so now all that is left is half a planet with thousands of moons. That in itself was somehow beautiful, a subtle warning against our innate greed.

Of course, the warning was ignored.

As we passed the last of the mining fleets that had been exploiting the icy rocks in the outer regions of the solar system since the discovery of gold within them, I got my first glimpse of the central docking station. Arms of steel sprawl from the core - A crude cylinder of rock housing the life support systems for the whole station, once the dwarf planet Eris, but hollowed out for its new role not long after the Russian's failed attempts with Pluto. It is difficult to see any pattern or logic in the arms' directions, twisting and jutting out at random intervals. I was reminded for a moment of the trees back home, their worn branches reaching for the distant sun in seemingly chaotic, serpentine turns. They reach for a sun which is now more distant from me than I could ever imagine.

As we drew nearer, the Hervande came into view. It was by no means a conventional design, two gargantuan engines - large enough to be ships themselves - attached by colossal struts to three circumferences of steel. These three rings formed a track system around the central habitat, allowing both engines free movement in all directions.

The habitat itself was not designed with any consideration for aerodynamics, split roughly into three sections and sprawling outwards. The three sections were connected by hundreds of small walkways, which all led to a central sphere. In stark contrast to the rest of the ship, this sphere was made of perfectly smooth glass. It looked frail, like it could shatter at a touch. Of course, the glass was reinforced and metres thick, so there was very little risk.

The section nearest the engines' current position was covered in small domes, and appeared to have originally been designed as a pyramid, although extensions and attachments had obscured this framework. It was strange to see how many changes had already been made, even before launch.

The section clockwise from the engines seemed almost untouched, maintaining its rounded cuboid structure, the flat sheets of metal split by thin rows of windows, glinting slightly from the lights of our craft, still approaching quickly.

The final section was similar to the first, with the addition of the prominent structure of the laboratory, extending downwards between the tracks. A mess of pipes and cables cocoon the tower, which arcs around in a smooth curve, like a strange tusk from deep within the Habitat.

It was then it hit me, I will live here for the rest of my life. In this peculiarly constructed spacecraft I will live, grow, raise a family and die. The thought forces me to look away, as our craft is dwarfed by the huge vessel. Now we are close, I see that those small domes are in fact the size of cities, the thin rows of windows stretch as high as skyscrapers and the laboratory extends for miles beyond the rest of Hervande. I will probably never see all of this new environment, this new world. But what I see now is overwhelming, and strangely beautiful, in its crude and angular architecture, somehow a sense of life has been maintained. A sense of growth and of indecision is kept with us, which is comforting.

At least some things won't change.

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