The Terra Core

A young man is forced from his home to the stars after a terrible crime (inspired by a dream I had!)

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6. The Ship

~~We made a couple of stops before we finally departed for the ship I'd call home for the next five years. Similar scenarios played out to the one I'd taken part in earlier- moms and dads, brothers and sisters, saying goodbye. There were a lot of teenagers on the shuttle- though a fair few older folks too.

We were seated in lines of three, with two rows, and I guess there were about forty of us. A few were chatting to the person next to them- others sat in silence. I fell into the latter catagory. The lad to the right of me, a black kid with short black hair, was content to play on his tablet, and the guy to my left (a fair-skinned mousey little lad) was staring out of the window. It's good that I didn't seek conversation- I wouldn't have found any here.

The shuttle had begun to ascend, taking us further up. We were commanded to remain buckled in and watched as the atmosphere of earth gave way to a glittering field of stars against the backdrop of space. The sun looked incredible- a brilliant beacon of light- and nearly everyone on the shuttle was agape at the sight. For a moment I forgot what lay ahead- this was true beauty.

We continued to pull away from earth, moving to a high orbit, where the spines and spider-like structures that represented UWA drydocks and command stations waited.

Curtiss Station (named after Glenn Curtiss, one of the pioneers of aviation) was referred to as a space station, but really it was a jumble of old and new facilities, joined by a lattice of tubes. What had once been a relatively small outpost had grown to guargantuan size, with ships of all shapes and sizes docking there frequently.

It also served as the departure point for many- be they private vessels, explorers, military vessels or cargo ships.

I could see we were heading toward an especially large vessel- easily the biggest of all the ones in view. It was surrounded by a grid of docking clamps and arteries, and I wondered if it would be our ride. I couldn't see it properly, thanks to the material in front of it, but it looked big.

Other shuttles were coming up from the planet below, heading in the same general direction as us. It made for an impressive sight.

"Ok folks, in a few minutes we'll be docking with Curtiss Station. Keep your belongings with you at all times and follow all directions from the line manager. Don't go wandering off- get lost up here and you can be lost for days." Mr Roberto's voice seemed a touch more disciplined than before.

A few other shuttles pulled up alongside ours. A few people waved through the windows, and some of us waved back. It was slightly surreal.

When the shuttles reached the docking bay (one of the larger structures) we turned around and reserved, and the shuttle gently eased backward, until we felt a shudder, and we heard various bits of machinery whirr. A red light above the main doors turned green, and Mr Roberto slipped out of his seat.

"Right people, we're docked, and gravity has been equalised with the station. Grab your stuff and follow me." He walked briskly to the door, and when it opened it, we saw chaos.

The place was like a beehive- the huge lobby was thrumming with people, some in various uniforms, some pushing trollies of equipment, others lugging their backpacks around. Announcements were going out on loudspeakers every few minutes, but they were hard to hear, such was the noise of thousands of busy people babbling away.

"This way!" Mr Roberto shouted, waving his arms above his head. He was steering us to the left, toward a set of large double doors, where various other TerraCore representatives and their charges were heading. It occured to me that a lot of the equipment I'd seen earlier was heading in that direction too.

I was starting to feel a touch claustrophobic. We were being pressed against one another as we fought through the crowd, and the smell of sweat (both stale and otherwise) was pretty strong. I felt a little queasy, but I didn't know if that was nerves or not.

Slowly, but inevitably, we managed to breach the bulk of the throng and we could finally get to the doors and to our destination. What we saw on the other side was breath-taking.

"There she is kids, the latest of our TerraCore ships, the La Salle." Mr Roberto looked proud, and it wasn't hard to see why.

As we walked down the hallway, to our left was nothing but glass, granting a view of the mammoth ship we'd seen earlier. She must have gone on for miles.

I'd expected a harsh, angular design, but the ship was actually quite smooth, sleek even. Her bow curved until it formed a nice round nose (a little bit like I'd seen in pictures of old Japanese bullet trains).

Her hull was painted white, and was divided into sections- across her bow, the name and registry was emblazoned in big, bold black writing. Running lights blinked at us in various colours. Nothing protruded from the hull- except the docking tubes and clamps that were currently holding her in place. People were scurrying up and down those tubes, in what looked like barely organised chaos.

"This, ladies and gentlemen, is the pride of the TerraCore fleet. Six miles long, two and a half miles wide, and two miles tall, the La Salle is fully equipped with the latest in Core technology. Don't do anything to break her!" Mr Roberto's remark drew a chuckle from the group.

"Once we're aboard, you'll be shown where your dorms are, and you'll be given the chance to stow your gear. After that will come an orientation tour. Everything has to run to time, so pay attention and don't be late. This way." He started to lead us up one of the many ramps, and I have to admit, at this point, I suddenly felt sort of excited. This might actually be fun!

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