Whitaker was impressed with the ship that would take him to his destination. He was hoping he’d be on a FTL ship, but because the asteroid was not even a light year from the Solar System, FTL wasn’t necessary. And, of course, FTL and Ramjets were not allowed within the confines of the Solar System. Regardless, the ship that would transport him was luxurious. It couldn’t even be compared to that tin can he flew in to the Prison asteroid a decade ago, as a most unwilling passenger. If he hadn’t obtained that lottery key, he would be with the rest of the Brothers, a passenger on an asteroid traveling to somewhere far from human civilization, or death (see: Keys open doors).
The Prison asteroids were humanity’s version of dealing with criminals and dangerous extra-galactic exploration. No longer were prisons on Earth or in any of Earth’s colonies in the System. There was a lottery system in place to free a certain percentage of the prisoners from their departing asteroids. It was mainly to decrease the load on the asteroid’s systems for space travel. The public saw it as giving a prisoner a second chance. This was Whitaker’s second chance. He was a free citizen of the Solar System again.
There was a slight feeling of loss that struck him as he settled into his quarters. Those were his Brothers out there. They were a bunch of monkeys and would be lucky to get past the first hurdle they came upon. Whitaker was a systems engineer and qualified universal scientist. They were all counting on him flying their queer ship. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. Then, Whitaker had to remind himself that they were all a bunch of criminals. At least two Brothers were killed for that Key. He could’ve kicked himself for feeling sorry for murderers.
The trip was slow. There were a few other passengers to drop off throughout the System. Whitaker was enjoying good food, drink and company. That tight little attendant that showed him around that first day ended up showing him a lot more. But what really affected him was that first glimpse of that elegant, blue sphere, with white cotton clouds and green-green land masses: Earth, the mother of humankind, home. Although Whitaker grew up on Europa, he was born on Earth. They left Earth when he was five. He had little memory of that time. He was still considered to be a Gaian, someone born on Earth, Gaia. It was in the 20th Century that the Gaia Hypothesis was born, which later became the rules for living on the planet.
The 20th and 21st centuries were known as the Grime Times when pollution was destroying Earth. It was the Outlander, Ramal Berek, who saved the Earth’s atmosphere and changed the way humans were living. Gaia was healing but there were too many living on the planet. Ramal Berek made it possible for colonies to be created throughout the Solar System thereby leveling Gaia’s burden. There were many other Outlanders who came to Earth and its colonies to aid humankind. They were the Guardians of the galaxy’s endemic lifeforms. It had been a close call for humankind. The Guardians had considered eliminating the abhorrent species that was destroying the planet and its other forms of life.
Earth, Gaia, was as it once was, before industrialization and greed began gnawing away at her. Whitaker looked at the remarkably clean, azure planet and felt a lump forming in his throat. Earth was the Oasis of the Solar System. No matter where you lived off-world, there was nothing that compared to it. It would be Whitaker’s oasis, after such a long time living inside a rock. Yet, that was not the reason he requested Earth as his destination. It had to do with the wooden key. There was a door on Earth that the key would open. And Whitaker was going to find that door.
Inspiration Monday: A Day Late @ Be Kind Rewrite
Word Count: 657