Sergi stared out the window at the blackness that was broken by the occasional stars and satellites. At least they were sharing their bursts of light in what otherwise would have been an impenetrable void of nothingness.
For seventy three years now the way-station had been orbiting the Earth waiting for the levels of toxic gases to drop sufficiently for the passengers to return to what had been their home. Two generations had now been born away from the land of their ancestors. Still it didn’t appear that any return to the homeland would be happening soon. According to the official data the Earth would be a toxic wasteland for at least another generation.
As the way-station turned the Earth came into view. Sergi marvelled at the brightly coloured gases swirling around in what was once a breathable atmosphere. He knew from his history modules that the Earth had once shone in much more natural colours of blue and green as it had reflected the light of what everyone said was a dying sun. The changes that had been brought about were all down to man’s greed and hunger.
Sergi was the last descendant on the way-station of one of the luckier families that had relocated before the troubles had got too bad. He knew it had not been the same for everyone. His parents had told him often enough how lucky he was to be living on one of the five way-stations, but that didn’t stop him wondering how, or if , anyone was still alive down there.
Although the history module about the gradual exodus from Earth wasn’t clear about the selection process Sergi was well aware that it wouldn’t have been a fair or even well-executed process. He had managed to access some files in the main computer slamdrives through his handpod which clearly showed the levels of panic and hysteria rising as people realised that they would not have a safe passage off the Earth, and survival on what had been their green and pleasant land was questionable.
Sergi had mastered the skill which was once called hacking. He was adept at finding his way into any techno-storage and active system alike. That morning he had made one of his biggest breakthroughs. He had scored a direct hit to an earthbound computer. By accessing the way-station share-web he had realigned his signal Earthwards. He thought he might be able to access some long-closed files to find out more about what the earth was like before the troubles. What he actually linked into was an active drive. Not only was it active, it was also in use at the very moment he accessed it.
The Earthbound system was clearly far more primitive than anything on any of the way-stations, but it allowed two way communication. At the same time as Sergi had hacked into the earthbound system it seemed someone on earth was trying to do the same in reverse. Opening the way-station data-path up he had actively allowed the Earth-hacker entrance into the way-station’s on-board nova-frame. As the hacker linked in Sergi intercepted the action and sent a message direct to the earthbound user.
‘Data connection disallowed,’ he sent to the earthbound hacker. ‘Please identify yourself for access.’
‘Panayang Tunode.’ was the enigmatic reply.
‘What is your intention?’ Sergi sent another message.
‘Panayang Tunode. Contact requested. Is responder human or datal?’ came back to Sergi.
‘You are in contact with a human replying through a handpod on way-station three. Please identify yourself and state what you want.’
Sergi’s heart was beating faster and his breath was coming in shorter gasps. he had been led to believe that if any life was left on Earth it would have been so mutated by now that communication would have been impossible. Intelligent life was widely reported to be impossible. Yet here and now Sergi appeared to be communicating with a live person on Earth.
Sergi’s mind was agile and he was thinking quickly as he typed. He soon realised that what he had found out could be dangerous for him as there was no way that he was the only person on the way-stations to know about life on Earth. The Supreme Magistrate and Elders council had to know what was happening. After all they were the ones that had been monitoring Earth since the evacuation.
‘I am Panayang Tunode, who are you… why won’t any of you help. we are your brothers and sisters, we are ….’
The communication link dropped out. Sergi hoped that it was because of atmospherics, and not because he had been found out. He tried to reestablish a connection but was unable to do so. He noted the nodes and digital signature for the caller and promised himself he would call again when the way-station’s orbit permitted.
All of a sudden the door to his cabin opened. His sponsor walked in with a scowl distorting her usually pretty features.
“Sergi, I need to talk to you as a matter of utmost importance and security…” she began.
Sergi was sure the game was up. “I’m all ears,” he said as congenially as possible.