Dearest Sarah, Lucas wrote out on his datapad. It was only his third day at camp but he wanted to get in the habit of writing Sarah at least once a week. When he asked Portia for a pen and some paper she looked at him like he was about to open an airlock. Lucas thought he knew what the puzzled look was about, and explained, “I cannot send typewritten pages. They don’t have typewriters in Boy Scout camp.”
Portia shook her head in amusement, a human trait she adopted from her candidates, “We don’t even have what you humans call paper. In fact, we just recently brought some up from your planet to analyze so we can reproduce it. However, instead of writing on paper, write your letter on your datapad. Once your satisfied with its contents, send it to the printer, and we will send it off to your mate.”
“She is not my mate,” Lucas said defensively, knowing what mate means for most of the species living on this station.
“Fine, girlfriend. You humans are so odd.”
“Printer?” Lucas asked as visions of massive newspaper printers with little 8 ½ by 11 sheets of lined paper zipping through them. Each sheet stamped with an individual letter from space. He watched such printers in action while touring one of the Twin Cities newspaper on a field trip for his seventh-grade journalism class. After a few more seconds, he dismissed the images from is mind, finding it difficult to place something so earthly on this high-tech behemoth of a station.
Portia took the time to show Lucas the principles of the using a stylus to write directly on the face of his personal data device. He marveled over how his own hand writing was transferring from the devices screen to the simulated lined notepad application Portia pulled up for him.
“Once you’re done, tap this icon,” she pointed the stylus at a gear icon in the bottom right of the screen, “and select submit.
“From there, we will print it out. Make sure you fill in the Send To information before hitting Submit. The HAMs section will generate an envelope with your simulated hand writing for the address, stamp it, and make sure it gets dropped in a post office box close to where you are camping.”
Lucas thought about the process for a moment then said, “That’s a lot of work to maintain the appearance of me being in camp.”
“Yes, it is, which is why we don’t want you sending more than one or two letters a week.”
Portia rose from the stool next to Lucas, “I will remind you to write one to your parents as we near the end of this training session. We don’t want them thinking you forgot about them.”
Lucas pulled himself back into the present and looked down to the datapad and his opening line, Dearest Sarah,.
Though he started the letter with plenty to say, he was at a loss as what to write next. Every time something came into his head, he dismissed it for the lie that it was.
We have been busy with plenty of activities, lie! It was like day one around her for the last few days. The Gaffed was letting students settle in, and not everyone was arriving at the same time. Lucas was one of the first, and he spent most of his time wondering the station, talking with Portia, or reviewing study materials. He was so ready to get to the business of training for war.
So far, the weather has been great, lie! The weather is non-existent, he is in space. It’s always sunny, but not the bright beautiful sunny like on Earth. It is just a white-hot orb glowing in the distance. Whenever Lucas goes up to the observation deck, he looks for it, and is always disappointed to see that it has not changed. Jupiter is the biggest thing in the sky, but it does not seem to offer much warmth. If he wanted to comment on the weather in Missouri, well he really cannot, because he does not know what it is.
He made a note to ask Portia how he can access weather for locations on Earth.
I am working on my Orientation merit badge, lie! He was working on his killing The Hoard merit badge. In reality, he could not comment on anything he was doing up here in this high-tech Boys Scout camp. Actually, it was not a Boy Scout camp for everyone. Some of his classmates were traveling Europe, or at other types of camp. His classmate Dennis was at a basketball camp. Dennis’s concern was, when he returned home, how was he going to explain the fact that he was not any better at basketball.
It’s been three days, and I have already made a few friends, lie! Because of the scattered way fellow students arrived at the station, there was no organized activities going on. Most of the trainees were keeping to themselves as they waited for classmates to arrive. Counting them as Lucas was. He was the first of his class, and a whole day passed before Dennis and Bridgette arrived. Rumor was that if the Federation or the student cannot arrange a viable excuse for a student to spend the next six weeks on the station, the Gaffed will cut them from the program. For Lucas, and others like him, it was a counting and waiting game.
None of those concerns addressed the one directly in front of him, what to write to Sarah in this letter. He needed it written today, and it needed to be heart felt. It was the only connection he was going to have with her over the next six weeks.
That’s it, heartfelt, he decided. Lucas stuck the dull end of the stylus between his teeth for a moment as he thought about how to start. After a couple of seconds, his eyes widened with inspiration and he placed the stylus to the datapad,
Not much going on here, we are still getting our ducks in a row. Because of that, I have plenty of time to think about one thing…you.
And you are all I think about. In fact, since that day when you walked through Chris’s door I have thought about you. You are the greatest thing to ever walk into my life.
Because you finally said yes to us going together, I am now the happiest man in the world. Yet, sadness tugs at my heart as I realize I will not be able to look into those beautiful eyes, or see your cheeks dimple when I say something funny.
Be assured, during this eternal time apart, I will do nothing but look forward to when we can see each other once again. I miss you deeply, and send you my love.
Lucas read it over, and decided he did not like the word eternal. He highlighted the word, tapped a button on his stylus, and selected synonyms from the drop down. Looking over the options he settles on unending. Rereading it, he decided it was just what the doctor ordered. As he filled in the recipient information, he concluded that he would try his hand at poetry. Something he hated in writing class, but he knew girls dug that kind of thing.
“Yes, a poem a week,” he said as he hit the submit button.
* * * * *
Lucas sat with the rest of his squad mates in the briefing room. A holographic screen supplanted the podium that Fasbo occasionally leaned on. For Lucas it was day four of Boy Scout camp, and this was the first organized activity since his arrival at the space station. Him and his squad mates were exchanging narratives on what their cover stories are, and the journey that got them all here. Everyone was relieved that if the cutting candidates rumor was true, there were no victims in this group.
Lucas sat in his usual seat behind what used to be Amanda’s and was talking to Skylab on his right. Travis was wrapping up a narration of his argument with his parents about going on a cross country bike tour. Prior to getting plucked off Earth’s surface, Skylab lived for summers and day long bicycle rides on his very expensive twelve speed bikes. Now his passion was saving the world, but the bicycle thing made for a great cover story.
“My mom and stepdad would never allow me to do something like that,” Lucas was saying to Travis just as a stunning young woman walked into the briefing room and paused for a second, capturing everyone’s attention. What caught Lucas’s eye was her long straight, flowing blonde hair. He watched as she saw the empty seat in front of Lucas, and hurried over to it. Just before spinning around to throw herself into it, she offered Lucas a curt smile, and sat down.
Lucas was about to protest her taking the seat, but the words stuck in his throat as he realized he was going to attempt to hold the seat for a person who would never show up to claim it. But, before he could say anything, the holographic display at the front of the room came to life.
A group of three aliens stood behind what Lucas presumed to be a Nano constructed podium. The three looked as if they were chatting among themselves, then as though someone whispered, “you’re on the air,” the alien closest to the podium turned and approached it.
Until now, most of the species Lucas encountered looked mostly humanoid. Well, apart from Fartan, who was clearly a bird. The creature standing behind the podium stood a full head taller than the other two. To Lucas, it looked like the alien to the right of the screen came from the same planet as Portia, therefore giving him some reference as to how tall this insect like creature was. And it was not standing erect. It almost looked as though it was squatting on its four lower limbs. If it was possible to straighten the armored limbs, this thing would stand fifteen feet tall or more. The creature did not fit Earth’s definition of an insect. The segmentation of its body was wrong, it was more spider like. Upon its head was a pair of really long antenna, and large eyes. The antenna flowed down the its back almost to the floor, while the lidded eyes further differentiated it from earth bugs. As Lucas watched, it blinked often, conjuring up something his mother said about people who wear contacts.
“My name is General Acrogave. I am the commander of this station and the sector commander for the Galactic Federation.” The general started, its mouth parts not really moving in time with the words coming through the speakers. An indication that there was some sort of translation device involved.
“Many of you attending this station wide meeting are in your final weeks of training,” the video pickup panned the auditorium the General was addressing them from. It was not very large, explaining why Lucas, his classmates, and the other classes were watching from their briefing rooms. The one hundred or so seats the auditorium housed showed an array of different lifeforms. All wearing some variation of the Galactic Federation uniform. Lucas assumed only officers and their staff filled the auditorium itself.
“Your training will be not for naught,” the General continued, then paused, and rose a few inches on its four powerful legs, “the Dark Empire continues its march across our Galaxy.
“Your fight is not hopeless. Many a planet stood against The Hoard and defeated it. The final outcome will be based on you.” General Acrogave pointed at the video pickup for emphasis. “You must want victory, you must want to live a free species, you must want this to succeed.
“We, the Galactic Federation have given you the tools to succeed. We will provide support where we can, but the final outcome of this fight will be on your shoulders. You, the young warriors of Earth must provide the will in order to win this fight.”
Lucas felt his emotion rise as the general spoke, his heart race, adrenaline set his limbs abuzz.
“I have been watching your training. Though you humans are a fragile bunch, you are innovative, quick of mind, and strong in spirit. I have fought the Dark Empire for over a century now, and I know a winning planet when I encounter one, and you, the chosen ones of Earth are the type of warriors who will ultimately strike fear into the heart of the Dark Empire.
“You can achieve victory!”
Lucas felt the cry rend from his own throat. Along with it, he felt more than heard the combined voices of thousands throughout the station emulate his emotion. He felt something he was losing before now. Hope.