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Interlude 01 | Aestas ¤ The Yellow Balloon

:: Year 06 | January

By J.P. PragPublished 2 months ago 6 min read
On the floating city of Aestas soaring above the clouds of Venus, Lilit Sarkisian defends her homeland from those determined to take it from her.

Lilit turned to Durojaiye and prodded, “See there, you could learn from Ahmad’s example; I’ve discovered a lot about him today! All you need to do is open up a bit more and, on occasion, let us into that convoluted brain of yours.”

“You know I cannot do that,” Durojaiye simply stated in return.

Sighing, Lilit yielded, “That I do.” It was an argument they had had plenty of times before and she wasn’t in the mood to hash it out again. She had wracked her brain enough times trying to figure out when Durojaiye was being completely straightforward and when he was dancing around the subject with carefully considered statements. It amazed her that he could be so honest in some areas, and so protective of his secrets in others. “Okay, Ahmad, since I know Durojaiye will not even tell us what he did at the window after you left, what were you up to?”

“That is not true,” Durojaiye interjected. “I can tell you what I did at the window.”

Lilit sarcastically retorted, “Wow, will the miracles of this day ever cease? Yet, given your proclivities, I wonder if it will be interesting or revealing in any way.”

“No, of course not,” Durojaiye admitted. “But what does that have to do with answering the question? You understand that I will have no choice but to tell you, if you ask me politely.”

“Do not fall for his trap,” Ahmad warned. “You know how this will go for us if you do.”

Exhaling, Lilit asked in halting, forced words, “Durojaiye, what did you do by the windows after Ahmad left you?”

“It is funny you should ask,” Durojaiye said with a lit-up smile that showed off his brilliantly white teeth. “Once Ahmad was gone, I discovered that the others who were there before had left while we were talking. Apparently, our conversation annoyed them so much that they opted to return to their quarters rather than listen to us any longer.”

Lilit laughed and declared, “Well, I’m sure with no one around, you felt it was quite pointless being there by yourself.”

“You are spot on,” Durojaiye divulged. “I stayed for a short while longer to see if anyone else would come by. When no other souls appeared, I returned to my quarters, only slightly more irradiated than the recommended dosage.”

Scowling, Ahmad pondered, “I do not understand how you can be so nonchalant about such things.”

“We have already traversed this ground many times in the past,” Durojaiye chastised. “As such, it would be best to move on. I am curious about what happened with you after we parted ways.”

After giving him a brief look of annoyance, Ahmad launched into his saga saying, “Well, anyway, after getting back to my quarters and strapping myself into the bed, I began to feel trepidation deep in the pit of my stomach, that fear of my old mistress named rejection rearing its ugly head. I had been stung by it more times than I cared to recount, and deep down I knew it was still a distinct possibility despite my hopes, dreams, and preparations. Aestas had already existed for several generations before my arrival, and by that point you natives had outnumbered us émigrés by a large margin. I know you have trouble seeing it, Lilit, but that makes you an insular community, and I have had unfortunate experiences as an outsider in such a place before.”

“You’re right,” Lilit huffed, “I don’t get what you’re talking about at all.”

“How to explain?” Ahmad rhetorically asked out loud. After a short pause in which he signaled for his friends not to interrupt his train of thought with their questions, comments, or suggestions, he continued by saying, “Ah, yes, I think this will make some sense, please bear with me.

“On Aestas, people are completely dependent upon each other for their collective survival. Disagreements must be resolved without resorting to violence—or at least nothing more than the occasional fisticuffs—otherwise it could literally kill everyone. This had created a very socialist, somewhat communist society, albeit more like a hippy commune than a totalitarian regime; but only by a slight margin.

“The closest comparison to something on Earth are the kibbutzim in Israel, at least the few that remain. Most of the kibbutzim had in the distant past morphed into a blended form of capitalism such that, at this point, they are more like a housing subdivision with a community farm. Still, a few clung to the old ways dating back to before the modern state was even founded.

“It was to one of these that I decided to move. I knew that I needed to prepare myself for what life on Venus would be like, and it seemed like the perfect place to gain some experience. Yet despite the Emiratis having had peaceful relations with the Israelis for more generations that I can recall, I was still treated with immense distrust. After only a few months, I left the kibbutz and returned to my parents’ home with my tail between my legs. The experience set my plans back years as I questioned and doubted everything.”

Lilit was not sure that made anything clearer for her as she had no frame of reference for the places and groups Ahmad had described, but she chose to honor his request and not interrupt.

Finishing his explanation, Ahmad said, “Slowly, though, the need to escape the gravity of my progenitor planet so that I could start anew once more became overwhelming. That yellow dot in the sky beckoned me with the beauty for which she was named. As the desire to be within her sheltering womb reasserted itself, I imagined that I would feel safe and finally, finally be at home. When I began to drift off, I wondered how we could have traveled some fifty million kilometers and Venus was still just a small speck in the far-off distance. My last thought before completely falling into a restless sleep was...

“‘When will I see my love with my own eyes?’”

The above piece is an excerpt from the speculative hard science fiction novel Aestas ¤ The Yellow Balloon by J.P. Prag, available at booksellers worldwide. Learn more about the author at

On the floating city of Aestas soaring above the clouds of Venus, Lilit Sarkisian defends her homeland from those determined to take it from her.

As humanity begins to tame the stars above, at what point do a group of colonists turn into a unique, indigenous people who will band together to protect their homeland... no matter what?

Lilit Sarkisian was an average young woman who made a living welcoming new immigrants to the floating city of Aestas, soaring high above the clouds on Venus. Then, one day, she met her new clients Ahmad Al Zaheri and Durojaiye Yakubu. From that moment onward, her life irreparably changed and forever altered the course of the place she had always known as home. Somehow, these two became her best friends in the whole universe, and her most loyal coconspirators.

Aestas appeared to be a successful colony, much more so than places like Mars where terraforming had ultimately failed. Yet the powers-that-be, both on Venus and Earth, refused to do anything to alleviate the pressures caused by its exploding population. To fully resolve these issues, Lilit found herself evolving from an unknown civil servant to the leader of a revolution to a dangerous interplanetary symbol. Her story did not end there, though, nor did the machinations of those who had other plans for her birthplace.

With the help of her most trustworthy companions Ahmad and Durojaiye, was Lilit able to save the irreplaceable Venusian society from forces far more powerful than her?

Aestas ¤ The Yellow Balloon is a work of mixed fiction and nonfiction elements. With the fiction elements, any names, characters, places, events, and incidents that bear any resemblance to reality is purely coincidental. For the nonfiction elements, no names have been changed, no characters invented, no events fabricated except for hypothetical situations.

ThrillerTechnologyScience FictionScienceProloguePoliticsPlot TwistInterludeFictionDystopian

About the Creator

J.P. Prag

J.P. Prag is the author of "Aestas ¤ The Yellow Balloon", "Compendium of Humanity's End", "254 Days to Impeachment", "Always Divided, Never United", "New & Improved: The United States of America", and more! Learn more at

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    J.P. PragWritten by J.P. Prag

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