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The Silent Observer

Not only are we not alone, but it would appear they've been here for a long time.

By Christopher KellyPublished 2 years ago 11 min read

Nobody can hear a scream in the vacuum of space, or so they say. Tristan was unfortunate enough to have seen men and women die in space. Their mouths momentarily stretch open as the air is rapidly wrenched from their lungs. Whilst it was physically impossible for them to make noise, Tristan could see their scream in their eyes. It was a blessing, then, when they inevitably passed out from lack of oxygen. Typically, people passed out after around ten seconds. And each time someone had suited up to go and rescue them, it was too late. Their brain had been starved of oxygen, and they died.

It was the unfortunate truth in Tristan’s line of work that people died. Especially when constructing something as innovative and groundbreaking (or space-breaking, Tristan guessed) as the Ark. Humans last hope of survival.

Tristan walked along the Observation deck of the New Dawn, a ship that ferried supplies and materials to build the Ark. They were on approach with a cargo bay filled with plants, supplies, and workers.

Tristan looked at his home planet below them. He remembered when he was growing up. Everything was so green. There were parks, forests, fields of green grass. That all changed after the war. Looking down now, if he could see through the thick cloud that surrounded the planet, the ground was mostly brown. Very little could survive down there.

He, and many others of his generation, had an idea.

Earth needed to be left alone to heal.

Shortly before he was born, there was a global pandemic. The world’s governments ordered a worldwide lockdown. People had to stay home and avoid contact with others. No cars drove on the road. No planes flew. The streets were empty. But not for long. Without humans in the cities, wildlife returned, reclaiming what was theirs. Without humans in their cars or planes, pollution dropped and the ozone layer improved.

Once lockdown ended, however, it all went back to how it was before.

Tristan’s generation had realised that without humans, the Earth could recover to its former glory. So the humans needed to not just lock themselves away in their homes, but they needed to leave.

Movements were made. Plans created. Collaborations between all space agencies were forged. All who were left after the war pooled their resources to make the space station orbiting before Tristan’s very eyes.

The Ark grew closer and Tristan sighed deeply. It never got old, seeing it with his own eyes.

“A long way from the ISS” Tristan said to himself under his breath. His father had told him all about the first space station humanity had put into orbit. The International Space Station was a feat of engineering. Now, it would read as a micrometeorite on the Ark’s shields.

The Ark was enormous, housed over half a million people but designed for double that. Tristan could see thousands of windows, most of which were cabins for the multitude of families aboard. The others were gathering spaces, places to eat, socialise, drink, and a few larger windows for small observation rooms. But the largest, figuratively and literally, was the large dome in the middle of the ship. It took nearly a third of the length of the ship, and a quarter of the height, and within were trees, plants, fields, lakes, and wildlife. Birds, fish, deer, cats, insects, and more. Everything that dome needed for a stable ecosystem. The idea had been to include more animals, but it quickly proved impossible as the hunting got out of control. Instead, for most predators and large animals (including most sealife) had been cataloged, DNA taken and preserved and stored in cryogenic pods. Once they landed back on Earth, they would grow them in a lab and release them back into the wild.

That is the cargo that Tristan had with him today. The last shipment of DNA, all from sealife. When they docked, the Ark would leave Earth.

They wouldn’t stray too far.

Tristan walked to the door of the bridge and waited. The computer scanned his retinas and facial features, then a small screen to the right of the door flashed green with the words “Access Granted” and the soothing voice spoke, “Welcome Commander,”.

He walked in to see a dozen men and women sitting at stations, all doing final checks. A man at the front of the bridge turned and smiled.

“Ah, Commander! Was beginning to think you were staying behind,”

Tristan huffed in amusement.

“Hardly, Captain,” Tristan saluted, “Wouldn’t miss this for the world,”

“Course laid in Captain!” a woman to their right called. Tristan nodded.

The plan was for the Ark to leave Earth, but stay in the solar system, orbiting at a different point than Earth, but staying within the habitation zone of the star. This meant they could keep a close eye on Earth. However, they would be orbiting on a different plane than all the planets. If you thought of it like a compass, the Earth orbited the Sun from East to West. The Ark would orbit North to South. This meant little interactions with other planets' gravity wells.

“Well then, start the rotation manoeuvre, crewman,” the Captain ordered. He then walked to his station at the front of the bridge and pushed a few buttons.

“Attention all hands,” the Captain said as his voice rang out throughout the Ark, “We are all safely onboard, and will shortly begin our first manoeuvre on our journey,”

The Captain then looked up at the glass ceiling, and Tristan did the same. Above them was their planet.

“But before we get on our way, look out your windows to our beloved planet,” The Captain paused, “This is not goodbye. We take our leave to allow our planet to rest, recover, and heal from our ancestors' transgressions. Take a break, dear planet, and we shall see you again soon,”

Another pause.

“Everyone prepare for acceleration,” the Captain called out.

Tristan grabbed onto the nearest bolted down object. Whilst this ship did indeed have a new and improved gravity drive, it wasn’t perfect, but Earth didn’t have time for humans to perfect it. A small jolt could still be felt and could topple those who weren’t prepared when the engines fired up for the first time.

“Crewman?” the Captain looked towards the navigation station, “Take her out, slow and steady”

“Yes, Captain,” she responded.

And with the first small jolt as the engines fired up, they were on their way.

Tristan felt a rush of excitement. Decades of planning, and they were finally going. Humanity was leaving their home planet.

“Farewell,” he said without thinking.

“Farewell,” the Captain echoed Tristan.

All too soon, the crewman spoke again.

“Rotation manoeuvre complete, Captain,”

“Take us out,” the Captain said without taking his eyes from the planet.

“Yes, Captain,”

Another jolt, and the Ark fired its main engine, pushing the Ark out from Earth’s influence, and into its own orbit.

There was near silence on the bridge, spare a few crewmen checking in with each other to discuss diagnostics and the ship's status.

Before long, the Earth had disappeared from the bridge’s view, and the Captain turned away from the windows.

“Report,” he called.

“Ship shows green across the board, Captain,” a young man called. The Captain nodded.

“Engines temperature nominal, sir,”

“Gravity drive at 100%, sir,”

“Pasture reports all clear, sir,”

“Good,” Tristan said. There were concerns that the acceleration could cause harm to the animals and plants in the dome.

“Then we are on our way,” the Captain nodded, “Navigation? How long will it take to reach our orbit?”

“Once we reach our target speed of 0.1C, it will take four and a half days, sir,”

“How long will it take to reach 0.1C?” the Captain asked.

“With the engine upgrade it will take four hours, sir”

“Excellent,” the Captain turned to Tristan, “You have the bridge, Commander,”

Tristan saluted again.


The Captain nodded and took his leave. Tristan took his place at the front of the bridge, looking out the window and the inky blackness of space.

Tristan woke early on the fourth day of their travels. He skipped his usual breakfast in the mess hall and went immediately to the bridge.

“Report,” he ordered as soon as he entered.

“We are on schedule, sir,” the navigation officer.


“We started our deceleration two hours ago, Commander,”

“Ship status?”

Tristan received a flurry of greens across the board from all stations.

“What I like to hear, people,” Tristan said, smiling. He walked to the front of the bridge and looked out the window. In orbit above Earth, the light being reflected up made it impossible to see anything else. The sky was empty. But now? Far from the Earth, the light from other stars could be seen. It was a blanket of jewels as far as Tristan could see.

“Uh… Commander?” came a call. Tristan turned from the window and saw it came from a crewman across the bridge at the station that kept an eye on the ship’s sensors. As Tristan walked over, he had no doubt it would be something to do with another solar flare. They had a couple of warnings throughout this journey but they always missed. While they did pose a threat, it was minimal if they saw it coming. The Pasture was set with shutters that would block all radiation getting through. Artificial lights would then activate to keep the animals calm.

“Solar flare, crewman?” Tristan asked, but as he approached he saw the level of confusion on the crewmans face. Something was wrong.

“No, commander. There’s… something out there,”

At this, all heads on the bridge turned.

“Show me,” Tristan ordered. The crewman’s fingers flew across the panel and on the screen before him came an image showing the solar system as it currently was, their position and their destination. They were approaching their desired orbit, and would soon pass right over the top of the Sun. But on the screen, directly over the Sun, was an icon.

“Report,” Tristan ordered.

“The sensors have picked up an object above our Sun, Commander. It has no relative speed to the Sun, it’s just… hanging there,”

“Wait, it’s not moving? It’s not orbiting?”

“No, Commander,”

“That’s not possible,”

“Not without a great deal of energy, Commander,”

“And if it was giving out that much energy, we would have been able to see it from Earth,”

“Correct, Commander,”

“Theories?” He looked to the crewman, whose mouth was opening and closing, but no sound was coming out. Eventually, he sighed.

“None, Commander,”

“How long till we will be able to see it?”

“Should be in visual range in an hour, Commander,”

Tristan nodded. Something was wrong here. He felt it in his gut.

“Get the Captain. Now,”

“An object?”

“Yes, Captain. It appears to be hovering above the Sun without orbiting it. It’s just sitting there. We are a few minutes from getting a visual,”

The Captain walked away, and Tristan followed. The Captain approached the main window, and data suddenly appeared upon it. Tristan smiled. It was his idea to put a smart display on the main window of the bridge.

“Coming up now, Captain,”

“Put it up,” he ordered.

A small square appeared on the screen. Tristan moved forwards. The square was highlighting the object’s position. It was indeed right above the Sun.

“Speed?” the Captain asked, “Confirm,”

“Zero relative to the Sun, Captain. It’s stationary,”

“Heat? Sound? Any radiation at all?”

“None, Captain,”

“It’s just… there,” Tristan said, “How?”

“Sir?” came navigation, “if we continue our course, we will collide with the object once we pass over the Sun,”

Both Tristan and the Captain turned to look the navigation station.

"That thing is on our exact trajectory?" Tristan asked.

"Correct, Commander. 1.1AU from the Sun,"

Tristan and the Captain exchanged looks. If there was anyone on board this object, they were in their habitable zone of their Sun. This meant Earth could potentially be of great interest. Is that why they were here? For Earth? Or, more worryingly still, for them?

“Time till impact?” the Captain asked.

“A month,”

“Zoom in,” Tristan ordered.

The square on the window grew to fill the window. Tristan’s breath caught.

It looked like a space station, but like none he had ever seen. It was angular, with spires sprouting from the top descending in the Sun’s direction. Tristan couldn’t help but compare it to the old Earth crane game you would find in arcades that were impossible to win but with five spires instead of three. The top, however, was undoubtedly where whoever it was who built this resided. It also had five sides that lined up with the spires beneath. A light was coming from the top, a small beam. The same as the bottom. It was rotating.

“What in God’s name?” the Captain uttered. Tristan sighed.

“We have a month to find out. I’ll ready my ship,”


About the Creator

Christopher Kelly

Engineer by day. Writer of mages, dragons, werewolves, vampires, and all things magical by night.

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