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Project Aphrodite

by Jessica Lampasi 2 months ago in space · updated 2 months ago
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The future of humanity has been thrust upon the shoulders of eight former inmates. Will they be able to work together and secure the survival of the human race?

Chapter 1

Aria

Nobody can hear a scream in the vacuum of space, or so they say.

I try to quell my rising panic. There is a coiling in the pit of my stomach as I look out of the small, round window to the fathomless open pit of space. The blackness is all consuming, suffocating; even with the scattering of stars, strewn across the darkness like white paint thrown at a black canvas.

I blink several times to refocus my thoughts. The stars appear to blink back at me.

There is a part of me that wouldn't be surprised if they just told us that to scare us in to complacency. To be fair, none of our group of eight hopeless souls had the best track record when it came to cooperating with figures of authority.

That's what they get for turning to the prison system to acquire "volunteers" for their experiment. Because that's what this shit show is, no matter how much they pretend otherwise.

That's right. All eight of us on this godforsaken scrap of metal currently floating in deep space were incarcerated before the Resettlement Administration pulled us out of our respective facilities for this mission.

The Expansion Administration discovered a new planet a few years go, in the year of our Lord 2072. Since Earth has been rapidly declining the past few decades due to global warming and an astronomical amount of waste, the government designated two new focus groups for finding a way to preserve the human race.

The Expansion Administration was the first. They are, for lack of a simpler explanation, a group of astronauts that explore the outer reaches of space to find new planets that might potentially be inhabitable. When the new planet, Aphrodite, was discovered, they also formed the Resettlement Administration.

(Most of the previous planets were named after the Roman gods, so I guess the government wanted to recognize a Greek god this time? It makes sense to name a beautiful, lush planet after the Goddess of love and desire I suppose.)

The Resettlement Administration is responsible for, as it's incredibly creative name suggests, providing the resources (and people) necessary for settling on the newly discovered Aphrodite. And this is where we come in.

Fifteen years ago, humans tried to colonize Mars. It had been talked about for a while, and it was decided that we finally had all the resources we needed. The top scientists and astronauts from all over the world built a makeshift colony, and stayed to try and establish a life there.

Long story short, it wasn't successful. They all died, every single one of them. The brightest and bravest souls our planet had to offer, gone. The government did not want to make that mistake again. So, when the RA was tasked with finding volunteers to try colonizing Aphrodite, they turned to a population that was more... expendable.

The prisoners. The damned. The scum of the earth.

This is what people call us. In reality, The RA had some sense and only chose inmates that had the best track record. Only the most upstanding incarcerated citizens were chosen for this mission. Our crimes or length of our sentence didn't matter, only how we upheld ourselves during our stint behind bars.

The RA reached out to prisons all across the country to screen for potential volunteers. They sorted through applications, chose eight of us, and shipped us off to the capital for a month of expedited and very intense training. Then, with very little pomp and circumstance, we were sent on our way.

Our team consists of the following members:

Maddox: 28. From Arizona. Was selling drugs to college kids.

Matilda: 36. From Nevada. Kidnapped her 3 year old daughter when she lost custody to her cop boyfriend after being found in their house cross-faded and tripping balls.

Benjamin: 46. From California. Bank robbery gone wrong.

Effie (still no idea what her real name actually is): 23. From Florida. Found high on the streets and arrested for prostitution.

Axl: 35. From California. Apparently was in cahoots with Benjamin on the bank robbery. Somehow they managed to get sent on this mission together. This worries me a little bit.

Brenna: 25. From Washington. Tried hacking into a government database to steal top secret information. The decision to send her on this mission also seems a little risky to me.

Jason (insists on going by Jase): 32. From Texas. Attempted manslaughter for nearly killing a man in a bar fight. He still won't tell us why he got into the fight in the first place.

Then, there's me.

My name is Aria. I'm 28 years old. I'm from New York, and as for how I ended up here, well... I'm not ready to talk about that. Unlike the others, I have yet to explain the series of events that ended with me locked behind bars and subsequently on this spaceship. I intend to keep it that way as long as possible.

I noticed the ratio of men to women right of the bat. Four men, four women. It makes sense; if we are going to be "settling" on this new planet, they would do everything they could to set us up for a successful re-population.

I remove myself from my post by the window and walk to the common space. It's time for dinner, and everyone is gathered around the small table. Everyone has stayed pretty subdued, we are all trying to be on our best behavior. Who knows how long we will have to be isolated with these same seven people. I think everyone is on the same page; we are trying to keep any potential drama to a minimum.

Most of the other members honestly seem like people I could easily get along with. I really haven't found that my personality clashes with anyone in particular.

Except maybe Jase. He is quiet, broody, and frightfully intimidating. I try and give him a wide berth. I think most of the members do.

I look at the faces of the four men. None of them are particularly attractive to me, but I suppose after so many years on a foreign planet with only the same faces to look at, my opinion may change. I roll my eyes and banish the thought. Opening the cabinet, I grab a freeze-dried meal. I'm really not in the mood for socializing at the moment so I head to my bunk to eat in peace.

I can feel everyone's eyes on me as I leave the room. Frankly, I don't really care.

We were all given a binder by the RA to orient us for our "mission." So far we have been in space for tw0 weeks, and I have read this binder in it's entirety at least once a day. I plop down on my bunk and pick up the binder again. I flick through the pictures as I eat my meal, trying to distract myself from the fact that it tastes like cardboard.

The first few pages contain useful information. What to expect on this mission, how to operate the equipment around the settlement, etc. The next couple pages give details about the settlement, supplemented with pictures, maps and diagrams. It looks like most of the compounds they created for the classic sci-fi movies: a few large white domes connected by a tunnel system. Two of the domes appear to have large glass ceilings and windows so we can observe the sky and the surroundings from the comfort of an oxygen-rich environment.

The majority of the binder is reserved for pictures and descriptions of our new planet. Page upon page of pictures taken from a space rover of a beautiful, green landscape. Fertile valleys, waterfalls, plants that you would never be able to conjure in your wildest imagination. It looks like the landscape from a fantasy movie.

Aphrodite.

Call me a cynic, but it's a little suspicious.

The fact that most of the binder is devoted to basically try convincing us how wonderful this planet is, and only about 25% actually contains useful information about settling on this new planet... I'm almost worried it's just propaganda bullshit.

I hope I'm wrong.

I snap the binder shut and toss it under my bed. I pick up my plate and head out to the common area. I've only been gone for about 20 minutes, but the room is now deserted. Plates are still scattered along the table with half-eaten food.

I glance out into the hall. It's abandoned. I'm starting to grow suspicious.

Brenna suddenly comes bursting into the room from one of the adjoining halls, out of breath and frazzled.

"Aria, we're approaching the planet. Umm... You need to come see this."

I feel a rush of adrenaline. It's finally happening. We are finally about to touch down on our new planet. The excitement is building.

Then I register the look on her face... Panic? Anger?

My stomach drops.

I run with her to the large glass panel that everyone is gathered around. I squeeze through the bodies to get my first look at Aphrodite.

We are close enough that I can see the compound. It looks just like the pictures, a series of domes and tunnels sprawling out below us.

Surrounding the compound is miles and miles of... Desert. It's definitely green, but there are no lush, fertile valleys. No otherwordly plants or waterfalls or vibrantly colored creatures. Just dunes of green sand as far as the eye can see.

I hear Jase mutter. "Those sons of bitches."

I was right about the propaganda bullshit. They lied through their teeth to lure us into this mission.

Aphrodite is a barren wasteland. They've sent us to our deaths.

space

About the author

Jessica Lampasi

Hi everyone! My two passions are reading and writing. Writing has always been an activity I enjoy, but it was a hobby placed on the back burner in my busy life. Now I’m ready to devote some quality time to my writing and I’m so excited!

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  • Jon H. Davis2 months ago

    It definitely held my interest and hope you will continue your story. Maybe it will have something other than the expected doom and gloom.

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