Meridia: Chapter One

September 23, 2015

I thought I’d give you a sneak peek of the book I am writing at the moment. I’d love it if you could leave a comment and let me know if you’d like to read more. It’s a first attempt, not exactly finished at all and something I will eventually submit to the BSFA writing orbit once it’s had several edits no doubt!

Meridia  by John  Richardson

Chapter One

Image of Meridia SunMeridia is a tidally-locked world. It has an air of constant night and freezing temperatures on one hemisphere while the other enjoys a searing heat. Less than thirty colonists have settled along the border between the night and the day, the twilight zone where the temperature is more within human survivable ranges although the light is dimmer, the wind is constant and the rain is muddy. As cold air from the dark and cold regions rushes to take the place of the rapidly rising hot air, rains, sometimes heavy containing red and brown dust are a constant feature leaving streaks of mud on the once pristine colony buildings.

The twin suns give a peculiar shade to the light; you could almost describe it as harsh like an over exposed photograph. In the daytime zone you need to protect your eyes and have a decent protective regime for your skin against ultra violet exposure otherwise you end up toasted. The colonists use body suits to do any external work. These suits are quite slim fitting and are equipped with micro-heating and cooling elements woven into the material fully shielded against many forms of radiation including the UV variety.

The night zone is something else entirely. Scientists have recorded temperatures much lower than that in the polar regions of Earth. The darkness is almost absolute save for the starlight and reflected light from other nearby bodies. Even though the atmosphere is fairly rarefied, what there is of it has winds whirling around the planet driving temperature variances in a fairly predictable pattern. The predictability of the weather was what drew the colonists to settle, the fauna and flora were what gave the early surveyors some pause.

When the original twenty settled life was harsh and unforgiving. The weather conditions alone claimed five lives through accidental exposure and the toxins from some of the plant life claimed another three. That was when the hatching process began in earnest as the population was now starting to dwindle rapidly. The view was that if they didn’t have the babies now there wouldn’t be enough adults around to look after them as they grew up.

So the main priorities over the initially provided basic shelter, basic foodstuffs and basic recyclable water from stores and limited capture became a nursery and a medical centre. Later came extended irrigation and water filtration that produced a good surplus of potable water, farms with Earth vegetation, then a fungal farm with mycelium processors and later a fish farm for proteins and at last the colonists had a stable base from which to work and things progressed.

Efforts were concentrated toward survival and getting along. There were few, then many colonists that started to argue. Being forced to live close to one another for the majority of the waking hours sparked heated debates with some ending in violence. It was then that the original plan was altered allowing the colonists to allow habitation pods to be constructed away from each other, forming a ring of habitat pods around the colony each separate from the others and as close to an individual house as one could get while sharing the resources they so desperately needed. Colony life wasn’t hard or rough, it just required effort and common sense, patience and understanding.

The planet breathed as it whirled around the main star. It’s dark side taunting the other twin momentarily as shielded itself from view. The few humans on the planet carried on with their lives not knowing that soon, effort and common sense would be challenged while patience and understanding would be useless.

Emma peered through the survey rover’s wind shield and overlooked the ridge. She could see that there was a way to continue on toward the next survey area however she’d had enough for the night. Scouting new farming lands in person was way too dull but necessary. Born on Meridia and dreaming of an Earth she’d never seen, Emma was one of the many cryo-born colonists hatched here after the colony ship Pegasus landed here over twenty years ago.

The computer announced the rover was going into lock-down mode for the night as Emma prepared the pillows on her bunk. The external lights dimmed to conserve energy and the lighting within softened to provide a more casual and comfortable feel. The survey rover was fitted with driver and co-pilot seats in a forward cabin with a flexible hatchway leading into a larger combined laboratory and living area separated only by a thin but strong, flexible translucent screen.

As Emma passed through the lab she noticed a few of the monitors had managed to turn themselves off. “Dammit,” she cursed. She gave one of the monitors a friendly wallop and they started up again. Peering into one of them she noticed the weather was deteriorating, dark streaks filled the view screen as the muddy rain whipped around the rover. With the near silence of the rover in lock-down she could faintly hear the howling wind and the lashing of mud scraping against the shell. Rough night, I’d best turn in, she mused. Picking up her reader, she thumbed to the last page she’d read in her novel and settled down.

She awoke with a start. What was that? She listened. Her ears strained to catch anything other than the mournful wail of the wind. Nothing. There’s nothing. She thought back to her time in nursery and the stories the carers and other colonists spoke of. The bogeyman. The sandman. The shadowmen. All of these things that walked in the night and somehow they seemed more real on Meridia. She shuddered and decided to get a drink.

As she poured it the rover lurched and rolled over onto its side, flashes of light made her head spin, the world lost focus, lost reality, a deafening screech of scraping metal and grinding rock filled the air, broken and loose pieces inside the rover tumbled around her as she fought to retain her equilibrium within the chaos. The drink spewed, arcing its way through the air, looking almost pretty as alarm indicators refracted through it became rainbows as it continued its sad decent toward the ground and ultimately over Emma’s body, sprawled on the wall of the living area of the crippled rover.

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