A Solar System Hosting Human Life, Light Years from Earth
Jonathan Powers blasted out of Elephant’s Trunk. ‘I nailed it, Filia! Recording’s in the bag.’ He had captured the sound of his solar system’s most spectacular wormhole.
Filia Wrens punched the air from the safety of an orbiting shuttle. ‘Yessss!’ she cried, flooding his helmet visor with shooting stars.
Jonathan twisted his single-seat levitator in doughnut circles and scribble-sloppy lines, carving his JP initials into the golden dust rings of a nearby planet. ‘I am, and always will be, a sound hunter,’ he roared. There was no argument from the quiet, pondering cosmos.
‘Jonathan, hurry, the worm will breathe you back in,’ yelled Filia. Elephant’s Trunk was a tidal wormhole. Tidals sucked you in and spat you out. The sound hunters joked that they were allergic to space-borne particles. They sneezed.
Elephant’s Trunk was plagued by the sun-kissed dust of the Tilmenian corona, an arc of seven splendid planets, each with its own dazzling rings. The Trunk was the tentacle end of a vast dark hollow that lay gasping at the centre of the crown.
Jonathan had positioned himself near the tip of the Trunk before the Elephant had inhaled. He’d been sucked inside and catapulted out with the amber-hail exactly as planned, but not everyone emerged in one piece.
Jonathan accelerated and docked his levitator in the shuttle bay. He removed his dust-encrusted space suit and sprinted to the observation deck where Filia was waiting.
Jonathan grinned from ear to ear as he ran, knowing he was moments away from being showered with praise like a big shot who’s brought home the galactic bacon.
‘Yuk, you stink of Elephant odour,’ blurted Filia, pinching her nostrils after embracing him. Jonathan raised his sweaty hands in mock surrender. ‘That’s worse, you lunatic,’ laughed Filia, waving conditioned shuttle-air into his face.
‘More please!’ he howled with delight as the public space bus began its return journey to their home planet, Centurian, the only habitable planet in their solar system and as far as the people of Centurian were aware the only planet capable of hosting human life, anywhere.
Jonathan and Filia had just turned sixteen and been allowed to spend weekend nights at the nexus of sound hunting, Rockmore Space Junction.
Rockmore was the busiest space hub on Centurian. It was situated at the heart of the planet’s capital city, Geocentrian, and it served a constant stream of mining freighters travelling to and from thousands of desolate moons as well as public shuttles visiting places of natural fascination such as Elephant’s Trunk.
Filia had recently joined Jonathan’s school, Tempo Chorium. They’d met briefly a long while ago in nursery classes, then spotted each other several years later going in and out of a local piano teacher’s house, but hadn’t crossed paths since.
The connection had helped break the ice and Filia had quickly come to share Jonathan’s passion for space rock, a genre of magic-music in which sounds were recorded in the wild using spells of capture, then brought back and distributed in music halls for bands to sample and develop with spells of shaping.
Magic-music aficionados would cram the platforms of Rockmore Space Junction whenever the sound hunters arrived, itching to get their hands on the latest recordings.
Filia and Jonathan had become part of the scene, carefully inspecting shuttle origins and flight paths to predict which new samples would best suit their taste or pique their interest.
The Tilmenian run, in and out of Elephant’s Trunk, was the sound hunter’s rite of passage. It was an unwritten rule that until you conquered the tidal ride, you could not be called a sound hunter. This baptism in dust embodied the basics of sound hunting: timing, the opportunity to capture incredible sound and a moment or two of danger.
Filia had thought Jonathan was mad to attempt the Tilmenian run with so little experience of sound capture and next to no training in bust-outs, the label given to these pressurised tidal rides. But Jonathan had insisted, confident as ever in his flying skills.
The boy racer had succeeded and was almost ready to assume the sound hunter accolade he coveted so dearly. There was one more box to tick: the recording had to be stellar. An original blend of magnificence.
Jonathan and Filia leapt off the shuttle as it pulled into Rockmore, locked the levitator they’d hired back into its slot and opened the sound container. The recording was perfect.
The foghorn of Elephant’s Trunk blew once at the start and then at the end like a ship that owns the ocean. In between was the sneeze, the crash-landing sound of a seashore wave as it smashes the sand and rushes to a gentle conclusion.
Jonathan and Filia stared at each other in triumph as they replayed the recording again and again. ‘Oh my gosh, that’s going in our next track,’ cried Filia, grabbing and shaking Jonathan’s arm with joy.
They took the uptown dronibus home. Jonathan walked Filia to her door. ‘Hey, thanks for watching me,’ he said.
‘Oh, not at all, you really did nail it,’ smiled Filia. ‘See you Monday morning, seven-thirty dronibus; none of your usual time-lapsing, Mr Sound Hunter.’
‘I’ll be right on time,’ grinned Jonathan, turning to walk away. Filia reached out but he was already halfway down the path. He looked back as he opened the gate and paused, noticing she was about to say something.
‘I, er,’ hesitated Filia, ‘I just wanted to say, thanks for being such a good friend since I joined school, and make sure you wash that filth off.’
‘I will,’ beamed Jonathan, saluting her before bounding up the road.