Granity, Andromeda Galaxy
“Abeamoris, are you really sure this is a good idea?” Abe’s mother, Kaysafara asked.
“Of course,” replied Abe with a slight tone of tiredness having had this conversation several times. “I wouldn’t be doing this if I thought it was stupid.”
Abe was about to embark on a Coming of Age trip. He had been accepted into this program for young Granitarians to further their knowledge of the universe. The Granitarians were one of the most evolved human races in the galaxy. They had achieved this by being masters of learning from other races, then applying and improving that knowledge.
“But earthlings are such primitive humans. What do you think we could possibly learn from them?” Kaysafara asked Abe, who was lounging on the couch.
“To find out what we don’t know that may be worth knowing,” replied Abe.
She sighed. Debating with Abe was like trying to squash a fly. You line it up, strike, but it always manages to evade you.
“You know, there are closer solar systems with some very interesting human races that you could visit and that would mean you are back sooner to take up your job,” Kaysafara said.
Abe had trained as an energy conservation engineer and these skills were in demand. Energy conversion was one triumph of the Granitarians. Their ability to efficiently harvest solar energy was one of the key factors to the continued evolution of their race.
Granity orbited two suns which supplied all their energy requirements to run businesses, transportation, homes, and general infrastructure.
They were constantly looking for ways to improve energy conversion and storage efficiency. Recently, this had become a critical imperative as the closest of their suns, Briteazz, had started to die, so the light on the planet was losing intensity.
Briteazz provided light for almost forty percent of their energy requirements. Losing this sun had severe implications for them as they had engineered their world based on the amount of light. Unless they could find some effective efficiency and storage measures, their activities would have to decline markedly to reduce demand and consider the unpalatable concept of depopulation.
“But I don’t see the need to rush to get back. This trip will account for less than one percent of my life, so there’s little need to try and shorten that further,” Abe said.
Kaysafara sighed inwardly as Abe yet again unpicked her reasoning. She could influence staff, senior colleagues, and politicians in her role as the Head of Energy Storage at the Granity National Energy Center, but she had little ability to change Abe’s mind once it was made up.
“Well, it’s time we left for the Launch Zone. We can’t be late for that,” said Kaysafara with an uncharacteristic tinge of sadness. Despite their general lack of emotion, Granitarians still had a strong attachment to those they had created.
They walked over to the edge of their living room and sat down in what appeared to be a large comfortable window seat that overlooked the city. “Pod, take us to the Launch Zone,” commanded Kaysafara. Two transparent shields slid up from the floor and rolled over their heads, one enclosing them in the pod and the other sealing off the house. The pod came alive as the propulsion unit began its gentle hum. It then detached itself from the building and arced through the sky to the Launch Zone building.
Abe surveyed the city as they flew toward their destination. He wondered if he would miss it but concluded it unlikely, as the prospect of exploring another planet was so appealing. He had never been anywhere off Granity without Kaysafara so was looking forward to being in total control of his agenda for the first time.
They landed in the Launch Zone building and headed to the Intergalactic Departure station. Abe loved this area because he saw it as his door to adventure. It was where you could escape the familiarity and orderliness of Granity and step through into a myriad of interesting places and experiences.
They arrived at a departure counter to complete his final formalities before leaving. This was a process that could have been automated, but there was a minor ceremonial aspect to the Coming of Age trip to mark its significance.
The Head of Coming of Age Journeys, Homlocka, a member of the Planetary Intelligence Gathering group, greeted them. “Welcome to your Coming of Age trip, Abeamoris. I see you’ve chosen Earth. That is an interesting choice.”
It was obvious from his tone that Homlocka held similar views to Kaysafara on Abe’s decision to visit Earth. Abe had chosen Earth because it was not a reasonable choice. He was curious by nature and sought less trodden paths.
Abe responded to Homlocka’s unspoken question, “As I said to my mother, we don’t know what we don’t know.”
Homlocka shared a knowing glance with Kaysafara. “That is true. I look forward to you bringing back knowledge that we have not yet uncovered,” he replied in a manner which didn’t quite conceal he considered this unlikely.
“Come this way. Your hyperpod is over here,” said Homlocka as he led them to a departure bay in the vast building which was humming with activity.
Pods of all sizes were coming and going. Their precision guidance systems allowed very efficient use of space. There was an elegance in these coordinated patterns of movement. Abe could watch this aerial ballet for hours.
“You are lucky, Abeamoris, your hyperpod has our latest upgrades.” Obsolescence on Granity was uncommon. To preserve their planet’s resources, they had laws against creating anything that could not be upgraded or repurposed.
They stopped at a departure bay where the sleek capsule was parked. It was smaller than their commuter pod with room for only two people, and its smooth lines hinted at the hypersonic speed it could reach. “How is it different from the others?” asked Abe.
“There are two major improvements. It has the latest propulsion system that is twelve percent more efficient than the previous version while also having eight percent more power. This allows you to get to Earth and back without having to take the larger range-extender version. And it also has a new coating that we have recently developed, which is really quite special. This coating can mirror its surroundings, making it virtually undetectable,” replied Homlocka proudly.
Homlocka was a gearhead. Overseeing the Coming of Age journeys for him was an excuse to be surrounded by flying machines. He had always wanted to be a hyperpod designer but had failed the aptitude tests rather spectacularly, so this role got him closest to the action while keeping his self-esteem intact.
“This is an important development for us, as having local species discover hyperpods usually ends up in a rescue mission and often a lost pod. You will see the controls are very similar to your commuter pod, but the navigation and communications systems are obviously in a different league. They have some exceptionally clever features,” explained Homlocka.
“Yes, I learnt about them in the simulator training,” cut in Abe, sensing Homlocka was just getting warmed up.
Realizing Abe was not a sympathetic audience for one of his passionate dissertations on hyperpod features, Homlocka opened the hood. “I guess there’s no point in delaying your trip. Best we get you on your way.”
Abe turned to Kaysafara. “We’ll be seeing ya.”
Momentarily lost for words, she enveloped him in a big hug. “Stay in touch, please,” she said, knowing full well that contact from Abe would be sporadic.
“I’ll do my best, but you know I’m a bit rubbish at that so don’t worry if I’m quiet. I’ll just be having too much fun,” replied Abe, trying to pre-empt her worry.
Abe climbed into his streamlined, gleaming hyperpod. It had a fitting, recumbent seat designed to sleep in. The chair was connected to the energy source that powered all the systems in the hyperpod, including Abe.
Granitarians had evolved to derive all their energy from light, so needed no food, water or oxygen. They had little ability to store energy, so for extended periods of darkness, their tactic was to sleep to lessen their energy draw. The chair had illumination to keep the passenger alive during lengthy flights.
Abe gave a last wave to Kaysafara and Homlocka, then said, “Hyperpod, let’s go to Earth.” The hood swung closed, the propulsion system came alive with a gentle vibration, and it rose forward, threading its way through the busy airspace. Once it was clear of the building, the thrust built up, and the hyperpod was slung into space at intergalactic speed.
Abe settled in, knowing that he should sleep and preserve energy, but for now, he was too excited. The hyperpod weaved its path through the stars and planets at a hypersonic pace. Watching pinpricks of light in the distance and guessing which ones would grow to be the largest when he flashed by, was pleasantly satisfying.
Abe marveled at the wonders of space travel. It never ceased to amaze him how they had designed a craft that could carry them safely across galaxies at incredible speeds, then accurately find their destination among the millions of stars and planets.
With those thoughts, Abe drifted off into a contented slumber.