Life Raft: Earth

This science fiction novella was written by Barbara Custer.Excerpt: Chibale heaved a long, skeletal sigh sounding like wind blowing through leaves. “We’re not exactly strangers. Many centuries before the wars broke out, my people set up colonies in Egypt. They helped build the pyramids.”

I rubbed my hands through sweat-drenched hair. My bangs stuck to my forehead like seaweed. While visiting an Egyptian museum years ago, I’d seen statues of emperors dressed in clothes like Chibale’s. “The Egyptians buried their dead in those pyramids.”

“I know,” Chibale said. “This history between our people makes my news especially painful.”

I looked at Chibale, who continued holding his translator in the folds of his robe. “What kind of news?” I asked in a low voice.

“My home is the planet Tritton, which borders the galaxy 13 Cygni and your Milky Way. The star Re is our sun. A star nine million parsecs west of Re exploded. Your scientists would call this a supernova, but that won’t make it any less dangerous. It gives off heat, radiation, and gas, and it’s headed toward Earth.”

Alarms went off in my head, chilling the skin around my neck to gooseflesh. “That’s not possible. We’re talking about something hundreds – maybe thousands of light years away.”

“It doesn’t matter. When a star explodes, it burns with a hundred million times more intensity than your sun. The conflagration spread to three other stars. It will take time, but the intense heat will incinerate your homes and trees.”

“Are you sure?” I fought to keep the panic out of my voice. “Of course, you are. You’ve got equipment ages ahead of ours. My father may know people in Congress, but we don’t have any means to divert exploding stars.”

“Your officers won’t have to divert anything. We have equipment with which to transport planets. We manufacture on an interstellar basis and could move your Earth to a safe orbit in 13 Cygni.”

At his statement, all the strength went out of my midsection. It was like my spine had turned to water. I slumped against the titanium wall of Chibale’s shuttle and whispered a prayer. Then Brutus barked again. He then howled at the top of his lungs.

“Be quiet, Brutus,” I pleaded, but my voice went flat. Dizziness washed through me. I braced myself against the wall. “I’m okay.”

Brutus kept on howling. He smelled danger and there was no fooling a dog’s senses.

I turned toward Chibale again, raising my voice above Brutus’ cries. “Are you saying that you can move planets the way one of our trucks might move furniture?”

“Yes, but the process isn’t that simple. The human race should survive, but most of your plants and wildlife will perish.”

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