For most of my picture prompts, I’ll take a picture that speaks to me and write the story I see leaping from the pixels. But every so often, I have a story whirling about my mind, and I’ll discover an image that pairs with it. With this image, the story that in my mind is a bridge for two different projects, Colonization and Discovery, an upcoming collection of Flash Fiction that will be published on Wattpad. Both series center on the same strange planet, but they take place after a century of inaction from their homeworld.
I laid the initial threads for Discovery, while I worked on Colonization, but I knew I needed something to bridge the time between the narratives. While those initial scribbles mentioned the inhabitants of the homeworld grew frightened and insular when they lost contact with their ship, I knew something would have to motivate an entire planet to investigate that loss. So while Colonization drew to a close, I let a story line percolate in my mind, and Return unfurled. Pull up a chair and get comfortable so you can delve into the bridge between these two collections.
The gathered council members sat in the hall, whispering amongst themselves as they waited for the session to begin. As the whispers grew, one voice sliced through the din, reaching everyone’s ears. “There’s no scheduled vote today. Why are we here?”
“I called everyone here to discuss the failed attempt to colonize Morven.” The statement silenced the council as the lights dimmed, and millions of bluish-white spheres emerged from the central dais. When the orbs coalesced into an imposing figure, it inclined its head, pressing its hands together. “Long ago, our ancestors sent an expedition to our sister planet, in a hope to form a colony.”
A councilor stood, clearing her throat. “Chancellor, while it’s unfortunate that some of our ancestors were lost in that foolhardy attempt to expand, we should leave well enough alone and ignore Morven.”
The holographic Chancellor bowed toward the councilor, “That’s been this administration’s idea for far too long.”
“We don’t want to risk a second expedition to that cursed world!” Another councilman cried out as he slapped his thighs.
“Distracting our thoughts with an attempt to re-colonize our sister planet is a mistake,” a distinct voice declared. As a hush descended into the council chambers, a woman rose and leaned upon the railing. The silence lingered for an instant before clasping her hands to her chest. “There are too many issues here that require our entire attention.”
The Chancellor cleared his throat as his eyes scanned every councilor in the auditorium. When his attention latched upon the standing woman, he widened his stance. “We have established programs to address each of those concerns, Jasmine.” The giant hologram smiled wryly as he lifted an admonishing finger. “And you’re aware of the positive reaction from those initiatives.” The Chancellor waved her worries away and addressed the room. “It is long since time that we discovered what befell our kin. We can no longer bury our heads in the sands of our world. We must explore the planet whose orbit we share.”
Another councilor stood and clapped methodically. The mocking echoes silenced the murmurs as he offered the Chancellor a false grin. He waggled a finger at the hologram as he descended toward the edge of the dais. “However, you’re not being entirely honest with us.”
As the man circled the platform, his eyes flitted between the other councilors and the Chancellor. After circling the platform, the councilman turned toward his colleagues. He rocked, gripping his hands behind his back, “Syrupy words cannot sway this institution from our responsibilities. Dorian’s statement might entice us into action, but crumbles upon closer scrutiny.”
“Patton, that’s enough of your nonsense,” the Chancellor stated as his gaze narrowed.
Patton whirled and marched towards the Chancellor with his arms raised, “I meant no disrespect, Chancellor.” The man’s smile sharpened as he spun to address the rest of the council, “Unfortunately, the programs you alluded to, while a step in the right direction are all woefully under funded. And more to the point, they’re more relevant to our population.” Patton resumed his march around the Chancellor while the gathered council member started murmuring. The next time the councilor stopped, he lifted a finger. “While I would agree that expanding our civilization to another planet would stimulate our economy. Any financial boost would be short-lived and ultimately cause a financial depression amongst this population once enough people leave.”
The hologram’s lips curled up into a smile as he clapped at Patton’s speech. “As always, Patton, you’re losing sight of the bigger picture. I have never demanded nor even requested that we make another attempt to colonize that strange planet.”
The councilman spun toward Dorian and raised a trembling finger. “Since when did you abandon that idea?”
“My position on this topic hasn’t wavered.” Dorian offered Patton a warm grin and a wink as his hands latched together behind his back. “To repeat myself, we’re here today to discuss our failed attempt at colonizing Morven. But that doesn’t mean I’m intending to colonize it again.”
“What’s your intention?”
Dorian pulled his hands out and rubbed them together. “I intend to send a battalion to establish communication with whoever might still be alive. Or if they discover an uninhabited planet, they’ll determine what happened to our lost expedition.”
A chorus of agreement erupted from every mouth.
Patton grimaced as his fingernails dug into his palms. With a huff, the councilman brushed his clothing. “How would you like to balance this expedition of yours and the programs needed to keep our world running smoothly?”
Dorian shook his head and spread his arms out wide. “I don’t disagree that the priority of this administration is the well-being of our citizens. But diverting less than ten percent of our budget will enable us to recover our history.”
“You cannot rob that much of our budget to fund this meaningless expedition.”
“Patton, this excursion isn’t pointless.” The hologram kneeled, bringing its face closer to the councilor. “That failed expedition occurred over a century ago, anyone on it is long since dead. However, we owe it to them and possibly their descendants to discover the truth.” Dorian rose and spoke to the other council members. “It’s time we put this resolution to a vote! Do we tighten our belts for the next five years and give those pioneers their proper place in history? Or are we going to leave them to the chasm they’ve found themselves?”
Everyone present lifted their pad and voted, and with each ballot, the back wall altered. When Patton completed his selection, he glanced at the tallies and groaned. He slipped his tablet into his jacket and sauntered next to the hologram and adjusted his clothing. “You’ve captured enough of the council to launch this ridiculous endeavor. But just because you have won this vote, doesn’t mean you’ll continue winning their hearts.”
Dorian shook his head, ignoring the petulant councilor. “So, it shall be done. We will uncover the truth of our missing brethren.”