Hello, I Am From Earth
by Maxim Salnikov
When I lost my arms, I was given a choice: become a beggar, or a starfighter pilot. Terra Corps needed people with nothing to lose, people who were willing to get cybertoys screwed into their bodies so that their genius R&D eggheads could turn them into statistics.
They gave me a pair of metal arms with claws at their tips, gave me a guitar, and told me to learn how to play.
It took me a month to get my metal fingers to obey, another month to learn the basic chords, and then … then came my trial by fire. I failed.
Combat space craft were cheap back then – Terra Corps had entire planets dedicated to replicating the star fleet. The pilots were even cheaper. Oh, I’d spent time in the simulators, sure, but I never wanted to go to war.
But what choice did I have? I got myself together and followed my flight group to the hangar bay.
Three bogeys waited for us in high orbit over Gliese 5b.
Pilots maneuvered between plasma bolts exploding against the backdrop of a millions stars, my wingmen going down in fireballs all around me. I grabbed onto the flight stick and held on to my life.
It was nothing like the simulators, and it didn’t last long.
The ship shuddered, and my helmet’s HUD spat out a damage report. A rocket had just taken out my engines. The choice was eject or die. I ejected.
The ship exploded below me, throwing the escape pod towards the planet. As I slid towards the surface, my heart pounding in my chest, the battle unfolded before me on the other side of the pod’s scorched view screen. It was a battle we’d lost.
I had only three things on my mind:
- Gliese 5b was an uninhabited, Earth-like planet. It had oxygen and food.
- My guitar was hidden in the pod’s cargo compartment.
- The pod was transmitting my location even as I fell into the atmosphere.
I disengaged the transmitter and braced for impact.
The media likes to talk about my first words fifteen years later, when a New Terran Alliance research team accidentally stumbled into my camp and ‘rescued’ me.
What I think is more important is that, all that time ago when I’d landed on Gliese 5b, I took in a breath full of air and, for the very first time in a very long time, I think I was happy. I took my guitar, went to a clearing, and played.
They call me a rock star now, but if you practice every day for fifteen years straight, you can be a rock star too.
Today, playing music for me is no different from the concerts I gave to the weird little alien critters who gathered to listen on a planet that became a statistic in a war I never cared to fight.
I told those critters the same thing I told the NTA researchers when they showed up on my doorstep.
I said, “Hello, I am from Earth.”
Art by John Sonting.