The Unexpected Guest
Looking into the vastness of space it’s easy to feel small and insignificant, yet our ingenuity, inventiveness and imagination have made that extensive expanse of nothingness manageable. Today, we frequently travel great distances without giving it so much as a second thought. That is until, every once and awhile, something happens that’s so unbelievable it makes you realize we’re all connected by space and time in ways we’ll never fully understand. This is Untold Tales.
Today, we visit the city of Tram in the Ferron System, which has struggled to find its footing since mining companies left en masse during the mid-29th century. As the good paying jobs fled, so did the system’s population. For the last century, Ferron has had only a few permanent residents, but that makes this untold story of an unexpected guest arriving at Octavia Watt’s door that much more incredible.
It was a late December day in 2945 when the 127-year-old Octavia Watt decided to spend the afternoon getting her house ready for Traveler’s Day. Each year, her three children and their families celebrated the holiday at her modest house on the outskirts of Tram. Gang fights over water and poor public services had driven most of the other residents away, yet Octavia stayed despite repeated attempts by her children to get her to move someplace less dangerous.
OCTAVIA WATT: I wasn’t havin’ none of it. There’s not much there ’cept my memories, but that’s part of why I liked it. It also reminded me of the homestead in Charon where I grew up. There’s a special kind of peace that comes with simple livin’.
Octavia’s children had resigned themselves to their mother spending the rest of her days in a house she loved, situated within an increasingly hostile landscape. That is until an unexpected guest arrived and changed everything.
OCTAVIA WATT: I’d wandered down to Merle’s to borrow an extra set of towels, ’cause there never seems to be enough when the kids are home. I was about halfway back to my place when the sky just lit up.
Octavia looked up as a sonic boom erupted around her. Then a piercing scream cut across the sky, slicing through the thick layer of clouds and pollution permanently plastered above. A moment later, a second boom and a flash knocked her down. When she regained her footing, Octavia saw with horror that her house was in ruins. Amidst the dust and debris sat an improbable and unexpected guest.
OCTAVIA WATT: I just … I mean, I had no idea what in the world had happened. When I got closer all I saw was this burnt up metal tube covered in UEE and Marine logos right where my good recliner used to be.
The sudden and surprising impact roused Octavia’s remaining neighbors from their homes. One by one they gathered near the impact crater. They were baffled by what was before them until neighbor Merle Ramic, who had done a brief stint in the UEE Navy, arrived on the scene. He immediately identified the metal object as an individual rapid-entry assault pod used by the Marines for space-to-surface operations, more commonly known as a “Nail.”
Worried someone was trapped inside, Merle carefully made his way into the wreckage and opened the emergency hatch. After easing the body to the ground, Merle removed the Marine’s helmet, hoping there was still a chance to save the poor soul. Only to discover that it was too late … way too late. The Marine had been dead for a while.
Local officials were on the scene in record time. The area was cordoned off and witness statements taken, but no one could answer the only question that mattered: how could Octavia’s house have been destroyed by a dead Marine?
Though many outside of the Marines have heard of the Nail, few have seen it in action. UPARQ scientists are believed to have reverse engineered the tech from the feared Vanduul boarding “Spikes” used in ship-to-ship combat, modifying the design to make it viable for a Human occupant. The current Nail can safely deploy a Marine from a ship in space to a planet surface in ninety seconds. The device is a technological marvel, if correctly deployed, and a metal coffin if not.
The UEE has never publicly commented on the incident, or even given Octavia an explanation about why her house was destroyed. They did pay her a generous resettlement fee and she now lives with her daughter in Cestulus. However, Octavia still finds herself wishing she called Tram home.
OCTAVIA WATT: Oh boy, do I miss the peace and quiet. There’s just too many people around here for my tastes, but what other options do I got? At least I can still take care of myself, so I’m not too much trouble for Elena.
Octavia still wonders exactly how a Marine Nail found its way into her house. When Untold Tales returns we talk to the person who might hold the answer — her former neighbor, Merle Ramic.
MERLE RAMIC: I did my tour in the Navy, but was around enough Marines to know that uniform he was wearing was old, like real old. Based on some research I’ve done, I’d say about 200 years or so.
After the break, Merle shares with us exactly what he saw that day. And we ask the question, what is the UEE hiding? Was this Nail deployed during a covert action in the Ferron System, or stranger yet, could it have somehow possibly come from an entirely different system centuries ago?
Those questions and more when Untold Tales returns.