The First Man On The Herth, My First Illustrated Short Story

in writing •  5 months ago

Tranquillity Base.jpg

Today, the inhabitants of Tranquillity Lunar Base have no time for scientific study. Today, they are busy putting out fires, moving piles of rubble, and tending to the wounded. On the observation level, a young woman is looking out of a large window at a burned out, dead Earth hanging low in the black sky. She observes some military space craft take off form the base and head towards the earth.

Far away, on a space station orbiting the battered planet, people are working frantically to repair structural damage and keep life support systems online. The station medical bays are crammed with wounded people and too little medical staff. A squadron of armed ships depart the station and head off towards the moon.

Back on the lunar base, the young woman turns her head away from the scene of desolation and sits down. Being a scientist, Kathy Lee Kennedy takes a minute to consider the evolution of mankind. She imagines the journey of hominids through the millennia. Apes evolving into humans and people building rockets. Such a pity to think that the same technology that led to those marvellous rockets would also used to construct nuclear missiles. She wonders what the fate of humankind will be. Sadly, people decided that nukes should sit on top of rockets instead of astronauts. World War Three happened and Kathy is one of the last humans left in existence.

A few hundred souls from the nation of Murica inhabit Tranquillity Base. The base was originally designed to be a scientific research outpost and centre for missions to Mars. About the same number of Ruskiz were on the Sov orbital space station. “Those damn Sovs will pay for what they did to us.” Kathy said under her breath. Just then she realised just how much the war had changed her. Perhaps at time like this, anger was a driving force that people needed to keep on going. Was it sort of a survival mechanism? Anger was surely of more use than despair given the present situation.

Twenty years prior to the war, the Murican and Sov empires had a tenuous truce. The two nations both had a space program. The space fairing, scientific communities of both nations strived towards mutual cooperation while their Earthbound counterparts only plotted to wage war with each other. Tranquillity base and Melanial orbital space station were both built by a coalition from both empires. Some believed humankind was entering a golden age.
Unfortunately, the good times didn’t last. They never did.

On Earth, political relations between the two sides deteriorated. For the first time in history, insane politicians with skin and hair colour as artificial as their elections, toyed with humanity's fate like a child's toy. One finger tweeting and another finger gently massaging a shiny red button. With such leaders in power, war was inevitable. The nuclear exchange on Earth looked like the greatest fireworks display of all time to the people on Tranquillity base. But it would soon be over.

Unlike the war on the Earth, Space War One wouldn't be over in just a few minutes. It would drag on for years. After WW3, hostilities would continue between the two remnant factions for some time. Attempts at political negotiation tried and failed. Just as on Earth, one side eventually attacked the other and the ensuing war began. Nukes were very hard to deploy in space as you could see them coming from a long way off. You couldn’t hack the enemy since there was no more internet. In most cases, only conventional weapons would be employed. It was a long and miserable conflict that nearly ended humankind forever. It seemed that the hatred for one another was the only thing keeping the two factions going.

One day, it all changed when the Rapeon weapons division developed an EMP weapon. An electro magnetic pulse would be capable of knocking out the Sov’s electrical systems forever. They would be blind, in the dark, and have no power. They would suffocate in their tin cans whilst the Muricans celebrated their final victory. Melania station would be a tomb orbiting dead world. The thought if that final blow to the enemy gave Kathy some small sense of satisfaction. She nodded in approval as she watched the strike force speed off towards the dead earth and Melania Station. It would finally be over.

Just then, the alert sirens went off. The metal hallways erupted with red spinning lights and emergency announcements warning people of imminent attack. Security staff rushed the bewildered people to nearby shelters. Kathy looked around in disbelief. “They must have known we would hit them!” Just then, a group of Sov space craft came into view and began attacking Tranquillity base. Kathy ran to a shelter while the battle raged on outside in the vacuum.

Inside the shelter, Kathy and the other frightened people watched the battle on the C-Spam network screen. The silent battle looked almost eerily beautiful. Some people screamed and cried in terror as others cheered and sang patriotic songs. Then, the camera zoomed in on a large enemy ship approaching from a different vector. A brilliant blue and white blast of electrical energy exploded out from the front of the ship and impacted on the base. Massive electromagnetic tendrils arched all around in a one mile diameter. Forks of electrical energy could be seen engulfing the camera. And then nothing… The screen just burnt out and most of the lights went off. The Sovs had an EMP weopon of their own. The battle ended almost as quickly as it had begun...

Kathy was the daughter of the tranquillity base commanding officer. He was a strong and charismatic leader who the people looked up to. She learned a lot about leadership from her father. He was killed in the battle and the survivors needed a new commander in chief. Murican law dictated that command of a military post was handed down from one family member to the next. Kathy thought that this was a ridiculous and archaic law. But she was a natural leader and adjusted to the role quite quickly. It seemed that fate had made her leader of the second or possibly last remnant of humankind.

Life on Tranquillity was a struggle. Only some vital back up electrical systems were still online. Luckily, the back up generators magnetic shield protected it from the EMP pulse. All that remained was the automated agricultural and Oxygen production systems, temperature control, water recycling, and back up lighting. Nothing else worked. There was hardly any power. All the drones and robots would run out of juice and die. Much of the station machinery and spare parts were damaged, their circuits completely fried. Resources like food and clean water had to be rationed. Life on the station hung by a thread.

There were a few uprisings over the years and many people were killed. Some extremist groups emerged that considered science to be the cause of all human suffering. Some scientists were captured by these fanatical groups and sentenced to death by air locking. Security personnel had to work overtime just to protect the scientists. After all, Science was the only thing that was going to get mankind out of the trap that it had fallen into. Society would descend into a medieval state. People couldn’t help but refer to this time in history as the Dark Ages.

As leader of the last remnants of humankind, Kathy Lee Kennedy fought hard to keep her people alive and maintain order. She had to make harsh decisions to insure human survival. Life on Tranquillity base was unforgiving and justice served swiftly. within the walls of the dimly lit outpost, the Murican people sometimes told stories and sang songs about life back on earth. Kathy considered that human history might fade from peoples minds entirely unless the data was recorded and passed on. There were no computers around to record the data. She decided to create a national library where history would be written on metal panels and plates. This was the only way of keeping written records. After all, the limited number of paper sheets on Tranquillity wouldn't last a thousand years. She decreed that a record of the Sov war be written down so that none would ever forget. The story of the evil Sovs would later become legend and little children would fear the coming of the Red Eyed Ones in the dark

A thousand years later, Humans still live in the ruined base and call themselves the Marakans. They look a bit thin due to the slightly lower gravity. They have developed very limited technology that is equal to that of 1940’s Earth. The people of Maraka follow a man who is the direct descendant of Kathy Lee Kennedy. His name is Jonef Kanady. The Kanady line have ruled human civilisation on the ruined base for the past one thousand years. This is due to peoples belief that the Kanady line are divine and are in fact the custodians of humankind.

Jonef was a strong, natural leader just like his ancestor Kathy. His people loved and fear him just as they did her. Jonef is the absolute ruler of the Marakan nation and his word is law. His historians teach that mankind once lived on the Large sphere in the sky called Herth. Marakans believe those people were called the Netfailhim and that they came to the moon on giant ice chariots.

Humankind lost most of their historical data as they only have a number of sacred metal tablets and an oral history that is passed down through generations. What knowledge of human civilization and where they came from has become blurred and distorted. Very little is known about their real ancestors and the ancient Earth. But the legend of the evil Sov empire and the ruin they brought is well known by all.

The people of Maraka study the Herth with small telescopes built from the materials found in the ancient base. From what they can see, the planet has a dense cloud cover and oceans of liquid water. Legends tell of a great cataclysm that rendered the Herth uninhabitable. Their studies of the Herth suggest that the planet has recovered significantly and has a breathable atmosphere. They believe that the planet could be habitable and could possibly be colonised.

Jonef Kanady has spent much of his life studying the ancient metal tablets. Thy tell the story of the Kanady family line and the Dark Times. They say that only a Kanady can reclaim the Herth. The latest scientific studies indicate that the Herth could sustain human life. Jonef considers that leading his people back to the mother planet could be his destiny. He becomes obsessed and orders a mission to Herth. The Marakans have only just invented rockets just like the ones described in the tablets. It would seem that the Celestial Ones themselves will Jonef to lead his people back to Herth.

And so Jonef would be known in history as the Man who fell to Herth. He ordered his top scientists and engineers to begin work on a manned mission to the the great blue and white planet. The Marakans were able to build a large rocket and construct space suits based on the ancient ones found throughout the base. The ruined launch area was cleared of debris to make room for the rocket. Although many Marakans rejoiced, some believed that the Herth was cursed and that a mission would only be met with disaster.

Jonef led the mission alongside two other astronauts. He sat in the small compartment with his two men waiting for the final countdown. Luna Control initiated the countdown and then activated the main engines of the huge rocket. The great machine lifted off of the launch pad with so much force that it thrust the three astronauts into the back of their seats. Jonef looked out of the cabin window at the ancient Luna base moving past him. He spotted jubilant Marakans celebrating inside the large observation windows. Jonef’s heart swelled with pride as the astronauts escaped the moons gravity and achieved high orbit. The space craft detached from the first and second stages and then set a course for Herth.

After hours of sailing through the Black Sea, the space craft reached Herth orbit. Jonef and his crew initiated the re-entry program and the craft began to descend into the Herth’s atmosphere. A large parachute deployed from one end to slow the crafts descent. The crew then initiated a manual landing in a desolate tundra like area with some grass and bushes growing here and there. Once the ship landed, the hatch opened and ramp extended to the surface. The three Marakan astronauts emerged from the craft. As they began to take in the site, they were startled by the higher gravity. They could feel the pressure in their very bones. It took some effort just to move around. It was almost like learning to walk again. Jonef marched down the ramp with his men in tow. He carried with him the flag of Maraka. He intended to plant it on the Herth, claiming it for his people.

The three astronauts headed up to a higher Plateau and began searching for the perfect place to plant the flag. The landscape looked a bit like Iceland in the summer time. A cloud rolled in as they made their way up. Although their readings said that the air was breathable, they decided to keep their helmets on in case of any contaminants in the atmosphere.

This isn't like some dumb Sifi movie where Astronauts just take off their helmets before they know if the air is safe to breath or not.

The cloud was clear in patches and there was enough visibility to film the event. Joneff prepared to plant the flag whilst another astronaut held up his video camera to film him. The astronauts had radio communication with the people of Maraka and were keeping them updated. The video was live for all to see. The people back on the moon watched the mission in silence with jaws dropped. Jonef began a speech about small steps and Marakan destiny before he finally held up the flag. At that moment, just as he prepared to plant the flag in the ground, the cloud cleared. The three astronauts then discovered that they were not alone.

Just a few meters away, they saw what looks like three red astronauts in the process of planting a flag. They recognized the Sob flag from the ancient metal tablets. Their space suits have patches that say Cosmonutz. Jonef and his team all gasp in horror at the sight of the cosmonutz. He is outraged that their ancient enemy could be here to claim the land that rightfully belongs to the peoples of Maraka. The cosmonutz are equally shocked and angered by the site of the Marakans trying to plant their flag. In blind rage, Joneff wields his flag like a weapon and orders his men to attack the cosmonutz. He screams and leads a battle charge towards them. The astronaut who was filming suddenly drops his camera and then runs off to join the others.

The camera sits on the ground still filming. It captures the battle between the two groups. The people of Maraka watch in horror as the two groups fight each other. Joneff swings and thrusts his flag at one cosmonut fatally injuring him. Another cosmonut thrusts his flag pole into Jonef’s helmet completely shattering the glass and cracking his skull. Finally, the combatants lie on the dirt, dead or dying. Jonef is mortally wounded but is still clutching his flag. The camera captures him trying to sit up and plant it into the ground. He uses all of his remaining strength to push the flag into the ground at crooked angle. He dies there next to the flag.

The Marakans are at first silent but they soon erupt into a riot. The security staff can barely keep them under control. The people are shouting and vowing revenge against the Sobs. The Marakan dream of colonising the Earth is replaced by a burning hatred for the Sobs and a desire to avenge their people. Such anger hasn’t been felt on Tranquillity Base for a thousand years. War was only a legend until now.

On the Luna base, a girl with an intense look of anger on her face stares through the window out towards the Herth. She is Hilaria Kanady, the younger sister of the late Jonef. She is now the supreme commander of the Marakan nation. Her people have been forever changed by the events of the Battle of the Flags. They implore her to bring justice to the vile aliens and restore honour to the people of Maraka. She vows to avenge her fallen brother and the other two astronauts. Her sole mission is to claim the Herth for her people and rid the Black Sea of the Sob menace.

The ancient tablets describe a Sob space station orbiting the Herth. The Sobs inhabiting the station were thought to be wiped out by divine lightening. It would seem that the tablets were wrong. The descendants of the ancient Sobs must have survived just as the Marakans have. Marakan technology wasn't advanced enough to locate the Sob space station, let alone launch a strike mission on it. Hilaria suspected that the Sobs would be researching the technology needed to do this very thing to her people. Or did they already have it? Hilaria shuddered at the thought of those filthy Sobs invading Tranquillity Base. Their evil red eyes glaring at their victims. But her people did have the means to reach the Herth now. Hilaria ordered a large scale military mission to seize the planet and begin colonization.

A few years later, the Marakans send a large military mission to Herth led by Hilaria. They land near the site of the Battle of the Flags and begin building a fort. As before, visibility is low due to clouds and low lying fog. Most of the building materials used in the forts construction are stone, rocks, and a very limited amount of timber. Only a limited number of advanced composite materials from the base could be brought along. The fort had the appearance of a medieval castle or some WW2 fortification. It would seem as if Humankind was going backwards.

Marakan scouts later discovered that the Sobs were also building a few kilometres away. Reports indicated that the Sobs were constructing projectile weapons like bows, spears, sling shots, catapults, and some sort of long tube like things. Both sides did have a limited number of ancient guns and energy weapons but they lacked the resources to mass produce them.

Outraged by the Sob presence, Hilaria orders her army to lay siege to the Sob fortification. She rallies her forces and marches through the fort gates towards the Sobs. Her people sing patriotic songs and cheer as they march on to battle. Some carry ancient laser weapons, family heirlooms that humans have long forgotten how to build. Most are holding brutish melee weapons and projectiles made of basic materials. It looks more like something out of the Dark Ages than any space fairing civilisation.

A Sob overwatcher spots the approaching invaders. The Sob Fort is placed under red alert as their soldiers take defensive positions on the battlements. The Sobs clearly have the advantage and wait for the Marakan army to come into range of their weapons. Their commander considers his advantage but believes a defensive stance would be too cowardly. He decides to mobilize his army and march them right out the gates to meet the Marakans head on. It would be glorious!

A battle ensues that last about an hour. Blue and white bursts of electricity and red beams cause ear shattering sonic booms. Armour melts and bodies are set on fire. Men and women are crushed by falling rocks and pierced by arrows. Hilaria fights bravely, mowing down dozens of Sobs with her ancient laser rifle. she shouts a battle cry and orders her people to plunge straight into the enemy ranks. She believes that Maraka will win and that it was their divine right to conquer the Herth. Just then, she gets hit on the head by a small rock that nearly kills her and knocks her senseless. Her people pull her back to the rear of column. Hilaria is too dazed to give orders to her soldiers. Her people decide to get her to safety and begin a full retreat. Hilaria is overcome by an overwhelming sense of shame and despair that outweighs her physical pain. How could this happen? Was it not her divine right as ruler of the Marakan people to deal the final blow to the Red Eyed Ones? Did I let my people down? Was I not worthy enough? Or were we wrong? Was I wrong? The remaining Marakans retreated back to their fort in disgrace.

The battle had claimed enormous losses on both sides. Only a third of Hilaria’s forces made it back. But the blow to the head and subsequent defeat had changed her somehow. She no longer felt the burning hatred and xenophobia. During the battle, she noticed that the Sobs looked similar to her own people. She considered that humankind's predicament might come from a lack of understanding and a failure to communicate. Perhaps war was merely the result of bad leadership. Or was it just human nature to thin itself out? Some would consider these thoughts to be blasphemy.


A few days later, Hilaria Kanady, the same young woman who once felt a profound hatred for the Sob people looks out over the battlements. She has a bandage on her head and a mild concussion. As she looks out over the tundra, she notices all the Marakan and Sob bodies that haven't been recovered yet. Both sides were still licking their wounds and in no shape to retrieve the bodies of their fallen soldiers. She feels deep sorrow but also a sense of clarity. It’s almost as if the blow to the head woke her up. Could it have been the Celestial Ones themselves forcing her to change course? Could it be divine intervention that gave her this clarity of mind? Could she be the one who would save her people from an endless cycle? Was it her duty to steer humankind away from extinction?

In the cold cloudy air, Hilaria considered this for a time. She wanted to tell her people that the war was folly and that peace was the only thing that could save them. She wanted to order her people to make peace negotiations with the Sobs. She wanted to tell them that she believed they had be wrong from the start and that the Sobs were human beings just like her people. She imagined that both Marakan and Sob people could live in peace on this planet and that it was perhaps the only way the human race would survive.

Hilaria makes the decision to order cease fire. She is about to head down and tell her commanding officers to send a diplomatic mission to the Sob fort and attempt peace negotiations. Just then, she realises that her people might not support her. Would they listen to her preaching peace after it was she who marched them to war? Would they think she was hit too hard on the head and wasn’t thinking clearly? Would they believe her to be a traitor or even a heretic? No Marakan leader in history had ever been overthrown. She hopped she wouldn't be the first.

Before she walked down the steps, Hilaria took a minute to think about what she was about to do. She looked out again across the scene of desolation and death. She couldn’t help but wonder if this had happened before. She then considers for a moment that these same events could be repeating themselves endlessly. Could this be humankind’s fate? Had Humans angered the Celestial Ones and been punished? Was it in their DNA? Only time would tell. Hilaria Kanady summoned the last bit of strength she had and started walking down the steps…

Many thanks if you made it to the end! That was my first ever short story. I'm very new to the craft and I'd love to hear your feedback. This one was a little long due to the fast that I was really enjoying myself. I'll try and make the next one shorter and see if I can create more artwork for it. Two illustrations or more would be nice. It depends how much time the project take. I really hope you enjoyed my story and look forward to seeing you on the next one. Bye for now :)

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Nice illustration, James!


Thanks. I kinda wish I'd drawn one of the characters.

This post was shared in the Curation Collective Discord community for curators, and upvoted and resteemed by the @c-squared community account after manual review.

Cool setting, and the illustration is awesome. Great idea, with the human exile from the the planet.


Thank you @fictionspawn! Glad you liked it. I took a lot of inspiration from epic scifi novels like Dune.

Hi jameshsmitharts,

Your post has been upvoted by the Curie community curation project and associated vote trail as exceptional content (human curated and reviewed). Keep creating awesome stuff! Have a great day :)

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Thank you Curie!!!

Oh, I just found out that a few paragraphs were repeated by accident. Just deleted those not. The story is much more coherent now.

Nice one James, nothing like an old-fashioned space-epic to start a Friday! If I had a comment I would say your story could have been split into two parts maybe? Really enjoyed it though, keep on trucking! :-)


yes! I got carried away with it. Was enjoying the process so much I lost track of time. Glad you liked it man. Not bad for a noon ;)


Not bad at all! You put me to shame and I am supposed to be a writer!


Haha, no way!

I'm blown away (into space) by your illustration, that is amazing-and I like the subtle colour palette used.


Thank you! I've got another one coming along now. It's a fantasy story with a female protagonist. it'll be much more lighthearted.