Dusk of the Sun - Chapter I
by *Senhin

Prologue

For all of scientific history man has dreamed of living among the stars. The first leap made in 1969AD launched a golden age of scientific progress into space exploration, until, in 2540AD, the first Civilian Space Colony was founded. This led to the new universal dating system of 'Space Years' as mankind began to leave the crowded Earth, and dwell in the new Space Colonies. As time passed these colonies became ever more common and far reaching as they began to stretch across our Solar System.

However, as is human nature, the conflict between nations of the Earth eventually spread to the once peaceful Space Colonies. The war, which became known as 'The Great War', spanned from Space Year 411 – 486 until the largest military power in space resorted to mass genocide, destroying all opposed colonies with nuclear armaments. This power, now known as The Space Force Alliance, has kept control of space ever since with over- whelming military size acting as a deterrent to any possible serious opposition. Despite its complete control of space, The Space Force Alliance only controls small and scattered regions upon the war torn Earth.

It is now Space Year 5,000,000,000. The Sun has reached the stage of a Red Giant and, having engulfed Mercury and Venus, now poses a very real threat in the forthcoming centuries as it loses its power and eventually collapses. Having reached the 5th Billion Space Year, still with no real technological progress into a viable way of travelling between solar systems, mankind seemed destined to end with the death of the Sun. However, a new feeling of hope has emerged with the recent invention of Artificial Intelligence. Now the entire human race is looking to The Space Force Alliance's scientists (Those who created A.I.) for the technological breakthrough in space travel that the race needs to preserve its future.

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Chapter I - Emi

"I won't be away long," came the muffled words of a man in the adjacent room.

A small child lay in her bed, listening to the voices travel through her bedroom walls. She stared at the wall, through the darkness, as she wondered just how long it would be this time. "Just promise me that you'll be careful," spoke the voice of a woman.

"Don't worry," the man assured her. "It's just a simple peace keeping mission."



"Emi!"

Emi snapped back to reality, as she turned her attention slowly from the passing Alliance Soldiers and back to her friend. "Yes, Philana?" she asked, double-stepping a little to catch up with her friend.

"Looks like they're sending more troops to Earth," Philana stated, stopping at the corridor's long horizontal window.

Emi stood beside her and gazed out into space. Three fairly large transport shuttles were passing by the colony and headed towards the barren earth. Emi thought back to pictures she'd seen of the ancient Earth and couldn't help but envy the first inhabitants of Space Colony Alpha. The ancient Earth was once a beautiful sight; a blue and green marble of luscious landscapes and vast oceans. However, the images of ancient Earth seemed alien when compared with how it looked now. The planet's vast oceans had shrunken to minute and dotted specs amongst a sea of deserts; the result of the fantastically large red Sun that lingered dauntingly close to the Earth toady.

"I wonder what it's like down there," Emi sighed, as she slowly looked away from the Earth and towards the vast blackness of space. As she did so their reflections became faintly visible in the window. Emi was a slender girl of Caucasian decent. Her heart shaped face and slender jaw were outlined by the long, side parted, front of her black bob haircut.

"I suppose you could ask some of the soldiers?" Philana suggested, giving a nod towards a small group who were passing by. "That tall one's cute."

Emi brushed a small part of her fringe away from one of her deep blue eyes and grinned at Philana. She was always making suggestions that involved talking to the soldiers, especially the young and handsome ones. "I don't want to be told about it," Emi replied, grinning once more at Philana's disappointed expression. "I want to see it for myself."

"I swear that that's the only reason you want to join the Alliance," Philana said, rolling her dark brown eyes and setting off along the corridor. "They rarely let anyone other than the Military leave or visit the Earth."

"And I swear the only reason you signed up was to stare at the guys all day," Emi retaliated as she followed her.

"Have you not seen some of them?" Philana laughed, flicking her long brown hair over her shoulder. "But I'm just an Alliance nurse stationed here, on boring old Colony Alpha. It's no more dangerous than living here and it's the best medical apprenticeship around. I could never go off to the wars on Earth like you want to."

"Don't you ever want to see what else is out there?" Emi asked, looking up to the huge see-through ceiling as they reached the end of the corridor and walked out into a huge open area.

"Of course I do," Philana replied; her voice now surrounded by the trickling of fountains and the faint voices of other people as they passed through a food court. "I want to see the huge shopping complex at Colony Delta and the luxury spa overlooking the ice fountains of Enceladus. You know; like a normal person. I don't want to go to some war ridden desert."

"That sounds so dull," Emi sighed, as they made their way up a small flight of steps from the food court.

"Well I'll message you and let you know how dull it is, when you're sat at home on your own and I'm getting pampered," Philana jested, as they hurried across a platform to the waiting magnet train. She stepped through the train's door ahead of Emi and turned to her as she continued, "It'll be a while though. How many twenty four year olds, who share small flats, do you see at luxury spas?"

"So you're saying as soon as you finish your medical training you're ditching me to live near some shopping complex?" Emi asked with a raised eyebrow, as she also stepped onto the train.

Philana just grinned in response before turning and leading the way to a pair of empty seats. As they sat down the train began to move and they sat in silence for a few minutes, staring out of the window as they sped towards the next stop. "So when do you hear about your application?" Philana asked, breaking the silence.

"Tomorrow," Emi replied. "Hopefully."

"Then what?"

"Then into training," Emi explained. "I'll have to live at the Alliance base for a month before I return home. After that I'll be stationed here between missions on Earth."

"Or you'll still be working at the station fixing and cleaning trains," Philana laughed, getting to her feet as the train slowed to a stop.

"I didn't do that badly today," Emi protested, also laughing as she got to her feet and followed Philana off of the train.

"Fine," Philana apologized. "Cleaning Alliance space ships, then."

Emi sighed, following Philana down the steps and into a corridor filled with doors. There were no windows along this corridor and, although all of the colony walls were almost entirely white and clean, there was something about the corridor that seemed noticeably inferior to the public areas they had just passed. Philana began to rummage around her bag as they walked along the corridor and rounded a corner. "Still?" She asked, scowling at the flickering light a few steps ahead of them as she pulled a small plastic ID card out of her bag. "I can't wait till my apprenticeship is over so I can afford to live somewhere where they fix things and we don't still need these antiques," she continued, turning her scowl to the card she brandished in the air.

They came to a stop outside a door and Philana waved her card past the sensor. "Welcome home, Philana," sounded an automated feminine voice as the door shot up and the interior lights flickered on to reveal their cramped flat. The main room consisted of a small living space at one end, with one sofa aimed at a screen on the wall, and a cramped kitchen area in the other half. Other than hanging cabinets in the kitchen area and the screen in the living area, the four doors were the only decoration to break up the dull white wall. Aside from the door that led into the flat, two were in the living area and one in the kitchen.

Philana tossed her bag onto the sofa as she headed into the kitchen area. "Emi, what did I say about the mess?" Philana nagged, as she rummaged through all of the dirty dishes and piles of tool boxes.

"They're your dishes," Emi groaned, collapsing into the sofa.

"You know I mean the tool boxes," Philana sighed, abandoning her search for cutlery and heading to the living area. Emi sat up to make room, pulling Philana's bag from under herself and placing it on the floor. "Media Centre On," Philana said, sinking into her half of the sofa.

The screen in front of them turned on and its automated voice greeted with, "Welcome Philana. What can I do for you today?"

"I'd like to report something to the maintenance department."

"What would you like to report?"

"The light is still broken in residential corridor C-32," Philana stressed.

"Thank you for informing us. The issue will be resolved shortly."

"Yeah, that's what you've said all month," Philana sighed to herself. "Why don't you fix it Emi?"

"I've already looked," Emi said, as she got to her feet. "It's not the bulb, it's a wire, and you need authorization to open the panel to get at those. Besides, I don't think it bothers anyone else as much as you."

"Take some of those tools with you if you're going to your room," Philana insisted, looking at Emi as she rose.

"There's no room in there," Emi protested as she grabbed a couple of boxes.

"There's no room out here…"

Emi shook her head and grinned, as she pressed the button to the side of her door with her elbow. "I'll see you later," she said as she walked into her room and closed the door behind her, catching a glimpse of Philana lying on the sofa and raising her hand in a motionless wave goodbye.

The inside of the tiny rectangular bedroom contained just one piece of furniture; a small bed that was crammed into the far end of the room, lengthways against the far wall to free as much space as possible. The small amount of space that had been achieved was filled with all sorts of mechanical and electronic parts and tools.

"Hello Philana!" Chirped a surprisingly energetic and childlike robotic voice.

"I see you still cannot tell the difference between humans," Emi sighed, as she fell onto her bed and a pile of what looked like scrap parts began to move.

"My apologies Emi," the small robot said. It was far from sleek and professional, and was a huge contrast to everything on the colony. Where the colony's maintenance robots were white, smooth, curved and faceless shapes this robot was the colour of rust, made from sharp edged salvaged materials. "I trust you had a good day?"

"The interview went well," she said, looking at the robot as it hovered above her. The main bulk of it was a little larger than a human head. Also unlike the usual robots of the day it had two black camera lenses side by side near the top of its body and a small rectangular strip of hole filled metal, which covered the microphone and speakers, just below, giving it a face like look. This resemblance to a human face led the easily suggestible human mind to associate other humanoid properties to the machine; the cubes that were attached, one on either side of the robot's 'body' and level with the 'mouth', looked almost like small stubby arms, even though they were the fixed energy jets that allowed it to fly. The robot's actual arms protruded from the front of the robot, but very near the bottom, and were not covered, showing every joint amongst the several small bars of metal that made them. These arms, in the absence of any other limbs and due to their location, gave the impression of being the robot's legs and were topped off by three pronged, talon like hands.

"That certainly is good news," it assured her. "Is there anything I can assist you with?"

"Philana was looking for something," Emi replied. "Maybe you could help her find it?"

"Certainly," it replied, rotating and firing the small jet on its back that allowed it to spin or tilt itself.

Emi watched as it found its way to the button that opened the door, before pressing it. It then clumsily knocked itself on the wall as it passed through, into the living room, and closed the door from the other side. "Hey Ash," she heard Philana's voice, faint and muffled through the wall. She turned her head to stare at the ceiling again, trying to fall asleep with the anticipation of tomorrows results making it difficult. She found herself thinking of all the places she'd get to see if her application was successful, and as her mind wandered through images she'd seen of real environments she found it ever more difficult to fall asleep. She continued to imagine until she heard a loud crashing noise through the wall, followed by Philana letting out a scream.

"What is it?" Emi asked, having opened the door and looking to Philana behind the kitchen counters.

"Nothing major," She replied. "He just dropped a box of your tools next to my foot."

"My apologies," the robot said, placing the scattered tools back into the box.

"It's okay, Ash," Philana assured him, helping to pack the tools away.

"Ash, go back to our room," Emi said, resting her hand on his head.

"As you wish, Emi," Ash said, as he floated away towards the room.

"He still needs some more work," Philana said, chuckling as she picked up the tool box and handed it to Emi.

"I know," she replied, putting the tool box in a corner. "It's something in the wiring I think. He's not quite seeing things properly and misjudging distances."

"Still," Philana added, walking back to the sofa with a mug of coffee. "It's quite impressive. Most robots are made by other robots with pre-set coding. Building one from scratch is an achievement not many engineers can boast. You'll be working on those new AI machines soon."

"I'm not quite there," Emi said, rolling her eyes and leaning against the counter. "We've been making robots to Ash's extent for 5 Billion years. I haven't a clue how they've finally achieved AI; it's a huge breakthrough."

"5 Billion years of robots and even longer with dreams of AI," Philana laughed. "I'd say we were due."

Emi nodded in agreement and looked to the open door of her room. "Alright then Ash," she said, loudly enough for him to hear, as she set off to her room. "Let's take a look at your wiring again."

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So yeah, this is a new story I've started. Feedback would be very much appreciated.

I've been held back from it for a month or so now due to university >_< But only 5 weeks of that hell left lol, then plenty of time to continue this

The name is also kind of temporary... Not sure of it... Most of the names I wanted were taken :P