Ryder was just starting his shift on the observation deck. Some people thought he drew the short straw since it was New Years Eve but he knew better. Ryder preferred the solitude of doing observations over the crazy party goers on the orbiting platform.
It wasn’t as if they were celebrating the New Year on Europa or Jupiter, their nearest planetoids. It was the Earth Inner Ring New Year in England that they were targeting with their celebrations. Most people thought they had chosen England due to it being GMT +0:00, Ryder knew otherwise. He knew they’d chosen England, Somerset England to be exact as a tribute to Arthur C Clark the author of the 2001: A Space Odyssey. It was a nerd tribute of solar proportions but it felt right to everyone involved. He wasn’t sure how they passed the decision in the ORSA (Outer Ring Space Alliance) but they had unanimously and with little debate.
This was the 20th anniversary since the establishment of this outpost around Europa, Jupiter’s most controversial moon. The opening years were mostly working out the mechanical kinks, transferring supplies, and exploring the surrounding area for minerals suitable for fuel and water. Once established they were now doing serious science and Ryder was the chief Astrobiologist. His mission was the mapping and exploration of Europa’s water ice oceans in search of alien biology.
Ryder never planned on submitting to be a part of this science mission. He’d actually dreamed of being a part of the Epsilon Eridani inaugural voyage but with the operational and engineering delays he knew they were at least 20 years from launch. It’s not that this wasn’t an exciting opportunity but how many people get to say they were on the first human interstellar voyage?
Sitting in that quiet observation deck Ryder couldn’t help but think about his family and what they were doing 390 million miles away in Michigan. It’d been 20 years since he left Earth and every year that passed he wished that his brother was here with him and his family. He knew they weren’t much for exploring but with the state of affairs in the Inner Ring perhaps they’d be better off on this side of the Mars Jupiter Belt. Sometimes millions of miles are all that’s needed to separate politics from science.
After the mineral wars of 2120 the miners and scientists of the Outer Ring decided to create an old school blockade. Stopping the flow of water and minerals necessary to the population of the Inner Ring meant they could make demands with little concern for repercussions. Their demands were altruistic in nature and put in place a flow of goods that tightly controlled the exponential growth of the Inner Ring while leaving the Outer Ring to their own destiny.
The result was a society of scientists, engineers, and miners that were beginning to take humanity on a path toward the stars. Choosing to abandon all forms politics and financial systems they instead treated each person as equal. The potential for the Outer Ring was only just being realized and Ryder was glad to be a part of it.
To him the New Year meant more than most everyone in that Europa station. It meant his freedom and happiness as this was the 20th year since he’d illegally fled Earth, breaking the Ring Pact, and passing through the Main Asteroid Belt to join the Outer Ring. He never dreamed he’d become an illegal immigrant but with his extensive biology education he was able to quickly divert attention from his background and worked his way up the scientific ladder to his current station.
Few people in the Outer Ring questioned Ryder’s background because they believed their education system superior to that of the Inner Ring. Certainly someone from the IR couldn’t know as much or be as skilled as Ryder. What they didn’t plan for was the raw determination and motivation of someone looking to improve their position in life within the IR. With a few million well placed IR credits and thousands of illegally taped hours of Outer Ring courses he received his virtual accreditation under an assumed name. All that remained for him was a 400 million mile voyage between 3 planets, an asteroid belt, and countless military check points to take his exams.
Looking back on it tonight Ryder knew he had much to celebrate this and every New Year. Even if it was an arbitrary celebration of a random point in time on a planet most of the people in the Outer Ring had never set foot … he still embraced its significance. After 20 years of happiness he finally felt like he was a part of something bigger than himself, something bigger than them all.
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