Prologue

Colour world map

The Star Ring Conspiracy 

PROLOGUE 

AFTER THE PARTY 

Garston Yegob relaxed into the hammock-like support of his deckchair, resting his head against the wooden top bar and gazing up into the crystal-clear night sky of the desert. The serene silence was so deep that he could hear the high-pitched ringing of his own ears functioning; the only interruption being the occasional melodious chirruping of nocturnal insects. Far above, the Pseudo Stars glowed like faint clouds of pearls in the darkly green firmament. Almost directly overhead, a Real Star shone like a polished emerald.
  “Hey, Garston,” a pleasant voice called to him.
  “Yes, Sam?” he responded without looking away from the cloudless sky.
  “That was the best barbecue I’ve ever been to.”
  “Yeah, thanks man,” the deeper voice of Nassah Letap added sincerely. “I had a fine time.”
  “I’m glad you enjoyed it,” Garston replied, sitting up with an effort and taking a swig of beer from the bottle he had been cradling against his chest. “After all,” he continued momentarily, “where would the Space Program be without its first astronauts?”
 “I still can’t believe we’re actually going to do it,” Sam responded happily into the darkness. “After all of the training and simulations, test flights, delays and uncertainties, it just seemed, well, like a dream that would never actually happen.”  
  Garston drained his beer and got unsteadily to his feet. He stared into the darkness, barely able to identify his companions’ chairs in the feeble glimmer of light emanating from the Space Centre.
  “Well,” he announced, raising his hands over his head and stretching his back luxuriantly, “It’s time for me to head back. Just promise me one thing.”
  “What’s that?” Nassah enquired thickly, sounding a bit worse for wear.
  “Be careful up there.”
  The two astronauts-in-waiting regarded his silhouette momentarily before glancing at each other. Reaching a silent agreement, they rose unsteadily and stood to attention in front of him, swaying gently. Garston could just make out the movement of their arms as they saluted in unison. All three of them began to laugh.
  “Seriously, though,” Garston continued after a moment, “I want you two back in one piece.”
  “Well, I can’t vouch for Nassah,” Sam replied, “but I intend to come back to a hero’s welcome.”
  “Yeah,” Nassah added with gusto, “and we’re gonna bring you back your own Star!”
  Sam let out a whoop of joy that echoed across the runway before losing itself in the surrounding desert. He leant backward with his arms outstretched and faced the night sky defiantly.
  “You hear that!” he shouted into the cool darkness. “We’re coming up there, and we’re bringing a Star back.” Then he drained his beer bottle and dropped it onto the ground. There was a dull clink as it hit one of the numerous empties strewn around the deckchairs.
  “You know what I think,” Garston said conspiratorially.
  “What?”
  “I think it’s time we all went to bed.”
  “I’m not sure if I can make it back to the base,” Nassah told them. He belched loudly before admitting, “I’ve drunk too much beer.”
  “We’ll all go together,” Garston reassured him.
  Surprisingly, after a short spell stumbling around absurdly in the darkness, giggling like idiots, they managed to find each other without falling over. Garston and Sam supported Nassah as they ambled drunkenly towards the lights of the Space Research Centre nearly two miles away.
  “Why did we decide to walk all the way out here?” Nassah asked blearily.
  “So we could see The Stars clearly,” Sam reminded him.
  “Oh, yeah.”
  “I always knew that boy couldn’t hold his beer,” Sam confided to Garston as they weaved their way across the tarmac. “A great test pilot, but no good at drinking.”
  “Well, whatever happens,” Garston told them confidently, “I’m sure that this will be the biggest adventure of our lives.”


The Star Ring Conspiracy

Promote Your Page Too