Ellis Asteroid is Earth's long-abandoned naturalization station for extraterrestrial refugees - her bounteous hub walled off by arrogant human administrators, her ignorant non-human population left to rot in the wilds.
Bursting with backstabbers, man-eating cockroaches, and bloodsucking maters, Elis Royd is a fascinating sci-fi adventure from a master storyteller. For thinking readers only.
Beppo took his time on the final grade. He had to: his hooves were split and bleeding, his back aching and stiff. And his little rhia Gwenda—his life-and soul mate, his constant companion—trembled and wheezed as she hiked. A trillion stars loomed on the horizon, but they weren’t the night’s visual attraction. What drew Beppo was a burnt gold to deep blue gradient—a heat aura lying like a mushroom’s cap just beyond this last weedy hill. At the summit they dropped in a heap. Far below stretched Earth Administration, the gleaming nerve center of Elis Royd—thirty square miles of glorious artificial light, flue-vented blossoms of regenerated heat, and great fans for stirring the ever-dead air—all run by a miniature subterranean atomic power plant. According to folklore, the gates, walls, and fences of Earth Administration—known by the local species as EarthAd—concealed soft beds, clean water, and delicacies light years-beyond the simple imaginations of Elis Royd’s long-rotting applicants.
Beppo unhitched Gwenda’s little wood cart. “See, my Gwenny? It is as I told you. No more hedgeroots and kunckleberries for us. We will eat as Earthmen, and for once we will recline in comfort.” The rhia’s left foreleg was shaking so badly Beppo had to squeeze it between his paws. “We will rest now, girl.” He pulled out his homemade wartroot flute and blew a crude four-note melody, watching dreamily as twilight quickly gave way to darkness along the asteroid’s craggy rim.
Elis Royd has an interesting history, though it’s now just a footnote in the Solar Annals.
Bear with me: the 23rd Century’s first great wave of Terran conquest and colonization did not produce those eagerly anticipated troves of precious metals and self-perpetuating photo-energy sources.
What it did produce was a laughable answer to that ages-old Earth question: Are we alone? Anything but.
The Milky Way is crawling with, is filthy with, is infested with life. So much so that kids on Earth now use a crude and immature aside to mock the slow-witted: “Duh, do you think there’s life on other planets?” This rarity of life idea was at least as preposterous as that antiquated notion of a spaceship reaching planets light years away. No single vehicle will ever span such distances. Our solution was to mimic the old course of European colonization: millions of stations were prefabricated and launched into as many orbits, allowing ships to mathematically leapfrog outpost-to-outpost, until the very galaxy was in gridlock, and triumphant man’s artificial glow challenged the timeless dazzle of sweet nature herself. The scary part is that we’ve only begun the exploratory process.
More by Ron Sanders: Hero, Microcosmia, Signature, Carnival, Freak, Faces, Piece of The Devil, Savage Glen and other stories