Authors: Alex Scarrow
The Legend of Ellie Quin
(Book 1 of the Ellie Quin Series)
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the author.
© Alex Scarrow 2012
Cover Image and Design © Alex Scarrow 2012
[An Audio fragment]:
‘Oh God,’ we can hear a girl’s voice whimpering. ‘Oh crud, Hufty, I think she’s dead! Or, she’s, like,
. I’m sure she is. I…I can feel her blood all over my lap. It’s all over me. Oh no…please don’t leave me alone in here, please don’t die!’
The girl’s voice falters. We can hear the rustle of her moving around.
‘Wake up! Can you hear me? Please…oh, crud, please don’t die on me!’
The sound of the girl crying, and there’s something else - the sound of a deep, booming rumble in the background, getting progressively louder.
‘I really can’t do this on my own. Not without
,’ the girl whispers.
We hear the sound of sobbing and movement of some kind, the rustling of clothes, perhaps a shifting of position.
‘I’m just…I’m nothing. I’m stupid and lost…and I want to go back home.’
The deep bass rumbling is getting louder and causing the recording to distort and crackle. It sounds like something large gathering momentum.
‘Please…don’t die, don’t leave me alone here. Ple-e-e-ease!!!!’
We hear the sound of a hand fumbling with a switch and then the recording comes to an end.
[End of audio fragment]:
[Human Universe open source digital encyclopedia]
Article: ‘The Legend of Ellie Quin’
The recording you just listened to was taken from an audio file fragment; one of only a few verified recordings of her voice left in existence today. She was believed to have been only about twenty years of age when she made that entry on her voice diary at the beginning of the thirty-first century…
over 700 years ago
. She was known to have made regular voice-diaries of her incredible life, though, sadly too few fragments of these recordings have survived.
To this very day no one has been able to work out exactly
she was referring to, whom she was with then; who
was dying in her arms when she made that recording. We shall never know. In addition, no one has ever managed to determine who the intended recipient - Hufty - was. A friend? A lover? A relative?
Just two of the many mysteries that surround the amazing legend of Ellie Quin. Hers is the story of an ordinary young woman who not only ended up altering the course of history…but ultimately saving mankind from itself.
What we do know is that she started out as a farmer’s daughter on a remote planet called ‘Harpers Reach’.
User Comment > Anonymous
That it? That’s all there is on her? Totally Crud article!
User Comment > Liz T-Pup
If she’s such a big legend, if she saved the entire human race? How come there aren’t whole planets named after her? Or cities and stuff? She’s a myth. She never existed. Itsa-hoax.
User Comment > GoldenNexus
This Omni-article entry is rubbish, way-y-y too sketchy. I want to know more about her. I heard her name once on a history datachip. Never thought to read up on her though.
User Comment > Random DittoBoy
If you want to know more about her…go build a time machine and travel back to the year three thousand, or whenever it was. Anyway…who cares about someone who died 700 years ago? Boring.
User Comment > Anonymous
The previous poster is an Idiot. I want to know more. How did she change history? How did she die? There must be more info on her….who the crud-o-la is Ellie Quin anyway?
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‘Hufty, I’m sorry it’s been so long since I last recorded a letter to you. It’s been really busy here on the farm. Dad’s had me and Shona, and even Ted, working on the weeds. I hate those damn plants. They’re…they’re such a pain in the butt. You know I told you they’re kind of half plant, half animal? Well, they have these pods with little spikes on, a bit like a hairbrush, and if they decide they don’t like what you’re up to, they smack you with it… and quite hard too. Ted seems to have a way with the weeds, they don’t seem to mind too much when he re-beds them. Shona doesn’t do too bad either. But they’ve damn well got it in for me. I mean, they must re-e-eally despise me. I’ve got welts on the back of my hand and all the way up my arms from this morning. I’d love to get away from here some day.’
Ellie paused the voice-diary as she heard a rumbling overhead. She looked up into the peach colored midday sky to see, at high-altitude, a freighter heading due south. The glinting metal of its hull shimmered in the heat. It left a vapor trail behind it that remained in the sky undisturbed by wind; a long sharply defined white line pointing towards New Haven.
From where she sat, Ellie could see the glow of New Haven at night even though it was a hundred and thirty miles away. Sometimes, even in the daytime, if humidity was low, she fancied she could just about see the spectral reflection of the top of the city’s enormous enviro-dome on the horizon. It would flicker and undulate like a mirage. Not today though, humidity had brought visibility down.
She watched the freighter arc across the sky. It would be cutting through the uppermost layer of atmosphere, up where the troposphere begins to become space and the curvature of the horizon is just about discernible. It would stay high until the final approach to the city. She patiently watched it until it began to fade and merge with the heat-quivering horizon. Just as it was fading from view, she saw the flicker of the entry shields as it began its descent into the denser atmosphere below and it made its final vector into New Haven’s port.
There was nothing left to see up above. She looked down at the farm; three large plexitex agri-domes, each containing roughly an acre of those mean-spirited tubweeds. The agri-domes were arranged around a much smaller dome in the centre – home.
Ellie liked it up here; the
, a craggy rock that emerged from the clay-like soil of Harpers Reach like the desperate, reaching hand of a drowning man. She liked it because of the height and the view and because up here she felt that bit closer to the sky and the stars at night. Sometimes, very occasionally, smaller ships and personal transport vessels would skim over low enough to feel the downdraft as they passed by.
‘That rumbling sound?’ she continued, ‘that was a freighter coming into New Haven. They come by two or three times a day. One day Hufty, and soon…I’m heading that way myself.’
Ellie switched off the diary.
Her oxygen mask was killing her. She found the plastic rim bit into the bridge of her nose after a while. She pulled it off and held the mask in her hands as she loosened the straps slightly. She took a tentative mouthful of air. It wasn’t bad today, quite dense. On occasional days you could breathe atmosphere for a short while before needing to resort to using a mask. If you were really lucky and hit a rich pocket of oxygen you could go several minutes. Eventually though, you would need to use breathing apparatus or you’d keel over. Thousands of miles away, towards the north polar region, several enormous refineries were slowly working on turning the atmosphere oxygen-rich. Built over a hundred and fifty years ago they would probably be running another fifty before they were no longer needed. And then, of course farmers, case in point - her father - would be out of business.
Ellie rubbed the sore patches on either side of her nose and put the mask back on gently, then started down towards the farm, kicking up dust in her wake and leaving a rustred plume behind her like the freighter’s drifting jet stream in the peach-hued sky.
She let herself into the northern bio-dome. The Quin family referred to this one as ‘Betsy’. Her father, Jacob Quin, had let each of his three kids name a dome. Ted had got in first with ‘Booster’ as the name chosen for his dome. He named it after a character from one of those stupid morning holo-toob cartoon shows; all ‘splosions and over-the-top violence.
Ted was, to be fair, your typical seven year old boy.
So, because Ted had got in first with ‘Booster’ Dad - for some reason - decided that all three agri-domes should have nicknames beginning with ‘B’. Shona, only two years older than Ted, and still perfectly capable of enjoying the mindless banality of children’s toob, had gone with ‘Buttball’, a character from a rival cartoon.
Ellie named her dome after Betsy Boomalackah, a girl the same age as her - nineteen - and making zillions of creds out of music that parents planet-wide hated, and kids loved for that very reason.
It was hot. Inside Betsy it was always hot and humid. The airborne moisture hit her like a wet wall. Ellie peeled off her mask and hung it and the accompanying O2 cylinder on a hook beside the door.
Ahead of her, like a grim rank of soldiers standing to attention, grew row after row of tubweeds. Each, it seemed, with a personal grudge against her. She slipped on a pair of elbow length rubber gloves and grabbed a bucket of fertilizer pellets.
‘Okay you miserable weeds, chow time.’
She proceeded down the first row, shoveling a handful of pellets at the base of each plant’s thick corded stem. They swayed silently, the leaves rustling softly, sensing it was feed time and impatient for their nutrients.
Ellie had once seen a thing called a ‘movie’, one of those flickering two dimensional things people used to watch way back in the dark ages of the twenty-first century. The movie she had seen was called ‘The Day of the Triffids’. The similarity was genuinely striking, not in just their appearance; the sturdy, corded trunk, the broccoli-like florets at the top from which a long agile stem emerged and culminated in a spine-covered pod, but also in their crappy attitude.
Tubweeds had three very distinct properties. Firstly, they possessed a very simple intelligence. Dad said they were roughly as smart as a housefly. Experiments carried out on the plant indicated that at a very basic level it was aware of, and reacted to light, sound, motion and heat.
Secondly, they smelled appalling. She had once tried to describe the smell to Hufty, the closest she had got was ‘they sort of smell like meat and mint at the same time’.
Thirdly, their unique proficiency at absorbing carbon dioxide and monoxide and turning it into oxygen output; the process known as ‘respiration’. A well known statistic amongst tubweed farmers was that, during a growth-spurt, a single tubweed could produce enough oxygen to sustain seven adult humans.
The plant beside Ellie had begun to grow impatient and a tentacle reached inside the bucket. Ellie smacked it sharply with her spade. It smacked her back with its pod. Even through the thick rubber gloves the spikes hurt.
‘Right, you think you’re so clever? No pellets for you today.’
The tubweed seemed to wilt slightly. Ellie continued down the row, shoveling pellets onto the soil.
‘Come on, concentrate Ellie.’
‘I’m trying to, but this is so-o-o boring.’
‘It’s not boring, and you’ve got exams coming up, so try and stay a little focused, okay?’
Sean Eltwood held Ellie with a gaze she imagined he thought was stern, commanding. In fact it was nothing of the sort. Ellie stared longingly back at Sean’s almost feminine brown eyes, and studied the remarkable angularity of his jaw line. She imagined him in the black and white military camouflage of the Colonial Marines, stepping cautiously through an exotic alien jungle, pulse rifle held at the ready. She switched fantasies; Sean in formal dress uniform extending a spotless white-gloved hand and beckoning her to come to him. His wholesome smile and dreamy long-lashed eyes framed by the black peak of his parade ground cap.
Snap out of it girl.
‘Focus? Yes, certainly. Focus.’ She nodded sternly. ‘I’m focusing.’
Sean was twenty; just over a year older than her. His family lived in a similar farm just a few miles away. They grew a far less troublesome cash crop, proto-meat plants. He had finished home-schooling and had been eagerly looking forward to starting college in New Haven. But then his name came up in the Colonial Marine draft lottery and he was due to head off to join the army soon to begin training.