The Rift
Citizens Exchange – Chapter 2



Time to read



Monday & Friday

Ever since humanity started gazing upon the stars, people have wondered about the possibility of aliens and the idea of first contact. Like most people, Karina had imagined that aliens would arrive in giant spaceships hovering above the earth, or at least a message from the depths of space, confirming the existence of extraterrestrial life. However, when it finally happened, it was not what she or anyone else expected. Karina was just seventeen, still living in Moscow with her parents when it occurred, the day when humanity’s first contact with an alien species was made.

The contact was not a result of advanced space species visiting their spaceships. Instead, it happened through a rift that they accidentally opened between two planets – Earth and Thalassar. Despite this initial difference in contact, not much differed from what humanity had imagined. Two planets, two different species were at each other’s throats from the very beginning.

The Thalassarians were the first to attempt an invasion of Earth. At the time, the two species knew next to nothing about each other. When thousands of Thalassarians emerged from the rift, wielding swords, axes, spears, and bows, some as large as themselves, it was a shock to the human race, who tried to stop peacefully them before resorting to violence. But the Thalassarians were in for a bigger shock – they were able to use magic on their planet, but it didn’t work on Earth. As soon as they moved more than a hundred meters away from the rift, they were as ordinary as humans, despite their giant glowing armor and enormous weapons. When the Thalassarians continued to charge and didn’t back down, even though their weapons and armor were rendered useless, human armies gunned them down with ease. Only a handful of the thousand Thalassarians who attempted the invasion managed to escape back through the rift.

Karina was in school when it happened, everything stopped for a day, and all eyes turned towards the Greek island of Zakynthos, where a rift had opened on Earth’s side. Every news outlet, television, and streaming service was full of videos of the massacre that occurred that day.

Carried by the easy victory, it didn’t take long for humanity to launch a retaliatory attack on Thalassar. They had all the arguments on their side – the Thalassarians had attacked first, they had opened the portal, and there was nothing humanity could do to close it. It was best if they struck back. NATO, Russia, China, India, and other nations joined forces, even if they weren’t united, for that day peace washed over the earth. For the first time in history, they had a common enemy, or more importantly, a whole new planet to explore and exploit. It took humanity three months to mount a joint attack on Thalassar, but it failed almost as spectacularly as the Thalassarian attack.

Humans quickly learned that most of their technology was useless on the alien planet. Anything powered by electricity failed to work at all. At the time, humanity still did not know that the Thalassarians had access to magic, the theory was that the planet was simply stuck in medieval times in their history. Even without most of their technology, humans felt confident in attacking the aliens as they still had their guns versus the medieval weapons of Thalassarians. But as soon as the battle started they discovered that Thalassarians could easily shield themselves against human guns. Their armor, now with enchantments working, could not be penetrated by most of the human artillery. They could also dismantle them with the use of their magic and powerful weapons that shined bright on their home planet. Humanity retreated, but not before suffering tens of thousands of losses.

The day of Earth’s attack was kept a secret, no one was able to get much information about it before it happened. The day humans lost the battle, the news of the magical abilities of Thalassarians was leaked, but much was found and learned about them in the upcoming years.

Karina can’t remember what her goals and dreams before that day were, but as soon as she found out about the Thalassar and the wonders of that world, she made her goal to learn, research, and visit the alien planet in her lifetime. She had moved to London to study physics right after high school and made her life goal to join one of the research teams working in collaboration with NATO on researching the rift. She was still far away from that, but once the Citizens Exchange Program was announced, she applied immediately.

Now, she found herself about to board a boat that would take her to Zakynthos, and in fifteen days she was about to step foot on the alien planet with a group of the first humans to do so in almost ten years after they failed joint attack. The first group of CEP members, two hundred and fifty of them, were held in Athens for a day for Medical and other checkups. They had to leave all of their devices behind, once on the Zakynthos they would be provided with the means to contact their families before they leave for Thalassar.

After finally boarding the ship and departing for the island, she was overwhelmed with the feeling of excitement and anticipation. Everything she had wondered for the past ten years was going to finally be answered and she was about to be a part of this historic expedition. As she made her way toward the deck, she bumped into a young man standing at the entrance. He was tall, and muscular with a shaved head and a warm smile. The man’s deep brown eyes sparkled as he apologized for the collision, his voice smooth and confident.

“I’m sorry,” Karina said, flashing a smile. “I didn’t see you there.”

“It’s fine, don’t worry about it” The man replied, returning the friendly smile. “I think we’re all a little lost today.”

Karina nodded in agreement. “Yeah, you’re right about that. My name’s Karina, by the way.”

“I’m Jabari,” he said, extending his hand for a shake. “Nice to meet you.”

Karina took his hand and shook it. “Nice to meet you too. How are you feeling about all of this?”

Jabari shrugged. “Excitement and a little bit of fear, I guess,” he said truthfully. “It all feels surreal, to be honest, I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that we are actually going to another planet.”

Karina nodded in understanding. “Yeah, I know what you mean.“ She said. ”I can’t wait to get there, but it doesn’t feel like it’s real at the same time,” she paused for a second. “But I kinda knew that I will eventually end up there,” she said with a smile.

“Really? You knew you’d go to Talassar?” Jabari asked with curiosity.

“Well, I didn’t know, know,” Karina corrected herself. “But ever since the rift opened, I knew I had to step foot on that alien planet, so I had hoped for it, and here I am.”

Jabari smiled back. “Ah, dreams do come true for some people.”

Karina smiled back, but before they could continue their conversation, a woman called everyone up to the deck.

“Sorry to interrupt, ladies and gentlemen,” the woman’s voice boomed through the speakers. “We need everyone to head up to the deck now.”

Karina and Jabari made their way up to the deck, standing next to each other as the rest of the members of the Citizens Exchange Program gathered around the large deck.

Captain Stavros stepped forward, his tall lean frame looming over the crowd. He spoke with a heavy Greek accent, but his voice was clear and commanding. As he introduced himself, his eyes scanned the sea of faces before him, searching for any signs of uncertainty or doubt.

“We will be reaching Zakynthos in fifteen minutes,” he said, his mustache twitching slightly as he spoke. “Once we arrive, you will board the waiting buses and begin your training at one of our facilities. The Commanding Officer of the program will provide you with further instructions once you arrive.”

He paused for a moment, allowing his words to sink in. Then, he continued, his voice growing more serious. “I was there on the first day the rift opened, and on the day we tried a joint attack. I know firsthand how dangerous the Thalassar can be. They are a brutal people, and we must treat them with caution and respect.”

The captain’s eyes narrowed as he spoke, his expression turning grave. “But we must also remember that we, as humans, are capable of brutality as well. So, I urge you to be careful, to watch over yourselves and each other, and to avoid provoking them on their planet. We will not be able to protect you if something goes wrong.”

His tone softened slightly as he spoke his final words. “Remember, you are ambassadors of humanity. Show them what we are truly capable of, and represent us in the best light possible. I applaud your courage and wish you the best of luck on your journey into the unknown.”

As the captain finished his speech, the crowd nodded in understanding, their expressions a mix of excitement and trepidation as the captain’s words slowly sank in.

As the boat approached the island, the once-idyllic Zakynthos appeared to be transformed into a heavily militarized zone. The crystal-clear waters surrounding the island were now patrolled by naval ships, and the beach was lined with barbed wire and sandbags. Military personnel, armed to the teeth, were stationed at every corner of the dock, and the air was filled with the sound of helicopters hovering above.

It was evident that the island had undergone a drastic transformation in the past decade. What was once known as one of the world’s top tourist destinations had become a massive military and research base. The locals had all been relocated, some leaving voluntarily out of fear, while others were forced out by the government.

As soon as they disembarked from the boat, the CEP members were escorted to a fleet of ten buses waiting for them. The engines revved up, and the convoy set off toward their base camp. Karina took up the sights of the beautiful island trying to contain her excitement. The ride to the camp was short, in less than twenty minutes they arrived at the destination.

As the buses pulled up to the camp, the CEP members were greeted by a woman standing at the entrance. She introduced herself as Dr. Sophia Garcia, the leader of the project. She had an air of authority about her that commanded respect and radiated confidence.

“Welcome to Zakynthos,” she said with a smile, as stepped down the small stairs. “I hope your journey was comfortable.”

Karina stood in awe as Dr. Garcia approached them. The woman’s presence was commanding, and Karina couldn’t help but feel intimidated by her sharp gaze. Dr. Garcia was tall and lean, with a strong, athletic build that spoke of years of physical training. Her face was angular, with sharp cheekbones and a defined jawline, and behind her glasses, her eyes were piercing and calculating. She wore a white mantle and her brown hair was tied in a tight bun.

“As you can see,” Dr. Garcia continued, gesturing around her, “we have had to make some drastic changes to the island in the past decade. The military presence here is high, but it is necessary for our safety.”

Karina nodded, taking in the serious tone of Dr. Garcia’s words.

“But don’t worry,” Dr. Garcia said, a smile finally appearing on her face. “You will be safe here, and we will prepare you as best as we can for your journey. I want to thank all of you for applying for the program.”

Dr. Garcia stood tall, and her voice echoed through the camp. “You have all been selected for this program because we believe in your courage and your ability to represent humanity in the best light possible. This journey will be challenging no doubt, but it is also an opportunity for us to make history and connect our two worlds, so we can learn from each other and become the best version of ourselves.”

She paused, looking at each member of the crowd, as to get to know each other just by looking at them. “I have no doubt that you will rise to the occasion and show the Thalassarians that we are capable of greatness and that there is no need for our two species to be in any sort of conflict. We will prepare you with the best knowledge about Thalassar we have, but as you may guess, we do not know much. They shared limited information with us since they made contact about the CEP, and we have some information from our soldiers that managed to return on that day we made the mistake of attacking them back.”

She took a deep breath before continuing. “I will not bother you for now, I know you are dealing with your own feeling and had a few stressful days. I will let you unpack in your rooms and eat. Meet me here in one hour and we will go and visit the Rift. I guess some of you have been dying to see it in person.” She said and turned towards one of her assistants standing next to her.

Karina couldn’t contain her excitement, she almost jumped while walking. She was finally going to see the Rift, the gateway to another world. She had seen countless pictures and videos most of them taken from far away, but now she was going to experience it in person. The excitement was almost too much to bear and she had to squeal a little as she walked to her assigned room.

Their rooms were in a 3D-printed building with three floors, their rooms accessible through the outside terrace with two sets of stairs from each side of the building. Each floor had thirty small rooms, equipped with a bed, TV, nightstand, and a simple bathroom. The room had no kitchen, but they were reassured the cafeteria would be serving food and drinks 24/7.

Karina unpacked her bags, took a quick shower, and changed into something more comfortable. She couldn’t wait to see the Rift, so she hurried down way before the hour mark ticked by and watched people slowly come. As all two hundred and fifty of them gathered in front of their buildings, Dr. Garcia and her team came from one of the passages.

“Come, follow me,” She said her tone calmer now. “The rift is just a short walk ahead.”

Dr. Garcia led them at the foothills of Mount Skopos towards the portal. As walked Karina was mesmerized by breathtaking panoramic views of the azure blue sea stretching out as far as the eye could see. The mountain was covered in lush greenery, and the air was filled with the sweet scent of the sea and the wildflowers.

As they hiked up the trail, Karina couldn’t help but feel a sense of excitement and anticipation building up inside her. She had dreamed of this moment for so long, and now, it was finally within her grasp.

As they approached the portal, Karina noticed insane amounts of military machinery and soldiers posted every few meters, they were getting close.

“The portal is just behind this hill,” Dr. Garcia yelled and continued.

As they passed the hill, Karina noticed tanks, missile launchers, drones, and some kind of energy cannon’s she never saw before posted all around the hill and valley. But her attention quickly turned to the portal itself.

It was a strange sight to behold, she had seen the images and videos, but in person, it was unlike anything she had ever imagined. It appeared as a shimmering tear in the fabric of reality, constantly shifting and pulsing with otherworldly energy. The colors and patterns within the portal were mesmerizing, almost hypnotic. The portal itself was gigantic, towering over people, almost five times as high as the average human.

As they approached the portal, Karina noticed the air around it was charged with energy, causing her hair to stand on end. The hum of otherworldly energy was audible, and she could feel it vibrating through her bones. The colors within the portal were constantly shifting and changing, from deep purples and blues to fiery oranges and reds.

As she peered through the portal, Karina caught a glimpse of a world unlike any she had ever seen. The image was blurry as if looking through a thick fog, but she could see movement and activity within it. She could see humanoid figures moving on the other side. It was breathtaking and overwhelming at the same time.

They stayed at the rift for less than thirty minutes before heading back. Once they reached the camp Dr. Garcia gave them a schedule of their lectures and training starting tomorrow. As the night bleed away Karina was unable to sleep as the excitement seeped through her body. They were instructed not to leave the camp alone, but they could roam around the campsite, so she decided to leave her room and for a walk on a beautiful Mediterranean night.

As soon as Karina left the room, she was hit by the heavy scent of cigarette smoke, making her catch her breath. She turned to see a man about her age with dark brown hair slicked back, dressed in a black t-shirt and cargo shorts, leaning against the terrace railings with a cigarette in one hand.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t see you there,” he said, taking a drag from his cigarette.

“It’s okay,” Karina replied in a soft tone.

“Can’t sleep?” he asked.

“Yep,” Karina nodded. “You too?”

The man smothered his cigarette on the railing before answering. “Yeah…Ever since I was accepted, I’ve barely slept,” he said with a sigh. “I’m Liam, by the way,” he added, holding out his hand.

Karina shook his hand. “I am Karina. Nice to meet you, Liam.”

“Nice to meet you too, Karina,” Liam repeated her name, a trick he taught himself after often forgetting people’s names as soon as he let go of their hands. “So, if you don’t mind me asking, why did you apply to the Citizens Exchange Program?”

Karina leaned on the railing and took a deep breath. “Short answer? I fell in love with the idea of extraterrestrial life and visiting another planet. So, as soon as the opportunity arose, I jumped on it. How about you?”

Liam ran his hand through his hair. “Short answer? I got tired of everything and needed a change. Long answer? I don’t even know where to begin.” He chuckled. “Do you want a beer? I grabbed a few from the cafeteria earlier and stashed them in my room.”

“Sure,” Karina said, and Liam disappeared into his room to retrieve two beers, opening them using his lighter.

“Thanks,” Karina said, taking a sip of the cold beer and saluting Liam with her bottle. The sip confirmed that the beer was the right choice.

The silence between them was comfortable, and they both enjoyed the sound of the waves crashing against the shore in the distance. As Karina took another sip of her beer, she couldn’t help but feel grateful for the unexpected company.

Cold beers in the dead of the night became their ritual after a long day of tiresome lectures and physical training. A place for them to just be themselves and talk freely and openly about everything. The lecture was pretty pointless as it turned out that humanity knew almost nothing about Thalassar and its civilization. Physical training on the other hand was welcome, they tried to prepare participants to be in the best shape possible and be ready for anything that lay ahead on Thalassar.

One of the things they knew about Thalassar, from the soldiers that returned, is that it had a slightly higher gravitational pull than Earth, so they focused a lot of training on that, wanting to prepare the participants of the project for the shift in gravitational pull. It wasn’t a large discrepancy but it would be noticeable at first.

The days went slow and Karina and Liam finished them on the terrace talking about their experiences with training, life in general, and what they expected to find on Thalassar, they were eager for the months to pass and finally to step foot on the alien planet.

Share the post to help us grow!

Page views: 107

Like what you’ve read or listened to? You can support me on Patreon if you wish!

Chapter Discussion

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *