In my second semester of college, I took an International Human Rights class. That was a huge mistake, as I was in way over my head. But I liked the teacher, and really learned a lot throughout the course. Something we talked about quite a bit were NGOs, Non Governmental Organizations. These are the people who go in and actually get things done when some disaster strikes a country or something. One particular set of NGOs we looked at were human rights groups that embed someone in a fascist state with a likely political target. The idea is that having a foreign observer there, preferably with a camera, will be enough to deter the authorities from disappearing the target. I’m totally blanking on the names of these organizations at the moment.
This always seemed like a concept rife with story ideas. Why hasn’t anyone ever made a movie about this? So it’s always been an idea hanging out at the back of my mind. Of course, I’m an completely unqualified to write it using any sort of real places/politics, so I put it in space. Luckily, I think science fiction is versatile enough to handle it. No aliens, though, I would want to keep this as grounded and gritty as possible.
I really like this beginning, so I hope to expand this at some point. Just over 500 words.
Jason Grayson stepped off the cracked, sun-blistered landing strip, dead grass audibly crunching beneath his feet. He shielded his eyes as the aero shuttle lit up its thrusters and hoped the ignition would set the surrounding plains aflame. The ship shuddered on the landing strip a few moments, then rocketed skyward. Grayson watched as it faded to a speck and disappeared. He tossed his backpack against a small empty shack near the landing strip and sat down to wait.
Grayson didn’t investigate the sandbag barricades jutting from the ground around the landing strip. He could see cannon barrels, dark and sleek, pointing up from behind the makeshift walls. The wars on this planet had ended years ago, but there were plenty of reminders, and Grayson had no doubt that a few of those reminders still lived, waiting for some passerby to step on them.
After a few hours, night fell. Grayson adjusted his watch, reminding himself that the days here were shorter. Two moons rose to the west and hung low in the dark sky when his ride finally arrived.
The jeep came bouncing over the nearby hills, loud and popping like fireworks. Grayson winced and reached for his camera. The vehicle ground to a halt just a few feet away. It had been a military jeep at one time; Grayson saw the old machine gun mount, and where a few bullet holes still decorated the armored plating. The driver leaned over to throw open the passenger-side door. The man’s dark skin hid most of his features, but Grayson could see bright eyes and a grin full of teeth.
“You are ready to go?” the driver called. Grayson noticed the accent, but it wasn’t as bad as the news networks always portrayed. Grayson nodded and climbed into the jeep, clutching his bag to his chest. The jeep had no safety belt.
“You are lucky,” the driver said, gunning the gas and turning the jeep around on the landing strip. “Those old guns there? Those are all mined. Blow your legs right off!”
For the first hour and a half they drove on essentially no road. Occasionally Grayson caught a glimpse of a trail, little more than old tire tracks. Eventually they came across a gravel road, and Grayson saw his first real signs of civilization—small, widely interspersed houses, surrounded by crops or fenced cattle. The driver, Remy, chatted for most of the ride, but Grayson only caught bits and pieces over the sounds of the engine.
“I cannot tell you how happy Mr. Sandoya will be to have you here,” Remy shouted over the clatter of the jeep. “The Habana have killed all our previous Corps volunteers.” Grayson glanced over, eyes wide with alarm, and the driver laughed. “I am kidding, of course! You are actually the first to make it in. Most of them get turned away star-side. So it is truth when I say we have no idea what your life expectancy may be.” Remy laughed again, but Grayson hugged his bag close and wished he’d taken up the border officer’s suggestion to wear an armored vest.