Chapter Two – Memories

Date 6,253,101 B.C.E.

For a moment he panicked – he felt the thinness of the air and couldn’t breathe.  “Is this it?” the thought flickered briefly but fiercely on his mind.  Then he shook his head and out loud said, “Fool.”

“Dear?” he heard his wife’s voice from the house call out.

“Nothing Normia, I’m just talking to myself again”.  He stepped out onto the veranda and looked up into the sky.  The stars were bright, too bright.  He knew why they were bright, he knew why the air seemed thin, and he knew why it was so cold.  The world, their world was dying.  It had been for some time, and all centuries of planning and working to reverse the inevitable had failed.  He was a scientist and he and his wife were some of the last who studied the planets rotations and the slow, painful demise of their atmosphere.

He looked back into the house at his wife Normia.  She was a handsome woman, never truly beautiful, but striking.  She was tall, proud and intelligent. She was one of the leading minds who devised the shields around the homes and water containment facilities.   She was the mother to his only son, and she was one of the last bits of hope he held near and dear.  She was at her desk reviewing her latest presentations on the radiation effects of the Sun.

It had started to become unmistakably apparent about many years prior.  For generations, scientists had theorized that the core of this planet was cooling, cold even.  The ever cooler planet was just indication, but the loss of breathable air, the thinning atmosphere, dramatically increased and measurable radiation levels all were long time indicators.  The biggest and most noticeable issue to the general population was the disruption of many guidance systems that were being affected.  This was the beginning of the end for much technology as it was built around being geo-centric.  This loss of guidance spurred the desire, and perhaps the need for renewed space exploration.  They had just begun to set probes on all of the ten large bodies encircling the Sun, but the one that had been the most interesting for them was the third planet.  It was teeming with life, large animals, fishes, birds, and small mammals.  They had been exploring the planet remotely some hundred years prior, but at that time had not yet sent astronauts to land.  Yet when it was discovered that their own planet’s core was cold, and the electromagnetic shield protecting them from the Sun and space’s radiation was failing, they immediately began to theorize that they might have to colonize that third planet.

Their planet, smaller, much cooler and long inhabited by them was a difficult planet.  The ancient volcanic activities had left much of it inhabitable.  The long and slow rotation around the Sun made seasons difficult and required a planet wide migration every six hundred and fifty sols or so; allowing her inhabitants to continue to grow their crops, keep their livestock alive.  Migration allowed them to live.  The rotation of their planet allowed their growing season to be the longest, and this allowed them to produce and store enough food for many sols.

As they began to explore and discover the bright blue, third planet, they discovered its gravity much stronger than their own.  This required much discussion and review of the method that they would use to explore this planet effectively.  Their bodies simply were too lithe to effectively move about on the planet.  They had to build machines to reduce the effect of gravity.  The first explores who landed found themselves nearly crushed under the weight of the atmosphere and several of them expired.  Of course the early trips for the explorers to the third planet were one way, their technology and space craft were not designed to leave such power forces as the gravity of the planet’s surface.  The long trip to the third planet required too much fuel, and as their own world was slowly expiring, they feared using resources at all.  At first they explored the planet from orbit, but once the knowledge came that home was slowly bleeding to death through its atmosphere escaping into space, they moved the space agency’s timeline up, probably before they were ready, but then in-hindsight probably not quickly enough.

The second and third waves of planetary explorers were more successful, given boon by the now more permanent space station in orbit.  From this advantage they were better able to understand the planet, its cycles, its gravity, its atmosphere.  Breathing had been a challenge, but the new respirators developed allowed the explorers to breath.  Several theories had developed that simple genetic modification would allow the creation of explorers whose bodies were modified so as to live and breathe without respirators.  Sadly, this theory was just now being put into place and it would take another forty years for these new explorers to be ready.  Others theorized that their own bodies would modify in a generation or two and that they would be able to survive naturally.

He shook his head.  Yes, they were a remarkable species; any would be who survived this long in the conditions left on their home.  At one time his entire planet had been habitable – for the entire sol cycle. It had been warm, wetter, beautiful it was said.  The image of the arts from 100’s of millions years prior were an inspiration and filled each of them with pride.  They as a species had adapted, but not to life on a planet like the third where clearly it was more favorable towards life.  No they had genetically adapted for life on a planet that was dying.

He glanced up at the sky.  The orbit of the third planet would be visible with his telescope, and in fact he and his wife were due the next day at the observatory to review the planet and to remain in communication with the current exploration team there now.  He smiled.  This was a special review, for his own son, Neomis, lead the current exploration team on the third planet.  They had been there now nearly four years, and had some exciting news to report on the planet and the next terra-walk which was scheduled in just three days.  They had created in the last ten years a space elevator, a simple solution to the rocket problems of getting up and off the ground on the third planet.  Their own rocket systems were too bulky to transport, but creating the space elevator, a technology already long established, was viable.  It was the work on the ground that caused most issues there, but once the connecting base was finally built they were able to more easily move from the stratosphere to the ground.  Visits were kept to short jumps as the gravity still wreaked havoc on their bodies, but it was giving them the opportunities to actually get on the ground and off very quickly without the use of the rockets or their precious fuels.

Neomis was extraordinary, in several ways.  First he was brilliant.  Second he was fearless.  And third, he was one of only a few hundred born in the last forty or fifty years.  The loss of atmosphere and exposure to the Sun’s radiation had not only caused increased deaths due to cancers and other new diseases; it had increased the rate of infertility.  Now a live birth was almost unheard of, and the natal centers struggled to produce healthy, viable children.  Yet there had been Neomis.  At first the planetary council insisted that he manage the most recent exploration team from the home planet, but he insisted he go, that their future was to be determined by his and his team’s ability to find a permanent solution to living on the third planet, and it had to happen quickly.  The council of course agreed, they had been loath to send one of the last great minds away, knowing that it was likely he would not be able to return to the home world.

It wasn’t that there were just too few resources left; it was there were just too few people left.  Great and empty cities sat all around the northern hemisphere of the planet, abandoned centuries ago.  Left to slowly rust and decay away.  Water had become so scarce that it was considered a crime to cry.  Of course a ridiculous law, not enforceable, but created so as to help the remaining population see the importance of, the irreplaceable importance of, water.  The once large population of the world was now down to just a few several hundred thousand, and most of these were growing older.  There had been explorers sent to other bodies in the solar system, especially to their other neighbor, the large gas planet with her many moons, the large frozen one had been especially interesting, but since it was already known that life existed on the 3rd planet, they kept a small crew orbiting here, but focus turned back to home and that small blue planet.

The robot technology had been developed nearly one hundred years prior, but because of the continued loss of scientific minds and the ever increasing hostile world that had once been home, the robotic discoveries came to a near standstill. Those that still existed were self-repairing and several were self-replicating.  Yet their advancement stopped, at least at home.  The robots in use by the colonists on the third planet were the most advanced, and were designed to survive the warm wet climate with its extraordinary gravity.  The few remaining robots here were used to harvest the increasingly small crops, maintain the ever decaying infrastructures and just ensure that the lights came on.  People now were focused on perfecting life pods and places to live on the home world, while the explorers at the third planet figured out how and if a mass exodus to this new world was even possible.

He shook his head and stared at the sky.   He loved one thing about the thinning atmosphere – the luminescence of the stars.  How crisp they all were, bright, some nearly as much so as the Sun itself.  Especially bright was the enormous 5th planet and her moons, shinning so brilliantly from her place in the heavens.  His heart was heavy as he thought about the scientific discoveries of the past two hundred or so years: the advanced space flight, setting up observatory stations around the third, fifth and sixth planets, the advancement of robotics, the change of their own genetic materials and DNA.  He sighed and shook his head.  He could see the light of the third planet, what did Neomis call it?  Ah yes, Kieaa.  It was a pretty sounding word, not has harsh as their own home, Gugulaania.

“What are you doing now my son?”  He squinted and noticed through his telescope bright, previously unseen lights in the space sky.  He knew that no space craft were flying.  Perhaps a satellite?  No, they were too far, perhaps as far as the large asteroid belt between Gugulaania and Kieaa.  Most likely comets, perhaps even an errant asteroid.  Their trajectory would place them in the orbit of planets nearest the Sun.  There had been increased asteroid activity in the last year or so, and impact events were not entirely unknown, even here, though not since he had been born.   He would have to check the astronomy lab telescopes tomorrow when he and Normia were working.  He shuddered; they hadn’t been watching the entire solar system anymore, with the focus, the entire planet’s focus on that third planet – all eyes turned toward the future.  He had warned against this, but once Neomis arrived at Kieaa, he too had only looked there.  His son, his future was in a space craft circling that large blue planet teeming with life.

The air was becoming too cold to remain outside.  He rubbed his long thin arms and looked at his hands.  The fingers were long and narrow, capable of elaborate manipulation of the smallest objects.  He stood nearly three meters tall.  He head large, oval shaped. He had no hair and his eyes, great globes that could see a multitude of spectrums.  Much of their bodies had been genetically modified.  It was said that his greatest ancestors, tens of thousands of generations, had come to Gugulaania some two hundred thousand years prior, from a distant star of the same galaxy.  His people had traveled on a great space craft, they still maintained, grounded called Mothership, on which generations of his people lived, loved, died.  The histories of those generations had been largely lost, forgotten, but the great Mothership that had carried his ancestors was buried, deep in the soil, protected from the Sun, the wind, the cold, the water……  It was commonly believed as they were not native to this world that their ancient ancestors had in fact seeded the third world of the solar system for them some many eons ago; a genesis experiment that failed as the craft upon which people had traveled had failed and had to stop here, at the fourth planet, no longer able to sustain life beyond this place.  They thought this because the air had always been too thin here, even then, too cold.  How different his life would have been had they made it to Kieaa all those generations ago.  Now it was his son and the one hundred or so scientists and engineers who would call Kieaa home.

He stepped into the life pod, the door sliding shut behind him.  The hum of the door seal hissed behind him.  Normia looked up from her desk, her bright eyes shining.  She smiled, her small mouth turned slightly up.  She rose to her full three and half meter height, towering over him and reached her arms around him.  Their heads touched, intimately.  “The sky still keeps your gaze darling, even over me?”  She whispered.

His hand stroked her long shoulders, “My dear, all the lights in the sky, bound together in ribbons would be dark next to the radiance of your eyes,” and for a moment they stood like this, heads together, eyes closed.  The only sound was the rare and invaluable water clock dripping on the table.  He pulled her away finally and looked up into her face.  “I miss him Normia.”

The moment of absolute love crossed her face as she looked down onto her husband.  “Neomin, he is with us as surely as you and I stand here.  His blood pulses in our veins.  His hope is our hope.  His love is our love.  He will save our people.”  She looked away, up at the ceiling windows.  “We both know the generators here won’t last another year, if that.  We’ve run out of options. The solar panels are failing; we simply don’t have the resources to maintain this world much longer.  It is only because of Neomis we have hope.  It is our hope because it is his.”  She looked down at him and stroked his long cheek.  Tomorrow we will see him, if only by view screen, but we will see him.  The alignment of our worlds will be nearly perfect.”

He smiled, “You are my hope.”  His fingers intertwined with hers.  “Dear, I noticed asteroids or perhaps a previously unrecorded comet, visible through the telescope.”  He looked back over his shoulder at the veranda door.  “Have you heard anything from the others at the observatory?”

“No, but our focus has been here, planet side, maintaining the generators, I don’t think anyone but you right now are looking off world.”  She smiled, seeing his frown, “Neomin, you know this is an active system, we both know this.  Asteroids and comets are all too common as we well know.  Tomorrow from the observatory grab Hemoit and ask him to review the solar system.  I’m sure if he reviews these rouge satellites whizzing by in the system he’ll tell us what they are and where they’re going.”

“Perhaps.  I shall look myself.”  He started to pull away from her.

“Neomin?  Now?  I think tonight we let the stars and other space bodies shine where they will and you and I rest here, together.”  Her large eyes blinked slowly, luxuriously, lustfully.

He hesitated; he could feel the pulse of her blood beneath his fingertips.  Her gentle touch remained on his hands. He looked back into her face, her eyes.  His mind for a moment shut down and then he acquiesced.  He pulled her mouth down to his and their lips met, at first a hesitation, then the hunger of the stress overcame them both and they lost themselves in pulse of blood pounding against their skin.  The lights of space spun above them, unnoticed.

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