Chapter Four – Asteroids

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

There were days he hated it.  This glowing, blue ball of life.  It, as it rotated, caught the light of the sun and seemed almost to mock him.  His view this morning was of a world shining bright.  He thought of the day prior, turbulent skies brewing with storms that he hadn’t seen in many sols.  He wondered if they spoke of the future, then shook his head.  He laughed.  “God I sound like my father.”  Neomis took one more glance out the window, his eyes lingering on the water of the oceans below, no bigger puddles to him from this visage.  The beeping of his communicator pulled him from his reverie.

He pressed the button to access the communication device, his long narrow fingers soft and graceful.  Another moment of whimsy flittered his mind, “they look like the wings of those small reptiles, what are we calling them, birds?”  He grinned at himself, “what on Kieaa has come over me?”  He pressed the button, “This is Neomis, and you’ve reached Kieaa Station.”

There was static at first, then a clear soft voice, “My son, this is Neomin, your father.”

“Father!  It is early here!  What brings you to communicate to me now?”

“Just a father wishing to speak to a son who is far, far away!  Your mother and I are soon to head to the astronomy lab and I wanted to reach you before I departed.”  He sighed, audibly on the communicator.  “It is so dark here sometimes I wonder how you can survive all that light there.”

Neomis shook his head, he knew his father was teasing, only a little.  “We must survive what we must survive so as to survive father.  I believe you taught me this lesson.”  A wry grin crept on the corners of his mouth.

“Survive my son.”  Silence crackled on the communicator.

It seemed a full sol passed before finally Neomin spoke again.  “Son I need you to look at 11-mark-4 once you clear the lunar body orbiting Kieaa this morning.”  Neomis glanced out the view window above him.  The lunar body was looming large and near, sometimes it was so bright, like looking at the central star in this system, and sometimes it seemed dark and forbidding.  They would clear its horizon in a few short moments.

“Father, 11-mark-4.  What am I looking at or for?”

Neomin was silent for a moment, a long moment it seemed.  “Well, as you are aware, this is a young system, and is very active with asteroids and other unattached astrological bodies.  From our vantage we see several asteroids entering your space coming from the region between you and Gugulaania.  I would have Hemoit review, but your mother heard this morning that he has fallen very ill.  Evidently his home atmosphere unit failed and the air of the habit therein escaped.”

“Is he alive?”   Neomis asked, genuine concern featured in his voice.

“Yes, so his wife reports.  It was fortunate she had stayed the night at the lab, otherwise we would have lost them both.”  Neomin cleared his throat.  “We continue to fail here son.  Hemoit was our expert of astronomy, certainly I can use the telescopes, but I am not confident I can or even could accurately calculate the trajectory of this asteroid.  Our best estimate is that is on a collision course for Kieaa, but we’re hoping it will miss.  From what I can tell it isn’t large enough to cause catastrophic damage, but will certainly affect your station and research on the ground.”

“Well as a precaution we’ll abort any terra landings until we are certain.  Hmm, I wonder if we shouldn’t separate the station from the space elevator.  If largely affected the elevator could pull us out of our orbit.”  There was no answer for many moments.  Neomis spoke again, “Father are you there?”

More silence then finally, “Yes my son.”  Neomin cleared his throat.  “There is another asteroid.”

“Another?”

“Yes – it is on a collision course for Gugulaania, or is as far as we can tell.  This one we can see more clearly from our vantage.  It is more significant given it is headed close to, or directly for our city center.  We have a few weeks, maybe less.”

“Are you certain? It’s coming to you?  I mean without Hemoit to review surely you are mistaken!  Isn’t it more likely that it will miss you! Gugulaania is so small – the chances of it hitting, well……” Neomis’ voice tapered off.  “So small……”

Neither spoke for a moment.  “I may not be an astronomer son, but I can a mathematician, we have better than 70% of being hit.  Of course we are not 100% certain, and your mother, ever the problem solver is working on a solution.  Evidently we still have the old rockets, though we are not certain they will fire.  We plan on launching them to asteroid in the hopes of breaking it apart or diverting it.”

Neomis knew what this portended.  The likelihood that the ancient rockets, left from an era of space, launching into the asteroid and affecting its path was very small.  If they would launch at all.  Most of the radiation fuel that had powered them had been diverted many sols prior to keep the habitats functional.  “What can we do?”

“My son, continue your research.  Unless by some miracle we are wrong, and this asteroid misses us, you and your station could be the last of our people.”

“NO father!  Even if the asteroid hits you you’ll survive, it cannot be that catastrophic!  It cannot be……” his voice dropped off.  The hopelessness of their lives for a moment over whelmed him.  “Cannot…….”

“Be strong my son.  Tell me, how goes the genetic research? When we last spoke you had mentioned advancement in gene splicing therapy with one of the primates.”  His voice was clear, direct, no tremble of fear.

Fortified by his father’s voice Neomis spoke, “The trials have been very successful father.  We have found several primates whose DNA and RNA sequences could support an introduction of our genetic markers.  If we had the right equipment I could accelerate the growth sequences.  Our limitations of the gravity of this world hinder our ability to remain on the planet body.  Yet here in the lab on the station, several of the primates in only a few generations are showing remarkable adaptations indicating greater intelligence and these traits are passed down generationally.  Remarkable progress is seen in the larger apes, the ones not confined to arboreal habitation.  With natural evolution this species will evolve to be very much like us.  If we could accelerate these adaptions and sequencing, they could become the carriers of our history.  In their genes we could allow our people to live on.  Damn these limited resources, if I had another orbiting station I have no doubt I could complete this work in just a few sols.  As it is, with our limited resources, and lack of the ability to better control the growth of the apes, I don’t see us living to see our “children” evolve much beyond the apes they are today.”  He chuckled, “a few million years and they’ll call us father and mother.”

“You are young my son, you’ll see your sons and daughters as you image them.  Their hands and feet firm upon Kieaa, eyes to the heavens laid upon their orbiting father, in heaven above them.”  Neomin muttered something obviously speaking to someone in the room.  “My son, your mother has come to speak to you.”  He stopped for a moment then continued, “My beloved son, do not fear for us.  Your mother and her researchers will find a solution for us.  They will find the power we need to survive even a blow from the heavens.  No rogue rock from space will stop us.  She will not allow it.”

“Father…..” Neomis could barely speak, “No heavenly body is as great as the love I hold in my heart for you.  The Sun and all her light are dim against the honor it is to be of your lineage.”  He choked on his tears.  “No light……”

“There now son, please no weeping, Normia is here and she will speak to you.  My son, there is one light greater than mine.” he paused for a moment, “your own light. It is brighter than a 100 suns, a million stars, the infinite depths of space.”

“Both of you stop this nonsense!”   Normia’s strong voice caused the communicator to crackle with feedback.  “Lights and suns indeed, we have work to do, and feeling sorry for our fate shall not divert a rock or set the sun.”  Her voice softened, “This is our fate, and so be it.”  He could feel her smile over the communicator, “Neomis, the work you and your team has begun must continue.  Accelerate all your programs and the apes you have begun to modify that are able, return them to Kieaa.  The ones you are still modifying accelerate their development.  Even if we survive the asteroid strike here, we won’t be able to send another craft for resupplies for some time.  You could be on your own.  Now listen to me carefully because while our day may be ending, the life of our people must go on.  We are a species who survived 100’s of millions of years from one solar system to this one, and this dark lonely system shall not be our end.  I am sending you a digital file that I need you preserve.  Place it on Kieaa, somewhere that it will survive even the cataclysmic events bound to affect this place.”

“Mother – what are you talking about?”  Neomis grew concerned.

Normia’s voice was directed not to Neomis but to Neomin, “dear, please step out for a moment will you?”  He could hear his father protesting, but finally surrendering.  He shouted as he left the room, “Son you are my light!”

She spoke again, now very directly to Neomis, “There is more than one asteroid coming to this planetary body, and more than one likely to hit Kieaa.  You have two or three weeks and we suspect that the damage will wreak havoc upon your station and could damage the space elevator.” she paused, “We have one week.  We have no fuel for rockets to launch, but what we do have is fuel for the mining robots.  We shall immediately begin to mine as deeply as we can at the south pole, which is facing from the incoming asteroid.  I will bury there a recorded history of our people contained in our Mothership.”

“The Mothership? If you disconnect her won’t you lose your mainframe?”

“We shall.  We have already lost it son, this is just not realized.  Even should the asteroid not strike, our fuel is nearly expired.  The habitats are failing at rate we cannot maintain.  I have not told your father, but Hemoit was not the only person lost last night.  Nearly half of all habitats failed, we were not able to reactivate them in time.  We lost nearly half of all our people.  Only I and Olimpia remain from the planetary science council.  I could not bear to tell your father, not today. He was so looking forward to speaking to you.”  She paused.  “Son the program I will send you is a message for our ancestors to come, for our new children.  Perhaps someday they will find the records and know then where to look here to find their lineage.  I will likewise indicate a homing device on this record should it be that they find the Mothership before their home world file.  We must hope that between these two libraries our people, our history, our art, who we are shall remain.”

Neomis did not speak for long moments.  Finally he cleared his throat.  “What shall l tell my team here mother?  There are 100 of us; they will not want to hear these words.”  He glanced down through the observation window at Kieaa.  It was beautiful.

“You must tell them the truth.  You know our people Neomis.  Trust that they will understand.  I think we’ve all known for at least a generation this was our last hope.  You are our last hope.  Home does not exist for our people, not yet.  But perhaps with time, these creatures you nurture from Kieaa will become us, evolve to know their history.  To find that their home lay not on the ground beneath their feet, but in the stars above their heads.”  She smiled, he knew she did, “Son time for you to look at the asteroids as they approach. Calculate exactly your time.  Do what you can to save as much life on Kieaa as possible, for the strike will be devastating but based on the richness of the life below you, it will survive.  Spread your genetic markers to as many primate species as are compatible. Surely some will survive and our time which ends now will come again.”

He sobbed, “Mother, I cannot…..”

“YOU MUST.”  She yelled.  “Neomis, you must.  This planet has been dying for as long as we have lived here. It was a temporary home and we’ve out stayed our welcome.  Our new home is not yet prepared, but if you plant the seeds, someday our lives will grow back.”  She paused, “you are the great father now.  Today is the day you must decide to give our people their future, unknown, unseen, and bright.”  Her voice died out, he knew she was crying, “Neomis we shall speak again in a few days.  Be strong my child.  We trust in you.  You are still our great hope.”  The communicator shut off.

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