Chapter Six – Not All Hope is Lost

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

A rumbling beneath her feet caused her to look up from her eye piece.  Dust sparkled around her in the dim light.  The hum of the generators around her hit a higher pitched sound, followed by a buzzing, and then resumed their normal soft purr.  Satisfied she applied her eye back to the piece and looked back across the solar system.

Another rumble caused her to shift out of her chair and she knew then that the entire telescope would need to be re-calibrated.  She moaned outwardly.  The power seemed fine, at least for now, but she knew this was temporary.  Worriedly she put the cap on the eye piece, her hand resting on it, longingly.  She smiled at herself, protecting the eye piece lenses were pointless, well at least it would be.  She stroked the device and looked up at the dome above her; dim stars sparkled there, winking almost as if to say they spied her too.  She shifted her long legs off the stool she had been perched on.  Reaching above her head she stretched.  The thin garment she preferred pulled tight across her body.  Ah, she would miss having sensations.

There was a sound behind her, something dropped.  She spun around, crouching.  Standing by the door was another woman, looking embarrassed.  “Olimpia!” she called with a smile.

Olimpia blinked slowly, bending to pick up the computer pad from the floor.  “Normia – you just looked so magnificent, stretching to the heavens.”  A small smile escaped her lips, her second eyelids shuttering quickly.

Normia jumped off the platform, nearly two meters above the main floor.  She practically ran upon landing, her joints flexing like springs; reaching Olimpia she hugged her tenderly. “Stars it’s good to see you!”  She pressed her forehead against Olimpia’s, the computer pad dropping again, this time with an audible crack.

“Oh dear, ” Olimpia groaned, “I think the computer pad is cracked.” She didn’t push Normia away though, she relaxed and for a moment allowed her friend to hold her.

Normia looked down past Olimpia’s face at the pad in pieces at their feet.  “My dear, it is no matter, none of these shall remain whole if we’re right.”  She felt Olimpia flex.  She stroked her fingers along Olimpia’s back, “Don’t tense, we all know this is the way of things, we’ve done what we can.”  She reached her slender fingers beneath Olimpia’s face and tilted her head sideways.  “How are you holding up?”

Olimpia for a moment looked into Normia’s eyes, and then looked away, past her.  “We number less than 1,000 people planet wide.  Reports are coming in that the habitats have failed in most places.  Of the thirteen settlements, this is the last.”  A tear, forbidden, sparkled and rolled down her check.

Normia scooped the tear on her finger and held it up, raised above their heads.  “Look Olimpia, it inverses us.”  Their reflections on the tiny sphere blinked back, upside down.  “We have dispatched the robots; they’ve taken Mothership to the south.  They’ll begin to bury her by night’s end.”

“Without Mothership most computer systems seem to be failing, we’ve just not got the power to keep the processors up to speed.”  She broke free of Normia’s embrace and bent to the broken pad.  She began to pick up the pieces and then stopped.  “We’re the pad aren’t we?  Broken, in pieces, resembling who we were, but not able to be working or fixed again.”  She let the piece tumble from her fingertips back onto the floor.

Normia smiled sadly at her, then reached down and took her hand, “Come, over to this work station, I think I have good news.”  She pulled Olimpia with her towards a lighted computer station at the base of the telescope.  As they neared it Normia began to rapidly type on the screen.  “I was able to view the asteroid headed towards Kieaa, I am confident they will be spared the largest, a few small ones no doubt will strike, but the damage shouldn’t be catastrophic.” She smiled, “Our children there at least can survive.”  She looked up at the sky again through the dome.  “Image them, working to share our bodies’ codes with those primates.  Sometimes I wonder if I shouldn’t have been a geneticist or biologist.  How adventurous, working with those incredible animals.”

Olimpia reached her hand around Normia’s waist, “They’re so hairy.”

Normia laughed, “They’re so short!”  Olimpia laughed as well, she pushed Normia around to face her.

“How long?”

Normia looked again at the sky.  “A few days, maybe a week.  I’ve rerouted the power grid to support the central command the longest, but the fuel reactors will fail.  The robots have enough power to last a century, maybe two beyond that. I’ve already programed them to shut down once Mothership is fully buried and protected.  Who knows, if Mothership is reactivated those robots will be the only beings left who know how to manage her and activate her data system.”  Her hand was absently stroking the back of Olimpia’s smooth head.

Olimpia purred and looked at Normia, “I admire your confidence that our ancestors will rise from Kieaa to return to this place. ”    Their fingers interlocked.

“Oh not just to return here, to settle the entire system. Perhaps someday, return to the home system.  Oh it was said to be magnificent, greater certainly than this rock we’re on; Our children, there with those apes is now the only hope we have Oli, just think, our children are planting the seeds of our future.  Now that they have more time, they’ll be better able to control the primate groups and direct their evolution.  With careful planning they can accelerate the evolutionary process.  Neomis and Galela together with the team will build a future, one designed to live on that third world.  Gravity will be their asset, using its power to power their machines; they will learn to use the energy of the star to build cities on all these worlds.  Hopefully they shall not make our errors.  Hopefully they’ll know peace that we have only just found.”  Normia squeezed Olimpia’s hand, their fingers intertwined. “Tell me, did you see Neomin?”

Olimpia smiled, “He was busy trying to re-energize spent energy rods.  He felt certain that the fusion drive would fire back up if he cursed at it enough.”  She smiled sadly, “It didn’t, but he looked pleased all the same to be focused on something other than worrying about Neomis.”  She blinked again, aware of the power that Normia had over her.  “You ask so much about me, how are you?”

Normia smiled sadly.  “Defeated to be honest.”  She moved away from the computer station.  “We can’t even stop a rock being thrown at us.  Just a few hundred years ago, we could have settled on the asteroid, now, we’re barely alive, and even that has an expiration.”  She walked away, her long arms folding behind her back as she walked.  “Did I ever tell you about my grandmother?”

Olimpia smiled, she had.  “No, tell me.”  She walked along Normia, her arms folded in a similar fashion.

“Grandmother was an astrophysicist; they say one of the leading in the study.  She helped developed the theory of gravity reversal.” She paused, “Shame it required all of Mothership’s processors to run.”  She paused at a desk she walked past and picked up a computer pad absently.  “Well it’s said that she devised the means to help develop the construction of the orbital craft around Kieaa.  I suppose that’s why Neomis refers to it as “grandmother.”  She was the one who theorized that the nebulas could be used as fuel sources if we could harvest the matter contained therein.  Shame that the craft sent to nebula in the adjacent solar system lost power half way there, they might have brought back necessary energy to help us continue our civilization.”  She sat on a stool at another work station; she reached over and pulled Olimpia so her hip rested against her rib cage.

“Grandmother used to say we settled here because this planet would be the cradle, and Kieaa would be our home.”  She sighed deeply, “Sadly we never managed to get out of the cradle I guess.”

Olimpia nuzzled to top of Normia’s head.  “You know that’s not why we stayed.”

Normia nodded.  “If we had more woman in charge of the ruling council, like Grandmother, we would never have even stayed in this system.”

“It was the war.”  Olimpia even felt herself clinch.  “That stupid war.”

Normia looked up at Olimpia from her stool, sighing, “The war.  What was it over again?”

“Water, it was always the water.  This dreaded planet didn’t have enough.”

“Those moons are mostly water around the sixth planet.  I don’t know what our grand families were thinking.”

“They weren’t.”  Olimpia felt uncomfortable. They didn’t normally speak of these things.  “Well they were thinking that they were out of fuel, and going to and from those moons from here with the resources left on Mothership, well, they felt they would end up stuck there, like those poor souls still observing.”

“Oh yes.  I heard that contact was lost about month ago.  I presume the orbiter has failed.  Poor dears; that had to be lonely stuck there. Maybe the quiet refuge of space is preferable.”  Normia looked again at Olimpia.  “But fortunately, the wisdom of Grandmother left us with something, it wasn’t long enough, but it was enough that we have the Kieaa craft.  It was enough that Neomis and Galela can give us hope.  Give me hope.”

Olimpia reached down pulling Normia up off the stool, hugging her; she felt Normia’s eyes brush against her neck as she rose to her full height, a small action against her skin which set her on fire.  She trembled against Normia’s body. She pulled her close, a kiss.  She pulled back slightly, “Normia, I don’t want us to end.”

Normia, reached her slender hands around Olimpia’s body, their bodies so close, looking as if they were one.  “We shall not find our ending my beloved, our genes, our history, is even now, as we speak being given.  Developed so as to succeed in this place, this solar home, so far from the light of our ancient ancestors. Now this, it will be our ancient home.”  She kissed her deeply, not noticing the flickering lights, the rumble of the generators around them.  The only purring they were aware of was each other’s.

Some hours later, as they lay against each other, covered in a blanket from rest pod, they held each other absently stroking each other’s arms.  Normia heard the generator sputter again and she looked up.  The lights on the top of the dome were off.  She sat up.

“Olimpia, quickly, we have to get out of here.”  She sprang to her feet.

“What? Why?”  Olimpia pulled herself up from the ground.

Normia pointed to the ceiling.  “This bio-dome is failing.  Quickly now, we must move.”  She looked around the room and immediately felt dread.  “Where did you say Neomin was working?”  She started towards the connection tube to the next bio-dome.

“He was in dome 3A, that’s nearly two kilometers away.  Is it just this dome failing.”  The lights all around the dome were blinking off and on.

Normia stopped.  “No, the central generator powers in all the domes in this sector, including 3A.”  She ran to the emergency locker and pulled out two breathing apparatuses.  She threw one to Olimpia, “Quickly, put this on.  We won’t be able to survive the air for more than a moment or two.”  She heard a faint sucking sound, and knew that the air in the dome was evacuating.  She pulled the device over her face, her nostril slits covered.  She clicked on the respirator.

Olimpia already had hers on.  “The entire sector is going down?”  She ran to the same door as Normia.  “There are nearly two hundred of us here, we have to warn them.”  Her eyes were all pupil.

“We’ve got to get to the next dome to sound the general alarm, there isn’t one installed here since this isn’t considered habitat space.” she pulled open the door and immediately wished she hadn’t.  The air in the room rushed out around her feet, pulling her forward. The brittle cold of the connecting hall immediately caused her eyes to tear, and then the tears began to immediately freeze.

Olimpia shrieked, a visible cut was on her shoulder from some debris hitting her.  She looked at Normia and nodded it was okay and they began to run.  Their long legs gliding more smoothly than any machine they had ever built.  The next door was only a few hundred meters, but by the time they had reached twenty or so meters both felt their joints stiffening.  Both pressed the elemental heating circuits on their tunics.  Strangely now the only light was their blinking tunics and the small headlamp attached to the apparatus.  They reached the next door and burst through.  The cold air of Gugulaania pushing around them.

The dome was completely dark, but it appeared to have atmosphere.  Normia called out, “Anyone here?”  She touched the side panel by the door, hoping the lights were just off.  The pad beeped faintly at her, one light flickered on the other side of the dome.  Several bodies lay scattered on the floor in front of her. She immediately reached down to one for a pulse.  Her head dropped.

Olimpia pulled her to her feet, “Normia, come, we cannot stay, look.” She pointed at the windows of the dome, now covered in frost, frozen.  “We will freeze, we’ve only a moment or two of power left in these.”  She tugged at her tunic and immediately began to run to the other side of the dome to the door whose shape she could barely perceive.  She was thankful for her powerful eyes, built for the lowlight conditions of this world.

Normia nodded and ran along with her.  When they reached the opposing door, it hissed open, warmer air rushing past them.  They stumbled into the hall and the door slide shut behind them.  They could feel the hiss of the air around them.  Normia lifted her breathing mask off.  “The enter dome system is failing in this section, this is only a momentary reprieve.”  Olimpia nodded and she immediately began to run to the other end of the corridor.

They reached the door and pressed the door airlock release, and nothing happened.  “What’s this?” Normia began to type on the door pad.  “These should still work, they’re powered by small units in each door.”  The door beeped and Normia’s brow furrowed.  “Why it’s locked!”  She wiped the small view window free of the frost forming and peered through.  She saw a familiar face, another scientist with whom she had collaborated the calculations of the asteroids projected path past Kieaa.

“Soliminia, open the door, we’ll freeze!”  She pounded on the door. Soliminia pulled away from the door and ran down the corridor apparently to the next bio-dome

Olimpia couldn’t see what was happening.  “Is the door jammed?”  She felt powerless.

Normia pressed a few more sequences on the door pad.  “She’s locked it.  The door is locked from the other side.”

“Well open it!” Olympia screamed.

“I cannot.”  She looked around the hallway. “Come, back to the bio-dome.”  They sprinted back to where they had come from.  This had been an art center, now a tomb.  Her tunic beeped.  “My power is out.”  She saw a body near her, wearing a similar tunic.  She ripped it from the body.  She looked at Olimpia, “Quickly, find another tunic, we won’t survive without these.” She spotted a computer console, a combination center from the looks of it.  She spied the general alert button and jammed it down with her palm.

Olimpia ran to another body pulling off a tunic.  “What do we do?”  She pulled the new tunic on, hitting the power button.

Normia pulled her respirator over her face, “Tonight love, we survive.”


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