Chapter Ten – Hope is Found

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

Neomin pushed himself upright from the floor.  He hadn’t expected to thrown so suddenly to the ground when the power went out, he had been up on a short ladder adjusting his telescope when the power failed and then found himself slammed to the ground.   He must have lost his balance on the ladder – something that surprised him as he had never fallen, but the power going out, the air escaping around him, the sudden biting cold.  He looked around, a few blinking lights shone out at him from various places of self powered apparatuses.  He knew he only had moments before he froze and all the air was evacuated.  Fortunately he knew the lab like his own inner eye and moved quickly but carefully to the emergency locker where he found the breathing apparatus and slipped it on over his mouth and nose slit.  He pulled a small garment on over his head and activated the heater within it.  In mere seconds he was breathing and felt the warmer garment pulse against his skin.  He fumbled around the locker for a moment, then making a small clicking sound with his tongue of satisfaction he turned the hand light on.

He shone it around the lab, he was the only one here this evening, he knew that Normia was working in sector 4A, connected to 4B.  He was in sector 3A.  Fortunately 3A wasn’t a habitat but 4B was – connected to the main living quarters.  Nearly 200 of his people were there.  He knew immediately that the power had failed, a more common occurrence in the last few months, but one usually relegated to the outer pods.  This outage was the inner sanctum, the last place thought to have enough power to last until their mission was complete.

“No time to worry about that now,” he told himself.  Neomin turned towards the main door which lead to the corridor to sector 4.  He had one thought on his mind, Normia.  “She’s powerful,” he said out loud as he pushed the manual override sequence on the door, “stronger than I, and certainly more brilliant.”   He barely felt the air move around his legs, a bad sign meaning that most of it had already evacuated.  The slow, almost leisurely warning lights pulsed down the corridor. It was only  11 meters long or so, made of a material sourced directly from the stone.  He knew that as the power faded, the molecular bindings powered by Mothership, which created the very corridors,  would break down and the structure itself would return to the sand and stone of the planet itself.   Such power his people had once had, but they had grown compliant, lazy, indulgent in the power of Mothership.  They believed that her power would not expire, that somehow, even though trapped for hundreds of thousands of years on this planet in their interstellar journey, they could make do here on this fourth planet, maybe even extend the lives of their ancestors on the third one.  He shook his head as he jogged down the corridor, oh how he missed Neomis.  The boy, no he thought, the young man, would by now have retracted the space elevator.  That elevator, another marvel of his people, technology largely lost and forgotten.  Passed literally away as his people had started to die.

How, he wondered, had his people once so powerful, so knowledgeable end up stranded between two worlds nearly fifty five million kilometers apart.  Resources not reproducible on this world, abundant and plentiful on Kieaa, yet not accessible because they had waited too long to attempt to access them.  The Mothership, strange as it sounded, had not told her children that she was dying until it was too late.

He reached the door at the end of the corridor.  He peered through to the pod, what was it, 4C he thought.  he couldn’t see lights on, and knew the power was out here too.  He glanced down at his garment, still warm, holding air against his smooth skin.  He had a few minutes at least left and the respirator would work for several minutes.  He pulled open the door and stepped into the pod.  He cast his light around the pod, this space was mostly empty, used as a meeting hall and gathering space for dialogue.   They hadn’t used it in sometime.  There were two corridors connecting to other pods, one down to pod 4B and the other connecting a great distance to 2A, where he knew power had to be on.  He almost went to 2A, but growled at himself, Normia was in 4A, he had to go to 4B first.

He mashed the buttons this time, growing more desperate as he felt the cold air of Gugulaania creeping in around him. He darted down the hallway, his thoughts racing, thinking of his own creation, evolution.  While his people had allowed their own genetics to be modified hundreds of years ago to be better adapted to this atmosphere, there were limits.  Their home world, so many hundreds of light years away, had an atmosphere similar to this world’s, at least as it had been millions of years prior.  His race had build their great Mothership as a home away from home, almost literally a living space craft. Beside her in that interstellar journey traveled thousands of other crafts, most of which were lost in some fashion or another in the many generations’ journey from there to this solar system.   He hadn’t even thought about the old home world since he was a child.  Here on Gugulaania, hey had at one time had schools and classes teaching about that world, that solar system.  His old home world was said to have been a marvelous place, ancient, but dying as its molten core had slowed and nearly stopped.  As a result of this the world had begun to loose it’s atmosphere and was too close to the central star to sustain life for long.  He knew that his home world had colonized other planets in that solar system,  but that Mothership was built so as to extend their race beyond the confines of one system.  They believed, and their technology allowed for it, that to sustain themselves as a people for an eternity they would need move out of their solar system and find new worlds to colonize.

He arrived at the next door at the end of the corridor. He wiped the frost forming at the glass window away and peered through. He could see another room, this should be pod 4B. It was too dark, but he could see the occasional light blinking at computer consoles.  He looked around the corridor he was in and found the communications relay.  He flicked a few switches but there wasn’t power.  He could really feel the cold now and knew that the small electromagnetic field generated by his tunic wouldn’t last much longer. He needed to replace the tunic, which was mean to act as a floatation device really, not a long term solution.

He pulled the manual override and felt the sudden suction of air around him as it was released from the pod into the corridor. It nearly knocked him down.  He cursed himself because he hadn’t realized this room was still sealed and that there was enough air inside to have survived, but now it was lost.  He swung the light around the room and spied on one wall the lockers, the same as those in all the pods, created by Mothership several weeks ago to provide the essentials for survival incase of cataclysmic events, just like this one.  Running to the lockers he pulled out another tunic, activated it, slipped it on after removing his current one.  There, now he had another 10 minutes at least. He pulled two other tunics out and slipped them into a knapsack hanging on the locker door.  He pressed a small button on the side of his breathing apparatus.  A robotic voice crackled, “5 minutes of full breathable air, 10 of sub breathable air, 15 of minimum sustainability. ”  Neomis frowned.  He hated to carry another apparatus as they were cumbersome but he feared he didn’t know how long he would need air.  He knew that if he were directly exposed to atmosphere of Gugulaania he would likely die, even with the tunic and mask.  He dropped the secondary apparatus into his satchel and moved on.  He spied the exit door leading to the next corridor to 4A.  He ran to the door and opened the corridor.

For a moment he allowed his hand to linger on the door, the rough sand beneath a reminder of the power of Mothership.  Her ability to reform matter from existing materials into usable shapes, forms, all of it, well it was why they had survived for as long as they had. The last of the metals, circuit boards, and other essentials elements, many of which were not found on Gugulaania, from the home world as well cannibalizing the transport ships had made the space station above Kieaa possible, but had lessened their ability to survive here.  He knew it would be a short matter of time before the walls of this city would simply crumble and melt back into the landscape.  He and his people would be lost, forgotten.

He darted down the corridor, his heart pounding.  He was cold, suddenly he realized just how cold Gugulaania was.  For a moment he panicked and thought he should go back to central pods.  But then the light of Normia’s eyes seemed to appear before him, so powerful he almost reached out.  “No you fool.  She lives still you must go to her!”  His great stride lengthened and the end of the corridor came near.

He fell over her body.  He cried out at first, not expecting it, then realizing there were likely many more to be seen in the pod.  He looked down at the large figure at his feet.  It was Soliminia, she was a scientist in charge of environmental controls.  He reached down and felt her neck, checking for a pulse.  There was none, she was frozen, almost solid.  He looked back at the door and noticed the manual lock had been activated.  “Curious,” he said out loud.  He managed to pull the lock back and the door pushed open.  The room beyond was gathering space, a communal dining room really.  Several bodies could be made out in the luminary he held.

It appeared that this room had been warm much later as the first body he contacted was not frozen solid, but he did not find any life therein.  He saw a door on the other side of the room, a central command hub console was there, he could sound the general alarm. It operated on a separate system, though he wondered if anyone was left to hear the alarm.  He shook his head, no, he mustn’t be defeatist.  He ran to the console and turn the dial to active the back up power.  It immediately came on and he pressed the numeric sequence to activate the emergency code.  Lights flashed in the dome above him, in a sequence indicating the direction to head to a still active habitat pod.  Good he thought, now, where was Normia?  He looked at the door he closest too, leading to the last pod in group 4A.  She had to be there.  He opened the door and ran into the corridor.

He was aware that the lights were telling him to go back the way he had come from, not a surprise, the group of pods at section 1 still had to function as they were not connected to this group. He knew there was another connecting corridor from the last pod to the central hub, but he was afraid of what he’d find.   He saw lights through the thick frost of the last door.  His heart raced for a moment and yes they were moving!  He forced himself to run faster, nearly falling ahead of his own feet as he pushed himself.  Finally at the last door he started to open it when he heard a voice on the other side, “Neomis!  NO, STOP!”

He sobbed when he heard her voice, “Normia!!”  He wanted to rip the door down, dart in, but he knew better.  “What happened?”

He could almost feel her smile, “Olimpia is a genius of course.  You can’t open the door until you regulate the corridor and close the other access door, did you close it as you went along?”  She knew he hadn’t, she was still his wife.

Even in the midst of the terror he felt he was still her husband, she still melted him.  “My dear I shall return!”  He ran, this time faster than before even and pulled the door closed at the end of the long corridor.  His apparatus beeped a warning, “Air levels below normal, 2 minutes breathable air.”  He had been ignoring the damn thing, lost in his panic. Grateful he pulled the other apparatus out with him, he held his breathe and pulled the expiring one off and placed the other on.  It conformed to his face and immediately the air washed over his nose and mouth. He dropped the expired apparatus to the ground.  Turning he darted back to Normia.

She stood at the other side of the door, a breathing apparatus on her face.  He could see Olimpia standing just behind her right shoulder, her long fingers wrapped around Normia’s shoulders from behind.  Their large eyes capturing the luminary in his hand like pools of precious water.  “Welcome back dear.”

Neomis smiled, “I knew you were still alive.”

Her eyes widened, “Of course, I had Olimpia protecting me.”  Olimpia nodded in agreement.  “Okay so we have an override, there is still air in the systems, it just needs a bit of power and you are carrying it with you.”

“I am?”

Normia nodded, “Yes, the luminary.  I had forgotten that they are powered by the same energy source as Mothership’s core computer. I sometimes forget how she looks out for us, offering us bits of solutions when there seems none to be found.  What you need to do is open the power coupler just on the right of the door near the floor.  Be quick, because the luminaries power supplies are minimal.”  Even as she spoke the room behind her dimmed a bit.

He reached down and opened the small access port to the power coupling.  It would power the door and air systems.  He smiled, this was brilliant.  Because all the materials were built from the same source, Mothership and her molecular restructuring processes, he suddenly remembered that all elements were compatible.  He twisted the end of the luminary and the light went out. For a moment he closed his eyes to allow his pupils to adjust then reopened them.  There was just enough light from the corridor door for him to see.  He very carefully pulled the power cell out of the luminary.  He didn’t need Normia’s guidance now, it was as apparent to him what he should do as putting his feet down to walk.  He cursed a bit as he realized this could have saved so many people, but again a sign they had grown incapable of thinking for themselves. Without Mothership telling them what to do, they almost could not function on their own.  Oh how she was missing!

He twisted the power cell, and its end cap popped off.  Inside it glowed faintly blue, a tiny bit of fusion really. Science he didn’t understand really but he knew the principal of the thing.  He glanced down at the power coupling and knew there was a junction just to the left of the door frame. He reached up and tugged the wires out – they were becoming brittle in the cold and for a moment he feared they would snap into pieces, but they were still malleable.  Tapping on the window caused him to look up.

“Be careful connecting the luminary power cell, it has enough voltage to kill you.”  Normia smiled playfully.

He nearly dropped the cell but for a moment paused, closed his eyes and turned back to what he was doing.  He pulled the connecting plug out of the coupling, pushed the wires aside and fully pulled the power cell out of its casing.  It was warm, surrounded by a membrane.  It looked like a living cell almost, pulsing with energy.  It was mesmerizing as it reminded him of the creative power of Mothership, she had given them everything, but she was no longer able to teach them anything.  He looked at the female plug in the wall, where the wire he had just removed fit.  The cell looked bigger than the wire’s male end but he knew he would have to manipulate the cell to fit.  Carefully he squeezed it into the plug, at first it resisted, so he twisted it a bit, then suddenly it clicked into the plug.  The cell fit almost completely into the coupling.  He picked up the discarded connecting plug on the floor and inserted it on top of the cell.  He was trembling, he knew that if the protective membrane burst he would be killed.  He closed his eyes and pushed.

The plug resisted, then suddenly the membrane of the cell collapsed, not breaking, but forming around the plug and its housing and a light above him came on as well as the computer console just near the door.  He didn’t immediately stand but leaned against the wall.  The rough wall felt reassuring somehow, real.  Tapping on the window moved him.

“Dear, do you mind activating the climate control?  We won’t be able to give much air, but you can at least normalize the pressure so we can open the door without loosing all the air.  Also, we’d appreciate you unlocking the door.”  Normia smiled. Olimpia hadn’t moved, her fingers still clutching Normia’s neck and shoulders nervously.

Neomin smiled, “My dear, you are dazzling in your brilliance.”  He set the program and immediately felt the air pressure increase, air hissing at the vent at his feet.  “How long do we have?”

“The power cell is good for 10 or 15 minutes I think.  We had three here and had to replace them all.  We’re down to our last one.”

“Then I shall open the door.”  he unlocked the door, and Normia was suddenly upon him, lifting him to her chest, a sob broke from his mouth and he muttered, “I knew the stars would protect my love.”  he felt Olimpia stroke his head around Normia.  For a moment he forgot they were being held alive by luminary power cells.  For a moment he felt the hope of life pulse through the bodies of these women who were his family.

Normia bowed her head down to kiss the top of his head through her breathing apparatus, “We can thank Mothership she gave great power to small things.  But the power of your love saved us.  Poor Soliminia panicked and locked all the doors as she ran. She thought she could lock out the cold.”

He looked up at her face, “I found her in pod before.  She and several others perished.”

“here too, several are dead.  I believe we are down to full power only at central pod and pod group 1.  Our time is running out.”

Neomin looked up, “But hope is not.” He pulled away from her embrace, taking her hand, and reaching with his other to Olimpia, “We must go.  We’re not safe yet.”  Together they turned and headed back the way from which Neomis had come.  Hands clutching each others, the only warmth in the cold frozen air.


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