Six astronauts were secured in individual capsules in a state of semi-suspended animation. They’d undergone rigorous selection criteria, and trained for three years before launch. If the flight ran its course, they knew they would experience a new beginning.
Jason opened his eyes and stared at the transparent material which formed a lid over his capsule. He blinked several times, before attempting to raise his head. He looked down, along his naked body.
Attached to a variety of places were micro fibre-optic tubes. The inner panels of the capsule were white and all of the tubes fed from the astronaut’s body to one of five panels. As Jason tried to assess his circumstances, a flash of light caught his attention. He placed his head back onto the comfortable headrest and focused on the lid.
Red digital figures and letters were flashing rapidly within the transparent material.
‘Earth Launch – 07:11:2085’
‘Eden Landing – 07:11:2135’
The next line was headed ‘Present date’, but day and month figures were clicking too quickly to read. The year was there long enough to see. 2100.
“Holy shit,” he said aloud, using an ancient curse. “I’ve already been in here fifteen years.” He read the flashing information.
‘DANGER: FLEX ALL FINGERS TO RESUME SLEEP – DANGER: FLEX ALL FINGERS TO RESUME SLEEP – DANGER: FLEX ALL FINGERS TO RESUME SLEEP’
“I don’t think so.” Jason raised his head again and assessed the position of the micro-tubes to work out which were feeding him nutrients, and which removed body waste.
There were metal wrist, knee and ankle cuffs which maintained a regular muscle spasm sequence. During the prolonged sleep, continual electrical pulses, combined with aggravated pressure pads ensured the body was exercised so that the skeleton and muscles didn’t deteriorate. The system had been extensively tested during training.
When the first contact was broken between Jason and his sensory cables, the warning ceased and the capsule lid opened. The entire message stopped flashing. Jason sat up. He was dizzy at first, and disorientated, so it took fifteen minutes to disconnect himself completely.
He climbed out and sensed a steady vibration under his bare feet. At the end of his capsule a small white case was fitted. Jason opened the lid and lifted the white fabric within. It was a one-piece tight-fitting suit with his name-tag, ready to be worn after the awakening phase. He dropped it back into the container, and closed the lid.
Flashes of a briefing were coming back to him. He vaguely recalled the crew should expect bouts of dizziness and temporary amnesia, but looking at familiar objects was supposed to help. He looked around, and recalled the crew spending days in these surroundings, to allow their minds to accept waking up from a drug-induced sleep.
At four metres from floor to ceiling, the cabin was twice Jason’s height, and large enough to contain six sleeping capsules. A series of tiny portholes were situated at regular intervals around the outer wall of the main chamber. The windows were 15cm in radius, but nothing could be seen due to the heat-shields on the exterior.
Jason wanted to look into Deep Space, but when he started to walk across the small area of floor, he suffered a bout of vertigo. His senses were unable to rationalise what had caused the feeling. He supported himself by holding onto the edge of his capsule.
After two minutes, he decided it was time to investigate further.
“Here we are.” He discovered the wall-mounted plan of the Genesis VI. Following all the designs that had gone before, it amused Jason to recall that he had gone on this mission in what was a flying saucer. The craft was eighty metres in radius and bevelled with the thickest area being the centre. At that point, it was ten metres in height.
The ultra-plutonium propulsion unit was fitted in the core, with a series of jets fitted above and below the centre of the ship. These provided speed, direction, and stability. Jason shook his head, recalling that the craft had only undergone a single test-flight. It had been flown from Earth, to orbit the Moon and return, which it completed in half a day.
A glance at the glass covering on the plan allowed Jason to see his reflection.
“I’m impressed,” he said. “I was thirty when we left Earth, and after fifteen years in Space I still look the same.” He nodded with satisfaction, and then the thought brought something else to mind. He turned to remind himself of the other occupants. The ship had been named Genesis VI
, because it heralded a new beginning for six brave souls—if they and the craft survived.
In the first capsule was Ray, the flight commander. Next in line was the flight’s scientist, Paul. They were both a few years older than Jason and he grinned as he considered waking them early. Next was his empty capsule.
He turned and walked across the chamber to the other three capsules. He felt a tilting motion and grabbed hold of the nearest capsule. Any interest in the ship’s motion soon disappeared when it steadied once again and he looked inside.
“Ah, now here are naked bodies worth a look.”
In number 4, lay the ship’s doctor and psychiatrist—the athletic thirty-year-old blonde, Sylva. The neighbouring capsule contained the fuller figure of Kelly, a pretty thirty-year-old brunette. She was a chemist and Jason had often pondered experiments with her, but then he remembered the occupant of the sixth capsule.
Angela was a nutritionist, which was appropriate—she looked good enough to eat. At twenty-seven, she was the youngest, and in Jason’s opinion, by far most the most attractive of the crew. Her dark hair had been trimmed pre-flight into a pixie-style which she suited. Jason gazed at her, and recalled her joking with him before they were entombed.
“I’ll tell you what, Jason,” she’d teased in front of the others. “If we survive I’ll let you help me with my insemination procedure.” The others had laughed, but Jason didn’t.
“Hello, Angela?” He addressed the sleeping beauty inside. He reached down to an emergency release on the outside of capsule 6. The lid opened and warnings flashed on the inside. Jason ignored the slight shuddering of the huge craft as it tilted once again at ultra-sonic speed. He had a personal insemination procedure on his mind.
Ray opened his eyes, blinked several times and then lay with his eyes open. In front of him on the glass lid was a digital display.
‘Earth Launch – 07:11:2085’
‘Eden Landing – 07:11:2135’
‘Present Date – 07:11:2135’
‘YOU HAVE LANDED. WAIT UNTIL CAPSULE OPENS AUTOMATICALLY.’
The flight’s commander stared at the digital display, his mind working overtime as he tried to focus on events. There had been several sessions of counselling on the effects of waking from the coma-like state, but it was all theory. Rehearsals of a week, and then a month while on Earth were hardly conclusive. This was the reality.
“My name is Ray, I am the flight commander of a Deep Space mission, and we’ve landed after fifty years.” He grinned. “Damn, but this feels good.”
A low buzz emanated from somewhere within the capsule. The various micro-fibre tubes disconnected themselves and recoiled into their sockets on the inner panels. Ray’s fingertips and toes tingled for several seconds.
Five minutes later, he was dressed in his white one-piece outfit, sitting on the white box which had contained his suit. He looked around wide-eyed, grateful to have survived. He took several deep breaths, and as he did he heard low buzzes from other capsules. Not wishing to cause alarm, Ray waited and observed the others as they climbed out, and each silently dressed.
Ray didn’t avert his gaze immediately when Kelly and Sylva climbed out. He looked away when they turned while dressing. Paul took the longest time to acclimatise before pulling on his suit. In order to help with the rapid awakening, the suits all had name badges on the left breast.
“It looks like we made it,” Ray said. “Welcome to our brave new world guys.”
The others looked at each other, then Ray, each of them grinning. They all copied his example and sat on the white casing at the end of their capsules once dressed.
Sylva said, “None of you look as if you’ve aged.”
“Don’t worry, Doc,” Paul said. “You haven’t aged either.”
“Hello, hello, hello.” Kelly giggled. “We made it.”
Ray’s lips were parted in a smile as he stood and walked unsteadily towards capsule 3. He looked inside, closed his eyes and lifted a hand to his face as he bowed his head. Inside the capsule was a dark-coloured shrivelled form.
There was a scream from somewhere nearby.
When Ray turned, Kelly was standing over capsule 6.
“Oh my God, oh my God—” Kelly repeated, until Paul stepped forward and embraced her to pull her away.
Sylva didn’t move, but her face had lost colour as she observed Kelly’s reaction.
“Ray,” Paul said. He nodded towards Angela’s capsule.
“What is it?” Sylva pleaded.
Ray grimaced while looking into the capsule. “Stay where you are—all of you.” He reached to the side of chamber 6 and pressed a button. The internal lighting went off, blacking out the interior. He repeated the exercise on number 3.
When the survivors felt ready, they dealt with preset tasks. One hour after waking, they gathered in the briefing lounge. It was with mixed feelings that they sat around the central round table.
“Okay,” Ray said. “We’ve been here an hour and we’ve had to deal with a lot, so I appreciate your heads will be a maelstrom of emotions.”
All three colleagues nodded and lifted their digital data summary tablets.
“You look concerned, Ray,” Sylva said.
Ray took a breath. “I know we’ve landed, and I’ll explain my findings shortly, but first I’d like to have an overall picture of where we stand.” He nodded to Paul.
“My readings are promising,” Paul said. “Unless by chance there are more than a handful of Earth-like planets in this part of the galaxy, we’ve achieved a critical aim.” He gazed around the faces. “We’ve landed on a planet with similar gravity and atmosphere to Earth. According to our sensors, we have signs of vegetation and moisture in the atmosphere.”
“Sylva?” Ray said.
“Our recorded scans show all four of us have survived unscathed.” She turned and placed a hand on Kelly’s. “I checked the data on Jason’s brain activity. At some stage it goes rapidly from dormant to excessive. The readings suggest he woke up early, or his capsule malfunctioned.”
“What about Angela?” Kelly said, her eyes glazing over.
“Angela’s records show signs of mental and physical trauma at some stage during the flight. She wasn’t pregnant before launch.” Sylva took a deep breath. “My tests and readings confirm that she had gone full term, but at an accelerated rate. Her situation was unknown to her and all life ended in her capsule a short time after the disturbance was over, and the lid was re-closed.”
“Oh my God.” Kelly began to sob.
Sylva said, “My calculations show Jason our geologist, woke up early, at around that same time period. The register shows his interruption alarm operated, but for some unknown reason—he ignored the alarm, did not follow procedure, and disconnected himself manually.”
She glanced at Ray, who nodded for her to continue.
“I realise nobody wants to think the worst,” Sylva said. “Unfortunately, the factual evidence is that Jason was active around the area of our capsules for at least twenty minutes. Ray has checked my information and will explain more shortly.”
“We all feel the pain.” Ray paused. “I’m not being insensitive, but we owe it to Angela as well as ourselves to adjust quickly.” He paused, and received a nod from both Paul and Sylva. “Your report please, Kelly.”
“I can’t get over what he did.” Kelly wiped her eyes.
“It could have been much worse,” Paul said, looking from Kelly to Sylva and back.
Sylva closed her eyes briefly and shook her head.
Kelly took a deep breath, looked at her data summary and touched the screen. “Okay,” She sniffed. “We’ve used our onboard provisions beyond the safety margin. It sounds crazy, but we’re somehow out of sync with our nutrition.”
“What does it mean in terms of food and drink on board?” Paul asked.
“It means the water supply and dehydrated nutrients have been neutralised. In layman’s terms, we’ve got nothing in reserve.” Kelly turned to Ray. “You might be able to tell us more since you’re the commander. My instruments show the correct dates, but we’ve used up an extra week, so what we should have for arrival, has gone.”
“First of all, thank you all for your understanding, your efforts, and input,” Ray said. “I haven’t got an easy way to paint this for you, but it is what it is.” He placed his tablet on the table. “I believe we must—”
Paul interrupted. “We all knew there was a possibility of serious mental disturbance if we woke up early.” He squinted when he spoke. “I know there is the horror of Angela’s situation, but we can’t condemn a dead man for what the cocktail of chemicals might have created.”
Ray held up a hand, and stared hard at Paul. “I know you and Jason were long-time friends. When I’ve finished I’ll lend you my instruments and you can go and double-check. You can locate the pads of moisture on every one of our capsule lids. Perhaps you’d like to do what I wouldn’t ask Sylva to do, which is a post-mortem and DNA test on Angela.”
Paul closed his eyes and nodded, accepting the facts.
Ray continued. “My scanner shows marks from Jason’s feet, showing the sequence of his walkabout, and where his fingerprints appear on both the outside and inside of Angela’s chamber.”
Paul’s eyes remained closed and his head bowed.
Both women wiped their eyes.
Ray said, “What Jason did to Angela was horrific, but he’s dead now, and he’s also affected us, so before any of you consider sympathy for him, I’ll give you the big problem.”
Paul’s head shot upward. “We’re still okay—we landed.”
The two women were staring silently at their commander.
“Yes,” Ray said. “We’ve landed. About six months prior to Jason’s early awakening, our trajectory was passing a black hole by a margin of 20,000 miles.” He looked at their faces. “During Jason’s adventures, he caused an imbalance in the flight path.”
“How did he affect us if he died?” Kelly looked from Ray to Sylva, and back.
“Having destabilised the ship, Jason returned to his capsule. He reconnected his cables in the wrong sequence. The nutrients and waste were reversed, so his end was painful in an unimaginable way, because his capsule locked down. It took him hours to die in real time.”
“Good.” Kelly ignored Paul’s disapproving glance.
“Unfortunately, apart from affecting the communal supply of nutrients, the mixed electrical connections also terminated our navigation records.”
“Wait a minute,” Kelly said. “What about the readings we’ve been taking?”
“All the information we’ve been collating is taken from local instruments,” Ray said. “Any readings referring to location and navigation were based on relativity to satellites.”
Sylva whispered, “Are you saying we are lost in Space?”
Ray nodded. “In one sense we are, but in another, we’re not.”
“I don’t follow you?” Kelly squinted.
Ray sighed. “We’ve travelled for approximately the correct length of time, and covered the correct distance.” He looked around at their faces. “We’ve even landed on a planet that appears to be a mirror of Earth, but I believe we’re in a parallel galaxy.”
Paul said, “I suggest we get out of here while we have the physical energy and what appears to be daylight according to our sensors.”
The two women looked from Paul to their commander.
“This is no longer the same mission,” Ray said. “We are now facing survival, which has one immediate implication.”
“Go on.” Kelly was shaking her head.
“Leadership?” Sylva asked.
“Yes,” Ray said. “Whatever we do from now is by democratic choice. Unless any of you want to go it alone, I suggest we vote on everything.” He swallowed hard. “Another side effect of Jason’s incorrect reconnection means the entire contents of his chamber and Angela’s are now harbouring an abundance of potentially lethal bacteria.”
“How do we deal with the bacteria?” Kelly asked.
“Don’t worry, I have a plan.” Ray glanced at Sylva who gave an imperceptible nod.
Paul and Kelly nodded, awaiting Ray’s thoughts.
“If you agree with me,” Ray said. “I’ve got a suggestion. I’m going outside in a moment, and I’m not suiting-up. You can come with me, or observe me, but I haven’t flown through Space for this long to die in this damn saucer.”
“What does it feel like?” Kelly said.
“It looks like and feels like grass,” Ray said, pulling up a fistful of the thin green blades. “He first sniffed at them, before placing a handful into his mouth. “It also tastes like grass.”
As he chewed, he turned and gazed into the distance. Trees, like those on Earth were huddled together making a small forest, and off in the middle distance a waterfall flowed from a high rock formation. Huge mounds in the distance completed the resemblance to the world they had left behind.
Paul said, “Could we really have landed on a parallel world?”
“Well, I don’t know about a parallel world,” Ray said. “I’m heading to the waterfall to see if it feels as good as this grass. Anybody fancy a race?”
The other three started running towards the rocks which were half a mile away. Ray opened his left fist and looked at the small silver device with the red button.
“God help us.” He pressed the button and dropped the device on the grass as he ran after the others. Prior to leaving Genesis VI, Ray had opened the valves to the oxygen reserves. Nobody else on the flight knew about the self-destruct option.
Sylva did understand about the implications of starting a new civilisation with a plethora of undesirable bacteria, and she had spoken confidentially to the commander.
It was as Paul and Kelly dived into the pool at the base of the waterfall the explosion occurred, and it shook the ground for miles around.
Sylva stopped at the edge of the pool and caught Ray’s gaze. Her lips curled into a brief, knowing smile, and she nodded.
Ray nodded in return.
The atmosphere was like Earth. They had water, and edible vegetation.
“It’s getting dark,” Sylva said when they’d had a drink and eaten fruit from nearby trees. “I know we can’t see a sun, but the light is fading, so we should find shelter.”
“Good idea,” Ray said. “Tomorrow is a new day.”
An hour later they arrived at a massive rocky pyramid. Fruit-bearing trees co-located near to shelter had to be good. They climbed towards a large cave and it was then the first sign of anything different was noticed.
“I think your muscles are too big for your one-piece Paul,” Kelly said.
“The material has probably shrunk after all the swimming earlier.” He pulled at it and pieces fell away in his hands. “It’s been on the ship for a long time and never been wet.” As he pulled at the remnants of the garment, he looked at Kelly’s, and it wasn’t muscles stretching her outfit. Paul didn’t complain about the stretched and torn material.
They gathered foliage and made simple bedding areas before lying down, each in a space of their own on the dry cave floor.
When Ray opened his eyes it was daylight, and his body ached all over. He didn’t know what had awakened him. He sat up and looked towards the mouth of the cave. A naked female figure was silhouetted in the entrance, facing to one side, her long hair lifting in the breeze.
A loud scream could be heard from somewhere outside and Ray stood up, stumbling as he did. The primal sound outside had caught his attention, but when he heard it again he lost interest. Instead he dealt with the incredible itch on his chest. Large, strong hands dug into the freshly grown thick dark hair over his body.
He peeled away the remnants of something white from his legs. Inner warmth filled him with an overwhelming urge. From between his legs a pleasant, warm sensation caused him to produce a low growl.
The woman in the entrance turned. Tiny drops of water flowed from her eyes as she turned from observing the two interlocked creatures struggling and rolling around on the grass not far from the cave.
Unlike her female counterpart down below, Sylva didn’t scream, or run. As the muscular, hairy male creature advanced on her from within the cave, the woman emitted a low murmur.
All previous memory, including language, faded as the aroused male held her against the cave wall, and they joined in an act spurred by basic instinct.
On a grassy plain four miles from the cave, the debris from an explosion the previous day was already being overgrown by foliage. A two-metre long piece of titanium was caught in the branches of a lone tree, and it shone like a nameplate—a declaration.
In bold black lettering, one word remained; Genesis.
A tale from 'The Welcome: and other Sci-Fi stories'
Thursday 24th August 2018
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