Landfall

CA. 166,230 B.C.E. Arrival of the Gods

“To consider Earth the only populated world in infinite space is as absurd as to assert that in an entire field sown with seed, only one grain will grow”
-the Greek scholar Metodorus in the 4th Century BCE.

hd177830Enki awoke in the middle of a dream. The details slipped away as he started to realize that the early warning had been sounded, which meant that the Archon was nearing the braking point in it’s trajectory. “The long journey is nearly over” thought Enki, clearing sleep from his head. “Soon, I will stand on the soil of our new home”.

The great and powerful voidship Archon, named for the great Creator’s servants, would soon unfurl its sails to begin braking. These sails would expand to the size of a small planet designed to catch the light particles of this new star Solara, soon to become their home sun, to slow the Archon.

The voidship would soon lose inertial gravity, leaving the crew weightless for a short time, then gradually it would return, except now from the opposite direction. Enki sat up in his bunk and glanced at the clingplant in the corner, just beginning to show light along the tips of it’s leaves. His sleep cycle was nearly over anyway. There would be much work to do, stowing loose belongings and transferring storage containers to what is now the ceiling, but would soon become the floor. It was time now to begin those activities.

He pulled a clean cloak from the bin and put it on, then called up the cronometer display on his desk to plan his day’s activities. The clingplant in the corner, sensing motion in the room, began to brighten to light up his activities. Gradually, the light from its leaves filled the room to working intensity.

Soon the adventure would begin for Enki. To start at the end of his journey from Anuk, which was the home of the third-wave colony they had left so long ago. All Enki experienced was the trip. He was born on the voidship during the first acceleration of the voyage and therefore could only see from his light projector what it was like on a planet’s surface… Any planet.

Enki had learned much during his life on the Archon. His mother and father did not let him become idle for more than a few days at a time. He had knowledge of all existing Empire colonies, their history and technology, survival and battle strategies, and bits of information about other races and non-colonized star systems. Making use of his knowledge was difficult during the uneventful journey that had taken all of his lifetime, and Enki was eager to put it to use.

In the distant past, the Annunukai were too numerous and adventurous to stay on their birth planet Kaida. The call of exploration and growth had taken hold nearly three eons ago, leaving thousands of colonies spread about the habitable zone of the galaxy. This particular voyage marks the beginning of the fourth wave of colonization.

Enki had learned that millenia ago, news reached Anuk that Kaida had been destroyed as its primary sun exploded. However, the disaster had been expected so there was plenty of warning before the explosion. Everyone had been evacuated to various nearby first-wave colonies. Enki’s parents were part of that evacuation.

“Enki, please meet me in the cargo bay… Respond.” Blared the ship’s audio communicator.

“I will arrive soon, Father.” Enki answered, excited that there would be something much more interesting than study to do. He stowed all the loose items in his room and left his cabin. The trip to the cargo bay should be particularly enjoyable this time, he thought as he went to the access tube, and started climbing down the ladder leading to the cargo bay at the rear of the ship to help with the mass transfer activities. As he started climbing, he thought he could feel himself become lighter.

By the time he reached the cargo bay door a short time later, his weight had decreased to about half that of normal, and he started to take the ladder ten rungs at a time, enjoying this newfound freedom and wondering if it would hurt to jump the last hundred feet. Then he realized that his mass had not decreased, and such a jump would surely break his legs unless he waited for the inertial gravity to decrease to under ten percent acceleration.

Yet when he was ten feet from the bottom of the tube, he kicked off from the ladder and slowly dropped to the floor, landing in a perfect three-point cat-stance. “I could really enjoy this. Too bad it will only last for such a short time.” Enki thought to himself, smiling. He reached down and opened the cargo bay door on the floor and stepped through to climb the last span of ladders to the floor of the cargo bay. many of the colonists had gathered here, and were busily removing fasteners which were holding the cargo containers to the floor while they waited for the hiss of the ion engines to stop.

annunuki-empire

Enki knew every one of the colonists aboard the Archon. Of the nearly 300 aboard, most were millenia old, though still young by Annunukai standards. the social caste of each crew member could be easily identified by their clothing and grooming styles. The Workers in tight-fitting breeches and shaved heads. The Judges in their flowing robes, long hair, and some with full beards. The Warriors in their uniforms of traditional gold and black, having short-cropped hair and beards, some having cybernetic implants to enhance their strength, sight, or hearing. Lastly, the Igigi, who were inventors and engineers, dressed in various discordant bright colors, none quite like the other.

Enki’s mother Antu and his father Anu were both 25 millenia old. Elderly by Annunukai standards. They had not wanted to go on this journey, except that having been evacuated from Kaida in their youth had left them without a home star system. It would be doubtful if either of them would live another millenium. Their genetic structure was starting to drift again, and the medical equipment necessary for a genetic re-sequencing was not available on this colonist ship. However, they knew and accepted the risk that this new colony would take nearly that long to create the technology base for such an instrument. By that time, it would likely be too late to repair their original genetic code, and they would die. This was really not such a terrible proposition after having lived this long. They would spend their last days preparing Enki for leadership such that would make the Annunukai empire proud, record a lifetime of knowledge into Me stones, and spend their last years as lords of this new colony.

Nearly all of the cargo had been released by the time the ion engines shut down completely, the enduring hiss that Enki had heard all his life suddenly went silent, which left him with a strange feeling of loss. I may not sleep this night, he thought.

The activity began again in earnest. Groups of five to a container, pushing off lightly from the floor, then floating slowly across the room, coming to rest on the opposite floor, and fastening the container into place. Each container and its new location was checked off a list and the data etched into a Me stone for later retrieval.

Enki tried to help without getting in the way as he saw containers, marked in detail, that would come into use when the Archon made landfall on a new planet. Food, tools, equipment, weapons, and fuel were moved from the aft floor to the forward floor and strapped down.
One container for example, contained genetic equipment and samples enough to terraform a planet or re-create the environment of any of the 3,200 colonies, including Kaida. It was the hope of Anu and Antu to find a planet suitable to transplant its life, so that the Kaida eco-system could live on.

As he worked to move supplies and equipment to the forward floor, Enki considered his new life with excitement. Remote sensing verified the livability of their new home system. Three planets exist within the life-band of this stable yellow sun. The one furthest from Solaris seemed a good choice for their home base and it had been agreed in Council to name it Aleph and establish a city there called Olympus. This planet resembles Kaida in a number of key ways:

First, it has a thick Nitrogen-Oxygen atmosphere with moderate amounts of Helium that would make the sky appear light indigo, similar to that of Kaida.

Second, two moons floated in the sky, one very large moon with a rich atmosphere, but nearly covered in liquid water and another moon much smaller, and blanketed with pockmarks and cracks, which demonstrated a reasonable defense against debris, such as comets, asteroids, and meteorites.

Third, Aleph is smaller than Kaida by only ten percent. Therefore, gravity is similar enough to easily adapt the genetics of the flora and fauna to the new planet.

There were only a few minor problems to be addressed. The tidal forces beneath the crust have not yet subsided to complete stability, so volcanism remains quite active on nearly a third of the planet’s surface. Another large overlapping area is ocean, containing most of the planet’s photosynthesis while the remaining surface is divided between ice caps and barren rock, leaving but a small habitable range in which to establish a Kaidan ecosystem. Life-forming this planet would be a challenge that would take many millenia. Fortunately, one moon and two other planets in the system were full of life and could be siphoned to Aleph in the event of problems.

What kind of life would they find? His training provided only a simulation of what they could find here. Would there be separate evolving beings like the Annunukai, or would the most intelligient life be a collaborative hive mind like the marauding Zshal?

“Enki! You will overshoot the bindings.” Antu interrupted his thoughts. “Please focus your attention to the task at hand”

“Sorr-y Mother.” Enki stammered as he shifted his weight to compensate for the misguided trajectory of the shipping container.

“He will learn the wisdom of focus very soon mother. I too, weary of Worker activities. Soon we can be challenged at our new home. This will teach focus even to my brother.” Enlil smiled pointedly at him as he completed the fastening of a crate, then pushed off the floor to obtain another load.

The Zshal, thought Enki with a sick feeling. Those bloodthirsty, grey-skinned, insect-like horde of demons that travel throughout the galaxy searching for intelligience to enslave and consume, fueling their appetite for dominion and causing all life to fall before their psionic onslaught.

Great philosophical minds say that the Zshal were created by the Archons soon after the birth of the galaxy to bring adversity and chaos to bear on the process of intelligient progression. Their evil is indestructible, yet they are limited in numbers to ensure that virtue may never be overwhelmed.

Enki shuddered at the thought of the Zshal arriving before this colony had a chance to gain a foothold here. He secured the container he had just moved and went for another.

These demons had been beaten back in most colonized systems, but being indestructible by nature, once their physical body is destroyed, their spirits have the power to rematerialize the structure of their bodies out of common matter over a few centuries.

One way to stop their plunder is to imprison them, as happened During the Nebula Wars. Small groups of them had been successfully imprisoned inside black hole singularities, but this was difficult to accomplish. The only alternative is to turn them aside with an energy field tuned to remove their molecular cohesion. This scatters their molecules far and wide, effectively stopping their attack for a short time.

Fortunately for everyone, the Zshal hive mind has no concept of revenge, they accept their “undead” status as completely as they expect their victims to accept domination. So when defeated, they just wander off to a new star system and start anew.

The Warrior caste’s primary mission is to contain the Zshal threat in whatever manner is most likely to ensure the protection of the colonists. Warriors constantly monitor the area for signs of their coming and prod the Igigi into producing more effective and efficient ways to repel the enemy.

The Judges caste does the planning and leading of the colony, the Worker caste builds and obtains materials, and the Igigi caste supports all other missions by researching, creating, and operating new technology.

The load transfer task was completed in a relatively short time and everyone floated back to their rooms to move their personal belongings in the same manner as they had the cargo bay. When all the contents of the voidship had been thus secured, the word was given to deploy the sail.

Enki watched the sail unfurl at the rear of the voidship from the light projector at his desk. Gravity gradually returned to the Archon allowing the Annunukai to walk the decks again. Most everyone had enjoyed the brief new feeling of floating free, but they also knew it was not good for their health. Accidents were more numerous during the transition and their bodies were made for gravity and would start deteriorating in a matter of days. With the new direction and greater strength of gravity, some had trouble finding balance at first, but within days everyone on the ship became familiar with the new spacial orientation.

Though Enki wished he could be allowed to take a Vimana out and scout ahead of the ship, he knew that once he left the docking bay, there would be nothing to slow his approach to Solaris. He would be doomed to pass by the system at the same approximate speed he left the voidship’s protective gravitic shell. There was no braking mechanism on a Vimana like the solar sail of the Archon. He would have to be content with the Vimana simulator on the computer of his light projector. At least he would be in top form when they finally arrived.

Maybe his father would let him pilot on the first survey mission from orbit around Aleph.

The days passed quickly as Enki trained while waiting for the journey to end. He became an expert Vimana pilot thanks to the Me interface on his light projector. Each of his ancestors who had been pilots, had left their experience on Me stones for the training of those who came after. Sometimes the impressions were so well-preserved that it felt to Enki like their very thoughts were inside of his mind, nudging and tempering his reactions as he became familiar with the controls of each class of Vimana.

Strangely, despite that fact that some of those who had recorded the stones had been gone for nearly a million years, he found that he had come to know them as family members and as examples with which to hone his attitudes and preferences as an individual. He felt sure he was there when his grandfather fought the Zshal during the Nebula Wars. He could feel his own hand sweating on the trigger as he picked those demons off one by one, and the relief that came when there were no more to bar his way as he answered the colonist’s distress beacon.

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Unfortunately, he also felt the pangs of remorse and pity as he (his grandfather) landed at the spaceport to find that most of the colonists had been left mindless vegetables from the psychic onslaught of the hive mind before he had arrived.

Enki was shaking with rage as his hand reached around the desk to turn off the simulation. “I will remember, Grandfather” he spoke aloud. Then for some hours afterward, he sat staring at the deck until he could no longer sit upright. His bunk promised some relief, but betrayed him that night with more nightmares of battle.

The next morning was well underway according to his sleep cycle when he was awakened by the insistent musical notes of his cabin chime. Someone was at the door. Was it time to enter orbit already?

He tried to voice the word “Open” but it was only a squeak, so he dragged himself out of his bunk and fumbled for a tunic. The chime again…

“Alright then” Enki finally said as he made it to the door and passed his hand across the sensor “What is so important this morning?”

The cabin door opened and Antu entered. “You sleep late Enki” she said trying to hide a trace of disdain in her voice. ” We will soon begin an orbit around our new home, would you like to be on the first survey mission?”

“Yes I would” said Enki enthusiastically. “I have been pilot training on the simulator. May I pilot the shuttle?”
“We should leave those tasks to the Igigi, at least until the colony is established. How far did you progress in the training session?” Antu asked, cautiously.

“I passed the level 12 standard, then I found a Me in the library that came from Grandfather. He was brave and strong.” Enki’s voice trailed off in thought upon remembering the experience.

Antu’s expression changed to compassion as she remembered her own training with the memory Me. “He was that indeed. Did you get to the end?”

“Yes, mother. There can be no doubt of our history when we have such effective means to remember. My life stretches before and the Me stones are placed in my hand to allow the greatness of our family to increase. I am grateful.”

“Not as grateful as I, little brother!” Enlil had appeared without notice, as was his tactic. “I will bring our family to great heights of power and technology just as surely as I stand. You need not bother since you will probably only be a mote in my path.” A sneer crossed his face as he finished speaking and then disappeared out the door as though all necessary things had been spoken.

Enki’s expression changed from confidence to surprise, then to anger as he twitched recognition of the appearance of his only brother who was, it seemed too predictable, even in his attempted unpredictability, to grasp the basic concepts of honor or humility. Enki was convinced that it would make him unfit to rule anything, but his father and mother refused to comment whenever there was a dispute between them, according to Annunukai custom.

He turned to Antu, who’s expression remained unchanged, and then to his preparation for the day. “You need not defend me against him.” he said, “The Archons will see whom I serve, while he serves only one. I will be ready in short. Thank you, mother for the visit, I will see you on the survey deck.”

He was grateful when his door slid closed as his mother left the room.

The survey deck was crowded when Enki arrived. There really was no best gathering place on the ship, but the survey deck was a particularly poor choice. But this was where the first mission of their new home would begin, so everyone arrived to add their own energy to it’s success.As he entered the vimana, he found his father and brother already strapped in, while a small survey crew of 5 Igigi busily made preparations to get underway. Though Enki hadn’t seen for himself, he knew that the Archon was already in a circular orbit around Aleph, in preparation to become an orbital station that provides support during the terraforming process, protection from danger, and a means of escape should the colonizing plan fail.

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If a major failure should happen, the Archon would be entirely on its own to fend for itself. Though quantum communications could immediately alert the nearest colonies, it could be years before help would arrive. Even in the event of attack by the Zshal, it would be up to the crew and colonists to overcome or die.

Even the Archons themselves would likely ignore a distress call unless in their wisdom, they deemed it part of this solar system’s master plan. If it happened, intervention would be an instantaneous flurry of activity that would be hardly noticed, the time frame compressed to microseconds, leaving everyone involved, wondering if it had all been a dream. If anything had happened at all. The Archons were adept at manipulating time and space, but were uninterested in explaining or refuting anything to mere Annunukai. And it is said that they jealously guard their secrets of technology lest a child-race become too powerful and disrupt the balance of existence.

The vimana passed through the gravitic shell around the Archon to the open space beyond and aimed for the horizon of Aleph. Then after a time, the illumination increased inside the cabin as energy was transferred to the hull of the vimana in return for deceleration, while the atmosphere dragged at their harnesses like an eager raptor straining at its thongs.

The entry was violent but short-lived as the vimana broke through the lower stratosphere and cooled, panting its way toward the surface of the planet.

Erupting volcanoes spewed soot and stone in the distance as the orbital maps overlaid the navigation console with maps and data concerning the location of habitable zones on Aleph. The sky out the viewport lightened to an azure-purple hue.

Enki looked over at his father who was smiling. Then he pointed to a busy spot on the navigation console and asked, “Is this where we are going?”

Anu nodded, still looking at the sky as if in a trance. Then he looked down and reinforced his answer. “My son, this is the spot where we will begin again.”

Within minutes, the smoking volcano moved over on the light projector to be replaced by the image of a green mountain range, bordered by the sea and reaching into the sky. It loomed larger as they approached and Enki could hear someone in front draw a heavy breath.

“Mount Olympus is the name of our new home.” said Anu, “and It shall be made great as the hills of Kaida.”

The pilot made a course correction and aimed for a flat spot near the water. Closer examination revealed a plain of grassy plants punctuated by larger shrubs and bordered by a narrow beach of black sand.

An Igigi named Zu spoke up tentatively, to avoid disturbing the moment. “Lord Anu. We recommend landing here first. It is important to obtain samples and to bring them back for analysis. It is also important to stay inside the vimana until we know everything about the life patterns of this planet, lest we poison ourselves unwittingly.”

Enki expected a glaring rebuke from his father, but instead he closed his eyes and said, “That is wise. We have so much to risk. Let us not overextend our grasp to reach for our desires.”

As Enki stared out the viewport at the tiny sun rising over the peak of Mount Olympus, he wondered if he would ever become the lord of this planet. Something inside him said that it could never happen. Then, as he felt the thud of rails touching black sand, somehow he didn’t mind, and wondered why.

Posted on March 21, 2008 on 9:11 pm | In Stories | No Comments
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