Science Fiction Adventure Fiction

By the middle of the third millennium, mankind realised that it had damaged its habitat irretrievably. Earth’s rapid descent into a barren wilderness, coupled with a series of deadly epidemics meant that humans were facing extinction. In an unprecedented project of cooperation, previously warring nations pooled their resources to find a way of preserving the species. In 2921, the results of their labours were launched in the form of four ‘arks’. Named: Hope, Promise, Belief and Wish, the vessels were sent into different directions of space. Their mission was to find and colonise habitable planets.

           The spacecraft were a triumph of scientific research. Initially, the focus had been on developing a method of teleportation, which could overcome the restraints of distance and time. However, developments in MRI brain scanning found evidence of previously unexplored areas of the brain, which gave humans the ability to use psychokinesis. This caused the scientists to change the direction of their research, and they identified that, some people were more likely to possess the ability to use telekinesis than others. The researchers searched for and trained these individuals, in order to hone their skills, so that they could work together to produce a mode of travel, which defied the laws of physics.

           On launch day, Hope’s crew members sat in a circle, holding hands on the carpeted floor in a darkened room of the capsule. The spacecraft’s on- board computer was transmitting a hologram image of an area in space one billion light years away, into the circle’s centre. The team had spent the previous hour meditating and preparing their minds for this moment. Now, they simultaneously concentrated on the image before them, visualising that they and their craft would be there. After a few moments, the lights lifted and an electronic voice announced.

           ‘Transportation complete. We have arrived.’ The team stretched and gazed blearily around at each other, as though expecting to experience some change in their surroundings. In reality, they remained cocooned in the ship, and would only get any real sense that, they had travelled when they looked at the craft’s monitors. There were twelve crew members, their ages ranging from fifteen to sixty years. Additionally, there were three new born babies, conceived via IVF from the gametes of humans who were known to possess psychokinetic abilities. The theory was that, as the existing company’s skills waned, these youngsters would have grown, and be trained enough to replace them. Hope’s cargo included two thousand frozen human zygotes, alongside others from various other animal species, and seeds from Earth’s flora and fauna. The idea being that when and if a suitable planet was found these samples would be used to inhabit it.

The space capsule now floated in deep space and the thrust of its work could begin. Outside, the ship was surrounded by an inky blackness, pinpointed with the sparkling diamonds of stars. Inside, as well as the cosy, cushioned cosseting meditation room; there was a common control room. It was housed in the centre of the ship and contained all the electronic equipment necessary for maintaining the life support systems, analysing scientific data, communicating with the rest of human kind and providing information to the crew. Each member of the squad had his or her own sleeping quarters. There was the storage deck which housed the refrigeration equipment, huge banks of frozen zygotes, and containers of plant samples. A small area had been separated from the main storage area, and was designated for medical procedures. It was fully equipped with ground breaking medication, and state of the art equipment.

Alongside, their telekinetic abilities each crew member was highly qualified in a specific field. Sixty year old Jane was a computing expert, and it was her job to ensure that, Hope’s computer continued to communicate with Earth and the other three ‘arks’. Saira was a forty-five year old astrophysicist who would be mapping and recording all planets within range, and then working with the computer and Aron, the team’s geophysist to decide which of these would be most likely to meet the project’s requirements, and therefore warrant further investigation.

           Chipendo was medically trained, and specialised in paediatrics and psychiatry. His responsibility was to oversee the team’s health needs, care for the babies and ensure that the three teenagers on board developed appropriately, and continued with their education. He would be busy! The rest of the crew found the babies a welcome distraction, and were happy to cuddle them and then play with them as they got a little older. The adolescents were generally happy to learn via IT. There were challenges; the two boys were attracted to each other, which left the girl, Maria, as ‘the odd one out’. It was a difficult time for her, because although she and the boys were good friends, she was a mass of raging hormones. Chipendo spent many hours talking with her, and reassuring her. One of his female companions took Maria under her wing, and provided the female friendship she craved. Fortunately, the crew only presented Chip with minor ailments, until much later in the voyage. Nonetheless, everything added together filled every moment of his time.  

Twelve and a half years on, the spacecraft was now fifteen billion light years away from Earth, and beyond contact with their planet of origin or any of the other three arks. It was their sixth stop, and a planet was identified, that had a breathable climate, and gravitational pull similar to that of Earth’s. It supported plant life, but as yet, no animal life had been detected. As Aron showed his comrades images of the planet, he explained that there was a snag; the topography of the world appeared to change. This would pose problems when they were preparing to ‘land’ their ship. Sung took over, she was the team’s chemist and nutritionist, and had taken responsibility for ensuring that they continued with their morning routine of mindfulness, meditation and practising psychokinesis.

‘We are in good shape. As a team, we have been practicing our skills. The moment of transfer is immediate and time lapse so small it’s inestimable, so all we need to do is concentrate on the current image which Hope gives us.’

The team assembled in the meditation room, and repeated their ritual of sitting with joined hands. They stared at the unfamiliar image before them, until the computer made the now familiar announcement of ‘Transportation complete. We have arrived’. They filed towards the capsules outer corridor, and made their way to the exit door.    

As the hatch lifted, they crowded around the opening to get a glimpse of the world outside. The team drew a synchronised gasp. The view was strangely beautiful, far more awe-inspiring than the grainy images they had seen on the ship’s monitors. The sky was white, and lit by three golden suns, two vertically in line, and the third smaller one a little to one side. The land stretching away from them was green, but it did not appear to be covered with grass, something more like grains of sand. Rolling upon this granular surface were many, large red spherical objects, approximately the size of zorb balls. Dotted around were perpendicular pink structures, ranging in height from a couple of inches to twenty foot. They were reflective and glinted in the suns’ light. Hanging from their vertical outcroppings were diaphanous streamers, which gently waved in a non-existent breeze. On the horizon, the crew could see spots of light moving and dancing, like sunshine on the waves of the ocean. Simultaneously, they realised that, for the first time in over twelve years the air, which they were breathing lacked the chemical tang of the ship’s atmosphere.

           Hope’s electronic voice announced.

           ‘Hatch closing.’ And they realised that their glimpse of the world outside was being terminated. Once they were again enclosed in their capsule, preparations began for exploring their new environment. Initially, they were all to wear sterilised body suits, and were warned against relieving themselves outside the ship: their very presence would be impacting on this planet’s environment, and it was important to control the effects as much as possible. Their first tasks were to gather samples of everything around them, and bring them back to the craft for analysis. That night few slept, their excitement was palpable, but as the hour approached for them to rise, eat and begin their exploration, they became aware of movement, the ship was rocking! Jane hastily consulted the monitor in her room. She moved slower now, she was over seventy, but her mind was as acute as ever. The view outside Hope had altered beyond recognition; the ship appeared to be floating on a vast expanse of fluid. Consultation with Aron confirmed that this was the case, and was probably a product of the planet's changing landscape.

           The team gathered in the spacecraft’s communal control area and discussed their options. They could wait and see if the landscape changed again and they were returned to land, they could fire Hope up, and use her power to move, or use telekinesis to move the mass of the ship to a solid area. The consensus was to use the latter option. The first suggestion was too vague; it meant that they would have to wait for the structure of the planet to change again. The timescale for change was unknown, and they were impatient to begin their exploration. The second idea was discarded as the company were concerned about the impact on the environment of using the capsule’s power. Additionally, they wanted to conserve the craft’s fuel for as long as possible. And so, the computer monitor’s scanned the planet’s landscape, until an area of dry land was identified. The squad assembled in the meditation room, concentrated on the image in their circle’s centre, and moved to a solid area. The hatch was opened and exploration began.

           A year on, and things were looking good for the Hope exploration team. None of the planet’s natural vegetation was found to be harmful to humans. Sung identified that naturally occurring plants would be able to provide humans with everything they needed to survive. In the last quarter of the millennium, all humans had become vegan; a carnivorous diet was viewed much as cannibalism had been in the past. The animal zygotes on-board Hope had been bought along to maintain a variation of species, not to provide food. Most of the crew slept outside rather than on-board their mother ship. The nights on the planet were warm, and when its suns sank, it was plunged into a purple darkness, reminiscent of the ships meditation room. No mattresses were necessary as the green grains of ground covering were as soft as grass. The planet’s ever changing landscape did mean that care had to be taken that you did not fall asleep on solid ground, but wake up drowning. It was found that if a change was imminent, anyone sleeping on the ground would be woken by a sense of movement, before any liquid appeared. Many had ceased to wear clothing, as there was no risk of insect bites, injury from sharp rocks or thorns, and they declared that in this new world there was no convention which demanded that bodies should be covered. Those who did continue to cover themselves mainly did so because they were fair skinned and risked sunburn. The world’s ever changing landscape had made any kind of mapping exercise impossible. The team had learnt to use their telekinetic abilities to get them back to the ship if they became lost.               

           After, the morning’s ritual of psychokinetic exercises, Jane asked if the team could remain together and talk about their future. They now numbered fifteen, as the babies were now over twelve years old and treated as part of the crew. One of the oldest members had suffered a fall and subsequently died, and another had been terminated due to the onset of dementia. Jane was proposing that a further three zygotes be defrosted and developed to full grown babies. Originally, the plan was to unfreeze three every fifteen years, but as this world was proving to be habitable she felt that things should be progressed.

           Kabir, now twenty-seven and a half years old protested. He felt that this was over cautious, and wanted at least thirty babies to be developed. He argued that the complete thrust of the project was to colonise the planet, and this could only be done if there were sufficient adults to breed. He was backed by the rest of the twenty somethings and the younger twelve year olds. Chipendo had raised the original babies and was against the idea, saying.

           ‘Thirty babies is an awful lot to care for.’

‘But there are fifteen of us. That’s less than three babies each. You looked after three.’

‘But I had nothing else to do, and the rest of the crew helped.’

‘In the old world, women naturally had three babies at a time.’

‘That was extremely unusual, and I suspect that they needed help.’

‘You are being over cautious, we need to progress.’

‘You have no idea. It’s not just when they are babies, once they start walking they are hard work.’

Kabir persisted and eventually it was agreed to settle the matter with an old fashioned show of hands. The younger members were supported by Saira and Aron, and so thirty zygotes were removed from storage, and allowed to develop into embryos. From the moment the babies were officially born, Kabir began to understand Chipendo’s reluctance. The twelve year olds had now turned thirteen, and flatly refused to wake up for night feeds. Jane tried her best, but the team soon noticed that the disturbed sleep was taking a toll on her health. Additionally, without sufficient adult supervision the thirteen year olds began to swerve the daily psychokinetic sessions. The team became worried that without their input, they might be unable to move Hope if they ever needed to. The teenagers also neglected their studies. It meant that they were not learning the essentials of science, maths or computing, and growing up without an awareness of culture or lessons from the past. The rest of the team were too worn out to do anything to pull the young people back into line.

A crisis came when the babies were about eighteen months old. The teenagers were out and about, accompanied by the nine toddlers who had been assigned to their care. A few hours later, a girl called Celeste returned to the ship in a distressed state, saying that she had lost one of her ‘children.’ A search party was immediately launched. Jane stayed on board Hope, scanning the computer monitors for any sightings of the child, and it was she who saw the little girl’s body floating lifelessly on one of the planet’s transient lakes.     

The ship’s older crew members met in the communal area. It was a sombre meeting, where they discussed whether Celeste should be punished for her allowing one of her charges to come to harm. Chipendo thought not, arguing that at thirteen her brain was not developed enough to consider the consequences of her actions. Realistically, she had been too young to be given so much responsibility. In general the team agreed and so they moved on to discuss what actions needed to be taken to protect the toddlers in future. Bennu, one of Kabir’s peers, suggested constructing an enclosure close to the space capsule. The toddlers could all be kept in there, similar to old world nursery schools, and it would take fewer staff to supervise them. This was agreed, although feeding the little ones, keeping them clean, amusing them and providing them with essential affection still took up most of the team’s time and energy, leaving little over for essential scientific research.

It was not until approximately thirteen years later, when the remaining babies were fourteen and a half years old that Kabir finally admitted his mistake to Chipendo. The group of teenagers had taken to disappearing for days on end without explanation, two of their number had become pregnant and given birth (it was true that breeding was the ultimate aim of the colony, but pregnancy in girls this young had led to concerns over whether they or their babies would be physically damaged), they neglectfully damaged the planet’s ecology by making fires and letting them burn out of control, refused to share any of the crew’s tasks, wilfully damaged precious equipment and stole from the ship’s medical room. Kabir had attempted to remonstrate with one of his original ‘triplets’ about their behaviour, only to receive a torrent of belligerent abuse. As he stood woefully watching the adolescent’s departing back, he ruefully commented.

‘Chipo, my friend. You were right, thirty children at once is way too many.’                      

May 16, 2021 20:46

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