Read Genesis (The Exodus Trilogy) Online

Authors: Andreas Christensen

Genesis (The Exodus Trilogy) (10 page)

BOOK: Genesis (The Exodus Trilogy)
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Maria
solis

 

Maria jumped ashore, laughing at the shenanigans of a couple of dragon fish nearby. The creatures had scared her at first, but after a few trips up and down the Arizona, she had realized the man-sized creatures were completely harmless. Lately, she had even noticed they would perform what could only be described as some sort of mating game that involved teasing each other until the last moment, when they would abruptly dive down, leaving the other alone on the surface, obviously frustrated. She couldn’t help thinking of her own condition. She was still agile, though the past few weeks had taken their toll. She touched her belly. It wasn’t visible yet, and it wasn’t as if she felt it kick or anything, but she felt… different. Thankfully, the morning sickness had finally subsided. Doc Bowers had given her some pills that he assured her were completely harmless, which took away the worst of it. She still felt it, slightly, every morning, but it wasn’t overwhelming anymore. So a few days ago, she’d been able to get on the boat with Kim and head north. The camp by the river was slowly growing as a trading post between the Stronghold and the fishing village that was being established on the north shore. So far, they had managed to keep a tight lid on the existence of the Akhab, but she knew it wouldn’t last. And when that happened, many more would come to see. She had already talked to Kenneth about it, and they both agreed there had to be some restrictions in order to protect the Akhab from their own benevolence.

She hadn’t told her mother about the baby yet, and she figured Thomas had a right to be the first to know. But how would she tell him that their one night together had resulted in her being pregnant? Her feelings for him had only strengthened, but what if he didn’t feel the same way? Every time he left, she was terrified he would not return. She was aware of the risks he took, but she had no doubt he didn’t tell her everything. How would the distraction affect him?

Walking toward the cave, she thought of her mother. She would be expecting her by now. Karin Svensson would also be there; the Swedish astronomer had set up a crude observatory near the cave and had spent more time with the Akhab than anyone else.

After a few minutes, Maria reached the cave’s entrance. One of the Akhab waved at her as she arrived. She smiled broadly and waved back. The Akhab were always hospitable and friendly, and by now, every one of them seemed to know her. She entered the tunnel and walked until she reached the cavern covered in murals.

“Maria!” her mother exclaimed, and Maria smiled. They hugged, and Isabella held her out at an arm’s length and cocked her head, peering at her like only a mother would.

“You look well,” Isabella said. Maria felt her cheeks warm, but just smiled back at her mother. After being apart since Maria’s hasty departure from Fort Andrews, she felt their bond had only strengthened. After her father had died, and with Thomas always gone, on some mission or another, she had felt completely alone. She had missed her mother then, and she worried that her father’s death would make her mother do something stupid. She had never expected her mother to return from depression and seclusion the way she had, stronger than ever, and full of life.

Isabella had already turned to walk back into the cave, and Maria took a few quick steps to catch up with her.

“I’ve been trying to wrap my head around the Akhab and their way of speaking,” Isabella began. “Those I have spoken to are learning so fast, I’ve never seen anything like it.” They passed one Akhab that spoke a few words—or rather, something Maria thought were words—and Isabella nodded at him and smiled. The Akhab moved on, wagging along as he or she went about his or her business. Maria had a hard time distinguishing between the males and females, although she could sometimes tell from their voices.

“I actually think I can understand quite a bit of their language now,” her mother said. “Speaking it though…” She shook her head. “Some of their sounds are completely impossible for a human to make. But here’s the trick—substitution. I can substitute some of their special sounds, as I like to call them, with human sounds. As long as I do it consistently, they seem to understand. It’s almost as if they are trained in communicating with us. Or with non-Akhab, at least.” Maria chuckled. She had spent enough time with the Akhab not to be surprised by their amazing ability to learn human language. They reached the entrance to the deeper cave and saw Jujjj coming toward them.

“I thought I was adept at learning languages,” Isabella said, her face breaking up in a wide grin. “But my abilities are nothing! You should hear Jujjj. Wait, there’s no way to
tell
you…” She said a few strange words—or sounds rather.

“It is a pleaser to met you again, Mariaa son, sorree, Mariaa daughteer by Isabellaa,” he said, and extended his hand.

Maria was stunned.

Chapter 10
 

Kenneth taylor

 

“So, he isn’t talking,” Kenneth said to the others, as he turned down the volume on the comm speaker. It now was possible, to a certain extent, to have a basic conversation through the comms, but it took a lot of repetition and interpretation, and it was easy to get something wrong. He had made Thomas repeat the message several times, to be absolutely certain. So, at last, they knew their enemy was human. “He told me the prisoner was pretty vocal at first, but once he realized we had people who spoke his language, he shut up. Miss Shue, whose parents were Chinese refugees, said he rambled on about some kind of mother ship and taking over this world for the glory of the Chinzhoi Empire. Other than that, it was mostly racist nonsense or plain cursing.”

Tina and Kenneth caught each other’s eye. Even though neither of them said anything, Kenneth saw that Tina had come to the same conclusion he had. Someone knew more than they had let on. He turned toward their guest from Dehlia and raised an eyebrow, just slightly. Rajiv cleared his throat, and the others turned toward him. They had put this off for too long, but the hints the ambassador had given on the occasions they had touched upon the subject had made Kenneth suspect that things weren't as simple as they first had thought. Rajiv seemed to understand it was time, as well, and the ambassador sighed heavily before he finally spoke.

“There were several other nations and even a few private entities that left Earth in the years prior to the great impact.” Kenneth urged him on. He had expected as much.

“Yes, we knew there were others. The information flow was minimal though. You weren’t born then, Mr. Singh, but the fact is that no one trusted each other back then. We knew that you Indians were doing something, and there were rumors about both the Brazilians and the Chinese…” Rajiv nodded.

“Yes, it was a less cooperative environment than it should have been. Well first off, the Brazilian mission failed utterly. When rebellion swept the entire South American continent less than a year before launch, the mission was effectively aborted. Their ship was never finished because all the people working on it either fled from the fighting or were killed in the turmoil. A small number of the more resourceful scientists and engineers managed to flee the continent to join with other efforts elsewhere. India even took a few of them in, and there are descendants of the Brazilian scientists and engineers alive today, mostly on Dehlia itself.

“The Chinese chose a very different path, along with their Russian and Indonesian partners. They had a high level of technology, but they never did put much faith in cryo tech, so instead, they spent their time and resources building bigger ships with better life support. In essence, they built great arks, generation ships. India and China had never been close—I believe it has to do with our history—so not much information was shared. But India had a vast intelligence network back on Earth, so we were probably the best informed among the great nations. And our sources managed to get a lot more details than the Chinese intended.

“Their destination was the Ashan system, twenty-six light-years away from Earth. Ashan lies about seventeen light-years away from Aurora, sixteen from Dehlia. Four arks carrying approximately 1000 passengers each left Earth’s orbit in 2084, just six months before Devastator struck. Dangerously late, with the gravitational irregularities in the final year, yet they managed to pull it off. From what we can tell, their arks must have made the slingshot around the sun and then later used Nemesis for a second slingshot. They arrived at the planet Chinzhou in the Ashan system almost a century later, and by that time, there must have been more than 20,000 people on board, three generations still alive, all of them born on board.

“Now, and this is important, when the options of star flight were discussed back on Earth, our mission planners came to the conclusion that there were serious issues involved with generation ships, especially psychological. The main one was that the shared knowledge of our home world would gradually weaken with every generation, and that the ones arriving in their new world would have entirely different concepts and frames of reference than the ones leaving Earth. Our intel more than suggests that this happened to the Chinese-led effort.

“After finally having thrown off the yoke of communism and embracing a degree of democracy, the starfarers from the new China and their partners could have had the best starting point of all. With 20,000 people, they would have had a great start, and they would have been valuable partners in an interstellar community of humans. Instead, something terrible happened. At some point, probably in the second or third generation, something triggered a shift, and they reverted back to totalitarianism. We don’t have many details, as we have never had official channels open with them, but what we know is this. Despite the changes, the arks’ captains managed to keep it together, enough so that all four arrived safely at their destination. When they arrived at Chinzhou, though, they were completely different from when they left Earth. Their society on Chinzhou is an extremely totalitarian, militaristic one, in which babies are being fostered by the government and trained from young age in military disciplines and tested for loyalty and obedience. Their government has complete control of every man, woman, and child, from birth to the grave, and everyone works for the common good.” That last comment was said with a snarl.

“I guess Chinzhou itself has changed them, as well,” Rajiv continued. Kenneth cocked his head, eager to hear more, and he noticed Tina also seemed captivated by the Dehlian’s tale.

“You see, what they found was an extremely harsh environment, a barren planet with an inhospitable atmosphere and temperatures varying between boiling hot and freezing cold in one day. So the first thing they did was establish underground shelters. These later grew into entire cities deep beneath the surface. Still, they managed to colonize one of Chinzhou’s moons, and from there, they have been probing their stellar vicinity for decades, searching for a better place to live.” Rajiv sighed.

“None of us can fathom what it must have been like spending an entire life inside a tin can, never having seen anything but the interior of the starship, surrounded only by stars from birth to death. Being crammed together, tighter and tighter, flying through space from the day you are born until the day you eventually die; what does it do to a human mind? Recycling your dead to feed hydroponic farms, drinking recycled water, while population growth put a steadily increasing strain on resources. In the end, their resource situation must have been desperate. Our intel suggests that cannibalism was common on at least one of the arks, although we’ve seen no confirmed instances after they reached Chinzhou.” Kenneth shuddered. Everything Rajiv said made sense. He was suddenly glad the Exodus had been fitted with cryo cells to let them sleep through most of the journey.

“And then you arrive, to find your new world to be… another prison or whatever…” Tina almost whispered.

“If that intel is correct, it only seems reasonable that the sort of desperation that might trigger such acts would also do something to their society as a whole,” Kenneth said. Rajiv nodded.

“Yes, and what we have long feared is the day they decide to venture out to other worlds, as well. That is why we have focused so much on building new colonies, expanding our reach through small starship intelligence missions, and of course, a strong defense, should the day come that such a thing becomes necessary. We had hoped it would still be a long time until that happened, because they seemed to be making slow progress. Obviously, our sources must be wrong. It could be our information is outdated, which is no surprise, really, when you consider the distances and communication difficulties. We did, however, expect them to be stuck within the Ashan system for generations yet.”

The mood of the cabin had grown dark. Not only had an enemy appeared out of nowhere, threatening their very existence, but now Rajiv had told them there were more, on a nightmarish planet seventeen light-years away. If they dispelled the current threat, another might be just a few generations away.

Maria solis

 

For the last ten hours, she’d been studying the murals, which stretched throughout the cave. She was intrigued by the images of space ships and humanoids, but the more she delved into the deeper reaches of the cave, the more she became fascinated by the Akhab themselves. She felt she had begun to understand these creatures, although they were completely alien to her in so many ways. They didn’t have a written language. Even so, they had rich traditions and an understanding of their world and surroundings. If something were deemed important enough, they would paint, and so their story had grown into murals extending into every corner of the cave.

For a while, she had considered whether the images of humanoids coexisting with the Akhab were recent, and that maybe somehow the Akhab had observed their settlements and drawn these portrayals of how the two might come together some day. But when she broached the subject with Jujjj, who always tended to linger around her, as he was now, he had motioned for her to follow. Maria had followed him deep into the cave and down through some sort of elevator made out of wood and rope, which took them to another cave, with more Akhab in nooks and crannies. They had walked through tunnels and caverns until they reached a hall in which the murals ended abruptly. The final image was of a human being. She recognized the stance and features, although the face was blurry like the ones in the outer cave. It was a figure she would always recognize: her mother. She looked at the images next to it and found what she was looking for. There it was, a picture of herself on the day she first discovered this cave, standing just outside the cave’s entrance, weight on one foot to relieve the pain of the one she had injured. It was obvious, and it changed everything.

She realized she’d had everything backward. The first images were of the earliest Akhab history, while the ones in these deeper caves reflected the events of today, with both Maria and her mother making enough of an impression to be immortalized on their walls.

“You, Maariaa! And Isaabellaa!” Jujjj said, excitedly, pointing. Maria’s head felt dizzy, and it wasn’t just the pregnancy. The arrangement of the murals was logical; she just hadn’t considered it before. But there was something about them that puzzled her. Some sort of understanding that she knew still escaped her.

“How old are the murals?” she suddenly asked. Jujjj didn’t seem to understand, so she rephrased.

“How old is this?” Jujjj nodded eagerly.

“Thiis not oold. Thiis neew. Noow,” he said. She expected that, she just wanted to nudge him into understanding what she was really after.

“Okay,” she said, “what about the ones near the cave mouth, how old?” He didn’t seem to understand.

Something in the back of her mind suddenly connected. She felt an intense urge to go back to the outer cave, where the murals had begun. There was something… something that tickled her about them. She ushered Jujjj along, and they hurried back the way they had come. Jujjj still seemed confused. Maria tried to apologize, but she doubted Jujjj understood the meaning of an apology. It had to be a human concept, she thought, or at least something the Akhab weren’t used to.

Once they were back in the outer cave, she had a good look at the mural. The paint looked ancient—worn, but incredibly hardy. She’d studied it from every corner already, trying to understand everything it meant. In the beginning, she had seen it as a cultural artifact, like archaeological findings—useful for understanding an old culture. Then, as she came to understand that this was as much a part of the language of the Akhab as their oral language, she began to understand that the murals were something more. It was just as precise and detailed as any written history. Painting, it seemed,
was
in fact their written language. Every detail in the images told a story, an important aspect of their history and lives. But something had been missing.

Now, having seen the most recent additions, the images of herself and her mother, and realizing that the ones in the outer cave were the beginning of their painted history, the missing pieces began to fall into place.

The first images showed an Akhab greeting one of these humanoid beings. How could it be? That moment, that particular moment, must have been so significant to them that nothing of what had gone before mattered anymore. That must have been an enormous transition, from one state of being to another, and she suspected it would always puzzle her.

“Akhab becoome Akhab,” Jujjj said, his voice reverent as he stared at that same image.

“What did you say?” she asked.

“Akhab becoome Akhab,” he repeated. “Befoore, Akhab noothiing. Akhab aanimaal.” And she understood. The Akhab had developed self-consciousness.

She felt dizzy again, and thoughts swirled through her mind. She finally understood, the logical lines were drawn, the connections made. The Akhab counted their history from that moment—those first images. Those images where they interacted with humanoids marked the beginning of their recorded history. And indeed it
was
the beginning of their history. And then it was the images of Maria and Isabella, which were recent. The images of the humanoids looked exactly the same, except for different suits, different facemasks.

BOOK: Genesis (The Exodus Trilogy)
6.15Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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