The First Return Goes Wrong
A star appears big and bright on one of the monitors. In the cockpit you can hear a pin drop. Captain Anu stretches his legs and gives a long yawn. It’s almost the end of his shift. He is tired and bored. His mind begins wandering, but he still keeps a watchful eye on the instrument panel. His sense of responsibility and constant vigilance has become second nature. The next few shifts will slightly ease the excruciatingly boring routine of so many ship years.
Their target destination had just disappeared behind a star. He sighs thoughtfully as one of his team members glances at him. He smiles and lifts his hand reassuringly. Their White faces shine in the dim light, each with their own thoughts. He can not imagine what it would be like to live elsewhere, in fact he was born on the ship and knows no other life… no one there did. There is so far no sign of intelligent life to be found, although spectral analysis shows that it should be teeming with life.
He wonders if any of their own people, many generations ago, survived the immediate consequences of the great cataclysm, and if so, how many of them would have been able to survive the brutal conditions. The idea brings him back to reality and his own responsibility. The past few shifts have required increasingly higher concentration… the closer they get to the star, the faster the objects start moving that are attracted from the planetary system, with corresponding increase in the risk of collision. The number they have encountered has also become significantly more, so a lot more attention is required from the crew. The mood is happy for just a little while before the next crew shift. As the control computer is ready for the next step… a parking lane opposite the star as seen from the target planet is in the same lane and bypass line, so it can be assumed that most of the errant material is cleaned in that orbit by the planet. From here they can send observation expeditions before site visits are conducted.
The cabin crew relaxes. Their task is largely complete and the shift ending. They look forward to a well deserved break. The ship is correctly orientated to brake and automatic countdown approaches the calculated time. The computer signals a warning and Anu announces: “All ready! Parking Course countdown begin!”Segment rotators brake smoothly to a halt in the units and in other modules. There is a scramble to strap their belts. A few moments anticipation … a distant rumble caused a vibration throughout the ship. Acceleration increases to a maximum, pushing them down firmly in their seats and then letting off again until normalcy returns as segments along the length of the ship start contra-rolling to restore artificial gravity. The ship is now parked in the same orbit as the planet, but on the other side of the star.
Anu relaxes and sighs: “Finally … a break! It’s captain Amka’s turn… they are probably on the way. Well done guys, the approach was nerve-wracking, but you can now relax. I’m tired. “
The cabin crew is visibly relieved: “What happens now, Captain?” Asks the chief navigator.
“Only a little rest, Jen. Later we can have a team sent to explore the planet. There is no hurry. Strangers may occupy the planet, though we can not observe them here. Honestly, I do not expect anyone there, because we have not received broadcasts, but you never know.”
Amka and his team enter the control room wearing their magnetic shoes. “When are you going to bed? Your women might wonder what you look like… in fact, I wonder if they will want you back the way you look now.”
Anu removes his belt, stands up and frowns angrily: “Do not worry, your turn is coming. We’re tired, but I will always sleep poorly when another man is at the helm,” he remarks.
Amka sighs, “I have at least more than 50 ship years under my belt, sir.”
Anu pats him jovially on the shoulder: “Relax, Amka, I’m just teasing. I have full confidence in you. Although there is actually very little for you to do. Most of the work has been done already. Be alert. Space does not forgive mistakes.”
Anu and his team leave the control room riding weightlessly along the central transport system as they went off to their respective units.
Amka and his team are still working to take their places in front of their monitors. As they attach to their restraint girdles the automatic defense equipment opened fire as the main driver yells, ‘Captain! A swarm of meteors are heading straight for us… look left!”
Amka immediately saw the danger. The swarm of objects were too small to be observed earlier. They are too close and too fast approaching… His eyes widened: “Turn left! Left! Quick! Sound the alarm!” Rockets fired immediately at maximum power, alarms sounded shrill and the giant ship started to turn lazily so the shield could point to the approaching danger… but far too slowly.
Amka’s eyes are glued to a screen on which a rough rock, incredibly fast, starts filling the screen… “No-oo-oo!” He shouted, and involuntarily lifted his arms. The meteorites plow through the cockpit and the cabin crew all died suddenly and violently.
Anu was still going through the module airlock when the distress signal froze him. The module’s orbit had unexpectedly stopped. He jumped in as his wife was falling weightlessly around the cabin: “Tiamat, hurry! Wake up Manu and put on your space suits! I’ll close the airlock! “
Tiamat grabbed two spacesuits from magnetic storage, soaring to the bedroom and shook Manu urgently: “Quickly! Put on your spacesuit! “He startles awake afraid. In his mother’s eyes he sees something is terribly wrong and reacts quickly, changing as she ordered. They barely broke loose their helmets when chaos erupts.
A tremendous popping sounds from the front side of the ship, the double airlock stops working, the lights go out and valuable air starts escaping out of the module. More booms clattered and shake the ship. For a short time, which felt like days, a clattered multitude of smaller conflicts erupt around them. Anu feels along the wall for the emergency switch to manually start the backup system.. The lights come back on. Under the module’s own emergency power the airlock to the module connects to the corridor’s airlock.
The indicator shows that a link to the corridor stands half-open. Tiamat and Manu slowly orbit weightlessly in a circle and grab hold of one another. Anu, who is wearing his magnetic shoes grabs the wall and anchors them. Panicked cries from other parts of the ship are fainter as the air is sucked out of the ship and sound can no longer propagate. A deathly silence fell upon the ship. They looked with wide eyes at each other… words are unnecessary. They are clearly in big trouble. Anu gets a hollow feeling in his stomach. He presses his suit’s cockpit communication button: “You must be strong! Stay here and I’ll see how bad the damage is.”
He went through the module’s airlock and struggles through the half-open one on the other side. The corridor is dark. His headlamp’s glow seems almost normal, if it were not for the curled metal holes and crevices in the wall, fine swirling dust and bits of gravel that chaotically bounce to and fro against the walls. Many meteorites passed straight through the ship’s hull and were now bouncing harmlessly back and forth in the hallway. He fears few people survived. Halfway down the long linking corridor a body drifted near a transport chair with his hand still on a airlock handle. His eyes bulged from their sockets, his stomach bloated and his blood boiled. He was also foaming from his mouth and nose as steam fumed out from other bodily orifices. “Horrible… I hope it was quick,” he thought, as he set his communication on general: “Anu here. Anyone! If you’re alive, please answer! “
Almost simultaneously comes two upset voices. “One at a time please,” says Anu.
“What’s going on… what happened? I can not get out of my module. The corridor lock will not work,” said one.
Anu realizes the danger: “Anu here! You’re lucky it jammed! Do not open it without your spacesuit on. All the air from the ship is gone… save yours, you’re going to need it. We were hit by a meteorite swarm. I do not believe many have survived. What is your module number? I will try to open it manually from the outside, but remain where you are for now. We are going to need a landing craft. I hope one is still usable. “
“We will wait. My family and I are in A-14 “, came the reply.
“We are seven in G-10,” came another voice.”We can help with the landing. Let us out first so we can help.”
Anu explored ahead. G-10 is a module for landing craft-pilots on the ship’s rear just before the landing craft bay: “I’ll be right with you. I will first explore ahead. It will take a while for the ship’s main power is off. I will have to do everything manually.”The inventory module is largely intact. However, the control room is unrecognizable. Clearly a direct hit from a large meteorite . A star shines sharply through the gaping hole, creating a slowly revolving circle of light. It looked like a spotlight shining on the disaster stricken area.
The place looks like a scrapyard with pieces of debris, body parts and other materials circling like a swarm of insects ushering in a rapidly diminishing vapor cloud adrift from the walls and back down. The light falls on a driver hunched over his control panel still holding on tightly to the steering lever trying to turn the ship left. Of the rest not much can be seen. Anu’s heart jumps into his throat and he feels nauseous. It’s horrible. Amka was a good friend and colleague and he would rather not look at his friend’s remains.
“The ship is dead.” He thought, “fortunately, the steering rockets shut off when the power went down, otherwise we would be centrifuged by now.”
On the way back, he studies the units one by one. He informed the others: “The control room is a mess! You are the only survivors besides myself and my family. G-10, are you ready? I will open your airlock then we can further investigate together.”
“We’re ready for you to open it, Captain. We all have our space suits on.”
He throws open the airlock. Seven green faces stare puzzled and are upset behind their helmet visors. He tries to reassure them: “We have three undamaged units and a storage unit that we can use. The medical unit was also hit, but the damage may not be too bad. Let’s go see what’s going on at the landing bay.”
They float weightlessly hand over hand along the railing in the hallway. The landing bay is completely and happily undamaged. Anu can hardly restrain his joy: “You can relax. We will land. You have the landing craft and they have already been serviced for landing. Let’s see what we can salvage from the workshop and check the condition of the medical section.” Using his communication device he contacts the other survivors. “A-14, we need you. I’ll come and get you. We have landing craft, the workshop module is undamaged and we have seven pilots. We may have a little trouble on Earth and there is a lot of work to do before we can leave. We need to take as much of our technology and equipment as possible. This can be a big difference to our survival. For all we know, we will be the only people there.”
Recovery work in spacesuits is exhaustive and time consuming, but weightlessness also has its advantages when heavy equipment must be handled. The vessel’s air filtering systems need servicing and the main reactor’s electricity supply restored and converted to the necessary equipment to complete the project. The landing craft is stabilized with their hatches to the ship’s dark side.
“Make sure you do not become exposed to the star’s direct radiation,” warns Anu.
The women and older children help enthusiastically. All they can salvage is loaded into three modules and four of the landing craft. In the medical module the eggs that were not damaged in the strike are to be brought along as well as The Aryan Genetic Record Book.
With everything completed and the undamaged main reactor’s emergency generator ready to provide power to the wide bay access door, the farewell is short and to the point. Everyone was astonished and half reluctant to leave their home and birthplace so suddenly and under such horrendous circumstances.
Anu is moved: “So much time, so much effort and so close to our destination… so many dangers faced together and overcome… an unpredictable disaster, and now we must leave our friends and our home, the place where we were born and find another place to live. My old heart is broken, but we have no other choice. Goodbye mother Isis and farewell my friends. May your souls find rest!”
With grim faces and a hollow feeling in the stomach, Anu prompts them: “Come now! Get to work! Disconnect the landing craft orderly and bring them out! Be careful, do not make mistakes now… concentrate! I’ve calculated the coordinates, acceleration and final velocity for our trip and will pass it on to you.”
“We will use the ship and the star as reference points. Follow me into orbit when I give the signal.”
They board and disconnect the modules. The enormous storage bay doors open as the four landing craft exit the ship one after another. All of them are in position to Anu’s craft and the journey to the planet starts with a green colored pilot at the controls of each. Anu recommends, “see you do not wander off course. Stay as close as possible to me without getting into each others emission field. Keep your speed exactly the same as mine and use your supplies sparingly. The journey will be long! We will start at low speed and will gradually accelerate to get us into a free-falling track.”
Anu selects a single elliptical orbit that would initially take them further from the star before they revert back to their starting point, calculated for a time when the planet is halfway in its orbit around the star. Anu sends the information through to the other ships. When all of the ships are aligned they will all slowly and carefully take off with coordinated acceleration. In the end, only minor adjustments will be needed for them to enter into a free fall together within their chosen orbit.
The journey progresses without major problems. Much later, after what feels like an eternity, the green planet and its moon appears on their screens. Anu is visibly relieved. So far their journey has been without further complications. “As you’ve noticed most of the planet is covered in ice, but I can see various places that look inhabitable. Unfortunately The Great Valley and two large islands where our ancestors settled are completely flooded! The poor people… What a catastrophe! We should explore the planet first before we decide on a landing site.”
They orbit just outside the planet’s atmosphere and more information is brought to light with each orbit. Where are the promising sites, Anu asks himself as he sends out reconnaissance vehicles for closer inspection. Here and there are small primitive settlements. On only two continents could more advanced civilizations be seen and people who looked like themselves. One got him excited! The one next to The Great Valley.
From one of the landing craft an uncertain voice crackled: “We will have to be careful captain. We do not know how the ‘green ones’ will be perceived.”
Anu thinks about this for a moment:”You’re right, I did not take that into consideration.” Anu scouts the area around the settlement. “Look, there’s a smaller valley where we can settle. Less people and it looks fertile. Let’s try and land unnoticed somewhere close. We can introduce ourselves to the local population systematically. We have a lot to offer them and I’m sure they will eventually come to accept us. Let’s just keep the ‘green ones’ out of sight for a while.”
After a lengthy discussion they decided to land close to an extensive mountain range, but at a reasonable distance from the valley, south of the peninsula opposite the settlement.
Anu is getting impatient. “These craft weren’t designed for auto-landing. Let’s get them into a geocentric orbit above the equator. From there it will be easy to land when we decide where to settle. The landing craft needs to land, offload and get back to take the modules with the women and children down as well. The modules will serve as living quarters as they have a sufficient power supply.” He gets no argument from the rest of the crew and landing procedure is implemented.
The southernmost part looks deserted. The land between two major rivers seem particularly fertile and the vegetation is lush.”We could not have asked for more” bragged one of the others. Anu is also visibly relieved:“Yes, here we can start again and at least partially complete our mission.”
At the dawn side of a high mountain range with snow-covered peaks they find a suitable cave where their cargo will be temporarily safe from the elements. They offload and return for the modules. Transferring huge loads in space is time consuming and uncomfortable, but there is an air of new hope and the nightmare behind them seems to fade. Eventually, all their modules and loads are safely on the ground and in position. A new pioneering life can now begin for the small group of survivors.
Once Anu is satisfied and sees everything is in order, he calls Manu: “Come with me, son. Let’s go do a bit of exploring! Bring a weapon!”
On the bank of one of the rivers they notice a man and a boy throwing fishing nets.
“We must devise a plan to introduce ourselves to these people without causing a panic.”
On a rise behind the two people, cattle were grazing lazily on the sweet green grass.
“Look, father, there are two animals! How tame they appear,” Manu exclaims.
“According to our archives, our ancestors also domesticated animals such as cattle and beasts mostly for transport and labor.”
Anu sighs and turns around in time to see a trail of dust on a hill behind them. Several heavily laden animals appear being led by a few men. The two fishermen lay down their nets and approach the group. They offer fish in return for wares that are loaded on the backs of the travelers animals. Manu is very excited, “We can also start trading with them! Look! The women are wearing jewelry, as do the men! We can easily replicate those!”
Once back to the living modules they inform the others and the ideas take off! Several items made during their journey are gathered and Anu and Manu take them to the spot where they found the two fishermen. There they find several more fishermen as well as women, all gathered around a fire frying fish. They approach them slowly and carefully. Manu laughs: “I don’t think they know clothing like ours, look at them staring at us! They must think we are made of metal!”
The fishermen look at them suspiciously. Not paying attention to the water, Anu calls out in panic: “Watch out! A crocodile is about to attack your son!”
No one understands what he is trying to say and Manu aims his weapon at the creature. Its head explodes in a spray of blood. The body of the crocodile writhes for a few seconds and then goes completely still. Chaos erupts, as everyone tries to talk at the same time. After a few moments, they calm down and the father and son approach Anu and Manu. The two fall to their knees. For a moment, Anu wasn’t sure what to do, but then he takes them each by the hand and raises them to their feet. He reluctantly tries to explain they come from another planetary realm, but Anu can see that this was the wrong approach as their faces took on the look of awe and worship. To convince them they are just ordinary people, he tries to show them that he would like a piece of cooked fish. One of the women at the fire smiles and approaches him very carefully with a piece, and it looked good! He thanks her by handing her a crystal necklace that was made on the ship. He hands out more jewelry and by the time he and Manu leave the ice had been broken and they parted almost as friends.
Back at the living quarters, Anu explains to the other survivors: “They don’t all look like us. Some wear very little clothing, but it does seem like they have a leader of some sorts. Some were less developed than others and I’m sure the gene pool was too small for the survivors of the cataclysm so they bred with an inferior species.”
Before long, the group is settled in. For a short while the food they brought from the ship was enough but eventually they had to supplement what they had from the rivers and land around them. Their new friends help them to distinguish between the good and bad foodstuffs. The soil is very fertile and between the seeds they brought with them and the ones they exchanged for jewelry, they have a very successful first crop.
Tiamat and Kistar, the only two adult female survivors, were on the medical team on the ship and both specialized in genetics. After deliberating for a few weeks the two decided to inform Anu of their plans.
“We know now that we can survive here, Anu. It is time that we begin to expand our numbers. We can not wait forever. Kistar and I can start harvesting from our own ova. That seems our best choice to start our new civilization.”
”You’re probably right, my wife. The sooner we start, the better, but do you have all the necessary equipment? “
“Yes, I saw to it before we left. Everything will go well, we both know what to do. You need to help us prepare just one module as a medical center.”
Anu thought for a moment to himself… “The others can help. We can not always live in camouflaged modules and landers. We will build houses then the modules can become available for other projects. We need workshops with a power supply.” In less than a month a module is available and Tiamat and Kister approach their project.
Nine months later Manu was a brother and a sister richer, which they call Lahmu and Lahamu. Another set of twins, also a son and a daughter was also born to Kistar. A year later they repeat the process and Manu’s second brother and sister pair, Anshar and Kishar were born, yet Kista struggles to conceive again.When the first two girls reach puberty, Manu could take two wives. At their parents insistence they also become involved in the nation-building program. The small community began to grow exponentially.
For some adults, the task of caring for the growing number of children, as well as feeding and educating them became a burgeoning job.
“I never expected to have so many children,” sighs Anu. It has been twenty years since their landing. Tiamat says’s as she laughs, “Never mind my husband, it’s all for a good cause! The children are at least starting to help now. Manu and his family are not staying behind either.”
Anshar says with a wry smile: “ Do you see how in love Lahmu and Kishar are with each other? One of these days they will do their part.” “Don’t forget Anshar and Lahamu, they’re not far behind!”
“I think we will have to start thinking of help, at least with the food supply. The people I have in mind are still very primitive and do not even wear clothes to speak of, but there is nothing wrong with their muscles. We will only have to educate them somewhat before we can expect any successful co-existance with them. One of the few varieties look like they could be related to us, or they could perhaps be more useful to us for other things. All I know is we can not continue to intermarry.”
The village they built, Uruk, has now become a bustling trading post. Anshar and Kishar have two daughters, Antu and Ki.
In the region now known as Sumer they are seen as gods and called Anunnaki, derived from Anu’s name.