Treavor’s Ark 2167: The Exodus

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It was the biggest spaceship ever built.

It was the vision of Treavor Lancehold, a reclusive billionaire who hoped to bring two of every species that were still left on the dying planet, along with his family and skilled followers, to another world to start over.

Earth was under siege from the elements. Floods, droughts, volcanos, hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes were happening where they never did before. Arctic glaciers that were millions of years old disappeared, and the ocean’s waters rose and islands slipped beneath the waters never to be seen again. Coasts worldwide gave way to the sea, reclaiming the land and creating new beaches.

It was during these trying times for humanity that Treavor finally completed his massive ship – the Ark – after ten years of construction. It had the latest technology, allowing it to take off under its own nuclear power, unlike the old days when rocket boosters were used. It only needed a large flat space to land on. There was no need for runways.

When Treavor first began construction, he was mocked by most of the world. They called him a cult-figure with mindless followers. When he went to the U.N. to present his project so that others could learn how to make one, they laughed so hard that they couldn’t hear his presentation. He doggedly finished it, and then left to go back to Oregon.

As the years passed the elements got worse and major tragedies caused by flooding and other elemental disturbances were daily events across the globe. Disaster, after disaster, drained governments resources and emergency supplies.

Treavor carefully selected people with skills in science, agriculture, geology, physics, electricity, literature, history, engineering, psychology, construction, and medicine. He made it a requirement for a man and a woman to work (and live together) in each field. The couples agreed to use birth control until they landed on a new world and colonized it.

Word had been circulating around the world for a year that the ark was nearly complete. Former skeptics contacted Treavor and pleaded to come. He turned them all down because he’d already selected a crew. Along with the experts, he brought his wife and twin sons.

A week before departure, hordes of desperate people showed up in Bend, Oregon, where the ark sat waiting for its maiden voyage. Treavor had to turn on the force fields around the gigantic ship to prevent them from crawling all over it like ants. The crew tried to stay focused on completing their last-minute tasks, but it was hard to see the naked desperation in the eyes of thousands of people clustered outside the invisible shield.

A day before the scheduled departure, a squadron of fighter jets and bombers tested the shield. It held despite the all-day assault. The carnage outside of the shield was a sight the crew would never forget. Bodies as far as they could see lay mangled by collateral fire, and the bombs that rocked the earth for miles. Historians one day would document the demise of the innocents, whose only crime was their governments were too stupid to take a proactive stance to what was happening on Earth.

The Ark cruised through galaxies looking for a planet where humans could survive. Treavor was the oldest person on board, and his health was failing him after they left Earth two years ago. His wisdom was universally acknowledged among the crew. His even sense of temper and compassion earned him the love of everyone on the Ark.

Knowing his days were numbered, Treavor drew up a will, leaving his twin sons with equal authority and in charge of the expedition. Rufus and Mathew were like night and day. The twins seldom agreed on anything. Neither processed all of the qualities of their revered father. Each had some good points, but one of them, Mathew, had a terrible temper, unlike his father.

When the inevitable day arrived and Treavor died during his sleep, the whole crew went into mourning for a week. They released his body to the cosmos in a simple but stately ceremony.

It only took a month before the two brothers clashed about something. Mathew wanted to colonize a planet that already had an intelligent species, because the atmosphere was perfect for humans. According to the rules for colonization set down by Treavor, they couldn’t disrupt a planet that already was inhabited by a civilization. Rufus refused to murder aliens, and stuck by his father’s stated rule. This incident produced a tension that grew worse as the weeks passed.

Mathew gathered together crew members who agreed with him about colonizing the next planet if the atmosphere was right; even if it meant committing genocide against a whole world.

Rufus was aware of what was going on with the small group Mathew assembled. He was smart enough to realize a confrontation was inevitable and spent hours thinking about his response. He knew the first thing to happen would be an attempt to take over the control room so he armed six men and tasked them with protecting it. New security for the bridge was instituted in case of an attack.

Two months passed before another possible candidate for colonization appeared. It had the required atmosphere but was inhabited by an alien race in its infancy.

It was the chance Mathew and his cronies were waiting for. Their attack was met with equal force as deadly lasers tore through flesh and metal. Computers were destroyed in the carnage and the great Ark slowly came to a stop, floating like space flotsam in the solar system.

Mankind’s hope for redemption was shattered, as the crippled Ark drifted silently in space for eternity.

As It Stands, hope for humanity rests with those who recognize the perils of pollution and climate change, and prepare accordingly.

A One Way Ride To Lawless

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Criminals in 2068 don’t have to worry about getting the death penalty for committing a capital crime. On the other hand, they’re banished from earth and sent to another planet called Lawless, in the Andromeda Galaxy.

Countries started the practice when they realized it could serve two purposes.

One. They got rid of dangerous criminals without killing them, according to the Worldwide Accord of 2048 that forbid death penalties.

Two. They made a nice profit be exporting the rare and valuable minerals on Lawless without having to do the mining themselves. Criminals had the option of trading the valuable ores for food and other necessary supplies, or they could starve to death. The other option was to attack one another and steal supplies.

The United Earth scheduled every country for a one-year tour of duty on Lawless. The troops job was simple. Protect the compound surrounding the space station and trading center.

The atmosphere and environment in Lawless was very similar to earth’s.

Men and women formed camps that divided up their duties between mining, trading, and providing protection. The nomadic camps seldom exceeded more than twenty or thirty people. The most precious minerals were located in the mountain ranges near where the busy landing station was in the middle of a flat valley.

Camps often attacked other camps because they were all criminals and good at killing. There was no attempt among the banished to make any laws. The nations of Earth had no interest in providing a costly police force. And for what? To keep them from killing each other? No one worried about that.

Individuals and smaller groups of two or three, followed behind the larger camps diggings after they moved on. They managed to scavenge leftover ore by continuing to dig where others left off in a hurry to find richer pockets. This odd assortment of people called themselves The Independents. They were hard and clever. Most didn’t play well with others.

A growing number of Independents learned how to live off the land over the years. There were small mammals that resembled beavers and woodchucks that lived along the river that ran through the valley. Through experimentation, they learned what tubers and berries were safe to eat. Independents often carried news from one camp to another, for a price. These runners, as they called themselves, were paid with food and supplies.

Among the runners was a man whose name was Pecos Pete. He was a computer technician who murdered two of his colleagues when he caught them stealing his notes on a new project. Among his hobbies were mountain climbing and cross-country running. He was an intelligent man who let his emotions get the better of him once, and paid the price with a one-way ticket to Lawless.

Pecos Pete stayed alive by constantly moving. He was a loner by heart and was comfortable with his own company. One night as Pecos Pete drank some local moonshine made from tubers, he noticed a sudden flurry of activity in the compound surrounding the landing and trading center. Red lights were flashing as Pecos Pete watched from his perch on a nearby hill.

The overhead dome opened and two space ships launched into the night! This was highly unusual. Flights were always made during the day. Sensing something big, Pecos Pete slid down the hill and trotted toward the compound. Several quick explosions rocked the trade center and lit up the shattered dome and its contents within. He stopped and waited to see if there would be more. He saw fires inside and a man burning like a torch!

Minutes went by and he saw more figures in flames. They fell, one-by-one, in the landing area. Half of the dome was blown away by the explosions. The exposed interior was smoldering when Pecos Pete entered. He looked around the landing bay and spotted a control room. The windows were shattered, but some of the monitors on the wall were still operational.

He stood in stunned silence as he watched a massive fleet of warships destroy Earth’s defenses. The monitors blinked out until only one screen was left. The picture was blurry but Pecos Pete could see ships landing and opening their cargo doors. Hundreds of aliens were being herded into work groups with mining tools. Their overseers immediately led the crews towards the nearby mountains. Some crews began constructing a space station as Pecos Pete watched.

He stood there for hours watching Earth’s fate unfold until the last screen died. Then he started laughing. The idea that all there was left of mankind was criminals, had to be the funniest thing he ever heard!

As It Stands, irony is a dish best left to humans who appreciate it.

Hope For A Rainy Day

Earth 2072

Water was not a life-saver to all living things after the invasion.

Humans and animals still spent their lives seeking water to survive, but the aliens feared and hated water. It could kill them on contact. Water was the only reason the invasion was never complete and the only reason why the human race still even existed.

It didn’t matter if it was salt water, or fresh water; both were deadly to the Sarks who took that chance to plunder earth’s bountiful resources. They didn’t come to stay forever. The Colony, as they called themselves, were a lot like the ancient Vikings in man’s history; they came to loot until there wasn’t anything to plunder anymore.

Thousands of ships from The Colony surrounded the earth, sending out smaller vessels that landed on the planet with their warriors and miners. The Sarks lived to loot and take their prizes back home to Zalon, in the Andromeda galaxy.

The Sark military leaders knew they were taking a chance when they attacked earth because water covered about 70 percent of the planet. But the rewards in resources justified the invasion in their minds.

Gold, silver, and copper, were highly valued, but so were gemstones like rubies, diamonds, jade, chalcedony, topaz, and more. Minerals like aeschynite, britholite, cerite, fluocerite, monazite, synchysite and titanite were all considered bountiful booty.

The Sarks set up mining operations throughout earth. They were heavily protected by veteran warriors willing to give up their lives for The Colony. Mankind, in turn, did everything possible to make life miserable for the invaders.

When the Sarks first struck earth, conventional weapons were used against them with no effect. It took months before one man, Chang Apana a Hawaiian scientist, discovered how deadly water was to the invaders. Since that time, water guns and water cannons became the choice of weapons.

Since the worldwide drought began in 2060, no rain had fallen on the dying polluted planet. Water became more precious than gold to people. The irony of having to use it as a weapon against the invaders wasn’t lost on anyone.

The Sarks had monitored Earth since 2060, and after a decade of no rain they felt comfortable enough to launch the invasion.

There were no organized governments to resist the Sarks. They had long since destroyed each other across the earth after the Global Wars period between 2045 and 2057. Afterwards only pockets of people were left scattered throughout the ruins of once proud civilizations around the planet.

During this dark time for humanity Chang never gave up trying to drive the Sarks off the planet.

Because the Sarks destroyed what fragile internet there was, along with the exhausted telecommunication systems and satellites, it was difficult for Chang to contact other scientists. He’d been trying for months when he got a break and met a German scientist, Hans Ritter, who was searching for him.

Ritter’s expertise was rockets. Chang was once a renowned chemist and mathematician. It was a third scientist, Santiago Ramon y Cajal, a physicist and engineer, that helped them work as a team with a common goal.

That goal was to launch a rocket containing rain-making materials, that would circle the planet and seed the atmosphere with rain clouds. It was a lofty goal, but possible.

They worked for months refining their calculations and gathering the needed materials. Santiago, with help from a crew of welders and steel-workers, worked around the clock creating the unique rocket and it’s delivery system.

Chang used silver iodide aerosols, combined with some ingredients of his own, to create clouds which would create rain in the earth’s atmosphere. The rocket would only have to circle the earth once. The fuel situation was solved when a rocket-fuel depot was discovered in a nearby bunker complex.

The project took a year of scavenging for parts and building a launch platform far from any Sark mining operations. The day finally came when the unmanned rocket was ready for launch.

“A thought just came to me,” Santiago said before Chang engaged the launch code count- down.

“How long do you think it’ll rain for?

Chang looked over at his fellow scientist and said, “I have no idea,” and started the sequence.

A Month Later on Zalon

Spouses of the dead earth raiders held a solemn ceremony in honor of their untimely deaths. Scribes recorded the event as the worst incident in The Colony’s history. It lasted, the chronicles reported, for 40-days, and 40-nights.

As It Stands, this tale, with it’s Biblical underpinings, examines another way to look at how valueable water can be to mankind.

The Space Orphans Of Pallidia

What happens when a planet is overpopulated and torn by continuing wars?

In the case of Pallidia, one out of every ten babies get sent to other planets. The rest are killed. Only the super wealthy, one-percenters, could afford to send their new offspring to other planets with similar atmospheres.

Even so, there was no guarantee that those children would be accepted by whoever found them. It was a last-ditch gamble by a desperate civilization. A forlorn hope that their species might survive somewhere else.

With only six other planets in their solar system, the choices were down to four planets that could sustain them. Nothing was known of their populations and civilizations. Space travel had only progressed to sending small lifeboat capsules to nearby planets.

The capsules didn’t always make it to their destination.

The one’s that did, suffered different fates on the four targeted planets. The nearest planet Hatho II, was the worst one. When its inhabitants discovered a capsule, they took it as food from the gods! The fate of those babies was a barbaric death.

The second nearest planet Strava, was populated by bipeds similar in stature and make-up to the children from Pallidia. They were an emerging civilization using crude technology to survive. Whenever they found a capsule with a live baby in it they rescued it and adopted it into their tribe.

The third planet, Arsus, was a cold bleak world that seldom saw much light from the twin suns in the solar system. It was populated by bipeds and quadrupeds. There was no cities, because no species existed with that kind of expertise. Half the planet was underwater and unexplored. There was zero chance for a space orphan.

The furthest planet, Zenxa, was populated with advanced Homo sapiens who built great cities and civilizations. They were a peace-loving species that welcomed the space orphans when they arrived…which was very seldom.

Only three of the nine capsules that actually made it to Zenxa bore live cargos. The other six had problems with entry and burned up by the time they hit the ground. Of the three, one died a year later for unknown reasons.

The remaining two children, both boys, were adopted by two sets of parents. The adoptive parents lived half a world away from each other so the boys weren’t raised together in the same city.

The capsules quit coming as the years passed by and the two boys grew up.

Cain and Abel grow up miles apart and had no knowledge of one another. They both had one trait in common, a violent streak. Each worked their way up in the local governments until they were a step away from becoming supreme leaders of their civilizations.

Cain formed a militia. The concept was unknown in Aton until then. He had succeeded in his desire, because the Supreme Leader died of natural causes.

When word got to Lux, where Abel lived, that the kingdom of Aton was doing some strange things like training groups of men to fight together, Abel knew he had to convince his people to arm themselves.

The current Supreme Leader, Sray, resisted Abel’s efforts to form a militia however. He was a scholar who studied lost civilizations, solar systems, and other mysteries of the universe. He was also an expert at Mindsight, and knew exactly what was going on in Abel’s head.

Sray knew Abel’s history and that he came with another alien who had somehow ascended to the Supreme Leadership of Aton. It was time, he decided, to tell Abel about Cain and their orphan heritage.

Abel’s reaction went from surprise to curiosity. Then suspicion.

“Why tell me now?” he bluntly asked, “Why hasn’t anyone told me this before?”

“Because no one could foresee the future. Your adoptive parents, may the Lord of Life always keep them in his heart, didn’t see the need. They raised you as one of their own.”

“What now?” he sullenly asked.

“You two should meet,” Sray answered. “I’ve taken the liberty of inviting him here.

Two days later.

“Thank you for inviting me,” Cain said to Sray.

“Thank you for coming. I have something of special interest to you, but first you must agree to hear me out before reacting to what I tell you.”

“An intriguing offer. Please tell me what’s so interesting.” 

“Excellent!”

Sray went into another room and came back out accompanied by a man roughly the same age as Cain.

“Cain, meet Abel. He’s from another planet just like you.

Cain’s coutesy melted away in an instant, as he glared at Abel.

“What is this about another planet?” he demanded.

It took an hour for Sray to calm Cain and Abel down. Using his Mindsight he was able to say the right things to address each man’s concerns. Then he contacted Cain’s back-up, and they mind-melded. A plan was formed.

The next day Sray heard that Cain had murdered Abel in the night!

The plan was thrown out. Citizens and scientists of Aton and Lux did not believe in killing, but they didn’t want Cain on their planet any longer. It was decided to put him on a space ship that would take him out of their solar system.

All provisions were made for his safety. He would be at the mercy of the ship’s computer – GOD – wandering other universes for a lifetime.

As It Stands, this tale is a nod to supreme beings that I’m sure exist somewhere.

Blink If You Can Hear Me!

The huge cargo ship, Alushion, lumbered on in space, dwarfing some stars as it hurtled towards its destination.

The crew didn’t know what they were carrying, nor did most care. The majority of the 32 man-crew were old-timers who had been with the ship for years. There was one new crew member however.

His name was Gorm, and he was assigned all the shit duties aboard the ship. He was pretty sure that it would take years before he moved up enough to where he wasn’t cleaning bathrooms and grease pits.

But he didn’t plan on being a crew member forever. He was a former reporter for The World News in Gallax’s biggest city Aahorn. He quit his job because his editor wouldn’t let him write stories about state corruption and slavery.

What made him make the big move was a tip from a trusted informant. Gallax’s biggest cargo ship was carrying more than minerals and Gallaxian steel. It was also covertly carrying slaves!

Gorm was sure his editor wouldn’t let him go undercover and investigate it. So he quit and applied for a menial job as a crew member aboard the Alushion. He was in luck. One of the regulars was in an accident and they needed a replacement.

The adventure of it all appealed to Gorm’s endless imagination.

He would write a tell-all book about slavery that would catapult him to fame and wealth. Civilized Gallaxians abhorred slavery, but there was a criminal element that specialized in it.

Every city on Gallax had a problem with residents disappearing. No bodies ever showed up. The authorities seemed unable to do anything about it. There were hints of what was going on, like when one man escaped.

He was blinded and never knew that he was hidden in a building near the International Space Station. But he did hear broken conversations and shared those with authorities.

The slavers were well-organized. How they got their captives off world was a mystery. There were so many possibilities the authorities were stumped. Private ships, military ships, commercial travel ships, cargo ships, and on, and on.

There were literally thousands of possibilities to hide slaves.

The slavers would wait until they had at least 200 captives before transporting them. The captain of the Alushion was a corrupt scoundrel with high government connections. His arrangement with the slavers paid him three times his captain’s salary.

The whole scheme was the brainchild of Lancor Mey, the leader of the biggest underworld gang on Gallax. He partnered up with the ship’s captain, Kanor Olk, and for the past ten years they transported thousands of Gallaxians off world and to other planets that provided eager buyers.

The ship actually had two crews; the one that authorities saw consisting of 32 employees, and the one they didn’t see that consisted of three employees whose only job was to take care of the captives.

This was made possible by having a false hull that was converted into an area where the helpless captives were put in plastic pods that sporadically emitted sleeping gases. They were hooked up to feeder tubes which the small crew was supposed to monitor.

Gorm was so busy for the first three days that he didn’t have time to explore anything. No menial task was below him. On the fourth day he found himself with some free time. He was such a hard worker that some of the crew members were already letting up on him.

He learned that there were three decks and a hold of Galaxian steel and tons of minerals in it. He knew where the captain’s quarters was, the ship’s kitchen, the navigation deck, the crew’s quarters, and where the various supply rooms were.

A week later, Gorm was becoming discouraged. He still hadn’t seen anything suspicious, or heard any juicy conversations that might provide leads to where the slaves were being held.

He was starting to think he was a fool for listening to the tipster. He was stuck on a cargo ship that wouldn’t return to Gallax for three more weeks.

Then a break came.

He got to know all the crew members during his short time aboard, and when he saw a stranger slip out of the kitchen and scurry to a door that led below decks, he followed. He could hear the stranger’s footsteps as he disappeared down into the engine room.

Gorm looked at the small nuclear reactor that was the ship’s source of power. All eight feet of it was sheathed in steel plates with Gallaxian script engraved into them. Gorm was so close to the stranger that he had to duck behind the reactor when he stopped, and started to turn around checking to see if he was being followed.

Then the stranger put his hand on the wall and a hidden door slid open! Gorm cautiously watched where he put his hand. He had no doubt what he’d find if he went into that secret room.

He knew for sure there was one slaver, and more than likely others inside. He had no way of knowing how many of them. Nothing about the situation was good. What should he do?

He couldn’t stay here much longer before someone missed him. He considered telling the captain, but as he walked back to his quarters a growing sense of alarm told him not to. He really couldn’t trust anyone aboard.

After the encounter with the stranger he made a habit of going back to where the secret door was several times a day. His persistence paid off days before they were scheduled to land on Anterrean, Gallax’s main trading partner.

He was hiding behind the reactor which was directly across from the secret door when one of the slavers emerged. He hurried out. Gorm went to the spot and put his hand there.

At first he couldn’t see anything. The room was bathed in a soft blue light that didn’t throw shadows. Gorm saw another slaver slouched over a keyboard in front of a monitor. He was asleep.

As he felt his way around the room he saw another stranger stretched out on a bunk asleep. His luck was holding up. Then he came to a row of pods that held the captives. As he continued to search he found more rows. He stopped in front of one when he noticed a movement.

The captive in one pod opened his eyes and moved his head slightly.

“Blink if you can hear me,” Gorm said.

The Gallaxian blinked twice. The horror of the situation made Gorm’s blood run cold. “I’m going to try to help you,” he said.

The Gallaxian blinked again. Then his eyes grew wider!

Gorm didn’t hear anything until too late. A slaver slipped up behind him and put him in a chokehold. Darkness.

When he woke up he was in a room full of captives from planets throughout the solar system. He guessed he was on Anterrean. He felt like a damn fool! What made him think he would get away with going into that room?

He always wanted to experience adventures and to be a writer. Now he was a slave!

A slaver came into the room and roughly grabbed him by his arm, and led him outside to a platform before a group of prospective buyers.

“This pathetic creature,” the auctioneer droned, “...says he’s a writer. Who needs a writer? he asked the group. A couple of low bids were thrown out and the auctioneer acted disgusted, “I might as well slaughter him and sell his meat to the Zarks,” he grouched.

Finally a wealthy female Gallaxian made a bid that was acceptable. The auctioneer gave her the mobile control device that activated the shock collar on Gorm’s neck. It was standard slave issue.

Gorm followed her obediently down a series of well-maintained streets until they came to a big compound. His new master’s name was Illse, and she was the mistress of the large house.

“You’re job here is to tell stories to my children every night. If they like them, I’ll set you free after you tell a hundred consecutive tales.”

“Well… I don’t know…

“Writers are storytellers, are they not?”

“Yes…yes, you could call them that.”

“Good. Then we have an agreement?”

“Sure. By the way, what happens if I run out of stories or your kids don’t like them?”

“You become Zark meat,” she said conversationally.

Gorm gave a sick grin, and said, “When do we start?”

As It Stands, life is about adapting to situations.

The Awakening

Listen to this story  narrated by Otis Jiry, master storyteller.

Leaders, scientists and citizens alike turned out on the spacious grounds of the capital of Luna Astra, to see the awakening.

Ever since the earth ship was discovered cruising aimlessly near the moons of Janus, the scientists of Alta Juret, had been studying its sleeping occupants. They ascertained they were from another solar system, and a planet called Earth.

They were scheduled to be awakened today.

The ship’s navigation system were crude compared to their technology, but they found a weapon system that was unknown to them. A series of laser cannons that far exceeded the impact and distance of their own weapon systems.

The discovery caused great debate among the scientists and the leaders of Alta Juret. To some, the weapon system signaled a warlike race that was more interested in conquering than visiting.

Others suggested that there might be even more things they could learn from the sleeping occupants in the clear pods, filled with fluids that kept the bodies inside alive. After studying the life support system that kept the 25 crew members incubated in a suspended state, the scientists won out, and it was decided to let the ship’s inhabitants live.

They also decided to let the ship’s internal alarm system wake the occupants up, rather than interrupting their slumber, and possibly causing a problem.

A team of scholars were assigned to the ship (Columbus) – which was docked at the Alta Juret International Landing Station in Luna Astra – to study the computers which held copious amounts of information about mankind.

Throughout history, mankind lashed out like an angry and spoiled infant; making war, and living in luxury among defeated foes. Building great monuments to civilizations that disappeared in the chaos that swirled around the entire world’s history.

There were times of peace when great inventors and geniuses flourished.

Earthlings were builders and destroyers. The ate other species on their planet, but also kept some for pets. Humans were a paradox that puzzled the scholars as they pored over the many writings, ranging from fiction to non-fiction.

Today was the day.

The ship’s system slipped into a new mode earlier in the morning when the scholars saw the liquid being drained from the pods. Scientists quickly came aboard, and documented the process.

The pale naked bodies looked vulnerable under the blue lights that made them look even whiter. There were males and females. As the scientists and scholars watched, gases poured into the pods, obscuring the view of the inhabitants inside.

In minutes, the gases were gone. Slowly, one-by-one, the humans woke up. They were all groggy and slow to focus their eyes and senses. The scientists and scholars watched them closely.

One of the scholars, who had taught himself to speak earth languages, said “Greetings” to the crew in 12 different languages. The pods opened and the humans emerged – now wide-eyed – at the sight of the Alta Juret scientists and scholars.

One of the human males said, “We come in peace” in English.

The newly bilingual scholar, Ves, answered in kind, “Welcome!

As the earthlings dressed in blue uniforms, Ves called the waiting Security Council outside, and informed them they were all getting ready to leave the ship. A ripple went through the crowd as word got out.

When the stairs extended from the earth ship, the crowd pressed forward to get a better look. Ves came out first. Then gasps escaped the crowd as they watched the humans file down, with only two-legs, and two-arms each!

What a novel sight. The earthlings didn’t look complete, unlike the inhabitants of Alta Juret, who had four-legs, and four-arms each. Children laughed at the sight and the adults smiled. These earthlings didn’t look so terrible at all.

As a matter of fact – maybe because they were half the size of the Alta Jurtetians – the earthlings looked like frail children. There was nothing threatening about them at all. The crowd exhaled and broke up after watching two hours of ceremonies involving the leaders of Alta Juret, and the crew of the Columbus.

Day Two – Aboard the Columbus

The crew was gathered around Captain Marty Delwar, who had a map laid out in front of him. He pointed to sections of the map with a silver telescoping pointer, emphasizing a spot with a couple of taps.

“Sergeant, I need you and six others to cover the main building while we make our assault on the nearby transmission towers.

“The object is to take out their communications – at least the ones we know of – before they have time to organize a resistance,” Captain Delwar explained.

The crew of the Columbus armed themselves with laser guns. The crew were all special forces members from four countries on Earth. Highly skilled, and very professional. They represented Earth’s last chance at colonization.

There were no more ships to send out. The Columbus was a collaboration of many nations, utilizing the last of their technologies in hopes of escaping a dying planet.

Outside the ship.

Ves was sitting in a room in front of a row of monitors, along with the head of the Security Council, watching the earthlings via the hidden spyware they planted.

They listened to the captain speak. Ves sighed. He argued more than anyone that there might be hope for mankind. It looked like he was wrong.

“Do what you have too,” Ves said with a touch of sadness.

As It Stands, mankind is doomed, until the urge to kill and conquer goes away.

Vision Quest On Mars

Pa’ah stopped walking and took a seat on a piece of the rubble that once was a great Martian city, and now was only a pitiful ruin.

It had been days since he left the caves. Days since he’d eaten a full meal or drank as much water as wanted. He slipped the pack off his back and set it down in the cracked and blistered soil.

He could hear the Great Leader’s voice in his head.

“You must go out onto the barren surface of our planet in search of a vision.”

He remembered balking at the suggestion and even dared to question the Great Leader, who knew all, saw all, and ran the whole show. The candles in the cave flickered under his growing wrath and Pa’ah changed his tune quickly.

He’d be honored to be the first vision quest seeker to go back to Mars ancient past (above ground), he assured the venerable one.

“Yes…what a great opportunity for me to serve our people,” he humbly said, after dropping to his knees. He was just being stubborn, he told himself.

The thought of wandering around the barren dunes and wastelands of Mars wasn’t very pleasant. But, what if he did come up with a vision on how to save the whole race? He’d be a hero.

He would have to survive first. The rough landscape and rolling dunes went on forever, with very little variation. Some dunes had jagged rocks jutting out of them that formed odd shapes that reminded Pa’ah of the toys he played with as a child. Their spidery silhouettes seemed to dance in the heat and growing shadows.

Dotting the forbidding landscape were ruins of cities that once stood proud in an age of enlightenment. In an age when Martians could freely roam the surface of the planet. In an age when Martians weren’t warlike.

The time came when technology that was used for peaceful purposes became perverted by corrupt Martians who wanted to conquer other worlds. To colonize the universe. To be the masters of the universe.

The resulting war between the worlds nearly destroyed the universe however. Planets like Neptune and Jupiter were obliterated, while others suffered damage that would take generations to repair.

There were no winners. Only losers. The survivors on each remaining planet were thrown back to primitive existences.

Pa’ah reflected on all of this as he shaded his eyes and looked off into the distance. His normally pale skin had turned mahogany in a day. There were patches of red sunburn on his high cheek bones. His normally black hair, was bleached white almost overnight.

The bright sun caused him to squint, narrowing his usual bulging eyes into slits.

The vision came to him the next day while he was walking through what was once a massive arena surrounded by rows of shattered seats sinking into the hot sand.

In the vision

Pa’ah is showing his people how to make space ships. He is the Great Leader now and his knowledge of everything that will take them to another universe to start over in a promised land. To a land of milk and honey.

When Pa’ah finally returned to the cave entrance his supplies were all gone. He was barely able to keep walking, but some inner strength kept him going. He had to share his vision. For the good of all Martians.

When he appeared before the Great Leader and his Council of Twenty-four, Pa’ah was tired and weak, but he didn’t hesitate to speak. He told them that he could guide them in building ships that would take them to  new worlds. This newfound knowledge was branded into his brain he explained.

Sadly, everything Pa’ah said was interrupted by the Great Leader as treason and insanity. He led the people! Not this burnt husk of a Martian who obviously had gone mad in the deserts above.

Because the Martians didn’t believe in killing lunatics, Pa’ah was locked up in a cell. To keep him quiet, his jailors provided him with means to write and draw things. This he did for many years before quietly dying in his sleep one night.

The collected works of Pa’ah were stolen shortly after he died. There was a lot of finger-pointing and accusations, but they never surfaced.

The ritual of vision quests continued, but no one else ever went to the surface again. Not surprisingly…no one has ever had a vision since Pa’ah’s.

But, a Martian did come forth the other day bearing promises of salvation and space ships. For a price!

As It Stands, there are no saints, just survivors.