A wave of excitement swept through the ship and everyone was suddenly caught up in a euphoric feeling of optimism. It even reached Elani, as she toiled in the greenhouses, way down in the depths of the vessel.
Oyam had rushed in with the thrilling news. Lifting her up, he had spun her round , scattering the seeds she had been gathering from the ovary of the giant poppy flower, that bloomed brightly under the huge, arc lights.
” We’ve entered a new galaxy !” he laughed, “and all the sensors indicate that this may be ‘THE ONE’ !”
Elani gasped, dizzy from the spinning and breathless from Oyam’s enthusiastic hug, which had almost crushed her ribs. She set down her wicker basket and looked up at Oyam’s happy face; a face she had come to love. Then she smiled and, gently touching his arm, to calm him, she asked,
” Can this really be true ? After all these years of wandering ?”
It seemed as though they had been travelling for an eternity, in this huge ship. This ark. Travelling forever, across the universe in search of a home.
There had been three identical ships, at the start, twenty long years ago. Elani had been just twelve years old when she was selected for the trip. She could still remember the day she said goodbye to family and friends, not realising that she would never see them again.
But the planet was dying, nothing would survive. Nuclear wars and pollution had poisoned the air. All the natural resources had been, greedily, depleted. Soon the power would fail and those who were not already sick, would die of starvation and cold.
A black cloud was beginning to engulf the world, blocking out the sunlight and killing every living thing. The world leaders realised, too late, the consequences of their selfish actions. There was no way the planet could be saved, so, in an attempt to salvage some of the population, huge ships had been built.
But time had run out and only three were completed.
A hasty ‘Selection’ had begun. Scientists, teachers, doctors and architects had been chosen. Builders, farmers, the strong and the fit, but most of all the young. All would be required to colonise and populate another world. Plants, crops and animals were needed too. Oxen to pull ploughs, horses for transport. Dogs for hunting and protection. Pigs, cows, goats and chickens for food and milk. All entered the giant arks. Elani had no idea how or why she was selected, but she had found herself grouped with others of her age and assigned to vessel number two …. The Elpis.
And so, the three ships had left the dying planet and set off on their epic voyage to find a suitable home.
On and on they travelled, searching, in vain, for somewhere that could sustain life, somewhere that had light and water and clean air. But so many planets were inhospitable, lifeless and barren.
The first ship …. The Pistis, had been destroyed when it had strayed into an asteroid belt, during the first year of the voyage. Elani and her friend, Nuulah, had clutched each other in terror as they witnessed the gigantic explosion that had threatened to engulf the Elpis, too. There had been an air of melancholy for weeks after and the whole ship was subdued. But there was no turning back, so on they went. Day after day, week after week.
Life on board the ship was, pretty much, how life must have been on their old planet, before they had been so careless with it. Everyone had jobs and tasks to perform. Children attended lessons in the large ‘Education Centre’. A new world would need a well-educated population.
It was here that Elani had first met Oyam. One of the brightest and best, on their home planet, he had been assigned a teaching job. Under his tutelage, Elani had blossomed and a special relationship had built up, over the years.
When the third ship …. The Eos, had disappeared into a ‘black hole’, it had been Oyam who comforted Elani. Oyam who had held her while she cried herself to sleep … Her brother, Degan, had been on The Eos.
So, The Elpis had been left, all alone. The hopes and dreams of an entire world, contained in a single vessel. Huge as it was, it still felt very lonely as it journeyed through space.
But now, it seemed, they had a reason to rejoice,
” Come, Elani, come to the viewing deck, let us see this new galaxy !” smiled Oyam, as he took her hand and led her to the lift.
Up on the viewing deck, people were gazing out at the spectacle before them. The galaxy was, indeed, beautiful. Milky white nebula and bright moons, orbited the planets and, in turn, the planets orbited a huge sun.
” Everything is so big, it’s enormous !” cried Elani and she clutched Oyam’s arm in delight, ” Surely there will be a suitable planet here ?”
One of the scientists, Argav Henor, joined them,
” The first couple of planets in this system have been far too cold, we could never hope to settle on them,” he said, But, fear not, this system is very similar to our own galaxy. The wily old foxes on the bridge are, even now, steering the vessel towards a promising planet. Look !! ”
Elani and Oyam looked.
” There, past that huge, red planet ! Can you see it ?”
They peered and then Oyam exclaimed,
” Oh yes, yes! I see it! It is enormous !”
Elani squinted out, into the black void and …. yes …. there it was!
” Oh, it looks like home. It looks just like our own planet used to be, before…… ”
Her voice broke, with emotion and she crumpled a little. Oyam put his arm around her,
” I know, Elani, I know ” he comforted her with a kiss on her cheek and whispered, ” See how it glows, so blue. There must be water there!”
It seemed that the Commander shared Oyam’s theory, because a decision was made. Sensor robots were sent down and reports came back. There was water, lots and lots of water. More water than they could have ever dreamed. Excitement rushed through the 10,000 souls on board The Elpis. They had found a home, at last.
On the flight deck, Commander Obavran ordered a descent. They had orbited this new world for hours now, trying to select a landing site. The sheer size of the planet and the vast expanses of water made it rather tricky but, finally, he selected a spot in the middle of a gigantic area of land.
The gravitational pull of the planet was very strong and the enormous ship glowed bright with heat and flames as they entered the atmosphere. Everyone was crowded onto the viewing decks. Their jobs abandoned, their lessons forgotten, in their eagerness to catch a glimpse of their new home. The Elpis hurtled towards the ground so rapidly that they could barely see a thing. Everything flashed by so fast, a blur of clouds; sky; blue, blue, sky and then green; green; brown and green.
Commander Obavran ordered reverse thrust and the vessel slowed and hovered a little and then was brought to rest beside, what looked like, a lake in the middle of a huge forest, of some sort. Everyone cheered and hugged each other. They were safe. Space-travellers no longer. Soon, they would tread on solid ground.
An exploratory team, of six men, was assembled. They were dressed in protective suits and helmets, because, even though the sensors had indicated that the air was pure and full of oxygen, no-one wanted to take any chances … Not now !
Carefully, they entered the airlocks and, as the outer doors swung open, the six, intrepid men, stepped out onto the planet.
All around, tall green, pole-like trees were swaying in a hurricane force wind. It was difficult to push through the trees but they cleared a way with their machetes. A little way off, they could see a flat, brown plain, leading down to the lake. Yes ! Water; vegetation; this was the perfect planet !
The hunter had been stalking the cougar for over an hour now. He was sure it had run across this patch of scrubby grass and on, beyond those rocks. He was hot, in the sun and the gentle breeze did little to cool him. He wiped the sweat from his brow and strode on, stepping over a puddle, a remnant of last night’s rain. As his foot came down in the grass, he heard a sort of “Crunch”. Looking down, he saw something metallic on the ground. It looked as though it had once been spherical,………. goodness knows what it was.
” Probably some kids toy, ” he thought. Though what the heck it was doing here in the Rockies, he couldn’t possibly imagine. Anyway, it was squashed flat, now …………………
Yep, poor little aliens ! Ah well, ’twas only my story for this week’s Countdown Word Game.
This week the words to be included in the story are;
TREAD, OVARY, GROUPED, FOXES, ANOTHER, COUGAR, REASON, ACTIONS, FLAMES.
Just in case you are interested, the names of the ships are;
Elpis ….. Greek for Hope
Pistis …..Greek for Faith
Eos ……..Greek for Dawn