MoboReader> Sci-fi > Distant Origins: An Anki Legacies Science Fantasy for Young Adults

   Chapter 5 No.5

Distant Origins: An Anki Legacies Science Fantasy for Young Adults By S Shane Thomas Characters: 42534

Updated: 2018-01-25 12:04


Panic filled Dr. Walters's face as the nine beings that had been a dormant part of history returned to the living world. His head felt like it floated and he began to get weak at the knees. Sam Martin caught Walters under the arm and led him to the operating bed in the next room. He told the archeologist to lie down for a moment.

Bobby Rogers holstered his pistol. He smiled to himself; these beings seemed a lot less threatening than the Pneuma. Travis had recounted the down and out brawl when things went sour back on Haran. He had also heard Simon Urlitz's version, but after meeting those little golden kids it seemed hard to condemn the whole populace. He noticed that four of the people with long ears looked muscular and had hard features like the first. The other five were soft looking and had rounded shapely curves. They were definitely female, long hair reached as far back as their ears. They weren't so different from Earth women he thought, and they had one more lady than their male friends.

Shelly spoke with them in soothing tones. She told them about the colonial vessel landing and that the planet appeared deserted. The linguist assured them of safety and that their food and lavatories were still intact. Shelly urged them to refresh themselves and meet her group in the dining area to speak in a few minutes. Bobby and Sam gathered up Dr. Walters and returned to the kitchen and dining area. Shelly explained to the group that they had likely been in stasis for quite a long time. It would be best to interview them after they became adjusted to the situation and achieved a small degree of comfort.

"Those devices held people in a sleeping state without an apparent side effect for hundreds…maybe thousands of years, " said Sam, "I felt amazed to see fruit so well preserved but a living being? Imagine the implications. We could have left Earth's orbit and laid down, and awakened the next moment twenty five years later, already on Nibiru."

"I get the impression that their suspended state was not voluntary, " Shelly replied, "They kept insisting that they didn't want to fight anymore."

The tower's inhabitants began to trickle in to the dining hall one by one, gathering food from the pantry and joining Shelly and her group. Bobby noticed one of the females looking him over and gave her a charming smile. Walters occupied himself by taking note of their clothing and mannerisms in his communicator. Sam poked fun at him by insisting that since they were still alive, this work became sociology instead of archeology and it would be best to wait in the transporter. Soon they were all eating, and as Shelly had predicted, the tension began to melt from their expressions.

With their meal nearly over, the man who had first been revived, addressed Shelly. He introduced himself as Veen and said that this tower and world were not their home. A visitor in a craft from space appeared on their world, Grisdor. He looked like a smooth skinned green biped with a long neck, tail, and big wings. He offered magical devices like the ones in the tower to his people. He asked for an envoy to return with him to meet his people and explore their potential for the races to live in harmony. The journey in space seemed brief but they had been on the planet for years as far as they could recall. They had been frozen in place and reawakened before, after living near the tower in solitude for months, then made to wear shugarra, attacked, and had their wounds treated.

"Why did the fighting start?" asked Shelly.

"A few months after we settled into this tower, " said Wooril, a female with pale red hair who sat a few spots to the left of Veen. "It wasn't the one who we traveled with or his people that we fought. I think we fought other groups of captives. Sometimes, the terrain itself, sometimes others who had come from another star. Once people like you fought us. We never knew why, I suspect the others didn't know either."

The one who brought them here and others like him would appear when the fighting ended to heal the wounded and provision their tower. The Grisdorans never wanted to fight, their home world had not known conflict aside from competing for a mate. Wooril described how her mindset changed when they encountered other combatants. The Grisdorans experienced a compulsion to attack their opponents. Veen proved unable to describe much about the forces of nature that engaged them.

Crispin, her team, and the Grisdorans went outside together and looked at the ruins that surrounded the tower. The despairing looks on their faces revealed that the passage of time began to sink in. The ruins had been cottages, mills, and farms built when they realized there would be no end to their violent captivity. Some Grisdorans openly wept and called out for their families who must be long dead, on a world they may never see again. Rage filled others, visible in their expressions and body language.

"You have a place with us if you would like, " Shelly told Veen and his people. "We brought an entire city to this world and there is room for you there. We could learn from you about this world and about the people who brought you here. You could learn anything humanity knows, we have schools that welcome anyone who seeks education."

Veen and his group returned to the tower to discuss their situation while Shelly spoke to the group about all she had learned from the Grisdorans. Shelly wondered aloud about my and Elsaap's story of the Anki, an off shoot of their people who fled to the stars, and the description of the person who had brought the Grisdorans here. The similarities were unmistakable, and someone had to have created the tower and the other ruins spread out across the planet, observed from space but not yet examined by LARC.

As dusk approached, the Grisdorans emerged from the tower each wearing shugarra. They agreed to travel to the colony and stay for a while. Only time would tell if their place would always be with the LARC colonists. Bobby and Sam leaped at the opportunity to fly with a shugarra again and quickly volunteered to escort them back to the colony while Shelly and Dr. Walters drove the transport back. Walters typed a message to Governor Paperman about the visitors and their aerial approach.

Shelly Crispin couldn't wait to tell Travis, Elsaap, and I about her day. Not only were there amazing people who had a history on a world they believed had been completely deserted, but the technology they had observed would be the biggest advancement to humanity since the discovery of Atlantis. She also relished the opportunity to learn their native tongue. The Pneuma's dialect of Sumerian already fit her thanks to its close match, and she loved the challenge of reaching fluency. It seemed unlikely that the Grisdorans' native dialect also shared a root language with humanity. Now that she considered it, the likelihood of the Pneuma and humans sharing a common root language seemed far less than coincidental. The very shape of the dental pallet would suggest an altogether unique formation of sounds. Her thoughts gently drifted through her professional interests as the colony approached.

Even though the flock of newcomers flew in on the quiet side of the colony, far from the boardwalk, a crowd milled around looking for the first scoop. Children cautiously peeked around corners while teens and adults simply walked out to the perimeter of the colony. Their faces gazed up at the sky, fingers pointed and hushed conversation passed between the onlookers. Sam couldn't blame the spectators. A group of what appeared to be bird men were approaching along the base of the mountain. When you move this far out in the galaxy, you don't expect to receive much company. Bobby wondered which security officer allowed the civilian population to approach a potential threat. Their communication went to the governor and MARC the league robot.

The group touched down a hundred feet before the spectators and gave command to deactivate their shugarra. Bobby noticed the Grisdoran woman he had been eyeing looked radiant in her flight attire. Perhaps it stirred awe in those who saw it.

"I'm glad they are staying here, " Bobby said to Sam in a whisper, "I think that one is into me."

As Sam did his best to give only a casual glance, he noted that Wooril's left ear had perked up a bit and pointed toward them. She gave Bobby a knowing smile. "I'm glad you are so eager to welcome the new colonists into the fold. It will be nice to know what we have in common with them."

"We share a lot of physical similarities. A heck of a lot more than we share with the Pneuma, " Bobby said, eyes locked with Wooril and a dopey grin on his face.

A few of the other females noticed the exchange and surrounded Wooril chatting in low tones and concluding with a bit of giggling before the whole group approached the crowd. The colonial spectators parted briefly for the passing of Governor Paperman and MARC. The little silver robot issued a greeting in Sumerian. He repeated Paperman's greeting of welcome and asked if there were any immediate needs for their comfort. Veen resumed his role as the group's spokesperson and offered their gratitude for the awakening and the freedom from their captivity.

Security officers arrived in transports to carry the entire party to a proper meeting room. By now evening began setting on and most onlookers began to disperse.

The Grisdorans recieved rooms near where Shelly, Elsaap, and I stayed. Shelly really had her hands full helping the Grisdorans assimilate into colonial life. She felt excited for the challenge because every moment she spent with them gave her opportunity to learn, document, and share a new language. No linguist had the opportunity to discover a unique language on Earth, much less two! Her thoughts drifted to Travis, Shelly thought it nice to spend time with him while he recovered from his leg injury. Thanks to his help in the mill fire he would be off security duty for a few more weeks. He enjoyed spending time with us as well. His Sumerian even fared well enough for conversational competency. He could be a big help with the Grisdorans.

She thought a bit more about his enjoyment of time with Elsaap and me. Shelly had never considered herself the settle down with family type before meeting us. It felt nice for her to have someone around in the evenings and to share breakfast. She wondered if Travis ever wanted children of his own. It had to be too early for all that. She hardly let him kiss her. They had only known one another for a month.

******

Meeting the people we began calling tower captives was thrilling. We had first hand stories of the Anki when they all settled in. Dozens of people from several different worlds had all met the legends of Haran's past. They all proved to be wonderful contributions to our colony in the years to come, not to mention during the desperate battle that was about to ignite, but I'm getting ahead of myself again…

Geological surveyors used satellites and drones to locate many of the ruins dotting the planet's surface. There were hundreds of mapped structures and a visual image would appear to the side on a virtual display when explorers selected the location. Five towers identical to the Grisdoran tower rested on their continent. Although all three continents contained ruins, the towers were unique to the central land mass the colony had chosen. Shelly and Bobby assembled a team with the expectation of reviving and retrieving survivors. Sam and Walters would be occupied for the next months or years that it would take to understand and adapt the marvels they had uncovered.

Veen and Wooril volunteered and asserted that they had likely encountered the other beings held captive. A couple shuttle pilots rounded out the team, the other towers were a significant distance from the colony and ground transporters would have swallowed days with travel. Wooril sat next to Bobby and attempted what little small talk she could in just a few days' time to learn English. He grinned at her for nearly the entire trip. He even picked up some Sumerian, which had the doubled reward of operating shugarra.

The craft landed on the muddy banks of a marsh swamp that had inlet itself from the ocean shores nearby. The brackish water smelled of salt and rotting vegetation. The tower slunk back in the gloomy shade of massive willowy trees. The viewing screen faced the swamp, its inlet, and the ocean beyond. Water edged right up to the open entryway inviting its dormant inhabitants into the still water, thick with plant life and the sounds of animals. Bobby Rogers darted his gaze toward the swamp as he approached the doorway with a slow premeditated pace. A splash rippled a few feet away from him and he used less care selecting his footing until planted on the dry floor inside the base level of the tower.

Shelly Crispin turned on the console and began to look through it for unique data. Veen and Wooril joined Bobby and they began to empty the two cabinets filled with shugarra, carrying the devices back to the shuttle. Veen and Wooril conversed in Sumerian for a minute.

"Saitarans live near swamps, " Veen said to Shelly.

"You have encountered these Saitaran before?" Shelly asked, "Will they be grateful for an awakening?"

"We met them to battle, " Veen said. His face looked hard.

"They were probably forced to fight, just like you."

"I will defend myself only if necessary."

Shelly nodded agreement. Extending an olive branch did not always mean the other party would accept. No one wanted an aggressive neighbor on their new home world. Shelly and the team located the supply closet and removed the silver packs. When the shugarra had all been packed, the four went to the fifth story and confronted the motionless inhabitants.

"Saitarans breathe in water and on land, " Wooril said, "They surprised us by hiding in a river when we met."

The still figures stood the height of a man. Their pale green skin had a hint of olive tanning. Feet stretched twice as far as a human's and webbing connected each of the pencil thin, black claw tipped, digits. Their hands were equally long and webbed to their second knuckle, leaving the tips free for articulation. Slits that ran down their ribs from armpit to mid back appeared to be gills, protected by their upper arms. A long slash of a mouth opened slightly, revealing dozens of dart like teeth. Two small slits rested above the mouth which appeared to be nostrils.

Shelly keyed in the sequence to awaken the host. Huge black eyes burst out of lids that peeled back to reveal baseball sized orbs that popped off the face and took in the entire room at once.

Nine simultaneous inhalations resounded as backs rounded, at first ending as chests puffed up, and then deflating in an exhale. A deep rumbling voice resonated and projected out the wide mouth of one Saitaran. "Are we to fight before the usual preparations?"

"We hope you will not fight at all, " Shelly said with a nervous smile.

"You are not one of those who brought us here, you are human."

"We came recently and learned of your bondage when we freed the Grisdorans."

Its webbed hands flexed and muscles tensed for a moment. Large black eyes pored over the group before centering on their speaker. A low murmur of croaking words passed through the group. A broad smile revealed their glistening pointed teeth before another spoke in a bass tone. "You have our gratitude and friendship."

"We have a colony a few hours flight from here and would be honored to have you join us there, " Shelly said.

There were nods of agreement.

The teams departed the tower allowing the Saitarans to refresh themselves and pack any personal effects that time had not already claimed. Bobby noted that instead of bathing and eating on the various floors of the tower, the Saitarans dove into the brackish swamp and hunted the wildlife. He cringed as he saw one come up with a fish snared on its teeth and tear off half, holding the tail while swallowing the head. Bobby leaned in toward Wooril and attempted to explain sushi and Earth's Japanese cuisine.

A meeting with MARC and Paperman followed. Accommodations were the primary discussion. Rooms at the nose of the colony would be arranged directly on the surface of the water. Since a dam regulated water flow through the center of the colony's structure, the Saitarans would pull some of the excess into a side stream they would dig out with help from LARC's construction team. Biologists would help to relocate native species of swamp flora and fauna to create their ideal environment. While the Saitarans were able to live on land as well as any type of water, the mud which accumulated at the bottoms of swampy marshes were incredibly soothing for their skin which had a tendency to dry out.

******

Shelly, Bobby, Veen, and Wooril met back at the shuttle the following morning. There were still four towers that likely contained victims whose lives halted for senseless war games in the distant past. They flew to a deep jungle and through the thick canopy, made out the silhouette of the tower carved into a cliff face where the ground had broken and risen a thousand feet up, forming a waterfall. On the East side midway up the cliff, a plateau provided enough room for the tower and for the shuttle to touch down.

The fifth floor held nine figures waiting motionless, frozen in time while ages came and passed. Bodies stood trapped without so much as awareness, to contemplate a suspended existence. Veen looked into the midsection of a matted exoskeleton colored a deep green with grey on the limbs and flecked throughout. Two legs supported a frame around nine feet in height, far larger than the tallest human or Saitaran and almost twice his height. Two sets of arms, ending with three digits, hung motionless below a final set of deadly appendages. A set of limbs on the being's shoulders bore scythe blades from a wrist joint extending down as far as its elbows. A wedge sat atop narrow shoulders, chin touching chest. The nine standing in a row like statues on display appeared to show a reverie for their impending freedom.

"Craygarta, the reverent warriors stand in a pose we use when speaking to the creator of the universe, " Veen said as he examined their bodies.

"Your prayers have been answered, " Bobby said to himself as he released the group from its suspended state. He sure felt glad he'd had eyes for Wooril, because the off world dating options didn't seem to be getting any better.

The moment their cells deactivated each one stepped forward a half dozen paces, closing Shelly and the others into a tight knot near the invisible elevator. A noise like crickets chirping resonated as some of the Craygarta rubbed two arms together. Heads swiveled from one side to the other in what Shelly thought could be an assessment of their situation.

"Craygarta, a colony of humans released us from captivity. They landed a city from space onto this planet and there is no sign of those who held us and forced us into combat." Veen said.

"Anki, " a Craygarta said, or sang rather. The sound came from its limbs rubbing together just like the chirping they used before. "Anki, the flying serpent would make war between our races to teach their champions of conquest."

"They spoke to you of their intentions?" asked Shelly.

"Anki have the power to change one's intentions. This is why we would fight one another and their champions. Craygarta have a connection to the minds of all other Craygarta. When Anki entered our minds to force the intention to fight, the Craygarta had a small connection to the thoughts of the Anki."

"Who are their champions?"

"Air, fire, earth, water, form, formless…"

Shelly became intrigued by the response. If she could grasp their native dialect perhaps there is deeper meaning than what the Craygarta can share in Sumerian. The confirmation of Elsaap and my tale of the Anki leaving Haran felt exciting and chilling to her. This explains why such advanced technology lay about. If the Anki felt that advanced, beyond other sentient life, they may have viewed these terrible combat trials like human scientists viewed animal testing in humanity's recent past. Perhaps the Anki developed the champions as an army, and when the testing ended, they left Nibiru and all their test subjects. What if they were the race who brought Atlantis to Earth? With their physical attributes and extraordinary powers that would explain humanity dragon mythology. She drifted deeper into contemplation.

"Come with us to the Human colony, they traveled in a city between the stars for a generation. We are all welcome there and these people celebrate our differences." Wooril said, breaking the silence.

There were a few minutes of the chirping hum between the Craygarta and then eight of the nine filed out of the room without another sound or so much as a glance back. The solitary being who remained stretched out his upper arms in a welcome gesture while his lower pair crossed at his abdomen for speech.

"Your gracious offer humbles my people. The others will stay in the tower and spend their time living as one with this jungle, contemplating our role in the universe, and practicing our martial art, " it sang. "We are of one mind so I will accompany you and live in the colony, so that our people can be part of the community on this world. I will reproduce as will my fellows and some Craygarta will stay among the other races."

"Are you pregnant now?" Shelly asked.

"What is pregnant?"

"Female humans carry a child in the womb until it begins living among us."

"Craygarta have no gender. One creates eggs when the habitat can support more Craygarta. This is why we share a community in our minds."

"Incredible. Can you sense the minds of Craygarta on the world the Anki took you away from?"

"Their minds, they have become strange to us. We shared no connection while we were trapped." The Craygarta pointed a bladed tip at its cell. "Those who remain here will close the gap. We will be a part of our people again. They may consider us their ancient elders back from oblivion."

"I would be thrilled to meet living human ancestors, " Shelly said in reply.

As the five left the tower they observed six of the Craygarta opening the shells on their backs and flexing translucent wings. After a brief fluttering they leaped into the sky and flew down into the jungle below. The pair who remained, tucked into the ground that remained on the plateau that lay unoccupied by the tower and the shuttle. They sparred one another with incredible speed. Combatants arced scythe blades toward joints and weak points in their exoskeletons, then blocked and dodged the others attacks. Instead of the chirping native tongue or the singing tones of their speech in Sumerian, a shrill burst, like a whistle, accompanied each strike. One swing convinced Bobby that its partner would be decapitated, but at the final moment the Craygarta bent into a reverse somersault ending in a crouch with one blade protecting its head while the other thrust toward the attacker's abdomen.

The sparring paused and the two chirped with their departing comrade for a moment before the shuttle lifted off. The Craygarta sat in silence. Its chin tucked into chest and bladed limbs held in a reverent pose.

******

The following day brought Bobby, Shelly, Veen, and Wooril to a pine forest. Shelly Shelly noted that the trees closely resembled cedars. She had been camping on Earth as a child and enjoyed a bit of nostalgia when they landed in a clearing between the pines. A thick fog pressed down on the forest and the troupe made their way to the tower without having seen it after their landing. Bobby had never seen fog before, he kept making reference to vampire movies he had watched in the ship's cinema, then trying to explain them to Wooril in what little Sumerian he had picked up from the week's adventures.

They entered the tower and began loading up the shugarra and stacking them near the entrance for easier transport to the shuttle. It had been a quarter mile from the clearing to this tower and no one wanted to get turned around and lost in the foggy woods. Bobby took the invisible elevator up to the fifth floor. The others joined him and Shelly matched the awestruck look on his face.

"Are they transparent?" Bobby asked. "I can't get a good look at them, even though I'm looking right at one."

"Exendel, " Wooril said "They are the unseen, a solitary species that hide and ambush instead of fighting face to face."

"We are going to give them bright shirts when they come back to the colony, that way we don't bump into them, " Bobby said chuckling to himself.

Shelly walked over to the chambers and activated the release switch. The bodies in the chamber vanished completely. The elevator whooshed, and then Veen fell over backward. Another whoosh and Bobby saw spots as something connected with his jaw. Another whoosh and Shelly got pushed into a chamber face first. Wooril called out for the others to help her barricade the entrance to the elevator. Another two whooshing noises sounded before they were in position.

"This is not a combat test, " Shelly pleaded. "We came to this planet to colonize and learned of prisoners frozen in these towers"

"The humans have freed Grisdorans, Saitarans, and Craygarta, " Veen said, "We will live among them, and you may, if you choose."

"Humans and Grisdorans have not come to attack?" asked a figure materializing back to a blurred transparent humanoid outline.

"The captives of the other towers have told us about the Anki and about your forced combat. There are no Anki to be found on this planet or Haran, the other world in this solar system. The Pneuma living on Haran are from whom the Anki descended. The Pneuma hunted Anki to extinction on that world, " Shelly said.

Three other figures materialized and the four Exendel huddled closely together and began conversing in whispers. They passed an occasional glance toward the group barricading the elevator entry and kept whispering. "We would be honored to see your colony, if there will be time to decide later about living among humans, and if we may come and go at will, " the speaker said at last.

"Can you speak with the others who fled and extend our invitation?" Shelly asked.

"Before we nine were captured by the Anki and brought here our lives were solitary. Exendel only gather in groups to select a mate, and the pair only remains together until their child can care for itself. We four have observed other species and their social ways. We have adopted the practice to thrive in this strange world. The five who fled yearn for their freedom and solitude. We will search the forest and find at least one, to let them know of the current state of the planet. Perhaps they will join us, perhaps they will benefit by knowing the other races do not wish to fight."

The group of eight left the tower and noticed that five shugarra were missing from the stack near the entryway. One paused and left a message on the console explaining their departure, along with a map Shelly provided which detailed the location of the colony. The four Exendel accompanied Shelly and her group to the shuttle, and then each one took off in a separate direction to look for their hidden comrades. Veen and Shelly passed the time talking with the pilot about their encounter. Wooril and Bobby took a walk around the woods.

"Do you have a husband or boyfriend?" Bobby asked as they walked. He had been practicing with Shelly, Elsaap, and me in the evenings, hoping to get closer to Wooril with small talk.

"On Grisdor I was only a girl, now I am grown but the others were all married before we volunteered to go with the Anki. Veen is my father, that is why I came along, " Wooril said. "Do you have someone?"

Bobby shook his head no. He had just about exhausted his vocabulary, but he found out all he needed to know. His hand reached up and brushed her cheek. Wooril pressed into his chest looking up into his face as Bobby rested his hand onto the small of her back. Her breath smelled sweet and the feel of her embrace pounded his pulse. He leaned his neck down and kissed her, she pressed into his lips. Bobby knew that no Earth girl kissed like Wooril did. The moment exhilarated him.

"It appears that humans really do get along with the other races, " voiced the unseen Exendel

Bobby and Wooril hopped apart, startled by the intrusion. They both looked around for the speaker gasping in nervous breath.

"I interrupted your private moment, that is no way to treat a new friend, but I would be ashamed to simply watch unannounced, " said the figure, which became a visible, blurred outline a few paces off into the brush. "Please accept my apology. I'm called Despin." He thrust a hand out and Bobby grasped it, introducing himself and Wooril.

"Despin, I think our first friendly act will be to provide you and your people with bright outfits for wearing while at the colony, it will help you stand out a bit, " Bobby said.

The three rejoined the group at the shuttle where the other three Exendel had already gathered joined by one of those who had fled. Cienelle told the group of her encounter with two who had fled and remained in the forest. They know of the map and that there are no enemies on the planet. They will tell the others and follow the map if they ever have a change of heart. Traynoir apologized for his attack on Bobby and offered his gratitude for their rescue from the tower.

Back at the colony Governor Paperman looked thrilled to meet such unique people. He asked what they were wearing and blushed when informed that clothing went against their custom. They accepted outfits to wear while in the colony in order to avoid humans bumping into them unaware. Bobby and Wooril darted quick glances and smirks at one another upon hearing that last reason. Paperman set them up with rooms near the Pneuma, Craygarta, Saitaran, and Grisdoran immigrants and offered them work on the security force if they ever desired.

******

"Here we go again, " Bobby Rogers said, yawning and stretching. He had been milling about near the shuttle for a few minutes awaiting the rest of the team. "Four down, two to go."

"I wonder what sort of beings we will free today, " Shelly said. "Humanity had never encountered a sentient race before we arrived in this solar system, now we've got our own little galactic melting pot."

Veen and Wooril arrived and the pilot ran through preflight inspection. Their destination tower lay in the center of a grassy plain. The grass, as tall as a man, waved gently in the breeze of the cool morning. The way it moved reminded Bobby of waves in the ocean. The shuttle set down and practically disappeared into the grass. The tower loomed overhead and the troupe entered the base level.

On the fifth level Shelly and Bobby confronted beings familiar to them from ancient mythology. A bull's head rested on massive shoulders and a barrel chest. The torso and arms were those of a man but starting at the waist, fur covered thick legs down to cloven hooves.

"Minotaur, " Bobby stammered.

"You know this race?" Wooril asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Our ancestors told stories of a Minotaur who lived in a maze, " Shelly said.

"I hope they don't charge like the Exendel did, " Bobby said.

After a few moments Shelly Crispin activated the switch. There were a few snorts of breath and heads turning about. Shelly put hands out in front of her in a peaceful gesture. One of the Minotaur took a few steps forward and took in the situation, turning its massive head from side to side. Bobby noted that they were nearly as tall as the Craygarta, but much thicker.

"We are not here to fight, " Shelly said. "We have come to set you free from this tower, you've been captive here for lifetimes."

"Lifetimes have passed? The Anki have abandoned their captives?" asked a gruff voice.

"We've come to the planet to colonize and aside from captives in these towers, there were no people on the planet."

"We will never roam with the great herd again. If the herd still thrives, generations have passed and memory of our capture has been forgotten, " said a female, who rested a massive hand on the shoulder of the first. Bobby tried not to give her udders more than a passing glance.

Crispin extended an offer for the Minotaurs to stay at the colony. They seemed quite interested in the potential for agriculture and most of their questions regarded the types of vegetation that the colony's farmers intended to plant. Aside from grass the Minotaurs enjoyed a number of the vegetable species native to Nibiru. Bobby mentioned the animals that MacDonald had begun domesticating and referred to steak. A series of disgusted snorts followed. Mina, one of the females replied that they were not flesh eaters. Bobby slunk back behind the Grisdorans, feeling a bit embarrassed. He might have guessed a bull man wouldn't want a steak.

Taurus, an older male, said they would be grateful to live with the colonists and learn more about the culture the humans had brought to Nibiru. The shuttle ride to the colony felt cramped with nine of the enormous newcomers and the team. Shelly and the team reported to Paperman and finished their meeting by midday and resolved to see the last tower after lunch.

******

The shuttle set down near a river bank on the far side of the continent. Shelly speculated why the other two continents on Nibiru did not contain towers. Drone photography showed plenty of ruins and some similar architecture, but nothing like the towers they were visiting. Perhaps this land mass had been for the Anki's battles between the races they had captured, while they lived on the other continents. She hoped they would find records left behind by the Anki explaining what this was all about. Shelly wanted a reason for the cruelty the Anki had demonstrated in tearing these people away from their cultures and then simply discarding them when they moved on. They could have returned their captives to their homes or left them to live out the remainder of their days on Nibiru.

The group speculated that ancient men would be the captives in this final tower. The fifth floor confirmed their suspicions. Nine men and women stood motionless, their deep brown skin and black curly hair indicated their origins in the Middle East. Shelly brought them to life with the flip of a switch. There where gasps at the sight of other humans.

"Are we home again?" a woman asked Shelly. "Have we returned to Sumer?"

"We have come to Nibiru, " said Shelly "Many lifetimes have passed since you were last awake. Sumer is known as the oldest culture on Earth. Men have populated the entire planet and we have begun to spread out onto other worlds."

The woman sobbed bitterly. She moaned the names of loved ones lost through time and the vast distance. A man in his fifties put a hand on her shoulder and comforted her with soothing words. She turned into him and rested her head on his chest. "Thank you King Gilgamesh, " she said.

"You are King Gilgamesh?" Shelly asked, stunned.

"I was King of Sumer, until we journeyed here."

"Some of humanity's oldest stories were written about your life."

The man beamed a large warm smile. The other Sumerians whispered to one another and nodded to their king. The world they knew was gone, their Kingdom confined to legends about its founder, who stood among them. Gilgamesh agreed to take his people to the colony and meet what became of humanity in the thousands of years since his disappearance.

******

Governor Paperman welcomed the early humans and announced his plan for a festival on the approaching weekend. He announced the occasion to be Legacy Day. The colonists would commemorate the discovery of the planet's ancient name, Nibiru. They would also celebrate the release of fifty four captives from an ancient kidnapper. The guests of honor gathered under a pavilion set up near the recently completed boardwalk with easy access to the beach. Throughout the day, colonists came to meet their new neighbors and give greeting to Governor Paperman and MARC.

Many of the former captives began interacting with members of other species. Shelly's worries that their former experiences in combat against one another would leave a lingering hostility dissolved. All among them agreed that the fighting had not been of their free will, but rather a compulsion from the Anki invading their minds and bending their intentions. Travis, Elsaap, and I spent the day with the newcomers as well. The Craygarta, who insisted that he be referred to only by the name of his race since his people didn't practice individuality, told of some of the fighting.

"The enemy was not among these people present. What Craygarta fought was the Anki's champion, that which controlled the nature of the world itself. Waves crushed from a nearby lake, which normally sat placid. The water stretched up and pulled me in, crushing until I no longer struggled for breath. My fellows suffered similar fates. A volley of water smashed one Craygarta into a tree. The Anki revived us and restored our health before returning us to the chambers."

Travis caught bits of the story and asked me to give him a translation into English. He thought about the mill fire which had mysteriously started, and had seemed to have a mind of its own. What had these Anki created that could control the elements? Had it been left behind when they left Nibiru? Travis shook his head as if the motion would clear away these strange thoughts. Awakened from a dead sleep into action, any intelligence the fire appeared to have, had likely been imagined. Nothing lived as long as Nibiru lay abandoned. Their new friends only survived in a state of suspended animation. Travis had become distracted by his friend Bobby, whom he noticed getting awfully close to the young Grisdoran woman Wooril. A smile replaced the anxious expression on his face. Bobby never had much luck with Earth girls anyhow.

******

Simon Urlitz scowled at the pavilion hosting the freak show from the opposite side of the boardwalk. No good would come of these outsiders living within colonial walls. He knew that they all had been some sort of warrior before getting stuffed into the deep freezer. Grunden had denied Simon's requests for security patrol in the part of the colony near their quarters. Simon finished the beer he was grumbling into and ordered another with a nod and a hand gesture. The bug man had two sword hands. Not to mention those invisible creeps, you could only tell they were near because of their ridiculous bright attire. He let a chuckle out inadvertently as he thought about how many steaks the bull man could be turned into.

Elsaap and I joined the Saitarans for a swim along with some human children who were enjoying the small beach near the boardwalk. A child shrieked in surprise when it caught sight of a Saitaran emerging from the deeper portion with half a fish dangling from its lips. The startled child seemed to embarrass the Saitaran, who quickly stuffed the other half into its mouth and attempted to chew discreetly. Elsaap and I joined the children in a game of Marco Polo while the Saitarans sat in the deeper portion, emerged up until only their shiny black eyes showed.

Shelly Crispin had gathered the sagas of Gilgamesh as well as the Greek myth of the Minotaur and recited them in Sumerian for those who starred in the texts. Taurus snorted at the end of the Greek myth and replied that he had never become so terribly entangled in a Labyrinth in the first place. He commented that humans had a strange sense of storytelling, allowing the majestic bull hero to perish in the end. The ancient King enjoyed his epochs and laughed at the more outlandish parts. He mentioned that storytellers in his time preferred to embellish a tale rather than to merely recite the facts.

The Exendel amused the children with a game of hide and seek. To be fair to the kids, they left their bright outfits on. Children giggled as they discovered a bright orange jumpsuit under a chair, or a pink outfit hidden near the center of a bush. Cienelle and Traynoir made a great show of trying to find the smallest boy who couldn't find a hiding spot and simply covered his face with his hands. The boy's attempts to withhold laughter brought smiles to everyone nearby.

Dr. Helena Lancett spoke with Mina of the Minotaur for most of the afternoon about farming. The Lancetts had eaten a vegan diet since the colony left Earth and the women described their favorite dishes. The Minotaurs had actually put a small farm plot of local vegetables next to their tower before the years had passed them by and wild grass reclaimed the land. They had stashed seeds with them in stasis and brought them to LARC1. Dr. Lancett offered Mina and her people work in the agriculture division, stating that outdoor farming was an unfilled niche during the colony's travel years. Only the hydroponic indoor gardens had sustained the colonists, but massive plots were tilled on one border of the colony.

MARC mingled among all the new colonists, having access to all of Earth's languages including ancient Sumerian, the little robot had already adapted to the dialect used by the Pneuma and the others. When the face of a chubby bald man replaced that of a young woman and the topic changed, the Exendell gasped in shock. The android went to great lengths to explain artificial intelligence and his simulated collection of personalities.

MARC approached Shelly toward the end of the day. There had been skeletal remains that shared most of their DNA with the Pneuma species. The discovery lay on another continent and MARC eagerly wanted Shelly and her young golden friends to investigate. The android suspected that Elsaap and I might recognize signs or clues that held cultural significance that may be overlooked by members of any other species. A shuttle would be prepared for their departure on Monday morning. Shelly wondered what awaited discovery in a place designed for the Anki.

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