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Distant Origins: An Anki Legacies Science Fantasy for Young Adults By S Shane Thomas Characters: 32630

Updated: 2018-01-25 12:05


The pink and purple hues of the predawn sky shimmered on the surface of Nibiru's single ocean. Puffy clouds also gave a hint of the sun's imminent rise. The waves pulsated, soothing Elsaap and I back into a light sleep as Shelly and Travis took in the view. Shelly had the faintest memories of sunrise on Earth, and Travis had only seen a few in pictures and movies. Faint recollections and recordings did not compare to the magnificent crown of light peering up beyond waves which disappeared into the curving horizon.

Their shuttle flew south to the continent that MARC had spoken to Shelly about days before. A building appeared to have Anki relics according to a brief initial survey. MARC requested Shelly, Elsaap, and I to investigate because of fluency in Sumerian, which had rapidly become a second language in the colony. Travis returned to duty the evening before and Simon Urlitz agreed to switch assignments, allowing him to accompany the trio. Simon and Travis had been on dozens of security details together and Travis knew how to push his buttons. By the time the conversation was over Simon thought he owed Travis something in return for the switch.

A total of fifty four lives had been put on hold as countless years passed by, all because these Anki had abandoned their sadistic combat experiments with the people they had gathered from six worlds. Shelly wanted to find some explanation in the Anki's own settlement ruins, to explain why this unique and cruel mistreatment had come to pass. Humanity encountered six sentient species and their own ancestors from the dawn of written history due to the actions of the Anki. None of the victim's people created technology beyond what they had witnessed on Haran. If there were Anki left on the planet they may have the resources to threaten the colony and the basic freedoms that LARC and Earth's many cultures embraced.

Many of the tower refugees and some of the colonists wanted to confront the Anki. They wanted some sort of apology or explanation for the attacks and displacement. Others like Simon didn't much care to talk. They wanted the opportunity to fight them and to rid Nibiru and Haran of their threat. Shelly thought it was ironic that Simon began to share points of view with the government on Haran even though he'd taken part in an armed conflict with them only weeks before. She hoped the colony never encountered the Anki and entertained the suspicion that they had left the solar system for good. I never imagined just how well we would all get to know the Anki.

"It sure is nice to be on an assignment again, " Travis said "Listening to you talk about the towers, and knowing Bobby had all the fun, was worse than getting stabbed with a spear."

"I'm glad you're here too, " Shelly replied, giving his hand a squeeze. "Don't worry about your buddy stealing me away, he's not into Earth girls anymore."

"Those two are inseparable, good thing too… Bobby never had much luck with colonial girls, " Travis said.

By midmorning the ceaseless waves broke on the shores of a landmass in the distance. Thick jungle foliage had grown right up to a rocky beach. The shuttle carried them inland for another half an hour until they reached the base of a mountain, which had been a volcano at some point earlier in its existence. A crater replaced mountain peak, which had filled over the years with rain water. Jungle ran from ground level half way up, then sparse shrubbery jutted from a bare rocky surface. Around the lake at the top, another patch of life encircled it, but they were trees whose roots were partially submerged and exposed.

The shuttle set down on a plateau between the two life zones. Their pilot stayed in the cockpit to review data the drone had gathered while the quartet made their way around the side of the slope to the mouth of a cave, covered in shadow from an outcropping of boulders overhead. Stepping into the cool dark alcove revealed that the cave was actually an entryway to a structure similar to the entrances of the towers. Elsaap hissed and backed up, bumping into Travis.

"Look, " he said "Those bones are shaped like us."

Travis shone a light on a dusty corner to the side of the entrance where the skeletons of two figures lay entwined in what was a mortal struggle. Thrashed robes turned to dust as Travis bent to grasp one. A sword lay rusting, between the ribs of one while the leg bones of the other lay on the far side of the entryway with evidence of a clean cut. While the skeletons did resemble the pair of young Pneuma in many ways, the major difference took Shelly's breath away. On their backs were thin bones folded up neatly between their spines and shoulder blades. Wings had adorned these two beings in life. These were the remains of Anki who had apparently killed one another.

Shelly took out her communicator and activated its camera. She captured images of the skeletons from a few angles before she and Travis disrupted the site, searching for items on their person. After their garments turned to dust it was easy to find that the two lay virtually empty handed, except for vibrant orange gems adorning their necks on thin silver chains. Travis presented one to each of us children with a flourish and a silly bow. The pair eagerly helped one another clasp them on and stood back a step, to admire their prizes. Shelly focused on the entryway, which slide open silently after she spoke a command.

We entered slowly as stale air washed over us, causing coughs and a bit of throat clearing. Upon their entry two bright blue chips of light appeared and began to rise in the dark. Travis lowered himself onto one knee and drew his sidearm quietly. Shelly maneuvered the children behind her and spoke a command, which flooded the chamber with a blinding light. Shelly squinted as her pupils dilated, adjusting to the change. The blue chips were on a shiny silver bullet shaped machine afloat in the air. It drifted toward the quartet at a cautious pace. Stubby arms emerged from its smooth sides and thin metal fingers splayed in front of them, gesturing surrender to Travis, whose gun remained trained on its target.

"Device is recording, " it stated flatly.

"Play back recording, " Shelly requested in Sumerian after hardly a second's respite.

A yellow glow lit up the silver surface below its eyes and a small three dimensional projection of their entry into the room displayed on repeat. Shelly gasped, and then gave another command. The scene changed to that of two winged creatures wearing close fitting robes battling in the mouth of the cave with swords. A desperate slash sent a limb flying across the room, followed by the legless warrior flying into the other combatant and impaling him with the blade. Shelly asked how many recordings the device contained. It responded that seventeen unique entries were available since its last memory purge.

Shelly's communicator chirped in with a message from the pilot, Hank. He detected unusual seismic activity nearby and strongly advised a return to the shuttle. She relayed the message and we looked around as if in denial of the warning. Elsaap took a few steps deeper into the chamber, toward a shelf built into a wall stacked up high with ancient looking books and scrolls. He reached out, and before his grasp closed, the floor underfoot became soft and he heard a rumbling. Elsaap jerked his head down and glanced into a black depth threatening to swallow him whole. He grabbed onto the shelf with both hands and a startled shriek escaped his lips. We watched stones, scrolls, and books fall into the hole. They looked like they were simply shrinking as they floated in place. The sinkhole must have been hundreds of feet deep. A strong arm locked around his waist and ripped him from the perch. I sighed in relief over his close call.

"I got you little buddy, " Travis said "Shelly can you convince the floating movie guy to tag along back to the shuttle?"

She spoke commands which merited a discouraging spatter of beeps in retort. Shelly took on a serious tone and tried another. Its eyes turned green, "Travel mode activated, " it said in the same flat tone. I grabbed Shelly's hand and keened to her. The hole Elsaap had nearly fallen into stretched its gaping maw, threatening to continue its consumption. We all clasped hands and made for the entryway around the side of the chamber. The greedy lip of the hole stretched wider, enveloping most of the room now. A ghoulish moan wailed down the cavernous depths of the throat which stretched to the base of the mountain. I was first to make the entryway into the alcove of the cave. Elsaap quickly followed and reached back to help Shelly. By Travis's turn, the ledge had crumpled to mere inches.Travis grunted in exertion as he leaped from the crumbling perch, grasping for the cave ledge Shelly had just pushed clear of. The air rushed out of him as his stomach landed against the edge. He scrambled with both hands for purchase. Sliding back onto his chest he continued to grasp instinctually until he caught a grip on the entry wall with one hand. His free hand began arcing toward the fall, threatening to lose his uneven grasp and cartwheel him down. Travis hardly noticed a slapping sensation on his free wrist as the golden tip of tail smacked into him and wrapped firmly around. I had braced myself behind the wall and caught him just in time. Shelly and Elsaap crept to the edge and helped pull him into the cave and safety.

Shelly keyed in a message to the pilot to lift the shuttle a few inches off the ground and get ready for them to board. The next moment we stood squinting into the daylight while the silver recording droid circled the party seeking to capture every angl

on the arm. He nodded toward Anderson and the two emerged from their spot and began walking toward the zoologist. The thing stopped and stood upright. Its jaw hung slack and began working up and down as if it were going to speak. A deep moan gurgled out of its throat and the heads of its pack members slowly turned toward Anderson and his follower. Bobby picked up the pace, wanted to join Anderson and get to Simon and Sam before the whole pack decided to crowd them.

Anderson's follower crept toward the doctor in a series of small shuffles, the doctor backed up a few steps until his back touched the wall. It continued the advance and Anderson lost his nerve. He whipped the flashlight up and flicked it on, shining right into the little thing's face.

Rogers and Dr. Walters squeezed their eyes closed as bright green burst through their goggles. A loud ragged moan rent the air and spittle flecked Dr. Anderson's face. The little thing blurred into a lunge at Anderson's middle. Dr. Anderson cried out first in surprise, then in agony as he felt flesh tear free from his abdomen. Blood ran down his legs and he slumped back against the wall, flashlight rolling across the floor, revealing the approach of the pack.

Rogers felt adrenaline pound in his veins when he heard the sickening noise of skin and organs tear, then the gurgle in Anderson's throat as the zoologist slumped into a lifeless heap. He burst through the remaining distance and kicked the biting thing squarely in the teeth like he would kick a field goal. Anderson's blood sprayed out from the creature's mouth as its head spun sideways with a popping sound, then back as the entire body wrenched across the floor from the force of the contact.

The barrel of Simon's pistol flashed in the darkness as he unloaded an entire clip into the crowd of unnatural things. He and Sam raced over to Anderson. Bobby fired into the pack while Dr. Walters had Anderson's arm slung over his shoulders and attempted to carry him away. Sam took up Anderson's other side and they rushed back the way Anderson, Sam, and Simon had entered. Both security officers loaded their spare clips and fell in behind the trio, defending against the ghastly pack's advance. The thing Bobby had kicked was no longer crumpled in a heap. Where it had been, only a shining pool of liquid remained. Those who were taken down by gunshots also seemed to ooze apart as soon as they fell to the ground. Only a knot of three or four remained to pursue as the team hastened an escape.

"I'm out of bullets, " Simon said to Bobby. Bobby holstered his spent weapon as he nodded toward Simon. He grabbed the shafts of the two shovels on Walters's pack and handed one over. Simon chuckled in a rare show of nerves as he grasped it. The few remaining in the pack advanced toward the group as they affected a retreat. In the darkness other figures began to join the pursuit in jerky bursts of motion, creeping out from dark corridors and from behind dead machinery. Bobby noticed a lone figure unlike the rest. It stood at the top of a staircase which led off into darkness. It crossed arms over a thick chest and pointed a gaze toward Bobby. Their eyes met for a moment. It spoke a few words that Bobby couldn't make out, causing the pack to burst forward in a charge.

Simon growled like an animal as he connected the spade end to the head of his attacker. It splattered into that jelly like substance causing the few behind it to slip and fall to the floor. Bobby smashed into another nearby. Bobby looked back to the staircase, but the figure was gone. So were their pursuers. Dr. Anderson was dead before they reached the shuttle.

"What kind of animal turns into goo when it's shot?" asked Bobby, "Were they made of goo the entire time?"

"Those things weren't natural, " said Simon.

"What about the guy on the stairs? Did anyone else see someone watching from the stairs?"

Sam, Dr. Walters, and Simon shook their heads. Dr. Walters quietly weept over his colleague. The shuttle departed for the colony.

******

Christa looked over the flight controls for the hundredth time since she had placed the craft on auto pilot toward Haran a week ago. Their lesson with Shelly would begin soon and she busied herself in an attempt to avoid small talk with Blake. Christa had long considered herself a creep magnet so she invented a boyfriend as an excuse to blow off the steady stream of men seeking her affection. Blake seemed unthwarted by the unavailability, which annoyed her. She also began to think he may be drawn to the idea. She had dealt with forbidden fruit seekers before.

"We make small talk?" Blake inquired in Sumerian. "I practice talking when fight practice ends."

"You have been practicing, " Christa replied with a bored look on her face.

"You're supposed to say something in Sumerian."

"Keeping starship between the stars, " the pilot replied in the dialect.

Unable to fend him off any further, they practiced the language until Javier Mendez and Nicki James joined them. Not only did the lessons break up the monotony of a long journey in close quarters, but a few days ago Shelly Crispin shared news about their discovery of the towers and their occupants. Today was no exception, Shelly would give the lesson from a shuttle returning from an Anki dwelling that had collapsed in a sinkhole. Since the Anki spoke in the Pneuma dialect, Shelly had relayed a video of two Anki fighting to the death. While they watched, she narrated the action.

After their lesson ended, Nicki and Javier began speculating about where the Anki had gone. News about Gilgamesh and the ancient humans had caused quiet an uproar, now there was footage of the Anki on a little hovering drone. As promised, they attempted their conversations in the Pneuma dialect before relating the more complex ideas in English. They shared lunch together as the conversation continued. Perhaps the Anki studied each race before conquering their worlds. Perhaps the people trapped in the towers were meant only to amuse the Anki like gladiators in the ancient Roman arenas.

Nicki James stopped the conversation around a half hour after their meal. It was time for Muay Thai training. The workout was a great way to blow off steam, and after the encounter Javier and the first landing party had on Haran it would likely come in handy. Christa took exceptional pleasure in knocking the doe eyed look off Blake's face when they sparred at the end of the instruction.

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