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   Chapter 13 No.13

Distant Origins: An Anki Legacies Science Fantasy for Young Adults By S Shane Thomas Characters: 40383

Updated: 2018-01-25 12:03


Elsaap and I spent some time with Shelly's parents during the week that the colonists made a discovery that rivaled shugarra, or even the Anki stones we wear. We little Ankis also made an important discovery, some aging humans keep too many old possesions. Gram and Gramps, as they insist we call them, have never discarded anything since the colony left Earth. While some of their precious relics were worth holding on to, most of the box filler simply took up space. We did enjoy those hours of domestic discovery, along with their tales from the human homeworld.

Admiral Grunden motioned for Travis and Shelly to enter his office. MARC sat across from the admiral wearing the luminescent green image of a young woman's face. The two were leaning in to examine a display screen built in to the surface of the desk.

"Miss Crispin, it's lovely to see you. Good morning Travis. Thank you both for coming. Please take a look at this." Grunden motioned to the display screen.

MARC exchanged greetings and the woman's face smiled at Travis. The little android made its way around the desk and joined Grunden, leaving space for the couple to look at the display. Shelly noted the smile on MARC's pretty young face and wondered just how much of the league councilor's personality uploaded into the robot.

She looked at what appeared to be ruins of a city under the sea. The ruins were similar to the construction she had seen at the tower and again in the Anki's home on the south continent. In the foreground of the image a small building that looked like a dwelling loomed, partially covered in algae. Behind it, a massive building towered, with a fa?ade of frescos. Shelly leaned in, trying to make out what appeared to be writing next to the image of an Anki breathing fire and clutching something in one hand.

"I'm glad we've piqued your interest Miss Crispin, " MARC said.

"I want you to confirm the preliminary drone images, spend some time exploring this place, and hopefully find the Anki's weapons or the off button to their Nefilim, " Grunden said, looking over the two.

"Yes sir, " Travis replied.

"My pleasure, " Shelly added.

"The location is a hundred miles off the shore of the southern continent. There will be four other small teams in the area. Please keep a close eye on your communicator since you'll serve as one another's back up in the event of Anki attack, " MARC said, the young woman's gaze was locked intently on Travis.

Am I feeling jealous of MARC? Shelly thought. She tried to focus on the details of the mission.

"You'll be out there for several days. I've dispatched our largest craft from the orbital platform to serve as lodging for the five shuttles and their crews. It has just been completed by my team, " Grunden pointed skyward indicating the construction team in space, charged with building a fleet for local exploration and a replacement colony for LARC1's next expedition. "I've armed all six vessels with all the firepower they can carry, in case of any unwanted visits. Shelly is there someone you trust to watch Elsaap and Pringar? I understand from Dr. Zimmerman's reports that this is a delicate time for them, but you're my best linguist."

Shelly blushed at the compliment. "My parents have adopted the kids and love getting an early swing at grand parenting. Mom's been asking for a sleepover and Elsaap likes Dad's asteroid mining stories."

"It's settled. Meet your pilot in the hanger as soon as you have made arrangements."

Most of the afternoon was packing and explaining the kids' routine to Shelly's parents. Dusk fell on the colonial city as Travis walked with Shelly from the subway station to the hanger carrying his and her duffle bags, one over each shoulder. Travis was excited about spending time with Shelly on what he considered a working vacation. Now that Elsaap and I were set up with her parents, Shelly's mind raced with all the possibilities of their find.

"It's called Conquest, " Bobby Rogers called out as he saw Travis and Shelly approach. He stood in a group with six other shugarra corps and a knot of scientists and pilots. Sam Martin was among them leaning on a cane and beaming with pride.

"I've incorporated the technology from the shugarra's energy blast into her. The beam from Conquest could hit an individual from orbit. Its blast can be modified to cut through a hundred feet of granite or pass through water before hitting its target, " the engineer grinned and slapped the hull.

The craft wasn't in the hanger, it would never have fit. Conquest was the size of the colony's sports stadium and had a ten bay hanger of its own. Crews bustled past the gathering of LARC explorers loading Conquest with pallets of supplies to feed and house its crew of ten along with the five exploration teams and five Saitaran shugarra corps. The ship would house thirty people for the duration of the mission.

"After camping with Gilgamesh I promised myself I was done with leaving the lab, but the possibility of Conquest getting proven in the field is too much to pass up on."

"Let's hope this is just underwater archeology Sam, " Travis said, shaking his head. Engineers were something else… Travis was reassured that another encounter with Nefilim wouldn't be a slug fest between a few shugarra corps and a handful of monsters, but he was far from excited about the possibility. "Let's check out the living quarters, " he said to Shelly.

The craft shone a gun metal grey. Viewing ports rimmed the entire diameter. The Conquest was four stories tall and its center was recessed a few feet on the top and bottom of the craft, where the energy beam's vibrant orange twin discharge surfaces sat. Five bay doors encircled the recessed centers, allowing shuttles to deploy from above or below. The hanger was a large open space taking up more than half of the ship's interior space. The energy weapon encased the center of the hanger with maintenance bays lining the weapon's outer walls. Living spaces, the medical bay, the bridge, the cafeteria, and common rooms made up the outer ring of the craft. The area for the bridge was a balcony with consoles for the ships operations and a window running from the ceiling above the entryway to the floor under it. From the outside the bridge looked like a clear slice in a metal pie. It allowed the captain to stand at the bridge's rail and gain a visual overhead, in front of the craft, and under its belly.

"I think I miss them already, " Shelly said.

Travis chuckled. "You make a great mom. You've been away from those two longer than a few hours before."

"I guess its knowing that I'll be away for a few days. I know my parents will be just fine, I…" she tapered off as Travis leaned in and kissed her.

Their room wasn't large by any account, but each crew room had two single beds, a few lockers, and a door. Travis regarded the latter as its most important feature. He vaguely recalled a television couple from a black and white show pushing their single beds together. Too bad these bolted to the floor. The couple lay in each other's arms for takeoff and the first leg of the flight. They took an evening meal with the rest of the expedition in the cafeteria.

Conquest made the trip in only two hours, half what it would have taken a shuttle. The massive craft settled on the ocean's surface where it would remain for the duration of the expedition. The teams reviewed maps and pictures of the area, which appeared to be a small city spread over a couple square miles. Their exploration began in the morning.

Donning wetsuits and shugarra, Travis and Shelly waited in the aft of their shuttle as water slowly flooded in through small ports in the floor. Travis was glad for the chance to use the flippers, his practice in the lake with the Saitarans only served to fuel his ambition for an underwater assignment. He'd received scuba gear for his twelfth birthday and had used it religiously since, until he joined shugarra corps. With a shugarra it felt as if his mouth became gills and his feet and hands were flippers.

The pair stroked their way through the clear water. Sun light filtered down through the brine gave a pale green shimmering light. The sand and silt on the ocean floor was sparse with kelp and algae. Only a few fish could be seen feeding on the vegetation or hunting. The submerged buildings loomed in front of them. To Travis's surprise, Shelly darted ahead of him with uncanny speed. Her excitement over the art from the drone pictures pushed her. Travis recalled Sam and Bobby's account of her first experience wearing a shugarra, perhaps she was a savant. He stroked hard to keep up. The dwelling was on their right and Shelly made straight for the temple.

"Let's begin by testing our cleaning brush and scraper on a blank wall." Shelly spoke through a microphone on her throat into a receiver in Travis's ear. He nodded his agreement. While he felt delighted to be on what he viewed as a romantic getaway, Travis knew better than to attempt levity or any sort of distraction on Shelly when she found the flow in her work. He gladly doubled his duties, both her guard and archeological assistant. Travis wondered how Dr. Walters, the timid archeologist was faring. He paired up with Bobby, so Travis would get the scoop this evening. They both practiced technique for a minute until they could uncover the frescos without damage.

Hours passed and clouds of algae and small creatures that fed upon the uprooted vegetation billowed around the fresco as Shelly and Travis carefully revealed its scene. Using her communicator's camera she captured the image through a number of filters before they returned to the shuttle to use the lavatory and eat a midmorning snack.

The first fresco depicted Pneuma villagers goring three Anki with pitchforks and swords. A beautiful mountain scene contrasted the image as a background. Seeing a red Anki next to a green one and a black one intrigued Shelly. Under it, in Sumerian read "Hate and murder sprang forth from the Pneuma, from whom Anki had descended. Fear led the people of Haran to destroy its most gifted children."

The pair refreshed in the shuttle for a half hour. Shelly used the time to upload the fresco into LARC's data base. Her return swim had every bit as much vigor as the first approach. Travis hardly noticed the little creature grazing on seaweed near the small dwelling. Basketball sized, it looked like a little green bear on top with the lower body of an octopus. He passed by it so closely that it was set adrift from the plant it grazed on, tumbling lazily through the water and gently bouncing on the ocean floor.

Based on the size of the first fresco there were six on the front of the building, three to either side of the entryway. Shelly and Travis began working on the second fresco, already partially revealed as a Green Anki.

As the sun neared its peak, the sky suddenly turned very dark. Travis felt eyes on his back. Slowly he turned to behold the massive mother of the little green octobear creature he'd stroked past. He stood stalk still peering at the massive creature that hovered above the small dwelling. Tree trunk tentacles writhed, keeping the massive beast afloat. A handful of its cubs clung to fur down its belly, some appeared to be suckling. A blip on his Nefilim scanner broke the trance and he gave his head a quick shake before putting a hand on Shelly's shoulder to get her attention.

"Let's get you back to the shuttle, " he said, pointing up toward the massive green creature. She gasped into her microphone.

They began swimming in a wide arc away from it, continually glancing up to determine if the octobear had taken notice. Travis opened his communication channel to all members of the expedition, asking if anyone had spotted the Nefilim.

"It's hard to see anything past the herd of green octobear, " Bobby's voice responded.

"Herd!" Travis spat out, he looked up to see another nine adults join the first. Based on the maps they had studied last night, the beas

extended toward the limbs of the silver dragon shaped craft. Indentions near the area for the pilot's shoulders were clearly meant for Anki wings. Sam hefted himself up and climbed into position in the belly of the idgeul. He opened his mouth as if to speak, but the belly hatch snapped closed, segments from either side interlocking. Sam felt panic well up in him, the compartment began to gently press against him from every angle. Sam took a few deep calming breaths, then a voice speaking Sumerian in his mind said "Pilot stasis initiating." He lost sensation of his body and felt adrift for a moment.

A number of the shugarra corps looked at the craft that had swallowed the engineer into its abdominal cavity. For a moment after closing, it remained motionless. Then it spoke in Sam's voice. "I know how the Anki survived a long space flight in these, " Shelly turned away from the cockpit she was peering into and cocked an eyebrow in his direction, "I'm in stasis right now."

Sam moved one arm experimentally, and the idgeul's clawed arm responded instead of his own. The idgeul's silver head looked around itself, Sam taking care to avoid crushing anyone. He took a few steps toward the empty portion of the hangar near the front entrance. Its wings flexed out and flapped twice with blurring speed. The dragon rose into the air and bumped the ceiling of the cavern. "I had to make sure we could take these into the air, " Sam said, "Now the final test." The silver dragon shaped craft returned to the pose it had been found in, opening its abdomen. Sam's eyes snapped open and he carefully climbed out of the craft.

"Imagine the implications of reverse engineering this technology! Patients with terminal illness could live on in stasis, using mechanical equipment for movement and interaction with the world. We could establish a MARC unit on Earth and a stasis unit here to interact with the home planet if we can overcome the signal's delay! I'll bet these are tougher than shugarra too…"

"Slow down Sam. You'll have plenty of time with these after we get them aboard the Conquest and back to your lab, " Shelly told him.

Sam explained what happened to him when he climbed into the idgeul to the seven others in the hanger and to the shugarra corps outside the cavern, so there would be no surprises when eight giant silver dragons emerged instead of their comrades. Shelly typed a message to the crew of Conquest to open a top hatch and make space in the hangar.

Eight silver dragons burst from the ocean's surface moments later and rose into the sky. Beads of water glistened as they fell off metallic skin. After a few additional trips, they had all twenty idgeul aboard the Conquest. Three of the shuttles returned to the colony for lack of space.

"It's no wonder five Anunnaki guarded the ancient city, " Travis speculated. The explorers and their guards were having another round of tentacle and noodles, their new favorite seafood dish. "If these Nefilim are like robot guards, it would make sense that their masters would leave a handful to protect their idgeul."

"If the whole population of Anki flew over from Haran in one of these, there must be hundreds stowed around the planet, " Sam said.

"Unless the Anki took them when they all left on Atlantis, " Bobby said with his mouth full.

"It's only a matter of time before our little Elsaap can make more of these, " Travis said, "He loved to build things even before he began to change."

Sam's eyes got wide. "Shelly, imagine if Elsaap became an engineer on top of the abilities he's manifesting. These Anki were able to create so much with an imagination from the mind of someone in an agrarian society. What could Elsaap achieve if he started at the height of humanity's technological knowledge?"

"I think he would enjoy learning to be an engineer, " Shelly replied, smiling at the thought of the little Anki's happiness. "Perhaps we can modify their school schedules to incorporate internships. I know Pringar shows interest in leadership and psychology. Mornings and lunch with other children learning at their age level followed by an afternoon learning and working with experts like you would be great. Dr. Zimmerman and I were trying to think of ways to make sure we endeared them to our colony and instilled a sense of compassion for others. It seems like the ancient Anki lacked respect for species other than their own."

"I'd be happy to have the boy join the team in the afternoons, " Sam said with a broad smile.

******

I've known Admiral Grunden for years now. One of the things that gets under his skin to this day, is the misplaced trust he gave Simon Urlitz. I don't know if he could have done something different, though. It isn't as if Simon even knew at this point who he would become and what he was willing to do to get there. I don't believe the man is or was outright evil, but he has definitely accepted unsavory methods to accomplish his goals. Plus he didn't make a very good first impression on this little Pneuma girl.

Admiral Grunden walked the halls of the colony's hospital. He concluded his visit with the three shugarra corps injured in the under sea attack. As their commander he considered visiting those wounded one of his most important duties. It would become too easy to put people into dangerous situations if he never saw what some of them would live with. Fighting to prevent larger harm was the only reason he saw to engage these Nefilim. There must be a way to reason with them, Grunden thought. He approached his final stop in the hospital and rapped on the door.

"Come in, " Simon Urlitz said. "Good afternoon sir, " Simon said with a salute.

"Simon, it's nice to see you looking so well."

"Old sawbones says I'll be back in action in a few weeks. I started physical therapy yesterday."

"I'm glad to hear it. We need you back on the front lines when you're able. You do want back into your role with shugarra corps I assume?"

"Yes sir. I won't let a few hospital visits scare me into a desk job."

"You wouldn't be so bad in an administrative role, you know."

"How do you mean Admiral?"

"I've read your reports. I've spoken to some of the men about you. You have an aptitude for making command decisions. I could see you in a leadership role."

"Thank you sir, I hadn't considered the possibility. Most of the officers I report to consider me too rash and quick to fight."

"I agree with that assessment son. I think you do too. Traits like that don't have to be permanent. A few years without any citations and a move to administration might be a good thing for the Colonial Security Force. We don't remain young men forever after all."

"Admiral Grunden, have you ever considered going back to Haran?"

"We have a team there now, learning more of their leadership and customs. I imagine there will be diplomatic envoys traveling between our worlds within a year."

"I meant leaving the colony and invading Haran sir. Overthrowing their government and giving their citizens freedom and rights. Humans could take control of their government and enforce a peaceful coexistence. We don't know how many Nefilim are here…"

"LARC was never meant to be an invasion force Simon. The Pneuma have the right to govern themselves. The Nefilim don't live as we understand it. They seem to be controlled by a people who abandoned them long ago. Our challenges are here."

Simon balled fists under his blanket and gritted teeth for a moment. "What's new sir?" He and Grunden made small talk for a couple minutes, catching Simon up on the idgeul that had recently been found as well as progress made in the civilian sectors of the colony. The Admiral bade Simon farewell and made his way back to the office to complete the day's paperwork.

"Staying on Nibiru is a mistake, " Simon said to the empty room. It looks like I've taken the first step toward leadership after all. The old Simon would have let the conversation erupt into an argument. He leaned back with a content smile.

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