Home After the Earth is Destroyed
A Meeting

The planet was hell. Streamers of sulphur gas mixed with ash and dust coloured its sky. Its surface was a cauldron of molten rock, constantly kept in motion by the moon above. Almost 3/4 the planet's size, the moon was continually on the verge of destruction. It quaked but always remained, driving the inferno below. Yet, even on this planet, intelligence lived.

A disturbance rose from below, breaking the quiet of one of the seas. The ripples caused moved slowly away. Then the cause surfaced, sucked in air and dived, leaving the sea to calm behind her. The multitude of plates covering her body rubbed together as her flukes slowly moved up and down driving her carbon-silicon body through the liquid rock. Obirro was on her way to the Ubakabu searching for the Ubiko plant. She eidetically remembered the path, maintaining her orientation with the aid of the planet's strong magnetic field. She surfaced and ejected used gases, searching with her eyes for the feared Akalabu. Fortunately, thank the elders, she saw none. Then Obirro remained, resting and enjoying the night sky, floating in the warm liquid around her. Above her the occasional star could be seen, though the clouds of glowing sulphur hid most of them. The clouds drifted and revealed the moon Kabu. She looked at the moon and saw a strange light.

High above, a bright orange-red flame shot across the face of the moon. Slowly it traversed the shining disk, shrinking only in length, until finally it disappeared. In astonishment, Obirro exhaled through the blowhole on her top. She inhaled and vanished beneath the surface. The slight turbulence gradually subsided until only the motionless expanse remained.

"Good Morning, Williams."

The world focused around him. Facing him, in a plain brown coverall, was a young, grinning woman, the navigator of the scoutship for the fleet from Earth. Her face was still as beautiful as it had always been, but she had cut her hair since he had last seen her. Where once golden tresses had fallen to her waist, now they were cropped short.

After a few tries he managed to croak, "What . . . we're there already? We only left last night . . ."

"Yes, you did enter cryogenic suspension a year ago. Here, drink this, it'll warm you up."

Rebecca held a cup of steaming black liquid to Williams' mouth so that he could drink. He sipped some and spat it out.

"I just told you I hated coffee; I just warned you last night . . ."


". . . not to give me . . .", Williams trailed off.

"Besides, the shock of that 'hated liquid' got the cobwebs out of your head. Just in time too, as I awakened you for other than your charming conversation. I'll help you into your prosthesis. We're decelerating within the Capella system."

During this speech Williams stretched his body, at first painfully, and then with ease, and waited impatiently while Rebecca hooked him up. She lifted him from the cryotube and onto the crab-like structure of his prosthesis. There she incased him in its watertight plastic suit and began to fill the environment suit from the tank on the prosthesis. Eventually Williams' body lost its painful dryness within its normal environment of cool salt water. While the suit was filling, Rebecca plugged the prosthesis into a slot just behind Williams' brain. She had a little trouble bending the thick, stiff cord, but managed. Williams tried to walk but the prosthesis just quivered - he had forgotten how during his long sleep. Rebecca just laughed. Well, he'd show her. He concentrated his will to the task and dragged each of the six feet forward in sequence, their magnetic soles holding him tightly to the deck as he crept forward. Rebecca just seemed to dance around him in the low gravity. See what she'd do in water.It wasn't long before Williams regained his skill with the prosthesis.

Williams followed Rebecca through the darkened and dusty halls of this little used portion of the ship. As he walked, Williams could feel the dull throb of the ship as particles of hydrogen, gathered as the ship travelled through the near vacuum of space, funnelled past to the fusion drive below. The throbbing was louder when they reached the elevator in the core of the vessel. Rebecca motioned him in first. She entered and ordered the elevator to rise.

The elevator stopped and its doors opened silently revealing a small red lit domed chamber. A huge man seated a few feet in front of Williams dominated it, his back to a lit console. Hard gray eyes stared from the young captain's heavily scarred
face - he seemed more interested in the new arrivals than the console behind him. He wore clothing much like the navigator's but in dark gray instead of brown. Rebecca saluted.

For a second, remembering the past, Williams stared at the captain of the scout vessel. The man who had been his friend. The one man who had shared his dream. Regaining control he stalked out of the elevator towards his station on the left side of the bridge.

"Welcome Back!" captain Alexander said as Williams passed.

But Alexander was ignored. Then he remembered his and Williams' argument and their parting words. Over time he had forgiven, but he realized that to Williams only a single night had passed. The captain returned to his controls.

One third of the way around the elevator shaft Williams reached his console. It lacked switches and instead had only a gaping hole. He glanced at the dials for only a second, checking that all was ready. Barely controlling his eagerness he walked forward, thrust his head into the maw of the machine and closed his eyes. Circuits activated. The computer removed his control over the prosthesis and immobilized it. Pads inflated around his head and secured it. Then a finely controlled magnetic field formed around his head, to read and write electrical impulses in his mind.

All Williams' sensory input was received by a probe launched by the scout. The computer interpreted the data and then fed it into his brain. Where once Williams had experienced only the dismal surroundings of the ship, the universe now surrounded him. He again lived within the living creation controlled by the Hand of God, not by probability as the physicists would have him believe. Now Williams felt as though he was hanging in space. He seemed to swim through the solar wind, just as he once swam in the waters of his birth. Before him lay an ancient furnace, the star Capella, perhaps the end of his journey. Through the computer he saw 14 planets. Most lay behind him as the starship had already entered the inner system. The computer drew his attention to the second orbit where two worlds orbited about the centre of mass of the pair. The computer fed into Williams' brain that only this planet had the potential to sustain life. He swam towards the world until he could swim no further. He had reached the limit of the probe's range. Unable to go any further, he could only request that the ship approach the planet.

The computer transferred this request to the navigator, now seated at her console in her third of the bridge. Rebecca turned the ship.

Williams watched the ship rotate, until the intolerable brightness of the fusion flame forced him to turn away. Rather than return to the drab reality of his life, and Alexander, Williams remained outside. He passed behind the scout searching for the rest of the ships that carried the remains of the earth. There was only the human ship, scarred and blackened. He looked, then stared in disbelief. In great anguish he screamed. No one heard. He fainted and the computer returned him to his body.

Williams awoke between the captain and the navigator, again separate from the computer. They seemed relieved that he had regained consciousness but Williams did not waste time with thanks.

"Where the hell is the other ship? What have you done with it?" he screamed, and would have leapt at them, but his prosthesis was incapable of that action. "Where are the rest of the survivors of earth? Where are my fellow dolphins?"

Alexander and Rebecca watched and said nothing, both unable to speak. Finally, captain managed to answer.

He choked out, "They're all dead. One bomb got through and destroyed them all after we left."

"Then all our races are dead, their genes destroyed." Williams replied. "We're all that's left."

"Not quite." The captain swallowed, paused, and then continued. "The human ship was further from the explosion. The neutron bomb killed the crew but the shockwave was not strong enough to destroy the ship itself. The engineer is on board her now that the radiation has subsided to tolerable levels. Behind its heavier shielding, the genes survived . . . but only ours."

Williams screamed. He cursed humankind. He cursed the race wars that had begun when his kind was raised to humankind's level. He cursed Alexander and all that he stood for, his modified voice beginning to crack. As the rest of the crew turned away, Williams' hoarse cries quieted until he only sobbed. He began to remember all the things that he had wanted to do but never would. He would never know another dolphin. He would never know what it was like to swim free, to be ignorant of the world, to live only in the internal now of the wild. He sobbed louder and his memories grew until he lost himself in the primitive. He dreamed of the life he could have had if man had not remade his mind. He slowly drifted away, dreaming of peace, and finally rested in the arms of slumber.

Alexander turned away, more hurt than he could show. Rebecca followed, offering him the comfort of her arms, but he wanted none. She left and Alexander just sat, watching Williams. Alexander remembered their first meeting under the ancient oak, their childhood together, and the dreams they had shared. Finally, Alexander fell into a fitful sleep.

Hours later Rebecca returned, having rested in her cabin. She awoke Alexander. He was not well rested.

"We're in orbit sir." she told him, and then moved over to her console, almost seeming to fly in the zero gravity.

The captain carefully pushed himself across the deck and awakened Williams.

"We're in orbit." he said and returned to his console.

I still have a duty, Williams thought. Only a geneticist could engineer the rebirth of humankind, and I, the best that humankind had, am the last one alive. And, perhaps, a way can be found to recreate my kind, if God so wills. Williams reentered his console.

As the universe formed around him, the computer informed Williams that 10.7586 hours had passed since his last trip. His body had finally had some true sleep after almost a year of forced rest. The ship was in orbit, the computer continued, about the larger of the two masses of the double world. Williams turned his attention towards the planet.

Below him were great billows of sulphur painted across the world. He passed through the clouds and scanned for details of the surface. He knew now that this world could not be his new home as it could not support terrestrial life, but he was still curious. He would see what he could before he had to leave it forever. Soon, small land masses, each choked with crystalline structures, lay beneath him. He approached one. The structures must be plants, probably chemotrophs feeding off the heat of their world. Then he saw small creatures feeding off the plants. They were riding the air through magnetic repulsion between the twin pontoons extending from their backs and the magnetic field of the planet. Both the plants and the animals consisted of the same crystal but the animals were glowing. The glow was not innate to the creatures, but instead represented the strength of the neural activity that the computer could detect. Williams turned from this and swam towards one of the seas of molten rock. Below passed a featureless dull red plain, a small rock structure sinking beneath it, and more of the same. Williams stopped. This rock had glowed brightly. As bright as if it had the nervous activity of intelligence. He returned to the spot, but saw only ripples disappearing. The faintest of glows could still be seen beneath the surface. The glow faded and went out.

Obirro forced her mass through the increasingly dense liquid. Her eyes, sealed against the magma, used their second function to detect the return of the ultrahigh frequency pulses she sent out. Hearing the home of the elders before her, she dove down and entered the silicon dome from beneath. Obirro surfaced inside.

Above her yellow Igugu weed, along with glowing green lumps of Fasaga, covered the rough surface of the dome. Three raised platforms lay before her. The elders lay ontop of them, their bodies partially covered with Igugu and surrounded by small nodules of silicon. Long disuse had atrophied their tails as the softer tissue between the plates had solidified.

"Why have you come?" the oldest and largest of the three beings above her boomed out.

Quietly and respectfully, Obirro began her tale: "Great and almighty masters. I, Obirro, your humble servant, was out hunting for the Ubiko plant to feed my tribe. On my way to the Ubakabu I saw a great burning in the sky before Kabu and watched as it faded out. In my humbleness, I came to seek your heavenly wisdom to explain it."Her voice faded as it echoed throughout the great chamber.

The semidivine elders began to speak together as Obirro nervously swam back and forth, awaiting their verdict. A long time passed. Then, the elder who had originally addressed her, ordered her to approach. She slowly swam to the base of his platform.

"Obirro," he stated, "although you did not gather the Ubiko plant, no punishment will be imposed for your disobedience due to the reason for your offense. You will speak to your Kala, saying that we have removed you from your duties for one Lan due to this disobedience. You will return to the where you saw this 'sky flame' and keep watch for one Lan. If anything unusual occurs during this period, you will return and report, otherwise you will return to your normal duties. You may depart."

Obirro leapt from the pool and dived, joyfully swimming back out to do her duties. Saddened at having to lie to her Kala about her false punishment, but ecstatic over performing directly for the elders, she began to swim to her tribe.

"What could she have seen, could it have been the Great One?" demanded the youngest elder.

The oldest spoke, "No, else we would have known. It must have been The Other."

The third finished, "Then she mustn't live to contaminate the rest. We must feed her to the Akalabu."

"The Akalabu!? But then her Kuma would be destroyed! You can't . . ." gasped the youngest.

The oldest interrupted, "It is necessary. The Great One speaks only to us. It must have been The Other else it would have appeared to us, not to one of her rank. She must be destroyed before she can spread her heresy. Call one of the Koradu."

Williams argued, "But I'm telling you sir, I detected intelligence down there."

Amazed, the captain asked, "Down there? With a mean temperature of 1000oC?"

"But I did! The computer did register an intelligent life form. Unfortunately, it disappeared into a sea before . . ."

"Seas? You call an inferno of molten rock a sea? If I didn't know better, I'd say you were dreaming of Earth
and . . ."

Tactfully the navigator interrupted, "Nobody is more sane than Williams here, especially not myself. I believe him when he says that he detected intelligence, but then," she shrugged, imparting her continuously falling body with a slight motion, "the instruments could have been wrong. He still hasn't fully recovered from his cold sleep, or his shock, and you've been up worrying about him. Why don't you and Williams get some rest, and I'll check the instruments and the readings."

The captain sighed, thankful that Rebecca had not described the depth of his concern for Williams. Alexander was about to ask Williams if he was coming but Williams spoke first.

"When have you slept?" he asked Rebecca.

"She slept while you were out, and awoke just before you did, just to make you think that she had remained awake. Come along, we could both use some rest."

Williams realized that he was still tired. "Well, Good night then. When the morning comes we'll see those readings."

Williams watched as the captain floated into the elevator. To be free again. To swim through the oceans again. He shivered with the memories. Then he followed the captain from the bridge.

Once again the sea rippled and Obirro surfaced. She rolled upon her back, sighed, and began to watch the night sky. The light would come again, she knew it. She watched the great towers of sulphur as they passed across the heavens, alternately hiding and revealing Kabu.

That morning Obirro watched the moon pass below the horizon. She was so tired. She feared the light would never return. But it would. She knew it would. The Great One would not abandon her. She maintained her vigil as the elders had commanded.

Meanwhile, behind and unheard by Obirro, a great sinuous head broke the surface. Nearly endless rows of gleaming teeth filled its mouth. The rest lay beneath the surface - a monstrous hidden tail churning the lava as it propelled the beast forward. All night a scent had drawn the creature forward, a scent that promised the tastiest of morsels. Then the scent vanished as the Koradu closed the jar it was carrying and dove. The creature stopped, sniffing the air. Almost immediately it found another scent. A different scent. It dove, and slowly the Akalabu swam towards its victim.

"Hey Williams, wake up. I brought you a drink."

"Thank you." Williams sipped the liquid. "What? Coffee again!? I told you not to . . ."


"I'll bet you are. Well, now that I'm awake, did you find anything wrong with the equipment?"

"I'll tell you when we reach the bridge. That way you'll both be there, and I won't have to repeat myself. Besides, it'll keep you in suspense longer." She grinned.

Williams followed Rebecca as she floated through the dusty halls and into the elevator. Together they went up to the bridge where Alexander still sat in his chair, facing them as they entered. Williams walked to his corner of the bridge.

"Good morning. Sleep well?" the captain asked as Williams walked by.

Williams opened his mouth to jokingly respond, but then he remembered what Alexander had done. He snapped his beak shut and ignored the captain. He reached his console and turned to face Rebecca.

"Now that you're all here, I'll tell both of you and you can stop complaining," responded the navigator.

Rebecca's first attempt at reconciliation hadn't worked, but she might as well keep trying.

"As far as I can tell, it all works," she continued. "And, according to the recording in the computer, Williams did detect intelligent life. Congratulations!"

"Aha! There's your proof captain!" shouted Williams as he turned to face Alexander. The lord had indeed populated all the universe.

"So?" asked the captain, "So what. We can't live here, and these beings can't help us. We only stopped because long distance examination suggested a possible oxygen-nitrogen planet. You're right, but does it matter? At first the shock unsettled me, but overnight I've realized that our only duty is to the unborn of my race. I'll give you another three days to examine the planet but then we have to leave."

Damn, Damn, Damn, thought the captain, why did I have to say my race?

Williams was shocked. He had found other minds! But all the captain was concerned with was his own race. With humans. He spun around and entered the computer interface.

Again the stars surrounded Williams' consciousness, but he wasted no time in the glory of God's creation, instead turning his attention to the spot where he had detected the intelligence. The probe dove to the surface, having returned to the ship while he slept, rocketing through the night sky to where Williams had last been. Below him, the dawn of Capella revealed a motionless sea, undisturbed except for what appeared to be a floating chunk of silicon. From that source he detected life. Intelligent life. Exalted that it had returned, he stopped and began his examination. Near the edge of his sight he noticed another creature approaching and turned his attention to it. It was a great beast swimming through the lava. He moved closer, and realized what it was - carnivorous. And it was approaching the alien intelligence. If only the probe was bigger! A landing craft! He returned to his body after ordering the computer to implant the location in the memory.

Walking towards the captain, he almost shouted, and while doing so rambled, "Sir, I've found the alien, right where I left it, but, sir, its going to be attacked by a huge carnivorous creature, the first true intelligent alien we've encountered, its intelligent and I must save it, can I take a lander down and drive off the beast, it won't take long, I can . . ."

The captain interrupted, "You can't. I can't let you. You're too vital. You are the sole hope of both our kind."

"But you can, or . . ."

"No, we're needed too. I'm sorry, I really am."

Williams responded "So this is the end of our dream. Of the dream we both swore to uphold. Of the dream of all intelligences living together in peace, working together and helping each other. Not killing each other over a silly war. Not allowing each other to be killed!" Williams voice cracked a few of the paper white displays as Rebecca and Alexander covered their ears. "My dream!" he screamed out, now almost incomprehensible. Williams turned and fled from the bridge.

The captain was the first to recover but he just sat there. He regretted what he had done. God how he regretted it. But it had to be done. Just as he had to fight in the war against those who would have killed their dream. Peace was the highest goal, but it had to be protected! He clenched his lips together. He would not change his mind. Williams would calm down. Williams would come back in his own time, when he was ready.

Rebecca watched too. She watched as the last vestiges of the only true friendship between dolphin and man was utterly destroyed. Why did they have to detect this planet? Why did they have to meet other intelligence this way? Why did reality have to be so bloody unforgiving? She turned away and fled to the elevator and began frantically pushing the button that called the car to return. Tears filled her eyes.

As Williams left the bridge his resolve to protect life, no matter what the cost, remained unbroken. It was still his dream. Damn Alexander anyway. What did he care about? Anything? The elevator stopped at the level of Williams' quarters. God, can I save the alien? Then Williams had it. He would rescue the alien in spite of the captain. Williams told the computer to lower the elevator to the hanger deck. Alexander, I shall live for my dream, even if you won't.

The elevator stopped and its doors opened. Williams left and walked a short distance to landing bay one. A pushed button opened the door to the airlock, a large rectangular room with three spacesuits, one of which was Williams'. He entered and the door shut behind him. His suit consisted of an ellipsoidal shell that would enclose his environment suit. It was automated so that Williams could don it himself - the process took barely a minute. The suit automatically plugged itself into Williams' brain. Now for the lander.

Williams mentally caused the inner airlock to open and activated the gas jets on the outside of the suit. He entered the large landing bay. The winged landing craft almost filled the bay, the craft's bow pointing away from the core of the ship. Soon I'll be there to save you, Williams thought of the alien.

Williams moved himself around the craft. It was easy for him to enter the cockpit in the narrow nose of the craft in front of the craft's cargo bay. The hatch closed on top of him and darkened, then the cockpit plugged itself into Williams suit so that he could mentally control the lander. He ordered the computer to pump the air out of the landing bay.

Alexander was still on the bridge when the computer spoke, "Warning. Shuttle One preparing to launch."

Alexander looked at the console in front of him. It showed that air was being pumped from the bay. Williams!

Williams ordered the scoutship to begin the launch sequence.

Damn Williams!, Alexander thought. "Computer. Abort launch."

The landing chamber was evacuated of air but the hanger doors wouldn't open - the computer told Williams that the launch was aborted.

Williams wouldn't let Alexander get away with this. He gave the computer an emergency override and the hanger doors began to open.

"Emergency override engaged. Launch proceeding," the computer reported to Alexander.

Damn that dolphin. He wouldn't do this. "Computer. Activate collection field. Prepare to engage drive."

Launch aborted the computer reported to Williams again. Magnetic collection fields activated around ship. Launch unsafe.

I'm going anyway, Williams thought. He activated the lander's engines, and sent to the computer, repeating as rapidly as he mentally could, emergency . . ., emergency . . .

"Shuttle launching," the computer reported to Alexander. "Emergency override engaged. Emergency override engaged . . ." The computer repeated the last phrase over and over again.

Damn that dolphin. "Computer, emergency override Alpha, Gamma . . ." The captain began quoting his command override to the computer.

The computer stopped repeating its phrase. It said, "Launch complete."

Damn Williams. Damn him to that hell of his. Alexander had gotten only half way through the command override.

"Computer. Activate ship intercom." Alexander ordered.


"Rebecca. Get to lander two and follow Williams. He's headed for the planet in the other lander."

"Yes sir." Rebecca's voice came back from the speaker.

Damn that dolphin. Damn him.

Obirro watched as the dawn finally arrived, banishing The Other for another cycle. She dove, relaxing her body in the hot molten rock, relief filling her soul. Her long vigil was almost over. Almost regretfully she surfaced. High above her she saw a flash of light. Another flash, closer. Obirro was totally entranced. Should she flee, and return to the elders? No! She knew it wasn't evil. She knew it wouldn't harm her.

Those thoughts filled Obirro's mind to the exclusion of all else. Even the rearing form of the Akalabu behind her.

Williams sent the landing craft through the atmosphere at its greatest safe speed, praying that he would arrive in time. The small stubby craft shot from one of the clouds and shone like an avenging angel from heaven as the sunlight flashed off it. Below Williams spread the sea, empty and motionless. Where were they? There! - almost a kilometre away. The craft sped towards them. One of the beings just sat there, and the other, much larger, reared up out of the surface and, like a huge serpent, struck at the other creature with its sinuous neck. It grasped the smaller one, which Williams recognized as the alien intelligence, and lifted the smaller one's entire body from the liquid even as it struggled. Afraid that he was too late, Williams armed the craft's laser and fired it at the monster, almost unable to miss due to its immense size. The laser, dimly seen in the dusty air, bounced off the monster's silicon scales. The creature roared in pain and dropped its victim. And turned towards its new adversary.

Taking careful aim, Williams again fired the laser. This time the shot hit inside the beast's gaping jaws. It drew back its head and filled the air with a loud, agonized scream. Intent on his aim, Williams lined up for a final shot, oblivious of the lander hurtling towards his target. The final bolt leapt from the ship and into the creature, followed closely by the lander and its pilot.

The screaming agony in Obirro's body was overwhelmed when she hit the surface of the molten rock. Almost all the air was forced from her lungs by the impact as she sank below the surface. Then the pain deadened, the soothing liquid around Obirro flowing over and into the wounds in her shell. She could again think of something other than pain. She slowly moved away from the thrashing above, all the while thanking the Great One and the elders for her survival. The thrashing stopped. Disbelieving her senses, curious about the cause, Obirro surfaced.

Before her lay a strange and wondrous sight. A great cloud of black smoke was rising away in to the sky behind the sinking body of the dead Akalabu. The unkillable had been killed. Near the husk floated a motionless silver figure. Cautiously, she swam towards the messenger from heaven.

Williams gradually returned to consciousness. Before him the lava sea stretched endlessly; above him hovered a great wall of black smoke that hid the clouds far above. From all around him he heard an increasing whine interrupted by regular beeps. It took him a second to realize that the whine was the cooling system of his suit as it slowly overheated. The whine was punctuated by the sound of his emergency signal as it radioed to the ship. Most of the protrusions from the suit were gone, destroyed in the crash or melted by the sea in which he now lay. Only the portion within the spacesuit remained intact and operational, the environment suit still maintained its life-giving bath of steadily warming salt water. Then he heard a bump on his right side.

Obirro slowly moved up to the object. Still it hadn't moved. She nudged it. Suddenly it thumped and sputtered. Startled, she submerged and swam beneath it, resurfacing on another side. Its sounds stopped.

Williams tried to turn towards the direction from which the bump came, but what remained of the suit's jets couldn't move it. All jets did was thump and sputter - Williams stopped them, frightened by the noise they made. He could do nothing but sit and slowly boil. Then, barely a metre away, just in front of him, a rocky mass rose disturbing the sea's smooth surface. It was the alien intelligence. He had saved it!.

Williams could only see the small portion of the being that was above the surface. It consisted of multitudinous smooth plates, each predominantly bright red, with other shades of red swirling within each plate in the sunlight. The front was blunt nosed, and consisted of softer, pinker tissue covered by many small, red, scalelike plates. Two of the plates moved, revealing glistening black spheres that stared at Williams. He stared back, watching it watching him. Oh the glory of God's work. Then, from behind its head, the creature exhaled a plume of brownish gas. The thing turned.

"Wait . . ."

It didn't hear him. The alien dove into the sea, and Williams watched as its dorsal fin submerged, followed by the appearance and disappearance of a great tail fin. Then the being was gone.

He had saved it. Praise god that he had saved it. Then Williams noticed how hot he was getting. He was getting so hot. Williams fainted.

Before Obirro the shape appeared to be one continual mass of smooth, polished silver, with short stumps that were vanishing as she watched. Apparently the messenger was facing her as Obirro could see that the closest portion was much shinier than the rest. That portion must be its eye. With her sonar, Obirro detected a slimming figure. It was just as they were described! It was one of the Great One's angels that had come to save her! Then she noticed her body beginning to cool and harden - the sea was cooling around her. She must save the Great One's servant! She leapt up and dove. It cried out behind her. She had to hurry, she had to get help from the elders.

Obirro rushed through the lava, following her memory back to the dome, ecstatic at having completed her duty. She had seen an angel! She dashed through the opening and entered the dome.

Inside, the three elders were still seated, each on his respective pedestal. Except that now one of the Koradu guarded the chamber. He appeared much like Obirro, but almost twice her length, and more brightly coloured. Actually, he was quite handsome. He was also armed with a spear-like weapon of crystal held in tentacles extended from their protective coverings, unlike hers that remained hidden. He turned towards her.

An elder ordered, "Kala!" which the soldier obeyed. He swam to Obirro with his spear pointed in front of him.

Obirro screamed, asking, "Why?"

She was never answered. The spear pierced her shell, letting the sea into her body. Her kuma fled and her lifeless hulk disappeared beneath the once healing liquid.

The same elder said, "Kala-bu!"

The soldier, who had previously tried to kill Obirro by leading the Akalabu towards her, killed himself as commanded. The elders watched as his corpse disappeared from sight.

The oldest spoke: "She could not have been truthful. The Great One would have told us if the sky was to change. Not one such as her. She has lied and blasphemed against Him. Her heresy shall not spread."

The other lander stopped above Williams and lowered a hook that attached itself to his suit. The hook pulled him into the rear section of the craft where the spacesuit quickly radiated the heat it had gained. Williams regained consciousness as the craft decelerated into the docking bay of the scoutship. Williams heard nothing from the pilot. As the main doors closed and the shuttle bay pressurized, Williams waited, helpless in his damaged spacesuit.

He had no regrets over what he had done. He knew that he had done the right thing. Although he had killed a creature, he had saved the life of an intelligent being - the more important life. God would agree that he had done the right thing.

Williams floated in the landing craft and waited. He heard the pilot leave the craft. He watched as the pilot opened the hatch to the cargo bay, holding a drawn laser aimed at him. He continued watching, emotionless, as the navigator removed her helmet.

No longer her normal jovial self, Rebecca opened Williams' suit and checked that the environment suit still worked. It did. Why had he done it? Upon finishing, she removed her suit. Maybe it would have been better if Williams had died on the planet. Maybe then Alexander and Williams would stop destroying each other. She launched them both off the wall towards the elevator at the core of the ship. She would not cry. She would not show what their conflict had done to her. Soon she and Williams arrived on the bridge.

Williams stared defiantly at the captain who stared right back. There was no friendship in those locked eyes.

The captain spoke, "This time you have gone too far. If you had only risked yourself, I could have forgiven you, but you risked the future of humanity. I can't forgive that. Isn't our future more important?" The captain almost begged.

Williams quietly responded. "No. It is because of your kind that mine is now dead. I did what needed to be done. I served my dream."

The captain turned away and spoke to Rebecca, "Take him back to his cubicle and return him to cryogenic suspension. You are both dismissed."

Alexander watched as the two of them floated into the elevator and its doors closed. To himself he said, "And so ends our dream." He whipped his seat around and bowed down, placing his head on the console before him. And began to weep.

On the planet below great puffs of sulphur, ash and dust continued to colour the sky. The seas remained quiet. The moon continued unchanged in its orbit. Witnessed only by these, a bright orange-red flame appeared. It grew dimmer, smaller. Finally, it disappeared.

Home After the Earth is Destroyed

Copyright 2002-2005 Michael Bard.  Please send any comments to him at mwbard@transform.to