Home After the Earth is Destroyed

The last survivors from Earth, escaping the horror of nuclear annihilation, roamed from star to star, searching for a home. Most of the stars, the blue and white giants, they ignored; around others they detected planets but passed them by as closer examination proved them uninhabitable. But, around a few blessed stars, they found planets on which humankind could live unsheltered. But of all these worlds, none possessed more than a few small islands; none possessed sufficient land on which humankind could develop. One seemed suitable, but as they approached it, it launched missiles towards them. They left it, too.

And so they traveled, century after century, system after system, remaining alive only because of their extended time frame, as calculated centuries ago by Einstein. Finally they came to the end, for they could go no further. It was another water world with little land, but this was it. Here humankind would have to settle.

As he had before, so again Williams dreamed the centuries by. He relived his life many times, his friendship with Melvern, and the bitter fruit which grew from it. But, as the ship on which he slept drew towards its final destination, Williams dreamed a new dream - a dream from outside his conscious experience.

At first he saw, in his mind, only a featureless white, an infinite universe of sameness all around him. Then, far, far away a brighter, cleaner, purer white appeared. As it grew nearer it began to take on form, and individual colour. He saw it was a creature in the form of a perfectly proportioned human, clothed in the purest white samite and surrounded by a white light. The light was neither piercing nor dull, but rather a glow that rested the eyes. Moving the figure were immense feathered wings of pure white, their tips stretching off beyond his vision. Suspended about the figure, as if it were in free fall, was its pure silver hair, as long as, or longer than, its wings, hanging about the figure and flowing out further behind the figure than Williams could see. An angel of God had come to him.

He tried to turn his face away from the angel's approach, forgetting the limits of his body in his ecstasy, and succeeded. He now possessed human form, the form of the children of God. Even when he felt the soft sweep of the angel's hair upon his forehead, he kept his face averted. Then the heavenly creature spoke.

"Thou who has become as one of the children of God, look upon my form, for it will not harm you and I wish it."

Williams raised his head and saw before him the face of the angel, bathed in a cool white light which radiated from around it, surrounded by the soft silver of its silky hair. He looked up into the tender blue eyes that reminded him of his mother who had died so long ago. Then he listened again as the infinitely soft and lovely tones of the angel's voice continued.

"You have before you the most blessed of all tasks - the rebirth of the children of God. While you have slept, you have traveled a great distance and a very long time. The crew that you once knew have grown old and have forgiven you, so must you forgive them. Together you shall recreate the most blessed of God, melded with the best of your kind. God has admitted the dolphins to his side and desires the best of both them and his children to be merged into one blessed whole. This is your task."

With its last words the voice faded out, and the angelic vision vanished. Tears filled his eyes as the light faded and was replaced with blackness. The holy vision was gone.

Williams felt the wrinkled hands of a human about him and tried to sit up. However, nothing happened, as the human form with which he had just recently been blessed was no longer his. Then he heard Melvern greet him from his long sleep.


Williams could begin to make out his surroundings. Floating above him was the man whom he had once loved as a brother. Melvern had changed. His scars, once dominant, could hardly be seen through the wrinkles that surrounded them. The gray eyes, once hard, were now soft, and forgiving. Melvern leaned down towards him with a cup of a steaming liquid so that he could drink. He took a sip and was shocked - it wasn't coffee!

He tried to speak: "You...", but then he gasped at the pain in his throat. He had been asleep for a long time.

"Don't try to talk. You've been asleep for the last 20 years, ship's time, or...", he paused, "... the last five centuries, if you had remained on earth."

As Williams sipped the hot chocolate, holding the cup in his prosthetic arm, Melvern began to get him into the rest of his prosthesis. Williams wondered where Rebecca was, and why the captain had bothered to wake him up. As soon as he was able, he asked, "So, why did you wake me. I thought you would just space me to save yourself the trouble of a formal execution." Too late he remembered: forgive.

Melvern turned away. The gray uniform that he had been wearing when last Williams had seen him was still in use, but now it was stained and dirty, patched and sewn together. He drifted away from the suspension capsule with his wrinkled, brown hands clasped behind his back. "I've tried to understand what you did, during the long years between the stars. I still don't, but at least I've realized that it was as important to you, as joining the armed forces was to me. I did what I did, for reasons you have yet to understand, and you did what you did for reasons I have yet to understand." His quiet, but still commanding voice halted.

Williams waited until he was finished. "But why did you desert our dream? Our dream of uniting human and dolphin together into a greater whole."

"I did it because I believed that helping to defend the best of mankind was the best way of keeping true to it."

"But you killed others. I helped. They sent engineered diseases to kill us, but I found cures for them. I never created diseases to send back, to kill them!". Williams' anger began to rise.

"I killed only when I had to. I killed only for the greater good."

Williams forgot the angel's words. "And I bet you killed Rebecca too, in fear that she might side with me, for the 'greater good' of course." Sarcasm dripped from his voice, just as the water dripped from his body.

Williams was about to continue, but Melvern grabbed the doorway, spun himself around, stared at Williams and shouted, "She is on the other ship, replacing Gerald who died five years ago. She,..." he paused for emphasis, "... is obeying orders." He turned and pushed himself out of the room. "And you , you can take care of yourself!".

Too late Williams remembered the angel's voice again - forgive. "Wait!", he called. But Melvern didn't listen.

As Williams struggled into his prosthesis, Melvern guided the scoutship into orbit about the fourth planet of the star man called Arneb. This planet, which was duly named Arneb IV in a stroke of originality, was a bit smaller than Earth, and possessed no moon. It had almost no land; what it did possess consisted of only a few archipelagoes and a single large island. This could not be seen from orbit except by the ship's sensors as the planet was wreathed in a nearly continuous robe of clouds.

As the scout entered its orbit, it surveyed the surface of the planet, using its sophisticated detectors to map out what little land there was. As the map grew, it became apparent that, although the seas teemed with life of all types, the land was almost barren. Only a few primitive plants and fungi lived in the air. However, on the single large island there was an incredible profusion of vegetation of all types. Trees never before seen by man or genetically enhanced dolphin grew, surrounded by flowers and brush of all types. In the few clearings that existed, tall grasses grew and swayed in the wind. But there was no animal life, not even insects. Only the unfeeling vegetation swaying in the cool sea breeze.

All this the scout saw. But it was also seen. An unmarked bit of metal, too small for the scout's computer to pay any attention to, detected the scout from its orbit. For the first time in many thousands of years it came briefly to life and sent a tight beam of energy out towards Arneb's seventh planet.

Eventually Williams was able to get out of his long used bed and into his prosthesis. He walked up the once clean corridor towards the elevator, calming himself, constantly repeating the angel's words over and over again in his mind. His prosthesis magnetically held him to the corridor's surface in the zero gravity. The elevator, nicked and scratched where it had once been shiny new metal, whisked him along the core of the ship and up to the bridge. The doors opened and Williams left the elevator, walked through the surface of a planet, and onto a bridge. He noticed what he had done and turned around. Before him there was a perfect holographic replica of the planet about which the ship now orbited.

Awed, Williams asked, "Where did this come from?"

"It was Gerald's last present. He built it between the stars to keep his mind occupied. He didn't have the benefit of cold sleep like you did."

Although Melvern tried to keep his voice neutral, his true feelings slipped through and his tone was icy cold. Williams did not respond and walked over to the console he had visited such a long sleep ago. Unlike the rest of the bridge it was still like new as it hadn't been used for the last 20 years. Again, Williams spent only an instant checking the systems before thrusting his head into the console and once more becoming one with the universe. The scout launched a probe.

Behind Williams the ship where only his body resided floated. Before and below the probe, the source of all his sensory input and the apparent home of his consciousness, loomed the world which he would visit next, a world of small lakes scattered amongst white hills. Williams realized that the hills were only clouds and that the lakes were all that he could see of the surface. With a twist of his head and a stroke of his flukes, he swam down and through the sea of white, causing the probe to drift towards the sea below. When he reached the surface, he paused and looked around.

The sky was filled with clouds, blotting out Arneb and casting a gray shadow over the waters. The sea below rolled up and down as deep ocean swells passed. Nothing could be seen in the murky depths. Williams dove into the sea and, for the first time in more years than he cared to remember, he began to swim. But the input provided by the probe was not perfect. Soon he noticed the flaws in the simulation of his senses. He remembered where he was and began to swim towards the large island. He didn't know where it was but the computer read his mind and sent the probe, and Williams' consciousness, speeding through the water towards it. The water was hardly disturbed as Williams passed, for all that sped through the water was the probe, less that one centimetre in diameter.

s the scout's probe shot through the alien sea, the message sent from the unnoticed piece of metal reached its destination. Its reception caused the reactivation of a computer mind that had been inactive for longer that humankind's recorded history. And in that mind there was still its prime directive. Its many millennia of sleep had not erased it. Engines that had been silent so long that they had begun to corrode from trace gases in the vacuum about it struggled to life. The machine that had been created by a life that had lived and died long before the earth had even formed from the dust, again turned itself towards the fourth planet in the system it guarded. Its engines built up to power and, at an acceleration that a man couldn't survive, it launched itself towards the fourth planet. Only one throught dominated its silicon mind. Only one thought directed it on its way. Only one thought, repeated over and over again, its prime directive: Destroy...Destroy...Destroy...

As he sped towards the largest island, Williams watched the sea life detected by the probe. He observed various invertebrates and vertebrates; fish and mollusks. But, there were no cetaceans. This fitted, since, with the lack of land, there would be a distinct decrease in land evolution, and hence no mammals to return to the sea. He was still the last.

As he neared the island, the water grew shallower, the sea rougher. He passed among long strands of seaweed and towering walls of coral. He noticed brightly glowing mollusks that were extraordinarily similar to the octopuses that once lived on Earth. He saw a pair carrying a chunk of coral between them, crawling along the bottom towards a towering mass of coral. As the probe decelerated he saw that the coral wall was hollowed out, and that these octopoidal creatures lived in a massive colony inside the coral. As his consciousness surfaced, he realized that, from the brain activity that the computer had detected, indicated by the brightness with which they had glowed, these creatures were intelligent. Williams made note of this, but decided to investigate it later, to keep the fact hidden from Melvern.

Finally, Williams stopped, hovering over the beach. It consisted of white sand, ending in a massive cliff. It was lifeless, for no birds had evolved to fly above it, although some primitive fernlike growths nestled at the base of the cliff. Williams flew up to the top of the cliff and was shocked. Unlike the primitive plants below, the plateau above the cliff was covered with a profusion of plant life. Tall grasses grew from the edge of the cliff to about 100 metres inland. There, large trees grew, most almost 20 metres tall. At the base of the trees, fungi, brush and flowering plants existed in great profusion. But no creatures could be head. Only the swishing of the trees in the sea breeze. No insects hummed in the grasses; no birds sang in the trees. Only the plants existed, tall and silent.

Williams was stunned. If all the theories that humankind had of evolution were right, or even partially right, then plant life of this complexity could not have evolved without a corresponding evolution in animal life. There should at least be insects to pollinate the flowers. His listened, hoping to hear some evidence of animal life. Hoping that the great works of Darwin and those that had followed him were right. Only silence answered. Then he had an idea. What if these plants were not native to this planet? He queried the computer as to the plant life elsewhere but was told that it consisted of only the fernlike plants that he had seen at the bottom of the cliff. But there was still the question as to why the plant life on this plateau had not spread. Even without birds to carry the seeds, at least some should have been carried by the winds.

Williams drifted into the trees to investigate this enigma. Like a ghost he passed beneath the huge boughs, surrounded by a silence that made the forest seem unreal, dreamlike. He went deeper into the trees; into the shade which lay beneath them. For what seemed like hours he wandered, examining the plants on the forest floor by his only available senses of smell, sound, and sight. He heard the faint sound of running water and swam over towards it. It came from a small brook that wound its way through the trees, thick algae growths scattered amongst its surface. If not for the rapid movement of the water, the surface would have been covered with it. He noticed that a few water plants grew in the rapidly tumbling water where the algae had floated away on the current. He began to swim upstream.

Soon the brook quieted and calm water became the norm. Here the water surface was covered by the algae growths. The air was permeated with a thick smell of rotting. He continued upstream through the silent forest. For another hour he journeyed. The world, in its silence, became dreamlike and far away. He passed over a polished white plastic surface that bridged the stream and stopped. It didn't seem to be a bridge, it seemed as if the stream had uncovered it, and then tunneled beneath it. He looked along the surface to the shore on one side. The surface descended back into the ground. A clearing extended off in a straight line behind it, as if it was the route of a road. He turned around and looked the other way and saw the same thing. Williams took the left route and swam along it, seeking its destination. Then his world went black.

For an hour the machine had accelerated towards the fourth planet. Below the thundering pulse of "...Destroy...", subsystems checked the weapons with which the machine was designed to carry out its directive. It had used all of its missiles when it had last been awake, but it was still armed with a single laser. This was a massive instrument that extended almost the entire length of the machine. As it approached its target the main engine was halted and the machine rotated, so that its single weapon was aimed at its target. At almost the speed of light the machine approached the fulfillment of its sole desire: "Destroy...Destroy..."

The darkness around Williams was dispelled as he was ejected from the port and onto the bridge. The silence with which he had been surrounded was dispelled by the sounds of the ship upon which he had slept for so long. Melvern was turned towards the elevator, floating just above his chair, watching the hologram of the planet. The image was much reduced from what it had been when Williams had last seen it. A large image of the scout was pictured near the planet with a green arrow pointing towards a green dot. About three metres away a red arrow painted towards a red dot that could visibly be seen moving towards the planet. A red line began at this dot and passed around the planet, entering its atmosphere for a short stretch, and then curving slightly before it pointed away into space.

"Is that Rachel?", Williams asked.

"No it isn't, and shut-up. An unknown object is heading towards us at .9c and accelerating.

The Williams realized why he had suddenly been brought back to the ship. Melvern had wanted to free the computer for his own use. Williams began to be pushed towards the outer wall of the bridge. Additionally, he was forced against the floor at about triple his weight. He couldn't move, and could only remain standing because of his prosthesis. To distract himself from the pain of the pressure on his body, Williams watched the holographic image in front of him.

At the end of the red arrow there was now the image of an elongated needle pointed towards the scout, which was beginning to spin about its centre. The scout rotated slightly. Then, a piercing green light linked the point of the needle to the scout, and a similar green line appeared linking the red dot to the green dot. The engines halted.

As it approached the planet, its target began to accelerate out of its orbit and began to spin so as to make a more difficult target. The machine almost laughed at this primitive technique. It chose as its target the enemy's main engines which could easily be discerned at the end of their ship. It calculated their rotation and it analyzed the random seed being used. Once the seed had been determined, it rotated itself so as to achieve maximum firing time at its chosen target.

All this had taken only a fraction of a second, but even that was long enough for the machine to reach its firing position. It fired its weapon. Its sensors watched as the beam crossed the vacuum of space and hit its target exactly where calculated 1.5 second later. It watched as the enemy's main drive was cut off of the rest of the enemy's vessel.

Then it activated its own maneuvering engines and rotated itself to the precise angle needed to allow its main engine to whip it around the planet so that it could finish off its crippled target. It activated its main engines.

Once the engines had stopped, Williams saw that the large image of the scout was now two images - one the majority of the scout, the other the main engines drifting away. The engines had been cleanly cut off. He was too shocked to think clearly, to remember either his anger at Melvern or the angel's words. Williams was awakened from his shock by the shouted voice of Melvern.

"That bastard cut off our engines! At least it didn't hit the fusion reactor."

"So now what?"

"Presumably...", Melvern's voice became grim, "...it will whip around the planet for another pass at us."

"Aren't we armed?"

"It was cut from the budget as too expensive."

"Yes...", Williams voice faded.

"We can at least warn Rebecca about our fate and warn her..."

"I'll do it, maybe if there's enough time I can tell her enough to allow her to operate the clone tanks."

"Melvern frowned at this suggestion which prevented him from sending the message himself. Then, with a stern resolve, he nodded. He whispered to himself, "Good-bye, my love."

Williams walked over to the communications console. Using the manipulatory arms that were attached to his body, he turned on the radio. Quickly he described what had happened, told Rebecca to turn the tape on, waited for a moment, and then began to describe how Rebecca could recreate humankind herself. Meanwhile, Melvern just stood and watched the holographic display of their impending destruction.

And nothing happened. The machine tried again, but its main drive, eroded from so many years of quiet, shocked into life only a few hours previous, refused to work. This had never happened to it, or to any of its predecessors, in the billions of years for which it had records. It skipped off the planet's atmosphere and sped off into deep space. The machine calculated its course, and once it had determined that it would arrive in another system in 2.5 million years, it went back to sleep, waiting and ready for its next brief time spent alive.

As Williams continued sending his instructions off into space, Melvern watched as the enemy did not alter its course. He watched as it bounced off of the planet's atmosphere and then headed away towards the stars. Melvern just watched as the enemy sped away. Finally he realized that he wasn't going to die. That he would see Rebecca again. He floated of his chair and wept.

Williams continued his monologue into the radio, keeping his voice calm and functional, describing as simply as he could how to operate the devices on the other ship. Certainly the knowledge was stored on computers to which Rebecca had access, but even in the 28th century gene manipulation was more an art than a science. Rebecca was going to need all the help she could get.

"You can stop now." Williams ponderously turned around to look at the captain. He was floating in front of his chair, revealing no sign of his earlier breakdown. "It's gone."

Williams stared. "Are you sure?"

"Just look at the hologram."

Williams did, and he too saw that the enemy was now far from the planet. He watched as the dot representing the enemy passed out of the volume represented as was removed. He read the small script that appeared beneath the line, indicating its course:

Current course does NOT intercept any known planets. Ultimate destination UNKNOWN.

The word 'unknown' was flashing on and off.

"Praise be to our Lord." Williams lowered his head in reverence and salt water began to drip out through the neck seal that Williams had been unable to close. "Through his providence we have been saved to continue his holy will." A look of ecstasy appeared on his face as he continued, "He has protected his child to allow him to fulfill his mission. And so shall I do. I shall do as he has told me to do through his servant..."

"Do what?", Melvern demanded.

Williams stopped and looked at him.


"I shall merge the genes of both mankind and dolphinkind and create God's new children as an angel told me to do."

Silence spread after those words and through the radio that was still on. Melvern's jaw fell open in utter shock, his eyes glazed. Eventually he managed to whisper, "Merge?".

The silence soon returned as Melvern and Williams stared at each other.

Then it was broken: "Warning, the hull has ruptured. Atmosphere will become insufficient to maintain life in 4 hours, 35 minutes, and 14 seconds ... 13 seconds ..."

"Be quiet." The computer halted its countdown. Melvern continued, "We have little time. You get what data we have on the planet and I'll inform Rebecca of our condition. Prepare to evacuate."

Three light days from the lonely light of Arneb, the other ship from the destroyed planet Earth traveled in a distant orbit about the star. Its engines were silent; its external lights were off; its course was unvaried, known only to the scout that had approached Arneb to take the risks and explore the system. The ship remained, hidden in the vast emptiness of space between the stars.

Deep in the bowels of this ship, nestled amongst the hundreds of empty cabins that had only briefly been used before a near miss with a dirty bomb slowly killed off the crew, the ship's single current occupant slept. She was curled up in the middle of her bed, vainly trying to withdraw from the emptiness around her, and the loneliness she had experienced for the last year and a half. In her normal sleep, she dreamed her normal dreams of her life on Earth, and of a life on a future Earth with the man she had grown to love through the long years of their journey together.

The lights in her cabin turned on and her sleep was interrupted by a loud, high-pitched tone, which chased sleep away. Rebecca woke up and rubbed her eyes to try and dispel the tiredness that remained in them. She spoke, "Yes?"

Hearing her voice, the computer answered in its emotionless tone: "Message has been received from scout and taped. You may listen to it at your leisure."

The message couldn't have been indicated as urgent or the computer would not have told her that she could listen to it at her leisure, Rebecca thought. Then she shrugged. She was up anyway, so she might as well listen to it now.

She twisted around in her bed and wiggled out of the netting that kept her from floating away. As she did so she felt around at the side of her bed for the slippers that she always stuck in a net there so they wouldn't float away. She didn't bother putting on any clothes. At first she had, but over the months of solitude she had abandoned that habit. No one was there to see her. Almost six months ago she had set the ship's temperature a little higher, so that she was always comfortable.

She floated out of her cabin and along the corridor towards the elevator at the core of the ship. The lights behind her clicked as the turned themselves off, as the lights before her clicked and turned themselves on. She entered the elevator and traveled up two decks. There, a short glide took her to a cafeteria, the only one that she kept active, and she had the computer heat her some toast and coffee. She would have had eggs, but they were all destroyed long ago with the Earth.

It took her only 15 minutes to finish her meal. She picked up another cup of coffee, again in a sealed cup, and went back to the elevator. This time she went all the way up to the bridge at the bow of the ship, bypassing the various storage and biological research levels. The doors opened and the lights on the bridge turned themselves on. All the displays were green except for one light that was red. She went over and hovered before the light and told the computer to replay the message.

"Message reception began .7 hours ago. Message transmitted 2 days, 15.25 hours ago. Message follows."

The computer began to speak in Williams' voice. Rebecca listened as he described the attack and the imminent destruction of the scout. She closed her eyes. The message continued with Williams' description of how to manipulate the genes to recreate mankind.

"Does Captain Melvern speak at any point?", she inquired of the computer over Williams' droning.


"Halt message and continue playback at the point at which he begins to speak."

"Williams' voice halted, and then Melvern's began. Rebecca heard Melvern interrupt Williams and reveal that they were not going to die. She opened her eyes and twisted herself into a more comfortable position.

"Halt message - set sensors to detect any unknown fast moving objects. Report if any are detected. Continue."

She listened as Melvern told Williams that the enemy had never changed course and had never came back for another pass. She grinned to herself as Williams began to thank his god. She yawned. Then she heard Melvern's voice raised, "Do what?". It continued with a drawn out, "Well..."

Then she heard Williams' voice, his slow and clear statement of his intentions, and the phrase, "...merge the genes of both mankind and dolphinkind...". She was suddenly wide awake.

Again she heard it, "...merge...". She drifted back as the message continued. She heard the captain's reaction and listened as the computer interrupted with the news of the air leak.

She listened as Melvern began his instructions: "We are forced to abandon the scout. We will attempt to land on Arneb IV and survive until you can arrive. Do not come immediately. Repeat, do not come immediately. Wait one day from the reception of this message. Then, come to the planet and enter into a single orbit. Send a tone signal to us and if we are alive we will respond with a sustained tone one octave lower than yours. We will only transmit it for one minute."

"After one complete orbit you are to accelerate into an orbit about Arneb so that you will return to the planet in no less than five days. If you detect anything approaching you that is not natural in origin, you are to accelerate at the maximum possible rate and leave Arneb, even if it means abandoning us. Do not risk all that remains of mankind for the two of us. Leave and search elsewhere for a safe haven."

"I will transmit our landing co-ordinates and all the data we have on this planet and on the object that attacked us, including its course. I love you."

The computer spoke in its own voice, "Vocal message ends, coded data follows."

"Calculate course of object that attacked scout. Does it approach us?"

"Its closest approach is 2.54 light days."

Rebecca stretched and yawned again. "Wake me in 10 hours." She left the bridge and went back to bed. She would do her exercises later.

As the scout sent its data on its three-day journey, Melvern and Williams gathered up all the supplies they could. They brought what dried food the ship could reconstitute in the four hours remaining to them, and gathered instruments to purify the water and test the food on the planet. They didn't bother to bring materials to test the air, as the computer had already announced it breathable, based on sampling by the probe that Williams had used. They downloaded all the information that the computer had on the planet into a portable microcomputer to carry around with them.. Finally, they grabbed as many power packs as they could, and a portable radio, and put all this on board the sole remaining landing craft possessed by the scout. Then they left the ship that had carried them so far into the unknown universe and for so long.

They entered the planet's atmosphere without any trouble and descended towards the stream that Williams had followed. Once they reached it, they proceeded downstream until they reached the edge of the trees and the beginning of the ring of grass that divided the forest and the cliff face. There they landed. Melvern had little trouble adapting to the planet's gravity as his daily exercises in the centrifuge on the scout had kept him in shape. He hoped that Rebecca had kept up with hers. He and Williams emptied the lander and then hid it beneath loose branches. At the edge of the forest, by the stream, they set up their camp. At the end of the day they discovered a problem that neither had thought of.

In the early evening, when they had finished unloading and hiding the landing craft, Williams noticed that his skin was beginning to dry out. He mentioned this fact to Melvern who then examined the waterbath around Williams. He discovered that for some reason almost half of the salt water had disappeared. They both looked at each other as they realized that in the rush to salvage what they could from the scout, they had forgotten the water that had dripped from the suit when Williams had thanked God for saving them. All the time that they had been loading materials onto the landing craft, the improperly sealed neck had continued to leak. They discussed the problem - although they had access to fresh water from the stream, they could not spare enough salt to make it usable.

The only solution that either could think of was that one of them would have to climb down the cliff and get some salt water from the ocean below. They had some rope and Melvern agreed to climb down, Williams couldn't because of his physical limitations. With some difficulty this was achieved, and, by some miraculous coincidence, the salinity of this water was identical to that of the oceans that had once existed on Earth.

The next day, and the days after, they again had a falling out. During the rush to abandon the scout they had fallen back into their old friendship, but once they had nothing else to do, they recalled more recent events. Melvern tried to patch their differences, but Williams couldn't forget his brief contact with the alien on the other planet, and how Melvern had tried to prevent him. He tried to forgive Melvern as the angel had told him to but just couldn't. Thus, for the next week, they both remained atop the cliff, together, yet apart. They talked only about necessary things, both stridently avoiding the mention of the word 'merge'. Williams wandered about the outskirts of the forest alone, while Melvern remained in the camp and brooded. On the ninth day of the marooning, they received the tone from Rebecca, and Melvern replied. They then moved camp about a half mile upstream in case any alien devices had detected their transmission. After another four days had passed, they received a voice transmission from Rebecca.

Soon after contact had been reestablished, both Melvern and Williams took their landing craft back up to the last ship from earth, along with all the materials they had salvaged. Rebecca had clothed herself before they arrived. They noticed that she was uncomfortable but when they asked if anything was wrong, she wouldn't answer. She didn't want to say that she found her clothes uncomfortable now.

Within the next few days, almost all of the ship was reactivated and Williams immersed himself in the labs in the core of the ship. They he began his work, while Rebecca and Melvern explored the only forest on the planet below. They brought up samples for Williams to check to make sure that this planet was habitable. They brought up roots and bushes to see if they were edible, and to vary their diet once Williams had announced them safe. They brought up soil samples and Williams found an element that was unique to the large island, and that was necessary for the plant life there to survive - hence they had not spread elsewhere. And they talked together about their long journey, filling each other in about their long separation, at night sleeping contentedly in each others arms. They both pondered the significance of 'merge' but neither mentioned it until four days had passed.

It was brought up almost by accident, as they lay in each other's arms. Rebecca was musing to herself, as she had gotten into the habit of doing, when she spoke it. Melvern, who, up until that point, had been half-asleep beside her, immediately became wide awake.

"You did hear it, I wondered when you never mentioned it."

Rebecca looked at him. "I still don't believe he said it, even though I listened to the tape over and over again on my way here. She shuddered.

Melvern wrapped his arm about her. "Don't worry, he won't actually do it."

"Why not? He's as strong willed as either of us are, and back on Earth he was the biological genius. His peers compared his work to that of an artist..."

"Don't worry, he won't try it. I won't let him. In fact, I'll go and talk to him about it in the morning. Now, where were we?"

That night Williams was working late. His mind was connected directly to the computer, as it had been on the scout. But now his world was a complete synthesis, for he journeyed not in the world outside the ship, but in the computer's depiction of a watery world. And before him lay his design for the new mankind.

In outward appearance it was fully human. However, closer examination would reveal the webbing on the elongated feet and hands, the addition of a breathing hole on top of a slight bulge between the back of the shoulders, slight changes in the structure of the eye, and fine scales in place of skin. All day Williams had experimented with the new form, tested its ability to function on land and in the sea. Finally it was nearly done. All that he could adapt it for, he had. All he now needed was more information about the world around which he now orbited to fit it fully into its new habitat. And he knew how to get it.

Four centuries ago, mankind had first learned the dolphin language by magnetically reading the memories in a dolphin's brain, and recording them into the brain of a man. After countless attempts, humankind had succeeded, and from that success had created Williams. Now Williams would repeat the experiment and create another race. The best way to know a planet was to ask one of its inhabitants. He feared not for failure, for as God had protected him against the alien war machine, so God would now help him fulfill his will. The intelligences he had found on the planet, and about which he had told no one, waited.

The next morning Williams was awakened from a restful sleep by a knocking at his door. He caused his prosthesis to stand up and said, "Come in."

The door slid open, revealing Captain Melvern floating there in his usual gray coverall. He asked, "May I come in?"


"Thank you."

Williams watched as Melvern pulled himself into the room. The captain grabbed the edge of a table and just hung there. Both watched each other, each waiting for the other to speak. For almost a minute they remained like that as the silence about them grew. Finally Williams spoke, "So, what brings you here, so bright and early?"

Melvern swallowed. "Its about a certain comment that you made a couple of weeks ago. Rebecca and I discussed it last night."

"The comment?"

"Your idea of merging mankind and dolphinkind. Just what did you mean by it?"

There was another long silence. Finally Williams answered, "I thought it was quite clear myself."

Melvern coughed. "I was hoping you would clarify it, just to...," he paused, searching for the right phrasing, "...prevent any misunderstandings."

"I said, and I will repeat, that I am going to merge the best of both humankind and dolphinkind to create a greater whole."

"And the reason?"

"Just before I was awakened from my suspension by you, I was told to do so by an angel."

Melvern nodded his head and said to himself, "An angel..."

"The angel appeared before me and told me that it was God's will that this be done."

Williams paused and looked at Melvern to see his reaction. Melvern frowned, and then quietly spoke, "You're sure about this?"


"I can't change your mind?"


"I think I had better go and talk to Rebecca."

Melvern pushed himself off the bed towards the doorway. As he was about the leave, Williams called, "By the way, I'll need to use on the of the landers this morning. I want to go down to the island and get some samples."

Melvern grabbed the door frame and whipped himself around. "You're asking this time, my, that's an improvement!"

"Oh, I'd get you to do it, but the samples I want are from the ocean around the island and I am, after all, better suited to get them than you are."

The captain became nervous, he had almost lost Williams once like this. "Are the samples really necessary?"

"If I'm going to make sure that the life form that I am about to create, whether it be mankind, dolphinkind, or both, has the greatest chance of survival, I need to know all that I can about the planet."

Melvern opened his mouth, about to speak, but then he closed it again. There was no animal life on the island, and as long as Williams remained in the lander, and in the shallows around the island, there shouldn't be anything that could hurt him. He had another thought. It would keep him busy, so that he and Rebecca could talk about Williams' mad goal in private. "As long as you don't leave the shallows about the island, or leave the lander, you may."

As Melvern pushed himself away, he heard Williams' mocking response, "Certainly Captain." The tone followed him as he drifted back towards the elevator.

As Melvern returned to Rebecca, Williams stood and thought to himself. Obviously, neither of them like my idea, nor does the captain believe my reasons. I shall have to make certain that they can't stop me. As Williams walked down the hallway towards the elevator, he thought of ways to immobilize the humans. I couldn't kill them as I have sworn never to take a life, and I won't break that vow like the captain did. Besides I am supposed to forgive them. He reached the elevator and was forced to wait until the captain had finished with it and it returned to this deck. If I can't kill them, then I can either convince them of my idea so that they will help me, or I can render them incapable of interfering with me. The elevator door opened and Williams walked in and sent the elevator to the landing craft deck. Maybe I can maroon them on the island. They'll have plenty of food and water, and if I fly the lander back to the ship by radio, they won't be able to interfere. Aha! The elevator slowed down and halted. The doors opened and Williams walked off and into a landing craft bay.

Rebecca was on the bridge, plotting possible courses for the alien that had destroyed the scout when Melvern entered. At first she didn't notice him as he said nothing, but then he kissed her on the back of her neck. She slowly turned around.

"Did you talk to him?"

"For all the good it did."

"What did he say?"

"Just before I awakened him an angel appeared to him and told him that it was God's will that he create a new form of life."

"A dolphinic angle, what..."

Melvern grabbed Rebecca by the shoulders and shook her as he spoke, "This is serious...!"

"Don't you think I know that!" Rebecca pushed herself away and drifted out of Melvern's reach. "Don't you think I know that if he doesn't recreate mankind, I'll have to. I don't want to be a brood mother!", she screamed.

Melvern's arms fell to his side as he looked at her and said quietly, "I know."

"I bet you also know why they put me on that damn scout!" She stared at Melvern, her eyes flickering with hate as the rage she had held within her for so long took hold. "I read the order while I was here alone. Cracking the access code passed the time. I wasn't the best person for the job, but I was the best female!"


"Oh, you mean they didn't tell you?" A sickening sweetness entered into her voice. "I was to be insurance in case of any unforeseen problems. They even modified my eggs so that each is genetically unique. They even made sure I would always birth twins, genetically different. And they never even asked my damn permission!" She screamed the last sentence.

Melvern said quietly, "It was necessary."

Rebecca's mouth clamped shut and she looked at him in total shock. She paused and then she screamed out, "You knew and you never told me!!" She spun around and shoved herself over to the elevator. "I'm going, and don't you dare follow!"

Melvern watched as the elevator doors closed behind her. He sighed. He considered following her but after pushing off towards the elevator he reconsidered. He reached the elevator and gave himself a gentle push away from it. He just drifted and brooded on the bridge.

Rebecca got off the elevator on the laboratory deck and went over to the lab that Williams had been using. She was going to talk some sense into him even if it killed both of them. Reaching the entrance to the lab, she pushed open the door and pushed herself straight in. She wouldn't knock for a damn dolphin.

The lights of the lab turned on as she entered. The room was empty - there was nothing on which she could vent her wrath. "Where's the damn dolphin!"

"Dr. Williams is currently on Arneb IV getting samples." The cool, emotionless voice of the computer answered. If Rebecca could have found anything loose, she would have thrown it at the speaker.

Then she noticed that one of the terminals in the room was still on, although the screen was blank. She pushed herself off the ceiling towards it, grabbing a chair that was nearby and strapping herself into it. The chair could stick to the floor magnetically so that a person could have a secure seat while using the keyboard. Rebecca had spent months at the computer on the way here, now she would see what that damn dolphin was up to.

Melvern drifted around the bridge, thinking about his last meeting with the only woman he loved. He knew, or at least hoped, that she would get over her rage, but he still believed that putting her on the scout was the right thing to do. At least she hadn't discovered the other reason she had been chosen. Although Rebecca could accept aliens, and dolphins, she had been made psychologically incapable of accepting any changes to the human form. Additional insurance in case Williams got carried away. As he seems to have done.

Melvern pondered this for almost an hour before he sighed and pushed himself back towards the elevator. With Williams gone, and Rebecca angry with him, he had nothing to do on the ship, so he decided to go down to the planet and investigate the unknown material that Williams had discovered before the alien attack. He left the bridge and went down to the landing craft bay and then flew to the planet. He set the computer pilot on the landing ship to take him to where the alien material crossed the stream.

When he arrived, he set the craft down and got out. Again he was surrounded by the unnatural silence of this lifeless forest. However, he ignored it and searched around the surface. The alien material itself consisted of some type of plastic, at least it felt like plastic. At either bank of the stream, the surface was buried by dirt and debris. However, no trees grew on top of where the surface would be, if it was straight. He looked and saw a path going off through the forest from both banks of the stream. Just like a road.

Melvern scraped away some of the dirt near the exposed surface and after only a few centimetres reached the same plastic substance. It was neither worn no cracked. He walked a few feet farther away from the stream and dug some more but couldn't reach the surface. He returned to the landing craft and brought back a shovel. It was only after digging down about a metre that he again hit the material. Again it was unworn and uncracked. From the depth to which it was buried, it had obviously been abandoned for a very long time. Because of its condition either the plant life wouldn't, or couldn't, grow on it. He looked back at where the surface crossed the stream. It too looked new. The stream had in no way eroded it. Obviously this material was extremely hard. He banged it with the shovel and couldn't even scratch it.

Melvern returned and entered the lander and set it to hover about one metre above the ground, repelling the magnetic field of the planet. Then he began to fly down the apparent path of the apparent roadway. At first he went slowly, but as the roadway remained straight he sped up the landing craft until he was travelling straight through the forest at almost 100 kilometres per hour. It took him only a few minutes to reach the terminus of the 'roadway'.

Ahead of him the forest began to thin. He slowed down the landing craft. The trees began to grow small and stunted. After only a few hundred metres the trees ended altogether. He advanced another 10 metres and then settled the landing craft on the ground and got out. Melvern found himself near the centre of a large clearing. He had a thought and went back to the lander and got a shovel. He began to dig. Again, after burrowing only a metre, he reached a solid bottom. Widening the hole, he cleared the dirt from the bottom. It looked the same as the roadway, but instead of being smooth, its surface was bubbled and frothy, almost as if it had been boiling and then suddenly cooled. Looking closer, he noticed the impressions of a few raindrops here and there on the surface that he had uncovered. Apparently the material had been cooled suddenly by a rainstorm.

Melvern picked up the shovel and went back to the landing craft. He turned it around and went back down the roadway. In a couple of minutes he passed over the stream. He continued on. Almost a minute later he crossed over a bridge that was exposed above the ground. Obviously the stream had changed course since the roadway was abandoned. Finally, after an additional five minutes, he entered a leaf-roofed clearing containing five small hills. He landed his craft and got out, carrying the shovel. He had a suspicion about the hills. He went to the top of one and began to dig. Gain, he soon uncovered a surface of the same material as the roadway. He smiled and continued his digging, widening his hold.

About an hour and a half later, he stuck the shovel into the dirt and left it there, upright. He looked at what he had uncovered. Before him, in the midst of a dirt surrounded depression, was a large cubical building. It was approximately 10 metres on each side and was constructed of the same material that made up the roadway. Four of the five surfaces he had uncovered were smooth and featureless, the fifth had single rectangular depression in the centre of it. He now stood facing that depression. It extended from the base of that side upward about three metres. A doorway.

He walked up to it and tried to force it open, but he couldn't move it. He investigated the surfaces around the doorway and eventually noticed a faint peace symbol-like depression in the wall to the left of the doorway. He used both his hands and pressed its three points. He heard a click. Again he pushed at the doorway. This time, it opened.

For weeks afterward, all the talk in the community was about the unknown object that had passed by. Opinion was divided. A few said that it was only the imagination of those who had seen it. Others, the majority, believed that it was a supernatural visitation. However, whether it boded good or evil, no one could say.

Green-blue-blue was one of those who had seen it. It had shot him while he had been hunting near the Mountain of God to which it had been heading. He believed that it was one of God's angels. But he couldn't waste time pondering its significance. He had a family to support and hunting had been poor for the last few months.

He was crouching behind a rock, awaiting something to catch, when he noticed, above him, a fish that he had never seen before. It was shaped like the fish he knew, except that its tail was rotated 90 degrees from the usual position. Additionally, it possessed only six fins, not the usual eight.

It broke the surface of the atmosphere and disappeared from his sight for a second before falling back into the water. It began to swim towards him. Green-blue-blue gripped his anchors and for a moment panicked. The colour of his skin fluctuated wildly and for an instant he lost his camouflage. The thing saw him and dived towards him. He now noticed that it was holding something in its mouth. He leapt from his anchor and frantically jetted away. He bumped into something in front of him and stopped. It seemed as though he was motionless, even though the world around him was moving. Feeling around, he determined that he was imprisoned by something that he couldn't see. And just above him was the thing from which he had tried to flee. He noticed now that there were other differences between it and the fish that he hunted. The primary one was that, like himself, it was not scaled, but was instead covered in a smooth flesh. He tried to talk to it but nothing happened.

The thing surfaced again and then turned and swam towards shore. He flashed for help but none came. The thing remained oblivious to his attempts to talk to it. Helplessly, he watched as it swam towards a silvery structure that stood on the bottom, just below the roof of the world. The thing clipped him to it and than swam on top of it. Previously unnoticed tentacles of a silvery substance, like that of the structure, extruded themselves from holes in either side of the creature. They strapped the creature in and then plugged something into its head. Then they carefully wrapped some type of cloth about the creature. They fiddled around the creature's head for quite some time, apparently carefully sealing the cloth to the creature.

The structure began to walk. Helplessly, Green-blue-blue watched as he was carried out of the world and into the ether, home of both God, and his angels, and of evil, and its minions.

As Williams walked on the shore he smiled to himself. Once again he had disobeyed his captain, who wouldn't believe the duty that he had to perform. Like a child he joyed in disobeying those who had authority over him. Additionally, he had captured one of the octopoid intelligences for which he had set out. He hadn't caught it right away as first he had just swam for the joy of it, for the first time in over five centuries. Then, he had observed some of the aliens to see that they ate primarily fish that they caught. Only then, had he sought out a captive. He wondered why its skin kept flashing colours at him. Maybe it was because of shock.

Once Williams reached the landing craft and began to climb in, he planned what he would do next. He had spent most of the morning getting his captive, and it was now late in the planet's day. Fortunately, when he had arrived, it was early afternoon around the island. Another small aid from heaven. Now he would return to the ship. This afternoon the computer would try to talk to this creature, to learn its language. Tonight, he would learn its life.

It had taken her all morning, but Rebecca had finally broken into the file that Williams had left stored in the computer. However, she still couldn't display it. It was still asking for a password. She thought to herself. Since Williams was very methodical and straight forward, the password had to be something simple. Now what would he be working on? She had tried typing in 'new man' but that didn't work. Then she had an idea. She typed, 'new dolphin'. The file opened. She typed 'Display file'.

She sat there in silence watching all the information that Williams had stored; all that he had been working on over the last four days. Shock began to overcome her triumphant expression as the file continued to display. She watched pictures of what appeared to be a dolphin man, one that could swim and survive in the ocean like a dolphin, and on land like a human, although it was not as proficient as either. She watched simulations of the functions of various organs and muscles in various environments. Simulations of the being in various modes of locomotion. She watched as it walked and ran. It appeared as a lizard, its body leaning forward, its long tail that hung between its legs held just above the ground. She watched as the thing swam in the water, its legs hanging loose, and the tail moving up and down. Finally, she could take no more. She stood up and fled from the room. The file display continued.

Melvern had just left the landing craft after having returned to the ship when Rebecca came running towards him. She must have found out from the computer that he was returning. She threw herself into his arms and began to sob on his shoulder.

"What is it?", he asked quietly.

"Williams,...he's mad...completely...," she said between sobs.

Melvern shook her, "pull yourself together. Stop it and tell me what happened to you."

Rebecca's sobs continued to rack her body while she repeated "Williams" over and over. Eventually, after almost five minutes, she was able to regain enough control to speak coherently. "After I left you on the bridge, I went down to the lab where Williams had been working for the last few days. I wanted to talk to him. I entered the lab but he wasn't there - the computer stated that he had gone down to the planet. Then I noticed that one of the terminals had been left on. I went over to see what, if anything, was stored in it." Here she paused, unable to go on.

"What was stored in it?"

"It took me all morning to gain access to the files stored. Then I ordered it to display the files..." Rebecca paused, unable to continue. Melvern held her tightly against him, waiting until she could continue. "The files were what Williams had been working on all this time. They all..."

"What?" asked Williams.

Both turned around as Williams entered the room. They noticed that, strapped to the side of his prosthesis was a plastic sack containing some type of octopus. He had docked in the adjacent bay, and, hearing the sobbing, had come in to see what the problem was.

"What are you doing with that thing?", Melvern asked.

"This is the sample that I went to the planet to get. Now, what's wrong with Rebecca?"

"She was just about to explain when you interrupted her."

"You're mad!", Rebecca screamed. "Completely and utterly insane! It took me all morning but I've seen what you've stored - your plans for the future. They'll never work! We'll stop you!"

"What plans?", asked Melvern.

Williams stared at Rebecca. "What were you doing looking at my materials?"

"It won't work. Humankind created you, and we can destroy you!"

"Wait...", Melvern tried again.

"You did not create me." Williams' dry tone shocked them both into silence as he continued. "We are all the children of God. You, and I. Neither created the other. I seek only to do God's will."

Melvern spoke loudly and slowly to make himself heard, "What...", he paused for emphasis, "...files?" Both Rebecca and Williams turned to look at him.

"I would image that she saw my notes on the merged form of dolphinkind and humankind."

"May I see them?"

"Why not, everybody else has." Williams began to walk from the room. Melvern followed. Rebecca just stood there for a minute, and then pushed off after them. She met them at the elevator.

It took them only a minute to reach the laboratory deck. The door opened and they all left the elevator, Williams leading. He walked towards the computer lab but stopped at its entrance. "You'll have to wait here a minute while I put my guest in better quarters."

"Guest?", Rebecca asked.

"He is also an intelligent creature." Williams walked off down the hallway.

The last two humans waited for a minute and then began to whisper to each other.

"What was in those files that I'm about to see?"

"Williams' plans for his new species. His plans for the future of our race. We have to stop him now, before it's too late." Rebecca could hardly keep the last sentence to a whisper.

"I don't know. I just don't know."

"If you don't think of something soon, I'll kill him to halt the perversion that he's working on. Think!"

"I am, I..."

They were interrupted by the sound of Williams' prosthesis returning down the hallway. They waited, both silent, both immersed in their own thoughts, until he reached them.

They remained silent, as did Williams, as they followed him into the computer lab. Williams walked up to the terminal which displayed only, "Display complete". He typed in a series of keys with his tentacles.

"You watch, I have some more work to do."

Williams left the room while Melvern watched the pictures that had driven Rebecca into a fit.

Williams walked down the hallway to where he had left the being that he had captured. He had only had time to place it in a tank. He realized that, from Rebecca's reaction, he was not going to be able to get her to accept his plans. She would also make sure that Melvern was dead set against them. So be it. He would just have to accelerate his schedule. There wasn't time to get the computer to try and learn the being's language - he would just have to skip that stage and start preparing for the operation immediately. If they watched the whole file, now that he had set it to display all the information, not just the motion studies that Rebecca had seen, they should be occupied for about an hour. The operation, the copying of the creature's memories from its mind into his, would take about an hour and a half. He would just have to lock the door and tell the computer not to let them in.

He entered the lab where he had left the being he had captured. He started to introduce tranquilizers into the water that contained it. Fortunately the first one he tried worked. Some time saved. Then he began to x-ray the creature to determine where its organs were, and, most importantly, the location of its brain. With the aid of a device to measure brain activity he quickly located it. The computer secured the alien so that it couldn't move. Then Williams lowered an NMR generator around the creatures skull. He began to experiment with the readings to determine the major regions of the alien's brain. This took only a half hour. More time saved. With God's aid, the operation would succeed.

Walking over to the computer terminal in this room, he accessed the file that hadn't been left on line in the other room; the orders for the transference that the computer was about to perform. He positioned himself so that he was adjacent to the tank containing the alien intelligence that he was about to meet intimately. Then he said, "Begin Instant Friends".

For an hour they stood there, dumbfounded; Rebecca, shocked again by both the pictures that she had seen, and the accompanying text that she hadn't; Melvern shocked by it all. They both forgot about the alien that Williams had had with him. When the display was completed, they both just stood there, looking at each other.

Finally Melvern spoke: "He must be stopped."

"But how?"

Melvern took a deep breath, "I can rig the ship to explode when it receives a radio signal."

"But Williams..."

"Yes, he will be killed." He paused and looked straight into her eyes. "Do you want humankind's legacy to look like that?"

"Wouldn't it be easier just to kill Williams?", she managed to get out."

"I couldn't, could you?"

She sighed, "No. So how do we start?"

"We can survive on the planet. Williams and I have identified several edible plants. We can land on the island and detonate the ship from there. Additionally...", again he paused, "...I found what the road that Williams located joined."

"This morning?"

"I had nothing better to do. Now do you understand the reason why you were put on the scout?"

Rebecca paused, and then swallowed. "Yes...," she stared at him, "...I still don't like how they did it. What did you find?"

"The roadway itself was made of some incredibly hard material that appears to be a plastic of some kind. It has survived eons without a scratch, although it has been deeply buried. At one end there is a large clearing. Beneath the surface layer of soil the same material existed but this time, instead of being smooth, it was frothy, as if it had been boiling."

"The alien machine?"

"I would imagine so. When the settlement was first established, it must have approached the planet and destroyed it. Then it must have gone back to an outer planet to wait until there was a new menace for it to destroy."

"Which was you. But then why didn't it finish you off?"

"I don't know. My best guess is that its main drive failed. I would imagine that it had been damaged during its last approach to this planet."

"What was at the other end of the roadway?"

"I found a number of small hills and dug into one. Eventually I was able to clear off a cubical building of the same plastic as the roadway. I found the entrance and managed to get it open. Inside there were a number of chambers along with stairs leading up to other chambers. These were lit from the outside by windows. For some reason, I couldn't find them from outside."

"Something like one-way glass."

"In one of the chambers, lying on a slab that extended from the wall, I found a skeleton. I found others in adjacent chambers. I brought one up to try and get Williams' interests away from his plan to create a new lifeform, but unfortunately I was too late."

"Could we live inside of the building?"

"I don't see why not. We would have to bring in our own supplies, and some padding. Only the material that makes up the cube still survives. There's lots of room to store supplies, and to house a family."

Rebecca frowned, and then smiled, "Only a few, I hope."

"Only a few."

"How will we raise them?"

"Together. We won't be able to teach them all of mankind's skills, or much of humankind's knowledge. But humankind will live on."

"Could we take a recording of what's stored in the computer on the ship? Perhaps on a microcomputer, and on microfilm just to be safe?"

He hugged her. "You're a genius!"

"Of course."

"Let's get started. I'll start rigging the ship, you get together supplies and some comforts. Get a copy of what you can of our stored knowledge. Don't take too long - you may have to keep Williams busy while I finish rigging the ship."

Williams awoke from his trance. He looked at the entrance, but it was still closed. It was curious that no one had tried to interrupt him. He looked into the tank. The alien was still there. In a flash he knew its name, and was immersed in a dream.

He was floating before the council of hunters. He was finally of age. Now he could prove that he was worthy to become an adult; prove that he could provide for himself. He held himself there while the elders began the ritual. They would bless him, and then he would have to go out in to the wilderness and survive. Alone. In a week he could return, finally an adult.

Williams shook his head and came back to his own memories. The copying had worked. Now he know how they had communicated. They couldn't make a sound, or hear one. But they could alter their skin pigmentation. They talked in colour. He remembered capturing the alien, whose name he now saw as Green-blue-blue. It had tried to talk to him.

He remembered the way that the thing had taken him into heaven. It had walked along the island and then entered a strange shining device. It had faced the thing that was talking, but it made no sense! He had tried talking back to it, but again he had been ignored. Then he had been pressed against the barrier surrounding him. He had blacked out.

Once again Williams came back to himself. He would have to concentrate on something, else he would be overwhelmed by the alien's memories. It would take time for the two sets of memories to merge. He walked over to the computer and programmed in a simple message to be repeated over and over again in the alien's language. The message he programmed said not to worry and that he would be back as soon as he could. Williams moved the console over to the tank containing the alien and started the message. He then asked the computer where Rebecca was and was told that she was in her room. Williams left the lab and went off to confront her.

Rebecca was in her room packing mementos that she had carried with her from earth. Memories of her world that had been destroyed long ago. She wondered what Williams had been doing. She had asked the computer a number of times, but each time she was told that he was locked up in the room with that creature that he had brought aboard. He had been so for hours. Meanwhile she had started the computer dumping all of its files onto microfilm, and had packed various supplies into the lander that Williams had used. Now she had only her room to clean out. The door behind her opened.

"Just what are you doing?"

Rebecca spun herself around and stared at Williams. "Don't you ever knock?"

"As often as you leave a person's private data alone."

"Cute. And just what have you been doing?"



"About this planet. To optimize the new humankind's survival I need to know all that I can about his new environment."

She begged, "Why must you change us?"

"Because it is God's will. Because humankind will have a better chance of surviving if it is fully adapted to its new home."

"But why must you add in yourself?"

"I want to live too. I want to have my own children, just as much as you do." Williams began to shout. "Your kind may have made me but I have my own mind! I am my own being! I have as much a right to continue my kind as do you. And...", he paused for emphasis, "...I am an adault."


Williams realized what he had said. Again, the alien's memories were forcing themselves into his own. Still, he didn't want to say what he had done. And he had to get the two humans to leave the ship before they could find a way to stop his plan. He decided to change the subject. "Why are you packing your belongings?"

Rebecca was taken back by this sudden change. She regained her composure and answered. She had thought of lying, but decided to first try the truth. She doubted that Williams would believe her. "Melvern and I have decided to leave."


She was surprised. He actually believed the first part. Now for the lie, "We can't stop you. We're going down to the island to continue our race there. Without your help."

Williams' mind was in turmoil. He couldn't keep track of his thoughts. He was missing something obvious but he couldn't think of what. He stammered out, "You are?"

Rebecca couldn't speak. He believed it. He actually believed it! Williams must be further gone than they had thought. She took advantage of it. "Yes. Melvern and I watched your work. We were impressed with its thoroughness. It revealed to us your will, and your knowledge. We then knew that you could achieve it." She began to appeal to his religious fanatacism. "God is on your side, you've said so yourself. How can we work against his diving will?"

Williams couldn't believe what he was hearing. They were going to leave the ship! He had to get them going. He had to concentrate on the task. "Let me help you."

"I'm just about done. Here, hold..."

She was interrupted by Melvern's voice relayed to her cabin by the computer, "I'm ready. I'll meet you at landing bay two in five minutes."

"I'll carry it for you," Williams answered. They were going, they were going.

"Come along then." He still believed her. She had to hurry before he could come to his senses.

Melvern was floating by the entrance to the landing craft that Rebecca had loaded. He checked to make sure that she had packed some microfilm readers and some portable generators. Then Rebecca entered, pulling behind her a box of microfilm. She was followed by Williams carrying a bag.

"Sorry I took so long, I had to pick up the microfilm that the computer had output. I've got it all

"Did you have any trouble?" Melvern glanced towards Williams, hoping that she would pick up on the hint.

"Not at all, and I had some help. Williams has accepted our decision to absent ourselves from his fulfillment of God's will."

Melvern continued in the same vein, "Well, we shouldn't keep him from his holy work. Let's get going. Here, I'll take that." Melvern reached over and removed Rebecca's bag from the clip securing it to Williams' prosthesis. "After you, Madame."

Rebecca entered into the landing craft. In its entrance she paused and looked at Williams, "Good Luck." She entered, followed by Melvern.

Melvern called behind him, "You'll have to leave the deck. She's all yours." He closed the hatch. Williams left. Then Melvern turned to Rebecca and said, "What did you tell him?"

"That we had accepted his work as holy and would leave, so that we would not interfere with it."

"He believed that?"

"He did. I don't know why. He must be completely gone from his senses."

"Let's get out of here."

Williams walked from the bay. They were gone. Finally, they were gone. No longer could they interfere with God's will. Williams suddenly halted. They wouldn't give in that easily. Never. He shook his head. Finally, it was starting to clear. He had been so confused by the alien memories that he had missed the obvious. What had they done?

He turned around and began to walk back to the other landing craft bay. He had to stop them, or at least find out what they were up to. He entered the other landing craft and stopped. Sitting on the floor before him was a skeleton. It was an angel. He shook his head to get rid of the alien memory and began to examine the skeleton in detail.

The being possessed few similarities to humankind. It was shorter, being only about one metre tall. It was not built like any human life, as it was tripedal: it possessed three legs and three arms, all equally spaced about the torso. Examining its neck he realized that it could rotate its head a full 360 degrees. So, there had been an alien colony on the planet below. Apparently it had been there when the intelligence native to the planet was very primitive. Hence the memories of angels shaped in this fashion. The highly evolved plant life on the island must have been planted by these beings when they set up their colony. But how did the skeleton get here? Then Williams realized that Rebecca and Melvern had taken his shuttle - Melvern must have brought this up. It was odd that he would leave it.

Williams came back from his examination, remembering why he had come into the landing craft. It was too late now to catch them. He had to talk to them, to get them to halt what they had planned. To allow the fulfillment of God's will. Williams began to walk to the elevator, wishing that his prosthesis would allow him to run.

Melvern landed their craft in the clearing where he had uncovered the building. Once the vehicle had set down he and Rebecca began to unload. First, however, they turned on the outside lights so that they could see what they were doing as night had fallen. Quickly they removed all the supplies that Rebecca had stored in the craft and piled them beside it. Then Melvern set the autopilot to take the landing craft back to the ship.

As it took off Rebecca asked, "Why did you do that?"

"Just in case Williams tried to detonate it from the ship to destroy us." He sighed. But Williams would never do that - why was he afraid that Williams would? "Well, let's get this over with. Where did you put the radio."

Rebecca was still looking after the departing shuttle. "Melvern?"


"Why didn't we wait until Williams returned to the planet and just maroon him here? The human gene plasma would make it much easier for us to recreate humanity."

Melvern stared at her and didn't know what to say. Finally, he too looked after the shuttle until it disappeared from sight. He sighed. "Well, it's done now. Now we're committed.. You realize that, don't you?"

"I'm not sure. Something seems wrong."

"Its the only way. I wish there was another, but Williams won't listen to reason." Why won't he? This seems wrong, there must be another way. But we are committed now, aren't we? It feels that way.

"Yes," Rebecca quietly answered.

Melvern walked over to the radio transmitter. Just as he was about to reach it, Williams' voice spoke from it, "What have you done?"

Melvern swallowed. "We have rigged the ship to self-destruct upon the receipt of a radio signal. You can't stop it."


"We won't let you pervert humankind. However, we'll give you 15 minutes to abandon the ship." No, there had to be a different way. Maybe it wasn't too late to keep the ship and give Williams his life. "You are to land on this island, and then we'll take the shuttle and release you in the sea. You can survive there."

"No, I won't leave. My destiny is here. God will protect us."

"I will do what I have described."

"It will make no difference, for the Lord's word will live on. His will be done."

"Good-bye dear friend." Melvern pushed the button that sent the signal that would destroy the ship.

Rebecca turned away.

"Good-bye dear friend."

Williams heard those words and in an instant realized that Melvern was about to destroy him. He turned away from the radio console and began to pray."

He stood there for almost five minutes before it occurred to him that the ship was still there. It hadn't been destroyed. He hadn't been destroyed. He thanked his Lord for protecting his humble servant and turned back to the radio.

"I'm still here!", he shouted.

For a minute there was no reply, then Rebecca's voice came through, "What...how? I thought you were gone. Melvern, get over here!"

"You can tell our dear captain that it didn't work."

Melvern's voice came over the speaker. "How did you find it, how did you stop it?"

"I did nothing. I just prayed and I was saved."

Down on the planet Melvern pushed the button again. It has to work, it must work!

"It's not going to work.", Williams continued. "Just like the alien machine failed to finish me off, so have you. God protects his children."

Melvern pushed the button again, and again, frantically but with steadily dwindling hope.

Williams' voice droned on, "I shall continue to do his word. I will teach the true faith to the inhabitants of this new world, removing from them their false notion of your island being the home of angels. The new dolphins shall spread across the universe, spreading his word, fulfilling his will."

Melvern surrendered. "And what about us?"

"Your kind will be left alone. I give you the entire island upon which you now stand. I, and my children, shall not disturb you, as long as you do not disturb us. Live the life with which God has blessed you." Williams had finally forgiven his companions of so long.

He turned off the radio for the final time. He turned away and walked back to the elevator. He had much to do. First he would talk to the alien that he had brought aboard. He would have to modify the new race slightly - he would give them their own skin pigmentation glands so that they could talk to the natives without aid. Yes, he had much to do. Much to do.

Once Williams had turned off the radio on the ship, Melvern shouted into the transmitter for a few minutes, frantically trying to get Williams back. Finally, he turned it off and faced Rebecca. "He has won. Somehow, someway, he has won."

"Have we, then, lost? We have all of mankind's knowledge; we have a place to grow; and we have each other."

"And what about Williams' new 'humans'?"

"We can't do anything about them now, but our children will." A gleam lit up Rebecca's eye. "With our teaching they will grow and prosper, and finally destroy Williams' perversion!" Suddenly she stopped. After a moments silence she quietly said, "I've had a nasty thought. Why didn't we maroon him? Why couldn't you destroy the ship?"

"I don't know. For whatever reason, neither of us ever thought of marooning him. As to the ship, all that I was taught said it had to work. I took so long because I made sure that it would work. I put failsafes on top of the failsafes."

"Why do you think it didn't work?"

"I don't know. All the backups must have failed along with the main system. Simultaneously."

"That's what I feared you would say. Do you know why I think it failed?"


"Maybe, because God was on his side."

Home After the Earth is Destroyed

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