REBIRTH Blogfest Entry – New Earth
I am pleased to present guest blogger Jim D. Geiser’s REBIRTH Blogfest entry, New Earth, an excerpt of the sequel for The Decisions, a story that will be included in a short story collection he is currently working on. Jim is a fellow member of the Fresno Science-fiction and Fantasy Writers and is one of the authors of the FSFW Anthology I Dreamed A Crooked Dream. I have had the pleasure of illustrating a couple of the covers of Jim’s stories the Return of Satan and Cloud Sculptures.
A sequel to “The Decisions”
Jim D. Geiser
It had been four months since the two ships moved into orbit around this alien world. Though each ship carried five thousand men and women, after traveling more than two-hundred forty Earth years to get here, only thirty people had been awakened from suspended animation. Their task was to determine if this world could sustain mankind, or if they had to seek out a new world to call home.
As they analyzed all the reams of data that their many probes sent back, they compared the data the probes collected with a report entitled “The comfort zone.” This report gave the ideal range, the highs and lows to maximize their chances for survival. This report did not dictate their staying or leaving this or any world. It was designed only to give them data to use in making their decisions. Every reading the probes tested for was in this report. The minimum and maximum readings they were given were guidelines for them to consider. They projected what was needed to give them the best chance to survive.
The twelve members of the Malone group worked tirelessly, day after day, unlike the others. Everyone knew that their families had died long ago, but not that the Earth had been destroyed by a meteor traveling at three-quarters the speed of light. The Malone people knew of the coming disaster and had time to come to terms with it before they were put into suspended animation. But the others . . . they now grieved for the home world they could never return to.
The crew members were eating while listening to music from home. They had pushed two tables together so that they could eat as one family. There were no formal leaders here except for Captain Jason Sparks and Captain Elaine Masters, but when it came to analyzing the data that streamed in constantly, it was clear to all that the Malone people were in charge by proxy.
After the two captains took their places at the head and foot of the table, Captain Masters asked without hesitation, “So what’s the latest on this planet, can we call it our new home?”
Connie changed her last name to Malone in honor of her mentor, Elliott Malone. At nearly one hundred years old, he had worked tirelessly to assure everyone that they had as much as they needed to survive. He was solely responsible for the most critical decisions, while encouraging and motivating those that worked with him to do the same. Connie looked around the table and saw that all eyes were on her. She gathered her thoughts and began. “It’s looking very good so far. The planet itself is about twenty-seven percent larger than earth. Its two moons are like ours . . . lifeless. The temperature ranges appear to be very close to Earth’s. The air is breathable, with an oxygen content about ten percent richer than we are accustomed to, and the gravity is about three percent stronger than on Earth. The oceans are salt water, and cover about sixty-two percent of the planet’s surface with ice covering both polar regions. The seas contain an abundance of sea life, ranging from the microscopic to sea creatures about the size of a large shark. We’ve also seen massive clouds of flying creatures. They were seen at a great distance, so we have no idea of their size or quantity. We’ll need to start catching some of this world’s creatures and harvest some of their plant life to see if any of it can be eaten.”
“What about the land? Have there been any signs that our probes are contaminating this world?” Captain Sparks asked.
“None to date. We need to recover some of the probes and check for damage. The outside of the probes were scorched on entry. I don’t think there would be any contamination unless the probe was damaged on impact, and probably not then. I believe that the real risk of contamination will come when we go to the surface and expose ourselves to that environment. If there is going to be a risk, either to this world or us, then that will be our first sign.”
“What have you discovered on the land?” Elaine asked.
“There are freshwater lakes and rivers of all sizes. There are many rolling hills, but few high mountains. There are forests and plains aplenty. We have seen herds of animals, but can’t really tell what they look like or if they’re consumable. It will be interesting to see if there are any similar to those on Earth.”
“Intelligent life?” she pressed.
“We’ve seen no signs. There are no visible villages, artificial heat sources, or indications of intelligence greater than we grant to animals. We talked yesterday and Carolyn suggested that the intelligent life may have thrived underwater, that they never crawled out of the sea. I’m not going to rule that out.”
Lastly, Captain Sparks asked, “When do you think we can risk our first venture to the surface?”
“Our vet has advanced our two German shepherds to about a year and a half old and has planted the intelligence chips in their heads. They are responding perfectly. I recommend we wear hazmat suits on our first trip to the surface. Only King and Queen will be fully exposed to the potential dangers on the surface.”
“When do you recommend we go?” Jason inquired.
“Tomorrow at sunrise. The commander of our security force has said the four soldiers we’ve awakened so far have volunteered to go with us. They’re not here now because the captain is briefing them on what they can and cannot do on this exploratory trip.”
“That sounds great,” Captain Masters added, “But please remind me to tell him not to separate them from the rest of the crew. We’re all one family here.”
The room grew quiet as everyone returned to their meal. Meanwhile, Connie pulled out a tablet and began making notes as to the equipment they would bring with them. Her hand began to tremble with excitement.
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At first light, the landing crew exited the shuttle craft onto a hilltop overlooking a grassy valley with a stream flowing on the far side. A herd of animals that appeared to be a cross between a hog and a bison grazed quietly near the stream’s edge. On the hillside across the valley, a forest of short trees with huge leaves rose up and over the adjacent hill.
The dogs had been the first to exit as they raced around the hilltop in search of hidden dangers. The guards exited next, two armed with powerful pulse rifles, and the other two were equipped with compound bows and arrows. All four men were equipped with handguns.
As Connie stepped out on to the deep grass, she scanned the area and saw both dogs were hesitant to approach some large red and yellow bushes with elaborate white flowers. When King, the more assertive of the two dogs, slowly approached, five featherless, winged, lizard-like creatures of about seven inches in length took flight. King and Queen gave chase.
“No . . . come!” Connie shouted and both obeyed.
A rumble down in the valley caused everyone to move closer to the hill’s edge to see what was happening. They watched in silence as the animals moved further up the valley, away from the sound of Connie’s voice, away from the unfamiliar noise.
Where the path the animals took caused them to move too close to the trees, two large catlike animals with razor sharp claws and teeth quickly dispensed with what appeared to be one of the elderly beasts.
The rest of the day, and the next two weeks, more people were wakened from their sleep, as well as search dogs, and chimpanzees to test the food and water before they would allow their people to use them. More teams were sent to different parts of this world. A greater assortment of animals and birds were identified and named, as well as fish and other sea creatures.
At the end of the two week test period, everyone agreed that this world appeared suitable for mankind, and the next phase began. Wells were dug, fields planted, and sanitation systems put in place. Finally, defenses against the catlike creatures and any still unknown, were put in place as well.
Now six months into the test period, Captains Sparks and Masters declared that until the situations changed, this world would be named New Earth, and that the human race had found a new world to call home.
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