7 Nov

So let’s see where Melvin and Aurora have come from, and why they’re broken down, near the clearing

It was the next day and Melvin had regained some of his former composure, though his head ached and double vision threatened to return every time he tried to refocus his eyes, which were miserably watching Aurora for any sign of a change in her mood.


We need friends here, not enemies,” she said softly when she could see he was more or less capable of understanding her words, “and the way you, Melvin, go about things is no way to make friends with anyone! You forget we’re uninvited guests on their world.”


You should never have given that hominid a watch, then!” snapped Melvin, his head pounding with every syllable, “these creatures are no more capable of understanding atomic physics than they are of flying to their one and only satellite!”


You don’t need to understand the mechanisms of a living cell in order to be alive,” she replied obliquely.


Aurora fixed him with both of her eyes, and he flinched. She was a very beautiful woman ” he’d considered himself truly fortunate to have been paired with her for their part in the big project of the times.


There had been a dreadful war. Everyone said that it was dreadful. Planets had been reduced to ashes and one or two had even been wrenched from their orbits and sent into frozen destruction in deep space, together with huge populations, ecosystems and every living thing on them as well as entire histories in which love figured every bit as much as the unreasonable hatred, which apparently triumphed in the end.


But that was in the past. True, it was the fairly recent past, and both winners and losers in the conflict were still licking their wounds and trying to work out what had gone wrong. After all, none of the ordinary every-day people had a clue what had led up to that war, but that hadn’t stopped them entering into the fray with the easily contracted bigotry that flesh is heir to. It was, mused the philosophers, the backside of humanity.


But all this was in the past and some wise soul had suggested that a huge project was needed, one so all-embracing that it would draw all corners of the populated Galaxy together in a common cause. And maybe, they said, if different factions worked together they might gain hitherto unsuspected understandings, and ban conflict for good before the whole of Creation disappeared in a nuclear puff.


And that huge project had been to locate the home planet.


Mankind had spread, millennia earlier, on his journey to the stars and the spreading must have been slow as he moved over an enormous corner of Creation, as the galaxy had been named by the ancients. It had taken a huge amount of time, that much was evident from the accounts recorded on thousands of planets on thousands of solar systems, and Creation was much older than it had been when the first tentative steps, goodness-knows how many millions of years earlier, had been taken towards the stars from the planet on which humanity had been first evolved.


The trouble was, records identifying that planet had long been lost, maybe as part of the decaying processes of time or, even more likely in Aurora’s mind, in one of the flare-ups when anger replaced peace and a great deal of infrastructure was destroyed for the sake of it. War. The one hobby that mankind had cherished, it seemed, for all time.


When Aurora gazed at the rather pitiful figure of her co-explorer, though, she thought she could begin to imagine how wars began because she felt quite warlike towards Melvin.


Their relationship had gone from one in which a pseudo kind of love and affection had dominated their artificially defined days and nights as they had raced on a pre-determined course across Creation. The speed of light was no longer an obstacle, but even exceeding it with the technology easily available to their scientists meant that a long journey still took a long time. And their journey, it had been decided, was one that crossed a large sector of Creation and would take years. So they had fallen into each other’s arms because one was a good-looking male and the other was a ravishing female.


But lust has its limits and when they’re reached the participants see through it to the truth within. Aurora had. Melvin might have been a first rate engineer with better than average looks, but he was annoying half the time. The other half he was, by necessity, asleep.


On the other hand, Melvin became increasingly aware of what he saw as vanity in Aurora, and the tenderness with which he viewed her became harsher as time passed. He stopped looking at himself as the most fortunate man in the skies with his golden lady and began feeling trapped in a tiny metal capsule with a female ego constantly trying to stamp him down.


Others had gone on a similar journey with the same objective, in twos, in a search for the home planet, and news occasionally came over the ether of this or that failure as worlds were examined, visited, and rejected. If mankind had started his journey from even an insignificant planet he must surely have left a considerable mark of his journey from amoeba to man, but no such marks had been found. Yet.


Then, quite recently, when they had been asleep in one of the predetermined periods of rest and the craft was solely under the command of an efficient computer system, something had happened, something on a huge scale had caused their ship to react in a most unexpected way. It must have been unexpected because there were no precedents in the computer’s memory banks, and it had been forced to wake them.


But it woke them too late.


There are, in the depths of space, more things that are unknown than things that are known, and this was a black hole where no black hole should be. It had a core so dense that every photon of light that tried to pass it was sucked into its heart with the result that when anyone tried to look at it they couldn’t see it. It didn’t even look black because other light sources, if they weren’t actually dragged into its heart, were bent around it and consequently filled a gap that might otherwise have been a give-away. And that was true of the entire electromagnetic spectrum. Radio signals went the same way as light.


To all intents it was invisible, and the vessel on which Melvin and Aurora slept was sucked dangerously close to it before the computer recognised that something was wrong and woke its human occupants up.


Melvin, of course, could do nothing but watch and worry at the way their speed increased exponentially as they whipped round the black hole, narrowly avoiding being sucked into what would have been a terminal spiral orbit round it and ending in its massive depths.


The speed of light had once been considered the terminal speed beyond which nothing could go, but that was long in the past and fresh discoveries had been made. But that didn’t mean that science hadn’t decided that there was an ultimate speed, one which could never, under any circumstances, be exceeded, and during that fly-past of the black home the one thing that saved them was breaking that ultimate speed limit.


They’d had to seek landfall on a planet because during the acceleration the subsidiary drive had failed and Melvin needed to see if he could fix it, something he would need solid land beneath his feet in order to achieve, so they had sought a planet that looked more or less devoid of intelligent life but which was largely forest and had spied a clearing where there were no trees and had missed it on their descent by just a few yards.


And that is how they arrived and met Umbaga and Juju, and following one set of instructions Aurora had given an atomic watch to the woman because it had been considered the best thing to do, offer shiny inexpensive trinkets should they meet any primitive humanoids. It’s the way spokesmen for a superior group always tried to win the hearts of inferiors.


Melvin had thought it a dangerous thing to do, but Aurora was of a different mind, and she was in charge. But then, being a woman she probably knew best. That was her opinion, anyway.


© Peter Rogerson 26.10.16


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