28 Nov

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson
” Still on the stranded spaceship (which is no longer stranded) and about to make a discovery concerning DNA… “

It was two days before Melvin had made repairs to the drive of the stranded space-ship. Most of the time he’d spent scratching his head and wondering why this or that didn’t work only to end up concluding it must all be down to a computerised control box hidden safely out of the way of anything hot under a hard-to-get at cover, which he replaced as a single unit from the spares cache and which worked straight away.

“Bloody thing,” he moaned to Aurora, “I’m fed up with this ship, and that’s a fact! But now I’ve fixed it we can be off, and good riddance to all those trees.”

“So I can use the equipment now?” she asked.

“What equipment?” he growled.

“The woman’s hair. I need to examine it closely. I think the results could be more than interesting.”

He gazed at her, confusion written on his face. She knew he wasn’t the sharpest knife in the box, so she thought she’d explain what she meant in terms that even a moron would understand, not that her opinion of his intelligence was that extreme. She knew him for what he was ” a hard-working practical engineer with a limited view when it came to the abstract.

“I thought we were going to return to our search for the home planet…” he began, but she interrupted him.

“If I’m right we’ve found it,” she said shortly, “If everything turns out to be the way it seems then this little world that we landed on to effect repairs is miraculously the home planet and our search is over,” she added.

He gazed at her, his eyes wide as if he knew he was looking at a mad woman.

“You mean this arse-end of existence?” he asked, “this primitive backside of life? You just can’t be serious! You simply can’t!”

“Why not?” she asked. “What’s so very wrong with the idea that we’ve located the home planet where our species evolved?”

“Just look at it!” He waved one arm at the porthole window, indicating the verdant growth that seemed to cover most of the planet. “How could you possibly think that anyone living here could build enough vessels to go out to the stars and populated half of Creation? You’re talking nonsense! Our home planet will be sophisticated, there’ll be great centres where the people live and even greater cetres where they work and play1”

“We’ll see,” she purred in that tone of voice that he recognised so well. It was the tone of voice she used when she made a statement that would subsequently be proved to be exactly right whilst he was exactly wrong.

“Well, you won’t be right this time,” he grunted. “I can see that as clearly as I can see your face! By the way, have I ever told you that you’ve got a nice face…?”

“Now what’s on your mind?” she asked, curiously. “After all, it’s a long time you said anything nice about me, but it is good to hear.”

“I used to.”

“Yes, in the early days before you decided that I got on your nerves,” she said, smiling. “You didn’t like it when I got on your nerves, did you, but I couldn’t help it. The fault was more yours than mine…”

“How do you work that out?” he asked, irritably.

“Look, Melvin, we’re two different people who look at things in two different ways and I suppose that sometimes, because of my education or something like that I manage to see a little deeper into things than you do! It doesn’t make me better than you, just different. Anyway, I’m a girl and everyone knows that girls are brighter than boys!”

“Are you calling me stupid?” He sounded enraged though he knew he shouldn’t. Something at the back of his mind told him the unpleasant news, that she was most probably right. All of the big thinkers on most of the major planets were female, and if men somehow got a look in there was a sudden outbreak of violence and wars. It was almost a trademark of male-dominated cultures.

“I would never do that, Melvin,” she said quietly. “You’re not at all stupid, though sometimes you don’t see all of the possible consequences of what you harp on about. But you’ve got really good qualities, you know. You’re a first rate engineer with a magic touch…”

“I could have done done it quicker this time, if only I’d thought…”

“Exactly.” She removed the strands of hair that she’d asked Juju for from the drawer where she’d carefully put them days earlier, and took them to a sophisticated-looking machine a single pace away from where she was standing.

“And what do you mean by that?” demanded Melvin. “Why ‘exactly’”

“Think about it,” she replied, a little sharply. “Now give me a moment …”

She carefully slipped one of the strands of Juju’s hair into a tiny drawer and pressed a few buttons on a control panel. The machine came to life with a gentle hum and the flashing of several tiny lights. It was a recent development and could do things that had hitherto taken ages in mere minutes, and it had been included on all of the little ships searching for the home planet because it represented the one sure way of absolute certainty should any major discovery be made.

“This should answer a few questions,” she said quietly. “I’ve a feeling me might find something vaguely familiar about the DNA in this hair. This won’t take long!”

“Are you trying to suggest that cavemen like the imbecile we saw the other day had enough technology to blast off into space and conquer Creation?” mocked Melvin, disbelievingly.

“It was suggested that it’s possibly that, once the brightest and best had left the planet, those who remained might have regressed to the point of being little more than savages,” she murmured. “And if that’s the case it’s perfectly possible that the two charming people we met the other day are our cousins, only they no longer have the same spark of ingenuity that sent their forefathers to the stars. This test will show us because even though it’s one heck of a long time since the exodus from the home planet it’s a short time in the course of evolution. Not much will have changed in the DNA and we’ll see a distinct relationship between us and them!”

“I’m sure I’m not related to those morons!” snapped Melvin.

“Maybe you’re not, but I wouldn’t be surprised it I was,” sighed Aurora, gently tapping on an inset button on the machine in front of her, then turning a dial the slightest bit to the left.

“What? You?” sneered Melvin.

“It’s back to the atomic watch I gave the woman,” said Aurora in the tone of voice he least liked because it sounded as if she was explaining something to a wayward child.

“What about it?” he couldn’t help asking.

“Didn’t you notice the look in her eyes when she examined it?” asked Aurora.

“I tried not to look at her filthy face,” he snapped back.

“Oh dear. More fool you then. But I did look and there was one thing that was clear as a bell. She understood what it did. I watched her as the light traced the part of the day while we were there and every time she glanced at it it was clear she understood what she was looking at and what it was showing her. So if these people are the remnants left behind when our own ancestors set a course for the stars then I don’t think their intelligence suffered much. After all, it’s quite a quantum leap from magic mushrooms to atomic technology! What did happen, I suppose, is they found a better way of living. For them.”

Melvin shook his head in disbelief. He’d seen Umbaga and Juju with their child, and he’d been threatened by a large group of their neighbours, and as far as he was concerned it had been very much like being in the company of wild creatures stripped of any sign of intelligence.

“Anyway, we’ll know in a few minutes,” smiled Aurora, and when he looked at that smile he knew just how beautiful she was ” beauty and intelligence, two qualities that he admired but occasionally detested in equal measure.

But the machine into which she’d carefully placed a single strand of hair was beeping quietly, and he knew they’d know for certain soon enough.

Yes, they’d know that the beautiful Aurora had at last got something wrong and he was right!

© Peter Rogerson 27.10.16


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