Palingenesis

by

SYSTEMS CHECK

“Ground Command, this is Leo Station. Ground, Leo. Over. Ground Command, this is Leo Station. Do you read? Over.” Commander Su’e Inana finished her daily call to Ground Command for the 393rd day without response. Only occasional static was ever returned and the monitor screen continually displayed ‘no signal.’

She gave a slight sigh as she finished her broadcast and then turned to her duties to ensure the integrity of Leo Station. The station was located on the solitary natural satellite that orbited around her home world of Egom. They named it, Naan. There was no atmosphere on Naan and it had taken her people many decades to develop the technology to reach such heights after seeing it in the skies for millennia. A network of stations had been planned to spread across the surface and beneath, but due to various political and global situations, once the Naan had been reached, plans for expansion were delayed.

Su’e started, as always, by reviewing all of the command center’s various monitors, systems and readouts before taking a quick glance at the exterior of the station for any problems by way of cameras located outside on the surface of the Naan.

Seeing nothing out of the ordinary and with her mind at ease, Su’e left the command center on her way to the rest of the station. Before leaving, she paused and spoke, “System: Play ‘Ocean Sunset’ on all station speakers. Quarter volume.” A series of tones followed by the requested music that began to play. She smiled and manually closed the door to the command center careful to ensure the seal of the door was secure.

Su’e headed to engineering at the far end of the station to check all of the equipment operations even though the command center showed nearly everything was functioning nominally. She liked visual confirmation just to be sure. Once there, nearly all readings were in good shape except one, as she expected. She didn’t seem too concerned about it, but simply gave a slight sigh. All the equipment was running well, batteries were at peak charge, and the geothermal equipment looked like it would not fail for many many years in the future.

She headed to the dining hall to get some breakfast and passed the crew and guest quarters along the way. At it’s height, Leo Station housed over three dozen scientists, students and citizens who focused on expanding knowledge for the world of Egom. Most people only stayed for a week or two, serious researchers a few months, but the permanent staff of five stayed for six months at a time to ensure continued operations and station integrity.

She sat alone eating and drinking in the hall that easily housed ten to fifteen people at a time when the station was buzzing with activity. While there, she looked over at a screen and spoke, “System: Play last message received from my daughter.” Again, a few tones were emitted as the music stopped and another series of tones began and were followed by moving images and sounds of a young beautiful woman in her early twenties. Her long dark hair fell across her shoulders onto the rich bright blue material of her blouse. Around her neck, she wore a bright green scarf that nearly matched the vibrant color of her eyes.

“Hey ma-ma! I just wanted to send you this. I know we’re not scheduled to talk until this weekend and you’re probably in a sleep cycle, but I couldn’t wait.”

The woman raised her hands and pulled away the scarf revealing an intricate necklace of polished crystals, stones and wood. At the bottom of the necklace rested two strands forming a knot: the traditional symbol for an engagement. The young woman then screamed in excitement and joy to Su’e on the recording.

A young man poked his head into view smiling, “Hope you’re okay with this, Ma-ma!”

Her daughter kissed the young man on the cheek and turned back to the screen, “Can’t wait to talk to you about all the plans we’ve made…”

Static appeared in the recording and the screen’s colors and image shifted and twisted for a moment and then resolved.

“..and you’ll love the place the we picked…” and then finally the screen went black with a total loss of signal.

Su’e stared at the screen for a moment, a slight smile on her face, but her eyes showed sadness. She sighed, returning to her meal and finished her last bite. As always, she picked up her plates and made sure to wash them and stow them away. As she left, she powered everything down and turned out the lights.

It was time for her to get busy in the library. Su’e went to inspect all the work stations and banks of crystals that stored much of the world’s knowledge accumulated by her people over the past several thousand years. At least up until fourteen and a half cycles of Naan ago. Once she was satisfied that everything was in order, she wandered over to one of the larger screens and took a seat.

“System: Playback log date 3751.15 northern hemisphere.”

The screen flickered into action and showed a beautiful blue and green planet with clouds floating over land and sea. Much was covered with grand glaciers, but where it wasn’t, vast lush green areas of forests and fields spread across all the visible continents.

But it was on this day, fourteen and a half months ago, that the unthinkable happened. Su’e watched it unfold on the recording, just as she had seen upon awakening that day and had forced herself to do every day since then.

On the screen, she watched as Egom slowly rotated in space. Dawn was just hitting the western most coast of her home continent. Suddenly, a burst of light in the northern hemisphere appeared. The light becomes a streak of light for a few seconds before suddenly impacting one of the northern glaciers and becoming a massive explosion on the surface. While horrifying in itself, this moment was followed by three more smaller burst of light that ended in explosions; two more on land and one impacting in the eastern ocean. Each one emitting such an intense flash that the exterior cameras were temporarily blinded. As she watched, she could see the red hot blaze radiating from each point of impact and debris being thrown up miles into the atmosphere. Pressure waves emanated in all directions and she could see the clouds being forced away from the blasts all the way to the equator and beyond. Watching the recording made Su’e hold her breathe every time until she finally gasped for air.

No contact with anyone on Egom had been established since that day and even trying to reach someone using the man-made satellites in orbit for relaying signals yielded no results.

She finished the playback, and made sure to file the recording properly before turning off the monitor and getting up to leave. Su’e left the library shutting down all additional power and lights.

From the library, she went down past the medical bay ensuring all power was turned off there, and headed to the exterior hatch to do an external inspection. She donned a space suit, sleek in design and with a wide vision helmet. After checking her supply of air and ensuring her suit was adequately secure, she equalized the pressure in the room inside the hatch and exited the station.

She walked slowly across the surface of the Naan and rounded to the side where the greenhouse, now dark and cold, was located. She looked up into the night sky to her old home world. The skies were dark over Egom and the once vast green lush lands were blackened. Some fires still burned after all those long monts ago. The coastlines weren’t recognizable any more as the glaciers had nearly all melted. And since nearly eighty percent of the world’s population had lived by the oceans, she was fairly certain that anyone still left in the center of the continents would not have lasted long.

A ring of debris was visible around the planet she once called home creating an amazing banded ring. It was both beautiful and terrible at the same time. She knew she’d never see Egom from the ground again, let alone the sight of the rings from the same perspective. No one was left.

Su’e looked down to the burial mounds where she had buried her fellow crew members over the past months. None of them had been able to deal with the catastrophe or the fact that their days were numbered on the Naan. Each one died by their own hand and own manner and were kind enough to not to do anything too drastic that those remaining would have to clean up. However, someone did need to remove the bodies and bury them. Su’e took it upon herself to give the final rites upon each passing.

As the commander, Su’e knew she would never kill herself. With the others gone, the food and air lasted much longer than they normally would have. However, without replenishing, she had calculated the time remaining, and while not obsessing, she decided to find a way to allow Leo Station to last as long as possible, just in case someone finally did make it back to the Naan.

After changing out of the space suit, Su’e powered down the rest of the station. One thing she knew, from various studies, was that allowing everything to keep running after all the air was gone, without people performing maintenance, could result in an accident that could destroy the facilities. So her next step was to power down all the equipment except the last bit of energy provided by solar and batteries. She left engineering and headed back to her quarters where she picked up an image of her daughter and a pillow before heading up to the command center.

All lights and power were now turned off in the station as she closed and latched the door to the command center. Su’e set the photo of her daughter on the console in front of her and sat down in a chair placing the pillow on her lap.

“System: Record and broadcast to Ground Command,” the system gave a series of tones as always.

“Leo Station to Ground Command. Leo to Ground. This will be the last recording and report from Leo Station, Commander Su’e Inana reporting. It has been fourteen months and fifteen days since the asteroids impacted on Egom and we have never been able to regain contact. While I wish more people had been here on Leo Station to survive the disaster, instead of back on Egom while we were in a maintenance period, we wouldn’t have lasted but a few months. The members of the crew all passed on in their own way and lay interred outside the station.” she paused and reflected.

“I have no idea if anyone will ever get this message, or if anyone will ever reach the Naan again to find what is left here, but my hope is that someone will one day and with no atmosphere here, the facility and all the records will remain and that the technology is easy enough to use for someone to understand. I’ve spent the past fourteen months attempting to find ways for those with different languages to be able to interpret the knowledge stored here. Hopefully some of our technology will survive. I’ve set the station’s system to remain in low power mode, but be triggered by any communications it may pick up. The system will trigger a low power signal back. Hopefully, it will be before all the power drains.”

Su’e picked up her daughter’s image, “Dearest Aribel, I hope you did not suffer and you and your love were together as the asteroids fell. I’m glad you were happy and hope you did not feel much fear.” She set the image down gently.

“If you find this message, this station, or me, know that the disaster that fell upon our world was one that could happen at any time. We focused so much on ourselves, what was happening around us in our daily lives, and what might happen tomorrow, that we forgot to look outside and see what may be coming. Too shortsighted in thinking of the timeline of the universe that we had only just begun.”

“If you find this message, and you have come from Egom, I hope you plan for the future of our world and our children. While this disaster may be the most horrible thing to have ever happened, I am at peace.”

“System: End recording.” A final series of tones indicated that the recording and system were completed.

Su’e pulled the pillow from her lap and laid it on the console. She carefully laid her head down on the pillow with a view of her daughter’s image and a view of Egom through a window. A quick glance at a nearby monitor showed that air would last for approximately two hours more. As she drifted off to sleep for the last time, she held onto her memories of holding Aribel in her arms and watching the sunset over the hills from their home in the hillsides of Egom.

EPILOGUE

Millenia passed.

The debris of thousands of asteroids impacted Naan.

Dust, rocks and debris covered Leo Station from the asteroid impacts and destroyed some of the weaker parts of the structures that still stood.

Egom’s rings disappeared, the debris pulled back into the planet by gravity.

The skies cleared and the glaciers returned for few thousand years and then receded again in a much less disastrous and more natural way.

The system on Leo Station began to falter. Every now and then, it picked up a random signal, something with a pattern, but Su’e had programmed it only respond if more than a few random signals were picked up and within a certain range.

The batteries were failing, no longer being fed by sunlight, and the geothermal energy had long ago stopped working.

And then it happened.

The system picked up a signal.

Strong and local, right on the surface of the Naan. A few key systems powered up in the command center where the body of Su’e still lay entombed. An ancient monitor flickered with a tiny bit of light showing an image of the Naan’s surface coming from some visual feed. Static from barely functioning speakers vibrated against the dust of ages. The images came into focus and a voice came from the speakers for the first time in nearly thirteen thousand years.

“Houston. Tranquilty Base, here. The Eagle has landed.”

© 20016 Eric Huber. Palingenesis is a work of fiction. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Artwork by Eric Huber