“This is no ordinary story,” 6985 told him.
“Of course, I know that,” the boy answered.
“And you know the sacred data text from where this comes. The account of times past that was discovered by accident, corrupted, but readable.”
“I am human,” alpha 8u protested. “We all know this ancient history, but it is the first time I have seen the images and heard the text.”
“Then let’s deal with the gods and the flood,” 6985 smiled.
“Has the text reached an end, because there is no resolution. What happens next?” Alpha 8u was puzzled, he had read a lot of books, you could label him a ‘book worm,’ it was his passion. He had never before read a book that had no ending.
“With the last memory transfer the gods were created, but knowing what happened after was lost.”
6985 was sympathetic to the predicament of the boy. Perhaps sympathetic was too human an emotion, he could understand the dilemma.
“Anu, Enlil, Ninurta, Ennugi, and Ea were born, the beings who up to this point have been known in their human form as Grif, Joel, Jack, Steve and Mark.”
6985 studied and registered alpha 8u's reactions. Even the minute details of how his body reacted did not escape analysis by the robo.
That was how they were known by the humans, the robos, the numbers, or more derogatory, the bots. Actually, sometimes bots was a term of endearment, a term used when a human boy had his first relationship, a bot and a boy, it was a classic. Every human was partnered with a robot, often with two, that was not unusual. The only relationship on Gilgamesh that was rare, were two human boys together, but it did happen.
Gilgamesh, that was the name of the planet they had colonised, the one they had found to be the most hospitable environment. You might wonder why it was not called New Earth, and that explanation brings us neatly back to the history about to be told.
“Ennugi was the hero of the pristine mountain, the handiwork of the gods. Remember how you just read that Ennugi (Steve) had tried to rescue Anu (Grif) who was unable to move. It was Lugalbanda (Henry), the ruler of the mountain who saved the gods and survived the flood, but this is legend.”
“Legend?” The young alpha 8u questioned.
“Yes, legend. Think about it.”
Alpha 8u could not help saying to himself, but I am thinking about it. He managed to keep that thought to himself, which was just as well, because expressing it aloud would have earned him a reprimand. Even the bot, 6895, who was his partner and looked after him, could still punish him. It had only ever happened to him once, a punishment, but he remembered it, oh yes, he certainly remembered it.
He had been misbehaving, a lot, it was six years ago now, he was ten years old. Anyway, the short story was that 6895 had lost patience with him. Robos didn’t really lose patience, that’s a human interpretation, but he hit him. What I mean is he punished him by smacking his bottom, which was both embarrassing and a shock. Like I said, it only ever happened once, 6895, must have calculated that it was the right thing to do. It certainly changed things for him.
“The legend can be interpreted as saying: ‘when everything was finished, or at an end, when no more possibilities existed, no more choices. After having done the things that had been demanded, or instructed, having killed. Which should be understood as having accomplished, not literally killed someone. He set up everything for the future. That part is interesting, because it might directly refer to the final memory transfer, the last two gods were created, and dispatched. The next words are more open and less clear, having founded... you reached. If taken literally it refers to establishing the gods and the course for the future, our future, but you reached, means what? What did he reach?”
Alpha 8u shifted nervously as if he was being tested.
“I’m being rhetorical, it isn't a question for you to answer,” 6895 smiled.
“We don't know what was reached, as I told you the story ends with the last memory transfer, and this corrupted data text.”
6895 walked a few paces, turned and continued. “The section finishes by stating that having brought down the old, which we can take to be whoever had control over Lugalbanda (Henry) on Earth. Carried out correctly, meaning things went as planned, the flood. Well that we all know about, it's in the story, a tremendous storm and a flood was coming. The settlements of the Land, is a bit more obscure, perhaps the flood destroyed the cities, if you want to be positive, it refers to new settlements, after the flood, that people survived.
Alpha 8u was always impressed at 6895, well any robo, they were able to analyse as easily as he walked and breathed, it was so simple, and for him it was always a struggle, but rewarding when he ‘got it.’ This session with 6895 was easier though, all he needed to do was concentrate and follow what was being said.
“There is a lot more to get through,” 6895 told him.
Alpha 8u nodded, “I know.”
“Shall we continue?”
The boy liked the way he said we when it was all the robo. It was one of the personality traits he loved about 6895, he always made it seem like he was an intrinsic part of everything. He never questioned how 6895 achieved this, he was a robo, that was it. When they were in bed together 6895 was fantastic, as a lover he was perfect. Even if alpha 8u had nothing to compare their love making with, he couldn't imagine that it could be any better.
6895 could bring alpha 8u right to the peak and do some tiny thing that would make him lose control and explode in a way that travelled through his entire body. One time he particularly remembered, just the thought made him hard, when their love making had been all him. He was pushing, do this and that, everything that sent those good feelings through his body. He was not even thinking about 6895, only about his rapidly building climax. Then, in an instant, 6895 changed it all, flipped him over like a rag doll, at the moment he thought he was losing it. He had no control, but 6895 did. In one smooth motion he was on top of him, spread his legs and entered him. He felt 6895 pulsing inside him as he climaxed. That was the best, although there have been plenty of other occasions, that one was special.
The only thing stopping him from concentrating was the same thing as always – thinking about sex.
“The next part is also difficult. You need to pay close attention,” 6895 told him.
“Yes okay,” he replied, and tried to focus on what he was saying, and not on his cock, it was real hard (both, paying attention and his cock).
“It says, the son of Utu will provide light in the nether world, in the place of darkness. Utu is an Akkadian form of Sumerian and means Sun, in ancient Earth mythology Utu is the Sun God. Then the data text continues talking about a statue being made to honour a person being buried, for a funeral. That whoever that person is, sometime in the future mighty youths will form a semicircle, performing wrestling and feats of strength. All this will happen at the festival of the ghost, in the month of Nenegar, and there will be no light without Gilgamesh.”
Alpha 8u was really lost now, he was wondering how they suddenly got so deep into mythology, and what was it all about?
6895 knew the boy was struggling, he knew absolutely everything about alpha 8u.
“I'll sum it up for you,” he stated, much to alpha 8u's relief.
“It's all a sort of veiled prophecy about where we are now. Honouring the past where we came from, on a new planet where the unknown founder of our future is paid tribute to by a mono-polar civilisation, an existence which consists of a single male sex. That our planet is named Gilgamesh is due to the text, no other reason.”
“Now the text continues, Oh Gilgamesh! Enlil, the Great Mountain, the father of gods, has made kingship your destiny, but not eternal life. Enlil is the god of gods, father of the gods, and through him the band, the group is formed. As it says that is their destiny, but not immortality, which we take as meaning the boys you read about will die, but all humans die. The rest of the section simply states the same.”
“life should not make you feel sad, should not make you despair, should not make you feel depressed. You must have been told that this is what the bane of being human involves. You must have been told that this is what the cutting of your umbilical cord involved. The darkest day of humans awaits you now. The solitary place of humans awaits you now. The unstoppable flood-wave awaits you now. The unavoidable battle awaits you now. The unequal struggle awaits you now. The skirmish from which there is no escape awaits you now. But you should not go to the underworld with heart knotted in anger.”
“What does all that mean?” 6895 smiled.
For an instant the boy panicked, he thought he knew, but was not absolutely sure he was right.
6895 continued, not waiting for an answer. “Essentially, they were human and being human means you do not live forever, that is the human condition. The darkest day, the solitary place, the unstoppable flood, the battle, none of that needs an explanation. Even the unequal struggle is obviously the fight against the forces of nature. The intriguing part is at the end, the skirmish from which there is no escape, we have no idea what is referred to there. You should not go to the underworld, you should not die, with heart knotted in anger, angry. This intimates that there is cause to be angry but that they should not be, it either does them no good or it is something they have no control over, and so was unavoidable. But what? That we do not know.”
“Now a lot of text is missing, until a fragmented section which begins by mentioning Enkidu, Enkidu, your young comrade. Only a few words, parts of sentences are legible, is lying alone ...... will come to you ...... In ancient Earth mythology Enkidu is the companion of Gilgamesh and some scholars interpret this that he represents everything this planet is, but that does not make complete sense. Why? Because he is the opposite of Gilgamesh, he is from nature, not a civilised city dweller, he becomes humanised through his contact with Gilgamesh. It could mean he is not human. In the end he dies from an illness. That fact indicates that if Enkidu is not human, neither is he a robot, we don't die from illness.”
“Again text is absent in large part:
they answered him. …… he weeps. Why is …… made ……? ……Nintur has not given birth yet.
2 lines fragmentary
1 line unclear
"The birds of the sky …… cannot escape. The fish of the deep water cannot see ……. Having spread his net, the young fisherman will catch you. Who has ever seen anyone who could ascend …… from the …… of the nether world? No king has ever been destined a fate like yours. Who …… anyone among mankind, whoever they may be, …… like you? …… the governorship of the nether world. You …… your ghost …… pass judgments ……."
“The missing words, lines and sections of text make interpretation subjective to some extent. Nintur is the goddess of birth, the mother goddess. This may refer to the establishment of civilisation here on Gilgamesh. Then it talks about nothing escaping the nets of the young fisherman. Who are those young fishermen, they may be you.”
6895 rested his gaze on alpha 8u. “And perhaps one among the humans will overcome death, ascend from the nether world, because no king has ever been destined for a fate like yours. The destiny of humanity? It is your human race or someone among you who might rule over death, but...”
He paused as if contemplating, but this was for effect, the bots never paused to reflect, they could calculate millions of times faster than humans could put thoughts together.
“It says, your ghost, which many take to mean a robot. The memory transfer has often been described as ghosting. Creating a duplicate with all your memories, but it is not exactly you – a ghost! Whoever is referred to, human or robot, they pass judgements.”
“I don't know what to answer, what to say,” alpha 8u was overwhelmed by all these revelations and what they meant.
“There is nothing to answer. It is the legend. It explains and at the same time it doesn't. It at once provides a structure only to pose questions, to intrigue, but not to resolve.”
Alpha 8u suddenly felt tired and exhausted.
Reading the situation 6895 said, “Lets sleep.” He smiled, taking the boy's hand and leading him to their bedroom.
“How high are we?” She asked him.
Kado had a puzzled expression. “What do you mean, how high are we? We're on the ground!”
The vehicle was being buffeted by strong winds that were building in intensity. It was not difficult to imagine the weather outside.
“How high above sea level. Joel said there would be one almighty flood, if...”
Kado cut her off. “Can you get that kid of yours to stop moving around and keep still.”
“He's nervous, aren't you darling?” She gave Charlie a motherly hug. “Don't worry, we’re going to be just fine,” she reassured.
“I've no idea.”
“Yes. I've no idea how high we are above sea level.”
It was a weird conversation in the darkness, it was like they were out of sync, a time delay between question and answer that made it hard to follow.
The sound of the rain hitting the shell of the car was unmistakable, it had started!
“That was the weirdest experience,” Grif was talking.
“You're awake,” Steve stated the obvious, which was kind of cute.
“Duh... yes dummy!” Grif smiled his amusement.
“It was, weird I mean.”
“Like my whole life passed in front of me. Just what they say can happen, you know, before you die.” He turned his head, staring over at Steve. “Hey, I’m not dead am I?”
“Oh shut the fuck up, what are you going on about.”
“Well, if I did see my whole life... I might be. How would I know?”
“I think I preferred you before.”
“Before you woke up. It was... peaceful.”
“Yeah, yeah, you love me really. Where did Henry get too?”
“No idea. It was like this when I came round. Deserted. He must have gone.”
“Dumbo, you’re doing it again.”
“What? What am I doing?”
“Stating the obvious. If he’s not here, of course he’s gone!”
“I feel really tired, drained.”
“Me too. Must be the after effects.”
“I guess it’s alright to sleep a bit.”
“Sure, why not. And when you wake up, the end of the world will be over.”
“You know that’s not very funny.”
They both drifted back to sleep, side by side on their trolleys in the deserted medical bay of an empty building that would have echoed were there anyone there to make a sound.
Eve was staring at the clock, 00:24:47.
“I hope each of you has decided, because if we are going it's now.”
Howard and Emret were already in the pod and strapped in their seats.
“You better get in here or you all get left behind,” he shouted through the open door.
“Please board and take a seat. The door will be closing in... four minutes,” the voice announced.
“Well?” Eve looked at the others.
“I guess we go,” Andre said.
Evan nodded, Mark got up and moved towards the pod door.
They were now all seated and strapped in as the voice announced, “Two minutes, please board now.”
Andre couldn't help wondering why no one else was here. What a waste, six empty places.
“Door closing!” The voice confirmed, as they heard the door come down slowly, forming an air tight seal.
“Proceeding to launch phase.”
The pod moved through something like a tunnel, turning to pivot upwards, but their seats stayed upright in the same position, leaving them now facing the side wall.
The sound of the engines as they came alive was audible, like a plane taxiing out onto the runway. They all expected to feel the force of the take off. The clock on the tiny screen of the armrest showed 00:20:10.
“Prepare for launch.”
Eve could sense the power of the thing, a power about to be released.
The surge was incredible, like you were literally sitting inside a rocket, which they were. It shot upwards out of the silo and through the thundering sky. From outside you would see it, but from inside you just felt it.
The rocket surged upwards, gaining speed as it was buffeted by the weather.
00:19:02. The buffering eased away. The angle changed, their seats pivoted with the arc. The pressure was still forcing them back into their seats.
“Boosters in five, four, three ...”
The pod seemed to tremble as the booster rockets engaged. It felt like some almighty push from behind.
00:18:14. “Accelerating to orbital velocity... entering orbit in seven minutes.”
The evacuation pod shook with the force, the whole thing vibrated. It was scary and exciting all at the same time. The next seven minutes passed very quickly.
00:11:30. “Entering orbit. Speed 17,500 mph. Trajectory adjustment in five, four, three...”
You could feel the movement as the rocket changed course slightly. They were now weightless, there was no longer the sensation of thrust, it was like floating.
“Docking will be in six hours. Trajectory is good.”
Well that was pretty fantastic, Eve thought.
Everybody was in the control room, the boys standing behind the professor and Joseph.
“We will have to shelter in the basement until this is over,” Professor Madison told them.
The countdown clock showed 00:20:00.
“There!” Jack pointed at the screen.
The radar showed the launch.
“I’m switching on the cameras. Don’t know if you'll see anything in this storm.”
The images from all three outside cameras were indeed showing not much other than gloomy darkness broken by lightning.
“I see it,” Jack was excited.
“I should call you eagle eyes,” Joel joked.
They all watched the tiny white flame streaking upwards through the storm.
“Oh fucking shit!” Mark exclaimed. “Did it get hit?”
A streak of lightning had forked through the sky splitting in two around the rocket.
“No it's okay,” Joseph assured them. “See, it's still climbing.”
They watched until it disappeared in the blackness. The professor turned off the cameras and started to shut everything down.
“Okay, you all get down to the basement. Joseph will take you. I'll be there in five minutes.”
Everybody left, leaving Professor Madison to finish the shutdown.
“Mom! Mom!” Charlie shouted.
She gripped him tight.
The vehicle was lifted up and it was moving.
Out of control, it was rolling around. They were picking up speed. Descending, Weaving.
Suddenly there was a loud scrapping sound, a crack, they were jolted to a stop.
“What’s happening?” She was calm as she asked Kado. She did not want to make Charlie any more scared than he was already.
“My guess... flood water.”
“Can this thing handle that?”
“Lets hope so.”
Something like a wave hit them. The car was spinning, knocked free, picking up speed. Obviously hitting stuff, they felt the impacts.
It shuddered, really vibrated, the noise outside was like they were being battered by a torrent, but they were not moving.
It was passing around and over them, the vehicle was vibrating with the pressure. She thought it might just split apart at any moment.
There were lakes now where none existed before, a large expanse of water covered what was previously desolated woodland. None of them knew the trees were there, you couldn't see far enough in the gloom, now it was clear, like an army of forlorn soldiers the tall pine trees marched across the horizon, their feet in the water.
That was not the most remarkable thing, nor was it that you could see the ocean, the waves crashing into a shore that was hidden some way off and below. But the most incredible thing, you might look at it and declare a miracle – the sun was rising over the hills behind the house, the sun!
Nobody had ever seen the sun before. The boys walked out onto the deck at the back of the building, from here you could see the open landscape that finished at a jagged ridge in the distance. The sky was clear and blue, the sun was a round yellow ball, its rays touched the earth and sparkled off the water of the newly formed lake.
Droplets of water glistened as they fell from the roof onto the deck, they reminded Joel of a Christmas a long time ago, their twinkling reflection was like the tiny lights that blinked on the tree. But this was so much bigger, it was as if the whole world had been washed clean and was shining brightly.
“It’s beautiful,” Jack spoke quietly, staring at everything.
Mark gripped Joel's hand, he squeezed it as he looked up at him.
Joel smiled, “It's fucking perfect, I can't believe it.”
After some time staring and taking in everything they could see around them, Joel broke the trance. “We need to go look for Kado, my mom and Charlie.”
“It looks like we survived,” his uncle had joined them on the deck.
“And the building is pretty much undamaged,” Joseph added.
Turning to his uncle, Joel looked concerned. “How are we going to find them, my mom and Charlie?”
“Don't worry, first things first. Joseph and I need to check the power reserves and see what's working. All vehicles have a tracker. If the GPS is working... I am sure it is working, but if we can access it, and that really should be easy, so long as we have some power, we can get their location.
“What about Mount Columbus?” Mark asked, anxious about his brother.
“We'll see about that as well, see if we can communicate.”
They were battered and bruised, the car was at an odd angle, it was dead, no emergency lighting, nothing. They were cocooned inside a black ball and she wondered how they would get out. Charlie was okay, but unusually silent, at least they had survived.
“There's a manual lever to open the door,” Kado's voice came out of the darkness.
“Can you get us out?”
“That's it,” he was thinking aloud, he ignored her question.
If he could budge the lever he would be able to start rotating it and open the door. It moved slightly. He had a firm grip, he shifted to get his weight behind the thing.
“Yes!” He exclaimed with some satisfaction as he started to turn it.
Slowly against a sort of background metallic grinding sound the door of the vehicle began to open, light entered, illuminating the inside with an arc of daylight.
It took ages to move the door manually, then when it was little more than a foot or so open it stopped. Impossible to turn the lever, it was locked solid.
“We're trapped, the thing won't shift. There's gotta be something outside blocking it.”
“You sure you can't move It?”
Kado sat back, thinking for a moment. “Hey kiddo,” he could see Charlie squeezed up next to his mom. “Can you get through there?”
“You're not sending him outside alone.”
“Look, if he can get through the gap, we at least get to know what's blocking us in. What else do you want to do? Sit here forever?”
He didn't think the kid would be much help, but he still wanted to do something, and it was the only way forward. Nobody was going to show up and rescue them.
Eve wondered about the devastation they had left behind, thought about whether anyone would still be alive down there. They were heading for a new life in the stars, but she couldn't help the feeling of loss that invaded her emotions. She was relieved they made it, all together, but even with the planet in the state it was she still missed it.
“That's it then,” Evan remarked.
“No going back, even if anything is left to go back to,” Andre replied.
“I kind of miss it already,” Mark added.
“Don't be nostalgic for what's already ruined and gone,” Howard joined the conversation.
“Anybody who's anybody will be on the mothership. No point feeling melancholic over a dead planet.”
“That's right people,” Emret added. “New life with all the best people.”
Eve didn't reply, she just remembered those neon billboards back in the city, “Join us for a new dawn... life has never been this good...” She wondered had they made the right choice?
When Grif woke, it was dark and cold, there was only the faintest glow from some kind of emergency lighting. He looked across at Steve who was still sleeping. Gingerly he manoeuvred his legs around and over the side of the trolley. He really needed to be able to stand and walk out of here. Holding the side of the thin mattress he lowered his feet to the floor and stood up. He took a couple of steps, still with his hands leaning on the trolley. Finally, he stood up. It was okay, he didn't feel super strong, but he had his balance.
Slowly he walked around the two trolleys, ready to break his fall with his arms outstretched, should his balance falter, but it didn't. He managed.
Shaking the boy next to him gently, he whispered, “Steve, wakey, wakey,” and waited.
The boy stirred and opened his eyes. “That was some dream,” were the first words he spoke. Then seeing Grif standing by his trolley he almost shouted, “You're up!”
“Yeah, well of course I am.”
“No, I mean you’re standing, walking, out of bed.”
“Ah ha, I haven't forgotten how to do that,” Grif smiled in the gloom.
“How you feel?”
“I'll make it.”
Steve sat up and peered into the darkness.
“It's hard to see anything in this place, wasn't like that before was it?”
“No, I guess we’ve lost all power. I think we need to get out of here.”
“We've got backup power for 48 hours approximately and Joseph is setting up the solar bank.” The professor was very cheerful, if somewhat preoccupied.
“The solar bank?” Joel was intrigued, he hadn't heard about this.
“Yes. Something we prepared, for after we recovered control of the rainfall, it will serve us now. The panels will generate enough electricity to keep us going during the day and recharge the batteries for the night.”
“So we'll be okay?” Jack was standing beside Joel, and equally keen to know what was going on.
“If it stays like this, blue skies and sunshine.”
Mark was much more concerned about his brother, “So can we communicate with Mount Columbus?”
“No, I’m sorry, we tried. It's likely they lost communications or power, or both.”
That was not what he wanted to hear.
“Could we go there, to find out?” Joel asked.
“Yes, I think you should and on the way you can find your mother. Here are the coordinates of their vehicle.”
His uncle handed Joel a scribbled note.
“There is a car charged up in the basement garage. It will get you to their vehicle and Mount Columbus. Plus get you back here. You can communicate, but try to keep everything on minimum to conserve power. If they don't have power when you get to Mount Columbus, then you will only have the vehicle charge, which is the limit, there and back.”
“That's great, thanks.” Joel appreciated how very well organised his uncle was. He turned and smiled at the other two boys. “Get your stuff together, whatever you think we might need, and let’s get going.”
“There's a medi-kit and tools in the car. Try to get back as soon as you can, we'll need your help around here.”
Grif found his strength was coming back, he could walk. Occasionally he wobbled, which a couple of times made Steve reach out to grab hold of him, but they made it to the outside.
“Wow, what an amazing view!” Steve was stunned, it was hard to take it all in.
“I never thought this place could be so beautiful,” Grif was equally in awe.
They were halfway up a mountain, well maybe not exactly halfway, but high enough to have a magnificent view point. Forest stretched away into the distance, tall pine trees, although there was a distinct strip that had been crushed. Like skittles knocked over in a domino effect, a great swathe of fallen trees drew a line down the mountain. There was the sound of water rushing across the mountain side, and the whole scene sparkled as if it had been sprinkled with glitter. The most amazing thing of all was the darkness had been replaced by sunlight.
“I don’t believe it!” Steve exclaimed.
“You can see the sun.”
Grif lifted his head, eyelids half closed, towards the sun.
“Oh man, you can feel it’s heat.”
They stood some time looking, feeling, taking in the changes.
“Do you think it will stay like this?” Steve looked hopeful.
“I got no idea, but I sure hope so... It’s like a dream.”
The door was open just enough for Charlie to squeeze halfway through, he couldn't go completely out because the car was virtually smooth and there was nothing to hold onto. Besides, if he slid through and off the body of the vehicle he'd be in the water, and who knew how deep that was. He could climb onto the tree, but he didn't see the use in that.
“So what do you see kiddo?” Kado asked him.
“There’s a tree blocking the door with its branches and we're in the middle of a lake.”
“Don't joke kid, this is serious.”
“I’m not joking, we are in a lake.”
“No, that ain’t possible,” Kado was getting annoyed, but he decided to change tack. “Can you move the tree?”
“No way! You think I got super powers. That tree is ginormous.”
“What about the branches?”
“They're big too.”
“Yeah they’re big, but can you move them off the door.”
Well that’s pretty definite, Kado wondered what the hell they could do now.
“Maybe if we try rocking this thing.”
“Darling come back inside,” Charlie's mom told him.
When he was back in the car she asked him to explain things again. It seemed a tree was lying over the car, or they were wedged against a tree and the branches were thick and stopping the door from opening. They were also in the middle of water.
“And another thing,” Charlie continued his explanation.
“What?” Kado asked.
“I saw the sun... It’s light and I saw the sun.”
Kado moved to take Charlie's place by the door and he tried to exert his not inconsiderable force on the thing, but it didn't budge.
“I guess we’’re stuck,” he finally had to admit.
“Maybe someone will find us.”
“You don’t seriously think that do you? Look the only thing we can do is send the kid to get help.”
“No way, I can't swim.”
They were at an impasse. Kado sat back down to think.