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HELP 3rd Edition

 

 

HELP

 

Copyright 2013 Arturo F. Campo

Published by Arturo F. Campo at Shakespir

—3rd Edition—

 

 

 

Shakespir Edition License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your enjoyment only, then please return to Shakespir.com or your favorite retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Table of Contents

Introduction

Prologue – World Unprepared

Prelude – Love One Another

Episode One

Amo Obib

Planet Earth

The Dream

The Ape Project

Faith Versus Logic

The Dilemma

God’s Side

EPISODE TWO

King Arth

The Hearing and Judgement

Argument Over Justice

Timely and Fruitful

The Crisis

Armies at War

The Greatest Battle

Power Struggle

The Fight for the Rians

EPISODE THREE

Theory of Relativity

The Hybrids

The Excursions

Caught in the Act

Last Farewell

 

Dedication

Acknowledgements

 

About Arturo F. Campo

Connect with Arturo F. Campo

INTRODUCTION

Man seek world peace and create institutions to uphold it. Yet the very institution he creates lends itself to destroy the very essence of its existence. He has entrusted his quest for peace through a system that does not preclude megalomaniacs from rising to power. History attests to the havoc wrought by few to the lives of thousands. With man’s technology now, millions are at risk.

 

In resolution to human conflicts, man used the word ‘PEACE’ so flagrantly that its meaning has evolved to acquire value onto itself. It has become a commodity man can buy, sell, trade or usurp. It has become conditional. . . “Peace be with you or else . . .” Yet true peace cannot be conditional. Man has arrogated its real meaning that when he calls for ‘World Peace,’ he means ‘World Order.’ The dove is a hawk.

Today, the price for peace is pitiful—-indifference to human misfortunes. History bears testament to the brutalities by which man achieves and upholds peace. Under its name, wars were, are, and will be waged. People unwittingly rally to their leaders’ cause for a war that brings them to a carnage by a conviction few understands; a handful question; and the majority swept by a tide of indifference. Thus, the killing fields are drenched in the blood of thousands of soldiers mixed with the miseries of millions of incidental casualties to war—-the innocent men, women, and children—-people drawn to the debauchery not by choice but by circumstance. Regrettably, man accepts these tragedies as normal. The atrocities, justified! The depravity, reasoned out! Rational, yet irrational. Justifiable inhumanity, lamentable it may be, is man’s price for peace.

It is strange, for if you changed the word PEACE to POWER or GREED and worst still to MEGALOMANIACAL AMBITION and reread the last paragraph, it will not change its message. How can words with distinct meanings, share the same thought? It is a paradox. For this, man is ever suspicious; intent is always an issue. Distrust breeds and fear takes control. Man, the intelligent being, is the most insecure creature on planet Earth.

The solution to human problems stems not from the failure to see but in choosing to be blind to what we see. World problems are complex, yet the solution is simple and stares us in our face--- Love One Another. Its absence is man’s greatest tragedy.

 

PRELUDE

Love God and One Another

(Naska is Imar)

 

 

A solar system, over half a billion light years from our sun and 2.3 million years ago, was doomed. On the fourth of seven planets called Ria lived a singular race of peaceful people—-the Rians.

 

The Rian’s way of life revolved around their belief in one God and in His greatest law: ‘Naska is Imar’ a constricted phrase to mean ‘Love God and One Another’. The phrase, despite its literal meaning, expresses different things under different circumstances: to thank, to greet or bid farewell, to console or condole, to congratulate, or merely to remind each other of its importance to their life.

 

In their society, there are farmers, industrial workers, clerks, and managerial classes. Work distinctions with no social meaning. There are no literal words for war, vengeance, deceit, or treachery. With one race, government, religion, and complete harmonious coexistence, theirs is a dream society – a utopia.

Highly advanced in science and technology, the Rians did not foresee the freak in nature. Their sun was young by astral standard and believed it to shine for millions of years. It was not so. Without warning, it blew its surface hurling a massive molten mass twenty times larger than their planet that headed directly for it. They have 167 days to flee their planet and their solar system.

 

 

 

EPISODE ONE

 

 

WORLD UNPREPARED

 

Late January, 1997, Bering Strait, Alaska.

 

Parked at the predeparture bay of a huge pyramid-shape spaceship was a lone sixty-foot wide saucer-shaped airship. It was the only one left of the thirty-four they started with. The light that streamed out of its opened door faintly illuminated the area nearby. Elsewhere, a humongous empty space hidden in darkness.

Two humanlike figures, Amo Obib and his wife, Ningning, were seated on a wooden bench by the airship’s ramp side. They waited for their five children to bid their last farewell. Sadness had weakened their spirit and a deep sense of loneliness prevailed. They were very much in the own thoughts. Thoughts of hopelessness, of fears, and of trepidation for what the future would hold for their children once the left the spaceship.

 

Ningning’s tears had reddened her eyes and welted her eyelids. She held on to her husband’s, Amo Obib, left arm and melancholy leaned her head on his shoulder as she held herself from crying. She could only wish things went differently. “I fear . . .,” she choked, “I fear we are sending our children to a world that is not prepared for them.”

Amo Obib felt her hands clasped his arm, her head on his shoulder. He shared her sadness, her concerns, the mixed feelings of anxieties and helplessness. In a sigh, answered sadly, “I wish we had a choice.” He paused and in an uncertain tone of voice continued, “In all the years I observed Humans, I never understood them. Power, greed, and mistrust are things that shape their destiny. Never in history have they thought of themselves as one, earthlings. Countries, races, tribes, families, and even within their own family, they compete against each other. I do not understand,” he paused again as he struggled to make sense of it. He continued, “It’s sad for it is within the human’s power to make this planet a wonderful place to live. If they only knew the value in loving and helping each other, they could make their world a paradise. It perplexes me,” he sighed, his head bowed slightly, eyes staring blankly at the floor. In recollection added, “Nengut was right . . . our culture and upbringing will never allow us to comprehend humans explicitly and neither will they of us.”

Ningning was taken aback, surprised. She slowly lifted her head from his shoulder to see his face. She saw no expression, solemn, deep in thought. Never had she heard him talk of human frailties. He was always optimistic of what humans could do and achieve for themselves and for others. She wondered herself: ‘So many things are in their favor yet ignore their blessings and take a course that may destroy the wonderful things they have—-their family, their friends, and even their only world. They seem not to care, indifferent to what has happened around them and their future.’

 

Amo Obib’s chest heaved. Fresh air filled his lungs then expelled words curved out of deeply kept torments. “Our deaths will mark the end of the Rian civilization in this universe,” he sadly said. Then a question heavy in his mind came and asked Ningning, “Did I fail the many who pinned their hopes on me?”

Ningning looked at her husband’s face again with sadness and concern. She felt his anguish, the frustrations, his unanswered questions, the doubts that haunted him through the years. She held back her tears from falling for her husband’s sake. She knew how heavy his burdens were yet spoke not a word of it through all the years of trials until now. She replied putting as much feelings placed in her words, “You were always at your best at the worst of times. I do not say this to please you, my husband, but as a Rian you are an exceptional leader, a worthy amo. As your wife, I am so proud of you,” and, uncontrollably, a tear came out from each of her eyes; crept down her cheeks; fell; and soaked on her skirt.

 

  • * *

 

The dialogue was between two aliens. The only survivors of the thirty-six passengers of a gigantic pyramid-shaped spaceship forced to land on our planet Earth 2.3 million years ago. It lay hidden within a cavern of a barren basalt island amidst the many within a shoal between Siberia and Alaska – the Bering Straits. Though they came from a distant planet called Ria, 579 million light years from planet Earth, they could walk among earthlings and would merely turn heads much like seeing the Bushmen of Kalahari, short and lean. But unlike the Bushmen, they were bald-headed with almond shaped eyes, brow-less, lighter in complexion, small ears, and slit-like lips.

Amo Obib was no ordinary Rian citizen. He was the ‘Amo’, the Supreme Head for both Rian Church and State—-his power absolute. His attire was no different from the rest: off-white in color, Nero-type collar, long sleeves, and a pocket-less pants. It was the gold-chained triangular medallion, with an eye deeply engraved, that distinguished him from the rest. It represented his supreme authority over all Rians.

 

On seeing a group appear from the fringed of the lighted area, Ningning said “Here they come,” then composed herself as she and Amo Obib stood.

Five young women, humans in all respect in their early twenty’s, walked towards them. Everyone had long straight hairs parted off-center that fell over their shoulders. They wore plain white dress, collared, and long sleeves. Two have Caucasian features; another two with Asians; and a Negress. They expected each to have a suitcase in their hand but had none and wondered. They remained calm. A welcome smile was on their faces.

Of the five women, Lulu, a Caucasian, had beautiful blue almond-shaped eyes and a sweet looking face. A natural born leader, a trait she inherited from her father and the rest of her, sweet, much like her mother. She stood in front of her sisters. Apprehensive in manner said, “My Father, we humbly request your permission to stay with Mama and you till the end.”

Ningning, on seeing Amo Obib, looked away pressed for words, intervened, “Please, do not make it harder for us,” then hid her face on Amo’s chest and whimpered.

Heavy hearted, close to tears, Amo Obib addressed their children, “You will never realize how hard it is for your Mama and I see you all go until you become parents.” He paused; looked at Lulu and saw her posture in submission. He concluded, “Our time together has ended.”

Ningning looked at her children. Amidst tears, she managed a broken smile. Lapped with sadness, her voice quivered, “We love you all so dearly.”

Amo Obib heard Ningning sob and saw their children whimper at their place. He stayed silent, consolation he had none. Eyes moistened, he waited for them to gain their composure then reminded their children, “Never forget you are Rians by heart though you are biologically human. Never forget your mission—-help humankind without ever revealing your real nature. Work hard to make this beautiful planet a wonderful world to live in. Be a good wife, a mother, and an exceptional citizen of this planet.”

One of the five women broke in desperation, “What if I found a way to save you and Mama?” as she wiped the tears from her eyes. “What if . . .”

Amo Obib interrupted, “Say no more. Again, I stress . . . do nothing to save your mother and I. Do not take any risk that may reveal your true nature. You are a by-product of genetic engineering. If this be known, your children and their children will suffer the consequences. Freak is a harsh word some humans might use. Think no longer of us. Take strength that God loves and be with you, as your Mama and I, always.” He turned to Ningning and asked nicely, “Do you have anything to add, Ningning?”

Flooded with mixed emotions, Ningning’s lips quivered, a tear fell but no words came out of her mouth.

Amo Obib sadly looked at Ningning then their children, said, “Please get your suitcase.”

 

In sadness, Amo Obib and Ningning watched their children go back to get their suitcase. They watched them walked away beyond their sight in the shadow of darkness then sat again on the wooden bench.

Ningning held on to Amo Obib’s arm and sadly leaned her head on his shoulder.

Amo Obib gently stroked her hands on his arm and, as he did, a question flashed in his mind, ‘Where did all these begin?’ then drifted back in time, 2.3 million years ago, and half-a-billion light years away from Earth.

 

Force Landing

 

Over two million years ago, a solitary pyramid-shaped spaceship zoomed through deep space. The ship’s surface did not have door bays, portholes nor any signs of structural seams leaving but a perfectly smooth metallic gray colored surface that mirrored the millions of galaxies around. It had skirted many galaxies, and in some through its maze of billions of stars. Straight ahead, a galaxy cluster loomed. At its course, it would pass thru its spiral arm, through a solar system, and from there, head to another abyss of black space.

Not visually apparent, the pyramid ship was composed of two modules seamlessly attached together. The top portion of the ship was the mother ship. It housed the Command Center, all the laboratories, and the power generator that drove the entire vessel. Directly under, was the gigantic Colonizing Module it ferried.

 

The Colonizing Module was but a gargantuan storehouse. The entire top level had half-a-million honeycomb of hexagonal hibernating capsules. A little over half were filled with Rians in deep-sleep, oblivious to time. The rest of the capsules were eerily empty. The levels underneath, and there were over a thousand, resembled a warehouse of things needed to start a technologically advanced colony. A number of levels were filled with knockdown shells of houses and factories, office and house furnishings, several levels full of light and heavy industrial machineries, and equipment. A number were huge storage spaces of assembled trucks, buses, cars, aircrafts, and boats of different sizes.

Noticeable to all levels were the utilization of spaces between odd-shape cargoes and even within the cargo themselves – all crammed with packed items with some squeezed in small crevices. Conspicuous were the wear and tear marks on the things they brought – mostly used, and hurriedly packaged and stored. To the end of bringing as much as they could, it was excellently done.

 

In partially filled compartments, where stocking activities occurred, lifeless bodies of aliens littered the floor. Passageways showed signs of a calamity striking suddenly and all over. Wreck vehicles, mostly transports of various kinds, remained motionless and, others, smashed up against walls, embedded to crates, or to each other. At most exit and entrance bays, and there were thousands all over the Colonizing Module, a number of vehicles were pinned and cut in two underneath shut bay doors. Fire extinguishers lay about near smoke marked walls, ceilings, and sites of wreckage. Some still clutched by someone on the floor. The sights of death and chaotic scenes created a picture of a hurried endeavor to fully load the ship that abruptly and catastrophically ended.

Oddly, for a ship of this immense size and its complement of over 250,000 passengers, there were no sleeping quarters, no mess halls or kitchens anywhere! Such may reveal itself if the cargoes were removed but not at its present state.

 

The stocking scene was repeated within the Mother Ship but no dead Alien anywhere. Except for one room, the Command Center, all other rooms were packed full of crates and boxes that spilled over all the hallways. The elevators were not spared – it had but a small space for one occupant, if at all.

Circular in shape, the Command Center was the only room devoid of cargoes. It was dimly lighted from the soft glow of thirty-six hibernating capsules that stood upright and half-embedded on its side walls. The room’s flight information screen occupied the front and the back wall, a closed door.

A wide arch-shaped flight control console with three swivel seats fronted a large main screen followed by a slightly raised Flight Commander’s chair. Behind the Commander’s chair, a podium with an armchair for two, the Amo and his wife. Rows of seats occupied the gallery at the rear.

A milky white cloud circulated within the hibernating capsules that, every now and then, showed a silhouette of an alien, frozen in time. Everyone had identical skin-tight and silk-white uniform that outlined their lean statured body – the women, however, had raffled collar on its neck and at the ends of each sleeve while the men merely had a slit on them. Of the men, one had a triangular granite medallion that hanged on his neck with an eye heavily engraved.

 

A soft hum from the ship’s propulsion unit permeated the room. On the flight information screen, in Alien writing, were the flight summaries. One in bold letters read in translation, ‘All systems: NORMAL’.

 

Suddenly, the ship’s siren broke the silence. The ceiling lighted up. Simultaneously, the milky cloud within the hibernating capsules got sucked to its side. The main screen redrew itself, adding detailed flight status data. Flashing on the screen’s top, in red, was the bold warning: “IMMEDIATE DECISION REQUIRED”. Seconds later, the aliens within the capsules began to breathe.

 

The piercing sound of wailing siren jarred Nerus, the Ship Commander and Expedition Head, to consciousness. He had experienced these things in simulations but it was now for real. Eager to act, he felt his heart pound within his chest but helpless as the acclimation cycle must take its course. A minute later, the sound of the siren abruptly stopped and, simultaneously, all the capsule doors slid sideways. Primed for action, all rushed out of their capsule. Three of the ship’s flight engineers dashed towards their work station and, in urgency, did system checks; Amo Obib lead Ningning by her hand and walked briskly for their designated chair; and thirty, Ria’s youngest and brightest in the field of medicine and biological sciences, ran towards the gallery at the rear. Tense bodies and anxious faces prevailed.

Commander Nerus left his capsule with eyes in search for a red warning light on the main screen. There was no red flashing light flashing! Clueless to the danger heightened his concerns. He raced towards the command chair, the only place he could execute ship functions, and, the moment he sat, commanded, “Goopersh, shut off propulsion!”

“Propulsion off,” Goopersh, the ship’s master computer, responded in a lifeless monotone.

Commander Nerus was lost and confused. Goopersh message should have pointed directly the problem but did not and all operating system status indicated ‘NORMAL’ His eyes strained through the list of ship status in the order of importance on the main screen. His breath held momentarily to a non-critical line that read: Flight Mode: MANUAL. ‘It should read, ‘AUTOMATIC’, he thought. Questions of its implications flashed rapidly through his mind. He knew the speed limit maxed at the speed of light yet the speed indicator read, ‘BEYOND RANGE.’Beyond range?’ he questioned himself. He shifted focus to the fuel and found temporary relief – it showed one-fifth full. He deduced a possible malfunction to the new propulsion unit powered by an untested fuel. The new fuel was theoretically plausible for space exploration that covered distances between galaxies and compact. It harbored tremendous energy capable of destroying their solar system and was never put into use because of the danger it paused if a miscalculation was made until they knew their planet was doomed.

His attention was diverted to the Flight Engineers successive verbal reports. It confirmed his hunch and quickly questioned, “Goopersh, there is nothing wrong with the ship. What triggered the alarm?”

“I did,” Goopersh replied laconically.

Commander Nerus’s body lurched on Goopersh’s laconic reply. Confused to what Goopersh meant, he snapped, “Your recommendation?”

“Eject the Colonizing Module and land on the only habitable planet along the flight path.”

Attention focused on the hundreds of thousands Rians in hibernation within the Colonizing Module, he asked, “What will happen to the Colonizing Module?”

“It will disintegrate,” Goopersh replied devoid of emotion.

In desperation, the Commander asked, “It is imperative we increase the survivability for all. Do I have an option?”

“One. Success probability, nil.”

“How?”

“Release Colonizing Module at galactic orbital speed. Lighten the Mother Ship before engaging the propulsion unit for landing. Window to implement: twelve seconds.”

Without hesitation, commanded, “Goopersh, activate the Colonizing Module’s distress signal. Implement the option, now!”

“Please be seated firmly, implementing,” Goopersh reacted.” Simultaneously, the safety harness enveloped each securely to their seat.

 

The pyramid ship rotated 180-degrees from its axis then the propulsion unit went on-line. Its pulsating hum crescendo to a deafening roar as the ship wobbled violently. The Rian’s body strained as each got tossed side-to-side at random within their seat harness. In Commander Nerus’ mind, he cheered, ‘Slow down, slow down!’—-their lives depended on the ship’s structural integrity to overcome the stress exerted to rapidly decelerate the ship’s speed down to sub-light level. At its worst, the intense wobbling stopped; their harness slid to the seat’s side; then silence followed by a loud thud and a sharp jolt.

The tense atmosphere in the room was replaced by relief then awe as they viewed their ship on the main screen detached itself from the colonizing module it ferried then floated sideways. Huge by itself, the Mother Ship was small compared to the humongous Colonizing Module. On clearing it, the propulsion unit restarted and, instantly, the module disappeared from view on the screen as the spaceship rapidly decelerated. The ship hummed as it aligned itself to its destination then silence.

The eerie silence triggered a sense of gloom to the Rians. They knew the Colonizing Module housed everything they needed to start a colony, but more so, the thought of knowing hundreds of thousands of their shipmates in hibernation were within its walls.

 

Goopersh reported, “Colonizing Module in galactic orbit. Cruising on ship’s inertia. Travel time to target planet: 1,272 years. Danger, over,” and the warning light on the screen went blank.

With heightened concern, Commander Nerus asked, “How long will the batteries powering the hibernating capsules last?”

“Hibernating capsules on both this ship and Colonizing Module will last approximately two point three million years.”

“How many are in the Colonizing Module?”

“Last report: 254,351.”

The words and number caught his attention. The module could accommodate half a million Rians in hibernation and the term ‘Last report’ bothered him. “Download ship status for review,” he commanded then convened a Flight Staff meeting at the adjoining room.

 

The Predicament

 

Rians, in small groups, chatted in low voice. Wary of their fate, an uneasy hush followed the moment Commander Nerus and his flight staff returned to the room. The Rians along the Commander’s direct path to the amo moved aside.

 

On getting there, the commander addressed the amo with reverend, “My Amo, I will brief you on our situation.”

“Good,” Amo Obib reacted.

Commander Nerus led the amo to the room he came from. It was small, claustrophobic. A rectangular table with four chairs on its sides occupied most of the floor space; its walls were bare. It represented the ship’s design criteria—-maximum use of space.

Commander Nerus courteously led the amo to sit close to the door for ease of access. The adjacent chair he sat on was but an inch away from the wall. Aware of their problem and with no solid solution, he said with concern, “My Amo, when Goopersh said our chance of landing safely was nil, it computed the things to dispose from the ship prior to landing. Saving time on the twelve seconds left us the safe margin to land but not much more.”

“Not much more?” Amo Obib responded with surprise then apprehension. It was open knowledge that the fuel the ship carried was sufficient for their purpose—-enough to explore thousands of planets in dozens of galaxies and still provide power to the new colony’s need for a thousand years. To run out of it seemed unbelievable.

“Unfortunately, we were launched on manual mode at maximum power that we depleted our fuel just cruising thru the vastness of outer space and slowing down the ship.”

Worriedly, the amo asked, “Where do we stand?”

“Once on the planet and at minimal use of the ship’s remaining fuel, two-years maximum and we living within the confines of the ship—-the radiation that streams out of the planet’s core is high, high enough to confine us in the ship.”

Amo Obib, a biochemist and genetic engineer before he became an amo, knew its adverse effects on their health. He pondered not on the danger it posed on them but on the viability of colonizing the planet. “Can we go to another planet?”

“The planet is the only one we can land on with living conditions close to ours. Missing it will mean either the ship or the hibernating capsules running out of power before we can come near another galaxy.”

“You said two years maximum?”

“Yes. My Amo, all of the ship’s operating systems and its structural integrity are dependent on the energy converter. If we turn on the converter just to power basic systems, we have no more than two years of fuel. At depletion, the ship will explode. Fortunately, Goopersh left out the ship’s redundant systems. If we disposed the redundant systems, we have twenty-three years’ worth of fuel utilizing all of the ships facilities. We can add more if we strip the ship of its non-essential elements and dispose of supplies we can live without or make once on the planet. It’s worth the inconvenience and risk,” the commander stressed.

Amo Obib was uneasy. A worried look was on his face as he considered the commander’s proposal. Shortly after, he said, “As you aptly put it, we will throw anything we can live without. We will take the risk on the removal of all redundant systems and discuss what we will do with the added time once on the planet.” He curiously asked, “Are there intelligent beings on the planet?”

“There are no unnatural features on the planet’s surface to indicate intelligent form of life. If it is at its infancy, we can shut off the energy converter and hibernate for 2.3 million years. Hopefully, by then, intelligent beings would have evolved,” the commander answered.

Amo Obib understood its implications and replied, “I pray it will be so. Your decision on the matter is my decision. I give you leave to preside the meeting to inform every one of our predicament and plan.”

 

Strip the Ship

 

Everyone in the ship was at the Command Center for their first general meeting. Commander Nerus, who stood beside the seated amo, got the three flight engineers, seated behind the podium, to sit on the floor in front of the gallery for visibility. When the engineers sat, the sight of the thirty-five other living souls in the entire ship overwhelmed him. It made him realize the enormity, the gravity of his responsibility to those before him and to those stranded in outer space. He started the meeting with a short prayer then explained their predicament. He used as much layman’s terms to an assembly whose expertise lay mostly on the biological fields—-the expertise needed to evaluate a planet for habitability had things went as planned. He concluded his report, “. . . We can land safely on the planet but for a price. We have to strip the ship of non-essentials down to our personal belongings. We will hold on to our biological and medical equipment and supplies, essential testers and meters, and all exploratory airships. I am open to questions.”

 

Eager hands rose from the gallery. The commander pointed to one who asked, “Why did Goopersh not override the system before warning us?”

Commander Nerus answered, “Our master computer, Goopersh, is programmed never to override manual settings. It can warn should it sense imminent danger to our safety and that was what it did.”

Analytical, a flight engineer seated on the floor asked, “The ship was launched on manual mode during the unmanned flight. Do you know why?”

Commander Nerus knew the answer required explanation to the non-technically oriented passengers and explained, “On Automated Mode, Goopersh was programmed to find and explore a habitable planet within our galaxy first then nearby galaxies, if needed. It would evaluate the planet for habitability. Once found, Goopersh would wake everyone here to conduct in-depth analysis to ascertain our adaptability to the new living environment. Once ascertained, colonizing the planet begins. As it was, we left our planet, our solar system, our galaxy and crossed thousands more, and forced to leave the Colonizing Module in deep space with over two-hundred-fifty thousand of our brothers and sisters in hibernation to orbit this galaxy indefinitely. We will only know why if we reviewed events prior to liftoff and will do so after all your questions are answered.”

 

The session continued then, eager as well to know why they were launched on ‘manual mode’, Commander Nerus commanded, “Goopersh, display the external audiovisual record ten minutes prior to ship launch.”

Goopersh responded, “No record in memory bank.”

The response was unexpected. He considered the possibilities then asked, “Was the ship prematurely launched during power switchover?”

“Affirmative.”

Commander Nerus understood its implications and explained, “During power switchover, that is, from external to internal power source, the entire ship’s systems and its computer programs are checked one by one in sequence as it is powered up by an external computer. During the process, our internal computer, that is Goopersh, is on ‘Standby Mode’ and unable to receive communications. Bypassing the switchover process, for any reason, will launch the ship in manual mode. Something catastrophic must have happened as the ship was prematurely launched. Goopersh, show video at startup.”

Thick black smoke, jutting flames, and flying debris were all they could see from all camera locations within the enormous assembly building. Between deafening explosions were the sounds of sirens. The ship rose amid smoke and flames then smashed through the building’s roof. On clearing it, the cameras showed a fiery inferno had engulfed the launch site and the panorama of conflagration beyond. Pockets of fire peppered the immediate scenery, and the city, at the distance, in infernal flames. As the spaceship accelerated away from their planet, the devastation became clear and frightening. Thousands of meteor impact craters and bright flashes of explosions pockmarked their planet Ria. As the cameras scanned sideways, a gargantuan cluster of molten mass spewed by their sun 159 days earlier, headed directly at their planet. Then, in a fraction of a second, the planet disappeared from the screen as the spaceship sped exponentially to a course away from their planet; its sun; their solar system; and their galaxy.

 

Amo Obib sensed the gloom in the room and his own. He saw tears from Ningning’s eyes and from the rest. He held back his own as from the scenes of devastations, fresh thoughts of loved ones left behind, overcame the excitement of their adventure. He offered a prayer to their dear departed; their safety and those in the Colonizing Module then asked Commander Nerus, “Can we view our new home?”

Commander Nerus ordered in response, “Goopersh, magnify target planet,”

 

On the large main screen, a spiral galaxy (the Milky Way Galaxy) loomed directly ahead. A whirlpool of billions of stars band together tightly at its core then narrowed as it spread outward as spiral arms that shown brightly against the backdrop of black space. It was sight to behold. Goopersh zoomed progressively on a particular spot near the fringe of one of the galaxy’s spiral arms: from a haze of white clouds, it became specks of hundreds of thousands individual lights; then thousands of stars; then a lone star; a solar system; and, finally, a blue planet laced with white clouds and a white polar cap filled the screen. The whole of North America, the Artic Pole, and the northern part of South America were discernible. The Americas, as it looked over two million years ago!

They marveled at their new home that was differently beautiful compared to the planet they once lived and could never return. Commander Nerus explained its features and after said, “We will focus now on the things that needs doing—-strip the ship.”

 

  • * *

 

They spared nothing from the list of disposables from Goopersh’s printouts. They jettisoned all redundant systems; almost all of the ship’s cargo; most of their equipment and supplies; non-structural columns and beams down to their personal belongings. Except for designated areas, they removed the ship’s furnishing, partitioning walls, stairs, floorings, leaving but catwalks and ladders, if any. It was not an arduous task to remove the rigid structures as it could be configured to revert back to its original state, liquid. This liquid was expelled out of the ship but kept some for future use as it could be programmed to become physical objects—-furnishings, machines of intricate design, and sophisticated electronic devices without Rian intervention. But it had limitations—-it must be attached to the ship’s structure and consumed energy to retain its form but not when it was in its liquid state. The entire ship was mostly made of this versatile substance that, if the power source was interrupted for a second, the whole ship would literally melt like butter and explode. It was the thousands of crates and boxes the ship had that took time to move out of the ship though weightlessness in outer space helped.

At the disposable list’s end, the trolleys, less its batteries, their tools were all in the disposal bay. For themselves, they had only what they wore without shoes as it was heavy when its functions were turned off.

To strip the ship was daunting but was accomplished at the brink of their collapsing from exhaustion and hunger. The ship was exclusively meant to ferry the Colonizing Module that it had no kitchen nor did it store any food. The only sustenance they had came from the snack boxes packed within the thirty-four airships parked at its cargo hold. There was enough there to last them a week and rationed it.

When disposing was done and time to go in hibernation, Amo Obib and Ningning assisted individuals to their hibernating capsule bidding each, “Naska is Imar.”

On Ningning’s turn, Amo Obib guided her in her capsule as she moved backward.

On intuition, Ningning said, “Do not stay longer than you should my husband,” ending it with a quint smile.

Amo Obib was taken aback. He did not tell her his plan to stay behind. He did not respond, instead kissed her forehead and smiled back. “I am fortunate to have you as my wife,” he said beaming at her.

“Not as fortunate as I am,” she coyly replied with a smile, her eyes on his. “Naska is Imar,” she bade.

“Naska is Imar,” he returned as he stepped back. Mesmerized by her smile, he looked at her through the transparent hibernator’s door as it slid closed. He noticed her eyelids flattered on an induced sleep state. When her eyes finally closed, she still wore the sweet smile on her face.

 

Inevitable Conclusion

 

Except for the lined hibernating capsules on the side walls and the command chair, the Command Center was bare. With no ship command to execute, Amo Obib sat on the cold floor by a wall and leaned on it. As he organized his thoughts, Goopersh cautioned, “My instruction includes turning off the ventilation and lighting systems. Please enter the hibernating capsule.”

“Goopersh, turn off both. Advise me when the breathable air in the room becomes low.”

“I will warn,” then the ceiling light turned off and the air from the ventilation ducts ceased to flow. Only the soft glow from the hibernators dimly lit the room.

As their spiritual leader and head of their community, their lives and those in the Colonizing Module, their civilization’s future was in his hands and weighed heavily in his mind. He never had the chance to be alone and needed time to assess their situation—-to know equally, if not better, as his decision was final, it must be right the first time. “Goopersh, please display planet data,” then engaged Goopersh in a dialogue on the planet’s atmospheric and geological makeup. He was meticulous in his questions—-he must not make a wrong decision. Too much was at stake.

Exhausting the subjects, he leaned his head on his hands with his elbows resting on bent knees and focused on things he might have missed.

 

Amo Obib

 

Amo Obib, whose layman’s name was Obib Opmak, was a child prodigy. His interest in biology as a boy led him to pursue Biochemistry and Genetic Engineering graduating with highest honors. With restrictive church laws on genetic research, he could not broaden his knowledge in the field. Young and restless, he crusaded for the liberalization of educational policies on Genetic Engineering and on the revocation of the space exploration ban as he did not appreciate the Rian State Policy of isolation from the universe around them. For fear of detection from malevolent intelligent beings beyond their solar system, they ringed their planet with satellites that rendered it physically and electronically invisible. He vehemently contended: theoretical understanding of the physical world was insufficient. He fervently believed the exploration of the universe for the good of other civilizations a worthy Rian endeavor. He sent countless request letters to the Council of Elders for an audience on the subject. They acknowledged receipts of the letters, nothing else.

He rallied the university students, especially those in the scientific field. Most concurred to his proposals but ignored his plan for mass petition. Oddly, Rians relied on the church to decide on issues that affected their community. They believed: state laws and policies must be set forth to benefit the whole, a determination left to the Council of Elders to research, discuss, ruminate, and recommend for the amo’s approval. They have no reasons to complain – Rian was a society of free and happy people solely from the guidance of their church who looked upon their well-being with unquestionable devotion. However, Obib was no average Rian. He was a young scientist eager to explore and venture into the unknown. With laws that set limits to his quest for knowledge, he felt his mind choked and imprisoned.

A year later, the Elders offered him a job as the first Administrator of Rian Student Affairs. This puzzled him. He knew his unorthodox approach to initiate change displeased the Elders. Handing out leaflets and holding public meetings to question state policies were unheard of. Yet the Elders never talked him out nor restrained him from his activities. Permits to hold public meetings came easier than normal. It puzzled him more when he was offered a sensitive position, Student Affairs Administrator, that brought him closer to the people he was swaying to his views. He accepted the offer. It was a step forward even if it was a ploy, for whatever purpose, to divert or redirect his attention.

As Administrator, he saw the problem related to the students’ wellbeing. Rians understood their physical sciences so well that there were little things for the young minds to exploit. The advent of the Atomic Converter, three decades earlier, made it worse. The Atomic Converter epitomized Rian’s mastery over atomic science. It was a humongous machine that broke an atom into its subatomic components and created another of their design. The atomic converters opened new scientific frontiers and more promises to their technology but it had drawbacks . . . it oversimplified it. It rendered more technologies and job skills obsolete than it created. Much like the Age of Automation spawned by the computer era, six hundred years earlier, reenacted again. But his time, its impact was felt a hundred-fold. As a result, the creative mind stagnated and Rian youth got the brunt of it. Obib addressed the problem through projects involving university students to solve theoretical problems and scenarios, and a panel of experts to judge its viability. It kept the young minds occupied but that was how far it went, theoretical.

He never gave up his campaign for liberalized educational policies on Genetic Engineering and space exploration completely. It was a smoldering fire within. He knew the Elders abhorred the idea that allowed young people to exploit banned scientific subjects even if it were purely theoretical. Nevertheless, the Elders never pointed out their dissatisfaction and supported his projects without question. He wondered what the Elders’ reasons were but since his activities were unopposed and unrestricted, he did not care. He had one consolation, eventually, the Elders must listen.

“Breathable air at 60%,” warned Goopersh.

 

The warning got Amo Obib’s attention and opened his eyes. He saw the triangular medallion that dangled from his neck. It was the symbol of his supreme authority as the amo, head of their church and state. He held it with reverence; felt its weight; its coldness; and realized he was not dreaming. ‘Was I destined for this?’ the question flashed in his mind and brought him back in time when Ria’s Governor, the highest state position appointed by the amo, died. The State was open for applicants to the vacant post. Anyone with ambition could apply as there was neither restriction nor limitation.

To be Ria’s Governor was far from Obib’s mind. He loved his job and leaving it was out of the question. But the Elders had denied him audience on the merits of his crusades for so long he felt desperate. Applying for the Governor’s position gave him a chance to air his views directly to the amo—-a personal audition was part of the selecting process. He would withdraw his application after was his plan.

 

He remembered the interview day vividly when, as a layman, he headed for the walled city of the church for his scheduled audience with Ria’s amo, then, Amo Tasiyo. He recalled the unguarded gate to the city; of feeling proud and fortunate—-the church rarely gave the privilege to layman to enter the church’s city. It was Amo Tasiyo’s poor health that his last interview was to take place at his cottage rather than at the large hall by the wall, the wall that separated the church’s city from the outside world.

On entering the city of the church, he noticed the sharp contrast in lifestyle. He knew life within the city followed the old ways but being there still shocked him. It seemed the walls that separated the city to metropolitan Atlantis, a time barrier. Crossing brought one back to the Bronze Age.

He walked on cobbled streets and sidewalks lined with fern trees and flowered plants. Small perpendicular alleys led to small quaint cottages with brick walls and straw roofs. Men in tunic and women in robe smiled and greeted as he passed. At the street’s end, was the sacred well—-a well built by the hands of their first amo at God’s command. Touching its surrounding stone-wall brought old memories of wanting priesthood. A sense of inner peace and an uncomplicated way of life overwhelmed him.

Beyond the sacred well was the amo’s cottage. Except for the arrangement of the flowering plants and fern trees, the cottage was no different from the rest, in width and depth but was the only one with a second floor. Being Ria’s Absolute Ruler, he expected something grander but equally modest.

Finding himself early, he sat on a bench under a fern tree facing a small well-tended flowered garden. As he settled, he started to appreciate the beautiful flowers around and the serenity of the place. His inner drive to assert oneself slowly faded. He marveled at the electronic ceiling overhead, it covered the entire metropolis, an area spanning hundreds of square miles, and the simulated weather within. The clime was always right—-the breeze, cool and pleasant. With their advancement in technology, it was only a matter of time when they can simulate their sun and clouds – a perfect climate to replace their often-muggy weather and overcast sky. Minutes later, the cottage door opened and an old woman in plain white robe beckoned him to come. The woman introduced herself as Medi, Amo Tasiyo’s wife, though he knew. They allowed amos to have a wife that the Elders chose but barred them from having children.

‘Medi looked different in plain white robe against the formal attire she dons at rare public occasions with her husband’, Obib thought. They held them at the only thing that protruded out of the city’s surrounding high-stone-wall—-a wide ceremonial balcony faced Atlantis as the Amo and his wife never left their city. It was part of their vow.

Obib knew church clergies lived Spartan lives and took notice of the room that was austerely furnished. They crossed a small but immaculately clean-living room. The dining table and kitchen were but a few steps away. They went up a narrow wooden stair to the bedroom. After two light knocks, she opened the door and they entered.

 

The room was small. Two wooden cots were on opposite sides of the room. A small table stood by its side. On the plastered-adobe wall directly above each cot was a triangular shaped granite pendant with an eye delicately curved within, the symbol of their one God. Adjacent to the door was the closet and, fronting it, a narrow veranda overlooking a picturesque country scene of well-arranged straw roofed cottages against a wide-open valley dotted by fern trees, flowered plants, and a beautiful lake yonder.

Amo Tasiyo, in plain white robe, stood out of his chair wobbling from the weight of his aged and frail body. His arms stretched in an embracing gesture.

Obib quickly moved to embrace and support as well.

“Naska is Imar,” Amo Tasiyo said in an old man’s coarse and quivering voice as they hugged and rubbed each other’s back as they did.

Obib greeted back, “Naska is Imar.” As they embraced, he felt Amo Tasiyo’s arm bones pressed against his back. At 193 years of age, the amo had outlived a generation and was going for his second. However, Obib had reservations. He somehow sensed the very old amo’s life journey neared its end. From the side, he saw Medi wiped tears from her eyes as she smiled at him. ‘Why the tears?’ he asked himself.

“Let me have a good look at you,” Amo Tasiyo said as they parted embrace. He looked at him from head to feet and even asked him to turn. He looked at him as a father would a son he had not seen for years. “Walk me to the veranda chair, my son,” he instructed as he placed his right hand on Obib’s shoulder for support.

In a soft elderly voice, Medi cautioned, “You are not supposed to do that. This has been a long day for you.” Her concern was both audible and visible.

“It’s only fifteen feet and a little exercise will not hurt,” he argued nicely, determined to have his way. “Join us,” he added as he walked slowly with Obib’s help, “But first, get help to have someone bring us something to drink. I know you . . . you will get it yourself. You’re not as young as you think yourself to be.”

“I can manage,” she argued as she beamed at him. “Don’t think of me, think of yourself.” Medi went her way without arguing over Amo Tasiyo’s walking nor did the amo argue over her fetching the drinks. Time had tempered both to know how far each can go.

 

With Obib’s help, Amo Tasiyo sat on the veranda’s patio armchair. From his vantage, he could see the vegetable and flowered garden of an adjacent cottage a stone throw way. With his hand, he weakly gestured Obib to sit. “I understand you tried to join the church community,” he said casually, smiling.

“Yes,” Obib replied then took the nearby wooden stool; placed it near and in front of amo Tasiyo’s chair; and sat. Accustomed to cushioned chairs, the seat was hard on his rear. He adjusted a little for comfort as he glanced at the amo’s chair. It was made no different from his and wondered how the amo managed to be comfortable sitting on it. “I failed the interview,” he sounded disappointed. “I was too attached to the material world to be prepared to serve God, they reasoned.” He paused. “There are so many things I wish to understand,” and like an echo of an afterthought, repeated, “so many things.” Obib paused again as he organized his thoughts then said, “In time, maybe.”

Amo Tasiyo remained silent as he observed him in a smiling way.

Obib continued, “Deep within, I still seek the peace and simple life within the Walls. A longing I thought I had forgotten until today. It is so peaceful . . . so uncomplicated.”

Serving God is no way near simple nor uncomplicated yet easy if you are at peace with yourself.” Amo Tasiyo looked straight at Obib’s eyes as though he was looking in him. “Do you love Ria?” he asked.

The question was unexpected. Obib found it simple, philosophical, yet complex to answer in few words. He pondered for a moment. “I love God,” he answered.

Amo Obib smiled. “I understand,” he said as he grinned with his eyes fixed on Obib’s. He leaned forward and placed both hands over Obib’s hands that rested on Obib’s lap and asked, “Are you still considering joining the church community?”

Obib was surprised the amo knew he applied as a clergy and had no ready answer to his question. Since the amo showed no signs of rushing, he seriously examined himself. “The thought has not left me completely. Maybe, someday, when I find myself and be worthy to join.”

Finding oneself does not come easy. You force it on yourself as you ask hard questions of yourself. Would you give up everything to serve God?”

“I will,” Obib answered without hesitation. His heart throbbed.

Amo Tasiyo took a moment to observe Obib’s reaction. He moved his hands from Obib’s hands to Obib’s shoulders and said somewhat in a whisper, “If I ask you to join the church and serve Him for the rest of your life, will you?”

“I will,” Obib instinctively replied.

Pleased with the answer, Amo Tasiyo smiled then slowly leaned back as he took full advantage of the chair’s back support taking deep breathes as he did.

Obib looked at amo with a hope he would invite. It was not a hard decision to make as he considered it often and more seriously as time passed. He eagerly waited for a reply.

Amo Tasiyo placed his hands back on his lap and looked at his neighbor’s backyard. “Isn’t it wonderful to watch the plants grow and see its flower bloom? I hear you have a beautiful garden,” he asked as he gazed at the lovely flowered backyards of his neighbors.

 

Their conversation continued but no invitation to join the church came to Obib’s dismay. Neither opened the official purpose of the visit. Nor did Obib hinted to discuss the liberalization of genetic research policies he so wanted changed and zealously pursued for years. No sooner, Medi returned. She brought their drinks and set them on the small circular side table. Obib motioned to help but Medi waved him off. After serving, she got a stool and positioned it close to Amo Tasiyo’s armchair; sat; then held lovingly the amo’s left hand.

 

Medi enjoyed listening to Obib and Amo Tasiyo’s light conversation and stayed silent most of the time. Her joy was maybe not for herself but for Amo Tasiyo who was vibrant and visibly interested on what Obib had to say, but also, for his hearty laughter she rarely heard or saw.

 

Obib was with them for more than an hour. The conversation revolved on his childhood, family, school years, and interests. Obib did most of the talking as he responded to Amo Tasiyo’s short questions that somehow required a lengthy answer. He thought it good as the amo was weaker than the facade he wanted to show.

 

Amo Tasiyo’s special interest in Obib started when he heard of an exceptionally bright young boy. Surrounded by adults most of his life, he was strangely drawn to him. He kept track of Obib’s progress as though Obib was his beloved son but not as secretly as he thought. Medi knew what he did in secret as behind the room’s closet was an album. In it were newspaper clippings on Obib from age five; the letters he sent to the Elders; and a copy of all the leaflets and pamphlets he distributed.

 

Obib could have opened the official purpose of the visit and his crusade but argued against it. He felt at peace. The subjects were light and pleasant. With Medi seated beside amo and her hand on his, to discuss sensitive issues in such place and time was farfetched.

“It is getting late,” Amo Tasiyo said. “Do you have anything to ask?” he questioned, looking intently at Obib’s eyes.

“No, My Amo,” Obib, with honesty, replied.

The amo was amused as he grinned at him. “Are you very, very sure?” stressing each word beaming as he did.

“I am,” Obib confidently replied.

“Then my son,” he said with a grin, “Naska is Imar,” and their meeting ended.

 

Obib concluded the Elders intentionally made Amo Tasiyo unaware of his crusade. The amo was much too old to strain over sensitive and controversial issues. He finally laid the question that baffled him for years to rest . . . the Elders were protecting Amo Tasiyo. He was so wrong! When Obib started his public campaign for liberal educational policies on Genetic Engineering six years earlier, the Elders recommended to amo to act and bring back Obib to the ways of a true Rian. On that request, amo asked a rhetorical question, “What is a true Rian? . . . I understand your apprehensions. We are not accustomed to his ways. He is young and has a lot to learn and us of him. I see him as a seed never seen before. I do not know how it will grow or the fruit it will bear. Let time nurture him. Let frustrations temper him to strength. We will wait patiently and see the fruit that God has given us. Surely, his talent comes from God and must have a purpose.” He then commanded, “We will not interfere nor impose restrictions. We will secretly and indirectly help so he will be closer to the people he wishes to represent but keep me informed.”

It was Amo Tasiyo’s idea to create the Student Affairs Administrator position and for Obib to head it. He instructed the Elders to keep this a secret and never give Obib an Elder Council’s audience.

 

Months later, Obib reapplied for priesthood and was accepted.

 

Goopersh interrupted again, “Breathable air level low. Please enter your hibernating capsule.”

Amo Obib heeded. As he pressed the ‘hibernate button’ prayed, ‘Dear God, please help us and help me,’ then fell into deep, deep sleep.

 

PLANET EARTH

The Year 2.3 million BC – Earth time

The pyramid spaceship had flown on its inertia for over a thousand and two-hundred years when it hit the fringe of Earth’s atmosphere. At precise intervals and directions, Goopersh launched survey satellites at geo-synchronized orbits that covered the entire planet. Awakened from hibernation, the Rians boarded the cargo-cramped airships; left the ship; and trailed behind merely to reduce the load on the ship and save on the little fuel it had.

The pyramid ship’s base faced the direction of its motion tailed behind by thirty-four airships. It orbited Earth one-hundred-sixty-two times using Earth’s atmosphere as brake. After thousands of years of silence, the ship’s propulsion engine came on. The ship glided through the air with a soft pulsating hum. Minutes later, it landed a few miles from a large lake (known today as Lake Victoria) at the heart of the African Continent, three hours before sunrise, 2.3 million BC—-Earthman’s time.

 

Planet Earth

 

Earth, 2.3 million years ago, was no different from what it is today except there were no intelligent beings. It was a vibrant greenhouse of forest and jungles laced with pristine rivers and lakes. With some variations, the animals—-the elephants, the giraffes, the hyenas, lions looked much the same or similar with some larger and others smaller than what they are today.

As programmed, satellites launched from the pyramid ship, surveyed the planet and sent streams of electronic data into Goopersh’s central processing unit where it was processed, catalogued, stored, and the sending unit turned off. Minutes later, thirty-two airships rejoined the ship. Two remained outside on separate missions—-get initial biological samples and, more importantly, food.

 

***

 

The pyramid ship, stripped of its internal structural elements, had exposed wires, cables, and pipes that dangled between long stretch of structural spans in every direction. It crisscrossed and looped around the few remaining columns and beams within its humongous cavern. With no elevators, stairs, and the majority of the floors missing, the trek to other level was perilous that, in some areas, a misstep would hurl someone hundreds of feet down to their death.

Precariously, the Rians moved in single file through narrow planks along the hallways and down through emergency ladders. Once in the room adjacent to the decontamination chamber, they sat on the floor and waited for their food in silence. Their stay in the hibernating capsule did nothing to soothe their exhaustion and hunger; it merely postponed it for over a thousand years.

Their stomachs grumbled and they laughed at each other as it did. With nothing to sit on, they sat on the floor. To their great relief, the airships came back sooner than expected. “Food is going through decontamination,” announced a returning member.

Someone with wide-eyed enthusiasm asked, “How was it outside?”

Just as enthusiastic, a returning member replied, “We were on the dark side all the time. From what we saw from our floodlights, there are more trees than ferns. The diversity of animals will astound you. We even saw animals perched on a tree branch and fly with feathered wings!”

“No insects?” someone exclaimed as the Rians were vegetarian, fruit, and insect eaters.

“Lots of them. The area . . .” he continued with gusto, describing to an eager crowd whose ears were focused on every word he said. On seeing fruits leave the decontamination chamber, he concluded, “God has surely given us a paradise.”

 

In line, they snatched the fruits as it left the chamber. Hungry and hurriedly eaten, its juice trickled from their mouth onto their hands and arms, and soiled the only clothing they had. Some squirted to others bringing laughter, as Rian, by nature, were cheerful beings. There was no question in everyone’s mind that the fruits on the planet were far tastier than the best in Ria. The variety astounded them. Soon, platters of roasted grasshoppers, termites, tubers, and green vegetables were on the counter.

 

They later viewed the world around at the center of a holographic screen as though perched atop a five-hundred feet tower with an unobstructed three-hundred-sixty-degree view. They marveled at the sight. Two miles north, a mist-veiled waterfall dropped five hundred feet down. Not far, springs gushing from the cliff wall cascaded down the forest floor to a river not far away. To the south and east, a lush jungle, and to the west, some distance away, a savannah with herds of grazing animals that stretched all the way to the horizon. They zoomed in on as many animals they saw and later awed again as the satellites relayed scenes of the blue planet from space. They watched for a time, transfixed to the beauty of their new home but soon their excitement gave way to the clamor of their body as one-by-one dozed at their place on the floor.

Amo Obib paid no attention to the outside scenes projected on the holographic screen. His mind was too preoccupied to appreciate anything as he mulled over their problems. When Ningning fell asleep on his shoulder, he lightly kissed her head and laid her gently on the floor. He proceeded to a vacant room further down the hallway.

 

In an empty room, Amo Obib felt weary. There were many questions that needed answer and asked what was foremost in his mind—-the presence of intelligent beings in the planet. He knew they desperately needed external help if their civilization was to survive. He instructed Goopersh to project satellite images of the planet’s surface in search for artificial features. Features only an intelligent being could make. Much like an eagle searching for a prey from the sky, he got Goopersh to zoom in and out on the continents. He searched for roads – a sign of an emerging civilization. Soon, he found himself looking for small settlements; a group of huts or patches of garden – anything to indicate some form of intelligent being to spark some hope. Finding none, he shifted his focus and said, “Goopersh, display the residual radioactivity readings emanating from the core of this planet.”

Goopersh displayed the radioactive values superimposed over the map that covered the entire planet divided by gridlines. Amo Obib studied the numbers. He found it varied a little around the world. What was disheartening was the minimum radioactive level was way over what their body can tolerate. He knew its implications: a brief exposure would ultimately lead to cancer; a day outside without a protective suit would eventually kill them. Living entirely in the ship with less than a generation of lifetime ruled out raising generations of children. The planet was no place for them to colonize, not a place they could call home, he concluded.

He shifted his attention to the possibility that an animal may evolve to an intelligence being, intelligent enough to help them leave the planet. He instructed, “Goopersh, search and display the most likely candidates from animals on this planet that will evolve to intelligent beings. Estimate time as well.”

As Goopersh performed its instructions, he reviewed Earth’s atmospheric data on another wall that Goopersh transformed to a screen. Except for ozone concentration, the planet’s atmosphere fitted them perfectly. However, the ozone layer was thinner than what Ria had in their home planet. Exposure to noonday sun on bare skin would result to instant sunburn but considered it a nuisance than a problem.

 

Goopersh displayed on the screen a chimpanzee sized ape and announced, “Ready.”

 

Amo Obib took time to analyze the ape displayed in three dimensions then in its skeletal form. He was keen to observe the head structure, its body, the hands and legs, and its posture then read the forecast written: ‘MINIMUM ESTIMATED TIME TO EVOLVE TO INTELLIGENT BEINGS: 6 MILLION YEARS.’

The conclusion disheartened him. He fervently hoped the conclusion maybe flowed as he instructed, “Goopersh, display your conditions and assumptions.”

He scrutinized Goopersh’s assumptions for inconsistencies but found none. He then engaged Goopersh on a what-if scenario by changing the evolutionary variables. Later, he concluded that the evolution to intelligent being within their time constrain was unlikely. ‘Surely, God did not get us this far for nothing,’ Amo Obib thought then said aloud, “Accelerated evolution!” that snapped him out of hopelessness then to himself, ‘Time is on our side. We have over two million years to hibernate!’ He looked at the ape and asked himself, ‘Will this ape save my civilization?’ then lingered on the ethical issues on genetic engineering and again asked, ‘Can I act like a god and decide how this creature should become?’

Amo Obib eyes were closed. Motionless as he deliberated with himself. As he pondered, he saw in his mind’s eye being rushed to Amo Tasiyo’s cottage at the city of the church back in planet Ria for his ordination as the succeeding head of their church and state, the Amo, and his marriage to the Elders’ chosen wife, Ningning. He recalled panting from running as he got to Amo Tasiyo’s room and found the amo in bed, Ningning stood next to Medi, and some Elders at the veranda. He saw himself by Ningning’s side where Medi waved him to go then knelt before Amo Tasiyo who sat on his bed with Medi’s help. He remembered clearly the abbreviated marriage ceremony; the strain on Amo Tasiyo as he took the triangular medallion from his neck, the symbol of his Supreme Authority, and with reverence placed it on Obib’s neck then asked him to stand.

With Medi’s aid, Tasiyo knelt before the new amo, Amo Obib; bowed in veneration; and said, “My loyalty to God, to you, My Amo.”

The rest did the same.

 

Now the new amo, Amo Obib helped Tasiyo sit on his bed then knelt on one knee before him.

Tasiyo was visibly weak and briefly caught his breath. “My son . . .” he said in a strained low voice and gasping for air. “My Amo,” he corrected himself then leaned forward as he held with reverend the medallion that dangled on Amo Obib’s neck, “The fate of our church and the Rian civilization is in your hands. . . Decide for its good and with God in your heart, you will never make a mistake. . . Remember above all, God . . . and all Rians are behind you. . . If ever . . . the time comes when you must decide the fate of your brothers and sisters . . . remember . . . what I told you now.”

“I will,” Amo Obib replied.

“Can I ask you a question?” Tasiyo politely asked.

Eager to accommodate, Amo Obib answered, “Please.”

“Would you have stopped pursuing . . . the issues on genetic experimentation . . . had I requested you to stop?” Tasiyo asked gasping.

Amo Obib was surprised the Tasiyo knew. He answered wholeheartedly, “Without hesitation.”

Tasiyo smiled on Amo Obib’s reply and with his hand resting on Amo Obib’s shoulder, tapped lightly with his fingers and softly said, “Now, you have to decide on the issue yourself.”

“Why me?” Amo Obib asked spontaneously. The question lingered in his mind since informed of succeeding Amo Tasiyo. There were many more qualified to succeed the amo and it bothered him.

Tasiyo smiled and said softly, “I did not pick you.”

Shocked and baffled to the reply, Amo Obib reacted, “I do not understand.”

Tasiyo replied, “God often work in strange ways,” Tasiyo paused to catch a breath. “At the moment, I was to announce my choice . . . I had another person in mind . . . but your name came out loud and clear when I spoke . . . Have no doubt, . . . He, not I, . . . chose you to lead His flock.”

Amo Obib stayed silent as he watched Tasiyo take deep breaths and weakly waved at Medi to come by his side.

Medi moved quickly and helped her husband stand with Amo Obib’s help. After, Amo Obib moved back to Ningning’s side who stood in front of Tasiyo and Medi.

Tasiyo stood alone and erect with Medi by his side. In a healthy voice, said, “It is time for you to go, My Amo.” The air of dignity was apparent as the two proudly stood together with Medi’s right arm now wrapped around Tasiyo’s left arm. If Tasiyo mustered whatever strength he had to make a last dignified impression, it was perfect!

“Naska is Imar,” they all said to each other.

 

  • * *

 

Amo Obib snapped back to the present. He realized there were more to think from what Tasiyo had said in the flashback and decided to sleep over it together with the other things he had in mind. “Goopersh, please turn off the screen and goodnight.”

“Goodnight,” Goopersh replied.

 

Leave the Planet

 

When Amo Obib left the room, he noticed the hallway’s end was faintly illuminated. Curious, he walked towards it and soon notice the light came from a room. As he came close, he heard voices, distinctly between Commander Nerus and Goopersh.

At the doorway, Amo Obib saw Commander Nerus at the middle of the room with his back towards him. The commander had instructed Goopersh to convert the room’s walls to computer screens that the walls were full of colored symbols connected by a maze of colored lines that were dynamic—-lines moved around, symbols shifted locations, and colors changed seeming to give life to the wall. Without realizing, he walked in with eyes fixed on the screens around.

“Naska is Imar, My Amo,” said Commander Nerus to Amo Obib who was clearly engrossed by the colorful display and quickly added, “I did not mean to startle you.”

Startled, Amo Obib replied, “Naska is Imar, Commander. I am so sorry. I did not mean to interrupt.” He was naturally courteous as the commander was much older than him.

“Not at all. Came from the viewing room?” the commander casually asked.

“No, I came from another room doing much like what you . . .” he hesitated as he looked bewildered at the screens around, “well, doing something different. What are all these?” he asked, puzzled as he looked at the colorful screens with amazement.

“You are looking at the process, workflow, material flow, critical path, timeline, resource requirement, and a bunch more being processed altogether. Simply stated, it is the what, where, when, and how to refuel the ship.”

Amo Obib walked closer to the screen. “And this near the bottom . . . paper and printing machine?” he asked.

The commander answered, “All these can’t be done without paper and a printing machine. We have to produce the blueprints, instruction manuals, schedules, and a lot of other things.”

“Amazing! Is it done?”

“Goopersh is working on it in detail that’s why the symbols, lines, and colors are constantly changing. It is calculating the best way to accomplish our goal within twenty-six years. There are trillions of possible combinations to arrive at an answer. It may take a few more minutes to . . .”

“Exercise done,” Goopersh laconically announced.

Commander Nerus walked to the wall and looked at numbers then said, “By the fourth year we must have a workforce of 575,318 with an aggregate population of over three million. This is our ticket out of the planet.” He looked at Amo Obib and stressed, “We have to build the atom converter to refuel the ship and leave the planet, My Amo.”

“I guess you know how grave our situation is,” the amo sighed. “You have an idea where we will get all these people to help us?” he asked curiously.

“2.3 million years in hibernation is a long time. By then, intelligent beings would have evolved to help us build the atom converter.”

“That was what I was working on at the other room. Based on Goopersh’s conclusion, we will most likely wake seeing very much the same creatures we see today. It is important we conduct a genetic map on one particular ape.”

Aware of how strict the church was on genetic manipulation, Commander Nerus hesitated then asked with a bit of discomfort, “Are you considering . . . Genetic Engineering?”

With unease, Amo Obib replied, “There are ethical issues involved. I pray it will not come to that. Nevertheless, I want the data available should it come to it.”

“I understand,” the commander responded. He knew the importance of information and data being readily available when time-sensitive and critical decisions were to be made.

Amo Obib surmised the commander to have spent as much time mulling on their problem and not show signs of feeling mentally drained as he was. He asked, “You are in as much pressure as I am. I admire the way you are taking things.”

“I have been a project manager all my adult life. Pressure goes with the job and, after a while, you get to learn to live with it. Getting sick will not change anything.”

“I’m glad you said that,” Amo Obib reacted. The advice was timely and he needed it.

Unsure of how to behave in front of the amo, Commander Nerus asked, “My Amo . . . am I being rude or presumptuous to speak to you in this very casual manner? Am I to bow or kiss your hand? Are there protocols or mode of conduct that I must adhere to, you being the amo and . . .”

“Don’t worry,” he said, patting Commander Nerus’ shoulder as they walked slowly out of the room. “Come to think of it, I don’t even know how to behave as an amo. I’ve been an amo for . . .”

Commander Nerus interjected, “We traveled through time. It would be a little less than a week if we were in Ria.”

“That long? Less than a week?”

“Less than a week,” he assured.

“Seems like ages. Things happened all at once and in a rush.”

“I know what you mean. I had soap in my ears when I got to the ship.”

“Know why we were all rushed to the ship?” Amo Obib asked.

“A forward space sensor that monitored the advancing plasma heading our planet was understating its mass. By the time they found out, the plasma had broken through the last defensive shield. We almost did not make it . . . Can I ask you a personal question?”

Eager to accommodate, replied, “Please, go ahead.”

“Don’t get me wrong but you seem so young to be an amo.” Commander Nerus was much older than the thirty-five other Rians in the ship. They, to include the amo, were young adults and nearly half his age. He was the exception solely in his irreplaceable qualification to head the expedition. His academic excellence, broad technical knowledge coupled with proven experience in project management made him the best and only choice. His current designation as Flight Commander and Expedition Head were to change as the pre-appointed first Governor of their future colony.

Amo Obib, baffled himself, looked at the commander. “That question had haunted me since told to succeed Amo Tasiyo. Much as I wanted to object, I was compelled to accept. In the church, you do not question, you simply comply. All I knew was they needed a young amo for the voyage. But being with the church for hardly five years . . . it was beyond me to even be considered.”

“I am certain Amo Tasiyo had good reasons.”

Commander Nerus’ statement caught Amo Obib’s attention. He related it to what Amo Tasiyo said to him on how the choice was made. He replied, “I still need to figure that out,” then paused. Sounding serious, he replied, “Come to think of it, I believe you are to kiss the amo’s butt each time you meet him.”

“Holy shit,” Commander Nerus cried and muffled the sound of his laughter with his hands over his mouth as they were near the room where the rest slept.

Amo Obib controlled his hearty laugh as well then apologetically said in a low voice, “I shouldn’t have said that . . . I wish I knew you back in Ria. For that matter, I wish I knew everyone here. Isn’t it strange, we are literally strangers to each other!” Being at the doorway of their sleeping room, Amo Obib whispered, “They are all asleep. We will talk more tomorrow and finalize the plan. Naska is Imar.”

 

Predicament

 

The pyramid ship, park amidst thick vegetation by the side of a hill, was exactly the same size and shape as the largest pyramid in Giza, Egypt. Its base, a square, measured 760 feet on all four sides, and its height, 482 feet. The first seventy-five feet of the ship’s perimeter walls were configured transparent that allowed outside light to filter through and made the structures above seem to hover in place above the ground. The rest of ship’s outer walls up to its apex became solar panels that converted the sun’s ray into electricity and stored in batteries.

Except for the long and leafless heap of bamboo poles, lumber, and mounds of earth at one corner of the ship’s ground level, the huge partition-less floor was completely bare. One can see the outside from all four corners of the ship from anywhere one stood. Amo Obib, who helped work on the biological samples at the laboratory, stopped early for the general meeting at the ground floor. Closer to the top of the ship, he went through the elevator shaft which had no elevator but hand-and-foot holds that stuck out of its inner walls. He strained as he climbed down pausing several times to give his arms and legs rest, and the sole of his bare feet a brief relief from aches as he traversed the almost four hundred feet vertical distance. From there, he walked through catwalks and a couple ladders before he reached the ground floor.

At the ground level, he noticed everyone had their foot wrapped with green leaves. The floor was cold and so were his aching feet. He took large leaves neatly piled nearby and wrapped each foot with several layers of it as well. He felt the soothing relief and comfort of their ingenious shoes as he walked.

 

Some distance away, by a bamboo pile, Amo Obib saw Ningning waved at him. He waved back as he walked directly towards her. He knew she and four others were in-charge of making basic household things. This was no small task, as they had nothing to start with. They had no extra clothing, no shoes, chairs, furnishings, and tableware—-the basic needs to start life in a new world. Worse still, no tools to work with!

 

They greeted each other then held hands as Ningning showed him around. Showing signs of affection in public is part of Rian culture and the Amo was not exempted.

Ningning, referring to the pile of bamboo poles, said with enthusiasm, “We are fortunate this large reed (bamboo) grows abundantly in the area. In such a short time, we piped the spring water some seventy yards north of us. We made cups and other useful things with it using stone knives,” showing the stone knife she held.

 

Briefed on what her team did and planned on doing, Amo Obib left them to their chores. He proceeded to where a group of three worked on an enclosure. After the greetings, the team leader said, “This is our temporary sanitary facilities. Almost done . . . just placing the finishing touches.”

Amo Obib inspected the toilet and bathroom facilities with interest. Its walls were made of overlapped banana leaves supported by bamboo stakes tied together with stripped vines. Free-flowing water was piped in using the bamboo as well. He noticed the efforts made to make it presentable. He said, “Great job! Indeed, a structure fit for your amo to use.” His comment brought laughter and as they laughed, Amo Obib, in a friendly gesture, tapped their shoulders then proceeded to the earth mound farther on.

 

By an earth mound, neat lines of moist clay bricks were dried alongside Rians who made them. After they greeted each other, Commander Nerus said to Amo Obib, “We’re making bricks to build stoves and smelting furnaces, among other things,” then explained what Goopersh had scheduled on doing as he toured him. He also explained the limitations of using the ‘magic liquid’ they saved to create machineries and electronic devices, and would use it sparingly to conserve energy. For this purpose, he assigned the three ship engineers to create computer programs to equip a small lumber mill and foundry shops with machineries using the versatile ‘magic liquid’ soon after their general meeting.

Briefed, Amo Obib had time to spare and joined the Commander Nerus’s group. He felt downhearted as he molded bricks with his hands. They stripped the ship so well that there was nothing they could use as simple substitute for basic tools. With their technology, they had to do everything primitively by hand, fashioning work tools out of stones, sticks, and animal bones!

 

The Problem

 

Everyone gathered for their first scheduled meeting. They formed a circle with hands held, and bowed their heads as Amo Obib led the prayer. After, he gave the floor to Commander Nerus. With nothing to sit on, the amo, like the rest, sat on the floor fronting the commander.

Commander Nerus explained their situation to an anxious crowd. Minutes later, concluded, “. . . Our goal is no longer to colonize this planet but to leave it; link with the Colonizing Module; and find another planet to colonize. Taking into consideration what we have and don’t have, we are in a desperate situation but not hopeless. We have God and time on our side. We have thirty-four multi-purpose airships and the best technology stored in our computer. If we plan wisely and with God’s help, within twenty-six years we can fulfill our goal.”

An uneasy silence followed. Commander Nerus noticed many confused faces and realized the majority of his audience did not grasp completely what he had said. Only he and three of his flight crew were technically oriented. The rest, thirty-two of them, were in the biological and medical science. Orientation to the new technology used on the spaceship was not part of their crash-training program while at Ria. He continued, “Let me explain how the ship operates and the fuel it uses as it will likely answer most of your questions. Except for the hibernating capsules and Goopersh, everything else draws power from the fuel produced by the atomic converter. Even the airships fuel cells rely on this energy source to recharge. Since we need to refuel the ship, we have no other option but to build the machine that produces it, the Atomic Converter. With that said, let me answer your questions,” then pointed to one raised hand of the many.

At his place on the floor, asked, “Building the Atomic Converter requires tremendous physical resources. How can we possibly attain our goal with only thirty-six of us and no more than twenty-six years to accomplish?” The question was a real concern and brought nods from the rest. The Rians took some time to construct the first atomic converter at their home planet in spite of their resources. The atomic converter was a doughnut-shaped structure, twenty-four miles in diameter. Its cross-section was one-hundred-fifteen feet. The cylinder’s inner core was super-cooled, and wound by super-conductive heavy-gauge wires encased in super-electromagnets and built eighty meters underground. It required sophisticated equipment to monitor and control, and used power enough to light up a large city. “Not without outside help,” the commander answered.

“Where will we find help?” someone asked with concern.

“An intelligent creature may evolve from the seemingly mindless creatures we see around. We have over two million years in our favor.”

Spontaneously another aired, “There are over two-hundred-fifty-thousand Rians stranded in space relying on us to save them. What assurance will we have that intelligent beings will evolve in this planet within our timeframe.”

Amo Obib heard the question and realized the subject had shifted to issues related to church doctrines. “Commander Nerus,” he interrupted as he stood then addressed the group, “We will discuss the issue further when we have more information. I will assign a team to study the prospects of intelligent beings evolving from the apes out there and how long. Should the team conclude the time is not enough, they are to consider the feasibility of being a catalyst to the development of intelligent beings on this planet.”

Someone conscientiously asked, “Can we intervene with nature . . . Natural Law and break church law?”

“The situation warrants the church to consider its stand on the issue. As head of your church I will consider very carefully any step towards that direction.”

 

The meeting continued discussing day-to-day problems then concluded with plans, assignments, and, as always, a prayer.

 

 

The Dream

 

Two weeks have passed. Amo Obib was alone on an open space that was designated as their future conference room at the ship’s second floor. His scheduled meeting with Karmar and Norm was due a few minutes away. He stood near a rectangular bamboo table with a bench on each of its longer sides and a stool on its narrow ends. Eerily, the table’s top was the tallest object on the huge and vacant partition-less level. With the second floor’s outer walls configured transparent, one had a 360-degree view of the outside.

 

Amo Obib stood close to a transparent wall. His hands held each other behind him. He was looking outside and seemed preoccupied at the beautiful panorama before him but his mind was somewhere else—-the prospects of genetic alteration. As a layman, the issue’s solution seemed simple as he advocated for the liberalization on genetic experimentation soon after graduating from Genetic Engineering. As head of their church, he was lost and in the dark. The theological dogma `The end does not justify the means rang in his mind during the day, and echoed in the night. Their church allowed improvement on plant and animal stock through cross-breeding and genetic alteration used purely to repair genetic abnormalities. Forbidden were genetic modifications to create a new breed or experiment on it. As he pondered, he saw the thin ethical line the church drew that differentiated the godly from the godless act. ‘Do they have the right to intervene with the natural laws? Should it come to it, will the end—-save their civilization, justify the means—-break church law? Words against lives?’ he asked himself and wearily wondered. As he deliberated, he recalled Amo Tasiyo smiled when he said, ‘Now, you have to decide on the issue yourself.’ It puzzled him then more so now. ‘Was he telling me something? Was it a premonition? Why did he smile, seemed amused?’ the questions lingered in his mind.

Karmar and Norm’s footsteps made Amo Obib turn and welcome them. Karmar was a genetic engineer and biochemist while Norm, a biologist and biochemist as well. He noticed the rigors of their two-week mission on their faces. He also noticed both wore suede gowns which Ningning’s group made. He liked the oversized pockets. Better still, he loved their moccasin shoes. Regardless of how he tried, the twined fiber sandals he wore scrapped his feet’s skin and made walking uncomfortable. He, however, did not complain.

After a short formality, they sat around the table then Amo Obib said, “Let me hear your reports.”

 

With no paper, Norm had her report committed to memory. She started, “Evolution is a process forced upon species to adapt to environmental changes or go instinct. It is not a constant slow process of change but come as spurts during major global climate change or environmental upheavals that . . .” he continued. At the presentation’s end, she concluded, “If there are creatures in this planet going through an irreversible evolutionary process toward rational intelligence, we should be seeing a creature with very primitive intelligence using simple tools with their hands. In our search, we found none. The probability of a creature on this planet evolving naturally to an intelligent being within 2.3 million years is none. Intervention is necessary,” she concluded with unease.

Amo Obib showed no signs of being surprised though he prayed hard he would hear it differently. “Is the ape our only candidate for genetic modification?” he asked in a professional tone.

“Yes, My Amo,” Norm answered formally. “We confirmed Goopersh’s findings. However, the study showed this ape is endemic to the region and may be heading for extinction.”

“Then we will save it!” Amo Obib’s instant remarked somehow elated him. It was a consolation to an inevitable decision.

“On biological and genetic makeup, Karmar will present his report,” Norm ended.

 

Karmar stood and instructed Goopersh to project specific slides on a screen that hovered in the air.

 

Flashed on the holographic screen were magnified cell of Rian’s alongside apes. It showed its structure with same parts labeled and linked by a line to each other. Karmar had a pointing stick on hand and began his presentation, “Since I can generalize my conclusion through one creature to represent creatures of this planet, I will concentrate on the ape. If you compare the Rian cell with apes, you will find that they have identical structures and equally amazing is their biochemical makeup . . .” Karmar continued.

Amo Obib, a biochemist himself, was visibly interested. His attention was focused on every word Karmar said. He closely went through the cell’s compositions on the screen as Karmar made his report. Together, they went over the minute variances and concurred were insignificant. Anxiously, he asked Karmar, “Do you have the ape’s genetic blueprint?”

“Yes, My Amo. Goopersh has the data.”

Amo Obib instructed, “Goopersh, make side-by-side comparison of the genetic codes—-Apes versus Rian’s.” He moved closer to the screen where Goopersh displayed the genetic sequence of the codes. The order of the codes and its sequence would determine what a living thing will physically become. If the composition and structure of the ape’s genetic makeup were different from theirs, he knew they would not have the time to study and understand its mechanics completely. There were millions of these genetic codes to identify, map, and catalogue. It worried him. He intently scrutinized the genetic sequence—-the biological blueprint to life. To his extreme relief, he found its biological composition and genetic codes were no different from theirs.

He examined the genetic sequence carefully as he instructed Goopersh to scroll and stop to a long sequence of genetic codes. Often, he used his pointing finger to search for a particular four-letter sequence on Rian genetic sequence on the screen then moved across to the ape’s. There seemed no end to the columns as amo instructed Goopersh to scroll, skip, and jump going through the same motions of finger tracing and instructions many times. Soon Karmar and Norm thought the amo had forgotten them. After a while Amo Obib said, “I have seen enough to draw a definitive conclusion. The basic biological structure and composition of life in Ria and on this planet are identical. If you consider the vast distance between these two planets, we can say there is one Creator to life.”

“Truly one God,” Norm praised.

Amo Obib faced Norm and Karmar and instructed, “We will concentrate all efforts to study and understand the ape. We will not assume anything. We will reaffirm our knowledge on how life works by studying the Ape in the minutest detail. Karmar, you will play a major role in the evolution of an intelligent Ape. You will recommend which genes and how to manipulate that her ascendants, in time, will become intelligent. As head of the church, I will set this strict guideline: we will not act as demigods. I emphasize ‘not’ and create an intelligent being of our design. Rather, we will act as catalyst to a natural evolution such that the ape will naturally evolve to an intelligent being. When the time comes to modify her genes, we must be able to forecast, to a great degree of certainty, what we expect to happen. Under no circumstance are we to undertake actions and hope for the best. We are God’s custodian to His creature. As such, we will do it with utmost respect and with full awareness of our actions. May our almighty God help us and pray our trials not be hard. I, your Amo, head of your church, have spoken.”

The decree came spontaneously that Amo Obib's felt it divinely inspired but not with certainty, in his mind--- ‘Am I acting as a demigod?’

 

THE APE PROJECT

 

The Assignments

 

Norm, Karmar and three others were assigned to the Ape Project, map the ape’s genome. Two, Nengut, a sociologist, and Femed, her assistant, were to conduct behavioral studies on the apes, among other things. Twenty-eight worked directly under Commander Nerus’s supervision, and Amo Obib and Ningning relegated themselves to cooking, laundry, housekeeping, stockroom custodians, and being parents to thirty-four adults.

 

The Behavioral Study

 

The day was hot and humid to observe ape behavior at the fringe of the savannah and the jungle. The one-way window that wrapped the rim of the saucer-shaped airship allowed all around viewing was perfect for Nengut and Femed’s purpose. Having been at the same spot many times and stayed for days at a time, the apes became accustomed to the airship’s presence that they used it as shade or its top as an observation deck. From what was observed, Nengut and Femed found the apes family oriented with the females having strong maternal instinct. Most importantly, their diets consisted of fruits, nuts and insects, much like them, and had no predatory inclinations.

The group of apes they studied numbered less at that same time of the day. The few that remained scampered beyond their sight. Femed changed viewing location on seeing the alpha male emerged from the jungle and settled down under the shade of the airship. Something in the alpha’s hand caught her attention and called Nengut.

Nengut, who was observing two young apes playing and a nursing mother, went over and leaned on the console like Femed, to get a clearer view of the alpha male. Unable to figure what stuck out of the Alpha’s hand, Femed asked Nengut, “Can you tell what’s in his hand?”

Nengut gave it a look then answered, “It’s a leg of some crawling creature less some fingers . . . a large lizard.” ‘Herbivores shy away from dead animals but this one is holding it . . . why?’ she asked herself but soon had the answer—-the alpha male stuffed the leg in its mouth and leisurely chewed.

 

A loud commotion behind the trees distracted the alpha male’s attention. It rushed to the scene and found adult male apes ganging up on a mangled iguana, fighting for a piece of its flesh and joined the fight.

Nengut and Femed viewed the battle for possession moved to the area near the nursing mother as it turned to a wild frenzy. An adult ape caught sight of the cradled infant and focused on grabbing the hapless one. The mother fended off its attempt screaming hysterically as it threatened to bite. In the commotion, other adult males joined. One managed to sneak behind the mother and pulled the baby by its leg and ran off. In distress, the baby pitifully cried with a piercing scream. The bewildered mother gave chase and so did the rest of the adult male apes.

Soon the alpha male joined the brawl and viciously asserted its dominance. It yanked the baby from two others with a firm grip of the baby’s left leg and arm. Violently pulled, it ripped the baby apart. Blood splattered in the air from the baby’s torn flesh as the alpha-male used what it had as a baton against would-be takers with a vicious threat to bite. When safe with its share, went under a tree and ate his prize undisturbed. The rest battled for some possession somewhere beyond Nengut and Femed’s sight.

Nengut’s vision of a docile troop vanished. Cannibalism made it worse. Revolted by the scenes, she nonetheless concentrated on seeing as much of the interaction during the melee—-the facial expression; the wild gestures; the reactions and responses to those that participated; those that watched; and the aftermath. After a while, the apes once again milled around as they would on an ordinary day. The orgy, an hour earlier, forgotten and the nursing mother gone.

“Let us check the other troops” Nengut said, visibly shaken by the ordeal.

 

The airship skimmed the treetops as it followed the contours of a seasonal river. There, other ape troops gang up on iguanas for the kill or fighting over those already killed. Farther down, they saw troops patrol the iguana’s migration route.

Troubled, Nengut said, “I have seen enough.”

Femed noticed how disquiet Nengut was, inquisitively asked, “What is the problem with apes eating the lizard?”

“It was not so much the hunting and eating of the lizards that bothers me but the apes developing a predatory instinct,” Nengut answered in an objective manner. “You must understand that instinct strongly drives behavior. It does not disappear during development of intelligence. It goes with it putting pressure on the resulting behavior. Our problem is the resulting behavior. An example: the fruit eaters, by instinct, are docile and clannish. Given intelligence, the resulting behaviors are sociable, nonviolent, and family oriented. I will ask you this: What will be the resulting behavior of a meat-eater, a carnivore with predatory instinct and given intelligence?”

Much like a student, Femed answered, “Domineering, territorial, violent, and . . . aggressive.”

“That worries me. Those are components to a predatory instinct. You see, behavior depends on tendencies and tendencies are driven by the subconscious – instinct. If you went to the field and swung a club at a lion, the lion’s tendency would instinctively be to tear you to pieces. Do the same to a monkey and it will run. In relation to reasoning and if given intelligence, the lion will conclude that you are a danger and a threat, and will rationalize the action, to kill. The monkey on the other hand will conclude the same but instead justify an escape, to run.”

Femed looked bewildered. Not understanding Nengut’s point, asked, “Isn’t that a reaction rather than a rationalized response?”

“Partly both,” Nengut answered then continued, “With warning, the lion will expedite the solution through force and justify it. It will not wait to negotiate, it is an action creature. On the other hand, the monkey will negotiate and reason for as long as it takes. It is a passive creature. It can justify its action, to run, just as well as the lion, to kill. It is a paradox, for both are right.”

“What will be the resulting behavior of combining both?”

“You mean an omnivore?”

“Yes,” Femed answered and mentally added the word to her vocabulary.

“I will formulate a hypothesis,” she paused for a moment. “When stimuli require both instinct and intellect to respond, the behavior that will prevail is the carnivore’s aggressive behavior as it offers a faster result, therefore, the predatory instinct. This means, our intelligent omnivore will have stronger tendencies to resolve problems using force physically or psychologically rather than reason. It depends on the individual and which instinct has relatively stronger tendencies responding to a given environmental stimulus.”

Femed thought briefly. “Wouldn’t reason prevail?”

“Reasoning merely justifies an action or a plan. But the type of action or plan is dictated by tendencies or compulsions which are strongly influenced by the subconscious drives, the instincts.” Nengut made a general conclusion.

“Could you please run by that statement again?” Femed requested as she tried to grasp a complex hypothesis.

Nengut obliged and said slowly and deliberately, “Reasoning justifies an action or a plan but the type of action or plan is dictated by tendencies or compulsions which are strongly influenced by the subconscious, the instinct.”

Nengut saw and understood Femed’s confused look as she mouthed the words she uttered. She, herself, took some time to comprehend it. Working on her doctorate’s degree thesis as a student, she aimed a laser gun at a predatory animal about to pounce on a helpless prey. Though she could not bring herself to shoot just to prove a point, she nonetheless imagined its death. It was not easy. The satisfaction for the kill or its justification was not there. She spent days negating the herbivore’s instinctive influence on her. When she finally did, she got a glimpse of the power and satisfaction of thinking like a lion. It shocked and frightened her. It was just outside Rian’s nature to fathom easily or explicitly, she concluded.

“Are you saying we may have to deal with an irrational intelligent being? It seems contradictory?”

Femed’s question got Nengut to wonder. She was not sure what the clear answer was and glanced the question, “More of a compulsive intelligent being. This I can say, Rians are by instinct akin to herbivores. As such, we could not react or reason out as a carnivore or, for that matter, an omnivore would. It departs from our nature, our tendencies. Unfortunately, the ape is the only one we can perform the genetic modification on.”

“Since we have no recourse, what do you suggest?”

Nengut gave it a thought then said, “We must never give reasons or be misconstrued to think that we mean them harm. In so doing we will not excite the aggressive or predatory behavior. Let us stay quiet on this issue until we have studied the intelligent beings that will evolve from the apes.”

Femed concurred.

 

 

FAITH VERSUS LOGIC

Secret to life

 

Half a year later.

 

It was late in the evening. Amo Obib was at the workshop wiping his hands with a towel to call it a day when he heard running footsteps. He turned and saw Karmar and Norm, obviously excited, run towards him.

Visibly elated and short of breath, Karmar said as he gasped, “My Amo . . . our problems are solved!” he exclaimed with excitement.

Norm, just as excited, followed up, “We have found the solution! My Amo, we discovered the secret to how living things are formed.”

Amo Obib noticed how thrilled they were. He would be if he was in their place. With enthusiasm asked, “Have you validated it?”

“Yes,” Karmar replied with fervor. “We created a replica of a yeast, a one-celled organism, and even watched it replicate.”

“How were you able to identify the genetic functions and relationships?” Amo Obib asked and intensely listened as Karmar explained the mechanics. He asked questions a young zealous genetic scientist wondered on, the many how’s and why’s. He was exuberant. Someone had finally gotten answers to the many questions that fired up his imagination since childhood. They have solved the riddle to life!

Karmar, on saturating the subject, shifted to its applications and was very excited enumerating the countless possibilities.

To this, Amo Obib was silent. He listened to the two talk on seemingly limitless possibilities: end to aging; regeneration of body parts and organs; of creating special functional creatures. As he listened, it dawned on him that he was the amo, head of their church, the custodian of its teachings, and began to hear the dialogue not as a fellow scientist but as an amo, head of their church. He was troubled. He realized they had unraveled the mystery that veiled life; the knowledge and the technology to create a being at their laboratory. God’s domain had been broken! ‘Can they act as gods and breathe life at their whim?’ the question flashed thru his mind. He was unsure of how he felt; unsure of its repercussions. It was not so much what they discovered that troubled him, it was what they could do—-THE POWER! In the midst of Norm and Karmar’s euphoria, he interjected, “Have you also stumbled on the mechanics to create a soul?” in a nice but deliberate tone.

Norm and Karmar looked at each other and became silent. Their euphoria vanished as quickly as it came.

Amo Obib continued, “I am so happy and pleased with your accomplishment but let us focus on solving our problem. Karmar, I want you to give a proposal to best achieve our goal. The decree I gave on the matter stands . . . limit yourself to the least amount of modification and only as a catalyst. Naska is Imar,” he said and the two left quietly and emotionally numbed.

 

THE DILEMMA

A week later, the Genetic Coding project was done. Except for Norm and Karmar who were working on the draft of their proposal to Amo Obib, the rest of the team members were assigned to help Commander Nerus.

 

Norm and Karmar did not take long to deliberate and reach a conclusion to what they would do. The amo’s guideline was so explicit, it left them little leeway—-a catalyst with the least modification—-tweak the genetic codes that controlled the ape’s biological equilibrium to force the ape to stand and free its hands; increase the size of the vocal cavity to allow vocalization; and nothing else. The process required artificially inseminating a laboratory modified and fertilized egg cell to female apes. Succeeding generations will carry the dominant gene to the next generation without intervention. If the succeeding generation copulated with non-mutated partner, the dominant gene will dominate. The problem Karmar saw and Norm understood was the dominant gene would stay dominant for a maximum of five generations. From there, natural evolution will take its course. If the mutated apes cannot adapt to their environment, they would either become extinct or revert back to their original trait. If the mutated apes survived, Karmar estimated, it would take over two million years before an intelligent creature capable of helping them would evolve. ‘There was no guarantee of success and no second chance. Unless God intervened, they were doomed,’ he thought. It disturbed and troubled him.

 

A couple of days later, Norm, with a folder, walked to Karmar’s cubicle and handed over her portion of the work. “I will miss this place,” she said with a sigh. Their office and sleeping quarters were adjacent to the laboratory, a level below the Command Center. It was closer to the top of the ship that their provisions were pulleyed up in baskets some three-hundred feet from the ground floor for expediency. “It seemed only yesterday yet nearly six months have passed.”

“Will you join the surgical group?” Karmar passingly asked.

“Yes. Training starts tomorrow.” Norm replied and noticed Karmar was uneasy, not his usual self. “You look worried.” she commented.

“I don’t think we are doing the right thing,” Karmar bluntly protested.

Norm was surprised. It never occurred to her that anyone could question a directive from the amo. It just was not done. “But that’s our only option,” she answered with apprehension.

“It’s being passive,” he declared forcefully. “We, rather than nature, should control our destiny.”

“But that would radically change the ape’s genetic makeup,” she argued then continued, “I wondered why Amo Obib got upset over our talking of perpetual life through genetic engineering until I recollected some church laws that prohibited us from altering bodies of some sort.” Norm said in reflection but unsure of her statement or her understanding being accurate.

“That’s it, Church Law!” Karmar exclaimed. “But do you know who made those laws?”

Norm did not react. Theological dogmas never concerned her and got lost to what Karmar was driving at.

“The Church!” Karmar exclaimed answering his own question. “There is nothing in the sacred book about genetics. God did not say nor write those laws. Did He?” He asked a debatable question to Norm who knew little of it.

“I am . . .”

Karmar interrupted, “If the Amos can create church laws, they can also modify them. Remember the fasting and veil rules? The church liberalized on them. There were other things the church changed. He need not argue the issue with the Council of Elders. He is alone and can do whatever he wants!”

Bothered by Karmar’s conclusion, Norm replied hesitantly, “I do recollect the changes but I am not knowledgeable on how the church goes about making doctrines. For myself, I stick to ‘loving and helping one another.’ A priest told me that was not ideal but would suffice. I leave it at that.”

“You do agree the radical approach will solve our problem?” Karmar argued.

Reluctant, Norm answered, “Yeeees.”

“I don’t think the amo, being new to his role, realize the implications of his guideline and aware of his power as an amo. I‘m sure an alternative that clearly show the solution will get him to reconsider. He can then repeal or modify the church’s laws on genetic modification,” he said with conviction.

Norm, uncomfortable with the issue, said, “I will be perfectly honest with you. I know little of church laws to discuss it. Shouldn’t it be better to talk to amo about it?”

“It’s better he read it first. That will give him time to consider the better option.”

Norm felt relieved the discussion ended. “Want me to stay and help?”

“Nice of you to ask. I have everything. Don’t say anything about this to anyone.”

“Not a word,” assured Norm.

 

Karmar’s Dilemma

 

After two days, late in the evening when others were asleep, Norm waited for Karmar at the kitchen on the ground floor. The night before, he gave her a copy of his proposal for comments with a reminder to keep the subject to herself. The added proposal was a radical alteration of the ape’s genetic makeup. The resulting creature would be an ape that stood upright with a Rian brain. To address the issue of time, the modified gene would induce an accelerated growth to bring, physically, a fetus to a young adult within three months. Karmar titled it Proposal One. He named the other proposal, being merely a catalyst, Proposal Two.

Norm’s anxiety heightened when she saw Karmar come down the stairwell. She prepared two cups of fruit juice for them just to calm herself. “Naska is Imar. Made you a fruit juice,” she said to Karmar when he got close. She placed the fruit juices on a small table and sat.

Karmar greeted back; sat; and started drinking his juice.

Norm, apprehensive, watched Karmar drink. She knew he would ask her questions on a subject she knew little and hated to discuss.

As Karmar placed his cup on the table and said, “I’m really glad you took time to review the added proposal.”

“Think nothing of it but you shouldn’t be so secretive about this,” Norm replied then sipped her juice.

“I just want it to be between us for now. What do you think?” he asked then drunk what was left in his cup.

“It’s good.”

Missing the point, Karmar asked a more specific question, “Should I give it?”

It took some courage for Norm to finally asked, “If Amo Obib took the catalyst, Proposal Two, would you question his wish?” It was the only thing that concerned her.

“Of course, not,” Karmar blared. “I just want him to consider a better alternative.”

“If that’s your intention, I’d give it. Let the amo decide. It will be different if you insisted,” she argued.

“But I am! Am I not?”

“He explicitly said, ‘act as a catalyst’ which is Proposal Two. Proposal One calls for radical genetic alteration,” Norm reasoned then after sipping her juice continued, “The thing is, Proposal One will work. There are thousands of apes out there whose genes we can radically change and have an intelligent workforce ready in months. Give it,” she said without caring if it was right or wrong.

 

They left the two proposals on Amo Obib’s desk before they retired for the evening.

 

ORDAINED IN HEAVEN

 

 

Amo Obib saw the two proposals on his desk and read them. He was in dilemma. As a layman, Proposal One, the radical approached, strongly appealed to him. It was the shortest and surest solution to their problem. But he could not reconcile its theological implications—-breaking God’s law. He decided to go on a retreat and used the Command Center. It was appropriate for his purpose—-it was isolated.

In the absence of the hibernating capsules on the side walls and the gallery seats that used to be at the rear, the only thing in the room was the Command Chair. With no ship command to execute, he sat on the floor and leaned on its wall. He reread the two proposals and, after, had Goopersh turn off the light.

 

In total darkness, the battle in his mind commenced: logic against faith; assurance versus hope, prayers opposed to action. Logic told him to take the radical approach, Proposal One. It assured their civilization’s survival. It was the straight-forward solution to their problem and it tortured him to argue against it. But he was head of their church, God’s representative to the material world. He must not think as a mortal but as a god! Many times, he begged for God’s help, for Him to speak. He listened but heard only his breathing in the dark silent room. At some moments, he thought himself going crazy. The theological dogma, ‘The end does not justify the means professes that you cannot do evil to accomplish something good. This dogma kept on resounding in his mind and could not stop himself from hearing it. The longer he deliberated, the louder it got until near the end of the second day, when it became so unbearable, he threw the proposals and cried out to the darkness, “My God, should I place more value to faith and hope when the lives of thousands rest on it? Do I have the power to decide the risk they must take or whether they should live or die? Must I take the hard way to please you? Does my conscience belong to me or to you? Speak to me . . . please speak to me,” then passed out.

 

The Dream

 

In a lightless room and asleep on the floor, Amo Obib dreamed of lying on grass under a large fern tree in a meadow. He felt the breeze fan his face; saw colorful insects fly about; smelled the mixture of sweet fragrances of flowers in the air when out of nowhere Amo Tasiyo appeared in his dream. He saw Amo Tasiyo with a folder; kneel by his side; place the folder alongside on the ground; and whisper to his ear:

 

My son, the fate of our church and the Rian civilization is in your hands. Decide for its good, and with God forever in your heart, you will never make a mistake. Remember above all, God and all of Ria are behind you. If the time comes when you must decide the fate of your brothers and sisters, remember what I just told you.”

 

He woke soon after and found himself alone in the dark. Desperate for an answer, he groped immediately the floor around. There was no folder! Like an insane man, he wildly swept the floor with his hands in the dark crawling about madly until he touched one; clasped it to his chest; and said, “God, I pray this is the right folder. For when I leave this room, I will implement whatever proposal is in it. I pray you will leave some sign to prove it was you who placed it in my hand.” He stepped out of the room with the folder clasped to his chest and firmly believed the dream was God’s way to communicate. It took time for his eyes to get accustomed to the lighted hallway. When it did, and against his wish, he saw Proposal Two, act as a catalyst!

 

It was late in the evening when Amo Obib left the Command Center. He was weary, his mind in turmoil. He walked in Karmar’s office cubicle and placed the folder squarely on the desk. With heavy heart, he took the desk pen and boldly wrote on Proposal Two’s cover—-‘IMPLEMENT’, and signed it. He then proceeded to their bedroom using the elevator shaft and the ladders as he did before.

 

Ningning was asleep. Except for her head, her entire body was under a white blanket when Amo Obib entered their room. She woke in spite of his best effort to be quiet. They greeted each other in whispers.

“Have you eaten?” Ningning asked in a low voice as she stood and straightened her nightgown.

“No,” he answered through a parch voice.

“Let’s go to the kitchen. There’s food ready for you that only needs warming.”

Tired, drained, he nodded.

“You have been in retreat for almost two days,” Ningning said as she led him by his arm.

“That long?” Amo Obib looked genuinely surprised.

She echoed, “That long,” and continued, “The training of the twenty to perform the minor surgery was easy and done. The scheduled . . .,” she updated him on their progress during his absence but unsure if the amo listened. When they got to the kitchen, she seated him by the small worktable then lit the gas range nearby. He glanced at him. He looked tired, wasted, in another world.

 

Amo Obib momentarily shook himself out of his quandary and watched her warm his food; stir the brew with a ladle; and thought how fortunate he was for the Elders to have chosen her as his wife. She was always there when he needed her and he felt guilty for being impolite—-he paid no attention to what she said on their way down. He could not shake out what was in his mind. There was still time to change his decision and replace the folder!

Ningning glanced at the amo—-he was in his own thoughts. In a hoped to take his mind away from what he was thinking, at least for the moment, she said as she stirred the soup, “I always wondered how this gas cooking range work each time I lighted it but never occurred to ask.”

The question got amo’s attention. “Methane gas, a gas byproduct of fermented animal dung.”

“Animal dung?” she exclaimed, “I hope you wouldn’t mind having your food cooked and warmed by some shit.” To her relief, Amo Obib laughed and they started to make funny conversation on the subject.

Amo Obib moved his chair to face Ningning as she prepared his food. Curious, he asked, “When did you join the church?”

“Four years ago. And you?”

“I came in a year earlier. Do you know that we met before I joined the church?” Amo Obib casually said.

Ningning was surprised he remembered. “Mia introduced us at a symposium held at Lanang State University,” she said cheerfully as she stirred the soup.

After a momentary reflection, Amo Obib said, “I don’t remember Mia but remember being dragged out from our conversation. When I came back, you were gone.”

“I was there and even saw you pass obviously looking for someone.”

Somewhat disappointed, he asked, “Why didn’t you call my attention?”

“How was I supposed to know you were looking for me?” she teased, “Why me? There were prettier women there just waiting to catch the most eligible bachelor around.”

Stunned by her remark, Amo Obib reacted, “I know nothing of being the most eligible bachelor,” stressing the words with a grin. “I enjoyed our conversation . . . your company. Honestly, I was captivated by your charm. Visiting you crossed my mind but never got your address, and all I had was your first name, Ningning. Lovely name by the way. I was distracted at that moment by someone that I miss hearing your last name.”

Ningning’s eyes sparkled as she grinned to herself with a glint in her eyes. Flattered, she continued, “It’s Aguir,” then teased but serious, “You’re just being nice since you had no choice in our marriage. But I will tell you a secret . . . I had a crush on you even before we met.” After a quick thought added, “You did not search hard. I was there all the time and, honestly, eagerly waiting for you,” she said with dismay.

Not knowing how to explain his misgiving replied, “The important thing is we are together now. I did find you attractive, intelligent, and pleasant to be with.”

“You did!” Ningning exclaimed, her face blushed. She was thrilled and had forgotten what her objective was.

Amo Obib looked at her, and with a wide smile on his face, he said, “I did.”

Ningning smiled back as wide as his then brought the warmed food and placed it on the table. She gave Amo Obib a spoon made from seashell with a bamboo handle. She took a stemmed flower from a bamboo vase by the sink and laid it beside his plate as he ate. “I’m glad you told me. I was beginning to think our relationship would be platonic.” She took a wooden stool; placed it at the adjacent corner of the table; and sat. As would any woman wanting assurance asked, “If I really made an impression on you, what did we talk on?” Not recalling the topic, immediately followed, “What was the color of my dress?”

“The topic of the conversation was theology. The color of your dress, light blue, and you wore a brooch of a colorful butterfly,” Amo Obib answered in rapid succession.

She gave it a thought. She recalled the dress and brooch but not the topic but believed him. She stood and lightly kissed the top of his head then gently massaged his shoulder muscles. “It is strange how fate brought us together.”

“That is so true . . . All these things happening to me . . . It’s as though I am drawn to follow a course. For what purpose, I wonder,” he said then his mind went back to the unresolved issue. ‘There is time to change my decision,’ he said to himself and began thinking on it again.

Ningning sensed Amo Obib’s mood changed. He was quiet, deafeningly quiet. “Do you want to talk on something else?” she asked, hoping she could help as she continued to massage his tense shoulder muscles.

He hesitated then said, “You strike me as someone who knows God . . . of how one should act or think before Him. Women are said to be closer to Him than men,” Amo Obib paused as he tried to figure how to phrase a question without involving her to the issue.

From the sound of Amo Obib’s voice, Ningning sensed he was troubled. “Have you made a decision on what we should do?” she went straight to the point.

Amo Obib was taken aback by her bluntness. “Indirectly,” he confessed. “The approved proposal is on Karmar’s desk yet I am not sure if it is right one. I have never been like this before. I was always sure of myself especially in making decisions. But this is very different.”

“How so?” Ningning asked as she continued to massage his tense shoulder muscles.

Amo Obib talked on faith in general. Ningning listened intently as he explained the issues between faith and logic without relating it to the signed proposal. He was unaware Ningning related what he said to what Karmar revealed to her the day before on the two proposals submitted. Being perceptive, she worried. She knew Amo Obib was more inclined to be logical, objective, and realistic in his manner of thinking. She strongly felt Proposal One, to radically alter the genes, was wrong but could not reason why.

When Amo Obib felt, he had said enough on the subject, asked, “Will you entrust your life to me?” He turned his head and looked at her praying to find an indirect answer to what troubled him.

Ningning stopped massaging. She gave the question a serious thought. She then sat; held his hands; and looked him in the eyes. “To you as a person, I will not,” she said in a serious but caring tone of voice. “My life belongs to God and only to God. I believe in Him and will give my life to protect my faith and others’ faith in Him. As Amo, you are His instrument. I leave my life in your hands to prove my faith in Him through you,” she paused then continued in a sweet soft voice, “My husband, when you must act as an amo, as you have to, you are no longer yourself as you see yourself. At that moment, the Obib who dreamed of Rians exploring the universe to help other civilizations; the gifted biochemist and genetic engineer, that Obib no longer exist. As amo, you are with God and through you, God speaks. As I prove my faith in Him through you, as amo, prove your faith in Him through me. Remember what God said when the first amo, Amo Lam-a, wavered in his faith? He said,

From Ningning’s reply, everything started to make sense and the mist of uncertainty in his mind dissipated. He did not realize his role in the world that had changed so quickly and completely for him to adapt. He began to relax and at peace with himself. He held and gently squeezed her hand on his hand and said, “Our fate must have been ordained in heaven. I praise the Lord for that.”

 

GOD’S SIDE

 

Assurance to Whom?

 

One minor modification was added to Proposal Two. For identification purposes, the whites on the modified ape’s eyes were made pronounced to visually distinguish the modified apes from the other apes at its early stage.

 

Late in the evening, a day before the implementation of Proposal Two, Karmar stood under the shadow of darkness beyond Amo Obib’s view as the amo swept the aisles of the machine shop. Karmar had not slept well since Amo Obib made the decision. He watched and waited for the amo to finish his day’s chores and admired him from the distance. ‘There he is, he said to himself, ‘our leader in the most crucial time of their civilization doing his last nightly chore, cleaning floors. The amo, with Ningning, woke the earliest and slept the latest. Everyone worked hard but none harder than the two. Acting as parents to thirty-four grownup children—-making sure they are fine and as comfortable as they can be. Everyone tried their best to make things easier for them but so many things needed doing and, somehow, the two always found them. In spite of that, they are the driving forces behind their endurance, the pillars that supported their hope, the power behind their little civilization.’

 

Amo Obib heard footsteps as he washed his hands. He turned and before Karmar could greet, greeted, “Naska is Imar, Karmar. Isn’t it late for you to be walking around?” he asked cheerfully.

Focused on what he intended to say, Karmar ignored the question, “Naska is Imar. My Amo,” he responded then spoke in an uncomfortable manner, “I would like to speak to you, if you don’t mind.”

“Please,” Amo Obib said formally as Karmar was so serious. He hastily wiped his hands with a towel then led Karmar near a lumber pile where they found something to sit on.

Karmar started as they sat on a lumber facing each other, “You and Ningning are working too hard.”

Amo Obib could tell that Karmar was troubled but not by the work Ningning and he did but of what they will do tomorrow. “You did not come here to see me about that, did you?” the amo asked nicely with a grin.

“No, but everyone is clamoring for someone to talk to you and Ningning on the matter. It might as well be me.”

“I really appreciate everyone’s concern. I am fine. However, you talk to Ningning. You might have better luck,” he said then continued, “So, what is really bothering you,” he asked in a fatherly way.

“Is it possible My Amo . . . that you did not fully consider Proposal One?” Karmar said with unease.

“I wondered when you’d come to that and glad you did.”

“It is not only I, Norm thinks Proposal One is better. It solves all our problems. I will not be disobedient, My Amo, but I am troubled.”

Amo Obib did not respond. He waited for Karmar to pour out what troubled him.

Karmar took a deep breath and as though reading an imaginary script said, “As Project Head, I feel it’s my duty to speak. I recommend we take Proposal One. We can do a number of . . .” Karmar continued to defend Proposal One injecting variations to make it attractive. At its end said in a very concerned voice, “My Amo, there is no assurance of success and will most likely fail on the proposal we will carry out tomorrow.”

“Assurance to whom?” Amo Obib asked in a priestly manner.

“My Amo, over two-hundred-fifty thousand are relying on us to save them,” he said in a pleading tone. “You surely must have undermined the risk associated on the proposal you approved and the advantages of the other.”

Amo Obib was unsure if Karmar purposely evaded his question or just missed it completely. He repeated, “Assurance to whom? However, do not answer the question but think of it instead. Karmar . . ., I did consider very seriously Proposal One. If it be of any consolation, it is one of the best proposal papers I have read. You did an exceptionally good job.” Amo Obib knew Norm’s conclusion was based on the wrong premise---that he did not consider it well or at all. Telling him now that he did, Norm must think for himself -- why?

“Amo-o-o,” Ningning called out in search from a distance.

“Over here,” Amo Obib cried out as he and Karmar stood and walked to meet her.

When they got near each other, Karmar said, “Naska is Imar, Ningning.”

“Naska is Imar, Karmar,” she responded. Looking at them with a smile, she added in her natural sweet way, “Should I go ahead and leave you two to men’s talk?”

“Oh, no,” Amo Obib replied. “In fact, Karmar has something to say on your working too hard. Go ahead, Karmar. Tell her,” he eagerly prodded.

Karmar looked at Amo Obib somehow saying without words that they should discuss the issue further. However, the situation had changed. He looked at Ningning and talked to her on the work she did as they leisurely walked toward their sleeping quarters at the second floor.

Amo Obib observed Karmar as Karmar talked to Ningning. He knew how Karmar felt. He saw Karmar as himself years ago, as a layman. Recalled handing leaflets and made speeches on space exploration for the good of other civilizations and on the genetic research restrictions to what he perceived were blind, deaf, and coward audience. Of the frustrations and disappointments, he went through during those years. He could not give Karmar the answer directly though he wished he could. He knew providing the answer and appreciating it were two different things. Karmar must find it for himself, in himself. His part was merely to plant a seed in Karmar’s mind and pray it will grow to answer his own questions and doubts.

He listened as Karmar tried hard to convince Ningning to work less. He realized his Ningning was not only sweet but stubborn and equally determined and convincing as to why she should not change her work habits. When they got to Amo Obib and Ningning’s sleeping quarter, Amo Obib told Ningning he would walk Karmar to his room.

 

Ningning and Karmar bade each other good night.

 

Amo Obib and Karmar walked slower than normal. Amo Obib started, “The proposal I approved assures us success. Karmar . . . we must always see things through God’s eyes. That is why Ria was a paradise. There are other things more important than life and one life or a million lives makes no difference. Whatever the outcome, we will succeed. Do you know why?”

Karmar stayed silent as he tried to understand what amo meant. Grappling on a statement he could not comprehend, he honestly confessed, “No, My Amo.”

Because we are on God’s side,” he purposely paused then continued, “If we succeeded on Proposal One and Rian civilization flourished, we failed, more so the people we helped. And, if we failed on Proposal Two when all of us here die and the Rian civilization ends, we succeeded.” Amo Obib paused again hoping his words would sink in Karmar’s mind then repeated, “Because we are on God’s side,” stressing more the words this time as he looked at him. He saw in Karmar’s face that Karmar had something he must say. With no signs of rushing, he waited for his response.

“I am so glad we talked,” Karmar finally spoke and sounded relieved. “I now see things from where I . . . or we should stand. We must always be on God’s side. How myopic of me. Will you forgive me?”

Amo Obib tapped Karmar’s shoulder. “There is nothing to forgive. You followed your conscience and there is nothing wrong with that. Naska is Imar, Karmar,” and watched him enter his room.

As Amo Obib walked back to his room, he saw Karmar grinning in his mind as they bade each other goodnight. Humbly, he said, ‘Dear God, thank you so much for your help.’

 

  • * *

 

Everything went as planned. They impregnated female apes with modified fertilized egg cell; observed them for a day; then let loose with their respective troop. After two months, they secured the ship, hibernated, and left their fate in God’s hands.

 

EVOLUTION TO MODERN MAN

 

A million years later, in the year 1.3 million BC, as scheduled, Femed and Nengut were awaken from hibernation to monitor the evolutionary progress of their genetically modified apes. They left the ship on an airship and flew to the region where they left them eons ago. There, they found four distinct species of apes that stood and walked, the homo erectus. Of the four, only one was distinctly different, the hominids, forerunner to homo sapiens, the modern man. They distinguished themselves from the other three with their hairless face and a noticeable white color that surrounds the iris of their eyes.

Nengut and Femed found the hominids were no different from the apes they came from apart from their ability to stand and use their hands. Their brain size was slightly larger but still acted much like apes. They, however, were a noisy group that used a myriad of sound to express themselves. What was remarkable was, they called each other by name, as Grig, Yaw, Eek, and other simple name sounds. They wandered in groups in the region and when threatened, they would band together and howl, growl in unison as they wildly swung a handheld pole or throw rocks to any threat. Most often, it worked. Otherwise they would scamper speedily for the nearest tree and howl and growl from there. With their free hands, these primitive creatures used sticks or stones as simple tool. They seemed unable to figure out the other things they can do with them. However, with a club to swing and the ability to throw, other apes and some predatory animals were frightened of them.

The hominid’s diet and population worried them. The hominids had evolved to become omnivores and predators. Hunting wild life was a daily routine and ate raw what they caught. They numbered less than what they predicted. The changes were not much, thus, it was too early to draw any conclusion to how these mindless creatures would eventually become. They hibernated again to wake every hundred thousand years thereafter and would adjust it once some form of intelligence was observed.

 

********

 

There was nothing exceptional observed in their succeeding expeditions until the year 50,000 BC. The Ice Age was at its peak. The polar caps had expanded and left a narrow band of greenery north and south of Earth’s equator. Constricted to this narrow space of snowless land, the existence of herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores was hard and harsh. Survival of the fittest became the norm. It was in this epoch that hominids evolved to homo sapiens at its early stage and had become hunter-gatherers. Much to Nengut’s distaste, they were savage and brutal creatures but realized the harshness of their existence forced them to adapt to their environment or die out. With other predators, far larger, faster, and more agile, these semi-minded creatures could only survive their world through their only edge, their wits. They were far more cunning in hunting and unified and organized when threatened. Though primitive, they irreversibly headed towards higher intelligence and close to their time constrain.

 

********

 

In the year 25,000 BC, homo sapiens had become proficient hunter-gatherers and communicated with words accompanied by hand gestures. They were territorial creatures whose boundary was but ten day’s walk away from their camp. They guarded their territory against other homo sapiens groups with only one strategy -- superiority in numbers. Against other homo sapiens, evenly numbered encounters merely resulted to visual and auditory threats. That was often sufficient to keep their distance and avoid conflict. It was only in their superior numbers that they attack and viciously.

It was in the superiority of numbers that they guarded their women and children with utmost zeal. The community’s perpetuity depended on them. Thus, the children became the community’s prized possession and the women considered deities, the giver of life. Their fertility adored to a point of being worshiped. For this reason and strangely, there was an unwritten rule honored by all homo sapiens groups in violent encounters: only adult men fought and the women and children were never harmed and were the victor’s prize.

However, there was a limit to the law of numbers. They live in small communities of fifty's. This puzzled Nengut until she observed a large community of eighty-five split up to two. It was a matter of logistics -- they were over populated. As hunter-gatherers, the hominid’s food supply depended on what their territory could provide. A group of fifty was what the natural environment could support within the territory they could protect. Thereby, young male and females were forced to leave and start a new community elsewhere. It was not easy. There were many territories to cross to get to the fringe of unoccupied land and start their own community there. They have yet to learn farming and animal domestication. Nevertheless, there were clear signs that they were heading in that direction. However, there was still a question of time.

 

********

 

In the year 20,000 BC, Nengut noted the primitive ancestors to man organized themselves. They grew crops and domesticate animals. Rather than expel their kin, they kept them and learned to expand their territory by invading their neighbors. The age of conquest began. Conquered lands expanded the territory of ethnic groups of similar physical features. In time, each ethnic group populated and controlled whole regions demarcated only by natural barriers between them.

 

********

 

In 15,000 BC, the Ice Age was at its end. Much to the team’s relief, they found the homo sapiens have dispersed to all the continents. Nengut was astonished but not surprised that four dominant races came out from one species of Homo Sapiens. Since all four races were irreversibly headed towards higher intelligence, Nengut and Femed were ecstatically happy. This time, they were optimistic.

 

As planned, they conducted a behavioral experiment to validate Nengut’s Lion-Monkey hypothesis.

 

On the first experiment, they used a remotely activated Rian-like dummy the size of a monkey that held a stick. The dummy swung the stick at curious monkeys at striking distance. The monkeys reacted as predicted—-did not raise their arms in defense but ducked then ran and never came back. When the same were done to cavemen using a life-size Rian dummy that held a stick, the cavemen defensively raised their arms and retaliated by clubbing the dummy until certain it was dead or retreated then later came back with more cavemen that ganged up on it.

On their last field trip, one of the cavemen groups studied placed gifts on the dummy’s feet while a young girl in vibrant-colored attire, knelt before the dummy with her forehead touching the ground. She was adorned with shell jewelries on her neck, arms, wrist, and ankles. Her hair, sprawled on the ground, was beautifully covered with flowers, some small, and a few proportionately larger. Men and women around danced to the rhythm of their chant as they stumped the ground; whirled around; hands flailed in the air; heads bobbed up and down. They danced to an increasing tempo of the beat till it became a wild unsynchronized fast motion of bodies and arms. Then a distinctly dressed man with a colorful ritual club bashed the girl’s head. Everyone stopped dancing and bowed their heads to the ground. Nengut could not explain the act, at least logically, to relate the barbarity as an offering to something abstract, God.

 

Completing their mission, they woke everyone for the pre-arranged general meeting.

 

Everyone was present at their conference room seated on wooden benches that formed a half circle. Nengut, stood at the front, announced the success of their Ape Project. She reported that crude but intelligent beings have populated most of the continents. She also reported her concerns over the degree of predatory instinct the humans had. An open discussion ensued. She listened. Everyone seemed to have part of the answer but together had no agreeable conclusion on the type of people they will have to deal with. If there was something vitally important they did not consider in their discussion, even by Nengut, it was greed! Rians knew little to associate it with intelligent beings. To Rians, greed was an irrational behavior and unlikely to be present in rational creatures.

At the meeting’s conclusion, the assembly agreed and the amo concurred—-under no circumstance were they to provoke the humans that may incite aggressive behavior. They were like monkeys: therefore, the situation might not rise. They also agreed that they would start negotiation when the humans became intelligent enough to learn and not when they have the technology to pose any threat to them.

After the meeting, Nengut pondered as she walked, ‘Is it possible? If reason directly clashed with instinct, would it result to an irrational behavior?’ As Nengut deliberated, Amo Obib, with Ningning, called her attention from a distance.

 

They walked toward each other.

 

“Nengut,” Amo Obib said, obviously perplexed, “If you don’t mind, Ningning and I were discussing responses resulting from . . .”

The three discussed the subject lengthily and left each other wondering—-is it possible: an irrational intelligent being?

 

Everyone hibernated again but this time Nengut and Femed were to wake five-thousand years later.

 

 

The year, 10,537 BC (Earth time)

 

It was mid spring, five thousand years later. Nengut and Femed found what they prayed and hoped. Well-populated civilizations were in northeast of Africa, East Asia and along the west coast of Central and South America (as they are known today). As planned, they woke Commander Nerus and his team to locate the Atomic Converter’s construction site while Nengut and Femed and twenty others were to look for people they would entice and relocate to help Commander Nerus build the infrastructures needed towards building of the atomic converter.

After a week’s excursions, Commander Nerus’ team found the construction site. It was within King Arth’s kingdom in a region now known as Giza in Egypt. On Nengut’s part, she knew where to find the people they needed. The two teams met and concurred—-it was time to initiate the Atomic Converter Project and woke everyone.

EPISODE TWO

The construction of the Atomic Converter had two major independent phases: Preparation Phase: accumulation of raw material; and Construction Phase: building the infrastructures and support facilities that would ultimately lead to the construction of the Atomic Converter. Unable to operate both simultaneously, the Rians initiated the Preparation Phase first and elected Central and the eastern part South America as sources for agricultural products and preprocessed industrial material. In their plan and timetable, this phase must be simple and easy to manage that in less than a year, trained humans would operate and manage the operations themselves and the Rians to provide only support.

 

The Central and South America Projects

 

Enticing the natives of the Americas came far easier than they anticipated. The native’s shaman predicted the arrival of their gods coming in a fiery object from the sky for generations. The descending bright airship came close to their shaman’s prediction. Nengut, assigned to make the first human contact, was astounded beyond belief to what had unfolded. Instead of fear and the natives running away when they came, they were pleased, happy, and excited! Men ran hurriedly to their fields and gathered fruits while the women, flowers. By the time the airship landed, fruits and flowers had encircled where the airship landed. When its door opened, the entire villagers, men, women, children and even mothers with babies in their arms, were joyously singing and dancing. They stumped their feet; clapped the hands to the rhythm of a lively song; waved their hands in the air with some holding flowers and others, fruits. They were overjoyed as their shaman foretold the gods will shower them with gifts; make the gardens green; their animal healthy and big; heal their sick. All that became true as time passed.

Native runners spread the word from one village to another that when the Rians came to visit other populated areas, large and small, houses in the villages were adorned with fruits and flowers. The landing area filled with it. They received them with open arms. Though the natives of the Americas thought the Rians were gods, the Rians insisted that they were no gods but children of God. The natives misconstrued the statement to mean that the Rians were deities. The Rians never realized the abstract misinterpretation. It was a blessing—-what the Rians requested of the natives were taken as the will of the gods and were pleased and eager to serve.

 

With the use of their multi-function airships and the native’s help, they built housing communities; cleared and prepared vast track of lands for industrial and agricultural use; and food storage facilities. They built irrigation systems for their crops; dug and blasted mountainsides for its mineral deposits; and help constructed rough roads that linked work communities to each other from Central to the eastside of South America. Simultaneously, they taught agricultural techniques and showed methods in raising domesticated farm animals for food and as beasts of burden. They introduced the farming of corn, potato, other vegetables, and created a simple pictorial stone calendar (the Mayan Calendar) to time planting and harvest as well as material deliveries, and pickups.

The Southeast and Central America projects worked so well that in seven months, with the training and systems the Rians provided, the communities expanded and worked independently to produce the raw and preprocessed material they needed. With abundant material reserves and future supply assured, they decided it was time to negotiate with King Arth.

KING ARTH

Giza Plateau, Egypt

 

In the year 10,535 BC, Giza in Egypt had a subtropical climate. A savannah dotted with sparse trees over vast fertile grasslands. The eastern fringe of the Sahara Desert was three hundred miles west of Nile River, and King Arth’s citadel, at the top of a plateau, was three miles from the present-day Sphinx. But then, the Sphinx was but a large outcropped rock in a relatively flat region and no Great Pyramids existed.

Amo Obib, by virtue of his religious vow of isolation from worldly activities, and Commander Nerus’s time and expertise to oversee their humongous project could not be spared, Nengut, being a sociologist, was appointed Ambassadress to act as a liaison between the Rians and humans.

 

Bright Object in the sky

 

Within the airship, Nengut with her two assistants, Femed and Felyap, were in their skin-tie radiation protective suits that covered their lean framed body from head to foot. Its silvery-gray color was broken only by two over-sized almond-shaped dark glasses that protected their eyes from glare among its other multiple functions. Their head’s crown was slightly larger from the miniature electronics installed within. Their nose, ears, chin, and mouth were but impressions over their suit. After looking over her two assistants, Nengut remarked, “Don’t we look intimidating in our protective suit?”

Femed and Felyap looked at each other with great interest.

After careful examination, Femed answered, “I agree.”

“What do you think Felyap,” Nengut asked.

“We definitely look unnatural. Intimidating and scary too, much like a ghost with big dark eyes. I don’t think it’s wise to wear them.”

“Let’s take them off and just not leave the airship,” Nengut decided and they pressed a button on the side of their suit and the entire protective suit shrunk to a walnut size package that left them in their white uniform and leather suede shoes.

 

An hour before sunset, the airship headed for King Arth’s citadel. Below the airship, hanging in the air, were varied ripe fruits adorned with flowers, their gift. They were levitated and engulfed in a transparent light-blue colored hazy. High above the king’s palace, they turned on the airship’s protective shield that got it to glow brightly.

 

On the ground, people looked up to a slow descending bright ball of light against the clear blue sky. It hovered three-hundred feet directly above the palace courtyard. By then, the citadel’s inhabitants were on open grounds and rooftops to witness the unusual sighting. Few stared out of curiosity but the majority saw it as the child of their sun, a manifestation that lend credence to their High Priest Shadeh’s preaching that the sun was their god, Ra.

 

Within the king’s palace, a palace guard in panic approached the king who sparred with someone at the palace gym. The king, in loin cloth and headband over his short-curled hair, was an epitome of a tall well-built athlete. He had a manly bearded face, piercing brown eyes with heavy eyebrow, a well-toned body, and firm muscled arms and legs. The guard bowed waist deep and as he caught his breath said, “Your Highness . . . there is a bright object hovering above the courtyard.”

The king held on to his sword and looked at the guard. “What bright object?” he asked questioningly in a kingly manner.

Before the guard could answer, the High Priest Shadeh, a slim long-bearded tall man with narrow face and deep set dark eyes was in his white temple robe. He came running as he excitedly shouted, “Your Highness, Your Highness, the son of the Sun God, Ra, is here!” In his excitement, he forgot his usual flowery exultations of the king.

The king looked at Shadeh and asked with sarcasm, “Is your news good or bad?” He did not believe in gods and thought the priests were fools fooling fools. However, it gave him an aura to his throne and some control over his people that he tolerated their presence and staged dramas within the kingdom.

“The stars sent a message last night and . . .”

“How come you’re telling me this only now?” King Arth roared.

“Ah . . .” Shadeh stuttered. Improvisation was a talent that earned him the High Priest post but this time, he had no immediate answer. Deep within, he thought the bright object was after him. He had fabricated so many lies to think he angered the gods. Shadeh finally said, “The message said that I was to approach you only when the Son of Ra showed himself in the sky.”

“And?” King Arth roared again.

“To prepare you for his coming,” Shadeh replied and pointing to the chambermaids, said in rapid succession, “You, you, and you prepare the king for his presence to the Son of Ra. Get his best rove, his crown, his scepter, his . . .” he rumbled instructions to distract the king’s attention.

The chambermaids were dumbfounded. The king had dozens of everything Shadeh had asked and froze at their place.

King Arth observed Shadeh amusingly. ‘It is not a bad day to test his arm’s strength and see if he can still cut a neck with his sword in one swing,’ he thought. Lately, as king, he left the messy stuff to others. “Forget the scepter,” he addressed the chambermaids in a commanding tone. “Get my sheath and the tunic,” referring to a plain and old leather sword sheath and the tunic on top of a chair. He loved the sheath. It was light and so was the sword he had on hand.

Not in an offending tone, Shadeh contested “Your Highness!”

“Alright, find me a presentable tunic.” the king commanded the chambermaids.

Cautiously, Shadeh suggested in a low, submissive voice, “A robe would be more appropriate, Your Highness.”

“I said tunic,” the king stressed, waving the chambermaids off.

 

The chambermaids bowed then ran.

 

“And you,” King Arth said as he looked at Shadeh, “Make prayers for something good to . . . to . . . What’s his name?”

“Ra, Your Highness,” Shadeh answered meekly.

“Yes, Ra. Make lots of prayers on anything. And, thank the guard who came before you. He may have saved your life.” Interrupting his workout was something he did not like and mused at the thought of cutting Shadeh’s head and dry it under Ra’s rays.

Bewildered, Shadeh reacted, “Almighty?”

“Go!” King Arth commanded.

Shadeh bowed then ran hurriedly out the gym.

 

King Arth

 

King Arth was a warrior whose skill in combat a few dare challenge. A tribal leader who fought and earned himself a kingdom. In the early years, his ruthless reputation preceded him and his army. ‘Capitulate or die,’ was the message sent. True to his warning, those who lifted a finger died a horrible death. Soon, cities and villages bowed rather than fight, and became known as ‘Lion of the Nile’. As they feared, they also revered him as just and liberal to those who aligned themselves to him.

As king, he had mellowed. He was tired. Tired of the stench of blood; of the long marches; of the fighting. He had left this to his aspiring generals and there were many. Lately, he wanted to be closer to his people but the thought of maintaining the aura and stature of being a king a barrier that prevented that. He became isolated and spent more time fortifying and building his city, and be with his son, Prince Otil, his only child from his first and only wife.

 

The Invitation

 

The bright object was a stone-throw above the cobbled courtyard when the king emerged from his palace. His first reaction was to go on defensive mode but noticed his soldier’s weapon were on the ground. Shadeh had spread the word to drop their weapon lest the son of Ra be offended. Furious, he lashed orders for the soldiers to arm themselves and stand ready. The king did not believe in gods and if it were really gods, he would rather die with his sword in his hand.

Nengut, Felyap, and Femed watched on the airship’s monitor the confusion below as military officers ordered forcefully soldiers to arm themselves and man their station. A few fled in fright, and those who stayed, shook in fear at their post with their weapon in their hand, and their head slightly bowed to avoid the sight of the ship. They feared their boldness in having a weapon on hand in the presence of the gods would blind them and staring at the bright object would cause an agonizing death.

At the palace’s courtyard, the king’s special guards surrounded him with swords drawn by their side. Though Shadeh would have wished the king wore a king’s robe, the king’s attire befitted a king. He wore a white tunic whose hems were embroidered in gold. His gold gilded waist belt held a dagger and a sword with delicately curved ivory handles in bejeweled sheaths. Most of all, he wore a narrow band crown made of gold he hated to wear.

On one side of the courtyard, Shadeh, in his most elegant temple robe and kneeling, was with his white garbed priests who prostrated themselves on the ground at the front of the temple. As the glowing craft descended to land, Shadeh shouted at the top of his voice, “Drop your weapons and bow your heads!”

In contradiction, army officers commanded, “Be on guard.” In the confusion, an archer at the parapet accidentally launched his arrow. It flew straight toward the airship. When it got to the fringe of the airship’s glow, it burned in an instant. Instinctively, he placed another arrow to his bow and aimed again.

 

King Arth paid no attention to Shadeh’s caution and stood amidst his men with eyes focused on the descending ball of light. Unfazed, he looked directly at the bright white light that strangely did not hurt his eyes. Behind the glow, a silhouette of a saucer shaped airship forty feet across with arranged fruits and flowers that floated beneath it bathed in a light-blue haze. He commanded the guards before him to kneel just to see the airship in its entirety as it descended.

 

Slowly, the airship laid the fruits ten feet away from the king’s front guards and landed on its tripod ten feet behind. The glow vanished as a ramp from its underbelly extended to the ground. Its door slid sideways making a sharp air rushing sound. The doorway was wide, a third of the airship’s width.

Nengut, motionless at the doorway, had her arms raised to form a letter ‘V’. She brought her hands to her chest over her heart then stretched it out palms up towards the fruits then placed both hands, with arms crossing each other to her chest.

The king was surprised to see what seemed like a lean-bald kid in white snagged-fit outfit and in leather moccasin shoes making sign language.

 

Nengut repeated her gestures.

 

The King, in a king’s composure, made his way through his knelt soldiers to the pile of nicely arranged fruits surrounded by flowers. He picked a grape among the fruits and popped it in his mouth. He chewed as he unbuckled his belt that held the sheathed sword and dagger, and walked around the pile of fruits towards Nengut. He stopped at the ramp’s edge and held up his gift with outstretched arms.

Smiling, Nengut waved at the king to come closer.

The king heeded and walked up the ramp far enough to hand over his gift with outstretched arms as he quickly scanned the airship’s insides from where he stood. He saw the lights on the ship’s console but failed to see Femed and Felyap, who separately hid on both sides of the door inside the ship. They were poised to snatch Nengut and close the door at a hint of danger.

“Greetings and thank you so much for your gift King Arth,” Nengut said as she accepted and held on to the king’s gift. “I am Nengut, the Rian Ambassadress. My leader, Amo Obib, extends his invitation for dinner tomorrow. He will be most honored if you accept.”

“And the purpose?”

“Seek your help.”

Nengut’s request amused the king. Grinning, he replied in a casual manner, “I prefer the meeting be to know each other first and talk on other matters after.”

“You are so right,” she responded hiding her uneasiness through her feminine smile. “It will be so arranged . . .Will you come?”

“I will.”

“We will pick you here before sunset tomorrow. Will that be fine?”

“Before sunset is fine.”

Nengut grinned. “Before sunset it will be,” she said, then moved one-step back and watched King Arth walk clear off the ramp.

 

She waved goodbye, and the king waved back.

 

On Nengut’s slight finger signal, Femed pushed a button and the airship’s door closed.

Goddess in Fear

 

King Arth watched the airship lift and hover way above the citadel and, to his amazement, it was out of sight over the horizon at the blink of the eyes. When he turned, his three generals, Suba, Mismar, and Odi were walking towards him. The three were his childhood friends. They were instrumental to his becoming a king and trusted them with his life. He met them half way. “Let’s go inside,” he said, without missing a stride.

Walking alongside, Suba, the cavalry commander, asked, “What do the gods want?”

“They want our help,” the king snapped.

Suba exclaimed in disbelief. “Gods wanting help from us? Shouldn’t it be the other way?”

The king heard Suba; looked at him; and wondered.

“What kind?” Mismar, the king’s right-hand man, followed up. He was the most analytical of the three generals, and was his war strategist and political adviser.

“It happened so fast it didn’t occur to me to ask. I will have a chance tomorrow. She invited me to meet their leader for dinner.”

“You mean sun god, Ra?” Odi, a heavy-built man in-charge of the foot soldiers and archers, asked. He believes in gods but despised Shadef for being arrogant when the king was not around.

The king reflected. “No god or gods were mentioned.”

“I will go with you,” Suba suggested.

“It is better I go alone. I will have a better chance of knowing what we’re up against.”

Mismar, the cautious and shortest of the four, said, “Don’t be too trusting. We don’t know anything of these . . . they should leave hostages to ensure your safe return.”

Odi interjected, “Having hostages will not mean much. Saw what happened to the arrow? That can easily happen to us.”

“Odi is right,” Suba said then asked the king, “How do they look?”

The king looked at Suba questioningly. “How do they look?” he echoed

“I bowed my head when the thing opened its door,” Suba replied with discomfort.

King Arth turned to Odi. “And you?”

“I did not look,” Odi snapped uncomfortably.

The king looked at Mismar and could tell he did not look either. “I will deal with Shadeh later,” the king irritatingly said. “Next time, don’t listen to anyone but me. None of you saw anything to help.”

“How do they look?” Suba repeated with outmost curiosity.

“There was only one and she looked much like the Kalahari bushman, short but baldheaded and much paler. She was always smiling yet I saw fear on her face.”

“What made you say that?” Mismar asked.

“I’ve seen fear from people’s face many times. She feared me.”

“What’s your plan?” Odi continued.

“I will think of something but definitely the sissies should stay home and keep the house clean,” the king joked.

The rest joked at each other and together they laughed.

KNOWING EACH OTHER

 

The return of the god’s chariot the following day spread like wildfire throughout the city. Hours before sunset the following day, the city’s inhabitants were on rooftops and every conceivable open space with a clear vantage to the palace atop a plateau. Viewing prime spaces were jam-packed with people who jealously protected the small area where they stood. Shoving and some fist fight became common.

The palace guards, in their formal military attire, were in formation at the courtyard. Metal ornaments on their uniform, sword and knife handles, and spearhead shined from the setting sun’s light. King Arth was at the palace steps in full military gear. His thick hide chest armor embossed with a lion was over his gold trimmed tunic. The sword and dagger hung from his waist belt; his metal headgear polished and held under his left arm. The regalia was for a reason. The king had deduced the Aliens were no gods nor did they represent one. They had the technology to make themselves rulers of the world and wondered why they requested help rather than demand the service. That was what he would have done. Regardless of who or what they were up to, he must know who he would be dealing with and devised a simple scheme to learn as much as he could before he met their leader.

 

Before sunset, the airship appeared from the horizon flying at high speed, and abruptly stopped five-hundred feet directly above the palace courtyard then slowly descended. With the airship’s shield turned off, the metallic-gray flying saucer was clearly visible. When it landed, King Arth approached the craft before its door opened. Within, Nengut, Femed, and Felyap were straightening their uniform, failed to notice the king walked towards the airship and up its ramp. The king’s sudden appearance at the doorway startled the three. Visibly shaken and frightened, Felyap and Femed moved close to Nengut’s side.

Nengut noticed the king was armed. Masking much of her fear through a smile, she said nicely, “You need no armaments to where we are going.”

“I do not go anywhere unarmed,” the king replied with authority. “You must leave behind hostages to guarantee my safe return.”

“You have nothing to fear. We are peaceful people. No harm will come to you,” Nengut said nicely.

“I do not know you or your people,” the king answered and observed their minutest reaction with his eyes shifting focus on the three faces before him.

Stymied, Nengut conferred with Femed and Felyap in whispers then she faced the king. “We came unprepared. Will leaving my assistants be adequate?” she said with unease.

“I am worth at least a hundred,” the king said sounding proud.

Nengut reacted, “But there are only thirty-six of us altogether.”

The king noted Nengut’s reply and reaction. He sensed she was flabbergasted and her companions wide-eyed in fear. ‘To go further may cancel the meeting and he did not want that’, he thought then said, “Since I gave no advance notice, I will forgo the requirement. To show good faith, I will leave my weaponries behind.” Unceremoniously, he threw his headgear outside; unbuckled his belt with the sheathed sword and dagger, and threw them as well. He did the same to his leather chest armor leaving him in his white gold-hemmed tunic and the thin-rimmed gold crown on his head.

 

Shadef was behind a palace pillar. His head leaned slightly just enough to see the king’s back facing three short beings he concluded were Ra’s children.

 

Nengut introduced Femed and Felyap then ushered the king inside. She led him to a wooden armed chair specially built for his wider butt but the king preferred to stand.

As the king stood, he noticed the wooden chairs inside seemed out of place within the ship and the other three seats were too narrow for his rear. It was only then that he realized how small the Rians were. All three stood well below his shoulder.

King Arth, nearly six feet tall, barely had a foot of clearance to the ship’s ceiling. He looked around nonchalantly knowing he was dealing with short-frightened people. On his part, he would have sent his best general. ‘Why send shy and inexperienced envoys?’ the thought crossed his mind.

Accustomed to the jounce of a moving chariot, the king held on to the console’s edge with one hand. On seeing the receding citadel on the screen, he was amazed but pretended to be unimpressed and continued to observe Felyap’s activities at the console.

Felyap, in simple terms, explained what she did. Since King Arth seemed attentive, she continued to explain. During this time, the king’s mind was somewhere else. He fantasized on the things he could do with such a ship to even look at the fast passing scenes below on the ship’s wide screen. He was thinking of the kingdoms he could easily conquer. Two lay across the Nile River, King Adazil and King Silrab’s domains. They were the only threat to his kingdom. However, when two equally powerful kings meet, they do the logical thing—-form non-aggression alliance and build bigger armies to maintain the balance of power or fall. It was that simple.

“Have you talked to King Adazil or King Silrab?” King Arth asked Nengut with concern.

Nengut expected the king to be wary of the two kings. She knew real peace never existed between kingdoms, only lulls between minor conflicts. “No, we want to talk to you first.”

The king was relieved. He had the first advantage and thought, ‘I must prevent the Rians from negotiating with either king, if I could help it.’ He knew from experience the kind of god people worshipped gave some indication to the type of people he would deal with, so he casually asked, “My people think you are a goddess. Are you?”

Nengut had preconditioned herself to the probable questions the king might ask and replied, “I am no goddess or any of the people you will meet gods.”

“Do you believe in gods?”

“We believe in one almighty God.”

“Only one God? Isn’t that taxing for one God to manage everything?”

Nengut femininely laughed. “Only one God,” she assured. “He is almighty and manages the land, seas, and everything.”

“Aaaah . . .” King Arth exclaimed as he schemed. “I personally do not believe in gods. Does this God of yours kill people?”

Nengut did not anticipate such a question to be asked and reacted, “Never! Our God is an all-loving God. Our God helps people, not harm them.” She then realized what King Arth was up to. She was dealing with a lion and decided to think like one and added, “There are other ways of doing it.” The facade made her uneasy.

King Arth noticed the change in her voice and manner. She had revealed something inherent to the people he would deal with. He was certain they were timid creatures from a distant land and hoped the rest were just as naive as her, and he relaxed.

 

“We are here,” said Felyap as the airship pierced through the pyramid ship west wall partly embedded on the hillside amid a lush jungle where it landed over two million years ago.

 

Only Technology

 

The Rians, in their identical white snugged-fit uniform and dark-colored leather moccasin shoes, were at the landing bay excited to welcome their first guest, their hope. They were anxious—-travelled so far, worked so hard, and prayed with fervor that the man they would soon meet would be willing help.

Amo Obib and Ningning, with lei on hand, approached the king as Nengut led him down the airship’s ramp. At the ramp’s end, the king bowed low to allow both to put their colorful, sweet scented lei over his head—-Ningning was four feet five inches tall and Amo Obib an inch taller. Nengut introduced the king to Amo Obib and Ningning. In turn, Amo Obib introduced the rest of the Rians who stood in a line by the airship.

 

The king noticed everyone was no taller than the amo and wore identical white outfits but found it odd to match it with an off-colored leather moccasin shoes. It did not blend well with their uniform. Surprised to notice too, that the only thing that distinguished the amo from the rest was the triangular medallion he wore.

The king, with wonders expressed on his face, was visibly engrossed as he looked around. To which Amo Obib said, “I know you have many questions. All will be answered in time. Were you curious of our one God?” the amo asked.

The question took King Arth off guard. ‘It would be embarrassing if they knew what was in his mind’, he thought. “You read minds?” with apprehension, he asked.

“I must apologize. We did not mean to eavesdrop on your conversation in the airship. I assure you, there was no bad intention. All of us here watched you and Nengut converse over the monitor.”

“Monitor?” King Arth questioningly asked.

“I owe you an explanation. Let us go to a room and I will show you what I mean.” He led him to a small office cubicle. It was clean and austerely furnished—-all made of varnished wood. The desk had some stocked papers neatly piled on one side; a pen lay squarely at its center; an armed chair behind it; a stool fronted the desk; a triangular frame with an eye embedded (their equivalent to a Christian’s cross) hung on one wall; and nothing else. He asked the king to sit on the stool as the armed chair was too narrow for his butt, then said, “Goopersh, replay the video record of King Arth with Nengut from the beginning.”

Keenly observant, King Arth was looking around at the room’s wooden furnishings and was stunned when the wall fronting him lit showing him going up the airship’s ramp. Speechless and wide-eyed, he saw himself enter the craft; ask leading questions to Nengut as they flew over. It was obvious he was scheming from his gestures and facial expressions.

Amo Obib noticed the king was stupefied. “I assure you it’s not magic.”

“How can you do this without magical powers?” the king was bewildered.

“There is no magic. In time, we will teach your people to build a machine that records events as what you have witnessed. I know you can read and write. It is like General Mismar writing words on papyrus. You can repeat it by reading what he wrote. What you saw were written images and sounds repeated.”

“How were you able to know my general’s name . . . know I can read and write?” the king asked obviously baffled.

“Without your knowing, we studied your people and your language. It is a long process which I will explain in the near future.” Amo Obib answered but sensed it was not the question the king had in mind though it was the question asked and emphasized, “We, Rians, are no gods nor possess any supernatural powers. Think of us as people from a distant place, as mortal beings. We are much like you . . . we thirst if we do not drink, starve if we do not eat, and die like everyone.”

“And the only difference between us is your tools?” King Arth concluded with interest.

“You are so right. What you saw were only tools that we call machines, gadgets or devices, and they are not magical instruments. We want you and everyone else to know that. And that we come in peace and mean no harm to anyone.”

“Will you teach us how to build the flying chariot that flew me here?” the king eagerly asked.

“Yes, and more but . . .”

“I will pay anything . . .” King Arth reacted. Since he started the sentence, added, “Anything that will be fair to both, of course.”

Amo Obib noticed the break in spontaneity and smiled, “If you help us, in the end it will be far more than fair and beneficial to you, your people, and people of this world.”

“In that case, I do not see why we cannot come to an agreement,” he said in relief and regained his posture. “What exactly is it that you want?”

“We will talk after dinner. It is better to negotiate with a full stomach and when both know each other. Isn’t that so?” he asked, as he looked up straight at King Arth’s eyes.

King Arth grinned as he looked down at Amo Obib. “I like people who speak out what they have in mind. It leaves out the guessing and saves time.”

“Indeed, and time is precious. I understand you are a man of your word and pick your words carefully. We, Rians, are people that stick to our word. Can we agree on one thing before anything else?”

“That is?”

“Can I take your word, as I swear before my one God, that you can take mine?”

King Arth sensed Amo Obib’s sincerity and responded, “I swear by my . . .” he stopped. He had no god to swear by. He looked at Amo Obib then said, “I swear by my beloved wife’s memory that I, King Arth, ruler of West Nile, swear to honor my word.”

Both men shook hands as they smiled at each other to everyone’s delight.

 

The Rians

 

As they walked the hallway towards the dining room, Ningning explained to King Arth what the rooms were. With all their technologies, the king found it strange to see the office cubicle’s walls and its furnishings were mostly made of wood and bamboo. However, he reserved his questions.

When they got to the dining room, Ningning led the king to his seat, and excused herself after he sat.

 

King Arth sat alone at the dining area with a full view of the Rians behind the kitchen counter busy doing something. Overwhelmed by curiosity, he looked around. The dining room had varnished wooden dining tables arranged to form a circle with a space to pass in between tables. Each table had a low-lying colorful bouquet that gave the room a lively atmosphere but no food on them. A long wooden service counter separated the kitchen from the dining room. Behind the counter were worktables, a cooking area, wash counters, and a number of lined wood storage cabinets that formed the kitchen’s back wall. He noticed his table was almost a foot higher than the rest. He leaned down to see what was under and saw his table’s legs propped by wooden blocks and so were the two chairs by his sides where Amo Obib and Ningning would sit.

 

The Rians brought their own food in wooden food trays to their table but the king was surprised to notice Amo Obib, Ningning, and three others prepare his table with food on vessels that captured the king’s imagination. Seemingly simple and ordinary objects found along the shorelines and riverbank transformed to objects of beauty to become his plate, saucer, soup bowl, drinking vessels, and eating utensils. The Rian’s were consummate artisans, he thought. Then, he noted the elegant tableware was only for him. The rest had their food in partitioned wooden food trays and eating utensil made of shell and bamboo.

The king felt uneasy by himself doing nothing. When Amo Obib placed a bowl of fruits on his table, he leaned and whispered to Amo Obib, “I am not familiar with your custom. Should I be doing something?”

“Oh no. You are our guest,” Amo Obib replied.

“As their leader, shouldn’t they be serving you as well?”

“My people are just as curious to your reaction as I am. If you forgive me, I have to tell them what you asked so you can see us as we are. “Your attention please,” Amo Obib addressed the group who stopped at the midst of what they were doing. “King Arth asked me why I, your leader, shouldn’t be served.”

It brought a polite laughter from the Rians.

King Arth forced a half smile. He did not understand why they were laughing and looked at Amo Obib, puzzled.

Amo Obib said to King Arth, “Point to anyone to give you the answer.”

Amused at the request, King Arth looked around as he tried to find the face that fit a name he remembers and said, “You, Indit,” as he pointed to someone on his left side.

“I am here,” Indit answered standing eight feet from King Arth’s right side.

King Arth turned to look at her, visibly confused. “I have your names in my head but you all look almost the same that I don’t know who to pin them to,” he said.

The Rians heartily laughed but the harder laughter came from the king.

When the laughter abated, Indit said, “Since you called my name, I will answer. There is no difference between Amo Obib, who is our leader, and I.”

King Arth did not understand. He turned to Amo Obib puzzled and wanting an explanation.

Amo Obib explained, “You see King Arth, in the world we come from, there are no social strata. Kings and servants stand on equal footing. We believe in helping and respecting each other, and when you do, it matters not who you are.”

“It is a strange culture,” King Arth confessed. “What should I do if I were to behave as you Rians?”

There was a short silence and Thel, in-charge of cooking, broke it. “I know what you can do. Bring the roasted deer specially cooked for you. It’s heavy.”

The king went to the kitchen with Thel; took the roasted deer from the clay oven; and, with Thel’s help, placed it on top of a wooden platter covered by a large banana leaf. He brought it to his table while Thel brought the sauce. The roasted deer was small for everyone to feast on but the Rians were vegetarians and insect eaters so the roasted deer was only for the king and more than sufficient to fill his appetite.

Seated on the king’s left, he noticed Ningning’s food was on a partitioned food tray similar to the rest of the Rians. He glanced at Amo’s at his right side and saw it was no different. He did not ask why, he knew the reason—-it was in their culture.

 

King Arth visibly enjoyed the food prepared especially for him and the pleasant atmosphere that prevailed. Except for the short prayer of thanks for the food, his presence, and the safety of those stranded in space, there were no further formalities, no protocols. Everyone talked freely. They were at ease and acted as themselves. There was a sense of openness in their character and an air of being totally free. He found pretenses not present as they interacted with him and with each other. He liked the camaraderie and saw the difference when people treated each other as equal—-the wholesome atmosphere it created. Sadly, he realized such culture would not fit in his world. Protocols are necessary and pretense, important. Power and stature have to be displayed; signs of weakness should never be shown. ‘How wonderfully different the Rians are,’ he thought. He enjoyed the cooked deer immensely and commissioned Thel, in jest, to be his royal cook but got her to promise to teach his cooks her secrets.

 

After dinner, everyone helped clear the table. King Arth did his part. Amo Obib did not stop him as the king was having fun and mingling freely with the rest. On seeing Ningning doing the dishes, the king was again taken aback. ‘Is this for real or just an act,’ he seriously asked himself.

 

The Curious Questions

 

After clearing and cleaning the dining room and kitchen, with King Arth doing his part, he, with Amo Obib and Nengut, proceeded for the conference room where the amo told their story and predicament. It took longer than Amo Obib anticipated as he had to illustrate and explain some things for the king to understand. At the narrative’s end, the king asked, “You said that if you get exposed to the sun for too long you will get burned? Is the Sun God more powerful than you?” bothered as he associated the sun to be Ra, the mightiest of gods as the High Priest, Shadeh, had preached.

“The sun is no god,” Amo Obib said and explained, “It is much like a big ball of fire . . . It brings light and warmth like the bonfire in the desert in a cold night except the sun is immensely enormous and nothing else. Rian body cannot tolerate your sun’s direct sunlight most especially when it is directly overhead on a cloudless day. Have you tried placing a cockroach under the noon sun?”

“Cockroach? Noon sun? No,” King Arth was perplexed.

“Cockroaches live always in darkness and will never expose itself to the sun. If it did, it will die.”

“Is that why Nengut came when the sun was close to set?”

“Exactly. A cloudless noonday in Ria is similar in brightness and warmth as your sun is three-fingers before sunset. Thus, like the cockroach, Rian bodies are not conditioned to this planet’s intense sunlight.”

“I see. How about this thing that comes from the ground that I cannot see?”

“Radioactivity. The answer is complex but the analogy is the same.”

“And this prevents you from leaving the shelter of your ship unless properly clothed or standing on metal floor?”

“Yes,” answered Amo Obib who, from King Arth’s questions, was relieved to know the only difference in intelligence between humans and Rians was Rian technology.

“How can I help you?”

“Let us go to the other room so I can explain better the help we need.”

 

Model City and the People to Build It

 

Amo Obib, joined by Commander Nerus, led the king to a room with a miniaturized model of a well-planned metropolis on a large display table. It depicted high-rise residential areas, commercial buildings, industrial zones, roads, rail tracks, auditoriums, athletic fields, amusement centers, parks, and anything a modern city would have. Though the terrain looked familiar, it did not make sense until the king recognized his palace on top of a plateau and the fortress that surrounded it. He pointed to it, “Is that my palace and around my fortress?” He looked disturbed as it occupied a very small portion of the entire layout.

“Yes. It will remain intact as a historical heritage,” Commander Nerus answered.

The king pointed to a pyramid-shaped block said, “And that is where your ship will be?”

“Yes, roughly three thousand steps (3 miles) from your citadel,” replied Commander Nerus.

The king pointed to the circular cylinder that nearly surrounded the entire model, “The huge circle that surrounds the area, I gather, is the tom converter?”

“Atomic converter,” Commander Nerus corrected and then added, “But it will be built under the ground.”

King Arth, looked at the metropolis in its entirety. He walked around the large table alongside Amo Obib. His left arm across his chest and the right-hand fingers fiddled with his beard. He realized the enormity of the project and said, “It took us over sixty full moons to build a small part of my palace and it’s not finished. This will take many, many seasons. I do not have that many people who can work on this.”

“What would you suggest?” Amo Obib asked fully aware of the bad blood between adjacent kingdoms for which there were only three in the region—-King Arth’s, King Silrab’s, and King Adazil’s. The Rian’s plan was to get additional help from people outside the region but Amo Obib wanted King Arth to suggest that.

King Arth said, “We cannot seek help from King Silrab nor King Adazil. Their people and mine have battled for ages. Too many family members have died. The ones alive have too much hate to bring some form of peaceful solution to the problem.” The king paused then paced the room with his arms folded across his chest. He looked at Amo Obib and gambled, “One of the conditions for my helping is for you to help me rid of King Silrab’s and Adazil’s. That way, we can control all the kingdoms and use their people as slaves to work on the project.”

“We have the machine to destroy this world,” Amo Obib replied with resolute. “With a push of a button, I can vaporize King Silrab or King Adazil’s kingdom in a blink of an eye. But we will never use this power for that purpose. I will not allow the use of our technology to harm a single person nor will I allow slaves to work on this project. That is firm and final.”

“I have slaves working for me. What do you have to say to that?”

“What you do outside the project will be your concern. We will not interfere. I only wish and pray you would stop and learn to love and respect the people around you.”

King Arth noted Amo Obib’s statement. He was inclined to believe Amo Obib was a benevolent leader and so were his people. They will not pose a problem to him but he had to come up with an alternative plan before Amo Obib includes King Silrab or King Adazil or both in the negotiation. That, he must avoid. He did not know Nengut advised Amo Obib that too. “There is a solution,” King Arth said taking a chair and sat.

Amo Obib took the chair that faced the king; sat; and said, “We are interested in hearing,”

“I know there are civilizations far beyond the seas and mountain ranges. If you bring them over, then we can plan on how we could best manage them. However, I must think about it before I give my commitment.” His concern was obvious in his face.

“Please do,” Amo Obib replied with relief. The king gave the answer he wanted to hear. Briefed by Nengut on the issues and concerns the king may have and continued, “But as you are thinking of it, please remember, this is your kingdom and you are the king. We, Rians, are merely your temporary guests and are under your rule and so will the people we bring in. As long as no harm comes to anyone, I see no problem with any proposal you will suggest.”

King Arth looked at Amo Obib and said, “You have addressed my primary concern. Knowing how valuable fuel and time is to you, I will have something ready tomorrow. It is late and wish to think of a suitable arrangement. Since I am amenable to your moving the ship near the citadel, you can fly it there so you will not waste any more fuel than necessary.”

Amo Obib took King Arth’s advice and asked the king to watch the monitor to view the ship lift off the ground and head for its new berth.

 

It was close midnight and the moon was full and bright to see the ship, through time, almost half encrusted by the forest on the hillside. In the still night, the ship softly hummed then lifted slowly. Animals screamed in fright, filling the cool night air with myriad of frightened sounds as they scampered for safety in panic. Ripped out of its moor, the noises from uprooted roots, breaking branches, and toppling trees that had embraced the ship for millenniums resounded miles around as the ship slowly rose in the air. Over the forest canopy, a huge chunk of land with trees and undergrowth clung on the ship’s west face. The ship hummed a little louder, accompanied by a light blue glow, and the clinging vegetation was instantly repelled. It fell a hundred feet below making loud crashing sounds that echoed through the darkness. The ship headed for its new berth. Without lights, it floated silently and landed on grazing land three miles from the citadel. A few minutes later, a lone airship left the ship and headed for the king’s palace.

 

CIRCUMSTANCES AND OPPORTUNITIES

The palace night guards stood at their palace post leisurely. Scattered groups of soldiers sat around bonfires waiting for the king’s arrival at the courtyard. Sentries atop perimeter walls looked outward at the starry sky waiting for a glimpse of the airship. Laughter heard every now and then; here and there mixed with the cool night air. Hidden by the night, emitting not a sound, the airship’s nearby presence surprised a sentry as he stared at a ghostly shape that blocked the star lights behind it. It was barely a hundred yards away. He shouted aloud, “The chariot is back.” Hastily, guards ran to their post as they straightened their uniforms then stood erect. The airship landed seconds after and they watched their king walked down the airship’s ramp. The commander on duty was there to meet him and together watched the airship close its door and fly up then away.

 

As King Arth walked towards the palace with the Commander, instructed, “I want to see at least thirty cockroaches caged and unhurt by noon tomorrow. I want an enclosure made . . .” he continued and at its end, added, “Send a courier to tell the prince to be here before sunset. Do you think he can make it?” the king asked. He sent the prince to tour the neighboring garrison a week earlier.

“If he rides hard, he might,” the Commander replied.

“Send word to the prince to come and have fresh horses waiting for him along the way. Spread the word that the people have nothing to fear from the flying chariots or from the metal mountain at the distance. They are our friends.”

“It shall be done your Highness,” then in a whisper said, “Shadeh is behind a pillar spying.”

The king grinned. He was in a good mood to think of anything else. He whispered back, “I will take care of Shadeh,” and in normal voice said, “Good night.”

 

Shadeh’s plan

 

Behind a palace pillar, Shadeh strained to hear the conversation between the king and night guard commander. He heard the king’s instructions on the cockroaches but not what was whispered. Shadeh, as a small boy, played and tortured cockroaches by tying its leg and left it under the sun. He would watch the little creatures scamper to avoid the sunlight; squirm from its stinging ray; and later die. It dawned on him that it was an example to show Ra’s power over mortals. At god’s whim, he could do it to humans. As High Priest of the sun God, Ra, the king must reckon with him if he gets the god’s favor first. Shadeh knew the king was furious when he instructed the soldiers to drop their weapons. For that, his life may be in grave danger. He must get the god’s favor or he will have to flee the kingdom. He schemed as he headed for his temple.

 

Tall, huge stone pillars surrounded the temple. Flames from torches around flailed from the breeze passing through its inner sanctum. Curtains danced with the wind. Shadeh, at its altar, knelt before a stone statue of Ra, a large disk held aloft by the falcon’s wings, and prayed, “Why did your children not look or speak to me, your loyal servant, Ra the mightiest of gods? I, your humble servant who faithfully served you for years, prostrated myself . . .” Shadeh prayed and chanted for hours. Each time he said, “Talk to me god of all gods, Ra the mightiest of all,” he paused and intently listened. And, each time he heard only the fluttering sound of curtains flapped by the wind. Hours passed when his eyes caught the falcon’s shadow cast by the torch light against the wall. It swayed side-to-side. In his mind’s eye, the shadow danced as it held a disk aloft. Shadeh was hallucinating! Exulted, he shouted, “Thank you Almighty Ra, Lord of all Gods!” and left the temple running.

Shadeh concluded it was Ra’s sign and interpreted it to mean that the only reason the gods spoke to King Arth was the king stood bravely before Ra’s envoys as the stone falcons did holding up the disk. The king was bold and fearless before the gods while he shivered in fear on the ground. He must ask for atonement for his cowardly act and show Ra he is equally, if not bolder, than the king. He must let the mightiest of gods know that it was he, Shadeh, the High Priest, who served Ra and looked after his people and temples. After which he will report the king’s mockery of the highest of gods and of his loyal servants. Shadeh had swallowed enough insults and indignities, and this was his chance to straighten things, but his presentation must be good and spent the evening planning.

 

The King’s Proposition

 

The king woke early the following day and found his three generals help themselves to breakfast at his dining table. “Good, you are all here,” he said as he sat on his chair then filled his plate. “Our visitors need our help,” he said and started to eat.

Suba responded with disbelief, “The gods seeking our help? They are gods! Why . . .”

“They’re no gods,” the king interrupted then stuffed food in his mouth. “They are just like you and me except they have tools they call machines and gadgets which will make you wonder.”

“Who are these people; why are they here; and where did they come from?” Suba questions brought nod from the other curious two.

The king narrated the Rian’s predicament then concluded, “There are only thirty-six of them here and thousands more lie sleeping among the stars waiting to be saved. They have to refuel their ship else they will all die. They have 26 summers to do it. That is why they need our help.”

“Only thirty-six here?” Mismar asked to ascertain.

“Yes, thirty-six,” King Arth affirmed.

Astonished, Suba asked, “How could thirty-six fly the big shiny mountain?”

“You’ve seen the bigger chariot then?” the king questioned.

Odi answered, “Everyone by now has. It’s parked at the grassland. We even saw twenty-one smaller chariots leave before sunrise.”

“There are more inside,” the king added. “I have agreed to let them bring people beyond the mountain and seas to help build this Atom Converter in our domain.”

“How many,” Suba asked curiously.

“Four-hundred-fifty thousand workers plus their families in a span of fifteen full moons,” the king said in passing.

“Four-hundred-fifty thousand?!” Mismar exclaimed in disbelief.

The king continued, “But King Silrab and Adazil’s people will not be part of this venture.”

“How will we house and feed all those people?” Suba inquired with concern.

“The Rians will take care of that and we will profit from it. Our problem is how to control the people they bring. Start giving suggestions,” the king instructed.

Suba started, “They should not be allowed to have weapons and we must have freedom to police to ensure that this is strictly enforced.”

“They must be restricted in movement,” Odi added and the four continued the deliberation.

 

They were on the same subject for most of the day except for a break when the sun was directly overhead on that cloudless day. King Arth and the generals went to the courtyard where he had the covered cage of cockroaches brought. It was on top of a table. He took the cage’s cover exposing the cockroaches to direct sunlight. They watched, with outmost curiosity, how the cockroaches tried to escape the sting of the sun’s rays; how it struggled to escape the enclosure lined with slippery leaves; saw them turn over with legs squirming in the air then die in agony. He explained the reason behind the experiment; explained the radiation coming out of the ground that would make the Rians sick and later die; and why they were confined to their ships or be specially clothed if ever they left it.

 

Go Along

 

Two hours before sunset, the king had a well-planned proposal. Before he concluded their meeting, Suba said, “All these plans are good only if we can trust the Rians. What if they decide to use the four-hundred-fifty thousand against us?”

“They don’t need those people to conquer us,” the king stressed. “It still bewilders me that they do not use their machines to get what they want. Strangely, I feel I can trust them.”

“Nevertheless, we should have a separate plan if things do not go as expected,” Mismar suggested.

“Yes,” Odi followed up. “There are only thirty-six of them. Why don’t we just take over and let them be our slaves and use their machines?”

“It’s not that easy,” Mismar commented. “I think these people will rather die than be slaves, that is, if they are as what our king says they are.”

Suba interjected, “Even if the king is wrong, their machines are worth nothing if it does not have the fuel it needs and no one knows how to run it. It is like having a thirsty camel in the middle of the desert with nothing to drink and no one knows how to ride it. It is useless. The ship must be fueled and we capable of handling all their machines. Otherwise, it will not be of any value to us.”

Odi joined the discussions, “We will play along until the time comes, then . . .”

The king listened intently to the deliberations then interrupted, “I want the three of you to plan for contingencies. For now, we have no choice but to go along. I have to prepare for their arrival. You continue,” and left them.

 

BENEVOLENT CREATURES

 

The Spoiled Prince Otil

 

The black Arabian horse Prince Otil rode was wet with sweat and muddied by the dust that accumulated on its skin. The prince was no different in his dusty cape and tunic. His face, arms, and legs were covered with dump dust that encrusted on its folds. He was not manly looking as the king nor was he fair looking at all. His face was narrow with a beak-like nose and protruding front teeth. But he had deep set brown eye and eyebrows that look much like his mother. Unlike his father’s short curly hair, his was wavy and tied as a ponytail behind his head. On horseback, he stopped hard at the palace courtyard and headed directly for his father’s chamber.

 

The king said happily, “Good you made it, my son. Go freshen up and I will meet you at the courtyard.” He was dressed up and ready.

“I just rode in. I need rest,” the prince shrugged throwing his dusty cape to the nearest chambermaid whose head instinctively leaned sideways to avoid the dust and sand that came out of it.

“You don’t have time. This is an important event and I don’t want it marred by your absence or your being late. It is important you meet these Rians. Did you see the metal mountain?”

“I did,” the prince answered coldly. “They are mortals. They can wait.”

“Who told you?”

With arrogance snapped, “I have sources.”

Irritated by the remark, the king looked at his son then said, “I will wait for you at the courtyard before the sun touches the horizon. As I said, this is an important event and I want you there.”

The prince reacted, “You taught me never to show eagerness and let anyone wait until we are ready even if we are. Let them wait, whoever they are. I will be ready after the sun had set,” the prince protested and started to leave the room.

“Otil,” the king said in a subdued voice. “They will not wait. It is I who will wait.”

Prince Otil stopped, turned, and looked at his father shabbily said, “I am tired. Set a time for me tomorrow,” then walked towards the door.

The king thundered, “Otil.” His hands clenched tightly into a fist. “I am no longer telling you. I am commanding,” he roared. “Don’t keep me waiting.”

Prince Otil continued to walk.

The king realized he had spoiled the prince. He pampered him as he grew to a point that he tolerated his insolence. Now, he saw how bad it had gotten. “Otil,” he shouted loudly. His face flashed red.

“Yes, Your Highness,” the prince replied without looking. “I will be there,” and closed the door behind him.

 

Prince Otil

 

Prince Otil was the king’s only son with his only wife who died a few months after the child’s birth. An assassin’s arrow missed Arth, a tribal leader then, and hit his wife instead. As she lay dying on his arms, she made him swear to make their son a king. He vowed before she died and mourned her loss by going on a killing rampage.

King Arth did not know who wanted him dead. There was a power struggle among the tribes and kingdoms. Anyone could have ordered it. But that did not distract him from his goal. He killed anyone he remotely suspected. When he found out, it was too late. King Silrab’s father ordered him killed. However, the father died of some ailment and King Arth cursed the gods for depriving him of the kill and swore never to believe in any god.

The prince, as a child, was always with him during his marches to build an empire. The king considered the little one his lucky charm. At a tender age of eight, he had given the prince power to judge and order people killed, and had him watch them die too. He taught him everything he knew—-to be ruthless, unforgiving, and never to bow to anyone but him. He told him never to show fear and always fight with anger in the heart. He personally trained him to use the sword, spear, bow and arrow, and often demanded too much of the little boy. It had its rewards. Prince Otil, at age eighteen, was an exceptionally skilled warrior. It had a price too—-the Prince Otil was spoiled, heartless, ambitious, and growing independent of him, qualities the king would not hesitate to have someone killed but Otil was his son and he was proud!

 

Incident at the Courtyard

 

King Arth and Prince Otil stood at the courtyard; lined honor guards were at their post. Their eyes fixed at the descending airship to notice Shadeh emerged from the temple and ran towards the king. His hands held up his elegant robe lest its hem touched the ground. He timed his gait to be beside the king when the airship’s door opened.

Shadeh’s sudden appearance by the king’s side surprised King Arth and caught him off guard. Before the king could utter a word, the airship’s ramp extended and its door opened. Nengut stood alone at the doorway.

Shadeh moved quickly in front of the king and prince; bowed deep; then proudly announced aloud to Nengut, “I am Shadeh, High Priest of your Father’s temple. I brought you presents, Child of Ra, the Sun God, the mightiest of gods.” He then turned toward the temple and with his right hand waved at a priest at its door.

Nengut saw the priest at the temple entrance acknowledged the signal; opened the large main temple door; and waved the people inside to come out.

Priests rushed out of the temple with a bloodied body of a man with outstretched arms bound to a pole and held up by two at both ends. The man’s head dangled as blood dripped from his mouth; his bound legs flailed as it bounced on the cobblestones of the courtyard. Behind was the tortured man’s family—-his wife, son, and daughter, age six and eight respectively. Their necks linked together by a rope. Three priests prodded the mother and her two children to run as they poked hard their back with a baton. On reaching a spot ten feet from the ramp’s edge, the entourage prostrated themselves and left the tortured man lying on the ground and his family standing beside. His wife’s arms were bruised; her lips and cheeks swollen; clothes stained with spluttered blood; and with both hands, clasped two wide-eyed frightened children in shock, by her side.

The barbaric display petrified Nengut. She froze, speechless with both hands over her lips; her eyes stared in disbelief and revulsion.

The king, saw Nengut distraught, pulled a sword from a nearby soldier’s sheath and raised it to swing at Shadeh’s nape.

Shadeh head was looking proudly at his gift, unaware of the king’s intent.

“No!” shouted Nengut to the king.

Shadeh heard Nengut shout and instinctively turned his head. He saw the king’s sword frozen in midair. Terrified, he raised his arms to protect his head. Visibly frightened, reasoned in haste, “He is the man who defiled the gods. He launched the arrow at their chariot yesterday!”

Nengut ran toward the tortured man. “How can you do this atrocity to this man and his family?” she said as she knelt and took the man’s pulse from his neck, “He is alive. Please help him,” she pleaded as she tried to untie the tightly knotted rope that dug deep into the man’s swollen, dirty, and bloodied arm.

King Arth hurriedly moved toward Nengut and pulled her up by her arm as he commanded, “Guards, untie the man and gather all the temple priests and their family.”

Nengut, hysterical, struggled to free herself from the king’s hold. Unable to escape, she turned and pleaded in tears, “Help him please. We must bring him to the ship.”

“It will be done,” King Arth hastily replied, “but you are putting yourself in danger. The thing under the ground will harm you,” he reminded.

Nengut had forgotten the danger. On seeing two guards help the unconscious man, she ran back to the airship and stood by its doorway simultaneously giving orders, “Goopersh, tell Ningning and Doctor Kitsa to meet us at the landing bay. Tell them I am bringing over a badly injured man and three others.” She watched the soldiers cut the ropes that tied the man to the wooden pole and the woman to her children.

Goopersh responded, “I will comply.”

“Cut all the priests’ heads,” King Arth roared.

“Please, no,” Nengut beseeched, “or you will be as heartless as the priests.”

With his left arm, the king motioned his guards to stop. Beheading the priests in front of her was now unthinkable. He realized an opportunity to observe Rians react to the situation. ‘This will definitely give me a good idea as to who these Rians are’, he thought. “The displeasure was done towards you as well. What do you want us do?”

“Let Amo Obib decide. Please have your men bring the man and his family in the airship. We may be able to save his life if we hurry. Please,” she begged.

The king ordered a soldier to rush the unconscious man inside the airship and instructed the man’s family to follow.

 

A soldier, with his arms, carried the unconscious man to the ship as his family tailed. He laid him on the floor and then stood near the king to wait for farther orders.

King Arth instructed the waiting soldier, “Gather the priests and their families at the courtyard. Make sure no harm comes to them.”

“Yes, Your Highness,” the soldier snapped bowing waist deep and left.

 

Inside the ship, the woman stayed close to her husband on the floor with her children huddled by her side. The king and the prince stood by one side.

 

Nengut knelt and felt the man’s pulse again then said, “This man may not have much time.” With a hypodermic gun, she sedated him. “That will calm him and slow down his internal bleeding,” she explained.

 

Nengut went to the craft’s control panel and punched keys. She radioed the incident to Amo Obib hurriedly then attended to the tortured man as airship flew on automatic mode.

Prince Otil watched the entire event coldly. Curious, he observed what Nengut did a few feet away. The man’s wife was on her knees by her husband’s side. Tears flowed from her cheeks as she gently wiped the blood and dirt off her husband’s face with the edge of her soiled robe. Her children crouched by her side trembling uncontrollably in fear.

 

The airship flew back to the pyramid ship; pierced through ship’s west-wall, and landed on its tripod. When its door opened, Ningning, a surgeon before she joined the church, and Doctor Kitsa with a nurse rushed in. The doctor attended to the man while Ningning and the nurse to the wife and two children.

The doctor scanned the man with a small handheld device. He said, “His arm and legs bones are broken . . . and some of his ribs. He is bleeding internally.” He took a small device from his pocket and aimed it at the unconscious man. A light blue haze bathed the man’s body and levitated him two feet off the floor. Like a wheel-less carriage, he guided the floating body out of the airship and rushed for the surgical room.

The man’s wife clasped her frightened children by her side when Ningning beckoned them to follow her. In fright, they did not budge. It was only on the king’s loud command that they obeyed. Soon after, Nengut, with the king and prince flew back to the palace courtyard to get Shadef and his priest.

 

Directly over the palace courtyard, the airship hovered thirty feet above a tightly herded group of over fifty surrounded by soldiers. Nengut was disturbed to see women and children among the priests on the screen. One held a baby in her arms. She asked the king, “Why are you herding Shadeh and the priests with their families as well?”

The question staggered the king. It was a normal thing to do! He explained, “An offense made by any member of a family towards their king must be paid for by him and his immediate family.”

Nengut did not understand the logic. She stayed silent and with her pointing finger, encircled the group on the console’s monitor then touched a couple of screen icons.

On the ground, soldiers watched in disbelief as a beam of light from the airship’s underbelly engulfed and levitated the temple priests and their family. The airship headed back to the pyramid ship.

 

The Hearing and Judgment

 

At the pyramid ship landing bay, the airship de-levitated Shadeh and his terrified group on the floor corralled by a light-blue barrier. It then floated sideways and landed nearby.

Amo Obib approached the corralled group as he smiled to ease their fright. Nengut did not tell him much except where the airship would land; her suit stained by someone else’s blood; and that he must pass judgment on the temple priests and their family. ‘How could all these people collectively commit a crime as he saw families huddled together with their children?’ he wondered and worried.

When the airship door opened, Nengut rushed to Amo Obib’s outstretched arms and cried on his shoulder. The blood on her hands smeared on his white outfit. He gently stroked her back as he repeated, ‘Naska is Imar, Naska is Imar,’ while she wept. After composing herself, she narrated what had happened.

 

The scene touched King Arth. Nengut’s compassion for a stranger and the unrehearsed reaction of Amo Obib impressed him. ‘Truly, the Rians are peaceful and caring people,’ he concluded with no reservations this time.

 

The prince, unperturbed, merely looked about. He saw nothing around the lighted area where they were. The machine shop, kitchen, and dining room, at the far end, were hardly visible. Tired from his long journey and with nothing to sit on, he stood with his arms folded over his chest. Irritated, he arrogantly thought, ‘Chairs should have been provided first even only for my father and myself.’

 

King Arth listened as Nengut narrated the incident to Amo Obib. He observed the two. At one instant, he glanced at his son. For the first time, he realized how cold and indifferent the prince was to what had unfolded in his presences. He realized it was not the prince’s fault, but his. He had brainwashed him since childhood to be indifferent and never show sympathy. To act as a future king ought to, always, even before gods. But that was long ago when his heart was filled with bitterness and hatred; long ago when his beloved wife’s death was fresh in his mind; long ago when the only things he understood were acts of vengeance and ruthlessness, order and control brought by the sword’s swift justice and nothing else.

Amo Obib, after affirming his option to pass judgment, faced the herded people who were seated on the floor. He called Shadeh to stand in front of his followers. “What have you to say Shadeh?” he asked calmly and loud enough for all to hear.

Shadeh hailed aloud, “Children of the Sun God, Ra, the almi . . .”

“Shadeh,” Amo Obib abruptly interrupted. “I am not nor any of my people gods. Why did you torture the man and his family?”

Confused by the statement, Shadeh replied, “The man defiled your chariot by launching his arrow at it yesterday. The torture was a sacrifice and his family an offering to you thinking that you are the children of Ra, the Almighty. My intention was good, my act, noble.”

“Shadeh, regardless of who your gods are, hurting your brothers and sisters, is neither good nor noble. You must remember that.”

Bewildered Shadeh asked, “How then must I please my gods if no offerings are given?”

“Do good to your brothers and sisters. Regardless of the injustices they do to you, love them; forgive them; then offer your pains and sufferings to God. That sacrifice, God will take with open arms. And when you die, He will take you to His kingdom. Do you understand what I just said, Shadeh?”

“Yes, I understand,” Shadeh answered meekly.

“Then tell me, in your own words, what I have just said. My judgment will depend on your answer.”

Shadeh began to perspire. He must use all his wits as his life may depend on his answer. He wiped the beads of perspiration from his forehead with his hand, and in anxiety said, “Love everyone even if they hurt you. The Gods will take it as a sacrifice and will be pleased.”

Amo smiled and nodded to Shadeh’s relief. Then said, “Say something against the sacrificial act you did to the man and his family.”

Shadeh started thinking again. “Sacrifices are done from within oneself. The torture was a cowardly act that will serve only to displease the gods,” he answered.

“Does everyone understand and concur?” Amo Obib asked aloud to Shadeh’s entourage.

The answer, ‘Yes,’ resounded.

“Never forget to love one another, help each other, and show compassion to those in need and in hardship. That is the best sacrifice and offering you can give to your gods. Since King Arth had given me the privilege to pass judgment on you, I then set all of you free. Love one another. Help one another. Do no harm to anyone anymore. Goopersh, deactivate the barrier.”

 

Instantly, the light-blue barrier disappeared.

 

Shadeh and his people could not believe the verdict as they looked at each other is utter disbelief. What they did meant a gruesome death to themselves and their family. One of Shadeh’s priests rushed forward and kissed Amo Obib’s feet. Amo Obib got the priest to stand with his hands as he said, “Do not do that, my brother. It is enough that you understand and feel sorry. Just remember to love everyone and do good for them always.”

“I swear,” the young priest said as he stood. “I will help people whenever I can to amend for the injustice I did on my part.” He took Amo Obib’s hands and quickly kissed them then hastily rejoined his family.

 

King Arth could not believe Amo Obib’s judgment. He was not satisfied. The amo should have ordered Shadeh’s execution, even swiftly. That, he would accept. However, this was far from what he thought might happen. He had an image to protect. “The displeasure to you had been resolved. The displeasure to me is still to be judged,” he said.

Amo Obib looked up at the king and said, “King Arth, in fairness, you gave your word. Are you to break it?”

“I never break my word,” King Arth retorted as he looked down at Amo Obib. “They offended me as well. As their king, I must pass judgment too.”

Amo Obib gave the king’s statement a quick thought then said, “I understand your position. You were separately offended. As their king, I will not deprive you of the privilege that is rightfully yours. However, before you do, remember I have passed judgment on them to live and be free. If you have them punished or worse still, killed, what was the use of my judgment then?” Amo Obib asked, looking straight at the king’s eyes.

The king looked at Amo Obib. An expressionless face looked back at him. Amo Obib was far wiser than he thought. There was an uneasy silence as the king rubbed his hands then fiddled his beard with his fingers. He was thinking and very serious.

Prince Otil was worried the king might give in. The king’s decisions were always swift. The silence was unusual and disturbing. The temple priests had displeased him as well and there was only one judgment—-torture then beheading. He tagged his father’s tunic then said aloud, “Cut their heads, my father. You cannot lose face in front of these worthless people. You are the king.”

The prince’s interruption broke the king’s thoughts and was infuriated. His son’s audacity to advise him at his age and at that particular moment enraged him. He vented his frustration by instinctively whacking hard the prince’s hand that held his tunic in full view of everyone.

Enraged, the prince looked vilely at his father then the priests and their family. He walked away and stood on a spot where his father could see and sense his inner fury. His stance was of defiance—-legs apart; arms crossed over his chest; his face, tense; and his eyes stared revoltingly in anger at his father.

King Arth paid no attention to the prince’s stance and continued to think. He had always outguessed everyone and now he was on the spot. If he beheaded only Shadeh, his word to the Rians will have little or no meaning. Moreover, if no harsh punishment was imposed, it meant weakness and would lose face to his people, most especially his son.

In the uneasy silence and tense moment, Prince Otil shouted in anger, “You are the king of West Nile. There is only one thing a king can do. Cut their heads. Otherwise, you are no king.” His voice resounded from the walls of the huge cavern of the ship.

King Arth looked at the prince and saw him stand with his hands on his hip; his feet partly spread. He had taught him well. Maybe, too well but he must know who is king. He turned towards Shadeh and his followers and said, “I have made my decision. From this day forth, you are to leave my kingdom and never return. On the day I see your face again, you will surely die.” His voice quivered on every word. His fist clenched tightly. He was ready to judge Shadeh’s death and let the rest go free. The king would have gambled the consequences if only the prince had not intervened.

 

The prince, on hearing the king’s judgment, ran outside.

 

The king stood still as he watched his son ran. Within, he wanted to run after his beloved son and explain. He cannot—-he is the king.

 

Amo Obib, though pleased with the king’s verdict, felt the hurt and agony in the king’s heart, more so, to see his son run away. He said to the flabbergasted group, “Your king has spoken. On the day he sees you again, I will look the other way. When that time comes, I pray he will find good reasons to spare your life.” He realized the situation was fragile and must get the priest and their family out of the kingdom. He turned to Nengut and said, “Nengut, please take them back to get their personal belongings and bring them to wherever they want to go.” He then turned to the king, “Will that be alright with you?” he asked looking at the face of a broken man.

In a hollow lifeless low voice, the king replied, “That will be alright.” In the king’s mind was his son.

 

Nengut knew what Amo Obib meant and wanted. She ran to the airship and took off with Shadeh and his people.

 

On the grassland, outside, walking towards the citadel at the distance, the prince was furious, heart filled with hate and anger. He felt stripped of his honor, insulted in front of their subjects, shamed by his father. On hearing a soft humming sound, he turned to look. It was the airship. It passed overhead with the priests and their family levitated under its belly. He had time to right the wrong his father had done, he thought. He will kill all of them himself. He ran as fast as he could but it was three miles and when he got there, the airship had just left. Exhausted, the prince mustered strength to vent his anger. He wrecked the temple. He destroyed everything he saw with whatever he could hold or throw. At the end, he set the temple on fire and stayed outside to watch it burn as he vowed, “They will all pay for their insolence and the dishonor they have done me.” The prince and those loyal to him left the citadel that evening for the southmost city of the king’s domain called Tugbok.

 

Argument Over Justice

 

The king, with no appetite for dinner, requested they discuss the arrangements first. Amo Obib did not object and they walked toward the conference room at the further end.

Disturbed, the king said, “You should have at least beheaded Shadeh.”

“What good will that do?” Amo Obib calmly asked.

Irritated by the reply, he strongly answered, “Justice to the family he tortured. Isn’t that obvious?”

Amo Obib remained silent. He remembered Nengut's Lion-Monkey analogy. She was right--- both saw the same thing yet each saw it differently. “I have never thought of it the way you see it,” he confessed. “Rians look at justice in a different way. You base your justice on equality. If someone cuts a man's arm regardless of reason, justice was served by cutting the offender's arm. A balance was maintained, both men will have an arm missing.”

“Is there any other?” the king sarcastically asked in annoyance.

“The justice of reason,” Amo Obib calmly responded.

“Are you telling me justice can be served in two opposing ways for the same offense?” the king blared.

“Only one,” Amo Obib replied calmly again.

King Arth pondered on Amo Obib’s answer but did not understand. He was troubled. He needed an answer, an explanation, and pursued, “Death for death.”

“Forgiveness for death,” Amo Obib answered.

“Hate for hate.”

“Love for hate.”

“If someone beats me with a stick, I will take the stick from him and beat him to death,” the king said as he appreciated the mental exercise and asked, “What will you do?”

Amo Obib thought for a moment then answered, “I will reason out.”

“And, if he does not listen?”

“He still has the stick to beat me,” the amo said seriously.

The king looked at Amo Obib. He sensed the amo was not joking. He grappled to understand the wisdom to what seemed foolish and illogical way to think and react. In dilemma, continued, “There is no equality in love for hate.”

“You are right.”

“How can there be justice then? Your justice makes no sense. It’s imbalanced and weak,” the king scuffed then smirked.

“It is imbalance, if you equate justice as a balance between love and hate. Love outweighs hate a thousand-fold. True justice must serve the good interest of the people and not a few. It does not look at the crime and make judgment but the goodness the judgment brings about to all. Killing begets hate and hate begets hate. Isn’t that true?”

“Yes,” the king answered and started thinking of a real example. “King Silrab’s grandfather killed my father and his son caused my wife’s death. He and his family must pay for their death otherwise there will be no justice.”

“How was justice served if in the end everyone killed everyone?”

Annoyed for failing to understand the point, King Arth asked, “Are you saying to leave my loved ones’ death unpaid?”

“It may save your life, your son’s life, and his children, and his children’s children. Otherwise, when will it stop? Justice is best served when the injustice is stopped.”

The king mentally struggled to see things at a different perspective. He was uneasy with what he grasped and uncomfortable with the little he understood. “Justice was never served on my wife’s death,” he pursued.

“Justice is abstract. It cannot relate to tangible things though tangible things, at times, solves it. I will answer your question by asking you this: Would you rather your death be remembered as one that spawned peace and happiness or the one that spawned death and despair to many innocent people?”

The king hesitated then admitted, “To have spawned peace and happiness.”

“Then justice was best served by forgiving the people who killed your father and your wife, and make peace with them. Their death . . . your father and wife, would serve a better and higher purpose. And like you, your father and your wife would have wanted it that way if they knew what was at stake.”

King Arth was disturbed, “What if one of the men I exiled came back? How should I serve justice?”

“Disobedience to a judgment when done willfully will be served by the penalty determined at the time of judgment. In this case, your judgment was death.”

“You’ll kill him then if you were in my shoes?” The king asked hoping to corner Amo Obib and have an upper hand on a serious argument. Winning the discussion meant so much to him, to his pride.

“I would not impose such a penalty in the first place. However, if you empower me to judge in your behalf, I will listen to his reasons and reserve my decision based on that. But death will never be an option.”

“Then you will go against my judgment,” the king said, hoping to resolve the argument in his favor.

“No. I will right it to do you justice,” Amo Obib said bluntly.

The king was dumbfounded. In limbo said, “But justice must elicit fear to maintain peace. Fear is what maintains order, and justice must perpetuate fear. Fear begets obedience to the law!” the king contended with conviction.

“Justice through fear offers no solution and the peace it brings is an illusion. And fear begets not obedience but disorder and rebellion.”

“My kingdom is safe because they fear my justice,” the king scuffed. This time he was certain Amo Obib was wrong and elated to think that he had won the argument and boldly added, “Take fear out, and my enemies will be at my palace gate to topple me.”

“Replace fear with love and compassion, and they will come to raise and proclaim you their king.”

The king was flabbergasted. His elation quickly replaced by another disturbing question, “Are you telling me to replace fear with love?”

“Yes. That is the only thing that will offer you real peace that will last for generations.”

King Arth pondered for a moment. “Disturbingly, I understand your justice and see its wisdom but it will not work in this world. Fear is the key to peace,” he said, somehow saddened by his conclusion.

“Fear will only serve to destroy your world. Love is the key,” Amo Obib stressed and noticed the king walked slower as they neared the conference room and adjusted to the king’s pace. He knew the king was thinking and might want to talk more but enough was said to draw a good conclusion. “Love one another, that is where true peace lie,” he ended.

King Arth looked at Amo Obib but said nothing as the words ‘Love one another’ resounded in his mind. Much as he wanted the love and respect from the people he ruled, he only found an invisible and seemingly impregnable wall that separated him from them. He had become alone and lonely purely from the wall of fear he had imprisoned himself. This was not what he dreamed when he envisioned his kingdom as a young man daydreaming. It was more of what he felt during his dinner with the Rians . . . a lively community of free people. ‘Are love, compassion, righteous judgment, and equality for all what my realm lacks? Is that what I was unconsciously searching after I acquired my kingdom?’ the questions flashed through his mind. “We have covered a lot in our short talk,” the king said sounding rueful. “It is strange for I see your point but not as clearly as I want. You are brave to tell me I was wrong in my judgments and contradicted me on my beliefs. You may have gambled your life by being too frank and downright blunt.”

“You would be a fool if you have me killed when the contradiction happens to be for your own good,” Amo Obib replied innocent and puzzled at what the king really meant.

King Arth did not answer. He had men killed for lesser reasons and surely for referring the word ‘fool’ to him. He ended the discussion saying, “I placed cockroaches under the noon sun. They did die.”

 

The Arrangement

 

King Arth changed his mind and had dinner with the Rians before the meeting. This time, he insisted that he be treated not as a king or a guest but like a Rian and with them got his food from the kitchen counter; placed them on his wooden tray; and brought it to the table like everyone.

 

The king enjoyed the food and savored every bit of it, more so, the lively and informal interaction that ensued. They laughed and joked at each other over their first-time experience with the king and the king with them. Of the funny incidents played seriously the day before but funny to recall and reenact. The king played his part and brought boisterous laughter as well. He felt so glad he opted to be like them. He never felt this happy and gratified for what he decided on and what resulted out of it. At one moment, between laughing lulls, he observed how happy the Rians were and recalled the last time he felt this good. He remembered one memorable event in the past, long ago. He recalled the great fun he had with his best friends, Mismar, Suba, and Odi. They were young teenagers on a supposedly one-day adventure that lasted five days in the wild. They were care-free young men with no hierarchical distinction from each other. The great fun that came out of it—-swam in the river; hunted small games for food; and told stories and jokes that continued all day and even lulled them to sleep late at the night. Though he was their acknowledged head of their group, he never exercised that prerogative. He acted as an arbiter; he went with the decision of the group; he acted for their good. He was a leader!

At one point, he asked himself, ‘What is the difference? Why are Rians so happy?’ and came to this conclusion: They were all free, equal, and united for a common good. After dinner, he extended his dinner invitation to everyone at his palace. However, the Rians had to decline. They only have four radiation protective suits and Amo Obib and Ningning’s vow confined them to the ship.

After cleaning the dining room and kitchen, everyone went to the conference room. The king, Amo Obib, Commander Nerus, Nengut, and Ningning sat around a round table with a three-inch-high pyramid crystal at the middle. The rest of the Rians were on one side seated.

Amo Obib who noticed the king staring at the crystal said, “That is a recorder among other things. It will store everything we do and speak. In so doing, history, both yours and mine, will have this momentous event recorded. Shall we start?”

“Please do,” the king replied.

“Goopersh, record the event.”

“Recording,” Goopersh, responded.

 

  • * *

 

The negotiation went smoothly. Amo Obib agreed on most of the king’s proposals and the ones rejected were so minor, the king accepted without an argument. They agreed that the people the Rians brought in from outside the kingdom, referred to as Migrants, were the king’s guests, and be under his rule. All major project activity required the king’s approval. Any organized meetings by the Rians or the Migrants or both must have at least one Egyptian representative present. The king’s representatives, together with the Rians, will be responsible for the administration of the entire project. If an Egyptian cannot occupy the top management position by virtue of qualification, an Egyptian must occupy the assistant’s position. Made explicitly clear, anything produced by the Rians through the project will exclusive be the property of the Rians and must remain with the project regardless of circumstance.

The Rians and the Migrants cannot own land or trade outside of the Migrant community. They would have self-rule and given protection and freedom as any Egyptian. Migrants cannot have in their possessions any form of weapon nor can they enlist in the army; forced to participate in any form of war the king chose to or forced to engage in.

In commerce, the Migrants were free to engage in commerce provided the raw material to produce the goods came from Egyptians.

Representatives from all groups will enact Civil and Criminal Laws and become the law for everyone upon the king’s approval. A jury system will render verdicts but the Rians will decide the penalty for a Migrant, if found guilty. The king reserves the right to override judgment on Egyptians. Amo Obib was unsuccessful in banning death penalty to convicted Egyptian.

They agreed that the Rians would not interfere in the kingdom’s affairs and vice versa. Made explicitly clear, the Rians would not participate, provide aid nor allow the use of anything brought about by the project to any form of warfare.

The king agreed on a standard of measurement, monetary system, rentals, and form of taxes. Paper money, made by the Rians, will be used as payment within the kingdom but, when demanded, paid in gold or precious stone.

With these basic tenets, Amo Obib and the king shook hands and hugged on it to everyone’s joy.

NO OTHER CHOICE

 

 

Early the following day, as he expected, the king found the generals having breakfast at his dining table. “Stop eating.” the king said, “the Rians are expecting us for breakfast.”

“How did the negotiation go?” Suba asked, setting aside his half-eaten food as the rest did.

“Better than expected,” the king answered, delighted by his accomplishment. “Silrab and Adazil will be out of it. We will be dealing exclusively with the Rians and have full control.”

Mismar asked, “Do you know the prince burned the temple?” He watched the prince burn the temple. Being spoiled and out of his control, he did nothing. He knew the king did not react well to people who interfered in his relationship with his son. He tried it once and will never do it again.

“Someone reported last night,” the king uncomfortably answered. The prince with his special guards had left when he got back. He was surprised his son had more followers than he thought. What worried him, it was nearly twice larger than his figure. If the prince learned well from him, he would leave spies but for what ultimate purpose he dared not speculate. Sons kill their parents for the right to rule, thus, the prince was no longer a man to ignore but watched!

Mismar said, “The prince told me to tell you he was going to Tugbok and stay there. Did the incident had to do with the Rians?”

“Not with the Rians but with me. I spared Shadeh’s life and the rest.” The king fervently believed that forgiveness and leniency were signs of weakness. Thus, his verdicts were often harsh and disproportionate to the offense.

Being on the subject, Mismar took the advantage of the opportunity to advise the king, “I see no problem sparing Shadeh’s life. If you ask my opinion, I’d say we start acting as rulers and not conquerors.”

Mismar’s comment bewildered the king. Changing ways in dealing with conquered people never crossed his mind. He became curious and pursued, “What do you think Odi?”

“I agree with Mismar. It’s high time we treat them as subjects of the kingdom.”

Turning to Suba, the king asked, “And you?”

“I think we have killed everyone who stood against us. Showing leniency is not bad at all.”

The king gave it a quick thought then said, “In a different way that was what Amo Obib said. You see no problem in setting Shadeh free?” the king, puzzled, asked.

Mismar answered, “As king, you can do what you want and think best for your people.”

“Think best . . .” the king paused and gave it a thought then continued, “We will talk more on the subject some other time. Meanwhile, I want you to start thinking on how we will make our kingdom the best kingdom in the land. Let’s go and see the Rians. They will be undertaking a population census today and will provide free breakfast and lunch.”

 

No Guards

 

The king, with his generals and escorts, headed for the pyramid ship. Along the way, he noticed the streets outside his fortress walls deserted. Only dogs, chickens, and cats went about their way on the streets. On some, he saw through windows, tables with food hardly touched or eaten. The military commanders literally followed his order to have the city’s inhabitance gathered at the west side of the ship before sunrise for the Rian census. That was what they did—-forced people out of their home. This made him reflect on what his generals and Amo Obib have said.

 

They followed a path of trampled grass threaded on by thousands of footsteps, animal hooves, and carriage wheels through the grassland. Their tracks trailed the contour of a relatively flat open field that led to the pyramid ship parked at the distance. When they got there, a large crowd had gathered at the west side shaded by the ship’s shadow from the early morning sun.

The pyramid ship stood 482 feet high and 755 feet wide on all four sides. Its smooth metallic-silver surface reflected the sky but not its glare that one could look at the mirrored sun, to their amazement, without squinting. Everyone looked at the ship with awe and wonder. Most thought it as god’s house. Though nothing stopped them from touching the ship, the people stayed behind an imaginary line, some 30 feet away. A group gathered tighter as they watched and followed their king and the three generals ride by.

King Arth wondered how they could go inside as they got closer. The Rian’s instruction was very clear—-walk through the west side of the ship. ‘Where is the entrance?’ he thought. When he got to within ten feet to the wall, the wall fronting him opened to a normal size doorway. To his amazement, it widened when his generals stood by his side. He stepped back and the doorway in front of him became a wall. He asked his generals to move back one at a time and noticed the openings turned back to a wall. They spread ten feet apart and walk in together. Sure enough, four openings appeared and another surprise greeted them as they looked back. They could see the crowd as though the wall was not there! Mismar tried to touch the wall but each time he did, the wall widened. All four, had fun going in and out trying to figure how it worked until Amo Obib, Ningning, and Nengut came to welcome them.

After the greeting and introductions, Nengut said, “That’s a one-way vision wall,” as she saw the men playing with the wall minutes earlier. “You can never touch it unless configured to be rigid,” she explained.

“Only your technology and not magic?” the king candidly asked.

“You are so right,” Nengut replied with her usual feminine smile.

“I noticed no one is on guard. Do you know that anyone can enter your ship without your knowing?” the king asked inquisitively.

Puzzled by the question, Nengut innocently replied, “Yes. They are free to come in and out as they wish.”

The king was taken aback by the simplicity of her answer. “That is not wise. It needs to be secured.”

“Secured? From whom?” Ningning reacted naively.

Struck by her innocence, the king replied, “From someone with bad intentions.”

“Bad intentions?” Ningning retorted, puzzled.

Nengut joined, “I think I understand King Arth’s point. He is concerned with our belongings. The word they use is . . . thievery.”

“Oh, thievery,” Ningning reacted. “Please forgive my innocence. Where we come from there are no thieves, no army, no guards, and no policemen.”

“What may be safe for you in your world may not be safe here,” the king admonished then turned to Amo Obib, “Thievery is not the problem. I was referring to your personal safety.”

“You mean someone might do us harm?” the amo was surprised to what the king was inferring.

Nengut interjected, “We are a peaceful people. We will not harm or provoke anyone.”

King Arth as well as the generals noted the Rian’s naïveté as they looked at each other, perplexed. The king said, “If you have something of value that is enough to provoke. We have to place guards to secure you. You have so many things of value.”

“Placing guards will mean we distrust anyone. There is no reason to do that,” Ningning said without hesitation.

“Do you agree with that Amo Obib?” Odi joined the discussion.

“I do,” Amo Obib answered.

Confounded, Mismar asked, “Are you saying you will trust everyone and sacrifice your safety? That is not wise. You are putting your people’s lives in danger and you may even pay with your life.”

“Then we will die,” Ningning, answered with conviction.

The king was taken at her quick response. He looked at Amo Obib for his reaction.

“My wife is right,” Amo Obib said looking at the king then the generals. “We have to show trust and leave our safety in God’s hands.”

The king argued, “You must realize that you are no longer in your world. I will have guards placed for your security.”

Amo Obib replied, “We are extremely grateful for your concern but I will not allow anyone to guard the ship nor any of us. I will have to be firm on that.”

“You have many powerful secrets. Men with greed will try to get them. They will come in the night and take you away. They will force you to cooperate. They will make you their slaves or else die. Do you want that to happen?” the king asked.

As the three Rians quietly thought over the question, the king and the generals could not help notice their childlike innocence. They were pondering over something the simplest of humans have an instinctive answer. They somehow pitied them. They all looked helpless, so vulnerable.

Amo Obib soon realized what the king was insinuating. Nengut had addressed the group on the subject generally. A more specific situation made him consider the king’s warning and said, “We will not protect ourselves when threatened but slaves we will never be. We are willing to accept torture and even death for a good cause.”

Ningning moved closer to Amo Obib and looked at the king showing her support and concurrence to Rian ideals and values.

The king said, “You people are too idealistic. You will not survive in this world.”

“Then we may well perish,” Amo Obib, responded sadly and in resignation. “Our ideals and values leave us Rians with little option on the matter.”

King Arth realized Rian’s conviction to their values. There was no sense in arguing. “You must never show any inherent signs of weakness,” he advised with sincerity. “For your own good, project some sort of power even if you will not use it. Pretenses are often good deterrents.

Amo Obib replied, “Pretense is something we Rians know nothing about and thus we cannot take your advice. We will be open to anyone. We will not hide our weakness. We will sacrifice our safety to prove our good intentions. Humans have nothing to fear from us. You can take us now at our most vulnerable time.”

Suba asked, “How do we know you will not use your machines on us?”

“We have nothing that will harm anyone. You can trust us. Should you wish to take us now, no one will lift a finger to oppose you,” the amo answered, wary of what may happen.

Ningning and Nengut stood closer to Amo Obib as a group that supported each other. Fear and uncertainty griped the three.

Confounded, the king and the generals looked at each other.

“But why?” the king asked Amo Obib, with genuine concern.

True peace thrives in trust. We come in peace and will trust anyone to prove our intention.” Amo Obib answered.

“Trust no one,” the king snapped.

“Not even you?” Ningning asked the king.

The king uneasily hesitated.

Mismar noticed the king’s predicament, and repeated, “Trust no one.”

“How will peace come about among humans then?” Nengut directed the question to Mismar.

Mismar had no answer.

“It will not,” the king snapped gaining his bearing.

“Not unless you start trusting each other without reservations,” Nengut added.

King Arth replied, “That will not happen. It is not inherent in humans as it is to you Rians to trust each other completely. We humans must always reserve some doubts. History has proven it wise and a prudent route.”

There was a short pause from everyone and Amo Obib took advantage of it, “Peace has a price men must pay and that is trust. For as long as men distrust each other, there will be no peace. Think of it. We come in peace. To that end, do you see any other choice for us but trust?”

The king and the generals had no answer. Each was baffled knowing the truth in what Amo Obib said. Inwardly, each felt strange. They knew Amo Obib was right but they were right too. Where was the answer?

“So be it. There will be no guards,” King Arth politely concluded. Changing the subject, he addressed his generals, “Here, you serve yourself and help clean too. But the food will be well worth it.” At his placed, he looked and saw Thel at the kitchen with an apron on her. Pointing, he said, “That’s Thel. She’s the best cook in the world.”

“I am so pleased to hear you like Thel’s cooking,” Ningning commented then chatted casually as she led them to the kitchen.

 

When they got to the kitchen, the king asked, “Do you have anything for us, Thel?”

“I have something special for you and your companions. It’s a pie we call bibingka,” as she took the pie out of the oven and teased them with its aroma. The king and the generals got their share then mingled with the Rians. As the king expected, the generals savored well the pie and came back repeatedly for more servings.

“Where is the prince?” Ningning casually asked the king.

“I sent him to Tugbok. It’s a city at the southern border of my realm,” the king answered in a passing manner then chatted socially with everyone.

 

Ruling a Kingdom

 

After breakfast, the king and Amo Obib went to visit the man Shadeh tortured. Along the way, the king was keenly observant most especially when they passed through the Rian’s pharmacy. Shelves of labelled glass jars lined its walls. Jars with herbs, tree roots, barks, some emerged in fluid; of colored powdered earth neatly arranged. Somewhat familiar on the counter below, were the mortar and pestle, and the empty glass tubes on wooden stands. The rest of the things on it looked unfamiliar and strange.

The king and Amo Obib entered the adjacent door-less room and found the tortured man asleep on a bamboo bed. Above and on the side, a familiar coconut fruit hang with a small tube that ran from it to the man’s arm, their intravenous feeding. Seated by the bedside were his wife and two children in white, loose garment.

The children, on seeing the king, sought shelter by their mother’s side as she stood with obvious discomfort. Fear showed in the children’s little face as they held on tightly to their mother’s gown and stared at the floor as their mother did. The mother bowed waist deep and made a muffled groan of pain as she did. Her discomfort was noticeable as she erected herself with Amo Obib’s help.

The king’s eyes paid close attention to the mother and her children. She was visibly ill at ease in his presence, and the children frightened. He became uncomfortable as Amo Obib noticed it too. ‘Is this how my subjects see me as their king, in fear?’ he asked himself. “Do not be frightened,” he said in a calming way to the mother.

The mother did not react. She heard so many stories from her husband of what the king ordered done to families to be frightened.

A gap in spontaneity made Amo Obib interject, “She is still in shock,” then turned to the children; knelt; and said, “Have you eaten?” he asked as he beamed at the little ones.

The children looked at Amo Obib and nodded.

Amo Obib asked in a pleasant manner, “You like a red apple then?”

The children nodded eagerly then glanced at their king; looked at the floor; and slowly moved behind their mother as though the king was a beast ready to snatch and devour them.

Amo Obib saw what the children did. He stood and to the mother asked, “And, you?”

“No, thank you,” as she started to bow.

Amo Obib held her shoulder to stopped her from bowing and said, “You need not bow,”

“You are their leader. How will I act and address you with respect?” she asked. Uncomfortable, she glanced at the amo then stared at the floor again.

“My name is Obib and calling me Obib is fine. And you are?” he said in a calming way.

“I am Teema,” she said without looking at him as she pulled her children to her side. “This is my daughter Dinky and my son Natoy. My husband’s name is Dodot.” Though uneasy, she got the courage to glance at him and smile. “You are so kind to have helped us,” she said, then looked down again.

Amo Obib noticed her uneasiness, unsure of how to act. He asked, “Do you know that I chose to free the men that harmed you and your family?” He was poised to observe her answer.

“The woman named Ningning explained. I do not understand but you are wiser than I and for that, I accept your judgment and harbor no malice to the people that did it to us,” she answered, her head still angled down.

“I am so pleased to hear that,” the amo reacted.

“You are a very, very kind man,” Teema added and glanced at him again.

Amo Obib gently patted Teema’s left arm to put her at ease.

Teema felt the gentle tap on her arm and this time she comfortably looked at him in the eyes and beamed at him.

Amo Obib was elated by her response and beamed back then excused himself to get the apples.

 

Teema’s reaction and reply baffled the king. ‘Here is a woman who herself and her family were tortured and yet forgave the stranger who freed them?’ he thought. It defied his logic, his understanding, but saw a better result and wondered why. “How is your husband?” he asked Teema in a concerned manner.

Teema answered as she glanced but dared not look in his eyes, “The doctor said he will be fine but had given him something to make him sleep, your Highness.”

“How long has Dodot served me?” he asked nicely.

Still avoiding his eyes, Teema answered, “He first fought with you against the Bagobos and was in-charge of the archers then. He has been with you ever since, your Highness.”

King Arth recalled the battle. It was against the fierce and feared Bagobos and was a decisive military engagement that marked the zenith of his military campaign. The archer’s brigade with him then were those he was most proud and indebted to. They were outnumbered, and he was surrounded and protected by his archers. If it were not for the archer’s loyalty, who bravely stood their ground in the midst of the enemy’s major onslaught, they would have easily lost. “Dodot is an exceptional soldier. I now realize I have neglected my people, more so, the ones who fought and struggled to make me king. Teema, I am ashamed to admit that I do not remember or even heard his name. This will have to change. When he gets well, I want you and your family to see me.”

The king’s admittance of shame and sincerity touched Teema. It got her to forget she was talking to their king and looked at him with a smile and said nicely, “I will, Your Highness.”

There was something in the way Teema looked and smiled, and the manner by which she replied that touched the king. In that fleeting moment, he felt gratified and overwhelmed by a wonderful feeling brought by his simple humility and care. This is something the sword cannot bring about, he thought. ‘Is this the power Amo Obib was referring?’ Before he could say something, Amo Obib came back with three large red apples and gave them to the children. Soon after, they left.

 

Timely and Fruitful

 

As the Amo and the king headed back for the ground floor, the king said, “I thought of what we discussed yesterday . . . about love and fear. It makes sense to me now. Their reaction to you and to me made me realize the difference between instilling fear and what love and caring can bring about. I believed the woman when she said she harbors no malice to the people that tortured them but do not understand why. How strange. Your sense of justice and values seem to work. I like it.”

Amo Obib thought it wise to stay silent.

“I want to be close to my people,” the king admitted, “But, there is a wall that stands between me and my subjects. Is it because I am their king that this be so?”

Amo Obib gave it a brief thought. “It is because you act always as their king.”

“But I am always their king!”

Be a king when you represent them but an ordinary man when with them.”

“An ordinary man when with them,” the king echoed. “I have not done that for a long time . . . be an ordinary man, I mean.”

“I think, too long,” Amo Obib replied.

The king looked at Amo Obib and grinned. He now accepted Amo Obib’s straightforward answers. On seeing a soldier among the crowd, he called the soldier’s attention.

The soldier ran to him and bowed waist deep then stood erect and said, “Your Highness?”

“What is your name?” the king asked.

“My friends call me Dindo, Your Highness.”

The king freshly recalled how Teema bowed with discomfort before him and, in a pleasant way said, “Well, Dindo, effective today, the king, any member of the royal family, and any high-ranking officer will be afforded respect by simply nodding. Bowing waist deep is no longer mandatory. I want you to spread this decree to my people.”

“Yes, Your Highness,” Dindo answered, bowing waist deep instinctively.

“Did you understand the decree, Dindo?” he asked candidly, beaming at Dindo.

“Yes, Your Highness but I . . .”

“You need not explain. I understand.” He purposely placed his hand over Dindo’s shoulder in a friendly gesture to prove something to himself, “Do you prefer this decree than the old one especially when your back hurts?” the king joked as he smiled then observed Dindo’s reaction.

“Yes, Your Highness, most especially when your back hurts,” he elatedly replied, smiling in a laughing way. “I will go and tell everyone of the change.”

“Then go before they start bowing when I meet them,” he said as he tapped Dindo’s shoulder.

“Yes, Your Highness.” Dindo beamed and, in a deliberate motion, stood erect, nodded his head then left running.

It was then that King Arth realized the difference in response in how he normally communicated with his soldiers, his people, and the warm feeling conveyed by physically expressing it. He turned to Amo Obib delighted for he knew Amo Obib noticed what transpired. “You know . . .” the king started unsure how to phrase his words, “. . . when we were with Teema’s family . . . there was a moment there that I wished she referred to you as her king and I, the kind man.”

“It will please you to know that, in time, you will be both.”

With vigor, the king said, “Your arrival is timely. Our relationship will be fruitful.”

To that, Amo Obib smiled.

 

The Orientation and Population Census

 

Amo Obib toured the king and went as far as show him the fuel tanks that needed refueling through a glass window. The king wanted to go inside but the radioactive level within was extremely high to cause instantaneous death on exposure. On the king’s succeeding questions, Amo Obib explained how the propulsion worked. Though the king tried hard to understand, it was just beyond him to comprehend.

When they got back to the ground level, the population census was well on its way.

 

The Rians were well organized. One group took individual data and photos then gave them their personal ID card with their picture. Another group made a quick medical exam. Once fifty were processed, a Rian conducted an orientation.

 

The Rians who did the orientation did whatever possible to make the people comfortable and at ease with them. They told them who they were; where they came; and the help they needed. They made it explicitly clear that they were no gods nor did they possess any supernatural powers. They had them touch their arms which most did. They answered all their questions then gave a tour.

The Rians took special attention to the children, not by intent but by their nature. They would hold, cajole, and joke that the young ones, with little inhibitions, responded by flocking around them. The sight took the fear out from the older ones that soon the people accepted the Rians for what they were, not gods but merely kind people from a world among the stars that needed their help.

After the orientation, they were given freedom to roam freely and unwatched.

 

Atlantis – The New Kingdom

 

At lunchtime, King Arth and Amo Obib walked to the dining area on the ground floor of the ship where people were eating. A number instinctively stood and bowed. The king gestured them to sit and continue eating. As they neared the food-serving counter, the king noticed the servants he sent to help Thel, hastily prepare his table. This disrupted the activity behind the counter and kitchen, and left Thel and other Rians by themselves serving the many in line for their meal in a paper bag. He addressed his servants, “Do not attend to me. Go back and help the Rians attend to my people.” However, by then, the dining table was set.

The king’s table was lavishly prepared with food to feed twenty comfortably seated. Instead of going to his table, the king got families from the food line to dine at his table. On seeing an old woman, he personally escorted her and her family. He told the old woman to sit on his chair that was distinctly elegant.

The old woman, standing by the king’s chair, was reluctant and said, “I cannot sit there. It is for you, the king.”

The king gave it a thought. “Today, you are Queen of the Kingdom and I, your servant. Please do it for me and enjoy your meal,” sounding as a man who needed her help.

Disturbed by the request, the old woman asked, “And you?”

“I will fall in line like the rest of my people. I have been absent for a long, long time.”

The old woman stared at him then boldly asked, “Can I hug you as though you are my son?”

The king looked at her and as he grinned said proudly, “I will take it as though you are my mother.”

They hugged each other and the people around applauded as they shouted, “Long live our king!”

 

The king joined the food line and got his meal in small paper bags like the rest. The Rians had prepared for this occasion in advance and have more than enough to feed the population. The king ate at the public area. Amo Obib left him alone knowing the king had much to do.

 

The king, visibly overjoyed by the people’s response, took full advantage of the opportunity. He walked around and mingled to as many of his subjects as he could—-not as a king but as an ordinary man. In his mind, he wished the prince was with him to see the difference between a kingdom ruled by might and the one ruled by heart.

 

Atlantis

 

Later that day, the king searched for Amo Obib and found him cleaning dishes with Ningning. He said to him, “I think I have found what I have long been seeking. I do not know how to repay you for what you have given me.”

“Just help us,” Amo Obib said.

“I will do whatever is in my power. In your honor, I will rename my kingdom and this city from this day forth, Ria.”

“You are so kind. Can we call it Atlantis? In Rian language, it means ‘God’s land’.”

“Atlantis, it will be.”

 

The Programs

 

In education, people, classified by age and intelligence, were led using holographic human-like guides to classrooms. There holographic instructors asked the group to focus their attention to an audio-visual teaching screen. Slow at first that progressively got faster and later became high-speed learning tool. They never realized they were put in a trance and being taught the Rian language, reading, and basic mathematics. The result would only surprise them later when they realize they could read, do basic math, and speak the Rian language in a course of half-an-hour. Later and through gradual steps, people with higher degree of comprehension took high-speed courses in advanced fields.

Unable to control his curiosity, the king asked amo, “I know you will say it is not magic but how could you teach people a language without teaching them?”

“It is very complex process but have you ever wondered how a spider can build a web; a bird fly; a fish to swim without being told how?”

“Yes, I once wondered how spiders could build webs of similar design without any means of communication.”

“We Rians, call it preconditioned static knowledge. Your knowledge, be it language or skills, are etched in your brain and that is how you learn, remember, and recall. We know how it is etched in the brain and where it is located. We merely copy it to that location.”

“So, if you copy the face and name in my brain of a person I have never met, I will recall this person’s face and name as though we met before though I never met him?”

“Yes, but this static memory is fragile and limited to skills. Unless used in the immediate future, it will be forgotten. Once used it will be part of your recollection. That is why the spider knows how to build a web. It is etched in its brain and used.”

“If I understand you right, you took your etched language knowledge in your brain and pasted to others?”

“Exactly.”

“Now I can sleep soundly.”

The amo laughed.

 

The king went through the educational process but not the invited prince who refused to come and participate. The king, on his request, took administrative and management courses.

 

On recruitment, Femed and her team synchronized their activities to Commander Nerus’ skill requirements and construction schedule. They needed twelve thousand workers initially and focused recruitment to what is now China and India. At first, the Rians did the recruitment then trained groups did it for them. In a relatively short time, they enticed and relocated whole towns and villages to Atlantis. Nengut became the liaison between the Rians and King Arth, and in-charge of civic and cultural functions.

Months later, thousands of workers were at Commander Nerus’s disposal. Using holographic-trained site construction managers, supervisors, and with a unified Rian language, Atlantis burst from the ground as weed seeds spread over fertile land. It grew so fast the scenery from the palace tower changed daily. The king, who was proud of what he saw, could hardly believe the transformation before him—-urban development to a barren land sprouted complete with roads, electricity, drainage systems, railroad tracks, parks, housing units, and everything city dwellers would need.

They built, within the confines of the pyramid ship’s huge cavern, the Rian’s administrative and engineering buildings to house offices they needed to manage the projects. It also housed higher learning schools as the initial holographic learning had its limitation—-it could only implant principles in the mind. Its enhancement required applications of the principles thru classrooms and laboratory trainings using specialized holographic instructors as well.

 

The Rians were terribly busy. With everything they needed to manage all projects confined within the ship, they hardly ventured out and the majority never did. With thousands of projects to simultaneously monitor, control, and coordinate, they had no time to spare for themselves. Undermanned, they worked eighteen hours shifts each day, ate their meals at their desk, and relied completely on King Arth to resolve whatever problems existed outside of the project.

The king supported the Rians, understanding well the enormity of their task. Though he wanted to see Amo Obib more often than he wanted, he avoided it. He knew that if Amo Obib spent an hour with him, the Amo would have only five hours for himself and to sleep for that day. On the few occasions that they met, he enjoyed the philosophical issues they engaged in and relished on what he learned and parted wishing there were more times for it.

A year after, factories dotted the designated industrial zones. King Arth inaugurated the first steam driven train. A few months, the first steam powered electric generating unit went on limited operation to provide the industrial complex electricity. From then on, progress grew exponentially.

Though the Rians were open to their technology, they purposely hid something—-making explosives. They, instead, used the airships’ powerful laser to blast obstacles at the expense of their limited fuel.

Before the end of the second year, the king abolished slavery, death penalty, and left the law in the hands of capable people regardless of origin to conduct the judiciary duties. However, the police force and the army remained exclusively Egyptians.

On that same year, the king granted the Migrants the same rights as Egyptians in commerce and trade. He also granted them the right to buy or rent lands. The business minded took full advantage of it and directly competed with the Egyptians in the huge Migrants market that now numbered over a million. The competition got the prices on basic goods and commodities down much to his liking. However, the Egyptian who became rich and powerful by virtue of monopoly, deplored the king’s decrees.

The Migrants, opposed to where they came from, were extremely grateful and fortunate for being part of Atlantis. They were freed from bondage, social neglect, and of the injustices and abuses from merely being underprivileged in the localities hence they came. Their life had changed far from better—-it was extraordinarily good, rich in quality beyond what they dreamed. Foremost was the respect they got as human beings! Mindful of their blessings from the Rians, they were always at their best to whatever was assigned to them. They worked on ten-hour shifts, four days a week with days off staggered such that the projects were never disrupted.

 

The king visited the Migrant’s community regularly as he promised. He made sure the Egyptians, the police force, and army never mistreated them. He participated in major community programs with Nengut and, on some occasions, with another Rian. The Migrants understood and sympathized with their benefactors. With all their benefits and treatment, they were extremely loyal to the Rians.

The king knew social discriminations existed. The Egyptians, with their unique physical features and special privileges during the early years, retained most of the top managerial functions. In time, they became a social class. The term, ‘The Privilege’ was referred to them. However, there were no social distinctions among the Migrants. They mingled freely among themselves despite their physical and racial differences. Although the king created a law on discrimination, he could not stop the subtle occurrence as Egyptians continued to make fun of the Migrants in their local language. He tried to bridge the social gap by being close to the Migrants but was misconstrued by the Egyptian elites as being bias.

If there was anything that marred the project, it was Nengut’s death a little after the second year. She became progressively ill of bone cancer that finally disabled her on the last three months of her life. Never was the goodwill she built expressed so profoundly as on the day of her death. People—-men, women, and even children, cried openly as they walked past her hibernating capsule where she was laid to rest. Shorthanded, the Rians had no one to replace Nengut’s civic duties. However, the people (Egyptians and Migrants) assigned to her, understood what Nengut envisioned, and through the civic organizations she created, her projects continued with King Arth’s unwavering support. The king, who worked closely with Nengut before she died, enacted the Trade and Commerce Laws soon after her death. The laws regulated the mechanics to conduct business with Atlantians. The laws, in essence, stated: no one can conduct business or enter into trade with Atlantians unless licensed by the Atlantis Government; that the goods traded used no slaves to produce; minimum wage laws were enforced; and human rights respected. Noncompliance to the law meant imprisonment for Egyptians, exile for Migrants, and, outside the realm, disbarment from any form of trade with any person or an entity within King Arth’s kingdom.

The enforcement of the Trade and Commerce Laws was the fulfillment of Nengut’s dream and the answer to Amo Obib’s prayer. It was the Rian’s tool to instill discipline, control, endeavors at respecting human rights, institute fair labor practices, and equitable wages. Most of all, the abolition of slavery over the entire region.

The kings outside King Arth’s domain thought the trade and commerce laws as an infringement on their sovereign rights but had no options but to comply. King Arth’s licensers and inspectors stringently enforced compliance to the Atlantian trade laws and free to perform their duties within the realms of the other kingdoms. Since the enacted laws served to protect the people regardless of kingdom, the people rallied behind the Atlantian laws that it was hard to circumvent. They complained on the slightest violation and later formed labor unions to protect the workers’ interest which King Arth fully and openly supported. King Adazil, who amassed his wealth through forced labor and slavery, deplored the laws. He circumvented it by imposing higher taxes and intimidation through seizure of land. King Silrab saw the good in the laws complied but in the process alienated him from other members of the royal family and the wealthy whose incomes came from the use of slaves.

In compliance to the Trade and Commerce Laws, the king declared Tugbok as the port of entry for goods coming from King Adazil and north of King Silrab’s Kingdom. Though it was more logical to have the trading center nearer Atlantis, the king chose Tugbok to help his son. The ungrateful prince thought it an act his father must do, logical or not.

Altogether, the Atomic Converter Project progressed smoothly to everyone’s satisfaction—-the king, the Egyptians, Migrants, and especially the Rians.

 

THE CRISIS

Atlantis had become a magnet for human settlement. Its population burgeoned from forty thousand to over four million in four years. The king, with Amo’s knowledge, took measures to restrict human influx to his city as outsiders came from across the Mediterranean Sea, the Middle East, and southern Africa as they are known today. They diverted migrations to adjacent provinces and kingdoms that could use the manpower. By this time, the city’s reliance on Rians to augment food supplies had ended. The entrepreneurs took the function and more became rich. And, as the city of Atlantis grew, the neighboring towns and cities prospered, so did the adjacent kingdoms which took full advantage of the growing trade.

Prince Otil, who had the autonomy to rule south of King Arth’s kingdom, stayed in Tugbok. He never set foot on Metropolitan Atlantis since he left the city four years ago.

Tugbok, the Seat of Prince Otil’s Power

 

Tugbok thrived by supplying Atlantis mainly agricultural and farm products. When it officially became the port of entry for goods from King Adazil and north of King Silrab’s kingdoms, Tugbok became the second fastest growing and richest city next to Atlantis. As Tugbok prospered, so did Kings Adazil and Silrab’s kingdoms. Though Tugbok’s wealth substantially came from the commerce brought by the adjacent kingdoms, the prince deplored the thought of the realm doing business with whom he considered enemies. He was not so concerned with King Adazil but making King Silrab, whose father killed his mother, profit from their trade, was something he loathed but grumbled secretly.

King Arth allowed the prince to maintain an army but limited it to three-fourths the combined size of King Adazil’s and Silrab’s armies. The army’s size was sufficient to deterrent the kings of the east from invading his kingdom. Though Prince Otil had the freedom to expand the realm, he forbade him to cross the Nile River—-King Arth had a non-aggression pact with both kings east of river. Though King Arth’s kingdom greatly expanded to the west, the prince could not take credit as all came forward and freely pledged allegiance to King Arth. His kingdom grew four times larger than King Silrab and King Adazil’s combined, without a drop of blood spilled and attributed it to love’s power for his fellowmen.

With Prince Otil’s army, King Arth placed less time in maintaining his army’s fitness. He concentrated on creating a government patterned after the Rian system to make Atlantis a model city for the other kingdoms to follow. In doing so, he hoped, in time, to encourage the other kingdoms to forget war and live in peace and harmony. But King Silrab and King Adazil were worried over Prince Otil’s growing army, more so, when King Arth openly declared the Prince Otil his rightful successor opposed to the abolition of the Monarchial System in favor of a parliamentary form of government he earlier suggested. In fear of what the prince could do, the two secretly agreed to strengthen and unite their armies while military superiority was still in their favor.

Both kings knew the Rians were peaceful people and their religious belief forbade them from participating in any form of warfare but unsure if the Rians would provide war aid to King Arth should their project be jeopardized. Since it was critical to prove this, the kings secretly financed a mercenary group to attack a remote outpost, Mintal, and see how the Rians would react. It was King Adazil who made the arrangement. An attack on Mintal could not be associated to any of them as Mintal was at the south-west-most side of the King Arth’s kingdom and had no strategic value to either kings. King Arth must address the problem as it was in his area of responsibility. Nevertheless, a contingent plan was agreed on for their armies’ immediate mobilization should King Arth uncover their connivance and retaliate.

Three months later, the mercenaries attacked Mintal and decisively won. King Arth sent an army to recapture using traditional weapons of war: swords, spears, catapults, and bows and arrows. To this incident, the Rians did nothing—-not even allow the use of the trains to transport soldiers and their supplies to the location. The trains had prescheduled activities tied to the Rian projects which King Arth respected! Thus, the soldiers sent to regain Mintal travelled conventionally, by foot, horses, camels, carts, and wagons!

Prince Otil, through unsubstantiated reports, guessed that King Adazil was behind the Mintal attack. It actually did not matter. With a well-trained and ready army, he was eager to do battle with any of the kings east of Nile River but not together. Without consulting or informing his father, he mobilized his army to declare war with King Adazil. So certain of his victory, he daydreamed of boasting his accomplishment to his father.

The prince knew King Adazil had fortified all river crossings to his kingdom. His battle plan was to bypass these fortifications and attack the King Adazil where he was most vulnerable, from the rear through the Bucana Gorge passage. But the gorge was at the northern fringe of King Silrab’s domain and a fortification guarded its entrance. Nevertheless, he was unconcerned. Once his army crossed the river, King Silrab had no choice but grant safe passage. King Silrab had only 19,000 soldiers spread over his kingdom, from what he was informed, against his concentrated 30,000. He sent General Irag to inform King Silrab of his plan with leave to hint on the prince’s option to attack King Silrab’s kingdom instead, if the king refused.

Though the prince information was right on the 19,000 soldiers King Silrab had, he was unaware of recent developments—-unaware that the 19,000 soldiers were concentrated and not far from the fortified garrison at the gorge’s entrance!

 

General Irag and King Silrab

 

King Silrab, informed of Prince Otil’s military buildup at the river crossing, was with his generals at the war room planning a military strategy on a minute’s notice to attack Prince Otil’s army should his army cross the river, Nile. “It would seem that Prince Otil is mobilizing his entire army without King Arth’s knowledge,” a general commented.

King Silrab, a cautious man, gave the general a look. To this, the general continued to explain, “Prince Otil’s mobilization is not meant to attack us otherwise King Arth should have mobilized his army but has not. The prince is not a military tactician but definitely not a fool to attack at one focal point whose terrain is overwhelmingly to his disadvantage. The area’s topography will more than offset the prince’s numerical superiority should we attack. The move . . .” he stopped as a soldier entered the room in a rush to speak to the king.

The king, on hearing the message, asked the generals, “Who knows of Prince Otil’s general named Irag?”

“I met him once,” a general commented. “He is Prince Otil’s best friend and a high-ranking officer in his army. Much like the prince, he is arrogant. All muscle and no brain,” he added.

“The muscle head is here with a message from the prince. Let me hear him before we conclude our plan,” he said, then left the room with a couple of his generals.

 

King Silrab sat on his throne flanked by his two generals. He signaled the guard at the door to let General Irag enter the throne room.

General Irag held a sealed letter and was arrogant as he casually walked looking around leisurely at the thrones’ hall furnishings. The robust general on the king’s right, irritated by general’s discourteous act, leaned and said to the king, “Do you want me to cut his head?”

“Let me hear him first,” the king answered in a low voice without turning his head.

General Irag was about to step up to the king’s podium when the same general stood between his king and General Irag with his hand on his sword. His eyes stared in challenge at General Irag.

General Irag stopped on his track. He sensed the tension and was intimidated by a larger man before him holding the sword’s handle still in its scabbard. He said, in a courteous manner, “I bring a letter from my prince, Prince Otil, to your king.”

“I will give it to my king if you don’t mind,” the general said sternly and got the letter from General Irag’s hand and passed it on to his king.

King Silrab, though agitated, remained calm, more so when the letter requested safe passage through Bucana Gorge, a gorge that lead to the rear of King Adazil’s kingdom. He said to himself, ‘I must not antagonize the prince’s plan.’ “The prince is rather vague in his letter,” he said passingly. “Is he asking permission to use Bucana Gorge or merely informing me of what he intends on doing?”

“The Princes’ army is crossing the Nile as we speak, thus, merely to inform,” General Irag said with authority and acted commandingly. “You are in no danger as long as you grant the prince’s simple request . . . lest he diverts his attention and head here instead,” the General Irag advised with a malicious grin.

“I no longer have an appetite for war,” the king said, acting his way through. “Why is the prince waging war against King Adazil?” he asked casually.

“King Adazil instigated the attack on Mintal and must pay,” the general said with authority.

“Mintal?” King Silrab feigned ignorance. “Where is that?”

“West of Atlantis,” the general snapped discourteously.

“Is King Arth aware of what is going on?” the king asked as he schemed.

“No, and the prince told me to tell you to keep King Arth blind and out of it . . . the prince wants to surprise his father of his coming victory.”

“I prefer having the prince as my neighbor rather than King Adazil. Please tell the prince, I will keep his plans a secret and grant him safe passage to the gorge,” sounding congenial. “However, his army must stay within the confines of the dried river bed lest it be misconstrued as preparing for battle against my kingdom.”

Familiar with the terrain, he replied, “I understand and will relay your condition to my prince.”

“I will send twenty of my soldiers with you as escorts to ensure the prince army’s safe passage through my domain and will inform the garrison commander at gorge’s entrance to allow safe entry to the gorge for the prince’s army to use. Please tell the prince I wish him success and look forward to a fruitful relationship between his kingdom and mine.”

Pleased with King Silrab’s blessing and message, General Irag left in good spirit with the news he brings to his prince.

 

King Silrab’s War Plan

 

Soon after General Irag left the room, King Silrab, fuming mad, went back to the War Room. By coincidence, King Adazil’s most trusted general, General Sidro, was his guest and was called to the War Room.

King Silrab, General Sidro, and the king’s generals stood around a table with a large map of the region’s topography. The king briefed General Sidro as he illustrated Prince Otil’s plan and concluded, “Prince Otil’s army is crossing the Nile and will attack your king’s kingdom from the rear through Bucana Gorge. With thirty-thousand men, it will take them a day and a half to cross the Nile River and another two days to reach the gorge’s entrance.”

Distressed and with grave concern, General Sidro commented, “Prince Otil’s plan will work if you allowed his army to use the gorge. My king’s armies are concentrated at the Nile River crossings. Redeploying the army will take time and too late to do anything unless you give my king time to mobilize.”

“King Adazil remobilizing his army is not necessary. You and I will make the gorge the prince’s army’s graveyard.”

The general was utterly surprised at the king’s statement. “I came here with only twenty-five military escorts.”

“That is more than sufficient,” the king replied.

Clueless and eager to know, General Sidro said, “Please explain.”

“Are you familiar of the terrain at Bucana Gorge?”

“Very familiar. It was the route I took to get here.”

 

King Silrab explained his battle plan and concluded, “When the front-end of Prince Otil’s army nears the gorge’s end at your side,” pointing the gorge’s exit on the map, “most, if not all, of his army will be inside the gorge. If you . . .” he continued, then, with a glint in his eyes; a grin; looked at the general and asked, “What do you think?”

“What if the prince does not take the bait?” General Sidro asked.

“The prince’s numerical advantage will not mean much if he uses the dry river bed, the only route he can take to the gorge. There are very few places where the Princes’ army can climb out of it. The terrain there is very much in my favor. My nineteen-thousand-army is not far and will immediately mobilize it. Either ways, victory is mine but my army will have minimal casualty and material losses if the prince uses the gorge. Understand what I mean?”

“I understand you completely. Atlantis is ours!” General Sidro hailed. “I will leave immediately and assure you no soul will exit the gorge at King Adazil’s end. I will send a courier to inform King Adazil of what we jointly intend to do. My king will not miss this excellent opportunity. We will meet each other at valley below Bansalan passage and march to Atlantis together as one army.”

 

ARMIES AT WAR

 

Carnage at the Gorge

 

The sun had set. Prince Otil’s thirty-thousand-army had crossed the Nile River and camped within the wide and dry river bed on King Silrab’s domain. On one side of the dry river bed was an imposing vertical sandstone wall, hundreds of feet high that followed the dry river’s contour. The other side was a natural barrier of eroded earth wall, no less than twenty feet high, scraped by the river’s seasonal flow. Half a mile away was Bucana Gorge’s entrance.

 

In the absence of their commanding generals, five army officers headed for the prince’s imposing tent to seek detailed orders for the following day’s march. Worried on a possible entrapment within the gorge, they needed an order to send the cavalry first before the foot soldiers to secure the way through the gorge.

Loud music and boisterous laughter from the drunken men and women came from within the prince’s imposing tent. It was easy to surmise the sexual and drinking orgy going on inside that started when women were brought in earlier. The special guards at the tent’s entrance held back the officers’ entry but reluctantly allowed one to enter. It did not take long for that one officer to be thrown out of the tent. The guards mocked and laughed at him. “You should be thankful the prince did not cut your head,” said the guard as he booted him to the ground and laughed after.

Humiliated, the officer dusted off the dirt from his uniform as he stood then walked back to his group.

“What happened?” a waiting officer asked in disbelief to what they saw.

“Fuck those drunken idiots,” the booted officer said in disgust as they walked away. “I nearly lost my head for a good cause!” he said in subdued anger.

“What will we do?” someone asked.

“Obviously, nothing and march in the gorge at first light,” the officer replied.

“What about the cavalry going in first . . . our insurance,” another asked with trepidation.

“Will you give the order?” the officer asked.

“Not me,” came the instantaneous reply. The prince, not long ago, beheaded a fellow officer for giving an order in the absence of the prince. The prince admitted the officer did the right thing but cut his head just the same. The prince will never tolerate his prerogative superseded. It was an example he showed to everyone.

The booted officer asked again, louder this time, “Will anybody here give the order?”

There was silence.

 

The Slaughter

 

It was pass noon the following day when the prince came out of his tent in loin cloth. Seven of the army’s generals followed, clad in their undergarment as their king, and some generals held their aching head. They bathe in the autumn sun as they stretched out their limbs and, at times, covered their nose from the occasional dust stirred by supply wagon as it passed a short distance from them. “Where is my cavalry?” the prince asked one of the special guard on duty.

Pointing, the guard replied, “Over there my prince. A thousand of them.”

The prince looked and saw saddled horses tied to brushes and the cavalrymen loitering around. “Where are the rest?”

“Seven thousand spearheaded the march. They are deep in the gorge together with the foot soldiers,” the guard reported.

“Have someone prepare our breakfast.”

“It’s noon, my prince. Would you prefer lunch prepared?”

“So be it. I like to bathe,” the prince laconically said.

“I will have it ready, my prince,” the guard replied.

 

An hour later, the prince and his generals, dressed in military uniform, saddled their horse fully armed. Together with the thousand cavalrymen, they rode towards the gorge’s entrance half a mile away by the side of the supply wagons that moved on. At that same time, the prince’s seven-thousand strong cavalry was a quarter mile away from the gorge’s exit. The few scouts sent ahead were ambushed and killed.

At the gorge’s exit and at the top of the ridge, a lookout waved two colored flags on seeing the front of Prince’s Otil marching army within the gorge. The gorge’s widest part was but seventy feet and flanked by vertical sandstone walls no less than a hundred feet high. General Isidro, who eagerly waited for the signal, saw the waving flags from a distance. With over five thousand oxen and horses herded near the gorge’s exit, he ordered his men and local villagers, to get the herded animals to stampede. Spooked and driven by fire, the animals panicked and dashed to the only escape it had, through the gorge. In minutes, a mass of hysterical oxen and horses galloped wildly headed head-on at Prince Otil’s army within the gorge.

The seven-thousand cavalrymen that spearheaded Prince Otil’s army had no inkling of the danger that loomed ahead until their horses became restless. Soon, they heard rumblings that progressively got louder. For a moment, they wondered what the sound was until someone shouted, “Stampede!” By then, their cavalry horses had gone wild, unseating most of its riders. The same horses stampeded and crushed unseated cavalrymen in its wake as it galloped in a wild sprint towards Prince Otil’s army within the gorge. The horrid scene of panic, mass confusion, and screams of men unseated from their horse and trampled on the ground, rippled backward toward the foot soldiers behind—-over twenty-thousand marching men. But their ordeal has yet to end as the unstoppable mass of General Sidros’s stampeding herd was fast approaching. The animals’ hooves stumped the earth violently, over a ton of force from each of its four legs! Its sound rumbled and magnified by the gorge’s high walls like a close series of thunder from a thunder storm.

At the same moment, General Sidro ordered the stampede at the gorge’s exit, the prince on horseback along with his thousand cavalry guards, were waiting their turn to enter the gorge’s entrance. The prince, oblivious to the danger, saw an arrow shot at the top of the ridge. Dark smoke trailed it as it flew skyward. Before the arrow peaked on its way up, archers within the garrison lined the top of the twenty-foot high garrison walls. In seconds, thousands of arrows rained down on the prince’s cavalrymen. Simultaneously, three-thousands of King Silrab’s infantrymen barged out of the garrison; charged; secured the gorge’s entrance and simultaneously piled the captured supply wagons, one on top of another, at the gorge’s entrance and set it on fire. The huge bonfire blocked the only exit Prince Otil’s army had and sealed their fate inside the gorge.

Prince Otil’s confident posture on his horseback changed when he realized the entrapment. Wide-eyed and griped in fear was made worst when he saw King Silrab’s cavalry charged towards them. Beyond the arrows range and at the spar of the moment, he ordered his remaining cavalry to retreat. Some hundred followed him. The rest of his cavalrymen fell from raining arrows and those that survived were later slaughtered by the foot soldiers that came immediately soon after.

 

The carnage within the gorge was dreadful. The strong stench of blood was heavy in the air. The gorge’s walls splattered with blood alongside bloody handprints and finger clawing traces. Loud and weak sounds of moans and cries for help came from heaps of crippled and crushed bodies on the gorge’s floor reddened in blood. Soon after, General Sidro and King Silrab’s foot soldiers went in at both ends of the gorge. They finished off the dying and killed those who managed to survived.

 

Prince Otil with his few cavalry guards were chased by King Silrab’s cavalrymen. Outnumbered, he ordered a courier to ride out and seek his father’s help as he diverted the chasing cavalry’s attention, the only heroic deed he did.

The courier was cunning. The moment he got his mission order, he stripped himself of his uniform and sword leaving him in his tunic and a hidden dagger. He headed south rather than west, away from Metropolitan Atlantis and deeper in enemy territory. Who would suspect a rider riding away from his homeland without a weapon on him was his plan. He rode in full gallop between towns and villages within enemy territory without an incident and stole horses along the way to replace his exhausted one. He repeated it almost the entire night. Before sunrise he stole a boat moored by the river bank and crossed the Nile River. Safe within King Arth’s territory, he commandeered a horse and headed to intersect a railroad track. He got there in time. A steam-driven train headed for Metropolitan Atlantis was in sight.

 

The freight train operator, on seeing a man waving at the middle of the rail tracks, pulled the brakes and stopped the train. He helped the courier climb up the train operator’s cabin. The courier hastily gulped water and took large bites off the bread given. When the train operator asked what had happened, he replied, “I have an urgent message for our king,” and fell asleep from exhaustion.

 

The freight train stopped at the heart of the metropolis before noon. The courier saved over three days had he taken the direct route to the metropolis on horseback and, most likely, would not have made it. He commandeered a horse; rode through Atlantis’ busy streets witnessing military mobilization in chaos. Egyptian men line up to get their body armor and weapons from the armory. Horses, oxen, wagons, and anything an army needed clogged the city streets heading for rendezvous points. When he got to the palace and in the absence of the king, he saw General Odi busy coordinating the mobilization with his men. He hurriedly approached the general. “General Odi, sir, I bring an urgent message for the king from the prince. Where can I find him?” he asked after curtly nodding his head.

“Follow me. I’m going to see him.”

As both men briskly walked, the courier curiously asked, “Are we mobilizing to give aid to the prince?”

General Odi was amused by the question and grinned. “Why should the prince need aid? He has a larger and better army than the king.” General Odi replied. “King Adazil’s army had crossed the Nile River. That’s an act of aggression that will be dealt with swiftly,” he forcefully added with an air of confidence.

The courier, an officer of the prince’s cavalry, realized the general was unaware of the military campaign launched by King Silrab against the prince. It dawned on him that King Arth was not prepared to do battle on two fronts. “This will be a bad day for the king,” he sighed.

“Why?” General Odi reacted in surprise as they walked.

“King Silrab attacked and trapped the prince’s army at Bucana Gorge. I was sent here to seek help from the king.”

“Sylrab against the prince at Bucana Gorge?” the general reacted aloud in shock.

Uneasily the courier answered, “Yes sir!”

General Odi realized the gravity of the new situation. “This is something the king must hear immediately,” he said and jogged with the courier as they headed for the adjacent building to the War Room without a word exchanged.

 

King Arth, with General Mismar and Suba, stood near a large table with a map that depicted all three kingdoms in the region. Colored wooden icons representing military units were laid out. Black icons, representing King Adazil’s army, were packed together in disarray above the word ‘Bansalan Pass’. North of it, was Prince Otil’s army icons colored red neatly arranged in battle formation. Similarly, King Arth’s army, in blue icons, was south of the Bansalan Pass. His army formed a wide-opened ‘U’ that completely blocked the way out of the pass. The layout meant one thing—-the battle plan was agreed on and only waited execution!

The atmosphere in the room had no sense of urgency though the general mobilization outside was chaotic. As seasoned military men, they knew it was normal and would settle down hours after and were engaged in casual conversation. The atmosphere abruptly changed when General Odi barged in the room with the courier. They walked hurriedly towards the king and got the courier to stand in front of him. The Courier was tongue-tied that the king commanded forcefully, “Speak.”

“I bring bad news, Your Highness. Prince Otil ordered me to seek for your help as his army is trapped,” said the courier.

General Mismar reacted, “The prince engaged in battle this early. Trapped?!” He looked at the king for an answer.

“I’m as surprise as you,” the king responded without signs of distress. He then addressed the courier, “Is that all?”

“Yes, Your Highness. The message was passed on to me while we were being chased on horseback.”

General Odi saw the king was concerned but unalarmed. He prodded the courier, “Tell him with whom and where.”

The courier replied, “With King Silrab at Bucana Gorge, Your Highness.”

“With King Silrab . . . Bucana Gorge?!” the king roared in incredulity.

General Suba, alarmed, exclaimed, “Our plans were based on confronting King Adazil with prince’s army participating.”

“That changes the scenario completely,” General Mismar interjected. He was the king’s military strategist and had high regard for his talent. “Silrab is no fool when it comes to war strategies. I’d rather fight Adazil with a thousand less men than Silrab with a thousand more. He is cunning! The prince’s act was premature and not planned at all.”

The king reacted, “The young are impulsive and inclined to use muscle than brain,” then asked, “How many of prince’s army were trapped?”

“Twenty-nine-thousand of the thirty, Your Highness,” the courier snapped.

The king was stumped. He asked as he stared at the courier with unease, “You seem so sure of your numbers, why?”

“It was the supply wagons that were going in the gorge. The supply wagons always stay at the rear of a marching army, Your Highness.”

The king understood and believed the courier’s number, twenty-nine thousand. “How many soldiers did the prince have when you left?”

“When I rode out, he had less than a hundred cavalrymen.”

What the courier said was something the king did not want to hear. He needed his son’s army badly in the campaign against King Adazil. He was deep in thought as the reality and criticality of the situation sunk.

General Mismar said to King Arth with a sense of trepidation, “I need to ask a question to the courier.”

The king nodded.

General Mismar had the courier face him and said in a very deliberate manner, “I want you to think very carefully before you answer . . . Did you notice anything strange while you were with the prince . . . anything?” he stressed.

King Arth looked at Mismar with an inkling of what the general was up to but hoped it was not what he thought. He looked at the courier eager to hear his answer.

The courier replied, “We must have angered the gods.”

“What made you say that?” the king asked, looking intently at the courier.

“We all heard a continuous sound of rumblings coming from the direction of the gorge while I was with the prince.”

“Loud rumblings?” Mismar stressed the words.

“Like rumbling thunders. I was some distance away from the gorge and, still, I heard it.”

Mismar looked at the king. “Remember the ‘what-if’ war simulation we played with the Bucana Gorge considered years ago?”

“I do . . . stampede,” King Arth replied with dismay. He remained silent as he considered the outcome of a well-executed stampede with Prince Otil’s army within the gorge then said to the courier, who looked haggard and tired, “There is food in the next room. Help yourself and rest after.”

When the courier left, King Arth turned and viewed the map on the table. The generals positioned themselves around it with General Mismar on the king’s right side where he always stood when with the king.

The king unceremoniously swept the prince’s army icons to the side of the table with his right hand. “I need two army icons,” he said without referring to anyone then leaned on the table with both hands and stayed motionless as he looked down at the map.

Mismar, anticipated what the king may need, had army icons in his hand and handed the green icon to the king and held on to others.

The king got and placed the green army icon right at the entrance of Bucana Gorge within King Silrab’s territory on the map. “That will represent Silrab’s army,” he explained then got the red icon and said, “This will be the prince’s army,” and held on to it for a moment then placed the icon on its side next to King Silrab’s standing army icon, “Consider the prince’s army annihilated . . . gone,” he stressed in a low voice.

The generals understood what the king meant—-they were present during the stampede simulation they did many years ago. They stayed silent then General Suba wondered aloud, “Why would Adazil dare attack us on a guess that King Silrab could annihilate the prince’s army? Too high a price to gamble.”

“He did not guess,” Mismar snapped, “He was certain! With the prince’s army out of the way, nothing can stop King Adazil from going through Bansalan Pass and attack Atlantis from the north.”

“Now it makes sense,” General Suba thought aloud. “Silrab has to move his army and attack from the south!” he concluded.

Mismar reacted, “He has to, to insure victory!”

The king heard General Suba and Mismar. Without a word said, he took King Silrab’s army icon and laid it across the Nile within his kingdom.

Mismar said to the king, “I surmise the Toril incident triggered this war. You should have talked to the prince when I informed you of his plans to wage war against any of the kings months ago.”

“I should have and now paying for it. Where do we stand?” he asked Mismar without taking his eyes off the map.

Mismar stared at the map. The icons on it seemed like chess pieces in his mind. With both hands, he repositioned King Arth’s army icons and lumped them together over the word Metropolitan Atlantis. He took King Adazil’s fort icon; place it north of the metropolis and said, “King Adazil’s army will come from the north thru Bansalan Mountain Pass. Their presence there will prevent reinforcement from the north-west region. He has over twenty-thousand men.” He took King Silrab’s fort icon and placed it south of the metropolis and said, “King Silrab’s army will come from the south and poised to cut reinforcements from the southwest. He has nineteen thousand. The two armies will converge at Matina Crossing late afternoon on the third day and will march and be here three days after. Altogether, we have a little over fourteen-thousand against thirty-nine-thousand. We cannot defend an unfortified metropolis nor can we meet any of their army head on. We have a better chance if we take our army and retreat southwest and meet up with the three thousand men we sent to Toril. Then we . . .”

“Then recruit, train an army, and retake Atlantis?” King Arth asked sarcastically.

“Yes!”

“They’d be invincible by then.”.

“Invincible?” Odi echoed.

“They would have access to resources to modernize their army. We have no chance of winning against a modern army in addition to their superiority in numbers.”

“The Rians will stop them!” Odi interjected.

“With words?” the king snapped. “They will never get the Rian technology – that I am certain. But who will stop them from using the massive amount of materials stocked at the Rian warehouses and convert them for warfare? Our army’s sword is no match against swords made of Rian steel. It will cut our sword in half easily!”

Bluntly, Mismar said, “We need time to prepare and defend Atlantis. Time, we do not have. Our situation is hopeless unless the Rians comes to our aid. There is no way around it. The Rians must give us time to prepare and defend Atlantis else we have no chance of winning. We need the migrant’s help.”

Suba joined, “Even if we get the Migrants, we have less than seven days to train them. The worst part is, we don’t have the weapons to train them with. The weapons our soldiers have are the only weapons we have. We have none to spare. You must also consider that Metropolitan Atlantis has no perimeter defenses. Attack can come anywhere from over forty miles of perimeter. That by itself is nightmare of a problem. The metropolis is just not prepared to go into war.”

The king briefly paused then said in a sense of urgency, “We need the Rian and Migrant’s help. Signal the Rians to tell Amo Obib I am coming over for an urgent meeting. Mismar, present me a war plan without interrupting the Rian project,” he instructed and hurriedly walked out of the room; the building; took the nearest saddled horse at the courtyard; and rode off in full gallop.

 

Need for Migrant’s help

 

The king, on horseback, took the city’s main boulevard that headed straight towards the pyramid ship. Amo Obib, informed of the king’s arrival, wasted no time. He ordered Goopersh to send an airship to pick up the king. The airship intercepted the king a mile away from the citadel and brought him to the pyramid ship. The king wasted no time either. He explained the situation as they stood next to the parked airship. On the king’s request for Rian assistance, Amo Obib bluntly replied, “We Rians cannot, in conscience, participate or provide aide for warfare. We can only offer you protection by placing a barrier around Atlantis.”

King Arth was not surprised to Amo Obib naivetés on military matters. “They will ravage the kingdom outside barrier until I come out.”

“How about your army?”

“Not only are we outnumbered, my men are unfit for battle and materially unprepared. The situation is critical.”

The amo gave the situation a thought then asked Goopersh, “Goopersh, how much time do we have to maintain a barrier around the whole of Metropolitan Atlantis?” he asked.

Goopersh replied in its metallic voice, “Ninety-seven days.”

Amo Obib said to the king, “Do as much as you can to save Atlantis within ninety-seven days from falling into the enemy’s hands.”

King Arth was taken aback. “Are you aware of what that will mean?” he asked.

“It will be the end of the Rian civilization. Ending my civilization is not my intention. It is a hard decision to make but my civilization is doomed without you. I have seen you change for the better for your people. You are a good king. The people in this region will have a better life if you remain their king.”

“Amo Obib, my intention is to save both your civilization and mine; prevent a war even at the cost of my life. If you are amenable, can you allow Femed to speak in my behalf to the leaders of the Migrants my need for their help as I attend to my army?”

“I must deny your request. I or any Rian cannot, in conscience, ask people to participate in war or on anything that might lead them to harm.”

“I give you my word, the Migrants will not participate in any war.”

Baffled, he asked, “Why will you need the Migrant’s support then?”

“There are so many variables and is pressed for time to explain. There will be no war and no Migrant will be harmed. You have my word,” the king stressed.

Amo Obib looked into the king’s eyes for a moment then decided, “On your word, I will tell Femed to speak in your behalf. However, I have to tell her to emphasize that the Migrants are not required but free to make the choice.”

“That is all I ask. I have to go. Thank you so much for everything. Naska is Imar,” the king said then hugged the amo. With moist eyes, he immediately turned and boarded the airship.

The amo noticed the manner of how the king expressed himself before he left. He strongly felt the king’s farewell was his last.

 

The Migrants

 

Femed had an emergency meeting with the leaders of the Migrant community. She explained King Arth’s predicament and the Migrant’s freedom to aid the king or not. She forcefully stressed that in the event they decide to aid the king, no individual must be forced to abide by it and risk their life. Soon after the meeting, word rapidly spread throughout the Migrant community.

 

King Arth’s Plan

 

Back at the palace, King Arth entered the war room and headed directly to the war table where his generals were. He leaned on the table with both hands and studied the layout Mismar prepared. He stared at his entire army icons lumped together southwest of the metropolis without saying a word.

On the king’s silence, Mismar went straight to the point, “Without Rian intervention, we have no way of winning.”

“I was hoping you’d come up with something different,” the king said then instructed, “Odi, Suba, take five thousand men each. You are to hold back King Adazil’s army for as long as you can then retreat to Atlantis. Mismar, take four thousand and fortify Atlantis.”

“That is the entire army. And you?” Mismar asked with concern.

“I’ll take a small contingent and intercept King Silrab’s army at Matina Crossing. I will make a deal with him. He knows he cannot trust Adazil. It will only be a matter of time when Adazil turns his attention on his kingdom. In exchange for marching together against King Adazil and help the Rians after, I will cede my throne to him. Your life will be much better under Silrab than with Adazil.”

Odi said, “That maybe a long shot if you consider the long-standing animosity between your family and his. All your invitations to King Silrab to come to Atlantis or your going to visit him were denied. I don’t think that is a wise choice. He hates you.”

King Arth turned to Odi and replied, “That may be my only shot. Should you see black smoke coming from my location, see Amo Obib and take his offer to protect Atlantis by placing a barrier around the metropolis. You have ninety-seven days to plan and save Atlantis.”

Mismar reacted, “That will mean the Rians’ death.”

The king answered, “Amo Obib is aware of that. You have ninety-seven days,” he repeated.

Mismar responded, “In that case, we take the entire army and retreat south and meet up with our 3,000 men at Toril then rally the people outside of Metropolitan Atlantis to join our forces. Let the Rians put up the barrier to prevent the enemy from using Rian resources for no more than three months. We destroy all the food sources outside the metropolis and starve them first before we engage both Adazil and Silrab’s army. That is a winning proposition. You will end up being the King of the entire region.”

“Mismar is right and you don’t have to make a deal with Silrab!” Suba added.

King Arth asked the three, “Do you know what that will mean to the Rians if I did nothing?”

Mismar replied coldly, “It will mean the Rians’ death but it is now a question of survival—-their lives or ours.”

“I agree,” Odi followed.

Suba said, “I also agree. Let . . .”

“Say no more,” King Arth stopped Suba. He knew Mismar’s plan will work but he also knew it meant a victory at Rian’s expense. “Implement that strategy should I fail.”

Mismar stressed, “Why gamble your life. We have a winning plan.”

King Arth replied, “I don’t think I can live with my conscience knowing the Rians will die for us without my trying to save everyone . . . us and them. The Rians have done so much for us. They deserve a chance to life as we do. I must try to save everyone and I have but one option—-make a deal with King Silrab,” he paused then continued, “You are all good soldiers and friends. We have fought many battles together. As your king, I want you to follow my wish,” he calmly said as he looked at each of them.

 

They hugged, as they always do before battle.

THE GREATEST BATTLE

It was a cloudy day. King Arth’s armies marched out of Atlantis in three directions shaded by the clouds above that made the arduous march pleasant but not their trepidations over what will happen to them in the battle to come. King Arth, with a hundred soldiers, headed to intercept King Silrab’s army. General Odi and Suba went separate ways to flank King Adazil’s army on both sides at Basalan. An hour later, General Odi changed course to intercept King Arth. He, in conscience, could not see his king go without his protection should King Sirab not agree on their king’s proposal. He was not surprised to see General Suba with his soldiers waiting at a junction. Later, they united at the metropolis with General Mismar who grumbled why it took the two a long time to turn back.

“Do you know our act constitutes mutiny,” Mismar said.

“There’s no law against disobeying an unreasonable command,” Odi remarked.

Suba interjected, “The better way of looking at our situation is to figure out what Arth will do when he sees us.”

“He’ll cut our heads for sure,” Mismar seriously said then boisterously laughed. The other two heartily laughed with him.

 

The generals rode ahead of their combined armies and caught up with King Arth later that same day. Both on their saddled horse, Mismar said to his king, “Your Highness, we have a mutiny. We cannot stop the soldiers from going with you.”

“Fools!” the king disappointedly said aloud, “All of you have a better chance with the Rians. Tell your men to go back while there is time.”

“I don’t think you can stop them. I tried. We all tried. The soldiers said that this is the best time to be with their king. It just so happened, we agree. I say we fight our way thru King Silrab’s army if he disagrees with you; head south; and regroup while the Rians protect Atlantis. We will . . .”

A soldier on horseback, alerted, “Your Highness, a lone rider is heading this way.”

The king turned and noticed it was a Migrant on horseback who stopped hard almost at their midst.

The Migrant, still on his horse, excitedly requested, “Your highness, stand on a wagon and look towards the west.”

The king was surprised at the strange request from a Migrant who held a spading fork; a home-made wooden club tied to his saddle; and kitchen knife on his waist belt.

The king, excited, climbed a supply cart and looked west with his hands shading his squinted eyes from the blazed of the setting sun. Through the glare, he saw something at the horizon. He struggled to make sense of the unusual dark feature at the distant hugging the horizon. As he strained to make sense of what he saw, he realized the dark feature at the distance were the Migrants. They filled the width of the horizon.

The Migrant proudly announced, “Over two million . . . they all came for you, Your Highness.”

 

The king rode his horse and headed to meet the Migrants. As he got closed, he noticed they were waving their wooden clubs, hayforks, sharpened poles held over their head as they chanted, “Long live our king.”

In the midst of the cheering mass, the king dismounted and walked among them. Tears flowed freely from his eyes as he hugged as many as he could. Soon two men raised him in the air on their shoulders as the people chanted ever louder, “Long live our king.” As they did, the king looked at the multitude and remembered what Amo Obib said nearly five years ago, ‘Replace fear with love and compassion and they will come to raise and proclaim you their king.’

It was the crowning moment of the king’s life. Never was he so moved by the support he got for the little things he did for the Migrants. He said to himself, ‘Truly, no greater power in the world can rise above what love and compassion to your brothers and sisters can do.’

 

That evening, King Arth, his Generals, and five representatives from the Migrant army, headed by Chanlai, planned their war strategy.

 

The Plan Executed

 

Late in the morning, the third day, King Adazil’s army had reached the highest ridge at the Bansalan Pass that overlooked the vast valley within King Arth’s domain. On high grounds and three miles away, the king saw King Arth’s army in its entirety spread over the sprawling grassland below. With disbelief, he could discern rows of columns of soldiers, he estimated to be a thousand each and half-a-mile wide, in a battle formation. Behind the columns were blocks of a thousand men. There were so many, he did not bother to estimate. The sight was far from the 14,000 soldiers he expected. He threw away his dreams of grandeur and ordered his army to turn back, leaving King Silrab to do battle with King Arth’s army by himself.

King Arth, on seeing King Adazil’s army retreat, smiled. He redeployed his army and the Migrants to face King Silrab’s approaching army that was nearing the mountain’s bend.

 

King Silrab, being on low ground, could not see what King Adazil saw at the ridge of Basalan Pass. When his army made the turn towards a low-lying valley, he saw, at the distance, to his great surprise, King Adazil’s army marching back, retreating. Before him, was King Arth’s army of 14,000 in battle formation. He was not, in any way, concerned. He knew King Arth had neglected his army’s fitness and was not prepared to go into battle against his 19,000 well-armed and trained army. With confidence, he ordered his army to go in battle formation and face head-on King Arth’s army. He laughed at the thought of how dumb King Arth to have the audacity to even prepare his army for battle and how he overrated him through all the years. ‘This will be an easy victory’, he thought on seeing his army in battle formation, waiting for his command to attack. His perception instantly changed on seeing a waving flag signal from General Odi. On that signal, the Migrants came out running from behind the hills and filled the vast valley before him into a sea of warriors. Spread out, they encircled King Silrab’s army on three sides, over two million strong! He was not prepared for what he saw and, now, realized why King Adazil turned back and he had fallen into a trap.

King Arth, in full battle gear, with his three generals, rode halfway between his army and that of King Silrab’s. The armies were but a flung arrow’s distance apart. The king signaled his generals to wave their banners.

On the sight of the general’s waving banners, the Migrants and the king’s soldiers waved whatever they held over their head as they repeatedly hailed in unison, “Long live King Arth!” The wide valley floor reverberated to the sound of his hailing army shouting at the top of their voice. Rocks fell off the surrounding ridges from the horrendous sound they made. The valley fronting King Silrab glittered from the objects King Arth’s army held and waved over their head. The frontline soldiers visibly waved their shields and spears; the second line, their shields and swords; and the third line, bows and arrows. The Migrants behind were some distant from King Silrab’s men to discern that polished metal – frying pans, cups, plates, spoons, and anything that shined tied to a stick or pole were being waved. Together the entire valley dazzled brightly under the sun that the opposing army shielded their eyes from the glare.

Moments later, the king raised his hand. The generals threw their flags on the ground and drew their sword. There was an unnatural sound heard in the air as King Arth’s army prepare themselves for battle, then, an eerie silence followed.

King Arth shouted at the top of his voice: “I come before you in peace,” he paused as he waited for his words’ echo to subside. “Drop your armaments and move back,” he paused again. “You have my word as king . . . no harm or retribution will befall you . . . Fight . . . and it will be your last. . . On that . . . I also give my word.”

To King Arth’s warning, sounds of armaments dropped by King Silrab’s soldiers reverberated. Sounds that crescendo to an eerie cacophony of clangs, clings, thuds, and sounds of thousands of footsteps from men moving back and treading on weapons of war that littered the ground. King Silrab could merely watch his men and dreams desert him. It was far from his illusions of conquest a moment ago. Much farther from what he thought might be. Soon, he was alone in an open space; saddled on his horse; resigned to his fate.

 

“King Silrab,” King Arth called out, “we will have to settle the bad blood between your family and mine today.” He dismounted his horse; drew his sword; and walked towards King Silrab. His generals dismounted and walked ten feet behind with swords drawn by their side.

 

King Silrab dismounted then drew his sword disquietly. He knew he was no match to King Arth’s skill in a duel. Only his dignity and pride got him to stand his ground and face King Arth.

When they came to within ten feet, King Arth stopped and said to his generals, “Should I die, I want you to set King Silrab free and let him rule his kingdom. Do you understand and swear?”

The generals, taken aback by the king’s command, remained silent. It was only when the king shouted ‘swear’ angrily that they swore.

King Silrab reacted, “How noble of you to offer me my life and kingdom in exchange for your life. In return I pledge this, should I win, I will never raise an arm against your kingdom and all family debts are paid.” He knew a surprise attack was his only chance of winning and suddenly swung his sword at King Arth’s head.

King Arth effortlessly parried the first strike. He could have easily killed King Silrab, there and then, had he struck back but did not. He continued to be on the defensive as King Silrab wildly swung and thrashed his sword at him.

Odi noticed the lost opportunities to strike the fatal blow at King Silrab, commented, “Why doesn’t he kill him?”

Mismar, on hearing Odi’s question, replied, “I don’t think he wants him dead.”

King Arth continued to parry King Silrab’s attack until the chance came and made a move that got King Silrab’s sword to fall on the ground.

King Silrab froze with King Arth’s sword at his throat. He shut his eyelids tight in anticipation for his gruesome death. “Please make it swift,” he requested.

In a normal voice, King Arth said, “Open your eyes, King Silrab.”

King Silrab did and to his amazement saw King Arth held out his sword with its handle towards him. He took the sword and held it by his side.

King Arth said in low voice, “I seek peace. Kill me now if you think it will heal the bad blood between your family and mine, and you will still have your kingdom, as I have sworn.” He then extended both arms and added, “Else, take my arms as token of our desires to have our kingdoms live in peace.”

King Silrab reflected. There were many reasons to swing the mortal blow and settle old family debts. King Arth had put two of his brothers and many of his kin to death. He raised the sword poised to strike.

King Arth did not waver from his stance—-his arms still extended. His eyes on his.

Still poised to strike, King Silrab said, “Even if I personally killed your son?”

“Even so,” the king choked on his word. “Neither you nor I can do anything to change that now,” he sadly said and briefly looked away, his hands partly lowered. He faced him and raised his arms again. With firmer voice, he said, “It is in the past. There are new and brighter days before us and our people. My offer stands.”

King Silrab hesitated, smiled then forcefully flung the sword away. They held each other’s arms then hugged each other. To this, both armies cheered aloud, “Long live, King Arth!”

 

Kill Him for My Mother and Me

 

After King Arth and Silrab parted, King Arth sadly said, “Can I have my son’s body?”

“He is alive. But . . .”

“I understand.”

“No retributions?”

“You have my word,” King Arth replied.

King Silrab turned and shouted, “Set Prince Otil free.”

 

Prince Otil emerged amidst King Silrab’s soldiers. In loincloth, his skin badly torn from lashings; dirt and blood caked around his wounds over his entire body; fury pasted on his face. He picked a sword on the ground and ran towards King Silrab.

King Arth said to his generals, “Protect King Silrab . . . even if you have to kill my son,” then walked to meet his son.

The generals moved in front of King Silrab with swords drawn to protect King Silrab.

 

King Arth, with arms extended sideways, blocked his son’s path towards King Silrab as he repeatedly pleaded, “It’s all over, it’s all over.”

The prince tried thrice to go around his father’s extended arms. Unable to succeed, he stood in front of his father and spoke in heightened determination and in anger, “I must kill him,” he shouted in anger.

King Arth slowly lowered his arms and said, “You must not . . . It will not solve anything.”

“Then I will kill you,” Prince Otil furiously shouted staring vilely at his father. His eyes glared at him in fury.

“You have to,” the king said as he stood and looked at his son in the eyes.

“You put more value to his life than my honor? You are willing to die and protect a pig whose family killed your father and wife . . . my mother! What kind of king . . . or man are you?” Prince Otil screamed with disgust; saliva splattered out of his mouth as he spoke; eyes stared furiously at his father.

King Arth stayed silent. He was calm and showed no fear before his son holding a sword, his fate at his son’s whims.

The prince continued, “If you love me, my mother, and your father, kill him for us!” he shouted in wrath.

The king implored, “It is because I love all that I must not. Please understand. It is for everyone’s best.”

“I will kill you myself,” Prince Otil said as he raised his sword and started slashing the wind around his father unable to get himself to strike the king.

The king stood still as the sword swung an inch away. The generals could do nothing but watch in alarm.

Finally, Prince Otil threw the sword, dropped on the ground on his knees, and, in frustration, cried.

King Arth knelt by his side. He wanted to hug him but his torn flesh was all over his body. He said, “My son, forget the past and look forward to a new and better tomorrow. Forgive and forget as I have done. Please do it for me. I love you.”

His son replied in despair as he cried, “Twice you dishonored me. How can you do that and say you love me?”

The king answered, “I pray in time you will understand. Just remember I do love you with all my heart,” then helped him stand, holding carefully the prince’s hand. “We will get the Rian doctor to bring you back to health. They will mend your wound so no scars will show. You will see . . . everything will be better than before.”

On hearing a humming sound, the king looked up and saw an airship overhead.

 

The king and his son were flown back to Atlantis.

Loss of a kingdom

 

A month later, a small group of protesters, vehemently against the abuses of King Adazil’s monarchy, marched through the main city street towards King Adazil’s fortified palace. Their call for solidarity against the maltreatments and oppressions of their king and his cohorts drew spontaneous support along the way that, in a relatively short time, it had become a huge crowd of angry people who strongly felt wrongly ruled. Informed of the marcher’s cause, the commander of the military garrison ahead ordered his soldiers to join, protect, and head the assembly. Without hesitation, the soldiers at the garrison were on the street, in full battle gear, eager to welcome the protesters and march ahead of them. Word rapidly spread that most of the city’s population joined them. When they got to King Adazil’s fortified palace, all its gates were wide open and the palace soldiers were at its perimeter walls waving delightedly to welcome the protester’s arrival. King Adazil and those loyal to him barricaded themselves within the palace’s inner walls. They surrendered peacefully the following day after King Adazil flung himself off the palace tower, so they said.

Two weeks after, representative to once King Adazil kingdom came to see King Arth. They brought King Adazil’s decapitated heads of King Adazil and his generals separately wrapped in linen. With it were over a hundred sacks full heads of people associated with the king’s atrocities and oppressions. They handed King Arth a letter of declaration with hundreds of signatures from representatives of different sectors in their community. It declared King Arth their king.

King Arth looked at the heap of decapitated heads on the floor with dismay. He wanted to admonish but instead warned that no blood be spilled henceforth. He instructed them to elect a Governor and a governing body to rule an autonomous province under his kingship and forbade the formation of an army. Thereafter, the king banned Prince Otil from forming an army. He gave lifetime pension to old soldiers and the young retrained as policemen that carried no weapon except for the few that guarded his palace and the armory.

With no prodding from King Arth, King Silrab followed King Arth’s examples and the two kingdoms flourished in peace in the years that followed. Prince Otil recovered completely from his injuries. With the Rian’s medical expertise, he showed no scars from the lashings he received from the hands of King Silrab’s men. For a while, he isolated himself in Tugbok. Unarmed and monitored, he was of no threat to anyone. Five months later, he visited Atlantis, on his own accord, to which the king was ecstatically happy and thereafter, visited Atlantis regularly.

 

ECONOMIC CRISIS

Giza’s landscape dramatically changed from the day Amo Obib negotiated with King Arth to what it had become twenty-three years later. With a population of over six million, the city had expanded. It had transformed the vast grassland into a beautiful and well-planned metropolis identical to the city’s model shown to the king decades ago. The pyramid ship, which once stood alone in the wide-open grassland, was now at the heart of Atlantian government buildings and adjacent to the largest park and grandstand in Atlantis. Surrounding, in turn, were the residential areas, then the commercial, followed by the industrial zones.

High-rise residential complexes dotted the residential areas like island communities spaced by beautiful parks between each other. Each had gyms, small and large auditoriums, a shopping center, and, outside, swimming pools, playing courts, spacious children playgrounds, and an army of maintenance workers, deeply dedicated to their work.

The Rians could have easily skipped this high level of comfort to the people of Atlantis and cut the project completion time by a fifth, but did not. They balanced their need to the time they had to make Atlantis a beautiful place to work and live in. The people knew and appreciated what the Rian’s had done and reciprocated by working at their very best.

With Atlantis’ four huge cold fusion electric generators and the Rians’ obsession to distribute electric power for its convenience to the populace, no house was without electricity. Electric transmission wires snaked out of Atlantis physically linking it to every dwelling in King Arth and King Silrab’s kingdoms, and the Autonomous Region, once ruled by King Adazil, and further on. Arth’s kingdom by this time had stretched westward to the fringe of the Sahara Desert, three-hundred miles to the west.

Using Atlantis as a model, and with King Arth’s assistance and support, King Silrab’s kingdom and the Autonomous Region were as modern and progressive as Atlantis. Together, they agreed to name the entire region, both east and west of Nile River, Atlantis and the inhabitants proudly declared themselves as one, Atlantians. Amo Obib’s prayers, Nengut’s dream, the Rian’s hope, became a reality.

 

There were no private cars, buses, or aerial crafts for public transportation within or outside of Metropolitan Atlantis. Instead, Atlantis had a well-designed, electrically operated public commuting and rail transport systems. The transport system crisscrossed the whole of Atlantis and brought anyone within walking distance to any place within the metropolis. The system was gradually expanded that by the fifteenth year, all the major towns and cities in all kingdoms in the region had identical systems in place. This transportation system was so elaborate that no known inhabited area in the region was more than three miles away from the railway and all led back to Metropolitan Atlantis.

The police force, still manned exclusively by Egyptians, performed their duties unarmed and never had a problem. The citizens were law abiding and their authority was never questioned nor did the police force abused it. If there was a policy the Egyptian police force strictly enforced, it was the ban on any form of armaments, which now included the Egyptians themselves. Though the Egyptians protested the random search, the Migrants thought nothing of it. It was part of their staying agreement with the Rians. No right-minded Migrant would dare violate any of the settlement laws as it meant deportation back to his or her native homeland. No one wanted to go back.

In spite of technological advancement, swords, bows and arrows, and spears, were still the army’s main weapons. Since the king disarmed the military decades ago, the weapons stayed in a guarded armory.

At this time, the work on the Atomic Converter had reached its peak. The underground doughnut-shaped structure of the huge atomic converter machine neared its completion and so were its support facilities. Most of the projects were within the atomic converter’s inner structure—-laying out miles upon miles of super-conductive wires and installed super-magnet casings. Simultaneously, they assembled and tested the machine’s sophisticated electronics.

 

The Rians operated and absorbed a substantial portion of the industrial outputs that propelled the region’s economy. Unless the region absorbed the displaced workers from the project’s scheduled shutdowns, economic chaos would ensue. To help alleviate the problem, the Rians handed more consumer technologies to the private sector and sold the excess capacities of their manufacturing plants. Since the private sectors were slow to react and layoff schedules were uncomfortably near, Femed brought her concern to the king’s Ministry of Commerce who also was the Chairperson of Economic Development Board. The Minister assured her the government had addressed the issues and there was nothing to worry about.

Months later, the first groups of laid-off workers were easily absorbed by private sector. However, succeeding scheduled layoffs would result to progressive unemployment problems. With work on the Atomic Converted winding down to specialized fields, larger layoffs loomed ahead. The government was not ready. To this, the Minister of Commerce and his staff had an emergency meeting with King Arth.

At the palace conference room, the minister with his staff, briefed the king on the provable unemployment problem. King Arth lost his temper and shouted, “I thought this problem was resolved a long time ago!”

Nervous, the overweight Minister replied, “Your Highness, the private sector is hardly responding to the incentives given to create new industries to absorb the layoffs. They seem not to see the opportunities. I do not understand. As far as government projects are concerned, we are undertaking so many we do not need. Adding another might arouse Rian suspicion.”

“I don’t want the Rians to suspect anything!” the king fumed in anger. “We have a little over a year to keep this problem from them. They have enough problems on their own and I don’t want them bothered by ours. Does everyone understand?”

The words ‘Yes Your Highness’ resounded. They have not seen their king’s temper flare since the Rians came. The ones they remembered almost three decades ago, heads literally rolled on the ground.

“How many people are we talking about?” the king thundered.

The Minister answered meekly, “We estimate around two-hundred-thousand in the next ten months.”

“Two-hundred-thousand!” the king echoed and fumed again. “You better give me a solution or I will lift the ban on public executions to all of you!”

“Your Highness,” the Minister said in haste, “I propose we use the laid-off workers to build monuments until such time when we have a solution to the problem.”

The Minister was lucky. The king wanted monuments built in his honor and that of the Rians. “Good idea. You can relax. I have no intention of beheading anyone . . . at least not now,” he added seriously though he meant merely to frighten.

“Oh, thank you, Your Highness,” the Minister reacted, wiping the perspiration from his face with his handkerchief.

“That is really a good idea, the king reacted. “With two-hundred thousand workforce working, it must be big. But what kind?” he asked as he wondered aloud.

“A smaller version of the pyramid ship made with quarried stones. It will last forever.” he answered and nervously waited for the king’s reaction, perspiring as he held his breath.

“I like that . . . last forever,” the king mused, at last, to the Minister’s relief. The king visualized the monument in his mind as he took full advantage of the cushioned chair’s backrest and fiddled with his beard then said, “The Rians will not suspect. We will build it in Rian’s honor and suggest Nengut be entombed at its heart as a memorial. But don’t expect me to finance this forever or you will have to pay for it from your salaries,” the king said jokingly.

The Minister half-heartedly laughed as he again wiped the perspiration off his forehead and neck this time. “That will solve our problem.”

“Meanwhile,” the king said, “I want you to work on the outcropping rock at the plain. I want that sculptured to a reclining Lion. Lest the Rians hear of it, I do not want the laid off workers complaining on the kind of work they will end up. The Rians told me that in their planet, people do not fuss over the type of work they do. So, make sure the ‘Privileged’ do not fuss either,” the king said referring to the white-collared Egyptian workers employed by the Rians and scheduled to be laid-off. “Mr. Minister,” he stressed, “I do not want the Rians to hear, more so, be bothered by our problems. Should they ask, we have no problem. Does everyone understand?” he said aloud.

“Yes, Your Highness,” the Minister replied breathing normally this time.

“Dodot, Dingky,” the king called out.

Dodot and Dingky rushed to their king and together said, “Your Highness.”

“Dodot, since you screen and schedule the people that see the Rians. Make sure the Rians will not hear about any of our problems regardless of kind.”

“Yes, Your Highness.”

“Dingky,” the king continued, “make sure the press releases a rosy picture always.”

“Yes, Your Highness,” Dingky, the king’s Press Secretary, replied.

“Gentlemen, as I have said, we have a little over a year to solve this problem. If worse comes, we will resolve it after the Rians leave but not before. They have done so much for us. That is the least we can do,” the king concluded and ended the meeting.

 

The Giza Monuments

 

Two days later, the king proudly presented the model of his plan to Amo Obib. The model was expertly made and brought on a special cart. In scale, it showed how it would be laid-out a mile away from the king’s Lion Monument (currently the Sphinx at Giza). Three pyramid monuments lined up as the three stars on the belt of Orion, the Constellation in the night sky. It signified the direction in the cosmos to where the Rians’ home planet was located. The sizes of the pyramids varied to the brightness of each of the three stars on Orion’s Belt. The largest of the pyramid was a fourth the size the Rian’s spaceship. A chamber deep within was to serve as King Arth’s tomb. The second largest was where Nengut would be laid to rest, and the smallest, Prince Otil’s tomb. Buildings around the pyramids would house museums, cultural centers, and theaters. The space in between would be made into public parks with man-made lakes and wooded areas to accent the place.

Amo Obib liked the presentation and said, “We will help you build it. We have excess capacity. We can use four of the airships for this purpose and will share the cost.”

“I refuse your offer,” the king replied. He had a good idea of how fast they could build the monuments with full use of the airships. Had he known, he would have made the model gigantic. “It will be made purely by the sweat of humans to show how grateful we are.”

“We are just as grateful. A joint venture to express our gratitude to each other then, wouldn’t that be fair?”

The king hid his concern and replied, “Okay. Since it’s joint, I will sit with my designers and come up with a grander plan but similar in format.”

“I will leave the design and details to you,” Amo Obib replied.

 

The Pyramid Monuments

 

Early morning the following day, the king with his architects and construction engineers were at the palace’s conference room. Dozens of clean blackboards, chalks in bowls, large stack of paper supplies were on one side of the room and, and on the other, pens with its ink cartridges lay atop engineering drawing tables. Dozens of excited draftsmen waited at the adjoining room for instructions. The thought of being part of a coveted group to leave their mark on the planet that will last forever was enough to anticipate, with overwhelming eagerness, the work that lay ahead. They were full of enthusiasm.

In loose white tunic and in slippers, the king was prepared for the long tedious planning ahead. Seated at the end of a large rectangular conference table, he started the meeting decisively, “Gentlemen, I want something designed and built within fourteen months, with more or less than 200,000 workers and four airships at your disposal. I want it such that I can justify the workforce to the Rians.” Thereafter, he actively participated in the planning.

 

As the day dragged on, numerous models were thrown; the blackboards cleaned many times; and used drawing papers had littered the floor. As they planned, always, the use of the four airships was a problem—-they could easily build a dozen larger monuments using them.

Midafternoon that same day and after numerous models considered, the king had a feasible proposal. It was not just a large construction project but the end results would be an engineering marvel to awe people for generation to come. The largest of the three pyramid monuments proposed would equal the size of the Rians’ spaceship and the two others proportionate to it as originally conceptualized. Added were large monumental museums and cultural centers to surround it. The three huge pyramids will be built using purely quarried stones as it will last forever, the rest of the projects were to be made primarily of structural steel wrapped in cement. Humans would do the quarrying, etching, and polishing of the stones slabs as their share in the joint venture and will use the airships only for transport. They chose the large park adjacent to the parked pyramid spaceship as the construction site. The project would absorb all the laid-off workers and have full control over its duration. If they fell short on their schedule, they would use more the airships.

 

King Arth presented his plan to Amo Obib the day after. Though Amo Obib thought it grandiose, he agreed with one additional feature—-they would leave a directional beacon at the heart of the largest monument.

Next day, surveyors were at the site staking construction markers at the park.

POWER STRUGGLE

A year in advance, the Rians announced the atomic converter’s inauguration day but withheld their departure date. They issued an open invitation to weeklong celebration hosted exclusively by the Rians that included free food and accommodations for the festivity’s duration to anyone who would come to Atlantis. The invitation extended to the workers and their family in South and Central Americas as they intended to transport them over.

Six months later, the Migrants’ Chamber of Commerce, an association of Migrants businessmen, had a secret emergency meeting. San Ki, President of the Chamber, presided. After issues that concerned the Migrant’s welfare were discussed, he addressed the crowd, “It is imperative we start planning our future. I see no future for us, Migrants, in this kingdom once the Rians leave or if King Arth dies prematurely . . . whichever comes first. Threats to take advantage of government incentive in new businesses aimed at absorbing laid-off workers from the Rian projects are signs of impending problems. We cannot present our concerns to the Rians. They will not be here to protect us. Neither can we go to King Arth who is so blinded by his righteous cause to see what is going on around him. Nor are we safe if Prince Otil took over his father’s throne. The prince, through reliable sources, said that Migrants would make good slaves.

“We have to take matters into our own hands before it becomes late. If we are to become someone’s subjects, we would prefer him or her to come from the Migrant community. At least we control our destiny. Does everyone agree?”

The hall resounded with an overwhelming ‘Yes’.

“Changlai, a general in an army in the old land, will present his plan for your approval,” Ki concluded, and gave the podium to Changlai.

Changlai, very Chinese looking with a pony tailed hair, stood at the podium and went straight to the point, “Whoever controls Rian technology controls the world. It is vitally important we control it. Our success lies in two things—-timing and complete surprise.

“Our informant said that Prince Otil will not allow the Rians to leave and will take control once the ship is fueled. We will do it just before when they least expect it. We will need five-hundred well-armed men and another two-thousand . . .”

As Changlai explained his plan, a Migrant standing at the rear asked another alongside, “How come Changlai knows about this and not the king?”

“Because the king wishes to be blind and deaf. Brave as he is, he is scared to hear the truth about his son,” the other responded.

“Do you know two of his three closest friends are dead?”

“Who?”

“Generals Suba and Odi. Only Mismar is alive. General Odi mysteriously disappeared in a hunting trip while General Suba had a questionable freak accident. I even heard Prince Otil had something to do with the derailment of the train that killed King Silrab and his family. The new king is a good friend of Prince Otil. It is all too much of a coincidence for the king not to have noticed.”

“But why?”

“Blinded by love for his son and fulfillment of a vow he made to his dying wife they say.”

“Doesn’t anyone tell him this?”

“No one will dare. The king will blindly protect the prince. Besides, the prince has many spies planted everywhere.”

“King Arth is a good king. I like him.”

“I like him but that will not save us.”

“He still has a lot of followers.”

“The wrong ones like us,” he mocked. “He needs the army.”

A Migrant seated in front turned and addressed them, “Shut up, you two.”

 

Changlai concluded to a hushed crowd, “It is important that the Rians do not suspect. We continue what we are doing until the ship is ready for refueling then we strike!”

 

  • * *

 

A week before the inauguration, the Migrants Chamber of Commerce held an urgent secret meeting. The warehouse used was small to accommodate the over a hundred packed within. The stifling heat made everyone sweat and got the tense situation worse. Arguments and heated discussions sparked among members in small tight clusters as they waited for Changlai’s arrival. Unable to contain his frustration, one stood on top of a desk and shouted, “Listen everyone. The Rians promised to help us build our own city in a place of our choice. With that offer, I do not see any reason why we should go on with our plan to take control of the Rians and their technology.”

“Yes, I agree,” said another in the crowd aloud. “There is no sense fighting if we will have our own city.”

“Where is Changlai?” someone asked impatiently.

“He will come,” Ki answered.

“The information we paid was too expensive,” someone complained.

“Yes,” agreed another and added, “We also paid dearly for the swords. How do we know Changlai is not pocketing our money?”

Ki replied, “Changlai is an honest man. You can trust him,” and on seeing Changlai enter the room, said with relief, “Here he comes. Changlai,” he called out as he waved at him to come directly to where he stood.

Changlai weaved through men in the packed room, and on reaching Ki, said, “I’m sorry for being late.”

“Glad you’re here,” Ki said with great relief. “The members are having second thoughts. Many feel we are doing the wrong thing.”

Changlai’s face reddened. “Let me address the members,” he said to Ki.

“Please,”Ki responded.

Changlai found a crate and stood on it. He bluntly addressed the crowd in an angry voice, “I have no time as you businessmen do things at your leisure,” he taunted aloud. “If there is a difference between you and me, I deal with lives, not money, and have no time for idle chatters. If you decide not to push through, I will not argue,” he said strongly. “But before you make that decision, consider very carefully . . . this is our only chance. Once this opportunity is gone and you are wrong, think of what our life will be under the prince. Remember, the Rians’ promise is worth nothing if Prince Otil gets to them first. For your information, the reason for my being late was I had to see an informer to confirm the information I got from another informant. Hear me well,” he stressed forcefully, “Prince Otil will take over his father’s kingdom right after the palace dinner during the inaugural ceremony. Once in power, we, the leaders in the Migrants community, will be under his rule. I think you have a fairly good idea what kind of life that will be. I say we go as planned.”

 

Ki and Changlai went to another room and left the members to argue the pros and cons among themselves. At the end of a vociferous discussion among members, they decided to go on as Changlai planned.

INAUGURATION DAY

After twenty-five years and eight months and with four months to spare, the Atomic Converter was fully operational. The three pyramid monuments constructed needed but the inscription within its hallways and chambers for its completion. King Arth’s lion monument, an imposing sight, was done. At the quarry site, two massive and polished granite obelisks, a hundred-fifty-foot-tall and fifty feet wide at its four-sided base, bore Amo Obib and King Arth’s messages deeply inscribed, awaited transport. It would be brought and placed at its site as part of the grand ceremony on the day the Rians left Earth.

The Rians officially announced the postponement of their departure date to help build the city they promised the Migrants, a sparsely populated island in the Mediterranean (known today as the island of Crete).

 

  • * *

 

The Rians did not dream so many would accept the open invitation. Atlantis burgeoned in population in a week. Cities, towns, villages, and hamlets hundreds of miles beyond the realm and those in the Americas became ghost towns almost overnight. Nearly three million workers and their families from South and Central America were ferried by the airships to Atlantis and stayed in tent cities. Far beyond their expectation, people, on their own, travelled great distances to witness the inaugural events that the Rians ran out of places to accommodate them. In spite of the multitude that came, there was never a problem—-the Atlantians, through the years, adapted the Rian philosophy of helping each other that no dwelling within the whole of Atlantis was without guests. The Atlantians took it upon themselves to act as host to strangers that came for the event. With a unified language among those who participated in the Rian project, vocal communication was not a problem.

 

Everyone was having a great time. There were many things to do and see—-circuses, cultural programs, games, races, and everything conceivable to keep the people of all ages occupied and entertained. With the sky turned to gigantic screens above the parks, people lay on the park grounds with wireless headphones over their ears and viewed documentaries projected overhead.

 

On the eve of Inauguration Day, the stadium ground nearest the pyramid ship was packed to capacity. At the area nearest the stage, families occupied the bleachers way before sunrise and those that stayed much earlier got the seats closest to the cordoned area reserved for the special guests that fronted the stage.

The palace the dining hall was opulently adorned. Twelve impressive chandeliers lined its ceiling highlighting the gold and silver trimmings on the pillars, the statues, the paintings frames, and the beautiful murals on the walls around. King Arth, in his elegant king’s robe, was in good spirit. Delighted as he went from one table to another entertaining his guests. His mood was jubilant as he chatted with the Rians (except Amo Obib and Ningning who remained in the ship due to their vow) having early dinner. Soon after dinning, Commander Nerus announced, “Please excuse us for duty calls. We will see you at the stadium in an hour,” and the Rians left the hall. The king’s guest stayed behind to enjoy their meal and the occasion.

 

The grounds, on and around the large stage and the path that led to the Pyramid ship, was covered by lead sheets that allowed the Rians to walk freely. It protected the Rians from the radiation that radiated from Earth’s core. They were in the snag-fit with uniform and still in their leathered moccasin shoes.

When the Rians got to the stage, Indit, in-charge of the programs, was shocked to see thousands of small cut white papers littered on and around the two-level stage. To her relief, she saw Changlai supervise the cleaning crew. She walked over to Changlai and asked “Changlai, where did all these small cut papers come from?”

Changlai replied, “On the last program, they decided to use, at the last minute, cut papers to dramatize snow falling. Apparently, they cut the papers smaller; dumped more at the blowers; and to make matters worse, a strong breeze scattered it around. I am deeply sorry for all this. Do not worry. More men are coming to help clear the mess.”

“Thank you so much, Changlai. I could always depend on you,” she said and went her way.

Changlai looked sad and felt guilty as he watched her leave. He personally liked Indit and loved and respected the Rians but had to betray them. He had no choice, it had to be done.

 

Indit walked a short distance away and found Natoy on guard by the gate that led to the only route to the ship. King Arth insisted and Amo Obib reluctantly agreed to limit entry to the ship only during the duration of the inauguration and had it fenced. He reasoned that with thousands of offices and hallways inside, visitors could easily get lost.

When Indit got near Natoy, asked, “Why are you here and where is your family?”

“I was instructed to guard the gate and lock it once the main program starts. As for my family, they’re somewhere out there most likely watching some side programs. We will see each other later,” he sounded edgy.

“Is something bothering you, Natoy?”

He was uneasy when he responded, “It must be the crowd. I’ve never seen so many in one place.”

“Come to think of it, it really can make you jittery. They’re having a wonderful time though with all the activities going on. Do not worry. Everything will be fine. I have to leave you. We only have less than an hour-long intermission, and we still have so many things to attend to. Naska is Imar,” and took the fenced route to ship to get something and went back the same way to join with the other Rians near the stage.

 

 

The Cost of a Mistake

 

Miyas, a Rian, and three others were manning the fuel transfer controls at the back of the wide and deep lower stage. A replica of a large switch, a symbolic switch King Arth would flip to mark the end to the twenty-six-year project and start the fueling process of the ship, was at the center of the upper stage. On the right side of the lower stage, except for Amo Obib and Ningning who would view the event from the pyramid ship’s monitor, was where the remaining Rians would sit. The elegant chairs at the center were for King Arth and Commander Nerus, who represented Amo Obib. Left of it was for dignitaries. Floodlights lighted the pyramid spaceship and was the stage’s backdrop. The ship itself lighted up in different color patterns and was an awesome display to watch.

“Initiate the fuel line purging,” Miyas called out to two Rians operating the purging controls. The two set switches and dials at their respective console.

Miyas went over to Caloy who operated a large wheel at the upper stage. The wheel controlled the miniscule amount of anti-matter that would purge the fuel line of contaminants before actual fuel transfer could take place. “Caloy,” he said, “you controls the amount of anti-matter that goes into the fuel line. Make sure the needle stays dead center in the green area of the dial.”

“If it went beyond, will it blow up the planet?” Caloy candidly asked.

“Nothing of that kind. We will be handling a miniscule amount of anti-matter during line purge. And, there will be no explosion but an implosion. You see, anti-matter is highly attracted to metal and has enough pull to leap to it five miles away. On contact, it will destroy its atomic structure and generate heat so intense that it will incinerate organic matter miles around in a second. Can you imagine what will happen to this civilization knowing that metal acts as a conductor for anti-matter?”

Caloy gave it a serious thought and in shock replied, “The entire region is wired to Atlantis by electrical, communication, transport lines, and rail tracks! Large buildings are built with structural steel and wooden structures have metal nails. It will incinerate the whole area! Atlantis and the regions around will vanish from the face of this planet and leave no trace. How come I know of its destructive force only now?”

“Prevent needless anxiety,” Miyas answered. “We have full control over the process and instituted measures to prevent that to ever happen. The information is passed on ‘need to know’ basis. That is why I am telling you now and your sole role is to turn the wheel counterclockwise to shut-off if anything goes amiss. For safeguards, we have five minutes to react before the dial reaches the red area, a minute for it to reach its limits, and ten seconds more when the final warning siren is activated, and all that needs doing is turn the wheel counter-clockwise to ‘shutoff’ position. I will be watching the gauge at a distance too and can shut it off from my console as another safeguard and that is the reason why the dial is extra-large. Do you understand?”

“I understand.”

“When the line purge is done, we will wait for King Arth to formally flip the big switch to start actual fueling. It will take a little over twenty-eleven hours to fill the fuel tanks. Purging will take exactly forty-five minutes. By then, the king, his guest will be here and seated. Are you set?”

“Yes,” Caloy answered.

Miyas went back to his control console and noticed the Migrants cleaning both the upper and lower stages, and the grounds around. He thought nothing of it. He turned on switches on his console then signaled Caloy to begin the purge process.

 

Caloy flipped a switch then slowly turned clockwise the wheel as he watched the gauge’s dial move to dead center of the green area and let go of the wheel. Underground and for the first time, the massive Atomic Converter hummed. The purging process had begun.

 

Summer is here

 

King Arth was entertaining his guests at the palace dining hall. He was in his best mood and was euphoric—-he had accomplished his dreams: being respected not only as a king but as a man; of having a beautiful city he was so proud of; and, most of all, the burden in fulfilling a promise to Amo Obib that meant so much to him.

Commander Astig, officer-in-charge of security at the stadium, was in his formal soldier’s uniform. His headgear held under his left arm on his side. He entered the dining hall and spotted his king chatting with guests at a distance. With a smile pasted on his lips, he walked casually towards the king weaving through dining tables lavishly filled with food and with guests seated around, some with their children. He stopped a step away from the seated king who was having a lively chat with someone. Unaware of his presence, he casually smiled to guests who looked in his direction. On the first opportunity, he made his presence known to the king. The king acknowledged his presence; stood; and took a step next to the commander. The king’s right ear slightly turned towards the commander’s lips who spoke in a low voice. The king’s happy mood changed abruptly but hid his concern outwardly. He excused himself diplomatically from his guests, smiling as he did, and followed the commander. Along the way, he got his personal aide, Dodot, and, together, they headed for the adjacent building.

 

It was a holiday; the building was unoccupied. A posted soldier opened the huge main door wide enough for them to pass and closed it behind them. The sounds of footsteps reverberated as they walked on the marbled floor of a wide hallway. Ahead, the building’s well-lighted atrium. When they got there, the king saw two tied men kneeling on the marbled floor guarded by soldiers. Close-by were swords piled on top of a spread blanket. Commander Astig explained, “There are fifty swords there, Your Highness. They were accidentally found bundled on that same blanket not far from the stage. More maybe hidden and my men are searching discreetly. Only a few trusted men know of this.”

“Good,” the king commended.

“We traced the swords back to the palace armory. On investigation, we found these in place of real swords.” Commander Astig showed a wooden replica of sword handles glued together. “It made them look as though real swords were in the upper shelves.”

King Arth examined the wooden handles then asked, “How many?”

“I estimate roughly four-thousand, the exact number will come soon.”

“And these men?” the king asked looking at the tied captives.

“The one right is the Armory Supervisor. In line with our investigation, we went to the supervisor’s house and found him struggling with the assassin, the man next to him, and came to his rescue. For that reason, the supervisor is very eager to talk. Your Highness, General Mismar is behind this.”

The shock on the king’s face was obvious. Mismar was the last person he would suspect. Finding it hard to believe asked, “How sure are you?”

“Certain, Your Highness. General Mismar dealt directly with the Armory Supervisor and the assassin happens to be the general’s personal aide and he talked, too. Your Highness . . .” he hesitated and seemed uncomfortable to continue.

The king noticed the hesitation. He said, “If it has something to do with the prince, tell me now.”

“The assassin led us to a secret tunnel in a room not far from dining hall. We sealed the tunnel in that room as a precaution. The assassin said the other end of the tunnel led to . . .” he hesitated again as he looked at the King.

“Led where?” the King snapped impatiently.

“To your son’s . . . Prince Obib’s courtyard,” he answered. He paused then continued on the king’s silence, “For the past few days, staggered numbers of people entered the prince’s compound and only a handful left. Your Highness, I sense a tension in the air amongst the soldiers.”

The king pondered on what was reported. He glanced at the armory supervisor and recalled Mismar telling him in confidence that he suspected the prince had plans to overthrow him once the ship is fueled. To which, the king planned to discreetly arrest his son and hide him right after the ceremonies that evening. He did not want the inauguration marred by a scandal or Amo Obib to know. With the supervisor out of the way, regardless of who wins, Mismar will find himself on the winning side. He stared at the swords on the floor as he pieced bits of information together then realized Mismar’s information may be a decoy. He could not risk misjudging and decisively said to Commander Astig, “Arm the men at the stadium; reinforce the security at the stage, and around the ship immediately. Get the Stadium Commander to secure and bring all the Rians inside the pyramid ship and have the Rians seal entries to the ship. Do the same to all entries to the underground Atomic Converter. Do it now and fast.”

“The Rians wants no military presence,” the commander reminded.

“They do not know what is good for them. Go,” he ordered.

“Yes, Highness,” he said, and left hurriedly.

The king called Dodot and said, “Find General Sarif at the banquet hall and tell him, ‘Summer is here.’ He knows what to do. Then, after, summon Mismar and the prince here. Be very discrete as I want no one, especially the prince, to suspect.”

“I know what to do, Your Highness,” Dodot replied and hastily left.

 

The Big Snake

 

Mismar, in his formal robe, was escorted by Dodot and two soldiers. When they got to the building’s atrium, the soldiers held Mismar’s arms and Dodot bound his hands tightly at the wrist. Mismar was not surprised and offered no resistance. They brought him before the king.

 

“Why, Mismar?” the king said then, lost for words, walked away.

Mismar motioned forward but was held back by a soldier. The king saw what Mismar did and signaled the soldier to let him go.

Mismar, with hands tied in front of him, rushed to the king’s side. “Why?” Mismar retorted in a low angry voice. “You did nothing when you knew well the prince was plotting to overthrow you. And when he does, where will my family be. I have six adoring children and a wife. I will do anything . . . anything,” he stressed, “to protect my family . . . even betray you. All those loyal to you are in grave danger because you did nothing to protect them. It is I who should be asking you, why?”

“Why?” the king echoed despairingly in a low voice only Mismar could hear, “Many times the question rang in my head, ‘Why not cut the snake’s head while it is easy to hold’ and every time I’d say, ‘Trust him, love him, show him what love and care can do and he will see things differently tomorrow’. I was buying time. When did you turn to his side?”

Mismar replied, “Remember the day I warned you of the snake growing in your midst? You got mad knowing I was referring it to your son. The worst part is you did nothing to my warning . . . nothing!”

“We can still work this out,” the king said in a whisper as he held his arms and looked him in the eyes. The king was desperate. Mismar was the only left of his three good friends. He did not want to lose him, more so, to render judgement for his betrayal as he realized Mismar had valid reasons to betray him. “We fought so many battles we thought we’d lose and ended up winning. I’d forget this ever happened. I will not abandon you.”

“Things are different now, my dearest friend,” Mismar said in a sad, subdued voice. “The snake has grown too big . . . It is too late.”

The king knew how good Mismar was on his intuitions and relied on his foresight and advise before he made major decisions. “Is it that bad?” he asked.

Before Mismar could answer, footsteps echoed from the hallway.

“You are still a dear friend. Forgive me for I have to do this,” King Arth whispered then struck Mismar’s face violently knocking him down on the ground; kicked him several times; then dragged him towards his soldiers showing revulsion and disgust.

The prince accompanied by fifty armed men saw how the king kicked General Mismar and saw his aide tied and kneeling a few feet away. He nonchalantly looked at Mismar with hands bound and lips freshly bleeding being held up by two soldiers. He noticed the blood on the king’s knuckles as the king wiped it off with his handkerchief. He coldly and arrogantly said, “I can tell you have unearthed my plans to which your loyal commander, Astig, is now dead,”

The king ignored the prince’s remarks but noticed the air of confidence only noticeable of someone in full control of the situation. Now he understood what Mismar meant . . . ‘a big snake.’ “Do you have to resort to insurrection when I assured you of being the heir to my throne,” King Arth asked.

To which the prince replied passingly, “My ambition does not include waiting.”

“Your ambition?” the king said in rhetoric. “Your ambition has blinded you. All these years I hoped and prayed that you would see things differently. See what was accomplished ruling with love and respect for our people. It is not late. You can . . .”

“Ah, love and respect,” the prince repeated mockingly. “Love has nothing to do with it . . . power,” the prince roared.

“Power has consumed you. There is something far greater than power . . . love, my son is the ultimate power, and I know that to be true. I have seen the wonders it brought. Our kingdom has grown a hundred folds without a drop of blood spilled. Never have we experienced peaceful coexistence with everyone. All these brought about by love and care for . . .”

Prince Otil interrupted and sarcastically said, “You talk of love as though it can stop a sword swung to cut your neck . . . a sword can. You talk of love as though you can get respect from robbers stealing your robe and sandals . . . a sword can.”

“You must understand the power of love,” King Arth replied desperately. “It is not something that will change things instantly but in time will change everything for the better.”

“The sword is power. You yourself taught me that.”

“I said that long ago and was wrong. If I proclaimed you king in return for the safety of the Rians . . . compassion and kindness to the people associated to me, will you take it?”

“Compassion and kindness?” the prince scuffed. “I feel nothing by being compassionate. Nothing from being kind. But I feel like a man; a king; a god when I see people beg for mercy for their life. Power is everything.”

“You are so wrong. Power is not everything. Listen before it destroys you, for in the end, you will surely loss. I was like you once, obsessed and consumed at getting to the top. The struggle and the battles fought had me too occupied to see the miseries I brought to people as I ruthlessly pursued my goal. When I finally got to the pinnacle of power, at the very top, and looked around, my son, hear me and hear me well . . . when I got there, I found nothing but a desert . . . a vast empty and lonely place devoid of life. Standing there, I asked myself, ‘Is this all I get? Is this my reward for all the pain, suffering, and death I brought?

“The Rians came at the right moment in my life. They showed me the other way to the top. I tried it and when I got there and looked around, I found myself in paradise surrounded by happy people. Take my kingdom for what it’s worth, my son. I give it to you with all my heart and if my presence makes you insecure, I will exile myself, never to return. But you must give your word to help the Rians leave this planet.”

Infuriated, Prince Otil reacted, “I despise the Rians for what they have done to you! You were once a real and mighty king I was so proud of. A man! Now you talk to me like . . . like a woman ruling a kingdom you so proudly speak. The Rians have turned you to a weakling who convince and ask people. A king does not convince, he commands! A king does not ask, he takes!” he shouted. Lowering his voice, he said, “Being a titular king to a federated form of government is not my idea of ruling. Besides, your kingdom is too small. I want to rule the world and the power to do it is within my grasp.

“I would have considered your offer if you had a kingdom to give. However, you have none. The kingdom stands by the might of its army. Something you taught me and something you forgot. See what love and care brought you,” the prince addressed the soldier behind the king and said with authority, “Soldiers who stand with me, stand behind me now.”

King Arth watched as his soldiers passed and stood behind the prince’s men then more followed, leaving him, Dodot, and eight of the fifteen soldiers after.

Mismar walked to the prince with bound hands extended and with a grin on his face.

The prince grinned back then took a sword from a soldier’s sheath and said, “Mismar is your most trusted friend. For you, my father, I will give what is due him.” The prince swung his sword at Mismar’s neck and severed his head. Mismar’s head rolled on the floor. Its eyes remained open while its decapitated body went through spasms on the floor. The prince moved to the side to avoid the squirting blood from its neck. He was amused at the horrible sight as the bound hands and its legs thrashed about from a headless body. He laughed, entertained at the gruesome spectacle. His men laughed with him.

When Mismar’s headless body remained still, the king, resigned to how evil his son had become, asked aloud. “And how do you intend to control the other head of states and provinces?”

“Some have pledged allegiance to me and the rest will just have to die tonight,” the prince answered casually then aloud, “King of kings, Ruler of the World and with the Rian’s technology, Lord of the Universe,” the prince arrogantly bragged with his hands flailing in the air. “You have been ruling an imaginary kingdom for years, my father. Think of what ‘wealth and power’ did to your kingdom of ‘love and care’.” He paused then said in a different tone, “For your life, pretend that you are still king. I do not want the Rians to suspect and the refueling disrupted . . . if that can be avoided.”

“You are a misguided man,” the king said in resignation. “I pity you. My life will not be enough to pay for the countless lives you will take as king to fulfill your worthless dreams of grandeur. I’d rather die than give in.”

“That is something I hope to avoid, but that can be arranged,” the prince coldly replied.

The king said forcefully, “We have a tribal law which states: If the son wishes to take over his father’s rule, he must fight for it in combat.”

“I make the laws. Your life is not worth fighting. Think of what will happen to those loyal to you. There are still a lot of them and their life is dependent on yours. You die . . . they die.”

“I see no bargain there,” the king responded. “My living or dying will not alter their fate . . . I always thought of you as stupid and a coward!” mocking aloud, loud enough for everyone to hear.

“Coward!” retorted the prince. “I always wondered who the better swordsman was. Give my father a sword and no one intervene. To the victor, the spoils go. To the death.”

“To the death,” King Arth echoed taking off his robe over his tunic, his thin rimmed crown, and took the sword Dodot offered.

 

The two men slashed at each other as the soldiers watched a contest to the death. The king and prince had equal skill that the duel was a match to watch. Soldiers, heightened by the skillful display of swordsmanship by both, cheered their champion expertly parry swings and stabs. But the prince had the edge as the duel dragged on—-his youth. Soon the toll of the years showed on the king’s skill and the confident prince started to play and boisterously humiliated him as they fought.

The king paid no attention to the prince’s mockery but concentrated on parrying his strikes. He knew his only chance of winning was to get his son to talk himself out of breath. He did not make it obvious but struck back timing it at the middle of the prince’s sentences.

A minute later, the king said as they paused to rest, “You are much better than I thought,”

The prince replied as he took deep breathes. “You taught me well, my father.”

“Too well for your own good,” the king answered.

“It is time to take my turn to the throne. Your death is coming.” The prince suddenly launched at his father with his sword. The king parried the strike and they continued to duel with the prince giving it all he could for the kill this time around.

The king taught his son well but not all. At the right moment, he made his move and got the prince to drop his sword. As he held his sword in air for the final blow, the king hesitated. He saw his wife’s frightened face over his son’s face. Then he saw the prince go for his dagger but his sword froze in the air. In that fleeting moment, the prince stabbed his father. The slim, sharp knife pierced the king’s chest and its tip stuck out of the king’s back, red in blood.

The king dropped his sword from his raised arm then held on to his son. As he slipped and with his last breath, he said, “I love you, my son,” then limply fell to the floor dead with eyes wide open; mouth with blood that crept out of it and slid down his right cheek then dripped on the floor.

Unceremoniously, the prince took the thin-rimmed crown held by a soldier and, with both hands, crowned himself. He then turned to his men and, referring to his father’s remaining loyal men, made his first king’s command, “Kill them.”

Fight for the Rians

 

The new king, King Otil, was unaware that at the time he was summoned to see the king, General Sarif was at the dining hall and was told, ‘Summer is here’. The general excused himself from the people he was with and hurriedly left the hall. He went directly to a room, a short distance away, where a number of his special military officers were instructed to remain. On entering the room, he said aloud, “Men, we have secretly planned for months to an event we hope will not happen. It has come and you have your instruction. Go!” He turned to someone by his side and said, “Light the rooms and hurry.”

 

At the stadium grounds, one high-rise public building of the many around the park was clearly visible. Three of its windows at the fifth floor were lighted. The majority of people at the grounds did not notice it and to those who did, thought it insignificant. However, to the men wearing day-to-day robe that hid their soldier’s uniform and fully armed, it was significant. Instructed not to ran, they hurriedly walked to their assigned location to secure it without arousing suspicion from the crowd. Their instructions were to secure all facilities associated to the refueling of the Rian ship.

The Stadium Commander saw the three lighted rooms and acted immediately. His instructions were to secure all the Rians; bring them to their ship; and have them seal all ship entries. Unlike Commander Sarif whose men were instructed to hide their identity as soldiers, the Stadium Commander’s order was to visibly show military presence in force. His men, in soldier’s uniform, were fully armed, and remained hidden in five separate buildings nearest the stadium. They numbered five-thousands altogether and emerged out of the buildings in haste to secure their assigned orders.

 

At the stadium grounds, people milled around waiting for the final program to start. Except for Amo Obib and Ningning, the rest of the Rians were somewhere near or on the stage. Miya’s crew was at their post. Changlai and the men he supervised were still cleaning the area on and around the stage. To the left of the lower stage, a Migrant ran to Changlai. “Armed soldiers are coming from both east and west,” he said in a hurry.

Changlai acted on the information and hurriedly went up to the upper stage. He saw soldiers with swords drawn running towards the stage. He jumped back to the lower stage; stumped the floor three times; and at the top of his voice shouted, “Taypa lasi.” Four hundred armed Migrants stormed out from under the stage. Those cleaning the area got their swords from its hiding. Elsewhere, women in their robe distributed swords to those who, minutes earlier, were just strolling leisurely the stadium grounds.

 

The commotion got Caloy to leave the wheel and walk to the edge of the upper stage. When he realized what had happened, he rushed back to shut off the purging process. He had his hands on the wheel when a Migrant forcefully shoved him and got the wheel to turn the other direction. He was knocked unconscious after falling down the upper stage.

Miyas was nearer the wheel Caloy manned. On seeing Caloy fall from the upper stage, he headed for the wheel but an Migrants held him back as they swarmed the stage. He ran towards his console to shut off the purging from there but was shoved and force down from the stage to where the rest of the Rians were.

On the stadium grounds, people panicked and the pandemonium broke. A fierce battle ensued between the Migrants on the left side of the stage. They were now protecting their captive Rians from being saved by King Arth’s soldiers.

 

Indit, among a number of Rians, were at the right side of the stage. She immediately reacted on hearing Changlai’s shout loudly. She called out and waved at others Rians to follow her. They all ran towards their escape route but found the gate locked. Natoy stood motionless at the other side with his back towards them.

“Natoy, Natoy, open the gate. Natoy please,” Indit pleaded. Soon, there were over fifteen of them crowded and pleading at the gate.

Natoy did not move. Seconds later a group of Migrants came and started to herd the Rians back to the stage.

Indit managed to slip from the herded group and ran back to the gate. “Natoy, please open the gate,” she shouted as she ran.

A Migrant running behind Indit pushed her to the ground. When Indit tried to ran for the gate again, the Migrant kicked her. She fell to the ground and groaned in pain.

Natoy heard the painful moan Indit made. He turned and saw a Migrant kick her once more. To this Natoy opened the gate and hit the Migrant with his fist; took the Migrant’s sword; and hacked him. He poised to protect Indit on the ground as five armed Migrants came back. He fought and, after killing two, was stabbed from behind and fell on the ground beside Indit.

Indit, in pain; face bruised; and nose bleeding, knelt beside Natoy and cradled his head with her arms. She asked, “Why, Natoy? Why?”

Natoy replied weakly, “The Migrants have my family. Forgive me.”

Pulled away, Indit shouted, “Naska is Imar, Natoy. We love you.”

In the ship, Amo Obib and Ningning viewed the outside activities through the main monitor. On seeing the commotion on and around the stage and the king’s soldiers battling their way towards the herded Rians near the stage, Ningning cried out, “Goopersh, do something.”

“Shutting all access to the ship.” To Goopersh, that was its only option.

“Can we levitate them from here?” she asked Amo Obib frantically.

“They have to be directly under the ship. If we get the ship to fly up abruptly, the vacuum created directly under will suck and dragged them high up then later fall to their death. We are stuck here. We will negotiate once things settle. The Migrants will not harm them.”

 

Miyas and the other Rians were herded on the ground near the west side of the stage by the Migrants. He stood on a chair and saw the dial’s needle edge toward the red area’s limit. He went down from the chair and, in a desperate attempt, pleaded to their captors to turn the wheel back. In the confusion, no one paid attention. By this time, the king’s soldiers have broken through the heavy fighting at the stage and were inching their way toward the captive Rians.

Miyas stood again on a chair and saw the dial’s needle beyond the edge of the red area. He shouted to his fellow Rians, “We have to call Amo Obib’s attention to leave. The atom converter will soon implode.”

To Miya’s prodding, the Rians waved their hands in the air and shouted at the top of their voice, “Leave, it will implode! Leave, it will implode!” Then the ten-seconds warning siren sounded.

 

Amo Obib and Ningning helplessly watched the commotion on the screen. When they noticed the herded Rians waving and shouting, Amo Obib had the sound intensifier focused on their voices and heard their warning as the ten-seconds siren warning came on. Instinctively he ordered, “Goopersh, disconnect fuel line and fly six miles up now!”

The ship hummed for a second as the purge line disengaged from the ship then it flew abruptly straight up. The vacuum created beneath the ship sucked everything around the ship. It lifted the Rians, the people nearby and the whole stage in the air to fall back to earth at random as the spaceship rapidly ascended six miles above then abruptly stopped and hovered there.

A split second later, a large bolt of lightning arched from the ground on one side of the Atomic Converter ring to the other twenty-four miles away. Thousands of blinding arches of light shot outward in every direction from the Atomic Converter’s rim creating successions of thunderous sounds. As the lightning struck structures, it instantly split into thousands of jagged bright yellow lines and wreaked havoc to its atomic structure then imploded in a blinding flash.

Simultaneous to Metropolitan Atlantis’ obliteration, railroad tracks, electrical and phone lines became conduits of destruction and death as the dreadful scene replicated itself spreading outward from the metropolis towards the Autonomous Region, King Silrab’s domain, and far beyond. Innocent looking metal objects as wood nails, jewelry, coins, and the likes within five miles from the lines became targets as lightning arched to it and leapfrogged to similar things within five miles from them. Animals and trees beyond five miles and up to the horizon vaporized on the open fields from the intense heat it generated. Farther on, the forest became instant inferno.

Within a minute, the devastations to the metropolis, the neighboring areas—-the cities, towns, villages, and hamlets were total and complete. Only whirlpools of white powdery dust wafted by the wind remained in its place.

As the devastation raged below, Amo Obib and Ningning huddled together. Neither had the courage to view the destructive force unleashed below as the Rians, the people, the buildings, the most advanced civilization on the planet turned to white dust. The two consoled themselves out of their shock, grief, and sorrow through prayers.

A couple of minutes later, they looked at the screen. The sprawling Metropolitan Atlantis and the surrounding cities gone—-erased from the surface and so were the lives of the many innocent whose only fault was being there. Everything vanished leaving no trace of their existence but a shallow grayish-white crater with eerie white tentacles that spread hundreds of miles outward from the metropolis that in time too would disappear. Only the nearby Lion Monument and the three stone pyramids that dominated the plain remained. They stand as testaments for future generations, who would never know nor find out, the great tragedy that had befallen the place. Of the civilization lost. Of the death to many innocent people brought by the greed of a few who hungered for wealth and power.

What an irony, the science and technology that could have brought wonders to their planet, gone. As for the people who wanted power, control, and grandiose megalomaniac dreams, what have they achieved? Nothing and, strangely, everything. Devastated, Amo Obib ordered Goopersh to head for the pyramid spaceship’s safe haven to the far northeast.

 

As the ship flew towards its new location, the scenes of devastation below became horribly apparent. The destructive force obliterated all organic material and, as consequent, converted the area between the fringes of the Sahara Desert, three-hundred miles away and Atlantis to an instant wasteland that now form part of the present-day Sahara Desert.

Farther on were deserted villages and hamlets. People had traveled the distance to witness the festivities never to return. So were people who lived and participated in the Rian project at the Americas as they transported most, if not all, to Atlantis to participate in the most spectacular event of their lives, their last. The most advanced civilization on Earth and almost all of the people who knew of its existence and its traces were gone!

When the spaceship was over the Atlantic Ocean and at its deepest part, Amo Obib ordered, “Goopersh, eject contents in the cargo hold.” To that command, Goopersh expelled all the buildings within the ship leaving the area back to what it was when they landed over two million years ago—-a humongous empty space.

Goopersh flew the ship to a predetermined location between Siberia and Alaska in an area now called Bering Strait and in a shoal where hundreds of small basalt islands dotted the surface of the sea. The site was ideal for hiding the spaceship. The shoals were shallow; the sea current, treacherous; the weather that changed from calm to gale force winds within an hour; and the islands barren. With many sharp outcropped basalt rocks that littered its surface and most jutted out of the waves only at low tides, none would dared navigate its waters nor bothered to explore the desolate and foreboding basalt rock islands. There, the spaceship went underwater to surface twentieth of its height inside the hollow cavern of a basalt island in the midst of the shoal. The island, no bigger than two football fields, towered fifty feet above the sea. After Goopersh maneuvered the ship within the island’s cavern, it announced, “The ship is secured.”

Amo Obib asked, “Goopersh, how much fuel do we have left?”

“Three years at conservative fuel usage.”

“And the batteries on the hibernating capsule?”

“10,194 years”

“How many airships left?”

“One.”

“Goopersh, activate the distress signal and wake us ten-thousand years from now.”

“The distress signal is activated. I will wake you ten-thousand years from now,” Goopersh acknowledged.

“Ningning,” Amo Obib said sadly, “we have no other recourse but to wait for civilization in this planet to develop the technology themselves and help us directly. I pray they will have it when we wake. Come, let us go to the hibernating room,” then led her with his arm over her shoulder.

Ningning, said between sobs, “In my heart, My Amo, I feel God did not abandon us.”

Amo Obib replied, “He never did. He never will.”

 

EPISODE THREE

Last Chance

 

Ten thousand years passed, the year was 1853 A.D. Young in technology, steam driven trains traversed railroad tracks crisscrossing vast lands connecting cities and countries. Steam and sail ships set course and voyaged the open oceans and seas. Heavy smoke belched out of many huge foundry chimneys all day and night to feed the unsuitable demand for processed metal. It was the Age of Industrial Revolution at its early stage.

 

Waken from hibernation, Amo Obib left his capsule and immediately looked at Ningning within her opened capsule door. She was motionless; eyes closed; cheeks still wet with tears though ten thousand years have passed. The memory of Atlantis’ utter devastation was fresh in their minds as though the gap in time in between sleep and wake never happened. It seemed they never slept at all. It was not a pleasant memory, sad to recall, heart drenching to remember. He saw a tear swelled from the slits of her closed eyes then dripped out of them. He knew how she felt. He felt it himself—-the deep sense of sadness; of feeling abandoned; alone and helpless. “Are you all right, Ningning?” he asked with concern.

Ningning heard Amo Obib’s concerned voice. In a sigh, she took a deep breath then opened her eyes, “I am,” beaming as best she could. She wiped her eyes with the back of her hands then held her husband’s extended hands as she left her capsule. She felt his warm hands—-it was of small comfort for her sadness and sorrow but glad it was there for her. She said to herself, ‘It is best I control my emotions for his sake and mine. The tragedy had happened and nothing could be done to change it. Be positive.’ She then took another deep breath then asked, “What should we do now?”

Amo Obib noticed the renewed vigor from her voice and manner. He was pleased. He acted as though nothing heartrending had happened. “We have to access the state of their technology and plan from there.” He led her to their arched chair at the middle of the command room and sat alongside each other. Arms touching were a simple relief and reassuring in some ways. He noticed the three unmanned flight engineer consoles fronting them. There was no sense to have them there --- just an abstraction, and worse still, a reminder. He ordered, “Goopersh, removed all three consoles.”

“Removing the three flight consoles,” Goopersh responded and the consoles, made of magic liquid, melted to the floor and disappeared, but the armed wooden chairs remained at its place.

Ningning eyes stared at the three empty chairs. It was symbolic of her lost friends. Friends she saw and worked with every day for almost three decades. Their faces flash through her thoughts—-faces that smiled, laughed, faces that struggled like her. She tried hard to stop herself from crying but, still, a tear swelled from her eyes.

Amo Obib saw the tears on her eyelids. “Pour it out Ningning,” he said nicely. “It will do you a lot of good . . . and take your time.”

Ningning’s calm posture melted. She whimpered as she watched him take the wooden chairs and brought them to the hallway outside. When he came back, she sobbed on his shoulder until the last tear fell. She stayed motionless for a moment then sat erect and said, “I’m fine now,” in a controlled voice. With back of her hands, she wiped her cheeks daintily then used the sleeves of her outfit to dry them.

Amo Obib wasted no time to change the melancholy atmosphere. He ordered, “Goopersh, launch a satellite and project the planet from space.”

 

A golf-sized orb shot out of the ship into outer space. A few seconds later Goopersh reported. “Satellite launched, projecting planet image on screen.”

Planet Earth was on the screen. Most of its surfaces were on the dark side and a fraction of its edge glowed. The bright crescent band obscured their view to which Amo Obib instructed, “Move satellite to view the planet’s dark side in its entirety.”

The screen blurred for a second as the satellite moved abruptly to another location then projected the whole dark side of Earth on the screen. Earth’s circular fringe glowed with the sun directly behind it and was visible against the black background of outer space. Amo Obib’s hopeful anticipation turned to disappointment. He fervently hoped seeing patches of well lighted areas on its surface—-visible lights to mark major cities and towns; lighted shorelines to discern its shores; lights to indicate advance civilization. He saw no lights anywhere to illuminate his spirit. He felt disheartened but not reflected it outwardly. But Ningning saw something Amo Obib missed as she strained to see what was on the screen and said, “There is a faint light, brightest at fourth quadrant.”

Amo Obib, eager to prove himself wrong, reacted immediately, “Goopersh, zoom on the brightest of the lights, fourth quadrant,” he instructed.

With eyes focused intently in anxiety, both viewed the planet’s fourth quadrant magnified progressively to a particular spot. The faint lighted area brightened then became a cluster of lights; then crisscrossing lines of lined lights. Goopersh stopped zooming over London’s downtown district. Lighted gas street lamps were spaced evenly on its streets; horse drawn carriages with felt lamps flight its roads; and people walked about with lanterns. The sight was no consolation to Amo Obib. He knew Ria took over three-hundred years from gas lamps to become technologically advance—-they only had a little over a hundred years before the ship would run-out of fuel and self-destruct. He held back his pessimism but realized Ningning was just as analytical as him when he heard her asked, “Goopersh, how long did Ria progress from street gas lamps to nuclear generated lighting system?”

Goopersh answered, “Over three-hundred-fifty years.”

Ningning glanced at Amo Obib. She saw a gloom had set in on him. Sounding optimistic said, “The people in this planet are a lot smarter than us. They will achieve that in much less time,” she said positively, smiling at her husband.

Ningning’s statement sparked Amo Obib back to life. There was some truth to what she said. Earthlings were very creative creatures. He beamed at her. He need no longer worry on her state of mind. She was back to her normal self and inwardly thank God. He said, “It’s too early to do research on their state of technology and draw a conclusion at this point in time. Let us hibernate again and wake fifty years from now.”

 

The Year, 1903

 

After fifty years, Amo Obib and Ningning, eager and excited, walked out of their hibernation capsule towards the arched chair. Amo Obib said, “Goopersh, project satellite image of the planet on its dark side.”

From a blank screen, planet Earth’s dark side was projected. To their relief, major cities were clearly illuminated. The east coast of the United States was clearly outlined. Amo Obib said to Ningning, “We have to sneak in their libraries to evaluate the state of their technology.”

Ningning surprisingly asked, “You mean go in and not ask permission?”

Amo Obib smiled at her. “Not until we know who we will be dealing with. Then, we decide if we are to make our existence known.” He addressed Goopersh, “Goopersh, our intention is to go in major book repository buildings to research on this planet’s state of technology without their knowing. Send out rovers to identify five major libraries and provide us layout plans of the floor where the books are located. Observe as well their nighttime security.”

“Will concentrate on public and university libraries,” Goopersh affirmed.

“Good.”

“Sending rovers,” Goopersh replied. Simultaneously, five beetle size rovers, oval in shape, flew out of the ship in five different directions. Nano technology allowed each to have ten mosquito-size, highly sophisticated surveillance craft. The minute crafts entered closed book repository buildings through keyholes, crack on walls, vents, and, when necessary, bored a small hole on its wall and scanned its rooms. An hour later Goopersh announced, “I am ready to project images and layouts.”

The first on its list was the Library of Congress in United Stated followed by the Library of Technology in Paris, France then Cambridge Library in England, and two major libraries in Germany.

Amo Obib and Ningning spent time to study the library layouts and planned their move. They had themselves tele-transported to these libraries in the evenings and read on human’s state of technology with miniscule surveillance crafts flying about to warn them of intruders. After a week and on the eve of going to hibernation, Amo Obib decided to prepare Ningning for things he thought may come. The opportunity came when they were having a snack at the kitchen. Amo Obib said, in melancholy, “I don’t think humans will have the technology to help us by the time we run out of fuel. The fundamentals to atomic physics are still a mystery. It may take some time before they will understand the inner compositions and workings of an atom. I just want you to know,” reconciled to their fate.

Ningning asked nonchalantly, “Do you think you can plant a seed we know and not know what its fruit will be?”

The philosophical question surprised Amo Obib. It was very far from the subject he opened and was not like her to miss a point. “Like an apple seed?” he asked, perplexed.

“Yes. Except we pray it will bear something else, like watermelon,” she responded casually.

Amo Obib gave her statement a thought. It contradicted itself. Why should he pray for an apple seed to bear something else? Watermelons? He glanced at her—-she was not looking at him. He had seen the stance before and prepared himself for a lively discussion. “What do you have in mind this time, Ningning?”

Ningning faced him and said in a serious but enthusiastic manner, “You said we are forbidden to interfere with human thoughts. Humans must search and find the answer themselves.” She paused then asked, “Can we not act as a catalyst again as we did to the ape’s eons ago?”

Amo Obib grinned as he eyed her suspiciously. He understood where she was leading him and set the stage to an unavoidable discussion. “We must never tell humans what to think or do. Humans must think freely and decide their own destiny.”

“If a man is searching for an answer and found the solution but for some reasons set it aside, would it be wrong to redirect his attention hoping he would reconsider and act on it?”

“As long as you do not tell him.”

Ningning pulled her chair closer and excitedly said, “If it is possible to get him to reconsider something vitally important indirectly, that is, without telling him, and does, then he was not coerced; he exercised free will; and, most of all, he had a choice. We have everything to gain and nothing to lose.”

Amo Obib was stumped by her logic, “And how do you propose to redirect his attention without telling him?” he ask whimsically.

“He found something he shelved a long time ago on his desk and would wonder how it got there!” Ningning snapped.

The quick-responding Amo Obib had no reply.

In his silence, she knew she had driven her point. “You like fruit juice?” she casually asked with an air of confidence.

“No, thank you,” Amo Obib replied. Inwardly, he searched for flaws in her logic and arguments. A moment later said grinning, “Ah, but the problem is, you must find the man that fits that example. Unable to read minds, how do you propose to do that?” smiling with confidence. He was certain he had cornered her now.

“If I find you the man, will you consider my plan?” she asked right after with poise.

Amo Obib eyed her with anxiety. She was unfazed by his obstacle. He must think of his answer carefully as he knew she was up to entrap him in tempting fate. “Only if he fits exactly the criteria,” he answered with trepidation.

“I have a copy of the man’s research papers. His name is Albert Einstein, a brilliant theoretical physicist way ahead of his time . . . a genius,” she said as she took the copy of a research paper she hid behind the counter. “Here, take a look,” handing him a thin stack of stapled papers.

On her confident reply, Amo Obib knew he had stepped into her trap. She is shrewder than he thought. Disquietingly, he took the copy and leafed through pages of assumptions and equations. He focused briefly on one then said, “Based on the man’s equations, he . . .,” he turned then realized he was alone in the kitchen.

Amo Obib studied Einstein’s research paper. After half an hour, he concluded that Ningning was right. Einstein was indeed trying to prove that time was relative, the fourth dimension. The hypothesis seemed ridiculous—-time is not absolute but relative to speed! The faster you go the slower the time. Einstein must ride against conventional views; stay and pursue his approach in resolving scientific problems through sound and valid mathematical assumptions and equations. He had the answer that would pave the way in understanding the mechanics of an atom. If he could get the scientific community to accept his unorthodox method and its conclusions, then they may have a chance. A little nudge may indeed help.

He stood and to his surprise found Ningning was sitting behind him drinking fruit juice at the adjacent table and a filled glass of juice waited for him. He moved to the table and sat without saying anything. He sipped his juice pretending as if nothing significant had happened.

“When will we go?” Ningning snapped.

The laconic question choked him as he drank and got some of the juice to spill on his pants. He looked at her as he wiped his mouth and brushed off what was spilled on his pants. “How did you find him first?”

“By accident! I was going over the notes of an Atomic Physicist Professor at the University of Zurich when I came across a research paper on a shelf that had gathered dust. It turned out to be a synopsis of a hypothesis given to the professor for comment but, apparently, the professor set it aside. The rest, detective work.”

 

Eight hours later, at three in the morning, Ningning and Amo Obib tele-transported themselves to Einstein’s bedroom while Einstein was asleep and placed a copy of his research paper on his bedside table then left. When they got back to the ship, they entered their respective hibernating capsule and slept.

THEORY OF RELATIVITY

 

Fifteen Years Later.

 

In November of 1918, Ningning woke alone from hibernation and left the ship. She headed straight to and sneaked in the Berlin National Library in the middle of the night. She leafed through scientific journals. After an hour, she found the journal she prayed to find. She made a copy of the book it referred to and the journal as well. She went back to the ship and pasted the folded journal with the article facing Amo Obib on his capsule’s transparent door; placed the book on the floor; then manually set the hibernating capsule to wake mode and left.

 

A minute later, Amo Obib’s eyes opened with a hazy view of the pasted page on the transparent door in front of him. As it became clear, the boldly written formula on the page caught his attention:

 

E = mc^2^

 

It dawned on him that it was the Energy Formula expressed in Earthling form. He read, within the pasted page, the book’s title: ‘The Theory of Relativity’. Unable to control his emotion, he shouted with great relief within the capsule, “Einstein did it!” The critical concept towards understanding quantum physics using valid assumptions without physical proof was now a concept accepted by the scientific community. However, his demeanor changed just as instantly when he noticed the time. Ningning had awakened him seventy-five years ahead of schedule and was upset. He, however, did not command her to stay in hibernation for the duration but assumed she would. He picked the book on the floor after he left the capsule and slowly walked as he skimmed its pages. He stopped, every now and then, that by the time he got to the kitchen, the bowl of hot soup was on the table and Ningning seated motionless on one side. Her poise and facial expression was that of submission—-ready to accept the harshest punishment for her crime. Amo Obib, who a moment earlier, was determined to reprimand, nearly laughed but held back and said seriously, “But never again.”

Ningning, on hearing, stood and like an excited kid who escaped harsh punishment, went to him with a wide grin. She gave him a big kiss on the cheek then led him to his seat at the table. She then said, “I told you it will work. The man is a genius. But my husband, since we are awake . . .”

“Plant more seeds,” Amo Obib snapped.

“Exactly!” she hailed.

“Ningning,” he said in a deliberate tone of voice, “we have planted a good seed. Let it grow at its own pace with God’s blessing. There is enough in Einstein’s publications to excite the minds in the scientific community to work in understanding the atom’s mechanics. Let us leave things in God’s hands.”

 

They hibernated.

THE HYBRIDS

 

The Year, 1995.

 

Awaken from the hibernation, Amo Obib and Ningning sneaked in major libraries, research institutions, and military top-secret archives to read on human progress. It was Ningning’s responsibility to research on human history while Amo Obib on current technology. On her mission, Ningning came across the article on the atomic bomb dropped at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. She was nauseated with grief and guilt after she read it. She felt the pain Amo Obib would go through, if he knew but had to. She handed him a copy of the article when they got back to the ship.

Amo Obib, after reading, stayed silent, his eyes moistened. He said to himself, ‘With all the good that could come from understanding the power of the atom to the people of this world, the first thing they did was build an atomic bomb. My God, what have I done in my ignorance?’ He hid his anguish and inner pain for Ningning’s sake. But Ningning read through Amo Obib’s pretenses. Neither spoke on the subject. They pretended it never happened and carried their guilt in silence as they continued their research.

 

  • * *

 

A week later, Amo Obib and Ningning had come to realize humans might not attain the technology level they needed before their fuel runs out. They had over two years left. Though humans could build the Atomic Converter for them if they provided the technology but the temptation was not there. The cold war between Superpowers, USSR, and US, had escalated that the governments focused their resources on creating weapons of mass destruction and delivery systems that can bring a war to an abbreviated conclusion, not in years or months but days! The Superpowers and their Allies seemed unperturbed at the prospect that World War III may destroy their only world. And, if it did and everyone died, no one would be surprised. How pathetic. For this, Amo Obib and Ningning concluded that handing over their atomic technology for the good it would do for humankind was no longer an option, for in that same technology, humans would have in their hands the capacity to destroy themselves and their planet. They wanted no part of that.

Wary of their fate, Amo Obib said, “Ningning, I would like to go on retreat. Will you be fine?”

“You need not worry. Naska is Imar.”

 

The Retreat

 

Amo Obib went up to the Command Center the second time since they landed on Earth eons ago. When Goopersh turned on the light, he saw Karmar’s Proposal One on the floor. It had lain there for over two million years. He recalled the torment he went through deciding on the issue then. It was not a pleasant experience. He felt weak; frightened to undergo the same mental struggle again, but had to. He sat on the floor; reread Proposal One; and after, placed the folder alongside; then had Goopersh turn off the light.

 

Over two days have passed. Ningning was worried. The thought of him being weak and unable to come down got her to bring food and water up. She stayed and slept by the doorway as she dared not open the door.

Half a day later, with Proposal One in hand, Amo Obib found Ningning asleep on the floor blocking the doorway. Except for her face, she was well under a white thick blanket. Alongside were jugs of preserved food, water, and eating utensils. He sat on the floor by her side and gently stroked her exposed cheek. It was as cold as the air around them. He felt some relief just to see and feel her. She was his only consolation now.

On the third stroke, Ningning’s eyes opened. “My husband, Naska is Imar,” Ningning said as she hastily sat by his side and held him tight with both arms, trembling. “I have never been so worried and frightened. Please try not to leave me alone again, if you can help it. Please,” she said then started to cry.

“How thoughtless of me.” He cradled her with one hand and the other gently stroked her head on his shoulder. “Never again,” he said. “Are you all right?” he weakly asked through his parched throat.

“Are you?” she asked back as she wiped her tears.

“Yes, but I am thirsty.”

 

Amo Obib was so weak Ningning had to nurse him back to health. On the second day, Ningning knew he had recuperated yet feigned weakness and stayed in bed hardly saying a word. She sensed he was still in retreat and struggling with himself. She went along finding excuses to leave him to his thoughts. A day after, Ningning found Amo Obib seated on her cot. She hastily sat beside him and asked pleasantly, “You need anything, Amo?”

“Ningning,” Amo Obib said in a low voice staring blankly at the floor.

Ningning knelt on the floor to see his face. It was sad. She held his clasped hands between her hands and waited for him to speak.

“Ningning,” Amo Obib repeated his eyes now on hers, “we have so much good to offer humans in our science and technology. All of it gone if we are to die. I have not found the answer but have made up my mind. You will have no part in this decision and I absolve you of any responsibility. But you will have to help me.”

“What do you mean my husband?” she worriedly asked her eyes on his.

Amo Obib continued in melancholy, “I cannot, in conscience, leave the humans to solve human problems when we have the solution. I cannot, in conscience, die peacefully knowing the good our technology can do is buried with us. It is sad for humans are not ready to get all at once . . . maybe fifty or a hundred years from now if they learn from their follies and live through it.

“There are many good humans that are carried by the tide of the misguided powerful few. I pray the good ones will band together and stop their leaders usurp their power for personal fulfillments or whims at their expense. We have to part with our technology as need arises. Since we are not in a position to determine what it is and when, I have decided to undertake the last project. I want you to help me do something out of pure obedience, without question. Do you understand?”

“I do. What do you want me do?” Ningning asked in reply.

“I love you, Ningning. Those are the words humans use,” he said sitting beside her on the floor then gently coddled her. “I am not sure if what I will do goes against God’s wish. I pray it will not. I speak to you now as head not of our church but of our community and command you to help me study ways to bring to life a human body with a Rian mind. Human bodied Rians that will live human lives and be part of their society—-work hard for the good of humanity. They can marry humans and rear families but all their children will have Rian minds. They have but one goal: part off our science and technology when they see it fit to improve the world as they live and work as humans. I need your help. Will you help?”

 

Ningning consented.

 

The new Rians

 

For need of a laboratory, Amo Obib and Ningning moved to the room Karmar’s team occupied when they worked on the ape’s genome project. The laboratory was adjacent to the room. They modified Proposal One to meet a new goal: five human females with Rian minds to go thru gestation and leave the womb as young teenage girls in a month and a year after to become young adults. Since Amo Obib would not undertake anything on a chance result, they reviewed everything and spent two months studying how to accomplish their goal. As they did, they abducted humans while asleep and studied their bodies; got tissue samples; and took sperms and female egg cells for genetic analysis. The abducted humans were fortunate. They were people afflicted by some incurable disease or too poor to get medical attention. In exchange, they cured them of their ailment never to know the blessing they had from the Rian’s hands. To the ranchers, who found dead cattle on their ranch whose uterus were surgically removed and blood drained, they spread powder on their haystacks and fields. It inoculated their livestock from diseases that ravaged the area and made them healthier and heavier.

They used the cow’s reproductive organ to create a biological womb to carry the human fertilized egg through its gestation period. They made support machines out of parts taken from hospital and industrial trash bins and, on few occasions, from family owned stores leaving money they got from ocean shipwrecks on top of their cash register. After another month, five functional cow wombs submerged in biological fluids were ready.

 

Their Children

 

On the day they were to splice the five human eggs and sperm cells with Rian genes taken from Amo Obib and Ningning, Amo Obib found the Rian Sacred Book on his bed where Ningning had left it. A dried stemmed rose stuck out from its pages. Amo Obib took the book and opened it where the dried rose stuck out. An underlined passage read: God spoke to Amo Lam-a (the first Amo), ‘Believe in Me and I take you to paradise. And, from your seed a new world will come.’ Amo Obib wondered, ‘Does the passage refer to the Rian civilization that started from their first amo, Amo Lam-a, or does it refer to him and Ningning’s seed as God’s instruments to fulfill the prophecy of a new world—-a new civilization being a hybrid human and Rian?’ He was not sure and did not dare speculate. He knelt and prayed, “My dearest God, I hope I am fulfilling your wish. If not, I, alone, must bear the consequence.”

An hour later, they implanted the altered fertilized egg cells in their respective womb machines.

 

Their Children

 

Ningning and Amo Obib worked on shifts maintaining a 24-hour vigil on their biomechanical machines. After a month, they became proud parents to five healthy girls in their early teens. Coming from different human donors, in looks, they reared an Asian Islander, a slit-eyed girl, an African Negro, and two Caucasians. Since Amo Obib incorporated Norm’s accelerated growth to the gene, the girls will rapidly grow to young women in their early twenties in a year.

 

In the months that followed, the girls grew within the confines of the ship. Energetic, they wore down their proud and loving parents who attended to their needs and education. Of the girls, Lulu, a Caucasian, was special. She stood apart from her four other sisters that neither Amo Obib nor Ningning could describe but merely noticed. She had the adventurous nature of her father, the determination of her strong-willed mother, and a natural born leader.

To augment the girls’ training and familiarize them to human ways, they watched on TV good, wholesome family movies with strong moral message and selectively showed the dirtier part of human existence. Months later, Amo Obib and Ningning decided it was time to augment their education, mingle with humans.

 

The Excursions

 

It was Halloween day when they scheduled the teenage looking girls to experience the world they eventually would live in. It was the right time to divert people’s attention as Amo Obib and Ningning must chaperone the girls in their radiation protective suits. The two were in the girl’s room with Lulu. Her four sisters anxiously waited at the corridor outside knowing nothing of Lulu’s surprise. “Close your eyes and promise not to peek,” Lulu said to Amo Obib and Ningning.

With her parent’s eyes closed, Lulu assisted each to their buggy jumpsuit with high collar that got just above their chin. “Don’t peek,” she reminded as she put on their hairpiece and facial makeup. She took a final look then held back her laughter’s sound by covering her mouth. Even then, the muffled laughter was heard by the two dressed-up couple.

Ningning with her eyes still closed, asked, “What are you laughing at?” Amo Obib played along.

“No peeking,” Lulu reminded again. “Open your eyes and walk out of the room on the music’s third bar, okay?” and watched them nod then joined her sisters at the corridor.

 

On Lulu’s queue, the girls started sounding the tune to the King’s March. Immediately after the first note, hilarious laughter came from within the room. They passed the sixth bar of the music and still the two were in the room laughing.

“Come out,” cried one eager girl.

The two came out stoic. The girls burst into laughter as soon as they saw them. Amo Obib and Ningning were colorful together in their high-collared cape and crazy-colored buggy suits. Their make-up and the colored wig differentiated the two. Amo Obib’s colorful wig had weird things sticking out while Ningning’s had wavy-oversized purple hair that stuck out. Their faces mottled with colored circular patches. Puckered bright red lip was pasted over their lips as though wanting a kiss.

When Amo Obib gave Ningning a surprise kiss on her lips, everyone almost died laughing more so when Ningning chased him for more.

When things settled, Amo Obib said, “Lulu, this is the best costume I have ever worn. But it’s too good. It will call too much attention to your Mom and me and that we do not want.”

“I know,” Lulu sighed. “But you two look hilariously wonderful.”

 

The girls help take out the crazy stuff and left the red colored cape over their radiation protective suit making them look as kids in caped Martian costume with large almond shaped dark glasses over their eyes as their Halloween costume. Amo Obib made a final check at the girls. They appeared like any other teenager at their age. “Whose younger brother am I?” he asked.

“Mine,” Lulu said.

“And, Mama Ningning?” Amo Obib continued to review their alibis and excuses, their address, why they were together, and other similar questions that may arise.

 

Los Angeles

 

It was 7:00 a.m. A beetle-size electronic rover sent hovered above an alley sending video images of the area below.

Amo Obib, holding a pyramid crystal with both hands, instructed, “Hold on to me or anyone holding me or you’ll be left behind.” Ningning wrapped her arms around Amo Obib’s waist. The rest huddled together and held on to anyone who held on to Amo Obib. He looked at the monitor and had it zoom on an alley below. Certain no one would see them materialize on the ground, he commanded, “Goopersh, transport.” They disappeared in a flash then reappeared on the ground at the alley that led to the famous street of Los Angeles—-Hollywood Boulevard.

 

Everyone was apprehensive as they emerged out of the alley as a group—-five teenage girls, averaged five-feet-two-inches in height in a typical teenage outfit, that accompanied two kids clad in caped Martian outfit. But as they walked the street, nobody seemed to neither mind nor pay particular attention to the kids in their costume. It was Halloween Day, who would suspect? Soon they felt at ease walking alongside humans, some wearing creepy Halloween costume.

With money taken from sunken ships, the group did what any tourist normally do—-went sightseeing on tour buses and took a lot of pictures. Often, they asked strangers to take pictures of them. When the tour bus dropped them off at Chinese Grumman Theater, they looked at the foot and palm prints on the sidewalk pavement of popular movie stars the theater was famous for. Amo Obib asked common questions, as, what movie they starred in as part of their human orientation.

As they toured, a man lightly tapped Ningning’s head. Alarmed, she went to Amo Obib’s side and looked at the man thru her dark glasses with trepidation.

“Your mask seems lifelike,” the amazed man said as he followed her. “Where did you buy them?” he asked.

“My sister made them for us,” Amo Obib answered for Ningning sounding like a youngster.

The stranger talked to one of Lulu’s sisters, “I supply props for the cinema studios. I’d like very much to know how you made the outfit,” he asked eagerly.

“I love to but I just don’t have time . . . we’re on a tour,” she answered.

The man persisted.

Lulu observed her sisters plead to the man to leave them alone. Since the man was insistent and on seeing two patrolling police officers at the sidewalk, said to the man, “It’s a long process, and we have to go. Come,” she said and the group followed her.

Walking alongside Lulu, the man excitedly said, “You got something there that will interest a lot of people I know. Are you interested in making money?”

“Please, we really have to go,” Lulu replied and led the group to two police officers at the corner holding on to their patrol bike, “Officer, can you help us,” she addressed one.

“What seems to be the problem?” the first Police Officer asked pleasantly.

“This gentleman means us no harm, but can you detain him until we get lost in the crowd?”

The second police officer turned to the man and sized him up.

“Look, Officer,” the man said before the officer could say something. “I’m offering a legitimate business proposition. They got something the cinema can use and maybe make stars of the two alien clad kids. I want to make a proposition . . .”

Lulu interrupted, “Can you detain him just for a few minutes?”

“Like to press charges?” the officer asked.

“Oh, no. He really means us no harm.”

“Okay,” the officer responded.

They hurriedly left but the man tried to follow. “Hold on, Buddy,” the second Police Officer said as he restrained the man by the arm. “Can I see an ID?” he asked somewhat irritated.

“Look, Officer, I’m in the cinema industry and . . .”

“I don’t care if you’re a Superstar. Can I see an ID please?” the second Police Officer commanded.

The man pulled his wallet as he watched the group disappear in the crowd.

 

In a tour bus, a woman turned her head as she followed a passing site and accidentally saw Ningning, seated on an adjacent seat, insert a potato chip through her masked and ate it. “How did you do that?” she asked in amazement as she looked at her.

Ningning, taken aback, looked at the woman without answering. Amo Obib, whose attention was somewhere else, missed the question. Lulu, directly behind the seated woman and clueless, asked the woman inquiringly, “She’s my little sister. What did she do?”

The woman turned and said to Lulu, “I saw her insert a potato chip through her mask.”

Lulu reacted casually, “She likes to play tricks on other people. She just made it look as though she got it through her mask when the potato chip is actually still in her hand. “Show her again,” she said to Ningning.

Ningning got the clue and demonstrated: She took a potato chip out of the bag and pushed the chip seemingly in her mouth through the masked. She then showed the woman the chip on her hand and said in a rhyme, “I trick her, I trick her.”

“Silly girl,” the woman said to Ningning as she laughed then waved her off with a grin.

 

They took time to go in appliance and hardware stores to familiarize themselves to common household gadgets and work tools. They rode buses and taxis; went to malls; and did other things to orient the girls to the world they would live in. Although people, at times, stared at their costumed companions, they paid no attention to them. If asked, they would answer: ‘They are midget actors dressed for an alien movie shooting or a play.’

As time passed, they did more excursions and visited many countries. First, as teenage girls that escorted costumed kids and, in the later months, as women that accompanied two midgets to a studio or shooting location.

Months later, the five were physically grown women. Their training shifted to basic household activities: cooking, carpentry, appliance and electrical repairs, and gardening. Later, they got abandoned cars and disassembled then reassembled them. The fun part was driving what they repaired within the confines of the spacious vacant floor space within the ship. The driving area had lined roads with intersections and pedestrian lanes. As one drove, the four other sisters acted as signal lights holding on to red, green, and yellow colored placards. They even practiced parallel parking.

On the last few weeks, they learned secretarial skills, office administration, and all were adept in the use of common office computers. On their last week, each went alone to the city assigned to them. Lulu was to start her Earth life at Los Angeles, California. Her four sisters to Moscow, Russia; Shanghai, China; Davao City, Philippines; and Cape Town, South Africa.

 

Caught in the Act

 

On the night before their children’s departure, Ningning could not sleep and left Amo Obib asleep in their room. She walked towards their daughter’s barrack type bedroom and entered stealthily. They were fast asleep. With motherly adoration, she looked at the face of each of her children asleep as tears trickled down her cheeks. When she got to Lulu’s bed, she saw an outline of a body on its side covered by a blanket all the way to the top of the head. As she got closer, she found the head was but a dark folded cloth. She lifted the blanket and found two pillows underneath. She tiptoed hurriedly out of the room.

She located Lulu over the ship’s tracking system and proceeded to the shop. As she neared the room, the floor crackled as she walked. She noticed salt sparsely spread on the floor. She knew the crackling sounds made were loud enough to alert someone inside. In the room, she saw Lulu seated looking attentively at the computer’s screen. “Isn’t it late for you to be studying?” Ningning asked as she approached her. She noticed an accounting balance sheet was on the computer’s screen.

Lulu turned and, sounding surprised, said, “Oh. Hi Mama . . . I am studying financial statements.”

“Are you really studying accounting?” Ningning asked nicely in an investigative tone.

Lulu hesitated then confessed, “No. I’m not.” Her head lowered in guilt.

“What are you studying then?”

“The design of the atomic converter to update . . .”

Ningning hugged Lulu from behind and cuddled her. “Please leave everything the way it should,” she said in despair.

“It is not too late,” Lulu responded with enthusiasm as she grabbed a stool and got Ningning to sit. “National Atomic Research Laboratory produces . . .”

Ningning interrupted, “NARLAB, as it is commonly known, is a US government owned high-energy physics research center in the Mojave Desert, California. It produced 1.8 trillion electro-volts of particle energy in 1987. They started construction on the Superconducting Super Collider, spring of 1992. Projected completion, late 1999 with a collision output of twenty-five trillion electro-volts. That’s four-thousand trillion electro-volts short of what we need.”

Ningning’s knowledge surprised Lulu. “I know but I came up with a design to increase its capacity. I plan to leak it to their scientist then . . .”

“Lulu,” Ningning interrupted again and sternly said, “how long have you been doing this?”

In guilt, she answered, “Almost every night for nearly half a year.”

“My dearest Lulu, your Papa’s heart will be broken if he knew what you have been doing and what you intend to do.”

“Please do not tell Papa,” Lulu pleaded, her eyes in tears.

“Promise me you will not go against your Papa and my wish.”

“Can I give my answer tomorrow, before we leave?” Lulu asked, her head slightly bowed, her voice hardly audible as she wiped off the tears from her eyes.

“Please do not disappoint me and your father,” Ningning replied then stood holding out her hands for Lulu to take. “Come, I’ll take you to bed.”

“I love you and Papa,” Lulu said, hugging Ningning as she cried again.

“Your father and I know that. We love you dearly, too,” Ningning answered as she gently rubbed Lulu’s back then led her out of the room.

 

Last farewell

 

Seated on a wooden bench by the airship’s ramp, Amo Obib and Ningning waited for their children. Earlier, the amo denied their children’s request to stay with them till the ship runs out of fuel and, consequently, die with them. Ningning, on seeing them come with a small suitcase on hand this time, said, “They are coming.”

Amo Obib, whose mind was recollecting the past, was jerked back to the present. Startled, he reacted, “What?”

“They are coming,” Ningning repeated and they stood.

 

With everything said of their departure earlier, Amo Obib and Ningning hugged and bade one-by-one their children, ‘Naska is Imar’, before each walked up the ramp and entered the airship. Lulu was the last. Amo Obib said, “Lulu, your mother confided what she found out last night. I want you to promise you won’t do anything foolish that may jeopardize your life and even your sisters,” he stressed forcefully.

“But, Papa, I . . .”

“Lulu,” Amo Obib said forcedly, “Promise!”

“I love you very much,” she answered and, in a rush, hugged him and did the same to Ningning.

Ningning reminded sternly Lulu as they parted embrace, “Lulu, you did not answer your father.”

“I cannot promise something I may not be able to keep though I give you my word I will try very, very hard and . . .” she broke in tears, took a step towards the airship, stopped. and turned. “I love you, Papa. I love you, Mama,” looking at each of them. “Naska is Imar,” she said.

Ningning moved quickly and caught her before she could turn. She got her to kneel then embraced and cuddled her. As she did, she whispered, “Try very, very hard, but if you must, though I pray hard that you won’t, be very, very careful.” She then moved back and in a normal voice said, “It will make your Papa and me very happy . . . Please promise,” she pleaded.

“I promise,” Lulu replied loud enough for her father to hear that made him grin at her. “Naska is Imar,” she repeated, with eyes wet; hands waving goodbye; moving backwards up the ramp.

“Naska is Imar,” Amo Obib and Ningning said together as they waved back at their children tightly packed with waving hands behind the airship’s closing door.

 

Amo Obib and Ningning watched the airship lift and pierce through the ship’s west-wall as it flew out of the ship.

Ningning said, “Can we sit and stay here for a moment?” sounding exhausted.

“Are you alright, Ningning?” Amo Obib asked looking at her with concern.

“I’m fine. I just feel so drained.”

“I understand. Take as much time,” he replied and they sat, each to their own thoughts.

Ningning wrapped her arms around Amo Obib’s left arm; leaned her head on his shoulder; and whimpered again.

 

They stayed at the bench for a few minutes and later headed for the hibernating room. Ningning held on to amo’s arm as they walked slowly without a word uttered. On seeing the doorway to the transporter room, Ningning suddenly let go her hold and hurriedly went inside the room leaving Amo Obib standing at the hallway. She checked a drawer’s contents then returned to Amo Obib and held his arm. “I hope Lulu will not do anything foolish,” saying it with her composure gained and held his arm again.

Amo Obib replied as they walked, “Even if she did, she could not prove herself to be an Alien as much as I can convince you that I am human.”

“She took one pyramid crystal,” Ningning said passingly.

Amo Obib stopped walking and got Ningning to face him. He firmly looked at her. “When did you know?” he asked somewhat irritated.

Ningning knew him well. She took his arm and led him again and said nicely, “That does not really matter. We cannot change anything now . . . As a father, the first thing you should learn is to trust your children. It is your fault anyway,” she concluded.

“And, how could that be?” Amo Obib said, baffled and protesting.

“You gave her one of your best quality—-being stubborn.”

“Stubborn?” he protested aloud.

“Would I have convinced you to stop handing those crazy leaflets and speeches on liberalizing educational policies and left it to the Council of Elders to decide?” she asked.

“I doubt it.”

“She’s like you. It’s your fault . . . so don’t blame her.”

‘It’s useless to argue,’ he thought then asked, “What should we do?”

“Pray,” she snapped.

Amo Obib strangely looked at her and said, “You know, Ningning, you are beginning to worry me. You have a weird way of getting people to see and do things differently. Remember the night . . .

 

 

 

Thank you for your time to read Help – 3rd Edition, Episodes 1 thru 3. I hope you found the story intriguing. If you did, you will love the last episode, Episode 4. CLICK THE LINK BELOW FOR THE ENTIRE NOVEL.

 

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I spent over twenty years to write and rewrite this novel, my first, for you. I would be so grateful if you would spend a minute to write a short review. Assess it for its story as I am not a professional nor a literary writer but merely a storyteller. If you like the story, please endorse it to your friends.

 

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NASKA IS IMAR

 

About the Author

I was born December 14, 1943 in Davao City, Philippines. In education, I took Bachelor of Arts major in mathematics, Industrial Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Masters in Business Administration. I migrated to the United States November of 1976 and work there until 1997. My last employer was Mileage Plus, Inc., a subsidiary of United Airlines, as a Senior Systems Analyst. I retired on that same year and returned to my native land, Davao City, Philippines and had lived there to this day. I have a son, John Paul (JP) Campo who resides in Los Angeles, California.

 

On and off, from March of 1981 till September, 2017, I struggled to finish this novel. With no formal writing training, I literally told a story (tell) opposed to the literary standard of ‘show.’ The story’s pace is very fast as there are a lot of scenes to cover. I can only hope that the quality of the story as written, and the philosophical and moral issues it addressed and subtly embedded in the story itself, will not be impaired.

 

 

Other books by this author

I have another book but still in my head. My writing it depends largely on how this novel, Help, is received. It is a story of a couple, extremely wealthy by themselves, but kept it a secret even to each other. Couples who sought for meaningful life for themselves and for their children. Of how each fought hard the temptation to reveal their wealth when existence got tough. Of the problems they had to raise two boys (one became an addict) and a girl to teach them something of better value when material things and social life style became an issue. How each, very discreetly, poured millions of their wealth to improve the quality of life in their community without the other knowing. The book will be titled, “The Other Life”—-a contrast between opulent lifestyle versus simple living—-which is better for us and our children?

Connect with Arturo Campo

 

At 74 years of age, as of December 14, 2016, learning is not easy but familiar with HOTMAIL.

Write me directly through my email address: [email protected] if you wish to discuss or comment on my story, Help

DEDICATION

 

To the loving memory of my father

Anastacio Malaya Campo

 

My mother

Remedios Ponce de Leon Fernandez

 

My wife

Luningning Aguirre

 

———————

 

With much love

John Paul Campo and Melody Tibong

Acknowledgements

You will never know just how far your help got me going.

 

Many thanks:

 

Nena Gutana

Caridad Marasigan

Norma Ezpeleta

Antonio Bacalso

Glen Cear

Melchor Espiritu

and most specially Marijack Pamintuan and Stephen Brandon. Both inspired me to finish this novel.

 


HELP 3rd Edition

The story revolves around a simple phrase, ‘Love one another.’ Of how complex it became when benevolent aliens, only thirty-six, stranded on our planet sought help from us humans to refuel their ship to save their civilization. Aliens who believed in one almighty and benevolent God. Aliens whose society flourished on a firm and deeply rooted abidance to their God’s greatest tenet, ‘Love God and one another.’ Of how ‘helping and loving each other’, deeply etched in the alien’s nature, clashed with human’s attitude to seek power, by whatever means, that when pushed to a corner, the ‘everyone for himself’ mentality in human’s prevail. In contrast, the aliens would rather die than rise at other’s expense. This irrational behavior, this instinct for survival is inherent in us humans. The aliens, faced with such inherences, went their way to get help as they advocated, ‘Help and love one another.’ Wary of the temptation to humans to acquire the power one can hold in their technology, the aliens pushed on to save their civilization through this prevailing human attitude. Thus, the story in four episodes, four points in time, four scenarios. An excerpt from the novel best describes the alien’s predicament through Amo Obib’s, the Alien leader, dilemma. A dilemma that holds true to us intelligent humans today when he concluded: “In all the years I observed humans, I never understood them. Power, greed, and mistrust are things that shaped their destiny. Never in history have they thought of themselves as one, Earthlings. Countries, races, tribes, families, and even within their own family, they compete against each other. I do not understand,” he paused, as he struggled to make sense of it. “It’s sad for it is within the Human’s power to make this planet a wonderful place to live. If they only knew the value in loving and helping each other, they could make their world a paradise.” Accessed for its story, a professional concluded, “This is a formulaic and unique sci-fi novel that fans of aliens, philosophy, and sociology will find engaging.” A conclusion drawn as embedded within the story are philosophical, theological, and sociological issues. Issues true thousands of years ago as it is today! Issues that will make one pause and consider. It will make you wonder and think.

  • ISBN: 9781370942954
  • Author: Arturo F. Campo
  • Published: 2017-09-04 14:20:20
  • Words: 75475
HELP 3rd Edition HELP 3rd Edition