In the beginning, p.1
In The Beginning, p.1Derek White
‘IN THE BEGINNING’ Is The First In A Collection Of Short Stories, ‘UNICORN WITCH’S CAULDRON’ Due For Release In The Summer Of 2013 And Featuring The Worlds And Characters You Will Know From The ‘UNICORN WITCH TRILOGY’.
The short stories, including this one, whilst complete in themselves, would be better read after reading ‘Unicorn Witch’
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WHEN THE STORY TOLD IN THE ‘Unicorn Witch Trilogy’) OPENS IT IS YEAR
28,560 (By the Godhe Calendar)
PREFACE (FOR ANYONE WHO HAS NOT READ EVEN ONE OF THE BOOKS)
The inhabitants of the fourth planet of one of the last solar systems found before leaving this galaxy know their world as Refuge. Until the events described in ‘Unicorn Witch’ they knew only that their ancestors, and occasionally people now, were brought from Earth by a race they called ‘The Old Ones’. The transport to Refuge was initially of unicorns, dragons, ‘were’ creatures and other endangered species. Later a mutation of Homo sapiens sapiens were added when on earth they began to be burnt as witches. The Godhe, as they call themselves, have their own problem in that for over five thousand years since the problem developed, when the males reach puberty their long bones continue to grow whilst their associated muscles atrophy causing constant pain.
From the age of about eight, all natives of Refuge are able to mentally ‘call’ for small items such as food and it will come to their hand: they refer to their ability as ‘magic’. Some have more power and are able to start fires, cause rain and change the nature of things. Passing five tests gets one classified ‘Bronze’. They are (i) Call some object weighing more than one kilo to your hand. (ii) Move that same something under control to a third party, (iii) start a fire mentally, (iv) Make rain, and (v) Change the nature of something e.g. water to wine, charcoal to diamond, etc.
Defeat two Bronzes in contest to become Silver. Defeat two Silvers to become Gold, and two Golds to become White.
Passing just one test qualifies a citizen to take a familiar. This familiar may be any animal, and that animal gains human intelligence whilst near its partner and will only age as does the human. They are telepathically linked to their best friend for life. The unicorns are universally telepathic and as inherently intelligent as the humans, possibly more so. At the beginning of the story told in the ‘Unicorn Witch Trilogy’ Tyana Counter has the only unicorn familiar in the world.
In the first book, ‘Unicorn Witch’, Tyana, aided by Marcus, with unicorn partners Karim and Rebel solved the mystery of the losses of powers that had been occurring. They discovered that the hormone produced in the frontal sinus that gave the inhabitants of Refuge their powers was being stolen ‘magically’ or by telekinesis. Godhe criminals had discovered that an injection of the hormone had the effect of removing for up to six months the pain suffered by the males of the Godhe. It also gave a feeling of well-being which made it addictive. The criminals who had been stealing the hormone were caught and sent for rehabilitation. It was hoped that research into why the hormone helped the Godhe men would lead to a cure
IN THE BEGINNING
YEAR 1266 (By the Godhe Calendar)
“I hope the others are having better luck in their quadrants,” commented Mercury as the drive to their ship died, probably for the last time.
He was the captain of the Argonaught, a combined exploration and colonisation vessel that had been travelling for just over two hundred years. His First Officer, Janus, reacted, pushing a button on the console and saying, “Engineering, report!”
“That’s the end of her, I’m afraid, Sir. We can start up the old ion drive that’s good for low speed indefinitely, either for returning home or continuing the mission. “Power to life-support and the hydroponics unit are unaffected, which is the only good news I can give you.”
“Captain to all officers, ……..… Meeting on The Bridge now!”
“Let me summarize,” began the Captain. “We have just over 3,000 on board, a slight increase on what our ancestors left Centrallis with, and no shortage of food, water, or air. The collision a month ago when we stopped briefly to check our position damaged the main cosmic ray converters. A jury-rigged repair got us this far, but without more facilities than we have on board they are dead. There are two choices.
“We can either start back, continue as a colony ship and our descendants will get home around six thousand years from now, that’s about one hundred and eighty generations.
“Or we continue to our target and in about a month we get to the third planet and finish what we started.
“This is not a democracy, but nevertheless I propose to put it to the vote!”
The choice to continue was almost unanimous, and two months later the last of the ferries landed on the third planet of a sun very similar to that of Centrallis. The Argonaught was headed towards the sun as otherwise, in a few hundred years she would crash when her orbit decayed. They had spread themselves around the planet in colonies of about five hundred each and they mostly found the same thing.
The dominant life form was bipedal, very limited intelligence and determined to eradicate the intruders, even though there was ample room for all. All attempts to communicate with or help them were met with violence, and for generations the colonists had to divide their time between defending their communities, growing food, hunting, and other primitive pursuits.
Contact was lost between continents as radios failed and there was no one to repair them. The ferries had long since been used as sources of raw materials and well within the first thousand years even language became local. Sadly, the original ‘owners’ of the world had, by then, become extinct.
Hermes woke, removed the catheter from his forearm and looked at the chrono.
Two hundred and twenty years had passed, so he should be near Tellus. He had its sun’s spectrograph, so was easily able to pick it out from those in front of his craft. So far so good. Odysseus joined him at the viewing screen but had bad news. “Only Venus made it. Corella died shortly after take-off I’m afraid!”
“You’ve cremated her remains?”
“And said ‘goodbye’. It’ll take us a little longer, but we can still do it. We’re about a billion miles from a suitable star so our first job is to check that there’s no life on any of its four planets.”
This was soon done
For the first time in living memory eleven of the twelve Old Ones, comprising the ruling council of the Godhe, were excited. The various conversations died as Zeus entered and took his place.
“I’m sure you’ve all heard the news,” he announced. “Hermes landed this morning and will be here shortly to report. As you will no doubt remember we lost contact with his ship when he bravely entered the new worm hole we’d opened and we only heard from him again as he emerged seven days ago.
“Ironically the crew which made it possible by setting up the equipment to establish the other end of the hole were led by his great great great ( I don’t know how many greats) grandson who came back to us three months ago. They left here five hundred and fifty years ago. Only Hermes the First as I will call him, and Odysseus survived the antidote to the suspended animation gas, and they’re both still with the medics now. They were very unlucky to lose two out of four but let’s hope those days are ended, except of course for the crews who are still out there.”
“How many are still to be accounted for?” asked Heracles .
“Before I tell you that, there are some present who will not be familiar with the programme,” answered Zeus.
“For the more distant stars it was necessary to develop a suspended animation gas similar to our anaesthetic one but requiring an antidote as otherwise the crews would die before the mission was half completed.
“With the crew under the influence of type 2 gas until nearly there they aged only the few days they experienced when conscious and they were then automatically injected with the antidote. Most survived, and so exciting did they find exploration that there was no shortage of volunteers even though the losses were about five in every hundred.
About four thousand years ago our ancestors experimented briefly with colonisation ships; huge vessels carrying whole communities, but of the three despatched two were lost and one returned.
“Later, in the last millennium the theory of using the entire output of a local star to electrically charge eight large plates positioned in an octet was developed and it proved possible to open a wormhole on demand. Another hundred years and it was worked out how to set up a similar system near a desired destination which could be initiated from either end once the control system was accessed. The return trip from setting it up had to be the hard way.
“Over a hundred crews set out to do this to different star systems knowing that when they returned all friends would have died.
“The first of these to return was led by Hermes the First, and I ask you all - - -
“Who is the braver, Hermes the First or our Hermes who took a ship solo to test the system? Don’t answer, as I hear him coming.”
Hermes entered and whilst at six feet tall he was the shortest man present, his personality was such that he had the immediate attention of all. He was, of course, wearing the black and gold uniform of his trade. That helped, but no man present looked more relaxed. One would not think that he’d just risked his life for science.
He walked over to Zeus and sat beside him.
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” he began, “that the system works is obvious as otherwise I would not be here.
“I found myself nearer the centre of the galaxy than we are on this world and heading for a star very similar to our own sun. Our astronomers called it Tellus and when I got near I found it had nine planets. Number Three is similar in size and climate to Centrallis and has a unique feature.
“You will all have read about the various races which populate the worlds we’ve visited, but where these are so fascinating is that they look very similar to ourselves.
“They walk on two legs, have two arms with five digits including opposed thumbs just as we have.”
He paused so that this could be considered by the Council.
“Most worlds have herbivores with either four or six legs and carnivores the same except for teeth. Here I saw, not counting the humans, five separate species living on land with measurable intelligence. There was also at least one in the seas.
“Of course I did not land, and I kept my craft invisible, but I recommend that that world be visited by a research team as soon as possible. I will be happy to take them!”
“Questions?” asked Zeus.
Poseidon was first to respond. “Were there any signs of civilisation? Where did they sleep? Were there any roads or railways, did they have air travel? Did you detect any electromagnetic waves? Give us a proper report, Man!”
Hermes came close to losing his temper, but after a pause replied, “My brief was to test the new system and report back! Only because I saw what appeared to be humans like ourselves did I stay for more than a fly past.
“I can tell you that they live in caves or mud huts. They use tools, but I could only see wooden and stone ones as I flew over. No man made radiation, no air travel though at least four of the species on the world can fly. The humans ride some of the animals for transport or use them to pull carts.
“I wanted to learn more, of course, but getting back to report success seemed more important.”
“And so it was!” stated Zeus. “Poseidon, you owe him an apology! I propose a full-scale expedition. Do we need a vote?”
A show of hands on request made it unanimous. All present wanted to learn more about Tellus Three, and without exception wanted to see for themselves the world that had so caught the imagination of Hermes.
“We need at least six of us here to maintain some semblance of normality as the round trip, even not allowing for time spent there, will be over a month. We’ll have a ballot: anyone having second thoughts may withdraw.”
Zeus gave Hyperion the task of organising it. As it was coming up to the time of the annual holiday the Council took each year it was agreed that six could be spared and Hermes the First plus his surviving crewmember if they wished could go.
“Each person going will be responsible for one of the scientists who are bound to want to go.”
“Zeus, a question if I may,” said Hebe before they disbanded.
“Do we know if the Valhallans are still monitoring all we do? If they know of this they are bound to want to take part! After all, Balder’s family were part of the team to develop the system. It’s true that there is little contact because their world is so much cooler than Centrallis, but it may prevent future trouble if we invite them.
“Presumably this Tellus Three has regions near the poles which would be of more interest to them.”
“I can only say ‘probably!’ Certainly there are poles, and as each had an ice cap they must be cooler. Whether any such regions are inhabited we’ll have to see. Even near the equator there are vast areas with no life except the animals and birds.”
“That’s what I called the two legged creatures with two wings that were able to fly.”
“You said there were four species that could fly,” commented Zeus. “What did you call the others?”
“I didn’t. One was a large four legged reptile and another a real puzzle. I tried to follow one on the scanner and it flew straight into the base of a tree, and then disappeared. I searched, but could only find a four-legged animal where it had been. The last was a collection of varied, very small creatures that flew from flower to flower.
“No doubt we’ll learn more when we get there.
Hebe, as requested, took the short trip to Valhalla and, much to her surprise, was welcomed into their Council chamber. The Council congratulated her on the successful return of Hermes, and the working system, then got straight to the point.
“Don’t look so surprised, My Dear,” Balder said to her. “You were all aware that we’ve been preparing for yet another war for years now. I’m only relieved that something else will take priority with a project we can work together on.
“We offer our help and support. It’s time to reunite the Godhe!”
“But why were you preparing for a war in the first place?”
“Have you studied the history of Valhalla, Hebe?”
“Only the little we were taught at school.”
“I thought so! Twenty thousand years ago when we Godhe got out into space, this was the nearest world to Centrallis that could support our life. It was, however, much cooler than our home world, so only the most adventurous of our young people were prepared to travel and live here to relieve the population problem we had back home.
“After a few generations many of the younger ones, having visited Centrallis, wished they could return but, of course, that would have put even more pressure on the limited resources there, whilst leaving us here short of people.
“There are, unfortunately, always some people who would rather fight for what they want than be reasonable. That is why we’ve had, generally speaking, a war between the worlds about once e
“I feel that a joint project to develop this Tellus III will provide an outlet for the hot headed ones we now have.
“I suppose, looking back, if we hadn’t had the wars we’d be even more overcrowded than we are now. I do know that I’m going to join the expedition, and I’m sure Thor will want to lead us!”
So it was that a month later four ships, two from each world headed for the newly commissioned wormhole.
Zeus studied the two lists and wondered just how they would all get along.
Zeus, Hermes, Hermes I, Thor, Odin, Ymir
Hades, Persephone, Apollo, Asgard, Balder, Dvalin,
Hypnos, Eurynome, Aphrodite, Brunhilde, Edda, Karl,
Thanatos, Pan, Promeseus, Sol, Vor, Saga,
Hera, Athene, Hebe. Alfhild, Disen, Jarl
and Heracles and Freya
Two weeks after leaving their respective home worlds the four ships entered Earth’s atmosphere and in an invisible state separated as planned during the journey. Each ‘mapped’ a quarter of the globe, meeting in the evening in the centre of a large deserted area. (We now know it as the Gobi desert.) For convenience the locations will be given their twenty first century names.
At this meeting a decision was made unanimously that would have far reaching consequences.
Summarizing, Zeus wound up the discussion with, “So, we are all agreed!
“This is the first time the Godhe have visited a world populated, if only sparsely, by a race with notable intelligence. There will be, I have no doubt, many others in the future. We will not interfere with their development or give them help of a scientific nature. Individual acts of life saving are fine, but only using techniques they will understand.”
The temperatures they had observed made the Valhallans opt for a Northern area for their studies, Norway and Sweden, whilst the Centrallians chose The Mediterranean, in particular the Greek islands.
In The Beginning by Derek White / Fantasy have rating 3.1 out of 5 / Based on34 votes