The display read 28 May 2321. It also displayed general information on the outside atmosphere. 77 percent nitrogen, 22 percent oxygen, 0.8 percent argon, and 0.2 percent unidentified gases. Temperature is 22 degrees Celsius, humidity 81 percent.
It is almost the same as Earth’s, Ashley said. Atmospheric pressure is 87% of that on Earth. We should have no trouble breathing here, but we may grow tired quicker, but slightly lower gravity may compensate.
The others were sceptical, but the surroundings looked suspiciously similar to Earth. Trees with deep green leaves, a strange creature shot through the grass-like straws. Some kind of cross between a cat, a dog and a koala. Looked harmless.
I didn’t expect to see mammal-like creatures here, Aron said. He was the commander of the mission and immediately after touchdown; he took the initiative. I’m going into the airlock, no space suit, no oxygen. Lydia, you take command if I don’t make it.
They sealed the airlock and watched as Aron prepared himself. He rolled his shoulders, looked up, took a deep breath, wiggled his arms. Okay, open the outer door.
The door made a whooshing sound as air rushed out. Because of the lower atmospheric pressure, he felt slightly dizzy for a moment, but adapted quickly. The air was fresh, like he’d never experienced before. One small step for us, a giant leap into the future. The grass was soft and slightly damp, and the leaves of the trees made a soft hustling sound in the gentle breeze. What a perfect world, Aron thought. They were here to build a new world for humanity and he fantasised about how it would turn out. The six astronauts were highly intelligent, each a specialist in their field, chosen after extended physical and psychological tests. Earth 2.0 would be a lot more successful than the old world they’d left behind.
He turned and looked at the spaceship behind him. A relic of their old world. The last great achievement before civilisation turned inwards and was forced to react to the climate catastrophe of the late twenty-first century. There were no space missions anymore, no looking to the future. Earth had enough problems to deal with. He imagined they’d probably forgotten about this very mission, Genesis I, launched to explore a promising planet in the Alpha Centauri star system. Scientists had pinpointed this planet in 2176 as very similar to Earth, and a mission was immediately prepared.
The six astronauts would need to find a way to communicate with Mission Control, if it still existed. The findings were correct. This could be a perfect Earth 2.0. A new Eden.
The airlock closed and within a few seconds, the other five were outside. I suppose building a fire should be safe, Lydia said. The atmosphere is similar to ours and the ground isn’t overly dry. Let’s set up camp here.
The days were longer, around 27 hours and a few minutes, but they got used to it. The trees provided excellent building material, and there was enough edible vegetation. Within a few weeks, they were no astronauts anymore; they were settlers. A few exhibitions had revealed a mountain range in one direction and a large lake or an ocean close by. They relocated and set up camp on the shore.
Lydia was busy working on the communications equipment, trying to contact Earth. She and Aron were getting very friendly, while Ben, the biologist, was trying his best with Ashley. Ben laughed about them being Adam and Eve, and that they would create a new humankind. Ashley shrugged it off. Spoiling this world with humans was the last thing she was interested in. The more she learned about this new world, the more absurd the idea was. Wounds left by chopped trees angered her. The houses they built didn’t belong here. What if they managed to contact Earth and thousands, or millions of people arrived here?
Would they destroy the forests? Would native species go extinct? Would the oceans become acidic and die?
The idea was unbearable.
It was on the evening of 29 August that everything changed. Three months and a day after planetfall, two camps later, Ben made his move. Aron and Lydia were off for a walk along the shore when Ben put his arms around Ashley. She resisted, but he grabbed her tighter. You know you want it, babe. We are Adam and Eve and without us, this world will die. He slipped his hand down her trousers while holding her. She couldn’t move. She tried to fight him off, but he was stronger. He finished what he’d started and rolled over. Ashley lay in the sand, tears running down her cheeks. Aron and Lydia were far away and the other two were at the spaceship. She was alone in this alien world.
Rage was building up in her. Ben had violated this peaceful world, violated her, destroyed what they had. Their duty was to build a new human race, to populate a world that didn’t need or want them. She realised everything would be the same, women would be subdued, raped, abused. The planet would be exploited. Rage got the better of her. She grabbed a stone and struck Ben on the head. He screamed and raised himself up, his hair soaked in blood. Ashley panicked, didn’t understand why she’d done this. Regretted the whole thing and wanted to apologise, was ready to give in to anything that was expected of her. He attacked her, grabbed her throat, pushed her to the ground. She had no choice. Still holding the rock in her hand, she struck again. This time, he fell to the ground. Ben was dead.
She sat there for a few minutes, crying over what had happened. To her and Ben. How the mission was now in jeopardy. What kind of justice system did they have here? None, they would have to improvise. How would they punish her?
Something moved in the bushes behind her. A large animal with enormous teeth approached her. Ashley stood up and walked slowly backwards, towards the water. The animal made growling noises, and she almost tripped. Then it focused its attention on Ben’s corpse and ripped it open. Another animal appeared and joined the first. They were scavengers, not interested in her.
Ashley ran through the forest to the old camp, found the space ship. She was in panic. Lucy and Simon, the two scientists on the mission, saw her approaching. We made a breakthrough; they exclaimed. The incubator works. The fertilised eggs are responding. We should have around fifty babies in nine months. Enough for genetic diversity, enough to create a new human race!
Ashley smiled and entered the spaceship. Looked at the faint glow at the back, at the glass tubes. The embryos were still just a handful of cells, invisible to the human eye. Nobody would notice.
This is the twenty-first installment in the Moments series