The Rain on Gaia

Alexander Bjørn

The rain fell from above as as Kaprika propped his limp body against the Ship’s lander. He had always liked to watch the rain as a child, in fact this was the first time he had seen rain in near thirty years. It was always a fascinating phenomenon, high above your head small particles of water mixed with dust and pollen and debri from all over the world to form giant oceans of vapor in the sky before getting so heavy that they simply fall. Millions, billions of droplets at a time dance this dance and bring life to a world.

Life.

Why now?

Thirty years was a long time to go without seeing rain, an unfortunate human condition. When humanity set out to the stars, the final hope for humanity, they had found the peculiarity that is being robbed. Barely any water, and no life. Our history of looking to the stars and seeing an abundance of elements was none but an illusion of the past.

Humanity was never a creature to give in. We fought for our life. We needed to drink in and bathe and nothing would stop us. Surrounded by evidence that the water was taken, we took to arms. But there was no one to be found, no worlds for centuries of travel provided for our needs. Every one of them, used and abandoned. Barren. Cold. Dead.

Their ship landed on this world only three days ago.

“It’s beautiful. I can’t believe it’s actually real”

“Look at these readings, it has everything, Ilyum, Everything!”

That day her face was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen; even more than the planet they’d discovered it shined with a grace of triumph and angelic perfection. He could still feel her now, though it was days ago, the fury of their discovery excited them, the beauty of what was in her womb enthralled them. On that day it was just the two of them, and Gaia, the new world that changed everything.

Kaprika vomited onto the visor of the P-suit as the images came back to him. His stomach turned and writhed in pain, or was it shame? He didn’t know or care what he needed to call it. For all he knew it was damn near both. He sighed and removed his helmet and tossed it into the rain.

Before landing they sent a General Calling signal. In three weeks all of humanity would change course to bask in a new world, breathe clean air and feel natural water as it rained on them from the sky. Real rain. It would cause thousands to bathe together. An orgy of youthful joy would explode as humanity would begin again to forget the lessons from their past and devour a whole new future.

 Devour

That was the right word.

Once ashore Ilyum activated her P-suit and began to venture out into a world of wholeness, fresh and unscathed. She collected samples in a stream they had found near the landing sight. The first five tests were OK, no anomalies, the water was non-acidic, contained no amino acids. It seemed to be just pure water. They were puzzled to find no life present on the planet. Initial scans revealed nothing and the surface was as barren as their foster mothers. The thirst welled in them with every test; they continued to get closer and closer to being able to have an entire planet of pure, clean water. Nothing could stop them now; humanity was finally free.

He met her a few years prior when he was issued captainship of an Hb-6 Nemo vessel. Of course the entire operation was simply an interstellar probing that required a pilot and a co-pilot with two years each of H2O Detection Certification. This was at the Jupiter Mining port, where Hydrogen was captured to mix with Oxygen, both abundant enough to create synthetic water, but scarce enough to cause disparity among the officials within the Human Conglomerate Fleet.

Her long black hair was dry, her voice, like his, was coarse and thirsty. Their affair during the last few years of service brought them here, and it was this trust that devoured them whole. The Hb-6 Nemo vessels were not accommodating toward human life, all pilots expected to live a harsh existence in an artificial gravity well that incessantly tested the stomach resistance of those on board.

Unsung heros, all burning and bleeding.

When he filled her with his seed he found nothing closer to earth than what they had inside of her. No women were capable of pregnancy since the Taking. It was said that due to the exposure to space their bodies were becoming incapable of handling conception.

Or they took that too.

     He had nothing in life but her. Her dry kiss and cold hands brought them to salvation. The miracle of who they were and what they represented was irrefutable. Nothing was more perfect, more human.

 

     “Poison test is go, ET and Microbial tests are go, PH test is go, it’s time.”

As she removed her helmet the P-suit disengaged and removed itself in squares from her naked frame to connect to a set of spinal implants. There was no longer a need for clothes for humanity, we were beaten down to mere beasts with technology after the Taking.

He was swelling with excitement just looking at her. That woman held in her hand a new future for humanity, and in her womb a new future for them.

Why didn’t I drink it?

Why didn’t I stop her?

“But, you know, don’t you?”

 

     Tears rushed down his face as he turned and began to furiously punch the lander until the knuckle bracers on his P-suit were irreparably damaged, blood seeped through its newfound cracks and pulled liquid from his body like a river toward the ground. The sight of it made him scream in panic while image of Ilyum choking on her own blood flooded his eyes.

All hope for humanity invested was into that glass and poured into her throat before it devoured her centimeter by centimeter. It flowed a rapid through her body and fed off of her as if she was life itself.

“I can’t watch, I’m sorry, Ilyum I- I ca-can’t take it-” he had said

As it devoured her cells one at a time there was no chance for her body to react; she felt no pain, but her heart was broken as he fled her. The three of them died together in that moment, and she died twice. She was betrayed by the one thing that rooted her to humanity, the one thing that motivated her to drink.

She drank for him and he ran.

He ran. Ran until he left the ship, until he couldn’t breathe. He ran until he vomited and then fainted from exhaustion, long after the P-suit no longer could assist his steps as the clouds above darkened the sky to a nightshade of darkness, he ran.

Five hours had passed when he wandered back to the ship and forced himself to open the hatch where he found her teeth, wet teeth laid on the floor of the ship next to her spinal implants. He was drunk in his grief as he slammed the hatch closed to prevent the water from leaving the ship.

It is alive.

That was all he knew. He had no doubt that with there being no bones the water could have had the teeth too if it wanted them.

It knows.

And so he spent the day leaning on the landers and shielding himself from the rain, he knew it flowed toward him, it preyed on him.

He felt only fear. He had everything taken from him, there was nothing in this world or any other world for that matter. He didn’t care about humanity anymore, he would let them discover this world and die so long as she was gone. Until, in his delusions a voice came.

We’re here Kaprika, your daughter and I are here”

A daughter, he chuckled, humanity’s salvation: a beautiful little girl. What a world that would be. He loved them both, and they loved him, even now. Just over the hills they stood in the rain waiting for him to be their father, lover. For a moment they began to play in the rain. The two of them mother and daughter naked as the day they were born, splashing each other and laughing, no longer thirsty, no longer desperate.

He would be laughing too.

“I’m coming, my love, my babies, Daddy’s coming!”

The P-suit peeled off of him in a fury as his body was released from its shackles and began sprinting toward the hills, toward his only true loves.

But the only life Kaprika found in those hills ate him alive and spread his body thousands of kilometers. Into small streams of blood it shared its bounty with the whole of the planet. It would feast on him for months as it waited for its next meal, a meal it knew would be bigger than ever.

Russell was eating from a package labeled DIETARY SUPPLEMENT C in all caps when the monitor beeped and flickered a fury that was his death sentence. With a start, he scrambled toward the screen, and almost fell off his chair at the sight.

“Holy shit, it’s water, FUCKING WATER!”

After he absently pressed an array of buttons while he fumbled toward the intercom key, he announced in a hurried breath, “Captain to the bridge, code blue. Captain to the bridge, code blue.” oover and over until Captain McConnell hit him on the back of the head with a magazine.

“Will you stop that racket, damnit once was enough Mr. Furrows!”

“Yes Captain”

McConnell was a stocky woman, with a furious gaze of green eyes that made Russell Furrows shudder and damn near wet himself on every eye contact, the fact that she wore her p-suit at all times did nothing to help his nerves.

“-but Captain, look at this, it’s real, I think someone’s discovered Gaia!”

At this she simply turned and asked “Distance.” as if it was a statement.

“15.8 lightyears, so, four months.”

“Set a course Mr. Furrows, and I don’t want a word of this leaving my bridge, do you understand?”

“But Captain there’s wa-”

“I don’t care if god is on that rock, you misread the data and filed a false alert, got it? I don’t want a frenzy of bullshit like last time.”

     The memory of Russell absent mindedly informing the crew of her birthday flooded her mind with a large jolt of anxiety that made her want to shut herself into her rapidly filling cocoon that passed for a captain’s quarters for a whole year. He really was a good kid, and he meant nothing by it, but it was still an unacceptable invasion of her privacy that she had yet to come to terms with. Not to mention, with how quickly word spreads on this ship she knew all too well that the very mention of a general signal would send her to the guillotine should it prove a false report.

She then calmed herself with a deep breath and continued:

“Has there been any other report from the Nemo probe in that region?”

“No, only the general signal.”

It would have taken three weeks for that signal to reach us they must have sent extra data by now. Heather McConnell turned her back toward Russell and with a curt nod, and left him to his duties. Something was wrong here. Though this was the first time a general signal, designed to send a message faster than light, had ever been sent out in the entire history of human desperation, she saw no need to celebrate. There has to be more than the signal, confirmation, a word, anything. She wasn’t foolish enough to think that there was life on that rock, the galaxy was barren, just like her, an empty womb aged and dried up.

So she followed her usual trail toward her quarters. The drab greys and puce of the hallways filled her eyes in a field of sameness, one that felt wholly unreal as her mind filled with images of blue waves and grey clouds. With four thousand people on board she had still managed to find herself the quickest route to her quarters and shut herself in without seeing more than five people a day. A consistent, woeful routine. Just the way she liked it, just enough to keep her focused on the task at hand. The door to her personally requested cupboard- size quarters opened with the push of a button and welcomed her into a sanctuary of silence. Enough time to think.

Real water

But only an alert. A trap? Humanity, though desperate and mostly united was not without rogue captains calling themselves space pirates in hopes of wetting a boner and their own tongues.

It couldn’t be, even pirates wouldn’t use the general signal for anything but water, it would bring the whole fleet down upon them; they’d be killed off by the second ship, if not the first one. It was simply an unspoken rule that you just didn’t fuck with that signal, everyone is far too thirsty for that.

Real water.

She leaned back on her bed and deactivated her p-suit as she stared blankly at the ceiling. At the very least they’ll have to double check the situation when they’re within scanning distance. Unfortunately that won’t be for another two months. In the meantime she’ll have to find a way to properly inform the crew before their families on other ships catch wind of Hydra’s new expedition to Gaia. She couldn’t help feeling unease. In all her years no one had sent that signal, she couldn’t understand why now, and what seemed to frustrate her more was why her. Being captain was enough responsibility as it is, and she had never expected to be a pioneer in the search for water. There were no expeditions for the Hydra, it was more or less a passenger vessel. It had no business leading humanity into a new era of ensured survival.

But the most striking was the lack of sufficient information. Water brings life, and the signal, being only empty and plain as it was, filled her with the fear that those people had discovered something on their little Hb-6 Nemo that cut their journey short. Going through her mind over and over was the suspicion that If something took the water from the galaxy, that something would surely try to keep it from us if we got close. The disappearance of the water seemed all too convenient to her to simply happen, and though she couldn’t say why, she had a gut feeling that this incomplete calling card was linked to some unknown blackness.

After the Captain left the bridge Russell quickly scarfed down his Supplements and leaned back in his chair. Water, Never in his life had he seen water formed by natural processes and frankly the idea gave him a sort of arousal that he had never experienced before. Though never in his life had he seen a beach he could see himself bathing by a great lake, or an ocean, splashing and playing in liquid life. He stayed in his fantasy for several hours until finally it got the best of him.

We’ve found Gaia, he thought, water.

Russell would soon know that he was the reason so many good people on board the Hydra would die, but in that moment, all he thought of was the freedom and wealth of a planet with oceans, and with that in mind he plotted the course to Gaia, as ordered.

-ABK

Spring 12017

     Originally I wrote this story in Japanese for a class as an experiment on the extent of my understanding of the language. The experiment was an unbelievable failure, but the idea of a story where humanity was trapped in a galaxy where some mysterious outside force had stolen all of the water while a plague of infertility ravaged the human population stuck with me. I also experimented with the thought that the first human pregnancy since the onset of this plague would be a disaster, which would take the form of a sentient planet who would consume a small family and wait for new prey to come.

     I like the idea of a story leaving more questions than answers, and intentionally wrote this to be a confusing narrative, shifting points of view rapidly and discussing matters both present and past to show the extent of the fear Kaprika experienced.

     I scrapped the story not long after translating it to English, but had some ideas of a book in mind- where hundreds of ships would approach the general signal and all of the women on board those ships would suddenly become fertile, McConnell and her crew would never make it, though, and would die during a race with space pirates. To me it was interesting, but far more than I had the ability to write at the time. 

     The story itself has undergone editing multiple times and I would like to acknowledge my brother Frank who spent several hours with an earlier draft of this story (back when it was absolute garbage) and taught me several important lessons involving the nature of storytelling. I figured that though I no longer have an interest in pursuing the story itself, it would be best to share what of it that has been written with the world.

     Until next time, cheers!

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