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The Moon of Myropis

Joan Saunders Page 1 1/6/2010

The Moon of Myropis


By Joan Saunders

The rocket engines gave one last burst of flame and vibration, and settled into
silence. As Leanna looked out the window, the stars seemed to leap towards her in
response, as though they’d been kept at bay by the fiery trail of the vehicle which carried
her to her new life as Caretaker.
“Better gather your things – be careful – you don’t want to spend the next year
without your toothbrush.” Jason joked before pulling himself back into the adjacent
compartment and buckling himself behind the controls.
Leanna noticed that he’d gotten a snack while he was up. She was hungry, and
tired of the packaged rations that had been their fare for the last three months. There was
a garden on Callimede. The moon was smaller than earth, but had a rich, moist
atmosphere. She grabbed a package of the orange Tang drink and something resembling
peanut butter with raisins, consuming it as she finished packing. Hotel rooms would be
easy after this. She had to check all corners of her tiny compartment for missing items.
Her mirror floated next to the ceiling, unused except as an occasional diversion when the
light reflected from it. Leanna Gives looked in it and grimaced as she bound her greasy
hair under a cap.
The ship shook and reverberated as a shuttle docked. Jason passed the luggage
through the airlock to a woman with clean, shiny, shoulder length brown hair. The hair
swung around behind her, as she turned to meet her new associate.
“Hello, Leanna, I’m Maya Mann, roommate extraordinaire.” She said with a wave
of one hand, while using the other to push back the hair that had risen above her. She
placed the last bag against the wall and fastened elastic straps over it. “I know we’ll be
best friends – because there is no competition.” She smiled, before continuing to
exchange mail and supplies with the captain of the larger ship. Gives smiled as the other
woman shook a box next to her ear. It must be like a holiday for her, getting the yearly
packages from home.
A grizzled man of around fifty appeared from the navigating compartment of the
shuttle to say goodbye to his companion of the last few years. They hugged and Maya
leaned over, barely missing his beard with a phantom kiss.
“I hope Leanna is as good with a shovel as you were, Bill.” She said as she wiped
a tear from her eyes.
“That ground’s so soft that even you could have tilled the garden, Maya.” He
winked, as he counted his baggage and sat down to strap himself in. Jason clasped
Leanna’s hand and hugged Maya, then watched as the women withdrew into the shuttle.
Soon they were strapped in and the engines were throbbing.
The new Caretaker looked forward to reaching Callimede and its homey
conveniences. She had seen pictures of the house and garden, and of the stream that
provided both water and power through a picturesque waterwheel. There they would plot
the paths of the stars, review the information from the satellites which orbited Myropis
and, in their brief periods of leisure, indulge in Earthly pleasures like hot baths, home
cooked meals and videos.
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The brackets clanged as the shuttle was released from the larger vessel. With a
shudder, they pulled away. The moon that was to be her home for at least the next three
years was sheathed in blue mist. Twin suns caused unusual effects of light and shadow.
Leanna couldn’t tell what was mountain, water or valley until the shuttle was very near
landing. A wall of green rose above a plain of dark soil.
“There were no plants as we know them here, and the oxygen content was very
low, in spite of the presence of so much water. The moon and the planet below were both
otherwise atmospherically perfect for advanced life, but none was present. The
combination is why this location was chosen.” Maya explained.
Gives knew the history of the station. Centuries before, the Rotondians had been
in danger of extinction due to a comet being on course to collide with their planet. The
astronomical event was forecast decades before it was to occur. The furry blue people
lived in communities similar to those of ancient Earth civilizations. They had fire, they
worked soft metals, and they wrote in an elaborate flowery script on a finely woven,
starched cloth. Their cities were built on the sides of hills, with dwellings entered from
the top.
First contact was very nearly last contact. The Rotondians have very primitive
immune systems. The planet was an Eden, free of most of the types of organisms that
cause Earthly disease. A plague, caused by the human visitors, spread to the natural
boundaries of one province, killing nearly all of the inhabitants in the area. The few who
survived did so by receiving advanced and permanent medical care from Earth. Had the
scheduled date of the evacuation not been moved forward, perhaps the comet would have
never become an issue. The previous first choice for their new home was rejected, and a
barren world was chosen in its stead. This planet, the large red and blue globe now visible
on my new horizon, Myropis, had had a plentiful water table, lakes and ponds and no life.
The strong magnetic field gave us many challenges. And the fact that we could not
expose ourselves and the germs we carried to the richly oxygenated atmosphere made
things even more difficult.
And yet, we managed to save this people in spite of themselves. In trying to save
them from the diseases that decimated an entire colony, we became familiar with their
physiology. We determined what drugs reacted well with their systems and which were
damaging. Several of their number were kept alive with the help of drug therapy in the
bubbles used for human patients born with immune system deficiencies. We learned their
language and their culture and how to anesthetize them and safely evacuate them to a
new world. Their own plants and animals were transplanted with them. Homes were built
to the specifications of their previous abodes. Then we withdrew to watch and protect.
In the beginning, many of their number were chosen to be spokespeople for us.
We implanted radios in their skulls and told them clearly, in their own language, of
problems that could occur. On the long trip from the doomed planet to their new home
world, they had been shown the stars along the way. Videos displaying images of fire and
other disasters were used to explain the disaster they were escaping. They had been aware
of the sickness, and many of their citizens, still clothed in protective bubbles, were
allowed to speak to them of the wonders of our world and of our concerns for their well-
being.
Alexandra was the greatest Rotondian spokesperson during that time. Her words
encouraged and enthused. She convinced them of our good intentions and of the benefits
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of our protection, inspite of the reality of the bubble that forever separated her from her
people. She could not stay with them, but was forced to watch longingly as the other
Rotondians were led to homes in the hills of Myropis.
“This place has been chosen for you by the Caretakers as being the location where
you will most prosper.” She had announced shortly before they reached their destination.
“There may be blacker soil and fuller foliage elsewhere on the planet, but this place is a
safe place, a sweet and fragrant home for raising children for generations to come.”
Even then there was dissension below the surface.
“We roamed the world from sea to sea on Terrian.” One voice said to another.
“And beyond the seas, on the seas and under the seas.” The second voice
responded.
“What is danger? The loss of a life from a large fish? Drowning from
miscalculation? It is a small price to pay for dominion of all one surveys.” The first
agreed.
But, in the settling again on warm soil, in the arranging of meager belongings in
new homes of a different hue, in the receiving of fields already tilled and planted with
crops from their own world, there were no words of disparagement. The valley, far from
the uncontainable seas, had a lake that wound around the mountains, farther than the eye
could see. The hills rose into these mountains, and the mountains rose on to the horizon.
The trip between planets had taken months. There had been complaints about the
food, the accommodation and the brainwashing some perceived as happening. The
Rotondians were primitive beings, similar in culture to the more peaceful of American
Indians before the arrival of the Europeans, except that they had a greater love for the sea.
Some things they understood, most they did not. They did not like the way we spoke their
language, particularly as we could not be in their presence without our heavy suits,
protecting them from the death we carried with us. And yet, the majority, with the help of
Alexandra, were convinced of our good intentions. With our encouragement, they wrote
of their history and of their future – as we told them of the planet they were to inhabit, of
its dangers and its beauties. These latter texts were referred to as The Prophesies.
The few listened well and wrote all. When our ship withdrew, they visited the
radios, sprinkled throughout their settlement, at the appointed times, morning and
evening. The atmosphere and magnetic fields made radio transmission difficult. They
heard us in a distorted manner, but tried to follow our leading. Many instructions were
garbled and misunderstood, yet they, as well as the prophecies which were correctly
interpreted, were recorded in the books.
Callimede, largest moon of Myropis, became home to a series of human guardians
of the Rotondians. The planet had been seeded heavily with oxygen producing plants as
soon as the plans had become firm. Our predecessors lived in relative comfort as they
charted the stars and predicted the weather, both of the planet and of the spheres. They
warned of storms, floods, avalanches and great winters.
“Build barns for your produce.” One of The Caretakers had repeatedly told them.
He had spoken through the speakers, causing murmuring and disbelief. Alexandra had
had a microphone in her bubble suit, so she had heard us clearly, and had responded with
intelligence and wisdom. With the hopes of similar results, Alex, descendent of
Alexandra, was kidnapped one night with great sanitary caution and implanted with a
communication device.
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Days later, as he went about his business, the message was again broadcast.
“Build barns for your produce. The summer will be long and the harvest great, but
the winter will encompass three seasons. Hunger and death await those who do not
prepare.”
“Why do you tell me this?” He asked, aware of the prophecies and the voices his
ancestors had heard, yet suspicious of that which contradicted his own experiences.
“Lead your people, save them from starvation.” He was told.
“How do I know that this isn’t an evil?” Alex queried.
“Go a day’s walk from your home, you will see a small pond and a dwelling
there. Build a fire and wait for instructions.”
In spite of his doubt and fear, Alex went. In the dwelling, there was food, a large
tin filled with powder, and a bowl of plastic balls.
“Eat.” He was told. And he did.
“Now, take a ball and twist it apart. Fill one half with the powder and take it to the
fire. Stand back and throw it in.”
Alex did as he was told and was rewarded with a fierce display of colored lights
and noise. He dove behind a rock and quivered there.
The voice spoke again, “I will give you this and other signs to show your people.
You must convince them to build barns and store grain from the harvest. Let your
animals multiply and store sufficient food for them as well. Weave warmer clothes.
Prepare for this event as we prepared for the migration for you.”
“The migration is a fable, a myth.” Alex responded quizzically. “There is no
evidence that it ever really occurred.”
“The migration was a reality. An epic in your history. Do not forget its message.”
The voice responded.
And the disaster was avoided.
For many years thereafter, the old texts were read as truth, the new messages of
the voices were followed, and the positive results recorded. The radios were visited
frequently and guidance was given on when to plant and where to build. Medicinal
advice was provided. The Rotondians had advanced to the point of working with harder
metals. The Caretakers responded to any question that could easily be answered in words
that the inhabitants understood. Mining accidents, problems with fumes and other
tragedies were minimized or avoided. The relationship between the Caretakers and their
subjects flourished.
As technology bloomed, the hours in the day seemed to diminish. Visits to the
radios became less frequent. Vehicles which ran on hydrocarbon were invented and oil
became a valued commodity. The civilization expanded beyond safe geographic limits,
despite the repeated warnings and written commandments against it. In time radios and
Caretakers were forgotten or ignored by all but a few.
With two suns, the planet does not have the predictability of days and nights, tides
and seasons that we do. A low mountain ridge divides the oceans from the plains which
stretch beyond the higher Plachian range, which protects the land of the Rotondians. The
tides are normally not high enough to cross this barrier, but when the suns both shine on
the massive icecaps from a reduced distance, the volume of the seas is greatly increased.
When the moons are close together and the planet is angled a particular way from the
suns, the tide will rise above the ridge like floodwater over a dam.
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Esau loved the mountains. He had mapped more of them than any explorer before
him. His travels had taken him beyond the peaks of the Plachians and into the foothills on
the other side. As he stood on Mount Esau, he could see an ocean through his telescope.
The concept of an ocean was strange to him, as it had been hundreds of years since any of
his people had seen one. Yet, he had read the stories and prophecies of his people and he
knew what he saw. There would be new worlds beyond those waters, and the waters
would be a universe of themselves. He was sure of it. They would build ships and travel
far and wide, and eat of the delicacies that the oceans held.
“We have a real problem.” Maya told Leanna at breakfast, a few months after
their introduction.
Leanna took a sip of the coffee that she had helped to grow, dry, grind and brew
and raised her eyebrows in response.
“That explorer,”
“Esau?” Leanna interrupted
“Yes, Esau, has reached the other side of the Plachians and is organizing a band to
build a road through the mountains to the ocean.”
“Over? Or through?” Leanna asked.
“Through. They have plans with explosives, pick-axes and large machinery.”
“Will they be able to finish it in five years?”
“I’d say so. It looks like the plans are to complete the project in less than that, and
the tunnel would precede the opening of the road.”
“Then the flood waters could wipe them all out. Every one of them.” Leanna
responded.
“It’s going to be a lot harder to infiltrate their culture to inject communication
devices. The more advanced they become, the harder they are to protect.” Maya sighed.
“We’ll have to work with the adventurers.”
“Who will have the least credibility.” Mann responded with another sigh.
And so they donned their suits, entered the shuttle and injected it with the
poisonous fumes which killed microorganisms potentially fatal to the inhabitants of the
planet below. The toxins were equally effective on higher life forms, but would be
flushed from the cabin on the trip over. Any that remained would deteriorate in potency
rapidly. The Caretakers had located small camping groups in various locations, outside of
the city areas. With the use of tranquilizers, they implanted devices in more than a dozen
Rotondians before returning home.
The stars were very hard to track in such a complicated system. Astronomy had
progressed in many ways, but there still were areas filled with surprises for the
Rotondians. A meteor shower was one such surprise that the Caretakers could predict in
order to get their attention.
“Beware of events to come. Read the prophecies. Learn from the past. Total
destruction was barely avoided in history. Beware.” Maya broadcast.
“Do you have to be so melodramatic?” Leanna asked.
“This IS a little bit urgent.” Mann retorted.
Two of the implant recipients visited their doctors. Three more announced that
they were ill and retired to their beds. Several did pick up the book of prophecies and
begin reading. Half of them quit within a short period of time.
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“Return to the prophecies. Return to the radios. He who has no knowledge is
doomed.” Maya tried again.
A number did visit the radios and were rewarded with lively programs on the past
with a couple of hints of the near future. The programs ended with, “And the night shall
be filled with the light of a thousand small worlds.”
“I take it that that is the meteor shower.” Leanna responded dryly.
“Of course. Poetic, isn’t it?” She answered with a smile that was anything but
modest.
Magdalen was disturbed. She had been hearing voices encouraging her to read the
prophecies for weeks now. She had read them cover-to-cover and researched what she
could in history. The people she talked with said that the writings were a collection of
ancient myths, but Magdalen found account after account where history and the
prophecies exactly correlated. She had encouraged everyone she could to visit the radio
with her. She had been given advice that had been of service to her every time she had
gone. And yet she continually met with resistance.
“Those comments are so general. You are really naïve to believe in them.” Marty
responded to her encouraging words.
“But have you read the prophecies?” She asked.
“I read all that I need to. They’re full of silliness.” He laughed.
“But, I’ve checked them out. History says the same things.”
“Then the prophecies were written after the history.”
“No, there is evidence that they weren’t. Strong evidence.”
“Look, do you really think that we came here in ships? We evolved. Right here on
this planet. There is a lot stronger scientific evidence supporting that, than there is that we
traveled through the stars. It’s crazy.”
“The radio says we shouldn’t damage the mountains. They are our protection
from forces of death.”
“Rubbish.” Marty responded as he climbed into his vehicle and puttered away.
She wasn’t allowed to teach prophesy in school. But, she needed to spread the
word. She assigned the youths research projects on the historic events that were recorded
in prophesy. And she had them summarize their findings in class.
She pulled out the controversial text.
“ And the winter shall last three seasons,” she read. “Erik, you just told the class
that the long winter was a time of great artistic growth. Kelsey mentioned that it was
survived due to the bounty from the previous harvest. There had been great crop
surpluses in other times. Why did the people choose this occasion to build barns and
preserve the surplus? In previous years it would have been left for the animals in the
fields.”
Jennie’s hand went up, “ We’ve been advancing through the years. Knowledge
had increased to the point that we could build more efficiently and that we knew better
how to preserve the excess.”
Magdalen sighed. She’d crossed the line. She might as well go the whole way.
She brought up other prophetic stories and met with similar answers.
The next day she was reprimanded.
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“But the prophecy is part of our cultural heritage, and our heritage is part of our
history. It’s a different perspective. I didn’t tell the students what to think, I just got them
to make their own conclusions.”
“The reports I received confirm that. If they didn’t, you’d be suspended. I
recommend that you stay a little farther from the boundaries of safe behavior.” Her boss
responded sharply.
Magdalen heaved a sigh of relief and frustration.
Others had admitted to hearing the voice. She read about it in the less reputable
papers.
“The world will end if the mountain is breached!” One supporter cried as he stood
on the railing at the ferry station. He had obviously fallen, or more likely been pushed,
into the water. His blue fur, matted and darkened by the moisture, made him look totally
foolish.
“The night will be filled with the light of the death of those who did not listen.”
Another believer was reported as saying. That wasn’t what Magdalen had heard. What
she had heard sounded more like a meteor shower. She had read of those in history – the
same history which made her believe that these reports had a lot more validity than the
masses seemed to think.
She called several of the newspapers.
“I’m a professor and I’ve heard the voices too. There’s going to be a meteor
shower tomorrow night. It will be in the early morning – so many people will miss it if
they don’t look for it.”
“The astronomers haven’t said a thing about this.” One of the reporters replied.
“Well, the voices did. I’m going to stay up to see if they’re correct. Maybe you
should too.”
And with that, Magdalen’s privacy was lost forever.
She had expected a minor event consisting of a few shooting stars. Instead the sky
was filled with a thousand lights, and the foothills were pocked with small craters from
the rocks that survived to collide with the earth. The fact that the marked soil was in the
path of the road brought forth a huge controversy.
The voice returned as she was being interviewed by the paper. “Tell them to wait
five years. Then they will see the error of their ways.”
“The voice says that the reason for protecting the mountains will become apparent
in five years. Please, let’s delay the project that long.” The professor told all who would
listen.
And so, the politicians, anxious to maintain the peace, agreed to wait. Hot air
balloons and special cars were used to traverse the mountains and several ships were built
to sail the sea. Each year grew warmer than the last and many people flocked to the
ocean, to feel the cool breezes. Complaints were made against the delay and construction
began on the road. Activists massed where the tunnel would be, and the road was snaked
up and around the mountain.
“Return to your homes, the end is at hand.” Maya began broadcasting. She
recorded it to repeat from the radios at irregular intervals. She cried to the messengers.
The sea began to rise.
Magdalen read the report in the paper, “The tides seem to be going from high to
higher tide. It is common for a differential to occur of six to ten feet, but the difference in
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water level, while staying within that on a daily basis, has increased to more than twenty
feet this week. Many of the settlers have had their homes flooded and withdrawn to
higher ground, while others, recalling the prophecy, are migrating back at a great
financial loss.”
And so it was that Esau and his followers were swallowed by the sea. The larger
ships were able to run aground high in the mountains, which had not been pierced by the
road. The great explorer was one of these, yet he did not return home, but built a separate
nation high in the hills on the seaward side of the mountains.
“You’d think he’d want to get away from the ocean that made a fool out of him,”
Maya said as she got off the shuttle to begin her long trip home.
“They say the sea gets in your blood.” Leanna responded. “Maybe like Caretaking
does.” She’d already spent twice as long as she’d expected on Callimede and wasn’t
planning on returning home anytime soon.
The two women gave each other bear hugs as Maya’s gear was loaded onto the
larger ship and Leanna’s new companion was introduced.
“I hope you like gardening.” She said as she strapped his luggage to the shuttle
wall.

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