UNEDITED

 Chapter 1

ArchAngel, Main Lecture Theater

“Very few people realize quite how many of these genetic relationships exist throughout the galaxies.”

The lecture theater was dark and hushed, the audience held in rapt attention.

“In fact, before we had gate technology, there was no way of knowing that these similarities even existed.”

The holoslides created a soft glow that bathed the audience in an outline.

Off to one side, the lone professor, seasoned by exposure to the elements and the rougher conditions of cultures across the galaxy, stood delivering his speech to the assembled intellects. His tweed jacket, more for a show of individuality, harked back to the olden days on his planet of ancestry: Earth.

Of course, he hadn’t been born there. No one in the Empire had been born there for a good century and a half. But they were comforted knowing that it was still there… back through some gate, somewhere;  albeit now just a shell of the civilization their ancestors left behind.

“We’ve long been able to sequence the genome of a species,” he continued, “and, of course, certain races visually look the same, giving us further clues.”

Professor Giles F. Kurns tapped his fingers together, and the implants registered the action, moving the holoslide animation forward. “What you see on the screen are a male and female Estarian, and a male and female Zhyn.” He paused for effect. “I’ll let you figure out which is which.”

There was a ripple of quiet laughter throughout the audience. He waited a moment, allowing the viewers to compare the footage of the two races standing side by side. His eyes twinkled in the low light. “Pretty astounding similarities, eh?”

He was most alive when he was either experiencing, or talking about, varied cultures.

Giles wandered down up the aisle set of stepseats in the lecture theater, as the fascinated scientists and students aboard the ArchAngel followed him with their eyes. He indicated back at the screen. “You might notice that the main difference is the existence of the bone frill, framing the face of the Zhyn.”

He turned and looked at the screen himself, now speaking from amongst the audience. “Now, evolutionary theory explains really well why species evolve a certain way in a closed system. We all know about the old concepts of survival of the fittest. But there is a reason you won’t have heard about the Zhyn until about a hundred years ago.”

He started walking back down the steps, talking as he went. “Anyone like to have a guess as to why?”

A few hands went up. Giles picked someone over on the other side of the theater, a brunette woman. “Yes, lady in the pink top,” he said, gesturing with his outstretched arm, his head down, waiting to hear her answer.

The human turned in her chair and spoke. “We only harnessed gating abilities for exploration and non-military activities a little before that time.”

“Excellent!” Giles remarked still without looking up. He continued his descent down the stairs and onto floor level.

“So let me pose a question for you to ponder, next time you’re in the shower and contemplating the complexities and vastness of the universe…” His voice lilted up and down, as if he were a shaman mesmerizing them into examining a reality beyond their sheltered existence on the ship.

There were a few chuckles from the audience.

Giles continued, his strange mannerisms and arm gestures punctuating his words as he spoke. “Wonder this…” he paused dramatically. There was silence as they hung on his every word. “Why is it that two seemingly similar races — almost identical in genetic makeup, but for maybe 0.1% of their code — were able to evolve 300 thousand light years away from each other, long before space travel was even a possibility for them? If space travel didn’t begin until, say, the last thousand years, how can they have had a few hundred thousand years of separate evolution? And if we’re looking at two species in complete isolation, disjoined by geography, is there any real evolution going on here? And if we accept that as a possibility, and remember they didn’t have space travel, how is it that these two genetically similar races came to be in two different petri dishes floating in space?”

Giles turned and looked at the sea of faces, human and otherwise, all displaying the same look of awe that he got whenever he lectured anywhere.

There was silence; but for the frequency-dependent acoustic dampening in the theater, one could have heard a pin drop.

Giles noticed a slight agitation coming from one of the front rows. A hand went up, hesitantly. “Can you repeat all that, please?”

Giles spun around, searching the lecture theater for something other than the querying hand. “Who here is taking notes?” he asked.

About a quarter of the hands went up.

“Talk to one of those people with their hands up afterward,” he suggested to the person who hadn’t been able to keep up, still not looking at him.

“Now…” he continued briskly, “I’m not one for promoting the existence of things for which there’s no proof,” he paused, using the pitch and pace of his voice to hold the audience. “But for those familiar with Occam’s Razor, you may simply assume that there was someone capable of space travel. Someone who perhaps gave an Estarian – or a Zhyn – a lift at some point in their history.”

He scratched behind his ear and returned to the front bench, adding, “Or maybe a pregnant version of one of them, at least.”

Again there were more chuckles from the audience.

Giles flicked theatrically through to his next slide, holding his thumb and forefinger in the air as he tapped them together. “Now, you didn’t come here to hear about how wrong Edipus was when he tried to apply Darwinian theory to space history,” he smiled, glancing around. “You want to know about the good stuff; the truth in the rumors. The science in the myth… right?”

There were mutters of agreement, and lots of nodding of heads throughout the dimly lit auditorium.

Giles waved his arms in an upward motion. “Well, what if I were to tell you that in our conversation earlier, where we were talking about the ascension mythology, there was something I left out? A few clues, actually. Clues that would suggest that the ascension phenomena isn’t quite as unique as the Estarians would have you believe…”

There were hushed whispers in the darkness as Giles flicked through to another slide, showcasing yet another race that the ArchAngel general population wasn’t fully aware of.

 


 

FROM MICHAEL >>> WOW! Hat's off to my collaborator Ell Leigh Clarke for working through some serious physical issues to get this story out.

(Lack of Coffee being the main challenge…The whole other things like potential failure of some small thing she needs pales in comparison… at least to Ell.)

She even started changing Dr. Awesome's name to Dr. Genius (not in a good way, mind you – apparently, telling Ell to go off of coffee is a very. bad. idea.)

We are looking for this book to come out sometime on Monday, July 24th (Sorry Australia, maybe Tuesday for you!)

I hope you have an AWESOME weekend.

Michael