Full Circle

Doctor Irwin Kunzle stopped, and looked back at the sweeping vistas before him. Valley wide, almost to the Horizon, he drank in the view of snow-capped mountains in the distance, a sliver-blue river cutting through the valley, hills thick with lush green forest, and the valley floor carpeted with a veritable painter's pallet of colors, as the wildflowers erupted into bloom. Above, the yellow sun burned through a blue vault, speckled with white clouds. He sighed, taken, despite everything, with the beauty of it. He also grumbled, taken with the weight of his burden, as he carried the (he hoped) last load of salvaged equipment from the wreck of their ship down to the camp below. He greeted his fellow castaways, and set down his bag.
"Well, that's it," he declared. He looked across the campfire, to where Magda Osbeck, one of his surviving colleagues, sat, her flight suit torn and dirty.
" "Until we start cutting up what's left of the hull,""she replied, peering billiously into a can of survival rations, a chemical testing ket at her feet. "This good weather won't last forever, if the sensor readings were correct.""
" "Well, at least we came down in the hemisphere where spring was just beginning," Kunzle replied. "That's a plus."
""I guess," shot back Osbeck, licking something edible off her finger. "At least the wildlife is reasonably benign.""
""So far,"said a voice. They turned and saw three more of their party, Badr, Bennet and Obote, returning to camp, some sort of native animal slung between them on a pole. Dinner."
" "Here, let me help you, Professor," said Kunzle, getting up. The animal, something like a gazelle, was soon gutted and skinned, ready for smoking. As they worked, Kunzle and Professor Bennet looked across their campsite to where the last of their group, Lu and Langer, were finishing adjustments to the portable solar power array. Bennet noticed the direction of his gaze.
""Just wondering, Professor.""
""Wondering what?""
""If we can get the commsuite going again and contact home.""
""Well, knowing where we are would be a good start, first.""
""True, but with the data recorders fried and the main computer a pile of junk, fat chance of that happening.""
""Points taken," replied Bennet, as deft with the butchering of their catch as he was with a mathematical equation on a board. He handed strips of fresh meat to Badr, which she at once hung on the smoke rack. "However, since we are where we are, we had better just try and make the best of the situation." He set aside a leg. "This is home, now, Irwin. The sooner we get a hold of that, the better for all of us."
""Still no idea what happened to us, Professor?" asked Badr.
""Only in the basic outline, Doctor Badr," replied Antiochus Bennet, PhD. "We encountered a rift, a tear of some sort, in the very fabric of space-time. That much I was able to discern from the sensor readings, before the instruments died. We have no idea where, or even when, it has deposited us." He continued rendering their catch.
""At least it's a livable somewhere," said Kunzle. "This planet looks a lot like Earth, at least from orbit.""
""As well as from the ground, yes. The similarity to our own world is certainly fortuitous.""
""Think we can make a go of it, Professor?" asked Kunzle. As always, he habitually addressed his old friend and teacher by his honorific. Never by name.
""I suspect so," said the old academic after a moment. There was a faint smile as he noticed his young friend noticing one of the female survivors. "I suspect so.""
"We have no other options," added Badr. "Survival is a must."
As they ate, Kunzle looked through the lengthening shadows at the grave markers a few hundred feet from their current campsite, marking the final resting places of the rest of their colleagues and crew.
They had set out from Earth, barely a month ago it seemed, in a radically new and untested ship, Horizon, to explore and colonize beyond the Solar System. Equipped with a revolutionary new drive system, capable, on paper at least, of reaching trans-luminal velocities, the ship carried twenty-four men and women, all scientists and academics, as well as two flight crew. All went well with the launch and transit of the Solar System until they reached the Oort Cloud, a vast, largely unknown region enveloping the Outer Solar System. There, the new drive had suddenly malfunctioned. Upon repair, they had prepared to re-engage when something had gone wrong. Nearly blind in the unknown and unsuspected energies of the Cloud, something had struck the ship, blowing instruments out and causing the main drive to engage. Suddenly shooting to wild and uncontrollable speeds, the ship tore across space out of control and blind as a bat. Instruments either dead or fluctuating wildly, they screamed on, into the void, unable to do a thing about it.
Hours? Days? No one really knew. The ship roared on, gradually losing her structural integrity and life support, until they at last dropped back below light speed, their fuel all but expended. Six were dead, a seventh soon to follow, as the Horizon drifted, like a piece of flotsam upon an endless sea, carrying them they knew not where.
Until, many days after, perhaps longer, they spotted a planet directly ahead. The instruments were largely dead, but it appeared to be fairly Earthlike, and, bluntly put, the only place habitable around. Unable to maneuver sufficiently to achieve orbit, it was decided to abandon the dying hulk of the Horizon, and try and reach the planet in the two shuttles stowed below. Everything that could possibly be of use was stowed aboard, and, as they began to drift closer, the crew prepared to abandon ship. Until they discovered that one of the shuttles was damaged by the beating they had taken. Its survival was…problematical at best. But, having no choice, they launched.
They had watched the battered hulk of the Horizon fall away, as they put some distance between them and their mother ship. They headed towards the new planet, beautifully Earth-like in appearance, and began looking for a place to set down. Barely had they achieved orbit, when the second shuttle, Horizon-2, reported a problem. Losing power rapidly, she would have to put down at once, or risk being stuck in orbit permanently. She began to descend, Horizon-1 behind her, when radio contact was lost. Fighting to maintain control, compounded by fierce winds, it was a losing battle. Then her airlock blew, and Horizon-2, with ten aboard, began to tumble, slamming into the side of a mountain and careening into the ground, a trail of wreckage strewn behind her. There had been no survivors. Horizon-1 had, with some difficulty, avoided a similar fate, pancaking into somewhat softer ground, before coming to rest on a rise above the valley floor. However, she would never fly again.
Later, they had salvaged what could from the Horizon-2 and set about burying their dead. Of the original company that had departed Earth, only seven remained, three men, and four women, all now fully engaged in the struggle for survival, with a minimum of supplies and a reliance on their brains.
In the estimated two weeks since their arrival, the colonists had done fairly well, given the circumstances. They had salvaged a surprising amount of both equipment as well as survival rations. A portable solar array provided electrical power for their machinery, and with a little patience, metal from the wrecked shuttle was quickly fashioned into a wide array of tools and crude weapons. Several portable computers were salvaged and set up, along with a relay tower for their cellular comlinks, as well as a small telescope, and they began working to process what data they had on this planet.
Their new home was the only planet orbiting a single yellow star. Professor Bennet estimated it as a Gamma-3 Spectral Type, and very stable on the Main Sequence. The planet itself had two moons; one almost the size of Earth's, the second a small irregularly-shaped rock a couple of hundred miles across. Their new world was slightly larger than Earth, and had an atmosphere so close to home that it was almost textbook. The plant and animal life were largely edible, and the water in the river was free of anything inimical to Human life, according to Osbeck, their surviving physician and biologist.
As metal from the shuttles and timber from this new world went up to make homes and sheds, Bennet felt a degree of pride. The initiator of this project, he had chosen many of the Horizon's crew with some care. While things had gone vastly different than anyone had anticipated, they nonetheless had met the challenges of their situation with a pluck that pleased him. They would survive.
They would survive!

One Year Later-

" "We will survive!" said Kunzle, as he finished engraving words on a slab of metal from one of the wrecked shuttles. It was one year, as calculated by Bennet, since the tiny band of travelers had reached this unknown world. Since then, they had come far. Their settlement sported buildings of wood, milled with equipment rescued and jury-rigged, nails made of left-over metal and lit by electricity provided by solar cells. Below the settlement, in the wide, once-empty fields that stretched to the river, small plots sported growing plants; some grown from seeds brought from Earth, some native species found to be safe. A small corral stood nearby, animals similar to a goat within, providing the closest they could come to milk and cheese. Pipes fashioned from local clay, along with stripped conduit from the shuttles, brought water from one of the small tributary streams, a kiln churned out bricks, a forge worked the metal ores found in abundance in the hills, and an ingeniously fabricated hydropower unit augmented their energy, thanks to gravity. With the tools saved, they had begun to manufacture a few of their needs.
Nearby, a second tower rose into the sky, constantly transmitting, for now, a radio pulse, using the unit salvaged and repaired from the Horizon-1. As yet there had been no answers. They continued to hope, though the stars above were unknown.
Kunzle turned at a sound. The sound of a baby's cry. Magda Osbeck, carrying their newborn daughter, moved next to him, admiring his handiwork. On the metal slab he had engraved the names of their fallen comrades and a brief sketch of their adventure. The others, Lu holding her own child and Obote with his arm around Langar, completed the group.
" "What's that?" asked Lu, pointing to the large letters cut deeply into the metal. Seven letters.
" "I decided this new world needs a name," replied Kunzle. "We can't just keep calling it this planet. So, I came up with this.""
"What is it?" asked Langer.
""Sounds like some sort of computer language," said Obote, his white teeth shining in sharp contrast to his ebon skin.
""Yeah, it does, kind of," replied Kunzle.
""It's each of our names," said Bennet, after a moment. "An acronym.""
""Yes. As we all share in the work and the rewards, so we are all equal in making a new name.""

Irwin Kunzle

Magda Osbeck

Bilqis Badr

Antiochus Bennet

Theophilos Obote

Lu Wei

Erica Langer
Kunzle ran his finger under the new name.


" "I like it," said Osbeck.
" "Good," said Langer. "Kobboll.""
"It is a beautiful world," said Langer, casting a last look over their new home. "Like...like a..."
"Like a veritable Garden of Eden," finished Badr.
" "So it is," smiled Bennet, and they all went inside.

Many, many years later-

"There were many cities, here on Kobol. Eden was the largest. It was the first to fall. This may be it. I don't know."