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Fraternal Twins

The War was devouring her life's work.
Taking up too many resources. Using up the remaining shreds of energy this miserable planet had to offer. She counted the days before the call arrived - when Earth would not have enough energy left to allow them to leave.

Water. Oxygen. Atmospheric gases. Temperature. Light intensity. Radiation. Mineral composition. Landscape. Structure. Vegetation. Distance. Radius. Rotational speed. Frequency of rotation. Technology. Energy requirements.

A planet in the stage of evolution, discovered long before her time, long discarded as a possible twin Earth. The fools of times past were looking for a twin, and within the last century another fool had had the bright idea of using already dwindling resources to analyse the known planets, but she could commend this fool, for it was the research chain he had set forth that she was able to use. She had thrown away the concept of identical, because there wasn't enough time, and looked for viable.

The hovercraft slowly floated her towards her destination - she preferred this speed, a breath of time to think before entering the laboratory where her assistants would be waiting to inform her of more mistakes than they could afford and her team would tell her about the latest developments and further difficulties.

She looked upwards and suddenly remembered her mother telling her of a sky that was once blue, useless a tale though it was. Her mother hadn't entered her thoughts for years.

She had found viable. It was waiting to be noticed - prepared for them.

She was no Believer, yet sometimes it seemed far too convenient. Of course, the War was only a reminder for her that nothing was after all convenient enough.

The mathematics was correct; her team could not have gone wrong. All that was left was selecting the correct specimens, and again they hadn't failed. The animals had gone and returned. The humans had gone and returned.

Yet before she could bask in glory she'd realised her work was far more expensive than researching DNA. And the War. The War ate away at the future of humankind with each nuclear blast, and she needed to include damage-control in every calculation.

There was also the matter of selecting the people to leave. To travel in light-years the shuttles required were compact and hence unable to carry many people. Not enough material to build a large number of shuttles, or the fuel to power them all. The government was already compiling a list, but she knew what that list would contain. It was useless. She'd already set her own team at work creating a more viable list. People who could survive away from home. Her work, their work, their legacy, would not go to waste and disappear because some fraudulent idiots had too much power and too many connections.

If historical science spoke true, she could see why the sky could have had a specific color.

Her feet hadn't quite touched the podium, and the team was flocked around her with beeping equipment and insistent chatter. Lines marred each face, young and old, yet all the eyes watching her were alight they had found the salvation those ridiculous preachers tattled on about.

But there wasn't enough time. The multiple space shuttles weren't complete yet, and until then they still had to determine a plausible way of ensuring safety for the chosen who would go - her team would be part of them, as promised and for the planet. It could not be allowed to become a second Earth.

They would have to do it before the War reverted Earth to the often-discussed Stone Age - and before the white decided to completely take over the black on her head. There wasn't enough time to be wondering at the sky.

When the shuttles left, carrying the able and deserving, she would let the cockroaches take this planet - this planet where there were once green trees and blue skies.

By Professor Spork
Illustration: Sarwat Yunus

A Change

It had been ages since she had seen one. They weren't even available for experimentation these days. To see one in the streets was unthinkable. And yet, it was there. A cat. In the midst of a dead and diseased city, a soul had survived.

The giant hovercraft glided over the city like a solar eclipse. Inside it, the most important person in the world twitched her feelers. Was it her vision, she wondered. Her new eyes tended to switch to infra-red at the slightest hint of radiation. But no, it was definitely a cat. Doctor Levarda thought about it all the way to the conference. A sign of... hope, perhaps?

Preparations were well underway at the conference venue. A new sound system had to be installed to accommodate her voice, which was on a higher frequency than normal.

“The things radiation does to you...” the man sighed as he checked the settings.

“It's not radiation at all,” his young assistant had overheard him. “She's done something to herself,” he whispered conspiratorially. “Changed her DNA or something. She's not even human anymore.”

“Give me the laser,” he said. The boy took his cue and shut up. All the same, the old man had heard the rumours too, of how Levarda had tinkered with herself; and now, wanted everyone else to let her do the same to them.

There was a sharp intake of breath all around as she appeared at the podium for the first time. They were polite enough not to scream. She was just plain wrong. But the boy wasn't surprised. He gave the man a knowing look. He was ready for this.

She began with the War. Everything people ever talked about these days began with the War. Not that people talked much; not that there were enough people left to hold conversations with. Or 'normal' ones, at least. “But I'm here to change all that,” the Doctor had said. Journalists poised their pens and the Prime Minister stopped picking his nose for a moment. “By integrating cockroach DNA into our genetic makeup, we will be able to withstand radiation,” she had finished, breathless.

There was a silence as brains all around chewed on this piece of information. Most swallowed it, nodding their heads. Others choked. A frantic scribbling as journalists rushed to quote her. Finally, the question came “You want us to become cockroaches? Freaks? Like you?” The Prime Minister wasn't known for his delicacy, but then again, he wasn't Prime Minister for nothing.

“Just think of the advantages,” she protested. “Cockroaches can withstand radiation. We can't. We're just using their DNA to help ourselves survive, that's all. Why would we choose to simply die out when we have a choice to live?” It made sense, and it made the journalists scribble again.

It was true. No one would want to die, especially not from radiation. It was torture worse than any known disease. But the fact was that millions had already died from it. They had gone nuclear during the War, despite the protests; and too many had already paid with their lives. But that could all end. “Let me end it for you...” there was pleading in the Doctor's voice. She just wanted to help.

The boy stood just beyond sight, gulping in every word she was saying. This was it. The answer to all his problems. He whispered sweet nothings to his stomach as it sighed. He hadn't eaten in three days. There was nothing much left to eat. And even if there was, it was contaminated with radiation. If he could be immune, like Levarda had promised, he would never go hungry again... The further he toyed with the idea, the better it sounded. He could have food in his gnawing stomach. Most of all, he could live. And right now, that was all that mattered to him.

He Changed.

By TheAlien4mEarth
Illustration: Sarwat Yunus





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