Forward To Paradise

by Alyson Cresswell Moorcock


Tolan stared at the huge ship, like an over-sized sausage floating next to its docking arm. It was shiny and new, the exterior giving no hint of the importance of its cargo, ready for its maiden voyage to the far distant planet of Agrak.

"We have to name her something," he murmured.

"You've still not thought of a name?" The woman at his side was clearly surprised. "I thought you'd decided to name her after your father."

Tolan nodded. He was a slim man with a thatch of unruly black hair and worried creases across his forehead. "That was my first idea, but I'm not sure Nodra would have appreciated it. He preferred anonymity while he was alive. He fought strongly for what he wanted, but very few ordinary people actually knew his name. I don't know he would want his name so well known after his death."

Allona shrugged, then flicked a wayward strand of bronze hair from her eyes. "You'll think of something suitable." She turned from the mighty spaceship and looked around the loading bay, where huge crates stood waiting to be transferred to the ship. "Are the colonists properly prepared for the voyage?"

Tolan chuckled and touched his wife gently on her cheek. "You think of them as colonists?"

"What else? They're coming with us to a new world where they have a more promising future than here on Earth."

He smiled. "The five hundred humans are colonists," he told her, "the livestock are merely passengers, all of whom will make the voyage in cold-sleep while we hard-working humans must stand rotation shifts to ensure the passengers survival."

"It's because of them we're going," said Allona. "If it weren't for the loss of Eden we'd all be staying here. Not that I really want to stay now," she added. "Our new life sounds so much more exciting."

Tolan's smile faded. "Nodra knew he'd lose the battle," he said, shoulders sagging, "but he would never have dreamed we'd win the war and be able to save his precious animals, even though they're not those he actually worked with. Eden was his life's work, but he must have known that final patch of free land would one day be needed for something other than his animals."

"He was lucky to have Eden for so long."

Tolan put his arm around Allona's shoulders and they walked together across the loading bay. Later that night, with Allona asleep beside him, Tolan lay awake remembering his father's scheme for saving the last remaining animals on Earth.

Eden had been like an oversized zoo where the animals were contained within fifteen square kilometres surrounded by intense human habitation - caged as surely as if the land had been partitioned with bars - but they were still more free than the average human who lived its life within the confine of walls.

A lion, his lioness and three cubs were the last of the big cats. He was still King of the animals, but there had no longer been any need for the lioness to hunt for her Lord. The predatory instinct had been genetically removed from these last beasts, the same with all other carnivores who lived in Eden.

Tolan remembered one of his last visits to the place his father had named after that first garden. He had watched the lions as they rested in the shade of a tree not far from one of the three water-holes. An elephant matriarch led her two daughters and infant son to the water-hole, barely 100 metres from where the lions rested. There, too, were a pair of zebra, the female heavily in foal, and a male antelope.

In other parts of this animal sanctuary lived kangaroo, koala and dingo; some of the wildlife saved from the great Australian continent. There were giant panda from China and yak from the mountains of Tibet.

People knew of this place - to be allowed to visit Eden was one of the great rewards for diligence in their work - but Tolan was one of the very few permitted to visit unescorted. To him it was more than an animal sanctuary where wildlife could be studied; and the dream of seeing a live animal gave the general populace a reason to strive for excellence. For Tolan Eden was a true paradise, but a paradise with a very limited future.

Butterflies still roamed free, freer perhaps than any other living creature on Earth. They had become the only wings seen in the sky. The birds had died out soon after Eden became the last tract of unpopulated land.

The hunting instincts had been removed from the carnivores, but they still needed to eat. Meat in the quantities required was no longer available, so they were given their food requisites in a form which still smelt and looked like raw meat but was actually processed to fit each animal's individual requirements.

Even the koala, who were specialty eaters of the eucalyptus gum leaf, had adapted to the higher dietary content of their leaf-like processed food.

Tolan wiped tears from his eyes as he remembered his father's last day. Nodra had finally accepted defeat. Tolan realised later his father had planned his own death as soon as he knew the animals must die.

Nodra had aged quicker than his contemporaries due to the battles fought for his friends. He was stoop-shouldered and grey-haired but courageous enough to take the final, very personal, initiative on the animals' fate. He had buried drugs in each animal's food portion, and delivered the meals himself. Then, with his friends all dead, Nodra had taken a dose of the same drugs. His body was discovered a mere three metres from his beloved lions.

Two weeks later had come the discovery of Agrak, at first called Earth II due to its similarity to the home planet - though Tolan's private name for the planet was Paradise. With so many planets now available to human colonists the decision was made to gift this planet to future generations of Earth's wildlife. It was a world of virgin forests, untainted water, great tracts of land where animals could have the freedom they had so long been denied. Tolan, as Nodra's son, had been first choice to work on the project which would produce living creatures from long-stored animal DNA. Allona had been one of the original team, now grown to five hundred members who would accompany the animals both living and unborn to their future home.

Tolan woke the next morning feeling as if he'd not slept at all. His dreams had been haunted with the problems of reconstructing animals from stored matter.

"We've achieved an amazing amount in a very short time," he commented to Allona across the meal table. "This is our last week on Earth, and we take with us pairs of most of the bigger animals with the necessary requirements for reproducing many others once we reach Agrak."

"A planet-sized zoo, yes?" she said with a smile.

He shrugged. "People are bound to want to see the animals, but all visits will be strictly controlled. The Constitution set up for Agrak ensures the animals' welfare must always be given top priority."

"Have you decided yet on a name for the ship?" Allona asked.

He shrugged again. "I haven't given it a lot of thought since yesterday."

"I have a suggestion," she said. When he didn't speak, she continued. "What was the name you called your father when you were a boy?"

He thought for a moment. "I couldn't get my tongue around the name of Nodra," he admitted, "so I used to call him No'a."

"Don't you think it's a fitting name for our spaceship?"

He frowned. Then suddenly the frown cleared and he grinned. "Of course. There's nothing else we could call her. We'll name the ship 'Noa's Ark'."

x-x-x


About the author:

Alyson Cresswell Moorcock says, "My husband, teenaged daughter, two cats and I live on a 1700 acre farm in the Manawatu region of New Zealand's North Island. Fantasy is my preferred genre, but my 70+ short stories and articles accepted - in New Zealand, Zimbabwe, USA and England - cover a wide variety of writing interests."


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