After the Fall
Chapter 1

Hello, I'm Adam Hutchins. If you are reading this, it means that we were successful. So, I'm going to tell you my story. It's sort of a long story, so you might as well make yourself comfortable.

First off, I'll give you a little history, though I know that some of it won't make much sense because you don't have the right background to appreciate everything that I'm going to say, but it's my story, so I'm going to tell it my way. I met and married Eve Weston when we were both graduate students at Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama, in 2037. We were both a little older than the average grad student because we were both military vets, she had been in the Seals and I had been an Army Special Ops. We were both discharged for medical reasons, me, because I had lost two toes to an IED in Syria, and her, because ... well, she's not supposed to talk about it. Suffice it to say that we both thought that we were fine, but the military said that we were not near enough to perfect to fit the "profile."

We neither one looked like movie or TV stars, but we were both nice enough looking that you wouldn't be embarrassed to be seen with us. We shared a love for camping and hunting and fishing and almost anything else that could be done in the wild, so it was kind of odd that we were both physics majors, but there's no accounting for taste.

We were studying under the same professor, Dr. John Smith, at Auburn, working on different phases of a stasis field. In case you don't know what that is: a stasis field will make anything inside it come to a complete stop while the field is turned on. In other words, zero time passes within the field, though normal time passes outside it. The field had the interesting property that nothing, even light, could pass through it. This barrier effect was the subject of my PhD thesis, and Eve was studying some of the mathematical effects of stopping time.

We had built a small prototype machine to generate the field, a sphere about 30 cm in diameter. It was a real lash up of a machine, and it had still taken us a year to build it. We did a lot of experiments with it, some of them serious and some of them foolish, just for fun. One of the fun experiments had been to put a mouse inside the field and leave it there for a long weekend. It exited apparently totally unharmed, so we concluded that stasis had to be harmless to life. I know, it was a silly conclusion to jump to, but we were physicists, not physicians. What did we know?

We continued to work on the stasis field and kind of fell in love with the concept. As a result, after graduation, we stayed on at Auburn as postgraduate fellows and continued to work on the stasis field. We build a couple of larger models of the field generator, one to produce a field about three meters in diameter and one to produce a field about eight meters in diameter. You'll notice that the dimensions I gave were approximations, but that's because we didn't have instruments to measure the exact dimensions; you try to measure the exact diameter of a sphere over 26 feet in diameter; it ain't easy!

In January, 2040, the impossible happened, Auburn defeated Ohio State for the BCS football championship. It had been a long, hard row to hoe, but we did it! WAR EAGLE! Of course, the whole state shut down for the celebration, except for those sore heads at the University of Alabama, but what can you say about them? Everywhere you turned, there was a party, and Eve and I tried to attend them all!

From our point of view, the most important party was the one held, jointly, by the Physics and Chemistry schools. The laboratory alcohol flowed like water, and we pretended that it was vodka. One of the nice things about pure ethyl alcohol is that it does not produce the hangover that normal liquor does, so we were not afraid to indulge to the limit.

Eve and I drank too much, just as did everybody else, so it was not surprising that we adjourned to our laboratory to demonstrate our stasis field to our friends. We played around with various demonstrations for a few minutes, then somebody asked what was the effect on living things. With the bravado of too much alcohol, Eve and I insisted that it was perfectly safe, and we would demonstrate on ourselves! A friend volunteered to operate the controls while we stepped into the range of the three-meter machine. Unfortunately, when the drunken operator set the timer, he set it for five days instead of five minutes. When the field didn't collapse and release us after five minutes, the onlookers got bored and returned to the party.

We were stuck in that field for the full five days, but we weren't missed. As postgraduate fellows, we pretty well set our own hours, so everyone assumed, when we didn't show up during the day, that we were home resting after working all night. We had been forgotten by the party-goers, so we were left undisturbed for the full time of five days. We popped out of the machine when the field collapsed and wondered what had happened to our friends. Of course, we had no idea that we had been in the machine for so long. I suggested to Eve that we go home, since I was getting tired of the non-stop partying, and she agreed.

It wasn't until we woke up the next morning that we discovered that we had lost five days instead of five minutes. We rushed to the college infirmary for a quick checkup. When we explained what had happened, the checkup was not so quick. Every specialist in the state must have descended on us and given us a going over of the type never before experienced by a human being. Two weeks later, when all of the laboratory tests were back, nobody could find anything wrong with either of us. We were given a clean bill of health, in fact, some of the physicians wondered if the stasis machine had cured some of the ailments they had expected to find.

The only result of the escapade was that Dr. Smith chastised us for our foolishness, but activities quickly returned to normal for us. Then it happened!

A comet was discovered headed for a collision with Earth. Impact was expected in two months, and the comet was large enough "to wipe out all life" according to the media reports. It was another extinction just like the one that had killed off the dinosaurs, only projected to be bigger. Naturally, there was wide spread panic and calls for the government to "do something." But there was nothing to be done! Congress had already killed off the NASA program which had been intended to solve this problem in favor of using the money for a national beautification program, so there was nothing that they could do.

Dr. Smith was in the communication chain for classified and sensitive information, so we knew whatever anybody else knew about the emergency. The upshot was that life on earth was going to die! We had less than two months to live, so most people started to party. However, it occurred to Dr. Smith that the stasis machine might hold out some hope. If two people, one male and one female, were put into stasis with whatever materials and supplies they might need, it was slightly possible that the human race could survive the impact with the comet. Once the field was established, it was self sustaining, so no external power was needed to keep it going. If the control panel were destroyed, the field would sustain itself for roughly 50 million years before it shut itself off.

The whole university was drafted to prepare for shipping two people into the far future with enough supplies to enable them to survive once they got there. Meanwhile, we got busy on synchronizing the three existing fields to one control so that they would all open at the same time. The real question was: who would go? There were a lot of candidates, but the simple fact that Eve and I had already had an experience in stasis made us the logical ones to make the trip. The fact that we were both experienced in survival techniques eliminated the necessity for a training course; therefore, it was decided, we would be the ones to save the human race from extinction.

Six hectic weeks were spent in making plans and gathering materials for us to take with us. It was decided that we would take a dog and a cat, each with a litter, a pregnant mare with the necessary supplies for artificial insemination, and weapons, tools, and seeds to tide us over until we could become established.

Believe it or not, some idiots wanted to take us to court because we had failed to file an Environmental Impact Statement!

The 50 million years was a fortuitous figure, since it would give time for evolution to repopulate the Earth with plants and animals. That way, we wouldn't be stuck with just what we could take with us. We didn't have any idea what sort of plants and animals we would encounter, but we were sure that, if the Earth had survived, there would be something for us to work with.

The comet finally got a name, "Nemesis." The impact date was called "The Fall." Some enterprising souls were selling special darkened glasses so that you could watch the comet enter the atmosphere without hurting your eyes! I never did figure out what they expected to do with their profits. The projection was that the comet would land in the Pacific Ocean, so Alabama was not going to be receiving direct damage. This gave some people hope that they could ride out the impact; surely, God would protect the Bible Belt!

The dog, cat, horse, and seeds were provided by the Ag School, and the military provided the survival supplies. Our weapons were knives, machetes, and crossbows. The Mechanical Engineering School designed and fabricated some exceptionally clever compression-ignition fire starters. Eve and I each planned to wear a .40 caliber Smith & Wesson automatic as a sidearm for emergencies, just in case we ran into some very unfriendly natives, no matter how many legs they might have. We were good shots with the guns, but we were limited in how much ammunition we could haul into the future, so we settled for 1,000 rounds, each, and planned to live off what we could get with the crossbows.

Eve and I'd both had extensive training in what could be called "field medicine." We could even do appendectomies if we had too, and I was a qualified midwife. We were supplied with medical instruments, anesthetics, and medicines, so we should be able to cope with almost any medical event we should encounter. We were both even pretty good veterinarians, so our animals would be well cared for, too.

We were supplied with two laptop computers, extra batteries, and a hand-operated generator which could be converted to run off of water power when we found a suitable location for it. Vast numbers of books had been stored on optical disks, and there were even a few movies and games for when we needed a break!

By the time every thing was packed into the stasis fields, there was barely enough room for Eve and me. Fortunately, we would probably only have to endure a maximum of 30 minutes of subjective time in the cramped quarters, since we would have no sense of passing time while we were inside the stasis field. The same would hold for the animals, so they would not suffer during the trip.

Eventually we were finally ready to go. There was a small ceremony seeing us off, and many a tear was shed on both sides. We stepped into the stasis chamber and the governor of Alabama pushed the activation button. There was a momentary darkness and the light returned to show us a landscape we would never have predicted!

In out former time, Auburn had been located on a plain of rolling hills, with no mountains to be seen in any direction. Now, we were surrounded by what we would call mountains, but somebody from the western USA would have called them big hills. We were on the slope of a relatively steep mountain side, similar to what one would have found in West Virginia, for example. A waterfall of significant proportions was gushing from the mountain on our left, and there was a small flat horizontal section of ground to our right. Both would be easy to reach from our current location.

The ground was covered with what, at first glance, looked like ivy, but the leaves were of the wrong shape and color. There was a distinct orange cast to the color of the leaves, making us speculate that copper or, possibly, iron was the base of the current "chlorophyll." Neither one would be harmful to our body chemistry, so we didn't worry about it.

Down in the valley, we could see some "animals" apparently grazing near the stream formed by the water from the waterfall. These animals were built close to the ground and appeared to be the size of large dogs. We couldn't tell much about them, except that they were a light gray on top and had at least four legs. Further examination and classification would have to wait until we could get closer to them.

The first order of business was to get the animals free of their pens and to let them move around freely. The cat and dog only went far enough to find a good place to plop on the ground with their offspring. On the other hand, the mare appeared to find the ivy to her liking, and she immediately began to graze.

Our first job in providing for ourselves was to find a good place to set up our tent. We didn't know whether or not to expect rain that night, in fact, we didn't even know what time of day it was. Assuming that the chambers had not revolved during the last 50 million years, a totally unwarranted assumption, the sun appeared to be close to setting. We could wait until tomorrow to eat, but we needed to get some sort of shelter set up for us and the animals.

I wasn't worried about them wandering away during the night, since they were about as domesticated as they could get, but I did want to protect them from the weather and from predators. We set up the tent on the nearest flat ground and rigged a lean-to for the horse. The dog and cat, with their young would spend the first night in our tent. It would be a little crowded, but not uncomfortable, since this had been included in the planning, and the tent was large enough for us all, if we were reasonably careful.

Eve and I stood guard on alternating shifts, so we kept watch throughout the night. By definition, the sun set in the west, so, even if the Earth had assumed a retrograde rotation, we were going to hold with the conventions of north, south, east, and west directions. The one thing that we both noticed was that the night seemed to last much longer than we expected, but that might be due to the season, and we had no idea which one it was. We would count the hours from noon to noon starting today, so we should have some idea what we had to work with, come noon, tomorrow. Last night had been moonless, so we were anxious to see that, too.

There had been no sign of predators last night, so we relaxed a little, but we did break out the crossbows and kept them handy in case a surprise decided to show up. There was a surprise right after breakfast. We had just cleaned up after our meal when Eve spotted some movement out on the flat part of the mountain side. A strange animal appeared at the far end of the "meadow" and ambled toward us. We took our crossbows and went out to meet it. The dog, Lucy, decided to come along. We were cautious, but confident as we walked toward the strange beast, and really got a surprise when we got a little closer. The thing had wings!

From the front, the animal appeared to be about the size of Lucy, or just a little bit larger. On its back were two wings which were kept in constant motion, but the animal seemed to be making no effort to fly. As we got closer, the animal showed itself to have three horns, all facing forward like three fingers pointing at us. Its head looked something like a pig's, but that was where the resemblance ended. The animal had six legs and it had a very amusing gait. It alternated moving two legs on one side and one leg on the other side, then moved the opposite legs. This gave it the appearance of scurrying, even though it was moving at a relatively slow pace.

From the side, it was easy to see that the wings gave the animal the appearance of being about three times the size it had appeared from the front. The surface area of the two wings, together, was about four times the area of the rest of the animal's body. No matter what the animal did, these wings never stopped moving.

Eve and I had pretty much relaxed as the animal almost completely ignored us, but it became very agitated when Lucy got close to it. Suddenly, it lowered its head and charged at Lucy as if trying to spear her on its horns. Lucy had not been aggressive, but had only been curious. The reaction of the animal was obviously aggressive, so Eve and I both fired our crossbows into the animal's head. The bolts passed nearly through the animal's head and it tumbled to the ground. I hated to kill it, but we had to protect Lucy.

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