The Matriarch and Amun arrive at 185,000 BCE
“The structure is 10 meters ahead,” she said pointing westwards. She looked back at Amun and saw him looking down, watching as each step he took sent puffs of dust into the air. Behind him, she saw their ship turned white by settling powder.
She turned forward looking towards a mound of dried branches. It was out of place in this flat grassland. The wide pile of sticks stood against a lone tree growing at a sharp angle to the ground, its curved canopy providing shade for native beasts during daytime hours.
The day cooled with advancing night. She found herself looking up for the second star, but this planet had only one. She visited here as a child. At that time, they lived on the ship, bringing candidates inside for treatments. She remembered seeing them for the first time, small craniums, hairy bodies, eyes wide with wonder.
Night fell quickly. She tapped a jewel at her solar plexus, and a beam of light shone in front of them. She heard the sound of a hydraulic door sliding open.
“There she is,” Amun whispered. Light shown from an open door under the rise of discarded trees.
The figure of a woman stood in the door. She held her hands in the air to greet them.
“How long has it been?” Amun asked.
His mother looked back at him, “About 25 thousand cycles.”
Amun raised his eyebrows, wondering how someone could live away from home for so long. He walked faster to catch up.
“She’s had visitors,” she said, looking into her son’s face. “She can’t operate the mission alone.”
They walked on, watching grass move around them as small creatures fled their approach — wild animals drawn here by cooking smells.
“And, she has relationships with the candidates,” his mother continued.
“I feel hunger,” Amun said.
The Matriarch smiled, “Isn’t it nice?” she responded, “I smell it too. Eudosia has prepared a meal for us.”
“I thirst. My throat is dry.”
“You will get used to it. You’ll learn how to manage your body’s needs and urges.” She stopped, reaching into a pouch attached to her belt. “Here, drink this,” she said.
He fumbled with the flexible bulb of liquid, not yet accustomed to this new body. Finally, he brought the pinched end of it to his lips and squeezed. Liquid spilled from his lips onto his suit. His mother laughed.
“What’s wrong? Are you tired?”
“I think I must be. It is difficult to manipulate physical objects.”
“Eudosia’s food will nourish you and give you energy,” she added.
They looked ahead. They received a telepathic message from the woman at the door. She sent images of platters of food, fruits, and liquids to drink. They also sensed words from the old language, “You will feast on the finest food this dried up speck of dust has to offer.”
Amun had questions about the mission, about survivability. He knew the candidates evolved here. He assumed there were lakes and streams. The creatures probably consumed meat. He shuddered, remembering proscriptions against eating flesh.
His mother read his thoughts, “This is how the missions all start. Some candidates thrive, others fail. This mission is successful. That is why we are here.”
As they grew closer, they felt their hostess’ energy and her excitement at having new members join her.
“Come in, come in,” Eudosia spoke aloud, standing aside, gesturing toward the inside of the structure. Younger than his mother, pale and shorter, she wore long dark hair tied up above her head.
“I got dressed up for you,” she smiled. She wore long gold earrings and an ornate necklace of rubies and emeralds. Amun and his mother wore environmental suits standard for traveling through space, but Eudosia wore a traditional floor length dress that hung from one shoulder, draping snugly around her body.
Amun had to stoop to get through the doorway. His eyes opened wide. From the poor, dried mound of withered plants and trees covering this structure, he expected to see dirt floors and oil lamps. But, instead, he stepped onto a metallic floor. Decorative sconces from their home world lit the room. On three walls were panels of circuits, buttons, and lighted graphs. Another door revealed a stairway leading deeper underground.
“I couldn’t very well live like the candidate species here now, could I?” Eudosia laughed. “Here, sit, eat.”
She looked Amun up and down, admiring his strong, square jaw, his beautiful brown skin, and his hazel eyes glowing with intelligence.
“Who picked his body?” she asked reaching over to take his strong hand in her smaller one.
The Matriarch laughed, “I did, of course.”
“You have good taste,” Eudosia responded.
Amun suddenly felt embarrassment, uncomfortable being the subject of discussion.
“Would you look at that,” Eudosia proclaimed. “He’s blushing.” She laughed again and sat down at the small table in front of them.
“Join me,” she offered, continuing to stare at Amun openly.
The Matriarch sent her a message chiding her for causing her new son to feel embarrassed. “He has only had a physical body for a few weeks. He’s not ready. Be kind to him.”
“Oh, I plan to be,” Eudosia laughed again. “I plan to be exceedingly kind.”