©Neville Goedhals 2007. Visit my site at: www.NevilleGoedhals.com

ANNUNAKI

 

(THE GODS OF SUMER

 

By

 

Neville C Goedhals

 

Preface

 

East Africa (38,910 BCE)

 

Uma dreamt of the day Mem would mate with her. Even while searching for roots and wild fruit his musky scent haunted her; excited her. There was nothing that could possibly be more important in her small world.

Then she met a god--it changed everything.

#

She was digging for roots just above the shoreline of the great water where the tubers would be large and laden with moisture. It was a safe day for foraging. The weather was bright and clear with almost no wind to carry Uma’s scent to the ever-present predators. The African sun scorched down unmercifully as she burrowed into the sandy earth with a flint hand-axe that Mem had knapped for her.

Every so often she stopped, looking around the surrounding veldt carefully, listening for potential danger. The large cats were the most dangerous; they could be on you before you could escape far enough into the water.

Her digging disturbed the dust and dirt which coated her body hair with a light-brown powder, sweat ran in rivulets down the thin fur on her back. Uma wiped the perspiration from her protruding brow and cast a look of anger at the sun--and froze.

He stood only ten paces away on a slightly raised bank, watching her. His skin was hairless, the color of sun baked bone, and his long hair shone a pale gold like that of the great cats. He wore the strangest hide that moved with the slightest breeze, white as the clouds.

Uma’s ingrained response was to flee, but she remained frozen to the spot, in awe of his controlling presence. Her large nostrils twitched as she sought to categorize the slender man. He did not have Mem’s dark pelt, rugged bony forehead or strong squat physique, yet he remained powerful, beautiful.

 She used her peripheral vision to gauge the distance to the water. He hadn’t made any overt movements but Uma wasn’t waiting. Instinct warned her that even Mem would be bettered by this thin man.

He raised a hand toward her. He didn’t speak, there were no words, but she understood and felt his meaning, his command:

PEACE. REJOICE.

To Uma it was as if someone had poured clear cool water over her mind. She tingled. Fear evaporated as throbs of pleasure coursed through her body. He was right in front of her. How did he get there? She hadn’t seen him move.

Uma looked into his startling blue eyes and saw there a spark that her people had never known. It was then that she realized--this was a god. But why did he want her? Even as the question flashed through her primitive mind the answer came:

BIRTH.

An exciting heat pulsed in her pubescent breasts and coursed down between her hairy legs. Overcome by rapture Uma’s eyes rolled up as she collapsed to the ground, her limbs twitching in gratification.

 

 

 

The Sumerian Genesis

 

The men of those days of yore
knew not the eating of bread,
knew not the wearing of clothes,
ate herbs with their mouths like sheep,
drank water from the furrows.

O Annunaki, ye great gods,

what shall we do?

What shall we create?

With our blood let us create mankind.

 

Translation from an ancient clay tablet: Sumer (ca. 2600 BCE).

 

Chapter 1

 

Sumer (2,972 BCE)

 

The old woman’s eyes rolled up as she crumpled onto the paved street. A young mother, clutching a baby to her chest, dropped to her knees alongside and let out a keening wail.

Námmu barely broke her stride, stepping around the women and pacing on down the busy road. Wary citizens quickly moved aside allowing her a wide path. Many disappeared into the mud-brick buildings or slid into hiding behind vendors’ stalls. Kurgal, the planetary governor, tried matching Námmu’s walk without breaking into a jog. He was somewhat short and thickset for an Annunaki, whereas she was tall and spindly.

“Was that necessary?” he growled.

“She touched my leg,” said Námmu in disbelief, glancing down at the hem of her knee-length white tunic as if examining a stain. “What was she going on about anyway?”

“I think the child was ill. She expected you to heal her.” Kurgal looked over his shoulder at the crowd gathering around the old woman, almost tripping in the process. “Lagash is Inanna’s city and she doesn’t take kindly to anyone interfering with her Gallú.”

“It’s her fault that we had to land outside the city. She should expand her landing platform.” Námmu flicked back her long hair disdainfully, gray strands flashing silver amongst the pale blonde. “Besides they’re not her Gallú, they’re lower life-forms, specimens in the great plan.” Námmu glanced at the Governor, her bleached finely lined features projecting a look of contempt.

She disliked Kurgal. His dark blond hair and short physique were all indications of mediocre genetics. However, she needed allies and Kurgal was credulous enough to be someone she could use. He believed that Enki was looking for reasons to have him replaced. It was something they had in common. They both hated her son, Enki.

Kurgal gave a short laugh. “You know that Inanna and your son are close. They’re always talking and when Inanna hears about that,” he gestured over his shoulder, “Enki will automatically associate me with your actions.”

“I know how to handle my son. Besides, do you really believe that the high council, with your father at its head, would censor you for the death of a Gallú?”

Kurgal smiled sourly. “So you know how to handle your son do you?”

Námmu stopped as if she had walked into an invisible wall. It was enough that her son had betrayed her, ensuring that she was stripped of her position on the high council. And then, as if to rub the insult home, he had replaced her as a chancellor. But having Kurgal remind her of her fall from grace was going too far.

She turned slowly, her neck taut as a bowstring. “You impudent little--”

“Peace Námmu. Should we fight each other or fight Enki?”

“Yes.” Námmu’s voice was a hiss. “His son Gizzida and that retard Ninmah as well. They should suffer as I have.”

# #

Gizzida smiled in satisfaction. He was a junior scientist on the project, or Gishur as the Annunaki termed it, and was always selected to do the less glamorous tasks. This time it was specimen collection. At least, on this occasion, a servant had been allocated to assist him.

Searching through dry shrub and bush didn’t seem so bad for once. Somehow having a servant made him feel like a true scientist with important tasks to complete.

He wondered whether the servant was due to his father’s influence. It was only a passing thought, quickly dismissed. Enki would never abuse his position as chancellor, not even for his engineered offspring. He was always meticulous in his dealings, going so far as to call the servants Krat rather than the derogatory Half-formed.

The faint snap of a breaking twig ended his reminiscing. The sound came from somewhere in front of him. Gizzida half-closed his eyes and opened his mind, feeling for life signs. A blurred sense of warmth came from the sloping land ahead of him. It was a single source that tasted spicy to his mind, obviously male.

Strange. It’s not Gallú, he thought. Similar but definitely not Gallú. Probably a primate. Ninmah would be pleased to get such a specimen.

His gaze swept over the stunted bush and trees that dotted the veldt as far as the eye could see. Wherever the animal was, it was well hidden. Fortunately live specimens had not been requested, making his task simple. Gizzida felt for the animal’s mind and squeezed.

A brief view of himself at the bottom of the slope, his white tunic and skin bright against the bleached green and brown veldt, an overwhelming sense of fear ... The image and emotion blinked away. The animal was dead.

Gizzida frowned. In those last moments it hadn’t felt like an animal at all. There had been a sense of ... intelligence. He flicked back his unruly hair and made his way up the slope.

The animal had been hiding behind a thorn tree, and when Gizzida found the carcass he immediately realized the magnitude of his discovery.

It looked like a male Tolk; the heavy brows and extensive body hair were obvious indicators. It was a surprise, as none should exist. Enki had ordered Námmu to eradicate the primitives eons ago. The last thing the project needed was interbreeding between Tolk and Gallú.

And yet there it is, mused Gizzida in amazement. A Tolk ... At least I’m almost positive. And where there’s one there must be more. By Anu, Father’s going to have Grandmother’s hide for this. She swore that her virus had killed them all. Anu! And I’m the one caught in the center.

It made little difference that Annunaki family relationships originated in laboratories. Family was family, and Gizzida hated being the one to fuel tensions further. Not that much fuel was required. It seemed impossible that his father was a product of Námmu’s DNA. Whatever genometric adjustments she had made in his creation had certainly set the two of them apart.

He considered leaving the primitive where it lay. No evidence meant no upheaval back in Eridu. He shook his head and his hair swung across his face, adding to his irritation. Finding a Tolk was too significant to the Gishur, the great plan. If the Annunaki were to raise a race to be their equals, then the Tolk needed to be eliminated. That some had escaped a targeted virus indicated an unknown variable, one which may have been passed on to their engineered descendants, the Gallú.

Perhaps this isn’t my problem, Gizzida rationalized. Ninmah requested specimens and they’re hers to deal with. She can break the bad news to Father.

Having made his decision he projected a mental image to the servant waiting in the nearby transporter; just a view of the situation in front of him and a picture of the transport vessel. The Krat would understand his mental shorthand: I have a specimen. Bring the transport.

Gizzida grinned in satisfaction as a wedge-shaped craft rose silently in the distant veldt. It was great having a servant. After all, it was only practical that the Krat should be used to assist the very people who had raised them from their animal-like state.

Although many Annunaki regarded the Half-formed as a dead-ended experiment, most were ‘satisfied’ that science had provided them with servants. The terms ‘grateful’ or ‘thankful’ could not apply as they held emotional connotations, and no Annunaki would admit to such failings.

The craft streaked across to the slope, its skids setting down awkwardly on the rocky ground alongside the dead Tolk. The skin on the rear-side of the craft retreated into the rest of its seamless black hull, leaving a rectangular access to the cargo hold. A canopy at the front of the craft recessed and a ladder extruded, extending two meters to the ground.

#

Kasi ignored the ladder, its rungs were ideally spaced for the taller Annunaki rather than for his short and thickly muscled legs. He jumped to the ground.

His compact form with extended shoulders and thin wasp-like waist, landed in a ready crouch. Round wide-set eyes took in the situation even as his oversized bat-like ears angled about, alert for danger. Large nose-less nostrils, making his bone-colored hairless head look like a dried skull, twitched as he sampled the local scents.

He grimaced at a particularly foul smell, thin lips pulling back from long pointed teeth. Then recognizing it for what it was, he walked reluctantly over to the dead animal. He disregarded Gizzida; Annunaki didn’t encourage meaningless dialogue from servants.

A Tolk! I thought they were all gone, thought Kasi. Námmu’s going to be in trouble with Enki again.

The image almost made him chuckle. He hastily twitched his ears back lest he appear amused, and shielded his mind. It wouldn’t do to let an Annunaki know that he enjoyed their occasional misfortune.

Standing above the primitive he unconsciously rubbed his hands on his black synthi-leather coveralls as if wiping them clean.

There but for the grace of the Annunaki am I, he realized. The primitive stank.

“You hesitate,” said Gizzida, “Why?”

“Sorry Master. He is unclean and smells,” replied Kasi, bending and lifting the Tolk with ease. He knew better than to argue or reason with an Annunaki, even one as accommodating as Gizzida. Besides, although his race had good reason to hate the Annunaki, they also owed them much.

Certainly his people had learned over thousands of years that the Annunaki were far from perfect. But, as he toted the primitive to the craft, he bore in mind that without his sheathed skeletal frame, nanotechnology and enhanced DNA, he would be no better than the primitive he was carrying. Kasi gently placed the Tolk in the cargo hold.

“You are competent Servant,” commented Gizzida.

“I am pleased that I serve you well Master,” replied Kasi. An Annunaki complimenting a Half-formed? Not unheard of, but unusual. He decided to take advantage of the moment. “A favor Master?”

“If I can.”

“Permission to hunt.”

Gizzida frowned. He’d never had this much authority over a servant before. “You’re closer to the scientists than most. What would they say?”

“As long as the work is done they usually approve.”

“Very well then,” said Gizzida. “I’ll have someone to collect you later.”

Gizzida climbed the ladder leisurely, tweaking the neuro-switch to close the cargo access. In seconds the transport was angling across the veldt, heading north.

# #

It had taken over an hour, but Kasi had finally found something worthwhile to hunt. The wild omnivores were too easy to kill. Breaking the neck of a large buck was as easy as squashing an insect. Well almost as easy. Back on his home planet the only readily available moisture came from the blood of prey. Kasi’s people had been the top carnivore there when the Annunaki had arrived, meddled with their Krat genes, and granted them elù.

He crept silently around the baobab’s massive trunk. Nostrils flared as he sampled the dry sun-baked air: pollen, dust, dung, and the unmistakable scent of feline. The lion couldn’t be more than fifty paces away; the scent was of a male. Kasi bared piranha-like teeth in pleasure. The hunt never failed to stir his primal instincts.

The lion growled; it sounded like a deep cough. Kasi froze. It could be calling to a mate. Not that facing two lions unarmed would discourage him, but it never paid to rush.

He cautiously edged his hairless head beyond the trunk. The lion was taking a nap beneath a nearby thorn bush, flicking its head irritably at pestering flies. Kasi’s prey was a large dark-maned male, about four times his size, and twice the size of the beasts his ancestors used to hunt. But then his ancestors never had the benefit of Annunaki tampering.

Kasi’s claws unsheathed and his ears flattened against his head protectively. He sprang, streaking like a silent missile through the tall grass, straight at the great cat.

The lion’s instincts were good. Realizing that something was terribly wrong it shot off at a tangent, away from Kasi. Kasi simply changed direction. He could outrun a lion.

The pursuit lead through an open veldt dotted with tall termite mounds. In the distance, wild buck alerted by the chase took to their heels in panic. Kasi was gaining, the tough grass swishing past as he ploughed through it. Another ten seconds and he’d have the cat.

The lion bounded past a tall termite mound--something shot out from behind it.

Whump!

The lion careened sideways, another Krat clinging to its back. By the time Kasi arrived the lion was dead, its head at an odd angle. Kasi looked up at the sky as if pleading for divine intervention, then looked down at the interfering Krat who was pretending to sleep, using the dead lion as a pillow. He tried desperately not to laugh.

The meddlesome Krat was instantly recognizable. He was smaller than Kasi but had excessively long fangs and large ears for his size. He also had one of the sharpest minds that Kasi had ever known.

“Tari! I could have guessed. When did you arrive, you useless excuse of a Krat.”

“Kasi!” All pretense of sleeping disappeared as Tari bounced up and the two Krat clenched one another’s shoulders. “Gizzida told me you’d be here Kasi. I have much to tell and discuss.” Tari gestured toward the lion. “Here, have a drink then we can talk.”

“No brother, you’ve been in space. When was the last time you had real blood?”

#

Later, thirst quenched and hunger sated, they sat in the shade of the termite mound. Kasi probed between his needle-like teeth with a twig, trying to dislodge a stubborn piece of gristle, while Tari brought him up to date.

“I came with Ninmah when Enki requested her on Aar’de. They’re very close. If they weren’t Annunaki I’d have sworn that they were mated.”

“No! Staple your ears back Tari. Such a suggestion!” Kasi spat out the offending gristle. “But I thought she was ... you know ...”

“Oh, she is. That’s one of my tasks. I act as a go-between. She feels comfortable using me as a conduit, so I was instructed to come along. It gives me almost unlimited access to the components we need.”

“But how can she assist Enki without ... It seems so improbable. Almost perverse.”

Tari shook a finger accusingly at his friend.

“Just because she can’t use her mind to communicate doesn’t mean she’s backward. The opposite in fact. You should see her telekinesis. It’s more powerful than Enki’s, and she’s a genius at genometrics.”

“Sounds like you have a soft spot for her.”

“I haven’t forgotten our cause Kasi. I do have some acceptance of her, but not about what they intend to do.”

Kasi’s eyes irised smaller. “What do they intend to do?”

“They’re going to exterminate the Gallú my brother. Either that or drop a nanite bomb on the planet. And don’t point your ears forward; I’m not exaggerating. During the trip to Aar’de I managed to break into Ninmah’s files. It turns out that the Annunaki politicians will have little choice, especially if they wish to remain in their privileged positions.” Tari’s fists unclenched reflexively as his claws unsheathed. “The Annunaki must be stopped!”

“The temples are not yet ready Tari, and neither are our brothers. Now explain what you found in these files, and why the Gallú are such a threat the Annunaki.”

# #

Blood sprayed against the altar’s surface and the chicken’s squawking ended abruptly. Ziusudra dropped the severed head alongside its body and knelt before the altar. The pattern of spilt blood was auspicious; the sacrifice would be accepted. It was a pleasant feeling knowing that the gods were on your side. He looked up at the wooden effigy looming over him.

“Enki, god of water, teacher of the divine laws, hear my plea. Help me serve the ibid and his people. Give me the strength to assist the weak. Give me wealth to succor the poor. Give me wisdom to guide the ill-advised--”

He stopped his prayer as raised voices, too loud to be ignored, came from the temple’s entrance. Ziusudra glared in the direction of the commotion. It seemed that two priests were having an argument.

Strange to see priests exchanging angry words, he thought, especially in a holy place.

He pulled on his square-cut beard thoughtfully, then gathering his floor length tunic he stood, gave a low bow to the statue, and strode purposefully toward the priests.

Both priests were tonsured and clean-shaven, wearing the long white skirts of their calling in imitation of the gods. Ziusudra recognized one of them as Adapta, a local priest known for his womanizing. He had often heard giggles from young women when the handsome young priest passed.

The other priest wore a medallion against his bare chest, the eight-pointed star of Inanna. His skirt was brown at the fringe where it had brushed the sand, and sweat stains ringed the waist. He looked tired and angry.

“We have to speak to the gods!” insisted Inanna’s priest.

“Calm down Lumha,” said Adapta. “You are disturbing the worshipers. See, the ibid’s cupbearer approaches.” He turned to greet Ziusudra.

“Might I ask what the problem is?” asked Ziusudra without preamble.

“As well you might.” Adapta indicated the scowling priest. “Lumha is a priest from Lagash. It seems that the gods, Námmu and Kurgal, have killed one of Inanna’s people. He wishes--”

“We must talk to the gods,” declared Lumha. “Demand ... demand that they ...”

“You forget yourself Priest,” said Ziusudra, his tone a bit more terse than he meant it to be. “Surely you should take this up with your own goddess. After all, Lagash is her city.”

“It was my mother ... They killed my mother.” The anger left the priest’s eyes, replaced by silent tears.

Adapta placed a comforting hand on Lumha’s shoulder. “Did you speak to your head priest about it?”

“He can do nothing. The goddess Inanna left in her ship to visit the heavens.” Lumha shook his head in despair. “She will not return for days. He told me to wait.”

“Hmm. Sage advice,” said Ziusudra. Adapta nodded in agreement and Lumha looked crestfallen. “You can’t go about demanding the gods’ attention. There are set ceremonies for such things. Even the ibid and head priest only speak to the gods every second moon.”

“He speaks the truth,” said Adapta. “You may not change what the gods themselves have decreed. You would place others at risk.”

“What should I do then?” The priest staggered, almost buckling at the knees.

“When did this take place?” asked Ziusudra.

“This morning.”

Adapta and Ziusudra’s eyes met over Lumha’s head. Even by camel the trip was impressive; it took the caravans two days to cover the distance.

Rest first and compassion later, decided Ziusudra. “Come with me Lumha. You can tell your tale to the ibid over dinner. Who knows, perhaps he will take your case to the gods after all.”

# # #

“It’s all politics!” bellowed Kurgal slamming his fist onto the table. His outburst echoed off the room’s armored surfaces, exaggerating the venom behind the words.

The Annunaki froze, surprised eyes swiveling toward the end of the table where Kurgal was seated. Realizing what he had done the planetary governor pushed his anger aside, assuming a calm that went no deeper than his skin.

After a few moments some of the Annunaki relaxed, their flute shaped chairs molding to their movements. Others glanced furtively toward Ninki. It had been her remark that had angered Kurgal; some innocent statement about Enki’s success.

Kurgal examined their faces, trying to gauge the extent of his blunder. Blue eyes and beautifully sculptured features seemed to stare back accusingly, their bloodless complexions and blond hair tinted angry red in the golden glow reflecting from the surrounding walls.

He knew the only reason he remained as governor of Aar’de was due to his father’s position and influence. His anger rose again at the thought, and with difficulty he held it in check. He knew better than most the turmoil that seethed inside his mind, but it was essential to keep it concealed. An Annunaki with surplus emotion was inferior.

“The chancellor has made politically expedient decisions,” he continued in a calmer voice, “which have enamored him to those in power. Although I may add ...” he looked apologetically at Námmu, Enki’s estranged mother, “such decisions have not always helped those close to him.”

Námmu rewarded him with an accepting smile, and inclined her head toward him.

A sudden silence pervaded the room, and Kurgal gave a guilty start, his eyes jerking to a striking man standing at the entrance.

Enki’s gaze swept confidently across the gathered Annunaki. Faint laugh-lines, their pale tracings only just visible on his white skin, radiated from the corners of his azure blue eyes, and gray speckled his long blond hair at the temples.

Apprehension bit at Kurgal. Even though the bulkhead door had opened silently the chancellor’s proximity should have been felt. For Enki to mask himself so completely was a sign of his mental prowess, or Kurgal’s own lack thereof.

As if reading Kurgal’s mind, Enki walked to the head of the table and held out his hand. A small comp-pad lifted from its position in the center of the table and landed neatly in his palm. It was an unashamed display of telekinetic skill. He glanced at Kurgal.

“Shall we begin?” said Enki with a half-smile.

#

Much to Enki’s relief Kurgal was uncommonly quiet during the meeting. Unfortunately the same could not be said of Námmu.

 “You can’t simply change the project overnight,” stated his mother in a shocked voice. “Thousands of years of planned genometrics have gone into the variant.” Her hand jerked in a short complex movement above the table.

In response a rotating life-size image of a Tolk appeared in the center of the table. He stood erect, but with shoulders sloping so that his hands almost brushed his knees. Dark eyes peered from under large bony brows giving him a look of perpetual anger, and fine hair covered his entire body in a thin mat.

Glyphs appeared in the air alongside the slowly rotating form. The primitive gradually changed until it resembled a Gallú--human was the term used by the local Gallú.

The other Annunaki watched passively. This was old project data, already history, and it held little immediate interest. But the clash between Enki and his mother, now that was worthy of their attention.

 “Of course we can eradicate the variant,” said Enki. “The Aar’de team has already eliminated four distinct strains of primitives on this planet in the past. The science is well established.” He allowed a trace of sarcasm to enter his voice. “A DNA specific targeted virus, and--”

“B-but ... but the Gallú will soon be ready for elù!” stammered Námmu.

“They’re not ready yet. And what about the aesthetics?” Enki’s eyebrows arched questioningly. “The last thing we need is for another race to be viewed in the same way the Krat are.”

Námmu stiffened in her seat. “A ridiculous comparison!”

Enki gave himself a mental kick. His intent had not been to remind his mother of her abortive venture to raise the Krat.

Even though her illegal experiments had failed, for political reasons the council had hailed the Krat as a success, and then kicked Námmu off the council. After all, she had ignored their carefully calculated plan. The council’s diplomacy had made the use of Krat servants appear to be part of the Gishur; a plan within plans.

Unfortunately it had left many Annunaki believing that anything as foreign and ugly as the Krat had to be vastly inferior, even if their rational minds knew otherwise. It was that very point Enki was trying to get through to his mother. It was essential that they created the Gallú in their own image.

“There are other variables,” he continued patiently. “To raise their neural density to the point where they are ready for elù will take over five thousand years if we follow your planned changes. The Gishur doesn’t give us that much time.”

Enki couldn’t elaborate. The true purpose of the Gishur was a secret known only to those on the high council. Námmu had been one of that select group and would know what he meant.

Námmu’s eyes narrowed but she didn’t respond. She might be headstrong, stubborn and have a bad political history, but she knew how important the Gishur was. The rest of the table was silent, caught up in the conflict.

“The analysis speaks for itself. Although they represent a stable race, their minds are nowhere close to the configuration required for elù.” Enki raised a hand to forestall any objection. “I have spent the past fifty years examining them, and believe that the Gallú can be elevated to level 58 within two generations. At that level they can be granted elù.”

Enki waved two fingers above the table clearing Námmu’s data and charts, while a series of gestures replaced them with fresh data. The holo-screen image of the Gallú continued to rotate alongside the displayed information.

Enki gestured again and glyphs began slowly scrolling in the air beside the Gallú. The image slowly morphed as the man’s skin lightened to almost white and his hair faded to blond. Those who looked carefully enough would have noticed his eyes turn blue. But most were watching the neural density readout shown alongside the Gallú’s rotating head, or scanning the genometrics.

Most of the proposed genome changes were subtle, oftentimes appearing meaningless, but the envisaged results; to say that they were remarkable would be like calling the Half-formed plain. This was the work of genius. One by one the Annunaki turned to Enki with looks of approval, in some cases grudgingly.

Námmu’s face fell. Clearly Enki had done his research and then some.

“Much of the credit belongs to my assistant Ninmah.”

Faces around the table suddenly showed hints of suppressed emotion. Lips pulled tightly together and eyes looked everywhere except at the chancellor. Ninmah was an embarrassment. She was Annunaki, but not of them. Retarded, not to be associated with. Not in formal company at least. Enki sensed their disquiet and continued in a rush.

“I leave on my tour of the quadrant soon and would like to see the new variant settled in first. The relevant RNA is already prepared.” He looked at Gizzida. “I believe that the required subjects are ready?”

His son grinned helpfully and flashed a mental picture of the holding room. Row upon row of metal gurneys each held the unconscious form of a Gallú, collected from the northern continent.

“Excellent,” continued Enki in a deep no-nonsense voice. “We will start the procedure immediately. Once the new variant’s base-population is deemed viable, the rest of Gallú will be terminated. The last thing we need is cross-breeding.”

He looked across the table making eye contact with everyone. “If this goes as planned, Aar’de Base will not only catch up to projects elsewhere in the galaxy, it will surpass them. This could well be the planet on which we may proclaim, ‘we have completed the Gishur and we have children to uplift ... Children ready for elù!’”

#

Glyphs scrolled before Ninmah’s worried eyes as she stood at the workbench. She pulled her fingers through her white-blonde hair in a nervous repetitive cycle. The data looked too good.

There was a natural limit to neural density, one which every Annunaki dreamed of achieving in their engineered offspring. It was frightening to see that potential in the genome of a Gallú. It appeared as a statistical peculiarity, not anything concrete that could be reported on, but she knew otherwise.

What worried her were the possible repercussions, and not just to her and Enki. Nervous factions amongst the council would be horrified to learn that they could be matched by their creation, by a product of their own making. What the Annunaki really wanted was a race of inadequate equals; inferior replicas, indistinguishable from their godlike selves. Truly analogous Gallú would be seen as a future threat, and the Annunaki would rather sterilize Aar’de than face that eventuality.

Ninmah understood better than most the cruelty of her race. Since her arrival on Aar’de she had been shunned by the rest of the science staff, to the point where one more derogatory comment would have seen her burst into tears.

The only reason she kept going was Enki. He was one of the few who treated her with respect. But soon he would be gone, doing his grand tour of the quadrant. It was only for thirty years, just a fraction of her long life, but at this moment it seemed like an eternity. Her eyes glistened as tears threatened to return.

She had wisely forgone Enki’s meeting and lost herself in work. Fortunately there was plenty to go around. She had yet to examine the last three days worth of specimens collected by Gizzida. She glimpsed a movement, and looked sideways. It was Enki. She smiled and turned back to her work, quickly changing the display.

#

     Enki strolled between laboratory tables laden with scientific equipment and unprimed més, the small walnut sized encoders still in their sterile wrappings. Coming up behind Ninmah he gently held her shoulders. His body touched hers, only just, but it was enough to infuse him with a feeling of warmth and comfort. The contact was socially unacceptable, but she seemed to welcome it, gently pressing her back more firmly into his chest.

“It was hell Ninmah,” he said while gently massaging her shoulders. “Kurgal was broadcasting his emotions so loudly it almost made my head hurt. Also, I sensed something between him and my mother when I entered the assembly room. I have my work cut out with those two.”

“Then it would appear that Inanna’s communication was right on time,” said Ninmah in her husky voice. “She sent a message from orbit. Something about Námmu and Kurgal killing her Gallú.”

She turned and glanced at a nearby chair, which scooted across the floor, stopping alongside Enki.

Enki sat, a smile creasing his lips. He knew that Ninmah hadn’t moved the chair to show off. To her the power was natural and uncomplicated.

 To think that idiots like Kurgal have the audacity to regard her as being beneath them! He pushed the indignant thought aside.

As always he found it difficult to tear his gaze from her perfect face. Her eyes were the deepest blue he had ever seen on an Annunaki, and her white-blonde hair the fairest, framing her milky skin and delicate pinched features. Ninmah, his genius and muse.

Although he was fond of Inanna and Ninki, both longtime associates, they probably realized that he was closer to Ninmah. It wouldn’t bother them as mating was not part of Annunaki culture. Intimate physical contact was ... well, such things did occur he supposed; however nobody he knew had ever admitted to such primal behavior.

“You’re staring at me Enki,” Ninmah protested, the sparkle in her eyes belying any real complaint.

“I apologize profusely. I was merely struck by your beauty. You were saying?”

“Stop that! If the high council could see you now.” She held her fingertips over her lips as if suppressing a laugh. “Anyway, Inanna also complained about Kurgal’s son not completing his tasks.” Ninmah’s face became serious. “I met Lúgal. Pretty obvious where the root DNA came from, although I suppose it could be blotched genometrics. In either case it doesn’t say much about Kurgal or his expertise as a geneticist.”

Enki grunted in agreement. Kurgal’s son, Lúgal, was a constant source of personal embarrassment to his father.

“Inanna suggested that you keep Kurgal and your mother apart. Pit them against each other was her suggestion. I know you won’t do that though,” she added in mock frustration. “You’re too nice Enki. It’s your major failing.”

“Ah, but I have you to keep reminding me of it.” Enki remained seated as Ninmah busied herself coding the RNA infusor and updating més for the captured Gallú. The white tunic and belted shift that left her arms, legs and head bare, clung to her lithe form as she moved rapidly around the tables packing the primed més on automated trolleys.

Enki felt himself stir. The feeling was exciting, while at the same time unnerving and unwelcome. Such base emotions were inappropriate for any self-respecting Annunaki. It was a troubling thought. As a chancellor he should exemplify the ordered mindset so lauded by his peers.

He knew the Annunaki had lost their desire for intimate contact after perfecting genometrics. Nobody wanted natural birth; it sentenced your young to an early death, usually in less than two hundred years. Besides, it was demeaning if not outright primitive. But Enki wondered if it had more to do with gaining the mind-powers; the ability to read one another’s feelings and see the images in their minds.

He’d often considered the notion that it might be cause and effect, a case of mental intimacy versus physical sensation; that it might be Ninmah’s disability that made her so attractive.

Most Annunaki thought her retarded, but if anything it was the opposite. Some quirk of genetics had gifted her with perfect mental shielding. Unfortunately it was permanently on; Ninmah could neither receive nor transmit, something every Annunaki took for granted.

Enki wanted to believe that it was more than that. Her intelligence; her sense of humor; her personality. He desperately needed to know that these were the logical attributes that formed a deep and mutual respect. However, a voice deep inside kept saying: Anu, but she’s so beautiful ...