Flight from Mother World
Steven M. Moore
This novella cannot be reproduced for any reason without the express consent of the author. It has been serialized and e-published in the author’s blog for the sole enjoyment of his online readers. It is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of characters to persons living or dead, Humans or Rangers, is purely coincidental. Any settings are purely the creation of the author’s imagination, as far as can be determined.
Far Place, July 1498
Her arrival at Far Place was uneventful. The scientific research station had been without a director for five years. It was a position that most Rangers would not even consider.
That was one reason the Far Place personnel accepted her immediately. The other was that the ragtag bunch of scientists, engineers, and technicians were social misfits and respected her history of political protest, even if they did not share her ideas. They also respected her reputation as a scientist. They knew she had been exiled to Far Place, but didn’t care.
And they did expect her to do her job, so she did.
It was actually therapeutic to throw herself back into scientific research. In this case, she was involved in many projects and had to work to keep things going smoothly even in the ones she was not involved in. For the latter, her storytelling skills were of great benefit again.
Not all comet-like bodies in the far reaches of Mother World’s solar system were the same. There was actually a great variety in their composition. The research station was located on a very large chunk of primordial matter, an approximately ellipsoidal body of mostly rock, with major axes measuring 11 kilometers, 8 kilometers, and 5 kilometers, respectively. There was enough ice on the planetoid and in nearby chunks to supply all their water. The great hydroponics tanks provided most of what they needed for a nourishing if boring diet and a small pond covered by a dome provided them with a swimming area.
Studying the composition of neighboring planetoids was a research project run by a nervous planetologist called Rapids Runner. As director, Deep Diver was also clan mother, so she took her first clan mothership seriously. She had her first choice of mates. Rapids Runner was only one of many that visited her nest, but he was her favorite. It was for that reason that she took a personal interest in his work.
Rapids Runner was not far away from Far Place taking core samples from a much smaller comet-like body when he found the artifact. It was only a bent piece of metal. It wasn’t very interesting in itself. But all those in the Far Place clan immediately knew the significance of the find.
Deep Diver borrowed some personnel from other projects to help Rapids Runner. In a month, they confirmed everyone’s expectations. The metal had been part of a space probe. The rest of it lay entombed in the ice and gravel of the comet. It was definitely not one of theirs.
She and Rapids Runner were watching two others from his crew at the excavation of the space probe. At first glance, it was only a mangled bunch of girders and metal plates, but they were both interested more in what was inside. Deep Diver had already been out two hours in her spacesuit and was beginning to feel some chaffing on her underside from the dry air that came in from her tanks. They walked around the excavation gingerly, dragging tethering ropes with them. The essentially zero-g environment made it difficult to work the excavation.
“We will have to communicate our find to Mother World,” she told Rapids Runner as she walked around to the parts of the probe that were clear of ice and debris. “This shows we are not alone in the Universe.”
“Shouldn’t we wait until we know more about the aliens who made this?” asked Rapids Runner. “What if they are unfriendly?”
“For all you know, this probe may have been here since the formation of our solar system. If that’s the case, their star may have already died and this species no longer exists. It is really too much to assume that they are our contemporaries on the galactic scene.”
“You are right. So far we have nothing to date the ship.”
“Perhaps there are electronic records inside. At least some sort of travel log indicating where the probe has been.”
It took two more days to find anything that could even begin to satisfy everyone’s curiosity. One of the engineers was able to get electronic records from some of the data banks. While a lot of information was lost in the process, much of what was salvaged proved to be useful. From some of the records they were able to piece together part of the history of the probe.
A few records were like welcomes from the aliens to anyone that happened to find the probe. One started out by indicating the beginning of the sequence of prime integers and contained references to other various mathematical and scientific facts (the groups describing crystal symmetries, the periodic table, the 21 cm line of hydrogen, etc). Another included video images of life forms on the aliens’ home planet.
The aliens themselves had orange-brown fur over most of their body, so everyone began calling them the Orange Ones. The alien face was a black disk of leathery skin and two appendages on top of the head were obviously designed to capture sound waves. The hands and feet were also black and leathery. They only had two legs and stood upright on them. Two appendages at their sides had the same grasping function as the Rangers’ four principle tentacles. To all the Rangers, the aliens looked strange but non-threatening.
The math and science records led the Rangers to discover language. Whereas their own form of communication was more akin to digital communications, the aliens used specific groupings of sound as symbols. It was a long process to develop even a rudimentary vocabulary in this new and strange way of communicating.
Knowledge of the alien language led to more discoveries. For example, other parts of the record explained how the probe was intended to find new planets for the Orange Ones to colonize or, if they had intelligent life, to establish commerce. That made sense to Deep Diver.
After a few more days, Deep Diver, throwing caution to the wind, transmitted all they had learned about the probe to thousands of colleagues and friends on Mother World. It created quite a sensation, especially when an unknown source in the Great Sea clan leaked that the General Council had covered up previous reports about the Orange Ones, reports on everything from the interception of microwave transmissions to scouting expeditions by other probes.
As time went on, other information leaked out of the General Council indicating that Ranger scientists on numerous occasions had received microwave transmissions from other alien species. The closest of these were beings not unlike the Rangers in their preference for a semi-aquatic environment, although they had an appearance closer to a lizard-like centaur. None of these aliens, to their knowledge, had developed space travel, however.
Deep Diver watched the developments on Mother World with amusement. After the initial excitement about the discovery and rage at the Council for the cover-ups, public opinion turned more productive. None other than Moon Swimmer plotted two major courses of action. The first was to try to make contact with the Orange Ones in the hopes that they could learn many wonderful things from aliens so much more advanced. The second was to try to establish a colony of their own.
To Deep Diver’s surprise, Sun Basker was to head the first project, and she was called back to head the second.
“The adventure continues,” Deep Diver told her people at her farewell party. Most had not captured the full meaning of the phrase, for they had no knowledge of how important Moon Swimmer had been in the life of Deep Diver.
Nevertheless, she had confided most of the story to Rapids Runner. After the festivities and a particularly intense coupling with her favorite, he told her to be careful with such tenderness that she threw the others out of her nest and dedicated her full attention to preening him.
She left Far Place with a heavy heart.
In libris libertas….
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