icy planet

15. New Preparations

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Chief Medical Officer Denise Reynolds, ST 2169-09-02 09:20. Engineer Miji Lee invited me to the Tereshkova as work continues on the upgrades. She offered to show me the new medbay and allow me to finalize the placement and arrangement of the new medical equipment.

A metal sphere hovered over the crowd in the main square of the human habitat. It set down silently, drawing curious stares from the colonists sitting around the metal tables set up around the square. The watched as a door opened in the middle of the sphere, swinging down to form a ramp that met the charcoal black of the main square.

Three people in white-gray jumpsuits stepped out of the silver interior. I recognized Miji Lee right away, leading the group with her wide smile stretching across her face. She nodded to me, and then gestured to the two people behind her. Security Officer Akiyama nearly managed to hide his loving smile as his fiancé glanced back at him, and greeted me with a slight nod. Helena Clarke smiled warmly as she stepped next to Akiyama, nodding a silent thanks to me for her previous medical treatment.

The door of the habitat’s medical center slid shut behind me as I finally left the doorway and crossed the black road between it and the spherical ship. I sighed as I left the medbay in the care of the medical androids Aren 01 and 02. The beds were all empty now; the number of hospital trips had dwindled over the last few weeks, as colonists recovered from the rigors of space travel and adjusted to life in this strangely comfortable habitat.

As I crossed the communal square, most onlookers turned away from the ship, probably disappointed that none of our alien hosts had made the trip. I decided to accept the few pairs of eyes still watching us intently as Miji and I approached each other. They may as well know what’s going on, I thought.

“Doctor Reynolds,” Miji said as I clasped her outstretched hand, “We just picked up Helena here a few minutes ago, and we’re ready to go as soon as you are.”

“Wait just a moment,” I replied, pointing above our heads, “We’re about to see the real sky.”

Around us, people begin pointing upward, and all eyes quickly went to the blue sky overhead. The blue was slowly fading out, gradually shifting to grey. The hologram vanished altogether, leaving the barren grey interior of the geodesic dome overhead. Then the triangular panes of the dome became black. A single star shone in the sky over the dome, a brilliant white orb that cast soft light over the habitat interior. More stars began to resolve into view around it, until the sky was filled with countless pinpricks.

“Never fails to amaze me,” Helena remarked.

“I never miss it,” I replied.

Whispered murmurs washed over the crowd of onlookers as the gathered colonists expressed similar awe at the night sky. After several moments of contemplation, Miji Lee turned to me.

“Ready to go?”

“Sure. Yeah, sure – let’s see this new medbay.”

“You’re going to love it – the new equipment is really great, and the interfaces are easy for us poor dumb humans. We just want you to tell us where to put everything; help us optimize the efficiency and make it work for you.”

“Ah, so they want this poor dumb human to tell them her primitive brain can comprehend their advanced science?”

Miji smiled wanly. “Aren is more polite when she translates the Eunda, but who knows what they’re really saying, eh?”

“I could tell you what they actually mean,” Helena chimed in, “If you want.”

“Oh, I don’t know, Helena,” Miji said, “Maybe we’re better off not knowing!”

I shake my head, ready to change the subject away from the banter.

“Helena,” I said seriously, “Are you sure you can do this?”

“I want to. Aren 03 is coordinating work on the Tereshkova, and Flynn and Asar are working together on something. Asar adjusted my implant earlier, and he’s confident I can translate without anyone hijacking my brain.”

“As long as you’re okay with this, I have no problem, Helena.”

Helena smiled and nodded a sincere thanks. Akiyama then stepped up from behind her, clearing his throat as he spoke.

“I’ve seen no sign that Officer Clarke here isn’t herself,” he said awkwardly, “I think – and I hope – my services won’t be needed.”

“It’s good to have you anyway,” I said.

“Shall we?” Miji asked, gesturing to the ship.

I followed her into the metal sphere. The interior was just as smooth and nondescript as the exterior; all smooth, rounded silver surfaces. As the door closed behind me, however, the interior transformed. The floor rippled and flowed like mercury, forming four chairs that slowly rose to meet us. Miji sat without hesitation, already comfortable with this alien technology. Helena and Akiyama were slightly hesitant, but quickly took their own seats. I was last, slowly lowering myself into my seat. The seat shifted under me, conforming itself to me and becoming unnervingly comfortable. Armrests rose as it adjusted, rising at either side. When I rested my arms on them, I felt the sides of the chair gently squeeze into my sides. I tried to stand, and found that the chair had adjusted to hold me in place.

“It’s all right,” Miji said, her head turned to me as she saw the alarm in my face, “You’ll be able to stand when we get there. Try to relax – yeah, I know that’s a lot to ask!”

“You can fly this thing?” I asked.

“It has controls adjusted for my primitive human brain,” she said with a sly smile. She turned back to face the silver surface in front of her.

In front of Miji, an image of the city square rippled on the liquid inner surface of the sphere. Flight controls shimmered into being in the air around Miji; some kind of holographic interface that followed the confident movement of her hands. She pulled back with her right hand, and a holographic flight stick followed her movement. I felt only the slightest lurch in my stomach as the screen showed the crowd of colonists in the square shrink away below us.

“Smooth ride,” I remarked.

“A hell of a lot smoother than anything I flew in training,” Miji said.

We came to the ceiling of the habitat. The view shifted to show the seemingly transparent panels above us. The stars disappeared in a section of panels directly above the ship, showing the drab grey interior of the dome. The section slid aside, revealing a tunnel just long enough to fit our ship, with another grey panel at its opposite end. We flew into the tunnel, and the view showed us the habitat spread out under us.

It was a grid of black streets and silver buildings, surrounded by the barren grey of extra, uninhabited space. I had heard rumors that this grey could be transformed into green if we stayed long enough – the aliens in charge of this habitat could plant trees and grass similar to species on Earth.

The door of the inner dome closed, cutting off the view below. The screen then showed a door opening above us, revealing the starlit sky. We rose into that sky, and the view split to show the grey dome set against the icy planet surface on the left side of the screen, while the stars in front of us were visible on the left side.

“Huh, so they didn’t actually turn off the hologram inside the dome,” I commented, “They just changed it to show us what’s outside.”

“Good thing too. I wouldn’t trust a transparent dome in an environment like this,” Miji said, “If you’ve got reliable screens and holograms, why build windows at all?”

“Look there,” Akiyama intervened, “Isn’t she beautiful?”

The screen now showed just one image – that of the Tereshkova slowly growing as we approached. Many other silver ships swarmed around its bright, white surface, some with metallic arms extended and performing some kind of construction work on the hull.

“We’re getting a lot of interesting upgrades,” Miji said, gesturing to the silver ships working away on the Tereshkova, “We’re getting armor plating similar to what Asar’s capture ship used – it’ll help us hide from most threats. We’re also getting new weapons, but they’re a bit outdated, by the Eunda’s standards. Asar’s capture mission was supposed to bring in new weaponry, but we’ll have to work with what we can get.”

“I’m sure we’ll be much better off than before,” I said, “How about the jump drive? No chance we can get that back, huh?”

“No, it’s way too risky. Besides, we don’t have the coordinates for Earth or Tau Ceti.”

“But how are we supposed to get anywhere?” Helena interjected.

“Oh, you’ll love that part,” Miji said, “We’re getting a warp drive.”

I raised my eyebrow as I turned toward Miji. “Did I just hear you correctly, Engineer?”

“Yes, an honest-to-God warp drive. I know, huh? They’re real!”

“So we can move faster than light?” I asked.

“Ten times faster, if I understand correctly. We’ll get there in less than five years.”

There?” Akiyama, Helena, and I said it at the same time. We spent an awkward second silently deciding who would speak before I ventured to ask the obvious question.

“Where, exactly, is there?”

“Uh … we were going to tell everyone, I swear!”

“Out with it, already!”

“The Eunda found an Earth-like planet, unclaimed and safely outside Alliance space. We’re going to a new home.”

 


— End of Part 15 —

Copyright 2016 TCC Edwards. All rights reserved.

Part 15 last updated on 2016-07-23.

Featured Image taken from “Extrasolar Planet” on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ouJahDONTWc

 

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More science fiction from an independent author:

Osiris

14. Osiris

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Holographic clouds drift lazily overhead across a too-perfect blue sky. A grid of charcoal streets stretches out before me, running between the silver buildings that stretch up to meet the sky. Colonists filter slowly along the streets, lost in contemplation of their bizarre surroundings as they move between buildings. I pass four colonists standing in a cluster in the middle of the street. Snippets of conversation wander between them; they theorize on the dead world outside this dome habitat and attempt to make sense of the strange that has become normal. Unusual and wonderful are our companions now, I think to myself; our waypoints on this odyssey far from home.

I don’t recognize the colonists, but I smile widely as I return their nods. At the end of the street, a single-floor dome stands out among the right angles of the human residences. The round door irises open as I approach, the occupant of the house welcoming me as I step through the opening.

The Kyrannia steps back as my eyes adjust. My visor automatically accounts for the light level as it begins recording. Bioluminescent fungus grows in regularly spaced patches on the interior wall, bathing the room in a pale blue-green glow. The floor in the center of the room slopes gently down into a shallow dirt hole that dominiates the center of the house. Asar is in the hole, blue-green light reflecting off his shiny black suit as he settles into the dirt, bending his four bottom legs into a resting position.

“Do look around,” his synthesized voice invites me, “Sit with me when you are ready.”

“All right,” I say. I can’t resist the offer – this place is his – the living place of an alien being, set up for his comfort. The main inaccuracy, of course, is the breathable air – on his homeworld, Asar would have no need of oxygen. The light, I understand, is not just for my benefit – while Kryannia do not have natural eyes, they have adopted artificial vision into their lives.

At first, the rounded grey walls seem nondescript – just the inside of an unusually smooth and well-kept cave. I step closer to one wall, to a space free of the glowing fungus. I brush my fingers against the surface, and my fingers encounter a complex series of subtle groves carved into the stone. I trace over the pattern with both hands, exploring the complexities of this tactile artwork.

“What is this?”

The Last War,” Asar explains, “An exploration of the final violence my people ever inflicted upon each other. It is the age of the piece that gives the Kryannia much pride – the original carving dates back well over two millennia, by your reckoning.”

“You haven’t had a war for two thousand years?”

“Not among our own kind.”

“So it helps you remember why you stopped fighting?”

“Exactly. I find it worthwhile to meditate on the futility of violence and the desire to be better.”

I nod, unsure what to say. I explore other walls in the place, surprised to find that there is only one large chamber occupying all the space in the dome.

“Only one room?”

“Most Kryannia only have one. I have installed facilities under the earth in this hole – they take care of my less pleasant functions and keep my body free of harmful germs. I can sleep here quite comfortably, and when I want to work, my computer system deploys from the ceiling.”

I look up to the ceiling, where I notice a metal hemisphere hanging by several coiled tubes and cords. The device slowly descends, its support cables stretching taught as it lowers to surround Asar’s body. Only a sliver of his lower legs are visible beneath the plain gray device once it is in place. The cords then coil again, drawing the device back up to the ceiling.

“I have tactile interfaces with a variety of entertainment and informative programs available. I am also able to access all of my research records, and I have a large selection of reports from the Kryannia archives.”

“Huh. Sounds like you could stay here quite a while.”

“The Kryannia have a hibernation cycle that lasts about two months your time. We wake up several times during the cycle, but are too lethargic to walk. Our contained home systems make those periods far more enjoyable and productive.”

I have a quip in my head about a lazy roommate I once had, but decide against voicing it. “I’m glad you invited me,” I remark instead, “This is fascinating.”

“I hoped you might appreciate this,” Asar said, “I also wanted to share my latest interest.”

An image appears on one section of wall, between patches of glowing lichen. The hologram shows many famous paintings – Mona Lisa, The Scream, Starry Night, and several other works recognizable to anyone with a passing interest in art.

“Like many modern Kryannia,” Asar explains, “I spend much time with my artificial eyes active. Our species has been slow to adapt vision into our culture, but many Kryannia appreciate the visual works of other species.”

“You like human art?”

“Very much. I’ve found the Tereshkova’s archives to be extremely informative and helpful. I had my first taste of your culture when I chose my human name, and since then, I’ve learned so much more.”

The image changed, becoming a golden statue of an Egyptian god. I recognize the statue, for I once had an exclusive first look at this very statue.

“Osiris,” I remark, “I remember statues of him from my first major report. An undiscovered tomb was unearthed, with well-preserved statues and glyphs dedicated to Osiris. Surprised the hell out of the experts – could there still be tombs out there, after all this time?”

“Indeed, it is amazing that these ancient Egyptians were able to discover and do so much in their time. This god, Osiris, interests me greatly. My species has a ‘god’ of sorts – the very first Kryannia, the Great Ancestor. The Ancestor’s name is synonymous with death and rebirth – he died, and yet he lives in his offspring, the Kryannia. In one of the spoken languages of the Alliance, the Ancestor is called Asar.”

“That’s … an amazing coincidence” I say as realization hits, “Asar is one interpretation of Osiris – Osiris comes from Greek scholars, but his name would have sounded different in ancient Egyptian.”

“Quite a good name, right?”

“Yeah. So, what’s it mean, then? You consider yourself a god of rebirth?”

“Not exactly. But my death does draw near.”

“What?” I stop, turning to stare at Asar.

“Yes, I will die. But not yet – there is time to prepare.”

“You seem …” I stop, biting my lip as my brain searches for something appropriate. I shake my head, finally saying simply, “You seem calm.”

“Should I not be? One life ends, but new life awaits. I cannot fully understand how your species views death, but I think it is very shocking and sad. I wanted to assure you – I will be ready to die, and there is no need for sadness.”

“Really? Is there … isn’t there anything we can do?”

“To stop it? I wouldn’t want to, trust me! No, you cannot stop it, but you can help me prepare.”

 


— End of Part 14 —

Copyright 2016 TCC Edwards. All rights reserved.

Part 14 last updated on 2016-07-13.

Featured Image taken from Wikimedia Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Osiris_E3751_mp3h8829-d.jpg

 

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