But this will not be the last post on this blog. Savage Taurus has taken on the epic of a short story series and we will be posting his subsequent installments here, because we said we would.
Here is the next chapter:
|Image by Wilstar Beaumont, shot fro Designing Worlds DW336|
Chapter 2 ~ Mercury
by Savage Taurus
(c) May 2017
"Wake up, we're here," Navigator Ohmlohmff said with a complex pattern of flashing lights that scintillated across her translucent skin, accompanied by squeaks and squeals from her small mouth. The sounds got the attention of Translator Mawplawv, and he turned his two eyestalks toward her to see what she was saying.
"I'm awake," he responded with his own choreography of flashes and squeaks. He extended his gelatinous arms and neck out of his opalescent shell and slid closer to his long time work companion. "Was just reading your poem on the database. It's good."
"I thought you hated my poems," she said in a despondent tone.
"No, I never hated them. It's just...the ones about...me...were too much...I couldn't..." His speech trailed off, leaving silence between them. Ohml looked at him and understood. She knew what he was feeling, so she let it drop.
"The next planet is straight ahead," she said, changing the subject. "This guy is tiny. Only 0.008 lightseconds across. Smaller than many of the moons around other planets in the system. Completely barren, with an atmosphere that's practically non-existent, due to constant bombardment from the stellar wind; because its only 193 lightseconds from the star."
"So, why are we here again?" asked Translator Mawp.
"You wanted to visit a small one. This is the smallest one," Navigator Ohml replied. "And its hot, really hot. 700 K degrees in daylight. But only 100 K degrees above null enthalpy at night; because there's no atmosphere to keep the heat in. I've placed us in the shadow of the planet to shield us from the rays of the star."
"So, you'd bake in the daytime and freeze solid at night. There's no way anyone is living down there," Mawp said.
"I suppose it's possible there could be caves underground where the conditions could be more moderate," Ohml offered.
"And yet..." said Mawp as he tapped the console with the long tendrils at the end of his pseudopod arm.
"What?" asked Ohml, holding her breath in anticipation.
"I'm getting readings in N^7 space," he replied after a few moments.
"How can that be? What sort of civilization could have lived down there?" Ohml asked.
"Don't know, but these energy levels are much higher, and the signal is much clearer, than the first planet," said Translator Mawp. "I'm getting one really loud word above the rest. It's practically shouting at me. Mercury."
"Isn't that an element?" asked Ohml.
"Yes, a metal that's liquid at habitable temperatures. Makes it unique among all the metals."
"Though at 700 K degrees, there are plenty of other metals that would be liquid. So it's not as special on this planet."
"Well, mercury would be a gas at that temperature, and at 100 K it would be frozen. So, gas during the daytime, and solid at night. And the air pressure is so low, it would never be a liquid on the planet's surface. It would sublime straight from a solid to a vapor."
"I wonder what mercury snow would look like," said Ohml in a wistful tone. "So why would this civilization be obsessed with this element?"
"Hmm...well it can be used to extract gold. Though it's quite poisonous. Working with it can cause you to descend into madness."
"How awful. I would hate to go crazy like that," Ohml said as she shuddered. "Are we sure we're interpreting this word the correct way? How does the computer know how to translate this alien language into ours?"
"The computer database contains millions of languages, so it uses neural algorithms to learn the patterns of intelligent communication, and can utilize heuristics to decipher any new language it comes across. It basically cracks it like a code using hyperdimensional quantum computations. It usually gets the phonemes right, but misses social context. So its my job to figure that out and fill in the missing pieces."
"Ok, well what else does the computer detect?"
Translator Mawp tapped the console and projected the translated images into the interior of the spacecraft, filling up the whole main cavity with strange visions of things fluttering about in a vortex of motion. In the center, there appeared to be a spiral of metal, joined to a central pole by a series of steps, which led up to a wing shaped platform, constructed of intricately crafted metallic grating.
"What is that thing that's shaped like a helix?" asked Ohml.
Mawp tapped the console some more and then answered, "The computer thinks it's called 'stairs'."
"What a strange concept. You'd think a ramp would be more convenient. Looks like it would be a pain to slide up all those bumpy steps. It makes me wonder about the physiology of these aliens," said Ohml.
"Those things flapping around the top of the platform are living organic beings," said Mawp. "The computer says they are called 'birds'. They are just figments in a dream, of course. But it's amazing to see new forms of life, nonetheless."
"And those bigger things flying around next to them look like golden wings. But they aren't attached to anything! Yea, this is just an echo of a weird dream. No basis in reality. But, why are these people infatuated with wings? What sort of advanced civilization would even need wings to move around? Don't they have gravity-negating propulsion?" Ohml wondered.
"Those other things swirling around the structure seem to be pulverized plant fibers flattened into rectangular sheets, some rolled up into cylindrical spirals and some loose. They appear to have markings on them," Mawp said.
"If these people are obsessed with written communication, maybe this is where the message came from!" Ohml said hopefully.
"Checking for that energy signature....I can't find it anywhere near this desolate little rock," Translator Mawp told her.
"Oh," Ohml said with disappointment. "Is there any indication of how this civilization managed to survive on this tiny cinder orbiting so close to the star?"
"Not a civilization. The images have just one source," Mawp said.
"But those emissions are massive!" exclaimed Ohml in disbelief.
"Yes, one very powerful source."
"So these are the unconscious thoughts of one extremely powerful being? That's a little bit scary."
"Not just a little bit."
"Do we even want to meet this being?"
"Our mission is to find the source of the message."
"But at what cost?"