But as promised, we are sharing more of Savage Taurus' short story series. Enjoy!
|Image by Wildstar Beaumont, for Designing Worlds Episode DW336|
Chapter 3 ~ Neptune
by Savage Taurus
(c) May 2017
"Where do we want to look next?" asked Navigator Ohmlohmff.
"We tried the planet closest to the star. How about the one farthest away?" suggested Translator Mawplawv.
"No problem." Ohml tapped the holographic console with her tendrils and said, "And awaaay we go!" The forward display showed them shooting away from the tiny planet and the blindingly bright star, though they felt no inertial jerking or jostling within the craft.
The Exploration Craft was similar in shape and texture to the pearlescent shells on the crewmembers' backs. It was rounded on one end and a conical spiral on the other. There was no up or down. The floor, walls, and ceiling were all one continuous surface that the crew moved around on. In the front of the craft was a large forward display and a line of holographic consoles that circled it. Toward the back of the craft was a series of compartments that spiraled off from the main chamber. The back tip of the ship contained the N^3 and N^6 drive engines.
"Wrote a new poem," said Ohml. "I've just been feeling inspired. Don't worry, this one's not about you. We both know you were never quick."
Mawp chittered with amusement, the luminescent dots on his skin flickering as he laughed. He had the urge to make a retort, but decided it was best not to pursue that line of conversation.
After some time, a large deep blue dot appeared on the forward display. "Ok, this the farthest major body in the stellar system. It's 249.5 lightminutes from the star. Beyond it is a belt of asteroids and micro-planetoids. It's 0.164 lightseconds in diameter. Pretty big, but not as big as the first planet we visited," said Ohml, rattling off the data from her console.
Mawp stared at the planet filling the forward display. "Wow, look at that deep blue."
"This planet has 14 moons. The first planet had 62. It has rings as well, though much thinner; more tenuous, faint, and dusty," Ohml continued.
"I'm so glad we can scan all the moons at once. Could you imagine how grueling it would be if we had to search each moon personally?" said Mawp.
"The first planet was a gas giant, more than 90% hydrogen and helium in mass. But this one is an ice giant, composed mainly of heavier elements. In fact, it has the greatest density of all the planets. All those intense pressures are probably why it emits the most internal heat, and has the fastest winds in the system, even though its the farthest from the heat of the star."
"We should start naming these planets, so we can keep them straight," suggested Mawp.
"Good idea. We need to name the star first," said Ohml.
"Ok. I officially dub this star Ohml-Mawp!" the Translator announced with an air of formality.
"Sounds good to me," said the Navigator. "We can abbreviate it to OM. Then, the first planet would be OM f, the second would be OM a, and this one would be OM h."
"That still won't help me keep them straight. How about Ringii, Scorchii, and Blueball?" Mawp offered.
Ohml laughed. "Ok, let's scan Blueball and see what we can find."
Mawp tapped the console with his tendrils. When he saw the data, his skin lit up with shock. "Wow, the N^7 readings are staggering! Much more than on Scorchii."
"Let's see what you got," said Ohml encouragingly.
Mawp projected the images into the interior of the ship and the entire main cavity was filled with the most lush visions of an underwater seascape. There were a plethora of plant and animal marine life. Various sorts of creatures swam around inside the vast chamber. A veritable cornucopia of flowery plants abounded of every color imaginable, with long frilly fronds and gently glowing bulbs. Some organisms seemed to be a combination of both and plant and animal. The effect was breathtaking for both of the crewmembers.
"Oh my goodness! This is so beautiful," exclaimed Ohml, as they both moved around the walls to view, from different angles, every detail of the vista, admiring the multitude of animal and plant life.
"These all seem to be living organic beings," commented Mawp.
"This reminds me of of the parks and preserves at home where technological development isn't allowed," said Ohml. She pointed to some conch and clam shells. "They look so sad and empty like that. Their residents are gone, and some are filled with cloth bedding for a completely different type of creature."
"The computer is parsing phonemes," Mawp said, "seaweed...seashells...seahorse...seaturtle..."
"I'm sensing a trend," Ohml commented wryly.
"Yes, there seems to be a fascination with oceans," said Mawp. "This all appears to be suspended in some sort of liquid medium, composed mostly of dihydrogen monoxide."
"That's doesn't make sense. The dihydrogen monoxide on this planet is so deep down in the mantle, it exists as a supercritical fluid, due to the high pressures and temperatures. If you want to find it in liquid form in any sort of abundance, you'd have to go to the third planet of the system, or the largest moon around the fifth planet."
"Well, those thermal vents would indicate that which ever planet these images are from has a heated core. And these ornate pillars topped with crystals are definitely artificial, made by some type of intelligent life form." Mawp then pointed to a long metal pole in the center, crowned by three prongs. "The computer says that thing is called a 'trident'. I'd guess it's a symbol of power."
"Yes, I get the sense that the originator of these visions identified strongly with that symbol," said Ohml as she closed her eyes and concentrated. "I also get the feeling this entity has an interest with some quadrupedal animal, though I have no clue how that fits in with all this. Is this from the same being as the previous planet?"
Mawp checked his readings. "No, its a different source."
"So, there are two of these beings?" asked Ohml in amazement.
"Yes, and this one is even more powerful than the other one," Mawp told her. They both fell silent and let that sink in for a few moments.
"I wonder where they are now. Are they still around?" asked Ohml.
"And if they aren't, where did they go? And why?" asked Mawp.
"This seems to be much more cohesive than a dream," said Ohml. "It's almost like...a memory."
Mawp nodded agreement.
"I'm so glad we can share this amazing experience together," Ohml said to her companion as she slid up next to him. "When I heard that we were assigned to do this mission together, my heart leapt with joy. The chance to spend some time with you was a dream come true."
The illuminated spots on Mawp's translucent skin flickered the pattern of a smile. "I was pleased too. I've missed working with you."
Ohml lightly gripped his arm with her long delicate tendrils. "You are the most amazing man. So kind and intelligent and talented."
Mawp looked at her and paused. "Ohml...I have a wife and kids, whom I love very much."
"And you are a wonderful husband and father..." The tension hung heavy and palpable in the air between them. After a moment, Ohml reluctantly let go.
Eager to change the subject, Mawp moved over to a console and began typing. "I can't find any energy signature around this planet that's similar to the message. It didn't come from here."
"Well, with all these beings in this system, we're bound to run into the sender eventually," Ohml said.
"Where should we look next?" asked Mawp.
Ohml brought up the images of the planets on her holographic interface. "How about this really bright planet? I have a good feeling about that one. We're going to find something special there. I just know it."
For some reason, Mawp felt apprehensive. But he ignored the feeling and said, "Alrighty then."