Voyage of the Centuri Dream
by Joe Vadalma
0103 ESDS Time
past Pluto's orbit floated a tiny grain of sand in a vast ocean of
everlasting night and near absolute zero temperatures. The
Extraterrestrial Signal Detection System, ESDS for short, rotated
slowly as it reoriented its antennas. If it had eyes, the sun would
seem only slightly brighter than the myriad of other light points
that surrounded it. It was the size of a three-story building,
ungainly and ugly, a mess of antenna dishes and other devices that
protruded at odd angles, so that it resembled a floating junk pile.
It was a listener. It listened for minute signals, a few nanowatts,
mere whispers, so tiny that they were not measurable by ordinary
radio telescopes, from every part of the milky way galaxy at a
billion different frequencies. It amplified the infinitesimal bits of
information to microvolts, digested and analyzed them with a powerful
artificial intelligent computer looking for that one in a billion
signal that had intelligent content.
it detected signals it considered worthy of further investigation.
These it broadcast to a relay satellite in orbit around Jupiter. This
artificial satellite, in turn, sent the amplified signal to the
astronomical center at Clavius crater on the moon. Both instances
proved false alarms. The first was from an erratic pulsar. The second
was a sporadic anomaly in the satellite's own circuitry, which was
corrected by telemetry from Clavius.
October 15, 2134, at 0134.43 hours according to its atomic clock,
ESDS pointed its main dish at a section of sky not previously
surveyed and detected an unusual signal in the microwave range. It
performed tests to ensure that its own circuitry was not producing
the phenomena and analyzed the signal. According to the criteria
coded into it, the transmission contained data that an intelligent
being might send. It activated its amplifiers and beamed an alert
signal to the Jupiter relay station.
first transmission reached Clavius several hours later. The receiver
recorded the signal and sounded the IMR (Intelligent Message
cramped quarters of the SETI section of the Clavius astronomical
complex, Matthew Harding sat reading a science fiction paperback. He
felt his job was cushy, although severely boring. Essentially he was
being paid for doing nothing. For the past two years, each day he
gabbed for a few minutes with the person he relieved, checked that
the equipment was operating properly and sat on his tush for seven
buzzer sounded across the room, Harding mumbled, "What's wrong
now?" He stretched and sauntered across the room. A red light
flashed on the SETI receptor. He pressed the Alarm Reset button to
turn off the irritating sound and read the label under the glowing
indicator. It read, "Signal Received."
was unprecedented. A signal had come in from the ESDS. Quickly, he
pulled the manual from the desk drawer. He wanted to be sure that he
followed procedures to the letter. This was too important to screw
up. He read the manual: "If the Signal Received indicator comes
on, do the following: Press the Alarm Reset button." He had
already done that. There was also a warning, "DO NOT TOUCH ANY
OTHER CONTROLS." The second item on the list was to call the
chief of SETI Operations.
several rings, a sleepy voice answered, "Hello. Aaron Warner
is Matt down at SETI Operations. The Signal Received indicator has
That's great. Don't touch anything. I'll be right down." He
before Harding had come to the moon, ESDS had sent a signal. Both
times had been false alarms. "Well, third time's a charm,"
later Warner, flushed with excitement, rushed in. He was barely
dressed, hair uncombed, shirt unbuttoned, no socks. He was followed
by two SETI scientists, Kate Hatchway and Lu Dong. All three ignored
Harding and went directly to the SETI receptor. Warner flipped two
switches and nervously lit a cigarette although smoking was not
allowed anywhere inside the complex. All three peered anxiously at
the computer monitor. Beeps and squawks came from the speakers.
peered over the Warner's shoulder. Columns of numbers slowly floated
upward on the monitor screen. "What's happening?" he asked.
"Is it really a signal from an alien intelligence?"
grinned like a Cheshire cat and shrugged. "We won't know for a
while. I relayed the signal to the supercomputer in the main complex.
It'll number crunch for a couple of hours before we'll know for sure.
If it says yes, that's when the real fun begins. It may take months,
maybe years to translate the information."
the next three years, the top mathematicians, cryptologists and
linguists from all over the world worked on decoding the data. It was
definitely from an alien intelligence and came from the Nihal star
system two hundred and fifty light-years distance, but that was all
signals repeated every four hours. Parts of the data simply consisted
of a progression of prime numbers. Everything that followed was
gibberish. No one could make head nor tail of it. Many
cryptographers, language experts and mathematicians worked on the
problem without result. Although the signals never stopped, the
official effort was abandoned after a new administration came to
power. A month later, the ESDS malfunctioned. As a result, funding
for the entire SETI project was stricken from the Clavius budget.
recorded signals were stored away as a curiosity. Over the years many
experts and amateurs tried to decipher the message with no more
success than the original team.
7, 2155 Jacque Roget, a graduate student who majored in
languages with minors in chaos theory, number theory and cryptology,
stared at the intricate pattern of the screen saver on his pocket
computer. His mind was far away as he tried to decide on a research
project to obtain his doctorate. Roget wanted to choose the most
difficult subject for the challenge. Because he was especially adept
in seeing patterns in chaotic information, his fellow students called
him Genius Jacque. It was a joke that he did cryptology problems in
his head while making love -- not that Roget dated much; he was too
busy with his studies.
having difficulty deciding, because most of the problems he might
have chosen did not seem challenging enough. For days he had surfed
the Internet and gone through the entire university library of books
dealing with classical problems in ancient languages, cryptology and
mathematics. Nothing appealed to him.
decided to call it a day and invited his roommate, Jim Kapinski, an
astronomy major, to join him for a beer at a bar on the outskirts of
they ordered, Kapinski asked Roget, "Have you decided on
research project yet?"
shook his head sadly as he sipped the foam off his beer. "Most
of the problems I might select, I could probably solve in a week.
Bor-ing. You know me. I need something that will really stimulate my
chuckled. "Well, I know of a problem in decoding that's been
hanging around for several years. Not too many people know about it
anymore, because most of the experts have given up trying to solve
perked up. "Really? And how come you know about it?"
across it while doing research on astronomical history. Several years
ago, the World Space Agency had a project going to detect signals
from possible alien intelligences. They sent this artificial
satellite into an orbit beyond that of Pluto. Twenty years ago, it
received a signal from the direction of the star Nihal, which is
about two hundred and fifty light years away. The thing is that,
although they were sure the signal contained information sent by an
alien race, no one can decipher the message. As a result, eventually
the whole project was dropped."
became quite excited, so much so that he knocked his glass over,
spilling his beer. "So it was an actual message from an alien
race in another stellar system, but no one knows what it says?"
It's quite an astronomical mystery."
was it recorded?"
recording technology used in those days were memory cubes. But I'm
sure it has been recorded and re-recorded into more modern systems,
such as microdots."
can I get a hold of one of these recordings?"
rubbed his chin. "I suppose the World Space Agency has them in
its archives somewhere."
called the waitress over. He said, "I'm paying for the drinks.
If my friend wants any more, put whatever he desires on my tab."
He pressed his thumb on her crediting device. He got up and said,
"See you later, Jim."
contact the WSA, of course."
the World Space Agency, he obtained a memory dot of the raw
information sent by ESDS, logs from the SETI project and notes from
various attempts to decode it. He was not interested in anything
except the original data, which displayed on his computer monitor as
rows and columns of numbers. He noted that by grouping them, they
formed patterns. For the next two weeks he barely ate or slept. He
rearranged them, converted them into letters of various alphabets and
other symbols. He examined each group immediately following the prime
numbers for clues. Nonetheless, even he was stumped.
night, he dreamed that he lived in ancient Babylon. He was a priest
and was walking toward the towering ziggurat, the great pyramidal
shaped temple to the god Marduk. He strolled through street filled
with ancient Babylonians going about their business, men and woman
chatting about domestic subjects, street vendors hawking their wares
and street urchins running about shouting at each other.
entered the temple at a doorway above which was written, "Home
of Marduk, the Magnificent." A pretty serving girl naked to the
waist approached him and bowed. "How may I serve you, Priest
the tablets of mystery, Volume Seven and Thirteen."
servant hurried away to complete her errand, Roget watched with
admiration the waggling of her well shaped rear. When she returned
with the scrolls, he pinched her cheek. "You responded quickly.
You deserve a reward."
bowed her head. Nonetheless, a smile appeared on her face. "I
was only doing my duty."
At this evening's service, I will bestow upon you the great honor of
performing the ritual of the love between Marduk and Ishtar."
face became flushed. "As you wish."
studied the tablets for a while, which were written in cuneiform.
Afterwards he removed his robe and went into the holy of holies,
where the important rituals were performed. The servant girl awaited.
She lay stretched out on the altar, her beautiful body arousing
Roget. He pronounced the words that were written on the tablet and
moved his hands above her in the proper symbolic way. He lay on the
altar next to her and consummated the marriage between the god and
he woke from this sensuous dream, he had an inspiration. He rushed to
his computer and replaced certain combinations of numbers with
symbols that represented phonetic sounds. Soon he saw words and a
grammar that bore a slight resemblance to ancient Babylonian. Two
days later, exhausted from lack of sleep with his stomach grumbling
from the awful stuff he had put into it, he had a small portion of it
translated. He saved the translation, collapsed on his bed and slept
thirty-six hours straight.
that week, he submitted his conclusions to a linguistic journal. His
"paper" included the translation and reported how he
accomplished it. Soon after the paper was published, the entire
academic world buzzed about his achievement. Eventually he received a
those who were interested in learning about the aliens, the message
itself was a disappointment. It gave no information about their
appearance, history, culture, philosophy, technology or psychology.
It was cryptic and made vague references to mystical beings, gods or
demons and strange and fantastic events. A minority thought that it
warned of some danger. Many felt that it was a religious tract. It
did, however, gave a definite indication that it originated from a
planet orbiting Nihal, a G-type star, approximately two hundred and
fifty light years from the solar system.
years later a robotic probe was launched toward Nihal. Traveling at
fifty percent of light speed, it would take the probe, five hundred
years to reach its destination and another two hundred and fifty
years for its electronically transmitted report to reach the solar
system. Nonetheless, although the scientists, engineers and backers
of the probe knew that they would be long dead by the time the
information about the aliens arrived, they felt that they had left a
legacy of the utmost importance to future generations.
turned out, several of the scientists involved with the probe to
Nihal were still alive when a quantum physicist made a discovery that
would enable faster-than-light travel. Two years later, his discovery
was turned to a practical application. The quantum drive was
invented. It would enable a vessel to reach the Nihal system in a
fraction of the time that the probe would take. This sparked
immediate world wide interest in Roget's paper. Pressure was put on
the World Space Agency to send a manned mission to the point of
origin of the signal.
little over a year, a fully equipped starship had been built and was
orbiting Jupiter, ready to travel into interstellar space. While the
starship, named Centuri Dream, was being constructed, a crew was
chosen and trained using simulators. Finally, the starship was
completed, tested and supplied. The all volunteer crew was sent to
the WSA base on Callisto for a final briefing before they were taken
aboard the Centuri Dream.
briefing took place in a small auditorium and conference room in the
base built especially to hold the ground personnel associated with
the interstellar mission. In addition to the crew and two scientists
that would be going aboard, ground control personnel were present.
The crew consisted of two groups, a human contingent and artificial
intelligence personnel, who were mostly humanoid robots, colloquially
known as humbots.
human crew consisted of Captain Steven Amlada, ship commander;
Commander Shirley Thompson, second in command and navigation officer;
Lieutenant Celia Gigilioni, medical specialist, biological sciences
officer and shuttle pilot; and Chief Petty Officer Kirk Schmidt, ship
engineer. The humbots were Lieutenant Commander Thomas Dawson, third
in command; Lieutenant Evbot, morale officer and assistant medical
officer; and Crewman First Class Adambot, assistant engineer.
artificial intelligence person was not present at the meeting,
Centuri Dreamer Prime, referred to as Centy by just about everybody
associated with the mission. Centy was an artificial intelligent
supercomputer which controlled the ship's systems. Without Centy's
ability to make control decisions in nanoseconds, navigation of a
quantum drive starship would be impossible.
two civilian scientists going on the journey were Doctor Jacque
Roget, the man who broke the alien code, and Doctor Sharon Miller,
anthropologist and theoretical xenopologist.
Director Michael Kophazi stepped up to the podium, tapped the
microphone a few times and said, "Greetings, crew of the
starship Centuri Dream, mission specialists and esteemed scientists.
Mankind's great journey into the unknown is about to begin. Only a
few days remain until launch. This will be your final briefing before
I want to applaud the courage of the people who, despite the dangers
they will face, willing volunteered to embark on this mission into
the great unknown. Stand up please. What brave people you are."
crew and the two scientists stood. Kophazi clapped his hands loudly.
The others present also applauded, whistled and cheered. After a few
moments, Kophazi signaled for everyone to be seated. When the
applause faded, he said, "I also wish to thank everyone
associated with the mission for all your hard work and dedication. We
could not come this far without you.
I want to go over a few items concerned with the mission. Much of
this you already know, but I think it bears repeating. The starship
has two methods of propulsion. For travel within a stellar system, it
uses an antimatter drive. For interstellar distances, it uses a new
technology called a quantum drive. With this device, the starship
navigation system simply enters a coordinate somewhere within a
radius of fifty light years, engages the quantum drive, and the ship
instantly appears at that location. No one, not even its inventors,
are exactly sure why it works. Some theoretical physicists have
theories. They say that it has do with quantum entanglement on macro
level. They believe that the starship passes through one or more
dimensions other than the familiar four."
shrugged his shoulders. "The main thing is that it works.
However, there drawbacks to both technologies. One is that they
require antimatter/matter reactions. Antimatter is terribly dangerous
stuff to deal with. We have taken every precaution. At the first sign
of any sort of leakage or any other problem with the antimatter
containment system, explosives will blast the entire antimatter
module as far as possible away from the ship. Double, triple and
quadruple safety measures are in place. Any questions or concerns?"
remarked, "We've been told all this before. I'm sure an
antimatter explosion will be the least likely event to occur of the
dangers we'll be facing."
grinned, "Right you are. I just want to ensure that all of you
said, "I have a question. Why are we launching from the vicinity
of Jupiter? I thought one of the requirements of the quantum drive is
that it not be near any bodies with large gravity fields."
good question. A second drawback of the quantum drive is that it
needs massive amounts of fuel. Each jump required a ton of deuterium
half of which half is converted to antimatter deuterium and slowly
allowed to collide. The resulting energy creates a field that drives
the ship into a quantum Eigenstate. This means that the ship must
refuel after each jump. In addition the Centuri Dream needs fuel for
the antimatter impulse engines that it uses within a star system,
plus electricity for life support and the antimatter converter. Such
copious amounts of deuterium can only be harvested from a gaseous
giant planet such as Jupiter. It is for this reason that for each
jump we've chosen navigation points near star systems that we are
certain contains at least one gas giant.
also a second quirk of the quantum drive. It requires a month cool
down period before it can be used again. This means that you will
have a month of idleness after each leap of fifty light years toward
your destination. But I'm sure Captain Amlada and your morale
officer, Lieutenant Evbot, will not allow you get bored.
this point I want to point out some unique features of the Centuri
Dreamer. Projection, please." A diagram appeared on the wall in
back of Kophazi which illustrated the layout of the spaceship. He
took out a light pointer and sent the narrow beam on the portions of
the ship that he was discussing. "Although the starship is
enormous -- two kilometers from bow to stern -- most of its bulk is
for fuel storage. It consists of five modules. The antimatter
impulse engine module is furthest aft and contains the drive,
maneuvering rockets, their fuel and navigational controls. At launch
the drive will send the ship hurtling toward the sun at a speed of
toward the sun?" asked Sharon Miller.
are going to use a gravity assist to speed the ship away from the
solar system as quickly as possible. That is one of the reasons that
you and the other humans aboard need to be placed into cold sleep for
the first part of the journey. The G forces would kill you."
paused for a moment and pointed to another section of the diagram.
"Just forward of the drive module is the quantum drive and the
enormous tanks to hold the deuterium fuel that it needs. Forward of
the quantum drive is the command module, which contains everything
needed to support the mission, the bridge, crew quarters, life
support, electronic and control gear, deep sleep unit and Centy. The
hump on the back of the command module is the shuttle or planetfall
module. Its secondary function is an escape craft."
Shirley Thompson asked, "If we need to abandon ship, where would
we escape to?"
cleared his throat. "That depends. If there's a planet nearby
that could sustain life, you could head for it. There are cold sleep
facilities aboard the shuttle. You could simply send out a distress
signal and go into cold sleep. Perhaps a rescue mission could be
grinned. "However, right now, no such rescue starship is in plan
by the WSA. My understanding is that the Centuri Dream is to be a
one-of-a-kind vessel. It took a lot of lobbying by many groups before
the billions of world credits need to build it were voted by the
world parliament. And that bill was carried by only a slim margin.
Unless there's an imminent threat of an antimatter explosion, in case
of an emergency, I think I'd stick with the Centuri Dream."
Amlada remarked, "That would depend on the type of emergency."
said, "Well, that would be up to you people to decide. I'm
afraid the planetfall module is the best we can offer in the way of
an escape vessel. As I mentioned before, the humans aboard will be
placed in cold sleep for the first phase of the mission. You have all
experienced this for short periods of time. Have any of you had any
problems or concerns about cold sleep?" He paused and looked
around the room. Each of the women and men who would subjected to the
condition shook her or his had in the negative. "Good. During
this period, Lieutenant Commander Dawson will be charge of ship
all I have to say except good luck, good voyaging and God speed. Does
anyone have anything else?"
spoke up. "When we arrive at Nihal, we will likely encounter the
aliens who sent the message. They may be hostile. Are there weapons
aboard in case we have to defend ourselves?"
Hand weapons. Should you attacked by a fleet of let us say
spaceships, there are no weapons aboard to defend you from that sort
of combat. Your best bet in that case is to get the hell out of there
as quickly as possible. You must use discretion. Armed conflict must
be a last resort. We don't want to start an interstellar war.
well. This meeting is at end. God speed."
they were leaving the conference room, Thompson whispered to Dawson,
"I think the aliens may be our biggest danger. We don't even
know whether our two scientists will figure out a way to communicate
replied, "You may be right."
days later, the five humans and three humbots were brought out to the
two kilometer long starship. Once aboard, the humans were placed into
cold sleep, their temperature brought down to a level just high
enough to sustain life, their heart slowed to five beats a minute,
and their brains placed in an induced coma.
and Adambot strapped themselves into the cushioned acceleration
couches. Dawson took the couch on the bridge that would be the
captain's when he awoke from his deep slumber. When the countdown
began, together with Centy and mission control, he performed several
last minute checks. When everything was "go" and the
countdown went to zero, he pressed the button that started the
impulse engine. "Ignition initiated," he said into his
microphone. With explosive force, the ship started on its journey
into the vastness of space.
Log: 04.30.2179 1400 hours. My name is Thomas
Dawson. For the
time being, I am in command of the Centuri Dream. Earlier today, I
and my fellow crew members and passengers boarded her for the first
time. The human crew and the two scientist passengers were put into
cold sleep. I spent the last few hours checking systems. The
countdown is down to twenty minutes. We’re ready to roll. For
several reasons I thought it would be prudent to start a log before
actual launch. First, the importance of this historic flight can be
compared to Columbus’s voyage to America,
Magellan’s circling the
globe, the Apollo 11 moon landing and the Perceival Lowe Mars
landing. It is the first mission to a destination outside of the
solar system, our first baby step into the great ocean of night. The
Centuri Dream is a starship destined for the star Nihal, from which a
communication from an alien race was received some years ago.
second reason for keeping this log is that should anything happen to
me and the crew, and the ship is found, there should a record of
everything that occurred. Although the ship keeps its own account of
events, I believe a human perspective is called for. Thirdly, my
duties, once we’re underway, will leave me with much free
This log is one more item on my agenda to keep from becoming bored.
Finally, all the great seafaring and spacefaring captains of
literature and video, real and fictional, kept personal logs.
a splendid tradition. I hope Captain Amlada also keeps this
I referred to myself as human. Strictly speaking, I'm not. I'm a
humbot with the memories of a human being, Thomas Dawson, who died
over a hundred years ago. Nonetheless, I feel as though I were the
original Thomas Dawson. I intend to describe how this came about, but
I'd rather save that story for later in the voyage. Sufficient to say
that since I have a robotic body, I don’t need to eat, drink,
respire or sleep. This is a major advantage to this part of the
mission, since life support systems are not required until the human
crew is brought out of cold sleep.
other two humbots aboard are Lieutenant Evbot and Crewman First Class
Adambot. The major difference between them and myself is that they do
not have a human’s memories. Despite the fact that I'm a
construct with artificial intelligent software as they are, I have a
hard time not thinking of them as machines in human form and myself
as human in machine form.
has the features and body of a comely human female. She is our morale
officer, psychologist and counselor. She is also medical assistant to
the human doctor, Lieutenant Gigilioni. Her main duty, however is to
keep everyone on an even keel psychologically. In my mind,
bad joke that the mission people had presented the robotics company
with a design that made her look like a beautiful woman. I just
heaved a great sigh. I recall very well the joys of sex (with anguish
at present, since I can never enjoy that pleasure again). However,
sex is simply not feasible in my present body. As far as the human
males aboard, I doubt whether they would have a romantic relationship
with Evbot. But, who knows.
other humbot, Adambot, is aboard to assist our engineer, Chief Petty
Officer Kirk Schmidt. He performs all maintenance functions while
Schmidt is in cold sleep. He will also do any repairs that might be
dangerous, for example, one that required an EVA. He has been
especially engineered for maintenance work inside and outside the
ship and has special software to make him an expert in repair of
artificial intelligences. That makes him the medical doctor for us
humbots and Centy. His hands are removal so that the proper tools can
be attached to his forearms if required. If, for some reason, I
become incapacitated, he and Evbot are designed to take over my
duties. I wonder. Can a strictly artificial intelligent humbot make
decisions that require intuition and imagination?
a fourth artificial intelligence aboard, the supercomputer who runs
the ship, Centauri Dream Prime, Centy for short. It does the actual
running and navigating of the ship. It controls everything aboard
except the crew and passengers, is extremely intelligent and has
decision making capabilities, although under extreme circumstances it
can be overridden by one of us. If it were human, it would be a
genius. This seems daunting, but it’s necessary because of
quantum drive. Complicated decisions must be made more swiftly than
any human or humbot can think. I contact Centy by calling its name.
If I desire, Centy can appear to me in a holographic form. Since I
have not needed to have a face to face conference with Centy, I
really know whether it will appear to me as male or female.
Personally I don’t see the point of a projection.
I’d like to continue this log, but duty calls. The countdown
begun again. Very soon the great voyage will be underway.
Log: 05.05.2179 2000 hours. The dates and times I
this log are in ship time. At this point in our voyage, ship time
corresponds to GMT time on earth. Because of relativistic effects,
after the Centuri Dream goes into quantum mode, this will not be
true. In addition, communication with mission control on Callisto
will be time delayed longer and longer as the ship travels away from
it. After we make our first quantum jump, communication will be
impractical since it will take electromagnetic signals fifty years to
travel back to the solar system..
hours ago, the Centuri Dream left its orbit around Jupiter. The
first three months of our voyage are powered by an antimatter
ramjet. Before I get into the construction of the ship and its route
to the stars, I want to talk a little about myself. The truth is that
in the twenty-second century I am like a fish out of water. The
original Tom Dawkins was born in the twentieth and lived most of his
life in the twenty-first. Culturally speaking, I'm a twenty-first
century person. Many people think of me as a humbot, even though I
feel human. In a social situations, I’m often treated as
people talk in front of me as though I didn’t exist. A real
would not care. But being what I am, it hurts. In addition,
been called derogatory names or not considered for positions because
of my robot body. Despite my appearance, I have human emotions. They
are not as crisp and deep as I recall them being for my alter ego,
the original Dawkins. Nonetheless, I have them. In the world of the
twenty-second century, I'm an outcast, not part of human society and
not a humbot.
Log: 05.12.2179 1005 hours. The past week has been
Several minor problems cropped up. But that’s good.
that anything that might jeopardize the mission
while communication with mission control is still possible, requiring
only minutes or hours of delay between the time signals are sent
until they are received.
finally met the holographic Centy, who appeared to me as a
middle-aged woman. Apparently, she (I’ve decided to treat her
female since she appeared to me that way) chose that persona herself.
Perhaps next time she’ll be in a different guise, and
to use the masculine pronoun.
grateful to Adambot. He's done a fine job making repairs without
delay. Also, I must give credit to Evbot, who keeps me calm during
dangerous and tricky part of the mission is fifty-three days off. To
give the first impetus to achieve maximum velocity out of the solar
system, the Centuri Dream will dive toward the sun, going within 0.2
AU of old sol, inside the orbit of Mercury. This will give the
starship an enormous gravity assist. Once we reach sufficient
distance from the solar system, I and Centy will engage the quantum
in this log, I should describe the structure of the ship.
marvel of engineering. But that’s for another day. First I
enumerate the possible dangers of the sun diving maneuver. There's
the heat and radiation from the sun, which if it were not for the
ship's shielding would destroy our electronics, including the ones
inside my humbot body. Dawkin's memories, which I consider my own and
hold so dear, would be erased. There's also the possibility that a
sudden solar flare could catch us unaware, although both mission
control and Centy are monitoring solar activity closely. This would
definitely fry us, as the radiation would be beyond the capacity of
our shields to absorb. Another danger is the enormous gravitational
forces. A biological being, such as human, would be crushed.
Thankfully, Evbot, Adambot and I are constructed of hardened plastic
with a steel skeleton. Our delicate electronic parts are located deep
within our shells and cushioned by foam. Nonetheless, although we've
been tested against high G forces prior to the mission, they never
quite simulated Gs as high as we’ll be forced to endure
Ocean of Night
three days after Dawson's last entry in his log, the Centuri Dream
dove toward the sun. Just prior to this maneuver, the three humbots
strapped themselves into their acceleration couches. Dawson initiated
a controlled burn of deuterium and antideuterium into the firing
chamber. The resulting thrust accelerated the starship toward the
sun. Although Dawson was a creature of metal and plastic, his gravity
sensors screamed warnings as the crushing forces on him pushed him
far back into cushions of the couch. It was as though steel clamps
had held him. He could not move any limb or his head. He realized
that a human being would have perished under the punishing blow.
Luckily, the human personnel were safely ensconced in a liquid gel
that would prevent any harm to them, or at least that was the theory.
the immense pressure, his jaws refused to move, so he sent out a
mental signal to two humbot companions. "Is everyone all right?"
sent back a brusque, "Unharmed."
replied, "We are fine. We were built to withstand many G's. You
should not worry yourself about us."
would have smiled if he could. Evbot seemed more troubled by him
worrying than her own comfort.
sun's gravity grabbed the vessel, the G-forces kept increasing, until
Dawson began to wonder whether his internal electronics could stand
the pressure. This was much fiercer than anything he had experienced
in the centrifuge used to test their endurance in a high-G
sun grew larger in the view screen. The turbulent, boiling blob of
superheated hydrogen quickly filled the plasma tube. Dawson prayed
that Centy's software was precise as they dove toward that horrendous
flaming sphere. At times it seemed as though the ship was going to
fall right into it. As they passed through the sun's outer
atmosphere, fiery gas reached out to the starship like the tongue of
a toad towards a fly. The exterior temperatures rose to just below
the melting point of the bulkheads. Even with the cooling system
working at full blast, the heat in the interior was close to the
boiling point of water.
intense heat and pressure lasted several hours. Finally the starship
was flung away from the solar system at one percent of the speed of
light. The acceleration let up as they headed into the dark between
the stars. Dawson sighed with relief as the force on his body
suddenly went from several G's to null. He contacted Adambot and
Evbot. "Everybody still in one piece?"
said, "Aye, aye, sir." A perfect spaceman's reply.
replied, "We are fine. Congratulations, Commander. We came
through the gravity assist with no problems."
disconnected the straps that held him to acceleration couch and
floated upward. He called to Centy, "Start rotation for
command module began to rotate. It turned at a rate to produce the
feeling of gravity, much less than earth normal, but enough that the
crew and passengers would not feel as though they were floating or
falling all of the time.
with the aid of Adambot and Centy, checked that all systems onboard
were working normal and inspected for damage sustained during the
maneuver. To Dawson's relief there was only minor breakage that
Adambot repaired easily. Although some items were destroyed by the
intense heat, replacements were available. The items that could not
be replaced were not crucial. After he, Adambot and Centy made all
checks of the starship's health, he radioed mission control.
Commander Dawson reporting. The gravity boost was successful. Our
current speed is one point one percent LS. All systems are go. We are
in good shape. We should reach the designated quantum jump point in
approximately eight days. I will send another message at that time.
days later, he received an acknowledgment to his message.
Log: 07.04.2179 0900 hours.
Today is Independence Day of my
country of origin. I celebrated with Adambot and Evbot by making a
little speech comparing our freedom from the solar system to the
freedom from English tyranny enjoyed by the English colonists after
they initiated the revolution.
current speed is roughly one percent of light speed. My experiments
give indications that could be considered relativistic effects. Some
things came as a surprise. For example, I received an automatic
message from the mission control yesterday. I wasn't expecting it for
another two days. What I'd forgotten was that two extra days have
passed in the solar system than on this ship. This delay is in
addition to the hours that the message takes to reach us at our
current distance from the senders.
a way it's frustrating, almost a joke. Once we make our first jump,
communication with the solar system will no longer be possible. The
message I received is six or eight days old depending on perspective.
It congratulated me on a splendid start. It said that they've been
tracking me very well. Actually the ship they've been tracking is a
ghost located where I was days ago. It included news of the world I
left behind, news not only eight days out-of-date, but which seems
absolutely irrelevant to my world -- this ship. Ground control asked
how I was doing. How am I doing? I had a laugh at that. By the time
they receive my answer, I could be dead for days, weeks, even longer
as the journey progresses. Nonetheless, I answered that I was fine,
that the ship was fine and that I had started this log.
the message depressed me. It made me realize how cutoff I am from the
solar system and humanity. I shouldn't feel that way. I'm not
entirely alone. Adambot, Evbot and Centy are fine companions. And
soon I will have human companions.
Log: 07.08.2179 We are approaching the jump point.
few days I have been having an attack of homesickness. You wouldn't
think that this could happen to a being who is essentially a robot. I
don't have hormones or a heart. Yet every once in a while, emotions
like homesickness buried in my memory rise to the surface. That's why
Evbot is aboard. She's my councilor, therapist and confidant. She
helped me come to terms with my situation. In truth, even before this
journey, I was cutoff from my own time and place. (Note to myself: I
must add a brief autobiography so that whoever
reads this log
it can understand who I am and what is behind my actions.)
jump point, Dawson made a final check of all systems again. "Well
folks, I'm ready. Once I give Centy the order, we'll be cutoff
completely from the solar system. Any last thoughts?"
said, "None, sir."
said, "Don't forget Commander, once we reach the Castor system,
we will have human company. That should make things more pleasant."
there's that." Dawson sighed. He wondered whether human
companions will relieve his homesickness or whether it will be worse
for him. One of the reasons he volunteered for this voyage was to get
away from a civilization he no longer understood.
sent a message to mission control. It would be the last one until
they returned to the solar system. In it he included the state of the
ship, and his log. He thought, If we never return, perhaps it
become some sort of historical document. It gave him a small
amount of satisfaction knowing that the mission would go into the
history books, regardless of whether it succeeded or failed.
was in readiness. He said, "Centy, initiate quantum mode to the
first set of coordinates. Make it so."
had a moment of disorientation as though he passed through a universe
designed by M.C. Escher. When he glanced at the view screen, the
configuration of stars was different than it had been seconds before.
He said, "Centy, what is our position?"
are approximately ninety point oh five A.U. from the multiple star
systems known as Castor."
a course for the Jovean size planet orbiting Castor Ab using
planetary drive. At arrival, orbit the planet."
Course set and launch initiated."
again felt the pull of acceleration pushing him against the couch.
"Centy, keep the G-forces down a bit. There's no need to rush at
invisible force decreased to a more comfortable level. Although, it
would be a strain on a human being, Dawson was able to function and
even leave the acceleration couch for short periods. He checked their
speed. Once the ship reached the speed that he felt was nominal, he
ordered Centy to shut all engines. They were back in null-G. He
reinstated artificial gravity rotation. It would take about two weeks
to reach the gas giant.
decided that he might as well take out the human crew out of cold
day after Dawson woke the humans from their deathlike sleep, Captain
Amlada made a speech. He gathered the crew and two civilians together
into the combination recreation and mess bay.
enlisted personnel and esteemed passengers, this a great day for all
of humanity. We have successfully completed the first leg of our
mission into the unknown. First I wish to congratulate Lieutenant
Commander Dawson and his robotic crew. They have done a superb job."
who had been leaning against a bulkhead, said, "Don't forget
Centy. She's a great navigator and pilot. We simply told her when to
execute her duties and made some minor repairs. She did everything
yes. Well done, Centy. You and others of my crew and our two civilian
scientists are the first citizens of earth to venture out of the
solar system. I have great confidence in you. I have served with many
of you on interplanetary missions. On my last long mission, which was
to make repairs to the ESDS, my second in command, Lieutenant
Thompson and I became lovers. She was an Ensign at the time. Although
we no longer have a romantic relationship, we're good friends.
Perhaps, on this mission things between us could heat up again"
He winked at Thompson, who stared at him coldly. "I only mention
this because we have long idle periods between quantum leaps. From a
morale standpoint, it would be good for people to pair up. It would
be one more activity to keep you occupied."
his speech, he approached Chief Petty Officer Kirk Schmidt. "Kirk,
I want you and Adambot to go over every inch of the ship to ensure
that everything is shipshape."
saluted snappily, clicking his heels. "Aye, aye, Captain."
He and Adambot left to inspect the ship from the bridge to the stern.
two scientists asked Amlada where they could work on further decoding
of the alien message. He showed them to the combination laboratory
and sick bay. They immediately loaded the signal into the ship's
computer and began to discuss the possible meaning of the
days passed before the crew was fully recovered from cold sleep and
were back to work. Amlada took the captain's chair between Commander
Thompson and Lieutenant Commander Dawson. His two subordinates had
arrived on the bridge earlier. Dawson, who did not need to sleep or
eat, rarely left it. Thompson was in her preassigned place, the
navigation position, and Dawson occupied intership controls. Amlada
said to Centy, "Fuel status, please."
disembodied voice of Centy replied, "Fuel level is nineteen
percent below maximum." A stream of figures concerning usage
floated across the main screen. "Now tell me about this Castor
consists of three binaries gravitationally linked. Hence, there are
six stars in the system, two A-type blue-white giants and four M
category red dwarfs. There are several smaller objects in orbit
around each star." The star positions relative to each other
were illustrated on the main screen and data about the stars were
shown on the smaller monitors at each console position.
studied this data for a while and turned toward Dawson. "Tom,
why did you choose Ba?"
has a large Jovean which according to spectral analysis is perfect
then, a light flashed on Amlada's console. He pressed a button and
Schmidt's voice came through a speaker. "This is Chief Petty
Officer Schmidt. I've finished my inspections. All systems are
you, Mister Schmidt." The light went out indicating that Schmidt
had cutoff communication.
sighed. "That Kirk, not a man for a lot of words. So what do you
think about our two geniuses?"
said, "They were anxious to get to work immediately after coming
out of cold sleep. I don't think they'll get in the way of ship
operations in any manner. They seem quite content to do research and
argue over finer points of the alien message translation."
said, "That Roget is an odd duck who keeps to himself unless
he's debating with Sharon Miller. But I suppose that's the nature of
said, "Our anthropologist is only twenty-seven, and quite
attractive, don't you think?"
chuckled. "Back to your old tricks, eh Steve. Is sex all you
ever have on your mind? How did you ever become captain of a space
going vessel with your inappropriate behavior?"
blushed, but did not reply to her snide remarks. "The thing is,
when I flirted with Sharon, she was seemed cold and annoyed."
don't blame her, you old pervert."
listened to the by-play between his two senior officers and wondered
at their familiarity. To him, it did not seem appropriate for them to
speak that way to each other in front of him, a junior officer. But,
perhaps, since he was a robot, they regarded him as simply another
machine, part of the furniture.
continued his discussion of the anthropologist. "Well, who
knows? As time goes by, sheer boredom may drive her into my arms."
He turned to Dawson. "Once we reach the Jovean planet, we'll
have plenty of time on our hands before we can make the next quantum
jump. Since Castor is a sextuple star system made up of three
binaries. It would be incumbent to do a little exploring and make a
report on such things as planets, detailed astronomical information
and any other scientific data of interest. What do you think,
agree. Who do you propose go on the ad hoc
for one. And perhaps Lieutenant Gigilioni, since she's our biological
science officer. Perhaps, we'll find a planet with life on it."
laughed. "You bugger. You just want to get her alone on the
planned, while the engineering crew supervised by Thompson and Dawson
performed the intricate task of sucking up deuterium from the giant
planet's atmosphere, Amlada and Gigilioni went off in the shuttle to
examine the complex Castor system. They explored two of the six stars
in the Castor group, Castor Aa, a main sequence blue white dwarf and
its companion red dwarf, Castor Ab. The stars were separated by a
little over a million miles, and orbited each other in nine days,
causing great flares to leap from one to the other.
also discovered an earth-like planet orbiting both stars at a
distance approximately that of Jupiter in the solar system. Because
of the radiation given by its two suns, water existed in liquid form.
They orbited it and made observations. There seemed to be plant life,
as there were great stretches of green across the continents.
this time, Amlada and Gigilioni had become intimate. Gigilioni said,
"Steve, let's take the shuttle down and explore a little. This
is quite a find, the first native life outside of earth."
Celia, I can't authorize that. We have no idea what dangers we might
face. We can't afford to risk losing personnel until our primary
mission is accomplished."
they returned to the Centuri Dream, Gigilioni resisted Amlada's
advances and began to flirt with the genius, Jacque Roget, who was
flattered that the young, buxom and pliable woman should be
interested in him. As a result, they paired up. Whenever Gigilioni
was off duty and he had enough wrangling with Sharon Miller over the
meaning of the alien message, he would find his way to her cabin.
fun loving Shirley Thompson had also taken a lover, Chief Petty
Officer Schmidt. Amlada was taken aback by this, since she was his
second choice. He wondered what she saw in the stiff-back by-the-book
German engineer. The only other human woman aboard was the frigid
Sharon Miller. He felt that he had my work cut out to unfreeze her.
He also considered Evbot, but dismissed the thought. He would have to
be desperate indeed to want to make love to a robot.
The New Year
Log: 01.01.2180 1305 hours. A new year has arrived
Centuri Dream. To celebrate the new year, I had Evbot and Adambot put
on homemade party hats, and Centy played rock and roll music from
the twenty-first century. It was funny watching the awkward humbots
dance (not that I'm much better). All the humans aboard got smashed
on Scotch Amlada had smuggled aboard. That is, all except Sharon
Miller, who is a teetotaler. Centy made an appearance as a beautiful
woman in an evening dress. Have you ever tried to dance with a
hologram? Impossible. Everyone who tried ended up walking through
her. At midnight, we yelled Happy New Year and embraced each other,
including Evbot and Adambot.
Years is a time to make resolutions. So here goes. I resolve to have
better relationships with my fellow voyagers and try not to let my
own inadequacies interfere. Last year, whenever I had a conversation
with the two humbots, I found them boring. Adambot only talks about
ship things, mechanics, electronics and so forth, although he does
play a mean game of chess. I haven't beat him yet. Evbot's software
is such that she's all sympathy, advice and analysis. In other word,
she's the consummate therapist. It would be nice to simply have a
pleasant inconsequential conversation with her. Speaking to Centy is
better. Nonetheless, she's too intelligent. I feel inferior to her.
She always knows more about any subject than I do. Most of the time I
have her appear to me as a young woman, usually someone from my past,
although Evbot tells me that's not healthy.
have had conversations with the humans aboard, but when I speak to
any of the women, I keep thinking of my inadequacies in the sex
department. Besides, they usually only speak to me in the line of
business. I get along fairly well with Schmidt and Amlada, but again
they are from an era over hundred years from the time the original
Tom Dawkins lived. If I talk sports, entertainment, books or some
other subjects that interests me, my thoughts are a hundred years out
of date. About the only person I really relate to aboard the ship is
Jacque Roget. We often speak of the ancient world. Sometimes, Sharon
Miller joins these conversations.
other resolution is to start on my autobiography soon.
Log: 01.05.2180 0800 hours. It's been four days
resolved to put my autobiography in this log. Evbot has been prodding
me to do it. She thinks that telling my story may resolve some of my
issues. So here goes.
of the Creature Known as Tom Dawkins
would anyone, even one who has gone through as many deaths as I have,
volunteer to be locked up into this tin can for years on such a
dangerous mission into the unknown? Perhaps I and my fellows aboard
this ship are slightly insane. They all seem a little quirky to me.
Nonetheless I believe it is my destiny. Once Roget asked me whether I
was immortal. I replied, "Perhaps. But nothing
forever. Someday I'll perish, even if it's ten billion years from
now. Of course, death is no stranger to me. I've died many times."
said, "You mean, close to death?"
I mean I literally died. Or let's say someone died. That someone was
me in a way."
laughed. "You're talking in riddles. Do you mean reincarnation?
Or are you a ghost?"
I'm the ghost of someone who lived long ago. Putting it another way,
you might say that I've been reincarnated many times. Before I puzzle
you anymore, let me begin at the beginning."
that leads me into the story of Tom Dawkins, my alter ego, who I will
refer to as the subjective "I" since I feel that I am him.
If there is such a thing as a soul, I have his soul.
was born in 1999 as a real flesh and blood human being. My life
expectancy was between seventy to one hundred if I lived the average
number of years of people in that era. If I was extremely long-lived,
I might make it to as high as one hundred and twenty. In those days
that would be unusual.
twenty-first century was an era of interplanetary exploration and
expansion. The first landings on Mars occurred during my first
lifetime. Nonetheless, during the first forty-five years of my life,
space did not interest me. As far as I was concerned, exploring and
colonizing planets or living in a space habitat was for brave
astronauts or people who were a bit off. I was more concerned with
mundane things, first college, then making money and dating, and
finally marriage and a career in business. I went to school for the
proper number of years, married a woman known for her beauty, charm
and connections and worked hard to obtain a middle management
position in the accounting division of an investment firm. I worked
too hard. So hard in fact, my heart became diseased. Or maybe it
wasn't my hard work, but my life style, eating fatty, rich foods,
sitting at a desk all day, hardly ever exercising.
one evening, while I was examining reports, I felt a sharp pain as
though someone had stuck a knife in my chest, and my left arm went
numb. When I realized what had happened, I called for help.
Nonetheless, I died.
indicator just went on that I have to attend to. I'll need to
continue this another day.
Log: 01.07.2180 0900 hours. Here
in the Castor system,
Captain Amlada has assigned several experiments for me to perform. I
believe that they are simply so much make-work to keep my mind
occupied. Evbot probably put the bug in his ear. I have spoken to her
often of my homesickness and self doubt. It is the responsibility of
Evbot and the captain to ensure that our morale remains high. What
they don't seem to understand is that I'm homesick not so much for a
certain place, but for a certain time. Besides, I don't think
Amlada's own morale is very high at this point, since he has no
female partner to share his insatiable sexual urges.
continue my autobiography. I described my first death. I don't really
know whether it could be considered a real death. The EMTs who
brought me to the hospital told me that I had died. That is, when
they found me, my heart had stopped, and I was no longer breathing.
They said I was lucky that the hospital personnel were able to bring
me back to life before I experienced brain damage.
I was unconscious, I had a strange experience. It might've been a
dream, a hallucination or my soul -- if there is such a thing --
leaving my body. It seemed as though I was looking
myself slumped over the desk. I floated away, higher and higher.
After a while I was walking through a tunnel toward an extremely
next thing I knew I was in a hospital bed. Although weak, I was
chipper. I had survived a heart attack, didn’t I? It was a
spring morning. Outside the hospital window a sparrow chirped on the
window ledge. I thought, What a beautiful day for a game of golf. I
figured that in a few days I'd be out playing.
Golf is a game no one plays anymore. None of my fellow voyagers have
ever heard of it. Briefly, it was a game played outdoors which
consisted of hitting a small ball around with stick to get the ball
into a hole using the least amount of strokes.)
Log 1.8.2180 0900 Hours. Yesterday, as I dictated
Evbot came into the room and peered over my shoulder. She said,
game you mention. Golf. Did you enjoy playing it?”
much. But it’s been fifty years since I played a round of
you enjoy it, we will play. Explain the game.”
was one thing that annoyed me about her. If she discovered something,
anything, that might give me pleasure, she went out of her way to
provide it. Anyone who has not experienced someone like her cannot
know how awful it is to have someone like that around, especially in
cramped quarters such as ours.
howled with laughter. I said, “We cannot play golf. It's a
that requires special equipment that we don't have. Besides it
requires a great deal of room. It's played outdoors.”
stared at me for a few moments, the wheels spinning in that plastic
head of hers. “I will look into the matter.”
of Evbot's nonsense. I should describe our ship's routine. Since
there's not a lot to do on this voyage until the next jump, I set up
a schedule to keep myself busy. Starting around 0800 hours, Kirk,
Adambot and I inspect the ship to ensure that everything mechanical
and electrical is operating nominally, and that we haven't been holed
by a micrometeorite. When we finish our inspection, I return to my
room to keep this log. Afterwards, Evbot and I conduct my therapy
session, where I tell her my thoughts and concerns to which she
listens carefully and sometimes offers advice. If I'm really down,
she pats me on the shoulder and offers words of encouragement. During
these sessions, I often wonder what it would be like if we were
living beings and could make love -- or even hold a real
conversation. Then I sigh. It'll never happen.
my therapy session, I perform whatever experiments Amlada has set
for the day. Usually, Adambot or Centy help me with these. Next, I
ask Centy about the ship's progress and the status of her systems.
The rest of the day is for recreation, unless there are repairs or
other matters to be dealt with. I usually read, watch holovision or
play games on my personal computer. Since I don't sleep or eat, this
is how I spend most of my free time.
Log 01.09.2180 1700 Hours. Evbot had a surprise for
me. I was
in my cabin when she rapped at my door. I was watching an
entertainment holograph, a comedy. I switched it off and told her to
enter. She said, “I am sorry to disturb your pleasure,
there is something I wish to show you.”
all right. The holo wasn’t that great. So what is
recall yesterday when we talked of playing golf?”
researched the game. I understand now why it cannot be played aboard
this ship, but I learned of a lesser version, called miniature golf.
Come. I will show you.”
my amazement, using odds and ends of equipment, junked parts, and
tools, she had set up a miniature golf course that ran the length of
the crew’s section of the ship. She handed me a putter and a
ball, both of which she had manufactured somehow using ship’s
will start by the entrance to the control room. That cup is the first
she had gone through so much trouble, I went along with the gag. We
spent several hours playing, and I actually enjoyed it. For one
thing, in low gravity it was a challenge to hit the ball softly
enough so that it did not go flying all over the place.
one point I asked Adambot whether he wanted to play.
you want me to play the game?”
that's his most annoying feature, he won't do anything outside of his
normal duties unless ordered to.
said, “Only if you wish to.”
replied, “I do not wish. Wishing is not part of my software.
will play the game if it is your desire.”
I ordered him to play. He did well. He was as precise as always, and
usually hit the cup with his first stoke. It was the same as playing
chess with him, no fun at all.
and I taught the humans aboard the game. I could beat the captain
every time. Commander Thompson, athlete that she is, did well at the
game, so did the two scientists. Kirk thought it was a waste of time,
and Lieutenant Gigilioni was our worst player.
Log 02.18.2180 0900 Hours. During the three months
been in the Castor system, the ship has had a host of problems, some
minor and one major. The major one was when a micrometeorite holed
one of the deuterium storage tanks. Luckily, it was not one that
contained antideuterium. We would have been obliterated in a
spectacular explosion. Centy immediately sent repair bots to patch
the hole. Nonetheless, this required a dangerous EVAs by Adambot and
Schmidt to make a permanent repair. It also became necessary to stay
in the system for two weeks longer to replace the lost fuel.
problem that's very worrisome is that an electrical short occurred in
a part of Centy's main computer. She assured me that it would have no
affect on her performance or abilities, since her critical functions
are triplicated. I hope she's right. If she made any sort of error
during a quantum jump, who knows where we would end up.
those are my excuses for not continuing my autobiography. But now I
must go on.
the hospital after my heart attack, my doctor's expression told me
that my health had suffered badly. My stomach tightened into a knot
as he spoke.
Tom,” his physician said, “I'm going to give it to
He stared glumly at my x-rays. “You need a
shuddered. A heart transplant was dangerous surgery.
if I don't go for it?”
be lucky to live six months.”
months to live. Unless you've experienced the fear of such a death
sentence, you cannot know the terrible anguish that I felt. When the
full impact of what the physician had said hit me, I felt death's
frosty breath. My mind went numb. Suddenly there was no future, only
the past. I turned to it for comfort. Instead I
torment. When I contemplated my life, I realized that I'd been living
a chimera. I had an expensive house that I barely saw on weekends, a
fancy car that sat in my garage, a closet full of clothes, half of
which I'd never worn, a trophy wife and a lot of gadgets that I
barely knew how to operate. I'd spent my days scheming, sweating and
kowtowing in a job I despised in order to obtain useless material
possessions. The hours that I'd sweated over figures that seemed
meaningless were a horrible crime that I'd committed against myself.
Right in front of his doctor, I wept unabashedly.
Tom," he said, "You needn't worry. Nowadays artificial
hearts perform extremely well. There are risks, but ninety percent of
the people who've had their tickers replaced are walking around
feeling better than they had for years. Besides, you don’t
options. I said you could live six months without a transplant.
That's an optimistic estimate. In truth, you could go at any time.
You're heart's in that bad a shape.”
agreed to the procedure, although I had a dread premonition that I
wouldn't survive it. The few hours before surgery my senses became
intensely acute even through a veil of drugs. From my window I
watched the sunrise, glorious in all the hues from powder-puff pink
through deep rose. A breeze wafted the good smell of fresh-mowed
grass into my room. A truck rumbled by. My skin tingled from
starch-stiff sheets. I never felt more alive than on this what I
believed was my last day alive.
soon, the nurse's aids placed me on a gurney to take me to the
operating room. The surgical team rendered me unconscious, carved out
my heart and replaced it with one of plastic, silicon and metal. That
was my second death.
Log 03.01.2180 0900 Hours. We had another emergency.
before we were going to initiate the next quantum jump, Schmidt
discovered that the electrical short which had messed with Centy's
brain two weeks ago had done more damage than first thought One of
her long term memory units had been wiped clean. Now large gaps exist
in her data and programs. My only hope is that it doesn't affect
crucial functions. From now on Adambot, Schmidt and I will need to
double check her every major decision.
asked the captain whether we should abort the mission. He replied,
"We would need to do a quantum jump to return to the solar
system. If Centy screws up, it won't make much difference whether
we're headed back home or forward to complete our mission. What do
you think, Shirley?"
Thompson replied, "How true. We should press on. If we get
jammed up the ass, so be it. How do you vote, Dawson?"
agree with you. Since the chances of becoming lost in another
dimension are about the same either way, we may as well press on."
I explain the situation and poll the crew and passengers?" asked
gave him a disgusted look. "You're the fucking captain. Don't be
polling anybody. You make the decision."
since you two agree that we should continue forward, that's what
smirked. "Sure. Then if things go wrong, you can always blame
us. Tell everybody that you got bad advice from your junior
turned and walked away.
could see her point. Poor Amlada was too weak to be commanding a
starship. Actually, Thompson should be the captain. She's strong and
decisive. When it comes to running a starship, we need a dictator not
return to my autobiography, my heart operation was a success of
course. Otherwise I would not be sitting here now. Or maybe I would.
Only I would be someone other than Tom Dawkins. Who knows?
I left the hospital, I resolved to change my life. I vowed to stop
wasting it slaving away trying to be the richest man in the grave. I
was financially well off enough so that I could quit my job. With the
money I'd accumulated, I became an hedonist, devoting myself to
experiencing every known pleasure and thrill. I left my wife and
dated extremely beautiful and desirable women. I gorged myself on
exotic dishes and sipped the finest wines and champagnes. I tried
extreme sports from sky diving to big game hunting. I smoked
marijuana, sniffed cocaine, shot up heroin, drank alcohol to excess
and tried many other drugs. I toured the world, viewing the
majestic vistas of the Himalayas and the incredible works of
Michelangelo. I, who'd never given a thought to space, toured the
solar system. Every worthwhile drama, comedy, musical and concert saw
me front row center.
years I lived in this dissolute manner. But it was wrong for me. I
became jaded and bored. Every thrill, every sensation had to be
greater than the last, or I got nothing out of it. I found myself
working as hard to amuse myself as I had making money. Finally, all I
felt was weary and empty. About this time my former wife died. All at
once I longed for what I'd given up. But it was too late.
the next six months I hid from the world, staring for hours into the
crackling flames of my fireplace asking himself the same questions
over and over. What was wrong with me? Why had the last five years
seem emptier than the previous thirty? Can only the young in their
innocence be happy?
took to reading philosophy and learned many things -- but not the key
to happiness. Certainly each author, and the philosophers and holy
men they quoted, had his favorite method for reaching a joyful
existence (at least those who were not nihilists and believed that
death and nothingness was the ideal state). In most cases, they
contradicted themselves and each other or wrote in such abstract
terms as to be meaningless. The only thing they mostly agreed upon
was that the best way to obtain bliss was to give to others, to
become a humanitarian.
a result I decided to devote the remainder of my already long life to
furthering causes that I believed would improve the human condition.
The same drive that made me a business success and a failure as a
playboy made me a famous philanthropist. For a long time I was happy
enough, especially when someone or some organization that I'd aided
expressed their gratitude.
a small core of dissatisfaction remained to irritate me. For one
thing, as my fame increased, I was called upon to act as
administrator of various charities. My life was not much different
than it had been when my main concern was business.
those years, medical science made enormous strides. Because I had
become rich, famous and well-respected, those benefits were mine for
the asking. As a result, I lived to the previously unthinkable age of
one hundred and forty. At that time I experienced a real death. There
was no reviving my ancient corpse. The only thing that could be done
was to make resounding eulogies and bury the husk in the ground.
Actually I attended the funeral, keeping well into the background so
as not to annoy Tom Dawkin's mourners.
memory of that time is too much. I don't know whether I can finish
third jump put the Centuri Dream in the vicinity of Gomeisa, a group
of five luminous giant blue stars. Captain Amlada decided that it
would not be worthwhile to do any exploring in that region. As they
headed toward a Jovian planet, a problem developed with the impulse
engine. Schmidt sent Adambot on a EVA to make the repair.
said to Dawson, "It's too bad we didn't know about this problem
at Jump Point 2, where there were no nearby stars. The crew was
extremely bored. It would have given them something to do. In fact,
I'm at my wits end trying to think of ways to keep everybody busy."
always miniature golf."
was a good idea of Evbot's. How did she come to think of it?"
know. Maybe from being around humans she's developing a creative
you really think so? I always thought that it was impossible for an
artificial intelligent being to be creative -- unless they had human
memories, like you."
knows what is possible and what is not when it comes to intelligence,
whether artificial or biological. We know so little about what
constitutes intelligence and how it operates."
conversed for a while in a philosophical vain. Finally Dawson told
Amlada that he has something to do. Bored, the captain played a game
of chess with Centy. Although among the chess players he knew, he was
considered quite good, Centy won every time. Discouraged, he went
into the laboratory to see what was going on in there.
immediately struck with how attractive Sharon Miller was. Because the
lab was warm, she had removed her coveralls and was dressed only in
shorts and a tank top. She was well endowed and wore no bra, so her
nipples showed through the thin cloth.
sat down next to her. "How's the translation going?"
too well. Jacque and I can't agree on the meaning of certain
captain moved closer and peered at their computer monitor as though
studying the symbols being displayed, although they were completely
meaningless to him. He put his hand on Miller's bare thigh as though
to steady himself as he leaned forward. She slapped it hard enough to
don't touch me, Captain."
I'm sorry. You're a beautiful woman and it's been a long journey.
Many aboard indulge in sexual activity for recreational and morale
purposes. Perhaps, you should too. It may relax you and clear your
stared daggers at him. "You may be right, but it certainly would
not be with you. For one thing, I'm a lesbian. You would have to
change your gender before I would even consider it."
who would had been listening to this by-play without commenting,
chuckled. "Ah Captain, don't you think I have tried with her.
What she says is true. She is not interested in men. Nonetheless, she
is a brilliant woman and has been quite helpful doing this
moved his chair back. He sighed. "I understand. I will not
bother you in that manner again. So what is it that you and Jacque do
not agree on."
said, "There are several passage in the message that refer to
some sort of monster or animal. It is my belief that the aliens are
describing some sort of mythological creature, such as a demon or a
said, "That doesn't make sense. Why would they send a message
out into space regarding some mythological creature."
it is a religious message. They may be religious evangelists trying
to spread their faith throughout the universe."
shook her head.
said, "And what is your opinion, My Dear?"
believe that the word refers to an enemy. It's very possible that the
message is a distress call asking for help to defeat a formidable
see. I suppose we will learn which of you is right once we arrive at
the Nihal system. Not to change the subject, but according the ship's
calendar, we are nearing the end of December. I would like to plan a
Christmas party. Would you two be interested?"
said, "Of course."
replied, "On one condition. That you call it a Yulefest party.
I'm a Pagan and do not celebrate your Judeo/Christian/Muslim
Yulefest party it is then."
Amlada got up to leave the room, Roget and Miller were in a heated
argument about the meaning of the debated passage and seemed to have
forgotten that he was still in the lab bay.
Centuri Dream made its fourth quantum jump. The nearest star was Mu
Leoporis, an O type blue giant. Its only planet was a brown dwarf
from which the starship was able to extract deuterium. Since the next
jump would be to their final destination, Nihal, where the alien
signal originated, excitement began to build. The crew became
restless. Among other symptoms of their boredom and restlessness were
changes in romantic partners.
Captain Amlada's chagrin, during the last idle period, Lieutenant
Thompson, Chief Schmidt and Miller became involved in a menage
trois. When heard the news from Thompson herself, he asked,
could you become involved with that stodgy engineer person? I've
rarely seen him smile. He speaks in monosyllables and does everything
by the book."
rolled her eyes, giggled and pinched his cheek. "Not everything.
Jealous Captain? I bet you'd love to be Schmidt now, wouldn't you?
You know what your problem is; for the captain of a starship, you're
too namby-pamby, always worried what people think of you. Kirk is a
real man. Besides, you don't know what he's like in the privacy of
cabin, especially with two naked women all over him."
winced. "I thought women liked sensitive men."
some women do. Not me. I like a man who's not afraid to order me
around. Besides, you're not just sensitive, you're a downright wimp.
You're so cautious about everything. Look how you wouldn't let Celia
take the shuttle down to that planet."
told you about that? There could've been deadly danger."
real man would've gone with her to protect her. We have weapons
aboard the shuttle."
turned crimson. In retaliation, he said, "How does Sharon Miller
fit in with you and Kirk. I never thought of you as a lesbo before."
laughed at me. "Oh Steve, you're such a dope. Sex is sex. I
enjoy variety. Miller is quite passionate with women. She does
anything I ask. Are you and Celia going to do anymore exploring? I'm
sure you two had a ball on the shuttle last time."
have Giglioni do a report on the star and its companion, but there'll
be no need to use the shuttle."
their idle time at Mu Leoporis, there was a major shift in sex
partners to Amlada's advantage. One day after the dinner meal,
Lieutenant Celia Gigilioni came to the captain's cabin.
had been playing a video game on console. "Who is it?"
Gigilioni. May I come in?" Her voice was cracked and squeaky.
she entered, she started to perform a salute, but suddenly burst into
tears. Amlada rushed to her side and put a comforting arm around her.
She leaned against his chest and wept softly.
her sobbing diminished somewhat, Amlada asked, "What's the
Roget is evil. A very bad person."
did he do?"
shook her head. "I can't say."
led her to his bunk. They sat next to each other with their knees
he harm you physically? If he did, I have the authority to discipline
him, civilian or not."
first she did not reply, mere stared at her hands in her lap.
Finally, she said, "It's not necessary." She gazed at the
captain, her eyes big and round, filled with tears. "He wanted
me to make love to Adambot, a robot, while he watched."
awful. I didn't think that was possible."
brought the machine to his cabin and told me to undress, which I did.
Then he ordered Adambot to remove its clothing. In the awful thing's
pubic area was a penis. I don't know what it was made of, some sort
of rubbery material. Roget ordered him to simulate an erection."
She covered her face with her hands. "It was awful. I-I grabbed
my clothing and ran from the room. I did not put them back on until I
locked the door to my cabin."
vivid imagination caused him to see in his mind's eye, Gigilioni
running down the gangway naked, her large breasts bobbing up and
down. He licked his lips. He wished he had been there to see that
spectacle in person.
should I do about it?" he asked.
your arms around me."
held her tightly for a long time. Finally they kissed. He undressed
her and himself, and they made wild, furious sex. Afterwards Amlada
gazed down at her sleeping naked form and thought, Celia is
mine. She's exhausted from the wild sex we just had. Praise be, my
year of celibacy is over.
following day, Amlada told Thompson what had happened.
you finally got your wish, someone to have sex with during the
remainder of the journey. I'll bet Celia will be very loyal and will
let you come to her whenever you please. She's just right for you,
Steve, a sexy body and very pliable. She'll probably do anything you
afterwards, Amlada heard that Thompson had broken off her
relationship with Schmidt and Miller. To Amlada's stupefaction, she
proceeded to seduce Roget. What he found even more dumbfounding was
that Miller stayed with Schmidt. He thought, What does that
have that even a lesbian wants to be his lover?
Log 08.10.2180 1500 Hours. The
great moment has
arrived. We've just passed the troposphere of Nihal. In another few
days we'll reach the source of the alien signal, which we now believe
to be an artificial satellite in orbit around an earth-size planet in
the inner system. The signal is now reaching us strong and clear.
Roget and Miller, however, are still not in agreement about the
meaning of message. They each have their own translation which they
each insist is the correct one. Hopefully, we'll soon find out the
believe Captain Amlada's morale has improved one hundred percent
since he hooked up with Lieutenant Gigilioni. Celia must've had a
doozy of an argument with Roget, because she refuses to have anything
more to do with him. She also avoids Adambot for some reason. I
believe the captain knows the reason for this, but he is keeping mum.
affair between Roget and Commander Thompson seems to be working out
well, and Miller and Schmidt are still a pair. I don't know whether I
will ever understand these people of the twenty-second century. They
seem to regard love and sex as games to be played. Perhaps they are
right. Who am I, a man out his time, to say?
good thing has happened. I've finally accepted myself as I am. With
the help of Evbot, I've learned to focus on the advantages of being
a robot instead of mourning my lost pleasures as a human being. I can
think better. I've even learned to beat Adambot at chess, but not
Centy. I have ten times the strength of an ordinary man. Baring
accident or violence, I'm likely to live nearly as long as the
universe. When any part of my body wears out, all I need to do is
replace it, even my brain. I have copies of my memories duplicated on
other media that I can download into another robot. I can change my
appearance at will.
although the pleasure of sex is denied me, I can still love. I've
fallen head over heels for Centy, although this is an unrequited
affair. I even hug Evbot sometimes, to which she responds with
pleasure. She likes to please me so much. Maybe that's love too.
Centuri Dream entered the Nihal system, the human crew and the two
scientists celebrated with the bottle of Champagne that Captain
Amlada had put away for the occasion.
the celebration, Amlada spoke to the entire crew. "Our next step
is to head directly toward the transmitter of the alien signal. Since
at this distance it's a powerful beacon it won't be difficult to
locate. Of course, we're two hundred and fifty years later in time
from when the signal was detected in the solar system since the
quantum drive has gotten us here in a little more than a year. Many
things may have changed in all that time."
month and half later, as they approached the inner system planets,
Celia pinpointed the source of the signal. As Dawson predicted, it
came from an artificial satellite orbiting an earthlike planet
somewhat closer to Nihal than the earth is to the sun, since Nihal is
smaller and cooler than the solar system sun.
was rejoicing as Celia pinpointed the signal's source. Amlada
declared a holiday and a general celebration. His own morale was much
improved since he hooked up with Celia. His thoughts were all happy
ones. He thought, This is a great day, a successful mission,
beautiful mistress who is great in bed and a crew who seem to have
finally settled happily into their assignments and partners. The only
fly in the ointment is that now we must travel several months on
impulse power to reach the inner system. It will be a busy six
months, however, since this is a full blown star system with many
objects of interest, an outer and inner comet belt, several gas
giants with moons and rings, and smaller planets. We'll record
stopped their progress inward to orbit a gas giant planet for
refueling. It was larger than Jupiter, with an enormous ring system
and many moons. As Captain Amlada gazed at it through the bridge
viewscreen, it was such a marvelous sight that he choked up in awe at
its beauty. Thompson caught him with tears in my eyes. She laughed at
him. "See what I mean about you, Steve. You cry like a woman at
the drop of a hat."
you have no appreciation of beauty." Nonetheless, Amlada felt
that the remark was flirtatious in a weird way.
to the ship's calendar, it was July 4, 2181. Thompson, Dawson and
Sharon Miller, the three Americans aboard, celebrated the American
Independence Day. Amlada would not allow fireworks to be set off, not
even sparklers or small firecrackers. He said, "I can allow you
to light candles, however."
also allowed Celia to take the shuttle to explore one of the moons.
She was extremely happy about that. He told her, "It will give
you practice in maneuvering the shuttle. I can spare Adambot.
Perhaps he should go along for protection."
not." She frowned. "I do not want to be confined in a small
place with that ... that thing. Besides, the moon I plan to visit is
absolutely lifeless. What good would he do?"
if you leave the shuttle and something happens to you, someone should
remain to signal us."
what good would that do. We have only one shuttle. You could not send
a rescue party. Nonetheless, I believe you are right. A second person
could return with the shuttle if I had an accident -- to return it.
You'll definitely need it when we reach the satellite with the
signal's transmitter. Can you spare Commander Thompson?"
was relieved. He did not want to send any of the males to be alone
with her. He thought, The entire time she's gone I'll worry
her. Perhaps I've grown overly fond of her. A starship captain should
keep a little reserve when dealing with the crew, even the one who is
his current mistress. It was better when I was with Thompson. She and
I never took our loving making as anything but fun sex.
Centuri Dream eventually reached the object of its mission, an
artificial satellite consisting of a metallic sphere several meters
in diameter covered with microwave dishes. It orbited an earthlike
planet, which Captain Amlada told the crew they would explore after
they examined the transmission station. He had Centy place the
Centuri Dream in an orbit around the planet that would make the
satellite easy to reach with the shuttle. Under his order Centy, with
the cooperation of the two scientists, beamed signals towards the
object. Nothing resembling a reply was received. The transmitter
simply kept repeating the same message that they had been receiving
Centy reported this to Amlada, he said, "Perhaps the aliens are
receiving on a band other than the one they're using to transmit. Or
perhaps they do not understand what we're trying to say to them."
said, "Neither of those seem plausible to me. I think the
satellite is unattended and is broadcasting an automatic message."
said, "I don't think so. If my theory is correct and the signal
is some kind of SOS, we've probably arrived too late. Whatever the
menace was, the beings that sent the message have probably been
about Occam's razor? My theory is the simplest, so must be correct."
ground her teeth, but only said, "We'll see tomorrow when we
explore the artifact."
assigned Gigilioni as pilot since she had the most experience with
the shuttle. When he discussed the mission with her, he said, "Since
the shuttle holds only four persons, I'll send Roget, Miller and
Adambot with you."
Steve. I don't want that robot aboard in the cramped quarters of the
Celia, we should send an engineering person to figure out the working
of the electronics and machinery aboard the artifact. Roget and
Miller will be there. I'm sure that Adambot will not do anything
inappropriate as long as they're with you. Besides, he only follows
don't care. If you need an engineering person, then send Chief
well, it will be you, the two scientists and Schmidt."
did not like the idea of the petty officer in close quarters with
Gigilioni. He thought, That man has a way with the ladies.
sure that he won't be satisfied with that lesbo, Miller, for long.
This is what I get for becoming too close to one of the crew. I
allowed her to overrule me and logic. I'm wondering whether what
Shirley said is true. I'm too softhearted to be in command. I have a
tendency to allow subordinates to subvert my decisions.
felt tremendous excitement as she piloted the shuttle away from the
Centuri Dream. As a biologist, she felt honored and delighted to one
of the first humans to explore an alien artifact and possibly meet an
intelligent alien species face-to-face. For her, however, what they
actually found was a letdown, although the historian and the
anthropologist were in their glory. In addition, Chief Schmidt
enjoyed poking around the alien machinery and electronics. Because of
his reputation with women, Gigilioni was happy that he stayed away
from her. She thought, I don't know what the other women
our ship see in him. He seems like a cold blooded fish. As for Roget,
I simply despise him for what he tried to make me to do.
the docking facility on the satellite was similar in structure to the
one on the Centuri Dream, it was not a perfect fit for the shuttle.
Nonetheless, Gigilioni was such an expert pilot, she managed to deal
with the differences, although docking was tricky at times.
they docked, Schmidt found it a simple matter to open the hatch to
enter an airlock. A lever closed the outer door, filled the airlock
with an invisible gas and opened the inner door. Schmidt tested the
atmosphere and found that it was a mix of nitrogen and oxygen not
much different from the air on earth.
remarked, "Simply by entering the satellite we've learned much
about the aliens already. The size of the hatches reveal that they're
similar to us in size, perhaps slightly smaller, and that they're
removed her helmet and almost vomited as a strong stench of death and
decay reached her nostrils. She quickly put it back on and took a
deep breath of pure oxygen. Miller, who was about to remove her own
helmet, asked, "What's wrong?"
a strong stench of death in here."
smiled. "You'll get used to it after a few minutes. Catacombs
and tombs all smell like that." She removed her helmet and
stepped through the entrance. Roget did the same.
like a fool since she had certainly enough experience with the scent
of death when she did autopsies, Gigilioni again removed her helmet
and followed. On this occasion the shock of breathing in that odor
unexpectedly did nasty things to her stomach. After she breathed the
air for a few moments, the stench seemed only musty, like walking
into a room of old used books. Libraries and used book stores had a
they found only death and unusable equipment. This did not bother the
two scientists or Schmidt, who found much to explore. They snapped
pictures, bagged samples and took parts from broken equipment.
dead aliens were scattered about in various positions. They had
bodies somewhat like chimpanzees covered with greenish hair, their
faces were almost human except that they had no noses, simply
nostrils and their eyes were set further apart. They had six fingers
on each hand and six toes on each foot. This confirmed Roget's theory
that they used a duodecimal system instead of a decimal system for
counting and mathematics. They also had tails.
chose two of the best preserved mummified corpses of the aliens and
carefully laid them flat on the deck. "Doctor Miller, may I
interrupt you work for a few minutes?"
who had taken a liking to Celia, came over by the younger woman and
said, "Sure. What do you need?"
help me prepare these corpses so we can bring them back to the
sprayed them with a preservative as Miller turned them when
necessary. The two women tagged them and slipped them into plastic
scientists found the transmitter, which was a machine for repeating
over and over the message the ESDS had intercepted. The satellite's
power source was atomic, but the radioactive element was almost all
turned to lead. The ESDS and the Centuri Dream had intercepted the
message just in time. A few more years, and the station would have
shut down permanently as the power source was depleted.
radioed Captain Amlada with the results of their investigation. He
ordered her and the others to return in two hours. When she relayed
this information to Roget and Miller, Roget said, "That's
ridiculous. We need much more time to assess this place. We've barely
begun our examination."
agreed. "We need at least two days. Why couldn't you and Kirk
return to the starship and leave us here?"
shook her head. "No-can-do. Captain Amlada was very determined
that we leave the satellite within the next two hours and return
together." Actually he had not been quite that resolute about
the matter, but she wanted to get away from the stifling atmosphere
in the satellite and did not relish being in the shuttle alone with
hours later, the scientists hauled several sample bags to the
shuttle. The two men returned to the satellite with stretchers to
take the alien corpses aboard.
the Alien Planet
day after the personnel returned from their exploration of the
satellite, Captain Amlada called a meeting with Roget, Miller,
Gigilioni, Thompson and Dawson to discuss what their next move should
said, "I think we should continue to explore the satellite.
After all, that was the origin of the signal. I'm sure there are more
clues to its meaning to be found there."
else wanted to go down to the planet. Miller put it succinctly. "The
alien civilization is below us. Once we find out more about the
alien's way of life, the items on the satellite will make more
put it to a vote. It was four to one for exploring the planet, with
the captain abstaining. Thompson gave him a smirky look as if to say,
"There you go again, avoiding making a decision. If I were
captain, I wouldn't put a major decision like that to a vote."
looked away from her. "I've decided that the planetary mission
should consist of Doctors Roget and Miller, Adambot and Commander
Thompson as pilot. The robot's strength and imperviousness might be
needed if you run into trouble. Dawson can monitor the mission from
about me?" said Gigilioni. She sounded disappointed that she
would not be part of the landing party.
will be needed to do autopsies on those alien corpses. We should find
out as much as possible about their makeup." Amlada added
mentally, And spend your nights pleasing me.
from First Officer Lieutenant Shirley Thompson's Report of the
Mission to the Alien Planet (Day One)
choose a landing spot for the shuttle, I orbited the planet --
temporarily named Nihal Two since it is the second planet from the
star -- at a low altitude and surveyed it with the high resolution
camera. N2 has four major continents and several large islands. The
rest is all ocean, which I determined to be liquid water. The
atmosphere consists of an oxygen-nitrogen mix with other gases
including water vapor. In other words, the planet is almost identical
to earth. The continents are covered with forests, deserts, mountains
and so forth, again in an earthlike mix.
my first pass the land areas seemed uninhabited by any intelligent
beings. I was especially watchful for alien artifacts. At first there
seemed to be none. But Sharon Miller pointed out that what I first
thought were jumbles of stone were ruins. The planet has many acres
of them. Sharon concluded that we had stumbled on a destroyed
relayed this information to Dawson and asked Roget and Miller where I
should land. They chose a large ruined coastal city.
protocol, after I landed I sent Adambot out to scout around in case
something in the area was dangerous. I passed out blasters to my
first Jacque tried to refuse to take one. "Typical militaristic
thinking," he said. "I suppose that if we spot an alien we
should blow it up."
if it shoots first. Hey, besides hostile intelligent aliens, there
could be dangerous wild animals out there. Without a weapon, what
would you do if a sabertooth tiger attacks you?"
kept the weapon. I showed the civilians the settings. Jacque kept his
on Stun. Probably it was best that way since he was not adept at
handling firearms. At least if he accidentally let it go off in my
direction or Miller's the effect would not be fatal. On the other
hand, Miller informed me that she often carried firearms and
later, Adambot returned. The robot said that he had encountered wild
animals, but none that posed a threat. I asked him whether he had
seen any humanoids, alive or dead.
commander. But I did not enter any buildings."
were two kilometers from the nearest ruin. I left Adambot to guard
the shuttle, and the three of us hiked up there. The ambient
temperature was in the seventies, the air was pure and sweet, and the
sun was high in the sky. All in all, it was a beautiful spring day
in the temperate zone of N2. I enjoyed the walk immensely. We stopped
often to take samples of the plant life. We even saw a few small
animals and insect-like creatures. The animals were similar to
rabbits, only with long tales and six legs.
first set of ruins was a disappointment. Barely one stone was piled
on another. Whatever had damaged the city, had turned the buildings
into charcoal and crushed rock. Most of it was practically gravel. We
poked around in the debris for several hours without finding anything
of significance. Once or twice, a block had what could've been a
date or a name engraved on it. We took pictures of those. One stone
was etched with a relief of something that could have been an animal,
a god or a demon. Something about the carving gave me the willies.
remarked, "The aliens must've had a terrible war. It's likely
that they destroyed themselves completely."
who never agreed with any conclusion of Miller's, said, "Or a
few survived and retrogressed." He pointed at ruins ten miles
away. "Those look like they haven't suffered as much damage as
by then the star Nihal was low in the sky, I said, "We'll go
there at first light. I don't believe it would be prudent to travel
at night." I herded them back into the shuttle and radioed our
plans to Dawson.
from First Officer Lieutenant Shirley Thompson's Report of the
Mission to the Alien Planet (Day Two)
started out at sunrise in the all-terrain exploration vehicle or
ATEV, which runs on tracks and cruises at thirty-five kilometers per
hour. Because of the rough terrain, it took two hours of jolting,
zigzagging and breathing dust to reach the second site. Again, not
one building was whole. Nonetheless, we found one that looked like
it once was a skyscraper but was reduced to its first six stories.
The ground floor seemed to be a lobby of a commercial building. A
large heap of debris made a mound in the center where an upper floor
had collapsed. The two scientists spent a long time minutely
searching through it for anything that would give a clue as to the
nature of the alien civilization and what happened to cause such
devastation. They found nothing of significance.
started up a partially blocked stairway. I wished that I had brought
Adambot, as we spent an hour of hard labor clearing it away. Two
flights up, we found something noteworthy, a large room filled with
what seemed to be video broadcast equipment. Although it was rusty
and broken, Miller found storage media that she hoped contained the
station's programs. Jacque could hardly wait to get back to the
Centuri Dream, where he could work on decoding the media so that the
broadcasts could be viewed. Bowing to his wishes, we returned to the
shuttle and subsequently to the starship.
a week went by since the expedition to the planet returned to the
Centuri Dream, Roget and Miller were not able to decode the
recordings they found in the alien ruins. They became so involved in
this project, neither one had spoken hardly a word to anyone on the
crew during that time.
Amlada burst in on them one day. "Hi folks. I haven't received a
report about your progress. How are things going?"
glanced up from a printout he was studying. "We're near a
solution, but not quite there yet. Don't worry, Captain. When we find
the answer, you'll be the first to know."
growled, "These constant interruptions aren't helping. Just
leave us alone. And tell the crew the same thing."
about Chief Schmidt? He's been asking about you."
him to go to hell. I'm no longer interested in his kinky sex."
She turned away and looking over Roget's shoulder, pointed at
something on the printout and mumbled in his ear. They immediately
began to argue. They ignored Amlada as though he was not present.
captain tiptoed out of the room. Chief Schmidt was waiting just
outside the laboratory hatch for him. "Did you tell Sharon that
I missed her?"
Amlada repeated what she had said.
walked away with a hangdog look. Amlada felt sorry for him. He was
reduced from having two women in his bed to none. On a happier note,
since Roget had his head stuck in a computer all the time, Shirley
had started to flirt with the men aboard including Amlada..
was waiting for him in his cabin. She kissed him and said, "Steve
darling, I've finished the autopsies on the alien corpses. I sent you
a full report."
you, dear. In general though, what did you find?"
their DNA is different from ours, in many ways they are quite
similar. They were mammalian in structure, although their internal
organs were somewhat different. There were a few organs whose
function I could not determine. Perhaps, if the landing party had
brought back a few living animals for me to experiment with, I could
figure it out. Allow me to make planet fall and trap some."
sorry Celia, but there will be no more exploring parties. We must
return to the solar system. Future expeditions can explore this
system in depth. Right now, our duty is to report what we've found as
quickly as possible." What Amlada did not say, but was thinking,
was, And bask in the glory of being the first to visit an
pouted and refused to sleep with him that night.
next day Amlada informed the crew that they would be returning home.
The two scientists did not attend the meeting. The crew, except for
Gigilioni were delighted. She protested, "You should allow me to
visit the planet at least once. I really need to observe the animal
and plant life there."
sorry Celia, but we need to leave this system as soon as possible."
He never explained his reasons despite several questions regarding
days after their first jump of the return trip, Roget and Miller
found a method for viewing the alien broadcasts. The entire crew
crowded into the laboratory to look at them. Although it was obvious
that they showed events during a war, they were confusing. One thing
was apparent; their enemy was a race quite different from the alien
corpses. The enemy aliens were horrible looking creatures who had
apparently had extremely powerful weapons of mass destruction. It
seemed as though the natives of N2 were attacked and obliterated by a
species from another star system.
seeing the video, Dawson said, "Too bad we cannot understand the
narration. It might clear up what exactly transpired."
said, "Sharon and I are working on that. We should have the
translation done by the time we get back to the solar system."
no longer went to the captain's cabin. She was incensed because he
did not allow one additional exploration of the planet in which she
would participate. Actually Amlada was relieved that she had broken
up with him. He turned to Thompson for solace, and she again became
his lover. He enjoyed sex with his second in command much more than
with Celia. Celia was too compliant, always waiting for him initiate
everything. Thompson, on the other hand, was inventive and sometimes
treated him as her sex slave.
Log Ship 09.01.2182 0800 hours We're on the final
leg of our
journey. On the next jump, we'll be home. All of us will be glad to
be back. Even me. It's been a wearing voyage. We've been cooped up in
the Centuri Dream for many months. I talked to Captain Amlada the
other day, and he counted the mission a great success. During our
last idle period, Roget and Miller finally had a breakthrough in
translating the aliens’ language. From the recordings, they
learned that the other aliens, the invaders, were beings who
controlled many star systems in the galaxy. The natives of Nihal Two
were given one chance to capitulate and become slaves. When they
refused, they were set upon by the conquering race and obliterated.
It was a sad fate for them.
Log Ship 03.15.2183 0100 hours What horror! It's
what happened. It's inconceivable. The people aboard the Centuri
Dream may be the last humans alive. During our absence the evil
aliens who destroyed the planet we had visited had come to our solar
system and destroyed humanity. We took the shuttle down and found
only blasted ruins as we had on the alien world. We visited all the
colonies and science stations on Mars, Earth's moon, and other moons.
We found not one person alive. Everywhere in the solar system there
was nothing but death and destruction. As the truth became known,
many of the crew wept like babies. One space station was semi
operational. It was broadcasting a distress signal. Roget thought
that it was deliberately left on to lure other beings to the solar
system. It was his theory that the evil aliens had left a detection
device so that any starship coming to the satellite could be traced
back to its origin. In that way, the aliens would know which systems
to attack next. We destroyed the equipment.
did not know whether the evil aliens would return. To be on the safe
side, we returned to Castor and settled on the earthlike planet
there, which turned out to be quite a pleasant place, with many
species of plants and animal, none of which were anywhere near as
intelligent a humans. If the humans aboard can survive, the six of
them will become new Adams and Eves of Paradise and populate it with
the human race. By the way, it was Lieutenant Celia Gigilioni who
named our new home Paradise. As far as me, I will probably survive
until my parts wear out thousands of years from now. Evbot and I live
together now. I have examined Adambot's member and believe I can build
a similar one and attach it to my robotic body. Evbot
encouraged me in this endeavor. She said it would be good for my
morale to simulate the sex act even though I did not really feel
anything. She's so good to me.
© 2007 Joe Vadalma
Joe Vadalma has loved science fiction and fantasy from the time he
learned to read. His hobbies, besides writing, are adventure game playing
and do-it-yourself projects. Before he retired, he was a technical writer
at a major computer manufacturer. Several of his short stories have
been published in E-zines, (a few in Aphelion, the latest in July's
issue called Insurgents),and I've sold a series of dark fantasy novels
called The Morgaine Chronicles to
Renaissance E Books,. Renaissance has also published two
collections of my short stories, The Sands of Time and Mordrake's
Apprentice, two SF novels, Star Tower and The Bagod, and a dark fantasy
called The Laws of Magic. These books are also available at Fictionwise. The Book of Retslu, a humorous fantasy, has
been published by Mundania Press.
My web site, The Fantastic World of Papa Joe contains SF, fantasy and horror stories, serials, my blog and fantasy
art. My E-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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