Fiction Fragment Friday
Usually I start these off by telling you where the inspiration for my story came from. I wish I could do that here, but I honestly don’t know. I have done quite a bit of writing this week in my free moments, but most of that work is for submissions and not going to be shared here on the blog. I started a story for today and after a paragraph realized that it was going to need more development and so I created a new document and wrote this story.
Some of my own fiction written long ago involved asteroid fields and trying to navigate through them like you see in so may Science Fiction movies. The more I studied the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter for a novel the more I realized just how many misconceptions I had. That novel never made it past chapter ten, but the knowledge gained is something that will continue to inform future writings.
This story is really one that just grew from writing with no theme or inspiration that I’m aware of shaping it. As I wrote each paragraph the story in my head swung wildly. Each decision or reveal I made had multiple other options considered. In the end I’m very happy with the story and I hope you all enjoy.
I was not concerned when the proximity alert indicated an object ten times the size of my ship approaching. Space is an exceptionally large place, and my ship is not particularly big. I pilot a one-man exploration vessel so when I jump into a new solar system, we do not know yet where the clear lanes for travel are. That is part of my job. Also, as mentioned space is excessively big, and proximity is a bit relative. The large object was further away from my ship than the moon was to Earth. I flipped on a few deep scans to try and determine as much as I could about my surroundings, so I did not move into a more precarious location.
The densely packed asteroid field that you see in movies is simply a work of fiction. In an average asteroid belt, there are tens of thousands of kilometers between objects. Standing on the surface of one you likely would not see another without specialized tools. Have I mentioned that space is very large? Dodging around large colliding rocks in space is great for creating action driven scenes, but the reality of space travel is that in most cases it is fairly boring. In those cases where it is not then something has gone horribly wrong on your ship, and you are trying to fix it before you die. Making minor course corrections to avoid an asteroid that is hours away does not exactly sell, but it is reality.
Nine times out of ten a proximity alert is just a large asteroid only interesting in the standpoint of making sure you don’t jump into it. That is fairly unlikely to begin with because of the size of space, but large gravitational fields can impact your arrival. As the data came onto my screen, I quickly realized that this was a one out of ten situation. Readings were indicating a smooth surface and considerable heat signatures. Forget one out of ten I had never seen readings like this in my seven years of exploration. None of the readings fit within any known categories and I knew I needed to visually see it.
I turned on the external camera feeds and digitally magnified the images being fed to my display. There was no way I was looking at a natural object. The exterior was smooth with cylinders, domes, and unnatural lighting. Markings on the exterior looked to me to be some form of written language. As hard as it was to believe, there was no doubt in my mind that I was looking at a space station sitting at a Lagrange point. The only problem was that I was supposed to be the first human to jump into the solar system and it didn’t match any design I had ever seen.
It was not like the idea of intelligent life in the universe other than humanity was unthinkable. As we explored the galaxy, we found many distinct species of plant and animal life. Most were similar enough to life on Earth that we could categorize and understand what we had found. Sure, there were some truly strange outliers, but for the most part parallel evolution seemed to be the winning theory. Even after two hundred years of exploration though we had yet to find any indication of life more intelligent than household pets. The concept of intelligent life wasn’t abandoned, but at this point humanity had lost hope in finding it.
“Computer, what is the protocol for first contact?”
“There are no protocols that match your request.” Of course, there weren’t. How do you write out protocols and tested processes for something that has never been done? Sure, there are plenty of theoretical maintenance protocols, but no one wants to sign their name on a protocol that could trigger an interplanetary incident without any data to back it up. I know I didn’t want to be the guy that went down in history books as starting the first stellar war in humanity’s history. Nope, it was time to jump out and hope no one had seen me.
A light on my dashboard indicated that there were incoming radio signals. My hand hovered over the button to initiate the jump preparation phase. “Well hell.” How would it look if I jumped in, looked around and ran? Would it make them more on edge about us? With a sigh I ran the computer through some basic programs for interpreting the incoming radio signal. It was close enough to technology used on Earth centuries ago that the computer was able to parse and play the message. I braced myself for whatever sounds might come through my speakers from a language never before heard by human ears.
The sounds were not as strange as I anticipated. I could not understand what was being said, but the sounds that formed the words would be something I could easily reproduce. That was a huge relief for me as I imagined future linguists learning the language. I figured it was time to give them a sample of mine. Clicking the broadcast button, I did my best to say something memorable. “Greetings fellow inhabitants of the galaxy. My name is Captain Matthew Henson and I’m an explorer from the planet Earth. I come in peace.”
So many questions and second guesses ran through my head. Should I have told them what planet I come from? Surely, they would have their own names for stars and planets. How would those lines sound in the history books? Also why did I have to end it with such a lame phrase overdone in science fiction. It was too late to beat myself up for it. The message was sent, and the recording was made.
As I sat there in space not sure what my next steps should be, the most unexpected thing possible came over the speakers. A voice talking in English. “Uhm, hey out there Captain Henson, was it? Welcome to Amalgam Station. Well, that’s what we humans call it anyway.”
“Wait a minute you’re human?”
“Mostly. I’m a fourth Lyrae on my father’s side a few generations back. I actually met him once since their lifespan is about twice our own”
My thoughts were spinning. It was like trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle without having the picture to know what you were creating. The pieces just were not adding up and I don’t have a lot of patience for being given the runaround. “Just how many intelligent species are on that station and how did you end up there?”
“Well see, that gets a little complicated.”
“Awfully bossy for a stranger. Guess the concept of being a respectful guest died out on Earth at some point. I’ll answer your question as best I can, but let’s be clear on something. You aren’t in charge here and I don’t answer to any Earth governments. I was born on this station, and it is far more of a home to me than some planet I’ve never even seen. Am I making myself clear?”
I wanted to lash out again, but tried to remember that everything said was being recorded and would someday be in history books. I needed to make a better impression than this, and I supposed he was correct from his perspective. “I apologize. Please understand this is all very confusing. As far as humanity knew we were the only intelligent race in the galaxy, and I was the very first person to come to this solar system. I hope you can understand how that could leave me a bit disoriented.” This whole mission was becoming a disaster. I could just see the entries that would someday be made about me and how I was an example of what not to do during a first contact.
“Now was that so hard? To make your answer as simple as I can, beings from forty three different planets were brought to this station a long time ago. I don’t know exactly how long and even if I did it would be in the time measurements we use here, and they are not based on how long it takes the Earth to travel around its sun. With a lot of medical technology, I don’t understand at even a basic level; breeding among species is possible. That is why it is so complicated. What is a species after generations of crossbreeding?”
“You said the species were brought there. Who brought them and how?”
“That would be the Lyrae. They brought us here to study us. Bunch of hypocrites if you ask me. They got no problem kidnapping beings from all over the galaxy to study, but when we get a hold of a couple of them in Roswell, they get all pissed off. Oh, I wouldn’t bring up Roswell with them unless you got time to listen to a very long rant.”
“Good to know. I should probably get back though and let everyone know you all are out here so they can send some people better qualified for this kind of thing.” My jump engines had recharged so I just needed to set my course and fold space to get back home.
“Oh, you aren’t leaving. We can’t risk you bringing back others. Don’t worry though you’ll love it here.”
Before I could maneuver my ship around to the proper vector a bright light surrounded it. The whole ship shook and started to be pulled back towards the station. I hit my thrusters and gripped tightly as the entire ship vibrated. They didn’t have the power to break me free and if I kept them on it might do permanent damage to my ship. I had a moment to decide if death would be better than being taken captive. It is moments like those that can truly define a person. You can discover things about yourself that you wouldn’t learn in any other way. I discovered that I was more afraid of death than I was of captivity. With a quick tap I turned off the thrusters and let the energy beam pull my ship inside the station.