Chapter 2: More Chuck Berry, Please
K'orrza Rahn took a moment for the interior suit pressure to equalize, feeling his ears pop gently as the suit seals hissed and finally clamped down. The helmet's interior displays fluttered to life, running diagnostic code down as each system came online and flashed a ready green. "Comms check, ACe can you hear me?" A small video display to the left lit up, showing K'orrza a ceiling-eye view of the cockpit. "Loud and clear sir," ACe responded. "Good," K'orrza said, "now remind me why I'm the one going out here again?" ACe seemed to twitter as he made final calibrations on the ship's interior grav-plate units. "Because I'm not able to sir," he responded casually. "My Mobile Suit Explorer isn't designed for space walks. Every gyro and joint would freeze up in mere bits before I could do anything...productive beyond screaming that it was cold out here." "Hmm, that sounds like an excuse to stay safe and warm in the ship," K'orrza mused. "Oh it is," ACe shot back, "I'm designed for planetary exploration, not the potentially dangerous and suicidal trip you're attempting to make."
"Wait, what?" K'orrza exclaimed. "What do you mean 'potentially dangerous?'" ACe peered out to the view screen as the ship began to parallel orbit next to the probe. "Well, did you even stop to think that maybe the probe might be booby trapped, sir?" "No," K'orrza shot back nervously, "Not until you just mentioned--" "You'll be fine, sir," ACe interrupted as the ship finished its maneuver and settled into a precise orbit with the probe. "Any last words before I shut off the grav-plate units and open the airlock?" ACe seemed to tease him. "Yeah," K'orrza said, "maybe this isn't such a good idea after all." ACe's voice suddenly went serious. "Don't worry. You'll be fine," he tried to say in that casual, calming tone. "I've already scanned for any potential threats. The Probe's clean. Shutting grav-plate power down in three....two....one."
K'orrza suddenly felt his body lift off the ship's walkway, the weight of the artificial gravity plates under his feet powering down and giving him the odd sense that he was free falling. It was almost the same thing that he'd felt when he was planetside in the Abborian deep space simulation unit, in that giant and dark tank of icy cold water, having no sense of up or down, top or bottom. Just the quiet black nothing. The cold. That almost dizzying sensation of having every sense that your body had relied on since birth; touch, hearing, sight and smell taken away from him. It was both amazing. And terrifying all at once.
"Ready to open the airlock whenever you're ready, Protectorate," ACe responded, still keeping that calming, yet now all-business voice. "Is your safety tether secure?" K'orrza looked down to the side of the suit, flicking open a small metal box and pulling out a silver-looking wire no thicker than a spider's thread. At the end was a dime-sized electro-magnet synced up with the ship's plating. With a simple flip of the power unit on the box, the mag lock would attach and hold on so tight you could put five of K'orrza on the other end and it wouldn't let go. The tether wire, on the other hand...K'orrza made the connection and flipped the power on, feeling the small tug at his side as it latched onto the hull. "Ready," he said.
ACe moved to the airlock control panel. "Releasing clamps. Opening airlock outer door in three...two...one." The door slid out, almost touching the alien probe ahead of K'orrza. Even with suit compensators in place, the full brunt of spacial vacuum hit him like an arctic blizzard. "Wooo that's cold," he muttered. "You're doing fine, sir," ACe tried to reassure him. "All vitals show nominal, for now." K'orrza placed his hands on the outer doorway frame, taking a moment to orient his body for that gentle push forward towards the probe's hatch. "Here we go," he said.
And pushed himself into the waiting arms of oblivion.
K'orrza and ACe looked down at the small round disk as it floated gently above the grav table in the ship's tech lab, ACe was busy taking every possible reading and scan that the ship's various instruments had. K'orrza sat retentively in his seat, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees, hands clasped gently together. As soon as his hands had pried the probe's hatch open there it was, reflecting gold under the ship's forward lights. It was still remarkably well preserved considering the probe's age. Various pictographs written in some strange dialect adorned the small disk, and after holding it to the light a little closer, he could see small circular grooves of some kind cut into the disk's surface.
After a few minutes, ACe's camera arm retracted and moved across the ceiling of the ship's tech lab before settling close to K'orrza's face. "It's a recording of some kind," he finally said. K'orrza's forehead wrinkled gently. "Of what?" he asked. "Well, after finally figuring out the archaic playing device that's required to make it function," ACe said as he swiveled back to the gold plated record, "I can holo-code what's required and, well, we can both find out what it is." ACe turned the camera and waited. K'orrza simply nodded, giving ACe all the permission he needed.
The record suddenly stopped spinning in the air as a hard light holo-code construct began to materialize around it. ACe had created a box-like image with a circular top, a small thin needle resting on the neck of some swivel arm. The circular top base began to spin, the swivel arm and needle slowly lowering towards the small grooved disk. As soon as the needle made contact with the record, both K'orrza And ACe nearly gasped in shock.
Sounds of various....K'orrza could only guess as the planet's wildlife; a soft chirping thing, a harsh squawking something, punctuated by what sounded like a booming, grinding wail. "What is that?" K'orrza asked. ACe glanced over at him, "If I had to guess, the pitch and the way it's giving off a reverb," he said, "I'd say it's a very, very large underwater animal." K'orrza nodded, "It sounds a lot like--"
Music. Soft and gentle music suddenly rang out across the ship. Light and slowly rhythmic, it seemed to convey a time in the species culture of more....refined eloquence. ACe leaned forward, "Oh I like this. It sounds so pretty...I wonder if th-" The music faded, shifting between various instrumental influences, some light and lofty, others more fundamentally primal. It all finally ended in something that neither expected to hear. It was an electrical, high pitched song. Fast and yet oddly fluid. Catchy, if a bit loud. Neither one could make out the dialect being used, but the tempo, the song's beat seemed to catch K'orrza's attention the most. Despite himself, he found his foot tapping gently on the floor as it played out. "I like this one better," K'orrza said with a grin, "sounds more modern than the last few." ACe seemed to shrug (if you could call it that), and continued to listen. "Hmph. If you ask me, it sounds like nothing more than gibberish to me. But to each his own I suppose." K'orrza grinned and nearly chuckled. "Wonder if they have any more of that?" ACe shifted and seemed to slink down a little before he muttered quietly to himself. "Creator I hope not....."
K'orrza and ACe stood around a large 3D holo-display that the two had managed to piecemeal together back in the cockpit of the various amounts of information they had been provided, using the probe's trajectory line and triangulating the region's various pulsars the disk had provided to show the exact star the planet in question was now orbiting. It was still just a speck of light in an otherwise massive sea of stars, but the two had a rough road map of sorts on how to get there. ACe magnified the star, still extremely blurry in the pictures with the ship being this far out, and pulled up the various bits of information the disk provided. "Two sexes, abundant plant and animal life, one natural satellite, roughly fifty dominant dialects I'm still running through the translation matrix to try to make any sense out of," ACe listed off. "The only way we're ever going to get a visual of the planet is by either going there ourselves or by slip spacing a probe to take readings," ACe's camera turned to glance at K'orrza, "which is something I would suggest doing first. Going in headlong towards a remote and potentially hazardous planet blindly is not something I'm comfortable with doing."
K'orrza nodded, even though his interest was piqued, erring on the side of caution never hurt. "How long would it take for us to get preliminary data back?" he asked. "Oh, probably about.....ten, fifteen ticks," ACe responded. "It'll be patchy though, the probe's sensors can only send back so much data at one burst. And it won't be a very long look at the planet considering it'll be running at near slip speed when it flies by. But it should give give us a nice idea of what this uh.....Earth should look like." K'orrza glanced at ACe for a moment. "Earth? How do you know it's called that?" he asked. ACe pulled up the entire disk's spoken dialog data log into one large block text on the holo-monitor. Several of the words were highlighted, each one looked exactly the same. "This word is repeated roughly twenty-seven times on the recording. I doubt they'd do that unless they were trying to tell the listener that 'Hey, this is the name of our planet.' So for now, unless I'm incorrect, we'll simply call it...Earth." K'orrza shrugged, "Fair enough. Let's go see what this....Earth looks like then." ACe seemed to brighten a bit, moving to the command consoles. "I'll get the probe ready, sir."
Short Story: Starlight and Song
Blog entry posted by wastelander75, Jun 25, 2012.