Chapter 3: Hard Contact
"There it is," ACe almost whispered. Both he and K'orrza were leaning almost inches from the floating holo-image that the probe had at last compiled on its scan of the planet. "Isn't it beautiful?" he whispered. K'orrza could only nod, transfixed by the spectacle of a living, breathing world. It was a deep set blue, swirling white clouds roaming across its skies. Small ripples of brown and green threaded land poked through the misty cover here and there, the soft red and yellow light of its star reflecting off the waters giving parts of the planet this almost orange and rose colored glow. As the probe flew past to the dark side of the planet, the natural wonder was replaced by the glittering twilight of industry, cities, large twinkling cities, webbing out in almost candlelight-like globes of white. Off to the left and just peeking over the curve of the planet, the small grey and white luminous surface of it's single pale moon poked out.
"Mag...nificent," K'orrza finally managed to say when he collected his breath. The probe's final image of the planet was a small half shimmering ring of the world shining in the light, that peek-a-boo lump of its moon, and finally broken static and darkness as the probe self-destructed. ACe looped the feed and paused it at the light-facing side, glancing at K'orrza gently. "That's not the only thing the probe picked up. There's a lot of chatter down there, so many different dialects, so many different voices. I don't think that the planet's home to just fifty dialects. I think it's home to at least six thousand." K'orrza could feel the gooseflesh ripple up his back. "Six thousand?!" he gasped. "Indeed," ACe seemed to beam. "Random communications chatter for the most part, it seems they've developed rudimentary broadband capabilities in the last fifty cycles since launching their probe. Which would suggest they're using fiber wire tech, much like our own. I was also able to pick up some kind of....visual transmission as well."
K'orrza frowned gently. "Of what?" ACe pulled up the data stream, as a large holo-screen overlapped the planetary image. The screen showed what looked to be a small dimly lit room, an iron boxed..something with a large tube leading into the wall, inside that iron box flickered the hard red light of a fire. A man stood at the doorway, rain beading off his long trench coat and broad brimmed hat, as he cradled some long metal tube like object. Another man in the room seemed to stare him down. "You'd be William Munny out...(unintelligble).... women and children." K'orrza started a little. "Hey I understood some of that." ACe nodded, "Mmhm.The translation matrix must be kicking in, it'll still be spotty until it compiles the total language components, but it should give us the gist of what they're saying." ."..or crawled at one time or another," the transmission continued. "And I'm....(unintelligible)... kill you, Little Bill....for what...(unintelligible) Ned," the man in the doorway said in a sandy, rough voice. ACe leaned closer to the video screen, tightening his eye shutter a little. "Wait did he just say he was there to k--."
The scene showed a terrible and deadly battle, small hand held and double barreled weapons that spat fire and bullet. Men screamed as they were shot and spout gouts of blood over the walls, across each others faces, or pooled out across the floor. It all ended with the man in the trench coat standing over the one who first spoke to him. "I don't deserve this..(unintelligible)...a house," he seemed to lament. "Deserve's...(unintelligible) with it," the other responded. "I'll see you in hell William Munny," the man on the floor spat out. The other man leveled up his weapon and in that cold and gritty voice simply replied, "...Yeah..." Both K'orrza and ACe seemed to jump out of their skins as the man's weapon fired.
Both of them sat there staring at the planet's image in complete and total silence for almost an entire click. K'orrza finally managed to blink, inhaled deeply and rubbed his hands against his upper legs. He looked at the floor plates, and leaned forward in his chair. "I still feel like I'm going to be sick," K'orrza finally managed to whisper. It was a few moments before ACe shut the video feed off, leaving the both of them to sit there under the soft blue light spilling off the various command consoles at the cockpit. In that time, K'orrza tried to find something positive about what he had seen. On the one hand he at least got to see the species in a more definitive light as opposed to the silly little silhouettes the golden disk had shown. Their noses were more pronounced, ending in a slight up-curving point, unlike K'orzza's which was more squared and flat against the face. Their lips were dimpled under their noses, as opposed to the smooth and flat set of K'orrza's people. The ears were rounded instead of being slightly pointed in the middle. Their eyes were of particular interest, being white with colorful irises, instead of being covered by the thick black u.v. membrane of K'orrza's people, which suggested their sun wasn't emitting as much ultra violent radiation as his own, instead they simply had a light patch of hair instead of scale plates over the crown of their eye sockets. They also didn't appear to have the skin spots down their necks and shoulders, and of course they had five fingers instead of four.
But the violence, the open and uncensored violence that he had just witnessed, was something completely and totally unique. And unexpected for a species that seemed to project themselves as an open, peace-loving society. A lot of things might have changed in the nearly fifty cycles since they first launched their probe, but to display it in such brunt and frank manner suggested to K'orrza that this mind-set was deeply imbedded into their core makeup. That violence had become something so commonplace and readily accepted that they had simply become....detached from its overall impact. The more K'orrza dwelt on this particular aspect of these humans (as ACe had finally told him what they called themselves) the more that doing a close orbit fly-by of the planet seemed like a very bad idea.
They could react in any number of ways. Some of which involved him and the ship being obliterated in orbit. Something that seemed to creep up K'orrza's spine like a cold and icy finger. And it was something that seemed almost....probable considering what he initially knew of them. What was the old saying? First impressions aren't always the correct one, but they aren't always the wrong one either. ACe slid up to K'orrza, his small camera eye glancing up and down worriedly. "Are you OK Protectorate?" he asked quietly. K'orrza glanced at him gently and nodded. "I'm thinking that maybe this is as close as we get to Earth. In fact the further we can get, the better."
ACe seemed to understand, and yet seemed disappointed at the same time. "So what are you thinking?" he asked. K'orrza cleared his throat and sighed. "I say we save the information, catalog the planet as 'progressive but hostile' and keep traveling. It is a scientific wonder to find a habitable planet this deep in space, but their casual approach to violence leaves me with too many reservations with doing anything beyond that. So the best, and most prudent, course of action is to just move on."
ACe nodded, moving to the command console and began to shunt all the information into the ship's main data cells. "As you wish, Protectorate," he did glance back once as he moved across the console. "It is curious though," he threw out, "how they acquired fiber wire capabilities in the fifty cycles since they sent out their "Voyager" probe." K'orrza titled his head. He knew where the conversation was going, but for the moment he'd play along. "After all," ACe tried to reason, "didn't our own society take nearly three hundred cycles to develop that same tech after we first started exploring the universe?" K'orrza simply shrugged. "Curious, but still not worth undertaking an investigation into the why or how." Ace sounded somewhat disappointed. "You're honestly not curious why it only took them ten or fifteen cycles since becoming near-space explorers to having some of the most advanced hardw--" "No," K'orrza responded angrily. "No I'm not. This species is far too dangerous to risk even a passive flyby. I don't care how curious you are ACe, the dangers far outweigh the scientific benefits." ACe paused at the console for a moment, then turned back to face K'orrza. "......Not even if the Council ordered you to?"
K'orrza narrowed his eyes. "What did you do?" ACe pulled his camera back as far as he could from K'orrza, suddenly finding the cockpit to be very, very small. "Well, protocol dictated that, with any unusual find in space, I fast track the information to both the High Council and the Exploratory Committee." K'orrza's hearts sank. "Let me guess, they want me to investigate the planet." "Yes, Protectorate," ACe meekly replied. K'orrza grimaced and sighed, rubbing his forehead. "How long ago did the order come in?" he asked. ACe pulled up the data log showing that they fast pulsed the request while they were watching the planet's visual transmission. K'orrza threw out his hand and gestured to the command console. "Do they KNOW what we saw? Did they SEE that transmission?" ACe did that shrug like thing. "I don't think they've seen it yet, but given how the High Council thinks, they'd still probably order us to investigate the planet, nonetheless."
K'orrza sat there for a moment feeling totally dejected. "OK," he sighed deeply. "Fine, I won't defy council orders, but I want this decision filed with a personal protest." ACe nodded. "Duly noted Protectorate."
K'orrza shook his head one last time, "This is a bad....very bad idea."
Short Story: Starlight and Song
Blog entry posted by wastelander75, Jun 26, 2012.