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|Discovery (standard:science fiction, 1022 words) [1/8] show all parts|
|Author: Goreripper||Updated: Dec 11 2001||Views/Reads: 2911/2||Part vote: 0.00 (0 votes)|
|Scientists discover radio signals coming from a distant star and a starship crew is sent to investigate.|
The planet we now know as Arcana lies some 100,000 light years from our own, in the arm of the Great Spiral in the constellation of Itigo. Ever since our own species looked up to the stars and realised there were worlds other than our own, there have been those of us who have pondered the question of life on another planet, and with the accident of physics which allowed us to find the key to interstellar travel just over three hundred years ago our first quest was to seek for such life beyond our own warm, cosy rock. Expeditions to our planetary neighbours in the days of wasteful combustible fuel engines had proved the beliefs of scientists that there was no life of any significant kind to be found on them, and as we had always done we delved deeper and deeper into the vastness of the universe in an effort to discover some proof that we were not alone. Such proof was not long in coming with the advent of hyperdrive travel, though much of what was discovered was, as we are all now well aware, infinitely alien to us and in most cases relatively primitive. There have been exceptions to this last rule of course, and our culture and society has been richly and enormously benefited by our interaction with other intelligent species from the many worlds within our galaxy. There's no sating an inquiring mind however, and on a planet with as many inquiring minds as our own, it wasn't enough to discover an abundance of life and culture in our own galaxy. Eyes turned ever outward towards the spiralling clusters across the hugeness of intergalactic space, and aided by our technologies we sought further and further afield for something which could prove that our galaxy wasn't the only one teeming with life. The odds were all in favour of the possibility of course, and it wasn't so much a question of IF life was there, but what shape that life would take. On Merkart 5, 2576, a radio telescope sweeping the southern sky in the area of the Itigo constellation began picking up faint and incredibly distant radio signals. Slight adjustments of the telescope produced an overwhelming result as, in a short time, a constant stream of continuous and incomprehensible babble was received. In the days which followed, this stream was diluted and separated into an enormous array of individual transmissions numbering in their hundreds of thousands. It was patently evident that a highly developed civilisation existed far across space in a hitherto unexplored area. When the source of the signals was pinpointed, however, astronomers were aghast. These transmissions emanated from a distant solar system an estimated 100,000 light years away. Whatever race of beings had sent out those messages had been doing so long before our own race had even evolved! Out there beyond the reaches of our galactic exploration there was an incredible race of beings which by this time must be so advanced to us as to be what the ancients would have called gods. It was inconceivable to us that such a civilisation had not already found ours and visited us, having had a 100,000 year start! If, in only a few hundred years, we had developed the technology to cross our galaxy in less time than it had once taken us to circle the globe, just think what these people could do! Even with our current methods of space travel, however, 100,000 light years is an almost unthinkable distance. Ten years in unchartered space--one way! In 2576, it was an impossible task. Nevertheless, science, like nature, will always find a way, and in the realms of scientific research ten or even twenty years is but a drop in the ocean. Scientists have spent three, four or even five times that long developing theorems and proofs at the cost of all else. Such is the expense of the inquiring mind. And so it was then that forty years ago I set out with the first expedition to this incredible world, leaving behind my own incredible world in my own incredible galaxy for the ultimate unknown. I was young and my teachers called me brilliant, for even at such a young age I had already completed a doctorate in the field of archaeology and held masters degrees in palaeontology and anthropology. I was also involved heavily in the study of astrophysics. Despite this, I was constantly in awe of the senior professors who led the expedition. Most notable and senior of these was the Right Emeritus Professor Schwab Neffergi, whose 3000 page thesis The Development and Culture of the Vandalarigon Empire was like a religious text for the devotees and students of exoterrestrial anthropology and archaeology. Our spacecraft was to be both a home and a university and took three years to fit out for the journey. It was a recommissioned colony ship called, with understated simplicity, Discovery, and would house us as we travelled to our mysterious goal far beyond the previous reaches of any known living thing. With the constant stream of transmissions as our beacon across the vast distance, our ship was left to navigate its way across the immense gulf as we left the boundaries of our galaxy and slowly repaired to our suspension chambers. Even by today's standards, the technology of these chambers is impressive, and they are still found only on the most advanced and expensive research vessels. Those on the Explorer, currently on its fifty year flight to the XR78 black hole cluster at the verge of the known universe are I believe even further enhanced--as indeed they would need to be. But in the days of the Discovery the suspension chambers that nurtured the 2000 research staff and crew were at the cutting edge of technology. As I stepped into my chamber that day, I went with my head full of imaginings of the wonders we would find, of a people who must by now have their entire galaxy charted, plotted and explored beyond the dreams of such mere mortals as ourselves. END OF PART ONE Tweet
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