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Discovery (standard:science fiction, 1022 words) [1/8] show all parts
Author: GoreripperUpdated: Dec 11 2001Views/Reads: 2979/2Part 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. 



This is part 1 of a total of 8 parts.
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