The yellow sun was already up with it’s orange companion just emerging from the tree line. Erin saw from the clock that she was going to be late. She stretched to her full height, looking into the mirror. Her height was shorter that most girls, which always had annoyed her. And once again, she noted that her tawny fur wasn’t quite as shiny as some of the others. Her eyes revealed she had stayed up too late night partying, She frowned . She had hoped she would wake up this morning curled up in the arms of a male, but that hadn’t happened. Her status still hadn’t improved. So, she stood there, combing her fur. Finally, satisfied that at least she didn’t look dreadful, she threw on her office dress, and padded down the ramp to her first floor kitchen / living room. It too was an untidy mess, much like her life.
A few minutes later, Erin slammed the front door hoping to annoy her nosey elderly neighbor, and trotted over to the trolley station. She thankfully arrived just as the trolley did. She actually got to her office building as her day was about due to start. Bounding up the ramp, and into the lobby, she waved her six fingered hand across the scanner. It beeped acceptance, the door opened and Erin made her way to her section. Thankfully, not everyone was there yet. Even her boss wasn’t in. He’d also been at the party, leaving with a too cute tawny kitten. Such is life. She sighed.
Let’s see now, what was it? Something gnawed at the back of her mind. Maybe something even important. It was annoying when she did not remember something . Certainly, she wasn’t a tawny kitten any more, but that shouldn’t matter. Being that she was a second level astrogeologist, it was important to note facts. A few minutes later, after looking at her computer’s search log from yesterday, she remembered, at least somewhat. Then yes. That star system had a couple off features. A survey ship-- how many millennia ago? Had noted that a huge stellar core was going to pass through that system in the future, disrupting everything, and maybe even coming somewhat “close” to its sun. She looked at the file more closely, making notes this time. Then she came across something interesting. That system’s inner worlds had had some sort of bio signature –life? And her quickly done rough calculation showed that the stellar core should be passing through that system -or maybe already had, in the present century. It would take a bit more calculating to be sure about when. She was so lost in her calculations that she didn’t see her boss come in. Hearing his chair scrape, she looked up. Males weren’t quite as careful about their appearance as females. Some even thought that maleness. She wrinkled her nose at that thought. “Hope they had fun last night,” she mused. Finally, Erin touched the enter tab on her computer, and today’s star date jumped out at her. Astonished, she stared. then, she spent the next hour checking her results. According to her calculations, That stellar mass was supposed to be passing through the star system right now!!
This could be a career changing event for me, she mused, if I handle it right. Erin saved her results, mailed a copy to her home computer, then got down to her daily work.
Two months passed by, the twin yellow and orange suns doing their daily dance through the sky. Finally, her academic paper was done, just in time to be presented before the professional society board of review. She had already requested an hour for consideration of her paper. Several days later, she stepped off the public tram in front of the regional conference center. After her credentials were checked, Erin was taken back of the auditorium stage. She was the third to present today. The first two presentations were boring and pretentious. It was with both relief and anxiety that her turn finally came. Once before the microphone, center stage, she scanned the audience.” We now have a once in a millennium opportunity to do real science” she stated. Startled looks greeted her steady gaze. “Right now, as I speak, a massive stellar remnant is charging through a solar system a few thousand light years away. A system that has three worlds with bio signatures, Yes possibly even life of some kind. It would be a shame to miss this opportunity to do some real science before this stellar core collides with this sun!” Erin squared her sholders. “I found the log, records of a survey ship that made a scan of that system over seventy thousand years ago. At that time they found no intelligent life. Another survey ship found the approaching stellar core twelve hundred years ago while briefly stopping to check again for signs of intelligent life. The second survey ship expected the stellar collision to occur about”-she glanced at her watch- “NOW” she loudly stated. The crowd exchanged murmers and glances. “Quiet down,” the moderator ordered. Holding his hands out in front of of her , pushing down at the air. “Quiet down.” Erin waited until all were quiet and seated. “ There is a survey ship in dock right now. One that could be underway in a month- or less. This ship needs to investigate this event, and since I discovered this event, I’d like to have first choice to be aboard her. My paper about this will be on my professional page by tomorrow. Now, I will take a few questions.”
Several members asked her about her research and methods. Finally, the hour was over. Erin thought she had done quite well. Promptly, an event aide stepped up to her. “will you come with me please?” He asked. Erin followed him to where the two top leaders in her field waited. Looking at her sternly. Zorn, the head of astrogeology, asked for more details. When she had discovered this, and several other questions. Erin gave each one a memory chip with her presentation, research, notes on all this, then said “I go along, right?” Jorn nodded. “Yes,” Jorn said. “The survey ship should lift in three weeks, I will see you are aboard her!” Erin departed, elated, Her mind racing in a daze.
The next couple weeks were a rush, ending her apartment contract, storing her stuff for how long- then needing to go to “ship school” training so she would have a basic idea about how she’d be living and what to do in case of emergencies. The shortened course was just for emergency crew additions in the technical trades, which happened occasionally. Erin received her final call to board three days before liftoff so she could be instructed on board ship. She had the opportunity to get off the ship during the evenings, but knew well how things could go wrong ashore, and so nothing was going to get in the way of this likely once in a lifetime adventure..
The evening finally came for liftoff. Strapped into her seat in her quarters, Someone on the great ships bridge pushed a button and the speakers played the “Raise Ship,” The ancient anthem of the fleet, as the ship fell up into the sky…
There were a few representatives of the Galactics on board as was usual for survey ships. The combined talent of the five known sentient races were always very useful in such voyages. The representatives of two of the races were cool to Erin causing delays in their research on this voyage, but still polite. Otherwise, it was going to be interesting. . , . Several days later, with the ship in a hyperspace jump, the various department heads, as well as Erin, were called together for an arrival briefing. The captain made his way to the podium, and waited until the group quieted.“As most of you know, we must only do short jumps of a thousand or so light-years at a time. If we try to get to our destination in one jump, we could easily get really lost”. The group tittered. “We might even end up in the next galaxy over” More snickers filled the conference room. “And so we do it carefully, step by step. If indeed that massive star core is inside that system- everyone looked at Erin- and anywhere near its sun, the radiation could be intense. For that reason we will stop at one thousand light years, then two hundred light-years before going in closer using the star drive.”
A week later, the captain held a final briefing watched throughout the ship. “We should come out of our final long jump about one thousand light- Years from that system,” the captain stated. “We will then do a survey with our largest telescope . We will keep you informed. You can of course follow our progress from your private consoles, or on the big screens in the dining and recreation, lounge areas. The fidelity should be much better there. Since the last survey ship easily spotted the stella core twelve hundred years ago,
We should be easily be able to see it. With that, everyone looked at Erin.
Her new friends Romel and Kaster teased her a bit at their usual get together that evening. They had been close since lift-off. Romel asked her “Erin, how many years pay would it take to pay for this side trip?” “she’s good for it, aren’t you Erin?” Kaster added. “You don’t get to be famous without risk,” Erin retorted smiling. “Anyway, numbers don’t lie.” “We will see” one of her polite detractors added from a table away. Erin and her friends ignored him. The one thousand light-year distance clearly showed them the stellar core and gave them a navigation fix. Erin was invited to the ship’s bridge for the eight hundred light-year jump. After her stomach stopped turning inside out, everyone was astonished that the ships forward sensors detected weak radio signals coming from that star system. The bridge erupted with everyone talking at once, to the captains command “Silence”It was a moment they all would remember the rest of their lives!
They had discovered another sentient race! And just as soon, a few moments later, everyone realized that this race was doomed to destruction. Horror pitted Erin’s stomach. Likely everyone also had the same thought. “Emergency star drive speed” the captain ordered in a strained voice. “We don’t dare try a stellar jump this close. How long to the inner planets?” he asked. “Twenty-one hours, Captain” the navigation officer answered. The next day drug on seemingly forever. After a little over nineteen hours, they couldn’t miss the misshapen sun, stretched out by a cosmic collision. Most of the radio activity had ceased. The only radio they now received was from a tiny planetoid at the far outer reaches of the system. It was a fearful sight. Everyone realized that the intense radiation from that stellar collision had to have already killed all life on those worlds. Gone, just GONE!
The funeral pyre of a civilization. But then Erin had a thought, “Captain”, she spoke up “These creatures had space flight, there might still be some of them on their outermost worlds?” He slowly nodded. “Yes, navigator, slow the ship, bring her near that small world that signal is coming from”. A few minutes later, the radio operator noted, “there is a very narrowband directional transmission, broadcasting both video of the solar collision and some kind of speech text, to one tiny point in the sky”… “Very odd, indeed,” the captain replied. “Could this be a signal being sent to ships bound for That nearest double star system? the ship’s navigator asked. “We will check that dwarf planet for life, then the other remote planets, then if there is really no one here, head out along that narrow beam.” the captain stated, “How far, captain?” Erin asked in sotto . “This is all so incredible, unbelievable” the captain answered. “A great race that crossed space only two hundred years or so after discovering radio! unheard of! It was eons of time before any of our races did this. This race did not even exist seventy thousand years ago! And now at least some few of them may have escaped the death of their worlds.”
There was no one at the radio station. It turned out to be a dozen domed buildings with large disk shaped antennas transmitting out into the void. For a few days, they took all the information they could from this facility. They also sent probes to the rest of this system’s remote tiny worlds searching for life. Once finished, they headed out into deep space using the star drive. “Certainly”, the captain said aloud to no one in particular, “ these creatures, no people, can’t have gone very far!”
However, after several days still no ships! Finally, their long range sensors detected an odd distortion in space quite a distance away. When they got closer, it became apparent on radar that an exceptionally large fleet of ships had warped space around themselves, and were being driven along at almost half the speed of light! . . Once again all aboard the ship were astonished at what they were seeing.. These people had somehow created a primitive star drive, and wrapped the drive field around an enormous fleet of ships! Now this was something no race had ever done, nor thought of doing! “Great engineers” the captain thought out loud, mostly to himself. The navigator pointed out that this fleet was bound for the nearest binary star system, which was by now only about two light-years away. These ships should get there in a little over four more years.
“Navigator, do not get close to that fleet.” The captain ordered. “ Our drive could cause them problems.” “I would think about one hundred miles should be close enough.” Literally hundreds of ships of all sizes crowded their view screens-quite possibly one of the greatest fleets ever assembled.
On the fleet, there was shock and the call to emergency stations was broadcast throughout the fleet as the alien ship approached. A quickly assembled video meeting of the governing council met to discuss the situation. Then a flashing light began blinking from the alien ship.
After literally staring at each other for hours, communication started. While radio communication was really difficult between ships traveling in star drive because of the space bending nature of the drive, simple visual communication could be done. It was several hours before a laser beam was directed from the exile fleet to this Galactic vessel. The first message was merely prime numbers, repeated until the galactic ship replied. This simple form of communication continued for several days. Finally, one of the closest ships lit up showing moving real time images of what these people looked like, their worlds and their by now faded glory. Now communication -of a sort- could begin in earnest. Despite being more than a little distracted by the wonder of this new magnificent race, Erin, Caster, Ramal, and the rest of the geologists had been collecting data about this star system and the titanic forces now tearing it apart. Several probes had been sent into the system during the days they were at the lone planetoid, gathering such a huge mountain of data that it would take hundreds of people a lifetime to go through it all. The science that would come of all this would be staggering.
In her very brief moments of distraction from her obsessive pace of catalogue and discovery, Erin noticed that her status had changed. When she mentioned this to her two close friends at an evening get together, they looked at each other, then back at Erin. “Erin, you are going to be immortal,” Kaster said. “Our names will be quickly forgotten, but yours will be known on all the worlds of this galactic hegemony. Are you ready for that?” Erin looked embarrassed, doubtful. “Really,” Erin replied. “I was just doing my job.” The other girls just sat there, staring for a couple moments. “Yes, girl” Romal replied. “You had better get used to it.” “Haven’t you noticed how all the males are coming around, trying to get your attention?” Erin blushed under her fur. “Really, you are oblivious, aren’t you.” Kastor said as both girls giggled. “Please stop” Erin begged, but the other girls just giggled some more. Erin sighed, then stared down into her drink. ‘Its going to be a long voyage” she thought to herself.
A few days later, Erin was sitting in the back row of the discussion about what was next. At a break in the conversation, shespoke her thoughts. ”Should we send ships to the star system with geologists to locate the resources for these people when they arrive? Perhaps even set up cracking plants for drinkable water, as well as oxygen, hydrogen for fuel? Mostly from small planetoids scattered asteroids, as we don’t know if these people have antigravity to lift such out of the gravity wells of the larger worlds?” Then Erin saw that she was being stared at by, well, everyone, and her words petered out. She felt somewhat embarrassed by her boldness. Captain Gen replied “Yes Erin I agree, Since we have one sensitive, far talker on board I will see if he can thought link with his kin on our home world. They will want to know about all this. Good input, good thinking. I suppose you want to go along and do that too?” He smiled. “Yes, Captain,” Erin replied. “That is part of my trade, my specialty. Besides my friends are telling me that if I go directly home the media won’t leave me alone. And all I want is to work at my profession.” Everyone just stared. The Chief natural sciences leader broke this awkard moment saying “ well, that’s it for now, I guess. We had better let Erin get back to work.” Everyone smiled at that, and as the meeting broke up. one of the cutest males walked with her, putting a strong arm around her. They sat together having a drink, then he continued doing the talking while Erin just made polite noises. She felt she needed some male attention right now, and did not yet know if she wanted to wake up with him in the morning. However his closeness was comforting-for now.
It had been a long month.
Perhaps too soon, the ships schedule needed to be resumed. So without real warning to the exile fleet, the survey ship drifted away a safe distance. Two days later, she started a series of hyper space jumps to her new destination, much to the relief of the specialists whose own survey time had been cut short by this momentous detour from their schedule. Some had waited years for a place on this survey ship. All this was of little concern to Erin and her friends. They had a huge amount of data to archive, copy and get ready to send back to home world. A courier ship had a rendezvous date with them in another few weeks. Long experience in the survey service had these data drops regularly scheduled. After all, survey ships were always at risk. Their data was precious and must be safe guarded as much as possible. After one late night meeting, it was decided that Erin would be leaving for her home world, and her appointment with the celebrity media. She hoped it would be a brief stay.
Aboard the fleet, they were relieved that the alien ship was gone. However, there was no doubt that they would return. Captain Ruby, of one of the ships spoke up. "We have to assume these people know where we are going. They will likely be there waiting for us. What do we do then?" Silence followed his words. Finally, a junior member of the council spoke up. "We act friendly, search out our options." One of the engineers added, "We have been busy with plan B for quite some time."
There was quite some fuss at that. "You mean it would work?" someone asked. "Yes," the engineer replied. "We were really rushed when we left, there was no time left for testing, so we all just left off more work on it for the time being." The coordinator spoke up. "All practical resources will be used to expedite this research. Until then, we play for time. Be nice to the aliens, and just maybe they wont eat us." Everyone smiled.
After a seemingly endless stay of nine months on home world, Erin once again had a ship under her feet, and it felt good. Really Good! That her friend Romal had decided to join her was a special blessing. This was not a survey ship, but a construction vessel usually tasked with building remote colonies. This time, they would be helping to construct the exile’s new home. Erin realized that these people likely had plans of their own to transform one of these new worlds. It was hoped, however, that at least some of them would settle on one or more of the Galactics’ worlds.
“ They will arrive at their destination in about four years,” Erin stated before the assembled department heads. “We must do our best to assist them. The best way to do this is likely to find easily accessible deposits of building materials, raw ores of every kind. They most certainly will need water with which to create oxygen and fuel. A full list is before you. We geologists will do our best for you.” There were lots of questions, and Erin did her best to answer them. It was a long general meeting, followed by another meeting with the ships officers.
The officers said that they could already see in their long range scans that the exile fleets destination was a double star system. The red dwarf was the closest star. It had a rocky world close in to its sun in the “habitable” zone. The downside to this was a red dwarf star’s annoying habit of ejecting serious solar flares to irradiate such worlds. The much larger white companion was almost a light year further. It however did not seem to have any suitable rocky worlds.
Erin found herself doing far more staff work than actual real work. However, her proven competence and age made that inevitable. After all this fuss, she at last got to have lunch with Romal and three new friends, Joy, Hope, and Jimmel. They tried to talk mostly about girl things, though that left out Jimmel who definitely wasn’t a girl! He still had a few witty things to say, which helped to lighten the mood quite a bit. Entirely too much seriousness was going on around them this trip, and they all vowed to do their best to get together often to help each other get through the days ahead. All too soon, lunch was over. Thankfully no more meetings were necessary, so Romal and Erin disappeared into the accumulated files, and busied themselves with some real work. This made the day pass much faster. Before they knew it, it was supper time. After this they all joined a party on the ships recreation deck where seriousness was forbidden. The sign over the door said so! And yes, Erin did take a handsome male ”home” with her that evening. They had a great time. He was gone before she woke up the next morning though.
It took a while for their ship to make the journey to the exile fleet’s destination. A great surprise awaited them. As they approached the system, they saw seven ships scattered all over the system. Ships without the general recognition signals broadcast by the Galactics. They made their way to land two miles from the closest ship on a small planetoid. When they grew close, they recognized on the ship the Sun and Starship symbol of The exile’s fleet. They were astonished. How could this be? A couple hours later, Erin and several more Galactics made their way toward the exile’s ship. Several of the exiles walked over to them. So finally, The other ship’s crew and Galactics met face to face on this barren tiny world a few light years from what had been their home, and many light years from Erin’s home. A female reached out her hand to Erin, they touched. They looked at each other for a long moment. And so began their mutual destiny…
In her other hand, Erin had several pictures. Pictures of the final moment of the elxile’s sun, of the radio station on the last planetoid of their system, then the rendezvous with The exile fleet, Erin’s world, and about their ship. The female’s eyes started watering as she saw these pictures. She then passed the pictures to her other crewmen. After several minutes, one of the exiles motioned for the Galactics to approach their ship. They did so, and stayed around some time.time. Finally, the Galactics went back to their ship, the others following up to the entrance. However, they stopped there and would not come inside. Then one of them waved their hand, the rest did so too, and they all departed.
So, the ship meeting that evening was lively. Some wondered why their new friends were so shy about coming aboard their ship. Another thought it as a matter of trust. Finally Joy spoke up. “I think we should go mine some precious ore, purify it, then bring it back here as an offering of friendship. Everyone silently thought on that. After a full minute, Erin stood up, said, “I agree with Joy. Once we do this, they will bring over samples of what they most need, and we will go find it for them !” And so, in a few hours, the ship lifted off in search of treasure. As they slowly searched through the system they came upon deposits of almost pure rare ores of several kinds, and dropped off automated digging machinery. Finally, they sat down on the largest world, and launched their shuttlecraft searching for all the most important of rare ores. While Erin was not entirely a qualified shuttle pilot, she could and did have enough training to sit in the right seat getting flight time experience. They had a systems officer sitting behind them to deal with analyzing the automatic machinery. It took nineteen days, but in that time, they made a complete geological map of the small world with significant deposits of each ore.
Next , they spent two days collecting the refined ore from the several outlying mines, then made their way back to their neighbor’s ship they had visited. As soon as they landed, automatic machinery started unloading these refined ores. This drew several ships crew over to their ship almost immediately. The Captain and Erin went over to these people. The Captain pointed to all the offloaded material, then picked up a piece of it, then took it over to exiles, showing this was a gift.
Erin then showed them on a computer tablet, the location where all the ore for each material had come from. After this, she Showed the geological map of the largest world, and how to find each ore using the obvious universal atomic code for each element. Then she gave them the tablet. Erin then tried to tell them that the Galactics wanted to help them get more of whichever refined ore they wanted. One of the other Techs then showed them his 3-D automated replicator which build almost anything in a short time… No doubt this seemed magical to these people. It was almost like transmuting one form on matter to another, Almost, but not quite. These neighbors did not know how to respond to all this giving.
Finally, the replicator had finished creating a small amphitheatre. The Captain motioned the people to be seated, and and Jezl, the math tech, mounted a computer tablet on one side of a shelf. She then started showing each math character along with holding up a finger for each elementary number. One finger for the Galactic number 1, Two fingers for the Galactic two, and so on. Since each Galactic race had a different number of fingers, they had settled on a number system based on ten characters, including a zero. Once The exiles saw this, they seemed agitated, then one of them jumped out of his seat, brought out a piece of chalk, and drew their numbers alongside the hash marks for each number! To their mutual amusement, this math was a universal science. He quickly did some simple math problems as well, like 4x8, 4+8 8/4 to illustrate their math. Science was indeed the universal language!
A few minutes later, a different exile tech into languages, Alaan, picked up a rag, wiped off all the math stuff, then assured that the Galactics could hear him, then printed out These People’s alphabet, making the appropriate sound for each letter. He pointed to himself saying “Alaan” then wrote his name, teaching phonics! He pointed to a female, wrote her name Shena, doing the same. Then he brought up a piece of iron, and so on and on. It was exciting! They were actually understanding each other!
One of the people who had been watching from the exile’s ship brought out a child’s language tutorial program tablet , and started broadcasting it on the radio frequency. After a long while, it was time to go. Alaan gave the tablet to Erin, Jezi gave her tablet to Alaan, and they parted ways for the day. A few hours later, The Galactics Raised Ship. Some time later, the Galactics computer could understand the exile’s basic language and these People’s computer basic Galactic.
An almost scary thing happened during their next meeting between the exiles and the Galactics. Several of the exile’s crew were very intelligent androids. An android without a space suit walked up to the Galactics, then started talking to them over his radio while mouthing the words they would have heard in an atmosphere. This android had “learned” all the Galactic that had been given to them. It was quite a scene! Apparently the Galactics had never created an intelligent Sentient machine resembling there kind. Erin had been quite taken aback by part of the language tutorial showing a now extinct creature similar to her people.
And so it went. The several Galactic Races on their ship got acquainted with the exiles .It turned out they called themselves “The People.”
Several more Galactic ships arrived in the next four years before the great exile fleet of well over four hundred ships finally hove into view. Only a few thousand people had appeared for now. However the whole diversity of their species had been saved in sperm, ova, and other genetic samples, as well as the most beloved of their fellow creatures who would one day be recreated by their genius .
This place would be their home for now. In another generation, they would have ships to outmatch their new Galactic friends.
Erin and her friends were astonished that The People were going to use their star drive field to move the red dwarf star’s only rocky world the almost one light year to orbit around its large white companion star. They had no words to reply.
Already, many Galactics were apprehensive for their future alongside this new dauntless child race, barely emerged from Barbarism. A race to whom the impossible was merely a magnet to their enquiring minds.
Finally, Yes, over the next months, Erin tried valiantly to hide from her now eternal fame. To no avail, of course. Her name would be mentioned for eons to come alongside that of These People, the great engineers.
Erin had been back on her home world several months, when puzzling news reached her. For some weeks, the aliens had stopped work on everything, and no one knew why. She was summoned to the head geological office, then put on the first ship outbound to the alien's star system. She got there in only three weeks. They all stared in wonder as the aliens assembled inside the huge forcefield dome around their tiny world. Heeding the warning, all the galactic ships moved far away from the alien field.
Then there was an incredible surge of power, and the aliens, their world and their fleet just vanished before their eyes.
Plan B turned out to be a success. The fleet had not only jumped into a parallel universe, their home world beckoning them softly. A few hyperspace jumps, and they were home.
Lewis Brackett final draft January 2022
8 inch hibiscus in tub with flowers bulbs coming up