“Quote goes Here.”
Tullona was a largely peaceful planet. The conflicts of ages past were a distant memory, clouded by the darkness that for so long had blocked understanding. But a new era, one full of peace and prosperity, now enshrouded the planet like a revealing light.
In only a century, countless advancements had been made. The discovery of electricity had fueled the growth of industry, the invention of thinking-machines promoted the advancement of science. New discoveries in agriculture and medicine led to an explosion in population; and yet, atop all that, it seemed that an even greater era was just beyond the horizon. But that horizon, filled with hope and mystery, held something far more sinister in store.
The Tulloniese Space Center was the crown jewel of the entire scientific community. From here, rockets were launched to the far corners of the solar system. Great telescopeic arrays searched the heavens, and sent their information back to the center. From this one point on Tullona’s surface, eleven thousand scientists, engineers, astronomers, and supporters gathered together to explore their solar system.
The center had been a dream come true one man. Gavin Rasmen, born the son of the man who discovered electricity, greatness in science had been his right. He studied at the finest schools and was, from early life, considered a genius. When the Space Center was formed, he was first in line.
Three decades of running successful projects saw Gavin rise through the ranks. He’d discovered many things in the sky, and was considered the master of all remote explorers. Now, as deputy-director of the center, he had nearly free-run of the place.
It was always encouraging to know that, a mere century ago, when his father was not much younger than he was now, people were still arguing over whether Tullona revolved around the sun, or the other way around. And not sill, uneducated people; the scientists of the day truly could not reach a consensus.
But only a century later, Gavin was the one discovering new things. He’d named three planets himself, discovered numerous moons, and was considered souly responsible for finding the asteroid belt. That was Gavin Rasmen, he was that guy.
Now, though, none of that really mattered so much. Two discoveries had just been made, one by Gavin, another by a team of younger scientists, and while each was equally important to the future of Tullona, it was the second discovery that others found so very pressing.
Gavin, meanwhile, having made and confirmed his world-changing discovery virtually on his own, was having not a small amount of difficulty getting anyone to pay attention.
It wasn’t that the other discovery didn’t deserve the sort of focus and effort it was receiving; if anything at all that had ever been observed through the center’s telescopes and rocket probes were ever to deserve that sort of attention, this discovery certainly did. But Gavin felt his own discovery might be helpful in solving the problem of the first, and so was worth attempting to call attention to.
Gavin’s last hope lay with the director. If the director couldn’t be persuaded to take notice, then Gavin would put aside his new discovery, and focus his efforts on the other. He had made this resolution as he entered the director’s office, a large annex with its own refracting light telescope and several massive display screens.
As he entered, Gavin opened his leather folio and laid the contents of his research out on the director’s desk.
“I know you haven’t got the time,” he began. “But I’ve given over half my life to this place, so I think I’ve earned ten minutes for you to hear me out.”
“I read your report, Gavin,” Director Bernard replied. “Skimmed it, I should say. Its… it just can’t be a priority right now.”
“Look at this,” Gavin gestured to the pages. “It’s in the asteroid belt.”
“Artificial materials, yes,” Bernard nodded. “Could be anything—”
“It’s not anything,” Gavin interrupted. “It’s a radio, a transmitter! One of our probes passed close to it five years ago, I remember the mission. It temporarily lost contact with the radio direction-finding relay we had in orbit. I didn’t put it together until now!”
“Is it another probe?” Bernard asked, lifting one of the pages. “Perhaps a downed spacecraft from one of the older missions?”
“No, we never lost any in that region,” Gavin shook his head. “Listen, all right? Just listen. The asteroid is one we’ve identified as the Sumolski-five-five-five-eight-nine, a pretty uninteresting piece of rock, which is probably why it was chosen. I’ve spent the past three weeks going over every single mission that’s ever been near it. It’s all here, everything we needed to know, and we could have found it decades ago!”
“Found what, Mr. Rasmen, found what?” Bernard growled impatiently.
“These,” Gavin revealed three grainy, black-and-white photographs, placing them side by side on Bernard’s desk. It was difficult to say exactly what the thing in them was, but the perfectly round circles and perfectly straight lines were unmistakably not natural.
“We build probes to study other planets,” Gavin explained. “This one was built to study ours. It’s got antenna, sensors, even its own telescope—fixed on Tullona.”
“What exactly is it studying?” Bernard took one of the pictures and used a magnifying glass to study it closer.
“Us, or at least our planet,” Gavin said quickly. “From where it sits, it can receive radio broadcasts, television signals, even pick up some of our cellular transmissions and possibly access our national computer network.”
Gavin sifted through the pages and took out another page showing a series of charts and graphs.
“And it’s been doing it for more than a millennia,” he continued. “That’s a radiographic scan from the Linpac probe seventeen years ago. I dismissed it as an anomaly at the time, but I believe now it’s the power source. That thing is operated via a nuclear reactor—a working, sustained-fission nuclear reactor. And based on the rate of radiological decay, it’s been in operation for well over a thousand years.”
“Impossible,” Bernard scoffed. “We haven’t even perfected that technology ourselves! Our scientists don’t even think it can be done for that long…”
“Well whoever built this figured out how,” Gavin hissed. “That station has been monitoring us for Tullona’s entire lifetime, monitoring us and sending information!”
“Sending it where?” Bernard demanded.
“To them,” Gavin shrugged. “To whomever ‘they’ are. The builders, the ones who made it—perhaps the ones who put us here. There’s no record of the Tullonese even existing on this planet that far back—this could be the key to everything!”
Bernard put the paper back down and walked over to one of his display screens, using the controls to bring up a series of high-resolution images taken from an orbiting telescope a few days earlier. They were false-color and patched together with a combination of visible light and radar imagery, but they got the point across.
“That comet is seventy-nine miles in diameter,” Director Bernard stated. “Traveling towards Tullona at a rate of a hundred-sixty-thousand miles per hour. The origin of life, the meaning of our existence, pales in comparison. Do you understand, Mr. Rasmen?”
* * *
Gavin returned to his office and threw the folio into a trashcan. His own workspace was nearly as large as the directors, but quite differently arrayed. He had dozens of powerful computers, used to monitor the work of remote spacecraft all over the system. Direct links to satellites, powerful radio equipment, and a line to the radio telescope array made him much better equipped to do his job.
In the midst of it all sat one cluttered desk with a rolling chair, into which Gavin slumped. Greatest discovery, eclipsed by the greatest disaster.
As he began clearing away the residue of his research, hit white cat leapt onto the table and began scratching at the papers, and Gavin smiled as he stroked the creatures fur. The asteroid was actually named after the cat, who had also helped discover the station mounted on it. Sumolski was sitting in Gavin’s lap one afternoon six weeks ago, when he hooked his untrimmed claws on a stack of old papers and knocked them on the floor. As Gavin was sorting through them, two reports that landed next to each other caught his eye; that had been the clue he needed. After weeks of putting together the pieces, he’d found it: he’d found intelligent life outside their solar system.
Staring at those two reports again, Gavin helped Sumolski get comfortable in his lap, then pushed his rolling chair over to one of the radio control consoles. From this day forward, he was going to devote his every effort to helping his people overcome the impending disaster.
Today, he decided, he would try one last thing.
Pointing the antenna directly at the mysterious array, Gavin picked up the microphone and squeezed the talk button.
* * *
The music, which had so recently blaring out of every speaker, finally came to end, to be replaced by blissful silence from approximately three-tenths of a second before Cindy spoke.
“There!” she declared. “Is that not the single most metal song you have ever heard? And it’s their national anthem, can you believe it?!”
“I… asked you to leave me along,” Jason replied. “I begged you to leave me alone. I ordered you to leave me alone. I threatened you with a gun. Why are you still here?”
“I finished fixing the navigational system and I figured you’d want to hear my new theme song,” Cindy smiled. “Come on, you gotta admit, this has been kinda fun.”
Jason stared at her incredulously. Thirty-four hours earlier, the Saratoga had been beset by the mother of all data pulses. It was a massive stream of highly-compressed information, traveling through subspace, which struck the ship presumably on the way to it’s appointed rounds, and was picked up by practically every receiver onboard. Since then, the database had decompressed, and files leaked into every single computer system onboard. This had, albeit temporarily, crippled the ship.
The door opened and Hunter strolled in carrying one of the portable tablet consoles.
“What’cha got there, Hunter?” Jason asked civilly.
“Porn,” Hunter replied.
“Hunter!” Jason snapped.
“Oooh, let me see,” Cindy grinned as she bounded over.
Hunter tossed the tablet onto Jason’s worktable.
“It’s supposed to be today’s duty roster,” he stated. “And while I never claim to be a saint, I can definitely say I’d prefer the roster to what those two young ladies are doing.”
“I dunno,” Cindy had retrieved the tablet and was eyeing it like an art collector. “I wouldn’t really mind being the one on the right, but the one on the left must feel pretty bad about—”
Hunter snatched the tablet out of her hand and dropped it in front of Jason again.
“What do you want me to do?” Jason asked, gently draping a sheet of paper over the display screen and glaring at Hunter. “That data burst was meant for a subspace relay station with ten times the transmitting and receiving power of the Saratoga. It’s actually a surprisingly effective weapon.”
“I want you to fix it,” Hunter snarled. “We’ve been becalmed for a day and a half now! How soon can we get underway?!”
“It all really depends on how you define ‘underway’,” Jason replied in a low growl. “The navigational computer is back online, and critical systems were already protected. If we knew exactly where we wanted to go and were willing to fly by charts, we could leave now. It’s the main sensor array that’s in trouble, the computers the control it are going into kernel panic and the data buffer may be completely shot. The storage nods have had over thirty yota-bytes of new information written to them.”
“Can you fix it?” Hunter demanded.
“Probably not,” Jason snapped. “I hate to say it, but we may actually have received so much data that we broke it. Exceeded the read-write capacity of the buffer, shot the physical memory. The lateral sensor array has a much better buffer, but I’m still ferreting bits of Tullonian neo-classical literature out of it.”
“Have we got any idea why this happened?” Hunter asked.
Ostensibly even he knew why. It was one of those ‘wrong place, wrong time’ sort of incidents which should be extremely uncommon in space and yet managed to happen to the Saratoga roughly once a month. Data bursts of this size were usually directed through areas of space not likely to encounter a ship moving at FTL, and since they had a relatively small cross section the odds of hitting anything were practically non-existant.
And yet one had struck the Saratoga while flying on instruments, and it was basically no one’s fault at all, which somehow made it twenty times more infuriating.
“That part I might have figured out,” Jason explained. “Before the Succession Wars, the Foundation had a pretty extensive network of subspace relay stations all throughout explored space. They were always technically considered a backup, but the Kamians destroyed a lot of them anyway. Since the war, the network has been left in shambles, while primary communication is done through the G.A.T.E.. What we got was a bit of a revnant.”
“The network is completely defunct?” Hunter raised an eyebrow.
“Not entirely,” Jason shook his head. “It’s still active, it just hasn’t been maintained. The nods were designed to function independently for centuries, some even millennia. The parts of it that still work continue to be used actively, but some of the automated services are apparently still running.”
“So we got hit by an auto-pulse?” Hunter asked.
“Well, it was the kind of information that tipped me off,” Jason admitted. “Television shoes, radio broadcasts, internet pornography—that kind of stuff only comes from one place.”
“There were three porn studios just on the street where I grew up,” Cindy replied. “That stuff comes from all over.”
“Not like that,” Jason snapped. “I mean that kind of massive, eclectic collection of transmitted data. Ok, back in the Fifth Age, the Foundation built listening posts all over the place. Automated sensor stations designed to just do whatever. They basically sit there and pick up information on all bands, sort out what is actual data and what’s just noise, compress it, then send it via data pulse through subspace back to the Foundation. There, the information is recorded, cataloged, and added to the database.”
“They just sorta bugged the Multi-Verse?” Hunter questioned.
“They tried to put them in solar systems they thought were inhabited,” Jason explained. “Keep in mind most of these listening posts were placed by unmanned stellar probes. This one seems to be near a planet called Tullona.”
“They have some kick-ass music,” Cindy nodded.
“And some mildly-creepy pornography,” Hunter replied. “But, then, the same is true of most cultures that develop the digital camera and the internet. All right, you’ve got twelve more hours to work on the sensors, if you can’t figure it out by then we’ll put in a course for the nearest out-base.”
* * *
The daily status meeting was, in general, a mockery of all things orderly. This was not unusual, even Hunter couldn’t bring himself to admit they were more than a joke. If any of the department heads had anything important to say, they typically found the person who needed to hear it, and said it. The meetings were just part of the routine, scheduled by protocol.
Today, the meeting began with Cindy playing what she sincerely hoped was Tullona’s national anthem at full volume. The next half hour was spent sharing various interesting bits of information discovered about the planet while attempting to perform routine duties. It was actually sort of entertaining, for a while.
“Here’s the thing,” Jason began uncomfortably. “I found part of a data log. Apparently that burst has been kicking around between dozens of off-network relay stations for God knows how long, and it would have continued bouncing if it hadn’t hit us in the face.. The time codes are all corrupted, I can’t tell you how long it’s been going for, I’m not even sure where Tullona is.”
Cindy, who had been craned over one of the portable consoles and listening to something with a set of earphones, now looked up gravely.
“That could be a bad thing,” she gulped. “Here, I found an audio recording, listen to this!”
She pulled the headphones out of the jack and replayed the file, quickly adjusting the volume down from what she’d been playing the music at. It was a man’s voice, older, and he seemed to be speaking with slow deliberation.
“My name is Gavin Rasmen,” he said. “And I am… I am a scientist. I discovered your probe only a few short weeks ago. I don’t know who you are or why you’re watching us, but it is clear you possess a vastly superior intellect.
“I… we… need your help. Please respond.”
“That sounds like it was definitely directed at our listening station,” Jason observed.
“We should ask him what’s wrong,” Cindy said quickly. “Try and help!”
Jason pulled the console over to him and stared at it for a moment.
“That transmission was picked up on an N-space band,” he said. “The station can’t transmit on normal frequencies, only sub-space data pulse.”
“Well… then, let’s go!” Cindy called. “Saddle up the horses, charge across araba!”
“It’s not that simple,” Jason began.
“Maybe it can be,” Hunter cut in. “Jason, could you figure out where Tullona is?”
“It’s got to be somewhere in the ANG-fifteen cluster,” Jason replied. “Relatively close, in inter-stellar terms.”
“Then lay in a course,” Hunter ordered.
“But—” Jason started.
“Lay in a course,” Hunter repeated, then turned to Cindy. “Best possible speed.”
* * *
“I’ve been trying to nail-down Tullona’s location,” Jason said. “Apparently none of the information gathered since the Tullonians discovered radio waves made it home before the listening network was crippled. To make it more interesting, there are at least a dozen pre-industrial civilizations recorded in ANG-fifteen. If I can figure out exactly which listening station the burst originated from, we’ll be all set.”
“Well, I’ve been cataloging information,” Cindy said. “Pulling everything I could out of the damaged systems. I found another message, I think I know what’s wrong.”
Cindy flipped her portable console around and hit the play button.
“—comet went public today,” Gavin’s voice echoed. “Mass panic, pretty much what we were expecting. The government was… just not prepared for this sort of chaos. We’ll get through it, though; there’s still time. Always time…”
“It sorta guts off, there,” Cindy frowned. “Apparently the Tullonians had pretty recently emerged from a long dark-age. Like, literally a hundred years ago they didn’t even have electricity. And they’re already exploring space.”
“And they found a comet, hurtling towards Tullona,” Jason pointed out. “Kind of a kick in the teeth, if you think about it.”
“Wait, comet, or asteroid?” Rian cut in. “Its kind of important.”
“Comet,” Cindy confirmed. “I found a few news reports, some other stuff, its definitely a comet.”
“Well, then that’s easy,” Rian waved. “Even if it’s close enough to poke with a really long stick, we can help out. A few whacks from the AH cannon and bob’s your uncle, no more comet.”
“Do a complete systems check,” Hunter ordered. “We may have to fire as soon as we drop out of FTL. Jason, your top priority is to figure out where that signal originated.”
“I’m on it,” Jason nodded.
* * *
“It’s not like I’m afraid to die,” Gavin’s disembodied voice said. “I mean, I don’t consider myself old, and I’ve had a good life, but… I believe it’s Tullona that’s not ready to go quietly. We’ve only just stepped out, broken free of our bonds… we’re capable of so much, why can’t we overcome this?”
Cindy listened as she lay in Hunter’s bed. He was already sound asleep and snoring quietly, but she couldn’t stop staring into the darkness. The portable console was face-down on her stomach, and she’d been listening to Gavin’s messages for the past hour. His voice had a soft, fatherly-feel to it; even embroiled in desperation, there was this calmness about him.
Lifting up the console and squinting against the bright light, Cindy found another recording and put it on.
“We did the math, today, when the comet got close enough to see with standard light-telescopes. Our distance calculations were too high, our mass calculations too low. We don’t have weapons, not anymore. We threw them all away, we haven’t needed them in centuries. We threw them away when the best we had were iron swords and copper shields. Our rockets could carry bombs, but we have none strong enough to even leave a scar on that thing. We haven’t given up, not yet. When life gives you lemons… etc.”
Sighing, Cindy checked to be sure there were no more messages, and turned the console off, letting it slide gently to the floor. The Tullonians were running out of time.
* * *
“I’ve never been the type to say something was hopeless. It’s not who I am. I’m a scientist, and science isn’t about why, its about why not! We’ve all been working very hard, we’re all tired, but somehow it seems no amount of cooperation can solve this problem. It’s just… inexorable, inescapable, as certain as the sunrise. And yet… I feel that I can still look the reality of this situation sharply in the face, and deny it!”
Cindy folded her arms and looked around at the rest of the senior staff.
“Well?” she said. “Are we going to let a man like that down?!”
“It’s not that simple,” Jason snapped. “I’ve been working at this for fourteen solid hours. There are ten possible star systems that could be Tullona, we could check them one by one, but it would take months.”
“Which would be extremely inadvisable,” Cloud cut in. “The star charts of this region are iffy at best. We’re navigating on dead-reckoning, here, which is really not advised for starships.”
“Without the long-range sensor array, it’s a really big game of Blind Man’s Bluff,” Jason said. “If we had the main array, we could simply scan for the original listening post’s transponder and plot a direct course.”
“Well, then fix the friggin’ sensors!” Cindy shouted.
“I have good news on that, actually,” Jason replied casually. “I believe the physical memory buffers are not actually damaged. That compressed data pulse was enormous, it’s basically filling up every available kilobyte of data anywhere on our computer system, and continuing to expand whenever it finds more room. I believe we can get the ship back online in one fell swoop if we hard reboot, wipe the entire system, and load clean backups.”
“Would that work?” Hunter asked.
“It would mean erasing literally everything, but yet,” Jason nodded. “Any files created since we last synched with the central database would be lost.”
“I’m ok with that,” Hunter agreed. “I’m pretty sure the Tullonians will be, too.”
“But… we’d loose all the information about them,” Cindy pointed out. “If we don’t get there in time, that may be the only record we have.”
“If we don’t wipe the system, we might not get there in time,” Jason replied.
“That’s… that’s kind of a tough decision,” Cindy admitted.
“Not for me,” Hunter cut in. “Jason, get set up for the wipe. As soon as you have the coordinates, lay in a course. Full military thrust.”
“But—” Cindy protested.
Hunter held up a hand.
“It’s going to take Jason ninety minutes to get set up for the data wipe. You have that long to back up whatever you can to portable storage.”
* * *
“I’d like to revise my previous statement. When life gives you lemons, you don’t just take them lying down, that’s what quitters do. I’ll tell you what winners do: winners take those lemons, and they plant them. When the lemon grows into a tree, they take the lemons they get from that and plant an orchard. When the orchard produces a crop, you take those lemons, and you sell them and become rich. Life only wants you to accept its lemons and move on, but you don’t do that, I don’t do that. I don’t want your damn lemons. I’m Gavin Rasmen, We’re done here…”
The Saratoga’s bridge was bathed in the red glow of flashing hazard lights. The alarms had long ago been disabled, and the crew was outfitted in full-on space suits. The engines were past the theoretical limit of one hundred and twenty percent, and no actually had an idea just how fast they were going.
“You know, the funny part about this whole thing,” Rian commented. “Is we’d seriously never have known these people were in trouble, if they didn’t deliberately transmit a signal at our little listening post.”
“Sure, we could have sifted through that data for months, never figured it out except for that one message,” Hunter agreed. “How many planets have we found that were ghost towns, where the people never so much as sent a rocket into orbit, let alone tried to look around their solar system?”
“Admittedly, they’re all former colonies of somewhere or another,” Rian agreed. “But think about it: these places became the graves of entire cultures, because they never… never bothered to try and see what was out there.”
“Its simple economics,” J'Nall pointed out. “Space exploration is expensive. Those big huge stellar probes we send out? You know each of those things costs the GDP of several planets.”
“But the irrational decision is the right one,” Hunter replied. “It’s why we’re here, it’s why we’re going there.”
Jason was not present, he was still in one of the labs, trying to unwrap the mysterious enigma of the data burst. Hunter had the bridge, Cindy at the helm, and Rian with his finger on the trigger.
It was go time.
“We’re ready to drop out of FTL now,” Cindy reported.
“Rian, targeting,” Hunter spoke. “The AH-cannons should be charged up to one hundred percent. As soon as you have a shooting solution you are cleared to fire.”
“There’s no telling what side of the solar system Tullona is on right now,” Cindy said. “If we come out of FTL on the wrong side we may have to get set up for another jump.”
“I don’t care if it melts the engines,” Hunter replied. “You are go for whatever maneuver you need. Seconds could count.”
With a brilliant flash of golden light, the Saratoga emerged from FTL and turned it’s nose towards Tullona, brining the planet into sensor range the first time.
* * *
One massive impact crater marred the surface. Radiating out from it were huge cracks that spider-webbed across the surface where the tectonic plates had been shattered. The browns and yellows were a devastated mass, a desolate, ruined picture of former glory.
From orbit, they could make out ocean basins, dried river courses, and yes, the remnants of cities. The atmosphere was surprisingly clear, clean, without the usual marbling of clouds one expected to see on a world brimming with life.
The picture was a nightmare, a horror show, and yet no one could tear their eyes away from it.
Somberly, Jason entered the bridge carrying a portable console. Everyone had ditched their pressure suits by now, but these were mostly laying around in piles next to stations. Warning alarms still flashed, but no one moved to correct them.
“Based on the levels of particulate matter in the atmosphere,” Jason stated coldly. “The comet struck between five and seven hundred years ago. The listening post was installed in the early Fifth Age, and its reactor failed about six centuries ago, so we can assume the impact was closer to seven hundred. Right about the time this section of the listening network was cut off by the Kami.”
“Have you scanned for life signs?” Hunter asked, his voice little more than a wheeze.
“The atmosphere is mostly methane and carbon dioxide, now,” Jason reported. “The planet surface can no longer support life in any manner we can recognize. It is… unlikely survivors could have lasted this long.”
“So that’s just it, then?” Cindy questioned. “We weren’t hearing a desperate plea for help, just the lost echo of ghosts?”
“These people were dead before the Battle of Lerner Fields, in A.Y. 6200,” Jason explained. “It ended for them a long time ago.”
“Look at the surface,” Hunter said quietly. “There isn’t even anything left—their whole civilization was just… smitten away.”
“Why did we have to delete everything?!” Cindy wailed suddenly, banging her fists on the console. “It was all that was left!”
Hunter turned and looked questioningly at Jason, who could only shrug and shake his head.
“The monitoring station decayed a long time ago,” he said.
Cindy stopped for a moment and gripped the controls, driving the ship down into a lower orbit.
“What are you doing?!” Hunter shouted.
“There is something left,” Cindy snarled. “There’s a ton left! There, see?!”
They were in low orbit by now, and the navigational radar was showing a number of small blips. Not even large enough to trigger a hazard alarm, they were artificial satellites, the few that had survived the massive ejection of atmosphere at the time of the comet’s impact.
As Cindy’s nimble fingers moved over the controls, searching, one small blue light finally began to flash. The ship came about, climbing again, and she pointed.
“There,” Cindy spoke.
The view screen flickered a few times as the sensors honed in on the target and generated a visible image. Then they magnified it, several times, rendering out the shape a new with each increase in resolution.
It circled slowly, giving the illusion not unlike the shape of a twirling ballerina. The main body was a long cylinder, hooked on one end to a box, while the other tapered off into a cone. Extending out to each side were long, silvery solar panels, along with antenna that pointed out towards space.
“That one’s still transmitting a signal,” Cindy pointed.
* * *
Dressed again in suits, but this time full-body coveralls and face masks, with rubber gloves covering their hands and special booties on their feet, Hunter, Cindy, and J'Nall carefully stepped into the hanger. They had towed the satellite in with the utmost care, now they had to treat the seven-hundred-year-old prize like a post-operative ICU patient.
“We cannot take enough caution, here, guys,” Cindy warned.
Lights overhead would continue to supply solar power. In all, the object was around one hundred feet long, and thirty in diameter. Big enough to be a small space station, yet somehow they knew right away that it was not.
A placard on the side was written in a derivation of Common. Not familiar, but easily attributable to millennia of isolation. The trio stood before this for some time, trying to make sense of it.
“We are Tullona,” Cindy finally read. “We are proud, we are wise, and we love our children.”
“It’s a time capsule,” Hunter surmised. “If you knew you were dying, and you could only leave behind one thing, what would it be?”
“It’s not one thing.” A slow smile spread beneath Cindy’s mask as she put her hand gently against the capsule. “It’s everything. This is their legacy, everything there is, this is Tullona. May the verse never forget.”
Started and Finished June 16th, 2011, 9:55 P.M.