The Shoulders of Orion

by JOHNNY SACHU

Tags: Science Fiction,

Desc: : A security scout is sent to a distant planet to investigate a disturbance from its sensors.

The ship was plummeting through the ether at a breakneck pace. Seemingly wallowing through the asteroid belt in this new sun forming region off the Shoulders of Orion, there was actually a destination firmly set.

Though merely avoiding the larger objects that would not be pushed out of the ships way, by the far reaching spreader beam, making it safe for the small ship to pass through unharmed and undetected, time was not on Becker's side. It was critical he get to his destination and get there now.

The stars in the local grouping were hot. He noticed another spike on the screen dealing with conditions outside. The space between the close nit suns was active with serious radiation so high it would destroy most things of a carbon based origin.

Thank goodness for the amplified gravity drive some genius had invented years ago, thought Becker. He mused over those flashes of brilliance and their ability to protect the ship and passengers from outside sources, running through space like this at such a break-neck pace. The numerical readings on several of the screens before him, on the ship's forward operational panels, were almost scary to watch. I'd be dead in seconds if not for the shielding and the drive system. Nothing but a piece of charcoal by now, he thought.

He returned his eyes to the navigation reads. Becker had been racing toward OM-2 for three days now, out of the orbiting star-wheel around Fortis 5. There had been a breech in the security field surrounding the planet and as a First Scout, it was his duty to find out what had happened, on the sly.

OM-2 was undergoing terra-forming. It had been in progress for almost ten standard years and was nearly complete, even though it was all programmed and operated under the direction of androids and machinery so huge, very little could disrupt the operation except an all out attack by some competing solar system. But OM-2 was a purchased and secured world by treaty. It was Corbal Industries clear and firm. There should be no breeches in the security field. Not even an asteroid or comet penetration would have set off the alert, if they were big enough to force their way into the atmosphere with all the protection satellites in orbit around it. No. Something serious had gotten through. Something powerful and large.

"OM-2 on screen," said the female computer's voice. "Magnification thirty-four."

The world had huge ocean's and two moons. The one was large and actually did some good, creating tides and had fortunately activated magnetic fields, coming from deep inside the planet, while the other was nothing but a captured meteor in low orbit circling the planet three times a day, not unlike Mars' moon, Phobos. The main one had been imported from one of the gas giants orbiting moons, further out in the solar system, and had an internal structure compatible and comparable to earth's. So, OM-2 had a wonderful and powerful magnetic pattern around it to ward off any threat from most things in space, particularly the nearby twin sun's harmful rays and any and all of the other more distant suns in the region. It was becoming something of a world rich and precious to man kind, now that it was almost habitable. They had already begun to form an oxygen rich atmosphere to the place, those robotic terra-formers, with the seas already teaming with imported life and some basic terra plants in the form of lichens and other simple plants. It looked like a very promising world for future habitation.

Becker began scanning the surface when he got to magnification sixteen. Even this far out, he could distinguish features and metallic based objects on the surface. After several hours, seeing nothing but atmosphere plants and those enormous metallic terra-forming monstrosities, it wasn't difficult to spot the alien craft once he got into near orbit.

It was an aggressive looking thing with a number of protruding spikes and sharp angled geometric shapes to the hull, and quite large, too. A least a hectare in size. No wonder it had set off the warning systems. It didn't fit the profile to any known craft in the computer's memory or his and he figured it had to be alien, not human, in origin, and certainly not earth made.

He slowed his scouts craft, a high performance, one man mini vessel, and settled into the atmosphere in a controlled glide, still in stealth and completely invisible. Becker didn't like the looks of the vessel on the surface and hid his unnoticed craft in a depression outside the view of the intruder, about half a kilometer away. Several features could be weapons, he guessed, so he wasn't taking any chances.

He made a brief report and sent it out, informing station that he had arrived and pin-beamed it and the visuals he had collected already. He hadn't gone through the interior of the strange craft yet, afraid the penetration radars would set off some kind of warning to the intelligence on board the alien vessel, if there was one.

From outside his craft, a door seemed to open up in the sky as Becker exited his ship. It always looked odd to him, gazing back, when he closed the hatch into nothingness. The stealth of his transport was amazing, being completely invisible to the naked eye and most, if not all, detections systems.

He checked the filtering mechanisms to his suit to reaffirm all items were operating correctly. There was no need for an oxygen pack, with the suit. The suit its self was the pack and though the back had several flattened systems integrated into its make up, it was slim and snug fitting. It allowed him greater mobility and more comfort without an oxygen tank strapped to his back, with as much oxygen the atmosphere now contained. The suit merely filtered out the other less useful gases for his bodies needs, duplicating earth' breathable air. With more plant life scheduled for the new future, here, the oxygen levels would soon stabilize so even one of these suits wouldn't be needed.

He stepped up hill, partly, and using an imaging ball thrown into the sky overhead, it floated there over Becker's position, tiny and barely visible. It was unlikely any one would notice the three point four millimeter ball floating in the air, spying down on them.

Checking his control monitor, he sent it in closer to the alien craft and was only about thirty meters away when he first saw movement. It was a robot doing some kind of work on the outside hull. The outer engines, assuming, that's what they were, were being serviced or repaired and he sent the ball closer in.

The robot looked humanoid and seemed quite sophisticated but he figured it was a mere ships mechanic. It wasn't as refined as the ones being produced by earth's corporations as they all were so life-like that it was nearly all but impossible to distinguish them from real men and women with the exception of their perfect beauty.

Okay. They've probably got engine problems, that's why they had to set down, he surmised. But is this craft entirely robotic or is there real life controlling it? More than that, what was it doing in this sector of space? Was this ship doing reconnaissance for invasion, or just mapping out new planets? That's what he had to find out.

He sent the ball towards the main hatchway, as he thought of it, a large ramp in raised position, in front of a large bay door. There was nothing more to see, though, so after searching aft, as the mech-robot continued his work, he inspected another newly discovered personnel hatch. The hatch was sealed and there was no window so Becker sent the device to map the huge ship, and beamed the information off to station. It wasn't long after that that a humanoid form in a suit, similar to his, exited the ship, looking for the little spy ball. It had been noticed.

He watched as the quite obviously female form came outside, something in her hand. It didn't appear to be a weapon of any kind. Maybe it was a locater and soon enough, that was confirmed. She was looking directly into the lens of the ball, knowing exactly where it was. Becker couldn't see her face, her helmet shielded like his from the twin suns bright rays, but when she made a gesture of 'come here', he let the cube drift down towards her. She must have known it was being operated and kept looking around for it's operator, him of course.

He finally made a decision and stepped up over the hill, but switched on his shielding. It would protect him from small arms fire but that was about it. He was taking a chance and wondered if there were others on board her craft, waiting for him to show his self so they could wound or kill him, but hopefully, it wouldn't be that bad. Besides, he was armed himself.

She seemed friendly, yet, still, he also activated his targeting screen in his heads up display. With a mere look and combination eye or eyebrow gesture, he could fire one of several kinds of weapons at the being before him, if needed.

He stored the little monitor on his hip belt, using the heads up display instead, and turned the ball towards him so she would noticed him walking towards her. She saw him coming and waited, staring.

He slowly raised a hand as if to say, Howdy, and watched carefully as she returned the gesture. Friend. Very good. He was recording everything and had the pin-bean sending off results ever sixteenth of a second.

When he got to her, he bowed, briefly, and said, hello, then stepped forward rather slowly and extended his hand. She made the same gesture, mimicking him, though not understanding that they were to shake. He glanced down and slowly took her hand, so it wouldn't surprise her. He pressed her hand, gently, noticing the four fingers and opposing thumb, just like his, and shook it briefly, then let go.

When he touched the base of his close fitting helmet and revealed his face, trying to smile pleasantly, she followed his example, revealing hers.

Becker nearly got dizzy and would have fainted if he were older, possibly. She was the most perfect example of a human being he had ever seen. Her hair was blond and was worn long, he thought, but she had it covered by a net for control inside her helmet. Her eyes were a vivid green. Her mouth had a beautiful pinkish-orange tint to it and when she smiled, he was thrilled with its exquisite gesture of friendly comeliness. The beauty and dignity she portrayed was intriguing and quite natural, he thought.

She stepped backward, inviting him into her ship and he followed, checking every possible condition for some type of entrapment, but there was none, apparently. She passed through a lighted hissing line of steam and bulkhead that he figured was a decontamination area. Very wise. The woman notice his care and finally stepped forward and took one of his hands. She gestured with her head, smiling again in a reassuring manner, he clearly understood. There was no danger here. Nothing to be concerned with. Yet.

Then she removed her helmet and hair net, letting those silver blond waves of beauty fall down past her shoulders and cascade in a tumble over her chest, and stepped forward, removing her gloves and storing them on her waist belt. She waited for him to remove his, making a mild jester with her finger. He checked the air and it was perfectly within breath-ability limits and without virus or bacterium's, and only then, removed his own helmet and gloves.

He was trusting her and thinking this wasn't the first time a man had been beguiled by beauty's allure. History was filled with fools that had been taken in by pretty faces. But what else 'could' he do? This was what he was paid for.

She took a small vial from her own waist belt and sprayed her hands. She was detoxifying her skin and gestured for him to hold out his hands. He did and he smelled alcohol as they both rubbed their hands together with movements of cleaning. The solution was somewhat slippery but soon evaporated.

But when she raised her hands to his head, he quickly took her by the wrists, preventing her touching him. She said something kindly in her language and trusting that there was nothing nefarious intended, released her. She put her soft hands to either side of his cranium and closed her eyes, briefly. He felt nothing. Then the woman went to a nearby console and touched a button.

"That should be better," she said with a language that wasn't his. "Can you understand me, now?"

Amazingly, he could, and instantly found he was able to speak the language, too. What an astounding machine she had.

"Yes, I can understand you. That's an amazing bit of technology."

"It is, isn't it?" she said, always smiling. "We've had if for centuries. It's very handy for meeting new people."

"What did you do to my head, just then?" One of his hands touching his temple.

"I was merely preparing our minds to understand the waves sent to me by yours. It's the way it works."

He didn't understand that, fully, but accepted it, yet hoped it didn't have something that might control him, too.

"You are human, am I correct?" he inquired. "We've never encountered anything other than animals on other planets. You are exactly like us, in form. Where do you come from."

"I don't mind telling you, and I will, but would you reveal your world's location as freely? It could, in theory, lead to an attack, correct? You're quite the suspicious race, I've learned."

"How do you know that and from where?"

"I just read your memories. I know what you know. I'm part of you, now."

"Don't you think that's a little too invasive, seeing as we just met?"

"Sometimes, to communicate, it is necessary. I apologize if it has offended you in a manner unknown to me, but for us to speak, it was needed. It's one of the side effects to the interpreter. It allows us the ability understand our encountered people more fully, so we don't have any undue misunderstandings. Would you like to see my world and mind, as well? The way I think?"

"Yes. Thank you," he said somewhat reluctantly, not knowing if he was capable of it. But understanding her recent explanations, he was game. They made sense.

She had him hold the sides of her head and said, "Don't think of anything, just open your mind." He did as she suggested and felt nothing, then the woman went back to the consul and made a simple adjustment.

He gasped. Her mind flooded in with her every memory and thought over her lifetime. It was as though it were a child's mind, accepting, trusting, with astonishing wisdom, but with more technical advancements than he could ever imagine. Even her most intimate thoughts and memories were his and knew, if he so desired, that he could take full advantage of those pieces of information and exploit them as weaknesses. He knew how to run her ship, too; that the robot outside was harmless and very helpful; how she had grown up thousands of years ago; and her abilities and knowledge were his for the taking and usage of all mankind, knowing what she knew. It was amazing. He also knew of many other things, like how to deactivate the tracing signal aboard her ship, how to operate and manipulate it to his advantage, what it's capability was, everything she knew, she could do, which was far beyond what any man or woman on earth could do, he could now operate and explore for his own use.

Her ship, he understood, was made for her, specifically, and was completely stocked with libraries of information of all types.

"Quite a marvel to experience, isn't it?" She was referring to the mind transference.

"I am completely without words. I had no idea other people had these kinds of advancements, this level of technology and power. I am also most certainly and completely humbled by your ability to move around the galaxy as you do. How your societies function and that you have more children than I can count."

"I have one thousand seven hundred fifty-three children," she said, smiling and with pride. "I know all their names and their children's names and birthdays. It's quite the thing to keep up with. These missions of mine are so tedious, sometimes, they take me away from them and I miss them as much as you can imagine."

"And you have been married to the same man, all this time?"

"Yes. He's a wonderful person and in the same service as myself. It's how we met, as you may now remember from my thoughts. We two are very close after all this time, almost as much as you and I are, now. We know everything about each other, don't we? It does take your words away, doesn't it?"

"Yes, and I'm afraid we are quite close, almost too close. I'm embarrassed at knowing some of the information. You've had a wonderful life, Mira."

She smiled, understandingly.

"As have you. Would you like to see some visual graphics of my world?"

"Oh, yes. I'd love that," Becker said.

"Right this way, then," she encouraged, leading Becker to a chair in another compartment.

She sat him down and asked him to key up several programs she suggested. He found he easily knew how to do it and remembered the sequence and numbers, easily. They appeared in a holographic-like format, visually life-like in appearance, and much more advanced than anything he knew of or had seen. The screen filled three quarters of a bulkhead.

Her world, in this pattern, was immediately fascinating to Becker and seemed as advanced as she was beautiful. Huge cities, enormous and uniquely made, thrilled his eyes and mind with its impressive lay outs, the skies overwhelmed with colorful flyers, huge and beautiful clouds roaming the sky like swimming behemoths in their own unique sea of earth-like blue. Visions of different world's wonders without end filled his heart with enchantment and enlightenment more than he could possibly absorb. Large lawns and park-like environs separated each building in every city shown, from the next, almost utopian in their appearance, and all the people, every one them, seemed happy and joyful, and they were all human, like him, like her. They dressed in long white robes, for the most part, and not Greek or Roman toga-like in appearance, but with tailored sleeves and hems down to their wrists and ankles, but folded and sashed at the waist. People wore sandals or no shoes at all. It was like a paradise and Becker found himself wondering what it would be like to live in that kind of a society.

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Story tagged with:
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