The vessel blasted through the vacuous ether as though there was a purpose to its off course shuttle of twelve passengers and one pilot, if you didn't count the life-like robot copiloting with the officer in charge making it fourteen. But even it was knocked out cold. The power of the wave had been too much for even its advanced neural electronics.
Only the speed and shape of their craft saved them all, piercing the wall of energy as quickly as it had, passing through the space storm as if the ship were a shaft piercing water, not unlike a deity-thrown javelin.
They had seen the space storm, a wave, approaching across the sky of deep space like a rough oceanic wave flowing with curling structure and power through the vast empty region beyond their jump planet, Arrona, its origin unknown, the nature of its makeup unknown, benign or dangerous, all unknown. All they did know it was coming at them hard and fast and the co pilot angled themselves directly into it at the last moment as the human's began to flutter and pass out, much like a surfer would point his board into the soup of a broken wave. They had no idea that distant world Arrona, they had just left behind, had now been turned into nebulanic dust, they having been knocked out cold by the plasmic power of the wave's electrically charged force. Even the moon's were gone, mixed together now with the rest of the hot, glowing, sporadically charged and explosive gases, and powdered remains of those distant worlds and the three orbiting satellites, nor were any of them found in solid mass anymore, if they were able open their eyes. But they didn't. They couldn't.
And space shuttered even though no one was conscious to notice. It wasn't audible, but if they had been awake, the passengers of the space craft would have felt it moving things inside their guts, trembling their ship with continuous vibrations, coring their bodily cells into something quite different on the cellular level. Even the robot was changed in several ways. It had been catastrophic, this sudden strange occurrence, and more than beyond reasoning, but those within the safety of that man made shell of titanium, copper, brass, aluminum, iron, and various ceramics would not and could not recall the death of that stricken world in the emptiness of their past flight. And though the wave had allowed them to live through its power, not without the quick and heavy effects of prolonged unconsciousness, they were not the same people and would never be again, forever.
The space craft, itself, did not escape the effects, completely, either. The further it pierced into the body of that energy wave, the less solid it became. The micro particles that made up it's atomic matter and the passengers themselves where leached away at, as if by water, and within several long draining moments, and then minutes, the ship had disappeared out of existence from any sort of universal view, in this realm, as it passed on and was reformed and refined, compiled into another dimension, into another thing, reforming with complete integrity within the bounds of a new universe with its own unique brand of physics and life conditions.
The robot was the first to awaken. She had known something major was going to occur just before the wave hit them. It was too powerful not to affect them somehow, but that they had survived at all was surprising to her. That phenomena they had passed through was simply too powerful not to have done something dramatic. But she was alright, she thought, and the ship seemed fine, too, on first investigation. Except it was flying erratically and very fast, still in acceleration mode, and Iantha quickly cut power to the engine.
She did notice her captain and the others carbon life persons had passed out and instantly checked his neck's carotid artery. It was strong and regular then quickly, she ran a ship's scan of the passengers. Everyone seemed to be in good health and one by one they all began to awaken, asking and demanding what had happened.
Through it all Iantha busied herself with an array of investigative pursuits. The wave being the chief inquiry with all available readouts being reviewed, and almost as seriously, trying to discover where the heck they were. None of the stars or their visible formations were in the computers. They were literally someplace unknown. Lost, perhaps. But there was something beyond these bits of knowledge, too...
"What is it?" asked Captain George.
"I'm not sure, sir. It just doesn't feel right? Can you sense it? The uneasiness of the space, here?"
"I'm not sure I understand what you're asking, Iantha."
"The light from the stars is, I don't know how to express it, but they're different, in some way," and as she spoke she reached across her panel of electronic controls, bringing up a chart. "You see the array of the light from those visible stars, the peaks and drops are not normal." She could see he didn't quite get the significance and overlaid a record of the last star system visuals, in scientific charting, and then he understood. None of the colors were issuing anywhere near a normal pattern, as they should be, nor were their intensities of a normal consistency or laid out the same. The entire spectrum looked like someone had dropped all the colors and put them back together all mixed up.
"What does that mean?"
"I'm not sure, sir, but if I may venture a guess, and this is merely supposition, you understand, I'm thinking we are not in our universe any longer. That wave we passed through either altered our universe, which is unlikely as it wasn't as big as the known universe, or transferred us into another one. Parallel universes have been a theory for many years but until this moment, no one has ever been able to finitely prove it. It does seem to be a reasonable supposition, though, and if the light is this different, here, the physics we know and learned of, don't apply here, necessarily, if this chart means anything."
"In what ways?"
"It's uncertain. But I think we're going to have discover things as we go along. We are going to have to proceed with extreme caution, sir. Landing might be a bit more tricky."
"Landing, huh? That's going to be different, too?"
"It could be. I don't know. In our universe, light is consistent in how it registers and is recorded, as far as our telescopes can reach. It always looks the same, scans the same, acts in the same manner. If it, as an energy, is different, I have to venture to think, a lot of other things about this space, this environment, is different, too."
"Why are you talking to her?" demanded a passenger in the near row. He was a heavy set, big mouthed man that had been a pain before leaving the space port. Wanting this, griping about that, and unable to adapt to anything different he had been used to on other transports. "She's just a robot. What the hell does she know about anything?"
"She may be the reason you're still alive so just sit tight and shut the hell up while we try to figure out what's going on around here, alright?"
"You can't talk to me like that, you little pipsqueak. I'll have your job for this infraction..." the man went on and the pilot opened the unmarked panel and hit number two button. A hypo needle penetrated the passenger's lower spine tissues, injected a harmless serum, and retracted instantly. The man fell silent almost as quickly, his head now bobbing on his chest like a balloon.
"Make a scan of the local groups, if our instruments are up to it. Find me an 'E' type planet, Iantha We'll orbit it in case we need to land. From there we can get our bearings and find out what really happened, or, set up an emergency base. We've got to have a failsafe. This ship can't stay up indefinitely."
Iantha found an 'E' planet two solar systems away and five light years from their present position. It was an unknown phenomenon since the earliest explorations that most, over seventy-three percent of the known solar system's harbored at least one earth-like planet with breathable air and life sustaining properties. Nobody understood why it was so, it just was...
"We've got plenty of fuel, so lets get our course laid in and hit it," the captain said.
Iantha was quicker than their ship based computer and had the course dialed in as the captain finished his sentence, anticipating his thoughts, and putting the fasten restraint light on.
With an all green on the restraint indicator, she began her countdown: "Ignition in four, three, two, one, and ignition," she said, aloud for the passengers sake, the automatics taking over. The ship jumped ahead, the stars leaping into new configurations as it arced into a new line of travel, with one star in particular growing larger.
"Orbiting zero, zero, one, sir, our new star-hub."
"Good job, Iantha. Now, lets try and figure out where the heck we are."
Seven sweat-filled hours passed, in orbit, without any new knowledge of their location, as compared to their old universe. They knew where they were, in this particular cluster of this unknown galaxy, but nothing, as far as their ongoing charts could discern could tell them where their old one, or its position, was. It was gone and the knowledge of how to get back to it, with it. They and the ship were lost and somewhere else. The two pilots looked at one another.
"Go ahead," Captain George said, "tell them. They have a right to know." Their conclusions were undeniable, now.
Iantha looked into the captain's eyes and knew it was the wise thing to do. The other passengers, even the loud mouth, had been quiet and patient with them since they had gotten into orbit. He, especially was well motivated to behave.
Iantha stood up in the low ceiling environment and addressed the twelve passengers, the captain standing with her off of one lovely shoulder, her skin-tight clothing showing every nuance of her perfect face and exotically formed body and commanding attention of even the most apathetic individuals, like the women seated here and there.
"Ladies and gentlemen, we have an announcement to make. Shortly after launch, this ship passed through an unknown space anomaly we have never encountered before, nor is there a record of anything like it anywhere in our experience. In short, this anomaly thrust us into another dimension and a new kind of universe. The physical make up of it, as well as our bodies, are different. Light itself, is different, and all matter seems to be very much a mystery and quite changed from what we are used to. What this means is, we are lost in a very different kind of environment. This ship, our bodies, that planet below, it's air, it will be very challenging to all of us and may be for some time to come. We do not know what to expect from these new physics, exactly, and how it will affect us on a personal level. From what we can surmise, we will be able to breathe the air below. Our bodies have changed, somehow, apparently, most likely in the move to this universe, but we don't know for sure if that is the case, or even, how long we were out. We will have to test everything before we allow anyone to leave the ship after landing."
"What do you mean, 'After landing?'" spoke up a business woman in the back, off the main isle.
"I mean that all things you knew of before this flight are gone. We have no other option than to attempt a landing on this world. It seems to be perfectly habitable and as safe as any new world is, which usually means challenging, but still survivable, and livable."
"What about our families, our businesses, our way of life?" someone else inquired.
The captain stepped forward and stood at Iantha's side. It was his turn to speak.
"As Iantha has said, it's all gone. Our chances of finding our way out of this universe is most likely zero. We will have to live out our lives here and do the best we can to make ourselves comfortable. My wife and children are gone. I know now I will never see them again, nor will you ever again see your families, either. We are marooned in this space. We cannot return. Even if that wave of energy were to return, which is highly unlikely, it would probably propel us into another dimension more averse to us than this universe seems to be, or kill us. We cannot return. No one is more sorry about this than myself."
There were several more long minutes of complaints, tears, and shouting, and lots more debate, but in the end, people agreed, there was no other alternative but to land and try to live in their new environment.
So the ship came in slowly, though 8,000 kilometers per second, off the parsec grid, it did not seem so slow to some of the people looking out their porthole windows, seeing the glow of the ceramic coated metal outside their painted craft shedding the heat of reentry. But at last, they fell subsonic and the ship slowed even further to a quiet hover in the high cold air, and then lowered into the thickness of the lower atmospheres with their mild subtropical temperatures near the ground.
Iantha left the ship first, loaded with portable instruments. She didn't actually breathe. She sat up a small folding table and began making calculations and getting huge amounts of data from the various experiments she performed, absorbing, compiling, and collating it into answers. The results seemed conclusive.
"I need a human volunteer, captain. Every indication seems to point to the fact that everyone should breathe as easily here as anywhere else. Your bodies seem to be perfectly suited to these mixtures of gases."
Without a second thought, George headed for the back hatch. He had perfect confidence in his co-pilot. She was as right as rain in everything he had ever encountered with her. The robots were so filled with information's of every sort they were the perfect help machine to mankind, as far as he was concerned. He was certain their was no risk involved.
"No!" Someone raised his voice. It was a young man, who promptly stood up. "Let me go, Captain. I have no family. And if something does go wrong, you'll be needed on board."
George stared at the young man, and knew he made sense. "Alright, son. Go ahead. I don't think you have anything to worry about, though ... She's always right on the money with her calculations. But thank you. This is a brave gesture and we all appreciate it. Go ahead."
The young fellow, by the name of Dan'tac, entered the chamber and closed the inner hatch, then opened the outer door where Iantha stood waiting in case she had to push the volunteer back into the ship, if the gases proved harmful. But he was fine. Everyone soon piled out after that and mulled around the sleek, dart-like cylinder that was the space craft, stretching and breathing in the lovely new air that had a slight scent of flowers to it.
George looked at Iantha, briefly, noticing for the umpteenth time how her clothing seemed to hide nothing of her exquisite figure. It made him swallow, hard, too. It was difficult to be married, he told himself, once again. But that was all over now, wasn't it? He questioned himself. He noticed several other men staring as well. She was awfully alluring. Why didn't they issue them more modest clothing, he wondered, but actually, he did know why. Much of the sensory environmentals were incorporated into the robot's outer cloth and skin layers. She had to have that skin-tight clothing to read and collect the information through her bodies sensors, but even so, his thoughts continued, did they have to make her flesh as pliable and real feeling as it was? If you were a guy, you couldn't help but watch her body sway and jiggle like it did, almost as if she were a stripper trying to get a rise out of you. Sheeze!
George shook away those lust filled thoughts and began to check out the local environment. They purposely landed in a flat, open area, with short grasses. The surrounding trees were thick and inviting with their deep, cooler shade, the twin sun's overhead were so warm. Like being in India, on old earth, he thought. He had been there, once.
"We need to survey the surrounding area, Iantha. Can you send out a ball or two?"
"Certainly sir," she said, as her superior, looking at him briefly, then kneeling down to some of her boxed instruments while many of the men followed her movements and the movements her overtly displayed figure made.
George came to her side, however, and put in his two cents worth of direction, as she readied the self propelled balls that would venture through the air and record everything it saw, as well as display it on the daytime hologram now opened and ready for viewing. It showed most of the men gathered around the instruments and the two pilots. The women passengers were huddled off on their own, most of the five of them, anyway.
Iantha checked to make sure no one was leaning over the little pod of the two balls so they wouldn't be knocked out by the launching of the little probes and then pressed a button sending them rocketing straight up into action. They hovered thirty or more meters above the ground then began circling in wider and broader navigations, investigating anything that looked different. There was nothing but trees for as far as they could see in every direction, outside the clearing, and some relatively large herbivores grazing on plant life here and there. They looked like dinosaurs, and Iantha noted that because grasses hadn't evolved yet, on earth, during the time of the dinosaurs, or some of the other planets either, encountered in man's explorations, but here on this world, there was grass and flowers and dinosaurs, together. That was different. The probes eventually returned to their case and Iantha summed up the scans.
"Nothing of any immediate danger, captain, and except for the curiosity of that pillar, in the distance, I see nothing unusual in the area."
"Oh! You didn't catch it? Let me replay it, sir. It looks intelligently made. I have no idea what it is, though; It might be a sensor of some kind. This planet may be inhabited, or at the very least, monitored."
She ran back the recording of one of the balls and it clearly showed a white pillar off in the distance of the far away trees and some relatively tall forested hills. It came to a blunt point at the top but there... "certainly seems to be more structure below it," Iantha said. "Should I send another ball out, again? I only had them set for three kilometers."
"Yes. Natural occurrences don't bother me. It's intelligent life that makes me nervous."
"Very well," Iantha said, and sent out a probe under her direction to the distant object, keeping it in check and under her command with her one handed control device as she watched the hologram display its findings.
What it found was a pole stuck into the ground fifteen meters in diameter. A big freaking pole. It was over eight hundred meters high. There were no guy wires to keep it steady but something curious did happen. The thing retracted into itself and spread out over its large circular plot of permacrete into a disk form at the approach of the probe. The science behind it seemed impressive, at least as impressive as theirs, but on a scale much bigger than they had known in the past.
"It seems to be a sensor, sir. We have similar devices in play, here and there around our galaxy. This is merely a much larger one. I can guess that it's a planet wide device, using the atmosphere to bounce signals around this sphere to sense what's happening."
"Okay," George said, after the ball had circled the retracted pillar, that was now a disk, investigating its area of location. Nothing else showed up. "Bring it back. Lets head on over there. At least we know we're not alone."
"If I may suggest an alternate strategy, captain."
"Sure, Iantha. What are you thinking?"
"Let's hide the ship in some of the forest, nearby, and watch that item. Lets see if any life forms appear that would be threatening to us. To me, it seems like its some kind of recording sensor, but I could be way off, and it might have a planet wide basis for protecting itself, too. We are strangers and if our history has taught us anything, strangers are not to be trusted, and are not always welcomed."
"That makes perfect sense. Thank you for bringing it up. Is that agreeable to everyone else?" he asked. There were no objections so they immediately left, hugging the tree line in the ship, then when close, lowered themselves into the foliage nose first and parked their vehicle beneath the cover of the upper and middle boughs of the hundred meter high trees, finally settling on some fairly level ground.
They waited a while, but nothing appeared except some strange yet very beautiful birds of light. The seemed almost neon in radiance, especially when they flew.
The captain finally opted for a foot expedition and led it himself, with everyone in tow. They found some low buildings beneath some distant trees but didn't attempt to open their massive doors that seemed to slide to the side.
Iantha, however, had placed herself strangely in front of one of the doors, almost spread eagle, somehow attracted to it. George noticed her stance and came up behind her, respectfully asking what she was doing.
She seemed oddly distant when answering. "I feel vibrations and distant sounds," she said. "This is certainly an active site. I can almost sense..."
"I don't know. Life, maybe? Some kind of intelligence?"
George thought about her comments for a while and let her continue for a few more seconds, then...
"Well, I think we ought to get out of here, myself, and get back to our original landing site. Iantha?"
"I have no objection to that, sir?" she said, stepping away from the door. "It certainly would seem less threatening to the owners of this facility if we left its vicinity."
So they left and everyone got issued their emergency packet. It was a small backpack that had shelter, survival gear, and a little food, and two liters of water. It only weighed about eight kilos so no one would be stressed by it if they had to move out under their own physical power via their feet.
Iantha demonstrated how to set up their little one man tents and they decided a circular pattern of uniformity in the tent layout, would be best. Soon the ship was harboring a cute little community of campers and someone made a fire in the center of their tiny village of synthetic huts.
Someone, a man, asked Iantha what her name meant, but before she could answer, one of the women perked up and answered for her.
"It's a Greek name, from old earth," she said. "It means, 'violet flower'."
"And how do you know that?" someone else asked.
"I'm an archeologist. I was on my way to Cordal Six, to a dig site there."
"Who needs an archeologist if we got robots? Can't they do anything you do, only quicker?"
"To a point, but they don't have human insight and we don't spend all our free time ogling over our female robots."
"What do you mean?" someone demanded.
"I mean, you men aught to stop staring at Iantha's breasts and other pieces and go get some more firewood. That little pile isn't going to last long."
"Jealous of a little competition, honey?" said the big mouthed trouble maker.
Science Fiction /