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 Outside - Faith in Jane

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PostSubject: Outside - Faith in Jane   December 31st 2010, 7:45 am

Outside - Story Twenty-Six
Faith in Jane

Part One

Okay, Castle making this report. I don’t know if I am the best person, but certain things said here I want to be the one to make them. No one else argued with me, so you will just need to take my word for certain parts of this story.

I am starting this with me rushing to the apartment of Clover and Naomi. I could do the scene where I begin this hurried pace, but no need. It is simply me running a simulation on a computer, then getting happy and rushing out of my apartment.

I didn’t press the intercom, but banged upon the door, to which Clover shouted, “Come on in!” Seeing me enter, he then said, “You are more than welcome, Castle. Naomi, please get him a glass.”

As she rose from the table, the lady cheerfully informed me, “I’m pregnant.”

I approached as I declared, “Well, I have something to celebrate as well. I believe that Jane will work.”

Clover replied, “Good! How did you run your tests?”

“It is all computer at the moment, but the simulations agree that what I have done should match my specifications. Besides having a little celebration, I actually came to ask your help in putting our new boat together.”

I could tell that Clover knew that I was used to working alone as he asked, “What do you need me to do?”

“Well, we are building this boat from scratch. I will thus need help with some of the main body parts. Also, I will need new boards to handle the new engine. I can show you the routines that I have been using, but some changes will need to be made as we put all the final design changes together.”

“Sounds like you do need me. Still, yeah, let’s do this thing.”

Naomi lifted her wine glass as she said, “To all things new. Babies and new boats.”

I corrected her by saying, “New space engines for those boats.”

“May the future be happy!”

We all drank, then as Clover refilled our glasses I said, “Oh, Naomi, your help would be appreciated as well. I would like the boat to have more of a feminine appearance.”

She replied, “I have already been looking at the fabric and materials that we have on board.”

Clover added, “She has also been looking at the design programs.”

I asked, “Okay, so when can we get started?”

“Uh, I just finished my shifts. You are the one about to go on duty. I guess that Naomi and I can get to work on the internals, like the pilot’s chair. I probably can start the preparations for setting up the code for the boards. We will however need to wait for you to start on the main boat.”

We drank the bottle of wine while discussing the steps in building the boat. Luckily, Clover was with me when I put together my present boat. He had also built his own boat. Thus, he knew the process and my style of work.”

We all stopped as a voice came over the speaker. “Breaking silence here. Come on, Darlene, have you figured anything out about the language?”

“Believe it or not, Felix, we have. Pretty certain that we got some numbers. We also believe that we got a few other words.”

“Well, I am getting multiple communications here. I believe that I should be concerned.”

Another voice now declared, “This is Captain Saing of the Chavez. Menlo Park, please state your location.”

Felix replied, “I am nowhere at the moment, which is why I needed to break silence.”

Thor’s voice now stated, “We are still over two months from where we believe our objective lies.”

Captain Saing said, “Well, what we are picking up from you shows you no longer along the vector directly away from the alien craft.”

“No, but we expected to hear you make corrections as you gained the same transmissions that we did.”

“We got a couple of transmissions, but they were faint, quick, and provided no information on how to change our headings.”

“Too bad that you don’t have the quality of crew that I do. That was enough for them to figure some things out.”

Captain Saing’s voice sounded rather annoyed as it said, “I asked for locations.”

“Your own people should now be figuring that out.”

I believe that my captain was as glad as most of us to hear a voice of sanity. “This is Natchez, Menlo Park. Glad to hear from you. Yes, your transmission is telling us a lot. Just for your satisfaction, I know of no one even remotely close to your position.”

Thor replied, “Thank you, Outside Control. I also have not seen any claim on this star. I always considered making the claim a waste of money, as Inside has laws stating that any aliens already present in a system have claim to that system.”

The speaker filled with a number of voices speaking of wondering why Thor had not broken silence to file a claim. Understanding the logic caused them to comprehend why we did what we did. In keeping silence, no one could beat us to the aliens, so we would gain that credit while not wasting any money.

Darlene got everyone back on the topic as she said, “Felix, transmit your messages.”

“Uh, sure, but they are around us. Indigo and I are presently stopped.”

Thor translated, “What you are saying is that you are getting multiple constant transmissions.”

“Basically. They are not constant like the broadcasts from Outside Control. They appear to be simple reports.”

Darlene replied, “That would help us, Felix. Having actual statements and replies could help us gain a better understanding.”

Clover moved to his bedroom where he had his independent computer setup. I watched as he brought up the transmissions from the sensors of the Menlo Park, then ran them through his program for deciphering it. Soon, we were seeing more images of various aliens, hearing their strange speech, and a panel came up even telling us their location.

He said, “Felix, the data looks good. Darlene, can you figure out anything?”

She replied, “Watson and I will be working on it. Good to have something new and substantial to work with.”

Captain Saing declared, “We are not able to make sense of that transmission.”

Clover said, “I am not going to tell you how we are doing this, but just to give the people back home something to ooh and aah over, we will show you something.”

I saw Clover isolate a section of video and sound. He then saved it in the normal format for our systems. With no trace of the alien signal in the record, he then transmitted it over the broadcast channel.

Oohs and aahs did sound over the speaker. A number then asked about specific features that were noticed. Darlene spoke with those about what we now considered actual details about the aliens. While Captain Saing demanded to be given the program we were using to translate the transmissions, others made more reasonable statements to which were given some responses.

As I listened, I saw Clover compile the tactical data from the various transmissions that Felix was sending. While it seemed like an odd grouping, I really did not understand the grimace that Clover made as he looked at the picture. I understood as he spoke.

“Felix, Thor might get mad at me for making this broadcast, but I believe that our government would break any security codes that I placed on it. I am thus going ahead and making you aware of what I am finding.”

I did not really understand, but Felix’s voice said that he did. “Uh, yeah, Clover, that is what I am suspecting as well. That is why I went ahead and broke silence.”

Darlene replied, “Uh, it looks even worse when you add in other details.”

Felix asked, “What details?”

“Their uniforms. I am color coding Clover’s tactical at this moment using uniform patterns.”

Captain Saing’s voice sounded very strong as he said, “That is why we were sent after you. Give us your location, Menlo Park.”

The speaker filled with voices declaring that our purpose was not to instigate war or promote violence in any fashion. Suggestions to Thor were even given for him to lie about his location. Clover and I looked to each other with disgusted features as we both knew such an act to be foolish. The Chavez certainly was able to determine our location and vector simply by our transmissions, so to request such data was simply Inside foolishness. We actually felt some agreement with voices that said that any act of violence needed to be upon our own military.

As if to verify the foolishness of things asked by Captain Saing, we heard an electronic voice say, “We have passed you once again, Menlo Park, because of not turning when we should have. Now making corrections. We will be coming.”

The speakers now went quiet, as everyone seemed to have heard soft curse words spoken by Felix and Indigo. Clover pulled up a copy of Darlene’s board, then enlarged a tactical display that she was working upon. Naomi gasped upon realizing Felix’s situation, but otherwise we waited for him to say more.

“I am transmitting a picture that I really don’t want the military to see.”

Voices groaned while Captain Saing again made certain demands. I watched with Clover and Naomi as we saw a distant eruption of light. We all made exclamations of fear in realizing that our aliens were at war with each other.

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PostSubject: Part 2   January 5th 2011, 8:08 am

Outside - Story Twenty-Six
Faith in Jane

Part Two

I heard the voice of Thor declare, “Just hold your position, Felix. We are going to need to figure something out.”

I said, “Sandra, you need to help me!”

The voice of our mechanic replied, “What?”

“We need to put Jane together.”

“You’re kidding. Right?”

“Wrong. That is what I was doing coming to Clover. I however go on duty. While I fly point, I need you, Clover, and Naomi working to put that new boat together. When I come off duty, we can work on Jane.”

The voice of Thor was strong as he said, “I can help as well. Malcolm, I know that you have helm, but your time will also be required.”

Sandra strongly declared, “This is silly. Even if Jane does work, how will that help?”

I answered, “It will get us where we need to be. We have alien vessels moving at faster-than-light around us with hostile intent. We can out-move them, and probably out-gun them, but that does not give us the ability to move where we need to be to fire our weapons where we need to fire them. Jane can do that for us.”

Thor said, “I did not think you were building a gunship, Castle.”

“I did not think that I was either.”

The speakers now filled with voices telling me how Jane could help even if unarmed. Most considered peaceful uses to be better than any other. Captain Saing spoke of having a much better availability of weapons, but many spoke of him being the wrong presence in meeting another intelligent race of creatures. Over the cacophony of voices, I heard Sandra come to a decision.

“Get your butt down here to me, Castle! I want to see your plans personally!”

“Get to my room if you want that, Sandra. I can show you my work and the simulations.”

“I’ll be there.”

I left the couple as I rushed to my apartment. Sandra was already at the door waiting for me. We thus stepped into my room together with me explaining the layout of the various parts. The engine itself however was mostly complete. It would need to be disassembled to move it to the repair bay where the boat would be made, but at present it made a good presentation to the mechanic. Sandra watched her step as she moved about my apartment, but she listened as she inspected the engine for herself.

“You haven’t actually tested this thing?” she asked as I was bringing my explanation to a close.

“No, but I need to build the boat for that.”

“True.” Her voiced drifted to a whisper, but it regained strength as it said, “The boat needs building anyway, as presently we don’t have a spare. What you are saying however is not to make Jane a secondary engine, but the primary engine.”

“The only engine. Get the major construction done, and I can tear down and rebuild without much problem. The internals need not be permanent, but I really do believe that Jane can start her life.”

“I’m as bored as everyone else on board this ship. Glad to get my blood back to flowing. Okay, Castle, I will sign off on this.” The tone of her voice changed as she said, “Harley or Darlene.”

The voice of our communications officer returned, “I am at my desk. A lot of traffic at the moment.”

“Okay, Harley, secure our open repair bay with atmosphere.”

“You got it.”

Sandra and I worked to move a number of pieces out to the repair bay. As most were metal, and many were rather large, she went to turn off gravity through a portion of the ship. She looked at me strangely when I mentioned that Naomi needed to be confined to quarters as well as Rachel, but did not argue. With only the consideration of mass, and not weight, our mechanic and I easily moved a good amount of material to the repair bay to begin work.

I had forgotten that Thor was pulling duty now that Felix and Indigo were both absent. I knew that Rachel was pulling point, but agreed that she needed time to run checks on her boat as well as Diamond. That put us on an odd revolving shift where daytime and nighttime shifts where co-mingled. Thor and I discussed plans for the new boat as we traded positions at point, then I left things in his hands.

I needed sleep when I came in from my time at point, but I stopped in to check on the boat. It was still mostly a collection of parts, but I could tell that a lot of basic work had been performed. The most effort had been placed on the pilot’s chair. I could tell that Clover had been at work setting up the computer parts and establishing some basic routines for flying the boat while Naomi had been working to make the pilot’s area lovely and not just functional. The chair was pink with a deep pure blue for the seams and detail work. I did not exactly like the color scheme, but could not complain with the work. I even had to admit that I had requested that the boat be given a female touch. Not willing to complain, I headed to get some rest.

Coming back to the repair bay, I saw the warning signs of nuclear radiation. I tried to get a visual of what was occurring, but found that the cameras had been turned off. I spoke hoping that such would not be the same with the speakers.

“Sandra, who do you have working with you?”

I felt relief as the voice of our mechanic replied, “Thor and Malcolm are in here with me. They both know the routine.”

“Isn’t it a little early for the power supply?”

“Not for this boat. You are going to need to run test after test as you put darling Jane together. Might as well give you the power to do so.”

I really wanted to be in there, but let those working know that I trusted them as I said, “Well, thanks. I am awake and ready to do what work I can. I am going to get a bite to eat. Check with you afterwards.”

I entered the kitchen to hear Naomi mention that there was spaghetti on the stove. While she noticed my arrival and spoke to me, I could tell that her primary attention was upon what was happening in the bridge. I looked through the doorway to see a large tactical display on the front monitor as I heard Darlene and others speak with others.

The voice of Captain Saing said, “It would help to have that program you are using to translate the data.”

Clover replied, “Let me say again that you are not receiving the transmissions anyway. You thus don’t need the program.”

I asked, “Did another ship explode?”

Darlene replied, “They really cannot turn. It does not take much before the centrifugal forces get too much for them to bear. They thus have major problems getting into position for a shot.”

Clover commented, “The short answer is thus, no, but we are watching.”

Watson pointed to the screen as he said, “And listening. I believe that I am getting some confidence with their language. Luckily, we got numbers from their tactical, and they are using a lot of numbers in their statements. From there, I believe other words have been figured out.”

While he had pointed at the main screen, I could tell that Watson was more interested in what he saw on his own display. I thus moved in to look over his shoulder. I saw video clips of the aliens, and at the bottom would be text of what I suspected was the translation. Watson also had a panel showing a graph of the sound data, which he would occasionally highlight to isolate sections that I suspected he thought were recognizable words.

He saw me looking and began to explain. “Those Outside are more interested in this, so this is what is actually going out. The military is sent tactical as it updates.”

Understanding that the aliens only used electromagnetic signals, I asked, “How recent is this information?”

“Pretty recent. It comes from Felix who is closer to the activity than he desires. There are a few light-hours behind, but most reports are light-minutes away from him.”

Looking at the tactical display, I had to ask, “And they are still able to coordinate all of that?”

“It helps that I can make out a repeat of certain things as it comes over their speakers, as it enables me to decide if something is a command to others in the ship or a reply to some broadcast from another ship.”

The voice of Felix asked, “Hey, do I hear Castle?”

I cheerfully replied, “All rested and about to get something to eat.”

“Indigo and I sure would like to have you and Jane to drop in for a visit.”

“Clover is the computer expert. I haven’t taught Jane how to play any wargames.”

“No, no, Castle. Think with me. Indigo and I are stuck here because we have alien warships around us… right?” I verified, then Felix said, “And we had one of those ship explode earlier… right?”

I heard the voice of Captain Saing curse. I felt stupid to have an Insider figure out something ahead of me, but I just did not have my mind in the same place that Felix did. It thus took another statement from him to get me thinking properly.

“So what do you get after an explosion?”

“Well, a mess… WAIT! You are talking about survivors?”

“Indigo thinks that she has identified some escape pods. They are sublight, but still flying pretty fast. None are where we can zip nearby. That is where Jane could help.”

A voice that I clearly recognized as being an Insider said, “Castle, Felix, and Indigo, it would help if we could go over some procedures about this first contact.”

Procedures could go to Hell. I would be lucky to say my name right. I instead focused on something that I knew that I could do.

“Felix; Sandra, Thor, and Malcolm are at work building my power supply. I am going to get something to eat, then hopefully start to work putting Jane in her place. I will do as much as I can before I again go on point. Hopefully, when I again come off my shift, the others would have done enough to enable me to finish.”

“All right, team work! Don’t let me and Indigo grow old out here.”

“No way. If we wait too long, we will lose a share to the coming babies.”

Darlene said, “Not to mention Insiders.”

An electronic voice said, “We are no longer Insiders, but citizens of Pellucidar.”

I really had not remembered what the saucer people named the planets of their solar system, but I also did not care. “We still want to make our claim without you there.”

“Do what you have to in order to secure your claim, Menlo Park, but do not forget that you are a part of a greater civilization.”

I heard a number of voices, probably a percentage of them being Outsiders, second the words. Captain Saing voiced his belief that he needed to be present to secure our protection when we made first contact, but I smiled as I heard a number speak against us waiting for him. Finally, I spoke what I felt certain Felix wanted to hear.

“If Jane will respond like the lady I believe her to be, we should be on our way in a couple of days.”

It was Indigo that said, “We are here waiting.”

_________________
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PostSubject: Part 3   January 10th 2011, 7:47 am

Outside - Story Twenty-Six
Faith in Jane

Part Three

I did as I said I would. A boat appears exceedingly large when it is first being assembled. The nuclear pile requires its room, as does the engine. The vats for water and fuel however get hidden behind walls while the radioactive core and plasma generation chamber get covered by the instrument panels that enables one to control them. The final boat is actually still rather large, but it appears much smaller than the sum of its parts. Magically causing things to appear to go away is part of my enjoyment of building a boat, and I worked on Jane every moment that I could.

I came back from my second time at point to see a very feminine appearing boat. Naomi was present painting the doors to cabinets quite proud of her work. Upon mentioning that it was a little more girly than I had intended, she only giggled. I really do not believe that the namesake of Jane would approve of the boat, but I went back to work hoping that the choice of colors would be the only problem with the craft.

When I called Clover to come in and work on the final computer routines as I put together the final seals on the engine, Sandra’s voice came over the speaker that she would be present as well. She worked with me to test the various parts of the engine as Clover worked at locating certain sensors and including their information in certain screens. When I shut the final panel to the mechanics of the boat, I had two other set of eyes silently wondering what should be done next.

Clover asked, “How do you test an engine like this?”

Sandra said, “I would not perform turns. Go in one direction, stop, then go in another.”

“That is the way I wrote the routines.”

I replied, “Good, as that should be enough. It should still work as a regular Kert field engine, so I should still be able to use known vectors if I get into trouble.”

Sandra said, “Thor, I am authorizing Castle to test his boat.”

The voice of our captain said, “Rachel will have to do it, as I am at point. Harley, I need you at your station.”

Harley sounded slightly groggy, as if she had been sleeping, when she replied, “Aye, Captain. Give me a few minutes.”

I used that time to put away some tools while dictating a list of things that I would need for a voyage out to Felix and Indigo. Clover assured me that he would put together the items on the list while I performed the tests. Feeling that all had waited long enough, I sat in the pink pilot’s seat and checked the controls to get the feel of my lady. When Harley stated that I was clear to exit the repair bay, I felt ready to prove to all that the original Jane and I were not dumb for attempting to build this type of vehicle.

I spoke words of calm pleasure as the Kert field enveloped the boat without any disruption in the plasma. When I gave it a sub-light vector with a known star, it moved out into space without any hesitation. After performing a few tests, I felt ready to give Jane the test that would prove her to be something special. The vector that I gave her was that of the first alien craft we had found. We had to keep dropping out of tachy in order to allow the vessel to pass us because we could not match its speed and direction. I however told Jane to do what we could not, and I shouted along with everyone else when she obeyed.

I flew Jane for a couple of hours speaking to those Outside and Inside along with those of the Menlo Park. A number of tests were performed. Jane did run very hot, but I had already compensated with a special cooling system. I complimented the saucer people on the diamonds that they let me have, as their particular properties did seem to be those that the job demanded. I mentioned my thanks to Felix for having the machines to work some specially hardened materials, and he simply told me that he waited for me to arrive so we could celebrate together. I moved back to the Menlo Park satisfied with the performance of Jane and smiling as I heard others far away compliment her as well.

Thor was present to help me prepare Jane for the journey to Felix and Indigo. While he technically had to approve the transfer of goods to the boat, his presence actually was to officially register my boat for travel. When he handed me the legal papers to put inside the craft, I checked them for accuracy, and strangely noticed that he had gotten the name correct.

“Stallion was Jane’s boat, and it still is. The original Stallion was not all pink and blue however.”

Thor said the same thing that I actually thought. “Aw, she flies, cannot ask more from a boat than that. Now, go keep making history.”

I again took Jane into space, and asked her to head to Felix and Indigo. The speed I set at something that would get me there in less than a week. Without any complaint or hesitation, the lady complied.

The first couple of days I did not get any sleep worried about my new boat. I had numerous contacts from those wanting to invest money in Jane, but I did not put any energy into making any business decisions. Many factors about the operation of my new engine bothered me, and I had to reconcile the readings that I knew to be different than a normal Kert field engine with what I kept verifying was stable operating parameters for Jane. It was not fatigue that finally allowed me to rest, but a gradual acceptance that my lady was performing as all tests said that she would.

When I finally again spoke to others, it was Felix that quickly gained my attention. He gave me a tactical on the present locations of the spaceships. While a number were moving very fast, they faced the problem of space being a vast place. No more ships had blown up, but neither did he believe that any truce had been called. Watson verified that fact, and stated where he expected conflicts to again occur in just a few days. Felix again mentioned the tactical, but had me focus on markings that he and Indigo had identified.

“We are on this route, Castle.” I saw a yellow set of lines appear on the image. “These vectors should put us with that craft in three days. If you don’t mind, change your vector to intercept this craft.”

I looked at the flashing dot on the screen, then smiled as I said, “Sure, but I will be there in two.”

“Yes, I figured that you would say that, but the race is on. You could have a dead boat, or simply an empty one. Your survivor could also commit suicide realizing that they are about to be captured by some ugly alien.”

“I will be in a visored space suit. They won’t be able to tell that I am ugly.”

“Ugly radiates. Boom. You lose. I am going to let Indigo make contact for me, so I don’t face the problem of our alien committing suicide do to radiating ugly.”

I shut Jane down while still laughing. Everything Felix said made no sense, but I did find it funny. I however regained my composure telling him that I had a lady with me as well. With the same ease as before, Jane launched me at the speed and direction I requested. This time certain readings did not cause me any worry, but now trusting that my lady was comfortable I checked other things while we moved through space.

“Hey, Castle, making me obsolete already?”

I spoke upon recognizing the voice. “Hey, Belch. Did you get any investors?”

“I am still fighting structural problems. I got some people that told me they would put me in charge of things if I could strike a deal with you.”

“My lady is handling beautifully at the moment. I don’t believe that I need to strike deals.”

“Come on, Castle. You don’t want to be stuck Inside sitting at some desk. Let me manage the corporation.”

Truthfully, what he said was true. Belch’s problem was however that he spoke to me while I was in detail mode. My mind was already at work looking at details in the pink and blue surroundings, so I noticed words that Belch probably thought would slide by me.

“But you wouldn’t be managing the corporation, would you? Whoever told you that they would put you in charge of things would actually do the managing.”

“Yes, I know that you have Clover to handle money. Okay, kick my people out, but keep me. I would love to sit behind a desk.”

I actually did like Belch. When he set himself as a player in the non-vectoring field engine race, I had even done some research into him. He had some good credentials. I thus did not want to count the man out, but I also was not ready to make decisions.

“I am already getting offers, Belch. I can side-step Clover, Thor, and whoever else I want to make mad at me. You had a limited, but good, idea. It however fell apart at the testing phase. Let me get Jane past this journey, and I believe that I will be able and ready to move her design to a larger level. If I need a face man, I will consider you.”

“ALL RIGHT! I will stay in contact with you, Castle.”

A number of others also sought such deals with me. As with Belch, I made no promises while making suggestive offers to most. Some wanted more specifics about Jane. I was not ready to release any design details, so kept my words very general. One person who had access to my private information however caught my attention.

“Hey, Castle, I got some people that told me they would put me in charge of things if I could strike a deal with you.”

I laughed, then said, “I heard those same words from Belch not too long ago.”

Clover laughed as well before replying, “As long as whatever corporation you choose to build your ships and boats uses gravity plates from Stirgam Enterprises, you are good with me.”

“I will keep that in mind when I look at the bids.”

We both laughed, then he asked, “You knew that you would possibly be going to meet aliens, but did you bring anything for meeting those aliens?”

“Terry brought me some stuff. Said it was the same type of stuff that he gave to Felix. I have some boxes of some vitamin amino acid stuff. He claimed it to be the blandest stuff I would ever eat, but should be good nutrition for any hydrocarbon life form. I also have the usual stuff for checking air purity, water purity, etc.”

The voice of our chemist broke into the conversation to say, “If you need help using any of that stuff, just ask.”

I kept talking. “Other than that, I just need to worry about my radiating ugly causing the alien I meet to commit suicide.”

Clover replied, “I wouldn’t worry about that. I believe our space suits already take into account ugly radiation, and block it. Of course, they might commit suicide after eating that goop you were talking about.”

_________________
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PostSubject: Part Four   January 15th 2011, 7:53 am

Outside - Story Twenty-Six
Faith in Jane

Part Four

As we laughed, another voice that I knew broke into the conversation. “Hey, Castle, how many cameras do you have?”

“Quite a number, Doug. If there was a problem with this boat, I wanted it documented.”

“Make certain that they are all working when you meet that alien. Even if it does commit suicide, we want the event of meeting an alien life form on record.”

“I agree with that, Doug.”

Harley’s voice now came over my speaker. “Castle, you should have Clover’s sensor program on your system. Are you picking up any transmissions?”

I was, but did not know how to make sense of them. Most were signals that Felix had already identified, but a few were not. I routed one to the Menlo Park.”

Watson’s voice returned, “Nothing on that one. Send me the signal from the craft you are heading toward.” I considered those words slightly strange, but I complied, only to hear some odd comments before Watson said more. “Hey, Castle, looks like you are going to rescue some animals.”

“Animals?”

“Yes. That transmission gives pictures, along with a name, which helps me work a translation, along with a number, which I am already slightly confident with. Here, sending it back to you, translated.”

The animals looked more like bugs. I did not know what they were used for, but what I saw clearly showed an inventory. I felt disappointed as I asked a question.

“How about the boat that Felix and Indigo are heading toward?”

The voice of Indigo now spoke. “We are getting close enough for a good signal. Relaying it to you, Watson.”

“I think you two will be the ones to strike gold. Let me try something.” I don’t know what Watson did, but suddenly the speaker erupted with a strange set of what I guess I could only call voices, which Watson verified. “Sounds like scared people to me. You got a live one, Felix.”

The voice of Terry now said, “Castle, hold your course.”

I really had not made any motions to do otherwise, but the phrasing made me ask, “You want me to rescue the animals, Terry?”

“Uh, not exactly. The animals however can tell us things that will help Felix and Indigo. We need to verify the atmosphere, what type of life forms they are, and a lot of other minor details.”

I heard Naomi say, “It also would be nice to have animals on board.”

“Which of the pictures did you find cute and cuddly, Naomi?”

“Some are so ugly that they could be cute.”

The voice of Clover broke to ask, “Hey, Felix, are you certain that there are no other transmissions?”

It was Indigo that replied, “Why?”

“I was hoping for some combat video. You know, some view from outside the hull.”

“You are getting what we are receiving.”

Clover’s interest was due to a coming meeting of warships. Captain Saing got involved in the conversation as all expected another use of weaponry. He kept asking for Clover’s translation program as he received the public broadcast with everyone else. Eventually, all discussion became focused on the coming battle.

No distant flashes were revealed on any of Felix’s cameras. I heard Fierce Lion mention the lack of nukes, but others pointed out the lack of any type of explosives. Speculation then ran long concerning the actual technology of the aliens. All soon turned their attention to me, and I opened up my cameras to others in order to cut down on the number of questions that would come to me.

Like my boat, the escape pod was rather large. It was shaped like a ball with numerous bells on one end. Once near the craft, I turned off Jane and maneuvered by thrusters. This took a great amount of my fuel, as the small craft did travel rather fast in relation to me. It was going sub-light however, so I could accelerate to match its velocity, which enabled me to actually consider making contact.

I flew around the craft to view what I could. The bells were the nozzles for the engine. I felt certain that these had recently been used, so stated the only conclusion that I could.

“This vessel was part of a faster-than-light ship.” I heard Felix, Indigo, and some from Menlo Park verify that fact. “So these nozzles were used to slow the boat back down.”

I heard a number exclaim that one could not slow down from tachy, much less speed up to faster-than-light velocities. The facts were however present that stated that such was what the aliens did. Finally, the argument died as all turned their attention to other facts that I could provide.

The airlock was at the top of the ball. That took a number of us by surprise, but it agreed with some theories that I held. I thus did not worry so much about the location of the airlock, but how to get it to open.

Watson said, “I want you to do what Felix did. Retransmit a signal that I send to you exactly as I send it.” I did, and soon heard another reply. “Okay, I believe that what was returned was a statement that it recognized that it did not have atmosphere. Do you have a universal seal, Castle?”

“Yes, as we knew that I was going out to possibly contact aliens.”

“Suit up and make contact.”

I did not need to go outside my boat to use the universal seal. That would actually be silly, as I would be outside my vessel when it locked up with the alien craft, sealing off my way to re-enter. It was the need to be concerned for the alien atmosphere that caused Watson to tell me to suit up. He recommended my hard bodied suit, and I agreed. Once proper safeguards were in place, I maneuvered my boat to have the universal seal match up with the alien airlock, then I locked our two craft together.

The voice of Doug said, “Internal cameras, Castle.”

I had opened up all of my cameras, so simply told Doug which frequencies to turn his equipment to receiving. I then cycled my airlock so I could have access to that of the alien craft. After providing a good recording of the airlock to those watching, Watson had me work certain controls. I again broadcast a message to the alien craft. Watson had me wait while he and others on board the Menlo Park discussed what they received in reply. It took a few tries, but finally they managed something that caused the door to cycle before opening. When it did, I knew that I had numerous people watching me as I was directed to perform certain tests.

While I did not yet have access to the inside of the craft, it had cycled for a standard air-to-air meeting. I recognized the process as that used in the cases of possible contagion. The air for such a process was supposed to come from a pure source, but it was not unusual for that source to have already been compromised by those in the infected area. I had the equipment to check the air that entered my boat, and watched the readouts even as I heard Terry and Naomi verbally give the results.

“Don’t remove your helmet, Castle,” our chemist told me. “There is quite a bit of sulfur, so some dangerous gases could be present. It also will just stink. There is a good amount of oxygen, so you could breathe it, but it still might be poisonous to you.”

I looked at the readouts of some other equipment as I replied, “My boat is not complaining.”

“Well, it might when we open up fully, which can happen whenever you feel ready.”

The internal door did not operate remotely, but only required turning a handle. It appeared as a very normal round metal bar connected to a central axle by three thick pieces of metal. The apparatus was centrally located in the airlock, which was about six feet in diameter. All thus considered the aliens to be about our size. I found the wheel to turn very easily, and soon pushed open the door.

No gravity was inside the alien craft. A slight spin to the vessel provided a small simulation of gravity to those in the cages. The internals was a cylinder only about ten feet deep and eight feet in diameter, but the cages reduced the open area in the center to only about three feet in diameter. I floated down the middle of the tube and counted the cages.

The voice of Watson said, “Don’t open a cage, but we do want to see inside.”

They were sealed rectangular boxes. The material was of a polished metal, possibly stainless steel. So far, everything looked as if it could have been manufactured on Earth. I noticed metal straps, and by use of a normal tension latch I released a box from its place.

I informed those watching, “I am going to bring this into my boat.”

Some, they had to be Insiders, asked me about weight. That got some laughs, but then a few did ask me about my gravity settings. I moved to reduce the gravity strength in my vehicle to only a quarter of normal, then went back to retrieve the box. Once with the container resting on the floor of my boat did I consider to answer the question of weight.

It took some trial and error to open the container. There was a three-way mechanism that did not release until two of the buttons were held down. Whether this was standard for the culture or simply the way these containers were designed we had no way of knowing. Once it was figured out, I carefully tried to have things open slowly. All that dropped was a front panel, and it revealed a wire caged door.

The creature had eyes. The guess from those that saw it was that it had been sedated, as it did little except look at me. The best general description was that it was an ant. It did not have antennae, and the eyes were what I considered normal and not the multi-faceted eyes common to insects. The mouth however did look very insect-like. The middle section appeared more meaty than the body of most insects, while the rear section looked more like a tail. Some warned me however that it might have a stinger.

The voice of Terry asked, “Do you see food and water?”

A container of granular appearing pellets I assumed was the food and what appeared to be a sponge held some liquid. They had me run some tests, which showed them both to be chemical concoctions. The food actually had a good amount of proteins along with a number of other substances that were assumed to be vitamins. The water was standard H2O loaded with a number of chemicals as well. I was told not to eat or drink, and I assured all that I had no intention to do so.

The voice of Naomi asked, “Does it appear stressed?”

“It is still lying there,” I replied.

“It is in your ship, so should have been breathing your air for some time.”

“Its condition does not appear to have changed.”

I heard the voice of Doug ask, “Can you keep a camera on it?”

As I used the camera required to be present on my spacesuit to set a continuous signal, I heard Felix ask, “Okay, any reason that Indigo and I cannot proceed?”

The voice of Naomi answered, “None that I can detect.”

“Sorry to one-up you, Castle.”

I replied, “You will not one-up me, Felix. I am here due to Jane. You cannot top her act.”

“You got me there. Still, I get to meet the intelligent species. Wish me luck.”

“You got it. When we meet again, I believe both of us will have reasons to celebrate.”

_________________
Fantasy puts more requirements on the writer than any other fiction, because the world must be made as real before anything else can be real.
Adult Christian fiction quite different than all the usual lame stuff in that market.  "Dilemma of Dreams" now in hard back.
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