posted on Mar, 3 2012 @ 12:39 AM
It was a day like any other; blue, serene, and cold. From an orbital outpost far above the planet Earth I could make out the early morning stirrings
of nearly countless billions. A morning cup of coffee, the sound of birds singing in slightly damp A.M. air; The rush of the day anew.
I have often thought of being back in the grip of gravity, feeling hugged to the ground, feet planted- my body an emerging stock of easy, fragile
flower, springing up to touch the yellow sun. I can almost smell the dirt and smog, convincing myself that the tang of ozone is really fresh breezes
off of the Pacific Ocean. Ten years, anniversary today. Ten years 27,000 miles high, watching a screen click over with numbers, numbing and
I can remember the day, amused that I had actually lived to see it happen. The newspads refreshing almost every thirty seconds with updates from a
solar system forever changed, forever different. The trans-Plutonian wastes far off near the Oort cloud gave a tremble, enough for the ESA gravity
wave detector to, well, detect. When NASA's Webb telescope managed to take a photo, the object’s shape and size had been determined from radar
Unbelievably, it was over five thousand feet in length, emitting radio static and featuring a high albedo, gravimetric readings having deduced it to
be primarily hollow and heavily segmented. It was traveling slowly, but not slow enough to deny its trajectory-it wasn’t a long period comet. Earth
was about to make its First Contact.
While the television and Internet news plied comparisons from everything including Arthur Clarke's Rama to Dyson Spheres, the Webb photos showed
something vaguely arrow shaped, extremely bulky towards the middle section of what was quickly being called the Object. Looking at the images up close
one could determine that each segment was tinted a different primary color, some as shades-others far more muted.
As the Object passed the orbit of Neptune, it was decided by the UN Security council to make all possible peaceful overtures to who or whatever was
aboard it. Many supposedly ‘intelligent’ scientists, including one Nobel laureate, cautioned against these efforts. I was totally confident that
if anything was alive on that thing, they sure as hell didn’t come trillions of miles through the cosmos just to eat us. In my head too was fear.
Stupid, wasteful, ancient fear of the unknown.
Near the asteroid belt the United States Deep Spaceship Sagan made its final systems checks before clamping on to the Object. I was
unbelievably lucky to be on board for this historic mission. NASA was running one of their periodic “____ in Space” programs, this one for
artists. I got my own tiny cubicle with an even smaller transparent aluminum viewport. How could I complain-here I was sketching Jupiter’s cloud
tops; now sketching an alien spacecraft of unknown origins! The crew had been sending greetings in a special mathematical language in all known
frequencies-even sending out laser pulses and sequences of colored lights (Close Encounters anyone?) I talked to the captain about approaching with a
crew member standing on the manipulator arm, hand outstretched in friendship. His laughter sealed that thought right up.
My most vivid memory from the actual docking was the loud, heart stopping crunch of our ship’s outer hull making contact with the Object. On display
viewers I could see flakes of dull silver metal and bright orange tumbling out into space. After the noise-an incredible stillness filled the ship.
Here we were, 300 million miles from Earth, representatives for 8 billion humans. All I could think about was embarrassing myself. The scientific
crew, much better trained than I, told me latter that was what they were thinking too.
We had to cut into the metallic flesh of the Object. Analysis showed the material to be tungsten, then a layer of carbon nanotube composite. I think
that our mineralogist/geophysicist had the most fun ripping through the hull. As we broke through the aperture, ahead we could see pitch darkness;
darker I felt than the space around us. Temperature inside was -250 degrees Fahrenheit. I could not imagine what living creatures that could exist in
such mind numbing cold. Our suit lights illuminated a small area ahead of us; circles of light pooled upon a large artifact shaped like a chair. The
closer we got, the more like a chair it looked. It stood about waist high, had a flat seat and a curving volute backing. In keeping with the outside
of the ship, it was a primary red.
The room we had broken into was a perfect square ten feet by ten feet. Beside the red chair the room was not furnished. The perimeter walls were a
dull gray finish and the bottom and top of the area were white and black, respectively. Talking amongst ourselves, we felt that it was probably color
coded to help with orientation in zero g. If only the rest of the ship were that simple to understand.
Floating in this alien room, the five of us considered our next steps. Penetration of the ship was top priority, though we decided not to tear through
anymore bulkheads to get there. Around us was mystery. Around us was strangeness. Around us was the most exciting thing I had ever seen. I noticed
after being awoken from my reverie, that a portion if the inward wall was indented. Inside the indentation was a latch that was just large enough for
the suited hands of the captain to grasp. Pulling softly, the whole wall twitched; then resealed itself. Obviously we had created a pressure
differential by decompressing the chamber we were in. I don’t remember anyone checking the PSI as we broke through-probably forgot to from the
thrill of being here. I doubt that I would be approving if an alien tried to probe through the Sagan’s hull; bleeding our precious oxygen out
to infinity. How thoughtless explorers can be, exploring.
After a hasty patching job, the room was sealed tight. The captain tried the handle again-this time with luck. A loud whoosh of atmosphere filled the
chamber and the door slid up out of view. Our suits tasted the brew around us. Trace carbon dioxide, trace methane, mostly nitrogen and phosphorus
compounds. No oxygen. A nonreactive gas at low pressure. I asked our doctor of medicine if she knew of any life forms that survive on this kind of
atmosphere. Outside of theoretical discussions, there were none she knew of. I am determined to find these beings and get a good look at them. Their
evolution must have been radically different from our own. As an artist, I am literally salivating at the chance to see their own art, music, study
their ideals of beauty. So many things I need to know.
Inside the next chamber was more empty space, gray, mostly featureless. It went forward a few feet then turned to the right to a corridor-about a
thousand feet long, with one of the ‘chairs’ we found sitting at even intervals along its length. Black, white, gray, red: The color scheme was
monotonous and I could feel my eyes growing tired from the low light and sharp contrasts. When we got to the end of the corridor, we were confronted
with something totally unexpected. The wall portion that stood at the end of the corridor had a small panel with a hinged door. Playing our lights
over it, the captain reached out and forced it open. There was a light.