Thursday, August 19, 2021

Child of a Lonely Star (2)


Previous: A disintegrating ship arrives from the quarantined Aldebaran system. Moast and crew recognize it as a message from the sentient world Aldebaran C. 

The assembled space station clung beneath Orchidia's broad launch bay. Commander Moast climbed down and sealed the hatch behind him. "Ready for launch, Kyra," he said to the science officer on the distant bridge. Entirely automated, the station fired thrusters to insert itself into high orbit. This far from the planet, the entity would give up considerable power.

"Hoy, Commander! Jolly good digs, wot?"

The android guide for the world spirit appeared at Moast's side. The AI had taken Moast's instructions literally: since the android was custodian of a vast TV library, she had fashioned him after  British actor Bernard Fox, who played the butler Malcolm on the Andy Griffith show. 

"Of course," Malcolm added, "you may not recognize me the next time around. This goddess of yours may turn me into a tea cozy! Ha ha! Ho ha!"

"Right." Moast was about to page the library listing when he faced off with a frightening harridan. As his pulse settled, he said, "Orchidia, I liked the punkette you were modeling before. This one I wouldn't turn my back on." 

"A forbidding appearance is necessary to convey ours as the position of strength."

Malcolm chuckled. "Avatars, ey? Gotta love 'em!"

The two artificials eyed each other. 

"Right." Most scanned the mile-long list of reject titles, not having seen any of the vintage stuff. "Hmm. Dances With Wolves, Avatar, All In The Family."

"Anti Caucasian stereotypes," said the AI

"Everybody Loves Raymond, Home Improvement."

"Denigration of the father figure."

"She's very thorough," Malcolm said solemnly. 

Moast hit the panel com link. "Kyra, status of defense measures."

Her voice was tinny through all the shielding. "Shields are on millisecond rotating frequency. The planet-buster bomb is on standby. Hyper jump actuators are powered up." A pause. "I don't like the idea of leaving you behind."

"We'll play it by ear," Moast said. To the AI: send the RSVP." Beneath the station, colored lights rolled and flashed a complex message for an entity with no understanding of a spoken tongue.

"Here now," Malcolm said. "How shall we address the lady? Your Majesty? Your Grace?"

Moast crossed arms in the pose he'd greet her in, showing confidence he didn't feel. "This is Aldebaran C. We'll call her Cee." Seconds later, a figure materialized, leaving him speechless.

"It can't be. . . .this is exactly how I pictured a goddess."

The AI signaled a colorful greeting, one echoed by Malcolm. "This implies an ability to sense your thoughts. It will enhance communication."

"Most pleasing," the commander said with a cavalier nod of the head. The goddess deigned to return the gesture, though he wasn't sure she understood it.

"Curious," said Orchidia. "Despite immense power, her posture is one of supplication. You are key to future visits, a subject of all-consuming importance."

Unexpectedly, Cee conjured a small object and sent it floating toward Moast. Since the AI raised no alarm, he allowed it to settle on his hand. 

"Marvelous!" Malcolm crowed. "A tiny miniature of your ship, in ruby, no less!" 

"Impressive. She has transposed the gem from beneath the surface. The object is of permanent construct." The AI waited. "She expects something in return."

Moast knew what that was. The notion of taking her hand filled him with a vision of being absorbed like a data file. He forgot that she could sense his thoughts. From her lips came a bass tone of such intensity that he rushed hands to ears. Correcting her mistake, Cee switched to a softer tone of higher range, let it trail off like the  notes of a heroic opera.

"That I like," Moast said with a reassuring smile she probably did not understand. 

"The sonic gift is further assurance of fair play. Proceed with caution." Orchidia flashed a colored message, no doubt reminding the entity of the consequence of treachery. But again, was such a  human trait even comprehended by the soul of this world?

Moast drew near, noting a few colorful sparkles in the white gown.

"Apprehension. She does not want to harm such a delicate being."

"Outstanding." Moast forced his hand out, which Cee reached for. Hers was cold and wooden, but rapidly adjusted, becoming warm and pliant. There was even a bone structure. Suddenly he was assailed by a vivid memory: two woodpeckers in a sunlit tree, clinging to a windblown branch against a sky of startling blue. He had watched the scene for some minutes in awe of it.

Orchidia flashed warning colors, and Malcolm rushed to prop him up. 

"I'm okay," Moast said. "That was quite a memory tap." He returned to the com panel. "Kyra, stand down the weapon. Send a shuttle for me." He watched the goddess, who radiated colors of obvious relief. "Well, Malcolm," he said with a back slap. "So begins your job as genial host. Work on the hand clasp. In time, you might even venture a hug."

Malcolm glanced at the shimmering goddess. "Er. . . .yes sir. That is, sir, uh. . . .yes sir."

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Child of a Lonely Star


They dubbed the mystery ship "Evil Twin"; not that it showed evil intent, but for being a half-scale copy of Orchidia. It didn't even survive its journey from the Aldebaran system. Other ships within Pluto Station backed away, weapons aimed, as the visitor began to wilt and come apart.

Portly Admiral Jacobs gaped out the panoramic window of Central Ops. "A plant? That thing is a plant?"

A junior officer hunched over his terminal, rapidly pulling up scans. "Mostly, sir, with enough metals for a drive unit. No one thought biologicals could bond with metal at the molecular level. It's almost like. . . ."

"Go on, Lieutenant."

"Like it was wished into existence."

Jacobs paced, watching enviro units clean up the mess. "Call up the file on Commander Moast's mission to Aldebaran."

Seconds later, the young man had the highlights. "Two crewmen died on the surface. When their duplicates tried to fly their shuttle back to Orchidia, Moast shot it down. He was about to launch a planet buster when the surface displayed colors the AI interpreted as contrition. He listed the system as of no interest, and recommended quarantine."

"Ah yes. The sentient world." Jacobs watched Orchidia already sailing toward the cleared portal hatch, one of thousands in the moon-sized sphere. The Builder artifact still wasn't completely explored.

"Wait one," the lieutenant said to an incoming message. "Admiral, Commander Moast requests clearance for departure to the Aldebaran star group."

"By all means," Jacobs said. "I can't wait to hear his explanation for this."

Orchidia exited the Aldebaran portal at a risky clip, artfully weaving through the asteroid belt. The Builders had a penchant for hiding the portals until the natives achieved space travel. Several hyperjumps shortened the trip toward the orange giant star and its only known planet until now.

At eleven times the mass of Jupiter, Aldebaran B orbited too close to the star to support life. Not so for Aldebaran C, sheltering in the umbra of B. Refracted light gave C a permanent state of twilight.

"Nuke me sideways," mused bearded navigator Chet.

The muscular helmsman Berl agreed. "No way that happened all by itself. "

Moast swiveled toward Science Officer Preston. "Seems like we're expected, Kyra. What do you make of those colors?"

"Joy," she began. "Hope, curiosity. And a proposal." She studied the spectral scanner. "More complex now. We'd better bring in the AI." 

Moast had speculated how the planet wanted to use his ship for seeking out and bringing other life here. Had that changed? The threat of a planet-smashing weapon still hung over the entity's head. "Orchidia, analysis." 

"No ethical center is apparent beyond cause and effect reasoning. Spoken language is an alien concept. Until our first visit, there was no awareness of other life. This has engendered loneliness. Stand by." After a pause: "Based on contact with the deceased crewmen, there is curiosity about touch."

"Commander," Kyra said, "you aren't planning on going down there. . . ."

"Not a chance. I propose a neutral ground. Orchidia, modify the orbital station as a culture center. Make sure the TV shows are free of propaganda, virtue signaling, and hypocrisy. Ready an android to serve as guide and companion. Instruct the entity to assume a form suitable for boarding."

Kyra's lips pursed in dismay. "You're going to meet her face to face? It's insane."

"I'm reminded of a line from a poem: Intrepidly into the void, I trow." 

"Trow?" Kyra looked up at the holo emitters. "Orchidia--"

"I trow: I speak truly. It is easier to pronounce than 'troth', which in turn requires fewer mouth muscles than 'truth'. These are examples of lazy speech that gives rise to dialects."

Moast entered the turbolift. "If the vocabulary lesson is over, we have a culture center to inspect."

"There's an end game to this. We aren't out here to entertain a sentient planet."

"We have a chance to learn how planets form. because this one can tell us. And a ship in distress can get parts conjured up quick. Temporary, maybe, but enough to see them home."

"If this entity can be trusted," Kyra reminded. She followed the commander into the corridor leading to the hangar deck. "Moast."

He stopped and looked back.

"We can get all these things without so much risk."

"You're convinced I'm going to take one?"

"Taking risks is how you came up the ranks. But this. . . .why?"

Moast shrugged. "Never held hands with a goddess before."

Monday, August 16, 2021

Morning Freewriting

Freewriting is all your own.  Express your thoughts as much as you want.  Call it a mental purging to reorganize the mind to get it in gear.  Worry not for grammar or detail, this is your journal time.  No one is going to be looking over your shoulder or grading your form of expression.    

art journaling GIF by SoulPancake

Hand Owl GIF

Many people, whether they are a writer or artist or not, it helps in so many ways even in the profession you are in.   Try writing out a page or two, then throw them away. It's a way of letting go of issues that keep hanging on. When the new dawn comes, you can start again afresh and make your project shine as it is meant to be.    Once I get through the morning freewriting my storytelling or art is a much better flow.  Just let it go. Are you ready?  What's stopping you?