The Chronicles of Z’va’Xin - issue #6
The Chronicles of Z’va’Xin
Into a sky full of stars
It was 6:35 a.m. when Yamir pulled up in his white Mercedes Smart Car. Dave had just finished loading the last of the cardboard boxes into the small, rented U-Haul truck he had acquired the day before; then turned to greet his friend. “Hi, Yamir. All I have left to get is my couch.” “I thought we were going to Drumheller,” Yamir remarked in confusion. “It looks like you’re moving.”
“We are, and I am,” came back the reply as Dave disappeared into his apartment building.
Yamir looked in the truck to see about a dozen moving boxes, a couple of guitar cases, a TV, a few suitcases, and all the rest of Dave’s modest furniture – Dave was moving alright.
When Dave came out through the propped open front door a few minutes later, he carried the 400 pound couch over his right shoulder as easily as one would carry a large bag of fertilizer.
“Wow!” was all Yamir could blurt out. If the arm was a good trick, this one was a great one, Yamir thought. Dave lowered the couch gently down in front of all the other items and closed up the truck with a metallic snap. “Get in.”
It wasn’t that long a drive from Calgary to Drumheller but it seemed to take forever for Yamir. No amount of pleading with Dave did any good. He wouldn’t tell him anything more until they arrived at their intended destination, always insisting that it would just be easier to show him, and that he wouldn’t believe him until he saw it for himself anyway. And what did he mean by “it”?
After almost two hours on the road, and to Yamir’s shock and surprise, Dave swerved the truck off the road, leaving behind a billowing cloud of dust as they roughly bumped ahead towards the heart of the Badlands. They didn’t go very far as the terrain became very rugged, very quickly, but going deep into the desert was never Dave’s plan. He just wanted to get the truck far enough away from the road so that any motorists driving by wouldn’t see what was to happen next.
“What the hell are you doing, Dave!”
Dave didn’t reply, he just braked, exited the truck, and scrutinize an outcropping of rocks several kilometres distant. Dave knew that Xin was out there. The implant in his skull made the connection; then he saw her as she poked up out of her hiding spot. He didn’t know what creature to thank for his extraordinarily improved eyesight, but he would find out soon enough. “Yamir, I seem to recall you loved robots when you were a kid,” he said as he continued eyeing something Yamir couldn’t see.
“Yeah, sure – R2D2, Robbie, Data... So?” Yamir wasn’t sure what Dave was getting at.
“Well, you’re about to meet a real one,” Dave answered with a hint of satisfaction in his voice, and added, “don’t be afraid, she’s a friend.”
Before Yamir could form his next sentence questioning how a machine could have a sexual orientation, Xin zipped up to them in her usual, mind-unsettling way.
“Hello, Dave,” greeted Xin with her mellow radio announcer’s voice. “This must be Yamir, your friend.”
Yamir just gave her an open mouth stare, motionless as if he had been turned to stone by the mythical Medusa.
“Is he all right, Dave? He doesn’t look at all well.”
“He’s OK. He’s just a little... overwhelmed.”
“So... so th-th-this is your friend,” Yamir managed to finally stammer out.
“Hello, Yamir. Nice to meet you.”
“Hello,” was all Yamir could manage as he now began to realize why Dave had refused to tell him the mystery of Drumheller.
In the next few minutes, Dave gave Yamir the shortest possible version of what was going on – what happened with Xin, what Xin did to him, and what they were planning to do next.
Yamir tried to take it all in as his blood pressure came back down to something approaching a high normal range. If he had needed more proof to dispelled any disbelief, he was about to get it.
“Let’s get back in the truck, Yamir,” instructed Dave.
Yamir slowly forced his body back into motion, and climbed into the passenger side of the U-Haul, slamming the door shut a second behind Dave’s door.
What happened next was both unexpected and amazing – Xin used her anti-gravity field to raise the truck up off the desert floor about two metres; before Yamir was able to get past that shock, they started moving forward, and quickly picked up speed. Xin was a truck length in front of them; towing the U-Haul over the uneven, dusty, beige ground. The floor of the desert passed underneath them at a dizzying speed, creating a competition between the eyes and the brain to determine the true reality. Yamir could hear Dave’s voice, but it sounded muffled and far away as he was too distracted to focus on what he was saying.
When they reached the outcropping of rocks the science ship was hidden behind, Xin elevated the truck up and over the timeworn obstacles to come to a gentle rest next to the silver, elliptical shaped craft. Even though it was considered a small ship by Z’va Prime standards, it had the length and breadth of a full grown Blue Whale, dwarfing the small rental truck now directly next to it.
When Yamir got out of the truck, he could still feel the residual effect of the unusual transport that had so quickly gotten them here. Both men were standing so close to the craft that their peripheral vision couldn’t take it all in.
“This is it!” Dave announced, hands on hips. “Isn’t she amazing!”
There was no sound from Yamir. He just stood there in awe for a moment trying to digest it all. Then, he slowly turned his head from left to the right, viewing the alien craft in its entirety bow to stern. “Holy...”
“She’s 20 million years old – they sure built them to last!” Dave half joked. Yamir didn’t hear him.
“This is a f#@%ing UFO!” Yamir yelled in excitement. “You found a space ship! W-we-need-to-tell-someone.”
“You weren’t listening to me in the truck, were you?” Dave assessed dryly.
Dave repeated the basic details about the science ship: where it had been found, why it had been timelessly frozen, and what he and Xin were planning to do with it.
“So this is YOUR flying saucer?” Yamir was astounded.
“Well, it’s really Xin’s as far as I’m concerned, but I guess I’ll be kinda the crew.”
Xin had been quietly observing their interaction as if it had been one of her planetary life form documentations, but now she hovered toward the two friends. “This craft is a tool to be used by those who need it. It has no ownership,” Xin interjected in way of a correction. “However, had it been a sentient ship, we would have to ask it nicely,” she added jokingly in her mellow, synthesized voice.
“What’s with the female voice? It sounds real familiar,” Yamir addressed Dave directly. Yamir hadn’t yet got into the habit of speaking directly to the small probe. He treated Xin like one would a ventriloquist’s dummy, with Dave being the operator. Perhaps in his subconscious, he still couldn’t be sure if everything wasn’t just one big magic trick or hoax.
“She sampled it from a radio station. Believe me, it’s better now than what it was before,” Dave smiled. “Talking to yourself took on a whole new meaning.”
Over the next couple of hours, Yamir was given a tour of one of the most advanced space vessel in the once known galaxy, followed by Dave filling him in with a more detailed account of the adventure thus far.
“Before I left for home the last time, Xin had uploaded some information about this science ship directly into my cranial implant. Well, that’s what I call the little computer chip thing attached under the back of my skull. Xin’s name for it takes too long to say.”
“I don’t know how it works exactly, but I just think about something like I normally do, and the next thing I know, information is there in my head. If I make calculations, the numbers I want to use are visualized very clearly, and the answers just pop back – it’s conveniently seamless! Somehow the cranial implant communicates directly with my brain. I can’t detect what’s happening inside the device no more than I can see what’s happening inside a calculator or a computer. I just think about what I want; it does the work, and gives back an answer. My thoughts are the input device. It sure beats typing.”
“Anyway, I used the science ship’s information details and schematics to work out a floor plan.” Dave reached into his pocket to produced a piece of paper he showed Xin and Yamir.
“The top half of the craft is the crew space, but all the interesting stuff is mostly found in the bottom half, under the floor: the central computer, the Z’va reactor core, the water reclamation system, and many other systems and devices that keep this ship functioning. The two large elliptical shaped protrusions on its sides are the location of the propulsion system; other devices for movement and space travel, as well as the phase apparatus.”
Dave continued with even more enthusiasm. “This ship is remarkable! It’s not biological, but to a certain degree, it simulates a living thing. It heals itself when its damaged, pumps and purifies water and oxygen for its crew like a circulatory system; it even reacts to damage as if it were pain. This ship has a fight or flight response, and will take the best course of action its AI can come up with to survive, unless of course someone else takes over the controls.”
Yamir was just looking at the bridge design when Xin made her constructive criticism. “Well done, Dave! It is an optimal use of the space, and has all the necessary amenities. However, we will need storage containers in the cargo bay for various elements and other raw materials to be used for processing your nutritional requirements for example.”
Xin scanned Dave’s drawing and recommended that Dave and Yamir go back to the truck while she would stay inside the science ship to create Dave’s interior vision of the craft. “This will take approximately 1.5 of your hours,” she estimated.
Yamir walked though the ship’s portal, leaving behind the sterile, cyan coloured environment of the craft’s interior to be greeted by the bright warmth of the sun on his face.
Dave was right behind him, but before he exited, looked over his left shoulder to see Xin floating over the hexagon shaped main control panel busy at work. A white barrier near the bridge area literally grew up from the ship’s floor; making contact with the half-elliptical contours of the inner hull, sectioning off the bridge from the rest of the interior. “Xin, can you change the ship’s inside hull colour to white?”
“No problem, Dave,” Xin replied, proving she was quickly learning the colloquial nuances of the English language. “If you decide on another colour at a later date, the walls can be instantly changed to whatever you wish. Having said that, I do not recommend your favourite colour.”
Dave smiled and walked on, leaving Xin to her work. Yes, he thought, a bright yellow probably wouldn’t be a good choice.
Good to her estimate, Xin was finished on time, and next used her anti-gravity ability to move in most of the truck’s cargo with Dave bringing up the rear with his couch on his shoulder once again. Once everything was moved in, Xin went over the interior design with Dave to make sure that every room was completed down to the smallest detail. All of Dave’s personal furniture, once in position, was permanently attached to the ship’s floor. Wherever the furniture made contact, the ship melded it with the floor. Xin couldn’t argue Dave out of the running water idea – Dave wanted it, she thought it was a waste. Dave won out when he argued the psychological reason for a relaxing hot shower, leaving Xin to wonder if giving him an upgraded brain was such a good idea after all. Running water, she thought, how primitive. There were several dry shower technologies, or even the cruder antibacterial body congealants available.
“Well, that’s it I think,” Dave announced. “If we missed something we can make minor adjustments as we go. Just one thing – this ship needs a name.”
“This ship already has a designation – Z’va science ship 067,” Xin informed then added, “only sentient ships have names. You humans don’t give your toasters a name.”
“Well, we do give our ships names. It’s an old tradition. I thought about this all day, and I think the Odyssey works well for me – 2001: a space odyssey or Homer’s Odyssey both come to mind.” Dave took Xin’s silence as a yes.
Dave turned to Yamir. “I guess this is goodbye, at least for a while,” Dave said sadly.
The two friends hugged. “Take care of yourself,” Yamir said, “and remember, take all the necessary safety precautions. I wish I was going with you, but I just can’t. Even if my family would believe me... well, my place is here. I’m not the adventurer like you are. Never have been.”
“Yeah, I understand. That’s why I didn’t try too hard to talk you into it.” Dave smiled. “Goodbye, Yamir.”
Yamir reluctantly got back into the truck, and Xin took him back to the road by the same unsettling method they had arrived.
Back at the road, Yamir jumped out of the truck as Xin hovered towards him. “May your Universe ever expand,” Xin said solemnly as a farewell to Dave’s best friend.
“Live long and prosper,” responded Yamir, realizing it didn’t make any sense to say that to a machine. Well, at least he didn’t do the thing with the fingers, he thought.
“Don’t worry, I will make sure no harm comes to him,” Xin assured.
Yamir just replied with an apprehensive smile.
When Xin returned, Dave asked, “So how we going to do this?”
“I suggest you force-strap into the chair on the bridge, and I will control the ship for now, at least until I transfer information on the workings of this craft to you. Do you remember how I showed you?”
“Sounds like a plan, and yes,” Dave replied.
Yamir was standing outside the truck; looking back in the direction of the hidden science ship. A few minutes later, he could make out the tiny, silver, elliptical shape as it slowly poked up from its hiding area. It hovered in place for a moment, then moved straight up into a dusk, cloud-filled sky. It accelerated from slow to way-too-fast in a couple of seconds, and disappeared into the billowy, cumulus clouds.
Dave started to fully appreciate his upgraded body as the g-force on him was much higher than any astronaut had ever experienced. Had he not been enhanced, he would have experienced crushed ribs as well as internal organ damage from the extreme acceleration. The small machine that shared his skull with his brain told him that much. The only thing he could compare it to were a couple of the carnival rides he enjoyed as a kid. But this was different, and it wasn’t at all enjoyable. He now felt as heavy as he really was.
“We are clear of the Earth’s atmosphere,” Xin informed. “You may get out of your chair.” She was about fourteen metres behind Dave, and down the hall hovering over the main control panel.
The Odyssey was now in a high orbit around the Earth; Xin made the bridge transparent for Dave’s benefit. The now white hull walls faded, and were replaced by hundreds of glittering stars; the Earth loomed below Dave’s feet in all its majestic glory. It felt so surreal, but damn it, he was here, he thought. For a couple of minutes he just enjoyed the almost dizzying moment as he stood over the Earth.
“What happens now?” Dave inquired with unrestrained curiosity and light-headedness.
“First, we need to leave Earth’s orbit. Although the Earth cannot detect us with their devices, they can identify us visually if given enough time,” Xin enlightened. “We will set a course for your Moon, and orbit it while I upload the necessary Traveler training files to your cranial implant, as you like to call it. The files will include information on the operation of this vessel, space/planet survival, combat training, details of your enhancements, and various other information necessary to help you in your explorations and survival. You will need to know the basics of space travel before we go even a single light year.”
The Odyssey turned towards the Moon, and quickly approached one quarter light speed. Following a similar course as the historic Apollo missions, the journey didn’t take days, or hours, or even minutes, but a mere five-seconds! Unlike the uncomfortable trip leaving the Earth’s atmosphere, Dave didn’t notice any movement as the magnificence of the Moon swiftly filled up the full breadth of his vision, and in a few heartbeats, he was now standing above Earth’s only natural satellite. This transparent ship feature was an incredible way to travel, he thought. Sort of reminded him of those glass bottom boats so that the tourists could observe the coral, tropical fish or what have you. But this – this was a glass bottom boat on steroids!
The Odyssey established a wide orbit around the Moon as Xin and Dave went to the medical lab to upload the necessary files into Dave’s implant. Xin had Dave lay down on the marshmallow-soft, medical bed. She then connected to the implant in Dave’s skull, and began the download of information. There was no white streamer between the two of them as per the brain scan – the excess energy wasn’t necessary – the implant made the transfer of information seamless.
It was a beautiful, clear night; Bob Johnson had his telescope pointed and focused on the Moon. “Emily,” he called to his eight year old daughter, “come here; take a look at the this!”
Emily gleefully ran over to the large refractor telescope, hopped on the wooden crate placed for her benefit, and looked down into the eyepiece using her little hands to shade her eye. “Dad... what’s that sparkly thing moving in front of the Moon?” she squeaked.
Bob called some of his friends at the astronomy club, they made some calls, and before long, professional astronomers, and finally the media got wind of the sparkly thing orbiting the Moon.
“This is Anderson Hooper, and now for the Bottom Line News.... There is a sparkly thing orbiting our Moon. Well, that’s what the little girl who first saw it, called it. No Emily, it’s a lot more than just a sparkly thing. Astronomers believe the elliptical shaped object orbiting our Moon is possibly a meteor that somehow got caught in the Moon’s gravitational field. It’s about 100 feet long and 30 feet wide, and it’s probably metallic in composition...”
Dave still had a bit of a headache from the massive upload of information, but this time, it was buffered by the implant. He could access the information as he needed it; he was quickly learning to clear his mind, and concentrate on one thing at a time. At first, his curiosity got the better of him when he thought about the various subjects Xin had told him she had uploaded. The result was a bombardment of information that sent him into a tailspin. Now, he had it under control.
“So where are we going?” Dave asked.
“As you know, I need to find the most advanced civilization to upload Z’va Prime’s library to. However, it must also be a non-aggressive and wise race so they do not misuse the technological information contained within. I have identified a number of possible star systems based on the out-of-date information from the library which I cross referenced with specific wave patterns presently emanating from space. Perhaps one may lead us to our goal.”
The Odyssey turned away from the Moon, and pointed toward the centre of the galaxy. Dave had never seen so many stars as the ship headed directly for the densest part of the Milky Way. It was... it was... “AMAZING!” Dave managed to choke out. He had never felt so small.
“Wait!” exclaimed Anderson Hooper. “This just in.... The object orbiting our Moon has just disappeared. One minute it was there, the next, it was gone. Further, there’s no sign of it anywhere in our solar system, and it did not impact on the surface of the Moon as was first believed. It’s now speculated that it was NOT a meteor. Well, everyone, I don’t want to jump to conclusions, but I’m reminded of the old Sherlock Holmes’ quote – When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth? For now, this object will remain a mystery, and we’ll leave it to our viewers at home to make your own determinations. I’m Anderson Hooper, and this has been BLN. Goodnight.”
Earth, the blue-green ball teaming with life, rapidly shrank behind the small craft; the coldness of space, and billions of stars enveloped them as they headed toward the greatest unknown, like a grain of sand falling towards the Sahara desert.
The end of the beginning. This concludes the background for the series.
Issue #7 (Bone yard) coming soon. Also, the first 6 issues will become 6 chapters for the novella. See my site for download in future.
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© 2011 Robert G. Moons
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