It’s what we want, what we crave. The majority of us on this tiny blue planet in the galactic equivalent of the middle of fuckin’ nowhere, would love nothing more than to turn on the telly or pick up a newspaper and be told that there’s proof we’re not alone in the big wide universe.
The moment that event occurs has been imagined time and time again, everywhere from the big screens of Hollywood to much loved and sadly missed TV shows, and works of epic fiction.
Inside this first issue you'll find a couple of very different short stories, an interview with an extremely well known SFer, a review of a story right here on @Wattpad that, to be fair, has very little to do with the subject of First Contact, a contest open to all, and one or two articles written by Tevun-Krus staff.
We chose the First Contact sub-genre for issue #1 for a reason. It's our first issue, our first contact with you and vice-versa. @Ooorah has been part of the @Wattpad community for a fair while now, and this ezine is our way of ensuring that continues to be the case. We welcome any feedback you might have, especially if you've ideas as to how we can make Tevun-Krus even better!
I’d like to thank you all for taking the time to read this first issue, and for supporting us as we set off on an adventure epic proportions.
And of course, special thanks go out to @ashiqtnt as the name of this ezine was his idea! Three cheers for Ash... Oorah! Oorah! Ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooofuckingrah!
1 – [* The Search Begins - An Article by @DavidGibbs6 *]
2 – [* Interview With Gavin Wilson - @TheOrangutan *]
[* 3 - Prime Contact - A Short Story by @JJMarmite *]
[* 4 - My Sci-Fi - A Spotlight on @Nika_Yaya *]
[* 5 - Phoenix Rising - A Review by @British_Beauty *]
[* 6 - What Came First? - A Short Story by @DavidGibbs6 *]
7 – Closing Time
[+ The Search Begins - An Article by @DavidGibbs6 +]
One cannot talk seriously about first contact with extraterrestrials without mentioning Frank Drake, his famous equation and SETI. (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence)
In the year 1959 when two physicists Giuseppe Cocconi and Philip Morrison published a paper in the scientific journal ‘Nature’ called “Searching for Interstellar Communications.” The idea of searching the deep recesses of space for alien life, was a pretty far out idea.
Just one year later in 1960 Frank Drake did just that, becoming the first person to undertake such a task, starting with a systematic search using a radio telescope at a Green Banks observatory West Virginia. He focused on two stars, Epsilon Eridani and Tau Ceti, calling the endeavour Project Ozma. The results of which were unsuccessful.
But it was one that was to capture the minds of scientists and in 1961 he hosted a “Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence” meeting. The meeting attracted ten individuals, Peter Pearman, Philip Morrison, Dana Atchley, Melvin Calvin, Su-Shu Huang, John C. Lilly, Barney Oliver, Carl Sagan and Otto Struve, along with Frank Drake they called themselves ‘The Order of the Dolphin.”
In preparation for the meeting while trying to form an agenda, he stumbled over an idea that formed an equation.
The Drake equation according to the SETI website is.
N = R* • fp • ne • fl • fi • fc • L
‘N = The number of civilizations in The Milky Way Galaxy whose electromagnetic emissions are detectable.
R* =The rate of formation of stars suitable for the development of intelligent life.
fp = The fraction of those stars with planetary systems.
ne = The number of planets, per solar system, with an environment suitable for life.
fl = The fraction of suitable planets on which life actually appears.
fi = The fraction of life bearing planets on which intelligent life emerges.
fc = The fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that releases detectable signs of their existence into space.
L = The length of time such civilizations release detectable signals into space.’
If you answer these seven questions and multiply them, it tells you how many contactable aliens that we would hope to find in our galaxy.
So how many? You ask.
Using the best scientific guesstimates, anywhere from 1000 to 100,000,000 contactable life forms in the milky way.
However this is still just a guess built on a lot of assumptions. The reality is until we contact some aliens we have only one data point to refer to and that is ourselves.
So what does this have to do with science fiction?
Well besides the fact that the Drake Equation has been used as inspiration in everything from short stories to Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek and Michael Crichton’s Sphere. Finding new and creative ways to look at the questions Drake’s Equation poses, is a good way of generating new ideas.
The science will keep improving as we get to know our universe better. Science is all about the questions, it’s your job to write the fiction.
Remember there are three times as many stars in the milky way as there are neurons in a human brain.
[+ Interview With Gavin Wilson - @TheOrangutan +]
[_ Gavin Wilson, otherwise known as @TheOrangutan around Wattpad, is the SF-er of this issue. Gavin joined Wattpad in July of 2010 and has since gained the privilege of being a Wattpad Ambassador. He has over the years had his works published in magazines and compilations such as Spinetinglers, Five Stop Stories and Sanitarium Magazine. He was also given an honourable mention on the L Ron Hubbard writers of the future website. _]
If you had to describe yourself in one word, what words wouldn’t you use?
glittery, jumentous, supermodel, oompa-loompa, spanner, bathykolpian, slubberdegullion, ginglyform, ventripotent, khyphorrhinos, xylopolist and probably 99% of other words available in the OED.
What was your nickname in school?
at primary school it was Weed (not that I smoked pot at 6yrs old, I was just very small). Later on it was just Gav really, although some of my Uni friends used to call me Orangutan.
When you were little, what did you want to be?
A fireman, or Spiderman
Who do you look up to?
anyone taller than me, unless they’re sitting down. Usually people I know and / or respect.
What is your favourite quote?
- I have three, all from the same author and they’re called Clarke’s 3 Laws. From British writer Arthur C. Clarke (deceased). They are:
1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
Other than writing, do you have a hobby?
I read a lot (can’t write if you don’t read). I also climb, cycle, play guitar, listen to music, make beer, and love food and drink.
What’s something about you that many people don’t know?
I’m a geologist by trade and occasionally get to abseil down a cliff as part of my job. It’s kinda fun.
What was the first writing piece you were ever really proud of?
A Gift in the Dark. It was one of the first short stories I ever wrote and it won a competition which surprised me somewhat at the time. I was supremely proud and it gave me the impetus to keep going.
Who is your favourite author?
I don’t really have one, but I love Terry Pratchett, Arthur C Clarke, Neil Gaiman, Larry Niven, and many others. Have a look at my Goodreads profile, you’ll see what I mean.
When you write, what do you use to get a muse going?
I usually don’t need a muse as such; the idea is what gets me going. Sometimes I write with a picture in mind, and occasionally an idea will be prompted by something I’ve seen, heard or read. Ideas can come from anywhere at any time.
What do you use to write?
normally Word on my computer, but I’ve been known to write in a notebook, on my tablet, even on my phone on occasions
Out of all the things you have ever written? What was your favourite?
A Gift in the Dark remains my favourite short, but I’ve also done poetry and longer stuff too. All of them have something that I like about them. There’s no point not liking your own work. If you don’t like it, what chance has anyone else got?
Was there one idea that you had that didn’t turn out the way you envisioned it?
ideas are twisty little things sometimes. I’ve had some stories, particularly the short ones, which have changed and morphed as I’ve been writing them. I rather like that.
Do you use real life experiences to assist your writing? If so, which parts?
Much of my work has bits and bobs of my own life in it. For example, A Gift in the Dark was inspired by marrying a Cornish lady, and working around the tin mining areas in Cornwall. There are some great local legends down there. A lot of my characters are loosely based on people I know or people I’ve met, and some of my strongest ones are people I’ve greatly admired in my life or who I’m close to.
If all Sci-Fi writers weren’t actually from earth, but another planet, what would the planet be called?
The Planet YeahButWhatIf?
You’re the first person to achieve faster than light travel, where did you go and how did you do it?
A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, with great difficulty and probably by listening to Arthur C Clarke.
If you were to get control of some sort of time travel device, where would you go?
To Mr Clarke’s house to show him =] Perhaps I already have, and that’s why he wrote such great stories.
What fictional Sci-Fi universe is your favourite?
I love dystopian and alternate history type stories. One of my favourites is Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven. The asteroid hits about a third of the way through the book, the rest is what happens next. Loved it. The World War books by Harry Turtledove are also superbly done. I tend to prefer SF that is set relatively close to home I guess.
If you suddenly got superpowers what would they be and what would you use them for?
I’d love to be able to grow stuff, really quickly. Rainforest gone – zap: there you go, have a new one. Starving children – zap: have a field of corn. I like feeding people and seeing people enjoy food.
If you were abducted by aliens, what would they learn about the human race?
that they’re bloomin’ odd.
What alien race would you most like to be a part of and why?
I rather liked Q in Star Trek. It’d be quite cool to be able to go anywhere and do anything, at least for a few millennia anyway.
If aliens invaded, would you bow down to our new alien leaders or fight them in resistance?
If aliens invaded, I suspect fighting wouldn’t be an option (read Trust by David Moody, it’s on Wattpad). All that Will Smithian, Independence Day stuff is complete bull. If they’ve managed to travel this far, a bunch of tool wielding apes ain’t gonna stop ‘em. If the alien was more of a microbe, then we might have a chance.
Do you think we are alone in this universe?
- No. Whether we’ll ever ascertain that or be able to have contact depends on many factors including communication, travel, whether the races are amicable or hostile, or any other numerous factors. I’d quite like to see it happen in my lifetime though. I think the most likely form of life we’ll encounter is something pretty basic, and probably within our own solar system. I think that there will be many other forms of life out there, in the same way that there are many other species on this planet. Will we make contact with another race similar to our own? Who knows, it’s a very big place.
There’s still a hell of a lot we don’t know about our own solar system, let alone the larger galaxy or universe. We may find life on Europa before we find signs from elsewhere: we may find a large watery marble… the universe is almost infinitely large (apparently), and then there’s all the parallel universe theories and whatever else SF writers and scientists want to ponder about.
This is why I love SF; so many questions, so much potential, so much we don’t know, and of course so much scope left to write some cool stories =]
Gavin has also taken to more or less self publishing his own story, if you would like to check out his book, “A Gift In The Dark” a compilation of short stories written by him, then go visit its page on smash words, here! http://www.Shakespir.com/books/view/247656
Or, if you just want to know more about him, visit him here! http://www.wattpad.com/user/TheOrangutan
Prime Contact was the highest grossing entertainment ‘Concept’ the world had ever seen, and it’s makers were very sure that everyone remembers that it was a ‘Concept’, and not a show. A show would be something lesser, something pedestrian; Prime Contact was more like a way of life. At least, that’s how it was marketed at the time. History has shown that to be the case.
Once all space exploration had been privatized, the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence practically dropped off the map. It had been said beforehand that private-investment would keep the search going, but this was quickly proven to be the fluffiest of wishful thinking.
Most every money-making venture that was going on in the depths of space felt that it could do just as well if not better without any pesky aliens gumming up the works, and so actively searching for them was seen as counter-productive. The extraction of resources and the operation of tourism worked far better without objecting natives getting in the way, it was felt.
Only the entertainment industry truly saw the potential to be gained from finding other life and so Avarice Entertainment International (AEI as it was proudly known) – the most prestigious and well-respected of all media conglomerates (indeed, the only one left after it had merged with every competitor) – bought up all of SETI’s resources and equipment for a pound at auction and immediately set to work.
Buoyed and invigorated in the way that an organization can only truly be after an enormously bulging investment of capital, SETI surged to work as never before; bristling with an influx of exciting new talent and with a legitimate drive and definite goal. In barely no time at all they were spewing out the most advanced unmanned probes that mankind had ever seen, scattering them across the heavens in the search for life while AEI set to work on Phase Two of their grand scheme.
Months of complete and utter silence went by – space, it seemed at first, was devoid of anything even remotely useful to them as the probes sent back report after report of lifeless rocks and gas-giants. Those months soon turned to years with still no sign in sight of what they were looking for. AEI became the laughing stock at the various glamourous money-balls and money-galas that their executives attended but still their CEO – the honourable and semi-immortal Mr. Red – could not be swayed. Even when his entire board committed ritual suicide in a desperate attempt to sway him from his grandiose course of action he did not demur for even a moment.
This wasn’t just about making money, and he knew that. It was about making an enormous amount of money and also creating a legacy that would stand the test of time. He had read the ancient secrets of ‘investing’ and ‘planning for the future’ along with such blasphemous notions as ‘expecting a return in the long-term’ and he put his secret knowledge to full use in his direction of the company, his actions seeming inscrutable and incomprehensible to his contemporaries.
And, of course, his stubbornness eventually paid off.
One can only imagine the jubilation there must have been in SETI Command – now renamed ‘Avarice Entertainment Interstellar Entertainment Division’ or AEIED – when the first reports came back revealing that an Earth-like planet had been discovered and that it contained life of sufficient similarity for the next stage of the scheme to be viable. The probe was set to remain in orbit to scan and absorb all it could from below while the Second Phase was launched; advanced Flat-Space drives (a recent addition taken as a prize in a corporate firefight) would see it there within weeks, long enough for AEIED to learn all it needed to learn.
The planet was nicknamed ‘The Set’ (official Avarice Entertainment International designation: LV-426) and extensive observation of its surface and its natives proved everything that could have been hoped for and more besides. Its inhabitants were sufficiently analogous to humanity to be practically identical, though in a stage of development roughly similar to the early to mid medieval period.
This was so perfect a set of circumstances that Mr. Red very nearly wet himself out of pure joy. Several of his closest confidents and cronies had less luck with their bladder control, but such accidents were acceptable when emotions were running this high. So many champagne bottles were uncorked that one unlucky intern lost an eye, and at least two people were hospitalized from carbon-dioxide exposure. Good times were had by all regardless.
Everyone waited with bated breath for the second phase to begin; the enormous and vastly expensive Second Phase Probe emerging from Flat-Space a little ahead of schedule to rapturous applause back at AEIED. Already television networking managers were being massaged and plied with promises of the most thrilling entertainment event they or anyone they’d ever know would get to witness. An entirely new channel was forged; millions of viewers glued to sets displaying only a blank screen such was their desire to see what was being promised to them.
The Second Phase probe arrived in orbit around The Set exactly on time and started its pre-programmed tasks. It elegantly split along its seams, separating into its various components which began to descend through the atmosphere of The Set like so many fiery comets. The natives – awestruck by the sight – fled to their leaders for guidance but their kings and queens were just as dumbfounded as their subjects, unable to do anything but stare upwards as the blazing objects soared overhead.
Meanwhile, the Second Phrase probe busily seeded billions of cameras across the planet, ensuring good angles on every possible scene. The tiny, almost microscopic machines flew hither and thither, viewing everything and sending it back through their relay-hubs back to the master-hub which still hung in orbit, broadcasting everything back home on a super-fast tight-band connection. Those at AEIED watched with hungry eyes, knowing what would come next and eagerly awaiting it. Plastic sheeting had to be pulled over the consoles to stop the drool from interfering with the equipment, such was their desire.
The Second Phase probe’s remaining sections split further, a different section landing in what the research had deduced where the most prominent kingdoms and landmasses on the planet. Landing with earth-splitting force they struck deep, burrowing and cracking through rock and becoming as immovable as mountains. Glowering, ominous obelisks of hardened steel and high-technology they awaited the approach of the natives, who did not disappoint, flocking to the probe-sections in droves.
At this point, it started being televised, as this was the start of the action. The viewing public had already been worked into a frenzy by a tightly-executed marketing campaign that had seen remarkably few casualties given its quality. The teeming mass of humanity crowded around their eight-by-fourteen tele-walls to watch the next great event in human history – first contact with another alien species via the medium of high-calibre entertainment.
While the probe in orbit had done a fine job of analyzing from above, it had been unable to get an up-close look at the natives. The obelisks had no such problems – the first to reach it was dragged screaming into its Interaction Aperture and instantaneously dissected and examined, the fine detail of its body chemistry immediately stored and spread across the network for greater use. Activating in built meme-broadcasters – the kind normally reserved for forcing the unwary and unprepared to purchase products they didn’t truly want – the obelisks communicated with the terrified masses before them, speaking directly to their minds with the voice of an angry god.
They told the masses that they demanded tribute, and if they were not obliged then their wrath would be terrible. They told them that they required wood and iron, and in copious amounts. Filled with fear the masses did as they were told, bringing ton upon ton of lumber and iron and heaping it before the obelisks. Of course, their in-built matter-processors could make use of anything, but symbology was important – it heightened drama. Hoovering up the offerings the obelisks sat silent momentarily before spewing out arms and armour in abundance; swords, spears, shields, chainmail, axes, bows and more besides – enough to arm a nation. Speaking again to the minds of the masses, each obelisk gave a clear and clarion command:
“Take up my weapons and go forth to slay all that may oppose you. Kill the followers of the false-obelisks and claim their land for your own. Raze their cities and plunder their riches, until only you, the rightful ones, rule!”
The masses could only obey. And so the wars began.
This was where most of the viewing public back on Earth agreed that the show started to get really good. The sheer amount of cameras meant that every battle could be viewed in glorious detail, with the media-consumer at home able to decide which angle suited their mood best. Most opted for screen-in-screen-in-screen-in-screen; overloading their senses and allowing them to drift happily into a daze. The early battles were bloodied, crazed affairs with each side assured of their victory as favoured servants of a higher power. Once it became clear that no-one side had a clear advantage over the other, things started to slow down slightly and the rather more thoughtful second season could begin.
Years had passed by this point – with many at home dying in front of their screens, refusing work, sleep or food if it meant having to abandon their viewing – and the obelisks had become part of the fabric of life on The Set. Cities had long since sprung up around them, great castles constructed next to them. The obelisks had narrowed their focus down to arbitrarily selected families, creating dynasties that ruled without question and who they would only communicate with.
Every so often the obelisks would start to communicate with other natives, telling them that it was they who were the true leaders chosen to rule over their people, leading to bloody internecine rivalry and warfare that the viewing public lapped up. The politicking was almost as satisfying as the bloodshed that invariably resulted. All the while, the weaponry was churned out, and it was advancing. Already the battlefields of The Set were thick with the smoke of gunpowder as batteries of mighty cannons exchanged fire with one another, ranks of musket-armed soldiers firing and dying in droves.
Meanwhile, hordes of writers deep in the bowels of AEI’s extensive Creation Suite toiled endlessly, experimenting with the possibly ways to escalate. They needed bigger and better spectacles to keep the viewers interested and argued ceaselessly over how best to do this. The guns grew bigger and bigger, open battlefields giving way to the churned and muddy hell of trench warfare as enormous howitzers spat shells the size of buses across miles of blasted wasteland, killing scores with each mighty detonation. On Earth, Prime Contact was declared to be an official religion, though no-one could remember asking for it to be.
At the obelisks secret insistence, dissent started to spread through the nation of The Set: rumours that the obelisks were not as benevolent as they purported to be. Those who expressed such sentiments were ruthlessly hunted down and punished, but their numbers were swelling and soon vicious civil war blossomed across the planet, every moment captured in glorious ultra-definition. Someone proposed broadcasting in 3D but was immediately shot through the lungs for making such a barbaric suggestion.
But then tragedy struck! Viewer numbers looked like they might dwindle. Even though it was reported that everyone on the planet was watching Prime Contact at all times – with some having had implants so they could watch it while in their sleep; a measure necessitated by health and safety concerns – it was feared that the audience could not grow anymore. Efforts to get people who had yet to be conceived to watch were proving frustrating, and so it was decided to draw the series to a close. The obelisks – sending out waves of morbid, doom-laden eschatology – started to produce weapons capable of the most untold destruction and the war-addled inhabitants of The Set did not hesitate to use them.
Huge chunks of the formerly pristine planet were blasted with huge blasts of radiation, fused to glass by the heat and rendered uninhabitable. Broadcasts became slightly trickier as the atmosphere was suffused with electromagnetic interference and a nuclear winter descended. The signal was boosted at the cost of many a tumour at AEI Broadcast Central so that the last, tortuous, heart-wrenching moments of life on The Set could be caught on ultra-extreme-close up; the choicest printed on t-shirts for posterity. Soon, there was nothing left to film.
There was pandemonium across earth. It was the end of a three-hundred year institution. The riots tore apart cities and millions were left bereft and gormless, unable to comprehend of a world without Prime Contact. Mr. Red – having been dead for a hundred and fifty years – was hastily dragged back to the land of the living and all the leaders of the world pleaded with him to commission a fresh series. Stroking his fleshless chin with skeletal hands he sat in contemplation for hours before finally nodding.
Yes, they could have first contact again. And this time, it would be even better.
[+ My Sci-Fi - A Spotlight on @Nika_Yaya +]
I think that perhaps my initial face when @AngusEcrivain asked me to participate in the sci-fi smackdown was a little bit along the lines of "WTF?" I was not a sci-fi writer, and too be honest I don't think I knew what that even entailed. I took a glance at the Forbidden planet page, reading the carefully deconstructed styles of sci-fi and a sense of impending doom began to take over.
Fortunately for me a lack of ability to realize my limits, and quite possibly a death wish. So I wrote my first sci-fi, and found that I not only did it, I kind of enjoyed it. So much so that I continue even when there is no crown to be won.Like The Tin Man, my newest escapade. Derived from an off kilter idea to warp the Wizard of OZ, I created a world torn apart by families determined to create better and badder ass soldiers for their territorial wars, totally oblivious to the real victims, the now underground inhabitants of the ruby red planet. Adding a twist to capture the remaining OZ character, The Tin Man centers on my favorite topic- Humanity. It wasn't till after I made an effort to write Sci-Fi capable of standing along side the other writers involved in the smackdown *cough* Parishsp, *cough* Dan *cough* Gav *cough* Ash. cough cough, sorry, bit of sci-fi stuck in my throat. Any ways, being amongst such great writers and having to work so hard made me realize that I actually have appreciated quite a bit of sci-fi before, though I didn't really categorize it as such. 12 monkeys, Inception, the Matrix, and my personal favorite, WALL.E, all show the choices presented to humans and how our choices affect so much more than just ourselves. It shows how power relates to humanity, and how amazing and scary we can make our own world.
As for me, I think Sci-Fi has embedded itself in my mind, I may have to see a doctor for that, because now along with the romance and poli-sci that riddles my mind, I know am in the process of producing and posting a new version of sci-fi, a tale of how our world’s created, and how death is but a passage into another life, all controlled by inhuman spirits. Death Dealers will hopefully be up soon, so stay tuned, the aliens have not finished with me yet :D
[+ Phoenix Rising - A Review by @British_Beauty +]
~Air moves us
Fire transforms us
Water heals us
Darkness becomes us
Ice holds us
Earth grounds us~
Follow these six on their adventure to find freedom, family, and meaning to their lives.
Phoenix Rising by @Arizona_Red tells the tale of a world divided, defined by an ultimatum decision whether you are deemed worthy enough to live within society. If not you are ostracised to what is named as the slums, plagued by poverty and crime.
The story first turns to the point of view of a character Phoenix, a rebel teen with an attitude that could knock out a truck driver. As a female myself it’s nice to see some female action within the Science-Fiction genre which I feel it is severely lacking, mostly writers tell the tales of male main characters and damsels in distress. However Phoenix and her intrepid ways shine a refreshing light, where in fact she presents the strong gutsy character demonstrated in every Science-Fiction story and her Male companion ironically named Ghost is slightly more tame and less of a threat.
Ghost the chilled out, illusive boy and Phoenix’s partner in crime, proposes a suitable contrast to her character. Not only does it bring out Phoenix’s free-spirit it also provides a suitable light and shade within the book, showing off Arizona_Red’s clever characterization skills. It makes the book more relatable and gives everyone someone to root for.
Another thing that makes this story so captivating and shocking is the realism within the book, a lot of Science-Fiction I find to be much too far-fetched, and although entertaining it isn’t enough to get your blood pumping. Especially within in the dystopian theme, too many ideas and plot twists with not enough lateral thinking behind it. Dystopian should be basically a stab at something within our society now a days, so a reader can have the all -important “What if?” question, tampering with their brain.
Phoenix rising is what seems to be an attempt at criticising out arrogance and superficiality as humans, demonstrating a world in which it has gone too far. This infects one’s mind with the possibility of us living in a world that has such rules and situations, demonstrating something that could actually and has already happened within our society.
That is the reason I give it a verdict of Four out of Five, which is a high rating as I am very picky when it comes to reading. So if I loved it so much I guarantee you will be enslaved by its brilliance.
Favourite Quote ~ “It’s every smoker for themselves!”
[+ By @DavidGibbs6 +]
An unnatural breeze swept the room, causing the middle aged science officer to look up from his sandwich. The controlled mixture of nitrogen and oxygen, that the company called Air+, was being sucked out the side of the station through a hole smaller than a pencil. Benjamin crossed the spacious floor to a cabinet, removing a piece of clay from the shelf. Throughout his mandatory annual training, he had been drilled repeatedly on such a situation, although he had never thought one day he would need to use any of it. Calmly he followed the breeze to the wall looking closely trying to find the gap he knew was there. An alarm sounded in the background as the atmospheric pressure dropped a bar, if he didn’t find the hole soon his lab would go into automatic lock-down sealing him inside. If that happened the situation would be much more serious, possibly even fatal for him. Walking back to his desk, he removed a sheet of paper from his draw. Moving quickly he returned to the wall holding it out flat, waving it across the wall until the rushing air caught it and pulled it in. The paper tore instantly, exposing the hole which was only a couple of millimetres wide, quickly he forced the tennis ball sized piece of clay over the hole as the doors behind him clicked, sealing him into the room. Sighing he turned knowing the red light would be on before he even laid eyes on it. To the left were two emergency suits prepped and ready for just an occasion, striding over he began suiting up. In fifteen years he had never had to use the hull breach training but it had been drummed into every employee so hard that it came almost naturally, his mind going through the motions, following each step through with precision.
A screen on the wall flicked into life, a serious looking face peered out and the intercom beeped twice before a voice spoke.
“Are you alright in there Jensen?”
Ignoring the man on the monitor, Ben continued to don his space suit and check the seals, when he was sure it was sealed, he pulled the cord which dangled above his head, causing the suit to inflate.
“I think so.” He replied through the suits intercom to the man who was waiting patiently. “What happened?”
“We were hoping you could tell us, we have nothing on the radar and the early warning system showed zilch. All we know is the low pressure alarm for your lab was triggered.”
“Yeah there was a hole in the wall. It was small and I’ve plugged it with the clay, I tell you though it was tiny, maybe only a couple of millimetres across.”
“Do you know what caused it?” The man questioned.
“I was sitting at my desk when I noticed a draft, I didn’t hear or see anything.” Ben replied.
“Sit tight. We have engineering looking at it now. In the mean time you will have to stay isolated in the lab until we can work out exactly what happened. Try to stay calm and I would stay in the suit if I were you, at least until we fix the hole… Just to be safe.” He added before the screen blinked back into darkness.
Ben looked around the room waiting for something to happen, when nothing did, he lent back against the wall. Now that the adrenaline was subsiding and being that he was immobilized, his mind started the search for the answers to his current situation. A hole did not appear out of nothing and being a lab scientist he did not believe it appeared without cause. Looking around the room, it seemed to be completely untouched, his eyes lingering on details as he scanned every item, tracing his memories of how it came to be there. Nothing seemed out of place. Leaning back, he did the only thing left he could do, which was to wait.
It was hours before authorization for the spacewalk to repair the hull was rubber stamped and then five hours more for the work to be carried out. By the time it was safe to leave the suit, Ben was more than a little hungry.
The lock-down was a bureaucratic nightmare, the quicker it was discovered what made the hole the sooner they could review safety and release it. He sat eating the remainder of morning tea, a meagre couple of biscuits with the other half of a meat paste sandwich. It was enough to satisfy his hunger for now, allowing him to focus his attention on the task of looking for whatever had made the hole. It was most likely that whatever had collided with the ship had been vaporized on impact, leaving nothing more than a residue to be found. The computer system monitored the air supply constantly and any change in air quality, even a miniscule one would have been picked up by now. The residue was likely not airborne, causing Ben to reach for clean lab cloths. Carefully he wiped the wall surrounding the blob of clay, before removing the clay from the repaired hole and wiping across the hole itself. The white cloth showed a distinct dark smear of something resembling dust. Carefully using tongs he tucked the sample into a testing cell, stain down ready for analysis. It was lucky the strike hit this part of the ship, the working labs had a well-stocked range of equipment used for just this purpose. Loading the canister into the analyser he started the machine before hurrying back to the hole and swabbing the surface again for a backup in case the first test failed.
The burst of activity was helpful in keeping his mind off what were steadily becoming fresh hunger pains, the sandwich having done little to satisfy his body’s demands for food. Now that he was forced to wait again, the feeling that had been crawling in the pit
of his stomach was starting to claw at the sides. Pushing the desktop intercom he spoke into the empty room, addressing whoever might be listening on the other end.
“Would there be any chance of getting some food in here?” Pausing he waited for a reply patiently.
“Hold on.” Reported a shaky insecure voice.
“Jensen?” Boomed the familiar voice of his area manager. “How are you holding up in there?”
“Yeah, I’m okay. I was just wondering what the chances were of getting some food in here sometime soon?” The intercom had been surprisingly silent since the incident and the pause in his bosses reply was giving him a bad vibe.
“We are still trying to determine the risk factors Ben, at the moment there is too many unknowns to release the lock-down.” The manager paused.
“The only thing we could do … is rig up a decontamination chamber … but it’s a tricky business. We are hoping that we can get confirmation on the strike and release the lock-down before we have to do that. The analysis you took is underway and that should be in soon enough. Hopefully that will remove some of the unknowns.”
“Thanks Ray.” Ben tried not to let the exasperation show in his voice. There were still bitter feelings over issues that he had previously with his manager but this was bigger than petty arguments about methodology. He was sure that there were things management hid from him and it was Ray’s job to keep a handle on the situation. He wasn’t very good at hiding the severity of it, for all his positive wording it was easy to detect the underlying strain underneath. The company would do everything they could to keep their safety record intact, still there was a very real chance he could end up as collateral damage.
Sitting at his desk he pulled another page from his draw, taking a pen he began to list the people who he wanted to address if this was to come to a sticky end. It was a sad list with only a few names, thinking about it was getting him down. Had his life really amounted to this? A job working off planet with only a handful of long distance friends to his name. He had always imagined his retirement as some glamorous picturesque affair, not the lonely outlook he was staring down at now. It was during this quiet contemplation that he noticed it. A small grain of sand sized object on the desk, it stuck to his hand with just enough force to be noticeable. Jensen’s job involved testing various samples from the asteroid belt but that didn’t explain the tiny grain that lay in the palm of his hand. Samples were carefully controlled, weighed and sealed. Most were ground to powder form and sterilized for use in the analysis machine. This was different to any sample he had handled recently, it was symmetrical, yet it still had a complexity to it. Under the microscope it was even more interesting, reminding him of a crystalline
structure but none that he recognized. Buzzing the intercom he waited patiently for the screen to light up.
“What’s up?” Rays face appeared his balding hair highlighting lines in his forehead that seemed to have gotten deeper in the last twelve hours.
“I’ve found something… It might be what punctured the hull.” Ben replied. “It’s small enough and has a structure that could survive impact.”
“Can you analyse it?” Ray questioned his voice full of hope. “If we can say for sure, that this thing was what came through the hull and quantify it… Well we have a really good chance of releasing lock-down.”
Ben sighed heavily, he knew there was no way to crush something this hard, not in his lab.
“I don’t have anything in here capable of reducing it.” He squashed Ray’s hopes along with his own. “I’ll upload the micro scans of it into the system and maybe you can match it to something in the database.”
“That will take some time, I’ll get people on it right away, in the meantime make yourself comfortable and get some rest.”
“Alright.” He signed off.
Ben had been dreaming of food when an alarm roused him from his slumber. He sat up from the floor where he had made a makeshift bed from lab coats and hand towels. The lights responded to his movement, at first only dimly before ramping up to full wattage as he stood. Ignoring his stiff back he began to make his way to the emergency suit when he stopped dead. The bench where he had left the sample was a stark contrast to the rest of the pristine lab. A grey fuzz had enveloped the bench, creeping up the wall and encrusting the side of one of the emergency suits. The lights still hadn’t reached full capacity, he rubbed his eyes thinking it was an artifact of sleep and low lighting. The alarm shut down and the intercom crackled before a nervous voice filled the room.
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I think so.” Jensen replied looking at the scared face on the monitor. “Am I losing pressure?”
“Huh? Oh… Um… No. That alarm is for the air monitoring machine.” He stammered in reply.
“Okay.” But Ben was not okay at all, air monitoring was bad, how bad he didn’t know but he was sure that the metallic mould wasn’t a good sign. “Where is Ray?”
“Someone has gone to wake him up. Sir what the hell is that?”
“I don’t know.” Jensen said looking up at the camera in the corner of the room.
The fuzz was thickest at the analysing machine and spread out in a circular pattern from there. It changed colours as the surfaces it covered changed materials and the edge covering the space suit was a brilliant white like frost in a freezer. Something had happened to the air, whatever it was, he was inhaling it at this very moment. There would be no way they would release the lock-down now, Ben almost wished that the hull had blown out. The few minutes in space before you succumbed to death would be better than the long wait he was facing now. As if on cue his stomach growled and resumed its clawing at his inside.
“Ben!” Rays voice came across the intercom forcefully. “What is it?”
“I don’t know. It looks like a bacterial growth… Maybe even fungal.” He replied.
“Have you touched it Ben?”
“What kind of idiot do you take me for?” He shot back glaring at the camera before looking to the screen to judge the reaction on Rays face. “Not that it matters anyway. What happened to the air in here?”
“It seems to be changing the ratios, acclimatizing the room to something else.” Ray said, toning his voice down. It was clear that it had occurred to him just what this meant for Ben trapped inside.
“I guess it doesn’t matter now if I touch it or not.”
“Don’t!” Ray scolded quickly.
Ignoring him, Ben took a pen from the desk, walking to the edge of the large circle of fuzz and marked the wall roughly one centimetre from the edge of the organism. Standing back, he made sure it was visible from a distance before returning to his desk writing the time under the list of names and sitting down. The letters he wrote sat atop the desk, annoyed he swiped them into a draw and out of sight. Not only was he going to die but it was looking like being a drawn out affair. The machinery he needed to test any sample he took was already beyond recovering, how long before it reached across the room and he was forced to touch the stuff.
Five minutes of skimming the science reports, while unsuccessfully trying not the think of food or his predicament and he felt like he was going insane. Getting up he inspected the mark on the wall, the Metallic looking fuzz had almost consumed the pen line already. Using a ruler he marked thirty centimeters from his original mark, as he did, the first line disappeared. Going back to the desk, he wrote the time under the first recording. A centimetre in seven minutes, after some quick calculations, he worked out
that it would be less than three days before the whole room was covered. Getting up he went over to the mass poking at it with the end of his pen. The intercom crackled into life immediately.
“Sir, please don’t do that.” The man appeared on the monitor swiftly.
“Or what? You will bust in here and stop me?” Ben was in no mood to deal with the company’s bull shit.
“We are doing our best to get you out, please don’t touch it.” The man was doing his best to be reassuring but it was pointless. Ben kept poking at the structure observing how it responded to touch, taking a ruler he scraped at it. It was structured similar to a sponge, with a rigidness to it, crumbling when touched, the surface of the bench underneath was rough with corrosion. Whatever it was, it seemed to be consuming anything it came into contact with.
“Ben, Please.” Vibrated Ray’s voice out of the speaker. “We have been looking into it and we can’t find anything on it. We think its alien.”
“So what’s the company policy on aliens Ray?” Ben stopped his scraping to look at the screen.
“Well… I’m not up to date on it but I would assume it would be approach with caution. I wouldn’t think taking to it with a ruler would fit that description.”
“Well then Ray, tell me what you’re doing to get me out of here alive?” Ben practically spat the words at his superior.
“All we can, that’s all we can do.” Ray spoke softly.
“I’m a dead man and we both know it. In three days this room will be a tomb for me, a zoo exhibit for the company and there is nothing any of us can do about it.”
“You don’t know that!” Ray spoke in desperation.
“Oh but I do know Ray and I know, you know too, so why don’t you use me while I’m still around?”
“You know I don’t have the authority to make that call Ben.”
“Well today’s your lucky day Ray, because I’m doing it and you can’t stop me. Today you get to witness the first alien autopsy and with a plastic ruler no less.” Ben found a reserve of courage in the revelation of impending death.
When he turned back to the alien mould it had developed more. Where he had made a clear patch, it had already begun to regrow, little fibres joining together to make more of the structure. That was not all that had changed. A larger more solid looking thing was
emerging from the bench where he had left the small grain of alien meteor. It was forming what could only be described as a stem, it was rising up out of the furry mess. Taking the ruler Ben used it to dig at the base of the plant where white tendrils wormed their way into the mossy growth at the base. As he broke apart the growth it became apparent that this had been going on under the surface for some time. Under the surface was a vast network of white root like strands, they filled in the gaps making the whole thing more solid. Ben recoiled, backing up to sit at the desk, his plan to contain the growth by physical means was looking much harder than anticipated. His head swum as dizzy spells overcome him, standing he swayed over to the intercom button.
“Ray… Something’s happening.” He called out as he was forced to sit for fear of falling, Ray’s face appearing on the screen.
“You didn’t want to listen to reason Ben, so we have stopped the oxygen supply. That thing is sucking up oxygen and we were pumping more in to keep you conscious. We have been venting precious gasses into space to keep you alive.”
“So that’s it then, you’re going to let me die now to save on oxygen?” Ben heaved struggling to stay awake as the lack of oxygen took its toll. He didn’t get a reply before the darkness overtook him and he collapsed.
Hours later he came to, slowly becoming aware that he was lying on the floor. His mouth was dry and his body ached, taking it slow he raised himself to his feet. More than half the room was alien now, he could just make out the shape of the bench and other things under the growth. The plant like growth was much larger now, looking more vine like, as it twisted about the room.
“Ben you’re awake, good.” Rays familiar voice muffled slightly by the now absorbent qualities the room had taken on. “We need you to take a look at something for us. Can you do that?”
Ben’s brain was too impaired to piece together his feelings, instead he sat against the wall taking in his surroundings.
“Ben, snap out of it!” Rays voice seemed to have a sense of urgency or was it panic.
“What do you want Ray?” Ben heaved trying to suck as much of the precious gas as he could. “I thought you wanted me dead.”
“We let the levels drop enough to knock you out. We never wanted to kill you.” Ray pleaded.
“So I spend my last moment’s unconscious, what is the difference?”
“We don’t have time to argue the ethics of this now! Whatever propelled that seed through the hull, I think it’s happening again, inside that room.”
“What?” Ben’s head reeled as he stood.
A large pod hung from a spiked twisting branch, looking like a menacing beehive but without the activity one would expect.
“That pod thing has been growing in size for the last hour or so, we think it’s getting ready to seed. Scans show it’s full of little round seeds much like the one you found.”
“So what!” Ben spat, the fog clearing enough for his anger to rise. “I’m a dead man… Remember! You knock me out and leave me to die and now you’re telling me I have to play hero. What then? You’re going to save me?”
“If that thing is as explosive as we think it is and it goes off, well it won’t just be my life that is forfeit. You want the lives of everyone on board hanging over your head?” Ray sounded desperate now.
“So what would you have me do then?” Ben dislike of Ray was one thing but he was right about the lives of everyone on board.
“Remove the pod from the stem, if it’s anything like a plant,that should stop it developing.”
Getting closer to the thing Ben looked it over, the stem was thick and fibrous looking, attaching at the base of the bulbous growth. The pod was a porous, misshapen sphere with a series of small holes covering its surface. He had to stand on the mould to reach it, as he did so his entire vision was taken up with the alien growth. For a second he thought ‘this would be what it felt like to look at an extra-terrestrial environment.’ That’s what this thing was doing, it was biologically terraforming the environment to best suit itself. Even now his breath was short forcing him to labour just to stay upright. Grabbing the pod with both hands he was surprised at how hard it was, instantly he wondered if the stem would break or if he would need a knife to cut it. It was the last thing he thought as an ear ringing blast erupted in his hands, disintegrating his arms and ripping his torso to bits.
Mankind’s first contact was a brutal slaughter, every person on board being killed in an instant by the alien organism. Their space station blown open, perforated with thousands of tiny holes representing the thousands of tiny seeds, sent forth to terraform and conquer worlds. The wreck becoming a floating alien garden, a memorial and reminder of the harshness of any space venture. All the hopes we had for cultural exchange and higher learning, none of them came to fruition. The invaders came to consume our precious resources but no great war started. The humans who made first contact remained in the station that would go on to serve as their tomb, while around them, the alien ecosystem thrived. Survival of the fittest holding true across solar systems and galaxies alike.
So it's fair to say that Tevun-Krus has come a long-ass way since these humble, First Contact beginnings. The crew over at @Ooorah, @Wattpad's premiere stop for all things sci-fi (yes it's bloody true, ya cheeky bastards!) sincerely hope that you take this e-zine and enjoy it for what it is; a group of like-minded individuals doing what they do best... Rocking SF and sharing it with anyone and everyone who'll listen!