Science Fiction Short Stories
"The Alien Archeologist"
Roy John Fuller
"Joseph, come over here and check this out!" said Gloria. "Is this what I think it is?"
Gloria and Joseph were members of an advanced landing team that had been dispatched to Sierra, a newly discovered moon of Uranus, to search the landscape for any signs of past or present life forms. Another landing team would be arriving in just over three months to assist them in their work. There were six members of the advanced landing team and everyone had their specific duties. Bill and Sue were busy constructing the team's new living quarters in this barren frozen world. Frank and Judy were working on extracting oxygen from the permafrost that surrounded their new home with a gadget developed by the National Space Travel Agency back on Earth. Gloria and Joseph were experienced planetary archeologists and had worked many years digging through ancient ruins on many exotic worlds.
"What do you make of it", Gloria asked Joseph, expecting a big sigh of relief.
"It looks like a piece of ancient pottery, but resembles Platinum. Let's take the sample back to camp so we can examine it in more detail", Joseph said as he reached for the interesting piece of alien material. One thing was for sure, this didn't look like something designed by mother nature. There must have been an intelligent being responsible for this tiny piece of alien looking material.
They made their way back to the base camp where they had a small analyzer and some other basic lab equipment. Frank and Judy had taken a small tracked vehicle to a nearby ice glacier to take measurements on the oxygen contents to determine the best location for the oxygen generators. The plan was to set up a small oxygen/water generating station there to support the base camp until a more permanent base could be established. They were expected to be back at the base camp before dark.
"Run the specimen through the analyzer and let's see what we have", said Joseph to Gloria. Meanwhile he was surfing through the computer banks researching all the data bases for ancient artifacts. Even though he couldn't identify the material of the alien artifact, he felt as though he had seen a similar artifact many years ago while working a dig in a remote Central American jungle.
Bill and Sue were busy constructing temporary living quarters from a maze of plastic pipe and a special radiation blocking reflective plastic film that would cover the pipe Skelton. Bill noticed that Joseph and Gloria had returned abruptly from their scheduled all day dig a short distance from the base camp. It was imperative that they completed the temporary housing before sundown as the temperatures would be -100 degrees below zero in a few short hours. The success of the entire expedition depended on Bill and Sue being able to quickly construct the temp quarters. Eventually they would carve out blocks of ice from the frozen permafrost to build more permanent individual living quarters for the entire team but for now the solar tents would have to keep them warm and protect them from the dangerous radiation. The frozen moon Sierra did have a light atmosphere but would not support humans without supplemental oxygen. The plan was to pipe oxygen and water from the generators to the solar tents. The process would take several days to complete.
"I hope everything is ok", Bill said to Sue as he drew the plastic tarp tightly over the pipe framing and secured it with special fasteners. "They were not due back at the base camp for several hours. We're almost finished with the solar tent. Maybe we should go back to camp and see what's up". Bill said to Sue as she was finishing up inside the solar tents installing a small portable nuclear heater.
"Let's finish up with the solar tent first." Sue replied. "We're going to have a real problem if the tent is not completed by sundown." Sue continued the finishing touches inside the tent without even glancing back at the base camp. Bill also reconsidered after reflecting for a moment on the projections the Earth scientists had made regarding the night temperatures on Sierra.
Frank and Judy had just completed the initial setup of the oxygen generators when they received a message from base camp requesting that they return to the base camp immediately. Although the oxygen generators were necessary for their long term survival on this strange new world, it was the solar tents that had to be completed before nightfall. They had enough oxygen to make it for several days. They figured Bill and Sue must be having a problem with the newly designed solar tent so they headed back to the base camp.
"Joseph. Come look at this!" Gloria said with noticeable excitement in her voice. Joseph was examining some images on his laptop computer screen that resembled the alien artifact.
"This thing has an unidentified molecular structure. The elements in this specimen are not native to this moon or this solar system. I'm not sure what to make of it." Gloria sounded to Joseph. "There's little chance of contamination considering we're trillions of miles from Earth." It had been Joseph and Gloria's lifetime dream to discover a trace of alien life on a new world, but they had expected to spend months, even years before uncovering undeniable evidence. They had discovered this artifact within a couple hours of landing for the first time.
In the years leading up to this distant interplanetary expedition to the end of the solar system, many artificial satellites had been sent from Earth to orbit Sierra and build an extensive data base on the moon's surface, mineral makeup, gases and possible landing sites. Maybe one of the orbiting satellites had crash landed on this barren world and through a unique combination of heat and cold had changed the molecular composition on a small piece of the craft that lay before them. Surely intelligent life had not existed on this world before they landed recently. Could this small artifact have come from their own spaceship as it landed earlier that day? Did the 3 year flight through the vacuum of space and time somehow affect the molecular Chemistry of their own ship. Its true this mission to the outer limits of their solar system was the longest flight man had ever undertaken. Earlier satellites sent into deep space had never returned to Earth for analysis so no one really knew how space and time could affect a ship on a interplanetary mission. Scientists knew the effects of space travel on the human body and had prepared them by injecting microscopic medical robots into their bodies prior to the mission liftoff. The bots would fight off and kill any disease at the molecular level. They also had a very demanding daily workout routine to offset muscle loss, but what about the spaceship. Had anyone considered how the ship might be affected?
Nightfall was closing in on this lonely world at the end of the solar system. The temperature continued to drop as the Earth based scientists had predicted. The six explorers were cuddled up in the solar tent being warmed by the small atomic heater as they looked at a night sky that had never looked so beautiful before. Everyone pondered with questions about the alien artifact but it would be hours before the communications sent by Gloria and Joseph with the data would reach Earth. Many more hours before they would receive a response back from Earth. They wondered how the scientists back on earth would evaluate the data they had forwarded them. Perhaps they would have some reasonable explanations for the alien artifact. They planned on doing a complete analysis of the landing probe in the morning to see if their theory that space and time had modified the spaceship's molecular structure, but for now all was good. Tonight they were warm, the night sky was intoxicating and they were with friends.
Joseph and Gloria, also known by Mat and Francis, Ken and Lynda, Fred and Marsha and many other names looked at each other and grinned. Tonight they would be joining their true friends and family. They had spent decades searching for the alien artifact left behind many centuries ago. They had been sent to recover the alien artifact by the extragalactic counsel almost 100 years ago. Now they had finally recovered it and sent the data to their home race in another Galaxy. Tonight their race would return to collect the alien artifact and take them back home to their world.
As the night grew darker the Sierra landing team huddled in the solar tent, excited at the idea they may have just discovered the first remnants of intelligent life in the solar system. They were totally unaware that they were about as close to alien intelligent life at this moment in the solar tent as the human race would be for many centuries.
(c) Copyrighted 2009 by
Roy John Fuller
More Science Fiction From Roy John Fuller
Roy Fuller, Short Story Science Fiction Writer