The Cloud

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
In the far future, a crew of five visit an uninhabited dwarf planet to stury and excavate it. Soon however, they spot a strange cloud-like entity, seemingly intent on moving towards them.

Submitted: June 23, 2016

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Submitted: June 23, 2016

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1

In the year 2097 the end of the new Great War rallies humanity to join and together look once more towards the stars. Long-forgotten technology from the 20th century is dug up anew and finally sees improvement.

 

The 22nd century is one of astronomic advancement. By 2138 the International Aerospace Union manages to send a manned vessel beyond the outer rims of our solar system and see it return by early 2145.

 

In 2163 shuttles are sent to distant solar systems, with crews in cryogenic hibernation.

 

2213 sees one such crew return home and hails them as planetary heroes. Their research information and retelling of the voyage has a sizeable impact on future technological advancements. The other 49 crews never return.

 

In 2242 a scientist from former Austria discovers the final piece of the puzzle that is faster-than-light travel, complementing the relatively new methods to extend the communications range to the entirety of the Milky Way.

 

The next 50 years sees humans in the far ends of the galaxy, documenting things of incredible scientific potential, going boldly where no man has gone before.

 

Year 1 of the so called “Second Era” is the year we make contact. Despite all exploration it is the aliens that come to us. On Sasha IV, the current seat of the Great Human Empire we hold the first diplomatic meetings with the Tjun-gz’I, our greatest ally for the next few centuries.

 

In 2E 267, humanity reaches beyond the Milky Way. By now we are a part of an intergalactic trade alliance with several other species and have terraformed large part of the galaxy for our colonization.

 

2E 314 is the start of the War, a conflict leading to the eradication of the Tjun-gz’I and countless other peoples, countless worlds.

The war ends 579 years later, marking the start of the Third Era.

 

The first three centuries are of the fourth Great Human Empire suppressing insurrection, followed by a century of revolution.

 

4E 1: The Empire is dissolved and replaced by the Great Federation, now including Krieg and Aeiiea alongside humans and once and for all proving the next to non-existence of human creativity when it comes to names.

 

4E 73 is the year a relatively unimportant voyage is made to a relatively uninteresting rock called Argon Klah.

 

The crew consists of human captain Arnax Bron, Krieg navigator Leonor Ailie, human geologist and archeologist Gimble Dee-Wom and the botanist and astronomer duo Aeiiea and Aeiiea, of the Aeiiea people. It is a mission meant for a simple excavation and study of the dwarf-planet.

 

2

Arnax was the first to see it, days after establishing the camp - miles away, beyond the force field, a speck of light against the empty space. He asked officer Ailie to confirm, but it had already disappeared. Arnax made a side-not in the log and carried on the mission. An hour later it returned.

This time the shape was slightly closer, almost close enough to make out, but still a massive distance to go. Aeiiea was the one to spot it now and gave a full report to captain Bron, along with an estimate of distance and speed (slow). The light remained visible now, slowly approaching at a near non-existent pace. The other Aeiiea was paired with Gimble and ordered to keep a look-out on it and report any developments.

Though never stated, Ailie seemed a bit unpleased about the division of labor, and seemed to hover near the pair at least as often as she performed her own tasks.

Four days later Gimble reported that the figure seemingly stopped for a while, but seemed to move again the next day.

The thing kept closing in with irregular speed, though never quicker that average walking pace, and only stopping one more time.

Soon it was close enough for Gimble to describe it as not being humanoid, but rather more akin to a fluorescent cloud, although such things weren’t meteorologically possible on Argon Klah.

 

3

The crew was going to stay here for another three months - at best – and the cloud quickly became a popular conversation topic, mostly due to it being relevant and not too controversial, and partly because of the fascinating conundrums it presented.

Every crew member had an opinion and Gimble and Aeiiea talked great lengths about it, occasionally inviting an eavesdropping officer Ailie.

An often brought up question was whether or not the cloud was sentient, something Aeiiea argued for with the reasoning that there was enough intelligence to have a destination – seemingly being their base, - while still being random enough in its movement pattern to not have been pre-programmed.

Ailie argued this by saying that what seemed a conscious decision to approach them was mere happenstance, and that the thing was likely a natural event of sort, however un-natural it seemed to them. She made a point of comparing the cloud to the Grish of Kunder A whenever opportunity arose.

Gimble was more interested in learning the origins of it, and awaited its arrival at the base, audibly wishing they could come to it instead of waiting around.

Meanwhile captain Arnax Bron, a man who usually preferred a good book and silent smoke (both electronic of course) over social interaction, spent all his free time behind the locked door to his quarters, researching anything that shared similarities with the thing, increasingly often drunk.

The Aeiiea who was not on cloud duty pondered wether it was carbon or gas based, the latter of which everyone else had kind of assumed. She was also the only one to still give her work priority over curiosity.

Eventually Gimble, currently in the process of ending a long argument as to why they should name the cloud Graham, was interrupted and startled by its sudden rapid acceleration.

Minutes later it was just outside the force field border.

Seconds later it had phased right through it and slowed to a halt.

 

3.5

It is of some importance to note that the force field that contained oxygen and protected the camp from weather and general things of that nature – came at the expense of communications. This, and all but the most high tech and exclusive varieties, distorted and blocked any signals trying to enter or leave. Thus, for the duration of their mission the crew had exactly 0 contact with central. Instead everything was logged, recorded and archived until they would return home.

All of this – combined with the fact that leaving would require a couple of weeks of dismantling, packing and calibrating – meant that the crew was completely alone, with little chance to leave in case of emergency.

This was after all only meant as a simple excavation + study mission.

The cloud hovering in the camp had not been on Argon Klah the last time anyone from the Federation had been here, (as far as they know the planet can’t sustain any form of life) nor did it originate on the planet. It had passed plenty of places in the universe on its journey.

In fact, it had even been spotted from earth, as a .0342 second blip on an unrelated scan performed a very long time ago, in the context of a big PR-campaign on the behalf of Kennedy’s Carpet Emporium. The blip was ignored and never reported.

 

4

A near infinite amount of light-years later the same cloud hovered just within the force field set up on Argon Klah. Luckily for the people semi-cautiously approaching it, the force field itself had not sustained damage from the penetration.

They stood around in silence, the trio of Gimble, Ailie and Aeiiea and the slightly fluorescent cloud. While it hovered, light – either from the lamps or from itself, - reflected on the gas in several different ways, forming different patterns, at times resembling a face.  

‘Greetings?’ Gimble was the first to break the silence. ‘We uh…’ he looked at his comrades. ‘We come in peace?’

Ailie grimaced and the cloud seemed to process the information.

‘Greetings’ it finally replied.

‘You speak our language?’

‘I speak many languages.’ The cloud twisted into a smile. Aeiiea inched closer to ask:

‘Who are you? Where do you originate?’

The smile became more akin to a playful frown.

‘From the dawn of time I came, moving silently through the millennia. I’ve held many different titles, many different names; most given to me by life forms long since extinct and forgotten.

‘I have crossed the universe, travelled an immense distance. I have seen civilizations rise and crumble, every possible stage and outcome of evolution.

‘Sometimes I’ve been worshipped, other times feared and hated, often never even discovered in the first place. I am the Traveller, Wanderer, Burgoshein, The one who has seen all there is to see and still discovering something new wherever I turn.’

‘Tell me,’ Aeiiea asked some moments later. ‘What is your purpose? If you don’t mind me asking.’

‘What is life’s purpose? I have no purpose. No goals, no ambitions, no final destination. I am and I experience my surroundings. I wander aimlessly in whatever direction I end up going. I live. I have no other meaning.’

 

5

Captain Arnax Antilles Bron II, human male age 47.

Young and inexperienced, but proven a capable and efficient commander.

Ranked among the top 20 graduates of his year at the academy.

Avid supporter of the Kudim council rule.

One twentieth Krieg on his mother’s side.

Currently heavily intoxicated, positioned in the restroom of his private quarters; at risk of vomiting.

Then the nausea subsides and he pulls himself up with the sink. The dim mirror reflects a ghoulish face, much like his own might look, were he from Xrizz-6. The sight calms him and he chugs the silver bottle with a comradely smile.

‘Did you know,’ he says to X-6 Arnax. ‘This bottle – not its contents, the actual bottle I mean – was given to me by my former captain?’

‘Did you know,’ X-6 Arnax replies. ‘The “cloud” is here?’

‘No I didn’t actually, but this bottle though. The old man gave it to me couple o’ days before those goldies on Imml tossed him into their battle-pit. No wait, what are they called?’

‘It’s here to kill you, you know. It wants to kill you and your entire crew.’

‘Arena!’ Arnax cheerfully shouts, spilling some drink. ‘That’s the word I’m thinking of. I think.’

‘It’s a trouble maker. It feeds on chaos and destruction. Your destruction.’

‘Whatever you say, Jack. You’re the master race.’ Arnax laughs out loud at his own words and takes another sip.

‘Your bullets will go right through it of course; while it could kill all four of you without blinking.

‘All five of us you mean’

‘Four.’

‘How did we get off that shithole anyway?’

‘Then it will use your ship to go back to the federation.’

‘I think it had something to do with a raug.’

‘Maybe kill the council, certainly shut down our system of government one way or another.’

‘I could kill that raug. My boots are ruined now!’

‘Then it will carry on its quest to destroy all mankind.’

‘Don’t forget the Krieg and Aeiiea-kinds.’ Arnax interjected.

‘Them too, yes; that’s why you need to stop it.’

‘How do I do that? My bullets go right through it.’

‘That’s simple Arnax.’ X-6 Arnax widens his smile. ‘You disable the force field. Old Cloudy-boy will be surprised, surely enough to be shot into space.’

‘That’s a great idea! Thanks other Arnax.’

 

6

‘Neither captain nor Aeiiea are responding to my messages,’ said officer Ailie to the others.

‘Which Aeiiea?’ asked Gimble.

‘Obviously the one that isn’t standing next to us! How you managed to become the dominant species of anything I will never understand.’

‘Well at least we’re not rude, Ailie. And we use first names as sane people.’ Gimble replied, looking hurt.

Aeiiea sighed and turned away from their bickering to speak to the cloud.

‘While we wait for the captain, mister Wanderer, sir.’ she started. ‘Is there anything I can do for you?’

‘I…’ The cloud interrupted itself. ‘I feel that something is wrong.’

‘Wrong?’

‘Off, strange, akin to…’ it lifted from the ground. ‘It is time for me to leave.’

‘You can’t!’ Aeiiea cried. ‘What about the captain? What about the future?’

It was at this point that the force field powered down.

The Wanderer watched indifferently as equipment shot of in different directions and the three people suffocated and did the same. He watched was now a bunch of junk floating in zero-gravity and decided to leave the planet and continue his journey.

And Argon Klah kept turning.

 


© Copyright 2017 MrTimmannen. All rights reserved.

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