First First Contact (4)

CS Extropy Rising, entering Galáré system.
Core, Command Bridge

Two hours later, Svínif looked around the conference table, and wished his old headache back.

“Preliminary reports. Let’s see what we have. Comms?”

“EM emissions from our target world, just as the exception said, all over from log-8 to log-10. Nothing even resembling a standard format, so I’d say they haven’t invented a stardrive while we’ve been in transit, but apart from that…”

“No chance it’s a natural phenomenon?”

“No chance at all. Definitely non-random, and the information entropy’s too high. It’s got to be sapient transmissions. My filters can’t find anything that looks like recognizable audio or video modulation – most likely data, and of a high order.”

“Sensory?”

“Nothing new, yet. We should be getting some good images back from the orbital probes in the next couple of hours, though.” She hesitated. “I canceled the launch program for the ground probes. I thought it might look hostile, dropping them planetside without asking.”

“Good thinking.” Svínif looked around the table again, mentally tallying the officers. “As nothing else has been flagged up as urgent, let’s hold the routine stuff for now.“ His head hurt abominably.

“Well, gentlesophs, this is quite the situation we’re in. If they’re as smart as their comms suggest they are, they’ll have spotted us by now, and have a fair idea what we are. And unless any of you know the universal signal for ’Excuse me, soph, could you spare a megaton of deuterium?’, it’s not like we can turn the ship around and go home.”

“If we stopped the entry burn right now,” the Flight Director confirmed, “We’d have enough Δv to swing around the sun onto a return vector. No fuel for a burn, though. Our frozen hulk would make it home in, oh, 3,500 years or so.”

“So, let’s hope the locals are friendly and don’t take our turning up with a shipload of frozen colonists too badly. Dig out the first contact set, Comms, and — wait, none of that traffic was directed at us yet?”

“Not that I can tell. Maybe they’re waiting for us to make the first move.”

“Well, send them the first sequence-set on the hydrogen line, broad-angle, and we’ll see what we get back. Until then… by the book, gentlesophs, by the book. Assume we’ll be making orbit as planned unless we hear otherwise somehow. If nothing mishcrit comes up, send your status reports to my terminal. Thank you, all.”

As they dispersed to their consoles, he rested his head for a moment on the cool vitrine tabletop.  Well, you’re in the history books now. Just – let it not be for starting the first interstellar war.

To Boldly Go

“INASMUCH as the proven success of the Thirteen Colonies and their foundation by means of lighthugger colony ships has demonstrated the viability of such starships for interstellar voyaging;

“And inasmuch as the reconnection of the Thirteen Colonies to the metropolitan Empire and our Reunification has demonstrated the potential of the stargates to permit fast travel and communication between established worlds;

“And inasmuch as the trusty and profitable relationship between the eldrae of the colony of Galáré and the galari whose homeworld Galáré is has demonstrated the great value of relations, formal and informal, with the other sophont species of our galaxy;

“And inasmuch as Our scientists have detected signs that demonstrate, to a high order of probability, that such sophont life abounds in the universe beyond our few systems;

“And inasmuch as the quest for knowledge and advancement is a core principle of Our Empire;

“WE hereby direct the formation of an IMPERIAL EXPLORATORY SERVICE to seek out and survey systems and worlds beyond the frontiers of Our Empire, and to make contact with such sophont species as may exist thereupon in Our name.”

– Her Divine Majesty Eledië II, Imperial edict “On the Exploratory Service”, 10 years post-Reunification

First First Contact (3)

Galáré Actual, Galáré System.

The noösphere of Galáré sang with electromagnetic voices.  The galari themselves, crystalline creatures of carbon-wrought silicon,  were the most complex voices in the song, exchanging trills and dithyrambs of information, an endless symphony of knowledge framed in multi-layered harmonies of incredible complexity; not a singular overmind, but a continual conversation on a million topics, each seeking its own harmony.  The simpler voices of lesser orders, the stony plantimal-forms from which the galari arose, the spun-crystal worker-machines, and the computer minds embodied in the planet’s greatest monoliths filled out the chorus; and Galáré itself, so much of its surface worked into matrices in which the knowledge and history, the memories, of the species were imprinted, echoed the song back to them.

Now, though, the song was disturbed.  For centuries, the music of Galáré had been serene, a slow adagio towards a well-planned future, filled with calm and order, endless self-reflection and contemplation of the sciences and philosophies stored within the galari’s great archives.  But today the astronomers sang quick, sharp arias of warning: of the 18.3 MeV glow the oneirists thought most likely for a fusion drive, with blueshift and parallax showing its path clearly.

Someone was coming to Galáré, and the divergent imaginings made the song stutter in jagged dissonance.

First First Contact (2)

CS Extropy Rising, one light-day outside Galáré system.

Sophont intervention required.

Supercargo processor: Engage emergency revival sequence for Command Conference in accordance with protocol 1030.

Core, Cryobay Ess Zero.

Fire and ice.

Microwaves hammered at the frozen bodies hanging in the thick blue gel that filled the cryotubes, bringing them slowly back up to a temperature suitable for bringing them back to life.  Tapping their energy as flesh thawed, the crude nanites perfused into the bodies’ tissues before chill-down came sluggishly into action, attempting to patch the gross damage of cryostasis with a sensation like ten-thousand red-hot needles, then sending painful trickles of electrical current down raw nerves to coax activity from reawakening muscles and organs.

Flight Commander Svínif Andracanth-ith-Cyranth leaned over the side of his cryotube, wet, naked and shivering, and spewed a long stream of greasy gray-green freezer-porridge onto the deckplates; then hung there, caught between coughing, retching, and trying not to do both at once.  Around him in the bay, he was aware through the sick throbbing in his head of the rest of the command crew doing much the same.

“…I repeat: Non-emergency critical exception in progress.  Command Conference to the bridge, please.  Command Conference to the bridge.”

In Many Shapes and Forms

The ecology of Eliéra is uniquely complex in the known Associated Worlds, since it is not, as most are, the product of either natural evolution, or ancient or modern ecopoesis.  Rather, a few unique survivals excepted, its ecology is a mixture of species from three separate origins and their coevolved descendants; referred to as bluelife, greenlife, and silverlife.  It is believed that the progenitors of these ecologies were transported to Eliéra during the tenure of the Precursor species, and in the case of bluelife and greenlife, that their descendants reflect those ecologies which were best fit to survive and adapt to the world in the absence of the Precursors and thus anyone to tend their gardens and biological preserves.

Both bluelife and greenlife are examples of oxygen-breathing ecologies using the common L-protein/lipid-D-carbohydrate biochemistry, with nucleic acid-based information-storage molecules; although the encoding used for these information-storage molecules differs greatly between the two classes.  There is considerable overlap in the specific compounds (amino acids, for example) used by the two classes, to a sufficient extent that heterotrophs and saprotrophs of both classes find the other edible, although in many cases lacking in some essential nutrients.  Indeed, some members of each class, including the sophont species of Eliéra, the eldrae, now naturally require some essential nutrients from each of the classes in their diet.  (The eldrae, among some other large animal species, are particularly notable for having adopted some symbiotic bluelife organelles into an essentially greenlife makeup, giving them their distinctive indigo blood.)

Bluelife, a class including a large number of non-cellular and single-celled organisms, also includes among its complex organisms the majority – around 85% of species – of Eliéra’s plant life (whose distinctive and predominant blue photosynthetic pigment is the source of the name of the class), a smaller percentage – around 75% of its species – of its animal life (including both scaled and furred hexapedal land animals, four-winged birds, duodecids, and tubefish), 90% of its fungi, and all of its algae and plankton.  It is strongly believed to consist of evolved and/or modified forms of life transplanted from the nearby world of Revallá, which used a near-identical biochemical substrate and set of body plans, the more so when Eliéra bluelife’s adaptations to coexistence with greenlife and, to some extent, silverlife are considered.

Greenlife also includes a large number of non-cellular and single-celled organisms, along with another 14% of Eliéra’s plant life (again, the green photosynthetic pigment, chlorophyll, gave its name to the class), the remaining (with very few exceptions) 30% of its animal life (including both scaled and furred quadrupeds, two-winged birds, arachnids, cetaceans, and bony fish), and nearly 10% of its remaining fungi.  The origin of greenlife is unknown; no world currently known to the Imperial Exploratory Service appears to have a compatible ecology.

The final class of life on Eliéra is the silverlife, a class of lifeforms descended from what are believed to be a number of simple Precursor nanites which survived the destruction of the Precursor civilization, many of them mutated by radiation effects and evolved over time.  By far the vast majority of silverlife is composed of microscopic organisms of the crystallite and metallite kingdoms, of which the most notable are the saerymaharvéi, descended from simple assemblers and responsible for the many crystal deposits and outcroppings across the surface of Eliéra.

Silverlife also includes some simple macroscopic organisms, including some silicate pseudo-plants found in sunlit, rocky areas of appropriate compositions (most prominent are cikril, which forms tall, slender columns of translucent crystals, charged with photoelectricity, and cikrieth, a swamp-dwelling variety of cikril which extracts materials from seawater and forms intertwined resource-sharing complexes), and some colonial organisms roughly analogous to slime molds.  These together make up the remaining 1% of Eliéra’s plant species, and 0.5% of its fungi.

Silverlife in general has many aspects and features in common with the lower lifeforms of Galáré, the homeworld of the galari; while the evidence suggesting their origin in Precursor nanotechnology remains convincing, scientists are studying the possibility of a link between known Precursor nanotechnology and the ecosystem of this world.

– An Introduction to Eliéran Biology, Imperial University of Almeä Press

First First Contact (1)

One light-day outside Galáré system.

The long plume of the fusion torch flickered out, and the great ship began to rotate slowly, end over end, bringing the foreshield once more into alignment with its direction of travel. The wide radiator vanes of the drive module glowed a bright cherry-red from the torch’s waste heat.

Extropy Rising, the eighth sleeper-ship of the Deep Star program, had finished decelerating into the Galáré system.

In obedience to the programming set up before it had left its construction slip in Talentar orbit, the triple-triple computers which controlled the Rising completed the flip, then turned their attention to the next steps in the entry procedure. A centrifugal ring spun up, throwing a sextet of probes outward to safe ignition distance. Sensors, unused since launch, slid out from behind the foreshield and powered up.

As the computers gorged themselves on the influx of new data, ongoing critical paths were adjusted at thousands of decision gates, fine-tuning the remainder of the mission to match the newly revealed local conditions; precise solar spectra, orbital elements, atmospheric composition…

Extensive electromagnetic emissions from the third planet in the log-8 to log-10 bands. That was outside all defined parameters.

Sophont intervention required.

Strange Skies, Stranger Soils

Thank you for your purchase from Viridian Verdance.

The flame lily is a flowering perennial shrub of Eliéra’s cold mountain regions, especially the mountains of Telírvess and the Caliváry, known for its large, fluted blue-purple upraised flowers in early spring and its unusual adaptation to late frosts, and makes a bold statement in any garden.

Temperature: The flame lily is hardy in cold and damp weather, but does not do well in warmer climes or in dry soil.  Since Galáré is a warm world by comparison to Eliéra, it is unlikely that your local climate would let you successfully grow your flame lily out of doors, although it should grow successfully in a climate-controlled habitat.

In order to bloom, the flame lily requires the stimulus of a hard winter.  Thus, you may also wish to grow your flame lily in a contained environment or within an air curtain, in order to expose it to the temperatures it needs without personal discomfort.

Atmosphere: Galáré’s atmosphere is of a similar composition to Eliéra’s, enough so for the comfort of your flame lily, but if possible in the environment in which you grow it, a carbon dioxide enrichment to no more than 400 parts per million would enhance its growth.  (Please check compatibility with other flora and fauna before adjusting general atmospheric composition!)

Sunlight: While the flame lily prefers sun to shade, Galáré’s star is younger and hotter than Eliéra’s, and as such, emits more ultraviolet light.  Such radiation may be harmful to your flame lily, especially if kept outside, but may do so even within habitats.  If your habitat windows do not exclude light wavelengths below 250 nm, please consider applying an UV-blocking coating, or keep your flame lily in a shady spot.

Soil: The flame lily does require many of the trace elements and microbial life presence in Eliéran soil, and is incompatible with the native soil of Galáré and with its non-bluelife biochemistry.  It is possible to grow your flame lily in native soil which has been sterilized, admixed with the proper trace element supplements (see our catalog for more details) and successfully inoculated with an Eliéran soil ecosystem culture, or to grow it in E-grade artisoil or an equivalent hydroponic system.

In either case, the flame lily grows on Eliéra in regions in which the soil is enriched by the local cobalt ores, and thus a cobalt supplement (a six month supply of which is provided, with our compliments) is necessary to ensure healthy growth, especially during early spring when the flame lily blooms.

Ventilation: While the flame lily only ignites its characteristic flames while blooming, small quantities of the precursor chemicals are produced all year round, and some find their way into the atmosphere.  These chemicals are mildly toxic if allowed to accumulate, with effects including headache, dizziness, sweating, and – in high concentrations – muscular tremors.  We recommend, therefore, keeping your flame lily in a large and/or well-ventilated room.

Thank you again for choosing Viridian Verdance.  Please do not hesitate to contact us if we can be of any further assistance.