Rescue Ship Alexandria

The Personal Journal of Captain Aralwith Pyr Jamar

"Here begins the personal journal dictated by Aralwith Pyr Jamar, captain of the Rescue Ship Alexandria, second in rank to Captain Lynn Margulis of the Warden."

May 3, 2336: The end of a long and disastrous journey has become the beginning of another, hopefully more successful expedition. The interstellar colony ship Warden's communication systems were destroyed and most of her crew and passengers were killed by radiation. We managed to take control of the Warden and three weeks ago finally arrived at her destination, 82 Eridani. Captain Lynn Margulis sent me as an ambassador to the settlement. I took with me lieutenant Ken Matahachi, astrogator Amrit Singh, engineer Mike Benalidino and doctor Marie Batiste. When we landed on the planet's surface, we were told the Warden was leaving orbit. Our welcoming ceremony quickly became a debriefing on the details of the Warden disaster. Over the next few days, the Warden's trajectory became clear. She was headed out of the Eridani system entirely. The fledgling settlements at Eridani were unprepared for such an unlikely event. They only had two ships in orbit. The Congress at New Alexandria decided to retrofit their colony ship, the Alexandria, as a rescue ship. The retrofitting took several weeks. 39 men and women from the settlement were hastily selected. Our mission is to secure the Warden and return her to Eridani. We will use an Earth calendar to track mission time.

May 5, 2336: The Alexandria has left orbit and is on course for the Warden. The Warden is still accelerating and probably will be for the duration of the chase, which I suspect will last several months. The Alexandria has been outfitted with a new reactor that will give the Warden a run for her money. We are gaining on her, but a stern chase is a long, tedious affair, especially in space. Everyone but Marie, Amrit and I are hibernating in cryochambers.

May 19, 2336: We've made up 5% of the distance between us and the Warden. I have ordered Marie and Amrit to go into hibernation. Their chambers are set to revive them upon reaching the Warden, remote command from Eridani or manual override.

May 23, 2336: The ship is as quiet as a tomb. There's not much work to be done. The ship is on autopilot. I've been listening to music to keep company, Gentle Giant mostly. Last night, as I lay awake trying to get to sleep, I started thinking about my parents' ranch on Warden Level 7. It was a peaceful place with horses, cows, chickens, pigs, peacocks... a veritable zoo!

June 6, 2336: We've made up 10% of the distance to the Warden. The Warden's course has not changed. We're coming Lynn. I'll see you soon.

July 18, 2336: 25% of the way to the Warden. There's still no change in course. The Alexandria is terribly lonely. I think I may go mad if I stay awake much longer. I will be entering hibernation in a few minutes. My cryochamber has the same awaken parameters as Marie and Amrit's.

September 6, 2555: I can't believe it. I've been asleep for 267 years! I was the first to awaken. I'm still recovering from hibernation. I've started the thawing process for Mike and Amrit. They will be awake soon. The logs report an error occurred when the ship's engines were throttled down on September 19th, 2336. The transmitter, remote computer access and the visual sensors were all damaged. The Alexandria has been flying blind ever since. We'd almost caught up with the Warden, but there's no visual record of her after the error. The Alexandria's lasercomm receiver still works. We've continued receiving narrowband, lasercomm transmissions from Eridani.

September 7, 2555: As if things weren't bad enough, the transmissions from Eridani included some terrible news. In a message the Alexandria received in 2342, Eridani reported asteroid movers had been dispatched from Earth to redirect a group of erratic asteroids. Earth lost radio contact with the movers before their mission was complete. "The first asteroid struck Buffalo, New York on April 17th, 2322. Communications with Earth were instantly disrupted. Tons of debris left the atmosphere, but rained back down to earth. Several other asteroids struck Luxembourg and Manchuria before dark clouds of soot and toxic chemicals obscured the surface. Nitrogen oxides thrown into the stratosphere wiped out the ozone layer. Carcinogens, radiation, acid rain and the complete blocking of the sun's rays caused widespread death and misery on the Earth's surface." Within a month, later transmissions explained, Mars too was struck by asteroids. Life on her surface had always been tenuous. The damage to her cities and orbital power plants caused the thorough collapse of the Martian settlements. Solar civilization withered in the absence of supplies. Refugee ships from Mars and the mining outposts returned to Earth. The last community survived until 2327 under martial law imposed by premier Toranaga. Their last message was a priority code Alpha-Omega: "Ensure the survival of the human race". Our mission to save the Warden is now more important than ever.

September 8, 2555: Mike has completed repairs on our visual sensors. We can now see we've safely reached a star system. Mike will have the rest of our damaged systems working soon. The damage was caused by a stupid screw! One of the screws used to mount the propulsion control device to the ship's computer interface was too large. It pierced a circuit board beneath it and caused a short. I wish the technician that installed the device was here right now.

September 9, 2555: Amrit has determined we are in the Rho-1 Cancri system. Rho Cancri is a binary star system. The two stars are separated by 1,100 astronomical units (one astronomical unit is the distance between the Earth and her sun). The Rho-1 Cancri stars either have an eccentric orbit or are two entirely separate star systems passing close by one another. Cancri A is a yellow-orange star with an Earthlike planet orbiting it. Cancri B is a red dwarf. Amrit has been unable to detect the Warden or any other artificial energy signatures nearby. We are descending toward the only habitable planet here, named "Rho Cancri" in the Sagan database.

September 11, 2555: Mike has finished programming the ship's computer to monitor transmissions. Each sweep of the frequency spectrum will take several hours.

September 13, 2555: Despite the presence of two other crewmates, I feel utterly alone. Sometimes I swear I hear the distinct cry of peacocks. I know it's just the sound of the engines or a pipe cooling, but it unnerves me. Instead of medicating, I've been listening to the Bach cello suites and the Musical Offering.

September 15, 2555: Amrit has been observing the planet's solitary moon and has discovered long, regular lines running parallel and perpendicular to one another. He thinks they might be the remains of the Warden. Mike thinks they look like cities. I'm not sure what they are. I've changed course for the moon to get a closer look.

September 18, 2555: As we draw closer to the moon, the mysterious lines on the surface are becoming clearer. I'm convinced there's something artificial down there. The computer has detected no transmissions yet. If there is life on this planet, why does it remain silent?

September 21, 2555: There are several constructions on the moon's surface. They were clearly made by intelligent life! Many of them are large buildings, very large. They might be hardened against more than just cosmic bombardment. Long, wide corridors connect several of them. Craters have destroyed some buildings; ejecta obscure others. Mike thinks they've been long abandoned. I am inclined to agree. We're transmitting images and data back to Eridani.

September 22, 2555: We're orbiting the moon's farside. Amrit has deployed telescopes to scan the moon's surface in greater detail. Mike is deploying a fleet of orbital probes to continue the search for the Warden. At present, the farside is completely lit by the sun.

September 27, 2555: The farside of the moon has only a few of the features we observed on our approach. The orbital probes are arrayed and Mike has linked them to a relay network so we can access them from the other side of the moon. We're setting a course for the nearside.

September 28, 2555: We watched the planet rise over the surface of the moon from the cockpit this morning. Besides brief telescopic images taken during our descent to lunar orbit, this was our first real sighting. The planet seems cold and barren. The poles are white with enormous glaciers. Only hints of color peer through the clouds around the equator.

September 29, 2555: We're in orbit around the moon's nearside. Only half of the moon's surface is lit by the sun. It's waxing toward full. Mike is preparing another fleet of probes. Amrit is making observations of several structures on the moon's surface.

October 3, 2555: I've thawed Ken and Marie. They were naturally shocked by our location and the fate of the Solar system. We all are. The daily discoveries Amrit has been making are keeping our minds from our troubles. We are preparing a dropship to explore the lunar surface.

October 5, 2555: The chosen site is one of those we initially thought was the Warden from a distance. We can now see it was once a large community. The area is punctuated by craters that have ruined some structures. Some of the craters are themselves cratered. Amrit is analyzing the crater patterns to determine their age. He thinks these structures were abandoned millions of years ago. Mike is preparing seismic probes to place on the lunar surface to get a better estimate.

October 6, 2555: Amrit and I have landed on the moon. The sun is directly overhead in the middle of a lunar day that lasts about 30 Earth days, very much like the moon we are familiar with. It comforts me to think the celestial dance may be universal. We immediately set up the seismic probes and a mining device to extract minerals from the lunar soil then set off to explore. We easily entered several buildings opened by meteor damage. We discovered metal devices mounted to the walls. Several empty niches may have once held other devices. The robots detached a few to take back to the Alexandria. We explored further into the ruins through open doorways that were roughly human shaped. Some were rectangular; others were circular or nearly so. We discovered a warren of rooms filled with very little debris, some empty containers of unusual shapes and empty shelves. We also found several flat but low constructions that we've called furniture, although they're too low for normal human use. They are usually constructed of metal, but we found some wood and fabric. These pieces were remarkably well preserved in the vacuum of space. Even more amazing were the numerous, white sculptures we found in nearly every room. They look like ceramic trees. They are bent into various shapes but all look strikingly similar. The smallest one was about 50 centimeters tall. The largest was over two meters. Amrit and I think they were objet d'art but Ken thinks they were security devices. Mike thinks they may have been used as lamps but no power source can be found. We tried to bend a few of their branches but they were brittle and broke off. Inside there were long strands of white fibers. The robots have stowed many of these artifacts in the dropship.

October 7, 2555: We found a corridor with a metal wall and detected a large empty space beyond it. The robots cut through the wall but there was an atmosphere beyond. As soon as they punctured the wall, the door blew into pieces. The air blew out with gale force. Amrit and I hid in a nearby room so we were not injured in the melee that followed. The wind blew the room's contents into the corridor. They smashed into the walls and each other and shattered into hundreds of sharp fragments. One of the robots was completely destroyed and a few others were damaged. After the space beyond the wall depressurized, we ordered the robots back to the dropship with the remains of their fallen comrades. We're exploring the space beyond the metal wall right now. There is a hole torn in it large enough for us to step through. There's a large, long corridor on the other side. Rails made of ceramic run along the ceiling. On the walls there are giant murals. The murals are gouged in places, possibly by debris blown through the rupture. The colors are badly faded. Portions are bubbled into a red mud. However, enough remains to see humanoids in the murals. It's impossible to see what their faces look like. Some seem to be dressed in black costumes and look like they are slaughtering other humanoids that resemble children and old men. I pity them. In my imagination, I hear their long dead voices crying to be remembered.

October 8, 2555: We're on our way back to the Alexandria. We're bringing back a full load of minerals from the mining device. Amrit didn't expect to get a rich variety of minerals from the lunar soil but we did retrieve a good amount of calcium, aluminum and iron oxide.

October 9, 2555: We found words written on several walls and doors on the moon. We transmitted the images we took to Eridani but there are no linguistic analysis programs in the ship's computers and no crewmembers with skills in linguistics onboard. We're on our own for translations. I wonder what the reaction will be on Eridani when they see these pictures. They won't get the data for another 52 years. Whatever response they send won't reach us for at least 104 years. If we can't find the Warden, maybe we'll hibernate and wait for their response. [laughter] No one's really said much about the Warden lately. It's a good thing, too. Mike has completed the nearside probe array and linked it to the relay from the farside, but none of the probes have found any sign of the Warden or any alien intelligence.

October 11, 2555: Mike, Marie and Ken have taken a dropship. They landed on the other side of the site we explored. They set up the miner, stopped by the war mural and journeyed to the center of the complex. They found an enormous pit. Ken said it was like standing at the Crack of Doom. The pit was perfectly round and lined with ceramic. It was too deep to see the bottom. The pit was covered with an equally enormous frame. It was collapsed over the top of the pit like a haphazard grate. Perhaps the frame had once housed a winch or protected the pit from the sun's rays. The team attached a winch to the frame and lowered a probe 500 meters down. At that depth, the bottom was still not visible. The sides of the pit were uniformly constructed of the ceramic material. There were no openings at all.

October 13, 2555: The team is back on the Alexandria. Amrit and I have returned to the moon with longer cables. We labored for hours before finally reaching the bottom: 3200 meters. Our probe sent back pictures of a large piece of machinery fitted into the bottom. It was partly covered by debris.

October 14, 2555: Mike has examined the ceramic and metal devices. The ceramics are a little pliant, unlike real ceramics, but under too much stress they break. Inside the metal casings we retrieved, there are multiple layers of a flexible material composed of petroleum-based polymers. The layers are connected by the same white fibers inside the ceramic trees. Mike said the polymers smelled like mold. I've quarantined him in his lab until we know the mold is dangerous or not.

October 16, 2555: Robots have been hauling debris from the pit for two days. The machinery at the bottom has been uncovered but the mystery remains. It has no obvious purpose, no exposed electronics, no input or output. Ken, watching from the Alexandria, suggested it wasn't machinery at all but something purposefully buried there, perhaps radioactive waste. Ken is alone in that opinion. It begs the question why the pit was left exposed and why was it so central to such a large installation?

October 17, 2555: Marie has given Mike a clean bill of health. The polymers found in the alien devices did contain mold, but they were dead and possessed no latent spores. Just to be safe, I've ordered Mike to open all alien devices in a controlled environment and have them tested for biotics before further testing.

October 18, 2555: Mike, Marie and Ken have returned to the moon to explore a different site. They've landed in a tightly knit gathering of buildings nestled inside a small crater. Marie has given it the name Wart City because of the way it looks. There's very little damage there. They had to cut their way into the buildings, but we've learned from our mistakes. A robot carefully sealed a portion of the door, punctured it and slowly released the air. Once inside, they found numerous small suites that looked like apartments. There were very few artifacts. All the buildings we've explored seem to have been abandoned in an orderly fashion. The occupants took whatever they could carry or thought valuable.

October 19, 2555: Near the center of Wart City, the team found another mural. This one depicted a large forest scene. It's a remarkable find! The plants and animals in the forest are wildly exotic, unlike anything known on Earth! Marie said she felt like she was staring into a prehistoric moment captured for eternity.

October 21, 2555: The sun is on the opposite side of the moon today, leaving its nearside in total darkness. The robots are all equipped with floodlights. For the next several days we won't need the extra layers of radiation gear.

October 24, 2555: Amrit and I explored a site that seems to have been a radio telescope or a transmitter of some kind. At the bottom of an artificial crater we found the nearly complete remains of a parabolic dish. We found dozens of unique polymer devices and brought them back to the Alexandria.

October 28, 2555: Mike, Marie and Ken have discovered another large room with murals. Three long walls depict an earthlike savannah with exotic animals playing beneath exotic trees. None of the animals seem hostile or even wild. Ken has nicknamed it the 'Nursery'. Nearby they found a long hallway painted as if it were underwater. Aquatic life swam or fed off the bottom. Some of the sea creatures are remarkably similar to plesiosaurs or trilobites. One large sea creature looked identical to a modern shark. Only the tail was strikingly different. The plant life growing on the ocean floor looked more alien than anything I've seen yet. A multitude of sizes and shapes floated in the water, some secured to the ocean floor by long tendrils.

October 30, 2555: I've told the crew I want to take the ship to the planet. Our supply of minerals for the matter compiler is running low. We've extracted a good deal of metals, oxygen and helium from the lunar surface, but only trace amounts of carbon. If there's anything edible on the planet, it'll be nice to have a change of diet. We'll stay for a few more days then leave orbit.

October 31, 2555: Just over half of the moon's nearside was lit by the sun today. Amrit chose a landing site that was still in shadow. It was a small site, a few structures at the bottom of a crater. Only a single building was large enough for a human to enter. A thick metal bulkhead barred the way. The robots cut it open but the space inside contained no air. Inside was a narrow chamber with stairs that descended several flights. At the bottom, we found several small rooms and a large rotunda. A round table with strands of white fiber and blocks of ceramic attached to it occupied the middle of the rotunda. A dark crystal was set into the center of the dome. The walls were painted with a mural. This one was spectacularly well preserved. It depicted two clashing armies. Fantastic, black airships rained fire on cities. Beneath the cities, humanoids sat peacefully in fortified bunkers. Despite being well preserved, their faces are strangely featureless except for a ridge on either side.

November 5, 2555: We've left lunar orbit. The moon was full tonight, a spectacular send off.

November 8, 2555: We're half way between the moon and the planet. We'll begin our descent in a few hours. The Alexandria wasn't built to turn on a dime. She was built for speed but it takes a long time to build up a full head of steam. Mike has kept himself busy studying the alien devices. The polymers and white fibers are electrically non-conductive, non-magnetic and unresponsive to heat and light. Marie is cataloging the animal species depicted in the murals and examining the genome of the mold found in the polymers.

November 10, 2555: We've arrived in orbit around the planet. Marie has completed tests on the wood found at the lunar sites. As expected, they were too old for reliable carbon dating. Rubidium-strontium dating revealed the lunar soil was over six billion years old.

November 11, 2555: We are mapping the planet's surface. This place is pretty grim, unlike the murals in the 'Nursery'. It's in the middle of an ice age. Only a narrow band of land along the equator is temperate or desert. I wonder what it looked like when the aliens lived here.

November 12, 2555: We are preparing a dropship to make a landing in a small region of dense forest on the largest continent. Mike, Marie and I will go first.

November 13, 2555: We've seen many wild animals and exotic plants but none of them resembled the murals. The dropship's scanners detected dense, rectangular anomalies deep beneath the soil, so we set down in a nearby clearing. After four months of recycled oxygen, the air here smells terrific! Rain fell shortly after we landed. It felt good to get completely drenched!

November 21, 2555: We've returned to the ship. Robots are clearing the vegetation and soil from the anomalies. Ken and Amrit are taking the other dropship to explore more of the planet's surface. Marie is cataloging and sequencing the alien samples we brought back with us. We killed a medium-sized mammal and brought the carcass back with us. If Marie gives it the go ahead, we'll be eating fresh meat! Otherwise, we'll decompile it for carbon.

November 24, 2555: Mike is completely stumped by the alien devices. He's asked for help. The crew roster shows we have a cyber-geneticist frozen on board by the name of John Galt. He's thawing now. Marie OK-ed the meat we have on board. We cooked it tonight and ate it with a bottle of wine I'd been saving for a special occasion. It was delicious, a bit like chicken.

November 25, 2555: John is awake. He's a remarkable man. When I gave him the news from Earth, he barely acknowledged it. He acted as if he had already known. Instead of asking for details, he simply asked what his orders were. I showed him the artifacts we found at the lunar ruins and asked him to find out what they were. He's working with Mike now.

December 3, 2555: John is continuing his work with Mike. Amrit, Marie and I are planetside. We've explored a mountain range surrounded by desert. Even in this hard scrabble terrain there are many new life forms to be found. We've just received word from the robots at the excavation. They've exposed the anomalies.

December 4, 2555: We've returned and surveyed the site. The robots exposed large slabs of basalt, but mindlessly destroyed an intricate carving in the process of removing the topsoil. At least they stopped when they did. We need better programming for fine detail work. I've activated our Veribot, THX-1492, and loaded it with archeological excavation software. It's reprogramming our general purpose robots now.

December 11, 2555: The robots are diligently removing the grime from the ancient stones. They've uncovered a few artifacts, badly corroded metal work and a few statues that resemble the humanoids we saw in the lunar murals. The stones have a curious language carved into them that bears little resemblance to the one we found on the moon.

December 12, 2555: We've returned to the Alexandria. John and Mike have made a breakthrough. They've applied specific frequencies of light to the white fibers with remarkable results. When certain frequencies are passed through them, the ceramic trees and polymers move, give off heat or emit light in varying frequencies. They haven't figured out the purpose of the devices or all the frequency combinations they'll react to yet. John believes they may also react to specific sequences of alien DNA. Marie is looking into the possibilities, but we have little to go on as we have no DNA samples from the race that built them.

December 13, 2555: John has taken an interest in the images taken from the moon. He mentioned to me there's a linguist on board by the name of Dwayne Spragni. Mr. Spragni didn't mention on his resume that he had experience with linguistics, but John said he heard him say on the passage to the Alexandria that he'd studied linguistics at the University of New Alexandria. I've authorized Marie to thaw Dwayne immediately.

December 14, 2555: Dwayne took the news well. His eyes lit up when I showed him the alien script. He's studying it now. He hopes to soon be able to tell us more about the aliens.

December 19, 2555: The robots have exposed a large portion of three buildings. The artifacts they've uncovered are packed away in the dropship. Amrit has completed his estimation of the age of the lunar sites. His findings have made those ruins even more amazing. Based on the crater patterns, the rate of new impacts and the number of large meteors detected by the lunar probe array, Amrit estimates the lunar ruins were abandoned between 30 and 40 million years ago! After so much time, it's amazing there's anything left at all! I wonder what happened to the people who built those ruins.

December 24, 2555: John and Mike have the alien devices bending, rolling and flashing like brightly colored toys, but Dwayne, on the other hand, disappoints me. He has nothing to show after 11 days of study. He hasn't taken a single note! John, by contrast, seems to have found the keys to unlocking the mysteries behind the alien technologies. I have been repeatedly impressed by John's intellect and his ability to grasp patterns. I wonder how he could have been fooled into thinking Dwayne knew more than he did about linguistics. I'm sending Dwayne down with the next landing crew. Maybe seeing the alien script in person will start his muse. I'll definitely think twice before thawing another crewmember.

-end transmission-