And this week there will be two chapters, to thicken the plot, and this is a bonus chapter but comes with important things!
Chapter 5: Where no tourists have gone before! Part two
After a long and tedious phase where we replicated suits at our size and constructed the oxygen tanks, a part which Sylvia loved, we were ready to strap ourselves into the shuttle and make our approach of Mars. We were gonna walk on Mars how awesome is that?
Aarin surprised me when he offered me to pilot the shuttle down,
- “Are you sure? I never drove a car back home, how could I drive a spaceship?”
- “These shuttles are designed to be easy to use, just strap yourself in the main piloting chair and let your instinct do the trick! It’s highly human-customized everything should be coming natural to you and if you manage to screw up the shuttle’s AI will take over and landing us softly on the ground!”
Agreeing, but nervous, I took place in front of the customized piloting area, I was pleasantly surprised when I saw it, it’s not like in science fictions where you have a thousand buttons and five different sticks and if you press them in the wrong order you accidentally launch a nuclear missile on Russia instead of playing your favourite music. No, this is… simple? There was an on/off switch with a little pictogram of the engine – I guess it is the engine turn on button ? – a thrust slider, an array of simple labeled buttons, and a simple controller. I took the controller in my hands and decided to role play a bit, you’re not piloting an highly advance alien spaceship every day.
- “Stations, do I have the go”
- “Yes ma’am” simultaneously said Aarin and Sylvia with a smirk on their face
- “Ok, disengaging docking port” with that I pressed the… docking port button on the panel and with a loud thud we were now in free space, this shit was too easy.
- “Engaging RCS thrusters” after engaging them I slowly used the RCS to be a little farther away from the mainship until the light indicator went green and the engine button unlocked. I smiled
- “Turning on main engine” I pressed the button and immediately the entire shuttles rumbled for a few seconds before everything went back to normal and the basic data about fuel, engine situation, orbit and radar – I guessed it was a little bit more advanced than our radar but the name did fit pretty well – I managed to see a glimpse of our vessel by the shuttle’s windows.
And what I saw really surprised me. Due to the unknown distance and lack of reference point I could not guess the size of it but the shape was… off. The vessel was not specially designed or with a futuristic shape or anything like that.
No it was a sphere. A simple sphere. As a designer and art student saying that I was disappointed was an understatement, here we were the first humans to be in an alien spaceship and instead of a beautiful or weird or whatever shaped ship it was a sphere? I was frustrated and Aarin noticed it
- “What? You know spheres are the best shape on the universe no? We are not some character of your science fictions stories we prefer practicality to showing off weird frames, and sphere are easy to manufacture in space too.”
- “Yeah, sure, but you know I’m kinda disappointed ? Designing is fun and I’m spending my entire free time designing cool spaceship, so a shapeless gray flying ball in no fun” I pouted, Aarin smirked and pointed the command, oh right I needed to pilot…
A few hours later I was still piloting into the free space around Mars when the “radar” thingy pinged I was intrigued so I went to click on it but the information bubble manifested in an hologram in front of my eyes before I clicked on it, weird it must have read my brain wave or something like that?
I read it, and was somewhere between surprise and awful laughter,
- “Hey Aarin the radar here is signaling the presence of a probe declared lost by the union, and its name is… Major Tom?”
- Aarin nearly spit out his drink and said “You found major tom???” “we lost that probe ages ago, and we happened to fly near it by pure chance, god they’ll be happy in the science team”
At this point I was definitely laughing out loud,
- “You called a probe Major Tom and you lost it, it’s impossibly ironic it’s not possible, clearly you’re joking I refuse to believe it”
- “I know I know, this probe is a prototype of a super-stealth technology we were developing, the end of this program is the cloaking device you saw, but this prototype was equipped with electromagnetic cloaking in all frequencies, FTL communications cloaking in all frequencies, and thermal cloaking, it’s practically non detectable”
“And we really did a good job! Because the cloaking computer thought its own FTL communications arrays were a malfunction and corrected it, that is, it dismantled the array and used its base material to create a communication deflector and it became undetectable with our own technology, the only way to find it was to fly within 100km of it, the ship computer then would lock onto its signal and track it. But 100km in space is really small”
“As for the name, our tracking probes picked up and sent all of your electromagnetic emission, including the non-scientific one. Well whatever I sent the coordinate to the ship’s AI she will pick up the probe we can continue our little mission, enough time spent flying and fooling around, we are going on a walk”
An hour later we were landing on Olympus Mons. I was thinking of the famous pictures of the NASA’s and later FSP’s rovers on mars, with rocks, red powder, a red sky and everything super-red.
Well it’s not that red, it’s more of an orange weird maroon rusty-colour but yeah I guess it can be considered red if you’re half blind.
We were walking, a lot, but it was kind of cool, we carefully picked the landing location of being far enough of any rover, I think the FSP’s controllers would freak out if suddently they saw three humans casually walking on Mars like we were on the Sierra Nevada. It was a bit sad, I’d love to say hi to our robot friends on Mars, they explored this planet for us since the first cold war. But yeah safety first. Still I’d love to see the face of Syl’s father sawing them on Mars waving to opportunity two. I pouted.
Sylvia must have been thinking the same thing because when they saw me pouting they giggled into the shared radio (same I guess it’s not radio, I’ll call it super-radio) and tried to hug me. It was then that we discovered these EV suits are not meant to hug. Weird.
A few hours of walking later, I noticed that this body was so much better, I was not only happier but I was visibly fitter and more athletic, I had a lot more stamina than I used to and was visibly stronger, I guess Aarin included some bonus with the alien-HRT because there’s no way my “true-form” would be so strong.
We decided to stop to eat, I was gonna take off my helmet when I caught Sylvia looking at me with big eyes, almost as spherical as the ship, and I remembered that Mars’ atmosphere was not breathable, I think my blush of embarrassment was visible through the helmet because Sylvia approached me and lightly tapped the top of it, with a sound I imagined as being a bonk.
Instead Aarin used a little capsule that expanded into a little shelter with atmospheric pressurization and a built-in airlock. The Union technology was wonderful, and also confusing, how can they have invented conjuring buildings out of little capsules but not the internet ?
As soon as we entered the shelter and took off our equipment Sylvia’s jumped in my harm and hugged me, they really loved to hug me and to be honest I was not complaining, it was so good to have a cuddly best friend, and she was more and more cuddly nowadays with my transition I wonder if there’s an explanation to that.
- “Ariana! THATWASSOCOOLWASNTIT?” Sylvia shoot, yelling and talking so rapidly that my brain could not comprehend what just happened.
- “Yeah Syl’ it was incredible, we were trekking on another planet it’s not something I thought I would do in my twenties, and I’m 19 !” I laughed, trying to sort myself out of them, I was becoming shorter than them and it was more and more difficult to do so by the days. Help I’m soon gonna be a prisoner of my best friend embrace.
Eventually I pulled out, or they let me out I don’t really know, and we began eating, earth food again, prepared by Syl and I again, we were not letting Aarin cook anytime soon, the memory of the stuff he tried to pass up as food was engraved in my memory so vividly I could live again the situation, not that I wanted to.
The meal finished and the shelter safely back onto its capsules we wrapped up our Mars tour and came back to the shuttle.
A few hours later I was chilling in the lounge with Sylvia snuggled to me reading the manual and theory papers describing the FTL ship when Aarin called us up to the bridge, we were gonna activate the FTL drive to travel to Jupiter, Sylvia requested to access the command room of the engine and was granted access so they were there.
About a day later we arrived in orbit of Jupiter, we were gonna visit its moon, it’s not like we could safely walk on Jupiter to be honest, and having a bit of fun.
Once again we took the shuttle but Sylvia did not come without us this time, they said they still wanted to read the theory about FTL travel and how it works, Aarin agreed so here we were landing on Europa’s ground with a few hours to spare before going to another interesting moon.
- “Isn’t Europa supposed to have a liquid water ocean deep?” I said, the hype of being in space quickly faded and it was like any other walk. Just with an helmet to void to suffocate into the endless void of the universe. But I was indeed really interested about this stuff, liquid water practically says “life” isn’t it? This was exciting, unknowingly to me, all my hopes were gonna be crushed in an instant.
- “Yes this was confirmed by a team of our scientist, but no I know what’s you’re thinking, our technology is advanced enough to detect life signs this deep and there isn’t. None. Not a single spark of life. Just endless water and ice, so deep that even our equipment have trouble accessing it without destroying the entire moon. This water could solve one of your current issue, you know with climate change and the fact that you’re not trying to do anything world-wide to address it”
I cringed at that, he was right, even if we formed a planetary federation and society we were still based on a form of capitalism, and capitalism always prefer profits to saving our climate, and according to every earth scientist, our specie.
- “Yeah I know, but you know what, the planet will survive, the biodiversity will regenerate, only our civilization will disappear, and at this point, don’t we kinda deserve it? The early twenty-first century attempt to stop climate change did not work because nobody followed it and now it’s nearly too late. Climatic anxiety gained all of my generation and we feel completely useless about what is happening to our civilization.”
Wow I thought, I knew that she had a mind on climate change but not that climatic anxiety was so deep down attached to children in earth’s society. Even if that’s something to add to my research I could not help to feel sad for the poor girl, she felt powerless, useless, and to be fair she was, governments needs to change not her she can’t really do anything.
I tried to do as I often observed human do when one of their acquaintance was feeling down I tried to envelop her with my body and arms and tightened my grip without chocking her. If I recall correctly humans call that “hugging” and it’s supposed to be a sign of affection, it really seems to calm her as she tightened me too, I knew it was known as “hugging back” and a sign she accepted the gesture and was happy. Humans are weird how nearly chocking to death one of your member is considered a sign of affection ?
Anyway, I needed to calm and comfort her, to be honest I think I gained a liking for this human, she was kind and likable, her friend was really smart and was already figuring out the in and outs of FTL travel I could see it in her eyes, the flame of passion for a subject, I was like that when I discovered humans in my xenosociologist degree, their society is so, so weird. They developed highly advanced technology such as the internet that allowed their people to access up to date information and science in all of their world, and to post silly cat videos I added, chuckling mentally. Yet they were still at the age of bigotry, climate disaster and capitalism.
The Union members had all abandoned capitalism ages before developing any kind of technologies, it’s simply wasn’t a viable model to continue, capitalism cause the “economy” to collapse onto itself every now and then, and records indicate it actually happened on Earth, many times, yet they kept this way of life. Many Union philosopher and economist argue that it’s because they kept capitalism for so long that their technology is developing so fast. War were still a thing on Earth just 10 years ago.
In and all Earth society was intriguing and I was obsessed with the concept of gender, this seems pointless and open the door for so much bigotry. I decided to voice some of my concern to her and finished with,
- “You know Ariana, if I am a xenosociologist and pushed for that degree after my original degree of xenobiology it is because of your specie, your society is so bizarre it doesn't fit with our models and predictions, the discovery of your planet revolutionized xenosociology in The Union. Your rhythm of technological advancement is so fast in certain category but so slow in others, how come your medical researcher did not cure human cancer yet, or developed better solutions for trans people? I really don’t understand how your society works and that’s why I volunteered for this mission, nobody really wanted it to be honest. The concept of gender is really weird too.”
- “Oh I don’t really know about it, I mean some cancers are treatable? But the cures are really expensive and unfortunately with the formation of Europe and the Federation of Continents free healthcare kinda disappeared ? This and other social structure, yes all of the world is working together now but the Federation is so economically liberal that practically all of the protections concerning citizens disappeared. Yes in Europe we have a little bit of chance there is a free basic income and my University provide orphan or abandoned children with a place to live but it’s not generalized and it’s not enough when you fall seriously sick. A lot is left to do on Earth I’m afraid.”
“About the gender I agree, gender is confusing, but I’m enjoying gender right now, because of you so thanks you by the way.”
I had a lot to think about what she just said, Earth society has a long way to go indeed but some of their ideas are wonderful and they just think differently, the word science community is well formed and ideas, theories, and data can safely be shared and accessed everywhere on the planet, for free, it was a start, I think it is all they need to evolve their society to something more fair for the citizens of Earth.
Talking about our society with Aarin is really refreshing, he has scientific outsider ideas and comments about it to make and it’s exactly what we need to hear, he also clarified a lot about how he thinks society morphed into what it is now, and how it changed over time. It helps having a literal scientist of societies that studied yours for decades now and can identify what went wrong, where and when, which to be fair his answers looks like “everything”, “everywhere”, “at any point in time”. He said that our society is mild and can be changed with little to no help, just readjusting itself, he was really optimistic about it, it reassured me a bit.
He also said that humans were not ready for first contact with The Union, but when the time come, The Union would help humans to be more considerate about their citizens and with the cultural mix both our societies would mix into a better society for all of us, they were really interested into how we developed technologies so fast, and it was a point of intensive sociological research in The Union.
3rd person POV
Unknowingly to Aarin and Ariana, a team of Union scientist were on Europa when they landed, they sensed the Union shuttle and came to salute Aarin as he was the only scientist they knew of that was on the system, but when they arrived they were surprised and a bit mad about the presence of a human with him, not knowing what to do they decided not to confront him here and there but took evidence, rejoined their ship and went full-speed in direction of Union Central to report him.
End of chapter 5: Where no tourists have gone before! Part two