“You know the likelyhood of the first planet we visit being The World of Souls is astronomically small, right?”
“I know, but I’m going to send the pictures to Elinog to check.” Blavet hit send and the tablet showed an icon of an ancient cell tower with a red x over it. It read ‘signal not found’. “Oh. No signal in the cave. I guess we can finish in here first.”
“No, go out and send the message then continue getting samples. I’ll get a few more while you do that.” Allie returned to picking mushrooms and getting samples of other flora.
Nodding at Allie’s sage advice Blavet returned to the mouth of the cave. Once there he sent the message and waited for Elinog to respond to him.
– – –
There was a beeping noise coming from Elinog’s comm as he extricated himself from Janine. “Hold on. Gotta get that. Probably the boss calling to see if we’re still hard at work.”
Janine grabbed her clothes off the floor of the shuttle and hurriedly put them on. “Or they’re on the way back. They were rounding it off with a cave somewhere.”
The screen on the comm took a moment to light up. “I might need to grab a new one from the rack. This one’s a little laggy.” He opened the message from Blavet. “Whoa. Those are some big scratch marks.”
Elinog’s shirt collided with his face and during the struggle to get it off of his giant, salaman eyes Janine took his comm. “Those may be more than scratches. Get dressed. We have some cave walls to examine.”
“Fine, but we continue this later.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Janine tossed the comm back to Elinog, her bulbous fingers sending it in a weird spiral.
– – –
Allie splashed water at Blavet from the stream in the center of the cave. They had been waiting around for half an hour and she was getting bored.
“Oh, that’s how you want to play it?” Blavet pulled his water bottle from his satchel and held it, cap towards her. “Don’t make me do it!” Allie splashed him again. “You’ve done it now!” He took the cap off the bottle and started chasing after Allie. “Get back here!”
By the time Elinog and Janine arrived on the scene both Allie and Blavet were soaked with water and lying on the floor of the cave, exhausted.
Taking in the scene Elinog decided to just start setting up the lights. “Hey, we’re here. I’ll start setting up the lights and you guys go help Janine. We brought the lander over, it’s all fixed up now.”
“Your shirt’s on backwards.” Allie said as she rushed by Elinog to help Janine with equipment. “With those big eyes I would’ve thought you’d notice.”
Blavet grinned at Elinog. “So, we do all the work and you guys play?”
Elinog rolled his large eyes. “Oh, and you didn’t?”
“We just splashed water at each other. Nothing more. I can tell by the state your clothes are in that you did a lot more.”
“Stow it captain. We’ve got work to do.” Elinog tossed a light stand at Blavet. “These lights are a two person job.”
The light stand was deftly caught by Blavet’s tail and he began working on the lighting with Elinog. “Just keep your mind on the task at hand,” Blavet murmured.
“I said stow it!”
“That was to me, not you.”
– – –
Allie saw Janine straightening her light jacket before trying to lift up a large case. “This thing is heavier than I thought.”
“I think the gravity here is stronger than ship gravity.” Allie grabbed one end of the box. “Here, let me help.”
Janine picked up the other end of the box and they carried it into the cave. The writing surprised her and she almost dropped her end of the box. “Those look a lot different in the picture. Those scratches are not random.”
“Isn’t this going to just look the same as the pictures Blavet took?”
The box was gently set down next to a large stand with no lights on it. “No, this is a holo-cam. This should be able to register the depth of the scratches. Then we can run it through our database. If that comes up with nothing we’ll send it to SECO to have them check it.” Janine saw the questioning look in Allie’s eyes. “We’ll send it to them either way. I just want to see if we can send it with information. They may not tell us if they find something out. We’ll move on to the next solar system either way.”
Blavet and Elinog finished the last light setup and hurried over to help with the holo-cam. The device was larger than it probably needed to be. The technology had existed for centuries, but the size hadn’t decreased any noticable amount.
“This thing is large, but it’s pretty light.” Blavet was holding onto part of the holo-cam with his tail in addition to his hands.
“Yeah. It’s mostly just awkward. That’s why it comes with a stand like this.” Elinog carefully followed Janine’s lead. Making sure not to tilt the cam while Allie screwed it to the base.
Allie crawled out from under the holo-cam. “All done.” She handed a hex-key to Elinog.
“When did you take this?”
“When you weren’t looking.”
“Raven’s will be raven’s I suppose.” There was teasing in Elinog’s voice.
“I don’t expect lizards to understand.” Allie’s voice carried the same tone.
Janine sighed. “I know you guys are comfortable with each other, but those are still speciest phrases.”
The holo-cam took a few button presses to get started then the four of them stood away from the side facing the scratch marks. Allie made to leave the cave before it started.
“Hold on. Everyone who was present is supposed to be in any holo we send to SECO.” Blavet hooked his tail under one of Allie’s arms and pulled her back towards the holo-cam.
“Fine.” Allie faced away from the holo-cam as it took the holo, rotating slowly. “There. I was present.”
“Don’t like holo’s or something?” Janine asked as she sent the holo file to her datapad.
“They never capture my feathers right. Something about not having that fine of detail. I don’t like it.”
“Let’s pack up and get back to the Dominiot. If AB-775’s update is finished it will be simple to dock. Otherwise we’ll have to match speed first.” The holo-cam packed up faster than it had set up and the lights were easy to dismantle.
– – –
“Take us out facing away from the star. I don’t know how well the polarization works on this new windshield.” The shuttle lifted off of the ground slowly and started the assent out of the atmosphere. “I assume we’ll have no problem exiting the atmosphere this time?”
“If you’re asking if I messed with the flight parameters for the exit then the answer is no.” Janine glanced at Allie. “I assume that nobody else messed with the parameters themselves?”
Allie shook her head. “I don’t know an ampersand from a percent symbol. I couldn’t do that myself. Okay. We’re getting up to supersonic. We’ll be out of here in a flash.”
Janine glanced at Elinog. “So why did you fly down here when she’s the pilot?”
“Practice. It’s really annoying that she waited until I was piloting before she had you set up the turbulence.”
Blavet chuckled. “She probably considered it part of your training. You reacted instantly.”
“Why do you want to know how to fly?”
Elinog shook his head. “I know how to build a spaceship from pieces of other spaceships, but I couldn’t fly worth crap. Now I can fix ‘em and fly ‘em…most of them anyway. Sometimes I’m astonished at how counter intuitive control setups can be.”
“You should’ve seen the control setup mom had. She used her tail for half the controls. When dad had to pilot while she was pregnant with me he had to have two copilots.”
Blavet and Elinog burst into laughter while Janine just stared at them. “Did your father lose his tail or something?”
“Oh, no. Sorry I forgot you didn’t know. I’m half-human.” Blavet motioned towards his eyes. “The biggest giveaway is my human eyes. See how I have visible whites and irises on all three of my eyes? Most Emrys have no whites and only a few have visible irises. Also, my tail is about 15 cm shorter than average.”
– – –
Allie hailed the Dominiot. “AB-775, do you read?”
There was a short pause then a short burst of static. “I’m here. The ship’s still intact. There were no close calls with asteroids or anything.”
Janine sighed with exasperation and started up a data link with the Dominiot. “Somehow that makes me more worried because you listed asteroids specifically.”
“Oh, that means there was. He’s a bot. He’s terrible at lying.” Elinog also had a data link with the Dominiot running. “Camera 12 sector delta.”
“Nothing I can’t fix. Some subsystems look like they need cycled, but I can do that from here.” Janine tapped on her tablet a few times. “Purge initiated.”
Allie commed the ship again. “Ok, we’re approaching for docking procedures. Can you take control?”
“Yes, taking control now. I hope you enjoy flight AB-775!”
– – –
“The ship database has nothing on the wall scratches. It detected a pattern, but no corresponding data is available.” Janine frowned. “Well, I guess I’ll just send it through to SECO.” She turned the cockpit holo to astrogation and started doing the calculations for the FTL jump. AB-775 assisted, happy to finally be out of storage.
In the cargo hold of the Dominiot Blavet looked at the scratches on a holo display. Something looked familiar. He reached into the control cluster and mirrored the holo. Then he turned it upside down. The scratches suddenly took on a meaning. He turned to face Allie who was watching him work. “It’s in Thaumatish. The rough translation is ‘Life’.” He turned back to the hologram, studying the scratches again. “I think either it’s referring to how lush the planet is, or this is the reason the planet is so lush in the first place. I have to send this data to the council.”
Allie shook her head. “Will they take it seriously?”
“I’m sure they’ll send someone to look into it before SECO can. Their bureaucracy will slow them down.”
“So we just keep moving, then? You’re not even curious?”
Blavet shut off the hologram. “I’m curious. I just know I need to focus on my assignment. I have my own reason for seeking out the World of Souls you know.”