Savalon: The Prologue

The gliding starship cut silently through the dark space.  The ship was halfway between stars, one of the quietest places for a ship to be.

The spaceship was a dark, muted blue.  Built chiefly for long-distance travel, over half of the ship was composed of engines and reactors.  On the other side of the enormous lead radiation shield, the only habitable area was in the nose.

The faster-than-light engines were rumbling quietly, their reverberations barely felt in the conference room where the three humans sat.  Trent, the commander, was waiting as the other two officers discussed the results of a sporting competition back on Earth.

The conversation ended when Vix, the lead science officer, hobbled in with a metallic cart.  On the top shelf sat a sizeable cube-shaped contraption.

“Once Vix got that outer shell to open, Vix found this device,” the giant reptile said.  It vaguely unnerved Trent to hear Vix talk.  It reminded him of some cheesy cartoon figure watching Vix’s frog-like jaw wiggle about.

 The two officers helped Vix move the device from the cart to the metallic conference table. 

“It’s extremely light,” said Kitt. 

Vix nodded, blinking its bulging eyes several times.  “Yes.  Made from unusual metal.”

“Is it from Savalon?” asked Trent.

“Most definitely,” Vix said, clapping its webbed hands together.  “Tests show it is a probe.”

“Incredible,” said Kitt, sitting down next to Trent.  “What else do we know about it?”

“Very advanced technology needed to manufacture,” Vix continued.  “Probe’s protective outer shell almost frictionless.  Vix and Kcheshi had to use magnets to keep it from sliding around the lab.”

“So, what do you know about Savalon, gentleman?” Trent finally asked, calling the meeting to order.

“Savalon is an enigma,” said Kitt.  “A Cepheid variable is usually about as bright as our sun, but because it expands and contracts, its brightness changes radically.  You would think that life wouldn’t evolve there due to variations of temperature brought on by this oscillation of light, but,” he added, pointing to the probe.  “Here we sit, with their technology on our desk.”

“Don’t forget their structure,” said the junior officer.  “They look exactly like us.”

Vix snorted, nostrils contracting to pinpricks.

“Well, like humans anyway,” the officer quickly added.  “It’s uncanny.”

“They look like you, but they probably are not going to be like you at all,” Vix said.  “Humans.  Your species always trying to ‘humanize’ everything.”

“How did we find out about these guys?  They never transmitted any radio, television, pulses, anything,” asked the junior officer.

“It was an accident, actually,” said Kitt.  “A survey team had gone in to do readings on the star.  They happened to spot civilization on one of the planets.  They had gained access to a large computer database when something happened.  We only got part of their transmission.”

“It’s incredible what we’ve learned, too.  A little more advanced than we are in so many areas, but lagging in so many others and, what’s more, no attempts to expand to their other planets, let alone star travel.  A pity we didn’t get more information before the ship malfunctioned,” the junior officer added.

“I don’t entirely believe it was a malfunction,” Trent said.

“Why is that?” asked Kitt.

“Because the follow-up craft I sent in was intentionally destroyed,” Trent said.

Vix cocked its head and made a sound like a clicking chirp.  “So that’s why you wanted this craft fitted with ablative shielding,” it finally said.

“Yes.  We’re going in to investigate.  Nobody knows we’re doing this.”

Kitt looked at Trent.  “It’s not like you to cloak and dagger.  Are you sure we’re going in to just look?  What, with all those non-interference laws and the like.”

Closing his eyes, Trent let out a sigh and nodded.  “It’s a safe bet we’re dealing with a xenophobic culture.  The Fleet has already ordered the area off-limits due to the variable star’s ‘unspecified hazards’ and wiped what we knew from Galactic Center and stored it on this ship.  But my brother was on that science vessel I sent in.  I want to know what happened.”

“You said they don’t have star travel, Vix,” said the junior officer.  “We are nearly sixteen light-years away.  How did this probe get here?”

Vix cocked its head again, ignoring the question for the moment.  There was a high-pitched noise.  “Can’t you humans hear that?” the lizard asked, twirling a webbed finger towards the probe.

Trent looked at Kitt and the junior officer.  “Hear what?”

[Commander,] chimed the ship’s computer.  [The alien probe has started a detailed scan of the four of you.  However, you are being scanned the most, Commander.]

“It’s all right,” said Kitt, quickly raising his hand to Trent to calm him.  “From what I learned, they do this sort of scanning as a handshake.  It’s routine to them.”

“Routine for you, Vix leaving.  Hurts my ears.”  The giant lizard hobbled away.

The cube split open on one side, revealing a screen.  On the screen were two hazel eyes, computer-generated.  “Commander Trent,” the cube said, glancing in the commander’s direction.  “If you would.”

Trent walked around until he was standing in front of the opening, looking at the generated eyes.

“My name is Michael, and I am the guardian of the people of Savalon.  It is in my nature to eavesdrop, and I make no apologies for that.  However, am I correct in believing you intend to visit us?”

Trent looked at Kitt, who wore an expression of both panic and curiosity, then back to the device.

“Yes, but we are not hostile to you or your people.  We only seek your friendship and knowledge.”

“I’m sorry, Trent.  I cannot allow that.  Outside interference is intolerable to the masterpiece society I have spent eons sculpting.  Their confidence in me must be maintained, and I’m afraid your presence will jeopardize everything I have worked so hard to build.  You will not be permitted this visit.”

“I’m sure we could find some middle…” Trent said, trailing off.  His arms fell loosely to his sides.

“Let us save some valuable time, Commander Trent,” Michael continued, those hazel eyes turning a deep red color.  “Is your space-going vessel equipped with some form of self-destruct mechanism?”

“Yes,” Trent replied.  His own eyes had glazed over, and he was rocking his head left, then right.

“Do you have the authority to order the destruction of this vessel, or does it require consensus?”

Kitt, with any bit of curiosity now gone, looked at his friend across the table.  “Trent, are you ok?”

“Yes, Michael, I can.  I, alone, just have to give the proper order codes for self-destruct.”

“Clap your hands together, Commander Trent,” Michael asked.  Trent obeyed.

“Security, we’ve got a problem!” Kitt said, starting to run towards the door.  He fell to the ground, dead, from Trent’s sidearm.  The junior officer joined Kitt on the floor a half-heartbeat later.

“Thank you, Commander Trent,” Michael said.  “Now, while it was nice to meet all of you, I must ask that you immediately destroy your vessel and, with it, all knowledge that Savalon even exists.”

The broken ship scattered silently through the dark space.  It was halfway between stars, one of the quietest places for a grave to be.