"The question is not so much whether there is life on Mars as whether it will continue to be possible to live on Earth."
“Vector 212 on the screen, sir,” I said, a little nervous. This was my first voyage beyond our own galaxy, the Crab Nebula. “Right, vector 212. Okay Porg, plot a sub-orbital telemetry for PAL 7 (Potential Alien Life) solar system. That should bring our target into view.”
I was tense. The whole crew was tense, and no wonder. Confined to this exploratory vessel for over 18 weeks now had taken its toll. But finally, our destination was in sight, navigably speaking. Still over ˝ light year away, we were within two weeks of arriving,. traveling at ten times the speed of light.
Through the transparent hull loomed a panoramic view of the Milky Way galaxy. Flat, as viewed from on end, unending, spiraling clusters of stars. A bright spattering of pinpoints of light in a sea of darkness. The distances between our galaxies were immense, and until very recently, would have taken thousands of years to traverse. But with the advent of new propellants, our star cruiser became a lightning fast vessel, slipping through the icy black of space with incomprehensible speed. But this was not a pleasure cruise, as you shall see.
Our ship was past a very critical stage of navigation. At this speed, any slight miscalculation of course coordinates could send us plummeting through voids of infinite space with too little fuel to recover. Let me tell you, we would never venture out this far from our world unless we had too.
It all began over 4 years ago. A disaster that nobody could predict. Our world government regulated, and saw to the needs of the masses adequately, but it could not predict or prevent outside forces from affecting our planet.
The problem came from a source uncontrollable. It seems that the food source for our entire planet began reproducing less and less. At first, it was attributed to fodder contamination that was causing sterility. But extensive testing discounted that.
At length we discovered a hormonal defect in the species brought about by a lack of gamma rays from our sun. Indeed, it was known that our sun was nearing the end of its life cycle, having about 100,000 years remaining. But a change in its fusion rate affected the strength of gamma rays, which in turn brought impotency to our food stock.
In essence, they stopped breeding, and the livestock supplies planet wide started dwindling. The Pro-Opro decided to take action by sending us on this mission.
While our scientists worked feverishly at home, trying to come up with an answer, we were sent out as a last ditch effort to locate the original source of our staple passed on to us by our forefathers. It was regarded as myth by many. Until now.
The weakness of our civilization is that we have only this food source. There is no other. There is too much ammonia in our atmosphere to support vast quantities of plant life. The little we do have is used as fodder for our stock. Besides, our digestive systems rebel violently if we ingest these things. And so, here we are, seeking the source of our original stock. Many centuries have passed since our forefathers brought us this new food.
Though technically advanced, we found it imperative to seek out the lesser technology of our target. Our data regarding PAL 7 was favorable. The planet itself was changeless since our last visit many centuries ago, but the same food source was still in abundance there. What we hoped to learn was the secret they employed in maintaining it. Armed with that knowledge, we could return to Aelsor as victorious heroes. I suppose that part of it kept me going. A savior of our world. A place alongside the great Groks of the past. Now that would be an honor.
The time aboard our vessel passed slowly. Having no sense of day or night, our sleep cycles were interrupted, thus some irritability festered among the crew. Especially at mealtime. We took turns retrieving stock from the cargo hold. Something none of us enjoyed doing. Forever reluctant those creatures. Unwilling to accept their fate. Always a hassle.
Finally we arrived. There before us, like a bright blue marble suspended, was our target, PAL 7. Fenor, our Commander issued orders to descend to the outer atmosphere for testing before commencing to land. That being done, we hailed a radio frequency unique to spacecraft. Our message was plain enough.
“Greetings. We return in peace. Respond in the affirmative.”
After a few moments the audio crackled with landing instructions and warm greetings. How gracious, these humans, we thought.
The touchdown was a bit rough. Difference in gravity no doubt. In no time every sort of land vehicle and many humans scurrying around excitedly surrounded us. At length, a few of them approached our ship. They could not see us of course because we had opaqued our hull, but we could see them. Robust, all three.
They made gestures of welcome again and came closer yet. Before proceeding we immobilized all their hardware, here around us and within a 500-mile radius. For their own safety. Through the universal telesponder, Fenor uttered a prepared message.
“We come to you in peace. Salutations earthlings,. may you be well. Our purpose is one of recovery. One of extracting specific techniques utilized in successfully breeding livestock. Show us please, samples of your basic stock, as you may allow.”
There was a clamor as the trio of earthlings barked orders to others behind them, to grant our request, we supposed. It wasn’t long before some other humans returned with a variety of indigenous animal life, four legged creatures, which to us appeared hideous and unappetizing. The leader approached the trio near our ship and after a moment, spoke into the telesponder.
“If I may, allow me to display our principal meat sources.” The humans then paraded before us, a variety of odd looking four legged creatures, including a very odd looking two legged feathered creature with a red appendage attached to the top of its small head that flapped as it strutted in jerky movements. As each specimen passed in front of us, the human spoke of its qualities. This one especially delectable, that one easy to prepare and so on.
Aboard, we all watched closely, the antics of these humans. It was apparent they misunderstood our request. Our probing and knowledge of the planet told us all we needed to know about its animal life. We have no interest in them beyond an esoteric one.
Again, Fenor addressed the telesponder. “Excuse me please, earthlings. We are familiar with your varied animal species. Please show us your primary livestock as requested.”
With that, a quizzical expression formed on their collective faces as a disturbing silence befell them. As Fenor awaited a response, I couldn’t help but notice how fleshy one of the three looked.
“We are not sure what you mean. We have shown you a sampling sir, of our main food stocks. What more do you wish to see?”
Fenor then called a quick conference of the officers. “Well fellow Aelors, these humans obviously aren’t understanding what we want. Do you suppose they do not consider it livestock. It may well be that their culture relies entirely on the specimens presented. Tabin, what is you opinion.”
Tabin was the youngest among us, a mere 210 years. In addition, he was also the brightest. “It seems so. Historical data indicates that at one time, more than several cultures here included this breed in the culinary diet. In fact, only recently have they begun to exclude it from their diet.”
“I see. That is regrettable. They may well take offense then, knowing the meaning of our request. Perhaps another tactic may work. Tabin, if we had aboard a specimen of each sex, could you extract the needed genetic information for introduction back home?” “I think so, sir.” “All right then, let’s secure the specimens from them on the basis as being a precursor to further discussion.”
It worked. After some persuasion, they relented.
The two specimens strapped to individual steel examination tables within our craft seem fearful of us. Not at all the despising look we get from our cargo hold stock that we brought along. Funny creatures, these.
Tabin went right to work extracting the needed genetic information that would save our planet from starvation. The two squirmed violently in protest of the procedure, as if they were experiencing pain. They both made loud noises with their mouths, loud enough to hurt our sensory nodules. Sounds like Aga! Aga! Aga! A result of what pain must be, but we are not sure. A concept we knew of, but unable to experience ourselves. When the procedure ended, the two were unconscious from that thing called pain, we suppose.
Clorek, the systems technician hung around the entire time. And I knew why. We hadn’t had our evening meal as yet, and the two creatures on the tables looked mighty appetizing. They did to me too. In fact, more than a few members of the crew were milling around during the operation. But we endured and had Gloule fetch some cargo stock for dinner.
As was our custom, we first clipped the head and feet off, then passed the meal around, each taking a bite. This method serves to enhance the camaraderie among us. Too, less flesh is wasted, as each takes only what he needs. The cleanup afterward was always a chore, but here too, we took turns.
After the feeding, Fenor again spoke to the group outside via the telesponder.
“We have successfully extracted the information needed from your stock. As a token of your friendship, we feel you should provide us with additional samples of this stock for our long journey home. Today, we shall eat the two on board. If we prove unsuccessful in breeding new stock on our home planet, we will return in larger cargo ships. Your planet teems with this stock and your atmosphere is conducive to our support systems.”
Before he could continue, Fenor heard one of the three nearest our craft utter in an undertone, the same unintelligible sounds as the specimens on board. Aga! Aga! Aga!. Then another joined in, almost mumbling. Fenor turned to me for an explanation. I had none. The telesponder correlated it as close to human words as possible.
We were surprised by the telesponder’s response. We didn’t know these creatures had a concept of divinity, but apparently they had, for according to our telesponder, they all were crying in unison, O God! O God! O God!
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