The Reliquery’s Garden, a Story

September 7, 2009

The Reliquery’s Garden, By Adrian Perez

It was two fifteen and not a moment too soon as Alex fell forward into the void at an ever quickening rate. He turned off the simulation and pulled himself out of the isolation tank. Toweling off the salt water, he reached for his notebook running the ink of the lines with the dripping water. He scribbled a few notes and Alex walked into his enclave.

A dozen people were working at desks. Some sat in bean bags and others worked in chairs or resting against walls. It was an imperative that they finish quickly. Fleet would be arriving in fifteen days and Admiral Perry would want results. It was only a matter of time before they completed Perry’s commissioned Canceller.

The aliens were expanding out of the archipelago they lived in and their burn fields would encompass the seven planets of New Rapids quickly. It was a nightmare to contend with. The thrill of first contact turning into a stereotypical invasion of action adventure films of the nineteen hundreds.

Alex’s work environment was proof positive that the universe was a predominantly friendly place. Sitting at the table was a Nyad and on the bean bag chairs were a Splik Collective. And sprinkled between the aliens were a dozen other humans. Humans had been meeting and working with aliens with minimal conflict for a long time. And never had a species opened contact with violence.

That’s why this was so strange that a single large ship had landed on a planet, for what humanity and it’s confederates considered to be an opening for first contact. The planet was sparsely inhabited, so the inhabitants were somewhat armed for a colonial rustic lifestyle. They were elected to make first contact themselves instead of waiting for Fleet to arrive.

The colonists arrived in the crater that the alien ship had landed in to find that the aliens had already embarked. They were huminoid, but about half as high as a human. Video being transmitted live to the rest of the Community showed green spherical fields begin to glow and expand around the aliens until as it touched one of the colonists, he burst into flames. After that, all of their transmitters went out. The green fields were slowly spreading over the populated planets in New Rapids. It was terrifying to think of what was happening to the populations there.

That is, it was terrifying for most people, except for a xenobiologist like Alex. Alex could not get those short black aliens with folds around their necks out of his head. He couldn’t get aliens out of his head at all. And while the rest of the human species had long gotten used to taking aliens in stride, he was constantly thinking, ‘Wow, aliens!’ So an attuned form of mild autism was keeping him from focusing on rage and revenge, unlike the other ninety nine percent of the Community.

It was for this reason that Alex had formed a research group to wipe out the aliens. He was one of the first to win a formal contract from the Community, as he was the first to send a probe into the green field, only to see it burst into the same slag the colonists had turned into. The ingenuity and proximity to the problem got him first rate researchers and a queue of materials that they would need.

As he whirled around the room checking simulations and okaying testing. It slowly became obvious that the Canceller would work on the field. Before his team’s probe exploded, they had observed a loud crackle of radio static coming from the field. Other than that, their sensors had not penetrated any further. There was no dangerous radiation. The field was destroying flesh and circuitry some other way.

Alex kept sleeping in the floatation tank to maximize his rest cycles. His crew worked day and night, reading a working Canceller prototype for Admiral Perry. News from the rest of the Community came in bleakly with no sense of hope. Fleet was digging through historical files of old war-based societies, trying to figure out something that would work. Thrown asteroids flashed to vapor. Lasers were absorbed.

Perry arrived a day early, but they were finished with the prototype.

“How does it operate?” Admiral Perry questioned.

“It will take too long to instruct a Fleetmen. I’ll have to go with you,” Alex told them.

Perry considered arguing, but clapped the scientist on the shoulder, and said, “Fine, we leave now!”

They floated in New Rapids. Over the initial planet the aliens had landed on. Alex sat in the control harness. A few neural linkage lasers flashed sensorial illumination through his head.

“Is the device active?” Admiral Perry asked.

“No it will take sometime to initialize. And the harness and I must be deposited into a sacrificial ship.”

Perry grumbled the command to load Alex with some impotence. The green field had already latched onto an evac ship that had passed what Perry had thought was a safe distance.

Crews transported the machine-human hybrid Alex into the command deck of a small frigate.

“If you are destroyed you assure me that your team can continue your work?” Admiral Perry queried. Alex nodded ascent. Perry ordered, “You must transmit your every move. Keep your communicator open.”

The crew disembarked and left Alex alone in the ship. He headed toward the planet the aliens initially occupied.

Perry and the command crewed viewed the vessel enter ever closer to the planet. It was about to come into the same distance the evac ship had been torn to pieces in.

Alex engaged the encryption device and Cancelled the radio burst coming out of the field.

Perry leaped out of his chair. Something was wrong. The ship Alex was in was starting to glow green, but the green field had not extended out of the planet to engulf the ship. It had expanded from the command deck.

“Can you hear me?” Alex asked over the comm.

“Yes, Alex. We read you loud and clear. State your situation,” Perry exclaimed.

“Sir,” an ensign chimed in, “Alex’s ship is no longer accepting transmission from us.”

The Admiral stomped and smashed the console floating next to him. Perry had been in fights with stronger and smarter opponents before, but they were not insurmountable. This was leading nowhere and a society of trillions could do nothing to stop the slaughter.

“Can you hear me?” Alex was still asking.

Everyone in the Community watched in horrified fascination. The ship should have disintegrated by now. A long silence predominated the command deck and Perry collapsed into his chair, waiting for the ship’s shield to fail and immolate.

A voice crackled through the void, terrifying and alien, “Yes! Yes! I knew it. I knew you were sentient. Our nano-communications field…”

Alex sighed in relief and interrupted the alien with what had become the ritual saying of Humankind as exploration took hold of it, “We mean you no harm.”

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