I think we all were excited about the upcoming expedition. It had been eons since that part of the globe had been opened to human resettlement. The excitement was the thought of exploring new areas that have been left to nature for centuries because of the Great Disaster. Imagine the evolutionary changes brought about by the radiation, good or bad, as we know from the experiences with the other groups. We certainly had a lot to prepare for, and this was our third expedition, but the first major one. The other two were at smaller areas, since the radiation cleared in different places quicker than others, if one could call centuries quicker, and those were not so isolated as this one. We knew that evolutionary processes could take millennium, but radiation could also speed up the process. There was also evidence from the fossil records that in some instances in time a dramatic blossoming of species could come about without any rhyme or reason. Maybe conditions just happen to be right on earth and in that dimension called time.
I was also looking forward to seeing my old professor and was glad he was leading this expedition. I felt much securer with him along, since he is a walking encyclopedia, and I was excited to meet the challenges. Sarah was coming along also. She was a great team member, and who knows, working on this new project with her could take us several years. In fact, it seems with more and more of the areas opening up, we would soon have to decide which ones were more promising. Already the Global Government Committee on Exploration (G.G.Ex.) was making a list and categorizing the more important areas that had a better chance of giving us information about our past and yielding more technology of the Ancients.
This particular area that we were entering had to be approached through the lake-side mountainside pass, but it was worth the trip, since it would open onto a very large area of the Great Disaster which seemed central to the whole mysterious conflict of the Ancients, according to the more poplar ongoing debates. The good thing about these expeditions is that we would be on our own but fortunately not out of contact with the GG (Global Government). They would have information from all the other expeditions to guide us if we come across anything new, promising, or dangerous.
Michael would be our fourth member, and he was coming this evening to spend the night. Tomorrow we would start on our way.
“Hello? Is anyone home?” That was Michael’s voice.
“I’m in here, packing,” I answered. “What took you so long?” I asked.
“Like you, just busy with a lot of last minute details,” he said.
“I’m glad you came early. I’m excited about our trip tomorrow. Maybe we can put together an itinerary,” I offered.
“I thought the Professor will be leading this expedition?” he asked.
“He is, but he also asked me to put some thoughts down on paper,” I mentioned. “You can help me. Two heads are better than one”.
“First,” he queried, “what is for supper?” “Not much, at least not fresh, since I have to clean out the cooler,” I teased.
“This is supposed to be our last good meal together before we get back, who knows when?” he said, rather disappointingly.
“OK. Guess what?” I was hoping to surprise him.
“What?” he asked a little more excited. “I have some fresh fish caught from the lake this morning. How is that?” I offered.
“Now that is much better,” he answered. “I was getting a little disappointed.”
“Well, we do need to defrost it,” I mentioned.
“I don’t exactly call that fresh,” he teased.
“The freshness is frozen in,” I said. I was fortunate to be living near the lake and take advantage of the abundance of the many varieties of fish that still existed after all these years.
We sat by the lakeside and ate our meal. I guess it was a good idea after all, since fresh fish was rare for most people, and I knew Michael loved any kind of fish. We were thinking that it would have been good to invite Sarah and the Professor also, but I could not accommodate them for the night, since the cottage was a little small. Anyway, we would be getting a very early start and it would be good if everyone had a good night sleep. Michael and I were on several expeditions together before, as was I and Sarah, but it would be the first time for all of us to be together on this trip. I knew Sarah from years back at the University, working together with the Professor. So I looked forward to working with her again and the Professor. That was probably why she was joining us and the reason that I was also invited.
Michael was well known as an alien expert and was strongly suggested for this trip, which lead us to think that this trip would be different from the others. Hopefully the Professor would fill us in. Usually he was good about that, at least when he was my teacher. But what exactly was an alien expert. Michael tried to explain that it only means that he was very versatile with languages and extra non-verbal communications, what we would call body language. I think there was more to it than that, but he wouldn’t say. Sarah’s specialty was communication; our connection with the Directors of the Expeditions of the Global Government. But her other expertise was astronomy, same as mine, with emphasis on extra-terrestrial flora and fauna, again what ever that meant. The Professor’s area of expertise was mainly biology and astrology, but as I mentioned, he has a wide area of interest. He would look at the possible mutation of species, flora and fauna, and if the Great Disaster area was truly safe to resettle, considering the long lasting effects of the radiation. We would not really know until we actually inspected the area on foot and close up. We were discussing what the connection between astrology and this trip was all about. It was telling that the Professor, Sarah, Michael, and I, all have specialties in that same field!
My own expertise in astronomy was general, but with emphasis on particular stellar areas that are known to harbor life, or life producing molecules, according to the ancients records. Since we were limited in living space on the planet, another planet with the whole surface available was always at the top of the quest.
The ancients had left so much data behind that it could take eons to get through it all. This field was very exciting to me, and each new discovery of the ancients’ technology only deepened my interest. Somehow I believe that there was a connection here and the Great Disaster since many records went missing. This was strange, since the ancients kept meticulous records, especially in astronomy, concerning life on other planets and other star systems. How did they get this information, just from looking through a telescope? That seemed impossible to us now, since we were reticent when accepting the technology of their period. They certainly seemed to believe that life was out there, especially when all the other information from the other expeditions from around the globe were put together! It seemed that the whole planet in the past was part of a fad that analyzed all and any data from “Earth-like Planets”, as they were called, and theorizing on all the possible life forms that could exist. And all this from their sophisticated telescopes quite powerful enough to view the planets and study them in detail. Even though I found this all fascinating it was also frustrating. Anything viewed through these scopes were in the past, light traveling from long ago. In fact, the further away, the more in the past were the views coming to us. And don’t even try to understand Michael’s expertise. How does one become an expert on aliens without even meeting them?
Hopefully the Professor would let us know the main purpose of our expedition, since our backgrounds have raised many conflicting questions that we all would want answered. Michael and I could have stayed up all night talking but until we had more information from the Professor it would be all conjecture. But it was also fun to guess what it could all be about. In the end, we would find out that the reality would be more surprising than all our guesses!
The next morning, down the path, I saw the Professor and Sarah heading for my cottage. “Greetings Sarah and Professor. I see you found the place.”
“It wasn’t hard. Sarah seemed to remember the place well,” the Professor teased.
“I have a good memory,” she teased back.
“I remember you mentioning your place, but did not realize how close you were to the lake, which is fortunate since that will be our starting point,” he said. “Convenient.”
“Still beautiful as I remember it,” added Sarah.
“Well, I made all the arrangements. We are ready when you are,” I added.
“OK. Let’s get started, ” he said, “the sooner the better.”
“First, let me introduce Michael,” I said. “Sarah, this is Michael. Michael, this is Sarah.”
“OK. Now that is done, let’s go!” the professor said excitedly. “We can chat on the way, I promise.”
As we traveled across the water, the morning sun was warm, but not hot. It reflected off the water causing sparkles that did not quite hurt our eyes, but made focusing almost difficult. Our captain, who met us at dock-side, seemed used to it and just steered ahead to the other side of the lake. Fortunately the lake was not that big, but it would still take an hour or more to cross.
“Let me fill you all in concerning this expedition,” the Professor started. “Since we have a little time on our hands, it will help you to know what we may be encountering on this trip. The Directors are interested in this particular area, since it is believed to be the central point of the Great disaster. That is why it is also the last of the areas to be opened up in the last ten years after centuries of radiation. By now, everyone knows that. What they do not know is that some very strange things have been encountered recently by the other expeditions across the globe. They need to be verified. So I will tell you about them shortly. But first I need to let you know about at least three major concerns that the Directors have for sending us on this expedition. Everyone else thinks that it is about the recent opening of this Great Disaster area. To tell the truth, this area was ready to be explored decades ago. Any questions so far before I go on?”
“just one,” I said.
“Yes, Nicholas,” the Professor said.
“Michael and I were wondering what our background in astronomy had to do with this expedition,” I asked.
“We will come to that,” promised the Professor. “Actually it may or may not be a help. I feel that there is a connection, based on my own private research. I have been able to convince the Directors that there may be more to the Great Disaster than meets the eye. Let me give you my reasons. Somehow I feel that the Great Disaster was not triggered by a global phenomenon, but purposely started in key areas to hide something bigger. What that is, I do not know, but I do feel it may be from outside our planet!”
“What do you mean from outside,” Sarah asked. “Do you mean aliens?” She did not say it sarcastically like, since she heard this before from the Professor. I think she was trying to nail him down again by what he meant by ‘aliens’.
“You well know that the ancient records mention this project called ‘CETI’,” the Professor said. “Generally it was a program to listen for any kind of intelligent communications coming from outside the Solar System. At first, there seemed a lot of excitement for such a project, but after almost fifty years with absolutely nothing, except for one little bleep on the receiver, the excitement died down, and so did the funding. At least that is my conjecture. The program took a new turn to get the public excited again by decided to broadcast messages to our alien friends. The catch for a money raiser was that those who contributed, depending on the amount, could write their own message, within reason, to be broadcast. It was a great success and with satellites in orbit around the earth powered by the sun, the project worked quite well, depending on who you asked. No one bothered to ask those who were listening.”
Michael looked puzzled. “I never knew that. I did know that they had sent up a space-module containing messages that eventually went out beyond Pluto, but it was so slow that not much was expected of that project.”
“You probably did not hear the warnings by some of the astronomers that it may not have been a good idea to broadcast our presence to a more intelligent species. And if they did show up, what if they were more powerful and nasty?” the Professor continued. “I believe they did show up. Whether they started the Great Disaster on purpose or not, we may never know, unless they tell us.”
“So this expedition is to find these aliens?” asked Sarah.
“Since the radiation cleared, ” the Professor said, “we were able to get clearer pictures of the area. It seems like that particular area we hope to see as we come down from the mountain pass is what concerns us. We need to verify that information. There seems to be a cloaking device that flickers off and on, revealing some structures that were never there before. Maybe the radiation was interfering with our own devices and theirs, hard to tell, and that’s why we couldn’t see it before. Besides, we never thought that anything would survive, since the whole area was void of any structures. We are hoping that it would be hard to hide from the ground. But there is no guarantee if that will be the case.”
“Professor, this is fantastic,” said Michael excited.
“But it may be dangerous,” Sarah said soberly.
“We are only going to verify any structures or any signs of life, present or past,” the Professor reassured. “No contact!”
“So what is the second concern?” Michael asked.
“There has been spotted an observatory, possibly by the ancients, and not cloaked. After looking at past records, there was no observatory, which is surprising, since this one is rather large!”
“An observatory, for stargazing?” Michael asked.
“Possibly, or for a Portal,” the Professor answered a little excitedly.
“For transporting?” Sarah asked a little worried.
“Again, yes,” he said. “I will not hide anything from you, since this expedition will have its dangers. And I see that we are approaching the shore, so the last item is very important. There seems to be some strange happenings reported by the other expeditions between them and the native animal and insect species.”
“OK. Now I am excited. This is great news,” Sarah said. She was very attentive this time.
“I thought you would be, but I don’t promise anything, Sarah,” the Professor said. “However, the encounters have been positive and many. So we are to verify these connections. However, we are not restricted as to how they may develop. It seems they are even encouraging us to promote them, if it aids understanding.”
“Like what,” Sarah earnestly wanted to know. “I can not say or that would bias your understanding and further research,” he said. “The Directors specifically had you in mind, Sarah. So, each of us has our specialties and most of us will need them eventually, even Michael, at some point. Nicholas, your expertise will come in when we examine the observatory, but I am sure that all of us will still need to contribute to the expedition somewhere along the way. Hopefully, we will not have much trouble. I feel the most dangerous point will be at the beginning, as we come down from the mountain pass. Please be alert and help each other. That is also why I chose all of you, because you know each other or at least have heard of each other. Your personalities will also go along way to cementing our group and give us that concern for each other that will keep us safe. This is a golden opportunity. Let’s take full advantage of it and grow in our gifts for the future.”