Intelligent Patterns Emerge

There was a buzz of excitement in Cartography as I entered. It took a few minutes for it to sink in. They were talking about cities on the surface. They weren’t like any cities on earth. These cities were so integrated into the natural environment that they weren’t immediately obvious from orbit.

The cartographers were debating the features on a projection of a picture they had taken through one of the high powered telescopes. “See how these ridges are perfect sine waves and are perfectly parallel to each other for fifty miles. That has to be an artificial construction.” Arie, the senior cartographer pointed out.

“Why haven’t we seen any signs of the builders?” Susan, one of his crew asked.

“Perhaps we have. We are biased to look for bipedal mammals a meter and a half tall. Perhaps these artifacts are constructed by a different type of intelligence. We need to get as many eyes on these pictures as possible. We need to figure out what is behind these constructs. This may be a first contact situation.” We all knew the potential consequences, both good and bad, that might come of contact with an alien civilization.

Mankind had found four civilizations at a similar level of development as itself. Two of them had strict taboos against contact with alien races. One welcomed us with open arms. The fourth, well we were still working to disengage from one of the deadliest wars that mankind had ever known.

The Eleni were a fierce species. They were anywhere from 1.2 meters to 2 meters tall. They were the only other intelligent bipedal species that we had encountered so far. They had small feathers where humans had hair. They had two eyes with diamond shape irises, two holes where our nose was, a mouth that was bigger than ours full of sharp teeth, and membranes on either side of their bald head that served for ears. They had arms that had developed from vestigial wings.

Their race had always been flightless but they probably evolved from some kind of flying mammal. They gave birth to live offspring which were raised by an extended family unit. They breast fed their young. And they were fiercely territorial and didn’t believe in taking any prisoners. They had transdimensional drives similar to ours but not nearly as efficient. Their ships had a maximum range of about a quarter of what our least capable starships.

This was the context behind the discussion. If there were intelligent beings with any kind of advanced technology, we had to be very careful not to do anything to agitate them. If the didn’t have advanced technology we owed it to them to allow them to develop naturally without any interference from mankind. There was an old twentieth century TV show, Star Trek, that introduced the concept of the prime directive. Star Service HQ had adopted it as a standing policy after our first encounter with the Arnus, one of the races that shunned alien contact.

While I had been wool gathering, someone had called the captain. He came in followed by the ships doctor and the XO. “What kind of brilliant discovery have you made, Arie?” he asked. Arie pointed out the parallel sine wave ridges in the projected picture.

“We have seen other suspiciously artificial features in earlier pictures that we have taken over the last seventy two hours but this one is the most convincing. What do you think?” Arie asked the captain.

“I think we need to get you at least four more pairs of eyes for the next couple of weeks. See to updating the schedule, Eric,” the captain said. Eric was the XO. “And maybe we can get the doc and his staff to give you a hand if you get some pictures of potential IEs.” IE was what the Service called Intelligent Entities.

“Can we launch a small constellation of orbital sensors to speed up the scans?” Arie asked.

“I think that makes sense. Keep it down to less than half a dozen. Nothing bigger than a cubic meter. We don’t want to spook the natives.” the captain replied.

“Aye, captain. I’ll get you a detailed preliminary report by 1800 hours,” Arie said.

“That will be great. I look forward to it. We’ll get out of your hair now.” The captain and the other officers shook hands with the cartographers and the captain and the XO left.

The doc asked Arie, “Would you like some help from the biological perspective? Barb is an experienced xenobiologist. She would be happy to give you a hand.”

Arie said, “Thanks. I can use all the help I can muster.”

“I’ll be glad to help when I’m not on watch,” I volunteered.

Arie smiled. “That will be great Dave. I’ve noticed you here the past couple of days. You know your way around the scopes and have a good eye for detail.”

“Thanks,” I said. I sat down at one of the smaller scopes in the corner of the lab. It was going to be an interesting couple of hours.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the people you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.