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November 3, 2009
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The general gazed pensively at the viewscreen. He was tall and slender, clean-shaven, his hair greying at the temples. His bearing was rigid, yet his posture betrayed some unease.

"How far away is it?"

"It's just passing Pluto," said the science officer, a short, bald, bespectacled man. "At its current velocity, it will reach our position in approximately seven hours."

"And it's alien."

"Well sir," -- the science officer licked his lips -- "it doesn't fit the known trajectories of any comets or asteroids, nor does its composition match any of those. It's definitely man-made... except mankind has never made anything like that. Not to mention it's coming from the wrong direction."

"Seven hours, then. Initiate first contact proceedings."

*

Seven hours later, they assembled in the largest hangar on the space station: five men and two women. The general stood in the centre of the group, tall and proud, unmoving. Next to him stood the science officer, fidgeting nervously. The others were linguists, xenobiologists, physicists, and astrozoologists.

The hangar had been cleared; nothing remained but a wide empty space lit by garish floodlights.

One of the physicists broke the tense silence. "How do we know it's coming here?"

"We've done everything we can to indicate that it should," replied the science officer. "Wide-band broadcasts, landing lights... apart from that, we'll just have to hope that it -- whatever it is -- is intelligent."

That drew a chuckle from some of the other scientists, abruptly interrupted by a low humming that filled the hangar. All other conversations died down as the alien object approached: first a speck in the distance, then larger and larger...

Until finally it rested lightly on the ground before them.

The science officer stared in awe. It was unlike any spacecraft he had ever seen. Long and bulbous, it resembled nothing so much as the hull of an ancient ship encrusted with barnacles.

One of the xenobiologists stepped forward.

"Please, stay back," said the science officer. "We don't know if it's safe --"

The xenobiologist ran a hand over the side of the probe. "Incredible," he said. "It feels..." he stopped, and raised a hand to his throat.

The science officer moved towards him. "Are you all right?"

The xenobiologist shook his head. He stumbled, and collapsed to the ground.

*

"His condition seems to be stable, sir," said the science officer. He was speaking to the general from the medical bay, via a viewscreen; the general sat alone in his office.

"It's been... what, fourteen hours now?"

"Yes sir."

"And still no change to the Object?"

"No sir. We can't get any readings off it. It doesn't appear to be doing anything. But we've been analysing it extensively, it's fascinating, it could be revolutionary, even --"

"All right. Keep me posted if anything happens."

"Sir? There's something else." The science officer paused. "I've been talking to the doctors. And Dr. Carter... well, his condition is stable, but..."

"Well? Come on, spit it out!"

"His brain activity is off the scale, sir."

"Brain activity?"

"Yes sir."

The general sighed. All of a sudden he felt tired, and old. "Look, make it simple for me."

"That's just it sir, I don't think I can. I mean... okay, it's like he's dreaming."

"Dreaming?"

"Yes... but a dream so intense and vivid it shouldn't be humanly possible."

"What does that mean?"

"I don't know, sir --" The science officer broke off. There was a commotion in the background; he glanced off to his right -- "Sir! Dr. Carter! He's awake!"

*

When the general arrived in the medical bay the xenobiologist, Dr. Carter, was sitting up in his bed, his doctor on one side and the science officer on the other. The room was white, sterile, smelled of antiseptic, and filled with the humming and beeping of countless machines. There was something ethereal about it, like entering another world.

The general stepped to the side of the bed, next to the science officer. "How are you feeling, Dr. Carter?"

The bed-bound xenobiologist looked up slowly. "This... body is... functioning... within normal parameters." He spoke slowly, enunciating each word precisely, in the manner of one savouring a fine meal.

The general glanced at the science officer, who merely shook his head and shrugged, then back to the bed.

"Dr. Carter?"

"Listen... to the message."

"Message?"

"Great distance... has been travelled to reach you. You have been... chosen."

The general looked up at the doctor. "Is this man delirious?"

"No, general. At least, it is unlike any delirium I have encountered. He is completely calm, completely responsive, except..." he gestured helplessly.

"Message," murmured Dr. Carter. "You have been chosen. You will serve in the battle."

*

The general paused the recording that had been playing on the screen. He sat with the science officer and the other members of the first contact team, in a darkened meeting room. The large screen behind him was filled with an image of Dr. Carter's face: slack, expressionless, and somehow eerie.

"Thoughts?"

One of the linguists spoke up. "I have a theory. It seems as though the Object is using Dr. Carter as a... filter of sorts."

"A filter?"

The linguist leaned forward. "Think about it," she said. "This is an entirely alien culture. When we talk to each other, to another human, there's a tremendous amount of assumed knowledge. Cultural understanding, a shared memetic background, that sort of thing. That's totally absent here. We have nothing in common with them. So they're using Dr. Carter to filter out anything that we wouldn't understand."

"You mean... translating?"

"Well... obviously I can't say for sure exactly what's going on. But translating's an active process, and to me this seems more passive. My guess is -- to put it very crudely -- they're simply chucking a large volume of information into Dr. Carter and seeing what comes out on the other side, and using that 'residue' to communicate with us."

"So that increased brain activity that was mentioned earlier... that intense dreaming...?"

"Exactly. I think that was when they were passing all that information through their little makeshift filter."

A long silence filled the room. Troubled glances were exchanged, papers shuffled nervously. "I don't like this," said the general. "What if this is a prelude to some kind of invasion?"

"Well," said the science officer, "from what 'Dr. Carter' was saying, it seems like they need our help."

"They could just be trying to assess our capabilities," replied the general.

The linguist shook her head. "Surely they would have better ways to do that."

"You think the request is genuine?"

The science officer shrugged. "It does seem a little strange, I admit. But in that sense it's almost too strange to be anything other than genuine."

The general sighed, and leaned back in his chair. He rubbed a hand across his eyes.

One of the other men at the table cleared his throat. "Maybe it would help if we went over the request again? If we tried to break it down, summarise it?"

"Good idea." The science officer nodded. He held up a hand and began ticking off points on his fingers. "Okay. The Object comes from the Andromeda galaxy. War is brewing. These people want to avoid a costly conflict, and they've decided the best way to do this is to get other people to fight for them. We've been chosen as one of the combatants, and the outcome of our battle against the other chosen race will resolve the conflict in Andromeda. Sound fair?"

Nods from around the table. The science officer continued. "What I don't understand, is why. Why get us to fight for them?"

The linguist spoke up again. "Well, putting aside the fact that they're alien and we couldn't hope to understand them at this stage, the concept isn't completely new. The concept of a substitute, of a battle in which one person fights for another... isn't that basically what war is? Soldiers aren't personally involved in any conflict, they fight for an ideal, on behalf of their country -- in fact, that's probably why that request made it through the filter --"

"This speculation is pointless." The general stood. "What we need to do is decide our recommendation: to accept their proposal, or not."

*

Hours later, the general stood on the observation deck, gazing at the stars. The science officer approached him slowly.

"Sir?"

"All these years," said the general, without turning. "All these years, waiting for contact. I always thought it would be some superior race. Some utopian society, some friendly exchange that would finally end all our conflicts. I hoped… and now it finally happens, and what message do they bring? War. Always war. Is there nothing else in the universe?"

The science officer cleared his throat. "I… take it the Council has reached a decision," he said softly.

The general sighed. In front of them the stars glittered coldly.

"We're going to war."

*
Written for *Teeceeoh's contest ([link]). The idea was to write a story (of not more than 1500 words) using a scenario where Earth is chosen to fight on behalf of an alien race from the Andromeda galaxy.

I was trying to think of a title and all I could come up with was a Firefly reference. I should be ashamed, but as you can probably tell I'm really not.

(According to MS Word, this is exactly 1500 words.)

As always, I'd be very happy to hear what you think =)
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Daily Deviation

Given 2010-04-15
Objects in Space by *samjo989, is a fantastic piece that is philosophical without being pretentious. ( Suggested by KneelingGlory and Featured by LadyLincoln )
:iconkeaze:
Keaze Featured By Owner Aug 12, 2010
I can't think of anything to say, but I really enjoyed this story.
Reply
:iconsamjo989:
samjo989 Featured By Owner Sep 5, 2010
Thank you!
Reply
:icondailylitdeviations:
DailyLitDeviations Featured By Owner Jun 28, 2010
Congratulations on your Daily Deviation! You have been featured in an article here: [link] celebrating DLD features that go on to achieve such great success. Please :+favlove: it to show your support and to congratulate others who share your title of DD-recipient!

Keep writing and keep creating.
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:iconsamjo989:
samjo989 Featured By Owner Sep 5, 2010
Thank you very much! =)
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:icondailylitdeviations:
DailyLitDeviations Featured By Owner Sep 5, 2010
It was our pleasure.
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:icontwistedalyx:
TwistedAlyx Featured By Owner Apr 16, 2010  Hobbyist Writer
Astrozoologist. I wanna put that on my list of things I want to be when I grow up. :)
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:iconsamjo989:
samjo989 Featured By Owner May 8, 2010
Haha! It does sound pretty cool, doesn't it =P

Thanks for reading! =)
Reply
:icontwistedalyx:
TwistedAlyx Featured By Owner May 8, 2010  Hobbyist Writer
Very!

Why, of course! And congrats again on the DD. :heart:
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:iconrhunel:
rhunel Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2010   General Artist
How you managed to deliver such an atmosphere-creating story in the space of 1500 words is an absolute marvel to me. Without any illusions, I hope with enough practice, I may someday write as well as this.
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:iconsamjo989:
samjo989 Featured By Owner May 15, 2010
Thank you so much! I'm really sorry it's taken me so long to return the comment, but rest assured I appreciate it =)
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:iconpharold:
PHarold Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2010  Hobbyist General Artist
" Is there nothing else in the universe?"

You can almost feel the weight of the disappointment in the general's words. That all hope,communing with a great race and culture is shattered. It could happen someday,but he may die on a foreign campaign,knowing nothing else.Almost as though he's could be thinking: " Am I good for nothing else?"
Gripping and well written.Congrats on the DD.
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:iconsamjo989:
samjo989 Featured By Owner May 8, 2010
Thank you so much! =)
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:iconpharold:
PHarold Featured By Owner May 8, 2010  Hobbyist General Artist
You are very welcome.It was a great piece to read.
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:iconkaitoupirate:
kaitoupirate Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2010  Hobbyist General Artist
I just... read it and fell right into the story immediantly. It flows so smoothly, like cream. A wonderful piece and excellent story-telling :)
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:iconsamjo989:
samjo989 Featured By Owner May 8, 2010
Thank you so much! =)
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:iconmeathive:
meathive Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2010
Very much The Day the Earth Stood Still - fun idea still. ;]
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:iconsamjo989:
samjo989 Featured By Owner May 8, 2010
Thanks =)
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2010  Hobbyist General Artist
Whenever I see scientists in a sci-fi setting, I get hugely apprehensive: people tend to have absolutely no idea of how scientists act. Here, I'm glad to say my concerns were misplaced.

I'd like to see an even shorter version of this: how short can you make it and still keep in all the information and the strangeness of the situation?

Congrations on the DD, it was quite deserved :)
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:iconsamjo989:
samjo989 Featured By Owner May 15, 2010
Thank you so much for the lovely comment! I'm sorry it's taken me so long to return it =)
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:iconkeyanadrake:
keyanadrake Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2010  Professional Writer
I think perhaps you could have spent more time on the character development, it kind of skips around a lot and you only really get into the general's head/character.. but I guess that's the nature of a short story: you only show what is absolutely necessary.

I think given the word limit and the theme you had you did a good job with this. I can see why you were given a DD for it. :)
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:iconsamjo989:
samjo989 Featured By Owner May 8, 2010
Definitely; with the word count limit I had to cut quite a few things from the final piece. I decided to focus more on the general and leave the others as regrettably rather more shallow...

Thanks for the comment!
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:iconozimul:
Ozimul Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2010  Student General Artist
There's writing, and then there's writing a story.

I'd gladly classify it under the latter. *applauds*
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:iconsamjo989:
samjo989 Featured By Owner May 8, 2010
Thank you!! =)
Reply
:iconleonardchurch:
Leonardchurch Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2010
That was pure beauty. I haven't read something of that quality in an incredibly long time. Absolutely magnificent, what an interesting way of communication. you deserve that Daily Deviation.
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:iconsamjo989:
samjo989 Featured By Owner May 8, 2010
Wow, thank you so much! =)
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:iconcarriebest:
CarrieBest Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2010  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Congratulations Samjo on a well deserved DD! :clap: That is a really neat story and the DD comment is exactly right. You have a great writing style! :rose:
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:iconsamjo989:
samjo989 Featured By Owner Apr 23, 2010
Thank you so much!! =)
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:iconcarriebest:
CarrieBest Featured By Owner Apr 23, 2010  Hobbyist Digital Artist
No problemo! :)
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:iconarizonajackal:
ArizonaJackal Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2010  Hobbyist General Artist

This is very well-written
I really like your word usage, it flows well
Very nice, indeed; and congratulations on the Daily Deviation
:)
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:iconsamjo989:
samjo989 Featured By Owner May 8, 2010
Thank you very much! =)
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:iconarizonajackal:
ArizonaJackal Featured By Owner May 24, 2010  Hobbyist General Artist
You're welcome :D
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:iconphoebehedgefox:
PhoebeHedgefox Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2010
Eh eh eh.

This is amazing, lovely use of words and something I'll only be able to do in about, 4 years more practice. -3- WONDERFUL~! KEEP IT UP~! (caps lock was meant to be on)
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:iconsamjo989:
samjo989 Featured By Owner May 8, 2010
Thank you! =)
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:iconphoebehedgefox:
PhoebeHedgefox Featured By Owner May 8, 2010
No prob~! 8DDD
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:iconharajukudarkangel:
harajukudarkangel Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2010  Hobbyist General Artist
I like it!! very good manage of the words and the tension!!! you sorta know whats going on,but still you want to read to see if it right or not. I like the calmness on the staff,that they're not all "HOLY F@#$ing S#$% ALIENS!!

I like the whole dream part sounds very...possible XD

Also i like the end since is a short story, the story builds up tension about the problem , and just ends with a resolution about it,like it explodes...

Hahaha hope I made myself clear,kudos on the DD and good luck on the contest!
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:iconsamjo989:
samjo989 Featured By Owner May 8, 2010
Thanks very much! =)
Reply
:iconsepulchral-roses:
Sepulchral-Roses Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2010  Hobbyist General Artist
Wow, really very intriguing. You should really write some more of this, I know that I'd love to read it!
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:iconsamjo989:
samjo989 Featured By Owner May 8, 2010
Thank you! =)
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:icontetsuro-kun:
Tetsuro-kun Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2010
impressive
^^
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:iconsamjo989:
samjo989 Featured By Owner May 8, 2010
Thanks!
Reply
:iconatomicbomberbomb:
AtomicBomberBomb Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2010  Hobbyist Filmographer
I would like to make you happy commenting what i think, but there's nothing I can say to make justice to this brilliant story.

I love Arthur C. Clarke's "Space Odyssey", and Douglas Adams' "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe" a lot, and your story has the deep "superior monolith" feeling Odyssey gave me, and there's something else, (I'm not sure what it is) that brings back memories from "Hitchhiker's..."

What I'm trying to say is that you should make this a full, complete story, and who knows? maybe even sell it as a book?
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:iconsamjo989:
samjo989 Featured By Owner May 8, 2010
Thank you so much! Those comparisons are high praise indeed =) I don't really intend to add anything to this particular story... but publishing a sci-fi book would be a dream come true!

Thanks again!
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:iconatomicbomberbomb:
AtomicBomberBomb Featured By Owner May 9, 2010  Hobbyist Filmographer
you're welcome, really.
and if you ever actually publish a book, don't forget to tell me =D
Reply
:icone-m-martin:
E-M-Martin Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2010
This is awesome!
Reply
:iconsamjo989:
samjo989 Featured By Owner May 8, 2010
Thanks! =) Sorry it's taken me so long to return the comment!
Reply
:icone-m-martin:
E-M-Martin Featured By Owner May 8, 2010
You're welcome! :D
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:icontrekkie-wood:
Trekkie-Wood Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2010
... I think that this is a brilliant story. I desperately hope you haven't done anything else with it. I haven't raided your gallery yet (even though I will), but I think that this should be it. No more fleshing out needed. No more character development. It's not really needed. You got the message across eloquently and with any more development of characters, it would get too mucked up with details and it would be too much to hold in one's head. I caught the socio-political theme, but if there was more detail, I would've had to read it a few more times to get that. It's simple, yet it does its job. Unless you absolutely want to make more to this story, I beg of you not to. I think it is beautiful the way it is; truly, a work of art. I am proud to say that I'm part of the same website as somebody with as much skill as yourself. Keep writing and congratulations on the well earned DD.
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:iconsamjo989:
samjo989 Featured By Owner May 8, 2010
Wow, thank you so much! I don't intend to write any more to this, so you can rest easy there =P

Thanks again for the comment, and I'm sorry it's taken me so long to return it! =)
Reply
:iconaustheke:
austheke Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2010   Writer
BAH you're epic. I can't remember if I've commented on this piece, but I love it. It's subtle, understated, desperate and sad. With a glimpse of the future that's in all science fiction, but with the touch of humanity that's only in good science fiction.

You have tremendous skill and, better, tremendous heart, and I am not surprised by this DD. Congratulations, my friend. ;)
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:iconsamjo989:
samjo989 Featured By Owner Apr 23, 2010
:heart: Wow. That really means a lot =)

Thank you so much my friend! :tighthug:
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