FICTION: THE VOYAGE TO BRAHE
‘Mission Planetary Freedom’ was conceived a decade ago, immediately after the discovery that lifeforms existed on distant planet Brahe, a.k.a. 55 Cancri c.
We, the crew of the Starship ‘Democratic Warrior’, will arrive in orbit around Brahe in 43.2 hours. On our arrival, we will toast Tycho Brahe after whom the planet is named, with a welcome and much-anticipated glass or two of Brännvin.
The population of Brahe remains unknown to us however we do know they exist. Telescopic observations showed changes on the surface of the planet that could only have been made by intelligent beings. The lines which were seen to grow over time were judged far too linear to be formed by any process other than intelligent means of construction.
We made many assumptions about what life forms we might find during our ten-year journey, the result of innumerable discussions, both scientific and otherwise. The consensus of opinion was that we ought not to get over-excited about the prospect of encountering anything approximating ourselves. This was overwhelmingly discounted. The general view was that if there were indeed creatures moving on the surface of the planet, their intelligence level, though perhaps higher than the great apes back home, they would surely disappoint us regarding anything approaching intelligible communications. Not at least until an intensive and long-term analysis had been made of whatever sounds, if any, they made.
The Brahen, as we called them, would still of course be intensely interesting and close studies of them would doubtlessly reveal much that would keep many specialist professions back home in fascinating projects of discovery for many decades to come.
As we made our steady approach to Brahe excitement among us grew. We were still too distant to obtain detailed images of whatever structures might occupy the planet however, we could make out more distinct general shapes that could be land formations or something more interesting still. It would take more time before we could be certain about their nature.
It was hard to force ourselves to take any rest in these final hours. Our eyes were glued to the forward screen and the blue world growing in size before us. Each one of us wanted to be there when any major discovery was revealed by Brahe.
I was lucky to be awake, keenly focused when the first indication of intelligent life emerged. The lines that had been seen from the optical element of the James Webb Space Telescope had vastly grown in number. This should have been no surprise to us as the images captured by the JWST were from ten thousand years before being the time the light captured in its lens had been travelled through space.
The images we took from Warrior were then immediately relayed back to Earth where they could be further enhanced and analysed.
We were 37.2 hours from our rendezvous with Brahe. I retired for five hours of restless sleep, being satisfied that I had achieved my initial goal, of being there when data of significance was first discovered.
When I woke I was informed of yet another surprise.
“Noise” had been detected emerging from a location on the planet. It had not been part of the data accumulated about Brahe from Earth. This was because of its direction of travel almost directly opposite to the location of Earth. However, our own instruments had picked it up and captured it.
This "noise" presented us with a puzzle. The beam of noise was extremely intense and extremely focused. None of our standard hypotheses could account for it. It did not consist of electromagnetic radiation as far as we could detect. The pulses within the flow occurred in random time signatures indicating some kind of intermittent energy source or other genesis of the kind we were as yet not willing to contemplate, i.e. some form of signal or message transmission.
We were able to monitor the ‘flow’ as we called it for several hours before it suddenly disappeared from our sensors. Presuming it would begin once again we maintained watch upon the general area of its origination. But it was as if it had never been, the phenomenon had simply flicked out of existence. Examining the captured data we could make nothing of it but relayed it back to Earth for detailed scrutiny.
22.1 hours from our destination ever more detail could be made out of the topography of the planet. No poles could be seen. The surface of the planet was mostly blue with yellow and white bands or striations horizontally traversing it from top to bottom. It was a most beautiful sight. Within the yellow bands were the crisscrossing lines initially detected by the JWST that now could be seen from the Warrior in ever greater number. In proximity to these we were just able to detect grey-black smudges but with insufficient detail to make any positive identification of these possible structures.
At 15 hours precisely we had the greatest surprise, or should I say shock, of the mission so far.
We received a transmission. From Brahe. From the Brahens.
Initially indecipherable it was run through our translation software systems which had been very optimistically included onship. To our surprise our systems had no problem in deciphering it.
It merely said, “Welcome.”
We agreed it was time to open the Brännvin and for more reasons than one.
Fifteen hours later we parked ourselves in orbit around Brahe. Looking down we were no longer surprised to see vast road networks and what were clearly artificial structures, i.e. buildings stretching out in each direction alongside them. Not that surprise was far away. It had become an almost background feature to our common mentality now. However, what we saw below was a logical progression from that one word of greeting we had received 15 hours out.
Cap now had a chore. He had been working on it since the receipt of the message. A compendium of instruction detailing every conceived of eventuality upon our arrival at Brahe had been compiled. He now had to get fully accustomed to the steps he must now take taking into consideration the circumstances we found ourselves in.
We steeled ourselves as best we could for the inevitable upcoming moment of first contact.
A message from us in response to theirs had of course been sent. No, it was not what you may be thinking, “We come in peace”, but it was close. It was thought a one word message to us should initiate one in return from us. And that was simply, “Peace.” No further communication was received for several hours after its sending. We presumed they were doing their own translating to understand our response.
It was almost ten hours since receiving their first message that we received the second.
“We are arriving. Do not fear.”
Immediately afterwards a sphere was detected which adhered to the mid-section of the Warrior. On inspection of the location, it was found that what appeared to be an airlock had been very quickly been arranged between the two craft.
And it was through this mechanism that two species of biped finally met.
Things moved quickly from this point on. They dropped what had been a ruse in using the former mode of communication they had used earlier. To our surprise, they knew all about us, including our language. However, they had not wished to shock us with this information initially. The fact was they knew almost everything about us. Whereas we knew almost nothing about them.
This did not stop us from considering ourselves superior in every way to them, however. Our training had not drained us of our feelings of subconscious, and largely unconscious, overweening self-belief. Despite the many ethnicities and colours of the crew, these feelings were common to all of us.
You see these beings, I can’t call them people… were blue.
You might say our similarities were greater than our differences but this hadn’t stopped ten thousand of years of warring, mistrust and prejudice against us humans, had it?
They were blue. They were also tall. And they wore no clothing.
To speak to us they used a device pressed against their chests. The accents, dialects and even languages used varied from crew member to crew member depending on their ethnicity and heritage. They made no mistake in doing this. It appeared they had some hidden insight into these factors of our varied personalities.
They did not appear unkind though they did not smile. There were few intonations or changes of emphasis to delineate shades of emotion or meaning but the communications they wished to be delivered were done so in perfect English in the main.
When we were alone we discussed all that had transpired. I have to say the mood was not one of exultation as we had anticipated. This had come and gone in the first moments after the receipt of the initial message. In fact, we were rather negative in our dispositions if the truth be told. We could not relate well to these beings who talked so strangely and so coldly to us. To be frank, we felt a tinge of disgust, try as we might to disguise the fact. Our primary impulse was to find ways we could exert our dominance over them in case of any aggressive impulses emerging from them. We couldn’t ‘read’ them and found the distance between us and them unbridgeable. They were simply, well… too alien.
Cap then briefed us on his instructions as detailed in the mission compendium regarding the circumstances we had been met with. These were under no circumstances to be divulged outside of our own tight command structure just as they would never be divulged at home. Each protocol had its own timescale and step by step process, most being part of long-term campaigns lasting years. Most would involve follow up missions initiated upon receipt on Earth of the planet factor type found.
I detail only the headline bullet points below omitting all sub-steps of which there were many.
First, we must connect with these beings as well as possible using the translation software tools on board.
Second, we must demonstrate a degree of control to them that would obviate their seeking to control us.
Third, we must acquaint ourselves to some degree with their customs, alien as they may be, and particularly with a view to using these as potential weaknesses in case of conflict or any display of aggression by them.
Fourth, an attempt must be made to indoctrinate them into an awareness of our superiority, a factor that may become vital if an aggressive instinct is displayed by them.
Fifth, they should be encouraged to mimic us if possible, taking on our bearing, even to the extent of wearing similar clothing.
Sixth, an effort should be made to indoctrinate them into an initial acknowledgement of our belief systems, moral codes and recognition of our dominance.
Seventh, detail all possible resources that may potentially be extracted from the various onplanet environments encountered.
Eighth, initiates a progression toward movement in the direction of democratic and religious belief systems to reflect something resembling our own.
I write the above as my detailed confession being now a captive of the Brahen and written in the form proscribed by them.
Unknown to us the mission of the ‘Democratic Warrior’ was as well known to them as our language. Our estimation of them, it's clear, has been entirely wrong. It ought to have occurred to us that a ten thousand year old civilisation would no longer be savages as we have clearly either consciously or subconsciously perceived them.
The events that followed our arrival must serve as a warning to any who follow, if anyone is left alive back home to heed it. I say this as I have been informed that the “noise” we detected within the unidentified flow as we neared the planet was a combined warning and message to the sister civilisation to the Brahen, one with even greater technologies, powers and capabilities, some of which are capable of destroying our planet entirely.
It is us who must now submit to those we saw as lesser beings. It is us who must admit we are immature and primitive. It is us who must submit to domination by a superior power. It is us who must hang our heads in shame and admit that our misplaced and totally false pride has spawned a deeply-embedded source of prejudice within us.
It is us who are now to be taken as slaves and must beg for mercy at the hands of those whom we sought to enslave and exploit.
By these words, I beseech the Brahen to forgive our sins against them, against their cultures, against their freedoms, modes of governance and way of life.
I so submit this confession on pain of death, in the name of all I hold dear, this year of our Lord 3031, November, 28th in the hope of mercy and assurance of most contrite redemption.