Copyright (c) 2018 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.
Keeper and the
PLANET OF GOLD
By R. Peterson
Keeper consulted the Centurion’s ever expanding ship log. It had been seven Earth years, six months, fourteen days, twenty-one hours, nine minutes and fifteen seconds since the rare species acquisition vessel had ventured into the outer rings of the Viridian galaxy. If the ship’s captain thought it strange that he now kept track of time the way his former First Officer Jeff Bland demanded that it be kept, he didn’t show it. Some things like memories change an individual or a group forever. The inter-dimensional particle-detonation, planned by the Gorwat and meant to create a second Big Bang in this universe, failed when Bland, Leika and Queen Delicia acted as travelers sending the ultimate bomb not just into a neighboring dimension … but to one beyond.
Leika and Bland had become more than crewmembers and Keeper missed them despite an inability to show his emotions. He floated about the ship performing his captain’s duties with the bottom part of his legs, just above the ankles, dissolving into nothing. This peculiar behavior for an Andé species was strictly against protocol and although Keeper was not being insubordinate to his commanders … this was his ship and he just didn’t care.
The current non-biological mission commissioned by Maltese 17 was to travel to the farthest edge of the universe and recover the oldest bit of matter in existence … Diona just happened to be on the way.
“No matter how many times I see it I’m amazed at just how tiny we are!” Teuth, a land-adapted cephalopod and the ship’s navigator used his eight octopus-like tentacles to make adjustments to the holographic display. Ceilings and walls on the ship dissolved … and gave a spectacular display of the plant worlds they were entering. A swarm of Carriers, enormous bee-like robots made of super strong metallic alloys appeared and escorted the ship as it moved through an interstellar garden of sights, sounds and exotic stimulations.
Planet-sized orchids sent out rhizomes that connected worlds and sometimes surrounded entire stars … capturing the light and energy in the most functional and efficient manner. Communicable thoughts were now entering Keeper and Teuth’s minds although the captain had taken great pains to insure that the rest of the crew were shielded.
“Welcome.” The message said. “We’ve been expecting you.”
Keeper often wondered if the thought communications they received from the Viridians came from one plant or from them all; he suspected the latter.
As on their previous voyage years before, rhizomes invaded the ship’s outer surfaces and within minutes all crew members were semi-floating in blissful sedation. The Viridians were right in determining that animalia species were better delimited with euphoric and tranquilizing fragrances. As the ship neared the center of a planet sized orchid, cities appeared and the most magnificent civilization in the universe unfolded like a flower. “Welcome to Diona!” the thought transmission, received by all crew members despite his elaborate precautions, was sincere.
Keeper and Teuth wandered through an exotic garden that Keeper was sure had been prepared by the Viridians especially for them. Three cascading waterfalls emptied into a deep blue pond as still as glass except for tiny ripples made by the entering water. Schools of Earth trout and Emloos from Leika’s world swam just under the surface. An eternal revolving hologram depicted Jeff Bland, Leika and Queen Delicia moving through the falling vapors as they carried the particle-detonator through a neighboring universe and beyond. Keeper thought the three dimensional image especially good. First Officer Bland had a wary look on his face as if he expected Leika to suddenly strike him with one of her exposed quills. Leika had been like a spoiled brat during her onboard service but Keeper found himself missing her carefree insubordination and her sense of unregulated adventure.
Even Teuth was surprised to hear the former crewmembers’ voices. They sounded too real to be manufactured and both he and Keeper thought they were actual communications captured and recorded just moments before they disappeared forever.
“Back off … I’ve got this!” Bland appeared to slap Leika’s hands away as she reached for the light array.
“Are you sure?” Leika’s quills were extending on the part of her face not covered by flowers. “You almost missed the event horizon!”
“Almost missed … means I didn’t!” Jeff laughed. “In about six, point, nine, eight seconds we’re going to become part of a universe-sized singularity … the smallest and the heaviest thing in three dimensions … can’t you at least give me some credit for my flying abilities?”
“No!” Leika said as she leaned in to kiss him. “I’ll never, even in death, be caught feeding your outrageous and self-consuming vanity.”
“Look who’s talking!”
“What’s happening to our shuttle?”
“What must all plants make in order to survive?”
Jeff was just beginning to smile when the image broke part. A minute later it began again … from the start.
“That must have been just an instant before they became less than matter.” Teuth hung his head and all eight tentacles drooped.
“Then there is no way they could have lived through this?”
“Singularity occurs when all compressed matter reaches the limits of infinity,” Teuth said. “The mass is great enough to punch a hole through to another dimension creating a Big Bang as matter re-enters through the same hole into this one. The fact that the Viridians were able to help propel them not into just a neighboring dimension but into one beyond is a testament to their God-like technology. No known living organism, or matter itself, can survive the ultimate cataclysm!”
Keeper and Teuth watched the hologram replay several times before they moved on to other parts of the garden. Keeper was intrigued by the last question posed by Leika but he was no horologist. Chlorophyll? … Oxygen? … Nothing seemed to fit. Several crewmembers were eating berries from a special plant that made them forget unpleasant memories. Bland’s replacement offered some in his hand. “No more pain,” he said.
Keeper shook his head. “As long as can I remember … they live,” he said.
The Viridian galaxy was one of the oldest in the cosmos and was already on the outer edges of the universe. Still it took the crew of the Centurion, placed in cryogenic hibernation, three-million, seven-hundred and sixteen thousand, four-hundred and nineteen Earth years at reverse light speed to reach the place where the ongoing expansion of space was occurring. After six months of waking and conditioning, the crew members stood on the bridge and watched space being formed … from a white nothing.
“I’m glad that’s over with,” Teuth complained. “The water in my tank was beginning to smell funny.”
“Don’t forget the trip back is just as long … even if we are going back in time,” Keeper told him.
“The oldest chunk of matter in the universe should be close to where we’re at now,” Teuth said. “The Dark Matter Telescope, orbiting Maltese 17, discovered it only three years after the universe’s most costly bit of technology became operational.
“We can thank the Planet of Gold for helping to fund these recent advances in science.”
“We should also thank Queen Delicia’s last transmission giving the Federation a thousand year lease on the planet’s mineral rights.” Teuth said. “Otherwise the Gorwat might still be trying to capture their elusive prize.”
Keeper shook his head. The Gorwat had retreated shortly after their failed attempt at creating a second Big Bang in this universe. “How large is this package we’re supposed to deliver to our tormenters?”
“Somewhere between the size of an average moon and that speck of dust floating in the air where your foot should be,” Teuth said. “Dark Matter Telescopes can do amazing things, but at this infinite distance … even the tiniest flaw in technology can create huge deviations.”
“How will we know what we’re looking for?”
“Dark matter replacement of conventional matter is much like Carbon 14 dating on primitive planets,” Teuth said as he moved his tentacles through a light array, “only about a billion times more accurate. The oldest organic matter in this universe … is speeding away from us just up ahead.”
“Organic? You mean this object we’re looking for was once alive?”
“Everything alive will become un-living or dead … so every non-living thing was once alive,” Teuth reasoned. “But don’t tell my poor mother I said so.”
“I seldom swim that deep,” Keeper assured him.
The oldest object in the universe was much smaller than Teuth’s wild estimate. When the Centurion pulled alongside, matching the target’s velocity at exactly light speed, three six-by-two-meter long objects fused together with a common base were relatively easy to capture and bring aboard. Keeper and several of the onboard scientists marveled at the uniformity and the smoothness of the dark surfaces. “Any idea as to the composition?” he asked Teuth.
“The exterior is a dark matter extraction, mostly made of the same minerals that make up Viridian,” Teuth said. “This is not surprising since they are relatively in the same location in space time. It appears to be stronger than any other substance we’ve tried to dissect. We might be forced to return to Maltese 17 to get a complete interior analysis.”
“How did something this old get so smooth?” Keeper couldn’t stop running his fingers over the surface. His fingers trembled. Something reminded him of the euphoric rhizome vapors they encountered on the way to Diona.
“Who knows?” Teuth said. “This was probably the first object to shoot out of the Big Bang nineteen-billion plus years ago. That much time rocking and rolling in the solar wind can smooth-out anything.”
------- 5 -------
As the Centurion made preparations for recovery time travel and the almost four million year sleepy-ride home Keeper kept visiting the cargo bay and running his fingers over the three objects joined as one. He knew he was missing something … but he didn’t know what. Leika’s last words echoed in the far corners of his mind at least once an hour. “What must all plants make in order to survive?”
The ride home was not one continuous sleep for Keeper. He programmed the ship’s life support systems to wake him every one-hundred thousand years so that he could do a quick inspection of the ship before returning to hibernation. It was in the months leading up to his seventh awakening that his thoughts once again turned to Leika’s riddle. Jeff Bland and Leika appeared to him in a dream. “Let the old man sleep,” Jeff laughed. Suddenly Keeper had the answer. When the sleeping chamber opened he raced to the cargo bay. There was something in the air … a mist of euphoria that he hadn’t felt since the garden on Diona.
Keeper wasn’t surprised to see the three oldest joined objects in the universe lying in shattered egg-shell fragments on the cargo bay-floor. Whatever was locked inside … was no longer trapped. He noticed on a light array that three extra humanoid hibernation chambers had been activated since his last awakening and he smiled for the first time in literally millions of years. The Viridians were conquering worlds when animalia were still swimming in the seas. Seeds were the answer to Leika’s riddle. A super tough shell designed to protect precious life as it travels into eternity … and sometimes beyond.
THE END ???