A 26th Century tale about the Federated Nations Starship Ahmad ibn Fadlan and its three and a half year mission to explore a newly opened region of space. The crew meets with danger, discovery, and personal challenges.
Something flew into Prak’s vision. Large.
The thing landed close to her and she swiveled the rover’s camera to look, and immediately recoiled. Yellow scaled with green spots all along it, the thing was a horror.
It had trinary large pinching mandibles that held teeth that opened to a small mouth. Eyes surrounded its head; the thing clearly had a full range of vision. Two antennae stuck out of its neck-head. Presently all the eyes blinked. The effect was unnerving.
The front two of its six legs were arm like, originating from the center of its chest. It moved on all six legs, but the front two held large claws that almost looked hand-like. It was a digger.
Two wings sat on top of it, insect like. An orifice opened up from the center of its round and bulbous abdomen. The remaining four legs held feet that looked like they could stab.
The thing twittered and cocked its head at Prak/Rover Four. It reminded Prak of a giant and unpleasant spider.
“Sheloub,” she said, remembering an ancient story she’d read as a child and her voice transferred through to the Rover. The thing twittered again. Did it repeat what she said?
Then it flew off to the east.
The Rovers had the ability to fly, taking off vertically and Prak had to see what this thing was and where it lived. So she activated flight mode and took off.
She watched it from afar. She watched them from afar.
The flying spider-things—she’d now decided they reminded her of mothrons, a rather unpleasant spider-like creature native to the equatorial jungles on the planet Leoporis---flew in and out of a cliff face.
The cliff face looked unnatural. Like it’d been carved. Like they’d built it.
She set the Rover down at the base of the cliff-face, thankfully out of any flood plain as best as she could tell, and observed. Along the base was debris, chitin from other animals, what appeared to be waste, rocks, and twigs. Occasionally, debris would fall down out of the cliff-face.
And she listened, through the Rover’s audio pickups. The wind was still powerful, but she could hear them. Twittering away. Saying what sounded just like the word she’d accidentally transmitted. Sheloub.
Prak was certain she’d found a living sentience. The first. Ever. Then, one of the things landed in front of her. It twittered again. In its foreleg claws, it held a large tree branch—on this planet a heavy one too, given its silicate nature. It raised it and smashed it down, abruptly severing the connection.