After some discussion they decided that it would be safest for secrecy to return all of the relics to the alien base.
They had all of the data and that would of course have to be safeguarded, but they wouldn’t miss the physical pieces themselves. Jown didn’t want to give up the engine, but Johann reminded him that he had taken one of the smallest, and that he could now design a much better one.
Before they left they had a couple of loose ends to tie up. Johann and Hildi traveled to the space port and bought a couple of space suits. They weren’t well known and they picked a time when the sales shop had relatively many customers for the one salesman. So few questions were asked. After that they gave an excuse to the towns folk that they were going to do some research at better facilities and would be gone a while. Then at last they left in the Gater.
The trip was uneventful. Jown resumed his practiced paranoia of exiting every jump gate “quietly” and not proceeding until he was convinced it was clear. They arrived at 4389 after 3 days of travel and noted that the alien “comet” was still there patrolling. Jown put his memory wafer with the asteroids track into the Nav Comp and selected the asteroid as their desired destination. A few kilometers out Jown brought Gater to a stop and sent in the probes. It didn’t take long for them to confirm that there were no changes; everything was dead and just as he had left it. That was a relief. Jown had visions of aliens swarming out to “greet” them. He brought the Gater in and landed.
They suited up and drifted in. First job was to return all of the materials. Then they went to the control rooms. After consulting Hildi’s program they sorted through the available blocks until they came up with the one the program identified as a communications control. Using it and a power block (they actually found a shelf under the big screens sized just right to hold a power block) they activated the main screens in communications mode. First they searched internally for any stored messages to see if any had come in before the station shut down. There were none and that made sense. The station was designed to operate using the portable power blocks (which by text they had discovered were recharged in the maintenance room). Since there were no power blocks in place when Jown arrived they had obviously intentionally shut the station down when they left. Next they opened the receive mode for general broadcast material. After a slight delay a host of available sources came up. The text blocks had indicated that communication was delayed by only a few seconds on each end. It used some of the jump gate technology that they had been able to adapt to communications.
They began with what Hilda’s program identified as general public news. It was filled with articles about two subjects; the war with then invaders and the presence of a second race near them. All three exchanged glances and they began to read the articles. Their old enemy that they had driven off three centuries before had returned and his force was stronger than before. As they read the accounts of battle it became clear that neither side had made any leaps in technology, just better control and implementation. The articles about the newcomers made it abundantly clear that they were talking about humans. It seemed that their abandoned outpost suddenly powered up and as it was programmed to when it was active, send a situation report that included everything a probe had reported over the last three centuries, then went dead. But from the probes reports they new they had an active neighbor living there now. There were even pictures of human ship’s that passed through the system. And there were especially many pictures of Gater.
The rest of the general news didn’t include anything more of value. Just speculation, so they switched to classified military news. Using a decryption block, after a delay they were able to get it, at least at lower classification levels. It seemed the war was going very badly. Essentially they were no match for the invaders. The fought when the invaders entered a system just long enough to finish their evacuations. The only bright spot was that the invaders didn’t seem to be in any hurry. They spent several years in a newly conquered system before they suddenly showed up in the next one. There were also assessments of the potential military capabilities of the new race (humans). They weren’t very flattering. Basically we wouldn’t be expected to put up a credible fight. No gravity drive, no gravity weapons, missiles that would be easily taken out with their gravity weapons, limited range beam weapons, and projectile weapons that weren’t guided or expected to be accurate over large distances. But they also reported that they didn’t consider our race as hostile. We were involved internally in trade, as evidenced by an abundance of very different types of cargo vessels.
While they were deep in thought over the implications of this suddenly the screen changed and the face of an alien was there instead. After a short pause the alien, in military uniform, said something brief. Hildi, using her program translated:
“You have trespassed on our base. Leave it at once.”
Jown felt obligated to be the one to answer, since he was the trespasser. “We will leave everything as we found it. We did not know you still existed. We were just looking for technology advances.”
“We will be migrating to your systems eventually. Then we will share our technology with you.”
Jown’s head was spinning. They were having a conversation with an alien that would have far reaching political ramifications and they were doing it off the top of their heads.
While he was thinking Johann spoke up, “Centuries ago your enemy destroyed our home world. Now it seems in a few decades he will be back. We need to be ready for him.”
“We will share our technology when we get there, not before. Leave the station.”
And with that both screens went blank. They left, but because they didn’t expect to return they took one text block as evidence.
Posted by strailon Thursday, December 13, 2012 @ 00:00:00 UTC