"Far From Home"
feels like one hundred years have passed by in these galaxies unknown to
mankind. In the depth of space,
countless suns illuminate the cosmos in this otherwise pitch black frontier.
this time we have been able to produce and recycle the energy, but we are
running out of it. Now, our priority
is to find a source of energy where we can resupply our systems.
has been able to track a dwarf planet named “Axphix,“ which we are orbiting
at the moment. Genesis system has detected some type of energy coming from its
“Mother! What do we know so
far about Axphix?”
has been under extraordinary conditions for some time.
Its crystal structure, which is formed by iron and nickel, has been
exposed to three million times atmospheric pressure and heated to about 4,500
degrees Celsius in the past. Our system indicates some chemicals, such as
gaseous sodium and titanium oxide, too. It is possible there is a huge
overabundance of these chemicals, but it is probably more likely that there is
some exotic chemistry going on which we have never seen before.
is necessary to launch an ASE (Advanced Scanner Explorer) to determine the
precise conditions. We are going to
explore an alien planet where no one has been before.
We don’t know what we will find.”
“Well, the question is, how do we go where no one has gone before
without spoiling it or bringing back some alien contaminate?”
on the information sent by ASE, we will be able to form a plan.
According to the satellite system, there is a valley in red sector
2…8…7…23. We just need to make
a visual confirmation. You need to
program the ASE navigation system,” Mother
“Give me some time to do it, and I will be able to launch . . . ASE
ready to launch. Destination, red
sector, 2…8…7…23. Countdown in
progress… 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, blast off.”
some time has passed, Paul announces, “We are there, Mother.
I have visual contact. There
are giant marbles and quartz crystals everywhere. The ASE sensors indicate some
kind of atmospheric disturbance.”
disturbance is caused by the gaseous atmosphere, which is rich in sodium and
titanium oxide,” Mother added.
“Well, besides the atmospheric disturbance, everything looks pretty
calm. Our systems don’t detect any
other signs of activity. It seems
like this will be the place to land.”
“We need to be extremely careful. I
just have to remind you this is an alien planet.
We don’t know for sure what is there.
We cannot afford to take any risks. Prepare
Max-x and a Priscus robot.”
Priscus robot is far less advanced than an android and has internal parts made
of carbon fiber and titanium, both highly resistant to impact, and equipped with
a magnetic shield. It is designed to
perform highly specialized tasks on missions.)
“I am sure that Max-x will need robotic assistance on this mission.
We will be using a fully equipped XTR exploration vehicle for the
make the final preparations for them to be launched.”
“We are ready, Mother. 9, 8, 7, 6,
5, 4, 3, 2, 1, blast off!”
later, Paul announces, “We are there, Mother.
Max-x, check to make sure that everything is working properly.”
“Max-x, give me visual the whole time.
Give me an analysis of the area.”
“My systems indicate the atmosphere is super saturated with gas rich in
sodium, which resembles no other environment.
Temperature on the shady side of the giant marbles is minus 90 degrees
Celsius. The topography of the area
includes carbon dioxide gas that freezes solid onto the terrain.
A sudden heat up in the terrain causes the gas to be released, thus
destabilizing and causing some kind of avalanches.
I assume the extreme cold keeps the giant marbles in place.
The rotation of the planet is shorter than earth’s.”
“Are you suggesting that the sudden heat up could be produced by some
sort of climate?”
“It is unclear. My guess is
what looks like sand dunes requires different conditions related to surface
properties, but the heat certainly will trigger them.
I will need to calibrate various models to give you a correct answer.”
“Max-x, can you give me your infrared analysis?”
“Infrared analysis shows that some areas cool down more quickly than
the surrounding marbles. The analysis on the ground suggests the presence of
iron oxides, which will form in the presence of liquid water or chemical
equivalent that produces a similar reaction.”
“Be careful, Max-x! My
systems indicate gas vents, probably methane.
These vents can catch on fire easily.”
“That will explain the presence of methane in the alien
atmosphere…but methane should last only for a short period of time in the
atmosphere, until it is destroyed by the sunlight.
Its continued presence means it is being replenished by some unknown
“You are right, Paul. Unfortunately,
we have no time to investigate what kind of process is going on.”
“Mother, some sort of energy comes from the quartz crystals.
The infrared analysis indicates they are rich in Xanthopterin.”
“Xanthopterin? What are you talking about?”
“Xanthopterin works as light harvesting molecule.
It transforms light into electrical energy.
This energy is transformed in a photo-biochemical process.
If, that’s a big ‘if’, we can have access to it, we would have
energy for a long time.”
“Mother, my sensors indicate that the best quality of quartz crystals
are the ones closer to the methane gas vents, but they can become active at any
time. I am afraid we will have to
settle for less quality. We have to
use the hyper-laser to cut them. If
we try to cut the ones closest to the vents and they become active, I don’t
know the consequences we will have.”
“We are already here, and this could be the only opportunity that we
will have to get access to this kind of energy.
Set up some sensors around the vents to monitor any changes on the ground
that will allow us time to react if something goes wrong.
Let’s hope for the best. I
want you to program the Priscus to do the job.
It is necessary to use manual hyper-laser to cut the crystals.
Stay away from the process, and make sure that all the cameras are
working. I will direct the operation
“All the sensors are set up, and all the cameras are working.
Do you have good reception and view?”
“We do. Go ahead with the
operation. I do have to remind you
the Priscus needs to apply customary precision.
We must avoid any damage.”
“Operation in progress . . . the Priscus systems indicate that the
quartz crystal is hard to cut, even with the hyper-laser.
I am afraid that the process will take longer to complete . . . we are
getting closer to get the first one.”
“We have the first quartz crystal, Mother.”
“Oh, perfect! I can see why
robotic reconversion has replaced manual labor.
It goes well beyond simple intelligence.”
“Handle with care, and transfer it to the XTR rover.
Go ahead, we will need a second one.”
“The sensors can detect some light underground movement.”
“I noticed it in my system, too. Unfortunately,
there isn’t that much we can do about it.
Keep going, and keep a safe distance from the operation.
Let the Priscus do the job.”
operation went on. Suddenly, a red
light in the Priscus goes on. “Warning
. . . warning . . . warning!”
“Mother, the Priscus cannot work at this pace in these conditions.
The quartz crystal is harder to cut than what we had anticipated.
It has already blown off several diodes.
His circuits are over-heating. I
will need to activate the auxiliary system to keep going.”
“Crap! I was afraid that
something would happen.”
“Activate the auxiliary system on the Priscus, and be careful.
The sensors indicate stronger underground movements.”
“Auxiliary systems activated.”
a couple of minutes later, the Priscus had completely stopped working.
“What happened? What’s
“The Priscus is dead. His
systems are burned out.”
“How much is missing to finish the cut?”
“I would say less than half.”
“Max-x, we don’t have much choice but to keep going.
Be extremely careful with the hyper-lasers and finish the job.
I don’t like the underground movement, and I haven’t been able to
detect its origin.”
finished the job. Lucky for him,
there wasn’t much left to do to complete the cut.
“Mother, I have the second crystal.”
“Great! Transfer it to the
XTR rover, and move away as quickly as you can from the area.
I am afraid the vents will become active any minute and release gas, thus
destabilizing the terrain.”
“What about the Priscus?”
“Forget about it. There is
nothing we can do.”
as Max-x had retreated to a safe distance, the vents became active.
“That’s what I call a lucky android!”
“The transfer of the crystals is now completed.
This could be strange to you, but my system indicates that the index of
refraction is very close to that of air. This
means that it slows down the light to a similar degree, but deeper analysis
needs to be done to prove it. Mother,
my sensors indicate some kind of disturbance in the area.
The disturbance originates behind those marbles.”
“I have it on our system, too.”
“Go ahead, take a look. Give
me visual. This is totally
so Max-x moved to where the signals originated.
Once he arrived there . . .
“Mother, do you see what I am seeing?”
“Wow! What an amazing
sight! The rocks are floating!
Is it the cause of some sort of disturbance in the atmosphere?”
“I don’t know. This is
something new for me. Max-x, use
your laser wavelength to reveal their position and frequency and give me an
“As you can see, they are different in size and shape, and the distance from
the ground varies according to the size. The
only thing they have in common is, they are saturated with some kind of liquid
similar to water or oil. In earth
conditions, each rock would weigh tons. If
my analysis is correct, and the models right, under earth circumstances, a
single drop of this liquid could raise tons.”
“I can see the greatest technical revolution already.
Can we extract the substance?”
“Let me run some models to determine the possibilities.”
a few minutes, Mother directs: “Max-x,
use your centrifuge system to extract a liquid sample directly to the nanotubes.
Be careful. Once you extract
the liquid, I am afraid that the rock will drop.
Be sure the nanotubes are perfectly sealed.
We don’t want any contamination.”
minutes later, Max-x states: “I am
done. The transfer is now
“Congratulations, Max-x! You
have done a fine job. I am proud of
you! The XTR exploration module is
waiting for you to bring you back.
prepare to take off. Max-x, you will
be in section C-2 for quarantine.
have managed to succeed on this mission, but not without some losses. I
just don’t know where we go from here. This
is becoming a race against time. The
universe has many secrets, and like time, it is always moving and nothing is
permitted to rest.”
by S. Florence and J.A. Castillo
by J.A. Castillo, 2011
characters, places and incidents featured in this publication either are the
product of the author’s imaginations or are used fictitiously.
Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, without sarcastic
intent, is purely coincidental.