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The universe breathes, beats like a heart.  It shrinks and expands like a lung, and we don’t know what is out there.

Mother:  “Paul, wake up . . . Paul, wake up!”

Paul:  “mmm…mmm.”

Mother:  “Paul, wake up . . . Paul, wake up!”

Paul:  “Do I . . . exist?  I feel like a . . . block of ice . . . as if a cold wind were howling in my lungs.  Blurred memories, memories?  What memories?  A terrible feeling of emptiness descends on me.  Perhaps the mind doesn’t wake up as quickly as the body.  A sound . . . I can’t place it, but it is out there.”

Mother:  “Paul, wake up . . . Paul, wake up!”

Paul:  “I feel sluggish, but I can feel the blood coursing through my veins . . . ah.  The ice is gradually beginning to melt . . . ah.  I can move my arms, and I can feel my legs now.  Oh!  I’m aching all over.  How long have I been here?  I must have slept for ages.”

Mother:  “Paul, wake up . . . Paul, wake up!”

Paul:  “Oh, that voice again.  It sounds so mechanical, so unreal.  My brain feels foggy.  I must react.  React!”

Mother:  “Paul, wake up . . . Paul, wake up!”

Paul:  “I better move, get up and leave this dream behind.  This dream is too close to death.”

Mother:  “Paul, wake up . . . we don’t have much time.”

Paul:  “Oh, I remember now.  I remember everything.  Mother, is that you?”

Mother:  “Yes, Paul, it’s me.  I am sorry to wake you up, but I need your help.”

Paul:  “I will need some time to recuperate.”

Mother:  “Take your time, Paul.  Max-x will assist you and give you an update.  I need you alert and functioning fully.”

     After taking some time to recuperate, Paul was ready for the update.

Paul:  “Hello, Max-x.”

Max-x:  “Welcome back, Paul.

“Can you tell me where we are?” Paul asked.

Max-x:  “We are in the Andromeda constellation in an unknown solar system.  We have been orbiting a sunless moon for some time. 

“What happened to Jane and Rox-xy?” Paul asked.

Mother:  “At the moment, the only thing you need to know is they are alright and safe.  When time permits, you will know all the details.”

“As you already know, we are orbiting a sunless moon.  The reason we are orbiting is my system, ‘SETI’ (search for extraterrestrial intelligence), is getting some radio signals from that moon.  The signals are weak.  I assume that it could be a spacecraft wreck.  As you know, some earth federations were sending unmanned spacecrafts looking for chemical elements, never before seen, on planets outside the solar system, hoping the chemicals would give them some advantage over the rest,” said Mother.

Paul:  “Well, tell me what you want me to do?”

Mother:  “We need to send an ‘FX five scanner’.  We need to have more precise information to know what exactly is there.  Max-x will assist you with whatever you need. “

Paul:  “FX five scanner ready to launch.  I have programmed the trajectory on the navigation system:  direction north, zone six-zero.  Pressurization in progress.  Countdown started:  Nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, zero.  Here we go!”

Time seems an eternity to Paul.

Paul:  “Contact.  We are there, Mother.  I can’t see anything!  It all seems completely deserted, a truly dead moon.”

Mother:  “Don’t be fooled, Paul.  It is there somewhere.”

Paul:  “Here it is, Mother.  It’s a ship that looks like a star cruiser!  I haven’t seen anything like this before!  I have mapped it.  It is in the north side, zone 3-C.  There is something wrong.  I have started to lose visual contact.  The scanner’s signal is getting weak.  I’m losing it!  I’m losing it!”

“Damn it!  It’s gone!  What happened?  All transmissions have ceased!” said Paul.

Mother:  “I don’t know, Paul.  We need to send Max-x to get exact information.  That’s an alien spaceship.”  

“Max-x!  We don’t know what kind of matter we are dealing with.  You will be teletransported close to this thing.  Use your low energy system.  You will be able to stay longer if needed.  Use your magnetic shield, which will allow you some time to react in case something goes wrong,” said Mother.

Teleportation in progress:  nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, zero.  Complete.

Mother:  “Max-x, give me a visual.”

Max-x:  “I am in front of the ship.  The outside structure of the ship is an unknown material.  The closest comparison would be graphene. “

Paul:  “Graphene?  What is that?”

Mother:  “Genesis was constructed almost entirely with graphene.  Graphene is one hundred times stronger than steel.  It can be stretched up to twenty percent.  It was the thinnest and toughest material known on earth.  It is practical, transparent, a good conductor, and yet so dense that not even the smallest gas atom can pass through it.”

“Great!  That makes me feel safer!” Paul answered.

Max-x:  “I am going inside. “

“The spaceship is huge.  The indicators are showing that inside there is some kind of atmosphere, breathable, but dense.  My system indicates there is no movement.  The interior curves up on itself so that the optical gravitic distorts, giving the illusion of endless pathways.  It looks like a dead zone.”

Mother:  “As a security measure, don’t shut off your protective shield, Max-x . . . What are those dots?  They indicate some sort of energy, but they are not moving.  Give me visual.”

Paul:  “What is that, Mother?  It seems that it is the first time that the human race has discovered what seems to be the remains of an extraterrestrial specie.  What are we dealing with?”

Mother:  “I don’t know. “

Max-x:  “Mother!  There is some kind of remains of something in that corner.”

“Approach with care, and give me visual.  What is that?” said Mother.

Max-x:  “An unknown entity.”

Paul:  “What do you mean by that?  It has to be something we know of.”

Max-x:  “It doesn’t look like anything.”

Paul:  “What?  Some new kind of metamorphe?

Mother:  “That is what they look like, but they are very different from anything we have seen before . . . and that concerns me.  Can you give me an analysis of them, Max-x?”

Max-x:  “Microchips processors, sensory atomic feeders, sub-ionic condenser, neutron collisions components.  I cannot detect any energy at all.”

Paul:  “You mean these creatures are artificial, that they are artificial beings created by machines?

What are they?”

Max-x:  “Humanoids!! Metamorphes!!  Sentient machines!  You name it!”

Mother:  “Max-x!  Scan one of them completely, and give me a deep analysis.”

Max-x:  “It can be the work of an artificial intelligence.  Their brains are artificial.  The technology is highly advanced, and they have perfected the hologram system.  They can re-assure any environment, carefully designed to make you feel safe.  They use some kind of neutronic transmission, some sort of communication system.  They are an extraordinary specimen.  Both their reproductive apparatus and their brains were carefully designed.”

Paul:  “You must be kidding!  They can reproduce themselves at that level?”

“Correct,” Max-x answers.  Mother, this one is different from the others.  I am sending you the analysis.” 

“Android AX28Z, sixth generation humanoid.  Some kind of biological organism of synthetic origin programmed to know the difference between life and death.  It looks like this one was the leader, “said Max-x.

“Do you think they are dangerous?” Paul asked.

Mother:  “I don’t know, Paul.  In this moon, where everything is unclear, one thing is certain.  It is safer if you don’t trust anything.”

Paul:  “Well, I suggest we move our departure date up.  We have to get out of here as soon as possible!”

Max-x:  “Mother, I found the signal.  Check it out.  This is the message this thing is sending all the time.  It stops for a minute, and then starts all over again without any variation.  It is a message from someone or something.”

“Can we decode it?” Paul asked.

Mother:  “It will take some time.  This is a new system for me.  There could be millions of possible combinations. “

Paul:  “We cannot stay here forever.  I have a bad feeling about this.”

Mother:  “I have decoded part of the signal . . . this thing seems to be a laboratory of some sort, or the container for some kind of virus, and it has a warning that says , ‘Here we keep the most deadly and destructive virus in the universe.’ “

Mother says to Max-x, “Stay away from those containers, and maximize your protective shield.”

Paul:  “Mother, Max-x’s signal is getting weak.  We need to bring him back!”

Mother:  “Max-x, prepare to be teletransported to section C-2.  You will be in quarantine.  We can’t risk contamination from that moon.”

Teletransportation in progress:  Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, zero, complete.

Paul:  “How did that ship arrive there?”

Mother:  “It’s the moon.”

Paul looked astonished.  “The moon?”

Mother:  “Yes.  The moon is like a giant magnet that has such a powerful gravitational field that it absorbs and consumes all the energy that passes near.  That’s the reason we lost the scanner and almost lost Max-x.  Those things didn’t know it and got trapped.  It is something astrophysicists suspected to exist, but for which there were only tentative detections in the past.”

Paul:  “What exactly are those things?”

Mother:  “Synthetic genetic constructions.”

Paul:  “That proves that we are not alone!”

Mother:  “That depends on what you mean by that.  The terminology you are using is inaccurate.”

“What do you mean?” Paul responded.

Mother:  “The universe may have solved the problem of life using different designs or chemicals.  Extraterrestrials would not look like humans, and they would not at a biological level work like humans.  Life is bound to follow at least some rules of biochemistry:  life for a finite period of time, the ability to procreate, and above all, be subject to the process of evolution.  While evolution can take a large amount of time to develop beings capable of communicating beyond their own planet, technology would already be advancing fast enough to eclipse the specie that wrought it.”

“What exactly are you trying to say?” Paul asked.

Mother:  “Whoever invented or designed them is already gone.  Part of the message says that millions of years ago, a toxic mix of viruses on their planet destroyed life on it.  Somehow, these genetic constructions survived and started a new kind of life there.” 

“These creatures are products of themselves.  They are experiments, failed attempts of synthetic constructions.  They believe that the perfect specie has to be mechanical so as to limit the negative effect of passage of time . . . even if something breaks, they can always be repaired, but something is missing, something that they have had no success in, in the creation of life.  No machines have ever been able to reproduce organic matter.  They are trying to regenerate life, and they need to renew the host biological apparatus.  Whoever created them made a mistake:  they gave them a brain as powerful as their own.  They are looking for whoever created them.  One thing is for sure.  If they are carrying with them that toxic mix of viruses, then they are not on a peaceful mission, and they are out there somewhere.”

 Story by S. Florence and J.A. Castillo

Illustration by J.A. Castillo 2010

Names, 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.