Tractor arcs envelope the ancient craft, their focussed energy beams slowing its descent to Kuiper-4.
Scanning for alien bacteria, Kuiper-4’s salvage technicians detect faint radiation and intermittent EMPs emanating from the meteorite-pocked hull.
The hull itself is marked with illegible ciphers, relics of an ancient alien civilization. Star-going, nonetheless, but still ancient.
“Cryo pods” Alyss whispers “There may be viable life forms inside!”
“Not after all this time, surely?” Ghean says. “Let’s complete the bacterial scan, then crack the seal on this baby.”
Scant moments later, the stereotypical hiss of a pressurized hull releasing its gaseous hold on the life inside brings Alyss and Ghean to the airlock.
The ancient metal sphincter opens revealing a humanoid staring out through the vaporous condensation… first contact!
“Hello! Hi there…can you help us? Our star chart app won’t update, and our comms link won’t patch to the local stellar node network. Typical budget comms plan with dubious galactic roaming coverage – I swear, I’m cancelling my contract with Cell C Galactic first chance I get! Anyway, we’re a bit lost after we passed Cor Caroli. We’re on our way to Messier 63…this isn’t by any stroke of luck the immigration port, is it?” the alien, all out of words looked at his captors properly for the first time.
“No…this isn’t where we want to be. Damn. Those uniforms are nothing I recognize. Damn. Hi. I’m Gerald McIntosh, and this here’s my wife Morag. And clearly, this isn’t Messier 63! Where the hell are we?”
Ghean looks at Alyss, who stares back.
“Sir, just how long have you been out there?” Alyss asked. “Your craft – it’s nothing I recognize. Been asleep long?”
“Dammit, Gerald, I knew that second-hand cryo unit wasn’t up to scratch!” Morag squealed at her husband. Ghean winces at the timbre of her voice, silently vowing to get Morag back to sleep and away from Kuiper-4 as soon as possible. A voice like that…no, no time for that.
“Sir. Ma’am. You were picked up by our tractor arcs and deposited here on Kuiper-4. You’re approximately 40 AU from Sol – about 37 million light years from Messier 63!” Ghean barked.
“Goddammit, Gerald!” Morag yells.
“Kuiper-4? Never heard of it. New, is it?” Gerald cheerfully ignores his incandescent wife.
“Been out here past Neptune for about 480 years now, sir!” Alyss replies. “Like I said – just how long have you and Mrs. McIntosh been in cryo?”
“Well, it was 2045 when we left Earth…what year is it now?”
“2045? What or when is that? Look, the year is now 11,263 AE …that’s 11,263 years after mankind evacuated the Sol system, after the quasar pulses disrupted the local atmospheres. And mankind left Earth some 800 years before that!” Ghean explains, horror and bemusement tainting his air of authority as the realization dawns on him that he really is speaking to two very ancient life forms.
“WHAT?!” screams Morag. “Gerald! You utter bastard! I KNEW we’d be late for Ashley’s wedding! Now, not only are we 12,000 years late, we’re 37 million light years away! Genius!”
Behind her, Gerald faints.
© Dave Luis 2015. All Rights Reserved.
Image © Adam Block/Mount Lemon SkyCenter/University of Arizona