The Chronicles of Z'va'Xin - issue#8
by immortal power
near or far
to each other
hiddenly linked are.
That thou cans't not stir a flower
without troubling a star.
- Francis Thompson
After completing the last space fold the Odyssey headed at near the speed of light towards the fifth planet of the destination system – another guesstimate by Xin to locate an advanced civilization. The world had been visited by a Z'va probe more than twenty million years ago. It had diverse wildlife as well as primates according to the outdated files in the Z'va Prime library. Also, Xin had detected radio transmissions coming from that system, but unfortunately these signals were hundreds of years old due to the great distances involved. It was another long shot, but Xin and Dave knew that sooner or later this detection strategy would pay off. It was just a question of statistics – it might take ten or more such treks before a civilization is even located, and possibly a hundred or more years before the right civilization is found to entrust with the great library. Knowledge so advanced in the sciences and technologies that Z'va Prime probes and ships would self-destruct rather than have it fall into unscrupulous hands.
“Xin, the Odyssey informs me that eleven ships are leaving orbit around the fifth planet and are headed on a course that will take them out of the system,” Dave relayed the message.
"I received the same message," Xin replied. "Plot an intercept course please. I will access their data files and learn their language when in range."
The ships were a ragtag bunch of various sizes and states of repair; some looked new, others looked like they shouldn't even be allowed to orbit a planet let alone head out into deep space.
"Greetings," Xin began in their language and on their communication frequency. "My name is Xin; I am originally from the planet Z'va Prime. We are on a peaceful mission, and wish only to communicate with you."
Xin was hovering next to Dave who was seated on the bridge when a three dimensional image was projected in front of them via the Odyssey's communications system. It was so real that had Dave not seen it form, he would have thought the alien was actually standing just two metres away. It was humanoid in appearance, shorter than Dave by a head, with hairless, peach coloured skin and very large eyes that reminded Dave of a Japanese manga cartoon come to life. The alien was quite naked and Dave could tell right away it was male in gender (no science fiction TV show episode would have ever prepared him for such a meeting).
"Greetings," began the alien in a high pitch, almost childlike voice. "I do not know of this Z'va Prime you speak of. Am I addressing the bipedal being or the black sphere?"
"You are speaking with the black sphere; although synthetic I am a sentient being," Xin clarified. "I understand your confusion."
Dave understood everything they were saying to each other, even though the language sounded totally foreign to his ears. Xin had updated the implant in his head with the new language, and it was translating the meanings of the strange sounding words directly to his brain. He couldn't speak the language to save his life – this he would have to learn in his own time, but at least he understood it.
"My apologies, I was not sure if you were a translation device used by the bipedal being," the alien explained. His large eyes blinked and then he studied Dave. "Neither of you are members of the League of Worlds."
"We are from the other side of the galaxy," Xin explained. "We are looking for a highly technologically advanced, but peaceful civilization with which to share our knowledge."
"To join the League of Worlds a world must be peaceful and have space travel capability. However, even within the League, not all things are as they appear.... You should speak with the Oracle of Mysaep's Moon. He will know and guide you to what you seek. We are all on a pilgrimage to Mysaep's Moon to give homage to Sygoss. It is not a certainty, but on rare occasions it is rumoured he speaks with a chosen few."
"Where is this Mysaep's Moon located please?" Xin asked.
"It is the largest of the three satellites orbiting the third planet in the system nearest to ours," came back the general, but adequate directions. "It will take us two months for the journey. We were about to entre our cryotubes when you contacted us. There is a starportal just outside our system. It will take us twenty-seven days to reach it, but you are welcome to join us if you wish."
"No thank you," Xin replied. "We appreciate the kind offer, but we are capable of traveling great distances without the use of a startportal."
"Faster than light travel without a starportal!" The alien was astonished. "Few League members are capable of that, and only with ships much larger than yours."
Xin chatted a little longer, and then exchanged goodbyes with the small fleet's leader. It was apparent that this world was not advanced enough to entrust with the library of Z'va Prime. Xin and Dave watch the space caravan disappear from visual range as they headed out of the system crawling away at a tiny fraction of light speed. They plodded toward the starportal that would create a "shortcut" through space-time, colloquially known as folding space. But this term was not accurate as nothing was folded nor were distances even shortened. The starportals (like what Xin and the Odyssey were able to do) did not cheat or fool space but created a gateway to another dimension, a place without time and mass. Xin had ascertained that the starportals were constructed by the more advanced League of World members for the ease of system-to-system travel by all. Each member world of the League had their own starportal just outside their system, and could be used to travel to any other starportal. If for some reason a member of the League became aggressive towards any other world whether in the League or not, the starportal would literally be turned off, and thus containing the aggressor within their home system. It was a simple yet very effective method to enforce the peace. Xin was beginning to like this League of Worlds already; perhaps the world they sought was among them. If the journey to see the Oracle wasn't helpful, she would return to this sector of space and investigate some of the members of the League.
Xin plotted a course for the nearest system. To Dave, the whole thing sounded like a holy pilgrimage to worship an imaginary God, and he unsuccessfully argued with Xin that they not waste their time. Xin on the other hand wasn't so sure. She had seen things in her travels, things that taught her to investigate myths, rumours, or Gods first hand, and only after doing so make a determination of fact or fiction. It was the word "Oracle" that she thought was interesting. The term suggests that whoever or whatever is on that moon actually speaks to those of the pilgrimage. It was worth looking into.
The Odyssey completed the space fold just outside the destination system. Xin plotted a direct course at close to light speed towards the largest satellite of the third planet – Mysaep's Moon. Dave was sitting on his familiar blue denim couch and playing his classical guitar in the small living room area he had designed for himself. He was playing through a piece of music he had recently learned. The minor harmonies of the old Celtic tune drifted through the air of the small room. To Dave's sensitized ears, playing guitar in this sparse, small room sounded almost as good as the bathroom, but sitting on the toilet wasn't near as comfortable. Back in college, Dave discovered (as many did before him) that bathrooms and stairwells were great places to play music. It was something about the acoustics due to the lack of carpeting, furniture, etc. But as he continued playing, losing himself in the melody, harmonies, and bass lines, he felt as if someone was watching him. Was it one or more of his heightened and/or newly acquired senses that made him become aware of an alien presence in the room? He stopped playing; a second later the sense of someone with him vanished abruptly. Perhaps it was nothing – he was still getting comfortable with his new abilities after all. Or maybe unknowingly his implant had connected with one of the ship's many systems. Yes, that must have been it.
Mysaep's Moon had a breathable atmosphere, but the rare thing called life had not touched its meteor beaten surface except for the pilgrimages that arrived a few times a year. The League of Worlds had studied this moon with interest, not because of the rumours of the Oracle/God that some believed had spoken to them, but because of the atmosphere. There should not be an atmosphere on this world let alone one that was perfectly suitable for many of the air-breathing members of the League's planets. This world should be as airless as the other two satellites orbiting the gas giant. It was and still is a perplexing puzzle with no solution for the League's planetologists and geologists.
The moon's surface was reddish-brown in colour, and was mostly desolate except for a few small mountains that mixed in with the strange rock formations that dotted the landscape as far as the eye could see. These large, ancient formations, sculpted by the constant winds had withstood the test of time; hundreds stood as if to guard this otherwise insignificant, small world. Many were simple pillars of rock, some were oddly shaped, and a few were bizarre in form – twisted and deformed into grotesque statues. The sky was violet in colour, and to human eyes would have appeared to be twilight even though it was actually mid-day. The temperature was neither too warm nor too cool for many of its visitors. It was another baffling mystery that had been the subject of much discussion and argument by the League's scientists and even religious scholars.
Dave stepped through the Odyssey's phaseway portal and onto the hard, red-brown ground. He immediately knew the gravity was lighter than the Earth's, but didn't give into the self-gratifying urge to see how high he could jump, even though every fiber in his being told him to go for it. Xin floated right behind him as they headed for the only being-made structure on the small, lifeless world. It was the location described by the pilgrimage's leader as the place where the Oracle would speak if he did at all. The wind picked up and Dave could discern almost musical, whistling sounds created by the wind as it blew through the rock formations.
The structure, about the size of a small house, was carved from the same reddish-brown rock. It was shaped as a three-sided pyramid with stairs going up one side to its triangular flat top. Xin and Dave stopped at the base of the stairs, while Xin scanned and analyzed this only aberration of form on the entire world. "This structure is thousands of years old and I suspect it was not built by those who directed us here," she concluded. "There are hieroglyphs on each sandstone step, however, I am unable to discern the meanings without a frame of reference."
Dave walked up the thirty or more steps with Xin in tow. He walked to the middle of the triangular shaped top that could hold no more than half a dozen humans comfortably, and looked out over the sparse, repetitive landscape with his unique eyes. But he saw nothing out of place or out of the ordinary – just kilometre after kilometre of reddish-brown dirt and hundreds of the sedimentary rock formations. To Dave, it almost looked like endless formations of chess pieces disappearing into the colour-faded horizon in all directions – chess pieces carved by a mad sculptor. His eyes revealed nothing new to investigate, but his ears... He wasn't sure, but there was something unnatural about some of the sounds coming from the weathered rocks as the wind blew through them. It was almost like the random sounds of a wind chime. Strange.
"HELLO!" Dave shouted at the top of his powerful lungs. "IS ANYONE HERE?" Dave looked at Xin. "See, this Oracle or God is just a religious myth." Dave said the words, but he didn't fully believe them. There it was again, that feeling of being watched! A chill went down his spine.
"Perhaps you are correct or perhaps you are not saying anything the Oracle wishes to hear," Xin commented with a hint of pretend smugness – an attempt at humour missed by Dave.
"It feels like there is something here," Dave whispered to Xin. "Can you scan anything?"
"My scans do not register any life form in any direction up to a diameter of 3,076 kilometres, which is the size of this moon."
"O-K... but how do you scan for a God?" Dave queried.
Xin knew he had a point. In all her travels, she had never documented an omnipotent being. "I scanned for biological as well as energy, but I do not know how to scan for the metaphysical. I would have to conclude that my scans are inconclusive."
"Perhaps we need something else to wake the sleeping giant," Dave smiled. "I'll be back in a couple of minutes."
"What are you going to do, Dave?"
"You'll see." And with that, Dave headed back to the Odyssey with only two jumps, each of which would have broken an Earth record in the long jump by twenty metres.
When Dave came back, he had his electric guitar and a battery-powered amplifier with him. "It's not a stack of Marshal amps but the volume does go up to eleven," he joked as he raised the tiny guitar amp next to his head. He set up on top of the pyramid, his guitar slung down to his waist with a thick, brown leather strap, and the little amp at his feet. Xin hovered down at the base, and continued to scan the area for signs of anything out of the ordinary.
"I don't understand," Xin puzzled. "You are going to communicate with music?"
"Yes, exactly. On the way to this world and now on this moon, I keep getting a feeling of someone watching us. Also, I had a sense of this something having an interested in the music I was playing on the ship. Maybe I'm wrong, but I think if there is a God here, we need to get his attention with something more than words. Anyway, isn't music the universal language?" Dave concluded as he went into what he assumed to be a rocker's stance.
"LET'S ROCK!" Dave shouted and began to play the intro to Voodoo Child – a Jimmy Hendrix rock classic. He played the Stevie Ray Vaughan version of the song. Something he was unable to master until Xin had enhanced his muscle memory to superhuman levels. The tiny amp blasted out the sound far louder than its small size would have indicated. The power chord riffs projecting out to the rock formations on the overdriven amp. The rhythmic pulse of the chords was accented with flourishes of short, distorted lead lines. Dave hoped that this song would make the God aware of their presence – it would surely wake the dead.
Xin had seen and heard many things in her travels but this was one of the most unusual on both counts. She was beginning to question if she had made the right choice with picking Dave.
Dave played for less than a minute, and then stopped letting the last major chord fade away. They waited.... Nothing. The only reply was the eerie, quasi-musical sounds coming from the wind blowing through the rock formations.
"Well, it was worth a shot," Dave admitted in disappointment.
"Yes," Xin agreed, "but it was a good hypothesis, and analytically arrived at. It would have even been more impressive had it worked." She created a full colour image of a giant, pouting human female mouth on her black exterior to express herself visually to Dave.
"OK, now that is definitely a twelve on the creepy metre, assuming the metre only goes up to ten, but I appreciate the thought," Dave admitted as he pointed at the red lipstick lips. "Where did you get the mouth image from? It looks like Marylin Mon.... No, never mind. I don't want to know."
Then something happened, something totally unexpected. The wind died down and everything around them became a wall of silence – a quiet so complete that it exerted a strange pressure on Dave's inner ears. Suddenly, a faint sound came from the nearest rock formation. It sounded far away, somewhat like a ships' foghorn, but higher and much more beautiful in tone. It grew louder as several other sounds from other rocks harmonized under the first. The rock formations closest to them began to play a strange but lovely music! Yes, it was music, whether it was in a small jazz club in Toronto, the chanting of monks in Tibet, or rocks on a dead world on the other side of the galaxy, Dave understood what he was hearing.
The music was now all around them, coming from dozens of rock formations. It was the most alien music Dave had ever heard, and yet also the most beautiful. He could feel the emotions behind the choir-like sound wash around and through him. It was only the third time in his life he actually found himself crying from listening to music – so beautiful and emotional was the experience. The stone choir played for perhaps four or five minutes, and then slowly faded away with one last ethereal harmonization. The dead silence in stark contrast replaced the impromptu alien concert.
"Be not fearful," came the low, odd sounding voice from all around them. "Moving atmosphere to speech often frightens those unsuspecting. This one communicates now with the two sentient beings simultaneously in your prime languages, directing waves to individuals. Language is learned; thought manipulates air, air transfers meaning to auditory receptors. This one rarely communicates with fleeting beings, but the organized sounds amused, perhaps dialogue will prove of some interest also."
"We are on a peaceful mission, and wish only to communicate with you," Xin quickly responded. She had already scanned the sound waves and had confirmed that what the sentient being said was true. There was no physical source. They started at one point in the air between Dave and herself and projected into two directions exactly as the being had said.
"This one knows," the unnatural voice said with certainty. "Have observed and studied the two conscious beings from point of contact with others traveling to this place. The light absorbing, synthetic sphere, this one has familiarity of. The biological life form is unknown."
Dave felt like the Cowardly Lion when confronted by the Wizard of Oz, but still managed to get out a few words, hiding his fear behind humour. "Hello, my name is Dave – the biological one, and this is Xin." Dave pointed to the science probe. "And your name is?"
"Name?" There was puzzlement in the disembodied voice. "Name.... The ones who travel here identify this one as Sygoss. Have been called many names over countless millennia, but names fade away into the past, as do civilizations that utter them. All are dust, those that now are, will be as well. Everything changes; everything remains the same. This one is the rare constant in the universe. Born when the universe inhaled for the first time, but will also fade into the great blackness on its final exhale. Even Sygoss does not know what is beyond universe end. But you are not here to reflect upon the end of all things. Ask your question."
"In this galaxy we seek the most technologically advanced civilization that is also very peaceful in nature," Xin responded with the one and only question she came here to ask.
"Peaceful. Nature. A conflict of the pairing of concepts, but Sygoss understands your meaning nonetheless. You seek the Utayatu – it is the second choice of Sygoss. It is the only choice remaining. The galaxy has rotated only a small fraction since the elimination of the first choice."
"Elimination?" Dave latched onto the word that screamed for his next question. "What happened?"
"This galaxy was once harmonious and in balance, but a discordant, sentient species from outside was introduced. Sygoss sensed their new presence here, stretching out mind to location, and at location to behold their noise."
"When did this begin?" Xin asked the question but suspected and feared the answer.
"When the first choice was eliminated, when all life on their homeworld was destroyed – your homeworld."
"Crap!" Dave interjected. "So these warmongering aliens decided to invade our galaxy to conquer it?"
"No, it was not their choice to invade; they do not seek conquest. They originated from one of the satellite star groupings orbiting this primary one. Exiled from their star grouping of origin, they now do what is in their nature. They do what they believe necessitates survival – to terminate those deemed a threat. Sygoss disagrees with this misguided thought process and methods, but it is sometimes the way of things. The universe is in constant motion, change, conflict, chaos, order, and even peace for brief periods. Time will create balance once again."
"So you won't do anything! You're just going to wait and see what happens?" Dave's voice went up about half an octave. A fact that did not go unnoticed by Sygoss.
"Yes," came back the unemotional reply to both questions.
"Are you capable of stopping the Veiled?" Xin now jumped into the conversation using the name of those that had destroyed her homeworld so long ago.
"But you won't." Dave finished the setup.
"Yes." Each single word reply sounded more final than the last. "It is not this one's place to influence change, nor necessary. The Universe will always find equilibrium."
"So you don't care what happens to us," Dave said with frustration. "But we amuse you sometimes?" There came no reply to this question.
After an uncomfortably long pause, the mouth less voice spoke, ignoring the last question, and taking the conversation in a new direction – an explanation of sorts. "Understand that perception of the passage of time varies based on species, life span, and accumulated experience. You think of Sygoss as immortal, but this is a misguided belief – you view this from your perspective. You compare your length of existence to other life forms around you, but the perception of the passage of time is viewed from each individual's perspective. Contemplate on the seemingly brief life of the insect that lives only one planetary rotation. How does it view the passage of time? Perhaps it views its life span as long – its seconds seeming like your days. Do you gain understanding?"
Xin understood what Sygoss was explaining but being synthetic with an internal clock, she didn't experience the phenomenon. She was able to literally turn herself off for long periods of time. Before she could convey this to Sygoss, Dave spoke up.
"I think I understand," Dave began. "When I was a child, I remember that time seemed to pass very slowly. Now, at thirty-five, it feels like time is passing quicker. Also, I remember my grandmother saying how much faster time seemed to pass by especially in her later years."
"Yes. Good. You have the seed of understanding," Sygoss replied with satisfaction. "Then understand that millennia pass like your hours to Sygoss. The presence of each species is fleeting. The discordant ones are fleeting, and the Universe will soon find balance."
"Yes, from your perception but not from ours," Xin observed.
"Understood, and empathy is felt by Sygoss, but I will not disturb the flow of space-time by acts of violence upon weaker..."
"Yeah, we understand – the Universe will always find balance, blah, blah, blah." Dave was now getting frustrated.
"Please Dave, he is already willing to help us with so much already." Xin interjected. "Apologies, Sygoss, my friend is very passionate about this. Please, tell us where to locate the Utayatu and we will be on our way."
Over the next few minutes, Sygoss explained to Xin and Dave where to find the hidden homeworld of the Utayatu – now one of the oldest and most technologically advanced civilizations in the known galaxy. He explained their strong belief in peace, so strong that they went into hiding rather than confront the Veiled. He further explained that this action should not be misunderstood as cowardice. He emphasized with almost envy, as they would have sacrificed themselves if they thought it would have prevented the seventeen other worlds from falling. It was obvious that Sygoss probably knew more about the galaxy and the universe than any other being. Both Xin and Dave wanted to ask countless more questions, but as soon as the matter of the Utayatu was concluded, Sygoss wished them well, and left them as quickly as he had appeared. Both of them were still on top of the small, stone pyramid; the wind picked up, and the random musical sounds began as if nothing had happened. Dave hadn't realized it at the time, but Sygoss had stopped the wind from blowing while he had been present. Was it Sygoss who controlled the wind and perhaps everything else on this odd world? At any rate, he only noticed its absence when it now returned, bringing some familiarity back to the surreal experience of speaking with... a God?
Back on the Odyssey, Dave sat at his pilot's chair with a puzzled look on his face. "Xin, how long will I live? I mean, when you made all these changes to me, did it effect my lifespan?"
"I am sorry Dave, I meant to tell you sooner, but I thought it best to wait till you felt more comfortable with all the other adjustments."
"How long?" Dave asked impatiently.
"It is difficult to say exactly – there are so many unknown factors."
"Take a wild guess."
"About 950 years, but this is based on your present health and not factoring in any outside modifiers such as accidents, disease, radiation exposure, and so on."
Once again, Xin had surprised him. He had suspected that his genetically engineered body plus the MBRUs would have increased his life past the normal human life expectancy, but he had no idea that it would have been by that much!
"Wow," was all Dave could say as he stared forward not focusing on anything in particular. He didn't even hear Xin when she asked him to set course for the Utayatu's homeworld. The location of which known only by the two of them, now the Odyssey and of course Sygoss.
Stevie Ray Vaughan's version of Voodoo Child on Youtube.com:
My other sci-fi stories are available at smashwords.com or at my above website in PDF format with cover art.
This work of fiction is the sole property and copyright of Robert G. Moons.
Please do not print or use without permission of the author.
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