History fanatic. Thinks Greco-Roman fashion was the pinnacle of elegance. Dreams of browsing through scrolls in the Library of Alexandria.
A Single Vessel
A stray vessel had dispatched back to Earth a sensor report about a vast field of metallic debris floating in a star system at the edge of explored space. Being the preeminent xeno-archaeologist, the government had picked her to lead a research mission to examine whether the fragments had indeed been relics of another intelligent species. Now, after months of preparation and travel, she could finally send probes to gather some samples and bring them inside the ship she commanded to be inspected. The first pieces confirmed the alien hypothesis, and for days she could barely maintain her composure in front of her colleagues. After all those years of studying and writing speculative papers on what an advanced extraterrestrial civilisation would look like, she was finally on the frontlines, making First Contact. However, when the probes brought even more debris, her professional side regained full control. There was a mystery about these artefacts, and it was her job to unravel it.
It was undeniable that hundreds of vessels had been destroyed there. The issue was who had done it and why – especially after composition analysis of the collected pieces showed that every single one had been manufactured using the same processes. Her colleagues advocated different theories, but she found one particular hypothesis a bit silly and straight out of a cheap sci-fi novel. This guy – what a character – proposed that the Aliens – they decided to refer to them as such until they found out what they called themselves – had clashed with another space-faring civilisation which had annihilated them thanks to its superior technology. She could not believe the Aliens, who seemed to have assembled in one spot a force capable of sterilising all ten fully inhabited human solar systems, had been utterly incapable of causing any damage at all to their opponents. As the fragments kept piling up and their composition remained the same, she grew surer that the only logical explanation was that the Aliens had fought not some other extraterrestrials, but each other. Civil war was not unimaginable, after all.
That was where it all could have ended. Months passed and the expedition gained no new insights. The government would have cancelled the mission, and she would have returned to Earth to take back the boring job of a university professor, had it not been for a probe malfunctioning and wandering far enough to force them to send a shuttle to retrieve it. Approaching the probe, the spacecraft’s sensors picked up an anomaly on a nearby asteroid – an escape pod, mostly undamaged. The transmission of the discovery made her grin like a child receiving a long-desired toy. This adventure was not over yet.
Inside the pod, they found the mummified remains of an Alien. He – having found no uterus-analogue, they decided it would be a he – was humanoid, but there was some weirdness to him that made him an actual alien – three additional fingers on each hand, a tail which could have served as an extra arm or leg, and a pill-shaped cranium with tiny horns lining his forehead. The pod had lost power and he had run out of air, but the cold had preserved him for one hundred thousand years, dating revealed.
The pod’s interface was barely useful. At first, they could not access it, but even when they did, most of the data was too corrupted to be retrieved. However, they found that the Alien had sent a message into interstellar space; she was certain that he had asked for help.