Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Theme Story - The Crash Site

Jarvik approached the object cautiously. The surrounding flames had long died down, leaving a gaping, blackened rent in the object’s surface as the primary evidence of the recent crash. Jarvik had to assume it was a crash – the object’s fall had been far too controlled to represent any natural phenomenon. With the planet of Bekhal being so close to the asteroid belt, those kinds of strikes were inevitable. As a result, Jarvik was all too familiar with meteorites and their propensity to strike from nowhere.

A faint trailer of smoke rose from the rent in the object, with occasional lights erratically flashing in the dark interior.  Jarvik sniffed warily, but was unable to sense any poison in the air – just a strong whiff of ozone, as though lightning had struck circuitry. He pulled out his handheld and captured several images of the object – he knew that this was a momentous occasion, but he figured if nothing else he wanted to be able to hold the images over the heads of his friends.

The ground was warm, the grasses blackened in a ring around the object. Jarvik didn’t know much about spaceflight, but he remembered reading that movement through the atmosphere created a lot of heat due to friction. He stepped gingerly, wary of finding a stray bit of molten metal but operating as though the main danger had passed. Before long he was at the side of the object, peering into the gash at the dim interior. Strange protrusions and oddly lumpy objects were bathed in a harsh red light, taking on sinister aspects as their shadows loomed at odd angles against the skewed walls of the craft.

Taking a deep breath to steady himself, Jarvik stepped inside. It took him a moment to stabilize himself on the sharply-sloped floor of the object, but before long he was able to move around relatively freely. He said a silent prayer of thanks to the gods for his love of mountain climbing that allowed him to move around such a precarious environment, and began to explore.

His eyes scanned the compartment, taking it all in. On the other side of the rent was a featureless wall, appearing to be made out of some kind of metal. There were oddly-shaped pieces of furniture stranded about the cabin, looking as though they were built with an eye for comfort on top of their intended function. Jarvik surmised them to be chairs, though the physiology they were designed to support was completely foreign to his eyes. It didn’t take long for him to find one of the creatures, lying in the corner. Even though this was his first sight of an alien creature, he could tell that the beast was obviously broken. Limbs bent at awkward angles, and the entire body appeared to be folded around some kind of container. Jarvik contemplated getting closer, examining the creature, but he had no idea how this being would react while hurt.

Jarvik continued his examination, but there wasn’t much else around to see. He had seen popular depictions of the interiors of alien spacecraft before, but those were largely designed with contemporary preferences in mind. He looked back at the broken alien, seeing all of the equipment surrounding it, and realized exactly how primitive his culture’s understanding of technology was. He surmised that these beings communicated with their ship using their minds exclusively, negating the need for controls or displays of any kind. Of course he had to account for the fact that the displays may be there and were simply shut down due to the crash, but looking at the smooth surfaces surrounding him he saw no marks or depressions that could indicate some kind of conventional screen.

Jarvik found this exceptionally strange. With no visual or tactile displays, how did these creatures interface with the craft – provide information to passengers or engineers working on repairs? He knew that he would not find answers here, but he found the simple thought exercise engaging. What would an alien creature consider standard in a craft such as this? What was the purpose of the craft, anyway?

A slight scraping sound alerted him, and Jarvik turned quickly to watch. The rent in the wall appeared to be closing itself, the metal seemingly knitting itself together before his eyes. Not pausing to think, he made a dash for the hole and tried to force himself through. It was a tight fit – he had half of his body out of the opening when the repair process caught up to him. He braced himself for the inevitable pain of piercing jagged metal, but was surprised when the surface smoothed itself underneath him. He took only a second to ponder this before pulling himself the rest of the way out. He looked over his shoulder to spy the hole in the side – much smaller now, and with a body-sized portal in the center – and realized that the ship had reacted to his presence, the hull forming itself around him and recognizing that he was not to be harmed.

As the rent closed and the enigmatic ship returned to a dormant state, Jarvik could only sit and marvel at the mastery of technology necessary to accomplish such feats. He looked at his handheld almost with scorn – how could such pedestrian technology ever compare to the true marvel before his eyes? Shaking his head ruefully, he put the handheld back into his pocket and headed back into the forest, towards a home that suddenly seemed much, much smaller.

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