Prologue

1452 AD

A fire crackled, coconut fibres smouldering, vacillating between red and black as the breeze swayed the tendrils of flame softly in the late afternoon.

Pius looked at the mountain and then back at Gili.

“You saw the blood water?”

“I could not stay long. The warriors made the mud mask, and the skins allowed nearer sighting, but it did not shield me. I saw and I left. I did not want to further anger the mountain.”

“It is as we know then, we will not find peace here.”

Pius looked up, smelt the air, felt the breeze, watched the birds. Finally he pronounced, “I will consult the sea in the morning. The time is good. We would leave Kuwae.”

“Will we seek your new land?” plied Gili.

Pius looked fondly at his apprentice. “Gili, you will know wayfinding before this wet. You are ready, and I will need your eyes for the stars.

We will find wave shadow and river loops, if it is the cloud we find, we will show care. Bring the three seeker birds and their stock. If the land I saw when I was prenticed marks our path we will see what it holds, if not we will seek our brothers and sisters.”

Gili looked with reverence at his master. “Shall I ready the boats?”

Pius hesitated momentarily and closed his eyes in contemplation. When he opened them he seemed to have decided. “The boats are ready, for now we must sing.”

Pius hummed a low note, Gili – sensing the path of the song – added his voice. Pius and Gili, eyes locked, sang together. Soon Pius gestured a change and added a new harmony, Gili focused on the new verse and recognised the new path. So the chant moved between the two before Pius ended it abruptly. This time Gili began the tune, Pius now supporting his melody.

As the blue blushed through to deep violet, and the stars shone to show appreciation for their dedication, their song was perfected. The two wayfinders drew up their skins and slept. The mountain rumbled its snores. The stars spun.

+

The distance was unfathomable. Looking to the vastness of what lay before was something that did not bear prediction or planning. Still, the forces that deceitfully nudged; the orientations that shifted; the fluidity of time that revealed and occluded; the expanse that invited madness; all could be overcome by a determined mind.

It had to begin by sheer dead reckoning. Wits and adaptation were the key.

Urgency compelled them.

Departure, conflagration, no-return.

2003 AD

The universe collapses. Thoughts become conflicted. To savour; to sustain; to surrender? Desire and disbelief fight disintegration. The mind aches for an anchor, but intuitively knows it cannot find purchase in this mercurial state. Sensing that the dominos have begun toppling, and that perhaps even time may be ephemeral, a new priority sinks in.

Retention; lock the observations in, capture the dream before it is splintered asunder. Commit it to a safe place, as if harbouring precious heirlooms that connect each now with every precursor. Sudden dread and a new shattering realisation: others need to be able to open the safe.

Record, replicate and disseminate the combination in case memory dissolves.  Ensure access, confirm access, cross check, surrender. Savour, music, sleep. Awaken.

+

The gimbals to the Alien machine slowly wind down. Eleanor Arroway, having been retrieved from the pod, is taken to the hyperbaric chamber that will act as both quarantine and debriefing room on the USS Cremorne.

“I don’t get it?“ She argues to herself, “It seemed so real. It couldn’t have been a dream.” Her mind screams of logic defiled.

Another group joins the contingent walking down the cramped passageway; Palmer, Kent and several of the Senior Mission Operations staff that could leave their post. Ellie is bustled into the chamber and it is sealed shut.

She looks through the viewing portal at Palmer and Kent, Fisher arrives shortly afterwards followed by Willie. She protests, “I just don’t get it! It felt like I was gone for about a day!”

Palmer tries to reassure her, “Ellie, you’re okay. That’s the main thing.” She calms a little, he glances at Mission Operations controller Grant Cavendish, and he assumes authority.

“Ellie, while it is all still fresh in your mind please talk us through everything. What we saw was extraordinary, so I want you to forget any premature conclusions that may have been expressed. We only saw it from the outside.  It was ‘alien’ and it’s no surprise that you experienced more than what we saw.”

She begins her story.

+

The news is relayed across national boundaries and finds its way back to the USA.  Here the US Chiefs of Staff are gathered to make determination should things go joyously right, or catastrophically wrong. The anticlimactic development they now faced had been considered as a possible, although unthinkable, outcome.

“So,” probed the Press Secretary, “do we go with ‘we do not yet know what the fault was’, or ‘perhaps we have been measured and found wanting’?”

The President looked at him and shrugged, “Well we may not have drawn a blank yet. Get onto any good news we can make of it: technology spinoffs, a united world, that sort of thing.” He refocused his attention onto his Security Advisor. “Michael, see if you can find a conspiracy scapegoat. Let’s put up some smoke until we know what the blazes happened, or not.”

… 2 years pass …

next Part 1

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