“Hello, my name is Gerald Montgomery and tonight the Montgomery Report brings you a special, history making, on location edition. We are live, on board the Kentauran ship, 35 Thousand Kilometers above the Earth’s surface. In geosynchronous orbit with the city of Chicago, to be specific. With me is the Captain of the Kentauran ship known as Ayden. Hello, Ayden.”
“Hello, Gerald Montgomery.”
“Thank you for having me here, and please, you can call me Gerald. Forgive me but, Ayden, is that your title as Captain or is that your given name?”
“No, our voices are outside the range of human hearing, and our language is tonal not phonetic so it does not translate directly. We have chosen names from your languages, from the list of most popular names that you have generated.”
“So if your voices are outside of our hearing, how are we communicating right now?”
“I have a translator attached to my voice box at the back of my neck.” Ayden leaned forward so that the camera could get a clear image of the small silver box functioning as a translator strapped to the back of his neck. As he did, the full leathery span of his wings arced above him. In the dim light, they appeared on camera only as forbidding shadows.
My God, thought Gerald, they’re as tall as him. “Are those wings practical or vestigial?”
Ayden stood upright, “They are practical. Our primary form of overland travel is flight. Actually our home world, Kentaura, is mostly water, we evolved on a volcanic archipelago that encircles the equatorial region, so flight is probably the reason we became the dominant species.”
“Interesting, and this ship traveled across 4.1 light years of space from Kentaura?” Gerald looked around him, sweeping his left arm dramatically. The ship’s ceiling was more than 3 times his height. The walls arced outwards, forming a cylindrical passageway. The light was dim. The floor, walls, and ceiling all appearing to be made out of the same, dark material, “What is this hallway made from? Is it different from the outer hull?”
The Kentauran’s wings fluttered slightly, his body rocked back and forth, is he laughing, Gerald wondered.
“That’s several complicated questions at once, Gerald. The short answers would be; not exactly, a composite of iron and an ore unique to Kentaura, and no.”
“Let’s start with ‘not exactly’, would you care to elaborate on that?”
“Sure, why don’t we walk towards the engine room? When we get there I will explain. In the mean time we can discuss less complex issues.”
“Okay. Why don’t we begin with the alloy this ship is made from?”
“Absolutely. If you will walk in this direction,” Ayden began walking down the hallway, Gerald and his cameraman followed, “At this juncture of crossing hallways, you can see where 2 pieces have been joined. It is visible, along the corner, ripples like an ocean wave frozen in time?”
“Yes I see, bring the camera in close. Right here you can see, almost wrapping the corner, a downward wave of metal. Is this from the process of connecting the pieces?” A dramatic slow-mo fade in brought into focus the joint in question. A dark grey metal seemed to rise out of both walls and splash into itself freezing just as the crest turned to the floor. For all the impression of movement, there was not a rough spot or nick to be seen anywhere.
“It is.” The camera turned back to the Ambassador’s face. The narrow slits of his eyes betrayed little expression. His wings were folded but the elbows rested above his head. “I am showing it to you because it provides insight into the alloy. There is an ore on our planet, which your scientists have named Kentaunite, when bonded to liquefied iron it cools into a nearly impervious alloy, Kentaurous. The ship sections are shaped in molds while the alloy is still a liquid. Corners are made by setting the sections in place and then pouring the liquefied alloy into the corner mold in place.”
“So the entire ship is now one piece?”
“Yes.” Pan back to the full height of the Ambassador, all 1.2 meters, in the grand hallway. A noise was heard above.
“Look!” Shouted Gerald. The camera followed his finger pointing upwards in time to catch 3 Kentauran flying past. As they rounded the corner, the 1st flapped its wings only once, then the 2nd, then the 3rd, and then they glided down the hall. “Like birds in a flock, they ride the current.” He breathed.
“It is the natural thing to do. Come, the engine room is in this direction.”
“Just one more thing about this alloy. If you built the ship by melting metals, aren’t you concerned that a potential enemy, might heat up your outer hull and melt the ship away?”
Again Ayden rocked back and forth as his wings fluttered, “We have seen your science fiction movies, all those exciting battles between fleets of cloaked war vessels… open space is not so dangerous as you imagine. Although, a cloak would be an excellent thing to have. However, we do have an energy shield, and the type of sustained heat weapon needed to do what you are talking about does not currently exist.”
“Fascinating. Will you be trading this ore, Kentaunite, with us?”
“No but we will sell you some completed projects made with the alloy.”
“Why the one and not the other?”
“Kentaunite is a powerful and limited resource. We do not sell the raw resource to anyone. It is currently the key to economic viability for our planet.”
“I see. So, obviously you are trading stuff with other worlds already. Are there a large number of other space faring races out there?”
“Oh yes, more than could be counted. They tried once, the ITC, they attempted a census of known worlds. Not just the planets, but also the populations. They quit after 150 years.”
“Right,” The Captain’s wings spread wide and then drew behind its back again, “I have to say it is a strange experience to speak with someone who has no context for what you consider everyday life.”
“So you have never made first contact with a person before?”
“No, no. This is a very rare event for us as well. Breaking the barrier from industrial civilization to interplanetary civilization is something that happens maybe once in a generation.”
“But you said there are more than can be counted?”
“Well the universe has been around for a quite a few generations.” His wings fluttered slightly.
Is that a chuckle? “And this ITC?”
“The Interplanetary Trade Confederation. The Kentauran people are members. It governs trade law, trade routes, and border security for member worlds of which there are currently 5000 spanning a diameter of 100 light years and a perimeter of 5 billion light years.”
“And we are on the far edge of this ITC?”
“No, not at all. You’re very near the middle.”
“Then why haven’t we been contacted before?”
“ITC law. No civilization may be contacted, or the resources of its solar system plundered, prior to that civilization developing interplanetary travel.”
“Why? We could have had interplanetary travel if you taught us before.”
“If we had shown up when you were still figuring out combustion engines, we would have appeared as Gods to you. Slavery would have been the inevitable result. Even if we tried to be benevolent educators, we still would have held such power over your lives that you would have been as servants. Now we just seem to be what we are, another race with better toys. From that perspective, equality can be maintained.”
“Why does the ITC care about protecting planets that aren’t members?”
“For one thing, it would be difficult to get new members if we made everyone into slaves. There is also that whole morality thing.”
“So there is such a thing as morality among your people?”
Ayden stopped walking, turned and looked at him, his wings came together, fully extended. “Of course we do. Did you believe you were the only people capable of moral distinctions?”
“I do not know what to think. I have never met an intelligent species that wasn’t human before. I do not know if the things we consider Universal Truths, really are universal. That is why I am asking.”
“I see, yes,” his wings lowered, “I suppose it all must be very confusing from your perspective. Let me show you something. It is just around the corner here.” Ayden leapt into the air, flapped his wings once and set down at the far end of the hall. The cameraman dropped to one knee, rolled onto his back, and caught the entire flight from floor level. Flying just above the level of the dim lights, Ayden’s underside was the only well lit thing in the hallway. The wings extended from his back, at the shoulder blade, to a wingspan of 3.5 meters. The thick muscles extending throughout the wings, like fingers of an open hand, stood out in light. The deep maroon of his torso and extremities reflected the dull blue light as tendrils of flame before a brick wall. He stood at the corner, hands on hips, waiting. “Down here, I think you will like this.”
Gerald and his crew walked down the hall slowly, doing their best to appear impressive. When they caught up to Ayden he pointed into a room. Inside was the unexpected.
The first thing Gerald noticed was the heat. As if a furnace door had been opened. After adjusting to the sudden change in environment, he opened his eyes and looked around. The source of the brutal heat was the floor, or the series of vents that occupied the space were a floor would normally be. The walls arced out like the hallway, the ceiling was definitely different though. Objects of various shapes hung from the ceiling; poles, cylinders, blocks, wavy bars, and other shapes without name. They seemed to be made of a variety of materials. Most interesting was that some of them had Kentauran hanging upside down from them. Using their clawed feet to cling to an object, they hung towards the heated floor, wings fully extended, arms hanging down, without moving.
“Are they sleeping?”
“Meditating would be a more accurate term.”
“Should we leave?”
“It’s okay, they understand what this is.”
“Honestly, I don’t know how long I can stay in here. Do you know what the temperature is on our scale?”
“50 degrees Celsius.”
“Seriously? The humans need to leave, right away.”
Outside the room Gerald and his crew leaned against the wall, wiping sweat from their sweaty faces with their sweat soaked sleeves on their sweaty arms. “What was that all about?”
“On Kentaura, our species evolved in caves on the volcanic mountains. When we rest we return to our natural environment.”
“I’m sorry, but I do not see the connection to the conversation we were having about morality.”
“At first our culture seems extremely foreign to you, dangerous even. If you look past the cosmetic, to use an Earth term, to the substance I believe you will see something more familiar. When we seek comfort, we seek home and community. We value our life and the lives of each other. We try and teach our offspring to do right. Are we so different from each other?”
“I suppose not, at that level. Often questions of morality are more complicated than that, however.”
“The universe is not very complicated.”
“Just a collection of wave particles in various patterns. Here we are, the engine room.”
Gerald was still attempting to comprehend the meaning of ‘wave particles’ and how that could possibly relate to an uncomplicated universe when he stepped into the engine room.
“You getting this Sam?”
“I am,” said Sam
The room was shaped, had been shaped into, a sphere. The door let them through the portside wall onto a platform at the mid point of the sphere. There were no railings or stairs. The room was lit in a dull green glow emanating from the equipment suspended in the middle of the room. There were Kentauran flying in and out of the room from a series of platforms set into the circumference and darting about the machine.
“The engine, I presume?”
“Correct. Although engine is just a term of convenience. It does not function in the way you humans are used to thinking of engines, other than providing the ability to get from point A to point B.”
“How does it function?”
“The short answer is we convert the ship, and everything in it, into an energy pattern. We then send that energy pattern from one device, through a network of satellites, to a receiver device which converts it back into a matter pattern.”
“I think that may have been too short.”
“Everything in the universe is energy. Energy travels in waves, the variations in these waves determines how that energy appears. By analogy, the difference between light and sound is primarily frequency and modulation. We are able, with this engine, to identify the energy patterns of all the matter on board this ship and record them. We then convert the ship, and everything in it, to a preset energy pattern and send it across the galaxy. At the preset coordinates, it is reassembled into this pattern.”
Gerald looked out at the engine without speaking. He just stared at the device floating in front of him, glowing green. The only square object Gerald had seen since he had stepped on board. The block appeared to be solid gold, with small flashing lights and buttons scattered about the surface. Heat emanated from its surface, in addition to the glow. No apparent means of suspension, it hovered directly in the middle of the room.
“That block of gold converts everything on this ship to energy?”
“It isn’t actually gold, just the color of gold. But yes, that is the Energy Pattern Conversion Device.”
“So..if…I’m sorry, this is a lot to take in at once, and I am not a scientist to begin with… If I am one energy pattern, and you are another, and this microphone is yet another, and the only difference between us on a micro level is that pattern, then how do I not die when you convert my pattern?”
“We don’t know.”
“We don’t really understand that. Why, when your pattern is reassembled are you exactly who you were when converted? Clearly memories are patterned into your brain,..”
“Clearly.” The Kentauran did not seem to pick up on the sarcasm.
“But personality? And what is more interesting is that cloning won’t work.”
“Yes, since we have the pattern, all we need is an equal amount of energy to reassemble into that pattern again. So I can make as many pieces of fruit as I want. However, If I attempt to make a second you, it will also be like a vegetable.”
“And there is no explanation for this?”
“Theories abound. The most popular among the populace is very similar to what your language terms a soul. But I am not the person you should discuss that topic with.”
“That is incredible. So this machine converts matter into energy, and then what?”
“Then one device takes the energy signal and transmits it to another via a network of booster satellites. When it reaches its destination it is converted back into the matter pattern.”
“How? I mean.. if the Pattern Converter is in here, then it too must be energy, right?”
Ayden turned and looked Gerald, his wings slightly extended, “Correct. The transmitters have the pattern of the Pattern Converter. When the signal reaches its destination a Pattern Converter there reassembles the ship’s Pattern Converter which, in turn, reassembles the ship.”
“Of Course. If your star is 4.1 light years away, how long did it take for you to make the trip here?”
“To me it seemed like a moment, as I was not conscious of the passage of time. To those I said goodbye to on Kentaura, it was 6 months.”
“So you can go faster than light.”
“Well, yes, of course.”
“No, not of course, we have long believed that was impossible. In fact one of greatest scientists, responsible for discoveries that led to some of our greatest advancements wrote a formula which he claimed proved it was impossible”
“Your Einstein was correct. The barrier to faster than light travel is that matter turns to energy at light speed.”
“But since you are already converting to energy…”
“That barrier is removed. In fact, acceleration of sub-atomic particles to light speed is key to the pattern conversion process.”
“Okay, well then, how…” at this moment a light above the doorway began flashing.
Ayden stopped, turned his head slightly as if he were listening to something, “I’m sorry, you couldn’t hear that but they just called me to the bridge to deal with something. We will have to continue this another time. Thank you, I have enjoyed speaking with you.”
Gerald again turned and stared at the floating cube. He then turned back to face the camera, the image panned back to include Gerald, Ayden, and the cube. “From 35 Thousand Kilometers above the surface of the Earth, with our new friends the Kentauran, on board their faster than light traveling, matter to energy converting, ship, my name is Gerald Montgomery and this has been Today’s Story. Good night.”