On a distant satellite, a white, six-wheeled drill rig with the US flag etched on the side, trekked over hills and craters under the bright sun. Surrounded by dials and switches, Engineer Dana Anderson’s hands gripped the steering wheel and glanced at her monitor. Her space suit had several insignia, two on her shoulders and one on her helmet, which included the American flag, Earth and NASA. Although there were no windows, a set of cameras connected to the monitor helped her navigate the rough terrain.
The vast emptiness created a sense of loneliness, but Dana, a natural introvert, didn’t mind the quiet isolation. In fact, it was the reason she worked hard to pass all the rigorous training NASA put her through.
A resonating beep sounded on her radar and she slowed the vehicle to a halt.
“Dana’s log number 433. I’ve arrived at a crystal deposit location and um…” she paused and flipped a few switches overhead, “Are making preparations for drilling.”
Today was just another job for Dana. Nine moons she had to mine with her fuel consuming machine and this was her fourth stop. She clicked her glass helmet on her head and pressed a few buttons on her hard-shell forearm.
When she activated the oxygen tanks strapped to her back, it hissed and whistled as it released air into her suit.
“Alright Dana, time to hustle.” she said as she yanked a nearby latch. When she turned it, the roof opened and the remaining oxygen escaped into space.
Dana floated out the cockpit at the front end of the rig and the sole of her boots brushed the ground. In contrast to the darkness above, the sun’s rays made the earth appear white. Dana turned around and grabbed a set of handles on the rig. She pulled off the panel to reveal a console with a control stick and a keyhole. When she pressed a few buttons, the counsel lit up green and the cylindrical drill on top of the rig raised upright. Then, she activated the jacks on the corners of the rig to secure it to the ground.
Once the drill rig was completed, the woman stopped, grabbed a sonar device and drove it in the ground.
“Alright, beginning search for crystal deposit. Activating sonar”
Since the dawn of deep space exploration, scientists and explorers have discovered a strange bio-crystal on planets and moons without atmospheres. It was a strange rock that only grew in the emptiness of space. Scientists have studied the ore intensely and discovered that it contained mass amounts of energy. However, no one knew where the strange rock originated. Not only was this crystal powerful, but it also grew back after some time had passed.
The device shot a pulse through the moons’ crust and a small quake shook the ground. Alarmed, Dana froze in place as she felt the rumble beneath her feet.
After the rumble ceased, Dana’s nerves calmed.
“Okay…?” she said, gazing at her feet, “That never happened before.”
The engineer assigned to this moon system had a rotation schedule that allowed the crystal to fully grow with each visit. This is Dana’s third time mining this satellite.
“Six hours on moon Darius,” she said to her recorder, “There seems to be some seismic activity here.”
She continued her work and examined the screen on her sonar.
Her eyes widened at what she saw.
“Oh my god!” she said elatedly, “There’s so much of it here, it could power the space colonies for hundreds of years.
Alright, time to get started.”
She uprooted the sonar machine, placed it back into the rig and walked back to the control device. She took a rectangular key from her suit, inserted it into the terminal and turned on the drill.
When the drill spun and sunk into the ground, it expelled white rocks as it penetrated the surface. Rocks floated in the air past Dana as she watched.
Then, a faint whisper startled her. She whipped around to look, but only saw empty wasteland illuminated by the sunlight.
“Must be hearing things.” she said as she turned back around.
Then, a pebble tapped her helmet.
Dana froze, and a swallowed a huge lump in her throat.
She slowly turned around and saw a little girl standing a few feet from her. She was blonde and her blue eyes glowed underneath the sun. She wore a full white dress as she stared at her with a blank look on her face.
What disturbed Dana the most with this unusual girl is that she stood in the vacuum of space and withstood the destructive radiation beaming down from above. It seemed like an eternity passed before Dana mustered a word.
‘H…Hello” she said.
The little girl remained silent as she stared blankly at the engineer.
“D…D…Dana here” she spoke into her recorder, “An unidentified life-form has made contact with me. Attempting to communicate.”
“Hey there. What brings you all the way out here?”
The girl’s eyes shifted up at the large rig drilling away behind the engineer.
The woman turned her head towards the drill and made quick glances between the girl and the machine. Guessing what the girl wanted, she reached out, turned the key and shut off the drill.
The girl turned her blank gaze back to Dana.
The engineer cautiously took a few steps forward to get a better look at the little girl and stopped just a few feet away.
“Hello, my name is Dana…I’m a-“
“I know who you are” the girl’s voice blared in Dana’s mind.
Dana gasped as she floated on her backside from the sudden response. She heard her voice, but didn’t see the girls lips move.
“Wha…what’s happening?” the woman said with her eyes widened in shock, “How..are-“
“Oh come now,” The girl said, “Aren’t you a scientist of some sorts? I’m sure you can guess how I’m speaking to you right now”
The woman took a few moments to process everything. Nervous beads of sweat poured down her face as vapor glazed her inner visor from heavy breathing.
The girl shifted her head sideways as an amusing smile etched across her face.
“Telepathy,” the woman said, eyeing the girl.
“There we go,” The girl said straightening her head, “Simple, yet impossible for you to understand. Is this how humans approach the universe?”
“Wh..why are you here?”
“Why am I here?” The girl said with an arched eyebrow, “A loaded question to ask, don’t you think? I’ve always been here. Watching you come and go as you please, thinking you’re the only one here. Why are you here?”
“It was a rhetorical question, Dana. You are the intruder here.”
“How do you know my name?”
“A silly question to ask. I’ve been hearing it ever since you arrived. Talking to that recorder of yours”
“You’ve been listening this entire time-I mean” Dana took a deep sigh, “Okay…lets take things from the top”
“Very well. Your name is Dana Anderson-Thirty three earth years old. Born in Wyoming. Went to Douglas High School. You showed an affinity for paleontology and went to college at UCMP in Berkeley- graduated with a doctorate and joined the space program after just five years as a paleontologist. You’re single. Five sisters. Two brothers. Two cats. One dog.”
She knows everything about me. Dana thought with eyes wide in shock.
“Of course I do.” The little girl said blinking her eyes, “Telepathy, remember? I can read your mind.”
“Is that the only thing you can do?” Dana asked.
“Humph” the girl scoffed, “You know, I chose this form to appear least threatening so I can talk to you. Normally, I’d kill you right where you stand”
Then, the girl gazed up into the black emptiness.
“Why…” The girl said, “That question has led many of our kind to ruin. When you have lived as long as I have, you begin to wonder why you exist.”
Then, her head returned to its normal position as she glared at Dana.
“To be honest, I loathe you, humans. Arrogant, ignorant, weak, selfish, and think the Universe revolves around you. But the slight interest I have is the why. You conveniently ignore the meaning of your existence. I want to know how you pulled it off”
“Well…It’s because we don’t have as much time to think about it as you can,” Dana said, “To us, it’s an impossible question to answer, so, we just ignore it and focus on surviving as long as we can.”
“So you have to struggle just so you can live? Sounds like a miserable existence in of itself, but at least it is effective. Perhaps it’s the reason why humans are the longest dominating creatures on earth.”
“Longest?” Dana asked.
“Humans weren’t the only dominant species from your planet I’ve come across. Many have traveled long distances to scale the far reaches of the universe, but was met with a disastrous end. There were five before you and you’re the sixth one.”
The woman was at a loss for words. Talking to this unknown being brought many questions to her mind, but one primary question continued to elude her. What was she? There were no life forms detected on her heartbeat sensor, no air, no atmospheric pressure, no gravity and all the knowledge at her possession. She stood to her feet and looked at the girl through her glass visor.
“What were they like?” Dana asked.
“They can’t be described by any words you humans speak, but let’s just say they didn’t need your silly suit nor any ships.”
“Well, what are you like?” The woman asked.
By now, curiosity subsided Dana’s fear. She always wondered if there was life other than her own and here she is.
“Are you sure you want to know? It’s not going to help you.”
“Well, what’s your name?” Dana asked.
“I’m the fourth”
“Yes, the fourth born from my mother.”
“Can you show me your mother? Is she here?”
The girl nodded her head and pointed towards the yellowish gas giant dominating half of the sky.
“Is that where she lives?” Dana said gazing up at the planet.
“No, that’s her”
The woman didn’t understand what the girl meant at first, but as she gazed up at the gas giant, her eyes widened in disbelief. Then, her head shifted towards the girl in bewilderment.
“I guess I have to show you than to tell you”
Then, the ground shook. Rocks and sand floated into the empty skies as a fissure separated the girl and the woman.
“It’s been a pleasure speaking with you. I might pay your planet a visit sometime. Take it easy on my siblings and not mine so much crystal from their bodies. It slows their growth.”
Fissures cracked open on the surface as white smoke gushed from the cracks. The little girl vanished from Dana’s sight as a huge, white, mountain-tall horn emerged from the ground. The sharp edge shined white under the sun as boulders escaped into space.
Panicked, Dana moon-hopped back towards her rig, opened the hatch and climbed inside. She retracted the drill and released the jacks. She slammed her fist on a red button and pillars of flames shot from beneath the rig. The rig lifted off the rock and propelled away from the moon.
Green, translucent wings burst from the sides of the moon and a long, white skeleton tail erupted from beneath it. Like a chick erupting from its shell, the creature breaks from the satellite and spread its wings wide. A deep howl erupted from its ethereal, horned face as red crystals sparkled in its round chest.
It flapped its wings and flew away into the darkness.