Hope Incarnate

Soft orange light bathed the Trailblazer III as it tumbled out of bulkspace, and the captain of the expedition, Paz van Dijk, finally set eyes on the citrine sphere that was UDF 2457. The red dwarf didn’t even have a proper name, but to Paz it was hope incarnate.

“Nice and easy,” she said. “Maintain course. I want you sweeping every band as soon as possible. Start at the SLF low end.”

Wesson, the comms officer, double pumped his bushy red-brown eyebrows and smiled with closed lips. He was a man of few words but a consummate professional, despite the fact he always appeared as if he just rolled out of his bunk. He was the first person Paz signed on after she’d convinced the Unification to charter the Open Skies Exploration Company. It had taken a lot of convincing and an occasional recalibration of her moral compass, but it was the only way to get the funding she needed.

For her entire career, she’d found nothing but dead worlds in every direction. The xenoarcheological finds were driving a new Renaissance, but she was growing increasingly frightened they were hurtling down the throat of the Great Filter. But here, at UDF 2457, one of her SCATTER probes detected spectrum noise indicative of intelligent communication, and from just outside 200 lightyears. That was just the blink of an eye in terms of time; this world was watching television while we were settling the Jovians! But it was more than halfway across the galaxy, and getting there—even through bulkspace—would be difficult and expensive.

But all that was behind her now. Finally, she was here. “How much longer before you can start sweeping?” she asked.

Wesson didn’t respond. Didn’t even move.

“Wesson, how long—”

“It’s done,” he said. He’d never interrupted her before, or anyone else for that matter. “We’re up past five terahertz.”

Paz felt like she’d been punched in the gut and she steadied herself against a console. Wesson didn’t have to explain; she understood. Another civilization had thrived here just a few short years ago. But no longer. Another dead world.

5 thoughts on “Hope Incarnate”

  1. Sad… I wonder, what happened on UDF 2457?
    Will Paz decide to land anyway and archaeologically explore the most likely places to have emitted the spectrum noise that her SCATTER probe detected?
    Maybe it’s not a dead world, after all. Maybe it just seems that way because the technology burned out, and the intelligent inhabitants are actually still there, though in some sort of a devolved state. Or MAYBE, their method of communication has EVOLVED beyond that of detectable communications.
    We still have some unanswered questions to figure out and official reports to be made, before setting the Trailblazer III on a new course.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Unfortunately, this red dwarf was the source of constant high-energy flares and very large magnetic fields which diminished the possibility of continuing life. She should have paid more attention to her xenoarcheological classes as analyzing the data more critically would have saved her a great deal of unnecessary searching.

    Liked by 1 person

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