As the group made their way down the gentle ramp towards the floor of the cavern, the crystal lights in the walls glinted off swirls and lines of iridescent multi-coloured rock. The colours formed such a deliberate pattern that it couldn’t be natural and Amandeep could have sworn the walls had been blank when the lights first came on.
â€œMother of the Universe,â€ she whispered. â€œIt’s beautiful!â€
“They certainly had quite the sense of aesthetics, didn’t they?” one of the human archeologists said. “And by the looks of it, a similar visual range to us.”
“It seems so, Merrick,” Sangat said. “What does it look like to you, Tashi?” He looked over at one of the Kska. “Your visual range is a bit different from ours.”.
“It’s pretty,” Tashi replied via her voice synthesizer after a long moment. “But I think their range was closer to ours than yours. There’s colours here that you wouldn’t see.”
“Really?” Sangat said. “That’s interesting. I see colours you wouldn’t as well. That means they had a really wide visual range. Unless…” His eyes narrowed and he turned to look at one of the Mez. “What do the walls sound like to you?”
There was a pause and though she couldn’t hear it, Amandeep knew the Mez was singing and listening to the echoes.
“It almost sounds like the walls are carved with a very deliberate pattern,” it said finally. “Except they sounded smooth except for the crystals when we entered.”
“Fascinating,” Sangat said. “The pattern makes itself known to anyone who comes down here. I have no idea what to make of it. How would they even know which other senses they’d need to allow for? And they knew all this but couldn’t make them comprehensible?” He shook his head. â€œNo one touch the walls. Let’s get down and look around. Scan for a power source, we need to find a way to shut this all down so we can get back to the station. This place is seems to be an elaborate trap for anyone who comes here. I hope I’m wrong about that because if it is we might have to quarantine the entire planet, which would be a pity. There’s so much we could learn here.â€
â€œWe should document everything we see, then,â€ Merrick said. â€œLearn as much we can without touching.â€
â€œOf course,â€ Sangat said. â€œThat goes without saying. But we can’t go wandering around to record every–â€
â€œI’m seeing a power spike under the central building,â€ Tashi interrupted. She was staring at one of the panels inside her environment suit. â€œThat might be what we’re looking for.â€
â€œIt certainly sounds like the place to start,â€ Sangat said.
As they walked cautiously through the grid-like streets, Amandeep paused and looked at the shining white paving stones. The same lines and swirls that were visible in the walls were spreading through them.
â€œSangat!â€ She pointed to the ground when he turned to look at her. He glanced down and hissed sharply.
â€œI should have thought of that,â€ he said. â€œBut they’re already under our feet with no effect so they don’t seem to be dangerous.â€
Amandeep chewed on her lip and stared down the road to the large building, something was pulling her towards it. â€œI think they want something. This is an attempt at communication.â€ Even though Sangat had asked her to keep the rear she brushed past him and headed up the steps into the large building.
Amandeep heard Sangat and the others running up the stairs behind her but continued on into the building. Inside, the robot was still hovering and looked undamaged and the projection of the alien still stood in front of it. The alien projection held out one its over long arms to her. Instinctively, she held out her own hand, ignoring Sangat’s cry of warning and her own mind yelling at her that this was stupid. Her hand passed though the insubstantial projection and she felt something like lightning shoot up her arm and explode in her brain as the world vanished in a blast of white light.
When the light faded, she found herself lying at the heart of another chamber. She was surrounded by hundreds of translucent red spheres, each the size of a human toddler and with a shadowy shape moving inside. Around the chamber she could see dozens of the aliens were covering the walls of the chamber with a dark metal and somehow she knew it was radiation shielding and the aliens were trying to protect the last of her clutches from the coming disaster.
Amandeep sat up and raised her arm in front of her, only vaguely surprised to find that it was an alien arm. Somehow she was experiencing the past through the eyes of one of the alien species’ breeding queens. They were trying to show her something.
She, or the queen whose body she was in, rose to her feet and walked through a doorway into a second chamber. Inside was a large bank of what she took to be computers and some sort of massive storage device. Knowledge seeped into her from the queen and she knew it to be a gene bank containing genetic samples of as much of their biosphere as they had managed to gather. She gasped as she realised what they wanted and the white light exploded around her again.
She came to in and isolation room in the medical bay on Talis Station to find Sangat sitting on the other side of the window looking worried.
â€œAm!â€ he said as soon as she opened her eyes. â€œAre you okay? The doctors said your brain activity was all over the place.â€
Amandeep rubbed her temples. â€œI’m okay, I think. How long was I out for? How did we get back?â€
â€œOnly a few hours,â€ he said. â€œAnd as soon as you touched that thing and passed out, everything started working again so we grabbed you and came straight back. We’ve all been cleared but the authorities want to check that you’re still you.â€
â€œI’m still me,â€ she said, then realised how daft that was. â€œBut that’s what I’d say anyway, isn’t it? How will they tell?â€
â€œThey just need to check out your brain activity. The fact the robot is undamaged and they let us go has calmed some of the paranoia.â€
â€œThey want us to save them,â€ she said.
â€œWhat?â€ he said. â€œHow are we supposed to save them from a disaster that happened several hundred thousand years ago?â€
â€œI saw it; they knew what was coming and left a clutch of their eggs and gene bank of their biosphere. They want us to restore the planet and hatch the eggs.â€ She rubbed her temples. â€œThe Council of Planets is going to have to make the decision. This is not the right way to go about asking for help and they might still be dangerous.â€