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Andre la Pierre sat at one of the remaining tables aboard the pod. The drones working below ground to mine for materials were the vast majority of drones on Ericsson, but a few others had been sent out to scout and explore. Through the orbiter the expedition received data from the ones on the far side of the planet. “This one has found a library of sorts.” He explained to a woman sitting in the room with him. She was a private, Helga Lindstroem, and there to assess threat levels from any potentially hidden remnants of the civilisation once native to Ericsson.

“And?” Although it was her duty, she was bored. The dealings of libraries were never up her alley.

“This is significant!” Excited he waved his arms, “Already the drone has sampled a lot of their literature, uploaded it to our computer. Now we need to run algorithms to crack the language they had.”

A puzzled look appeared on Helgas face. “My native language is Swedish, yours is French, we communicate in English. Their language is perhaps, if not most probably, one of many languages once spoken and written in, on this planet.” Baffled by her reasoning Andre paused for a moment.

“True. But we could crack the language in that library.” He nodded finally.

Pages of writing unlike anything they had ever seen before flashed across the screen. Simultaneously the two sighed.

Xiaofeng entered the room clearly studying mappings on his glasses, his remaining colleague studied those as well, somewhere on the pod, while the other two privates scouted the settlement around their landing site.

“We dropped gold.” The incoming transmission woke Andre from his gaze at the alien writing from the far side of the planet.

A new image appeared, a video transmission.

Filmed with the head camera of one of the privates, it showed the other. He held something. Nervously fidgeting with his glasses, which doubled as communication device, he gasped for air. “Are those what I think they are?”

“If you think of newspapers, we think so too.” Said the man filming, his colleague meanwhile began taking pictures of the papers. “Listen, we would’ve surprised you with our findings upon return, but we thought you might want to see the cover of one of these right away.” A third window popped up, an incoming file transfer. As soon as it was finished, the window displayed the image.

“Look familiar?” The man asked. On the cover, surrounded by the strange writings was a huge black and white photo, obviously taken through a telescope.

“The neutron starstar.” Helga blurted out.

“Or a different one.” Andre mumbled, close to whispering. He aborted the running programme in the background. Although the alien might have had a different name for the phenomenon than “neutron star” they surely had a name for it containing the word star. Even though their technological development suggest a stage comparable to late nineteenth century Europe and America, they must’ve had a certain understanding of the universe.

“There weren’t many issues after this. As far as we can tell they stacked the newspapers putting the newest on top. Several other piles like the one we have stumbled upon are here.” Andre was a little upset, there had been an intelligence drone in the mining town, but somehow it had overlooked the newspapers.

 

“It is pretty narrow in there, the drone might have deemed it too narrow for it to investigate.” Private Amir Mustafa ran his fingers through his black curly hair. In front of him stood Andre, he was disappointed that the two privates had not taken the newspapers, or the one most significant issue with them. But quarantine procedures demanded for them to leave all materials outside if they were handled by the natives, so any potential contagion would be stopped.

Medical doctors had raised the point that alien viruses and bacteria are unfamiliar with the human body, and thus no threat, but the Admiral and Dr. Nye Charles had been strict.

“Any luck with the translation so far?” Private Giuseppe D’Aggio also wussed black curls. “Only their word for star so far.” Was Andre’s reply.

Utter disappointment spread in his mind. And disdain for the Italian. Age old rivalries couldn’t be undone, not even by a neutron star. It surprised everyone involved with the project that the Chinese had not tried to pull off a stunt rescuing only their people. Instead they had pooled their resources, workers and knowledge with the rest of the world.

“We will get behind this mystery eventually.” Achim worked hard not to sound like a turk, making his roots the more obvious. Speechless by his disappointment Andre turned on his heels, walked away to the room in which his console stood.

Soon Wesley Smith would return, the delivery system would be finalised, and they would start taking on loads of minerals, metals and ore, his timetime with the alien writings was endless, but the chance to see them in person, to discover more, would soon be gone.

“Doctor la Pierre?” In the hours since the discovery of the newspapers Helga and Andre had worked together so intensely that he saw the private now more as his assistant than a soldier. “Smith is calling. We’re to gather in the cockpit.”

More annoyed than anything else he gazed at his display. No other words had been deciphered.

 

“We found an alien skeleton. If there are any pathogens, we were subjected to them. So for now we are under quarantine down here. The relay station determined that the body has been lying there for at least two millenia.” Andre’s mind went into overdrive. Had the cataclysm not destroyed the aliens, they would be far more advanced than humanity. Instead he and his colleagues stood on an alien world, looking down on the deceased as technological backwards. When humanity still crucified people who preached peace and kindness, the aliens had electricity, guns and a planet spanning economic network.

“We have made some discoveries too.” He heard himself say. “Made by privates D’Aggio and Mustafa. Apparently the natives had a run in, or at least sighting of, a netron star, maybe the same that is threatening earth.”

Wesley raised an eyebrow, he didn’t care that much for the news, so much was obvious. With his own safe being on the line everyone understood.

“The relay station is capable of detecting any pathogen, so no possibly contagious material is prepared for shipping. We just have to wait for the results.” putting a light touch on the situation Wesley smiled.

 

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