Friday, May 19, 2017

Flash Fiction # 251: Anomaly

Note:  I have dropped in on Tana's little scout ship and her crew a few times before.  If you would like to read the sequence here are the previous flash fiction pieces:

Flash Friday # 106 -- The Replacement

Flash Fiction # 141 -- The Outpost

Flash Fiction # 161 -- Illusion

Flash Fiction # 211 -- Team work

Tana hated to admit how much she preferred being out in the fighter with her two crew rather than being back on the Belgium with the rest of the humans.  With a few rare exceptions, like the Captain of the Belgium, almost everyone had started to annoy her more than she wanted to admit.  Tana had snarled until they were finally away from communication's range and even those voices went silent.  Around them stretched a lovely bit of space with a blue-green nebula off to the side, a sparkle of stars through the haze.

However, she still had her two crew to deal with now.

"Another bad date?" Krisin asked.

Tana looked back over her shoulder with a snarl at the craft's weapon's officer.  Lisel, they're Catchin copilot, started to make a sound of amusement and coughed instead.  Wiser than Krisin.

Krisin looked unrepentant, but then he hadn't had any luck with dates either.  She almost asked Lisel if he'd had better luck than the humans, but she didn't know enough about the Catchin society to know if they dated at all.  The one hundred Catchin on board Belgium was the largest such community on any of the Fleet's ships, but they kept to themselves for the most part.

Tana sighed and sat back in her chair.  "You're right, another bad date.  This time it wasn't so much the guy as everyone else around us.  They were all rude.  Okay, and I punched the guy in the face at the other table who kept meowing, but that was kind of an afterthought."

Lisel looked at her, his green cat-eyes wide, and his mouth clamped shut.  His ears had not gone down and he looked more like a tabby with long curly hair than he had in a long time.  Catchins were hybrid human/cat genetic warriors.  She probably shouldn't have mentioned that part --

And then he started laughing.  A few moments later they were all laughing.  They were out on patrol, in a dangerous and uncharted territory, and she could barely get her breath back and her eyes watered.

"Could be -- could be -- trouble!" she protested and laughed again.

Lisel still managed to pilot without a problem at least, though a laugh rumbled through him while he took deep breaths.  He swept them around a small bit of rock and ice that wasn't even in a belt --

And then he turned them back in as sharp a curve as the fighter could make.  "Something wrong there," he needlessly said.  The other two had already realized he'd spotted something and Krisin even started bring up the weapons.

Lisel and Tana worked to bring the craft around and get a closer look at the asteroid.  As they slowed as much as they could -- no good gravity well to push against -- she watched the oddly shaped rock and the surface.

Those lines had to be natural features.  Nice straight lines at the bottom, and lines that curled up and around toward the top.  Pretty.

"Hell," she whispered.  "What are we supposed to do now?"

Lisel stared even as his fingers made careful adjustments to the controls and he swept them around the rock, using the innate gravity of the huge stone to hold them partly in place.  His eyes blinked, and she had the impression of a computer digging through very old files and looking for answers that were not there.

"Nazca," he said.  "The Tree."

"Is that supposed to make sense?" Kristin asked with a touch of curiosity overriding the usual snideness.

"Earth.  A place in South America, ancient Peru."

"I didn't know you were interested in Earth," Tana said.

"Why not?" he asked and flashed a brighter grin.  "After all, at least two of my ancestors came from there, though they lived entirely different lifestyles.  I am starting to think the cats might have been the wiser race.  They aren't running around out here looking for trouble."

"True," she admitted.  Tana hadn't realized until now that she'd considered her companion an alien, not a part of earth's history.  She didn't like to find that kind of bigotry in herself.  "Are you sure about the design?"

"Too close to be chance," he said.  "The tree at Nazca is laid out on a flat plain.  Here, they've drawn it up around the base so that the tree's limbs encircle the rest of the asteroid. See how they shaped the bottom like a tree trunk with all those straight lines?  But the design itself is very much the same."

"So the designs at Nazca were done by aliens?" Tana asked as they kept circling.  This was not a big rock -- about twice the size of Belgium.

Lisel said nothing for a moment.  His ears moved up and down as he watched the area before them.  "No, aliens didn't make Nazca.  They proved it was an indigenous people."

"So what is this?" Kristin asked.

"Someone who saw the tree. The designs are visible from high up and they've been there for thousands of years.  I am not reading any hollow in the asteroid."

"Neither am I," Tana agreed.  She ran her fingers over the controls again.  "I don't know if I'm happy or not.  I'd like answers."

"I think I know the big answer," Lisel said.  He smiled quite unexpectedly.  "They did this because it was pretty."

"Art for art's sake," Kristin replied and sounded as though he agreed.  "If we report this --"

"No," Tana said.  "This isn't the work of wereships, so that means another alien species.  I'll tell the Captain, but I don't think we want anyone else jumping at shadows."

"Or coming out here and cutting this to pieces, looking for answers," Lisel added.  "I wonder what else we'll find, now that we know to look."

"Aliens?" Tana asked.

"Yes. And maybe allies.  Beings who copy tree symbols from earth don't strike me as someone who would ally with the weres.  Let's hope we're not too late."

Word count 997

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