Frontiers

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Outpost

Well, at least her supplies were all in one piece. Cassidy glared at the numerous packs of nutrient pills and water components she had stacked in a dry spot, a couple feet from the buried escape pod, then dropped the last load of salvageable equipment. The rest of the locker’s contents – a pair of thermo-blankets, flares, and the communication module she had found dangling from a single, torn cable.

And of course... Cassidy pensively twisted the handle between her fingers, then pressed the mode-switch button – Leah’s mysterious device. She held it out and pondered, then set it aside and instead fetched her APA tablet. Her finger brushed the long, nasty crack in the display and she squinted. Well, at least it still worked. She’d just have to live with the crack until she found a way to get it fixed.

The screen flickered a bit more than usual when she switched it on but Cassidy did her best to ignore it. Maybe the APA could tell her what the device was supposed to be. Watch it be extremely useful, and I just haven’t utilized it because I didn’t think to check what it does, she grimly thought and held her wrist connector over the device. The connector beeped, and she skimmed the output information. “You... have got to be kidding me...!”


Cassidy barely believed what she was seeing... what she was doing. The sturdy metal of the pod unwound and parted seamlessly beneath the tip of the device – the molecular welder, that apparently just as effortlessly separated materials as it welded them together, on an atomic level. Of course that thing could have fixed Professor Kent’s plant pot. For a heartbeat, she dared to glimpse at her APA in her belt, and once more found it an immense shame it didn’t seem to work on interactable screens, or the crack would already be history.

As soon as she’d reached the end of the pod wall she dropped the welder and dragged the severed piece out of the dirt, to drop it with the rest. It had taken several hours but she had managed to dig up and disassemble every last bit of the escape pod, even the chair lay over by the parts.

Cassidy plopped down beside it and fused another pack of water. She threw a cautious glance over at her stash and thought if she were to ever reassemble the parts into a habitat, she’d better do so close to a natural water source. Her packs certainly wouldn’t last forever, and neither would her nutrient pills. And – she pensively stared at the dirt-stains covering her lower arms and legs – a bath or something along the lines was long overdue. But an external nutrient source she’d look into only when she absolutely had to. The more she thought about eating something non-artificial, the less she liked the thought.

Then again... Cassidy sighed, got back up, and wiped her dirty hands on her pant leg – maybe it would at least taste like something. Her mind reeled back to when Professor Kent had celebrated his laboratory’s tenth anniversary. He had relieved one of his favorite bushes from its load of yellow fruit and given one piece to each intern. Remember it well, for this will most likely be the first and last opportunity to eat biological food in a while. But this certainly is a worthy occasion.

Well, Cassidy put her hands to her hips and caught a glimpse at the sun that indicated it was already the late afternoon – not for her, as it would appear. She vividly recalled the strange yet overwhelmingly sweet taste, it had been unlike anything she had ever eaten. Apparently, back when people had still mostly lived on Earth, the fruit had been rather common – or at least their ancestor specimen. There wasn’t a single plant in Professor Kent’s lab that was entirely as it had originated in nature, so much Cassidy had learned quickly.

She pensively took a step back and scanned the result of her salvage, then eyed the progressing sun. Suddenly, unease rose in her for where to spend the next night. Who knew if those hounds wouldn’t be back as soon as night fell? And for as well as it had worked out last time, Cassidy wasn’t exactly eager to spend the night in a tree again.

She spun around on her heel, to survey for somewhere to attempt to set up a base of some kind. Then her eyes met the cliff and she instinctively took a step back. If this spot was at risk of landslides, she probably shouldn’t stay here. And hadn’t she decided she would need water?

For a moment she lingered, trying to assess whether she had done everything else. She’d eaten, drunk, disinfected all cuts and bruises, and couldn’t think of what else could be urgent, so her eyes quickly fixated on the lying remains of escape pod. She sighed and stuffed her APA and the welder into her belt. Before she’d start carrying any of this stuff around with her, she’d scout out a suitable location. Maybe her APA could point her towards a nearby water source.

She threw a pensive glance into the swamp she’d explored earlier, and determinately turned from it. There was no way she’d carry all the pod chunks through that. She looked to her left instead and spotted a narrow path that led parallel to the cliff, quickly disappearing in a couple bushes with large, red flowers shaped like hollow cups.

Well – Cassidy leaped over a mud-puddle and made her way towards the bushes – if she wanted to scout a possible camp location and transport the pieces there before the sun went down, she’d better get started.


October 8th, 303 PT [Device Date]

Sunset + 1.02 [807-X3 | Local Time]

Dammit, I really, REALLY didn’t want to spend the night up in a tree again. Oh well, there are... worse fates, I guess. Like being mauled to death by one of those hounds. Good news is, I found a base location, and even GOT THE POD BEACON WORKING so that I won’t lose it again. The APA is also still tracking my location, I permitted it to access my tracking implant data. Just in... case I do somehow get lost or something. Maybe it can use the data to point me back to a familiar area. And maybe the signal can even be picked up by anyone searching for me from off-planet. Hopefully...

Also, man, it feels weird to write something like this again. I wrote my last diary entry with... 13, I think? Does this count as a diary? It kind of feels like one, but also not? God, my old diary entries are probably still in here somewhere, actually. Luckily, nobody – and I MEAN nobody – would ever have the time to go through my billions of random unsorted files. Except... me, now. Maybe...

OH GOD NO, shouldn’t have done that. Should NOT HAVE DONE THAT. I am never ever looking through my old files again. I can not believe I actually MADE these things at some point. I so badly want to delete it all but there’s this teeny tiny part in me that imagines herself at 163, with 10 great-grandchildren, sitting in that rocking chair, just reading diary entries from 150 years ago. Maybe then I can actually wholeheartedly laugh at it all.

Wait, why can’t I laugh at it now?? It’s certainly not too soon yet... is it? Oh god... And that comic series I was drawing as a pre-teen is still on here as well... I think I first got into Greek mythology with like 10, and... is it normal to develop such obsessions at that age? I’m just going to go with yes because it makes me feel better.

Anyway, can I just say that the crack in the display isn’t helping with the typing part. The keyboard is constantly glitching out... I could probably just use TTS but honestly, it feels more personal to type. This ugly-as-space-hell standardized font isn’t helping either, but I don’t usually use this thing for writing so I have like 4 fonts in total on here, and this one is – believe it or not – still the best one. Also, I think the APA saves the time and date of every text document so that’s an easy way to keep track of time passage... if I do make this into a regular thing. I don’t know yet, honestly. I’m mainly writing because I have... nothing else to do.

I should probably go to sleep but I can’t. It’s really uncomfortable up here and I’m not tired enough to just pass out like last night. But hey, I have like... 3 walls of a base? Maybe 4 if you count the bulkhead I finished installing earlier.

It’s definitely weird to not have access to modern conformities. I don’t think I went a single day without a proper bathroom or a change of clothes... ever. I’ll have to figure out what to wear if I ever wash my clothes (which I’ll soon have to because man are they already dirty). Then again, there isn’t really anyone to see me here, so there’s not really any point in worrying about that. I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. Washing in general works, it’s just a bit gross, with how the water isn’t sterile. But I guess people used to do it this way for centuries, and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t the least bit fun. It’s actually kind of exciting if I’m being honest. I feel so... daring. And hey, I even managed to wash my hair a bit, though I am not sure how effective that will be, without shampoo. Who knows, maybe the APA can point out a potential natural substitute? I’ll have to look into that.

But what is even more strange is to... suddenly have nothing to do. Earlier, I sat here for like 10 minutes, staring up at the twin moons, just doing... nothing. Then I tried to remember the last time I had time to just sit and do nothing, and I couldn’t. It’s all been work, work, work, and MORE work, these last years. I mean, my friends complain I don’t have time for anything anymore. Eitan counts the occasions he gets to see me... It is really ironic, in a bad way, mind you, that now that I actually HAVE time, none of them are around for me to spend said time with.

Even though I don’t count, I do remember all the times I saw Eitan, this last month. He came to visit in the lab, a couple weeks ago. Is it... weird that I didn’t want him there? I mean I care about him... but work is work, isn’t it? It feels wrong to have someone from my personal life (if I even have something like that) mixing with my work life. Is that weird? Or am I the weird one?

I mean, I care about him! A lot! I think I’m not always the best at showing it. And it’s not like I don’t want to, but now that I’m here and alone, and now that I have so much time and brain space to spare for all of this it’s like I can see what he means. And I... man this is scary to even type, but I don’t really... understand why he’s still... well, WITH me...? I’ve not exactly been loving or affectionate. But that doesn’t mean I don’t care! I just... I FEEL certain things, and I know exactly what I feel, what feels right or wrong. But expressing or putting feelings into words is hard. Sometimes I wish others could just read my mind to find out how I feel. And then of course I remember, if anyone could read my mind, that would be terrifying and embarrassing, so no thanks.

Man, I really strayed off there... didn’t I? This will be another one for the “never look at again”-pile. Also, the more I think about it the less sure I am what the actual matter is with Eitan and I. I remember how we used to be back when we started dating. It’s been more than a year now... I think I might have missed the anniversary. I don’t remember him being upset about it... did I miss it? Or am I going crazy?

Despite how much I was working we weren’t like we are now though. Or were we? God, I am constantly second-guessing every sentence I write. What I know is that I care about him. What I also know is that if he ever said “I love you” I’d have a panic attack. Is that normal? Am I just a bad girlfriend or is this how it’s supposed to be?

I know Leah and Bas have been together for almost 3 years, and that with him living off-station. So I haven’t seen them interact much, most of their calls are private I think. But whenever she talks about him there’s always that... expression in her eyes. Should I be looking at Eitan like that too?

But also... it doesn’t matter. He’s far, far away on Avalon, and I feel more and more as though I’ve missed my chance to express all of this to him. Because, if I’m being completely and brutally honest, how big really are the chances for them to find me here? For me to... ever get back? I’m trying my best not to think about it, but then I just start thinking about other things, like all of the problems I just described, instead, and that’s not any better. Being alone with my thoughts is maybe one of the scariest parts of even being here. I can’t exactly smack those in the face with a branch if they gang up on me...

GAH, since when am I so contemplative?! (Totally didn’t just have to type that word 4 times before I spelled it correctly). It’s like I’m looking too closely at something I previously just skimmed over and suddenly see all the ugly, nasty imperfections I didn’t even want to see. Not a fan, 0/5 stars to that one. I think I don’t


Cassidy nearly dropped the APA when something suddenly rustled the dense bushes to her right. She quickly saved and closed the document, then crooked her neck to try and spot the source of the noise in the dim moonlight. Her eyes met her somewhat amateurly put-together beginnings of a base, almost directly beneath her tree, then the bushes in question.

There – the foliage rustled again and Cassidy on her branch stiffened. She cautiously raised her APA and swiped so that a bright flashlight beam hit the noisy undergrowth. Her heart skipped a beat when out of the bushes whizzed a hound-like creature with a tail with three tips. Her hand searched for a weapon instinctively, but when the hound had reached her base and rose to its hinds, clawing piteously at the metal frame, she frowned.

What the space- or well, alien-planet-hell was it doing? She hadn’t any food it would like in there, and only when it seemingly realized that, it approached her tree. As soon as it spotted her, it began growling, dragging its claws across the trunk. But when Cassidy directed her flashlight beam downward, she froze in surprise. It wasn’t just any of them... it was the one that had knocked its teeth out on the alien monolith. She clearly saw the jagged remains of its fangs hanging out of the half-open mouth.

“Go away!” She flailed her flashlight beam in the hope it would scare the hound. “There isn’t any food here for you!”

It gazed up at her with, how Cassidy was convinced, angry spite – then turned on its heel. Moments later it had stuck its nose into one of the thermo-blankets she had gathered some fruit in earlier.

“Hey, that’s mine!”, she cried and rose more, only to almost lose balance. “Besides, you don’t even like that! APA says you’re a carnivore!” She glanced at her tablet. “Like, you eat meat, and that’s not meat. So shoo!”

The hound completely ignored her. It rummaged through every crate and nook it could find around her camp, and when it found nothing it wanted, began to sound a type of high-pitched howling that involuntarily sent a shiver down Cassidy’s spine. “Hey, QUIET!”, she cried and waved her APA with the flashlight beam, “You’ll just attract your friends and I can do without that!”

Of course, it didn’t listen. The howling continued for what seemed to Cassidy like an hour, could have really only been a couple minutes though. When the howling didn’t amount to anything either, the hound finally turned from her camp, towards where it had come from.

“Yeah, that’s right! GO!” She tossed a small piece of branch after it before the creature finally disappeared into the dense undergrowth.

Cassidy took a couple deep, shaky breaths before she dared relax again. Though for as things were, it took her a long time to fall asleep.


“Alright, it’s time to ’splore. There’s got to be something up that cliff.” Cassidy pushed the metal piece she had put on an improvised hinge and stepped out of the base – not without throwing another proud glance back. “You’ll tell me if there’s anything close by that wants to eat me, right?”, she addressed her APA and turned, then stopped, thinking she should take her jacket, just in case.

The base would hold out well enough. The pod had had several layers of floor, and two casings, an inner and an outer one – all solid plasteel. Most likely to survive entry into an atmosphere, Cassidy thought, but for all she currently cared, it just gave her more base materials.

She stepped back into what she was already proudly calling a “living room”, despite it being tiny, and mostly for storage and extra space. She had also set up a little table and the escape pod chair as an improvised workplace. The APA had instructed her to research the strange alien artifact, and find out if there were more, and even if it wouldn’t have, Cassidy knew there was little that would have kept her from doing so.

Everything about the thought of an intelligent alien species intrigued her – it had been the first of her countless passions. And she remembered the amused face of Johanathan, her nursery caretaker, when she had first asked how many aliens humans had already met, during their journeys into space. Oh, many aliens, he had grinned, just not any intelligent ones. You see, it’s not easy to develop so far you’re able to build a society, let alone travel space. We’ve seen and charted many planets, but all we found in terms of aliens were animals and plants.

She smiled at the memory of the interactive picture feed he had taken her to see, that showcased the most noteworthy of those alien lifeforms. And now here she was – Cassidy scooped up her jacket and dropped the molecular welder she’d been carrying around with herself the last couple days on the improvised desk – in the process of researching the first-ever discovered trace of intelligent alien life. Sure, she had no equipment besides her APA, but if anything, the workstation still sufficed for sitting and studying gathered data. She just couldn’t use it during the night, unless she wanted to use up all her APA battery power on light.

Cassidy sensed a slight sting of fear when she thought of the battery issue, yet shoved it back. The APA had a battery life of several weeks, and she usually completely forgot how it had to be charged at all until it started beeping at her that its battery was almost empty. There wasn’t any charger here though, and the sole thought it could start beeping at her soon frightened Cassidy more than a pack of bloodthirsty predators swarming her new base.

With a firm pull, she opened her improvised base door again and took a last look back, contemplating whether she shouldn’t leave the welder behind the bulkhead. She had used what had formerly been the pod’s hatch to lock off her bedroom instead of her whole base. There was just something that made her feel safer when the chamber she would lock herself in for the night was small and compact.

After a short moment of hesitation, Cassidy shrugged and slammed the door shut, stuffing the jacket into the backpack she had found at the bottom of the escape pod locker. She shouldered it and stepped away from the base, then tapped her wrist connector to ensure the beacon function was working. There was no way she’d get lost like last time.

And – for a moment she stopped to take the view in. Her camp, traces of her work, scattered about. An overwhelming sense of freedom had her head spin with emotions. She may be stranded out in unfamiliar wilderness, going up against predators, eating natural food, and washing herself in rivers like a cavewoman, but... at what reward? There was nothing to do, she smiled. She could use every natural resource, name every species, even put up a flag and declare herself queen of the planet if she fancied it. There was nothing to do – nothing except whatever she wanted to do. And she wanted to ’splore.


Cassidy walked through dense yet astonishingly dry forest for maybe half an hour. In the process of carrying over the pod pieces she had created a small path that meandered in between massive stems of trees and overgrown stumps, lush bushes with strangely shaped flowers and leaves larger than her entire upper body.

She wasn’t too certain what types of creatures lived here, but she hadn’t been attacked directly at the base yet... if you disregarded the hound that had somehow managed to find her, two days ago. The reason as to why it had sought her out had kept her up for a considerable while that night, and Cassidy had finally concluded it must have thought she had food. Maybe it can’t properly hunt anymore after it knocked its teeth out like that. For some reason, the thought had sent a shiver down her spine. Surely its fellow... well, whatever their species was called, would feed it. But in that case, it wouldn’t have had any reason to come back.

She continued in this manner for another ten minutes before she finally arrived back where her pod had initially crashed... only to be faced with a massive heap of earth that had come down from up the cliff, burying everything up to the first outskirt of swamp to her right.

“Well, good thing I left here when I did”, she mumbled to herself and proceeded to climb what had formerly been the cliff. At least it was much less steep now.

When she finally pulled over the edge she found herself in a scape much like the swamp she had crossed on her first day. No wonder the ground here is unstable, she thought as she cautiously maneuvered around the deepest puddles of yellowish mud.

For a moment she faltered, asking herself whether she wasn’t repeating exactly what she’d so dearly regretted, on her first day. “I’m not capering off mindlessly”, she said out loud and shook her head, brushing back the curls. “I have a beacon back, and I have an objective. A most important objective that could shape the future of humanity.”

Her heartbeat elevated at the thought of possibly discovering more alien artifacts. All concerns in regards to being alone and cut off from any society that could have acknowledged or used her discovery she shoved aside. All that mattered was that this was her incentive. She didn’t know whether she’d ever get back, but she knew that if she did, she and all of humanity, possibly, would be grateful for any piece of gathered data.

At some point, Cassidy didn’t even bother stashing her APA away. She took picture after picture, in a desperate attempt to capture the marvelous beauty of this planet, though every time she looked at one of them, she was once more reminded of how utterly impossible that was.

The large-stemmed trees with the thick undergrowth and the greenish-grey swamp palette was slowly but surely replaced by more delicate growth. Cassidy had walked for maybe an hour when she realized she couldn’t see a single of the massive swamp trees anymore. Around her sprouted graceful, vine-like growth, around their fragile branches meandered thin, light vines over and over adorned with little white flowers. The vine-esque trees themselves often spun and wound around each other, forming almost artificial-seeming arcades and living structures. Over the miraculous scene hung a sweet, thick scent, very unlike the rotten stench of the swamp.

Cassidy marveled at the scene for a few heartbeats, then leaped forward, beneath an especially large arcade, and began spinning in circles. Never had she felt more like a princess from an ancient fairy tale, that could frolic in the woods, talk to animals, and marry a prince to become a wise and just queen who loved her subjects and still occasionally went out in secret to kick around leaves in the neighboring forest.

She vigorously laughed as she crashed into one of the vine trees. A load of flower pellets loosened on impact and Cassidy laughed even harder when she was engulfed in a wave of white. She shook her head and from her hair rained pellets. A couple moments later she was vigorously sneezing, causing the trees around her to lose even more pellets. Oh well, there were certainly worse things to have stuck in your hair.

Her glee was abruptly cut short by the beeping of her APA. She stopped and frowned before pulling out the tablet. She had set it to auto-scan for danger, but surely there couldn’t be any –

Cassidy froze to solid ice. Her bliss cracked and her hand lowered, then she slowly raised her head. There, on a low branch, only inches from her face she spotted it. And over on the next tree were two more. Cassidy blinked, fighting the uprising horror, and the impulse to step back. They were barely visible against the smothering white of flowers, every single one would have easily fit into her palm. Except she was certain she didn’t want them touching her skin, ever.

Highly potent neuro-toxin transferred on contact; reference Earth’s Poison Arrow Frogs. Cassidy attempted to recall the little she had taken in from her APA alert and stared at the tiny white face of the mantis-like creature, inches before her face. From the corner of an eye, she spotted the other two had drawn closer, and she thought she saw more to her left. By all means, she was most likely surrounded.

In her head, she desperately screamed, yet out of her mouth came no sound. Get to the ground, minimalize the area of your own body, and retreat backward without letting it out of your sight. Cassidy shivered at the memory of the mortified face of her fellow intern Pellek who had, while cleaning one of Professor Kent’s terrariums, accidentally released a highly venomous arachnid, and been cornered by it. She had been there when the Professor had responded to his distress call and slowly beckoned him away until he could successfully immobilize the insect.

But there was nobody with a stun device here, nor was there anyone to call for help. And she wasn’t just cornered by one... Cassidy couldn’t prevent a panicked yelp when one of the mantis-like creatures drew a couple inches closer. They were all over the place.

Her hand instinctively raised, in horror at how it would have ended for her if one had fallen onto her head, and she violently shrieked when she came in contact with a leftover pellet that had gotten stuck in her curls. She took a deep breath and realized her wrist connector was beeping like a jackhammer – and not with the alert sound this time.

Cassidy swallowed and slowly lowered herself to her knees. It was her only option, to do as Professor Kent had advised Pellek. Decrease her exposed body area and back away. She was now at least not going to run into a hanging branch on accident.

Every step felt like she treaded on glowing embers, and Cassidy felt as though an eternity had passed when she finally dove out of the arcade with relief. Her wrist connector still hammered as ever and suddenly she felt as though she didn’t like being under any living plants anymore.

She tightened her grip on the straps of her backpack and began sprinting, despite how she trampled down most of the potentially just as deadly foliage in her path and ran out of breath almost instantly. But she didn’t stop until she had reached the end of the forest, and nearly fell face-forward into a fast-streaming river.

Only when she had assured herself there wasn’t anything above her or on her, Cassidy dared breathe out in relief. When she jumped the river and faced backward into the forest, she suddenly froze. She fingered for her APA and when she held it up, her mouth widened into a grin. This was much more like it.


October 10th, 303 PT [Device Date]

Sunset - 10.58 [807-X3 | Local Time]

Encountered two alien structures, coordinates, measurements, scans, and pictures attached. Appear as almost two halves of an arc, arching over the river.

Summary of scan:

Application in production of oxygen and filtering of water. Apparently, this river wouldn’t be safe to drink from if the device wouldn’t filter out all toxins.

Same age as previous one (60-70 Million SY), same material, same unknown designer, also fully functional. Same purpose (or at least general goal) as the previous one (terraforming).

From what the APA said about environmental anomalies last time, it is safe to say this planet would not have supported life before whatever alien species installed these, came and... well, installed these. Attempted to terraform it into being habitable for life as we know it.

And currently, the big question I want to answer is why.

Possible reasons the aliens could have had to terraform this planet:

They wanted to move here and they need the same conditions as humans for that. Problem – the data indicates they were sufficiently more advanced than humans, just by the type of tech apparently available to them (type 2 or above on the Kardashev scale), so they probably could have solved a habitation problem in a less roundabout way. Still, this remains a valid theory.

They needed these conditions to support other life, either for a less developed species they were providing for, or a type of experiment. Problem – why is the species the planet was for not here now? Or is it, if it wasn’t intelligent?

Just generally, the second question seems to be – why are there traces of intelligent life here, but no actual individuals of that species, or any other? If these aliens were, even all those millions of years ago, so advanced they could draw power from and populate multiple solar systems or even whole galaxies (as a true type 2+ civilization), what could... possibly have caused them to relinquish this place or maybe even go extinct? Is there anything that could cause such a disruption for a civilization that advanced? Honestly, as much as I have to assume this to be the case, I don’t like that.

And then there is an even creepier thought... if they were already so advanced, 60 Million years ago, and if they AREN’T extinct... how advanced are they now? Are we dealing with actual... gods here?

Man, as fascinating as all this is, it scares the absolute alien-planet hell out of me. I’m trying to stay as professional as I can but just skimming over everything I wrote so far sends chills down my spine. I mean... this isn’t a James Cameron- or Kaylee Bao-movie. And while I... maybe once did write in my diary that living one of those movies would be my biggest dream come true (I WAS 12 OK?!), this is suddenly all too real. I really don’t want there to be an all-powerful alien race here (I mean I kind of do, but THAT’S NOT THE POINT!). I just... I just want to go home. I don’t think I’m the proper person to be here, discovering this. I’m not ready for this.


Cassidy stared at her last couple lines with furrowed brows, thinking she should probably delete them. This had supposed to be a professional take on her findings, and instead, she sounded like a whiny child.

She shook her head and dropped her APA, to fill the cup she’d found in the escape pod’s locker in the river to drink. She’d clean that entry up later, it wasn’t like anyone was rushing her.

As she took her first sip, her gaze searched the vast horizon in the blazing light of a high sun. And... so what if there was an all-powerful alien species out there? This wasn’t a science-fiction movie. The chances of them being evil tyrants that would force her to fight in a gladiator-arena or make her a slave to serve their ruler or whatever else countless authors and directors had thought up, over the last five centuries, were minuscule at best. They would probably welcome her as a fellow intelligence, and maybe even teach her neat things that could make her and the rest of humanity’s lives easier.

Her mouth widened to a grin at the thought of what marvelous, unimaginable things such an advanced species could teach her when her APA she had carelessly left by the riverbank suddenly lit up in static blue. Cassidy frowned as she scooted over, it wasn’t supposed to be blue. Or had she imagined that?

She cautiously tapped the flickering, cracked screen and before she could wonder whether the malfunction had anything to do with the damage, the tablet lit up in a uniform light blue.

. . – _ – . . . – _ _ _ . .

. . – _ – . . . – _ _ _ . .

. . – _ – . .

Cassidy stared at the screen with large eyes, waiting for the pattern to repeat a third time. But instead, the screen froze, still emitting the strangely iridescent blue light, before it went completely dark. Once in a while, it would flash with blue static, illuminating strange patterns she couldn’t make sense of.

It took her wrist connector nearly a minute to stop frantically hammering, and another minute until Cassidy finally dared to pick the tablet up again. She half-expected there to be no trace of the strange message... or whatever that had been, when she attempted to view the output history. But to her astonishment the history had been erased altogether... save one entry.

“Where... is that?” Cassidy copied and input the row of what appeared to be coordinates, between strange other symbols her APA couldn’t translate, and frowned in the direction opposite the eerie forest she had crossed. On the outskirt of the large plain, she spotted the beginnings of a grassy marsh with ferns taller than her.

A mix between nerve-wracking anxiety and soul-shaking excitement overwhelmed her as she looked back at the screen. Sure, she didn’t know what that had been, but she knew where it had come from... or more precisely, where it wanted her to go.

For a moment she pondered whether she could even say “it wanted”, but... what else would she say? This was definitely not a coincidence or a glitch. It was a... repeating pattern. A pattern she hadn’t a clue as to what it meant, except one thing – that something was working around here, beyond the state of vegetative production of oxygen or cleansing of water.

Her hand hovered above the screen. Whatever had sent this out must be some kind of technology... or – she swallowed – no, an intelligent lifeform would have just walked over instead of beckoning her in this manner. Cassidy determinately stood up. There was no way to be sure, of course, except – she lingered for a moment, taking in the plain ahead and the marsh beyond – to press on.

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