While Testicleeze had shown Damitol how to draw shapes from star patterns, his equipment scanned space on an automatic search for anomalies. They were both surprised to hear it beep.
“Well,” he said, “I guess there’s something else around here for us to see.”
After noting the coordinates from the scan, he turned his enhancer in the indicated direction. He started with a low magnification so he could see more at once, and after examining the sky for about a minute he made a whistling noise.
“Now, that is odd.”
Damitol had been recording her thoughts on the ship’s log. “What did you find?”
“A box. In space.”
“Something with corners? How does that happen?”
He gave Damitol the enhancer and pointed it for her. “I don’t really know. It’s a big red rectangle. With a star in the middle.”
“How?” she asked again.
“Let me have the enhancer, again. I’ll up the mag.”
The rectangle resolved into an even more complex shape. In the center sat a brilliant star. A bright, flattened x-shape stretched out from it. Lines of light joined those radial features, looking like rungs of a ladder.
“I can’t believe this is natural,” he said.
Damitol took the enhancer and peered into it. “Are you sure this isn’t an effect of your toy? A glitch?”
“No, I checked some other stars to be sure. That’s real. Some kind of nebula. My measurements indicate that the star in the middle is quite old, and it’s emitting a lot of its mass. Readings suggest another star really close. Maybe the binary has something to do with the shape?”
“Don’t ask me,” she said. “I pilot. You explain the galaxy.”
“I’m totally gobsmacked here.”
“Let’s take some pix. I’ll put them in the log. When we get home, someone can come and investigate.”
Testicleeze made as many measurements as his instruments could perform, while Damitol took photographs and entered information into the log.
“What do you think of our joy ride, now?” she asked.
“Totally gonzo. This is better than anything I had on my list. A totally new, totally radical object.”
“OK,” she said. “Ready to go to the next place?”
“Yes. Farther out the spiral, OK?”
“Fine by me.”
She made a few rough calculations and entered a new location into the nav system. They slid away from the space-sized qualler and the rectangular nebula.
He did a quick scan. “A stellar system, not too far away. Looks like it has planets. Maybe atmosphere.”
“Think we’ll see more rocks?”
“You mean, living ones? Who knows?”
He entered the coordinates, and Damitol slipped the junger to the edge of the system. Several planets were roughly aligned on one side of the sun. They all seemed to fall within an orbital plane, and the junger sat above the plane. Or below. It’s all relative.
“Several planets have some atmosphere. But that one there looks most promising.” Testicleeze gathered information on the planet’s air. “Seems breathable. Water vapor in the air, so probably liquid water on the surface.”
“I’d like to get out again,” Damitol said. “I didn’t really get to stretch much back there with the rocks. I was too scared to move most of the time.”
“Slip closer and let’s take a look.”
Stay tuned for the next adventure in the joy rides of Damitol and Testicleeze.
Image of HD 44179, the red rectangle, from NASA. See their explanation of this odd phenomenon at https://www.nasa.gov/image-feature/goddard/2016/hubble-frames-a-unique-red-rectangle.
Merlin didn’t sleep forever after Arthur’s death. No, he came to Houston.
When Merlin awoke from a fifteen-hundred year sleep, he stowed away on a container ship leaving Britain. But in the Gulf of Mexico, it sailed into a hurricane. Can the old druid make it through the storm to Texas? Download a copy of this short story by clicking here.
You can get more Merlin in Texas by reading Merlin’s Knot, available on Amazon.com.