"Capitan's Log; Imperial Navel Scout HMS Resolve outbound from Castor 4. Preparing survey to upgrade jump-point catalog with the most recent reference numbers and any new points found." "Lt. Cmdr. Jason Pool commanding; ship is again fully provisioned and three new drones as replacement for those lost on last mission." "Sector Alpha 35 will be the first scanned as it has not been updated in 6yrs. Log end."
I set coarse for sector A35 and kick in the engines hoping for a routine patrol as I'm getting tired of always ending up on the short end of the stick when it comes to excitement. I've had enough lately to keep my dance card full for about 100yrs.
I enter sector A35 uneventfully and pray that it stays that way. "Log entry: Have entered sector Alpha 35 and am starting patrol. Log end."
Two weeks and nothing to report outside the norm; God I hope it stays that way. The last few runs have been more than a little wild: Run 38A6; jump ended 10AU from star going super-nova; Run 39B16; jump ended in the middle of an asteroid field: Run 40D3; jump ended in an active gas nebula: Run 41G2; jump ended in coronal envelope: Run 42L1; jump ended in atmosphere of gas giant: and this last one; Run 43A9; jump ended just outside event horizon of black hole. I need a nice quiet milk run for a change.
Sensors tell me they have picked up an uncharted jump point; hopefully a nice stable one without a life threatening exit. "Log, Run 44W7; new jump coordinates 153.14X78.54X18.8: preparing for jump. Execute. Log end."
I exit the jump and heave a sigh of relief as there are no immediate sensor warnings. I put the sensors to checking the immediate proximity and find a system with a G4 star and 14 planets. "Log, jump complete, no immediate threat, proceeding to system for closer inspection. Log end."
The closer to the system I get the stranger it gets. Of the 14 planets 8 are within the 'life zone' 0.85AU to 1.15AU. Either this is one hell of a coincidence or someone/something has been at work doing some great engineering.
There are no planets closer to the primary than those in AU orbit, and there is a huge gap between them and the outer gas giants. It's as if all the inner planets have been moved to the AU ring to support whatever life exists here.
All the planets in the zone are orbiting at the same orbital rate of 461 days (standard) and all show signs of atmosphere and energy generation. I am picking up small ship traffic between the zone planets and an odd form of communications all pops, clicks and hums.
I enter the inner system slowly with all my sensors on and hope that I'm not perceived as a threat by whoever has the power to move worlds around. I'm at about 3.5AU when suddenly my ship is seized by what appears to be nothing more than a tractor beam, but one of incredible power. I am being pulled toward the 2nd largest of the zone worlds and there is nothing I can do about it so I shut down my propulsion systems and let them have their way.
"Log; have been seized by tractor beam of incredible power and am being pulled toward the 2nd largest of the planets in this system. Propulsion shut down to conserve fuel for possible; what??? Will advise as to status as able. Log end."
I am within 1,000,000 km when 3 ships come alongside and mag-grapple to my ship. I 'feel' the tractor release and the attached ships start a decent to the planet below. Sensors tell me that the atmosphere is breathable and I should have no ill effects from it.
As I approach the surface a pattern develops and although I've seen it before never on such a grand scale. Everything is laid out in hexagons as if it's a giant bee hive.
My ship was set down on a landing cradle and mag-locked in place. The other ships were cradled and after about 30 minutes a door opened in the side of the nearby building and out stepped a BEE! A real live walking upright bee. I saw no sign of armaments so I made my way to the airlock, cycled it and prepared to step out.
"Log: maintain contact ship comp to comm tag; maintain running log entry."
A platform was raised up to my airlock and I stepped onto it to be lowered to ground level. I stepped off the platform to come face-to-face with a humanoid bee; 170cm tall, 80 kilos and if they were like bees on Earth most likely a drone/worker. Its mouth was moving but all I heard was clicks, hums and pops, obviously a language of some sort but not one that my ship had figured out yet. I had my ship send out a drone with a portable computer and started a mathematics tutorial playing; the drone/worker raised its arm and I paused the player. It turned to the building and I heard a loud series of pops and clicks, shortly thereafter another drone/worker came out and it signaled to the computer so I restarted the tutorial.
As the tutorial played another bee came forward with what I took to be one of their computers. They set it up so that my ships computer could see the screen and they started what I assumed to be a similar tutorial. Their tutorial was annotated with hums, pops and clicks which I took to be a voice over as did my ships computer. After about 20 minutes my ship started telling me what the pops, hums and clicks all meant.
With my ship translating we; with the aid of my comp, started a conversation and they started by asking me; "What are you?" " Where are you from?" "Why are you here?" So I started answering.
"What are you?" "Human."
"Where are you from?" "Earth, across the galaxy about there," as I pointed to the sky.
"Why are you here?" "I am an explorer and I search out new civilizations to contact."
I ask, "What are you called?" "We are the Hizzpptt and this world is known as Hizzpptt Prime."
"You moved all those other planets?" "Yes we did. We needed more room for our people so we moved those worlds and converted them to livable space."
"I wonder, is your society as ordered as the bees of my home world?" I asked.
"We have a very ordered society but, it is not as it once was. Long ago our Queen controlled everything and we answered to her beck-and-call. But about 250,000yrs ago a change started to take place where we became more independent as individuals and less of one mind. Over time more and more of our people chose to be something other than what our society said they should be. Soon we developed different personalities and more females than just the Queen became fertile and soon females were laying eggs from matings of their chosen male partner."
"Many wars were fought over who ruled and how but we survived as a society and even though we still have a Queen she is only a guide in how we go about our lives."
We talked for a couple of more hours as we learned about each other's worlds and society's. The day was coming to a close when a large ground vehicle arrived and all the 'people' around me turned and knelt as from the 'car' stepped the most wondrous sight I'd ever beheld.
First let me describe the 'people'. They are bees; vestigial wings, 4 legs, 2 arms ending in opposing 2 'fingered' pincers and they have 2 antennae on the top of their head. But that is where the similarity ends; the facial structure is more like that of a human than a bee; with standard eyes facing front instead of compound on the side, a flatter wider nose, and a mouth very similar to our own. They vary in color from dull yellow/orange to sunshine bright yellow stripes alternating with dark grey to black stripes.
Now the Queen; when she stepped from the 'car' I was awe struck. She is a brilliant gold and ebony black coloration and stands about 5cm taller than all the others here. Her wings are much larger, though I doubt she can fly, than any others and are a brilliant rainbow spectrum of color. As she nears I bow and when I look up she is staring at me as if I'm about to become dinner. She speaks to Bettrrgg and I hear the translation, "Bettrrgg what is this creature that stands before me?"
"He is a human from Earth, a world across the galaxy from here. He is an explorer and his craft brought him here through the rift that has claimed so many of our ships."
"How is this possible?" she asks.
"He has a special type of drive system on his ship that allows him to navigate and pass through the rift." he tells her.
"Your Majesty if I may be so bold," I speak up, "My ship is designed to utilize the rift as you call it to travel great distances across the galaxy. My own world is so distant that it cannot be seen from here, but it lies in that direction." I point to an area of the sky in roughly the right quadrant.
"How do you know our language stranger?" she asks.