Science Fiction

Una rested her paddle across the hull of the outrigger where she sat in the stern seat; seawater dripped onto her bare knees. The waves lapped gently against the charcoal-treated boat-sides. She peered windward into the horizon. The breeze ruffling the sea soothed her face. They had paddled a good hour since Adonais, the larger of the binary stars, first peaked over the horizon. Now the serene sea shimmered purple-blue as Lycidas, the second orb, broke out from the watery surface, pursuing Adonais in its heavenly arc. Can’t beat a day like this for fishing, she thought.

By now Una’s parents and siblings were sure to be hauling in good catches of sea-hoppers at the fishing grounds on the other side of the atoll. Una, however, hadn’t joined them today. She turned her eyes toward the bow seat, where Constanza Watertree sat with her right hand dipped in the sea, stirring it around slowly.

“You doing okay there, Constanza?” Una asked. Constanza turned her head around. She had those curious black goggle-like things over her eyes. “I’m doing great here. Thanks again for bringing me out today. It’s hot, but the sea is gorgeous.” She wiped her brow with the towel she had wrapped around her neck.

“Here, drink this.” Una tossed her a sack. “Stay well-watered. We don’t have to paddle much farther, but Lycidas is up in the sky now, so it’ll get hotter soon.”

“Thanks,” Constanza said. She took a few swigs of water and reached into her silvery backpack. She pulled out a couple of those chewy biscuits—the curious things tasting of everything and yet nothing—and tossed one to Una. “Here’s a snack. You sure you don’t need sunglasses? I don’t know how you can see with this glare. I find it hard enough dealing with the one sun back on Earth.”

“Ah, you’ll get accustomed to it soon, seeing that you’re stuck here.” Una resumed paddling, signaling to Constanza to do the same.

Eight moon cycles had passed since Constanza’s spacecraft, the United Earth Ship Reperio, crash-landed into a shallow lagoon not for from the island where Una lived. After the initial panic and shock, the intrepid among the villagers ventured out in rafts and fishing boats, wanting to verify what had fallen out of the sky and onto their atoll. Una lead the group and rescued Commander Constanza Watertree, the only survivor of the three-person crew. The captain, Jeanette Nitim, and engineer, Fred Instauro, died upon impact.

Una brought Constanza, still unconscious from the crash, back to her village and nursed her back to health. It astonished the villagers that Constanza resembled them physically; that meant she had to be human like them. But no villager ever encountered a human not from their world, Terra Promissa. Legends spoke of their ancestors coming from the skies, but most considered them to be nothing more than cosmological myths.

Communication proved difficult at first. Constanza spoke a strange form of their language, having only basic words in common with theirs—such as sea, water, and food. In time, though, she learned to smatter their language—clumsily and with a thick accent.

According to her the SHE mission—Search for Humanity on Exo-planets—sent the Reperio out here. Centuries ago, when the Earth grew unsuitable for habitation, humanity broke out into space on generation ships in a desperate attempt to find a planet suitable for settling on. Not all succeeded, but several did find planets where they founded colonies. But often the best humans could do was simply survive on the strange new planets; not infrequently, colonists lost their technology and reverted to a pre-industrial agricultural way of life. Isolated by the vast distances of space and lacking interstellar communication, the colonies were cut off from Earth. They lost knowledge of human history; the story of their arrival to the planets transformed into vague foundation legends.

Meanwhile, humanity on Earth overcame the global environmental disaster by the skin of their teeth after centuries of great hardship and technological advances. Having developed better methods of interstellar travel, Earth attempted to trace the steps of the early colonists, and began searching for human settlements on exo-planets. Based on old records, specialists concluded the chances were great one such settlement existed on exo-planet X453-1 in the Stralar system. The SHE mission sent the Reperio to explore the planet and, should humans be found there, make official contact.

The Reperio took four years to arrive at X453-1. On arrival, however, dense layers of asteroid fields in the Stralar system critically damaged the ship’s navigation and propulsion systems, forcing them to crash land on the planet.


A school of sea-hoppers shot out of the sea nearby. Constanza yelped in surprise and giggled at herself. Una chuckled. For somebody cut off from home, Constanza wasn’t adjusting badly.

“Tell me,” Una asked, “how long will it take your message to get back to Earth?”

“About two earth-years,” Constanza answered as she paddled away. “Based on rough observations I made of Terra Promissa before we crashed, I think that should equate to about five of your years.” She raised her left hand in the air and shook it back and forth. “Ish. . .”

Before it crash-landed, the Reperio sent out a distress call with all the telemetry and coordinates it had gathered on the dense asteroid belts.

“You think it’s likely they’ll send out a rescue operation?”

“Well, we did say in the message that there were signs of human life here, so I’m pretty sure Mission command will send another vessel out. But that ship would take four earth-years to get here. So altogether we’re looking at about another seven earth-years before another ship arrives. That’s about seventeen and a half Terra Promissa-years. Sheesh, it’s hard keeping all these numbers straight.”

“I can’t imagine spending that much time traveling. The longest I’ve been out at sea was one month, when we visited the Kanata islands. But the elders talk of travelers who once sailed several months at a time, in search of different islands and atolls.”

“See. You’re not all that different from us! The urge for adventure is deeply rooted in all humans.”

Their outrigger cut through the calm inland sea of the atoll, heading directly towards an island typical of these parts. Una used her paddle to steer to the left, and took a course arching around the island. She kept quiet as the outrigger moved, wanting to gauge how this spacefaring Commander reacted to what presently appeared.

Constanza gasped, took off her sunglasses, and sat there, her paddle stuck still in the water. The scene reminded Una of the first time her grandparents brought her here.

A massive structure, in the shape of a perfect cylinder, jutted out of the sea and loomed over them. They had been paddling near the islands, which had hidden this object from their view until now. Now when faced with it so close, it completely dominated the seascape. There it sat, perfectly still, not budging when waves crashed against it, as though it were the tip of a massive column poking out all the way from the ocean floor. It was dark red magenta at the top, gradually turning into pitch black towards the waterline. The light from the suns glinted here and there, hinting at the existence of ridges, but for the most part the object was smooth.

“Just what in the blazes is that thing?” Constanza asked.

 “Nobody knows,” Una answered, “we call it the dark navel of the sea, but nobody knows what it actually is, why it’s here, or who made it. I was hoping you’d be able to tell us. Isn’t that part of why you came here?”

“Well, no, we came here to find fellow humans like you. We had no idea this was here. Nobody really has any knowledge about this? No legends or stories?”

“No, the elders say it was already here when our ancestors came to Terra Promissa.”

“So that would mean it’s been here for at least one thousand earth-years.” Constanza pulled out her binoculars and fiddled impatiently with its controls. She mumbled something reminiscent of a curse, and tossed it back in her backpack. “Can we go any closer you think?”

“Actually I was hoping you’d say that. We’re actually forbidden to go near it. The buoys over there mark the border beyond which we can’t go; but I’ve always been dying to look at it up close. And as you’re not from here, I think the rules wouldn’t apply in this case. Besides, who’s looking?”

They paddled up to the object—an arm's length away, tipping their heads way back to observe its smooth surface. Here and there they found areas with crisscrossing ridges organized into complex forms or glyphs.

After staring a while with her mouth agape, she turned to Una. “This isn’t human technology. It must be an artifact from an advanced civilization that either existed here ages ago or came here.”

Constanza fell silent again for a moment. Her eyes widened. She thrust her arms into the air, whooping several times, startling Una.

“Congratulations, Una! Do you know what this means? Your ancestors were the first to find proof of an alien civilization!”

“You mean, you haven’t seen anything like this on other planets out there?”

“No we haven’t found anything on any planet we’ve investigated that suggests the existence of alien civilizations. We’ve even resigned ourselves to the possibility that perhaps we’re the only sentient species in the universe. But, boy, does this thing here turn that theory totally upside down.”

Constanza hollered again unintelligibly in excitement, rocking the outrigger. Not being able to contain herself, she raised her left arm and pounded the surface of the object with the palm of her hand.

And no sooner had she done so, Constanza vanished into thin air—simply disappeared. The outrigger rocked gently in the sea, and Una had no idea what had happened.

“Constanza? Are you playing a trick on me with one of your gadgets? Cause if you are, it isn’t funny. . .”

But there was no answer. Una dove into the sea, being careful not to touch the surface of the object. But Constanza was nowhere to be found. She finally gave up as Adonais set in the horizon. She needed to return soon if she wanted to get home before Lycidas sunk into the sea.

But what would she tell her parents and the rest of the villagers? Would anyone believe her? And what had actually happened to Constanza? Would she reappear again eventually?

Now she understood why people weren’t allowed to get too close to the object. Poor Constanza, she thought. And she was so happy too. Una paddled back, perplexed and in shock.

June 25, 2021 14:16

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Eva R.
20:43 Jun 27, 2021

Terra Promisa, the interstellar promised land...Loved the vibe of the mystery when Constanza and Una were getting closer to the alien structure. I was actually upset to see that the story ended because I want to know what happened to Constanza. I also wonder why Una didn't know why she shouldn't get close to the structure? Coult it be because the law not go near it has applied for so long that people still living forgot why it's dangerous? Or is the new society is ruled in a way where they shouldn't ask questions? I'd love to read more abo...


Jon R. Miller
07:45 Jun 28, 2021

Thank you for your kind and encouraging comments! And gosh I'm sorry the story ended like it did. I want to continue the story, and find out what happens as well :> , and answer all those questions. Poor Constanza! Yikes, what happened to her!?


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Jason Ivey
22:01 Jun 26, 2021

Really interesting story, I loved the idea behind this! I really felt immersed in the world of Terra Promissa, great world building!


Jon R. Miller
22:49 Jun 26, 2021

Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it. I've always been intrigued by lost human colony settings.


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17:10 Jul 07, 2021

Wow, this story drew me right in! Excellent world building, and it's a great read. I want a sequel! :)


Jon R. Miller
08:14 Jul 08, 2021

Thank you for reading the story and it makes me so happy to hear you enjoyed it! I had fun writing it. I very much would like to write a sequel. :>


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Umaya E
11:12 Jul 01, 2021

I love your style of writing, it’s very descriptive! Keep writing!


Jon R. Miller
22:26 Jul 01, 2021

Thank you very much for reading the story. Your kinds words will certainly encourage me to write more! :>


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Tom D
16:02 Jun 28, 2021

Really enjoyed the concept of this one - gave a real sense of mystery and the vastness of the universe and its secrets! Some lovely imagery, particularly Lycidas rising in the sky…I’d love to know what the sea-hoppers look like! :D Hoping we will one day find out what awaits Constanza on the other side…


Jon R. Miller
22:52 Jun 28, 2021

Thank you for reading the story! Yes, we shall probably learn more about those sea-hoppers in separate story...I hope.:>


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