This is a fragment of a novel I was going to write. It's on a mechanically type-written pages, so it's been quite some time, probably in the 80s. A vignette of what I imagined a technological future. Today they'd probably use telescopes, and satellites with robots and drones. People might do repairs, and be called in if intelligent life is found, if there are ethical questions.
I still like the idea of a culture that is built around heat created by the body as both the way to communicate and the foundation of technology. There is good reason for these beings to live in water most of the time. In my notes about how they procreate. Eggs are gathered in a fortified cave, the only structures built buy the "warmies". The young are born with just one appendage, so they can communicate with their nurse. They learn to manage and use their heat system. It is when they first set foot on land that accidents can happen, and a youngster will accidentally burn themselves up, explosively and take a few friends along. They eat by wrapping their stomach around their prey.
Note to self: Take photos of paper copies before shredding them into oblivion.
His name is Zzzzzzop. Well, something like that. In his own language, it is a modulated wave of warmth with a small boiling bubble exploding at the end. A good name. An active name. And proper for the hottest writer in the clan.
Zzzzzzop has found a viable copper vein in the northern-most mine, deep underneath the polar ice cap, where extraction is easy. he places on of his pads on the vein, another one next to it, until all five of them are lined up. Then he starts the process.
While the heat is building up slowly, Zzzzzzop's mind wanders. He does not have to think about the process anymore. The years of training, the expedition, and finally, the exile, have completely ingrained it in his blubber.
They knew the planet had an atmosphere, and it was breathable - barely. But the ultimate test was always to get out and take a sniff. Phil never looked forward to the moment, when he would unscrew his helmet, lift it tentatively, and cautiously inhale a whiff of air.
The machines could analyze the composition of the atmosphere, check for dangerous components - alive and chemical, but they had no clue about aromas. And sometimes the stink was more than any human, even a highly motivated one, could possibly stand.
He takes his communicator. "All right, it's bearable, come'on out."
The hatch opens, and three more figures step out onto the ground. 'So that's what landfall feels like,' Sandra thinks, and is disappointed.
They were part of a large exploration campaign. The International Resources Company constantly needed to find new planets to satisfy the need for raw materials, living room, and novelties. IRC owned several exploration cruisers. These ships would travel the galaxy, do preliminary surveys of unexplored - and unexploited - planets. If a planet was promising, they'd drop a survey team in a small craft, and lots of high-tech equipment. The team would stay put for about six months, do a survey, chart the place, and write a report. Headquarters would decide whether a planet was worth pursuing.
The teams worked on commission: no finds, no pay. The members were highly motivated. IRC chose their people carefully: technical skills to handle the ti equipment, physical fitness, and psychological stability were the base characteristics. And a clean record. Scouts also needed to have ties at home to prevent suicide, desertion, and dare-devil actions. Singles with children were preferred. They needed to be highly motivated, so they'd actually work. Idealism was fine, as long as it was coupled with a healthy perspective for real life. IRC didn't believe in company loyalty, but they did believe in money, and security. Employees only got paid if they returned successful. During their absence, IRC would take care of their offspring - schooling and housing in company facilities. Very practical.
Phil lit what went for a fire at the center of the camp, and one by one the others are moving into the circle of light and sit down. It is quiet, except for small waves rolling up the flat shore of the big ocean they had seen from above.
Gina breaks the silence. "This reminds me of a night when I was a child. My parents had sent me to summer camp on Earth, so I would get to see where we all came from. Have you been to Earth?"
"Yes, it's a beautiful park, and so full of life!"
It was raining. Everything would be wet, sticky, and wonderfully alive. Sandra loved the rain. It meant life. Life from food grown in the short season on the hell she'd grown up in. It was also the only time of the year, when she could walk outside without a dust mask and a suit to protect her from abrasion. The winds were ferocious. And her skin would be soft and moist like the skin of the models in the mag-disks they received in the mail.
Sandra stretches, indulging in the bliss to come already. She gets up, opens the dome door, and steps outside. The warm rain spatters on her stark naked body. More stretching, her face lifted to the sky, water pouring on her eyes, along the ridge of her nose into her Analysis of the clouds before they landed said they were pure, clean water, and so was the ocean, loaded with minerals, but non-toxic to humans. Sandra stretches one leg, puts a foot down, the other leg, faster, first walking, then jogging, then breaking into a fleeting run, long legs flying over the ground, tough feet hammering the dissolving ground. The fresh, sweet, humid air fills her lungs, and she can almost feel the oxygen spreading to her fingertips, giving her energy and motion. And the energy expressed itself in a scream, breaking the monotony of the falling strings of water. Pure physical bliss is engulfing Sandra, the coat of discipline and civilization has been shed without hesitating. All she does is run, and breathe, and feel her aliveness.
Across the short strip of dry land she runs towards the ocean, splashes her feet in the tired waves rolling up the beach. The water is cool and inviting, but she stays off. For a short moment, reason takes over and warns her of the unknown dangers hidden in the water.
She skims along the beach. I seems to stretch endlessly, flat, white sand, the horizon a curtain of rain, fog starting to raise from the water. No sound, not a living soul, nothing else moving but her. Her run, her beach, and for a moment, her planet.
Sandra stops dead. Movement. Through the gray rain she sees movement. Shapes, several of them, undefined, moving. The paradise blinks out, and she crouches, her only defense her attention. Yes, there they are, several of them, different sizes, bulky shapes, moving along the edge of the water, then they slowly turn towards the land.
Curiosity and fear raise in her chest, and the instincts of the huntress. She takes the first step to close the distance, another one, and is on her way. They don't seem to see her, just hanging out at the beach. Now Sandra can see some detail: limbs, some long and thin like an octopus', some with a lump at the end. And their bodies, a rounded shape with no discernible head. The are bluish-gray, plump, and ugly, and definitely alive. There are five of them. One is much larger than the other four, and it seems to be herding the small ones. Babies? The are carrying no visible tools or weapons.
Sandra is only 30 feet away and a red warning light is finally going off in the back of her head. I am naked, unarmed, and alone. And I am in plain sight of these animals. I am being foolish, and I better get back to the camp and tell the others.
At this moment, one of the little blobs - Sandra can't think of anything more flattering to call them - breaks off the group and starts inching towards her.
The alarm goes off. Sandra raises, turns, and runs.
Panting she reaches the camp. She grasps the frame of the first dome, shakes it, and croaks, "Phil," then clears her throat, "Phil!". The seal opens and a bushel of unkempt hair above sleepy eyes appears. "What's the matter," it groans. "I found some animals, down at the beach, they are big, round blobs, and they move and they..."
The head jerks, the eyes open wide, "You found what?" And Phil is suddenly awake. He also notices that Sandra is somewhat underdressed and dripping wet.
"Animals, large, ugly animals. At the beach. Five of them."
"I'll be ready in a minute."
Ten minutes later the group sets out armed with cameras, a net, and guns.
But how do they communicate about the technology they create, the experiences they have?
And what about the metal plate? I am convinced it is the key. Only, so far, it's message seems beyond our perceptual range.