Alien Science and Philosophy


OOC Date: April 16, 2011
IC Date: January 24, 2128

Lieutenant Commander Bharti presents information gleaned about the alien cadavers retrieved from the drifting ship. She and Commander Eisley also discuss the future, and possible responsibility for the fate of humanity.

Science Labs, Deck Two

As sterile and white as the Medical Bay, the Science Labs are a pristine environment of knowledge and research. The central focus when one walks in is the research center - a collection of computer terminals and monitors with ample seating, available for running just about any computer model for just about any situation or studying the literal years' worth of historical and scientific videos contained within the massive data library. It's essentially a computer lab, a viewing room, a library and an office all in one. A variety of robots can be found here, assisting in the research and experimentation at all hours.

Near the back of the research center is an air lock leading to a decontamination chamber, beyond which is a laboratory complete with containment pods and a full autopsy center. Materials, artifacts and even specimens of extraterrestrial life can be studied in full safety without fear of contagion or escape into the rest of the ship.

At one side of the research center is a door leading to the Chief Science Officer's Office.

The science labs are sterile, pristine, clean, and…empty. The many monitors of the research center are dark, save for one or two. The vast containment laboratory is empty of forensic technicians. The hustle and bustle that would be expected of a full crew is not here. The only sounds are of the many robots, still active at all hours, and of the ship's usual background sounds. The Chief Science Officer is sitting at a computer terminal near the door to her office. On it is a a computer graphic showing a three-dimensional cutaway of some sort of plant, with many repeating letters floating in a window beside the cutaway, underlying a double-helix. She's talking to Eve in scientific technobabble.

This is but one more sign of the times, one more characteristic of the ghost ship and its skeleton crew. Certainly having robots who never sleep and never need coffee breaks helps to compensate, but it does generate eerie silences and this is evidently no different. Still, the lab's population is about to go up exponentially; the doors slide open and the XO walks in, gaze roving through the brightly lit - and cold and empty - space with an appropriately clinical interest that soon fixates on the chief scientist. "Lieutenant Commander Bharti," she greets upon nearing, offering a touch of ever-appropriate formality.
Pramiti stands up and salutes the XO. Such formality may not be necessary, but it is appropriate, and Pramiti would prefer to observe such. "Commander." she says as she salutes. "May I presume you are here for the scheduled report?"

Eisley returns the salute crisply, though it is followed by the almost rote command, "At ease." Then she nods. "I am. I am very interested to learn whatever it is that you and Dr. St-Sirois have learned about our…" Her gaze flicks briefly toward the isolation pods. "…acquisitions." This word is chosen with some care, and applied with just as much of the same.

Pramiti turns back to the computer screen. "Yes, maam." she replies. "Well, as you can see, I have an image on the computer screen of one of the plants, which I have dubbed "Vita suscipio", or in the common tongue, 'Life support plants'." She pauses to tap at the screen, and the rows of letters vanish, and the three-dimensional cutaway maximzes. "The dangling plants seem to be a genetically modified refinement of a nautral plant which acts to perform a similiar function. They take in carbon dioxide and emit small amounts of chlorine gas. The parasite creatures seem to nest and breed in them, living in them and eating them while young, and I suspect evolved to drop onto their hosts from above in their native world."

The Commander's expression twists briefly toward a fascinated sort of disgust, the kind people often show around bad traffic accidents. One brow lifts a bit and her mouth thins, but she moves into a position from which to view the screen and listen to the presentation easily. "Delightful," she observes. Other than that, however, no comments are made immediately, nor are any questions forthcoming.

Pramiti nods at the commander and continues on. "It is unquestionable that the true crew of the ship were the parasites. I am calling them the 'Mind Parasites' for now, but have not yet agreed with the doctor on a proper name for them." She frowns, pauses, and then continues. "It is impossible to tell if the parasites built the ship. It could easily be one they built using their host bodies, or they could have hijacked the ship and grew the plants to support them. There is no way to tell. In any event, I do not find it improbable that these plants could be…" She pauses, "Modified to grow in our ship, should we ever encouner a hostile member of this species." She taps the computer, and switches the screen to an image of the parasites.

They are roughly the size of a very large lobster and vaguely resemble them, perhaps mixed with the face hugger creature from Alien, consisting of a segmented body with a protective exoskeleton and eight spindly, finger like appendages that are used to clamp onto the top of the head of their host. Their head is tipped with a beak-like protrusion.

"This protrusion is almost as hard as carbon, and is likely allows them to chip their way through the skull of almost any creature they are likely to encounter. Once the skull has been breached, slender tendrils of nerve endings grow into the exposed brain, overtaking the native neural pathways, and hijacking all bodily functions. The host brain is not destroyed, but neither is it clear to what extent, if any, the host is aware or concious, or what the exact relationship is. I would speculate that it is not a friendly one, however."

Commander Eisley does make for a very good audience. She stands quietly by at parade rest, hands folded at the small of her back, attentive to these words as they are spilled out. None of the classic signs of 'lost audience' appear, either; there is no confusion, no attempts at interruption, nothing at all until this bit of thought concludes itself. "I would hazard to concur that anything that bored a hole through my skull and hijacked my neural pathways would constitute an unfriendly intrusion," she agrees with a little nod. The same gesture likely indicates permission to carry on, as well, because she still does not venture any questions.

Pramiti nods and continues onwards. "The parasites are extremely adaptable. I am not sure if this is because of natural biology or genetic improvement on their part, but it is clear that they could survive on humans. The parasites subsist on nutrients taken from the host bloodstream once they take a host, and prior to that require the leaves. They are clearly intelligent, I would speculate far more intelligent then humans, and the superior technology was likely all of their invention. If they did take over the ship, they upgraded it tremendously. It may be possible to develop a herbicide designed to kill the plants, though we do not have proper facilities for that, but it is unlikely we could find a preventive measure, a way to toxify our bloodstreams, without killing any host, as well."

"That does present a problem," Eisley agrees next, looking from Pramiti to the screen and back. "And extraction of the parasite without irreparable damage to the host is, likewise, improbable?" This is almost a rhetorical question, offered now as if she could already guess the answer, but it needs to be asked anyway to get all of the t's dotted and i's crossed.

Pramiti shrugs. "Impossible to say without a live one. I suspect it will be problematic, at least. If I had there genetic engineering ability, I would certainly make sure of that."

Eisley nods, though only once. "So noted," she observes. "I suppose the only thing we can hope for is that we don't encounter that particular species again." There is not a great deal of hope in this statement, though she then gestures at the screen again. "What else?"

Pramiti touches a button and the screen changes to the greys. "This is…problematic." she says. The image resembles, vaugley, the Grays of earth lore. The differences are that their skin is yellow, and they have large parasites in their head. "I'm not entirely certain how intelligent this species is on its own. Our legends would seem to imply they are, but…" She shrugs. "Aside from the brain being rather ambiguous, their anatomy is very, very similiar to ours. If these are the primary hosts of the parasites, we will clearly be the next best thing. And I can only wonder whether that is true or cooncidence, and the relations to our legends of these beings. They have two genders, like us, they have hearts and stomaches and bladders, like us. We could not reproduce with them, but I am rather puzzled by them, nevertheless."

This matter leads to a new silence in Commander Eisley; she frowns at the screen, at the information thus revealed. It bears some consideration, as does the image on the screen. "There was never verification of these aliens visiting earth, though they -do- feature predominantly in a wide variety of urban legend. As for the resemblance… perhaps it is a coincidence. Or perhaps that is simply a configuration that works well for life forms of the bipedal variety." All -she- can do is speculate though, and she does it with the best of them.

Pramiti shrugs. "I know as little as you. That is the big thing. The rest is rather pedantic. The devourer is almost invincible. Getting up close would be suicide. Spacing it would be best. The Givers' anatomy was exactly as described in their systems, verifying what they told us."
And with that it might become time for real questions. Eisley straightens. "Did they have any other commonalities that you could deduce? Organ structures, atmospheric requirements, et cetera?"

Pramiti nods her head. "Most of our major organs have analogies in their bodies. They are not in the same places and we do not share common genetic code, but most of our structures and theirs have clear parallels. I would not have guessed that a species from another planet could be so similiar to ours. But I must emphasize that we share no common DNA."

Eisley shakes her head. "Did -they- have anything in common?" A subtle distinction, but one point that needs to be clarified, all the same. "I am still wondering why this organic ship had four different species of aliens on it. Even more, I should like to discover what happened aboard that ship, why they all perished as they did." There is a tiny pause, a kind of punctuation given. "I imagine most of these questions will be irresolvable."

"Ah!" Pramiti shakes her head. "No. The only common factor seems to be that the parasites collect hosts, and they had some sort of issue with a Devourer. Perhaps the devourers attacked, or perhaps the parasites tried to make one a host and failed. It would take analysis of the computer data to try and pierce something together, perhaps with forensic analysis of the ship."

"Forensic analysis is no longer an option," counters Eisley with a dismissive shake of her head. "Perhaps the computer records will be of assistance. I have not yet been provided any information from that department, nor have I heard from engineering yet." Her gaze slides back to the screen. "In the meantime, I suppose I will take comfort in the knowledge that if they attempted to turn a Devourer into a host that it was unsuccessful."

Pramiti sighs. "Yes. I'll take comfort in that we are leaving through the wormhole. To be honest, I had hoped for other orders. I believe we had many options. But with an endless pethora of hostile races, perhaps it is time for the children to find a new place to live."

Eisley nods. "I would tend to agree with that estimation. Though I understand a desire to stay within our home galaxy, the more I review the options, the more it seems that the only -real- option is the least appealing of the bunch. The two worlds that the Givers suggested are inhospitable, and the neighbors are most unwelcoming." She continues to watch the screen, as if it would offer up a new - and better - option for her to consider. Sadly, it doesn't. "I expect that what we find on the other side of the wormhole could be worse, but not by much."

Pramiti glances at the screen. "Honestly, I was hoping for settlement of other bodies. The oort cloud would have been perfect. Otherwise, we could have gone into stasis for a few tens of thousands of years and tried colonizing one of those two worlds, or even our home. But, as you say, all would carry risk. I just have a bad feeling about that wormhole."

"…which oort cloud?" Eisley looks dubious. "The one nearest Earth is highly problematic for the same reason that Alpha Centauri was. Anything that close in proximity to Earth is simply nonviable. I do not relish the idea of spending a thousand years in stasis, either. While I recognize that this is possible, I fear that the longer we spend asleep, the more probable it is that something… unfortunate …will happen to the Genesis while we slumber. None of the planets provided were hospitable. Poor climate, poor resources, poor location…" All of these things are listed off matter-of-factly, as this particular subject has been a matter of great discussion for a very long time. "Understandably, this search will have to begin anew once we reach beyond the wormhole, but at -least- we should not have to worry about the Devourers anymore. Whether the problems we face there are an improvement or not remains to be seen."

Pramiti shakes her head. "Any oort cloud. Every star has them in orbit." She pulls up a starchart. "Roll the dice and pick one. We've known how to colonize them for over a century. They have everything we'd need for water, air, power and hydroponics." She pauses. "But yes, we could as easily do it beyond the wormhole. And I admit your concerns are valid. Frankly, I suspect…" She pauses. "I suspect our passengers will find colonies of their own, in time. But we, the officers, I do not expect we shall ever have any other home. I suspect the stars themselves will grow old and die before we leave this ship."

For one brilliant moment there is actual revelation visible behind the Commander's eyes. Her brows lift, just so, as she makes that very necessary jump of logic here. "Ahhhh." Then she shakes her head. "Amongst the many things I agree with Captain Ramesh about, the quality of life for our colonists is at the top of the list. For that reason, we must find a planet with a suitable biosphere, with an atmosphere, water, and native plants and animals of its own. Ideally we can locate one where any native sentient life is not hostile, but… we will burn that bridge when we cross it." Then she tilts her head slightly. "That seems like a very long time. Why do you think this?"

Pramiti pauses to consider her words. "Because our ship is not merely a traveler through space. It can traverse the vastness of space, yes, but also the infinities of time. We have the span of creation at our fingertips. This is no mere vessel. And moreover, we have become the guardians of the last of humanity, 100,000 though they may be. We cannot simply plop them down on a planet, join them, and hope they survive. We may wish to do that, but we cannot. We must ensure they do, through the ages if necessary. Because they are the last, and because it is our duty to ensure humanity survives. I do not relish it. But it is our duty."

There is a pause, one that lasts only a moment, given some very cool study and reflection that is equally so. "That is an interesting perspective on the matter, Lieutenant Commander," says Eisley after a few seconds. "Though to be fair, it sounds a bit… deific."

Pramiti bites her lip. "I wasn't thinking in those terms. Merely, that if we have the chance to help others, even if we are miserable, we have the duty. If I can die for you, I will. If I can die for the least of my brothers and sisters, I will. Its…perhaps it is, arrogant. But space travel takes time. We can't continue using the FTL drive forever. To do so will be suicide. We will need to switch to the cloaking device eventually. Perhaps after leaving the wormhole. And then we will find centuries passing in an instant. I'm merely trying to think in those terms before they happen."

Eisley tilts her head again. "I have no doubt that it will take a considerable length of time to find what we are looking for. Given the infinity that is the universe, it could take just short of forever to find the point where infinity becomes one, and to that end I fear we will all become exceptionally familiar with our stasis pods before all is said and done." This idea makes her blanche a little, but the Commander presses on. "When we do find a suitable planet, it will hardly be a matter of plopping them down and leaving them to do as they will. I do not know if we have the -right- to do more than help build the colony once we settle on a place. What gives us the right - the power - to return to space to sleep for a decade or a century and then return to check up on progress?"

Pramiti shakes her head. "I do not see it as a right or not right. I see it as a duty. If one wishes it, then perhaps one is thinking improperly. But if it is the last of humanity, and the devourers may come, then there is only one way to guard against that. Or a meteorite may come. We must put all thought of personal desires, ambitions, philosophies aside. We may be the officers in charge of the last of humanity, but there is no fame, no pleasure, no fortune in it for us, ever. The least of those citizens will have more rights then us. This is the proper attitude, I think." She pauses again, to think. "Thinking that way, if we think, what would be best for humanity, then I think it is clear that it would be better for it to continue if one world died, then to not continue. Man can not be reduced to a single planet ever again. I am not saying we interfere, or judge, but if they go extinct, or are in danger, perhaps we could help."

Eisley blinks once. Twice. "That is an interesting perspective on the problem," she says, albeit a little bit gravely. "Though I do not know how successful we will be at finding more than one planet to confine ourselves to. Humanity has a habit of being rather irresponsible with its real estate." She smiles, but the expression is a slightly bitter one. "Thank you for the presentation. If you uncover anything else of interest, please forward it up to me so that I can add it to my report for the Captain."

Pramiti nods her head and salutes. "Thank you for the time, Commander." she replies. "I will do so."

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