A Contradictory Artifact
By John Laneri
An unusual blip suddenly appeared on my scanner's interface and alerted me to action. At the time, I was preforming a beryllium activated ground scan that was capable of delineating objects from over five hundred meters. It was one of the many ways we repeatedly searched for artifacts in remote areas that were impossible to search on foot.
Banking hard, I executed a sixty degree turn, feeling the pull of gravity weigh against me. Then, carefully nudging the controls a fraction, I leveled my hovercraft over a strange cone shaped object in an attempt to get a better look.
From what I could see, the thing was leaning to the side with its base buried in the soft sand common throughout the southern reaches of Planet Morika.
As usual, I again wondered if I had come upon viable evidence of a prior civilization. Most likely, I was looking at either a meteorite or another piece of space junk that had survived a fiery plunge through Morika's atmosphere.
Morika is a small planet. It's located only a few light years from Earth where it orbits a main sequence star in the FRN-469 Sector of the Milky Way Galaxy.
The planet proper was originally colonized by a contingent of our ancestors who arrived here centuries ago as part of a research project focused on learning whether or not a mixed race of earthlings could unite on a distant planet and create a harmonious, worldwide civilization.
As of today, only a small handful of people have ever elected to return to Earth. We enjoy a thriving society that is economically and socially sound. No wars. No famines. And, best of all, we have a climate that allows us to produce substantial agricultural products that help to boost our standard of living and essentially live stress free lives.
As to me, I'm an archaeologist. My duty, as an investigator for the Bureau of Antiquities, is to search for artifacts that could possibly indicate the presence of prior civilizations on Morika.
So far, our findings suggest that we are its first and only human inhabitants.
Once on the ground, I carefully approached the thing unsure of its nature. A portable xenon scan had already suggested that it was probably just another metallic space object, so I eased closer to study a series of vague markings on its side.
Most had either been lost due to weathering or burned away during entry. A single character, though, near the capsule's apex did stand out just enough to suggest the Latin symbol M.
Intrigued, I moved to the opposite side and identified what appeared to be a hatch of some sort that was almost completely hidden under the sand.
Using my hovercraft to lift the thing onto solid ground, I was then able to fully visualize a distinct hatch cover and began cutting through the opening using a photon knife. By then, I was certain that I had discovered something important.
Carefully, so as not to disturb any relics inside, I lifted the door away and discovered a humanoid skeleton clothed in what appeared to be a tattered space suit that bore a faded shoulder patch vaguely reminiscent of a flag.
Further examination revealed a metallic identity tag that hung loosely around the bones of the neck. Moving into the sunlight for a better look, I was able to read the inscriptions and learned that the bones belonged to a Major James O'Keeffe, United States Air Force – a title that led me to wonder if the man had been associated with one of the early space programs on Planet Earth several centuries prior to our colonization of Morika.
But how did he end up here?
My excitement growing, I returned to my hovercraft and logged into Morika's Global Information Sphere in hopes of finding some clue that would explain my discovery. After a thorough search of historical data regarding early space programs on Earth, I was still unable to grasp the significance of my find simply because the facts did not correlate with the reported history.
Returning to the capsule, I began a detailed inspection of the cabin that produced more information. To the side, I spotted a small storage panel and located a logbook that indicated his date of launch had been October 21 in the earth year, 1959.
At that point though, something still seemed wrong.
I again returned to the hover craft and repeated my computer search, looking for specific dates and times of each Mercury Project space flight. After a careful study, I learned that his date of launch had actually been two years prior to the first reportedly successful Mercury launch with a human subject in the year 1961.
With that last bit of information to consider, I returned to the capsule and spent many minutes staring into the man's empty eyes, my thoughts jumping from one contradiction to another.
I eventually decided that Major O'Keeffe had probably been an original Mercury astronaut whose mishap had been quietly hidden from the public in those early days of the American space program. His coming to rest on Morika, in my opinion, most likely represented pure chance.
Further conclusions regarding his presence on Morika, I knew, would be decided by a panel of experts within the Antiquities Bureau, yet I was certain that he had died a lonely death due to oxygen deprivation.
As to how and why his capsule had been able to escape Earth's gravity and then travel for centuries through the cosmos before finally coming to rest on Morika was a project that would likely interest researchers for years to come.
Later, as I returned to base with both him and his capsule in tow, I began to wonder how many others of his generation were still drifting through space, their sacrifices buried in the silence of secret government files.
- - -
A native born Texan, John currently lives near Houston. Publications to his credit have appeared in several professional journals as well as a number of internet sites and short story periodicals.
Thursday, February 26, 2015
A Contradictory Artifact
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