A short story:
Mark Spies, Sub-Captain’s log: Solar date 18.104.22.168.2055:
I’m traveling with Captain Ward Skyhawk. We are traveling in the Firebaul Eck-Sel-05, a class 6 solar cruiser that is designed to cross the Solar System and take astronauts to space laboratory stations. Most of these look for signs of life.
The Fireball is a large vessel, with a hull as long as an aircraft carrier. It has large nuclear powered engines that allow this craft to travel at nearly 1/32th the speed of light. The ship is designed to spend months in space. That may be the tops speed, but it takes the ship a while to reach that speed and a trip across the Solar System may actually take several weeks. The ship has a space for growing food, a library, a science lab, kitchen, bar and individual living quarters. Just about everything a person needs is included in or on this spaceship.
The ship is cigar shaped. It had three separate engines, one on each side and one on top. A landing craft is contained inside the craft. It is designed to leave and make the short trip to the surface of a planet or moon and then lift off for the ride back to the mother ship. It is airplane or jet plane shaped for those few bodies that have a thick enough atmospheres to use it. It didn’t need to be that big since it was just a lander.
Captain Skyhawk is a tall thin man with dark hair and a long beak like nose. He is a very jovial man. But he looks to the technical and mechanical side of things.
We have been in space for a month now, exploring various moons and asteroids in search of various signs of life may not be limited to just the earth. Our last destination was Saturn’s moon Titan. Of all the moons in space, this one intrigues me the most.
I will never forget the first time I landed on that body. The moon has a thick atmosphere, made up of hydrocarbons similar to gasoline. But the smoggy sky was beautiful. When we first made out landing, the moon was closes to the sun and I got to see a dawn, with all kinds of vibrant colors visible in the thick air, While most was a dark orange color, the higher clouds were blue as an earth sky and streaks of white.
It got darker as we moved closer to the ground. However, I could see lots of mountain ranges, dry gullies, tinny lakes, river beds as we’ve seen on earth.
We landed near a space station that sat on a hill over what appeared to be a large dry lake bed. The orange looking ground looked almost like mud with boulders and possible clogs of mud strewn all over the ground.
Captain Skyhawk and I went down a narrow shaft to the lander and entered through its door.
“Ready for Landing Mark?” he said.
“Yes,” I answered.
Our lander landed close enough to the station where I could go straight in without having to go outside the ship and onto the planets ground and atmosphere. However, we had space suites, similar to those used by astronauts on the moon. They had to be well insulated to keep out the cold, which was a brisk −179.2 °C or −290 °F. At that temperature, all water is as solid as a rock. The air has no oxygen in it and the cold temperature would burn me to death, without my suite. So my suite gave me heat and oxygen to breathe. As with the moon, there is less gravity. The air pressure is about twice that of Earth, which is not really all that bad.
“I sometimes wonder why we bother to land on such a godforsaken places,” Captain Skyhawk said.
“This is a whole new world,” I protested. “I’ve never seen anything like this—an alien world. To see this is a true treat, a joy, for any explorer.”
“It’s OK,” Captain Skyhawk said. “I love technology and traveling in space. Being able to maneuver this giant ship amazes me. I find the sights her on Titan to be a little too strange and remote. But I love the traveling—the space walks—the technology—that is what I like about space travel.”
Still, despite this poison environment, standing on a foreign world as this was breathtaking. This was another world and it was beautiful. The scenery, the sky, the strange rocks and the liquids in the small lakes and ponds, all contribute to this strange new world. The liquid in the lakes are actually made of hydrocarbons. The atmosphere of Titan is largely composed of nitrogen with minor amounts of methane and ethane clouds. The nitrogen atmosphere is also rich with organic smog.
Standing on the surface of this world was a site to behold and I would not have given it up for anything.
When I got there, there was already a space station/lab for me to work in. It was sitting on the side of a hill to avoid rain that would flood that institution. It was a round building, built with spokes. There was a launch pad, where a traveler could come and go as pleased. As with the inside of my traveling ship, there were all the amenities of home. There was a limited amount of plant growth and some animals for food. There were lots of labs to work in. Most had stainless steel walls, metal doors, blue tile floors, and a small window to look at.
“Once we are inside that module, we won’t be able to see very much outside,” Captain Skyhawk said. “But it will be comfortable—or as comfortable as it is possible to be.”
“I can’t wait to wander around outside on the terrain,” I said.
For me there was nothing more exciting than scooping the ponds and lakes for organic and pre-biotic molecules that may have held the key to finding the origins of life on Earth. The real prize would be to find an actual biological cell or life form.
We had a load of other experiments we preformed everywhere we went. However my first personal love was to look for any organic molecules that may give up clues as to any life that may survive in our solar system.
I may have found more than I bargained for on the frozen swampy lake, not for from the station. We never expected to find any life there. But we may have come across parasitic viruses.
“Wow,” I shouted out at my discovery. “This looks like a virus. It is some kind of DNA molecule inside a shell. The shell reminds me of an industrial vacuum cleaner. It has a tube that is ribbed like a vacuum cleaners hose. It has some metallic looking feet. And a cylinder type shape.”
“Be careful with those,” Captain Skyhawk warned. “How do those reproduce? How do they maintain themselves here without any animals or plants to feed off of?”
“Maybe there are some other life forms on this world,” I answered.
“Then we must test these in the lab. We can see if these react with Earth life.”
I found a cage with a white mouse in it and exposed it to the viruses. At first I could not see anything happen. I left the mouse overnight. The next day I saw some tiny little moving specs. The next day there was only one. But it appeared as if one of the specks were larger and had eaten the other. A few days later I noticed what looked like a small baby mouse. This was a male mouse so I had to wonder what it really was. It grew over the next few days into a white mouse just like the one I exposed to the viruses. I soon figured out that this mouse was a clone of the first mouse.
Unlike any virus I had ever seen, this doesn’t just destroy cells they duplicate them one by one until they have completely replaced their hosts. But how would that come from a male? He has no uterus. So what did it come from?
Even stranger was that instead of growing larger, this mouse developed into a tiny adult first. It reminded me of those Jesus pictures where he is painted as being an adult with a beard, the size of an infant. But this was real. Day by day the mouse grew until it was adult size. At first it appeared to be the same as its original. But after a while, I noticed they were not 100 percent the same. The new or clone mouse, showed less emotion to other similar mice. He followed his instincts to eat, but was more likely to wait until the proper moment than fight over food as other mice did.
I also did some DNA testing on this mouse and although the DNA seemed to be a perfect match—it really wasn’t. There were slight variations, about 0.1%.
“Captain Skyhawk come in here!” I yelled.
He rushed in and I showed him the mouse.
“That thing has to reproduce in some way,” he said. “This is creepy. Be careful with that.”
Little did I know that Captain Skyhawk had dandruff. After several flakes fell off around the mouse, the viruses attacked dandruff flakes and used the DNA to create a really small human. As it grew larger it began to steal food and ate some of the animals and plants on the station. I never knew it was even there at first.
I was done with my experiments and I didn’t want to bring the virus home to Earth. After a few weeks our landing party went back to the ship and we began our voyage home.
I noticed changes in Captain Skyhawk. Could he really be a duplicated alien?
Could Captain Skyhawk have been duplicated, cell by cell, until the alien completely replaced him? But I can’t do anything about this until I can find proof of my theory.
Captain Skyhawk had been a very jovial man. But now he has changed. He has a much more stoic personality. He performs every function as he is supposed to. He just seems to lack a real personality.
How do I prove my own Captain is really a clone and the real Captain Skyhawk may be dead? And was he dead? After all, the mouse never killed his clone off. Would a fake Captain Skyhawk allow his duplicate clone to live? Or was this like that old movie, The Pod People (Invasion of the Body Snatchers), where these pods allowed a person to be completely replicated and the original was destroyed. As in the movie, I was noticing a difference in the behavior of Captain Skyhawk. He seemed less emotional. He seemed detached. It was like he was a completely different person. So could he be a duplicate of the viruses. And if he were, what became of the real Captain Skyhawk?
My worst fears were confirmed when we got a distress call from the Titan Station 12, we just left a day ago. Captain Skyhawk refused to go at first.
“We accounted for every member of this space team,” he insisted. “That signal has to be a mechanical error.”
“I don’t think we can take that chance,” I insisted. “Protocol is that we always check a distress signal just to be safe. After all, if there was someone stuck there, they could be there for months and they could run out of food or energy and that would allow them to freeze to death. We can’t take that chance.”
If it were just me, I’m sure he would have over-ride my objections and just went on. I was sure the real Captain Skyhawk was the one making that distress signal. Lucky for me—and him, we had five other crewmen who all insisted we go back. There was nothing the Captain could do. He had to go back.
We turned the ship around and went back. Sure enough, when we got there, everything in the station was turned on. When we entered the station, sure enough there was the real Captain Skyhawk.
“Look—I’m just trying to survive,” said the fake Captain. “I meant no harm. I left him with enough rations to last until the next mission! You—Mark! You brought me to life. I could have stayed a germ in a pond if you had just left me there. I can’t help that you’re noisy.”
He had a point. He was a product of our curiosity. Who knows if any other aliens had visited this world in the last few million years, and allowed the viruses to replicate others? But we were here now and we had done just that.
“Look you are the first intelligent life form we have encountered in space and this is in our own solar system,” I explained to fake Captain Skyhawk. “I’m sure this is a real breakthrough discovery and no one will try to harm you. You haven’t killed anyone yet. I will defend you and your rights. You are an intelligent alien.”
When we got to Titan and entered the station the real Captain Skyhawk was furious.
“This man is a criminal, if he even is a man,” said the real Captain Skyhawk. “He should be quarantined and kept sedated to prevent him from causing any more harm to the crew. He’s obviously dangerous, maybe even deadly. Maybe he should be killed?”
“Wait a minute,” I said. “So far he has caused no one else any harm. I did bring him to life. In a way, he is the very first intelligent life form ever found in this solar system. He is a unique specimen. We need to study him. We can leave him on Mars to prevent any kind of germ contamination on the Earth.”
"He almost got me killed," thundered Captain Skyhawk.
"But he didn't," I responded.
"I left plenty of provisions," said the clone of Captain Skyhawk. "You could have lived there for months. I was sure you would get loose, as you did."
"We could just as easily study this guy dead in a lab!" Captain Skyhawk shouted.
"Come on!" I said. "He seems to be an actual a sentient being. He even talks. He can think. By biological definition he is human."
“If you feel so strong about this guy, you will take full responsibility for anything that he does,” said Captain Skyhawk. “Is that clear to you?!”
Yes sir!” I replied.
"Also, he is not to call himself captain or Skyhawk. I will not tolerate a clone like character pretending to be me. Get him a private’s uniform and a different name immediately!”
I got the fake man a new uniform.
"Why don't we call him Number Two," I said.
"That's not a real name," said the fake Captain Skyhawk.
"OK," I said. "How about Titus Virus?"
"What," said fake Captain Skyhawk? I need a real name—like James Kirk or Albert Einstein."
"Those names are taken. I got an idea. How about we call you Albert Kirk—you know--combine names you know?"
"OK," Albert said. "I'll take that name. I am now Albert Kirk."
I was fascinated by this guy. I had to question him and learn all about him.
"You can talk and yet you have no education," I said.
"I know everything Captain Skyhawk knows," Kirk said. "When my brain duplicated all his knowledge was passed from his head to mine. I'm an exact replica of him."
"Actually you have a .01 difference in your DNA."
"True. I believe that Captain Skyhawk is actually a dullard and a bore. With this knowledge I would not curb my ambitions and desires as he has."
"So you are different."
Kirk agreed to go with us to Mars. Yet I was suspicious that he is lying about something. He seemed like a monkey trying to get into a boat of bananas. But as long as he agreed to behave we let him walk around as he pleased.
We all loaded the lander back up and we took off for our mother ship. Then it was off to Mars, our next destination.
To be continued.......
Pix from quizlet.com.