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The Jewel

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A Short Story by

This story is dedicated to my mother. She has always cared for and provided for me. Without her I could not have existed.

As many times as I have sat here and viewed the play of colors and patterns through the window, it never ceases to fascinate, almost mesmerize me. The colors shift hue and position as patterns grow and contract moving around in seemingly random order. Periodically, sporadically, bursts or flashes of color appear of various sizes and durations. The only thing I know in nature that is close to this dazzling display is an aurora borealis. It is really quite beautiful and the effect upon me is very similar to sitting in front of a fireplace. I let the colors and patterns take me along for a ride as my mind drifts with them, thoughts and feelings come and go in me as the colors and patterns come and go through the window. A pleasant and relaxing experience which I do enjoy and go with for a while until the display disappears abrupt, along with the feeling in me with it. My ship is slowing down and the magnetic bubble it surrounds itself with for travel faster than the speed of light is no longer needed. The window now looks out upon the stark and barren view of space, approaching a gaseous giant planet. This is not the destination the ship was set for and I do a quick check of the instrumentation to determine what has happened. The ship is "smart" and has an intelligence of a kind. I am informed that the fuel reserves are getting low and the ship decided to replenish its supplies seeing an opportunity to do so within a solar system we were passing by. My attention begins to shift to the gaseous planet, apparently rich in hydrogen, that we are nearing when an alert signal sounds from the console. Again I return to the instrumentation to determine what the ship wishes me to know. Whenever the ship enters into a solar system it has not visited before, it routinely scans the entire system collecting detailed information about it's attributes. Reading now the returning scan information that requires my attention I see it is a fairly common system, nine planets, a yellow star, nothing unusual except the third planet in this system, contains life! As the ship enters the upper atmosphere of this gas giant to collect hydrogen in the refueling operation, I call up the standard life scan information to get a better idea of what this life is on the third planet. The ship is sifting through the atmosphere collecting fuel as I sift through the life scan data collecting information. The planet has civilization and, though very primitive, technology also! I hear the ship's hydrogen scoops closing as the refueling operation is completed and see it lifting away from the gas giant getting ready to resume the original flight plan. My curiosity about the life on the third planet needs pursuing, "Control, suspend flight plan, engage stealth mode, orbit third planet in present system, commence detailed scan and analysis of the third planet.". Smart maybe, but you still have to "spell" things out for the ship to follow. There is a momentary pause as this smart ship compiles my instructions into action. There is a flash of colors outside the window as the ship makes a short jump across the system, and the view returns in the window of a blue-green world below us. The ship activates the extended sensors and scanners and begins to collect information about this beautiful planet before us. I can see just looking out the window this is a typical

life bearing planet, large amounts of water in liquid form. In fact, the returning scan information has determined that better than seventy percent of the planet surface is water! The land masses, for the most part, are covered with the green coloring of plant life and an establish ecosystem. The dark side of the planet reveals lights clustered in cities, technological civilization. Returning to the ship's instrumentation to see what it has gathered, I discover that it has found a planetary wide computer communication network. It has managed translation and access and is tapping the information contained there. Civilization is divided into several ideologies and war and contention among them is not uncommon according to information gathered from the computer network. Biosensors report serious eco-degradation and pollution. Technology on the planet is very new, really only developed and exploding in the last 100 solar cycles. The incoming information quickly reveals the civilization on this planet is a rare jewel in the cosmos. It is in the transformation phase between pre and post technological development in which the civilization either survives it with wise usage, or they destroy themselves with the knowledge. This transformation stage is very short lived and a brief event on the time scale of evolution, of extreme interest to observe and study as it unfolds. I look back out the window at the beautiful blue-green globe and ponder for a moment how the civilization upon it will fare in this transformation decision. "Control, abort planetary scan and analysis, resume previous flight plan, disengage stealth mode". As the ship turns to align for flight, it occurs to me that this system is a bit out on the fringes of the galaxy, off the beaten path so to speak, and back on my home world they may be unaware of this rare jewel. The colors return to the window as the ship resumes its course. "Control, summarize location and findings from last planetary scan, send summary to home galactic data base". I sit back relaxing and letting my thoughts drift again in front of the window as the ship moves toward destination.