Aphelion Issue 245, Volume 23
November 2019
 
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The Old Homestead

by George T. Philibin




"It's a language!" said Dr. Donalson, a tenured paleontologist.

"That's impossible--no intelligent life existed during the Cretaceous period!" Professor Collens said. "Those markings can't be writings from that period. No languages, written or spoken, existed then! No intelligent life existed!"

Dr. Donalson stomped out of Professor Collens' office and stormed down the hallway. He was sick of looking down into the beady little eyes of Dr. Collens. He almost tripped as he descended the stairs. A good hot cup of brewed coffee would be a welcomed relief in the cafeteria.

He sat down after getting his coffee. Thoughts stormed over him, thoughts that can't be accurately worded concerning beady-eyed Collens, a department head with a pea-brain...

"It's a sign!" Professor Cramer said. And as near as we can decipher it--it says "Danger Radiation."

Donalson's head jerked up--he shot a sharp glance up at the young, dark-haired Dr. Cramer, "What?" Donalson asked.

Cramer repeated his statement, and others in the cafeteria started tuning their ears to his loud voice.

"The excavation site in Mongolia is uncovering so many strange artifacts that they're piling up, and the undergrads can't keep up with the cataloging," Cramer said. "We need help over there--we also found what looks like a planned grave site. All the fossils of raptors are placed in rows and columns and at the same depth with granite stone marking their locations, and the stones have chiseled inscriptions on them."

Silence waved over the cafeteria as many turned towards Donalson and Cramer. Donalson half rose then dropped his coffee on the table. It splashed on his hand but his mind didn't register the burns. He then said, "A cemetery?--I'm flying over there!"

***

High above Earth, the starship Krustacea was in geosynchronous orbit over Mongolia. Tudlow, the royal paleontologist smiled. His large eyes and green skin now radiated joyful pride, as he stared at Crtuon, a sharp critic of his work.

Raptors had to depart Earth since no protection would have saved them from the asteroid. That was true of raptors. But all life wasn't eradicated, as Crtuon so passionately had argued. No, warm-blooded animals might have survived. And by the time the raptors aboard the asteroid-escaping fleet woke up from suspended animation--millions of years later after a suitable planet was detected--a species of the warm-blooded animals just might have become intelligent. One did!

Crtuon lowered his head, turned and walked out of the bridge, his tail dragging heavily and his skin tone now bland. And yes! The Order of Rashia would surely be bestowed upon Tudlow for this unparalleled achievement. All that Tudlow predicted had come true. The analysis of the radio signals detected from this planet and the results of extensive geological analysis conducted by probes sent down, had confirmed Tudlow's model for this once home planet--that the warm-blooded bipeds now called Earth. The bipeds were intelligent with nuclear and limited space exploration capability.

Crtuon returned to the bridge, and approached Tudlow. Crtuon's friendly smile and tail waving were noticed by all and his skin now glowed with pure green. He neared Tudlow and spoke loud enough for all to hear "I wanted to be the first to put your name in for the Order of Rashia. You deserve it."

"Many thanks, and you will be mentioned in my acceptance speech. As you know I used some of your earlier work when developing mine," Tudlow said.

Crtuon nodded his head; his skin projected a very friendly, pleasant green hue.

"The landing signal has been transmitted for an hour now in the four Earth languages you requested. Is it time to land at our ancient departure site as you have dreamed about for so long?" Captain Rexon asked.

"Yes, it is time we meet the warm-blooded bipeds. I'm sure we'll have much to talk about," Tudlow said.

Krustacea started a controlled decent towards Mongolia.

***

Inspecting so many artifacts and fossils and other finds not natural and very interesting to a trained observer, Donalson moved judiciously from one to another, his movements very slow, his hands holding each object like a surgeon holding a human heart, and his eyes appearing more like x-rays. The large finds too big to handle, became awed monuments, his mind washing over them like the ocean washing over every detail of a sunken treasure ship.

John Trebbs, an undergrad that looked like a walking tree when moving, ran over to Donalson and said, "Something's going on. Some of the Mongolians are so hyper... one has a cell phone and he must have gotten news about something. They're talking so fast and in this strange dialect that me and Smithy can't translate correctly. We don't know what they're talking about!"

Donalson's brow frowned. He looked towards the group not far and, yes, Trebbs was right. Something must have happened. Then a thought: all I need now is some political crap or maybe a religious riot at this dig site! I can just imagine Buddhist picketers marching back and forth in white robes!

A young Mongolian ran up to Donalson and Trebbs. He bowed three times then started speaking with the speed of an excited sports announcer broadcasting a 70-yard run from a quarterback sneak--and making the touchdown. Trebbs motioned him to slow down a bit and the Mongolian did, a little.

After listening, Trebbs turned to Donalson and said, "Some type of shuttle is returning to Earth as far as I can tell. He says it's radioing something like 'We come in peace.'"

"I bet it's the international Space Shuttle New Horizons. Probably some technical malfunction in re-entry... and the Chinese agreed to let it land at Chinggis Khaar airport, not far from here," Donalson said.

Donalson turned back towards an artifact, but then looked up. As he scanned the sky a thought washed over him: I wonder what other surprises will meet me today?


THE END


2014 George T. Philibin

Bio: Mr. Philibin says: "I've been writing for about ten years, and enjoy every strike on my keyboard. I'm not sure why I write--it's fun, I'm sure about that--and I intend to continue and learn. I've retired from a generating station in Western Pennsylvania, and served in Vietnam, attended the University of Pittsburgh for Mechanical Engineering, worked in a coal mine, a steel mill, and a dairy once. My favourite authors are Charles Dickens, Theodore Dreiser, and Kurt Vonnegut, but lately have been studying the writings of Emerson and Thoreau! I ride bicycles, enjoy reading very much--all genres--love to walk the trails here in Western Pennsylvania with my wife and, of course, the dog!

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