They came without warning.
After so many years of finding nothing, the scientists had given up hope of ever finding life on Mars. Despite all of the probes, all of the rovers, Mars seemed destined to remain a dead planet.
Spirit had been silent for years and it seemed that Opportunity would so follow on in its sister's wake. Curiosity soldiered onward, drilling and lasering its way across the dusty ground.
Each week it seemed, there was some new discovery; compounds from meteorites that revealed how the early solar system had come to be, ancient rocks that could only have been shaped by flowing water, deep in the red planet's shadowed path.
But never the Holy Grail, the one thing everyone wished for, even if they could no long admit to it in public.
Never signs of life.
Never the slightest hint that Earth may not have been unique in the universe.read more...
Lying on my back, looking up into the night sky, I could feel the most curious sensation of being pulled up into the night sky, being pulled away from they very Earth on which I lay. I reached out with arms and bare feet, grabbing onto the soil with fingers and toes, determined to remain firmly grounded, firmly of this Earth. The attraction grew, I could feel my body lifting away, pulling against my four firm points of contact, fighting against myself for what little hold I still had.read more...
With both the Cloak and the Mask, the curator jumped into the final spot of the Pentagram. Immediately everyone could feel a thrum of force as the circle began to close. Dancing blue flames spread from the bodies lying at the other four points around the circle and over the cross lines.
A fierce wind suddenly blew across the top of the building, bringing with it a rumble of thunder. Luckily, it seemed to be further away. Another lightning strike to the roof was not something anyone wanted.
Raising her masked face to the sky, the curator began chanting in a strange tongue. Based on the artifacts she was wearing, it wouldn't be a stretch to say it sounded distinctly Central American.
Drawing to a high point in her chant, she yelled "Popocatepetl! Popocatepetl ko'oten! Popocatepetl!" With a brilliant flash of light--albeit less brilliant than the earlier lightning strike--the circle snapped shut.
A man and a woman stood side by side, overlooking a sight that had, until a few months ago, never before been seen to human eyes. They were in orbit around a planet, blue green like the Earth but with just enough difference to know they were nowhere near home.
The land was different. Rather than half a dozen large land masses spread more or less evenly, this world had only a single huge continent, spanning perhaps half of an entire hemisphere.
Herman was alone.
But then again, Herman was always alone.
He had no family, no friends. No one to call and ask how his day was. No one to come over and borrow a cup of sugar or chat about the latest ball game.
Then again there was no more sugar.
There were no more ball games.
Still, it would have been nice to have someone to talk to.