The image vanished for a few moments and when it reappeared, he couldn’t understand what he saw at first. Scowling, he ordered the image to rotate slowly. Still nothing. Then he asked it to reverse the magnification again until the entire satellite was visible. Even then, he couldn’t identify anything until the image grew to include the entire airlock.
That was when he gasped as the image of a Human-scaled being shaped like a dolphin – in the same way a Human was shaped like a chimpanzee – floated in the air. It turned to face the camera and it was at that point that he’d passed out.
“The hell?” he muttered. He stared for a long time before he finally said, “Looks like the alienologists were right.” He stared at the image of the creature. Without the computer changing the ultrasound image into a visual image, he’d be blind to it. It was logical to assume then that they would have been blind to him.
Or would it? Might this alien been able to see him and be invisible to him at the same time? Or would it have been stranger than that? He couldn’t think of a reason to have a satellite that was able to project ultrasonic images, either. Gathering orbital data, for sure. But why would it be able to project an image?
Unless it was a first contact device.
He pursed his lips, studying the satellite. Maybe it was meant to send a message to someone else. He leaned forward and brought up the ‘bug’s data base, searching for a program he might be able to use to find out what he wanted to know.
Half an hour later, he’d answered enough questions that the computer was ready when he tapped, “Go.” The initial series of tests needed the airlock waldoes to attempt to take samples of the surface of the satellite. After a few moments, it reported to him that it would need two hours to both collect enough samples and run a detailed analysis. He was lucky it had the geological survey package still intact. Not all ‘bugs were still able to do it.
He sat back, staring at the airlock, unable to see the alien satellite but knowing it was there. Aquatic beings, delphinoid, who communicated in a frequency beyond Human hearing – who once had an interest in a planet essentially devoid of water. Ho were able to build advanced satellites that may or may not have orbited Mars at some time. He stood up with a sigh.
He needed to get moving again. Even though Chen and Chumani had been after him to preach to them, Mars Authority wasn’t benign. He was a wanted man, certainly a rabble rouse if nothing else. He glanced back at the airlock. What if the Free Martian belief in the Watchers was true? What if these aquatic beings were the Watchers? Without a doubt, Mars had once had both ocean and atmosphere. What if these beings had watched from the ocean?
He sighed. Too many questions to ask that depended from…nothing. He went back to the controls and engaged the ‘bug’s drive, rolling forward again. He’d have to wait for the satellite’s analysis to figure out WHAT set of questions he needed to pursue.
Whether the logical set that led to some faction or another from Earth, the Moon, Venus, or Mars losing a spy satellite – or the irrational set that led to evidence that Humanity was not alone in the universe. The second set of questions also begged an answer to the question of “when did they watch?”
The ‘bug had been rolling for ten minutes before Paolo realized that there were two other questions that depended from that answer: were they still watching and WHO were they trying to contact? He shivered and turned up the ‘bug’s heater.