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Vapor Rising

by Derek Frazier

Fen sat back into the small gravitational field and turned his head toward the control console next to him. Pink lights pulsed down his backbones with satisfaction as he received data telepathically from the artificial lifeform that served as the ship’s computer. The readings were so precise he barely had to concentrate to gather the information he needed. Everything was running smoothly.

He rose, unfolding his wings from their carapace flaps, and moved toward the vertical lift. Once there he waved his tentacles in front of the optical register. The gravity field within the lift changed and he drifted downward toward the laboratories. He stepped out, feather-light, into a dim corridor and moved silently on his jointed legs. A faint light fell from a portal to the right and he entered.

“Peace to you,” he said to Vapor Rising. “Are you ready?”

“Nearly,” said Vapor Rising. His metamorphosis was almost complete: his body covering had become soft and opaque and his internal skeletal structure was strangely symmetrical. He was no longer recognizable as an Immortal. “Thank you for asking. Is it time?”

“We will be in range shortly. When you are ready, please meet me in the launching compartment.”

“Yes, I will. Peace to you.”

“And to you.”

Some time later, Vapor Rising lowered himself through the atmosphere of the alien planet. He could feel the moisture seeping through his porous covering, and the protective liquid inside his new mouth was quickly evaporating. He had kept his wings, which gracefully lowered him to the surface.

He could see it now: living things dotted the yellow and brown landscape stretching around him to the wavering haze of the horizon. Many were sessile and showed no signs of intelligence but busily turned radiation from the nearest star into simple sugars through a process unknown throughout the rest of the cosmos. This was something Vapor Rising had been told; his mind was capable of deducing such information, but it would have taken him a long time to tune into the specific tremors and vibrations associated with such activity.

The organisms moving around, feeding on those anchored to the ground, engaged Vapor Rising’s thought more completely, but he was actively exploring with his mind for a specific being. Somewhat like a compass in three-dimensional space, his telepathy began pointing in one direction and carefully directed his descent that way.

He was very close to the rocky surface now. He was excited: if he had still looked like an Immortal, his entire body would have been glowing with a brilliant, amber light. In this form, though, his phosphorescence gathered around his head and rippled in waves with the dry breezes. He would appear spiritual, a concept he had a difficult time understanding. From what he could deduce, it had something to do with the transcendental movement of the mind after the death of the body; a strange and challenging belief, but one also extraordinarily beautiful in its naivety.

He felt sorry for these aliens that were smart enough to be aware of their mortality but helpless to do anything about it. Their lifespan was shockingly brief; how could they develop truly insightful, deep and all-encompassing thought in such a short period?

He remembered watching the lives of planets come and go, entire solar systems appearing and disappearing from one memory to the next; and prior to his existence other Immortals had witnessed untold rotations of this and other galaxies. If they could passively guide these aliens toward a truth of their own design, perhaps they would survive. Maybe there was hope for them.

Vapor Rising could feel the subject making its way around a small hill, still out of sight. His thoughts penetrated its entire body, studying the bizarre physiology, quickly making sense of it all. The telepathic parts of his own mind worked together to give him an understanding of its brain functions almost instantly.

He was amazed at some of the things he sensed: for the most part, the being operated in ways similar to most intelligent life forms he had encountered, but there were always unique qualities about any alien species, things that were unexpected and wondrous. This planet had evolved its life in an incredibly variety that Vapor Rising and the others had been studying for more than a thousand years, as measured here. A short while, but long enough for the Immortals to develop their plan.

Vapor Rising opened his wings to their full extension and focused his mind on that of the subject. As it rounded the hill, Vapor Rising took only a moment to gather the language from its brain. “Do not be afraid,” he spoke aloud. This was the first time in his vast life he had ever uttered an audible noise. He was surprised at how it sounded: sharp and quick, vibrant and expressive, as if there was no time to lose.

The subject’s eyes widened and its mouth opened. Vapor Rising was so focused on its mind that he nearly tumbled backward with the power of its emotions. He instinctively tilted his head and threw a sedating thought toward it.

The effect was instantaneous; its body locked in rigid paralysis, but the look of terror on its face changed subtly to one of incredulous wonder. This was precisely what Vapor Rising had been told the response would be.

He relaxed, the first direct contact with the most intelligent species on this planet having been made. After a millennium, Phase II would begin. He could not hold back his curiosity; not at the answer, but how the alien would express itself. “What do you call yourself?” he asked, smiling down at it.

“Miryam,” it spoke quietly, ecstatic from the wavelengths Vapor Rising was sending through its brain. For a moment, he thought it was a shame he had to alter its thinking. It seemed unfair and almost tyrannical, but there was no other way. Even if he endowed this individual with comprehension of the Immortals’ plan, the civilizations of this planet were far too primitive to understand what was about to happen.

“What type of thing are you, Miryam?” Vapor Rising asked kindly, although from the subject’s mind he had already extracted the answer. Excitement jumped through his currently primordial axons and neurons and tickled his telepathic connectors. “What type of... animal?”

A stray thought touched the four-legged animals beyond the hill, grazing idly, and returned information. Physically, they had the same qualities of sexual dimorphism as the subject’s species. Male and female, terms he extracted from the subject’s brain as he turned his thoughts back to what he now understood to be “her.” Gender, Vapor Rising thought. What an ancient and rare concept.

Miryam’s eyes were watery, and she seemed to be lifting herself off the ground with her shoulders, from where her wings would be if she had been an Immortal. “I am... a person,” she said in a whisper.

“Ah, a person,” said Vapor Rising through his strange-feeling smile. Miryam’s acknowledgement of something he already knew produced the usual sensation of pleasure in the telepathic center of his brain. He began the insemination sequence, masking the sensation by initiating in the woman an intense, protracted orgasm. “Listen to me,” he said as Miryam panted beneath him, and his halo expanded beyond the desert sun. “Peace be upon you. There is something you need to know. Something important to all persons...”

Copyright © 2011 by Derek Frazier

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