This is a photo comic of my short story “I was a Translator for NASA”. It will be posted one page a day or you can get the full pdf version for “name your price” on Gumroad.
They came from deep space, hurtling through our orbital plane at such tremendous velocity we thought they would be gone before we got more than a brief look at them. But then their trajectory shifted. As they shed speed in Saturn’s gravity well, eighty-three satellites focused on the two objects. Ovid bodies, covered by near-black armor plates, a single “head” plate covered the blunt end of their bodies, near the tapered rear two “tendrils” extended backward, twisting and flexing as they changed course. From Saturn, they looped around Venus for a final course correction, before heading toward Earth.
Five hundred years ago, we invented the Gravity Wave Space Drive and the solar system became our new frontier.
The two creatures that had traveled untold distances in lockstep, now separated in Earth orbit. For several weeks they called down to Earth with bursts of radio chirps, squeals, and tones. We think they were searching for others of their kind. The two reunited and drifted into a higher orbit. They turned their bellies toward each other, armor plates parted, lifted, opened allowing them to join as one. Together they slowly spun as they orbited Earth. Three days later, they separated and returned to their previous orbit.
Gregor Snadbar is credited as the inventor of the GWSD. Just twelve years after gravity waves were confirmed to exist, he found a way to bend and warp them around an object to create lift.
Six months after the space whales’ romp in orbit, one descended to fifteen thousand feet over the Pacific Ocean. The plates around its tapered end parted and something fell. The blue green-brown object tumbled through the air for what felt like hours but it was less than a minute before it righted itself and flew back up to its parent. Four more fell and flew over the next six hours. When the parent began to ascend two days later, the calves followed into the upper atmosphere but would not or could not follow into space.
There are children’s stories about whales flying through space, coming to Earth, and teaching us to ride gravity waves. Those were just stories, right? Surely if alien creatures had visited Earth we would have recorded it.
The calves are miniature versions of their parents except where they are solid black, the calves have pale blue undersides and green and brown molted backs. Camouflage from predators perhaps; but what could prey on small-airplane-sized creatures?
Perhaps their first visit was much shorter, just long enough to find an empty nest and for us to observe them bending gravity waves. Short enough for us to forget. But someone remembered. Someone remembered who we owed for giving us the solar system. They remembered and turned it into a story.
In five years, the calves have doubled in size but are still dwarfed by their parents. We think it’ll be a few decades before they can leave Earth’s atmosphere maybe longer before they leave the solar system. Their parents come down into the atmosphere on a regular basis to spend a few days at a time with them. The rest of the time the calves wander around the planet, riding jet streams or skimming through clouds. They keep their distance from planes and rarely come closer than several hundred feet of the ground. There are websites and apps to track their movements. Even an animated show for kids.
Perhaps this time we won’t forget them.