The room was 3 ft². Dark except for a single white blinking light.
The sole container was at the heart of the ship. A ship that was one mile square.
It had drifted through space for the past 14 years. There were no markings on the hull. It didn't appear in any logbook of any Earth system.
To the observer it looked like it was made from black glass. Although it had no visible markings, electron microscopes would have revealed an intricate filigree on the skin of the ship.
As it entered our solar system, the filigree started to crackle like lightning.
Passing Jupiter's red spot, the lightning turned into a storm. A shaft of light, brilliantly white, emanated from its hold, forming a blinding laser.
Within 30 seconds, it had hit the moon, superheating its core and turning the rocky surface into glass.
All scientists would have said this was impossible, but it happened regardless.
On Earth, systems went wild. Scientists tried to figure out what had gone on. There was no explanation.
This was unknown science.
The super-heated core of the moon started to produce lava deep within the satellite.
"No sir, we have no idea what it is."
The White House. Pearly in the moonlight.
Decades of waiting for some random occurrence suddenly came to an abrupt halt. Within 30 seconds, history books had to be rewritten. There was one underlying fact: If it could do that to the moon, imagine what it could do to the earth.
Panic in DC.
"I need to find out what we're dealing with."
"Yes sir, we understand that."
"Well have you got your best man on it?"
"Yes sir. Aibork is the only one that thought this would happen."
"Where is he?"
The President's aide entered the code 2463 821271 6 into a tablet, and a cgi grid revealed a blinking icon approaching the depiction of whatever that thing was.
Twenty feet from the alien probe, an Earth ship, callsign Bronx Rat, approached silently. Sat in the pilot's seat, the man in a crushed velvet jacket sipped a Martini while gently adjusted his controls. Behind him, the disco ball revolved.
"You said this was going to happen!" Kate masked her mouth with a hand.
"I hate it when I'm right."
Aibork felt dizzy, excited and nervous.
"So what do we do now?"
"Whatever’s inside that ship, looks deadly."
The pilot drained his Martini and put the glass at the side of his console.
He found a button to the right of his joystick, and compressed air filled the room. Revealed in the fog was a small metal cylinder.
Aibork found a button on the side and the door opened with a satisfying sound.
Inside was an orange pearl.
"If this doesn't do the trick, we're all doomed."
On Earth it was chaos. Shops looted; banks raided; the stock market crashed.
The tides kissed the world's shores in an unusual fashion - instead of lapping, they had a zigzagging effect.
It was known as the Unreality Pearl. The stuff of myth and legend that one day become a very real thing.
Found in an Italian volcano 120 years ago, the Pearl attracted the interest of the planet.
Stolen, lost and found again, it was eventually blasted into space.
The Pearl did one thing, and it did it rather well. It created an alternate reality.
Many went crazy trying to figure out why or how it worked, it just did.
More than 13.7 million years of galactic evolution, and this tiny thing rewrote the history books.
If the alien craft was a thing of ridiculousness, then it had to be challenged with equal amounts of stupidity.
It seems the unreality pearl was being returned to the impossible shell.
Kate slipped into her spacesuit, snapped the helmet closed around her neck, and it sealed with a satisfying hiss.
It sounded like a word.
"Are you ready for this?" He asked.
"How is anyone ever ready for what we are about to do?" She frowned.
"Do you not think that drinking Martinis so close to the end of the Earth's possible existence is a little strange?"
"Yes, it is a bit odd for me," he remarked while securing the fastenings on his own suit. "I prefer a Piña Colada".
He tried to take his mind off the visions, so he thought of all the vehicles he had driven over the years. The stellar cruisers, hyper barges and Quadrillion Skiffs. Not forgetting the Anti-grav buggies, but the pianos still appeared in his vision regardless. Booze wouldn't erase the sense of doom he felt.
On the alien craft an airlock of impossible geometry received the improbably perfect fitted collar released from the earthship. Not so much a square peg in a square hole. This was some random configuration perfectly knitted together with something of a equal ridiculousness.
In the universe where nothing seems to make sense, this marriage of alien skin and Earth technology seemed to make perfect sense.
Aibork and Kate wandered around the seemingly endless corridors. Lights illuminated the gloom as they walked.
The duo regarded their scanners with intent.
As the soft thrumming of their devices intensified, they knew they were getting into the heart of their destination.
There was no sound on the ship except for electronic cheeps, like birds tweeting.
It was strangely peaceful.
After 11 minutes of hard walking, they finally found their goal.
Aibork thought about the pearl, and how he'd found it drifting in space.
It felt good to be able to return this bizarre thing to its equally unusual host.
Gingerly he took the Pearl from its holdings, and slipped it into a niche in the alien skin.
It scanned the pearl, memorised its DNA, and he removed it.
Kate stood closer to him.
She said with a whisper, "You realise now that we've done this, life on Earth will never be the same?” Aibork nodded.
"Maybe it was always supposed to be this way," he said.
"Melt Red." A voice spoke.
Kate looked around. Nothing there.
That name again. Eerie. Prescient.
As ripples surged through the ship's skin, they made their way back to their own craft.
Like a stone dropped in a pond, the ripples that emanated from the alien craft made their way to Earth.
However, the first thing it passed was a meteor the size of Boston.
Aibork and Kate left the ship and set course for their home planet.
"So, what's your story? You married?”
Aibork shook his head. “Was once. Didn't last. We drifted apart; I fell for a girl born from an alien seed pod.”
“Ah, right. Where was she from?” asked Kate, rolling with the clearly comedic answer.
"Call it a plane of existence; call it a galaxy, whatever it is, it is far away."
He pointed at a galactic map.
"Here is our galaxy."
The image rippled as though made of oil and the view became a white sea with black stars.
“This is hers.”
Kate looked confused. The gag had no punch line so she thought the best thing to do was to keep quiet.
“You should know this place.” He said.
“Shouldn't have to ask,” he smiled.
Kate was more confused than usual, but the worrying thing was, in her heart she felt he was right.
At sub-light speed, they arrived back at the outer atmosphere in a little over an hour.