Continued from yesterday.
The boy started small at first, looking at just Campbell-38. It didn’t look so very different from the photos.
You’re a fool, said the boy to himself. Nobody’s hiding anything. He’s just a crotchety old man who wants everything done his way.
But the second night, he looked at two more worlds that were not on the old man’s list. The third night, four, and so on, until he was looking at ten or a dozen different stars and planets and moons every night, noting them on a pad he hid in his pocket, so he didn’t waste time looking at the same world twice. He pushed the limits of the scope’s power, further and further, until he was spying worlds thousands of light-years distant—worlds no one else could see unless they traveled there themselves by Spacial Disruption. He peered at the swirling neon gases of a nebula. Tracked a comet for awhile.
He didn’t know what he was looking for.
Until he saw it.
It was on Gallun-Z. It was big. Unmistakable.
It was a city.
Actually, several cities, cluttered all over the planet’s land masses. There were honeycombs of winding roads, and bulbous, yet symmetrical structures, and artificial lights twinkling on the night side. And—maybe—movement.
His gut grew tight with excitement and disbelief. Impossible. Yet there it was. Countless men and women had hop-scotched across the universe, discovering strange plants, beasts and diseases, yet he, planet-bound, had discovered what none of them had.
Or what none of them had reported.
It was late, and the man would be in any moment. The boy reset the scope and slipped down the stairs and picked up his broom.
Had the man ever seen what he just had? Did he know?
The boy ached to run home, to search Gallun-Z on the webs and to find out if it had yet been landed by human pilots. But he had to finish his shift—his pointless, sweeping shift—and it was another two hours before he could finally leave.
He typed in the planet’s coordinates. There were, indeed, shuttle mission photos, taken three years ago, according to the logs. He saw craters and mountains and canyons. Nothing else.
He thought for a moment that he had miscalculated, and the world he’d seen was not Gallun-Z after all, but he checked the starmaps and was sure he’d been correct. Surely the S.D. program had discovered it. Yet there was no news of it anywhere.
Someone, somewhere, was hiding an entire alien civilization.
Tune in tomorrow for Part III