2946-07-31 - Tales from the Inbox: The Rosetta Halo

This entry was submitted by Jozefina U., who has already been featured in a Feedback Loop episode of the vidcast. Jozefina is currently the mayor of a town of about 1,500 settlers on the frontier world of Botterhill, which is primarily known in the Core Worlds for the discovery of the so-called Rosetta Halo, a functional artifact likely built by the so-called Xenarchs. Jozefina and her two associates sold the artifact to a consortium of Core Worlds research universities for an unbelievable fortune in 2931, and it has allowed xenoarchaeologists to construct a partial translation of the Xenarchs' written language.

In this submission, Jozefina discussed the situation in which she discovered the Rosetta Halo. This story is probably household knowledge on Botterhill, but here in the Core Worlds, the haphazard and accidental nature of the find may come as a surprise to many of our audience.

Jozefina was the first to rappel into the grotto. Proper explorers would have brought a gravitc lifter or even a sled, but her little band was anything but, and had to rely on cable and tie-down spikes hammered into rock the old-fashioned way. It was all their lighter’s fabricator had been able to churn out on short notice.

“What’s it look like?” Anita called down, her head silhouetted against the tiny oval of sky at the top of the shaft.

Jozefina saw nothing but damp, dripping darkness in every direction, so she activated the lights secured to her wrists and swept them around in a circle. The cave was just that – a cave. It was damp, but fortunately the floor was not underwater – thin runnels of moisture trickled along the floor into a crack near one wall. “It’s big, but there’s not much to it.” She called up. Some of the rocks reflected the light oddly, but that was because they were damp and covered in delicate traceries of flowstone. The cavern wasn’t unpleasant, but compared to some of the larger cave networks around the settlement, it was fairly uninspiring. The region’s largest web of caves had made travel media all the way back in the Core Worlds for its size and grandeur; this one would not even warrant a footnote.

“Damn.” Walter muttered, his quiet voice echoing down. Jozefina knew that to Walter, every cave was a potential motherlode of alien artifacts or palace-like cascade of ancient stalagmites that would bring in endless tourism. He set his hopes high, and they were always dashed.

“We’ll, give it a good once-over look anyway.” Anita replied. “I’m sending Walter down.”

The rope jerked as the man hooked his harness into it and began to rappel down after Jozefina. She stepped away to give him a place to land, wandering down the cave’s long axis. Her attention fell on egg-shaped boulder roughly the size of their lighter’s cabin, which sat on a pile of smaller rocks. It was smooth across half its surface and marked with flowstone across the other half. The flowstone seemed to embrace the boulder, as if cradling it. Jozefina deployed the camera unit attached to her helmet and lined up for a few photos. The climb would at least not be a total loss; a few close-ups of the odd formation would be perfect fodder for her datasphere media feed.

As she moved from one interesting perspective to another, Jozefina stepped on something that snapped underfoot. Bending down, she found a long, straight stick of the local wood-analogue, its end sharpened into a point. “Odd.” She said. The wood was damp and probably worm-eaten, but that didn’t explain the sharpened point.

“What was that?” Anita called down.

Jozefina stood, still holding the stick, but she never got around to answering her associate's curiosity. The cavern was suddenly illuminated with a warm yellow-orange light. Confused, the amateur explorer looked up and saw a ring of bright motes slowly orbiting the egg-shaped boulder. There was an almost hypnotic pattern to the lights – and as they moved, they sharpened and grew more numerous, becoming symbols. Alien symbols.

“Woah!” Walter exclaimed. Jozefina turned around to see him disconnecting from the line, gazing up at the symbols. “Jackpot.”

“What?” Anita called again. “Did you use a flare, Joz?”

The flowstone flaked off the rounded bolder in great, brittle sheets, and Jozefina saw intricate carvings below. In the seams of the carvings, she saw the gleam of bright metal. “No.” She called up distractedly. “Found something.” She stepped forward, arm outstretched.

“I wouldn’t touch it.” Walter warned.

Jozefina touched it anyway. Nothing happened; the symbols did not change or vanish. The artifact – for that was certainly what it was – was warm to the touch, and vibrating faintly.

“What do you think it is?” Anita asked.

“Hell if I know.” Jozefina replied. “Get a claim marker from the lighter. This is ours now.”