Aqua
Starstrider Voyages page 8 - Evolution
Captain's log: galactic date 1044 23-23: We have left the edge of the A star association and are now in
a region of space dominated by older stars. Many of these systems support ancient worlds. Whilst
probing a yellow-white class F star-system, we discovered that its 5th planet is covered with aqueous
oceans. There are no sizeable land masses on this planet, though are some continent-sized, but
submerged, plateaus. The planet has a dense atmosphere containing water vapour and 3% oxygen,
4% sulphur oxides and 92% nitrogen. This planet is a prime candidate for supporting life. Could this be
the world that launched the alien probe that we encountered on JEN 658204 Zeta 2?

Positioned in a stationary orbit above the planet, we dispatch a probe equipped for ocean exploration.
Bioanalysis immediately reports biological activity of the microbial kind in the surface waters! It appears
that this world has not (as yet) evolved a very oxygen-rich atmosphere, but the oceans have a very
high sulphur content, suggesting that sulphur or its compounds are used in place of oxygen in
metabolism. The sulphur content of the oceans is even higher than the atmosphere and the oceans
are considerably acidic. Diving to the depths, the probe discovers large life-forms living on the ocean
bed on top of one of the submerged plateaus.
This life consists of large zooids, each about 50 cm in length, swimming by means of large
rod-like appendages that flex and beat [in much the same way that smaller cilia may propel
certain organisms on Earth]. At first the probe encounters a single solitary specimen, but then
these creatures spawned from a large net-like structure, comprised of tubes that branch and
ramify. The tubes are hollow and evidently pump water inside, transporting it around the whole
structure.

At intervals, the mesh gives rise to vase-like structures, each containing a developing
free-swimming zooid. We speculate that the free-swimming swarmers are there for dispersion,
perhaps swimming to new areas before attaching to the substrate and forming a new colony of
interconnected tube-like individuals.
It never ceases to amaze me how the same pattern of life repeat themselves throughout the
Universe, but with unique variants adapted to the local environment. The waters of this alien
world are very viscous, almost like treacle, due it seems to the high content of polymerised
sulphur. This has resulted in a scaling up of life-forms that would be best suited to the
microscopic scale on other worlds.

Probing the electrical properties of this structure it appears to be controlled by multiple nervous
centres, located at intervals - the whole appears to be an immense colony of individuals
physically connected and electrically 'wired' together by their connected nervous systems!
Scans also reveal optical signals being conducted through fibres within the living mesh, signals
that travel at close to the speed of light. Computer simulations reveal that the mesh is a vast
neural network performing complex computations - it is intelligent! Electrochemical signals, like
those that animals on Earth (and organisms on many other worlds) use in their nervous systems
would be too slow to allow coherent thought over such a gigantic scale in this giant neural net,
and it has overcome this problem with silicon fibre optic 'wires' for long-distance communication.
Thus the structure contains local electrical computing 'terminals' networked together by
fibre-optics, and yet it is alive!

It seems that this colony of organisms is really one giant organism with no skin to enclose its
organs. Instead the zooids act like the cells of the system which are bathed openly by the liquid of
the sulphurous sea. This raises the question as to how much of this planet's oceans constitute a
single such 'organism'.

Captain's log: galactic date 1044 25-08: Astronav have reported a weak tachyon signal and have
determined the direction, but have insufficient data to determine the precise distance to the
source. The signal is artificial! It contains We have collected plenty of data to keep our science
team busy for some time and so we return to hyperspace to journey in the direction of the brief
signal.

Continue your exploration of space ...