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JAN/FEB The music in silence


Tal Tel-ar
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The Music in Silence

Tony had to grin when the hatch failed to respond when he tapped the release button. Just another thing that his buddy Tigik would have to try and fix he thought as he reached for the manual release.

It took a little more effort than he had expected but he finally managed to get the wheel to spin. He was soaked with sweat and short of breath but once it was fully spun he pushed the hatch out and then looked out himself.

It was a sunny day. There were trees all around the clearing and mountains in the distance. Near by was a shallow river but it was the air that was such a pleasant surprise. It was fresh and clean. Almost crisp with a slight chill to it that was refreshing after spending the last month trapped on a retrofitted old freighter.

Not that he really had any reason to complain. The ship might have been old but it was still functional and it had been the only ship available. Still it did smell and the air purifier did nothing to help with the smell.

“Well?” Came that familiar complaining growl that was as close to a friendly comment as Tigik seemed capable of.

Tony turned to look at his Tellerite engineer. “It looks even better than I had expected after reading the reports.”

“Yeah well you can forget my living out there. I’ll just stay here and keep this baby running tip top.”

“In that case you need to repair the hatch release mechanism.” Tony replied with another grin.

At that the Tellerite turned away, grumbling under his breath as he did. Then he stomped off in search of his tools.

Tony just shook his head with a grin before he stepped outside. It was even nicer outside. There was a gentle breeze that had a slight hint of some delicate floral scent.

“It’s spectacular.”

At the sound of that oh so familiar soft throaty voice he turned to stare. She was as always a vision. Her long wavy auburn hair swept back from a heart shaped face, sparkling green eyes and a pair of ruby red pouty lips that always made him want to kiss her.

“Not as spectacular as you.”

She giggled at that. A soft musical giggle that if anything made her seem even more attractive.

“No need to flatter me anymore Tony. After all I am sharing your bed these days.”

“I know. That makes me the luckiest man in the universe.” Tony replied as he moved over to take her in his arms.

“That may be.” She replied with a smile that revealed snow white perfect teeth. “Still we have a lot of work to do.”

“Yeah I guess your right.” With that said he gave her a long slow kiss. Then reluctantly let her go before walking back to the ship and re-entering it’s small cramped corridors.

*****

Tony paused as he walked up the gentle slope to look back at the lush valley that they had called home for the last 2 months. It was simply majestic. The only thing to mar the beauty of the view was the large rusted hulk of their ship. That and the tents that they had erected to live and work in while here.

As he watched he thought he could spot the shape of Tegik hard at work on one of the wheeled all terrain vehicles. The huge doors to the main cargo bay were open and it was now a kind of garage where all their vehicles were stored when not in use.

He could not help grinning at the thought of how much grumbling the man did. It was as if he was never happy unless he was complaining about something.

With a final long lingering look around he turned and continued walking up the gentle slope towards the ridge. He could see a couple people there, busy taking soil samples. Even from here he could spot the auburn hair of his Rigan girlfriend.

As he got closer he saw that they had parked the small 2 person dune buggy style vehicle in a small dip. Around it were scattered a number of sample cases and various technical scanning devices. All the tools of a good botanist and geologist.

Now that he was close enough he could hear them talking. The normal banter of two hard working specialists.

“So how’s it coming?” He asked.

At the sound of his voice they looked up from where they were bent over some kind of spectrometer.

“Oh. Hi Tony. I didn’t notice you there”, replied his girlfriend.

“Things are going well.” Replied the older man with her. “These soil readings are perfect. Lots of nutrients, minerals and both simple and complex enzymes.”

“Do the readings fall within the required parameters for colonization?”

“Easily”, replied the older man.

“Good. So far all the data we have collected has supported that finding.”

“Does that mean we may be able to finish up these tests early and return to civilization?”

“No. We need to do a good, in depth complete evaluation before we can call it quits.”

“Well it can’t be to soon for me.”

“Why?” asked Tony.

The older man looked around the landscape before replying. His face went through a few rather bizarre expressions as he did.

“I’m not sure I can explain this right. It’s just a feeling. Like we’re being watched.”

“Now Ed. Does this have anything to do with that music you said you heard?” Asked the attractive Risan woman with them.

“Look I know what I heard. No way was that sound made by any wind moving through the vegetation.”

“What about by some kind of bird. We know that there are a number of life forms that fall within that category.”

“Maybe. How would I know. I’m not a zoologist.” He replied as he reached up to rub his neck.

“I’ll ask Maude about it when I get back to camp.” Tony replied.

“Thanks.” Ed replied. He still seemed a little out of it. Not over worked but still, somehow not just right.

“Mind if I borrow Tara for a bit?” Tony asked.

“Ha, ha, no. You two lovebird run along. Don’t mind me. I’m just a silly old man.” He replied. He was smiling and seemed his old self again.

Tony reached out and took the Risan’s hand in his before they walked away from the work site.

“Is he OK?” Tony asked.

“I think so. Maybe it’s just the peaceful silence of this place. It can get a little creepy at times.”

“Don’t tell me you’ve heard music?”

“NO. But I agree with Ed. I can’t remember the number of times I’ve had the hair stand up on the back of my neck because I thought someone was watching me.”

“Strange that you’ve mentioned that. A couple of the others expressed similar comments along those lines.”

“It’s probably nothing. It’s just so quiet all the time.” She replied as she snuggled in closer to him.

“I’ll take your word for it. I don’t get away from the camp all that much and Tegik makes enough sound to wake the dead when he’s working on something.”

She giggled at the mention of the always grumpy engineer. He was quite the character but at the same time he was one of the hardest working members of the expedition. He was always busy.

“I though you were crazy for bringing him. He always seems to be in such a foul mood but now that I’ve gotten to know him I like him. He’s…. nice in his own way.”

“He can be. I’ve known him for close to 15 years. I’d trust him with my life.”

“You’ll have to tell me about it sometime.” She replied. “For now I need to get back to work or I’ll never get all these plant samples catalogued.”

“All right. I can take a hint.” He replied as he turned to hug her close. After a moment he backed off enough to give her a kiss. He wanted it to last but reluctantly broke it off and let her go. “See you later.”

“Of coarse.” She said with a big smile before she turned to walk back to where all her equipment and samples were.

He grinned as he watched her walk away. She was one hell of a woman and he knew he was lucky to have her. Yeah, real lucky, he thought as he turned away and started walking back down the hill.

*****

It was a few weeks later and Tony had finally decided to take a day off from all the paperwork and explore. All the others except Tegik had been able to take a day off here and there to relax. Now it was his turn.

That’s why he was here, a few miles down river. The sun was high in the sky and the day was hot. Down here in the valley the air was still without even the hint of a breeze. His shirt was plastered to his body with sweat and he was glad he had brought along 2 extra canteens when he had decided to take this walk.

Right now he was looking for a place to sit down and relax. Hopefully somewhere with a little shade. Then he would just sit and enjoy the quiet.

Tegik had been making more noise than usual the last two days. Not that he was doing it on purpose, just that it took a lot of work to pound the dents out of the damaged land rover that had been rolled a couple times.

Still the peace and quiet was a nice change from all the clang, clang, bang of metal on metal.

Seeing a spot under a large tree close enough to the water that he could hear it Tony wandered over and took off the backpack he had been carrying and sat down. His shoulders were a little stiff and it felt good to take it off.

After a few minutes he dug out a sandwich and started to eat it. As he did he wondered if he could talk Tegik into making him a rod and reel. Maybe even a few fishing lures. This spot reminded him a lot of his grandfathers place back on Earth. He had spent a lot of summers with him and they had done a lot of fishing back then.

Sure the vegetation was completely different but still there were some similarities. And according to Maude there were plenty of aquatic life forms in the river. Even a few that might vaguely be related to terran fish.

Finished with his sandwich he leaned back, shifting his backpack so that he could rest his head on it. Finally comfortable he just relaxed. After a while he started to drift off to sleep. As he did he had to wonder why most of the team thought it was to quiet.

*****

How long he had been asleep he did not know but suddenly he came awake. The sun was still up but it had shifted. Now it was low in the sky, a sure warning that night would be here soon.

Sitting up he shook his head. Now he would have to hurry if he wanted to get back to the camp before dark. How could he have been so silly to sleep the afternoon away like this. Standing up he grabbed his backpack and pulled it on.

As he did he realized it was no longer quiet. There was a soft melodious melody playing in the background. One so gentle and relaxing that it faintly reminded him of the music used to sooth newborn infants.

Quickly he looked around, expecting to see Tara or some other member of the expedition standing there playing a joke on him. There was no one. Not as far as he could see. So if no one was here then where was the music coming from?

Maybe one of the expedition was close by taking samples or running some tests. That would explain the music. Most of the land vehicles had the capability to play music if the driver wanted. It helped pass the time.

“HELLO! WHO’S OUT THERE!!!” he yelled.

Just like that the music stopped.

“HEY. QUIT FOOLIN AROUND!!!”

Nothing. No response. Nothing but the endless silence that the others had complained about.

With a shrug he gave up and started back. Probably they had not heard him or they could have been driving by on their way back to the camp. Still it was a little strange. By now he was use to hearing the various musical selections that each member of his team preferred.

None of it matched the music he had been hearing. Only Maude’s preference for classical music even came close.

*****

By the time he finally made it back to camp the rest of his team except for Tegik were seated around the fire. Some were still eating. Others were busy doing their normal after dinner activities. Ed and Maude were playing a game of chess. Malik was playing a soft tune on his harp. T’Sol was making back up copies of the days reports and findings.

As he pulled off the backpack Tara came over to greet him. The big smile on her face made him forget everything. The huge hug and kiss that followed just sealed the deal. It was only later after he had finished eating that he remembered the incident with the music. It prompted him to ask the group a question.

“Who was down south along the river this afternoon?”

Most ignored the question and kept doing what they were doing. A few looked his way but only a couple responded.

“As far as I know Tony you were the only one down that way,” replied Ed.

“Actually you were the only one absent from the camp this afternoon,” responded T’Sol in her crisp even tone. “Everyone else was busy. Most with reports and a few with specimen analysis or containment.”

That remark prompted a few chuckles. It also caused Maude to spin in her chair and add her own comment in response.

“Zoology is not a simple calculated science. Most critters don’t want to co-operate. Besides it’s not like they were dangerous.”

“T’Sol. Are you sure no one was out doing a last minute data pickup or specimen collection?” Tony asked.

“Positive. All the land rovers were parked in the cargo bay.”

At that comment Tony nodded his head. He remembered now. Tegik had requested that all the vehicles be kept in the camp today. He wanted to do a basic systems check on all of them and perform some basic maintenance as well.

So if everyone had been in camp, who had been down south making the music?

*****

It had taken Tony almost 2 weeks before he was able to get away and take an afternoon off to drive south along the river. It took almost no time using the all terrain vehicle to drive south till he found the tree he had taken his nap under. Once there he parked.

After that he quickly jumped out and collected the equipment he had borrowed. He had a few high tech sound sensors, recording devices and scanners. Once he had them all set up he grabbed the lunch that Tara had prepared for him and relaxed to enjoy the afternoon.

As he ate he realized the others were right. It was quiet. Almost too quiet. Having spent most of his time in the camp he had not really noticed before now. But as the afternoon slowly dragged on he began to experience the same peculiar sensation that the others had described. Mainly that it felt like they were being watched.

He tried to shake it off. To ignore it but the more he tried the more uneasy he felt. Finally with the sun starting to set he figured he had wasted enough time. He got up and was about to start loading up all his gear when he heard it again. The same soft melodious melody he had heard the last time he was here.

A quick glance at the scanners showed that it was real. It took a few moments to triangulate the location and he was mildly surprised when the sensors told him the sound was originating from less than 500 meters from his location.

Grabbing his tricorder he set it to record and moved slowly in the direction indicated. As he got closer the sound became clearer. It was unique. The soft harmonies and gentle tones blended to form a truly beautiful sound. One that was impossible to describe.

Suddenly Tony stopped. There was the source of the music. Surprised he could only stand and watch. Never in a million years would he have expected such wondrous sounds to emanate from such an unlikely source.

There amid the tall grass stood a dozen or so of this planets equivalent of a prairie dog. They were all facing away from him towards the setting sun.

Tony continued to stand and watch, mesmerized till they finally finished singing just as the sun started to set. Then they dropped back down onto all fours and scattered. In seconds they had vanished from sight.

Only then did he stop recording.

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