Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer
Tau Ceti is a yellow-orange star slightly smaller than Earthâ€™s Sun. Itâ€™s approximately 11.9 light-years away, in the southern Constellation Cetus. It has three planets. The most notable is the second planet in the system, Ketos. Ketos is midway in size between Earth and Mars, and orbits within the starâ€™s habitability zone. Several things make this planet notable. 1) It harbors indigenous plant life; 2) its atmosphere is 19% oxygen; and 3) it rotates synchronously with its orbital period, keeping one face always pointed toward Tau Ceti. This is unusual for a habitable planet, because the sunward side is approximately 200F, and the night side is â€“150F. Exogeologists believe that Ketos once contained a planet wide ocean that was two miles deep. Over the millennia, ice gradually accumulated on the cold night side, and the oceans receded from the hot sunward side. Ketos ended up desert dry on the sunward side, and had a four-mile thick glacier on the night side. However, separating the sunward side from the night side was a 100-mile wide ring of semi-tropical land running around the planet. Within this narrow band, plant life flourished, receiving water from the melting glaciers as they slowly, but relentlessly, flowed toward the terminator.
Jake Laomedon and Troy Priam were on the first mission to explore this unique world. On day eighteen, they began to explore the Aeacian Mountain range with their android assistant, Leonardo. As usual, the sun was along the horizon, where it never moved. The thermally generated winds blew at a steady 50-60 mph. The cold damp air hugged the ground, as the hot dry air slid above it. Thunderstorms were common. During this sojourn, a particularly bad storm erupted. Seeking refuge, the explorers ducked into a large cave in the nearby mountains.
â€œWow,â€ remarked Jake, â€œthis cave is massive.â€ There was an expansive central chamber, with two major secondary caves, each about thirty feet in diameter, branching off the central chamber. â€œYou think they were carved by water?â€
â€œProbably,â€ replied Troy. â€œLetâ€™s check them out. Well start with that one.â€ She turned toward the android, â€œLeonardo, you monitor the weather. If the storm breaks, notify us immediately.â€
â€œDo you require my assistance, maâ€™am? Iâ€™d really like to participate. Itâ€™s what I was designed to do.â€ But they ignored him and disappeared into the first cave.â€
After about 30 minutes, Jake and Troy returned to the central chamber. â€œNothing exciting in there. Howâ€™s the weather?â€ Troy asked as they turned toward the second cave.
â€œNo change, maâ€™am,â€ Leonardo replied solemnly.
The two humans traveled about 50 yards into the second cave when they spotted a primitive â€œwall painting.â€ A horizontal line with a semicircle above it (similar to a sunrise). But within the semicircle were two eyes, and a drooping nose that hung below the horizontal line. Fingers, on either side of the head, draped over the horizontal line. Under the drawing was a caption â€œKilroy was here.â€ The two explorers were dumbfounded with excitement. Did this mean aliens had visited Earth in the twentieth century? Or was this planet part of some co-evolutionary parallel solar system? They debated these theories for hours, as well as other equally unlikely scenarios. They knew in their hearts that this discovery would make them both famous. They discussed possible publications, lectures, interviews, and the prestigious appointments that awaited them. Troy even suggested which actress should play her in the inevitable holofilm about their discovery.
Back in the caveâ€™s central chamber, Leonardo held a small clay briquette behind his back. If he possessed the capability to smile, he would have.