The story is told by a young woman called Hetty. She has been sent to the planet Paradise by the Space Council to discover what has happened to her fellow explorer, a young man called Crispin. Her instructions are to find him and save him if possible. Crispin, a passionate defender of the rights of alien species, was the first human to arrive on Paradise. After initial encouraging reports, he fell silent. However his life signals did not fail and thus it was known that he was still alive!
This book is for younger readers, (say 10 – 14 years). It uses some of the strange creatures and and situations developed in The Disestablishment of Paradise.
THE PARADISE MISSION
It is above us, the big green planet called Paradise.
We are now deep within its gravitational pull and are falling up into it. Falling steadily. Falling with controlled deceleration. I have been on many worlds and have made many landings, but I have never seen a world of such startling brilliance. Paradise glows, green as an apple. It as if there were a light burning inside it
When I say ‘we’ I mean my Ship-that-Never-Sleeps and I: for we are a team, though I am the only one you would recognize as human.
The green light of Paradise fills my cabin. I am bathing in it.
Somewhere down there, among that greenness is Crispin and I have come to look for him. Crispin! How easily I can pull his face into my mind. Always slightly puzzled. Always asking questions. Always slightly serious, but in a sad way that makes me want to punch him sometimes. But, always first to throw the dice.
Crispin, who was the first to visit Paradise, has not replied to messages for some weeks and the Space Council is worried. So am I. Crispin is a good friend and if something has happened to him… Well, I want to know. We graduated from the Space Academy together. We completed our first missions together before going solo. We have both faced danger many times. In some ways we are closer than brother and sister. I don’t think there is a word for what we are. But if there is, then I don’t know it.
For ten days since I woke from my deep sleep I have watched Paradise grow larger. I have watched impatiently as the details of its surface become clearer. Magnifying the image, I can see two large continents and myriads of islands, all separated by a pale green ocean. The continents are patterned with lakes and rivers. I see mountains too, white with snow. But nowhere can I see the bright glow of cities at night or the straight lines which tell of fields and roads and plantations. If they were there we would see them. So far as I can tell, Paradise is a world without what we call civilization… though that does not mean that it is not inhabited. Far from it. That there is life down there is obvious. It is an active world, a dynamic world, an evolving world. And if Crispin is still alive, we – my ship and I – we will find him. That is certain.
My name is Hetty, and I am an Explorer. Like Crispin and all the other Explorers, I was born deep in space, on an artificial moon abover the planet Saturn. And I have lived all my life in space. If you ask me how old I am I have no idea. Not old in earth years. Old in other ways. When I travel I sleep. I don’t really age, and I travel a lot. But don’t let age worry you, or my strangeness. For I am human… in all the ways that count, and if you met me in the street you would not find me remarkable, except perhaps for my eyes which are green. People do not like it when I look at them. They say my eyes are like those of a cat, and so I look down or away or up into the sky for I do not seek confrontation, and people are easily scared. But when we are alone with only fellow Explorers for company, then we stare into one another’s’ eyes until we are almost hypnotized. In many ways, the truths they communicate are clearer than words.
And you, you who are reading these words, who are you?
Do you find that question strange?
Let me tell you who you are. You are young, but not too young. And you enjoy adventures and finding things out for yourself. You have strong feelings and a desire to do something good with your life – though what that is you may not yet know. And you are clever too, and you want to ask questions, and you want the truth, that above all.
And how do I know all this? I know this because you exist in my imagination and I write to you as someone I would know as a friend, someone I could talk to, someone I could trust with my life.
You see that is how we prepare these Responses – for that is what you are reading now. These are the first few paragraphs of what will become my official Response to Paradise. And I am sorry if they seem a bit dreamy and disorganized, but that is me and I am still not fully awake. In the pages to come I will detail everything of importance as I seek for Crispin. I will write to you as though writing to a loving friend who cares for me. And you will be at my elbow; a constant friend whether I am laughing or crying, joyful or sad.
If you ask me what we do, we Explorers, well I can tell you exactly. We visit worlds that have never been visited by humans. There are so many. Most are arid, but life is the most tenacious force in the universe, and it appears in the strangest of places and in the strangest of forms. Life exists in abundance, and we seek it out, and we respond to it. If that sounds complex, believe me it isn’t, but you have to trust yourself.
When we make land-fall, we begin to explore, and as we explore, we compose a record of what we find and we call it a “Response”. There are many types of response. There is a Harmonic Response and an Aural Response and a Chemical Response and a Visual Response… well the list goes on and most of them do not really concern you or I. They are undertaken by the Ship-that-Never-Sleeps and she has all the equipment and jabbers to herself and sometimes to me when she warns me of danger. But I can over-ride her. I am responsible for myself.
My Response is the key to all responses for it comes from the Intelligence of the Heart. That is a phrase I love. It captures everything and was taught to me by my first teacher. Usually I make recordings when I am “out there”, standing on a new world, and this response will be no different, except that I shall be looking for Crispin. But sometimes, as at present, I like to lie back and just let the light from the planet pour over me and through me. My mind wanders as I join with the world, and I can tell you this already – Paradise is very powerful. I can feel it reaching and touching something deep in me.
There is one rule in our work which we never break. We never take samples of the life we discover. We come quietly. We explore gently. We depart leaving little more than our footprints and a single radio beacon which orbits above the planet and broadcasts our name, the galactic standard date of our visit and the name we have given the Planet.
That is our special honour. To name the worlds we visit. It. was Crispin who named this world Paradise. And now he has vanished.
Sometimes I am asked why it is ‘young’ people like me and Crispin and the others, who are sent out to explore new worlds? The answer is again is simple. It is because we are tough where those who are older – well many of them anyway – are weakest. We are not afraid of mystery and strangeness: we understand them. Mystery and strangeness are what we find whenever we make planet-fall on a new world. Ha! Many would go crazy, if they encountered the strange creatures and situations we find. But we don’t. We adapt. We watch. We make recordings. We write our responses, and then we move on, quietly. The rest is up to the Space Council. They decide whether they want to follow up on our visit and send a full discovery team.
I suppose at some point I will begin to coalesce – is that the word I mean? – and all my parts which now are deliciously free will start to come together and I will want other things, such as certainty and a settled horizon… I will grow ‘up’ as they say,. And I will put away my space suit… and by then I will know what I want of the worlds and of my life… I shall be happy then, as I am happy now, but there will be this one difference, I will age normally and will fall in love and will enjoy all the consequences of that – and the grief too. At present, the nature of my travel means that when I return to my cell at Proxima over Saturn, the people I knew are rarely there. They are dead, and I will read the messages they have left for me and I must visit their graves where the ashes are stored.
Ha! There is an alert sounding. The Ship-that-Never-Sleeps and which devours all data is asking for my attention. Something new. Something of interest has been found..
This will be brief. The ship’s computers have found Crispin’s ship… that is they have picked up signals from the location beacon inside his ship. The only thing that makes me bite my lip is that the location beacon is designed to survive a crash, so I will not sit easy until I can see his ship. But it is a start.
We’re still too high for me to see the ship of course, but somewhere down there will be our landing place. We are doing a manoeuvre called the Pentacle, sweeping back and describing a pattern like the arms of a five pointed star, which, as you know, you can draw without lifting your pen from the paper. It is a standard manoeuvre to alert any sentient life-form on the surface of the planet that is capable of seeing us, that we are coming, that we are intelligent and that we come in peace. It is an ancient symbol. And at the centre of the pentacle will be Crispin’s ship.
At present we are over the southern continent, skimming the atmosphere. Soon we will be leaving tracks in the sky. I can make out a lake in the shape of a crescent, a stretch of open country which might be grassland. There’s a big river which meanders… and surrounding everything is the darkness of what I take to be a great forest. The strange thing is that, as we sink lower, I can see a pattern in the trees. It is not a strong pattern. It is as though someone had brushed the trees making them bend slightly in one direction. It is like a giant frozen whirlpool or a nebula…. Or a web maybe..
Ah… and now I have lost it. Perhaps it was just a trick of the light. My guess is that we will be landing somewhere in that forest…. Now why would Crispin choose to land there
The pentacle is complete and we’re moving into our landing trajectory. All is peaceful and the ship is talking to me. My seat is snug and holds me as though I were floating on a warm sea.
Everything is on automatic.
Space has reorganized its self so that up is again up, and down is down, and we are descending in a gentle ark.
Beneath me Paradise unrolls like a conveyer belt
We are now less than ten kilometres above the surface and falling steadily.
The gravity sensors are active, guiding us. I can see hills near the lake and the forest. All seems very peaceful in the sunshine. Still no sign of cultivation. No drifting smoke. No roads. I wonder if any creature is down there, looking up at this moment, wondering who is coming to call. –
The mid-ship controler is warning me to prepare for ‘gravity equalization’ – the moment when we abandon the ship’s artificial gravity and join with the planet. Sometimes it can be rough, especially if we are landing on a big world. Here it comes.
Paradise is easy. No cramped muscles or nose-bleeds. I was unconscious for a moment – nothing to worry about.
We are just one kilometer above Paradise. I can see the tops of trees and tangled bushes and shrubs. The ship’s holding a steady altitude, drifting sideways, deciding on the most stable place to land. We are above a clearing and…..
It’s there! I can see it. Crispin’s ship! Below me!
Red and silver, Crispin’s colours.
We will land beside it.