The artifact was in a highly inclined orbit around Ultima Thule. It looked a
bit like a coppery spear point, fluted like a Clovis artifact, but a hundred and
twenty meters long. Only three meters at its thickest, it seemed to have been
for short aliens. Or perhaps it was an uncrewed probe.
Ultima Thule was the biggest rock in the Outer Oort. Half a light-year from Earth, the world looked inviting, but its atmosphere was mostly helium, and the clouds, seas and frost were nitrogen. The icy world was nearly the size of Earth, but had barely more than the mass of Mars. Its two moons, named Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr after Thor's goats, were nearly Mars-sized, but only Lunar in mass. Without light amplification, the world's blue seas washed out to near white; the reds of the moons faded to grey. But under the photon enhancers, the alien worlds took on real color and the sky behind them glowed with the reds and greens of nebulae and a million points of starlight. The sun, barely brighter than Venus from Earth at this far edge of its dominion, glowed painfully bright, like a distant beacon for a warmer realm.
For two long years, the crew of the Cousteau had slumbered in warm hibernation, though for their bodies only a fortnight of unsettling drugged bed rest had passed. Now the full complement awoke to something none of them had trained to handle or even understand.
-Excerpt from the Condensed Official History of the CSEA Cousteau Expedition of 2138-43
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