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What We Found on the Way to Alpha Centauri: A Miniature Novel

David Rogers' writing has appeared in Star*Line, Brain Games (Third Flatiron), and Sky and Telescope magazine. His collection of short stories, Emergency Exits, is now available on Amazon. More at davidrogersbooks.com.
Chapter One
Our ship met four others, one at a time. The first ship held many Centaurians, as we called them, not knowing what they called themselves. Their trajectory pointed straight back to the Centauri System. They looked a lot like us but were shorter on average by half a meter and had two opposable thumbs on each hand and were all brown-haired. And all dead. Our engineers said their nuclear reactors leaked tremendous quantities of radiation. Our navigators said they were headed straight for Earth.
Chapter Two
The second ship was a lot like the first except the reactors were fine, but our astrobiologists said a fungus had apparently killed every plant on board. Without plants, their ship's ecosystem decayed faster than an Altairian eagle swoops down on a pygmy marmoset. Which, believe me, is pretty fast. These Centaurians were also headed for Earth and all dead.
Chapter Three
The third ship had apparently fallen victim to its own little civil war. One big coffin headed for the Solar System.
Chapter Four
The fourth Centaurian ship was totally automated. It broadcast a message over and over. Our linguists have translated most of the words: Earth ship, turn back, or the [unknown] will [unknown] you. We hope the blanks are filled in before we get to the Centauri system.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, March 11th, 2021


I think "What We Found..." began as an expression of the truism about life being a journey, not a destination. The idea that the trip is as important as the arrival may be as old as Homer's Odyssey. So if you are on the way to somewhere else, be prepared to meet other travelers. Or what's left of them. Regarding the end of this story, it poses obvious questions that might lead to a much longer story. Being by nature impatient, I did not want a longer story at the moment. I also distrust endings that appear to wrap everything up neatly and leave no mystery unsolved. Anytime I think I have all the answers, I'm probably not asking the right questions. Especially if one of the answers is 42.

- David Paul Rogers
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