The combined research team stared down at the object in question with varying degrees of shock. The initial excitement, and in the case of one junior technician a full-blown panic attack, had finally subsided. The first garbled message had been sent Home, but it would be weeks before they received a reply. In the meantime, they were left alone with the magnitude of their discovery, the shear unavoidable reality of the object. There were so many questions, and they were the only ones there to answer them. The Astrogeologist tilted her head, forcing herself to turn away from the object and observe her colleagues. They were all there, even the Ship Navigator. No one was going to miss this.
It was supposed to have been a simple survey mission: map the local system and perform the standard geological and mineral tests, but they’d found something buried beneath the surface. Just a single innocuous object that changed absolutely everything. They were not even remotely equipped for this. In the cabin next door, the Astrogeologist had heard the Projector Director pacing himself into a frenzy. The noise had kept the Astrogeologist awake all night, not that she would have gotten much sleep anyway. This was the single most important, most momentous scientific examination in history, and it was up to them. They all waited with baited breath for the Director to start. He looked around at them all for a long moment. His expectant audience only seemed to make him more nervous.
“The object is 6.35cm high and 7.62 cm long,” the Project Director began at last, his voice shaking slightly. “It is approximately 7.62 cm long and weighs 55.9 grams.” He seemed to find comfort in the dry recitation of facts. The other six expedition members were hanging on his every word, not daring to breathe.
“Initial tests indicate that the object is made of a synthetic material of unknown configuration,” the Director continued. “Carbon dating suggests that it is at least 8000 years old and has been buried on the surface for nearly half that time. It is comprised of two main segments connected by a thin neck-like structure. The lower base is fully 7.62 cm long and curves upward in the back. The second segment is half that length and spherical in shape. Two protuberances emerge from the front of the sphere, the longer one curving upward and the smaller curving downward. It does not conform to any known shape, and its purpose and origins are unknown. A more detailed report shall follow. End recording.”
The whole room seemed to sigh, but there was little relief. They had all taken part in the initial round of testing, all prepared their own oral reports for posterity. The facts were simple, but the truth was not. The material analysis and dating had simply confirmed what they all knew. The object was alien. There could be no denying that. This planet had been abandoned for millennia, if the object even originated from here. Still, the Astrogeologist knew that such issues were mere quibbling. They would keep future scientists and scholars busy for generations to come, but in the here and now, only one truth mattered. They were not alone in the universe. She reached out and held the object in her clawed hand and gazed down at it, unable to resist the temptation.
There resting in her reptilian hand was the last vestige of an alien civilization, the first proof that her species was not alone in the universe—a rubber ducky.