The distress call had come in via the laser band about five hours ago, and it was strange for him that a ship should be in such a distant and uninteresting place as this. It dawned just above the coordinates indicated by the transponder signal and activated the depth sensors.
Indeed, there it was, a rescue capsule, for some reason the floats did not deploy, and the thing seemed too heavy to float. Around it, some of your hosts on this planet were swimming in wide circles around the object, apparently curious about it.
Fortunately for him it was not the clever boys from the depths with whom he had been working and living all this time, but the less clever ones, whose only desire always seemed to be to eat and snoop. Frankly, he was fed up with the constant scrutiny, he knew it was not bad intentioned, but he felt that all the time he was being watched, and he felt that he would end up hitting someone's bottle nose, if they asked him again if he wanted to go and play with the submersibles.
-Hello capsule LB343, can you hear me? -he asked, through the laser link-. This is Dr. Nicolas Pineda. I received your emergency call and came to help you -he continued, without receiving any response from the capsule.
He launched, from the ship, two submersible drones that dived and turned around the small escape vehicle, one of them peeked out of one of the hatches and could see an individual, dressed in a flight suit, operating the capsule's controls, as if trying to communicate.
Maybe he has problems with the transmitter, thought Nicolas and set about taking the vehicle out of the water, fortunately the ocean is shallow here, otherwise the pressure would have shattered it, these things are made to float, but for some reason it sank like a rock.
He threw a cable into the water and one of the drones grabbed it with its mechanical arm and then attached it to the cargo hook, which the capsule was equipped with, unfortunately it didn't have a levitation cargo platform, so the ship's winch would have to do.
The engine of the device shrieked and started to turn slowly and hardly between howling and whining. -Damn, what the hell is inside this thing, -said Nicolas to himself, as the winch continued to spin and the support rod arced slightly downwards like a fishing rod, under the unexpected weight of the capsule.
When he was on the floor of the cargo hold of his ship, he approached it and hit the escape hatch. -You can come out, - he shouted. -You are no longer under water, - he said, without reply.
He peered out of the hatch and could see how inside the ship the occupant, a thin, small man, still wearing his fireproof hood, was watching him warily from the pilot's chair. -Come on, my friend, get out, - repeated Nicolas, waving his hand -. Or you can't move - inside the pilot waved him to wait. He stood up and turned the lever to open the porthole, you could hear the air escaping from the interior of the capsule as its occupant came out.
Before the eyes of Nicolas, the thin and low pilot, he took off his hood, letting the delicate face of a young woman with short black hair and deep violet eyes be seen.-Hello, -said the beautiful woman without further explanation.
Nicolas, dazed by the revelation, felt as if his jaw had unraveled, and he could not close his mouth. - Do you feel well? -said the woman with an inquisitive look. Nicolas simply nodded his head and then, still not recovering from his stupor, pointed out the direction of the ship's cabin.
-If you like you can go into the cabin, I'll make some coffee, -he said in a clumsy voice -. But you'll have to make do with the generator, there hasn't been any real coffee in the supplies for several months, - he said, without looking away from the young woman, who saw him suspiciously as she passed by on her way to the direction indicated by Nicolas.
The young woman entered the booth and sat down at a table on the wall right next to the entrance. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Nicolas pass behind her in the direction of the generator, which was located at the front of the table.
-We don't get many human visitors around here, -said Nicolas, stuttering.
-I'm not visiting, remember, -she said-. I came here because my ship exploded half a million kilometers from this planet -she said, while she was drinking the cup that Nicolas placed in front of her-. What did you say your name was?
-I am Nicolas Pineda, I am here doing research on the dolphin society, - explained Nicolas, as his voice became clearer -And you, what is your name?
-Daria, -she said, sipping some of the steaming coffee-. Are you a scientist, then, a biologist or something?
-Astroarchaeologist, - he replied- I study intelligent alien societies, although in this case it is not an extraterrestrial culture, it is as if it were, given the conditions.
-What do you mean by conditions, they are dolphins, they are animals, -she answered intrigued- Why would an archaeologist study animals?
Daria, seemed to ignore the peculiarity of the world where she was, it was Ilmatar, the planet that Parliament had designated as the world for the Ilmatians, dolphins evolved in space, which had developed much more complex rationalization skills than their congeners from Earth, and had been considered creatures with advanced intellectual abilities and placed as another form of intelligent life.
The young woman listened attentively to Nicolas' long explanation, who seemed to lose track of time, as he detailed the society the dolphins had formed and explained their rituals and social customs, as well as detailing his own tiredness and feelings of loneliness and abandonment for being the only human on the planet for more than three years.
After explaining more about his society, his story went on to describe the apprehension he had begun to feel for his hosts, who, although they were excessively hospitable, had already begun to tire him with their empty conversations and the continuous desire to play and eat, in addition to their continuous interest in observing him and the countless ways of referring to water and its different characteristics.
-And if you feel so tired of all this, why don't you go away? -she said, suddenly breaking her attentiveness, and casting a look of compassion on her.
-I wish I could, -said Nicolas, with helplessness in his eyes-. I received a grant for a five-year investigation, I must comply with it or I will lose my academic position and perhaps even be accused and forced to return the credits I was given.
-I understand, -she said-. I pity you.
-Don't worry, at least I can eat all the fresh fish I want, -answered Nicolas laughing shyly.
It was then that a signal was activated on the ship's instrument panel, Nicolas got up from the chair where he had been sitting for the last hour and approached to see what was happening.
-Excuse me, but so far I realize that I have almost an hour talking about what I am doing here, -he said as he sat in the pilot's chair and looked at the instrument panel, which indicated the presence of three ships approaching the planet. -Uh, it seems that several army patrol ships are approaching, I suppose they detected your distress signal and are coming to get you, -he commented-. I never asked you, what happened to your ship and where were you going?
After saying these words, Nicolas felt an intense pain that started in his neck and spread all over his body, making him lose his senses.
When he opened his eyes he was lying on his cot in the cabin of the ship and Daria was sitting next to him, watching him with a sweet look.
-I'm sorry that I had to electrocute you, but I didn't have time to explain myself to you, -said the beautiful woman.
-What happened, what do you mean you electrocuted me? -said Nicolas stuttering.
-When my ship crashed I was running away from the army, -she said, leaning forward in her chair-. I am a pirate and a smuggler, and I had just stolen a cargo of iridium from a Parliament transport going to Atlas.
-But... -Nicolas stammered, dumbfounded by the confession.
-You remember that my capsule sank instead of floating in the ocean, -said Daria, under Nicolas' incredulous gaze-. Well, it's loaded with two hundred ingots, right under my pilot's chair.
-But why did you electrocute me? I wouldn't have said anything, -he said.
-Maybe, I don't know, but the army was coming, so I had to improvise quickly, -she explained. -But look on the bright side, you already have an excuse for leaving the planet of the dolphins, you can say you were kidnapped by a pirate.
The ship, commanded by Daria had left the planet, crossed one of the bridges into nothingness, evading the army ships and taking Nicolas away from his burdensome responsibilities.