The crews in the four scout ships sat watching, hour after hour, as the debris field rose from the planet, expanding, slowing, until it had almost reached the orbit of the moon. Behind the debris, they could still see the blue and white of the planet.
“It looks like the planet is still there, Commander,” Josh Hanoch said.
“It does,” Commander Ashcombe nodded. I wonder if there were explosions all around the planet? Or maybe….”
“Attention, Scout Ship Three – Commander Ashcombe” the Admiral’s voice interrupted. “The debris field seems to have stopped at about 350kliks. Take your ship to 400kliks and do a ball of yarn around the planet. We want to know if there were explosions anywhere else, and we need to find out what life there is thee, if any. And my bet is that there is intelligent life there. There is no other way so much biomass could have occurred in one place to go spontatiously like that.”
Rad Ashcombe’s face lit up in a huge boyish grin, and he said “Aye, aye, sir, a ball of yarn it is!” Turning to the crew, still grinning, he said “you heard the man, let’s go!”
Several very active minutes later, the ship was hurtling back toward the planet, slowing as they neared the 400klik orbit. An hour saw them started on the ball of yarn orbit. This orbit gave a complete coverage of the planet below when it was finished, as the ship circled around and around, moving slightly over to the side of each previous orbit, just the way yarn was wound around to form a ball.
After they had made three complete orbits, they could see that the explosion was only from the one continent. The rest of the planet was undamaged, and from this distance, it looked calm and serene. Soon they could make out signs of civilization. What looked like cities, and highways appeared, the cities scattered, the highways connecting them. They could even see signs of some kind of manufacturing activity.
“Scout Three calling Admiral LaMarr, Commander Ashcombe calling.” ‘Sparks’ O’Malley spoke into the radio. “Admiral LaMarr here, Scout Three, what do you have to report?”
“Sir, the explosion seems to be confined to one continent, though we haven’t covered even half the orbits yet. And there are definite signs of civilization there. We have seen several cities, highways and indications of manufactories. Also some areas that look like farmlands.”
“Great, Rad – and we have news, too. We have been receiving radio signals from several places on the planet, and two on the moon. The linguists are working of deciphering them now, but what they have managed to understand so far seems friendly. Keep on with your orbits, and let us know what else you find. Oh, and it seems you would be safe going in under the debris field – it seems to have stabilised at the 350k level. Go in carefully, though.”
“Yes sir,” Rad said. “Over and out.”
Finally the ball of yarn exploration was finished. They had found no damage anywhere on the planet, except in the middle of an arid desert area. Here, there was a huge crater, with debris scattered in a circle at least 160kliks in diameter. Using the telescope at high resolution, they could see that most of the debris was scraps of wood, nothing much more than a meter in size. Unfortunately, they could also see what appeared to be bodies of people and animals, too.
“Scout three to Mother, Ollie, are you there?” Rad said.
“Yes, Rad, what do you have to report?” the Admiral’s voice sounded tense.
Commander Ashcombe reported the findings, and the Admiral sighed. “Ok, Rad – we have been able to talk to the people on both the main continents. Those on the Eastern continent were troubled about the explosion, and were thankful we were able to tell them what it was. I’ll give them all your information, too. I have spoken to the head of the Western continent. It seems they were trying to find a way to use biomass to replace fossil fuels, and had built a storage building to hold it. What they did was put all the biomass they could gather into the wooden building – it covered nearly 400kliks!
“Can you imagine putting that much biomass into one enclosed place, and in the middle of a desert?! No wonder it went up like it did! They need some supplies from us and from those on the other continent, but don’t have the fuel to ship it. So I want you and Scout two to come to Mother, get loaded with what we can give them. You deliver the, then go to the biggest city on the other continent and load up with what they have. Once that is delivered, and you are back here, we will go on our way. We can’t stay here, since this planet has intelligent life. So hurry with the deliveries – I want to get on with our search. Somewhere out there is our New Earth, and I aim to find it.”
“Right you are, Ollie – we are on our way now. See you in about twenty four hours. I want to find that new planet, too. We find it, we get to name it! Just think, Ollie – Planet Ashlam!” “HUH – you mean Planet Lamash!” they both signed off, laughing.