Ancient Astronaut, by W. M. Miller

Ancient Debris
by William Max Miller

A strange discovery awaited the interplanetary survey team when their
ship passed through a cluster of unusual objects. What they first mistakenly
identified as uncharted asteroids turned out to be highly unusual relics
from a very distant past.

"...We found the alien wreckage out beyond the orbits of the asteroids, where it had been circling the sun for eons. No one knows exactly how old it is, but some people estimate that the debris field drifted aimlessly in space for millions of years before being caught by the sun's gravitational pull. That's a long time to wander around in the emptiness between the stars, and we could feel the infinite solitude which surrounded these grim relics as our ship passed through the twisted metallic fragments of the shattered spacecraft..."

"...There had been a crew onboard. It looked as though they'd ejected in escape pods of some sort after an explosion ripped through their ship. But they died eventually, even though enough atmosphere remained in their alien life-boats to sustain the microorganisms that slowly decomposed them. Maybe the aliens starved to death waiting for a rescue ship that never came. Or maybe they got a lethal dose of radiation from their propulsion units when the shielding blew off. Either way, it would have been a long, lonely journey toward death as they fell past the outer planets toward the sun..."


"...They had traveled from a distant star, perhaps heading for our solar system, back before the dinosaurs had become extinct. We'll never know what alien motivations compelled them to cross the black emptiness between the worlds, or even where their final destination would have been. Perhaps they came to map the asteroids, just as we are doing now. Or maybe the rich resources of our own planet attracted them. Disaster struck somewhere in intergalactic space, and sent their bodies spinning through dark infinity..."



"...Some of their equipment was still operating, without purpose, even after all those years in deep space. We spotted an occasional dim glow in some of the escape pods, the sign of a dwindling nuclear reaction that had been kindled millennia ago to power a life support system or send out a rescue beacon that was never heeded. Slowly playing out their half-lives like dying embers in the darkness,  these radioactive fires continued to illuminate the bodies of their makers.  We watched the strange, dead shapes and incomprehensible machinery for several hours. Then we cleared the debris field, and finally lost sight of the wreckage. But images of those torn hull fragments and lingering memories of the beings which had once been securely sheltered by them stayed with us and haunted our sleep..."



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