Part 3

You ask how the Portal works and Reecho unrolls a large data tablet. It flickers to life, and a detailed diagram appears, showing the Portal and the Odyssey. "We used the translation matrix for the labels," Amele says proudly. Upon observation you can see that it's exceptionally detailed. Every segment on the Portal has a unique identifying label. All of the deployed Insulan scanning probes are clearly marked as well.

Even the Odyssey interior has been called out. There's the warp core, the launch deck, the crew quarters. Some of the labels are a bit strange. The crew mess is called the cantina, one of the rooms at the front of the ship is called Ten Forward. The computer core is just marked 'HAL'. And for some reason the crew lounge is called the Central Data Core. You ask Amele about it while Reecho grows more impatient.

"Oh yeah. The Central Data Core. I scanned the Digital Video Discs there to make the translation matrix. If there are any errors, I'm sure Penelope can get you the stack of change request forms. It's only ten pages per word."

Once again, you ask Reecho about the Portals. He stares off into the middle distance as though recalling a beloved tale from his childhood. "Ah yes, the Portals are marvelous works. Built before the Federation itself, to be sure, and older than the recorded history of any of our member species. Some appear completely inert, but others, like this one, are special. They're pulsing with positrons and citrus quarks, and every so often, something truly strange pops through."

Amele points your way and mouths, "You!" with a big smile.

Reecho continues, "We have observation stations at each active portal, recording energy levels and carefully cataloging each item that emerges from the other side. Space flotsam, rocks, ice, that sort of thing. But a few years back a working machine came through this very portal! We decided to observe it from afar and let it go on its way. Who knows what we will learn from much data to analyze."

You realize he must be talking about Voyager 4, and tell him so. Crestfallen, his fluffy ears and whiskers droop. "From you? How disappointing," he quickly adds, "Not that you Humans aren't... great. It's just you're sort of basic, scientifically, you know? Well, anyway, where were we? Right right, portal functions."

"Through all our observations of the portals, we have never yet observed an object passing from Insula outwards to the other side. Rocks drifting from Insula seem to bounce off a rather elastic and yet invisible surface within the loop. Light passes through. Some energy wavelengths pass through. But liquid matter and solid matter do not pass. With careful study of data collected from your entry into Insula, we might be able to learn how to reverse the flow of the Portal, but it will take some time." The implications of what he's just told you dawns across his face. "O-oh, um, I see you don't know anyone here, of course. I could help you settle in. I have academic contacts and a very good fur replacement specialist -"

He's interrupted by two smaller aliens trying to speak at once. An extra-large potato-rock person with twiggy arms elbows a polite looking radish with leafy fern hair.

More people voted Radish, which was probably correct in the search fern-owledge about the portals. The Zibzab potato-rock is glad he was not subject to a pun.

(42%): Let the potato-rock speak.