Weightlessness was an astounding sensation.
It was one of many new and strange things he’d experienced since his flight began, and he was the first to experience them all. The first to fly. The first to escape the powerful clutches of his mother world, and to see it from above. The sight of his world, like a mottled white and green egg in the black eversea, was one he’d carry to his dying days. He’d taken as many images as possible, and had them sent back along the tightbeam channel to Ktrit, where they’d all be able to see what he saw.
From what mission control had told them, they were quickly becoming the most circulated images ever.
Of course, not everything was beauty and wonder. The lack of balance had nearly made him vomit until he’d taken his medication, and there was a curious pressure in his joints. After all, they’d never been free of his body weight until now; it was natural for there to be spurious sensations. At the very least, the lack of weight was relaxing, and he enjoyed floating around his cabin.
Rudak slowly drifted about the interior of Allmother’s Light, making sure that the vamros was still alive. Every once in a while he’d pause, then spray a solution over the plants where needed, to ensure that they’d stay healthy. The interior of the ship was a far cry from the hot springs and vents they normally grew near, but they still managed to illuminate the ship in a faint blue glow.
A soft chime from the control console drew his attention away. Letting out a low whistle of exasperation, he stashed the bottle away, and floated over to see what needed his attention after taking a nibble of vamros. Most likely it was another slight issue with the scrubbers, or perhaps his pressure suit had been shaken loose again.
His ears perked up when he saw it was regarding incoming radio transmissions.
They’d received his message, then, and were now replying. Earlier, they had sent mathematical proofs, but something told him now would be different. Rudak’s hearts began to pound as he activated the channel and listened in.
“Greetings, given,” an oddly monotone voice said, eerily similar to his own. “Welcome accept.”
It seemed that they’d managed to translate demotic, albeit with more than a few errors. Nonetheless, he was amazed by the speed which they’d done it. Now, perhaps they could begin a proper dialog.
“Welcome accepted,” he repeated. “On the behalf of Ktrit, I extend a message of peace.”
A few moments of silence. Rudak glanced into the periscope, searching. The alien ship was likely half a world away from him, but it didn’t hurt to try and look. Mulolowa was almost like a vast red sea beneath him, though a sea far colder than any found back home.
“Peace wanted,” finally came the reply. “Inquiry: talk wanted?”
Rudak let out an excited whistle, aside from the lack of connotation, everything was proceeding smoothly.
“Talk wanted,” he said. “Inquiry: where do you wish to meet?”
A longer pause. Were they debating amongst themselves? Perhaps they were wary of him, or the conditions aboard his ship. He supposed it could work the other way around; for all he knew, their atmosphere could be highly toxic or corrosive. They’d need a neutral meeting ground, but where?
“Undecided,” the alien ship replied. “Inquiry: rendezvous are capable of? Inquiry: of landing on planet capable?”
Mulolowa? They wanted him to land there? He supposed it made a fair bit of sense, and he had the equipment for such a possibility, but it still sent a tingle over his ribs to think of actually visiting that inhospitable place. The air had oxygen, yes, but it was thinner than even on the highest mountains, and it was colder than even the polar regions. He’d only be able to survive for a short time without protection.
“I am capable,” he transmitted, making sure that the feeds were also being transmitted back to Ktrit. No doubt they were hinging on every word, and they were the ultimate authority on whatever actions he took next.
After a moment, he added, “I require permission from Ktrit.”
A pause, then, “We wait will for a reply.”
“Acknowledged.” Rudak switched channels to Ktrit. “This is Allmother’s Light. Do you copy?”
A short time passed as the message moved between worlds. It was short enough to be effective, but long enough to be irritating at the same time.
“This is Du’lonkowo Province,” Vomol’oa said. “We’ve been getting every word, Rudak.”
“Do I proceed with a landing on Mulolowa?”
“The lander should be capable. You have permission to land and engage in extended contact with them.”
“Understood,” Rudak said, then switched the channels again. “I have permission. Inquiry: where on the planet are we meeting?”
The alien ship was silent for a few moments, then said, “Inquiry: signals planetary detected?”
So they were also aware of the strange transmissions from Mulolowa, perhaps even the creators. He considered asking them if that was the indeed the case, but part of him argued against it. Their translation of demotic seemed to be simple at the moment; the more complex the communication, the higher chance there was of misunderstanding. He could wait, at least for now.
“I have detected the signals,” he said. “Inquiry: are we meeting there?”
“Yes, meeting we are at location on planet. Time of landing is undecided. Sending lexicon of two languages largest. Choose which is most suited for you.”
Two dominant languages? Rudak’s ears folded against his head as he mulled it over. Their technology implied that their world was unified like Ktrit, otherwise they wouldn’t have been able to cross the stars before destroying themselves. Some had suggested that advancements in technology were connected with belligerence, but he never agreed with such theories; they seemed too self-defeating, too caught up in brutish animal nature.
Perhaps it was just a cultural matter. After all, there were still many such divides on Ktrit, and it wouldn’t be unwise to assume the same for other worlds…
He decided to focus on the transmissions from the alien ship. Sure enough, data began to stream in. Rudak glanced at the screen, trying to make sense of the alien symbols. They were sharp angled, jerky; it was almost like someone had scratched them into stone. One seemed to have symbols representing vocalizations, as they repeated, but the other appeared to be character-based.
He decided to listen to their actual vocalizations before making any decisions. Starting with the character-based one, he unfolded his ears and began to take note.
The sounds were, for lack of a better word, alien. They seemed limited to an incredibly narrow range, and the phonemes were far less numerous than he expected. Each word was curt, clipped, with curious inflection. Studying the other language was little different, though the pronunciations seemed to possess even less range, and were rounder.
“Lexicons received,” he said. “I am studying them now.”
“Acknowledging,” the alien ship replied. “We wait will.”
The channel closed after that. Rudak paused for a few moments, then drifted over to get some more vamros, along with a ration pack. Tearing the fibrous package open, he began to slurp up some protein paste while he read the lexicons the aliens had given him.
After a while, he decided to go with the character-based one. The written form was complex, true, but it was easier for him to speak and use inflections.
He could feel his excitement rising as he considered the possibilities. Soon, he’d land on the world below, and actually see them for the first time. What philosophies did they have? Did religion exist amongst their kind? What scientific knowledge did they have, and would they share it with his people?
With a low chuff, he focused once more on the screen. He was getting ahead of himself; there was a lot of work to be done before he could hold such dialogs with them.
Grabbing a writing pad from the wall, he began to take notes.