Rudak’s hands actually trembled with excitement as the hatch closed behind him. It was difficult to remove his pressure suit in the tight quarters of the lander, but for once he did not feel frustrated in that moment. In fact, he felt like singing.
He had made first contact. He had seen an alien being with his own eyes, the first in history to do so. And what beings they were…
When he was young, fresh out of the birthing pools, he was an avid reader of the fantastic. Others liked to listen to the songs of the dreamweavers, but such tales concerned themselves more with his own world than the worlds beyond. Even the revelation of coming alien life did little to change that; it was hard to weave a tale with the new scientific terms they were creating with each passing year.
So, he read works that were not songs, even though they were rarer than the larong’va of the Calm Sea. He read of strange beings from other worlds, yet even those had appearances derived from wildlife; truly alien creations were few and far between. After all, there was nothing to compare the concepts with, when they had never actually seen a thing from another world.
The aliens he saw were nothing like life on Ktrit. The idea of beings that could walk on two legs had been idly considered, but ultimately derided as impractical. They would be horribly unbalanced, and the stress put on their legs would be too much. Yet, the aliens did walk on two legs, without even a tail to balance them, and they were just as comfortable with walking as he was. It had to be the arms; the way the swung seemed to almost act as a pendulum, helping keep balance.
Their faces had been even more alien. Two eyes, forward facing, and far larger than his own. Their eyesight had to be astounding, though the size of their ear suggested a diminished sense of hearing. If their world had a thin atmosphere, then perhaps they couldn’t rely on hearing as well as he could? It would also explain the small nub he assumed to be noses, unless the long and thin filaments on their heads were meant to trap scent instead. And speaking of their scent… words couldn’t describe it.
From the brief encounter alone, he could begin to make guesses regarding their world. Their bodies were small, spindly; he could’ve cupped their waists with his hands. They had to have been from a world with far lower gravity, then; such a body design would be crushed flat on his world. They didn’t seem too perturbed by the conditions on Mulolowa, or at least they didn’t express it; their world was far colder than his, and had a much thinner atmosphere. The lack of natural armor or weapons (unless their bodies themselves were toxic) suggested a lack of dangerous predators in their natural environment.
A curious world, then.
He breathed in deeply, trying to calm down. His hearts pounded, to the point where he could hear his blood rushing through, but eventually he managed to contain himself. He was a professional, and there was still work to be done.
Flicking a switch, he sent a signal up to Allmother’s Light, which in turn would be sent back to Ktrit. They were hinging on every report he sent back, he knew, palps twitching as they waited for any new information. The world had to know what he had learned; see and hear what he experienced. This was the most important occasion in history, and those on the ground deserved to bear witness.
“Du’lonkowo, this is Allmother’s Light,” he said. “Are you receiving?”
A short time passed, then, “We are receiving. Rudak, what is your status?”
“I have successfully landed on Mulolowa, and made contact.”
The pause was longer than before. For a few moments, he began to fear that his transmitter was failing, then dismissed it; there had been no signal break-up before.
“Understood.” Vomol’oa’s voice was less steady than usual, Rudak realized, and he could hear joyous whistling in the background. “Were you able to record the encounter?”
Rudak removed the magnetic tape parcel from his suit’s camera and inserted it into the console. “I am sending you the footage right now. I hope the translators will be able to better study their words.”
“We have received the footage. Allmother preserve… they’re unlike anything I’ve seen before.”
“Yet, their behavior is not so different. They are not hostile, and they even offered me an offering of peace.”
“So I saw. It appears to be some kind of biological life-form.”
Rudak held up the offering, sniffing deeply. The smell was bizarre, but did not appear to be composed of any other material. There was something more to it, however, something he could recognize: dirt.
“It is indeed a life-form. A plant, perhaps, or something that fills a similar niche. I believe the bright coloring may actually be photosynthetic material.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yalam’s brother mated with someone from the Dayside; I’ve grown familiar with the plants there. They also had broad appendages to filter in sunlight, though it was a darker color.”
“We won’t be sure until we study it in depth, naturally.”
Rudak let out a chuff. “I will wait to receive more samples; I fear they would be offended if I took the offering apart.”
“Did they give any indication of that?”
“No. I am simply erring on the side of caution.”
“Very well. Now, you are preparing for another encounter, yes?”
“Naturally; they wish to make cultural exchanges with us.”
“What have you brought down with you?”
Rudak scratched the plating behind his ear. “The Provincial Sagas, and the holy texts for Bur’ko, Tanwa, Gra’palaw, and Northern No’vo’ko. I have also brought recordings of songs from the Divided Era, and several sculptures. The remaining cultural items remain on Allmother’s Light.”
“It’s frustrating, that we can only offer so little of our culture. Is it possible for them to visit our world and see it for themselves?”
“I don’t believe so. You’ve seen their bodies; they likely can’t survive on Ktrit. From what I’ve noticed of them, I believe their world is smaller, colder, and with a thinner atmosphere.”
“Much like Mulolowa,” Vomol’oa mused. “There’s no evidence of civilization on the world, but it does appear suitable for them, based on your accounts. Do you believe they came to this system to colonize the planet?”
“Perhaps. We have yet to be fluent in each other’s languages; they haven’t expressed their reason for coming to our system.”
“Were they the ones to place the transmitter?”
Rudak fell silent for a few moments, pondering. There was a possibility, but there were many issues with such a theory.
“I don’t believe so,” he finally replied.
“Very well. We’ll let you prepare for cultural exchange for now, and be sure to inflate the dome while there’s still day on this planet.”
“Understood. Signing off.”
The radio went silent, and Rudak turned back to the porthole. At this distance, the alien craft was a blur, but he could see motion on the other side. Were they also preparing for a long stay on the world? It was the likely option, considering they were planning on a long-term cultural exchange, yet he still had many questions. The encounter had only tantalized him; there was an entire world now open to him.
He hoped to explore it soon.