There were still so many questions I had, even after my encounter with Rudak. We weren’t even beginning to scratch the surface on an alien culture, though perhaps world was a better term. After all, Earth did not have one culture, or even a handful; there were thousands of lifestyles, belief systems, ideologies… if the aliens were even half as diverse as us, then I could spend a lifetime learning all about them.
But first, we needed demolish the language barrier completely, and that was going to take a lot of work. We’d need to establish a longterm presence on the planet, and that was going to take some heavy lifting.
Thankfully, we had something to help with that.
“I’ve forgotten how nervous I feel in this thing,” Luís muttered as he descended down the landing ramp in an exosuit, grasping a pole with both hands. “I feel like the joints are going to pinch a hole in my suit.”
“The last accident with an exosuit was in ’46, remember?” I fixed a support pole into the ground, then turned back to him. “We should be fine.”
“Sure, the risk of a puncture is low, but it always ends ugly when there is a leak. A colleague of mine was in the Morning Star, and he was lucky they were a few miles up. The burns were still pretty bad.”
“Well, this isn’t Venus,” I offered.
I grabbed the tarp, and fixed it over. Normally, I wouldn’t have been able to lift the thick double-layered material, but the suit increased my strength by a factor of five. It was useless for combat purposes, despite what some had hoped for, but it made work a lot easier.
“I think our big space mole bear friend has a similar plan to us.” Luís pointed towards the lander, where a pitch black dome was beginning to inflate nearby. “I wonder what kind of equipment they use?”
“We’ll find out soon enough,” I said. “We can ask it later, when we’re ready. I’d imagine the inside of that dome would be pretty different, though.”
“That reminds me of something, actually,” Luís said. “Ever think about the odds of a planet like this?”
“A lot, actually.” I finished securing the tarp to the base of the habitat and glanced his way. “Part of my education included the odds of finding habitable worlds. Ever hear of the Drake Equation?”
“It’s about finding alien life, right?”
“It’s the odds of contacting an intelligent civilization,” I said. “You have to take into account the rate of star creation, number of them that have planets, odds of them being habitable, and so on.”
“I remember that much. Wilhelm did some studying on the flight, and he mentioned all of that. Anyway, go on?”
“Well, the standards for life have broadened, ever since we’ve found life on other planets in our system. Coupled with what we’ve found in other systems, then life’s probably common throughout the universe.”
With a soft whir, the habitat’s life support began to activate. In a few minutes, it’d be safe for us to enter and dig in for the long run.
“Anyway,” I continued, “we’ve now encountered an intelligent civilization, one that’s only twelve lightyears alway. Do you realize how slim those odds are?”
“Pretty slim, I’d imagine.”
“Incredibly. Many scientists believed that we’d a long-dead civilization here, because the odds of two civilizations so close to each other, and existing at the same time period, at similar development levels, would be absurdly tiny. Yet, here we are.”
“Here we are.” Luís cracked a grin. “A reminder that the universe’s full of surprises, huh?”
“Yes, and it begs some questions, as always. Ever here of Fermi’s Paradox?”
“Not really. Maybe? Could you explain it?”
“If the universe is teeming with life, and intelligent civilizations, why haven’t we been contacted yet?” I replied. “It became a moot point, but there’s still some questions… civilization might actually be common, if this is any proof, but why did we never encounter it before, in such a long time? If it’s because of similar levels of development, then that has a ton of questions, too.”
“We might find angels or apes, but never men,” Luís said. “Old quote, but still important to this.”
“Exactly.” I glanced at the habitat to see if the life-support was ready, then continued. “I don’t think Rudak’s species placed the transmitter. When it spoke to me earlier, via the radio, it didn’t seem to consider the transmitter as ‘theirs’. I could be wrong, and I probably am, but there’s the possibility that someone else put it there.”
“And who do you think this someone else would be?” Luís asked.
“You said it yourself,” I replied.
The light on the habitat blinked green, and I gestured to it. Luís went to open the hatch, then paused.
“Fantastic sunset,” he murmured. “You seeing it, Wil?”
“Loud and clear,” came the reply from orbit. “Gorgeous. We’ll be swinging around into the nightside, but we’ve already placed the small satellites in orbit; there won’t be any interruptions in comms.”
“Got it.” Luís ducked into the airlock. “Get ready to hear some snoring.”
I went to follow after him, then stopped. Turning, I glanced over at the sunset, and saw that it was beautiful. Kapteyn’s star rose over the horizon like a great wave, awash with red light. It was dim enough that I could stare right into it without worrying about damage to my eyes, and I took advantage of that to admire the view.
“Can’t wait to see the sunrise,” Luís said. “When it comes in about twenty hours.”
“I could sleep in all I want and still be up before the crack of dawn,” I said, chuckling.
With that, I stepped into the airlock, and prepared to get some shut eye. There was a pair of small cots inside, and I plopped down as soon as I peeled off my suit. Despite all the excitement, I was exhausted; I felt like I could sleep for years. Yet, at the same time, I felt a bubble of energy inside, just waiting to get out.
The next day would hold new things, and I couldn’t wait.