A novella by Canadian Science Fiction Author
Phyllis K Twombly
Captain Dion watched the blue aliens stand up as the last of the water drained from the compartment. They had helped engineer Bruin to his feet. The translation tube now sealed to his shoulders and around his face looked like some kind of weird hood. A length of insulated wire connected it to a wall portal of the alien computer.
“How are your eyes, Mr. Bruin?”
“I can see fine now, Captain. The effects of the flash from the computer screen were temporary. These creatures put some drops in that took the pain away. It’s funny but they seemed to know how I was feeling even before we could communicate.”
A series of clicks and whistles burst into the air.
Dion gave him a puzzled look.
“They say they picked me because of my affinity for other living creatures. I guess they meant my way with animals.”
Gibbs frowned. “I assumed it was because you’re our chief engineer. With you incapacitated like this we can’t even begin recovery of the Andreas.”
Bruin wiggled a finger at him. “Be careful what you say, Gibbs. There’s an immediate translation for them while this thing is connected to me. We don’t want to insult our hosts.”
Dion sighed. “I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m starving. Do you think our hosts could possibly arrange for a meal?”
Bruin grinned. “I hope you like fish. There’s also a very nutritious selection of seaweed they’ve specially picked out for Marsha. They know all about her fish allergy.”
Dion folded her arms in front of her. “I guess they would since they downloaded all our computer files.”
Another series of clicks and whistles filled the room.
Bruin nodded as he listened to the translation. “It’s standard procedure when they don’t receive a response from an alien ship. Apparently we don’t have the technology to even detect their hailing frequency. They’re willing to help us with that.”
Before Dion could respond several of the blue creatures came into the room. Each one of them carried a large piece of seashell filled with fish. Several tables folded down from the interior walls of the chamber. The aliens placed the seashells on the tables and left to bring in more. One table was filled with plates that were obviously from the Andreas. The plates contained seaweed of various colors and consistency.
Dion bit her lip before she asked her question. “Do they know everything about Marsha?”
Bruin nodded ever so slightly. “They know everything that was in the computer files.” The look in his eyes suggested nothing more should be said.
Dion reached downward with her left hand. “Marsha, come here.”
A tall girl with bright red skin stepped forward and took it. In spite of her height she looked to be about nine years old. “I’m here, Captain.” Her smooth, calm voice caused the blue creatures to stare back at her large blue eyes.
Dion closed her eyes for a few seconds. “Marsha, can you accelerate the translation protocols within the aliens’ computer?”
Marsha understood her captain’s true intentions. She let go of Dion’s hand and approached a panel of blinking lights on the wall. Several blue creatures stepped aside to let her through.
With incredible speed Marsha entered a series of commands and data protocols. One of the blue creatures came to stand beside her. It blinked and nodded its approval. After a few minutes it began entering its own commands into the panel beside hers. They stopped at the same time and looked at each other.
Several of the blue creatures hurried over to Max Bruin and removed the water filled translation tube from his head. The engineer smiled his appreciation. In an unexpected gesture, one of the blue creatures patted his shoulder.
The air filled with a series of clicks and whistles that quickly became peppered with words. Soon the noises were replaced entirely with human words spoken in a gentle male voice.
“This creature you’ve brought with you is amazing. Is she the only one of her species?”
Dion smiled at Marsha’s uncertain look. “No. She joined our crew when we visited her planet nearly a year ago. She comes from a thriving community of knowledge seekers. They asked us to take her with us to broaden their experience of the universe. We expect to deliver her back to her people three years from now.”
“So there’s no chance of having her remain with us?”
“You would have to ask her. She has her own free will.”
“Free will? We must examine the concept. It’s one of the things we wanted to discuss with you.”
Dion stepped closer to the blue creature that seemed to be the leader. “Do you mean to say you don’t operate as self-directed individuals?”
There was a pause. “We understand the words but the idea is new to us. We function as a collective.”
After a pause the blue creatures started to leave the room. The computer generated voice explained the sudden departure. “You must be hungry. Please help yourselves to the fish and seaweed. We prefer to eat in the open water. We will swim past the viewing port often so it will seem more like we are all eating together.”
Once the blue creatures were gone Gibbs turned to Bruin. “Do you think the fish and seaweed are safe to eat?”
The engineer nodded. “They have no reason to poison us. The last impression I had was that they were looking forward to our company now that we can communicate.”
Marsha looked around. Her soft voice was calming. “Captain, your telepathic ability is improving. I was able to add a silencer protocol to the translation matrix as you requested. Questions regarding our top secret matters will be translated as small talk. It only works one way. I was also able to learn that they cannot hear our conversation while they’re in the water without activating a special speaker. You may speak freely until they do.”
Dion nodded thoughtfully. She sniffed one of the fish and gingerly took a bite. “The food seems okay. Next time we should ask our hosts for something to cook with.”
Bruin shrugged and twisted his neck from side to side. “It’s good to have that thing off of me. Thanks for speeding up the process, Marsha.”
The young woman came up and began to rub his shoulders. “I don’t think they understood how heavy that was for you.”
He sighed as she continued the massage. “I don’t suppose. Did you manage to pick up any information regarding the state of the Andreas?”
“They’ve managed to repair most of the damage their sonic pulse caused. They’re hoping we’ll blame any effects of it on superficial damage they’ve inflicted on the hull of the ship. They fully expect you to conclude it was from entry of their atmosphere.”
Bruin patted her hand to signal he’d had enough physical contact. “I’d been trying to figure out where that flash from the computer screen originated. I couldn’t think of anything in our systems that could have caused it.”
Marsha looked at the captain and back at Bruin. “There’s something you should know. Giving the Andreas a nickname has led these creatures to think we have an extra crew member on board. They haven’t made the connection. They’ve searched the ocean trying to find ‘Andy.’ They’re hoping we won’t view the loss of this crewman as a hostile act on their part.”
Dion had finished her first fish. “They do seem to want to appear friendly, don’t they? I wonder why.”
Marsha approached the table with the seaweed and helped herself to a pink and blue combination of plant matter. “Not bad. It lacks spices. Perhaps that says something about our hosts.”
Bruin sampled a green piece from the next plate. “Did you learn where the Andreas is now?”
“Sort of. They’ve been experimenting with the pontoons and wings…”
Bruin put a hand on her arm. “Do you mean to tell me they’ve been playing around with my ship?”
Captain Dion grinned. “Don’t you mean my ship, Mr. Bruin?”
“Our ship, Captain. They’ve got no right to mess around with our only mode of transportation. If they damage it…”
Dion shrugged. “No doubt they’re just curious. Their data download would include all the specifications. They probably just want to see the technology in action. With all that information they don’t even need to reverse engineer it. Besides, there’s nothing we can do to stop them right now.”
Next time; hidden motivations.
Phyllis K Twombly