| "Good afternoon, citizens of Terra. My name is Darla
Hansen. I am 2nd officer of the Starship 'Pegasus', of the Intergalactic
Federation. I have been chosen to relate to you our first experience
with the newly discovered alien world of Slana. I was in the first
scouting party of three that was sent to the surface.
"How thrilling it was! Such interesting new vistas
were open before us, and we were the very first humans to land on its surface.
A rush of excitement mixed with apprehension."
"It had been a long voyage thus far, and this was the
first time in over an Earth year that I had been able to set foot on a
planet. To be able to go outside of the Starship, and not just in
a space 'dink,' to experience a real atmosphere again, this alone felt
like a reward.
"Although the air was always pleasant and breathable
aboard, just knowing that it is artificial takes a toll. As we suited
up to leave our small pod, preparing to enter the alien space, I couldn't
wait to see what this new Earth-like planet had to offer us, close up.
"The long-range views were breathtaking. At long
last we appeared to have found a world which seems to parallel Terra's
development. The third planet in its solar system, like ours, it
has water, land, plants and animals, all of which invoked powerful memories
"Oh, how I longed to see familiar faces that were alive,
not just recorded images. Except for fellow members of our crew,
these were all I had seen for what felt like forever."
"My first step out of the module was tentative.
Walking, we knew would be easy, as our scans indicated a gravitational
pull not so different from that created in our Mothership. I glanced
at the sky overhead. It was more of an aqua color than the iridescent
blue of Terra, which I remembered, but lovely."
"The plant forms that we were standing on were like
the ivy back here on Earth. The kind of leaves, (if such they were)
strange and yet familiar at the same time. I tested the atmosphere
with my Uniscaner to determine if it was truly possible to breathe without
a protective helmet... Yes!
"Oh the joy of freedom! The others in our patrol
were doing the same thing, happily grinning as we removed our headgear
and breathed the first lung full of real oxygen/hydrogen air. We
scanned with our binoculars, surveying our surroundings.
"It was Tara who was first to walk around our tiny craft.
Of course it would be her. Always venturesome, and 'up' for all new
challenges, it was small wonder that she was chosen to head up our scouting
party. I was glad to be sharing this with her, and we exchanged appreciative
"Solon, however, had the first sighting of the life-form.
Standing very still at the edge of what looked like forest, it was observing
us. Bipedal, with a human-like coral colored skin, the coverings
on its body seemed to be made of some luminescent gauzy kind of stuff.
The hair, extremely curly, was of the same color as the costume.
It looked intelligent, but we could not yet tell what effect we were having
"Excitedly, I led the way towards it. 'Perhaps
we can communicate,' I thought. We approached cautiously, our open
palms held out before us to indicate that we intended no harm.
"Let's stop here, before we come too close. Let
the creature come to us, if it will," Solon suggested. Tara and I
agreed, without a word. I could not take my eyes from the humanoid.
He, (she)? seemed amused, a smilelike form changed the appearance of its
"We all stood together, waiting. Suddenly, an
identical figure materialized next to the first. I held my breath,
not knowing quite what to expect. After some time passed, it seemed
that that was all that would happen. We continued to stand, smiling
and extending our open hands. The aliens also had their hands extended
in front of them.
"Well!" Tara snorted. "We could be standing here
forever, and my arms are getting tired. It seems safe, your two wait
here", she began to stride towards the humanoids. At this, one of
them also stayed where it was and the other began gliding, so it seemed
towards her. When they met in the open meadow, it was too far away
for us to hear the words that Tara spoke, and if the other responded in
any way, I couldn't make it out.
"There was no feeling of alarm. It didn't appear
to be hostile in any way. I felt sure that this was a mutual, neutral
investigation. After all, we had circled their planet for over a
week, doing numerous long-range scans and checks. If the inhabitants
were aware of our presence in their atmosphere, there had been no overtures
of any kind.
"At least there had been no warnings on the all-frequency
communicators, nor had any craft come to investigate us in orbit over them.
It was my suspicion that they did not yet posses the ability to leave the
surface of this beautiful Earthlike home.
"The really curious thing was that there had been no
discernible or recordable speech of any kind that we could determine, from
the entire world-like body. The only thing that registered at all
was a haunting musical kind of sound, which we heard almost subliminally.
It did record faintly on the tapes.
"The variety of sounds was amazing. Ranging from
a pleasant tinkling as of chimes or crystals blowing in a breeze, to a
modal, minor key, rising and falling to deeper undulating patterns.
As in Terra's music, it seemed to conform to a repetition of melodies,
but always in ever changing ways. Each group of patterns was just
a little different from the previous ones, like whale song on Terra.
"After listening to it for the week, I felt that I could
recognize some individual groups of patterns. I found it fascinating.
I reasoned that this was their form of communication. If only we
could find an interpreter. The overall impression was one of feeling
reassured, it seemed to have a calming effect.
"Solon nudged me. "She's coming back." I
watched as Tara walked back towards us with that long legged stride of
hers. It was very hard to make out her expression, which gave me my first
twinge of concern. As she came closer, it was obvious that she was
"Well! That was frustration itself," she fumed.
"Either they do not, or will not attempt to communicate with me or us.
Their mouths seem to be formed in a very similar way to ours, but all I
could hear was that constant noise. They seem totally unconcerned
that we are here, but they were curious about me. I felt a sonic
probe go through me, although it wasn't obvious to me where it was emanating
from. They just stood there, like mute twins, grinning the whole
"But, for a First Contact, that's actually pretty positive,
it seems to me!" I hastened to reassure her. My discipline
is one of studying alien cultures and I was very impressed so far at the
reception we were getting.
"Many other times we had attempted to make First Contact,
only to be rebuffed, challenged, even fired upon. I was extremely
hopeful, as we had gotten this far.
"So, you tell us, Darla, what's the next move, now?"
I felt challenged by Tara, slightly defensive.
"I think that we have yet to see what the reaction to
our being here is, and being patient, is what I would recommend.
This is such a delicate matter." l tried to make her sense what I
was feeling, that charging into action was not the way to go.
"There is nothing to be gained by rushing the situation,
'Do something, even if it is wrong!' We have no way of knowing what
their feelings are, let alone what they intend to do next..."
Solon alerted us. "Look, they are coming towards
us. What shall we do now?"
"Let's just stay calm, and wait to see what happens.
In any event, we are right near our 'dink', and if for any reason,
we feel that there is a potential threat, I move that we hunker down inside
and watch." Tara seemed to have settled the question for herself.
"May I make a suggestion? You haven't told us
yet what if anything, that it was that you said to them? We know
nothing of their protocol. We don't even know if they realize that
we are aliens to them. I'm assuming that there is no danger, and
that we should continue being cordial."
"I agree." Solon put the question to Tara with
"Well, all I said was, 'Greetings, we come in peace.'
I said it over and over again. I could feel the probe going through
me, and it was not unpleasant. Except for the grins, if that's what
they are, there's no way to determine what, if anything they are thinking.
I feel a little intimidated, to tell the truth. Their eyes are so
dark, and strange. I couldn't make out whether or not they have pupils,
as we do."
"...or whether you were being understood or not.
I know." I smiled at her hoping to help her to calm down.
"It was as if I had gotten a feeling tone from the two
approaching figures. Like the sounds or music, as I preferred to
think of it, this was almost subliminal. As they glided nearer, it
was getting much stronger.
'DO NOT BE AFRAID,' I heard their voices say in unison.
It seemed like they were speaking to me in my mind. I looked from
Solon to Tara and back. There was no change in either of their facial
expressions, no recognition that anything had transpired.
"We are strangers to your world," I thought back, "We
come in peace as explorers." I peered as deeply as I could into that
"The four eyes, blinked, simultaneously. I felt
a ripple of pleasure.
'AH! YOU CAN HEAR US. THE TALL ONE WHO CAME
TO GREET ME SHOWED NO SIGN OF UNDERSTANDING. WHERE DO YOU COME FROM
AND HOW HAVE YOU ARRIVED HERE?'
The single voice was pleasant. It felt extremely
intimate, close as my own thoughts.
"We are travelers in the sea of space, and come from
a distant planet like yours. Have your people ever traveled in space?"
'SPACE, PLANET? WE DO NOT UNDERSTAND,' they thought
in unison, again.
"I will try to make you understand. I CONCENTRATED
as I pointed up at their aquamarine colored sky. 'BEYOND YOUR SKY
IS A VAST SEA OF STARS. ALL OF THESE ARE SWIMMING IN THE GREAT SEA
OF SPACE. YOU DO HAVE WATER AND SEAS ON YOUR WORLD, ARE THERE CREATURES
THAT LIVE IN THOSE SEAS?'
Tara and Solon looked questioningly at me. "What's
going on?" she demanded. He was studying my face intently.
"They are speaking to me, I can hear them in my mind.
"Please!" I put my hand up to indicate silence.
"I can't hear them and you at the same time!"
"That's weird! Why is it that you can hear them,
and we can't?" Solon looked baffled. "Ok, OK, I won't speak
"The enormity of the burden I had shouldered daunted
'HOW DO YOU CALL YOURSELVES?' I asked, raising
the 'voice' level in my mind. 'WE ARE TERRANS, THE NAME OF OUR EARTH
'WE ARE THE SLAN. OUR MOTHER IS SLANA. WE
ARE STANDING ON HER BREAST NOW.'
'AH, THERE ARE PEOPLE ON MY HOME WORLD WHO CALL OUR
MOTHER, THE EARTH, 'GAIA' OR TERRA. WE FEEL THE SAME WAY ABOUT OUR
HOME. PLEASE WAIT...'
"I turned to look at my crewmates. 'They call
themselves the Slan, and they think of their earth as their mother.'
Both faces that had been regarding me with suspicion, broke into broad
"Wow! Are you a telepath? I never knew that
about you." Solon was clearly impressed. "Can you hear my thoughts?"
He regarded me with suspicion again.
"Yes, I guess I must be. This is the very first
time that I have ever heard any other voice in my head, though. I'm
at a loss to explain it, myself!"
"I'm just relieved that there is a way to communicate,"
Tara nodded at me, "and very grateful."
"I turned back to the Slan. 'DO YOU HAVE INDIVIDUAL
NAMES? I AM 2ND OFFICER, DARLA HANSEN, AND THESE ARE MY CREWMATES,
SOLON AND TARA.' I had automatically begun to repeat aloud what I
was hearing, so that both Tara and Solon would know what was being said.
"I held out my hands again, palms up, and my friends
did also. The aliens confidently extended their hands, and laid them
on ours, each in turn. The feel of the hands was velvety and soft.
'I AM VARNA, AND THIS IS MY PARTNER, MARNY.' rang in
my head. It seemed as if there was an extra note of pride in the
single voice. Though, for the life of me, I could not be sure which
one was speaking.
'DARLA, THAT IS ONE OF OUR PEOPLE'S NAMES, HOW IS IT THAT YOU
HAVE THAT NAME?' This was asked in a different, lower voice.
'MY MOTHER, ON TERRA, MY EARTH, GAVE ME THIS NAME WHEN
I WAS BORN.'
The Slan turned formally to each of us in turn, and
made a graceful sweep of their arms, indicating the world around us.
'YOU ARE ALL MOST WELCOME. WE MUST GO AND TELL
THE ELDERS THAT STRANGERS HAVE COME.' This last, of course, was a
chorus. The two aliens glided away and the three of us were left
looking at each other in amazement.
"Well!" Tara let out a burst of long held breath.
never expected anything like this! How ever did you
manage to communicate with them? Did you always feel this .. whatever
it is .... in your mind, before this?"
"Yes, " Solon added, "I've always felt a little shy
around telepaths, like they could tell what I was thinking."
"No! It's nothing like that..." I felt helpless
to explain my experience. "It's almost as if I've always been able
to do this, but never knew that it was possible. I don't know, it
seemed so easy. I just concentrate, and 'send' my thoughts to them..."
"I certainly understand how Solon feels, like having
a 'peeping Tom', able to pry into my private thoughts. That would
certainly be an invasion of privacy! Are you sure that you can't
read our thoughts?" They were both studying me as if they had never
really looked at me before.
"NO! I told you... Don't you think it kind of
spooks me, also? I have never before been aware of this ability,
or whatever it is. I swear! Please don't look at me like that..
this is me, Darla. We've been crewmates for the enire voyage.
Why should you feel differently about me now? I don't understand
it, myself." I shrugged.
"However, I think we should alert the Captain and the
others, that we have made First Contact. It seems obvious to me that
this is why we could not hear any kind of communication from orbit.
This is how they talk to one another. However it happened, I'm grateful
that we can make them aware of who we are, and what we are doing here."
Tara reasserted her composure.
"I am curious to see what the Elders that they spoke
of look like, and to find out more about this lovely planet and its people.
I am quite anxious that I might be the least bit misunderstood. It's
a lot of responsibility. I have become a sort of ambassador for us,
since I seem to be the only one they can understand."
"I see." Solon had yet to abandon his suspicion
of me. "But wasn't it peculiar, about your name? How do you
account for that?"
"Frankly, I'm just as puzzled as you are. In fact,
I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed just now. Of course this is my fondest
dream, to be able to meet and dicuss in person with those from another
species, or planet. To be able to learn all about other civilizations
and cultures, you have no idea how I have fantasized about this very thing!"
I could feel tears in my eyes.
"Yeah." Tara put a comforting arm on my shoulder.
"What's that old saying, 'be careful what you wish for, you just might
get it!' She laughed. "Of course you are right, we need to
let the Captain know just what has happened. Let's go back to the
pod, and report."