"Sharings From The Muse"
by Bonnie Gardner
First Encounter
Chapter 1

 "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 of Home. 

   "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 grins. 

   "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 on it. 

   "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 mouth. 

   "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 annoyed. 

   "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 time." 

   "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 raised eyebrows. 

   "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 obsidian gaze. 

   "The four eyes, blinked, simultaneously.  I felt a ripple of pleasure. 


   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. 


   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.  Can't you?" 

   "No, unfortunately." 

   "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 right now." 

   "The enormity of the burden I had shouldered daunted me. 

   'HOW DO YOU CALL YOURSELVES?'  I asked, raising the 'voice' level in my mind.  'WE ARE TERRANS, THE NAME OF OUR EARTH IS TERRA.' 



   "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 smiles. 

   "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. 


   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.  "I certainly 
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."


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