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Cruise

It’s like being on a cruise.

That’s what I say when they ask me.  It’s like being on a cruise ship.

They imagine luxury beyond the dreams of the ordinary mortal, in service, poor.

In fact, just note that concentration of wealth will increase from the 1930’s, it is inevitable, and mildly predictable.

From Victorian times until “now” where “now” is where I’m writing this, and presumably you’re reading it a short time after.  I have been the subject of many entreaties to make this pamphlet.  Many a curiosity has been aroused, I have stayed out of the hands of government, fortunately, this is not a time in which the phrase Dieu et mon droit has precedence, no matter what historians in the future will say.  My right to exist as an individual not subject to government interference is paramount.

So, I write this pamphlet with the sole aim of educating and enlightening.  We have made so many advances in the last, well, twenty years, since the Great War, and there are more to come, though I say this from optimism rather than precise knowledge.  Since what I have witnessed is possible it will come to pass, I am sure of it, even if the gap between the knowledge of what is possible and what is extant is spread over hundreds of years.

The first observations by Mr Hubble were suppressed, by some chance his telescope was looking right at the, well, aliens, when put into action, though one has to wonder at the possibilities.  Some far sighted chaps at the ah, Secret Service, though no-one will in government will admit of such a thing, was present, and the hosts aboard made it clear that the authorities knew full well from the moment of contact of their existence.  Mr Hubble was not a happy man, but his other findings were extraordinary enough that they could be assured of precedence in the popular press and his place in history was assured.

I, in the meantime, found myself in the service of His Majesty in other capacities, to wit; acts of espionage among our Russian friends.  This should not unexpected, you will be familiar I’m sure with the act of revolution and the slaughter of the Russian Royal Family, His Majesties’ Government was understandably concerned about those series of events, and employed me, under the direction of certain persons, to learn of and, counteract any revolutionary intentions on behalf of the citizenry of these fine isles.

I must say that while my public name was dragged through the mud and will go down in infamy, my activities on behalf of His Majesty were rather successful.  My family rather regard me as the black sheep, but my colleagues, few as they are have lauded me at length given an opportunity, and though modesty forbids any greater self-aggrandizement, I can safely claim a success in this sphere without risk of contradiction by those who have the requisite knowledge.

I volunteered for the mission once it was clear that the aliens were to make contact.  It was clear to my superiors that I was possessed of the grit and determination to overcome any obstacle, but there was something more required, and although it was not clearly stated at first, it became clear that it was the ability to treat the truly extraordinary as ordinary.  It was essential that I was able to retain my faculties while observing all that they had to offer and, assuming I would be returned, to report these observations as accurately as possible.

To this end I was exposed over a very short period of time to the most extraordinary scenarios that the experts in the Secret Service could offer.  I shall not relate them, except to say that in some unfortunately circumstances, lives were lost, by volunteers, but nevertheless, unfortunate.

The day came and by some means I didn’t understand the meeting was arranged in some extraordinarily remote countryside, where only the livestock would witness the phenomenon.

The journey to the “the place,” classified I’m afraid, was lengthy from where I began and ended in a charabanc trundling up a country lane and turning out on to the field.

What I saw was at one and the same time utterly ordinary and extraordinary.

The creature, for I could only describe it as such, was standing in front of something that resembled an omnibus in its general functionality, though it looked nothing like it.  A tubular body with thick windows, clearly divided into a fore and aft compartment, a divider such as might be on a segmented worm pinched the middle.  Its colour was green and mottled, I could barely make it out against the trees and grass at first.  Standing somewhat away from the body of the craft were six big wheels, but not of any constructions I have ever seen.  They seemed to be made of a mesh of metals and binding, as if the very wheels themselves were made of springs.  They were somewhat collapsed at the bottom, though barely so, and the whole assembly creaked and crackled in the wind that was got up.

This functionality I could understand, it was at least within the bounds of human comprehension, but the greeter of our little crew, many of whom were meeting for the first time, was altogether more extraordinary.

It looked a little like, on first appearance, an octopus, but possessed of only four arms, and as I looked at it further I discerned that it was sat upon a little framework, and in fact a great deal of the structure of its body was given by this framework.  It seemed mostly made from cartilage of some kind, and unable to maintain semblance of stillness.  There was an unsettling restlessness about it, and one or two of my compatriots retired immediately behind bushes to hide urgent evacuations.

I saw this restlessness as a challenge, however much they might move these creature obviously needed some support, and I surmised immediately that they were not creature of land, but of water.  Their colouration, a bright purple and mauve, lent itself to this conclusion, and I looked more closely at the structure underneath the creature.  It was tracked, ideal for navigating the rough terrain of the field.

So far, this meeting was remarkable to me in this one aspect, no-one, of my superiors, or my compatriots had spoken a word.

I refrained, and realised that I had been briefed in all too literal a sense of the word.  I had been trained to take it all in, but I had been told far less than was known.

The creature turned the tracks to face me, though I could see no manipulation of any controls; and my companions universally backed away from me.

I felt no fear.

This was no bravery on my part I assure you, but a simple logic.  This being was capable of operating a craft of quite strange construction, exist in an environment to which it was clearly ill-adapted, and had somehow negotiated at least a truce in which I was to be an ambassador for our Nation.  As it turned out, the only ambassador.

It approached, slowly at first, but I stood my ground, standing as casually as I could, and the machinery stopped a few feet in front of me.  It reached forward with an arm, and the resemblance to an octopus became even more obvious because it had a series of suckers on the arm, visible when it raised it, and was a sort of milky white underneath.  Held on, presumably by suction, was a device that looked a bit like a very small telephone earpiece, attached by a wire to some concealed equipment underneath the transporting apparatus.  The arm held out the device and though I could discern no structure that I could call an eye, I would swear that the creature was looking at me.  Whatever mechanism it used to perceive the world I could say with certainty that I had its attention.

When I hesitated, the creature jiggled the device up and down; I took the hint and grasped it between two fingers and my thumb.  It put the arm to the side of its head, and I obediently put the device to my ear.

The sound was tinny and screeching, and I rapidly put the ting away from my ear, though at the same level.  The creature reached down and turned a knob I had not noticed before, and then reached out and patted me on the shoulder.  It was a light double tap, and it took me a moment to understand the meaning of the gesture.  I put my hand on the tentacle briefly, and it withdrew.  I heard something behind me, “Extraordinary!” but the sound was shushed down.  Putting the device to my ear the sound was much ameliorated, though still confusing, but I kept the device in place until I heard a clear “Hello!”

I was so startled I dropped the thing onto the field, but I quickly bent down and scooped it up again.  The voice was still there, “Hello!  Hello?”

“Hello.”  I said.  I felt this was in adequate.  “How do you do?”

“How do you do?” Said the voice, and the arm previously used to proffer the device was held out, and we shook.

“I am instructing,” the voice said something unintelligible at this point, “to shake hands, but it doesn’t understand your language or idioms.  I should tell you that I am an intermediary, and the learning of your language has come from the very few broadcasts you have made as a species.”

I pondered this for a moment.

“Do you mean that you have learned our language through the wireless?”

“I do.”

“Who are you, if I may ask.”

“I am, as I say an intermediary.  I can learn things that, other people, cannot, at speed.”

“My superiors will want me to ask some questions.”

“I understand.”

There followed some two hours of questioning, but the intermediary would answer very few questions, because it could not or would not.  It said on several occasions that it was forbidden to share certain knowledge, and that other knowledge was inexplicable.  My superiors became quite impatient on occasion, and one snatched away the earpiece, but was only met by screeching, wailing, noise.

The intermediary made it clear that it would only negotiate with me, and after some time it was apparent to me that the conversation was not in fact such, but merely an invitation to a tour.  A tour of the universe.

It was extended to just one person, yours truly.

I accepted.

At least my superiors had had the foresight to anticipate such an acceptance, and a truck rolled into the field, and I might say, got stuck, but the creature before me, whose name I could not understand, let alone pronounce boarded the alien vehicle, swimming comfortably in the fore-section and waving to me, and move the large craft to facilitate the loading and unloading of about half of what was supplied.

The back of the alien vehicle was round and open, but otherwise completely unremarkable, it was windowed as was the rest, and there were some tanks of gas, that were labelled, for my benefit, “air,” but apart from this one concession to comfort, the whole place was spartan.  I had been left with the box containing the link to the earpiece and the intermediary, but nothing else.

The soldiers present loaded the gear on board as far as they could, strapping it with hooks in the walls of the vessel, and then the back of it swung shut as I sat in the middle of the floor.  I saw the ground recede a few feet, and then the wheels folded up into tight little balls close to the side of the hull and the ground began to recede further.  The intermediary told me that there was nothing to worry about, and that the sample that were loaded were enough to allow me to live for a long time, to come back and report my findings.

I was reassured by this, but not surprised, I knew now that whatever science they possessed it far surpassed ours, and that I would live or die by their hand.  I had resigned myself to whatever fate lay ahead of me at the moment of the door shutting, and I was at peace with my choice.

What I was introduced to aboard the main vessel, that was truly extraordinary.  It was as I say, just like being on a cruise ship, luxurious and decadent, in every way, except the variety of alien life aboard.

In this respect every moment aboard was extraordinary, every day was a new experience, and my detailed reports are in the possession of the Secret Service, and I believe, classified.  Suffice to say that if I wanted novelty on a daily, or even hourly basis, I had it.

The thing that I would like to report, the thing that is more extraordinary now, now that I understand more of the universe, is that out there among the stars, uncountable distances from our planet earth, even by the measure of light years and parsecs and galactic distances, there are other human beings out there.  How they got there, nobody knows, but they are there.  Why they are there, this knowledge also is lost to the great milieu, but they are there.  It is hoped one day that they will return to their home, our fair Earth, and be reunited with their brethren.

Any why would the great milieu got to such an extent to show us this?  Why make us understand?

It is for the saddest of reasons.

Thousands of years hence, all this, all I have seen, all this life, all these people, though they are not as we understand, they will be gone.  They see it with their sciences that I cannot hope to comprehend.  The intermediary says that the disaster is natural, just an inevitable consequence of an uncaring cosmos, but its seeds are already sown, and those that do not flee will perish.  Only we survive, humans, perhaps the least deserving, but among the hardiest.  And we are in a corner far away from the disaster.  We are the future of the galaxy, and the universe.

And so I am home, and this pamphlet is written so that you might understand that life is be preserved, because we are more precious than you think.  Thousands of years hence, we will be alone, the sole intelligent life in reach of any method of travel we will ever devise.  We have a duty.

The aliens are extraordinary people.  I gave my life to touring the universe and seeing those who will be gone.  I hope that one day all my writings will be released and that all mankind may know of their extraordinary variety, and that we will come together to preserve intelligent life in the cosmos, because that is us.