It was all strange.
We’d been on Avis, technically Avis IV, for a hundred and twenty years, give or take. We’d endured dreadful winters, down to arctic temperatures; and baking summers, as if in desert heat. We’d found out that during Avis’ long solar year large creatures hibernated in the summer, when it was too hot, and in the winter, when it was too cold and came out to hunt us when it was just right.
Just right for them, because it rained like hell the rest of the time with almost nothing off for good behavior. Their fur hung straight down and drained it away from their eyes, while we all got trench-foot despite our best efforts. Six legs helped then slink over the landscape at speed and we lost Hapgood and one of the Kennedys, Carl was devastated.
We arrived when the creatures were taking the whole year off, which they do and we still don’t know why; they just hibernate all year round. These years just happen to be when small asteroids knock into the planet, but there’s no discernible pattern. Not that we can rely on.
And this is still not the weird stuff.
We left the main craft in orbit, not that we could have landed it anyhow, and took shuttles down initially, that was granddad and his team. They set up in as temperate a zone as they could, even the approaching surveys couldn’t tell us everything and in any case, we were stuck with it. We couldn’t move off again until we’d mined enough heavy, radioactive ore to power the ship’s FTL drive and that still wasn’t happening, because that ore was stuck down a lot deeper than we would have liked. The consequence was that if we were going to change our minds and move on, it was going to take more time.
Avis’ year is about two and half earth years, so it’s tough, but we manage. During our approach, we got a good look so we knew what we were getting into in the broad sense, and in more detail before we came down, because the Cerberus was well equipped to keep us for a long time with minimal re-provisioning, except the ore. Which we didn’t expect to be ten miles under the crust.
All the other creatures on the planet were about as alien as one might expect, and ignored us, largely. A few very dangerous plants, but avoidance was the best tactic with those.
And then the flying saucer arrived.
The skeleton crew aboard the Cerberus radioed us with the news that something was coming in fast and changing course. Changing course implies steering, which implies control, which implies intelligence. It might have been a probe, so the intelligence might not even have been present, and to be honest, were not sure it was, because what came out of the saucer, well. I don’t have an explanation for it.
I don’t have an explanation for the idea that something could just appear in this solar system; in our year long approach we a had a good opportunity to do a bit of a survey, so anything arriving came from presumably outside of it, implying FTL, in something the size of a small truck.
And it landed, edge spinning away like mad, on three stick legs. What came out of it. Well.
It’s all in the official report, there are pictures, video. We got asked to keep personal diaries, so can I just say that I still don’t quite believe it.
We’re not organized on military lines any more, sociologically speaking, but our society has sort of self assembled into the Mayor, some functionaries and everyone else. Really, I suppose, the Mayor is just another name for Captain, and quite honestly we’re comfortable with that because we’re pretty organized and we need to keep a certain discipline in order to survive, so most of the time the Mayor offers suggestions and if she issues an edict we can be sure it’s been discussed among the top brass and there’s a good reason for it. She sorts out little frictions fairly and the training material sent with us is pretty good.
I know, I’m avoiding.
You’d avoid too if you’d seen what I’ve seen.
It arrived during spring, so it was raining, hard, straight down. We all wore a sort of umbrella hat when outside, largely because any sort of normal hat would let the rain through after about ten minutes, and because we didn’t like it hitting our heads, we needed a space. They were stupid looking and the kids hated them, I know I did when I was a kid. So, yes, spring. Just sort of spun down and landed and a door opened, dark inside, so we couldn’t see in, and this thing about six feet tall came out. Hopped out actually.
I don’t want to explain this. Writing it down feels weird and real, while just even looking at it feels like some sort of parody.
What hopped out was a pretty large foot, with ankle, something between a leg and neck, topped by just enough head to accommodate a very large eye, with extensive eyelashes, and a touch of very scruffy hair on the top.
There, I said it.
It blinked every now and again. It didn’t seem to have any appendages at all and just stood there, getting wet, unless it’s really coming down, when some sort of invisible shield seems to extend over it and stop the rain from hammering it into the ground.
The botanists have made up many theories about it, and one of them had a nervous breakdown about it. We put him back aboard the Cerberus.
We looked at it with everything we have, UV, IR, x-ray, you name it. We can’t see into it more than a millimeters nor penetrate its saucer. It just sat there, blinking. For a couple of months, so far.
We get bored watching it, so the robots looked at it for us. The robots have some pretty heavy-duty AI on board. Last week they complained that it was boring. Specifically, they said that its state doesn’t change and seems unlikely to change so was this the best use of their time? We suggested they built a remote monitor and tell us if anything changed. The remote monitor they built complained that the monitoring task was unchanging, except for the blinking and could it compress the data and perhaps keep the monitoring down to once per second because it was playing Go with the Cerberus computer and looking at the thing was a bit distracting because it never changed.
We sent a probe a few weeks ago. The probe was stopped about a meter out from the thing and that was the end of that. We couldn’t detect in any way what stopped it. When asked, the probe claimed that it forgot what it was doing and the whole thing seemed pointless anyhow.
We sent a dumb probe. The memory got wiped a as soon as it got within one meter. We can’t approach it closer than a meter, something is there, some barrier, but we can’t detect it.
The big furry bastards, we never really gave them a name, they’ve always been referred to as those big furry bastards, or BFB’s to the children. They came and sniffed around it one night when we were all asleep. They got within that meter, and then one of them started to urinate on it and got a large electric shock up the stream, which needless to say scared it off, and all the others.
That’s the data we have. That’s all the data, all the behavior data, we have; urinate on it and you get a large bolt of lightning up the wazoo.
We sent that back to earth, so good luck with that.
The BFB’s don’t come near our town any more, so there is that.
Then the asteroid alert came.
The Cerberus warned us and started projecting the landing site. Despite our best efforts at choosing a statistically unlikely site for our town, the projected landing site was exactly in that place.
On the creature.
We couldn’t move it, so we evacuated around it. It was projected to be a large impact so we all shuttled back up to the Cerberus. A bit crammed compared to the original journey I’m told, but I have only been up once in my life, so it was a bit of interest for me.
A few hours ago, the asteroid struck.
That’s the end of that town. Oh well we can rebuild.
The thing put its shield up seconds before the thing hammered down on it. The rock was a good size, about 50 meters across so it left a crater and a lot of spray. When the dust cleared we looked at the thing from orbit sitting there on a precarious pole of dirt sticking up from the center of the crater. We had some remote drones down there and we flew them close enough to look at it.
It looked around, by hopping up and down so it could look left and right, blinked some more, and then hopped back in the saucer. The thing spun its edge and lifted off, pausing when it got to the Cerberus, and then disappeared, presumably achieving FTL, so it would just, from our perspective, vanish.
We don’t know what it thinks. Did we attack it? I mean, we clearly knew what was coming and left, so did we instigate it? Is it going to retaliate?
We’re going down tomorrow to have a look at the site, but after that we’re thinking of taking extreme measures to get fuel and leaving for earth. It will be cramped, but we have absolutely no idea what it, they, can do and we’d rather not start a war which we will only lose.
We probably shouldn’t be out here.
We’re not leaving, we’re rebuilding.
The site visit was interesting to say the least.
We know now that it understood us, at least to come extent. It certainly knew at least three languages, and judging by what it left, we think it knows statistics and metalwork, of a kind.
We’re not ready for the cosmos, that’s for sure, but we’re here now so we’re staying. At least for now.
We sent a message back to earth advising recall of any further expeditions and asking if we should come home. We’ll get an answer in about thirty years.
In the mean time we found the message, engraved deeply in titanium, left on the ah, pole. It was in Russian, Chinese and English. We have speakers of all these so we were able to put it all together. The message came in the form of a review, sitting there in mid air above the small patch of ground.
“Natives unfriendly. Aliens present, of questionable intent, hit with asteroid, possible weapon. 4/10, would not recommend.”