Bodyless Heads by David Macfie
It took Armstrong several moments to gather his wits. The three bodiless heads floated in the air, still and patient as he recovered. Finally, when it was clear that Armstrong had got over his shock, mission leader Grak spoke again.
“Our civilization has evolved to the point, where our physical bodies became unnecessary so they were discarded. Our minds are strong enough to control our physiological requirements so we do not eat in any way that would be familiar to you. We absorb out needs directly from our environment in a process that is unknown in your world.”
“Thank you,” replied Armstrong. “That explanation, while it leads to many questions, has removed my discomfort at your appearance. May I ask where you come from?”
“Of course, our aim is to make peaceful contact so we will share whatever is required to satisfy you and your leaders of our sincerity. We come from a planet called Cletimos, which is one of three inhabited planets in the solar system you refer to as Alpha Centauri AB. The inhabitants of the other two are less evolved than we are and even you are. They are not yet capable of space travel. We monitor them all the time but haven’t made contact yet, because they are still too primitive. You are the only other life forms we have found who have mastered travel between the stars and so we decided to make contact with you.”
“Why? If you are more advanced than we are, what’s in it for you?”
“If I may say so, that is a remarkably cynical question,” observed Ashen, quietly. “Can you not imagine that we might be looking for mutually beneficial interactions?”
“I’m sorry if I sounded cynical, but humanity’s history is littered with examples of leaders, who were less than ideal examples of our exalted image of ourselves as created in the image of our god.”
“Then perhaps we must become cynical ourselves,” pointed out Ashen, a little sharply. “Or perhaps, we will provide an example that will inspire your civilizations to become more enlightened.”
“We must be honest in our dealings from the start,” remarked Klar. “And while Ashen is correct from a philosophical perspective, perhaps we should provide a more pragmatic answer to space explorer Armstrong.”
“Good suggestion,” agreed Grak. “So let me try to do so. When I said that we had studied your world, I neglected to clarify that that study has been going on for over a century of your years. We have seen the best and the worst of the human species. But we have also watched the remarkable advances you have made in many areas. More importantly, the speed of those advances has been impressive, but many other things have not kept up.”
“What do you mean?” asked Armstrong, with a frown.
“We perceive that you are outgrowing your environment and perhaps are in danger of over-exploiting it. In many ways, our civilization is more advanced than yours, but it has ceased to evolve and we are somewhat stagnant as a race. So our biggest reason for contact is that we need a challenge to reinvigorate our species or we believe we are facing decline. In that context, we genuinely believe that we can bring assistance to humanity in the solving of some of your greatest issues, like global warming, overpopulation, species extinction, pollution, renewable energy and things like that. All of these we have solved. We are also certain that there are mutually beneficial trading opportunities. Finally, while we have evolved past you in certain areas, there are areas where you have outstripped us. You have made advances in medicine, biology, physics and chemistry that are unknown to us. So, perhaps the second greatest reason for contact is to share knowledge both ways. Does this answer give you more understanding and comfort that our motives are not acquisitive?”
“Yes, I think so, but cynicism is hard to shake. It might take me a while to lose it altogether.”
Grak and Klar laughed and even Ashen smiled l little.
“Good,” said Grak. “Then I suggest we take you to show you a few things that will underline what I have told you then you must decide how to take this forward.”
Armstrong found these words more comforting than those that had gone before. As long as he was given choices, he figured that he could believe that Grak and his people had benevolent intentions.
He was taken first to what looked like a laboratory. Klar took charge. He powered up a large viewing screen and pressed a button.
“What you are about to see is our earliest visual record of our civilization,” he explained.
Armstrong looked on in wonder, as the images began. The landscapes and buildings all looked exotic and other-worldly but, to his amazement, the people all looked like humans.
He looked at Klar, with a puzzled expression.
“Yes, imagine our surprise when we first observed your people. And when you removed your space garb, we beheld a living replica from our past,” said the medic. Would you be prepared to give us a sample of your blood? It will provide us with the answer to the question you clearly wanted to ask, and which I have been silently asking since I first saw your species.”
“Of course,” replied the bemused space explorer. He was having trouble coming to terms with what he had just seen. Klar pricked his right index finger and placed the sample in a machine. He selected the ‘Results in English’ option and pressed the start button. In moments only, an analysis appeared on the monitor.
“Analysis indicates an exact match between sample and saved samples of the predominant blood type of Cletimosnians.”
“I thought so,” said Klar.