What Next?

What Next? by David Macfie

 Armstrong was stunned and yet not so. He thought quickly over his reaction on first seeing the faces on the bodiless heads. They look human he’d thought. So now he knew that his blood was identical to samples of the predominant blood type of the heads before him, he honestly wasn’t surprised. He quickly collected his thoughts and looked at Klar.

“You also were not really surprised, were you” he asked, curiously.

“No, I wasn’t. I already mentioned my reaction on first seeing you out of your suit. It seemed likely that our ancestors and yours might be related.”

“Is there anything in your history that supports this view?” queried Armstrong.

“No there isn’t,” replied Klar. “But we had a major war about a hundred thousand of your years ago. Many of the losing side were unaccounted for afterwards. It was never explained what happened to them, but I’ve always suspected that they may have left the planet for a new home elsewhere.”

“You think they came to earth?”

“I hadn’t thought that until I saw you. But now I think it is likely, yes!”

“A hundred thousand years ago homo sapiens, our species, was just appearing in Europe. Do you think your people interbred with them to make us what we are today?”

“No, given the fact that the blood is identical, I would suggest that our people exterminated the early people you thought were your ancestors. The evidence indicates that we are your forebears.”

“That might explain some wrinkles in our histories like what technology was used to build the pyramids in Egypt and South America and some of the ancient buildings in Europe that used stone blocks a meter and a half wide, a meter tall and a meter deep,” mused the space explorer. “I’ve always wondered about these, but there’s no overt evidence of a space invasion.”

“Those people of ours, who may have come to earth, had very advanced technologies already. Easily advanced enough to erase all evidence of their coming. I think they would have done that to prevent us finding the evidence if we tried to trach them down,” explained Grak to nods from his colleagues.

“So what now?” asked the space explorer. “I think it’s highly ironic that earth was the first new planet to be colonized by humans, who always felt they were the most likely to colonize from our ‘so called’ home planet.”

“Your irony is amusing, but it doesn’t hide the importance of your question,” replied Grak. “What now, indeed?”

“My first reaction is that I haven’t the faintest idea,” said Armstrong, with a seriously troubled look on his face. Then with a flash of humor he added. “I guess it’s a case of ET phone home!”

That the heads really had studied earth was immediately apparent by the fact that all three smiled at this final comment.

“It was a cute film, wasn’t it?’ asked Ashen, with a smile. “Somewhat inaccurate, but cute nevertheless.”

This got smiles all round. Then Grak brought the conversation back on track.

“What do you think the reaction will be, from your superiors?”

Armstrong took a moment to consider his answer…..

“Surprise, disbelief, curiosity, caution, fear and indecision. Not necessarily in that order,” he finally replied.

“Then I suggest you pay particular care to the wording of your message,” suggested Klar.

“I’ll write it out then give it to you to see what you think. Then we can work on it until we’re all satisfied. Agreed?” proposed the astronaut.

“Good idea, so agreed,” said Grak, with a twinkle in his eye. “They obviously teach you negotiation skills in space explorer school, as well as all the other stuff.”

“With a perfectly straight face Armstrong looked at Grak’s face.

“True. They were hoping I might meet some friendly aliens.”

There was a moment of silence then the three faces cracked into grins and then delighted laughter.

“Good one, Armstrong,” said Ashen, through her chuckles. “It helps to deal with people who have a sense of humor.”

The atmosphere lightened and Armstrong began to draft his message. I took him a while because he wanted to make sure his superiors truly understood the situation and its implications. He also wanted them to know what the Cletimosnians wanted and had to offer in exchange. He was careful to emphasize that he had been treated with the utmost courtesy throughout his interaction with these strange people. Finally he was happy. He handed his draft to Grak and the three faces went into a huddle to study the document.

“Pretty good,” finally said Grak. “We’re happy for you to send this. Do it now so we waste no more time.”

Instantly Armstrong had second thoughts.

“Why are you in such a hurry?” he asked, suspiciously. “Whether I do it now or tomorrow can’t make much of a difference, can it?”

All three faces crinkled into frowns. Armstrong wondered if they were frowns of surprise or puzzlement or even anger. He waited for an answer, keeping his own face as expressionless as possible. The moment stretched. Armstrong steeled himself not to fidget. After several minutes the three faces exchanged looks and Grak took a deep breath.

“You are too perceptive, Mister Armstrong,” he replied, in a weighty, and very serious voice. “We have been truthful in what we have told you, but we have not told you the whole truth. When we spoke of the possible decline of our species, we suggested that we believe it may happen. The fact is, it is already happening. Given our evolution to this bodiless state, we can only reproduce using mind power. This is a difficult and exacting process involving a male and a female of particularly strong mental skills. In years past there were many who had such skills. Currently, the number of such people is in increasingly rapid decline. So there is a real need for equally rapid action and a day can indeed make a difference.”

Armstrong listened carefully to the voice as well as the words, trying to decide whether he was being manipulated. He also had another question in his head since he’d seen the exchanged look between to faces. He decided to ask that question first.

“Are you people telepathic?”

“We were too obvious,” smiled Klar. “But you put us under unaccustomed pressure. Yes we are telepathic and it is a skill we can easily teach you. You have the mental pathways already. They simply must be activated.”

“Thank you for being honest with me,” replied Armstrong, who now believed that the Cletimosnians really were in crisis. “I will add to the message the truth of the urgency of a positive response,”

“That will be most welcome,” replied Grak, with a gusty exhalation of held breath.