Birds of a Feather


Author : Desmond Hussey, Staff Writer

Tensions are high in the control room as the Pegan ship passes the Moon. Speakers emit a constant chatter of enigmatic chirps, beeps and ultra-sonic tweets which constitute the Pegan language.

“You’re telling me, we’ve been in contact with them for sixty years,” Chief Administrator Swanson’s face is a study of barely controlled anger, “but we still have no idea what their intentions are?”

“That is correct, sir.” I shift uncomfortably in my seat.

“Then what the hell have we been paying you people for?” His voice rises, filling the chamber. “Assembled in this room are the world’s brightest minds and not one of you has any idea how to talk to them?” Eyes stare glumly at consoles or shoes, desperately avoiding contact with Swanson’s rage. “Need I point out the importance of establishing communication? We need to know if they’re hostile or friendly.”

“It’s not that easy.” I know I’m walking on thin ice, but I continue. “We’ve tried every known language, but have found no common denominator, no shared linguistic or phonetic keystones of any sort to build off of. We’ve tried pictures and symbols, but we share no familiar point of reference. Likewise, we have little or no context for the images they send us. We aren’t even certain if they see the same spectrum of light as we do. Earth memes lack any relatable context to Pegan ones – an arrow might mean direction or a weapon to them. We do know that their language is a highly complex one. We suspect it may even be chemical in nature–“

“Chemical?” Swanson shouts. “How in blazes do you communicate with chemicals through space?”

“Exactly our problem, sir,” I pause as he mulls this over. “We’ve had some minor success with mathematics, but the Pegans have demonstrated a comprehension far beyond our own. Our mathematical vocabulary is grossly undeveloped, much like a pre-school child by comparison. It’ll take legions of mathematicians a century to decipher the volumes of equations they’ve sent us so far. It’s a gold mine of information about the universe, but the actual nature of the Pegans remains a mystery.”

The intricate crystalline mass of the Pegan ship fills the view screen, minutes away from entering the atmosphere.

“We think,” I add tentatively, “they’re friendly.”

General Haigg butts in, barking around his cigar. “Thinking isn’t good enough, Doctor.” He addresses his aide. “Major Demakis, begin the launch sequence for the warheads. Prepare to fire on my command.”

“No!” I yell. “Activating weapons could be interpreted as an act of hostility.”

“You know this how, Doctor?” Haigg demands. “I thought we didn’t understand each other.”

“We know they’re not stupid. They only want to talk. I’m positive. Any act of aggression, even a passive one, might alarm them.”

“You’d risk an alien invasion to satisfy your hunch that they’re friendly?”

“You’d destroy our opportunity to befriend a superior alien species because you assume they’re hostile?” I retort.

“Sirs!” the radar operator calls out, “Multiple targets closing in from all directions on the alien craft’s co-ordinates. They aren’t ours.”

“Get me eyes out there!” General Haigg barks.

On the view screen, the Pegan ship glows brightly as it breaches the atmosphere over South America. It comes to rest two miles above the jungle canopy, a shining city of crystal and light.

“What are those shapes flocking to it?” Swanson asks.

“Birds,” I say, “Millions of birds.”

The sky surrounding the Pegan ship is thick with a variety of birds creating a cacophony of chirps, clicks and cheeps.

It sounds Pegan.

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