Author : Saurja Sen

The scanners showed signs of the same life-form across the galaxy, so it was safe to assume that the species, whatever it was, had discovered space travel. Thus communication with it was allowed and my advance team was sent in to begin all interaction protocols.

We hailed them on all frequencies, but there was no response. Since we had received life-signs, we went down to the surface of the planet to establish physical contact. Their cities were spectacular. Huge buildings, intricate designs, complex channels for what must have been transport, everything that one saw on other species’ planets existed. But there seemed to be no activity of any kind. A big city on any planet has a certain amount of hectic activity on it – on Earth, air-cars moving around, people teeming in the central areas; on Alpha Centauri IX, sky-trains flying everywhere; even under the surface of Cragganmore XII, the huge ball-bearing transporters. But on this planet, nothing. No movement whatsoever, yet signs of life, and seeming life-forms everywhere.

Praha, our biologist, took us to what seemed the dominant life-form. It looked organic, with greyish skin, about 7 feet tall. It had limbs with three extensions at three different heights that seemed capable of gripping objects. There appeared to be the equivalent of eyes at the 6 foot mark, and it had tank-tracks at ground level. The only visible sign of life that we saw was a thin column of gas being expelled midway down its side that Praha said was its respiration. Even this we may have missed had the gas not been a different colour to the air around it.

Our efforts to communicate with it continued failing. We tried sound, light, touch and smell. No reaction to any kind of noise or light, regardless of frequency. A complete indifference to our gentle prodding and to Craggan vapour bullets. Our experiments were repeated on all the nearby life-forms and they all resulted in a complete absence of responses. It was as if the species was deliberately ignoring our presence.

We placed a few of them under surveillance and worked shifts conducting other experiments. The physical watches on the life-forms were refreshed every six hours, and not a single observer reported any signs of any activity.

Just before we were due to return, Praha and I went back to the life-form we had initially encountered for a final contact instance. Praha noticed it first – the life-form was no longer in the same spot as on our first meeting. It had moved. Not by much, but enough that we noticed. The observers assigned to the life-form all swore that it had not moved on their watches.

Again, it was Praha who worked it out. It had moved, but so slowly that none of the observers had noticed, yet over the time we had spent on the planet, it was obvious. The same went for everything else – life-forms, transportation devices – they had all done something. Everything that had occurred had happened so slowly that we didn’t see it happen and thought nothing had happened at all.

That’s the moment when we realized that it wouldn’t be possible for us to communicate normally with them. Our relationships to a timescale were too different. As one species to another, we could, over a long time, but we wouldn’t be able to individually. Praha and I would be dead before they would ever be able to send either of us a message. We wouldn’t live to be acknowledged by the species we had discovered.

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