hares-recovery

First Contact, Part 2

Lenard turned around, following Traize’s gaze to the DTV. “What is that?”

“It’s too blurry to tell… Looks almost like some sort of shadow beside the Ares II.”

Tari shook her head. Knowing she’d regret looking, she turned and peeked at the picture. It wasn’t a good photograph by any means; she’d met children with steadier camera techniques. However, there was a definite bluish-black blob of some sort in a position flanking what was probably the Ares shuttle.

Traize frowned, watching the headline ticker scroll. “The ISA’s gone absolutely quiet, military bases around the world are on high alert… Something strange is going on. Information is being repressed at this very moment. I can feel it.”

“There’s been a lot of strange sightings as of late. Maybe the aliens are done watching,” Lenard joked.

“Ha. I’ve seen my share of weirdness over the years, but I’ve never seen a thing that’d convince me of aliens existing.”

“Seriously?”

“Mm-hm. I’m convinced that we are all there is.”

“How can you not believe there’s more out there? We live in a big universe. There’s got to be more than just us.”

“Stop and think about that for just a second.” Traize gestured skyward. “Presuming there are advanced and intelligent life forms up there, why haven’t they stopped by and said hello?”

“Consider yourselves - the greater portion of this planet doesn’t know you exist. Why? Because they flat out couldn’t handle the truth. Tari didn’t think I’d be able to handle it, either - and to start with, she was right. What’s to say we’d handle the absolute knowledge of alien existence any better? Besides - if they’re so advanced as to be able to visit our planet, they’d have no reason to come here. We’d be absolutely primitive by comparison. They’ve probably got enough of their own problems to deal with without adding a volatile little ball of mud and talking protein chains to the list.”

“Mmm… There is that. Still, there’s no proof that they’re out there.”

“Absence of proof is not proof of absence.”

“William Cowaper. He also said ‘God made the country’ and I don’t believe in Him, either.” Traize grinned. “Tari, back me up here. You of all people have to have some rooting in reality… Er, never mind, it looks like you’re lost in space, too.”

“Hm?” She looked up from the DTV coverage. “Sorry, what? I, uh, I was distracted.”

“Yes, I could see that. Aliens. Len says yes, they’re coming to steal earth women; I say no, we’re the only inhabited planet, we womenfolk are safe. You?”

“I’m… I don’t know. You’d think with a galaxy as big as we live in, there’d have to be more than one planet where the conditions were right for intelligent life to spring up. Sure, it’s an odd confluence of improbabilities - the perfect star, the perfect distance from that star, the perfect mix of basic elements. If it happened once, though, it could have happened more than once.”

“Tari…” Traize spoke gently. “Spill it.”

“What?”

“I recognize that look in your eye. You know something about what’s going on, and you’re doing your damnedest to make it seem like you don’t.”

The white kitsune exhaled slowly. “I know as much about what’s going on right now as you do.”

“Oh, come on, don’t try to pull crap like that with me.”

“It’s the truth.”

“Right, but it’s truth with a qualifier - Hm?” Traize fell silent as their gazes met. “Oh. Oh. I’m sorry - I didn’t realize -“

“It’s all right.” Tari shook her head. “Where’s your bathroom?”

“Down the hall, second door on the left.”

“Thanks.” Tari padded from the dining room, navigating several boxes and crates of books stacked in the hallway. Locking the bathroom’s door behind her, she leaned on the edge of the sink and stared at her reflection. The image on the television, as blurry as it was, left no doubt in her mind about the identity of the object. But what were they doing?

Tari turned on the hologram and stabbed at buttons. “Stupid bracelet… I don’t want the moon, I want the Serin… Come on! Work with me here!”

Verbal command ambiguous. Do you wish to manually initiate a connection? a dialog window questioned.

“Of course I do!” Tari hissed.

Connecting to transceiver for transluminal signal reflection… Handshaking… Authentication in progress. Error 47: All data channels are currently reserved or in use. Please try again later or contact the node administrator for assistance. Connection terminated. Retry?

“Damn you!” she cursed, slamming the holographic PDA onto the vanity. The screen flashed TILT in colorful, friendly letters before returning to the home screen. “I hate technology!”

“Tari?” Traize called, tapping at the door. “You all right?”

“I’m…” Tari hesitated. A deep breath later she clicked off the projection. “I’m fine, Traize.”

“We thought we heard you yelling. Everything okay?”

Ha. “Yeah. I’ll be out in a few minutes.”


“Open the channel, Aerin.”

A holographic viewer sprang into existence in the middle of the hallway outside the medlab. The cargo drops had gone off without a hitch; they’d moved down to check on T’bia’s progress, but a call had come in and pulled him away. As the linkup completed, a russet Velorian mel appeared on screen. Six pips graced his collar, three on each side - the new marks of a Commonwealth Fleet Captain.

“Anaret.” The blue fox dipped his head in greeting. “Good to see you.”

“Jadyn!” the mel called, grinning widely. “How’s it going? It’s been too long.”

“Too long? What do you expect - that’s exactly what happens when you agree to survey past the edges of Commonwealth space! I was surprised to hear that you’re back so close to home, actually.”

“We had a few weeks in spacedock for maintenance and crew exchanges. We’re on our way now to a stellar nursery before we head back out to the border for the second half of the tour.”

“A nebula and protostar analysis?” Jadyn smirked. “How infinitely fascinating. Excellent use of all your skills, for certain.”

Anaret laughed. “You make it sound far worse than it really is. They’re quite remarkable up close. But enough of that - Haran said your comm request was tagged with priority encoding. What’s up?”

“Commander Halio should have forwarded a databurst along with the comm request. In short, I’ve been ordered to initiate first contact procedures with the inhabitants of Sol-Three.”

“That’s the Terran sector, isn’t it? I’m somewhat familiar with the file. The last communique I saw, they weren’t due for First Contact for at least another… What was it, five years?”

“That was the outline. My original mission here was to just do six months of recon for that longer-range plan of contact and get Speaker Jubah somewhat more familiar with the language. A local crisis caused by Commonwealth negligence later, the plans are being accelerated. I have a crew of three and the Serin, and I’m now expected to do some initial meet and greets.”

“And you’d prefer something actually made from present Commonwealth tech for hosting further visitors.”

“Your shadow is also a tad larger than my own. It’s both an intimidation factor and a bit of showboating.” Jadyn shook his head. “If you’re truly dedicated to your timetable, there’s other ships that I won’t feel bad about directing to join us. You’re presently the closest by three weeks. I won’t have the Speaker order you to do this, but I’d appreciate any help you can lend.”

“The protostars will still be there. Haran is indicating that we’re about a week away. How long would you need us for?”

“There’s the itch. The Speaker and I will be stationed here for six months. That’s the minimum until the first proper diplomatic delegation can be readied. I wouldn’t keep you here for all of that if you didn’t want to stay, but I’d welcome the support for as long as you care to remain.”

“Mm… I don’t think it’ll be a problem to stay the duration, and providing logistical support for a Contact mission will look good on a lot of young résumés around here. I’ll need to consult with my senior staff and make a few arrangements, though. You’ll have a concrete answer in a few hours. In the meantime, I’ll order our course altered.”

“Thanks, Anaret. I owe you one.”

“Don’t worry - we’ve got a way to collect on that.” Anaret winked as the channel closed.


“Aliens… Three days ago I would have called this a hoax.” Lenard took a deep, slow breath. “Wow. Amazing what a little perspective can do, isn’t it?”

“Perspective..? Wait! She just told you about us?” Traize glanced up as Tari came back into the room and stabbed a finger in her direction. “How long did you lead this poor boy on?”

“A month or two.”

“I can’t believe it! You are still a total and complete amateur! You’re supposed to wait until he’s on his deathbed to break the news. ‘Honey, I’m sorry, but I’m a fuzzy vampire. Gwaaar.’ It’s traditional.”

“I’m all about instant gratification.”

“Learn some patience. So, check this out.” Traize gestured to the screen. A different headline scrolled across the ticker: Ares II crew rescued by peaceful extraterrestrial power? New, cleaner images accompanied the headline, showing the former blob in crisp detail. There was no mistaking the ship as anything but an alien craft - definitely the Serin.

“I’ll accept for the moment that this may be real and that aliens may actually exist, just for the sake of argument.”

“You’ll accept a lot for the sake of argument,” Tari mused quietly. “Or just the sake of arguing.”

“Hush. That headline, though…”

“What about it?” Lenard asked.

“‘Peaceful extraterrestrial power.’ How can they say with any certainty that they’re peaceful?” Traize asked.

“They did save the crew from certain doom. That has to count for something.”

“Maybe we just look tasty and they didn’t want the meat bruised.” She shook her head. “No, their arrival is just too convenient… They show up at the last minute to save the day. Doesn’t smell right.”

“You’re implying they caused a problem just to traipse in and solve it, to look like the good guys?”

“It’s not impossible. Human history is rife with examples of that very thing. What’s to say aliens would be different?”

Lenard shrugged. “I suppose there’s no proof either way. I’d just like to think that a race that makes us look like we’re still in the dark ages would have gotten past things like that.”

“Mm. That’s a nice dream.” Traize inhaled slowly. “Tari…”

“Don’t.”

“I just want to apologize -“

“I know you do. I’m not bound to a promise.”

“You’re not?” The elder sibling frowned. “But then why? That look you gave me -“

“A friend who understands our nature made a request of me many years ago. He was careful to explicitly not bind me to anything. I’m honoring the request he made as if I had sworn to it. I have a lot of respect for him.” Tari tapped her fingers together, looking at the Serin and thinking to herself briefly. “I doubt he’d actually care if I told you two anything… But until I hear it from him, I can’t. I’m sorry.”

“I hate not knowing what’s going on,” Traize grumped.

“Learn some patience.”


“Sorry about that,” Jadyn apologized, re-entering medbay. “How’s it going in here?”

“I am… just… about done.” T’bia set down the deep tissue regenerator, looking over scans of her handiwork. A few taps at the datapad brought up before-and-after pairs of images on the wall. “How’s that look to you, Doc?”

“Impressive.” Jonathan appraised the comparison with an approving nod. “There’s no scar tissue… Not a trace of any work?”

“Look closer. I realize it’s not entirely obvious, since you’re not familiar with the techniques, but… see here? Along the bone?”

Casi peered at the other human as the two medics reviewed the surgery. “Commander, you have been remarkably quiet. Is there something on your mind?”

“Something?” Cordelia barked a laugh. “Lots.”

“We have put you in a bind, and I apologize.”

“Don’t worry about it. They’re going to ask me a lot of questions and I have no idea how I’m going to answer them. Hell, I’m not sure if I can even guess all of what they’re going to ask.”

“On the bright side, you’ve got that half-hour round trip to help delay the inevitable.” Jadyn smirked as he caught a glimpse of T’bia’s close-up ‘after’ scan: her signature in tiny Val’Traxan script, etched very faintly along the regenerated bone tissue. “The folks asking you the most questions are probably the ones who already know we’re out here. We’ve done our best to be discreet, but accidents do happen.”

“And the occasional blatant hint,” T’bia added over her shoulder.

“You know, that reminds me. There was a rumor going around, back when I was first starting with ISA, that during one of the missions setting up Selene Base, something had been found in the remains of an original U.S. lander. The stories ranged about what it was - a piece of alien technology, an interstellar rosetta stone - but everyone insisted that we had conclusive proof of alien visitation and were sitting on it. No one had actually seen the thing, always a friend of a friend. I’d written it off long ago. But… One of the common descriptions very much resembles that device you’ve been holding, Commander Halio.”

Jadyn bit his lip, turning to T’bia. “I never dreamt you were serious. I thought you were just going sight-seeing.”

“You wouldn’t have okayed my spraying graffiti on Terran property. It was the next best thing! I really wonder if anyone managed to construct anything meaningful of those fake pictograms. I didn’t even assign them to words, just let them pop up randomly.” T’bia helped ease Jonathan to his feet. “The true test is not in the intellectual evaluation of the scans. How’s it feel?”

“Good. Remarkably good.”

“Wonderful. You’re all set to go, then. There’ll be some stiffness for at least the next day until all the anesthesia wears off. Take it easy, get plenty of fluids, electrolytes, et cetera and so on. Don’t do anything to strain it for the next week.”

“Thank you, Commander.”

“Well!” Jadyn gestured to the door. “Shall we reunite you with the rest of your crew?”

“I suppose it’s time.” Cordelia stepped out into the hall, followed by Jonathan, Casi, and Jadyn. T’bia shut the door behind them and followed the group down the hall. “I’d invite you for a tour to thank your hospitality, but I think I’d better deal with my commanders back on Earth, first.”

“No rush. We’ll be out of the system for a day or two, but we’ll come back and check in with you to see how they’d like to proceed with us.”

“So this isn’t just a one-time visit from our interstellar neighbors?” Jonathan asked.

“That depends on your governments,” Casi replied. “When you are answering their questions, please inform them that a larger crew will join us here shortly.”

“Here?” Cordelia queried. “On Mars?”

“No, in your star system. The prediction is that a formal First Contact will occur on Terran soil in short order, since Mars is more of an outpost. This ship is not presently staffed for that occasion.” Casi opened the transporter room door, observing as Jadyn took over the controls. “They will arrive in approximately a week. If at that time a unified voice from your world requests that we leave, we will depart and never return to your sector of space. Barring interference from worlds not under our charter, you will be effectively back where you were before today.”

“I don’t see the UN pushing you away.”

“Good. I’d like the opportunity to speak with you again before we get very deep into Contact proceedings… And get that tour of the Ares facility.” Jadyn smiled. “Commander, Doctor, it’s been a pleasure having you as our guests.”

“Thank you, Captain. Safe travels.”

Touching the controls, Jadyn sent the pair of humans down to their base. With a deep exhale, he turned to Casi. “We need to take care of that singularity before it causes more damage.”

“I agree.”

“Bee, do you have -“

“A probable course, yes.”

“Cloak and break orbit.”


“Have a good night, sis.”

“You too, Tari, Len. Drive safe.” Traize smiled and shut the door. Arm in arm, Tari and Lenard walked down the driveway to his car. Snowflakes drifted in the air, dusting the pavement and collecting at the sides along the grass. The wind was all but nonexistent, an occasional puff stirring the fine flakes on the ground.

“Really cooled off out here,” Lenard observed, keying the remote starter and bringing the vehicle to life.

“You should have done that about ten minutes ago.”

“It warms up fast… Sitting low on fuel, anyway.”

“We could have stopped and topped off.” Glancing at her watch, Tari shook her head. “Everything’s closed by now.”

“There’s enough to last me until payday if I’m conservative.”

“Let me worry about routine finances.”

“I’m more worried about the condition of the roads leading back into town. First snows usually become black ice around here.”

“Just take it easy. Concentrate on the cup of cocoa waiting on the table.” Tari buckled her seatbelt as the car pulled onto the road. “In the meantime… What’d you think of Traize?”

“She’s… nice.”

“Nice? Just ‘nice?’”

“She’s mildly eccentric and somewhat confrontational… Beyond that, she seems nice.”

“Nothing really fell to all out arguing tonight, but yeah, she does do that. She loves a good debate. Even a bad one. She’ll take a stand she doesn’t support if it means she can argue with someone.”

“Mm. The stuff going on seemed ripe for it.”

“I think she meant what she said tonight, though. It can be hard to tell.”

“Mm. So… About your earlier conversation…”

Tari shook her head. “Please, don’t ask. I’m enjoying making Traize pull out hair over this, but it’s really killing me to not spill my soul to you - especially after agreeing to be completely upfront with you. This is the one exception that I absolutely can’t go back on.”

“The news stuff? I wasn’t going to ask about that. If it’s not something you can talk about, I’m okay with that. I’m not surprised to find a line drawn in the sand. Curious that it’s not related to kitsune stuff…”

“Yeah, but this is different. It’s… By telling you about us, I’m at the most going to get myself in trouble. They can’t touch you because you’re outside their jurisdiction.”

“And by talking about the alien thing, you might get someone else in trouble?”

She frowned. “Not… really, no. At the very least I know that I’d violate the trust of a good friend, and I’m not willing to breach that trust. What did you want to ask?”

“The thing I derailed you both about, children between humans and kitsune… Uhm… You’re innate shapeshifters. Hypothetically speaking, couldn’t someone… cross the gender boundary?”

“Ah, right before the news distracted us. A female kitsune in male form is firing blanks, to put it nicely. There are a few who it has worked for, but they’re the exception, not the rule.”

“Which leaves us as the fallback. If others are having kids with human fathers, why hasn’t anyone noticed?”

“One night stands, mostly. Everyone gets what they want that way. There’s minimal chance of exposure.”

“I don’t know. The whole thing seems…”

“Flawed? Desperate? Scandalous?”

“No. Sort of sad.” Lenard sighed. “I mean, the kid wouldn’t have a father figure, and the father wouldn’t get a chance to know his kid, even know one was out there… And then there’s the thought in the back of my head that you’re all just barely hanging on, forced to dilute yourselves just to survive.”

“Like Traize said, we’re more alike than a lot of my people care to admit.” Tari smirked. “There’s no further dilution after mixing a pureblood and a human. They balance out in every generation after the blending.”

“How do you mean?”

“Let me explain this somewhat hypothetically… You are one hundred percent human. I’m half: the child of a pureblooded kitsune and a pureblooded human. Therefore, were we to produce offspring, the child would be… what?”

“Generally speaking, three-quarters human.”

“And one quarter kitsune, correct. But that kitsune blood is fickle, volatile stuff. By the time this child reached her teenage years - and very likely, it’d happen well before that, sometimes as early as at birth - the kitsune blood would have annexed another quarter. She’d be half kitsune and half human, just like I am. The same thing would happen to her offspring, and theirs, and so on - half and half. It doesn’t even matter who or what the other parent is - pureblood, human, or hybrid. If the child isn’t a pureblood, the kitsune blood balances the human blood halfway, every time.”

“That goes against everything I’ve ever learned about genetics.”

“Punnett squares don’t cover the metaphysical.”

Lenard pulled into his dorm parking place and clicked off the ignition. Both his hands returned to the steering wheel as he stared out the front window; he was quiet for nearly ten seconds as he drummed the wheel with his index fingers. “You must realize what’s running through my head right now, after all I’ve heard tonight.”

“Perhaps all this has just been a long drawn-out ploy to use you as genetic stock. It’s not. I’m sure I wouldn’t have to prove it further than giving you my word, but I’ll do it anyway. Look here.” Tari hiked her left leg up onto the dash and rolled back her pantleg. A silvery band, inset with glyphs and small gemstones, glinted in the lights of the parking lot. “Traize gave me this years back for a birthday present. This anklet is basically kitsune contraception. If you catch me with it off, start getting suspicious. Also start asking questions should you notice that it is not above the left foot.”

“You could market that thing and make millions.”

“Doesn’t work on humans, requires our spirit energy to power it. Even if it did work, people still wouldn’t remember to use it. It’s also not effective against the other reasons for abstinence. And should you wonder about that, you’ve never been with anyone else and I’m clean. My AKC papers will prove that.”

“First, papers wouldn’t prove that. Second, there’s no way you have papers.”

“And why not?”

“Because you already told me you’re of mixed descent.”

“Excellent to see you’ve been paying attention.”

Lenard scratched his nose. “You mind me asking how many partners you’ve had?”

“You sure you want to know?”

“Tell me anyway.”

“Counting you… Three.”

“Three?” His eyebrows coasted upwards ever so slightly. “Um… All human?”

“Only one.”

“Ah…”

Tari squeezed his hand. “You all right?”

“You’re nine times older than I am. I didn’t have any illusions of being the first man you’d slept with.”

“Oh, so, you expected the number to be higher.” Laughing, she slapped his shoulder. “What do you think I am, some sort of harlot?”

“Kitsune are supposed to be hedonistic,” he countered with a grin.

“Damn, you have been reading the good stuff. I’ll give you that one. Still - I’ve tried to keep my baser impulses in check. The first one on the list was literally a teenage mistake, a learning experience just after my change in lifestyle. In the years after him, I’ve only found two men worth my time.”

“One decent guy a century… That doesn’t say much for us, does it?”

“Maybe I’m just too picky. I’m supposed to be hedonistic. Come on, let’s go get that cocoa going.”


8 Responses

  1. Tsunari says:

    Why not bring Tari her warship back.

  2. Derek says:

    Because sh{#`%${%&`+'${`%&NO CARRIER

  3. Tsunari says:

    But Tari in giant warship = fun I bet.

  4. Andrew says:

    I agree with Tsunari, I wanna see Tari with her ship.

    I really love this series. Insanity, love, comedy, Infinite Improbability Drives… oops, wrong story.

    Seriously though, I really love this series.

  5. Derek says:

    I can just picture it now… Captain Kitanaka, in orbit around Terra, raining down death and destruction with a tap of her finger.

  6. Dimensional says:

    Well, I do hope to see Lenard and Tari on her ship. It would really blow his mind. Oh, and I finally fixed my account, so now you will see me in place of “Andrew”

  7. Tsunari says:

    Just noticed that Tari used the same line on Traize. Also dang Jadyn let the cat out of the bag (yes let the cat out of the bag to the cat) to Casi but Tari isn’t. Tari is going to have to get back at Jadyn sometime.

  8. Tsunari says:

    The line being “Learn some patience”

 

Trackback URL for this entry