“Well will you look at that.” Erin says with a whistle as her hand reaches for the slowly swirling black surface of the cuboid that is perfectly flat.
“No! I wouldn’t do that.” Harry exclaims. His voice is filled with panic as his own hand is raised as though he would somehow be able to stop Erin from this distance between them.
Erin’s hand stops inches from touching the surface, her fingertips within reach, if she closes her hand slightly that is.
“We don’t know what its reaction could be to human skin.” Harry continues.
“Live a little.” Erin responds.
“He’s right Chief. Sadly, we need to run scans first.” Tenisha agrees adding a warm smile as she speaks.
“Ok.” Erin replies willing to listen to Tenisha, but not the other two. Something about them both rubs Erin the wrong way. She doesn’t know why though as she pulls her hand away and drops her arm back to her side.
“Call me Erin though.” Erin orders as she wanders back to Tenisha’s side.
“Sure.” Tenisha says as she initiates a scan of the cuboids surface.
“How do you know how to do that?” Brent asks surprised.
“I’m UnSA. I was one of the pilots aboard Blink-001, and I’m a biologist.” Tenisha replies without attempting to hide her irritation. Wow, he’s condescending, she thinks as she glares at him.
“Well, that explains her presence. What about you two?” Erin then asks feeling smug.
“We’re a double act and like I said before, we just so happen to cover the other two major branches of science.” Harry responds sincerely.
“Yes, but I am of much greater importance in this little band because of my background in physics.” Brent says without a hint of irony or humour. The man is serious, dead serious and is completely unaware of how insulting his words are to the other three people in the room with him.
“You see physics make up everything. Without it…” Brent begins one of his rants to try and demonstrate his superiority.
“We don’t need one of your lectures Brent.” Harry says interjecting as he rolls his eyes.
“And you might want to check before you touch that as well.” Tenisha offers with a smile.
“Why? Do you think me incapable?” Brent spits angrily. It’s bad enough, he thinks, that he has to be here with these people, but for one of them to question his brilliance, maddening.
“No. But you press that you’ll call the security detail in. It’s a panic button.” Tenisha replies, her tongue licking at the backs of her bottom teeth.
“Ah.” Brent replies as he quickly withdraws his hand, Erin rolling her eyes as he does.
Then suddenly the sound of a lock releasing rings out. Harry and Brent both jump physically in response.
“Was that the locks holding us to the crust?” Harry asks suddenly worried that he and Brent’s plan will crumble to dust before they even get a chance to enact it.
“No. That was the cuboid.” Tenisha replies as she reads the details that the scans of the cuboid are providing.
“It’s opening?” Erin queries in the moments before the entire section of black, which is some four metres tall parts vertically down the centre and then retracts to reveal an opening.
“Is that supposed to happen?” Erin asks cautiously.
“I have no idea. Brent? Harry?” Tenisha offers.
“It’s an invitation.” Brent remarks without any scientific basis for his statement.
“Invitation for what?” Erin asks.
“They want to meet?” Harry queries. Though, he isn’t even sure himself whether he meant his words to be a statement or a question. However, they certainly came out as a question.
“Of course they do.” Brent beams as he pulls a weapon, a thin but sharp scalpel that he managed to conceal in one of his pockets, which he points at Erin’s neck.
“What the…” Erin starts but never finishes as Harry hits her in the back of the head, knocking her out.
Tenisha jumps back avoiding the tussle only for Brent and Harry to turn on her now the biggest threat, at least from their own assessments, is neutralised.
“What are you two doing?” Tenisha asks as she continues to back away from them and toward the opening in the cuboid, which she has completely forgotten about.
“We knew it had to be aliens.” Harry offers as the pair of men continue edging towards her.
“This is our time…our discovery…we won’t share it.” Brent utters as his face is split wide by a mad smile, the scalpel in his hands waving left and right at eye level.
“Come on…we can talk this out…no need for anymore violence.” Tenisha says with her hands raised to show that she is of no threat.
“There is no way…” Brent begins but never finishes as Erin slams a section of metal tubing across the back of his head. His body drops to the floor, the scalpel skittering along the metal floor plates drilled into the ice. Harry manages to spin round only to be met with an elbow to the temple that knocks him off balance. His body crashes to the floor with a hard thud, as Tenisha kicks the scalpel further away from Brent’s possible grasp and then heads for the console where she activates the panic button.
Seconds later nine armed UnSA security personnel pour into the habitat, their guns immediately aimed at Brent and Harry.
“Sit-rep?” One of UnSA security personnel orders to no one in particular.
“They went mad and tried to kill us!” Erin roars.
“Alien influence?” The lead agent queries concerned, though his tone gives nothing away.
“No. They were mad before they got here.” Tenisha replies as she shakes her head.
“Take them away.” The agent demands seconds before Harry and Brent are hauled up by their arms and dragged off.
“Should we report this to Doctor Wells?” The agent asks.
“No, its fine. We’ll handle it from here.” Tenisha assures the security agent who nods his acceptance at the order in the moments before he withdraws to leave Erin and Tenisha alone to continue their work.
“Just make sure they’re locked up…or out…whichever is easier!” Erin calls after the UnSA security lead, but he makes no attempt at response as the habitat is put into lockdown once again.
“Now what?” Erin asks after a while. She knew she couldn’t trust those two. Something about them had been off from the minute they’d walked in and seen her stood there. They’d exchanged glances but yet didn’t offer a word until Tenisha arrived and began introductions.
“Well, scans show there’s a breathable atmosphere inside.” Tenisha replies.
“Wait…the aliens have an atmosphere we can breathe?” Erin asks confused.
“No idea, but the atmosphere on the other side of that opening is human sustaining.”
“Are we really going to do this?” Erin asks barely able to get her words out.
“Well…I am. Don’t know about you.” Tenisha replies with a laugh.
“Oh hell yeah.” Erin confirms a short time before she and Tenisha cross the threshold of the opening together to find themselves in a blank and empty black room that is illuminated, but from where neither Erin nor Tenisha can work out.
Then the wall in front of them changes. At first the two women are sure that the wall is now just a dim yellow mass. That is until their eyes adjust and they realise that there is a form amongst the yellow. But the yellow isn’t a mass, Tenisha realises, it’s a haze.
At first the form lacks detail but as it gets closer its appearance becomes clearer until finally the women realise there are in fact two forms side by side. The forms comprise of five tendril-like limbs each, the ends of which are flat and wide, while their bodies appear as misshapen sacks that ripple like a jellyfish.
Tenisha notes that the beings have no discernible eyes, mouth, ears, nose or face as far as she can see. Instead, they appear to almost be standing on three of their tendril-like appendages. Except that they aren’t standing, at least not in the same way that a human would. The beings are not holding their weight on those appendages as they seem to be being kept upright by their floating bodies. Tenisha assumes the haze is in fact a recreation of their atmosphere and that they are, for lack of a better term, swimming in it.
“What now?” Erin asks, speaking quietly out the side of her mouth. She has no idea if the aliens can understand her.
“Introductions.” Tenisha offers as she steps forward with a hint of hesitation.
“I’m Tenisha Faulkner.” Tenisha says as she puts her hand to her chest to emphasise she is talking about herself.
“And this is Erin MacAlister.” Tenisha then says gesturing with the same hand to Erin, who simply nods in response. She doesn’t know why, but she does and feels stupid for doing it seeing as she has no way of knowing if an alien even understands a nod.
“It’s nice to meet you.” Tenisha offers with a bow of her head. She can think of no other way of showing respect, though she has no idea if these beings have the concept of respect. Not that such a thing matters now that she has done it.
“Welcome to the Sol System.” Tenisha continues with a smile more out of habit than conscious decision.
Then Tenisha outstretches her arm toward the beings, a clear, at least in human terms, gesture for them to introduce themselves. But the aliens don’t speak; instead they’re two spare tendrils raise moments before they go into a mirror of each other’s actions and movements.
Whatever they’re saying its short, likely an introduction, but Tenisha can’t work out the blur of motion. It’s just too fast, he thinks as she stands there.
“What are they doing?” Erin asks remaining still.
“I think they’re trying to converse with us.” Tenisha replies honestly as she looks back at Erin.
“What is that…sign language?” Erin replies joking.
“You’re a genius.” Tenisha exclaims with a wide smile. Such a thought had never even dawned on Tenisha. Maybe it is sign language, or at least a form of it. And if it is then maybe they can translate it.