The clearing was surrounded by blue-green vegetation.
In it were arranged five rounded stone stools, three on one side and two on the other.
On one side three men were seated. They looked like men, but on their backs were folded wings that don’t seem to have bones in them. The wings were part of their bodies and they were mostly composed of tendons with wonderfully articulated muscles.
Except hey don’t have facial expressions. Stolid stone faces. The wonderful articulation of their wings failed to manifest in their faces.
On the other side was Dr. Karanhi Krithi, our exobiologist extraordinaire.
I sat on the stone stool besides her. My name is Col. Thadeus Kowalski, Mission Commander for this expedition to the Planet Novus. We are the second and longer-duration expedition to this planet. Our mission now, as shown by this present meeting, is to secure permission for us to send a third expedition.
This is not possible without Dr. Krithi.
You see, the alien race, which Dr. Krithi called the Antaratman, don’t talk. The Stone Faces don’t speak and have no spoken means of communication. So our universal translators don’t work.
When we arrived at Planet Novus it was supposed to be a routine mission of gathering information and geographical survey, like the first one. Novus doesn’t seem to have anything of value, except for its location in space that makes it suited as jumping off point for longer space journeys.
Dr. Krithi’s choice as exobiologist caused some mild surprise and irritation. Not because of competence, as she was extraordinarily competent, but as a member of this expedition. The mission project team, and to be honest I did, too, felt that she was not fit socially to be among active, ambitious extroverts.
But my hand was forced. The selected crewmember, our vivacious, life-of-the-party exobiologist got sick. And the short list contained only one other name.
You don’t have to guess who.
I agree with the general description: The Epitome of An Ice Maiden.
Other names: Social dampener, Android automaton, and Walking Computer would be the kindest descriptions.
And it turned out that this personal quality was the means by which we would communicate with the Antaratman.
The first time I encountered her on the ship is typical.
She barged into my cabin without knocking, and said:
“Ted, the temperature on our biological specimens needs to be five degrees lower. Please have it so.”
Then she paused, as if waiting for a response.
I wasn’t capable of responding. I was shocked.
Seeing that there was no response forthcoming, she left.
I didn’t call out and scold her: “Hey, knock on the door!”
I didn’t summon her to explain that official requests should be coursed through the steward, and if that fails, to the first officer.
I was shocked because she called me “Ted”. No “Sir”, no “Colonel”, just “Ted”. I resent being called Ted. My name is Thadeus!
I wasn’t capable of responding because I was willfully exerting my personal control not to react to this grave breach of protocol.
Then I remembered.
Dr. Krithi doesn’t have emotions. She hasn’t learned personal control or social etiquette. She doesn’t feel fear, anger, or outrage. It is what she is.
I imagined how it would turn out if Dr. Krithi had to respond to Mr. Spock’s revelation that he loved her.
Chuckling to myself, I called the first officer to tell him to lower the temperature in the specimens.
“Oh?, the Ice Maiden has been at you, too?”
I laughed and told him just to get it done.
On the first time I saw Dr. Krithi with an Antaratman nothing happened. Literally. They were just standing there, not doing anything. I looked around to see if could find anything to use as a weapon when she looked at me and motioned me to be still.
The Antaratman then turned aside, and flew away.
She then came to me and said “I will give my initial report in your office.”
Not cabin, nor stateroom, but office. But I got used to Dr. Krithi calling the Captain’s Cabin an office.
“Ted, first of all, they are at least as intelligent as we are. They have tribes. I call their species Antaratman.”
“That’s what they call themselves?”
“That’s what I call them” she said.
“How come I didn’t hear you speak to them?
“They don’t speak, not with words or gestures.”
“Telepathy?” I marveled.
She said it’s something she describes as ‘feelings-sensation’. There are no pictures in your head, just feelings. She felt it when she was out on exploration. Fear and Curiosity. So she went where the feelings originated and met an Antaratman. Later, she said his name is Rasanayaka.
Of course, there was a celebration on board. This was sensational news for the crew, especially the Science Division.
First Contact with an alien species!
A Mission First!
We will be famous throughout the history books.
Typically, Dr. Krithi didn’t join in the celebration. But she did lead in the numerous briefings and discussion about the Antaratman later. And she would ‘meet’ with them, in the ‘feelings-sensation’ manner, where Rasanayaka will stand or sit still for an hour or more with Dr. Krithi.
I set the guidelines, with the concurrence of the Science Division and especially Dr. Krithi, on how to deal with the Antaratman.
No interactions. Do not talk to them, or stare at them, just ignore them. Just go ahead with what you are doing. And they will do the same.
In one of the discussions regarding our alien hosts, it was discussed how come no other member of the crew can have those ‘feelings-sensation’ with the Antaratman. Dr. Krithi agrees that it must have been her upbringing. Because she hasn’t learned to be emotional, she didn’t have emotional mindsets, no preconceptions, no emotional luggage. There was nothing that interferes with the “feelings-sensation”.
There are members of the crew who can dimly sense these feelings, but only Dr. Krithi can have them, and seemingly broadcast them, so clearly. The main difference, she said, is that the sensation has the quality of an originating signal. She said she knows that the feelings are coming from others and not from inside her.
It’s just like a feeling of premonition, of something ‘not right’, or something known as Extra Sensory Perception. The Antaratman phenomena is not just the feeling but also the identity of who is sending the ‘feelings-sensation.’
It was an eventful three months, earth time, during the expedition.
Rasanayaka helped in identifying their cities. So the expedition has holograms of beautiful waterfalls, mysterious caves, and their aerial buildings.
They brought back lots of samples of vegetation and minerals to be brought home for study.
And so the expedition draws to a close. It was wildly successful.
Now, in the clearing, Dr. Krithi had earlier asked me to join her for this last meeting with the Antaratman. She said they know that I am the Mission Commander. So I came.
We have been sitting still for almost an hour now. I can now dimly feel the ‘feelings-sensation’ around me.
And surprisingly, I can dimly feel the sadness inside Dr. Krithi. Actually, perhaps because of the weeks exposed to one another, I can now understand Dr. Krithi. And I must admit that I actually am getting to like her.
Then, with a smooth motion, Dr. Krithi stood up and walked halfway towards the other side. Then she fell on her knees, head bowed, and sobbed. Like a little girl lost.
Rasanayaka also stood up and came over Dr. Krithi. I didn’t know what he intended because of the Stone Face. He stood above of her and touched her shoulder.
She stood up. Placing her hands on each of his shoulders, she looked into his eyes. The eyes held.
And I felt, feelings-sensation wise, a feeling of consolation, of comfort, and of agreement. She then removed her hands from Rasanayaka’s shoulders. They looked at each other for a short while, then Rasanayaka turned around and with his group, flew away.
She turned to me, wiping a tear, and said:
“It’s alright. I will be back. He will be expecting me”
I wasn’t capable of responding. I was shocked.
The Ice Maiden was smiling!
Later, in preparation for the departure, I was making my final reports on the expedition. But there was something in the back of my mind that nagged me.
So, activating my reference materials, I recognized it.
Dr. Krithi couldn’t have known the names of the species, and the name of his contact.
They don’t use words. But they might as well have been.
Antaratman is Sanskrit for Feelings Inside.
Rasanayaka is Sanskrit for Lord of Feelings.
And, as a personal aside, she lets me call her “Karanhi” when we’re alone. But she still calls me “Ted”.