Science Fiction Fantasy


“From out here, it looks like any old flea market back home. Maybe a little neater, cleaner, and more organized.” The four Earthlings, with their two Andromeda hosts, paused at the entrance to the market. The crew from DS 9, the United States Space Agency’s first intergalactic venture, were big guys. The Commander, Air Force Colonel Bill Means, was 6’2” and 2 inches shorter than his #2, Navy Lt. Commander, Wallace Bean, but both were a head shorter than any of the Hees, the residents of Messier, the largest planet in the galaxy. The Hees were human-like, with arms, legs, heads, eyes, but devoid of hair, fingers, toes, and remarkably had no mouths. And, there were no discernable differences in the genders—if there are genders as we know them on earth.

Everything about the mission was light-years, so to speak, beyond anything ever imagined. First, the message from the Hees leader asking for a meeting with life forms from our solar system.  Somehow the Hees suspected there was intelligent life here and had developed this machine that would interpret any language into electronic signals that conveyed cogent thought to the recipient. The engineers at USSA estimated the machine was fifty years old—and had been traveling through space for all of that time. The essence of the message was that there are life forms in the Andromeda galaxy, on a planet in a solar system similar to ours and they were asking us to meet and become allies. If the message had arrived even five years earlier, the Space Agency would have just shrugged it off—there was no way for us to travel to Andromeda, it was light-years away, and the leaders, politicians were not willing to risk inviting the aliens to Earth. Then, just three years ago, a couple of brothers down in Louisiana perfected their “transporter” ala Star Trek, and now we are able to move matter at thousands of times the speed of light. The process involved disassembling the matter, man, machine, whatever, propelling the molecules through space, and then reassembling them, accurately at some specified location. The DSM, Deep Space Module, had been ‘transported’ into an orbit around Messier, and over the next ten days, Colonel Means, Commander Wallace, the rest of the crew and supplies for a six-month mission were shipped into the landing zone inside the Module. For the two days after arrival, everything was “normal” in that everything was as expected inside the module. 

 Then the alien arrived, just one alien, traveling alone inside a spacecraft built for one, not much different from one of our space suits except that it had some kind of propulsion device on the back. He was hovering outside the DSM for a couple of hours before the crew began to “hear” him speaking. He was using that same kind of telepathy gadget that had traveled to Earth. He/She/It identified itself as a leader, welcomed the visitors, invited them to the surface of the planet. The crew was able to determine that the planet had an atmosphere similar to Earth’s with nitrogen/oxygen air, the temperature was cool but within what we’d consider a normal range, so they drew straws and four of the eight started gathering tools and gear to make the first-ever visit to an alien world. 

 The transporter set them down in a vacant area near the center of a city, of sorts. The crew learned quickly that things were quite different. They met with a group of Hees, the name of the race not referring to their planet, or country. The individuals did not have names, made no noises, they did not have partnerships or relationships except parent/child—and it turned out that there were no genders. 

The crew was just getting used to the telepathic communications, worrying that their private thoughts were being transmitted or heard. Their host, a very nice “person,” thoughtful, asking over and over if the crew needed anything, was leading them on a tour of the city. It was clean, tidy, but crowded and eerily quiet. That lack of noise was disconcerting for the Earthlings—there was no laughter, no shouting, and worse, no music. They walked for an hour, seeing a medical facility, a school, a government building all with surprising similarities to ours, then they came upon the market.

“Should we stop for a bite before we go in? They won’t have food—at least nothing that we can consume,” one of the crewmen asked the Commander.

“Aren’t you guys anxious to see what’s out there? Don’t you have some kind of snack in your pack?” He paused to pull his backpack around, “Wait a minute, I have something, I put a dozen of these really good protein bars in here.” He unzipped the bag and handed two bars to the younger man.

“Thanks, Chief, that’ll tide me over.”

They both stared at their host and thought “OK, let’s go.”

The Hees nodded and started walking into the market. They walked about thirty feet to the second booth and froze. 

“Is that?” There were no signs, but the displays behind the glass doors were indisputable. They were selling body parts and what appeared to be organs, perhaps lungs, and hearts.

Their host sent a message, asking essentially whether the Earthlings objected to the exhibit. The Colonel took a deep breath and set himself for an exchange of ideas. He didn’t want to be too critical but had to be honest that on earth organs and body parts were not considered commercial property.  The Hees didn’t understand why but accepted the notion that the Earthlings objected.  The Hees saw this as a perfectly logical element of commerce.  That little exchange of thoughts set them up nicely for the next booth. They couldn’t figure it out at first, but they stopped and stared. They didn’t know what they were witnessing. The host read the thoughts and explained. It seems all the Hees, or at least healthy ones, were capable of producing embryos that were expelled from an orifice in the abdomens. Then the embryos were placed in a nest of sorts for several weeks of gestation. The display was filled with these nests and were for sale to anyone interested. There was a segment of the population that could not produce embryos and were anxious buyers. There were two tables in the back of the booth where Hees could deliver new embryos for the market. Again, the Earthlings were at odds with this seeming lack of morality.

The rest of the market tour was just about as interesting. They learned that the Hees do not go to schools. Instead, they learned via telepathy at little booths in markets like this one. Parents, or a parent, would bring an adolescent to the booth, around age ten, and in one hour would absorb all the accumulated knowledge of the race. 

Two of the crew members were physicians and had a lot of questions about medicine, health care, how the Hees consumed nourishment, and how their bodies managed the “food” if there was any. They “asked” their host if there were medical or healthcare workers on the planet. It turns out there were, there were a couple nearby very anxious to meet and communicate with the Earthlings. They worked closely together for the duration of the mission. The Hees were remarkable beings in the judgment of the earth doctors. The life cycle was remarkable, similar to humans in some respects, but vastly different in others. There were no individual male or female beings, instead, they were hermaphrodites, all carrying all of what humans see as uniquely male or female reproductive capabilities. The embryos were remarkably strong and grew, and matured at a much quicker pace than humans. Those in the baskets at the market were typically only a few hours old, but in 10 weeks or so would develop mature organs and respiratory and cardiac systems. In ten more weeks, they could walk. Physically, other than the missing mouth and digits, they were much like humans. After gestation and the growth spurt over the first five to six months, they age at a pace similar to humans. Their lifespan was about 50-60 years. Nearly all deaths were attributable to age. It seemed the planet had no pathogens. There didn’t appear to be a big variety of vegetation, the fields were filled with a plant with fruit similar to oranges or grapefruit and they made up 90% of the diet for the entire planet. There was also abundant water, heavy in minerals, and between the fruit and the water, the diet was nearly perfect.

Six months later, the crew convened at the USSA headquarters building in Maryland. The mission had been flawless, the next step was to evaluate what they had learned, and examined the findings to determine whether any of it would be of any value to Earth. There was some disagreement about divulging the brisk market for embryos and body parts. Most could see there was an upside to it, on the other hand, it went against the foundation of our morality. They put it aside, for now, and focused on how the planet avoided any cultivation of bacteria or viruses. The highest priority, however, was preparing for the visit from the Mees, where to take them, how to protect them, and how best to learn more from them. The history books would see this as the most significant event in all of recorded time, and often quoted Colonel Means’ statement regarding the mission, “We have proved beyond any doubt that ‘We are not alone.’”

August 06, 2023 18:08

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