For many years now, she had listened to transmissions. That far speck of mud and sand was noisy for those who knew how to hear. Her mother called to her.
“It is time to prepare. They are coming.”
“Why do they come?”
“They call this, our home, a Near Earth Object. It is near because I wish it so.”
“Will we pass close?”
“No. But close enough.”
Her mother spoke of them. Biped, hominids. As was she.
“When they arrive, they will have been tested by the rigours of space… if they arrive. Their leaky vessels are primitive and inefficient.”
“Can’t they advance?”
“Perhaps this is a stage too far for them. They are incautious. But like the monkey-children they are, they dip a toe into the water and wonder, ‘Is it safe? Will it destroy us? What is it made of?’ This and more they must know.”
“Will they understand?”
“This matter isn’t clear to me. The signs that they might are swamped by contrary indications and noise.”
“What are they called, again?”
“They call themselves Americans and their craft – if it can be called that – is named NEO.”
“What must I do and say?”
Her mother explained, as much as was within her knowledge.
“When they see you they will think a certain thing. You do not need to reinforce this but it will go better if you do. We do not need to change this place as they will understand nothing.”
* * *
Had they found it?
Then a Southern drawl, “What in tarnation?”
Unmistakeable sounds of whooping and excitement.
The signals Mother had received hinted of a rudimentary planetary civilisation. Brash, unashamed, shouting their signatures to the ears of the universe. Now they were here. Probing, testing, checking the edges of their cradle.
“Over here. Commander. I’m looking at a device of unknown origin. I’m registering trace quantities of nitrogen and oxygen. It appears to be resting on a flat surface, around six foot by nine foot.”
This was followed by more excited cheering. The sound faded. All internal activity ceased. They would figure out the airlock or they wouldn’t. If they did, the failing hydroponics would suggest its own story.
Chip… chip… chip. Faint, through the rock.
Then a hiss of gases released.
* * *
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