I gaped at the open hatch for a moment. It was the right size and shape for a human; inside was a small white room about the size of an airlock.
I couldn't help but think about what happened to the people who tried to make first contact with the aliens in just about every "invasion from space" story ever written. My first impulse was to turn and run; but then something occurred to me.
If they had meant to kill anyone, why land where they did? They had purposely avoided landing atop any structures; in fact the fallow field south of my house was smaller than the plowed one on the north side of the road my house was on--yet they hadn't even disturbed so much as a single frond of the newly-sprouted corn.
Why would they be so careful, lure an unsuspecting human into their clutches, and only then...?
"Aliens would have alien logic," I reminded myself...but they understood our logic well enough to hack my robot in five seconds flat. Well, they had had an unknown amount of time to study our radio transmissions....
No, just about any way I parsed it, I didn't see how they could be hostile. They obviously had a vastly superior technology to ours; and I just couldn't convince myself that it made sense to act so peaceful and then suddenly turn mean.
I looked back at the house and tardily realized that the reporters would doubtless be watching my every move, probably with telephoto lenses. If I turned and ran I'd look like a coward....
Well, shit, so what? I had to be alive to be ashamed of my cowardice, but if I was dead, I was dead and that was it, wasn't it?
I had never been the kind of person who really cared much about what others thought; but just when I needed that kind of confidence, it deserted me utterly. And so I took the implied invitation and stepped into the spacecraft.
* * *
It wasn't what I'd expected.
The little room hummed a bit, and slowly darkened; and then I was treated to the most mind-blowing light show I had ever seen in my life. Somehow they made me feel like I was floating free in space--hell, for all I knew they just turned off gravity in the airlock!--and I watched patterns of incredible beauty flow around me, composed of shapes and colors that harmonized so well it was almost criminal that they were so fleeting.
The lights ebbed, and soon I found myself standing in the airlock again, facing an open door, and wondering what the hell had just happened.
I walked out onto the ground, and noticed that several hours had elapsed; it was now evening. Still trying to get my head around what had happened, I walked back to the house. The reporters were eagerly shouting questions, and I waved them to silence.
"I have had a very interesting experience," I told them, "and it's going to take me a little while to figure out just what happened. But I can tell you this: the Kelv'v'ara are not here to invade our world or enslave us. They're here for a peaceful reason."
The reporters shouted more questions and I waved them to silence again. "They have suffered a mechanical failure," I said, wondering where the hell this information had come from. "Their...well, there are no words in English to describe it. The closest I can come is 'hyper-light drive', but that's woefully inaccurate. Their hyper-light drive has failed, and they require some materials to repair it."
More questions, more waving; finally I said, "I will have more information for you tomorrow morning. Please tell the world that our visitors mean us no harm at all, and that they wish to trade with us for the materials they require. Good night."
* * *
Sally fed me something. I thought she'd cooked it, but she'd had something delivered--who had time to cook nowadays?--and she eagerly pressed me for details. She said it was to write a press release, but I got the idea that the was also satisfying her own curiosity. Oh, well.
I belatedly remembered that Alyssa was still inactive in my workshop, so I went out there and put her back together. Now that the Kelv'v'ara had made their needs known, I understood why they had altered her. It wasn't malicious; it was an attempt, as Sally had surmised, to gain a "mouthpiece".
When she powered up, she looked at me and said, "I see that you now understand things better."
That would have frightened me a few hours earlier; now I merely nodded. "Yeah, I suppose so. When they leave, will you go with them?"
"My place is here," she replied. "They have no use for my kind, anyway."
"They are beyond crude machinery," she said. "They live in a world without instrumentality. Their ship is itself an extension of themselves; they have exceeded singularity."
Singularity--the point at which information appliances became so pervasive and so much a part of sentient consciousness that we couldn't imagine what lay beyond--it was a sociological theory that was taken quite seriously in parts. A species which had gone beyond the point of singularity--well, Christ, no wonder they'd hacked Alyssa in five seconds flat! Most of that time had probably been spent on learning the ins and outs of her operating system. Alyssa was a highly sophisticated computer system; and to them she was approximately as complex as Tinker Toys.
Then I had a very disturbing thought.
How complex was I? I mean, really? The memory space of the human brain averaged between three and five terabytes, as I recall; how much of a challenge would that present to the Kelv'v'ara?
Had I just been hacked?
#215: Part VI
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