This was the first SF short I ever submitted. It was rejected as not quite what they were looking for that particular anthology and the central plot that “aliens have been watching and judging Humanity” has been done and done, and while I like this trope, I’d prefer it with a new twist, a fresh perspective. It’s true, in hindsight, that while the events that play out might be new at least to me, this first contact short story doesn’t really offer anything ground-breakingly new. But there’s a hidden issue in this short story that I don’t know if many will catch. I hope to create other short stories with these characters and we’ll see if that particular issue comes to light later.
The original was “properly” formatted for submission, but I’m still working out how to format things here. So, for now, each paragraph is separated from the next until I can work out how to make it indent the first line. CSS will probably handle that, I just need to figure out how.
All that said…
By Bill Blohm
Standing on the bridge, Johans had to keep looking between the scanner display and the stars to locate the other ship. The scanner gave him the location, but it was only by very careful observation he could even see the occultation of the stars. Whatever ship it was, it was visually stealth perfect. He’d even used the visual zoom on the viewer screen and had trouble manually following it. It was only when he tied the visual to the scanner that he was able to keep it in the viewer, and even then it was almost impossible to detect.
Wulfgar, his friend and team-member, looked up from his console. “Well, I’ve worked out the path of that ship over the last six hours. It’s definitely adjusting course to intercept us. In about another three hours of data I should have an intercept time.”
“How far away is it, anyway?”
“It works out to about 120,000 kilometers. Give or take. Vector seems to be 30 degrees, but that’s changing, obviously.”
Tiana, the third member of the team, spoke up. “That’s shallow. That should give us plenty of time to get away.”
“I’m not convinced of that,” said Johans. “At worst, it’ll be a tail chase. But she’ll catch us, eventually. She’s advanced, that’s for sure.”
“She’s definitely not one of ours. The Federation’s, I mean,” said Wulfgar.
“All we can do is wait.” Tiana shrugged. “I hate waiting.”
“How’s it going, Wulf?” asked Johans. “It’s been three hours now.”
“I’m re-running the data right now. It’s not looking good, or right. If this is right, they’re going to intercept us in no more than 5 hours.”
“Well, that takes care of running, if we were so inclined.”
“So, what are we going to do,” asked Tiana as she brought in some sandwiches and drinks, “just sit around and wait?”
“Pretty much all we can do,” answered Johans. “From what Wulf’s worked out, she’s faster and more maneuverable than we are. So, all we can do is prep systems and wait. If we don’t interfere with the interception, it’s safer for all involved. Hopefully, they’re not aggressive.”
“Well, the torps are online, fore and aft 50s cleared, loaded, and hot. Nothing’s tracking, but if they attack we’ll be ready in seconds to reply.” Tiana thought for a few seconds. “There really isn’t much else to do but break out the personals. Somehow, I don’t think that’s going to help.”
“Probably not,” said Johans.
“Suits?” asked Wulfgar.
“Plenty of time for that later,” answered Johans as he took a sandwich and bottle of water. Settling into his chair he took a big bite of his sandwich. “What we need to figure out is if we need to send out a mayday. If the ship attacks we may not have time to do so ourselves. If it doesn’t attack, we don’t need to send it out. I’m thinking we should prep a mayday into the system with a panic button.”
“Wouldn’t be any different than anything else we typically do,” Tiana said. “Where would you like it set up? Your console?”
“Set it up on all three, Tia,” Wulfgar suggested. “That way, any one of us can send it if necessary, unless all the consoles get wiped out. In which case, it’s not going to matter too much anyway.”
“That makes sense. Johans?”
<p“Yeah, it does. Anything else we need to do? Ok, Tia, rig that mayday up. I’m going to go make a recorded report of what’s going on. I’ll have it ready for you to burst-send in, oh, about ten.”
“Will do, Johans.”
“Wulf, keep an eye on things, especially that ship. Let me know if anything changes.” With a glance around the bridge, Johans left for his room.
Tiana had just finished rigging up the mayday when Johans returned to the bridge. Seeing him enter, she spoke up, “Good timing. I just finished the mayday. All any one of us needs do is punch this big M button on any of the screens and it’ll send out a mayday at maximum power, repeating as long as it has power unless it’s shut down.”
“Great, Tia. Wulf, how’s the other ship?”
“Still there, Johans,” said Wulfgar with a grin. “It’s grown on me, though. I’ve managed to study it a little, and I have to say it is one curvaceous beauty. Kinda reminds me of a cross between two ships I saw in some old videos my granddad got from his dad. One ship was called Andromeda Ascendant from an old series of some kind and the other was some kind of probability ship from an old movie about some hitchhikers. This one seems to have all the beautiful curves of the Andromeda and is as hard to pin down as the other one.”
“You and those old videos,” replied Johans, shaking his head, grinning. “Be careful, Wulf! You don’t want to get Mjolnira jealous!”
Johans went to stand by Tiana at the comm board. When she looked up at him, he said, “I’ve got two things I want you to do. Just in case, I want you to trigger both radio signals at the same time. It’s probably not going to help any doing it that way, anyway, but it just might give someone warning if necessary.”
“I can do that, we’ve got enough radios and power to do it easily enough.”
“Great! The easy one, I want you to burst-send the av file 20090226.215539 to Solterra. Make it a priority signal for the AFC team. Also, send it in all directions, not aimed directly at Solterra, just in case.”
After a few seconds, Tiana said, “Ok, found the file and flagged it. It should only take me a few minutes to set it up. So, what’s the hard one?”
“I want to try something. I want you to send a live video of the captains’ chair along with audio. I want you to base the measurement unit on the length of the audio. The audio I want sent is ‘Unknown ship, this is SFS Mjolnira.’ I want you to transmit that on the highest frequency you think best, but not the highest available. This one I’d like us to broadly beam in the general direction of the alien. You with me so far?” At Tiana’s nod he continued, “I want it beamed in a pattern: Two units length followed by one unit, then two units, then one unit, two units, two units, one unit, and finally two units. Pause one unit between each of those. After that sequence is sent, wait five minutes before repeating. In that five minutes of silence, monitor for a reply.”
“What’s up with that?” asked Wulfgar.
“Well, several things, actually. First, it’ll indicate a deliberate pattern, one that is not just from noise or some piece of equipment, I hope. Second, the five minute break then repeating will hopefully give them a chance to realize we’re waiting for a reply. The cycling will, obviously, give them a chance to find it if they’re doing any kind of scanning. There’s a chance they’ll hit the frequency during the five minutes of silence, but by continually repeating it the odds are it’ll only happen once if at all. Any comments, Tia?”
“I can rig the cycle, audio, and visual without too much trouble. I’ve got a couple of scripts I can leverage off. The only question I have is if there’s any particular reason for that specific pattern?”
“Not really. I recall my great grandfather used to tap that out while waiting, sometimes, and it’s stuck with me ever since. I asked once and he told me it was a radio pattern that used to mean something like ‘Hello, anyone listening?’ I just figured I’d use it.”
“Ok, no problem. I’ll let you know when it’s ready, Johans. Power level?”
“Let’s start out with 25% power. They’re line of sight, even at that distance.” Nodding her agreement, Tiana turned to her board and went to work.
“Wulf, any update on when we can expect them alongside?”
“They’re advanced, that’s for sure. If they keep up this speed, I figure they should be in solid view in five or six hours and we should see them coming up alongside or whatever within four hours of that. So, call it eight to ten hours. That’s assuming they’re going to decelerate like we do and all.”
Johan dropped into his captains’ chair and swiveled to face his control board. He linked in the viewer and scanner and set about looking for the alien ship. When he found it, he was amazed that the other ship had moved so close. The more he looked, the more he had to agree with Wulfgar’s assessment—that was indeed one beautiful ship.
Eventually, Tiana indicated she had everything ready to go. Johans had her feed the frequency monitor to his and Wulfgar’s boards as well so they could help monitor it. Once she indicated that was done Johans took a last look at the position of the other ship, settled himself, and nodded.
Tiana triggered the dual transmission. The burst was on its way to Solterra in the same amount of time it took for the hailing message to cycle through. After several cycles with no response, during one of the silent periods, Wulfgar finally said, “You know, Johans, do I have to do this? I see you enough as it is.”
Johans threw a stylus at him as Tiana broke out laughing. Before he could respond the silence was broken by what seemed to be erratic warbling and a picture popped up where there had been just noise. Tiana quickly tuned in the slightly off-frequency incoming signal. In a flash she realized what was going on and put another radio system online for their outgoing transmissions. That way, one system was receiving the alien transmissions, one was transmitting their own visual and audio, and both were fed onto the consoles. With everything set up and checked, she looked at Johans and nodded. At his return nod, she stopped their cyclic hailing and switched it over to full time transmission.
With the two-way audio and visual system running, all three studied the picture from the alien ship. In less than a minute it was obvious the aliens had also set up a similar system: it spread its appendages and held them there as sound, carefully repeated, came from the speakers.
Johans raised his arms from his sides and spread his hands to show he held no weapons. “I hear you and I see you and I wish no conflict.” As had the alien, he repeated that carefully a few times, hoping that was indeed what the alien was expressing. When the alien lowered its appendages, Johans did likewise. The two, alien and human, sat quietly for a few minutes, studying each other and getting used to the sight of the other being. Pointing to himself, Johans said, “Johans.” Gesturing from the top of his head towards his feet, he said, “Human.” Johans repeated that sequence two more times then waited.
Stilted and with a slightly different inflection, the alien responded with “Human”, indicating the entirety of Johans, followed by “Yohans” as he thrust towards Johans. Johans nodded and the alien gestured to indicate itself.
“Chthsulhoo”. Gesturing to its entire body, “Kagkleefka”.
Following the alien’s lead, Johans gestured to indicate the entire alien then the alien itself: “Kagkleefka. Chthsulhoo”. The alien quivered, which Johans could only hope meant agreement. Trying to think of something else that might be common, and so get the basics of communication under way, he held up one finger, then another, first on one hand then on the other, counting: “One…Two…Three…” up to “Ten”.
Back and forth over the next few hours Johans and Chthsulhoo traded vocabulary and gradually began to develop a basic grasp of each other’s linguistics.
Tiana stared at her screen then twiddled with her radio. As soon as she was sure she signaled Wulfgar. She quickly let him know she needed to kill the outgoing signal. Wulfgar passed that on to Johans who accepted the request. Tiana promptly killed the outgoing signal and when Johans turned to face her, she just said one word, “Attack.”
“If I’d not had automatic monitors I wouldn’t have caught it. But look,” she said as she transferred a picture of the frequencies to their consoles, “See this high frequency? And this Lower frequency? And the phase?” She waited until they both nodded. “It creates a binaural tone. I’ve read about these, and this particular combination will put almost everyone under within seconds. It’s not accidental, but whether or not it’s an actual attack I can’t say. Better safe than sorry. So, now what?”
“Ok, so it’s there. Chthsulhoo’s behavior changed subtly about four minutes ago. When did this binaural tone first show up?”
Tiana checked her console. “About five minutes ago.”
“Could it be that he was getting puzzled that we weren’t being affected by the signal?” asked Wulfgar.
“Possibly. Put us back on the air for now.” Johans turned back to his console. “Be prepared to duplicate the signal but don’t transmit it until I say.”
Chthsulhoo had faced away from the video while they had talked. As the feed came back online, it again faced the video. Johans wasn’t sure, but he thought he saw a subtle change in the alien’s demeanor. “We had an equipment shutdown”, Johans said carefully, as he tried to pantomime what he was saying. When he was sure Chthsulhoo understood, he glanced at Wulfgar, who held up two fingers. “When you come alongside, what then?”
Though they were conversing, after a fashion, it still took some miming to get the whole concept across. Communication was slow, but like the tortoise it got there.
“You and I meet,” was Chthsulhoo’s reply. “Your ship.”
“I and one other come over. We send a line and cross with the line.”
“Wulfgar, light up the airlock.” Johans waited while Chthsulhoo spoke to someone off-screen. When the alien looked back Johans said, “We need to take care of some ship work. We will resume talking here in two of our hours, before you come over to our ship. Is that agreeable, Chthsulhoo??”
“It is, Johans. In two of your hours.”
As soon as the communications went dark, Johans swung around to face the other two. “Tia, can you verify that binaural tone, what it would do?” She nodded. “Wulf, work with Tia to incorporate that binaural tone into Mjolnira’s internal defense systems. Modify it to enhance its range of impact. I want to be able to trigger it just like any of our other defenses.” Wulf nodded. “Ok, let’s get to work, we’ve got less than two hours.”
In less than two hours, everything was done and the team was back on the bridge. After each reported on what they’d done Wulfgar filled in the other two on triggering the latest addition to security.
“We go live in just a few minutes. From this point on, I want all of us wearing our Heads Up Displays. Additionally, we will only communicate with each other by Foundation sign when we are together. Wulf, I want a monitor on all three HUDs: if any one of the HUDs goes down, I want that binaural tone triggered. Tia, I want an alarm fed to the HUDs that will go off immediately the binaural tone is present, either from them or from us.”
“I’ll need five minutes to get the HUDs triggering the system. The basics are already in the system,” said Wulf, turning to his console.
“Likewise, as I’ve already got the monitors feeding such an alarm to my console. I just need to route it to the HUDs.”
No sooner was the additional work done than Chthsulhoo appeared on the consoles. Johans nodded, and Tiana triggered the return transmissions. “Greetings, Chthsulhoo. Are you ready to come over?”
“Greetings Johans. We are.”
“A few minutes to suit up and we will be ready in our airlock to receive you.”
“We, also, need time to get in our gear.”
“Do you wish us to leave these communications open so that your officer may observe?”
“Thank you for concern, but there is no need. We have our own communications with ship.”
“Of course. We would do the same. I shall meet you soon.”
As soon as communications were shut off, Johans spoke. “Wulf, you’re outside the airlock, on guard. Tia, you’re in the airlock with me.”
As the outside airlock doors opened, Johans and Tiana took the time to appreciate the dark beauty of space. The airlock happened to open almost directly onto the center of the galaxy and the band of stars was glorious. The alien ship was maybe a hundred yards away and as they watched the side of the ship opened, revealing four aliens. One waved and held up a tube. Tiana moved to one side of the airlock opening as Johans waved back and moved to the other. In less than a minute a small sphere entered, trailing a thin line. Tiana moved to secure the line as Johans moved back into view in the opening. Once Tiana signaled the line secure, Johans waved to the other ship. The line pulled tight and a minute later one of the aliens clipped onto the line and pushed off from the other ship. The other alien clipped onto the line as well and as soon as the first passed the midway point it also pushed off. As the first alien came into the airlock, Johans gestured towards Tiana and let it go by. Tiana helped the alien come to a stop and they turned to watch Johans do the same for the second alien as he came aboard. Once the two aliens were aboard, Tiana released the line and Johans placed it outside the lock, letting it float alongside the ship. After a few minutes the airlock was sealed up and being purged. As soon as the inner doors opened, Tiana invited the two aliens to follow her as she entered the ship. Johans brought up the rear and secured the ship. As the humans took their suits off, the two aliens sampled the atmosphere and appeared to discuss the results. One of the aliens opened his suit and after a few minutes the two began helping each other out of their suits.
The four stood there, looking at each other. Johans gestured and when one of the aliens moved forward he led the way to the general room.
“Please, make yourselves comfortable. I would offer you something to eat or drink, but I do not know if our food would be suitable.”
Chthsulhoo replied, “I thank you for the offer, and the caution.”
Tiana and Johans settled into two chairs as the aliens settled into what they could with reasonable comfort. When they were all settled in, Johans spoke. “Chthsulhoo, this meeting was perhaps chance, but now that we are here, what happens next?”
“That is a good question, Johans. Though chance, we were seeking your race out.”
The other alien touched a box on what passed for its wrist. Immediately, the alarm lit up on Johans and Tiana’s HUDs and the two aliens seemed to shrink into themselves as the other alien frantically hit his box again. Shortly after that the alarm in their HUDs turned off.
At that moment Wulfgar entered, one hand behind his back. He looked at the aliens then at Johans. Johans watched Wulfgar for a minute then nodded, glancing at Tiana as Wulfgar left the room. She nodded and he turned to the two aliens.
“That was not friendly, Chthsulhoo. Should I take that as deliberate, or should I take that as accidental?”
There was silence for a few minutes as the two aliens recovered. “That was not meant to happen, Johans. We only meant to keep this private.”
“I do not understand.”
“This”, as the other alien held up his wrist, “is to guard what we say here. To stop those who listen but are not here.”
“I think I understand. I will accept that for now. We have a saying, though, that once is accidental, two times is a coincidence, but three times is enemy action. That is two times.”
“It will not happen again. But coincidence, what is that?”
After several minutes Chthsulhoo indicated he finally understood. “Some races we have met, they only give you one chance. Others, none. Thank you for the additional chance to prove our sincerity.”
After Johans nodded, Chthsulhoo continued, with surprising fluency. “We have been observing you for some time now. When we first became aware of your presence in space, we made an effort to stay out of your awareness. We have watched and studied you, and we feel it time to reveal our presence.”
“I see. Is there any particular reason for picking now? Is there a reason for picking me? And given your sudden fluency, was the entire language thing some kind of test?”
“The language was partly a test, but also a chance to directly observe a ‘first encounter’ with your race. As to the question of picking you in particular, the answer is both yes and no. No, in that we did not have you singled out of your entire race as the one to contact. Yes, in that we did decide to find a member of your race in this quadrant. I ask that you let me answer your other question later, about picking this particular time to reveal ourselves.”
Tiana caught Johans’ attention. He glanced at her and returning his attention to Chthsulhoo noticed he seemed to be disconcerted. Ignoring that, he asked, “If that is true, then I have to ask again about the signal you sent out, twice now. If you have observed us as long as you have, then you would know that combination of tones would have a negative effect on humans.”
Chthsulhoo looked at the other alien. That alien spoke for the first time. “Please allow me to explain. You are correct, we are aware of that effect. I apologize, for it was indeed deliberate that we used what you term binaural tones. This is Chthsulhoo’s first involvement in a first contact while I have participated in two prior first contacts. As such, I am his advisor and we have learned that we need to have some control over the encounter. Our intent with the binaural tones was to render you unconscious and give us a chance to rig the room for our protection. Here in this room, this box,” raising its wrist, “is indeed a jamming device. However, for some reason it did not perform as expected.” The alien paused here but with no forthcoming explanation it continued, “Our goal was to render you unconscious, rig the room for our protection, and then revive you and use your reaction to that as part of another test.”
“How would you have ‘rigged the room’ the first time, when you were still so far away?”
“I’m not prepared to reveal that at this time, Johans.” This was from Chthsulhoo. “What was it that hit us when we tried to rig the room here?”
“The same binaural tones you transmitted, but with a kicker to it. For now, Chthsulhoo, as just you said, I’m not prepared to reveal the details.”
“I understand. I have to admit this whole situation creates yet another learning experience for our race. It would seem we are at something of an impasse at the moment.”
“It certainly appears that way. What reason I had to trust you has been somewhat eroded. Not enough that I am not going to believe you, but enough that I am now looking more into what you’re saying, to see if there is some hidden agenda.” Seeing the alien’s reaction, he continued, “It’s not as if I wasn’t already thinking there might be some agenda behind this encounter. There’s no doubt but that in situations like this, both of us are coming into it with some kind of hesitation, wondering, perhaps, how best to serve our own races, ourselves, and ensure we survive.”
Chthsulhoo appeared to relax at those words. “That is true. Though we have encountered other races, the numbers have been low enough that like you we are wary of revealing too much. I would reassure you that we are not a warlike race. There are warlike spacefarers, and we do war with them. We do not seek to war or conquer; there are enough worlds for all. We would rather trade and share knowledge, each race has areas where they supersede others. That is a given and we initiate contacts from that base.”
“I am glad to hear that.” Johans and Tiana looked at each other for a while. “You must realize, after studying us as you say you have, that we cannot speak for the entire human race. Can you so speak for your entire race?”
“I am aware of that and am also aware that you have sent word of this encounter to your governing body. As a matter of fact, we can so act. We have that authorization. Perhaps I should rephrase that, I have the authority to speak for our government.”
“What government is that?” asked Tiana.
“It is the governing body that oversees our coalition of worlds. Though my ship is entirely staffed by Kagkleefka, there are four races in our coalition. Each is represented in the governing body.”
“That comes back to my original statement: we cannot make any binding agreements. So, again I ask why us? Why not make contact with one of our government’s ships? That would seem to be more profitable than making contact with us.” Johans glanced from one alien to the other. “I have no authority that’s binding on the whole of space faring humanity.” He noted an exchange between the two aliens. “Or is this just another test? If so, I would not recommend basing our race on our recommendation. While I might acknowledge my government, I am not exactly a model citizen.”
Chthsulhoo seemed to be amused. “That is indeed an understatement, Johans. None of you this far out are exactly model citizens of your government, as independent as you are. Nonetheless, we have our reasons for not contacting your governing body directly.”
Johans started to speak, but paused to allow Tiana to speak instead. “You’re still avoiding the question—why us?”
Johans read the message on his HUD. “I don’t think this is a test, as such.” He sat there for a few seconds and then continued. “I think it’s more an evaluation.” He noticed Tiana look at him sharply. “I think you’re checking us out, performing the equivalent of a yearly evaluation to see if we’re ready for a first contact.” He looked up and shook his head at the new message from Wulfgar on his HUD. Tiana frowned at him then relaxed at his response. They both turned to look at the aliens.
“You are correct in your reasoning.” Chthsulhoo paused and the two aliens spoke to each other in their own language, too fast for any of the humans to properly follow. “We are indeed performing what you would call an evaluation, one we have been performing each generation for some time now.”
“So, this is not a true first contact as such?”
“No, it is not.”
“I see. So, what’s the answer to the question then?”
“As I mentioned before, it is coincidence that you are the one selected for this encounter. We have rotated amongst the quadrants, but have always had our encounters out here for a reason. So, it is truly the luck of the draw that you were selected.” Chthsulhoo hesitated, then asked, “I have observed something new here, something that as far as I know is not in the records of your race.” It glanced at the other alien. The other alien made a movement, and Chthsulhoo continued, “Has your race gained telepathic abilities?”
“What brings that question up?” Johans asked.
“The two of you, and earlier the other human, seemed to exchange a discussion, yet no words were spoken. Nor have we detected any transmissions between your headsets to explain those exchanges. We have detected the occasional transmission from the third human to those headsets, but when you apparently converse directly…nothing. So, it appears that some form of telepathic ability is in play.”
“No, we are not telepathic. My people built upon an idea in an ancient book called Foundation.”
The aliens waited, but neither Johans nor Tiana offered any further explanation. As the silence stretched out, Johans asked, “What happens at the end of this evaluation?”
“That depends on whether you pass or fail. We will either initiate a first contact with your governing body or we will wait yet another generation and continue gathering data.”
Tiana asked, “What happened to the people involved in the other so-called first contacts?”
“Sadly, the first few had to be restrained. I believe your people have tales of alien abductions. By our records, three of those were ‘first contacts’, but either the timing was wrong or they were not ready. We had no choice but to restrain them. All were with official representations of one of your governments or the military at the time. Since then, we’ve been able, until now, to control the situation and release the participants.”
“So, why haven’t we heard of those you have released?”
“Perhaps we have,” Johans said. “Only we didn’t realize it. Without any proof, who would believe them?” Johans looked at Tiana who slowly nodded her agreement. Wulfgar’s agreement showed up on their HUDs. “Others may have just kept quiet, knowing they’d be ridiculed or thought crazy without any proof.” Johans suddenly looked at Chthsulhoo sharply, remembering something the alien had said. “That burst we sent…did it actually go out?”
“I believe we managed to interrupt it, since we knew where it would likely go. However, you were the first to send it as a compressed burst and sending it in all directions rather than directionally were a good move on your part. Even so, it was still long enough for us to detect it and if not prevent it from reaching its destination, at least corrupt it.”
Johans shook his head in chagrin, while noting Tiana was taking it personally. He signed for her to drop it and just learn from it. Looking back at the aliens, he asked, “Who determines if we, well, pass or fail this evaluation?”
After almost two minutes of silence, Chthsulhoo said, “You do, basically.”
“You are to answer a single question, and based on that we will make our final recommendation.” Chthsulhoo looked deliberately at both of them. “We will give you time, if you wish, to discuss the answer you choose to provide. The question we ask you now is simple: Is your race ready for a true First Contact?”
Johans and Tiana sat there quietly. Eventually, Johans said, “Chthsulhoo, we will leave the room for a little bit, to discuss this question. In the meantime, please keep in mind that whatever our answer, we do not necessarily represent the human race.” Johans and Tiana rose and as they left the room, Johans said, “Please, make yourselves at home. Feel free to test and sample the food and liquid put out, if you so desire.”
Once on the bridge, Wulfgar said, “They want US to answer that? Are they serious?”
“Apparently.” Johans looked at the other two. “I think there’s more to it than just our decision, though just how much impact what we decide has I don’t know. What do you think?”
A mere fifteen minutes later Johans and Tiana returned to the room. The two aliens set their glasses of water aside and rose. The four beings stood there looking at each other until Chthsulhoo spoke directly to Joahns.
“Have you made your decision?”
“I have,” Johans quietly answered.