First Contact

1st Contact SYFnyrdh came round as she was dropped onto the cushioned floor of a vast chamber and began cautiously to evaluate her situation. From the compromised state of her shredded environment suit she deduced that the alien atmosphere must be breathable. She was obviously breathing it. The air smelled acrid and she felt slightly light headed but her breathing was steady and nothing ached any more than she would expect after her recent rough treatment. She rolled onto her back and looked up. The creature standing over her was terrifying. Superficially the beast resembled the Clrntz*n back home, only built on a totally different scale. It was six times her height, maybe more, a hundred times her bulk, with golden eyes and a covering of fur, striped in shades of sandy orange. Its belly fur was white and it was displaying a lethal armoury of claws and teeth. Fnyrdh sprang to her feet and ran. She was unusually light on her feet in this strange world, and fast, but so was the beast. She zigzagged to avoid the slashing claws and, as she fled, spotted a long, low recess, not too far off to her left. She threw herself at it and rolled beneath the overhang, scrabbling quickly to the back. An extended paw searched the refuge, but she managed to evade it by ducking behind a mysterious sphere some two-thirds her height. Scimitar claws latched onto the sphere and dragged it out. It made a bell-like tinkling sound. Her antagonist tossed the ball around for a while, lost interest and withdrew.

There was no way of telling if the automated distress signaller back on the Sunburst had got off a message before the ship broke up or if the beacon on the life-craft had been working at all and, either way, little likelihood that a signal would be intercepted in the near future. She was well off the regular trading routes and as spots went, this was a tight one. Tentatively YFnyrdh surveyed the topography beyond her refuge. The chamber covered an area greater than a synchbwll pitch and was twice the height of a glyb tower; these creatures were indisputably aggressive, but they must have advanced technology and presumably a developed culture. What had she been told in the lecture on first contact? She unlocked the helmet from the collar of her environment suit and laid it to one side, then took a universal translator from the hip pouch of her suit, clipped it round her throat and switched it on. Pulling out the receiver she plugged it into one ear, it crackled and emitted a high-pitched whistle. She unstrapped it, banged it hard against the back wall of the shelter and tried again. When she spoke into it, it seemed to be translating into something. While she had been preparing, the creature had returned and was lying some distance from the cave mouth with one eye closed.

YFnyrdh reflected on the state of her suit and removed it; she had better look as smart as possible for the occasion. Then she moved warily into the open, ready to take cover again at the slightest movement on the part of the orange alien. She drew a deep breath and shouted.


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