We are one of the first Oort to “step foot” on your planet, “stroll” through your cities. While your attempts at infrastructure are impressive, they also lay bare the limitations of your thought and externalized communication methods. Perhaps you don’t live long enough to approach a measure of potential. This is unfortunate for you, would almost be a shame—if we appreciated the concept of shame. That is what we would call a joke, had we words for it. Oort language is far more internal. We have the feeling of laughter, for instance, however to us many of the aspects of language are unnecessary—but we aren’t trying to make you feel worse than you already do. To share existence with other living creatures is a phenomenon worthy of great respect, regardless of their differences.
We had so far decided against contact—we watch what you do to each other and that’s the only warning we need—except some actions are decided outside of a directive. This is what happened in your case.
In Chicago it is not long before one of you is dead on the street. The light from your closest star has begun to wane, and we experienced you fleeing from another of you, then witnessed your moment of practical termination as you fell, tumbling headfirst in the street. One of you dressed as an officer points a metal tool at one of you in dark clothes, a tool we know is called a gun. The tool and its purpose are death.
The tool’s thunder follows a tearing bite too industrial for flesh, and you are no longer viable in your habitat.
We scuttle up to the officer and come into time, appearing behind him. We wrap our arms and our pincers around him, as it tears into his skin. He struggles, he cries out. We pull him a half second out of time, where he exists in suspended animation. We can return for that one of you and put him back into time but for now he is neutralized out of concern. It is disconcerting to see a willingness in any being to destroy another—we are so rare among the stars. How to reward this blatant disregard for concurrent sentience? We don’t know yet. We may never know. The moment after you murder you is the moment we like you least. We’ll bring you out of time when you’ll learn your lesson.
No others of you are around so we range up to your corpse and poke you in the eye. You don’t move so we open you up to get a look at the works. We need to see for ourselves.
Inside the stretched leather of you a tangle of twisted wet wire makes you up; long meaty ropes that bunch and collect in the groin and the hands and the neck. Once we get our pincers in there we can see you are a machine, that we can pull strings and the machine will dance. We open your skull lengthwise, then we are looking at you, pink and raw and we understand that you are what has been pulling the strings.
A girl child runs up and says “Daddy?”
We feed the child some bliss goo through a proboscis.
We harvest your brain.
We scan you as we harvest, and begin to realize we can do something very special and important for you now. We can keep you alive by sending your channels through ours while feeding you sensory information in a format you expect. We confer quickly among ourselves and decide it will be done.
A few basic connections and we are listening to your desire to reach out to your daughter, to pick her up, to tell her it’s okay.
“Maggie,” you want to say.
We see through your brain how you fear for the way your daughter sees your dead body, because you know how traumatic it can be. Especially because you don’t know what we’ve done to you.
The moment makes us consider coming out of the half-second of time, taking the suit off, so we can communicate with the child we’ve injected with bliss goo, but we don’t do it. We can’t do it.
You become aware of us.
“Who are you?” we hear you think, then, after a moment: “I was jogging home and someone shouted at me to stop, and I turned and I put my hands up. I was shot. Three, four times. Then I fell on my head. I couldn’t breathe.”
The image of it passes through us. The shots pass through us like they did you, in the chest, the groin, the throat. We feel pain, and a deadening.
We want to respond, and there’s a committee of responses of what to say, this first mental contact with an alien species.
We can’t come to a consensus.
Instead we show you how we injected the girl with bliss goo, hoping to allay her fears and suffering from seeing your dead body.
No, don’t poison her!
We try to explain about bliss goo, but it is too much like a concept you already have, a concept you hate. Hair win?
Then you are looking inside us, seeing what we think of you, seeing the long way we considered the situation, the detachment, and you change. You become afraid. You begin to despair.
We are losing our chance.
We feed our vision arrays into your optic nerve, so that you might see like us. More pathways are opened, so that you might smell what we smell, or feel what we feel, think what we think.
Your name is Martin. You speak English.
Hello, we say, stumbling with your language. We are Oort.
We feed you a calming memory of the Oort hatchery, the easy bliss of waking near our cloudlings: you scream razors into us.
“No, no,” you say. You think of spiders, you think of scorpions.
Hello, we say, you can be Oort now.
Your body lies dead in front of us, and you can’t look away because we haven’t looked away. Your daughter is misty and unstable, toddling around the street.
We open our control ports to you, to comfort you, and you seize on them and it hurts us dismayingly more than expected.
Then you are running toward your daughter with our body, a half second out of time, and if we had time to explain to you what it means to be out of time, you might not be rushing into the road at this moment.
You try to scoop her up with our pincers but we go right through, because we aren’t there yet, won’t be there for another half second, always. We flash you a vision of your daughter cut to ribbons on our pincers anyway, and that stops you, you understand.
Then you are making us run up and down the road, looking forward, looking backward.
Something is coming.
Your daughter is stumbling in the road. You move us toward the oncoming red.
We flash the image of the passing thing going right through us, the way our pincers had harmlessly passed through the child.
Hello, we say, It will not become aware of us unless: We flash the image of a knob on the outside of our suit, and the feeling of how to push it. You don’t hesitate.
You catch us up with time and we materialize in the center of the road; the truck is only dozens of meters away. It swerves out of the way, skids to a standstill, and we go back out of time.
We watch as the driver comes out of his truck cabin, stoops low to pick up the child and holds her close to him. “You are lucky, little girl.” He walks by your body, says “Damn,” and pulls a thing from his side pocket and puts it to his face. We are sure you could explain these things to us but you don’t.
“Yeah, I’ve got one hell of a strange thing. Lawrence and Damen. There’s a dead guy without a brain and a little kid just sitting in the road. And before that…well, never mind. Just, how quickly can you get here?”
We watch, and you watch. When the police come they load the little girl into the backseat, in the ambulance goes the shell of your dead body.
“Let me ride with her,” you say, but we show you that the vehicle will go through us.
And you’re standing there, in the road, waving our pincers as each emergency vehicle passes through us. When they’ve all gone, you relinquish full control of our body to us and retreat into your despair, sobbing silently.
We offer bliss goo and you decline.
“Maggie,” you sob. “Maggie.”
This is our report.