Security was tight when C-squad rode up on their two-wheeled dirt bikes. Mgalo was first, and Delaney was about ten seconds behind him, due to his heavier load. Both bikes buzzed into a double line of crewmen with rifles unslung and aimed at them. The crew stared, goggle-eyed, at the being sitting on the leather seat behind Delaney. In all the worlds Earth had charted, all the planets The Company had mined, all the life forms mankind had cataloged, they’d never seen anything quite like this. The being was humanoid, although its limbs were long and slender when compared to the human it was riding with. It had three fingers on each hand, two wide and flat and the other narrower and rounder, serving as a thumb. It had a blank face, devoid of features except for two oval, faceted, emerald green compound eyes, like those of an insect. Its skin was a russet brown and smooth, and his head was crowned with shoulder-length, ragged, tawny golden hair. The being wore no clothing, except a belt, which looked like a braided vine, wrapped around its waist. As the bikes came to a stop, their pilots dismounted. The brown being stayed seated and raised both hands in apparent surrender.
Mgalo saluted the officer in charge of the armed guards and gave a brief report. “Mbebe Mgalo and Michael Delaney reporting, Sir. We’ve reconnoitered area designated Able 3, found it unremarkable except for a predominant amount of quartz and amethyst crystals in the rocks. No traces of presarium. The only thing worth reporting is contact with Eesh-nek,” and he motioned to the alien sitting on the motorcycle.
The being he’d indicated did not move, except to incline its head slightly to the side. “Michael is speaking about me. My name is not Eesh-nek, but that is the closest approximation your voice can mimic.” The words were totally silent in the still air of the prairie, but each man, including those still on the ship, heard them clearly. At the officer’s puzzled expression, Eesh-nek explained. “Telepathy, Captain LeClerc. My people have always been telepathic. I do not speak your language any more than you speak mine, but our minds can touch and understand. That’s also how I know your name. It’s right in the front of your mind where I can see it without searching.” Then he turned, hands still raised, towards the armed guards flanking him. “Your weapons are unnecessary, I assure you. I am not hostile. But if it makes you feel more secure to hold them, I understand.”
LeClerc took a short step backward. “On behalf of the crew of the Bon Chance, Eesh-nek, I am honored to meet you,” he said.
The brown being made a slight bow. “Thank you, Captain,” he thought-spoke. “And in the name of The People, I welcome you to our world. Now, if you please, I would like to speak with your Commander Reese. The message I bring should be addressed to him directly.”
The communicator clipped to the top of LeClerc’s ear trilled softly. Touching the tan instrument with a finger, the officer answered: “LeClerc here.” He listened momentarily, said “Yes, Commander. LeClerc out.” Then he smiled at Eesh-nek. “That was a message from our commander. He said I should bring you aboard. He’s,” but the alien interrupted. “He’s anxious to see me,” Eesh-nek finished. The mouthless face seemed to attempt a smile.
Commander Reese watched the whole exchange on his view screen. That expression — the smile that was not a smile — made him uncomfortable for some reason. He couldn’t say precisely why, but it did.
The guards lowered their weapons as Eesh-nek climbed off the dirt bike. Now that he was standing, LeClerc could see that the alien was more slender than he had first appeared. “You’ll have to be cleared through Medical, first,” he informed the dark-skinned being. “Protocol — just to be sure you’re not carrying any dangerous bacteria or anything, you understand.”
Eesh-nek nodded. All the crew heard his reply in their minds: “Of course, Captain. But don’t worry. I am sure you will find nothing dangerous living on me.” Again, that not-smile flicked across the smooth and featureless face. This time Commander Reese felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up.