The perils of travel

We arrived eager to explore this new land, to get to know the natives. We had been studying their language, culture and habits for months, planning how best to successfully integrate for the time we were there. The difficulties we encountered shocked and bewildered us, we had expected interest but not the never ending fear. We did not understand until later that we were the first visitors these people had ever seen, that however we behaved they would consider us a threat. They were fearful of anything that they could not control. We now believe that what they cannot understand they will try to destroy.

It was our custom to bring presents from our land, quality gifts made from materials that do not exist in the host country. If they recognised the efforts that had gone into creating the beautiful artwork then it did not show. When they could not ascertain the origin of the pieces we gave they were dismantled, locked up for further examination. I truly believe that they wished to do the same with us.

We gave it everything we had, but it wasn’t enough. We were not permitted to move around unimpeded. Each time we tried to show them that their efforts to bind us were futile they responded with violence. The bodies we had so carefully crafted to blend in with theirs were distorted in their relentless attacks, yet they showed no remorse, only anger that we survived.

We chose to leave because staying became dangerous. At times they hurt each other in their efforts to contain or destroy us. They had already closed down their own communication channels in an effort to hide the truths we wished to share. They exhibited no desire to disseminate knowledge. I speculate that this may be why they have remained so perplexingly backward, despite their apparent potential. 

Pava turned off the voice recorder and downloaded the file along with the only visual of the landing party with natives that did not show violence. She wondered what viewers would make of the strange noises.

Elis looked troubled. ‘They will not believe that it is as you say, it makes no sense.’

‘I know my dear, but if we had been given such a warning then perhaps we would have prepared differently.’

Elis shrugged. ‘Perhaps we would not have gone.’

The intergalactic map that they had opened earlier showed there were three planets in the vicinity that were rated as undervisited, but Elis and the others were keen to go home after the aborted trip to Earth. There was something about failure that drained the spirit. Pava needed to decide if it would be better to cede to her companions’ demands, or to try to raise morale with a successful trip elsewhere. Even the less hospitable provinces would welcome them more than these humans had done. Their recent experiences were unprecedented.

Elis looked at the downloaded data. ‘Do you think others have visited before and not filed a report because it would not be believed?’

‘There was one ship unaccounted for in this region many aeons ago, but I find it hard to accept that any travellers would be overpowered by their primitive technology.’

The sound of an alarm interrupted their pondering. Before they could respond Salwe rushed in looking grim.

‘Sir, we have a stowaway. She claims that she comes in peace, to learn.’

Pava blinked. ‘How did she evade our detectors and the body count? This is impossible!’

‘She tells me that we have left one of ours behind, that she persuaded a youngling to swap places and identifiers in the name of knowledge.’

Pava sat down hard. Expanding knowledge for all was the great purpose. If the earthling wished to travel then who was she to deny such a request, yet how could she be sure that all was as claimed? The propensity for violence so recently encountered made her wary. There was also the problem of quarantine and training, and of a youngling left behind without clearance.

She made up her mind. ‘I will talk to this earthling but we must keep her below, monitored and secure.’

The others looked at each other askance. ‘Pava, however she came to be on our ship she is now our guest. You cannot treat her as they treated us or we will be no better than they.’

Some truths can be hard to stomach. It is small condolence that knowledge can be gained through such understandings.



9 thoughts on “The perils of travel

  1. Mistrust seems to be a theme throughout the galaxy. I like how they recognized that holding her captive would make them no better than the earthlings. It’s hard to recognize our own shortcomings sometimes, though we can easily spot them in others.

  2. Love the perspective in this! Although I do hope some of us would be better hosts than the humans they encountered. And I love the way you tie it all together at the end. 🙂

  3. Nice job! Made me think of my favorite stories by Ursula LeGuin. Pava’s observations are workmanlike and, thus, convincing.

  4. Your descriptions about their behavior really seem like they could be a really accurate description of the way humans are on Earth nowadays (and were all throughout history too) unfortunately.

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