November 10, 2017 by T. Gregory Argall
Clouds tinged with a soft green hue floated high above the farm. The reddish-grey soil was tilled in short furrows that seemed to be arranged into a pattern, It looked like a twenty-acre wide drawing of a buffalo, but probably wasn’t, for obvious reasons.
As the clouds gently parted, the rich orange sunlight glinted off the chrome hull of the SVX-2700 Jump Class Research Shuttle. In the pilot seat Flight Lieutenant Jamal Singh Rosenberg-Xao (call sign “Whitebread”) of the Scientific Earth Exploratory Command shielded his eyes with his hand as he activated the filters in the shuttle’s front view-port. As much as he loved seeing other planets, the differing light refraction in non-Earth atmosphere was always a little disorienting. The filters helped fool is eyes into viewing things as if he were still back home.
He tilted the ship to get a better view of the field below, the on-board stabilizers adjusting the internal gravity to ensure that his drink didn’t spill. His gaze moved across the expanse of farmland until he spotted movement on the far side of the acreage. A large six-legged animal was pulling a plow made of the organic rock that passed for wood on this planet. Behind the plow, marching at a slow pace and wearing some loose-fitting sort of fabric covering, was a member of the planet’s dominant species, using all three elbows on both of his upper limbs to keep the plow moving in a generally straight line.
With an eager laugh, Jamal took a sip of his drink and then accelerated the shuttle downwards as the Scotch burned its way pleasantly down his throat. “This is gonna be awesome,” he grinned, tugging the yoke to make the ship bank sideway across the path of the farmer and his workbeast.
After flying three tight circles above the bewildered farmer, he set the ship on auto-hover and climbed out of the control chair. He casually topped up his drink, adding two more ice cubes. Activating the mirror panel beside the hatch door, he took a quick look at himself, adjusted his wig, and slapped the button to open the hatch. He started walking down the ramp just as it finished extending, disrupting the even furrow in the soil.
Jamal’s large shoes flapped against the ramp with each step as the warm, midseason breeze billowed his large, polka-dotted jumpsuit, making the ruffled collar and cuffs flutter as if alive. He briefly wondered how his round, red nose would look in the this planet’s light as he stopped at the bottom of the ramp and faced the beige creature who wore what looked like a floppy hat and checkered mumu.
Rationally, Jamal knew of course, that this alien farmer had no idea what a clown was and the sheer ridiculousness of the costume would be wasted on the being, but it amused him to wear it anyway. After a suitably dramatic pause, he spoke.
“Hello,” he said, fiddling with the controls on his Translat-O-Matic IV. “Hello. Hello. Hello. Hello. Hello.” He was starting to wonder if maybe the batteries had died when finally a flicker of recognition passed over the farmer’s geometric nightmare of a face.
“Hello!” the farmer clearly didn’t say although that was the sound that the Translat-O-Matic IV presented to Jamal’s ears. The creature’s beak-like mouth would not be capable of actually speaking the word.
Jamal smiled, spread his arms wide and slowly said, “Friend, you should know something.” Then he waited to be sure that his statement was being properly understood by the farmer.
“Yes?” Jamal heard the creature not say. “What is it?”
“When you tell others of my visit this day…” He left the sentence hanging tantalizingly in the air for a moment until the farmer nodded eagerly to encourage more words. Patiently, Jamal took a sip of his drink. He grinned and pointed a gloved finger at the middle of the creature’s three eyes.
“No one is going to believe you,” he cackled, turn and sprinted back up the ramp which dutifully rose behind him and sealed the hatch. Hopping back into the pilot seat, Jamal hit the thrusters and the shuttle launched upward, leaving the stunned farmer to stare in confusion as it vanished into the upper atmosphere.
Jamal had cleaned the greasepaint off his face and was just buttoning his uniform tunic when the radio system chirped.
“Whitebread, come in. Over,” came the voice of N’Gallau O’Flaherty, the chief comms officer on board the SEEC base ship.
“Go ahead, Limerick,” he replied, using N’Gallau’s call sign.
“Captain says you’d better not be out buzzing the locals again or he’ll have your ass for a pencil holder. Over.”
“What does that even mean?” replied Jamal. “Who uses pencils anymore? You know what? Never mind. I don’t want to know. Tell the captain that I’m just doing standard soil sample surveys and avoiding indigenous contact at all costs. Over.”
“You’d better be,” said Limerick. “We’ve been hearing talk of some clown pranking the locals and I’d hate for you to get the blame. Over.”
“Roger that. Me too. Over and out,” said Jamal earnestly. He turned the radio off, poured himself another glass of Scotch and rested his feet on the control panel. Tapping the autopilot button with the heel of his boot, he took a sip of his drink and smiled.
Try to be nice to each other.