An Excerpt From the Forthcoming Book: “The Chameleon”
The ship drifted downward through the slowly spinning planet’s outer atmosphere. It gave Ona a surprising satisfaction. She had seen many worlds and appreciated them all for what they had to offer but this one was special. It was overwhelmingly blue, and the azure makeup of this world touched some deep core of her, a feeling she accepted but had no understanding of. Ona surmised it might be the water. All living things had an affinity for water, a need certainly, but Ona’s people were inexorably tied to it. Most of the worlds that her people had visited were volcanic in nature, with swirling clouds of noxious gases and impossible geography to land on. All of their colors were red, or green, or a dismal gray that reminded her of the less pleasant parts of her world. This blue planet felt good.
All of her people were “feelers”. Millions of years of evolution had conspired to make her race’s sensory and intuitive capacity keep pace with their intellectual and spiritual development. Not so with the people below, as she was brought to believe by the exhaustive studies of the ones before her. Ona had devoted her learning years to studying the culture and language of several worlds but this blue one proved to be the one that taxed her abilities the most. So many languages! Such a confusing amalgam of emotions, desires, goals, and ambitions. The differences between the belief systems and social structures of the sub-sets of these “humans” were difficult to comprehend. On her world, everyone looked the same when in their natural state. Everyone communicated the same way. How alone each sub-set must feel! If the reports she had studied were correct, the gulf between each group must be heartbreaking. It was little wonder they had taken to violence in the midst of their blind stumbling against each other.
She would have to be careful.
Yes. Careful. Careful, but she had been taught that hand-in-hand with exploration comes risk. Ona was just entering the aspect of the planet’s atmosphere where she might have been visible to the inhabitants if it weren’t for the ship’s natural ability to camouflage itself. Her teachers had warned her, though, that the “humans” (supposedly that’s what they preferred to be called) may have developed some form of technology that might detect her. She hoped to make land before that happened. In the few visits by others before her, no one had been injured or compromised. Since she would probably have to interact with one sub-set of the “humans”, she had selected the ones gathered around an ecological section closest to the one she was most familiar with: her home. This land mass, which her teachers had taught is referred to by the natives as “America”, has a wide range of geological and weather systems. Naturally, she would be choosing a wet, sparsely-populated location that was moderate in elevation and had the best chance of allowing her to achieve her objective. She had chosen, on advice of her teachers, the land that some of her people had already mapped: a location called Se-a-tt-le. It felt funny to say. It tickled her throat. In her own language the phonetic word meant “to seek”, and she hoped that was a good omen.
The ship was nearing land. She could detect air vehicles advancing on her position but she would be landed in the water mass and hidden by the time they got close. Once inside the water mass, the ship would take on the appearance of the water, refuel, and during that time Ona would decide which human form to assume. She had been given some examples by her teachers but as with all good explorers, she preferred to use her instincts. After all, that was the strength of the Artandians—their instincts.
It had been decided for her that she would contact one human. It made her excited. She just hoped that she contacted one of the non-murderous ones first.