Winner. What is the meaning of the colors the aliens display?
| Co-Winner, Writer's Cramp, 2021-07-26
Featured in The Comedy Newsletter,August 11, 2021 Issue [#10922]
"Comedy Newsletter (August 11, 2021)"
"They certainly are different." Commander Harold Wilkins examined the aliens and realized he had made the understatement of the millenium. The rainbo w-hued amoeboid creatures oozed about on the deck of an Earthship Alpha pod, their multi-colored semi-transparent pseudopods pulsating and waving restlessly. "The stuff of childhood nightmares. Yet we know them to be intelligent, and friendly."
"Indeed," replied Dr. Betty Chrisdon, one of the xenobiologists in the contact team. The masks and contamination suits the team wore gave them all a slightly alien appearance. "Though I think they're rather beautiful, myself, with their ever-changing colors. I wonder if there is a parallel to Earth creatures with chromatophores. Camouflage, social dominance, mating behavior, emotional display, that kind of thing."
The alien vessel had announced itself with a burst of radio signals when it took an orbit well outside that of Pluto. Of course we had seen it coming long before that, but we did consider the signal a kind of courtesy, like phoning before dropping in. There had been some attempt at suppression and secrecy on first detection, but it quickly failed. Too many amateur astronomers with eyes in the sky. The world responded surprisingly well to the announcement that "Something is coming." Every news agency and medium was ecstatic with stories, speculation, and wild invasion conspiracies. They loved it.
Multiple radio contacts over the next seven months allowed our neural-net AIs to decode their transmissions, and two-way communication was established on pre-determined frequencies. At our request, the alien ship had quarantined for two years at L5, the Lagrange point behind Earth's orbit. Visual data had been exchanged, so we knew what we were looking at, as did they. Carbon-based, oxygen breathing, amoeboid, accustomed to gravity similar to ours. After the initial "OMG ugly alien monsters" fuss, most people had settled down and were going about their lives. So there are aliens up there somewhere. Pass the peas.
After the quarantine, a fifteen-person team of military and science experts had gone to establish face-to-face contact. Well, face to....whatever. Earthship Alpha had flown to L5 for a rendezvous, and five humans had met with five colorful aliens in a carefully prepared sterile escape pod.
"Camouflage seems highly unlikely," disagreed Dr. Martin Boerman, a linguistics expert outside the pod. "The colors look too bright and inconstant. Social dominance, perhaps? Does one individual show a distinct pattern, differing from the others, perhaps indicating alpha status?"
"Not that I can see," said Wilkins. "They all show similar patterns, and the color fluctuations and pulsation rate seem similar for all five individuals."
"The AI has been checking all our video data," said Chrisdon, turning her attention to her station monitor. "The present patterns are vastly different from those of earlier messages. The colors are more intense, and the pulsations are at a higher frequency. Looks like we'll have an interpretation soon. Okay, it appears that the colors show emotional state and intensity. Here comes a translation...."
"[Anxiety] [Fear] [Disgust] [Distress] Sacred excrement, do these Earth creatures ever stink!"