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Mission Critical

Chapter Text

To whom it may concern,



We have definitive proof of intelligent life on Malang, provisionally named “Trilaterals,” but have not yet made contact. Enclosed are pictures of two Trilateral structures, hereafter “the crypt” and “the statues.” Also included are eighty-one images from a crashed Trilateral probe of unknown provenance. Of particular interest:

-Slides one and two, establishing their homeworld as roughly three hundred light-years from Malang;

-Slide three, establishing their radially-symmetric physiology;

-Slides four through sixteen, establishing the crucial role of organ transplants in their culture;

-Slides seventy-six through eighty-one, depicting beings of unknown origin important to Trilaterals.

Note the crypt’s two caved-in passages; we are unable to clear them, but venturing even slightly further would be highly illuminating. Although it is theoretically possible that the crypt was not built by Trilaterals, the multiples-of-three motif and radial symmetry (and the lack of any other discernible culture on Malang) make that immensely unlikely.

The statues are nine grids of nine figures, representing what seems to be the Trilateral social hierarchy. Gems and organs have a vital thematic link, which we are still trying to decode. (Do the gems correspond to the organs, or the social relationship? Identifying the highest and lowest classes is easy, but what are the ones in the middle? Are our concepts of “high” and “low” class even applicable at all?)



We cannot endorse making Malang a hub of human civilization, but we humbly request that it become a hub of scientific discovery and cultural interchange. Even if Trilaterals are extinct, or will be by the time more humans arrive, we find it unconscionable to colonize their tomb.

We do not yet know what resources will be most helpful for initial diplomacy, but we request the best expertise Earth can muster. Perhaps, time permitting, humans on Malang could withdraw to a moon or space station to leave the planet undisturbed for the Trilaterals and/or archaeological digs of their remains.

We have chosen to stay on Malang at least until more humans arrive - sixteen years at the earliest. This was unanimous, but by no means easy. Even if the Trilaterals bear us no hostility, first contact should not be left to five people with no backup and no diplomatic experience. Malang itself may have fatal dangers yet to be seen. Yet the discovery fell to us, and we must see it through.

We are acutely aware that even if we do return to Earth, re-integration will be nigh-impossible. Even putting aside decades of cultural displacement, we must either stifle our stories for the rest of our lives or endure the biggest media frenzy in history. As we grapple with the scope of first contact, we have chosen to keep ourselves anonymous until further notice. We are deeply sorry to our friends, families, and loved ones. We promise to find a way to tell you, eventually.



To Mission Control, we apologize for being so quiet up to now, but we hope this makes up for the lapse in communication. We promise to send every new bit of data we find as losslessly as possible.



We considered, and rejected, the inclusion of sections written exclusively by one crew member each. We are slightly paranoid about our authorial voices giving us away, but more broadly, we wanted to present a unified front to the world. Make no mistake - we are terrified, and this stiff language is a flimsy substitute for true mastery and confidence. Pages of sleepless, incoherent ranting would capture our mood far better, but humanity deserves at least a sense of stability.



If you intercept this message with the capacity to censor or destroy it, we demand in the strongest possible terms that you do not. We have sent it unencrypted, on every frequency we can, but six light-years allows for plenty of signal decay. Humanity deserves to know that it is not alone.

If you receive this message and have never heard of Earth, you cannot possibly understand this text, but hello nonetheless. We have attached one hundred images of the best we have to offer - our wildlife, our monuments, our first fragile steps beyond our homeworld. This is by no means a representative sample, but we can teach you our mundane and atrocious history once we finally meet.


See you someday,

-The Five