Fourteen months had passed since Tika had come back from the Eris Mission.
She would never forget that day — the day when she saw an alien spaceship, at the edge of their solar system.
Ever since she was little, Kartika Pratanggawati had always wanted to be a spaceship pilot.
She had been five years old when she watched a documentary show to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Titan Exploration Mission. The mission ended with a disaster as the United Earth Space Agency, commonly known as the UESA, lost all contact with the crewmembers. Eventually, they declared the mission a lost one, two years after.
The documentary itself specifically focused on one of the astronauts who had gone missing during that mission, named Indira Candrakirana. She was a famous spaceship pilot and a feminist icon, a visionary beyond her age. One of her famous quotes was about her dream to be the first person to reach the edge of their solar system.
Even before watching the documentary, Tika always looked up to the stars that glimmered over her head. She remembered her dad taking her for hikes, and they would watch the stars every time. The documentary only served as a nail in the coffin, a trigger that urged her to pursue her dream.
After that, Indira had become her idol and inspiration, and she would tell anyone who would listen about her dream to reach the edge of their solar system — much to her parents’ amusement. They were supportive of her, of course.
However, reaching the edge of their solar system was not an easy path to take.
For years, Tika put all her blood, sweat, and tears into her studies and training. Her hard work was not in vain — eventually, she graduated as the youngest spaceship pilot in the history of UESA Academy. She was twenty at the time, so young with a bright future ahead of her, but her struggle did not stop there.
After graduating, she was sent off to various missions; such as transportation missions to the colonies on the moon and Mars. Once she was even sent to an exploration mission to one of Jupiter’s moons, Ganymede, which was full of danger thanks to the moon’s magnetic field. She did everything with little to no complaining.
When an exploration mission to Eris was announced by the United Earth Space Agency, Tika was excited to submit her candidacy. She didn’t want to get her hopes up, though. A lot of older, more experienced pilots were fighting for a chance to go to the edge of their solar system. She was only twenty three at the time.
But in the end, she was chosen to join the Eris Mission, thanks to Professor Arga who sponsored her. The professor was one of the best astrophysicists who led various exploration missions, such as the Oberon Mission and Triton Mission. He would also lead the Eris Mission — and according to him, Tika was one of the best pilots the UESA had ever had.
Tika was so flattered by the Professor’s trust in her abilities, but she refused to let it go to her head. She knew that compared to the other missions she had gone through, the mission to Eris would be on a whole nother level entirely. For once, the mission itself would take three Earth years to complete.
For two years, she trained rigorously in the simulation at UESA’s headquarters in Palangka Raya City, Indonesia. The UESA was highly optimistic that the mission would succeed, which put more pressure onto her. They helped, though, by providing data they had acquired from a probe sent a couple years in advance. From it, Tika managed to perfect her landing maneuver.
Then, it was time for her and her crew to depart.
Overall, it took them eight months to reach Eris — eight exhausting months where she had to pilot the ship manually. The Kuiper Belt was not the easiest thing to navigate between, but she managed to do it perfectly. She even managed to land smoothly over Eris’ surface. After a quick celebration, the crew then walked out of their ship to begin their exploration.
Tika used the chance to marvel at the view. This was not the first time she had stood on an alien planet. She had been hoping excitedly to see with her own eyes the sight that no other human being had seen before, at the edge of their solar system.
She certainly had never hoped to see a gargantuan ship flying above Eris, right over its frozen horizon.
The ship’s shape reminded Tika of a betta fish, somewhat, with its ‘fins’ flaring and flowing in the voidness of space. It was so large too, so impossibly large compared to any man made space shuttles. Tika calculated that one small nation could fit inside it, perhaps more. The UESA’s shuttle Tika and her colleagues used for the Eris Mission looked like a speck of dust compared to it.
It wasn’t like she didn’t believe in the existence of extraterrestrial beings — quite the opposite, in fact. She would have been so naive if she had thought that this vast universe was only inhabited by humans. However, the existence of intelligent extraterrestrial beings was still unprovable, even in the twenty-second century.
So, yes, to see an alien ship above Eris’s orbit was a surprise that no one could have ever imagined before.
The surprise that Tika felt quickly morphed into bone-chilling fear. What if the extraterrestrial beings that lived aboard the ship were evil, or at the very least had malicious intent? What if they wanted to abduct Tika and her colleagues? The UESA shuttle they had was not armed in any way — and even if it was, she doubted that their weaponries could outmatch any technology that the extraterrestrial beings owned.
“Look!” Professor Arga cried out through the comm, breaking Tika out of her downward spiral into a panic attack. He pointed at a glowing dot that launched from the ship. It grew larger and larger as it headed towards the planet’s surface.
It turned out to be a small ship with sleek black hull that gleamed under the weak sunlight. It landed on Eris’ surface, a few hundred meters away from them. Two extraterrestrial beings in black spacesuits stepped out of it. They wore dark helmets that covered their faces, but Tika could see, as they approached, that they were taller than her and her colleagues.
One of the beings was roughly three meters tall, with arms as big as a boulder and a tail that lashed — whether in excitement or wariness, Tika couldn’t quite tell. Their partner, on the other hand, was much slighter in stature. They had broad chest that reminded Tika of a swimmer’s build.
The tailed being stepped forward and made a complicated gesture with their massive hands. Tika assumed it was some kind of a greeting, though she wasn’t so sure.
She turned her attention to Professor Arga, as the leader of their mission and the most senior member in their crew. She hoped that he knew what he was supposed to do — because she herself didn’t know at all what to do in this situation. The UESA had never prepared her for this, after all.
What if they accidentally insulted the beings before them? What if they ended up endangering all of humanity because they accidentally made two extraterrestrial beings mad? Those were not an unreasonable fear to have, Tika thought grimly to herself.
“H-hello”, Professor Arga greeted, and hesitantly waved his hand. “We are human beings from Planet Earth. We come in peace.”
“Hu-mann?” the tailed being asked back with a heavy growling voice. Their tail was no longer lashing, but pointing up in attention.
“Oh jeez… Why am I speaking in English to these beings?” Professor Arga asked himself. “Hello? Umm, hola? Yeoboseyo? Privet? Greetings?”
“Greetings”, the slighter being returned.
Professor Arga perked up at that. “Oh! Do you understand what I’m saying?”
“Yes”, the slighter one returned as they stepped forward. Their voice was lighter, like a human’s voice. “My name is Varka, of the Anur Arta. My partner is Rog, of the Ursii. We are space travelers, citizens of Mothership Velrakis.”
Tika blinked in surprise, not expecting this extraterrestrial being to speak so fluently in English.
“M-mothership?” Professor Arga squeaked, his voice shaking in fear. His fear was understandable. Motherships on Earth normally were associated with military stuff. And if these extraterrestrial beings decided to attack Planet Earth with their mothership… well, that wouldn’t be good for all of them.
“If we may ask, what are you doing in our solar system?” Tika asked after steeling herself, unable to hold her curiosity any longer.
“We entered this star system to find a source of decalithium crystals as fuel for our ship”, Varka answered. “However, after a quick scanning, we found a few habitable planets and planetoids. We have been searching for them for awhile, so we went in further to check. That was when we found you on this barren planetoid.”
“O-oh…” Tika hummed.
“Please be at ease. We won’t attack inhabited planets and star systems”, Varka said as they clasped their hands. “We citizens of Mothership Velrakis swore an oath to help with the continuity and survival of all lives in this universe. Please be assured that attacking inhabited star systems is not our way of life.”
Alright, Tika thought. Perhaps these extraterrestrial beings wouldn’t attack Planet Earth. Hopefully.
“Actually, we want to ask something”, Varka said. “You are the first beings we’ve met in this sector of space. Would you like to, if possible, help us open diplomacy with your people?”
“You want to do that?” Professor Arga asked. “With human beings?”
“Of course!” Varka answered enthusiastically. “Not everyday we meet a new being that has never been seen before. This is a very important moment in our history! And if your people agree to it, you may join Salevas-tavi’kar — that is, the Intergalactic Coalition.”
“The Intergalactic Coalition? What’s that?” Professor Arga asked again.
“The Intergalactic Coalition, or Salevas-tavi’kar in Anur, is a coalition formed by thousands of beings from all over the Known Universe”, Varka explained. “The beings who joined it work together to build a better life and to protect each other, be it global extinction, natural disasters, or invasion. We also hold festivals from time to time to promote our culture.”
Professor Arga glanced at his crew, including Tika. Through his helmet, Tika could see hesitation in his face. She could understand why — right at this moment, he was the representation of all humanity. What if they chose wrong? What if they doomed all of humanity because of it?
“I understand this is a decision that cannot be taken lightly”, Varka said. “It’s probably best that you return to your planet and discuss the whole thing with your people. I will even accompany you to prove our existence, if you wish so.”
The tailed being, Rog, growled and said something in a language that Tika didn’t know. Varka answered it calmly, and Rog stepped back.
Professor Arga turned to face his crew. Through his helmet, Tika could see what the Professor was thinking. Right in that moment, they were at a turning point that could change the fate of humanity forever — a pivotal moment in their history. Tika eyed the other crew members, and found that she was not alone in her realization.
Yes, the extraterrestrial beings could be lying. But what for? Their civilization was way more advanced than what humanity could even dream of. If they had come with malicious intent, they could have attacked the Eris Mission crew and have been done with it without having to lie about the Coalition or whatever it was.
“Very well, then”, Professor Arga said eventually, nodding at Varka and Rog. “We will take you back to Earth.”
“Thank you for the opportunity. You will not regret it, I promise”, Varka returned, and Tika could hear a hint of a smile in their voice.