Freeng's sixth tentacle (what they called habiosporad) was fiddling away inside a transparent green orb made of wax. From the center of the orb sprang up words and numbers of bright purple and attached itself on the surface. It formed words and sentences, probably entire essays -- but in an alien script.
"Earth," said Freeng, his smoky grey eyes gleaming with a green hue. "Inhabited. Formation: 4.5 billion years ago."
"What's a billion?" asked Danube curiously, his face still stuck to the window of their vessel.
"Well. I don't know really. The place is not on our database. I got this signal from something called w.i.k.i.p.e.d.i.a. Seems to have a lot of information about this Earth place."
"Is it the same guys who sent the first message?"
"No. That was. H.e.i.n.e.k.e.n. They seem to make some kind of elixir. It's golden. Look."
Danube shouldered closer to Freeng, his eyes fixed on the surface of the orb. On it was the picture of a glass of golden brew, patterned with silver bubbles on the sides.
"Looks good, doesn't it?" Danube quipped. "Maybe we should sample this to Cranel. I am sure Glofilia will..."
He was interrupted by a buzz, as the lights inside the vessel started blinking.
"Demascus save us! The autopilot's switched off! There seems to be a clutter in front. And we are fast approaching," exclaimed Freeng.
"Put the support factor on. I am taking controls."
Danube was quick into action.
"Brine my big runt! What in Cranel are these?"
They were looking at a space debris. Thousands of satellites dumped into the gravity-less space. Just floating around, unclaimed and unwanted.
Freeng and Danube's head craned to the left as the vessel steered cleared of an approaching metal.
"Don't they know the rules? They should have sent signs. And instead they send elixirs. What a stupid, selfish bunch!"
Danube was losing it and quickly. His ear was turning blue. It didn't look good against his light brown skin. In Cranel it is not supposed to be a good sign. It is almost offensive. Craneloos wear a shield over their ears when they work in hazardous situations. In such places it was common for the life rate of the Craneloo to reach such high levels that their ears turned blue.
The only reason Danube wasn't wearing the shield was well, there were only two of them. And they were comfortable, physically; being in the vessel for years together.
"I'm sorry about that." Danube explained to Freeng. His ear was now back to the usual light brown.
"That was crazy wasn't it," said Freeng as he settled back into his co-pilot's chair.
"I was beginning to think this was a kinda good looking place. I must think otherwise now."
"Let's not get into such early conclusions. Remember Yuteria? Looked horrendous first didn't it?"
"At least they had proper alarm signs on," mumbled Danube.
"Yeah. Even then. It looked rotten from the outside. But the people were quite nice. You were getting quite friendly with one hocky looking Yuterian."
"Velina," sighed Danube and his eyes gazed out dreamily. Greeting it was a sight of the blue planet. "This Earth place. It looks rather cold. Why don't we go back to Yuteria?"
"You know Haman's orders. We cannot track back. The goal set to us was gan planets. And we are still at ryut."
Danube looked dejected. Add to it the memories of Velina and he felt miserable inside. Freeng saw his mate's worry.
"Maybe there's a sweet human being waiting for you here."
"Hu-mang buh-ing? Is that what they call the creatures here? I am telling you, this sounds like a terrible place."
"We'll see in a while, won't we?"
"Are you telling me we are touching down here?" asked Danube, now looking perplexed at the audacity of the option.
"Haman's orders Dan," replied Freeng.
"Haman haman. What has he ever..."
"Careful Dan. This might be recorded."
Danube fell silent. Danube was from the Crothilian sect of Cranel. Haman's party failed badly in the elections in Crothilia. There was a huge tussle as Haman's aides wanted to take revenge at Crothilians. It was rumoured that about a hundred Crothilians lost their lives. After this incident, Haman took over the military of Cranel and revolted against the then prime Carnelian, Marnagia, overthrowing her finally.
Danube's thoughts were interrupted by a slight whir from the tail of the vessel.
"I am setting the coordinates," informed Freeng as he fed in the new destination. Danube could feel the vessel swerving to the left.
"Ok. Put self-fly off. I will take the controls." Danube's voice failed in showing any enthusiasm.
The small, blue planet was becoming bigger and bigger. Tufts of green sprang up from the otherwise radiant blue. Patches of browns formed, as if the blue and the green of the surface was getting corroded at places.
"Nugit bedits to air scratches," commanded Freeng.
"Gan, mut, benda, nugen, ryut, kadli, wing, beng, ugo."
"Surface wetting released," informed Danube, hitting a small patch of silver in the controls in front of him.
"Arrival steps have started," said Freeng and he took his tentacles off the controls.
Freeng and Danube slumped back, their eyes screwed at the sight unfolding in front of them.
The greens and browns started getting sparer. The blue hung in front of them like a curtain. It moved gently to the tunes of an unknown conductor.
"I see another surface change," said Freeng as he leaned forward to look at the orb.
"Will our wetting hold in the new surface?" asked Danube.
"Hmm... I think it should. Brace tight. We are almost there."
And with that the vessel plunged into the water making barely any splash. Even the ripples didn't last more than seconds against the waves of the ocean.
Inside the vessel, Freeng and Danube sat dumbstricken against the vision unfolding in front of their eyes. There were bright splashes of yellows and reds, framed against a magnificent dark blue background. Danube craned his eyes upward to see a majestic green light hovering above. His ear turned pink.
"I see that you've already started liking it," remarked Freeng. "And you still haven't found your Velina yet."
"Freeng. We are approaching surface," noticed Danube, taking his eyes off the splendid sights and concentrating on the panel in front.
"We are set for vessel exit, Dan."
Even Freeng's ear turned pink as he un-safed himself from the seat. Danube followed his actions. After adjusting the pressure inside the vessel to match that of outside, Freeng released the exit latch.
The door dropped open as some bubbles escaped from the tiny cavities on its sides. Freeng and Danube floated out from vessel. Their tentacles floated around their streamlined body. Their feet joined together to take the shape of a tail fin.
"By Brine! This is just like Cranel!" exclaimed Danube.
"Yeah. It sure feels the same. I think it's a little warmer."
"Where are the hunug begums?"
"Where are the hunug begums?"
"Human beings, Dan. And I don't know. I couldn't really see how they looked even. Thanks to that junk they have kept around the planet."
"I see some people coming our way," said Dan pointing ahead.
From the bleak blue of the depths of ocean were floating a number of dark bodies. Their features were still unclear as the haze was rather thick at these depths.
As they came closer, their features became apparent. They had a pale silver skin. Smooth, with no hairy growth. They didn't have any limbs, except for their fins. Their nose was pointed and their eyes formed a small black dot. Three slits on each side, marked where they breathed in and out.
"Hello." greeted Danube. "How are you folks? Hunag begi..."
"Human beings?" corrected Freeng.
A particularly slender one from the group came closer to Freeng and Danube. It screeched. The creature had pearly white teeth that slanted to form really sharp incisors and a pale red gums.
"Scimilion your name? I am Danube. You can call me Dan. I must say you have a beautiful smile."
Freeng flicked around towards Danube.
"Looks like you've already found your Velina," said Freeng coyly.