They’d followed the song from clear on the other side of the Milky Way. The rhythms of it enticed them. They moved in a way that no one of their species had ever done. The scanners couldn’t help but pick up the signals from the planet from far outside the solar system. The aliens had to dial the scanners back to sift the tsunami of signals pouring past them.
“It’s like they’re all screaming into the universe!” The ship’s Captain shook his head over the stream of data the ship was gathering.
“It’s too much, Sire.” The lead cultural scientist had bleached white with the stress of trying to make sense of the signals. “There’s no reason. It floods out from every part of the planet as though they can’t wait to have someone find them.”
“Aren’t they aware of all of the life forms out here? Some are quite dangerous.”
“I cannot tell, Sire.”
The Captain was perplexed. “What do you mean?”
The scientist sagged a little more. The Captain was certain that this form wouldn’t last too much longer.
“Sire, I cannot tell what’s real and what isn’t.”
“Real? What do you mean?”
“They have real and they have what they call fiction. The song we followed was fiction.”
The entire staff blanched. “We’ve been following this signal for hundreds of light years! What do you mean it’s not real?”
The scientist sagged more. “No, sire. The signal is real. The rhythms are real. What the story says is not real. It’s…” the scientist struggled to create a name for the concept. “It’s a Fiction.” He stumbled over the translation of the word into his own language. It had taken him the entire trip to understand and the concept was so foreign, it was killing him.
“Chief Scientist. You are not well.”
“No, Sire. I am not. This concept is too dangerous. I beg you not to approach this planet. It will kill us all.”
The rest of the staff gasped, in their own way. The Captain shook his appendage. “We’ve come all this way. We must find this Red Cadillac.”
The scientist shook its tentacles and left the briefing room. They found him the next ship’s morning, a deflated, dried sack on the floor of the linguistics lab. He was mourned with appropriate ceremony and stored in the ship’s vault for return to his family.
“Do not be afraid,” the Captain intoned at the memorial. The song they were chasing played softly in the background. The Chief Scientist was a noble being. He will be sorely missed but the search must continue.”
A few solar days later, the ship hovered outside of the orbit of Pluto. The entire ship was listening to the sounds of the planet the recordings called Earth. The music had changed. It was both more and less melodic. The magnet, Red Cadillac, still played from various parts of the wet, blue globe, but there was more. Each of the crew had a new favorite. Something that appealed to them and them alone. Conflicting tunes blasted from every cabin, mixing in the corridors in such a cacophony that the Captain had to have the new Chief Scientist develop a method for each crew member to listen to the sounds in a way that didn’t intrude on the others.
When they reached the satellite of Earth they hid behind it, out of detection range of the primitive’s search capabilities.
The Captain was astounded. “They send their signals of this “music” out into the universe but lack the most basic of detection or defense?” It didn’t matter to him. The scan of the planet proceeded. They accessed all of the Earth’s databases. The goal was finally achieved.
The modification unit went to work. Lots were drawn. The four lucky crew members were chosen and modified and the appropriate clothing and credits manufactured. The stood in the transporter, stomach’s quivering. The Captain stood before them. “You’ve been equipped with our best recording devices. We salute you.” He came to attention and saluted with both appendages. “We’ll be watching.”
The landing party descended and made the transaction. The old human they contacted was grateful for the credits. She wept with joy, actually. From the ship the Captain suspected they’d paid too much but no matter. It was just paper after all. The landing party climbed into the vehicle and maneuvered it with only minor mishaps onto the nearest travel lane. By the time they reached what the humans called an interstate, they had all the experience they needed.
They found a local radio station and tuned in. They’d just reached cruising speed in the 1959 red Cadillac when the song played.
“Going to Memphis, going down on Beale street
I have all the pretty girls just looking at me
My top let down and my hair slicked back
Tell me the southern girls, they like it like that…”
The entire ship fell silent as the music played on every speaker.
They’d made it. These humans had so much more to offer! It was hard to tell what they could do or couldn’t! They’d make wonderful trading partners. That was after the “fictions” were separated from fact.
The Captain watched the videos carefully. One was particularly disturbing, The Day the Earth Stood Still. He studied that one, especially. It was old. Recent scans confirmed that the human military had advanced. The problem was the attitude. War of the Worlds was another. The humans seemed hostile. He’d have to think about the best approach.
No matter. The landing party was recording everything. That alone would pay for the trip. The Captain settled back into his command chair. It would go just fine. He was sure of it.
Acknowledgments: Johnny Rawls and his song: Red Cadillac from the album, Red Cadillac.
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