• Ejuen Armstrong

Venus Rising

First Contact has arrived on Earth, but there's been a leak...

For six days now, the ship from Venus has been floating above us like the diaphanous nightdress of a honeymoon bride. Stare too intently, and it disappears. Right now they're hopping mad, but they've yet to make a decision. We're certainly not going to approach them. The Venusians might reside upon our planetary Goddess of Love but they're not to be … fornicated about with.

In my Bathsheba apartment, Kris and I are reviewing the Venusians' first and only press conference, organised by the World Welcoming Committee (WWC) filmed remotely from within a 'secure' holding. Kris focuses on the screen like a bomb disposal expert checking for wires. I sip bottle water and munch on a cheesy curl.

The sound of leaky pipes from the first steam engine fills the room. It's the Venusian 'voice'. Or rather, their simulacrum of a human voice, created by merging the ionospheric waves of our 'sister' planets. We've heard this PR speech several times now.

"Organic life, not dissimilar to your own, started on Venus over two billion years ago. When our surface liquid began to evaporate, it derailed our evolutionary cycle and sent us spinning in a new direction. To counteract dehydration, we rapidly developed a means of extracting liquid from the surface. Then discovered that we no longer needed it. Our re-evolution allowed us to survive in the only place that remained habitable on Venus.”

It's laughably tragic that shared elements of size, mass, proximity and composition have resulted in us being twinned with a horror like Venus. With its clouds of sulphuric acid, Earth's poets continue to wax lyrical about the shiniest planet in the Solar System.

But I guess it's understandable. After all, how many people know that Venus has a surface atmospheric pressure 92 times greater than Earth's, a mean surface temperature of nearly 900°F, not a single discernible body of water anywhere, and an atmosphere consisting of 96% carbon dioxide?

Right now I'm angry for my sister. She's in a depression. Kris is a brilliant astrophysicist, but a ponderous stickler for detail. And detail was apparently was the last thing necessary in constructing a docking station capable of holding alien lifeforms.

Instead, contracts were awarded by a committee that wanted fast work, and to engineers who wanted fast money. Subsequently, they discarded the rigid specifications the Venusians had drawn up. They also rejected Kris's 'questionable methodology'. Presumably because she had 'questioned' their methods.

“I guess they didn't care whether their rivets were constructed from paper or from platinum,” she tells me.

​She's justifiably morose. Something in the holding was loose. So what happened? Well, it let the Venusians get loose. That failsafe unit promised by WWC was about as closed as a colander. The result? Right now twenty amorphous Venusians are loose among us, deadly and invisible. With the ability to move in the clouds. To be the clouds. Glory hallelujah and cogito ergo sum. I think, therefore I am.

It's ironic. Despite the planet being embedded in Earth culture, Earth remains infinitely more hospitable. No human has yet conquered the means, upon their arrival on Venus, to avoid being simultaneously, boiled, suffocated, pancaked and melted. One of the problems is that we've always looked at Venus as no more than a star that has a crusty new surface scab forming every few million years. When it came to concepts of intelligent alien life, honestly, we had our heads in the clouds.

“How long do you think they'll wait before they decide to return home?" I ask Kris.

"Well, they're not happy," she says. "I’ve heard three days. But WWC won't say if that means 72 hours or 729 days.”

She's justifiably morose. Right now twenty amorphous Venusians are loose among us, deadly and invisible. With the ability to move in the clouds. To be the clouds. Cogito ergo sum. I think therefore I am.

It's ironic. The planet Venus is embedded in our own culture, but Earth remains infinitely more hospitable. No human has yet conquered the means to avoid being simultaneously suffocated, boiled, pancaked, and melted immediately upon arrival on the Evening Star.

That's probably because we've always seen it as no more than a star with a crusty new surface forming every few million years. When it came to concepts of intelligent alien life, we've been walking around with our heads in the clouds.

* * *

Well the ship left today, four weeks after arriving. Earth's PR report included global projections of silver-suited humanoid creatures being welcomed and feted before departing, with more plans for another meeting of intergalactic galactic minds. Ha ha.

WWC begged my sister to come on board. She's happily using my ingénue terror as blueprint specifications for making Second Contact. Now, looking at me, she sips her water before speaking. “On Venus, due to the immense heat, rain evaporates long before it reaches the surface."

Her next statement sounds like a regal proclamation. "Rain will fall on Earth."

I really do not like where this is going. To calm my nerves I compose one of my little ditties.

"Oh it's geo hydro-logical;

The water cycle-ogical...

Sulphuric acid-ogical..."

She interrupts brusquely. “What's on your mind, Kellis?”

There's not a glimmer of a smile, which means that things are looking very bad indeed. I take a deep breath and release all my fears. "Venusians have to suffer a whirlwind tour of their planet every five days or so. Our clouds are turtles compared to theirs, and our planet much more welcoming. If one could claim asylum from a planet, that's what they'd be doing. So in the meantime, what do they eat? Could they re-mutate? Mate? Also, their water didn't evaporate. We've learned that they just greedily siphoned it all up. So now they're out of drink and at our party. You know what happens at parties, Kris?"

She shrugs cluelessly. I elaborate. "People get drunk. And if they're enjoying themselves they call their friends to gate-crash. They remove clothing. Spread themselves about. Trash the place." She stares at me, and I mumble vaguely, "Then apologise profusely afterwards."

Kris leaves for work ten minutes later, and I'm left chewing cheesies solo. Frankly, I'd have preferred to have had First Contact from Tentaclus Maximus. I worry about the constant rain, about picking up a glass of water, about wishing I'd paid more attention in geography class. Because right now I have never been so interested in precipitation.​

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