It started with one shuttle. The craft was old, scarred from countless flights through superheated atmosphere, and its crew wore a mismatched collection of patched-together flight suits. They landed on the diveball field a mile from my house, looked around in utter confusion for maybe ten spans, then left.
A few rotations later, another shuttle landed. This one was in much better shape, and the people on board were all dressed in snappy uniforms. Like the first group, they filed out of their craft, looked around for a while, then shrugged and flew away.
The next rotation, there were two shuttles on the field, and the city council decided something needed to be done about the strange visits before a reentry craft tried landing during a diveball game and pancaked our local team. After all, they’d placed third in the regionals, and we were quite proud of them.
The next landing happened two rotations later, and the field was cordoned off before their shuttle touched down. It felt like half the city was there to watch as our mayor walked out to meet our visitors.
They were friendly enough at first, but after a couple spans, the lead human began arguing with our mayor, making wild gestures and pointing at his crew. We couldn’t hear what was being said, but it was frightening to watch — humans are about a head taller than us and a lot denser.
The incident made the local news, and authorities advised everyone to stay away from the field until the matter was resolved.
Three shuttles landed the following rotation. Then five.
It wasn’t an invasion, exactly. The humans would arrive, look baffled for a while, and leave. It was almost like they didn’t know why they were there, and no one on the city council seemed to have a solution. They weren’t doing any real harm, other than a few deafening spans of rocket noise as they came and went.
The impromptu human visits continued for about a quarter-spin before someone finally figured out what was happening. My neighbor Fluritt, in fact. He showed me his evidence before he brought it to the city council.
See, Fluritt had been flying a drone over the diveball field when he noticed something weird on the cameras. Normally, we use an infrared-reactive paint on the field, which helps a lot during night games. It’s low intensity, so it doesn’t bother our eyes much.
But Fluritt’s drone was almost blinded by the intensity coming off the field, so he put a few filters in place and used it to take pictures. Turns out, whoever repainted our field with the team name used the wrong kind of paint. On our visible spectrum, it didn’t look that different, but the stuff was insanely reactive and visible from low orbit, if your species could observe that wavelength.
Which humans can, it turns out.
But the real shock was Fluritt’s second discovery. One of those bizarre cultural flukes that sometimes happen across languages. The glyphs of our team’s name mean ‘Victorious Flyers’ in Hvatti. But certain Hvatti glyphs share a superficial resemblance to some letters in human English. To them, our field — visible from space — read something very different:
Republished with permission from the author, KieveKRS. Image created using Stable Diffusion.