by Brandon Crilly
That arkship is coming whether people want it or not.
A lot of the other tug pilots do. That’s why they’re hooking junk above the twinkling hemisphere below. We each have our sectors, and each of them is still clogged with enough debris to last two more generations. It’s a calling, this job, but I don’t feel the need to talk about it. Mostly I drown out the others’ comm chatter with techno, but tonight I switch back to one of the arkship transmissions.
I’ve heard every recording, including from long before I was born. The originals are best, not the attempted translations. You can hear the truth of why they’re coming in their natural speech. The translators and xenobiologists argue back and forth, but I don’t understand how anyone can mistake what our future guests are saying, after really listening.
Their frothing, bubbling speech fills my cabin as I hook another long-dead satellite. Come the dawn, no one below will notice any difference in the sky. But unlike the sea and land restorations, this cleanup isn’t for them. It’s far more important, and thankfully on schedule.
Really listen to those recordings and you’ll hear it. How much the beings on that arkship miss their home. Longing and regret are hard to capture in translation. Something must have happened, and now they’re coming here; maybe because we’re the only bright spot they could see. Luckily, their ancestors started sending word ahead, and mine started preparing a better first impression, and both of us have kept our respective sides going.
I won’t see the orbital cleanup finished, but that’s okay. As long as it’s done before our guests arrive. Maybe if they see a world that’s beautiful and pristine, they’ll be less likely to destroy it like they did theirs.
Brandon Crilly has been previously published by Daily Science Fiction, Fusion Fragment, PULP Literature, Flame Tree Publishing and other markets. He’s also an Aurora Award-nominated podcaster, reviewer, conference programmer, and history teacher. Find him at https://brandoncrilly.com or on Twitter @B_Crilly.
“Best Impressions” combines my focus on climate fiction and solarpunk with something else that’s always fascinated me: how we’d react to confirmation of extraterrestrial life. Moral behavior tends to occur more often when we think someone will see what we do, and I think that applies to environmental consciousness as much as anything else. Would we worry about what an alien species might think about how we’ve treated Earth? Reactions would vary, I think, which is a big part of what I tried to capture in this story.