We had just spent three earth years on this stinking Grade 3 planet when I received a message from Control. There were three more scientific types on their way from Earth.
As if I wasn’t already up to my neck in scientists. There were already nearly five hundred of them here in the settlement. It was my job to keep them safe. I should say ‘try to keep them safe’ as they were always inventing new ways of getting themselves into trouble. To top it off I only had a single platoon of marines to do this and most of them were on their first off earth rotation. Thank the heavens we had not had to use any force against the native inhabitants.
The natives had been nicknamed ‘The Quiet’ as they appeared to be dumb. In three years no one had ever heard them utter a sound. They were bi-pedal and in body shape much like us except for their head. It was overly large and their eyes were also much bigger than ours. They wore only the minimum of clothing and no shoes. Their feet were wide and flat and they made no noise at all as they moved around. They lived in small villages and each stone house contained a large family group. The scientific types had not discovered any use of sophisticated mechanical devices. In fact they appeared to gather everything they needed from the dense forests that covered most of this planet.
When we had arrived we had to blast out a clearing for our landing and my marines were the first to exit to secure a perimeter. We were ready for any eventuality, or so we thought. The natives greeted us with total indifference and it took us many weeks to realise, that to them, we just did not seem to exist. Every attempt at communication failed and as strict protocols did not allow us to interfere with their lives, unless invited by them to do so; we just went about our mission to see if the planet offered any useful resources. The scientists did what scientists do and my men quickly became bored with the daily routine of escorting them and forever pulling them out of swamps, rescuing them from cliffs and the myriad of other ways they seemed to get into trouble.
The climate here had not changed since we had landed. Every day dawned clear and hot. By the middle of the day it was cloudy, humid and hot and by late afternoon it rained. It did not just rain but came down in bucket loads.
It was becoming difficult to keep my men motivated and as the months dragged on into years they became more and more vocal about ‘The Quiet’ and their dumb ways. I was forced to discipline some of them when they had tried to provoke a reaction from the natives. Nothing that they did got any response and this annoyed them even more.
Well, the three scientists arrived by shuttle accompanied by nearly a tonne of equipment. They took two days to set it all up in one of the empty accommodation modules. They had just finished when we received an order from Control that we should all gather in the main hall for a meeting.
When we had all finally arrived and settled down the Chief Scientist took the podium. She announced that for the past two years they had been studying the natives with remote devices from the orbiting Control centre. ‘The Quiet as you call them are not so quiet after all.’ She said as she switched on one of the machines. The room was filled with high pitched noises that seemed to ebb and flow.
‘We have changed the frequency so that you can hear it, but what you are listening to is one of the natives ‘talking’ to another. We have managed to decipher their ‘language’ and can now understand what they are saying to each other. We do not as yet understand how they generate the sounds except that it comes from somewhere within their brain.’
There was stunned silence in the room until one of my men said, ‘What are they saying?’ Another muttered, ‘Just cause they speak don’t mean they’re not dumb.’
The scientist explained that ‘The Quiet’ knew that we were arriving well before we had even reached orbit and that they also realised that their planet did not have anything that we would find useful. They had decided to just ignore us and we would eventually go away.
She concluded by saying, ‘The Quiet are not as quiet as you thought and also more importantly they are not as backward. They have a rich and vibrant culture that we are just beginning to understand. So as the old saying goes, ‘do not judge a book by its cover’.’