The expedition from the Cuthmar found it necessary to space walk to the unidentified vessel since the Vesarius had no suitable internal hangar and lacked compatible Galactic standard docking ports. Besides, the aliens made no move to help until the Tymbrimi entered space, then alien spacewalkers guided them to a small entry hatch, down a sealed tube, to a room.
Entering the ship, the Tymbrimi were shocked to find the aliens wearing what seemed to be (and in fact were) biological isolation suits. At strategic points some of the aliens were holding what were obviously sidearms. The Tymbrimi again tried to communicate in all twelve standard O-2 languages and even used some inter-order hailing codes. The aliens did not respond in kind.
Instead, they gave the Tymbrimi a quantity of gold and gestured that the Tymbrimi sit down. This despite the fact that the aliens had yet to remove their isolation suits, nor invited the Tymbrimi to remove their vacuum suits, despite the clearly suitable nitrogen-oxygen atmosphere. The aliens departed even further from normal polite behavior by leaving their visitors in zero gravity (of course, a discrete scan did reveal that the room was probably not equipped with gravity generation.) Still convinced that something interesting must come from all this bizarre behavior, the Tymbrimi opted to go along with the elaborate game, and took their seats. The lights were dimmed and an impressive multi-media show began lasting about a hab. Meanwhile, three of the five visiting Tymbrimi took the opportunity to surreptitiously set down their heavy air tanks. By the end of the entertainment, the aliens had been joined by two furry quadrupeds without bio-isolation suits and their two handlers who wore the absurd precautions. (The quadrupeds, German shepherds it turns out, also proved unidentifiable.)
Immediately after the entertainment, the aliens gave the Tymbrimi miniature holographic displays and showed their visitors (still in their suits) how to use the controls and change the curious little shiny squares that provided the machines with data. The alien sapients also gave each Tymbrimi two data squares one square contained holographs and sounds of an incredible variety of plants and animals, while the other was obviously a primer for an unknown language. After an hour or so, the Tymbrimi were given another ten squares, and for some reason shown a detailed scale model of the alien ship, Vesarius.
The Tymbrimi team spent many hours examining (and secretly recording) the well presented, but frequently incomprehensible data in the weightless unadorned room. They did eventually remove their vacuum suits and make the acquaintance of what they had learned were “dogs”. Unfortunately they could not agree whether the aliens called themselves “zhon”, or “limda”. Also unfortunate, the aliens had offered neither refreshment, nor toilet facilities, and the Tymbrimi group had to leave.
Having captured only a portion of the data, the Tymbrimi put aside the aliens’ possessions. The visitors rose and indicated they wanted to leave by patting the doorway and repeating the word “egzid” to the delight of the aliens who soon understood that in addition to knowing the door was an exit, also wanted to use the exit. The aliens scooped the gold, miniature holographic displays, ten little squares, and the oddly literal and delicate model of the Vesarius into satchels and pressed them into Tymbrimi hands. It was unbelievable wealth, that much entertainment gratis, even for a really good joke. But after a brief debate with the Cuthmar, they kept the property and returned to their boat.
Back on the Cuthmar, the Tymbrimi poured over the data. One holoplayer was devoted to the small Library unit aboard. The Library requested use of, and got, 112/128 of the Cuthmar’s limited computer resources. For the next 29 hab the ships’ Library refused to download news updates, and tersely announced postponement of any data requests. In the end, the Library unit announced that it could identify none of the species depicted, that there was very high probability that both dogs and the limda were genuine species, and it was quite plausible that many other species in the holographic file also really existed. It concluded that the species provisionally designated “limda”; was probably a “wolfling” species from a rich, but poorly documented biosphere. The unit also advised the Tymbrimi to contact responsible institutes at the earliest opportunity.
The Library unit then downloaded the full text of the most recent news magazine from Tymbrim and gave rather thorough and helpful (or at least straightforward) answers to most pending queries.
The captain then cautiously hinted she had more data that she would like to share with the unit. Negotiations followed in which the Library unit agreed to deal with queries as a batch every 26 hab, and process urgent requests immediately. It also agreed to discuss its findings every 28 hab.
The computers had little luck with the Anglic primer having little data or programming to deal with a completely novel language. In this regard the Tymbrimi did somewhat better on their own.
The Vesarius continued on its slow progress at near light speed. So after more than 211 hab devoted to studying the data squares, the Tymbrimi had no problem re-establishing contact. Bringing the Cuthmar close to the alien vessel, the events of the last contact were repeated except that the Tymbrimi expedition took care to wear comfortable vacc suits and bring presents. The aliens dispensed with their protective suits. Although there were no dogs, the Tymbrimi did meet (and poke, and prod) a rather patient early generation Neo-Chimp, named Houdini, tending to bottles of liquid ammonia and water with numerous graphic indication of the contents and the potential for ingestion. The aliens seemed quite pleased that the Tymbrimi preferred water. However, the aliens did not even offer a choice of simple sugars hardly a surprise from a species that would think an O-2 species might ingest ammonia.
The aliens also gave their Tymbrimi visitors a tour of their amazingly cramped, industrial, delightfully complex vessel. They also had extensive on-board greenhouse facilities with an extraordinary selection of exotic plants (the soil in some of these micro-farms would host the first invasion of Galactic micro-organisms, to the detriment of the entire Vesarius micro-ecology.) There were also on-board gene banks with samples for many organisms shown in the holographic bestiary. The Tymbrimi were astounded that the aliens parted freely with samples.
At the end of the visit, several aliens put on vacc suits, and escorted the Tymbrimi back to their boat, and onto their boat, and back to the Cuthmar. The aliens accepted water and glucose. The also spent several minutes jumping up and down and picking things up and dropping them. (The Humans later explained that they were fascinated by the synthetic gravity.) The Humans got a chance to meet a Tytlal, who was allowed to rummage through the contents of a Human's supply satchel. The Tytlal used the opportunity to open all the food packs in the bag and replicated two of the more interesting entrees. The people then duplicated things for an entire 3 x 22 hab. The rest of the ship's tour was relatively uneventful.
For the next 29 hab the Cuthmar accelerated to near light speed, and there were constant visits between the two crews. By this time enough progress had been made at language learning that mechanical translation aided communication significantly, so long as the conversation kept to technical matters.