Once the reports from the AI lander had been analysed Stefan had been in communication with the Nabians and negotiated permission to land in one of the planet's few desert areas. While initial contacts had been via text based systems it had not taken long for audio and video links via the lander to be accepted. The computer voice translation systems had worked well but Stefan still recalled his first unsettling view of Reyhan the Nabian negotiator. While the landers description of the Nabians as monopods and the still photographs it had provided were unusual they had not really prepared Stefan for the sight of a purple, four armed, walrus like life form that swayed, sinuously, side to side on a single lower limb. In return Reyhan had been intrigued by the bifurcated lower limbs of the humans, how confusing it must be to have a spare leg but only two arms.
The Nabians had refused any suggestion that they might clear any part of the vegetation covered areas of their planet to allow landing. Every plant was precious and only a desert landing would be acceptable. They would assemble a greeting party at the edge of the desert and await their visitors there as they would not be able to travel into the desert to meet them. This puzzled Stefan and his crew. The Nabians certainly had enough technology, albeit pre-industrial, to travel around their planet but seemed unwilling to venture any distance at all into the desert.
Stefan activated the un-docking controls that would release them from the SS Ptolemy. Over the speakers the annoying computer voice announced, “Watch out for that first step, it's a lulu. Geronimo!”. Stefan groaned, “That computer technician is going to regret the day he messed with my vessel. Prepare for braking burn”. As the rocket motors ignited the computer giggled and whispered. “Sorry, I should not have have eaten all that chilli.”
Minutes later the lander broke through the almost continuous cloud cover and they could, at last, see the planet below them. The desert area was ahead of them and except for this sandy expanse the surface as far as the horizon was covered in purple vegetation. While the AI had mentioned that the Nabian vegetation relied on rhodopsin,'visual purple' rather than green chlorophyll for photosynthesis this certainly made the planet appear more alien then others they had landed on.
Stella lowered the landing gear as Stefan scouted out a good flat area among the dunes and escarpments of the desert below. After a few moments he spoke, “It looks as if we will be able to get reasonably close to the reception committee, which is all to the good as the surface vehicle is not the most comfortable transport I've ever driven.”. At this point the computer chimed in, “Cabin crew, doors to manual, please put your seats in the upright position and fold away your seat tables. Anyone want a sweetie to suck?”. Even Stefan had to smother a smile at this.