The Compendium is surrounded by a sensory array that detects incoming pithanoton particles. When they are detected, the signature of the incoming signal is matched with our archived contacts. If it is a new contact, the signal is routed to the room dubbed Welcome Committee.

The Welcome Committee is the name of the room where first contact with a new universe is made. Only staff that enjoy the monotony of encounters with the 1 millionth tiny variation of a known universe can hope to be assigned there.

Needless to say, upper level management is never found there.

There is a very strict protocol, including the hexaton fields that prevent any molecules or lifeforms from exchanging places. The AI makes a guess as to the closest baseline of the new world and we change the décor of the room to create something mostly familiar to the contact from the new universe. I haven't worked the Welcome Committee for a while, but I do remember various log cabins with faux bearskin rugs, alien cantinas, and all the various laboratories packed with strange equipment generated for the new contacts.

This contact, though, was unusual. The Welcome Committee generated no scene at all. This can sometimes happen when a mental contact is made by a higher consciousness. Since those contacts can be dangerous, our Em-Par team will show up to handle potential mental attacks.

When they arrived, they began to express melancholy. It wasn't the kind forced upon them, but an organic sadness that can only come from within. Em-Pars are not usually the emotional type, so we raised alert levels to seal off the room from the rest of the Compendium. I was not looking forward to filing the mileage card for the time loop that may be required to undo this contact. The worst part is the overtime form for working the same time period multiple times.

Interrupting my thoughts, the Em-Par team leader gave the signal for safety. We manually initiated contact and waited. After a few moments, a song came through. It was a dirge.

There was a bass voice signing about death and loss. A soprano voice harmonized in brighter tones, singing about life and positive change. The song changed after a minute to the low alto voice singing of memory and grief, the high tenor joined in with thoughts of hope. It repeated two times. Somehow this song brought out feelings of grief I didn't know my species was capable of producing. It wasn't mind control, but I could empathetically feel the song and experience those feelings. The juxtaposition of high and low, pain and joy was almost overwhelming.

The Em-Pars signaled that the singers knew of our presence despite the lack of visual contact. We started a one-way viewer to see them and examine their world, though even the most stoic of us felt slow to begin analysis.

We saw a man and woman standing in a dry plain. There were cacti and desert plants. A group of twenty-one persons were standing behind the couple. Analysis showed that this was a funeral, but we already understood that before the reports began pouring out on the displays. The boy appeared to be no older than two years old. They all appeared baseline human, but we knew that even before the pithanton report declared it so. I stopped looking at the displays and just looked at the people.

When all of them began to sing together, I was brought back to my homeworld as a small child. I remembered my younger brother who suddenly passed in his sleep. I wasn't feeling back there, I was physically brought back there somehow. I was standing at the bedside trying to awaken him, not understanding that he was already gone. We all knew it was coming, he was expected to live another few months, but he made it two years, 8 days, 2 hours and 22 minutes.

This time was different, though. I wasn't in shock. I was sad, I was grieving, but I was also remembering the pillow forts in the living room and the trips to the tourist traps on Io. I was celebrating his love of life and his desire to experience everything he could before he was gone. I had strapped him to my back the day before when he wanted to fly around. He laughed so deeply, I didn't want to land.

I got in trouble in my early career for going to alternate timelines to meet my brother as an adult. I had recently attempted another trip but was intercepted by the security and the logistics teams. I had actually filled out the fake paperwork to make another attempt after I got off work.

Afterwards, though, I felt I didn't need to take that trip.

They sang for another ten minutes. Then they lowered the boy into the ground, covered him with a red powder of some kind, and buried him.

The people were aware of us watching the entire time. We have protocols to prevent being misunderstood as gods or higher beings, but they knew that we were just observers, somehow. The Em-Pars confirmed as much.

Other teams came in and we started the examination of their culture and customs. The biologists studied the flora and fauna. The soil and everything in it was classified by the geologists and filed in multiple reports.

We began to study their language viewing into their past and near future. After recording hundreds of hours of conversation, we started the committee to name this universe, the last thing before transition to the archival teams. A handful of names were produced, but the choice was unanimous. We named it The Song, Chinnakan in their language. This remains the only universe in the Compendium where first contact was a song.