I always wanted to see the planets – Episode 17

In the old days it would be ‘Houston, we have a problem’

I thought about staying in the day room, not hiding, but on the pretext of getting that report ready for the Admiral, but it was only a fleeting thought.

I had been the captain of a cargo vessel, how much hard could this be?

I stepped onto the bridge, and it all felt different.

The second officer had been waiting by the door, and said, ‘We’ve picked up several alien vessels on the long range scanner, like nothing we’ve seen before.”

“Not like the vessel that you just saw? It can’t be our lucky day to find two new species within hours of each other, though I guess it’s not impossible.”

And considering we humans had been in space, and nearly to the edge of our galaxy for nearly ten years, why wait until now to make themselves known?

We arrived at the navigators console and he had the alien vessels displayed.

On screen, they were quite small, and trying to increase magnification turned them into blurs. I hadn’t seen the other ship. “Tell me we have a photograph of the alien vessel.”

“We have.”

The navigator displayed the alien vessel beside the two new ships, and at first glance they didn’t appear to be similar. We’d have to wait until we were closer.

And see if they were hostile, or not.

“How soon before we make contact?” I asked the navigator.

“About seven hours, sir.”

“Good. Keep on the trail of that vessel. Our orders are to retrieve the captain and Myers. Oh, and you’ve been promoted to Acting Number One,” I said quietly to the second officer.

“They’re not sending a replacement?” Clearly he wasn’t expecting it, and judging by his expression, not exactly happy about it.

“That is still to be decided. You have the bridge. I’ll be down in Engineering if you need me.”

Another trip in a suspect elevator that had a few creaks and groans before it delivered me safely to the engine room.

It was more a large open space that was very quiet, with banks of consoles and people in specially coloured uniforms to designate their department. Bridge crew were designated dark Green, Engineering navy blue.

I knew others were not exactly enamoured with their uniforms, but someone, or some group, had put a lot of thought into them. As for the design, well, that was a hot topic at any time among the crew.

The chief engineer, Scottish of course, had an office to himself, and had the accoutrements of his achievements scattered about, along with more interesting photographs of himself with many of the more famous people back on earth.

I had no such keepsakes.

He saw me coming and stood as I entered the office. It took a few seconds for it to register that it was a mark of respect to the captain, even though he was older, wiser, and far more experienced.

“Congratulations.”

He held out his hand and I shook it.

“I wish it was in better circumstances.”

“What exactly happened?”

“We were boarded. How they knew the captain was in his day room is anyone’s guess, but the alien beamed aboard, like we transport supplies.”

“We have yet to prove its not harmful, so these aliens must be different.”

“Except they take the same form, and speak our language.”

“No doubt using a translator. And if they can do that, then this is not the first time they have seen us.”

“But it’s the first time we’ve seen them?”

“Well, that’s a little more tricky because I think we have encountered them before. Your Admiral just uploaded a few files, and it seems we have encountered them before, though not quite so up close and personal.”

I didn’t like the way he referred to the Admiral as my Admiral, or perhaps I was not across his vernacular.

“He omitted to tell me that when I spoke to him.”

“It was in the middle of the night, and we were to get a briefing once we reached the edge of our galaxy. Van was across it, and was going to tell the crew in a few days, but this Venus thing popped up.

You know how it is, never a dull day in space.”

© Charles Heath 2021

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