I always wanted to see the planets – Episode 27

Now, about those aliens…

Of course the first action I took was to call on security to disperse people across all decks and departments to make sure no one boarded our ship unnoticed.

We needed to find a way of detecting such boardings without having to deploy people, a matter I’d bring up at the first departmental heads meeting.

If there was ever going to be a time for it.

“Mallory to the Captain, can we meet urgently?”

Mallory was one of the three men in the shuttle that brought me to the ship, and he was, if I remember rightly, one of the scientists, his field being scanners. Just the man to ask about detecting alien presences.

“Come up the the bridge. We’ll talk in the day room.”

I handed over the bridge to number one, and met Mallory at the elevator. He took a few moments to take in the bridge, the screen, now showing both Uranus, and several of its moons.

“Great view “

“Sometimes it’s better not knowing what’s out there,” I said.

His expression told me that comment might have been a little too flippant in the circumstances.

“Come this way.” I led him to the day room, opened the door and followed him in.

“I assume,” I said after waiting till the door was closed, “that it’s not a matter you wanted to share with the rest of the bridge.”

“That’s for you to determine. But it’s about the ship that was just here.”

“We believe it’s alien.”

“It’s not.”

OK. That was a revelation, but how could he tell the difference? My immediate guess, they had no previous alien profile to run it against.

“How so?”

“We have scanners, and we have scanners.”

Confusing to say the least, but I think I knew what he was trying to say. We had a military presence, but until I became captain, I didn’t realise we also had military hardware.

What else did we have?

“We have the ability to scan other vessels, and in certain circumstances, check for lifesigns inside. But we only had earth created ships to use as a subject for testing, simply because we know the compounds used in our vessel’s structure, including this one.”

“So anything made by us can be scanned?”

“Yes, and that ship just standing off us, we could scan it and what and who was inside, which means it’s not an alien vessel.”

That was perfectly good reasoning, except as far as I was aware, this ship was not completely earth technology.

“There might be only one way to create the outer skins and superstructure, in any ship.”

“That’s possible, yes. But we anticipated that we might eventually run into something we couldn’t penetrate until we could work out what the ship was made of and then work out how to penetrate it. That so called alien ship, we could see inside.”

“It could still be an alien ship. After all, I assume you adjusted the scanners to work through the material this ship is made of, and I doubt you’re going to argue the metal used was the result of an accidental discovery.”

He looked uncomfortable, and for a moment I thought he was going to try, but just sighed. “It’s possible, but unlikely.”

“OK then, does it fit the profile of any earth vessels?”

I knew of about 200 different types of ship out here in space, not all as well as some, and the computer recognition system had hundreds more variations, so if we ran into another ship, we could identify it.

“One or two, but it’s been modified. Also, there’s only six people on board, and from our scan, it seems all were recently in custody at a Mars penitentiary outpost. They were given a so called vaccination which put nanites in their system so they could be recognised if or when they decided to rebel.”

“Are they escaped prisoners?”

“Given the discussion I just had with security, that seems to be the case. But to verify those assumptions I got onto the Mars station, and it seems they are unaware of any missing prisoners or ships, but have sent someone over to check “

“Don’t they guard prisoners anymore?”

“They do, but with robots, and due to the remoteness, infrequent fly bys. They were coming up for one.”

“How infrequent?”

“I was told a few months, but I suspect it’s been longer. As for getting a ship, a well organised gang could have rescued some space junk and brought it back to life. It’s possible. And space still is a bit like the wild west.”

A recent problem, now that there was an ever increasing demand for travel and freight across our particular galaxy. Venus, Mars had galactic hotels, Saturn a space station and fly bys, and mining on various of the planets.

It was disappointing to realise our first contact wasn’t a first contact with a new world, just criminals expanding their horizons.

“Do they have weapons?”

“If we do, they do. We think the two smaller ships are modified troop carriers, the larger vessel, a freighter, but they have tinkered with the exterior to make people think they’re something or someone else.”

“They move pretty fast, much faster that anything we’ve got.”

“Except for this ship which may have surprised them, as well as some of us.”

“Anything else I need to know about?”

“About the other ships no. The military boys will want to join in the discussion of our next move. Something else you might want to know is that we were checking the logs and indemnified where those so called aliens came aboard, and to safely transport from one point to another, you need markers at each end.”

“And you found them?”

“In two places, and immediately removed so there will be no more unwanted boardings.”

“It raises the question…”

“A traitor on board? I don’t believe so, because they looked like they’d been installed as part of the decking. The traitors are back at the space station where the vessel was built.”

“OK. We’d better get everyone in the conference room and work out what we’re going to do next. Don’t go too far.”

© Charles Heath 2021

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