Talk fast, and hope like hell!
Oh, to be back on a cargo ship with three other crew members and a robot that wasn’t trying to destroy ships and murder crew members.
On the cargo ship, the captain could hide in his or her cabin behind the bridge and never come out except to tell the robot he or she was doing a good job.
Sometimes you’d see the crew in the mess hall.
No major life-changing decisions. It was point A to point B without drama, hold-ups, or anything really.
Not like being the captain of a brand-new class of explorer’s vessels with over 2,000 crewmen on the outer edges of our galaxy, on the verge of being destroyed.
“So, for the benefit of a human without the resources of countless generations of knowledge, and experience of countless alien entities, who or what are you that can make such a life-changing decision? Especially after you said that we would be safe.”
“If you are inferring that I am a robot programmed to not look rationally at the pros and cons of any case you put to me, or that I am devoid of any empathy, you’re wrong. That I should make such a threat, in our experience, you humans tend to do one of two possible actions, you retaliate with violence, or you make a rational argument. As for who I am, I have a living body that requires nourishment and ages not unlike your own, hosting a fully cognisant member of our race. The only difference is that I do not appear in my true form, in deference to making your interaction simpler. I could take any one of a hundred different forms, depending on whom we hold discussions.”
That cleared several questions that had formed in my mind. This race was very advanced, being able to put their consciousness into another, or any, body. Did that mean they never died? Not the time to ask. The fact they had found a way to assess human reaction to stress, or life or death situations so simply showed they had been observing us a long time.
“We chose not to shoot first. You will see we might be at a battle state, but that’s only for our protection. You cannot hold us responsible for the actions of that other ship because as far as the whole of our planet is concerned, we were the first to come here, and as the first, our mission is not to shoot first and ask questions later, as much as it is to explore, and learn. The keyword is learning.”
“These are words, and our experiences with humans have taught us that what you say and what you do are quite often two entirely different things.”
My experience too, and it was an all too familiar scenario. I suspect that the motives of my masters might equally be received with some skeptics, because not everyone in the alliance was on the same page, and decisions were sometimes based on possible shifting alliances.
Space travel still had a gloss on it, and everyone was looking to get a seat at the table. I had no doubt my new friend, I’d I could call him that, would be equally aware of the situation, as it appeared he did, and it spoke volumes about the levels of their penetration in our world.
“I think, then, our best course of action is to prove we mean what we say. You were chasing that other vessel, the one you say the occupants committed crimes upon people in your galaxy.”
“They did. We were, but there was a measured reluctance on the part of the other crew members to pursue them beyond the limits of our galaxy. Exploration is one thing, an offense that might cause conflict is something else.”
So, they had problems with being the instigators of actions that might be misinterpreted.
“Then let us apprehend them, and we will render the justice together. I have no trouble bringing people who have criminal intentions to justice. I would prefer it to be ours, but for the sake of creating at least an initial relationship between our worlds, I will accept the responsibility.”
I could see Nancy looking at me with a look that would kill mortal men and understood her concern. This was going to be a tough sell all round
“It would be acceptable as a preliminary basis for discussions. My people would consider your input if or when any or all of those responsible for crimes were arraigned.”
Good enough, for the moment.
“Excellent. Now, could you lift the block you have on our communications so I can get the first officer on to finding where their ship is “
“You may have a hard job catching them. Their ship is, as far as we are aware, the fastest your galaxy has.”
“Not quite, but that’s a discussion for another day.”
The green bar on my communicator returned.
A moment later he came back with, Sir, you are OK?”
“Fine. Have you been monitoring that Russian vessel?”
“Yes, sir. It’s about a half-hour from here.”
“Good. Ready the ship for pursuit. We have a few questions that need answering. I’ll explain more when I get back.”
“You can come with us, on our ship, or in yours. I will communicate your existence with my superiors, just not the fact you’ve infiltrated us in deference to your people if you want to get them out, or declare their presence, a situation we can control if you agree to sit down and talk about it. I suspect that they’ve been helping more than hindering, other than just keeping you informed of our progress.”
I didn’t get a smile, but that invisible change in expression was an interesting indicator.
“I’ll stay, we’ll follow discreetly. Your actions will be judged, Captain.”
“No pressure then. Could you send the names, or if not, photos, of the offenders? How many are there?”
“Six. We shall. Good luck.”
The next instant I was back on the deck of my own ship.
© Charles Heath 2021-2022