We seem to have a spot of bother
The next statement from Number One, “Sir, it seems we have a hostage situation.”
A glance back at the main screen showed the Russian ship’s bridge minus the captain and flickering on, the alien ship’s Captain.
“I didn’t open a channel, Sir,” the comms officer said quickly.
I glared at the alien representative for a few seconds, hoping to convey my displeasure, but I doubted it would have any effect.
Nor was it any surprise to discover that something indeed didn’t add up.
Potentially we had a very bad situation, facing off an alien vessel with unknown capabilities and weapons, and a ship that was not supposed to exist, having reputedly committed unknown criminal activities.
“General, you might have to make an instant decision, so if the potential threat is life or ship threatening, don’t wait for confirmation.”
“Code Red, and everyone, report anything no matter how trivial.”
“Number one, a hostage situation is only a hostage situation if the hostage-taker has a hostage. You get a clear shot, shoot them.”
“There may potentially be casualties, sir.”
“Then at your discretion, but hold that thought until I have a word with our new, so-called, friends.”
To say I was annoyed was an understatement, but I had to remember that our underlying mission was to make new friends, not enemies.
“Captain,” the alien commander decided now was the moment to speak.
“You have not been quite truthful with us, have you?”
“They did commit crimes, that is the truth.”
“Then why is one of your people holding the captain hostage?”
It only just struck me then that the alien vessel had beamed one of the people onto the Russian ship after the alien ship arrived with us. But to what purpose?
“To force them to return to the planet where the crimes were committed. I had no reason to believe you would force the issue. Our experience with humans is they support each other before they do the right thing.”
“Your experience is narrow-minded, generally supported by few instances, and basically does not define the human race. Like everyone, we have a bad element, but it doesn’t define who or what we are. You obviously heard my instructions to my boarding party. Your turn now to give me a good reason why I should not shoot them?”
“I assume you still want to open diplomatic relations between our worlds?”
“Not at the expense of gunboat diplomacy.”
“I could destroy both your ships.”
“You could try. If you know as much as you claim to know about humans, you’ll know that we are at our most formidable when our backs are to the wall. My ship is an unknown quantity to you, which means you have no idea what we are capable of, but if you want yo find out, by all means, try.”
It was hard to keep an even tone when you are terrified. Our first encounter had been nothing but threats and violence. Was I no better than the worse of our kind?
Number one was back in my ear, “Sir, the alien and the Captain just disappeared.”
“I would like you to join us on my ship for discussions, Captain. I’m sure this situation can be resolved amicably.”
“I’d like a skilled diplomatic negotiator with me, and not agreeing will be considered a hostile act.”
Just in case he was intending to beam me aboard his ship. A nod in the General’s direction showed he knew what to do if the alien tried.
“Send a message to our diplomatic representative to cone to the bridge urgently.”
I preferred this to be done privately so as not to alert the crew.
I had read the file on Margaret Simpson, and it was, to say the least, extraordinary. Her achievements at getting the most disparate parties to the table spoke for itself, and it surprised me that she would go on what could prospectively be a one-way trip.
I had not yet spoken to her since boarding, but it had been on my list before we ran into an alien species. Now, that introduction was lost.
She looked exactly as I’d expected, just in the prime of middle age, diminutive, but not overly imposing, but distinctive enough to stop and look when she walked into a room.
“Captain, I can’t say what comes next doesn’t excite me.”
“You got a brief description of events?”
“An alien race, hostile or not, is exactly why I came.”
“Things could go pear-shaped very quickly.”
“You are exactly as described Captain, refreshingly honest, but somehow I don’t think I need to worry too much if you’re coming with me.”
“A perk of the job, I’m afraid.”
I looked at the alien captain on screen.
© Charles Heath 2021-2022