Could it be an alien spaceship?
“We’re being hailed,” the communications officer said in her matter-of-fact tone.
“Not an alien then?”
The moment I said it, it sounded inappropriate.
“Definitely human, with an accent.”
I was not sure what I was expected to make of that.
A bridge, not dissimilar to ours appeared, with the captain, or the person I assumed to be captain, standing in front of his chair.
“Whom am I addressing?” He asked.
I gave him my name, the ship, who we were, standard name, rank, and serial number stuff as per regulations.
“Where is the previous Captain?”
He seemed to have information about us, if not recent.
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
OK, I didn’t think he was coming just to make small talk.
“Ship slowing, no signs of weapons charging,” I saw pop up on the screen. In situations like this, best not to communicate when there’s an open communication session.
Then, a new notice, “second ship following the first, moving at the same spot, arrival time 18 minutes.”
I looked at the inset on the master screen, and even at that distance and low-quality magnification, it definitely didn’t look like anything in our fleet.
It begged the question, were they running away?
“Are you alone?”
“No. But it’s not one of our ships.”
Not very helpful.
“I suggest you turn around and go back,” he added.
I saw him turn, as if someone beside him had spoken, or gestured.
“Sorry. We have to go. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.”
“Who are they?”
“People you don’t want to meet.”
The screen went back to being a window, and the vessel we’d just been in communication with came clearly into view, then vanished.
It was larger than our ship, but more streamlined, my first thought, like a sleek racing car.
“It seems we’re about to have our first encounter. Number one, stay on the highest alert, the rest of the crew, battle stations, quick as you can.”
To the navigator, “Did we get anything on that ship, scans, personnel, weapons, engines, anything?”
“A little. We can go through it later. If we’re still in one piece.”
If the oncoming ship was alien, it was an unknown quantity, and the navigator could be forgiven for thinking we might not be able to defend ourselves. Questions we should have asked the other ship were plentiful, and the surprise it caused caught us all offside when I should have been the exception.
There would be time later to analyze everything we did wrong, what I did wrong
The alien ship was no longer a blurry blob in the distance, but an oddly shaped ship that bore similarities to our own.
I could only guess at the lifeforms aboard if there were any. It was a moment of thrill, fear, and intense expectation.
Those last few minutes of waiting disappeared as though they were seconds, and suddenly it was opposite us, in space, on station maintaining its distance. I had us brought to a stop after the other ship left, but in a state of instant readiness to depart just in case we were fired upon.
I was banking on the fact the aliens might be as curious about us as we were about them.
“Can we communicate with that vessel,” I asked, turning the senior communications officer, now on the bridge at the comms station.
“You can speak to them; we have all means of external communication open.”
He didn’t add that they might not understand what I said.
I shrugged. “We are from the planet Earth on a voyage of exploration and discovery with no other agenda other than to meet and talk to other civilizations.”
It sounded quite strange listening to a somewhat stumbling and unrehearsed greeting that was to be our first words to an alien species. I hoped that our credibility didn’t rest of those words.”
“Any detectable activity aboard their ship?”
“Our scanners can’t penetrate their hull. Nothing noteworthy outside the hull, but, then, if we don’t know what we’re looking for…”
“We know where you are from and who you are.”
It was a crackling rendition, the sort of sounds I’d expect from a vintage radio broadcast.”
I looked at the comms officer.
“An ancient radio frequency once associated with AM radio, sir, 812 megahertz.”
Did that mean we were more advanced than them? I didn’t think so.
“Who am I addressing?”
This time the silence was broken by crackling, and what sounded like a tape recorder fast-forwarding. This went on for about five minutes.
Then, much stronger, and clearer, “Who I am is irrelevant. If you have similar intentions as the vessel before you, I strongly suggest you turn around and go back to your own galaxy.”
“They’ve moved to FM sir, not sure why they’re using such old technology”, the comms officer said quietly.
Two things popped into my head; from that proverbial left field, I once heard a language professor once pontificate on. The first, was from a scientist at the space training facility on what an alien race mighttry to communicate with us on, and that in his opinion would be the band waves we had been sending out into space for years. AM and FM in that context made perfect sense.
The second: how did an alien speak such good English?
“We have not, though I suspect that will not allay your fears. All humans, which is what we call ourselves, are not the same.”
“Yet your ship carries weapons.”
“For defense. If we are attacked, we will respond. I would expect no less from you.”
There was a minute or so of silence, time I was guessing for my counterpart to formulate his next move.
It came sooner than I expected.
A humanoid form appeared, not exactly like us, but much the same as the early humanoid robots we created at the start of our foray into robotics and for that matter AI.
“We have had much interaction with your kind, one way or another, and it has always ended badly. If you have no ill intentions towards up, will you accompany me back to my ship? I assure you, and your crew I have no ill intentions.”
It would be a huge leap of faith.
Number one, you have the ship. I’m going to take a short trip to the other vessel.”
“You should take a crew member, as per protocol.”
Yes, the instruction. If we were to were to meet an alien, it was not to go with them without one or more crew members.
“Unfortunately, he’s a stickler for regulations. I must go with another crew member, just in case.”
I didn’t add the ‘harm cones to me, and retribution will be meted out.’ I didn’t think at this delicate stage that would fly.
“No weapons then.”
“No weapons. Nancy Woolmer to the bridge immediately.”
She arrived within five minutes, and the moment she was in proximity, we were, I assumed, beamed aboard his ship.
© Charles Heath 2021-2022