Back on the alien vessel
Here’s the thing.
I personally believed that we wouldn’t be sitting on this alien vessel unless we had some value, or there was something about the group of so-called criminals that the alien captain didn’t have the authority to take decisive action.
“Hold that thought,” I said to him. Then, “Number one?”
“Are you still with the alien group?”
“Yes sir, awaiting orders?”
“Is the spokesman for the prisoners nearby?”
“A moment, sir.” Silence for a minute, then, “He’s here, sir.”
“You wish to speak to me?”
An odd thought, they all sounded the same.
“Yes. I find it odd that the alien captain of this vessel hasn’t just destroyed our vessels and moved on, after all, if they have determined you are all criminals, what would be the difference between being left in a prison, or being executed?
“I’m not sure what you are getting at. For all intents and purposes, we are dead, to them and our homeworlds.”
It wasn’t the way he said it, but the way it was spoken. And what was left unsaid. It was a moment when you didn’t get the answer you wanted because you didn’t ask the right question.
“Now is not the time to be keeping secrets, because when our host comes back, the situation is going to end badly for you, and just as badly for us. We’re all still here because you have something they want. What is it?”
There was silence, but it was not generated by a refusal to speak, but more than the answer might have worse consequences than no answer.
Then, very quietly, he said, “Jai Ti.”
There are only three reasons that drive people to do the unthinkable. Money, power, and a woman.
“She is not a so-called criminal, is she?”
“No. She was indiscreet and found herself banished to the same detention center like us. We are high-level detainees, rather than prisoners, who live in far better conditions than the more common criminal classes.”
“Let me guess, she was a so-called friend of one of the high council or someone of consequence in the political power structure.”
“In a manner of speaking, yes.”
“And they’re worried if she gets free, she might denounce the injustice?”
“She feels she did nothing wrong. She claims she did not tell anyone, as per her agreement with the individual in question. The situation is exacerbated by the fact they people have a very strict moral code, and relationships, shall we say, that is extra, and severely frowned upon, and for a leader who is expected to set an example.”
“And this leader…”
“The rules don’t necessarily apply depending on who you are. Unfortunately, it is a problem across the many homeworlds here. An enlightened society doesn’t necessarily mean what we and others are led to believe.”
“We have the same problems. Thank you for your honesty, it may help, it might not.” I had all I needed. “Number One.”
“No need to stay, I have no intention of getting between the passengers or the alien captain, so get back to the ship as quickly as you can and be ready on the bridge. General?”
“You are ordered to defend the ship by whatever means at your disposal, without regard to that personnel not aboard. Do you understand?”
I expected a but because I was basically telling him that if he had to fire upon the Russian ship or the Alien ship, both senior officers and some crew would be in danger.
As far as I was concerned, the ship and 2000 others were more important.
“Under protest, but I understand. Sir.”
I also expected to get the standard lecture, which was well within his purview, but instead, “Understood, sir but let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.”
“You have the bridge until either Number One or I return, otherwise you know what the standing orders are.”
It was the precise moment the alien captain returned.
“I’ve spoken to the high council. We are also monitoring a high level of activity on your ship.”
“If it’s a war you want, it’s a war you’ll get. I think it’s time for the truth, something you have been playing, as we say, fast and loose with. I told you exactly why we’re here, you haven’t. I don’t approve of my compatriots’ actions, but he has, as anyone from our world would grant preliminary asylum to anyone who asks for it, pending a thorough investigation. That investigation starts and ends with two words, Jai Ti.”
For a man with an expressionless face, it wasn’t hard to tell I’d hit the nerve.
“Alas, as you may or may not appreciate, we are in a difficult situation.”
“Dare I say it, but for an enlightened civilization, you seem to have all the same problems we do. We could have resolved this much earlier had you just stated the facts.”
“Then you are prepared to return the prisoners.”
“Prisoners, yes, but with a suggestion. The princess, no. Unfortunately, you’re going to have to censure the leader that broke the rules.”
“And if that’s not possible?”
“Then I will take her home, and whatever happens after that is on his head, and to a lesser extent, yours.”
“Even if it means your ship is destroyed, and all those crew members die needlessly.”
“More have died for less, but noble cause. Do as you wish, but I strongly advise you not to test our resolve.”
The alien captain turned to the Russian captain. “If you hand over the prisoners, all of the prisoners, you will free to leave.”
“Sorry. It’s a tempting offer, but it doesn’t solve the problem for future explorers. Eliminating us will just bring more, in the not-too-distant future, only they will be hostile. You might be able to live with the short-term consequences, but given what we are learning about your relations with other worlds, who are they going to blame for the problems you caused in the name of short-term expediency?”
A few seconds later four new aliens appeared, each in a particular style of dress.
Members of the high council?
© Charles Heath 2021-2022