The cinema of my dreams – I always wanted to see the planets – Episode 49

A matter of diplomacy

I had to wonder, in that brief moment standing there, how I had come from a contented life plying space in a nomadic cargo vessel, to this, in charge of over 2000 crew, on a spaceship the size of a small town, on a mission to find new life out beyond the known edge of space.

And succeeding beyond all expectations without the loss of a single life, or perhaps that wasn’t quite true, the previous captain had become a casualty in exceptional circumstances.

I looked over at the head of Diplomacy.  “Have you given any thought to my suggestion?”

After coming back from the alien vessel, I had immediately gone to the head of the Diplomatic mission and told him to pick a team to go down to the alien planet, telling him that we had been given permission to learn about their culture and others in their galaxy.

There had been no shortage of volunteers, and they had left not much more than an hour after I arrived back on board.  It was an opportunity not to be missed.

The other matter was about leaving some people there until we came back, or the next earth vessel arrived.  It was not what had been considered back on earth before the mission left, but to me it had some merit, perhaps setting up what might be a galactic embassy smoothing the way for other vessels like ours.

A sea of expectant faces, only one asked the question on everyone’s mind, giving my diplomatic chief a little more time to come up with an answer.

“Who are they, and are they like us?”  The fourth officer had finally appeared from his room in engineering where his interest lay, but from a practical standpoint, was there in case the bridge was lost.

“No.  And yes.  They are consciousness in an artificial body that looks like us, but I imagine it would take the form of any being they came in contact with.  I suspect they have evolved beyond the need for a body that wears out over time, which it seems is our problem, and we are only at the threshold of robotics as replacement parts, even bodies.  I don’t know the whole story, but that’s one for the medical people.  But…”

I turned back to my diplomatic expert, “we are going to have to talk to these people and not only that, we need to understand them and their customs before more of us blunder into their territory and do everything wrong.  You have permission to send two representatives to the planet to talk to their scribes, which I believe are most likely historians.  They are going to tell us about the peoples of this galaxy and perhaps beyond.  It will at least give us something to work with before as they rightly put it blunder our way into possible diplomatic nightmares.”

“Do you think they’d let us set up a diplomatic outpost?”

“You could work on a proposal, but for now we have about six days or so to get as much information as we can.  Anything else is your department, and for you to decide.  I understand there are some in your department who signed on in the hope they might get to stay in a new world, but, again, you will have to make a threat assessment based on all of the contacts so far.  I have endured all of the recordings of our encounters are available.”

“How long have I got?”

“Until we reach the Princesses home planet in about three days’ time.”

Not a lot of time to review and assess given most of the encounters were hostile.  But an arrangement with these people would be considered advantageous as a first stop on the way to other galaxies.  And I had no doubt they had a vast store of knowledge of other alien life forms which would be invaluable.

“How did we get stuck with taking the Princess home, and how do we know they will want her back?  We don’t know the precise circumstances of how she got there in the first place.”

The second officer was not backwards in voicing concerns.  He was the ship’s resident Mr doom and gloom.  But for all that, his was a view that could be used as a counterbalance when making a decision.

“A good question and one I intend to get answers to right after we finish here.”

That left general business on the table, departmental reports, crew statuses, and the all-important ship systems.

Good to know the crew was reasonably happy, all performing their duties through the various crises, and systems had only minor failed that the skeleton shipbuilders crew were able to fix, one way or another.

Best of all, the chief engineer was happy, so far.

An hour later, it was time to visit the Princess.

© Charles Heath 2021-2022

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