Just what do you talk to aliens about?
We were standing off the two ships, each about half the size of our ship.
I wondered briefly if the people on board were thinking the same as us.
What were the people like, friendly or hostile, what weapons the other had, and what technology? We knew they could board us, by beaming in combatants, so I’d sent the third officer to organize the security team and other crew members to spread out through the ship and keep an eye out for boarders.
At the very least they knew we couldn’t send people over to their ships.
I walked over to the communications officer’s console where the communication expert sat, waiting.
“Can we broadcast a message so the other ship can hear us?”
“Assuming they understand any or all of the 32 languages we can convert any message to.”
And, if I read the crew briefing note on her correctly, she could speak fluently in every one of them. Just, perhaps, not alien, but up till now, she didn’t have to.
“The last one I spoke to understood me just fine.”
“Very good. Just speak when you are ready. We’re transmitting now.”
I went back to stand in front of the Captain’s chair though I was not sure why. I took a moment to consider what I should say, then proceeded with, “This is the commanding officer of the Earth space ship “Nautilus” hailing the two ships nearby. We are following the vessel that kidnapped two of our crew members. We have no quarrel with you, and this being the case, we will be proceeding with our pursuit forthwith.”
I put my hand up to indicate the message was done.
“Are systems online and ready to go?” I said in the direction of the helmsman who, like the rest of the crew, were looking at me. Why I wasn’t sure.
The helmsman replied, “Ready when you are.”
I was going to give the alien ships five minutes, then leave. They were either going to board us, or shoot at us, or maybe just let us go.
I looked at the military specialist. “I assume we can retaliate if they start shooting at us?”
“It’s possible if they don’t hit any vital parts of the ship.”
It was a rather sardonic reply, or maybe that was her usual tone. I didn’t get time to reflect on it.
“You might want to reconsider that plan, Earth ship Nautilus.”
It was an accented version of English, British perhaps, but very precise, and most likely the result of a translator.
“Who am I speaking to?”
“You may call me the commanding officer of my spaceship.
“Are you with the people who kidnapped my crew members?”
There was silence, a period where I assumed they were considering a response. Then, “I am not sure what you mean by with but were are of the same people, yes, but the one you speak of is not like us. We have been seeking them as you appear to be, but for different reasons.”
“So why are here, impeding our progress, if you are not helping them?”
“We wanted to see who they have mistreated, and what they have done. This is not the first time they have ventured into uncharted space.”
“Where have you come from?”
“Several thousands of what you call light-years away, in a system similar to yours, only each of the planets have a different people. The people who have taken your crew come from one of the planets who are looking for weapons to fight a war they are losing.”
“Then I think you people are in a great deal of trouble. They have also stolen a shipment of plutonium, which if they know what they’re doing, can be used to make bombs that can render a place unliveable for thousands of what we call years. Believe me when I say it’s a very long time.”
“You’ve heard of them?”
“In a roundabout way. You should know we are currently chasing the people who did this, and we are here to advise against you proceeding with your rescue mission. The people you are chasing have a vastly superior ship, and weapons than you, as I suspect your ship is to you, a marvel, but to us, about a hundred of your earth years behind us. We always believed your differences with your fellow humans would always hinder your space programs to the point where Mars would be the furthest you could travel.”
“You should realize we are out there on the very edge of our galaxy ready to find new ones.”
“That we cannot stop. But I give you this warning, not everyone out there is ready to accept new people from other planets or systems. And they are all more technologically advanced.”
Nothing surprising there.
“We’re still going out there, danger withstanding.”
“Be that on your head. I suggest, however, that you do not follow those who have taken your crew members. We will take care of them, and return your people in due course.”
“Thanks for the warning, but we do not abandon our people.”
“Then don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
Then, before our eyes, the two ships left, or that is to say, disappeared into a bright light that lasted a few seconds before the inky black returned.
“What just happened,” I said before I realized I’d said it out loud.
A voice from behind said, in reply, “I believe they disappeared into what might be described as a wormhole.”
© Charles Heath 2021