Another night of stargazing…

And this is what I found:


It got me thinking.

Why did we name the planets after mythological gods?

I did a little digging and found that the Romans named the five closest planets to the sun after their most important gods, this one, named after the god of the sea, which to the Romans was Poseidon, but in translation, Neptune, and matbe because it was ‘blue’.

Of course, we all know about King Neptune.

We also know about Poseidon, which was the fictional ship that got hit by a tidal wave, and was turned into a blockbuster movie.

But in terms of science fiction, which is not what I write, but I seem to spend a lot of time watching, it strikes me that seeing the moon, we could assume that the moon could be a stopping off point on a trip to the pouter planets.

I’m always surprised at the ingenuity of ‘Sci Fi’ writers in how they can turn what is scientifically impossible to live on but not necessarily impossible to get there (after a long sleep), into a place where we can destroy with equal rapaciousness as our own planet.

If I was going to write something, perhaps it would be about turning the planet into a holiday resort, staffed by robots…

Uh oh, that’s reminiscent of another ‘Sci Fi’ series. I’ll let you guess what it is.

The cinema of my dreams – I always wanted to see the planets – Episode 40

Sorry, but it was the only option at the time

“What’s the situation with the other ship?”

Number one had come up to the bridge and was standing over the navigator, looking at the screen.

“Sir, might I remind you…”  Nancy began.

“We’ll discuss the ethics later, but right now we don’t have much of a choice.  I expect you to keep what just happened to yourself for the time being.  Am I understood?”

I wasn’t silencing her, it was a matter for reports and discussions in due course.

“Understood, sir.”

“Very good.  Just be ready to be in the boarding party when we catch up with them.”

Her expression told me that she was far from impressed with my decision, but, I wasn’t about to test our ship’s defenses against an unknown quantity.  That might come later, after a discussion with the military commander.

“Later, then.”  She gave me a last witheringly look, then left.

Number one turned.  “What happened over there?”

“Not for discussion right now.  The ship?”

“About fifteen minutes at maximum speed.   They seemed to have stopped.  No indication if they’re having problems.”

“Lay in a course and get us there, maximum speed.”

A moment later the navigator said, “Awaiting the order, air.”


A slight shift inside the ship as it gathered momentum, then the dampeners kicked in.

“Time to target 11 minutes, 35 seconds sir.” 

He didn’t add the “give or take” at the end signifying that it was a serious situation.

“Code Red, military commander to the bridge.”

The lights dimmed and a hush came over the bridge.

“Have we had time to analyze the data on the Russian ship or the alien vessel?”

“For the Russian ship, yes.  Schematics, vulnerabilities, propulsion.  A scaled version of ours, no doubt stolen by their spies, but without some of the modifications we think. It appears its maximum speed is about 60% of ours.”

“Then we can catch them if they try to escape?”

“If we need to, but I’m not sure why we’d want to?”

“There are reasons which at the moment you don’t need to worry about.  Just get us there, and be ready to go after them if they try to leave.”


He was also unhappy because our remit was not to be attacking our own ships, but there were always extenuating circumstances, circumstances that I needed to take up with the Admiral before I took any sort of action.

The military commander stepped on the bridge.  “You want to see me?”

“Come with me.  Number one, keep me posted on progress.”

I ushered the commander into my day room.

“I hear we’ve just made first contact.”

“You could say that.  They are following us, on our way to the Russian ship.  At the moment I don’t have the luxury of knowing whether or not the Russians committed atrocities, but the commander of the alien vessel says they did.  To prevent this ship from being destroyed I told him we would apprehend those involved and jointly sort out the mess. It was the best plan I could come up with in the time frame, and we don’t know much about the alien vessel.”

“A sticky situation then.”

“Not even the half of it General.  Our first encounter and already we’re behind the eight ball.  This is not exactly how I envisioned it, but our fellow humans have managed to let us down badly.  Now, you’ve got about 10 minutes to prepare for various outcomes, but that ship can’t be allowed to leave, and, if the alien vessel attacks us, you have to defend us.”

“Battles used to be so much easier, on the ground. Very well.  I’ll see you on the bridge.”

While I had a great deal of autonomy aboard the ship, because we were a long way from home and the sheer distance over which communications had to travel through subspace would make them difficult at best, I didn’t have high hopes of getting hold of the Admiral in the time I had available to me. Of course, the relay satellites we dropped along the way would help boost the signal, but when you’re hoping to rely on something in a crisis, it invariably will let you down.

The situation was one that fell within the guidelines where I needed to brief the Admiral of intended actions so at the very least if there were consequences, he would be in a position to comment, defend, or more likely apportion blame.

This would not be an issue if we were the only ship out on the edge of space, but we were not.

While talking to the General I had started the call but was not expecting to raise him. Given the parameters needed on a good day, and because this was urgent, I wasn’t expecting anything.

I was surprised when a blurry picture of his office appeared on my screen, before it crystallised into the Admiral sitting on the front of his desk. It was almost as if he had been expecting a call.  There would be a lag, but a lag I could live with.

“Captain, we calculated you must be getting close to Pluto’s orbit.  How are you?”

“Everything is fine, and you’re right, we are close to seeing what’s beyond our galaxy.  But, there’s a problem.  There’s another ship out here from earth, been over the border, one that’s neither alien or in our ship register.”

I waited.

“The infamous Russian or Chinese ship?”

“Yes.  But more significantly, we have made contact with an alien race, as have these other humans, and the experience has left the aliens with a severe mistrust of our intentions.  So much so, when we met, I was presented with an ultimatum.  Suffice to say, I’m left in a position where I have to oversee justice against some of that crew.  We don’t have time to discuss the details, it’s a situation where I’ll have to find a mutually beneficial resolution, or our exploration aspirations will be over before they start.”

It was a lot for him to digest.

“Is it likely to cause a problem with the other human ship?”

“The alien captain demanded we detain the guilty crew members, and have them face a judiciary.  I’ve negotiated a presence, but I’m not sure just what the limits of participation will be.”

“How long have you got?”

A look at the top of my screen told me we were on station with the other earth vessel, with the alien ship not far away.

“We’re there, now, so it’s minutes rather than hours.  For the moment it’s simply a heads up.  I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.  You might want to ask some hard questions as to who is out here, sir, because they’re not helping our cause.”

It was exactly the situation the Space Alliance had predicted would happen if we were to present a fractured front to whomever might be out there.  Armed with the knowledge I’d just passed on, the data file the scientific team had assembled, he would be able to ask the hard questions, and hopefully get answers

“It would seem not. But, just so you know, we have just had a conference with what appears to be the command center of the Russian vessel, which, I can now tell you, is a joint venture between the Russians and the Chinese. Further, they claim their ship is being unjustly harassed by the alien who, according to them, simply took exception to them for no apparent reason. Someone is not telling us the whole story.”

“What do you make of it?”

“Since they lied about building a ship, and then sending it out into space without telling us, and given the arrogance shown during the conference, I’d say, from the body language of the Chief of Operations, they have something to hide. You have the authority to take whatever action you deem necessary while walking that very thin line of diplomacy.

“We have a diplomat in the crew.”

“Of course.  Keep me informed of developments, and remember, you are representing the whole world.”

No pressure then.

© Charles Heath 2021-2022

The cinema of my dreams – I always wanted to see the planets – Episode 36

A Russian ship?

The navigator had left the object on screen allowing it to materialize as we got closer. 

I had to marvel at the magnification the scientists had managed to produce for the scanners on this vessel, the first of a new class, and based on our experiences, no doubt later ships would have less of the quirks we had found so far.

Not that any were serious, or if they were, that common sense and prior experience couldn’t resolve.  It was the reason why we had this chief engineer.

He had retired and was happily spending the rest of his life with the woman who had put up with all those absent years, until she died suddenly, and left him without purpose.

This ship had changed that.

I could see the outline of the distant ship and although it might not follow a standard design, it showed all the signs of coming from our planet.

Was that because we had no idea what a ship might look like from another planet or alien race?  I still wanted to believe there were other life forms out there, but how much of that was hoping they looked like us?

“The system still cannot identify what type of ship it is, sir, but it doesn’t look alien.”

It didn’t, now that it was much clearer.

“Would you know if it was?”

“No, sir.  Not really.  Time to intercept, just under fifteen minutes.  If they are intending to intercept.”

Number one just came out of the elevator and onto the bridge.  He wasn’t rostered for this time, but I suspect he had been watching the drama unfold in his cabin.

“Suggest we go to code Red, just in case their intentions are not friendly.”

We had a weekly meeting of department heads to discuss what we would do in an alien encounter, other than shoot first, and talk later, usually the military first response to any problem.

Some ground rules were implemented, one of which was to keep fingers off the triggers of our weapons, until we had justification.  It was noted we had no idea what kind of weapons they would have, or how good our shield systems would be, that would come after the first encounter.

But we did know the ship could withstand any attack from an earth-origin attack, from the nuclear bomb to cutting edge lasers.  It was a little more problematic for the humans though.


Code Red, our highest alert, meant that Number one and I could not be in the same place, for obvious reasons.  He would go down the attack room, where the bridge systems were replicated, along with an array of other units.  It would be from there where a relation, or attack, would be managed.

And no, the lights in the bridge did not turn red, just dimmed.  The only indication was a red bar running across the top of the viewing screen, on which the oncoming vessel was now clearly visible.

“It’s from earth, the scanners have identified the propulsion system, and from the scan analysis, it appears to be more advanced than just about everything back home.”

“The infamous Russian ship, do you think?”

“Doesn’t have to be.  Anyone with enough money could have financed the project, though it would be hard to hide something like that.  The question has to be, what’s it doing this far out, and, for all intents and purposes, returning.”

“We’re assuming again.  Perhaps they were just going to the outer edge of our known galaxy so that they could say they were the first.”

There had always been that great space rivalry between the Russians and the Americans.  Later, the Europeans and the Chinese had also thrown their hats in the ring, and it was possible this ship could be Chinese.  They too had a burning desire to be the first, and there’d be no surprise if we found a Chinese or Russian flag on the first liveable planet outside our solar system.

But, right now, that was all ahead of us. At this moment, it was a little disconcerting to discover we would not be the first outside our known galaxy.

© Charles Heath 2021-2022

The cinema of my dreams – I always wanted to see the planets – Episode 13

Our first contact didn’t go so well

As soon as I stepped off the shuttle in the cargo bay, the third officer was waiting for me.

“The captain asked me to escort you up to his day room.”

Unusual. The captain could have just called me on the private communicator if there was a need for secrecy, if that was what this was.

“Any reason why he would send you?”

“Didn’t want you getting lost, sir.”

I knew I should not have admitted to him that I had got a little confused finding my way around, but that was because the dockyard people had blocked off several passageways.

“No. I guess not.”

The Third was a man of little humour, and particularly didn’t think any of my jokes were funny. On station, he was all serious and unamused.

Now, he had his serious face on, and I thought it best not to ask what to expect.

He took a different route to the bridge than what I would have taken, a much shorter and more direct route. It was obvious he had studied the plans of the ship and knew it backwards. I on the other hand, was not that prepared, but it meant I would have to.

He went as far as the door to the day room, and left me there. I didn’t need to announce myself, the doors just opened, whisper quiet, showing me the room I could expect one day when I got my own ship.

Or at the very least, I could dream.

The doors closed behind me, and I walked forward into the room proper, and first saw the captain sitting at his desk, and then a figure standing beside and back a step, behind him.

There was a weapon in his hand, but it was by his side.

And something else I noticed, the figure looked just like the three I’d seen on the other ship.

The captain saw me looking at him.

“This is the captain from the vessel that just arrived as those assailants on the cargo ship were ‘rescued’.

He, or she, looked human under the clothes and helmet, but could be almost anything.

“Does he…”

“Speak our language, yes, and a lot of others. And he would like our help.”

© Charles Heath 2021

The cinema of my dreams – I always wanted to see the planets – Episode 10

Now, that was unexpected…

Like everyone who was in that artificially silent environment that was the flight deck of a shuttle, unexpected sounds caused unexpected results.

The Engineer cursed.

The Pilot, Myrtle, hesitated for a moment, as if not quite sure what to do, highlighting the fact she had not been in such a situation before, but quickly recovered, and brought up the incoming object on screen.

Note to self: amend the training program to allow for random objects to come out of nowhere.

We all looked at the object. Myrtle should have been taking us into the freighter, but had got overawed by the not easily identifiable ship approaching.

“Our ship will take care of the problem,” I said. “Take us into the freighter.”

As if surprised that she should be asked to do so, she realised it was not her job to be staring at the screen, and muttered, “Oh, yes,” before resuming our passage.

Another note to self: Proper command structures and language should be used at all times.

A minute or so later we were in the cargo bay and the cargo doors were closing. Once closed and the atmosphere adjusted, the deck would become a hive of activity.

There was still a static picture of the craft on the screen, and it was one I’d seen before, an old vessel that dated back over a hundred years. I’d seen it in a space museum on the moon.

I was tempted to ask the Captain what was happening, but knew that to interrupt would not be worth the reprimand.

The engineer had seen one before too. “You don’t see those craft very often, if at all. Or this far out in space. They only had a limited trave distance, didn’t they?”

“Unless someone had been tinkering.” Several had been built as exploration ships, but the majority were freighters, used to build the outer colonies on the nearest planets.

A new drive would enable it to travel to the outer rim of our galaxy, but not much further if there were no readily available fuel supplies. Those that were available were tightly regulated by space command.

Cargo doors closed, deck pressurised, suddenly the whole deck was alive with people and machinery, our people meeting with the freighter crew and arranging for the cargo for Venus to be loaded. Myrtle was to stay with the shuttle, monitoring the loading.

I went down the ramp and was greeted by the first officer of the freighter, a chap I’d once served with, Jacko Miles. Jacko loved being in space, but no longer interested in the machinations of Space Command. The simple life of a freighter first officer was all he desired.

Except his face, right now, had the visual lines of worry.

“What happened?” We were past the usual introductions, and general bonhomie.

“Stopped, boarded, and a crate removed.”

“What was in the crate?”

“No one is saying, but whatever it was, it must have been important to attack us for it.”

My private communicator vibrated in my pocket. The captain was calling, and didn’t want anyone else listening in.

“Just give me a moment,” I said taking the communicator out of my pocket and answering the call. “Yes sir?”

“We have a problem.”

And in that moment, I had to agree with him. Jacko now had his hands in the air, and behind him were two people with handheld weapons trained on him, and me.

© Charles Heath 2021-2022

The cinema of my dreams – I always wanted to see the planets – Episode 5

We managed to get out of the space dock without a scratch…

We’re moving slowly beyond the space dock, heading through clear space.

We had seen people inside the wings of the dock, lining the passage windows watching the big ship depart. In olden days, on earth, when a ship left port, people on the dock would remain connected to the passengers by streamers, until the ship started to move away.

It was impossible to do that in space.

But, it was a notable day, the first of its type, heading out into the known, and, later, the unknown if the shakedown worked out.

The captain had decided despite the success of the trials, that he wanted to have one more trial, this time putting the crew through their paces.

I looked sideways, one eye still on the screen, now showing three possible midrange destinations, and on the Captain, also looking at the screen.

Uranus was about 2.8 billion kilometres.

Neptune, where our orders were to go, was 4.5 billion kilometres.

I had done the rough calculations on time to destination, in round numbers, basing the speed of light, what we regarded as SSPD 1,000. That was in km’s about 1.8 billion kilometres an hour, give or take.

Our first ships were under SSPD 1, and the series before this ship had a maximum of SSPD 1.25, which in understandable numbers was about 1,349,063 km per hour. Our ship was capable of SSPD 5.

So, given that our previous fastest ship could move at a maximum of SSPD 1.25, the time it would take to the first destination at SSPD 2 (no one ever travelled at maximum) was a little over 86 days, and to Neptune about 139 days.

In this ship if we were to hit SSPD 4.5, the same time frames would be 24 days and just over 38.5 days.

“Check the co-ordinates for Neptune and once we’re clear of the dock and given clearance, let’s start her out slowly on SSPD 2.

The helmsman checked the co-ordinates and set the speed. “Co-ordinates and speed set, awaiting clearance.”

“Very good. Best have a seat Number One, just in case.”

“Yes, sir.” I took a last glance at the screen, now only showing Neptune on the long-range scanner, and sat.

“Adventurer, you’re cleared for departure.” The voice of the dock master came over the speakers.

No need for further orders, the helmsman pushed the button below his screen, there was a slight lurch, and we were under way.

Next stop Neptune.

© Charles Heath 2021

The cinema of my dreams – I always wanted to see the planets – Episode 46

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.”

“Number one?”

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

The cinema of my dreams – I always wanted to see the planets – Episode 45

Back on the alien vessel

If asking for and getting what you wanted was the technology of lesser beings, what was the other world’s technology like?

It was a question I asked myself, or perhaps a moment after, if the alien people we were currently talking to had difficulties with other more advanced people in their galaxy, where would we fit into the picture?

It was a worrying thought, because through time those that were inferior, in our world, were always subjugated by the more superior.

Granted we had spaceships making us seem reasonably advanced, but theirs were not like the one I was on.  We thought we were very clever getting the ship we were on into space, but out there, now, I certainly didn’t feel clever, or superior.

There was also the revelation that we had been observed for a long time, our progress monitored, and basically rejected as likely candidates for being welcomed.  Or being told we were not alone.

It must have been a dock to see us turn up one their proverbial doorstep, but not so great as out that they knew about us.  It was a case of our reputation preceded us, and it wasn’t the good, only the bad.

It would be true to say, given everything we’d done to our world through greed and selfishness, that finding off-world destinations for colonization was a definite requirement rather than an option, and along with that, to find and learn from other civilizations, especially those that had been in the same plight.

And having found what we had always believed, well, a lot of us anyway, that there was other life in the galaxy, it wasn’t going to sit well that we were basically in the ‘cane man’ stage of development as a civilization.

It was not much of a starting point for any sort of negotiation, diplomatic or otherwise, along with the prospect of meeting the other civilizations in this quadrant if it could be called that, basically from behind that proverbial eight-ball.

We were still no wiser as to where these people came from, or that it was near our first intended destination, Proxima Centauri.  We had a list NASA had compiled, earth-like exotic plants that were thought to be able to support life.

Several of the meetings between the world’s greatest scientific minds, when they were not off on one of their theoretical rants, all concluded that there should be life out in the universe somewhere, that all the known explanations of our existence were wrong, and we were descendants of aliens, possibly more than one species. 

It was a fanciful notion that drew interesting reactions from the Darwinians who believed we descended from the apes, the church, still stuck on their Adam and Eve theory, and others that we evolved after the ‘big bang’, or that our DNA arrived via a colliding meteor, which had me puzzled.

Now, I was not sure what I believed.

The Russian captain, now free of being threatened with an alien weapon, had completed a full circuit of the bridge, taken a moment to stare out into space, and where our ships were standing off, then come and join us.

I had a hundred questions, but the first was, “What was your mission?”

“Beat you lot into space.  To be honest we never expected you’d ever get that ship out of the space dock”

A year late, and people still arguing over staffing, fittings, weapons, technology, even bragging rights, if it hadn’t been for the Admiral, we might still be there.

“You didn’t answer the question, not specifically.  No one just wants to be first, and especially not brave about it.”

“Not yet.”

“I assume you’ve been in communication back home?”

“Communication wasn’t one of the strong points since no one really knew how to make instant calls work, so not really.  We’re basically flying by the seat of our pants.”

“I can see that, applying earth mentality to alien relations.  I would have thought you and your superiors would take a more diplomatic approach.”

“We tried.  You do realize were are technically inferior to this lot, and they don’t view us as being worthy of their time and effort.  Apparently, they knew exactly who we are, and where we were from, something I find hard to believe.”

“Did you visit the planet?”

“We were stopped by a patrolling ship, and they actually fired on us.”

I was not surprised.  We would have done exactly the same, in reverse.

“So, you started on the wrong foot and it only got worse from there.”

“What would you have done in the same situation?”

“Be less confrontational, but then, we’re on an exploratory mission, not one that takes whatever we can steal or in your case kidnap.  Did you realize who those people were?”

“They approached us.  Before we got to their planet we got a distress signal from what looked like a space station, quite a distance from the planet.  We didn’t know it was a prison, only that there were people in distress.  We rescued them, as anyone else would.  That’s when the proverbial hit the fan.”

“Did you know they had specialist knowledge?”

“Eventually, when the aliens came after us, I told them I needed to know why they were being so angry about a few criminals.  I offered them sanctuary if they were willing to share their knowledge.  They agreed.”

“They didn’t want to go home?”

“No.  They said they’d be killed by their own people.   We call it treason, they call it something else, but its more or less the same thing.  Now they’re going to kill all of us.”

© Charles Heath 2021-2022

The cinema of my dreams – I always wanted to see the planets – Episode 43

Back on the alien vessel

The ‘ooh’ from Nancy was unmistakable the moment we rematerialized in the alien’s ship’s bridge.  It could be one of those awe-inspiring moments, had it not been for the circumstances.

The second time on the bridge, I realized that it was a little more sparse than it had been before, with a wall of control panels missing, along with a panel that stretched across the front of the Captain’s chair, but with no crew members present.

It was now a blank space.  The whole space could have been a large empty room with windows overlooking empty space, except in the distance, our two ships.  Beyond that, there seemed to be a thin streak of light, or colored lights, flickering.  At a guess they might be a long, long, long way away, but whether it was in the direction we had come, or where we were going, or somewhere else, I couldn’t tell.

On the other side of the bridge, the female alien was still holding the Russian Captain, some sort of weapon at his throat.

I was still feeling the tingling sensation that was the effect after re-materialization.  The first time it was disorientating, I was prepared this time.

I was also not sure what to expect, now that it was clear the aliens were not what they portrayed themselves to be.  Of course, it was naive of me to expect that others in the galaxy would be better than us.

“An explanation of what this is really about might go a long way towards preventing tragic consequences.”  I thought I’d throw out the opening gambit.

“Agreed.  I had hoped the problem could have been resolved before your arrival.  As you might be aware, we have the ability to transport our people, and I had hoped to recover the missing citizens that were taken by this,” he pointed to the Russian, “captains ship.”

“They asked for asylum, we did not take them.”

Another piece of the puzzle, the female must be one of the Aliens crew, and had beamed aboard, taken the captain hostage, and demanded the release of the citizens.

Question: why hadn’t he simply beamed them back?

To the Alien, “Is this true?”

“Semantics “

Note:  this alien had a very good grasp of the nuances of the English language.

“Semantics or not, if you know anything about earth culture, it’s that we look after those who need help, and if people come to us asking for asylum, we generally give it.  You will also be aware that those who ask for asylum generally are in fear of their lives.  The question is, why would these people ask for asylum.”

“The people aboard that ship are criminals who were serving their sentences in one of our remote facilities.  Your captain apparently came across this remote facility and assisted in setting the criminals free.  When we sent a ship to apprehend them, they were taken aboard the earth ship and it attempted to leave.  We were going to stop the earth vessel from leaving when your ship appeared, and it seemed prudent not to display hostility.  There was also the possibility you were working together.”

“We are not, as you are now aware.  Nor would I be willing to interfere with your internal matters, except that it involves another of our ships, one I didn’t know about, which only complicates matters.

Why do you have the captain.”

“He refused to set the prisoners.”

“If you could beam your operative and the captain here, why not just beam the criminals too.”

“They are currently protected in a special part of the captain’s ship that does not allow us to bring them back.  They obviously told him what our capabilities are.”

Criminals, if they were criminals, seeking asylum.  If it was me, I would be happy for someone else to take away the criminal element and make it someone else’s problem.  The unfortunate truth in our world is that criminals didn’t go to jail anymore, they were shipped off to remote mining planets where they spent the rest of their days working in very harsh conditions.  Over time it had proved to be a very good deterrent, so much so, that off plant mining operations now had to pay large sums of money to get people to work there.

“Number One.”


“Find the so-called criminals the captain has stowed on his vessel and ask them what their side of the story is.  Quick as you can.”

“Yes, sir.”

I looked over to the Russian Captain.  “You might want to tell your second in command to make things easier for my crew.”

A look from me to the alien, and back, time to consider my request, then gave the order.

“On my way, sir.”

© Charles Heath 2021-2022

The cinema of my dreams – I always wanted to see the planets – Episode 42

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