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?”

“Sir?”

“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.”

“Sir.”

“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?”

“Sir?”

“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.”

“Second?”

“Sir?”

“You have the bridge until either Number One or I return, otherwise you know what the standing orders are.”

“Understood.”

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 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?”

“Sir?”

“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.”

“Sir.”

“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?”

“Sir?”

“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.”

“Second?”

“Sir?”

“You have the bridge until either Number One or I return, otherwise you know what the standing orders are.”

“Understood.”

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.”

“Sir?”

“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 44

Back on the alien vessel

I was surprised the alien captain was not getting impatient with the way this matter was dragging on. 

If this was back on earth and we were dealing with an alien incursion, there would be a lot of shooting by short-tempered small-minded fools who only knew one way of dealing with seemingly insurmountable problems.

In that regard, these aliens were better than us, and I had to wonder if they were dealing with this problem in a manner we would understand, and if that was the case, what would have happened if my ship had not made a timely, or untimely, arrival.

It also begged the question of how either of us could move forward from this point, because the only logical outcome was to hand back the criminals.

I wonder what Nancy was thinking, the fate of diplomatic relations, if they were possible after this, in her hands.

There was also a question of what the Russian captain had been promised in return for trying to save them.  It would have to be significant for him to put his vessel and its crew on the line.

I looked at the Russian Captain, not looking very comfortable, on the end of a weapon he clearly knew could kill him, or worse.

“What did they promise you?”

His mouth moved, an indication to me he was going to say they didn’t, which to me meant that it was not something he wanted to talk about in front of the Aliens.

The alien answered for him.  “Technology, perhaps our secret weapons, the criminals are all people who have worked with or worked on some of our most secret projects.”

Which begged the question, what did they do wrong that they were labelled criminals.

Perhaps the alien could read my mind because he added, “and who had used that technology illegally, or tried to sell it to our enemies.”

So, a new piece of information; the alien has enemies.  It raised another question, what if we had met their enemies first?

“Sir.”  Number one had come back online, hopefully from the location if the so-called criminals.

“What the situation?”

“I’ve spoken to a chap named Midava, who seems to be the spokesperson for a group of seven I can see.  Firstly, they are different from the captain of the vessel you are currently on.  He tells me, and several of his colleagues are from a different world, as are others, who were recruited to work on advanced technology.  It seems their home planets are far more advanced than the captains.”

“OK.  Just hold it there for a minute.”  I looked over at the Captain.  His expression hadn’t changed, but he had been listening intently.

“Would you like to explain your planets existence among what it seems to me, a galaxy of other civilisations.”

“We are just part of a much larger galaxy, yes, though I would question our level of development in their eyes “

“So, these so-called criminals are from different worlds?”

“We do not discriminate, as some others do.”

There was no acrimony or anger in his tone.  He was relating information, and answers to my questions, from their perspective.  I realized that I could not judge these people in the same terms as I would one of my own people, and that was going to be the hardest problem we were going to have in dealing big with new people

Quite simply, they were not us.

And, equally, we had no right to judge them according to our rules.

“Sir.”  Number one again. 

“Yes?”

“Midava tells me they are being held against their will simply because they want to go home.  Apparently, their hosts do not want their homelands to know their level of technology improvement.  I think you can understand the implication.”

I could.  “Thank you, number one.”

“It’s all a matter of perspective,” the alien captain said.  “Other worlds, like other countries on your planet, group together in what you call blocs.  They are more technologically advanced, so they deigned to ignore us, and it has taken a long time for us to become as advanced.  Those people came to us and said they wanted to help us, without the knowledge of their leaders, because it was unjust.  We willingly accepted it and for years the association was mutually beneficial, they got the recognition they would not get on their homeworlds, and we got the technology.  This ship is one of the benefits, along with its weapons.  When they wanted to go home, their work, they said, was done, and they wanted to see their families, the high council decided against it, for security reasons, and when they tried to escape, they were detained.  You would call it political expediency.”

“But in an enlightened and just society such as yours, don’t you think that is wrong to deny them.  I suspect as you might give a bit more thought to the matter, that telling their homeworlds what they’d done would most like condemn them to death, so I’m sure telling anyone anything about their time with you was the last thing on their minds.  It’s food for thought.  However, since is not my objective to interfere in your sovereign right to dispense justice in accordance with your laws, I will have the prisoners returned to you.”

“You can’t do that,” the Russian captain said.

“I can, and you will.  There are far larger implications in play and if necessary, I will enforce our laws upon you, which will, if the Captain desires, hand you over as well.  I suggest, to avoid trouble you give the necessary orders to your crew forthwith.”

To the alien captain, “I expected as a courtesy that you, myself, and the leader of these so-called criminals sit down and have a discussion about their options.”

“I will need to deal with the high council.”

“Then do so now, before we make any arrangements.  And release my fellow captain.  Using force will not give what you want, and sets a bad precedent if you seek to have any sort of relationship with us.”

A nod from the alien captain to his subordinate, and she let him go, and it was hard to tell if she was upset or not.

Both then disappeared, leaving us alone on an empty bridge, if that was what it was.

“You do realize what will happen to them when he gets them back,” the Russian captain said.

“That’s not our problem.  If our roles were reversed, would you want them to weigh in on our affairs?”

“That’s not the point “

“That is the point.  Were not here to tell others what to do but to hopefully forge new relations with people who have the means to help us find a place in a new galaxy.  We’re here to learn and share if that’s what it takes.”

“And if they are the devil instead?”

“I’m sure you will be very well placed to discern whether they are or not, based on your own actions.”

He didn’t seem annoyed at the inference, which to me showed a marked disregard for anyone but themselves, underlying the people who had put him aboard his ship and what their purpose in getting out into the galaxy first was.

The cold war back on earth had just moved out in the galaxy, and if not now, they would eventually be a threat, not only to ourselves but anyone they came across in their travels.

“You’re making a mistake, once they get what they want they will dispense with us.”

It was a possibility, but the problem for the alien people was, we were here, now, and if he did destroy us, they had to know we knew about them and more of our ships would arrive in time, and they would be hostile, especially if we didn’t report back.  And if they had been observing life on earth they’d know we would seek retribution

Perhaps that was the reason why he didn’t destroy us in the first instance.

“How long do you think they will be?”  Nancy had found her voice, finally.

I’d almost forgotten she was there.

“How long do you think it would take to talk to a high council?  If it’s anything like back home, it could take forever.  Any ideas on how, if you get the chance, you’re going to approach setting up diplomatic relations?”

“None whatsoever, sir.”

“Good, a clean slate.  Start thinking about it.”

She looked around.  “You’d think there’d be a chair to at least sit down.”

A second later three chairs appeared.

“You only had to ask!”

© 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.”

“Sir?”

“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.”

“Sir.”

“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.”

“Sir.”

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.

“Ready.”

© Charles Heath 2021-2022

The cinema of my dreams – I always wanted to see the planets – Episode 41

Nothing is ever what it seems

I didn’t have the luxury of taking a moment to consider what I was going to do, other than to draw the inevitable conclusion that whatever I did, there would be consequences.

One thought did cross my mind, in relation to the alien ship and her Captain, why hadn’t they exercised their superior capability, stopped the Russian ship, and taken the offenders away themselves.  And, given the captain was prepared to destroy my ship, why had he let the Russians go?

“The Russian ship is hailing us, sir.”

“Very good, I’ll be there in a moment.”

They had waited a long time before asking our intentions, so what had they been waiting for?  The fact they appeared to be immobilized was, to me, a little too convenient.  Also, they had to know the alien ship was nearby, but even that raised the question of why they were standing off, and not alongside us.

Something was not right about this whole scenario.

I came on to the bridge, Number One standing in front of the Captain’s chair, the bridge crew waiting expectantly.

“Get the Russian ship’s Captain on screen.”

A moment later he appeared, with a depleted bridge crew, different from the last time we spoke.

“What can I do for you?”

“Why is the alien vessel here?”

“I think you know the answer to that question.”

“What did he tell you?”

“How about you tell me why you think he’s here?”

Why was his concern more about the alien vessel than the state of their propulsion unit?  Unless there was nothing wrong with it.

Silence.

I motioned to the comms officer to cut our side of the conversation.

“General?”

He had taken up a position behind the defense team.

“Sir?”

“If they try to move or power weapons, stop them.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Russian ship powering up propulsion, sir.”

“General?”

“Just say the word.”

“Comms.”

A gesture told me the artesian ship was back online.

“Do not try to leave or we will disable your ship.”

A tense few seconds before the navigator said, “powering down.”

“Good choice.  Now, prepare to be boarded.  Any resistance will be met with force.  Am I understood, Captain?”

A measured reluctance in his tone when he said, “Yes.”

“Number one, boarding team assembled?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good.  Any resistance is to be dealt with severely.  If the Captain or a representative of the ship wants to come with their crew members, let them.   Bring those on the list back here.”

“Understood.  Sir.”

The Russian captain was still on the screen.

“You have no right or jurisdiction to do what you are doing, and I will be recording this as an act of piracy.”

“Will that be with the international space agency?”

“My superiors, we have already alerted them to the situation.”

“As far as I am aware, your superiors did not register your flight plan as per the treaty that they are signatories to.  Also, you are on a ship that no one knows about.  All of that could be forgiven though, but you had to cause what can I call it, an Intergalactic incident which may yet setback relations with an alien race for a long time.  You would be well advised to tell me now what the hell happened so I can at least try and save you from very severe consequences.”

On a secondary channel that number one had switched to after arriving at the Russian vessel, I heard, “what do you mean you cannot dock?”

The pilot replied, “They haven’t initiated the docking sequence.”

“Is it an incompatible system?”

“No, it’s exactly the same as ours.  It’s like they’ve ripped everything off.  They’re stalling.”

To the captain of the Russian ship, I said, “I get it.  No Captain likes to have his ship boarded.  But this is not the time.”  To the General, “Target their propulsion unit.  On my mark…”

“You are making a mistake,” the Russian captain said.

“Docking initiated.  It is exactly like our system, right down to the override authorization code.”  Number one had the same thought that just come to mind.  Then, “Lieutenant, don’t hesitate to use force if you have to. We have to assume anyone on the other side of the door is a potential hostile.  Counting down, three, two, one…”

I heard the whoosh of the door, and then utter silence, broken only by Number One, “What the hell…”

© Charles Heath 2021-2022

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.”

“Go.”

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.”

“Sir.” 

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