by Gordon Rowlinson
"I'm picking up a boogie orbiting the fourth planet.” Smith said.
“What do you mean a boogie?” I said. “We're on a deep space exploration mission. This isn't some kind of war game.” I quickly checked the ship's position. The Magellan, and our crew of eight, had just dropped out of faster than light speed and was approaching the fourth planet of the Rigel B system. None of the constellations looked familiar. We alone and were a long, long way from home.
“There's a metallic reading on an object that is orbiting...now the thing is changing course,” he protested. “How can a moon change course? Could it be a ship way out here? We're 1000 light years from earth!”
“What the?” someone said nervously from the back of the bridge.
Our bridge crew of four men fell silent for several long seconds as the realization of what was happening sunk in. We all knew there was an off chance of finding extraterrestrial life on this mission. But no one really believed we'd encounter intelligent life and a ship from another world. We had been in space for three years and found little of scientific importance. Now while exploring a system in the Orion constellation, we had finally stumbled upon something crazy-really crazy.
“Whoever is in a ship way out here, isn't human.” I said in a shaky voice. “There are billions of earth-like planets and by the law of averages there must be life outside our solar system. Plot our heading to a parallel course to the object.”
“The ship is moving to a high orbit around the fourth planet,”said Smith. “The makeup of the alien ship is a metallic substance unknown to us.”
“The regulations state that in the rare chance that we find intelligent life, we send a pre-programed friendship message,” I said. “The message is in English, Spanish, French, Russian, Arabic, and Chinese. Put the Vid on us so the aliens know what humans look like and send the message.”
“Give me a minute and I can find that message,” said First officer Carter. “I never thought we'd actually use it.” He nervously fumbled with the computer trying to find the message.
“They're getting closer and are only 100 kilometers away,” said Smith. “I'm guessing the aliens are on an exploration mission too.”
“Can you get a visual on the alien ship?” I said.
“Yeah. I'll put it on the main screen,”said Smith. “Their ship is ten times the size of the Magellan.”
The strange image of a massive black triangular ship appeared on the main screen. There was several audible gasps as the bridge crew viewed a craft from another world. The unusual tail section of the alien ship left me mystified as to how the craft was powered. The dark, black color of the ship made me wonder what deep, dark mysteries would be revealed by contact with an alien race.
“I now have the message ready to be sent,” said Carter quietly.
“Send the friendship message,” I said. My hands were trembling from the magnitude of what we were doing. This was a moment that would forever be a milestone in human history. This was bigger than Armstrong on the Moon. This was bigger than the invention of faster than light speed and the first mission to Alpha Centauri. I hoped that I and my small crew would rise this important moment and be good ambassadors representing the entire human race.
I'm sending the message now,” said Carter. “I wonder how long...I'm getting an immediate audio and visual reply!”
A visual image of several large lizard-like creatures came on the main screen. The scaly, fearsome creatures appeared to be on the command center of their ship. Then came the simple and surprising audio message in English.
We have previously visited your planet and made the mistake of attempting contact with your species. Perhaps it is because your race has such a short lifespan, that you think we will forget. I remember very will how poorly we were treated. We were attempting first contact with one of your females when a warrior riding a four legged animal murdered our ambassador with a long spear. Stay away from our inter-space affairs.
“Then the ancient legend is true,” Smith said quietly.
“What is true?” said Carter.
“The legend of Saint George and the dragon. In the Middle Ages, Saint George came across a dragon that was threatening a town's princess! George bravely slayed the dragon and married the princess.”
“Yes,” I said. “I remember the old story now. Saint George must have mistaken the dangerous-looking lizard people as a threat. We insulted these lizard people!” I wondered if there was a way the human race could apologize and justify this ancient offense to the lizard people and normalize relations.
“The alien ship is powering up faster than light engines! They'll jump to light speed any second now. We may not get another chance to talk to these people for a couple hundred years,”said Smith.
“Put the mic on me and prepare to send an audio message!” I desperately tried to think of what to say to reverse the massive diplomatic failure and start relations between our civilizations.
“What your race may not know about our race is the cultural aspects of our short-life spans. Since we live shorter lives than you, we change at a more rapid pace. The current generation on earth is much more civilized and non-violent. We welcome contact with your race.”
“Nice try captain...wait! I'm getting a reply!”
Prepare to receive our ambassador. We bring gifts of our scientific knowledge and technology.
“You did it Cap!” Carter shouted.
“I didn't want to us to have to wait another century to get another chance,” I said.