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 Outside - Enemies Never

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PostSubject: Outside - Enemies Never   February 4th 2011, 8:00 am

Outside - Story Twenty-Eight
Enemies Never

Part One

This report is from Thor. I suspect that it will become just one version of certain events, but I feel obligated to state my perspective. It might not be the record that is considered the most correct for historic purposes, but hopefully it won’t be filed away as unimportant.

I found myself tracking a number of situations involving my personnel while attempting to reconcile a number more that dealt with others. Felix and Indigo were in route with two aliens. All were concerned, because those brave enough to stay with my recently married couple were not very active. They mostly lied on blankets on the floor of the Lost Rainbow while watching and listening. They would speak, and Watson had been managing to increase his understanding of their language. They had also worked with Felix and Indigo to understand matters of hygiene. Their usual calm behavior however caused a number to worry about their health. Terry spoke with a number about the readings recorded of their native atmosphere, and assured all that he would be able to make the aliens feel comfortable. I knew such to be true, because Sandra had been working with him to redesign a room so that it had its own atmosphere. They communicated with those aboard the Chavez who were building a similar room for the animals that Castle was bringing to them.

Felix and Indigo were only a few days out. They had only gone on a slightly different heading than our own, so were not that far away. They also were in a direction allowing for Felix’s vector to rush them back near us. They were about at the position to switch over to another vector that would bring them close enough for our computer to take control and bring them on in.

Castle was still almost two weeks from rendezvousing with the Chavez. They had yet to switch vectors, but were still racing along Felix’s course. Castle would arrive at the military ship as it shut down to change headings and proceed near the stars that our aliens called home. He did allow that he could travel faster, but as this journey was the first actual test of Jane he did not want to push her limits. Simply having the engine perform was enough satisfaction, and he was using the time to assure its stability while making tests to improve the design.

The saucers were moving to the alternate solar system. They were slightly over a week behind us, but still ahead of others. We were however worried about them, because they would travel close to the engagement of alien spaceships.

I heard someone again ask, “Does anyone know what the aliens are fighting about?”

Watson replied, “If you would switch channels, you could listen in on the commentary as we try to decode the alien speech.”

“Well, it would help if you supplied an update on the main channel, Dude.”

The voice of NoNope from Outside Control returned, “The main channel is for normal transmissions between everyone. There is nothing unusual about us rerouting specific conversations to other channels. All transmissions dealing with the aliens are open for public access, so please switch over if you are interested.”

I heard irritation in Watson’s voice as he said, “Yeah, Dude,” which caused me to ask, “Watson, do you need a break?”

The voice of one of his boyfriends provided an answer, “I believe that he does.”

I almost felt that Watson was going to rebuke us, but he instead sighed and said, “Yes, I probably do. Night everyone.”

After listening to a number of those working with him along with his boyfriends tell him ‘good night,’ I said to him, “We are all pushing ourselves, but this is not something that will resolve itself quickly. We must all take breaks when we can.”

“There just won’t be another moment in history like this.”

“Still, it is our moment, Watson. We brought mankind here. Others are attempting to make their mark along with us, but it is still our names that will go at the top. Rest with the knowledge that you will not be forgotten.”

I had not switched off the microphones, so a number heard what I said. Watson thus heard many voices echo my words. I saw a smile come to his face as he made a reply.

“Thanks, Thor. I can assure you and everyone else that my mind will stay active on what we are doing. I will thus return with a number of ideas.”

I then heard my wife say, “Talking about breaks, Thor, have you taken one? I believe that you go on duty at point in a few hours.”

“I was wanting to relax with you, Rachel, and pat your tummy for a time.”

“We are too short handed at the moment. You can come pat my tummy, but then you probably need to get some sleep.”

As I tried to remember the last time that I had a nap, I asked, “What are you doing?”

“Working with Naomi to prepare our computer for handling the aliens’ anatomy and physiology. I remember the salesman that sold us the medical software mentioning that it could work with alien life forms, but this is really going to be the first time it has been ever been used for such. We thus have the original software team working with us.”

I signaled Malcolm that I would indeed take a break as I said, “Felix, Indigo, it sure will help to get a couple of my pilots back.”

“Same here,” Felix returned. “The aliens aren’t being a problem, but Indigo and I are still pretty stressed having to stay alert. Heard you speak about patting your wife’s belly. I would like some private time with my wife as well.”

The voice of Doug came over the speakers. “Hey, Thor, if you need another pilot, I am available.”

“If I had another boat, I would take you up on it.”

Rachel’s voice now came over the speakers. “We do have an extra boat, Thor. Castle is out in the boat he built for Jane. His regular boat is still here.”

I trusted the computer to know how to route the conversation as I said, “Castle, is it all right if Doug flies your boat?”

Thanks to our modern technology, he heard me and made a reply. “I don’t know, Thor. Everything in there is according to my design.”

Clover’s voice returned, “Except the boards. Doug probably could fly it.”

Castle mumbled his reply, “Yes, Clover is right, I am not a programmer. I thus designed everything to fit the specs of the software. Still, I don’t believe that he could maintain it. If you use it, you fix it, and that will probably be Doug’s problem.”

I thus said, “You heard the man, Doug. Still, thanks for the offer. Right now us pilots are running a tight schedule, but our major problem is that we don’t want to sleep. Too much is happening. We might need to pull you for relief, but I am going to hold you until really necessary.”

Doug responded, “Roger, Captain. Just don’t forget about me.”

“Keep taking your pictures, Doug, and you will never be forgotten.”

I moved to my room listening to the various conversations from others attempting to be a part of the drama of mankind’s first contact with another intelligent race. I found myself worrying about Malcolm, as his tendency to switch channels as soon as those speaking became quiet or fixated on some minor detail that he did not find interesting. Because the helm did not require someone with a pilot’s license, the usual philosophy was that anyone could do it. The laws thus did not demand relief for the helm under the assumption that anyone could take over the helm should the regular person with that duty be unavailable for any reason. Malcolm and Darlene were however very dependable, but as I listened to the various conversations I found myself wondering if they needed a break.

I took the detour that would bring me to my wife and her activity fixing up a room for our aliens. Considering that my ship was presently without three of its pilots, I thought of my ship as being very minimally staffed. Arriving at the room I however found it rather busy. Terry, Sandra, Rachel, and Naomi were all active. They were not just working on the ducts to assure a proper atmosphere, but also altering the furniture according to how they saw the aliens move. I found myself wanting to get involved, but Rachel slapped my butt and told me to head directly to my room and get some sleep.

I must have been a lot more tired than I thought, because I woke to being roughly shaken by Rachel. She noted that I was still dressed. I told her that I had only laid down to rest for a moment. She pointed out that I needed to be on duty in less than an hour. Realizing that my moment of rest had become hours of sleep, I rushed to take a bath and prepare for a twelve hour stretch at point. My wife and I could not pull point at the same time, as I did not have a boat. Old Tommy was presently with the saucers, so Rachel and I had to use the Next Experiment. She assured me that she had checked it out after her time at point, so it was ready for my use, although she warned me that I had better have it in the same condition when she went to pull her duty. I assured her that I would while also promising that I had gained enough sleep to manage my job.

I ate while again listening to the chatter over the speakers. I found that Watson was again on the bridge working to translate the alien speech. We had all been monitoring the alien transmissions when we could get them. Felix and Indigo had been the closest to the alien military vessels, considering that they went in to dock with an escape pod from a ship that had been destroyed. They were however leaving any light communications behind them. We were heading in one direction, but not toward the battle. The saucers however were, and they picked up a transmission that they sent to us. I stopped moving food to my mouth as I heard Watson make a soft exclamation.

“Uh-oh.”

One of Watson’s boyfriends asked, “What was that?”

“The aliens know about us.”

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PostSubject: Part Two   February 9th 2011, 7:54 am

Outside - Story Twenty-Eight
Enemies Never

Part Two

The differences in the mechanics of speech, development of language, and a number of other factors was making it hard to achieve any good translation. Watson thus found his interpretation of the signals challenged. Felix and Indigo however had the best references for testing certain conclusions, and after a time they were able to verify that Watson’s translation was correct.

I had to ask, “Are they calling off hostilities?”

While some tactical information had been worked on with the aliens, no one wanted to speak of war. Not wanting to alarm our guests, or give them cause to mistrust us, the conversations had stayed on generic topics of life, hygiene, and interpretations of what each of our races saw around them. It thus took some time for a certain question to be asked. I was preparing the Next Experiment for performing another shift when everyone felt that a good response to the question of what effect our presence would have on the combat.

We had been wondering about the messages that we were receiving. They seem to be directed at someone, but we had no clue about who that might be. The ships themselves were moving at faster-than-light, but they only had standard electromagnetic methods of communicating. The analogy was like the communications of early ship travel. The only way to deliver a message back to one’s rulers was by horseback, but that did little good when one was far from any land. It took some time, but finally Felix spoke to answer some of our questions.

“There are space stations. The colonies, hives maybe, have moved off planet. That is how that other planet was settled.”

That started everyone talking. The questions however fixated on whether the aliens were truly part of an insect-like society. Felix explained that he gained the facts about the space stations showing various spacecraft and having the aliens relate those to their own fleet of ships. He then accepted directions to show people, male and female like he and Indigo, then showing children. I listened with everyone else as the couple spoke to their pair of aliens.

According to what Watson translated with Felix and Indigo agreeing from their direct appraisal of the speech, was that the aliens did have male and females. They had such a couple on board their craft, and had left such a couple behind. Reproducing pairs however did not have the children. The conversation focused on there being a third parent, although most of us listening gained the impression that their government raised all children to keep the parents focused on their jobs.

Speculation ran wild about the true society that we would encounter. Some mentioned several separate societies both on the planet and in the various space stations. Others spoke of traits found in insect societies. All however agreed that contact needed to be made, so only issued warnings to us about what to watch for.

Finally, I asked my question, “What are they fighting over? Surely space is big enough for all of us?”

What came in response was that space was not big enough. While other planets had been found, only one was usable as a place for their kind. I listened as it came out that the aliens were amazed with our technology. We were settling out in space. We had pushed our knowledge of materials to find those substances that could provide us with relatively safe homes. We had advanced our knowledge of plants and animals to cause them to grow in abundance while not having any native soil or sun. The aliens thus had only one option, and that was to fight for what limited resources they had.

The usually calm voice of Natchez of Outside Control said, “Then the aliens will probably think of us as also wanting to fight for their resources.”

I recognized Captain Saing reply, “Which makes the decision wise...”

“NO!” Fierce Lion screamed. “We have technology to share! Not military power, but technology.”

Captain Saing tried to sound rational as he said, “We are here, Menlo Park, if you need us.”

Natchez however actually provided a plan that I felt a need to consider. “Menlo Park, I recommend dropping below light speed as soon as possible. There is no longer a need for secrecy or speed. You have gained the recognition of being the first to make contact. You now have the responsibility of being the proper representative of the human race.”

Some voice from the ether replied, “Us? The human race? I am sorry, but having those of the Menlo Park represent us as some wise and benevolent beings is not truthful.”

I responded with some facts. “The aliens pulled guns on us, but Felix and Indigo showed them that we did not fear their weapons before displaying even more powerful devices. We will not act as if we don’t know war, only that we know the results of war. That is what I feel has given us the society that we have. It is also what I believe will be the great unifying perspective that will enable us to relate to these beings. They should also know of what happens during a conflict, and they should welcome options besides war to resolve their problems.”

“WELL SAID!” Fierce Lion returned.

Felix said, “I believe thoughts along those lines are correct. The couple that I have say that their people are probably dropping their hostilities in order to assess our presence.”

If I was in the bridge of my ship, I would have been able to look to Watson for clarification, but I instead was glad to hear his voice. “That is confirmed.”

It was Natchez that replied, “That is why I recommend dropping to beneath light speed. We are communicating in a manner the aliens cannot hear. While they can move at light speed, they are moving in a manner that we cannot. Our Kert fields give us speed in a manner that the aliens cannot detect. Our greatest fear is that of the unknown. We thus should give this other culture a chance to see us and hear us.”

Captain Saing replied, “But then they can fire upon us.”

“Oh, come on. Clover, how fast is their equipment? From the signal that I am receiving, they might have three bit computer technology, but they don’t have any processing speed.”

I knew that Clover was probably in bed, so was not surprised to hear Castle respond, “They are still in kilobyte processing speeds. The boards that I saw had tubes.”

I believe the next voice was that of one of Watson’s boyfriends. “That would be desired if they expected to be subjected to the EMP of a nuclear explosion.”

“Yes, but it also limits processing speed.”

Natchez’s voice had a ring of confidence as it said, “Which is my point. While the Menlo Park might slow down to less than light speed, they will still be able to react much faster than the aliens.”

The voice that I suspected to be one of Watson’s boyfriends verified that he was as he used Watson’s real name. “Sherman, what is the name of these aliens? They aren’t aliens, or shouldn’t be.”

“Well, pronouncing the language is difficult, but here is what they call themselves.”

I laughed as a number tried to restate the sounds. Suggestions for the alien race went everywhere from ‘Uncle Ted,’ ‘United id,’ to ‘Aunt Inez.’ The middle one finally gained acceptance even with Doctor Hui of the Hubble Space Array. Seeking to do the same with the other alien race gained the name Tuxtepecs. While both sounded funny, having a name instead of being simply ‘aliens’ did help ease my mind about where I was going.

I finished my shift as Clover and Watson took over at point. Feeling relieved to have managed the time, I moved through my ship to return to the bridge. I however was stopped by two ladies in the kitchen. Naomi mentioned having a plate of food for me, and my wife patted a seat next to her at the table.

“I pull duty next, Thor,” Rachel informed me, “so are you going to fix my boat?”

“It has already been done,” I said sitting down. “There were few things that I noted to be checked on, which bothered me enough that I worked on them as soon as I docked. I also wanted no interruption to my time of patting your belly.”

The voice of Malcolm came from the bridge. “I would recommend that you go ahead and rest now. Felix and Indigo are already on the final vector. They should arrive when Black Dove is only a few hours into her shift.”

I looked to Naomi as I asked, “How is their room coming?”

“It stinks, but the air matches what was found. Terry and Sandra are watching the mix as the circulation system works. Sandra even says that she will have a tube which should allow the United-Ids to refill the tanks on their suits.”

I lifted my head as I asked, “Felix, what do you call your guests?”

“Clyde and Theta,” came back over the speaker. “What they call me and Indigo is not anything better.”

I really wanted Malcolm to hear my next words, but just spoke them out loud. “I want you to dock on the hallway near Doug. We are turning the gravity on the other hall to protect the child Rachel is carrying, but mostly I want pictures.”

The voice of the elder photographer came over the speaker. “I hoped you would say that.”

I kept my voice speaking to all as I said, “And some type of translation device would be preferred. I know that we are not that far along with the translation, but being able to understand each other in real time would help.”

I heard Watson reply, “Those devices already exist, Thor. We have a couple of companies that make them already at work attempting to handle the software. We might have a prototype available for you.”

A new voice said, “This is Frank Lighton of Triton Tech. We have a number of issues before us, but we are going to try and send you an update for your specific devices.”

Another voice spoke up. “This is Andrew Taylor of Chabron United. Our devices are made for the inclusion of a live translator to help with slang and other oddities of speech. This is why our devices are usually bought by diplomats. We thus feel that our device will serve you better, as it will allow those working with the language to add to the translating capabilities of the moment.”

My wife replied, “We have both items on board, as we knew that we had a good chance of encountering aliens. We promise to give each a try.”

I turned my head toward my plate of food as I said, “In slightly more than twelve hours.”

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PostSubject: Part Three   February 14th 2011, 7:40 am

Outside - Story Twenty-Eight
Enemies Never

Part Three

I ate, then my wife and I spent time together. I could really see little difference in her body, but I made certain that she knew that I wanted to experience what I could of the pregnancy. Rachel showed no reluctance to letting me claim both her and the child as mine.

Waking up after a number of hours of sleep, I listened to the various conversations as I worked on my wife’s boat. Everyone was getting excited about the arrival of the United-Ids. While everyone recognized that they had access to the aliens, none considered the limited surroundings of the Lost Rainbow to truly show the wonders of our civilization. I really did not know how much better my ship would handle introducing the United-Ids to our society, but agreed that it might help to let them know that Felix and Indigo were not alone.

I moved from the berthing hall where I had parked my wife’s boat to the one where Doug had his apartment. No sooner did I step through the airlock than I recognized that work had been done here as well. The walls had only been painted a basic color. I had paid for a thick coating to protect the metal, but knowing that I planned to cover the walls with a thick netting I saw no reason to try and beautify the hallway. I however stepped inside the corridor realizing that someone had tried to improve the appearance.

Doug stepped out of his apartment as I looked around, and seeing him I had to ask a question, “Why yellow-green?”

I guess that he saw my expression, because he sounded apologetic as he said, “Watson did not like it either, but I was scared that the United-Ids would not see a dark blue.”

“You did this?”

“Terry made the paint for me, or simply mixed it as he said that you had plenty of basic white paint on board. He also provided the paint gun. Put up a cloth behind the netting, then knocked this out in no time. It did stink out here for a while.”

Feeling left out of the loop, I said, “I am surprised that I have not heard the girls speak about this.”

“What girls? The only one who could have seen it is Harley. Naomi and Rachel are pregnant, so are keeping themselves under normal gravity. Indigo is with Felix. Darlene talks to me over the intercom, but she does not visit.”

“I bet that you do hear from Indigo when she returns.”

He laughed, then said, “That is why I am going to have everything set up to keep the situation all business. If she really wants to complain about it, she can come back after things settle down.”

“Are you ready?”

“I wish that I had my old equipment. I believe that the event deserves the dignity it would provide. These modern cameras seem to be more toys than serious devices.”

I shook my head as I replied, “No, the rest of humanity does not need to wait. The event needs to be live.”

“You know, I have argued with everyone else that said that. Back then we were however just discussing some picture. This will not be some unworldly scene, but a true meeting of worlds. For once, I am going to concede the argument.”

I smiled while asking about how he wanted the meeting of our guests to be done. After hearing the details, I simply spent some time speaking with Doug. While we were both excited about meeting the aliens, I had the perspective of someone finally achieving a goal while he had decades of space travel where such had never happened, so had come to not expect it to happen. We thus had things to share.

I left Doug to find Harley at work cleaning the common area. It was actually a part of her duty, but I could tell that she was attempting to make things especially tidy. I however had to stop seeing Terry at work mopping a hallway. It was not a strange sight, as we did work to keep everything clean, but I stopped recognizing a smell that told me this activity was not just being done to fill time in the day.

I asked, “Testing out a new formula?”

“No. This is however what I have been using to keep my apartment sanitary.”

“These are aliens. Completely different organisms. Our germs won’t recognize them.”

He continued to work as he replied, “And theirs shouldn’t bother us. Still, tests are going to be performed, so the less contaminants the better.”

“They have been with Felix and Indigo for a number of days.”

“Do you want me to stop?”

“No. You are doing fine. I just wanted to be certain that you understood certain facts.”

He did stop as he said, “They are aliens, but their bodies should be as complex as ours. There thus should be bacteria, possibly parasites, that could enter our environment. I am going to do a complete check of the filters in the Lost Rainbow. I will also do regular checks of the filters in the alien’s apartment. From there, I will be looking at our filters.” He went back to mopping as he said, “The less contaminants, the better.”

I moved into the kitchen to find Naomi cleaning the freezer. I had to admit that it was one item that probably did not get checked that often. I however also saw a computer terminal active on the table. Seeing a report of our supplies, I assumed that another detail was being prepared for the aliens. I spoke to the lady again to assure that certain facts were understood.

“We are going to their planet. I plan on acquiring as much of their food as possible.”

“I just don’t want them to feel a need to be confined to their apartment. While our air might not be satisfactory for them, I don’t want the rest of our ship to be unpleasant. If they come to the kitchen, I want them to have something to eat.”

I nodded, then turned as I heard a strange sound from the bridge. I looked to see Darlene and Malcolm working with the machine for cleaning the carpet and upholstery. Stepping to the door, I recognized the same smell of that Terry was using to mop the floor. I thus had to make a comment when the noise from the machine stopped.

“The bridge has never been the most sanitary place.”

Malcolm replied, “Well, we are trying. Terry says that this is what he did to keep foreign particles from his clothes and bed stuff from bothering his chemicals.”

“Well, when you finish, can you do something about the smell?”

Darlene replied, “Don’t worry. I won’t sit in this room with it stinking like this.”

Malcolm added, “Yes, it is rather tough on the nostrils.”

I moved up to the helm. I first checked on a number of details. Seeing everything in order, I activated a microphone.

“Hey, Felix or Indigo, I just moved through the ship. Found everyone working to get this craft sterile and inviting.”

It was the voice of the lady that came back. “Well, our arrival will just be the first of a number of engagements. That is a question however, Thor. Just how open are we going to be with the aliens?”

Captain Saing responded before I could speak. “Yes, that has been a question of mine as well.”

I replied, “We are seeing their technology. Even without seeing the inside of our craft, they will see ours as well. Just a clear visual is sometimes enough to get ideas rolling. I am not planning to turn over my ship or any boats for intimate inspection, but there will be chances for them to look around.”

I recognized the voice of Doctor Hui as he asked, “Well, Thor, how do you rate their level of technology?”

“They have definitely figured out some things that we have not. They however have not shown the capability with certain technologies, even though there is evidence of them having the knowledge. They have odd-bit computer data, but not the speed or power of software that we have achieved. Thus, just seeing what we have done might have them reappraise certain lines of research. Our presence won’t give them the technology, as they already have it, but only cause them to re-open certain reports.”

Claiming that the aliens already had most of our technology was refuted by a number. That caused the channel to fill with debate on the actual capabilities of the aliens. I had already discussed the topic with those of my crew, and realized that we could not isolate the technology of the aliens to any specific periods of our history. I listened as others mulled over certain facts as I turned my attention back to what was occurring on board my own craft.

I moved through the corridors, then stopped at one door. I did not want to wake anyone, so only rapped on the hard metal surface of the door. I looked in to see Diamond at his table drinking. I stopped to ask a question before entering.

“Are you celebrating anything?”

“No. Yes. Well…” He motioned for me to enter, and did not speak again until the door closed behind me. “I was thinking of dying.”

I moved to sit at the table as I said, “You shouldn’t do that alone.”

“No. You’re right. It is just that I am realizing that I have done it. All I wanted from life was a steady job and to go down in the books as having accomplished something. Well, what could be better than being one of the first to meet an alien specie? You, Clover, Felix, and the others, I guess, now can settle upon your spouses and family having met your goals as well. It is coming too late for me to think of a family, but I can at least go to my maker with the pride of having lived a good life.”

I moved to get myself a glass, then spoke as I poured myself some of the liquid. “Those thoughts don’t sound morbid.”

“No. I am not thinking of suicide. It is just that I am not getting any younger.”

“Who knows? The aliens might have figured that out.”

He didn’t smile, but refilled our glasses before saying. “You know that part of a steady job? I want to be part of your crew on the next mission. I know that you want more of a family spirit, but I promise that I can be a good uncle.”

“I think of everyone on board my ship as family, and the best that humanity could offer. I would be honored to have my children grow up around you, Diamond.”

He looked at me, then put the top back on his bottle. “Well, I guess that I need to take care of my liver.”

“Take care of the rest of yourself as well. You know that I freely allow drinking on board my vessel. Thus, if you want to drink, go to the common area or the kitchen.”

“You got women on board your vessel as well. Sometimes a man simply wants to be alone with his thoughts.”

I drained my glass before saying, “Well, you’re not alone, Diamond.”

He downed his, then said, “Yes, and mankind isn’t either.”

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PostSubject: Part Three   February 19th 2011, 8:02 am

Outside - Story Twenty-Eight
Enemies Never

Part Three

I ate, then my wife and I spent time together. I could really see little difference in her body, but I made certain that she knew that I wanted to experience what I could of the pregnancy. Rachel showed no reluctance to letting me claim both her and the child as mine.

Waking up after a number of hours of sleep, I listened to the various conversations as I worked on my wife’s boat. Everyone was getting excited about the arrival of the United-Ids. While everyone recognized that they had access to the aliens, none considered the limited surroundings of the Lost Rainbow to truly show the wonders of our civilization. I really did not know how much better my ship would handle introducing the United-Ids to our society, but agreed that it might help to let them know that Felix and Indigo were not alone.

I moved from the berthing hall where I had parked my wife’s boat to the one where Doug had his apartment. No sooner did I step through the airlock than I recognized that work had been done here as well. The walls had only been painted a basic color. I had paid for a thick coating to protect the metal, but knowing that I planned to cover the walls with a thick netting I saw no reason to try and beautify the hallway. I however stepped inside the corridor realizing that someone had tried to improve the appearance.

Doug stepped out of his apartment as I looked around, and seeing him I had to ask a question, “Why yellow-green?”

I guess that he saw my expression, because he sounded apologetic as he said, “Watson did not like it either, but I was scared that the United-Ids would not see a dark blue.”

“You did this?”

“Terry made the paint for me, or simply mixed it as he said that you had plenty of basic white paint on board. He also provided the paint gun. Put up a cloth behind the netting, then knocked this out in no time. It did stink out here for a while.”

Feeling left out of the loop, I said, “I am surprised that I have not heard the girls speak about this.”

“What girls? The only one who could have seen it is Harley. Naomi and Rachel are pregnant, so are keeping themselves under normal gravity. Indigo is with Felix. Darlene talks to me over the intercom, but she does not visit.”

“I bet that you do hear from Indigo when she returns.”

He laughed, then said, “That is why I am going to have everything set up to keep the situation all business. If she really wants to complain about it, she can come back after things settle down.”

“Are you ready?”

“I wish that I had my old equipment. I believe that the event deserves the dignity it would provide. These modern cameras seem to be more toys than serious devices.”

I shook my head as I replied, “No, the rest of humanity does not need to wait. The event needs to be live.”

“You know, I have argued with everyone else that said that. Back then we were however just discussing some picture. This will not be some unworldly scene, but a true meeting of worlds. For once, I am going to concede the argument.”

I smiled while asking about how he wanted the meeting of our guests to be done. After hearing the details, I simply spent some time speaking with Doug. While we were both excited about meeting the aliens, I had the perspective of someone finally achieving a goal while he had decades of space travel where such had never happened, so had come to not expect it to happen. We thus had things to share.

I left Doug to find Harley at work cleaning the common area. It was actually a part of her duty, but I could tell that she was attempting to make things especially tidy. I however had to stop seeing Terry at work mopping a hallway. It was not a strange sight, as we did work to keep everything clean, but I stopped recognizing a smell that told me this activity was not just being done to fill time in the day.

I asked, “Testing out a new formula?”

“No. This is what I have been using to keep my apartment sanitary.”

“These are aliens. Completely different organisms. Our germs won’t recognize them.”

He continued to work as he replied, “And theirs shouldn’t bother us. Still, tests are going to be performed, so the less contaminants the better.”

“They have been with Felix and Indigo for a number of days.”

“Do you want me to stop?”

“No. You are doing fine. I just wanted to be certain that you understood certain facts.”

He did stop as he said, “They are aliens, but their bodies should be as complex as ours. There thus should be bacteria, possibly parasites, that could enter our environment. I am going to do a complete check of the filters in the Lost Rainbow. I will also do regular checks of the filters in the alien’s apartment. From there, I will be looking at our filters.” He went back to mopping as he said, “The less contaminants, the better.”

I moved into the kitchen to find Naomi cleaning the freezer. I had to admit that it was one item that probably did not get checked that often. I however also saw a computer terminal active on the table. Seeing a report of our supplies, I assumed that another detail was being prepared for the aliens. I spoke to the lady again to assure that certain facts were understood.

“We are going to their planet. I plan on acquiring as much of their food as possible.”

“I just don’t want them to feel a need to be confined to their apartment. While our air might not be satisfactory for them, I don’t want the rest of our ship to be unpleasant. If they come to the kitchen, I want them to have something to eat.”

I nodded, then turned as I heard a strange sound from the bridge. I looked to see Darlene and Malcolm working with the machine for cleaning the carpet and upholstery. Stepping to the door, I recognized the same smell of that Terry was using to mop the floor. I thus had to make a comment when the noise from the machine stopped.

“The bridge has never been the most sanitary place.”

Malcolm replied, “Well, we are trying. Terry says that this is what he did to keep foreign particles from his clothes and bed stuff from bothering his chemicals.”

“Well, when you finish, can you do something about the smell?”

Darlene replied, “Don’t worry. I won’t sit in this room with it stinking like this.”

Malcolm added, “Yes, it is rather tough on the nostrils.”

I moved up to the helm. I first checked on a number of details. Seeing everything in order, I activated a microphone.

“Hey, Felix or Indigo, I just moved through the ship. Found everyone working to get this craft sterile and inviting.”

It was the voice of the lady that came back. “Well, our arrival will just be the first of a number of engagements. That is a question however, Thor. Just how open are we going to be with the aliens?”

Captain Saing responded before I could speak. “Yes, that has been a question of mine as well.”

I replied, “We are seeing their technology. Even without seeing the inside of our craft, they will see ours as well. Just a clear visual is sometimes enough to get ideas rolling. I am not planning to turn over my ship or any boats for intimate inspection, but there will be chances for them to look around.”

I recognized the voice of Doctor Hui as he asked, “Well, Thor, how do you rate their level of technology?”

“They have definitely figured out some things that we have not. They however have not shown the capability with certain technologies, even though there is evidence of them having the knowledge. They have odd-bit computer data, but not the speed or power of software that we have achieved. Thus, just seeing what we have done might have them reappraise certain lines of research. Our presence won’t give them the technology, as they already have it, but only cause them to re-open certain reports.”

Claiming that the aliens already had most of our technology was refuted by a number. That caused the channel to fill with debate on the actual capabilities of the aliens. I had already discussed the topic with those of my crew, and realized that we could not isolate the technology of the aliens to any specific periods of our history. I listened as others mulled over certain facts as I turned my attention back to what was occurring on board my own craft.

I moved through the corridors, then stopped at one door. I did not want to wake anyone, so only rapped on the hard metal surface of the door. I looked in to see Diamond at his table drinking. I stopped to ask a question before entering.

“Are you celebrating anything?”

“No. Yes. Well…” He motioned for me to enter, and did not speak again until the door closed behind me. “I was thinking of dying.”

I moved to sit at the table as I said, “You shouldn’t do that alone.”

“No. You’re right. It is just that I am realizing that I have done it. All I wanted from life was a steady job and to go down in the books as having accomplished something. Well, what could be better than being one of the first to meet an alien specie? You, Clover, Felix, and the others, I guess, now can settle upon your spouses and family having met your goals as well. It is coming too late for me to think of a family, but I can at least go to my maker with the pride of having lived a good life.”

I moved to get myself a glass, then spoke as I poured myself some of the liquid. “Those thoughts don’t sound morbid.”

“No. I am not thinking of suicide. It is just that I am not getting any younger.”

“Who knows? The aliens might have figured that out.”

He didn’t smile, but refilled our glasses before saying. “You know that part of a steady job? I want to be part of your crew on the next mission. I know that you want more of a family spirit, but I promise that I can be a good uncle.”

“I think of everyone on board my ship as family, and the best that humanity could offer. I would be honored to have my children grow up around you, Diamond.”

He looked at me, then put the top back on his bottle. “Well, I guess that I need to take care of my liver.”

“Take care of the rest of yourself as well. You know that I freely allow drinking on board my vessel. Thus, if you want to drink, go to the common area or the kitchen.”

“You got women on board your vessel as well. Sometimes a man simply wants to be alone with his thoughts.”

I drained my glass before saying, “Well, you’re not alone, Diamond.”

He downed his, then said, “Yes, and mankind isn’t either.”

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PostSubject: Part Four   February 24th 2011, 7:45 am

Outside - Story Twenty-Eight
Enemies Never

Part Four

I left Diamond, then settled into the kitchen as I waited out the eventual meeting with the aliens. My wife had her duty. While I did go into the apartment to take a nap, it felt lonely without her. I then thought of the coming time when even my private residence would be constantly alive with another. It helped me enjoy the solitude while I still had it. After the nap, I returned to the kitchen and counted down with the others the seconds until the coming event.

Doug was with Terry discussing various drinks when I showed up in the berthing hall. Watson was at work assuring that his speakers were set up properly. While he had been active working with the translations, he was curious about how his simulations truly compared to the actual voices of the aliens. While we had been interacting with the aliens in manners that all of us consider very realistic, none considered our technology able to equal a live performance.

We all paused as the voice of Darlene said, “Mr. and Mrs. Guiosky and their guests are now being directed to dock with us.”

I believe that we all showed anxiety as we rushed to check all our preparations again. I looked over my uniform. Terry checked the refreshments. Watson did some tests with his translation equipment. Doug looked at monitors to assure the settings on his cameras.

We all turned as a soft bump could be heard on the hull. I don’t believe any of us moved as an airlock worked. We continued to hold our positions as we heard the voice of Indigo.

“Four people cooped up in my boat are ready to stretch their legs.”

I managed to have my voice sound clear as I returned, “Welcome aboard.”

Indigo dropped down showing some experience in managing a weak gravity. I then saw the aliens. They did not come down as easily, but quickly managed to stand up. While I had been seeing them over the video feed, I noticed their height and how they moved. They indeed did have a more insect type of body structure. Their torso was thick like a sturdy column. The eyes caused the head to look slightly humanoid, but the mouth again forced one to think of them as being insects. The legs were also tubular with their middle tentacled finger causing them to appear very alien. I stepped forward to say a specific greeting.

“I am Captain Thor of the Menlo Park. On behalf of the greater civilization of humanity, I welcome you on board my ship.”

“Captain Thor, I thank you.”

Each of the aliens said it separately. I could tell that they had been working with our language. Watson did not need to work a translation. Their droning voices managed to alter itself to make a general approximation of our language. All consonant sounds were however clicks. I gained the impression that they had little control over that part of speech, as multiple clicks sometimes sounded instead of one. I bowed as each said it, and smiled as they worked a bow in return.

“I hope that you don’t feel like test subjects, but we have so much that we wish to learn about you.”

I had told Watson what I planned on saying, so I was not surprised to hear the speakers produce a hum along with some clicks. The aliens listened. It was the one we had called Theta that responded, and I waited to hear Watson’s translation.

“We have been told that some things will hurt.”

“Yes, but those should be short. Hopefully, trying new foods and other things of our culture will be fun, and those will last.”

I saw Watson look at me strangely. I simply shrugged as I smiled. He worked on his computer console for a time before a translation came over the speaker.

“We want to learn as well.”

I thought those words in response were very acceptable. I then introduced those present in the room. The hard faces of the aliens were tough to read for expressions, but I worked on studying their eyes and body movement as they saw the variety of people. We then had them try some foods and beverages. They actually liked the wine, and that caused me to feel that they did belong on board my vessel.

They noticed the change in gravity as we moved from the berthing hall to the main part of the ship. They seemed bothered by the narrow hallways, although stopped to look upon coming into the kitchen. Naomi was preparing a few dishes. They gave the impression that they could smell as they moved to some stir-fry of vegetables and shrimp. As they gained a small plate of the food, Theta spoke.

“Your ship is very different than our own.”

I heard the translation over the speaker. I cannot say where Watson actually was, but he was obviously still listening. Glad that I was not being left to depend on myself to supply meaning to my words, I responded.

“I believe that our cultures will be very different. We should still be friends.”

The other alien replied, “You are trying to show yourselves as friends. We will need to learn the truth.”

“There are good people and bad people, but we pride ourselves on being more good than bad. Please, learn that we can be good, even as you find what is bad.”

“There are good and bad among us as well, but we also try to be good.”

Darlene spoke after I listened to the translation. “Thor, the President of YOU wants to make a statement.”

I directed my guests into the bridge. I introduced them to Darlene and Clover. The two aliens looked around, then Clyde asked a question.

“Is this all it takes to fly the ship?”

“When things work properly,” I replied. “It sometimes takes a lot of work to have it work properly.”

“On our ships the rooms are big with many workers.”

“We have looked at the outside of your ships. We do not have your technology. We do not have your history. We have lots to learn.”

As my words were translated, I saw the image of President Sanchez appear on the front monitor. The aliens noticed the man, and I introduced him. Understanding that he was someone of importance, they turned to listen to his words.

“I want to speak for the whole of humanity in speaking a welcome. We call our society the United Inhabited Worlds. We are a very diverse people. We have spread to a number of planets and moons. Among those of the Menlo Park you can see differing skin tones and other features. We have many words to separate ourselves, but we still consider all of us as being from a similar source. I have the honor of representing all of humanity, even as I recognize that many do not believe that I speak for them. The truth however is that I do.

“For the first time, we are able to greet those that do not come from our singular source. We hope to however bring our peoples into a united history. We can each learn. We can each prove ourselves superior. We can each then go out to meet even more that have a separate history, and we can make ourselves with a broad history that will spread to encompass all of space. Our futures have now become one, and I wish that we all work to make it a future that we all will brag about as being the best possible.”

We all waited for the translation program to work, but broke the silence with laughter as someone from somewhere said, “Hey, that was good.”

The chatter started. There was no way for the aliens to understand the variety of voices that now came over the speaker. Darlene handled the conversations with her usual efficiency. The aliens listened for a time, but I heard things go silent when Theta spoke.

“On our ship, it is mostly silence except for us speaking to each other.”

Clover said, “When we learned to go faster than light, we learned how to recognize other things going faster than light. We thus learned how to communicate.”

“We have not learned that.”

I had been caught up in the moment of showing the aliens about, but Naomi spoke as if she noticed a concern. “Thor, get our guests to their room.”

I turned to the aliens to say, “It has been a long voyage for you among strangers. We have a room prepared for you that we hope will enable you to rest.”

They followed me through the ship. I noticed air masks set on pegs welded next to the door to the alien’s room. I grabbed one, as did Naomi that had followed me. I assumed that everyone else followed us by watching on the monitors.

I could tell from their body language that the aliens did approve of the accommodations. They stood and simply breathed the air for a time. They then moved to the bed. Naomi showed them the shower, and that caused them to speak with pleasure. She also showed them some clothes that had been made. After the aliens thanked us again, she then took out a box and showed them the insides. They became calm as she made a request.

After getting small samples of their internal fluids, we left our guests alone. I knew that there were cameras active in their room, although trusted Darlene to regulate how much access others had to the images. They were strangers in a strange land, and they now needed time to acclimate themselves.

As I moved back to the bridge, I heard the voice of Castle come over the speakers. “Well, only a few more days until I arrive with the animals. How much longer until you of the Menlo Park reach the planet?”

I heard Darlene reply, “Still a few weeks. We suspect that we will encounter a space station before that, but still not hearing any messages.”

“Well, congratulations on handling your meeting. I can only hope that things go so well with my arrival with the Chavez.”

I replied, “You can do it, Castle. I doubt that your trouble will be with the animals, but with people wanting to get their hands on Jane.”

“Yes, already talking on that. Well, may the future be a happy one.”

I can only hope the same.

_________________
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