by Wally Setter
Aliens visit Earth
|Mission to the Blue and White Planet
Hork, Javka Ran and Zzzzk stood on the Command Deck of the Horth interstellar class cruiser HHC Duckwort staring at the forward magnification screen. There, squarely in the center of the screen was a full color image of their long awaited destination. The thin crescent of a small blue and white marble circling a medium-size yellow star stood out in high contrast to the cold blackness of space.
Captain Hork turned to his science officer. “Zzzzk, verify telemetry readings.”
Zzzzk complied with his Captain’s order. “Verified. Extreme Long Range Sensors indicate: diameter – 9,849 flives, gravitation at the equator – 1.17 Horth normal, rotation – 16.65 oures, nitrogen, oxygen atmosphere – within acceptable limits, mean temperature – 31.60 Q. We are on a direct course to the Blue and White planet.”
Hork contemplated the roll that had developed around his middle as he thought about the cold, high gravity surface of this world. “Certainly no paradise,” he said to no one in particular.
Javka Ran joined in. “Nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there. Hek, hek, hek, snick, snick, snort.”
Hork rolled his outer two eyes. That idiot, Javka Ran; if he heard that stupid laugh just one more time he wasn’t sure he could control himself. Why would High Command put such a noodle as Javka Ran on a deep space mission anyway?
Zzzzk announced, “Captain, strange electromagnetic radiation is emanating from the planet. Checks of our database confirm this is a new phenomenon. It presents no danger to the ship.”
Hork asked, “Ship’s status?”
Zzzzk replied, “Current speed - Zero point 38C, distance – 284.04 light oures, current time to planet – 747.47 oures. Minimum distance for full power deceleration – 262.8 light oures. Minimum braking time 1383.1 oures.”
Ahh, Zzzzk, what a fine officer, always efficient. With his uppermost eye he cast a disapproving look at his other crewman. Not for the first time Hork wondered, “Just what is he supposed to be doing?”
Braking was the part he dreaded the most. Almost 47 daos at nearly two times his normal weight, but it was time.
“Prepare for full braking,” Hork ordered. “Initiate braking at 1390.0 oures.”
With Zzzzk at the controls the ship’s gravitational spin gradually came to a full stop, its engines aligned perfectly to cancel their forward momentum.
Hork and Zzzzk were both firmly buckled into their gel seats by the time the tug of artificial gravity released its grip on them. Javka Ran was floating and flapping his upper appendages wildly trying to reach his own seat. Hork let out a low chuckle, “Maybe that fool will break his neck and we can finally toss him out one of the airlocks.” Hork would have done that long ago but High Command took a dim view of throwing crewmembers out airlocks.
At exactly 1390 oures, Zzzzk reported, “Braking initiated. ETA – T minus 1390.0 oures.”
The mighty engines, so long silent, came back on line. Javka Ran did come close to breaking his neck when he landed on his head in his gel seat but after some serious squirming he finally righted himself.
Nothing to do now but wait. Physical activities beyond the necessities of life were out of the question. The ship would perform all the necessary functions to bring them to their destination. Nothing to do except wait and think.
Hork did think. He thought about the 56 yaors they had spent just getting to their destination. He thought about the 56 yaors it would take to return home after their mission was accomplished. He thought about Ioenstem and his theory of relativity and how much better it could be if he hadn’t gotten involved. Who knows maybe they could be zipping across the universe at this very moment instead of crawling along at a spnuul’s pace.
He wondered about how the Blue and White planet was really found in the first place. He suspected it was more by accident than the official historical version would admit. Even at this range few details could be seen.
And Hork thought about the hundreds of earlier missions to this little world so far from home. A few of the ships that had carried out the last missions were still in the process of returning home. Probably several ships had left Horth after his own mission had begun.
And he thought about his mission, virtually the same as all the others before. “Horth scientists were certainly a dull group,” he thought, but his duty was to carry out the mission exactly as High Command ordered. Still he couldn’t help wondering, “Just what were they trying to accomplish?”
And they waited.
Hork thought about the grand parade awaiting him when he finally returned home. He thought about collecting his back pay and retiring to one the nicer cave communities where he would live a life of luxury for his remaining yaors.
And they waited.
And they waited.
As they approached the Blue and White planet the engines began throttling back.
Finally, Zzzzk announced, “Captain, one oure to target.”
To Zzzzk, Hork ordered, “Engage cloaking. Prepare for planetary orbit. Alert me when orbit has been attained.”
After he had successfully inserted the Duckwort into a stable orbit, Zzzzk said, “Orbit achieved Captain. Ship configured for atmospheric flight.”
Hork commanded, “Mission review now.”
Hork went over the mission with Zzzzk and Javka Ran. First to Javka Ran, Hork said, “I don’t want you to do anything, don’t touch any control, nothing, just find someplace and sit there like a bump on a pockle.”
He then turned to Zzzzk. “Zzzzk, gather data on current population centers for all sentient lifeforms. Align with geographic data and enter into the automatic flight controller. Our only directive is that we make nine low altitude passes with full running lights on two passes and an assortment of various combinations for the remaining seven. Silent running for all passes. There is to be no engine noise whatsoever. We must maintain at least one half cloak in case the inhabitants have some sort of photographic equipment. We want them to see us but we wouldn’t want them getting any clear pictures you know. You may set up the actual implementation as you wish. You have my full authority. Are there any questions?”
Javka Ran’s left upper appendage shot up, “Can I go to the bathroom?”
Hork, through clenched teeth said, “Yes, go to the bathroom if you need to. Any more questions?”
Javka Ran’s upper appendage was again flailing above his head, “Can I get something to eat after I go to the bathroom?”
Hork said, “Yes, yes, yes, by all means, go to the bathroom, get something to eat, do anything you want to do, just stay out of my sight until the mission is completed…or longer.”
He glared at Javka Ran, “Any MORE questions? No? Ok, let’s get started.”
Actually Javka Ran had a number of questions he wanted to ask, but from his experience, that way the Captain had of squinting one eye, staring at you with one and just kind of scanning circles around your nose with the third was enough for him to realize that now was not the time to be asking more questions.
Zzzzk busily set about his task. After rechecking his numbers and running three simulations he was ready. “Point 09 milaoures to execution.”
Aloud he called out, “09, 08, 07, 06, 05, 04, 03, 02, 01. Commencing exercise.”
The ship reacted beautifully with all recorders gathering massive amounts of data during each event. They dipped over seven fields separated by as few as 15 flives to as much as 400 flives and over two large complexes where large numbers of the little bipeds, indigenous to this little planet, were kept. All in the space of 86 milaoures. At some locations they simply hovered for a short time before speeding away and at others they zipped back and forth a few times before continuing to the next location, just as Zzzzk had planned.
Cloaked and parked in high orbit Hork made a preliminary review of the collected data. It appeared they had been seen by around 600 of the four-legged sentient beings and maybe another 1500 of the little bipeds, some of which must be undomesticated since they seemed to roam freely on this planet. That lightshow they just performed should have stirred them up a bit. Hork deemed their mission a complete success.
Hork actually smiled at both of his fellow travelers and said, “Mission accomplished, boys, let’s go home.”
And they set course for the long, long journey home.
They were nearly one half yaor into their trip home before Zzzzk said, “Captain, after a thorough review of all the mission data I found something totally unexpected. The bipeds seem to have formed a symbiotic relationship with a previously undiscovered lifeform, a strange species that would seem out of place on a T9 planet. It is an exceptionally large beetle like creature with a carapace composed mainly of an iron alloy and transparent silicates. From its exhalants I’ve determined that it feeds on large quantities of liquid hydrocarbons. Very interesting.”
Hork said, “Very interesting, indeed.”
“From our still photos and film we got some pretty good shots of the sentient beings, as well as the bipeds. All show that both the four footed beings and the bipeds have only two eyes. This abnormality lends some credence to the old Horth legend of a race of bi-clops in our ancient past. The four footed beings have no upper appendages, however a number of them have a pair of antennae on top of their heads. There is only so much data that may be derived from looking at pictures. These antennae may be used for telepathic communication or some other entirely different purpose.”
Zzzzk continued, “These little bipeds are quite interesting also. Perhaps on some future mission a few could be picked up and examined. They could be returned before the sentients even knew they were missing.”
Knowing the narrow mindedness of Horth scientists, Hork doubted any of the bipeds would ever be examined close up.
Hesitating slightly, Zzzzk said, “Captain, unfortunately I found something else. I’m afraid there is a slight problem.”
A slight problem! Hork knew there was no such thing as a slight problem, not to High Command. “Continue,” Hork ordered.
“Well, on the fourth pass the high speed cameras show a quantity of trash being ejected from our kitchen garbage chute. It appears crewman Javka Ran dumped the garbage just as we were passing over a rather desolate area in the southwest quadrant of land mass 3.”
A look of horror lined Hork’s face, “What kind of trash?”
Zzzzk replied, “Mostly aluminum sandwich wrap and soup cans.”
Hork exclaimed, “Mostly! What’s not the mostly part?”
“Well, there was a book about model delta-winged aircraft design and a pocket calculator and ah, well ah, well, you remember Javka Ran’s one third scale Space Alien action figures?”
“Oh no! Don’t tell me.”
Zzzzk said, “Yes; somehow two of them were sucked out with the trash.”
Hork held his head in his upper appendages. The mission ruined. They were to only buzz the sentient beings and flash a few lights, not provide physical evidence of their visit. Maybe the Blue and White world’s inhabitants wouldn’t notice.
But notice or not, Hork knew there wouldn’t be any parade, no back pay, no nice comfortable cave. He would return home in disgrace.
Hork commanded, “Zzzzk, have crewman Javka Ran report to the nearest airlock and wait till I get there.”
Zzzzk, all three eyes round in disbelief at what he had just heard, exclaimed, “Captain, you can’t be serious!”
Hork let out a very, very long sigh. “No, of course not, just a random thought,” he said. But it wasn’t an entirely unpleasant thought.
It was certainly going to be a long journey home.
July 9, 1947. Today the Pentagon denied reports that a UFO had crashed in the desert near Roswell, New Mexico. The Pentagon spokesman confirmed that all debris from yesterday’s incident had been collected and determined to be that of a high altitude weather balloon.