In space, the home base of the satellites began sending video to the ships. Lt. Arden was on duty, and Jabin Jones was getting something to eat.2nd Lt. Clearwater was taking a nap.They started receiving streaming pictures.The first was a rough drawing of the planet with the satellites in orbit around it and showing the two alien ships beside one of them.Then was another drawing showing a ship launching from the planet.
“Lt. Campbell.” Arden called the other ship. “Has a ship launched from the surface of the planet?”
“Yes,” she said.
“I think they are coming here,” he said.
The pictures continued. Now they showed a space station in orbit over the planet too.It showed the ship approaching the satellite where the two explorer ships were.Then the ship turned and headed towards the space station and the two explorer ships followed it.
“Right,” said Arden. “Campbell did you get that.”
“Yes boss, I did,” she responded.
“That looks like a plan then. Be ready to break orbit when that ship arrives,” he ordered.It took a full day for that to happen.In the meantime the pilots and crews of the ships went through their normal shipboard routine.They ate, and when they were off duty, slept.They cleaned the ship and preformed scheduled maintaince on the equipment.
The ship that arrived turned out to be a drone. That is there was no representative of the intelligent species that they were to meet aboard the ship.In fact there was no living being on the ship.But it did send out a recognizable beacon and herded them to a space station.When they got there their ship was first tethered by a space suited being.The space suit strongly resembled the ones that were aboard the Grapevine for use in emergencies.The being used his limbs in similar fashion also.“Well we are at least that much alike,” Jabin Jones said.
A moment later a universal docking port snaked its way out from the station. The space suit went in to the space station through an air lock.The docking port locked itself to the outer hull of the ship, conformed itself to the shape of the docking port, and pressurized. “Try the air lock,” Lt. Arden ordered.He had heard the scrapping on the outer hull.
2nd Lt. Clearwater went to it and found that it opened easily.Instead of a floor they found a series of rungs there.“Makes more sense for a universal docking port,” Alexander said as he led the way into the station.They very nearly crawled along the rungs on all fours.
When they got to the station they found the size of the passageways comfortable for them. So it seemed that these people’s average height was about the same as theirs.There was a flashing light going down the hallway and leading to a particular door.It stopped there.As the human stepped down the hall the air lock behind them closed automatically.
Lt. Arden walked to the door and put his hand on it. “Remember gentlemen, standard operating procedure.They ask for a physical, we submit.”He opened the door.The interior of the room was dark.Alexander found a bench by bumping into it.“There is something here,” he said to the other men.He felt around a little more.“It seems to be a bench of some sort. “He sat down on it and moved further down to make room for the rest of them.Then he saw a light.Another door had opened.“Whose there,” Lt. Campbell asked.
“We are, “the men answered in unison. Bump.The women ran into the bench.“There is a bench here,” Alexander said.“I think there is room for everyone on it, especially if it runs the length of the room which it seems to.”The women made themselves comfortable.
In a few moments a light came on, on the other side of a thick pane of glass. There were two such panes and together they ran the entire length of the room. The men and women could see each other clearly by that light.The men were somewhat bunched up on one side of the bench.They spread out a little more and made themselves more comfortable.On the other side of the room their appeared to be a desk with several chairs, several computer consoles and some other equipment.Soon a group of people entered.They were wearing what looked like surgical scrubs complete with stocking caps and masks.
Through all that Alexander could see that they were very hairy beings. “They look like giant chimpanzees,” Lt. Campbell said.“Don’t make any judgments based on that,” Lt. Arden warned her.“No sir,” she said.“I will not.”
A moment later a loud speaker sputtered into life on one of the walls. A mechanical voice began to speak.At first it was all but unintelligible.The beings on the other side of the glass were looking hopefully at the humans.But when it was clear that none of them understood the mechanical voice they began to look disappointed.One of them was working furiously at a computer console.The mechanical voice began to change as they tried other sequences.
Finally they got something, which sounded like ‘Allo’ to which Alexander responded, “Hello.”
The next thing that was intelligible came out “Woo u.” “Who am I?” Alexander asked.“I am Lt. Alexander Arden of the ISS Lizbet .”He indicated himself as he spoke.Then, following military protocol Lt. Campbell introduced herself, then Sgt. Jones and Sgt Collins. The machine said something like “No.”One of the beings stood up and tried to make an expansive gesture.Then the machine said again, “Who u.”
Alexander thought that he understood, “We are the humans from planet Earth.”
In the meantime, on the planet, word was getting out. “Those people who have always believed that we are not alone may be pleased to discover that they might be right,” one of the more popular newscasters began her story.“Several noted amateur astronomers report seeing two ships arrive in our skies.”Some grainy pictures of the Grapevine and the Mashie were shown.“They believe that these are alien ships that are in our system now.According to them the ships first appeared at the edge of our system some two days ago.They believe this is the reason that the Space Shuttle Silver Crescent was hurried to the launch pad and sent to Space Station # 1 so suddenly, being launched over a week before scheduled.”
When it was dawn over the capitol city the morning newscaster announced. “President Beshirch has announced that he will hold a news conference this morning to discuss the sudden launch of the Space Shuttle Silver Crescent to Space Station # 1.We will go live to that in the capitol when they tell us they are ready.”
On the space station they had stayed very busy. The person who had mimed the expansive gesture now tried something else.He mimed the humans taking their clothes off.Alexander thought he knew what the person wanted.He considered a moment what to do and then he used a word of their language that he thought he knew the meaning of, “rasho.”Then he pushed at Sgt. Jones to mime what he thought the word meant, ‘alone’.
“Racho,” the being pronounced with a better accent. “Racho,” Alexander repeated.The being considered for a moment and gave some orders.Others of the group were now furiously working at their computers.In a moment the doors at both ends of the room that the humans were sitting in opened.Two beings in what looked like a combination of surgical gowns and space suits stood there.Alexander got up and went with the one that was closest to him. Lt. Campbell went with the other one.
The being led Alexander down the hall to a room. Alexander figured quite rightly, that the physical was about to begin.He removed his clothes and let the person look him over, which only took a moment.Then the person indicated a thin short sleeved sort of tunic.Alexander quickly slipped it over his head.When the creature tapped the table, Alexander figured that was the examining table and got up on it.
It didn’t take Alexander long to decide that humans and these ape like creatures were physically very similar. Their medic-al equipment looked a lot alike and were, apparently used in the same ways.They began by taking samples of his skin and hair.Then they checked out his bone structure and x-rayed him.Once they had an idea where his heart was, they listened to it and finally took blood samples.But if they had any questions for him, it was limited by the fact that they didn’t speak each other’s languages.
After several hours they were all led back into the same room they had shared before, all wearing the same tunic tops and nothing else. “Well that was interesting,” 2nd Lt. Smith commented.“Wait until you’ve been through it a few 100 times,” Sgt Collins told her.“You’ll find it boring.”
“You’re right,” Lt. Campbell said, “but I have another problem. Boss,” she said to Alexander, “I gotta go.”
“Okay,” Alexander said. “See if you can get their attention.”She stood up and waived her arms around.It worked, but what do you do next.She didn’t know what expressions they used for such things.So she looked very distressed and held herself.Someone was at their door in less than a moment and she was hurried down the hall.
When she got back a moment later she commented, “Even their toilet facilities are a lot like ours and they work the same too.”
“That’s great,” 2nd Lt. Clearwater said, “because …” he let his voice trail off.“Left turn out the door,” she said.“It’s the end of the hall.”He dashed out quickly.One of the alien people ran out into the hall and observed what he did.He came back and reported the apparent translation of what had been said.
But they were not too happy that one of their subjects had taken in on himself to leave the room. “Speak,” the mechanical voice said.
“What should I say?” Alexander asked.
“Where go?” the voice apparently was asking were 2nd Lt. Clearwater went.Alexander answered using what he thought was their word for bathroom, “Varsoom.”
“What you say, varsoom?” the voice asked.
“Varsoom,” Alexander repeated, louder. Then he said “bathroom.”In a moment 2nd Lt. Clearwater was back in his place on the bench.
“Well this is just great,” 2nd Lt. Smith said.“But how do we get something to eat here?”
“2nd Lt. is that a bit of attitude I am detecting here?” Lt. Arden asked.As senior officer, he was in charge here and any discipline problems needed to be delt with immediately.“No sir,” she said.That was practically an automatic pilot answer.“It better not be,” Lt. Arden said.“We don’t know how long we are going to be here so we don’t need anything like that starting now.”
“Is he going to rake me over the coals,” she whispered to Lt. Campbell.
“No,” the Lt. said. Her voice started low and rose as she spoke.“I’m going to beat him to it.We will wait for them to bring us some food.In the meantime you will be silent about it.That’s an order. Is that clear.”Her tone left no room for argument.
“Yes, Ma’am,” 2nd Lt. Smith said.
On the other side of the glass something was showing up on a screen that the humans could just barely make out. “Something’s going on over there,” Alexander said.“I want everyone paying attention.I may need your analysis of the situation.”They all looked at the screen, but tried not to appear to be starring.Then the structure on the computer screen began to take on a familiar double helix shape.
“Their analyzing our DNA,” Jabin Jones said. If he could have read their expressions he might have noted that they looked more relaxed when they saw it.They did become more animated as the sequences formed themselves.Finally one of them actually appeared to have cracked a smile.
“Well it seems that whatever it is they seem to like it,” Alexander said. Some of the beings left the room, apparently to spread the good news.Within an hour people approached the human side of the room.When they opened the doors they had trays of food in their hands.
“Try the food cautiously,” Alexander said. “I don’t believe that they would deliberately poison us, but they could make a mistake.”So they tried a little of everything and waited for reactions to happen.They didn’t happen.
Now the person working with the language computer was finally ready to try some more word equivalents. For some reason they thought that it would be better to separate the human again so they escorted them all to their separate rooms again.Alexander was seated facing some sort of screen.What was obviously a signaling button was placed in his hand.Then the lights went out and the screen lit up.
When an image appeared on the screen Alexander pushed the signal button and said, “I see a red square.” The image changed.“I see a blue circle,” he said.Then again, this time it was a yellow triangle.It continued on through a variety of images of almost every conceivable shape.Alexander mused a bit that this could almost be a vision test.In fact in part it was.But they were also recording everything Alexander was saying as well as what the others were saying.
Perhaps it was that they spent so long in a darkened room. Perhaps it was that it was a very long day and they weren’t as good at staying awake under trying circumstances as their older more experienced colleagues.But the young Ensigns began to fall asleep.When the ape beings discovered this they found rooms with something that resembled bunks in them.
They took the Ensigns to the rooms, carrying 2nd Lt. Smith like she was a baby.When they went to check on the rest of the humans they found them doing various physical things to stay awake.Sgt. Collins was actually doing jumping jacks, Alexander was doing toe touches, Sgt. Jones was strolling around and around his chair, and Lt. Campbell was trying some yoga poses.
The ape people began to escort the humans down the hall to some suitable sleeping rooms when they happened to pass a room with a TV monitor in it. It was at that time that the news program from the capitol was on. Sgt. Jones was the first to notice it and stop near the open door.He was joined by the other humans.
“We are now informed the President Beshirch is ready,” the newscaster said. “We are going live to the Capitol Complex.”At that point the picture changed.They were in a room with lots of reporters packed closely together.There was an emblem on the wall of a large tree with virtually every imaginable fruit hanging from it.In a circle around it there was writing.A reporter was speaking into a microphone to one side.
“Yes, Nichie,” a male voice said. “We are here live waiting … and here is President Beshirch.”
The President’s microphone sputtered to life. “Ladies and Gentlemen,” he said.“As you know five years ago, when I first became your president, we inaugurated a program to begin the search for life beyond our solar system.It was a program that was near and dear to my wife’s heart,” he paused here to acknowledge the first lady.She waved and he continued.“We had explored our own system and were trying to decide on which system to explore next, looking for any sign of intelligent life.Two days ago, I am told, our search bore fruit in the most astonishing way.Yes it is true.”The auditorium erupted in sights and sounds.Flashes went off and voices rose in near pandemonium.
The president’s personal guard advanced very quickly. They feared a possible attempt on his life.They always feared that at press conferences.The reporters, seeing them, calmed themselves down again.One of the younger reporters called out, “Sir are you saying that intelligent life has been found out there?”
“Well in a way yes,” the President said. “But we did not find them.They found us.”Pandemonium again.This time a shot rang out and struck a bit of plaster near the ceiling.Everyone ducked except for the guard and the shooter.With everyone on the ground, the guardsmen went after the lone shooter.He was quickly subdued and taken prisoner. The reporters were instantly silently all back in their seats.The president went on, “Two days ago, two space ships, apparently together, contacted two of our space buoys that had been placed at the edge of our system.Apparently they followed a ‘trail’ of our transmissions to us.They have since been brought to Space Station #1 and are cooperating with our scientists in every way.”
A more subdued uproar this time. “Do you mean to say that they appear to be friendly?’ another reporter asked.
“Actually I am not the one to ask about it,” President Beshirch said. “I have Professor Sidnorch with me of our Space Research Team.He is far more knowledge -able then I.”An elderly Chimpanzee stood up.
“I have been in contact with the team that we sent to the space station on the shuttle Silver Crescent,” the Professor began. “They tell us that the beings are very intelligent.They have actually communicated with us. A basis for reciprocal communication is being built based on that broadcasting. “I am also told that they have submitted medical information to our scientists.It was by the examination of this information that we discovered they could exist in our atmosphere.That was why we thought that we could bring them to the space station and examine them further.”
“You meant they can breathe our air?” another reporter called out.
“Yes,” the professor said.
“What about germs?” a female reporter asked.
“We were able to rule out that they would bring anything too exotic with them,” the Professor said. “They informed us that they are carbon based life forms too.That limits the number of germs they are susceptible to.The number of permutations of those germs are also limited.Therefore, pretty much what we are susceptible to, they are susceptible to and what they are immune to we are or can soon develop an immunity to.”
On the Space Station Jabin and Alexander and the other humans were watching the news conference. When they saw the ships Alexander pointed to them and to himself and said, “That’s us.”The being they were with shook his head.He did not understand. He then indicated that the humans should follow him.He led them to rooms with what looked like a couple of beds in them each.Alexander went to one of the beds. He laid down, and like every old military hand, in a few minutes he was sound asleep.