Welcome to Octavia
“Open the gate!” commanded King Wilbur.
The gigantic wood and iron castle gate slowly opened inward, within its arch, without so much as a creak from the hinges, exposing the courtyard and the four brave horsemen to their fate.
“Forward, men!” instructed the King.
King Wilbur and Sir Lambert rode abreast, followed by Lord Fenton and Sir Gregory. The men and horses were dwarfed by the large castle entrance as they passed through. The massive arch could easily accommodate eight horsemen riding side by side with spaces between them and it was almost three times as high as it was wide.
The doors swung silently closed securing the castle once more as soon as the men were through.
King Wilbur had insisted on leading the group amidst protests from his men. Lord Fenton had recommended leading a full contingent of knights to the mysterious object while the King remained within the confines and safety of the castle, but the King would have none of it and his men reluctantly gave in. The King had, after all, spoken.
Unlike his men, King Wilbur had seen the gigantic glowing object through his telescope and knew that his entire army would be no match for any beings who had the power to create such a vessel. He chose not to share his thoughts with his men. The King guessed that they were soon to meet face to face with the creators of the Artefact.
They made good time to the mountain, behind which lay their objective. Once there, they proceeded at a brisk trot. The men were apprehensive and silent throughout the journey, including King Wilbur. Even the horses seemed distracted, constantly sniffing the air, almost expecting some fearsome predator to pounce without warning.
It was still dark, with only the light of the moon and stars illuminating the way but the men knew the path well.
“The air seems to be much warmer here,” remarked Sir Lambert as they navigated the narrow pathway at the base of the mountain.
The ambient temperature rose steadily the closer they got to their destination.
The silence was almost deafening to Jason as he observed the main view screen from the captain’s chair. For the first time in months the Equinox had fallen almost completely silent now that her main and auxiliary engines were totally shut down. The only sound audible right now was the low frequency hum from the power generators located at the lower part of the ship near the main thrusters.
Vince and Jason unanimously agreed that no one would leave the ship to explore their new home until sunrise even though the ship’s instruments indicated that the planet had a safe, breathable atmosphere. The outside temperature was a comfortable nineteen degrees Celsius except for the area directly around the Equinox. The hull was still extremely hot and glowed red in some places from the descent through the atmosphere, but was cooling rapidly.
Jason was too excited to rest, as was Vince. Against all odds, they had managed to build the first faster than light drive, steal a huge mining ship and flee the United Earth Government, landing on a planet light years away, capable of sustaining life. This was the kind of adventure science fiction stories were made of, yet, here they were, living the adventure for real.
Eve left the bridge shortly after touchdown looking upset. All she said was “Humph!” in her characteristic Eve way, turned her head deliberately, and walked off, leaving Jason and Vince at their stations. She was relieved that no one had challenged their arrival on this alien world. Not yet, at least.
“It won’t be long before the sunrise,” Vince said, interrupting Jason’s thoughts. His gaze remained fixated on the main view screen.
Jason only half listened to what Vince was saying as he too was mesmerised by the majestic scene unfolding on the screen.
“I’m sure it’s going to be a spectacular sight watching a double sunrise,” continued Vince, the excitement obvious in his voice as he took in the pale reddish glow which crept in from the eastern horizon.
A loud beeping sound from the panel in front of Jason interrupted their idle conversation.
“What is it?” queried Vince, fully alert once more.
“It’s a perimeter alarm,” responded Jason, equally serious. “I’m switching the view screen to infrared to give us a better view.”
They both stared intently at the screen as the view shifted away from the sunrise and towards the reason for the alarm.
“There!” exclaimed Jason pointing to the bottom left of the screen. “Do you see it?”
“What is that?” asked Vince, getting off his seat and walking towards the screen to get a better view of the tiny glowing spots which appeared to be moving slowly.
Hang on, I’m going to zoom in,” said Jason fiddling with the controls, his curiosity now getting the better of him. He walked over to the screen as Vince gasped in surprise.
The view screen clearly showed a group of four horsemen approaching from the foot of the nearby mountain.
“What do we do?” asked Vince, visibly troubled.
“For now, nothing,” answered Jason calmly. “We just observe.”
“Eve needs to see this,” replied the visibly agitated Vince. He quickly returned to his seat. His hand seemed to tremble ever so slightly as he pressed the transmit button.
“Eve, please report to the bridge urgently!”
“There had better be a good reason for this, Vince!” said Eve as she breezed in a few minutes later, looking flustered. She opened her mouth to say more, but stopped, as she noticed the image on the main view screen.
“Exactly!” responded Vince.
“Well, what do we do now, Jason?” she asked, looking at him sternly, as if to challenge his decision to land.
“Like I said to Vince, for now, we just observe.” he replied coolly. “And when it’s bright, we’ll go down there and initiate first contact. I’d like the three of us, and Bart to go as a group and Bart is to be fully armed, just in case.”
Jason was facing the screen, but he could already feel Eve’s disapproval at his decision to have Bart fully armed. He turned to her and said, “Our safety is my priority, so Bart will accompany us.”
King Wilbur and his men had set up camp about half a kilometre from the Equinox, with no plan to do anything but observe, until it was light.
The King and his men simply stared at the gigantic vessel ahead of them, its features just barely visible now in the low light, marvelling at its sheer size. Some heat could be felt from the vessel, and some lights were also visible. The word EQUINOX was clearly illuminated, written across the side in red.
“Equinox,” said Sir Lambert, half thinking out loud. “It’s written in our alphabet.”
“Yes, my thoughts exactly,” responded King Wilbur. “These could be the beings that left behind the Holy Artefact.”
Sir Lambert agreed with his king.
“I don’t think they are hostile,” continued Sir Lambert. “If they were here to attack, I’m certain they would have done so already.”
“That, my dear Lambert is something that we will soon find out,” responded the King.
Meanwhile, on board the Equinox, Jason, Vince and Eve continued to watch the main view screen with great interest and curiosity.
“It looks like they’ve stopped,” said Eve.
“Hmmm,” replied Jason. “My guess is that they too are going to wait till it’s brighter before going further.”
Vince nodded but said nothing, looking thoughtful.
“I’m going to watch the sunrise from the observation deck,” said Jason. “Would you like to accompany me, Eve?”
“Yes, I would love to,” she smiled.
“Vince, how about you?” asked Jason.
“I think I’ll just remain here and monitor, just in case,” replied his friend.
Jason and Eve made their way towards the upper observation deck leaving Vince alone with Bart on the bridge.
“I want to take in this sunrise in all its natural splendour,” explained Jason as they entered the elevator. “Somehow, seeing such a marvellous occurrence through the cameras on a monitor just takes something away from the experience.”
“I know exactly what you mean, Jason,” replied Eve, still smiling.
Eve was smiling her warm sunshine smile again and for this, Jason was glad. He loved nature and sunshine and everything else which represented warm sunshine, from poetry and literature to brilliant yellow sunflowers.
Jason interfered with a little control panel which stood out of the floor at the centre of the large circular room and the armour around the transparent dome retracted with a soft hum, revealing the dawn sky.
A gasp escaped Eve and she held his hand.
The twin suns were now just beginning to emerge from beyond the horizon in all their splendour.
“Wow!” exclaimed Eve. “It’s beautiful.”
Jason couldn’t decide if the twin sunrise or Eve’s smile, which to him was the personification of the most beautiful sunrise, was more breathtaking and for the moment all that mattered to him was this amazing experience.
“But soft, what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Eve is the sun. Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon.” Jason couldn’t help quoting from Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet but substituting Juliet’s name with Eve’s.
Eve’s smile was bigger now and she squeezed his hand.
A new day had dawned.
The suns continued their journey skyward, illuminating all the features of the landscape and before long both suns had cleared the horizon.
There was a dessert of red sand visible as far as the eye could see in one direction. A little mountain obscured the view of what lay beyond it in the other direction.
Their attention quickly returned to the base of the mountain where the group of horsemen had set up camp. From all the way up here without the benefit of the cameras it was quite impossible to see them clearly.
“It is time!” said Jason. “Let’s go say hello.”
The features of the huge vessel were clearly visible now to King Wilbur and his men, in the sunlight. The Equinox was an imposing sight. The landing gear added an extra twenty metres to the huge craft. There were four retractable legs, two at the front and two at the back giving the impression of a giant insect ready to spring.
“Look over there!” exclaimed Sir Lambert pointing towards the rear of the Equinox.
The men all stood up instinctively, weapons at the ready while intently watching in awe and interest as a small vessel rose up in the air above the huge craft before changing direction and heading towards them.
The small vessel which was about ten metres in length and about four metres across approached in near silence, slowing down as it got closer, eventually making a soft landing about fifty metres away.
They watched as a door slid open on the side of the vessel and three figures emerged from within. So far, there was nothing to suggest that the new arrivals were unfriendly.
Jason had eventually given in to Eve and asked Bart to remain on board the shuttle, weapons ready, just in case, as the trio made their way towards the little group of men and horses.
As far as Wilbur could tell, the three approaching figures appeared to have the same features as them.
“Come, Lambert,” he instructed. “Lord Fenton and Sir Gregory, wait here.”
Jason noticed two men breaking away from the group of four and begin walking towards them.
“Hmmm”, he thought to himself. Aloud he said, “Now, that’s a good sign.”
Vince nodded in agreement while Eve remained silent.
On the outside, Jason appeared to be calm but he was actually quite nervous and excited as they walked towards the approaching figures. They were about to make first contact with an alien race after all, something no man or woman from Earth had done before.
Jason suddenly wondered what his first words were going to be. Was he going to bow or shake hands? First impressions were very important, especially in this case. His mind was racing now, the closer they got to the approaching figures. He wanted to say something profound and memorable but realised that the aliens may not understand his words.
Jason glanced at Eve and Vince trying to read their expressions. He thought about all the science fiction movies he had watched where humans had made first contact with strange looking alien creatures.
And then they were all face to face.
“Greetings.” he said with a smile, extending his hand toward the older of the two men. “We come in peace.”
To himself he thought, “Really Jason? Greetings? Is that the best you could come up with?”
The aliens in this case looked human. Their dressing was reminiscent of Earth’s medieval era. The older gentleman reminded Jason of the famous King Arthur and the younger man by his side could easily be mistaken for the legendary Sir Lancelot from Earth lore.
The older man looked deeply thoughtful as he extended his hand to Jason, giving him a firm handshake.
“Ok, this is going surprisingly well,” thought Jason with relief.
“Greetings, and welcome to Octavia,” replied the old man in a deep and regal voice, bowing ever so slightly.