What Comes Before
Part III: The Deception
Admiral Mek Het, Chief Strategist of the Cantharan Order, is usually not one to bring up the rear when battle is about to commence. The reason why his flag ship, the Gaze of Zom lags behind the fleet this time is actually a personal tradition that he follows assiduously ever since he reached his current position. He enjoys watching the might of Cantharan Order. Seeing all the gunships and transports moving, silently, in space. Listening to the chatter from the communications systems, transmitting reports to and from the flag ship to the gunships and transports. The admiral, unlike most, do not enjoy beauty in the usual sense. To him, the sight of a Cantharan fleet, about to strike at a moment's notice, is a sight that can only be matched if that fight is challenging. Even though this one won't be, the admiral still enjoys the sight of a massive fleet, traveling in formation, ready to rain death and destruction on an unsuspecting target. In space, everything is silent. But that silence, when combined with the size of a fleet, produces a serenity that only great men like Mek Het can feel and touch. He alone, among the tens of thousands of people on these ships can feel the pulsating beat of this serenity. The chattering from the communication system forms a beautiful backdrop. Like a spirited military march, it urges the troops onward! It portends victory, glory, and honor!
"Sir, we have arrived at the designated coordinates," reported a lieutenant.
"Full speed ahead," commanded the admiral. He never allows himself to indulge when business is at hand. For an admiral, war is his business.
"Aye sir, engines at full power. We will reach lead position in 4 minutes." reported another lieutenant.
"The other ships are all in position, awaiting your orders, sir." reported a third lieutenant.
"Acknowledged. Inform all ships to stand by." ordered the admiral.
"Aye sir. Issuing orders. Confirmations coming in. All ships are now on hot standby mode. Shields are at full strength. Weapons systems are fully charged. Hyperdrives are at full saturation. Ready to engage."
"Sir," reported that second lieutenant "the cruisers and heavy cruisers are in position."
"Sir, sensors are picking up spatial distortions." reported the lieutenant.
"On screen," ordered Captain Hendricks.
True enough, in a flash, the spatial distortions ceased. A green vessel emerged.
"I don't suppose this is the latest toy from our naval labs," murmured Commander Ericson.
"I don't suppose so either." said the captain.
"Do you think they speak our language?" asked the commander.
"I doubt it. Lieutenant, send our language codes. Slow our approach speed to one-half."
"Aye sir, transmitting- Sir! They're sending over a message, in English!"
"What? Did you send the codes?"
"No sir, not yet."
"How's this possible?" asked the commander.
"I don't know sir. They are requesting visual communications."
"Sir, perhaps we should contact fleet command." advised the commander.
"And what are we supposed to tell them? We should establish their intentions first. Put them on screen."
As the image of the alien was displayed, everyone on the bridge of the U.N.S. Jutland stared at the image. There was an unconscious sense of history in the making. The first contact with an alien species!
The feelings were not shared by Captain Xet. He had done this several times already and had become a sort of expert on these ocassions which is probably why the admiral chose him for this mission. The admiral commented that he had "a trusting face." Only his colleagues and his victims know what lies beneath that face.
"Greetings, I am Ambassador Ror Xet from the Cantharan Republic. We come in peace."
If the bridge crew of the U.N.S. Jutland already popped their jaws open with the sight of the first true alien on the view screen, then it becomes difficult to imagine the effect these words have on them. Some of them repeated those sublime words in murmur. Others were already so engulfed in awe that their brains cannot register what was said without an overload.
Captain Hendricks, a veteran of several conflicts, was clearly touched by those words. Suddenly, his vision blurred. Then he realized that a combination of shock, disbelief, excitement, had produced tears in his eyes. He raised his left hand to wipe the tears away, then expecting this beautiful daydream to come to an end.
Imagine, the first human conflict with an alien race! By his ship! Under his command! The alien spoke to him and his crew! It was as if hearing the settlement of the first extra-solar colony all over again. First, disbelief. Then, overwhelming joy and exhilaration. Another boundary has been crossed. For countless generations, people said that the speed of light cannot be reached by a space vessel. They were proven wrong. For countless centuries, people say that an extra-solar colony is a mirage. They were proven wrong. For so many years, people say that there is no definitive proof suggesting the existence of an alien intelligence.
Now that proof stands right in front of him, offering words of peace.
Captain Xet has already become a bit impatient. He knows that first contact is always overwhelming for the other side and he knows that it is better for the other side to absorb what he said. Therefore he stands still, waiting for a response...
But his eyes have already turned to the firing command. Accepting this role does have one benefit: he was promised the honor of firing the first shot.
"As soon as these idiots turn around, lead us to their planet, and lowers their shields,... Well..." A smile appeared on his face. Already he can see his pitiful opponents incinerated by the explosion of their ship. Bits and pieces, burning in space. Then he will raise the shields, raze through their fleet, and bombard their planet. Then the transports will land.
Did I mention that he will also have the honor to keep pieces of the remains of his first victim? Council members will also receive fragments. The rest of the debris will be gathered by the harvesters, recycled, and turned into Cantharan warships.
The smile looked so gentle, so filled with wisdom and understanding to the bridge crew of U.N.S. Jutland. But it also awakened Captain Hendricks. He had to say something!
"Greetings," he stood up and walked slowly towards the screen because he knows that every step, every syllable will be carefully recorded by historians. They will then be passed down through history. He can already imagine, centuries from now, Humans and Cantharans, sitting at a table, trading amusing stories about first contact. He was determined not to make a move that will make him an everlasting joke.
"I am Captain Edward Hendricks of the United Nations of Sol starship Jutland."
The ambassador nodded and replied:
"My government has dispatched this displomatic mission in hopes of establishing a mutually beneficial relationship between our two peoples."
The captain made a slight bow.
"The honor is ours."
"No, I can assure you, the honor is ours," thought Captain Xet.
"If you will please follow us, we will take you to our home planet. It is the third planet in this star system. It is called Earth. My government will be eager to meet you."
"I wish I can say the same," thought Captain Xet. But he replied:
"Please, lead on."
"I will be honored to personally meet you shortly after."
"As will I," replied Captain Xet.
Communications was terminated. As the U.N.S. Jutland turns around, Captain Xet ordered:
"Prepare to follow them." Then he asked:
"Status of their shields?"
"They're still fully charged, sir."
"The Cantharan vessel is following us, sir."
"Very well, Open a channel to Admiral Bryce. Priority Alpha."
"Aye sir, transmitting signal."
As Captain Hendricks paced back and forth, waiting for the signal to return, he suddenly remembered something.
"Is our shields still on?"
"Do they have shields?"
"None that we can detect sir."
"Do you think they have shields or did they simply decide not to raise them?" asked the commander.
The captain shook his head.
"I don't know. But I'd rather error on the side of caution. Lieutenant, drop those shields. I don't want to have any misunderstandings."
"Aye sir, lowering shields."
"Open a channel to them," ordered Captain Xet. Now he must lie his head off to get the U.N.S. Jutland to lower its shields.
"Sir, they've just dropped their shields."
"Cancel that order lieutenant." ordered the Captain.
"I'm picking up multiple vessels on intercept vectors."
"15 fighters and 2 cruisers, sir."
"You've done fine, captain. Proceed to dock with the International Space Station 3." said Admiral Bryce.
"Thank you sir. And one more thing."
"What is it?"
"The Cantharan vessel either doesn't have shield technology or they decided not to raise them. I think it would be wise for our ships to lower our shields just to make sure there won't be misunderstandings." said Captain Hendricks.
"That's a good idea, captain. I'll order our ships and the station to lower its shields immediately." replied the admiral.
"What about from the planet?" asked Captain Xet.
"None so far, sir."
"Sir, sensors indicate that all approaching ships and even the orbiting station has dropped their shields."
"Sir, should we send the signal?" asked the commander.
Captain Xet shook his head.
"Not yet. We'll wait till they're all gathered around their station. Then-" He paused for a moment. Then he said:
"Listen carefully, there is a slight change in the attack plan."
The bridge crew's eyes gathered on the captain.
"Once we reach within 9.57 kilometers within the station, we will increase speed, lock onto the station's reactor core, and open fire. Is that clear?"
"Yes sir," answered the bridge crew with a single voice.
Now the fleet escorting the Cantharan vessel numbers 3 cruisers and 15 fighters. The 3 cruisers led, forming a triangle while the fighters formed a crescent formation behind the Cantharan vessel.
"Sir, the president's shuttle has taken off. It'll dock with the station about 2 minutes after we dock."
"Acknowledged. Slow down accordingly. I want to make sure that the first person the Cantharans see will be the president."
"Why are they slowing down?" thought Captain Xet.
"Status of their shields and weapons."
"Theirs shields are still down. Their weapons are not charged."
"This is odd," thought the captain. Obviously they're still not suspecting anything. So why are they slowing down?
"Sir, new contact. One enemy shuttle coming from the planet."
"The shuttle is reducing speed. My guess is the shuttle is about to dock with the station."
"Sir, we are approaching the docking port."
"It is an honor to meet with you. I am president Kosigny of the United Nations of Sol. Welcome to International Space Station 3. Should I put the welcome first?"
"Sir, if you do that, then perhaps you should also consider putting the 'honor' part last." advised Chief of Staff Darson.
"Am I right to think that they'll introduce themselves first? Perhaps I should speak first?"
"Well, taking the initiative is fine but since we're the host, perhaps we should let them start."
"Admiral, what do you think?"
"Well," said Admiral Bryce. "Captain Hendricks reported that they were the ones who spoke first. Perhaps we should retain the initiative."
"Yes, but maybe they're accustomed to speaking first. If we begin, they might be annoyed," suggested Mr. Darson.
"Mr. President," said a voice over the internal communications. "We are about to dock. This is the part that might get a bit bumpy."
"Acknowledged." said the president.
He then turned to his advisers and said:
"We'll talk about this on our way over."
As the shuttle slightly shook and the sound of metal clanging spread into the waiting room, Admiral Bryce had to raise his voice:
"We're already going to meet them at their port. I suggest that we retake the initiative."
"You're forgetting that we're the host," countered Mr. Darson. "I think it is courteous for us to go over to them. This goes without saying."
It's shaping up pretty good. Although I thought the first contact was a little anticlimactic.
Throughout their history these "unenlightened" beings have continually opposed and fought abuses of power wrought by their own bretheren. We, as the prophets would do well to learn from these Humans.
-Final statement of the Salrilian reformist Sirthis shortly before his execution.
Originally posted by Sargatanus:
**It's shaping up pretty good. Although I thought the first contact was a little anticlimactic.
I don't know. The crew's rection was bordering on indifferent at first. As it progressed it got pretty good though. It's just that at first it was:
"We've got an alien ship here."
"Well I'll be damned."
There wasn't quite the shock/surprise/elation I would expect there would be in this situation. Not at first anyway.
I agree with you, but with reservations.
I agree with you in that I probably should have spent more time working on the crew of the U.N.S. Jutland. Then again, I think it is necessary to keep the following in mind:
a) The point of this part is not first contact, but the Cantharan deception.
The focus of the first 6 parts of the story is not on the humans but on the Cantharans. You are seeing somewhat of a Cantharan perspective. As I noted in this part, the Cantharans had done this several times. They're used to it.
c) Unlike in Star Trek, first contact in this part is made right in Sol System. The captain in question has very narrow authority in these affairs. His superiors are right next door. He had to refer something this important to them ASAP. This also tends to undercut first contact in this part.
I also suspect that by injecting the Cantharan bridge so often that it tends to break up whatever excitement there is on the human side. That was deliberate. Please see a) and .
Thank you very much for your comments.
P.S. Of course I can try to lie my way out and say that the crew was so shocked that they weren't able to form any other thoughts. But that would be cheating and I won't do it. I concede that I should've spent a little more time on the human side.
Yes, it was good as ever. I like your portrayal of the Cantharan Commander as bored and diffident, and impatient. Quite a contrast to the excitable humans.
Keep on with the story- Oh, I forget. You've finished it, and we've got our dirty hands on every little piece.
Sundered Angel ,
The One and Only
Ares Webboard Moderator, and all-around Nice Guy
Thank you for your compliments.
Actually, there are still 4 additional parts that I am currently in the process of stitching together. If you think Part VII is interesting, wait till Part XII (unimaginatively named "In Conclusion")
Is that a reflection on Conquerors' Pride?
Or is it just a weird coincidence?
Fleet: Lightning 1, Surge, Eagle, Endurance, Voltare, Alecto, Magaera, Tisiphone
"CRUISER DESTROYED. 91 remaining" -Ares, chapter 9, Hand Over Fist
I feel sorry for the humans
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