This is an excerpt from Chapter 10 where the Earth and Belarian crew encounter the "Theckians" in the Andromeda Galaxy.
Dave Phillips reported, "Location #8, Sir, in standard orbit above the 3rd planet from the sun."
"Thank you Helm. After three nebulae and two Mercury-like planetoids, this one looks interesting."
Capt. Kroy said, "Yes, this is much better."
Pat Overmeyer, the Science Officer, reported, "Sir, this planet and the 4th planet have a multitude of artificial satellites in orbit; at least two large ones appear to be manned."
Bill said, "OK, now we're getting somewhere. Launch three science probes; high inclination orbits again."
An hour later, in his ready room, Capt. Kroy was seated with Bill, Tim, and Pat Overmeyer.
Bill said, "What have you got, Pat?"
"Well, this planet is highly industrialized, widely developed, with major cities, seaports, and airports throughout. There are also major interstate highway systems on the populated continents. However, the pollution level for a planet as industrialized as this one, is very low. Electrical power generation is apparently fusion, since I detect no fossil fuel or nuclear power plants. There are also..."
"Sir, this is Parker. Sorry to interrupt, but you'd better get out here!"
Everyone jumped up and ran onto the Bridge.
Bill said, "What is it?"
Gary Parker said, "Sir, there are three relatively large ships approaching. Apparently we've been detected."
"How is that possible?"
"Communications, try to hail them."
"Aye, Sir." After 20 seconds, "No response, Sir."
"OK, keep trying. How far away are they Ms. Sanchez?"
Maria responded, "At their present speed, 5.3 minutes."
"OK. Let's just wait and see what their intentions are. Mr. Parker, drop our cloak. They already know we're here."
"Aye, Sir. Cloak is down."
Maria said, "Sir, they are reducing their speed and appear to be taking a position in our orbit at a distance of 110 miles."
"Really. So seeing our ship may have given them pause. Still no response, Ann?"
"They're probably talking to their Headquarters as to how to proceed. That's what I would do if I encountered a 10-mile diameter ship in orbit above Earth. Oh wait. That happened already."
Ann Miller said, "Sir, I'm receiving a PCM transmission in the mid-gigahertz band."
"Let me hear it."
"Kotten bon glood opt seemer. Stimp mimmer flooty boto! Bist!"
Tim said, "I guess they don't speak English."
"Kotten bon glood opt seemer. Stimp mimmer flooty boto! Bist!"
Capt. Kroy, "That should take the linguistics computers a few minutes to translate."
Bill said, "Really. Based on just that snippet?"
"Well, it won't be a complete translation. The computers will also use other available transmissions from the surface retrieved by the probes. The more information, the better the translation.
Ann said, "I have the translation now, Sir."
Bill said, "Let me hear it."
"You have invaded our habitat. Identify you and intentions! Responder!"
Bill said, "That's amazing! Can I answer in their language now?"
Kroy said, "Probably with an 80% or so accuracy."
Bill said, "Ann, open a channel."
"Channel open, Sir."
"We are peaceful explorers from a neighboring galaxy. You have nothing to fear. My name is Bill Weller. We bid you greetings and peace from our people."
"I am Pretore Billner in command of many vessels of the Theck Security Force. This is the planet Theck. How can you be from another galaxy and how can we trust that your intentions be peaceful?"
"I am sure that you can assume by the size of our ship, that our technology is advanced. If our intentions were not peaceful, we would have no need to communicate with you. We have just recently discovered a means by which we can travel between galaxies in a very short time. We would be happy to share that knowledge with you."
"What kind of weaponry does your ship contain?"
"Please, let us not speak of weapons. We have no desire to employ weapons. We come in peace. We see that your planet is highly industrialized and uses no fossil fuels. Have you developed fusion reactors as we have?" Bill was trying to steer the conversation away from weapons.
"Yes, we use fusion power exclusively. How is it that you speak our language?"
"We have linguistic computers that make the translations for us, based on your transmissions and others from the surface."
"I see. Your ship is quite large. How many crew does it require?"
"Our starship currently has a crew of about 28,000 individuals. Would you like a tour to see for yourself?"
"NO! A tour of your ship will not take place. I must to communicate with my High Command."
"Of course. I understand. I will stand by."
Bill turned to Capt. Kroy, "What do you think? I think he's softening up a bit."
Kroy said, "Yes, it seems so. You are doing well as a diplomat."
"Well, I don't know about that. I'm flying by the seat of my pants here."
Kroy laughed, "Were does that expression come from?"
"I think it dates back to the early days of aviation when pilots had no navigation aids, but flew based only on their judgment and the feel of the plane."
"Your language is so rich with these expressions. We have nothing like them."
"What do you think our next step should be?"
"You're doing well flying by the seat of your pants. Let's wait for his response."
An hour later, Pretore Billner came over the comm. system, "This is Pretore Billner of Theck Security. Bill Weller respond, please."
Bill looked at Capt. Kroy, "He said please!"
"Ann, open the channel."
"Channel open, Sir."
"This is Bill Weller."
"Permission to visit your ship has been granted by High Command. How do you propose we board your ship?"
"We can take care of that using a matter/energy conversion system."
After several moments of silence, "I will be accompanied by two security officers."
"That will be fine. Are the three of you together?"
"Yes, we are now."
"Very well. Please stand by."
"I have one question first. We are a biped species. May I ask about you?"
"We, too, are biped."
"I see. We are standing by."
A few seconds later, the three 'Theckians' were standing in the ready room with Capt. Kroy, Bill, and Lt. Col. Templeton. They were about five feet tall, had dark skin, black hair pulled back in a tight ponytail, and were wearing what appeared to be leather military uniforms. They looked quite surprised by their sudden transport, and by the taller species in the room.
Bill said, "Welcome aboard, Pretore Billner. I am Bill Weller from the planet Earth. This is Captain Kroy from the planet Belarius. He is in command of this vessel. And this is Col. Templeton, my Security Officer."
Pretore Billner said, "I am Pretore Tolo Billner. This is Conbit Tolsin and Conbit Metle, my security officers. I am...overwhelmed by your means of personal transportation. We have nothing like it."
"We have many technologies to share with you, if you like."
"You are from different planets?"
"Yes. We are from vastly separated planets in the large neighboring galaxy in your sky. We met about two years ago and are now exploring together. Would you like to sit down?"
"Yes. Thank you." Pretore Billner sat down. His security officers stood cautiously behind him.
"Is Pretore your name, your title, or your rank in the military?"
"Tolo Billner is my name. I am a Pretore in the Theck Security Force."
"I see. Captain is my rank on this ship, which is not a military ship. However, for convenience, we use military hierarchy to establish rank among our officers."
Pretore Billner nodded his understanding.
Capt. Kroy continued, "You are the first species we have encountered that is so highly advanced, yet not at war."
"We used to war many centuries ago, among ourselves and with our sister planet, Polton. It was inhabited two centuries ago by a group of rebellious Theckians. But that is behind us now. Do you not have war?"
Bill said, "Unfortunately, my planet still has an occasional war. But we try very hard to avoid them. They are so destructive and rarely solve anything."
Capt. Kroy said, "My species had wars in the very distant past. But we have been a benevolent society for thousands of years."
Pretore Billner said, "We have explored all the planets in our system and have not discovered life elsewhere. You are the first alien beings we have encountered. This is an historic day for Theck."
"My species has been exploring our galaxy for over 1,000 years and have encountered very little intelligent life. We believe that the evolution of intelligent life is a rare occurrence."
Pretore Billner said, "My time is limited. May we see your ship now?"
Capt. Kroy said, "Of course," and led them onto the Bridge.
Bill said, "This is the Bridge where we control the ship. These are my Bridge Officers."
Pretore Billner said, "I am confused. Which one of you is in command of the ship?"
Capt. Kroy said, "I apologize for the confusion. Mr. Weller is on a 2-week training mission, during which time I am allowing him to command the ship. It was my species, the Belarians, who built this starship and many more like it."
"I see. How many more ships like this do you have?"
"We originally built 500 starships identical to this one, over 1,000 years ago. We have been exploring our galaxy ever since."
"That is amazing! 500 ships like this one. Where are they located now?"
"They are all back in our home galaxy continuing their individual missions. We are the only starship to venture this far into space. Why don't we continue the tour."
The Theckians were given a 3-hour grand tour of the ship. They were most impressed with the agriculture complex, until they saw the warp drive. Then when they saw the Park on Deck 5, they were most impressed with that.
By the end of the tour, Pretore Billner was beginning to relax and had dropped his stiff facade, "Capt. Kroy, I do not have the words to convey my feelings about the immensity and technology of your starship. Overwhelmed does not say it."
Kroy said, "This is a very large ship, Pretore, and you have seen only a small part of it. We would like to visit your planet at some point for a tour as well. I hope our two peoples can get to know each other better as well."
Pretore Billner said, "I am a military man since birth. Diplomacy is not my field, but I think I can safely say that the people of my planet and yours will not be enemies."
Bill said, "Would you care for something to eat? What kind of food do you prefer?"
"Let me see. How should I say it? We eat plants and animals. Does that sound correct?"
"Of course. I think you will like what we have to offer. We call our eating establishments, restaurants. We have many restaurants on the ship, each serving a different type of food. I should probably pick one for you. Is that OK?"
"Yes. Please do."
Bill chose a small Italian bistro adjacent to the Park. After ordering for everyone, Bill ordered a plate of steamed vegetables and a plate of sliced tomatoes and said, "I want you to sample some of our wonderful vegetables. We call these...tomatoes. I'll just add a bit of freshly ground pepper for seasoning. Try those gentlemen."
Pretore Billner stuffed two slices of tomato in his mouth, sat back in his chair, and savored the new taste. "Tomatoes. What a wonderful vegetable. Please, Conbits, try these tomatoes."
The Theck security officers tried the tomatoes and had a more reserved response, "Very nice."
Bill said, "Now have a bite of carrot."
Pretore Billner and his security men tried the carrots, then the zucchini, broccoli, and yellow squash, sitting in silence as they enjoyed each new taste.
Pretore Billner said, "I would love to introduce these vegetables to the people of Theck. Would that be possible?"
Capt. Kroy said, "Of course. I will arrange to have a full selection of vegetable seeds prepared for you."
"Thank you, Captain!"
After sampling pizza, lasagna, spaghetti, salad, and bread sticks, the Theckians were so full they could hardly move. Pretore Billner said, "Capt. Kroy, Bill Weller, and Col. Templeton, I think I speak for Conbits Tolsin and Metle when I say that we have had too much to eat of your wonderful Italian food. It will be a challenge to describe everything we have experienced in the last, what would you say?"
Bill said, "Four hours."
"Four hours. You have been marvelous hosts, but we must return to our ship. My report to High Command will be lengthy and difficult to write."
Back on the Bridge, Capt. Kroy presented Pretore Billner with a hastily prepared photo album of their tour. Col. Bob had been in charge of photographic documentation.
Pretore Billner said, "Thank you, Captain! What a wonderful gift! And an ideal proof of my tour. I am sorry I have nothing to give you in return."
Capt. Kroy said, "We do not expect anything in return, just the goodwill and friendship of your people."
"And I feel sure you will have that."
"Before you leave, we have one question." Kroy walked over to the display, pressed a button, and a picture of the hill and spire on planet A1 appeared.
"Has anything such as this ever been discovered on Theck?"
"Yes, it has! We call it The Artifact. Where is that one?"
"It is located on a planet in your galaxy that we visited for several days. Tell me about the one on Theck."
"The Artifact was discovered in our Missette Mountains about four centuries ago. At the time, we knew only to try and remove it from its location for study. However, in attempting to do so, the device apparently emitted a high energy magnetic field that heated, and in many cases, melted all the metallic tools being used. All other attempts to remove it by other means also failed."
"So this artifact is still there?"
"Oh yes. We study it from afar; monitor it for any kind of emissions; but do not go near it. Many stories and folklore have grown out of its discovery and the way it defended itself. It is, in the opinion of most historians, the reason we have made such scientific progress on Theck since its discovery. We see this device as proof that we are not alone in the universe. Some advanced civilization placed the Artifact there. For what reason, we don't know. But we have come to respect its existence on Theck. It has been an inspiration for many generations."
"To what extent did you study this device?" Pretore Billner said, pointing to the display.
"We were able to learn quite a bit about it using seismic sensors and a pneumatic tremor producing device around the base of the hill. Our data determined that there is a building inside that hill, and six piers supporting the device, which we call the spire. But most importantly, the spire communicated with us."
"Really! What did it say?"
"I know you need to get back to your ship, so I will have a full report of our findings sent to you. How does that sound?"
"That would be most appreciated. My planet's scientific community will be thrilled."
"Pretore Billner, would it be possible for Bill Weller and myself to visit your artifact?"
"I don't see why not. However, I will have to obtain clearance for your visit from High Command, Chancellor Dollime, the head of my government, and the Chancellor of the country where the Artifact is located."
"How long do you think it will take to obtain those clearances?"
"Oh, I can only guess, but several days at a minimum."
"In that case, we will leave for a few days and return."
"Good. I will do my best to expedite your visit. I believe that once the authorities on Theck hear from me, see this photo album, and review the report on the Artifact you found, they will welcome your visit."
"That is acceptable. You can expect the report shortly."
"Thank you, Capt. Kroy. Goodbye for now. I hope to see you again in a few days."
"As do I. We will return soon. We will contact you using this small communicator." Capt. Kroy handed Pretore Billner a communicator.
"I see. Thank you."
Kroy pressed a button on his communicator and the Theckians were returned to their vessel.
Bill said, "Well! This has turned out to be quite a day! First contact and a tour, all inside of six hours. That must be a Belarian record."
Capt. Kroy said, "I'm sure this day has set many records...on Belarius AND on Earth."
Dr. Tivoste entered the Bridge, "Captain, here is the Planet A1 Spire Report that you requested."
"Thank you, Doctor. That was quick."
Turning to Tim Beltran, "Tim, would you mind sending this over to Pretore Billner?"
Tim said, "Not at all, Captain."
After Tim had sent the report, Bill said to Capt. Kroy, "Are you ready to move on? We can give the Theckians a few days to get their approvals."
"Yes. Let's move on."
"Helm, set a course for the Fountain and the next location on the Galaxy Table."
"Aye, Sir. Course laid in, Sir."
"Engage and log this as Planet A3, Theck."