As the Landing craft completed a final orbit of the planet, Captain Charles “Chuck” Matthews looked at his first officer, Commander Katharine “Kate” Evans. “Well, Kate, now what do we do? There is definitely intelligent life here. We’re not supposed to land on such planets, but the D’Arcy McGee is well on the way to the next star system, and in FTL flight.”
“We have no choice, Captain,” Kate said. “We can’t catch up, and we can’t stay in orbit. We have to land. This planet is ninety-five percent Earth-like. We can breathe the air, and probably live off the food and water. They seem like a peaceable people. I have seen no sign of hostilities anywhere, and the ball of yarn we have just finished covered every inch. I do recommend finding a secluded valley in the mountains, though. “
‘Sir,” Lt. Raini Redfern said from the communications board. “I saw a valley, about three quarters of the way down the mountain that might do. It is big enough for the lander, if we go in vertically. There are trees like evergreens, rocks and a river to one side. It’s about fifty miles east of where we are now – one orbit would get us down low enough, and right over it. Do you want me to put the image up?”
“Good work, Redfern,” Chuck said. “Yes, let’s take a look.” The image appeared on the centre screen. “Hmmm…looks good, what do you think, Kate?”
“Looks as good as we’re going to get, and the nearest settlement is well off to the west. I’d say go for it. Raini, better let the McGee know we’ve found aliens, and we will have to land. Not much they can do about it, but we are supposed to report.” Raini nodded, and prepared a message capsule. It would go FTL within the hour, and be waiting when the D’Arcy McGee returned to normal space.
The landing went smoothly, attitude jets used instead of the main engines, to cut down the chances of anyone seeing the streak of light. The valley was small, but big enough for the lander, and for shelters to be set up. The ship would be manned at all times, but everyone would have their turns at walking on solid ground, and breathing really fresh air.
Chuck, Kate, Commander Liam Connors, Chief Science Officer, and Rance Okonjo, biologist, spent several hours in the ship studying the screened images of the natives, their settlements, industries and farms. “They are fairly advanced,” Liam said. “They have self-powered vehicles and whatever it is they’re using for fuel, there is almost no pollution.”
Suddenly there were shouts from outside, and they all rushed to the Hatch and looked out. All the humans who were outside were gathered near the river, staring up at the eastern side of the valley. Chuck and the others climbed out, and turned to look. About halfway down the rugged valley wall was a group of aliens, all standing and apparently staring. They seemed as shocked as the humans, and no wonder. Humans were as strange to them, as they were to the humans. They looked like tall asparagus spears with arms and legs. From this distance, it was hard to distinguish faces, but they could see that the group carried what looked like weapons. Were they as peaceful as they had seemed from space?
Chief Petty Officer Brian Peterson called his squad to order, and had them gather between the human encampment and the approaching aliens. No arms were drawn, though two, Leading armsman Joel Thomas and cadet Beth Arthurs lay on the roof of a building with stun grenade launders, just in case. Captain Matthews walked over to the Chief, and stood with him, waiting to see what would come of this First Encounter.