It took about half an hour to get everyone settled. Chuck asked what they called their world, and the reply sounded like Dipavuga, sung to the scale. Somela said they and their city were called Dikega, also sung to the scale.
Somela then pointed to the ‘coolers’ and, making gestures as he talked, offered to share the contents with the humans. One of the people carrying a cooler bent and opened it. Chuck stepped over and saw several large cuts of meat. “Hmmm…nice thought, Somela, but will we be able to eat it?” He did his best to show what he meant, miming eating, then smiling and rubbing his stomach, then frowning and grabbing his middle and acting very ill. Somela understood, and Chuck turned to his Chief Medical Officer, Rance Okonjo.
“How quickly can you test a bit of that to see if we can eat it?” he asked.
“Not long, sir, about ten minutes.” Rance replied. He moved to the cooler, looked at Somela and indicated what he wanted to do. Somela nodded, and as soon as Rance had obtained a small sample, ordered the cooler closed. Lorraine sent two translators out, and he and Kate each wore one. Kate took hers and moved to the aliens who were sitting apart from the rest, where she started talking. The translators automatically added words as it heard them, and soon conversation was easier.
Rance was soon back, and reported that they could eat the meat, and some of the other foods they had gathered. “Sir, I think everything here is compatible with our bodies. We can plant crops and eat what we harvest, and thrive on it.” Chuck said that what good news that was, then turned back to Somela.
“It’s all right,” he told Somela, “our systems are compatible with yours, we can eat what you eat.” Interested, he asked about the animal the meat came from, and for the next half hour, Somela and Melado described the animal and he hunting trip. In the course of their talk, Chuck gathered that there had been a severe storm some months ago that had destroyed much of the crops and killed many animals. The people of Somela’s town were on very short rations.
“Somela,” he said. “Your people need that meat. We have plenty, and if we can eat your food, you can eat ours. Why not send the meat home now. You and a couple of your friends stay with us for the night, and we can eat together and talk. We have a lot of fruits and vegetables in our hydroponic garden, we’ll make up a package for them to take with them. At least for tonight, your people can eat well.”
Somela agreed with many thanks, and soon five of them were on their way home, laden down with the two coolers of meat, and another filled with fresh fruits and vegetables.
Over the next three years, the two groups of people grew close. With the help of the human’s more advanced farming methods, and the addition of crops that were new to the aliens, they beam healthier. Meanwhile, many of the humans paired off, and children were born. Drs. Rance and Amaya Tamako kept careful genetic records, so there would be no danger of inbreeding.
It was five years later that a new ship appeared in the sky, and a message was received. “This is the King William, U.K. register, Earth Space Agency, calling Captain Charles Matthews, come in, please.” Communication’s Cadet Alfred Mitchell answered “Cadet Mitchell here, aboard lander Ontario. I am sending someone for Captain Matthews right away, sir.”
“Thank you,” the voice responded.
After Chuck had finished talking to the King William, he ordered a landing sight be marked out down below the foothills. “Earth has sent a diplomatic mission. They will not interfere with what we are doing with the Dikega’s, but will be in touch with Earth. This bunch will be staying, and there is nothing to keep us all from intermingling. So now we have a better gene pool for our growth. But we will not be settling here, except for one diplomatic settlement of no more than about five hundred.”
And so it was. Earth’s first encounter with an alien culture was a great success. Many years later, the leader of the diplomatic mission told Chuck “If we had come in first, we might never have created the close bonds we have here. You guys had no training in proper first contact protocol, and did a much better job than we would have. For instance, look at the mess made by the Harry Truman. There were Contact specialists aboard, and they insisted that they alone would make first contact. They stuck strictly to protocol, allowing only the translator to accompany them, and he wasn’t permitted to say a word. That one almost started the first interstellar war!
”That was after you landed here, but before Earth had your message and they were still trying to figure out what went wrong. And calm everything down and make very sincere apologies and reparations. When your message came in, it made the big guns on Earth take a good hard look at the protocols. The changes they made then have led to several successful contacts. It just goes to show – sometimes it’s better to trust to instinct in person to person contact.” They both laughed, and Chuck felt a swell of pride in his old crew.