"Captain!" shouted Jan, the first officer of the U.S.S. Horizon. There was no reason for her to shout, but her excitement had overpowered her sense. She was standing in front of the main screen on the bridge of the starship staring with a curious gaze at the approaching plant, Sirius V, that they had traveled 2.6 parsecs (8.6 light-years) to explore.
"What is it, Jan?" replied a dazed, slightly annoyed, voice over the communication system.
"I'm sorry to wake you sir but we've entered the Sirius Binary Star System and we are now in orbit around Sirius V."
"OK, I'll be on the bridge in five minutes." The captain's voice was completely indifferent to the situation, and even though Jan wasn't surprised she couldn't help but to be frustrated. Captain Garren Ron was a man of extremely high intelligence which, combined with his almost faultless instinct, made him the best captain a starship crew could have. The only problem, was his attitude towards missions. He was never enthusiastic about new discoveries, and nobody was entirely sure why. There were rumors that said he had once been the most hyperactive and curious man in the space program until one day, he just wasn't.
"Prepare for landing," ordered Captain Ron as he walked through the automatic doors, snapping Jan away from her thoughts.
She turned and nodded to the pilot who gladly began the lading procedure. Everyone in crew just watched, wondering, as the U.S.S. Horizon got closer and closer to the planet's surface. They all felt united during those final minutes before they were to become the first humans to ever make contact with alien life forms. There was a thud and then silence, and they all turned to look at each other.
The captain was the first to brake the silence with a quick, "OK, everyone, whoever is going outside, go prep." He then turned to Jan and stated, "the ship it yours while I'm gone." With that, he exited the bridge behind four other crew members, leaving Jan and the pilot alone.
"Well then Mr. Chan, keep the landing party on the screen please."
"Yes ma'am," the pilot replied, readily cooperating.
Jan put her hand up to her ear feeling the small, plastic communicator. "Do you copy captain?"
"Yeah, I'm here," came an almost sulking reply. "We're activating our heat protective shields in our suits and we will be leaving the ship soon."
The shields were necessary because of the white dwarf star, Sirius B's, extreme temperature. Even with the wide orbit of the planet around the star, and the protective atmosphere, the average temperature of Sirius V was much higher than that of Earth. It was not too hot for the native species of the plant, for they had evolved to survive in that environment, though it was the hotter part of their sloppy, figure-eight orbit around Sirius A and B. Sirius A, being a larger and much cooler star, created a more chill environment for the planet. However, more light came from Sirius A because of its larger size. It seemed like it would have been more clever of the U.S.S. Horizon to arrive at Sirius V when it was around Sirius A, but the way that the timing had worked out made it cheeper to just add heat shields into the budget.
Five people in high tech suits appeared on the screen with the large ship door closing behind them. Jan and Mr. Chan watched the team on the screen for about ten minutes in silence before anything interesting occurred.
The captain came on the line. "We're hearing something. I'll tell you when I know more," and that was all that was said before, what looked like about fifteen individuals, came out from hiding behind an accumulation of rocks and ran towards the small landing party of five.
"Captain!" was all Jan could yell as she watched her companions be carried away by an unknown species, on an unexplored planet, to an unknown location.
"Sorry Jan... I'm still searching but there's interference."
"They have trackers! It shouldn't be this difficult! It's been almost seventy-two hours. You must be doing something wr--"
"I've got something!" Mr. Chan exclaimed, grinning. "I'm sorry what were you about to say considering my skills?" he teased.
Jan glared at him but quickly moved on. "Nice work Chan. Fly us towards them."
"Are you sure that's a good idea? We don't know how we'll be greeted. My guess is that our people haven't been able to communicate very efficiently with them, and we will be treated no differently than we saw the rest of the crew get treated," Chan challenged.
"Do you have a better idea? I say we at least get a good look at what we're up against, if that's what it comes to. Besides, we're guests on their planet. You can't blame them for attacking. If I can avoid it, there will be no harm done."
The pilot gave in. "Yes ma'am."
As they got closer to where the signal was coming from, the city, or rather town, became clearer, and it would be hard for anyone from Earth not to be amazed. It was simple and relatively small for a city but large for a town. However, it wasn't simple in a way that made Earth appear advanced, but rather in a way that made Earth seem primitive. The species seemed to have gone beyond over-population and complications concerning the amount of inhabited area. Jan couldn't help but wonder how long it would take the human race to reach that point, and if they ever even would.
"OK, put us down here," Jan said. Looking out the front screen, three individuals of the alien race could be seen coming toward the ship about fifty feet away. The companions on the U.S.S. Horizon glanced at each other, surprised. Why were there only three this time? Had their shipmates been able to communicate their good intentions, or were the the aliens just more confident concerning their dominance over the unwanted visitors?
"Let's hope they won't be hostel. They must know that we know they took our crew. If we don't threaten them, they'll have no reason to attack." Jan got up from the captain's chair and started for the door, then paused. "Stay here Mr. Chan. I need you to be ready if it becomes necessary to leave swiftly." Before there was any time for a response, there was a sliding sound and the was only one person was left on the bridge of the U.S.S. Horizon.
Thoughts and emotions were flying through Jan's head but non stayed for very long, except for one. Not worry, fright, or even hope, but curiosity. After putting on her suit, she took one last deep breath before the ramp to the outside began leaning down. She descended the short distance to the plant's surface
"Hello, I hope this can be peaceful," Jan stated in a voice that was as calm as she could muster. She wasn't sure what kind of response she was expecting, but what came next was a surprise.
"Hello, you must be Jan. I assure you that this whole instance has been a huge misunderstanding," said the tallest male in the group of three. He stepped forward, holding out his hand for Jan to shake. "You can't blame us for being cautious. I promise that your crew is unharmed and they will be arriving here soon." He paused.
Jan was stunned. All she could manage was, "you can talk." A simple statement. Not even a question.
"Yes. Simple translation technology. We are happy to show you how it works later. Your friends informed us that you intend to stay on this planet for a period of time, to learn, before leaving for your home. We wish we had some place for you to stay in the city, but you have your ideal living conditions on your starship and we we're not expecting you until recently."
The five humans that had been gone for almost three days were suddenly standing, looking around, right next to Jan. She hadn't seen them approach, but that wasn't even what shocked Jan next. What took her breath away was the man in the captain's uniform that came forward to hug his first officer, with a grin on his face.
"Do you see this place? Did you see how I got here? That isn't even interesting compared to what there is to see and experience inside the city!" Captain Garren Ron was ecstatic. He was a changed man, and so the investigation of the new planet began, with more excitement in the crew than they could have ever hoped for.