Author: Lance J. Mushung

Patrol ship TFS-648 flew in open space following its faster than light hop. The hop put it on a course parallel to a large slow spacecraft. The 3D viewscreen in the command compartment showed in detail the unknown gray craft 517.2 klicks distant. Commander Meyer and Pilot Tanaka studied the image and instrument readings.

Tanaka messaged Meyer’s comm implant. “This is the ship reported by SS-5909. The markings on the hull are in English. Its name is Arbella. Its configuration and technology indicate a generation ship from at least 250 years ago. Considering its limited electromagnetic armor and the numerous pits and scars on the hull, I estimate it has been in space 300 years.”

“There is no information on Arbella. Of course, many records were lost during the confusion of the Transformation. You and I should begin conversing audibly in English in preparation for contact.”

“Agreed,” Tanaka said in English. “The crew has detected us and already started transmitting. I have adjusted for their old technology, transmitted audio-only that we understand English, and initiated two-way audio and visual comm.”

A human male with tan skin, brown hair, and hazel eyes appeared on the viewscreen. “I am Captain Vasquez of the Earth ship Arbella. You appear human. Are you from Earth?”

“I am Commander Meyer and am from Earth, originally. We have faster than light travel now. How long since your ship left Earth?”

“317 years. Faster than light travel! Everyone would certainly have loved that. We’re looking for a planet to colonize. We’d appreciate your help.”

Vasquez had spoken like a person who had just won a lottery. His facial expression matched. On the other hand, Meyer looked as if he had come across a dangerous insect.

“Earth and humanity have improved,” Meyer said. “We have advanced into what you would call cyborgs. Our nonorganic parts consist of both AI and various implants. Genetic engineering has enhanced the organic parts. The existence of natural humans such as yourself is an abomination to us. You are as unwelcome in our time as Neanderthals would have been in yours. My ship will eliminate Arbella and all onboard. Historical records indicate your crew will have a variety of religious beliefs. I grant them five minutes to prepare for death. There will be no further communication.”

Vazquez’s eyes widened and his lips moved without making a sound as Tanaka terminated the comm link.

Tanaka said to Meyer, “My calculations indicate one of our asteroid smashers will be sufficient.”

“Agreed. Move us to a safe distance.”

“Vasquez is contacting us again. He says his people should be saved to ensure humanity survives in case our modifications fail to be viable long term.”

“What arrogance to think that has not already been considered. Continue to ignore his comm.”

“I will deploy the weapon so that it arrives after the five minutes you allowed them. We will be well outside the blast zone.”

Arbella shrank to a small image on the view screen even at maximum magnification.

Tanaka reported, “Deploying weapon.”

A tactical display appeared alongside the viewscreen. Meyer and Tanaka watched a small blue cylinder leave a blue flattened pyramid and head at high speed toward a red likeness of Arbella. Then the viewscreen showed a brilliant yellow-orange light that faded in a few blinks of an eye.

Tanaka said, “Instruments confirm the target has been obliterated.”

Meyer nodded. “Discontinue speaking in English. Return to home base.”

Tanaka began plotting a hop back home.