Caution is always a good policy when approaching an alien system. Kabrina took her seat at the com-center on the bridge and waited for the moment when we would be challenged.
I sat in my chair, watching the screen, and I saw the small craft appear from behind the closest moon. When I say small, I don’t really mean tiny. It was ten times larger than our ship, and bristling with turrets. If they weren’t in a good mood our ship would make a nice new temporary star in the planet’s sky, and we wouldn’t have to worry about our oxygen supply.
The computer replaced the screen’s view of space with the larger-than-life image of a Srax-male. He was in uniform, obviously an official.
“Approaching vessel! State your origin and your business.” The voice sounded deep, grating.
“This is Starsurfer.” Kabrina kept her voice neutral, cool. She didn’t speak Srax, because there was no need. Our computer would send the transmission in the Srax-language.
“We are a human-based merchant ship. Our life-support system sustained damage in an encounter with pirates. We need assistance with the repairs.”
“Am I speaking with a female?” the Srax asked. Both of his protruding eyes focused on me. “Why is the male not talking?”
I gave him a friendly smile. “I am Thomas Stone, the captain of this ship. As my com-officer said, we need your assistance. Our life-support system could fail at any time. We have no other business with you, but if necessary we could do some trading. After all, we are merchants.”
“What do you carry?”
“You are welcome to inspect our cargo,” I said. “Maybe there is something that might interest you.”
“I will accept your invitation, Captain Stone; but let me warn you, I will be accompanied by two armed guards.” He showed large black teeth. “I’ve dealt with humans before, and I don’t trust you.”
The screen blackened for a split-second, and then we looked again into space, or at least a small portion of it. The image of the alien patrol vessel filled most of the screen. The ship rotated until we faced a huge hatch. It slid open, like the jaws of a huge shark, displaying a dark, gaping hole that swallowed us up as if we were nothing but a tasty morsel. I could almost hear the satisfied burping as the giant maw closed again.
As soon as we were inside, lights lit up to show black metal walls all around us. We were inside the belly of the alien ship.
“The air is breathable on the other side,” Sharina said. “Atmospheric pressure is very close to ours.”
“Well then, let’s put out the welcome mat,” I said, getting out of my chair. I climbed the stairs down to the lower deck, walked down a short corridor and threw open the airlock. I never trust this job to a computer.
The air entering our ship had a different smell to it. It was breathable, a little warmer and more humid than ours was, but alien. According to our analysis, it didn’t contain any toxic particles, but we did find traces of unknown elements. Even though they were supposed to be harmless to humans, I felt nauseous for a moment. I took a few deep breaths to get my body acclimatized. When an oval porthole dilated in the back wall of the hangar, my system seemed almost used to the air.
The uniformed Srax we had spoken to stepped through the opening, followed by two of his guards. In their hands they carried mean looking weapons. Their leader appeared unarmed, until I saw the huge rifle slung across his back.
One thing became apparent. These people were big on intimidation.
I stepped out of our ship and stood beside the airlock to greet them. People like these craved respect and recognition. I needed their help and therefore had no problem groveling a little.
“Welcome to my humble ship,” I said, standing at attention.
The Srax stopped, looked at me with his protruding eyes. His mouth opened to show his teeth. They really were quite black, but they looked strong and healthy. He gave a loud hiss. A forked tongue appeared briefly between his lips.
“I am Flightleader Horax of the Fifth Family, and these are my personal guards, Hedge-Warriors of the Third Degree. Are you a warrior, Captain Thomas Stone?”
“Not really,” I smiled. “I am just a merchant. Violence is something I do not approve of.”
“And yet you carry a weapon in your boot!”
“Oh, that. I keep it for my protection. I may not approve of violence, but I am quite capable of defending myself, if the need arises.” No need to appear too meek.
Horax smiled again. “You don’t strike me as a timid man, Captain. As I have mentioned, I am familiar with your species, and I have actually made it a point to study humans. My Second Protector was a merchant, like you, and he used to deal with humans. I was in his employ before I was chosen to serve our space fleet.”
“Then you have the advantage, Flightleader, I know very little about your kind. You must forgive me if I don’t always follow protocol.”
“We are not as rigid as you may believe. You’ll find that you and I are much alike.” His tongue flickered across hip lips again. “Are you going to invite me into your ship or are we going to waste time out here hissing like two female egg-layers?”
“Of course not. Forgive my rudeness.” I smiled. “Please, enter my ship.”
Welcome to my blog
Hello visitors. On my blog I'm talking about my books, but also about what I'm currently working on and, maybe, some other stuff. Browse through my posts and don't forget to check out my older posts in the archives. If you are interested in my books, please, visit my website Fictitious Tales for more information and a few excerpts. You'll find more excerpts in my old website Herbert's World. Also, take a look at my second blog Herbert Grosshans, where I talk about fun-stuff and things that concern me.