The inside looked more like a luxury camper or a cabin cruser than a NASA orbiter. The old man indicated that I should sit down so I sank into a convenient swivel chair and fired up another cigarette. An ashtray opened up in the chair arm at the perfect distance for me to use. It had some kind of suction thing built-in that pulled the smoke into the ashtray too. Neat, no secondhand smoke. I looked around. The compartment we were in was set up as a lounge or passenger area. The alien had given me a brief tour as we were coming in. The lounge was in the center with a small cargo area to the back and the cockpit forward.
"How do you want this handled?" I asked.
"I do not wish to injure the farmers," he began, "but I do want my ship back. It is not acceptable that we..." He looked up a word in his translator. "Ah, yes- blast, shoot, go in with lasers blazing. I do not want them discorperated. We must assume command of the Emergency Control room. Then we can safely find a way to capture them. They will not be able to attack us there, and we will be in control to the ship."
"Why didn't you do that in the first place?" I asked. "That would have saved you all this trouble."
"I was doing ecptionally well to elude them as far as the haner deck! They were firing upon me. Some damage was done to the walls and furnishings by their weapons. Yours are a bloodthirsty species. The Khun or Arrunam warlords could take lessons from you."
"Hey, we're a peaceloving people! Hell, we've fought a couple of wars just to prove it! We're not bloodthirsty, we just don't like to be pushed around."
"I see... it is in the interests of peace that you carry weapons of mayhem about your person at all times. The room in your residence that contained nothing but weapons is, I suppose, dedicated to non-violence? And the care with which you armed yourself before we boarded the shuttle, that was of a wish to avoid wanton slayings?"
"Exactly, mine and yours anyway. I'm not going to shoot first, but I iintend to be able to shoot back. I've got some questions for you. Like, how do we get on board your spaceship? Can we find out where the farmers are at before we go in? Are there any weapons they can use, besides the ones they brought with them? Does the ship have any weapons that we should be worring about? What's the layout, the floorplan of the ship? I think a briefing is in order. I need to know what there is that we can use, and what they can use against us."
"The ship cannot fire upon this shuttle, the farmers cannot access any weapons systems on board. Indeed they can access very few control functions at all, mostly food systhesis, interior hatchways, and elevators. All passageways can be sealed into small compartments, for both security and damage control. We can enter through any of three hanger bays. I escaped through the largest one, but that does not mean that we have to reenter there."
"We should go in through the one closest to your emergency control," I said. "That'll cut down on the time they have to react to us getting in."
"I agree. I can have the shuttle override the ship's normal alert warning that sounds whenever a shuttle begins docking. We can effect our entry in secrecy that way and they will only be aware of us if they are near the hanger bay that we will use."
The alien led me to the cockpit and set up a display of the ship and it's layout. The thing was huge, like an ocean liner. Matter of fact, it looked a lot like the home movies I've seen on some of those UFO TV shows. Maybe the UFOnuts really had seen something after all. What the ship reminded me of first was a stack of different sized frisbies with some domes and big tanks hanging from the bottom. There were two thick tubes that ran horizontally from the edges of the largest disk. I asked for details and the old man told me that the tubes were his FTL engines. I could hear him pronounce the capital letters as he told me that FTL stood for Faster Than Light. The main hanger and cargo bays were near the bottom of the ship while the hanger that we needed was located near it's middle deck. It's doors were in the back between the FTL motors while the other hanger bays were in the front of the ship.
"The ship's computer will give us the farmers' location once we are inside the hanger. Perhaps I can use the shuttle's computer to do that now. I will set up the necessary link." The alien punched on the dash and set back to survey the results. Another screen lit up to display what looked to be a lounge area near the main cargo bays. Three bright lights were centered on the screen.
"Bingo." I said.
"Is that a religious expression?"
"No... well? Maybe, but in this case all that it means is that now we know where they are."
"Shall we go up?"
"You mean, take off?"
"Yes, we are ready? Is there more that we can plan?"
"Yeah, what else can we do 'till we get on board? You know, I'm beginning to feel like a pirate."
"A sort of sea-going thief."
"I am not a thief, the ship is my rightful property, but I think I understand what you mean. It is a strange feeling, is it not? Remember, I have never done this sort of thing before either." We looked at each other and both broke into laughter. I guess it was just nerves.
"Yeah," I said, "Let's go up."
The alien punched some more buttons on the dashboard and the walls of the cockpit turned clear as glass. I could see my house getting smaller through the nose of the shuttle. I didn't feel a thing, not even the first vibration. Don't ask me how the old geezer did it, when I thought to ask I didn't understand the explanation. At the time I was too busy looking out of the windshield. After a few seconds the sky turned dark and the stars came out. The ground disappeared in the haze below.
"Nice car," I said, "good acceleration."
"Quite, well maintained also. It came with the ship. We should come up on it's orbital position in thirty minutes. The navagation computer will warn us when we get close."
"Just gives me time for a leisurely smoke. Maybe you can tell me why your ship hasn't been spotted by anyone on the ground. This shuttle too, somebody must have spotted it on radar."
I didn't understand that explanation either.
"Yes, the computer indicates that we will have visual contact soon."
"You mean that bright spot, there in the corner of the windshield? Is that the ship?"
"Yes, that is the ship. You have very good eyesight, D-Day," said the alien, smiling for a moment. "I shall maneuver around to the aft shuttle bay."
"That's the one they can't see from anywhere inside the ship?"
"Not unless they go into the aft bay control room. The computer still shows them to be in the lounge area near the main cargo bays. They have not moved except to go to cargo bay 5 and return since we located them with this scanner. If they stay in the lounge they will not know that we have entered the ship. Curious, they seem to be utilizing the food dispenser in the lounge quite often."
"They're cooperating nicely," I muttered, "I don't like it; this is too easy. Are you sure that you have the alarms turned off?"
The alien pressed a few buttons on the shuttle's control panel and smiled at the results. The ship loomed huge in the windshield now, blotting out the rest of the view.
"All alarms have been deactivated. The farmers have not yet moved away from the lounge. We are in position and the hatch control is responding to the shuttle's signal. Shall we go in?"
"Might as well, we can't dance..." I said with more cheer than I really felt.
"What? I sometimes have difficulty following your mode of speach, D-Day. Does that remark imply that you are ready to proceed with the boarding as we planned?"
"Sorry about that. Uh, yeah, go ahead. Let's get this over with."
"Very well, I am opening the shuttle bay doors. Prepare for docking."
We floated inside the ship and settled down into a parking space next to two other shuttles similar to the one we were in. As the shuttle's door opened, I looked around at the hanger bay. I hadn't heard the big hanger doors close, but they had closed and the air had been pumped back in before I had gotten out of my seat. I looked back at my host as he flipped switches and pushed buttons on the dashboard.
"I am disabling the controls on this shuttle to prevent the farmers from attempting to utilize it in our absence. I am ready to proceed. The computer panel by the exit will be able to give us the location of the farmers. We should now be ready to go to the Emergency Control room."
As we walked to the exit, I still felt that things were too easy. Something had better happen soon or my nerves were going to wear me out. When the alien stopped to use the landing bay computer I had an inspired idea.
"Say, can you control the food machines from here?"
"Yes, I can tie in to their command sub-routines from this computer station. But for what purpose? We are unlikly to be able to starve them into submission. In any case, that would be immoral."
"That's not what I had in mind at all. Can you make the machines give them something besides food and water?"
"Yes, once the computer has the molecular structure of the compound that you want synthesized."
"C-O-O-C-H, at least that's what I remember from high school chemestry."
"That is close to your chemical formula for alcohol. You wish the food dispenser to provide them with spirituous beverages?"
"Yeah, get 'em drunk and they'll be less of a problem."
"That is an interesting idea, D-Day." The alien began rapidly pushing buttons. "The dispensers are already programed with the information necessary to produce beverages in great variety. All that I have to do is override the selection sub-routine to force the machine to give them an alcoholic beverage whenever they ask for anything to drink. There, it is done. But what beverage to give them? Surely they will not consume raw alcohol?"
"Don't be too supprised, and don't call me Shirley. Seriously though, you're right. Can you make it give them a mixed drink?"
"What is a mixed drink? And who is Shirley?"
As I explained what I had in mind, the alien began to tap out another sequence on the computer.
"There, it is programed. Aged, carbon-filtered cereal grain alcohol, diluted with either citric acid or fructose syrup and carbonated water. They now have two selections."
"Yes, that was the main ingredient of the drink that you gave me at your home."
"Oh, grapefruit juce."
"Yes, the citric and acetic acid beverage is my personal favorite, and is quite strong for my species. However, this ship was designed for a multi-species crew."
"So you have supplies for other species as well? I should have guessed. So now we head for Emergency Control, right?"
"Indeed. Shall we go?" he said as he pushed the door control.
The door moved fast, but we went through before it was fully opened. I pulled my gun as we turned left and ran down a corridor. I was thinking that everything was still going too smoothly as we rounded a corner and stopped at what looked to be an elevator door. It whooshed open and we jumped inside.
"Asckadd Sumatum!" the alien commanded as the elevator door closed. "That is the command to send the elevator to the deck where the emergency control room is located. A translator program would have allowed me to use any language in the ship's data banks." We were zipped along for only a moment before the door opened again. I jumped out, brandishing my weapon up and down the hallway outside the elevator.
"All right, it's all clear. Which way?"
"That way. Left, to the corner, then right. The door will be the only one along a blind corridor."
"OK, let's go."
We reached the door without incident, but as we opened the door the alien's handlink began beeping softly. He frowned and looked at the device.
"Inside! Quickly!" Suiting action to words we both dived through the doorway. From the floor I squeezed off a few shots into the hallway as the door closed behind us. I wasn't aiming at anything, I just wanted to make some noise to keep them from getting too close to the door while it hissed shut.
"Computer, seal this compartment! Open only to Executive Override commands!"
"Authorization Code?" said the ship's computer.
"Captain and Owner Harvadd, code Delta-Delta-Oblique!"
"Code correct, Emergency Control secure."
"Harvadd? Is that your name? You never said. I've just been thinking of you as The Alien. It's nice to know your name." I said.
"Yes, I am Harvadd. The rest of my name would be very hard for you to pronounce. I am known by Harvadd to most of my aquaintances. I would be honored if you would refer to me thusly also."
"OK, Harvadd, what happened? Are you all right? How did we get shot at?"
"One of the farmers must have left the cargo bay lounge while we were in the elevator. My handlink gave us an alarm..."
"Almost too late!" I interrupted.
"Granted, but we did get inside Emergency Control safely."
"You call that safe? We almost died!"
"But we did not die. Now we can reclaim my ship."
"Right. Let's not cut it that close next time, OK?"
"O.K. That means affirmative, correct?"
"Right. What's next on the agenda? Wait 'till they get thirsty and hope they get drunk and pass out?"
"I am open to suggestions, D-Day."
Thump, thump, thump.
"They are at the door." Harvadd said.
"No kidding. Can they get in?"
"No. Even if they had explosives they could not force that door. It is one of the strongest in the ship. We are safe here, at least untill we leave this room."
"Are you sure they can't get in?"
"Even if they had energy weapons that door would hold for hours."
"Maybe we should tell them that."
"They will find it out in due time. Perhaps now would be the time for us to put our plan into effect."
"You mean, force them back to the lounge and knock 'em out?" I asked.
"How can we force 'em back to the lounge?"
"Let me see what our options are. I will ask the computer for a list of possible actions."
"Ask the computer? You mean you don't have any ideas and you gotta ask a calculator?" I was stunned by this news. Here I was, trapped on a Flying Saucer with an alien I barly knew while three North Georgia rednecks armed with shotguns played storm-the-castle, trying to break down the door. "I should have stayed home and trimmed my beard!"
"You do not have a beard, D-Day. Besides, I told you earlier that we would have to use the computer to subdue the farmers."
"Did you, now? It must have slipped my mind. Anyway, I thought all you'd have to do was punch a few buttons and we could load them into the shuttle and take them home."
"I fear that it will not be quite that easy. However, once I access the proper information the situation may become somewhat simpler."
"Listen, Harvadd, the only thing simple around here is me for listening to you in the first place!"
"If manipulating a few controls would get them off my ship why would I risk going back through your Strategic Air Command detector fields to land on your backwards planet to ask for your help? If there had been an easier way I would have chosen it. Now let me see what the computer has to offer us. You should calm yourself."
"Right," I said, biting off a sarcastic reply. After all, it wasn't Harvadd's fault that my nerves were acting up. He had told me that it would take some time and effort to get the farmers back home to Earth. I stomped over to stand near the door and pointed my Mauser in a safe direction. Pulling the slide back, I pushed a stripper clip into the slot that locks the slide and clicked three more 7.63mm shells into place. I remover the stripper clip and listened to the authoritative CLACK of the slide slipping closed. It had been difficult learning to get my fingers out of the way when I had first bought the Mauser, but now I didn't even think about it. I reholstered the gun and put more rounds back into the clip from a box in my coat pocket. I tucked the clip back into it's pouch on my holster strap, put the box of shells back in my coat pocket, and looked up at Harvadd. He seemed like a nice enough person; after all, he was going to a lot of trouble to keep from killing three guys he could have easily shoved out into space. I hoped that the computer had a few options for us. Otherwise I would have to come up with a few options of my own. None of them would be pleasant if my mood didn't improve. Being shot at always ruins my day. Some folks are like that, a little lead flying around makes us crabby.
"Where are they on the locator-thing? Is that guy still out there?"
Harvadd looked up from the computer and smiled weakly. "Yes, he is gone. He seems to have gone back to the lounge, possibly to inform the others of our arrival. Good, this implies that they do not yet know how to use the intercom system."
"How is that good?"
"If we can isolate them singly they will not be able to communicate with each other, they might be easier to deal with one by one. It gives us another option."
"How about putting them to sleep? You got any kind of tranquilizers on board?"
"No, I did not believe that sort of thing necessary. Unfortunate was I to omit such a thing from my preparations. I was depending upon stealth to insure my safety while upon your planet."
"Yeah, and look where that got you."
"Indeed." Harvadd paused, looking back down at the computer readout. He grimaced as if in pain. "They have jammed the doors to the lounge! I am unable to override the safeties and force the doors to close! They seem to be preparing a defense. It is time to put this situation under our control."
"The situation was out of control from the time they first came on board," I said. "How do I get to the lounge? I want to try to talk to them... before any more shooting starts."
"You may speak to them from here, over the intercom, without putting yourself at any risk."
"They might respond better to me in person than as a voice from a speaker panel."
"Yes, their aim might be better. That is the only response that I can easily conceive of the farmers making."
"Come off it, I'm not planning to give them a target. By the way, how do you work the intercoms? I just might need to know. Hey! Can we listen in on them? Without their knowing, I mean."
"YES!" Harvadd yelped, diving for the keypad. "I should have thought of that earlier. I would lose my brain if it were not sealed so tightly inside my skull!"
"What about the intercom button? What does it look like?"
"Look at the screen by the door."
The small screen that was inset in the wall next to the doorway lit up to show me a path along the corridors. A symbol glowed next to the map on the screen. It looked like a letter S laid on it's side, bisected by two slash marks and a dot above the left curl of the S. A different symbol glowed on the screen's control panel. It was a simple # sign, but with the lines drawn diagonally. The one on the panel was built in so it had to be the intercom button, but what was the one on the screen?
"What's the sideways S-looking symbol on the screen with the map?"
"Elevator button to the lounge deck. The elevators open for anyone, but the voice control will only respond to me as of yet. Please use the elevator that we came up in, the button labeled with the symbol indicated on that screen will take you to the level that the lounge is on. From the elevator, you will have to turn two corners to view the lounge doorway. There is a meeting of corridors there. You will be able to approach the farmers stealthily. The control built into the wall unit will allow you to speak to me from anywhere within the ship."
"Good. Call me on the intercom if anything develops before I can call you. See you later..."
"I believe the expression is; Good Luck, D-Day." said Harvadd.
"Thanks," I said, while pulling out my gun and checking to see that there was a round in the chamber. "I hope I don't need it."