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  1. FIRST CONTACT
    By Yvonne DeBandi | YvonneDeBandi.com

    © Copyright Yvonne DeBandi 2019

    Baldric, that’s me, named for my courage and bravery. When I first learned the meaning behind the name, it seemed like a lot of unnecessary pressure. I mean, isn’t everyone afraid of something? Nope, not Baldric the Great Warrior, he stands unafraid while others tremble and hide.

    Okay, so maybe that is laying it on a bit thick. At first, I just played the part. They expected me to be brave, so I did all the things that brave ones do. I would stand tall and stare down my enemies. Didn’t take me long to realize…it really works! Well, most of the time. Funny thing about it, I was more scared about being embarrassed than about facing the obstacle in front of me.

    You know what I mean? Come on! Who here likes to be laughed at? Raise your hand. Unless you are a comedian or intentionally trying to get a laugh from the cute girl sitting next to you, I’m guessing you slid down in your seat on that one.

    I’m sharing all of this because I may have met my match. I thought it was just another normal day, but little did I know. There I was, walking through my favorite garden when something moved out of the corner of my eye. I ducked down and peeked through the branches…he was watching me. No matter how brave I stood, or how daring I tried to present myself, this one matched me move for move. We must have played this game of chicken for hours. Finally, I decided to call it a day. I would come back tomorrow and investigate the situation further.

    Later that night, I’m hanging out with my pals and I asked them. “Hey, you all seen the new guy on block eleven?”

    “The one in the back garden? I sure did. Not all that happy about it either. Was out on a walk with Serena, and all she could say was what a handsome fella he was. I think she was looking for an introduction. On our walk tomorrow we are definitely taking a different path. I mean, seriously…who could be more handsome than me?”

    “What’s wrong there, Magellan? Scared of a little competition? Now you know how we feel when you walk into the room. Personally, I didn’t think the guy was all that much to look at, kinda scrappy. Sure acted clever though, he countered my every move.”

    “Smarter than you? That’s just not possible,” I said. “You’ve been the cleverest of them all for as long as I can remember. I mean, even your name says you are clever: Merlin. Doesn’t that say everything you need to know? Nah, nothing to worry about. I think I’ll pay him another visit tomorrow. He needs to know this is our territory. We can’t allow him to trespass all over us.

    “If anyone can do that, it’s you, Baldric. And you’re right. We can’t let the new guy come in and just take over the town.”

    My friends left that night and my bravado seemed to leave with them. Who was I kidding? This guy really had me knocked off my game. I couldn’t eat, barely slept, and by dawn I knew I had to get on with it. So, I sauntered back over to my favorite garden early, thinking I might surprise him.

    To my great dismay, he was already there waiting there for me! I nonchalantly changed my course to block his view, but this guy was quick. Okay, who am I kidding? Not going to lie to you. I jumped behind the nearest thing that would give me cover. It didn’t matter. He was just as fast and as brave as me. I even tried to channel my inner Merlin…wondering how I could be cleverer.

    By the end of the day, I had had enough. I had to make a stand. So, I stood taller and I walked towards him with the most ominous expression I could bring forth. He didn’t like that. His expression and eye contact became quite terrifying. I was being challenged.

    “Challenge accepted,” I yelled as we both began running forward. With only victory in my mind, I took a final leap in the air, ready to pounce and show him what it meant to be the warrior named Baldric, King of this Garden.

    Thunk.

    “Oh, my goodness! Did you see that?!”

    Slowly, I stood and shook my head to clear the stars. The warrior that dropped me to the ground was now toying with me, mimicking me in my pain. My worst fears were coming to pass. My reign as the warrior in these parts really might be coming to an end. As he mocked me, I contemplated my next move. What else could I do to prove I was really the best? I needed a minute to lick my wounds before I attempted another challenge.

    Before I got the chance, I saw two feet belonging to the strange species called human, standing behind me. This one was nice. She fed me sometimes, and I liked the way she scratched behind my ears.

    “Poor kitty. Let me guess, first contact with a mirror?”

  2. Cold Contact
    by Torn Macalester | TornMacalester.com

    Frank ‘Cooter’ Ross looked at his books, trying to find information about first contact. Where the hell is it? He thought. I know there is some information here somewhere.

    “What’s going on Frank?” said the female voice over the computer line. “You went quiet and started grumbling.” The voice belonged to Cathy Sorenson, the spacecraft mechanic at the far end of the drive section of the Hootie Bird.

    “It’s a book,” Cooter said. “Details the possibles fer first contact.”

    “Oh,” she answered. “Part of your alien’s on the Moon conspiracy.”

    “Evidence was there.”

    “Never mind,” Cathy answered. “What’s the urgent need for the book?”

    “Ya’ heard them transmittin’.”

    “Yeah I heard it. But don’t you think it’s a couple of spacers with too much time and too many choices of drugs.”

    “What if they’d been sober?” asked Cathy.

    “Low oxygen, maybe.”

    “It’s important that we find it way out here.”

    “How so?”

    “Well,” Cooter started. “We’re beyond our first contact signal.”

    “First contact signal?”

    “Yeah, it’s the initial transmission of significant power that could be detected by an alien civilization.”

    “What?”

    “The minus seventy-three olympics broadcast from Berlin or the minus seventy two coronation of King George the sixth of England.”

    “Captain Cooter can you explain for all us Earthlings? Those are over two hundred years old,” Cathy said.

    “Do the math Cathy. We’re about two hundred and fifty light years from Earth, the signals have not made it out this far. Its Y+145 now, the signals would have reached a maximum of two hundred and eight light years.”

    “Oh. I forget that signals travel slower than the warp drive. We’ve out ran the radio waves from back then. So -”

    “We’re out in the cold zone,” Cooter said.

    “Cold zone?”

    “It’s the zone where any contact with aliens will occur without them having prior knowledge of our existence.”

    “Cold,” said Cathy, “since we’ve not given them any time to warm up to the idea.”

    “Exactly. It’s a cold contact.”

    Cooter heard Cathy laugh as he adjusted the high gain antenna to point directly at the Union Transatlantique des Nations vessel, as the low gain pointed at the only inhabitable planet in the system. They had been sent their to check out the planet and possible UTAN colony being built on the planet. Many other nations had their eyes on the planet, but wanted the extents of the UTAN colony established before committing their own resources. Consequently, Cooter was hired to take a look.

    Hootie Bird made for a good scouting vessel. Many Moon based spacers had taken to building and operating them after the discovery of Alcubierre metric based FTL warp drive. The basic asteroid prospector ship design that had been operating for decades provided the perfect design that could use the drive. Many were fully automated, surveying the thousands of systems brought into range by FTL. Few, like Hootie Bird, were classic crew-of-two roid-rompers.

    Cooter had hired Cathy and commissioned a new vessel shortly after the discovery. He decided that he would go to the stars to look for aliens rather than scour the lunar surface to look for the alien base he believed was there. He’d spent decades with nothing to show for it, so he opted for a different search.

    “Frank?” Cathy asked, continuing to refuse to call him ‘Cooter’.

    “What?”

    “I’ll need at least thirty minutes before I can restart the reactor.”

    “Okay,” Cooter noted. “Another forty-five before the drive is ready, then.”

    “Yes, but I’ll make it twenty.”

    Cooter looked at the potential missile launches and travel times from the UTAN planet and vessel. He noted that they were safe from the planet, but some of the possible shots from the vessel were marginal. It all depended upon the fuel in the vessel’s tanks. They could make a large burn and put Hootie Bird into a missile’s flight envelope.

    Cooter nervously monitored the clock and listened. No news was good news. He waited, hoping for some more chatter from the UTAN. He wanted to know more about these Aliens the vessel had reported. Could it be true? Had they made contact?

    “Navire six, aller au silence radio,” said the radio chanel from the UTAN colony. Cooter didn’t need the translation to understand they wanted the UTAN vessel to go silent. A moment later a very large radar pulse hit Hootie Bird.

    “DAMN IT,” yelled Cooter. “Firin’ up the RCS. Hold on Cathy, we need to Burn hard.”

    “Don’t kill us.”

    “I won’t,” Cooter said, burning a significant part of their fuel. “You’ll get a bonus if you can make the twenty minutes on the reactor.”

    “I’ll do my best.”

    “That pulse came from the planet,” Cooter explained. “That burn will put us outside of any of their firing solutions. They’ll have to tell the vessel to target us – they’ll have to maneuver to shoot. I hope to engage the warp drive before that happens.”

    “You’re crazy, Frank.”

    “Obviously,” Cooter grinned, and fell silent watching the displays.

    After five minutes, silence continued on the radios. Laser communications, he thought, the tight beam would be impossible to intercept. They’d be getting instructions from the planet. Maybe ten minutes, they’d burn to get a firing solution.

    Cooter looked through the scope, pointed at the last position of the UTAN vessel. – still there. No evidence of a burn.

    The minutes ticked off…

    Cooter glanced at all the controls. No messages from either the UTAN vessel or colony. No flare of engines engaging, nor the launch of a missile.

    “Nuttin’ Cathy,” Cooter said at length. “Status on the reactor.”

    “I can finish or talk, Frank, your choice.” Cathy said.

    “Keep workin’,” Cooter said. “I get nuttin’ from them. It’s like they’re ignorin’ us.”

    “Hmmm.”

    Cooter looked again. There was no activity. “It’s just like I would do it.”

    “Do what?”

    “Make us doubt everything that had occurred.”

    “Three more minutes on that reactor.” Cathy said, “Give me time to get out of here before you fire up.”

    “Sure,” Cooter said. “They just made us believe and disbelieve the alien first contact at the same time. A true cold contact.”

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