Jerrod Zander sat alone with his thoughts. No companions, not even electronic displays would be allowed to interfere with this agony. After 20 generations over 2000 years and 120 parsecs, it was time to decide whether to see the journey through to its original destination or to change course. At the current rate of travel, they would cross into the planetary system’s outer borders within a few days. They would be in orbit around XOPL253 in less than 30 days.
This was to be their new home. In the worst case, it would provide an opportunity to replenish their supplies and rest from their long voyage across the vast empty expanses of the galaxy. But they had discovered that the supposedly uninhabited planet was host to at least one species of intelligent beings. Some of the data that they had collected indicated that this species was both aggressive and advanced, with highly developed space faring capabilities.
He had known about the inhabitants of their target planet when he took command of the Voyager 11. The emissions from the planet which carried information had been discovered before he was born. The scientists had figured out the keys to the transmissions while he was still very young. He had spent most of his life studying one subspecies that was particularly well represented in the data that they had gathered.
He had discussed the issue with his predecessor, Alec Sematan, when they were going though the handover of command. Commander Sematan had sent a message back toward the fleets that would be trailing them. He had alerted them that there was a very serious problem with XOPL253. But the Commander had also strongly advised his successor to postpone any decision as long as possible. He asked, “If they are such great space explorers, why haven’t we encountered them at least once over all these years?”
Ten years later nothing had changed. The terribly aggressive inhabitants of XOPL253 appeared to be travelling all over the galaxy and perhaps to other galaxies and yet Voyager 11 had not detected, let alone encountered, a single alien vessel. He was glad of that. An unarmed expeditionary craft like his would stand no chance against an armed war vessel.
They had observed one object that they tentatively identified as a galactic expeditionary vessel from XOPL253. It was either a very primitive ship or a random meteor. It certainly did not show any interest Voyager 11. Perhaps their technology was advanced but not as advanced as the data suggested.
For Jerrod Zander, Commander of the Voyager 11, the decision came down to which instinct was more powerful at the moment. The simple fact that an intelligent, populous species already occupied the planet was sufficient reason to redirect his search. But curiosity and the desire to finish the task that had taken them this far made him decide to keep going.
He issued orders to set a course to intercept the orbit of XOPL253 in 21 days and enter into a reconnaissance orbit.
Five days later, the Voyager’s crew detected a massive launch from XOPL253. The object could not be observed but its electromagnetic signature could be tracked. It was on a course to intersect with the Voyager between the fourth and fifth planets in about 5 days.
By the end of the third day, the crew of the Voyager had determined that a fleet of 20 small vehicles was approaching them in tight formation. They were travelling at a very low velocity. Their speed was estimated to be 200 KPS or 0.6 million KPH. They would be in contact in about 20 hours.
“Can we disable them?” Commander Zander asked.
“We believe so,” his First Mate responded. “They are emitting large amounts of electro-magnetic energy. We should be able to generate a pulse with enough energy to disable them.”
“Prepare our counter measures but wait until they are within range of our tractor beams,” the Commander ordered.
“You want to capture them?” The First Mate was surprised.
“We have to meet them in person eventually.”
The creature that seemed to be the leader of the captured aliens was shepherded into the room for a personal encounter with Commander Zander. The commander indicated that the creature should be placed in a seat separated from him by only 2 meters of open space.
He had been warned but he still found the experience incredible.
The creature was tiny and yet exuded tremendous energy in its hot, red, active aura. The sense of hostility was palpable. And it stunk. The odor was overpowering. The commander wondered that the creature could even function with a brain small enough to fit inside that tiny head.
A door opened to admit the First Mate. Immediately the creature’s head swiveled to front the First Mate. Then it tracked the First Mate’s progress across the room to a seat next to the Commander. The odd protuberance in the center of the creature’s head was apparently used for pointing. It seemed to help the creature locate the source of visual and aural signals.
He was struck by the features of the creature’s head. It had only four receptors. He knew from his study of them that the two on the front were for vision and the two on the sides were for sound. The prominent mouth was startling.
Commander Zander placed his right hand on his communicator to generate signals that mimicked the creature’s modes of interacting. The disembodied voice of Captain Kirk boomed, “How do I address you?”
The creature’s head moved about apparently searching for the source the sound. “Charlotte O’Hara, Lieutenant Commander, World United Astronautical Forces, 847319,” it replied in a deep throaty voice.
“Uhura?” Kirk’s voice asked.
“Chalotte O’Hara, Lieutenant Commander, World United Astronautical Forces, 847319.” The creature repeated.
O’Hara surveyed the room. One creature was a few feet away and directly in front of her. The second was just to the left. The room itself was sparsely furnished. It appeared to be an ante-room with a door to another room just behind the two creatures. The creatures themselves were seated. She guessed that they were about seven feet in height. They were bipedal and had two arms. She was certain they had only three fingers and a thumb on what appeared to be their hands. They had no face or neck as far as she could tell. Their upper body was covered in what appeared to be warts. Their complexion was grayish. The one to her right was almost black. The other one was a lighter shade. They wore uniforms. The one to the right was covered in a russet colored garment. The one to the left was covered in a dark green.
During a prolonged pause, O’Hara observed that what appeared to be warts on the side of the head of the creature to the left were extremely active. She thought that she heard a high pitched hum. They seemed to be communicating. Eventually, the Kirk’s disembodied voice boomed, “We believe that you are saying your name is ‘Charlotte O’Hara.’ Is that correct?”
O’Hara nodded but said nothing.
“This is so amazing for me,” Kirk’s voice began. “I have studied your kind most of my life using the visuals that we have harvested from signals emanating from your planet. But it did not prepare me for this. You are so strange.”
O’Hara exploded in fury. She wanted to jump across the aisle and kill the monster sitting across from her.
“I’m strange?” She shouted. “Have you looked in a mirror lately?”
Then she realized how ridiculous that was and giggled. The whole situation was absurd. She suddenly felt calm.
“How do you do that?” Kirk’s voice asked.
“Do what?” The O’Hara demanded.
“Make those sounds. How do you generate those sounds?”
“I don’t know. It just happens,” she replied. “How are you talking to me?”
The creature across from her lifted its right hand and rotated it as if examining it. It placed its hand back on the communicator. “I don’t know. It just happens,” Kirk’s voice replied.
O’Hara noticed the creatures communicating again.
Then Captain Janeway’s disembodied voice said, “I am Ayees Jyada, First Mate of the Voyager 11. I wish to welcome you aboard, Charlotte O’Hara, Lieutenant Commander, World United Astronautical Forces.”
“Where I come from, actions speak louder than words.” O’Hara replied. “You attack us in open space and take us hostage. Then your ‘welcome’ me. What is going on?”
“We could not take a chance,” Janeway’s voice said. “Your actions appeared hostile and we could not risk an attack so we disabled your ships.”
“We are protecting our home,” O’Hara replied. “If we are going to die, we will go down fighting.”
“I do not believe that you are going to die,” Kirk’s voice said.
“You attacked us in open space!” O’Hara shot back.
“Yes. We are in open space, I suppose,” Janeway’s voice replied. “But you and your crew are safe aboard the Voyager 11. Your vessels have been recovered and are being examined.”
“We are hostages,” O’Hara insisted. “Now you are trying to steal our technology.”
“I sat in your vessel,” Janeway’s voice replied. “I admire your courage. I would not have wanted to undertake such a mission in that piece of crap.”
‘Piece of crap’ ? O’Hara was too stunned to reply.
“You were brought on board and you are being held to ensure your safety,” Janeway’s disembodied voice continued.
“You have come a long way to reach our planet,” O’Hara said. “What are your plans?”
“We detected your planet at a very great distance and determined that there was a good probability that we would be able to settle there. When we started out, we believed that we were alone in the Universe. Only after many generations, did we discover that your planet was inhabited.”
“So now what?” O’Hara challenged.
“I have sent signals back indicating that your planet is not suitable,” Kirk’s voice replied. “We plan to return you and your crew safely to your planet and begin examining another planet.”
“What make you so sure that the next group will pass us by?”
“I told them that we are fleeing a dying, overpopulated planet. We do not wish to try to make our home on another dying, overpopulated planet.”
“The good news and the bad news,” O’Hara said.
“I must terminate this meeting now,“ Kirk’s voice said. “Charlotte O’Hara, some of your crew seem to be quite combative. Please assure them that with their cooperation, we will get them home safely as soon as possible.”
“Yes, sir,” she replied and rose to be escorted back to her crew.
That is the story as Commander O’Hara told it to me. I met her on a very cold morning in January of 1979. I was on my way to Goddard to monitor the recently launched Seasat satellite. I was on the graveyard shift from midnight to eight in the morning.
I was near the Goddard main gate when I spotted someone wandering in the middle of Route 193. The person turned out to be Commander O’Hara.
“Buzz off!” She snapped when I approached her.
“Ma’am, the temperature is in the teens. You are standing in the middle of a very dangerous highway. You need to get to some shelter. Why don’t you let me get you some help?”
She looked around as if taking stock of her situation for the first time.
“Look, the Goddard main gate is about a mile down the road,” I said. “I can take you there, if you would like.”
“Okay. That would be a big help,” she said.
My car had a Goddard sticker and I had a badge to get me through the gate. Her situation was dicey. Somehow she convinced them to let me drive her to Building 14. The Seasat operations center was on the second floor. Her destination was in the basement.
The Seassat mission came to an abrupt end that morning. Telemetry showed us the battery levels going to zero in a matter of minutes. Later investigation would determine that a short to ground had developed after launch.
I was on my way back to my car as the sun came up. At the front door of Building 14, I met my mysterious passenger on her way out. Commander O’Hara was an older woman. I would put her in her forties but still very attractive. She was a few inches shorter than me – about five foot six or seven. She had red hair, engaging green eyes and creamy skin with freckles. She was wearing what appeared to be a uniform with blue trousers and a waistcoat. There was a NASA emblem on her right breast and an emblem on her right shoulder that showed a rocket with the letters “W.U.A.F.” She introduced herself as Charlotte O’Hara.
She explained in here throaty voice that her mission was supposed to be in and out. Land in the morning. Return in the afternoon. A glitch had put her down at the wrong place and time. She was stranded.
The people she talked to at Goddard had taken hours to figure out what was going on. Then they had concluded that it would take a day or two to straighten the situation out. In the meantime, she had no official status with NASA and she had no money or contacts.
I got my wife to agree to put her up overnight.
She was tight lipped about her mission and what could have gone wrong. During the evening, O’Hara loosened up a bit when a show on UFO’s came on TV. She told us about her encounter with aliens aboard the Voyager 11. She said that she had been granted access to their history and technological files. She also had several extended meetings with the commander and his first mate.
When pressed, she finally told us that she was part of an experimental teleportation program that would allow humans to travel virtually anywhere in the universe.
That night, she had an extended telephone conversation with a ‘contact’. She explained that she had to report to Goddard by 0700 in the morning.
I drove her in and dropped her at the entrance to Building 14 before going to my office in the Calvert Business Park a few miles away. As we parted company, she told me that the situation was under control and thanked my wife and me for our help.
I never heard from her again. I have never been able to verify the existence of a teleportation program. As a matter of fact, only recently, thirty five years after her visit, have I seen any reports of very preliminary experiments with teleportation.
There are no witnesses and there is no evidence to corroborate my story. My wife died six years to the day after we entertained Commander O’Hara. But I have told the whole truth to the best of my ability.