4 Views of a Successful Landing
© 2000 Melissa K. Michael
4 Views of a Successful
VIEW THE FIRST
“Four more shoes and we can both eat supper,"
Smith said to
the Head Horseman of King Hiram's cavalry awaiting his horseshoes,
while pulling the next iron to be shaped out of the fire. As usual,
he was covered in soot from his dark woolly head to his bare feet.
The horseman grunted over the rhythmic hammering from where he sat
near the smithy, out of the line of direct heat. It was a warm summer
day. Weary of watching the sweat-soaked, sooty smith toil on shoes
due yesterday, he glanced about at ripened fields. Pine Valley had
a lot of rain early this summer, then none for weeks. Excellent
for the hay he saw acres of across the way. Farther on, a pair of
miles or more, he could see the ramparts and towers of King Hiram's
castle where he tended the horses. Hiram was a fair king the horseman
supposed, but it seemed as too much of the taxes went for parties
and extravagant living instead of upkeep of the road and destitute
widows, salaries for horsemen and such, as it should.
An odd roaring whoosh of wind sounded in the sky from that direction.
The horseman squinted and made out a tiny speck floating down from
the very sky. Slowly it grew as did the roaring noise. It became
a silver coin, then big as a barn, soon it was nigh big as the castle
when it landed. The roaring stopped as suddenly as it had begun.
"Damn King and his damn toys," the horseman grumbled.
He hawked up a great oyster and spat in the ashy dust surrounding
"Three more and we can both eat supper,"
VIEW THE SECOND
"What in the world?" King Hiram asked
as he left his seat and slowly stepped with awe toward the window
in his private day chamber in the eastern tower.
"My word!" exclaimed Chief Advisor Viro following his
king and adjusting his monocle under a great bushy grey brow.
They watched the silver vessel land in silent astonishment. As it
neared the earth, all about it, hay burst into flames, which suddenly
roared several feet into the air and spread rapidly out from the
"Get the wizards," the King whispered, unable to pull
his eyes from the eerily threatening spectacle. "That's the
whole winter's feed for the cows and horses." Then with a snap,
he wrenched his gaze away and strode from the room shouting, "Call
the High Wizard! Drat you Apanuga, where
are you when I need you? Get that fire out, now! Find out who they
are! Call the First Cavalry! Call up ten of my guard! Prepare my
VIEW THE THIRD
"Tandy, you must come see this!" Raquel
called from the roof of the School of Wizardry via her farspeech
crystal. She'd been taking the sun on her face and arms and enjoying
a cool drink while observing the magical power sources of Pine Valley.
With a snap of exploding air, Tandy appeared beside her, smartly
clad as always in tight black pants and loose, billowing, lace-up
"Isn't it exciting?" she giggled merrily. "I wonder
whose it is. What a grand spectacle for the Invention Seminar."
Tandy frowned in answer, his eyes never leaving the strange apparatus
as it roared down and set the hay field afire.
"Gods have mercy!" he cried, whipping out his own farspeech
crystal. "Vigilus! Get up to the roof immediately, we've an
emergency only you can handle! Everyone! To the roof!"
Pop! Pop! Pop! Wizards began appearing all over the flat roof in
various states of dress, from formal teaching robes to very informal
Vigilus took one look and spat into his hands. Shouting a spell
with great fervor, he cast his spittle in the direction of the flames,
near a mile away. Immediately a hard downpour inundated the area,
snuffing the flames instantly. There arose a great cheer and no
one could refrain from clapping Vigilus on the back.
"Hold!" Tandy raised an arm for attention which he quickly
received. "I've a message from High Wizard, Apanuga. King Hiram
wants to know the nature of this monstrosity as quickly as possible
and he wants us to assemble to meet it with him.
"Bushaya, you're the best at sensing what lies hidden. What
is the nature of this loud fiery beast suddenly gone silent?"
Bushaya closed his eyes and one hand of its own accord
curled against his mouth. Presently he again opened his eyes. "Itself
is nothing but a machine. But I perceive beings inside." He
seemed bewildered by the phenomena.
"Raquel, will you image its inhabitants for us?"
"I'll certainly try," she said with a confident smile.
She flicked her long red hair over her shoulders and pulled out
her imaging glass from her robe. She breathed on it and concentrated
on the silvery machine while casting the imaging spell. Tandy and
others looked over her shoulders at the scene it displayed.
"What odd skin. Are they naked savages then?"
"Don't be silly. That's only their clothes."
"But what are they saying? I've never heard such strange sounds."
"Dega? Has anyone seen Dega?" Tandy called glancing around.
"Probably in the barn conversing with the beasts," someone
muttered from Raquel's direction
"Summon him, Raquel. We need his language skills. Let us go
meet with our King."
VIEW THE FOURTH
"Beautiful! Just beautiful!" Captain
Norton said from his command chair aboard the Challenger.
"The landing or the landscape?" Chief Pilot Woodrow asked
from his couch as he disconnected the navcomp leads from his skull.
"Both of course. And what luck with that sudden rainburst.
Had no idea grass would flame up like that."
"What have we got on the sensors?" the Captain asked Chief
Science Officer Sheffield.
"Paradise!" he answered happily. "Looks like this
time the exploratory probe was right. Standard gravity and atmosphere.
Like a splendid summer day outside. Anyone for a stroll?"
"I'm up!" Chief of Security Martel called, cheerfully
brandishing his plasma pistol.
"Hold that thought," Sheffield called. "We've got
aliens approaching. Great Gods, there's hundreds of them."
"Prepare first contact protocol." the Captain intoned
"The flinking probes managed to miss this," Sheffield
"Alien contact party, prepare to disembark. Let's go. How long
is it going to take to establish language?"
"That depends, sir," Sheffield said. "Look!"
He switched his monitor to repeat on the main screen. "They've
got horses. And look at that one with the crown!"
"Must be their local authority."
"Yeah. We're getting a royal reception. Maybe they'll have
a red carpet, too."
Challenger's landing party broke their airlock and descended to
meet the arriving indigs.
A wizened, old, hunchback in a dung-smelling robe came
forward. "Kneel in the presence of King Hiram of Pine Valley!"
he said in clear Intergalactic Standard.
Captain Norton and Officer Sheffield shot each other looks of astonishment.
The King, on a champing, snorting black warhorse came close, flanked
by ten fierce-looking brutes on equally imposing horses.
"Uh-uh," Sheffield stuttered. "We come in peace."
The old hunchback spoke with the King who shouted angrily in answer.
The hunchback translated. "Peace, you say! You come in peace
by setting fire to my fields? By wantonly destroying the herd feed
for the entire winter? Kneel before your sovereign! Then hear his
judgment upon you!" This last was punctuated by the rustle
of twenty arrows fitting to twenty bowstrings which were aimed squarely
at the landing party.
"Uh, Martel, any suggestions?" the Captain asked his Chief
"They didn't cover this in demolition school. I could take
out a few, but not all of them. And it wouldn't make a very good
impression of peaceful intentions in any case."
"True. Well," he moved his head to address the entire
party, "what's wrong with a little humility?" He knelt
as did the others.
The arrows were lowered.
After rising, he addressed the King. "We burned your fields
through an unfortunate error. We have come in peace and wish to
coexist with your people and perhaps set up trade."
Through the smelly translator, the King answered, "That is
well and good, but first you must make recompense for the damage.
I declare you my serfs for seven years!"
"Martel. Shoot at a tree. We'll run back to the ship,"
the Captain said as troops advanced. The translator spoke as Martel
followed orders and blasted a huge 80-year-old pine with a bolt
from his plasma pistol. This delayed the guards who sought to capture
the party so that they
made the airlock and dogged it shut.
"Whew! That was close. Let's lift off and land somewhere else,"
the Captain said, panting.
"Yeah, away from hay fields," Sheffield snarled looking
"Yeah, away from indigs," Martel agreed heartily.
"Stations everybody! Strap in. Woodrow, lift-off at your discretion."
"Aye aye, sir," the Chief Pilot replied and plugged in
his skull leads. "Sir! No engine response!"
"Now hear this, heinous dacoits!" a voice boomed from
nowhere. The view on main screen went white then cleared to show
the King surrounded by his guard and an oddly dressed assortment
"My wizards have control of your vessel and have thus
thwarted your attempted escape from justice. Now, you may choose:
work off your sentence as I have already offered, or rot in the
cell of your own making." With that, the Challenger's bridge
was plunged into darkness.
"Life support's been cut off," Sheffield's voice called
through the ominous dark.
"Backup?" Norton called wearily.
"No response. I don't know how they did it. But it's done."
"The charge on my pistol is depleted. We've no armament whatsoever,"
Martel sang out nervously.
"Uh, gentlemen," Sheffield said. "I'm not sure without
checking, but I think we're about to deplete our oxygen since it
isn't circulating at all."
"Let's see if the airlock opens," Captain Norton suggested.
"Never thought I'd become a prisoner of war over a burnt field,"
Martel muttered sadly.
"Thus endeth my first exploratory command," Norton whispered
as he stepped out into bright sunlight.
of page ^