Perchance to Dream by Ness Ayton
An early story attempt and tied strongly to the UK where I live; also a little short on plot for which I apologise but I was practising my art – well that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!
There was a lovely starry sky as I took my evening perambulation by the allotments near the River Lea (that's North London for those of you not fortunate to live in the capital!) I was marvelling at the clarity of Orion and pondering on how to extricate Han Solo from the latest fiendish predicament into which I had placed him (in a story, of course, what did you think I meant?) when I was startled by a cough followed by a high pitched whine overhead.
Looking up I was surprised to see two small 'planes, or what I thought were 'planes, trying to crash-land, as I supposed, in the middle of all the cabbages, carrots and artichokes. I lingered to watch this curious manoeuvre, ready to run for help should it be needed. As soon as they were down, baking a few potatoes in the process, I realised that they were like no military 'plane or light aircraft I knew. For a start they had three wings and I was just able to make out that they were light in colour with a dark stripe running down the side.
Full of curiosity I scrambled through a hole in the allotment fencing and pottered across the parsnips to the two "'planes". Just as I reached them a canopy opened on each one and the occupants emerged. Immediately I thought of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and wondered vaguely what my aliens would be like. I was in for a great disappointment – my "aliens" were in fact human or humanoid. Both wore an Egyptian-style helmet and were examining the "'planes" – for damage, I thought, supposing them now to be Russians who'd had to land here unexpectedly.
"Hi!" I greeted them nonchalantly, not thinking I would be understood.
Well those Russians nearly jumped out of their flying suits. They whipped off their helmets and glared at me. I smiled back, calmly making notes of their appearance. One blond – very Russian; one dark – very handsome. I ran my hand along the side of one of the "'planes".
"Nice plane," I commented.
"Viper," the dark one said.
"They're called Vipers," Blondie explained.
"Oh!" There wasn't much else I could say under the circumstances except, "Can I help you?"
Blondie looked at me as if to say "you help me?" Darkie said gave me an odd little smile.
"I don't really think so," he said, but then I interrupted him.
"Hey, don't I know you two from somewhere?"
Consternation crossed their faces.
"I don't think so," Darkie said cautiously.
"I've got it! I've seen you on TV!" I cried.
"You have? I mean, you have," Darkie agreed.
"Yes, Apollo and Starbuck from the Battlestar Galactica – the Sci Fi series of that name. Cor just wait 'til Hilary – she's the president of the Battlestar Galactica fanclub – hears about this. She'll be absolutely green!"
A strange look of panic crossed the faces of the two men as I burbled embarrassingly on (well, after all, one doesn't meet one's heroes every day). At last I ran out of steam.
"How'd you know who we are?" Apollo asked.
"Like I told you, I've seen you on TV."
"I think we'd better tell you the truth," the captain continued. "You see we really are Apollo and Starbuck and the Galactica is in orbit out there, awaiting our return. It's not just some story; it's real."
"Oh pull the other one it's get bells on!" I replied; after all I know I was half crazy over meeting my heroes but not crazy enough to believe that story!"
Apollo gave a shrug of resignation.
"Well we tried."
"Look can I help you?" I asked again, not wanting to leave them in the allotments. "What's wrong?"
"We're lost," Starbuck replied with a small smile. Small, perhaps, but no Russian could have smiled like that I decided.
"You'd better come home with me," I decided. "Perhaps we can un-lose you."
The two shrugged and followed me across the allotments and along the road.
I burst into our living room.
"Mum, I've brought Apollo and Starbuck from the Galactica home for something to eat and some help."
"Yes dear, that's very nice."
Good old mum, I don't think she'd bat an eyelid if I brought an elephant home for tea!
We settled down to tea and hot buttered toast. My guests looked slightly askance at what we offered them but, after tasting, it seemed to relax and they were positively enthusiastic over the fruit cake. Poor things, I decided, Glen Larsen must be starving them. After we'd eaten I dragged the AA Book of the Road out from under a pile of maps.
"Now, where do you want to go?" I asked, licking my buttery fingers. Apollo and Starbuck looked at each other. Was it my imagination or did they look worried?
"I don't really think you'll be able to help," Apollo said.
"You'll never know unless you ask. I can get you anywhere in Britain with this." I patted the map book. "Of course we'll have problems if you want to go somewhere in America." I smiled at them then a thought crossed my mind.
"What are you doing in Britain anyway?"
"Like we told you – lost," Starbuck replied.
I shrugged and pushed the matter to the back of my mind.
"Where?" I demanded.
"It begins with B…… B….. Do you know the name escapes me for the moment," Apollo answered with a puzzled frown.
"Birmingham?" I suggested brightly. He shook his head.
"I don't think so."
"Bournemouth? Brighton? Bognor?"" All brought a negative response. Ever played "Twenty Questions"? Well, this was worse and terribly frustrating. At last I threw the book down with a disgusted "frak" causing them to raise their eyebrows. "Unless it's Betelgeuse you want," I said with a laugh. Then I choked as I caught the expression on their faces. "Oh no, you can not be serious!" I gasped.
"But we are. That's where we want to go. Do you know where it is?" Apollo asked eagerly.
"Of course I know. Come outside and I'll show you."
Luckily the stars were still bright and they soon picked out Orion.
"It's the star at the top left hand corner," I said, very unscientifically. "Why do you want to go there anyway?"
"We've got to go there to check the co-ordinates we're travelling along," Starbuck explained.
"I see," I said. Why I didn't ask what their final destination was I don't know. "I suppose you'll want to get back to your vipers now."
"I'll drive you there. I'm not walking again," I said determinedly.
I got the car out of the garage and drove them back to where we had left the vipers. They quickly checked their craft as I turned and scanned the stars. Suddenly, across the face of the moon, glided a dark shadow and my heart missed a beat. Was the Galactica really out there?
I turned back to my two guests just in time to see them scramble into the viper's cockpits. They both called their thanks and waved cheerily as the canopies closed and then, with a deafening roar, they were off soaring across the sky and I was left wondering had it all been a dream? Or had I just blown mankind's first encounter with intelligent life from the stars?