This is a small part of a story I’ve been working on sporadically for a good while. It isn’t a first contact story, this part is really only ‘backstory’, but it stands alone as a vignette. If it ever gets finished and makes it to publication, I’ll be sure to let you know!
Humanity’s first contact with any alien species took place dangerously near Earth volume. Earth ship Purple Haze was conducting a preliminary survey of a newly identified planetary system. Remote sensing had suggested there was at least one planet in the ‘Goldilocks zone’. There was therefore the possibility of liquid water.
It is hard to know who was more surprised when another ship appeared from the other side of the planet. The more paranoid crew members wanted to take out the alien ship immediately, but fortunately they were outvoted. Fortunate for the human ship, that is—the B’Gunidans were seasoned warriors. Their whole culture was based on personal conflict as a way of resolving any issue. Normally this was as ritualistic as establishing the alpha male in a pride of lions, but their reflexes were still an order of magnitude faster than humans, and they were primed and ready for action within milliseconds of detecting the human ship.
The two ships probed each other warily for three days without any attempt to make formal contact. Neither could break off and run because neither knew how powerful the other was or if it was armed. Eventually the B’Gunidans broke the deadlock by sending out two members of crew, towing a selection of artefacts enclosed in transparent webbing. They left the bundle dead in space opposite the human ship and waited. Fortunately the human captain recognised this as a proposed trade and not an attack. He reciprocated with a similar bundle, surrendered by an unwilling crew.
Quite what the B’Gunidans made of a music player containing equal proportions of Bach and Jimi Hendrix or a soft-porn tactile of the latest nubile singer to hit the webcharts, was never clear. But then some of the B’Gunidan artefacts were equally obscure and were only identified when formal relationships were finally established 200 years later.
Further problems arose when it was realised that the two B’Gunidans expected to come aboard the human ship. If the crew had been unwilling to surrender their ‘recreational’ items they were even unhappier about a potential suicide swap. The captain was equally unhappy about letting the B’Gunidans have any genetic or technical information. He was less bothered about losing crew since the bonus for this contact was going to be enormous—if they ever got away. Eventually two low order technicians agreed to go, in exchange for a vastly enhanced bonus for their families on Earth. The exchanged members of crew from both ships knew it was probably the last time they would see their own kind again.
The exchange was duly made and as the two ships backed away each detected suspicious energy discharges from the other. Nerves already taut beyond endurance they opened fire simultaneously, luckily causing little damage but giving time for them to turn and run.
It was another fifty years before the next contact was made, in even more surprising circumstances.