The Halleys lived on a small farm in Eureka, USA. Emily Halley was an accountant and worked in the state's largest metropolitan area. She woke up before the sun each morning in order to make her commute. George Halley wasn't asleep for much longer, as he ran the farm and spent almost every daylight hour out in the fields, tending to the crops.
Jeffrey Halley was eight and he liked space. Jeffrey also had a hyperactive imagination and very few close friends to spend time with. He liked to play pretend, and he was good at it. Sometimes it felt like he had spent days away from the farm when his mother would call him in for dinner and the spell would be broken. Sometimes he could hardly remember what was real and what was something conjured up in his day dreams.
Tonight, there was something different. A bright star, right in the middle of the Little Dipper's pan. Jeffrey made a note of this on his map and decided that he would keep track of the new star's progress. How exciting! It could be visitors from another planet, or a return rocket with some of the Federation's highest brass, even a meteor—with unknown elements that he could be the first to discover.
His door slowly opened. It was his mother.
“Remember the talk that we had about staying up past your bedtime? I know that you don't have school tomorrow, but you're already up an hour past what we agreed on. This is a warning. Next time I'll have to take your telescope.”
Jeffrey retracted his prized possession back inside the room, and promptly slid his pajama-clad body into bed, drawing the covers up to his chin.
“Thank you,” his mother whispered, as she kissed him on the forehead, “Goodnight”.
“Goodnight mom” he whispered back.
He had a hard time falling asleep, even with his telescope put away. He was too excited about the new star.
Today he would be flying deep into uncharted space. He had to be extra careful and prepared for anything; nebula dragons, or alien pirates, he could even get sucked into a multi-dimensional hole if he wasn't careful. Spaceship captain Jeffrey adjusted his helmet and blasted off the farm into the unknown.
Everything was going according to plan when suddenly red lights flashed and an automated “Warning! Warning! Warning!” rang out from the ship's computer. Jeffrey checked his scanners—it was an atomic meteor storm! He had to land. And soon.
Up ahead he saw a green and brown planet—it would be his best chance for survival. But he was going too fast! An emergency crash landing was his only option. He squeezed tightly on the brakes of his ship, the point of impact was getting closer and closer.
One hundred miles.
In a plume of dust and sediment, Jeffrey's craft was abruptly acquainted with the surface of the alien planet. Jeffrey stepped out of the ship and looked around.
He was completely surrounded by some sort of alien race. They were tall and thin, with oblong heads and multiple undulating appendages that oscillated gently in the breeze. There was no clear leader among their ranks—and they were in ranks. Row upon row they stood, in perfectly straight lines, each rank equally spaced, without a single member breaking file.
“Hello!” said Jeffrey, “I come in peace.”
The aliens hissed and rattled at him in some language that he could not understand. Swaying in unison, they did not seem rather dangerous, but were still unwelcoming.
Jeffrey decided to take his chances, and pushed forward through the first line of creatures. There was no response. Now through the second line. Still no action to impede his progress from the multitude. They now began to hiss again, but did not take any action against the stranded pilot.
“How strange” thought Jeffrey. “That they spent all that time lining up like that, but don't mind me moving between them.” It seemed to him that the ocean of creatures spread out all the way to the horizon—and with no distinguishable marker other than his own ship—he decided to move away from the crash site along the channels naturally created by the alien’s single file lines.
He was in no particular hurry, but he was curious about this new planet. Where did all of these creatures live? Who was their ruler? And why were they so insistent on lining up the way they did? Periodically he would let out a cry of “Hello” over their ranks just to see if he could get an answer.
The sun was much lower in the sky now and he began to feel discouraged. Perhaps it would have been better to take his chances back with the meteor storm. There was nothing to find here but row upon row of the same green creatures.
“Hello!” ventured Jeffrey.
“Hello,” something returned.
Jeffrey stopped. He had played make believe many times before, and met many strange and wonderful beings, but never once had they said anything back to him. At least not in a way which he could understand. He looked around for the source of the cool, measured voice.
Off to his right there was a clearing, where a large group of the green creatures had been knocked down, bowed back, and scattered and at the far end there was a ship and something moving around next to it.
“What are you doing here?” exclaimed Jeffrey.
“I'm lost” lamented the thing. “I crashed here and my ship is too damaged for me to continue.”
“I crashed too” giggled Jeffrey.
“Oh?” inquired the thing.
“Yes, just over there,” he pointed off in the direction he had come.
“Do you think you could boost my ship back into hyperspace?”
Too embarrassed to mention that his own ship was incapable of such a feat, Jeffrey shook his head no.
The thing looked up at the clear blue sky, “What is the name of this planet?”
“Earth? I am not familiar with that name. I don't know where that is. I'm hopelessly lost” the thing droned.
Jeffrey though back to what he knew about the solar system, looking for any information which could help the stranded pilot.
“Our solar system is in the Milky Way Galaxy, I could show you a map if you'd like!”
“Oh yes that would be wonderful” said the thing, but its brief moment of hope was dashed by the realization that the ship had no power and it returned to moping around and looking forlornly up into the sky.
At a loss for words Jeffrey just stood and watched the thing.
"Jeffrey! Come in, it's time for dinner!”
He quickly stammered out “I-I'll be back tomorrow” and ran off in the direction of his mother's voice.
That night Jeffrey went to sleep happy. He had made a new friend.