Early parts of it felt like a sequel to Leinster's much better known "First Contact" - the story that gave name to this class of fiction. But it's a very different & unrelated story, though similar in that both consider it best to assume during first contact that any aliens out there are going to destroy humanity (& the feeling is mutual).
Story summary.Humans know there is a race of sentient space faring aliens out there; humans call them "Plumies" because of distinctive markers found on many worlds. Plumies are also aware of humans. Neither knows the home world of the other race. Both want to be first to locate the home world of the other, & exterminate the other: "It wasn't likely that the galaxy was big enough to hold two races of rational beings capable of space travel. Back on ancient Earth, a planet had been too small to hold two races with tools and fire. Historically, that problem was settled when Homo sapiens exterminated Homo Neanderthalis."
So both sides have scout ships out there looking for other's home world. This is the story of a battle between the human armed ship Niccola & an unarmed Plumies' ship "inside the Theta Gisol solar system".
Both become aware of the other. Humans attack. Plumies are too good at defense. Much action. Physical collision of the two ship that has welded them together as a single solid body - & now on a course that will make it fall into the local sun!
Truce, cooperation. Discovery that the two have different chemistry, hence technology - and are comfortable on different kinds of worlds. While the question of whether there is space only for a single race is not settled, there is understanding that may be it's possible. Both will escape unhurt after a lot of drama.
Except for a way too dramatic part near end involving Taine, the madman "weapons officer" of the human ship, I found it very an interesting story.
Fact sheet.First published: Astounding Science Fiction, August 1959.
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Related: All stories of Murray Leinster.