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short they were, and murky-eyed

by Edd Vick

They are not the telegenic aliens of popular fiction. But they have an interstellar empire. They have space travel.

The aliens came to Earth four years ago. It was an accident Hubble even picked them up at all. Their envoys contacted every President and Queen and whatever on the planet at the same time, all the way down to Lichtenstein, Monaco, and Sealand. Representatives are exchanged, the aliens sit politely through our plays, speeches, and presentations. They exchange philosophical ideas with us, and entertainments. But no science.

No secret of interstellar travel.

And then they don't go away. Their spaceships sit in orbit; no new ones appear. If they communicate with their own systems it is in some secret way. Why do they stay here and make small talk when they could show us the stars? When they could go back to those stars themselves? All of our attempts to examine their ships are rebuffed. We grow restless.

The meeting commemorating their fourth anniversary on Earth is in Lisbon this time, and since this is a celebration the human's ambassador Yelena brings her children for the first time. Humans have finally decided that the aliens are not hostile. A bit slow, them.

She enters holding the hands of her twins, Izabel and Joao. The aliens and the seven-year-olds regard each other gravely. Joao clutches his mother's skirts while Bella advances to touch fingers, greeting the alien's leader. They are the same height, which seems to appeal to all of them, even Joao who darts forward to hold hands with his sister.

The adults, snubbed, gather in their cliques and chat. Yelena backs away to watch. After a time their leader beckons her.

"Offering travel to these ones," he says. "Aring to be emissaries from your world to ours."

Joao backs to Yelena, and Izabel bites her lower lip, looking excited. She's about to get a "Can we, Mama?" out of the child.

"We have offered envoys," Yelena says.

"Too old," it says. "Aring long journey."


"Aring seventy years journey," says the alien. "Nothing aring able to going faster than light, of course."

By now a ring of humans has gathered, and a moan goes up. Someone says, "Why didn't you tell us?"

"Not wanting to disappoint you," says the leader. Another alien pipes up with, "Also, hoping you might thinking lightspeed canning be broken, and doing it."

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