art by Jason Stirret
by Cat Rambo
When Bjorn and his fellows were selected to supply context for the alien overlords who kept insisting they were just there for the Earth's own protection, he'd expected something different. Warriors in exo-skeletons, four limbs with a laser in each, maybe machine intelligences with scalpel-like fingers.
Instead, he found, they were soft.
Soft, this race. They called themselves something that Bjorn's wonky translator insisted on rendering as "Gitchee Gummee." Their ambassador Felfur, green fronds ferning from its triangular forehead, eager-to-please, puppy eyes, smelling of ozone and wet soil, was just as soft.
Soft. They cared what others thought, even if they phrased it differently, as genuine concern for well-being.
A weakness in Bjorn's book.
But it was why he was here. To help the Gitchee Gummee understand the messages pouring in. Every crank, every kook, every person with a cause, eager to tell the aliens how they should guide the world.
It was worth it though. Tech for clean energy, cheap transportation. Medical science at an unheard level of sophistication. Now he and Felfur stood in a conference room that smelled of iron and burnt plastic, watching the wall screen's video. He sipped his coffee.
On screen, a vervet monkey, dark face framed with white fur, spasmed and stiffened. A jerky and erratic dance. Its arm uncurled.