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Just Deserts

Gordon Pinckheard lives in County Kerry, Ireland. Retired from a working life spent writing computer programs and technical documents, now freed of constraints and encouraged by Thursday Night Writers (Tralee), he can write anything he likes to entertain himself and--hopefully--others.

His stories have been previously published by Daily Science Fiction, Reflex Fiction, Cabinet of Heed, Story Pub, and Gemini.

The scientists had anticipated that it would be difficult to communicate with aliens, but they were prepared. This was their first, and achieving communication, although difficult, was ultimately straightforward, though time-consuming. They had connected the Alien up to their best technology and led it through volumes of audio and video at high speed. Drugs kept it alert. Now it could converse, and they were proud of what they had achieved.
Its craft had drifted across England, and--before it reached the sea--landed in a field outside Liverpool. It had promptly been cordoned off by the police and Army. The scientists arrived in time to prevent the Alien from being harmed by trigger happy troops and escorted it to a reception area set up in a nearby prison. The Alien's body bore the marks of the tumultuous entry into Earth's atmosphere; portions of its surface skin were torn away, its limbs severely damaged. It was secured in a cell, doctors did what they could for its wounds, and it was connected to the teach-to-talk devices.
An interrogator debriefed the Alien in an interview room, his colleagues watching through the one-way mirror and video links.
"Where are you from?"
The Alien replied: "We call our planet Home, I do not know what you call it."
"Okay, we'll bring in some astronomers later. We'll work it out together. How long were you traveling?"
"A very long time. If I had stayed awake, it would have been most of my existence. But I slept a lot of the time. I awoke before the landing."
"So you hibernate? Okay. Why did you land on Earth? This planet?"
"I did not choose the destination."
"You weren't kept informed by your management team? Surprising. Nonetheless, you have traveled between planets, between solar systems! We have so much to learn from you. We too want to explore beyond our star as you have done."
"Why do you want to leave your planet? What do you seek? Can you hibernate? The journey is very boring."
"The Universe is fascinating, extraordinary; dark matter, dark energy, black holes. So much to understand. Will you teach us?"
"I am sorry, I do not know what you are talking about. My people took little interest in the sky and its contents. The surface of Home satisfied us; living in harmony with all life on the planet. Until it was destroyed."
"What do you mean 'destroyed'?"
"Creatures landed on our planet and ate it. Few of my species are left. These creatures are filling the Universe. They built the space vehicle and crewed it."
"But there were no other beings on your craft when we entered it."
"They left shortly before the landing. They are now occupying your planet. While you held me here and taught me your speech, they will have multiplied, and spread."
"But why were you on board if you are not part of the crew?"
"The creatures are weak when they wake from their hibernation. They need to regain their strength before taking over a planet. I am food." The Alien regarded its interrogator; "As are you."
The End
This story was first published on Monday, June 29th, 2020

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- Gordon Pinckheard
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