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Dial M for Martians

Tina Connolly's books include the Ironskin trilogy (Tor), the Seriously Wicked series (Tor Teen), and the collection On the Eyeball Floor (Fairwood Press). Her books have been finalists for the Nebula, Norton, and World Fantasy awards. She co-hosts Escape Pod, runs the flash fiction podcast Toasted Cake, and is at tinaconnolly.com.

"It's the perfect crime," said the little green man. "You need a million galactic credit units to pay off your gambling debts. And I need to be rid of my third horizontal living companion. You know what they say about those." The little green man waggled his antennae and nudged Spacetrader Dan in the ribs. "Take my third horizontal living companion. Take him... please!"
"I don't know," Dan said dubiously. He had been on his second cocktail when the little green man invited him into his unmarked ship with the promise of more cocktails and a business proposition. Dan knew little about the newly-discovered aliens, but he liked business propositions, especially when they came with paper umbrellas. "How did you know I need a million GCUs?"
"I have my sources," said the little green man, tapping the side of what passed for a nose. "In this case, sources at the racetrack, who've seen you bet increasingly frantic sums of money on the galactic spacewhales."
"Beach Blanket Baleen was supposed to be a surefire winner," grumbled Dan.
"It's a matter of a few seconds," said the little green man. "A quick knotting of the delicate antennae"--and he motioned to his own--"close up the escape pod, and there you have it. Him, a hapless refugee fleeing an interdicted planet. You, the kindly salvager who has picked up the pod and found the inhabitant unfortunately deceased. And now you have a perfect specimen to sell on the black market for one million GCUs."
"I never use the black market," Spacetrader Dan said haughtily. Anyway, specimens were going for two million GCUs, but he didn't think that fact worthy of mention. Ever since the little green planet was discovered--and immediately quarantined--speculation had been high and so had the prices. He hadn't had much luck with the spacewhales, but now, meeting this real, live planetary citizen in person--surely his luck had turned.
"I'll help you with your quest," said Dan. "Out of the goodness of my heart."
Since neither the little green man nor his companion nor anything else was supposed to be out of their solar system, the escape pod was smuggled into Dan's ship inside a much larger container. Dan briefly thought about trying to capture the little green man as well--if one specimen was worth two million, surely two specimens--well, even Dan could do that math. But the unmarked ship slipped away before Dan could decide to activate the collection scoop.
Dan shrugged. It was just as well, he thought, as he uncrated the pod. No need to get greedy.
The little green companion lay sleeping in the escape pod, all soft and round and quiet. Dan felt a bit of a pang, but he also remembered the look in his creditor's eye when she described the various pieces she would disassemble Dan into if the GCUs were not forthcoming. A quick knot and it was indeed done. Dan closed the hatch and went back to googling island planet real estate. Somewhere with lots of rummy umbrella drinks and no creditors in sight.
Dan awoke to a soft green glow. He sat up too fast and banged his head on the bulkhead. Every last bit of the surface of his ship was covered with small green flecks, like tiny glowing grubs. He blinked several times, but the illusion did not disappear. The little green companion stood in his doorway, his antennae now unknotted.
"But you were dead," Dan said, apparently inaccurately. "The other one of you told me how--"
"Told you how to tell my hibernating self it had reached a safe place for spawning," the alien finished for him. "Yes, it was very kind of you. We've been trying to expand off-planet but the Space Federation has made that so terribly difficult."
"The quarantine," said Dan flatly. He was not the brightest at 2 a.m., but all the same it was occurring to him that he might have been played.
"The very same!" the alien said brightly.
"Ugh," said Dan. His dreams of cocktails with umbrellas were dissolving. Although... maybe the black market would be just as interested in a bunch of glowing grubs.... "So... is there somewhere in the universe I can take you?"
The alien moved closer to Dan's bunk. "Your ship will indeed take us somewhere," he said kindly. "I'm just afraid you won't be with us when we get there." The little green grubs lifted from the walls and swirled around Dan. "After all, newborns are very, very hungry."
The End
This story was first published on Monday, April 29th, 2019

Author Comments

I went to a local production of Dial M for Murder with my friends, Jenn and Chris. Afterwards we started riffing on the title and someone--Jenn, I think--said I should write a story called "Dial M for Martians." I knew I wanted to parody the elements of a perfect murder gone wrong, and justice eventually being served. But, you know. With little green men and galactic spacewhales.

- Tina Connolly
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