Rolfant Andrelex, leader of the largest city on Kalura 3, was startled out of a deep reverie by his office intercom. His assistant’s hoarse whisper delivered the news he’d been dreading all morning.
“The humans are here,” said his assistant.
Andrelex let out a deep sigh, pushed his swivel chair back with two spindly legs and hurried to the entry portal of his elegant office. With long-practiced dramatic flair, he pushed its sliding double doors open with both four-fingered hands — even though the doors were fully automated. But not, that is, before pasting a smile on his broad, reptilian face. Even though a smile required painful contortions of his facial muscles, he decided it was worth it. As far as he could tell, smiling was the only way to put the perpetually anxious humans at ease.
“Commander Jenkins,” he said through clenched teeth. “How nice to see you and the lovely Lieutenant Latimer. Please come in. You’re in luck. I’ve just brewed a fresh pot of Delvartrian tea.”
The human soldiers, wearing pressurized encounter suits, strutted in and plopped down, uninvited, on a low-slung couch across from Andrelex’ cluttered desk. Jenkins, a stocky, muscular man with a salt-and-pepper beard, looked as if he’d paid a cosmetic surgeon to sculpt his mouth into a permanent scowl. Latimer, on the other hand, tall and slender, moved with the grace of a dancer.
“Save the oozing for the campaign trail, Andrelex,” said the Commander. “You know why we’re here.”
The Kalurean settled himself behind his desk and stared the human down.
“No, I do not,” he said. “Though I presume your visit involves the starship that materialized in my city’s largest park. I have no idea what you expect me to do about it. Your appointment should be with Delana Joletry, head of our continental government.”
“Proconsul Joletry passed the buck to you,” said Jenkins. “I swear, you reptilians are the biggest cowards I’ve ever seen.”
Andrelex opened a drawer in his desk and flipped a toggle switch on the small control panel embedded there. A large view screen slid down from the ceiling and came to rest about six inches to his left. At the flip of a second switch, the screen lit up with the image of an immense space-faring vessel, nestled uncomfortably between two stands of tall trees.
“Here it is, Commander,” he said. “The mysterious and completely sealed ship. It has issued not a peep since it arrived and has not responded to a single hail that we’ve sent on all available frequencies. My contacts at the Kalura Institute of Science tell me its hull is impervious to assault by any known weapon. Frankly, we have no direct evidence that this massive structure is a ship at all, simply because it happens to resemble…”
“Yes,” said Jenkins, “that’s the suspicious part. It resembles a human ship, though one far in advance of anything we’ve produced — not yet anyway. Lieutenant, you want to explain?”
Lieutenant Latimer rattled off a summary of technological advances currently on the drawing board in the human sphere. All of them, according to their sensors, had been fully realized on the newly-arrived ship. Andrelex switched off his view screen and send it back up into its ceiling recess.
“Fascinating,” he said. “But your data simply confirms what I have already told you. There is nothing for me, or any other resident of Kalura 3 to ‘do’ about the ship. Might I suggest that you yourself try to ‘do’ something?”
“Exactly my point, Genius,” said Jenkins. “I need your permission to bring a team down, or several teams, to make contact with … whatever that thing is. Keep in mind that if you refuse, we’re coming down anyway.”
“Always such a pleasure to deal with our allies, the humans,” said Andrelex. “Be my guest, as you are fond of saying. But know my city and my world will accept no responsibility for any damages if you come to harm.”
“Andrelex,” he said, “You’re a real piece of work. Way we figure it, anything that ‘goes wrong’ from here on out, will take you and your entire planet of scaly cowards with it. That’s it, we’re out of here.”
The Rolfant stood and gave the humans a slight bow as they stalked out of his office. The moment they were clear of the entry portal, he closed it tight electronically, sat back down and opened a second drawer in his desk. A small device came into view and started to hum. Andrelex picked up a headset attached to it and placed it gently on his head.
“Greetings,” he said. “Andrelex here. In a word, they bought it.”
(To be continued)
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