Geoffrey trembled. If help didn’t arrive soon, both Guneel’s life and his own would be over. To conserve oxygen, he tried to keep still, even though his legs ached for him to jump up from his hiding place.
How his perspective had changed! Used to be, his biggest problem was saving up for new sneakers. But now he was focused on survival and was out of ideas. Unlike the characters in his favorite holovids, he couldn’t unsheathe an ancient laser sword, invoke a shimmering guardian spirit, or morph into .
“Can’t believe you watch that crap,” a faint voice echoed in his mind.
“Guneel?” Geoffrey whispered.
“What are you doing here?” her thoughts asked. “The Tractari will pound you into a pancake if they catch you. I should know.”
“Listen,” Geoffrey thought. “I just sent out a holovid, showing the two of them, talking over their sick little plans. Patrol units ought to be here soon.”
Guneel wasn’t convinced.
“I doubt your government would accuse the Tractari,” she told him, “There are too many credits involved.”
“But I have proof,” Geoffrey replied.
“Good luck with that,” thought Guneel.
Guneel’s telepathic presence faded from Geoffrey’s mind. Desperate, he made a last-minute call.
“Mom?” he whispered into his comlink.
Would the Tractari pick up his signal? A glance at his oxygen gauge told him it hardly mattered. A moment later, Mom replied.
“Geoffrey!” she said. “I’m proud of you. Just hold on. A security team should be there any second. They’ll take you to a med-rover. When you get home we’ll start packing.”
Geoffrey was so relieved, he barely noticed the arrival of twelve, heavily armed soldiers. His first thought was to stand, but his legs wouldn’t.
Two hours later, he awoke inside the med-rover, surrounded by medics.
“Afternoon, Son,” said a smiling face. “What have you got to say for yourself?”
“My mom she’s gonna kill me,” Geoffrey muttered.
“Looks like you already had that covered,” said the medic. “We weren’t sure you were going to pull through.”
“What about what about Guneel?” asked Geoffrey.
“Well, I don’t know diddly about these alien lifeforms,” said the medic. “But I hear she’s OK.”
Geoffrey’s face flushed.
“Guneel’s not a ‘lifeform,’ he yelled. “She’s a she’s my
“She’s your what, Son?” asked the medic. But by then, Geoffrey had drifted back to sleep.
In the days that followed, the interstellar news agencies disgorged wall-to-wall coverage of the ‘Tractari Scandal’. Meanwhile, EarthGov exo-geologists began issuing detailed reports on their findings. Every exo-geologist, that is, except Mom.
“We’re going home,” she told Geoffrey. “And I’m taking a solid month off. I promise: no VR database helmet, no conference calls and no late nights at the lab. We can go shopping, see a holovid, or just lie around the house doing nothing. I know Dad’s dying to see you, too.”
Geoffrey’s face was at war with itself, trying to grin and cry at the same time.
“That’s great, Mom,” he said. “But I’m gonna miss my friend.”
“Look at it this way,” said Mom. “You’ve had an experience most people would kill for.”
“You mean an alien experience?” asked Geoffrey.
“Better than that,” said Mom. “A real friend you could count on, even when the only ‘pay off’ was the sound of your voice. Try to understand: There are a lot of lonely people in the universe. For them, a friend like that would be the most alien experience of all.”
A few mornings later, Mom shook Geoffrey awake. It was nearly time for the flight home. He rushed out of bed, and had almost finished dressing when Guneel’s voice popped into his mind again.
“Hey,” she said. “You sure you have to go?”
“Out of my hands,” thought Geoffrey.
“Too bad,” Guneel replied. “When you’re gone, I’ll be the worst kid in Math class again. Come on, hit me up one more time.”
“Two plus two equals five?” asked Geoffrey.
“See, now that’s a real friend,” Guneel told him. “I’m definitely gonna miss that.”
“Gotta go,” thought Geoffrey. “Beware of reptilians bearing survey equipment.”
“Quarks in a bucket, you’re so weird,” thought Guneel. “I’ll miss that, too.
Soon the human teenager was nestled into a flight chair, his body snug against the launch netting. As his EarthGov ship left the orbital docking port, he gazed up at the nearest view screen and wondered if his life had already peaked.
Until, that is, the ship pulled away from the port and, for the first time in months, he had a clear view of the deep, wide beautiful universe that stretched out before him.
#aliens, #telepathy, #teenagers, #sci-fi, #science_fiction
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