Title: Alien Contact for Idiots
Author: Edward Hoornaert
Genre: Science Fiction
What’s a woman gonna do when she's quarantined with an out-of-this-world alien?
When natives from the future move their entire island nation to our Earth, Ell Harmon makes the first alien contact. The take-charge Seattle biologist has yearned to find intelligent aliens, and her dream comes true when she meets Prince Tro Eaglesbrood.
Ell and Tro are quarantined together, while the fearful world wonders whether the newcomers are friends or foes, neighbors or conquerors. Ell knows Tro is honorable and Kwadrans are peaceful … but how to convince the world?
They broadcast a show, which she flippantly titles Alien Contact for Idiots. Every day, Ell interviews Tro and tries to humanize Kwadrans. The show is wildly popular, and the romance developing on-screen between Ell and Tro reassures the world. If a smart woman like her can fall for a Kwadran, they must not be monsters, right?
But Tro’s duty lies with his people, and soon that duty threatens not only the show but Ell’s heart -- as well as the peace and survival of our world.
"I'm trying to reconcile the questions I'd ask you as a scientist with the questions my government wants me to ask. Here's my list." Ell turned the computer toward Prince Tro.
"What accident brought Tro here?" he read. "What do you intend to do now that you're here? Compare histories to pinpoint the branch between the realities. Probe his knowledge of alternate realities."
Ell pulled the computer away before he got to the question about sex fiends. "The government's questions aren't as clear. It took hours to organize and distill them down to bullet points."
When she turned the computer back, he read aloud. "What weapons do the Kwadrans possess? What are their intentions and goals? Do they seek world domination? What do they want from us and what will they give us in return? Will they accept US sovereignty? Why haven't we seen any other humans on Kwadra since the initial contact?"
"Sounds nosy, I know," Ell said, "but we have a lot to learn."
"Too curious about someone else's business."
"Ah. We would say 'mind your own onions.'"
"Onions?" Ell frowned but then laughed. "Oh, this is going to be such fun!"
Tro answered her mirth with a formal smile. "As a prince," he said loudly enough for Frank to overhear, "—there, Ell, you need keep the uncomfortable secret no longer—as a prince, I approve your government's list more than yours. As a man, I am curious what a sex fiend is."
"Oh, God. You read that far?"
"A fiend is…" His face assumed an intense expression, as though he were consulting a dictionary, minus the dictionary. "Fiend equals an evil spirit, a demon. But what does sex fiend mean? My database sputters blankly."
"Database? What do you mean, database?"
Instead of answering, Tro gave a cool, regal stare that deflected her question. She looked away. Her gaze lighted on Frank, who had just finished laying kindling in the fireplace. Arms crossed over her chest, she called out to him. "Frank, Tro's correct title is Prince Eaglesbrood."
"Prince?" Frank gave a long whistle. "Yeah, I can see it. He's royal-like, you know?"
Oh yes, she knew. Seeking a distraction, Ell turned back to Frank. "I used to watch my dad build fires. They always started the first time."
"Mine always do too, sometimes." Frank dusted off his hands. "If it's okay with you, Dr. Harmon, I won't light it until after the TV show."
"Sure," Ell said. "What show?"
"We're gonna broadcast a show every day. Didn't you see what I taped on your door?"
A sheet of paper hung from her door, though she couldn't read it from here. "Every day? A show?"
"Ask Prince Eaglesbrood. He knows more'n me—been on the phone with government guys half the morning." Frank headed toward one of the arched doorways. "The others are waiting for you in the Arbutus Room."
Tro took Ell's hand. "I was about to tell—"
"TV show?" Fighting down panic, she jerked her hand away. "What's this about?"
"Do not worry, Ell. I am told this is but a brief introduction of Kwadra, reassuring your world that we are harmless. As your vice president told me—"
"You talked to the vice president?"
"On fartalk only. Farsee will follow betimes, when the spark wizards have hurdled altogether the arroyos."
"Uh, fartalk is telephone, and farsee…television?" Ell groaned. "David Winston mentioned something about this, but I hoped he'd forget. Why so soon, though? What's the rush?"
"Your vice president reports that your world fears Kwadra's arrival. People panic, envisaging war, or plague, or even the end of the world."
"And me going in front of a TV camera is supposed to help?" She would make a fool of herself. People would laugh. Her reputation as a scientist would be ruined. She’d start a war.
She rubbed sweaty palms on her skirt as she popped to her feet, searching for a way out. There was none. "No. I can't. I'll do anything else, but please, not this."
"You wish peace between our peoples, no?"
"More than anything, but—"
"Then you must do this thing."
Hugging her arms, she paced around the long table. A memory of Alki Point Beach sprang to pungent life. The crowd had throbbed with terror and hostility, assuming an invasion. So Tro was right, but still…her, on TV? She slipped off her shoes. The carpet was dappled with earth tones like a forest floor, and it soothed her. She finished the circuit in bare feet and then stopped beside Tro.
"Okay." In case he didn't understand this use of okay she added, "I'll try."
"Not merely try. Achieve!"
"You sound like Yoda," she muttered.
"This Yoda is a wise man. Together, Ell, you and I can achieve anything."
"Yoda's a puppet, not a wise man."
Grinning, Tro urged her toward what she assumed was the Arbutus Room. "My role is to reassure and seem friendly. Yours is to ask questions specified by your government and to look, they said, like the girl next door."
"Girl next door, I can handle that. No, wait. Next door to old Mr. Applebaum the baker, or to a prince from another world? Huge difference."
Tro chuckled as they climbed the stairs to the planked walkway circling the room. "The girl who lives next door to me, Delfina, dislikes wearing clothes."
"That's what a sex fiend is." Ell checked the pin holding the top of her blouse closed.
"I remain as ignorant as the night."
They reached the door of the Arbutus Room. Ell peeked in. It was an expensive-looking conference room, with a slice-of-an-octagon shape like her bedroom. There the resemblance ended. Chaos reigned, thanks to a jumble of boxes, lights, and video equipment. One end of the room looked like a makeshift sound stage, with a camera and bright lights facing a desk and two chairs.
Ivan Jones, sitting at the other end of the room, swiveled toward them. Glaring at Tro, he crossed his arms over his chest to emphasize his biceps. Real friendly guy.
"Oh, God," she said.
Tro squeezed her hand. "Remember. Together, we can do anything."
"Oh, God," she repeated.
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