The Masset met the Earth delegation on their own carrier deck, looking formal and engaged, as if this was their actual ‘first contact’ with Earthers. They knew better. Admiral Geller noticed how big and beefy this group of humans was, better than average (his clients would be pleased). Their encounter suits were unarmed, clearly diplomatic, which was a good sign.
It was inevitable that the Earthers would detect the Masset at some point. Still, Geller was disappointed. He had hoped to exploit them for a few more decades. He was getting very rich. Hopefully only a change of tactics would be necessary.
With a gesture, Geller invited the Earthers inside, but they insisted on the formalities (it was a really big deal – for them). Their ambassador introduced himself as Colonel Smith and welcomed them to the Terran Solar System, tediously explaining that they called their world Earth but that we were all currently orbiting Jupiter. He offered the esteemed greetings of a long, boring list of political, corporate, and religious luminaries, and with a load of bows and flourishes he droned on through the standard diplomatic script. Geller responded as expected. This Col. Smith was testing his patience, but he and his warriors knew the drill…nothing was to happen until everyone was inside.
That’s when he heard Smith say something very odd; “…and thank you Admiral Geller. The people of Earth thank you personally for all the advanced technology you’ve been sending us…” And every Masset warrior switched-on to full alert. This was not what Geller had expected to hear today…but just then his earpiece came alive with the clutter of proximity alerts and his senior officers barking frantic orders. Meanwhile, an Earther ship was de-cloaking just above them.
According to the Rhee Republic, Earth was off -limits. It was illegal to land there or to fly within the orbital proximity of Jupiter. Humanity was considered an “emerging culture.” It was either on the brink of advancing to eventually join the Republic…or of catastrophic self-destruction. Quarantined.
The Masset, however, had commerce to conduct and orders to fill. They were a diverse culture, but elements of it controlled the Republic’s vast black-market trade cartel…and some people had a taste for Earthers. The Veen used humans for slave labor, the Binnish used them as lab rats for biomedical research, and the Lumia just found them delicious. Apparently, enough Earthers had been abducted over the centuries for a strong market demand to develop…and the Masset owned the franchise (for which all Masset benefited).
On the other hand, the Masset were in good standing with the Rhee Republic. They had helped to repel the last three military invasions, had powerful advanced technology, and were influential in Republic politics… so they had no wish to upset the balance.
That’s why Admiral Geller (who was only a legal consultant at the time), came up with a clever solution around the quarantine law. Since they couldn’t go to Earth to harvest humans, they would have to ‘lure’ them off-world. It wasn’t strictly legal, but it would work (and it did for a good long while).
Geller labored for decades, secretly transmitting propaganda to maintain division between Earth’s nation states, while feeding them choice bits of advanced technology to get them off the ground and into space, to explore and colonize. So, when they started leaving the quarantined area in really profitable numbers, the Masset were there to intercept and abduct them…and nobody was the wiser.
In retrospect, Geller might have miscalculated the adaptability of the Earthers. He’d never thought them intelligent enough to apply and integrate the technology he sent, into all the different alien ships and technology abandoned on Earth over the centuries. He certainly had NOT counted on them outmaneuvering him…in an ambush. Perhaps the Masset had become complacent…
In the time it took for the Earther ship to de-cloak overhead, Admiral Geller had a few additional thoughts: First, he had never actually given Colonel Smith his name…curious. Second, the Masset were the only culture with cloaking technology. Hmmm…and third…wait. Were those jet-packs they were wearing?
“Thanks again, Geller…” said Colonel Smith, “and have a nice day!” And on his order, the entire Earth delegation lifted off the deck in perfect formation toward their ship above….and as it pulled away, Geller saw the first of an impressive flight of earth missiles de-cloak before slamming into his ship’s broadside. As to Geller’s third and final thought, he said, “The Earther MISSILES are cloaked too? How clever!!!”
***We posted this image a few years ago, but the story is new and written especially for our new book, “A Short Burst.” It’s one of the longer stories, almost two whole pages. Burst is a clever compilation of illustrated flash science fiction. Find it at our Etsy shop (search EEWbooks) or by following the links above to www.sallemander.com…which will take you to our Etsy shop. -Marsha