Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer

Here’s one example of how the aliens failed to understand humans.

We’d become part of the galactic alliance and were paired up with a species roughly analogous to our own. They were bipedal, around the same level of technological advancement, warlike but aware of the value of peace, and breathed our type of air. It was a cultural exchange. Civilians that volunteered were screened and cleared to accept an alien guest in their homes.

The military doesn’t ask for volunteers. We were assigned.

I was an air force pilot. Jackson Chalmers. My nickname was Frosted Tips or Frosty for short. I was from California and I had blond highlights in my hair when I joined the force. The other pilots thought the blond streaks were hilarious and while the frosted tips were gone in days, the nickname stuck. I carried a postcard around with me from my ex-wife for luck. The postcard reminded me that I had nothing to lose anymore and could fully give myself over to aerial engagements without fear of death.

I explained to the alien assigned to me that pilots were usually given nicknames and carried lucky charms to help them. I told him that the names helped camaraderie and that the charms gave us hope or focus during battle. Bonds and superstition can win a war, I told him. The alien was silent, thanked me, and returned to his base.

He came bounding back to me like an excited pet six hours later and told me that his nickname was Generator Flowerpot Tropical Premium and he showed me the fork that he’d taken from the mess hall and told me that it was his lucky charm.

I thought it was hilarious. I laughed and laughed. Sweating and clicking like they aliens did when they were happy, he went back to his barracks to tell his fellow soldiers.

Now all the aliens have four-word random nicknames and carry whatever they saw first as a lucky charm. They don’t truly understand sentimental value. I’ve seen socks, bootlaces, chalk, gravel, and on one occasion, cheese.

Even when I tried to explain to him that he’d got it wrong, he didn’t care. He said it was helping a great deal.

So now I’m flying a four-seater with my friend Generator Flowerpot Tropical Premium and his two friends Ticket Lamp Helmet Cooler and Batwing Christmas Cartridge Storm. Hanging around Ticket Lamp’s neck is a flattened coke can and Cartridge Storm is carrying a rubber wedge in his pocket. Generator Flowerpot’s fork is bent around his wrist like a bracelet.

I have to admit it. It worked. They didn’t get it wrong at all. I like them more and it’s helped us become a team. I’ll fight to the death to protect them.

Also, I don’t carry the postcard anymore. I carry a paperclip now. It was the first thing I saw on the desk beside the waste paper basket when I threw out the postcard. It feels way better.

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