Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer
Two figures meet outside the Ship o’ the Line tavern on Marquis III.
“No, no. You sit there. I’m more comfortable when I can see the ways in and out of any place I’m stopped in.”
The reply is a flicker of tentacles and a telepathic acceptance. After the slight visitor is seated, food and drinks are ordered from the hovering ovoid of a serving ‘bot.
Tentacles wave and a thought is sent.
“A revelation from my centuries amongst humans?”
A callused hand scratches at the stubble on his chin, then waves towards the spaceships standing amid the towers of the spaceport.
“The uncanny resemblance, come evening, between a harbour full of tall ships with their rigging and lines going hither and yon, and the spectacle of a free worlds spaceport filled with rocketships all festooned in stabilisers, conduits, and cabling.”
The tentacles ripple, then curl tightly as a more piercing question is communicated.
There’s a bark of laughter that trails away to a deep chuckle.
“No. We are, by nature, solitary wanderers. By the time we truly understand our longevity, we have forgotten our origins. Near death experiences take memories from us. Some of us seek that oblivion, spending lives as the most extreme daredevils or warriors for whatever cause offers the greatest danger. Others seek to avoid it, clutching memories like a miser hoarding money. I daresay an unknown number of us die after shockingly short – by our standard – life spans. Those who fall we never know. The fervid stories of our intergalactic powerplays and control of humanity are nothing but childish nightmare tales dressed in adult trappings. Your kind know our telepathic abilities to be rudimentary. No doubt you have encountered absolute refusals to believe that from some human groups.”
The slight figure nods slowly, then takes a quick sip of a luminous yellow beverage, the glow from which illuminates the quartet of dark vertical slots where it’s eyes should be. As it savours the drink, another question is silently asked.
“You need not worry. I’ve booked passage out of here on several ships. I’ll be gone, and damnably difficult to follow, by the time you compile and release the documentary. This isn’t the first time I’ve had to depart a place due to risk of discovery, but it’s nice to be able to do so with a modicum of grace for once.”
The next query prompts a snort of derision.
“We came to a tacit agreement with the authorities ages ago. Our potential for causing long term harm far outweighs any advantages we could provide. On top of that, there are superstitious criminal groups and religions with legends and traditions that predate the current ruling classes. We can bring a fearsome amount of grief down upon any who test us. That is not bluster, either. It has been proven several times.”
Tentacles flick again while food that looks like charred seaweed is consumed with gusto.
“I have no idea. I have been around long enough to develop a surety that whatever divinities might be attendant upon the drama called human existence have no great scheme for my kind, nor for humankind, be that of any relevance. We are, the universes are, and so the great and colourful dance goes on. And with that, so must I.”
The slight figure gestures towards passers-by, presaging a final question.
“I stopped wondering about that over 3000 years ago. Wasting too much time on something you can’t answer is a bad habit. Good evening to you.”
The figure strides away and disappears into the passing crowd.