Author: David Barber
“There’s the official version,” said Lev. “Where First Contact was that signal from the Jirt ship out in the Oort. Then there’s what really happened.”
The old hands round the bar had heard all this before, but it was Lev’s birthday and he was footing the bar bill.
He focused on the Spacer couple that were new to the story.
“Jirt are giving us tech in exchange for them syphoning hydrogen fuel from Neptune, right?”
The Spacer woman was tall and striking. He accused her with a finger. “So why not just take the hydrogen? I mean, we don’t own Neptune.”
Morgan and Ava exchanged glances. They didn’t know Lev, but somehow they’d got caught up in the celebrations.
“Well—” ventured Morgan.
“Because it’s all a cover up!”
Kuiper-23497 tumbled lazily alongside the Fyodor.
The chunk of dirty ice was on the small side, but Lev had been out in the dark long enough. He wanted female company and fresh vegetables. He wanted a drink that stayed in the glass. It was time to go home.
Placement was a skill you learned. The throwaway package was frozen in place, thrusters, sensor and star-map, ready to nudge the ice sunwards to keep a rendezvous with a buyer years from now.
Lev sat at the pilot’s station, still suited up in case he needed to go out again, but it all looked good.
Then the lasercom started blinking, which was strange, because it was short range and tight-beam, used for private conversations. It came with the ship, though Lev never used it.
He fiddled with unfamiliar settings and a voice blared out.
“Not to be alarmed. Our craft is invisible to your instruments. This is what your species call First Contact.”
Morgan glanced round the faces at the bar to see if he was being set up.
“So you’re saying you made first contact?”
Lev nodded. “Oort signals came later.”
“Did you get to see one?” asked Ava. The old question. No one has ever seen a Jirt.
Lev waved this away. “They’d been watching our broadcasts, learning the lingo. And they’d seen stuff—”
“Come on, Lev,” groaned those at the bar. There was a rush to order shots or hits. If they had to listen to this again, they were moving on from beer.
“Pornography,” Lev continued.
Ava, who was more forthright than her partner, was dismissive. “Aliens would find our porn about as sexy as you watching the wind pollinate flowers.”
Lev agreed. “Besides, I’ve heard Jirt have just one sex and binary fission. So sex isn’t taboo with them. It’s because of taboos that we’ve got pornography.”
“Then I don’t understand,” said Morgan.
“Food,” said Lev. “They got excited about broadcasts showing us eating. Maybe it’s something they only do in private. Who knows where evolution took them.”
“Anyway, they must find it sexy. Foody, I mean. Cookery programs must be like foreplay. Finger snacks. Probably enjoy watching us chew. How we use utensils.”
Lev had obviously thought a lot about it.
“The tech isn’t a swap for Neptune. It’s for film of fatties stuffing themselves at Greedy Bob’s. Of course the powers that be couldn’t make that public, hence the conspiracy.”
Morgan had a bemused smile, still not sure if it was an elaborate joke.
“Tell us what they said, Lev,” someone at the bar called out.
“Jirt wanted to watch me eat dinner. What kind of person do they think I am?”