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First Contact

I had a few moments' warning that I was going to start having a really terrible day: Floribunda scrambled out of my lap abruptly and disappeared into the kitchenette. I had time to frown, and just as my girl Ella on the sound system busted into, "Oh, the shark has/pearly teeth, dear," the door chime came.

I could feel something strange outside the door, so I stood up and said, "Come in."

In rolled an alien Hoover-hair dryer, which I had expected. The door slid shut behind it, and unexpectedly, I could sense a human outside that door.

"Greetings, Renata Scott," the Hoover said in the smooth, modulated voice from last time. "I am the one you may call Joshua."

"Hello," I said. I almost asked about the human outside, then decided against it -- it would be bad to indicate that I could reach outside their barrier at all. I locked my mind down as hard as I could. "To what do I owe the honor?"

Joshua paused, and I wasn't sure whether it was to process my question or because it was reluctant. "I have been asked to introduce you to the human liaison," it said. "It is felt that perhaps another human can convey the information you require without damaging other aspects of our cause."

Now that was interesting. It implied that either the human was expected to be better at filtering information or that the human didn't know enough to damage their cause. "Well, I'm a captive audience," I said. "With an emphasis on 'captive.'"

A little arm of Joshua's suit extended a small wristwatch-looking thing toward me. "This is a piece of technology some of our people use to reduce external psychic impingement. We have tested with other human telepaths and it seems to work similarly. It does not reduce your ability to reach out, but it provides some psychic quieting."

I took it and eyed it. Holding it, I did, indeed, feel a blanket settle over me that muffled the alien's mental activity. I reached out and could find the alien's mind again easily. I shoved the item into the pocket of my trousers and nodded.

Joshua opened the door remotely, and I heard Ella singing, "So there's not, not a tra-a-a-ce of red," as the thirty-or-forty-something white man in a suit walked into the room.

He had one of those really generic, square-jawed, square-browed white faces and the politician-smooth brown hair with just a few white threads showing. His dark blue suit was expensive as hell, and the plain red tie was set off with a tastefully small diamond tie tack, but neither could conceal his big square worker's hands or the pot-belly at his waist. This, I thought, was a man who had recently risen in the ranks. What made him so special that he was the human liaison for the aliens?

"I'm Mark West," he said, stopping a good ten feet away and not even offering me a nod. He had an accent, but I'm terrible with American accents. It could've been Midwestern or Southern or something I just wasn't familiar with. "You're the super-telepath the aliens have been telling us about?"

"I'm Renata Scott," I said, "and yes, I'm a telepath."

"Well, you can kiss messing with my mind goodbye," he said, with an ugly little smirk. "My good friends here have given me something that stops all that."

I didn't disabuse him of this notion. His mind was noticeably fuzzy around the edges, and I expect that most of the other human telepaths couldn't read him at all. But if I'd wanted to walk in to that mess I could sense from where I stood, I could have. "I have a strict code of ethics about mental invasions of that sort," I said.

His lips compressed. "How strict is strict?" he said. "Am I just wasting my time here?" he added impatiently to Joshua.

Joshua said, in the stilted 50s voice (which told me exactly where I stood on the who-needs-to-be-impressed ladder), "You are here to discuss why we need Ms. Scott's assistance."

"We don't need her," Mark West said, gesturing at me and grimacing.

"We need her assistance, Mark West," Joshua said, very slowly and carefully. Even with the stilted voice, I could tell the alien was being condescending.

"Don't you sass me, you... scientist, you," Mark West said. "The people I usually talk to are more reasonable about this sort of thing."

"What sort of thing, Mr. West?" I said as politely and icily as I could manage.

"You stay out of this," he snarled.

I said, "No. I won't." That made him stop and stare at me. "You will tell me what you have been ordered to tell me--" he started to turn brick-red at that "--and get the hell out so I can talk to someone civilized--" I gestured to the Hoover that held Joshua "--about your information."

"You do not have a say in this," he said, forgetting himself enough to take two long strides toward me and shake his stubby damn finger in my face.

Okay. I showed off. I wasn't smart about it. But I was really fucking angry.

He turned an even darker red as I seized hold of his motor centers and forced him to cock that hand back and back until he stuck the finger into his mouth and pressed the tip against the roof of his mouth.

Then I said, "Bang," and let him go.

He staggered back until he was pressed against the wall and he stared at me for several moments. He straightened his suit coat. Then he ripped the diamond out of his tie and threw it at Joshua disdainfully. It pinged off Joshua's hair dryer. The fuzziness cleared away from West's mind, and I regretted being able to perceive more of what was going on in there. "The aliens think that they need your help," he said, spitting the words in my direction, "to bring peace to the world. There are large sections that are out of control. At war. We humans are working, with their help, to make it a better world."

"And how, exactly, are you working to make it a better world?" I said, watching him like I'd watch a rattling rattlesnake.

"Politics and media, mostly," he said, staring at me challengingly. "We use paras to control and cure the worst troublemakers."

"I see," I said. "You've had your say. Now get out."

"I don't take orders, missy," he snapped. "I give them around here."

I gave him my very best bored look. "You will address me as Ms. Scott. I'm nearly old enough to be your mother." Not exactly true, but I know I look older than my years.

He turned on his heel and stormed out. The gentle swish of the door shutting behind him was such an anticlimax.

"And so we leave you, in Berlin town," sang Ella after his departure. "Yes, we've swung old Mack, we've swung old Mack in town."

"I apologize for the disruptive nature of this meeting," Joshua said, back in his human voice.

"He's your human liaison?" I said. "You have got to be shitting me."

"He is an ambitious human, if I understand the concept correctly," Joshua said. "And I believe he is attached to his life-partner's position as the most powerful paranormal human in our employ."

I blinked at Joshua's hair-dryer a few times, chose not to ask about West's "life-partner", then said, "You people have a lot to learn about human competition. And racism too. That man hates me for my skin color, you know."

"We had guessed that would be the case," Joshua said, sounding almost mournful. "I have studied some humans who have experienced similar but not identical intolerance based on their ancestry. And Mark West seems to possess a..." It paused, apparently searching for a word.

"A larger share of intolerance than the average Joe?" I suggested.

"As you say," Joshua said vaguely.

"I'm not interested in helping you 'bring peace to the world', Joshua," I said. "Not by the means that your human flunkies are using."

"Please do consider it further," Joshua said. "Perhaps out of the agitating presence of Mark West, you will find advantages in the situation."

"I doubt it," I said.

"We feel that your ethics could be a valuable asset to the humans in our employ," Joshua said, trying another tack.

"Please go away, Joshua," I said. "I have a headache from that man, and I would like to be alone."

"Of course," Joshua said, and it hurriedly rolled out the door.

I hunted for my dog, who had hidden inside a cabinet I didn't even know she could fit in. Spending the better part of the next hour coaxing her out with treats while trying to figure out if I had any tools for taking the cabinet apart helped my headache a lot.


Renata has had a bad few months.

Date: 2012-08-03 08:38 pm (UTC)
the_rck: (Default)
From: [personal profile] the_rck
I think I've neglected to comment on the last couple of posts. Sorry about that. I've let myself get distracted and tired. I'm still following along and waiting anxiously for each new development.

I do like Renata.

Thanks for writing!

Date: 2012-08-10 08:23 pm (UTC)
the_leaky_pen: (Default)
From: [personal profile] the_leaky_pen
I love Renata so much!

And I actually almost appreciate Joshua-alien as a character... if only it wasn't involved in trying to subdue the human race "for its own good".


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