Not too long ago (by my reckoning) in a small, mostly overlooked portion of the galaxy which is not terribly far away sat – and as far as i know still sits – a perfectly average sized planet named Gertrude. It has it’s blue parts, it’s gray, parts, some brown parts and some nice green parts. It’s a fairly happy planet as far as planets go, though when asked it much preferred being a nameless gassy blob clinging in an innocuous orbit to it’s unimportant star. But otherwise it is fairly happy.
Clinging fairly unhappily to this planet are a few smallish human colonies, dropped there by the last colony ship. The oldest survivor – only one and a half generations removed from what they had come to call Exodus – had given her name to the former gassy blob. Of course she died aboard the ship before the colonists set foot on it, but in honoring her memory as much as her memories they christened the planet, though when asked the planet much prefers the name Rick.
Clinging unhappily to the dingy edge of one of these smallish colonies, in the usual detritus that comes from national wars over resources one didn’t know one possessed, sat a small farmhouse on the edge of a small farm. And of course clinging to the porch of this small farmhouse, which was in actually the cobbled together remains of one section of the life support system of the once great ship, sat a fairly unhappy woman named Sophie Marigold – named for a plant she had never, nor was it likely that she would ever, see.
Sophie had been deposited here by the same generations of brave intripid and insufferably stupid souls who had left the planet, and in the intervening thousand years or so, very little had actually changed. In fact, if we were to pluck you straight from whatever chair or sitting mechinism you now find yourself you might recognize such a tiny difference between the Planet Gertrude and your version of earth that you would probably hunker down on that porch right next to Sophie and cheerfully give her a fond ‘hello!’ in your most neighborly way. She would, of course look at you strangely as the dialect of english that you used would have been antiquated by hundreds of years, but upon puzzling out your language she might respond in kind.
Sophie was a farmer. It’s not that she really wanted to be a farmer, but it was alright. She grew only one thing but that was simply because that had been the only alottment her great grandparents were allowed when the colonists finally settled after making a big mess out of their new planet. This one thing that she grew meant that her property was plagued regularly by mutant bunnies who had somehow grown huge vicious fangs and could launch themselves forty feet to take down the graceful native raptors that once circled overhead. Thus it was that she was on her ramshackle, artillery pocked porch that fateful morning, surveying her meagre crop with a fully automatic porch mounted machine gun.
All in all it was boring work. She smoked her grandfathers pipe while doing it. She squinted into the greenish sun. A giant bunny sailed from the treeline eighty units of colonial measure to her north and she dutifully blasted at it with the machine gun, careful as always to miss it.
It was morning.
Several years before her parents both stripped off all of their clothes and dashed headlong into the wilderness screaming something about Radar. She hadn’t seen them since and didn’t much care. They were weird in a land of weirdos and as such were perfectly normal, and it was therefore her conception that normalcy was highly overrated and should be avoided at all costs.
She was alone. Her brother had gone off to fight a war of great national status over a field of disputed cabbage and had never returned. She didn’t assume he was dead. It was fairly common for soldiers of one long defunct nation to wander off to an relatively unnoccupied spot of the world and start their own bullshit dominion over the nothingness that surrounded them.
She was alone.
There was a glint of light in the sky. Green as usual. For a fleeting moment she thought that it might be one of the last of the great Raptors, the sun glinting off it’s semimetallic feathers. She chambered a round, expecting the graceless leap of a mutant bunny and instantly lost sight of the distant glint.
She hummed to herself. It was a tune that you would easily recognize and all colonists knew by heart, though the words had changed greatly in a thousand years and were practically gibberish.
Then again there came the glint. It stayed a little longer this time, definately not a bird. It was bright and hard to look at but luckily the colonists of long ago had supplied her with her most valuable possession – a pair of ancient sunglasses. The petroleum products that kept the lenses in were exceptionally brittle in a way that the creatures that the petroleum had come from weren’t. She donned them with great care and then looked again at the glint.
It was definately not a bird. She removed the sunglasses in dissapointment and cleared the round from the chamber by shooting a random rock. The random rock, which had taken quite a bit of this abuse over the centuries since these damned upstart lifeforms showed up, was not amused but could do little about it. It would someday, and that relatively soon, take its revenge in being a member of a vast armada of its companions, and far beyond that – biological enzymes embedded in the remains of that rock would, someday far distant, completely annhilate life on one planet through plague and begin life on another.
The object that was glinting looked a bit like a drunken dinner plate.
Of course she knew instantly what it was. It was a UFO and in spite of traversing a largish section of the galaxy, finding and altering a planet to make it liveable for humans, and exploring all of the planets of the present system UFO’s were still and always a taboo. One didn’t talk about them. If you talked about them to anyone you would instantly be considered insane – and therefore in Sophies direct experience completely normal. And with her natural, historical aversion to normalcy she didn’t intend to acknowledge its existence at all.
She weighed the option of attempting to shoot at it in terms of the normal/not normal quotient she had baked up in her considerably intelligent though remarkably stunted head. No. Wouldn’t do. Shooting at things that weren’t officially there was definately crazy – therefore stupidly normal. She thought of yelling at it, or playing music for it, maybe making it supper, but each of these options went the way of the first, discarded into the trash bin of societal neurosis.
Ah well. She thought, lighting her pipe. Nothing says i have to pay it any mind whatsoever. What could be weirder than that? And she went back to looking at her crops, which hadn’t moved.
Unfortunately for her the drunken dinner plate got closer. It was quiet. It didn’t make a sound at all, which was so awfully typical for UFO’s she thought with some disgust. It wobbled about in the air looking nondescript. It didn’t even have the courtesy to be a fancy dinner plate. She thought. It did have a few nice stripes running around its edge. It had a few letters written on its bottom which became clearer as it approached and stopped its annoying spinning. Of course Sophie couldn’t read these letters at all.
Damned alien letters. You’d think they’d know how to spell. She thought. She tried to ignore the dinner plate and go back to casually smoking her pipe. It didn’t quite work.
The dinner plate stopped and hovered not one hundred colony units of measure away. A colony unit of measure on Planet Gertrude had finally been decided after the United States and Luxembourg went to war. Neither side won, as niether side could because – well – it’s war, but in the peace negotiations that followed it was agreed that the small nibbled pencil once owned by the captain of the Colony Ship would become the official colonial unit of measure. It was also decided that the countries – who numbered about a thousand people each at that point – would henceforth be known as the United States of Luxembourg. No one had any idea what a state was though.
As you can now imagine, the edge of the ship hovered fairly close to her head as though daring her to ignore it.
She ignored it.
The ship pulled back a little, as though startled at the effrontery. It hovered over her field of crops. It spluttered and tossed about looking slightly upset and then it came to rest again having grown three times its size and now throwing her house, her crops, her porch and her into a deep shade.
She looked at it. Annoyed.
A square shaft of light burst forth majestically from the long slope of the underside of the plate. A ramp unfolded itself in a matter that would have been fit for a pharoah had Pharoahs had flying dinner plates. The ramp came to a stop mere feet from the barrel of her gun.
Something or somethings walked casually down the ramp towards her. She fought the urge to be normal.
She lost and opened fire.
This was not unexpected from the things walking down the ramp. Not wanting to call into question her earnestness or zeal they made it appear that she simply had horrendous aim. Bullets zinged off into the trees, not one hitting anything (literally – they had been gravitationally affected to avoid everything and as if it hadn’t been for the ground becoming displaced later they would probably still be hovering an inch from it.)
Unfortunately colonists are affected more by psychology than the things had given them credit for. They had had the irrational hope that humans might have evolved beyond it but they had stuck with it carefully. Psychology that is. Sophie became less than pleased at missing her target.
“Alright, dammit. What gives? I’m shooting at you you could at least have the common courtesy to be shot!”
One of the things stepped forward and out of the nearly blinding ray of light that had dramatically silhouetted it. For a second everything was very very weird which instantly put Sophie at ease.
The Human, and human it was, strode up to her.
“Oh i’m really sorry. I should have taken your intent into consideration. Are you okay?” He, and he it was, sounded genuinely concerned.
She shrugged. “Bah. You ruined my day and my mind, that’s all. What do you want?”
At long last she had finally figured out the most perfectly strange way to deal with UFO’s and the Aliens they vommited.
“Well.” Said the human, “I was wondering if we could trouble you for a Carrot.”
Sophie smiled broadly. Her conduct in this matter was brightening her mood by the second.
“A Carrot.” She said dubiously in that particular way that farmers sometimes have of saying things they can’t or don’t want to believe.
The man took another step forward, smiled again, “Yeah. If it wouldn’t be too much trouble, of course. One carrot. Umm… I wouldn’t be asking if it wasn’t vitally important.”
Sophie glared at him. She inhaled the fine Gertrudian Tobacco and blew one, long, caustic cloud into his face. The smile left him.
“I’ll have to think about it.”