The idea for this story came from the equation, invented by Frank Drake to estimate how many other intelligent life forms there are in this galaxy. With the increasing number of exoplanets being found, that number is steadily rising. That led me to think about what these aliens might look like and how we would react to them, and then to this story.
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His name was unpronounceable by humans, so they called him Blue Tree because he slightly resembled an inverted tree with thick branches. Those humans he became friendly with then shortened it to Blue, which was something humans did. When wearing a pressure suit, like now, only a dozen or so of those branches could be seen, forming a frill around what people referred to as his neck.
Blue waited in line to pass through customs to enter Marsgate, the major access route to the Martian surface. When his turn came a camera scanned him and identified his species. A face like his appeared on a monitor and spoke in his language. “Welcome to Marsgate. Please step inside the box and do not move. Thank you.”
A red light played over him and he felt a tingle on his skin. As he’d been expecting, the automated customs point wasn’t happy with the results of the scan. “Anomalies detected, please proceed to booth six where an agent will be waiting.”
Blue followed the arrows to the indicated booth and entered. A customs official stood within, a tall human female with a hand scanner. “If you could just stand still for me, this won’t take long.” The agent ran the small paddle-like device over him, then stepped away. “Ok, all clear, you’re free to go, sorry for the inconvenience.”
“No problem,” Blue replied. “I get that a lot.”
He walked through the airport and out onto Mars, or at least into a huge pressurised dome through which he could see the orange planet. Beyond the slightly dusty glass, he could see other domes, even larger and filled with tall buildings. Humans had been here a long time. Blue found the taxi rank and jumped in the nearest one. It was a simple two-seater with a small luggage area. The taxi read the chip implanted in him and then set off for the address he’d entered earlier.
The taxi took him through three airlocks between domes. He got the feeling each was just a little bit less prosperous than the last. The taxi stopped when it reached the address and waited with machine patience as he climbed out. Then it departed, presumably back to the airport.
The address was a high-rise residential block, slightly run-down but not too bad. The door opened as he approached and he entered the lobby. Before he knew what was happening, three large humans had grabbed him and he found himself pushed into a maintenance room with four humans, three large, one small.
“Search him,” the small one said.
After touching him all over his body quite forcefully, one of them spoke. “Nothing.”
“Where’d you hide it?” the small man said.
“Hide what?” Blue replied.
“Don’t play dumb. We know you’re a courier and you’re carrying. So where is it?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. If you’ve been watching you know I was scanned at customs, and searched by an agent. I’ve got nothing.”
“Did he have a bag?”
“No, boss, nothing.”
“I don’t like being made to look a fool. You swallow it?”
“I’m not human, I don’t have a stomach.”
The small man looked him up and down, then signalled the others to leave. “I’m going to leave you alive this time. You owe me, next time I collect.”
The man walked out and Blue was alone. He exited the room and headed over to the lifts. When one arrived he got in and went up to the 40th floor, then down to the 32nd in case the thugs were watching the numbers. Finally arriving at his destination, he tapped softly on the door and waited. There was movement inside, a home scan blinked a few times, then the door opened.
“Blue. Come in. Any problems?” The man was called Shim, he was tall and broad-shouldered, his red hair shaved close to the skin.
“Some. Nothing serious.”
Inside, there was nothing but chairs and tables and a few kitchen items, nothing to indicate anyone lived here. Blue went over to a chair and sat as best he could.
“You got the stuff?” Shim said, looking him over.
“Of course. You got the money?”
The two had done business several times before, so there was a small amount of trust between them. Shim went into another room and after about half a minute came back with a silver credit chip. Blue scanned it with his implant to confirm the contents, then reached up and grabbed one of his tentacles. It came loose with a sucking noise and Blue dropped it on the table. Although Shim had seen it done before, the look on his face was always amusing. Blue did the same with three more and laid them side by side.
Shim looked at him. “So, open them up, you know I don’t like touching them.”
“Humans are strange,” Blue said, but picked up one of the tentacles and squeezed it like a toothpaste tube. Packages of tiny pills fell out onto the table. He did the same with the others until there was a decent pile. He gathered up the empty false tentacles and threw them into the building’s recycler. Shim relaxed and began to separate and count the pills.
The reason Blue was so successful as a smuggler was that his tentacles looked like human male genitals, which other humans were reluctant to touch or even look at. He only actually had eight, but hiding a few more false ones among them was easy enough. The plan only worked on human worlds of course, but there were plenty of those, always hungry for illegal drugs.