Galactic Truth

The two sets of aliens had met on a third planet. The crews had been very surprised to discover the other. All thoughts of setting up a colony had been put aside, each trying to ask the other who’d got here first.
Steve Dean's Short Story Galactic Truth

As you can probably guess, the name was the first thing that came to mind. Strangely, no biscuits were harmed during the creation process, I was just thinking about word pairs that exhibited assonance, that is words with similar vowel sounds, like squeaky wheel. I decided the character was an alien and would be involved in some serious negotiations despite the comedy name. I can’t say much more without spoilers. I hope you enjoy the story.

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His name, when rendered into sounds a human English speaker could pronounce, was Twisted Biscuit. In appearance, he looked like a two-metre-long mudskipper, more upright at the front and with eight digits on each fin-like hand. Phonetically, they were called the Okzuda. They’d moved away from the oceans of their world millions of years before, although they were still excellent swimmers.

The two sets of aliens had met on a third planet. Each race had landed a small crew beside a promising lake and had been very surprised to discover the other. All thoughts of setting up a colony on the world had been put aside, each trying to ask the other who’d got here first. Both sides had advanced technology and soon their computers were talking to each other.

It fell to Robert Jenson to act as ambassador for the entire human race. He had been instructed to secure the planet for Earth, or at least the largest portion of it. So far, negotiations hadn’t gone well, with the Okzuda insisting they’d seen the human ship landing from the planet’s surface, they even had video evidence.

Robert’s first order of business was to get Twisted Biscuit to allow himself to be called something less amusing to human ears. He explained to the Okzuda that he liked to be called Rob. The alien was puzzled at first, and Rob had to spend some time explaining abbreviations and nicknames, which they didn’t seem to use. In the end, Twisted Biscuit agreed he could be called Twist, but only by Rob.

With that out of the way, the two mission leaders sat down to talk, alternating between meeting in the cargo hold of each ship. Things didn’t progress at all for some days, both sides insisting they had first rights to the planet: Okzuda by first footfall and the humans by proximity to their planet and first date of discovery, Earth time. From what they could work out, it seemed humans had indeed discovered the planet visually before the Okzuda. Stalemate ensued.

Another day went by without progress, and Rob decided to try something different. “Twist, I fear we are getting nowhere. What would you say to a break? Let’s talk about something else, something other than this planet. Tell me more about your planet, what life is like there.”

Twist wiggled his digits, a gesture Rob knew was the equivalent of a nod. “Such a wise suggestion would be accepted. Question and answer format: turn about?” The words came out of his earpiece and appeared on the screen he carried, which also provided additional notes and alternative word meanings.

“Yes, would you like to go first?”

After an uncertain start, the two beings fell into a deep and lengthy conversation, with an answer from one side triggering multiple questions from the other. At the end of the day, Rob concluded that the two species were very different and he was struggling to find common ground. An almost off-the-cuff remark lead to a glimmer of hope. It seemed both sides liked to eat socially and so Rob invited Twist to dinner the next evening. Each, of course, would bring their own food and drink.

The Okzuda used a kind of ramp to ‘sit’ on, the rear half of their body on the floor and the front end propped up on the slope. Twist had sent one over and Rob and his crew had set it up against a low table made from a cargo crate. Luckily, their oxygen needs were very similar and they both drank water, although Twist liked it hot and Rob preferred it cold.

“Before commencement, I would like to offer you a gift, as is tradition on such occasions.” Twist said, pulling out a small metal box and handing it over to Rob.

“Thank you, that is most kind. We have a similar tradition, in that visitors bring gifts which would are presented on arrival, rather than at the table.”
“Most interesting, so very similar but not the same.” Twist’s digits wiggled.

Rob pushed his finger into a recess. The box opened and revealed a sponge-like interior. A complex smell rose from the box, like salt and musk and paint. Nestled inside was a rubbery oval. Rob tipped the box and eased it out. It was as warm in his hand. With the light shining in it, he could see it was semi-translucent with a dark mass in the centre. He wondered if he was going to have to eat it.

“I’m sorry, I don’t really know what this is.”

“No apology is indicated. It is an egg. I laid it this morning, as the sun arose.”

Rob plastered a smile on his face and then glanced down at his screen for clarification.

There it was on his screen, ‘egg; ovum; potential offspring.’

“Oh, that’s… unusual.”

“I was not expectant of a laying event at this time. Such unexpected ovulations are traditionally gifted to those who are close family. In this case, I propose this is a momentous occasion so merited such an honour.”

“What do I need to do with it?” Rob asked, sliding the egg back into the sponge.

“Warmth is required, and a certain humidity. We can send over instructions for your translation.”

“And when it hatches?”

“Instructions can also be sent to facilitate successful nurturing of the infant.”

“This is very, er, are you sure about this?”

Twist was wiggling his digits in a rhythmic and quite manic fashion. “April fool!” He declared.

“I… I’m sorry?” He looked at his screen for confirmation.

“It is plastic, we printed it earlier. It’s a joke in the Earth tradition of April Fool’s Day.”

Rob forced himself to laugh. “Well, you certainly got me there.” He didn’t know what else to say, it was probably the most inappropriate prank he’d ever seen.

“Did you not enjoy our little jest?”

“Yes, indeed.” Rob lied.

“Now, you tell me a joke.”

Rob had to ask around the crew for material and the pair were soon swapping jokes back and forth. A surprising number of them translated very well. It soon became obvious the races had found some common ground.

Only a few short days later, the two races had agreed to share the planet. Not just to divide it in half but share all of it. Some things, like drinking water, breathing oxygen, and bad jokes, it seemed, were a constant across the galaxy.


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