By Michael Hemmingson
The alien vehicle came out of nowhere, turning a corner fast, and Hinemoa crashed her bicycle into the rear. As her body flew over the anti-grav transport, she got a good look at the Ankaran in the driver seat with its four arms, four legs, blue skin, and two mouths. Three eyes stared up at her in surprise.
Hinemoa thought of her roommate, Solveig, as she flew through the air. When Hinemoa had rushed out the door that morning, late for class again, Solveig had been sitting quietly on the couch, getting high eating purple eggs and staring at images of island coasts on the wall screen.
Hinemoa woke up in the New Berlin Medical Center, head throbbing, one arm in a cast, bandages around her torso; she was in pain. A robot nurse came in and did something with one of the three IVs connected to her. A moment later the pain went away. “It is a powerful and recently approved off-world painkiller,” the robot nurse said.
She was floating.
A real live human doctor came into the hospital room a few minutes later — or a few hours, she wasn’t sure. He seemed human enough; you could never tell with the robot upgrades these days, technology courtesy of a different alien visitor race called the Aldebarans.
“How do you feel?” asked the doctor.
“Better than when I woke up.”
“Do you know your name?”
“That’s silly. My name is …”
She had to think, remember: “Hinemoa Hawthorne.”
“Date of birth?”
“Do the math, doc. I’m 19.”
“Your race is Maori?”
“What gave that away? The color of my skin?” She giggled, the pain killers sending her aloft again.
“Do you live in Berlin?”
“Of course. In Mitte.”
“Student. Universität der Künste.”
“What’s with the interrogation, doc?”
“You suffered a concussion. I’m determining if your memory has been negatively affected.”
“I know who I am and where I am,” she said.
“Do you remember the accident?”
“Yeah, sort of,” Hinemoa said, trying to recall. “I was riding my bike down Potsdamer and this freaking Ankaran comes flying out into the lane like a wombat out of Spook Town. Didn’t have time to swerve. Smacked right into its rear.”
“I remember flying, yeah, and then I woke up to this … how long have I been here?”
“A little over 48 hours.”
“I’ve been out two freakin’ days?”
The doctor signed some papers on a holograph pad. “I’m relieved you regained consciousness. You were in a coma.”
She found that amusing. “Broken arm, broken ribs … anything else?”
“Aside from the knock on the head and minor scratches and bruises on your body, no. You’re lucky you didn’t break any other limbs. Or lose anything. I have seen much worse from bicycle accidents.”
“My student insurance will cover this?”
“Don’t worry about that right now.”
“How long do I need to stay here?”
“I want to run some tests, but no more than a week. You’ll be out by Monday,” the doctor said.
He seemed to flicker in her vision — was the painkiller messing with her sight, or was this doc a hologram? She didn’t want to ask.
“If I was out two days,” she said slowly, “it must be Wednesday.”
“Yes it is.”
“Can I ask you something personal, doc?”
“Are you human or android?”
The doctor laughed. But he didn’t answer; he vanished the way holograms do. He was probably in some office on a different continent, telecommuting his work like many did these days.
Hinemoa woke up at 7:30 p.m. in pain; she pressed the IV button and felt the warmth of off-world drugs flow through her blood like a summer river on North Island’s Rotorua, where she grew up.
A man in a gray suit and white tie sat in the chair next to her bed. He looked to be in his early thirties with a head of thick curly brown hair. He held a briefcase in his lap.
“Who are you?” she asked, thinking he must be from hospital administration, and there was something wrong with her insurance. She was sure she would receive a substantial bill she’d never be able to pay; her universal credit rating would be whacked.
He handed her a business card: MALCOLM GANZ, ESQUIRE. INTERNATIONAL AND EXOPOLITIC LAW.
“A lawyer,” she said.
“How are you feeling, Ms. Hawthorne?” His accent was British, not German.
“Okey-doke. How are you feeling?”
He smiled. “Just fine, thank you.”
“I mean, are you really here? Or you a hologram from Liverpool?”
“I’m physically here,” he said, “to discuss your situation.”
“Is there a problem with my insurance?”
“I don’t know. But there is a problem with certain laws, or lack thereof, which needs to be addressed, for all humans on earth and off planet.”
“I don’t understand.”
“The accident was the Ankaran’s fault.”
“Wasn’t mine, that’s for sure.”
“Have you considered the Ankaran’s liability in this matter? Should your student insurance not cover everything? Your missed days of classes, hours of work, pain and suffering?” Ganz opened the briefcase.
“You’re an ambulance chaser,” she said.
“You want to represent me in a lawsuit, yeah?”
“An action, yes. A rightful action.” He handed her some paperwork. She didn’t look at it.
She said, “Why not. I’ll sue that blue, three-eyed arse to LaLaLand.”
“That’s the problem we face,” the lawyer said, “and the problem all of exopolitics is now addressing. Ankarans are not citizens of any country, they are not inhabitants of Earth, and each one of them is considered an emissary of their race.”
“They basically have de facto diplomatic immunity, making them impervious to legal action.”
“Then why are you here bugging me?”
“Their lack of liability is not black letter, only an assumption since very few instances of legal action against extraterrestrials have arisen the past five years that they have been here. I represent the growing number of exopolitical advocates.“
“Humans who wish to make the Ankarans — and any other visiting alien life form — fall under the jurisdiction of the World Court at The Hague, and then actionable in all nations on the globe, most certainly all of Europe, Australia, and North America.”
“Has anyone tried to sue an Ankaran before?”
“Twice, in London and New York. Both cases were vacated for ‘lack of jurisdiction.’”
“I don’t know what that means.”
“Like I said, Ankarans are not earth residents or citizens of any nation, thus the courts in question had no jurisdiction over their — being.”
“You’d think some crafty politicians would’ve covered those bases by now,” she said sarcastically.
“We are working on it, Ms. Hawthorne.”
“So again … why me?”
“You’re the perfect plaintiff to set legislation and precedent into motion. The two previous cases I mentioned—”
“London and New York.”
“… were corporate actions, matters of commerce.”
“Gold and silver? Diamonds?” she said. All the goodies the aliens had used to seduce the governments of Earth.
“With your case, we have personal injury liability. Ankarans do not even have licenses and insurances to operate their vehicles on earth! Things need to change, and you can be the catalyst for that change.”
“Will I get money?”
“You may find yourself quite wealthy from this.”
“Those freaks do have a lot of bling-stuff.”
“And then some. Aside from the money, think of the major changes in alien-human social action, integrity, responsibility …”
“Speaking of which, I have them — bills, rent, food.”
“We will see to your basic needs until the case is resolved.”
“Why not,” Hinemoa said. “Where do I sign?”
Solveig was watching the wall screen and had no idea Hinemoa had been gone the past week. When Hinemoa got home, she was lounging half-naked on the couch, robe opened, tattooed from toe to stomach. “Oh hey, dahhh-ling,” Solveig said dreamily, playing with the ends of her multi-colored dreadlocks.
“You been eating the eggs again?”
“Allllwayyyys,” Solveig giggled.
Hinemoa was concerned with her roommate’s daily intake of the purple eggs, a vice the Ankarans had brought to earth. Many human beings were addicted to the physical and mental effects of the eggs. No one knew if they were really eggs, the biological product of some alien, or manufactured like cream-filled chocolate Easter eggs? Hinemoa had tried them a few times but never wanted to know the origin. Scrambling chicken eggs was one thing, but getting high off an alien biological product …
“Look at me,” Hinemoa said, holding up her arm in a cast.
“Wow, what happened to you, Hine?” Solveig said, her eyes bulging like an insect.
“Never mind,” Hinemoa said, going to her room. “Things might get kind of crazy around here, just a warning, darling.”
“That’s awesome, dahh-ling,” Solveig replied, “I love craaaaazyyy.”
Three weeks later, the lawsuit was filed at The Hague, similar suits filed in London and the New Zealand Supreme Court. “To cover all bases,” Ganz said.
Hinemoa was a guest on At This Moment with Guy Glenn, a controversial screen personality known for his anti-extraterrestrial views. She appeared remotely, her image from her bedroom projected into Guy Glenn’s “studio.” Guy Glenn was not a human being but a virtual construct of several social critics who remained nameless. Guy Glenn was a perfect, flawless image of a male, with a slick suit, ultra-blonde hair, pale white skin, and gleaming blue eyes that actually had a twinkle programmed in.
“Aaaaannnnnn-kaaaarrrans,” Guy Glenn said to the tens of millions worldwide (and off-world) who logged into his image. “How many times have I bitched about those aliens? How many? Not enough! And I will continue to do so, especially today, with my gorgeous young guest who is making all the headlines this week, kiwi Hinemoa Hawthorne. Just look at her; look at her injuries — a hard-working student, only 19 years of age, nearly killed at the paws of the four-by-four blue uglies that have infested our meat world.”
An image of an Ankaran — maybe her Ankaran, she didn’t know; they all looked alike — appeared above them.
“Disgusting,” Guy Glenn said. “Why can’t extraterrestrials be clean and pretty like the wonderful Aldebarans who landed on Earth ten years ago with their message of love and peace?”
An image of several Aldebarans flashed in front of her: eight foot tall humanoids with long blonde hair and cookie-cutter perfect features — a lot like the image of Guy Glenn, she thought. Something is weird here, she said to herself.
“So, Hinemoa dear, an alien nasty causes you injury, insult, and agony, and you have filed suit, even though the suit doesn’t have an ice cube’s chance in Africa, so say the barristers and shysters.”
“That has to change. That must change,” Hinemoa said, repeating the script Ganz and his law firm had prepared. “These Ankarans can’t come to earth and do whatever they please without liability and consequence. Did you know an Ankaran could murder you or me and face no criminal charges? No prison for it.”
Feigning shock, Guy Glenn said, “An Ankaran almost didmurder you! Ghastly! Ankaran assassins and sociopaths running loose!”
Shocked outcries emanated from a nonexistent studio audience.
“We are calling on all good nations of earth to initiate legislation that will address the extraterrestrial responsibility of actions when here,” Hinemoa said.
“’We’, as in?”
“All civil humans of the planet.”
“Bravo! Can we have a round of clap-clap-clap?”
The studio echoed with sounds of applause.
Guy Glenn’s voice was suddenly low and eerie: “So these Ankarans come here with their three eyes and two mouths — double speak and crafty see! — bringing gold and silver and diamonds to woo-woo and cooh-cooh-cachoo us, bringing exotic drugs and edible delights to blow our minds, new technology and virtual machines of vast wonders to grab our feet. And now they’re having sex with humans, very sick and twisted humans who have succumbed to Ankaran drugs and wealth — can I have some disgust?”
Sounds of moans, groans, and a screaming child came from nowhere.
“And they can get away with murder, says lovely Hinemoa. They can cause bodily and mental harm to innocent peoples?! This has to stop indeed, dear ones, and brave humans like Lassie Hawthorne are taking the first steps to see to it that justice for human beings is well-served and deserved! Will you follow in her steps? Will you support her? Who can walk in her boots — are you wearing boots, my love? Oh, I see you’re one of those barefoot types. I love the shade of your toenail polish!”
Then came the laughter.
“You’re, like, everywhere, dahh-ling,” Solveig said, walking into the apartment and nibbling on a purple egg. She wore running shorts and a tank top. Hinemoa doubted she was out exercising, probably made an egg run from a dealer.
Hinemoa lay on the couch, holding her cast up. “What are you talking about?”
“I was walking down the street and I, wow, see your mug one hundred feet tall. A digital wall with your face! And then you’re in the sky — you on a dirigible!”
“Just down the block, wow.”
Hinemoa thought her roommate’s egg intake was making the girl see things. She went outside and walked around the block and there it was: there she was — face larger than life on the wall of a government building, a touched-up rendition of her visage (away with the pores), with the words “Fight The Aliens” below her chin.
And the dirigibles in the sky, flashing a new ad every two minutes, one of her face with “Humans First” underneath.
The hologram of a Japanese man in a white suit appeared in the middle of her bedroom. “May I speak with you, Frauline Hawthorne? It is rather important.”
“Who the whoop-de-doo are you?” She sat up in bed, not noticing she was naked.
“My name is Tatsumi. Mr. Takayuki Tatsumi.”
“You hacked my communications?”
“I had to. I am very sorry. Forgive me.” His eyes dropped to her chest.
She covered her bare breasts with a blanket. “Are you a perv slicing a wire for a looky-loo?”
A faint smile appeared on the man’s face. “In another circumstance, I might suggest something sensual. However, I am contacting you on a matter of urgent business. I represent Jgaptel of Ankara.”
“The being you are suing.”
She had never scrutinized the defendant’s name on the legal papers because it was written out in Ankaran script.
“You’re a lawyer,” she said.
“I am — counsel and representation.”
“An agent? A manager?”
“An advocate,” said the hologram. “My client does not wish for this matter to continue, the public reaction is not good for business. We would like to make you a fair settlement as compensation for what you have endured. Fair, and substantial.”
“Shouldn’t you be talking to my counsel, Herr Ganz, about that?”
“We have made several attempts to contact the law firm where Malcolm Ganz is employed, yes. Unfortunately, we have received neither answer nor acknowledgement. We believe we are being ignored.”
“I was not …” Hinemoa stopped herself.
“Yes? Frauline Hawthorne, you have not been informed of the settlement we wish to offer?”
“I don’t think I should be talking to you,” she told the hologram lawyer. “And I’m not a ‘frauline.’ Just because I live in Germany doesn’t make me German. Check my accent.”
“And I am not keen on hacked night visits.”
“Of course. I will leave my contact information on your system.”
“There are laws against wire-cutters!”
The Japanese man’s image vanished like the doctor at the hospital. She wondered if her visitor’s avatar was a flesh-and-blood man or a construct like Guy Glenn.
Hinemoa thought Ganz’s office was too small for a lawyer of his status, and Ganz’s name was not even on the firm’s nameplate outside the building. It was a rather large legal practice, however, taking up three of the forty floors with glass windows overlooking Friedrichshain.
“Why didn’t you tell me about the settlement offer?” she asked.
Ganz sat behind his desk with templed fingers. He wore a pink suit today, green tie. “It’s a breach of protocol for them to go around this office and make contact. Let alone hack your comm system.”
“He said you were ignoring him.”
“Do you believe that?”
“Why would he say so?”
“To create division.”
“Did they try to contact you?”
“No,” Ganz said.
She knew he was lying. “They are offering a lot of gold bars,” she said.
“I will need to verify.”
“Do that. Call this Tatsumi guy now. I have his contact info. He’s in London.”
“Let’s not be so hasty, Ms. Hawthorne.”
The door of Ganz’s office opened and a deep voice said, “Yes, let us not be fooled to any quick actions just for the sake of money.”
Hinemoa turned and looked up at a very tall, slender, and handsome man with golden-blonde hair and bright blue eyes. He stood at least seven and a half feet tall and wore a pale blue business suit and pink tie.
“Ms. Hawthorne, this is Mr. Valent, my … employer,” Ganz said.
She was afraid to take his hand; it was twice the size of most men’s hands. But this was no man, or human, she knew; this Mr. Valent was an Aldebaran.
She took his hand finally, with her left, the arm not in a cast; his skin was smooth and warm and sensual.
“My apologies,” Valent said. “I did receive a number of calls from the Ankaran advocate; however, I have not yet discussed the issue with Herr Ganz. The fault lies with my busy schedule.”
“We can end this, then,” Hinemoa said. “Won’t a settlement provide precedent for future lawsuits?”
“Not exactly,” Ganz said. “They may require a non-disclosure stipulation.”
She sighed. “My image is all over the place. I didn’t sign on for that.”
“You understood there would be public reaction and exposure,” Ganz said.
“I can’t tell if people are rah-rah-rah for me, or hate me,” she said.
“You are paving the road to a new human world,” Valent said with an alien smile. “You are cause for celebration, Hinemoa.”
“Maybe I just want to cash out,” she said.
“There is work to be done,” Ganz told her.
“Since when does a law firm hesitate taking a settlement offer?”
“There is work to be done,” Ganz repeated.
“It has begun,” Valent said. “Let me show you.” The Aldebaran turned on Ganz’s wall screen and connected to a news channel showing hundreds of people outside the United Nations building in New York. People were chanting “Humans First!” and holding signs that displayed vulgar words against Ankarans.
A female news anchor said, “In response to the groundbreaking lawsuit filed by a student in Germany, protests against the Ankaran presence has spread on three continents.”
The screen cut to images of protestors outside the Ankaran embassy in London and below a large Ankaran cargo ship parked in the sky over Sydney, Australia. At the Los Angeles Airport, tattooed gangs were firing handguns at another Ankaran freighter.
“I thought guns were illegal in the U.S.A.,” Hinemoa said.
“The resistance can be resourceful,” Valent said.
“With the right friends,” Ganz said.
Hinemoa sighed again. “I’m an idiot. You used me. It’s no secret your kind don’t like their kind,” she said, pointing to Valent. “You came here first and warned our leaders about the Ankarans, you boys being sweet and good looking … and humanoid. But who can turn down gold and silver and purple eggs? So what’s the agenda? And why me?”
“Every hero — heroine in this case — in history has asked that,” Ganz said.
“You will be known for the beginning,” Valent said.
“The beginning of what?”
“The cleansing. We are cleansing your world of filth,” Valent said matter-of-factly.
Solveig sat cross-legged, a half eaten egg in her lap, staring at the image of an Ankaran on the wall screen and crying. Soothing, sad music played. Ankaran music.
“What did you do, Hine?” said Solveig.
“They killed him.”
“Jgeptal.” Solveig pointed at the wall screen. “He was in New York, on his way to speak at the U.N. about your silly lawsuit, and he was attacked by terrorists. They blew up his transport. People are cheering … some people. Others are in mourning. He was not a bad per— not a bad alien. You killed him, do you realize that?”
The world was going nuts and anti-extraterrestrial sentiments were rising, while an underground love for Ankarans was also becoming evident.
“The war is on!” cried Guy Glenn from virtual space.
Valent was making the talk show rounds, warning about treachery from the blue guys. “The terrorist attack was staged by them,” said Valent. “Jgeptel lives, is most likely on the Ankaran station in orbit. We have seen them make similar deceptions on other worlds, to gain sympathy for their presence.”
You’re all liars, Hinemoa thought. She shut down her communications center; thousands of reporters, politicians, and talking images wanted a piece of her time. If only she had slept in longer that day, or left five minutes earlier, she would have never been in the accident and her life would be simple: school, part-time job, an empty short-term romance now and then, no one knowing who she was, no one caring what she thought. Just another young woman in a big indifferent world.
She opened the fridge in the kitchen and looked at Solveig’s stash of purple eggs: seven in a tray. She took one and bit into it. Sweet like jello. This would not be the first time she escaped into the drug haze of extraterrestrial origin; she understood how easily people, like her roommate, could get hooked.
She stopped and looked at the egg. She wasn’t going to fall into that trap. That’s what they wanted for humanity. Not her. Someone had to take a stand …
First, Solveig. She hoisted her roommate up by the arms. Solveig giggled, too high to protest or resist.
“Where we going?” Solveig said happily.
“I’m going to put you in egg rehab,” Hinemoa said. “It’s the only way to get those goddamn aliens out of you.”
“Oooh, how fun,” Solveig said, too high to know what was going on.
Outside, on the street, she waved down a taxi. Before she could get her roommate into the vehicle, Solveig’s legs gave out and she fell to the ground, laughing.
A man in a green suit stopped and helped Hinemoa lift Solveig up and put her inside the taxi.
The man said, “I know you, don’t I?”
“What? No, I don’t think so. Thank you—”
“You’re Hinemoa Hawthorne!” the man in the green suit said, excited. “You’ve been all over the screens!”
“I have to take my …”
“Look! It’s her!” a woman said.
People were now gathering around, pointing and saying her name.
“We’re with you, Hinemoa!” several of them yelled.
“Stop the Ankarans!”
“Fight the aliens!”
“We’re your army,” the man in the green suit said. “You’re famous and righteous.”
She smiled at them all and help up a fist. “Get the alien out of your life!” she shouted.
People cheered. The crowd was getting too big. She thanked them and jumped into the taxi.
The cab driver looked at her in the rearview. The driver was a woman in her fifties with short pink hair. “It is you,” the driver said.
“I don’t know what’s going on,” Hinemoa said.
“You’ve caused quite a stir, girly,” the driver said. “People are ready to kick Ankaran ass.”
Solveig closed her eyes and began to drool.
“We have to hurry,” Hinemoa said.
“Your girlfriend will be okay. I’ve seen worse. Wow, this is an honor, to have you in my ride. Hey, look!”
Hinemoa looked where the driver was pointing: a three hundred foot image of her face on a skyscraper.
Hinemoa tried not to smile. She did. It was all rather flattering and made her scalp tingle. She started to consider the possibilities: start a revolution; change the world. Today’s Joan of Ark. Yes, she could do that.
First, the Ankarans. Then the Aldebarans. And any other so-called “friendly race.”
Michael Hemmingson’s Wildside Press Double (#32), The Chronotope/Poison from a Dead Sun, a collection of speculative fiction and a short SF novel, is now available. He hosts the radio show, The Art of Dreaming, at Revolution Radio (freedomslips.com)