Humor Science Fiction posted January 25, 2008

This work has reached the exceptional level
First Contact with Earth


by snodlander

The shuttle gently sank to the ground, yesterday's newspapers scurrying from the downdraft of the repulsor jets. It gave a sigh as the undercarriage took the weight, like a grand old matron settling into her favourite chair. The whine of the engines became less laboured, then hissed into silence. In a moment, all that could be heard was the metronomic ticking of the fuselage cooling in the early morning air.

For ten minutes all was still, then with the obligatory whoosh of compressed air and release of vapour, a door slid open. When the air cleared, it revealed the imposing figure of Zarr'ock Clthar in full ambassadorial encounter suit. He surveyed the vista from his vantage point as the metal ramp silently extended to the ground.

He had expected more. A band would have been nice, not that any planet in the galaxy could play 'I'll Groogle Your Splinths At Wurbertime' like they did back home. A delegation of dignitaries was normally considered compulsory. An honour guard showed respect.

Zarr'ock Clthar looked down on the sole witness to the first contact of the Slotharian Federation of Planets with the people of Earth. At least he had a uniform. Of sorts.

"Greetings, People ... Person of Earth," intoned Zarr'ock in his most senatorial voice. Quite frankly, it didn't warrant a speech. You can't make a speech to one person. A speech to one person was a conversation, and how oratorical was that? But protocol demanded it, and he had written it himself. Days he had rehearsed it on the long journey in the mother ship. It would be a shame to waste it.

"I am Zarr'ock Clthar, Ambassador of the Slotharian Federation of Planets, and I bring a message to your planet. But first let me tell you about a funny thing that happened to me on the way here today."

"Can't park there," said Albert, nodding at the shuttle.

"It seems that there was ... Sorry?" The ambassador had rehearsed all the possible responses of the earthmen to his message, and what his answer might be, but he hadn't considered the possibility of hecklers in the audience.

"That! There! Can't park it!" Albert had long experience of this sort of thing. It did no good to be flowery with your speech, or to enter into long explanations. The rules were quite straightforward and clear.

"This is the ambassadorial shuttle from the mother ship Quartlflower, flag ship of the Slotharian fleet."

Albert sniffed, unimpressed. "I don't care if it's a Rolls Royce, you ain't parking it there, sunshine."

This wasn't the way First Contact was meant to go. Zarr'ock had memorised all the protocols. They didn't cover this sort of creature. He decided to skip the speech and jump straight to the ceremonial opening of discussions.

"Take me to your leader," he said, quoting the age-old mantra of inter-galactic diplomacy.

"Do what?"

"I wish to speak to your government."

Albert took out his notebook and pen. "Should have parked in the Town Hall car park, then, shouldn't you. What's that?" he asked, pointing his pen at the gutter.

"A pen?" hazarded Zarr'ock.

"No," said Albert, with exaggerated patience. He was paid by the hour, what was the point of hurrying? "Not what's in my hand, what I am using my pen to point at. Them's double yellow lines, them is."

"Yes?" said Zarr'ock, unsure of the significance.

"Yes. And you have caused your vehicle to come to rest on them. It is an offence to park a vehicle on double yellow lines."

"But I have arrived on your planet to negotiate a treaty between your people and the great Slotharian Federation of Planets."

Albert gave a cynical snort. "Negotiate? Negotiate? Do you have any idea how long I've walked these streets?"

"Since the rising of your sun over the horizon?" suggested Zarr'ock.

"Eleven years. And in those eleven years I've heard plenty of people 'negotiate'." He said the word as though it were something unclean. "I've heard it all. 'My waters have broken.' 'I'm a fireman putting out this fire.' 'We're in the middle of a funeral.' They've all 'negotiated' and they've all got a ticket. Name!" It wasn't a question.

"Zarr'ock Clthar, his Excellency, Ambassador of the ..."

"How d'you spell that?"

"Two 'r's"

"Double 'r'," muttered Albert, filling in the ticket. "Address?"

"I am currently on a ten year mission on the Federation starship Quartlflower, care of the Federation of Slotharian Planets."

"Don't suppose you've got a post code for that?" asked Albert, without hope.

"Erm ... no, sorry." Zarr'ock felt that the conversation had slipped from his control. He tried to wrench it back on track.

"I come bearing the promise of great gifts for your people. A cure for cancer! Free and clean energy! A diet that allows you to eat chocolate and actually works."

Albert narrowed his eyes. "Are you trying to bribe an officer of the local council?" he asked, his voice low and full of menace.

Zarr'ock weighed the possible answers. "No?" he asked, hesitantly.

"Good. 'Cos it wouldn't work, not on me. Job comes first, every time." He tore the ticket off the pad.

Zarr'ock sighed. "What is it you want, then?" he asked, resignedly. Negotiations weren't meant to be this difficult, especially after the chocolate offer.

Albert slapped the ticket into Zarr'ock's tentacle. "I want you to pay this ticket in the next five working days, and I want you to never, I mean never, park that there again."

As Zarr'ock returned to the mother ship, he reflected on the strange psychology of the creatures he had to deal with. Every species had its own quirks, but he had never met a race so isolationist as these humans. Still, the protocols were clear: if the humans did not wish contact with the advanced races of the galaxy, their wishes must be respected. He would put a marker buoy in deep orbit of the planet, warning off other would-be visitors. He read the ticket the earthman had given him. Oh good, he could pay online.


Jobsworth - a minor official who will not be flexible in following the minutae of the rules because 'it's more than my job's worth'

No parking zones in the UK are marked by double yellow lines painted in the gutter.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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