Short stories

Transcript from the Interview…

Transcript from the interview that contributed material for the article ‘Aliens from Outer Space: Make Us Into Your Leaders’, published Oct 2036

No. The first clutch was the easiest, in a way.

Well, we didn’t know what we were doing. Didn’t realise that only one in ten of the hatchlings would see the six-month mark. Didn’t know what they could eat or how they would learn or what they would need from us. We weren’t ready, and that meant we didn’t fear each bottleneck in their development. We didn’t know that we couldn’t save them all.

The worst day? It’s hard to say, now. They evolved to be very efficient, you see. Not only the strongest survive, but the strongest then consumes the resources of those not strong enough. Literally, I mean. We tried to separate them when we realised, to try and allow all of them a chance. Maybe it would’ve worked back on their own planet, with the resources they had –

I’ll talk about her in a moment, if you don’t mind.

They sent us all kinds of resources in the pods. We’re still working through all the information, the designs… But none of it was really about the hatchlings. They trusted the hatchlings to just survive. It’s us they were concerned about – humans, I mean. So in the end, we had to let it happen, or none of them would have survived our meddling. From that first clutch, only three lived. Thank god the Mothers sent more than one brood.

No, she was part of the second clutch. We thought she wouldn’t make it and then there she was one morning, and no sign of two of her brothers…

I told you, it’s normal for them. She wasn’t sentient –

That’s not a fair question. I loved them all. You couldn’t help it. It was like… like a litter of kittens, but almost the only kittens in the world. The only chance. I felt like I had to protect them. I think we all felt like that, my male colleagues as much as the other women, and even Dee…

I’m sorry. That’s not really germane, is it?

Rabak? That wasn’t her name at first, no. We gave them human names – from all our cultures, anything that seemed to fit. Everything we had from the Mothers in the pods was for us. In retrospect, of course, we should have put more thought into it, but when she hatched, we just called her Rebecca. Their mouths aren’t the same shape as ours, especially early in development, so when she was learning to speak –

No, her name wasn’t my contribution. I don’t think I was very inspired either, mind you. Zara and Anika, those were the ones I put in, names of girls I grew up with. Does it matter? I was probably most involved with raising Rabak. The others thought I might have had some idea what to do since I was a mother, and she was –

I’m not going to answer that question. As I was trying to say, when they first hatch, they’re as vulnerable as a mammal, maybe almost as vulnerable as a primate. That’s not really my field, it’s just an impression I got when I was reading all the literature, trying to bring together all the knowledge I could gather about development in general. But they learn quickly, and they come on in leaps and bounds, especially after the bottlenecks. Yes, I suppose that is a euphemism, but it’s a useful one: it’s a point in development which only a certain proportion of the clutch can survive. In her species, it’s adaptive – after the bottleneck, the survivors are stronger.

No, I wouldn’t say that. It’s part of her people’s DNA. Do you think it’s barbaric that you can digest milk as an adult? We’re not talking about the act of drinking milk here, just the ability to metabolise it. Exactly.

So yes, I did primarily raise Rabak, and I would say I know her well. Once she learned to speak, the questions were endless. They weren’t just simple questions, the sort my son was asking. They had to learn, they had to adapt to us. She would ask me all kinds of things – she knew I was lactating, from my scent –

That’s none of your business either. I’m here to discuss my career and my involvement with the project to hatch and raise the clutches found in the capsules. Yes, I started the project as a geneticist, but we all had to become experts at everything. Eighteen months out of the egg, three bottlenecks old, and Rabak was learning Arabic and calculating the orbits of planets in other solar systems for fun.

Of course I was concerned. Obviously I didn’t want… But if she hadn’t participated in the bottleneck events, she would have died. She had to risk it. They don’t even see it as a risk, it’s just a part of their development. Like losing your milk teeth to gain an adult set.

Yes. She went through her final bottleneck – at least as far as we know – three years ago. She’s one of five surviving from the second clutch. I haven’t closely supervised her in years. We speak at the weekends, as friends. She’s a full adult of her species, by my understanding.

Why did they send the pods? I’ve never asked Rabak. I don’t know if she knows. But I think it’s obvious. It was such a wealth of information, and all of it aimed at helping us. Not just any old species: humans. I think the Mothers have been observing Earth for a while and have seen the mess we made. At the same time, they had a pretty high opinion of us – decoding the information to begin with wasn’t easy. I’ve played some part in that, yes. Some of the encoding used DNA. Some of it was even in the hatchlings’ DNA. We were on the cusp of understanding genetic engineering when they came: now we have all the tools to do it for ourselves. They use different base pairs to terrestrial species, but the principles –

What? Well, yes, I’ve been somewhat involved in raising the fifth clutch. They’re approaching a new bottleneck now, based on our previous observations. You’d think they’d be becoming more wary of each other, but it really is a part of their development: they’re actually spending more time together. Feeling each other out, I suppose. Now that we understand the process, I’ve had a little more time for my own work. I analysed some of the genetic –

Do I think Rabak would make a good President? Is that what you really wanted to ask? I thought this interview was meant to be about my work. I don’t know. I’m proud of all she’s achieved, but it’s a human world. She could help us make the changes we’ve needed for so long. Sometimes I think that’s why the Mothers sent them, as well as the information. Just sending the information… we’d probably find a way to make a mess of things. But at the same time, I do think it could end badly. It’s a bottleneck.

Oh, no. Not for us. The Mothers didn’t send enough of them to even possibly “take over the world” – that’s a ridiculous idea. It’s a bottleneck for them. We’re going to eat her alive. It’s what humans do. And she’ll let us.

That is my professional opinion. If you don’t like it, you can probably think of somewhere creative to shove it. I’ve done my part for Rabak; the rest of that is up to her. I have my own work to do.

Well, she can’t save the world all on her own, can she?


Notes: Written for submission to Rosalind’s Siblings, but not acquired. The only story that I’ve ever sent out on submission, mostly just because I liked the anthology’s theme, and this story was what came of pondering it. Many thanks to my wife and Lynn O’Connacht for their help in tweaking it. I’m still very proud of it, even if it wasn’t acquired for the anthology!

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