Unexpected Encounters: Flash Fiction by cam for Genna East's Writing Challenge
Who is My Neighbor?
The President of the United States, Paula Jacobs, prepared herself in the Oval Office to meet with the leader of beings from a planet which Earth scientists had been calling Jate 22c since its discovery in 2020, two years after the deployment of the James Webb Space Telescope.
Up to this point, the entire ordeal of an alien spacecraft heading toward Earth had been practically uneventful. There had been no threat, no demands, only a simple request for a meeting with the leader of Earth's most powerful nation.
The door opened and Secret Service officers escorted a woman into the room. She was dressed modestly, even humbly with no pretension, no ostentation. She bowed at the waist and offered her hand.
President Jacobs attempted to follow the slightly odd customs and wanted to respond with some Earth equivalents. But a bow and a handshake seemed to be the gist of it all, and the guest appeared to be pleased and at ease.
Homeland Security had been placed in charge of seeing to the alien woman's needs, so the President directed her questions to the female escort.
"How will we communicate?"
"I speak your language, Madam President." I can explain more about that later if you like."
"Alright, and how should I refer to you?" This was not the kind of extraterrestrial encounter President Jacobs had imagined.
"Your word would be Queen, I believe. Queen Hamara."
"Well, Queen Hamara, welcome to Earth and to the United States of America."
"I thank you for your kind welcome. I wish I could have come bearing gifts from our world, but I am afraid we have been on a very long and difficult journey."
"I see. I would love to hear about your world and about your journey as well. Please, have a seat."
Queen Hamara sat on the floor in the center of the room. President Jacobs ordered some refreshments and went back to join her strange, yet likable guest.
The President stood only for a moment, just long enough to feel like standing before someone seated on the floor was more than just a little arrogant. So she sat on the floor as well.
"Tell me about your world. How long have you been away?" said the President.
"Our technology is a good deal ahead of your own, but not nearly so advanced as some we have been watching. The thing about my people, Madam President, is that our civilization is in a serious decline. We have used up most of the resources left to us by our great ancestors. We have returned to burning fossil fuels for energy, for example. And if I may simply skip over some less important things, what we have done to our planet is irreversible. It is a ruined place."
Somehow, My people crowned me Queen and looked to me to solve our dilemma. I saw the spacecraft, which we call, arks, and our filthy, ruined home the dead oceans. The decision was not too difficult. The population of Loron, our name for our planet, boarded the many arks and set course for the nearest, what appeared might be, friendly planet. We are refugees, Madam President, in desperate need of your assistance."
The refreshments arrived and the White House staff were at a loss for how to serve the President and her guest. In the end, they simply got down on the floor as well and passed the hors d'oeuvres on small plates.
Queen Hamara tasted the fine food and had another, and another. "I'm so sorry." She put her face in her hands. "We have been rationing our food for so long. And this is delicious. I feel guilty now, with my people back on the ark, so hungry and thirsty."
"Please," said the President. Eat all you want. "And you won't have to worry about your people any longer. They will be well cared for here. Can you tell me how many are aboard your ark?"
"The alien woman shook her head and squeezed her eyes shut to block the tears. It is difficult for me to even speak the number, but, three hundred fifty-two are all that remain."
"So few. I am sorry."
"Madam President, My people and I offer you the technology aboard our ark as payment for your kindness and generosity, and if possible, for a new home."
"Queen Hamara, I, of course, will need to speak to my advisors and other leaders of our country, but I am confident that you and your people can rest assured that you have found a new home. You mentioned your many arks. Where are the others?"
"Starvation and disease took all but the one ark that we arrived in. Only a small fraction of my people survived the long journey. Madam President, I don't want to appear ungrateful or impatient. But my people suffer even now as we sit in this fine room and feast on your delicious food."
President Jacobs rose to her feet and assisted Queen Hamara to her feet as well. "You have my word that your people will be in comfort and well fed within hours. You obviously have a means of transporting yourselves from the ark to the surface of our planet. I suggest you begin organizing your people while I begin the process here."
Queen Hamara picked up a cloth bag she had carried with her. She reached in and pulled out a crystal formation. "This is a very powerful mineral from our planet. The only problem is, we have forgotten how to use it." She lowered her eyes in shame for her people. "Maybe your scientists can discover its secrets."
Queen Hamara left the Oval Office and President Jacobs went to her desk. She picked up her phone to talk with her secretary. "Beth, call an emergency meeting of the NSC immediately. Also, see what's going on at Greenbrier Resort. Whatever it takes, I want the entire resort today.
She folded her hands on the desk, the way she always sat when she wanted to think deeply. Of all the lessons these beings could teach us, the least will probably turn out to be technology.