“Would you mind if we didn’t probe you?” said Flurb.

He was chief negotiator for the aliens who’d beamed me aboard their spaceship and seemed quite a decent fellow. The ‘he’ was my best guess, given that Flurb was a roughly 30 cubic foot blob of putrid purple protoplasm; his mouth, eyes, and appendages appearing as and where needed.

“Probe?” I asked.

Flurb replied, “Yes, probe. I am an expert on your planet, Dirt.”

“Earth,” I gently corrected him.

“Yes, Earth. My extensive studies tell me that when humans are taken aboard a spacecraft, they expect to be probed. I find the thought of probing something as disgusting as a human repulsive, but I wouldn’t want to offend you.”

“In the interest of inter-stellar friendship, what the heck, if you don’t want to probe me, don’t probe me,” I replied.

Dodged a bullet there. So far the aliens seemed quite accommodating. They were holding me in a room with a wonderful view of Earth. The room was nicely furnished; at least I think most of it was furniture. On a table-ish looking thing stood a bowl of fruit-like stuff and a lovely arrangement of what was either flowers or smurf-sized parasols. The one thing that I happily recognized was a bar stocked with a wonderful assortment of Earth beverages, including the impressively hard to find Strawberry Yoohoo.

Ever since I saw Close Encounters, I knew that sooner or later I’d be taken. Sure enough, one minute I’m out riding fences for the Double-Q ranch; the next minute I’m onboard the spaceship. I suppose I was tempting fate by being completely alone in a remote corner of North Dakota.

We broke orbit. I wondered where we were heading but didn’t ask. I was determined to say as little as possible until I knew what the aliens were after; and, trust me, anyone who offers you an open bar wants something.

Flurb finally spoke, “Let me get right to the point. Interstellar law requires that we get permission from the dominant intelligent species on any planet before we start mining its resources.”

“What’s that have to do with me?” I asked, not quite sure if I should be speaking on behalf of humanity.

“Why, are you not human?”

“Despite what my ex would tell you, yes, I am human. Truthfully though, I’m not sure that I’m the best one for you to speak with.”

“Well, based on section 722B of the Inter-planetary Protocols on Trade, you’re considered fully authorized to negotiate on behalf of your planet. Of course, if you feel that you are not up to the task, we can invoke section 732D by ejecting you into space and finding a new representative.”

“Then let’s start the negotiations,” I sagely respond.

“Very well, my new human friend, but I must warn you that I am a very sharp negotiator.”

“I suspected as much. What exactly is it that you want?”

“I like the cut of your jab, human; carving right to the heart of the matter.”

“Jab? Do you mean jib?” I asked.

“Yes, jib. I like the way it’s cut. Now, as you must know, your atmosphere is rich in valuable methane and carbon dioxide. We would like to purchase exclusive rights to mine them.”

At that point I decided: In for a penny, in for a pound. “Hmmm, it wasn’t easy for us to build up such a great reserve of greenhouse gases. But, I suppose, if the price is right, we would be willing to part with some of it.”

Flurb and I dickered back and forth for several hours, while his ship slowly cruised around the solar system. I enjoyed the view. By the way, Uranus doesn’t look at all like I thought it would up close — sorry, I just love potty humor.

We finally reached an agreement. Once the contract goes into effect, the aliens will be allowed to remove 25% of Earth’s greenhouse gases each year, and they will have to pay me, Earth’s representative, 500 ounces of gold monthly. Flurb summoned his assistant and an impromptu ceremony was held. We shared many rounds of Shnozmiggle, an alien intoxicant that goes delightfully well with Strawberry Yoohoo. The agreement was signed, witnessed, and sealed. After we shook appendages all around and posed for commemorative pictures, Flurb began to chuckle.

“I must confess, on my home planet gold is industrial waste, the useless by-product of energy production. Did I not warn you that I’m a very sharp negotiator?”

“Yes, you did. You sure put one over on me; I’ll know better next time. By the way how soon will the contract take effect?”

While I waited for Flurb to answer, I tried to decide exactly how big a beach house I would buy and whether Malibu or Maui made more sense. What the heck, I might as well get both. Just as I decided that a Cessna Citation X suited me more than a Learjet 75, Flurb spoke.

“Things should happen pretty quickly. The contract will go to the administrative offices of the Orion Arm to review the fine print. Upon approval, it will be registered with the Galactic Trade Council. Barring any problems, we should be able to begin in two or three centuries, tops.”

Oh well, I’m glad I didn’t put a deposit down on the plane.


Art is a retired computer programmer. After forty years of writing in COBOL and Assembler he decided to try writing in English. It’s much harder than it looks. He lives in New York City with his wife/muse and regularly visiting grandkids. Art’s had stories published in Drunken Boat, Third Flat Iron Anthologies, Fall Into Fantasy, and Home Planet News Online. You may contact him at: ALASKY9679@YAHOO.COM.