[Writing Prompt] “The toughest part of an alien invasion isn’t combat, sabotage, or even recon…it’s all the bureaucracy and paperwork required.”
“Next” croaked the speaker over the counter. I had no idea what the alien sitting behind the counter was actually saying, I just hoped the translator had provided an accurate translation.
I stepped forward, with a few papers in my hands.
“Name?” the speaker said. It was a little disconcerting to see the alien infront of you, but not seeing a mouth or hear anything from it. Just the speaker over its counter.
“Johnathan Simmons, deputy administrator of the Smithonian…” I said before the alien cut me off.
“Case number?” I blinked and looked down on the sheet of paper on top of the stack I had brought.
“59849300X34587Y” I rattled off. The alien said nothing, but his appendixes moved rapidly over some sort of screen in front of it. A moment later a sheet of paper appeared in the air before me. Or rather a hologram of it.
“That it?” came the question from the speaker. I nodded and said “Yes”, not knowing if the alien could correctly interpret human gestures.
“That was already ruled no liability on our part” the alien said. “NEXT!!”
“Wait” I said and turned halfway around to the guy behind me in the line. I smiled apologetically at him and turned back to the alien. “I have looked it up and you are wrong. Wrong in dismissing the claim that is.”
The alien said nothing and didn’t move, so I pressed on. Maybe I was on to something here.
“The first time this case was send to the war and invasion bureau. That was wrong. It should have been sent here, to the small claims office all along. It took me a while to figure out, but you guys don’t see the destruction of one of our most priced museums as big deal or worthy of reparations from the war office.”
Still the alien didn’t say anything or moved. I had no idea, if I was getting anywhere, but what did I have to lose.
“It took us awhile, but we finally managed to put a price to the museum. A small price that you could pay out of pocket if you wanted.” I smiled, again, not sure if the alien could interpret the gesture. “Just pay us in gold, you seem to have a lot of it lying around.”
“No” the alien said. And this time I felt more than heard it coming from the alien itself, not the speaker over our heads. That was new. I hadn’t heard them directly communicating before.
“Why not? You don’t value the stuff, we do. Once you are gone, we still have to do business amongst ourselves. And gold is currency around here.”
“No” the alien repeated.
“You have to pay. According to article 7, paragraph 569 of your own War & Invasion doctrine, you are liable to pay any involuntary damages to local historical archives, sites, both corporeal and non-corporeal.” I had spend a few weeks figuring that one out. But I was sure it would get me what I wanted.
The aliens head, if you could call it that, turned slightly. Now even more of its eyes were on me. I had learned that this gesture was one of thinking among them.
“We can’t pay.” Crap, this was getting difficult.
“You can’t go against your own doctrine” I tried again. “If you do, you are forfeiting any claim to this planet and have to leave immediately.”
“No.” This came from the speaker again. Had I lost him?
“Maybe we can come to a sort of understanding” I said. “Maybe you can pay with something other than gold.”
“Name your price.” And here it was. The opportunity I had been working months towards getting.
I looked around, as if I was checking that nobody was in earshot of the conversation. I didn’t care if he understood the gesture or not. Then I fished a few pages out of the stack I was pressing against my chest and put it in front of the alien.
Now all eyes turned towards the sheets of paper. His appendixes started moving on the screens in front of him. I got him. I hoped.
A few moments later he took up an old school stamp and slammed it on the paper on the counter.
“NEXT.” The speaker came back alive. It took me a moment to realize that I had done it and could go. I grabbed the paper and practically ran out of the room, before somebody could stop me.
Outside I ran down the steps and onto the sidewalk. A couple of black SUVs stopped beside me and a door opened. I jumped in, sat back and exhaled. Done.
“Here it is, General. The official transfer of ownership of their flagship to the Earth Defense Forces.”
“Are you sure? And how is that going to help us? One ship against their whole fleet?”
“Simple, general. Once we figure out how to operate it, we take it back to their homeplanet. Their flagship is their ruler at the same time, I can’t really explain it. But once we turn up in that ship, their home planet, their whole empire really, is ours.”