Starting Point: Handcock’s Sacrifice

full_Turtledove_Chan_640_389

As the alien delegation shuffled and lumbered through the corridors of the White House, ducking under doorways too low for their stature and carelessly knocking the priceless antiques that lined the route between the Roosevelt Room and the Press Briefing Room, President John Handcock the Second gave thought to the many men and women they had swept aside to get there. They’d hoped to enter the White House under different circumstances; waving a flag of victory and dictating terms of surrender, or perhaps reducing the building to ashes as a warning to future generations of human slaves. Fortunately, their invasion of Earth had not gone according to plan.

Tens of thousands of America’s finest had laid down their lives to fend off the alien invasion, but in the end it was the courage and ingenuity of just a small few – and one plucky Brit – that turned the tide of war.

Now the Honogons were in Washington for a different reason. Unaware of how close they had come to victory, and unaware of how easily they could yet defeat humanity, they had come to sue for peace on equal terms. The fate of the world rested on a bluff, but the Honogons, it seemed, were poor poker players.

Lorbor the Conqueror (or Lorbor the Capitulator, as the treaty stipulated he would henceforth be known) held the president in a mesmerizing stare. With a clear three foot height difference between them, Handcock felt an embarrassing crimp beginning to attack his neck.

“I shall make the arrangements immediately,” said the great beast. He spoke in an assortment of low grunts and flat squeeks, and the words were translated by a gizmo the boys at NASA had hastily cobbled together. The negotiations had revealed flaws in the accuracy of the device, but it served its purpose well enough.

There were some words and concepts that could not cross the cultural divide that separated the two species. The Honogons, for example, had no concept of democracy or personal liberty. They’d mistaken President Handcock for a king, and a detailed lecture on the American political system had failed to convince them otherwise.

The great beast continued. “Next moon-orbit we shall confirm the treaty in the traditional manner; we shall join our houses through blood and marriage. Providing the marriage is fruitful, there may ever after be peace between us.”

President John Handcock the Second swallowed hard. He’d be more comfortable ratifying the treaty with a signature and a handshake, but it was too late to back out now.

How would you continue this story?

Artwork by Jason Chan.

  • Ryan Holloway

    Just a quick five minute exercise to get the juices flowing.
    “What would the ceremony consist of?” Handcock asked, his neck hurting from maintaing eye contact with Lorbor. A deep guttural laugh rose from the belly of the beast, almost causing Handcock to flinch.
    The laughing subsiding, Lorbor continued with grunting and squeaking, the machine busily translated. “You hand my daughter will meet in the ring of combat. If you are able to draw blood from her, she will submit and you two will betrothed then. But if you die, your kingdom falls to me.”
    Numbness overcame him, has the full weight of the situation came to rest on his shoulders. Spending the rest of the time with his mind on autopilot, only one thought occurred to him, “Well I won’t be alive long to see the destruction of humanity.”

    • I can almost here the Star Trek fight-to-the-death music (also known a the Decapodian national anthem in Futurama)

      • Personally I’m kinda miffed that no one by now had made the competition instead as a variant of tag known as the “Game of the Honogons” where the challenger has one week to touch the crown of the champion’s head to win.

  • ShadowFox

    most science fiction stories involving aliens are about a “more advanced” species. what about one were we are the advance species going around “uplifting” the “primitive” species of the galaxy. a story like that could be ripe for drama and conflict for a novel or game.