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December 08, 2004

Chapter Twenty Two

On the whole, people took it rather well. The only place that rioted was North Korea.

The fact that an alien had managed to sneak past humanity, pose as a superstar and win the Best Actress Oscar had the desired affect of showing the world that the Yherajk were an essentially benign race -- after all, if they had been a warlike people, they could have overrun us with their spaceships, or at the very least have fielded a football team and tried to win the Superbowl instead. Winning the Best Actress Oscar was the most non-threatening, yet high exposure, way to introduce one species to another.

The other point that came across was the point Michelle made in her speech -- despite the differences, we were in many ways just the same. Michelle wouldn't have been awarded the Oscar if she had not been able to create such a believable performance as a woman and a human. It was only afterwards, after all, that people realized she wasn't human.

Michelle made it easy for most of humanity by meeting them halfway; although she remained transparent, she also retained Michelle's body shape rather than reverting to the basic Yherajk shapelessness (or smell). She did her job as a true bridge between our peoples -- clearly alien, and yet, human enough for most people to accept her.

The only unpleasant thing about Michelle winning the Oscar came later, when some Academy members petitioned to have Michelle disqualified as the Best Actress winner. Their rationale was that not only was she not really a human, there was no way to determine that she was, in fact, female.

The Academy voted down the proposal in the interests of interspecies peace. Michelle kept her Oscar.

Roland, who never discovered if he had won Best Director or Best Picture, consoled himself with his Best Editing Oscar, and the fact that Michelle's alien status gave Hard Memories the Oscar Bump of the ages. By the end of its run, Hard Memories grossed half a billion domestic and another billion and a half foreign. Before video and cable. Roland, whose gross points were now worth $400 million, went on to make the Krysztof Kordus film without Michelle's money. He paid for it himself out of petty cash.

Roland wasn't the only one raking in the fame and fortune. The day after Michelle unveiled, Jim Van Doren walked into the offices of the New York Times and plopped down a story about life on the Yherajk spaceship. It was picked up by every newspaper on the planet; shortly thereafter, Van Doren received a $6 million advance for a book on Human-Yherajk relations, which, as it happened, he'd already co-written with Gwedif. It was rushed into print so fast that the glue was still wet when the books hit the stores. It stayed at the top of the bestseller lists for the rest of the year. It's still there now. You wouldn't believe what he gets in speaking fees these days. I don't and I'm his agent.

Beyond Michelle, however, the Yherajk decided it was best if they stayed in their ship for a little longer. They realized the value of having Michelle, for the short run, be the contact between our peoples. The rest of the Yherajk went the go-slow route, answering e-mail from scientists, politicians and common people alike, and communicating with the world through their Web site and their AOL forum, letting leak, bit by bit, information about the Yherajk's true nature and appearance. By the time the majority of the Yherajk land on Earth, humanity will have had enough time to absorb the fact of their differences.

Of course, humanity was still impatient. Fortunately, patience is a Yherajk trait. Soon enough, they said, we will come visit your planet, and you will be invited to our spaceship. And then our peoples will truly learn all we can from each other.

Governments and self-appointed ambassadors sent e-mail back towards the Ionar, saying When? When can we visit?

You'll have to check with our agent, the Yherajk invariably signaled back.

Which leads back to me, sitting in my office, with my headset on, lightly bouncing a blue racquetball off the pane of my office window. Talking to my most important client, who was, and still is, and will probably always be, Michelle.

"I don't see why I have go to Venezuela," Michelle was saying to me.

"Because you've been to Peru, Brazil, Chile and Paraguay," I said. "The Venezuelans are a little touchy about their place in the South American hierarchy of nations. Throw them a bone, Michelle. Don't make them the only South American country on the block without a visit from an Oscar-winning alien. They have enough troubles as it is."

"When are the rest of the Yherajk going to come down?" Michelle wanted to know. "There's two thousand of us, you know. Wouldn't hurt to have some of them pitch in."

"Jim says the human quarters are just about ready on the Ionar," I said. "When they're ready, we'll start inviting folks up and bringing other Yherajk down. It'll be soon, I promise."

"You said that a month ago, Tom."

"You can't rush these things, Michelle. These things take as long as they take."

"Which reminds me," Michelle said. "How long until Miranda pops?"

"If she hasn't gone into labor in about a week, our doctor wants to induce," I said. "Miranda has her own opinions on that one."

"I don't doubt that," Michelle said. "Pick out any names yet?"

"We have," I said. "Michelle if it's a girl, Joshua if it's a boy."

"Well, shucks," Michelle said. "I'm touched. I may cry."

"You don't have tear ducts anymore," I said.

"I'll make them especially for this purpose," Michelle said.

Brandon, my new assistant, popped his head through the door. "It's him, on line three," he said.

I nodded and shooed him out of the room. "Listen, Michelle, I have go. I have a three o'clock with Carl, but before I do that I have to take this call I've got coming in. Where are you now, anyway?"

"I'm somewhere over the Midwest," Michelle said. "I'll be in Chicago in about an hour. I can't believe you have me going to a science fiction convention."

"Hey," I said. "It won't be so bad. Jim is going to be there. And besides, these people are your core constituency. Give 'em a thrill."

"Oh, I will," Michelle said. "Wait till you see what I have planned for the costume ball." She clicked off.

I looked at my watch. 2:55. Five more minutes. If I took this call, I ran the risk of being late to my meeting with Carl, which would be bad.

Oh, what the hell, I thought. Might as well live dangerously. I flicked the button on line three.

"Hello, Mr. President," I said.

The ball went thock as it hit the window.

The End

Posted by john at December 8, 2004 11:54 PM