“At Home in the Stars”

“I told you already,” Alice said. She obviously didn’t ball her fists hard enough the last time she said it. “We’re not animals, and even if we were, there’s absolutely no way we could live in the conditions you’ve put us in. All you’ve left us with is a large glass box and a sparse, green field of grass that goes on forever. Somehow.”
 
“Yeah, well,” Narlok said, rubbing a three-fingered hand through his green tentacle hair. He was the most well-dressed alien Alice had ever seen, which wasn’t admitting much, given he was also the first alien. “They all say that, really.”
 
“I’m not sure what exactly I should be saying right now. Surely the fact that we’re talking to you means we’re not animals?”
 
“Depends. What IQ are you again?”
 
Alice scratched at her head. “I never had it checked, really. Jenny, did you ever have an IQ test?”
 
“What?” Jenny said, turning around from staring at the endless green field the three of them stood in. “I did, yeah.”
 
“What score did you get?”
 
Jenny shrugged. “I dunno. Came in to the testing place late.”
 
“Never mind. The point, mister alien, is that we’re not some animals that you can stick into a zoo. Human beings have average IQs of around a hundred, you know.”
 
“How adorable,” Narlok said, adjusting his necktie. “You do realise that we, the Harrol race, average around the thousand mark? That’s why you’re in a zoo, and we are the spectators.”
 
“If you really were that smart, you’d realize just how much trouble you’d be in for keeping me in here.”
 
“And if you’re as dumb as you look,” Narlok said, “Then I have absolutely nothing to worry about.”
 
“You will do when you list us both as ‘idiot aliens with puny IQs’ in your park guide.”
 
“Actually,” Narlok said, drawing a small screen from his pocket and looking at it, “we have you listed on the guide as a ‘thin, athletic, black-haired specimen who wears the tribal garments usually worn by more privileged matriarchs of her species.'”
 
“Ooh,” Jenny said, her eyes lighting up with excitement. “What does it say about me?”
 
“You? ‘Brown hair, with minor excessive fat storage and wears shirts advertising movies that went out of fashion ten years ago.'”
 
Jenny frowned, looking away as she folded her arms over her shirt’s design. “On second thought, I think it’s high time you left.”
 
“Very well.” Narlok pocketed the screen and gave a solemn nod, then turned to face the large, glass box that stood out like a sore thumb in the otherwise-featureless field. He opened a door on its side and closed it behind him, giving a small wave as the floor of the cube sank into the ground.
 
“That stupid jerk,” Alice said, falling to her knees. “I can’t believe that happened.”
 
“Me either,” Jenny said. “I mean, I got into the worst traffic jam possible, and then halfway there I thought I left the oven on. It’s a miracle I even made it.”
 
“Not your IQ test. This.” Alice stretched her arms out to their sides, indicating to the seemingly-never-ending grassy plane. “We’re stuck here with nothing around us for miles.”
 
“Not true,” Jenny said. “We got the glass box.”

To read more of “At Home in the Stars,”
pick up a copy of Quantum Zoo.

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