The Lad Who Poked the Devil in the Eye
Chapter 12: Getting to Know our Alien Friends

Copyright© 2016 by Vincent Berg

Fred glanced up as Otis and Peter entered his Uncle's house. "It took you guys a while."

"Yeah, they were tracking us, so I had to do some clever flying to escape their surveillance. Apparently, they never mastered the Wi'Tibold security, but they know their own pretty well. However, I'm fairly secure they didn't track me here."

Mary Whitetail laid her hands on her hips as she towered over her dinner table at a height of only five feet, dwarfed in everything but attitude by their alien guests. "I hope so!" Fred's Uncle Joseph married a much younger Navaho woman years ago, but she was incredibly protective of her new brood. "Don't go putting my family at risk! If it's a choice between families, I'll choose mine every time!"

Uncle Joseph laid a fresh soup tray before their new guests. "Mary, don't! These people know what it's like being hunted by the government. Our people have suffered this treatment for hundreds of years. We can't turn our backs on others in similar situations. Besides, sheltering Josh and his friends all those years ago made me a local hero on the reservation. If it wasn't for my actions then, we'd never have met."

Mary blushed. "Yeah, I drove several hundred miles to meet the man my sister championed. That was back when I was still thoroughly Americanized. As I learned, you can pretend to be something, but when you paint yourself white, the colors bleed through."

Otis glanced back, noticing Peter standing stock still, taking everything in. "Is everyone comfortable with the Ti'chrk? He's nervous about insulting someone by helping himself."

"Nonsense," Joseph said, waving him in. "They're being hunted by the white man, which makes them Navaho in my book."

Otis said a few words to Peter. He responded, so Otis translated. "He says he is honored to be granted such kindness, given how his people have treated you."

Mary, throwing her hand towel aside rushed to Peter and guided him to the table. "It weren't your fault what they did. The fact is, you are helping us fight them now. That makes you OK in my book."

After that was translated, he flicked through the meager remnants on the meat platter, ignoring the soup entirely. Mary grabbed it from him, talking as she backed through the kitchen door. "You're certainly a ... large people. I'm not sure I bought enough food. I'm not even sure what they eat. All they seem to want is protein."

Otis and Natalie guided Peter to a suitable seat. Their bodies didn't match human chairs, so they preferred the floor, but Joseph's low couch was a decent compromise. "Yeah, and you don't even have to worry about deboning or trimming the fat."

Joseph brought a pitcher of water, which they seemed to prefer, though they made faces at the Earth water's taste. "I'll have to ask someone about purchasing half a cow. Maybe a full one if they stay for a few days."

"I'm afraid they'll be here a lot longer than that. Until we eliminate their countrymen, I'll try to find somewhere else we can keep them. Otherwise, they'll be executed if their ship is traced here. But, at the moment, I don't know many people who could keep a secret like this."

Mary reentered with a tray with chicken pieces, presenting it to Peter and Otis. Otis selected two pieces as Peter chewed three at once, the bones making a disconcerting crunching sound.

"So what have you learned from our new friends?" Fred was edgy, fidgeting with his hands. "We couldn't get much from Paul. He seems nice enough, and didn't even try to eat our heads, but it's hard to relate to someone who doesn't even know who Beyoncé is."

While Otis chatted with Paul, Natalie filled in the gap. "They talked quite a bit, but only translated what was happening. I learned enough to appreciate what they're going through, but Otis can explain it better."

He stopped, turning to face the others. "They're part of a small contingent of Ti'chrk society which disapproves of the militarization of their culture. In essence, we're the same. They seek to protect strangers, while the people they're fighting are what alienated the Wi'Tibold from us: power-mad politicians.

"Josh told us we couldn't join forces with the Wi'Tibold alliance until we reformed our political system. Instead we decided we'd rather remain in our own stone age. Well, there are Ti'chrk who believe in the same things. It seems space travel makes the situation worse. Since time slows during interstellar flight, the rabble rousers who started their militarization show up every fifty to a hundred years to egg them on, keeping the outdated sentiments alive. If we want to join the Wi'Tibold Alliance, we need to welcome others who are fighting for the same thing."

"Damn," David muttered from the corner, "there goes my ability to kill them with sniper fire. If there are decent aliens who don't eat baby brains, I won't be able to look at them the same way!"

Peter said something, so Otis continued. "They're hoping a defeat here, on Earth—a defenseless backwater planet—will cast the old voices in a bad light. Between being bested by the Wi'Tibold, and failing here against us, they hope they can engage those afraid to speak up."

Fred laughed. "Yeah, I can understand isolated leaders taking the public down the wrong paths. Jingoistic politicians caused a world of pain for my people. However, I'm also aware of the effect technological differences can make. It's hard to argue with cheap gas which fuels your economy. People would rather drive oversized cars than help humanity."

David leaned back in his chair, sipping a beer Uncle Whitetail slipped him. "This might be a stupid question, but why can't their former employers track our alien friends?"

"That was one of the first things I asked. Seems they planned this for a long time, and were able to disable their internal communications with the mother ship. Actually, they used the same trick I did. They jury rigged their internal communications so it notified their shipmates they'd both died. They had to disconnect from the alien channel, but no one's actively searching for them."

"How did the Ti'chrk respond to the drubbing we gave them?" Natalie asked, grinning as she considered the spin she'd put on it.

"They're pissed! They're convinced there are traitors inside their ranks rather than some kid listening to their every conversation." Paul said something, so Otis corrected himself. "He says it's something the majority of the Ti'chrk aren't authorized to do. Apparently George was high ranking in their military structure, so he granted me full access."

"Uh, excuse me, who is this George?" Natalie asked.

"That's the name I gave my initial contact. The one I taught how to speak English."

Ger strode up to her brother. "Are we about to hear what happened? I've been waiting for the full story for some time."

"Pardon me," Mary Whitetail said, approaching with her hand held up. "You're the reason they could demand we surrender our planet?"

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