“Here’s the family’s file, Ken. Elmer Boardoff has a small dairy farm.” Jeff passed the file to his colleague. “His wife, Elsie, however, got their milk from the famous E line cows — the regular ones; apparently the chocolate flavor suppresses the ESP talent — at that experimental farm near them. That’s how it happened. At first no one believed the boy when he said he could talk to animals, but when they started doing tricks for him, people noticed.”
“Hmm. Not much about his younger siblings. I suspect that when they saw the attention he drew, the twins kept a low profile. Ah, they’ve got the talent, I see. Lobelia’s a consultant for Find Your Soul Mate, and Larabee… What happened to Larabee?!”
Ken smiled slightly. “He’s classified — practically everything except his name. I think the military has him. Beau escaped them because of his empathy. He can’t stand to scan humans. He only talks to animals.”
“So, do you think we can rope him in for this project?”
“I think so. No humans involved.”
Two months later Beau Boardoff stood at the bottom of the ramp leading to the shuttle. He’d been excited ever since he‘d learned that he could help his planet. Now he could use his talent the way his brother and sister did. He suspected that his father was relieved. Beau loved the farm animals, and he couldn’t bear to have any of them culled.
Someone laughed behind him. As he turned, he heard, ”Look at the farm boy gawking at the space shuttle. Hey, boy, move along. We’ve got places to go.” Two crew members brushed by him, and he remembered why he avoided human minds. Here was another mind he’d never try to scan. Humans made scanning aliens look like fun.
Later, as the shuttle docked with the ship, Beau turned reluctantly away from watching Earth; he needed to learn more about Mars, and the trip wouldn‘t be that long. All incoming aliens had to come through the space port there; none were allowed on Earth till they’d been vetted. And he was going to be part of that.
The third day on Mars Beau was briefed about his first alien contact. He’d settled into one of the smaller domes and had studied a few aliens from a distance and checked for range and depth of scan. Not like humans. He remembered telling Ken Mason that he didn’t think aliens would be a problem. They’d have their own agendas — he knew that — but they wouldn’t think the way humans did; and, as Mason had told him, we needed to know how they thought.
Now, in a space port office, he learned more. “We have a couple aliens, plus our own people, that translate for us, but no one can figure out what these newbies want; they’re humanoids, and they’re here for some reason, but they won’t say what it is. They study everything and try to handle whatever they’re interested in, which can be anything.” Commander Wayne paused; he was in charge of security for the whole Mars port. Running a hand over a grizzled beard, he added, “One of them fondled Lt. Ellinson’s scarf.” He glanced at his aide. “You handled that well, by the way.”
She smiled. “They’re pushy, but not aggressive.”
“Hmm. And they’re small, but their ship is huge. Why?”
Beau looked forward to the challenge; he could feel his mind sniffing the air. He met with the two aliens and a translator in one of the small domes that was wired with security precautions and cameras. There he settled down to talk and listen…
Two hours later he rejoined the commander and Lt. Ellison in his office. He couldn’t help smiling as he began his report. “They’re traders, and they think that we are fresh off the farm and ripe for plucking. Their ship is a cargo ship. And they love practically everything they see, including materials — they really want that scarf, and they’re ready to trade. I think we can get some useful gadgets from them. They’re usually the first with new contacts, but other traders will be arriving soon; I think we can take advantage of these city slickers, sir.”
The Commander leaned back and relaxed. “Thanks, Beau, You are going to be a great help. We really appreciate the Extraplanetary & International Espionage & Intelligence Organization loaning you to us.”
Lt. Ellison blinked. “You mean he’s from EIEIO?”
Joy V. Smith writes fiction and non-fiction. Her non-fiction includes interviews and her book, Building a Cool House for Hot Times without Scorching the Pocketbook. Her fiction includes SF and Fantasy, and has been published in a number of anthologies, including Kings of the Night II, Womanscapes, and Magistria: The Realm of the Sorcerer. Her fiction includes a children’s picture book, Why Won’t Anyone Play with Me?, and a short story collection, Aliens, Animals, and Adventure. Her SF has also been published in two audiobooks, including Sugar Time from Hadrosaur Productions. She lives in Florida.