“Backwards!” storms Sellurt. He hurls his glass of water in fury at a nearby absorb-o-wall.
“Earth?” Morgan inquires.
“I can’t believe we’re letting these ignorant primitives into our galactic confederation,” Sellurt says. “Look at them!”
He shoves a Earth-scope in Morgan’s direction. Morgan politely shakes his head.
“Sinful, wicked, lascivious beasts! I hardly want to go near them! But because the Council says ‘they have great potential’ and ‘their intuition scores are off the scale’ I have to figure out how to bring them into the fold.”
It is 2105 years before the common era, and Sellurt’s starship spirals through the vastnesses of space towards Earth.
“But you’re calm,” Sellurt says, after a time. “Why are you calm?”
“I’m a trained mannerist,” says Morgan. “I know how to handle these situations.”
“It’s simple,” Morgan says. “We get out our shiny red and gold uniforms. We press them until they’re sharp. We even polish the buttons. Then we put them on. We land the ship in someone’s back yard, lower the ramp, march down, and say, ‘Take us to your leader.’ At this point the essential difficulties of first contact are circumvented; the rest is mere detail and elaboration.”
“Hmph,” snorts Sellurt. “You don’t know these humans! They’re not impressed by shiny uniforms and galactic confederation catchphrases!”
Morgan looks placid.
“We shall see,” he says, “what we shall see.”
Sellurt’s ship rages in from space. It spins thrice in orbit around the world while Sellurt scans the planet below. He sees a structure—more than 135 cubits long and 22.5 cubits wide—and mutters to himself, “As good as anything, I guess.” Then he pops the clutch and pulls the levers and the ship tears down to land in Mehanem Noah’s backyard.
The ship shudders once and vents its heat into the atmosphere. Its ramp lowers. Morgan and Sellurt, dressed in shiny red and gold uniforms, walk down.
Noah’s son, Ham, watches this whole procedure with some alarm.
“Hello,” says Morgan, sunnily, to Ham.
“Take us to your leader,” Sellurt says.
“Oh, dear,” says Ham. “You’re not a known species of animal.”
The galactics blink. There is a nonplussed moment.
“Darn right!” says Sellurt.
Ham hesitates. He has an important but socially awkward question to ask. This awkwardness shows on his face.
“Hm?” Morgan says.
“Are you clean?” Ham says.
“Pardon?” Morgan answers.
“I’m supposed to take seven of you,” says Ham, “if you’re clean. But only two if you’re not.”
Morgan says, “Which would be more convenient for you?”
“Unclean,” says Ham.
Morgan gestures illustratively at Sellurt. Sellurt looks at him oddly.
“What the hell?” Sellurt says.
“I see!” Ham brightens. “Then we’ll only have to bump the dinosaurs.”
“What?” says Sellurt. “What?”
Morgan shakes his head, smiling. “About your leader…”
“Of course,” says Ham. “Right this way.”
Ham leads Morgan and Sellurt through the crowd of lions and wild beasts that surround the Ark. The lions growl at the aliens but let them pass. At the Ark they find Noah, who is busily at work.
“Oh,” says Noah. He puts down his hammer. He dusts off his hands and holds one out to the alien invaders in the universal symbol of fellowship. “Hello!”
“Down to business,” says Sellurt, ignoring the proffered hand. “You! Ugly human! Your species is foul and sinful but we’ve decided to let you into our grand galactic confederation. Observe how shiny our uniforms are! That’s just one of the many benefits your species can achieve. We’ll also end hunger and teach you to fly—through space!”
“That’s all very well,” says Noah, “but you’re going to have to go into the Ark. It’s going to rain soon.”
“I figure we should bump the dinosaurs, Dad,” says Ham.
Noah scratches at his sideburns. “Hate to do it,” he says, “but yes. Can’t keep the great old brutes around when we could be saving sophonts. Send in Japheth to dredge them out.”
Ham wanders off.
“I’m not entirely sure,” says Morgan, “that you understand—”
“No,” says Noah. He shakes his head. “I sure don’t. How did we miss you? I was sure we had a full list of every species on the Earth—used Kabalistic magic and everything. Even the bacteria, and tracking down all of them was harder than the breakfast toast.”
Noah’s been awake for more than a year, putting the finishing touches on the ark, so his breakfast toast is very hard indeed.
“We were in space, sir,” says Morgan.
“Yes,” says Sellurt. He points up at the sky. “Do you see those little lights? Well, each of them is a star. Around each of them is a world. The worlds are organized into a great galactic confederation dedicated to peace, prosperity, and interrupting my important work to send me haring off across the cosmos to bring all these blessings to worthless uncivilized savages like you.”
Noah thinks about that.
“I’d wondered,” he says. “Well, in you go.”
Noah gestures at the Ark.
“It must be some sort of custom,” Morgan says.
“A primitive hazing ritual for interstellar visitors,” Sellurt agrees.
“We’ll go along,” Morgan decides. “For now.”
So they go in.
They pass Japheth in the halls. He is wrangling out both dinosaurs, one in each hand. They are protesting and screeching but he is a stronger wrestler than they. He shoves them out in his final victory, and they fall onto the unforgiving soil.
It is beginning to rain.
“I wonder if they’ll accept our offer,” Morgan says.
“Ha!” says Sellurt. “They’d better. Their civilization is going to destroy itself if it keeps on going like it’s going, you know. All that savagery and vice’ll attract the attention of a Space Devil.”
“Not everyone does what’s best for them,” Morgan says.
Behind them, there is the creaking of a great and terrible door. There is a clamor as it closes. Inside the Ark it goes very still.
It is dark now in Noah’s ship.
It is the deepest night, inside the ship, but with great cuttings of light in it: great dagger-slashes of cloud-concealed sun, entering through the windows of the Ark.
Outside, the dinosaurs and humans are already turning into fossils, flesh falling off, bones hardening in the rain, clutching upwards like drowning men at the dream of space above.