They sat across one from one another, trying to get the measure each other, trying each to sum up exactly who the person opposite really was. She sipped at a frothing pink liquid and smiled an enigmatic little smile that held exactly the lack of warmth of a fast-food burger. The French café was almost empty, only a few people were dotted around, chatting quietly or sipping cups of something that was almost but not entirely unlike tea.
“The law changed two years ago, as I’m sure you know. The 2230 information act prevents the free transport of information archives. Since then, these kinds of relics are getting harder to find, especially those as sensitive as this particular specimen.”
Paul Davis narrowed his eyes angrily but kept his expression fairly neutral, doing his best to remain emotionally detached for now. He’d heard all this before from every dealer he’d ever had the misfortune to meet. Mrs Green was apparently no different in that respect, and he briefly wondered if any of them really were. “Do I take it then that the price just went up?”
She nodded in agreement that indeed it had, her smile softening into a vague pretence of sympathy. It didn’t matter, not really, this was important to him and money was something he had a supply of that comfortably acceded her greed. He had to have this diary in his collection and the cost was largely irrelevant.
“Price is less important to me than the quality of the item,” he spoke gruffly, his voice was deep and low and resonated with authority and power.
“I’m sure you’ll be pleased,” she smoothed down the collars of her pink and black dress, glancing around to see if anyone was looking at them. She deftly passed a tiny item across the table, a sample of what she had to sell. The item seemed to resonate with importance. “I hear you’re quite the collector of war information.”
He smiled knowingly to himself, “I am indeed.” He took the tiny metal tube and slipped it into a device that would prove it was authentic and not some cheap imitation, as they too often were.
He began conversationally, “I’ve got information archives from before the third world war. I have letters written from American Generals during the invasion of Iraq, I have draft notices from the invasion of Syria, documents from General Eisenhower. I have details from all through Human history. Each of them original, each of them verified to be true.”
“But you have nothing like this? You’ve never had a diary about a real alien invasion before. This is from a colony, an outpost that was attacked.” She grinned like a hungry cat at him, she had to know that for now, she had control.
He glared at her, he knew the price was going up with every passing moment, she clearly knew just how badly he wanted this item. He tried to control his anticipation, calming himself to mask the cues that she, a seasoned sales expert, had to be picking up on.
“A diary from a conflict out there in space? If it’s real, I will buy it,” he told her simply.
“Oh it’s real,” she put on a more professional expression and stared fixedly. “Would you like to read an extract?”
Mr Davis tensed at the suggestion, he tried to appear as though he had little interest but he did a poor job at it and his enthusiasm was clearly apparent. His expression betrayed him as he reached out to grab the note-pad with excitement he simply couldn’t quite contain.
He began to read.
‘Day 67. The occupation is continuing. These aliens have beaten us already, but what hope did a soldier like me have? Their weapons were horrible, so advanced that we could scarcely comprehend them. I watched as one of them caught my brother. Our eyes locked together at the moment a glowing red beam lashed out fiercely, catching him in the chest, and he screamed in fearful horror. Then he was gone, nothing was left except a crackling noise and a terrible stench of burning flesh.
Even though we have no defences left, they keep on moving forwards, burning our homes and annihilating our crumbling cities. We are broken, we know it’s only a question of time now before we’re all destroyed. And for what? They strip our resources bare, they pull the oxygen from our air and the life from our lands. They will leave nothing on our world but the rocks when they leave.’
Paul Davis had to have this diary, a story of a distant drama in a part of the galaxy far, far from his home. It was like nothing else in his collection.
“Do we know the name of these aliens?”
She nodded darkly and said, “Read on.”
‘Day 68. There’s nowhere left for us to retreat to. These alien monsters have driven us to the edge in their inexorable march forwards. The few of us who are left have not eaten in days, we know our families are gone and we know there’s nothing left to fight for. Our world is over, we’re lost. Only our instinct for survival remains and it’s no longer strong.
I turned to my friend, Marsius. He looked at me with sad eyes and walked back towards the aliens, his weapon pointing forwards in some hopeless gesture, knowing that to do so would mean his end. I cursed them. These evil creatures from another world, they cared nothing for the lives of us or our children when they attacked our peaceful little colony. What kind of crude animals would kill so freely, I wondered in my last few moments alive?
Creatures on our planet kill but none take pleasure in it. I cursed these monsters as they came towards us, knowing our end would be with us soon. I cursed these aliens called Humans.’
He looked up and said simply, “I’ll take it. Name your price.”