Not So Vacant Possession: a story by: GF Willmetts.

‘That’s your star there. No, not that one. The one next to it. A little dimmer but also a lot cheaper. Gives you a little more money to play with for any planet you want to live on there.’

Hey, it’s a legal deal. Everyone wants to own something. A little paper. A deed of sale and a few bucks. People have sold and conned a lot worse over the years. Did you ever hear about the con artiste who sold rocks that you could get for free off any cliff face? People like to buy dreams. It isn’t like they can ever get there. We con artistes are the kind of people willing to sell them their dreams. It doesn’t mean they have to fulfil them. That’s why we’re the artistes of the con. People want anything, even if its just nothing, then I’m willing to sell it. We sell the dream. There are a lot of dreamers out there. We’ve even updated the language and stopped calling them suckers. Calling them dreamers gives us a bit of respect for them as well as ourselves.

Anyway, last customer of the day. Time for a drink, meal and a nap. Well, it would have been except two people were knocking on the window. Never turn away business. Big happy smile. Give them what they want. Never miss a trick unless it’s the law knocking on your door.

‘You nearly missed me, folks. Just about to close for the day’, letting them in. ‘Do you have a star system in mind?’

‘This one?’

There was always going to be some smart alec trying to pull that one. Who wouldn’t want to own our own planet.

‘I’m sorry, sir, this one’s already sold. Was one of our first sells. Most of the local star systems are gone.’

‘I know. It’s mine. I have a bill of sale.’

That’s a twist.

‘Well, I didn’t issue it. Can I have a gander?’

The man looked puzzled.

‘Can I see the document.’

Understanding as he handed it over, with a meaningful look in his eyes.

The paper didn’t feel like paper. More like a very thin metal. I couldn’t recognise the language and then it changed into readable. Definitely not…

‘You having me on?’

‘Please?’

‘This…document. It isn’t on paper.’

‘It is valid. It was authorised on my planet and we could take up residence as soon as we arrived. Here we are.’

‘We have arrived,’ the woman added with emphasis. ‘This is that planet?’

I looked at the deed. It gave our planet’s name and a host of statistics about it and looked like a deed of sale. Something that only an artiste like me would do but not with these materials. Who said playing cons was confined to our planet. Then again, if these were aliens some of them might actually go to the planet or star system they think they own.

Their planet. Aliens? They don’t look alien. It could still be a con trick. Just done by different people. Or they could be police, sent to trip me up.

‘I might not be the right person to see up about this…but I might be able to point you in the right direction. I have to say you don’t look alien.’

‘We blend in.’

‘So not to scare the natives’, the woman again emphasised. She did that a lot.

There was an odd distortion and, well, lets say they didn’t look human. Not sure what they looked like other than being humanoid. The distortion returned their human appearance. I looked around for special effects or cameras trying to take me in but didn’t spot anything. Could it be one of the other con artistes winding me up? It really felt like one of those shit moments in life.

‘We were told not to upset the natives.’

‘So you’re not after vacant possession?’

‘We like nature reservations’, the man explained. It could do with some improvements but we study it first. We don’t like damaging existing ecologies.’

‘Although this one is more damaged than ones we’ve seen in the past’, the woman added.

‘That’s nice to know. No sense rushing things. You’re not planning any safaris for trophies?’

‘Why keep a dead trophy? We aren’t barbarians.’

‘Quite. Are you sure you’re talking to the right person here. We have a United Nations council that is a better representation of the entire world.’

When you’re getting pushed into a corner, off-load as quickly as possible.

‘Our bill of sale says we just have to present it to one of the sentient natives to fulfil the contract. You are also selling star systems. You know the business.’

‘And seemed the right choice’, the woman added.

‘You are an astute salesman.’

Even I know when I’m being buttered up.

‘Only the best. My clients don’t really go to their purchases. I sell at cut rate because of that. How much did you pay?’

‘We exchanged.’

‘We left our previous star system as a substantial bargain to pay for this much bigger star system.’

‘We like a challenge’, the woman added.

‘You do that a lot? Upgrade real estate. Move around a lot.’

‘From time to time.’

‘It depends on the exchange,’ the woman added. ‘We like to…barter up.’

‘So you may not even be here for long?’

‘What is long? Your language has several definitions.’

‘Aren’t we tall enough?’ the woman asked.

‘A length of time. How do you measure it?’

‘More than your lifetime.’

‘And you’re not going to reveal yourselves to the general public?’

‘We prefer to keep a low profile.’

‘What happens if some other…alien…sentients come along with a similar bill of sale? I mean, there’s a lot of conmen out there. They might not always be as nice as you folk. What happens then?’

‘Central accounting will take care of that, mostly by the earliest contract. This star system was available. There is no one else here with a similar contract?’

‘Not that I know of. I presume I can contact you if there is?’

‘We would contact you’, the woman added. ‘From time to time.’

I took a deep breath. If these people were real and all the evidence was pointing that way, how would such a situation deal with my star system sales. I inwardly shrugged at that idea. I doubt if they would check into my business practice. It wasn’t as though mankind had interstellar travel and go to the star systems I sold.

‘What would happen then if other sentients came here?’

‘We would sublet. We are peaceful people.’

Just the new landlords. Not even with a desire to run the world…yet. What to do?

‘Well, it looks like your bill of sale is kosher…correct. Who am I to argue. I presume you’ll use our United Nations if you want to get human co-operation on any changes you want to initiate. I’m sure if you use the friendly approach you did with me that might not cause a problem.’

In a pig’s eye, until they reveal their true appearance. If they’ve done this to other planets then they would know what to do without me being there.

The man shook my hand. Despite its outward appearance, there was something odd, scaly even, about his touch.

The woman just smiled and said, ‘If owning all planets was this easy.’

‘Now, is there anything I can sell you?’

end

© GF Willmetts 2022

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