“Okay, so I have a few questions for you.”
“Fair enough. I probably have answers, and I owe you a favor.”
“What were you accused of stealing?”
Jun looked sideways at Martha. She had spent the afternoon trying to think up an appropriate answer to that question, one that Martha would accept. They were inside now and the sun had gone down; Martha had just gotten home and collapsed on the couch, exhausted.
Finally Jun answered, very slowly, “The stealing wasn’t the problem.”
“Stealing is wrong, that’s a problem.”
“You are very quick to judge something you admittedly do not understand.”
Martha fell silent, indignant. She did not understand at all, and hated it; she could not decide what to believe, and what was real. Yet she said nothing.
Jun spoke, after thinking long and hard about how much truth she should tell. “I did steal something.”
“What was it?” Martha said faintly.
“I stole the Estute to get here. I knew that they suspected me; I can tell when someone’s framing me.”
“Now they will suspect you even more because you ran.”
“You’re an observant one.”
“Another question then, Jun: how can you understand me?”
“The internet. Travels across space.”
Martha looked very skeptical, but Jun nodded reassuringly. “I’ve got a facebook account even.”
“No, but still it is a bit primitive. I’m one of the people who study your culture, you know. I work at an alien version of University; we call it roughly translated, “Great Library,” where we study all day and then go into the library attic for sleep. And professors hold lectures in it. Good fun. I write books about your culture though.”
“So you’re a researcher,” Martha said. She felt as though she knew that somehow.
“You know you still haven’t answered my question. What were you accused of stealing?”
Jun’s face fell quickly and she turned away. “Information,” she said finally, with a huff. “Now I do not wish to speak of that.”
“Fair. Then if you can’t answer that, tell me how you can know if someone is following you? Have you received a signal or something?”
“Why do you keep asking questions about things you cannot possibly understand?” Jun said sharply. She looked Martha full in the face, her eyes glowing. “Do you really expect me to explain all of our technology to you, technology that is more advanced than yours by several hundred years? I would have to get maps and papers out for you, it would take many hours of you time to learn it. Suffice to say I know what I am talking about.”
Martha looked steadily back at Jun. “I meant no offense. I just want to understand what was going on. This is my home; I value its safety.”
Martha was smaller than Jun. As Jun stood now, her shoulders hunched over and her head forward, she was still three inches taller than Martha, who stood straight as an arrow. Still at that moment Jun looked carefully at her rival for seconds and then relaxed her posture and smiled. “I know you mean no harm,” Jun replied. “Forgive me. You have been very hospitable. Now may we be done with questions for tonight?”
And Martha fell asleep at eight, for the second day of an alien in her house.