CONN: THE ALIEN EFFECT now in its final editing stage !!
Chapter 1. Shawne
We almost didn't go, then we nearly got stuck there.
It all started with Shawne sitting on the edge of the algae pond in our family home on Varok, kicking water in the air and watching Conn unroll his tongue to catch tiny droplets as they flew past his nasal gills. “I’m serious, Conn," the young human said. "I have to go back to Earth and do what I can."
Conn's clicked response in his favorite English slang echoed softly across the rocky chamber embracing the pond. "You don't have to do anything. We've been there, done that.
Shawne ignored the elll's attempt to distract her, speaking in Varokian to emphasize her point. "Right. That's just the problem." Her voice rose in frustration and I heard it from my office downstairs in the family home we called Orserah's (my mother's) house.
"We'd better get in the middle of this one," Tandra and I decided in mind-link, and we climbed the stones to the pond.
Shawne stood on the deck, no longer kicking water. "I can't just sit here on Varok enjoying life."
"That's why we brought you here," Tandra, Shawne's human mother, said, "so you could enjoy life--safely, by the way."
"I'm ready to go back to Earth, Mom. I know what to do and how to stay safe. At less than two billion, the human population has dropped to a workable level. Help me make the arrangements. Better yet, go with me, Conn. You can run workshops in the ocean, and I'll teach steady state ethics.”
"Well, sorry, Shawne. You can't go back to Earth," Conn said, "for sixteen different reasons. Number one--you’re still an infant in Varokian terms. You haven’t finished school yet. You’ve got to do Integration at the Concentrate before you can be effective on Earth. The other fifteen reasons are obvious.” He leapt into the air dolphin-like and sliced back into the pond to end the conversation.
In her newfound maturity, Shawne sometimes sounded more like a pet owner than a daughter. "Conn, watch the pond-rose. You nearly smashed it."
Conn appeared in the pond grass. When the sonic melons atop his head broke the surface, Shawne jumped over him into the water, grabbed him from behind, and threw her arms around his brawny neck as he caught the flying water with his tongue.
“Off sides! Penalty! You used your hand fins to get those drops.” Shawne strictly enforced the rules of their game. The elll could use only his back fin to maneuver in the deep water. No webbed extremities allowed.
"Off sides? I didn't use my fins." Conn gulped air to talk, intending to use his optional lungs to speak Varokian, but the words came out in short bursts of the human slang he loved best. “Game’s over. Forget it, Shawne. No Earth.”
We varoks prefer not to play in water. Contact sports over-stimulate our superficial nerves, and we find pressure patterns and electro-probing in water too intense. When ellls are really upset it hurts to be close to them in water. We had to work out a compromise in our mixed family.
In times of stress, we varoks school with the ellls of the family as long as we can, then the ellls will talk and listen in the language common to our two species (Ellasonian with some Varokian and English thrown in), until the upset is understood or resolved. The humans will play it down the middle, reminding the rest of us not to overdo either the talk or the schooling.
Too engrossed in preparing more aragument, Shawne didn’t notice the slight narrowing and graying of the elll’s huge eyes peering at her from behind his unruly head plumes. “What do you propose to do on Earth, Shawnoon?” he asked. “Fix the floods? Stop the droughts? Do you have a quick fix for water and fuel shortages?”
“Of course I do, and the timing is good." Shawne was warming up to the debate. "No one has time to fight any more. We can help break up the cities into small locales like Varok’s.”
“Conn, stop it! I’m serious. We can do it. Humans know all the rational, ecological premises. They've made the transition off oil. All we have to do is convince them that a debt-free steady state can work.”
"Been there, done that, too. When you were still riding baby daramonts we had to rebuild the steady state after Mahntik started an economic cancer here. We reported all our efforts to Earth and no one listened."
"Yes, they did. Renewables do it all now, selective technology, even conservation.
“That’s only part of the story, Shawne. You forget the basic reason behind all the suffering and war on Earth--too many people. Now that the die-offs have peaked, how are you going to convince humans to limit their appetite for reproduction?"
I was tempted to join the debate, but I knew we had to refuse her. Could we provide the wake-up call Earth needed to adjust to its limits? Many humans on Earth had been making the call for nearly a hundred years.
Since we share the sun with Earth, we ellls and varoks care what happens to that planet. We are locked together by time and space in this solar system of ours, so we feel a rather desperate need to share its resources without wasteful duplication of effort, without violent competition, and without kidding ourselves about colonizing the stars.
We are also locked together as family, committed to fulfilling the basics that all living beings share. Shawne and her mother, Tandra, expand our awareness. They fill the cracks our varokian and elllonian genes leave wide open. Their strengths complement ours, and their weaknesses throw new light on our failings. They open corners of existence that lie hidden behind my varokian, and my Varokian world-view.
I am sure Conn agrees. Having left Ellason for a Varokian education, he and I became friends at Early School. He grew to maturity in my family’s algae pond, as close as an elll might be to a varok. As adults I feel sure we satisfy Tandra’s emotional needs, and we are good fathers to Shawne, but, as an elll, Conn adds dimensions to parenting I cannot.