Aaron stared, mouth slightly open and forehead creased, for a full seven minutes. Seven minutes and five point oh five two seconds precisely, Hamish knew. Or three hundred and sixty point one Galactic Time Units.
‘What have you done.’
It was not so much a question as an expression of exasperation. Hamish bit his top lip, just for two point one six seconds, and then answered anyway.
‘Well, now. What happened is that I was driving home—’
‘From the pub.’
‘And don’t go thinking I’ll believe that you didn’t even touch a drop, honest.’
‘No, aye,’ said Hamish, thinking shit because that was, in fact, what he had planned to say. ‘No, I mean, it’s like you say, aye, but—’
‘But. But, aye – listen – I mean. Listen: he just came out of nowhere.’
Aaron looked at him for five point oh seven seconds, then sighed.
‘Right. I’m calling the police.’
‘Aw, no, come on – I mean, really: he wasn’t there, and there was a flash, and then—’
‘And then you ran him over, you drunk Scottish bastard!’
‘Aye, but, I mean… he’s blue!’
Aaron looked again at the body in Hamish’s passenger seat, with its cheek-ridges and dark purple fluid leaking out of the wound on its head.
Hamish opened his mouth, and for four point two seven seconds he couldn’t think of anything to say. Then:
‘He’s an alien.’
‘…who you ran over with your car. Because you were drunk. You total wanker.’
‘No, aye, no I mean – look at this!’
Hamish pulled his hand out of his coat pocket and showed Aaron the ring. It shimmered as it moved through the air, deep red and gold.
‘Well, my phone was out of power, so I… well, I went through his pockets. You know, to call an ambulance.’
‘Christ. First contact with an alien species and you’ve run it over and bloody robbed it.’
‘It won’t come off. And it talks!’
Hamish wiggled his fingers.
Greetings, said the ring.
‘Aye, fella, tell him what you’re all about.’
This ring is a power source, communication device, method of transportation, and weapon. The mathemagicians of the Inner Court of the Galactic Police Commission have determined the most worthy intelligence on this world and decided that this ring should be permanently bound to this individual.
‘No offence, Hamish,’ said Aaron, ‘but you did just run over an alien and prop up the body in your passenger seat, so I don’t think either of those words really fits, you know.’
‘Aye, I mean, no – you heard the ring, the great big space men have said it, right, so—’
Wait, said the ring, did you say Hamish?
Aaron started laughing. Hamish was silent for twelve point two two seconds, and then:
‘Aye. Aye, right, that’s my name.’
…you’re certain? You’re not Lieutenant Brad Power of the United States Air Force?
‘Pretty certain, aye. I’m Hamish MacCreedy.’
Well, said the ring. It paused for three point nine nine seconds before adding: Shit.