Becka had been chosen as his official liaison because she had experience with diplomacy and an entomology degree. It was typical human reasoning. The Ants looked like bugs. Therefore, a bug expert was called for.
This wasn’t far from the truth. The Ants were very much social insects on an intergalactic scale. They had the technology to enslave or destroy the Earth, and there wasn’t anything anyone could do to stop them.
This made a great many important people nervous.
Being liaison to the Ambassador mostly involved conversing with him at great length about human civilization. He wasn’t interested in art. The Ants, as far as could be determined, had no art.
They cared little for history. Not even their own.
“Who invented your space travel technology?” she’d asked once.
“We did,” the Ambassador replied.
The Ants understood the concept of individuality, but the idea of individual achievement was beyond them.
“Who created your clothing?” he’d once asked her.
When she didn’t have an answer, he chirped, “So you see, we do not disagree on this point.”
“Clothes are different,” she said.
“How so? They are still the product of many humans labor, of designers, manufacturers, transportation experts, distribution centers. You look at your clothes, and yet, you do not appear to see them.”
“I’m talking about important things.”
“Are clothes not important? Your species seems to place a great deal of its energy concerning them for something so inconsequential then.”
It was like talking to a . . . well, an alien.
“Who made this building we stand in?” asked the Ambassador. “Can you tell me the names of the human who designed it? Can you list to me the workers whose labor built it? Can you tell me the history of its furniture, the engineers who designed and refined every system that keeps it standing and comfortable?”
She didn’t have an answer.
“Nothing your species has ever accomplished has been because of great individuals. That you continue to believe otherwise confuses my species to a troubling extent.”
“If you think that’s so, why did you come here then?” she asked. “There are countries on this planet that don’t elevate the individual nearly as much. I bet China would love you guys.”
“Yes, China. It is a more enlightened place, but it is not enough. There is still bickering and battles for prestige and human ego. Even when you cooperate, you do so only to serve your own interests. Still, you can accomplish much, despite yourselves.”
Becka was beginning to loathe these conversations. The Ambassador refused to see things from her perspective, and it was tiring.
“We aren’t like you,” she said. “We have to believe our individual achievements matter.”
“Yet you ignore the efforts of nearly all of your species in favor of worshipping a handful of, as you say, Great People. You claim to believe in the value of the individual, yet you discard and dismiss without troubled conscience.”
“We can’t celebrate everyone.”
“So you instead choose glorify a fortunate few. Does this not seem like a flawed philosophy?”
“It’s not fair to judge us by your standards.”
“On this, we agree,” said the Ambassador. “We had hoped you would join us among the stars, but this isn’t meant to be. This will be our last meeting. I have forwarded my recommendation to the Hive. We shall leave you to yourselves.”
“That’s it?” she asked.
The Ambassador’s antennae twitched. “Is that not enough?”
“But what if we ever make it out there?”
“You won’t. We have seen a thousand worlds such as this. Eventually, you will destroy yourselves.”
He vanished in a flash of light.
Within an hour, their ships were gone. The world heaved a collective sigh of relief.
Becka stood on a contentious anthill of confused, stumbling insects trying like hell to find their place in this universe.
She’d never felt quite so alone.