"Have you ever driven in England?"

"Like in a land vehicle? No. I haven't even been Earthside in seven years."

"But you're from America, right?"

"Well, yes, if you still consider Texas a part of the U.S."

"You know the difference between driving in the U.S. and England, right?"

"They drive on opposite sides. Excuse me, Dr. Callendar, but what has this got to do with why we're out here?"

"You may see in a while."

"Yes, sir."


"Sorry, I forgot you're a civilian."

"I'm probably bothering you with my chatter. Sorry I'm nervous."

"I understand. I'm nervous, too."

"You probably keep thinking about what happened at the first encounter."

"I knew three of the men personally. I had bunked with one on my first run around Callisto, right out of the academy."

"Sorry to hear it."

"It's OK, we weren't close. It was such a waste, though."

"I suppose any encounter that ends that way is a waste. You don't mind me pacing around, do you, captain?"

"No problem, I would be pacing too, if I didn't have to stay at the console. This is sure the smallest ship I ever helmed."

"Is this considered a ship?"

"Any extra-terrestrial craft, even a shuttle or transport, has a service ID number."

"Didn't know. Like you said, I'm a civilian."

"Anyhow, there's plenty of space for the two of us. Can I ask you a question?"


"Why do you think you can establish a dialogue with them? And why, after that first accidental encounter, did they transmit records to us? I mean, they blasted a ship and 78 men to dust. I thought that would be a pretty firm 'no' on the contact part."

"Captain Hargrave, do you know what I'm a doctor of? I'm not bragging, I just need to make a point."

"Well, I thought you're a linguist."

"Close, but actually I'm a philologist."

"Sorry, I don't know what the difference is."

"A linguist studies languages. A philologist studies language, itself."

"So it's true, the whole disaster was due to a misunderstanding."

"Well, perhaps true, but still unavoidable. If my supposition is true, there is no way it could have been avoided, not with the translation system we use."

"Can you enlighten me?"

"You'll probably figure it out, if I'm right, right after we have our parley. If I'm wrong, I'll look very stupid . . . and we may both be very dead."

"Well, at least they'll only be the two of us. And speak of the Devil, we're nearing the contact coordinates. What do we need to do now?"

"We just stay here, uncloaked, with open channels. If they're here, they'll let us know. Then it's all up to me."

"How were you were able to get a message through to them to plan a rendezvous?"

"Technically, it was easy. We had all the protocols from the first contact that went wrong. It was my figuring out how to talk to them that was the hard part."

"What was wrong with the translator the Orion had?"

"Nothing. It works the same as the one we have here."

"So what's the difference?"

"Their language doesn't make any sense, ever after translation. At least, at first stab."

"They more than stabbed the Orion."

"You sound bitter."

"I'm not bitter. Just. . . ."

"I know. I am too."

"It's empty out here."

"You're thinking there may be a whole warship hovering out there."

"Yeah, and there's only the two of us in this puny ship."

"Well, Captain Hargrave, diplomacy is a specialty for neither of us, but if I'm right, and the Orion disaster was actually caused by our misunderstanding the Ymilans' language, this is the right way to handle the matter. Tentatively at first."

"It was our fault?"

"If I'm right, you'll see. If not . . . what?"

"We're been hailed and we're downloading settings for a simple audio channel. We'll be through in a few seconds. Are you ready?"

"As ready as I'll ever be. Are we through yet?"

"Umm . . . now we are. I'll punch up your audio."

About the Authors
Lou Antonelli is a longtime newspaper editor and reporter with multiple awards from Texas Press Association in editorial, column and feature writing. Antonelli's first published story was Silv ern, published by RevolutionSF in June 2003, of which Dialogue is a follow-up to, or sorts. His second story published here, Silence is Golden, earned an Honorable Mention in Gardner Dozois' 21st annual Year's Best SF, while Pen Pal and The Rocket-Powered Cat earned similar kudos in the 22nd annual edition.

Dialogue © Lou Antonelli
About the Artist
George Silliman is a 32-year-old self-taught pencil artist living in New York with his girlfriend. His speciality is horror and sci-fi. He confesses to an endless passion for drawing and is willing to try anything that allows him to experiment and further his boundaries. George's artwork can be seen regularly in magazines such as Black Petals, The Corpse, Writer Post Journal and The New 'Opinions' Magazine,as well the new magazine Hoodz.

Artwork © George Silliman