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Tuesday, June 14, 2022

“Terms of Agreement” • by Bob McHugh


Captain Olivia warped back into her mangled ship, flashing thumbs up to her crew of five.

“They’ll take us aboard. The captain, Gremulon, is a straight shooter. They’re low on rations, but one large meal should last us the two-day trek to the closest rest stop. For their troubles, I agreed to foot the bill for their re-inventory.”

“Amazing.” Rhonda’s shoulders slackened for the first time. Relief.

“Oh, and they promised not to eat us,” Olivia added.

“You asked him that?” Derrick raised his eyebrows for effect.

“Of course not. I wouldn’t alienate an ally.”

“He volunteered that information? That’s worse. The only time you explicitly promise not to do something is when you intend to do it.” Derrick surveyed the others in search of approval. Classic coward.

“The Aperticians know what people think of them, but they only consume cell-generated human meat, same as us.”

“Limited rations, big meal, definitely won’t eat us—read between the lines, Captain,” Derrick said.

“Have I ever had a bad read on someone? Ever?” Derrick could undermine her decision-making, but not her judgment. She understood people and recognized tells. As she scanned her crew, their averted eyes and coughs said everything. “Fine. I’ll clarify.”


“I never said that.” Captain Gremulon’s steady tone suggested he wasn’t lying.

“With all due respect, I have it in my log: ‘You have my word that we will not eat you,’” Olivia cited.

“I promised not to eat you, Captain to Captain. I was upfront about our rations. As is standard, the decision is yours to select the volunteer or remain impartial. Should you choose the latter, you won’t be in consideration.”

“I apologize for the miscommunication. I’ll reconvene with my crew and get back to you.”

This complicated her decision, but only slightly.


Bob McHugh is a Boston-based writer and father of two; he is immensely grateful to be both of those things. He is the semi-proud recipient of an MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College. His work has appeared in Daily Science Fiction and several anthologies. Follow him @sentientletter on Twitter.






This month’s Pete Wood Challenge was to write a 200- to 300-word flash fiction SF/F story that plays off the idea of “Second Contact.”

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