It’s half-way through the twenty-first century.
Contact with alien races was made forty years ago, but communication turns out to be impossible. We don’t share a way of thinking or common sensory inputs with the aliens, let alone a grammar. But there is trade, done on a basis of putting things on a table and taking them off again until agreement is reached. There is no obvious pattern to the trades. Alien anti-gravity technology was traded for a bicycle tyre. Human science has become fixated on understanding alien technology - with little success. We can learn what it does and how to operate it. We don’t know how it works - or how to fix it. The world may be a better place but it’s no longer our own. We may be colonizing the stars, but we’re dependant on inexplicable alien Faster-Than-Light technology. This is controlled by aliens we call the Gliese and is the only constant trade: FTL engines for human beings, any age or condition, as long as they’re alive. We don’t know what happens to them, but rumour says they are taken to a Nirvana where all illnesses will be healed. Their families are also very well compensated. Interstellar immigration and trade are central to the world’s economy. There is no shortage of volunteers.
Andrew Lane is the author of twenty-nine books and multiple short stories, television scripts and audio dramas. He is perhaps best known for his Young Sherlock series, which have sold to 42 countries. He has also written three well-reviewed adult crime novels under a pseudonym, the first of which has been optioned as a US TV series. He is currently writing another series featuring Doyle’s Professor Challenger. He lives in Dorset.