It's early evening and the sky is burning orange-pink. A floating castle catching the light for a moment as it drifts by, surrounded by partygoers with wings and capes. I'm watching from a booth in an "authentic" 1950's diner, all red vinyl and polished chrome, drinking a fantastic malt while my companion pushes some french fries back and forth on his plate. He's too depressed to enjoy the sunset, I can tell by the way his eyestalks droop. The translation program lets me see the ripple that passes over his outer membrane as a sigh, and I tell him to cheer up.
"Cheer up?" My brain hears as he squeaks in his native tongue, "This was supposed to be the crowning achievement of my existence! Instead... I mean no offense to you, you have been nothing but kind to me, but... eating in a common diner is no way to celebrate first contact."
He arrived in the park the day before, already confused and upset. I was waiting there for him along with some infoDrones there to chronicle the event in case it turned out to be amusing. When he emerged from his ship and saw me he asked, hopefully, if I was the President of the United States of America. I could tell he already knew the answer but I said it anyway - there are no more Presidents, no more United States. Just one big philosophical collective ever since we figured out free energy - free everything, really. He looked at me then, and I knew the tilt of his eyes was like a child wringing his hands. "But you... you believe me, right?" When I shrugged I think he wanted to curl up and die.
"I dreamed of this day," he says as he dissolves a fry in one of his long fingers, "Drifted through space imagining what it would be like to meet another intelligent species and share knowledge with them. I picked up signals from your planet as I approached - I had already singled it out as a likely candidate - and studied you. Do you know what happened when I entered your solar system? A human craft flew past and the driver pressed his exposed buttocks against the porthole." I nod, still looking out at the last rays of sun. A flock of bioluminescent dragons are lifting into the air now, headed south towards the Bay of Texas. I scroll through the files that were pulled out of his computer systems the moment he got near Earth and I find what I need.
"Says here that you have photography on your planet. Almost exactly the same as we had." His left eyestalk bobs in answer. "Well, you know that photographs can be faked then."
This information was siphoned off of him in seconds despite the completely foreign storage systems. Within ten minutes the cloud-computer residing around Jupiter had it all translated and fifteen minutes after that there was a quick-dump of everything on it as well as a full translation suite. The usual parties examined his technology and star charts and declared him to be a clever, elaborate, detailed hoax. A human that had heavily modded himself and his gear to look alien. They applauded the effort and then lost interest before he even had a chance to land. I'm jaded and old and don't believe it either, but you never really know - and even if it's just a hoax I feel bad for him.
"Something happens, right, where your ability to fake or manipulate a photograph surpasses your ability to detect a forgery. That's what happened here. I could go home and step into my pod and in the morning come out looking just like you. In fact, I'm willing to bet the schematics for you are already online - I would guess they've been up since half an hour after you got here." He sighs again, and I know he understands. His word doesn't carry any weight in the discussion.
"I just... I never pictured first contact being this way."
Outside it's completely dark now and we both just watch the stars. It's moments like this you could almost believe in intelligent life.