**Spoiler Warning—read only if you’ve finished Starkiller**
World Famous Teenager Speaks Publicly for the First Time Since First Contact
by Margaret Clarkson
We meet in a hotel suite in downtown Nashville over take out from one of his favorite restaurants, the Wild Horse Saloon. Danny Michealson’s fame is such that he can no longer walk down Broadway, let alone dine in public. Secret Service guards are posted at his door, and Danny travels in a government-issue armored SUV.
Though he lounges on the hotel sofa in khakis and untucked button down shirt, his posture is anything but relaxed. For a boy of just seventeen, he seems extraordinarily self posessed, eyes hold an intensity I’ve only seen in Fortune 500 CEOs and war veterans.
As we sit down for the interview, I have the distinct impression he doesn’t like me. That said, he is polite and offers to order room service if the Wild Horse’s burgers aren’t to my liking.
MC: Tell me about your first encounter with one of the bigfeet.
Danny: It was the scariest moment of my life. Up to that point (laughs). It was during the hike. I don’t remember which day it was, maybe five or six. We had been hiking all day, and we were really tired. Harvin, our guide, took me and Breyona to a creek to fill our water bottles. But Harvin heard something. A shriek. Like a weird bird call. We all heard it. Harvin went to investigate,leaving Breyona and me alone for a little while. And that’s when we saw it.
MC: A bigfoot
Danny: Yeah. It turned out to be Grizz.
MC: But by all accounts Grizz is very gentle.
Danny: He is. But at the time he looked really angry to me. But that’s because he was chasing a tangeg that had gotten loose. It was all part of GorVit’s plan to force the bigfeet to the surface. Gor wanted humans to find the bigfeet. To force First Contact.
MC: What happened that made Grizz so frightening?
I don’t even remember it that well. Breyona and I had gotten scared by some noises in the woods, and we tried to cross the creek to get away from it. But I fell in, and that’s when Grizz picked me up. He saved my life. But I didn’t know that’s what he was trying to do. I thought he was going to kill me. I thought he’d done something to Breyona. After he dropped me, I ran into the woods, and I found Breyona hiding behind a tree. We watched Grizz pacing back and forth holding something to his ear. We thought he had a telephone. And then he came at us.
MC: Sounds terrifying
Danny: It was. You’ve seen them in person, but most people have only seen a bigfeet on TV. That doesn’t give you any idea how big they really are. It’s like when you go to a football game, or a basketball game. That’s when you really get to see how big those athletes are. And smallest bigfoot, is bigger than any of those athletes. And they kind of look like bears—their faces anyway–so yeah, it was terrifying.
Breyona and I tried to run, but it was clear from the footsteps behind us we were never going to escape. I think I grabbed a stick or something. I was really desperate. Grizz stopped and looked at us, and then he heard a sound. And I’ll never forget this for as long as I live. He spoke to us.
MC: What did he say?
Danny: He said, “What a mess.” And then he took off into the woods. And that’s when the hypothermia started to kick in and I sort of passed out for a while. Harvin rescued me. Built a fire. And Breyona . . .
MC: Did you tell Harvin what you saw?
Danny: (long pause) Eventually. You have to understand, when you don’t have any evidence that you’ve seen a bigfoot, it doesn’t really do any good to go telling everyone you’ve seen one. They tend to laugh in your face.
MC: But you saw Grizz again
MC: You seem reticent. Is there some reason you don’t want to talk about this?
Danny: It’s not that I don’t want to talk about it. It’s just that I know how words can be misconstrued. I don’t want people to think poorly of Grizz.
MC: Because he abducted you.
Danny: It wasn’t Grizz who did it. There was another bigfoot. He was—difficult.
MC: Did he harm you?
Danny: Not exactly. Look, everyone knows the bigfeet take an oath of nonviolence. But this Bigfoot—
You’re speaking of Hanameesovenama, or as you called him, Shaggy.
Danny: Yes. Shaggy’s interpretation of the Oath was . . . different. He used the Oath as an excuse to hold me and the others against our will. But Grizz, and many of the others, disagreed with Shaggy. I want everybody to understand that kidnapping us was not the will of all of the bigfeet. And when the Great Mother found out about it, she was furious.
MC: I understand. But don’t you think it’s important for the public to know that not all of the bigfeet agree with the Great Mother? That the current leader of the Council of the Strict, your friend Grizz, does not speak for all of the bigfeet in Undermountain?
Danny: I guess so. But those at the center of Shaggy’s plans have all been demoted and reassigned.
MC: Have you ever heard of the Stockholm syndrome?
Danny: You mean when hostages start caring about their captors? You’re not the first person to ask me that question. And if you’re asking if that’s what happened to me, I can assure you I feel no great love for my captors. But as I said, Shaggy and his allies have been demoted and reassigned. The bigfeet you see on television–the ones interacting with the governments of the world–those are not the ones who kidnapped me and my friends.
MC: You spent some days in Undermountain. But when you are rescued on the mountainside, you and your friends lied. You said nothing of Undermountain or the bigfeet. You said you’d been trapped in a cave-in.
Danny: It seemed like the right thing to do at the time. One of the reasons the bigfeet wanted to keep us in Undermountain was that they were afraid of being discovered by humans. They felt that if the human race got a hold of their technology, that we would turn it into weapons. And when we escaped, we all agreed that the bigfeet’s fear was probably valid. That for all the good the bigfeet could do us, the human race wasn’t ready.
MC: This is one of the things it doesn’t make sense to most of the public. If the bigfeet were so dead set on keeping their existence secret, why did they come out and make First Contact a months later?
Danny: That was Shaggy’s doing. He had a plan to—
Let’s just say his timetable moved up because the tangoga forced his hand. Or so he thought. I’m still not convinced it was the best thing.
The fact that the tangoga presented a threat was partly his fault, too. As a member of the Council of the Strict, it was his responsibility to keep an eye on GorVit, who had earlier tried to annhiliate all the bigfeet in Undermountain. But GorVit escaped.
MC: And he came after you.
Danny: They kidnapped me from my grandmother’s house. Those of us who had escaped Undermountain were having a reunion there.
Danny: Somehow GorVit managed to hire some goons. Humans. I never did learn their names. He killed them as soon as they’d done their dirty work. They came into my grandma’s house and took me and Wa. They gave us some sort of sedative and then we woke up in Egypt. In some ruin. I have no idea how GorVit got there. For all I know, he shipped himself there in a crate, same way he got us there.
MC: And why did he want you?
Danny: He wanted my help solving a puzzle.
MC: What kind of puzzle?
Danny: I’m not supposed to talk about it.
MC: Does it have something to do with the so-called Starkiller?
Danny: I don’t know you’re talking about.
MC: No? You’re telling me you’ve never heard if the term Starkiller?
Danny: Sounds like something from a videogame.
MC: Do you understand why so many are suspicious of the bigfeet?
Danny: I understand it. I really do. I wish I could ease their minds about them. If they could meet Grizz, they’d know.
MC: I think what people object to most are all of the conditions the Great Mother has put on sharing her technology.
Danny: It is their technology. We don’t have a right to it.
MC: You haven’t returned to school in Nashville. There are rumors you’re working for the government. What role does a 17-year-old boy play in the the government’s work with the bigfeet?
Danny: It’s true that I have not returned to school. And I do work with the government. I understand the bigfeet culture better than any other human, so I’m a sort of liaison. I guess you could call me a consultant, or a diplomat.
MC: But you were only with the bigfeet for a short time. I’m sure that the government could find any number of volunteers to spend the same amount or more time with them. Those who are more qualified as diplomats.
Danny: The bigfeet specifically requested me. And you can’t think of them as an adversary. They are not. I’m not saying we don’t have differences, but they need nothing from us. They don’t want any of our resources. The don’t need any of it. They are truly benevolent.
MC: Isn’t it true that the bigfeet specifically said they would deal with no one else but you?
Danny: I’m not privy to all of the conversations the bigfeet have with humans. If you’re saying that you think I’m too young, or too inexperienced, then I can understand your concern. From your perspective, that is. But you have no idea what I went through. What I did. I am qualified. So is Breyona. So is Em. So is Joachim.
MC: We have no idea what you went through because you won’t tell us.
Danny: The whole story will come out. Eventually. But there are a lot of moving parts to this.
I’d rather we focus on the positives, you know? The things we’ve gotten from the bigfeet so far, in the areas of medicine, clean energy, and our knowledge of life elsewhere in the galaxy, all of those things are available to the public due to the generosity of the bigfeet, and in large part due to my influence with them. I’m not saying that to brag. It’s just the truth.
MC: Many people are suspicious of the technologies you mentioned.
Danny: No one’s forcing anyone to take advantage of the technologies, especially the medical ones. That’s entirely voluntary. But we all know where this planet was heading before First Contact. Even if you don’t like that there was some strings attached–all of which have been made public–no one can’t argue the benefits. It’s clear from the growth in the global economy, the reduction in pollutants in our water and air, the increased food production–all of it organic, by the way–that the quality of life on earth has only been benefitted by the bigfoot technology.
MC: You don’t talk like a 17-year-old
Danny: (smiles) I’ve lived a full life.
MC: A report leaked two weeks ago that suggested you’ve been off planet Earth.
Danny: (laughs) There is no way to answer that statement without adding fuel to the conspiracy theory fires. I won’t respond to leaked reports.
MC: You could simply deny it
Danny: If I start denying every allegation, then all I’ll be dealing with are more allegations as people try to suss out what happened. I repeat, the entire story will come out. I’ve been deeply involved with the project. It is detailed–very detailed–and it will be thorough. But what we don’t want is for half the story to come out, which is what’ll happen if I just answer interview questions and random allegations.
MC: One could interpret that to mean that you and the bigfeet and the government are conspiring to create a huge piece of propaganda. That you’re all trying to get your story straight.
Danny: You’ll have to be the judge of that. I’ll make sure you’re on the list when the report comes out. We have some special events and tours planned for journalists. I’m confident you’ll be impressed and convinced.
MC: And what happened to GorVit?
Danny: They’re dead. I can say with absolute certainty that GorVit can do nothing to harm Earth or the bigfeet ever again.
MC: Do you have proof of that?
Danny: I do. You’ll see it at the end of the report. Video footage of Gor’s destruction. Vit was already dead by then.
MC: With today’s special effects, footage like that could be faked.
Danny: We’ll take explosive experts to the site. They can analyze the scorch marks. That’s the best I can do.
MC: Scorch marks?
Danny: (smiling, coldly) Yes. Scorch marks.
Join me next time for an exclusive interview with Breyona Lewis.
Eric Edstrom is the author of The Undermountain Saga
, a YA science fiction trilogy.Contact Me
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