Although there had been a couple unofficial contacts between Humans and Aliens previously, they were not well documented at the time, and didn’t become common knowledge until long after the contact with the Tractus Canis, (or, if you’re pedantic, Intercapedo Canis) so the Canis indecent remained fixed in everyone’s mind as the ‘first contact’, much as Lindberg’s crossing of the Atlantic was remembered as a first, or Columbus’ discovery of America was regarded as a first: none of them actually were, but 99% of the world’s population would swear they really were. Humans have bad memories and even worse educational services. It’s simply the way of things, there’s no use ranting on about it: Most of what most people believe at any given moment will be wrong, and what’s more unusual, they’re willing to fight over these beliefs without even attempting to fact-check them first.
In any event, the first official contact with aliens – but the third overall – happened during the third-and-final American expedition to Mars in or around the year 1990 by the calendar of the day. In essence, they landed in the Tharsis Uplift region, roughly half way between Olympus Mons and Pavonis Mons, and set about their three months of on-site exploration.
It was a somewhat glum mission. Officially, it was to be the final ‘exploratory’ mission to the red planet prior to the start of American Colonization, but in actual fact everyone knew it was going to be the last mission – period – unless something amazing happened. Congressional support for the Space Program had never been any better than grudging, and despite all that talk of science the truth of the matter was that Space was a propaganda industry. It was useful in making Americans look bigger, better, and smarter than their Soviet counterparts, but not much more than that, and as Propaganda went, space was expensive. With the economic collapse going on in the Soviet Union, that nation had been forced to cancel virtually all manned space flights, which meant a lack of competition for NASA, and in the minds of the legislature of the United States, a lack of competition always meant they didn’t have to keep blowing money that particular kind of thing anymore. Hence the R&D groups working on colony ships were quietly shut down, budgets were frozen, and everyone actually connected to the mission knew that this would be the final one, the high-water mark of Man in Space, unless, of course, something remarkable happened.
Though you couldn’t bank on that kind of thing, it had happened before. In 1972, as the Apollo Program was preparing for its final mission, the Soviets had landed Ivan Balenko on the moon, which had re-ignited the smoldering space race, and caused the government to get obsessed with landing a man on Mars. The Soviets beat us to Mars in 1976 (though they hadn’t intended to), which, in one of those unpredictable whims of the American public, strengthened their resolve that there should be an American presence on The Red Planet.
Alas, Mars had turned out to be every bit as boring as the moon, as well as kind of dingy, depressing and a hell of a lot more dangerous. The public had quickly lost interest, and with the ongoing economic collapse of the Soviets, so had congress.
The Astronauts were desperate to find something that would justify the continued existence of the Ares Program – Martian life perhaps (none had ever been found, not even in fossil form), the ruins of some long-dead Tripod civilization, some new cheap thrill that the adult entertainment industries back home could capitalize on – whatever. Alas, nothing was forthcoming. Alas, everyone who’d gone to Mars so far had been male, and there were some things they simply were not willing to do for their country, which more or less eliminated the Adult Entertainment option. The astronauts had even talked about planting or otherwise manufacturing fake evidence to keep the program going, but much like NASA itself, their attempts at lying their way in to a brighter future were paralyzed by a lack of vision.
The mission groused on.
Sixty days after landing, one of the three Astronauts was flying in a small, powered paraglider about fifty miles west of the landing site, and saw a glint of something – could be ice. NASA was coo coo for cocoa puffs when it came to water on Mars. There had never been any doubt about water on the planet, and both previous American expeditions, and all the Soviet ones (Excepting the semi-accidental first one) had found water. It was completely unremarkable, but NASA kept screaming about it for no reason that anyone inside or outside of the Agency could figure. “We found water!” the press office stated every single time, as though it was the first. “Really?” the American public responded, “Fascinating. Have you ever heard of this thing called a ‘beach’?” Just the same, ice was a priority to the mission: if they saw any, they had to check it out weather they wanted to or not.
As it happened, Joe Beauchamp didn’t actually want to. He’d stolen the paraglider mainly to get the hell away from the landing site, and the other two astronauts continual bickering about what they could fake that would renew nonexistent interest in their mission. Joe simply wandered out when they weren’t looking, grabbed the Para’, and headed off in a random direction with a full fuel tank, and daydreamed alternately about green-skinned Barsoomian princesses that looked like over-inflated Raquel Welch dolls and/or his soon-to-be-ex-wife back on earth who was divorcing him and had shacked up with a TV repair man. He was deep in reverie about the princesses when he saw the glint, and wasn’t willing to come out of it, but following mission rules, he reluctantly logged his position – to his surprise, 20 miles further from the camp than anyone had ever gone before – and then turned to swoop low over the site, which was located in a low crater a few miles to his north.
It was a dome.
A honest-to-gosh, full-on Geodesic dome like the ones in the bad 50s pulp Science fiction novels! As flew closer, he set his video recorder to document the approach, and stared at it dropjawed and drooling. (The Drooling was an unfortunate side-effect of the low gravity. If you hung your mouth open for too long, unusually large globules of saliva formed in your lower jaw, which grew larger and larger until surface tension could no longer support them, and the ran slowly down your jaws, thick and disturbingly warm and undeniably nasty. It was damn annoying.) The thing was huge! It looked to be miles across – about twelve! No, that couldn’t be, could it? Let’s see – radar has me X miles away from it, if I turn my head Y degrees to the right I can see the east edge, if I turn my head Z degrees to the left, I can see the other edge, which – hey, Z happens to be Y-3, and I’m traveling at R…holy crap! It really is twelve miles across! He ruminated as he got closer. What is it? A secret Soviet base? A City? Jeez! As he grew closer and closer, he could see details through the glass and metal frame – trees, pathways, what looked like small buildings and people moving around inside. People? Yep, people. Wow! Dozens of them! How many people did the Soviets have squirreled away up here? He continued to stare, somewhat mesmerized by the site as he rapidly grew closer and closer. Suddenly, his blood ran cold: Those aren’t people, the proportions of their bodies are all wrong! Those aren’t people at all, they’re…things! He tried to zoom in his recorder as much as he could on a few of the shapes inside the dome, blanking out on all the other stuff he was supposed to be doing at that moment, never a good thing to do while flying. I need to sneak away from here without being noticed, he though, I need to get back to the landing site and warn the others and get this information back to Houston, he thought intently, so distracted by what he was seeing that he never quite noticed where the Para’ was, or how fast it was moving. Focusing all his attention through the eyepiece, squinting on one tiny, oddly-formed shape on the ground, he thought, Whatever else I do, I can’t let them see me, and then his Para’ crashed solidly into the dome.
The dome rang with a loud ‘bonging’ noise from the impact, like a bell struck with a clapper.
Inside it, every single one of the aliens turned in unison and looked at the space-suited human, stuck upside down and spread-eagled to the outside of the dome like a dragonfly smacked on to a car’s windshield.
Beauchamp woke up to find himself on earth, hallucinating that a dog was looking at him with the somewhat confused expression dogs sometimes get when they’re contemplating deep matters. He was disoriented, and confused, flat on his back, but he had to be on earth because the gravity was much heavier than on Mars, and he could smell plants in the air. How the hell did I get back here?, he wondered, how long have I been out? What…oh, yeah, the aliens in the dome…what the hell?
“Arrre you allrrright?” the dog asked. Its voice was entirely inhuman, but it seemed so perfectly what you’d expect a dog to sound like if it could talk that the oddness of it washed right over him for a moment. “I’m fine,” he said and raised an arm, then another one. “Well, that can’t be right – after all those months in low-and-no gravity, I should be weak as a kitten…wait a minute, did you just…uhm…speak?”
“Yes,” the dog replied.
“Well, now I know I’m hallucinating,” he said, “Excepting the gravity, of course that’s weird.” He looked at the dog’s head, hovering over him, looking pretty much like you’d expect a large dog – in this case, a black lab – to look, if you were holding it upright – big head, simple, non-expressive face, unusually soulful eyes, thick neck, narrow shoulders and thin arms, or more properly thin forelegs. He uncontrollably started laughing, and giggled out “Speak, boy, speak.”
“Cerrrtainly. What would you like me to speak about?”
“Must be a suit malfunction. I must be going giddy on bad air in the suit, that would explain everything excepting the gravity.”
“What is it about ourrr grrravity that concerrrns you?”
“Well – do you mind if I sit up?”
“Please, if you feel able,”
“Yeah, I am – obviously I’m hallucinating because first I saw aliens under a big dumb 50s science fiction movie dome on Mars, and then I crashed I think, and now I’m talking to a dog, but I seem oddly unconcerned that I’m probably suffocating or getting anoxia or whatever…” Here he grunted, and swung around on what seemed to be a doctor’s examination table, and was suddenly overcome with dizziness, “…whoa. That was weird.”
“Interrresting. You arrr dizzy, yes?”
“Yes,” his face flushed red, “If I had any food in me, I think I’d have hurled right there.” Sitting up, Beauchamp leaned forward to brace himself on his arms, his hands on the end of table.
“The otherrrs experrrienced similarrr disorrrientation upon arrrival,” the dog said, then turned to the side and barked some orders – literally barked – at another dog Beauchamp hadn’t noticed thus far in the corner of the room, then turned his attention back to the human, “The doctorrr has not had the opporrrtunity to inspect any of you in detail, but we believe yourrr species to be highly susceptible to corrrolis forrrce. The otherrrs seem to be adjusting rrrapidly, howeverrr. It may be easierrr forrr you if you trrry to avoid turrrning yourrr head.”
Beauchamp didn’t really hear any of this, however. He was gazing down, fixing his eyes on his dangling feet, trying not to throw up, then he noticed the dog’s leg next to his – well, that makes sense, he’s a dog standing up in my hallucination, so obviously I’d see this but…where’s the other leg? His eyes darted around, frantically, realizing there was no other dog’s leg to be seen. Instead, there was simply one large furry foot, or paw, oddly symmetrical, with a big toe on either side, and three smaller ones in the middle. The lone ankle was easily as big as a man’s – much larger than a dog would normally have – that attached to a leg that tapered up to its hips. From there up, it looked more or less like a normal, largish dog, but from the hips down it looked almost like a seal modified to live on land.
He turned his head to look at the other dog in the corner, and felt nausea rush over him again. Both were identical except for coloring. Both of them were naked, excepting a white vest with lots of overstuffed pockets the one in the corner was wearing. He felt his attention focusing, his pulse racing, the urge to flight or fight rising within him, and moved to get up.
“I can not rrread yourrr exprrression, I apologize. Do you trrruly believe yourrrself to be hallucinating?”
“I did,” Beauchamp said in a breathless voice that even he couldn’t quite hear. He said it again, “I did.” He sidled forward over the edge of the table, feeling his feet on the floor. The upright dog-alien moved towards him, raised a paw and placed it gently on his forearm. Its touch was surprisingly gentle, startlingly so.
“It might be best forrr you to rrremain herrre until yourrr shipmates can be summoned.”
Beauchamp reached over with his left hand and touched the alien’s paw, pulled it away from his arm and looked at it – a four-fingered hand, black with short fur on the back of the paw and fingers, and something like normal dog leather underneath. There was a short, stubby, but obviously manicured nail poking out of the blunt end of the fingers. He tried to turn the paw over at the wrist to see the bottom, but the dog made a whimpering sound, and yanked it away. Beauchamp felt his urge to run or lash out surge at the sudden movement.
“It doesn’t bend that way, sorrry,” the dog said, “Herrre, try this,” and held his forearm straight up-and-down so Beauchamp could see the bottom of it. There was a dewclaw-like thumb sticking out of the wrist, well below the palm, long and unnaturally thin. Beachamp reached out to touch it, and the dog picked exactly the wrong moment to demonstrate how he could use it to make a very strong vice grip with each of his fingers. Flicking the long, bony worm around like that startled the human, who immediately dropped into a crouch, then lunged forward with his shoulder into a tackle. The dog was heavier than it looked, but lighter than a man. Beauchamp – acting entirely on reflex – misjudged the force he’d need, and both of them ended up toppling over.
The dog made a sound halfway between a canine whimper and a human groan, the other dog made something that was comedically close to a surprised ‘yipe’, then a growl. Beauchamp cut and ran, but something was wrong, his balance was off. As he moved down the perfectly-square hallway that seemed to be the only way out of the room, he kept leaning to the right, listing against the wall. He was nauseous. He’d run three steps, fall against the wall without meaning to do so, then fall against it again. He ran for what seemed like ten minutes, never quite finding the end of the oddly-twisting hallway, always moving to his left whenever a fork in the path appeared for no reason other than his body kept falling to the right like he had a clubfoot on that side.
He turned a corner and saw a dog-alien, same shape as the others, but larger, very nearly man-sized, and wearing what was obviously armor. It didn’t advance on him, just blocked his way. He backtracked away from the thing, and ran down another fork for a minute or two, eventually finding his way blocked by another…well, call it what it obviously is: a guard dog. Three different corridors and three different large guard dogs blocking his way, but not behaving in any way more threatening than that. The chase, such as it was, went on for a half an hour or so.
His pulse began to slacken, his breathing calmed, the blind xenophobic panic in his mind left by degrees. He ducked down a corridor he’d already been down once – the guard dog was further towards the entrance than he’d been before. He tried another one, just in time to see one of the dogs moving forward, and interesting loping movement, it went down on all threes, coiled its hind leg underneath it, made a casual lunging move forward and landed on all threes again, then coiled its hind leg beneath it and moved along again. It was surprisingly graceful.
A voice came over some kind of alien PA system, the voice of the black lab-looking one he’d been talking to before, “My grrrandmother wishes to know why you werrre so concerrrned about the grrravity when you thought this was a hallucination? You may speak in a converrrsational voice, I will be able to hearrr your rrreply.”
“Have you ever had any kind of hallucination?” Beauchamp said to the air, still walking along and trying to find a free way out of there.
“I have. Your brain misinterprets stuff, or just openly makes it up, but I’ve never felt gravity to be different than it really was.”
“Interrresting. Is this univerrrsal among humans, or unique to you?” the “K” sound in ‘Unique’ was oddly pronounced.
Beauchamp paused, “To tell you the truth, I don’t know. I assume it’s mostly universal, but guess it could be just me.”
“And because the grrravity is differrrent than the worrrld we found you on, and differrrent than yourrr homeworld, you feel disorrriented?”
“Well, yeah,” he said, moving forward more casually now, “I’d assumed I was on earth when I woke up, but the gravity was all wrong…” he turned a corner and saw what was obviously natural light coming through a doorway, with the silhouette of a dog backlit in it. It spoke, and Beauchamp wasn’t at all surprised that it was the one he’d tackled earlier.
“You arrre not on earrrth, norrr arrre you on the otherrr planet, obviously,” it said.
Beauchamp stepped forward, “Then where the hell am I?”
“Come forrrwarrrd and see” it said. He stepped through the door…and very nearly blacked out. He was on the side of a hill in what looked to be a very large meadow stretching for miles in all directions, literally as far as the eye could see, filled with plants that were obviously alien but just as obviously plants, a stream, a lake in the distance, a large suspension bridge. Above the meadow on either side were two vast swaths of nighttime sky, replete with stars. Above them were very long, skinny rectangles of plants, streams, lakes, and buildings looking down on him. Between these was a final swath of nighttime sky.
“You arrre on ourrr ship, obviously,” the dog said.
“Maybe I should lay down for a moment” Beauchamp said a full minute after he’d abruptly laid down on his back. He couldn’t figure out how the massive strips of land above him weren’t falling on him, he couldn’t escape the obviously massive scope of this ship or world or whatever the hell it was.
“You arrre calmerrr now, yes?” the dog said after a long pause.
“Yes,” Beauchamp replied, “I’m sorry, you just kind of freaked me out back there. Did I hurt you?”
The dog made an indescribable noise that later turned out to be their equivalent of laughter, “You should be embarrrassed by how little you hurrrt me, actually.” Another long pause.
“You certainly contained that situation well, I’m surprised you were able to…you know…bring me down without fighting or shooting me or whatever it is you…uhm…people…do.”
“Yes, we have grrreat experrrience with hearrrding things.”
Beauchamp and his still-unnamed translator dog entered a large, circular room to find his two shipmates there. The room was windowless, with a low, wide raised circular pedestal in the middle, heavily cushioned and pillowed. It had three curved sections even higher arranged around its perimeter that he presently realized were desks. There astronauts were in two chairs, slightly below the eye level of a reclining dog on the pedestal.
“Ah, you finally got here, good!” Gene said, and jumped up. He walked over to Beauchamp and unexpectedly half-hugged him as they shook hands. Heretofore they hadn’t really gotten along in the mission, but of course contact with aliens would have changed all interpersonal relationships, he guessed.
“What took you so long?” Gene asked.
“The ship is freakin’ huge: it took us more than an hour to walk from the hillside…uhm…infirmary to here.” While saying this, Beauchamp’s translator barked and growled back and forth with another dog – this one looking more like a golden lab than anything else – who was standing by the pedestal. The room was filled with a strange, melodic sound that Beauchamp took to be alien music. The vocals were almost, but not quite, human-sounding and were simultaneously lovely and very annoying to him.
“Please be seated,” the golden lab said, motioning to a third chair in the room. Beauchamp sat, noticing that his chair and the other two had been ripped out of his own mars lander, presumably because doggie chairs won’t fit our anatomy, he thought.
“Isn’t it great?” Gene said, “It’s something like twenty miles long! This whole ship is basically what we’d call an ‘O’Neil Cylinder.’ My son, Mark, is always rambling on about them. Here, let me introduce you to “Alice”, the great-great-great-great-great-great grandmother of this ship.” He indicated a smaller, elderly female dog on the pedestal. At first he’d thought she was white, but then he realized she was covered almost entirely with short grey hair.
“Grandmother?” Beauchamp asked.
“We arrre a hierrrarrrchichal matrrriarrrchy,” the golden lab explained, “Alice is the motherrr of us all, excepting some of the males.”
“Apparently they’re ranked sort of like a military,” Gene cut in, excitedly, “The young are like warrant officers, females who haven’t had pups – excuse me, children – yet are like junior lieutenants, mothers are senior lieutenants, grandmothers are captains, great-grandmothers are majors…”
“You could use a navy example,” said Jim, seated between them, himself a naval ensign and the youngest of the three astronauts.
“Sorry, Jim,” Gene said.
“Huh. So when you said your ‘grandmother’ wanted to know something,” Beauchamp said to his translator…
“Yes,” the black lab said, “My officerrr fourrrth in imporrrtance frrrom the bottom of the rrrank structure.”
“Not your actual grandmother who gave birth to your mother, though?”
“Coincidentally she is my biological grrrandmotherrr as well, but that is not rrrequirrred.”
“What about males?” Beauchamp asked.
“Noncoms,” said Gene.
“Ratings,” said Jim, “Never more than mastercheifs.”
“Males arrre somewhat mentally unstable,” said the golden lab, “It is said that they rrruled untold eons ago, and that it was a time of perrrpetual warrr and confusion, though that is prrrobably myth: We males arrre so obviously unfit to lead that no one rrreally believes we everrr did so. Howeverrr, our minds are well-suited to aspects that ourrr administrrratively-minded females arrre not generrrally terrribly good at, such as sciences, enginerrring, trrranslation, and suchlike.”
“So you’re limited to … to what you can do with your life?”
“It is a limit we enjoy.”
“As you may have gatherrred,” the golden lab said, “Our ship rrrotates to simulate grrravity. Once we rrrealized you werrre not frrrom the planet we found you on, we discussed the situation with yourrr commanderrr” – he indicated Gene – “and togetherrr we elected to take you back to your homeworrrld. We’ve rrre-set the spin of our habitation cylinderrrs to that of the planet you call Marrrs, and arrre grrradually incrrreasing the spin to acclimate you to yourrr homeworld’s grrravity again.”
“Clever, wasn’t it? That was Jim’s idea,” said Gene.
“It’ll take us about seven days to get to earth, so they ramp up the spin to increase gravity about 4.62 percent a day, and by the time we get back home, we’ll be used to earth gravity again! It’ll save us months in rehabilitation.”
“Ourrr doctorrrs feel you will not be able to rrre-build enough muscle by the time we rrreturrrn to earrrth.”
“No, of course not,” Jim said, “But it’ll help considerably.”
“So is that why you’ve got me walking like three miles to get here from the infirmary?”
“No,” said his translator, “We just enjoy walking. Therrre arrre few prrroblems that can not be solved with a brrrisk walk, and most of those can be solved with a rrrun.”
The golden lab explained – on behalf of Great Grandmother-to-the-sixth-power Alice – that they had contacted earth a few hours ago and announced their presence and their eventual arrival.
“So what were you doing on Mars, anyway? Observing us?”
“No. We had no interrrest in you. Therrre was an…” here some quiet barking between the Golden lab and Alice ensued, before the translator continued, “…incident at a near-by starrr. We werrre scouting arrround the local systems to see if therrre was anything of interrrest, as this arrrea hadn’t been surrrveyed before.”
“What kind of an incident?”
“That is none of yourrr concerrrn.”
“So you came into an inhabited solar system, but you didn’t contact us?”
“We werrre not interrrested in you. We mistakenly thought yourrr homeworrrld to be a Big-Eye Colony, as they arrre physically verrry similarrr to yourrr kind.”
“Bigeyes?” Beauchamp asked/
“Evidently another sentient alien race,” Gene offered.
“Prosthetic-forehead aliens, I gather,” Jim said, “Like on Star Trek, you know, completely human in every way excepting bad makeup and lumpy foreheads.”
“Not so similarrr as that, perrrhaps,” said the black lab, “Once we had misterrr Beauchamp out of his suit, we immediately rrrecognized ourrr error – you arrre quite differrrent, despite some physical similarrrities.”
More alien dogs came in carrying trays, and fed the humans. The food was strange, but not unpleasant, and they were assured it was safe for human biochemistry. All of it was salad.
“I’m a bit surprised,” said Beauchamp, “with all the animals out there, and you’re so obviously carnivores – forgive me if I’m being impolite – but I expected meat or something.”
“We do not eat animals,” said the translators, somewhat aghast and in unison.
“But you’re obviously carnivores, I mean look at those teeth!”
“We do not eat meat! We have rrrisen beyond that need frrrom ourrr uncivilized past. We do keep some animals on ship to chase arrround for exerrrcise, of course.”
“This subject is offensive to us. Wars have been fought over it. Let us speak of something else,” the golden lab said. An awkward pause ensued.
“What I don’t get,” said Jim clearing the silence, “Is how we missed your dome when we landed. The thing was twelve miles across, clear, with green grass and trees underneath it – there’s no way we could have missed something that big during our orbital survey. It’d be like not noticing Hawaii.”
“We had not arrrived when you landed.”
”Yes, you had been on planet Sol Fourrr forrr some sixty local days, Gene has told us. We only arrrived about one of yourrr weeks ago.”
“You built that huge installation in a week?” Gene said, incredulously.
“We built it in a day.” Everyone stared, somewhat stunned and awed at Alice on the pedestal. Alice shrugged in a way that was disturbingly human.
“What can I tell you?” the golden lab said.
As it turned out, our solar system was fairly poor, compared to others. There wasn’t enough solar energy to warrant tapping stations – whatever they were – not enough jovian worlds of significant size to warrant atmospheric mining, and our meager asteroid belt was a joke, filled with useless fissionables and little else.
“Wait a minute,” Jim said, “’Useless Fissionables?’ Radioactive elements are amazingly important to any spacefaring race! Our ship is powered by a Nuclear engine, a NERVA…”
The room was filled with indecipherable alien dog laughter. Jim shut up.
“Howeverrr, ourrr surrrvey of the fourrrth planet did show larrrge amounts of minerrrals that have industrrrial value among ourrr kind.”
“etherrrio-27; duquonset,” – the ‘q’ was again prounounced oddly – “some viactorrroll with caustic polly-popetic prrroperrrties. Does that help you?”
“Never heard of any of that. So what do you use it for?”
“We hope to use these elements to corrrnerrr the galactic marrrket on scented bath oils.”
And now the room was filled with human laughter. The dogs seemed perplexed. Both translators asked why the laughter.
“I’m sorry,” said Gene, it’s nothing personal, it’s just…I dunno, you’re so alien and then you drop something so girly…” The humans couldn’t quite make themselves understood on the subject, so they let it go.
The conversation wandered on and on, until the strange alien music stopped. Alice barked to one of the translators, who said, “That was lovely. Is all the music on yourrr worrrld like this?”
“No, but it’s my favorite band. I brought it with me from earth, they’re called ‘The Cocteau Twins.’”
“What language do they sing in? It is most evocative.”
“Uhm…english, I guess, maybe Scottish? Granted, it doesn’t sound much like English.”
“Therrre will be a grrreat marrrket for this among our kind, and perrrhaps the fonaza. The Fonaza arrre fanatical about music.”
“I’m sure the Twins will be happy to hear that, now I have another band you may be interested in called ‘Art of Noise.’” The name prompted more alien laughter, “That is actually what the fonaza call music,” the black lab said. Jim pulled out another CD, which the aliens played with great interest, and the room was once again filled with indecipherably alien-sounding music, which, to Beauchamp’s embarrassment, came from earth.
“This sounds like the kind of stuff my older boy listens to,” Gene said.
“Oh, God,” said Beauchamp, chagrinned by the music incident. This caused confused looks from all the aliens.
“God?” the golden lab asked.
“Yeah, you know, supernatural being?” Jim ventured.
“You mean the Ys?”
“I don’t know what that is, but you know, a supreme being of infinite goodness and power who created the entire universe? We call that being ‘God’” This caused some confusion – but no laughter or disrespect – from the dogs.
“Forrrgive us, firrrst contact situations arrre quite” – again, the weird ‘q’ sound – “confusing at times. Clearrrly therrre arrre some concepts that you have which we do not, and ones we have that you do not. ”
“You don’t believe in a ‘God’?”
“It is ourrr underrrstanding that the univerrrse was crrreated in a prrrimal explosion, therrre does not appearrr to have been any intelligence involved in it, unless you have evidence to the contrrrary? If so, we would be very interrrested in purrrchasing it.”
“Well, no, but….” Jim admitted.
“Ah. Well then perrrhaps we could turrrn the topic back to the subject of possible exporrrts frrrom yourrr worrrld. This music will obviously be quite popularrr, and experrrience has shown that arrrt objects always have a value in the interrrstellarrr marrrket….”
“Just to recap,” said Gene, interrupting, “You’re the first aliens we’ve ever met, and alien life is common, we are not the only life in the universe?”
“Obviously not,” said the black translator, sounding oddly amused.
“And you…uhm…people are a bunch of radical militant vegetarian feminists?”
“As I underrrstand those worrrds, yes.”
“Mmmm. Thank you,” Gene said, looking pensive and stared blankly into the distance, but what he was really thinking was, ‘My preacher is gonna’ kill me for this!’
In actual fact, back in Texas Gene’s preacher was talking about killing him at that exact moment, and he wasn’t entirely joking. Gene’s previous two preachers were beloved and good men, and both had been his close friends, as Gene was a very moral man. The first had moved on to a job in a bible college, the second – an immediately engaging Georgian fellow who left his first career as a Jazz saxophonist because he felt compelled to do the will of God – had died abruptly of liver cancer about three years before. His replacement – a far less charming Georgan named Bob Clarkson - in the church Gene frequented was a wife-swapping drug-addled con man, though most of the people in the church hadn’t caught on yet. Neither had Gene, for despite his long and distinguished career as an astronaut, he was blindly trusting of religious authority figures.
Clarkson was, at that moment, railing on to some of his freemason buddies about how they ought to use their secret freemason powers to blow up the alien ship, and put an end to this once and for all, and though he couched it in what he felt was a humorous rant at the lodge, he did actually believe that the Masons had all kinds of secret economic and military powers they could unleash if they needed to. Clarkson was one of those people who believed that the Free Masons ran the world, and though he was mostly joking about killing Gene, he was pretty serious about blowing up the alien ship. In this he was completely wrong: the freemasons did not run the world, and had no particular powers beyond a reduced rate for lap dances at the Cleremont Lounge when the lodge visited as a group. (Where, though not commonly known, Clarkson’s own mother had been a dancer forty years before)
In all fairness, however, lying evil manipulative son of a bitch though Clarkson was, he can’t be entirely held accountable for his xenocidal rage: in fact, the entire world was going batshit.
On Sunday, Gene had called Houston to make an announcement that had been contacted by aliens, and after some discussion they had all decided to abandon their mission on Mars and take up the alien’s kind offer of returning to earth on the alien’s starship. They expected to be there in a week. Gene had intended to retire after this mission anyway, and for the 59-year-old “Hero of Skylab,” everyone in the media agreed that this was the perfect final jewel in his crown, career-wise.
At 9:01 AM, the stock market crashed. Actually, all of them crashed, around the world, with investors selling off everything they could in a panic, not knowing what effect the aliens would have on the global economy, but naturally assuming the worst. In Rome, Pope John Paul II issued a bizarrely incoherent and clearly frightened rant about how the aliens were children of God, and that humans must treat them well. He was speaking ex cathedero, which meant that what he said was to be considered straight from God’s Mouth to Catholic’s Rule Book, and could not be taken back. In the speech, he named the aliens “Intercapedo Canis,” a name which only partially stuck.
Meanwhile, as is traditional in times of duress, stock brokers in New York were hurling themselves out of skyscraper windows. President Bush (the first) issued a statement about how he intended to issue a statement soon.
One of the alien translators – whom the press took to calling “Goldie” – said that on behalf of Great^6th Grandmother Alice, the aliens were looking forward a long and mutually beneficial series of cultural exchanges with earrrth.
By 5 PM, when the NYSE closed, open rioting ensued in the city, as it did in Hong Kong a few hours later. The president sent in the National Guard to contain the situation, which, as is also traditional when the National Guard is sent in, utterly failed, and thirty six brokers died. At least fifteen of them had been intending to kill themselves as soon as they found a tall building, however, so that mitigated the tragedy somewhat.
On the space ship, Beauchamp woke up for the first time, tried to escape, was effortlessly re-captured, and met with the others in Alice’s study. Shortly after that meeting, Goldie contacted the earth on behalf of Alice, to hold a kind of question-and-answer session at Beauchamp’s suggestion. It was an agonizingly slow process, given forty-five minutes of light-speed lag time between the asking of a question, Goldie translating it to Alice, Alice answering it, Goldie translating and repeating the answer, and then the signal traveling back to earth, and again, one can easily plot the times responses were given by looking at the times the stock markets surged and crashed.
During the interview, it came out that the Intercapedo Canis (Who were already being called “Tractus Canis” in the press) were essentially capitalists with a particular penchant for peace, femininity, veganism, and didn’t believe in any God or gods. Also, Blackie was introduced, who sang a little song in the Tractus Canis’ native language about Fruit for some reason that probably only made sense to the dogs themselves.
Before the interview was even over, of course, the global stock market was rallying with heavy sales in industries that were suspected to be ones the aliens would be interested in, including fruitpacking. At roughly the same time, the Pope II issued yet another bizarrely incoherent and clearly frightened rant about how the aliens were demons from hell, and that he was again speaking ex cathedero, in addition to shaking violently and randomly switching back and forth between three or four languages mid-sentence. This was the first time a pope had ever made two definitively mutually-exclusive statements on behalf of God – at least publicly - which led to an immediate schism between the Liberal and Conservative wings of the church.
It was this night when Bob Clarkson started talking about killing the aliens.
It should be mentioned that at least half the world didn’t believe the dogs when they said they were peace-loving extraterrestrial vegetarians who only came to our solar system for scented bath oils and Cocteau Twins CDs. Many people and governments felt this was simply a lie to distract humanity until it was too late. In the Islamic world, many felt these aliens would ally themselves with the Christian democracies and then enslave the rest of the world. (To be fair, President Bush and Queen Elizabeth II pretty much hoping this was a fair bet as well) Having read the War of the Worlds, and realizing they’d have no chance against alien superweapons, the president of Pakistan decided their only hope lay in grabbing as much territory as possible before the aliens arrived, and ordered his nation’s military to invade India (Again – it had been done three times before in the previous 42 years) and conquer it once and for all.
In the united states, President Bush gave a stirring speech that tied in the promise of the coming aliens with his own “Thousand points of light” motif, and while it was a very good speech well worth the two days it took for someone to write it for him, it completely failed to address the India/Pakistan situation, and when a reporter asked him about it immediately afterwards, he gave no reply, which resulted in minor riots in all US cities with a substantial Indian population. It should be mentioned that the Pakistanis were really kicking ass, too, and by noon they were a hundred miles into India, with tens of millions of dead behind them.
China was the only country to address the Indian/Pakistan situation; by saying they were putting their nuclear forces on alert. The US and rapidly-disintegrating Soviet Union reluctantly put their forces on alert as well, while in Ireland and France, there were small riots between Pro-Alien Liberal Catholics and Anti-Alien Conservative Catholics.
The stock market rallied higher than it had been at the start of business the previous day, meanwhile Madeline Murray O’Hare gave a long, particularly angry and gloating speech about how, basically, she was right all along and that there was no God, as the aliens had proved it.
Blackie mentioned on TV that they had not in fact proven the nonexistence of God, and that it was theoretically impossible to prove a negative, and that God simply was not something they believed in citing a lack of rational proof. O’Hare paid this no nevermind, and went on with her Godbashing rant, making literally hundreds of statements during the course of the day about how stupid theistic people are. Hundred of other luminaries ranging from Carl Sagan on down the list to The Amazing Randii issued similar statements, many of them quite vitriolic. The Dali Lama attempted suicide (Though this was later covered up), and Pope John Paul II actually did commit suicide, so badly shaken were his beliefs.
In Norfolk, Virginia, there were PeTA riots, where hamburger joints and non-vegan grocery stores were burned, in an overwhelming outpouring of pent-up (And almost insane) aggression towards people with differing viewpoints than their own. In San Francisco and New York and Los Angeles, lesbian gangs went around forcibly castrating anyone unlucky enough to wander into their area. Fuzzies with a thing for dogs came out of the closet and started openly doing things to dogs in public that it is not seemly to describe here. The NOW and various militant Pro-Choice groups drafted a statement and had it transmitted to the alien ship.
Around the world, people who felt their wrongfully-suppressed viewpoints had been vindicated lashed out with what they felt was vindicated anger at those who they felt had wronged them. Conversely, those who felt their long-cherished beliefs disproved either fell into deep depression and possible suicide, or else completely threw aside their morals and fell into a few days of wonton excess.
Also, Gene Roddenberry, now working as a thrice-divorced baggage handler in a bus depot in Muncie, Indiana, got to bragging to some of his swinger friends about how “He’d predicted all of this years ago” on his old Star Trek show, and somehow this had gotten to the folks at Entertainment Tonight, who put him on instead of the interview with Spielberg they’d been hoping for. The world was crazy, entirely mad. Despite the fact that he was completely lying, and that Trek had predicted no such thing, he had an iron-clad pay-or-play contract for five seasons of a show called “Star Trek: Phase III” by the end of the day.
First thing Thursday morning, India’s surprisingly extensive nuclear arsenal fell on Pakistan, and the country more-or-less ceased to exist. The stock markets around the world plummeted again, while India drove its way back to the Pakistani border, being utterly brutal to the enemy forces that tried to surrender. Not a one of them was left alive. In the north, China invaded Pakistan using paratroopers. Soviet Forces in Afghanistan were quickly overrun by hundreds of thousands of Pakistani refugees flooding into the country. The Politbureau contemplated sending paratroopers into Pakistan as well, but lacked the available manpower and funds to do it. The Soviet economy – somewhat isolated from the rest of the world – had weathered the chaos of the past few days a bit better than the western democracies, and was contemplating using it’s nuclear weapons to hold on to that advantage, but open riots broke out in Poland, East Germany, and Yugoslavia.
Syria threatened to invade Israel, but Israel threatened to do to them what India had done to Pakistan, and Syria backed down. Meanwhile, in the west no one seemed to give a damn about the death of ten million people on the subcontinent: they were more concerned with the kinds of music the aliens liked (Mostly New Wave and Post-punk), and the democratic party issued a statement that it had always been the party of pacifists, atheists, liberals, feminists, lesbians, abortionists, and vegans. This wasn’t strictly speaking true, and it was intended only as propaganda to take advantage of the maelstrom caused by the aliens, but it was still truer than anyone wants to admit today.
Chinese and Soviet forces were openly fighting in Afghanistan, and along the long Siberian border. The stock market rallied as the Aliens said they had medical technology that should make human life-extension possible, and that people should be able to expect lives in the range of 180 or so years, based on the tests they’d done on the Mars Probe astronauts. Unfortunately, this news caused an immediate collapse in the Life Insurance Industries around the world, and every American insurer issued an immediate freeze on all life policies and assets.
President Bush unwisely issued a statement that if it came to nuclear war between the PRC and the USSR, then the US would be backing the soviets. Meanwhile, in Rome, Pope John Paul III took office, just in time, he said in Latin, for the end of the world.
Again the stock markets went crazy, with State Farm insurance declaring that the activities of the last six days had exhausted its financial resources, and declaring bankruptcy. There was a massive spike in farm-related sales.
For no reason anyone could discern, but which probably made sense to the people involved, South Korea and South Africa declared war on Australia, meanwhile the Aliens explained how their whole-body entertainment systems worked, and everyone was eagerly anticipating trying them out, as they could apparently be rapidly-adapted to existing films. You no longer had to watch Star Wars, or Gone With The Wind, you could be in the film, playing the part of any character, or watching from the sidelines. It worked for books, too, and Zondervan Books contacted the alien ship to see about licensing it for the bible, which, despite the leftist explosion of the previous week, was still an undeniable best seller.
The alien ship entered orbit. It was ungodly huge, big enough to make out major details from the ground, even in daytime. So huge, in fact, that Bob Clarkson, standing in the parking lot of a Krispy Kreme could see it well enough to recognize the error of his ways.
“People of Earrrth, on behalf of Grrreat-Grrreat-Grrreat-Grrreat-Grrreat-Grrreat Grrrandmother Alice, I have been instrrructed to inforrrm you that on second thought, you arrre not the kinds of people we wish to associate with. We will not be interrracting with you afterrr all…”
Meanwhile, back on Thursday, Beauchamp and Gene were aboard the alien ship, happily playing with a score of little three-legged alien puppies. They were atop a small hill roughly in the middle of the port cylinder of the ship, with several adult males guarding the perimeter to make sure none of the little ones got away. The ship stretched off for eleven miles forward and aft, and was an awe-inspiring site that was so overwhelming the humans had psychologically adapted to it by simply refusing to notice it anymore.
“They sure are cute, aren’t they?” Gene said, and in fact they were – adorable little puppies that, though slightly bigger than their terrestrial analogues, acted pretty much exactly like you’d expect puppies to ask. Beauchamp, who thought they were cute too, was considerably younger than Gene, and still in the phase of life where he worried what people thought about him, even if there was no one around. As such, he got embarrassed a lot.
“You don’t need to say that out loud, Gene,” he said.
Goldie and Blackie came up to the hill. Goldie growled something low to the guards, and they imperceptibly became tense. Blackie barked something, and the guards became nervous, and started gathering up the puppies.
“Recess is over, huh?” Gene said, “Here, let me help you.” He picked up two of the young ones, and an alarmed guard dog snatched them out of his hands, growling intimidating and startling the elder astronaut.
“Uhm, guys? What’s going on?” Beauchamp asked, sensing the tension in the air.
Without preamble, Goldie said, “We will not be going to yourrr worrrld.” The two men looked at each other nervously, then back at the alien.
“Why not?” Beauchamp asked.
“In light of new inforrrmation we have rrreceived, you arrre considered a securrrity rrrisk.”
“Can we ask why?” Gene said.
“No. Yes. I’m sorrrrrry. We have sent for Jim, we will explain when he gets herrre,” Blackie said.
“They’re gonna’ kill us,” Beauchamp said, “Look at those teeth – obviously the whole vegetarian thing was a lie.”
Sounding somewhat embarrassed, Blackie said, “We arrre not going to kill you, excepting perrrhaps in self defense.”
“I hold in my paw a message frrrom something called the ‘National Orrrganization of Women’…” Goldie interrupted.
“Oh my,” said Gene.
A few minutes later, four guard dogs arrived, carrying Jim, who’d been bound and gagged. They dumped him on the hilltop. Goldie flashed the guards a slightly bared tooth and an annoyed tail-gesture – most of the dogs’ emotions were conveyed by their tails and not their faces – and the guards slinked away.
Gene was already moving forward to untie Jim when Goldie said simply, “You may untie him. I’m sorrry forrr that.”
“Does anyone want to explain what the hell is going on?” Jim sputtered angrily the instant the gag was out of his mouth.
“Liberals,” Gene said knowingly.
“They’ve decided not to go to earth after all,” Beauchamp said.
“Not entirrrely trrrue,” Blackie said, “We’ll drrrop you off at earrrth, but we will not be establishing trrrade norrr diplomatic rrrelations with yourrr species.”
“Is it the craziness going on back on earth?” Jim asked, rubbing his rope-burned wrists. They’d all been following the news, and they’d all been in equal parts appalled and embarrassed by the insanity that had broken out there in the previous few days. “Is it the wars?” He asked.
“It is not the warrrs. Such panic is common when a new species makes firrrst contact with otherrr species. In fact, if anything, yourrr species is morrre rrrestrained than most.” Goldie said.
Blackie concurred, “When I was a pup on one of ourrr sisterrr ships, we made contact with a new species of sentients, who immediately blew theirrr own worrrld up, rrrather than admit they werrre not alone in the univerrrse.”
“Then what is it?”
“It is something called ‘The National Orrrganization of Women.’ Am I to underrrstand that yourrr people rrregularrrly murrrderrr yourrr unborrrn offsprrring.” Goldie asked. There were a lot of distended ‘rrr’s in that sentence, and it took most of them a moment to figure out exactly what had been said, but Gene had already figured it out.
“Yes, sadly,” he said, “We’re baby-killers.”
“I feel sick,” said blackie, “I need to sit down,” and then he practically fell over.
“What the hell…? What the hell are you talking about?” Jim half-yelled, “What’s going on here?”
“You kill yourrr unborrrn young,” Goldie said. His words were measured, but his pupils were narrowed to points, his tail was flat against his body, and his teeth were bared the moment he was done talking. He’s furious, Beauchamp realized, vegetarians or no, we have to be very careful here.
“That’s ridiculous!” Jim half-laughed, half-sneered, “We don’t do any such thing. Abortion is a legal right in most countries, so if the mother decides she doesn’t want a kid she terminates the pregnancy, what’s the big deal?”
Goldie lunged and was on Jim in half an instant, mauling him. Blackie was screaming, “Do not prrresume to tell our motherrrs how to go about being female, do not prrresume to tell our motherrrs how to go about being female” over and over like a mantra. Beauchamp immediately dropped to his knees and flopped over in a prostrated position, trying to make himself as submissive and non-threatening as possible.
“Please stop,” he said calmly but loudly. Gene looked confused for a moment, then realized what Beauchamp was doing, and likewise prostrated himself. He reached forward to touch Blackie on the hand. Blackie, still chanting, was startled and flipped over and big Gene hard on the outstretched hand.
Wincing against the pain, Gene willed down the urge to scream, and simply said, “Goldie is killing our friend, please make him stop Blackie.” At once, intelligence returned to blackies eyes. He released Gene, stood, and barked for the guards. Presently they arrived and hauled everyone off.
“Let me get this straight,” Jim said in the infirmary where dog surgeons were fixing their wounds (and had conveniently blocked off their pain receptors), “The world is blowing itself to hell, but you don’t care and were still willing to be friends with us; but now that you find out some of our people practice abortion, you don’t want anything to do with us?”
“Yes,” said Blackie, wincing in revulsion at the word ‘abortion.’
“I’m so sorrry about attacking you,” Goldie said, “I don’t know what came overrr me, I was just so appalled…”
“Would you care to explain that?” Jim said, ignoring Goldie.
“Competition is a basic fact of life in the univerrrse. Evolution itself is competition, between species, between naturrre and sentience, and so on. In morrre evolved creaturrres, this competition frrrequently takes the forrrm of warrrs, many of them senseless. Mass panic is, itself, a forrrm of evolution. If a crrrowd panics, it is morrre likely to die and hence not pass the genes of its memberrrs on to the next generrration. Individuals in the crrrowd who do not panic are morrre likely to surrrvive and prrrocrrreate, thus the averrrage of sentience within the species goes up a bit, do you see?”
“Yes. Nature red in tooth and claw,” Beauchamp said.
“Exactly. This is naturrre, and can not be changed, to attempt to do so is foolishness. What is going on in yourrr worrrld rrright now is what happens when any new species is contacted for the firrrst time, to a greater or lesser extent. If yourrr species is insufficiently stupid, it will surrrvive this trrransition, if it is insufficiently intelligent, it will not. It is lamentable, but unavoidable.”
“Ok, so you don’t care about that, so why does abor – “ Gene noticed the pained expressions on the tails of all the dogs in the room, and quickly censored himself – “so why does the other thing bother you so much?” The dogs were silent for a while, as if too repulsed to speak. Finally, Goldie, having recovered himself somewhat, cleared his throat.
“No other species kills it’s unborrrn,” he said rather solemnly.
“you’re kidding me,” Jim said. Goldie was on him again in an instant, not attacking, but his paws holding the man’s shoulder’s down, his lips pulled back and teeth out, “Say the wrrrong worrrd again, Jiiiiiiiim,” He screamed in his face, “I darrre you.”
Blackie, who again looked rather sick, motioned for the guards, and they politely removed Goldie.
“We arrre in contact with a lot of species,” he said, “How many is a prrroprrrietarrry secrrret, but I can tell you that therrre are hundrrreds of sentient species in this galaxy, and we have had trrrade with nearrrly all of them, and have had contact with most of the rrrest. Among all of them, there is an inherrrent drive to be frrruitful and multiply. Among all of them, it is a grrreat crrrime to take the life of the unborn. What you people do is….is…” the translator seemed at a loss for words, swooned a bit, and sat down before continuing, “…I can not call it a ‘sin’ as we do not believe in gods or any kind of divinely-inspired non-rrrational morrral code, but…what you people do is…” he paused for a moment, “It is a crrrime against sentience. It is a crrrime against life itself. We can not tolerrrate this.”
“Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute,” Jim said, “you people have told us you’re atheists, feminists, vegetarians, all that leftist stuff. How can you be all those things, and not embrace a simple liberal value like abortion? This is a non-issue!”
“Just because an alliance has been made between feminists, atheists, vegetarrrians, and,” he visibly shuddered, “aborrrtionists on your worrrld does not mean such an alliance is univerrrsal. On the Kap worrrlds, for instance, a belief in God is considerrred a liberrral value, no conserrrvative Kap would believe in such a thing, only the leftists. The Fonaza have non-sentient females, so feminism has no meaning therrre. The Kap, again, are vegetables themselves, so obviously vegetarrrianism is not considerrred a conserrrvative value among them. The point remains that among all known rrraces, what you people do is unthinkable.”
“There must be others, races you haven’t contacted yet” Jim said.
“Bah. Atomic-age cavemen such as yourrrself. Besides, even if therrre happen to be two murrrderers in a village who don’t know each other, that doesn’t make murrrder an acceptable value.”
“I feel as you do,” Gene said, sounding grim and sad, “I have ever since it became legal in my country, and I apologize on behalf of my people.”
“Thank you, Gene,” Blackie said, “It doesn’t change anything, but it makes me feel betterrr about you, perrrsonally.”
“Wait a minute,” Jim said, “who are you to judge us? Where do you get off telling us what our species’ women can and can’t do with their bodies?”
Blackie looked tired. “Even if therrre was some inherrrent association between liberrralism, feminism, vegetarrrianism, pacifism, homosexual liberrration, and…and…the other thing – and therrre isn’t – one is not compelled to accept an entirrre agenda if one only accepts a single point.”
“That makes no sense.
“Doesn’t it? Gene, Beauchamp, you two arrre of the Chrrristian rrreligion, yes?” They both nodded. “Do you believe in evolution?”
“No,” said Gene
“Well of course,” said Beauchamp.
“Therrre you have it,” Blackie said.
“Blackie,” Gene said, “Not all of our people agree with this whole practice. I beg you to reconsider – if our people have sinned against nature, help us to see the error of our ways and help us change it.”
“You don’t seem to underrrstand, Gene – Aside from yourrr one species, it is a physical, psychological inability forrr a sentient to murrrder its own unborrrn offspring. There is just inherrrently something wrrrong with you.”
“Ok, so we’re sick. Help us to be well. Be our doctors. Teach to be better people.”
“If yourrr own God couldn’t compel you to be betterrr people, what chance do we have?”
“Just consider it, please?”
“Forrr you, Gene, I will discuss it with Alice.” Blackie turned to leave.
“Wait, not related to that, Blackie, what will you do with us?”
“Drrrop you off on earrrth, then leave, neverrr to rrreturn to yourrr worrrld.”
“Take me with you?” Beauchamp asked.
To her credit, Grandmother Alice did actually consider what Gene suggested, though it deeply violated Dog custom for her to even contemplate interfering in the internal workings of a world, but the next night the Democratic party issued it’s statement about what it had always stood for, which pissed her off. She couldn’t quite comprehend how these monkey-things could commit such a crime, and be proud of it as well. She decided it was for the best to have no more to do with them, and instructed her children as such. On Sunday, they entered earth orbit, and the announcement was made. On Monday, the astronauts were loaded into the landing-craft.
“What happens now?” Gene said.
“You go home, we go away, and our paths do not crrross again,” Goldie said.
“Will there be other spacefaring species that contact us?”
“Unlikely. Therrre are not many otherrr species that do not rrrely on us for trrravel and trrrade, and even those who do will be appalled by yourrr perrrversion against evolution itself.”
“So we’re quarantined?”
“As I underrrstand the word, yes.”
“It’s a pitty. I would have liked to live for another century or so.”
“Your people do not rrrespect life. We can not give you more of it. We can not assist you in sprrreading your sickness into trrrackless space.”
“I totally understand. For what it’s worth, I think you’re making the right decision.”
“If morrre of your people werrre like you, Gene, your species would have no need of gods. You would be gods yourrrselves.”
Gene just blushed at that, said he didn’t think so, and went on into the lander. Thirty minutes later, he and Jim were stepping out of the ship in the UN Plaza in New York City, and an hour later the alien starship was pulling off into interplanetary space at more than 30 Gs of acceleration, never to return. Eventually there was a bright flash that an angry news media insisted was the ship blowing up, but which was in reality simply it folding space to travel between stars.
And so humanity remained locked up on one little planet in one dinky little corner of the galaxy pretty much forever, having pissed away its better tomorrow along with its dreams of interstellar empires and glory and conquest doomed never to be realized; the species as a whole nothing more than an embarrassing footnote in galactic history.
But the dogs, the dogs went on halfway to forever, and as for Joe Beauchamp – he went with them.
Copyright 2009, 2011 Republibot 3.0
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