There are a zillion online Science Fiction sites, the overwhelming majority of which are simply talking in fannish fashion about Trek or Galactica or Stargate or whatever is trendy and flashy at the moment; there are fewer still who are talking about literary science fiction (I suppose because for most Trekies it's still harder to read than to ogle Jolene Blaylock's breasts); and fewer still that are contributing original Science Fiction stories online. Of the handfull that do this, most are dreadful fanfic ("Tripp walked in to decontamination and ogled the Vulcan's breasts..." or "Marcus walked in to the War Room and ogled Ivonova's breats," "Louis Wu walked in to the Bandersnatch cave and ogled Harloprillar's breasts," etc). While there are definitely some sites online that offer original "Standalone" SF that isn't related to any existing media or literary franchise, as far as I can tell there aren't any little fish like us who are doing it.
So we've decided to do it.
It is our goal here at Rebuplibot to avoid being just another one of those "Bitch and moan about what the rest of the genre" sites, or yet another propagandistic "I worship Trek/Galactica/B5/Lost/Doctor Who, and everyone else can go to hell" sites. Rather, in keeping with our bleeding-from-the-ears love of all things Science Fiction, and our inherent mandate to question the Sacred Cows of the genre, we'll be providing some original fiction from time to time.
We hope that this will be enjoyable, entertaining, and (if all goes right) thought provoking on occasion, and the first installment is a somewhat-humorous short story called "Dog Days." Feedback and comments are welcome, and if any readers out there have original fiction they'd like to post on here, we'd like to take a look at it.
Without further ado, I give you "Dog Days, Part 1"
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.
Part 3 is here
Copyright 2009, Republibot 3.0
Part 2 is available online here http://www.republibot.com/content/original-fiction-dog-days-part-2