Author : J. S. Kachelries

The spaceship was shaped like a flattened football. It had no obvious external doors or windows. Although it appeared to be metallic, we couldn’t cut it, penetrate it with X-rays, or scratch it with a diamond. The only thing we had to evaluate was an encrypted panel on the port side that contained a ten by ten matrix of symbols and buttons. The ship was being guarded by a platoon of heavily armed solders. General Arthur McBride’s angry face was inches from mine. “Goddamnit, Professor, you’ve been studding this blasted thing for a week. Can you open it or not?”

“I believe so, general,” I said. “I believe the key is this panel. Look at the first four black symbols. They contain two, three, five, and seven dots each, respectively. Obviously, it’s a prime number sequence. The six white buttons immediately next to them contain eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, and thirteen dots. The next prime number in the sequence is eleven. Therefore, the correct answer is the fourth white button. There are nine more “questions,” each one more difficult than the one above it. The last four involve Newtonian physics, general relativity, quantum mechanics, and string theory. I think that when you answer all ten questions correctly, something will happen, possibly the ship will open. The odds of answering all ten questions correctly at random are 60,466,176 to one. Therefore, the beings that sent this ship only want an intelligent species to decipher the lock. Apparently, they can’t be bothered with dumb life.”

“If you know the correct answers Professor, enter them now.”

Against my better judgment, I depressed the appropriate buttons. Seconds later, a door slid open. The spaceship was empty, except for a one foot metallic cube in the center.

The general peered inside, smiling ear to ear. “Fantastic! If we can figure out this technology, our dominance will become absolute. No more commies, no more religious fanatics, no more goddamn peace lovin’ liberal scum interfering with our campaign to preserve the American way of life. How long to you can figure out how this thing works?”

“Whoa, slow down general,” I pleaded. “I’m not so sure this ship can be perverted into a weapon. I need some time to figure out why we needed an intelligence test to open it. There must be a logical reason. I have some ideas what this ship is, but I need time to think about it.”

“Professor, I don’t give a rat’s ass what you think. Figure it out A.S.A.P., understood!” The general turned and entered the spaceship. An instant later, the door slammed shut, and the spaceship shot upward through the hangar roof.

As I stared at the stars through the twenty foot hole, I said to no one in particular, “For instance, general, I think this spaceship could be used to collect specimens of alien ‘intelligent’ life, capture them, and bring them to a laboratory for study.” I’m predicting that the general will make a ‘damn’ interesting specimen.