Author : Bob Newbell

Culturally, they are the descendants of the hepcats and beats and hippies and hipsters and the other various subsequent nonconformists of the past half-millennium who organically came together to form distinct subcultures. But there the parallels end. Even the most unorthodox of those earlier bohemians could not have imagined the Plasmatics.

As a Special Activities Bureau investigator for the Sino-American Commonwealth, my job can take me anywhere in the system, but the magnetosphere of Jupiter is pretty far afield even for someone like me. It’s equally unusual for an agent like myself to enlist help from outside the Bureau. We typically pride ourselves on our discretion. But when an unmanned recon ship gets trapped in orbit around Jupiter carrying intel that could mean trade sanctions from the African Coalition and perhaps war with the Lunar Free State if said intel goes public, discretion is adjourned. That’s where the Plasmatics come in.

My ship settles into an enormously wide orbit around the gas giant to avoid the electromagnetic maelstrom that rings the planet, the same maelstrom that the Plasmatics call home. I beam a radio signal and wait. Within half an hour, I get a response.

“The ship’s computers are probably already fried,” I tell the locals. “But we were hoping you could make sure they are.”

In a few minutes, a modulation in the normal Jovian background radio emissions is received and processed by my ship’s computer: “Jiddy sups a boost. Not charming a glint.”

That is the closest literal translation my computer can manage. The Plasmatics have a slang all their own. The fact that they are a community of gigantic spider web-like entities flying through the Jovian magnetosphere does nothing to bridge the cultural gap. Of course, the people who gave up their humanity over the past century to become Plasmatics didn’t do so because they wanted to fit in. The connotative meaning of the message is something like “The human would like us to do him a favor but he isn’t offering us any reward in exchange.”

“What could the Commonwealth do for you?” I reply, having no idea what nearly immaterial meshwork creatures who live in a plasma sheet might want.

“Pum the Spot with Basu-Lovvorn 3.”

Basu-Lovvorn 3 is a long-period comet. It will pass through the orbit of Jupiter in about 10 years. They want the Commonwealth to deflect it to strike the immense anticyclonic storm system on Jupiter’s surface that is more than twice the diameter of Earth called the Great Red Spot. I radio back to my superiors. They agree to the terms. The Commonwealth Space Authority will undertake the project with research into Jupiter’s atmosphere as the cover story.

“The Commonwealth will do as you ask. Just for my own curiosity, may I ask why you want a comet diverted into the Great Red Spot?”

My computer struggles with the Plasmatic response. The only word it can clearly render is “Renovate”. I have no idea if it’s more Plasmatic slang for something or if, in some context I can’t imagine, it means what it says.

My sensors show repeated bursts of electrical discharges in the area of the derelict Commonwealth spacecraft. Presumably, they have fulfilled their part of the bargain. “The Sino-American Commonwealth thanks you for your assistance,” I transmit as I move to break orbit.

“Cohesive, Jiddy! Real cohesive!” comes the response a minute later as I begin my fall back to the inner system.

Discuss the Future: The 365 Tomorrows Forums
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows