An Imperial Promulgation

Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer

With his lone eye properly focused on the Emperor’s hooves, Secretary Uith’eems said with a clear air of submissiveness, “Pardon the interruption, Your Majesty, but our advanced scouts have detected a new intelligent lifeform in the Sirius Sector. They request your divine guidance concerning First Contact protocols.”

Dieuximust the Wise, the Grand Emperor of the Third Buca Dynasty, was basking in the feeble red light of Buca’s dwarf sun. He folded his wing-like feeding membranes and turned toward Uith’eems, “We thought that’s why there are protocols, so We do not need to be disturbed by such trivial matters. Can’t the Sector Regnant handle this? That is why We pay him.”

“As usual, Your Majesty, you are absolutely correct. And, you can rest assured that I contacted the Regnant myself to express our displeasure concerning his blatant incompetence. However, he convinced me that this is a very atypical lifeform. He considers it too risky to allow them the privilege of joining the Empire. He requests that they be exterminated at your command.”

The Emperor’s curiosity was piqued. “Uith’eems, there are over 1000 worlds in the Empire. No one has ever been denied annexation. What is the nature of the Regnant’s concern?”

“To begin with, Your Majesty, their luminary is classified as a yellow star that’s been on the Main Sequence for less than five billion years. Your astrophysicists have informed me that all known inhabited planets that support intelligent life orbit red stars that are at least 10 billion years old. This new planet has evolved an intelligent, sentient species twice as fast as any other known planet.”

“Is it because their sun is so large? Perhaps mutations occur more quickly than they do on a planet with a normal sun?”

“You are no doubt correct, Most Excellent Majesty. That must be the primary reason. However, your biologists believe there are, ah, contributing factors.”

“Such as?”

“As disgusting as this sounds, Your Majesty, they apparently mix their genetic material with a partner, and produce offspring with traits from both of the primaries. This certainly has the potential of speeding up the evolutionary process.”

“You mean they use a method other than agamogenesis?” They both shuddered. “Tell Us,” Uith’eems, “can this perversion be exploited somehow to strengthen the Empire?”

“Perhaps. But there’s more, Your Majesty. Their technology advanced from heavier than air flight to interplanetary space travel in less time than your current reign as Grand Emperor.”

“Impossible! It took Buca 20,000 years to accomplish that.”

“Please forgive me, Your Majesty, but it has been thoroughly documented. Of course, we can change the facts if you wish. In any event, your xenosociologists have discovered that this exponential technological advance is apparently due to the practice of the dominant species to commit genocide. They refer to it as ‘war.’ We are unsure of their motivation, of course, but waging war apparently drives their economy and accelerates their technological advances. They are a very aggressive species. They should be considered too dangerous to be permitted interstellar access.”

“Is there any chance their culture will evolve out of this senseless phase?”

“It is considered unlikely, Your Majesty.”

“Very well, Uith’eems. Any species that is willing to kill each other is a dangerous aberration indeed.” They both shuddered. “Draft the Declaration of Extermination, and We will sign it.”

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In the Eye of the Beholder

Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer

My head was throbbing. I pinched the bridge of my nose in an attempt to ease the pain. It didn’t help.

“Try rubbing your temples. That seems to work for me,” suggested a gravelly voice to my right.

Prior to that instant, I didn’t know anyone was with me. In fact, I didn’t even know where I was, or how I got here. Although the room was on the dark side, I couldn’t open my eyes wider than thin slits. I decided to keep them closed. “What’s that?” I was able to say in a raspy voice that was barely louder than a whisper. “Where am I? I demand to know what’s going on.”

“Well, buddy, I don’t know where we are. But I know it ain’t no place good. It seems we’ve been kidnapped by Spacemen. We’re in some kind of flying saucer. They picked you up yesterday. I’ve been here about a week.”

“Spacemen? Flying saucer? What are you talking about?”

“I know it hurts, but think hard. What do you remember?”

He was right, it did hurt. But I fought through the pain. “Let’s see. I remember being in a large room. Something like a hospital room, or maybe a laboratory of some kind. Oh my God. You’re right. I do seem to remember seeing aliens. At least I think I do. I can’t be sure. Maybe it was a dream?”

“More like a nightmare, my friend. Try again. Can you see them?”

“I can’t really see anything. But I do have some vague impressions. Oh God, their smell. I remember their stench was awful. Especially their breath. It was like decomposing flesh. It was horrible.” I tried to concentrate, but everything was still blurry. “I sense something. Yes, they were ugly. Discolored teeth. A big nose, at least that’s what I think it was. Two evil looking eyes. And they had things growing on either side of their heads.” I struggled to focus on the fleeting images at the edges of my consciousness. “I also recall this metal contraption attached to the top of my head. It stung me with burst of electric shocks.” I grabbed my temples, and fought the pain. “I also remember thinking, ‘boy are these guys stupid. They’re a race of idiots. Ugly ass idiots. We should do the universe a favor and kill them all.’ I remember thinking how it made my skin crawl just being in the same room with them.” I shuddered. “How about you? Did you see the same thing?”

I couldn’t see my companion, but I could hear him chuckle. “Yeah. It was exactly like that. Well, on the first day, anyway. But not now. Not after I figured out what they’re doing. That thing they put on our heads, it’s some kind of mind reading device. They put one on you and another on one of them. Then they sit across from you and suck your thoughts right out of your mind. All those things you remember about how disgusting and hideous they were. Well, that’s not what really happened. You see, that mind contraption works both ways. You’re actually remembering what they were thinking about you.”

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The Dream of Terraforming Venus

Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer

Cody Starr, the seventy-fifth Director of The Venusian Terraforming Program, removed his foot-gear and waded into the warm Venusian Ocean on the western shore of New America. The sun very slowly inched its way above the western horizon to begin the long Venusian day (equal to 243 Earth days). Eventually, he thought, we will have to do something to shorten the day to something more reasonable, or more importantly, to shorten these long, cold Venusian nights. But that would be a task for future Directors. Right now, Cody just wanted to bask in the warmth of the abnormally large sun (38% larger than it appears on Earth), and to listen to the rumble of crashing waves. Occasionally, the wind blown spray would reach his lips. How unusual, he thought, a fresh water ocean. That may take getting used to. As the sun rose on this new day, Cody allowed his mind to reflect back on the long journey that brought humanity to this unlikely shoreline…

It was over 1000 years ago that Planetologist Philip Gregory began the construction of The Great Solar Shade. The GSS, which orbited Venus like an opaque cylindrical version of Saturn’s rings, performed three primary functions:

1) It blocked most of the heat being delivered by the swollen sun.

2) It powered the converters that obtained breathable oxygen from Venus’ thick carbon dioxide atmosphere, and finally

3) Over the next eight centuries, it meticulously scooped up the rarified upper atmosphere of Venus, and gradually dissipated it into space in an effort to reduce the overall atmospheric density from 90 to 1.2 times Earth normal.

Then, two centuries ago, Dillon Holder began the process of corralling thousands of ice-asteroids to create Venus’ ocean. It was no easy feat to develop the technique that would shepherd over one billion cubic kilometers of ice from the asteroid belt down to the Venusian surface, while carefully avoiding the GSS on the way.

Just five decades ago, the Solar Shade was changed from opaque to semi-transparent, to gradually permit more sunlight to reach the surface. The Shade was also heavily magnetized to provide shielding from the potentially deadly solar wind, and cosmic rays. The planet was then seeded with a verity of hybrid plants and algae to remove most of the remaining carbon dioxide, and to provide the foundation of the planet’s food chain. Thirty years later, small animals and fish were introduced. Recently, robots began farming, and building the infrastructure that would be needed to support eventual human colonization. But for now, Cody was content to watch the genetically bioengineered birds dive into the ocean to catch the genetically boiengineered fish. Off in the distance, he could see…

“Cody. Cody.” Who could be calling him, he wondered? He turned to look toward the distant dunes. Nobody was there, but he could hear faint traffic sounds: cars, trucks, horns, and sirens.

“Cody. Scott will be here in 10 minutes. Life insurance doesn’t sell itself you know. You’ve got quotas to meet. Let’s go.”

Through his squinted eyes, Cody could see his wife pull back the bedroom curtains, exposing the smog-covered skyline of Los Angeles in the distance. He buried his face in his pillow. “Nooooo.”

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The Capellian Option

Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer

Captain Goff sat at the head of the conference table. “Well, we find ourselves in a rather precarious situation. The Capellians have seized our ship, as well as the flagship of the Rana. They claim that our war with the Rana has violated their sovereign space. We have been tried, in absentia, in the Capellian Courts, and have been found guilty. According to the Judge, both vessels, including the crew, are to be destroyed. Fortunately for us, however, it appears that our court appointed counsel has done his homework. He appealed the sentence on the grounds of an ancient precedent. If both defendants concur, we can settle our current battle with a one-on-one contest to the death. The survivor’s ship is set free; the other is destroyed. Obviously, this option is better than the original ruling, so I assume the Rana will agree to the fight. What are your recommendations?”

“Captain,” said the first officer, “this sounds like a bad plot from a twentieth century science fiction novel. Surely the Capellians are not serious. This is uncivilized.”

“I’m afraid, Commander, that the Capellians are quite serious, and they have the technological superiority to carry out their sentence. Consider that aspect closed. My primary concern now is figuring out how we can best win the head-to-head conflict. As it stands, the Rana were permitted to choose the weapon. We get to pick the battlefield. Not surprisingly, the Rana chose hand-to-hand combat. I suppose if I had a two inch thick exoskeleton and weighed more than 1000 pounds, I’d choose hand-to-hand combat too. As for the battlefield, the Capellians will recreate any Earth topography we choose. I’m open to suggestions?”

The science officer spoke. “Since the Rana come from an arid world, we need to avoid any rocky, desert terrain. I recommend a cold, icy location. Perhaps, the Siberian Tundra.”

The captain replied, “Too risky. If I die of exposure before my opponent, the Rana will be declared the winner.”

The security officer leaped from his seat. “What? With all due respect, sir, I should be the one fighting the Rana, not you.”

“At ease, Lieutenant,” cautioned the Captain. “I’ll choose the appropriate member of the crew, after I select the most advantageous battlefield.”

“How about a densely wooded area?” suggested the first officer. “They’re too big to maneuver. We’d have an advantage.”

“I thought about that,” replied the captain. “But, it only buys time. Ultimately, I must kill it, or be very confident I can outlive it, which may be tough. I’m sure they require less food and water than we do.”

The tactical discussion continued for several more hours, with no apparent solutions. Finally, an officer of the Capellian court materialized in the room and asked, “Your time is up captain. Have you chosen the battlefield?”

“Yes I have. Let’s get this over with.” He stood up and joined the Capellian, and they both disappeared. The security cursed himself for being too slow to stop the captain from leaving.

Five minutes later, the captain reappeared, soaking wet from the neck down. “Prepare to jump to hyperspace,” he ordered, “before the Capellians change their mind.”

Once the ship was safely away from the Capellian system, the captain relaxed. He turned to his first officer, “I selected the middle of Gulf of Mexico as the battlefield. I guessed correctly that a 1000 pound creature from a dry desert-like planet, didn’t know how to swim.”

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It’s Pirate Season

Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer

The sound of a bugle woke me up. Damn, reveille. I hate that sound. I swore an oath to myself that I’d fix that one day. I unzip my “bunk” and float out. As I began to put on my uniform, I smiled again at the poster on the far wall. It was Elmer Fudd wearing a spacesuit holding a K-138 phaser rifle. The caption read, “”Shhhhhhhh, be vewy vewy quiet; I’m hunting Piewits, heheheheheheh.” That always cracks me up. I swear, if I capture a pirate one day and he pleads, “But it’s duck season,” I’ll probably let him go. I imagine that some of them are probably decent folk, just raiders trying to feed their families, who would flee rather that hurt someone. But I don’t kid myself; there are some really bad ones too. Sadistic bastards that kill helpless passengers, including women and children. I blast those guys first, and then ask if they wish to surrender.

Halfway through morning chow, the battle stations alarm sounded, followed by the commander’s voice, “Prepare for battle men, we have Morgan Bartholomew’s ship on our long range sensors. “Morgan Bartholomew,” I said to my mates, “he’s the worst of the lot. The captain won’t break off this pursuit, even if Bartholomew flies onto the sun’s corona. We’re going to have to board her too. They won’t let themselves be captured.”

“That’s fine by me,” said the Sergeant Dobson. “I’ll buy a case of Martian beer for the person that vaporized that scum. Let’s suit up men.”

We caught up to them midway between Uranus and Neptune. No place to hide out there, so they had to fight. We punched a dozen holes in her hull, but they kept fighting. Unfortunately, we couldn’t just blow them up. Bartholomew generally kept prisoners alive knowing that it would force hand-to-hand combat. So, we boarded her.

Fighting on a ship exposed to the vacuum of space was eerie. No sound, except the tactical information being transmitted to our headsets. Fighting was fierce, and we lost a half dozen good men, but we killed all the pirates, including Bartholomew himself. I made a mental note to become buddies with the trooper that bagged that bastard.

In the end, we rescued fifteen prisoners, mostly women. No doubt their lives had been hell. But they’re in the infirmary now, and at least they’ll recover physically. All in all, it was a good day to be a pirate hunter. We had a big celebration in the mess hall that evening. The captain even let us break out the contraband liquor that we weren’t supposed to have. After several hours of bragging and exaggerating about our heroic accomplishments, we toasted our fallen comrades another time, and headed to our quarters. Well, except for me, I had a final mission to complete before sacking out.

The following morning, the address system woke us up with Herb Alpert’s Brasilia. Much better, I thought.

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