Show and Tell

Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer

“Good morning, children,” said Nek-orf La’Erer.

“Good morning, Mx. La’Erer,” replied her students in unison.

“We have a lot to get through today,” she said without preamble. “So, we’ll continue where we left off yesterday. Tjen’er, you were about to show the class the specimen that you collected during the perihelion break. Where is it, by the way?”

Jumping to his feet, Tjen’er sheepishly explained, “It’s in the hall, Mx. La’Erer. It’s rather large, you see. I have it on an anti-grav sled.”

“Well, go fetch it Tjen’er. We’re all waiting to see it.”

“Yes, Mx. La’Erer,” replied Tjen’er as he scurried out the door. A moment later, he guided the anti-grav sled into the classroom. In the center of its rectangular tabletop rested a large liquid filled transparent cylinder. Despite the fact that the contained was sealed, a faint whiff of formaldehyde permeated the classroom. Suspended in the liquid was a strange looking alien creature.

The creature displayed bilateral symmetry, noted Mx. La’Erer, which was not uncommon in extra-terrestrial life forms, especially the lesser evolved varieties. It had an abnormally large head, a compact torso, and four appendages, each one longer than the torso. Mx. La’Erer motioned the children to gather around the specimen. “What’s it called, Tjen’er?”

Tjen’er consulted his notepad, and sounded out the words. “It’s called a ‘human’, Mx. La’Erer. They live on a planet called Earth in the spiral arm known as, er, Orion–Cygnus.”

“Take a marker,” instructed Mx. La’Erer, “and write the word ‘H-U-M-A-N’ on the cylinder so the class can see it. And while Tjen’er is doing that, I want each of you to tell be something you can deduce about this creature. Pi’ige, you go first.”

“It’s all soft and puffy, Mx. La’Erer, like it lost its shell. Maybe it’s molting?”

“Perhaps, Pi’ige,” cautioned Mx. La’Erer, “but not all creatures have external skeletons like us. Some have internal structures called bones. Sjov’v, what can you add?”

“Its mouth is stuck open, so it must be a girl human,” offered Sjov’v with a broad smile. The boys in the class began hooting and laughing, but stopped abruptly when Mx. La’Erer’s eyestalk panned each of them. “Sorry, Mx. La’Erer,” they all said in unison.

“Tjen’er,” asked Mx. La’Erer, “maybe you can help Mz. Sjov’v? Do you know the gender of your specimen?”

“No, Mx. La’Erer, they all looked the same to me.”

“Well, we might as well find out before we go much further,” she stated. “Let me look it up in the Xenobological Encyclopedia. Let’s see…hmmm…Humans. Here they are. From the order of primates. Their family group is Hominidae. Hmmm, this doesn’t seem right.” She glanced up at the creature for a second, then continued scanning the encyclopedia as the children looked at her expectantly. “Tjen’er,” she finally said, “I don’t think you brought back a human. According to the encyclopedia, that’s got to be a chimpanzee or an orangutan. It’s way too small to be a human.”

Suddenly under the spotlight, Tjen’er felt his slam dunk “A” plummeting to a “C”, or worse, because of shoddy research. On the verge of panic, he rapidly paged through his notepad. “Give me a second, Mx. La’Erer. I know I wrote it down correctly. Oh wait. Here it is. Sorry, Mx. La’Erer. I’ll fix it.” He picked up the marker and approached the cylinder. He reached up, and above the word “HUMAN” he wrote “B-A-B-Y”.


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Settled Science

Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer

“You know, Albert,” said Thomas Hoofnagle, “this has all the makings of a stereotypical science fiction story.”

“How so?” asked Albert Arnold as he made some final adjustments to the torpedo’s structural integrity field.

“Surely you are not oblivious to the fact that the UN is about to launch that torpedo into the sun with the specific intent to inhibit the rate of nuclear fusion in its core. You don’t see a million ways that plan can go wrong? Like the sun can go nova, or it could condense to a white dwarf. That kind of stuff.”

“Don’t be an idiot Tom, you know as well as anybody that this is the most understood of scientific principles. There is as much a chance of this going wrong as there is the sun not rising tomorrow.”

Hoofnagle spread his arms sideways and made an expression implying “That’s exactly my point”.

It took Arnold a second to realize what he had said. “Stop it, Tom. You know what I mean. The inhibitor’s effect is thoroughly understood. It will slow down the fusion rate in the sun’s core by exactly 0.12838441 percent. And, one hundred years from now, the amount of energy emanating from the surface of the sun will be reduced by the exact amount needed to compensate for the effects of global warming. Just in time to bring the Earth back from the edge of the cliff that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had predicted in their climate models. Our names will go down in history as the men who saved mankind from their own shortsightedness.”

“I’m sure they will throw you a big parade when you come out of stasis.”

“About that, Tom. You should reconsider your decision. Don’t you want to be around to see the fruits of your labor?

“No thank you. I’m content living out my life in this century. Now, let’s launch this puppy, so I can go home and get drunk, and forget that I ever heard of the United Nation’s Initiative to Curtail Solar Radiation.


Arnold’s return to consciousness happened quickly. He sat up, and immediately recognized that he was in the stasis recovery room. He blinked his eyes into focus and looked out the large picture window toward the Houston skyline. It was snowing outside, and the wind was howling like a banshee. He looked at the calendar that was hung on the opposite wall. It said “August”. Oh shit, he thought, Tom was right. But it can’t be. I’m sure our calculations were correct. “Nurse,” he yelled.

Arnold hadn’t seen the young man napping in the chair next to his bed. “Damn,” he exclaimed as he fell out of the chair. He quickly jumped to his feet and explained, “Thank God you’re awake. Sorry, Mr. Arnold, but we had to bring you out of stasis twenty years early. There’s a problem.”

“I can see that through the window. What the hell happened? The inhibitors shouldn’t have…”

“No, no, sir. You don’t understand. It’s not the inhibitors. It was the climate models. Those bastard ‘scientists’ from last century fabricated so much evidence to ensure their perpetual funding that they hid the real problem, an impending ice age. We need you to turn off the fusion inhibitors. We need every available BTU in order to stop the oceans from freezing solid.”

“You don’t understand the science, son. The inhibitors did what they had to do eighty years ago. It just takes a century for the effects to percolate to the surface. The sun is going to cool, and we can’t stop it.”


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Graviton Tsunami

Author : Patricia Stewart

The patrol ship SS Rakki was approaching Moonbase Delta when the science officer announced, “Captain, I’m picking up an emergency distress signal from the Ultragravity Research Station orbiting Jupiter.”
“Are they requesting assistance?” asked the captain. “Surely they know that there are much closer ships patrolling the outer solar system.”
“Negative, sir. It’s a system wide broadcast. They are reporting a runaway cascade failure in their graviton stress–energy tensor experiment. They are warning everybody in the solar system that if they can’t contain the breach, it may initiate a graviton tsunami.”
“A graviton tsunami?”
“Yes, sir. Concentric ripples in the curvature of spacetime. Somewhat analogous to the waves created by dropping a stone into a pond. Only, much, much larger, and they spread outward at the speed of light.”
“If that occurs, Commander, what can we expect?”
“That depends, sir. For example…” Just then, overwhelming nausea caused the bridge crew to double over, a few collapsed into unconsciousness.
Fighting to regain his composure, the captain crawled back into his command chair. “Report,” he ordered.
“I suspect that was the graviton tsunami, sir,” replied the science officer. “Evidently, the breach occurred shortly after they transmitted their warning.”
“That was milder than I expected,” remarked the captain. “Shouldn’t there have been more damage?”
“As I was about to explain, Captain, the effect is proportional to mass. The mass of our ship is only eight million kilograms. The tsunami passed around us like an earth-based tidal wave would pass around a fish in mid-ocean. But the gravity well of a large mass would magnify the effect like a funnel shaped harbor. Ensign Baker, put Jupiter on the main viewer.”
When Jupiter appeared on the screen, it was more than a thousand times brighter than Sirius. The gravity wave had apparently initiated hydrogen fusion in its core. “Oh my God,” exclaimed the captain, “Put the Earth on the main viewer.” Seconds later, the night side of Earth was awash in the glow of the nuclear Jupiter, but no artificial lights dotted its surface. Fearing the worst, the captain turned to his communications officer, “Lieutenant Albright, see if you can raise Central Command. Tell them we are prepared to assist, and ask for instructions.” Turning back to his science officer “How bad do you think it is Commander? Do you think there are survivors down there?”
Commander Roberts had turned ashen gray, his eyes filled with hopelessness. “Perhaps, sir, but only for another fifteen minutes, or so.”
“Explain,” snapped the captain after the cryptic reply.
“The graviton wave is traveling at the speed of light, sir. Although we just saw Jupiter become a protostar, it actually happened more than forty minutes ago. We didn’t know about it until its light finally reached us.”
“Your point, Commander?”
“Eight point three minutes after the wave hit Earth, it will reach the sun, the largest gravity well in the solar system. I suspect, sir, that eight point three minutes after that, we’ll see the sun go nova.”


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Know Thy Enemy

Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer

As Bestiarius entered the cold and damp gladiator’s stockade, he tossed his blood splattered shields, sword, and mace into the weapons pit for cleaning. Then the four armed, four legged Quadnotaur stepped onto the Transformer Pad to be returned to his natural humanoid form. Exhausted, he entered the prison cell he shared with his fellow champion, Thraeces, and collapsed onto his wooded bunk.

“How did it go, Friend Bestiarius,” asked the concerned Thraeces.

“Not well, Thraeces. I was pitted against Murmillo. He fought valiantly, but refused to attempt any mortal blows. As punishment, that bastard Habet ordered him thrown to the leogatos, as an example to the rest of us to fight more…enthusiastically.”

“It’s not your fault, Bestiarius. Murmillo knows, as do I, that you are the only hope we have of killing Hoc Habet. Nothing else matters. Not even our lives. We don’t dare harm you.”

“But, Thraeces, I’m not even positive it can be done. It’s just a feeling that I possess while I’m in the form of the Crab. It may not have merit.”

“Even so, we will all sacrifice our lives for the remote chance that Habet can be killed. Our honor demands it. Now, get some rest. Tomorrow is another day.

The following morning, Hoc Habet’s voice woke the two champions from their restless sleep. “Get up you two skylos. It’s going to be a special day today. You will be fighting each other.”

Bestiarius roared, “You will pit your two champions against each other? Have you lost your mind?”

“The Emperor himself made the request. It’s his fiftieth birthday, and he wants to celebrate in grand fashion.”

“The Emperor honors us with his presence today,” mocked the defiant Bestiarius. “Does he not have planets to plunder, or barnyard animals to rape?”

“Shut you blaspheming mouth, Bestiarius, or I’ll cut your tongue out myself. Now, move to the transformer.

Reluctantly, they headed toward the transformer. Thraeces entered first, and Bestiarius’ heart sank when he saw his friend emerge as a Crab. That meant they would choose a different creature for him. But when he was transformed, he was also a Crab. “What’s this? We fight as the same creature?”

Habet smiled, and said, “Also at the Emperor’s request. He wants a good show today, and Crab blood is more colorful. So, don’t disappoint him.”

For thirty minutes, the two warriors spared tentatively, to the dismay of the crowd and the royal court. Habet sent 50,000 volts through the arena floor to warn the gladiators; start fighting, or you both die.

Bestiarius whispered to Thraeces, “I will retreat and then charge you. When we meet, grab my hind legs and lift me above the retaining wall.”

“But, Bestiarius,” protested Thraeces, “Even if you get over the first wall, you’ll be cut down before you reach the second.”

“Not over it, my friend, above it. I now know the Crab’s secret.”

As Bestiarius charged, Thraeces bowed down to make his carapace into a step. In one fluid motion Bestiarius stepped on Thraeces’ back and was lifted high above the retaining wall. Even before Bestiarius reached maximum height, a blow tube that no one knew existed, extended from his mouth, and he began launching three inch long darts at bullet-like velocities. Six found the Emperor’s chest before the guards could react. Bestiarius was still spraying the court as the guards opened fire. While he was still above the wall, he spotted Hoc Habet, frozen in shock. Bestiarius buried his last three darts into Habet’s neck. They were both dead before either hit the ground.


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In The Kingdom of the Gods

Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer

“Well, there it is Brothergod,” said Sistergod enthusiastically, “the space probe Voyager crossed the boundary of their solar system. By My reckoning, they did it in less than 20 revolutions around the galactic core. Therefore, I win the bet.”

“That was too damn quick, if you ask Me,” objected Brothergod. “If I were the suspicious type, I’d accuse you of having a tendril in there someplace.”

“Nonsense,” denied Sistergod. “I didn’t interfere one iota after We seeded their primordial soup. They did it totally on their own. I just sat back like an objective observer, and observed objectively. Nothing more, nothing less.”

“Methinks you are protesting too much, Sistergod.”

“I’m just stating the facts, that’s all. Nature had to take its own course, just like we agreed.”

“Soooo, You had nothing to do with that asteroid whipping out the reptiles one quarter of a revolution ago. It was pretty clear to Me that those dimwitted behemoths weren’t going to achieve space flight before your time ran out. I think you decided to roll the dice with the rodents.”

“I swear to Fathergod, I had nothing to do with that asteroid. Besides, I thought those raptors had way more potential than those little mammals. But fortunately for Me, they evolved into primates that liked to kill each other more than they liked sitting in trees eating insects off each others backs. Yep, fear and military technology spurs magnificent innovation, doesn’t it?”

“Yeah, especially when they get help from a deity with a stake in the outcome.”

“Face it, Brothergod, You’re just being a sore loser.”

“I still say you cheated. I demand a do-over, or I’m going to ask Mothergod to go back in time and see if you pulled any dirty tricks.”

Knowing She was on the verge of being caught, Sistergod transitioned to negotiation mode. “I’m not admitting to anything, mind You, but I do like a good wager. So, what kind of do-over do you have in mind?”

“We seed the second planet, and start the clock over.”

“The second planet? That’s not fair. It’s way too hot for carbon-based DNA to survive. And silicon life is so lazy it wouldn’t move to get out of the way of a lava flow. I want to do the third planet again.”

“Very well, but you only get 10 revolutions.”


“Twelve and a half, and not a second more,” countered Brothergod.

“Done. I’ll sterilize the…”

“Oh no you don’t,” snapped Brothergod. “I’ll sterilize the planet. You cannot be trusted.”

“Well, I never,” replied Sistergod, feinting indignation. “Do I at least get to keep the oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere?”

“Nope. The same gasses as before. And, Sis, I’ll be watching You this time. So You better behave.”


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