True Believer

Author : David Nutt

“Not just a thousand millennia ago, you sat in that chair and told me point blank that the only way to prove it to you was through mathematics.”

“You are correct Dane, but this isn’t really proof at all.”

“Lyle, you are such an intellectual fraud of the worst degree. We have plumbed the depths of space, engineered our lives so that our species life span is, for all intents and purposes, immortal by the standards of our ancestors. We have mastered physics and have catalogued every single galaxy that ever existed and have defined the limits of the entire universe. Yet you still cling to your ancient belief.”

“You have yet to prove me wrong. We may have missed a few universes.”

“Hogwash and you know it.”

“No, because we are still human and we are still fallible.”

“But the mathematics-“

“It’s more than that.”

“How ironic that you now fall back upon faith.”

“Don’t be insulting.”

“I’m not trying to be. All I know is when I came to you so long ago, (even by our standards), when we began the search for intelligent life, you said the mathematics was irrefutable.”

“I know what I said.”

“And I said ‘what if we do not find any intelligent life, and it’s only us?’ Do you recall what you said?”

“It was hyperbole.”

“No it wasn’t. You said, and I quote: ‘Given the constancy of mathematics in the universe and that this constancy has been proven by all proof text, logic, and reason, if there is no intelligent life other than ourselves in the vastness of space, no alien race advanced or developing, and we are truly a lone intelligence, unique and alone in this vastness….”

“Go on finish it.”

“I want to hear it from you.”

“Will that shut you up?”


“….then this is the mathematical proof God exists and we are God’s creation.”

“That’s all I wanted to hear. Come to temple with me this week end?”

“Go to Hell.”

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They Live in Starlight

Author : David Botticello

“One last bit of business for the day,” barked the ship’s loudspeakers, “I must to inform all crew and travelers that one of our esteemed passengers is a Sunsprite. Please take all necessary precautions,” the Captain’s voice trailed off before quickly adding, “with all due respect, of course.”

Fred, one of the few Korna out this far, had never met a Sunsprite before. They’re flame spirits—near-mythical creatures born on a world too enamored of its star’s corona, who wander the universe in search of new experiences. He supposed it wasn’t exactly odd, therefore, to meet one on a passenger shuttle. Still, it was a new experience for Fred. This Sunsprite—Edwina, she called herself—almost glowed with a terrifying reddish light that filtered through the metalforme cooling vents of her otherwise formfitting encounter suit.

Some races can tolerate a star’s heat for a short time, but not many. Sentient beings are fortunate that the universe is a vast and empty place, full of dark expanses to hide from the deadly radiation shed by the stars. But Sunsprites, they love the light. Even now, as in their primitive years, they bathe in their sun’s radiation for health and leisure.

First contact with the Sunsprites saw a Tellerian ambassador incinerated by a handshake. His Colarian manservant went into a coma for weeks from radiation poisoning just by standing in the same room. They’re fearsome, flighty beings. We leave them alone, when we can.

Still, Edwina was a lovely creature. She stayed mostly to her cabin, but a few times ventured forth in one of those isolating suits of theirs. She would gaze at the star simulations in the Navigation Lab or lounge before the great window—heavily shielded of course—of the Observation Bay. Fred was able to strike up a conversation. She smiled, chatting easily as she luxuriated in the faint light of the nearest star, a dull pinpoint against the black of space.

Well, one thing led to another and, after all, a Korna of Fred’s age could survive her radiation—for a short while, at least. Alone in Fred’s cabin, she stripped off her encounter suit while Fred gazed in awe, idly wondering how much of his life he was sacrificing for the experience. She shivered for an instant at the cold of the vessel against her skin, but soon began to slink around the room, waves of warmth wafting from her body. Even as heat filled the room, and Fred muffled a choking cough, he watched Edwina inspecting his belongings curiously. A mischievous twinkle rose to her eye. The creature picked up a Fred’s largest telerometer, specially alloyed against the heat of space-travel. She inhaled a deep breath. Fred saw it coming,—he’d always say so, at least—but how do you stop a being that lives in starlight? The device was already melting in her hand when her breath coursed over it, reducing its finely-tuned parts to an ugly slag. “Oh dear,” she sighed innocently, turning to him with a sly grin. He didn’t invite her back.

But to this day, when the drinks are flowing and there’s a crowd to hear, Fred’ll tell of his encounter with a Sunsprite. “They call themselves Oomoon. We call them Lightbathers. Fire elementals. Star-children,” he’ll start. Then like as not, Fred’ll tell you about their little home planet, legendary Earth, orbiting its sun unnaturally close for any normal life to spring up. Then he’ll shake his head, muttering. No creature should enjoy the stars that way.

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Tipping Point

Author : Rick Tobin

“I need a short break. You,” he directed, pointing to his second. “Move the weapons to the dark side of the planet. We may be able to hold them off there if we can hide the missiles during transit.” The junior officer nodded and began sending orders to the remaining resistance troops.

As the toilet room door sealed, and the Commander moved towards a stall, he sensed someone behind him. Turning swiftly, he confronted an alien humanoid with a dozen limbs, six eyes and glistening blue skin. He stood numbed.

“We know who you are, Commander. This was an opportunity to communicate directly about your destruction.” The intruder’s face did not move. The Commander pushed his hand forward and through the hologram. The alien’s voice filled his head. He could not silence it.

“Damndest choice of locations. You obviously have no sense of honor.”

“Such trifles, Commander, when your world is to be terraformed. It’s all part of the process. Your race simply failed the test.”

“The test! Eight billion people died today. That’s no test, you filthy…”

“Ah, now that’s the spirit, but not for long. We do have one protocol, and that is to let the single resistance leader know why his race is eliminated. I think it wasteful and futile, but it is an ancient tradition. By the way, they didn’t all die. We culled the strongest and most interesting mutations. We have to repopulate the next series of planets as we try to grow improved Clots for our advancement in this sector. Your elite gave a paltry fight. We had hoped for better, still some of the samples we’ve taken will be useful. Eventually we’ll find the warrior DNA strong enough to defend our realm. We all have enemies, Commander.”

“Clots? What the hell? We’ll fight to the last person against your machines.”

“The Clots aren’t machines. They are a reflection of us combined in a half-cyborg and half-clone of the best we continue to harvest and incubate. Still, highly expendable.”

“You will pay, you monster…all of you. I’ll…”
“Do nothing, like so many before you, and like those of you on other orbs in this system. We’ll visit them all soon. Your species simply didn’t advance adequately. So boring. I’ve done my protocol. Oh, and we don’t want your genes either, Commander. They truly lack the majesty we need.” With that the holograph faded.
Disregarding his physical needs, the Commander rushed back to the control center. “Get me Geneva. I need to talk to the Hadron before Europe is exposed to the armada.”

The Junior Officer took charge of the communications array. Turning, as he waited for a reply from Switzerland, he addressed his superior. “Most of them have gone underground to the deep caves. What should I tell those left behind?”

“Just give them the code ‘Hawking.” He knew this was coming two hundred years ago. A single button is all that needs to be activated. Because of his vision we repurposed the Hadron and tied it to ten nuclear power plants. We’re done for, Major, but the outer colonies still have a chance. Let’s see how our betters feel about being beaten by a man in a wheel chair introducing them to a singularity.”

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Asymmetric Warfare

Author : Bob Newbell

Another Ezerfol battle cruiser came in from the inner system and joined the other vessels surrounding the Earth ship. The latter was the UESS Curtis Newton commanded by United Earth Defense Captain Anton Tao. Tao and his crew were wanted by the militaries of both Earth and Ezerfol. The former wanted them for disobeying orders, destroying the Curtis Newton’s hyperwave transponder, and going rogue; the latter for stealing one of the Ezerfol’s most sacred religious relics and somehow destroying 23 starships over seven months that had been scouring the HD 10180 system to retrieve their property.

“I can disable the Earth ship without destroying it,” said the chief weapons officer of the Ezerfol command ship in what to a human would sound like a series of high-pitched screeches.

“No,” replied the captain. “The Artifact has already been sullied by the loathsome touch of alien hands. If we were to damage it ourselves, or even destroy it…”

The captain didn’t need to continue. Simply allowing the religious icon to be stolen in the first place had already placed the fate of the Ezerfol race in the next life in a precarious position. To inflict further indignity on the holy object, it was said, might compromise even making it to the next life. Indeed, the repeated defeat of one ship after another by this one vessel of the technologically inferior human race had been interpreted by more than one religious authority as evidence that the Ezerfol were already under divine censure. Prior to the theft by the Curtis Newton’s crew, every encounter with Earth’s space navy had resulted in a resounding defeat for the humans.

“They are not responding to our hails,” said the communications officer. “Nor am I detecting any attempt by them to contact any other human ship or base by radio, laser, or hyperwave.”

“Captain, the ship seems…dark,” noted the command ship’s executive officer. “There’s no light coming from any of the porthole windows.”

“There!” said the weapons officer. “Their cargo bay doors just opened and something came out! Captain, we have to risk firing on–”

The Ezerfol officer’s recommendation was cut off by the bridge going completely dark. The bridge had viewscreens but no windows. At the same time, the artificial gravity failed. So did life support. It took about 26 hours for all 2,200 Ezerfol on the nine ships to die.

The lights on the Curtis Newton slowly came back up. Even with the few pieces of tech the ship had left safely stowed away in Faraday cages during combat missions, there was always about a day or two of repair work that had to be done by candlelight afterward.

“How long will it take to rig up another EMP bomb, Kelly?” Captain Tao asked his chief engineer.

The woman brushed back her red hair getting a streak of dark grime on her forehead in the process and sighed. “Well, sir, we’ve got enough explosives and a couple of armatures left. But we’re getting low on stator winding. Give me a week and I can have a bomb ready. After the next hit we need to resupply.”

“There’s an Ezerfol supply depot in orbit around this system’s largest gas giant. We’ll hit it next. Take out an important enemy resource and resupply ourselves at the same time. Krishna, how long to get to that planet?”

“Let me find a window facing the right direction and I’ll ask my ‘navigation computer,’ sir,” the officer said with annoyance holding up the antique sextant.

Tao laughed. “To defeat a technologically superior enemy, you have to get primitive.”

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The Politics of Non Sequitur

Author : David Botticello

When the Nezzan ambassador abruptly walked out of a Council session, nobody really thought much of it. It was a time-honored method showing political irritation. Not that the Nezzan had ever used it before. They were a quiet species—fundamentally reasonable we thought—but quiet. Ideal citizens, really.

The Nezzan introduced themselves into galactic society in the usual way. First encountered by a long-distance cargo hauler that had wandered off course, they were eager to meet new races and participate in our burgeoning community. They joined the League of Free Worlds. They traded interesting variations on the most current technologies. They became active members of our polity, spoke at our councils, and joined even our most idealistic causes.

Usually, it’s the little cultural quirks that cause friction. One race worships the color red. Another hoards natural fabrics “because they’re fuzzy.” Every so often an ambassador gets offended, often as a political ploy, and then there’s an apology, some commiseration over Illyrian wine, and an economic concession. The affairs of state go on.

The Nezzan fleet attacked exactly as their ambassador’s shuttle debarked. We checked. The offensive was cold, strategic, and planned in alarming detail. But the Nezzan were never the most powerful of races; with only moderate technology and a below average birth rate, their ability to wage war was nothing special. To be sure, they caused serious damage to a few worlds—the attacks were particularly unpredictable, and therefore, effective—but the Nezzan never had any real chance against our Coalition Fleet.

We sent messages. What grave offense had set the Nezzan on their murderous course? The Nezzan gave no response. We sent envoys, but they were turned away at the edge of Nezzan space. So we turned inward to our own resources, but our great scholars and xenologists just shook their heads and shrugged. The Council voted to send Senior Mediator Drelax to search for answers and seek out peace. He made it past the border by virtue of his venerable reputation, but then sat daily in a conference room, in the finest government building of the largest city on the Nezzan homeworld, alone. It was not until the last day of his visit that Drelax was joined by the Nezzan’s most esteemed ambassador, Nax Nioryl. He, too, said nothing. Nioryl perched on the edge of the table and smiled pleasantly, implacable as a neutron star. After an hour of Drelax’s entreaties—begging for peace, or armistice, or at least some measure of explanation, the defeated senior mediator rose to leave, turning to Nioryl for one final question: simply, “Why?”

The Nezzan ambassador stared back wordlessly.

Still, we finally got an answer, of sorts. Two days ago a Nezzan heavy cruiser parked in low orbit over a primordial world deep inside the League’s territory. It deployed a plasma cannon of alarming scale and magnitude, carving intricate lines of ancient Nezzan calligraphy into the crust of Colmar Prime. As we gaped at the images coming in, great glowing scars in the planet’s the now-boiling surface, we realized this was Ambassador Nioryl’s response. Loosely translated it reads:

“Why? . . . Because life grows. Because gravity pulls. Because the stars burn.”

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