Life after Jupiter

Author : Gray Blix

Before NASA’s panelists were even introduced, a reporter shouted at a scientist known for his off the cuff statements.

“Dr. Worful, why did Jupiter blow up?”

Nervously, “Well, for starters, Jupiter didn’t ‘blow up.’ There’s no energy emissions, no shock waves, no gas clouds — no indications of an explosion. The planet simply disappeared.”

“But planets don’t just ‘disappear,’ do they Dr. Worful?”

Softly, “No, they don’t.”

“What do you think happened to it?

“I think it was…” leaning into the microphone, “taken.”

Commotion ensued until, “I am Dr. Ralph Payne, NASA Administrator.” Glaring at Worful, “It’s premature to advance theories about what happened to Jupiter. When we have something to announce, we will hold another press conference. But today we must share with you what the consequences of this event are likely to be. ”

He nodded to a female panelist, “Dr. West.”

On that day and in subsequent weeks, Dr. West was a media omnipresence, NASA’s ideal spokesperson. Well groomed and well spoken, authoritative but low key, she delivered information that should have frightened her audience in a way that most could accept as matter-of-fact realities of life. Life after Jupiter.

She explained that the orbits of Uranus and Neptune might be perturbed enough to send them careening through the solar system. Jupiter’s moons, no longer captives, could also go wandering. Jupiter would no longer vacuum up comets and asteroids passing its way, leaving their path toward the Sun and its inner planets uninterrupted. And the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter would be destabilized. She made it all seem like an interesting science experiment. Life after Jupiter.

Through it all, she deflected questions about Dr. Worful’s conjecture. These and other theories, she said, would be discussed in due time. Meanwhile, Worful seemingly joined Jupiter in disappearing. “Jupiter taken by aliens” headlines gave way to “Where’s Worful?” and eventually to “Life after Jupiter” articles featuring West’s talking points. Astronomers all over the world tracking thousands of objects, big and small, in the solar system, found three sizable asteroids on courses that would bring them near Earth, but impacts were not predicted.

“This honeymoon can’t go on forever, Ellen,” said Dr. Worful to Dr. West.

Pulling the sheet to her neck, “I don’t recall our getting married.”

“You know what I mean, the honeymoon with the press. You can keep me captive in your apartment — really, you can keep me captive — but you know there are others who share my theory about Jupiter.”

“Yes, Max, I am one of them. But what good would it do…”

She answered the phone.

“Payne wants us both in his office at noon.”

West and Worful joined several fellow scientists in the NASA Administrator’s office.

“Astronomers from the Keck and European Southern observatories announced this morning that Jupiter was just the latest in a series of planet disappearances — exoplanets that is. I don’t think we’ve lost any others in our solar system, but I didn’t count them this morning.”

In the weeks to follow, Worful and his colleagues plotted disappearances in time and space, noting that all were gas giants rather than rocky planets, all seemingly on routes to and from the Cygnus constellation. Gaps in plots were in solar systems where a planet might have been taken before discovery by Earth astronomers.

At long last Dr. Worful faced the press and, blessed by Payne, presented their theory that aliens were sucking up gas planets.

“But why would they do that?” asked a reporter.

“Haven’t you ever been on a long trip and needed to stop for gas?”

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More than Light

Author : Lawrence Buentello

Five billion years ago, two members of the Fraca species stood staring at the stars from the balcony of their laboratory.

They had worked ceaselessly, along with thousands of other scientists and technicians, to formalize the seeding project many thought impossible. On the following morning all the orbiting engines would release their rocky projectiles into space toward precisely determined celestial targets. A thousand projectiles would travel untold light years toward a thousand other stars, and the planets orbiting these stars.

The two astronomers had been discussing the philosophical implications of such an endeavor.

“If even a few succeed,” the one called Jangus said, holding his long arms before him like a priest from their ancient past, “we will be the creator of these species.”

“A millions years,” the one called Zoris said, “or a billion years hence.”

“We will have created all these beings.”


“I hope our people are still alive when these others are capable of contacting us.”

The Fraca were the single intelligent species on their planet; and they had never, in the course of their twenty thousand year-old civilization, found evidence of another intelligent species in the universe. Their science was highly refined, but the stars remained silent.

And so it became imperative to the Fraca that they not remain the solitary intelligent species in their galaxy, or perhaps even the universe. Once their biological sciences had refined the means by which to manipulate their genetic material masterfully, a great plan was drawn to deliver carefully coded amino acids and other chemical combinations to other planetary systems suspended in the corpus of comets.

If their extensive calculations were correct, the introduction of the coded sequences would initiate the creation of complex organic forms, leading to a long, slow evolution of increasingly complex organisms, culminating in a subtly programmed intelligence.

When the galaxy was filled with new species, and sentient beings, the Fraca would no longer be alone.

“Do you ever wonder,” Jangus asked his colleague, “if this was the manner in which our species was created?”

“Wouldn’t we have found others like ourselves by now?” Zoris replied.

“That’s a logical assumption. But perhaps the equations are not in our favor.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Perhaps,” Jangus said, nodding at the stars, “time is a barrier a sentient species simply cannot surpass.”

“Time is an illusion.”

“But entropy is not.”

“If you’re correct,” Zoris said, considering the stars, “then we’ll never know, will we?”

“I very much hope that we do.”

The next morning, the mission proceeded as planned. The launch was a magnificent success, and the Fraca waited a hundred thousand years to receive even a primitive communication from another species.

But the Fraca never did; they died alone, never knowing if they had brought light or darkness to the universe, and never realizing that they had brought both.

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The Prisoner

Author : Roger Dale Trexler

Carpenter awoke in a tree, but the body he was in was no longer his own. They had taken that away from him, too…. just like they had stolen and plagiarized his work and called it their own.

He moved, but his motions were not human. Not quite. Then, he looked down at his hand.

He screamed, but it came out as an animal cry.

His hands were covered in coarse brown hair. He looked at his torso and saw that it, too, was covered in hair.

He screamed again.

Then, he sniffed the air and his mind went blank for a moment.

He jumped out of the tree with an agility that no human could possibly possess…. and he ran aimless. He knew that there was no logic in running, but his animal body could not help it. Instinct had taken over, and his sophisticated mind, trapped inside an animal’s body, was being overpowered by nature, the will to survive.

A minute later, regaining his senses, he stopped running. Whatever odd scent he had picked up was gone. He was safe.

He looked around.

The plants, he thought. They’ve been extinct for a million years.

I’m somewhere in the Jurassic period.

Those bastards!

He walked cautiously though the jungle. He was frightened, but his analytical mind was also fascinated by the fact that his theories worked. He recalled the day, a month ago, when he walked into Bayer’s office. Harold Bayer was the head of the project. He had no love—or, for that matter, knowledge—of science. He was appointed to the position because he was related to someone with an iota of power. A senator’s son or some such clout.

Carpenter had been reluctant to announce his discovery.

“It’s what?” Bayer said, bewilderment on his face.

“A mental link over space and time,” Carpenter told him. “Look at it as a form of mental astral projection. That’s as simple an explanation as I can give, really.”

Bayer nodded, but it was clear he did not understand.

“We can’t travel through time physically,” Carpenter said. “It just isn’t possible. The energy requirements would be staggering.”

Bayer continued to nod, reminding Carpenter of one of those toy birds that drank water from a glass.

“But,” Carpenter said, “no one ever thought about mental links with people from the past.”

Bayer was still clueless, but the inkling of a thought was flowing through his head. He saw a chance to make money and acquire power, and that was enough for him to say: “Keep up the good work, Carpenter…. and keep me informed.”

Carpenter had kept him informed…and that was his downfall.

They perfected the process a few days ago. Carpenter sent a chimpanzee’s mind into the past, but there was no way for him to know where it had gone. Upon trying to retrieve the chimpanzee’s mind, it died.

There was no coming back.

They found a prisoner serving a life term for murder for the next experiment. He, too, died upon attempted retrieval, but they were able to access his brain via Carpenter’s device. What they saw was prehistoric…and amazing.

Carpenter wanted to do more trials, but Bayer wanted to go public. They had an argument and, somehow, Bayer overpowered him.

Carpenter awoke in the past, in a strange body.

I can’t go back, he thought as he reached a stream. He bent over and looked into his ape-like face.

Then, he smelled something.

But, it was too late. The sabre tooth tiger jumped out of the bushes and attacked.

As the tiger ate him alive, Bayer knew the true nature of mankind: survival of the most underhanded.

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Author : Bob Newbell

“This is the day it all ends,” said Brosh.

“Why don’t you take one of the mood stabilizers the doctor prescribed?” asked Querna, Brosh’s wife. She often wondered why she’d married Brosh. If I’d married that engineer who had a crush on me, she thought to herself, I’d probably be enjoying a canal cruise right now.

Brosh ignored Querna’s suggestion and returned to his study. He was and had always been an odd sort of Martian. Even as a child he had thought there was something seriously wrong with the world, something both ineffable and inescapable. His parents had taken him to a string of psychiatrists who had given him various diagnoses and prescriptions. None of them helped. Part of Brosh’s ill-defined neurosis was that whatever was wrong with Mars was somehow related to Earth. As a result, he had devoted himself to the study of the lifeless, desiccated third planet from the Sun. He was Mars’ foremost expert on that world.

Brosh had been working in his study for about a quarter of an hour when he heard Querna yell from the living room.

He rushed in and saw his wife looking at the vid screen in disbelief. On the screen was a live feed from Elysium City. But the video looked strange. Both the people, running about in terror, and the buildings were all translucent.

“…have been unable to explain the phenomenon which started just over half an hour ago,” a newscaster was saying. “Weather stations in Elysium are reporting that barometric pressure is plummeting in the region. Just a moment. We’ve just received a report that radiation levels in Elysium are rising…”

Brosh rushed back to his study and interfaced his terminal with the observatory’s computer. He called up the latest telescopic image of Earth. “It’s…blue!” he said in astonishment. The spectrograph confirmed what he already suspected: The dead desert world of Earth was now mostly covered in water.

“It’s happening in Utopia Planitia now!” Querna screamed from the adjoining room.

Brosh didn’t respond. He just kept watching Earth. He saw something on the crescent of Earth’s nightside. Lights. Dozens, then hundreds. “Cities,” he said aloud. And somehow he knew that paradoxically the cities materializing before his eyes had been there for a very long time.

Somewhere along the line, Brosh thought to himself, a great mistake had been made. By whom or by what, he didn’t know. Mars with its thick atmosphere and butterscotch-colored sky and great canals and oceans and majestic cities piercing the clouds was not supposed to be. Likewise, Earth was never intended to be a barren rock, the subject of science fictional invasions and the target for the space agency’s unmanned probes.

“It’s happening here now!” Querna shrieked.

Brosh felt strangely calm and composed. This isn’t armageddon, he thought. This is a return to normality. He saw that his garden was now bereft of foliage. It looked like a desert. After a moment, he realized he was seeing his garden through his study’s wall, not its window.

“Brosh! We have to get away from here!” Querna was standing next to Brosh but her voice sounded like it came from far away.

Brosh suddenly felt cold. He had trouble breathing. He noticed something in his increasing insubstantial living room. A strange wheeled vehicle. It slowly moved toward him. The machine stopped and began taking a panoramic photograph. About 20 minutes later, the mission controllers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California received the image of the arid, sterile vista.

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Speculative Fiction

Author : Bob Newbell

Frejj glided two meters above the street of the marketplace, each pulsation of his gelatinous, umbrella-shaped body propelling him forward through the green chlorine atmosphere toward the cafe at the end of the street. Seeing his friend, Vallier, resting on a pedestal, he floated over to join him. Vallier held a stylus in one tentacle and a datapad in two others. He was obviously deep in thought.

“Writing?” asked Frejj.

“Writing,” confirmed Vallier.

Frejj signaled a servitor to request a flagon.

“Put that pad down. I’ve ordered us a libation.”

Vallier kept writing. “I’d like you to look this over when I’m done. I’m going to submit it to one of the lore journals.”

“I hope it’s not more of that silly science fiction of yours.”

“It’s not silly!” said Vallier louder than he’d intended. “It’s creative and imaginative. So much lore nowadays is derivative and repetitive. Speculative fiction is the new frontier in literature.”

The servitor delivered the flagon and two cups to the table. Frejj poured them both a drink. He drained his cup and poured himself another. “What’s it about anyway? Your story, I mean.”

“You’ve heard the news about radio transmissions from a star system in the Jebraze constellation possibly being from an alien intelligence? I’m writing a story on what the aliens might be like.”

Frejj had another drink. “That’ll turn out to be a false alarm. There are no habitable planets in that system.”

“They’ve determined the third planet is the origin of the transmissions. It’s mostly covered in water and the atmosphere is about one-fifth oxygen.”

Frejj put down his cup. “Nothing could survive in such an environment. Your story won’t get accepted for publication if no one finds it believable.”

“That’s where the transmission originated,” insisted Vallier. “Whatever creatures live there would have evolved to survive the amount of oxygen in the air.”

Frejj resumed drinking. “My advice is make the characters in your story like life on our planet. Make their mesoglea an odd color to make them seem ‘alien’ of something.”

“Who’s going to believe aliens that look like us?”

“The readers have to be able to relate to the characters.”

“The characters are from another planet. They’re not going to float around and have six eyes and look like ordinary people.”

“They’re not going to float about? How do you intended to have them move?”

“Maybe they slither on the ground or ambulate on specialized tentacles.”

“They couldn’t escape predators if they locomoted on the ground. They’d never survive long enough to develop into a technological civilization.”

Vallier floated off his pedestal momentarily with excitement and descended back down to rest on it. “That’s it!” he said with excitement. “The aliens are land-bound and easy prey for their world’s predators. At the same time, their planet’s poisonous oxygen atmosphere puts them in constant peril. Oxygen is highly reactive. I bet things would catch fire there really easily. They’d be a stoic, warrior race ever vigilant against their planet’s endless danger!” Vallier started writing frantically.

“How about a love interest?” asked Frejj. “A male, a female, and a gestator are thrown together by circumstances and a romance develops.”

“Readers want action and adventure, not mating dances.”

“And what happens when we get a radio transmission with video from the aliens? What happens when we know what they look like and what their civilization is like?”

Vallier stopped writing. He looked worried for a moment. Then he brightened and said, “Shape-shifters! I can address that problem by making them shape-shifters!” he said triumphantly.

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