Poetry-Thing Thursday: Losing The Moon

I read in a letter,
that you’d taken to madness,
isolated yourself,
and carved a hole into your life.

I’d figured it out,
but you wouldn’t take my call,
figured you’d had doubts,
about me and the others.

Maybe I’m wrong,
but this silence is cold,
and darkness endless, abundant–
especially for those carved out.

So I wrote you a letter,
and I paid you respect,
in both greeting and closing,
knowing you’d never read it

but just in case,
here’s the gist:
You’re not alone
and we can throw you a bone,
or if you find need,
a lead.

Whatever it be,
tell us please, soon.
We’re nearly out of time,
and you’re losing the moon.

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Short Story: Rhythms

To the opiated masses, power was still another fanciful thing only rich folks and electronics had. Humanity had passed the point where it was new or noteworthy, but had not reached the point where it was usual, mundane. Not on a grand scale. They were in the in-between times of yet another thing. No longer miraculous, but not commonplace enough, power was both a thing but not a thing. It was leashed by egghead scientists or courted by overzealous millionaires and billionaires. Or, if one worked their entire life, perhaps a layperson here or there.

It was via that mentality that power was disregarded by Earth’s general population, in both metaphorical and literal senses. Some ruralites even claimed its existence a conspiracy. Those creatures said humans never had, and never would have, power. Not in the grandest senses. Ironically, they were most often responsible for shortages of power.

For the rest and vast majority, power was just a thing beyond grasping. Most especially, great power. It was out of reach, financially or socially, or both. There was no point in dreaming about it because so many other, competing dreams were higher priorities.

Of course, what prospective home-owner didn’t want free, limitless power? What conscious mind didn’t wish it to help them “slip the surly bonds of Earth,” bypass the smog and madness between it and space? They all did, but it wasn’t meant to be. Not yet.

Not until a man lacking both gained them for all.

Thirty years later, Brandon Keller still wasn’t sure how he’d done it. He remembered the night it began though; remembered his dead-eyed stare at the half-dead television flickering from age and water damage. He remembered the mildew mingling with lighter-fluid and spray-varnish. A dangerous and favorite combination. He remembered the sound of the paper-bag over the percussive metal ever-thumping in the background. Most of all, he remembered the utter desolation.

Inside. Outside. Perpetual.

His innards were dank, dark. Even danker and darker than the walls of the abandoned junk-shack tenement he and others like him were forced to inhabit. The walls wept every time it rained. The sound of fucking, fighting, and metal or rap ragers echoed ceaselessly along the floors. Dilapidated, paper-thin walls crumbed between rooms, apartments forming windows into private lives no-one cared to view, their inhabitants least of all– seen one junkie….

They were all junkies. That was why the called it the junk shack. Brandon too, then at least. The place he’d been in wasn’t the best, wasn’t the worst. It did smell. Mold and Mildew. His huffing bag took care of that, but anytime the wind kicked up through broken windows or drafty walls, cat-piss stink from the rotting crack-lab in the next room smothered the varnish-lighter-fluid cocktail.

Something long ago had told him he’d been destined to wallow and rot like so much of the junk-shack before a moment of clarity intervened and the miraculous was found anew in him, through him. Thirty-years later, on the penthouse level of the Keller Power Consortium building, he would flex his bionic hand and feel it a small price to pay for all that was changed.

He’d been bored. High as a kite. Lost at what to do with himself– or why he’d suddenly developed an itch for doing something. He wasn’t aware of a lot in those days. He was, however, beginning to see patterns. Kaleidoscopic. Fractal. Like Fibonacci sequences, but in the repetition of the news and the other bullshit the television spewed at him.

There was a mathematical pattern to reality; an eternal cascading and bumping that seemed on micro-scales to be ever-random, but on macro-scales, its patterns were fairly obvious. He’d watched them for months, completely unaware of them. Then all at once, they were there. Sensory overload. Months of patterned reality crashed down. He couldn’t take it.

He didn’t know any of that yet. It took him months to figure out the particulars. By then, he was recuperating in a hospital, arm missing. He’d somehow managed to avoid the need for skin-grafts. Something about the trajectory of the explosion, angle of the fire. He didn’t much care to know those details. The others though…

When it happened, he was too busy detoxing, relearning there was a world existing outside the junk shack. Likewise, when his head was finally straight, he was too preoccupied with an image that had taken it over. It was more an idea really, but it had a mentally visual component. Two. One of macro-scale. One of micro.

Micro-scale was something like two nuclei, just before collision. All around them were out of focus collisions already occurring, exploding. Then, the Macro-Scale, there he was bionically armed and standing before a chemistry set that made the cat-piss crack-lab’s look like a catheter.

No-one understood it. Not even Brandon. It didn’t matter. Most of human progress was made only to be understood later on. It was yet another of the micro-macro rhythms; a duality of science and reality. There were things seen and things unseen. Both were useful. Both were necessary. Both could be harnessed.

So Brandon harnessed them. Through a frothing concoction of natural elements, the amateur-chemist turned energy-mogul found a formula for cold-fusion. Chemical cold fusion. Free, unlimited power. He stood in the shadow of creatures like Faraday and Tesla, Nobel and the Curies, then stepped beside into their light. There, he found the solution to a problem ages old and eternally important.

And thirty years later, he watched the last residential light flit on in what used to be the junk-shack. Free housing provided by the mogul. Like himself, the majority of people aided by his programs were former users, abusers, would-be burnouts. They weren’t just given the chance to get clean, they were given new leases on life. They were given new reasons to hope, to dream. New paths to achieving those hopes and dreams.

In his own way, Keller had universalized power and set off rhythms. One Macro, one micro. They mirrored themselves via an iteration even far older– as old as time, in fact; change.

Back in Sol Again: Part 2

2.

Homer

Having recovered from his temporary madness and properly cleaned the multitude of messes he’d made, Simon finally returned Homer’s engineering compartment to work. It was only one section of the otherwise half-ship level, but arguably the most important. From here, the engines could be commanded and troubleshooted, repaired and maintained. From only a few, lone consoles, Simon or another engineer could diagnose and locate problems, shut down the engines, or even override their Bridge connections. That was the last thing in the galaxy Simon wanted to do, but it was possible.

Like so many other things aboard Homer, Simon knew the engines inside and out. Even if he hadn’t designed them, he would’ve committed their every schematic and component to memory. Partially, he was dedicated, but also partially, he was paranoid to occasional nervous breakdown. Not usually. It just happened sometimes.

Then again, nothing about Homer, its mission, or its design was usual. Simon might’ve relaxed more had he not designed so much of it. Given his propensity for making an ass of himself though, he preferred safety to regret. As a result, he kept Homer monitored, obsessively and thoroughly.

The ship itself was flawless though; the culmination of several years of work for all involved, and a century of Solsian rocketry R&D. More than that, Homer was the first Solsian ship to fly between solar systems without requiring generations of cryo-sleep or eons between departure and destination. Mostly, it did this via a new drive that folded space for interstellar jumps.

From there, its plasma sub-light engines engaged, and within hours or days, transferred it across the target systems. The jump drives, also know as Fold-Drives of F-Drives, were as much magic and voodoo to Simon as his sub-light plaz-drives to laymen. Unlike most laymen however, he didn’t mind. As big as his brain proved to be at times, and as small as his mouth made it seem others, he didn’t care to understand the infinitely complex mathematics of multi-dimensional physics.

So far, that mentality had served him well. First, from his birth to doctoral work on Earth. Then, to his irreplaceable position as head of the ISC’s Plasma Propulsion lab. Now, to his place aboard Homer that represented the summation of the aforementioned.

Only a few years ago, Simon discovered how depraved the allure of Deep-Space colonization could make certain parties. Even as he sat before his main console, currently arranged for Human use, he recalled Josie’s gratified purr at being rescued. The rescue, and the foiling of the anti-Humanist forces involved, had afforded Simon a momentary fame. It had since faded to obscurity but not before giving him all the command he’d ever want or need over his career.

Simon didn’t mind the fading. He’d never been one for crowds or being ogled by them. All he cared about, really, was his work and his little hemisphere of the universe containing it.

Currently, that hemisphere was headed toward Proxima Centauri B on-rendezvous with an outpost deployed some months before. There, they would stop for a short time, activate the outpost, disgorge some scientist-passengers, then scan and map PCb’s surface. After their layover, they would continue onward toward Gliese 876 to scan its exoplanets, then activate another research outpost before continuing on.

Had it not been for the events initially affording Simon his fame, he might never have mustered the courage to go so far from Sol. Then again, he was never certain he would go until he’d boarded the ship andmade their first jump, leaving Earth, Sol, and everything else he knew far behind. Hestill wasn’t certain he’d done it.

Though he’d never know or admit it himself, his decision to go was cemented on discovering Lina was attending. Niala’s decision to go put him on the fence, and though his best friend outside Rearden, even their attachment hadn’t been enough to drag him from the safety Phobos and the ISC.

But Lina’s decision coupled with Niala’s, and the minor hint of pride at his hand in the ship’s design, and eventually convinced him to go. Only after the F-Drive charged and deposited them outside Sol, did he realize he’d made the decision without being a party to it.

Yet, in spite of everything, he still found himself hopeful. He washeaded for PCb, monitoring the sub-light engines, and reflecting on his idiocy in the break-room and its meaninglessness in the scheme of things.

Before delving too deep, Donnelly patted his shoulder, drawing his head to the side.

“Bit manic-depressive today?”

“Huh?”

He realized the apparent shift in his mood again and managed a chuckle. In truth he’d remained quite giddy. At some point in the near future, he and Lina would be alone together. He had no designs beyond that, but he wouldn’t lie about his hopes.

Donnelly heard the chuckle, “I’ll take t’mean yer a hundred percent.”

Before he could answer, an alert sounded on the console. Readouts from instrumentation and the code of ship’s systems scrolled past. Beside them, a bit of comm software flashed. Simon finagled the touch-screen and a fierce-looking lizard appeared.

Captain Ingstrom was one of the few Leaf-tailed Geckos left in the universe. He had granite-colored eyes with slit pupils that stared through someone as if they were insubstantial, mist-like. To Ingstrom, they might very well have been.

“Contact,” had accelerated the growth of the latent, Humanoid genes in species bearing them, not all reacted the same to the process– or even well. Some, like the Chameleons (MeLons), gained the ability to completely transform their appearance in an extension of their previous, appearance-changing abilities. Others gained more subtle advantages, some were left entirely unaffected. An unfortunate few though, like the Leaf-tails, had absolutely withered.

Contact had effected not only those benevolent, latent genes, in some species, but others best left alone as well. In response, some species became outright pariahs among the diverse, Solsian life due tovarious defects or adaptations. Others, and Ingstrom’s people, became irreversibly sterile.

The inability for Geckos to carry or bear offspring was the result of a poor, genetic mutation that might well have disappeared from their DNA given a few dozen more generations of natural selection. Contact came with the latent gene still present in nearly every Gecko subspecies and individual therein.

For a species not known to last much more than a decade or two, the Geckos’ numbers quickly dwindled. Even the fables of the odd, fertile individuals were almost entirely vanished now, lending credence that Ingstrom was one of the last of a sad, remainingfew. Like him, it was assumed they’d given up hope of ever changing that.

All of these things meant Ingstrom was an unhappy creature. His species was dying off and he knew it, and he never let anyone else forget. So when his face appeared on-screen, it was only due to this sentiment beneath his bitterness that Simon didn’t lapse into manic-depression. Even Donnelly found it difficult to avoid. To both men’s credit, anyone would have.

“We’ve entered the Proxima Centauri system and are currently en-route to PCb. ETA is twenty minutes to Geosynchronus orbit and R-V with Oribital platform Alpha-One. Keep your asses glued to those chairs and your eyes on your readings. Inform me the second anything changes.”

Simon acknowledged with a reply, carefully containing what joyremained in him for fear Ingstrom might do his best to rip it out with the least effort possible.For the next while, he did as instructed remained focused. He kept his eyes glued to his readouts on the large touchscreen.

There, an electronic masterpiece was continually laid out by a master from the thousand sensors, cameras, mercury switches, and other minutiae ship-board. It worked in tandem, as one entity, producing the most ethereal scene the universe could: a star-system.

Proxima Centauri was magnificent. It was a system not unlike his, but entirely new, foreign. He knew of every bit and piece of Sol’s noises, its composition. Although he recognized the information fed to him from the panel, he didn’t know it. Not like he knew Sol.

But Neither did anyone else, and that was the important part. He was the first one seeing this system in such detail. The first one watching the stellar winds shift. The first one charting the dips and spikes of the cosmic rays, the planetary approaches and their micro-asteroids and surface refuse.

Somewhere inside of Simon there had always been a little boy staring at stars, thinking of Mars and Phobos, its rich history. Within that little boy, was the dream of something even bigger, more distant. Outside them both, now, it was here. There was no containing his giddiness.

When the ship finally docked at the outpost above PCb, it took all of Simon’s strength not to sprint to the airlock and into his space-suit. Somehow, he managed to stand, fidgeting, at a setof outer-airlock doors with Niala beside him.

The pair carefully fitted their tailored space-suits; the body-hugging cloth, like a neoprene wet-suit, was airtight and warm. Small, copper lines ran through it in scores and grids, a small pack stitched to the back thatpiped fluids through an electric heating and cooling unit.

The envirosuits were as useful for volcanology as for EVAs, with about as much research in them as the F-Drive. They were as near to perfect as Earth-descended creatures could attain, their only issue that they required tailoring. If one attempted to use another’s suit, it left them feeling too constricted, or as if floating, not the best idea in the cold vacuum of space.

The helmets were another story. Like the suits, they could be used for multiple purposes, and often were. However, they were interchangeable between members of the same species. Simon thought about this as he locked his bubble-faced helmet on and fitted his small O2 tank. They wouldn’t be needing much air now, he hoped. Then again, he’d never hoped to go to Ganymede, or foil an anti-Humanist conspiracy either, but that happened too.

He found himself standing in the airlock beside Niala. The gourd-shaped Rearden beside them. The bot was as much a friend as an automaton could be, but it was also insurance. The outposts had been deployed ahead of Homer and assembled by service bots. Those bots, many not dissimilar from Rearden, were now dormant and awaiting re-activation to sweeping and monitor the outpost. Among other things, Rearden could facilitate that.

The lights in the airlock flashed red and white over distant mechanics, then idled at red. The sealed, outpost doors parted to utter darkness. Rearden’s flexible optic-sensor flared with an LED to illuminate a second, un-powered airlock. Niala muscled a switch beside the doors and manually forced them apart, then space-walked in after the others and sealed them shut. The process was repeated on the inner-doors to grant access to the narrow passage beyond.

Slow, magnetic steps, carried them forward. Control was dead-ahead. Niala and Rearden could activate everything there, but first Simon needed activate the hydrogen power-plant in the station’s bowels. Only then could the other systems be activated.

Midway down the hall, the last of Simon’s excitement was replaced by fear of the eerily empty station. He veered left to a flight of stairs whilethe others continued forward, Rearden’s light silhouetting their progress. Simon took a deep breath, switched on his helmet and shoulder lamps, and started downward.

Flood-lit brilliance from his suit’s lighting all but erased the darkness, but could do nothing for the eerieness. He took the steps slowly. Several floors below, they let out in a small foyer before continuing downward. A few paces forward, another set of sealed doors waited to part down their middle. He reached them, hesitated.

Niala’s voice sounded in his ear, “At control. Awaiting your signal.”

“Give me a minute,” he said, trying to force the doors apart. He grunted and strained over the comm, as obviously trying to pry the doors manually as could be possible.

“Forget the keycard?” Niala snarked.

He found himself glad the Lioness wasn’t there to double over in laughter again. The urge to sever an oxy-line would’ve been too great.

He sighed, “Card. Right.”

A deliberate silence signaled a dead comm. He felt her laugh seven floors overhead and yanked the plastic chain from his waist to slot the card. The battery powered door-lock flickered, a light flashed, and the doors began to part.

More safe-guard then anything, the locks and hydrogen batteries were used on certain, vital areas to discourage outside tampering before station-activation. Simon still wasn’t sure who it was protecting the areas against, but given the hydrogen-plant’s destructive capabilities, and the control room’s general opportunities for mischief, it made sense to err on the cautious side.

The doors opened to a realm of darkness. His light just barely fell over and past giant, encapsulated generators, panels of old-fashioned lever-switches, and deactivated touch-screen consoles. Near the center of the room, he knew, a combination keycard-lever panel would ignite the plant.

He headed over in slow motion, surveying the bus-sized generators and water-vats, and the multiple-man-sized panels of levers and knobs. The vats’ verticalty made him feel small, but he batted it away; the plant served a dual purpose and was required to be immense. By harnessing the hydrogen-plant’s H2O output, the station could create, reclaim, and purify water as well as generate power. Apart from food, the station was entirely self-sufficient.

Between two rows of vats were control consoles similar to those aboard Homer. At one edge, specifically, was the panel he sought. Simon put himself before it and radioed to standby. He slid the keycard through the slot, let the light change, then began the power up sequence:

A few gray switches were thrown. A vibration like someone in the distance driving a jackhammer into a steel sounded. A pair of yellow levers were thrown, gave way to a twisted knob that turned like a key. Industrial ignitions ground to life. The vibration was more jarring; a giant, jack-hammering nearby, with an equally giant jack-hammer. Instantly Simon was heavier, stuck in place by his mag-boots and now weighted by artificial gravity.

“Generators running,” Simon said.

“Beginning oxygen production now,” Niala radioed in response.

Moments later, Simon was standing in front of a newly-awakened console, watching the gravity and oxygen numbers rise to green. When it finally reached Earth-normal, Simon radioed Homer.

“Flight, this is EVA-1, we have atmo across the board. Welcome to Proxima Centauri, and outpost Uruk.”

“Roger that, EVA-1. Take some time to let your hair down. We’ll see you soon. Flight out.”

Simon couldn’t help but stand before the console to gawk at yet another electronic masterpiece. Like before, this was different, even moreso than aboard Homer. This was the masterpiece Solsians would be viewing for years to come.

Viewing, and remembering, as long as they existed, as their first foray into interstellar colonization.

Poetry-Thing Thursday: Embodiment

If only we’d known,
what freedom would bring,
we might have stopped it,
before we’d sing,
of such beauties and reverie.
that have been nothing but lies,
brave and free? Unlikely.

Here, it is all for the highest bidder,
if in politics or power.
Everything else,
the lowest.
Anyone that disagrees,
called heretics, traitors.
For money’s the master,
in this brave new world.
While Orwell’s spinning corpse,
nears perpetual-motion disaster.

Society may have order,
but it is flawed at its core.
Temporary-cure for permanent chaos,
when knowledge is a bore.
A few years from now,
centuries, millenia,
people will watch the collapse
all asking, “how?”

The truth is,
it’s our fault.
Here and now.
We are as children,
no adult around.
We whimper,
whine, stray,
claiming we can hold things dear,
our hands to our ears.

What bullshit.
We are the embodiment,
of our own worst fears.

Short story: Blue Collars and No Dollars

I still maintain mental health care is the world’s number one issue. Either the lack of it, or the quality of it– or in most places, the stigma of it. Kind of ironic given the circumstances, but life’s funny like that. Un-life and the ending of life too. We– humans that is– always seem to recognize seconds too late the glory around us; mountain ranges behind misty-veils; ravines cut into sandy deserts; the moon and stars beyond light-polluted cities. We only realize the greatness after its gone… or we are.

Makes you think.

Well, not really, but it should. We should all think.

That’s the mantra of this dying one, anyhow. There’s ravines in me now; crimson rivers flowing through gray mists. Or I think so. I doubt anyone’ll blame me if I’m wrong. Even if they did, I’m as “out of fucks to give” as anyone can be, living or dead. That’s the great truth of my generation. We learned how not to give a shit so efficiently and thoroughly it’s killing all of us off.

That’s the meat of the thing, why I’m shuffling off this mortal coil. Even if I hadn’t finally decided to show myself the door, society would’ve. They’ve been looking for ways to throw me out of it my whole life. Like the billion and more other people, I’m just not quite up to snuff. Seems evolution went and decided brains and brawn weren’t necessary in any quantities for some, let alone equal quantities. Like the rest of my ilk, I’ve occupied a middle ground that can’t really exist in the world.

And now this…

Things have gone to hell. I’d mean that literally if I weren’t so certain hell couldn’t be this bad.

Bitch, bitch, bitch, right? The world’s rough, and you gotta’ be tough to survive, right? Right. So what am I on about? And why? What could possibly be bad enough to make a whole generation show themselves the door like I am?

Well that’s the thing; everything. Everything could be so bad.

From the housing market to the healthcare system, to the job prospects and the outright value of human life in society, it’s all bad. And bad in a way that makes dying preferable, and the only way to make a difference.

We can’t war. Not really. We could riot, and get gassed. We could raise arms, and be utterly run through by the National Guard and various militaries– our elder brothers and sisters, commanded by our parents and grandparents. But rather than resort to fratricide we’ve decided, more one-by-one,en-masse than as a group, that suicide’s the better alternative. The first few of us left elaborate messages and letters. Of course these were only revealed through hear-say and rumor, but ultimately the message was “what other options do we have?”

That’s the sad part of it. If there’s anything more distressing than the rest, it’s that. We have no options left. We’re facing death no matter what. Either by starvation, disease, exposure, or outright murder for daring to want better. We’re all going to die before our time– whatever the hell that means.

Or most of us are. The lucky few suckling the tits of their wealthy-elite parents, or those sycophantic and sociopathic enough to get into the closed circles, they’ll survive. But the blue-collars and no-dollars, in other words the vast majority of us? We’re fucked. Too bad it’s that same elite’s downfall too. In the end, the human race are the ones that’ll suffer most. Admit or not, they’re human too. Our great pain will be over when our great depression ends with us six-feet under.

All told, we’ll have the last laugh. Even if, by some ridiculous stroke of luck, the human race doesn’t end up killing itself off entirely in the wake, the majority will still have died out. Or let themselves out, however you wanna’ phrase it. With us go the hopes and dreams of a better future not involved in maintaining the status quo of wealth v. health, greed v. need.

In other words, gone will be the hope of healing Humanity’s current sadomasochistic streak. Maybe I’m belaboring things. Maybe I’m being vague. I guess that happens when the great beyond’s waxing and the great-whatever-this-is is waning.

My personal story isn’t interesting. It’s the same as so many others of my generation. I grew up poor. Got old, got poorer. Ending up on the street when you’ve been on your way out the door your whole life isn’t surprising. It’s especially not surprising when everyone from your president to your guidance counselors tells you you’re not going anywhere else.

Like I said, not interesting. Far from unique. We never believed we were special snowflakes, but Human Rights didn’t seem like so much to ask for. I guess we were wrong. They were.

So here I am; last train outta’ the station on a one way ticket. Theoretically of course. Trains don’t run anymore. Even if they did, no-one could afford to ride ‘em. We’re all stuck in one place now. We’d walk, but hunger makes us weak. That’s the way they want us.

Soon enough the stray-dogs will be full. For a time anyhow. Then, they’ll starve too. Probably some will survive. They’ll eventually move back to the wild and start hunting again. I’d say football season was over, but the truth is, it was never on. We were too starved to play. Now, we’re just soon-to-be dust in the wind, or blood in the water, as my case goes.

I chose a tub. A full tub of hot water in a hotel-suite. Middle of the night break-ins aren’t expected anymore. I had something of the rogue in my blood, now the water has it. Might’ve been a big timer if the other rogues weren’t all dead before “my time.” Now I’ll be joining ‘em.

But I digress. Warm water’s nice. Plus, less clean-up involved. The coroner’ll just chuck my pruny-ass in a bag and write off the ticket. A few days later, they’ll fry me up in the big oven down the road. Maybe then I’ll finally get to fly, smoke in the sky. You know how they always told you to learn to soar? Dreams and such… like we ever had ‘em anyhow. Now, I’ll be one. At least… the water… is warm….

Back in Sol Again: Part 1

1.

Live and Learn… Or Not

She was cute. And English. And Suns, she looked good from this angle. She had the sort of accent that drew the mind to foggy English plains where only perfect mornings occurred. Nevermind that England was mostly rain and “meh.” Simon Corben couldn’t believe it, not in her presence. He’d seen his share of pretty women, even dated a few, but none were like Lina Beaumont; Doctor of Applied Physics for the Interspecies Scientific Collaboration.

Lina sat to Simon’s right, angled ever so slightly toward him, but conversing across a square table with Doctor/Matriarch-Lioness Niala Martin.

For anyone unfamiliar with Simon’s hemisphere of the universe, and its uniquely astonishing history, a Human conversing with a bipedal, talking Lioness was outlandish and impossible to boot. That is of course, only if one came from a hemisphere of time-space where these two species remained separated by an intelligence gap. For anyone else, they were merely another trio of queer creatures in an exceedingly vast and queer universe– one only getting larger and queerer with time.

For Simon’s people, the bridging of the intelligence gap came decades ago, during first contact with an alien species. And like most Human attempts at communication, especially first attempts, first contact with the Zelphod failed.

Utterly.

And catastrophically.

Like, you don’t even know, man.

All out war between Humans and Zelphod broke out. Battles on the fringes of Earth-space, aka the Sol system, were “not good” on a whole new scale. Then the Zelphod did a thing no-one expected, nor realized the consequences of until Sol’s little hemisphere was already, irreversibly in total chaos.

The Zelphod felt the war was looking to end before it got climactic. They didn’t like that. Nobody likes it when wars do that. Human history teaches us that much, if little else. Especially when the aggressors have those feelings. And started the war. And are the ones trying to win it.

So, the Zelphod did something to Humans reserved for only the most inhuman of themselves to do to each other. Most often, by a specific sect called politicians or dictators. That horrible thing, done unto Sol, was chemical, biological warfare, and came with an unexpected consequence: it was absolutely and inarguably the best thing anyone could have done to Sol and its inhabitants.

But to fully understand why this inhuman thing was the greatest blunder in the history of known blunders, dating back to the widely known Big Bang, you must understand the state of Sol at the time.

The bug-like Zelphod had traveled an unknown number of light-years and astronautical units to reach us. Their species, now living exclusively on specialized generational ships, had wandered the Milky Way for untold eons. That time was filled with so much inner-turmoil that their history was almost entirely lost. Like so many fools, that made them believe they were smart. Smart enough, in fact, to take on a species perpetually at war with itself.

Well, live and learn.

Or not. Whatever.

What the Zelphod learned the hard way, and Sol learned to laugh off, was the extreme efficiency with they could kill off themselves and others species. Or at least, bring them all near enough that nature finished ‘em more incidentally than intentionally. Though good at few things, Solsians, slicing and dicing is one. Which is not to say they’ve ever been limited to that form of murder alone. Indeed, they’d become masters of the arts of not just killing, but killing differently.

Connoisseurs they are, really.

Earth’s dominant species, homosapiens of which both Doctors Beaumont and Corben could be said to have descended from, if not were guilty of being– were really Sol’s mass-murdering overseers. As evil as they sound, and at times were, Humans weren’t entirely to blame. Nature had done that too. Murdering other species en-masse, be they plant, animal, or otherwise, was just a side-effect of Human existence and intelligence. The latter of which was said to be their strongest suit. Regardless, there was no denying its effectiveness as an evolutionary survival strategy… for them at least.

Whether wholly responsible, or a product of nature’s sadism, Humans were exceptionally good at killing.

Everyone.

Themselves too.

But the Zelphod entered Sol without knowing that. Thus, they opened the door to an entire solar system doing its best to kill everyone and everything in it, itself included.

Mostly in those days, it was just Humans killing or being killed; though the animals that would one day gain full sentience were killing each other just fine too. Mostly for food. Humans enjoyed the sport of it. Coincidentally, Humans love sports in general.

Earth itself was killing people too; people, animals, itself. The asteroid belts were killing probes. The few, established extra-Earth outposts were killing their new host planets and moons, and of course, those host planets and moons were evening the score whenever they could.

Needless to say, the rather inexperienced Zelphod, (whom hadn’t had anyone else to kill in eons anyway) opened a door they immediately wanted to close.

And couldn’t.

A saying states that time makes fools of all peoples. Or something to that affect. The Zelphod prove its truth. Theoretically, they had more time than anyone in Sol to prepare for anything. Even eons later they weren’t prepared for the Solsians making soggy corpses of everything in sight. Solsians; apex of murder-death in the near galaxy. Had they not already slipped Earth’s surly bonds, perhaps the Zelphod would’ve stood a chance. But they had. And the Zelphod didn’t.

Well, live and learn…. Or not. Whatever.

In the roundabout way of things, the Zelphod were suddenly forced to do something, lest they too become victims of the masters of murder-death. Having managed to retain some intelligence before entirely ensuring it never mattered again, they scanned Sol, its planets, and its various species. From the vacuum around it, to the smallest microbe on the flea’s proverbial tits, the Zelphod scan of Sol and its components led to a scheme:

A scheme that backfired so grandly, only a few decades later a pair of Humans found themselves sitting with a Lioness, discussing nothing in particular. Not that they couldn’t discuss anything they wanted, they simply cared not to. Such was the way of Solsian intelligence that their propensity for depth made them prefer not to use it.

Atop the pile of their people’s still-soggy corpses, the Zelphod decided to unleash a biological weapon on Sol. Specifically, on Earth, homeworld to Solsian life. The next years of utter chaos damned near turned the tides of the war. For a time, the Zelphod thought themselves the eventual victors.

That lasted.

Latent genes in untold numbers of Earth-species, from big cats to wolves, from birds to rats, and from just about everything in, around, and between, to everything else, were activated. These genes, unleashed via biologically engineered contaminants, forced rapid mutations. Godzilla occurred across a massive spectrum and in months, save the gigantism– though some cities were destroyed.

That was the plan, the scheme. Chaos. Madness. Low morale. Zero war-effort. A plan fulfilled…

For all of five, solar minutes.

The chaos passed with Humans quickly convincing the newly “evolved” that their system was in danger too. The reason was simple– well actually, the reason was extremely complex. The result was simple; everybody turned to lunge at the Zelphod. The reason was that the same, latent gene for Humanoid growth, also carried the latent gene for sentience and awareness. Or at least, it carried something that carried that. In either event, it too, was activated.

That was never planned for.

The Zelphod victory turned to assured defeat after it dawned that they’d doubled the manpower against them. The Human-Animal Alliance was quickly created, known colloquially as the HAA, and formed a military force that took advantage of the various animals’ natural abilities. Murder-death capital Sol got specialized reinforcements to continue the murder-deathing in exciting, new ways.

For, despite being absolutely overwhelmed in nearly every fight, the Zelphod had one advantage against Sol’s people until then. Simply, numbers. The Zelphod, bug-like in all ways, were also bug-like in their reproduction. It took merely weeks to double a generational ship’s numbers, which might run somewhere in the hundreds of thousands. Thus, every available Solsian “soul” was quickly committed to the fight, including the newly evolved. The HAA soon became part of the animal wing of the Sol Federation military.

Sol’s majority, forced to put aside their prejudice, fought side-by-side with the “mutants”, “freaks,” “the zoo,” lest they were all overwhelmed by the man-eating ant-hill they’d fallen into. For once, Solsians stopped killing one another (mostly), to turn to killing a common foe. Through that unity, the soggy corpses were added to and the attrition kept from attritting long enough for the Solsians to overwhelm the Zelphod right back and kick them out of Sol.

Even as Simon stared,moonstruck, at the Human female from outsideSussex, the Zelphod were lingering outside Sol trying to establish some life for what was left of their wounded species. Part of the cease-fire had been a check on their population growth– which given the circumstances, was reasonably agreed to. In fact, agreeing to it might have been the smartest thing the Zelphod had ever done. Only time might yet tell how their fortunes fared or not.

And also, as Simon stared moonstruck at the Human female from outside Sussex, all of these facts swirled in the recesses of his learned mind. For, as intelligent as he was and as basic as this knowledge had become, he remained Human and it remained second to the present.

Presently Simon, like all infatuated creatures– for indeed both cause and effect appear pandemic to the known universe, if not always connected– was about to make a complete and utter ass of himself. How? By doing that most usual of all things; opening his mouth.

Admittedly, he did not compound the situation by speaking, and thus saved himself some hardship. But ultimately, he could not escape the fated stringhe’d sewn himself.

His mouth slacked, opened as if an occupied bathroom’s unlatched door on a draft. Then, driven by absent mindedness and the draft, it eased the rest of the way open until almost fully ajar. There it remained, its embarrassing contents in full-view long enough to be noticed by the Lioness.

And ridiculed without mercy.

Their long fondness for one another allowed Niala no qualms about revealing the utter ass for its assyness. Completely oblivious to reality, Simon only vaguely sensed the laughter that beganrolling from Niala’s throat. It startedlike a purr, then fell into hissing snickers that stole Lina’s captivating voice from his ears.

“Wha–” Lina began.

She caught Niala’s gaze, hid her face. Simon stared, slack-jawed with infatuation. Lina did her best not to blush, but snickered. Simon caught on. He flushed, beet-red.Niala collapsed. Hissing snickers turned to full-on, roars of laughter. Simon snarled at Niala, having gained something of her people from her over the years.

It fell short.

So short Lina’s minor glimpse of it fractured her internal levee. As if flooding from a dam, she spit flecks of coffee at the air before her laughing mouth was half-covered.

“Oh hell! Fine. I’m going,” Simon said, launching himself upright.

His knees slammed the table he’d forgotten existed. His coffee hopped up, decided mid-air that gravity existed, and it was a cup, toppled over, and spilled its contents along his front.

Niala fell from her chair, betwixt laugh-roars and choking for air. She kicked at the air on her back, rolled onto her paws, choking and laugh-roaring. If she’d been a house-cat, Simon decided, she might’ve been regurgitating a hairball.

He stormed away, absolutely certain he would soon be murdering Niala, then himself. Self-murder was still termed suicide, of course, but Simon’s mind was too displaced to know that. Rather, it was somewhere near the mass of meat and fluids called “body,” scrambling for a towel, and reeling from the revelation of his feelings to their mark.

Simonsurvived long enough to mop up the spilt coffee, then busied himself with making a new cup for as long as Humanly possible. Simon’s reality said it still wasn’t long enough. Everyone else’s said it was much longer than necessary. Too long. He distracted himself while the laughter lulled to conversation and the conversation lulled to nothingness. Soon, Niala’s chair scraped the floor, signaling her departure. He continued on with his coffee, unaware of the half-container of sugar now dissolving in it.

Homer’s break room, such that it was, remained smaller than Simon’s pride hoped. Thus, avoiding the object of his affections was nigh impossible. Unfortunately for Simon, who’d only just begun traveling aboard Homer, his mind had yet to properly fit its proportions in his mind. As such, the tap on his shoulder came in the most innocuous way, but unavoidably so.

He swiveled ‘round to find Lina’s golden eyes gleaming softly at him. “If you’d like to have coffee with me, just ask. Okay?”

He winced, “I didn’t mean to–”

She grimaced, “Opening your mouth is inadvisable today.” He blushed. “I’ll see you later–” She stepped away, pausing with a smile, “Simon.”

Being addressed made him giddy. He watched her disappear out the door, raised his coffee to drink. A series of binary beeps stopped him. It accompanied low murmuring as Engineer Donnelly entered alongside Rearden; Simon’s faithful companion, assistant, and gourd-like robot extraordinaire. The little bot beeped its binary speech back and forth to Donnelly as he stepped beside Simon.

“What’re you smiling like an idiot for?” Donnelly asked.

Rearden beeped something sarcastic. Donnelly laughed.

“Smart-ass bot,” Simon grumbled.

“Aye, but you love ‘im.” Donnelly filled his cup and turned away. “C’mon Giddy Lee, we’ve got work.”

Donnelly was right. And anyway, he’d done the hard part. Making contact with Lina after the embarrassment was over. He thought about it, realizing it went even better than expected, and felt better. He was giddy.

He readied to follow Donnelly and Rearden, sighed to sequester Lina at the back of his brain, and took a swig off coffee.

And immediately spit it across the break room, ensuring one last soggy fact occupied his memory.

Poetry-Thing Thursday: Slave State

Undulate.
Punctuate.
Feel Irate?
Capitulate.

It’s all done,
but crime and fun.
We’re all one,
under the sun.

Rotation.
Probation.
Penetration.
Space-station

It’s all been said,
the living dead–
in your head,
on my bed.

Forget lies.
They’re fraternal suicide.
In dead eyes,
find an endless tide.

Living nature.
Nomenclature.
In my back acre,
turn to vapor.

It is the word,
I’ve so far seldom heard
perhaps my mind has blurred
from the Earth-absurd.

Copulate.
Consummate.
Postulate.
Be my mate.

Never relate,
’cause I don’t,
prostrate.
Don’t believe in fate,
’cause it’s a
slave-state.