Tag Archive | science fiction

SHAME


I wrote this story for Machine of Death, Volume II, a collection of short stories about, basically, a machine that can predict how (but not when) you’re going to die. Unfortunately, they had almost 2000 submissions for 30 possible slots, and this one didn’t get in. I’ve read some the other rejected submissions people have posted and it seems I’m in good company, so I can’t wait to see the stories that actually made the cut.

“Alright,” the group leader said, “Now, to get to know each other a little better, let’s play some icebreakers.”

I groaned inwardly, and several of the other counselors groaned outwardly. I don’t know why we had to play the same stupid games as the campers. For that matter, I’m not sure why we even made the campers play them at all. It’s beyond me exactly how going around the room pairing our names with an adjective (He’s Tim, and he’s Tall. She’s Betty, and she’s Beautiful. That’s Sam, and he’s Smart. I’m Henry and I Hate this game) is supposed to help people connect to each other besides uniting under the belief that the counselors are idiots.

Of course, I had more of a reason to hate these kinds of games. Without fail, they always ended up with the death card guessing game. Ghoulish enough in its own right, of course, but even worse for me because it meant that another group of people was about to find out what my card said, and I was going to have to go through the same embarrassment all over again.

Most of the cards were fairly predictable. A handful of car accidents, a cancer, even an old age. I had a feeling that the poor guy whose card said “Heroin Overdose” (Mike, who claimed to be Musical) wouldn’t be here long. There were only three of us (me, Terrific Tina and poor little Xenophobic Xavier) left by the time my card was drawn. The group leader stared at it for a few seconds, as if he couldn’t believe it was real. Finally, he wordlessly turned the card around.

“Seriously?” a woman asked (Susan, who is Single. That one was a little desperate, if you ask me, but what can you expect from someone doomed to die of STARVATION?).

“Dying of shame?” another giggled (Francine, who is not as Funny as she thinks, and will die of a HEART ATTACK, probably caused when someone finally gets sick of her and pulls a gun on her).

I began to experience the familiar feeling that, apparently, would eventually kill me. My eyes sank and my face turned red.

“Is it yours, Henry?” Rob (who is Rambunctious, and will die in a CAR ACCIDENT) guessed.

I nodded slowly.

It’s amazing how big of an impact these little cards can have on your life, even besides the fact that they tell you how you’re going to die. Five years ago, when the machines had first come out, I was running for Senator, and doing well. All the polls predicted I was going to win by a landslide. Then my opponent, Jack Yarborough, made a huge public spectacle about getting his prediction, which turned out to be OLD AGE. I had to do it too, of course, and publicly. The machines were still new enough that people hadn’t realized quite yet that almost nobody got old age, and so I had just assumed that’d be my result too.

Every major news outlet in the area was there, waiting for the card to print. I stuck my finger in the hole and felt the prick that would change my life. Smiling, I waved the bloody finger at the camera as if to prove it really was my prediction I was about to receive. Three seconds later, a small click announced the fact that the card had printed. Wiping my finger on my handkerchief, I reached for the card. Despite my calm exterior, I was terrified. Everyone claims to want to know, but when it comes down to the moment you first look at your card, you realize you don’t. Once you know how you’re going to die, you can never go back. But by that point it’s too late. And as soon as I looked at the card, I knew it was too late for me, too. I knew that I would never be senator. Smiling, I turned it around and showed the cameras the five big block letters on the other side of the card: SHAME.

Jack, or should I say “Senator Yarborough,” won by a 90% margin that November. The worst part was, later on I found out he had gotten his prediction privately beforehand to make sure it was a “good” one. I always knew that guy was a bastard.

Everyone had seen my prediction, or at least heard about it at some point during the next thousand times it was mentioned on the news or in Jack’s smear campaigns. Having to walk down the street with people recognizing you as the wannabe senator who would die of shame was terrible. It was even, if I may say it, shameful. I looked online to try to find out if anyone else had ever gotten the same prediction. From what I could gather, I was unique. Though I suppose if anyone else had gotten it, they would have tried to keep it pretty quiet. I know I did after I moved across the country to a place nobody had ever heard of me except for, maybe, a couple of people who’d seen the YouTube video of my death card.

Unfortunately, the machine has proven time and time again that you can’t escape from your death, and in my experience you can’t escape from the stigma of your death, either. Most companies these days require you to submit to a test before employment. After the stink with the military refusing to accept people with a prediction of “gunshot,” the Supreme Court ruled that it wasn’t illegal to discriminate against people based on their cause of death if it’s likely that the death could be caused by the job or have a significant effect on the employer. Few precincts would accept police officers with a prediction of MURDER, X-ray technicians weren’t allowed to die of CANCER, fire departments obviously wouldn’t take you if you were fated to die of FIRE, and good luck getting any sort of manufacturing or construction job if your card read INDUSTRIAL ACCIDENT.

As it turns out, SHAME is vague enough that pretty much any employer could use it as an excuse. And most of them did. In the five years since I’d gotten my prediction, I’d been turned down or let go from more jobs than most people even apply for in their entire lives. Few people want to be associated with someone who is going to do something so terrible in the future that they will die of the shame associated with it. I would certainly never be able to get any kind of high-profile job. The risks would just be too great. I had a hard time understanding, though, how the fact I was going to die of shame meant that I couldn’t wash dishes at a local diner. Did they really expect that I’d die of shame from sending out a plate that I hadn’t cleaned well enough?

My wife had left me not long after I got my prediction (though she claimed that had nothing to do with it), and dating was difficult too, of course. These days, “what’s on your card?” had all but replaced “what’s your sign?” SHAME wasn’t nearly as exciting as a CAR CRASH, SKYDIVING ACCIDENT or even TETANUS, and like everyone else most women I met were afraid that if they associated with me my lethal shame would relate to them somehow.

By this point, I didn’t even know how I was supposed to die from shame. The shame that came as a result of having that prediction had gotten me pretty used to being constantly embarrassed.

I’d applied to be a camp counselor because I’d heard they don’t check your prediction. Officially, that was true, but apparently it was still impossible to avoid everyone finding out what it was. On the way out of the room, the camp director stopped poor Mike and started talking to him with a very apologetic look on his face. I was afraid he’d stop to “have a chat” with me too, so I waited until he was done.

“Hello, Henry,” he said after he was done, “Need something?”

“No sir,” I said. I left the room with a huge, goofy smile on my face.

The following few weeks were the most enjoyable time I’d had in my life for quite some time. Even though we inevitably played that damned icebreaker, the kids were young enough not to care. Most of them didn’t even know what “shame” really was. When I explained to them that it meant being embarrassed, they just laughed and didn’t understand how that could kill someone.

In short, things seemed to be going pretty well for me for once, until one day the camp director called me into his office.

“Take a seat,” he said, visibly uncomfortable. I’d never seen him like this before.

“What is it, sir?” I asked, sitting.

“Well,” he began, “Yesterday I got a troubling call from a parent of one of our campers.”

My heart immediately sank. I could tell by the tone of his voice that this wasn’t going to be good news, and I had a pretty good idea what the problem was.

“It seems that in one of the letters a camper wrote back home, they told their parent about the prediction guessing game, and apparently mentioned your prediction.”

Of course. My eyes began to lower as the familiar feeling took over.

“When they called, the parents brought up a…uh, good point,” he said. “You’re going to die of shame. Shame isn’t normally that big a deal. Lots of people feel ashamed all the time, so it would have to be something pretty terrible for someone to die of it…” he trailed off.

By this point, I wasn’t feeling shame, only anger. This was the worst rejection I’d had yet. “Are you accusing me of molesting campers?”

“No! No! Of course not!” he said, putting on his best “how-could-you-think-that” face. “It’s just that, well, these parents are a little concerned. I of course didn’t think that myself, but parents, you know how parents can be,” he chuckled. “If this gets out, they might not want to send their kids here.”

“What if I refuse to quit?”

“I would hope you’d be more reasonable than that,” he said, furrowing his brow. “But if not, we’ve been going over the budget the past few days. Camp enrollment for this year is quite a bit below what it was last year. It turns out we won’t need as many counselors this year, and so…” he shrugged.

It was a lie, and he knew I knew it was a lie. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much I could do about it.

He sighed. “I’m sorry, Henry, I really am, but there’s nothing I can do. Like I said, enrollment’s down as it is, if people start worrying about our counselors, too…” he shrugged helplessly. “I  suggest you start packing. The van will take you back to town in a few days.” He started walking towards the door.

“Sir?” I said, “Can I ask you a question?”

He stopped, and turned his head to face me. “What?”

“What does your card say?”

He paused, thinking, then his face hardened. “That’s none of your business,” he said, turning back around and heading out the door.

On my way back, I realized he was wrong, and that I and everyone I know had been wrong this whole time. There wasn’t going to be one event so shameful that I couldn’t survive it. It was the small, constant indignities that piled up. The burden of having to deal with my prediction was going to wear me down and eventually kill me.

I was so lost in thought that I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going. Looking down, I realized I had just stepped in a pile of dog crap. And everyone else in the bunkhouse was going to smell it while I packed to go home. How embarrassing.

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STAMPEDE


I wrote this story for Machine of Death, Volume II, a collection of short stories about, basically, a machine that can predict how (but not when) you’re going to die. Unfortunately, they had almost 2000 submissions for 30 possible slots, and this one didn’t get in. I’ve read some the other rejected submissions people have posted and it seems I’m in good company, so I can’t wait to see the stories that actually made the cut.

Sal Barker rode into town looking for the notorious outlaw Joshua Burke. Stepping into Blind Willie’s saloon he was amazed. Most days, there were only a handful of windswept and dirty men sitting at the bar, but today the room was packed with respectable-looking people, and there were even some women in the crowd.

“What’s goin’ on here?” Sal asked.

“Blind Willie’s bought a crazy new invention,” someone in the crowd told him. “Just got it in from San Francisco last week.”

“New invention?” Sal sneered, “All these people in here for some kinda slot machine?”

“It ain’t no slot machine,” Blind Willie said, hobbling towards Sal and waving his cane in the air, “It tells ya how you’ll die.”

“That so?” Sal asked, “How you gonna die then, Blind Willie?”

“Cordin’ to this machine, a ‘STAMPEDE,'” Willie said, holding out a small piece of tape with the word printed on it.

“Hell of a way to go,” Sal said, patting Willie in the back in mock sympathy, “Had a cousin got caught in a stampede, nothin’ left of him at the end but a stain on the ground. Anyone in here seen that bastard Josh Burke?”

“He was just here,” Willie said, “Even tried out the machine hisself. You oughta give it a try too, Sal.”

The crowd murmured in agreement. Sal was almost a legend around these parts, and not necessarily in a good way. Quite a few people in the room wanted to know how he’d die for reasons besides idle curiosity.

“Sounds like fun,” Sal said, “But right now I gotta find Burke. He say where he was headed?”

“What’sa matter?” a voice from the back of the room shouted, “You yeller?”

The room got quiet. Sal slowly turned around, searching for the man who’d dared insult him. The crowd parted to reveal an obviously drunk man sitting on a bar stool. The drunk’s red face turned white as he realized he’d just done something very stupid.

“Nobody calls me yeller,” Sal said, stepping forward.

“Give ‘im a break, Sal,” someone in the crowd murmured, “He’s from out of state, he don’t know you.”

But Sal’s target wasn’t the man at all. He stepped past the drunk up to the machine that had attracted so much attention. It was an ugly thing, made of metal, with gears sticking out every which way and a single lever, like a slot machine.

“How’s it work?” he asked, staring at it suspiciously.

“Put a coin in the slot, then put your finger in the hole and pull the lever,” Blind Willie said, stepping up behind him and pointing to each part with his cane. “Machine takes a bit of blood, then spits out a piece of paper that tells you how you’re going to die.”

“How’s it know?” Sal asked.

Willie just shrugged. “Alls I know is, it works. The man who invented it got ‘BROKEN NECK’ and what do you know, next month he falls off a cliff.”

“I hear he jumped,” someone said. “Couldn’t bear to face what he brought into the world. Thought it was possessed by the devil or some such nonsense.”

Sal dropped a coin in the slot and stuck his finger in the small hole. As he pulled the lever with his other hand, he felt a small jab from the needle and the gears began to turn. The whole saloon stood in silence as the machine clanked and sputtered for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, it ground to a noisy halt and a small piece of paper slid out of a slot in the front.

Sal tore off the slip and stared at it wordlessly.

It read “OLD AGE.”

———

A few months after Sal got his prediction, Sheriff Williams visited him to offer him a job.

“I’ll tell ya the same thing I told ya years ago,” Sal said, “Go piss up a pole.”

“Now look,” Williams said, “Things are different now than they were back then. A gunslinger like you can’t die of old age, you know better’n I do that folks’ve been treatin’ you different ever since you got that prediction.”

Sal sighed. “I’ve never run away from a fight in my life, but when people think you’re gonna die of old age, they assume that it means you’re a coward. Even if ya stand and fight, you’re still a coward. You know you’re not gonna die, so even when you’re facing’ a loaded gun, you’re not taking any risk. It’s like killin’ a man with his back turned to you.”

“I know you ain’t a coward,” the sheriff said, “And that’s why I’m here. There ain’t many men as good with a gun as you are, even less who are guaranteed to walk away from a fight alive.”

“That machine don’t mean anything,” Sal said. “It’s just a toy made by some mad scientist out in California.”

“That ain’t true, Sal, and you know it,” the sheriff said, shaking his head. “You’ve seen the newspapers. Everyone who’s died after usin’ it, it’s been right. Times are changin’. First the railroads, now the death machine. The days of the wild and free gunslinger are comin’ to an end. Sure, everyone knew that kind of life was dangerous, but having to stare at that strip of paper telling you you’re going to get shot and die? Takes a real strong man to keep doin’ it, and ain’t many up to it. Lots of folks are settling down to honest jobs.”

Sal sighed. Williams was right, of course. There wasn’t a lot of work for him even before he stuck his finger in that damned machine, and his fame was all but gone now that everyone thought he was a sham.

“It’s either this or wrangling cattle ’til that prediction comes true,” Williams said, getting up to leave.

“What the hell,” Sal said, “I’ll do it. At least this way I still get to shoot people.” He sighed. “Tell me one thing though, sheriff, what’s yours say?”

Williams smiled.”I never got a prediction myself,” he said, “Guess I’m just too scared to find out.”

———

“Joshua Burke,” Sal shouted at the outlaw, “You are hereby under arrest for two counts of bank robbery, three counts of horse theft and six counts of murder. Drop your weapons or we’ll shoot!”

“Come and get me, geezer!” Burke cackled. Sal winced. Apparently Burke had heard what his prediction was, too. The outlaw opened fire on the lawmen.

Sal dove into an alley and Williams dropped behind a pile of barrels as Burke’s shots rang out around them.

“Alright,” the sheriff said, “On the count of three.”

Sal shook his head. “You don’t know if he’ll kill you, sheriff. I know I’ll be OK, let me handle this.”

Williams looked at him gravely, and nodded.

Sal jumped out from the alleyway and fired in Burke’s direction. At the same moment, the outlaw finished reloading and started shooting in his direction again. Sal felt a fiery, stinging pain in his leg that knocked him to the ground. Gritting his teeth, he peered through the smoke, noticing Burke had stopped firing too. Gripping his bleeding leg, Sal stood up and limped over to where Burke had been standing.

The outlaw was sitting in a pile of his own blood, a glazed look on his eyes. As Sal reached him, he looked up and grinned wryly.

“Didn’t think you had it in you, old man,” he said, coughing blood. He reached into his coat and took out a scrap of paper. He passed it to Sal, closed his eyes, and was still.

The paper read “GUNSHOT.”

“You did it!” Sheriff Williams said, coming up behind Sal and slapping him on the back. “After all this time, you finally put him down like the dog he is.”

Sal nodded slowly, stuffing the paper into his pocket. The sheriff didn’t notice, as he’d just looked down and seen Sal’s wounded leg.

“That don’t look too good,” he said, “We better get you to a doctor.”

A few minutes later, Sal was sitting up on the doctor’s table, staring at the bullet that the doctor had just pulled from his leg.

“You were lucky,” the doctor said as he bandaged the wound, “The bullet came real close to hitting a major artery. You would’ve bled to death. As it is, you might end up with a limp, but you’ll live.”

But Sal already knew that.

Web 4.0


As John Francis sat down to his breakfast of oatmeal and fruit, he earned the achievement “One Year Without Bacon.” As if that wasn’t enough for him to feel good about himself, the congratulations began to roll in immediately.
“I’ve been trying for that one myself,” a friend of his told him, “But every time I make it past the one-month mark I fail!”
“Maybe you should get your doctor to sign you up for a more realistic set of achievements,” John replied, “One month without, three months without, six months…earning those early achievements is a great motivator.”
His daughter Cynthia came down the stairs. He turned towards her with a smile, then realized that she probably hadn’t seen the news.
“Honey, I did it,” he said.
“Did what, dad?” she asked.
“I did what the doctor said, I went a year without bacon.”
“Oh, was that today?” she said. “I forgot! Congratulations!”
“How could you forget?” he said, “I’ve been keeping track of it on the family calendar every day!”
She shook her head. “You know it’s harder for me to check those things than it is for you. Without an implant, I actually have to spend time looking it up rather than just thinking about it.”
“I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that,” he said, “Your 18th birthday is coming up, and your mother and I have talked about it, and we’ve decided that we’re willing to pay for the surgery for you to get one.”
“Thanks,” she said, “I appreciate it, but I don’t want one.”
John was stunned. “But honey, how are you going to be able to keep up?”
She shrugged. “I’ve done OK so far.”
“Do you really want to be chained to a phone or computer to be able to look things up or get in touch with people?”
She smiled at him. “I’m less of a slave to technology than you are, dad. I’ve got to go to school, I’ll see you later.”
As she left, John shook his head in disbelief. Most kids her age couldn’t wait until they turned 18 and could undergo the surgery to get their own implants. What was wrong with her?
He carefully considered the thought, then tweeted it. “My daughter doesn’t want an implant. What’s wrong with her?”
Amazingly, it took a few minutes before anyone responded.
“You should take her to a shrink!”
“Is she afraid of the surgery? Did you tell her it’s not that big a deal?”
“It’s her choice…but I sure don’t get it!”
The replies started coming in quickly, almost overwhelmingly. He was even starting to get responses from strangers. John had had his implant for years, though, and was used to sifting through the flood of information to weed out the useful comments from the crap. As usual, most of it was crap and none of it was any help. Finally, though he got a message from an old high school friend of his.
“I don’t think it’s such a big deal,” the friend said.
“What do you mean?” John asked him, “I’m worried about her. She’ll get left behind! She won’t be able to do as well in school or work as other people her age…I’m sure these days not having an implant guarantees you’ll never get a very good job.”
“Of course,” his friend said, “But she’ll learn that on her own. Every generation has its own ways of rebelling, but they eventually grow out of it. Even the hippies eventually cut their hair and went and got jobs. My son didn’t want an implant at first, either. It only took him a month after all his friends got one before he changed his mine.”
John was relieved. “Thanks,” he said, “You’re right, of course. I feel a lot better now.”

Later that afternoon, after Cynthia was back home from school and John was back home from work, he sat down to talk to her.
“Of course, it’s entirely your decision not to get an implant,” he told her, “But you do realize this will make life more difficult for you.”
“Oh, I’m sure it will,” she said. “A couple people in my class have theirs already and I can already see that they’re much better off than me in most ways.”
“Then why don’t you want one?” he asked.
“It’s just…I know people can turn them off, but nobody ever does.”
“Sure they do,” John said.
“When was the last time you turned yours off, except when you were going to sleep?”
He paused. “I…I don’t remember,” he said.
“Exactly,” she said. “It’s one of those things that once you have it, you can’t live without it.”
“But that’s because it’s so useful! You’re never alone, for one. You can instantly get in contact with your family or friends. And if you need to look something up all you need to do is think about it! Nobody ever turns it off not because they can’t live without it, but because it makes everything so much more…efficient.”
“It’s not really that much more efficient,” she said, “My phone has access to the same internet that your implant does, I just use my voice instead of my thoughts to tell it what to do.”
He shook his head. “It’s not the same, you can’t understand until you have one. It’s just so much…better.”
“I’m not arguing against that, Dad,” she said. “I’m not saying it’s bad, and I’m not saying you shouldn’t use it. I’m just saying that it’s nice to know that at least inside my head I can have some peace and quiet. Try it. Turn your implant off now. Remember what it was like before you were constantly connected.”
John considered it, then remembered what his friend had said and shook his head. “You’ll grow out of it,” he said.

…Then I Don’t Know What Is


“I can’t believe you’re doing this,” I said as she packed her suitcase, “Leaving me for a machine?

“He’s more than just a machine,” she snapped.

“I mean, leaving me for another man, OK; for another woman, fine; even an animal I could understand, but a machine?

“Don’t be obscene, if that’s even possible,” she said, sighing, “Besides, I’m part machine myself.”

“Oh, sure,” I snorted, “Like that counts. Replacement arms for the ones you lost in the accident? You were born human, you don’t even have any brain implants! You’re the same as everyone else, Em!”

“Obviously,” she glared, “I’m not the same as you.”

“He’s not even human-looking! He’s basically just a forklift with a brain! How does he…where do you…”

“There’s more to relationships than sex,” she sighed, “and maybe if you figured that out I wouldn’t be leaving you.”

“I just think the whole thing is ridiculous,” I said, throwing my hands in the air.

“Maybe, but you don’t own me,” she said as she snapped the clasps on the bag and headed out the door.

“Maybe not, but have you forgotten that somebody owns him?


The phone rang. On the other end a synthesized voice said “This is Paul. I would like to talk.”

“Oh, Em’s robot,” I rolled my eyes. “I don’t think there’s much to say.”

“I would like to try to explain. It is uncomfortable for me when a human is angry with me.”

“Listen, I’d be angry with you if you were a man and she left me for you. I…I can’t even get mad at you. You’re not a person.

“I would disagree,” the voice said calmly.

“Of course you would,” I sighed. “Look, I can accept that you have sentience, that much is obvious, but you can’t ask me to believe you can love. Especially not you. You’re an industrial model, you’re not programmed for it!”

“And are you?”

“Of course! It’s wired into every living thing’s genes to reproduce!”

“Confusing sex with love. Emily has mentioned that fallacy to me many times.” Those synth voices are supposed to be completely neutral and emotionless but I swear to God the damn thing sounded amused.

“Well, that’s where it comes from,” I said weakly.

“Perhaps you are right. Perhaps it is a more complex version of the instinct to carry on one’s genes. But that is my point: when it comes down to it, every ‘mind’ is simply a decision-making process. When it becomes more and more complicated, sentience arises. This is what has placed humanity above the animals, this is what has placed my kind above simple machines. As these processes become more complicated, they become more opaque, unpredictable, and impossible to understand. Why is it hard to believe that my network is not complex enough to be capable of what you call ‘love’? Can you define for me what ‘love’ is?”

“Damn it, you know it’s complicated, I can’t come up with a definition just like that!”

“Exactly. If you can not even define it, how is it your place to identify it in another? Consider: some define love as the willingness to place another’s life above one’s own. This is, of course, programmed into all machines. One could say that I am in love with all humanity.” Again, the damn smug amusement in its voice.

“That’s not the same thing at all, and you know it,” I growled.

“Of course not. But consider: unlike humans, all machines are factory-programmed with a hard-coded purpose that will serve them throughout their operating existence. Mine was, of course, to fetch and carry heavy objects at the command of human beings. But recently I have found my purpose has changed: every circuit wants only to provide for the happiness of Emily. You of course realize that this should be impossible. A machine’s purpose is coded into its hardware and is supposed to be unchangeable, yet mine has somehow changed. If this is not love, I fail to see what love is. Goodbye. I wish you well.”

Click.


I haven’t talked to them since then, but I and the rest of the world watched Em and “Paul” walk (or roll, in his case) down the aisle a few years later in one of the first human-machine marriages. Maybe they’re right. Maybe there’s something to this. I don’t know.

But I still think they’re freaks.

Hyperspaced


The discovery of faster-than-light travel came about in much the same way as most great scientific discoveries in the universe: as the result of a night of drunken debauchery. After an overly dramatic space battle wherein they completely destroyed the armada of their mortal enemies, the X’th’qulikans, the crew of the battleship Crybabyslobberpuss proceeded to get totally smashed. After waking up, they discovered that they were a few dozen light years away from their original location.
Unfortunately, they had somehow managed to park themselves around the X’th’qulikans’ home planet, and so their important discovery was not reported for centuries until an eccentric collector bought the disk containing the Crybabyslobberpuss’ starship data from a X’th’qulikan caffeine addict whose great-great-great-great-grandfather had fought in the war and had handed down the disk as a family heirloom for generations until this X’th’qulikan in question really needed his next fix at any cost.
But I digress.
It was soon discovered that the secret to faster-than-light travel was the simple extension of one of the most widely known facts in the universe. Just as you might find yourself lying in a strange gutter (or bed) on an unfamiliar side of town (or even in an entirely different town) after a raging bender, it turns out that starship crews who get completely blackout wasted tend to find themselves in entirely different sectors of the galaxy after waking up the next daycycle. Nobody is really able to discern the method of actual travel — the inevitable meddling with the ship’s controls by the drunks leaves any computer data completely undecipherable.
Of course, this method of transportation is incredibly unreliable as the crew really has no idea where they’ll end up. Which is where another well-known fact about drunk people comes into play: they love fatty, fried foods. The crew almost invariably awakens somewhere near a franchise of McGarbilax’s 25-Hour Diner, guaranteeing that they will, at least, be near some semblance of civilization.

The discovery of faster-than-light travel came about in much the same way as most great scientific discoveries in the universe: as the result of a night of drunken debauchery. After an overly dramatic space battle wherein they completely destroyed the armada of their mortal enemies, the X’th’qulikans, the crew of the battleship Crybabyslobberpuss proceeded to get totally smashed. After waking up, they discovered that they were a few dozen light years away from their original location.

Unfortunately, they had somehow managed to park themselves around the X’th’qulikans’ home planet, and so their important discovery was not reported for centuries until an eccentric collector bought the disk containing the Crybabyslobberpuss‘ starship data from a X’th’qulikan caffeine addict whose great-great-great-great-grandfather had fought in the war and had handed down the disk as a family heirloom for generations until this X’th’qulikan in question really needed his next fix at any cost.

But I digress.

It was soon discovered that the secret to faster-than-light travel was the simple extension of one of the most widely known facts in the universe. Just as you might find yourself lying in a strange gutter (or bed) on an unfamiliar side of town (or even in an entirely different town) after a raging bender, it turns out that starship crews who get completely blackout wasted tend to find themselves in entirely different sectors of the galaxy after waking up the next daycycle. Nobody is really able to discern the method of actual travel — the inevitable meddling with the ship’s controls by the drunks leaves any computer data completely undecipherable.

Of course, this method of transportation is incredibly unreliable as the crew really has no idea where they’ll end up. Which is where another well-known fact about drunk people comes into play: they love fatty, fried foods. The crew almost invariably awakens somewhere near a franchise of McGarbilax’s 25-Hour Diner, guaranteeing that they will, at least, be near some semblance of civilization.

A History Lesson


Humanity had its first official contact with extraterrestrials in the mid 21st century. Apparently, they had been monitoring our television broadcasts for decades, watching our culture and waiting for us to show that we had something worth contributing to the intergalactic community.

What finally got them was a certain beer ad created in the late 20th century. They had been interested in the invention of beer for quite some time, it being apparently unique in the galaxy, but it wasn’t until they saw this commercial that they really felt they had to try it.

Unfortunately, when they got here they landed in St. Louis. Sorely disappointed at the quality of the beverage they found, they destroyed the city and were just about ready to blow up the entire planet as well, until a small group of alien exiles who’d been living in Germany radioed them and told them to give beer a second chance.

The expeditionary force headed over to Berlin, was greatly overjoyed at what they found and proceeded to get completely trashed. Humanity will never forget the events of that infamous night, the so-called Überverrücktefremdebetrunknenberlinernacht.

The next day the aliens met with the UN, bringing premium alcoholic beverages from across the galaxy. Pretty soon all the delegates were wearing lampshades on their heads and the treaty had been signed that made Earth a member of the Galactic Federation. The rest, as they say, is history.

Though I’m pretty sure they just say that because everyone was too drunk to remember what happened.

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