We regret that you are too late.
You call this a “first contact mission” and I understand your excitement, I assure you. We have ancient records detailing the importance of such events. You have not, however, contacted a previously-unknown-to-you race of sentient beings. We hope you are not too disappointed.
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Note: All transport vehicles of this period had sophisticated automatic piloting systems which were thousands of times safer and more efficient than human pilots. However, it would be several hundred years before a certain type of machismo – which insisted that human pilots were ‘better’ – faded from the human psyche. It was a popular saying among human pilots that they “would rather die at the controls than live under autopilot”. Hundreds of such wishes came true every year, while rates of death as a direct result of autopilot error were statistically insignificant.
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As he approached the airlock, he heard a voice, “I can help you” it said.
A creature stepped into his path, it was a large chicken with steel feathers and a sword beak. It was menacing in appearance, but not threatening. “Your legs, your lungs, your heart,” the chicken said, “I can fix them for you.”
“What do you want in return?” the prince asked, knowing that nothing was ever given freely by strangers.
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Note: While no crime was punished with death at any point in the history of the Sol-Council, treason was still a most serious crime, and carried with it the most severe punishment allowed by the Sol Constitution: life-time location monitoring and permanent revocation of all voting rights. However, Agent Serano is bluffing here. It would take a lot more than interfering in an SCSG operation to be convicted of treason, but Doctor Granger likely doesn’t know that.
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“Is that right?” Will asked without turning from his work. They were at a critical stage in the reaction of the current formula.
“Yes! Through you, I’ve found a new appreciation for Human science,” Haalax continued, “Perhaps you are good for more than just one thing, after all.” He laughed.
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My story “Cowboy for Life” is in the Spring/Summer 2016 issue of Corvus Review
Note: Doctor Granger’s gold sash was the ceremonial badge of office for the Martian Minister of Science, though usually only worn at graduation ceremonies and government functions. The rest of his outfit – including the solid gold, lensless, pince-nez frames – was just personal eccentricity.
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With renewed vigor, the two continued their search. Morning light began to pour in through the high, cobweb-dimmed windows of the room. One of them sneezed, and dust which was once a roll of parchment scattered across the room in a rolling cloud.
“Sorry,” one said to the other, “I hope that wasn’t the one we needed.”
“The world shall not be undone by a sneeze,” the other said in response, “Keep reading.”
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Note: The Martian Minister of Science was the highest scientific authority on Mars. Despite the sound of the name however, the position was not part of the government. The title was given to the head of the College of Sciences at the Martian Collegium. For a long time, before the foundation of the Sol Council, the Martian Collegium had been the highest authority on Mars, as it had built up around the original research stations that were the first settlements on the planet, and most residents had been in the Collegium’s employ at the time. Even after the Sol Council was in place, many residents still defered to the Collegium authority rather than their distant elected officials in the Sol capitol of Luna Prime.