June 2018


“Honey, it’s just a little spider! Nothing to be afraid of. He wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

“Yes he would! He would hurt a fly! Hurting flies is basically what spiders DO! They paralyze them and suck out their still-living juices, and I want it out of my house!”

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“You’ve got to be especially careful of folks who project that kind of field,” Adams said. “They’re bad mojo.”

“Give me an example,” said Calhoun.

“There was this one guy, way back when, who was a private detective–you know, back when that was a thing you could do. Well, his field was especially strong, and it meant that he always found what he expected to find–in this case, murder.”

“He murdered people ith his distortion field?” Calhoun said. “That desn’t sound right.”

“No, no, no, he didn’t murder anyone. His certainty that there would be murder caused murders to happen. Always in a natural organic way, too. Simmering things would come to a head, someone would see something they weren’t supposed to, and then bam!”

“And how would anyone have known this was going on?” Calhoun said. “Murders happen all the time.”

“Yes, but a murder happened literally everywhere this detective went. In boats. In midair. Abroad, in whatever country he visited. At a certain point, someone ran the numbers after he died. The possibility of coincidence was statistically insignificant.”

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Q: Why did they put Susie on the cello without training her on a smaller string instrument first?

A: They didn’t want a history of violins on her permanent record.

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ADMIRALTY ORDERS
To: Commander, USACV Magellan II

Intercept luxury cruise liner USACV Arcadian Dream, which is seven weeks overdue at its station. A monitor buoy intercepted a garbled navigational beacon from the vessel two days ago which appears to indicate it is in orbit around Samh, (Upsilon Andromedae C), a Class III gas giant that is far outside any flight plan on file.

USACV Magellan II is hereby authorized to locate INV Arcadian Dream and to attempt rescue of any surviving passengers. If the ship is navigable, salvage is authorized. The Admiralty is pleased to offer a 20% salvage rate on the ship if recovered, and a 150% search-and-rescue stipend per passenger. If neither passengers nor vessel can be recovered, any relevant logs or other information for inquiry will be compensated at the standard rate.

NOTE: Among the passengers aboard the INV Arcadian Dream was one Noura Al-Rashid and her husband Kamau Magana. As Noura is the heir apparent to the Al-Rashid Interstellar Mining Corporation, married to the younger brother of the USACV Ambassador, their status and disposition are of paramount importance. If it becomes necessary to triage resources, they are to be considered a top priority for rescue and/or investigation.

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“I hope this does not disturb you.” Goqowy preferred to keep his eye tentacles withdrawn when they were thinking, only extending them from their central mass and taking in visual information when they had a question or were ready to make a statement. “I’ve been told that some do not know where to look when I have withdrawn my eyes. I personally suggest looking at my center of mass, but I make no judgments if you choose to look elsewhere. After all, how would I know?”

“It’s less a question of where to look than it is a question of what to do, Dr. Goqowy,” Célia said. “I hope you understand that these ethical charges are very serious.”

“And I hope you understand the value of the work we are doing here,” Goqowy replied. “Myopic focus on research and development is the only way to progress understanding. All other considerations are secondary. I can also function as a convenient scapegoat, if you like. Blame me for any ethical oversights, and I will not be perturbed in the least.”

“But this is the sort of thing that gets people up in arms,” said Célia. “Vivisection of sentient beings? Lack of informed consent? Pressure testing, and-”

“Very well, I see that you are going to insist on being tiresome.” Goqowy extended his tentacles, displaying both his color eyes and his light/dark eyes. “If your people are not interested in my research, I have an offer on file from Rigel IX. They have offered me a lab with full equipment and leave to continue any research. Only inertia and the bother of moving have kept me here. If you like, I can take them up on this offer, which includes my staff and in-progress data.”

Célia, flabbergasted, could only stutter “B-but…!”

“I learned long ago that the ignorant are constantly interested in betraying the best interests of science and learning,” Goqowy continued. “I never start a new position without a firm offer for another in reserve. It’s hoe I came to be here. Now, if there’s nothing else, I have to dissect someone in an hour.”

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Iabu IV was a world uniquely suited to colonization by both the human and ob’Thu peoples, with conditions very favorable to one at the terminator and very favorable to the other at both poles, though both could exist with some discomfort elsewhere. A strategic world in the rivalry between the two great powers in the Local Cluster, it was also the unlikely birthplace of a third, the iphigenids, which would eventually come to dominate the sector for a time despite a population that never exceeded 100,000.

The ob’Thu colony leader on Iabu IV sought to gain an advantage through a Trojan horse of sorts; using the very mature ob’Thu bioengineering infrastructure, it created a being that had the external appearance of a human but with an ob-Thu anatomy, with a consciousness and environmental tolerances that could easily exist in both spheres. This being, Iphigenia, was offered as an ambassador to bridge the gap between the two colonies.

In reality, she was a powerful telepath and intended as a tool for espionage.

Iphigenia proved to be far more resourceful than the ob’Thu had intended, however, and engineered a coup that placed the entire world in her hands. Positioning herself as the high priestess of a new caeseropapist order, Iphigenia then created “children” using the same basic template; these children were different in that they were capable of reproduction and bred true. They were also capable of mating with humans and exchanging quasiplasmids like ob’Thu. The resultant offspring possessed the unique bioengineered combined consciousness but otherwise resembled “full-blooded” members of either species, albeit with total sterility.

In this way, the iphigenids were able to infiltrate, topple, and control a third of the colonial governments in the Local Group in less than a generation. Both human and ob’Thu regarded them as an existential threat but failed to unify against them, and it was not until the Demicide Wars that their sectors were captured, though rumors persist even today of iphigenids in hiding.

Their rule left a mixed legacy. Other than the requirement to offer allegiance, moderate taxes, and religious primacy, the iphigenids asked little of their subjects and did much to improve infrastructure and reduce infighting. However, their attempts to integrate humans and ob’Thu into a single society was an abject failure, and intense sustained violence between the two–followed by brutal reprisals from the iphigenids–marred their legacy for many. There is also no dispute that they saw themselves as innately superior to those under their rule, and had very condescending attitudes toward human and ob’Thu alike.

They also tightly controlled their own reproduction and ruthlessly killed all but the fittest of their children, leaving them highly vulnerable to population bottlenecking and forfeiting any chance of ever out-competing the more fecund humans and ob’Thu. But their claim of superiority resonated with many, and to this day they are still worshiped by some–in fact, the worship of iphigenids is still the largest faith among the ob’Thu, who did not have any native spirituality to speak of.

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