Maximum Warp, Chapter 1: First Contact

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Maximum Warp
Chapter One: First Contact

I hefted the pack on my shoulders and groaned. Seems like every year it gets harder. I told myself firmly that the first couple days were always tough, that way. By day four, I’d be fine.

Sure I would.

I tightened the straps some, cinched the waist strap in a bit more, took a mouthful of water, then checked to make sure my Subaru Forester, now coated liberally with dust from the dirt access road, was locked. I growled, “stop stallin’, old man!” Then I picked up my walking stick and stepped off. Next stop – hopefully – would be the granite and hardwoods of Sage’s Ravine.

About fifteen minutes in, I met up with the Appalachian Trail and paused to tighten laces and grumble at myself. Shoulda hit the junction in more like ten minutes, I thought. But truly, it was a mild enough grumble. It was a beautiful day in early June, I had turned in all my grades and wouldn’t have to read or listen to any students butcher the English language for almost three months. If I was really lucky, I wouldn’t have to listen to much conversation at all.

My colleague Janet Seldon, who taught generations of bored students the joys of 19th Century American Literature, always said that the students kept her young. And I suppose that they had; Janet and I were contemporaries who were hired, and even got tenure, the same year, but anyone who saw or heard us today would swear she was fifteen years younger than me. Because students didn’t keep me young. They kept me frustrated, and increasingly aware of my age.

I’m a professor of linguistics – sorry, make that “The Carter Cecil Jackson Distinguished Professor of Linguistics” – at Gryphon College, one of New England’s plethora of institutions of higher education devoted to the liberal arts. My special area of study is linguistic drift – how language changes over time. So I should be excited to see evidence of it doing so in “real time,” to use a modern expression. But it stopped being fun and interesting with the advent of modern communication forms like text messaging and instant messaging. Language wasn’t just drifting anymore; it was disintegrating. I shook my head. “Kids dees days,” I grumbled.

Enough of that! It was a beautiful day, summer vacation was only just beginning, and there were no other humans in sight. The gentleman whose hindquarters graced the Carter Cecil Jackson Chair was going to take a long, long walk!

* * * * *

It had taken me a bit longer than I had hoped, but the fifth night after I started my trek found me warming my hands over a small campfire a couple miles from the summit of Mount Greylock, the night sky occluded by the surrounding forest of dark spruce. I was tired and a bang I’d gotten on my right ankle ached. But, as I had hoped, I'd managed to work out the kinks that come from too many hours behind a desk every day. And, my body no longer grumbled quite so hard about the lean rations. Nine months a year to get soft, three months to work it off. A doctor would suggest I shoot for a bit more consistency – indeed, quite a few of them had, over the years – but it worked for me and I expected I’d outlive all the damned pill-pushers.

My thoughts meandered as I watched the fire. For the fourth year in a row, the dean had given the bonus money to junior colleagues whom she was trying to “bring along.” “They’re the future, James, and damn, the future’s bright!” I smiled through my gritted teeth. Always the young, the attractive . . . . My years of experience, my eminence within an (admittedly esoteric) field, carried no weight at all. I was five years out from being able to retire; no-one was going to invest in me when the bright, attractive future beckoned. It’s not like I could go off and earn a pile in the private sector.

“We really need an eminent linguist,” said no CEO ever.

Janet Seldon had been indignant for me; said I ought to fight. But I didn’t have a lot of fight left in me, and that made me think that the dean probably was right. Even at 45, James Marshall Wainwright had been a fighter. At 60, not so much. That meandering thought really weighed me down.

I heard a branch snap nearby and became instantly alert. Someone – or something – was out there. Probably some guy who got lost, but in the Northeast woods in June a black bear was a distinct possibility. I made sure that my bear spray was near at hand, cursing that my fire-gazing had completely wrecked my night vision. But what walked into the circle of my fire’s light was a whole lot stranger than a black bear.

“Howdy, old scudder,” said the man in the gray wool suit with the narrow tie. “Share your fire?”

Now, my campsite was two miles’ hike from anything; no one would come out this far wearing a suit and . . . wait. Heels? And what the hell was he saying? Also, and most immediately relevant: no-one shares a fire with strangers in the woods. No-one. I just sat and gaped.

“Cat got your tongue?” he asked, conversationally.

Finally I managed to sputter, “What?” Which probably wasn’t the most intelligent thing to say, but there were extenuating circumstances. Plus, I wondered whether I had finally picked up the wrong mushrooms to throw in tonight’s stew. I prided myself on my foraging skills, but pride goeth before . . . well, it certainly "wenteth" before whatever the hell this was.

Gray suit guy, whose fluffy hair and Burt Reynolds mustache were as much at war with his G-man suit as the red pumps, just looked at me, unperturbed. “Why what?” he asked.

A line from an old movie incongruously sprang into my head, and I muttered, “I guess I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue.” But I managed to pick up the bear spray, hold it with a reasonably steady hand, and say, “Not a step further. I don’t know who the hell you are or what you’re doing here, but you’d better head back to wherever you came from, RIGHT NOW!”

He looked at me owlishly for a moment. “Hold yer taters. I am just an explorer. Boldly going. I am sincere as a $5 funeral.”

I could not place his accent; it seemed like what you would get if you collected a hundred years of English variations and hit “puree.” “You take another step, and I’ll give you that funeral for free,” I growled.

He took the step anyway, and my finger went down on the bear spray. Which, it turns out, is a bad idea around a campfire. Who knew?

“Yahhhhh!” I screamed, as flames charged towards the canister in my hand. I tossed it away, frantically, shaking my slightly singed fingers. I looked up to see that the flame had also caught my unwelcome guest.

One of the arms of his suit was on fire, and his head was wreathed in smoke. Oddly, he seemed unperturbed. He looked at his arm like he wasn’t quite sure what to do.

“Drop and roll, idiot!,” I shouted.

He looked at me curiously, then calmly removed the suit jacket, rolled it up in his hands and dropped it in the fire. His dress shirt, bizarrely, had no sleeves.

Who makes a dress shirt without sleeves?

I’d had enough. “Who the hell are you?” I shouted. “Some sort of space alien?”

Of all things, that finally seemed to get his attention. He jumped across the fire in a single leap, grabbed me with one surprisingly bony hand, and shouted “Two to beam up!” I was still gaping at him as I felt my feet lift off the ground, and both of us were soaring into the night sky at an impossible rate of speed.

“Shit,” I said.

He looked at me strangely. “That would be contraindicated at this time.”

Perhaps, but it was a moot point. I literally had been scared shitless. Passing out, however, seemed like a really good idea, so I did that instead.

* * * *

When I came to, I looked around and shook my head. I had never been a fan of the series, but . . . yeah. The bridge of the starship Enterprise was pretty recognizable. The guys in the chairs weren’t. They looked human, mostly, but I had seen Galaxy Quest. I was going to go with termites.

The one in Kirk’s chair chittered something, and a disembodied voice appeared to translate. “You are restored to consciousness. Correct?”

The disembodied voice was recognizable. “Hey Siri,” I said, “Self-destruct.” I was echoed by the sound of her familiar voice chittering.

The captain figure chittered some more, and Siri’s voice said, “I am not the being, Siri. We have accessed this interface from our ship to improve communications.”

“Oh, aren’t we in for a fun time,” I said. Siri and I don’t get along. “What’s with all the nonsense? If you’re human I’m a rabbit. Why take me, and what’s your game?”

Bold words, I suppose. But I was honestly feeling pretty pissed off. These creatures could probably crush me like a bug, but they seemed like such complete doofuses that they'd probably miss if they tried.

The being chittered some more. Siri said, “I’m sorry, Captain. I didn’t get that.” This made me perversely happy. Maybe Siri didn’t like him either.

More chittering. “I’m sorry, Captain. I have no listing for Starbucks in Estonia.”

“What?” I asked.

“Which what?” asked a voice behind me. I turned and saw that Gray Suit Guy was here as well, sans suit jacket.

More chittering from the guy in the center seat. He appeared to be chittering at one of the other “people,” who made a show of making some adjustments to dials on his phony display panel.

Siri’s voice resumed, presumably translating again. “We are not human. We thought this image might be a useful reference point for you. We are travelers. We did not want to ‘take’ you. Our Worm erred.”

“I did not mistakes,” Gray Suit Guy said. “I carefully studied all transmissions. Maybe this human is defective?” He was looking at me in a very unfriendly way, which was strange because his face was not very expressive.

Chittering from the “Captain,” followed by Siri’s voice: “He is young and learns well. Champion. We sent him to make contact.”

I looked at Gray Suit Guy. “Exactly what did you study?” I asked him.

“The transmissions we receive in deep space. The Evening News With Walter Cronkite. The FBI. Star Trek. The Green Berets. Huntley-Brinkley. Adam-12. Bonanza. All in the Family. 60 Minutes. Dragnet. Mary Tyler Moore. The Wizard of Oz.”

He was going to go on listing them all, but I had the idea. “Oh, lordy,” I said. “I read an article about this, once. How we had been just throwing off all of this electromagnetic garbage since the 1930s, and if anyone ever picked it up, they would get the strangest view of humanity.” Sounds like they picked up a slice from the late sixties or early 70s. Talk about not catching us at our best.

The rest of the article came back to me and I added, quietly. “The authors thought anyone who saw it all would probably figure they needed to come and wipe us out. That what you’re here for?”

Gray Suit Guy digested that for a moment, then said, “Ain’t you startin’ to itch before you git bit? We ain’t threatenin’ no-one.”

“Ah . . . .” I tried to think how to say this diplomatically. “You might want to use the Siri interface, big guy. I hate to say it – you have no idea just how much it pains me to say it – but it might be better.”

Chittering from the Captain’s chair, followed by, “The Worm is our brightest Cadet. I am sure his study will have mastered your language.”

I shook my head at such naivete. “Your planet must be a whole lot older than ours,” I said.

The guy sitting at “Spock’s station” – naturally – broke in to chitter something. Siri translated, “Yes, our sensors indicate that this is the case. Our world is approximately 27.635 million solar years older than the planet we currently orbit. Why is this relevant?”

“If he’s your best and brightest,” I said, pointing to Gray Suit Guy with my chin, “I can’t imagine how you beat us into deep space. Unless you had a wicked long head start.”

Gray Suit Guy said, “Ah, Jeez. Stifle yourself!” The guy in the captain’s chair started chittering again, and waving his arms. He went on chittering for quite a while. I was regretting my snide remark; it really wasn’t fair. Language is HARD. It’s not simple rocket science.

Finally the Siri interface kicked in. In her usual, melodious voice, which failed to convey any emotional content beyond cheerful helpfulness, Siri said, “That will be enough. We want to contact someone about acquiring special materials we have detected below. Ensign Worm was conducting initial scouting. He approached you because you were not near other humans. We needed to see if his studies would allow him to communicate effectively.”

Siri went silent. Grey Suit Guy was watching me, but did not respond. I said, “If you’re asking my opinion . . . my professional opinion . . . he would not be a good choice.”

“Why am I not excellent choice?” Gray Suit Guy – Ensign Worm? – asked. The tone of his voice – which might or might not match his actual intent – was puzzled rather than angry. I decided to assume he got that part right.

“Look,” I said, “It’s not your fault. This is actually my area of expertise. Language. It sounds like you built a database out of a bunch of transmissions from, I don’t know . . . . fifty years ago? What you managed was impressive enough. But it takes human young YEARS to learn the rudiments of their own language.”

Assuming they ever do, I added to myself silently, thinking of those dismal final exams I’d just finished grading. “And someone who tries to learn a second human language – we have lots of languages – can spend years at it and make mistakes no native speaker would make. I don’t know what your language or languages are like, but chances are good they aren’t like ours at ALL. Plus, human languages drift, change, over time, and fifty years is plenty of time to have it happen, believe me.”

There was also the added problem that some of the transmissions included dialogue written by men born in the 1920s who were guessing what people in the 1960s would THINK people in the 1870s – or the 23rd century, for that matter – would sound like. And how was I supposed to explain THAT nuance?

I tried, “a person who would say ‘stifle yourself’ would never say ‘hold your taters.’ Some of your reference materials weren’t using then-standard English. They were pretending to talk like people from 150 years ago.”

Ensign Worm said, “Are you talking through your hat? Why would they do this? Were they attempting to trap rule breaking humans? Like Efram Zimbalist Junior?”

I shook my head, then realized the gesture would mean nothing to them. “No,” I said. “It’s complicated. As a species, we get bored easily. So we come up with ways to keep from being bored. We tell stories. You said, ‘Gunsmoke and Bonanza,’ right? The lines in those scripts – sorry; the things the humans in those transmissions were saying – probably no-one ever talked like that except in a story. If they did, it was so long ago no-one remembers. You’re lucky you picked up an old man like me; at least my Dad used to watch that stuff.”

Siri took a long time chittering my dialogue so that the “Captain” could hear it. Then he chittered for a bit, and Siri took up his words. “We want materials. Will you help us get them?”

“I’m not a prospector,” I replied. “If you need a professor of linguistics, I can probably be persuaded to help. But I can’t see why you would. No-one else does.”

Chitter, chitter. Siri’s voice responded, “We do not need help extracting resources. What we want has been mined and processed. We wish an exchange of value. You could arrange this?”

“An ‘exchange of value?’” I asked. “What are you looking to buy?”

Chitter, chitter. Siri’s pleasant voice responded, “The technical specifications require what you call weapons-grade uranium.”

“WHAT!!!!” I said, going from zero to petrified in 0.5 seconds. “What the hell do you want THAT shit for!!! No way! I KNEW it – You want to wipe us out!!”

Chitter, chitter. “No,” Siri’s voice said. “We are not soldiers. I do not speak for the ‘swarm leader . . . .’”

Ensign Worm interrupted the voice of Siri to say, “You don’t even speak TO the Swarm Leader.” I looked in his direction, and he said, “We are independent operators, yes? Not like Eff Bee Eye or Ell Ay Pee Dee. We do not carry badges. Or guns. Not like Green Berets.

“Okay,” I said, with what I thought was truly commendable restraint, “but what you’re trying to ‘acquire’ is more dangerous than any gun. Even all the guns in this gun-soaked country of mine.”

“Perhaps,” said Worm. “But your ‘weapons-grade uranium’ is powerful aphrodisiac for us.”

I was gaping again. Finally, I said, somewhat weakly, “and look at that shine!”

“I do not understand this ‘shine,’” said Worm.

“A joke,” I said, feeling a bit faint.

“We do not have the humor,” he replied.

“You don’t say,” I did say. “But listen, there’s no way anyone is going to sell me weapons grade uranium. I honestly doubt anyone is going to sell you that stuff, period, and it won’t matter WHAT you say you’re going to use it for.”

The ‘captain’ chittered and Siri’s voice said, “we just need someone to speak for our interests. We can give value.”

“An honest day’s wages for an honest day’s work,” said Worm. “Just like on the Ponderosa.”

“Half their workers ended up dead,” I snarled. “Besides, no-one’s going to listen to a broken down old professor of linguistics from Gryphon College. They’ll just say I’ve gone off the deep end and lock me up.”

“I’m sorry, Jim,” Siri said, chirpily. “I didn’t get that.”

“Shut up, Siri, and don’t call me Jim!,” I snapped. “James! Can’t you remember James?” And there I was, arguing with the damned AI from my phone again. God, I hate those things!

I took a deep breath and tried again. “I am not the kind of person that people listen to. If I’m your spokesman, I will not be believed. You need someone else.”

Chitter, chitter. “What kind of person should we acquire?”

“You don't . . . .” I started to say, but stopped. Probably not useful to go into the history of why talking about “acquiring” humans was “contraindicated.” I shook my head to clear it. They didn’t need someone IN government, they needed someone who could TALK to someone in government. About buying weapons-grade uranium? I dunno. A retired general? Former politician? Who were they, anyway? Just versions of me – old and useless, ready for the pasture . . . .

The absurdity of what they were asking hit me like a steam shovel. No-one who HAD weapons-grade uranium was going to sell it, period. And if they did, they weren’t going to sell it to “independent operator” space aliens! It wasn’t going to happen. But . . . We had actually been contacted by another species. A space-traveling species! Oh, that was going to change the world. It would be a whole new . . . future.

Who was the best choice, for OUR species? Hell with what the damned termites wanted. Who would have the flexibility to re-imagine the world? And be listened to when they had?

I said, “I don’t know. Try someone young. And good-looking.”

“They would listen to this young and good-looking human?,” Siri’s voice asked after a short burst of chitters.

“Prolly not,” I responded, “but it would increase your odds.” It occurred to me that a species that did not understand boredom, entertainment or humor probably wouldn’t grok gambling either. I tried, “maximize the probability of success.”

Chitter, chitter. “'Young' I understand,” Siri’s voice spoke for the captain. “You mean like Worm. Not fully-formed. Strange custom. But why is ocular acuity important?”

“No, no,” I said, irritated. “Not good vision, 'good-looking.' It means . . . Oh, Lord. Does your species understand aesthetics? Is it a concept?”

Chitter, chitter got translated, “The definition in our updating database is circular. Explain in context.”

“Uh . . . “ I said unhelpfully. Then on a whim I said, “Hey Siri, if you’re still doing your normal gig, what is the definition of aesthetics?”

Siri said, “I can help you with that, Jim. Aesthetics is the branch of philosophy that deals with the principles of beauty and artistic taste.”

Okay, I saw where that wasn’t going to help them. Besides, they needed context. I asked, “the forms you are using to, err . . . interface with me. I assume they aren’t your actual bodies?”

Ensign Worm said, “Correct. You would speak, illusion?”

“Okay,” I said, “you picked different forms, right? You don’t all look the same. How did you pick them?”

“Random image generation from human databases we are tapping,” Worm responded. “We did outstanding, yes?”

“That’s complicated,” I said. “The faces . . . look okay. I mean, everything’s where it’s supposed to be. But . . . I can’t express this very well. Your nose seems kind of large for your face. And your hands maybe seem small. Fine. It’s like . . . .” I thought about a good analogy. “The clothes you were wearing when I met you. Also random?”

“Not exactly,” Worm responded. “Transmissions indicated Walter Cronkite is much respected. Trusted. He always wears this clothes. We copied.”

“You absolutely did not see a picture of Walter Cronkite wearing heels!” I said. Before he could ask, I said, “shoes, you know? The things we wear on the appendages we use for walking.”

“No,” Worm said. “In all transmissions, he was sit behind a desk. We use different source for ‘shoes.’ It was . . .” he paused, chittered something to the “Spock station” guy, got an answer back and said, “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” I had a hard time avoiding a laugh.

“It’s what I was saying earlier . . . aesthetics is like a language. What combinations of shapes and colors and textures look pleasing to us, look ‘right’ . . . if you aren’t a native, you’ll make mistakes. The human images you are using to talk to me – some of them are more visually pleasing to a human of my culture than others.”

“How do we determine ‘good looking’ to a human of your culture,” Worm asked, sensibly.

I thought about it. What was that magazine, the one that was filled with gossip about beautiful people . . . Oh right. “Does the database you are accessing include a periodical publication called “People Magazine?” Spock-guy fiddled with stuff and chittered.

“Affirmative, Jim,” translated Siri’s mellow voice.

I ground my teeth. Damned AI! “Fine,” I ground out. “Just analyze the images of humans in People Magazine. Those are people considered to be good-looking.”

“Should we acquire one of these people?” Chittered the captain.

“Ah . . . no,” I said. “Most of those guys are not our, ah, best and brightest. Just get someone who looks like they do. And, ah, you don’t ‘acquire’ them. You hire them. Please, just trust me on this one.”

They all started chittering at each other, the Captain, the Spock guy, Worm, and another guy who hadn’t chittered earlier. The conversation was going on for quite a bit. The fourth guy wandered off to another “station” and they kept chittering. It was getting old.

“Ah, guys?” I asked, looking at the guy in Kirk’s seat, “If you don’t need me for anything else? I’d kind of like to be getting back?”

The Captain looked at me again and chittered some more. The translation kicked in. “We have to complete our survey of this star system, and we don’t have time to find someone else who meets your design specifications. We need to ‘hire’ you.”

I opened my mouth to say something, but the Siri voice just continued, “We can alter your physical age and aesthetics to match the requirements you specified, though it will take about thirty of your days for the process to conclude. We should be back in the inner system by that time and we can discuss it further.”

I looked at the Captain incredulously and said, “Right. So you’re going to wave some magic wand and make me young and good looking? That’s the ‘plan!’”

I suddenly felt a stabbing pain in my gluteus maximus and whirled around to see Worm holding what appeared to be a truly humongous syringe. He looked at me dispassionately and said, “Dammit, Jim. I’m a doctor, not a magician.”

I decided this was another really good time to pass out.

To be continued. Prolly.

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I was thinking . . . .

Emma Anne Tate's picture

That Lord Peter's Whimsey wouldn't be a bad name for a story. But I'd be like the aliens in my story, trying to write about 21st Century English country gentry . . . .


A good start……

D. Eden's picture

And a wonderful sense of humor! Love the obscure tv references, lol.

D. Eden

Dum Vivimus, Vivamus

Never cleaned my hard-drive

Emma Anne Tate's picture

I'm surprised I can think at all, given how much of my brain his filled with obscure references . . . . TV, literature, history, sales jingles . . . . :D


I know the feeling……

D. Eden's picture

But it makes me really good at Trivial Pursuit!

D. Eden

Dum Vivimus, Vivamus


This can only end well for our linguist lol

It just might . . .

Emma Anne Tate's picture

open a whole new area of research!



fun start!


Thank you!

Emma Anne Tate's picture

We haven't been introduced. Everyone calls you "Dot." But I love your comments, Dorothy Colleen!


Huggles right back at you, DorothyDot!

Emma Anne Tate's picture

Of course, damned autocorrect immediately turned that into “juggles,” which you might not care for. Hey, Siri -- self-destruct! :D


Great story

Loving the sense of humor, looking forward to the next chapter

Hugs Winter


Emma Anne Tate's picture

Wait . . . . What? :D


Cool 1st chapter

I’m hooked and can’t wait for the next chapter

Let's see . . .

Emma Anne Tate's picture

if I can't reel you in!


Good start

I'm guessing that they don't understand male / female and our protagonist is going to end up looking like an actress / supermodel/beauty queen... Oops. This is going to be fun!



erin's picture

I was actually quoting one of the characters in Richard Hookers MASH Goes to Maine. :)

Really enjoying this. :)


= Give everyone the benefit of the doubt because certainty is a fragile thing that can be shattered by one overlooked fact.

I’m thinkin’

Emma Anne Tate's picture

That your mental hard-drive might be as cluttered as mine! Glad you are enjoying the story. Hugs,


Those books

are great! I'd love to see him trying to explain their study of terpsichorian ecdysism.



Emma Anne Tate's picture

Damn, I'm going to have SUCH a hard time not using that!


Name Change

Emma Anne Tate's picture

A bit embarrassing, but I discovered after I posted that someone had used almost the same story title before. I've GOT to stop doing that! Anyhow, new name, same story. Prolly.


i was confused

I read it with it's first title, when I checked the site later I thought it was a new story, till I went to read it.

Good try Emma . . .

But that’s not how you rickroll somebody.

Never . . .

Emma Anne Tate's picture

gonna give you up. :D


I find I must disagree with

Our esteemed associate D. Eden and go with "Wow, this is a GREAT start!"
Can hardly wait for the nest installment

Awwwww . . . .

Emma Anne Tate's picture

Shucks . . . you should't have! Thanks, Diana. :D



Interesting and different. Looking forward to where it will lead.

Thanks, Max!

Emma Anne Tate's picture

Just mixin' it up on ya.


To boldly go. Prolly.

Robertlouis's picture

This is superb. You can visualise every detail and both the visual and verbal humour is brilliant.

What’s incredibly impressive about you as an author, Emma, is that not only can you switch between genres and styles, but you do so so confidently.

Long applause from this quarter of the UK.


Thank you!

Emma Anne Tate's picture

That is very kind of you, RobertLouis. One of the true blessings of this site (thanks, Erin!) is that people can find sad stories and silly stories, adventure, horror, erotica and more, depending on their temperament and mood, and there’s a place for all of it. I like writing about the real world, and I expect I’ll do that more often than not. But sometimes, like Larry the Cucumber, I feel like singing a silly song. Here, I can do both.


Just As Well

joannebarbarella's picture

Your aliens didn't rely on political broadcasts, because then they would not only have no idea of our humour but they would be totally unable to sort truth from lies.

The interaction between James and the aliens is hilarious. It almost reminds me of an Abbot and Costello sketch.

And I'm dying to know how weapons-grade uranium is an aphrodisiac for them!


Emma Anne Tate's picture

Dammit, Joanne, I’m a writer, not a xenobiologist! :D. Glad you are enjoying the story!

FWIW, damnedautocorrect tells me that xenobiologist isn’t a word and there is no replacement. It has read no science fiction and knows nothing. It doesn’t even think “damnedautocorrect” is one word, but in my experience, the second word never appears without the modifier.



When they sneak up on you with the hypodermic, you really know you're in trouble.


Yeah . . .

Emma Anne Tate's picture

It’s never a good sign. :D


It did for James, too.

Emma Anne Tate's picture

That’s why he pegged them as “Termites.” :D


Why would they need weapons

Why would they need weapons-grade uranium 235?
Possibly as a power source?
I cannot understand why they would need such a primitive power source.
If they are that advanced they should be able to purify uranium ore to that standard themselves.
or even convert the much more abundant uranium 238(depleted uranium) to uranium 235
I would not worry about them using the u235 as weapons. They could already wipe out all cities on earth just by dropping an asteroid of about 20 meters across any city.

Maybe . . .

Emma Anne Tate's picture

It’s just an aphrodisiac. . . .


Or maybe . . . .

Emma Anne Tate's picture

. . . their reproductive organs exist in a wholly separate space-time continuum accessed only by wormholes . . . . I dunno. Gene Roddenberry never let the laws of physics or biology interfere with a plot line. :D


No he didn’t

What he kept were laws of human nature, and gave us Spock to observe their illogic.

Emma, I’m eagerly hoping you‘ll soon reveal more of Jim’s fate. Thanks for such an interesting start.

Fun start!

Erisian's picture

This was an enjoyable read during lunch today, thanks! Hopefully you will be inspired to continue so, just maybe, he can boldly go where no man has gone before...the forbidden restroom!

Sorry, had to do it. :)

Most Illogical captain

Most Illogical captain
but vewy vewy funny ha ha ha ha


Emma Anne Tate's picture

I’m hunting wabbits!


Maximum warp

I've read a space opera with very similar title but they aren't that similar aside from alien abduction. I thought the start hiking on the Appalachian trail was familiar but that was something different as well. This is a good start. I hope to see more soon.

Time is the longest distance to your destination.


Emma Anne Tate's picture

Glad you enjoyed the intro!


There's nothing like some good U-235 when you want to BANG

laika's picture

It's almost seems like a law of sci-fi spoof biochemistry that whatever would kill us the aliens eat for breakfast (and vica versa), and what for us is some ordinary household product will get them stoned. The writer doesn't need to figure out why this is true, it just has to be something totally unlikely + utterly absurd. I'm sure there's an entry for this at TV Tropes. But an alien trope I've come across less often is what they might use for an aphrodisiac. Weapons grade uranium? Sure, why not? There's always comic gold in humanity's nuclear sword of Damocles.

I'm pretty sure James' fate was sealed when he said, "You don't want me, you need somebody young and good looking...", since these aliens are bound to use alien logic to follow his suggestion, unable to comprehend why he might object to being turned female. What's the big deal? They do it all the time.

And our protag might wind up becoming a hero for the human race; if they abscond with all our nukes and give us something we actually need; like say a planetary thermostat they could just plug into the north and south poles and turn it down a few degrees- There, crisis averted. I know such a technology sounds pretty much like magic, but you know what they say...
~hugs, Veronica

Oooh, I LIKE the way you think!

Emma Anne Tate's picture

That thermostat idea sounds GREAT!

Thanks for the comment, Veronica. Gave me a big smile!


Nice format

And I can just believe it to be so accurate. Wonder what she's gonna look like. Raqurel welch crossed with Walter c? Maybe hagrid and Meghan Foxx? Ewwwww!

Coming at this Backing Up

BarbieLee's picture

Emma, I started on chapter six and was pulled into this delightful story. I do love SF and you, my pet, have truly got the knack to bend SF completely out of shape, where no writer has gone before. Toss in a bucket load of contradictions swimming in humor and who could resist being pulled into the tale?
Hugs Emma
Life is a gift. At the beginning it's forever to get to our teens. At the end, it is over too soon.

Oklahoma born and raised cowgirl

Thanks, BarbieLee!

Emma Anne Tate's picture

Hey, sometimes the back door is the right entrance, ya know? ;-)

I’m glad you got roped in, cowgirl!


Assuming they ever do

“Assuming they ever do, I added to myself silently, thinking of those dismal final exams I’d just finished grading.”

As TA for a children’s literature course, my wife graded an exam where the student noted Hercules “squoozed” the lion. Said student was an education major who supposedly soon would be teaching.

Emma, I get the impression you or your close family have been in higher education. (Don’t answer; I’m observing not prying.)

Thank you for that link

Actually I found some of it very insightful.

(having studied history related courses corresponding to almost 5 year at various universities)

Linguists - who needs money?

Speaker's picture

“We really need an eminent linguist,” said no CEO ever.
I'm not an eminent linguist, but as an interpreter I have to admit to feeling undervalued by people like CEOs. I'm not bitter, haha.


Demand or not?

I live in a country where employers constantly complain about the lack of language skills, especially among engineers.
Exactly once has a potential employer been interested in my language skills (which are rather extensive).


Emma Anne Tate's picture

Maybe they feel like language could never be a barrier, so celestial are their thoughts, so pellucid their words . . . .


This reminds me..

Sunflowerchan's picture

This reminds me of one of those old radio stories that my grandmother use to listen too after the working day was done. I h ave no idea what I'm in for. But so far this story reads like one of those old fashion radio shows, and the shows you listed, well once more transported me to that living room in rural Benton, Mississippi. Sitting in front of my grandmothers old 80's era television, watching the Jetson's, Charlie Brown, and old reruns of In Search of.. as well as old returns of Star Treck, The Brady Bunch, and many others. I have no idea were this story will take me, it's risky business reading one of your stories you know. You never know were the wind path of your prose will take the reader. I guess, I need to saddle up the horses, load on up on provisions, get a good walking stick ready and start tollowing this wondering path. Thank you again for sharing such a wonderful tale, and now the road goes on and forever on.

Gotta warn ya . . .

Emma Anne Tate's picture

. . . This one’s going to take you to some seriously strange places! I hope you continue to enjoy the trip — there will be plenty of additional cultural references to trigger your memory cells. :D