Bewildering Stories

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Lost In Translation

Jason Akers

The small grayish-green alien—who called himself What—was clearly becoming quite annoyed by Major Thompson’s Texas accent and overbearing nature. What’s companion—Who—only became more nervous and nodded his head violently when What projected.

“Major, there is no need to vocalize your comm….communications. The thought-projection device is quite capable allowing our species to…comm…communicate.” What projected. The devices seemed to have small problems with some words—particularly words that this race had never had use for.

“Partner, just call me George. I know there aint need to speak. I guess I’m just fond of my own voice.” The major busted into laughter while our visitors and I did not; we failed to see the humor.

“Who will accompany you Major in order to hold up our end of the trade bargain.” What projected.

“I guess your little pardner there will.” The major answered the unasked (and already answered) question.

“Who!” What projected forcefully.

“What?” I projected, confused.

“What?” What answered.

“I think it is time Who went with Major Thompson. What you may follow me.” I projected.

“Huh?” Major Thompson asked as What and I headed toward the briefing room.

I heard Who answer as we walked away. “Huh is my…Mother.”

“Sure partner…sure.” The major said as he affectionately slapped Who on the back, knocking the breath out of him and the thought-projector from his lapel.

Who retrieved it and clipped it back on his lapel.

In the briefing room I played a tape recording of a presentation of Human technology—prepared since the last visit—for What.

Various topics were described briefly during the program, demonstrating mankind’s limited but somewhat useful knowledge.

The nuclear power demonstration elicited hearty laughter from the small alien’s body. A mushroom cloud formed on the screen. It was clear that this race had discovered the atom long ago.

The part of the program describing and demonstrating firearms was received well. “We have no…hurt…weapons?… on our home planet.” What projected with difficulty. His dark eyes watched in amazement as the documentary showed images of bullet wounds received by soldiers.

The combustion engine episode was a huge disappointment. There was little technical explanation; it was mostly video of impressive vehicles. I made a note to speak to Major about my disappointment at a later date.

I found even myself learning during the presentation of antibiotics and delivery devices.

There was also a section describing computers.

There were more chapters to the program but I only remember the ones that interested What.

When we had rejoined the Major and Who we began to discuss what items our friends would like in exchange for the knowledge they had provided.

“We require…the…the…it makes holes.” What searched for the right word.

“You want some guns pardner? We can do that!” The big Texan beamed.

What nodded reluctantly.

“What else?” I asked.

“We would also like the engine.”

“No problem.” I replied.

“And your primitive data processing device…for curiousity.” What added.

Several minutes later I produced the blueprints from the vault and presented them to our new friends.

“You have no physical samples of these things that we may receive?” What asked.

My hand hung at my side touching my Beretta as I thought. My Beretta. Of course!

I unsnapped the holster strap and handed my Beretta M92 to What. His elation was quite visible. If he could have I think he would have smiled.

I watched in amazement as they took off in the saucer shaped craft.

“Cold fusion!” Major Thompson exclaimed.

“What?” I asked

“He gave us the secret to Cold Fusion. You know what this means partner?”

“Yeah. It means I will never have to pay another energy bill. What else did they give us?”

“Said he wanted to give us the secret to finite demise but I told him we already had that and it wasn’t working.” He busted out in uncontrollable laugher. I myself laughed uneasily; these aliens were weird creatures.

“How ‘bout that cold fusion though? We’re gonna make a generator big as all get out. That’s the Texas way.” He pointed out but I knew that already.


A day later during the return trip Who examined the thought-projector with wonder as he removed it from his lapel. With the small device they had been able to communicate and trade technology. Then he noticed something odd.

If he could have managed a look of shock this would surely have been the right moment.

“What, the projector was set on reverse. It must have happened when Major Thompson knocked it from my lapel. The humans think we gave taught them cold fusion…we gave them…hot fission.”

“They already possess that knowledge. Surely they will know we have misspoken.” What reassured. “We shall return to Earth now and inform them at once though.”

Who would have breathed a relieved sigh if such a thing were possible for him.

“First”, What began. “You should come and have a hole put in you. It will protect you from things called bacteria and viruses.” What put his finger on the trigger of the Beretta and pressed it against Who.

Copyright © 2002 by Jason Akers & Bewildering Stories.