Bewildering Stories

How the Truth Came to Gertrude

William W.

The history of science is littered with tales of striking coincidences and synchronicities, many of which would be comical if they were not at the same time so terribly tragic. Such is the case, for example, with the confirmation of the male orangutan morphological development mechanism (Galdikas Institute, 2056) and the failed Martian mission, Barsoom 13.

The commander of the Barsoom 13, Yvgeny Virilad, witnessed the tragedy helplessly via video monitor, miles away in the surface command station -- as did the world on live television. Both science excursion teams were decimated when the canyon they were exploring collapsed on their rovers.

There was, of course, no possible means of rescuing the excursion teams, and Commander Virilad acted quite appropriately when he ordered the remaining team members back to the station for immediate evacuation to Earth. These team members were Dr. Krasa Tupikov, geologist; Dr. Gertrude Bray, medical officer; Dr. Danielle Smith, biologist; Dr. Suki Takahashi, software engineer; and Lt. Garry Beecham, astronaut. Within forty-eight hours of the accident, these survivors were back in Martian orbit. Commander Virilad and Drs. Tupikov and Takahashi set forth for Earth in the command module "Mons," while Astronaut Beecham and Drs. Bray and Smith did likewise in the "Vallis." They were well under way when the Galdikas Institute published their findings.

Morphological differences between "developed" and "undeveloped" adult male orangutans had long been the subject of scientific speculation. There had not, however, been any consensus as to their true cause. The new findings by the Institute demonstrated that, like clockwork, an undeveloped adult male would "develop" given the following conditions: sufficient youth and general health, absence of other males (developed or undeveloped) for a period of at least two months, and the proximity during that time of two sexually mature, attractive females. The key was the absence of another male. To repeat the demonstration, it was critical that not even the pheromones of another adult male be present in quantities of more than 1 part per million in the primary habitat of the subject male. Given these conditions, it was possible to predict morphological development with one hundred percent assurance.

The human implication of the Institute's discovery became apparent to Commander Virilad while shaving on the morning of the fifty-third day during the transit of the "Mons." It was then that he noticed the cheek pads. He reported no pain over the subsequent weeks while his transmorphical development continued -- other than, as he put it, "this damn, blastid, HOONGER." By the end of the journey, he had attained his present weight of six hundred and ninety three pounds. Behavior-wise, he became more docile, spending vast stretches of time brooding before the food dispenser machine. His sexual behavior also changed. Previously, he had followed mission guidelines and avoided all sexual contact with other team members. He now found that he was unable to control his behaviors in this regard, and Drs. Tupikov and Takahashi report that they, too, found themselves powerless to resist his advances. After both doctors were impregnated, Virilad's sexual passions waned; he would sit alone in a far room of the ship for days at a time. Despite this solitary, unsocial behavior, both doctors remained madly in love with Virilad. As Takahishi said later, "He was the first real man to have emerged in who-knows-how-many thousands of years. I would have done anything to mother his child." Upon his return to Earth, NASA scientists isolated the pheromones that largely were responsible for Virilad's amazing sexual attractiveness. To raise money for a Europa mission, NASA sold the pheromones to the Channel Company for artificial duplication and use in super-musks. A more intelligent use was later made when military-grade varieties of the pheromones were developed at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory in California. The old slogan "Make Love Not War" soon became a truism of military strategy in the twenty-second century. Whole cities were sprayed with the stuff, rendering once-hostile enemies into swarming mounds of love goo.

Things went differently aboard the "Vallis," however. One thing is certainly a fact: Dr. Danielle Smith was a hottie. A year before joining the Barsoom mission team, Dr. Smith had co-starred in the 3D IMAX film "Dolphins 2." It takes a special kind of woman to frolic with dolphins whilst clad in a string bikini and followed closely by an IMAX camera. All across the country, moms and kids ooo-ed and aww-ed at the cute dolphins, while simultaneously so many dads had their attention riveted elsewhere. Not coincidentally, "Dolphins 2" was the highest grossing IMAX feature ever produced. No, no one failed to notice the fact of Dr. Smith's hottiness, and that was especially true of Dr. Gertrude Bray. Dr. Bray had not only a medical degree from Harvard, but also an advanced degree in stellar astronomy from CalTech. She was, undoubtedly, a bright woman. Also, being the mission doctor, she was the first to hear of Virilad's emerging state, and it was she who first connected the dots between Virilad's changes and the Institute's findings from Borneo. It was, of course, impossible to hide from her the fact that Astronaut Beecham's environmental conditions were identical to Virilad's, and who better than she to know about his youth and general health? For all these reasons, the voyage of the "Vallis" became wrought with meaning to her. It was, she said, her "voyage of truth."

For you see, Astronaut Beecham didn't change.

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Copyright 2002 by William W. and Bewildering Stories.