The Organic Act of 2916
by Paul Lubaczewski
Damned traffic! Why was it in life, whenever you really needed to get anywhere in a hurry, it was a parking lot as far as the eye could see? Of course, he would have allowed time for traffic normally, but nothing was normal now. Nothing may be normal again really.
All of those vehicles, full of living beings, who were all preoccupied with their own lives, their own needs, their own problems. None of them knew one important fact that might have made them stay home today. That the vehicle they were practically parked in the way of was the one that might be all that was standing between themselves and Armageddon.
He flicked on the radio just to fill the wait. The news station he normally listened to clicked on into life. “Religious extremists in both countries have claimed this to be a sign of the return of their god and the need to wage war on all other faiths. Deaths are being reported among the minority communities in both nations—”
He already knew that, so he changed the channel to some music. The first thing he hit, was something ethnic, one of the joys of living in the city he supposed, lots of different cultures to brush up against. The downside is he didn’t like the music, so back to news: “Local religious leaders have called for a closing of national boundaries to—” Off.
He knew full well what was happening, and that was exactly why he had to get to the lab immediately. He had to talk to them, he had built a rapport, and now he had to hope that meant something to someone. Otherwise, well, it might very well only be the end of civilization and the world. No pressure or anything.
Eventually, he made it to an off ramp he knew would shortcut this mess. He punched it and was actually moving again. The side streets blurred away as he started making good time again. There was a guard at the gate when he got to the lab.
Instead of asking for his ID as per protocol the guard was, if anything, relieved to see him. “Go in right away, Professor; they’re waiting for you,” he said briskly as he raised the gate to the parking garage. Well, at least that gave him some idea what he could expect when he got into the situation room. It wasn’t “good” per se, but at least he was forewarned.
The elevator ride was almost worse than the freeway had been. He was almost there, but the elevator seemed to be taking forever and a day, anticipation adding agony. Coming into the situation room itself, he saw that he had gotten there just in time. Half of the occupants seemed to be frantically scrambling from one place to the other, without direction, the other half just looked vacant, like there was nothing they could do at this point but await their fate.
One of his colleagues saw him and called out, “Finally you’re here! Sorry for the call in but—”
“Save it,” he barked out. “I understand. Get me a link to the aliens now, and I do mean now. They caused this; they have to know a way to save us!”
There it was, the looming cause of all of it. The aliens. They hadn’t meant for this to happen, but cause it they had. As long as aliens existed only at great distances and in theory, well, they were just another form of make-believe, really. It didn’t discredit religion, it just transferred belief into beings from another planet; there was still that ever-present faith in something. It wasn’t any more silly to believe in a grand creator than it was to believe in space creatures. You couldn’t prove either of them, so that was all right, just a differences of opinion.
Well, you could prove one of them now, all right: it was floating in orbit around the planet. Logic would dictate the reaction would be a modification of belief to make it fit with new realities. Logic had taken a flying leap in quite a few places right now.
Instead of a need to assimilate this information, the arrival had been taken as an apocalyptic end time sign by some. Some of those who weren’t prepared to give up God without a fight had atom-splitting technology they had acquired one way or the other. And if the world wasn’t going to have the decency to end on its own, there was a very real fear that they might help it along some.
What had been a world slowly but inexorably moving towards a belief in rationality, as science proved and explained more things, had overnight become a world that might end up barren in the name of God.
Now he had to see, if the aliens and their superior technology, could somehow disarm the crazies, at least temporarily. Because the way the tensions were rising, somebody was going to launch a missile soon, either at the Alien ship — he shuddered at the thought of what that retribution would look like — or at another nation. Somehow, someone had to render those bombs non-functional. This was the type of downward apocalyptic spiral that they wrote about in stories, and everybody knew it in their heart of hearts.
“We’ve got a line about to open,” one of the techs called over to him. His cue to put on his headset. It wasn’t a private line, but wearing the headset lowered the risks of missing something or having the translation software screw something up.
He heard the voice come through before they received picture. “Rick! What in the hell is going on down there?”
A moment later, the screen over the room lit up, and the ghastly face of the alien leader came into view. A pinkish-white color skin, completely soft, and smooth! Some form of a collection of cells they called “hair” on top! Large, round eyes with equally round pupils! How they could stand to be that soft and vulnerable all the time Rklrix could not even fathom! But they were aliens, after all and, for all he knew, they thought the same about him in the privacy of their own minds.
They had just appeared one day and sent a call to the larger governments of the planet, just like that. But once the fact that the communications between the aliens and the lab were happening was known by more than one person, it was only a matter of time before everything leaked out.
Even if it hadn’t leaked from the lab itself, people had their own astronomy equipment. The ship was small compared to, say, a celestial body, but still, someone would notice it sooner or later, no matter how secret it was kept. Once people had seen what the aliens looked like, quite a few were calling them demons of some kind, devils meant to mislead true believers. When at least two regions of your planet are theocracies, that is scary talk.
“Umm... Jim?” Rklrix began, he actually said the creature’s name the way the “humans” did. He always tried to show a willing and open mind with them, and was proud of learning the name. “Umm, yeah, your appearance in our sky has set off a bit of a commotion down here...”
“Dammit, Rick” — it annoyed Rklrix no end that Jim called him that — “these discussions were supposed to be top secret! What in the hell happened?”
Jim was the alien ship’s commander, and he was very obviously peeved, his pink white skin turning a more normal red instead of its usual sickly, almost translucent color.
“Look, Jim, what can I do? The Krillians picked up the transmission! They released it worldwide to embarrass my government. We didn’t have time to give you the entire world’s political history, you know. Surely something like this has happened on your “Earth” before in your history? Somebody had to leak some vital information that was politically sensitive about something at some point right?” Rklrix asked rhetorically nervously scratching at his chin. He was nowhere near a molt; it was just nerves causing him to rasp at his scales now.
Jim looked as if he was about to retort, but then he took a deep inhalation. “All right, no use crying over spilled — untranslatable word — here. What do you need from us at this point?”
The translation software that they were using was good, but sometimes it just couldn’t make the idea of some things translate. It was only an odd quirk that it would actually say “untranslatable word.”
“Well, Jim,” Rklrix responded, “I have to assume your technology is about a million miles from ours right now. You’re visiting us, and we aren’t visiting you. I have to assume you have the one thing we need right now.”
“I somehow doubt it, Rick. We’re out here on a research and first-contact meeting. Hell, son, we’re barely authorized to talk to you,” Jim said with a sheepish grin.
“Okay, but technology-wise you’d almost have to have something like this with you. We’ve been researching before you arrived, and we’re close, so you’d almost have to have it. We need something on the order of a non-nuclear electromagnetic pulse, strong enough to take out at the very least a nuclear missile, actually quite a few of them. There are at least two theocracies operating on our planet, and they are about to go to war. We think it will go nuclear if it isn’t stopped,” he explained, trying to keep the desperation out of his voice.
The human’s face went stony, there almost seemed to be a sadness in his eyes as he said, “We can’t do it, Rick. It’s absolutely forbidden.”
Rklrix did not even bother to hide his consternation. “What in the hell does ‘forbidden’ mean, Jim?” he demanded.
“It means we can’t, Rick. My feelings don’t enter into it. We have a ‘no direct interference’ policy. The process of giving you gizmos or doodads from the Federation will not even begin until we are back at base and your case is assessed. You are having what is deemed as a ‘normal incident of unrest during your transition from isolation’. So even if I wanted to, I would have to get it cleared by brass, and that would take months.”
“Jim, you’ve already interfered!” Rklrix practically wailed. “It was your coming here that set this off! Religious strife was waning globally! But that’s the thing: anybody stubborn enough to hold on to faith at this point, was not going to take your presence lying down! We, are looking at a major nuclear war here, Jim!”
“Rick, all I can do is note your request and file the report,” Jim said sadly. “It might be months before we even get a reply.”
“I don’t think we have months, Jim.”
* * *
He was sitting in the lab by himself'; he’d sent almost everybody home. They’d been working themselves ragged, and the one thing that would make their presence in the lab worthwhile tonight had more or less told them to go to hell. There was nothing they could do here, and they had families to go to.
There wasn’t particularly much he could do here either, but since no one was waiting for him, it was his best place to be as much as anywhere else was. He could give himself a case of scale rub here or at home; his chin would be just as irritated in either location. At least here, he would be close to his equipment if any of the great ideas that had gotten him this job came to him now when he really needed them.
Dosstck was floating around the labs somewhere, if he wanted company, which he didn’t, but the option was there. He might be sleeping on one of the cots they kept in the common rooms, but he wasn’t that hard to wake up. His mate had dumped him for a younger guy with a nicer, younger sheen and not so much of his time tied up in work when it came to checking on the eggs. He felt for the guy, he really did. The same thing had happened to him, so he knew it felt awful.
The fact was, their job was over. They’d made contact with the ship hovering above them. They had made a case for their being intelligent, rational creatures. They had tried to make a case that they had a place in an interstellar community. It had all been going along so well, it would have been a new golden age for the planet: technological, logical, advancement for all.
Then, ancient beliefs about ancient gods had reared their ugly heads. Faced with the possibility that maybe there was not one true God, and that maybe they were not the pinnacle of all of his creations, created by him with dominion over all of creation, there had been a spasm of belief. Or maybe a rejection in the belief in a quantifiable reality. The nuts and bolts meant, that rather than deal with new information, and changing accordingly to it, the entire planet was on the brink of a flight from that new age with a final, suicide by outmoded belief, aided by modern science.
It was all up to the diplomats now, and the news reports were not filling him with confidence as to how they were doing. But it wasn’t his job. This had been his last best hope that he could save them, and it had failed. The humans had all but confirmed that they had the technology to fix this, to buy them time to calm this down. But they had refused. They were going to let an entire planet engulf itself in an atomic ball of flame over a procedural point. There was nothing he could do about it but keep rubbing his chins scales.
He looked up thoughtfully to see that there was a blue light flickering next to the view screen. What in the hell? A green light meant an incoming contact; blue almost never happened, it meant someone had left a message. No green light at all, right to blue; someone had bypassed it.
He considered waking Dosstck, or at least finding him, but his curiosity was hotter than his desire for company at this point. He flipped on his terminal to the larger system, and punched in his access code, after that he rerouted the message to his personal system files, and to play on his portable screen.
He tapped the Play button on the screen.
Copyright © 2017 by Paul Lubaczewski