Submitted into Contest #67 in response to: Write a space adventure story that features a visit to an alien marketplace.... view prompt


Funny Science Fiction


By Andrew Paul Grell

Article 1. The minor spiral arm known in human language as THE ORION-CYGNUS BRIDGE, an arm radiating from the main body of what is known in human language as THE MILKY WAY and which intersects a line between the as-seen-from PLANET EARTH constellations Orion and Cygnus, shall be a protectorate of the HUMAN – VISITOR JOINT SPACE PROBE AGENCY, with said Visitors being inhabitants of the planet known to humans as Ross 128 b.

“Think they’re gonna show?” Larry Vine three-quarters doubted that a mother ship from eleven light years away was going to appear in Sol System and fall into orbit around mars.

“Why wouldn’t they show? We got to Mars, didn’t we? The Ross advance party showed up, where do you think they came from?” Jerry Pourlen was literally a cock-eyed optimist. She and Larry, high-ranking engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, were two of the initial astronauts put on the first bus to the red planet after the radio signals from Ross 128 contained instructions on how to build, fly to, and land the craft on Mars, the largest object ever to clear earth’s gravity well. When the lab domes were set up and work started getting done, Jerry’s first task was analyzing the pile of rocks collected by the rovers. An old school scientist, she grabbed a rock, secured it to the bench and whacked it with a hammer. The incident report concluded that a substance inside the rock changed energy state when exposed to oxygen, and that the slivers that made it through her goggles were not a result of anyone’s negligence. The base surgeon managed to patch her up, but a drooping lid was likely to be permanent. When analyzed, the substance turned out to be a catalyst that could strip oxygen from rust or any other source of oxidized ferrous metal. Her “discovery”—they called it anti-water— would make it possible to start terraforming and build up an atmosphere, such as it might be. Hence the optimism.

“It’s nine days until the Ross ship gets here. Is scheduled to get here, I should say,” Jerry continued. “Wanna head into town? Pat and Kyle got a good trade for their collection of 20th Century election campaign pins and buttons.”

“What did they get?”

“A snake that crawls all around you and detects and mitigates anything arthritic. Can you believe that, Larry?” Kyle is getting the paperwork done for manufacturing and distributing the things back home. But I couldn’t get anywhere with my complete set of Red Sox 2004 baseball cards. I’m going to try my luck with Archie, Silver Surfer, and Mister Natural comics. Maybe we can grab a bite in the Market Dome?”

“Sure. It’s amazing how much of the same stuff we can both eat, considering that we come from different planets.”

“Oh, I don’t know. The proof that the square on the hippopotamus is equal to the sum of the squares on the other two hides is the same whether it’s in Egyptian or Greek. We’re engineers, Buddy. There’s always a most efficient system that a project manager will be able to mess up.”

“Speaking of which, what’s the next brilliant idea they’ve got for Valle Marineris?”

“Right now, I’s still just the biggest and deepest ditch in the solar system. I heard someone talking about terracing it. But that would just be upside down. We want to keep the oxygen in the hole, not let it bleed up. But speaking of Marineris, I could go for some spaghetti.”

Article 2: The Earth – Ross board of trade shall construct a surface dome for the safe trading of objects and material. All such trade shall be on an as-is, caveat emptor, no refunds, no exchanges basis. Intellectual property pertaining to an article purchased by one species shall vest with the first purchaser of such item with respect to the laws of intellectual property of the species of the purchaser.

“Larry, the bus stops at my place, I’ve been in the suit for hours and I need a wash, spin, and fry. And to pick up my comic books.”

“Sure. After all, you’re the one that got us enough air to breathe.”

“You’re going to give me a swelled head.”

“Speaking of which…”

“Hey! This is a lunch date, Killer.” Fortunately, getting slapped with a Mars surface suit glove couldn’t do any harm.

Article 3. An attack on Ross 128 would be considered an attack on Earth as well. An attack on Earth would be considered an attack on Ross 128, and each species would provide as much defensive resources as possible to fend off said attack.

“This is pretty good. Linguine with Marineris Sauce. Looks like the Rossians are trying to develop a sense of humor.”

“Ya know, the linguine really is pretty good, and I’m having it plain. I know the wheat was grown here. I never noticed how good farinaceous products grown on Mars tasted.”

“Me neither. We’ve never eaten at Rooters before. Maybe it’s specific to this kitchen. I think I’m going to chat up Rootie after we eat.”

“You won’t have to wait, there’s a Rossian coming from your six, he’s wearing a hat that says ROOTIE.”

“Madam Pourlen. You honor our humble cuccina. So much would not be possible without your discovery.” The Rossian puffed himself up to his full altitude of three and a half feet

“Please, Mr. Rootie. It was an accident. I got lucky. It could have gone the other way and I would have been blinded.” Larry felt the need to butt in on his friend’s strategy.

“We were enjoying your pasta, Mr. Rootie. There is something special about it.” Jerry jumped back in. “Mr. Rootie, could you let us know where to purchase the wheat from which you made the product?

“Certainly, Madam Pourlen. Farm Dome 17, the farmer is Krootner. The freight line stops at his farm. “

“I thank you, Mr. Rootie.” Jerry nodded her head in a reasonable facsimile of the Rossian Aloha/Shalom nod. She then asked Larry if he had any stamps.

“You know, Jer, it seems weird that the visitors are interested in our stamps, and that they accept them for purchases, even though they can’t mail anything with them. The friends looked at the Rooters collection board. They were missing a Graff Zeppelin and Simeon from the Marc Chagall United Nations stained glass window commemorative stamps. Larry, fortunately, usually carried at least three series of commemoratives and was able to complete Rootie’s set.

Article 4. The lee side of Sol System’s sun’s orbit around the center of the Galaxy known by Humans as the Milky Way, to wit, the opposite side of Earth’s Sun from the system’s Bow Shock, shall be patrolled exclusively by Ross defense forces for the safety of Humans.

“Mr. Krootner, thank you so much for making time to see us while you are busy harvesting.”

“Madam Pourlen, any one of us would make time for the person who secured our oxygen supply, even just to see who it was that frogged over our own technology; is that the right word, frogged?”

“Leapfrogged, Mr. Krootner, but anyone would get the idea. We’re here to purchase some of your wheat. Perhaps one hundred kilograms.” Jerry took her comics out of her pack and showed them to the cultivator.

“Madam Pourlen, Mr. Vine. I will accept only one book, and just as a token payment.” Jerry picked out Mr. Natural #3, “On the Beach.” The cover image was moderately and almost kind of reminiscent of the Rossians. Larry gave the farmer the coordinates of the chemical engineering lab, and the couple thumbed a ride on the returning freight carrier back into town.

“They released Article 4, Larry. Seems kind of funny, don’t you think?”

“I didn’t want to mention it to you; you’re so upbeat about everything. Between Article 3 and Article 4, it’s as if they’re hunkering down, ready to actually defend against something or someone. If you want to invade a solar system, you definitely don’t want to come in through the heliopause, you want to sneak in the back way. And the Rossians aren’t ready to share their best tech with us.”

“Yet. Not ready to share it yet.”

Larry went off to his muscle mass preserving class and, Jerry, who almost always carried an extra 30 kilograms when she walked anywhere, visited Pat and Kyle and asked if they could borrow a cup of science. She explained about the spaghetti and its unique and superlative taste. Kyle liked the project right away; chemists could get short shrift on mars when everything was centered on permanent construction and terraforming setup. She gave Jerry the thumbs up. Larry, Jerry, Kyle, and Pat would dedicate some time to see why this wheat was different from all other wheats.

Pat bonged the “Wheaties” that the grain had arrived, as had a similar amount of wheat from a different farmer on the opposite side of Mars Town. The team gathered in the chem lab two days later.

“Let’s divide up jobs. Who wants slice and dice, who wants crush and mash, who wants pyritic heating, and who wants taste testing?” The team sorted itself out and went to work. After three days, Larry hit the jackpot with pyritic heating. Trace amounts of Neodymium, Yttrium, and Cerium showed up in Krootner’s wheat, but not in the control group. Kyle rushed out to Krootner’s farm to get a water sample. Back at the chem lab, Kyle established that rare earths in Krootner’s water sort of chased each other around in what Kyle termed “a game of tag.”

“Two days till they get here, Larry. Still worried? Outer System has them on their scope. It’s a big one.”

“You know me. I always worry. But I have an idea for a surprise at the ceremony.”

“Whadja have in mind, Buddy?”

“You don’t really hear about differing water sources and their relative effects on pasta. But can you guess what farinaceous product is totally dependent on the origin of it’s water; growing and cooking both? Right now, back on earth, trucks filled with New York City water, perennially awarded best municipal water supply,nsnow melt filtered through rock, are heading south on I-95 to Florida so that New Yorkers having moved to Florida could get the real McCoy.”

“If I’m correctly guessing what you’re hinting at, that’s shear genius.” Larry got to do the Boinging of the team and, due to the tight schedule, the grocery shopping assignments, from the farmed fish pools to the green houses. The final call was to Samuel, the first cook on the red Planet, the man who could cook anything.

The Wheaties spent the night before the arrival watching The Spear of Ares coming in from the direction of Libra and The Visitor coming in from Capricorn. With all of the scientific paraphernalia in Mars Town, there was certainly enough alcohol to go around. Shouts of “The Rossians are coming, The Rossians are coming” filled the dome. Finally, it was time. Both ships were in orbit around Mars. Spear of Ares sent a lander down first carrying the new Minister Plenipotentiary to Ross 128. Pilot and diplomat successfully anchored the lander to Phobos, a tiny moon of Mars. They made it to the dome that had been erected for the ceremony. The Visitor sent its lander down next with its pilot and Ambassador Extraordinaire to Earth. Finally, Larry, Jerry, and Rootie, selected as witnesses, took a hopper to the little moon, along with their precious cargo. Minister and Ambassador signed, Ambassador and Minister made speeches. The paper copies were hurriedly removed from the table, to be replaced with Larry’s tray.

Prootsie, the ambassador, as the one traveling farthest to get to Phobos, was offered the first bagel, replete with cream cheese, smoked salmon, onions, and tomatoes. He puffed himself up to almost five feet with ecstasy. Josiah Conrad, the Minister, tasted his bagel and let out a “WOW!” followed by “I’ve been to hundreds of signing breakfasts. This is absolutely the best bagel I have ever tasted.”

But Larry was discretely observing Prootsie’s expressions, and smiled at Jerry and Sam. In reverse order, the landing parties went back to their origin points, presumably finishing off the bagels.

“You look happy, Larry, unlike you while riding a rickety hopper,” Kyle observed.

“Oh, I am. As soon as I saw Prootsie bite into the bagel and smile, I could tell he changed his mind about something. But whatever it was, Wheaties Team now owns the patent on making absolutely the best bagels on three planets. 

November 12, 2020 19:10

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