The Organic Act of 2916
by Paul Lubaczewski
Part 1 appears
in this issue.
A younger pink face appeared on the screen rather than Jim’s face. It must be younger: it was smoother, with less of the cracks and depths of Jim’s; its eyes seemed brighter and healthier. “This is for Rklrix. I cannot tell you my name, but” — and with this it held up a piece of something with coordinates scrawled on it — “at approximately 9 N.M.A.T., night mutually agreed upon time zone.” After that, it ate the small slip of material. It just ate it! “What you need will be there. Thank you.”
And that was it.
He played the message again. Then he played it yet again. Finally, he paused it, to write out the coordinates, and punched them into his personal system’s mapping program. The sensible thing to do now was to wake Dosstck up, start calling people in, and then pass it up the chain of command. But...
But he had the feeling whoever was doing this, was most definitely not supposed to. Passing it up to the government, would almost have to cause some official reaction to whatever the aliens were sending wouldn’t it? Not to mention the bureaucracy of his own government might short-circuit any response into inaction. It would more or less ruin the person who was going outside of channels to get this to him if he was going against a hard and fast rule. The person looked young too... Maybe it was his first mission; he was doing Rklrix’s race some kind of favor. Would he ruin the young man’s career?
On the other hand, he was head of the Alien Liaison lab. After all, checking this out personally was technically just doing his job. The co-ordinates he had were out in the desert near the lab; it wouldn’t take that much to go out and look. Nobody had ever really said he couldn’t investigate important information. In short, he had to know, and he didn’t need everybody else getting in his way.
The night was chill and clear as he sat on a rock looking out across the wasteland that was the desert. He was wearing a heated jacket to keep himself alert in the cold. He didn’t know how whatever it was, was going to appear. He had a pair of binoculars that he kept aiming up into the moonlit sky. Come to think of it, he really didn’t know if anything was going to appear at all; too many variables in the equation.
But he still had to know.
It had been over an hour now, but then again, he had arrived early. He had also brought a thermos of hot sciil, to ward off the chill inside as well. He had just looked up again, when with his naked eye, he thought he caught a flicker of something white in the dark between the light of the two moons of the night. Scrabbling, he brought out his binoculars again, now very happy he had brought them.
With the binoculars focused and trained on the area, he could see there was indeed something floating down to the surface. He would have never guessed this was what he was waiting for, though. It was a small capsule, not dissimilar to satellite cones or one of the landers dropped on the twin moons Tshon and Tsorth.
As Rklrix thought about it, he realized why whoever it was was doing it this way. A small capsule in free fall, with a very late thrust to slow it, wouldn’t look much different from a meteor or even space junk coming into crash out here in the desert. If anybody noticed it at all on their radar, they’d write it off to no threat in an isolated area. It happened all the time. If it ever got checked at all, it would be days before anyone came out to look at it. They would be looking for anything larger than that before it set off alarms, not something smaller than a light flyer descending at a rate that promised a burn-up.
Now that he had his eyes trained on it, and watching its descent, the rest of his senses were going nuts. Everything was keened up, waiting for any sign, a noise, a scent, anything, that might indicate that someone else knew he was here, or that that capsule was coming down. The desert was how it always was, though, silent. His coming had scared off whatever warm-blooded creatures who might be out hunting here. They knew that messing with a much bigger creature would not get them food but make them food, and they wanted nothing to do with him.
He got to his feet; the object was going to land soon. It was much smaller than his vehicle, it looked like a little piece of detritus in the wind. It was floating down almost gracefully, a combination of small parachutes and thrusters lowering it in a stately fashion to the surface. There was barely even a thump when it finally hit the desert floor.
Well, there it was. He was here, and whatever the mysterious stranger from the Earth ship was sending him was here as well. Time to find out. He slowly walked up to it, as if it might suddenly bite, or zap him into atoms. He knew he was being silly, but here was an object from space, from an alien race, and being silly about it — as long as you remembered to keep your head to some degree — seemed perfectly acceptable behavior.
Now that he was close, he could see this was not an official gift of any kind. There were no badges or insignia at all to say where it had come from. Parts of it clearly showed hurried riveting that might have been taking place right up until it had been shoved out of the craft orbiting the planet. He thought he saw sealant in some of the cracks, like the type you push out of a tube. This was not something sent with the consent of superiors from an alien race that could conquer interstellar travel. This is something a tech did behind his superiors back and kicked it out the hatch when no one was looking.
He walked a couple of circuits around it before deciding the button and latch arrangement in front of him must be the way to open it. There was nothing for it now; he had not come all the way out here to just look at it. Tentatively, he stretched out a clawed finger and gingerly pressed the button. As he did the release of gas from the hatch made him lunge back violently, depositing himself painfully on the ground!
“Oh, har har,” he muttered getting up and dusting himself off. Looking at it again he saw now that the button had released a seal around the edge of the hatch somehow, which meant that now he might need only use the lever to open it the rest of the way.
Again his touch was tentative, he had no idea what the thing’s temperature was. Feeling that the handle was neither hot or cold, he jiggled it a bit. Okay, pull it towards yourself, and then push down. That seemed to be how it wanted to move. He overestimated how much torque it would need when he pushed down, though, thinking it would be stiff from the trip.
He was picking himself up again from the sandy dirt as the hatch banged open above him, and he cursed sulfurously
Looking inside with a flashlight he had brought along, he saw only a medium-sized box cushioned by masses of some kind of gray foam that looked sprayed or injected into the pod, and a little toggle switch built into the floor. The box looked like some kind of plastic, only much smoother somehow, with just a simple push button on the front, no hinges, no line. He pushed the button, and it clicked open smoothly and slowly, almost like the lid was on hydraulics. Directly inside, was a note.
There was something under it, but first, he unfolded the note itself and looked at it. It was written in Plskian, but like someone had carved each individual letter out of stone, as if they were drawing a representation of it rather than writing. It was addressed to him, and using his particular country’s language was no real surprise.
Hello. I cannot” — scribbled-out word looked like ‘to speak’ — “tell you my name. I am far out on a top of a tree here, if my personal pronoun was known, I would get in big evil.”
Well, he couldn’t disagree with that; he’d heard Jim bluntly say they couldn’t help, so yes he was pretty far “out on a top of a tree.” He also couldn’t fault the unknown helper for his syntax; he had spent hours studying earthling audio files without the translator, and so far couldn’t make head or tail of it. On top of translating it, writing the message must have been a hell of a chore for the Earth scientist.
It is a belief of some that all species must avoid nuclear annihilation on own, as a test for civilization. They run the space service. I think otherwise. I think intelligent life precious. We have found a frequency that all of your” — scribbled-out word looked like ‘house’ — “planet’s nuclear weapons use. All of them use a base frequency to detonate, and another to launch. It looks to me you made the breakthrough to make the bomb, and all of you used the same picture after that.
The device inside the box will send out a pulse that will disable all of the ones it can reach. It is set to reach the entire planet right now, but you will be able to recognize individual areas designated by switches on the side. If you flip the switch on that region, it will be unaffected by the pulse. After you set what regions you wish to make nuclear-free, just press the button pad.
It will take numerous years to reprogram the weapons to operational again, it should buy you more than enough time. After you are done, I would recommend blowing up the capsule itself. Self-destruct device, switch activated, inside, look around, run after flipping. Save box, almost unbreakable, very useful. Good luck, Rick. A friend.
Well, that was interesting, Jim must have a pulse somewhere under that bureaucratic shell of his; nobody else on this world or any other had the nerve to call him “Rick.” He pulled the box out from the capsule and brought it to the rock he had been sitting on. He set it down, propped open.
On the top, was a flat screen, with an illuminated representation of a button. That seemed simple enough. On the side was a series of similar buttons on another screen. At either end of the screen was a red light and a green light, all of the green lights were currently lit.
Another piece of material was stuck to the side, flapping in the light breeze. Written on it were a series of co-ordinates hammered out in that same painful handwriting. This was actually pretty easy to figure out as well. But to test his theory, he presses a button between the red and green lights on the side. When he did, a green light went out, and a corresponding red light came on. He pressed it again, and the green light came back. Looking carefully, he saw that the coordinates matched up with every single country that currently had the bomb.
There it was: he could send out a localized targeted pulse, and take out a country’s nuclear capabilities from the middle of a desert! He actually gasped as the implications washed over him: no diplomats, not treaties, no military interventions, no sanctions, just CLICK, and I don’t care what God said, buddy, no nukes for you! It was staggering, he had in his hands the power to avert this war!
He was running down a list of which regions to turn off in his head but then stopped himself. It was the ability to have nuclear weapons that had brought the whole planet to its knees. He could end that for ages, most likely nobody would even know he did it.
Maybe he should clear this with somebody with the government, at least let them know he was taking out the theocracies’ nuclear capabilities. Right now everybody was ramping up for the war to end all wars, the extinction of the race, somebody ought to know he was going to avert it.
Of course, that would leave a bunch of other countries with nuclear missiles. Missiles that provided a very evil temptation. Maybe even retribution towards the countries deemed responsible for this current situation...
He looked at the row of green buttons twinkling in the desert night.
He looked at the button on top holding a steady red.
He pushed the button.
After ensuring that the capsule’s detonation was controlled and total. He put the box and the device into his vehicle and drove off into the desert night. Who knows, maybe one day, he might meet the right girl, hatch a few eggs. Maybe the younglings would not have to grow up with the fear of sudden nuclear annihilation hanging over their heads, as he had. Who knew what that freedom might enable them to do one day? Maybe they would be able to achieve a world with no gods and no masters.
[Author’s note] The title refers to the Organic Act of 1916, which has to do with conservation of lesser species in the U.S. parks system. It created the Interior Department, which also created the bureaucracy of conservation. It’s a reference to the very same bureaucracy and rules that in this case are withholding help. It also alludes to sentient life’s being treated as if it were part of a park system.
Copyright © 2017 by Paul Lubaczewski