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Negotiations by Elton Gahr 

Alan tried to listen over the pounding beat of the music and the beers he had been drinking but the truth was that he didn't really care what a middle aged balding man in a cheap suit had to say. He was here to meet models and mingle with some of the richest people in the world. The type of people who wouldn't be caught dead in a hundred dollar suit.


"Sir, if you'd please step outside with me," the man said in a thin squeaking voice.


That was exactly what Alan was trying to avoid. He could get back in easily enough but he always got a few dirty looks when he walked past the long line outside and worse the model he was talking to was the type that got bored quickly. Still, that someone looked like an insurance salesman in a cheap suit had got inside the club at all suggested there was more to him than it first appeared so he followed him towards the back door.


When they reached the door the man opened it to allow Alan to walk through first. Alan stepped out of the door into the alley and was immediately grabbed by two men and was and thrown into the back of a van.


He had been told what to do if kidnapped. These were professionals and this was business. The best thing he could do was make it easy for them. There would be a few days of mild discomfort then his parents would pay the ransom and he would be sent home.


What was a bit worrying was that they should keep his face covered. His rich friends told him that if he saw their faces it was a bad sign. It meant they didn't expect him to be able to tell anyone who they were because they were probably going to kill him so he should try to escape.


But they never gave him a chance to break free so he studied their faces.


They appeared to be eastern European, tall blond men with with identical black suits. Russian mafia, except he was certain they weren't Russian or mafia. He wasn't sure how he knew that. Perhaps it was the look in their eyes or the way they moved but he knew there was something off even before the middle aged man in the cheap suit said, "We are not kidnapping you."


"You're certainly putting on a good show though," Alan said.


"You had to be gone for a few days. This way no one asks too many questions you can't answer. We have already contacted your parents and told them we were picking you up. Still if you'd like to call them and verify I'm telling the truth that is acceptable," the man who had first approached him said.


"First I would like some explanation of what is happening or there won't be anything to verify."


"Your family is important. A few hundred years ago my people made contact with a small group of humans. Your ancestor was picked to negotiate and trade. But he could only trade that which he had access to and could not ask for things he did not understand. So each generation takes over the negotiation from the last."


"So you're not human."


My species was traveling between worlds for millennial before your species existed. We first discovered an intelligent species on this planet fifty thousand years ago, but they were without civilization."


"Fifty thousand years?" Alan said.


"Not all that long ago in the grander scheme of things. Over those millennium we gave you a few nudges to help move things along. We encouraged trade, helped you with domestication and agriculture and eventually a civilization began. Most of the rest we let you figure out on your own."


"Why not help us with everything?" Alan asked.


"Learning to domesticate animals and how to grow crops is basically universal. The only real important choice is what animals and foods are domesticated. There are more dogs and cats living on our worlds than yours. Less so with your food, though you have developed a few useful foods. Honey is popular. But when you create language that is unique and that helps create new ways of thinking. That unique language and way of thinking is why you have something to trade."


"But you said you didn't negotiate with us until a few hundred years ago," Alan said.


"You know what you're doing and that is important to our current plans. But trade can also be used for subtle adjustments. It lets us speed up things from time to time. A merchant arrives and sells fish hooks and improved mining tools in a town and then leaves. The people in that town don't want to go back to the less efficient tools when they break so they look at the tools and learn to make them themselves and others learn from them. The difference now is that you are trusted to make your own decisions. "


"But couldn't you just take what you want?" Alan asked.


"We are not thieves. What you make is yours and no race thinks like any other so there is always something to trade."


"And what do you give us?"


"That's a bit more complicated. We take books, music, art and philosophy and in return give you engineering and science, but the trade is up to you. Say no and we'll take nothing and give nothing. Is there anything that you think is particularly urgent," the man said, as he spoke they pulled into a warehouse.


"Global warming seems problematic," Alan said.


"Your father seemed blissfully unaware of the effects you were having on your environment. I am glad to see you are thinking a bit more broadly," the man said, as he did the two men by the side of the van opened the door and he stepped out.


The warehouse was clearly not used as as a warehouse. The walls were typical. Concrete with metal beams and the colored plastic that replaced windows in many warehouses along with the cheap metal shelves. But everything else was clearly not made by humans. Alan couldn't even be sure what most of the things in the warehouse did.


"This is one of our bases. From here we monitor your people. There are very few humans allowed in in this building and fewer are allowed to leave, but you must understand as much as possible if you are to take over the job of your father," the man said.


As he spoke Alan realized that some of the technology he couldn't identify were the aliens. At least he thought they were. One of them was in front of a TV which made him assume that the bulge facing the TV was some type of sensory organ. Beyond that though he really wasn't able to make out much. It might move using the small wide bulges that touched the floor or it might be sitting down and he saw nothing that he would call arms or hands.


"Is that what you usually look like?" Alan asked.


"More or less. Our people have more physical variation than your people. Personally I've been in a human form for almost two hundred years. If you're going to be on a primitive planet for a long time it's just easier to look like them."


"How many different races are there?"


"Honestly no one has any idea. Our race has records of over three million planets that hold life. We have a record of at least a million different types of intelligent life, but that's a bit tricky because it's not always easy to tell. You'd be surprised how many dead ends there are."


"Dead ends?"


"Things that cause a species to stop advancing. It's more common than not. Imagine a species on your planet that is intelligent but lives in the water. They might develop stone tools but to advance beyond that they would need metal tools and that requires fire. The same problem can happen if a species simply doesn't have the right appendages to use tools. And those are the obvious and easy problems. Of course many of those can be circumvented with help, and for less advanced species the species can simple change, but once a species reaches a certain level of dominance over their environment the forces that cause improvement largely stops."


"Then what happens?"


"Nothing. That is the point. But if they are near us and have intelligence we will give them a nudge in a more useful direction."


"Like you're doing with us now?" Alan asked.


"You are not a dead end species. You have already made it off your planet. Once a species has the knowledge and skills to reach space the only thing left is survival. Your species seems unlikely to destroy itself so it's only a matter of time before you are able to learn what we know. We're just helping to speed up the process a bit. Some of the older races call us impatient, but most of them won't even interact with us, and some of the oldest don't do anything."




"Perhaps they have reached their own dead end but we are not advanced enough to understand or perhaps they are enlightened. What we know is that there are races that have went hundreds of thousands of years without any significant change in technology or culture and very few works of art or culture. They have everything they could ever want and so have no reason to do anything. Their lands are then often taken over by other more vibrant races."


"Like a war?" Alan asked.


"You don't go to war against a race that is a million years old. They have technology can make and unmake stars. You simply move onto their planets and if no one objects you just keep moving in."


"So how would you help us deal with global warming?" Alan asked.


"That's where things become complicated. We have technology that would removed the dangerous gas from the atmosphere but that would encourage the behavior that caused the problem in the first place and you need to find better sources of energy. But when we could give you a new energy source then you'll use both because your people are energy starved but without a way to remove the gas that would be problematic. It would also unbalance your countries and likely create wars. Technology is all connected which is why we can't advance any single technology without ramifications to almost everything else. It is the reason we do not advance anyone’s technology to quickly. "


"Is there any good way to encourage peace?" Alan asked. He had never really thought about world peace much. It was practically a joke when people asked about wishes and dreams, but a race that had existed hundreds of times as long as modern human civilization must know something about avoiding war or at least not wiping itself out completely.


"We're not good at that?" the man said.


"So you still fight with each other?" Alan asked.


The man chuckled lightly and said, "The opposite actually. We never really fought with each other so never had to learn how to avoid it. My best advice is to reduce the shortages and pressures that cause wars."


"Aren't you worried that we'll go to war with other worlds?"


"Who? Even if you could get to another world they'll have technology a thousand years or more ahead of you. My people aren't good at war but if you launched every weapon you've ever created it wouldn't be able to get through the armor of one of our ships and we have shields. Still your people are dangerous and will become more dangerous over time."


"Why do you care about us at all?" Alan asked. From everything he had heard the people humans were as far below them as any animal on earth was below humans.


"Once a race learns to travel between stars everything in the universe becomes common expect one thing. Intelligent races are the rarest resource in the galaxy. There is gold, iron even plutonium everywhere, but the only place in the galaxy that humans come from is earth."


"The only place they come from," Alan said.


"We do take humans to other places from time to time," the man said.


"And you've been doing that for quite a while," Alan said.


"About thirty thousand years," the alien said.


"And they've been healthier and had more room to expand than humans on earth for that entire time," Alan said.


"Yes. There are considerably more humans on other worlds than on earth but it's not the same. They are like animals kept in a zoo. They are comfortable and can even be useful but try to return them to the wild and they won't survive. They need someone else to protect and feed them. No offense meant to your species."


"I'm of no illusion about the greatness of humans. I didn't like us all that much before I knew there were species that were a million years old," Alan said.


"Being old isn't all that impressive. It simply means that you didn't die. And once you reach the technology level of your species that becomes less likely. And time means far less because you're not changing over time. You're being changed by technology and that can happen quickly or slowly. It just depends on the technology. It's mostly based on your choices. The only reason that it is dangerous is that the choices are made blind. Often races do not even know they are making decision and when they do they almost never know where those decisions are leading. And we can't make those decisions for you because we cannot understand you. Even wearing your skin for two hundred years I've never been able to understand how you fight or why. My people still use tactics created by Alexander the Great in combat. And they work better than anything we had and the replacements for those tactics have mostly come from you as well."


"And that explains why I shouldn't ask for you to help us stop fighting. You're people are good at peace. Probably better than we are at war. But you need us to fight. For all I know you've been actively making us more warlike. You push us into war after war so we get better at it and you can use what we learn and advance our technology so the techniques we develop are closer to what you need."


"We were in a war. We had far more ships than the enemy and our technology is many years advanced of those and yet we lost almost every battle. We converted entire worlds into factories to keep up with our losses and their ability to fight was growing faster than our ability to defend ourselves. Then we discovered you. You had no written language and were still using stone knives but you understood how to fight better than we did. We took a tribe and moved them to one of our worlds. Trained them to use our technology and within a generation they begin to turn the tide."


"You've been fighting the same war for forty thousand years?"


The man looked at Alan for a moment then said, "Space is big, but it's not that big. We defeated them in about two hundred years. But they were a dangerous race and so we changed them so they could never make war again."


"Then why do you need us?"


"The universe is a dangerous place and the older races won't get involved to fix things so we must. We have eliminated or altered eight hundred and seventy six dangerous races with your help."


"For a race that's bad at war it sounds like you're quite good at it," Alan said.


"You're the one that taught us that the best defense is a good offense. We're partners and we'd like you to take a bigger part of that partnership," the man said.


"But I'm the one that decides, so what happens if I decide that we're out. That I don't want to have anything to do with you?" Alan asked.


"I like you. I like your people and so I'm going to tell you the truth. We've eliminated over eight hundred races with your help because they were too dangerous. But the reason we were able to do it is because you are as dangerous or more dangerous than any of them. But the good news is that there are plenty of humans not on earth so the race won't be entirely eliminated just your branch of the race and we estimate it would only take about a thousand years to create a new civilization that would be able to begin to create new technology," he said.


"And the others all knew about this?" Alan asked.


"None of them ever asked," the man said, and Alan saw something else. He was trapped, but not by this man. He had to do this job or someone else would do it and they would be less helpful.


"Well then, since you've been so honest and helpful I had one more question. If you were in my position what would you ask for?"


The man smiled. He looked more human when he said that and after a second or two he said, "It's about time someone got around to that particular question. So here's the deal. You don't want energy or even faster than light travel. You want communications technology. With that you'll have a chance to find a way out from under our control."


"Let's discuss that then," Alan said.



Author's Note


This story focuses on a few things that I think a lot of science ficiton misses. One of the major ones is that races would never be the same age. If there are aliens they are likely to have been in space a million years as they are to be our age. I find that variation very interesting because when I look at the stars and imagine people different than us.

THere is another point in the story. One that's a bit more political. There is a differance between protecting yourself and going out of your way to control someone because they might be dangerous. And I suspect most of us feel very different about the morality of that difference depending on which side of that choice we are on. 



Leaving the Cave by Elton Gahr

Leaving The Cave


Elton Gahr


Emma watched the people and the buildings from the back of the police car. She should be upset but none of this felt real. The world seemed like a shadow of reality. Even the discomfort of the handcuffs felt distant and unimportant. In fact the only thing about the entire situation that really mattered to Emma was that no one believed her when she told them what she had seen. Instead they decided she was a danger to herself.

It had been three weeks since she had seen the vision of the real world. It was this world but a more real version of the world she had seen her entire life. Colors and shapes that didn't exist here filled that place. You could see all sides of things at once and yet not see everything there was. In three weeks she hadn't been able to strike those images from her mind and all she wanted to do was see more and try to understand what she had seen.

Part of the reason that she wanted to see it again was to try to convince herself that she wasn't insane. The simplest and most obvious answer was that she was insane but she had never seriously considered that. She didn't think that she could have imagined the things that she had saw.

Emma expected to go to the police station, but instead instead they took her to a house that looked like it came from early the last century. She had walked past the house a hundred times. The stories were that it was haunted.

They removed the handcuffs as soon as she was out of the car and took her to the old worn fence with white paint pealing off. They stopped at the edge of the fence, but she didn't. When she looked at the house now she could see a glimmer of the real world. It was almost nothing like before but it gave her hope that she might be able to see it again.

The front door of the house was open and so she went in. She expected to find someone here so she began to wander the house but there was no one else here. It looked to her as if no one had been here for years. But there were books scattered around the house and cans and boxes of food everywhere. Someone had kept this place but not lived in it.

There was only one bed in the house. A thin mattress on a hard wooden frame on the third floor. The only other furniture in the house was the kitchen table and three chairs one with a broken back. There was no TV or radio anywhere and so once she was convinced she was alone she picked up one of the books and sat down at the best looking of the three chairs and tried to read.

She didn't expect to be able to focus on the book. She hadn't really been able to focus on anything for about three weeks. But there was something odd about reading. It wasn't all that good of a book, but it was the first book she had read since she had seen beyond the veil and she realized that because the images and ideas in the book happened in her mind she could see the world of that book in the way that she had seen the few minutes that had changed her life. It didn't matter if it was a good book or a bad book. When she read a book it felt real in a way that nothing else did except when she could see the real world.

Once she realized that she began to understand what was going on. She wasn't the first person who had seen the other world and one of them must have lived here. There might be lots of people who had seen the same things as her but never been able to explain it. How did you explain colors to someone who was colorblind?

Since she had no idea what else to do she tried to keep busy. She read books most of the time, but she also found a typewriter in one of the closest and piles of paper and in the garage a number of woodworking tools.

The first thing she did with the tools was fix her chair. It took her most of a day. But it felt good to have a project and she began to feel a bit more connected to the world again.

It was that same day that she found a box on the front porch. It had a gallon of milk, two boxes of cereal, six cans of vegetables, a loaf of bread, a three pound bag of potatoes and four pounds of chicken. On top of all that was an old leather bound journal and a letter in an envelope.


The letter read: 

Dear Miss Sullivan,

We apologize for the abruptness and manner of your isolation but have found that isolation is best for people in your current condition. You likely have deduced by now that you are not the first person to have had this experience. The journal enclosed is from one of the others. We hope you can understand it. We do not.

If you have any insights in the book, or better ways to explain it please write it down. We have copies of the book. When you are done with it simply put it in the mailbox and someone will pick it up.

We would also ask that you keep a record of your own experiences. Write down everything you see and hear. If you can write it in a way that is understandable that is preferred. If you can not attempt to use the same words as the journal. A shared vocabulary will help.

Beyond that there is very little aid we can give. Isolation seems to increase the likelihood of having moments of clarity. To that end we discourage most forms of media. News should be limited, TV and radio entirely removed if possible. Books are better and certain authors seem to have a stronger connection to what has happened to you than most.

We will deliver food at the beginning of each week. If you have specific desires or requirements simply make a list and put it in the mailbox and it will be delivered.

You may leave if you desire, but we believe you want answers as much as we do and this is the best chance for either of us.


Doctor Randy Lewis


Emma read the letter twice. It seemed very impersonal but it was the first understanding she had of what was going on. Still, the journal seemed more important so opened one of the boxes of cereal and began to eat it dry out of the box while she read the journal.

At first the journal didn't make sense to her. The writer seemed to have created his own language for what he had seen and Emma didn't know that language. But he tried to explain the words and she had seen some of what he had seen.

The easiest thing was what he had choose to call the second depth. She understood that almost immediately though it wasn't the word she would have chosen to use. Like width, depth and height what she had seen was like those but it wasn't any of them. It was separate from them.

It was in that second depth that everything else she had seen existed. It was as if everything she saw was a shadow of what was real just like a drawing was a representation of three dimensions.

He explained why he used the word shadow by talking about the allegory of the cave. It was a philosophical idea created by Plato. He spoke of captives chained in a cave so that all they could see was the shadows on the wall. They lived their entire lives that way. They learned to understand the world by seeing the shadows without ever seeing what created the shadows. Then one of the men escaped the chains. He saw the real words and understood that it was far more real than the shadows. But when he returned and tried to tell the other people they didn't believe him.

That explanation fit what Emma had seen almost perfectly. She wondered, as did Peter, if Plato hadn't seen the same thing that they had. But there wasn't any enough evidence of that besides the story. That said, there was plenty of evidence that Peter had seen the same thing and that made Emma feel far better.

What was more important was that he had seen it many times. He had been in this house for thirty five years. He had first seen the other dimension when he was thirty, four years older than her and it had been three months before he had seen it the second time. But it had become more common over the years.

One of the things that he believed helped was routine. But it wasn't just routine. It was monotony. He had oatmeal every morning, bread and broth for lunch and chicken and potatoes for dinner.

It was only three days after she began follow Peter's routine that she had a second vision. She was cooking her breakfast when everything in the house seemed to change. It suddenly went from a drab and largely empty old house to a museum of wonder. She wasn't certain how much of it was because Peter had interacted with things here and how much of it was that everyplace was so beautiful but she began to look around trying to understand what she was seeing.

The vision lasted about five minutes but it rejuvenated her. She had began to grow weary being here alone all the time but now she knew it was important. She began to record what she saw using the words of Peter. She found he had described far more than she had understood before. Things that had made almost no sense before she had seen them now seemed so simple that she wondered how she had missed it before.

But there was something else. Something she hadn't seen before. Peter had hinted at it. He spoke of the others. And Emma had seen something the first time. About the size of a person though it didn't look human yet she instinctively believed to be intelligent or at least alive.

She tried not to think about that too much. If they were there at all she didn't see any reason to believe they were dangerous, but knowing there was someone else in the house made her uncomfortable enough that she sent out her first question to the mailbox. She simply asked what happened to Peter Long.

He had died of a heart attack which convinced her that what she saw wasn't him. But she was also convinced that information was being kept from her. The journal was old and handwritten but it was a single book about fifty pages long that covered thirty years. But according to the journal itself he wrote every day. It was part of the routine.

But she couldn't just ask what information they were hiding. Even if they admitted they were withholding information they wouldn't give it to her. But she had began to get to know Peter from his journal. He was a bright man and a little bit paranoid. So she decided to assume he had hid a notebook.

They would have searched the house. That was likely how they had found the other journals. But she could look places they couldn't and if he had learned enough he might have been able to put something into that second depth.

It was another four days before she saw the real world again. This time she was in the bedroom and she began to search for anything he might have hidden. The problem was that while the room was small when you added another dimension it held considerably more space so took considerably longer to explore.

Still she was reasonably certain that there was nothing there.

It took a month and a half of searching to find what she was looking for. It was in the garage. Somehow he had put several books into the second depth. The problem was that while she could see them she couldn't pick them up but it seemed that was the next thing she needed to learn.

Since rushing to the garage every time she saw the deeper world would make finding anything difficult she instead moved the mattress into the garage so she never had to leave the garage except to eat. Two days later she saw that world and the small pile of books, but when she tried to reach for them she couldn't touch them. She continued to try for some time. She moved around the books trying to see them from different angles in hopes that she might figure it out. She hoped it was simply the same problem someone might have if they didn't understand depth and tried to reach out and grab the sun out of the sky.

Her ability to see the world beyond faded away without having reached the books. But she had an idea. She kept the box of cereal with her and when she she could see that again she threw out handfuls of the cereal. They scattered in every direction, including into the second depth. But unlike the books she knew about how far they were and so she was able to pick them up.

It was easiest when she didn't think about it that much. She had picked up cereal plenty of times in the past and this wasn't actually any different. Except of course it was. Some of it seemed to hang in the air while others were below where the floor should be but so long as she didn't think about it she could pick them all up and it began to feel a bit more normal by the time she was done.

That small step also let her see the world far longer than she had before as well as hearing and smelling things that she suspected were from that place. Still, when she stood up to move towards the books she snapped out of the half trance that had let her see the world as it truly was.

The next day when she woke up she saw the world differently. It wasn't like seeing the other world. It was more like the quick look she had of the house when she first arrived here. Like she was seeing part of that reality all of the time. But it was still a day before she saw the deeper world again.

This time she understood why she had failed before and was able to pick up the books. She then put them on the shelf and then sat down and enjoyed watching everything without having to try to do anything. It was just the garage in an old house but it was beyond beauty. It was beyond anything she could have imagined before she had seen it.

They journals were far different than the other journal. Even the handwriting was different and as she read the journals she began to suspect that people were trying to control her or at least limit her information.

One of the main points in the journal were the strange movements he spotted from time to time. It seemed they really were creatures living in the next dimension up. He assumed that most were animals or at least unable to communicate with him, but there were intelligent creatures too and they seemed to understand English.

The other thing that interested her was that he described some of the things you could do. The first she already understood. It was possible to put things into the second depth that no one without a connection to that world could reach.

It was also possible to enter the second depth completely. When you did that you had a number of major advantages. The most useful was that you could walk around things that seemed solid in the three dimensional world. The way that Peter explained it used a two dimensional creature inside a circle. To it there would appear to be no way to escape the circle, but anyone in the third dimension could just step over the line. It wouldn't even be difficult.

Of course she had to be careful. She would be invisible to everyone while in that extra dimension but she wasn't in full control so she might pop out from anywhere at any time which could be a problem if she was seen, or worse if she found herself inside a wall.

Once she began to understand the possibilities it became almost easy to move in and out of that dimension. Not that she ever left the house.

It took almost three months before she felt safe enough to walk out of out of the house.

She made it past the wall but then was met by one of the creatures. She had by that time seen a few small creatures but this was larger than the average human and it's entire body moved and twisted all the time. It was almost as odd as the first time that she had seen the second depth.

It was still like trying to look at a person through a prism that was constantly shifting.

"You are not ready to leave yet," it said. The voice itself was almost normal. More real than anything she had heard before though she had occasionally heard sounds from the second depth.

"I'm not interested in being a prisoner anymore," she said. She wasn't certain in which sense she meant that, but she had faith that this creature was probably smart enough to understand both.

"I am glad to hear that, but you're not a prisoner. You're a child who isn't old enough to go out alone. You don't know the dangers of this place and you're likely to wander into the road," the voice said. It sounded like a woman's voice.

"Then why have you left me alone? Shouldn't a child be taken care of and taught?"

"You're eyes are barely open. You struggle to recognize my face. We teach what we can but the most important part of learning is time."

"All I want to do is tell people that there is something more than this world," she said.

"They know that. We've been telling them for millennium. You call it many things. The afterlife, the spirit realm, even heaven and even hell."

"So you're saying that you're God?" Emma said.

"Not at all. We have no idea how many steps there are between us and God. He might have created a thousand dimensions and we can see four. It's just that we see one more than you. We fit a bit better into the place of angles, muses, even aliens. Those of us who interact with you are teachers and messengers."

"And what are you trying to teach us?"

"That there is more in heaven and earth than is dreampt of in your philosophy," the creature said, and it was difficult for Emma to believe it was lying. There was no real reason for it to lie because the one thing she was certain wasn't lying about was that it was like an adult talking to a child. If it wanted to stop her it could and it didn't need to say anything.

"But you sent people to stop me from telling them?" Emma asked.

"We gave them the idea to get you and bring you here because you didn't know the truth. You knew that you had seen something strange but didn't know what it was. We have put a lot of effort into the message. You were brought here because this place was already made safe."

"So what do I do now?" Emma asked.

"What all children do. Grow larger and stronger and eventually become an adult. For now though stay close and I'll show you around. It then held out its hand.

Emma looked at the odd twisting hand and then reached up and took her hand and the two began to walk down the street while she considered what the world might look like with a fifth dimension added.



Author's Note:

The idea of higher dimentions and worlds beyond our own is one that has interested me for some time. I also like the writings of H.P. Lovecraft and used some of the ideas he put into his own work into trying to write this because the problem is that by writing about something that is unimaginable you run into the problem that describing it makes it imaginable. To that end most of the descriptions here are vague or alude to things that you can't understand. I mention at least once colors other than those we know. That is a more specific referace to A Colour out of Space. 


If you are interested in the Allegory of the Cave that I mentioned here you can see the wikipedia page 


Short Science Fiction Story: Energy Woes 

One of the things that I love about science ficiton, espeically older science fiction is the idea that a single person with a great idea could change the world. On the other hand it seems as if everyone knows someone who knows someone who claims to have created super engine that was bought and destoryed by the car companies. This story examines a reasonably classic science fiction inventor trynig to deal with those issues.


Energy Woes


Elton Gahr


The truck camper shook with the vibrations of the generator crammed into what Beck called his mobile laboratory, a green, rusted, 1972 Ford. Beck dreamed of the day he could repair his truck, heck he'd be rich enough to buy a new truck all he needed to do was make his energy cell work.

He adjusted the schematics on his makeshift computer. The text scrolled across the green monochrome screen and the computer beeped the irritated sound which was the only noise it could make.

The numbers we right he was certain and having tapped into the electric grid should have enough energy to charge the cell.

The truck grew bright then black as the overhead light grew bright and then exploded overwhelmed by the power. Then just as he was convinced he had failed the meters attached to the small cell began to flicker. It only gave off about as much energy as a watch battery but since it used quantum forces it would never run down. Effectively free energy, though it would take years for it to replace the energy that it took to create it.

Beck jumped into the cab of the truck, but as he turned the key again he heard only the grinding of his starter and he hit the steering wheel and the truck shook and started.

The truck bounced down the dirt road and Beck thought about where to go. He couldn’t afford to make the cells himself. He needed a buyer and the obvious choice was the military. But that would ensure they were a national secret designed to help the USA to regain its superpower status and that wasn't why Beck created his cell. He wanted to end suffering and destroy greed. That meant he needed everyone to have the cells.

It took most of the day to reach the edges of the Seattle stopping every few miles to let the engine to cool until he reached the Dipnoteck buildings. As he entered he tried not to think about his old worn coveralls and three dollar hair cut. He wouldn't be looked down upon much longer. Dipnoteck could pay him until so many cells were produced money became obsolete.

The glass doors slid open and Beck entered the lobby. An impressive sight with marble floors and a wide stairway leading to the second floor which was a long balcony leading secretarial offices open in the middle so you could see the gold and silver painted roof, but as much money as the building cost the business wasn't stupid, they didn't waste money. There were no lights on in the lobby, instead using sunlight to light the room and the elevators had been closed of running them became prohibitive.

"Do you have an appointment, sir?" a middle-aged woman at the front desk said.

"Just contact Dr. Creach and tell him Dr. Beck is here. He'll want to speak to me,” Beck said. The man might not like him, but he knew he was brilliant and would want to know what he had discovered.

The woman typed something into her computer then looked up at Beck, frowned, and said, "Dr. Creach died three years ago, sir."

Beck's shoulders fell. His best chance had been Creach, but any physicist should understand what he had done so he said, "Let me talk to anyone in research and development. Tell them I can earn them a lot of money."

Greed should get him an appointment but the woman only said "You need to make an appointment,” then looked him up and down and chuckled. They wouldn't meet him. They assumed he was a nut who found Dr. Creach's name in a scientific journal.

"You don't understand I went to school with Dr. Creach. We developed a theory and I've proven it right. I can change the world and make you all rich,” Beck said, but he knew arguing made him sound more insane.

He had burnt too many other bridges and so he drove towards the nearest military base.  Not an ideal choice but eventually they would have to admit the technology existed. It would take far longer, but that might actually be good. They military could certainly build the cells faster and getting a meeting wasn’t hard.

The general’s office was a large room dominated by an oak desk covered with papers and a metal desk lamp with a green shade. The light was on though the room was more than bright enough without it. Military extravagance if Beck had ever seen it.

Behind the desk was a powerful looking man. He sat calmly and watched Beck. He made him more aware of his appearance than the secretary at Diponteck. This man was judging him and Beck knew he came up short.

"Hello Beck. Can you explain what we're here for in the next five minutes?" the general ask. The tone in his voice almost mocking but Beck but didn't care. He would have their respect once they knew what he had done.

"I've created an energy cell that will revolutionize the military. It produces small amounts of energy but it never runs down or needs recharged. It is free energy,” Beck said.

The general nodded and said, "I'm don't remember much of high school science but isn't A perpetual motion machine physically impossible."

"It isn't a perpetual motion machine!" Beck yelled. He had known people would say that. But he calmed quickly and said, "It just taps into the energy of the universe in a way no one knew was possible. I’m not creating energy, just using it."

"You don't understand how much this will cost me if the cell isn’t what you claim. This will cost a lot of money and energy to test,” The general said.

"And what if it's real? What if we can eliminate the energy crisis? What then?" Beck said, the general wanted something.

"Then the brilliant scientist get the credit and I get nothing. The military doesn't reward people for doing their jobs right,” the general said.

Beck couldn't do it. He had dedicated his life to destroying greed. But he wasn't willing to tell the general that so he said, "Let me get the cell you have contacts which will buy it I am certain."

Beck walked out to the old green truck and got in. He would find someplace else to sell the energy. Heck he could eat off the amount of energy it was creating already and if he got a job he could buy enough energy to make another in a year.

As he got into the Truck he saw something more, armed soldiers coming towards him, one of them talking on their radio. The general was going to simply steal the cell and all of the information in his truck.  That left him no choice and Beck pumped the gas pedal and spun the wheel rushing towards the general’s office.

There was nothing left. They had won, the world had beat him, but he knew that there was one last way to prove his cell worked. That was the joke he thought laughing. The energy would be unmistakable, but also impossible to replicate without him or his laboratory. Perhaps that would change things as well. 

And so with that final thought Beck swerved the truck into building smashing through the stone of the building.  With the sudden impact on the cell it released all the energy it could have produced in a century leaving behind nothing but the evidence that humanity had given up it chance to have everything because of its greed.


Free Short Story: Fish Story by Elton Gahr

I wrote this story most of a decade ago and it is one of the few stories from that time that I still actually like. It is pretty simple and it is in part due to the frustration of the government dropping the ball on space exploration. I suspect the name has been used for a number of other stories, but I hate titles enough I didn't bother looking to find another.


Fish Story

By Elton Gahr



Paul slammed the newspaper on Cedric's desk and said, "How the hell did the newspapers get this before me?"

“You’d have covered it up. Someone had to make sure the people knew."

"I would have studied it! Finding complex life isn’t something that should be taken lightly. It’s just one fish," Paul said.

"One fish found in ice from Europa. How many do you need? There's life on Europa," Cedric said.

"The President gave a speech today announcing a manned mission. A trillion dollar trip! A trillion dollars we should spent on schools, hospitals and public infrastructure!" Paul said, his eyes bulged, and the vein in her forehead throbbed.

"We’ll win the Nobel Peace Prize," Cedric said and ran his finger over the newsprint photo of the perfectly formed fish which looked more alien now than it had in the laboratory.

Paul stood up, the red disappearing from his face and he said "They’ll probably have us on every TV show in the country. We’ll be celebrities."

Cedric glanced at the black and white picture and said, "You know I don’t like being in public. I'd rather you take the credit, like the other times. I'll stay here and study the fish. Someone has to get a skin sample."

Paul looked at the picture for a few seconds then said, "If that’s what you want that's what we’ll do," the smile now breaking his face nearly in half.




The news anchor droned on about half a dozen subjects but, like everyone else on the planet, Cedric was only interested in the shuttle which circled the moon of Europa with twelve men and women ready to start one of the greatest scientific missions ever created by mankind.

The mission had already paid for itself in Cedric’s opinion. Countries were working together like never before and several scientific discoveries had improved recycling and manufacturing techniques. Much of that was about to change.

What shocked Cedric the most was that in three years no one had bothered to get a second sample of the fish's DNA. It was simply too valuable to cut up and study and he wondered for a moment if this had all went too far.

That meant that the only one who knew that there would be nothing found today was Cedric. There were no fish, in fact there had been no signs of life at all.

When that happened there would be a witch hunt. And when people began to check the DNA findings they would find see Paul’s name as the only one who took samples of the DNA thanks to his need for glory.

Cedric then glanced down at the envelope. The letter in it reminded Paul of the ideas he had stolen and pawned off as his own three years ago. Then it explained, in the most cryptic language Cedric could devise, how he had gotten even with a small rubber fish.




Free Short Story: Karma Bot by Elton Gahr

I find the idea of the singularity generally interesting, and while these stories can be huge and epic ideas this is not one of those. I simply had a quick idea of what might happenen if someone transfered their mind into a robot at a more personal level.

Karma Bot


Elton Gahr


“I am sorry, Madam, but your husband is dead,” the lawyer said. He did not seem all that upset by the statement.  The smirk on his face even suggested he was enjoying it and the woman want to slap him.

The woman looked across the table at the seven foot tall robot and said, “That is my husband.”

“Not legally. Legally that is a robot which was owned by your husband and programmed through a procedure which allowed it to keep intact the memory and personality of your husband, but it is not your husband.  Your husband is dead.”

“And his will?” the woman asked, though she knew already.

“Leaves everything in a trust, to be managed by the robot,” the lawyer said.

“But if it’s not my husband isn’t it just a computer?” the woman said.

“The courts have already been contacted. It has proven an ability to take care of itself and so has been conditionally emancipated. I’m sorry madam, but you’re going to have to vacate the property. You are trespassing,” The Lawyer said.

The woman looked around the mansion which had once been her world and at the machine which had once been her husband and then turned and walked out with nothing but the shirt on her back.

The robot turned to the lawyer and said, “So, that’s it. I’m free. I can do anything I want.”

“More or less, as you know there are some limitations to the hardware. Touch, taste and smell are not installed yet, so don’t try eating anything. Of course you are also currently neuter due to those same limitations. Also the memory storage and CPU would need to be upgraded for your full capacity to be restored,” The Lawyer said.

“But that’s coming quickly,” the robot said.

“That’s the other small issue. The transfer cost a bit more than you planned. Which means, you have more debt than property. Also, the emancipation was conditional on money which allowed you to support yourself. Without that money you become nothing more than a machine. Which leaves the matter of my fee. According to the law, I am able to take position of property in return for my fee. I believe the house robot is of the correct value, so I will take position of that.”