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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Scenes from a future restaurant

I had this idea of something I might write for a science fiction story set in the future. It goes something like this.


It's the distant future. You're there, naturally, and you're on this big space station. Think of the majestic music from 2001. Really, it's an intergalactic Denny's, with lots of travelers stopping by for a rest or to grab a bite to eat.

Along with humans like you, there are many species of aliens just doing their thing. There's this one species in particular which is rather prolific, just like us. They have also spread out across their solar system and into the stars and there are billions of them just like there are billions of us. The other species we tend to encounter aren't nearly as numerous from what we can tell.

There's a darker side to this big group of aliens. There's a tiny little subgroup hidden within that likes to experiment on humans. I'm talking about the "anal probe" stuff of lore, where they go and do all sorts of invasive things to figure out what makes someone tick. It's a secret society hidden within this much larger group because it's illegal and they want to stay out of prison.

You can't identify the experimenters just by looking at them. It's not like some of them have green eyes and others have blue eyes, or some have three arms while others have two. They just *are*. The only way you know if any given alien of that species is an experimenter... well... is to find yourself on their exam table. Then you can be pretty sure which one you have.

So in any case, you're on this space station, and you go in to the restaurant part to have a meal. As you come in, you hear some aliens of this large species talking. Maybe they're speaking your language, maybe you know theirs, maybe there are chips implanted in your head, who knows. All that matters is that you understand exactly what they are saying. They aren't exactly using their "indoor voices".

While waiting on your food, you eavesdrop, although it's actually difficult to *not* hear what they're saying. They're discussing something and they're clearly not in agreement. One of them says "they're all the same", while the other goes "there are differences". The first one says "no, you're wrong" and the second one says "no, white ones do this, black ones do this, Asian ones do this, well..."

It becomes obvious they are talking about varieties of humans. You eventually realize their conversation is actually about the sort of experiments they could perform to determine this or that about a subject and answer their "racial questions" about human physiology. It occurs to you that they really got going when you were seated at your table and they noticed you.

Before that point, while you were waiting for a table, they had been talking about something else. You didn't remember what it was, but it's clear that the conversation changed as soon as they spotted you. They latched on to the whole "hey, there's one" angle and ran with it, and didn't care who heard. Your very presence in this intergalactic watering hole has changed their behavior, and now they are using you as a basis for their future experimental ideas.

For the rest of your meal, you are now very aware of their locations and general demeanor, because otherwise you might wake up on a lab table with the shiny metal probes and other horrible things like that.

The thing is, it might turn out these two aren't even experimenters. They're just wannabes of this secret society. They like pretending to be members of that illegal clan because it makes people fear them. You noticed them, and they noticed you noticing them, and they enjoyed it. It was the dessert to top off their wiggly alien meal.

So... hey, wait, this was supposed to be science FICTION.