12 Is That an Algorithm in Your Pocket or Are You Just Happy to See Me?

The Shrupt System, Andromeda Galaxy

Dah’zeel the Splarr clutched the multipurpose communications sphere and watched the butterflies and two strange bipeds on the holographic display above the sphere. The vertical black slits of his pupils contracted inside his acid yellow eyes as the scene in the display changed to outside brightness. Dah’zeel, Zeely to his friends, used the Splarr honorific, as did all previous generations of males in his family line. It was a title difficult to translate into other languages. It meant, loosely, “information warrior” and in his society it was an elevated status. Zeely’s people, the Shrupt, had originated on Tharsk, a swampy planet that was one of several habitable worlds in their star system. Over the last several thousand years they had colonized the other worlds, none which had been swampy originally. But now each was perfectly “swamp-iformed” to the preferred conditions of a species that had evolved from semi-intelligent water snakes.

Zeely had the met the smooth-skinned, bland looking bipeds when he delivered the communications sphere to the Gleeze world. He had been monitoring their conversations and database activity ever since he had left the unit with them. The Gleeze seldom purchased technology from the Shrupt, but when they did, they paid handsomely in raw materials such as ores or gems. But there now was a fresh development on the Gleeze world that justified his eavesdropping: the two creatures who had arrived from another galaxy through an ancient portal. Astounding! This technology had unlimited possibilities for traveling to other star systems and, apparently, other galaxies to gather raw materials. And food. The Shrupt were carnivores, but they had hunted their prey on the swamp planet to extinction, and then they hunted all the prey on all their other colony planets, also to extinction. Their zoologists had attempted to breed and raise prey on farms in captivity, but something in the prey’s genome made them sterile after the first generation, something that was present in nature but not in the lab. The Shrupt scientists continued to pursue the mystery component, and in the interim they created supplemental manufactured proteins, but what the people viscerally desired was meat. And these two bipeds had ostensibly come from a planet teeming with it (possibly another kind of prey; if not, the pale ones themselves looked to be adequately juicy.) In addition, it appeared there was an entire moon’s worth of raw material that these aliens had not yet tapped! Why would a people ignore their own uninhabited moon—a rocky sphere of plenty just around the cosmic corner?

In this galaxy, which was lousy with ancient peaceful civilizations, many of whom had omnipotent powers, one had to behave oneself. You couldn’t just swoop into a populated planet and then dine upon its inhabitants, or else some billion-year-old ball of light might find out about it and encase you in a polymer bubble for a thousand years. There could be thousands of unwary and undefended worlds in this Milky Way galaxy, just bursting with food, raw materials and probably very shiny things! Zeely’s reptilian face retracted to reveal his fangs, a Shrupt smile.

He used the monitoring function on his own sphere to pinpoint the geographic location of the Iris on Sessesspressny and then uploaded it to his portable data unit. Then he began making preparations for a return to Sessesspressny.

Part 13, read all chapters here