Welcome to the Thoughtcrime Experiments anthology.
Our aim was to find mind-breakingly good science fiction/fantasy stories that other editors had rejected, and release them into the commons for readers to enjoy. My co-editor Leonard writes extensively on our methodology and aims in Appendix A, but the short version is: we did it. Here it is.
Excerpt from Welcome to the Federation by Mark Onspaugh:
Gird Mackel was dreaming of happier times when the loud, shrill alarm of his Happy Tone clock-radio assaulted him into wakefulness.
Gird had owned ten clock-radios in his life, and the first nine had been sensible enough to break when he hurled them across the room.
The Happy-Tone merely bounced off the wall and continued to bray at him. It seemed indestructible. His assistant Huri had selected it on the basis of durability when she had purchased the cursed thing at Gal-Mart (“Where the Galaxy shops!”).
Gird rubbed his eyes and got out of bed, gasping when his bare feet hit the cold floor.
The heat was out again.
Gird sighed and shambled to the bathroom, mentally going over his agenda for the coming day.
The bathroom faucets belched out brown water for a good three minutes before clearing. The water got progressively colder, even though Gird had the hot tap turned up as far as it would go.
Gird cursed the plumbing, something that had become a morning ritual, then splashed cold water on his face. He desperately wanted a shower but was afraid the frigid water might give him a heart attack. He tried shaving, but his Gal-Mart Shave-a-tron 5000 shorted out with a spectacular burst of sparks and smoke. He settled for splashing his face with the aftershave his son Nuul had sent him for the Blessing of the Fish and Waters Festival last year.
It was a scent called Starduster, and it burned his face.
Gird put on his suit and chose a clip-on tie from a rack in the closet. He had never mastered the art of tying the damn things. Traditionally the men of Covalla had kept their neck and chests bare, to show that they were honest and that their twin hearts beat true.
That was before the visits from the Federation of Worlds and the Kregaash Empire. Covalla, a tiny planet in an unremarkable system, had never had visitors from other worlds, let alone two massive collectives that spanned whole galaxies.
The Federation of Worlds had been founded by Earth and a handful of sentient worlds long before Gird’s great-great-great-grandfather had been born. Because the founding worlds were on the opposite side of the galaxy, Covalla had been ignored for millennia.
Then the Kregaash Empire had conquered a neighboring galaxy known to the Covallans as Pa-uul-ahuhuyan, or “The Great Oar of Pa- uul”. This region was known to the Federation as “The Large Magellanic Cloud” and to the Kregaash as “The Kregaashian Birthright”. Running low on races to subdue and abuse, the conquest- happy Kregaash had been looking to expand their empire, and their reptilian eyes had fallen on Covalla.
Once the Kregaash Empire began making overtures, the Federation of Worlds decided they were interested in Covalla, as well.
Both groups sent dignitaries and presents, and both sides told the Covallans how important they were. As a welcoming gesture, Gird’s grandfather Murr had led the boats out and caught a giant tren, a meaty fish large enough to feed the village and the dignitaries.
Both sides seemed to appreciate the feast, though much of their portions of tren was later found in napkins stashed under the table. Both seemed to enjoy the traditional dancing and entertainment, though the wait staff later revealed that the Federation representative had actually been asleep and the Kregaashian was surreptitiously playing something called a “video game”.
The Covallans were a good-natured and forgiving people, and they shrugged off these insults. Their world was pleasant, the seas were bountiful, and they loved sharing.
If only we had been a little meaner, thought Gird.