The Replicants
by Gerry Burke

Generally, science fiction is one thing and humor is another. However it takes only a paragraph and a half before readers come upon Planet Schmoo, foretelling a cosmic collision of science and shtick. Rapidly, multiple characters are introduced who further this formulation of interstellar absurdity. The Schmooans are on their way to Earth to participate in intergalactic athletic games. Or, is something more sinister at play? If it is, trouble and comedy are both assured, since the earthlings and the space travelers seem incapable of passing up a potential pun. As the aliens begin to mix and mingle with their human hosts, sportsmanship and camaraderie are in danger of turning into something much darker. If Author Burke’s past genre send-ups are any clue, which they most certainly are, hang on for a huge helping of hilarity. This initial chapter seems particularly apropos for the classic (and often misquoted) line from Betty Davis in All About Eve, “Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.” Davis actually said “night," but if you read past Burke’s opening chapter there’s every chance you’ll soon be giggling too much to care.


Chapter 1

The Zolt was Planetarium Corporation’s last commissioned space cruiser. On the back of their prototype assembly, the manufacturer had promised a state-of-the-art people mover and lauded its sleek dart design which would provide maximum energy diffusion and propulsion. The cabin accommodation offered superior comfort and practicality options that would please crew and passengers alike.

Internally, the decor was cautious contemporary and that’s what you’d expect from the local designers. After all, the inhabitants of Planet Schmoo were renowned for their conservative nature. The porthole curtains were made from a sun-resistant beige fabric that provided a number of shade alternatives. The ever-changing wall and ceiling light plays were understated with muted colors and gentle suggestion, and the walkways were sturdy but cushioned for sound-free pedestrian traffic. Even the rotating pleasure dome holograms in the living quarters were moderate rather than exotic. had provided titillating content for certain clients but in this vessel the stress release was embodied in visions of verdant nature depictions and animals at play. It was a happy ship.

Commander Jerome PBX5 was in charge but, as we take up this story, Chief Navigator Po was supervising the control deck.

The Zolt had only been on its mission for fifteen thousand light years but to Schnikle Po it seemed like an eternity. He was half way through the paranoia shift and the navigator was stuck with notorious bumble brain, Vinicus Ah, a competent pilot but a one dimensional conversationalist. The pilot’s prognostications on this occasion related to the new comfort girl attached to the Superior B passenger unit. “I’m sure she likes me, Schnikle. I saw all four of her bazookas light up when I smiled at her. Those transparent uniforms don’t hide much and my tentacles certainly responded.”

The rise of the machines, thought Po, who was amused by his friend’s enthusiasm. Ah and the girl were both robots and they were not programmed for emotion. Nevertheless, he didn’t like to deflate the pilot’s opinion of himself, especially as it was common knowledge that all robots weren’t created equal. The space industry was very competitive and the Planetarium Corporation was renowned for buying discount models.

The origins of robot templates were a closely guarded secret by all industrial entities as business advantage is a concept that has thrived since time immemorial. Nevertheless, Vinicus Ah looked a bit like Douglas Fairbanks, although his hair lick was more Mary Pickford. These characters were actors that dominated the latest movies pirated from the universe repeater stations. Due to the time difference between planets Schmoo and Earth, it would be a long time before James Bond appeared in this part of the cosmos.

Notwithstanding all that, the navigator needed his pilot to focus on the job at hand, with all tentacles firmly implanted on the various controls that surrounded his work station.

“Let’s talk about your love life another time, Vinicus. The approach to planet Earth is rather tricky and I need you to look out for unidentified flying objects. These earthlings may have heard of our athletic prowess and try to impede our arrival. We must be vigilant.”

In point of fact, the earthlings were looking forward to welcoming the athletes from Planet Schmoo. The Intergalactic Games were held every millennium and Earth was the host planet. However, this was the first time an invited participant had traveled so far to compete and, quite frankly, little was known of these aliens except that they were supposedly very athletic and quite intelligent.

Imperial Grand Master of the Intergalactic Games, Ronald Hump, thought it would be a good idea to have a few American marching girls on hand for their arrival. You can’t go wrong with marching girls.

The space cruiser Zolt splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean at 7.15 p.m. on Friday 13th July in the Year of the Asparagus. The cruiser’s on-board computer had provided the visitors with probably more information than they needed to know. The abundant planet and their former Chinese rulers historically named their yearly cycle after animals; until the Creature Foundation stepped in and put an end to that. Now they had moved on to vegetables and everybody agreed this was a healthier alternative.

By Saturday night, Hump was presiding over a Welcome to Earth cocktail party at Hump Towers in New York. With their four tentacles working overtime, these guests from outer space were downing margaritas as if they were performance enhancing drugs. On hand were the spies from the Athletic Institute, who were calibrating endurance capability and muscular development. Let’s face it—it’s bad form to be beaten if you’re the host, and word was about that these competitors from afar were looking for bookmakers in order to financially support themselves at long odds.

Surveying the party scene from the corner of the room was the official representative from the Department of Homeland Security, Calvin Swift. Cal was self-conscious in his tuxedo but he was the type of guy who would do whatever it takes to keep his country’s borders safe from any perceived threat.

The mission of this organization has always been to ensure a homeland that is safe, secure, and resilient against terrorism and other hazards. In later times it has been necessary to address threats from undersea and outer space. It has also been necessary to be more proactive in the pursuit of these ideals and consideration and cooperation with other world agencies is a given.

For this reason, competent intelligence operatives were recruited and Cal Swift was a natural choice. Prior to his recruitment, he had been the recipient of a Legion of Merit citation, bestowed on him as reward for his stoic contribution, while serving an unnamed government agency. The man knew his stuff.

Attached to his arm like a limpet mine was his female companion, Dr. Alicia Angelico, who was employed by the Department of Inhuman Affairs. Yes, she was a behavioral scientist and very interested in these newcomers from a distant planet. There were those who found it difficult to understand how an uncomplicated guy from homeland security would attract a honey with an academic pedigree but that’s the way it was. Alicia always maintained she had been hooked by his bedroom blue eyes, natural blonde hair and ready smile. He also knew the best places to get quality hamburgers.

In truth, these characteristics were also appealing to other members of the opposite sex, so Alicia had competition. Cal was a bit of all right—anybody could see that. Those bedroom blue eyes were always busy and they looked down from a great height. He was as tall as a mid-sized basketballer and had hands that a quarterback would die for. Behind his sartorial attire, there was a hint of muscle tone but you would have to take off his clothes to be sure. Alicia wasn’t telling anyone (except her best friend).

The reverse attraction was easy to understand because he was an uncomplicated guy and she had big tits. This was the kind of amateur appraisal provided by his small circle of friends, whose total romantic experiences all revolved around blind dates. Cal’s feelings definitely ran deeper than that. The lady never promoted her superior intellect and her exuberance and warmth was quite beguiling. Certainly, she had long legs and a tight ass but so did some of his football buddies. He liked her better. Then there was that cute dimple on her cheek. He kept coming back to that dimple. It was a defining characteristic, for sure.

Both admitted to being in their thirties and their relationship had, so far, lasted for almost eighteen months. Eventually, the party poopers would move out from the shadows and mix and mingle. After all, Alicia had shelled out big bucks for her fascinating tailored sheath mini cocktail dress, which was low cut at both ends and showed off her assets to great effect. Unfortunately, on this occasion, she would not be the center of attention because the Schmoo girls all had four breasts and were popular with the male guests. Calvin wasn’t that impressed and said so.

“Hell, Al, I don’t know why all the ladies are going magoo over these guys. They don’t look so attractive to me.”

“Well, I don’t know,” said the captivated bystander. “That third eye is a bit scary but their green skin looks very healthy and they have extremely muscular physiques. Apart from the tentacles, they could be one of us. Look at that guy over there. He has his feelers around three New York models. I wonder what they are thinking.”

“You know exactly what they’re thinking: How many bananas will they find if they remove his trousers? You women are all the same.”

“Maybe so but I reckon they’ll just find one foreskin. They don’t look Jewish to me.”

Although this last comment was facetious, it was Alicia’s business to investigate foreign bodies and their origins. Since the inter-planetary system had opened up, robotic science had moved forward in leaps and bounds and the ability of aliens to replicate was a reality. Thus, security of the planet became a major issue and Calvin Swift was lucky to have a learned behavioral scientist by his side. She had an answer to all his questions.

“Have you noticed they all have red hair, the men sound gay and the women are all wearing excessive make-up?”

“Yes, Cal, there are no boundaries as far as personal appearance goes, but I think the hair is rust. Fifteen thousand light years is a long way if you run out of shampoo.”

Replication was a fascination for Alicia but a worry for the security agent. If these visitors were able to morph out their third eye, colorize their skin, and transform their tentacles into two arms, they would look like humans and could blend into the fabric of Earth society. World domination was always an unsavory prospect, if that was what was on their minds, and the Martians had already tried it on.

However, the folks from Mars had since embraced universal unity and had been previous participants in the Intergalactic Games, although their results had been mixed. Their athletes were very competitive on the red surface of track and field but the grass-based disciplines gave them trouble. Who could forget the tragic misfortune of the discus throw that decapitated Jerusalem Jackson as she performed the national anthem? *** The Schmoo contingent at the Hump cocktail party were the privileged few and their passage through customs and immigration had been fast-tracked. The process would be slower for Schnikle Po and Vinicus Ah. They were crew and would be the last in line.

There was no way the rulers of Planet Schmoo would allow the space cruiser Zolt to undertake such a long journey without a full complement of passengers and so the Superior C cabin was accommodating fee-paying tourists, who had forked-out forty thousand kryptocones for the trip of a lifetime. The Super Superior cabin had been allocated to the athletes and Superior B accommodation was given over to government apparatchiks. These people were mostly spies whose mandate was to melt into the community and drain the life force from the locals. Speech, customs, technology and emotional content were all aspects of the human experience that the aliens would require to replicate these creatures that lived in a land of plenty.

There was no demarcation of travel privileges but the New York mayor was keen to get the well-heeled aliens into the commercial district, so he could provide the usual tourist shakedown. The biggest urgency was to process the arty crowd, so they could get to Broadway before lights down. Cats had been running for over two hundred years and the cast was keen to see the Schmoo visitors in their seats. With all those tentacles, the applause would be twice as much as what they usually received.

At the back of the line, Chief Navigator Po had become a silent observer as his young pilot chatted up the hospitality chick from the Superior B cabin. He could talk the nuts off a nuclear device. Annie Android finally acquiesced and they eventually headed off to an Irish bar to get well and truly oiled. Schnikle found himself alone in a big city and at a loss to know what to do. The line of transport conveyances had diminished rather rapidly, so he hailed the last cab on the docks and mouthed the only New York destination he was aware of —42nd Street.

Due to the time difference of fifteen thousand light years, the 1933 version of this film, starring Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell, had just arrived on Planet Schmoo and the authorities used it as a replication and familiarization device aboard the Zolt. Ginger Rogers had become a poster girl for passengers and crew alike, as she had red hair like most Schmooans. It was a measure of their advanced mental capacity that they knew this because the movie was in black and white.

When Schnikle arrived in the entertainment precinct, he didn’t know whether he was uptown, downtown or somewhere in-between, but he was ready to dance. However, there was resistance from the cab driver who was loud, uncouth and unreasonable. He refused to accept kryptocones as payment for the carriage, and pulled a gun on the honorable visitor. In defense of the poor fellow, he had previously been duped by a purple alien, who had played rock and roll music through a horn in his head. Schnikle Po wasn’t into deception. He just wrapped his tentacles around the guy’s throat and squeezed hard.

The cabbie’s car alarm continued to wail persistently as the navigator walked into the night.


book text © Gerry Burke

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