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Made of Fail

by Luc Reid

After twelve years, the Gate, constructed on Peaks Island off the coast of Maine, was complete. The Cancrians had removed their spaceships from where they had been parked around Portland and Brunswick, explaining that their drive mechanisms would interfere with the Gate's operation. We--everybody, I mean, the whole world--was watching when the First Lady, escorted by an honor guard of Marines and several of the tall, hunched Cancrians, stepped up to flip the switch.

And by "everyone," I don't just mean Americans: this had been a world effort. After the initial arguments, the raging debate, a feeling had gradually spread that the interstellar age really had dawned, and it was our destiny to enter it as a species. I doubt there were more than a few thousand people in the entire world who weren't there in Portland or else glued to their TVs to see the Gate opened.

There had been speeches, you know, obviously. I'm not going to tell you there weren't speeches. But who cares about the speeches? What could they say other than "Wow, we're about to open a portal directly onto another populated planet! How cool is that? And scary. And sobering. Wow, people!" Not much. The speeches took up an hour and a half, but that's all they said.

The First Lady stepped up to the control pedestal, and a deep, stomach-shaking whirr shook the world as it lit up automatically. She placed her hand on the receptor, and with a sound like angels gargling, the Gate opened, spilling light out onto the massive crowd. We looked through it and saw ... Maine. There was a grinding noise. Something crackled, and all at once the lights on the unit went out. It was deathly quiet. The Gate had failed.

We were all stunned for a little while, so stunned that I think it was at least a few minutes before anyone realized that the Cancrians had snuck off somewhere. Where were they? The odd, shy, infinitely harmless-seeming Cancrians ... what had happened to them? And why, when they clearly were technological geniuses, didn't their gate work?

"Hey!" someone shouted (I later found out that he had been checking a Hawai'ian webcam on his Blackberry). "Where the hell is the Pacific Ocean?"


The name of the alien species suggests there's something wrong with them. Wonder if it would read differently if they were named something like "Sweetians."

Posted by: David | March 13, 2009 7:52 PM

You have a point ... although they're just called Cancrians because they're from a planet in the 55 Cancri system.

Posted by: Luc Reid | March 13, 2009 8:17 PM

I agree, Cancrians looks a lot like "canker" and "cancer" and "cantankerous" and other less than pleasantly connoted words. The whole time, I was suspicious. Perhaps something more innocent sounding might have given the end more punch. Still, it was an effective piece. I enjoyed a laugh at the end thanks to the tone, and I do hope that a grin and a head shake and a laugh was the reaction you wanted.

Posted by: Lene | March 16, 2009 11:19 PM

That's exactly what I was hoping for!

Posted by: Luc Reid | April 28, 2009 8:54 PM

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