E-mails between Dr Henrietta Higglebottem and Dr Hsieng “Jack” Xao, forwarded by Dr Higglebottem to Stewart C Baker
Art by Liz Argall
Dear Dr. Higglebottem,
The board has received troubling reports from a group of hyper-dolphins about your recent activities on Tau Ceti f.
These reports claim:
- that you have created sentient horse-things;
- that said horse-things have created a society wherein success is measured by the amount of hay stockpiled and consumed;
- that said horse-things have razed forests, drained swamps, re-routed rivers, and otherwise wrecked the planet’s eco-system in order to grow as much hay as possible;
- that said horse-things have, additionally, instilled a species of small dog-things with high intelligence but no free will (in direct disregard of the Academy’s charter, which flatly disallows the creation of intelligent beings for the sole purpose of servitude); and
- that said dog-things have begun work on interstellar travel for said horse-things.
We would like to remind you that all upliftings need to be cleared for safety and sociability before any work can begin. (Remember Dr. White’s planet-eating mega-whales? We’re still paying that one off.)
We have not received any paperwork from you, which I’m sure is an oversight, so I have attached the requisite forms to this netsend. Please fill them out and return them–along with clarifications regarding the horse-things–at your earliest convenience.
Yours with respect and tradition,
Dr. Hsieng “Jack” Xao
Executive Chair, Administrative Board
Ancient Academy of the Right Honourable Uplifters
42 Brin St.
New New New London
Tau Ceti e
I don’t appreciate your spies snooping on me, and I must confess I’m surprised to hear you compare me to the infamous Dr. White.
Did what we had together really mean that little to you? Even now, I sometimes think fondly on the time we used to spend in the orchard behind the academy, listening to bird-song and each other’s whispered promises. But I suppose all you ever really wanted was the executive chairship.
Anyway, I’ve attached the forms here.
(P.S. My creations call themselves “Equans” and “Lupans,” respectively. Please do not belittle them with your “horse-things” stuff.)
(P.P.S. How is the orchard these days?)
How do you know about our apple problem? We only found out a week ago that my new strand of intelligent anti-pest blackbirds has been eating all the apples they can get their beaks on.
Anyway, the hyper-dolphins are not “spies.” They are simply a concerned species who happen to have faster-than-light capabilities, and whose song can be transmitted instantaneously across folds in space-time.
I’m sorry if you feel we were comparing you to Dr. White. That was not our intent. (And please don’t bring up our past personal relationship, which is entirely irrelevant to this situation.)
Thank you for submitting the forms. There appears to have been some sort of glitch, however. When I opened them on my end, all they said was “Horse’s Ass” over and over again.
Please re-send them at your earliest convenience.
Yours with respect and tradition,
Dr. Hsieng “Jack” Xao
Sorry to hear about the apple problem. I’m astonished that one of “your” designs would have such flaws. I know you’re always a very responsible researcher.
I don’t know how the forms got like that. Here’s what they should say:
Horses’ Asses. Horses’ Asses. Horses’ Asses. Horses’ Asses. Horses’ Asses.
Is that clear enough for the esteemed members of the board? Personally, I doubt you could uplift an intelligent species out of a wet paper bag. If it helps, you can stick the words “You are all” before each instance of “Horses’ Asses.”
(P.S. Your theft of my intellectual output while you pretended to be in love with me is irrelevant? That’s rich.)
(P.P.S. The Lupans’ work on interstellar travel is coming along quite nicely. Once they’re done, I’ll convince the Equans to free them.)
(P.P.P.S. Dr. White sends his regards.)
I’m sorry if I hurt you when I said I wanted to stop seeing you. I know you were very attached to me. But creating an anti-social uplifted species and accusing me of stealing your work is taking things too far.
I’m reporting this to the planet-eating mega-whales, whom we have rehabilitated into a sort of police force.
Unless, of course, you’d like to take back your hasty words?
It’s funny (although not surprising) that you’ve stolen Dr. White’s creation after you used it to get him kicked out of the academy all those years ago.
Also, I forwarded your last message to the Equans and thought you might like to know that the Lupans have succeeded in creating starships and they’re coming your way. For some reason, they didn’t take kindly to being told their planet was going to be eaten, and that you’d been the one to order it.
(P.S. I’ve also forwarded evidence of your thefts to the Interplanetary Association of Scholarly and Scientific Law. If the Equans don’t get you, they will.)
I’m sorry I said what I did. And I am sorry I hurt you. Truly, I am.
Please, call off your “Equans” (and your lawyers). I’ll call off the whales.
It’s a big universe, and there’s no reason we can’t just go our own separate ways.
Too little, too late, I’m afraid.
Dr. White and I are on already our way to another system. There’s a group of squid-like beings there that show quite a bit of promise.
(P.S. Since some small part of me still cares, I’ll tell you a secret: Equan physiology makes apples both irresistible and incapacitating. I do hope you managed to save some before those blackbirds I let you steal from me got loose …)
Henrietta Higglebottem is a peripatetic uplifter and free spirit. She enjoys short walks on long beaches, hilarious and unlikely anthropomorphizations, apple fritters, and TERRIBLE BLOODY REVENGE. Higglebottem has no fixed abode, but don’t worry–if she thinks you’re looking for her, she’ll find you, one way or another.
Stewart C Baker is an academic librarian, speculative fiction writer, and occasional haikuist. His fiction has appeared in Writers of the Future, Nature, and Flash Fiction Online, among other places. Stewart was born in England, has lived in South Carolina, Japan, and California (in that order), and currently resides in Oregon with his family–although if anyone asks, he’ll say he’s from the Internet.
Liz Argall is a speculative fiction author and creator of the all ages webcomics series, Things Without Arms and Without Legs, a comic about creatures who are kind http://www.thingswithout.com/. She lives in Seattle, but her heart misses the big silly birds of Australia.
“Concerning Your Recent Creation of Sentient Horse-things on the Next Planet Over” is © 2015 Stewart C Baker
Art accompanying story is © 2017 Liz Argall
This story first appeared in Flash Fiction Online in August 2015.Follow us online: