“Dangerous Stuff” by David C. Kopaska-Merkel

“Dangerous Stuff” by David C. Kopaska-Merkel

The cryoship reached a new star system,
initiated warming; the crew,
not waking from millennia of dream,
thought they traversed a rind of icy lumps,
imagined a ringed world,
other planets, a belt of rocks.

Planet 3’s simulated biosphere effluviated,
radio-frequensated; tiny robots
probed its neighborhood; natives
built objects detectable from space.

The species made a nuisance of itself,
boarded the pitted cylinder;
unnoticed by the gaunt sim-locked crew,
twitching and mumbling in sim-sleep death spiral;
the away team explorated.

An avatar approached: the natives’
manipulatory appendages shifted grips
on projectilators, collimated beamers, detectionators–
this android or cyborg could see them!
“now hiring,” the ship-brain said,
speaking through its faux humanoid rep,
“see galaxy, meet life forms.”

a pause;
in the next room,
a skeleton crew nodded, dreamed of Contact.

“Benefits?” a native asked.

David C. Kopaska-Merkel, founding member of the International Vampire Society, has written myriads of poems and stories since the ’70s. He won the Rhysling award (Science Fiction Poetry Association) for best long poem in 2006 for a collaboration with Kendall Evans. His latest book, Footprints in Stone, co-authored with Ron Buta, describes a fabulous trace-fossil site in Alabama.