The following message arrived several months ago at the SpecGram main offices as a steganographic message encoded in the gift card attached to a Big Ol’ Bucket O’ Meat gift basket from Big Stu’s World of Taste
To the Editors of SpecGram:
In May of 1952, an unexpected and officially-
denied Soviet rocket, launched covertly from an undisclosed location in the Ukraine, passed within 17 cm of a radio- invisible stealth satellite controlled by a private German defense contractor. (Yes, I know that contradicts the official history of space exploration on earth — but we aren’t children here!) The satellite tumbled out of control, knocked wildly off axis but undamaged. By sheer luck it locked onto a faint signal that closely resembled its earth- based target carrier wave. For almost twenty years, the satellite was thought lost.
In 1968 a US defense contractor
— I can’t say which, but it rhymes with either Hockleed or Ballihurton — through a complex series of international mergers and shady leveraged buyout deals, came to own the rights to the supposedly lost satellite. In 1971, the Salyut space station nearly crashed into the errant, formerly German, satellite. The crew was able to grapple the satellite into an airlock. The US defense contractor learned of its existence almost immediately and demanded it be returned to them, nearly provoking an international incident. Inside, they found nearly two- decades- worth of recordings of the signal the satellite had mistaken for its original target.
In late 1972, I was called in to make sense of the data. By 1978 we had decoded most of it (in large part thanks to the early prototype of the AutoGrammatikon developed by the computational linguists at SpecGram on eighteen parallelized Sinclair ZX79 prototype personal computers [Uh, there is no evidence that such a thing has ever existed! —Eds.]), and we had verified the existence of a large intergalactic communication network operating via tachyon modulation of radio wave signals. Famed electrical engineer Tipper Gore led a team in reverse engineering those protocols, leading directly to the development of TCP/IP and the eventual birth of the internet as we know it today.
Desperate to be the first earth nation to “dominate” this new medium, the US launched a satellite designed specifically to interact with this network, and began sending crude messages in 1984. Talk about n00bs. As far as we can tell, this intrusion was not appreciated. I believe, but have been unable to confirm, that both the Challenger and Columbia shuttle accidents were intended to discourage additional traffic on the network. One further unexpected, clear, and even more serious consequence of invoking the ire of the intergalactic communicants has been an ongoing discussion of the sentience level
— and hence intergalactic legal standing — of humans.
Since establishing a permanent connection to the intergalactic communication network, we have intercepted and decoded many arguments and counter-
arguments — ranging from granting earth protected status in isolation as a “living museum”, to total destruction of the earth to make way for a “hyperspace bypass to nowhere”. I’ve only been able to remove one document — partially translated and transliterated in AutoGrammatikon Normal Form III.37 — from the Enclave where I’ve been working all these years. Its focus is primarily linguistic, but it covers the main arguments in other fields. So it seems appropriate to send it to you for many reasons — though the main one is that you are the only ones left that I trust. A vice president of the United States — I can’t say which one, but let’s call him Darth Cheney — has recently become involved and is trying hard to hide the possible impending eradication of the human species or even destruction of the earth. I fear he is on to me: he has invited my team to go hunting with him. I hereby invoke Clause 17.—Elbüo
The document Elbüo refers to is the centerpiece of this special supplemental issue of Speculative Grammarian. Read on, if you dare.