[I wrote this piece recently, but it was rejected for final inclusion in a set of “flash fiction” short stories. Due to its specified “has to be 750 words or less” format, I can’t really re-market it, so please enjoy.]

At science fiction conventions, the best talks happen at 1am on a Sunday morning. This con was no different. After my friend Cindy and I left a very boring book release party, we flopped into some padded chairs in the lobby and started to discuss how science fiction influenced technology. Eventually, we were joined by a pompous local author, Zip Thai, and an old guy everyone knew as Capitan Flynn.

“In my book, ‘The Sones of Cereption,’ I postulated how fire would be viewed differently by creatures in zero G,” said Zip.

“And what exactly is a Sone or Cereption?” asked Captain Flynn. Flynn was one of those regulars who was famous for just being a regular. Always seemed to be around, hosting talks, moderating panels, or earning “Fan Guest of Honor.” He must have been about 90 by now, and his wacky fashion hadn’t changed since photos of him in the 1960s. Still carried an old backpack and cane. Flynn was always very friendly, but known for not being impressed by pomp.

Zip sniffed. “Did you read it?”

“Should I have?”

Zip looked hurt. “I am guest author at this convention, you know.”

“I will make a note of that,” Flynn said with a smile. I could see him mentally picture tussling Zip’s hair.

“I have wondered if today’s kids see science fiction as influential,” I said. “It used to be that science fiction was pretty obscure, and those who were attracted to it were going to be the big thinkers of the future anyway. Now, I am not so sure.”

Zip still looked hurt. “It’s not the same. Kids watch science fiction these days, never read it. Now even dumb people like sci-fi.”

“They said the same about comics,” Flynn said. “But you know, it became mainstream because of the nudging.”

“Nudging?” Cindy asked.

“Yes. Aliens have lived among us for… I think since 1850 or so. But instead of landing and making a huge fuss, they landed discretely, assumed our form, and subtly nudged civilization along.”

Zip rolled his eyes. “And they said *I* needed medication.”

I felt Flynn was trying to make a point, so I asked, “How so?”

“The industrial revolution, for starters. Invention of specialization in assembly line process. Then the telegraph and pneumatic tube systems laid ground for communication structure. And we don’t take the credit; we let a Jewish patent clerk take the credit for the base of quantum physics, for example.”

“We?” Zip asked.

“Yes. I am one of them. Remember when you were seven, and your dad got you that HUGE Lego set? I suggested that at the toy store. He was going to get you a football. That led you to be an engineer in college, which gave you enough leisure time and colleagues to drive you to write sci-fi.”

“How the HELL did you know that?” Zip asked.

“And take microwave communications,” Flynn continued. “I put the bar of chocolate in Percy Spencer’s back pocket, you know.”

Cindy snorted. “Okay, Flynn. You lost me claiming you gave Einstein his ideas.”

“You doubt my words, I know. But in one hundred years, you will be ready for our landing. Science fiction will make it passe. You will already have an infrastructure ready to communicate with us. Soon, you will join the galactic family without any panic or violence. We’re already removing religious ignorance by letting them get so ridiculous over global media, that they will philosophically burn out of public consciousness and be considered nothing more than a joke. Once the Internet becomes ubiquitous to all thinking beings via cybernetic implants, a universal sense of global knowledge and harmony will put you at peace and willing to accept us.”

“So, why tell us?” I asked.

“Easy. I need a new host body, as this one is getting too old.”

“This is CRAZY!” Zip laughed.

“I know. But the fact you work with a defense contractor now, and the nudgers still have work to do, I think you’ll be an excellent choice.” And in a blinding flash, Zip Thai was consumed in a blue light. “I have been grooming you for 32 years,” said Flynn. And then he fell silent.

“What just happened??” asked Cindy.

“Nothing,” said Zip, taking the lifeless Flynn’s backpack and cane. “But it may make some interesting sci-fi someday. I think maybe… you. You should write it…”

This short fiction is copyright 2010 Grig Larson. No reproduction is allowed without the author’s written consent.