Thursday, September 8, 2011

New Story

Mr. Tinnis Goes To The Intergalactic Subscription Agency (and other fantastic places)

 Part I

Andromeda Library
Planet Octon Branch
Rezzot star cycle 17,000.01

Mr. Tinnis entered the Reference Sphere knowing his workload was about to increase astronomically. Anxiously hopping from one set of feet to the other, he glanced around for a comfortable seat. But the chairs were made for people with only two buttocks!

His normally bright orange skin faded to a light tangerine when Mr. Fips, the Reference Librarian, sent a withering stare from his upper four eyes. Fips’ lower four scanned a gold data stream flowing across the top of his ebony desk.

“Mr. Tinnis,” Fips hollered, his baritone voice echoing off the concave walls, “why aren’t you doing your job in the Get Stuff Department?”

Tinnis folded his long, narrow arms, certain that he was doing his job. Why just yesterday he received new acquisitions of gaseous thought-works from planets in the Large Magellanic Cloud.

Before Tinnis formulated a response, Fips continued. “Doesn’t your job include getting infomedia from the Milky Way Galaxy?”

“Yes, I buy from everyone in the Local Group including…”

“Then how is it possible that a Patron on Barometer Five requested infomedia from Sol-ar System--Planet Earth--History--22nd century but our QUANTUM-DB-9000 tells me we have nothing after their 21st century?”

Fips reshaped his squat neck into a ropy extension, leaning his head forward until it stopped millimeters from Tinnis’ nose. Tinnis stretched his neck backwards. Leaning sideways, he noticed a twinkling blue light on Fips’ desk.

“Patron on Monitor Two,” Tinnis said, pointing with his right-four index fingers. Fips crunched his neck back to normal. He tapped on a Deep Space Access Cube with a flashing identity display.

“How may I assist you, Mr. Kai?” he asked a Patron whose head was covered with spiky red antennae.

Tinnis pulled a rag from his turquoise uniform and wiped his forehead. Was Fips correct in his accusation? Had Tinnis failed to acquire infomedia needed by a Patron, thereby shaming the legacy of the beloved ancestors?

[Ancient Octons developed multiple limbs and senses during primeval competitions for territory and satellite time, eventually devoting their superior physiology to intergalactic library service.]

Tinnis glanced around the sphere, hollow except for the reference desk and the unsuitable chairs. He wondered to himself: what use were his eight arms, legs, eyes and ears if he had failed to predict a Patron request? Like all Octons, Tinnis had only one head and spine, but that was no excuse.

He paced around the desk, pausing to watch Fips send infomedia to Mr. Kai via a Universal Desktop Transmitter.

"Enjoy this cinemusical from Visalia’s Star. Remember, the Octon Branch of Andromeda Library is First-In-Service."

The Patron spun his antennae and faded from view. Fips faced Tinnis.

“You see I'm doing my job. What are you doing?”

“This morning I ordered infostuff from Andromeda’s future via the time-traveling vendors of Planet Kismo’s Third Incarnation,” Tinnis said proudly.

“Future pubs can wait. Today our Patron needs Earth history. My--that is, our branch’s--reputation is at stake!”

“Hmm,” Tinnis mused. “The Intergalactic Subscription Agency might have an Earth book in their warehouse, perhaps an item deemed too trivial for our grand collection.”

"Nothing is too trivial if a Patron wants it,” Fips declared. “Take the next Black Hole Express and see what that useless Subscription Agency has in stock.”

“Yes, Mr. Fips,” Tinnis said. He pivoted on four of his heels and left the Reference Sphere.

The Get Stuff Dept.

“I know I must, but I hate traveling,” Tinnis mumbled, trotting down a ribbon of helical staircases to the Get Stuff Dept. Swinging eight arms wildly he displaced hologenerators and opdiscs from the desks of colleagues who wailed in protest.

Oblivious to his destruction, Tinnis stopped before Mrs. Biblioni’s office. His boss’ door vanished; she appeared and sang in a soprano:

“There you are, Mr. Tinnis, I need a favor.”

“I’m off to Intergalactic, Mrs. B.”

“Now? The Future Pubs Department needs help loading new software.”

“Can’t Mr. Zap do that? It’s his department.”

Biblioni pulled Tinnis into her office; her door rematerialized. “You know Zap can’t handle new tech, he’s still learning upgrades from thirty cycles ago! For the Octon Branch to remain First-In-Service, Zap must access lists from Planet Kismo’s Fourth Incarnation.”

“Fourth?” Tinnis cried. “This morning I bought future Andromeda works from Kismo’s Third Incarnation! Anyway, Mr. Fips needs a history from Earth’s 22nd century."

“Isn’t Earth that silly little planet that organizes people by parachute colors? Never mind, Patrons come first. However, before you leave, please help Zap with his upgrade?” Biblioni smiled with several rows of lips.

“Okay,” Tinnis said.

In the Future Pubs Dept., Mr. Zap hovered by Tinnis whose dozens of fingers tapped rapidly over a kaleidoscopic keyboard. He swatted at Zap to make room for a heads-up display communicating with a KismoSat fluctuating in space-time. After downloading the new software, Tinnis waved to Zap.

“Press this green light when it’s steady to receive the list of future Andromeda pubs from Kismo’s Fourth Incarnation. Do not touch it when it flickers or you’ll disconnect with the Sat and I’ll have to do this all over again.”

“Tinny, you’re the indispensable Octon!” Zap said.

The Black Hole Express, Terminal Six

Tinnis hurried to the Departures platform, grimacing at a whirlpool of particles draining into the singularity. Why did cosmic engineers build transportation portals inside the most claustrophobic formations in the Universe? Sure Librarians want to go to the end of eternity for a Patron, but now they had the means to get there!

A conductor droned in a bored voice: “Passengers, please enter Pier Two. At the signal, you will jump into the Hole.”

Tinnis' fellow voyagers stood on a narrow extension suspended over a field of white light trapped at the rim of the singularity. They waited patiently until a somber bell tolled once. Then everyone except Tinnis leaped into the vortex. He tendered a foot forward, retracting it as if from a chill ocean.

“Passenger on Pier Two: this is your final warning: jump!” the conductor hollered.

Tinnis made a face and held his noses. As he worked up the courage to leap, the pier under his feet dematerialized; the Hole sucked him in.

Tinnis closed his eyes and held his breath as his body stretched into an absurd strand of meandering flesh. An elaborate fugue accented the crossing, vibrating the tiny hairs of his skin as he raced through the core. Suddenly, his elongated form contracted, snapping back to normal. He popped out of the Hole, exhaling. A pilot with a remote manipulator arm lifted Tinnis off the event horizon and stuffed him into a shuttle with other weary travelers.

Universal Space Station #253
Module 8: The Intergalactic Subscription Agency
13,000,000,000.02 B.B.

Tinnis gazed up at his friend Hutch, a long-eared Quadop, flying through the warehouse. Hutch braked his uni-prop aero-ladder to interfile zines from an armful of fibers and photon-cards. Tinnis leaned forward to catch a falling volume.

Hutch looked down. “Thanks, Tinny. D’y’want that one?”

“No. We don't buy books in Quasarian, too wishy-washy.”

Hutch landed softly then hopped toward Tinnis, narrowing his four cerulean eyes. Hutch’s long, white whiskers stiffened; he snatched the tome from Tinnis’ hand.

“Snob. No wonder Octon fills the fewest Inter-Library Loans.”

Tinnis chuckled, following his friend down a narrow aisle between towering stacks.

“S’OK. I have an Earth pub for you," Hutch said hopping into a round hole in the floor. Looking up, he waved a paw at Tinnis.


Tinnis hesitated then leaped but his multiple extensions did not clear the gap, trapping him in mid-passage. Hutch pulled a lever, widening the mechanical iris until Tinnis fell smack on his bottoms.


Tinnis crawled onto a sofa in Hutch’s office. “I'm okay, show me the pub.”

Hutch tossed a silver cylinder to Tinnis then sat at his desk, tapping on a Desktop Universal Transmitter.

Tinnis examined the cylinder's engraved title: CERN Creates Black Hole! What’s Next for Humanity? “This is from 2099. It’s too early,” he complained.

“That’s all Earth was selling when my buyer Gallymore Minker stopped there on her cyclical trip to the Sol-ar System,” Hutch said. “It’s a good book; creating a black hole was a great accomplishment for Earth. It shortened Gally’s trip there by eons.”

"Where is she now?"

“Gally's at the Great Wall of Galaxies buying astronomy books for me.”

“Astronomy of what?”

“Intergalactic space. I’m writing a book about my family's first Subscription Agency!”



“Sorry, Hutch, but last cycle I bought info-stuff in billions of languages: same stories, different places. Yet what does Fips want? A history of 22nd century Earth!

“As far as studying your galactic past, all you'll see is your great-grand ancestor hopping about the first Subscription Agency worrying where the latest tablet from some god-forsaken, war-torn planet is . . .”

“You need a field trip,” Hutch interrupted, his floppy ears pointing upward. “We’ll go to Earth and find out why they aren’t publishing. That will cheer you up. And the terrestrial scenery will inspire me.”

Hutch tapped furiously on the Transmitter then hopped over his desk. “We’re on the next Black Hole Express to Earth!”

Part II

Milky Way
Planet Earth
Sol-ar System cycle 2202.03 C.E.

Tinnis and Hutch sat at a polished-sand table outside a small café. Tinnis sipped a fizzy, gold drink; Hutch ate heartily from a delta-shaped piece of folded bread dripping with milky goo.

“What's that?” Tinnis asked.

“It's a kay-sa-dee-ya. Want a bite?”

“You know Black Hole trips make me nauseous.”

“Not me. But I have had a headache since we arrived,” Hutch said, polishing off his dinner with a greenish liquid from a glass rimmed with salt.

“Where are we?” Tinnis asked.

“Las Vegas, Nevada. We’re meeting the book dealer who sold Gally that antique cylinder you didn’t want.”

Tinnis held lower-eyes contact with Hutch while his uppers gazed at thematically-sculptured buildings. As night fell, lights brightened until the city sparkled like a globular cluster. Tinnis returned full attention to Hutch when the Quadop stood, extending a furry paw to a human.

“Hello, Kipper. Haven’t seen you since the Antiquarian Fair in Bangkok.”

Kipper, a tall but narrow brown creature with only two eyes, hugged Hutch. “How the hell are you? Oh, my,” he said to Tinnis. “You’re the strangest looking’ ET yet. I’m Kip Sanmartin, happy to meet you.”

Tinnis stared at the man’s extended hand, unsure which of his own to offer. Kip grabbed the nearest one then waved for them to follow.

“This is the Strip, the most fun this side of Red Rock Canyon--though we haven't had a new show in ages.”

“Where are we going?” Tinnis asked. And what did Vegas’ problems have to do with his quest for a 22nd century history of Earth?

“Here,” Kip said, opening a frosted-glass door: “Welcome to the Wild Librarian Saloon.”

Inside a dimly-lit hall, tables and chairs sat on wood plank floors sprinkled with yellow vegetable matter. A narrow counter ran along the left side. A sign over the bar demanded: Order Your Poison! (Quietly, Please.)

A young female with red hair folded into a thick, neat bun rested a boot on a chrome foot railing. She leaned over the bar, pursing her lips at the wall mirror. An inch of pink-lace undergarment peeked out from under her tiny black leather skirt.

Tinnis stared at her long, tan legs. She turned to reveal a heart-shaped face with curled eyelashes and burgundy lips.

“What are you lookin’ at, Cowboy?” She smiled slyly.

Kip stretched an arm around the Octon’s shoulders, guiding him away.

“With six more legs like that she’d be a real beauty,” Tinnis said.

“That’s Mayleen Landwalker,” Kip said, stopping at a round table. “She’s the Info-Master at Nevada Singularity Control.”

A waiter wearing a cowboy hat approached. “Hi, Kip. What’s new in the antiquarian biz? Your friends look like they’re from–-way out of town.”

Kip glanced at Hutch: “I brought Gallymore Minker here for lunch. Nevadans aren’t shocked by alien visitors. Right, Bud?”

“That’s right,” said the waiter. “We had the Extraterrestrial Highway long before CERN’s Black Hole brought ETs to Earth and outed the truth. So, what's your poison?”

“Beers all around,” Kit said.

When Bud returned with three glasses, Tinnis sniffed at the foamy topping; Hutch took a long, satisfying drink then grabbed his head.

“Drink slowly,” Kip warned.

“It’s not the beer. I got this headache after we popped out of the Black Hole Station in your desert. I was thinking of a phrase to describe the pink cacti when my head went--thwoop,” Hutch said.

“Like a piece of your mind was sucked out?” Kip asked. “If I'd known you guys had imagination, I'd have warned you: creativity gets zapped by the Black Hole Virus.”

“Hope it’s not contagious,” Tinnis said moving his chair away from Hutch. He was already discomforted with his bottoms spilling over the tiny seat. He didn’t want to get sick too; people with eight nostrils avoided colds like supernovae.

Hutch tapped Kip on the arm, “Is this Virus affecting publishing?”

“Affecting? It destroyed it! That cylinder about CERN’s Black Hole which I sold to Gally was Earth's final publication. Our imagination has been under attack since 2101.”

"The start of your 22nd century!" Tinnis exclaimed. “That's why you have no history pubs since then." Now that he had an answer for Fips' Patron, Tinnis rose to leave. He sat again when Hutch asked:

"How are you combating this Virus?”

Kip beckoned to Mayleen, shifting in his seat so she could squeeze next to him. “Darlin’, tell us how the NSC engineers are handling the Virus.”

“They’re stumped like all Black Hole operators,” Mayleen said. “New ideas get sucked out of their brains as soon as they think of them. They fight back with software from the 21st century. Ancient Norton gives us time for a burst of creativity-–a short story, a new dance step—but the Virus overwhelms it and it’s rerun city.”

Hutch mouthed re-run city?

Mayleen tapped Tinnis’ shoulder. “Let's go there. I'll call the Chief Scientist.”

"Well . . ." Tinnis protested.

"C'mon, Tinny," Hutch pleaded. "Maybe we can help."

Tinnis helped his friend stand. They followed the humans who had linked arms while leading their guests down the street to Mayleen’s aerovan. They flew over the dark desert to Nevada Singularity Control.

A bumpy landing upset Tinnis’ stomachs. He leaned on Hutch as they walked across a field of tumbleweeds.

“This trip better end soon or Earth is going to have two sick extraterrestrials.”

A silo loomed overhead; hidden fixtures spotlighted the encircling landscape of green and pink cacti. The humans and aliens squeezed into an elevator that dropped twelve stories. Mayleen led the group through winding corridors, pausing at a glass partition.

“That’s the power unit that opens the Hole at Nevada Station,” she said.

Tinnis shivered gazing at the chain of revolving cylinders. He turned around as Mayleen completed an identity scan at a steel door that clicked open. The group entered a laboratory with oblong walls covered in electronic grids. Tinnis gagged at the scent of sour vegetation, tracing the smell to three scientists eating lunch at a counter. A woman approached wiping her hands on a white lab coat.

“I’m Jane. Are you Tinnis?”

“These boys traveled from intergalactic space to help us kill the Virus,” Kip said.

Tinnis raised hands in protest. Jane grasped one firmly, pulling him toward a monitor where a line graph spiked up on the right.

“That’s the Virus’ strength,” she said.

“How do you know it causes headaches?” Hutch asked, rubbing the fur between his ears.

“Early in 2101," Jane said, "headaches and dull conversations were dismissed as coincidences since the World Congress had just begun its annual session.

“Later, researchers detected spikes of painful blandness near local Black Hole Stations-–like ours. We thought Hawking Radiation was leaking. But the force was precisely targeted-–killing our imaginations--meaning it had to be an intelligently designed program.

“Can you destroy it, Mr. Tinnis?” she asked, pushing thin-framed glasses up the bridge of her nose.

“I know some Black Hole op-tech,” Tinnis admitted.

“How do you know that?” Hutch asked.

“I uploaded a manual to my Adult Education node,” Tinnis explained tapping the back of his neck. He pushed two armless chairs together and sat before a console. Feeling better with a comfortable seat and a task to do, he overrode authorizations using prompts Jane supplied.

Other engineers hovered as Tinnis raced dozens of fingers over simple controls. “I’ve taken command of the primary computer at CERN. I’ll save their data in this buffer then destroy the operating system interfacing with the Hole.”

“We tried that, smart guy from another planet,” a male engineer said.

“I know a trick,” Tinnis said highlighting a block of text.

“What language is that?” Hutch asked, chewing cabbage from the leftover lunch.

“Modern Esperanto,” Tinnis said.

“Are you sure you know what you’re doing?” a scientist asked.

“Back home, I’m called the ‘indispensable Octon.’”

Tinnis input a standard Andromedan code to avoid a creativity-sucking headache then pressed a green key with a hand-waving flourish.

The building trembled violently.

“Earthquake,” Kip yelled.

“Or a garbage disposal in reverse,” Hutch said.

“Uh-oh,” said Tinnis. “I forgot the blowback factor. Does this laboratory have a license for Multiverse-Virus-Dumping?”

“A what?” Jane asked.

“Let’s check the Hole,” Hutch said.

Mayleen led them to the Station. At the Arrivals area, two gaudily-dressed passengers lay crumpled on the platform.

“Is this Mars?” one asked.

“You never left Earth,” said a conductor leading them away.

“What is this?” Tinnis asked, watching Kip and Hutch dive into piles of debris.

“Mail and luggage,” Kip said, laughing.

“It's not amusing. I’ve inconvenienced people.”

“They’re used to it,” said Mayleen. “Tinny, if you can’t delete the Virus, what’s next?”

Jane entered the Arrivals area. “Before the blowback, I saw a directional spike on the Unified Field monitor.”

“Pointing where?” Tinnis asked.

“Center of the galaxy.”

“That could be the source of the Virus; galactic centers have the largest singularities,” Tinnis said.

Hutch waved an envelope, “I just won a quadrillion bucks!”

Tinnis snatched it, disapprovingly.

Kip draped an arm around Mayleen’s shoulders. “Well, Darlin’? Should we ask our friends to journey to the center of the galaxy? 'Course I’ll go with them, this is Earth’s problem.”

Mayleen squeezed Kip’s cheeks, saying, “Sweetheart, you go kill that Virus so we can keep our creativity and can publish new stuff.”

Turning to Tinnis, Mayleen said, “You may be Earth’s last hope.”

Tinnis whispered to Hutch: “These humans think we’re gods!”

Hutch whispered back: “The galactic core could be a business opportunity. Let’s go.”

“O-kay,” Tinnis agreed.

Kip clapped his shoulder. “We haven’t had that spirit since-– 2099! Follow me.”

Tinnis waved farewell to Mayleen and Jane, shuddering as he passed an upended Departures sign.

Part III

The Milky Way Center

Once again through the Black Hole Express, Tinnis’ body stretched and twisted. This time, Earth music pumped base rhythms, demanding he rock, roll and ride a wave.

The three companions dropped out of the void, landing on a precipice. Above was a ring of trapped energy, below a pit backwashed in deep purple. Fancily-dressed creatures sat on straight chairs, stroking wood and metallic objects.

“An orchestra,” Hutch said.

“There are vibrating strings in the quantum center,” Tinnis mused.

A conductor stood on a podium amidst the circle of musicians, waving a baton. The creature had a mass of grey hair spiking like the aftershock of a wet finger in a live socket. Its oval head had a hose where a nose should be. Two flopping tails extended from the hem of its black coat. It lowered the baton stopping the music and gazed up.

“What do you want? We’re rehearsing.”

Tinnis tested the strength of thick silver threads dangling into the pit. He climbed down followed by his companions.

“Play something soothing,” Hutch pleaded.

The conductor led his cellist through a lament as Tinnis and Kip walked through the players. When the dirge ended, Tinnis stopped before the podium.

“Did you send the Virus that’s killing Earth’s creativity?”

The conductor sniffed, narrowing two eyes that focused so that Tinnis believed they made contact.

“Who are you people, the Odd Squad? Hah, hah, hah.” The conductor’s hose fluttered then he sobered. “I’m Archee, the eyes and ears of the Grand Galactic Center-–what you ignorantly call a Black Hole.”

Hutch and Kip joined Tinnis.

“You’re a living being,” Kip said, reaching forward.

Tinnis swatted his hand. “Don’t touch him. My lower eyes see quanta-scopic suction cups all over his body. He’s more than the eyes and ears of the Black Hole. He is the Black Hole.”

Archee touched the tip of his hose and pointed at Tinnis. “Give a cigar to the eight-eyed alien. Don’t worry. I'm not dangerous.”

“You’re hurting Earth, stealing our imagination,” Kip argued.

“Humans think it’s all about them but I send my Creativity-Gathering Virus to every world that develops a singularity.”

“Why?” Tinnis asked.

Archee looked down, polishing his baton. He explained:

“For billions of years, I vacuumed dusty residue from the Big Bang. Bor-ing. Then some planets developed quantum singularities which, as we all know, gravitate toward each other. Once they linked with me, I tuned into chit-chat and do-it-yourself transmissions from lots of smart people. That's how I made a Virus that extracts ideas from the minds of different species.”

“That makes sense,” Tinnis whispered from the side of his mouth, glancing sideways at Hutch and Kip. Raising his voice he asked, “Who are these musicians?”

“Contest winners! Only a lucky few get to perform with this view.” The conductor gazed up, commanding, “Open.”

Half shells parted the sparkling particle ring, exposing a thick sweep of condensed white, blue and red matter. The aperture spread until the Milky Way swirled all around them. Tinnis, Hutch and Kip grabbed each other as the floor fell away leaving them standing on the stars. When Tinnis realized Archee and his all-alien orchestra were not falling, he let go.

“Amazing,” Tinnis said.

“Always impresses the tourists,” said the conductor.

Kip said: “OK so you’ve got a bigger show than Vegas. It’s still not fair you’re sucking our creativity. The Strip needs new acts. And Tinny needs an Earth history for a Patron.”

“But you have so much imagination for me to enjoy!” Archee whined. “I love a good book before bedtime.”

The travelers glared stonily until the conductor led them to the back of the pit. They stopped before skyscraping doors dressed in ivory, lace curtains (“designs imagined by J.C. Penney,” Archee enthused.) The doors swung open revealing a ballroom filled with floating sketches, musical notes, nouns, verbs and architectural notions. After Tinnis, Kip and Hutch ooh-ed and aah-ed, Archee closed the doors.

“That’s raw creativity,” Tinnis said. “How do you give it form?”

“With a universal compiler designed by an Arcturian engineer.”

“Surely other species complain about your thievery,” Hutch said.

“Everyone has a price,” Archee said icily.

“You buy imagination?” Kip asked.

“No-o. I get offers from offended species who want their ideas back,” Archee said.

Tinnis and Hutch grabbed Kip whose fists were raised.

“That’s ransom!” the Nevadan screamed.

“I prefer the human notion ‘possession is nine-tenths of the law.’”

“He’s got you there, Kipper,” Hutch said.

Weary of his quest, Tinnis offered to negotiate. “Kip, let’s say Archee borrowed human creativity as an Inter-Singularity Loan. If he returns it, you’ll drop the late charges?”

Kip agreed but Archee was unhappy.

“What do you want?” Tinnis asked.

“Storage space,” Archee said.

“You’re living in the center of the galaxy. Why do you need storage space?” Hutch asked.

“Hel-lo? This is a quantum reality. It’s small by anyone’s standards."

“What about extra dimensions that physicists predict?” Tinnis asked.

Archee dismissed that with a wave of his baton inciting the string section to begin an overture. “Extra dimensions are tinier than this one—if you can believe it.”

“Speaking for humanity," Kip said, "I'll get you storage space if you’ll return our creativity.”

“Well . . . there’s just one other teensy thing,” the conductor said. “I need someone to organize my stuff. I’ve got a huge backlog.”

“I’m a Librarian,” Tinnis said. “I can do that.”

Hutch turned his friend to face him. “What about Fips’ Patron? Andromeda Library needs you.”

Tinnis patted Hutch between the ears. “Thanks, pal. When we get back, I’ll submit a proposal to Mrs. Biblioni for an Intergalactic Cooperation Project. Managers love extra activities; fattens the annual report.”

He turned to Archee. “I’ll help you. But first you must give me a history of Earth’s 22nd Century.”

“Deal! I’ll compile it immediately.” Archee disappeared into the back.

“Thanks, Tinny,” Kip said. “I don’t know what we’d do without you.”

“I get that a lot,” Tinnis said.

Part IV

Milky Way
Planet Earth
Sol-ar System cycle 2202.04 C.E.

The trio dropped out of the singularity at the Nevada station. Tinnis carried an armful of ethereal light bulbs into Jane’s laboratory. The engineers gathered to hear the travelers’ tales.

“These bulbs contain ideas stolen from humans for a hundred years,” Tinnis said. “You’ll need a universal socket port on your mainframe to screw them in. After you upload the data, send the world a memo: use your imagination!”

They clapped Tinnis’ back, promising him an official citation.

Mayleen hugged him. “You make me extra-proud to be an Info . . . Librarian.”

“That’s really nice,” Tinnis said, wiping his eyes.

“One more thing, Engineers,” Kip said, “Move your garbage out of Yucca Mountain-–we need space for the conductor’s collection.”

“Let’s go home,” Hutch said. “I’ll copy Archee’s compilation of the Earth history onto a Memory Wave for Fips, Kip, and my other customers in the Local Group of Galaxies. Royalties paid at the usual rate.”

As the four friends hugged, Jane's team applauded.

“Who says nobody cares anymore?” she asked.

Part V

Andromeda Library
Planet Octon Branch
Rezzot Star Cycle 17,000.05

Tinnis watched Fips complete a transaction via his Desktop Universal Transmitter. Finally, the Reference Librarian said:

“Thanks to you, Mr. Tinnis, I just sent my Patron on Barometer Five a history of Earth’s 22nd century.”

“How did you get a copy? I brought one back personally,” Tinnis said pulling from his pocket the Memory Wave Hutch had produced.

“While you were away, Mr. Zap downloaded a new list from Planet Kismo," Fips said. "Their Fourth Incarnation sells future infomedia from beyond Andromeda including items that will be produced in the Milky Way. Mrs. Biblioni got me the copy.

"You must have had quite a trip! It seems that after you left Earth, humans published a fury of titles about the history of their 22nd century. We even have a photop of you on a later visit accepting a Nobellian prize.”

“Me? A prize?”

“Now, Tinnis, after you organize the Milky Way, get to work on Andromeda’s Black Hole--ours is bigger than theirs. We need to keep our galactic center happy to avoid an Earth-like catastrophe.

Tinnis' body sagged, the tips of his fingers touching the floor. Organize two Black Holes? That's a heavy work load even for the indispensable Octon!

The End at Last