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Master of None   By:

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The advantages of specialization are so obvious that, today, we don't even know how to recognize a competent syncretist!

Freddy the Fish glanced at the folded newspaper beside him on the bench. A little one column headline caught his eye:


"Probably from Cygnus," he said.

Freddy mashed a peanut, popped the meat into his mouth, and tossed the shell to the curb in front of his bench. He munched and idly watched two sparrows arguing over the discarded delicacy; the victor flitted to the head of a statue, let go a triumphant dropping onto the marble nose, and hopped to a nearby branch.

"Serves him right," Freddy said. He yawned and rubbed the stubble on his chin. Not yet long enough for scissors, he decided. He pulled his feet up on the bench, twisting in an effort to get comfortable. The sun was in his eyes, so he reclaimed the discarded newspaper and spread it over his face. His eyes momentarily focused on MYSTERIOUS SIGNALS FROM OUTER SPACE, right over his nose.

"Sure, Cygnus," he muttered, and closed his eyes and dropped off to sleep.

When he was awakened, it was by an excited hand shaking his shoulder and a panting, "Freddy! Freddy! Lookit the Extra just came out!"

Freddy slowly sat up, ascertained the identity of the intruder and the fact that the sun was setting, and said, "Good evening, Willy. Please stop rattling that paper in my face."

"But just read it, Freddy," Willy shrieked, waving the paper so frantically that Freddy couldn't make out the big black headline. "'Positive contact from another planet,' the guy was yellin'. They put out an Extra so I snitched one from the boy. Read it to me, huh, Freddy? I'm dyin' o' curious."

"So give it here and I'll read it for you. Quit shakin' it or you'll tear it all up," Freddy snorted.

"Read it to me, huh, Freddy," Willy said, handing over the paper. "I don't know no one else that reads so good."

Freddy studied the headline and the first paragraph silently, then whistled lightly and lowered the paper.

"Y'know, Willy," he said, "the last thing I read before I dropped off a while ago was about these signals. But the funny thing is, I'd just assumed they were from Cygnus."

"What's a Cygnus, Freddy?" Willy asked, still pop eyed. "A smoke? A dame? Or you mean like from Hunger?"

"Cygnus, my boy," Freddy explained patronizingly, "is a constellation within which there are two colliding galaxies. These colliding galaxies produce the most powerful electromagnetic radiations in the universe an undecillion watts!"

"What's an undecillion?"

"An undecillion is ten raised to the 36th power," Freddy sighed, fearing that he wasn't getting through to Willy.

"No foolin'? What's a watt ... aw, you're pullin' my leg again, Freddy, talkin' riddles. Where'd ya ever learn to talk that way anyhow!"

"Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Oxford, Georgia Tech, Oklahoma. Picked up a little here, a little there," Freddy said, reflecting on his indiscriminate past.

"Aw, cut it out, Freddy! C'mon, read it to me. Betcha can't! Where'd ya say it was from? Cygnus?"

"Not Cygnus. Ganymede." Freddy cleared his throat and rattled the newspaper authoritatively. "Washington: White House sources declared today that intelligent beings on a Jupiter moon have contacted the United States government. While the contents of the message have been made secret, the White House emphasized the message was friendly."

Freddy continued, "The signals, which were intercepted yesterday, were decoded this morning by a team of government scientists and cryptographers who had been at the task all night. While officials were noncommittal about the nature of the message contained in the signals, they declared, 'We are authorized to state that the received message was friendly and appears to represent a sincere attempt by another race of intelligent beings to contact the people of Earth. A reply message is being formulated.' Officials further explained that the possibility of the signal's being a hoax has been thoroughly investigated and that there is no doubt whatsoever that the message is a genuine interspatial communication from intelligent beings on Ganymede... Continue reading book >>

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