The Body Politic by Graham Stull

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SUMMARY: a humorous Sci-fi story about a nerdy teenager who meets the alien of his dreams, and learns about international diplomacy along the way!

LIFE OF B-1441

In a very distant part of the galaxy, many millions of light years away, there is a planet called Onalp. I probably shouldn't say 'planet', 'cause Onalp isn't a planet in the conventional sense: It doesn't go around a sun like Earth does, instead it just sits there, floating through a rather vacant part of space. But, like a planet, it is nearly perfectly round, and its surface has contours, escarpments, valleys - just like our own. I should probably also mention that the name Onalp is not really the name of this planet, because Onalp is a strictly human word and of course the place in question is way too far from us to ever have been discovered by humans. I just chose the name because it is the backwards spelling of Plano, which is my home town in Texas, near Dallas. (By the way, since alot of things associated with Onalp have no names in any language of Earth, I have adopted the convention of the backwards spelling. So if you see any proper nouns that make a real word when spelled backwards, you'll know that's my poetic license.)

Anyways, what makes Onalp so remarkable is that it is the only place besides Earth where we know for sure there is life. You see, among all the weird chemical compounds swimming around inside the 'planet' there is one, called Nemes, that does not react with the others. It is formed deep within the core, through a process that is as mysterious as it is complicated, and it seeps outwards, in scarce quantities, until it meets the surface.

Once on the surface Nemes reacts with stuff in the atmosphere and - poof! - life is created, in the form of little creatures. These creatures are called the Nairbs (ok , I admit it, my name is Brian). A Nairb looks like a little sponge the size of a chestnut, to which is attached between ten and a hundred thin tentacles, all about a foot long. The tentacles can grow longer (I've seen them grow up to a mile, in fact), if the Nairb needs them to. I say that this is the appearance of a Nairb, but that's not quite right. In truth, a Nairb can look like almost anything it wants to: It can weave its tentacles into any carbon-based substance and inject that substance with an amount of Nemes, thereby making it part of the Nairb itself. The only thing it cannot change, it seems, is its colour. When a Nairb is 'born' it is a certain color (It can be any colour, but the only one I've ever seen was blue, as I will explain below) and remains that colour all its life.

Back to Onalp: There are deep fissures, like hot springs on Earth, which dot the surface of Onalp, and from which - at irregular intervals - spurts of Nemes come shooting out. Some of the Nemes is spent in creating the Nairb, as I have said, and the remainder rests in a shallow pool which the new Nairb jealously guards. This is because the Nemes, in addition to creating the Nairb, provides it with its food source. Without an adequate supply of Nemes, the Nairbs die in agonizing hunger. Not all Nemes pools produce new Nairbs; some remain as empty spurts of the invaluable fluid, unclaimed and terribly precious.

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