Wednesday, September 17, 2014

History of the Universe 4: The Dozens

There was a micro-galaxy called The Dozens near the Attlinger system.  The planets in The Dozens circled each other so closely that they looked like a colorful bag of marbles from just a hundred thousand miles away.  They were so masterfully situated gravitationally, that they sheared tiny bits of atmosphere from each other as they passed.  For this reason, each of the planets in The Dozens had exactly the same atmospheric mix.

The Dozens were surrounded loosely by ten small suns which kept them in near perpetual light and warmth, aside from the frequent eclipses caused by the planets rotations.  Each world in The Dozens system was named for an Earth English month.  Despite their shared atmosphere only one of these planets held life beyond bacteria, that planet was April.

Payload specialist first class Bartolemeu Day was employed by the BigHeart Corporation.  It was BigHeart's modus operandi to seek out any unclaimed planet, drill a hole in it and bomb it all to hell, and then thoroughly catalog and patent whatever was found both on and below its planetary surface.  This hit and miss style of patenting had been highly lucrative for BigHeart.  The corporation held patents on a number of popular interstellar building materials as well as for a few thousand small alien creatures and bacteria.  While BigHeart's exploratory explosions generally left these planets in tatters, this was highly convenient for the pilot fish companies that relied on BigHeart to point them towards money makers.  A BigHeart patent contract fee was a small price for these scavengers to pay in order to escape the cost of doing their own exploratory drilling, bombing, and cataloging.  They could get right down to business purchasing land paperwork and stripping a planet's value without concern that it may be a risky investment.  BigHeart's unofficial motto was "We Drill It, You Kill It".

Life had been pretty average for Bartolemeu before a broken lavatory seal ripped a chunk of the ships wall apart and the ensuing breach sucked half of the crew into space.  As they whooshed through the hull to become space-dust, the other half of the crew was burning to death in a simultaneously occurring cafeteria flash-fire.

The fire, which began in and around a drunken employee's deep fryer at his birthday celebration, could have been easily put out had it not been for the 10' lavatory hull breach.

The ship was an older model and the crew were all equipped with breather bugs, they had no need for the oxygen that was being provided them.  If they hadn't had been wearing breather bugs some of them may have noticed how thick and delicious and oxygeny the air had become.  This was because the ship didn't know everyone had breather bugs, it was valiantly trying to save the lives of everyone on board by cramming as  much oxygen as possible through every vent to compensate for  the hole in the crapper.

The ship's oxygen alarm had long been disarmed after breather bugs became mandatory, however the atmospheric system was tied into the gravitational gyroscope so it was deemed more cost effective to just let the ship go on churning out unnecessary air.  All things considered, leaving the system in place did turn out to be far more cost effective.  The engineer responsible for that decision was posthumously awarded "Employee of the Month" by the ship's automated evaluation proto-servo a week after becoming a popsicle and shattering into a billion pieces against a passing meteor.

The oxygen overload caused the cafeteria and most of the ship's interior to turn white-red with a loud ffft!, and then all was still, aside from a few dozen barking alarms.  Bartolemeu Day had never been a fan of parties, he'd been sleeping in his hyperbaric chamber when all of this occurred.  The alarms woke him seconds after the danger had passed.

The ship had sealed the lavatory area automatically.  Bartolemeu Day was left wandering in a broken ship with a couple dozen blackened corpses melted to the floors and walls, their bodies and faces trapped in a macabre pantomime of their final seconds.

Bartolemeu rarely left the comfort of his hyperbaric chamber for the first several days until he became too hungry to wait any longer.  The intrepid cosmonaut was forced to brave the still circus in the cafeteria for as much peanut butter powder and bottled water as he could carry back to his room.

Within two months, however, Bartolemeu's boredom and recurring need for sustenance had overcome his terror.  Fear became familiarity, and familiarity turned into comfort.  Bartolemeu began posing with the black statues, going from one to the next to mimic and share in their pantomimes.  The lone survivor, once terrified of leaving his chamber, began spending all of his time at the never-ending birthday party.

Bartolemeu had identified all of the bodies but one, a poor charred creature who sat with its head down on the table nearest the blast center.  The quiet payload specialist hadn't interacted with the staff very much while they lived.  He was not the type of man to use two words where one would do, and he didn't engage in banter.  Bartolemeu appreciated the exact nature of his work, he preferred equations to conversations.  And so when this quiet and serious man began to feel deeply and irrevocably lonely for the first time in his life, he didn't recognize it right away.  He named the unknown corpse that leaned against the table like a child asleep in class "Sandy".

Three months later when the ship neared The Dozens and the few remaining sensors alerted Bartolemeu that a habitable planet was nearby, he had a difficult time deciding whether or not to leave.  He turned to Sandy for guidance.

Sandy had become his confidante, his lunch partner, his best and first friend.  Sandy's empty eyes and curled screaming lips implored him to get the hell off the ship if he could.  "Get out!  Get out!  Get out!", Sandy howled silently.  In the months since they'd met Sandy had never steered Bartolemeu wrong.  He packed up what little food was left, all of the ship's radio rescue flares, a solar tent, the emergency medical kit, and pointed the escape hatch towards planet April.

Unfortunately for Bartolemeu and April, with nobody alive to steer the ship away, inertia continued to drive the massive mausoleum towards the planet after his escape hatch launch.  The ship would arrive with its payload of charred bodies and nuclear missiles in a world ending boom just two months after Bartolemeu landed.  The former BigHeart Corp. payload specialist had no idea that Sandy and the rest of his friends were following him through the quiet gloom of space.

Planet April has an incredibly limited and fragile ecosystem.  Poison puff plant grows freely everywhere.  As the name suggests, the plant is poisonous to humans.  It is not, however, poisonous to the only animals aside from Bartolemeu to have lived on planet April, the squillers.  In this perfectly closed system the squillers eat the fast growing poison puff plant and their poop and eventual deceased bodies nourish new crops.

Bartolemeu didn't know any of this when he landed.  He had been living on turkey jerky and dehydrated peanut butter for weeks.

The first thing he did was eat a poison puff plant leaf.  The second thing he did was projectile vomit while laying in a fetal position and clutching his gurgling gut hard enough to leave little purple fingerprints.  This noise and activity caught the attention of several local squillers who rushed over to investigate.

Squillers are squirrel like creatures with large eyes and soft skin the same deep shade of green found in poison puff plant stems.  Because squillers have no natural enemies or prey, and because their food is always plentiful, they are playful, trusting, and gentle creatures.

This made it very easy for Bartolemeu to capture and cook one.  The squiller had walked right up to him and allowed him to pick it up and quickly snap its neck.  The squillers watched from the shadows of the poison puff plants as Bartolemeu happily grilled and ate his first cooked meal in months.  It was delicious.  When he was through, he tossed the bones behind his tent and settled in for a nights rest under the stars.

Maybe the next night Bartolemeu would sleep in the tent, but he preferred to be out in the open on his first night.  He slept so soundly he didn't hear the squillers removing the bones of his dinner and carefully burying them in the poison puff plant field.  Bartolemeu slept so deeply that he didn't notice the squillers weighing down his blanket and warming him against the chilly April night wind.  When he awoke, feeling refreshed for the first time in months, Bartolemeu jammed a radio rescue flare into the soft earth beside his tent and filleted another squiller.

He was quickly growing fond of these little critters who were so friendly and affectionate, and who tasted so good.  Bartolemeu was followed by a hoard of playful squillers wherever he explored on this strange little planet.  Within the first several days he had become completely accustomed to their peculiar friendly habits and obvious interest in him.  Because of this, Bartolemeu was caught completely off guard on his fourth night when the squiller he'd selected for dinner bit him lightly and then wriggled expertly out of his grasp.  Bartolemeu's mouth was stuck in a garishly startled grin as he watched the squiller rejoin its chattering friends in the poison puff plant shadows.  His grin fell away when several squillers emerged from the bushes carrying an elderly squiller to lay at Bartolemeu's feet.

And so it went from then on.  Each day the squillers would offer him two of their number.  Bartolemeu ate the elderly, lame, and sickly.  The squillers would bury the remains in their poison puff plant field, along with Bartolemeu's own solid waste.  Every night the squillers made sure their lonely human was warm and secure.  If their enthusiasm for his company wavered they never let it show.  Bartolemeu's enthusiasm for the squillers had diminished significantly, however.  He just wasn't sure how to feel about them.

Maybe in time Bartolemeu might have come to terms with the reality that he'd landed among a race of creatures so without internal or external conflict they would offer themselves up as a meal to any creature who needed sustenance.

He might have shaken the fear that the squillers were planning something big, perhaps fattening him up to turn the tables and eat him, or that they were exercising some kind of phenomenal otherworldly condescension through their sacrifices and concern for his well being.

The truth is, Bartolemeu was really starting to resent the generous and kind squillers by the time Sandy showed up with BigHeart's nukes two months later.  When the nuclear missile payload hit April, the explosion was enough to nudge this small and unique world a half a hair out of orbit.

The Dozens had been winding and wending around each other for millions of years with the precision of a Swiss watch.  This tiny nudge started a chain reaction that turned the entire system into a spiraling ball of flaming dust within a week.

Unfortunately, Bartolemeu spent his last seconds on April unfairly blaming the squillers for his demise.

Bartolemeu was awakened by a wet hard thump and for a split- second, imagined he must have fallen out of his bed.  This was absurd, of course, because the only beds within 9,000,000,000 miles had all just been turned to ash in a nuclear blast.  In the turmoil of receding sleep and returning paranoia that followed, the only English speaker on the planet barely had time to shout indignantly "So THIS is how they get you!", before both he and the hundreds of squillers who had been carrying him away from the approaching avalanche of carnage were all mulched .  

Not so unfortunately, the brave payload specialist and BigHeart's newest posthumously awarded Employee of the Month's dutifully placed radio rescue flares had worked.

 A BigHeart rescue ship arrived on the scene in time to patent several unique organic compounds that would revolutionize plastic surgery and make the BigHeart corporation trillions of GovBucks.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

History of the Universe 3: The Chrono-Travell Makes Time Travel Possible

Nobody knows exactly what complex scientific and mathematical processes Professor Arthur Travell used in order to create the Chrono-Travell, Earth's first time travel machine.  The first thing Travell used the machine for, or the last thing as it would turn out for that particular Arthur Travell, was a trip back in time to his younger self with the completed Chrono-Travell plans.  The future Travell also brought along an ambiguous warning, "Stay away from redheads, swear it!", young Arthur looked at his future's sorrowful eyes and dull gray hair and swore.

Because the future Travell had changed his own history, he became a time relic.  This is what happens when a time loop forms and there is no resolution.  If Travell had snatched his plans away from young Arthur and headed back to the future from whence he came, he could have avoided this fate.  It was not the professor's intention to avoid becoming a relic.

Time cannot abide an unresolved loop.  When something causes an eddy to form in the river of time, the thing causing the disruption must become a place holder to avert event recurrence and inevitable additional loops which would fan out indefinitely and destroy time along with everything else.  A relic was sort of a scar in time, never moving and unable to grow or die, fixed in place in every conceivable way.  Future Professor Arthur Travell knew this, which is why he was in such a rush to hand his machine plans to his younger self.  The vain scientist didn't want to spend eternity in a sloppy pose, and so he didn't.  One of the most famous relics in the universe is the time sealed statue of the worn down but proud looking Professor Travell standing tall and smiling beatifically at his grandfather's pocket watch.

There are quite a few less dignified relics scattered across the planets and space.  One of the most tragic of these is the famous Italian relic of a man holding a young boy.

For obvious reasons, access to Chrono-Travell machines has always been restricted to highly trained timeline technicians and bajillionaires able to pay the highly trained timeline technicians.  One bajilionaire, Swiss banking giant Julian Batz, had the cash and needed a trip.

Julian's son Noah had been hit by a hover-car during a family vacation in Naples.  The towheaded ten year old boy with his bright mind and face and ready smile was killed instantly.  No amount of his father's money could fix his broken body or turn the heat and lights back on in those lovely blue eyes.

Julian's wife, Ana, had blamed him for allowing their boy to run ahead.  Ana never recovered, and never forgave.  Julian Batz's simple plan was to go back and fetch his son before he could be killed.

There is a limit to what sentimental foolishness time will allow.  Professor Arthur Travell was probably able to hand off his plans to the younger Travell because luckily, or sadly, the young scientist's life path being altered only slightly wouldn't have a huge impact on the river of time, despite the importance of his invention.  Young Arthur had already been working on the schematics of time travel.  This pushed his study to fruition but his life course remained doggedly on track.  And despite the solemn promise he'd made to his future and presumably wiser self, Arthur met and married a vicious bitch of a redhead who immediately began turning him into the sad wreck that had handed him the Chrono-Travell plans all of those years before.

Then again, there are a lot of things as yet not understood about time travel and the process of relics.  Perhaps the younger Travell was too important a piece in the river of time to become a relic.  Maybe the elder Travell knew this.

Unfortunately the only man who may have extensively understood the processes involved is a statue in the center of the Travell Memorial Center and Mall.

Either way, neither Julian nor sweet Noah were as lucky as the younger Travell.  Julian and his guide had landed just minutes before the accident.  The man watched as his younger self and wife walked hand in hand down the crowded Spaccanapoli street.  Noah skipped far ahead, proud of the distance he'd been allowed and examining the vendor's wares with the stern but curious expression he'd stolen from his father.

Before his timeline guide could prevent it, Julian had dashed across the road and grabbed the boy from the path of a speeding hover-car.  The boy looked at the man who had saved him and uttered a confused "Grossvati?" before looking back towards his parents.

Noah's last thought before being sealed by time was how pleased his parents would be when they saw that Grandfather had come to holiday with them.  The younger Mr. and Mrs. Batz rushed to thank this strange man who had snatched their son from the path of the car.

Mrs. Batz, or Ana, never forgave her husband for what they found when they moved closer to the man who gripped their Noah so tightly.  With his teary face towards the sky, the elder Julian Batz was frozen kneeling on the ground with one hand on the back of his son's head holding him tight to his chest and the other wrapped around Noah's back, fingers grasping the boys light jacket.

As Ana came nearer she thought this man must be holding her son too tightly, Noah didn't appear able to move.  When Ana saw the man's face she didn't mistake him for her husband's father as Noah had.

While it was obvious that the future Julian had come back to save Noah from the path of the hover-car, it was impossible to know what would have happened had he not snatched the boyfro. its path.

Would her son have been maimed?  In a wheelchair?  Would he have lost a leg or an arm?  Would her sweet boy have died?  If Noah had died, Ana thought bitterly, she could have buried him.  Surely anything would have been better than this.

These thoughts never left Ana's mind.  Despite being every bit as lost and anguished as his wife, Julian could not escape the shadows of unspoken accusations that crowded behind her eyes.

During festivals local children decorate the man and boy on Spaccanapoli street with floral wreaths.  In the winter it's thought to be good luck to wrap the pair in warm bright blankets against the chill.

The Chrono-Travell machine uses a system based on the relativity of moments to each other in addition to the chronological way that most of us think that time occurs.  Time isn't a straight line, there are rushes and ebbs.

Moments that are centuries apart may be clustered together and traveling forward, all part of the same story.

The first Chrono-Travell machine used a time map manually submitted by Professor Arthur Travell himself, accurate down to the last nanosecond, but very limited.  Current Chrono-Travell's operate with a map created by real time satellites that constantly update the actions, expressions, lives, and deaths of billions of Earth people, animals, and plants.

Like following a river to the source, the machine is able to project and trace these lines of humanity backwards.  Also buried in this vastness of information are the cluster patterns that the machine uses to navigate.  Imagine it as a submarine ship using every possible direction of travel, rather than just forward and backwards, up and down, etc.

All of that is navigation.  The true beauty of the Chrono-Travell is how it manages to evade and subvert the natural pull of time.

Time recognizes everything it can affect.  Whatever ages, rusts, grows, shrinks, dies, or lives.  In short, anything within our sphere of physical understanding falls under the umbrella of things on which time has a firm hold.

The Chrono-Travell uses short bursts of controlled atomic explosions to shield its existence from time for the tiniest fraction of a second again and again in billions of cycles, like a moving picture shutter.  In these fractions of a nano-second the machine is leap frogging from moment to moment so rapidly it could land on a baby and be gone before the infant opens its mouth to bawl.

Despite the serious dangers of time travel it remains one of the most popular vacation choices for the fabulously wealthy and has proven to be an invaluable historical aid. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

History of the Universe 2: Breather Bugs

Kevin was 92yrs old when he was brought to Earth to play victim in a classic schoolboy prank.  Typically in such a shenanigan the boy's friends would wait a short distance away with their ship camouflage activated.  They would watch giggling while their victim searched frantically for his only way home.  Unfortunately, World Gov soldiers were heavily patrolling the area these unlucky boys had chosen for their trick.  Kevin's terrified friends flew away under a barrage of bullets and missiles while the alien child lay prone and in shock on the ground.

The utter stillness of Kevin's small body and his wide glazed lavender eyes were what ultimately saved him from being slaughtered by men and women trained to shoot aliens on sight.  There was no doctor among these soldiers, though that hardly mattered.  No doctor on Earth was equipped to guess at the anatomy of the many aliens who had suddenly begun dropping out of space onto the planet like flies onto a picnic plate.  The soldiers thought Kevin was dead.  They tagged and bagged him and laid him in the back of a truck bound for the nearest World Gov medical research facility.

It wasn't until Kevin was on Dr. Hitler's autopsy table deep in the restricted area of the center that the purple boy's full horror burst through the still surface of his shock.  Kevin sat up and screamed.  And then he screamed again.  And again.  Kevin's scream was a consonant filled shriek like none Dr. Hitler had ever heard.  We write "moo" when referring to a cow's low, and we write "arf" when referring to a dogs bark.  The truth is that we don't have the right letters to accurately convey the language of most of Earth's denizens effectively.  Human alphabets are incredibly specieist.

And so to Dr. Hitler, whose area of expertise lay in forensic biology and not in linguistics, and who had an incredibly limited alphabet with which to record his findings about this creature, it sounded as though the creature was screaming "Kffn kffn kffn kffn kffn kffn kffn!" 

Literally translated, the purple alien with the wide lavender eyes was screaming "Shit shit shit shit shit shit shit!".  Of course Dr. Hitler had no way of knowing this, having never heard of planet Ffffff or it's complicated language.

Dr. Hitler was related in no way to the famous 20th century German Nazi party leader.  His father and his father's father, etc etc back through his long family line, had learned to brutally condemn and openly resent the most famous Hitler as a way to both atone for and defend their family name.  Another longstanding family habit of the Hitler men was their often overblown displays of compassion and kindness.  Perhaps this trait was a natural inclination, and perhaps it was another way to distance themselves from their unfortunate connection and establish a more favorable reputation.  Either way, it saved young Kevin's life.  Twice in one day the boy had avoided a nearly certain death.  Not bad.

Dr. Hitler's highly attuned empathy and sensitivities recognized right away that the alien was screaming in terror rather than aggression.  He did the only thing he could think to do, Dr. Hitler held his finger to his lips and whispered "Shhhhhh" again and again.  Kevin calmed himself, not because of the kind doctor's bizarre soothing technique, and only partially because he realized he wasn't being murdered or eaten alive by the grizzled pale creature before him.  

Shhhhhh is the sound newborn babies make on planet Ffffff while they struggle for breath before they receive their breather bugs and names.  The aliens of planet Ffffff live a pseudo-parasitic life with the breather bugs.  A millennia ago, the atmosphere of planet Ffffff became mostly unbreatheable due to an excess of volcanic activity along with some particularly violent solar flares which fried the air.  The breather bugs have the remarkable ability to breathe in anything and then flatulate out a mix of gases, primarily hydrogen sulphide.  These gasses are what the aliens of planet Ffffff needed in order to live.  Most of planet Ffffff's scientific community believe that the reason their atmosphere existed in that particular mixture is that these breather bugs were busy for billions of years filling the planet's atmosphere with their farts.  Aside from the breather bugs that were given to new babies on their naming day, these slug like creatures were a well protected species.  Harming a breather bug resulted in the perpetrator's own breather bug removal and release into the wild.    

Kevin heard the shhhhhh and thought the doctor must be an Earth baby, this was what ultimately calmed him.  The thoughtful and considerate boy wondered where the baby's guardians were, or if it had guardians, and if it was a male, female, or both, and he wondered what kind of creatures would leave a stranger from another world with a baby.  The doctor thought that "Kevin" would be a good name for this alien boy who had shouted out "Kffn" so many times.

Dr. Hitler made some calls and used nearly all of the professional favors he'd accumulated during his 35yr career in order to get a live study area for Kevin.  This live alien study area began as a few rooms and later grew to an entire facility with Dr. Hitler at the helm and the beautiful purple boy at his side.  Of course over the years the boy learned that the doctor was a full grown human adult, although 65yrs seems very young to a race that can easily reach 300.  And the good doctor learned that he had inadvertently named the boy who would become his dearest friend and colleague "shit". 

The pair were famous for both the quality of their research and results and for the unfortunate side effects of working closely with hydrogen sulphide farting slugs.  Through Kevin, the doctor learned that the slug asexually produced and could be made to vomit out a small cluster of shimmering green eggs at the end of it's reproductive cycle once every five years.  These eggs matured rapidly and the new breather bugs began to go to work immediately changing the atmosphere inside of Dr. Hitler's laboratory into a mixture of rotten eggs and dog shit.  Kevin loved it, the laboratory smelled like a home that he missed dearly.  Dr. Hitler spent 5,000 GovBucks a week on air freshening devices, colognes, and fruity hand soaps.

It took the pair working with a few brave interns 30yrs, 6 reproductive cycles, and countless failures to altar the slugs enough through genetic manipulation to flatulate oxygen rather than hydrogen sulphide. 

The extremely health conscious, ironically, were the first to sign up to have farting slugs inserted into their throats.  The rationale was pollution based.  A person with a breather bug installed could jog down a city street during rush hour traffic and happily breathe in nearly tangible black smog and goo with no ill effects.  Public safety workers who were often exposed to unsanitary air and smoke situations were the next to sign up en masse.  Once the benefits were fully realized, most factories opted to force their employees to accept free breather bug installation under pain of higher medical insurance costs.  It wasn't long before the government got involved due to extensive lobbying from corporations who were tired of paying medical bills and keeping sanitary conditions.  Within five years, factories with fully bugged staff were offered looser internal pollution restrictions.  With a breather bug, it was no longer possible to get a lung or throat disease from the job.

Within ten years the pollution boon caused by the dramatic lessening of restrictions had killed off 30% of the world's flora and fauna.  The answer, of course, was more farting slugs.  Each factory was required by law to maintain a live and healthy field of breather bugs of the same square footage as the factory itself.  This seemed to work.

Dr. Aaron Fonzie Hitler died peacefully in his sleep at the ripe old human age of 103 with his dear young friend Kevin by his side.  Kevin lived for another 130 years before taking one of Dr. Hitler's great nieces, Fannie Hitler, 78yrs old, as a wife.  Kevin took Fannie's last name.  Both Fannie and Kevin died two weeks apart just ten years later after a well funded and quiet retirement. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

History of the Universe: The Berring Suit

The Berring suit was named for its inventor, Titan Berring.  A Berring suit was a miraculous leap forward for several reasons.  The wearers of these suits need never worry about breathing, temperature shifts (within reason), bacterial or viral illness, eating, physical harm (again, within reason), or being tethered to the baser functions of humanity for the duration of their lives.  Once a Berring suit was put on, it became a part of the person.

Berring suits were not based on Earth technology.  In fact, Titan Berring was a World Gov alien forensics biologist and not an inventor or engineer at all.  It was Titan's job to investigate the unearthly carcasses generated by the ever increasing alien vs. World Gov skirmishes in order to gain a greater understanding of Earth's new visitors.

This increase in visitors was due to a light drive travel technology explosion near the Lango System.  The Fralzbs's, a race of peaceful and mechanically inclined geniuses had invented a fast and clean method of space travel that could be easily emulated.  Suddenly every world within twenty trillion miles was manufacturing their own galaxy hopping hot rods.  Earth wasn't being invaded, it was being used as a rest stop.

It was on the tormented corpse of one of these alien tourists that Titan Berring first observed a slight genetic difference between the alien itself and its "skin".  This alien was Knu Drop of planet Knu.  The tiny bright blue spider-like creature had stolen his father's ship in order to explore and had stopped on Earth in search of edible vegetation.  World Gov soldiers shot the hell out of Knu Drop as he sucked the meat from a coconut and admired his first and last Earth sunset.

Titan Berring was very good at his job, though even if he hadn't been, it wouldn't have taken him long to figure out that this outer skin held some unusual properties.  The first and most obvious clue occurred when a small gooey patch he'd removed from the blue spider clung to his glove and slowly moved towards his exposed wrist.  Once there it attached itself comfortably above Titan's pulse as he watched spellbound.  The piece would not come off, and instead began to grow.  Within seconds the skin was indistinguishable from his own.  This made removal impossible.  Titan could feel his contact lenses being gently wedged away from his eyeballs as a clear film crept across his vision.  He watched helplessly as they fell away, and still, he felt no true physical discomfort.

When the process was complete Titan Berring was covered from head to toe inside and out with a thin and resilient protective film.  The good biologist was also naked.  This, he later learned after several failed attempts to clothe himself, was because the skin's functions were too easily impaired and compromised by additional covering.  The skin attacked any binding material and melted it away as though it were a threat.

Aside from the loss of modesty, Titan found that this wasn't as large of an inconvenience as one might think.  His body maintained the temperature of his moment of infection.  In fact, everything that his body was doing at that time was maintained by the suit exactly.  Titan's hair and nail length, his weight, and in fact every biologically relevant aspect of him right down to his partially digested breakfast and the iced coffee in his gut were preserved in a spectacular conservation of energy and resources by this second skin.

The suit would continue to rotate and refresh the last breath he'd taken and his last meal he'd eaten until he dropped dead of old age or boredom while maintaining the exact size and outer condition he existed in presently.

Unfortunately the forced nudity wasn't the only drawback of the suit.  By far the most difficult aspect of the second skin was learning to talk.

We take for granted that there will be breath in our lungs when we're ready to speak, however Titan's lungs had become a pair of nearly useless steak balloons.  The suit had shut down the area of his brain stem responsible for now redundant automatic functions such as breathing, digestion, etc.

When Titan stopped breathing, his instinct
 told him to flop onto the floor and flail about violently, pounding his chest and pointing frantically to his throat.  He sucked breath desperately,  but the dumbfounded Titan couldn't feel his lungs filling with air, or even a slight breeze passing over his tongue and throat.

 ‎The only feeling from each attempt to suck in air was what felt like a small balloon in the back of his throat, the suit would only allow the movement of his cheeks and tongue to collect air in a bubble, but from there it could not pass.  Titan filled and released this bubble with all of his might in great gushes that left him with repeated and decidedly anticlimactic "aaaaahh's".

It wasn't long, however, before the gagging  biologist's sharp and well trained scientific mind realized that he was still alive, despite not breathing.

After much experimentation he learned that the air he took in could be manipulated  into words.  In order to speak in a manner that could be understood, Titan had to get very good at ascertaining how much air he might need to expel in order to say a particular thing and then carefully take in that amount.

A third inconvenience, or advantage, depending on ones view, wasn't discovered until more in-depth  study was performed.  A Berring suit was incredibly limiting when it came to reproduction.

A person with a Berring suit could only successfully reproduce with another human being in a Berring suit.  In its infinite biological wisdom, the suit could only open for an exchange of resources when another suit was involved.  Babies born from suited mothers were always healthy, but very small.  To have a baby was to give up several pounds of irreplaceable flesh.  Most suited women opted to only have one child, if any.

All of these things and more Titan Berring learned within months of his first suit contact.

The accidental inventor was never able to reproduce the suit from scratch despite extensive research, it contained several amino compounds not found on Earth.  The basic components of these genetic materials would eventually be discovered on other worlds, but the Chrono-Travell hadn't yet been invented so Titan had no access to future scientific discoveries.  The clever biologist was instead only able to "grow" the suit on an army of hapless lab rats.

Once people got a load of the benefits of this suit they clamored for the opportunity to wear one in spite of the aforementioned limitations.

Aside from being incredibly expensive, the suits were only sold to people who met an extensive list of health criteria.  A relatively clean bill of health was deemed necessary because the suit wasn't a magic healer.  If a person had leukemia or even a urinary tract infection, the Berring suit would assume that their disease was a natural state for the wearer and maintain for them their sub par level of health.  Eventually the disease would win as the suit would effectively protect them from any treatments that might help.

It was also required that the person choose a hair and nail length that was likely to stand the test of time.  Suits were not sold to overweight people or to those with unhealed piercings, tattoos, or dyed hair.  The risk of regret was too great, a Berring suit was forever.

Once the suits had been widely marketed to acceptable clients, people began emulating their effect in the hope of appearing trendy and wealthy.  It was easy to spot these naked imposters because unlike authentic Berring suit owners, they had to breathe and eat.  Another obvious sign was that they would sweat in the heat and shiver in the cold, neither of which a person under the thermal protection of a Berring suit need ever do again.  Authentic Berring suits also shimmered like oil on a puddle when it rained, though they kept the wearer's hair and skin perfectly dry.

Fin Dominguez was the first of many wealthy undersea pioneers to truly test the oxygen regenerative properties of the suit.  The amusement park and hotel mogul spent six months in an underwater amusement park he'd had built in anticipation of a suit inspired deep sea rush.  Dominguez was forced to let the ocean claim his park when it became apparent that while people could now live underwater, tethering his patrons to the sea floor proved too costly, and in the end impossible.

The "Great Atlantic Adventure Park and Casino" closed amid a flurry of class action suits filed by the families of a few dozen missing park goers.  Some of them had been eaten by undersea meanaces impossible to keep comepletely at bay while maintaining Fin's dream of an open sea atmosphere, but most of those luckless adventurers had simply floated away on passing currents.

By far the most interesting incidental development of the Berring suit was what it had done for space travel.  No longer were astronauts restricted to bulky suits and immense space that oxygen generators and food consumed aboard  shuttles.  This was coupled with the alien space travel technology that World Gov scientists had borrowed from numerous interstellar tourists.  Thanks to vigilant World Gov soldiers, Earth had become a very profitable alien space travel cul de sac death trap.

In 5568 a lone elderly traveler set out to test the limits of the Berring suit and himself via the first ship-less voyage through outer space.

Anthony Shakito suffered from stage five pancreatic cancer.  While the suit wouldn't cure him, it would surely buy him time.  Anthony used the unlimited resources of his vast pharmaceutical fortune to slide past the various fitness screening protocols in order to gain access to a second skin and blasted himself into space.

When Anthony's Shakito Med Enterprises private shuttle had almost run out of the power it would need to get back to Earth, Anthony recorded this message:

"April 1, 5568, Anthony Shakito here.  Every time something interesting or good happens I turn to tell my wife, my daughter, my brothers, my mother and father, and I'm alone.  They've all gone on ahead of me.  And so I'm going out to get some good last stories for them and when I've gone as far as this body will let me go, I'm going to turn, and maybe they'll all be there again"

Accompanying the short recording is a one minute video clip of Anthony Shakito's naked cancer ravaged body kicking away from the shuttle, which he had programmed to return to his private launch pad on Earth.

Mr. Shakito's body was never recovered, but his nihilistic solo journey through the cosmos has become the stuff of legend.  No fewer than 35 films and 200 songs have been based on Anthony Shakito's tragic one way trip.