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Universal Programming

The picture faded to black as the credits rolled and the now familiar theme tune played out. The three viewers settled back in their chairs, sighing as the last bars filtered from the speakers in the ceiling.

'Hilarious,' chortled the one in the middle.

The one to his right snorted. 'Quite! It astonishes me that creatures so ill-informed have managed to drag themselves from the swamp.'

The one to the left looked thoughtful. 'I wonder though. Perhaps there's more to it?'

The one in the middle stared at him, aghast. 'More? To that? Don't be ridiculous!'

The one on the left shrugged, a complicated manoeuvre of four arms and a double-humped back. 'They show considerable inventiveness.'

'Yes, yes. And in another two million years they might, possibly, if they haven't blown each other up, or been destroyed by an asteroid, get close to discovering the interstellar space travel they are so fascinated with.'

The one on the left clicked a button on the arm of his chair and the screen changed to a complex chart. 'It is a shame they don't have two million years, do you not think?'

The other two scoffed. 'They have taken so long to evolve, it's impossible to imagine they could ever reach our order. They have wasted so much time, fussing over unimportant little animals, fretting over pollution, worrying about their 'morals and ethics', they do not deserve another two million years.'

The room feel silent as the clock at the top of the display ticked down. The one on the left tapped at the arm of his chair, accidentally changing the screen to another output. His colleagues were about to protest until they realised the channel had changed to reveal another episode of the programme.

They settled back, chortling over the assumptions and ideas presented, the illogical plots and solutions, the misconceptions so boldly laid bare. They sat, rapt, through the entire episode, only straightening up as the credits rolled once more.

'To think, our own species was once so undeveloped,' said the middle one.

'Oh surely not! It's impossible to imagine!' said the one on the right.

The one on the left said nothing.

The clock counted down.

'Is there another episode?' said the middle one.

'Wait a minute,' said the one on the right, tapping a convoluted command into the pad on the arm of his chair. 'Yes! Oh goody! The 'Universal Channel' is running back-to-back episodes!'

'Oh, marvellous! How about some snacks?'

'Oh, good idea, sir!'

The one on the left lowered his head into one of his hands. 'You'll get half an episode.'


He pointed at the clock.



'That's a shame.'

'Yes … um.'


'Well I was just wondering, perhaps …'

'There was the prospect of taking the Sedarka*56.7fp route?'

'With no early civilisations in the way, I've always favoured that route to be honest.'

'Quite. Quite,' the middle one nodded thoughtfully. 'Very well. See to it, Gax, there's a good chap.'

The one on the left rolled his eyes and tapped a command into the computer. The clock stopped.

'I think perhaps we shall need a few hours to re-plan, what do you say?' said the middle one.

The one on the right checked the 'Universal Channel' listings. 'I think re-planning might take about five hours, sir.'

'Excellent. Of course, it would be useful to maintain a watch on these creatures,' he rose from his chair and started towards the vending machine on the back wall.

The one on the right nodded and tapped at the pad on his chair, bringing up a new screen. 'I've deployed a relay beacon and taken out a subscription with the 'Universal Channel'.'

'Marvellous,' said the middle one, lifting a large tray of snacks from the door of the vending machine. He shuffled back to his chair and set the tray on the table in front of them, looking up at the programme playing on the screen. 'Oh look, it's the funny yellow chap! Hilarious!'


© 2014 Kay Lawrence.


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