• Patrick Burke

Space Dust


Prompt

Ten million years ago, the ancestors of humanity were seeded onto the planet we call Earth as livestock to be consumed across the galaxy as a delicacy. The aliens were in for a rough surprise when they came back, and we discovered a lot of them go well with garlic butter.

 

Space dust is so hard to clean. It gets everywhere, it solidifies, clumps—you name it.

It’s also the bane of the existence of the staff at Quantum’s, an upscale joint at the edge of the Andromeda Galaxy, where Joey Quasar was trying some new ways of getting the difficult

substance off his restaurant’s front window.

“Damn it,” he muttered to himself after breaking a fingernail on his lower-left hand. Not

even the new spatula he ordered last week—specifically for this purpose—was working all that well.

“Hey!” he yelled toward the kitchen. “Can someone get me that bottle of radon spray?”

“You’re the only one with the combo!” Shouted Rudy, assistant manager to Joey.

“Alright, alright,” Joey replied, “Come with me, I’ll let you have access to the safe.” Joey

set the spatula down, and the two began walking towards the restaurant’s office. Radon spray is found in many of the Andromeda’s finest restaurants, as it’s very effective at getting rid of stubborn space dust, but it’s very expensive—hence the need for the safe. Joey had good reason to break it out for today’s cleaning, though: Quantum’s was selected as the premier restaurant to debut a delicacy millions of years in the making. The planet’s leaders were about to travel light years away to a distant planet in the Milky Way, to harvest an exquisite food, the seeds for which had been bearing fruit for some time, though the conditions were finally just right.

As they walked to the office, Rudy Galactitron was beaming with pride. He’d waited

eons to earn Joey’s trust with the safe combination, and finally his day had come.

“Thanks so much, boss. I assure you I’ll rise to the occasion and won’t let you down,”

he said nervously.

“Sure, whatever.”

“You won’t regret this.”

Joey stopped abruptly as they got to the office door. Rudy followed suit a couple

hundred nanoseconds later.

“What have I told you about kissing my ass?” Joey asked sternly. Rudy gestured with

all four arms that he understood. “Okay, then.” They walked into the office.

The two knelt down by the safe, and Joey began working the dial, with Rudy taking

careful mental notes of the combination. He didn’t dare write it down, as it could prove dire if

the radon spray got into the wrong hands.

“You think we’ll be ready in time?” Rudy asked.

“Who the hell knows?” An awkward silence took over the room.

“I feel pretty good about it,” Rudy said, answering his own question. “The hosting staff

is the best we’ve ever had, and Chloe is absolutely killing it lately,” he added, referring to the

head server.

“Mm-hmm,” Joey grunted, in a way that was somehow both skeptical and concordant.

“Oh! And those new plates came. I meant to tell you earlier, but—” Rudy stopped as

Joey held up both left hands.

“You have to remember, this all assumes General Sassafras doesn’t fuck up the

mission,” Joey said sternly, still working on the lengthy, complex safe combo. “If I had a

bismuth nickel for every reason I didn’t vote for the guy...”

“Fair point,” acknowledged Rudy.

“I just hope this isn’t another aimless, grandiose endeavor of his.” Joey reached the

final number of the safe combo, and it snapped open. An intensely saturated though not

particularly bright green light emanated from the safe’s door opening. Rudy grabbed the bottle of spray and shut the door. They both got up and headed back to the front of house to resume cleaning off the space dust.


“Hello and welcome to another edition of Anderson Cooper 360 for October 26, 2024.

We begin tonight with breaking news. Of course, none of us forget the bombshell report over

the summer when scientists confirmed that some of the bacteria that was responsible for life

here on Earth was planted by an alien race, millions of years ago. Tonight we have a report

from NASA, that a spacecraft, believed to have originated in the Andromeda galaxy, is on its

way here. Top officials from NASA and the White House believe that this is a race of alien super beings coming to harvest what they had planted. That’s right—us humans are believed to be, and have been all along—a form of interstellar livestock.

“Joining me now via satellite from Houston is NASA’s Director of Cosmic Cuisine, Guy

Fieri, and from the Oval Office is President Wolfgang Puck. Gentlemen, it’s great to have you

with us.”

“Good to be with you, Anderson,” replied President Puck.

“Alright, ALRIGHT!” shouted Guy Fieri.

“Mr. President, I’ll start with you. What can you tell us about the intelligence your

administration received, and your decision to go public with it?

“Well, Anderson, this is obviously a very serious situation. These alien monsters want to

turn us into some sort of galactic foie gras, and of course it’s my job to protect not just the

American people, but people all over the world, from suffering this fate. This is a race of beings that has developed very sophisticated and fast spacecraft, and they’re going to stop at nothing to get a high yield from their 10 million years-old agricultural experiment. What we have learned is that they come from a planet called Culinaria, which is about three times the size of Earth, but with a similar atmosphere. Their position in their solar system suggests life on their planet is even more carbon-dense than ours.”

“What that means, if I may interject here,” said Guy Fieri, “is that the beings from

Culinaria themselves would have a muscular structure and a fat cap that could prove to

basically be a nutrient dense sort of super beef—our calculations have one cubic inch of their flesh weighing about forty pounds here on Earth, and even the smallest bite could be a

satiating meal in itself.”

Anderson Cooper’s face showed intense intrigue as he listened. Guy continued,

“Meaning that we can use this invasion as an opportunity to flip the tables and take defense

measures that could not only save us from the attack, but wipe out world hunger and revitalize our restaurant industry.”

“That’s fascinating,” responded Cooper. “What can you tell us about when they’ll be

here, and what, Mr. President, will be the defense strategy?”

“Well, since their spacecraft goes many times faster than the speed of light, it’s tricky to

trace, and no one will even be able to see it until they slow down to make their final approach. So it’s a matter of speculation, and our team at NASA have devised a few different calculations that have the ship arriving as early as next week, but possibly as late as Christmas. I must remind your viewers that although these calculations were done with utmost precision, there’s still some room for inaccuracy.”

“And the defense strategy?” asked Cooper.

“We have all military bases around the world coordinating on this, though the specifics

of which are classified, I’m afraid.”

“Mr. Fieri, I understand your team has developed a number of recipes using this alien

meat. Can you offer some insight on what we might be enjoying if our defense mission is

successful?”

“Oh YEAH, Anderson!” replied Fieri. “We’ve been working directly with the Puck

administration to make sure this is not only the most effective defense operation in the history of the world, but also the tastiest. First, we’ll start with an assortment of mouthwatering appetizers. Meatballs au gratin, using alien rump meat, will be paired with a special spicy marinara we’ve been working on at NASA’s test kitchen. Also, these creatures have four arms—did someone say Buffalo wings?” President Puck grinned and rolled his eyes slightly at Fieri’s palpable enthusiasm. Guy continued, “Then, for the main course, we’ll do a filet mignon with President Puck’s signature garlic herb butter.”

“Sounds amazing!” replied Cooper. “Mr. President, aside from everyone everywhere

dying to try yours and Director Fieri’s cuisine at this grand intergalactic scale, is there anything you can offer the American people in terms of reassurance that this operation will succeed?”

“Well, Anderson, failure is not an option here. Despite their sophistication in terms of

space travel, we have no evidence that their military systems are any match for those of our

great nation. Make no mistake, it won’t be easy, and we have to be realistic in that we are

expecting there to be some casualties, but I spoke with the Joint Chiefs today, and we’re as

prepared as we’ve ever been in our nation’s great history.”

“Alright, there you have it. Mr. President, Director Fieri, thanks for joining us today, and

we’ll of course be following this story as updates become available. After the break, we’ll be

joined by Joe Biden, who is breaking his silence in his first televised interview since the

contested convention of 2020, which of course nominated Wolfgang Puck in a highly

unexpected turn of events. Stay with us.”

Charlie Williams turned off the TV. “Did you hear that, hun?”

“Hear what?” Clara asked from her study down the hall.

“Our prayers might have been answered. Your dad knows Mike Pence—think he can

get us in touch with someone at the Space Force?”

“I dunno. Maybe...”

Charlie and Clara Williams were the darlings of Instagram’s foodie influencer scene at

the turn of the decade, but here in the mid ‘20s, things weren’t going so well. Charlie lost his

driver’s license after a couple of highly publicized DUI incidents, and Clara had come under fire for a viral video of her ranting against vaccines. These incidents contributed to them losing nearly half their followers in a short timespan.

Charlie got up from the couch and walked toward Clara’s study, where she was reading

a book on herbal remedies. “You think your pops might still have an in with the former Vice

President?”

“I could ask.”

Charlie got down on one knee and took Clara’s hand. He hadn’t shown this kind of

tenderness since they were newly engaged five years ago. “Sweetheart, this could be it. This

could be our way back to the top. We could get in on this thing from the ground floor—it’ll be

the cuisine everyone’s gonna be talking about. Plus, they say these aliens could feed the world, everyone would finally get off my case about the whole ‘Prius smashing through the lobby of the Marriott’ thing.”

“I suppose that’s possible.”

“And you—well, if we’re feeding hungry kids in Botswana or wherever, maybe people

will finally realize how benevolent you are, and they’ll start to be more open to everything

you’ve been saying about the vaccines.”

Clara’s skepticism began to fade, and a calm peacefulness washed over her

countenance. She set the book down on her desk, and leaned forward to give Charlie a kiss.

“Let’s do it, babe. I’ll call Daddy in the morning.”

“Alright!” Charlie said as he chuckled with hope. “I love you so much.” He leaned in and

embraced Clara.

“Love you too, Charlie Sweet Lips.” The two smiled dopey, hopeful smiles as they held

their hug for a long minute.

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