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The Science Fiction Writer
Friday, November 15, 2002   By: Juan Paxety

The science fiction writer receives a message.

Michael leaned back in his chair and pulled off his heavy glasses. They had begun to hurt his nose. He polished the thick lenses on the dressing gown he wore, taking care to avoid the holes burned by cigarettes. He hadn't smoked since Jimmy Carter was president.

Michael continued to stare at his computer monitor, although he could no longer read the pixles he had typed. With his glasses off,  he could ignore the stacks of papers crowding his monitor and the pile of bills that spilled over his keyboard. He absent mindedly chewed on a saltine cracker as it spilled its crumbs across his chest.

Michael was busily visualizing how Hands Blicks, the hero of his novel, could steal a ship, preferably a fast one. The story required Blicks to fly from Rigel 7 to Alderon, the incredible distance of 842 parsecs. Blicks had only three metric hours to make the trip, and he had to fly alone. 

A warm weight thudded into Michael's lap.

"Betazoid," he said. The weight rubbed her head on Michael's hand and purred loudly. "You can't be hungry again."

Michael sighed, removed the cat from his lap, restored his glasses and peered at the monitor. His screen saver had started. It was analyzing data using the home version of SETI, the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence.

Normally the data window showed random spikes. But not now. There was a definite pattern - three short peaks, three longer peaks, three short peaks, then more. Michael pulled down a book from the shelf over his monitor and compared the peaks to old International Morse code.

"SOS, SOS, for God's sake, someone please help me."

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