by Terry Bisson
"They're made out of meat."
"Meat. They're made out of meat."
"There's no doubt about it. We picked up several from different parts ofthe planet, took them aboard our recon vessels, and probed them all the waythrough. They're completely meat."
"That's impossible. What about the radio signals? The messages to thestars?"
"They use the radio waves to talk, but the signals don't come from them.The signals come from machines."
"So who made the machines? That's who we want to contact."
"They made the machines. That's what I'm trying to tell you. Meatmade the machines."
"That's ridiculous. How can meat make a machine? You're asking me tobelieve in sentient meat."
"I'm not asking you, I'm telling you. These creatures are the onlysentient race in that sector and they're made out of meat."
"Maybe they're like the orfolei. You know, a carbon-based intelligencethat goes through a meat stage."
"Nope. They're born meat and they die meat. We studied them for severalof their life spans, which didn't take long. Do you have any idea what's thelife span of meat?"
"Spare me. Okay, maybe they're only part meat. You know, like theweddilei. A meat head with an electron plasma brain inside."
"Nope. We thought of that, since they do have meat heads, like theweddilei. But I told you, we probed them. They're meat all the waythrough."
"Oh, there's a brain all right. It's just that the brain is made outof meat! That's what I've been trying to tell you."
"So ... what does the thinking?"
"You're not understanding, are you? You're refusing to deal with whatI'm telling you. The brain does the thinking. The meat."
"Thinking meat! You're asking me to believe in thinking meat!"
"Yes, thinking meat! Conscious meat! Loving meat. Dreaming meat. Themeat is the whole deal! Are you beginning to get the picture or do I haveto start all over?"
"Omigod. You're serious then. They're made out of meat."
"Thank you. Finally. Yes. They are indeed made out of meat. And they'vebeen trying to get in touch with us for almost a hundred of theiryears."
"Omigod. So what does this meat have in mind?"
"First it wants to talk to us. Then I imagine it wants to explore theUniverse, contact other sentiences, swap ideas and information. Theusual."
"We're supposed to talk to meat."
"That's the idea. That's the message they're sending out by radio.'Hello. Anyone out there. Anybody home.' That sort of thing."
"They actually do talk, then. They use words, ideas, concepts?"
"Oh,yes. Except they do it with meat."
"I thought you just told me they used radio."
"They do, but what do you think is on the radio? Meat sounds. Youknow how when you slap or flap meat, it makes a noise? They talk by flappingtheir meat at each other. They can even sing by squirting air through theirmeat."
"Omigod. Singing meat. This is altogether too much. So what do youadvise?"
"Officially or unofficially?"
"Officially, we are required to contact, welcome and log in any and allsentient races or multibeings in this quadrant of the Universe, withoutprejudice, fear or favor. Unofficially, I advise that we erase the records andforget the whole thing."
"I was hoping you would say that."
"It seems harsh, but there is a limit. Do we really want to make contactwith meat?"
"I agree one hundred percent. What's there to say? 'Hello, meat. How'sit going?' But will this work? How many planets are we dealing withhere?"
"Just one. They can travel to other planets in special meat containers,but they can't live on them. And being meat, they can only travel through Cspace. Which limits them to the speed of light and makes the possibility oftheir ever making contact pretty slim. Infinitesimal, in fact."
"So we just pretend there's no one home in the Universe."
"Cruel. But you said it yourself, who wants to meet meat? And the oneswho have been aboard our vessels, the ones you probed? You're sure they won'tremember?"
"They'll be considered crackpots if they do. We went into their heads andsmoothed out their meat so that we're just a dream to them."
"A dream to meat! How strangely appropriate, that we should be meat'sdream."
"And we marked the entire sector unoccupied."
"Good. Agreed, officially and unofficially. Case closed. Any others?Anyone interesting on that side of the galaxy?"
"Yes, a rather shy but sweet hydrogen core cluster intelligence in a classnine star in G445 zone. Was in contact two galactic rotations ago, wants to befriendly again."
"They always come around."
"And why not? Imagine how unbearably, how unutterably cold the Universewould be if one were all alone ..."
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