Actiniform

by Pierce Nahigyan

The sun shined in the viewscreen, bright and pale gold in complexion. The only problem was, it was sitting in a little room under the Franco-Swiss border, and not hanging in the sky.

Dolan DuWayne, professor of Actinology and on temporary assignment to Geneva, Switzerland, studied the sun at the console while CERN’s chief scientists groused behind him, their mumbles simultaneous and elated and mad – mad as madmen, mad as woken bears – and puzzled and in foreign languages he didn’t know. He accessed the console’s data feed to check the little sun’s actinometry. According to the meter, the star was outputting enough energy to power this station, and Geneva, from now until the greater sun was a big red sulking monster.

“This is incredible,” he said, not for the first time. The foreign languages behind him increased in tempo and not in tones of praise. He was sorry to be wasting their time, but the accidental creation of this dwarf’s dwarf star had left him beaming like a little boy locked in a sweetshop. He looked down at the CERN logo, the actiniform starburst, stylized, in black and white – yet prophetic, and now triumphant reality. He turned to the chief engineer, Rory Orlson. “It reads totally stable, and the radiation is normal for its size. Why hasn’t it been moved to a containment chamber?”

Rory frowned at him. “It has a bad attitude.”

Dolan frowned back. “I don’t understand what you mean.”

Rory sighed. He bid him follow him from the viewing room down the corridor. They were several minutes in circumnavigating the Collider, then a handful more to suit up in their hazmat suits and enter the clean room where the sun was kept.

Dolan gasped aloud as the door slid into its frame and the sun shined before him. Before he could take another breath, the ball of energy changed. Its surface darkened with miniature sunspots and it flared, its yellow surface bloomed with pseudopodia. The actinomorphic shape spun like a pinwheel, throwing off hot solar wind. Dolan felt his hazmat suit melt into its inner layers.

“What’s up, poindexter?” the little sun barked.

“It talks?” Dolan sputtered. Rory opened his mouth but a blast of radiation cut the communication link between their suits.

“Aw, gee, lookit that, the monkeys are makin’ with the tautologies already. ‘It talks?’ ‘It talks!’ ‘It talks?’ Whaddya’xpect a higher lifeform to do, chump? Charades?” The pseudopods spun faster, and the heat was unbearable. Dolan and Rory chased each other out of the room and the door hissed shut behind them.

They removed their steaming helmets, both of their noses peeling dead skin, their cheeks brownish red. Dolan took a moment to collect himself, and then said: “I understand what you mean.”

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