(In the House of Giants was published in Martian Wave in December 2006. Enjoy this excerpt.)
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” — Clarke’s Third Law
Maxwell Miller and his nine-year-old daughter, Sondra, looked out through their kettle drum helmets as the industrial cage elevator shot upwards and the incomprehensible vastness of the artifact unveiled itself before them. It had been drifting through space for over a million years, or so the tour guide said, threading like a needle through the Milky Way before at last being snagged like so much space garbage in the gravity well of the Kuiper Belt.
Scientists and engineers had known about the artifact for over a century, ever since the mining consortium had discovered it back in 2121. It was humanity’s first contact with alien technology and many hoped it would unlock a treasure house of scientific secrets, but after a hundred years of exhaustive research and experimentation, they knew little more about the Kuiper Artifact than they knew about Stonehenge.
“Big, huh?” Maxwell whispered to his daughter over the private person-to-person com link. He saw her little head nodding in her overly large helmet, but she did not appear too impressed by the sublime landscape of ambiguous alien machinery. After a moment, she turned to her father and pressed the private com link.
“Dad,” she asked casually, “why did you laugh?” It was an odd question considering the circumstances, but in many ways, Sondra was not like other children. Maxwell blamed himself for this. She’d grown up without a mother and his work schedule as an asteroid prospector had kept him away from home more often than not. He often wondered if Sondra hadn’t received the kind of emotional support that she needed especially in her formative years. That was one of the reasons that he had cancelled his last mining project and planned this little trip in the first place – as a chance to be together with his daughter and make up for lost time.
“I don’t remember laughing at anything,” Maxwell answered quietly.
“Back when the space bus was landing and the tour guide said it looked like no one was home. And then she said something about the golden goose and you laughed.”
“Oh, that,” he said, understanding at last. “She was talking about that old story of Jack and the beanstalk. You know how he climbs up to the giant’s castle in the clouds and steals the goose that lays the golden eggs.”
“Well, honey, we didn’t build this place, so it’s not really ours.”
“Aliens did,” Sondra added matter-of-factly.
“Really big aliens.”
“Right. So I guess if they suddenly showed up and we were still here . . .”
“They’d be mad like the giant.” Sondra’s eyes widened with sudden realization.
Publishers: If you would like to see the completed manuscript, please email me for a copy at the following address.