Starting Point: One Order To Go

2013-08-30 025 copy

“You like? Me make more!” said Gea, the Trelea.

You have to admit, for a Trelea, he was a good cook. Enthusiastic, boisterous, and really, really annoying. “No Gea, I can’t eat any more. It’s good, but I’m human, we take time to digest our food.”

“How long to digest?” Gea asked, sautéing some sort of plant.

“Um, four, six hours…” I estimated.

He pulled the pan off the stove and put two of his arms on his hips. “Four to six hours? No good! No good! I fix!”

I should have left at that point. Really, I should have. But like a deer in the headlights, I sat there while he rummaged through his bags and pulled out a pill.

“Eat this, fix your problem,” he said.

What the hell. Whatever it was, it would be reversible.

Yeah, right.

So I chewed the pill. It had a berry flavor, not that I could tell you what kind of berry. Just berry. And then, I wasn’t full anymore.

“OK, what did that do?” I asked.

“Digestion improved,” said Gea. “All digested. No waste.”

“Wait… all that food?”


And that’s when the trouble started…

Written by John H. Reiher Jr.

Image from Titan AE (copyright 20th Century Fox)

  • Father Bill

    I am following this site for quite a while. Never felt the need to comment. I truly enjoy the Artifexian contributions. Very creative, informative and useful for writing and dreaming SF stories.
    But this? The debut of John as member of the Sci Fi Ideas crew…A story idea for the Ben 10 crowd and age group. Cartoon image; a pill that supposedly changes the digestive system of a human in less than 5 minutes – following this site it appeared that John was lauded as the know it all science person – what science even the most speculative could explain a pill like that?
    First worms and wizards and now poop stories .
    The site was aspiring to such great heights, with great story starters. Awesome discussions, the very well made Pod Casts but this?

    • John H Reiher Jr

      Sorry to disappoint you Father Bill, but not everything I write is hard SF. Sometimes I like writing SciFi and not Science Fiction. Besides, where’s the poop? No where in my starting point do I make a poop joke. What you have is a guy who just ate a pill with serious implications. A pill probably designed for Trelea physiology not human.

      But thanks for the critique, I’ll work on improving what I post. But take this as it is presented. A story idea.

      • Father Bill

        This is your “intro story idea” as one of the Inner circle?

        A site that conjures Arthur C.Clark, has a guy that makes videos to explain the science…And if you read that post of James.. it shows just how far it went.

        You didn’t say poop but that’s the end result of digestion. And no amount of nanites can change human physiology in a few moments. You impressed me by really thinking about an Alien species the Kutalii, This is not SF and not Sci Fi. It is Age 10 reader level.

        • John H Reiher Jr

          Father Bill I have a question: Was your opinion colored by the lead in image or from the contents of the story?

          If the picture had been this, would your opinion have been different:

          • Father Bill

            The image was just the “tip of the iceberg” so to speak. It was hearing you joining Sci Fi ideas as staff member and Mark announcing you posting several starting points. Given your past track record, I simply expected something more SF. If you compare the your body of work that has been posted here and this starting point…. well not even close the same.
            What really got me was the dialog. It was something right out of a cartoon show for kids.
            An alien cooking for humans- obviously his guest is not the first human he sees. The willingness of the guy swallowing a pill, Would you take a pill from your office co worker without asking what it is or does?
            The characters made no sense, the premise of a pill changing the physiology of a human…each element appeared to be thrown together. Sorry I simply expected more from you and hoped the Sci Fi ideas side kept improving in quality as it has.

            • I guess you can’t please all of the people all of the time. But what’s so wrong with the story appealing to a young audience? Young readers make up a large part of the SF market.

            • John H Reiher Jr

              Don’t fall on that sword just yet Mark. I chose to send that story idea to you in the first place! If anyone gets to fall on his sword, it’s me. 🙂

            • Nobody’s falling on any swords. It’s a good starting point, even if Father Grumpy Pants doesn’t think so.
              If there’s a problem with it, it’s that it’s too complete and doesn’t actually require any continuation.

            • John H Reiher Jr

              That’s true, I could have cut it just before the protagonist took the pill. That would have left the effects of that pill up to the writer.

            • Swords ? Did you just mention swords? (Pablo impression)

            • I think most of us here, are kids at heart. Able to dream about the impossible, the irrational.

              I do agree that this story
              starter had juvenile elements. Have you been around last “Alien August”?
              Most of the entries were created by teenagers and young adults.
              Many of the story ideas aren’t my cup of tea, but then some are. Maybe do the same as what you do when watching TV, switch channels till you find something you
              like. It appears , reading your
              comment there are elements of this side you do like.

              Hey here is a novel idea ,
              go write a Story starter and show how it’s done. I am sure the guysrunning this side will post your plot starter.

              I mentioned that t in another thread. It’s not the word or in this case words that make it Sci Fi or SF or whatever, but the entire story envisioned and flavored by whoever decides to use it.

              It might not be Shakespeare and certainly not Asimov or Heinlein, but you know Piers Anthony and one of the greatest SF authors “Harry Harrison” might just loved that plot starter (I can highly recommend the entire
              Stainless Steel Rat series)


  • Well I would not go that far. There are quite a few near future and real science explanations for a pill like that.
    1) Nanites – Nano meter robots manipulating matter on the molecule level. An awful lot of these fit in a pill. The nanites could even self replicate (you know the old rice corn on a chess board story right?) Instead of digesting the food they re-arange the molecules and transport them to regions elsewhere in the host body
    2) Band Worm : You mentioned worms…how about an alien parasite…or genetic altered good old earth worm parasite (thousands to choose from) They too can grow quite quickly
    3) Digestive bacteria – Natures “Nanites” why not a host of genetic altered bacteria turning the food matter into Luciferin? Instead of pooping the guy might get a glowing behind. (I could not help it, but funny enough scientifically not impossible)

    Perhaps the pill is just some good ol “Darmol” (look it up) and our hero has a very urgent problem


    • John H Reiher Jr

      There is a 4) Genetic engineering. The nanites or engineered viruses to make changes to the inside of the stomach so that it produces new enzymes and digestive fluids.

  • James Pailly

    Gea has introduced our protagonist to the joys of alien parasitic infestations. There are similar “pills” to improve your memory, strengthen your muscles, and increase your libido. You can get parasites that will produce oxygen internally so you can “breathe” in space, or generate electromagnetic fields that allow you to access computers from a distance. Take a thought-reader pill and slip its matching pill into someone else’s drink, and you can read that person’s mind (a great tool for dating).

    Yes, every problem you could ever have can be fixed with a little, parasitic pill. But of course, there will be consequences. I have no idea what those consequences are, but I bet we’ll find out somewhere near the end of the story.

    • John H Reiher Jr

      If you have an alien parasite in your gut, is it producing the correct nutrients for a human body?

      • Happens on Earth. In Africa in epidemic proportions. Cats’ Dogs and similar critters eating carrion and of course the lovely pig band worm named Taenia solium. Technically the larvae form of Sir Ridley Scott’s Alien is technically a parasite. So basing a Sci Fi story on a parasitic infestation is certainly not new. There are literature examples of parasitic infestations with human kind as far as the ancient Egyptians. (the priest embalming and mummifying dead kings came across band worms and tried to explain their presence – Book of the Dead – interesting read btw) But for a truly alien, i.e not from Earth, parasite to be compatible with a human host body is quite astronomic. Ever heard about chiral molecules? The sugars which are the building blocks and energy transporters for the cells of a carbon based Earth creature. Our sugars are “lefties”. A right hand sugar molecule would be as alien to our cells, as Mork from Ork to Cindy. Incompatible.. Now the same thing can be saidf about our DNA helix. Its like a cork screw and turns…yep it turns left. Now an organism based on a right turning DNA molecule would look exactly like a left turner, but completely incompatible.
        Now just in terms of the organisms very basic chemistry being compatible is very slim.

        Also there are two kind of infestations : Parasites and symbionts ( ST DS9 comes to mind where the sentient being is a symbiont worm creature inside a host body) (Trill)
        A symbiotic relationship must of course develop. and is beneficial to both organism.
        A parasite on the other hand is harmful to the host.

        Well in any case Parasites are around for a long time and have been in SF and Sci Fi as long as SF is around.
        (ST TWOK shows a parasite crawling in Checkov’s ear) Star Fleet Command was infested (Season 1 STNG)
        And of course the Grand daddy of all SF Parasite stories : Robert A. Heinlein’s “The Puppet masters”

      • How could I write all this about parasites without mentioning the Knnnk (Galactic Chronicles – Sentient species of parasites ),_the

        and the Nutack – Creeper

        Could not let the opportunity slide 😉


    • I have to agree..this is getting a little too far into kiddie Sci Fi. –

  • Kirov

    I don’t mean to interrupt the argument going on in the comments (though personally I think there’s nothing wrong with the starting point. If you don’t like it, don’t use it), but I had a question regarding some of the terminology used. By my understanding, science fantasy and science fiction are two different genres and I can recognize the difference. But people also seemed to be using the terms SF and SciFi as distinct terms in their own right. Can someone explain those to me?

    • Here is a rather long answer. I hope will help:

      The world of science fiction and fantasy is rich and varied. Often lumped together under the catchall term “speculative fiction,” these two distinct genres encompass a number of sub-genres. Many who don’t read sf/f are unaware that the two though close kin are very different. Isaac Asimov, once asked to explain the difference between science fiction and fantasy, replied that science fiction, given its grounding in science, is possible; fantasy, which has no grounding in reality, is not.

      The following are terms used frequently used to define elements and “sub-genres” within science fiction and fantasy literature.


      A catchall term for science fiction and fantasy. It applies to work that answers the question “What if…?” Sometimes it is also applied to fiction considered more “literary” in nature that includes elements of SF or fantasy. Examples include Nicholas Christopher’s Veronica and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. Within science fiction, the term speculative fiction refers to novels that focus less on advances in technology and more on issues of social change, such as Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, George Orwell’s 1984, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Jack Faust by Michael Swanwick.


      A genre that extrapolates from current scientific trends. The technology of a science fiction story may be either the driving force of the story or merely the setting for a drama, but all science fiction tends to predict or define the future.


      A term often used for science fiction primarily by people outside the field. Serious readers of science fiction prefer the abbreviation sf.


      Cyberpunk explores the fusion between man and machine. A key element is the perfection of the Internet and virtual reality technology. In a cyberpunk novel, characters can experience and interact with computers in a 3D graphic environment so real that it feels like a physical landscape. The society in which cyberpunk is set tends to be heavily urban, and usually somewhat anarchic or feudal. The “father of cyberpunk” is William Gibson, author of the seminal cyberpunk novel Neuromancer. Eos authors defining this ever-evolving virtual reality include Neal Stephenson and Rudy Rucker.


      Basically, the armed forces in space. Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers and Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War are classic examples. Contemporary examples include David Feintuch’s Seafort Saga novels, and the work of Lois McMaster Bujold. Military SF at Avon includes Susan R. Matthews’s An Exchange Of Hostages and Prisoner Of Conscience, and the upcoming Heritage series by William Keith.

      HARD SF:

      Usually written by writers with a strong science background, frequently research scientists, who provide meticulously detailed future science in their work, consistent with the most current research. Hard SF writers include Greg Bear and David Brin, as well as Eos authors Gregory Benford and John Cramer.


      The idea behind parallel/alternate universe SF is that for every decision made or event that occurs, there is another place where the decision or the event went differently. For example, Robert Harris’s Fatherland, in which Hitler was victorious, could be considered alternate universe sf. Steven Gould’s Wildside presents a contemporary parallel in which high school seniors pass through a portal to a primeval Earth never inhabited by humans. Another type of alternate/parallel universe sf is that written by hard SF writers, usually physicists like John Cramer whose novels Twistor and Einstein’s Bridge are good examples.


      High adventure in space; usually somewhat campy, of the type that used to be serialized at the movies and in the pulp magazines that were popular in the first half of this century. Hallmarks of space opera include encounters with beautiful women and bug-eyed monsters. Flash Gordon is vintage space opera, Star Trek™ is more sophisticated, contemporary space opera. Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Barsoom series is space opera.


      A genre not based in reality presupposing that magic and mythical/supernatural creatures exist.


      Sweeping in scope, epic fantasy usually concerns a battle for rulership of a country, empire or entire world. Drawing heavily upon archetypal myths and the quintessential struggle between a few good people against overwhelming forces of evil, epic fantasy is best represented by author J. R. R. Tolkien’s classic The Lord Of The Rings trilogy. Eos authors of epic fantasy include New York Times bestselling Raymond E. Feist (The Serpentwar Saga) and Adam Lee (The Dominions Of Irth). Some other popular epic fantasy authors are Robert Jordan, David Eddings, Terry Brooks.


      A subcategory of epic fantasy that’s currently popular and is the fantasy equivalent of Dumas’s The Three Musketeers. Good examples of this are Robin Hobbs’s Assassin trilogy, George R. R. Martin’s A Song Of Ice And Fire trilogy, Martha Wells’s The Element Of Fire, and Avon author Dave Duncan’s upcoming The King’s Blades trilogy.


      A major subcategory of epic fantasy in which the hero endures many hardships while retrieving an object of power that will defeat the enemy. The Lord Of The Rings trilogy is a classic quest fantasy. Eos’s The Shadow Eater: Book II Of The Dominions Of Irth is a quest fantasy by Adam Lee.


      A sub-genre in which historical events are given a fantasy treatment, or myths are given an historical treatment. Actual historical events are mixed with imaginary ones, bound together by magic. For example, Parke Godwin’s The Last Rainbow is an historical fantasy based on the life of St. Patrick. Stephen R. Lawhead’s bestselling Pendragon Cycle are Arthurian novels which make an attempt at historical accuracy combined with strong fantastical elements.


      A sub-genre of fantasy which posits that magic exists in our modern-day world, and often wrestles with contemporary issues. Examples of contemporary fantasy include Eric S. Nylund’s Dry Water, and Tim Powers’s novels Last Call and Expiration Date.


      A subcategory of contemporary fantasy, urban fantasy is set in a contemporary city. Often co-existing with the familiar city life is a hidden, magical aspect of the city frequently including magical creatures. Charles de Lint is one of the primary authors of urban fantasy. To some extent, Mark Helprin’s A Winter’s Tale is an urban fantasy as well as Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere.


      A hybrid and subset of speculative fiction describing worlds in which either both magic and science work, science is so sophisticated it simulates magic, or characters possess psychic powers so strong they resemble magic. Eric S. Nylund’s A Game Of Universe is a science fantasy of the first type (an assassin who can cast spells travels through space in search of the Holy Grail), as is Sheri S. Tepper’s The Family Tree (which includes time travel, genetic engineering, and wizards). Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonrider series is a science fantasy of the second and third types (genetic engineering on an alien reptile species has created “dragons” that breathe fire and who communicate telepathically with their riders). Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover series (concerning the history of a planet whose industry is not based on machines and physical labor, but on the potent psychic powers of the inhabitants) are science fantasies of the third type.

      • John H Reiher Jr

        Good stuff Vanessa. I will point out that “Sci-Fi” was coined the late, great Forest J. Ackerman. It’s typically used to refer to more pulpy stories with monsters and aliens, and a less than strict adherence to science. Most movies and TV shows are “Sci-Fi”.

  • Christmas Snow

    I would make the plot go terribly wrong, when the chef (employing Gea in his/her restaurant) comes into the scene, and finds our guy lying on the floor, twisting with extreme agony. He/she tells Gea that the pill does not work on humans the way it works on the Trelea race. The chef explains to Gea that the pill has eroded the mucous membrane which protects the stomach from its own digestive fluids, has opened a wide ulcer in his stomach and possibly has even initiated a large perforation, spilling all the digested food into the abdominal cavity.

    The next medical facility equipped to take human patients is about two hours away, if warp drive is at hand. All doctors in the vicinity are (or have dealt with) Treleas, and first-aid has to be administered with whoever understand human physiology.

    • John Hawkins

      Well… That was terrifying.

  • Just to show you that this could very well be the start of a Story:

    The Pill
    (c)2014 VR

    Never again would I mix Alussian Thumper Sweat with Vodka,or at least that clear gutt burning liquid they sold at this godforsaken bar right at the edge of Roid field 994.

    Well they called it Vodka, but perhaps it was meant to scrub deck plates.

    A whole standard month worth of wages blown on booze and nothing to take home but the mother of all hang overs.

    I wasn’t even sure howI made it to this, even for an asteroid miner base low class greasy spoon.

    The being behind the counter was cheerful enough. Judging by his green shell and four arm airs, a Trelea.

    Never trust your credits with a Trelea, they say so why was I trusting this fella with my breakfast?

    Well the green guy was cheap, and I figured something spicy, greasy and hot might either cure or kill me.

    Leisure hours were over soon and I had to go back busting my back scratching scoop out of floating rocks,

    Whatever it was the non humanoid concocted on his grill wasn’t too bad at all.

    A titanic Glorian, with arms that would have made King Kong proud and a face apparently cut out of the same rock I busted day in and day out, with less skill than a three year old trying to sculpt a face out of play doh, took his plate and grunted with a voice that seemed to originate at the bottom of a steel barrel. “Gea, I said 45 Gnubi Eggs. I count only thirty! trying to cheat me?”

    “No,no Gea count wrong . Accident it is.”

    The cook added a scoop of peach sized purple balls, oozing in a yellowish liquid. I was certain some of them moved.

    The big fellow was satisfied and left.

    The cook pointed at my empty plate.

    “You like? Me make more!” said Gea,

    You have to admit, for a Trelea, he was a good cook. Enthusiastic, boisterous, and really, really annoying. “No Gea, I can’t eat any more. It’s good, but I’m human, we take time to digest our food.”

    “How long to digest?” Gea asked, sautéing some sort of plant.

    “Um, four, six hours…” I estimated.

    He pulled the pan off the stove and put two of his arms on his hips. “Four to six hours? No good! No good! I fix!”

    “Can you fix a hang over the size of this Roid?”

    “It fix!

    I sat there while he rummaged through his bags and pulled out a pill.

    “Eat this, fix your problem,”

    “It’s nor one of these egg things right? I don’t want to end up like Sylon with Katalian Eels busting out of his guts.”

    “No, no is Union, best science in Universe.”

    “OK, what did that do?” I asked.

    “I don’t know. they say it fixes humans. I am not human.”

    I knew I was still drunk,how could I possibly trust a Trelean and swallow a pill of…”

    Wait a minute, This feels great! No headache and not a bit tired. I suddenly felt as if I could carve the minerals of a whole month worth in just a day. And I was hungry!

    “Alright Gea, that did the trick. Must been some detox stuff. Get me another plate of that funky grizzle with lots of splatter, whatever that brown goop is.”


    Dr. Fein, woke in the depressing hotel room,with only one light element working, but that was a blessing. The dim light mercyful hid the more disgusting features oif the room.

    Of all places , his ISAH drive had to quit here in the proverbial middle of no-where. Well technically most space counted for the middle of nowhere, but failed system A5564 at the fringe region of the Orion arm, just before the gap across to the Perseus arm could be used as prime example for deslate.

    He was lucky enough that there was a mining colony in that asteroid rich,planet less system dominated by a tired red star, exhausting its last hydrogen.

    They did tow his Asurga III – Karthanian Swift to a large rock with a miner base inside.

    He was also able to make a GalNet call , but the next spaceport with dock and repair facilities was almost 1500 light years away.

    The mining post manager offered him to load his ship onto the next freighter, which was due in only three weeks.

    Three weeks here?

    He was supposed to present his latest development, the Mega Metabolizer at the 455th conference of Xeno Physiologists.

    IIf he could only remember where he left it….

  • John Hawkins

    I had an idea that this could be their way of reproducing. In a novel I’m writing, a race took to cloning to extend their lifespans, the concept of biological reproduction becoming so sickening to them that they go as far as to declare war on the minority of their population who still breed. Could the Trelea have lost the ability to reproduce naturally? Maybe this is a natural part of their reproduction, perhaps just an old redundancy, like that flower in Star Trek Voyager’s “Tuvix”.