But as this was his first time in this part of the universe, he found that the galactic rays were messing with his natural biorhythm. He tried different napping positions turning this way and that but after he nearly reset the autopilot with his foot, he resorted to just staring out of the window.
The Praxitans have been secretly watching Earth for a very long time.
No, it’s not because of the kaleidoscopic variety of lifeforms ensconced in her bosom; nor has it got anything to do with the uniqueness of the human psyche, or the amusing discrepancies of mind and emotion that people are prone to.
For the Praxitans, watching Earth is more like a moral concern. Or better yet, an insurance claim.
Let me explain.
Remember the dinosaurs? Of course you don’t. You weren’t around then.
You know who was around? Exactly.
It was the late Cretaceous by Earth reckoning. On Praxitus, it was Friday night. And, as is the habit for all Praxitans, Friday night is pizza night.
Now, pizza is fairly accessible when you’re on Praxitus, but when you’re a tired tenure-track researcher doing your obligatory stint on Earth during the late Cretaceous in the hope of proving your hypothesis that a subspecies of T-rexes actually have long arms, then pizza is nowhere to be found. Ferns – sure. Corythosauri – tons. Pizza – not so much.
But still, when you’re sitting there in the prehistoric mud fending off prehistoric mosquitoes and avoiding the amorous advances of prehistoric mammals that really shouldn’t exist yet, you miss home. And if it’s Friday night, you miss home Friday night. And if you miss home Friday night, you miss home Friday night pizza night.
So the researcher picked up his University-issued phone, called the black-hole extension code, reached Praxitus, connected to the Praxitan Popular Pizza Parlour, and ordered an extra-large, quadruple-everything-from-the-menu pizza, with extra everything-on-the-menu toppings.
Getting pizza delivered on time is a matter of national honour for Praxitans, and the Praxitan Popular Pizza Parlour is no exception. Normally, the Praxitan Popular Pizza Parlour would have deployed a Senior Delivery Associate for an off-planet mission like that, but, at the time, they were all busy.
So they decided to take a chance and send a Junior Delivery Associate to Earth. Except, they were all busy too.
Then they tried to find an intern to get the pizza to Earth, but guess what.
Then they tried to tie the pizza on the intern’s dog and send it to Earth, but it turned out that the dog had accidentally been included in an earlier pizza through an unfortunate combination of curiosity, a pastrami machine, and a less-than-watchful cook. But that is a story for another time.
So the Praxitan Popular Pizza Parlour manager closed her eyes for a second, sighed, opened her eyes and, with a heavy heart, dispatched the pizza with the newly-appointed sub-trainee apprentice intern, Clovenard.
Clovenard wasn’t busy. Clovenard was never busy.
Clovenard was actually working the pastrami machine that Friday night.
Friday night pizza night, Clovenard left for Earth.
As everyone expected, Clovenard barely scraped by in school. I mean, it was so bad they had to put him on advanced quantum physics just to make sure he passed. Of course, advanced quantum physics is complicated for the earthlings, and it probably says a lot about them that the Praxitan who went into his yearbook as “Monolithic Moron” could still dance circles around their Einsteins and Heisenbergs, but this is a story about Clovenard, and any story about Clovenard already contains enough stupid to go around.
When he took Teleportation 101, Clovenard became the only student in the history of Praxitus to teleport himself to the exact same spot where he started.
When Clovenard took Time Travelling 201, he shot straight past the Big Bang, and the school had to call janitorial services to unclog him out of the time-stick.
When Clovenard took Quantum Entanglement 301, he couldn’t get an electron to speak to itself, let alone another electron.
When he tried quantum tunneling, his electrons tunneled out of the lab and left. No-one’s seen them since.
When Clovenard demonstrated Schrodinger’s Cat, his cat was simultaneously dead and dead. Four times.
When he tested energy shields, he ended up shielding the enemy troops.
In tadball, Praxitus’s national pastime, Clovenard’s team tried to kill him by scoring him into the Narrow Post instead of the ball.
In flight school, Clovenard sunk his star cruiser. Yes, sunk it. In Linguistics, he erased an entire ancient dialect from the database. In Basic Cryptography, he broke his own code. In Simulated Economics, he bankrupted Praxitus. In Galactic Studies, he instigated a civil war between two peaceful planets. In Political Science, he tried to legislate genocide to resolve a minor tax issue.
At prom, Clovenard forgot to pick up his date, and then took back the wrong girl.
In the end, the Praxitan government fast-tracked Clovenard’s graduation “for the sake of the planet”.
And then they appointed him to the lofty profession of pizza delivery. That’s really how the story of Clovenard and the earthlings begins: With pizza.
I got me some of that writing bug a-bitin’ again. So I just began to type and this came out. Thought I’d share it with you because I have no idea where it’s going. Maybe a short story. Maybe a series. Maybe a novel. Let me know what you think.
This is Clovenard.
Clovenard is an alien.
Clovenard doesn’t know he’s an alien, any more than he knows that his superiors gave him a stupid name before dispatching him to Earth. You’d think that with all their information and knowledge and science and technology those guys would have been able to come up with a name not quite so prone to elicit mirth from the earthlings, but there you have it. Managers at their finest.
Anyway, Clovenard is the protagonist of this story. And that’s good because Clovenard isn’t much of anything else on his home planet. Clovenard – whose real name is unpronounceable by the primitive human mouth-voice-tongue-whatever machinery – is one of those little Praxitans that came out of the left side of the conveyor belt.
That’s not a criticism, by the way. It’s an observation. You see, on Praxitus, they figured out how to mass-produce baby Praxitans. So when they made the first batch, they went all out and made them all gems. Smart, sophisticated, athletic. I mean, what kind of business wants to make defective products?
Despite their best efforts, the Praxitans discovered a universal law of life that transcends all creature endeavors: When everyone is special, no-one is. Somehow, there’s always someone lagging behind. Someone who just doesn’t cut it. Someone who can’t reach the bar because the bar is always being pushed higher.
On Earth, they call it natural selection. On Praxitus, where things are a bit more sophisticated, they called it product recall.
By the way, it wasn’t quiet, and it wasn’t pretty. Praxitans take product quality very seriously – especially when said products are supposed to be their children.
There were protests. There were riots. There was political dissent, separatism, terrorism, factions, tribes, military law, civil war. To this day, the Best Child revolution remains a dark time in the history books of Praxitus.
So the Praxitan marketing departments got together with their R&D departments, and the R&D departments got together with the Quality Control departments, and the Quality Control departments got together with the Manufacturing departments, and after brainstorming, evaluating, calculating, equivocating, ruminating, deliberating, assessing, leveraging, buy-inning, buy-outing, restructuring and complementing, the Praxitans finally found a solution to their problem:
In every batch, introduce a few sub-par specimens to hold the curve back.
In every generation, add a few nonathletic, slightly dim, low-expectation, underachieving babies that would make everyone else shine and restore balance to a hurting planet.
Throw a dunce in every gene pool.
And so, the Praxitans made a new batch modified with an idiot-introducing algorithm, which promptly assigned the vast majority of recessive genes to a single subject.
And so, the Praxitans made a subject that would surpass all expectations – but in the wrong direction.
And so, the Praxitans made Clovenard.