Fiction: Professor Thompson Tang Gao & the Creatures from Planet X
by Robert Burke Richardson
Professor Thompson Tang Gao, rationalist, adjusted his telescope and glanced at the grandfather clock that stood against the wall of his well-appointed sitting room: he still had a few minutes. A large part of the view had become obscured when the other space vessels arrived, but the patch of stars Gao wanted remained clear. Free of the obscuring effects of a planetary atmosphere, Neptune was just visible as a blurred gray disc. It was the twinkling vastness beyond Neptune, however, that had so powerfully captured his imagination. Could there, he wondered again, be a ninth planet?
Reluctantly, Gao placed the telescope in its case, wiping its gleaming surfaces and taking special care with the lenses. He removed his bifocals and searched his desk drawer for reading glasses and a pen. An ornate bottle, its supply of India ink nearly extinguished, was deemed harmless enough to be placed on the antique desk: even rationalists could be clumsy, from time to time.
He dated an entry February first, 1882 and began, in flowing letters, to write:
The ninth planet--Planet X--must be extremely cold, owing to its great distance from the sun. Another consequence of this distance would be the appearance of the sun itself: Planet Xers should see it as only the size of an average star, though exceedingly bright.
Biological peculiarities will correspond, principally, to eyesight (because of the lack of light) and a heightened ability to retain heat. Technological diverseness would probably stem from the landscape, which I imagine to be snowy and windswept, like the highest peaks of Olympus Mons.
The grandfather clock chimed, signaling the change of the hour, and Morovan entered with a tray of tea, a Venutian, and two Martians... [continue reading]