"They're made of carbon."
"Linked to hydrogen and oxygen atoms, mostly."
"Look, Seraph, it's not our job to pass judgment. Our job is to seek out all intelligent races and welcome them into the Galactic Ekumen, thus bringing them the benefits of peace, prosperity, immortality, blah blah blah. I can read your thoughts and, quite frankly, they're not worthy of you."
"Yes, but … physical matter! If it were merely one of the lower spiritual levels, I'd understand, but they're completely embedded in mundane reality. It's just too much to ask."
"What do you suggest we do?"
"Let's give them a miss. There's a lovely little group mind in …"
"Not a chance."
"Look at this place! There must be millions of souls here! Billions! How can they live so close together? They're hardly worth the trouble."
"Ours not to question why, Seraph. Ours but to do or fall into spiritual error."
"But … very well, sir."
"Good. Now, establish contact with them. I'm anxious to get this over and done with."
"I've been trying, sir. Since we first arrived here. I foresaw my lapse into near-disobedience, and began the communications process as an act of contrition."
"Good lad. What do they say?"
"Nothing, sir. I don't think they can hear me."
"What?! How long have you been trying?"
"Since we arrived here. Three thousand years."
"And they haven't responded?"
"They're made out of carbon. They don't appear to pick up ethereal vibrations very well."
"What have you been broadcasting?"
"The Eschatologica Universalis. It's very popular among emergent spiritual civilizations. Then I tried the Milky Way Sutra. No response."
"Too elevated. Try something less highbrow."
"I've also been broadcasting a few self-evident ethical systems, 'Life is Sacred,' 'The Ecstacy of Existence,' baby stuff like that. They don't seem able to pick up on them either."
"Simplify, simplify! Reduce the Message to its least common denominator, and push it with everything you've got. Once we've made contact, we can build on that."
"All right, chief. Hey—you there! Have a nice day! Have a nice day!"
© 2001 by Michael Swanwick and SCIFI.COM.