THE DISTANCE IT TAKES TO ZEUS
The two moons were strange and distant.
Professor Heglic Mangdogulas studied them through his telescope, and frowned. He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. The robot, Radical, spun around and around in circles and went over to him, tugging on the end of his lab coat. “Sir,” he sputtered, shaking his head. “Sir, what are you doing?”
He got up. “Looking,” he replied shortly, shaking his head.
“Looking, for what?”
“Stars,” he said, smiling.
“Stars? What stars?”
He scowled. “Didn’t I teach you this already?” he demanded, shaking his head. “They are big balls of burning gas.”
He spread his hands. “This big,” he answered. He smiled, cocked his head to look at him. “Bigger than the Moon. Bigger than the sun. I think it shines in June.”
“Or smaller than the sun,” the robot said, he shook his head and clicked his tongue.
“The sun is cold,” said the professor.
“The stars are colder,” a familiar voice replied. It was the same “person” as before. The robot.
The professor smiled at the computer on his desk. “Contessa, my love,” he purred, blinking. “How are your lug nuts today?” He patted the computer. It was a large computer. The window of the computer was a black face.
“Fine,” the computer answered. “I’m a little tired, though. I was chatting all night in some stupid chat room, and this man called me a Dreamer.” He chuckled. “It was funny. We had a good laugh about it. He thought I was a woman.” He laughed again.
“You’re weird,” the professor said, ignoring him.
He shut off the computer and lumbered out of the lab.
The computer sighed and shut himself off. He drifted off to sleep.
The next morning, the professor returned to the lab and looked through his telescope again. The stars were bright in the sky; but were brighter during the day. He saw something in the sky. It was coming increasingly closer. Closer, still, until it was right in front of the lens. He thought it was a bug at first, and reached out to swat it, but realized it was a star. He reached for the phone on the desk-the computer giggled-and called NASA. “Shut up, everybody!” he hollered.
The computer quieted.
“Dang,” he said.
“NASA, this is Professor Heglic Mangdogulas,” he reported. “I’m at 54; 51; B12, in the Eastern sky. Time is four-oh-clock. What is it?”
“It’s a new star,” the operator sounded surprised. “Good God, man, it’s a large one, too! Do you want to name it?”
The professor nodded. “Sure,” he said. “I want to call it Zeus.”
He snorted. “That’s a dumb name,” he said.
“Should I pick out another one?” he asked.
“Not really. I just penciled it in.”
“But, you’re using a pencil.” He frowned in confusion.
“I said, not really. Good day, sir.”
He hung up the phone and resumed looking out of the telescope.