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Exchange Student

Of all the races in the galaxy, they had to send me a fucking Practican. When my family signed up to house an exchange student, I was hoping for someone cool, like a Partician or a Popularan, but I got a Practican, the insufferable thorn in the side of us, the Commercian people.

I can’t relate to him. My father owns an autocar repair shop, and I help out from time to time, learning what I can. Poindexter walks in and sees me diagnosing something with the scan tool, and asks, “What is that?”

“A broken autocar. Duh,” I replied, rolling my eyes.

“No, what is the thing you are holding?”

“Oh, it’s the scanner. It tells me what is wrong with the car.”

“The car doesn’t tell you itself?”

“How could the car do that?”

“It has an onboard computer. It could tell you all the information that tool tells you.”

“But this has electrical probes as well.”

“I’m sure installing a small set of probes in the vehicle would not be a significant cost compared to manufacturing this tool.”

“Yes, but it is profitable to require this tool,” I replied, frustrated with his stupidity.

Then I found the problem, the battery connection temperature sensor had gone out. I set about removing the shroud, the suspension, and the right front motor so I could get to it.

“Puzzling,” he said, after we’d gotten the machine back together.


“In our autocars, that sensor is exposed and easily replaced. I’ve noticed in your schematics that almost all the sensors require complicated tear downs to access.”

“So what?”

“It is almost as though this vehicle were designed for difficult maintenance. I’ve noticed you used several non-standard and vehicle specific tools in the disassembly as well, for seemingly no apparent reason other than bad design.”

“Just go away,” I said, frustrated with his sense of racial superiority.

Then at the grocery store, the egghead busts out with another one of his stupid questions.

“Why does a pound of vegetation cost more than a pound of preserved meats?”

“I don’t know,” my father replied, trying to be helpful.

“I was hoping you could explain. Foods are made through atomic reconstruction and replication now, so it seems odd that there is a price differential between items of equivalent mass. I’ve seen the same disparity in almost all products on your world. It is as if utility, or desire, determines price, not production effort.”

I got a cold one day and the reptilian bitch said this, “Puzzling, your species still experience short duration respiratory infections?”

“Yes,” I sniffled. “Clearly. Do you not?”

“At some point during the early Information Age, my people decided to all simultaneously stay home and not emerge for a month. Everyone stocked up in preparation for it, and as a result all of our short duration highly contagious diseases were eliminated. We still have outbreaks every now and then, something that previously only affected other species mutating to affect us, but those outbreaks are quickly detected and contained.”

“Must be nice,” I said, in that plugged voice of someone who’d rather be sleeping.

Then one day at dinner, he had the gall to ask this question, “Why do you not have a replicator?”

My father scoffed. “Those things cost twenty years’ pay.”

“Odd. On my world, they only weigh around fifty kilos. They cost as much as a few months of food.”

My father laughed. “It’s a strange world you live on, Garthemac.”

“I find yours rather puzzling as well.”

“I’m sure you do.”

“Take that man on the street begging for money.”

“Lazy bum, I went to high school with him, he drank himself into the gutter.”

“Yes, but on my world, there are work structures, where anyone who desires money can lease the computing power of their brain for use in the community’s cloud computer. The wages of a few hours a day in that device are sufficient for shelter and food.”

“We don’t have anything like that here.”

“It seems unfortunate.”

“And if we did, why would we want to use that drunk’s brain?”

“Even inebriated, the mind is still highly functional.”

“I don’t think his mind ever functioned,” I snorted at his stupidity.

“Yes, but I must ask, everything on your world seems so inefficient. My friends and family back home had some rather insulting things to say about why the items on your world are made in this manner, but I have seen a sort of ingenuity in the irrationality of your world.”

“Thanks, I guess.”

“But I am yet to find a motive.”

The next day we were doing our chores, and the vacuum dust extractor shut off and would not power back on.

“Where do you keep its spare fuses?” the freak asked. “It is likely just a blown fuse from a power fluctuation. An easy fix.”

“Don’t bother,” my father said. “The cheap thing is glued together with glue stronger than its plastic. To get to the fuse, you’d have to destroy the case. We need to buy another one and take this to the dump.”

“Puzzling,” he said.


“You do not repair things which are broken?”

“Not if they are easily replaced.”



“I am certain the energy and labor expenditure of replacing so many devices regularly far exceeds the alternative cost of repair.”

“You can’t quantify the satisfaction of having something new, though,” my wise mother chimed in.

“I suppose,” he said, “but the vacuum dust extractor my family uses was originally manufactured five hundred years ago.”

“Then it must perform terribly.”

“Its weight, power draw, and efficacy are comparable to this model.”

“They just don’t build them like they used to,” my father said.

As we drove to the dump, we passed the giant carbon-oxide scrubbers, and he asked, “What are those?”

“They clean the carbon-oxides out of the air to regulate global temperature.”

“Why is there so much of that in the atmosphere?”

“We have massive reserves of hydrocarbonic fuels. Our planet prefers to use them to fusion reactions.”

“Why is that?”

“Fusion power can break containment and destroy entire cities.”

“Perhaps the ones developed two thousand years ago.”

“The people consider it too dangerous.”

“There has never been a fusion related death on my planet, and we run our entire power grid off of it.”

“Well, don’t come crying to us when your kids have tentacles,” my mom said. I laughed a bit harder at that than was polite, but since when have I cared about being polite to that little asshole?

As we pulled into town, my father asked, “Redmart or Bluemart gang?”

“Red,” I said.

“Blue,” my sister said.

“What’s the difference?” The idiot asked.

“One is red, and the other is blue. Duh,” I retorted.

That’s how everything is on my planet. Horizontal monopolies are illegal, so RedCorp owns half of all businesses, and BlueCorp owns the other half. My father, being a smart investor, puts half his stock portfolio in one, and half in the other.

“I’m feeling red today,” my mother said.

We walked into the store and browsed the aisles.

“I still find these stores to be strange,” he said.

“Why is that?” my father replied.

“On my world, everyone has a replicator. We simply create everything we need in our garage.”

“Well, we can’t all be dectillionaires like you.”

“Oh no, we have modest investments. On my world, when replicators were invented, someone redesigned it and put the schematics out for free, and then people used replicators to build the parts of other replicators until everyone had one. I’m surprised this did not occur on your world.”

“Put the schematics out for free? How did he make money?”

“He didn’t?”

“Why would you do something like that and not try to make money off of it?” my father said, puzzled by the lunacy of the Practicans.

And then the moron’s face lit up, as though he’d just learned something. Something he kept to himself.


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