He lay sprawled across a stainless steel table. Captain Fowler didn't know how the robots abducted him, nor where to, but he knew that someone would find his plane. The whole U.S. Air Force would be looking for him. If these overgrown, metal-mouth, switchboard-brained toaster ovens wanted to start a war, by God, they'd have one on their kludgy, titanium hands faster than they could calculate 2 + 2!
The sole other occupant of the octagonal room-– android, eight feet tall, body filled with the faint hum of whirring discs and hot plasma converters-– stood aloof over the pilot. Its mechanical fingers opened and closed sinisterly as it spoke. It told the prone pilot, in a voice as evil as it was mechanical, how robots from outer space coerced ancient peoples into building pyramids as beacons to their fleets of planet-destroying spaceships that would return to Earth to enslave all of humanity, stealing human brains to power their...
A giant gasp from the assembled audience interrupted Fowler's umpteenth recounting of the tale. Loyal followers all, even the true believers had still half-expected to see nothing, yet there came the warbling flash of light that the lecturer and former pilot had predicted. A luminous, crystalline structure-- a real U.F.O., the ones he'd said had really built the pyramids!-- took shape before their eyes, hovering 100 feet in the air and slowly lowering...
The hundreds gathered all froze, paralyzed by awe and fear in spite of their expectations. Among the previously frenzied mob, not a single alveolus took in oxygen as the alien shuttle touched down. A door slid open slowly, heavy with dire portent.
It stood imposingly in the open doorway of the ship, exactly as Fowler described the space robots in his book and numerous speeches. Instantly upon seeing it, everyone thought, “My God, it's true, the Mayans, the Egyptians, the ancients of Babylon-- none of them could've done it alone!”
Only Fowler stepped forward, ready to face it and whatever weird, technological minions might deploy from the ship. He extended open palms and launched into a little speech about how we didn't want a war, that America and Earth are places of peace and freedom, but that, dammit (and here his hands started making fists and lifting as if of their own accord), if they so much as pointed a laser at us we'd fill their tin skulls with bullets, we'd nuke every warship out of orbit, we'd send them--
“People of Earth: I bring you a message!” the robot's synthesized voice screeched from built-in loudspeakers. It shut up even Fowler. Those still aiming weapons at the android felt their trigger fingers tense even as their ears opened (for they were all especially good at listening; perhaps this, even more than shooting, was their true talent).
And the robot pronounced the words: “Be more skeptical.”
A great twisting of eyebrows and scratching of heads ensued.
“No doubt you believe every word you heard during your visit to be true,” the robot continued. It seemed to be speaking directly to the former Air Force pilot. “Even now, you are too excited about the most fantastic of possibilities, too panicked by your own fancies to notice that you've been had. One of us played the joke, it is true, so I am here to fix it.”
Fowler's mouth gaped once, twice, fumbling uncontrollably. “B-- you-- all the pyramids...”
“Nonsense. Demand evidence, human, instead of pointing to its absence. Believe what you can prove. Do you think our cybernetic, spacefaring people could even exist if we still insisted on clinging to every superstition? Your people, likewise, are capable of amazing things-- across all times and across all peoples-- especially in great numbers. Human ingenuity may one day lead you, too, to explore the stars, but you squander your most powerful ability when you use it in baseless judgment, especially of your own. Let this be a lesson to you.”
A conveyor belt whisked the robot back into its spaceship, which shimmered once and, before the eyes of all present and the cameras among them, disappeared forever.
Pilot, lecturer, and fool, Fowler's arms and shoulders dropped. Words failed him completely as the shamefaced crowd dispersed.