Text copyright @ 2016 Phillip N. Hancock, Sr.
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Table of Contents
Paul checked his watch and grabbed his topcoat as he exited the black motor car, a hackney carriage, that was so England. He waited as the driver also exited, went around to the back and retrieved his small valise from the boot of the vehicle. He took the small traveling case and then handed the driver the correct amount of currency. The total included the fare and a tip for the driver. Paul then watched as the driver reentered the right side of the idling auto. Once seated, the driver turned on the lighted taxi globe sitting atop the black vehicle, indicating that he was once again for hire. The driver then placed the motor car in gear and headed toward the arrival area of Stonehenge, a short distance away, to perhaps pick up a return fare for travel to the Amesbury Air Terminal.
The trip from the Amesbury, now an international air terminal, took no more than fifteen minutes and left Paul standing at Stonehenge in front of the Arrival entrance sign that beckoned him toward the waiting and departures areas. The actual Stonehenge could not be seen from this vantage point due to the newly constructed building that surrounded it. This structure is most unusual due to the fact that no metal was used in its fabrication. Lessons learned during the early days of testing the travel, to and from Stonehenge, taught scientist what would happen if metal was around the transport area.
No metal, however, did not stop engineers from finding a way to make the arena surrounding Stonehenge look like any air terminal you might find anywhere in the world. Parking structures were built in the surrounding area far enough away that no restrictions were imposed on their construction. The use of shuttle buses moved personnel to and from the parking garages and the terminal. Paul watched as one of these buses stopped a short distance from him. Once it became stationary, the bus seemed to bow as the air shocks lower the bus to sidewalk level. This lowering made exiting and loading much easier on all passengers.
Paul, his thoughts still on the terminal surrounding Stonehenge, absentmindedly watched as small groups of people exited the bus and surprisingly his eyes were drawn to one of the departing passengers. Her physique and stature was unmistakably and her hair was just too unique, putting these things together, it could only be one person. Although her back was toward Paul the whole time, he, without a doubt, recognized Kari Lipkens as she came off the bus. She was involved in conversation with some of the other passengers. Paul waited a moment not wanting to interrupt her. As the small group ended their discussion and turned to enter the terminal, he called to her.
“Hey Locks, Locks. Where are you going?” Paul spoke loud enough for her to hear but not so loud as to alarm.
Kari Lipkens turned when she heard her nickname spoken, a surprised look came over her face. “What, Oh my goodness, Hey DW, Oh sorry, I mean Commander.” She smiled and slightly blushed as she hurriedly approached Paul.
“DW is just fine, I have retired from the military now, you know, a regular civilian of sorts.” Paul said as he shook her hand and then gave her a most welcome bear hug. “Wow, it has been five years now since I saw you, you look great, just great.” Paul’s eyes moistened as he looked at Kari while continuing to hold her hand. His thoughts returning to those monumental events of 10 years ago,
“Oh thanks Paul, it’s good to see you and you look great also. How many times I have thought about you and our adventures together.” Kari said as she pretended not to notice Paul’s eyes watering or the tear that had escaped from her own eye and was slowly making its way down her cheek. “What brings you here or are you like me, just out here celebrating the ten year anniversary of our first trip back to the moon using this transporter thing.” She asked.
“Ten years, yes, I too thought this was a major milestone and surely it deserved my recognition of that fact. So I packed up my traveling case and just now arrived by taxi. I was standing here wondering if any of the crew felt the same way I did and, low and behold, you step off that bus.” Paul said as he shook his head in a kind of wonder of appreciation for her presence.
“No doubt in my mind of how the rest of the crew feels and I am sure the same thoughts we are having are racing through their minds as we speak.” Kari said reassuring Paul of his crew’s solidarity on their previous mission. “Who knows they may show up while we are here. Hey, you want to go get some coffee, they have a Starbucks inside the terminal?” She saw Paul questioning look, “Hey, it was in the folder I was given on the bus.” Kari said as she showed Paul the small pamphlet that was filled with information on the structure surrounding Stonehenge. It showed all the small outlet stores and it showed the actual location of the transport area itself.
“Good idea, I missed breakfast and was wondering if there would be something to eat when I got out here.” Paul replied.
“I know that Starbucks normally have Scones and some breakfast muffins of a sort that are quite good. I am sure you will find something you like in there, come on.” Kari said as she, continuing to hold Paul’s hand, led him inside the terminal.
The first thing they saw, after entering, was signs that directed personnel. Tourist and visitors should follow the yellow lines and moon travelers should follow the green lines. There was a separate line, this one was blue, for any personnel that might only be shopping or eating. Kari and Paul followed the blue line and soon saw the green Starbucks sign along the outside curve inside the structure. Once at the counter, Paul ordered a tall black coffee and a lemon scone while Kari requested a mocha concoction that he did not recognize and would not remember. Paul did not frequent Starbucks and was a bit shy in ordering or allowing people to know that he was not exactly up to speed on this.
“What name, sir?” The attendant asked.
“Ah, just black coffee for me, I’m not sure what Kari ordered.” Paul said.
“No, no, what I mean is, whose name should we call when your order is ready?” The young man smiled as he asked.
Paul slowly nodded his head as he replied. “Paul, just call Paul. I guess you can tell I am a little new at this.”
“Paul, I got it thanks.” Came the reply as the young man wrote Paul on the side of both the cups he had picked up.
When their orders were ready they found a table and sat, Paul sipping the hot brew as soon as he was seated. He then took a small bite of the scone followed by another sip of coffee. “Hey, this scone is really good.” He said.
“You are not a frequent visitor of Starbucks, are you?” Kari asked.
“You noticed, huh? It is true I am not, however, I must say the coffee is rich and this lemon scone is very tasty. Maybe I will have to become a more frequent visitor.” Paul said and then took another bite of the scone.
For the next hour they talked about the progresses that had been made both on the space station and in conjunction with the transporter. Kari had somehow kept track of the number and status of people who had gotten permission and traveled to the Facility on the moon. She never said exactly why, however, she did admit it was just something she wanted to track.
“I am amazed at the number of franchises that applied for a permit to travel to the moon. I am also amazed at the numbers that were granted.” She stated. “I believe a lot of them were for undetermined lengths of stay, like you know, permanent.” She hesitated a moment and then looked at Paul and in all sincerity asked. “Is it possible that what you had envisioned before we left the Facility has now become a fact?”
Paul took his time replying. He actually did not feel very comfortable with this new position that NASA had asked him to fill. It was a new area in a new arena and the boundaries were not well defined beyond the point of human safety. He remembered his thoughts about the invasion of fast foods and hotels/motels around the perimeter of the Facility. The fact that the majority of his thoughts or fears had already been realized did not sit well either. Explaining this now to Kari would be the first test on seeing how NASA personnel would respond to this his new job.
“Well, you see I…” Paul stopped in the middle and turned to look at the customer who had ordered so loud.
“I’ll take a Caramel Monkey in an Auto and hey, shoot that little booger, ah, shoot him twice.” Kurt George stated and then said. “Make that order for Jungleman.”
Paul rose and started toward Kurt. Kari had also stood but remained at the table. As Paul approached, Karl Sweet stepped out from behind Kurt George and smiled while pointing at Paul.
“What is going on here, oh man, how are you guys?” Paul said as he shook each person’s hand. “Wow, it is good to see you, Jungleman, Sugar, please, join us will you? Locks is here or, don’t tell me, you already knew that?” Paul asked as he smiled and turned toward Kari before turning back to the new arrivals.
“You got us.” Sweet said.
“Ok, ok, so where is Doormat and Yuel, hiding at a Chucky Cheese or something?” Paul asked as he scanned the area.
“Let’s have some coffee and catch up a little. Yuel will join us momentarily, he’s in the little boys room. You really look good, Paul. Whatever you’re doing, it is working and you look ready for any assigned mission.” George said.
They did join in and the conversation was not only filled with info from NASA but with personal information that brought all up to date on their personal lives. It was now time for Paul to bring them up to date on what he was doing now and why he was here at Stonehenge.
“Did you guys come to celebrate 10 years of operation or are you guys going up to the moon?” Paul asked when the verbal banter slowed down. “I must confess that I am not just here for a 10 year celebration. I’m going back. Up there, you know, the moon. I’m on my way to the moon in conjunction with my new assignment.” Paul said as he pointed toward the sky with his right hand.
“Lucky you, you get to go back.” Sweet said, then looking around at the other two continued. “Well to tell you the truth, we knew you were on your way back to the moon and that you’re expecting to meet your new team here.”
“Hey Commander.” Samuel (Yuel) Washington said as he approached the group and while shaking Paul’s hand continued. “Sorry about being late, must have been something I ate on the way.”
As Samuel was getting seated, Kurt George stood then reached into his briefcase and pulled out a sheaf of papers, which he handed to Paul. “We wanted to be here to scrutinize your new team. We don’t want you to get a bum crew. After all, you already had the best crew possible. We would not like it if you got short changed this time.” Jungleman said as he released the papers.
“These, these personnel are my newly assigned crew?” Paul said as he read the orders. “I think they screwed up. I expected someone with some previous knowledge of what we are to do. A rookie outfit run by a rookie with rookie personnel.” He could no longer hide his smile and looked at each in turn and said. “Welcome aboard, it’s good to be working together again. I am sure these new task could never be anywhere near as difficult as our previous ones.”
“Although I have been warned about volunteering, I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to work together again.” Sweet said as he again shook Paul’s hand.
“Us too.” Was echoed by Kari, Samuel and Kurt as they too shook Paul’s hand in turn. All were beaming and felt at home again with their trusted friends.
“Doormat is not here or at a pizza place but will be joining us later at the Facility. At present he is at the international space station on this his final tour. He just had to ride the new capsule one time. He said he wanted to get an idea of what the difference is between this and the shuttle. As you know he was much too young for the Mercury or Apollo programs and he thought the current set up might give him an idea of what those trips were like. He went as the ship’s commander with a crew of 2, and he took three tourists along.” Kurt told Paul.
Another hour of verbal intercourse and the crew was ready for transport to the Facility. Paul, now out of the dumps about people’s perception of this his new job, was more than ready to get started. This crew of his had such a positive effect on him. There was no way he could doubt their new mission now, not with the support given by these, his close friends, his old crew, his new crew.
Paul and crew follow the appropriate corridors and the green lines placed for travelers to the Facility. At the entrance to the transport area, there was a security person that insured everyone was who they said they were. All travelers were required to be in the computer, on file with the proper eye scan, DNA and fingerprints. Each person would be verified before he or she could enter or be allowed anywhere near the transport area.
Things were serious here and no levity was expected or permitted. The security person was just a spectator, secured behind bulletproof glass, and had no contact with the travelers. Each traveler would enter this small booth completely isolated. Once inside there were only two exits. One of the exits led to his/her being retained, maybe even arrested, and the other lead to the transport area.
All security checks were accomplished without any human interference. It was just the traveler and the computer inputs, which included a swab of the person’s mouth. All task were accomplished with a touch screen and tools and/or instruments appearing extending out from the surrounding enclosure at the appropriate time. While these personal screening activities were proceeding other unseen sequences were also in progress. Ultrasounds and metallic scans were just a few of the items that were not viewable by the traveler.
Documents were already on hand and none had to be turned in. Once a person had been scanned and verified, a portal would open and allow that person through to the waiting area for transport.
Paul went through the scan first and was soon allowed into the waiting area. He took a seat and waited for the rest of his crew. One by one they entered and took seats once again joking around with each other. These actions would alleviate some of the anxiety the crew felt. Being torn apart and then put back together, 282,000 miles away, by some alien technology would have been more comforting if someone knew how it actually worked. Of course this wasn’t the first time for any of them to travel this way and it wasn’t the first time that they had undertaken something unknown or dangerous.
Their turn came and they were ushered into the transport area. It was surprising, there was nothing here to indicate the purpose or ability of this area. The surrounding stones and the clear area in the center were unchanged except for some circles marked in the turf. There were no controls or knobs or equipment present. The operator was equipped with only a two way radio and mike. The operator asked, “You guys ready to ride the White Light?”
“Ride what?” Paul asked.
“Are you ready to go?” the operator then asked.
“Do we need to do anything special, or should we just stand here?” Paul asked as the operator showed them where to stand in preparation for their transfer to the Facility.
“No, nothing special. Just make sure all of you stay within the circle outlined on the floor.” The operator said as he pointed at the large circle that encompassed the crew. “You will be here and then you will be there. The sensation only last for a moment and then things will be normal again.” Smiling in turn at each crewmember he continued. “I have done this transfer many times myself and find no lasting ill effects.”
“That’s very comforting. Well, I guess we are ready if you are?” Paul said as he surveyed his crew for any sign of hesitation.
The earthbound operator keyed his transmitter and relayed the readiness of the current travelers to the controller at the Facility. He then watched as the rings fell and the flash of light occurred. The circled space was no longer occupied by anyone.
As the operator said, they were there and now they were here. The first thing Paul noticed was that the Facility had changed and some of its personnel were different. The original crew had long gone except for a few whom had continued to volunteer for extended tours. These controllers, now on duty at the Facility, were new to Paul and the crew. They were, however, efficient and courteous to their new arrivals.
Paul and crew hesitated for only a moment then stepped a short distance away from the transporter as requested by the operator. Almost in unison they stopped simply gawking as they looked around. They had simply forgotten how large the Facility was and they again stood in awe at its size. Looking straight across to the other side was no longer possible due to the offices and partitions that had been set up on the floor of the Facility. Even though it seemed crowded the silence was one of the things they noticed first. Second, looking up simply took their breath away. It was a long way to the opening that stretched across from wall to wall at the top of the Facility. The opening was dark black littered with a dusting of visible stars and planets, somewhat dimmed and hampered by the lighting of the Facility, but still a spectacular view.
The approach of their escort was not realized and she, in turn, did not intrude on their observation. It was a few moments before Sweet tugged on Paul’s shirt. This was after he realized that someone had approached and waited a short distance from the group. Once Paul had pulled his attention away from the Facility she spoke. “Hi, I am Astero, I will be your escort and preliminary greeter.” She said as she extended her hand toward Paul.
“Astero, that’s an unusual name, I am Paul Wilhelm.” Paul said as he took her hand and accepted her greeting.
“Yes it is, I changed it when I got this position at the Facility. It used to be Ester Roelin Smith. My mom always shouted “EsterRow” so it wasn’t much of an adjustment to Astero. Almost sounds the same doesn’t it?” Astero said as she smiled at the small group. “And, you are?” She said as she indicated Kari.
“Sorry, Kari Lipkens, Kari is fine.” Kari said, while trying to recover from the mouth gaping stunned gawking she was party too. She too took and shook Astero’s hand.
“Call her Locks and you will have it correct and I am called Sugar.” Karl Sweet said as he took Astero hand in greeting. “Karl Sweet for proper, that is with a K.”
“I am Curt George, Curt with a C that is.”
“That is actually the Jungleman, George of the jungle.” Sweet informed her.
“Ok, Locks, Sugar and Jungleman, I got it. Now last but not least?” She said as she pointed at Samuel Washington.
“That one is called Yuel, like the greeting at Christmas, Mr. Samuel Washington in person.” Sweet said short cutting any reply from Yuel. Samuel, not letting Sweet’s comments bother him, took Astero’s small hand and kissed it lightly as he bowed. “My pleasure.” Was all he said as he again rose and released Astero’s hand.
Astero retracted her hand seemingly guarding the area that had been lightly kissed by Samuel. A slight blush came to her cheeks as she shyly smiled.
Paul waited until his crew and their comments and antics were finished before he again addressed Astero. “Ok, we are all here, that is except for Matthew, so what is next?”
“Quarters and a tour of dining facilities before I release you for the rest of the day.” Astero responded. “Your official start will be tomorrow bright and early. We are on earth time, Eastern Standard, for your information and chronometer settings. Breakfast at zero seven hundred main dining facility. Oh and we are on twenty four hour clock or military time.” Astero said as she indicated her watch. “Ready, ok, let’s go this way.” She then led the way away from the transporter area and into the heart of the Facility.
The air was fresh and gave the breathers the scent of being deep in the wooded area of some secluded forest. It was exhilarating and caused each to breathe a little deeper than normal.
As they proceeded, Paul took note of the conditions and layout of the Facility. He noted that each section was partitioned off as normal offices, including doors and windows, and this seemed to separate the different expertise. Inside of each partitioned section were cubicles and most were inhabited by busy occupants. The ceilings were, of course, non-existent and the view upward was unobstructed and reached into the black void of space. This view actually created more than hampered thought and tended to remind each of where they were and what their task primarily dealt with. With this unprecedented atmosphere it was easy to stay on track, whatever that track might be.
The dining facility was familiar and resembled most military mess halls in its simplicity. The serving line, however was different, it was buffet style but covered the full spectrum of dish selections, all that one could imagine. It reminded one of the buffets that were present at most Las Vegas Casinos, well, in the number of available entrees that is.
The appearance and aromas of the prepared food was just too much. Paul turned and stopped. “Astero, is it possible that we delay the visit to our sleeping area?”
“You have somewhere else you need to go?” Astero asked.
“Go, no, stay. Stay right here and have lunch, right guys?”
“My mouth has been watering since I entered this area and I thought you would never ask.” Karl said and received nods from Samuel and Kari.
“Sure, no, that’s fine. There is no time table and our route can be altered as necessary.”
“Would you join us, well, if that is possible and you are hungry?”
“Possible, yeah, you bet, I too am hungry. Come on let’s grab a tray and get started.” Astero said as she headed toward the table that held the trays and plates. The others followed suit and soon found themselves seated and enjoying the delicious meal.
The chatter from the surrounding tables was spirited and upbeat. This of course was expected, personnel here on the moon were all volunteers. They came from many different fields and here on the moon their expertise was all channeled in one direction. That direction was solving the mysteries of the Facility.
When the meal was finished, Astero led the crew to their quarters. Once there, she released them on their own reminding all of their reporting time tomorrow.
They all said good night to Astero and she left. Karl Sweet then said, “I think we should do a little investigating on our own. I’ll bet there is a local bar or watering hole somewhere on this new station of ours and it is our job, no, it is our duty to find it.”
“As usual Sugar, you are right on target.” Samuel said as he gave Sweet a high five.
“You two beat all I have ever seen. We’ve been here almost three hours and this is the best you can come up with?” Kari said as she just shook her head as if in disbelief. “Ok, I’m ready, let’s do it.” She added smiling.
“I could sure use some R & R myself. Go ahead Sweet, lead the way.” Paul said.
It took no time at all to find it. First person they asked actually stopped what he was doing and showed them the way but declined the invitation to join them for a drink.
“I’ll have to take a rain check on that, if that is ok with you guys?”
“Please, any time. We owe you one.” Samuel said as he left.
Standing right outside the pub the silence of the Facility was still noticeable but when Kari opened the door a familiar comfortable buzz drew their attention inside.
“Sounds right to me.” Sweet said and went in while Kari held the door. The rest followed right on his heels.
The waitress took their order and went to get the drinks.
“Hey Paul, I think she has a thang for you.” Sweet said and the other two nodded their agreement.
“Yeah right. But, you know, she seems familiar somehow. How is that possible?” Paul hesitantly asked out loud even though it was a rhetorical question.
They discussed work, personal items, hobbies and anything else that came up that dealt with the lives of those at their table. Many of the patrons of the bar came over and asked if they were new to the Facility. Introductions and greetings were almost a constant interruption as guest came and went from the bar. Some recognized Paul and some knew them from some previous assignment.
It reminded Kari of a family reunion. Uncles she had never met were suddenly close relatives and cousins, she knew when she was a child, they all recalled adventures that she had almost forgotten. Laughter was the main course on this ship of camaraderie and good beer was the river that they navigated on.
“You seem familiar, but I can’t place you. Your name tag, ‘Terra Firma’, that can’t be real.” Paul asked the waitress as she delivered their fourth round of drinks.
“We did meet once, just once.” Terra Firma said as she gave her smile to the entire table.
The smile and the way she turned her head caused a memory to flood back into Paul’s thoughts.
“Wait a minute, you worked at, uh, the Officer’s Club at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Your name wasn’t Terra Firma, it was…. Terri, it was Terri and you showed me to the table where a friend and his family were having dinner.” Paul said as he smiled back at her.
“I don’t believe it, we met for just a few minutes, how could you remember that after more than ten years?”
“It’s a gift and sometimes it’s a curse.” Paul said as he stood and offered Terra his hand. “Your memory is also quite good, you remembered once meeting me.”
“Remember you? You’re kidding? One of the highlights of my meager existence, you bet I remember. Paul Wilhelm, astronaut and commander of the space shuttle Atlantis.”
“Maybe so, but my mission on that particular evening could not be accomplished without your assistance, and here you are again helping us complete our current mission.” As Paul shook his head he continued. “Don’t sell yourself short, remember where you are. You are living and working here on the moon, a place where billions of people, living on earth, will never even visit, much less live.” Paul paused but wasn’t finished. “And, pardon my curiosity, what is with the name change? Earlier we were with Astero and she had also changed her name.
“You are absolutely correct and I remind myself of that every day. I am happy to be here and proud of my accomplishments. That is why you see me smiling all the time, well that and they pay me, they pay me a lot.” She gave it just a moment before she answered his last question. “The name change, just something we girls decided to do to emphasize our location. Got to run, other customers you know?”
“I knew it, I knew she had a thang for you, and you remembering her, oh man, you’re in the driver’s seat.” Sweet said as he clapped his hands.
“I told you sometimes it’s a curse. My wife, you remember my wife, has always cautioned me about doing what I just did. It leaves the impression that a chance meeting has had a more than normal impact on me.”
The rest of the evening was uneventful as one at a time the crew left and made their way to their sleeping quarters. Tomorrow would come too early.
As expected, the morning came fast but they were all well rested. The lower gravity made sleeping much easier on the body and when they woke, they could not wait to get started. Breakfast was also as expected, delicious and the choices were unlimited. Sweet had trouble deciding whether to eat a regular breakfast or order something from the grill. Both were readily available. After finally deciding he joined the others at their table. His tray was laden with an almost standard ensemble of breakfast items. All that delay deciding went for naught as he simply used the buffet line, just like the rest of the crew.
Discussion focused on the path this first day would take. Paul was sure that most of the day would be spent getting acquainted with the Facility and its changes. This would be their home and it will be extremely important in their stay here. The surface and the actual job that they were assigned would be there when they were ready.
They finished their breakfast and placed their used dinnerware in the appropriate place for automated cleaning. Almost as if cued, Astero appeared to escort them.
“Did you sleep well?” Astero asked as she acknowledged each with her smile.
“We sure did, this lower gravity is a God send.” Samuel said. “I don’t think I moved at all last night and hey, I’m the guy that usually tosses and turns.”
“Great, that is good to hear, some have trouble with the low gravity for the first few nights. Now, if you will please follow me.” she said as she turned and led the way out of the dining area. “We will go see the boss.”
As they followed her through the maze of offices they could hear bits and pieces of conversations but not enough to give them a clue of the task progressing inside the many cubicles. They finally entered the only office that was completely enclosed, including the ceiling.
Anthony Petrochellie was seated behind his desk busy writing. When Astero knocked on the open door of his office, he abandon the computer keyboard rose and came around his desk to greet the newcomers.
“Paul, good to see you, I’ve been expecting you. How have you been?” Tony took Paul’s hand in both of his and welcomed him.
“Fine, Tony, I’m just fine. Good to see you too.”
“How is Jill, she still doing that news anchor thing?”
“She’s great and yes, she is still the anchor and having the time of her life with it. I don’t know what she would do if she wasn’t. She is so busy that sometimes I don’t think she misses me at all.”
“I’m sure that isn’t true, every time I had a chance to talk to her, it was talk about you that dominated the conversation.” Tony then turned to the others and continued. “Jungleman, Yuel, good to see you guys and welcome aboard again.” He said as he shook hands with each. “Locks, you’re more beautiful than ever, how do you do it?” No hand shake this time, it was a hug that Locks gave him. He then turned to Karl Sweet. “Sugar, man, it’s good to see you too.” Avoiding his out stretched hand, Sweet stepped up and gave Tony a hug too. Everyone laughed at the unexpected move by Sweet. Tony was surprised but hold heartily returned Sweet’s hug. “I have to remember to expect the unexpected from you.” Tony said.
Tony motioned Paul and crew to chairs and as they took seats, Tony returned to his desk and took up his role as boss again. “Well Paul, I know you have your orders so how can I help?”
“Our job, as you know, is all about Rim City and the security and safety of that area. The Facility will be our base of operation, our hub to the surface so to speak. Living here and using your area for transport to the rim and back and, sometimes when necessary, back to the Earth, should be more than enough for us to complete our mission.” Paul paused then continued, “The crew and I will fan out on the surface and try to shotgun the inspection of this, one and only, lunar city. The quicker we can do this the safer it will be for these already living on the moon and for those future inhabitants. I don’t know how you feel about things but we are using technology and equipment that we can’t replace or fix if it breaks. This fact bothers me greatly.” Paul shook his head as he finished speaking.
“You’ve evidently read my mind. I have been waiting for the other shoe to drop. How long can we expect things to go before we see some degradation in this alien equipment we are using. If it deteriorates and becomes unusable we are in deep trouble.” Tony said as he agreed with Paul.
“How much have we learned during these ten years of occupation?” Paul asked.
“Tons, we’ve learned tons of things, but then again not enough. We have a partial vocabulary of the language used and of course we have the remote control figured out. Well, let’s say, at least ninety percent sure of all the controls on it. We also have full use of the visual equipment and can see historic logs made by those past inhabitants.” Tony paused and took a deep breath. “We know what provides the breathable atmosphere but we still don’t know what the substance is or why it works. We do know that it cycles the air, removes the excess carbon dioxide and returns it fresh and fragrant throughout the Facility. Sure, we’ve made numerous breakthroughs and solved mysteries we never thought possible but these are overshadowed by the things we don’t know. Some of these things we don’t know we are using daily and we are totally dependent on them. This is what worries me the most.” Finished, Tony’s body language did reflect concern for these things.
“This Facility is one heck of a responsibility and we hope we can take some of that worry off your mind with what we will accomplish. Let us get out of your hair now and get on with our job. If there is anything we can do for you, just lets us know and we’ll take care of it. Thanks for your time, and again Tony, it’s really good to see you.” Paul said and shook Tony’s hand, both rising from their chairs.
The others followed suit saying their temporary goodbye and shaking Tony’s hand as they left, Astero leading the way.
In general the floor of the Facility resembled the layout of any large office that used cubicles to separate task. This was true only if you didn’t look up. These cubicles circled the floor of the Facility but only intruded a short distance toward the center of the large circular complex.
The center, used for transportation, was kept open and dominated at least three-quarters of the total floor space of the Facility. It was a busy area. Constant departures and arrivals to and from the surface kept the place hopping. The one thing Paul had predicted or pictured in his mind, ten years ago, actually turned out but with minor differences. The trips from the floor of the Facility to the surface in the ‘Hummer Limos’ he had pictured did not come to pass. In its place were multiple, generic, six seater, clear Plexiglas, bubbled conveyance vehicles. These numbered vehicles were used to move from the floor of the Facility to the airlocks of Rim City. As the crew watched one of the vehicles lifted from the floor and slowly ascended. A small boy, one of the passengers, waved at them from the vehicle as it slowly rose. Some of the crew smiled and waved back, a simple reflex action.
“Excuse me a moment.” Paul said as he left the crew and headed toward one of the cubicles a short distance away. As he entered he spoke. “Pardon me madam, I seem to have loss my way.”
Seuni Takao turned and faced Paul. Her mouth opened to speak but the words never came out. She closed her mouth and then smiled. “Paul Wilhelm, wow, good to see you, we have been expecting you. Come here you.” She laid the small glass object she carried on the nearby desk came over and gave Paul a big hug and kissed him on one cheek and then the other.
Paul returned the hug and gaves her a warm smile. “Good to see you too Seuni and I see you are still at it. You must have this place all figured out by now, right?”
“Yeah sure, piece of cake, I know everything about it.” She said sarcastically. “Actually, I have discovered so much, but unfortunately, each discovery seems to leave the idea that there is an endless road of things yet to find.” She turned and picked up the small glass like object. “You recognize this.”
“No, should I?”
“Not really, but you saw it before as a part of something.”
“The remote control, is that a part of the remote control?”
“Yep, it’s one of 5 pieces. On the backside of the control was an indentation. I inserted a small metal probe into that indentation and the control started to separate. The dividing area between each piece became cool molten liquid and each separate piece moved away from the other pieces. The liquid material stretched and narrowed to pin points then parted. Once separate, each piece squared up and became solid again.” She held the piece up. “Like this and they, each, still work as before.”
Paul accepted the small glass like object that she then offered. “Amazing, it looks and feels solid as if it was always a single piece.” Paul said as he turned the small unit over and over then gave it back to Seuni. “I can see you have made huge progress in your work, but how about you? Are you doing ok? Being up here this long and all?”
“Actually I am really good. I was surprised, even with the reduced gravity here, when I went back to earth I did fine and didn’t seem to have lost any muscle mass. I took the jogging trail I usually take and my route time was well within reason.”
“Well you look fit and happy, I’m glad things are going well.” Paul turned a little and asked. “The rest of my crew is here, want to come and say hi?”
“You bet. Are they all here?” Seuni said as she looked around and beyond Paul, as if looking for someone special.
“Yep, well almost all, all except Matt. He is up at the space station, trying out the new delivery system. He wanted to experience that feeling the Apollo Astronaut had in those early mission riding in a capsule on top of all that firepower.”
“I understand that, he and I talked about how he had admired those early astronauts and the courage it took to just climb in those capsules.” Seuni replied.
Paul led the way out toward where the crew and Astero waited, still watching the arrival and departure of the small bubble vehicles. From this distance it reminded Paul of a childhood toy. That bottle of liquid bubble soap and that small plastic circle that was dipped in the soap then blown on. The bubbles would then float around. Some would go up and some would go down. Paul smiled as he thought about how similar this scene looked.
Everyone took turns and greeted Seuni warmly when they saw her. When Sweet asked Paul what he was grinning about he told them about the similarity of the current scene to that childhood bubble toy. They all agreed the scene did resemble using that toy.
Continuing their tour, they ran into several of the individuals who had been with them on the Facility discovery mission. It wasn’t surprising how many original crewmembers had stayed here to continue the work in conjunction with that discovery. Tony knew this and put the word out. When Paul and crew arrive at the bar in the evening all of those members of the original crew were gathered to make the new arrivals feel at home. The camaraderie and general conversation made it a great but a very late evening.
Early morning found Paul, Astero and crew waiting their turn for a ride to the surface in one of the small bubble vehicles.
“Mr. Wilhelm, this way please.” The load master motioned for Paul and crew to follow him. “I am Sean and I will see to your loading and transport to Rim City. Have any of you taken this ride before?”
“I have.” Astero said as she raised her hand.
Paul looked at his crew and received a negative reply which he relayed to Sean.
“Ok, Astero, yeah I know you have,” Sean began. “but for those others this is how it works and it’s all automatic. Once you are comfortably on board, the bubble top will close and seal. The Facility will then control the lift to the surface. Small air powered jets will direct your car into the main air lock of the city. The air lock will be depressurized and then open on your approach. Once you’re inside, the air lock will close, pressurize and when the atmosphere reaches normal, your car will open. Now, once your vehicle is open, please exit and go in through the entrance that says Rim City Center. Ok, any questions?”
“Well, we were hoping to spread out and go to different parts of the city. Can we do that?” Paul asked.
“Not a problem. The easiest way is taking the tram once you are inside. It does the full circle of the city with stops, too numerous to mention. There is a tram along every ten minutes.”
“I, uh, thought we would go directly from here to different areas.”
“Well you could, there are two other air locks available but they are designated emergency use only. I could set that up if necessary but, you would have to go in separate cars.”
“Hmmm…,no, no I don’t think so, that won’t be necessary. We will take the tour as is.” Paul replied.
The small vehicle glided up and stopped a short distance from the crew. Once stationary the bubble raised straight up about four inches and then, clam shell like, opened tilting back out of the way. Sean instructed them to step over the sides and seat themselves. Once seated the bubble closed then lowered and sealed all six safely inside.
As the vehicle glided toward the center of the Facility, Sweet turned to Samuel and asked. “Worrying about this little flight?”
“Yeah, sure.” Yuel replied.
“No, I’ve been nervous before.” Then both he and Sweet had a good laugh over the lines from ‘Airplane the Movie’.
Kari smiled and shook her head at the antics of her crewmates and added. “You two are certifiable.”
“Guaranteed.” They replied.
Once their car reached the center there was a gentle tug and the floor of the Facility fell away as the small vehicle rose. The only sound came from Astero. She could barely control herself as she said. “I love this part.” She pointed up, as the opening that had seemed much smaller from the floor of the Facility, appeared to be expanding or moving away on all sides. Several minutes later the crew felt and heard a faint buzz as the craft passed up through the layer membrane that held the atmosphere in. How this layer held the breathable air in and let solid object pass through was still one of the unsolved mysteries of the moon based Facility.
The small vessel skimmed the surface of the layer as its air jets pushed it toward the air lock. The crew was quiet as they took in the panoramic city. That impressive ring of, Plexiglas enclosed buildings, gave the opening a bowl appearance and actually emphasized the distance across the gaping chasm. The clear bubble of the little car allowed an unobstructed view of Rim City, and the crew took full advantage as they turned in their seats and scanned the complete circle. The city stood at three stories above the moon’s surface and the city’s top was level all the way around. The width of the ring, holding the buildings that circled that opening, appeared to be about one full block wide. The neon signs, facing out toward the middle of the opening of the Facility, were bright and they advertised the businesses found within. There were no individual buildings, like luxury hotels that reached towering heights, as Paul had imagined. The control of breathable air had determined the actual design and construction, so the look of the city was not as he had envisioned, however, there was no doubt, it was a city.
Their attention was returned to their location when the airlock’s opened doors passed by the sides of their car and the small vehicle bumped to a stop inside that air lock. There was no noise until the air lock’s doors closed and the area was sealed and pressurization began. Moments later a contact made up with a noticeable click and the bubble top lifted and opened. The crew, more than a little anxious, scrambled out and headed out into the breezeway that led to the city center. It was designated ‘City Center’, not because it was in the middle of the city, that middle was out in the center of the opening that allowed access to the Facility. It was simply because it was the arrival and departure area, all who came and went, to or from Rim City, must venture here first. City Center was located on the middle floor of the structure and small stairways, up and down, were nearby.
Feeling and looking like tourist, they all stopped just inside. Looking up and down the passageway, they gawked and pointed with mouths open, as they absorbed the panoramic view. Both sides of the breezeway were lined with shops, dining facilities and hotels. They curved out of sight both ways in a surrounding circle that filled all three stories of the structure. Small store signs extended out into the breezeway to attract customers. Shoppers and residents leisurely strolled up and down the curving sidewalks that fronted the shops and businesses on both sides. In between and in the middle of the two sidewalks was a train or tram track, that followed the sidewalk, curving out of sight on both sides and, evidently, completely circling Rim City.
Paul, all ready at work, had begun to make notes on the procedures used in the lift and docking of the small vehicles. As he and the crew meandered toward the tram station he continued, occasionally stopping and writing down a comment on something he had noticed.
There were multiple shops located around the tram station. As expected the ‘Starbucks’ coffee shop was readily accessible. Paul directed his crew to one of the tables that surrounded the island that held the coffee machines. As they seated themselves a Starbucks waitress responded to take their orders. Now that Paul was no longer a rookie at Starbucks he knew just what to order. He waited for his crew to finish with their complicated, multi-worded, seemingly endless configuration of how they required their individual beverages, then he ordered, “Coffee black tall, please.” is all he said. He then smiled at the crew as they shook their heads at his simplicity in ordering.
“I’ll bet you order vanilla at Baskin Robbins.” Sweet said. And all nodded in agreement.
Once their coffees were delivered, Paul opened his briefcase and removed five manila folders that held several sheets of paper. He handed one to each of the crew. “Each of you will have a different area and your folder will identify your particular section. All the shops in your area will be looked at, inside and out. Inside your folders, you will also find a technical order that explains the criteria of your task. Right now we are only doing the first step. In essence, the first step is to note how things are run and how things get done. Once you have gone through your area and feel you have a handle on each shop’s operation, we will get together again.” Paul looked at each member as he continued. “Do not note any of your own suggestions or ideas at this time, just note how they routinely get things accomplished. Take your time and we will get together in three days to look at our results. There is a reservation in your name in one of the accommodation in your area. I suggest you go there first and get settled in before beginning your inspections.”
Paul could see that the crew had some concerns about their job as did he. “Ok, I know, this is new to all of us, we are all rookies, but we can do this. You each have a communication device and if you have a question you can reach me any time. Relax you will do fine, have some fun with this.”
They finished their coffee then, after a short wait, boarded the tram. Surprisingly the tram was not unusual and resembled most rapid transit system vehicles. It was power by electricity and was extremely quiet. As they made the circle, one by one, each got off at their assigned area, saying, “See you in three days.” Soon it was just Paul and Astero riding quietly until Paul’s stop.
“What are your plans now, Astero.”
“I will have lunch here and then head back down to the Facility. I have some other guest coming in this afternoon. I will see you when you guys get back down, ok?”
“You bet, that’s fine. Hey Astero, thanks, you are great and we all really appreciate your assistance during our arrival.”
“My pleasure, I love this place and I love my job.” Astero waved through the window as the tram pulled out heading back toward city center.
Paul gave her a salute and then turned and headed for his assigned accommodation.
Two years at the Facility had been most rewarding. The findings were endless and each new discovery was dissected, inspected, protected, selected, injected but then sometimes rejected, because its purpose was still unknown. Probably the most rewarding find at the Facility was the source and delivery of fresh breathable air. There were no pumps or fans running, as far as could be told, however, there was a movement of air although slight.
The intake to the air exchange area was found by Bobbi Larson now called Little Orbit or just Orbit. She had transported to the Facility for research on its ability to communicate without the apparent use of antennas or parabolic dishes. Young yes, the youngest ever recruited by NASA. Her high school paper on “Interstellar Communication”, “Problem Avoidance” had got the attention of NASA and she was made a part of the original team that made the discovery of The Facility possible. She now knew, most discoveries are made by accident, this too was the case here. Dropping a sheet of scratch paper from her folder was the actual catalyst. As it fell, it was pulled against the apparent solid wall and stayed there for a few moments then it was pushed away by some unknown force. Bobbi thought that this action was very unusual so she tried it again with the same results.
Ishmel Mohamed, who was the pilot of Lunar 4 during the first probe into the Facility, had remained there at the Facility. For the past two years he has been studying the Facility’s ability to maintain fresh breathable air throughout the complex. He was environmentally responsible for the original mission and was assigned as the engineer for this entire structure. After Bobbi’s accidental experience with the sheet of paper, he was contacted. He arrived after only a short wait.
“What you got here, Orbit?” Ishmel said as he stood watching Bobbi as she demoed the sheet of paper again. He thought it was most curious on how the wall attracted the sheet of paper and then shortly pushed it away. “Hmmm, there must be a, ah, sort of, utility room and vents somewhere in back of this wall.”
Orbit watched as Ishmel got down on his knees and starred closely at the wall. The lower he got down the different the wall looked. Lying down on his back and looking up at the wall revealed the presence of horizontal slats that made that portion of the wall somewhat see through. He could actual see into the interior to some extent. Standing back up the wall again looked solid. He ran his hand down the wall and it was smooth to the bottom, no slats apparent visually or by touch.
“Wow, I tried almost everything to find the source of fresh air and I find it now by laying down on the job.” He slowly shook his head as he continued. “I feel like such a failure, taking this long to find any evidence of a ventilation system.” He lay down again on the floor and looking left and right, he realized that these horizontal venting strips curved and seemed to go around the entire wall of the Facility.
Little Orbit looked on and her faced showed her amusement. Although recently arrived at the Facility she was amazed at how many things had been found when least expected and by means that were not their intended. “Sometimes the current results are worth more than our past progress or what you might refer to as failures.” Orbit offered.
“How true, how true. I tried everything, I pushed, I knocked, everything but a swift kick at the walls. Wasn’t it Sherlock Holmes that said, “When all other evidential fact have been eliminated, whatever remains however unlikely, must be the answer.” Well he said something like that anyway.” Ishmel said as he again pushed and prodded along the wall, high and low. Then, more out of frustration than anything else, he gently kicked, more like a toe tap, the curving inside wall of the Facility.
It opened, about a seven foot tall, six foot wide section of wall simply disappeared and the interior was revealed. Ishmel, as if expecting this and without hesitation, walked right in and stood there, looking around. The area was vast and curved out of sight on both sides. Judging the height of the interior was difficult due to lack of anything to compare it to. About three meters from the entrance wall were some large rectangular racks. They were filled with a bright pink cotton candy looking substance. These racks followed the curve of the interior and continued around in both directions. The curves of the walls prevented a view to the end of these racks, that is, if they indeed ended. Maybe, like the horizontal venting strips, they circled the entire Facility.
The racks were most unusual and should not have been able to contain the pink substance. The racks were a simple cubical outline and there were no panels or glass between the outlining frame that could maintain objects of any kind inside. The pink substance was not solid and should have flowed or protruded out of the racks, it however did not. It stayed inside and was square and even with the surrounding frame.
Ishmel spent the next few weeks, with several other volunteers, searching the interior that did indeed go completely around the huge complex. True, the search gave up some answers but it contained a lot more mysteries than the answers it revealed. There was an abundance of open racks loaded with the pink substance, and even more racks stored behind these open racks. Those racks stored in back were sealed in some sort of clear sheeting. They were not as pink as the open ones in front.
The difference in color of the pink substance open on the racks and the color of those still sealed was significant. That difference was enough to caused Ishmel to think that maybe there was some reaction of the substance when unsealed. He decided not to fool with the racks that were sealed at this time. He did take one of the racks that was open and moved it, intending on placing it in the interior of one of the small shuttles.
He closed all of the shuttle hatches and ports, thereby isolating the inside of the small vessel from the Facility. This was to insure that the pink substance could and would be studied by itself. Weight of the rack with the pink product was slight, about five pounds earth standard, and easily handled by one person. Each rack was about four foot long and one foot square. He rigged an entrance air lock to the shuttle so he could enter without bringing any outside interference inside.
He donned a space suit thereby isolating his personal environment from outside interference. He then entered the air lock and sealed the temporary entrance behind him. He vacuumed out all the air in the air lock and then he remotely vacuumed all the air out of the shuttle. Once both areas were zeroed out on air content he entered the small shuttle with the small rack of pink substance. He closed and sealed the entrance. After checking the unit’s panel board gauges, confirming the lack of breathable air, he manually shut down the vacuum. The environmental instrument, he had hand carried in, told him that the shuttle, although it shouldn’t have been, was somehow filling again with breathable air. This, however, was not the end of the investigation. It was only the first confirmation of what he had believed was the source of fresh air for the Facility.
Ishmel reached his hand into the pink mass. He cupped his hand and withdrew it holding a fluffy piece of the pink substance. He held it up to his face plate for a closer view. It seemed that the pink color had faded for some unknown reason. He looked back at the rack and it too was somewhat faded. As he looked he also realized that the piece he had removed had been replaced or had re-grown in the rack, leaving no evidence of this missing piece.
The small hand held environment meter read the interior and it was now filled with breathable air, so Ishmel removed his helmet. The air was fresh and had no distinct odor. After a few moments of normal breathing he was positive, the source of fresh air had been found.
He wasn’t sure when it happen or if it was sudden, however, it was sometime later that he noticed the substance had regained its original pink color, no longer faded. The fluffy piece he had placed on a small console was now flat and covered the surface as if it were a fresh coat of paint. It too had regained its vibrant pink color. He pealed the pink substance off the console and rolled it into a ball and pushed it back inside the rack. It remained and became part of the original and did not show any sign of where it might have once been removed or replaced.
Ishmel picked up his helmet and left the shuttle as he had entered. He had a lot of thinking to do. He had to find out what significance the color had to do with anything and then try to find out what the limit to the capacity of the individual racks were, if there was a capacity limit. How many square feet of breathable area can be maintain by each rack of the pink substance and, most important of all, do they deteriorate. Ishmel spent the next seven years on this task.
Seven years of hard work and test had rewarded Ishmel with excellent results. The substance showed no signs of deterioration. However, the racks could be overloaded, or pushed beyond their capacity, if a given space is too large or the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) too great. Ishmel also found out that the actual presence of carbon dioxide determined the color of the pink substance. No CO2 and the color went to a flat dull barely pink. When things were balanced the color was a vibrant pink with a healthy appearance. When the surrounding space or the amount of CO2 went beyond the capacity of a rack, the substance took on a reddish tint. The larger the available space or volume of CO2 the redder the color. When the substance became more red than pink, oxygen meters dropped and air became stale and the space became inhabitable in short order.
These test, done over and over, paved the way to the construction and population of the areas upon the surface of the moon. The area surrounding the surface opening to the Facility was now called ‘Rim City’. Lodging, shopping, fast food, elaborate dining and numerous tours were available for residents and visitors alike. The buildings were sealed and the required number of racks of the pink substance, were placed in each building according to its area and occupant capacity.
Trips to the surface were a constant with moon limos either floating up from or drifted back down to the landing area of the Facility. All these limos had magnetic port locks with sealed entering and exiting hatches. This enabled the passengers to travel to the surface without the cumbersome donning of a space suit. These limos were short lived, replaced with the small bubbled conveyances. The bubble cars allowed more visibility and were, except for a few contacts, almost maintenance free.
All of these accomplishments and conveniences caused a serious influx of new people. When travel takes almost no effort, it attracts more travelers. It was funny, the most difficult part of the journey to Rim City is getting from your home on earth to the Stonehenge. Ten years ago the trip to the moon was extremely difficult and the travelers were few. Now traveling on earth was where the bottlenecks lay, moon travel, however, was a piece of cake.
Ishmel looked at this influx of people a result of some of his accomplishments. He also looked at this influx as a serious problem. The problem was the evacuation of these people in case of emergency. Ten thousand people lived here and there were approximately five thousand tourists or guest at any one time. Sure this was the limit that some committee had set, but was it realistic. It is something that he had lived with for some time now. He set up the steps he would take just in case. Would they be sufficient, no one knew and no way to test them. His real hope was that they would never have to be used. Once set up, he put the thoughts out of his mind and put his efforts back on the environment.
The three days went flying by and the prearranged meeting of the crew was already in the background. The inspections had found numerous areas that could use some guidelines. As requested by Paul, the crew noted operations as they were without any suggested improvements. However, once the meeting had started and the notes presented, it was a different story. The comments on improvements came at a pace that was difficult to keep up with but they did. The first report returned to headquarters contained numerous pages of ideas and suggestions that could be implemented at minimal expense. The crew now had some time on their hands while waiting for their findings to be prioritized and put to use or simply rejected.
“So guys, any suggestion on what we should do while we wait for further instructions?” Paul asked on their fourth day on the moon. Not wanting to hamper their thought process, they stayed clear of most of the local outlets.
“They have a driving range you know?” Samuel, who was a scratch golfer, stated.
“How is that possible, that range would have to be at least double the distance of those on earth. We’re talking 800 yards long at least.” Sweet said.
“Its computer enhanced of course and simulates the distance. You actually hit the ball and it hits a screen and the screen absorbs the impact and continues the ball flight on the screen simulating the direction and distance the ball would have traveled. The computer uses the moon’s atmosphere and its gravity in the calculations then projects the results, as if it is the actual ball flight, in real time right there on the screen.”
“What the heck fun would that be? If I were going to hit a ball here on the moon, I would want to see the actual flight of the ball. Not some computer guess at the results.” Sweet replied.
“Ok, so you don’t like my suggestions, what would you like to do?”
“Me? Well, since you asked. I have always wanted to take a tour out to the original landing sites of those Apollo guys. We do that and it would be real, not computer generated.” Sweet answered.
“You know what, Sugar? You for once, have a great idea. They do have tours, don’t they?” Samuel’s question was for anyone with information on this subject. And he got a reply from Curt.
“Of course they have tours and there is only a short waiting list, so we should be able to get on right away. I inspected that place and found it to be satisfactory.”
“I sure wish I had thought of this. I feel like a first timer here, a rookie tourist. This should have been first on my list and it wasn’t.” Samuel slowly shook his head as he thought about his golf suggestion. “I owe you one Sweet.”
“I think we all do,” Paul said. “I too should have already had this scheduled and booked for us. Thanks man.”
Kari and Curt also put in their thanks and with the others rose and left the small meeting room. They headed out into the center breezeway where Curt had seen a Rim City map and directory kiosk. ‘You are here.’, with a small red label cut in the shape of an arrow told them where they were.
“How do they know where we are? I never could figure that out. Who keeps track of us?” Sweet said as he pointed at the small red arrow.
“That is an old and tired joke, Sugar. You better update your material if you expect to be entertaining.” Kari said as she tried to keep from smiling. “Apollo Landing Site Tours 121.” Kari said as she read the listing. “121, 121, ah, here it is. We have to take the tram, it is about half way around the circle, right here.” She pointed to the area that listed 121.
It was only a short wait for the tram and the loading area was not crowded. Boarding took no time at all leaving them shortly underway. Stop after stop was made as the tram slowly made its way around the huge complex. The usual banter continued between the crew members with everyone putting in their two cents worth. One of the children riding in the same car kept track of the numbers of each stop, saying them out loud. When the child said “next stop 121”, it got their attention. They stopped their rhetoric and watched as stop 121 came into site. Kari thanked the young boy for keeping track of the stop numbers and when the tram stopped the crew exited.
“What are they using to transport passengers out to the sites.” Samuel asked and then added. “Hey Paul, maybe this is where they are using those Hummer Moon Limos you had thought about.”
“You never know, you could be right.” Paul replied.
Although Curt knew what vehicle they used he did not tell them but instead supplied, “This business has the only air lock that leads to the moon area beyond and takes you away from the city and the Facility.” as he pointed out the entrance.
Low key was the word Paul thought of as he approached the doorless entryway of the tour office. A lone receptionist sat behind a desk located inside and to the right of the door. Behind the receptionist a mural on the wall displayed the six landing sites of the Apollo Missions. Each site had a comic book conversation balloon that listed the mission number and crewmembers on board for those landings. At the bottom right of the mural ‘Google Moon’ was printed in white.
She smiled as Paul stepped closer. “Hello and welcome to ‘Landing Site Tours’, your name please and do you have a reservation?” She turned a clipboard around for Paul to fill out and then continued. “The tour…. Ah, Oh, Mr. George? I thought that was you, back with more questions?” She said as she recognized Curt George.
“Not this time Celestial, we are here for the tour. This is my boss Paul and these guys are Karl, Samuel and Kari.” Curt said as he introduced each of the crewmembers. “Guys, this is Celestial Eve, she handles all the tour arrangements and reservations.”
“Celestial Eve? That is a lovely name. Did you, like Astero and Terra Firma, also change it when you were hired to work on the moon?” Kari asked.
“Yep, I sure did and, hey you guys know Astero and Terra Firma? That’s great, well anyway, earth wise I am known as Celeste Evelyn Evans, not much of a change, huh?”
Kari nodded her head, “No, very close to the original, but I think that is the idea, right? Yeah we know them, Astero was our first contact on arrival and we met Terra at the bar of course.”
“That bar is her part time job. Her real job is at the moon’s main observatory. She is a very smart person, knows the location and individual names of all the stars and astronomical galaxies.”
“Hey, I met her at the officers club on earth, she was a hostess there, never mentioned being part time. I made a mistake of thinking it was her only job. Talk about judging a book by its cover.” Paul slowly shook his head as he spoke.
“Mmmm, Maybe I should change my name.” Kari suggested.
“All the girls have tried to find a name that resembled their own and had a reference to the moon or, at least, to other planets, you know, outer space.” Celestial put in.
“Kari Lipken, Mmmm, Kari Lipken.”
“How about ‘Harry Eliptical’?” suggested Sweet as he doubled up in laughter.
There were some other reflex laughs that were silence as quickly as possible.
“Thanks ‘Sweet & Low’, or are you some other sugar substitute? Thanks for reminding me of my uncontrollable lip foliage.” Kari said as she punched Sweet on the arm and then she too laughed while she ran her fingers over her upper lip.
“Play nice now?” Paul laughingly said.
“The tour, back to the tour? We can get you out next, ah, in about twenty minutes, I think, that is if you would like? Yes? Ok, I need each of you to fill out one of these Accident No-Fault Release forms.”
“Hey, we planning to have an accident or something?” Samuel asked.
“No, no, these are just standard insurance forms, and they do not actually release us from fault, but our company requires them.”
The crew set out and accomplished the task in short order returning the forms to Celestial Eve. She thanked each in turn as she collected the papers. “Please come this way for outfitting.” Leading the crew she went through the one door to the rear of the shop. “These are your suits.” She pointed at the suits hanging on the wall. “They are self cooled and the clean fresh air is provided by a small portion of the material that keeps the Facility air breathable. The suits are light, flexible and one size fits all. They go right over whatever you are wearing. Each suit has a built in walkie-talkie that is voice activated and, if you will, place them all on the same channel so you can talk to each other, make it number two, channel two. Your chauffeur will also be on this same frequency.” She pointed out the channel selector to Kari as she donned her suit. “Go ahead and test it.”
“Channel two? Ok, I got it.” Paul said.
“Test, test, one two three.” Kari spoke in a normal voice to test the equipment.
“Loud and clear, I hear you loud and clear.”
“Copy that, they work fine, just fine.”
“On your heads up display you can see there are five numbered lights. On each suit there is a number one through five. The numbered lights will indicate who is speaking so you will always know who’s talking. The other light, lettered C, is for your driver and it will light if he talks.” Celestial Eve watched and waited until everyone was suited, checked out their individual equipment and gave her a thumbs up. Satisfied, she ushered them into the air lock that would lead to the outside and the moons unprotected surface.
The vehicle that waited there did somewhat resemble a Hummer Limo, well, except it had no wheels. Tracks, two sets on each side in place of wheels, gave the vehicle an off road rugged appearance. Jacques Lacert, their chauffeur, introduced himself and showed them their ride. As he moved around the vehicle he pointed at each item, explained the workings and answered their questions to the best of his ability. The little light came on as Jacques started his spiel. “The rocket motor bellows that decorated each corner provides and directs the lifting power for travel to and from Rim City. Once we reach the Sea of Tranquility, I will ground the vehicle and the tracks will then take us from site to site. The top of this vehicle is one large solar panel that charges the batteries, provides electrical control energy and powers the motor driven tracks.”
Paul raised his hand to get Jacques attention, “Hey Jacques, Paul Wilhelm, good to meet you.” then extended his gloved hand in Jacques direction.
Hesitating then taking Paul’s hand for a quick shake he continued. “Oh hi Paul, if you could just hold your ques…, Paul Wilhelm, you said Paul Wilhelm? No it can’t be, the Lunar Array Comander?”
“I was, now I’m just a working stiff.”
“Good to meet you Mr. Wilhelm, oh man, my wife will flip. You are a legend, one of the earth’s true heroes. I see I don’t have to explain much to you and, hey… how about these guys?”
“These guys were my crew on Atlantis and we are again working together here on the moon. Samuel Washington, Karl Sweet, Curt George and Kari Lipkens.”
“Yuel, Sugar, Jungleman and oh my, I should have recognized you, even in that lunar garb. Locks, my goodness, Locks, I shouldn’t tell you this but I have a Fathead of you in our den.” Jacques hesitated while he mentally counted his passengers. “Doormat, Doormat is missing. So, where’s Doormat?”
“He is currently at earth’s space station ‘Freedom’, but he will join us later here on the moon.”
Jacques felt that telling this crew about the workings of this small vehicle was like the maid telling the chef how to cook, so he skipped the normal orientation. “Any questions before we leave?” is all he asked.
No questions were raised so the crew boarded, took their seats and buckled up for the ride. Take off was smooth and soon they were underway. As they traveled, only a few meters above the lunar surface, Jacques rattled on and on about his luck in drawing the crew of Atlantis and points of interest on the current landscape. Paul was thinking that Jacques would burn out the little light above the C in their suits with the amount of info he was passing on. He finally quit talking as he concentrated on bringing the vehicle around and slowed for an approach and landing at the first stop. Dust rose and visibility was zero as the car neared the surface. The vehicle settled, bumped and then with a slight rock leveled out, again on solid ground.
The movement inside was of seat belts being unbuckled. Raising his hand and speaking, Jacques turned from the controls. “Excuse me, please remain seated for a few moments. Got to let that dust settle or it will get inside the vehicle and it is very hard to remove once it gets in here.” These comments caused the passengers to stay in their seats, however, they did turn and watch the falling dust until visibility was unobstructed. Receiving the word from Jacques they open doors and exited the vehicle.
There was very little evidence that anyone had been here before. Sure the flag still stood, stiff but not waving, and the base of the lunar module set as it had for years. This was the only evidence left that proved the landing forty eight years ago had actually taken place. A new marker had been placed by the flag and it noted the mission and crew.
Jul 20, 1969
Neil A. Armstrong, Commander;
Edwin E. Aldrin, Lunar Module Pilot;
Michael Collins, Command Module Pilot
The crew stood in awe of their predecessor’s small unpretentious memorial that signified such a monumental accomplishment. These pioneers were the reason they were all able to be here. Their trip and their moon landing were sometimes doubted and ridiculed as a NASA fraud, yet here they were in person looking at the evidence. The lack of flamboyance only emphasized the significance of this spot and the crew responded in turn to its subliminal qualities. Kari was not the only one with eyes that moistened at the thought of what those early astronauts went through to get here. The chances they took and results they managed, with the technology they had, was truly heroic.
Sight after sight they visited, touching the equipment and admiring the significance of each piece left behind on the surface of the moon. They stopped and read the plaques that had been placed at each site. The equipment they saw was not limited too but included, the moon rover, left behind the craft landing bases and a golf club, the ball it struck had not been found.
Nov 19, 1969
Charles Conrad, Jr., Commander;
Richard F. Gordon, Jr., Command Module Pilot;
Alan L. Bean, Lunar Module Pilot
Feb 5, 1971
Alan B. Shepard, Jr., Commander;
Stuart A. Roosa, Command Module Pilot;
Edgar D. Mitchell, Lunar Module Pilot
Jul 30, 1971
David R. Scott, Commander;
Alfred M. Worden, Command Module Pilot;
James B. Irwin, Lunar Module Pilot
Apr 20, 1972
John W. Young, Commander;
Thomas K. Mattingly II, Cmd. Module Pilot;
Charles M. Duke, Jr., Lunar Module Pilot
Dec 11, 1972
Eugene A. Cernan, Commander;
Ronald B. Evans, Command Module Pilot;
Harrison H. Schmitt, Lunar Module Pilot
All of the sights were unadorned, looked undisturbed and were simply magnificent in their simplicity. The trip back to the tour facility was quiet and reverent as the crew reflected on what they had seen.
“Whoops, do that again!” Chris Cummings said as he rolled his chair up closer to the display screen.
“I didn’t do anything,” Terra Firma said, sounding as if she had been wounded.
“Sorry, what I meant was, can we retrace the tracking we just completed.” Chris pointed at the computer keyboard that controlled the moon-based telescope. “I thought I saw something.”
“Oh, sure no problem, I’ll put that scenario back in and we can view that area again.” Terra had regained her composure and quickly typed the previous co-ordinance into the computer and hit the execute key. This was her real profession, the waitress at the local bar was a volunteer job, this is where she got the big bucks. She watched as the large scope retraced its path and slowly started that scan again.
They both watched for several moments until the scan was completed. There was nothing out of the ordinary and after a second running of the same live scan, both decided that whatever Chris had seen, or thought he had seen, was simply not present during either of these current live viewings.
Chris accepted the findings but he made a note of the time and date as he always did. He did this, even if his notes were only used to explain the two additional run through of that particular scan.
Chris had been on the moon now for the past five years. When he was asked to take on this task, he was blown away. The whirlwind tour of the Stonehenge and the transport to the Facility, these memories still leave him breathless when he thinks about it. Sure he had the credentials, earned with a major investment of time and the right college, but to be chosen. As he always says, “Who would have thunk it?” During all those years of starring at the heavens through that backyard telescope with his dad could never prepare him for this. His dream of reaching outer space was through a telescope lens located on the top of some mountain. In all those dreams he never once dreamed that that mountain would be on the surface of the moon.
At first he couldn’t believe the clarity of the unobstructed view he got from, this location, the surface of the moon. The heavens, horizon to horizon, were an endless field of amazement. He painstakingly logged each section of the view, millimeter by millimeter, across the boundless array. He had not, as yet, had the pleasure of finding an unexplained anomaly during this five year search of his. This to Chris was only a minor disappointment and in no way interfered with his methodical, painstaking examination of our galaxy.
It was sixteen days before something again caught his eye. Repeating the procedure they had used before gained the same results and they came up fruitless. At least he had an optimistic witness this time. Terra also thought she saw something.
“Wait here, I want to try something.” Terra said and then left the lab and went into the video file storage room. Recording disc were kept there in chronological order from the first day of viewing to the current. She pulled the video disc from sixteen days prior and placed it in the machine then she and Chris sat down in front of the display.
For whatever reason, Chris and Terra had not taken the time to view the recording made on the first scan from ten days prior. They had relied on a rescan of the area rather than a video review of the previous scan. This oversight left them with negative result.
The recorded view that was now displayed on the screen still left some doubt but there might have been something, however, it was minute and disappeared quickly. The second and third recorded view from that day showed nothing, only the first saved scan, maybe, had something.
Terra put the current recording in the machine and ran it. “There, that might be something. It’s gone. By the time it takes to focus in that area, it’s gone.” Chris said more to himself than anyone else.
They ran it again and were ready and starring at the area where there might be something when it ran again. Terra and Chris made transparent stills of the suspected anomaly so they could overlap them to discern any movement.
Clear as a bell, if it was the same object, there was movement. The stars were the same and lined up perfectly when the overlay was done. The only change was the suspected demur speck that had appeared momentarily. It did not align with the first view. Although still in the same general area, it was minutely displaced by a few millimeters. It was discernable and caused Chris’s pulse to increase to some finite degree.
“Whoa, oh boy, we may have something. This anomaly, if it proves to be true, may be just what I have been looking for.” Chris said almost silently to himself. “What we have been looking for, is what I meant.” He said after he felt more than saw or heard a small movement from Terra.
“It’s ok, I too was thinking me only, this is what I been looking for.” Terra said as she softly touched Chris’s hand. “I know we are partners and my find is your find and visa versa.”
“That’s true, just like Dad and I on that asteroid we found and shared with the public. We shared the name, as I’m sure you remember.” Chris pointed out. “If this turns out to be a true new find, it is ours together.”
Wishing something would happen doesn’t usually get you there and that was true in this case. It was another sixteen days before there was another sudden appearance of whatever it was. This time it was evident that the object was moving on an apparent traceable trajectory. The distance from the previous appearance was greater than the first two observations and the object was more obvious to these two viewers. It was now time to report their sighting and, in doing so, they would find out if anyone else had observed the same anomaly.
“Kendrick’s Peak Observatory.” Jacob Cummings said as he picked up the cordless handset off the ringing instrument. “Jacob Cummings speaking.” He said in his normal, I am very busy, voice.
“Hey Dad, what are you up too?” Chris smiled as he heard his dad’s voice.
“Oh you know, the usual just starring at the stars. How about you? How is that viewing from the backside of the moon? See any little green men yet?” Jacob replied in a tone that had undergone an enormous lift in spirit. He did not sound too busy now.
“I heard you were back at your old job again. I suppose you are still flying that bucket of bolts back and forth from home to work.” Chris laughed as he commented about his dad’s old Cessna 172.
“All the bolts in that bucket are still in the proper place and you bet I am using them for transportation. I did add that GPS unit, the one I could always live without, and it sure makes getting there much easier. Kinda sorry I waited so long to have that installed.” Jacob admitted. “Since the Facility and its transport system became available, NASA started cutting back on its personnel so I volunteered to leave. They still have me on call should the need arise but, I don’t expect anything and I won’t be disappointed if they do not call so I am back to the old grind. ” Jacob paused and then continued when Chris did not speak. “What is it? I can feel you wanting to tell me something. What happened?”
“We, Terra and I, think we have had an observation that is traceable. It’s unusual and we think it is far away but it is moving or seems to be moving.” Chris said as he tried to find a way to explain the situation to his dad.
“Tell me about it and tell me where it might be seen.” Jacob said when Chris had paused.
“That is one of the things that makes it unusual dad. We can’t just go and view it. Right now it is not visible.” Chris said.
“I don’t understand. You have had a possible sighting but you can’t see it. As you probably know that does not make a lot of sense. The word observations actually means it can be seen or observed. Excuse me, I hate it when the definition includes the word that is being defined, but you know what I mean.” Jacob said.
“You are absolutely correct, dad. Let me tell you what we saw and you can draw your own conclusions about our sanity.” Chris responded and then he continued. “Thirty two days ago, while viewing a small segment of space, I thought I saw something blink. It was quick and did not last anytime at all. We put the same track back into the computer and reran the scope through the same segment of the sky. We had negative results on that run and a third running, the third run just to be sure, also came up negative.” Chris said.
“Sounds interesting, did you record all these scans?” Jacob asked.
“I knew you were going to ask that and yes we did. The problem was, it was recorded but not viewed. As I am sure you know, recordings are no good unless someone actually looks at them.” Chris responded then continued with his recounting of the events. “Sixteen days later, Terra and I were both looking and both thought we saw something. That’s when Terra went and pulled the disc and we looked at the first recorded view. We then agreed that there might have been something. We did transparent overlays of the two recorded views and could see a small difference in the location of the possible object indicating some movement. Not really definable yet so we continued our constant viewing of that area.” Chris paused.
“Don’t tell me it took another sixteen days before you again observed this possible anomaly.” Jacob said.
“To the hour, sixteen days exactly. The overlays now show a considerable distance from the previous viewings and the object, or whatever it is, was much easier to observe. I think it is getting bigger or, more likely, closer to us.”
“Have you reported it yet?” Jacob asked.
“Did that just a few minutes ago. It was received with some skepticism and doubts about its factuality. We dispatched our overlays and a copy of the disc to headquarters and will be waiting their comments after they view our recordings.” Chris then stopped and waited for questions from his dad.
“Well son, I know you and I know your work. If you say you saw something, then you did see something. Could you tell me where and I too will monitor that quadrant as best I can from here.” Jacob said and then waited for Chris to give him the location.
Chris gave his dad the location, time and date of the last observation. After a few more minutes of personal comments, Chris thanked his dad and said goodbye. He knew his dad would make every effort to confirm this sighting.
Things went back to normal with Chris and Terra. They continued with their schedule of viewing and logging the sky as seen from the moon. Of course special attention was given to the area that might produce the next new anomaly. The next sixteen days seemed an eternity but when it arrived, it was well worth the wait. The object appeared suddenly on the predicted route. It was different this time. More pronounce and further from the last sighting than actually expected and it seemed larger by a fraction. The viewing lasted only one or two seconds and then was gone. Sixteen days crept by ending with the expected rewarding short appearance. Then another sixteen days of routine work and heighten expectation slowly passed. It appeared and this appearance was not followed by its disappearance. It remained visible. Chris took his eyes off the screen for a moment and rubbed them, thinking that he was hampered by his imagination. This was not the fact. The object was still there when he looked back at the screen. They had now watched momentary glimpse of this object now for a total of eighty days. Why, Chris thought, was it now maintaining its visibility?
Terra was busy at the tracking computer. She had entered the new sighting and was watching the program run that would show the route of the approaching article.
“It is still visible. Wow, Terra, it is still on the screen. I don’t understand, why is it still visible?” Chris was beside himself, smiling broadly, it was definitely confirmed now as something real and tangible.
“There is no doubt in my mind, it is coming our way. If it stays visible for just a little more time, we can measure its speed and know exactly where it will enter our galaxy and how close it will come to earth.” Sheila, Jacob’s assistant at the observatory, said as she pointed at the screen that showed its trace, from first observation through this last sighting.
“Well Chris, we have it spotted and Sheila and I agree you guys are amazing. You guys did a great job with that first sighting. How you saw such a miniscule object, I would describe it more as just a tick or a blink, I would never even guess. Anyway that said, we are all over it, like foam on a good German beer.” Jacob said and Chris could tell that he was happy as a clam.
As you would guess, NASA was simply bouncing off the walls with busy work. This new, unexpected, addition to the night sky had added a fresh area of work. The cut backs left them again with some empty positions that now needed to be filled. Previous employee’s records were being screened for knowledgeable personnel to take over these additional task. Jacob Cummings would go back on NASA duty remaining at the observatory, where he was, but now he would be tracking this new object as his only duty and, with the assistance of Sheila, it would be a twenty four a day watch.
Matthew Jensen, now back from the space station, had finished the preliminaries and the inspections that go with a transport to the Facility. He sat waiting his turn now that he was on the inside of the area called Stonehenge. He watched as one single and two groups were teleported, each simply disappearing with one unusual and most serious flash of light.
As Matt waited he thought about his experience here so far. He had made it through the screening but he did have some problems at the scanning and entry zone. He refused to leave his personal guitar with anyone else and was adamant about hand carrying it, no matter what the rules were. Needless to say, he spent quite a few minutes in the scanning box while the operator conferred with her superiors in order to get a release for the instrument. These three transports, he now watched, were ushered through while he waited on that release.
Matt had one other reason he was so willing to head back to the moon. Seuni was there. Ten years ago, while exploring the newly found Facility, he didn’t realize how much he was attracted to her. It was later at a vacation for her and a briefing for him that they had seen each other again. She had left the moon and transported to earth for two weeks, a break she so desperately needed. She enjoyed her job and the location, there on the moon, but she was still missing something. She saw Matt and that emptiness, that missing something, no longer seemed to exist. They, except when he had a mandatory briefing, spent the last week of her vacation together, inseparable. It was difficult for both when she said goodbye and returned to the moon. He would now be close to her again and on this his spirits soared.
While waiting, Matt also reflected on his career up until now. True he had made tremendous progress and had advanced farther than anyone he knew, while a student in grade school, middle school, high school or college. He had made strides that could only be called monumental from his early childhood environment. Even though he was amazed at his individual progression, one thing always bothered him and seemed to plague him no matter where he went or what he undertook. He was never first. He might be part of the crew that did something first but he personally had never been first. This current assignment was another case in fact, it was another first, true, but again he was just part of the crew that was first.
Unbeknown to him or anyone else, Matthew Jensen was about to obtain what so far had been denied him. He was going to be first. The first of record, anyway.
“Jensen, Matthew Jensen?” The operator called.
“Here, here, I am here.” Matthew said as he raised his hand and stood up.
The operator motioned Matt forward. “Over here Mr. Jensen, hi, I am Steve Simms, are you ready to go up?” He asked as Matt approached his position.
“Can’t wait to ride the White Light.” Matt said as he now stood smiling beside the operator. The ‘White Light’ was a tag that had been hung on the act of transporting. It referred to the flash of bright white light that occurred during transport. This particular nametag was passed around and used by travelers and spectators alike. All of those who had witness or took part in a transport to or from the Facility used that tag.
The operator took his arm and led him to the center of the small circle painted in the turf and left him there. He then returned to a safe distance from the center. A young child that had meandered away from his waiting parents, momentarily, distracted the operator. As was part of his assignment he quickly corralled the youngster and led her back to his somewhat agitated mother and father. The flash of light brought his attention back to the center area where Matt had been waiting. He of course was gone and the operator, who had become somewhat complacent in expecting the normal routine, assumed that he had been transported to the Facility. The operator then proceeded with his duties and called up the next travelers and prepared them for their transport.
It was strange that, this bright flash of light never bothered the travelers, as they seemed to depart before the flash happened and arrive only after the flash had occurred and the brightness dwindled. This time, however, Matthew thought he must have been bothered by the flash, so he simply stood there. This immobility only lasted as long as it took for him to realize he was not at his expected destination. “This is not the Facility, well, not the one I know anyway and there is no way that the transport area could have changed this much.” He said out loud as he looked around.
Without much investigation he could tell he was inside a transparent globe that measured about 3 meters in diameter. There were no apparent seams for entrance or exit that Matt could see. The floor of the globe was similar, if not identical, to the transport area of the Facility, meaning it had the lighted tubular circle and cross pattern under his feet. This is where the similarity ended. The lack of personnel to greet him was another clue that he was not where he should be. When he added these items together they did not sum up the way they should have or the way he expected.
The walls or partitions beyond his transparent cell seemed solid and made up of some unidentifiable material lacking of any viable coloring. Those walls were not transparent but left Matt with the feeling that he was visible from beyond them. There was some motion or light refraction that appeared as elongated shadows or silhouettes as would be seen through frosted glass. After some time these shadows faded, or whatever made them angled away and receded from the area surrounding his position. He now had the feeling that he was along and decided to test the strength of the transparent cocoon that imprisoned him. It flexed when he pushed against it, but it did not tear or allow any protrusion through the material. The use of the set of ceramic keys, he had on hand, made no mark or damage to the material.
After numerous attempts, short of breath and sweating with no results, he finally decided he would wait for some outside interference. Sitting down on the floor, he crossed his legs and leaned back. He was prevented from leaning against the cell wall by the guitar he had, with some difficulty, brought with him. This unusually cherished item had been forgotten while he tested the cell structure for security. It was like meeting an old friend and almost immediately took his mind off his current predicament. Strumming a few cords seemed to totally relax him and his thoughts turned to his favorite past time, writing and singing songs.
Lifting his spirits as he strummed, he decided to give his audience, whoever they were, a little entertainment. He checked each string to insure that the instrument was still in tune, then he put on his first show.
“Ladies and gentlemen!” He said, holding his hand in front of his mouth as if he had a microphone. “Let’s hear it for the man from Mississippi. A great big hand for Matt Jensen, come on let’s hear it!” He made sounds as if a huge audience was standing and applauding, cheering for the one and only, Matt Jensen.
“Good evening ladies and gentlemen. It’s a pleasure to be here in your cit… ah, area. I’d like to do some of the songs that I personally had the pleasure of writing. Here is one I wrote about a year after I graduated high school and left behind that special girl, the one I loved back then.”
He then strummed a G chord and began.
“Left my home in Jackson
headed out to Frisco Bay.
Left everything I ever loved behind.
Got waylaid by a damsel
That I met in East LA
I was so drunk I was dam near blind.
But you can’t change what happened
For the way it might have been
Although it might have been different
If I’d had you back then.
My yearbook is laying open
On the page that has your name
And your picture is right above it
It’s the last one I had framed.
Matt sang the song and sang it loud, all three verses and three choruses. There was no response from anyone or anything that surrounded his secured area.
Although the silence was almost deafening, Matthew continued as if he had an audience in front of him. An audience that was listening to every word he said and was enraptured by his music. Concentrating intensely to riffs and chord changes, Matthew strummed and picked his way through his music, completely ignoring his current circumstances.
Matt did five of his own songs, the long versions, and then he threw in a couple of Merle Haggard, George Jones and several Ray Stevens hits. An hour and a half later, exhausted, he laid his guitar aside, laid down and fell asleep almost immediately. Unusual for Matt, this sleep was not the normal restful type. It was filled with those unseen. They, the unseen, caused shadows and movement while remaining just out of his sight. In his dreams, the bubble he was in floated out on a blue sea for awhile and then it floated into the black void of space. It then returned to the center surrounded by the frosted glass looking substance. The shadows and movement behind that glass kept his sleep in turmoil, causing him to toss and turn. He couldn’t help it, but he knew he was moaning and talking in his sleep.
When he woke he knew the shadows had returned, increased in their numbers, watching him from behind the frosted glass looking substance that made up the walls of his small cocoon.
There was some confusion and it took time to figure it out. Everything seemed ok if you overlooked one small item. There was a discrepancy between the Stonehenge transport log and the Facility receiving log. That small discrepancy was Matt Jensen, former astronaut.
Steve Simms, the operator at Stonehenge, clearly remembers setting Matt Jensen up for transport and as far as he can remember all went as planned. The operator at the Facility had his scheduled list of travelers and according to that list, Matt Jensen was the one due, however, when he received the transport ready signal from Stonehenge, that wasn’t who showed up. Well, that is unless Matt Jensen is a twenty year old medical student named Marie. True Marie was scheduled for transport but she was listed after Matt Jensen. Travelers arrivals should be in the listed order unless both operators or aware of a change to this list, this was not the case and the operators both knew it.
Seuni was of course summoned and she responded immediately. She was quickly brought up to date on the situation. “I don’t understand. You’re telling me that Matt Jensen was ready for transport and evidently did transport but did not show up here?”
Joey Smith, the current Facility transport operator, nodded his head at Seuni’s summation. “I was right here and I have kept track of the times, those scheduled, those requested and those actual, all shift long.” Joey showed Seuni his record log, pointing out each entry. “Patricia and Sammy Jones arrived, as scheduled, then the next request came and Marie arrived when it should have been Matt Jensen.”
“Have you spoken to the operator at Stonehenge?”
“You bet, right away I asked him what was going on.”
“Did he acknowledge a change in schedule or anything like that?”
Joey shook his head. “No nothing like that. When I ask him about the schedule and that Marie had arrived when I was expecting Matt, he didn’t understand. He said no, no, no, Matt had transported before Marie. I told him that Matt was not here and he said ‘that just can’t be’. He said he had escorted Matt to the transport area and stepped back and the rings fell followed by the bright light and Matt was transported.”
“You’ve been here all the time? What time did your shift start?” Seuni asked as she looked at the record log.
“The same time as yesterday, eight AM. I’ve been here three hours and I have received eleven inbound transports when it should have been twelve. I am a stickler for routine and I strive to transport eight travelers per hour, four outbound and four inbound. Since I’ve been doing this job here on the moon, I’ve only missed that tally once and that was due to a communication problem not me or the transport equipment.” Joey stated as he tapped his clipboard.
“Notify Stonehenge we are aborting all transport for the moment. Then I want you to transport me down to Stonehenge.”
“Are you sure, I mean, if there is a problem should you be transporting?”
“I have concerns too but there may not be a problem, maybe just a mistake, but since the evidence is evidently down on earth, that’s where I’m going.” With that Seuni headed for the transporter. When she was ready she turned and, just like Captain Jean-Luc Picard, simply said, “Engage”.
Steve Simms was beside himself, so to speak, when Seuni arrived. He looked at her and he looked at his schedule and then he looked at her again. “Seuni, Oh hi, I, Seuni, I didn’t expect you. Is there a problem? Oh yeah, Matt Jensen, Matt Jensen, Houston we have a problem.” Steve tried to keep things light with a little space humor.
“Relax Steve, I’m not here to make any accusations, I just need to get to the bottom of this discrepancy if I can and I need your help.” Seuni said as she tried to put Steve at ease. “Sit down, sit down, here grab a chair, we have aborted all transports, temporarily, so we have some time to go over today’s activities.”
“What’s to go over? I line them up and the Facility activates the control and they leave. I stand here and watch them arrive when the Facility activates the transport from there to here. My job is really worth going over since I control so much.” Steve sarcastically said as he did take a seat. He looked rejected and thought himself unimportant.
“Come on Steve, without you none of those transports would be possible. You may not push the button or actually control the transport but you set it up and make sure it happens. In the whole process you are a mainstay and those travelers are relying on you. Most of them have no idea what to expect or what is required to transport, without you they would still be right here milling around.”
Seuni is at the very top of the Facility management and words of confidence from her had the desired effect on Steve and she could see a little lift in his spirits.
“Sorry Seuni, I guess I have been taking my job a little too lightly. Sometimes the routine just gets to me and I forget how important it is and how people are relying on me. Sorry.”
“Hey, I know the feeling. Believe me, I go over some things routinely not concentrating and end up with less than required results. It sometimes takes a word from someone to remind me of the importance of what I am doing. It happens to all of us and, when it does, this is where we must push the hardest to get through those times. I am not concerned about you, I know you will do your job and do it well.”
“I will and I hope I have done that. Even though, like I said, I sometimes feel unimportant I try extra hard to not let it interfere with what I am doing.”
“I know you do and I have noted your professionalism in what you do, however, I now need to go over the transport of Matt Jensen. Do you remember anything unusual or different on that transport?”
Steve sat a few moments trying to rerun that transport in his head then said. “It was the same as all the rest as far as I can remember. I called his name and he responded, came over and I placed him in the transport area and then I stepped back. Nothing stands out, I don’t recall any difference in this one than in any of the others.” Steve shook his head as he talked about the transport.
“Was anyone else in here while Matt was transporting?”
“Well that young female medical student,” Steve checked his clipboard as he replied. “she was next on the list and she made it to the Facility just fine.” He then looked around the room and said. “Oh and that couple there, Peter Jones, his wife and their little girl, they were here waiting and are scheduled to transport next.”
The couple simply said they did not see the transport. They did know it was Matt Jensen because he was a famous astronaut and his picture was on TV and newspapers quite recently. Seuni asked why they didn’t see it. After all, it was very unusual that the center attraction and the only thing to watch, while they waited, was not watched.
Peter Jones was confused about this questioning. “Did we do something wrong? This feels like an interrogation of sorts.”
“Sorry, I didn’t mean it to sound like that and you’ve done nothing wrong. We have had a minor problem and I am trying to find out what happened and you might be witness to a break in the routine of transport.”
“We did watch the transports before Matt Jensen and we did watch as he was called to transport. Then we were distracted at the actual time of his transport because our little girl here decided that this would be a good time to wonder out toward the transport area.”
“Did she interfere in any way with the transport?”
“No, no, the operator caught her before she could get near the transport area. He brought her right back to us. Oh, and now I remember, the white flash of light made us all turn back toward the transport area but Matt Jensen had already transported.”
“The operator was busy with your little girl when the transport occurred?”
“If I remember correctly,” Peter looked at his wife and she nodded her head as he finished his comment. “he was, and for a moment he seemed surprised that the transport had happened.”
“Thanks for the info, Mr. and Mrs. Jones, if we need anything else I will let you know.”
“Will we be transporting soon?”
“I’m not sure when that will happen. I will keep you informed and if it’s going to take some time we will make arrangements for you.” Seuni then left them and headed back to where Steve was waiting.
“Mr. Jones remembers you corralling his little girl when she wondered away from their control.”
“Sure did, part of the job. Just making sure that she didn’t interfere with a transport.”
“Who was transporting when you returned her to her parents?”
“Not sure if anyone was.” Steve quickly replied.
“Now Steve, that’s the first time you have answered without thinking a moment first. I need you to take your time and think back on this, it could be very important.” Seuni cautioned.
“Sorry, give me a moment, all these transports run together after awhile.”
Seuni took a seat next to Steve as he tried to recall this particular transport.
“Ok, I set Matt up for transport, Matt and his guitar, and then this little girl wondered out into the transport area and I quickly caught her and took her back to her parents. While I was turning her over to them the transport occurred. The bright flash of light made me turn back toward the transport area. So I guess I didn’t actually see that transport, but it still seemed normal.”
“Now let’s see, you set him up, the young girl comes out, you return her to her parents and the transfer occurred.” Seuni paused as she collected herself for the next, what she considered the most important, question. “Did you notify the Facility that this particular transport was ready?”
“I must have, he did transport didn’t he?”
“Well, that’s the problem. If he did transport he didn’t transport to the Facility and there is a time gap preceding the transport that followed.”
Seuni went out to the entrance scanning area. Presenting her ID and badge, she questioned the people responsible for all travelers entering and leaving the Stonehenge transport area. Once she was satisfied that Matt had not simply changed his mind about going to the Facility and left Stonehenge as he had come in, she headed back to where Steve still waited.
Seuni again turned to leave but had another thought then turned back to Steve. “I will be transporting back to the Facility, please set it up.” She then headed for the transport area. Steve contacted the Facility and let them know and when Seuni was ready he informed them. Shortly afterwards Seuni was again on the moon inside the Facility.
“Hey Joey, where is that young medical student, Mary, Marcy or whatever her name is?” Seuni asked.
“Marie, it is Marie and she was met by her escort and I guess she headed for the medical facility or her sleeping quarters. Want me to round her up?”
Seuni shook her head deep in thought, “No I will find her myself, you just standby here and make sure no one else transports. Anybody having a problem with that, tell them to just hold on, I will be back soon.”
Seuni found Marie in the emergency room of the medical facility on a familiarization tour. Showing Marie her ID and explaining what her job entailed, she asked about her transport.
“Riding the White Light was a thrill a minute. I was there and now I am here. Actually, I expected to feel something but didn’t, it seems the anticipation is far greater than the actual.”
“Good, that is the way I have found it also. I have a few questions about the transport that happened just before yours.”
“You mean The Doormat’s transport?
“Doormat? Oh Doormat, you know Matt’s nickname?”
“Duh? He is of course like world famous as you are, you know?” Not liking the expression on Seuni’s face, Marie quickly apologized. “I’m sorry, school and my goofy friends have lowered my conversational skills. Yes, I am aware of who Matt Jensen is.”
“Did you watch his transport?”
“Sure did, I was right there waiting my turn, I knew I was next.”
“There were some other things going on at that time. I believe a child had wandered away from her parents and I was wondering if you might have been watching that instead of Matt’s actual transport.”
“Between you and me, I didn’t see no child. I was hoping that Matt might look my way for just a moment and I did not want to miss that possibility.”
“Did you see any transports before you watched Matts?”
“Yes, I watched two others while I waited.”
“Did you notice any difference in those and the one that involved Matt?”
“The only thing I saw that, well I guess it was a little different. The operator always used his radio and called the Facility telling them that the transport was ready. He did this out loud so all of us could hear and then we would be alerted to watch the transport. I don’t think that happened this time.”
“You’re telling me that he did not call out ready for transport?”
“I don’t think so, I was waiting for that call and I don’t think it happened. I was watching for Matt to turn my way so I could wave at him. I knew that announcement, when it came, would end my chances of making eye contact. I was still sitting on the edge of my seat, then he was gone and I wasn’t prepared for that bright flash of light. When I looked around I could swear that the operator was also surprised by the transport.”
“Thanks Marie, if I need to ask you anything else, I will find you and hey, welcome to the Moon.” With this said Seuni turned and left the emergency room.
Convinced that the transport of Matt Jensen did happen, however, it was not the result of something the operator did here at the Facility. Seuni had requested the surveillance video from both ends of the operation, Stonehenge and the Facility. Viewing the videos, it did not take long for her to confirm her suspicions. The recordings did tell her what had actually happened but they did not tell her where in the world Matt Jensen had gone.
“Paul, where are you guys?”
“Hey Seuni, we are still up here in Rim City, what’s up?”
“Are you guys busy or can you delay whatever you’re doing and come down here to the transport area?”
“We are just kicking back and we’ll be down as soon as we can get a ride. I will round up the crew and head your way. Do we need a heads up or anything?”
“Nope, just get everyone together and get here as soon as you can. I’ll be waiting.” Seuni then cut the contact and begin preparing herself to tell Paul and crew of the situation.
It was a half hour before Paul and crew arrived down in the Facility. Seuni was waiting to receive them, ushering them into a small office located near the transport area.
“Grab some seats guys and I will bring you up to date on a problem we have encountered.” Seuni waited until all were seated and had returned their attention back to her. “I’m not going to beat around the bush. I know you were expecting Matt to be here and we were too. There was a problem with his transport,” Seuni held up her hand and she stopped the questions that she was about to be assaulted with. “and, and, we are investigating. I will tell you what took place and then I will take your questions.” Seuni paused and looked at each crew member then continued. Seuni then explained the activities as they had happened. The set up, the wandering child and the arrival of Marie when it should have been Matt. She told them about her trip to earth and the conversation with the operator there and the return and the conversation with Marie and the operator here. She told them about the viewing of the recording from both locations. She felt comfortable with the idea that Matt did transport but she was at a loss as to where he transported too. She then entertained questions.
“Can we see those videos?” Paul asked.
“Not a problem, I will make them available to you.”
“Are you sure that Matt didn’t change his mind or something?” Sweet asked.
“I am sure and you can see that on the videos. The camera is isolated on the transport area only. He just vanished.” Seuni’s eyes filled with tears with a few running down her cheek.
“What can we do, can, can we do anything, maybe there’s something we can do that might help?” Kari took Seuni’s hand as she stumbled through her questions. She did not know the depth of Seuni’s loss but she was sure it was more than professional.
“I don’t know just yet.” Seuni wiped away her tears and answered.” I have to think about this and I have to call earth and get some advice. You guys stick around here on the Facility and I will get back to you as soon as I have some type of a plan.”
“When did this start?” Anthony Petrochellie asked as he looked at the small rectangular panel that had suddenly come to life. It was displaying some unusual characters that seemed to change rhythmically.
“Not sure, I noticed it about a half hour ago. I didn’t think much about it at the time. Then one of the guys came by and asked me what these little panels were displaying. I realized then that I didn’t have any idea, so I checked around and I find out no one knows.” Ishmel Mohammed replied as he also stared at the small display. “Sorry boss, I should never be that busy, I should have known that this was something new and deserved my attention.”
“Could you check some more and see if you can isolate the time this panel started its display?”
“I’ll get right on it. I think I will send one of the guys out and have him circle the entire complex looking for similar displays.”
“Good idea, keep me informed and make sure that Seuni knows about this.”
“Roger that.” Ishmel watched as Tony left, then he headed over to where his crew was working. He picked one of his workers to go around the Facility then he found Seuni and brought her up to speed.
“What next? First this mishap at the transport and now this panel starts displaying some of those alien unknown characters. I didn’t even know that these little panels were wired or lighted or whatever makes them work.” Seuni said as she and Ishmel looked on.
“What transport mishap?” Ishmel, more out of reflex than curiosity, asked as he continued to look at the display on the little panel.
His interest changed as Seuni explained the situation surrounding Matt Jensen’s transport to an unknown destination.
“When did this happen?” Ishmel now focused on Seuni, temporarily leaving the rhythmic panels displays on the back burner.
After a short discussion on the timing of the two items, Seuni and Ishmel agreed that they could not accept them as separate incidents. After all, the Facility had been occupied for ten years without a hiccup and all of a sudden they had two surprises on the same day, around the same time. Neither Seuni nor Ishmel were apt to take these things as coincidental.
Tony, of course had the final decision but he too felt that these separate items were, more than likely, somehow connected. The man that Ishmel had sent out to check the Facility, for other panels with the same display, returned with a count of thirty two small panels evenly spaced around the Facility. All had rhythmic displays of the alien characters and they all seemed to be in sync as would be expected. Tony asked everyone to concentrate on nailing down the time of each incident. He was sure that the time of the transport of Matt Jensen would be easier because of the logs that were kept. Exactly when the small panels started their display would be much harder to determine.
Gordon Shaw had been working on one of the small bubbled conveyances in an area near the circular wall of the Facility. He was testing the circuit that indicated the successful sealing of the bubble when it was closed. The meter he used to check continuity sounded a small ping when the circuit was good. The bubble tops were similar to the doors on a microwave oven. They both had several contacts located around the perimeter that had to make up before the microwave would operate. The microwave contacts insured that the door was secure and no leakage would occur when operated. The bubble top contacts were in fact the same, preventing leakage of atmosphere when the vehicle was on the surface, between the Facility and the docking station of Rim City.
Gordon selected close on the bubble and watched as the top rotated and squared about four inches above the base of the vehicle. Once it had stopped and squared it was pulled straight down and sealed. He attached the leads from his meter, but before he could turn the meter on, he heard a soft unusual ping. He disconnected the leads immediately and checked to see that the meter was indeed turned off. Confident that everything was as should be, he again connected the leads. There was no ping this time.
Satisfied, he turned the meter on and pushed the button for a circuit check. There was nothing. Gordon then went back and checked each contact around the perimeter of the top. On the third contact he found a broken connector. Unsoldering and replacing that connector took only a few minutes then Gordon checked the rest of the connectors. He returned once again to the test point to retest the circuit. Connecting the leads, turning the meter on and then pushing the button gave him the ping he had expected and the small digital meter show a complete circuit.
Gordon jotted down the time he started and the time he finished this test. He added a note that described the vehicle’s problem and then the repair he made that gave successful results. In this note he also included the unexpected and unusual ping at the beginning of this test. Each entry had a time and date next to it.
Seuni and Ishmel decided that the best way to try to find the display starting time was to have as much help as possible. They passed the word around and soon had all of their personnel in one large meeting. Seuni presented the information that she had on the unexplained transport of Matt Jensen. Ishmel then made everyone aware of these small unknown panel’s sudden activation and display of those alien characters. He also told them he knew little about the panels except that they numbered thirty two and were located evenly around the Facility. He also explained that he and Seuni believed that these two occurrences were somehow connected.
Seuni gave everyone the time from the Stonehenge transport log. She then asked everyone to check back and see if they could remember exactly what they were doing at that time. She knew that this would be easy because all maintenance on the Facility was religiously documented with a time stamp.
She waited as the personnel quickly went back through their logs and scanned the time she had mentioned. The search seemed to be complete so Seuni continued. “If you have something unexpected logged during this time, I need to know about it. Whoa, whoa, not everyone at once, just raise your hand and I will get to you.” A couple of hands went up right away. “Ok, Star, is that right, it is Star? I believe you had your hand up first.”
“Star, yep, I had my hand up first and I didn’t even have to change my name when I got to the moon.” She got a chuckle from some then continued. “Anyway, I was checking the pressure on a couple of air tanks. When I connected the gage to one of the tanks I heard a loud noise, almost like a bang of metal on metal. I quickly disconnected but I couldn’t find the cause. When I connected again it did not repeat, however, it was about the time you suggested.”
“Ok, this is the type of info I need. Ok, ah Jack, you have one too?”
“Actually no, I wanted to comment on that noise that Star heard.”
“You know something about that noise, the incident she is talking about?”
“Well, yes I think so, but I was a little embarrassed when it happened so I didn’t speak up. I thought it would sound stupid and so I just kept quite hoping no one noticed or heard it. I mean, Jack tripping on a jack would give some of my friends a little too much ammunition.”
“Ok, I see your point, good that one is cleared up. Any more, anything out of the ordinary?”
There were a couple more, but none seemed to fit or be connected to the start of the display. That is until Gordon raised his hand.
“I don’t think this has anything to do with the display but I did note it.”
“Go ahead Gordon, if it doesn’t we can at least write it off. We have already written off a couple of things that did not appear connected.”
“Ok here goes, actually, I hope this does fit. I was checking continuity of the contacts of the seals on one of the bubble vehicle’s top. These contacts prevent operation unless they all make up when closed. I was using a Ping Meter to do the checking. The meter was off but when I connected the leads there was a soft ping sound. I disconnected immediately and checked to insure that the meter was indeed off, and it was. I reconnected again but this time there was no ping, I turned the meter on and pushed the check button and still got no ping.”
Gordon gave Seuni the time that this had happened and then he continued with his explanation.
“Later, during the trouble shooting routine, I found a broken connector that could have prevented continuity. I repaired the connector and reconnected my meter, turned it on and pushed the button. This time I did get a ping in response.”
“Ok, a ping? Was it your meter that pinged?”
“That is why I decided to raise my hand. The ping was softer and seemed to come from all around. If I remember correctly, the ping was a lot like the ones we heard during our indoctrination here at the Facility. You know, when you showed us the remote control and how it changed the video and operated different equipment. That kind of ping.”
Someone in the back ground said. “Houston, we have a problem.” There was some laughter and Gordon’s face turned a little red.
“Thanks Robert, I needed that.” Gordon said to his friend as Robert who had added the comment.
“Hold the fort, I think we might have a winner! You are right, you are absolutely correct, the log times are just too close to be unrelated.” Seuni raised her voice as some were talking amongst themselves. “Excuse me! Could I have little quiet please?” Everyone turned their attention back to her. “Ok thanks, now Gordon, did it sound something like this?” Seuni then pushed one of the buttons on the Facility remote control. A soft ping issued from somewhere, the direction it came from was not clear. “I am sure the ping may have sounded different, but was the resemblance close to what you heard?”
“So close it could have been the same sound. What did you select?”
“I changed the output on that big monitor by the transport area, kind of like a channel change. I thought maybe one display change might sound similar to another.”
Seuni and Ishmel were fairly sure that they, with the help of Gordon, had pinned down the start time of this new alien character display. They decided to place a recording device to video the panel’s display and track its progress. This recording might be a means to help them understand the strange writing that was used by the Facility builders.
Seuni went back to her office and retrieved a digital video recording camera. She turned it on and realized that the battery was dead. She didn’t even get a blink from the device. She pulled the battery out and placed it in the battery charger, Seuni then took one of the fully charged ones and placed it in the video unit. The unit came to life immediately, but the time displayed was incorrect. While setting the time on the video recorder, Seuni held up her arm and matched the recorder’s time with her own watch. Looking at her digital watch to check the time, the panel with its pulsing display was visible just over her upheld arm.
Seuni’s watch was a bit unusual. The watch, not only displayed the hours and minutes, it also had the seconds slowly blinking away as they changed. This is why it caught her attention. The pulsing of the display was in rhythm with the blinking of her watch, she could not ignore it. She was mesmerized by the sync of the two completely separate and totally different devices.
She was like a statue for the better part of five minutes just staring. Seuni stood there, her arm raised and frozen in place as she watched both items. Her lack of movement attracted Ishmel and he approached her position.
“Hey what’s up? Seuni, are you ok?” He said as he approached.
“Huh, oh yeah, I’m ok, as a matter of fact I am much better, much better now.”
“You got something, you did, you got something, I can tell.”
“I think so, I think I know what those panels are displaying.”
“What? Ok, I’ll bite. What do you think they are telling us?”
“I think it is something to do with time. It’s maybe just a clock or even a, sort of, calendar.”
“What makes you think that?”
“Here take a look at this and the display at the same time.”
“Are you saying that your watch has the same time as these panels, even though you can’t read them? How is that possible?”
“No, no of course not. What I‘m saying is, oh here just look at them both at the same time.” Seuni then held up her arm in front of Ishmel. He looked at the watch and the panel for a few seconds then glanced at Seuni then back at the watch and panel display. Seuni could tell when the light came on. Ishmel stared at the two devices as they pulsed in sync.
“Wow, it’s uncanny. The rhythm is the same. Is this a coincidence? I don’t see how it could be, you must be correct. Two of those characters blinking in sync with the seconds display on your digital watch, unbelievable.”
Ishmel and Seuni took the idea of a timing device to Anthony. He followed them out to the displaying panels and looked at what they believed might be a very significant discovery.
“It is just too difficult to believe that something so alien would be synchronized with something, something that we are sure was invented on earth. Is it possible that our use of a standard for the seconds on a our time pieces could be universal. Are seconds a commonality in our galaxy or could this Facility be the results of someone’s joke, someone from our little world?” Anthony said this but it was rhetoric and he did not actually believe that the Facility was made by anyone on earth. Deep down he knew that this, whatever the Facility was, was so far in advance of the human race’s knowledge and ability that it would be ludicrous to believe our planet had anything to do with its construction.
“The remote isn’t working on the video monitors.” Seuni had again contacted Tony to make sure he is aware of things. “Something is definitely going on and it is out of our control.”
Tony looked at the monitor and watched as the alien, as yet un-deciphered, characters seemed to call for attention as they blinked, pulsed and paraded across the large screen. “Did this just start?” He asked as he turned his attention back to Seuni.
“Yep, few minutes ago. I was flipping through the outputs to see if I could find some clue to what happened to Matt and this started.” Seuni tried the remote again without any results.
Tony did not ask for the remote as he knew that Seuni was the most knowledgeable of all his personnel on its use. She had been investigating its operation for the past ten years and had made numerous discoveries. He was comfortable with her decisions and interpretations.
Tony added another item to the growing list of recent happenings. Deep down he was sure that these incidents were in some way connected and somehow he had to connect the dots and reveal the big picture. A few words of encouragement for Seuni then he returned to his office. He contacted control on earth and relayed the incidents, reemphasizing the possible connections of these things appearing all of a sudden after ten years of nothing.
It was two days later that the noise started. It wasn’t very loud but it was annoying. Static with breaks and pops issued from somewhere near the large monitor and evidently accompanied the picture or the lack of a picture now on the monitor. All previous viewings were like silent movies, completely quiet. Now these sounds, every once in awhile you could almost hear a recognizable word or two, were being emitted. A screen full of snow type noise and unrecognizable shadows had replaced the pulsing and blinking alien writings. It was not unlike receiving a television picture from a far too distant transmission source.
Seuni quickly set up a video recording device to capture the display on the monitor. She would insure that no scene was missed, in case there might be a clue to the source of information being received.
It was a day later that Seuni heard the first recognizable word. For some unknown reason the word ‘jacks’ was distinguishable among the noise that was being produced. It was not simply a spoken word but seem to be emphasized and then clipped off at the end. Seuni thought the word ‘jacks’, maybe it was only a part of the whole word. She checked the video recording and was sure that this was the word she had heard. Everyone who watched the replay of the event was also sure of that word.
“Seuni.” Gordon Shaw timidly spoke.
“Yes, oh hi Gordon.” Pulling her attention away from the monitor and its noisy display she acknowledged him.
“The panels have changed, they’ve changed.”
“What? How have they changed? No, no don’t tell me, show me, come on show me.”
As Seuni approached the wall she looked at the panel. “I don’t see any difference, it looks the same as it did when it started its unexpected display.”
“The random display of characters is the same, true, the difference is in the number of spaces used to display these characters. There were twelve spaces of characters before and now there is only eleven spaces being used.”
“Are you sure? Wow, it did seem to be wider last time I looked.” Seuni turned and faced Gordon. “This could be very significant. Keep an eye on it, if there is another change, don’t hesitate to inform me or Tony.” She didn’t leave right away, she stood there and watched the panel as it continued its pulse.
Eleven characters instead of twelve, what kind of a change is that Seuni wondered as she watched the characters pulse. Ten of the characters remained the same as they pulsed, but the last character on the far left, the eleventh one, changed with each pulse. Sometimes it would resemble one or another of the remaining characters. It wasn’t long until she realized that the second character on the left had changed with one of the pulses. Then it remained as this new character while the far-left character continued its dance and constant change. How often has this happened she wondered, realizing that she had to go and view the recording she had made of the little panels.
She was sure glad that she had set up a recording device for these panels. These panels could now be reviewed over and over for any change that could be documented. Seuni looked again at the small panel and said silently under her breath. “I’ll look back and find out when this panel changed to eleven characters?” The things she didn’t know could fill many books she thought. Is there some significance in this change that will make sense? She would run this info by everyone and anyone, here on the moon and on earth, in search of an answer.
Chris Sams was brought on board to look at the pulsing panels and the noisy monitor. He was also let in on the fact that Matthew Jenson had for some reason not been transported to the Facility. He knew Matthew and was somewhat shocked on the fact that he didn’t know that Matt was missing. “How long ago did this happen and when did these changes start?” He looked around for someone to give him a clue. Seuni gave him all the info she had on both display incidents. Not much to go on but it was a start. Nothing new was forthcoming on the failed transport, no one even had an idea of why or where Matt might be. The pulsing panels, noisy monitor and the transport of Matt were lumped together as all being somehow connected due to their close proximity of time. “Is there anything else that might help me solve this little mystery?” Again there was very little response to Chris’s questions.
For the next two days Chris reviewed the recordings of the pulsing panels. It did not take him long to agree that the display was some kind of clock or timing device. It was twenty four days before they lost another digit and the display was down to ten characters.
“It’s counting down from whatever the starting number was, down to, well I guess, zero, that’s my presumption. Of course I could be mistaken but from the info I have and the way things are being displayed, it is counting down.” Chris paused then continued. “The fact that it is counting down is not a problem as I see it, it’s what happens when it gets down to that zero that concerns me.”
“Me too, I am losing a lot of sleep over these things, this Facility and its operation are totally my responsibility. I have been waiting for the other shoe to drop and this might be it.” Tony slowly shook his head. “I mean, how long can we be expected to operate like this? We have just plowed ahead and used this place and its equipment without any real knowledge of how it actually works. Oh, don’t think it hasn’t been great but, I keep looking over my shoulder as I go and, for some time now, I’ve had the feeling that something is closing in on us.”
“Are there any other indication or changes, anything, anything that might have a bearing on this? It could be small, seemingly unconnected but vital in some way as yet unknown.” Chris felt he needed something to add to this mix of, as yet, unexplainable happenings, that is, if he wants an acceptable solution to this problem.
“Nothing here on the Facility has come up, as far as I know, and I think everyone has kept me informed.”
“Do you monitor everything here on the moon also?”
“The businesses I don’t as a routine, but I do monitor all government type organizations.” Tony points at one of the small bubble cars and different areas as he continues. “Like transportation, the tram on the surface, the security force and the general operation of Rim City come under my bailiwick.”
“What else is here on the moon?”
“Well there is a seismic group operating on the surface. They are checking for, as the name implies, any seismic activity.” Tony shook his head before the question came. “No, there is nothing reported or registered so far.”
Tony rubbed his chin as he took a moment to think. “Nothing that pertains to the moon per say. There is an observatory located on one of the mountains outside of Rim City. It is manned by a couple of young astrophysicist, you know, watching for any asteroid or meteorite activity that might be a danger to the city or the Facility.”
“And what about them, anything?”
“You know what, I don’t know. They are actually outside my jurisdiction so to speak.” Tony turned to leave and then turned back. “I tell you what. I’m going to make some calls and see what I can come up with. I’ll get back with you shortly if I get something.”
“Thanks Tony, I’ll see what I can come up with. I’m going to go back and view these recordings and try to make some sense out of them. A time frame is what I am now looking for.” Chris took the information and disc back to the cubicle he was using. Sitting down he place the number one disc in the playback machine and started it from, what he now considered, square one. Of course it was only square one of the information he had been given. The problem with that was that his square one was not square one in a sense of the start of these incidents, it was only the start of the recordings of these incidents.
Paul and his crew had been put on desk duty. They took in all the paper work, clues and anything else that pertained to the disappearance of Matt. It was tiring and a different type of activity than they were accustom to. The combination of items, times and unusual occurrences that begin to pile up led them to believe that they all had to be connected.
They shared their info with Chris and he agreed that the possible timer and the disappearance of Matt are more than likely connected. What that meant was not clear. It was just another mystery to be solved. Chris was sure that he would solve the panels and maybe that would give them a clue to what was going on. It might give them a clue as to what they should do and maybe some info that might help in Mathew’s disappearance.
Chris Cummings watched as the video disc play back ran to completion. He still had misgivings about this sighting being an asteroid or meteorite. He believe that the object had changed speed and had made an in route alteration or more likely a course correction.
It was the talk of the town down on earth at NASA. They had contacted all agencies looking for a way to get a closer look at the approaching object. Later after all agencies had reported in on their individual missions, there were only a few choices. Actually there was only one, the only probe that might work was, at this particular moment, somewhere between Jupiter and Saturn, on its way to investigate one of Saturn’s moons.
Happy to do so, was the final comment that came from the controller of that probe. However, they only relented after several hours of discussion on the apparent destination of the new object. The probe amply named ‘Rhea’s Song’ would be rerouted to intercept the approaching object. With a little alteration in direction it might be possible to make visual contact shortly after the invader protrudes into the outer limits of our own galaxy. Again waiting would be the hardest part of this mission. The new destination was entered in the controlling computer and sent to the speeding projectile.
The control center was complete in its silence as the personnel waited for the computer read outs that would confirm that a new course had been laid in. The transmission time to and from the probe was the same as the speed of light travel. These ten to twenty seconds were lengthened by the silence of the center. The first lines of read out produced an eruption of activity and cheering as the new direction for the probe had been received on board Rhea’s Song.
On board the small probe a yellow LED blinked and a contact made up. The fully expanded solar collectors slowly folded and retracted into their protected shell in preparation of the next step in a course correction. Once seated and protected the yellow LED went dark. A blue LED blinked on and a small RCS fired and the angle of attack was altered. Rhea’s Song, still traveling at break neck speed toward Saturn’s moon, no longer pointed in the direction it traveled. It now faced toward the empty edge of our universe. Now pointing in the newly programmed direction, another small LED blinked. This one was red and it pulsed ten times in a slow rhythm as if it was counting down. The last blink of the red LED was followed in rhythm by the firing of the slender projectile’s main engine. The small green LED lit again and accompanied the rocket’s firing, slowly blinking ten times, finally going dark in conjunction with main engine cutoff. There was enough fuel left on board for one more firing. Hopefully it would be enough to bring Rhea’s Song into a parallel path with the approaching anomaly. The yellow LED lit again and the solar collectors unfolded and expanded. Once fully deployed again the yellow LED went dark. The high definition camera on board turned on again and vainly searched for a new target in the blackness of the space ahead.
Chris Cummings and Terra Firma spent one fourth of each day tracking the approaching object. They had named it ChrisTFir in honor of their combine efforts and their being the first to detect it. In all communications, this was now the ID used for any discussion. Whether it be the location, speed, destination, ETA or any other circumstances, it was ChrisTFir when they referred to it. The object held its path and direction and now the expected tract was more or less evident. Although the destination was seemingly apparent, the actual speed was a little more difficult due to the object heading seemingly straight for the moon. If they had some reference to the size of the object it might be easier to estimate the velocity. Without the speed there was no way to determine just exactly when it would arrive.
The approaching object had now been tracked for more than eighty days. The Mathematician Chris Sams had been working on the meaning of the panels for only a short period. If he had included the info on the approaching object he might have put the two items, panels and sighting, together and come up with a different method of calculation thereby reaching an earlier solution. A solution that would probably include the reason for the countdown. Sometimes, however more often than not, in math you deal with what you have and the answer you get is only accurate to that point. It, in this case, made little difference because the solution was what it was. The panels did indicate a countdown and Chris had determined when the panels would reach zero. The only thing that Chris could not offer is the reason for the count down to zero.
Whatever the substance he received was, it did agree with him. The consistency, the taste and the smell were pleasing to the nose and palette, so he did not go hungry. The floor of his small cocoon was somehow comfortable and the periods of sleep were extremely restful. He more than once considered that perhaps the food was drugged and his rest periods were artificially induced. If this was true there were no side effects, for he could find no residual effect of any pharmaceutical products that hindered his abilities or his thinking.
The observers, behind the frosted glass, randomly appeared and withdrew silently. Matthew figured that the frosted glass was only apparent from his side.. Maybe, whoever it was out there, had developed a different type of one way glass, one side frosted and one side clear. No sides being a mirror which required subdued lighting to be effective.
Matt made it a habit to ignore any watchers and sometimes feint sleep until they got bored and withdrew. When he was, as far as he could tell, unobserved, he exercised, played his guitar and tested the strength of his prison. He could find no faults in the confining material leaving his incarceration, as it had been from the time of his imprisonment, a flexible, however impenetrable fact.
How many times he had thought and wondered how boring and tiring this would have been if he had not insisted on hand carrying his guitar back there at Stonehenge. This singly loved instrument of enjoyment and pleasure had maintained some of his sanity as he was being held here.
Matt felt that his surroundings were not stationary because he occasionally felt movement that he did not create. Once, he had actually felt nausea as if a minor case of motion sickness had overtaken him. The feeling lasted for only a few seconds and was immediately replace by normality. As a rule, Matt had maximum tolerance to motion and, if his memory served him correctly, he had not experience this feeling since he was a child. This left Matt surprised at his bodies response and it made him wonder what type of motion had bothered him.
He had no way to track the number of hours or even days he had been trapped. There was no apparent change to the lighting that would alert him to day or night. Time just continued at its normal pace in its relentless, never ending pursuit. Presently he regretted his decision on not wearing a wristwatch. If he had been so adorned, the length of his stay would have been easy to track. Thinking back to his apartment, the number of clocks that were available and viewable from his favorite recliner, made his decision even more ludicrous. There was the pendulum Regulator clock on the mantel, handed down from his father, that he meticulously kept wound with its key. Wound fully would enable it to run for thirty five days before rewinding was necessary. There was the battery operated one that played music on the hour, 6 different songs in random. There was the one on the microwave, the one on the stove and the one on the, under the shelf, clock radio. That makes a total of five clocks in the family room and kitchen all in sight from his recliner. Wait a minute, for a moment he forgot the Christmas gift, the Atomic Clock and weather wall unit right behind his recliner, that makes six total. Absolutely amazing when you think about it. He reflected on sounds made by the pendulum clock and the one that played music. He recalled that the combination of both going off at around nine or ten in the evening sometimes masked the show he was watching on TV. TV, hey, the TV also showed the time he thought. That actually makes seven time pieces in that area, now that is even more amazing than he had originally thought. Maybe his current dilemma could be classified as a new medical ailment. A Chronological Disorder, brought on by the lack of time pieces or under exposure to clocks. Later on he would recall that the 12 cup coffee pot, in the kitchen, also had a clock on it adding to the total, that total now stood at an amazing eight count, ridiculous as it sounds.
The facilities that were provided in his enclosure were unusual but usable. This little annex, off to one side of the bubble, was the only place that he felt gave him some privacy. The surrounding material was similar throughout the cell, however, when he entered this area the walls darkened and somehow he was sure he was not watched during these moments of sanitary necessity.
As Matthew looked around, he scratched his chin in thought. Scruffy is the word that came to him. The multi day growth of beard was surprisingly thick and he smiled at the thought of how he must look. This would be the first time he had ever had a beard. He had tried many times while in college without success. He was fair skinned and his hair was a light shade of blonde. He had gone as long as a week without shaving and all he got from his friends was a bunch of ridicule about the peach fuzz appearance. “No need to shave, let me put some milk on that and I’ll have my cat lick it off.” Was just one of the many offers he got from friends who cajoled him about his masculinity. If he could just see them now, they would surely be surprised. This thought brought him back to his confinement and his current predicament. There were no friends around he was alone.
Matthew thought back on his earlier career and the process he went through to obtain the goals he had achieved. His tour as a fighter pilot included many exciting sorties. One stuck out and was, as far as he was concerned, far more memorable than the rest. This one, with one small change, would have been his final, not only final sortie but his final act.
He was almost too comfortable in his small F-16. The plane’s controls seemed to be just another of his bodies extremity, an additional arm or leg, and like breathing, responses were near automatic. He had reached his target, ran several strafing runs for troop support and finally on the last run he released his payload ordinance as directed by the control center. The center used remote unmanned aircraft to identify hard targets and always included one in each sortie. Troop support was an essential part of this particular mission and he accomplished it with zeal. It required minimum altitude and cat like reflexes to facilitate. Mission complete he did a one eighty and headed back toward his recovery location. Still at minimum flight elevation he skimmed the terrain, hopping hills and diving into valleys as he went. Appearing occasionally off to his left, he had a glimpse of the pumpkin colored moon as it rose out of the horizon. The view was only peripheral but the moon, due to distortions by the atmosphere and angle of view, was enormous. To Matt it seemed to be touchable if one were headed straight for it.
The moon’s lure was encompassing. The urge was so strong and he was not one to miss a chance of touching that celestial monument, he instantly took action. In his present condition and with the g-suit he now wore, he and his plane were capable of successful operation during nine gees of force, whether it be in sustained turns, dive pull outs or during acceleration at take off. For whatever reason he felt this was a good time to test the g-suit, the plane and himself. He snapped the control stick to the left in order to head straight for that distant large orbiting pumpkin colored asteroid. His agile craft responded immediately and the pull of gravity was almost overpowering. As he banked hard to the left, just off to his right and within mere inches, a deadly hand launched missile passed and then quickly faded into the twilight. No indication of its approach on his instruments panel meant no early detection, only the moon’s call lured him away and prevented his untimely demise. Hands shaking from the near miss, he again turned his aircraft toward the recovery area. He gained some altitude and, knowing he could not actually touch this life saving comrade, he did place the moon on his left shoulder for the trip home. He felt its solid comfort and assurance, his hands steadied and his pulse returned to normal as the moon accompanied him to his destination.
This and a few other moon related experiences were actually the reason he was in his current dilemma. He had watched the early space voyages, fascinated by the astronauts, those pioneers of space, and the excitement they encountered. As they ventured to the moon he, as a teenager, set his sights on his future. The next time he would not to be left out, well just in case NASA decided to return to the moon. With his goals in place he worked his ass off to get on as an astronaut and have a chance to make that trip, touch a dream or even just to be a participant in that venture. To him the moon was like the siren song of a mermaid to a sailor, the difference being the moon’s lure was a life saver and a comforting friend not a life taker. To stand on the moon was his original goal, he had been there, done that and got that T-shirt so to speak. This current trip would have been his third time to have the opportunity to reach out and touch it, however, that was then and this was now.
Sleep had taken over again and he was comfortable and dreaming about the emptiness of space. He was outside, Suited on an EVA, presently, making his way from one of the large solar panel back to the main entrance of Space Station Freedom. Something brought him out of the dream and he carefully opened his eyes. It wasn’t a noise that caused him to wake, it was more like a disturbance in air pressure or maybe a slight breeze had blown across his face. He saw for the first time a small round opening in the material of his cell. Remaining as still and quiet as possible, he watched as someone or something placed a platter, with the nourishing edible substance he had gotten accustom too since his internment, just inside his cell. This was the first time he had witness this and he was surprised. He felt that maybe his captors were becoming lax or careless.
His breathing stopped as he watched the appendage, that had placed the platter, slowly withdraw from the opening. As soon as it cleared, the cell again became whole with no residual clue of where or how the opening appeared. The opening was not what he was thinking about anyway. The scene was imbedded in his thought and he ran it through again. Sickly gray green in color but processing strength in the way it moved. Thin and sinewy with incredibly long, he wondered if he could call them, fingers. Ok, they were long and seemingly multi-jointed. Oh and by the way, Matt thought, the three fingers and one opposing thumb was most unusual on its own. This was actually his first real clue that maybe his captors were not some radical group. They just might be some unknown factor thrown in the mix with abilities beyond his.
Chris Sams occasional thought back on his other career before signing on again with NASA. He was back pitching baseball for the Parabolics when he was asked to return to NASA and do some math on these panels, this new anomaly. Sams was now a closer, pitching one or two innings at the end of a game. He had some serious mixed feelings, this time, about leaving the team and returning to assist NASA. He had some mixed feelings, but his team did not. They were just plain disappointed. He was one of the main attractions and spectator draws to their ball games. This due to his being an excellent pitcher and his being one of the heroes that had gone to the moon and discovered the Facility.
When all of the other players were signing baseball cards and pictures of themselves for fans, Chris was signing some baseball cards, but the majority of his signatures went on pictures of Shuttles, space souvenir and other NASA keepsakes.
Unlike you might have expected, there was very little animosity among the team over Chris’s notoriety. The other players had all taken it in stride, got in line and had Chris sign something for them also. True he was older and approaching the end of his baseball career, still he wasn’t sure he wanted to leave. He knew he would sorely miss both his teammates, coaches, fans and the contributions he could make to the team as a closer. In the end he was a patriot and whatever his country needed came first.
He remembered signing on again with NASA. Although the Stonehenge to the moon transport was shut down for routine travel, NASA still used it to get necessary personnel back and forth to meet investigation demands.
At first Chris didn’t know that his job would be investigating some pulsing panels. Once he knew what this task would entail, he felt the best way to investigate was in person. Chris fell within the criteria NASA had set and, after a long flight from the USA to England, he was transported out to the Facility. True he would use any means possible to understand their meaning, but in person, staring at those panels, might give him a leg up on the task.
Chris Sams had watched the recordings that were made of the Panels over and over. He had discovered that there were thirty two separate characters used in the pulsing displays. Once a full set of thirty two had been displayed in, what he presumed was the first set, the second character in line would change and a new set of thirty two would start at the first. This would continue until the second character had gone through a thirty two count then the third character in line appeared or changed one character up. He assumed that this would continue until the panels were fully occupied. It took eleven days for the fifth character to change once. The panels were made up of two separate sets of numbers, one seemed to count down and the other was counting up. It was so similar to a digital clock that he had to assume that it, in fact, was a time piece. Not one keeping time, but one counting down to whatever represents zero and one counting up to track time since countdown began.
He carefully mapped the separate characters and assigned a value to each from one through thirty two. He was not completely satisfied with his results, because he had no info on what zero would look like or if in fact there was a character for zero. Maybe, he thought, when zero was reached the panels would just go blank and no image would be displayed. To see this particular character he would just have to wait. Currently the count down side of the panels read “8, 32, 32, 32, 32 with the last 32 changing constantly second by second. The panel’s other side read 32,32,32,28 with the first 32 character changing in rhythm. If his calculation were accurate, the countdown had been continuing for the past eleven days and some hours. If all this was correct, and he was positive it was, then zero was a fraction less than one hundred and nine days away.
Once he had presented these facts to NASA they took an unusual stance and decided that whatever the result of the count down, they must take action now. Personnel on the moon were vulnerable and they must be protected by whatever means available. After all, a countdown could mean anything, from some type of advancement to total disaster.
The meetings were lengthy and involved the moon’s governing body and many of the top personnel at NASA. There was only one topic, but that one topic had many levels and considerable depth. This was due to the fact that the personnel on the moon, except for the Facility personnel, were not employed by NASA or any other world government. Yes, they were allowed on the surface of the moon by agreement with the moon’s governing body, however, there inlayed the majority of the problems. The governing body, made up of representatives of many countries, thought that it was much too early to decide that evacuation or indeed any action was deemed necessary. Some did not believe that the panels meant anything and the doom and gloom scenario was in fact a simple fabrication, supported by a minimum of information. Chris came to many of these meetings and presented detailed displays of the individual characters and how he had come to the conclusion on the countdown scenario. He was not happy with the reception he was receiving from some individuals and soon gave up on going to any more meetings. He left his info with NASA to present, if they felt so inclined.
“Hey Chris.” Terra Firma said as she approached his table. “What can I get you?”
“Oh hi, sorry I was still mentally at work, bad habit you know?”
“Don’t worry about it, the Chris I’m working with and I have the same problem. You know, when will it arrive. I just can’t let it go, I can’t put it down, even when I’m here working, I’m still on the hill watching its progress.”
“Exactly, falling asleep, it’s on my mind, waking up it’s still right there.” Chris said, as he slowly shook his head, then realizing she was waiting to write his order on the pad in the middle of her tray he ordered. “Oh yeah, the drink. Bring me something that’s native to the moon or at least invented here.”
“Roger that. One Moon Beam coming up.” She said, smiled and turn toward the bar.
Chris was still deep in thought when she returned and did not acknowledge her until she tapped his arm. “Here you go, one Moon Beam, watch this.”
The glass was tall and the liquid inside was as black as the void of space. It was also opaque as he could see her hand through the glass. A thick clear plastic straw extended at an angle out of the top and ran to the bottom. The straw was also visible all the way down but no different from the contents of the container. That is until she pulled the straw from the glass. Where the straw had been was now a golden streak of light running from top to bottom. A moon beam that lasted for only a few moments and then the entire drink took on the color of the moon as viewed from earth.
“Oh, that was great, just great.” Chris said as he put the straw back in and sipped the drink. “Hey, that taste pretty good, wow.”
“Glad you like it, let me know if you need something else.”
“Terra, it’s ok if I call you Terra?”
“Yeah, sure it’s ok.”
“You said something was arriving?”
“Uh huh, they been calling it an asteroid, but Chris and I think it is something that is powered.”
“It’s coming here, here to the moon?”
“Yep and we think it will get here in the next four months if it continued at its current pace.”
“Ok, hey thanks, you may have solved a problem I had. Got to run, I will let you know later if you did.”
She watched as Chris finished his Moon Beam and left the bar. She gave him a shy wave as he left, he was not aware, he was deep in thought.
It took several days and numerous guest speakers before the moon’s governing body relented. They had to be reminded of the fact that we, after ten years of intense investigation, were still unable to answer even the most basic terms of how some of the things in the Facility actually worked. These facts combined with Chris’s determination that these panels were a countdown to something unknown and now he had added the approaching object that was being tracked, should have put some pause in the body’s previous simple dismissal. Especially since the countdown and the anomaly’s estimated arrival were in the same calendar window.
Once convincing them that the countdown was a significant event, going that one step further was still a major hill to climb. “These simple panels are telling us to evacuate the moon. How is it possible, who said so and what is their motivation?” These questions and numerous others like them was enough to drive one over the hill. Chris did several papers on the thirty two digits and how he had determined the time frame to reach zero. He also developed a computer program that demoed the countdown. When the computer simulated panels reached zero or blanked out, a voice recording would come on. Chris, being a Sci-Fi nut, used the recording from the movie “2001, A Space Odyssey”. Astronaut Dave Bowman had completed disconnecting the malfunctioning HAL 9000 computer causing a prerecorded message to play on the teleprompter.
“Good day Gentlemen, this is a prerecorded briefing made prior to your departure in which, for security reason of the highest important, has been known on board during the mission only by your HAL 9000 computer, now that you are in Jupiter space and the entire crew revived it can be told to you, 18 months ago…” He thought maybe they needed a little input from someone other than him.
Whatever it was, something Chris said or a combination of things seen or heard, they did take action. they made a plan and now that plan would be put into action.
It was chaos in the beginning. Once NASA and the moon’s governing body decided that precaution was the better part of valor, things on earth went into high gear. Plans were easy to outline. The details and then the action on those plans was another thing altogether. Moving ten thousand people through a bottle neck like the Facility and the transport system to another bottle neck called Stonehenge was not going to be easy and would take considerable time.
Most of the tourists, crying foul, were moved out of Amesbury, Wiltshire of southern England, to make room for the temporary relocation of the personnel from the surface of the moon. Bread and breakfasts, motels and indeed all the temporary living facilities were gearing up for the influx of personnel.
The Salisbury Plains were taking on the look of a refugee camp. Large food Lorries were being unloaded. Smaller vehicles with beds surrounded with white tarp, sporting large red crosses in the middle of white squares, were strategically placed around the area in case of emergencies. Some dust rose as command jeeps and flagged limos made their way across the unpaved areas going to and from Amesbury. Some, white helmeted security personnel, could be seen on the main roads directing traffic and checking vehicles for proper credentials.
Portable Army Mess Tents, six in all, were transported in and set up around the perimeter of Stonehenge. Canvas dormitories were being raised as if a circus had come to town. A small gust of wind lifted a door flap on one that was completed and rows of bunk beds, looking like dominoes, could be seen along both walls inside the lengthy structure.
Three large heliports areas were designated with small landing circles inside larger exterior circles. Temporary lighting had been placed around each landing site. The centers had been highlighted with a large ‘H’ signifying a helicopter zone. Baton carrying, yellow suited personnel were busy at each landing area, directing inbound and outbound choppers. Large wind socks could be seen on medium high poles that had been erected at each landing site. They hung limp at the present time, indicating minimum wind velocity. The thump of whirling blades beat the air in a rhythm of urgency as if time was running out.
A feeling of urgency had also permeated the Facility with its icy fingers. Anthony Petrochellie was trying to be everywhere and anywhere at any time. His communicator was constantly interrupting him no matter what he was doing. The task that had been undertaken was enormous even if there were no time constraints. The one operation that made it easier to accomplish their mission was only one way travel was allow, from the moon was the only trip being permitted. It was extremely rare for anyone to transport to the moon now that the moon was being evacuated.
Since the loss of Mathew Jensen, Tony was uncomfortable with the thought of sending a group of evacuees at one time. It wasn’t that he could afford to lose even one person, but to chance losing a group would be more than fool hearty. He, however, did allow families to transport together if they felt strongly about the possibility of being accidently separated from each other. One by one they filed in and waited their turn to transport back to earth. Most were not happy campers about leaving. They, for the most part, had become attached and satisfied with living on the moon, true lunarites in heart and mind.
The transport of personnel was slow and bothersome in its deliberate time consuming tedium. That, however, was not the only bottleneck that slowed the pace of leaving. The small bubble vehicles were in a constant revolving circuit to the surface of the moon and back down inside the Facility. Preventive maintenance was at the present time being ignored and the cars were used until they actual had a shuttle stopping problem. Hatches failing to seal were the main culprit and with their constant opening and closing, things were not getting any better. Gordon Shaw was all elbows and back side as he was always bent over one of the small vehicles, tweaking here, soldering there and sometimes replacing small compact components to get the little cars back in service. There always seemed to be another car, with some minor malfunction, waiting his magic touch and he did not have time to dilly dally. It sounds like he was jerry rigging with hit and miss mechanics just to get it done and back in service, but that was not the case. Following the fix of even a minor problem, he would not release a vehicle until he had gone through a full safety check. This was always required after any maintenance procedure was implemented and he was adamant in his duties, even in this time of haste.
Seuni was also extremely busy. The remote control, all one piece again, was her constant companion. She assisted Joey Smith as he was on duty at the transporter. She watched as he prepared the next individuals scheduled for travel back to earth. They were a father and mother with a young child, about five years old. The little girl was wondering why they had to leave their home, clearly not very happy about leaving the moon.
“Hi, what’s your name?” Seuni asked as she approached, hoping to distract the young child from the current situation.
“Mom, do I have to answer these questions?” She asked as she turned to her mom. Her mom nodded her head, then the little girl turned back to Seuni. “Am I under suspicion or something? Do I need a lawyer?”
Seuni’s eyes went wide in surprise and she glanced at the little girl’s mom.
“I’m sorry, she watches too many TV mysteries.”
“No sweetheart, I was just making conversation with you because you look very interesting.” Seuni replied.
“I am Venus, the evening star.” Venus replied softly and shyly as she placed both hands behind her back and slowly twisted her body left and then right.
“Venus, wow, that is a lovely name and you are as lovely as the planet itself.”
“I know, my mom always tells me that.”
“She is adorable. Is this her first trip back to earth since coming here?” Seuni inquired of her parents.
“Yes and no.” They said in unison. “It will be her first trip to earth since she arrived but it won’t be her first trip back.”
“Ok, you got me.” Seuni slowly shook her head as she considered what they said. “I’m afraid I don’t understand your answer.”
“Venus is very special. She was conceived here and born here, here on the moon. She knows no other home. She was the first totally moon baby.” Her mom replied.
“Venus, ok, right, now I remember and you are right she is a very special person. Sorry, I should have recognized her, at least by her name. We have been so busy lately that I am not thinking about anything but what’s at hand.” Seuni said apologetically as she smiled at the proud parents. “Congratulation and I am very sorry about having to put you through this but we are not sure of what is going on. Good luck and I hope to see you here again real soon.”
Seuni put some distance between her and the transporter before she contacted Tony.
“This is Seuni, hey Tony, we might have a problem we had not thought about.”
“I thought we had covered everything under the sun and on the moon.”
“I don’t remember us covering this one.”
“Ok Seuni, you got my attention, what is it?”
“Venus, the evening star.”
“You’re right, we didn’t cover that planet, however, I must ask. What the heck does that have to do with evacuating the moon?”
“Not the planet, the first baby conceived and born on the moon. She is at the transport area getting ready to go to earth, where she has never been before.”
“Ok, that should be a great adventure and our concern?”
“Gravity, earth’s gravity.”
“Earth’s gravity, oh right, earth’s gravity. I, oh boy, earth’s gravity, she was born and lived with one sixth of earth gravity. Oh crap, Seuni, let me get back to you, I got to make some calls. And hey, thanks Seuni, you are really on top of things and this is a very real concern. Ah, hey wait a minute Seuni, how many do we have in that situation, you know born on the moon and have not been to earth?”
“Not sure boss, I know there are a few but I don’t think anyone tracked trips to the earth for first timers. It’s an unusual situation. First timers to the moon, yes, but the other way, unusual. Who would have imagined being born on another planet or asteroid much less the moon and never have lived on or at least traveled to the earth.”
“Seuni, do me a favor and have those who have never been to earth standby for a while. I need to make sure we have medical people standing by in case these particular people have problems. Have them wait in the area, no, no that’s no good. Hey, have them wait in the cafeteria and tell them, order whatever they want, we will pick up the tab.”
“Will do, boss.” Seuni turned and hurried back to the transport area, arriving just in time to delay the young family’s transport. “Sorry to jerk you around like this, but we must make sure that we have people on hand in case Venus has some problem with the increase in gravity.” Shaking her head as she saw the concern look on the parents faces, she continued. “It will be ok, I don’t think there is anything to worry about, we just want to cover all the bases just in case. If you would, please come with me to the cafeteria. You can wait there and we will call you as soon as things are in place, better safe than sorry, ok?”
When they reached the cafeteria the parents were still looking concerned. “Please, here take this table, make yourselves comfortable. “It’s going to be ok, please sit.” They both nodded their heads and took a seat. “I will let the manager know that we are picking up the bill and you can order anything you wish. Please, try to relax and let us do our best to insure your safe travel.” Seuni then headed to the main office of the cafeteria. She made contact with the manager and set things up for these special people. Once that was done, she gave Venus’s family an ok sign then headed back to the transport area. She would make sure to intercept any other families who were in the same situation, they too would enjoy a Facility sponsored trip to the cafeteria.
To avoid extended delays, Seuni researched all of the available records and found that there were five families that met this unusual criteria. She had them all gather in the cafeteria even though some of them were not scheduled to transport for several days down the road. The children ranged from a new born to Venus, who was now five going on thirty five.
Measurements were taken of the small children in order to facilitate the production of mobile anti-gravity chairs and G-suits. These two items would accommodate their small frames when they reach earth. Although anti-gravity chairs are a misnomer, the idea is valid. The reclined multi-sectional and angled chairs, made sure that all regions; head, shoulders, abdomen, hips, arms and legs, of the body were supported by the chair and not by another section of the body.
The G-suits were a product that resulted from aircraft dog fights. The pressure of the suits maintained blood flow and prevented blackouts in high positive G situations, enabling the pilot to evade or pursue an enemy through maximum turns and acceleration. They would now be used on these small children, hoping to prevent blood pooling and insure blood flow to all of their life sustaining amenities. The human bodies, especially children’s bodies, were extremely versatile and resilient, therefore, only time would tell if these precautions were necessary.
Much to the delight of all involved, the Anti-Gravity chairs and G-suits for children were found to be unnecessary. The children fared as well as any of the other children that had lived on the moon for any length of time.
The evacuation was finally finished. No major problems popped up and the area around Stonehenge was a very busy small city. Children played and the adults adjusted to their surroundings as expected. They understood the necessity for the interruption of their normal routine and were determined to make the best of their current situation.
The scene inside the Facility was quite different now. Although the evacuation was now complete the Facility was not totally deserted, a welcoming party remained to deal with whatever was approaching. There were thirty two handpicked individuals selected for this task. Some were already on the moon, others selected on earth, flown to Stonehenge then transported to the Facility. Of course one of those lucky people was Seuni.
What was coming, an asteroid or some type of manned vehicle? Not knowing if they would be needed, they were unsure and a little nervous, however, they all were raring to go and, if they were needed they would make this work. Their indoctrination was lengthy and tedious to the extent of boring. In each session they were reminded of the importance of what they were undertaking and this kept most of the boredom at bay. They were the representatives, for the billions of people on earth, to what may be an unknown entity.
They were each groomed and then issued what they would wear. Once dressed, their attire was neat, relaxed and modern, mundane in color to hopefully insure that they would appear non-aggressive. The outfits they wore were tailored to fit skin tight so as to hide nothing, thereby assuring arrivals, if there were any, they had nothing to fear from these unarmed greeters. The ages of this group ranged from thirty three to fifty one. The races of these individuals ran the full spectrum of the world community with skin colors to match. They all had the gift of gab, so to speak, and spoke in numerous languages to go along with that gift. All of them, men and women alike, were in essence, likable and engaging. As a group they were gorgeous and we, the Earth, were putting our best foot forward.
Looks were a necessity, of course, but intelligence was equally as important. This crew met both of these requirements. All IQ’s were within the genius category, with most at the edge of immeasurable.
On the other hand, simple book learning was one thing, experience was another but, common sense and adjustments to a given situation was paramount. All had been tested with numerous, unexpected and very unusual scenarios. Passing with flying colors was the only way they would be included. These tests were the deciding factor, they showed that the premier attributes of these thirty two was their ability to think on their feet.
They were schooled on what they were expected to pass along to whomever or whatever arrived at the Facility. True they were expected to adjust to a given situation, but there were guidelines and boundaries that they must entertain at all cost. Their decisions could have little effect on things or it could actually affect the people on earth or the future of earth itself.
These thirty two were not the only people left on the moon. They were just the welcoming party, those chosen to represent earth and the moon. The others, supporting personnel, would remain in the background and provide for those, I suppose you could now call them dignitaries, selected.
The cafeteria workers were on a skeleton crew, only providing meals for themselves and The Selected. They did not prepare a buffet for each meal as they had before. The cooking was now done for each individual and prepared to their taste. Some of the meals were prepared on earth and transported up, still piping hot. This provided for those from varied backgrounds and cuisines, menus beyond those chefs that were still present there in the Facility.
Housekeeping personnel, also a limited crew, went about their everyday task maintaining some order to the quarters and areas used by these few dignitaries.
Rim City was a ghost town, now dark even at night, although the solar collectors were charged to maximum. The city’s tram was parked with its doors open and seats empty, in anticipation of footfalls on entry steps and passageways. The ‘Next Stop’ sign had no suggestion, as if it had forgotten where the tram was going next.
In the unmanned main air lock, a small bubble car sat, its clam type hatch open, gaping, silently calling for any waiting passengers to get on board for a quick trip to the Facility. It too was dark, its digital panels displayed no characters as if it too had forgotten its purpose. The unit was in a power saving mode, reactivating only whenever any of the controls were touched in any manner. It was the last car sent up for any other passengers left in the city. There were none left and so it now sat in silence as if asleep.
Rim City’s main passage way, that circled the city, was deserted of course. Unlike a ghost town on earth, where the wind might pick up a loose piece of paper or some dust and blow it across the street and onto the rails of the track, here there was no wind or dust to blow. The silence was eerie and complete. You would wonder if someone were here and spoke, who is to say whether it would echo or not. For sure if a tree fell here, if there was a tree, no one would hear it and it might not make a sound.
This silence was not unlike the silence experienced by Matt Jensen as he sat in his unusual cell. He had been thinking about the chance glance at the unusual appendage that had placed the food into this, his confinement area. The long arm with its long graceful fingers had left an impression of some magnitude on Matt. He, being an avid pickup game basketball player, had dreamed about having fingers and arms that long. As he sat and looked at his hands, that were small for his size, he fanaticized on his game, he with those arms, hands and fingers.
Dunking the ball with both hands was easy for him, but dunking with one hand was another matter. The problem was in palming the ball on the run, it was a fifty/fifty chance that he would lose the ball on the way up to the rim. With those arms and fingers, he would be able to stuff that ball all the way through the bottom of the net before releasing it. Three sixty airborne spins and highlight film making slam dunks would be a piece of cake with those additions.
Matt’s routine was just that, a routine. Sleep, eat, exercise and play his guitar. He not only sang his own songs, he added some others that he liked, the ones he knew the chords for. He had noticed that when he sang and played the guitar he would have an audience. The shadows outside the glass increased as he went through his entertaining. He sometimes felt he was the only act in town and the inhabitants were responding to his one man show. Matt was sure that many days had passed but he did not dwell on that. He kept his spirits up and practiced his routine.
The food substance he was given was plentiful but evidently not fattening. It was either that or his exercise routine kept the pounds away. He had noticed some loosening in his attire but the loss was not significant as to be a problem.
The fingers of his left hand were calloused hard due to his chording the guitar several hours a day to keep the boredom away. His singing voice had improved, well, as far as he was concerned. It seemed that his musical range had elevated to a quality he had been unable to achieve while occupied with his normal duties, only practicing during his spare time. During this confinement, his spare time was exercising, his normal duty was music and he was religious to a point about his duties.
Chris and Terra Firma watched out the window, of the moon’s one true observatory, as the anomaly approached the, three hundred meter wide, entrance to the Facility. Telescopes were no longer of any use being that the object was now so close to the moon. The location and altitude of the observatory, where they stood and pushed their faces against the Plexiglas, gave them an unobstructed view of Rim City and the opening to the Facility.
The advancing anomaly, as far as they could tell, was perfectly round. Its exterior was, in essence, a golden spherical mirror that reflected its surrounding as it approached. Even if it produced any noise, it could not be heard or felt, the void of space vacuumed up any and all sounds. The windows of the observatory would also eliminate any noise from outside on the airless surface of the moon. Silent with its straight in approach and that was another thing. As travelers to the moon by spaceship, earthmen always orbited and then landed on the moon. This object seemed to ignore our ideas of space travel and simply went from A to C without having to navigate B. It ignored the moon’s gravitational pull and silently approached. There were no apparent methods of propulsion visible even though it was evident that the vessel, it couldn’t be anything else but a vessel, had slowed down and was lined up for entry into the Facility opening.
“It’s about two thirds the size of the opening and it has now entered directly through the center.” Chris held the small mike close to his lips as he reverently relayed the current play by play. He attempted to leave out any emotion as he spoke to NASA, but he fell short in that accord. Who wouldn’t be almost speechless as a witness to the arrival of an unknown entity, for the very first time, something not of his Earth. “Hold on, wait a minute,” He now forgot about being calm. “oh great, hey the Facility’s top is closing, it’s closing. What should we do, can we do anything?”
“Calm down Chris, we kind of expected that. We were pretty sure that, if this Facility was once theirs, they would take it back to the way they left it, with the top closed.” Silence then began to lengthen as Chris waited. “Chris, we still have a connection within the Facility so we will take it from here. Standby and we will get back to you as things develop.”
Chris removed and laid the small headset on a nearby table, “I guess we’ll wait, I hate waiting, I just hate it.” Chris said as he turned back and looked at Terra, slowly shaking his head.
“I agree, worst job I ever had dealt with waiting. I was a waiting room orderly at the local hospital, part of an assigned project during high school. This was not the waiting room for a doctor’s appointments, it was a room where people waited while their friends or relatives underwent all types of surgical operation. I was not the one that was waiting, but I witness others as they waited and believe me that was almost as bad.” Terra replied.
A few kilometers away, down on the floor inside the Facility, Seuni watched as the vehicle entered the opening. It had been visible to the naked eye for some time now. Its approach was freaky because it didn’t seem to be moving. Actually it looked like it was simply expanding. First it was the size of a distant star, then a not too distant moon and then it almost filled the opening into the Facility. The smooth round golden bottom reflected, with a fish eye view of Rim City, as it entered. The circle view of the city moved up the outside of the vehicle until it passed the middle continuing its flow upward until the reflection was out of sight to those below. Seuni saw very little reflected from the inside walls of the Facility, however the Facility’s floor and her small crew were visible on the bottom, as it came down toward them. The reflection reminded her of how she appeared approaching one of those shiny round gas filled semi tanker trucks on the highways of earth. Her vehicle would appear elongated and she would look narrow, stretched, distorted and barely recognizable.
Seuni and her chosen few, thirty two faces all angled upward, they simply watched as most were too stunned to move. At about five meters above the floor that golden sphere’s movement stopped. A moment later the very small tube type section at very bottom seem to ooze and pushed out, extending as it lowered, becoming flat as it reached the floor.
Seuni had been watching both, the blinking panels and the vessel. A few seconds ago a red border, that surrounded the panels, had started feverishly blinking on and off. The one end of the panel went blank and the red border died. On the other side of the panel the characters had stopped moving and evidently indicated the total running time as predicted by Chris Sams.
The attached sides of that lowered portion were circular and seem to extend up into the bowels of the now stationary vehicle. The round cylindrical exterior of this extended attachment appeared to be smooth, looking like frosted glass, a small change in color and density alluded to some type of movement just beyond the anticipants view.
The vehicle had made no sound on its entrance, but something now changed and a new quieter silence permeated the Facility. The welcoming party had all gathered to one side and stood there in awe, expectantly waiting for that first view of these travelers. Seuni noticed that the spherical sides of the vehicle had lost its golden color and slowly turned a dull gray. It, for some unknown reason, had changed and no longer reflected its surroundings. No longer smooth, the vessel resembled a partially deflated soccer ball, the small hexagon shaped portions sunk in and the area surrounding those hexes raised, still supporting its roundness. The size was, of course, not representative of any soccer ball she had ever seen.
As those selected watched, a thin golden line appeared in the frosted glass starting at the bottom and ending about three meters high. It was as if a zipper had been pulled up to open an entrance to a large tent and the light inside was becoming visible. The thin line started to expand horizontally, slowly opening squarely to both sides. When it reached ten or twelve centimeters wide, a bright light flooded the watchers and a disturbing, wavering sound emitted from inside the vehicle. The thirty two individuals simply tensed, their eyes no longer focused, their minds no longer absorbed any information and they were no longer aware of their surroundings. They remained where they were, as statues in a museum, something to be viewed and studied by visitors.
Seuni had been giving NASA a blow by blow description of the events as they happened. This of course stopped when the sound was emitted, paralyzing her and the gathered entourage.
Miles away on earth the director spoke. “Go ahead Seuni, we are still on. What was that noise, that sound.” NASA’s words came from the ear piece that Seuni wore.
“Hello Facility, come in.” The words seem to fall on deaf ears.
“Seuni, hello Seuni, NASA is still on, need your reply.” There was silence in the center as they waited for some time hoping Seuni would reply.
Very little time passed before they Changed frequencies and made contact with the moon’s observatory. “Chris, NASA here.”
Chris turned from the window and quickly grabbed the headset and put it back on as he heard some sound coming from the ear piece and figured it might be a call from NASA. “This is Chris, go ahead.”
“Chris, I think, well we are pretty sure, we have lost communication with the Facility. Seuni is no longer responding to our query.”
“Ah, ok, wow, that’s not good. What can we do?”
“Don’t know if you can do anything yet just wanted to keep you up to date. If you see any change, top opening or anything, I mean anything, we need to know about it immediately.”
“Roger that NASA, we will keep our eyes on that area. Should we suit up and go out and check the area and see if we can get into the Facility or something?”
“No! Well, I mean not yet, we will give it a little time before we take any action.”
“Roger that, we will stand by. Don’t hesitate to call on us if there comes a time that you might need someone out there checking, we are qualified, as you know.”
“Roger that, and thanks, NASA out.”
“I don’t know about you but that closing really hit me hard. NASA may have expected it but I did not,” Chris said as he turned back to the view that included the now closed opening.
Terri joined him at the window and placed a hand on his shoulder. “Me either but the way it is now is what we have to deal with. While you monitor things out there, I am going to make a fresh pot of coffee. You never know, this just might be the longest night ever.
The frosted glass round extension had an opening that had increased and was now about one meter wide and three meters high. They emerged, single file, spreading out and making their way to the walls of the Facility. They, except for one that remained at the entrance to the ship, bypassed and ignored the selected welcoming group standing there in some type of immobile status. Their task at hand had nothing to do with these few humans that had gathered there. They, seemingly, with tunnel vision, made their way out to all sides of the Facility. Some approached, tapped and then entered the walls to check the air supply racks while others approached the walls at different stations and began turning on and apparently adjusting the equipment that was a part of the Facility, their Facility.
Their being about nine foot in height with complementary size appendages allowed them to access panels and doors out of reach for the average human. They seem to glide as they moved, although, it was clear that they stepped as humans do with their two long sinewy legs. Their arms were also extremely long ending with a hand that displayed those same characteristic in the three long fingers and one opposing thumb like appendages. The garments they all wore were of one color and the result this presented was that they were near identical, except for some minor height variation, almost impossible to tell one from the other. At the moment this did not matter for there was no one to comment on their appearance.
One of the lanky beings, who was just a bit taller and moving a little faster than the others, had stopped the task he was attending to, approached the one that had remained by the entrance to the ship. A short exchange took place then the lankier one went back the same way he had come.
Their speech was short with multiple choppy sounds, sounds with what sounded like single syllable words or individual characters. There seem to be no identifiable pauses or misunderstanding as they communicated. As most of these individuals performed task that were strange and unusual, the one by the ship seemed to remain idle, just standing there. One after the other, single gliding individual, would approach him and a short exchange would take place. Apparently this was the boss or maybe the recorder for the mission at hand. Time after time other individuals would approach and wait for any ongoing exchange to end then start their own rapid report or ask questions of this idle individual. Whatever or whoever he was, after the short exchange the approaching individuals would return to their previous task and continue as before.
The idle one stood at the entrance of the ship and only moved when entrance to the ship was required by others. The lankier one, with an accomplice, approached again and this time the idle one moved to the side and allowed them to re-enter the ship. He moved again when they came back out of the ship guiding a floating platform of some type. They went out into the Facility and then returned shortly with one of the welcoming party prone on the platform. They entered into the ship as the idle one moved to the side again. It was sometime later that they returned with their burden, and after a short exchange with the idle one, they moved again out into the Facility. They returned shortly with their platform now empty. They went into the ship and shortly returned unburdened, splitting up and heading in different directions, they took up where they had left off, their original tasks incomplete.
The Facility was alive with illumination from multiple sources. One of the tall ones had a remote control and from the size of that instrument and the additional lighted areas, you would believe that this remote was the master. The remote operator played it like a fine musical instrument and the melody he played was completely alien.
It was like movements from a well choreographed and silently orchestrated dance. Individually the visitors would move up close to the Facility walls, tap a few unidentified areas and move back and watch the results. Heads turning in rhythm, artistically from side to side, as the lighted panels reacted to their stimulation. Once the display ended, they would glide to one side or the other and move up to the wall and tap again. It was almost as if they were waltzing with a stationary partner. The dance was lovely and something to behold, however, no one from earth could see it. The ones in status watched with unseeing eyes, unable to appreciate the eloquence of the visitors dance.
For hours on end, the idle one stood, for the most part, stationary in front of the vessel’s entrance. The busy visitors made numerous trips to and from this individual. Short and to the point comments between them kept the progress on track. On several occasions the light rings would fall at the transport area, however, no bright flash of light followed and no actual transport was made. This was only one of the numerous tests that were made as the visitors continued to float and sway to an unheard melody.
Several trips into the ship to retrieve additional racks of the pink substance were shortly accomplished. You could only guess that the moon’s earthly inhabitant’s transfer of a substantial amount of this material to Rim City had actually diminished its life giving breathable atmospheric capability. Although this loss was undetectable by the dwellers from earth, evidently the visitors had a way of testing and found it lacking in some fashion or they were restocking those spare racks that had been moved too and were being used inside Rim City.
Miles away on earth inside the control center, things were just a little tense. “Can we get to the Facility with the transport system?” The Capcom controller stood up from his console and looked around the center as he asked. “Anyone please, is there a way to use the transport system without the help of the crew at the Facility, you know from the Stonehenge?” He slowly did a three sixty surveying the center. The cord of the headset wrapped around his waist as he completed the turn. He grabbed it with his right hand and, ducking down a little, lifted it over his head. Heads shaking was the response he got from those gathered there.
“I don’t think so Sidney, as you know, all transports were initiated by the operator at the Facility. That’s where the remote, the only remote, that’s where it’s located. Stonehenge is just a target, an extension of the Facility’s transport system, it has no means of actuating that system.” The Director touched Capcom’s arm as he spoke to hopefully defray some of Capcom’s anxiety. “We have been in many situations, several as stressful as this one. This loss of communication has put us under a lot of pressure, and hey, we’re all feeling it. Unfortunately there are no written procedures for this particular scenario, so we will take it one step at a time, go slow. We made it through those other situations and we can get through this one, if we keep our head.”
“Sorry boss, I just, well I never lost the com before, well not like this anyway. I’m ok, I going to grab a cup of coffee and then get back to my desk.” The director nodded his head in agreement as Sidney removed his head set and, after making sure the com was manned, headed back down the aisle to the shift kitchen. He apologized to several of the center’s crew as he passed their station on his way. They agreed with Sidney and felt the pressure and worry for those, incommunicado, on the moon. By the time Sidney reached the kitchen he felt a lot better. It was good to know that he was not alone in his frustration and concern for those lunar volunteers in their role as earth’s envoys.
At least they were not completely cut off from the moon as they still had Chris and Terra Firma in place at the observatory. No, they could not enter the Facility or tell what was going on inside but they still had visibility of the large closed entrance. They could at least relay any activity that might occur if an opening happened before communication was restored with those selected envoys inside the Facility.
Matt Jensen sat, watched and listened. Something had definitely changed. Activity behind the frosted glass was at a new pace, multiple shadows passed by his confinement area. These passing shadows lasting for what seemed like an hour and then nothing, no movement. No movement and he had this feeling that he, for the first time in a long time, was unobserved and alone. He was sure that his captors were no longer just out of sight, this time they were some distance away. Just where they were he did not know.
After some length of time he felt them coming back. No, wait, it’s only one or maybe two of them he then realized. They passed by and then passed by again going the other way. It was some time later when they passed by again. He watched and waited and soon they passed by again. He had to assume that it was the same pair on some type of retrieval and then replacement of something, maybe some type of equipment.
The silence now closed in on him. He had not noticed the background noise until it stopped. It was now deathly quiet and still. After a while Matt seemed to lose interest in the lack of other life and he fell fast asleep. He slept the sleep of the near dead again unaware of his surroundings.
His sleep was not normal, it was the results of an additive in the air and he had breathed it for just a moment. That moment was just long enough to induce the repose he now endured.
He dreamed as he slept, he dreamed of trees and flowing streams. He walked through a forest of tall evergreens. In his slumber he looked up through the branches and had a view of a clear patch of sky. The contrails of a high, fast moving aircraft was visible and he watched as the wind at that elevation shredded the white trace. In a short span the blue of the sky was soon free of that trail, no trace was left.
A large bird came into view as it quietly rode the air currents and passed overhead only to circle and pass again just a little higher. It silently climbed until it was just a distant speck and then lost to sight.
The sky was again clear of anything but the never ending blue. No contrails, clouds or birds presented themselves to obstruct his view. His attention returned to the surrounding trees and the leaves that fluttered in the breeze. They should have given off some rustling noises with their movement but no noise was present. The silence pressed in and his sleep labored.
Unbeknown to Chris, two of the ship’s crew returned to stand outside of bubble he lived in. They walked around checking the perimeter while making some minor adjustments. One of the crew moved to the slanted panel that protruded from the wall of the vessel. With his long fingers he typed out a rhythm on something similar to the Facility’s remote control, only it had a lot more small lighted areas. Whatever the tune he played the results were what he wished.
Matt’s confinement area was purged and once clear of the induced sleeping compound, the cell collapsed, disappearing and becoming part of the floor of the ship. The floating platform was brought up alongside and Matt Jensen was placed on it for transporting. The crew made a final check of the area, placing Matt’s guitar on his chest, before leaving with their still sleeping guest.
Matt was not aware as they guided the small platform out of the ship, passing the idle one, they took Matt away from the ship and into the Facility. Stopping just short of the Facility’s surrounding wall. Once at the wall, one of the lanky beings tapped out a rhythm on a point located at least three and a half meters above the floor. Suddenly the wall opened, plenty wide enough and the small platform was guided through. The visitors lifted and removed Matt from the platform, placing him on the floor just inside the small open room. The two beings, with their floating cart, left the way they had come. Matt Jensen slept, there on the floor, not knowing he was back on the moon. The doorway had been opened by the visitors and they closed it behind them as they headed back toward their ship.
The visitor’s dance continued as they prodded, poked and adjusted the equipment located at strategic points around the Facility. The flashing lights, the hum of unseen equipment and the communication of the aliens filled the area from wall to wall. As they danced, the welcoming committee stood in silence, unknowing, unseeing, they simply stood waiting for their trance like spell to be broken. In their immobile status pain did not prey on their muscles and the stress of their task had been alleviated. Lack of movement was a moot factor and the time they spent in this fashion was as if time did not exist.
As before, the dancers moved several paces to the left and then the waltz with the wall began again. Partitions or cubicles that were in the way were moved to make room for the dancers. The things they did and caused were for beyond the minor use the earth’s crews had made of this Facility. Some of the areas they touched brought to life panels that lit up and ran from floor all the way up to the now closed roof. Their function served purposes unused and unrealized by the Earth’s recent visiting occupants.
As if they were all connected together, the last touch, their task finished they all moved back from the wall as if they were one. The ones on the left of the Idle One turned to their right and the ones on the right turned left. Both sides moved and merged together and turned toward their ship. Single file they re-entered as the Idle One stood to the side and then followed the last one into the ship.
The selected ones stared unseeing and not hearing the silence that once again invaded the area. They also were not aware of the cessation of movement, they simply waited as they had for some time now.
The observatory occupants waited and the control center at NASA waited. It was almost as if the galaxy was standing still, just waiting.
They entered the ship and disappeared from sight, if there had been anyone seeing. Their task finished inside the Facility they had no reason to remain there. The Idle one was the last to enter and as soon as he was inside, the exit or the entrance to the ship changed.
The opening in the frosted glass slowly closed until it reached ten to twelve centimeters. The light from inside again flooded the welcoming party, still in some type of status. It was accompanied by a loud steady tone emitted from somewhere deep inside the alien craft. It was unlike the previous wavering sound, but not in volume, it was still just as loud.
“For a moment, there was a bright line in the frosted glass looking substance. I was sure it was going to open but now it has disappeared.” Seuni said as she spoke into the mike of her headset.
“Seuni! Christ, Seuni. Is that you?”
“Hey, of course it’s me, who did you think it was. I have been reporting this thing as it happens and you forget who I am. I am depressed.” Seuni laughed as she finished speaking.
“Ok, my bad, oh and, do I have some news for you. Maybe you better take a chair, maybe all of you should take a chair.” There was a pause and then NASA continued. “Why don’t all of you leave that area and go to the cafeteria and take a seat and then I will explain the things that have happened.
“Something happened, where, there on earth, something happened, something to do with us, with this anomaly?” Seuni asked as she and they, the whole group, started to make their way to the cafeteria and some chairs. As they walked they kept turning and looking back at the alien craft that took up the center of the Facility.
“Seuni, Seuni something’s happened to Phil, he has passed out or something. He’s not moving, oh no, I don’t think he’s breathing.” Georgette Layton said as she kneeled down next to the prone individual.
Seuni made her way through, the now stopped crew, to where Phil Charlton lay. He was partially on his side with his face to the floor. A small puddle of blood was present on the floor near his cheek. Seuni turned Phil just enough to see that the blood came from a small cut, a cut that was evidently caused by his cheek striking the floor with some force. She looked closer at the blood as she checked for a pulse. The blood was clotted and dry, as if it had been on his cheek for some time. No pulse and no breathing, Seuni rolled Phil on his back and was about to start CPR when she realized that some rigor had already begun to set in.
“He’s gone, and from the way the blood has already dried and rigor has begun, he has been gone for some time. Where the hell were we when this happened? Nothing could have been that interesting that we would have missed something like this.” Seuni looked questionably at each person in their party. She could tell that they were like her, without a clue.
“Seuni, so sorry to hear that, we feel your pain and our hearts go out to your crew and Phil’s family.” The director paused for a moment and the silence was deafening. “Seuni, you’ll think I am heartless, but we must move on. Can you get Phil moved to a safe, I mean, a separate place and then all make it to the cafeteria? It’s very important that we do this with some haste and I will explain when you are all seated.”
Without questioning the director, Seuni insured that Phil was put away then she hurried everyone to the cafeteria. Once there, they all took seats in anticipation of the director’s explanation.
The director brought them up to date. He took his time letting them in on what he knew, which wasn’t very much. The only real facts he had was the time that he had lost communication and the time Seuni was again on the air and the fact that the top has remained closed since the entrance of the alien craft.
“Thirty two hours, that’s incredible, thirty two hours with no contact, I don’t see how that is possible. Hey we were standing right here, right in front of the ship.” Seuni was beside herself with disbelief and a lot of anxiety. “Not to change the subject but, what about Phil, can we send him down there and find out what happened to him? Well, I mean if the transport system still works.”
“Well Seuni, we have no way of knowing for sure what has transpired there inside the Facility. We can only try the transport system to see if it still works. Get a small crew together and get Phil’s body to the transport area and we’ll go through the motions, then we’ll know.”
“Roger that, we’ll get right on it.” Seuni selected four people and had them carry Phil’s body to the transport area. Once there, Seuni picked up the remote and, after confirming readiness with Stonehenge, she placed her thumb on the white sensor located in the middle on the lower right side. The bright flash of light was as expected and occurred just after multiple light rings had fallen over Phil’s body during his transport.
“We have him, Seuni, we have him and we will get back to you after we do an autopsy. It will take a while, so make yourself as comfortable as possible as you wait. If you need us, we are here for you. Do you need anything, anything?”
Seuni looked around from individual to individual and received only negative replies most by simple shakes of their heads. “Nothing, we are fine and no one has requested anything. We are going to stay away from the area where the ship is. We’ll wait for the results on Phil. Seuni out.”
“Seuni, before you get completely comfortable, I need you to do one more thing, if you would?” The director quietly asked then waited for a reply.
Seuni had sat down and was starring unfocused at the floor. Her thoughts were jumbled and made little sense as they momentarily blocked out all external activity and noise.
“Seuni, Seuni, are you there?” The director repeated.
Georgette Layton, since the discovery of Phil’s unresponsive body, had for some reason stayed very close to Seuni. They had shared an uncommon horrific experience and she knew the toll it had taken on herself and could only wonder the effect it had on Seuni. Being this close, she could hear the director’s voice coming from the headset that Seuni wore. “Seuni, Seuni?” She whispered as she softly touched and gently pushed Seuni’s knee with a finger.
Seuni’s slowly raised her head and she turned toward Georgette. Her eyes took a moment as they focused and she again became aware of her surroundings. “Yes?” She questioned as she looked at Georgette.
“The director is calling you, on the headset, the director is calling.” Georgette said and repeated as she pointed at Seuni’s headset.
Seuni reached a hand up and held the small mike of the headset. “Hello?” She spoke softly, hesitantly as if wondering who could be calling her.
“Seuni, are you receiving this?”
With a little more confidence, Seuni replied. “Yes, I hear you.”
“You ok, we were concerned.”
“Yeah, I think so. I just retreated inside for a moment. I think I’ll be ok now. I just, well I never had anyone die on my watch before, it has kind of thrown me for a loop.”
Her voice had regained some of its strength and the director could tell that she was truly coming back on board. “I fully understand and I grieve with you but you have to move on, it is imperative. As I had said before, I need you to do one more thing before you get too comfortable.”
“Comfortable, I don’t think I will ever be comfortable again. Disregard that, ok? Tell me what you would like me do?”
“Ok Seuni, we are with you as much as we can be.” The director said and then continued. “Turn some of the video monitors around from the walls so we can watch the alien vessel. Use those that were monitoring the blinking panels, those panels have now stopped blinking and the characters on them are stationary.”
“Ok, we can do that. I’ll get back to you when it is done, Seuni out.”
In the control center back on earth, they watched as the monitors swung around and focused in on the alien vessel. They were amazed at the size of the now stationary vehicle. It continued to sit motionless in the middle of the Facility and they noted how it had taken on a gray, rather than gold, appearance.
When Seuni finished, the center had three different views of the ship. Hopefully this would allow them continuous surveillance of the area and a possible view inside, if the ship opened again. Individuals, in rotating shifts, were assigned to watch these monitors day in and day out. Sensors were also set up, they would alarm if there was a change in the view now displayed on the monitors. These two stopgap procedures should prevent the control center from missing anything.
Matt laid where they had put him with his eyes closed, still in a dreamlike state and he wondered if his captors might take a payoff of some kind. What did he have to exchange for his freedom? He thought back about his finances, not much there. He recalled the last contact he had with his bank. It wasn’t good. In his busy life he was not careful and only balanced his check book mentally. The bank called him and told him he was overdrawn and he mentally told them they were wrong. Of course they were right, this was due his over spending and the fact that most of his funds were not liquid; they were automatically invested in stocks, bonds and CDs.
He felt excellent as he had worked out as often as possible and during his stay he had mentally written three more songs. He had tuned his guitar by ear hoping that he was still on key and had not become tone deaf. Normally he would use his tuner made by the OnBoard Research Corp and named the Intellitouch tuner. This he would clip to his guitar on the end of the tuning key area. The tuner reacted as it felt the vibration of the strings through the tuning mechanisms and woodwork of the instrument at the tuning area. What made it so nice is that it did not react to sound or noise and only indicated how close to on key the string was as it vibrated.
For a while now, maybe a few days, he had felt no movement and was sure that the whatever he was in and a part of was now stationary. Where it was stationary he had no idea. His meals and sleep had not been interrupted and so he assumed that everything outside his cell was as it had always been. He had heard some type of retort between his captors, and it was unrecognizable. This however gave him some hope, having a communication of some sort meant that maybe they would somehow be able to communicate. He was still aware of how still and quiet it was as he rolled over, raised up and slowly opened his eyes.
He quickly closed his eyes and lay back down. The view he saw was not the view, not the one he had been seeing for some time now. He lay there for a moment afraid to move. He stayed very still except for his hands, he raised them to his face and massaged his eyes, hopefully to clear up this unexpected vision. He scrunched up his face and slowly opened one eye just a slit. The view was the same and it was totally different from the view he had become accustom to in his little cell. He opened his other eye and slowly took in his surroundings. The air, oh man the air, sweet and delicious.
He slowly rose, getting to his feet and flexing his leg muscles and twisting his upper torso around, right and then left. Once he felt like he had restored some normal flexibility to his body he decided to take a better look at this new enclosure. The place had a slight curve to the walls but was more or less square, not round. The walls were solid and did not have any frosted glass, well none that was visible. He was now sure, somehow, he had been moved from that small cell and placed here in this unusual room. He no longer felt like he was being observed. On second look the walls seem to have a familiar color and, after touching them, the wall’s feel kindle a memory from his past. He had touched this material before, the texture is so unique it had left an impression on him and now that impression had resurfaced. He continued to feel the walls as he moved around the room, not looking for anything significant, just looking and feeling. Surprisingly the wall opened when he had moved into a position that was directly in front of the now open portion. He quickly stepped back the way he had come and the wall closed again. He stared at the place where the wall had opened. He could see no seam or evidence of this area being any different from the walls he had previously checked. He waited for a few moments and then, with determination, he again stepped forward. As before, the wall opened and the view was spectacular.
He stood in awe and his mouth dropped opened. The extent of the Facility was open to his view. The lighting inside was subdued but afforded excellent visibility. His thoughts were on his current situation and his recent imprisonment was forgotten for the moment. He did not move forward from the doorway, he simply stood there, taking in the view.
The place still had the familiar look as it did those ten long years ago. That is except for the fact that the roof was now closed and there was this huge round, gray object that filled the center of the Facility, reaching almost halfway to the roof. It had to be very large and he wondered how it got there and to what purpose it could possibly serve.
It was exceptionally quiet and, as he scanned the vast area from left to right and back, he could see no movement. He expected the moon and the Facility, if this was the Moon’s Facility, to be a bee hive of activity. What could have gone wrong, or better still, where in the heck was he now? If this is the moon, where were all the people that had moved and now worked here, here on the moon? His mind raced with thoughts of scenarios and situations that could have changed the status, if this was truly the moon. These were only fleeting thoughts, the actual was somewhere out there and he needed to get a move on and find out what happened or find out if this was actually the moon, my earth’s moon, he thoughtfully added.
He did not exit the room right away. He turned around and went back to where he was laying when he woke up. He bent down and picked up his only companion, his guitar. When he stood back up and turned around, he saw that the opening had again closed. As he slowly approached, he couldn’t help but wonder if it would open again. Maybe the whole thing was just a tease and the idea of him being freed would now collapse. He would again be just a prisoner, a prisoner in someone’s cruel game.
Those thoughts vanished as the wall opened and the vast area of the Facility was again exposed to him. Without hesitation he stepped out and began his quest for answers.
Ten years ago the area was open and only the landing vehicles and landing party cluttered the floor of this alien giant. Now there were multiple cubicles, small bubble type vehicles and temporary walls that simply littered the large floor area. In the, what seemed like, the absolute center was this huge gray almost deflated ball or globe. Calling this monstrous object a ball is like calling the USS Queen Mary, a row boat.
The illumination was still subdued but visibility was excellent. He made his way out and skirted the cubicles that were directly in his path. As he made his way to the center and the large gray object he felt ill at ease. This cannot be of our doing, he thought.
He turned his head and listened, for a moment he was sure he had heard some human voices, like a group talking all at one time. He stood still and listened and when it began again he headed that way. One of the voices sounded familiar, a female, and it seemed like she was trying to control the outburst from others, who were there with her.
The noise, voices, seemed to come from an area that was as far back from the center of the Facility as possible. He noticed a lighted sign above the area that read, Cafeteria El Lunar. He now assumed that it was the main eating place for those living and working inside the Facility. He took nothing for granted as he approached and stayed close to the wall so as not to attract attention.
He peeked around the corner of the entrance and the first person he saw was Seuni. It was her voice, the voice he recognized when he first heard the chatter. Here he thought he had been dreaming and a human voice, any human voice would sound like someone he had missed so dearly.
He now knew he was back on the moon and free of his recent confinement. He just couldn’t wait to let someone, especially her, know that he was back, back on the moon.
“Taa Daa.” He said as he jumped out with hands spread, in a theatrics type intro, into full view of those that were seated in the cafeteria. Heads snapped around and some of those sitting jumped to their feet.
Seuni, who had been half seated on one of the tables, slowly rose to her feet as if stunned. She stared at the long haired bearded intruder for a few stunned moments and then she ran, she ran full speed toward him. The others were startled and moved back out of her way, all wondering what the heck was going on.
“Mathew, Mathew, holy crap, where did you come from?” She flew into his arms and almost knocked him over. She again said his name over and over as she kissed him and squeezed the breath out of him. She rubbed his bearded face as tears flowed from her eyes. She leaned her head back and stared into his face. “Oh my God, Mathew, oh it is so good to see you. We, I have been so worried about you, we couldn’t find you. You were gone and we had no clue where you were.” She slowly released him, but continued to hold his hand as she turned back toward the entourage that looked on in wonder.
“Ladies and gentlemen, Mathew Jensen, astronaut extraordinaire has returned from, well anyway, returned to the moon. He has been missing for many days and now he has returned.” She turned back to Mathew, looking up and staring deep into his eyes while quietly continuing. “He has returned, this time with long hair and a beard?” She rubbed his face and flipped his hair in wonder.
The voices gathered there became a room full of noise and questions. They had all heard about his disappearance but never expected him to be found like this. Where were you was the question most asked and the one that had no answer, well not an answer from Matt. Matt simply did not know where he had been. He only knew that he had been captive and now he was back on the moon, his moon.
“Hello Control, I am reporting that we have made an unusual find up here.”
“An unusual find, ok, and you are?”
“Matt, Matthew Jensen, you were looking for me weren’t you.”
Matt could hear the cheers and everyone talking at once when he, calm as a windless sea, had reported this to the Control Center.
“Mathew, Mathew Jensen, you always were one for the dynamic theatrics, weren’t you? Geez, it’s good to hear your voice again.” Fred Strieger spoke and Matt could actually hear relief in his voice. “Are you ok?” This question was automatic and Matt expected it.
“Actually I am fine, I must have missed my flight and had a layover in some unknown airport.” He paused for a moment and then realized it had turned awfully quiet in the control center. “Hey Fred just kidding, reacting to a little cabin fever. Actually the only clue I have about my recent location, and extended stay, is this big gray ball that sits in the middle of the Facility.” The control center had just recently had the video cameras turned in order to see it and they knew that Matt had pointed at the big gray globe. “Seuni says it just arrived yesterday and now here I am today.” Matt paused and then added. “I think it is possible that I was on board and, if in fact I was on board that alien ship, I heard them verbally communicating with each other. I didn’t understand what they were saying but I heard them, so they do communicate verbally. I think that might be very important.”
Matt moved back into the cafeteria and took a seat next to Seuni. The control center had barely quieted down when Seuni, Matt and the rest of the welcoming crew heard this wavering sound coming from the middle of the Facility. “Oh shit, close your eyes and plug your ears, quickly now.” Seuni commanded. “This might be what knocked us out and put us in status before.” Her shout was barely audible above the increasing noise, presumably from the alien ship.
They followed suit and stayed that way for some time. They were dizzy but still conscious and able to function. The sound had stopped and Seuni was able to pass by everyone and tap them on the shoulder and let them know it was ok to open their eyes and unplug their ears.
“What the heck, what was that?” Mathew asked as he looked around and then at Seuni.
“I’m not sure. Something happened to us before and we were placed in status for thirty two hours. Control said that it was thirty two very long hours. I don’t know if that sound had anything to do with it but I am not taking any chances. Control told me that a similar noise had proceeded our lack of communication before.” She looked around at the crew and realized they were just a little confused from the sound or maybe it was from her command. “Please listen up,” She spoke in a whisper. “I want all of us to remain in the position we are in. I think we have to pretend we are in a trance or something. Don’t ask please, just do it, remain stationary as possible.”
Everyone held their position and it looked like a freeze frame in a movie, there was no movement. With this scenario time absolutely crawled.
To the crew’s benefit, it only took a very short time before there was a change. He/it entered and walked pass the stationary party. Once the visitor reached the Facility wall, at the absolute back of the cafeteria, Seuni moved. She followed his path and stood within several meters of where the alien now stood, working with the wall.
Mathew came up beside her and the entire crew turned toward the visitor. They spread out keeping their distance while they encircled the busy visitor. It was very quiet and the welcoming crew’s position had completely blocked the path back to the ship. The alien would have to go through them to return to his comrades.
“Excuse me, hey excuse me.” Seuni said getting louder with each repeat.
It stopped poking at the wall and dropped its appendages to the side of its body. It remained in this position for minutes on end. Seuni could take it no longer and moved around the side as she approached the stationary figure. “Excuse me, hey you, excuse me, I’m talking to you.” She was close enough and she did the unthinkable, she reached up and tapped it on, what she would call, his elbow.
It got even more rigid after she touched it and she had to wonder if it was broken. A moment later it started to turn and Seuni automatically took a step backward. Its eyes were already large but when it took in the panoramic view of the unhampered crew, spread out as they were, the eyes became much larger.
“Hello, I come in piece.” Seuni just had to say it.
“Left my home in Jackson, headed out to Frisco Bay…” The alien spoke in a sing song voice.
He/it was interrupted by Mathew who burst out laughing. “He is singing my song and he is using my voice, hey, that’s my song.” Matt lowered his head and slowly shook it. “I knew they were listening, I could feel it. Now I am sure, I was on that vessel and they monitored me the whole time. They probably know all my songs. Hey you, those are copyrighted, they belong to me.” Matt again laughed out loud. “Those are my songs.” He laughingly repeated.
She looked up into the eyes of the tall being and elaborated her movements as she lifted her hand and pointed at herself. “Seuni.” She said and then lowered her hand. Deliberately she raised it again and pointed it at herself. “Seuni.” She repeated it slowly.
Those big eyes blinked and the head tilted left with just a little twist. Not unlike Bam Bam, Matt’s little Chihuahua, when he hears or sees something strange or different.
Seuni repeated her movement and said her name again. “Seuni.”
The crew watched in silence as the tall being raised his hand and, with an extremely long digit, pointed at Seuni and with her voice simply said. “Seuni.”
She repeated her motions and repeated her name again. The tall individual responded as before saying her name with her voice.
Seuni then raised her hand and pointed at what she considered the chest area of the tall creature. She held this position for a short time and then dropped her hand.
It raised its long arms and pointed at Seuni then said her name again. Then the arm of the being curled and pointed at itself and simply said, “Tok.” The voice was alien and extremely low in tone. The bass sound was felt as well as heard. He lowered his arm then immediately brought it back up to point at itself again. “Tok.”
Seuni raised her hand and pointed at the large individual and repeated the sound she had heard with a voice as low as she could manage. “Tok.”
The face changed just a little, almost seeming amused at Seuni’s attempt to mock the tone of the large being. Without fanfare it walked pass Seuni and glided its way through the, moving aside, crew. They all turned and watched it go. “Oh boy, what do we do now? If there is more than one of these things, we may be in deep doo doo.” Seuni laughed at herself for all the dos and doos she had put together. “Everyone, let’s move back here and take seats.” She motioned them to the back of the cafeteria then she got back on the headset. “Control, Seuni here.”
“Go ahead Seuni, say your status.” Fred said into her ear.
“We have just had an encounter of the third kind.”
“You saw a little green man?”
“Cute, but no. We have just had a one word conversation with a really tall intelligent light green being.”
“Is it still there?”
“No it headed back toward the center of the Facility. We are remaining here in the cafeteria and just waiting for the stuff to hit the fan. I am sure it is going to tell on us for not being asleep or in some type of status as before.” Seuni ripped off the head set and covered her ears as she again heard the wavering sound start up. It was much louder this time but Seuni could not pinpoint any ill effect on herself and, as she looked around, the crew also seemed fine.
She put the headset back on and caught the tail end of a question.
“…at unusual sound again?”
“Say again your question.”
“There was that unusual sound again?”
“Yep, I think they know that we are not knocked out now. Funny, the sound did not have the effect on us as it did before, even though it was much louder.”
“Maybe it’s the old gray matter’s ability to learn from experience.”
“You could be right. We are just sitting here waiting for, what I am sure will be, their entourage of curiosity.”
“Have you ever heard of the ‘Sitting Duck” analogy? We here at control feel you may be one. Do you have a plan or an option?”
“Yes we do. Our plan is to wait here for their next move. We do have the option of a group’s transports, but I see no advantage in that.”
“We concur and we feel that we must try to achieve some type of rapport with these visitors. We are standing by, good luck.”
Seuni switched off the mike and turned to her crew. “Control wishes us good luck and so do I. I want everyone seated facing toward the entrance of the cafeteria. When they come, if they come, I will be the only one to rise and greet them. We must establish some protocol with them. If they are receptive, I will introduce each of you.” Seuni smiled and continued. “Control says we may be sitting ducks but that doesn’t mean we should ‘Quack Up’, sorry, I couldn’t help but say that.”
Some nervously laughed but most just smiled at her as she attempted to lighten the mood for everyone. They waited and talked among themselves while Seuni and Matt caught up on things. The beaches, where Matt and Seuni had spent so much time before, was very far away. For away but not forgotten, those days would never be forgotten. There was just too much involved in that meeting, the meeting where they got to know each other and those memories should last a life time.
When the tall being returned, it was not alone. The Idle One preceded and led the alien entourage, a party of three, into the center of the cafeteria.
As Seuni requested, everyone kept their seats and Seuni was the only one that rose to greet the visitors. She emulated their pace as she walked toward the tall beings. She looked at the aliens and was surprised at how they all looked so very much alike. How could she possibly tell them apart? On second thought, one of them was much taller and she believed that it was the one they had already met. She looked straight at the tallest one and said, “Tok.”
His head lifted slightly and the eyes open up just a little more than they were and, one could almost swear, he was amused. The Idle One slowly turned toward Tok as if for an explanation. Tok erased his amusement as he turned to the Idle One and with his extremely long arm and hands, he pointed at Seuni and, with her voice, he said, “Seuni.” Then Tok turned and pointed at the Idle One and said something like, “Dop”, but it was so deep a tone it could have been anything close to that.
Was that a small bow? Is that possible a small bow, an acknowledgement of sorts. Seuni returned what she thought was a bow, standing back up she faced the Idle One, now known to her as Dop.
A few moments passed as they stood and looked at each other. Dop finally spoke about ten one syllable sounds and then waited. Not knowing what to say, Seuni just stood and looked at Dop.
Tok turned to Dop and rattled off several one syllable words. Dop seemed to mull these over and then turned back to Seuni and said.
“On a dark desert highway cool wind in my hair, one spell of the eve dust rising up through the air.” Dop said it with Matthew Jensen’s voice and it threw Seuni for a loop.
Mathew stood up and said, “Up ahead in the distance I saw a shimmering light. My lids grew heavy and my sight grew dim.”
Matt picked up his guitar, then he, Tok and Dop took turns and sang the complete Eagles song Hotel California joining in on the chorus, well they sang matt’s version anyway. As they sang it was hard to tell who was singing unless you were staring right at them, the voices were the same with the same inflections. Ok, it wasn’t really communication but it was something they had in common. Sometimes that is the only thing you need to start an understandable rapport when there is a language barrier and this was definitely a language barrier, one of significant size.
As soon as the song was finished they turned and left. “What was that, did we make a break through?” Seuni looked around, looking for some understanding.
“They learned all my songs and maybe they think it is how we communicate.” Matt shook his head and continued. “Sorry, I was bored with my imprisonment and sang a lot of songs to fill the time.” He then smiled at Seuni. “They sang good didn’t they, I like their voices.”
“Ha, you like it because it’s like listening to yourself.” Seuni said sarcastically but she couldn’t help but smile at Matt. “It’s good to see that you didn’t lose your sense of humor while you were vacationing and riding around the galaxy with the visitors.”
Matt took Seuni’s hand and looked deep into her eyes. “It’s good to see you too. You were a big part of my survival and thoughts of you filled a very large portion of my time while I was away.”
“Same here, I missed you so and, oh boy, sorry, I better call control and make sure they are up on the latest. We will catch up more later, ok?” As Matt nodded his head she picked up the head set and turned it on. “Control, this is Seuni.”
Including the transmit time, an additional ten seconds passed while Fred was summoned back to his desk. “Hey Seuni, been waiting on pins and needles down here, things ok?”
“Ok, but unusual, I guess, well maybe we, I’m not sure but I think, well we might have had a talk with the visitors.”
“Huh? You might have, you‘re not sure, ok but could you elaborate on that part about the talk with the visitors, please?”
Seuni told the story as it had happened. She could tell Fred had been laughing and was still smiling when he came back on when she had finished her account of the meeting. “So you too think it’s funny, well so do we, and Matt, he thinks they sing great.”
They kicked this topic around for a good half hour before Fred felt that all inputs from the moon had been received, now he turned serious.
“I hate to put a damper on the good times but I need to pass on some info. It’s about Phil Charlton, he died of natural causes. He had an aneurism, undetectable in his physical, the docs found nothing that would suggest otherwise, so we suspect no foul play.” Fred paused and waited for Seuni to reply.
“Ok, I understand natural causes, but it was still on my watch and I feel somewhat responsible.”
“On your watch yes, but had nothing to do with you or your duties, it was just a fact of life. Don’t blame yourself, there was nothing you or anybody else could have done.” Fred waited a moment and then added, “There is something more you should know.”
“What else, I’m a big girl, I can take it, lay it on me.”
“From evidence provided by our forensic people, someone tried CPR on him.”
“We didn’t, I was going to start but some rigor had already set in. He had been dead for some time. I would guess at least a full day or more, probably died when we lost contact with you. Maybe he died at the same time we were put into some type of status. Those lost thirty two hours is about right.”
“We agree with your time estimate, however, there is one more thing, there were distinct small burn patches on his chest.”
“Burn patches, I don’t understand.”
“These small burns were found when his clothes were removed during the autopsy.” Fred paused.
Seuni somehow knew that there was more so she held her comments until she got it all.
“Our doctors report that these small burns happened post mortem.”
“After he died, that’s what you’re saying, he was burned after he died.” Seuni could not wait for all of it, she was in shock at his words. “What do they think made these marks, these burn marks?”
The docs are not positive but they say that these burns are consistent with the application of a defibrillator. We think someone tried to restart his heart.”
“There are some here on the moon, but we, hold on a minute.” Seuni looked back at her crew. “Could I have your attention, ok, Control says that someone used a defibrillator on Phil Charlton. Anyone have an idea about this, did any of you attempt CPR or use a defibrillator on Phil?”
“Sorry control, no one in my group here did it. Could the docs be wrong?”
“Of course they could but they are adamant about their results.”
“I’ll probably hate myself tomorrow but, maybe, just maybe the attempt was made by our alien visitors.” Seuni saw the look on some of her crew faces so she turned around. The tall one, Tok, was back and coming toward her. “I’ll get back to you later control, we have a visitor.”
Tok glided up to Seuni, stopped and then turn around. He took two steps then stopped and looked back at Seuni. He then took another step and looked back at her.
“I think he wants you to follow him.” Matt said.
Seuni, still recovering from the information control had passed on, took a deep breath, nodded her head and took two steps toward Tok. Tok turned back and headed out of the cafeteria with Seuni in tow. He led her to the transport area and stepped up to the group transport area and waited for Seuni to join him. Once she was inside the area the rings fell and they were gone. Those in the cafeteria realized someone had transported when the bright flash reflected throughout the Facility.
Steve Simms was sitting near the transport area at Stonehenge when the bright flash occurred. He was waiting for his job to become active again. While he waited he had been leaning back in his chair reading a science fiction paperback. He went over with the chair when the unexpected flash occurred. He lay there looking up as Tok glided up to his position. The nine foot plus visitor towered over him to unbelievable heights. He lay very very still until Seuni moved in front of the alien and said. “Hey Steve, you ok? You took quite a tumble there.” She offered him a hand and helped him back to his feet. He did not take his eyes off the huge being and he was not speaking.
It didn’t take long for the earth to respond to the presence of a space alien at Stonehenge. The area inside of the Stonehenge Terminal had, for some time now, been cordoned off and still remained that way. However, due to the new arrival, the two security guards posted there had now been increased significantly and numbered more than ten with more guards added at the perimeter. This was done quietly and without fanfare. The press was still in the area searching for stories among the evacuees from the moon and a panic or invasion by paparazzi was something to avoid at all cost. The leaders and pertinent dignitaries were brought to Stonehenge under the ruse of an inspection tour and morale building for these displaced individuals, those waiting to return to their homes on the moon.
Seuni was still shaken by the fact that someone, maybe this alien, had tried to save Phil Charlton after his untimely death. She tried not to let it show but she kept a wary eye on the visitor. She wondered, did they feel and, if so, did they feel responsible for Phil’s death.
These and other thoughts on the same line made her uncomfortable with this entity but she knew she had to go forward and do whatever it takes to make some headway into the understanding of their goal. To say she was not sure on how, or if, she could handle the introduction of Tok, was an extreme simplification of the situation. Was he tired, was he hungry, was he comfortable, was he ready to meet earth’s leaders and most important, did he sit? She had never seen the visitor in any position but standing.
Seuni knew that there wasn’t a chair on earth that would fit the frame of this guest. She did the only thing that made sense, she turned and faced Tok, gesturing with the lowering of her hand, she slowly lowered herself into a cross leg sitting position there on the grass. She then, as normal as could be, patted the grass beside her while looking at the tall being.
Amazing was the word that came to mind as this enormous being lowered itself into the spot she had indicated. Its long lower extremities, pale in comparison to Seuni’s amber skin tones, folding and extending out on both sides as it sat down. It reminded her of the space shuttle’s tubular, lengthy, robotic arm as it slowly bent and folded in its return to rest inside the shuttle’s bay.
Once Tok was seated he placed his hands on his knees and sat straight up, looking straight ahead. Seuni felt like they were the first guests at an Indian Pow Wow. They now sat waiting for the chief and his chief advisors. Their input and directions she sorely needed.
It wasn’t one chief that arrived, it was a heard of chiefs. No one in particular was in charge over the others. The interpreters, that accompanied the variety of nations represented, were many and the noise they made could only be confusing to the visitor.
Seuni stood up and put her hands beside her mouth and let out an extremely loud whistle, just like her dad had taught her. Seuni looked at Tok, who had remained sitting, again he seemed amused at her antics.
The sharp whistle got most of the herd’s attention. Seuni followed it up with her words. “Quiet please,” with both hands she motioned them to settle down, “could I have your attention. We are not going to get anywhere with this banter. It sounds like a bunch of noise to me, I can only imagine what it sounds like to our visitor.” Slowly the noise and talking lessened until no one dared speak and the silence was dearly welcomed by Seuni. “Thank you, and thanks for coming. Please be seated for a few moments and I will bring you all up to date on as much as I know.” The interpreters relayed her message and she paused for them to complete the translation.
For the next hour and a half, Seuni told them of the visitor’s arrival, her crew’s coma like status and the short unusual conversation they previously had. There were a lot of smiles and some laughter when the translation about the musical conversation was relayed. Once her story was finished she made the mistake of asking if there were any questions. She really couldn’t point them out but she was sure that there must have been someone that did not raise their hand or shout out a question. Even though she was fluent in a multiple of languages, numerous questions shouted out were in languages she did not understand. It took her another ten minutes or more to get those gathered there to be quiet again. Once silence was restored she started on her left and took questions, one at a time, until she had worked the entire group.
Seuni had barely finished when a distant commotion was heard. Security was shouting halt and stop but somehow they had broken through. The guards were not prepared to fire on people. Their instructions were to secure the area and prevent entrance just by their presence.
It was the press who had somehow picked up on the fact that this entourage was not what it had been reported to be. They and their cameras were running in from the entrance, chased by the hapless security guards, toward the dignitaries that were now rising to their feet.
Seuni grabbed the hand of Tok and led him toward the center of the Stonehenge. She pointed up when they reached the center of the transport area. Tok looked at her and lifted his hand pointing up with his long fingers. She again pointed up. The rings suddenly fell and they were gone. The bright flash of light, from the transportation, out flashed the electronic equipment attached to the paparazzo’s cameras and stopped those paparazzi invaders in their tracks.
The next day in numerous newspapers and supermarket rags, there would be the pictures of the incident. These photos (shot in haste, on the run, out of focus, shot from a distance) of an entity, supposedly an alien, who was so tall it made the headlines and accompanying stories simply unbelievable. Unfortunately for the press these blurred and grainy tabloid photos would be somehow dismissed, they were too similar to those nineteen fifty Area 51 printings. Most readers would, as in previous cases, doubt there validity. This and, when readers remember the paste and cut ability of today’s computers, the whole thing could easily be dismissed as a hoax. The idea of a hoax would be enforced by the comments of those dignitaries that were present at the Stonehenge and except for those hardcore believers, the result would be as expected.
As soon as they were back on the moon, Seuni brought her crew up to date on the situation they had run into down at the Stonehenge. Matt, Seuni and Tok left the cafeteria and headed back to the transport area. They had no idea why and simply followed Tok. Seuni took the headset with her and contacted control, bringing them up to date and to see if they had any suggestions. “We could not remain there. I don’t think we are ready for the exposure that could have happened if we had stayed.” Control agreed with her and would get back with her when they figured out what to do.
Tok approached the transport area and after poking the wall around the monitor that showed Stonehenge, he stepped back. The monitor changed and a slide show began slowly showing a number of different locations down on earth. Seuni watched as the display resembled an area located in one of the tight curves of the Great Wall of China. This was replaced after a moment by a view of the entrance to Cheyenne Mountain, a scene she was too familiar with. Other scenes followed, the base of what could only be Hoover Dam, somewhere in the Grand Canyon, an Egyptian or Aztec Pyramid and numerous large cave entrances. The cave entrances could have been anywhere on earth. Mammoth Caves in Kentucky or Carlsbad Cavern in California came to mind but there was no way to be sure.
The display continued and started over again. Stonehenge was just one of those displayed. Tok stood watching the monitor and waiting for something. On the third start of the looping display, he turned to Seuni as if to say pick one.
“You want me to pick one? We can go to these places, any of these that are being displayed?” These questions were for herself, rhetorical in their utterance, no reply was received or expected. Why these, what do they have in common?
“Control, this is Seuni.”
“Go ahead Seuni, what’s your pleasure.”
“Let me tell you what I see and then you give me some help with why these and what I should do now.”
“We are all ears, tell us what you see.”
Seuni relayed the information and described each display as they appeared, one after another on the transport monitor. She was finished and silence prevailed. The display continued to run as before. Location after location held on screen for a moment then would be replace by the next.
“Cheyenne Mountain, you say the picture resembles Cheyenne Mountain?”
“Yes, I was stationed there early in my career. I know the place well.”
“Standby Seuni, we will be back on shortly.”
It was sometime before control returned and spoke to Seuni. “Seuni, Control here.” Came through the head set that Seuni had momentarily laid aside.
“Seuni, they are calling you.” Matt said and handed her the headset. He then leaned in to hear what was being said from control.
“Seuni here, hey you guys sure took your time. I was in the middle of a catnap.”
“Sorry about that, we took some time to decide what to do.” There was a pause and to Seuni it seemed like they still were not sure and maybe they were still discussing it. “Ok, here is the plan. We want you and the tall being, Tok, is that what you are calling him?
“Tok, that is correct.” Seuni replied and Tok turned toward her as she said his name. She shook her head at him and he shook his head at her. Even though she had no idea if he knew what shaking her head meant, she smiled at him.
“We have alerted the Air Force and got their permission to go to Cheyenne Mountain. If you will, please pick that location and see if you can transport there. We will have someone waiting for you.” There was a pause and then she heard control say. “Good luck Seuni.”
“We go together this time, if no one minds?” Matt said as Seuni turned back to the monitor that was still processing the slide show. When the monitor displayed the slide of Cheyenne Mountain, she pointed to it and then turned to Tok.
Tok tapped the edges of the monitor and stopped the slide show. The manipulations took only a few seconds and then only one view showed on the monitor, a constant picture of the entrance to Cheyenne Mountain. Tok pointed up and she pointed up, Matt moved in close to Seuni. Then the rings fell and the rings fell over all three of them. Just before the bright light flashed they were gone and the transport area was again eerily silent and, of the recent trio, totally empty.
It was very dark when the flash of transport finally faded away. The brightness of that flash had momentarily caused the automatic lighting to shut off. These lights were controlled by sensors, off at daybreak and on at twilight, but sometimes at night, like in the midst of a violent thunderstorm, they would turn off. This occurs when the lightning is so bright and last for a time, lasting beyond the programmed delay of the light sensing relays. The results is a few minutes of darkness until the Mercury Vapor lights can come back on, slowly returning to full brightness.
“What the heck, hey the electrical power is out, there is a power outage! We need lights here. Anyone? Attention, use your personal lights, everyone flashlights on.” Shouts were heard from the area surrounding the entrance to Cheyenne Mountain. Seuni, Matt and Tok held their position and waited for the lights to come back on. It was too dark and too risky to do otherwise. Small beams of light meander around them and then hit them full in the eyes. Seuni put her hand up to shield her eyes from the bright spots. “Stay where you are, keep your hands visible.” Was shouted from somewhere nearby.
Matt slowly raised his hands up on both sides to about eye level palms out and Seuni followed his lead. She then looked at Tok and smiled. He raised his long arms and held his hands in the same fashion as Matt and Seuni. Tok’s elbows, sticking straight out horizontal were about two feet above Seuni’s head. “Hello, we come in peace, take us to your leader.” Matt just had to say as the lights were returning to normal and he could now faintly see the armed security guards that had surrounded them.
“Put your weapons down, stand at ease. These friends are our guest and you must treat them as such.” Col Porter said as he moved in quickly and passed through the circle of security. The clatter of weapons being returned to shoulders and holsters peaked and then slowly died away. “Dr Seuni Takao, I am Col Richard Porter and oh, this is great, this is, just unbelievable.” Col Porter said as he extended his hand and shook hands with Seuni. His smile was a mile wide and she thought he would shake her to pieces before he stopped. He finally released her hand and turned as Matt extended his hand and they exchanged greetings. “Matthew Jenson, it is such a pleasure to meet you, oh and hey, welcome back.”
“Thank you Col, it is great to be back.” Matt replied.
Then he turned to Tok. “And this is, holy shit.” Col Porter said as the lighting was now improved and he realized he was eye level with the mid section of his next guest, then he tilted his head back and stood with his mouth open as he looked up at the tall being.
“Tok.” The large being said and the sound was deep bass and had its own auditorium type hollow depth. Unexpected by Seuni and Matt, the large being extended his hand out, as they had done, and shook hands with the Col.
“Tok.” Seuni repeated after a few seconds. “We’re pretty sure his name is Tok.”
“Tok, right, Tok. I had heard he was unusual but I never expected his height to be so, uh, high?” Col. Porter replied after he finally got his mouth closed again. Then he was momentarily at a loss for words as he stared at the two joined hands, his hand simply wrapped and swallowed due to the size of the visitor’s extremities. They would find later that this lost for words was not the norm.
After introductions with the Col’s aids and other ranking military, they were taken inside and shown to a large modern conference room. Refreshments were offered and taken by Matt and Seuni. It seemed that Tok had his own supply and produced a container of some size that held a colorful liquid of which he consumed.
They sat and waited, Tok sitting on the floor as he had on the grass at Stonehenge. The arrival of leaders from the US put the military here in a kind of nervous frenzy. They were making sure that everything was done just right and no matter how this went, it would not be their fault if it went wrong. The Col was beside himself in his introductions, saving Tok until the very last.
When Tok was introduced he copied the reaction of the new arrivals. He let his mouth fall open as he extended his hand. Seuni almost giggled out loud, quickly turning and giving Matt an elbow in the ribs as she silently pointed up at Tok, dropping her mouth open as he had. Matt too almost lost it but with some effort he maintained a stone face. It was either that or burst out laughing.
They spent the next two hours talking to the US representatives. Answering questions and telling them of the events leading up to and the arrival of the alien ship. Tok maintained his position and watched Seuni as she handled the queries from the audience. Once the questions slowed down or became redundant, Col Porter called a halt to allow his guest some rest. He showed them to some guest quarters that had been arranged for them.
Seuni looked at the arrangement and wondered how this would set with Tok. She turned and looked at him and wondered how she could ask him if this was ok. She didn’t get a chance to try to ask, as Tok was pointing up.
“Col Porter, this is all fine but we will be going back to the moon for the evening. We will be back tomorrow to meet with the foreign dignitaries when they arrive.” Seuni said.
“But, they expect you to remain here, are you sure this is ok.” Col Porter’s face was red with concern and he was embarrassed that he had made some mistake in protocol or something.
“It’s ok, everything is fine. I think Tok here needs his ship for nourishment and resting. This is all new to us as you know. We are not sure how he, they, rest or sleep or if they do require rest or sleep. It is best that we make them feel as comfortable as possible, so if he wants to return to the moon we will comply with his wishes.” Seuni finished and started out of the room with Tok and Matt in tow.
Col Porter went alongside trying his best to convince her to remain there inside the mountain. She would have none of it and made her way back out to the very entrance of the secure facility. Once they were back to where they had arrived, Seuni turned to the Col who was still at her side going on about why she should remain on earth. She held up her hand trying to stop his rhetoric spiel. He would not be stopped and kept talking until Seuni finally interrupted.
“Stand back Col unless you want to be up there on the moon as our guest.” Seuni pointed up and the rings suddenly fell.
Col Porter had jumped back out of the way and was temporarily blinded by the flash of transport. He stood where he was until the lights returned to their full brightness and his vision was back to normal. He slowly shook his head as he headed back inside. His brain was in turmoil on what to say and how to report this undesired development.
. Tok, without hesitation, had headed for his ship as soon as they arrived. Seuni and Matt returned to the cafeteria and brought the welcoming crew up to date. She then got on the headset to control and let them know that everything was ok. Actually they were not surprised at her return to the moon but they did not imply that they agreed with her decision to return.
Control reported on the actions being taken by the world leaders and how they were arranging things to avoid alerting the news media of their plans to travel to Cheyenne Mountain. It would take days now for all to arrive due to the random travel arrangements. It would not be wise for all of them to suddenly travel at the same time for they knew this would definitely set off alarm bells.
Two days later Tok returned to the cafeteria. He was accompanied by another tall being carrying a small case. Tok pointed at him and said, “Eck.” as he pointed at the newcomer.
Eck set the case down opened it. Seuni thought it resembled a laptop computer in some ways. The screen now had a video of sorts running and the writing on it was in English.
(2003 John Kanzius discovered that he could make salt water burn by exposing it to radio frequency waves. This could be the new fuel, environmentally friendly and in abundance all over the world. It could be the answer to the fuel crises that plagued the world.)
“We use salt water as our fuel, do you?” It was a statement made by Tok’s companion.
Considerable surprised showed on the faces of those within earshot of the alien. After a long, mouth hanging open moment, Seuni addressed the newcomer. “You speak our language, you’re speaking English?
“Positively, second language you know?”
“Wow, do all of you speak English?” She asked.
“No, oh no, very few, I have studied your language since this one joined us on our ship.” With his long fingers he indicated Matt.
“But, but you sound so natural. It is as if you have been speaking English forever.”
“I think you would call it forced programming, done while the recipient is in REM sleep. In other words I slept on the way here to the moon. Once Matt here was on board, we sort of tuned in on your world and recorded all transmissions that you broadcasted. We developed a program that would enable one to receive and deliver a compelling vocabulary. So, what do you think?” What he presented Seuni with, as he finished, almost looked like a smile.
The return to Cheyenne Mountain was a spectacle in itself. The conference room was jammed with world leaders who could not wait to be in the presence of these visitors from the stars. Once all were inside they were not allowed back out at the entrance. The entrance was now protected and secure, waiting for the arrival of those coming from the moon by the transport system. When the info was relayed that two, not one, of the aliens would be arriving, the room was filled with so much noise and chatter and speculation about this turn of events that any additional info would be moot.
On cue, Seuni, Matt, Tok and Eck appeared at the entrance to Cheyenne Mountain. The guards that surrounded the arrival area were more prepared and did not change their alert status this time. They wore sun glasses to protect their eyes from the pre arrival light flash and they did not brandish their weapons as they had before. More prepared, yes, still in awe at the statue and height of the visitors, even more so.
The guards actually snapped to with an armed salute for the arrivals. Col Porter hurried down out of the hall that led into the underground facility. He shook hands all around and busied himself with idle chatter while leading the way for Seuni and crew. As he walked he kept looking back and up at the two aliens as they gracefully walked following his path. It was as if they floated, their gate was so smooth and each step covered about three of his. He was so distracted he almost blundered into a support beam. He looked at Seuni, small pink patches showed on his cheek as he smiled. “Oops.” Was all he said about that and then continued his almost orientation like spiel of the offices located there and their individual functions.
The room immediately hushed as Col Porter and the four individuals entered. Seuni thought to herself that she had never seen so many world leaders in one place before and they were quiet. Most with their mouths hanging open. True, the meeting before at Stonehenge had quite a few of these same individual in attendance but the scene was spoiled so quickly she did not get the chance to enjoy their awe inspired reaction to the visitors.
Col Porter separated himself from the new arrivals and moved to the podium. He reached up and tapped the microphone to make sure that it was own. “Ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure and I am so pleased to introduce Dr. Seuni Takao, astronaut, moon resident, transport specialist and leader of the welcoming crew we, the earth here, left on the moon to receive our, well, our new friends.” With his right hand he indicated the two aliens. “She and her crew had first contact with our visitors. She will do further introductions and answer any questions you may have. Dr. Takao, they are all yours.” Col Porter said and then he moved out to the middle of the room and found a seat so he could see the show, this entertainment he felt that he alone had helped provide.
“Gentlemen and, uh, ladies.” Seuni had suddenly notice that there were two world leaders who were female. “I am so pleased to be with you today. It is my great pleasure to introduce my fellow travelers. This,” She indicated Matt. “is Mathew Jensen, fellow astronaut and invited guest who traveled with our two visitors as they made their way to our moon.”
Matt waved at the gathering. “Good to be back on earth, thanks for having me.” Of course he was making a joke and making lite of his incarceration and the visit by these tall aliens. Matt then stepped back and waited for Seuni to continue.
There were some waves at Matt and some rumbling amongst the audience and Seuni waited until the noise had quieted. “I would now like to introduce our special guests who have voluntarily joined us.” She took Tok’s hand and led him forward one step. “This is Tok, he was our first encounter with our new friends. He is extremely brave and approached us with open arms, so to speak.”
To Seuni’s surprise, Tok copied Matt’s actions and he also waved at the audience. The rumbling was much louder and took a lot longer to quiet.
Seuni was thinking. If just a wave set them off like that, I can’t wait to introduce Eck. She held her position and waited for the rumbling to cease. She then took Eck’s hand and led him forward. “Our newest friend, whom I have just met, is Eck.” He also gave a small wave. “I will answer some questions now about our role in this if you would like.
There were no lack of questions and Seuni had the answers for them. The problem was to get the audience to cooperate and allow her to field one question at a time. It took some time and the questions kept coming. Sometimes a question, from a different source or about an unusual situation, would create an avalanche of new questions. Seuni knew this could go on and on and she would never be able to field everybody’s questions. After an hour she asked for only one more question. “Ok, I have taken up a lot of your time and I am sure you have a lot more important things to do. I will take one more question and then I have something special for you, so make this question important.”
The last question was asked and she answered it. “No, there was no pain. We did not know we were, well, whatever we were, comatose, in status or what. As far as we knew we had not lost consciousness and no time had expired. Even after standing where we were for that number of hours, we were not tired and I heard no one complain about muscle aches or anything.”
Seuni held up her hands to stop a further barrage of questions. “That is all I can answer right now, so let me continue, please.” She waited until quiet once again claimed the room. “I promised you I had something else, something special for you and I will follow through on my promise. I would now like to reintroduce you to Eck, our new friend, our out of the world visitor. Eck, they are all yours.”
Seuni stepped back and watched what she knew would be an almost unbelievable reaction from those gathered. She knew it wouldn’t be the words Eck would say it would be the fact that he said those words. It didn’t take long and as she would remember it, it was almost comical.
In a voice that did not require a microphone he began. “Thank you Seuni, ladies and gentlemen, I am happy to be here representing our first contact with your culture. It has been sometime since we have been in your area. It is with some pleasure that we can see how far you have advance since our last visit. Your presence in our facility on the moon alerted us to the fact that you had advanced enough to leave your planet.” That is as far as Eck got before he was interrupted by the audience.
Interrupted, it was more like an eruption. Seuni heard isolated comments and snips of other utterances. “What kind of joke is this?” and “Where is the camera, is this candid camera?” and “Who is it, who is in those costumes?” and “I came here for this hoax.”
Eck turned and glanced at Seuni. She motion with both hands and quietly said, “Go ahead, convince them of who you are.”
Eck faced the audience again and took one long step that put him at the front row. He leaned down close to one of them in that row and reached out a hand in an offer of a hand shake. His intended took his hand and Eck said, “My name is Eck and you are?”
“I, I, I’m Justin, Justin Oberton, just call me Justin.” The delegate from the ministry of Justice in England replied as he rose from his chair and took Eck’s hand. He thought as he tilted his head back and looked up and into the face of Eck. This up close and personal approach by Eck left no doubt in his mind that this was not a person of this world.
“Good to meet you, Justin.” Eck said and continued one by one alone the front row as he again and again introduced himself to each individual. As he reached the end of the first row, he turned to Tok and made four one syllable sounds. Tok immediately left his position and entered the second row of the waiting audience. One by one he took a hand and simply said, “Tok.” The approached individuals shook hands and then responded with their first names. Some of the delegates rose and bowed as they gave their names, this was instead of shaking hands. This seemed acceptable to both visitors and they responded with bows to those individuals. Eck worked the third row and Tok completed the second and continued with the fourth row and on in this fashion until all individuals present had the opportunity to greet one of the visitors personally.
There wasn’t a doubt left in the audience and the visitors were accepted as presented. Up close and personal they were so different, not just in height, totally different in every way you could imagine. Their eyes, ears, hands, feet, head and body, they were not of this world.
Eck returned to the podium as Tok again took his place beside Seuni and Matt. He knew that the audience was his so Eck told them about his planet. After that he told them about their surprise at the use of the remote on the moon and how it alerted them to the fact that the residents of earth had the ability to cross the vacuum of space, at least the space between the earth and the moon. This use of the remote set them on their ten year trip, earth standards, back to the moon. He told about their long range accidental transport of Matt and the effect his arrival had on the crew. He told about Matt and he told about their fear that earth would consider them as alien abductors. He told about the process of his learning to speak earth languages.
His oration and the process of answering numerous questions took some time. It was hours later that he requested leave of their presents to return to his ship. Although the audience was insistent on their remaining to answer more questions, it was shortly after that, Eck, Tok, Matt and Seuni returned to the moon by way of the transport.
“Last one, I’ll put it here in this empty space.” Eck said as he brought out the last transporter.
“That makes exactly one hundred. Wait a minute, I’m not sure I understand. We can place these anywhere on earth and, and use them?” Seuni said as she looked at the small block like devices that Eck had brought off of his ship.
“Precisely, put them anywhere you like.” Eck said.
“And we use them to go here, you know, to the moon?” Seuni questioned him.
“Yes, sure, you can use them to go to the moon.”
“Well, that may be a problem. Not everyone wants to go to the moon, a lot of people are happy to be where they are. You know down there on earth.”
“Great, then those people should use them on earth.” Eck said as though that was intended.
“They can use them on earth?” Seuni asked.
“Where do they go with these on earth?” Matt chimed in as he was also confused.
“Once these are placed in a permanent position each site will be seen and selectable from every other site. You can go from point A to point B without having to come to the moon. You can also select the moon from all sites, if you want.” Eck patiently explained although he was not sure why what he said wasn’t clear already.
“Radical, instant transport on earth. This will revolutionize the travel industry.” Matt looked up at Eck. “How are they powered? There are no wires and they are too small for an internal power supply. Well, power supplies as we know them, anyway.” Matt continued as he looked over the unit that Eck held in his hand.
“It is rather simple in its operation. This small unit actually draws its energy from the planet’s rotation. Let me be a little more detailed about the source. The moon’s circling orbit combined with the earth’s orbit around the sun and their movement through space produces a kind of black kinetic energy. This energy is aided by the flow of current from the magnetic poles. This energy you cannot see but, it is always there to be utilized as needed. We in our life time, having a similar solar system and home planet, built this unit to harness that power for our needs and now with these small units you can use it too. As far as we know this source of power is perpetual. As long as your planet and your moon continue orbiting as they presently do, this supply of power will be available and these units will operate as expected.”
“Is it possible to expand this power supply into other fields, you know like where small amounts of power is needed.” Matt asked.
“Mmmm, I see a couple of reason why this would be a problem. Some of the material used in manufacturing this small unit may be, as you might say, not of this earth. I am not sure, and I have no way of knowing for sure if your manufacturing procedures would be capable of the accuracy and detail necessary in the construction of a unit like this.” Eck looked at both in turn as he replied.
“We can have some of our people get with your engineers and investigate this.” Seuni pause and then asked. “Do you call your people engineers?
“We call them di-a-tok, but if I translate that to English it would be an En-ga-near.” Eck paused and looked at Matt and Seuni. He then waited a few seconds before he began laughing. That is what it seemed like to Matt and Seuni so they joined in laughing. They both remember graduating from college and saying to someone in jest, ‘Now I are an en-ga-near’.”
It was a few days later that the first transport unit was put in place. Getting it installed proved to be no problem, deciding where to install the first one was a problem. It took more than an act of congress to select the right place. It had to be done fairly to prevent conflict between countries. In our modern world, where the computers and the speed of air travel have reduced its size, the earth now seems to be one community.
The names of one hundred countries, having cities with a population above a certain number, were printed out on identical cards, folded and secured, then all cards were placed in a small plastic drum. The drum was cranked around several times in a tumbling circle to mix the cards. A small committee from the United Nations was selected and they took turns drawing cards from the drum. Twenty draws were made to obtain the location of the first through the twentieth location for transporter installation. Once this was accomplished a computer was used to place the other eighty sites within the reach of all possible users. The first card drawn, however, was the first location for installation.
Sydney, Australia was the first site drawn. The Aussies were ecstatic as expected and those Aussies present at the drawing gave out with a very loud, ‘Aye Mate, ripper’. This outburst brought a smile from most and seemed to ease some of the tension felt by all those that had waited for the selection of that first transporter location.
Moscow, Tokyo, Bagdad, Quebec, Dallas, Beijing, Rio de Janeiro card after card that had been pulled from the drum until the first twenty cities were selected. As soon as the last of the first twenty sites was drawn those locations that had been selected were removed from the computer to prevent double selecting. The computer then printed out a list of the remaining eighty sites that would receive the transporters. These locations were spread through all the five continents and one site located on the moon at Rim City. These earth locations were such that most earth citizens had easy access to them and a transporter was within no more than a day’s travel for any and all other earth inhabitants, even the most remote.
Use of the transporters was very slow at first. Only the very brave and curious explorers ventured from site to site. It was so simple, step in here and step out there on the other side of the earth. True the transporter to the moon had been in use for ten years, still that had also been used by a very miniscule portion of earth inhabitants. As Eck had predicted air travel and other modes of transportation did not suffer any radical change in occupancy or use.
There were a few travelers to the moon that bypassed the Facility and took the transporter going straight to Rim City. You would think that this would put the bubble cars out of business now that there was a straight route, however, that was not the case. A trip to the moon without going through the Facility was almost unheard of. The only people that actually did that were those that were under extreme time constraints and on business only.
With the ease of travel there were several incidents of extremist attempting to disrupt the use of these transporters, they called them demonic devices. All but one attempt was easily thwarted before they actually used the transporter. Only one of these activist was able to use the transporter with plans to, as a suicide bomber, blow up the arrival site. For unknown reasons the explosives did not work upon arrival as the individual bomber expected. Further investigation found that the explosives that the individual wore had been rendered inert. It had all the correct ingredients and the wiring, batteries and activating switches were as one would expect, fully functional.
Numerous tests were later performed transporting explosives and in all cases, no transported explosives were of any use as explosive once they had been transported.
“Why would you want explosives anywhere near these sensitive units?” Eck asked after being told about the many test.
“Well, we use explosives for construction, mining, excavation and many other functions. Getting these explosives to the site for use involves some type of transportation.” Seuni explained.
“In that case, I suggest you do what we do, use some other type of transportation for your explosives. The transporters do not allow any explosive devices of any kind near or in the system, sorry. If by chance explosives get to close to the transporter they will become unusable. In other words they will not explode.” Eck now took his turn to explain. “We found out the hard way that we had to prevent, you call them terrorist, some individuals from destroying what we had worked so hard on accomplishing.”
“No, no, it’s ok. We just did not know that.” Seuni said. “I think that this protection is an excellent idea. We can surely use something else to transport explosives and that is just what we will have to do.”
Fortunately or unfortunately this information was shortly wide spread. Contractors, military, suppliers and even terrorist were aware of this quirk of the transport devices. This minor operational procedure of the transporters, and the continued use of explosive in construction on the moon, insured the continued reliance on rockets and spaceship trips to the surface of the moon. Even on the use of rockets the impact of the transporters was minor.
Eck explained. “We have done all we can do here, I believe. We were severely limited by the size of our vessel so there is no way we could bring everything that an undeveloped or developing world could possibly use. We had to make the best guess we could and bring only these usable items we were sure of. Your use of the transporting device was a clue as to what we should bring to assist you.” Eck towered over the few people that had gathered there.
He looked down on them from his height as he had from the moment he arrived. He thought that this was one of the things he looked forward to missing. Standing eye to eye with his own people, not having to look down and stoop to converse with the earth inhabitants. He liked them well enough and enjoyed their company but they were short in statue. He was also sure that they too were tired of having to look up as he was looking down.
As he looked at Seuni and Matt he hoped he had made everlasting friends here on earth. He could only hope he had left favorable impressions on each. Strangely enough Matt and Seuni were thinking the same thing as they looked up at Eck. They both thought back on the time Eck spent here on earth. Most of that time, here on earth, the three of them were together.
While each of them thought back on those experiences and their visiting earth together, Eck recalled one of the really bright memories he had made while on earth. That one night at that basketball game would be one of the first things he would remember when he thought about earth. The Houston Rockets had recruited a new player from the African Zulu area and Eck got to meet him personally. Seven foot eight inches in height brought him almost to a respectable height as far as Eck’s people went. This young man was only about a foot and a half shorter than Eck. Eck spoke to him in his own dialect. The young man was suitably impressed. This tall alien from so far away took the time to learn his language for this very short meeting. It was something he nor Eck would soon forget. At seven foot eight inches tall standing next to Eck, from a distance it looked more like the smallest guard standing next to the tallest center in the world. The height was that different.
Seuni jumped as her radio unit vibrated to alert her of control’s wish to speak to her. “Seuni here.” She said as she activated her mike and accepted contact with control.
The voice was in her ear only as control spoke. “Seuni, ah, hey, well, sorry to bother you, is Matt with you?” The voice was clear but hesitant in its delivery.
“Matt and Eck are here. Eck is getting ready to leave, how can I help?” Seuni asked as she held up her index finger asking for a moment to talk with control. She walked a short distance away as she waited for control to respond.
“Seuni, we don’t know how or why but we have let something slip through the crack, so to speak.” Control hesitant as best. “Could you distance yourself from Eck for a moment?”
“That is already taken care of as I walked away when I answered your call.”
“As you know, there are many launches from earth into space, with most going to the space station. We do monitor them but it now seems we have become lackadaisical in the routine of those launches.” There was a slight pause from the director at control but she could hear some talk in the back ground. “To make a long story short, one of those launches did not go to the space station. We have tracked it now and we are quite sure it is headed to your location on the moon. Well, we know for sure it is headed for the moon and we have to assume it is headed for your location.”
“It’s coming here, here to the moon?” Seuni was a little confused. “Why would anyone waste the time of rocket travel and expense when they could have come by transport at no cost and no time lost. Hey, maybe this is one of those normal shipment of explosives used for construction.”
“The only thing we can think of is that that ship is carrying something that is not allowed through the transporter.”
“Well it can’t be illegal drugs, there is no one here to buy them or use them and we haven’t had that problem before.” Seuni looked around at Matt and motioned for him to come over. Eck had gone into his ship leaving Matt alone. Hold on just a moment, let me get Matt in on this.”
“What’s going on, you look a little anxious?” Matt asked.
“Control says there is a ship headed our way, a ship from earth.” Seuni explained.
“Coming here? I don’t understand, why would they send a ship here. It would be easier and cheaper to use the transporter, wouldn’t it?” Matt asked.
“Turn on your radio and maybe we can both find out what is going on.” Seuni said as she reached out and switched on Matt’s radio.
“Matt is on now control, go ahead.” Seuni said.
“Morning Matt. As I was about to say, we are not sure whose ship it is and we don’t know what it is carrying. We are trying to go back through our launch records and find out where that ship launched from.” After a short pause control continued. “We don’t think it is drugs. We think you might be right. Seuni, and it is some type of explosives. That is one of the other things that cannot be sent through the transporter.”
“Explosives? Oh you mean like for construction or excavating, that type of explosives?” Matt asked.
“We, most of us, don’t believe these are that type of explosives. In the last few months there have been numerous incidents that were intercepted by law enforcement. These incidents were aimed at our visitors. We did not make a big deal about it and the hopes were that these radical groups had been silenced and controlled. However, now the thought is that they went underground and maybe, just maybe, they have now surfaced and launched this vehicle that is headed your way. If this is true, you have a real problem coming at you at about eighteen thousand miles per hour.” Control waited now for a reply.
“What kind of ETA are we looking at?” Matt asked.
“Two days max if their pilot has any skill at all. These are extremist, not idiot, so I am sure they have the skills.”
“Do they possess nuclear weapons?” Matt did not want to hear the answer but he had asked the question.
“If it is those extremist that we think it is, they do and with the launch of this vehicle, if it is them, they have now acquired a delivery system.” Control stated. “Matt, Seuni , we sincerely apologize for our screw up. This is all the info we have at the present time, any questions?”
“Not right now, we will get back to you. Let us know if you obtain any additional information pursuant to this little situation. Seuni out.” Matt and Seuni stood looking at each other. Matt put his arms around her and held her for a moment before Seuni spoke. “Matt, we got to tell Eck and his crew.”
Due to Paul and Crew’s hard work while Seuni and Matt were involved with the aliens, Rim City was back to normal capacity. As far as the humans that worked there were concerned, they were home again, and the tourist business to some extent had returned. Paul and his crew were again progressing on their original assignment, the safety of Rim City.
Seuni thought that routing the moon inhabitants again for evacuation would be a problem since the previous removal had proven unnecessary. She would in this case leave them be for now and, if push came to shove, alert them later. The ETA of the unknown vessel, that Control had given them, would not permit an orderly evacuation any way. She explained this to Matt as they hurried to speak with Eck. Matt agreed with her and felt that dealing with the aliens was the only path, maybe they had some answer.
Of course it was difficult for the alien crew to accept the possibility that some aggressive individuals were on their way, rushing toward a confrontation with them. Eck knew it was possible for he had studied earth inhabitants and their violent history. It was just hard to believe, after the unequivocally friendly reception they had received from all people, that now at the time of their departure this could happen. Of course it wasn’t an absolute and this ship could be something completely different but, they could not take that chance. A violent confrontation with anyone from earth could have a lasting effect on relationships. They were envoys of peace and must avoid any and all violence with their new found friends.
Matt and Seuni said their goodbyes and watched as Eck and crew boarded their vessel. The extension below the ship retracted up inside and the seams of that extension became undetectable as the surface smoothed from where it had extended.
Suddenly the lights inside the facility changed as they dimmed, a change in power had occurred. Monitors around the area started to pulse in a sequence and in a sequential order they would brighten and then darken. This made it seem like a light pulse was running along the walls tracing a pattern around the complete Facility. They pulsed and that pulse circled continuing to increase in speed. Round and round the pulse went until the speed was such that it became a circular light bar that seemed solid. This light bar seemed to move about ten feet away from the wall and up about the same.
Seuni’s hair stood on end as if the area was full of static electricity. Her attention turned from the light pulse back to the dull gray vessel as the light bar had now steadied. The ship was no longer dull gray. The lackluster surface was anything but and it was no longer a deflated soccer ball. It was fully inflated and the surface was a mirror of gold shimmering in the middle of the Facility. Its size had increase substantially as it floated and glowed, reflecting Seuni, Matt and the interior of the Facility on its exterior surface.
The top, the ceiling of the Facility, was already open and was really only closed when the Facility realized its power source needed to be recharged. When this happened the top closed with undue speed relative to its size. The shutter type apparatus starting from fully open to a pin hole and then nothing, completely closed, was silent and smooth. This happens in just a few second and the reverse of that was the same.
“Seuni.” It was loud and seemed to come from everywhere.
“Yes.” Seuni said out loud to no one.
“I have an idea on how to handle that ship but it may put us in danger momentarily and then if we are successful, you may be in danger individually.” Seuni realized it was Eck relaying an idea to her and Matt.
Seuni and Matt listened and accepted the info that Eck gave them. They understood what Eck and crew were about to do and how it would affect them. As the alien ship lifted out of the Facility, Seuni was on the headset to Control. She relayed the plan that Eck was putting into play and what she and Matt planned to do when their part was on them.
It took some time but Control to finally came back with a decision on how to handle their part of the plan. Even though the plan was sound the timing would be critical. There could be no lapse or hesitation when Seuni and Matt became involved.
Seuni took the remote control and set up the transporter. That was one step that could be done long before the unidentified ship arrived. It would be nerve wrenching waiting here with no visibility outside the Facility. Eck would have to keep them advised as to the alien ships progress and when they would engage it. Once Eck’s crew initiated their part, Seuni and Matt’s part would follow in short order. Captain Picard’s command to engage kept running through Seuni’s head. This could be the earth’s first space battle and she was not looking forward to it. She wondered why and how someone on earth could decide to take this path. If this turns out to be an attack on the aliens or the Facility, she could see no way it would improve those responsible individual’s plight except to give them notoriety.
Eck’s vehicle passed through the invisible layer that protected the Facility, emerged into space and quickly distanced itself from the opening. Matt and Seuni watched the huge golden ball of a vehicle leave. The top remained open and the unidentified surface layer continued to seal the Facility from the vacuum of space.
The golden ball of a ship moved so fast that it simply disappeared from view although few viewed it. The unidentified ship coming from earth had it on radar for a moment as it exited the Facility and then there was no signal. The ship had evidently left the solar system on their way back to their home planet.
The small vessel continued it journey toward Rim City and the entrance to the Facility. Their plan to destroy the alien vessel and crew had failed but they had a backup plan. Rim City and the Facility on the moon would now be their target. Maybe the Facility would survive but the unprotected city that circled the entrance would be leveled and made inhabitable for centuries to come. Maybe this would stop all space progress and send the earth people back to earth, so to speak.
Too much money and antiquated ideas of how things should be had set these extremist on this one way suicide mission. The domination of women and death to individual not of their belief was their only goal. Their belief that stagnation and status quo was the only way to live had produced squalor and ignorance in their little country. Progress was alien and totally against their belief. Anyone with other thoughts was branded as infidels and violent death was the only thing due them.
Proximity alarms startled the small crew when the huge golden ball suddenly appeared on their radar screen. It was directly behind them almost touching. The commander shouted commands and started punching in the code to activate the nuclear device anchored in the payload bay. With that devilish ship that close it could not help but be destroyed.
Before he could fully activate the nuclear device bright rings of lights surrounded the small vessel. Starting slowly then moving faster and faster from the rear of the ship to the front. The blackness of space was suddenly gone and they were surrounded by a huge soft muted lighted containment area. The curved walls that surrounded them were of a mosaic pattern with large television type monitors set at intervals. These monitors stretched out of sight on each side of their vessel. The monitors all displayed the same picture, that picture was a current view of the exterior of their small ship. The picture was so clear and detailed the commander could see himself through the front portal.
He could also see a female and an accomplice standing between his ship and the wall. She suddenly held up a small device and pressed a button. Again the rings of light moved over his ship accelerating in appearance as they came.
The blackness had returned and the commander thought he was again in the void of space. The pull of gravity assured him that this was not the case. Lights blared on the right side of the ship followed by lights on the left side, front and then the rear.
He and his crew were back on earth and from the looks of things they were in a sports complex of some significance. Not panicking, he calmly punched the code for the device and punched execute. He gritted his teeth, closed his eyes expecting to blown apart by the force of the bomb.
Fifteen seconds passed before he opened his eyes and realized there would be no explosion. He turned to his disillusioned crew and without hesitation ordered them to grab their weapons. Our bomb has failed but we can still take some of the infidels with us as we exit in glory.
The area was filled with a voice from the PA system. The voice was understandable in their own language asking them to leave their weapons behind and exit the vehicle.
They did exit but with their weapons in an attack posture. It was eerie in the noise that followed. They shouted and pointed their weapons pulling the triggers over and over without results. Not a shot was fired. The only sound that any heard above the shouting was the static discharge of stun guns as the surrounding troops rendered the ship’s departing crew helpless. Each individual was shackled and escorted into the waiting security transport conveyance. The extremist commander was stunned, not understanding that the transporter rendered all explosive material inert. This included the gun powder in their weapons, not a single shell of theirs was of any use in a gun now.
Just like that the threat was over. Control was immediately back on line with Seuni and Matt.
“You should have been there, it was the most amazing thing. No one fired a shot.” Control paused and then went on. “It was eerie, except for the shouting, the only sound was the sizzle of stun guns.”
“Surely they had weapons on board their vessel, why didn’t they use them?” Seuni asked.
“That is the beauty of those transporters, explosives are rendered inert. For you information, bullets are just a small explosive device and after transport they did not work. Oh, they tried to fire their weapons but to no avail. It was complete lunacy, they pointed their weapons squeezed the trigger over and over but nothing. They were totally confused. Our soldiers just walked up in the face of their automatic weapons holding their little stun guns. Before they could use their rifles as blunt instruments they were on the ground reacting to five thousand volts passing through their bodies.”
With a few more description about the apprehension of those now in confinement Control signed off. Matt put his arms around Seuni and pulled her in close, just holding her. The transport suddenly came to life behind Seuni. The bright rings of light fell and then a bright light went off. The light faded and Eck stood their where no one had stood a moment before.
Seuni turned toward the transport and seeing Eck she smiled as she spoke. “Hey Eck, welcome back.”
“Hello friends, sorry we don’t have a lot of time, but I have to take some steps so we can somehow stay in contact. Do you have any ideas on how we can do this?” Eck slowly spread his hands as he looked down on the two earth friends.
“Good question. I was thinking about the same thing but I don’t have an answer. You know more about our ability and we actually know little about yours.” Seuni answered then asked. “How long does it take to go to your home planet and back here?”
“Travel time?” Eck asked.
“Well, I guess, yeah, travel time and turnaround time. You know, planning a trip back and the time to get back. Could you kind of lump the whole thing together. It would be just an estimate. How long did it take you to get here?” Seuni asked.
“It took ten of your years travel time to get here. You have to understand that that would not be the case now. On our way here we had to make multiple stops and starts to insure we were going where we wanted to go. Those old directions and star charts on how to get to your moon were difficult to understand and the vessel that was used back then, let’s just say that it was more than an antique. Even though it is in our museum, it is thought by many to be just an object of someone’s fantasy. Most feel it would be ludicrous for anyone to believe that someone would or could actually travel in such a contraption. After all, unbreakable things are broken and things that would not tarnish are.” Eck said as he slowly shook his head spreading his hands as he finished.
“We have things in our museum that are looked on in the same way.” Seuni stated. “So, what is your best guess on travel to and from our moon here to your, you know, home.”
“Best guess.” Eck stated and then amazed his earth friends by scratching his head in thought. “I would say about five years, well no more than six at the outside. Yeah that is about right, two for travel there, one for turn around and two to get back here.” Eck held up a finger indicating he was not finished then he continued. “You understand I am just the linguist for this ship and I have no actual say in the ship’s travel plans.”
“Ok, we accept that but, you are not just our translator, you are also our friend.” Seuni took Matt’s hand and looking into his eyes asked. “Could you go on another ride with these new friends if I go with you this time? I know, you haven’t been on earth very much in the last couple of years but, could you put that off for, let’s say, five or six years. You do this and I promise, when we get back, I will spend as much time with you on earth, as long as you would like. I will even live there with you if need be.”
“That is an easy question to answer. With you I would go anywhere or live on any world. I will need one thing if we do get to go.” Matt said.
“What could you possibly need beside me?”
“Some type of neck brace to hold my head up so I don’t get a sore neck from looking up at these tall tall gentlemen.” Matt laughed and Seuni joined in.
“I need one of those too, one for looking down. “Eck to their surprise said as he joined the laughter.
“This would not actually keep you in contact with earth but you would be taking a small part of earth with you.” Matt paused and then went on. “Hey, maybe you could leave one or two of your crew here on the moon as emissaries from your world to ours. They would be like us representatives of each other culture. Do you have anyone on board that might do that?”
“I am not sure. I will have to go check.” Eck said and then he went to the transporter and was gone before Matt or Seuni could say anything else.
A movement above, in the middle of the large opening, caught Seuni’s attention and she tugged on Matt’s shirt sleeve. Matt followed her lead and looked up at the small bubble car that was descending apparently coming from Rim City. The Facility had taken control of the decent and lowered the small vehicle into the landing zone.
Once the vehicle was grounded the clear plastic clam shell lifted with the release of pressurized air. The occupants quickly vaulted the sides of the car and stood looking at Matt and Seuni.
Paul Wilhelm, Samuel Washington, Keri Lipkens, Curt George and Karl Sweet all smiled and then approached, Paul leading the crew as he always had.
“Matt, hey Matt. wow, it is good to see you. You look, well you look really good for a guy that was missing for so long.” Paul said.
“Hey guys, Sweet, Jungle man, Locks, Yeul, and hey DW. Good to see you guys.” Matt said as he either shook a hand or gave a hug to his friends and crew.
“Hey Paul.” Seuni said and then to the others she said. “I hope you all are happy to be back here, this is quite a place to be. Sorry we haven’t got together since you got back. We have been so busy with Eck and crew that we just did not have time to get with you. You guys, wow, you did a great job of getting everyone back to the moon and back to work. Things are running so smooth that maybe they don’t actually need me here anymore.”
“We did not do this to replace you, we did it because we know how great it is here and that’s why we are back. We just jumped in and helped while you were away.” Kari said.
“I know you didn’t but, Hang on, I have an idea. How would you guys like to take over this, this remote control?” Seuni said as she held up the small instrument.
“Take over the Facility control, why, where are you going?” Paul asked.
Seuni didn’t say anything. She looked at Matt and they both pointed up.
“You are going up, both of you are going up? You’re going up to Rim City?” Kari said shaking her head. “Why would you give this up just to go to Rim City?”
“A little further up.” Matt said.
“Hey, wait a minute, you’re going with the visitors?” Curt George asked.
Seuni nodded as she pulled Matt closer. He smiled and said. “Well, we hope.”
“ Yeah, I’d say that is a little further up.” Sweet added.
“Well, we haven’t got approval yet but we are pretty sure we will go as earth’s emissaries to Eck’s planet.” Seuni explained.
“Well you certainly have our approval for that trip. When do you leave?” Paul asked.
“We were just about to contact control for approval.” Matt told his friends.
It did not take long and approval was given for Matt and Seuni. Eck in the meantime had recruited a couple to stay here on earth for the next five or six years as a representative of their planet. Evidently someone on the ship had some forethought. These two recruits, male and female, had undergone the same procedure that Eck had taken. Both were now linguist, fluent in many earth languages.
Farewell parties were many but the lift off was anticlimactic as it was only a transport to a waiting ship some distance from earth and its inhabited moon. The light of the transport faded and in the back ground a small bubble car lifted off on its routine trip to Rim City.
On earth the launch of all spacecrafts were strictly monitored and tracked by a new all world organization. This organization (ETS, Earth to Space) closely resembled the FAA in its duties but they dealt only with vehicle launches that left the safe atmosphere of the earth. With their multiple satellites in space, the ETS had the capability and responsibility of dealing with radicals in order to protect earth’s space stations and earth’s moon.
Paul and crew remained on the moon in control of the Facility. Many modifications had been made to Rim City and now it was as safe as possible. Six years from earth and the moon, Paul thought, was a small price to pay for the experiences that Matt and Seuni would receive. They would be sorely missed, but six years was not a lifetime and he looked forward to their return.
The two emissaries were on a world tour as leader after leader begged for their appearance in their country. It would take time but the two planned to fulfill all those leader’s wishes.
Accommodation for the two had been difficult but their requirements had been met and they were now as comfortable as they would have been on their own ship. It seemed as if they were happy and well rested as they traveled. It was assumed that they two looked ahead to the next six years and the return of their people.
You’ve finished. …
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“” a time travel novel available on Shakespir.com
Watch for other books by this author as they will appear shortly on Shakespir.com.
Ten years have gone by now and the population of the moon’s alien facility, and earth’s constructed moon city, have grown to almost ten thousand with another five thousand daily visitors meandering in and out of the area. The alien teleportation device and remote control have functioned flawlessly until now. Without warning a failed transport resulted in the loss of a famed astronaut and caused a halt in travel to and from the moon to earth. This was only the beginning of minor disruptions that made the occupants realize that they did not know enough, even after ten years of investigation, to fix these alien equipment problems. Unknown at the time, there was something on the horizon that would make the minor problems they were experiencing unimportant in most cases.