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Secret Agent Man

27 pages26 minutes


I mean, how bad can it get? The worst that can happen is that I wind up stranded some 40 miles from any hope of help, with no comm gear. I began to wish I had brought along a bucket of takeout chicken and a gallon of beer or something. Oh, well.
In the course of 40 miles of bad road I probably take a thousand miles off the tires and several years off my kidneys. However, my luck holds and Big Jim done finally finds himself parked at Gamma Site.
Gamma Site consists of a few old, rusty, bullet riddled Quonset huts. The moon has begun to rise and there's the kind of sickly glow over the landscape that makes ol’ Jim have to remind himself that there really are no such things as werewolves and vampires (Cross my fingers for luck here.)
At midnight, I get out of my portable womb Hummvee and walk into the middle of what had once been the Gamma Site main square. If I ever felt naked and alone, this is the time.
I'm kind of gawking about for some sign of a flying saucer when I notice that I am standing in a beam of some sort of shimmering light. I say standing in a beam in that I'm very rapidly rising upwards from the ground, presumably toward an invisible flying saucer above (I hope.)
The beam dumps me out on some sort of metal (?) plate in front of a large, nasty individual who's not exactly human. He isn’t green and doesn't have fangs (thank God!), but he's definitely not human. It says, “You? Navigation Officer?” grumble, grumble.
The grumbles are in some sort of unknown (alien I presume) language. However, I know what he said, “The crap they send us for recruits is a crime. I seen better pimping for low class whores back on Rigel 17. Etc.” Some things never change, no matter where you go.
A smaller being steps forward. He scans me up and down and says, “Well, if General Smith sent you, I guess you’ll do. I guess, from general considerations that his statement is the same as the previous guy’s statement, only with a (very) small touch of officer class. We stand for a few moments, staring at each other. He finally says, “I am Clavor.”
I said, “Clavor, I'm James McGregor, usually called Big Jim.”
Large and nasty just snorts. (Clavor throws large and nasty a (I presume) withering glance) Clavor then asks me, “Do you know what I need you to do?
I tell Clavor, “I do tactical computers. I presume that’s why you want me.”
Clavor blinks rapidly several times (I later learn that Clavor’s type uses that as a sort of amazed reaction.) He says, “Then General Smith told you what I need?”
I tell Clavor, “The General told me only to meet you here.”
Clavor then says, with a sneer, “Well, it would seem that the General sent me one who can think; unlike some of my other crew.”
Clavor, having duly insulted his inferior, walks me over to the TAC computer suite. The place is a shambles. There are signs of a direct hit on the TAC computer site by some sort of burning weapon. There are gaps in the racks and a few hanging wires. The suite consists of three machines.
With a feeling of dread I ask, “Where are the rest of the TAC computers?”
Clavor says, “Actually, we have been through a battle sequence. We don’t quite have a full suite of TAC computers. You'll have to make do with what we have left.”
Over the next hour or so, Clavor shows me how to load the TAC computer programs and data suites and how to read the alien language and numeric digits. The aliens use hexadecimal for their numeric displays. The hex isn’t so bad by itself, but I also have to learn how to say each digit, in alien. I also have to learn a few alien words to go with the numeric data.
The aliens use a multi-reference, polar type navigation system, whereas I'm used to working with a Cartesian system. Oh well, that’s why they pay me the big bucks. I mean, what the hell, this will just be a milk run, what with a new, inexperienced Nav Officer. Right?

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