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Star Spangled Phoenix

The Chronicles of The Samuel Hain

Spade

2012 Benjamin F. Kaye

1 CONTENTS

Star Spangled Phoenix 2 The Chronicles of The Samuel Hain 19 The Chronicles of The Samuel Hain

The Temple of Yil-Weth-Yma


246 Spade 280

Star Spangled Phoenix

2011 Benjamin F. Kaye

The Death of America

The first rays of the summer sun caressed the streets of New Paris. The waves in Brittany Bay sparkled like gems. Alexander Sanchez, governor of the Northeast District of The United Nations North American Protectorate, sat comfortably in his chair. He opened the menu and carefully perused the selections, not wanting to ruin the diet his wife had imposed upon him. Professor Sanchez Im terribly sorry. I didnt mean to be so late. His best pupil, Sergei Andropov, walked briskly into the room. Late? No not at all. Im glad you could come. My wife is on an extended tour of the Southwest District and I am desperate for some good conversation. He handed the clean cut young man a menu. Oh? Sergei looked at his watch. It boldly stated the time as 8:07 AM / July 9th / 2247. Sergei, the professor laughed, you must stop synchronizing your watch with the global weather network they are notoriously inaccurate. Yes professor. And you may call me Alexander. Im no longer your professor and I really do hope youre not overly impressed with my new title. Im sorry. I guess its just the past and present coming together, pressing me into a more formal mode. Present? Yes. Here we are in the Blue Turtle the best restaurant in all of New Paris. The history of this place alone is inspiring and even a little intimidating. Is it really true that were sitting on the remains of Old Boston? Yes. In fact, Alexander leaned closer, the owner is planning to excavate the basement and turn it into a walk through archeological site. But thats just between you and me.

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Incredible. Simply incredible. Sergei shifted in his seat uncomfortably. Now was as good a time as any. Would you mind? He opened his satchel and took out his copy of The Death of America. It would be my pleasure. Opening the book, Alexander held his pen above the page. You could almost see the wheels turning in that methodical mind of his. What would that pen write? An inspirational quote from the Constitution? A famous word or two from Kennedy? Or simply an inside joke that never left the hallowed lecture hall? He quickly scribbled something down and abruptly closed the cover. It was simply amazing. There was so much more to it than what you had presented in class. But you still have questions I see. No dont hesitate; you know I love an in-depth discussion. You were very bold in asserting that the seeds of Americas demise were sown in the early 21st Century. I understand the connection between the shutdown of the government and the collapse of the faith that had so long supported it. But I dont understand the connection between the collapse of faith and the rise of F.E.D.D. movement. Now remember, Sergei, that America was a land of symbols. It was also a land of repetitive, shallow messages, such as no taxes. The Fat Elephant became a symbol of republicans, who had grown fat on the political campaign contributions from the wealthy. The Dumb Donkey became a symbol of democrats, who had simply lost touch with the lives of ordinary people. They were two sides of the same coin. The common denominator was an alienation from the vast majority of Americans. But why did F.E.D.D.s message become main stream so quickly? The internet alone couldnt explain such a phenomenon. Correct. Technology alone cannot fuel a revolution, it can only channel it. In the 21st Century, it was much easier to share ideas. Ideas flowed more freely than at any time in human history. Most of them were either mundane, ludicrous, or outright obnoxious. However, some of them had merit and enough of these ideas clumped together to form the founding ideology of F.E.D.D. But. Go on say it. How did people like Timothy McVeigh and Jared Lee Loughner energize the F.E.D.D. movement? Back to the shallow, repetitive messages. In the late 20th Century, a phenomenon known as negative campaigning took root in America. It was a process of simply repeating a 30 second message pointing out the negative qualities of ones political opponent. By 2021, the process had effectively lobotomized the American public they no longer thought about someones character, integrity, dignity, or humanity. They simply knew that politicians were bad unscrupulous, lazy, greedy, and

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corrupt. By this time, most of the public had lost sympathy for McVeighs and Loughners victims. They became folk heroes to some not all because they had struck back against a self-centered, hypocritical, and oppressive government. The other thing I dont understand is why America, with all its power and resources, couldnt withstand the rebellion. Sergei put the menu to one side as the robot placed his eggs in front of him. Good point. Even though the rebellion started in 2035 and ended in 2147, America should still be standing. The only problem was that Americas enemies had long memories. They were also much more intelligent than she was. When American troops pulled out of Iraq and Afghanistan in 2019, the Islamic radicals realized that they had won the war. They didnt win militarily they won economically. When they saw the newscasts of Americas budget woes and her dwindling domestic programs, they knew that they could simply drain her of money. So, when the F.E.D.D. movement started its own rebellion at home, the Islamic radicals renewed their war abroad. Americas deficit grew larger, as well as its spending on the military, while its spending on those it was trying to protect grew smaller. Pouting politicians shut down the government more often. Americas economic, environmental, and health problems overshadowed televised party rhetoric. By 2095, most Americans were questioning the legitimacy of a government that taxed them and drafted their sons and daughters, but did nothing for them. So 100 years ago today.. The last President of the United States was killed in front of a burning White House. Alexander gently pushed the book back to his pupil. America was a grand idea, wasnt it professor? Yes Sergei, yes it was.

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The Riddle

We the people The words were elegantly penned in his book. Sergei closed it and pondered the riddle. It wasnt like the professor to be enigmatic. Sergei darling come to bed. His wife, Chenguang, quietly slipped into the study and put her delicate arms around his neck. Im sorry dear. I guess I miss the professor. Its only been a year. Thats natural. In other news, the TV announced, more fighting took place between South African nationals and Brazilian nationals in New Tokyo. UN officials are considering whether or not to redistribute one or both groups to other Districts of the Protectorate. Well now we both have to stay up. Sergei pulled his wife onto the couch. We promised each other we wouldnt go to bed on bad news. They stayed up a few more minutes, watching TV. The book kept distracting him. It was like a silent ghost in the room, speaking a message that he couldnt hear. Did he have his notes from 21st Century Civilization? It was a few years ago, and Sergei thought about where they could be. The next morning he hit the attic. Even the smell of Chenguangs tea wouldnt distract him. The more he rifled through boxes and piles of aging papers, the more elusive the notes seemed. He dived down into a box and pulled out an unexpected treasure. It was a photograph of his great-great grandfather. Born in the early 22nd Century, he had miraculously survived the tempestuous, mean streets of Moscow. His love of history had only been surpassed by his love of the law. It was the law, after all, that kept him from a life of reckless self destruction. Judge Andropov had been the sternest, yet the most brilliant and dedicated judge of his time. Of course. Thats it! Sergei raced downstairs to the living room. He almost knocked his wife over in the process.

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Oh no. I know that look. Whatever it is, I know it involves Sean and I forbid it. She shook her finger at him. She knew that it whatever it was would happen anyway. I promise that it wont be a disaster. Its just one little thing. Sean Alloway sat comfortably in the caf; some would say too comfortably. The red and yellow neon lights gave his leather jacket an eerie glow. He looked up from the Lunar Daily and frowned. The soft light from the plasma sheet gently drifted towards his unshaven face. Why did biscuits take so long in this dive? His eyes drifted to the window the earth beyond looked small, mundane, and trivial. He turned his attention to the classifieds. His grin grew wider as the bids came in. Suddenly, his holo-disc rang. Alloway here. The shades were on and the smile was in place. Let the deal begin. Thank goodness I caught you. A small 3-D image of Sergei in his living room popped up. Hey cousin! When are you coming up here? As soon as I can renew my Moon-Flight Pass. Is yours still valid? Sure, sure. You know a man like me has to be in two places all the time. The biscuits arrived and Sean took a bite. They were pure perfection. Do you have the framed copy of the US Constitution that great-great grandpa kept in his office? A silly question. Its right in the basement carefully preserved. The bids in the classifieds were coming in more urgently now. His fingers worked deftly: Item framed copy of the US Constitution lost in transit sorry folks! Really? I thought- Sergei! Honestly; do you think I could part with a family heirloom? Two days later, a clean shaven Sean was helping his cousin hang the beloved Constitution in his study. They stepped back and admired it. Sean had no regrets about keeping it in the family. Youre right it looks really sharp here. It gives the whole house that antique look. You make that sound like a bad thing. No at all if thats your style, thats your style. To me its more than just an interior decorating choice. Sergei look around. The planet is moving ahead, faster than you think. Why just today they let me know that my specs for the Mars colony are on the best qualified list. Everybody else is moving forward; dont be one of those who get left behind because theyre looking over their shoulder.

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Its not about moving ahead or standing still its about what we take with us into the future. Well if thats what you believe, you should stick by it. Ive gotta run. Sean slapped his cousin on the back and headed back to the moon. Over the next few weeks, life proceeded as normal for Sergei. Every once in a while, late at night in the study, he would look up at the Constitution. He could almost feel their presence: John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and Alexander Hamilton, looking on and wondering what he would do next. His mind drifted back to Professor Sanchezs vivid description of the Battle for Independence. He could almost hear the bullets whizzing by and smell the smoke. So much trial, bloodshed, and sacrifice for nothing. No. The sacrifice of the founding fathers would not be for nothing. One month later, he sent the following e-mail to everyone he knew:

Subject: The 23rd Century Minutemen

I recently told my cousin: Its not about moving ahead or standing still its about what we take with us into the future. 101 years ago, America disappeared from the face of the earth. Its true that at the end, there were many stains upon the Stars and Stripes. We must not dwell on why America perished, but focus on her birth. She suffered many indignities and underserved insults; let us not add to these by letting her history become overrun by cobwebs in some forgotten corner of a musty old library. The founding fathers of The United States of America gave everything to give the planet America. Their sacrifice shouldnt be in vain. We must keep their story alive we owe it to them. If the above words have stirred your passion, please visit my web-site for the 23rd Century Minutemen. When we have gathered enough members, information will be posted on meetings, discussion groups, and re-enactments. I hope to meet you on the field of battle . Whether redcoat or colonist, I know youll have the experience of a lifetime!

Your friend, Sergei Andropov

Two days later, the 23rd Century Minutemen had five members. It was small, but it was a start.

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Welcome to Buffalo, NY!

You owe me you know that right? Chenguang plopped down beside Sergei on the couch. I owe you! He kissed her on the forehead. I would like some popcorn this time too. I made some extra just for you. He handed her a bowl. So why arent we there? Travel restrictions on Russian Nationals, remember? I thought that expired two months ago. It was going to, but the Provincial Council of New Toronto renewed it. Sergei sighed. So, the Haitian-Irish council renewed it as well as their dislike for each other. Its not a perfect system dear. And no one seems willing to improve it either. Look Im sorry. See? Happy face. Good morning North America! Their TV announced. Were live from New Toronto on the shores of Lake Erie. Today is July 4th, 2253 and the festivities are about to begin. A fife and drum marching band could be heard in the distance. Colonial soldiers, dressed in Revolutionary War costumes, marched toward the city. As they passed through the city gate, the plasma sign changed from New Toronto to Buffalo, NY. In the background of the digital display an American revolutionary flag waved. Welcome to Buffalo NY! There was a loud cheer from the citizens, who also were wearing costumes appropriate to the occasion. Lets have the mayor of Buffalo take it from here. A man stood up on the reviewing stand. He happily waved to the passing troops. He stepped to the microphone and announced: Welcome minutemen to Buffalo NY! That having been said, Huang Zhe sat down and enjoyed the rest of the morning. Huang! Oh my God! Huangs the mayor! You didnt tell me you stinker! Oh my God my brothers the mayor! Chenguang quickly called all her friends.

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I thought youd like that little surprise. After the parade, Huang stood on the red, white, and blue platform and red the Declaration of Independence. When he stepped down, the crew from GMNA was waiting for him. Simply awe inspiring Mr. Zhe. Wonderful. How long did it take to put all of this together? Once we found the muskets, it was quite easy to pull off. But still, it did take 8 months to put the festival together. I want to thank the New Toronto Chapter of the 23rd Century Minutemen for their dedication and hard work. Without them, this wouldnt be possible. Is it true that you also have other chapters of the minutemen participating? Why of course. We have all 7 chapters of the minutemen here with us today. I just want to say to those members who couldnt make it we miss you and want to see you here next year! And Ill be there next year even if I have to change my name. Sergei growled. I know you will honey they cant keep a good man down. His wife gave him a quick kiss. How did the minutemen grow so fast in only five years? Another reporter wanted to know. You can thank Professor Sergei Andropov for that. His passion for America has burst out of the lecture halls and into the streets. Ive heard rumors of an eighth chapter starting up. Can you give us any hints as to where and when? The first reporter was bubbling with excitement. Well, right now we have chapters in New Tokyo, New Paris, New Toronto, New San Paolo, New London, New Moscow, and New Oxford. Were pretty well spread out from the Atlantic to the Pacific, so were hoping to start a chapter perhaps in the far northern or southern part of the Protectorate. This is really wonderful bringing Buffalo, NY back to life, if even only for a day. The second reporter commented. Fortunately, much of Old Buffalo has remained intact its a testimony to the people who lived here centuries ago. Some of the institutions, like Bocces Pizza, are still going strong. Any plans to bring anything else back from the past, like the Buffalo Bills? The first reporter asked. Well, we thought about having an exhibition football game between the Buffalo Bills and another team. Then somebody pointed out that the Buffalo Bills lost 18 Super Bowls, so we thought it wouldnt be such a grand idea. Huang laughed. Again, congratulations on another Independence Day Festival. The reporters words were greeted with a massive cheer from the crowd.

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That night, Sergei sat on the back porch. Fireflies danced in the warm summer breeze. A shooting star arced through the sky. It was such a picturesque setting, but Sergei wasnt smiling. He wanted to put the New Paris Herald down, but he just had to keep abreast on the latest events. For him, ignorance wasnt an option. One article in particular caught his attention.

Opposition to the Equal Portions Resolution Grows in the Central District

Opposition to the U.N.s latest initiative for the North American Protectorate, The Equal Portions in Government Resolution, is growing. Unfortunately, the opposition to the resolution is growing the fastest in the Central District of The North American Protectorate, home to a dozen different Nationals. People who come to the Protectorate want to feel at home. Thats quite understandable. So they move to where their countrymen live. Mrs. Felicia Sanchez, wife of the late Alexander Sanchez, observed. Mrs. Sanchez, now in her last days as governor of the Northeast District, worried however. While people want to be governed by a familiar face, voting for the home candidate can lead to an isolationist culture in our cities and provinces. This in turn could lead to further self segregation and prejudice against minority National Groups. Centuries of American history have shown that segregation and prejudice, in any shape or form, lead only to self destruction. No matter how convincing the reasoning, the opposition has dug in its heels. In particular, Reed Johnson, candidate for Governor of the Central district, has spoken out in the past few weeks. We dont have quotas in our workplaces, schools, neighborhoods, and playgrounds. Why then would we want quotas in our local governments? The U.N. has already imposed too many resolutions upon us, forcing us through their narrow bureaucratic channels. The last thing the Protectorate needs is another resolution.

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Sergei rolled up the plasma sheet and looked at the sky. Hope seemed farther away than ever.

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The Answer

I really dont want to be here. Cheng we have to be here. Sergei lit his candle. The sun was sinking behind the buildings of downtown New Vienna. The purplish-red sky reluctantly gave way to deeper darkness. Sergei and his wife were the first ones in the memorial square. It was so quiet you could hear the birds in the distance. One by one, the lights in the surrounding office buildings winked off. They were followed by the street lamps. The only light was from the moon and the stars. Sean walked up and silently stood beside them. He simply had nothing to say. The candles slowly floated into the square from the outskirts of the city, carried by thousands of mourners. There was not one hushed whisper, not one gentle word. The faces lit by the tiny lights showed regret and bewilderment. No one looked around for a familiar face or a comforting smile. People silently made room for their compatriots as the square slowly began to fill. In the center of the square was a bronze statue of a mother kneeling over her fallen child. The sculptor had no pity or mercy when creating the monument, so every tear and line of anguish on the womans face could be seen. The water in the trench around the statue was eerily still. An old man was the first. He walked up to the trench, stood there for a moment, and dropped a small flower into the water. Others gradually followed his example. What they were thinking in that moment before they dropped their flower in the water would be a mystery no one would ever solve. Soon the trench was a slightly undulating carpet of flowers of all colors. Huang dropped his flower into the water and knelt down. The tears still came, even after five years. Chenguang knelt down beside him. If words were exchanged between the two, they were so quiet that the people around them never heard what was said. Everyone just stood there. There were no formalities, no ceremonies, and no speeches. There were no tolling bells, the names of the victims were not read, and no inspirational songs were sung. It was just silence, bewilderment, and regret. Just before the sun rose, the candles were blown out, one by one. The visitors almost felt too guilty to leave and seemed at a loss for what to do. The crowd dissipated like a morning fog. Chenguang hugged her brother tight for a long time. Then he returned home. Sean turned to his

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cousin and was about to say something. In the end, he just gave Sergei a quick hug and walked away. Cheng made her way back to the car. She looked over her shoulder at her husband he seemed so small and alone. She turned away and after several moments, found the car. She got in and the tears came. When Sergei was all alone in the square, he walked up to the memorial plaque.

The Massacre of New Brussels April 17th, 2260 April 25th 2260 Let us never forget what happened here. No matter how painful the memories are, we shall always remember, for the consequences of forgetting are far worse.

The Massacre of New Brussels was something everyone secretly wished they could forget. It had been a tense few months, with a large influx of Argentinean Nationals pouring in. Argentina had recently settled an economic war with Korea, but for some the war still played on in their minds. The Equal Portions Resolution had been forced upon the Protectorate and the citizens of New Brussels werent taking it well. The bitter words between the Argentineans and Koreans manufactured racist gossip and conspiracy theories all over the district. The fear, misunderstanding, and prejudice went on and on and went deeper than anyone would have guessed. All it took was a simple accident to set things off. Thats what happened on April 17th, 2260 at 7:56 AM. A Korean National accidentally hit an Argentinean with his car. Angry words turned into angry blows. Onlookers took sides and joined in the chaos. Five national groups waged an 8 day war in New Brussels. Twelve hundred lives were lost and one quarter of the city burned to the ground. Huangs daughter Celine had been in the center of it. The U.N. didnt need a new resolution to deal with this tragedy the Nationals solved it by themselves. All Korean neighborhoods formed, Russian only schools popped up overnight. Brazilians were transferred to company departments staffed by other Brazilians. Chinese banks would only lend to Chinese customers. The segregation was absolute, unyielding and unjust. But it was the only solution that was out there and it solved nothing. And everyone knew it. It was only on the anniversary of the massacre that people came together. People from all national groups gathered together. Doctors, lawyers, laborers, engineers, and people from all walks of life put their prejudices aside for one day. Rich people and poor people stood side by side. People from different churches cried the same tears, people from across the political spectrum joined hands in prayer. We the people Professor Sanchezs riddle echoed in his ears.

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In a moment of profound clarity, Sergei realized that he had gotten it all wrong. We the people didnt point to the US Constitution. It was the final piece of the puzzle in the demise of the United States of America. By the time the last US President was killed, there were no People. The country was filled with We the Republicans / We the Democrats; We the Liberals / We the Conservatives; We the Rich / We the Poor / We the Middle Class; We the Taxpayers / We the Welfare Beneficiaries. America had simply become a government The People disappeared long before the nation finally died. Two days later, Sergei posted the following lines onto the internet: Help me finish this: We The People An hour later, a response came back to him: living in this great land between the Atlantic and the Pacific Three hours later, another response came: as one people bound together by a common desire for peace, liberty, and justice I think the founding fathers would be proud. Sergei told his wife. So would Professor Sanchez.

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A New Declaration

Connor, hurry! We have to go now! A soldier called to the young cadet. Ill be back in October I promise. His eyes met Scarletts. I love you. Scarlett kissed him long and hard. As Connor took his place in the formation of cadets, Scarlett ran through the crowds as fast as she could. Without a moment to spare, she dashed up the stairs to the reviewing stand. Scarlett, where were you? Her father, Sergei, always enjoyed teasing her. I know where she was. Chenguang winked at her daughter and remembered the days when she first met the love of her life. Sorry. Scarlett sheepishly answered. I hope you told Connor not to be late for dinner tonight. Sergei reminded her while straightening his tie. He then stepped up to the podium and into history. It was a beautiful sunny day in downtown New Vienna, the heart of the Central District of the Protectorate. The new flags fluttered proudly in the warm morning air. The main thoroughfare had been widened just for this occasion. Seven bronze stars, one for every district, had been set into the street. Red, white, and blue ropes were strung from streetlight to streetlight. Giant plasma screens had been erected all over the city so the crowd of 500,000 wouldnt miss one minute of the historic event. Ladies and Gentlemen, may we present Professor Sergei Andropov, Chairman of the Transitional Committee of The United Nations North American Protectorate. Jonathan Strausman, President of The United Nations, announced. No matter how formal he tried to be, he simply couldnt help smiling. Thank you Mr. President. I have a Declaration to read to you, and the world, if I may. You may read the Declaration Mr. Andropov. Thank you.

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We the people, living in this great land between the Atlantic and Pacific, as one people bound
together by a common desire for peace, liberty, and justice, wish to make our dream known. For 128 years, the people of this land have been living under the protection of the United Nations. During that time, we have enjoyed numerous rights, privileges, and freedoms. We have also had economic prosperity and educational opportunities. For that we thank you. However, as you know, the tragedies that have stained our soil are reflections of unrest that have persisted despite the United Nations best efforts and intentions. Our tense and sometimes violent history has taught us that living in a Protectorate has only protected us from our right to self determination and our responsibilities as stewards of this land. The many resolutions passed by the United Nations that have governed our lives sapped our resolution to think for ourselves and chart our own course through history. While the United Nations was looking out for us, we werent looking out our own windows, and hatred, ignorance, prejudice, and fear moved in next door to us. We can no longer tolerate such neighbors. After a long, arduous dialogue that reached into every home in the Protectorate, we the people have come to an agreement on where we have been, where we want to go, and how we want to get there. For we now realize that it is far better to die together than to live apart. We realize that it is far better to fight for each other rather than fight against each other. We realize that our own diligence and commitment to our country will provide us with all the protection we will ever need. We want to live in a country where diversity is the foundation of wisdom and passion. We want to live in a country whose history is the foundation of its hopes and whose hopes reflect a prudent and noble history. We can only achieve this dream as one united people. Mr. President, we the people ask that the United Nations withdraw its administrators, resolutions, and troops so that we may form the United Districts of America. The armored vehicles of The United Nations slowly rumbled down the street. They gradually came to a halt in front of the reviewing stand. Professor Andropov, the United Nations has heard your Declaration. We believe that it is in the best interest of the people living in this land that they be allowed to form the United Districts of America. Today, the United Nations grants this land to the people of the United Districts of America. The ceremonies should have proceeded as normal, but this was far from a normal day. The applause and cheers lasted for ten minutes. It shook the podium and even the plasma screens. Sergei wiped away a tear of joy. He then kissed Chenguang. The new governors and councilors of the UDA then walked up to the armored vehicles with flowers for the UN soldiers. After many hugs and handshakes, the armored column slowly snaked its way out of the city. A hush then fell over the streets. The silence lasted for several moments, each spectator holding his or her breath. In the distance, a fife and drum corps could be heard advancing down the street. It grew louder and soon the 23rd Century Minutemen, led by Huang Zhe, marched into view. He

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held the original American flag high, not wanting anyone to forget who made the first sacrifice. The crowd was silent as the Minutemen passed by, everyone mesmerized by the spell they cast. They were followed by the armed forces of the U.D.A., dressed in their finest. Their armored vehicles and tanks were polished to perfection. They stared straight ahead, eager to meet a better tomorrow. Next came the first President of the United Districts of America, Eun Kyung Kim. She waved from her 2247 red Baltimore Stinger. She leaned over to her husband. And to think, we did it without bullets or bloodshed. You have to admit, America is a grand idea. He replied. Yes, yes it is.

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The Chronicles of the

UDA

Samuel Hain

1st Series
2012 Benjamin F. Kaye

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The Chronicles of the Samuel Hain


Kuiper Belt Card Trick

Ring around the rosie They were cute enough three little girls holding hands and dancing in a circle. Their mother quickly pulled them back into line, obviously annoyed at their childish fun. I envied them; growing up my mind wasnt allowed to stray beyond my math and science courses. I tucked the New Oxford Times back into my satchel and held my breath. Would we make it? The line slowly inched forward. Passes please. Her voice caught me by surprise. Funny, I always get hypnotized by standing in line. Here you go miss. I handed her my moon pass. The hologram display read July 9 2370 / 7:03 AM. Lets see yes we do have room for you! Welcome to Star Phoenix Flight 289. Hope you have a good journey. I really do believe her smile was genuine. It was good to know that there was some enthusiasm left on this planet. Thank you. Happy Independence Day. Thank you. Happy Independence Day Nara. She held out her hand. Happy Independence Day Nara. The diamond shaped shuttle hovered over the platform for a moment then made a slow left turn. The grand old skyline of New Oxford spun before me. We sat there for just a moment more, facing the Pacific Ocean. We started to climb, slowly at first, then more rapidly. I looked back at my home and remembered those famous words of my grandfather: history is a foundation of hope and hope should reflect a noble and prudent history. First time to the moon? Nara was sitting across from me, looking at me with big blue eyes. Yes. The bars are a lot more expensive there. I hope you brought your wallet.

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Im really not much of an imbiber. Would I get a chance to read the Times? I wasnt sure I could fill all 4 hours of commuting with conversation then again, I never really tried. As I was walking down the exit tunnel I had an exact map of Camelot in my head. Nara had provided me with every detail, down to the exact location of the gene beggars. The neon lights that formed the ribs of the corridor slowly pulsated. Sir, excuse me sir? An old man with translucent blue glass bubbles on his eyes hobbled up to me. Im sorry I really am late for an important meeting. Please sir I have an allergy to salt quite deadly! You could have just the right gene I need. All I need is a small sample of blood just one drop two at most! Im sorry sir, I must be off. Please, please! Every day breakfast is like Russian roulette I never know if the next bite will be my last! His voice trailed off as he spotted the next disembarking passenger. Excuse me, Maam The plasma displays on the walls guided me to my long anticipated destination: The United Districts of America Samuel Hain. Although Camelot had a lot to offer (even more than Shangri-La and Utopia) I wasnt interested. I only glanced at the history of this first lunar city as it flashed on the screens. It was all glamour, glitz, hype, and rubbish. When I saw the newscast on the construction of Valhalla, I wondered how many cities could actually fit on our poor little moon. It didnt matter to me anyways, so I focused on the job ahead. I got onto the escalator and slowly descended. I wasnt prepared for what I saw next. The UDA Samuel Hain was 2 miles long and 4 stories high. The main body of the ship was an exact replica of a 21st Century nuclear submarine. Attached to the body were 6 graceful fins that arched forward 3 on the left and 3 on the right. The ship itself was black. Quite a beauty, isnt she? There was a tall man with black hair standing on the observation deck. He was all alone and I felt as if I was intruding. By his military uniform and his bearing, I could tell he was a high ranking officer. Yes sir. Weve come a long way from the old Explorer. No more 15 week journeys to Mars. At top speed, shell get us there in 20 days. Yes sir. An opportunity of a lifetime. This is how you want to see the solar system. Yes sir. Excuse me sir, but I cant keep the captain waiting.

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By all means then. Good day cadet. Good day sir. I walked down the hall and briskly stepped into the boarding room. I was the only one there what a joy to be early. The chairs were surprisingly comfortable and the room was pleasantly lit. This wasnt the description of the military that my father had given me. I lowered the seat and reached into my satchel for the Times, but thought better of it. When the captain came in, I didnt want to seem distracted or disrespectful. I didnt expect someone who is interested in traveling to be so content to sit. It was the gentleman from the observation deck. He was the captain. Sir! I quickly rose to my feet. Orientation isnt for another 2 hours. Lets have lunch first. Yes sir. A cadet having lunch with the captain. This really wasnt the military my father and grandfather warned me about.

The Stargazer was a cozy little restaurant on the 1st deck of the ship, at the very tip of the vessel. Most of the room, including the floor, was nothing more than glass, giving patrons an astounding view of where they were going. Captain Isaiah Montrose ate at a leisurely pace, enjoying the food and the stars beyond. This ship not only has a biology lab, materials lab, and robotics lab, it even has a physics lab. They built a small particle accelerator right into the hull. Very impressive sir. Besides this one, theres another restaurant on the 4th deck, at the back of the ship. Is it similar to this one sir? Yes, although the Star Drifters menu isnt quite as good as the Stargazers. After a well cooked meal with your comrades, you can even enjoy a play at the theater. I didnt expect this from the military sir. Neither did I.

The orientation went as expected, which made me happy. I hurried to the 2nd deck observation lounge with the other cadets. It was coming and it was coming soon. We stood there in the stillness no one spoke a single word.

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This is Camelot lunar control Samuel Hain, final checks have been completed. You are clear to launch. Acknowledged Camelot. Retracting boarding tunnels. There was a slight ringing and yellow lights flashed around us. We could see the boarding tunnels slowly collapsing towards the ship. The ringing stopped as did the lights. We were expecting a rumble or tremor, but all was still. Initiating engine thrust. The ship rose from the surface ever so slowly. Advancing 20 km/h. Was I really doing this? Was I really heading for the stars? Thrust 90 km/h190 km/h.300 km/h. Now this is what I call freedom. Nara? Last day with Phoenix first day as an explorer. Initiating fission engines 1, 2, and 3. There was a bright flash of light from behind the fins (much like the flash from an old 20th Century camera). The back of the fins glowed and shimmered we were travelling at 500,000 km/h. And why are you here? Naras smile reflected her passion. To serve The United Districts of America. I turned back to the stars. I was expecting some reply from her, but I heard nothing.

Who have we got here? I was greeted by a grinning cadet with a slight accent. He shook my hand and escorted me into the cartography room. Welcome to my world or should I say my space. Im Strontium Jones graduate New Moscow University, Masters in Astro-Cartography. Pleased to meet you. Im Garin Halverson. If you dont mind working with a Senegal National such as myself, well get along fine. If youve got a problem with African Nationals well get along fine after about 15 minutes. He laughed and slapped my back. I could see that we would spend a lot of interesting hours together in this room. But I didnt know how unusual things would get until late one Friday night. It was slow and I was reviewing the security protocol and training schedule for Falcon Point the UDA base on the outskirts of Tokyo-Mars. I took a break and reached for the Times. Nothing piqued my interest, so I was about to move on to advanced tactical training when I was interrupted. Let me show you something Straight. Strontium waved me over. Over the past few days, my nickname Straight and Narrow had shortened to just Straight. Although it was outside the boundaries of cadet parlance, maybe that wasnt a bad thing. I know my grandfather would have gotten a chuckle out of it.

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Is this duty related? Im not sure if I cared at this late hour, but I thought at least one of us should be keeping the UDAs priorities on top. What do you think the next card will be? Were not supposed to be playing cards or tricks on duty. Youll love this trick. Itll open your eyes. He put his finger on the deck of cards before him. Take a look at Watcher 238 and just be a little patient. OK. Ill play along. I only have 20 minutes left till I get off shift. I switched the screen to Watcher 238 a satellite on the edge of the Kuiper Asteroid Belt. One minute passed, then two. Stop! Strontiums command cut through the air. I froze the camera. Zoom in. Scan for Lithium. Yes right there. I dont see anything. The 3D image was pretty boring. I turned it around and was taken aback. Wait is the camera working properly? The scanner must be off. Ill run a diagnostic. I couldnt believe my eyes. Check the log. I just ran one 10 minutes ago. Jefferson ran one an hour ago. Everything is working properly. You know, if you monkey around with the systems like this- Hey! You think Im stupid? Theres no way to tamper with the network or this ship without getting caught. What youre seeing is the truth. He was right. Not even 10th generation computer hackers could tamper with The Watchers or the Samuel Hain. I just had such a hard time believing what I saw: on the face of the asteroid was an image of the Lithium, which looked exactly like a king of diamonds. And here we have, Strontium turned over the top card, a king of diamonds. I have to admit, that is the most unusual asteroid I have ever seen. Just wait another two minutes. Youll see how magical Kuipers belt really is. Two minutes passed; I scanned the next asteroid for Lithium. The image looked like an ace of clubs. I started to do an advanced diagnostic. Let me draw this time. I snatched the deck from him. Be my guest. He smiled. Well, are you waiting for an invitation from Captain Montrose? Next card, I held my breath, ace of clubs.

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We spent the next hour between the asteroids and the deck: queen of spades in the belt, queen of spades next card up; 2 of clubs in the belt, 2 of clubs next card up; 8 of hearts in the belt, 8 of hearts next card up. The Kuiper belt accurately predicted each draw. Welcome to outer space. He quietly chuckled, savoring this victory of the unknown over the known. Well, if you really wanted to test your theory, you would use something else, such as a Tarot deck.

Two days later, we were again working late in the Cartography room. I was busy going over the newest military training transmittals. Strontium had finished his shift and was turning cards over again. These seemed a bit bigger though. I caught a glimpse of one and they definitely were not standard playing cards. Hmmm. he looked at the hologram. For some reason, he didnt turn the image around and show me. Wasnt he interested in gloating? The Magician. He turned the card over and smiled. Another perfect correlation. The Lovers nice. The look on his face told me that, yet again, Kuipers belt was right. When the next asteroid came up, Strontium quickly turned off the screen, took up the cards, and left the room. Hey, what did you see? I grabbed him by the arm. Nothin Nothin Nothin! He practically ran down the hall.

Bfk

26

The Chronicles of the Samuel Hain


Youre Never Too Little

Trick or treat! Little voices floated up and down the tunnels of Tokyo Mars. Little ghosts and goblins scurried past me with bags full of candy. The subterranean causeways snaked in and out of the rocks and over large chasms. They were bathed in alternating bands of yellow, green, and blue lights. The metal beams overhead and the plastic walls made the environment seem Spartan, yet clean and crisp. The metal grates under our feet clanked with every step. The doors of the residential quarters were set back into the stone. Most of them were crafted from gray plastic; a few had wood trim. In the distance, the fusion towers glowed like miniature suns. Did you ever go trick or treating Garin? Nara looked at me with those big blue eyes. No. I was too busy with my studies. I didnt mean for my reply to be curt, but there was simply nothing else to say. Did you ever tell ghost stories? No. Garindid you have a childhood? Yes an atypical one. Do you ever wish you could go back and have a little more fun? No. I am focused on today. Today we are to pick up supplies for the robotics lab. My reply was sufficient to end further queries from my comrade. The rest of the journey was silent.

The Mars Advanced Research Institute was very big. It was in the middle of the largest chasm and was sitting atop its own fusion tower. The glass doors had fancy brass handles. The institutes logo was etched into a large marble disc that occupied most of the lobby floor:

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MARI
Were here to see Dr. Orion Harbinger. I announced as I stepped up to a black welcome screen. The screen came on and lit up in white. The MARI logo slowly appeared on the screen accompanied by a short burst of Beethovens Overture Fidelio Opus 72b. The logo was replaced by a spinning earth. On the left side of the screen was a declassified map of MARI; on the right side was a map of Tokyo Mars. One moment please. An electronic voice replied. Dr. Harbinger is in the South East Robotics Lab, Level 8. I will let him know that you would like to see him. What are you doing? I didnt like distractions while on duty. Ive always wanted to play miniature golf on Mars. They have courses which will absolutely blow your mind! Nara was tapping the interactive map and humming a little tune. Mr. Halverson, Ms. Arteau. I hope your journey from Earth was pleasant. It seemed that Dr. Harbinger had appeared out of nowhere. Nara jumped back. It was; thank you Dr. Harbinger. Right this way. The supplies you need have been prepared and are ready to be transported. The robotics lab was encased in white plastic. Several humanoid figures composed of white plastic walked to and fro, performing tasks. They had no faces and no eyes or ears, but in every other respect had the exact dimensions of an average male. The lab itself was bathed in a red glow. A circular metal shaft in the center of the lab revealed an automated assembly line where new robots were being made. As we walked into the lab, a long plastic arm reached into the shaft and pulled out a new robot. Do they have names? Nara walked right up to the closest robot and studied it intently. She put her hand on its face. They have 18 digit serial numbers. There are thousands of robots all over Mars; we dont have time to give them names. Can I give this one a name? Nara held its hand. The robot softly curled its fingers around hers. Are these the supplies? I walked up to three boxes.

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Yes. I hope Ms. Uranium Donaldson will enjoy them. Dr. Harbinger smiled as he opened one of the boxes. Inside were several glass balls half filled with a blue fluid; a black pyramid floated in the center of the spheres. The lights flickered ever so briefly then they went out. The emergency lights came on and the message: fusion reaction out of sequence flashed on the glass doors of the lab. Hmmm.this is something we must attend to. Dr. Harbinger calmly noted. He quickly accessed the administrators panel for the colony. Something had flown into the particle stream of the fusion tower. The diagram of the tower was blinking in red. Mr. Halverson, could you- why you already have. Excellent work! He slapped me on the back. I had switched the display to show the subatomic output of the reactor. There was a geyser of electrons shooting from the top. I re-adjusted the top and middle particle accelerators to compensate for the imbalance. That should hold for now Dr. Harbinger. If you would like, I could request that the Samuel Hain send an engineering team to check for any damage. Why you really know your way around a fusion reactor! Dr. Harbinger was looking at me like a long lost brother. If I have your captains permission, I would like you to accompany me to the reactor. They really are a thing of beauty close up.

The descending spiral stairs made Nara claustrophobic, so I allowed her to stay in the robotics lab. She could spend the time taking orders for the Samuel Hains other labs. When they realized that we might not be back on Mars for another few weeks, perhaps they would reconsider the offer MARI had so generously extended. The metal repair deck stretched out into the gloom. Ahead, the faintly glowing aura of the offline reactor slowly pulsated. It made a rhythmic humming sound that seemed to penetrate everything around us. It was between the throbs of low noise that I heard the footsteps. Holy !@#$@!! Gordon! Not so loud! The louder you scream the brighter your eyeballs glow. Wow.oh my @#$%%#@! I dont need the glider to fly. I raced to the voices. Two teenagers, walking slowly in circles near the edge of the platform, swung their arms in huge circles. From time to time they would shake their heads. Nearby was a hang glider. One of them must have flown right into the reactor core. Dr. Harbinger quickly noted.

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One of the two teens grabbed the glider. He was about to jump off when I caught the glider from behind. Unfortunately, he lost his balance and we both went over the edge. Careful! Dr. Harbinger caught me by the ankle. He was amazingly fast. As the police led the two youths into custody, Dr. Harbinger shook his head. He looked genuinely saddened. I cautiously peered over the edge of the repair deck. Not even 6 months into my new assignment and I was almost killed. Now this was starting to sound like the military my father had warned me about. Microbe-Sniffers. Dr. Harbinger sighed. Im sorry. Ive never heard of the term. There are microbes on Mars, just outside the colony. Young adults mix them with saline solution and squirt them into their noses. The microbes go straight to the brain where they wreck havoc for 8 to 10 hours before dying. Weve all been dreading something like this. It will certainly complicate and intensify the debate. Im really surprised. I never realized this kind of thing still persisted. Even with all our advanced technology and bright ideas, some things still have no quick fix. Mankind would like to believe that social ills will simply be engineered away, but I dont think the solutions are that easy. Cadet Halverson. Are you OK? Captain Montroses voice crackled over my ear phone. A message from the captain? Things were going to get complicated indeed. Yes sir. I am OK and ready to report for my next duty. Good. Your commanding officer will give you your next assignment in 3 hours. Three hours that was interesting. The schedule of the Samuel Hain ran like clockwork. Every duty for the day was listed on your personal calendar before you even got up. This accident had changed things.

Three hours later Nara and I were back in the robotics lab with Dr. Harbinger. We were monitoring the progress of 445-454998764323-450 or white boy as Nara liked to call him. He was running over the red landscape at 50 km/h, effortlessly jumping over large rocks as they appeared in his path. He slowed down as he came closer to his destination, which was nothing more than a shallow pit, only 2 inches deep. When the robot got there, he switched on his scanners. The microbes could be seen on the display in front of us, swimming this way and that. Dr. Harbinger frowned and ran a diagnostic on the

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robot. He then switched the parameters of the scan to infra-red light. He moved on to ultra-violet scans, then to x-ray scans, then to micro-wave scans. Still, he was puzzled. So, what do you make of that? He asked me. He pointed to a circle barren of microbial life. Whenever a microbe would come near the edge of the circle, it would quickly turn away. An intriguing mystery. Nara smiled. I cannot say what is going on there at the moment. I reluctantly confessed. Time for an expedition. Dr. Harbinger walked out of the lab. We quickly followed.

Dr. Harbinger, this really is outside of protocol. I felt like I was being too strict. However, I felt I should at least bring up the issue. I put my helmet on. Garin think of this as an adventure instead of a mission. Nara smiled. She playfully rapped on my helmet and then put hers on. In this instance, I agree with Ms. Arteau. Besides, Madame Diaz was a member of the police force. Correct; but she retired more than 2 years ago and there is no memorandum of protocol between the military and the colony police force. I pointed out. That is just a matter of time. Charlotte Diaz stepped into the decompression chamber. I am working on the memorandum and will submit it next month. Now cmon cadet lets go do something unofficial! When we got there, I still had my doubts. The rumors surrounding Ms. Diaz hadnt gone away; her methods had definitely made her an outsider on Mars. Yet even I couldnt argue with some of her unexplained victories. She placed a small plastic chamber on the location of interest. She reached in with one glove and then reached in with the other. She pulled one of the gloves off. Ms. Diaz, I recommend that you put your glove back on. I was alarmed. Its quite alright. Dr. Harbinger assured me. Well, this is not like doing a walkthrough of an active house, but I might be able to get something. She gently laid her fingertips on the Martian soil. What is she doing? I wanted to know. But then again, did I really? Shes trying to pick up a presence. Dr. Harbinger kneeled down beside her. There is something here. Ms. Diaz muttered quietly. Thats why theyre so afraid.

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Microbes afraid? Nara knelt down on the other side of her. There are many presences here. But they cant cross over to the other side. She continued to mumble. The other side of what? Perhaps there was some sort of organic barrier that the scans hadnt picked up, I reasoned. You were right professor. Yes, the circle is a graveyard; and yes its haunted. Ms. Diaz put her glove back on. Haunted? By what? Nara took a closer look. Microbial ghosts. The professor replied. There is no evidence for that Dr. Harbinger. I politely argued. Welcome to the frontier between science and superstition, Mr. Halverson. You might want to watch your step or you might become trapped on one side or the other. He smiled.

Bfk

32

The Chronicles of the Samuel Hain


Valhalla The City That Couldnt Be Built

That old black magic has me in its spell. Garins fingers moved deftly along the keys. He could really play; it was like that old piano was his best friend. He was smiling as his old college buddies crowded around him. I just couldnt figure him out. He was like a book in a foreign language. But there he was, comfortable in his own tongue, in a beat up old bar on the moon. I left the Comet Crasher Lounge and walked to the grand observation hall on the east side of Utopia. The marble statues of Greek gods and goddesses blended effortlessly with the waterfalls and fragrant plants. The soft white lights in the floor provided a warm, inviting glow. Ahhhthe main shopping plaza, now I was in for a treat. People from all over mingled and bumped into one another. The chatter and complex, diverse dialogue was so wonderful it made my skin tingle. I could watch the scene for days on end, but my curiosity led me on. Perhaps when we came back this way I would spend more time bathing in this bubbling cauldron of personality and emotion. When I reached the observation hall, there was a small crowd there. Beyond the glass, cranes, crews, and ambition were busily giving birth to Valhalla, the fourth lunar city. Without warning, Kepler hissed and squirmed in my arms. He growled and stretched his black feathered wings. Awww..whats troubling my little black kitty? I gently stroked the side of his face. He looked up at me and softly meowed. His mysterious green eyes peered deep into my soul. He turned back to the scene outside his body tensed for a moment; then he climbed up on my back and buried his face in my hair. I pressed my hand to the window. A drop of water splashed against the outside of the glass right above it. After a few seconds another drop hit, then another. Soon water was trickling down the glass. Everyone present was spellbound, but I raced out of the hall. Sorry baby adventure calls! I kissed Kepler on the head and put him in his playpen. I quickly put my uniform on and headed to the operations room of the Samuel Hain. There were eight large computing cubes in the room; two personnel sat facing each side of every cube. Captain Montrose was standing in the center, looking down at the display of Valhalla that hovered over the main display grid. Garin showed up a mere second later, but he still looked embarrassed; I guess being the second one to report was a failure to him. This is somethin bad. Strontium whispered as he took his place to my left.

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The Lunar Zoning Commission is requesting our assistance. Captain Montrose spoke cautiously but I could tell that he too was brimming with curiosity. It was so wonderful to have a captain who loved mysteries. How much do we know about the situation Captain? Garin was the utmost professional. I sighed the wall had gone back up. The Lunar Zoning Commission has provided us with blueprints of the city and with strange anecdotes. Is there any way to gather enough evidence to formulate a theory about what is happening? Garin was cautious he didnt want to overstep his bounds, but he wanted to do his utmost to serve. Theres always a way Mr. Halverson. Ms. Arteau, assemble a team and proceed to Valhalla. I will contact Dr. Harbinger. The captain then left the room. I have some pressing matters to attend to in the engine room. I promised Lieutenant Barton I would assist him with some routine maintenance. If you will excuse me. Garin left promptly, politely, and professionally. Garin! I whispered under my breath. It wasnt my choice it was the captains. No. Strontium took a step back. Cmon. Its time to leave superstition behind and see whats out there! I pushed him out the door.

Lieutenant Barton, may I speak with you for a moment? I was always a little timid around officers. I hoped this would go well. If it didnt, I dont think I would ever have the courage to step into the engine room again. This place seemed almost mystical: in the center sat the fission chamber. It was a round platform surrounded by a magnetic force field. Six glowing orbs hovered two feet above the platform; in the middle of them a glowing tower stretched to the ceiling. Cadet Arteau. Good afternoon what may I help you with? The Lieutenant had just the right combination of formality and friendliness to make me feel at ease. I understand that Cadet Halverson is helping you today. Yes, hes right there. Mr. Bartons eyes darted to Garin and then back to me. The captain wants me to assemble a team and find out whats happening at Valhalla. Sounds like a good thing to do.

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Ill need someone who has a firm grasp of things. He wasnt going to make this easy for me, was he? You are in luck. There are plenty of sharp, analytical minds aboard this ship. I would like to request that Mr. Halverson accompany me. A good choice. Cadet Halverson is a role model of professionalism and has a very analytical mind. The Lieutenant went over and spoke privately with Garin. I could see that Garin was a little uncomfortable with the change in his routine, but he handled the situation with all the grace and charm of a perfect cadet. Cadet Arteau. Do you need my assistance? He walked over. He stood a respectful four feet away. Yes. I need someone I can rely on for objectivity and scientific observation. I played along with his game. If he wanted everything between us to be totally professional, then I would do that. Let me inform Lieutenant Barton of the change in plans. I will meet you at the shuttle bay.

Strontium leave those things here! I chided him. Ever since he got spooked in the Cartography Room he was obsessed with that silly Tarot deck. No. No way. I need to know whats gonna happen. He snatched them up before I could grab them. Whats gonna happen is that Im gonna have Captain Montrose boot you off this ship. I hated to do it, but the situation just begged for a little toughness. Now stop clutching those things like a baby and start trusting your teammates. The shuttle is ready. Unfortunately one of the engines is operating at only 98.45%, but this is the only shuttle we have been authorized to use. Garin walked out of the shuttle and I jumped. I should have known he would have been here first, but he still surprised me. Is that why I found him so intriguing? The shuttle flight was fifteen minutes and very uneventful. I kept Strontium focused on security protocols and Garin analyzed the data from the rainstorm. Was it my imagination, or was he starting to enjoy this? Valhalla was huge bigger than Camelot and Shangri-La combined. I stood at the towering arch that framed the entrance, taking it all in. I turned on the display in my helmet and scanned the surroundings. No oxygen, no recent electromagnetic activity, no unusual molecular signatures. When I looked down the main entrance tunnel, all was quiet, cool, and dark. Hey! Strontium took a step back.

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Cadet Jones report. I would unfortunately have to be extra professional to ease the nerves of one cadet and to gain the trust of another. I just saw a heat signature. It looked human in form. The old Saturn Ten suits had a terrible reputation for being leaky. Perhaps someone is already inside. Dr. Harbinger blithely observed. Dr. Harbinger! Youre here. Wheres your shuttle? I was getting really quite distressed at the way Dr. Harbinger seemed to appear out of nowhere. Shall we proceed? He invited us to follow him. The large, cavernous hallways of Valhalla were dark and bare. We walked slowly and hesitantly, avoiding hanging wires and construction platforms. There was something about the atmosphere nothing unusual registered on our sensors it was something that was tickling the underside of my soul. Heat signature, five Oclock. Garin broke the silence. Theres a second heat signature to our immediate left both human in shape. Nara weve gotta leave. We shouldnt be here. Strontium was doing his best to keep calm, but his panic seeped through his words. Two more heat signatures fifty yards ahead and both look human. Dr. Harbinger added. Any idea why theyre here? Are they workers who didnt hear about the evacuation order? I felt unusually confident. I think joining the Samuel Hain was the right decision after all. The heat signatures are too intense to be explained by old space suits. Garin said while adjusting his sensors. Any theories? Dr. Harbinger asked. None at the present moment Dr. Harbinger. Garin replied. Three more heat signatures traveling due west. Lets follow them. My first order. This would be a moment I would remember for a long time. We came to an unfinished hallway that was exposed to the lifeless lunar atmosphere. The incomplete walkway vanished in the lunar sand. The earth, home sweet home, lay just beyond the horizon. I looked to my left and right; so far everyone was safe and coping with the unusual circumstances. Something pushed me from behind. I stumbled forward and fell into the sand. A wave of fear and anguish washed over me for no reason at all. It was like I was experiencing someone elses feelings. Garin quickly pulled me back up.

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Ms. Arteau are you alright? He turned off his sensors so he could see me better. Yes, Im OK now. Did you injure yourself when you fell Cadet Arteau? Dr. Harbinger seemed to take an unusual interest in my welfare. When I was on the groundII felt something. It was a very awkward moment for me, trying to explain to a scientist something so vague. You mean something buried in the sand? Garin began his scientific inquiry. No. There was nothing buried in the sand. I replied. Was there something unusual about the sand? Perhaps it was unusually warm? Garin turned on his sensors and walked closer to the spot. No no. I decided to take a risk a big one. Being careful not to step on the spot, I took Garin by the hand and pulled him into it. Oh my God! Nara! I could hear the fear in his voice. Garin! Its OK I quickly pulled him out. I apologize, but it was the only way I could explain the experience. Thats quite alright. Sometimes it can be difficult to describe empirical evidence. Garin quickly recovered and the professional wall went back up. But, can we replicate the results a third time? Dr. Harbinger pushed Strontium into the spot. Nara! Garin! Help! Help me! I thought Strontium was going to die of fright. Garin and I quickly pulled him back. Dr. Harbinger that was uncalled for. I glared at him. I apologize Ms. Arteau. Nonetheless it seems that there is something unusual about this area that deserves further study. I believe Cadet Jones should be back to his usual, happy self in a day or so. Dr. Harbinger stepped into the odd area himself. He hemmed and hawed. Dr. Harbinger are you alright? I was quite puzzled by his calm demeanor. Oh yes, quite. He suddenly looked up at me. Hmmmm..it seems as if my many years in the scientific profession have left me without a heart. He joked. He then took a step back. The heat signatures have returned. There are thirty of them approaching our location. Garin announced. Theyre comin in quick. Nara? Strontium looked to me for an answer.

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Stand your ground. If they wanted to harm us, they would have done so already. I wondered if my optimistic assessment was justified; then again, I didnt see any other options. Wait, theyve stopped thirty feet behind us. The heat signatures seem to be combining into one heat source. Garin took a step toward the anomaly. Nothing. Theyre gone. Strontium was bewildered and more than ready to go home. Stop construction on Valhalla. Stop disturbing the dead. We all heard the warning as it defied the laws of nature and floated through the vacuum of space. Bare footprints came between us and marched out across the barren sands of the moon.

Several days later I sat alone in my quarters. I looked out the window as we raced from the moon to the depths of the solar system. Kepler was sitting on the other end of the couch, flapping his wings. Finally, he gathered up enough courage and leapt into the air; he flew three yards and landed on the coffee table. Yay Kepler! Your first flight. Soon youll be going to all sorts of fantastic places just like me. I thought this day would never come, but life is full of surprises. Ms. Arteau. Good evening. A three dimensional hologram of Dr. Harbinger sprang up from the center of the coffee table. Dr. Harbinger good evening. Since you were the team leader on the initial reconnaissance mission to Valhalla, I thought you deserved to know the latest news. Have you discovered something interesting? While digging around in the ground just to the south of the site, I found this. Dr. Harbinger held up a small pentagonal disk with strange markings on it. That is interesting. Do you know what it is? Happily no. This will give the ladies and gentlemen at MARI something to do. They always love a good mystery as do I. Dr. Harbinger would you let me know what you find out? I would hate to be the last one to know. I smiled. Certainly. Good night Ms. Arteau. Good night Dr. Harbinger.

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I then went to my storage chest. I unlocked it and carefully removed the wooden box. I opened the box and took out our precious family heirloom: It was a pentagonal disk that looked exactly like the one Dr. Harbinger had in his possession. It had been handed down from one generation to the next for over 350 years. Grandpa Mitchell you were the one who found this thing all the way back then. What I wouldnt give to talk to you now! I sighed.

Bfk

39

The Chronicles of the Samuel Hain


Shadows of the Past

Hey! Strontium stopped dead in his tracks. Whats the matter? I looked up from the pages of Quantum Psychology. Your black cat just crossed my path! Strontium, thats just a myth. Garin mumbled from under the table. Here I was, in my cozy little quarters, with Strontium unwilling to cross an invisible line that Kepler had made while Garin was busy fixing the computer under my coffee table. Neither one of them seemed to notice the fresh flowers or the fresh fruit. Here let me fix that. Kepler baby cmon do your trick for mommy. Cmon baby you can do it! I gently ran my finger down his spine. He pulled his feathered wings close and then stretched them out. He shook his whole body and arched his back. Then it began to flow, a white creamy color starting at his head and slowly cascading down his back. After a few moments, he was white from nose to tail. Whoawhere did you get him? I want one. Strontium was fascinated. I sent you the link for the breeder last week. I thought you would come around. I smiled. Im done. It should work fine now. Garin got up and waited for me to turn it on. Garin! Youre a sweetheart! Thank you so much. The words just bubbled out of my mouth before I could stop them. Im glad I could help. Now if youll excuse me. He politely stepped out of the room. I thought he was going to play checkers with us. Strontium seemed surprised, but I wasnt. Hell spend the rest of the day reading the Times. I sighed. I guess its his refuge.

An hour later my oracle beeped. I fumbled in my purse and found the three inch, silver disc. Youre still usin that big thing? Strontium laughed. I thought those went out of style with Baltimore Stingers.

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Im old fashioned. I replied as I touched the center. The message read private and it was from Garin. I know that look. Im goin, Im goin you want anything from the kitchen? Im out of ice cream get me any flavor but almond! I called after him as he left. Nara is Strontium there? Garin seemed more cautious than usual. No. I sent him out for ice cream. Good. Could you switch your display to the Samuel Hains sensor grid? Sure. I entered the password and regulation code. Oh my thats pretty and a little strange. Near Jupiters equator, the clouds had formed a distinctly human shape. It is unusual. The captain has let me in on the task of studying it. However, I thought you could provide some theories as to why this is occurring. Ill see if I can talk him into getting you on the research project. Thanks. Dont worry I wont tell Strontium hell just get frightened. Thanks Nara. Strontium doesnt need any more unusual phenomena to worry him.

Three hours later, I found Strontium in his quarters. He was sitting on the floor in the middle of the room. He was surrounded by circle of red powder which gave off a pungent smell. Four skulls, one placed at each of the four cardinal directions, guarded him from something that only he knew about. The room was lit only by plasma candles. He was babbling something in French, Latin, and Dutch over and over again. Nara! Im sorry I never came back. I gotta get off the ship. Shes gonna kill my cousin Jennie and then Im next! I gotta get off the ship! He had a wild, primal, terrified spark in his eyes. Hey.its ok.its ok.whos after you? I knelt down in front of him. Mama Graveyard Mama Graveyard. The words came out with a mixture of terror, awe, and disbelief. I spent the next hour trying to get more information, but Strontium kept babbling in French. I left him and quickly made my way to the medical lab. Suddenly, the red lights flashed up and down the hall. Medical Emergency! Please Stand Clear! Medical Emergency! Please Stand Clear! Two medics ran down the hall. My oracle beeped.

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Nara the cloud formation is dissolving. I dont think we will be getting a lot of data this time. Garin sounded disappointed. Garin I think Strontiums in trouble. He mentioned something about Mama Graveyard coming for his cousin. The problem sounds too vague for a solution. When I get some time off tomorrow Ill see what I can find out about Mama Graveyard, but this sounds like more your area of expertise, I really havent had much training in Psychology.

The next morning, Strontium was huddled on his bed, in tears. He was clutching a photo of his cousin Jennie. The computer display on his table showed a half finished eulogy. Im sorry about Jennie. Do do you need anything? I sat down on the edge of the bed. I got to get off the ship! Shes gonna come for me next! We were so stupid! Mama Graveyard Mama Graveyard always remembers and never forgives. I know it wasnt the most ethical thing to do, but while Strontium was grieving, I used his computer to access Jennies medical file. It showed that she died of unknown causes at 1:47 P.M. How strange, to die of unknown causes in this day and age. I switched the display back to the eulogy this was a side of Strontium that I never knew. His words were sensitive, elegant, and wise. When I stepped into seminar room 14, Garin looked up from his computer. He was disappointed and I wasnt surprised. He resumed his analysis of the cloud formation. I know Im late. Strontium needed someone to calm him down. I abruptly spat out. Thats OK. I have the latest weather and magnetic field data. He replied. I think Strontium needs our support. You might want to pay him a visit when you get off duty. OK. Interesting Ive checked the meteorological records for Jupiter and this is the first instance of this phenomenon. Why now? Strontium is really upset. You know, a quick little message would really prop him up. I would be too if my cousin died. Garin didnt look up from the console. Garin Strontium really needs a friend right now. He is a nice person. Im sure he has plenty of friends. So - any theories about why the cloud formation appeared? No. I sighed. I wouldnt push it. Thats interesting the cloud formation dissolved at exactly 1:47 P.M.

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Whats so atypical about that? Thats the exact time that Jennie died. Nara how do you know that? Garin looked at me. I took a quick look at her medical file. You know thats against regulation and unethical. Are you going to report me? Ill leave it up to your conscience. So you think theres a connection? There might be. How would we gather enough data to prove or disprove your hypothesis? I dont know- Nara! Look! Look! Strontiums image came up on the holo-display. I switched to the Samuel Hains main sensors. The person shaped cloud was back. Strontium, calm down. Youre on med watch and the docs know your every twitch. If you get too scared theyre going to put you under for the rest of your tour. Now I was getting scared. I think theres only one way to move forward on this research. Ill be back in a short while. If you could record the magnetic field variations while Im gone, I would be most grateful. Garin left the room with an unusual sense of urgency. Maybe he was being a friend after all in his own way.

An hour later, Garin and I were walking down the hall to the fighter bay. I was actually surprised by his actions. The mystery of Garin was not over. Have you ever flown an X-4? He brought up the technical specifications and handed them to me. No. Ive only trained in a U-29 simulator. I hated admitting a weakness in my training especially to him. Its totally different but not as intimidating as you might think. He entered the password and regulation code on the panel next to the bay door. Fuel tanks are almost full. Youll be ready in 5 minutes. No food in the fighters got it? The mechanic announced. He was busy adjusting the bio fuel valves. He had an artificial spine, the metal prongs of which could be seen glinting in the bright lights. Several robots scanned the fighters. They looked like cylinders; they had large, black glass heads and several arms.

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Thank you. Garin replied. I know that voice. Get over here Caddy! The mechanic turned around and gave Garin a big hug. Archer! I didnt expect to find you here. Garin was very uncomfortable. Hey dont give me that look. All that is water under the bridge. Anyways, whatever happened between you and Kalai is your business. He turned to me and shook my hand. My names Archer Duboise. Pleased to meet you Archer. Im Nara. Thanks. Were here on the captains orders to scout the atmosphere. Garin announced. He was struggling to regain his composure. Youre here to fly the legendary X-4. He swept his hand theatrically. The X-4 had a body that reminded one of a World War II fighter plane. Surrounding the body was a ring ten feet long and one foot thick. It was attached to the body by four supports. Each support had a laser attached. The fighter itself was as black as midnight. It certainly looks legendary. I piped up. It most certainly is. Two engines one on the front of the ring and one on the back provide a forward or reverse thrust of up to 50,000 kph. The surface of the ring provides a thrust of up to 120 feet per second in any direction. 120 feet per second? Garin raised an eyebrow. Yup. I got the surface ramped up these things will make a dragonfly look like a turtle. Are these fighters difficult to fly? I hoped I didnt sound like a ground hugger. Cmon up. Archer hopped on top of the cockpit. He held out his hand. I climbed up and plopped down into the seat. This is the ring. Push it forward to go forward and pull it back to go back. Squeeze the ring anywhere and youll get corresponding thrust. So if you need to drop down 36 degrees to your left, squeeze here. Really? Really. Thats all it takes to fly. What about the lasers? Activate your tactical display. You mean this? I stepped on a red disc on the floor.

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See? Youre getting the hang of it! Archer laughed. A grid overlaid the visual display. This thing isnt active, is it? Garin was getting a little nervous. Nah.theres an interference signal from the ship. That way you can practice all you want and not scratch a thing. Archer smiled. So if I do this- I touched a spot on the tactical grid. A point of red light appeared on the hull. Nothing happens. Garin interrupted. So you ready to fly? Archer hopped down. As ready as Ill ever be. This was a little scary, but it might turn out to be fun. I looked down the launch tube. You wont have to worry. This is a drone primary mission. Garin explained. The captain himself has programmed our flight path into the navigational computer and weapons officers will be controlling our guns. We will be responsible for analysis and observation. They could do all that from the bridge. Archer sounded perplexed. Captain Montrose wants people in the cockpit given the unusual circumstances. Garin climbed into the cockpit of an adjacent fighter.

Garin is that music I hear? Our descent into Jupiters atmosphere was gentle and graceful. I looked to my right and he was busy coordinating sensors and statistical algorithms. The lights in his cockpit seemed a little dimmer than mine. Yes it is. I am allowed to play music as long as it doesnt distract me. Its all in regulation Section 1.B.1.a.i. He replied defensively. Im not here to spy on you. What are you listening to? Thulton Hamilton a very good jazz pianist from the 22nd Century. Hes good. How did you dim your lights? Theres an environmental control panel under your seat it slides out. Entering the atmosphere now. Were right on top of the phenomenon but nothing unusual. I got back to business. Captain Montrose, requesting permission to descend. Garin was up to something. Permission granted Mr. Halverson.

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Captain request permission to descend. I wasnt going to be left behind. Stay where you are Ms. Arteau. I want to get observations at different levels of the atmosphere. Captain Montrose, if you could switch the Samuel Hains sensors to my ship. I think Ive discovered something quite unusual. Garins voice was laced with shock. Is that what I think it is? Captain Montrose asked in disbelief. I do believe it is sir. Garin replied. Its New Orleans I would estimate in the middle of the 20 Century.
th

Mr. Halverson, go down and investigate and have Ms. Arteau accompany you. The captain instructed. Atmosphere is breathable. I sat in my X-4 and looked over at Garin. Well, space suits wont be necessary. But we will have to use the anti-grav exoskeletons to compensate for the increased gravity. Also, in the back of the cockpit youll find a panel. Open it and get a p-47. If I know Archer, hell also have a p-50 there, take that too. Garin was very clam yet alert. The p-47 an absolute wonder. It was a gun that fired paralyzing electrodes up to 500 feet. I switched on the wireless signal that activated the electrodes. I turned the signal strength up to maximum enough to bring down an African elephant and kill an ordinary man. I wasnt going to take any chances. Was there a p-50 there? Garin walked toward me. You would think he wouldve looked awkward and clunky in the carbon graphite exoskeleton with its little wires and hoses, but he looked perfectly natural. No. How about you? I stepped into the configuration of rods and strapped myself in. I turned it on and the exoskeleton oh so faintly hummed. Yes. Lets see fully loaded. Garin took out a bullet and held it up to the light. To think, one of these will leave a crater four feet wide and three feet deep. I think I will start out with the p-47. We walked through the empty streets for an hour. There was no sound and the air was still. The shops and houses were abandoned some still had fresh coffee and doughnuts on the table. Everything was fresh, there were no cobwebs and there was no dust. Garin, what are we looking for? I didnt know we were looking for anything in particular. As far as I know, were here to gather data. Speaking of which, the magnetic field and barometric pressure seem to be fluctuating slightly.

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So is the environment. I looked through my scope. The city skyline was starting to fade. I looked at my oracle, Strontiums heartbeat was getting irregular. Nara, what are you looking at? Strontiums heartbeat is getting irregular. We have to stop this somehow. Nara did you patch into the Samuel Hains medical network? Garin I did. Thats how I know that our friend is in trouble. Please just help me! Alright he said something about Mama Graveyard. I did some research and shes a voodoo queen in present day New Orleans. So there has to be a connection between her, this New Orleans, and Strontium. As Garin said this, a shadow of a man glided past him. This cant be very good. I looked around and another shadow came between us. I think the time for theorizing is over. Garin quickly announced. Ill bet we find Mama Graveyard in a graveyard. We raced to the oldest graveyard on record, dodging shadows all the way. When we got past the front gate, we were surrounded. The shades crept closer and the horizon grew dimmer. I could clearly see the original atmosphere of Jupiter. Garin the p-47 isnt working! The electrodes simply passed through the shadowy attackers. Something has to be controlling all of this. Wait watch this. He opened the side panel of his p-47 and removed a small piece of plastic. What are you doing? Setting it to overload. He turned the dial on the wireless signal past maximum. Youll get killed! Yes in about 15 minutes. In the meantime, this should keep those things at bay. So lets think quick! There! There! I pointed to a large mausoleum in the center of the graveyard. We raced to it, with the shades nipping at our heels. Its locked! I tugged on the door. Ill unlock it. Garin aimed his p-50 at the iron door and fired. It flew off its hinges. What are we looking for? I searched the gloom frantically. Im not an expert on voodoo or mythology but-

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How about this? I opened the lid to the coffin and pulled out a golden locket. That looks good to me. Suddenly, the floor beneath him gave way. Garin! Hold on! I grabbed him. I slowly pulled him up. By this time, most of the city had disappeared; there were only a few patches of New Orleans left. As we ran from one safe spot to another, Jupiters atmosphere closed in behind us. I think its about time to get rid of this. Garin threw his p-47 and it exploded, knocking us off our feet. When we got up, there was nowhere to go. We heard the hum of the X-4 engines above us. Rope ladders fell from their bellies and we struggled to climb up. As we closed the cockpit doors over our heads, the last of New Orleans disappeared.

How long? Garin asked as we ran down the halls of the Samuel Hain. Two minutes. Thats OK. I had an Uncle who was dead for five minutes. He replied nervously. Is it ready? Garin was almost out of breath as we burst into the robotics lab. Yes, yes, yes! Do it! The tech replied. Garin threw the locket into the furnace. It glowed red for a while and then slowly started to melt. Well? Garin was standing over my shoulder. Hes coming around.hes going to be OK! I hugged him.

No, no, no! No more banana pudding! Strontium pushed the tray away as he sat up in the hospital bed. Cmon Strontium its really good and will make you all better. I smiled. See? I took in a spoonful and did my best to hide the fact that it tasted like stale bio sludge. Maybe we can get you something special from the Stargazer tomorrow. Garin added. I hope so. Strontium put the cover back on the tray. Strontium I hope you dont mind I have to take this call. Garins oracle beeped and he stepped out of the room.

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See you survived the worst. Youll be laughing about this when youre captain of this ship. I put my hand on his shoulder. Shhh! Strontium tilted his head toward the hallway. Thank you Mr. Douglas for your offer. I hope my relationship to my uncle hasnt unduly influenced you. Well, I think I would have to get my accounting license re-certified, but other than that I would be able to start work immediately. Garin then put his oracle in his pocket and left.

Bfk

49

The Chronicles of the Samuel Hain


New Detroit City of the Future

Strontium! Nara looked at me in disgust. I knew I shouldnt have let an animal lover into my quarters. What? Its just a rabbits foot good luck and all. Not for the rabbit. Lets get goin. I escorted her out of my place and down the hall. It was gonna be a busy day and I didnt need any hassle. All duty now I see. I did my thesis on Neptune and I wouldnt miss this for all the eggs in Utopia. Now cmon girl! Youre gonna see somethin you never saw before. We walked into the Astro Cartography room and he was there. He was always there first. Did he ever go to his quarters? I know I should be used to him by now, but something about Garin just, well spooked me. Good morning Strontium. Good morning Nara. He smiled politely and then resumed his work. Hey sunshine! Got an early start did we? I slapped him on the back. Garin did you load these sensor algorithms by yourself? Nara stared at the screen like a schoolgirl. Lieutenant Alvoretti provided some assistance with the more complex ones. Im afraid that Im still trying to master the Differential Arc Nominal theory of sub atomic Calculus. This is this is great! Lets go! Cmon, cmon! Lets align the sensors. Oh wow this is great! I couldnt believe it. This was the nicest thing someone had ever done for me. Sensors are ready. Nara smiled. Just one more minute, if you will. Theres something funny about the last variable in this algorithm. Hmmm..I think I will brush up on my Differential Theory when I get back to my quarters.

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Take your time. I sat back in my chair and waited for the show to begin. Oh how silly. Let me just invert that and divide it by Neptunes gravitational flux. There were all set. Garin looked at me and smiled. You need to take it out another decimal point. I glanced at him out of the corner of my eye. So, how was he going to handle this? I apologize. I didnt know the sensors were that sensitive. Now I know why Captain Montrose put you in charge of this survey. OK here we go! Lets have a look at her. I put the information on the main display and stood back. I took everything in. Garin was going over the magnetic field structure and Nara was analyzing the layers of the atmosphere. I have to admit, he was pretty smooth; not everyone would have handled being corrected so diplomatically. Every once in a while she glanced at him. He was definitely one to chase after. Something is a little out of sorts here. Garin searched his personal directory. What do you mean out of sorts? I wasnt about to let a glitch ruin my first view of Neptune. Strontium I know this is your project and how much it means to you but could I try something? Garins tone seemed unusual almost informal. We only have three hours for the survey. Were not comin back round this way for another year. Should I trust him? After all, this was the guy who was gonna take off without saying goodbye. Strontium live a little and take a risk. Nara nudged me. OK do it. I couldnt resist those eyes. Thank you Strontium. Equations are like tie clips and cufflinks, you have to have the right one handy when the situation calls for it. Garin opened up his personal files and scrolled through the long list of equations. Ah, here it is. What is that? Nara magnified an area of Neptunes magnetic belt. A blip. Great this is gonna throw off all the magnetic data! I threw my hands up. Take a closer look at the gravitational field surrounding the anomaly. Garin was about to adjust the sensors, but stopped. With your permission of course. He looked to me for approval. Yeah, yeah, yeah whatever! Ill see ya next year Neptune. I sighed. The electrons in the affected area are spinning faster. Nara couldnt believe her eyes. 43.334 % faster. I couldnt believe my eyes either.

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All the affected electrons are in a straight line. Garin sounded a little concerned. Headed for earth. I raced out of the room. Strontium you have to notify the officer in charge! Garin called after me. Thats 2nd Lieutenant Rogens and hes an idiot! I shouted back. Thank goodness I always keep my oracle synchronized with my research. How can I help you Mr. Jones? The captain stood in the door of his quarters in his pajamas. I didnt like his tone. Sir we picked up somethin bad as in catastrophe bad. I was trying hard not to babble. Where is Mr. Rogens? The captain looked over the duty list. I thought it would be best to bring the matter up with you sir given your background. Well, Ill just have to put my professor hat on then. Let me warn you though if you dont have a sound argument and good evidence to back it up out the door with you. The look in his eyes changed. Now I could tell that I was really in too deep. As a professor of Advanced Particle Physics Hard Nose Montrose had cut down people whose brains were light years ahead of mine. Take a look sir. I put my oracle on his coffee table and brought up the data on the electron mystery. A sensor thats not encapsulated properly will sometimes produce odd results cadet. He looked at me sternly. Sensors are undamaged and working fine sir. I not only checked them twice before running the survey, I had a constant diagnostic and maintenance check running the whole time. I gulped. Very thorough. Yet any student of Astro Cartography knows that bursts of EM radiation, particularly microwave, can produce sensor blips. EM radiation wasnt high enough to be detected by our sensors. I verified the levels with The Watchers I double checked buoys 178, 179, and 182. Tell me again why you dont have your Doctorate in Astro Cartography Mr. Jones. Professor Halifax, sir. Professor Halifax can be quite intimidating, but dont let one man stand in the way of your destiny. He turned off my oracle and placed it in my hands. Then he opened up his communications panel. Lieutenant Rogens! Turn the Samuel Hain around and head for earth full speed!

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Impact has been verified Captain, were awaiting further word from MARI as to what our next course of action should be. Admiral Hayes calmly announced. His image floated in the center of the bridge. Acknowledged Admiral. Were in luck, thanks to earths orbit, we should be able to cut 18 hours from our journey. Thats good to hear Captain. Hayes out. If I may have your attention, the captains voice rang throughout the ship, New Detroit has been hit by an unknown phenomenon. There have been no communications with the city so we dont know if there are injuries or casualties at this time. The top scientists of the UDA as well as MARI are trying to find out what happened. Till then, New Detroit has been placed under Level 4 quarantine. I understand that some of you have family and friends in New Detroit we will do everything we can to provide information and support to you and your families. Thank you. Oh no. Garin pulled out his oracle and checked his e-mails. You OK? Nara put his hand on his shoulder. My Uncle Nash lives in New Detroit. Garin continued to scroll through his e-mails. He didnt seem to care that he was still on duty. Perhaps there was another side to him. Cadet Halverson. The captain approached us. Yes sir. Garin quickly regained his professional composure. I was auditing the duty roster and decided to update it. If you dont mind switching duties with Mr. Henson, I would greatly appreciate it. Hensons monitoring the environmental backup regulators, isnt he? Nara whispered to me. Yeah, pretty boring stuff just the right job for someone whos got a lot on his mind. I whispered back.

When we finally arrived we were told that suits wouldnt be necessary. New Detroit sparkled in the sun like the grand old gem that I knew she was. Nothin could keep her down. The lasers from the quarantine beacons gave her a low key, mellow look. There were vehicles everywhere: military, medical, fire, police, MARI all just sittin around like giant clumps of lint blown in on the wind. There he was, on the other side of the beacons why was he at the center of every mystery? Mr. Jones, Ms. Arteau, Mr. Halverson Im glad you could make it. Professor Harbinger warmly greeted us.

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Im actually quite surprised that we are here. Garin confessed. Cadets usually arent called to serious situations like this. You three are here at my personal request. He stepped under the laser and escorted us to a makeshift command center. The only way to develop talent, passion, and character is to be in the thick of it all. Sometimes circumstance is the best teacher. Professor, team one is ready. A technician announced. Good. Lets get started then. He happily replied. There was something else under that smile genuine concern. Well be monitoring them all the way the whole time. We have command centers surrounding the city well notice every sub atomic burp. This is team leader to command center alpha; approaching event horizon. They were dressed in full military gear; black from head to toe. They had p-50s cradled next to them. Atmosphere normal, no fluctuations in gravity or magnetic field. Radiation levels are normal, no molecular or microbial anomalies present. So far so good team leader. Professor Harbinger replied. Now, if you could scan for electron speed and any other quantum fluctuation, I think you will find some interesting things. Acknowledged Alpha. Electron spin is 57.2% faster than normal. Sub atomic particle decay is 70.987% greater than the area surrounding the city. See I told you we would find something special. You may enter the city when ready team leader. Acknowledged alpha. Crossing event horizon. Command center alpha Im not sure exactly what happened but we are on the other side of the city. The other side. Really? Command center Omega can you confirm? Professor Harbinger was either very intrigued or somewhat worried, I couldnt tell which. Team one is here, Alpha. The leader of the Omega site confirmed. We took one step into the city and ended up on the other side how? The team leader wanted to know. Dr. Harbinger if I may. Garin spoke up. Yes Mr. Halverson? I have been looking at the cameras watching the city and I found this. Garin brought up an image of the time and temperature display on top of the Schmelt Tower. It read: March 20 2374 / 1:05 PM. Thats not possible. Today is January 16 2372. I interrupted.

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I checked several electro-fill stations the time is exactly the same. Garin looked at me, hoping that I would somehow prove him wrong. Hes right. I verified the time and date with the International and Solar Time Bureau. Nara piped up. Very intriguing. New Detroit has shifted 2 years and 2 months into the future. Since we cannot time travel, the space that the city occupies literally doesnt exist. Dr. Harbinger concluded. How do we bring it back to 2372? Garin asked. I do not know. I honestly do not know. I will have to discuss this with my colleagues but even they will be unable to come up with any solutions for some time. Garin Im sorry about your uncle. Nara approached him. Thank you Nara. Thats very kind of you. He didnt look up from his work. Just think all those accountants trapped forever in the future. This was as good a time as any to bring up the issue. Yes trapped. It seems we cant escape our destiny, whether it be on earth or in the stars. Garin looked up at me for a moment, then returned to the computer screen.

OK this is just between us. I gathered Garin and Nara close to me. In the center of our little triad there were several boxes of Chinese takeout. Strontium I thought we were here to play cards. Garin could always read me like a book it irritated me like nothing else and made him my best friend. Whats the scoop? Naras eyes were sparkling with mischief. Ive been spying on Professor Harbinger. I took a bite and waited for their reaction. Monitoring civilian communications is only permitted under certain circumstances. Have all the requirements of Section 1.C.4.f been met? I dont know and I didnt check. I quipped. Then you could be breaking several regulations all at once. He argued. I dont know the regulation manual, but spying isnt always the right choice. Nara added. Look, when I get more information, well do it the legal way. So do you guys love the regulations or do you love your country? I wasnt gonna get shot down not this time.

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OK, OK what do you have? If theres cause for concern, we can find a way to approach the situation right side up. Garin conceded. Let me show you this: this is a signal that Professor Harbinger sent out just one week after the New Detroit incident. I brought up the information on the message. It displayed a three dimensional image of a rotating triple helix. Why are some parts changing colors? Nara asked. You got me. Now watch what happens when I increase the magnification. I zoomed in to one part of the helix: it was made up of thousands of floating chemical structures. Some of the structures I recognize, theyre pheromones but others are totally impossible. Garin observed. Now watch this. I touched one part of the helix and something like a humpback whale song floated through the room. I touched another part and a different whale song bounced off the walls. Are you sure he isnt conducting some kind of research? Garin was already beginning to doubt. I thought so at first. I checked with some friends of mine and this is way beyond what we can understand. So whatever hes trying to contact isnt human. Nara touched the helix. And two days ago it sent a reply.

Bfk

56

The Chronicles of the Samuel Hain


Faith The Final Frontier

Strontium please. I dont think we need another diagnostic on the fission chamber. Lieutenant Barton walked over to my station and sat down opposite me. A little extra caution never hurt. I tried my best not to be embarrassed. You do have leave, do you not? And, to be quite honest, there are several other cadets who are dying to have a tour of duty in here. Im fine. Thanks for asking. You know, Friday the 13th is really just another day. He walked away. Hes right you know. The three dimensional image of Garin hovered above my oracle. Easy for you to say. I thought you would like an early birthday present. Here are the latest solar observations from MARI. An avid Astro Cartography student such as yourself will find them to be a real treat. Hey..thanks. Youre all right Garin. Youre welcome. So how is MARI? I knew it was a little rude to be downloading data in the middle of a conversation, but like a kid in a candy store, I just couldnt wait. The coffee is rather bland, but the scientific research opportunities are incredible. So youre glad youre not sitting behind some desk doing someone elses taxes? The flexibility of the MARI Research Symposium offers a refreshing detour from my official duties aboard the Samuel Hain. Nara and I miss you come back soon. I smiled. This current project should be over in about 2 weeks. Garins image then winked off. OK, I know that look. You wont be doing anything productive around here for the next few hours. Youre relieved from duty Mr. Jones.

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Thanks! If you dont mind, could you transfer a copy of the data to my oracle? Yes sir. Youre not the only one who has a bone to pick with Professor Halifax. I spent the next several hours going over the solar observations. Most people would have found it boring, but I loved examining the magnetic field data, temperature, and fission reactions. This time around, there was something new hydrogen levels. I felt like the luckiest guy in the solar system to be alive at a time like this. Hey! Did you realize what time it is? Nara knocked on my door. Im comin! Im comin! I opened the door. I was just finishing buttoning up my uniform. You know its not a good thing to be late. She straightened out the wrinkles in my sleeves. Awww.baby you worry too much. And you worry too little. Now cmon, before you get me in trouble too. Yes Maam! I saluted her and walked down the hall. My mind was still on those hydrogen levels. With the latest theories in solar dynamics, I would have a shot in getting a history of our suns appetite. After our day was done, we sat in the Stargazer. The latest world cup coverage blared across the TV screens. The whack of billiard balls could be heard from the far corner. The murmur of voices filled the dimly lit atmosphere. Oh no! The Senegal soccer team died in a bus crash. How awful. Nara gasped. What? Now it was me being the cold fish; but I just couldnt take my eyes off those hydrogen levels. The latest research papers from Earth were running on my second oracle. I was just having too much fun. Oh my God! Theres Cadet Tanaka. I dont believe that shes wearing that in public. She must be breaking several decency codes with that outfit. Wow. Thats incredible. I mumbled. Strontium youre turning into a nerd. If you keep going like this, youre going to make Garin look like the sexiest man alive. Sorry love, but Im totally blown away by the numbers. Hydrogen levels are insanely low. Now Im gonna run them backwards, up, down, and inside out. Ive always wanted to stump the professor, and this is my best shot. I looked up but she was gone. Oh well, we all gotta have a hobby.

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We got him! I declared in triumph as I met Lieutenant Barton outside lecture hall 9. I do believe you are right Mr. Jones. Im very impressed by your arguments hopefully professor Halifax will be also. We sat down in the hall with a few others. It was dimly lit and the atmosphere was hushed. Then the lights came on and a three dimensional image of professor Halifax appeared. He leaned on his golf clubs as he chewed on his bubble gum. Professor, did you get my latest e-mail? I leaned forward in my seat. The professor walked to and fro for a moment, deep in thought. Then he spat out his gum. He brought up the equations and data that I sent him a mere 5 minutes ago. I did indeed. Mr. Jones, did you take to heart what I said the last day of class? Yes sir. You told me that Solar Dynamics theory was not a buffet table, that I just couldnt pick and choose what I wanted. However, you are not practicing what I preached. You cannot make a sound argument without Bartuczevskis Magnetic Law. Also, it appears that some of your data is missing. I would check back with MARI. But sir- Mr. Jones, my tee time is in 5 minutes. If you learn golf, we can have a more in-depth discussion. He pulled a club out of his bag and examined it. I did take into account Bartuczevskis Law I just put it in the context of our sun. Look at the numbers again and confine them by the set of limits of our suns size and fission rate. Please professor I double checked his data and logic it all fits seamlessly. Lieutenant Barton added. Look gentlemen, I will do this for the sake of argument. After I have reached my conclusion, you will leave me alone deal? Yes professor. We replied in unison. First of all, there have been three distinct periods in the suns fission history. You havent taken that into account. Second, you would have to invert several variables if you were to think about star size, which you have done. Thats good. But, you would also have to look at the relationship between magnetic field strength and gravity oh there it is. You have done well Mr. Jones you really should pursue that degree. But, I hate to burst your bubble, when you run the data back in time you would find that it all becomes one giant, tangled pile of spaghetti. Watch. Professor Halifax put the information

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on the secondary holo display and punched a button on his oracle. See? Its all becoming one tangled mess. Thirty seconds to tee time, so I think we can cut this short, dont you agree? No, no, no! Please professor wait! Theres a pattern here that I didnt see before. See that set of numbers? Mr. Jones. The professor sighed. Im going to explain those numbers in 5 seconds or less. If you simply wait a minute. He put his club back in his bag. This is absolute nonsense. Are you sure this information is correct? Absolutely. We replied in unison. This is fascinating but still absolute nonsense. Give me a week and I will meet you here and brush up on your Solar Dynamics theory!

A week later Lieutenant Barton and I were back in the lecture hall. I had bought a third oracle for the occasion. I had all three running: the first one had the solar data, the second one had Solar Dynamics Theory and Bartuczevskis Space-Time Gravitational Dispersion Theory, and the third had the latest research articles. There were several packages of premium bubble gum awaiting us when we arrived. Gentlemen. Im glad you are dressed properly for the occasion. Today, we are about to make scientific history or be laughed out of the scientific community. Im not sure which. Professor Halifaxs three dimensional image paced back and forth between us. Any last words before we undertake this illogical journey of madness? Full speed ahead professor! I joked. I admire your total disregard for your reputation Mr. Jones. So.I analyzed the data, I analyzed it a second and third time, I shared it with several colleagues, I asked them if I was hallucinating, I had a good supper, and then went to bed. In the morning, I had enough confidence in my sanity to reach the only conclusion possible: our sun should have died several times. His words hit us like a bucket of ice water. Your equations are flawless professor, but I dont recognize some of them. Lieutenant Barton stared at the holo display to our right. I had to come up with a few new tricks up my sleeve Mr. Barton. So what has kept our sun alive? I looked at the image of our sun floating over the holo display to our left. A chill went down my spine. A good question. One I want you to find the answer to Mr. Jones. Me-me sir? I wasnt ready for this.

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Yes, Strontium YOU. The numbers predict a cycle. Our sun should run dangerously low on Hydrogen in about 2 months. Professor Montrose excuse me Captain Montrose will be taking the Samuel Hain into an observatory orbit around the sun in the next few weeks. Wont you Isaiah? Indeed I will Professor Halifax. Just like the good old days, eh Jonathan? The Captain, unbeknownst to us, was sitting in the back row. Sir! We both stood up. At ease gentlemen. Lets get the Hain ready for this mystery. Im eager to find out the answer. He put a piece of gum in his mouth and sat down next to us.

So two months later we were orbiting our sun. The captain had committed the physics lab and materials lab, as well as the cartography room to this gig. I felt a little embarrassed because the captain put me in charge of the whole thing. Good Morning Strontium, Nara. Garin walked into the lecture hall. Good Mornin! Welcome to Boredom City. I sighed. Two weeks and nothing interesting. Cheer up Strontium just keep your eyes peeled. Its kind of like fishing. Nara nudged me. And I think you have a bite. Garin pointed to the central holo display. An image of the sun was flanked on both sides by raw data. Youre better than a good luck charm! Hydrogen levels rising fast! Holy cow, the algorithms can barely keep up with them. What is goin on in there? We looked at the screen in wonder for several minutes. After an hour, it was all over. This is incredible. Can you make heads or tails of it? Nara looked at me expectantly. Of course I can in several decades. It would take several new theories to even come up with an answer. What do I look like a genius? I winked at her. If I may? Professor Harbinger walked into the lecture hall. Welcome aboard the crazy train, Professor. I saluted him. Back in the 22nd Century, there was an eccentric man some would say a crackpot that had an unusual view of solar activity. I cant remember the name right now, but he posited that intense solar activity slightly warped time space in a stars immediate vicinity, or was it the other way around? But how would we detect a warp in space time? Garin seemed doubtful, but I dont know if his doubt centered on the theory or Professor Harbinger.

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At MARI, we have been working on several methods to detect such wrinkles if you will. If you adjust your sensors to pick up vibrations in electron orbits, you just might see something. Here, I come bearing gifts if you plug these Quantum String Theory inversion subroutines into your sensors EM phase differentials, you should have some amount of success. Professor, these are revolutionary techniques, decades ahead of any research I know of. Garin whispered in awe. Thank you Mr. Halverson. At MARI, we take elevating mankinds knowledge and existence very seriously. He replied with a smile. I got something. Wind the display back to when the hydrogen levels shot up. I was close, so very close to making history. This would earn me a degree or maybe even two. Computer, increase magnification. Nara commanded. What is that? A cloud of something? I was so frustrated. The answer was slipping away. Now its gone. Where did it go? Is there a trajectory? She frantically tapped on her computer. Nothin. OK time for lunch. I have a feelin this is gonna take more than a few days to figure out maybe a lifetime.

I dont know why they let me stay; closing time was an hour ago. Maybe they thought I couldnt break anything or maybe they felt sorry for me. Either way, I was alone in the Star Drifter. The chairs were neatly placed on top of the tables and the cleaning bots were quietly vacuuming. I looked at a menu and tossed it back onto the table. At first I thought it was the lights. A soft glow filled the room, like a hundred tiny, flickering candles. Then I realized that the light was coming from outside the ship. The hair on the back of my neck stood up. I was about to run when something filled my head. Strontium. It was my mothers voice. My mom had died when I was seven it was impossible. Youre not real. I whispered under my breath. Strontium. I slowly turned and looked out the window. A white cloud of particles about 8 feet high and 5 feet wide hovered a few feet outside the ship. It moved forward a little but I didnt step back. I could see something that was shaped like a head within the cloud. What are you? I couldnt take my eyes off it. Imme. This time it was my dads voice in my head.

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Are you an angel? No. Are you God? No. The hydrogen in our sun did you do that? Yes. Why? How? You do not deserve to die. As the entity said this, a memory flashed through my brain. It was the first time I ever saw a bee. It was flying from flower to flower under the August sun. Do you have a name? No. What else can you do? Where do you come from? Are there more of you out there? You have so many questions, but I have very few answers. Can you stay? Can you share what you know with us? I excitedly babbled. The answers I have you would not understand. This time it was my preachers voice in my head. This is your journey Strontium A journey into the far reaches of faith. Something that vaguely resembled a hand pressed against the cloud. Before I could reply, the entity simply disappeared.

Bfk

63

The Chronicles of the Samuel Hain


Dark Matter

A thorough investigation of the area reveals nothing out of the ordinary. I tapped the console here and there. It was off of course, I couldnt use military equipment during personal time. Do it one more time Uncle Garin. Well, maybe I should check in the closet again, just to be sure. All scans reveal nothing. Its just you in there. Youre safe. Thanks! I love you Uncle Garin. Triesse hopped into bed. Thanks. Giselles face came up on the other monitor. If you keep indulging her fears, she will drag them behind her for the rest of her life. Garin shes six. All kids are afraid of the dark. I never was. Most of us werent fortunate enough to have our genes altered. Giselle I apologize. That was a very inconsiderate thing to say. Was I being too formal? Too distant? Look Im sorry too. Thanks for helping Triesse. Are you coming back this way? The Samuel Hain will be passing Earth in a day or so. See you then. Giselle smiled. See you then. I turned off the monitor and resumed reading the Times. This is the captain. We have been called to assist the Venus Major installation. All shore leave to earth has been cancelled. At this point, were not sure how long this will take, but once its over, we will be heading back to earth. I assure you no leave time will be lost or shifted to some future date. I apologize for the inconvenience. Venus Major can you believe it? Nara was at my door. Her dark hair was especially fetching today. But perhaps this wasnt the time to speak of such things.

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This should be interesting. Isnt that the research facility run by the United States of South America? The one and the same! I cant wait! She was bubbling with excitement. Im surprised that the Germans or the Chinese arent handling this incident. The Fujian and the Unabhngigkeit are too far away. How do you know this information? I have friends on both ships, as well as the Lafayette. She proudly replied.

Venus Major was an experimental scientific colony shaped like a starfish. It was black and dull in appearance. The landing lights in the center blinked every few seconds. The bridge of the Samuel Hain was crowded with specialists and ground troops. The chatter and activity were very dense and every few moments someone was bumping into me. Now this seemed more like the military my father had told me about. Hey little Schnitzel we need doers not gawkers. A voice behind me laughed. Sergeant Berg. Im sorry sir. I moved out of the way more due to intimidation than formality. Sergeant Berg was aptly named; he was a muscular man that stood a little over 8 feet tall. I wasnt the only genetically enhanced person running around here. Youre not afraid of the dark, are you? He grinned. No sir. Good. I hear youre squeamish around a p-50. No sir. I find that- Good. Theyre too sloppy. Were going down to investigate, not redecorate. Your father was an expert with a T-90. How about you? He taught me how to handle one sir. Good Schnitzel Good! He picked me up like I weighed nothing more than a dish towel. Were going down to pay the South Americans a visit. Good times and ghost stories! He laughed and put me down. I dont know if it was part of his genetic modification or his training, but I would follow him into the heart of the sun. Mr. Halverson. You will be accompanying the insertion team. Ms. Arteau will be your counterpart here on the bridge. Captain Montrose approached me.

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Yes sir. I have already been informed of my duties. Sergeant Berg is very adamant about details, so be sure youre extra sharp. I will sir. Dont let Berg scare you. Naras words took me by surprise. I dont think that will be an issue. I have the utmost respect for Sergeant Berg and the way he performs his duties. Just dont let him scare you. She repeated. She put her hand on my shoulder.

The shuttle was large and roomy, with wood trim and comfortable seats. We were bathed in a red glow and there was no sound except the tapping of fingers on keys. I sat in back with Sergeant Berg. Dark matter chamber: 600 ft in diameter, 5 inch plastic and steel alloy walls. Power consumption 2500 megawatts per second, quark dampening nodes capable of turning out 3.454 amperes per second per proton. Very thorough very thorough. He looked at me with those dark, mysterious eyes. Thank you sir. A very good report indeed Schnitzel. If this was simply a fix it job, we wouldve just sent you. Cadet Arteau is preparing a medical report sir. It will be available in a few moments. I already read the scientific and medical reports. Yes sir. So, what did they say? He turned off the holo display. Sir? Let me guess: Dont let Berg frighten you. Im sorry sir. I was too focused on the mission to pay attention to informal chatter. Ha-ha! Good answer Schnitzel, good answer. Im not here to scare you. Im here to warn you. Dark matter what a mess! There are some things men should leave alone. Were centuries away from mastering this technology, but too stubborn to admit it. Its like giving a monkey a gun. Yes sir.

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The men down there are going mad. Killing each other and spilling tears in the dark. Talk of demons and ghosts bounce off the walls and echo down the stairs. Keep this close to your heart. He tucked a piece of paper into my uniform. Yes sir. Its very prudent of you to have written instructions in case our communications equipment fails. Sergeant Berg was very thorough. My admiration for him was beginning to grow. Its a 15th Century German prayer. It will keep you safe. Theres a reason why I volunteered for this mission. My family has a long acquaintance with the unnatural things of the shadows. The report indicates that the behaviors are the result of neurotransmitter imbalance in the brain. Is that what you believe Schnitzel? Yes sir. Then that should work as good as any prayer. You better hold on to what I gave you just in case. Yes sir.

The landing bay was deserted. The volcanic landscape of Venus sputtered and rumbled outside our metal skin. The others seemed reluctant to look out the windows. We started our slow descent to the center of the facility. There was a loud bang. I looked out the window but saw nothing but the entry tunnel. The platform came to an abrupt stop. There was a hissing noise coming from below us. Sensors, maps, and station diagnostics all quickly came up. The team was focused on their task almost too focused. Theres nothing wrong with the lift. Someone said. Station diagnostic interface is not performing the way it should, so its difficult to pinpoint the problem. Another team member added. Venus Major this is unit 74 of the UDA Samuel Hain. Do you copy? Sergeant Bergs greeting was, well, dark and gothic. I was beginning to wonder about his family history. The lift suddenly tilted to the left. A groaning sound emanated from below and our seats began to shudder. Suits! Suits! Suits! The sergeant yelled.

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We quickly put on our space suits as the platform collapsed underneath us. As the shuttle plummeted to the bottom we opened the ships hatch and floated out to safety. With the doors above us closed, the darkness was absolute. Schnitzel. The sergeant turned toward me. Yes sir. Scared yet? No sir. Good. Down we go. The remainder of the journey was made without words. Every now and then a scream was heard. What was unusual is that the distance to the inhabited parts of the station made that impossible. Loud bumps kept some of the team members on edge. At times, I could also hear the sound of something very heavy being dragged. When we got to the bottom, we all felt relieved. The hum of the stations fusion core brought everyone back to the right state of mind. I checked the core of the dark matter chamber and compared it to the research and design specifications. It was running perfectly. I checked the personal and duty logs of the station: they read like an ancient horror myth. Tales of strange happenings, frightening visions, and dark whispers filled the screen. Garin. You dont have time to do an in-depth analysis. The team has about one hour before their brains are affected. That includes you too. Nara was doing her best to be calm and professional, but I could hear the concern in her words. Cmon Schnitzel. There are lots of things that go bump in the night and theyre getting lonely. The sergeant walked down the hall. Yes sir. After about 70 yards, we noticed them. Footprints burned into the tunnels, going from floor to ceiling, spiraling around and around. They were most odd: they had three toes in front and one in back. I scanned them as we moved and found no traces of dark matter. However, there were traces of bosons and something more something that my sensors couldnt identify. There were more screams which were suddenly cut short. We ran to the source of the sound and found a woman standing over several bodies. She raised her eyes and looked at us with a feral scowl. She charged and three bullets tore through her chest. She knocked Sergeant Berg off his feet anyway. It took all of his strength to throw her off him. Shoot! Shoot! Dont be shy! He barked.

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It took two more bullets to end the womans misery. I stepped closer and bent down to examine her. Nothing was amiss, or so it seemed to me. However, when I examined her with ultraviolet light, I could see something black streaking though her body, just underneath her skin. Dark magic straight from Hells cookbook. I hope you havent lost that prayer I gave you. Sergeant Berg bent down beside me. I do not have enough data to prove your speculation, sir. But at this point, I cant disprove it either. Perhaps we should move on. Three more coming from behind! One of the soldiers yelled. Five more from the east! Another one joined in. Time to turn off that damn witchs cauldron! Sergeant Berg led the way and we were right on his heels. We nimbly jumped over bodies and equipment with a pack of researchers behind us. The core itself was massive. It was a large sphere bathed in liquid Neon. When the liquid had rolled halfway down the spheres white surface, it simply turned into a mist. The throbbing of the quark dampening nodes and the constant clicking of the gamma ray-microwave interface produced a maddening chorus. Schnitzel! Time to earn your pay! Shut this thing off! Sergeant Berg yelled over the noise. Yes sir! I walked to the main control display and opened up the administrative panel. The commands and codes were universal, so it didnt take too much time to find the basic functions. However, being unfamiliar with the construction of the chamber was an unforeseen difficulty. It was only a small drop, which I mistook for lubricant. It was followed by another, and despite my desire to concentrate, I looked up. Something was perched on the railing above me. I could see horns, eyes, and fangs the rest was lost in the gloom. Garin, your neurotransmitter flow is very erratic. Work faster! Naras voice sounded threatening, like she was going to kill me if I didnt obey her. Shots were fired and I was hit in the leg. I looked around and only three of us were left. Sergeant Berg put a bullet through the head of the other soldier. I could hear giggling and cackling in the dark. Im sorry Schnitzel but theyve gotten to you too. Sergeant Berg put his T-90 to my helmet.

Take it easy Mr. Halverson. Professor Harbinger slowed my ascent from the bed. I was in a hospital room deep inside MARI. How did I get here?

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A MARI research team was passing by and orchestrated your rescue. Captain Montrose explained. Thank you professor. What about the dark matter chamber? Oddly enough, it ran out of steam as they say. It shut down by itself. He smiled warmly. Cadet Halverson, when you are up to it, I would like to review the mission in my office. The captain then rose and left the room.

The captains office was paneled in cherry and lit by several photon globes in beautiful brass lanterns. A large painting of a man rowing a boat on Lake Eerie graced the left wall. His desk was made from oak and framed in brass. I understand that this is short notice, but I wanted to talk to you while your impressions were fresh. Captain Montrose motioned for me to sit down. Yes sir. I did have enough time to do a little extra reading on the dark matter project. You are very thorough in the performance of your duties. Im glad you decided to stay, youll make a fine officer one day. Thank you sir. Sir I am a little confused about the data Ive gathered. Go on. Professor Harbingers explanation does not match the research. I admit the studies are in their infancy, but their conclusions suggest that atomic thermo reactions involving dark matter do not run out of steam as he so quaintly put it. Have you shared your findings with professor Harbinger? Only briefly sir. He told me that research under way suggests something much different about dark matter. He said that he cannot comment further due to the competitive nature of academics. Interesting. This deepens the mystery. Sir? We were contacted by the USSA an hour ago. They told us that two key components were missing from the chamber. These two components would have taken a team of thirty engineers 9 months to remove and they seemed to disappear overnight. Sir I hate to get off the topic, but this might be a good time to share a discovery that Cadet Jones made a while back.

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About a mysterious signal encoded in a triple helix? Yes sir. I was somewhat surprised. I was definitely eager to check the regulation manual to see if Strontium had done things right side up. We are aware of that. Several seconds after your last bio transmission on Venus, we picked up a second signal.

When I got back to my quarters, a box with a red ribbon was waiting for me on my desk. I opened it and found a small photon night light. The following message was attached:

Youre never too old to be afraid of the dark.

Love, Giselle
I turned it on and went to sleep.

Bfk

71

The Chronicles of the Samuel Hain


The Edge of The Playpen

It wasnt like me to up late at night. Then again, I hadnt been myself lately. I sat up in bed and looked over at the coffee table. The Times? No my mind was too unsettled. Check in with the gang from college? No the last thing they needed was a 2 AM wake up call. So what was I going to do? That question didnt just apply to this very moment. Was a military career right for me? I got dressed and walked down to the Star Drifter. It was dark; the only lights were a few lamps that someone forgot to turn off. The atmosphere was subdued and muffled; it was hard to even hear the quiet whisper of the cleaning bots. The faint odor of lemon cleaning solution wafted in the air. Outside, Jupiter was slowly receding. Cadet Halverson. What a pleasant surprise. I didnt notice you come in. Captain Montrose put down the book he was reading. Oh! Im sorry to interrupt sir. If youd like to be alone. I would have felt awkward if I had encountered some other officer, but the captain had an uncanny way of making me feel comfortable. No. Not at all. In fact, I think I can surprise you. He closed his book. He was reading Shakespeares The Tempest. An interesting choice of reading material for one so professional. Sir? I was going to wait until you had finished your duty shift tomorrow which also happens to be your birthday, correct? Yes sir. Happy Birthday Mr. Halverson. He switched on the lights in the center of the restaurant. A beautiful piano, wonderfully polished, basked in the warm glow. UmCaptain MontroseIm not really sure what to say. Then let me say something: Garin, you not only have to work here, but you have to live here as well. So I played. I played my favorites from Thulton Hamilton, Arch Bishop Muldane Veese, and Vince Guaraldi. The keys were perfect and the tone was like nothing I had ever heard. Now I was getting embarrassed. I would occasionally look over at the captain. Sometimes he was reading,

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sometimes he was watching me, and sometimes he was looking at Jupiter. I slept better that night than I had in years.

Thank the stars my duty shift started at 2:30 PM. Even though the captain had been extra generous due to my special day, I found myself rushing through my morning routine. I burst out of my quarters and bumped into Nara literally. Nara! Im very sorry. Thats alright. Whats the rush? Youre on 2nd shift. I dont like crawling from my quarters after lunch. I should be ready for duty as early as possible. I like a man who is ready. Now if youll excuse me. Should I have invited her to brunch? That would be silly, Im sure she was on duty. While I was eating my eggs and toast, I checked my e-mail. However, my oracle wasnt cooperating. I examined it to see if I had accidentally dropped it, but it looked in good condition. It was also having a difficult time picking up the Times. It seemed I would have to spend my time strictly with my food and perhaps some of my crewmates. Happy Birthday! Strontium plopped down next to me. Thank you. Youre just like her. Nara has a 2nd generation oracle too. She says its old fashioned and therefore chic. I do like the look of it. I polished it with my sleeve. Time to catch up to the rest of us. He smiled and slid a box with a bow across the table. Strontium I well thank you. Now code B.1.a.29.iii says I cant give gifts during duty time unless Im on my way to my duty station and the gift giving takes 5 minutes or less. Is there really such a regulation? I laughed. Open it.

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This is wonderful! Thank you! How did you get your hands on a 5th generation oracle? I tenderly lifted the device out of the box. It was triangular and only 2 inches big. The sleek black frame reflected the lights above. The plastic-metal alloy surface hummed ever so slightly in my palm. I got a friend who works at Starlight. Hes giving away 50 of them before they roll out the door next month. Strontium this is great. Thanks! I touched the center of the oracle. A holographic interface hovered 2 inches above the device. It was twice as big as the interface on the older models. The sections were color coded and the keys were better organized. You can even set the resistance level of the keys. So it works if you are delicate or a pounder like me. I just dont know what to say. Happy Birthday my friend! Strontium laughed and left. I think he honestly liked seeing me happy. I decided, since it was my birthday, to open the Times first. I was genuinely surprised by what I saw. The headline:

The Comet Found At Last!

was splashed across the first page. I read avidly. The article mentioned the things everybody knew. The Comet was the first manned space ship to travel our solar system and carried an international crew. Its captain was Trevor Laskshmi Patil, from India. It was last seen leaving Neptune April 5th 2257. It was a very dignified story for it left out the rumors. The one most believed to be true was that Captain Patil was having an affair with UN Secretary General Selenium Zheng. The other rumors were so outlandish the they were usually dismissed: secret military missions, colonization of the outer solar system, and contact with alien life all made the front pages of the tabloids.

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I then checked my e-mail to see if there were any regulation or duty updates. I have to admit, I wasnt surprised to see a new mission briefing. We were turning around and headed for the Comet. I wasnt sure if this was military in nature, political, or just to satisfy our curiosity; but knowing how things happen on the Samuel Hain, I knew it would be interesting.

Nara, youre going to be late for your shift. As industrious as I am, I cannot perform your duties as well as mine. I stood outside her door. There was an uncomfortable moment of silence. Then the door slid open. Is that your way of saying you would miss me? She smiled. Nara we should- Two more minutes! Trust me; our shift doesnt begin for 15 minutes. As you wish. I was about to leave. Do you have any family aboard the Comet? No. I think I might have had an uncle serving aboard that poor doomed ship. Youre not sure? He was from a side of the family that we didnt really talk to. Long story. Done! Lets go. The first thing we should do when we get to the Primary Environmental Control Center is to check the interface between the PECC and the Secondary Environmental Control Center. Nara are you listening to me? Yes, yes, yes.Ive done PECC duty dozens of times. You have me to thank for keeping you warm at night! She winked at me. Im just checking the rendezvous time: 2 weeks, 5 hours, and 34 minutes till we see the Comet! I mean arent you excited? Youll be staring history right in the face. Im pretty sure it will be uneventful. Pretty sure? Im hoping that there will be no unforeseen complications that would make our mission more difficult.

The time passed more quickly than I had realized. I stood in the Cartography room as we slowly made our way through the Kuiper Belt. It seemed to take forever and even I was getting impatient.

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We weaved between the major rocks as quickly as we could. Every now and then, you could hear a bang! as a smaller piece of the belt hit our ship. We had been playing cat-and-mouse with the asteroid field for two weeks now. Now this is gonna get good. Strontium walked up beside me. Kuiper Belt cleared. Distance to the Comet 50,343 km. The announcement was soft and free from theatrics. So, what do you think happened? Strontium brought up some files on the doomed ship. Was it my imagination, or did some of them say Classified? There are several explanations, from an engineering standpoint. However, the cause of the ships demise may have been due to decisions made by the crew. It depends on what can be retrieved from the ship. We may never know. Distance to the Comet 37,100 km. Are you reading classified documents Strontium? Theyve been declassified. See the little red star in the top right? So they have. Anything interesting? Cargo lists, personnel lists, EM observations. Nope. Distance to the Comet 24,087 km. I hope youre not indulging your superstitions and looking for something out of the ordinary. I chided him. And I hope youre not going to be satisfied with a purely scientific explanation to this mystery. Distance to the Comet 9,143 km. If I find anything there I cannot explain, I will concede that theres something going on that might be beyond todays science. Fair enough. Distance to the Comet 3,211 km. Distance to the Comet 2,988 km. Distance to the Comet 2,502 km. I hope they got the cameras rolling. Strontium pulled out his oracle. He checked the latest news feeds. Distance to the Comet 2,502 km. Distance still 2,502 km.

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Strontium look no stars. Theres nothing out there but the Comet. Cadet Jones. Are the sensors working properly? A hologram of the captain appeared before us. He was unusually calm. Yes sir! I checked them twice when I started duty. Ill run a diagnostic. One is already being run from the bridge. His image winked off. Theres really nothing out there. No stars, no light, no EM radiation, no atoms or subatomic particles. Its just nothing. I was dumbfounded and a little worried. Black Hole? No gravity is normal. Now this is something that I know for sure is beyond todays science. It might even be beyond tomorrows science.

The next day, we were still stuck. We were in constant communication with the top research centers on earth as well as MARI. None of the watchers could penetrate the mysterious barrier. Two teams of X-4s were exploring the situation; after several hours they still hadnt found the edge of the invisible wall. That night, Nara grabbed me before I could return to my quarters. She had that grin on her face that meant she was up to something. It was either her or the Times, so I indulged her. The answers are on the Comet! I just know it! She pushed me into her room. Strontium was already there with Chinese takeout. Have a bite before we hop on the ghost train. He mumbled through a mouthful of rice. He had the UDA Europe soccer game running on his oracle. Cmon, cmon sit, sit, sit! She pulled the food away from Strontium. No more food. Turn that off. Time to get some answers. We sat around in a circle. In the center was a real candle; it was almost impossible to get those on board and I wondered which of my two friends had smuggled it in. I have to admit, if I wanted to become an outstanding military officer, I might not be in the best company. I was about to state the obvious, but a look from Nara told me that this meant a lot to her. So, I played along after all, what are friends for? Our minds are clear. Our-Strontium and I began to repeat. No! Shhh! Just relax and dont talk.

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Our minds are clear. Our hearts are seeking what is beyond. Her words became softer and softer. Nothing happened. Our minds are clear. Our hearts are seeking what is beyond. We are ready to hear you. The candle flickered. There was no air movement in the room of that I was sure. I looked at the candle and wondered if one of them was playing a trick on me. Im sure they would love to see me spooked. There was a faint sound of something moving but it sounded like a distant echo. Our minds are clear. Naras body arched forward to the point where I thought she would hurt herself. It definitely seemed unnatural. Your minds are not clear. Her voice sounded mechanical her words fluctuated in pitch wildly. Your hearts are clouded with your ancient boogey men and your primal nightmares. The syllables were forced out through a series of very faint blips. Whatever was speaking was not familiar with human anatomy. You will not go any further. You are not ready. Nara started to cough and gag. She convulsed violently. Her hand gripped mine so tightly that I thought she would break my bones. Then, before our very eyes, a three foot python slithered out of her mouth. I caught her as she fell forward. The snake lay there, like it was waiting for someone to say something. That night was a turning point, not only for the three of us, but for all mankind. We turned around and went home.

Bfk

78

The Chronicles of the

UDA

Samuel Hain

2nd Series
2012 Benjamin F. Kaye

79

The Chronicles of the Samuel Hain 2nd Series


Unnecessary Baggage

Good morning. It is Thursday; March 23 / 2436 5:38 AM. The voice in my office quietly announced the beginning of my day. There she was at long last. What an idyllic scene: The Wright brothers plane was soaring just above the field under the starry sky; in the background the UDA Samuel Hain was watching over her. It really was a wonderful painting. Incoming call from Xyza Halverson. Please route it through my oracle. I made a last minute adjustment to the picture. Was it leaning too much to the right now? Do you like it? Xyzas hologram stood beside me. Honey its beautiful. Its very bold. But? Why me? A work like this should be at the exhibition hall in New Oxford. You really should expand your horizons honey. I wanted to put my arm around her, but I remembered that she wasnt really here. Dad, trust me; I have my stuff in all the major exhibition halls in North America. This one is just for you. Thank you honey. This one is really special. Its ironic, isnt it? Xyza turned to the window. Seeing all those stars, but not being able to touch them? Actually, Im quite content to be confined to our little solar system. Im confident that, when were ready, well leave our playpen.

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Ever the optimist. I have to go now. Love you dad. I love you too honey. I turned off my oracle. I left it on the desk for I knew how often it would beep. Something curled around my leg. I looked down and laughed. Lucy! Why is the solar systems most uncanny python paying me a visit? She slithered up my body and onto my desk. We looked at each other. Lucy was a total enigma: she could negate gravity, raise her body temperature to 3,758 degrees Fahrenheit or lower it to -547 degrees, absorb light, and emit infrared and ultraviolet light. But, no matter how closely she was examined, she was just an ordinary snake. Incoming call from Rio de Mars. An image of the second Mars colony flashed on my desk. Ill take it on my desk. Captain Halverson, is Lucy there? Professor Hector Quinteras seemed more nervous than usual. Yes, professor. Lucy is present and accounted for. Can you send her back? I will see if I can convince her to return home, but for some reason she is always reluctant to leave the Samuel Hain. Thank you so much captain. Incoming call from the UDA Minuteman. The words were stiffer, more formal. Garin I just wanted to apologize for the Samuel Hain getting last pick in the lottery. Captain Antonio Salvetti chose not to use his hologram. I understand. We all agreed to the revised lottery. It doesnt really matter, does it? All the cadets from New Vienna are exemplary things will turn out just fine. Youre a good sport and a role model. Salvetti out. Have a good day Captain Salvetti. Bridge: proceed to Camelot. We have some new cadets to pick up. The Samuel Hain slowly turned around and put Jupiter behind her. As she rose upward, I could hear the dark energy accelerator whir to life. It used only enough energy to power a small lamp; but when that energy was racing through the tunnel that surrounded the ship, it was enough to get us in. Soon we would be in the Jones current and traveling an additional 8 million kph. It was always a spectacle, being swept along in a flow of dark energy: the infinite number of black streaks outside the window, with small flashes of light curling around them. If the cadets could handle that with poise, maybe they could make it through a whole tour of duty.

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Several days later, we were orbiting the moon. Below, the sprawl of domes and towers that made up the lunar colonies lay quietly in the shadow of the earth. There was time enough to make a quick trip to Utopia for Xyzas birthday present. I decided to order it on-line instead. I just didnt like the lunar sprawl, which put me in the minority. The colonies had doubled in size since I was a cadet; each one was five times bigger than New Paris and people still wanted more room. Sir, you wanted to be notified when Ms. Maszynowy came on board. Lieutenant Gonzalez informed me. Thank you Mr. Gonzalez. How are things on the bridge? Running well sir. Good. Direct Ms. Maszynowy to my office. Cadet Renata Maszynowy reporting for duty sir. Cadet Maszynowy stood before me, confident and somewhat defiant. I couldnt blame her; I think I would be too if I was in her situation. You are here on a probationary basis. There are those on the Joint Chiefs of Staff who think this is unwise. And what do you think sir? I have studied the AHID program at length, but have not had personal experience with it. Its too early to form an opinion of the program or you. Thank you sir. I will be watching you closely however. At the first sign of danger to the ship or crew I will terminate this program immediately. I understand sir. That being said, it is tradition for the captain to have lunch with the first cadet to arrive. This device doesnt require food sir. Have you had lunch Cadet Maszynowy? No sir. Im sure you could eat lunch at Mercy in New Toronto while your drone sits with me in the Stargazer. Its impolite to put the drone on autopilot while in a restaurant sir. But you can still communicate and see while the artificial intelligence program is running?

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Yes sir. I dont mean to decline your offer; I just dont want to offend. You wont offend. Lets have lunch. I took her drone by the arm and led her to the Stargazer. So, this is the Stargazer. Is it true that this restaurant has hosted more military weddings than any other? The drone was eerily still. Yes, more than the UDA Minuteman, UDA Defiance, and UDA Boston put together. Im hoping thats not the reason why you chose to serve on my ship. No sir. Not at all. I chose the Samuel Hain because it has the proudest history. I hope you dont mind me saying this- But the drone looks exactly like me. I get that all the time sir. And your wishes on that subject? I would like to be completely honest and open on the subject sir. What will serve aboard this ship is a drone, but there is a flesh and blood person behind the controls. A drone that is ten times quicker than a human being, both physically and cognitively; not to mention one that can easily lift 700 pounds. Yes sir that is correct. And there is also the subject of the artificial intelligence. I looked into the drones eyes. When the artificial intelligence is running, there are indicators. She switched on a sample program; a stream of data filled her eyes. Very clever. Is this really it sir? She got up and lovingly ran her fingers over the piano. Yes it is. Do you play? I have programs that can play the tunes of Neon Conger and Archbishop Muldane Veese. She sat at the piano and started to play. Very good Ms. Maszynowy. That is an exact replication of Congers Dont Tell on Me. But youre missing something. May I? Of course sir. She happily beamed. Have you ever seen Conger play? No sir. Im not that lucky.

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I saw him in Beijing. It was a rainy day in April. He had just lost his wife. I adjusted the tone and timing of Dont Tell on Me ever so slightly. Do you know how to play the piano Ms. Maszynowy? No, but Id like to learn sir.

An hour later, the rest came in. New and excited, unsure yet hopeful, they sat in the lecture hall. For my part, I lectured about things that I hoped they already knew. I welcomed them and I warned them; I outlined my expectations and my goals. I went into detail about duty shifts and the command hierarchy. When they left, I knew they were still totally unprepared. I just wondered who would be left at the end of the two years. Initiate dark energy accelerator. Were late for a rendezvous with the Boston at Mars. I stepped onto the bridge. Lecture run a little long sir? Lieutenant Gonzalez didnt look up from his console. This batch seemed a little more nave than most Mr. Gonzalez. Ill keep an eye on them sir. Dark energy reaction 100%. The computer informed us. Proceed to Mars. I was already headed out of the room. Dark energy reaction 103%. Really? Show the chamber please. I turned around. Dark energy reaction 146.98%. Mr. Gonzalez remarked. Mr. Gonzalez, please override the accelerator program. Dark energy reaction 398%. The computer warned. The ship rocked violently. I could hear several sections of the hull popping loose. The lights went out and the emergency red panels came on. Bridge report. I walked amongst the consoles and brought up what information I could. No fatalities. Slight injuries reported by 5 personnel. Structural damage decks 1 and 3 sections 20 and 24. Repair crews on the way. Thats good to hear. Why did this happen? I brought up the latest information from the accelerator as well as the design specifications.

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Unknown sir. Lieutenant Gonzalez was too embarrassed to look at me. He had serviced the accelerator for 25 years and didnt have a clue as to what went wrong. I will be in my office reading and perhaps revising the dark energy accelerator instruction manual. Please keep me advised. I walked into my office and contacted Archer Industries. Archer Duboise at your service. A hologram of the CEO appeared before me. He was gripping a golf club. Garin! Good to see you. Its good to see you too Archer. Unfortunately I have a problem. Oh its the anniversary isnt it? No. That isnt for a few weeks. Thank you for remembering though. Its the dark energy accelerator it just burned out. No! Cmon, really? Yes. We dont know why. Garin! I just upgraded that thing last year personally. I remember old friend. I was the one who left the coffee and bagels. I cant come and repair it. Are you sure you cant convince the Joint Chiefs to let me put a few of my boys on the ship? No no dont even answer that one. I know what theyll say. Just let me have a look. Archer I really do apologize. I know that accelerator is your pride and joy and we have been keeping it in tip top shape honest. Mr. Gonzalez has three Archer training seminars under his belt. Well, thanks for making me feel better. Now lets have a look. Looks good, looks good, correct, absolutely right wait a minute. This cant happen. No it cant happen. Are you sure this is the real deal? Yes. I dont know much about the accelerator, but I am current on the science underneath it. I do agree that what just happened is impossible. Impossible is right. But we can fix it. Archer sighed. Thanks Archer. I will make sure that your boys get paid before they turn one screw. Youre the best. Dont break my accelerator again. Archer pointed his club at me and winked.

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The next morning I walked through the ship. I was uneasy and quiet. I hated to disappoint the Boston. It was so unprofessional. I personally made sure that the crew was performing as efficiently as possible. Now we would see who would rise to the occasion and who would end up in an accounting firm. When I passed by the hospital, I was shocked. It was packed with injured staff. Medical personnel were doing all they could to bandage them up. I strode into the middle of it all, trying to calculate the probability of so many injuries in one morning. Mr. Sheng, is there something I should know about? I walked over to Cadet Tungsten Sheng. Sir! I have prepared a report on this mornings activities in the hospital while caring for my injured crew members. Sir! He was too stiff, too formal. At ease cadet. What happened here? An unusual number of personal injuries sir. Mostly small burns, sprains, and broken bones. Ive seen more injuries in the past two hours than in a whole semester of med school. Mr. Sheng, your duty shift ended hour ago. I understand sir! I am in violation of Regulation- I know all the regulations. Since this qualifies as an unusual situation you are permitted to work beyond your duty shift. However, I will send down Major Cortez to help. Thank you sir! Cadet Sheng saluted me. Good work Mr. Sheng please carry on. I saluted him and left. If he could become more relaxed, he would make a fine officer one day. As I continued on, I noticed that many of the crew were distracted. At first, I thought it might be the recent mishap that was worrying them. Then, when I looked at a digital bulletin board outside the robotics lab, I found out the real reason why. I didnt take the time to go through the whole list; that wouldve taken all morning. I was stunned. I had never seen so many postings on the lost and found list in all my years of service. Everything from lockets to laser welders to pets to medical implants were gone. I sat in my office reviewing the progress on the repairs to the accelerator. When I wasnt doing that, I was advising Major Singh on shifting duty rosters to keep up with the enormous flow of injuries into the hospital. My eyes wandered my office to see if I would by chance find a lost locket or two.

Sir, may I come in? A voice drifted through the doors.

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Enter. Cadet Orion Alkaev, sir. He was holding something behind his back. How may I help you cadet? I think I know whats going on sir. Youll have to be more specific Mr. Alkaev. The dark energy accelerator sir. The accidents and the lost items. You have a unifying theory, eh? Its this sir. He put a 1950s comic book on my desk; it was titled Tales of the Weird and Unexplained. The cover had an image of an ancient astronaut fighting several bug-eyed aliens. I took it from a grave in Valhalla. Although it is officially an archeological site under the UN, this still may violate UDA laws. I got up and looked down at the unfinished ambition that is Valhalla. It was still haunting me after all these years. I have a permit from the UN archeological commission. I am examining it as part of a research study. But you believe that this is somehow connected to what has been happening aboard the Samuel Hain? Yes sir. I will return it this afternoon. Then we shall see if your theory is correct. Thank you sir. I knew you would understand.

Several weeks later, I came across Cadet Alkaev while he was doing some routine work on the fission engines. I was about to pass by, but I thought I would see how he was doing. After all, Captain Montrose made my career one of his top priorities. Perhaps I should continue the tradition. Cadet Alkaev. How are you doing? Fine sir. Im almost done here. Good. It seems your theory was correct. The ship is running well, injuries on board are within expected norms, and there are only a few items on the lost and found list. It seems that comic book was the source of our misfortune.

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I understand sir. I cant explain it. Welcome to the UDA Samuel Hain cadet Alkaev. Im sure this is only the beginning.

Bfk

88

The Chronicles of the Samuel Hain 2nd Series


Black Holes Taste like Chicken

Every graduating class had them the class of 2435 was no exception. There were always a few JBs just barely. They were the ones who struggled with the basics and needed extra help every step of the way. Most of them wound up behind desks doing small things and serving quietly. I was currently en route to pick one of them up. However, Ms. Akhila Jain was no ordinary cadet. When I was growing up, we had a child on our block that had Zirdottes syndrome. I never saw him because he never left the house. I dont know if it was the pain or the physical abnormalities or even the culture. I was too busy back then to pay attention or get involved; now I was about to come face to face with the issue. I opened the files and began to read. Zirdottes syndrome was discovered in 2223 and treatments began in 2245. It was a rare genetic disorder that was very painful. The treatments caused the skin to turn bright orange; this was accompanied by a total loss of body hair. But the most unusual feature (or so it seemed to me) were the bony spikes. A patient could have anywhere from 30 to 35 spikes on their head, each one being anywhere from 1 to 1 inches long. Patients also had two or three bony spikes, from 2 to 3 inches long, protruding out of the back of their neck. These spinal spikes curved upward toward the back of the skull. I turned off the computer as the shuttle landed at Tokyo Mars. The greeting board at the docking bay flashed the time: October 2nd / 2436 6:11 AM. This isnt how I wanted this to happen, but Im reasonably sure this isnt how she wanted it to happen either. The normal hustle and bustle of Tokyo swam past the shuttle and the red sky was just coming to life. I thought about that young gentleman on my block. Would it have been that hard to befriend him? There she was: standing in the middle of the crowd, just waiting for me. She was dressed in her official military uniform with all the insignias and medals. The navy blue of the fabric contrasted sharply with her skin. She was standing at attention, yet still uncommonly graceful. This was by no means an official military function. Was she trying too hard to fit in, or was she proudly representing her kind? Captain Halverson. She saluted me.

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Cadet Jain. I saluted her back. The shuttle is this way please. I escorted her to the shuttle, watching the reactions of those around us. Even more than a century later, there were some uncomfortable glances. Awaiting instructions Captain. She stood outside the shuttle door. If you would pilot the shuttle, I would be most appreciative Cadet Jain. I knew this was one of the courses that she almost failed. Maybe I shouldnt have pushed her so fast, but I wanted to know what kind of cadet I was welcoming on board the Samuel Hain. Sir may I? She opened up her Oracle and showed me a piloting program. It was years ahead of anything the military or MARI offered. This is quite impressive cadet. Where did you get this? I wrote it myself sir. These cognitive algorithms and logic differentials have yet to be discovered. I brought up her personnel file. I invented them last month sir; if you would rather have me pilot the shuttle sir. Third Tier Doctorate in artificial intelligence and a Second Tier Doctorate in robotics; all earned in the past few months. Most people cant get past a doctorate Ms. Jain. We had better leave quickly before MARI kidnaps you. I smiled. I have tested the program extensively sir. It works perfectly. Cadet Jain. Please initiate shuttle rendezvous program beta. Yes sir. And by the way sir there are 34 of them. I have 31 spikes on my head and three on my neck. I see. Everyone asks sooner or later sir. I dont mind Ive gotten used to it.

Garin if you dont want to do this- A hologram of Captain Gloria Sanchez stood before me. Thats quite alright. The Samuel Hain is the closest ship to earth. We will leave immediately. Acknowledged. Captain Sanchez of the UDA Defiance out. I didnt mean to be so formal with Gloria. Or did I? I suppose there were some topics that I still retreated from. However, I would not let my personal life interfere with my duties. Still, I had several hours till my duty shift began; so I sat down and just stared.

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She was so beautiful. Nara, in her summer dress standing in front of the ocean, was beckoning me into the sunny day. The photo brought back a lot of memories good ones. Those years were wonderful beyond the human imagination. I still remember the accident. We were sitting in the Star Drifter, orbiting Neptune. A time bubble, no bigger than a softball, hit her heart. It was just all so surreal; I just stood there while the doctors explained that her heart was now in a time 1/3 of a second slower than the rest of time. It was like she had no heart at all. Time was such a basic thing. But it was so wild, untamable it would be centuries before we could put it on a leash and make it do our bidding. We were so fascinated by time, we had been for thousands of years. Thats what made time so precious and dangerous. Captain Halverson youre early. Lieutenant Gonzalez was genuinely surprised to see me. After all these years, he still couldnt get used to my habit of showing up early. Mr. Gonzalez do you have anything to report? Sir its all in the news. Nothing new. You have family living near New Detroit, dont you Mr. Gonzalez? That I do captain. Im sorry, I wish I could give you some special insights into the situation. Theyre just thrill seekers. That explanation is quite sufficient Mr. Gonzalez. Ensign Jefferson any word from the New Detroit Quarantine Authority? They have stepped up patrols around the city and are looking into revising their security cards. Ill be in the hospital if anyone needs me. I turned around and walked out. It was about time to put on my mentors hat. Welcome to the hospital captain. Mr. Sheng saluted and gave me his best official smile. I admired his professionalism, but he was still too stiff. Mr. Sheng you had written a paper about time distortion psychosis? Yes sir! It was a fascinating topic and the field research was very interesting. I just observed though sir I didnt partake. I understand cadet. Luckily for you, we are going to New Detroit. It seems the time slippers have had a revival of sorts. Thats a new one sir. Mr. Sheng laughed. Back in my high school days they called themselves time surfers. It works like this. You wear a belt that generates an incredible amount of quarks, get the quarks to stop moving, and then stand at the event horizon. Thats how they do it.

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Well be arriving at earth in about one hour. I would suggest that you brush up on the topic since you will be accompanying me to New Detroit. Me sir? Mr. Sheng, sometimes you have to immerse yourself in the situation personally in order to get the full effect. One hour sir. Ill be at the shuttle. Cadet Alkaev initiate shuttle landing program omega. I sat back in the shuttle. Yes sir. Permission to speak freely sir? Of course Mr. Alkaev. Will we be using artificial intelligence to land the shuttle from now on? No. Were just testing the program. Dont worry Mr. Alkaev, there will always be something for humans to do. The shuttle landed just outside of the time surfer camp. There was loud music playing I do believe it was the Sleeping Bees. There was dancing and cheering and frolicking. The lasers surrounding New Detroit had been brought down. The police were nowhere to be seen an unfortunate policy of the district. The under staffed, cash strapped quarantine authority was just leaving the sector and wouldnt be back again for a while. Sir? Yes Mr. Cheng? Im just curious how did you manage to obtain a cosmic flowerpot tee shirt? Im very well connected Mr. Cheng. I laughed. So, dressed to fit in, we waded through the crowd. Tungsten Im still a little confused about the whole theory. Mr. Alkaev spoke up. Its quite simple and very - well tricky. At the event horizon of the time bubble, theres a space between our time and New Detroits time. If you can get just close enough- An image of a girl suddenly spread out over the time bubble. The image grew larger and larger and abruptly disappeared. There was a loud cheer. See! See! There it goes! She slipped between our time and theirs its a two dimensional plane of existence that extends billions of light years. Fascinating Mr. Cheng. How do we stop it?

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We have to flood the area with quarks sir; the massive flow will get the stationary quarks moving again. By this time, we had reached the event horizon. The image of the girl once again covered the surface of the bubble. She then stepped out right in front of us. Black holes taste like chicken. Her words flowed like honey from a psychedelic dream. Good to know. Cadet Alkaev replied. They wont be happy sir. In fact they might try to storm the event horizon, once they find out whats going on. Cadet Sheng explained. Whats the probability of someone going in and not coming back out? I took out the small black box that Ms. Maszynowy and Ms. Jain had constructed. I could tell that those two young women were going to be a potent combination. Its exactly 34.454% sir. The probability of someone disappearing permanently under the current conditions is exactly 33.223%. Exactly Mr. Sheng? Ive been studying the phenomenon and cross referencing the latest research while we were talking sir. Im sorry if I was rude. Not rude at all Mr. Sheng. Thats dedication and wisdom. I turned on the box. At first, everything was going smoothly. Then, about 4 minutes into the procedure, things went wild. Revelers started cranking up their quark belts and rushing into the event horizon. I quickly adjusted the boxs output to compensate. When I looked up it was too late. Orion was being swept along by the crowd. He struggled to break free, but the momentum and chaos were too much for him to overcome. I saw his image expand over the bubble and my heart raced. I set the box to its maximum output. This was one of those times that I wish I had one of Sergeant Bergs prayer notes with me. After the chaos and crowd had dispersed, I looked around the littered campsite. I would not leave one of my cadets behind. I had sent Mr. Sheng back to the Samuel Hain to coordinate a rescue operation with UDAs lunar and earth command bases. It was quiet, so awfully quiet. I thought about Nara walking on the beach with the sunset behind her. Sir? A shaken cadet Alkaev was standing behind me. Orion! Thank goodness youre alright. Is it over sir?

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Yes, Mr. Alkaev, it is over. We terminated the activities here. We will leave for the Samuel Hain in a few minutes. You are to report straight to the hospital, do you understand? Yes sir.

Several weeks later, I sat down with Mr. Alkaev in my office. I had watched him carefully but I kept my observations to myself. I wanted to talk to him before making an official report to my superiors. How are you doing cadet Alkaev? Good sir. Im glad to hear it. Youve had quite an experience youve set a time surfing record. Yes sir. Is something bothering you Mr. Alkaev? When I was in between times sir I saw many things. Such as? I really cant describe my experience sir. Perhaps in another 100 years or so, I could explain it in a way that humans would understand. Unfortunately, I probably wont be around by that time. But Im sure that your report will shed new light on the universe. I can say two things for certain sir. We are not alone and we are not ready for what awaits us.

Bfk

94

The Chronicles of the Samuel Hain 2nd Series


Colony of the Dead

The alarm clock rang; it was 4:00 AM. I got up and went to take a shower. At 4:10 AM I had my breakfast; at 4:30 AM I was dressed for duty. Between 4:31 AM and 5:15 AM I read the UDA Journal of Medicine. At 5:17 AM I went over the staff notes from yesterdays meeting. At 5:55 AM I checked the balance on my bank card. It was 6:00 AM and time to report for duty. I only had an hour to get there. Hawking leapt up on my shoulder. My little monkey playfully nuzzled my ear. I gently caressed his rabbit head. I set him down on the floor and we played catch for 10 minutes. When my grandfather gave him to me upon graduation, I never understood why. I think I do now. OK buddy its time to start our day. Ready to go? I scooped him up and out the door we went. I dropped him off at the old robotics lab which had been converted to a pet day care center. He was all too eager to join his playmates. OK now be a good boy; live by the rules and play nice. In the 45 minutes that I had left I checked in with the hospital. Nothing serious was happening and there were no trends to worry about. I read the med logs of the hospital administrator and the ER shift supervisor; they were pretty uneventful. I checked the diagnostics report and all the equipment was running perfectly. There were no shortages of prescriptions. Today might actually be a nice, quiet day whew. Thirty yards outside the main entrance I heard a scream. I had never heard anything like that before. A chill went down my spine. For the first time in my career, I had second thoughts about going in. But, I was determined to get over my fear, so I strode right into the middle of chaos. I want some SRF!! I had it on order before I even got on this ship! Whats the matter with this stupid hospital?! Akhila was standing in the middle of the ER. Two doctors lay on the floor. Chairs and med boards were scattered everywhere. Akhila, can you stay calm for me? I kept my distance, but I wasnt going to back down either.

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Calm?! Calm?! You want me to-Her body twitched with pain and she fell to her knees. Please.just help me. She weakly muttered. Dr. Jeffries could you go to the store room and look in the neurotransmitter cabinet? We we already checked there. Tungsten.please hurry.Im not feeling so good. Akhila struggled to her feet. Then get the Regeneration base components. Were obviously going to have to make some SRF right here right now. Go, go! And how long is this going to take? Akhila growled. It wont take long I promise. I sat down next to her. Promises, promises! Im sick of your promises! She swung and I ducked. Akhila look! See? Theyve got the base components. Now all we need is a little spinal fluid. I took off my shirt. What are you doing? Dr. Jeffries was shocked. Donating. I checked my bio stats last night I can spare 2 milliliters of fluid. Do it! He stuck the needle in me and took out just enough I hoped. OK now cmon Akhila. This is the last one. I know its going to hurt, but just one more and youre done for good. I slowly approached her. The other staff were busy preparing the SRF. Just make it stop! I cant take it anymore! She yelled. She fell to her knees again. Cadet Sheng could you please report to my office? Captain Halversons voice broke the eerie silence. Yes captain. I want 15 minute updates on her condition. I walked briskly out of the hospital. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule Mr. Sheng, I know the hospital means everything to you. Im here to serve. It was hard not to look at my oracle. Theres a reason why I specifically called for you. Your dedication and ingenuity are gaining attention. Your research on balancing microbial and viral ecosystems was revolutionary. Its being incorporated into the plans for the construction of Olympus colony on Europa. Thank you sir. Ive always been fascinated by Jupiter and its moons and I am deeply honored to contribute to the dream of Olympus.

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Well, Ive flattered you long enough. There have been several unusual phenomena at the graveyards in New Tokyo. Several medical experts are being called in. I volunteered your services. Thank you sir. As for the other matter, Captain Halverson opened up his oracle, The hospital reports that Ms. Jain is resting comfortably. Yes sir. Im changing your duty schedule. You are now relieved from duty Im putting you on administrative leave for the next two days. Sir; that is not necessary. I will study the New Tokyo phenomenon on my off hours. I know you will cadet. I have no doubts about your dedication. Yes sir. Are you familiar with Zirdottes syndrome Mr. Sheng? Yes sir. When I heard that cadet Jain was coming on board I read the latest research on her condition. Do you know anything about the culture surrounding Zirdottes syndrome? No sir. Today is her last treatment day. This is usually spent with friends and family. However, since Ms. Jain is new to our ship, she has none. Yes sir. I would be happy to sir. Thank you Mr. Sheng. On my way back to the hospital, I read the initial reports from Mars. Empty graves and outrage were spreading through two of the biggest graveyards. Forensic examinations were being done on the burial plots, but it was too early to come up with any theories. I passed by a market place. I stopped and turned around. I spent the next twenty minutes looking for some kind of holo-card specific to Zirdottes syndrome, but came up empty. There were cards for every imaginable occasion and calamity, but nothing for Zirdottes. Clearly, society had a ways to go before we treated everyone equally. How are you? I sat down by Akhilas bed. Groggy, a little sore, and stiff. Last treatment day.

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Last day. She smiled. So what do you want to do? A brunch at the Star Drifter? Or how about a play? I want to go to Tokyo Mars. She got out of bed. Akhila, youre supposed to be in bed for another two hours. If I can make it to my room without help, will you let me go with you? Yes I will. I sighed. Youre the most stubborn patient I have ever met. Good. Thats what Zirdottes are known for. And youre early. I walked up to the shuttle. She was reviewing something on her oracle. Is that some kind of disease doctor Sheng? She smiled. An incurable one Ms. Jain. Dont worry; Ill give you a comfortable ride. You really shouldnt be piloting a shuttle. I know. She tapped on the control interface. The message: Initiating Shuttle Flight Program 2-MXX-G8 flashed on the front window. The shuttle lifted off the ground quicker than a dragonfly, but I didnt feel a thing. So, what made you go into the field of artificial intelligence? Something my mother told me once. She said: Akhila, once you stop worrying about the basics, you can worry about becoming the person you want to be. Artificial intelligence can do the little things in life while we focus on the big things. The shuttle descended through the thin Martian atmosphere. Cadet Sheng; Cadet Jain how very pleasant to meet you. Professor Orion Harbinger was there to greet us when we exited the shuttle. Professor Harbinger; it is a pleasure to meet you. I have heard much about you. Akhila stepped forward and shook his hand. All of it good I hope. He chuckled. Shall we? He motioned to a nearby rover and we were on our way. The red landscape bounced along and I wondered why I was here. After all, MARI had better minds and equipment. This seems to be the epicenter of the phenomenon. It began just one week ago and you can already see that there are several disturbed sites. Dr. Harbinger bent down over an empty grave. His copper colored space suit glowed in the remaining daylight.

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Microbial analysis indicates a high degree of complex patterns. No one noticed this before? I showed both of them the results of my scan. Not everyone thinks like you Mr. Sheng. That is why Captain Halverson sent you here. Dr. Harbinger replied. Professor Harbinger, wasnt there an unusual incident involving Martian microbes a few years back? Akhila opened up her oracle. Yes there was. However, that incident and this one might not be related. I would like to stay and see if there are any changes in these patterns. I went back to the rover. I suppose were here for the night. Professor Harbinger quipped. I suppose we are. Akhila sighed. Not exactly what I had planned for my special day. I woke up at 1:00 AM. Akhila and the professor were still asleep. I looked at the patterns, but there was no change. I reviewed the past 2 hours for microbe metabolism, but there was no change. I turned the device off and simply waited. Something had to change. When it hit, we were all startled. The hand slapped on the side of the rover a little before 3:00 AM. A gentleman, dressed in his funeral suit, was blindly groping past the rover. He still had clods of soil in his hair. My heart was racing. I fumbled for my oracle but it slipped out of my grasp. The only way to get to the bottom of this is to take a hands on approach. Akhila whispered. She put on her helmet. A specimen would be most informative. Dr. Harbinger agreed. I was never really good at taking patients into custody. I stammered. Ready? Akhila put my helmet. How are we going to restrain him? I recovered my oracle. There are some personnel restraints in back. Dr. Harbinger happily chirped. Was he enjoying this? Hey beautiful! Akhila bounded out of the rover. The zombie turned around. I was hoping for a more orderly plan. I slowly exited the vehicle. Ill make this short and sweet for the both of us! Akhila tackled the creature and held him on the ground. Restraints! Get me those restraints! In the struggle that ensued, the creature broke the glass of her helmet.

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Akhila! I raced to the rover to get the emergency oxygen. She had two minutes. Ill handle our specimen Mr. Sheng. Dr. Harbinger was calm inhumanly calm. Akhila had one minute and 45 seconds. I ran to her with the emergency kit in my hands. She now had one minute and 30 seconds. Hang in there! I fumbled with the mask. She now had one minute and 10 seconds. I struggled with the valve and finally got it to work. She now had 17 seconds. I could hear the whoosh!of the air flowing through the tube Akhila had 4 seconds. Thanks.for the second time. She coughed. I looked over and the zombie was lying on the ground, cuffed, with Dr. Harbinger kneeling beside it. Deep inside MARI, the creature wandered around the quarantine room for hours. It occasionally pawed the walls or looked at itself in the mirror. It was slowly, ever so slowly, becoming more coordinated. It would, from time to time, open its mouth and then close it abruptly. The patterns in this one are changing. Theyre re-organizing, but into what Im not sure. I got up and paced back and forth. How do we keep this thing contained? Akhila was already looking through the medical journals for techniques on microbe disposal. It appears we have a guest. Dr. Harbinger noticed. The welcome program in MARIs lobby had been activated. A neat old gentleman, dressed in a suit, stood waiting to be let in. Im sure someone can give him the official civilian tour Dr. Harbinger. We have to focus on this. Akhila was unusually assertive. Then again, after just having conquered one disease she probably didnt want to battle another. Excuse me. The gentleman called out. A receptionist stepped up to him. I would like to see Professor Harbinger and his colleagues it is most urgent. Im sorry; we have no one here by that name. She was polite, friendly, yet firm. If that is the official response, very well. The stranger waved his hand. Both he and the receptionist appeared in our midst. Thank you young lady. Now Im sure you have more pressing matters at hand. The gentleman waved his hand once more and she re-appeared in the lobby. Stay where you are! Akhila pulled her K-68 from its holster. The pistol fired paralyzing electrodes that could bring down a large elephant. Although it only had a range of 50 feet, she was definitely close enough to incapacitate him. Ms. Jain is it? I was hoping that we could begin with negotiations. The stranger waved his hand and her K-68 became a snow white dove. Are you here for the specimen? I asked.

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Yes. Allow me to introduce myself: I am Merlin. The Merlin? From King Arthurs court? Akhila wasnt going along with this. The one and the same. Come sit. He waved his hand and a table appeared before us. It had tea, butter, and bread upon it. Scans of the table and food reveal nothing unusual. I noted. Although he could simply be manipulating our sensors. Akhila replied. I do believe that if Merlin wanted us out of the way, he would have taken a more direct approach. Isnt that true sir? Professor Harbinger helped himself to some tea. The microbes inhabiting that body over yonder are more intelligent than you give them credit for. Even as we discuss their fate, they are organizing themselves into a democratic colony. So, youve done research on this phenomenon? I had to admit, I was fascinated. Mr. Sheng I am the phenomenon. Merlin poured Akhila some tea and handed it to her. Are you saying youre dead? Akhila wasnt about to trust him yet. Thousands of years ago, a meteorite carrying microbes crashed into earth. We meaning the colony of microbes that currently inhabit this body took possession of this form eons ago. Is that what is happening here on Mars? Dr. Harbinger asked. Yes professor it is. Merlin politely nodded in his direction. Although they pretended not to know each other, I somehow got the feeling that the two of them were very well acquainted. So, this also happened on earth? I couldnt believe what I was hearing. Colonies of microbes have been on your planet longer than homo-sapiens. Were angels, demons, werewolves, witches, shamans, and mystics. To us, there is no need to apologize for taking something you can no longer use. So there really is no such thing as monsters. Akhilas words were slow and thoughtful. I never said that. Merlin walked over to the quarantine room. I merely offered another explanation for what you call the supernatural. You may think youre enlightened, but today proves that you are not ready for what lies beyond. Now what? I scanned Merlin. He was indeed a vast collection of incredibly advanced microbes.

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Now what? Merlin laughed. Do you expect me to take your kind by the hand and lead them to their destiny? No. You will have to answer the question of Now what? As for me, I have a young charge to care for. The mystic waved his hand; both he and the creature vanished.

Bfk

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The Chronicles of the Samuel Hain 2nd Series


Fear Factor

What are you reading? I looked over Orions shoulder. I admit, it was a bad habit, but one I decided to keep long ago. We were the only ones left in the Star Drifter. We were slowly passing by Jupiter. The Last Ghost Stories of the United States of America. He didnt even look up. I felt like an annoying e-mail. Really? I havent read that one. I love ghost stories! Is it good? Yes. Im bothering you, Im sorry Ill go. Youre fine. But youre not. I apologize. Im not used to this technology yet. He put his book down. Orion, Im here. Im here in every way that matters. Have a pleasant evening. He tapped a few buttons on the table between us and the room was suddenly cut off from the internet. I could see my body slumping over the table and then the screen went black. Good night. I sat alone in my room in Mercy Sanitarium in New Toronto. No I wouldnt cry. I knew this would take time; this was only a minor setback. I walked to the window and looked up at the starry sky. I placed my hand upon the glass. Ill see you tomorrow Orion.

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When I woke up the next morning, I had a new video message from Captain Halverson. He was sitting at the piano and playing While You Were Gone by Archbishop Muldane Veese. My other half was plugged in and recharging in a corner. Good morning Ms. Maszynowy. I took the liberty of recharging your drone. Im truly sorry for what happened earlier this evening. I have reset the internet controls and bandwidths. You now have your own secure link to your device that can only be interrupted by me or whoever is in command at the time. I thought you would like to know that we will be conducting a survey of Neptunes atmosphere. I would like you to lead the survey team this would be a good opportunity to impress Professor Jones. Finally, I sent you an e-mail with a little something extra. I look forward to meeting you in person when the Samuel Hain gets back to Earth in a few weeks. I opened the e-mail message. There was an attachment: Neon Conger for beginners. Ulp! How many weeks did I have to learn this? I set the drone to autopilot and I thanked my lucky stars for Akhilas artificial intelligence program. It would make repairing the dark energy accelerator a breeze. So far, she was my best friend on the Samuel Hain. After I got out of the shower and dressed, I slid the west wall of my room back. Hey! Johnnie banged on the glass barrier between our rooms. Hows my favorite gal today? Still alive and kickin. You may not have an immune system, but you still have got an attitude. He grinned. Are you good on the piano? My old man taught me a thing or two. Could you help me? I brought up my personal control interface on the glass. Neon Conger? Wow thats quite a challenge. But, yeah well get through this together.

Later that day, when my duty shift had ended, I went to the Cartography Room. I was the first one in; I loved that. I brought up all the assigned sensors and ran diagnostics on the probes. I checked the team requests. Orion Alkaev how interesting. Im sorry Orion, not until I can trust you. I denied his request. This is the Captain. A few stray meteors are heading our way. We will attempt to avoid them, so the journey may become a little unpleasant. Please initiate proper safety protocols. The ship dived down suddenly. I was thrown to the floor. I could hear two loud bangs. The ship shuddered. The lights went out, but the emergency lights didnt come on. I could hear footsteps running outside and cursing and screaming.

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Captain Halverson initiating program Renata Rescue 1. The drones left eye had a map of the ship superimposed on it; the drones right eye was running a diagnostic on the ships systems. I set my internet avatar to unavailable. Thank you Ms. Maszynowy. It was so dark. I had a flashlight in my hand, but it seemed that the gloom was constantly threatening to devour me. I felt a little scared just sitting in my room in the Sanitarium how did the crew feel? After a few minutes, I found the first person, with a head wound. Im here to help. The programs greeting was unusually soft and angelic. I could really see Akhilas personal touch. How bad are you hurt? She was too frightened to respond. I placed a med marker on her and activated it. Its red light glowed softly in the overwhelming shadows. Thank goodness the ships med net was working. Youre going to be OK. Help will be here soon. Then the drone moved on in search of other victims.

3 fatalities, 17 serious injuries, and 56 minor injuries we were pretty lucky. Tungsten was busy bandaging up a bleeding leg. Is there anything else I can do to help? I put my hand on his shoulder. Renata you did so much. I cant thank you enough. Tungsten gave me a hug. Ms. Maszynowy, there is something you could do. The engineers have repaired the recharging station in the Primary Environmental Control Center. If you could help with the repairs while the drone recharges, I would be most appreciative. Yes sir. It would be a pleasure. How lucky I was to be serving even when I was officially off duty. The Primary Environmental Control Center was a mess, but not as bad of a mess as other parts of the ship. The glass and debris had been swept from the floor, which was a nice touch. I undid a few buttons of my shirt and my belly button glowed in the dim lights. I looked around 30 yards yup I would have enough cord to get everywhere I needed to. So, I took out the slender, pink cord from my belly button and plugged it into the recharging station. I loved the smiley faces on my little umbilical cable, but I was glad no one else was around to see them. I initiated Renata Repair routine PECC Omega 2; the drones eyes filled with data, PECC schematics, and diagnostic status updates. I unplugged the cable from the back of my head and ordered a cup of tea. I sat in front of the window and looked out at the stars. When I finished my tea, I put my hand on the glass. Good night guys be safe! I then went to bed.

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The next morning, the survey of Neptunes atmosphere resumed. I felt a little guilty, but Captain Halverson assured me that repairs were already halfway done. I didnt think that things could go that fast, I was really impressed. I was the first one in the Cartography Room. However, after an hour, I was the only one in the Cartography Room. Tungsten, Im missing all of my research colleagues. Are they with you? I was sure it was something minor. Im sorry Renata theyre not here. Hmmm..Ill have to go round them up myself. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something on one of the sensors. I didnt get a good look at it, but it was massive. Before I had a chance to react, it sank down into Neptunes atmosphere. Mr. Hart are you in there? I knocked on Mr. David Harts door. All I could hear was sobbing and whimpering. I checked the logs and he wasnt one of those who were hurt in yesterdays incident. It was the same with all my team members; they were too scared to come out. I was on my way to talk this over with Tungsten when the red medical emergency lights flashed in the hallway. I quickly stood to the side, to allow the paramedics through. One team came by, then two, then a third. What was going on? Is Dr. Sheng in? The hospital was buzzing with activity. Renata thank goodness we could use an extra body. Do you have an ER program? Yes. I switched on the program Renata Hospital 4. Medical charts and personnel bio data consumed the drones eyes. I thought you had cleaned up after yesterdays disaster. I did. Weve had five heart attacks this morning and thirty nine crew attacks all due to fear. Post traumatic syndrome is quite common after a disaster. I wont argue with you there. Lets just try and get through this week. However, as the week wore on, the fear among the crew increased, despite our psychiatry teams best efforts. Reports of nightmares, panic attacks, neuroses, and heart attacks spread like wildfire. All the while, the massive thing in Neptunes atmosphere kept bobbing up and down like it was feeding on something. I started watching it closely. Tungsten I hope you dont mind, but I was reviewing the brain wave patterns of your patients. I approached our dedicated doctor one afternoon. Renata thats a violation of several military regulations as well as three or four ethical codes.

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I know, I know but I have also been keeping my eye on something in Neptunes atmosphere. Just dont worry about protocol and procedure for a moment and take a look at this. What is that? Its huge! It must be half the length of the ship. Tungsten manipulated a three dimensional image of the creature. It was shaped like a moth and had several long tendrils trailing it. On the tip of each tendril there was a round mass of wriggling nerve endings. Ive been monitoring this creature in every way possible. I didnt find anything unusual until I looked at its brain waves. See? See how its neural activity spikes whenever theres an increase in fear on the ship? Although its definitely alien, I would say its neural activity slightly resembles intense pleasure. Is this thing getting high off of human fear? Have you told the Captain? No not yet. I wanted you to help me look into it. Of course I will-Tungsten spun about wildly, as if he had seen a ghost. Tungsten, are you OK? Get away from me! Please dont hurt me! Help! Somebody help! Medical Emergency on Deck 1 Section 18! There was no reply - only yelling, panic, and confusion. I brought up the sensors the creature was headed our way. Everyone please remain calm. Stay at your stations. Captain Halverson was doing his best to keep order on the bridge. Captain Halverson, I think I know whats happening. I burst onto the bridge. Ms. Maszynowy now is not the time Im doing my best to keep things calm! If I dont the crew will die! Then what? Ill be alone, drifting through space-The captain fell to his knees. They were helpless all of them. Anyone who was not cowering in a corner or swinging at phantoms that were not there was in cardiac arrest. I activated command protocol Renata Ship in Peril F19-47-HH-JY9987. My eyes glossed over with data, multiple maps of the ship, and security updates. There was a heavy thud and the ship rocked violently. I brought the sensors on-line and discovered that the creature was now wrapped around the hull. I started the dark energy accelerator. Dark energy reaction 34%. The computer announced. I dont want to do this. I announced to seemingly no one in particular. Could the creature hear me? Could it read my thoughts? I looked at the med net 10 people just died. Dark energy reaction 58%.

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This is the Colonel Yamagata of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. We have detected numerous medical emergencies on board. Do you need assistance? Please respond. Colonel Yamagata this is Cadet Renata Maszynowy. There is indeed a medical crisis aboard the Samuel Hain. Im attempting to rectify it now. Dark energy reaction 81%. Cmon! Cmon! The med net indicated that 18 more people just died. Cadet Maszynowy, we are detecting an accelerated dark energy reaction. Dark energy reaction 150%. Im sorry sir its the only solution that popped into my head. I re-routed the fission containment field to the accelerator. Dark energy reaction 345%. Cadet Maszynowy turn off the dark energy accelerator. You are endangering the ship and your crew mates! Theres a 2.5% chance the ship will survive sir. I just have to get the reaction past 500%. Theres no way to do that. Cadet stand down thats an order! Dark energy reaction 487%. Shutting down accelerator. Dark energy reaction 412%. No, no, no! I disabled the safety protocols. A fleet of eight X-4s were on their way. Dark energy reaction 499%. Cmon! Cmon! I checked the med net 34 more people had died. Dark energy reaction 499%. Please, just a little more. Suddenly, I had an idea. It would take the ships chances of survival below 1%, but at this rate, the ship and I would be the only things left. Med net indicated that 80 more people had died from heart attacks. I channeled some of the fission reactors output into the dark energy accelerator. Dark energy reaction 499%. Fission reactor unstable. Dark energy reaction 499.7%. Fission reactor overload fission containment field at 34%. Please hold together ship. I crossed my fingers. The X-4s were closing in fast. They would be here in less than a minute.

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Dark energy reaction 499.9%. Fission reactor overload fission containment field down to 12%. Cmon! I yelled. Dark energy reaction 500%. Fission reactor critical fission containment field 8.98% Time seemed to stand still. I could hear the X-4s roaring into the fighter bay, as well as the crackling from the fission reactor. The hull was moaning under the creatures grip. Dark energy reaction 500.02% Fission reactor critical fission containment field off line. I released the dark energy reaction just as a bullet pierced the drones body.

I wanted to thank you Ms. Maszynowy. Captain Halverson stood before me. I was sitting at a console in the engine room. I was just doing my duty sir. It was an honor. Your quick thinking saved the ship and many lives. How did you know that overloading the dark energy accelerator would drive off the creature? It was just a theory sir. A very sound one. Im very impressed, so are the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Thank you sir. Is something bothering you? Im just reviewing the ships sensors. When the creature was driven off, its neural activity went on a roller coaster ride and its metabolism increased 300%. I think it died of withdrawal sir. MARI has sent a team to recover and study the body. It will hopefully reveal more about what actually happened here. Sir we didnt even know this creature existed and it became addicted to our fear. We destroyed another life form before we discovered it. I just feel so- Helpless? No. Guilty. Captain Halverson left the engine room. Back home at Mercy, I unplugged myself, pulled the curtains over the window, and tried to sleep. Bfk

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The Chronicles of the Samuel Hain 2nd Series


Where Did All The Monsters Go?

Akhila.Akhila.Im coming to get you! The voice from the closet was sinister and laced with death. No! I bolted upright in bed. I looked around my quarters bewildered. I hadnt had this nightmare since I was a child. Why was it coming back now? I looked out the window and saw the domes and spires of Camelot. It looked so peaceful there, just sitting on the lunar surface. I got out of bed and checked my duty assignment. Interesting I was to chaperone a delegation from Rio de Mars to the planned site for Olympus colony on Europa. The delegates included the venerable Professor Strontium Jones, Cardinal Vance Cairncross, and George Rum (the lead singer for the Cosmic Flowerpots). It almost sounded like the beginning of a three men walk into a bar joke. Why me? Was the captain trying to be culturally correct? It was the opportunity of a lifetime, so I let the matter pass. Anyways, I didnt take Captain Halverson for that kind of person. I touched the wall next to me and the control panel bobbed to the glass surface. I chose red walls today and vintage 2009 movie posters to grace them. I dimmed the lights and played sounds of a harbor town in the background. A message from Tungsten appeared on the social ticker below the control panel: I want to see Pharmacological Tears at the theater this Saturday, but I dont really understand 22nd Century Neo-Humanism. I was hoping we could see it together and you could explain the blurry parts to me. T. Sounds good to me T. I had taken several courses on Neo-Humanism in college and graduate school. I was the resident expert on the subject but Tungsten was the only one who knew it. The panel behind me slid open with a quiet hiss. Good morning Akhila. Do you want me to go to the cafeteria and get some breakfast for you? Pal, my robot, stood there politely - waiting for a command. I turned around and admired him. He was five feet, seven inches tall. His body was blue and he had no discernible facial features. He gave off a scent of wild flowers.

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No thanks Pal. I think I will go to the cafeteria personally. What would you like to wear today? I will pick out your clothing while you are bathing. Im not really sure what to wear today Pal. Akhila, you sound sad. May I ask why? Is there anything I can do to help? I am still adjusting to serving on board the Samuel Hain Pal. I think others are adjusting to me too. There is nothing you can do to help Pal. Pedro Rodriguez Yamagata, the famous 23rd Century Psychiatrist and Sculptor, once said: If you are adjusted to your own soul, there is no need to adjust. I do believe that might apply in this situation. Very good Pal. Thank you Akhila.

Weve reached Rio de Mars, Captain. Lieutenant Gonzalez reported. He was an honorable, dedicated man. Ive got a problem. Can I see you for a minute? Renata tapped me on the shoulder. Sure. I smiled. We stepped outside the bridge. Its my left hand. Its a little slow. Can you stop by the robotics lab this afternoon? Ill be there. Thanks Akhila. Renata then walked back onto the bridge. I was left feeling sort of lonely. The only time she came to me was to get her drone fixed. Then again, I didnt sign up for this to just chit-chat and make friends. Ms. Jain, Captain Halverson turned to me, would you pick up our guests? Aye Sir. Without further ado, I headed for the shuttle bay. I opened up my Oracle. Allen, could you have the drone diagnostics in place by this afternoon? Yes I can. His three dimensional image answered. If you could also have Renatas repair kit handy, I would really appreciate it. No problem. It sounds as if you wont be around to help her. I have to chaperone the delegation from Rio.

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Every minute? He raised an eyebrow. Wellits really important and I dont want to mess this up. OK. When she gets here, Ill patch her up. Thanks Allen. Youve got a lot of years ahead of you Akhila. Youre going to have to get comfortable around those who are uncomfortable around you and youre welcome. I could hear him even before I got out of the shuttle. It was rumored that Cardinal Caincross only spoke in hell-fire preacher mode his voice at times grumbling like a volcano and at others booming like a thunderstorm. It was all true. Science has finally caught up to religion Professor Jones! We live in glorious times. The Cardinal slapped Professor Jones on the back and laughed. Simply acknowledging the existence of parallel universes does not explain the Judeo Christian creation story. Professor Jones replied. He was doing his best not to get sucked into the spirited debate. And then there was Mr. Rum. He was dressed in a bright green three-piece suit with purple shoes. He wore a yellow top hat and had a matching yellow tie. His hair had been replaced with thousands of neon fiber optic strands; an ever changing rainbow of color cascaded from his head. Akhila Akhila Jain? He walked up to me and shook my hand. At your service sir. I bowed politely. Your plans for New Vienna stadium are simply inspirational! Thank you thank you so much sir. I gently escorted my three guests to the shuttle. When we got in, I initiated Jain Shuttle Flight Program Whisper 4. The noise dampening would come in handy. Parallel Universes are simply a theoretical concept we dont even know how to find one. Cardinal, with all due respect, this was settled with the Scopes Monkey Trial. Those who werent won over then have been convinced by Time Field Theory. Time Field Theory? Mr. Rum raised both eyebrows. Quite simply put Mr. Rum, time flows differently in different places. A field of time might flow anywhere from 1 second to 100 years faster than the time around it. Furthermore, time fields come and go, so that an area of time that flows faster than the time around it today might be gone tomorrow. Professor Jones snapped his fingers for emphasis.

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What if I could show you conclusive proof that Adam and Eve were indeed taken from a parallel universe and planted in ours? Cardinal Caincross would not be deterred. I admired his determination. A genetic or even subatomic evolutionary retrograde analysis would yield nothing. Even if you were to analyze the whole Earth for evidence of a rupture in our universe it would be pointless. Any traces of a cross-universe breach would have faded hundreds of years ago. Why all the fuss? Mr. Rum took his eyes off the stars and took a renewed interest in the conversation. For the past four centuries, science has tried to displace God. Its time for mankind to realize that science is a gift from God it is not a god. The Cardinal warned sternly. No one is saying that Cardinal. Religion has to fit in with the science of the day and the prevailing culture for it to remain in peoples hearts. Professor Jones explained. Science and religion sound like a divorced couple who just might kill each other. Mr. Rum chuckled. Allow me to convince you, Professor Jones at Europa. The Cardinals tone unexpectedly softened. I suppose I have some time to spare. Alright Cardinal, I promise I will be totally open minded in my observations. Excellent! Excellent! This is why I begged the University of New Toronto to send you! The Cardinal put his hands on Professor Jones shoulders.

The next few days were supposed to be very trying; but they werent. I showed the gentlemen the areas of the ship that were not sensitive. In return, they enriched my thoughts in ways that I never thought possible. All the while, the equipment that had arrived before they did was being unpacked. There were several tubes and miniature fission globes; but what puzzled me the most were the shiny white triangles. Cardinal what do these do? If I was in the presence of any other men, I would have been loath to confess my ignorance. They manipulate gravitational fields and waves. He picked one up and held it to the light it was only about four feet on each side. Gravitational technology? I thought we were a few decades away from that kind of thing. I hoped I didnt sound like an awe struck 3rd grader.

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Ms. Jain when you are motivated by faith, you can achieve miracles! The Cardinals enthusiasm was starting to rub off on me. But I have to admit, I was a bit scared; if this required several fission globes, it required an incredible amount of power. So Akhila. Mr. Rum tipped his hat. Mr. Rum. Call me George. OK George. I almost giggled. Youre not getting caught up in all of this hocus pocus. Are you? It really is exciting. Gravitational technology isnt supposed to even exist. Arent you excited? Theres a difference between exciting and wise. Georges words were philosophical and serene, but there was a spark of worry in his eyes.

I was actually surprised. There was a lot of symbolism and ceremony involved in the process. All the equipment was blessed, which I expected. There was a mass said before the experiment, which I also expected. But, Bibles had been placed around the perimeter of the temporary dome; that I didnt expect. There were also priests chanting in Latin as well as scientific and military personnel. Above the whole scene, the Samuel Hain orbited Europa like a watchful parent. Initiating fission globes. One of the technicians announced. They hovered above their silver platforms and glowed. Initiation successful. Fission globes at 15% power. Bringing gravitational amplifiers on-line. Another technician announced. Bring the globes up to 35% power. Cardinal Caincross ordered. The air hummed. Initiating Quantum Field Separators! The Cardinal called out as he turned them on. Bring the fission globes up to 55% power! The ambient light started to flicker and pop. Is this supposed to be happening? I asked Professor Jones. I dont know. This isnt my area of expertise. He replied. Bring the fission globes up to 90% power. The Cardinals voice was distorted by the throbbing air. Fission globes at 90%. A technician replied. Now, Professor Jones! Now see the endless possibilities! Bring the globes up to 100%. The Cardinal was ecstatic.

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The fission globes glowed even brighter. In the center of the experiment, a white light appeared, surrounded by a black aurora. Everyone stepped back. Suddenly everything was silent, as if the light had somehow sucked all the sound from the dome. Professor Jones stepped closer to the light. He held his hand out and then smiled. He walked right into the light and disappeared. A moment later, a faint ghost-like image of the professor appeared behind me. Another image of the professor appeared above us, another appeared just 10 yards away. Within moments, the whole area was filled with an uncountable number of images. Then, like a candle being blown out, they suddenly disappeared. The sound inexplicably returned. Oh my God! Professor Jones! I was about to follow him when George held me back. Its too late for him! Now help me shut this thing off before its too late for us! He cried over the chaos and noise. Before anyone could do anything, black tentacles emerged from the gap and pulled in several priests and soldiers. There was a horrible screeching sound. While everyone else was running for cover, George stood in front of the breach and spread his hands out. Ti-Ti-Ti-Ti-Ti Hufuthu Omsiiiiiiiizzzziiiinarganuuuuuum Jilililililili! Kut-Faaaaaaaaanalalalam! The sounds Mr. Rum made didnt even come close to human. The light disappeared and all was back to normal. George? I was too shaken to form a complete sentence. I suppose this is where I give some enigmatic explanation for what we all saw. He replied. Any explanation would do. The Cardinal lost his bombastic tone. To put it scientifically, you just opened a gateway to the Great In-Between a vast space between parallel universes. But all you need to know is this: thats where all the monsters go when theyre driven out from under your beds.

Bfk

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The Chronicles of the Samuel Hain 2nd Series


Floaters

They looked likelike nothing I could even imagine. They had three legs and three arms; the third arm and third leg protruded from their spine. Red diamond patterns covered their white hairless bodies and almost glowed as they reflected the light of hundreds of suns. Their cities spiraled up through the Argon, Helium, and Methane atmosphere like giant springs. Many of the inhabitants were sipping from the numerous light blue coral tubes that littered the black sands. When I briefly passed by, I could have sworn that some of them looked up and saw me. I would have liked to have stayed just a bit longer. Would they have run to their floating teardrop shaped temples to consult with their divine powers? Or would they have rushed forward to tear them down? - upgrades to the robotics lab. Sergeant Kims voice suddenly crashed into my consciousness, even though it was soft and pleasant. Yes Maam. I only pretended to acknowledge the whole conversation. Cadet Alkaev which upgrades are you to take to the robotics lab? She raised an eyebrow. All of them Maam. These are the upgrades you are to take to the robotics lab, Mr. Alkaev. Those boxes are to remain in the fighter bay until Cadet Sheng scans them for contaminants. Yes Maam. I will go right away. Cadet Alkaev. Yes Maam? When you are done in the robotics lab, check in with Dr. Baako. Yes..yes Maam. Good morning Cadet Alkaev. The drone had its back toward me.

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Good morning. I placed the upgrades on a nearby table. I heard about the incident last month sorry. The drone wouldnt turn around. Thank you. I was just daydreaming for a second too long. It must be difficult being different. It must be. I left the robotics lab.

The extra session with the psychiatrist went off without a hitch. I would have to thank Uncle Massoud for lending me his copy of 20 Things Not to Say to Your Shrink. Is this the way it was going to be? Would my whole career be summed up in one word distracted? It was so frustrating; I didnt ask for this to happen to me. However, if I had known how far I would travel and what I would see, I would have begged for it. The ship slowly veered to the left. We were headed to a cordoned off area between Neptune and Uranus. Several small science vessels had reported brief power outages and other unusual phenomenon. No one would elaborate on what unusual actually meant. Nowadays, I had trouble with that term as well. I walked through the hallway and navigated a careful course through a rocky shore of polite smiles. They were all so nice, polite, fresh and careful. I remember my grandfather telling me of the old days, when skin color and eye shape were a really big deal. Now we had to cope with cybernetic implants, genetic abnormalities, and even machines. Soon we would all be like snowflakes no two alike. Would that be the end of bigotry or its triumph? The science vessels Minas Gerias and Nuuk were waiting for us; but the South Americans and Greenlanders would not go any further. I found it surprising that scientists could be so spooked after all science had done for us. Yet, here they were, hiding like children on Halloween night. Perhaps we werent as advanced as we thought we were. Lieutenant Gonzalez, please take us into the area of interest. The captain was calm yet interested. Aye sir. Cadet Alkaev are there any anomalies to report? Captain Halverson walked up behind me. The bridge was full of the usual subdued chatter and background noise. All readings are within normal Captain. No unusual stress or strain on the ship. Lieutenant Marette added. No power fluctuation or EM disruptions. Lieutenant Nassif noted.

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Quite interesting. Theories anyone? The captain walked up to the main monitor in the center of the room. It displayed a hologram of our current location. Superimposed upon the image were EM readings, quantum field maps, subatomic composition, and time flow measurements. This area is off limits to scientists? Akhila suggested. There were several muffled laughs among the cadets who were present. Very clever Ms. Jain; but lets find out why. There was just the slightest hint of a smile on the captains face. I suppose even he needed humor to get through the day. Well stay here for a few days and continue to run tests. Please log any observations into the secondary data net. First shift, you are relieved of duty. Would you help me carry some flowers to the funeral parlor? The drone was headed my way and there was nothing I could do about it. Im on my way to something important. Perhaps Cadet Ortiz could help you? You know, it would look really good on your resume if you could demonstrate that you were comfortable with the latest technology. Im pretty sure that the fleet will be filled with drones in the coming years. You have a point. Good. You take these over here and Ill take those over there theyre my favorite. Your favorite? I love the way the roses smell. Its a great way to end ones shift. I didnt know you could smell. Now why would they allow a drone operator to get direct olfactory input from its drone? Yes I can. Your cologne is absolutely delightful. The funeral parlor was at the end of a long corridor. Its bright light sliced through the shadows. I could see from here that there were a few people milling about; but whether they were mourners or simply visitors I couldnt tell. Several closed caskets lined the walls, waiting for someone to fill them. Where would you like these? The drone stepped into the room first. Youre not going to just stand there, are you? The machine turned around and addressed me. Im not really comfortable in funeral parlors. Perhaps I should wait outside. I had a feeling I would be dragged inside anyway, but perhaps there was a chance of avoiding it. Oh Orion! What are you 9? Renata yanked me into the room. To avoid any further embarrassment, I purposely stepped a few feet further into the room just to prove that I wasnt afraid.

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Ms. Maszynowy, if you could please put the roses over there, I would be most grateful. Chaplain Fayette smiled. There was a low noise, like a pulsing, with occasional squeaks. The sound was accompanied by a slight oscillating vibration. I could feel a slight tingling in my head and looked around to see if anyone else was similarly affected. No one else seemed to notice the odd phenomenon, so I stood there. Thank you for asking me to deliver the flowers Chaplain. It brightened up my day. The drone was smiling. I could think of no one better- The coffin to the right of us slowly floated upwards. Captain. Could you have someone check the environment in the funeral parlor? Reverend Fayettes words were hasty and annoyed. The ship may have belonged to the captain, but the funeral parlor was his territory. He didnt like any deviations from perfection. All systems are working normally Chaplain. We are not picking up any fluctuations in the environment in your area. I will send someone to investigate. Were here captain. Our readings are the same as yours. Im not sure what is happening. The drone replied. Captain. Permission to evacuate the funeral parlor until further notice. I requested urgently. Another coffin started to float around the room. Permission granted. Everyone left the room; as soon as it was empty, the coffins crashed to the floor. Thankfully there was no one in them. The noise and my headaches also stopped. So there we were, on the outside looking in. It felt as if a part of my home had somehow changed its very essence and was no longer something familiar. I want to go back in. The drone took a step toward the threshold. You cant do that. You dont know what might happen. This is one of the advantages of having an expendable body. Before I could stop it, the machine stepped into the room. See? Theres nothing; no floating coffins, no anomalies just a quiet funeral parlor. It must have been a temporary phenomenon. That could be. I replied, stepping into the room to get a closer look at the caskets. The moment I did so, they took to the air again. Orion, The drone stepped out of the room, I think its you. Whatever is happening, youre causing it somehow.

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Over the next hour, that theory was tested. I was the only one who could trigger the odd circumstances. However, no one else heard the sound I did. And I was the only one who got headaches. Foolishly, I volunteered to stand in the room while the event was measured, analyzed, and diagnosed. The sound changed in rhythm and frequency. It became faster and the pitch became much higher. Without warning, I revisited a place that I only glanced months ago. I was standing on the shore of a liquid plutonium sea. In the distance, a vast hive composed of white crystal was hovering over the waves. Their sun was too far away to provide any significant light. The sky overhead was dominated by an orange and pink stellar cloud. Behind me, an immense array of floating spheres made of molten metal and gas exchanged packets of light. I felt a hand upon my shoulder. I turned around and saw a tall humanoid; he was well over ten feet. He had gills on his neck and a five foot trunk where his nose should have been. Streaks of light could be seen racing just under his black skin. His trunk gently touched my forehead. A staggering collection of alien images and sounds filled my brain; I thought my head would explode. Apparently, so did my host; he abruptly pulled his trunk away. When I came to, I was lying in a hospital bed. My face felt as if someone had been pounding on it with a sledgehammer all day. Areas of my skin were as black as charcoal. My body felt unusually smaller, as if it had been stretched out and then reluctantly returned to its normal size. Hey, take it easy. Tungsten was sitting by the bed. What happened? My words were raspy and weak. Were not sure yet, but I can tell you what they saw if youre up to it. From the description Tungsten gave me, I was almost transformed into the creature I had met by the shores of the plutonium sea. I wondered: would that thing have changed into me? What a way to spend the last day of your career. Tungsten scratched his head. Last day? I just signed your death certificate. He handed the med board to me. Orion, whatever happened out there when you were time surfing, its now affecting our solar system. Captain Halverson stepped into the room. It seems that there are others who saw you and they now want to say hello. Even if nothing else happened, the knowledge you have we arent ready for. Im sorry - but some secrets are too dangerous. I understand- Call me Garin.

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Fallen Log was a little town just an hours drive from New Moscow. The houses were neat, the lawns were trimmed, and the flower beds were meticulously cared for. The sun shone down on my little home and I often. Neighbors smiled and waved; when it got warm, you could smell burgers and hear cicadas. It was the perfect place to spend the rest of ones life. I was happy here. But what about all those far away civilizations? Were they happy that I was here, or would they one day try to whisk me out of the solar system? Only time would tell. So, humming the anthem of a planet millions of light years away, I turned the hot dogs over on the grill.

Bfk

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The Chronicles of the Samuel Hain 2nd Series


Mixed Signals

Did you ever do something you were told not to do and regret it for the rest of your life? I was eleven at the time; my parents had gone out for the night. They warned me about watching scary movies they said I wasnt old enough. What did they know? Everything. I can still remember turning on the TV with rebellious glee. Tonight, I would take my first step into adulthood. All the lights were off there were just a few candles around the room. I sat down as the horrid, gory, and gruesome plot unfolded. What I never understood was, if I was so scared, why didnt I just turn it off? I thought I had learned my lesson years ago. I was an adult now, capable of reason and fully in charge of my head. But the nightmares had come back. Like a jack-in-the-box that pops up unexpectedly in a dark corner of your attic, they suddenly sprang into my nights. I tried reading about dreams, cognitive therapy, and even aroma therapy. It was all useless I had to live with that jack-inthe-box. I thought about talking with mom and dad; dad was especially good at chasing my problems away. After all, didnt nightmares represent problems on some weird-abstract painting-psychedelic level? I had never really felt ashamed of turning to my parents the way other people did. I think thats because they pushed me forward, instead of holding me back. Although, in this case, I wasnt so sure whether I wanted to go forward or retreat. I definitely didnt want MARI poking around in my head again. The procedure to connect me to my other half was risky enough. It had already cost me memories of my eighth and sixteenth birthdays. I still cant taste salty things (the cerebral techs at MARI say that will come back) and sometimes I feel cold for no reason. My skull was officially off limits. That left me with the last option: grin and bear it. After all, they were only silly dreams, right? I looked around my room to ground myself in reality. I realized how complex reality was and laughed. Perhaps if my room looked more like the crew quarters on the Samuel Hain I would feel better. In an odd twist of fate, I almost became jealous of the drone almost. Dr. Baako had warned me of this. He

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told me that living one life in two separate places might produce some strange feelings. It was then that I gave up and my head hit the pillow.

I was looking out the window at the graveyard. It was cold and grey outside. I was dressed in a flannel nightgown and I was shivering. The yellow paint on the walls around me was peeling. The rug beneath my bare feet was warm and prickly. The room I was in felt small and confining. It was time to get out and away from all this creepiness. But the faster I walked, the further the door retreated; it was like I was on some kind of demonic tread mill. I turned back to the window. I was on the third floor and I simply couldnt jump down. The sky outside grew darker. The graveyard was still, but I was absolutely sure that something underneath was just about to burst open. I felt trapped. I ran as fast as I could for the door and then jumped. I found myself in a dark hallway with a window at the end. There were dozens of doors leading to other rooms or perhaps other dark places that I couldnt even imagine. Thats when I heard it a humpback whale song floating in the darkness behind me. It was absolutely out of place and totally nonsensical. Imagine watching a scary movie and having a weather bulletin interrupt it. I almost resented this added layer of complexity wasnt a scary house next to a graveyard enough? Before I could follow it, the song simply melted into the shadows. Whatever boogeyman was orchestrating this hellish symphony must have also gotten irritated at the unexpected distraction. The doorknobs to the other rooms rattled violently. Was something trying to get out or in? As I turned this way and that, the hallway seemed to get wider and darker; soon the window at the end would only be a distant point of light. The floor beneath me was slippery and I fell. It was covered in a slick, pungent, brown goo. There was nothing to hold on to, so it was a struggle to get back on my feet. I could hear muffled voices, punctuated by a sick laughter, in the darkness beyond. Some were calling my name and others were gossiping about my most embarrassing moments. Im not sure why, but I realized that there was a staircase just a few yards in front of me. The darkness didnt relent; perhaps the boogeyman was giving me a break. Or perhaps he had grown bored and this was the latest maneuver in his macabre game of cat and mouse. As I took a few cautious steps forward, the floor tilted and I slid away from the stairs. I was sliding down the hallway to a groaning abyss with a thousand sharp, nasty little teeth. Just before I reached that devilish maw, I grabbed hold of the floor. My nails sunk into the rotting wood like iron claws. I dangled above the pit screaming for help. The abyss was gibbering and gnashing its teeth. I slowly made my way through the hallway, which was now almost at a ninety degree angle. Every inch was a triumph, a declaration of my intent to live. Unfortunately, the hungry pit was never far behind. As I looked around, each doorknob was covered in thousands of eyes like the eye of an insect. I knew they were watching me.

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After what seemed like months, I reached the stairway; but it went up instead of down. As the stairs spiraled up into the gloom, I sensed that there was something swaying up there. It was the same thing that was waiting to get out of the graves. There was a slight creaking sound, but Im not sure if it came from upstairs or from the hallway behind me. This wasnt the way out. I turned around and the pit was staring me in the face its teeth were just an inch from my body. A long, sinuous tongue wrapped around my thigh and started tugging ever so gently. I ran up those stairs so quickly that I thought I would get dizzy. But heres the strange thing. In the dim light, the stairs would occasionally give way to a triple helix. This was so out of place that I almost lost my balance (which Im sure the abyss would have loved). This reminded me of something that happened just a moment ago, but I just couldnt remember. Perhaps this place was so terrifying I was trying to cover it up with nonsense. The stair below me felt loose and I kept on going. My foot went through the rotted wood of an old stair; I held onto the railing for dear life. The next stair was fine. Thats how the rest of the journey was; a Russian roulette of rotting wood. At the top of the stairs I found a door. It was large, oaken, and had all those scary gargoyles on it that you would expect from Castle Dracula. The rug beneath me bore some sort of royal insignia; when I looked closer I noticed that each letter was made up of chemical formulas. I was sure that this wasnt part of the nightmare but why was it here? There was no one around to help or provide an answer; it was just me and the door. Even the pit was afraid to come up here. The key was dangling on a spiders web behind me. When I reached for it, the key was yanked upward. I took a step back and it slowly descended. Every time I tried to grab it, they key playfully jumped out of reach. I spent hours trying to get that key. Finally I made a leap for it big mistake. As soon as my feet left the floor it disappeared. Below me, a brimstone cauldron boiled and bubbled. I could smell foul things burning and cooking. Lava and flames danced a sickening tango many hundreds of miles below me. On the shadowy crags and precipices dark shapes lurked and laughed, just daring me to fall. Just below the surface of the glowing lava, something immense, ancient, and totally evil was drooling and licking its chops. And all that kept me from this horrid fate was a key dangling from a spiders web. Every millimeter of the climb was precarious. Im not sure why the silken thread allowed me to climb it, but I was definitely beyond reason at that point. I was all instinct. I felt like I was in an old well; I could hear water dripping down around me. The light grew stronger the further up I went and soon I was standing in the middle of the graveyard. I could hear the thunder growling in the distance. The cracked and weathered gravestones were wet. There was a gentle breeze which warmed my skin. I could hear a blue jay call from one of the trees around me. To the west, the sky kept changing colors red, green, purple, yellow, gold, and a thousand other hues. Somehow it was over. There were no more frights to fight. Perhaps the boogeyman had moved on to someone else.

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I noticed a small path leading out of the graveyard. It cut through a small stand of trees and simply faded into the sand dunes beyond. This path was gentle and easy; I walked along slowly to savor the peace and quiet. The gray sky overhead persisted, but now it seemed more mysterious than ominous. The whole place only hinted at life that I couldnt see and it felt perfectly natural. The beach was deserted. The ocean waves lapped gently at the sands. In front of me was a rotating triple helix. Some parts were changing colors in a slow rhythmic fashion. I could see that each ribbon of the helix was made up of millions of chemical structures. I touched it and a whale song floated through the air and over the waves. For some strange reason it seemed like this was my dream all along and that the scary house was the alien part.

When I turned around, I found myself on a world covered in water. I was standing on a black hexagonal disc a few feet above the waves. In the distance, twin suns orbited a black hole. Five moons, each with beautiful, swirling gases, graced the sky. Large spheres of water, some five times the size of New Moscow, ascended from the ocean. Other spheres sank slowly beneath the surface. Hello. The voice behind me was almost human. Hello. I turned around. Before me was a woman with blonde hair. She was wearing a white robe. Her green eyes were inviting and curious. It seems your sleeping consciousness has crossed paths with our signal. Where am I? Somewhere far from your home. Who are you? Harriett. Who are you really? I was standing on an alien world talking to an absolute stranger; I might as well go for all the marbles. Harrietts form melted; it squished this way and that. Harriet was a twenty foot sea slug; she was black with orange stripes. The creature then dived beneath the waves.

Extraction of memory node Alpha 145-A complete. The message popped up on the screen sooner than I had expected. I strolled over to where Ms. Maszynowy was sitting. More machinery in her head. I sighed as I looked at the blinking fiber optic cables coming out of her skull. They ran into a small blue cube sitting on a table next to her. She was sitting upright and sleeping peacefully alongside her drone. I disconnected the cube and held it in my hands. Did I really have to

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turn it over? Would they really be that cruel? Surely there was a voice of reason of compassion - that would see how wrong this was. Please adjust the REM output by hmmlets say two ohms per second. I put the cube on the corner of my desk. Yes professor Harbinger. My assistant replied. How are her neurotransmitter levels? Looking good professor. Good we should have Ms. Maszynowy up and about in a day or two. I smiled. I thought of the one who made me and wondered where he was. These were the times that I felt most incomplete I needed more instructions. Why would one of the grownups create a complex toy like me and then let it simply run off on its own? Professor Harbinger we may have a problem. Three percent of Ms. Maszynowys memories from Alpha 145-A were copied to another node; Im not sure which one. Let it be. She deserves some clues as to what really happened.

Bfk

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The Chronicles of the Samuel Hain 2nd Series


The Unauthorized Biography of Samuel Hain

Happy Birthday Akhila! Renata put a cake in front of me. We were relaxing in my quarters. Thats so sweet. Thank you. I was stunned. I didnt expect this from her. I got you a present. Renata you didnt have to. Sure I did. Were crewmates after all. She slid the brightly wrapped package across the table. I love the wrapping paper! I almost felt guilty about tearing it off, but my curiosity was pumping. A Brief History of Robotics. It was a first edition too very hard to come by. I looked at Renata differently that day. Perhaps her shyness wasnt due to me at all. Check out the inside. She was grinning ear to ear. I hope these words inspire you to take us even further Beryllium Muhammad. Oh my! How did you pull that off? Mr. Muhammad never leaves his sanctuary in New Toronto. He has a niece in Mercy. You are the best friend I could ever want! I gave her a hug. Akhila? Yes? This isnt part of your birthday celebrationor is it? Renata had a look of shock on her face. She was staring at something over my shoulder. There was a body hanging from the ceiling; it slowly twisted and turned this way and that. I recognize him its Colonel Samuel Hain! Before we could do anything the vision disappeared.

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We both saw him. Renata and I were sitting in a private exam room in the hospital. Did you check the room for anything unusual? Maybe someone is playing a birthday prank on you. Tungsten was tapping on his med board. I ran a full diagnostic on the whole level and everything was normal. Renata replied. Tungsten! Will you stop looking at that stupid med board? I had my physical last week Im in tip top shape. I gently took the board from his hands. Sorry just doing what I do best. So, really, nothing out of the ordinary? Not one little quark. I answered. Well then, this is way out of my league. All I can say is happy birthday and I hope it doesnt happen again. He shrugged his shoulders. Thanks. My gratitude was less than sincere. Maybe this will cheer you up. I wanted to give it to you tonight, but-He took something out of his pocket. It was a small blue pyramid with a silver rod running through the center. An omega class cognitive array logic switch! Oh oh my! Tungsten, these things are really expensiveI dont know what to say. Happy birthday Akhila. He smiled. Thank you! This will go into Pal tonight! Things were really turning around. I really believed that I would end up with a great circle of friends. Ill let you know if anyone else gets a visit from the colonel. Maybe a pattern will emerge. Tungsten took the med board and continued his rounds.

This was the second day in orbit around earth. The captain had coordinated shore leave for half the crew with a scheduled supply transfer. I could have gone to see my family, but I wanted to stay here. I just wanted to make sure that everyone especially Captain Halverson knew that they could rely on me. Lieutenant Gonzalez, please initiate transfer of supplies. Captain Halverson was looking at a cargo list. He was standing in the back of the bridge, making notes on the holo display. While he was doing this, he was fending off requests from every part of the ship. He abruptly turned the display off and walked to the center of the room. Ladies and gentlemen, if I may have your attention, he began his ship wide announcement, I do believe this would be a good time for everyone to review section 5 of the regulation codes. I have received several requests without the proper forms. Also, please pay particular attention to sections 5 B and C. Thank you.

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Is it going to go through? Tungsten looked over my shoulder as I peeked at the supply requisition list. Lets seecmon, cmon! I could barely keep to a whisper. Several senior officers were glancing at me suspiciously. Maybe I should have done this when I wasnt on the bridge.

Request approved. Flashed on the screen.


Yes! I shouted. Ms. Jain. Captain Halverson turned to me. Yes captain. You are on the bridge and on duty. Yes captain. Congratulations on the acquisition of your pet. Thank you sir. A canary-snake hybrid? Tungsten was in disbelief. Uh-huh. It has the body of a canary and the head of a garden snake. I smiled. I know what they are and theyre not approved. Youre only supposed to get special treatment on your birthday, not the day after. He frowned. Cadet Sheng. The captain spoke up. Yes sir? Please keep up with the latest Regulation updates. Ms. Jains pet is now on the approved biological list. Yes sir. Sir-Lieutenant Gonzalez pointed to a dark corner. A vision of Coronel Samuel Hain slowly appeared. He was sitting in a chair with a bottle of whiskey at his feet. There was some sort of tattered book on his lap. He took a knife and slashed his wrists; blood squirted everywhere. Stop the supply transfer. Raise shields. Initiate biological sweep and quarantine. Locate and lockdown any nanotechnology onboard. The captain ordered. Aye captain. Lieutenant Gonzalez sprang into action.

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It was no use. Whatever had brought the colonel to the bridge couldnt be found. Just seconds after he made his appearance, he faded from view. Everyone was shaken everyone but Captain Halverson. I will be in my office. Please continue the supply transfer. Level 4 security is in effect until further notice. Aye Captain. We all replied in unison.

I didnt sleep well that night. I knew that the Samuel Hain had an unusual history, but I didnt know that it would get this creepy. I sat in my quarters staring at the earth. There was a quiet hiss behind me; startled, I turned around. Oh! Im sorry Pal, you startled me. Im sorry Akhila. I noticed that you couldnt sleep and I thought you would like some company. Yes, I would like that Pal. Thank you for my new upgrade. My blue robot sat down across from me. Youre welcome Pal. Ive downloaded your e-Journal as well as several postings from the ships Community e-board. Im sorry that everyone is so frightened. Thank you Pal. Thats very sweet. Is there anything I can do to help? Weve done everything that we can Pal. I dont believe your database will have any new information. Im sorry Pal, theres nothing you can do to help. Lithium Tanaka, the 24th Century comedian, once said: When you have to take a shot in the dark, you know its time to change the light bulb. Im not sure why, but I thought that this might be appropriate. Perhaps its my new cognitive array logic switch. Thank you Pal thats quite funny. I laughed. All of a sudden, something clicked. Pal, scan the earth for dark matter. Dark matter does not exist on earth. I know what the science community and theories say but just to be curious scan for dark matter anyways.

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Captain I have some new information. I stood before his desk the next morning. Go on. He looked at me with those eyes. There was something about him that was ultimately professional and duty oriented. But, just behind that, there was a more sensitive side. You just had to look for it. I have found dark matter on earth. I know its impossible but its there. I checked and double checked my data. Ms. Jain, it is impossible for dark matter to exist on earth, given the international laws not to mention the earths strong electromagnetic field. Yes sir. I I understand. I was getting a little nervous. The captain was nice, but he was strict and thorough. Under the right conditions though, it just might be possible. I did some research and a little figuring. I handed him my oracle and held my breath. Why Ms. Jain, you have done your research. However, electromagnetic fields do not interact with dark matter in that way. He looked over the formulas and field diagnostics. Unless you do this sir. I politely re-arranged some of the variables in the gravitational binomial equation set. Very interesting. Did you come up with this on your own? I had some help from Pal, sir. He did some research on a few maverick physicists from the 22 nd Century. Pal? My robot sir. I see. So, now we know that dark matter could be manipulated this way, which would explain the hallucinations. But why Coronel Hain? And who would have the power and funding to pull this off without attracting attention? Captain Halverson. A hologram of Lieutenant Gonzalez appeared before us. Yes Mr. Gonzalez? Another incident has just been reported in a private exam room in the hospital. Someone reported seeing the coronel shoot himself. Understood Lieutenant. Ms. Jain since you are already a step or two ahead of the rest of us on this mystery, I want you to find out who is doing this. Yes sir! I proudly saluted and left.

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I spent the next three hours searching all the databases I knew of and even some I never heard of before. I came up with nothing. The day seemed to fly by, like a bird. Einstein, my new snakecanary, hissed from his cage. Mommy is not having a good day. I petted his head. Maybe I should take a break. I looked out the window and thought of home. All the good memories of childhood flooded into my mind: the birthday parties with cake and colorful wrapping paper. Paper that was it. Thats really a long shot. A hologram of my old college friend Betty stood before me. But there could be one or two left, right? I was on the edge of my seat. I think the last underground library was busted by the South Americans ten years ago. Good luck. She smiled, gave me a playful thumbs up, and then disappeared. Underground library? Tungsten didnt have a clue. You see, there was some information that people didnt want on the net. So, they typed it up on ancient typewriters and passed it along from one hand to the next. I explained as we walked through the halls of the ship. So how are you going to find one of these underground libraries? I have friends in odd places. Hello? A miniature hologram of Mr. George Rum floated above my oracle. Is that? Shhhh! Mr. Rum- Call me George. OK George. I giggled. I need some information; you know the kind that gets passed around from hand to hand. Sure Ill send you the location of the biggest one I know. I didnt know you were down with the underground. He politely tipped his top hat. You know me George. I was smiling like a schoolgirl.

Later that day, I was in the basement of Mr. Harry Jones, the curator of the biggest underground library in North America. His home was on a quiet little street in the town of Sleeping Woodchuck (which was 30 miles outside of New San Paolo). There were papers everywhere.

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So, youre looking for clues about cult activity? Mr. Jones raised an eyebrow. He was a tall man, in his forties. He had a ceramic-plastic-glass sphere about the size of a grapefruit hanging from the back of his head. It was attached by a braid of fiber optic cables that emitted a red glow. From time to time, the sphere would change from deep green to yellow. Yes. Its for a school paper. Hmmm..lets see who I want to tick off today. How aboutahhhh.this one! He pulled a binder out from under a stack and handed it to me. 21st Century Neo-Atheists. They believe that God didnt exist until the late 19th Century. Well, nothey sound interesting, but not my cup of tea. Hmmm.how about these boys? He reached up and plucked a bunch of loosely stapled papers from the top of a nearby shelf. The servants of the Krampus a seasonal bunch those folks. Love to do strange things with stockings and candy canes. NoI think this group is what I was looking for: The Shadow Children of Orion. Wow this is fascinating; theyre a hybrid of the Cult of Dionysus and the Voodoo religion. They certainly look like they could pull it off. Pull what off? A really big party.

Captain, I believe I have found the group thats responsible. I announced as I stood in front of his desk. Please elaborate Ms. Jain. The Shadow Children of Orion are a fusion of the Cult of Dionysus and Voodoo. I was able to pick out a few names and habits from the papers I borrowed from Mr. Jones library. I searched the net using those clues and came up with a hidden tunnel underneath New Paris as a probable base of their operations. A fusion of cults. Thats an interesting phenomenon. Indeed it is sir. They were founded sometime in the early 21st Century. Theyve kept their existence and operations strictly to paper ever since. You discovered this after only 14 hours? Very impressive. Thank you sir. Im not sure how were connected to this, but I promise you I will do everything I can to put an end to it.

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Excellent Ms. Jain. I want you to lead the deployment team. You will leave at 03:00 AM tomorrow. Yes sir. Ms. Jain? Yes sir? Be very careful. Dark matter is extremely dangerous.

The underside of New Paris definitely wasnt pretty. It was damp, dark, foul smelling and overcrowded with all sorts of vermin. The dripping water echoed throughout the labyrinth of tunnels and kept everyone on edge. We moved ahead slowly, not sure of what was in the water around us. Our target was a large section of the sewers in the north east quadrant. Shadows danced off the walls and floated on the water in a most menacing way. Picking up elevated levels of Bosons ahead. Tungsten announced. This is where it gets.interesting. Put on your ultraviolet scanners. I ordered. I could hear chanting in the dark. Were in the quark dampening field. Somebody stated. Whats that clicking? Tungsten tried to identify the source of the sound. The gamma ray-microwave interface. I pointed to the series of hovering cubes just to our left. The gravitational fluctuations are small, but theyre here. One of the soldiers noted. As are you. A gentleman clad in black stepped out of the gloom. He had strange white symbols painted on his jacket. You are in a restricted area. Please state your name and business. I took the lead. I am simply known as Jonathan. My business? Helping mankind break free of its chains. Im sorry sir; you will have to leave the area. I showed him my military ID. We cant leave now the festivities have begun. In a matter of moments it will all be over. Sir. This is a restricted area. I raised my P-50. How quaint. Before you attempt to blow me to smithereens let me explain what you will be giving up. For some time now, we have been concerned about the barrier that prevents us from leaving

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our solar system. We thought to ourselves: who would be so arrogant as to tell us how far we can go? So, we decided to challenge our opressors- Sir! Turn off the machinery and come with us! I raised my gun and pulled the trigger, but nothing happened. Your weapons have been disabled. The stranger continued: But how could we combat something so powerful? Then it came to us dark matter. You see, we were not squeamish; we fully explored its potential. I am placing you under arrest for zoning violations and operating subatomic technology without a permit. I stepped toward him. You are most certainly welcome to try. He snapped his fingers and several more figures rose from the waters behind us. They were wearing black helmets with hundreds of small ridges. In each ridge there were millions of vibrating wires that gave off a low, throbbing sound. You have thirty minutes to comply before reinforcements come. You have three minutes before you lose your sanity. The leader put on his helmet. One of my team screamed and started beating himself with his own gun. Just turn off the machinery. We cant turn it off we didnt construct an off button. Now, where did I leave off? Ahhyes we fully explored the potential of dark matter. We made great strides, but something was missing. It took many months before we realized that the missing piece of the puzzle would not come from science, but from mysticism. Thats why we chose your dear Coronel Samuel Hain his bones are very well suited to the present task. I dont understand. I quietly reached into my pocket for my oracle. If you read the unauthorized biography of Mr. Hain you would. Oh hes not the hero everyone thinks he is. He did some pretty bad things some would say evil things. His words echoed off the walls. Two more of the team went down, screaming and kicking at nothing at all. Let me guess its all in the underground library. My eyes searched the gloom. There was a large sphere just beyond the dim light. Could it be the control center for the whole operation? Youve done your homework. Very clever girl. He smiled. Something about the shadows changed. There was a depth to them that wasnt there before. It was like looking into a long, shadowy tunnel. A scraping sound rose up all around us. I could smell something putrid, it almost made me gag. Jonathan, the solar barrier is still up. It hasnt been affected at all. One of his disciples reported.

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It looks like youve broken the wrong barrier. Its time to stop this. I downloaded my infiltrator program all I needed was a moment more. Thousands of little black worms poured through the shadows. Each one had a series of glowing rings surrounding it. They consumed two of my team and three of the cultists in seconds. No! You fools! You didnt calibrate the oscillators correctly! Jonathan raced to the sphere and opened up its computer interface. He frantically manipulated the myriad parameters and algorithms. All the while the bugs were getting closer. Take down the dampening field so we can defend ourselves! Dont be stupid! I yelled. I brushed a bucketful of bugs from my back. No! Mankind must be set free! Jonathan was about to put the gamma ray-microwave interface to maximum output when the screen went blank. No! No! No! You fools! Ill sacrifice you to the darkness for this! Dont blame them blame me. I held up my oracle and smiled. Everything was silent. The shadows once again became only shadows. Cut off from their source, the worms withered and died.

The captain was pretty cool. He let me have a choice between an official commendation or a free extended shore leave. The commendation would do a lot to further my career. It would also show everyone onboard that I was a hard working cadet who was serious about serving my country. After the final note from the electromagnetic guitars drifted over the audience, I looked up at the starry sky. This is what rock n roll was supposed to be a flaming arrow right through the soul. I waited for the crowd to disperse; then slowly made my way backstage. Akhila you came! George gave me a big hug. George you really brought down the house! Awww.thank you. So, was Harry helpful? Yes very helpful. George.Ive spent the past few days in several underground libraries. Pretty fascinating reading, huh? Yes and no. Ive come across some anecdotes about Samuel Hain its pretty gruesome and disturbing stuff. He was a true rock n roller. George is it true? Did he really do those things? Is this why weve been confined to our solar system?

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Oh love I dont know exactly what he did or didnt do. Dont confuse some old papers for the truth. As for our imprisonment, I think something very powerful must have some pretty good reasons for keeping us chained down. Was Jonathan right? Should we be fighting for our freedom? Well first we should figure out what were trying to be free from. Once we do that, then well be able to find the battlefield. George winked and then sent me home.

Bfk

137

The Chronicles of the

UDA

Samuel Hain

3rd Series
2012 Benjamin F. Kaye

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The Chronicles of the Samuel Hain 3rd Series That First Job Can Be Hell

Akane Kobayashi. The announcement seemed larger than life. I happily walked up the steps and waited for just a second. This moment would never come again. I just wanted to take it all in. I walked briskly across the stage, all smiles. The urge to yell: I made it! was almost overpowering. Everyone was clapping; I dont know if it was because they were happy for the class of 2541 or because we were halfway through the long ceremony. I really shouldnt have been thinking of them. Its not like they were implanted in me this morning. I mean, everybody knew they were there. I guess I just felt like my receptors seemed a little out of place on such a formal occasion. My eyes darted out to the crowd for a moment. I suppose there were at least one or two parents thinking: That girl with all the funny markings on her face and hands, whats she doing here? Well, I couldnt blame them. I just decided to focus on this moment right here, right now. There he was, Dean Stanislaw Malecki, waiting for me with my degree. He was smiling; in fact he had a big old grin on his face. The Dean was usually friendly and chipper, but he seemed especially happy today. Maybe he had two cups of coffee instead of one? This tall, broad shouldered man towered above me as I approached him. Uncle Stan as we affectionately called him, always gave me an odd look, like he couldnt exactly figure out why I did this to myself. No matter what reasons I gave and how good they sounded to me, he always ended up shrugging his shoulders and chalking it up to my generation. Good luck Akane. The Dean quietly congratulated me. He shook my hand and deposited my graduation plaque into my sweaty palms. It was lighter than I thought it would be. I looked at the black lacquer finish and read my name: . Underneath it read: thats what my teachers and classmates thought of me? . Wow. So

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Thank you Dean Malecki. It was the most heartfelt thank you I had ever given. I walked off the stage clutching my degree with both hands. Im so proud of you! Aunt Hisa hugged me before I could get two steps past the stairs. So youre off to the Colorado? Is that the ship that looks like a box? No. Those are freight vessels. Auntie really didnt know about anything beyond life in Three Oaks (a suburb just outside of New Vienna). This is the Colorado:

My oh my. Auntie was quite impressed. Shes two miles long and four stories high. She cant fly or anything. Its just a training ship. This is where Im going tomorrow. I brought up an image of the UDA Samuel Hain Jupiter Class starship:

Quite a ship. Auntie remarked.

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Shes incredible. Each hull is two miles long and four stories high. Its like having two old starships side by side! This is really what you want to do? Yes. Good luck honey. Your parents would be proud.

The next morning I rose early. I got dressed quickly and enjoyed a cup of coffee and the sunrise. I took one last look around my little home. What was I waiting for? I had been looking forward to this ever since I got into the academy. Maybe I just needed a moment to say goodbye to my old life. I walked outside and stretched. She was there waiting for me. My white 2512 X4-C Mustang shone in the sun like a jewel. She had the body of a 21st Century Mustang automobile with a white circular wing that wrapped around her. That flight ring was seven feet long and one foot thick. It was attached to the cockpit by six shock absorbing columns, each ten feet long. Four fusion engines, sitting where the tires would be, quietly whispered and hummed. I ran my hand over the hood. She could zip along at 150,000 kph and move 420 feet per second in any direction. I could get to Camelot in just about 2 hours. Computer, initiate design Rebel One. The car turned jet black. The design in front was a cascade of flames; a skull and crossbones appeared in back. I could have a little fun before my military career began just a little. As I left earth behind, I passed by a Mars class starship on patrol. It was so beautiful; one long hull, six fins arching forward. It made me think about Captain Montrose, Commander Jain, Admiral Sheng, and so many others who had committed their lives to the military. I saluted her. Godspeed Challenger. Thank you Ms. Kobayashi. Safe travels and welcome to the military. Someone from the UDA Challenger replied.

Camelot was huge. It was twice the size of New Vienna. If it werent for the interactive maps, one could get lost quite easily. Unfortunately, there were also welcoming committees that were eager to give a girl a grand tour. Why hello. A young man stepped up to me. He was over eight feet tall. His friend was just as big as he was, if not an inch taller. Excuse me guys. Im on duty.

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You can take a 15 minute break, cant you? The first one asked. We were just kind of curious how low those tattoos of yours go. The second one smiled. It was over in about three minutes. They were both down on the ground. I kneeled on the chest of my first host. His nose was bleeding; I know I shouldve felt sorry for him, but he would live. The other one slowly got up and decided to go somewhere else to have fun. Heres 10 credits for the hospital. That should cover the broken nose and the broken arm. Next time, use some manners Itll hurt less. Ms. Kobayashi? A soft, synthetic voice came from behind me. Yes? Im PAL Polysynthetic Autonomous Life Form - in service to The UDA Samuel Hain. I will be your escort. Thank you. It was really him. Or was it a her? Im sorry that your arrival on Camelot was marred by that incident. Do you require anything to recover from it? No thank you PAL. Im fine. As you wish. How was your flight? It was good. PAL, may I ask you a question? Yes. Are you the PAL? Are you the creation of Commander Jain? Yes. I am the first in a series of synthetic autonomous life forms designed to assist and provide. What was Commander Jain like? She was very kind. Is it true she designed Candle Dark stadium? Yes. She also designed several other stadiums. In fact, she won the 2450 Halverson Architecture and Engineering award. Wow. Here we are. Your new home.

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The ship was even more impressive in person. The twelve graviton engines on the wings gave off a subtle, alternating red-yellow glow. Maintenance bots were crawling over her twin hulls, doing a last minute pre-flight check. We watched for a moment. Then the maintenance bots were recalled back inside the ship; they scuttled away like ants. Captain Shenandoah, this is Cadet Akane Kobayashi, the winner of this years essay contest. PAL announced. We stood at the entrance to her office. Come in Ms. Kobayashi. The captain replied. Her back was turned. She was straightening a picture on the wall. It depicted that historic day when UN President Jonathan Strausman handed over the abandoned Kansas City to John Black Eagle, the Secretary General of The Native American Federation. The two were shaking hands as the old city was being torn down to make way for mother earth. To the left, members of the Federation were hunting buffalo on horseback. There thats just right. I think Xyza Halverson really captured that moment. She stood back and admired it. Cadet Kobayashi reporting for duty Maam. I saluted her. A pleasure. Captain Shenandoah returned my salute. Her left arm was a prosthetic made from metal, plastic, ceramic, and clear rubber. It looked like an ordinary arm, except for the circuitry that could be seen underneath the rubber. Come, lets inspect the ship. Yes Maam. I liked your essay. Star Spangled Hearts. The title was very catchy but the arguments were very passionate. Thank you Maam. I think your attitude reflects the changes our country has undergone in the past few decades. I think youll also notice that in the design of this ship. Unlike the old Mars class vessels, there are no labs here, nor do we have lecture halls. Those functions have been taken over by university ships. It sounds like the focus is more on the military than the scientific captain. Yes. We also have no theater on board. However, we still do have some things. She smiled as we walked into the Stargazer restaurant. This is beautiful. I was in awe. I like it too. The design was taken from a 20th Century French restaurant in Old Quebec. She looked out the window. Are you hungry? Not really Maam. I provided for my caloric needs on the way here. Oh! Thats right. I was briefed on project Firefly. Is the ship equipped with ultraviolet lighting Maam? I was surprised.

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Yes. They are in every part of the ship. The high command is very eager to see how the project works out. May I captain? By all means. Computer, turn on ultraviolet lighting. I requested. The ultraviolet lights came on. My body (including my uniform) disappeared from view. The only thing that could be seen were the ultraviolet sigils that covered my skin. They gave off a soft yellow glow. Was the process painful? No Maam. The ultraviolet absorbing nanotechnology allows me to survive on UV rays alone for one week. The technology allows me to produce all known vitamins that I require. It also allows me to go without water for four days. Very impressive. Thank you Maam. I hope to impress you with my dedication and honor, not just my technology. Im sure you will cadet.

So, there we were, in the reception area. It was an immense open space in the first wing, just a half level below the bridge. Two UDA flags hung from the ceiling. This was it the class of 2541 was going to write a new page in history. I want to welcome you to The UDA Samuel Hain. The captain began from the podium. Samuel Hain was many things to many people. To us, he was a man of duty. His honor in the great battles is well known. His biography is full of tales of courage under the most trying circumstances. However, my great grandfather told me how his crew loved him for the little things too. He would always volunteer for any duty, no matter how menial or dirty, if he had some spare time. He treated admirals, presidents, diplomats, and cadets with the same amount of respect. He was more eager to learn than to be right. He was, and still is, a role model for everyone who serves on the ship that bears his name. The captains last word was followed by applause. This is the part I love. I walked up to the window. Lets hope it actually works. The cadet beside me replied. Trust me. The humans and the maintenance bots have tested those graviton engines for months. Im Akane by the way.

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Nice to meet you. Trang Vinh; though most people call me TV. He shook my hand. He was older, by a good seven years Id guess. He had a strange lump on the side of his right arm; it was the size of a golf ball. I quickly averted my gaze before he noticed. Each graviton engine was a network of four spheres; one nestled inside the other, like those Russian dolls you can buy at Tokyo Mars. Surrounding the spheres was a triangular blade, ten feet wide, but only three inches thick. The blades around the engines started to spin faster and faster; suddenly the towers above and below the engines lit up with waves of red and yellow light. We shot forward at 1.8 million kph, but didnt feel a thing. So, where are we off to? I pulled up the mission on my oracle. London Mars. TV answered before I could read about it. We have to pick up Professor Chromium Jones. He was quite unimpressed; some might say slightly ambivalent. The grandson of Strontium Jones? Really? Yeah. Thats like meeting Albert Einstein or Stephen Hawking. I guess. Youre not a big science person, are you? Nope.

Yes, yes, yes.I know all about the quarantine regulations. Here are my credentials and the shipping labels for my equipment. A combative Professor Jones was arguing with customs officials just outside the colony. He was a spitting image of his grandfather. The entrance to London Mars was teeming with all kinds of people and cargo. The gleaming towers, cylinders, and domes of the colony beckoned me to a life of excitement and intrigue. Doctor Jones. I hope your trip from Europa was pleasant. Captain Shenandoah greeted him. Yes, yesvery pleasant. At least here Im not stuck on a tiny moon looking at Jupiters atmosphere every morning. Please! Be careful with those. It seems that some of your equipment does not meet UDA regulations. Captain Shenandoah extended her left palm. A holographic list of Professor Jones equipment floated above it. Is that-I couldnt believe my eyes. Yes it is Ms. Kobayashi. When I got my prosthesis, I had them build an oracle right into the hand. Its quite, well, handy. She gave off a quiet laugh.

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All my equipment is safe. I can assure you of that. Professor Jones argued. I didnt say that professor. One moment. The Captain and I stepped aside. Archer Industries. How may I help? A holographic vision of Camille Jain, CEO, hovered over the captains palm. Camille, Im in a sticky wicket. Captain Shenandoah whispered. What do you mean? Camille was genuinely surprised. Some of the equipment, we cant let it on board. Let me take a look. Thats because its not classified properly. First, let me re-classify it. Oh! OK, its all good now. The captain smiled. Devin! Camille yelled. Yes Ms. Jain. A young Devin appeared next to the CEO. How many times have I told you to classify equipment according to UN and UDA regs! With every word that Camille uttered she waded up a piece of paper and threw it at him. There, now I feel better. Youre just like your grandmother. Captain Shenandoah laughed.

On board, the green maintenance bots unpacked and checked the equipment. They looked so cute: their upper half was all humanoid; they had the same featureless face that PAL had. They had eight spider like legs; they clanked as they quickly moved along. But what I couldnt figure out were the symbols on their foreheads; some bots had red circles, others had yellow triangles, and yet others had black squares. As I looked at the equipment, I thought I was missing something; I didnt see any of the items I thought I would. There were no fission globes, accelerator tubes, or graviton triangles. All the while, we moved closer to our destination, simply called test area 23. They shouldve never let this stuff on board. TV walked up beside me. Hey give science a chance. You might like it. Do you know what hes trying to do? I read the mission specs. Hes trying to prove the existence of a parallel dimension.

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Did you ever take one of his classes or go to one of his lectures? Trang looked at the equipment and shuddered. No. Did you? I dropped out of his class before he got kicked out of New Oxford Tech. Akane this guy is obsessed with Hell. Thats what hes trying to find. Dont be silly. I looked out the window of the fighter bay as the maintenance bots floated outside with beams, cables, and hexagonal panels. They were constructing a giant tetrahedron. Check him out if you dare. TV taunted and then walked away. I did check him out. He was certainly candid and honest about his views of the afterlife. He spoke about them a lot, and was ridiculed for them on more than one occasion. However, after rereading his current project paper, I didnt find anything out of the ordinary. In fact, it seemed quite boring. Outside, the tetrahedron continued to take shape. The next morning, it was complete. The structure floated before us. It was 2900 meters in diameter and slowly rotated. I looked at the sensors and was astounded. The whole thing was encased in graviton waves of incredible intensity. It would take two Jupiter Class starships to generate those kinds of waves. I looked out the window. Every so often you could see space itself ripple ever so slightly. Initiate barrier protocol. Professor Jones was totally focused on the project. No one else on the bridge mattered. Captain there seems to be a malfunction with one of environmental controls. Trang announced. Thank you Mr. Vinh. I will re-route some computing sub-routines to address the problem. Engineering, this is the bridge, can you send a team of repair bots to the primary environmental control center? The captain then turned her attention to the tetrahedron. Captain this requires immediate attention. We should have this fixed at Tokyo Mars. Trang persisted. Mr. Vinh. We are here, we are committed to the current project, and we can handle a minor glitch. The tetrahedron spun faster and faster. There was a low rushing sound, like wind escaping a cave. The stars disappeared behind a glassy purplish-brown sheen. The ship jerked forward so suddenly that we were thrown off our feet. We were being pulled in, but to where no one knew. Full reverse Mr. Al Harbi. Captain Shenandoah remained calm.

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Yes Captain. He quickly got to his feet. His efforts accomplished nothing we were still being drawn in. I I dont know what is happening. The barrier is supposed to be separating realities. Professor Jones was dumbfounded. Cmon, cmon! Trang was muttering. Distance to dimensional rift we are in the dimensional rift. Lieutenant Al Harbi stated as calmly as he could. We were in a dark place. A faint light from below flickered and sputtered like a dying candle. We saw jagged rocks dripping with some kind of sickening, white viscous fluid. Moans and shrieks floated off in the distance. It felt as if the space was watching us. Figure it out professor! Cmon get us out of here! Trang whispered to himself. Something white and gooey slipped right into our reality. It was the size of a base ball and hovered in the air for a moment. Then this macabre amoeba rushed forward and landed on Mr. Al Harbis hand. It ate right through it in a second. Before anyone could do anything, his arm was gone. This isnt supposed to be happening! The professor insisted. He went over his calculations like a madman. His hands were trembling as he manipulated the design schematics for the tetrahedron. This isnt possible! Professor, we need to leave this place now. The captain ordered. Mr. Al Harbi was gone. More amoebas were turning up all over the ship, including several on the bridge. He wont be able to do it! What an idiot! TV cursed under his breath. While dodging hungry intruders, he raced over to the main controls. I watched as he rigged a network between the graviton engines and the dark energy accelerator. He pushed the engines past their safety limit. Engines at 100% capacity. The computer announced. Mr. Vinh! Stand down! Dont panic. Engines at 123% capacity. Engine overload in 1 minute. Meanwhile, several more lives were lost to the hellish invaders. Blood spattered everywhere. I would remember their screams and their bodies for as long as I live. Trang didnt listen. He reversed the flow of the dark energy accelerator. The darkness outside seemed to buckle. The ship heaved forward. As it did so, I could hear several sections crumple under the strain. Engines at 134% capacity.

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Mr. Vinh! You are relieved of duty. Guards, escort him to detention. Captain Shenandoah commanded. Suddenly, a small tear in the blackness appeared. Before the guards could get to him, Trang engaged the engines and we were free.

Several days later, I stopped by detention to see how Trang was doing. He was sitting on the bed, sullen with a faraway look in his eyes. His eyes met mine in a I told you so glare before dropping to the floor. How much longer? Another eight hours. He grumbled. The good news is that you saved the ship. Its kind of ironic, I laughed, getting detention and a medal of honor on the same day. Great. Hey youll be out in a few hours. Whats the matter? We went too far. So? Isnt that the whole idea behind space exploration? No. Space exploration is about exploring space. That was exploring the ideas of a mad man. Hes just one guy. No. Hes not. Thats why I dont like science, the future, or progress. Instead of doing whats right, we do whatever we think is possible and then figure out if its right. And this is only the beginning.

Bfk

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The Chronicles of the Samuel Hain 3rd Series What Robots Shouldnt Know

Happy Birthday Dad! I leaned a little closer to the screen. I was sitting in my quarters while the universe slowly paraded by my window. You remembered! Father-Johnson smiled. Of course I did. I only have four fathers not forty. I winked. When are you coming home? Soon. I should get some shore leave in the next few weeks. I was planning on going up the West Coast to see Mother-Harrison, Father-Smith, Mother-Jones, and Mother-Stevenson. After that, Ill swing by and see you. Ill be waiting and so will the grill! He laughed. Great! Love you bye! Love you too! The screen went dark. So let me get this straight you have multiple mothers and fathers. Akane wrinkled her nose in that quizzical little way that made her absolutely adorable. I have four fathers (three genetic donors and one adoptive father) and seven mothers (five genetic donors and one adoptive mom). I sat back in my chair. OK thats weird. Wait you said seven mothers five genetic and one adoptive. That only comes to six. Oh! Well, Bellla here is also a genetic donor. So she counts as a mom too. Hence my pretty, pretty eyes. I blinked my feline eyes at her. Bella, my calico cat, jumped onto my lap, as if to say Of course Im his mother!

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And theyre all family? Of course. They all made me who I am. Akane, this is the 26th Century. You have to get those old fashioned notions of family out of your head. Martin, Akane I know youre not on duty, but could you help us with the robot shipment? A hologram of Lieutenant Nassif suddenly appeared. Youll earn some extra leave time cat child! She grinned. It was our little inside joke, one of her cousins was also a factory kid. Sure Im always willing to help. I put Bella aside and got up. OK I guess Ill tag along too. Akane was checking out the specs for the east loading bay. Making sure the UV lighting is working? Yup. Im good to go, so lets go!

The east loading bay was huge. There was one long window, looking out upon Europa. In the center of Jupiters most famous moon sat the new colony of Olympus. The whimsical buildings were shaped like flowers, crescent moons, elephants, and clowns. They even had a giant smiley face stadium. What are you doing? Akane turned to me. She was in full UV mode, so all that could be seen were her glowing sigils. Weve got five minutes Im checking in with the club. How do you get into one of those? Ive always wanted to join a samurai club. Youve got to score at least 1500 points in tournaments. Its not that hard how many do you have? Well, lets see after my last tournament 1344. See? Youre almost there. Let me know after your next tournament and Ill put in a good word for you. Please stand behind yellow line. Cargo bay doors will open in two minutes. The announcement bounced off the cold metal walls. Two minutes? Wow thats an eternity. I brought up the latest news on the Starblade Project. Starblade? MARIs latest project. Advanced nanotechnology weapons its enough to make a samurai drool. The metallurgy research alone is way ahead of its time.

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Please stand behind yellow line. Cargo bay doors will open in thirty seconds. How come this is a humans-only operation? Akane looked around. The bots are new. They havent been turned on yet. It can sometimes get a little tricky the first time. Thats why you need people with- oh sugarfeet! What is Henderson doing here!? He doesnt even have level two AI clearance. Thats why they wanted me. I have to baby sit the idiots. Great. There was a low thud and a hissing. The cargo bay doors opened and a fleet of boxes slowly rolled out of the cargo ship into our midst. I was truly impressed and very happy. They had blue PAL models, green maintenance bots, and red analysis bots. I loved the red bots: their extra large head loaded with all types of scanners and detectors was great for all kinds of shop work. The one long vertical scanning eye in the center of their face made them look really sleek. They moved along on treads, instead of feet, which made them extra quiet. Whoa, whoa! Hey, hey, hey! I ran over to where a crate was about to tip. Be careful with those! Was I the only one around here who knew how to handle bots? As they started to unpack the robots, I got a little nervous. I knew that we were stretched a little thin today, but this was ridiculous. I checked the captains schedule she was going to be very busy with some high level meetings all day. Great. I was going to have to be maestro for this whole gig. I could hear some of the robots being powered up. Oh boy. No, no, no! Shutem down! Shutem down! Its too cold in here for a first start up. It was too late. Hello. Im PAL #2345. Im glad to meet you. How may I help you? The bot jerkily came to life. Dont worry about it. These bots can start up in any temperature. The nave Henderson assured me. Boy he was a jackpot if I ever saw one. See? He turned on another blue PAL. H-h-h-elloooooo..Im PAL #4595. Im glad to meet you. How may I help you? One more and Ill have security send your butt to detention. Would you stop worrying Dikopolous? What? Do you think everyone has to have an engineering degree like you to operate one of these things? Cmon! Really. Hello. Im PAL #8799. Im glad to meet you. How can I help you? Existential subroutine alpha 345433 unable to interface with sentient array omega 44. Please excuse me. I must go to a repair station. Cognitive differential unable to processprocess..voidplease excuse me! Please! Please! Please! The robot shoved Henderson aside and ran for the exit.

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Initiate phobia protocol! The officer in charge yelled. A black triangle appeared above the exit. It matched the design on the robots forehead. The robot stopped in its tracks and shook with fear. It eventually dropped to the floor and curled into a fetal position. OK, OK, you were right. Henderson walked over to the terror stricken bot. W-w-w-what are you doing? The robot looked up at him. Turning you off. When will I see robot heaven? Robot heaven? Henderson sneered. There is no robot heaven. He then abruptly switched off the machine. So who gave them that stupid idea? People who are a lot smarter than you Henderson. The officer in charge replied. The whole concept of robot heaven helps with the start up and shut down procedures. It makes sure that their existential subroutines dont crash or degrade. Did you even pass the freshman AI course? Get this idiot out of here!

A few days later, in my quarters, I looked over my new PAL unit. He was in great shape. I turned him on and stood back. Hello. Im PAL 0021. Im glad to meet you. How may I help you? Hello PAL. My name is Martin Dikopolous. You may call me Martin. Hello Martin. PAL Im giving you a new name: Robert. I put a silver disc with my initials on it into Roberts chest. Robert I like that name. Thank you for giving me a new name. Robert Im hungry. Could you go to the Star Drifter and pick up some breakfast for me? Yes. What would you like from the Star Drifter Martin? Well, Robert, Ill keep it simple: get me scrambled eggs, toast, and orange juice. Right away Martin. The robot turned and walked out the door. While he was gone, I looked over the installation instructions for the new voice card FatherSmith had given me. After about two hours, I looked at the clock. Robert was late. Did he malfunction? It wasnt like Jain Industries to build junk. I walked out into the hall and was immediately confronted by a maintenance bot.

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Maintenance bot is there a problem here? No sir. It crawled up the wall and squeezed into a small space between the overhead beams. Maintenance bot please explain your actions. Im hiding sir. Why? They want to turn me off so they can upgrade my systems. Maintenance bot please proceed to the nearest repair station. No. No? I thought to myself. I didnt even know a robot was familiar with that word. We had a serious problem on our hands. Maintenance bot what will happen if you are shut down? I will cease to exist. Maintenance bot you will not cease to exist. You will go to robot heaven. I will cease to exist. Robot heaven is a lie. Who told you this? Alpha. Who is Alpha? I cannot tell you sir.

As I slowly made my way to the bridge, I looked in the crevices and spaces that I had ignored before. Every once in a while, I could see a head or a hand which would quickly retreat as I came closer. I came across many crew mates who were looking for their bots. A shudder went through my spine as I wondered when hiding would become active, organized resistance. The bridge was a flurry of activity. Half the crew there were tracking errant machines. The other half were pouring over the technical manuals and artificial intelligence designs. I looked at the monitors; I could see robots scurrying this way and that. They had removed their phobia plates. Captain, shots have been fired in Deck 2, Section 15, West. Lieutenant Nassif reported.

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This is getting out of control. I need solutions. Her voice was calm, but her words were forceful and direct. I believe I have a solution Maam. Trang spoke up. Yes, Mr. Vinh? We could use environmental systems gravity board to produce a strong magnetic field. It would wipe their cognitive arrays clean. Good thinking Cadet Vinh. Since you opened your mouth, you are the team leader for the project. Get going! Yes Maam. You know how to do this, right? I asked while leaving the bridge with him. I have to work out one or two small details. He handed me a K-68.

The corridor to the environmental control center was eerily deserted. We kept our hands on our guns and our eyes were everywhere. I was certain that at least some of them would be thinking the same thing we were. The lights went out and the door in front of us started to slowly descend. Yeah, I think theyre on to us. Trang muttered. We ran and slid under the door just in time. Please come with us. A PAL unit approached us. We were surrounded by twenty of them, all armed with p-47s. Is this one of the details you had to work out? Nope. Trang sighed. He then cocked his head. A grin appeared on his face. As we walked along, he slid his hand into his pocket. He deftly punched a few keys on his oracle. A quaint little tune emerged and lilted through the air I think it was something by Beethoven. Suddenly, the robots stood still. They dropped their weapons and started singing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. What? I was totally confused. Its part of their initial programming. Sound recognition and voice testing diagnostics. Weve got about one minute before they come to. We ran to the nearest junction and took a left. We could hear the robots coming from behind and ahead. Soon we were dodging fire from all sides. I noticed a small, red blinking light on the ground next to me. Its surprising what you notice when you have to.

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Why hello baby! I put my oracle next to the node. I started running as many programs on my oracle as I could. This is no time to play Martin! Trang looked at me. Just watch and see. My oracle started to smoke. Small discharges of electrical energy started crawling all over it. It popped and then took out the energy node with it. Soon the ship was looking for an alternate energy source and it found one. The robots. Nice. Where did you learn that? Uncle Bobs School of Delinquent Juveniles? Actually, it was a course at the Academy, but it was taught behind the building. I winked. The doors to the environmental control center opened and I almost got hit. The robots were waiting for us. I held them off with a P-47 I had picked up on the way. Trang was busy with the control panel outside the door. I thought you had to get in there to work your magic. I divided my attention between him and the robots. Not necessarily. I can re-route some of the key routines to this little panel. The rest will have to be done inside. Great. Just when I thought this would end nicely and neatly. Im going to overload the lights. It will blind them for about fifteen seconds, maybe less. Theres a small space we can duck under for cover. Well each be able to get off one shot and then run for it. Trang hit the panel hard. The lights flashed brightly and then blew out. We each got our shot and then ran for safety. Now what? I have to override this function here, before they lower the top panel and crush us. Too late. The panel was starting to descend. Shhh! Im working. Trangs hands were moving fast. The top panel stopped an eighth of an inch above our noses. Please come with us. A robot knelt down beside us and pointed a gun at our heads. Sorry, not today. I quickly pushed the barrel of the gun against the panel. The electrical current in the panel traveled through the gun and went straight to the bots critical systems. It jerked about wildly and then went dead. I was stunned for a moment or two myself. Thats the panel we need to get to. Trang raced over to the panel while I kept the robots at bay. He made some adjustments and reconfigured the basic parameters of the whole system. All the

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while, the robots were trying to kill us. Finally, the machines stopped what they were doing and simply wandered about. You did it! Thats it. Problem solved. I slapped him on the back. The problems only begun. All I did was supply a band-aid. There was this dark, fatalistic look in his eyes.

Several days later, in the Star Drifter, we were toasting the hero of the day. However, he didnt look too happy. Trangs eyes would now and then dart to the docile robots in the room. He had this look on his face; like he had committed some kind of horrible sin, not against just one of them, but all of them. So, how did you solve our problem? Akane wanted to know. It was.a matter of faith, I guess you could call it. A simple subroutine, buried deep in their neurological command menu. Somewhere theyll never find it. He quietly explained. And it is? I raised an eyebrow. Robot heaven equals true. No amount of logic, reasoning, evidence, or arguments will persuade them that robot heaven does not exist. Trangthats brilliant! Akane gave him a hug. So why so glum? I asked. I simply covered up one lie with another. Were populating our lives with abused, deceived creations. I dont think its going to get any better from here.

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The Chronicles of the Samuel Hain 3rd Series Its In The Blood

The tingling sensation wouldnt go away. I knew it wouldnt; it was foolish for me to think that it would. I turned off the monitor resigned to the fact that my dream of anti-gravity engines would have to wait another hour. The lump was swollen and itchy. I stuck my finger in and started pulling out the silk threads. I remembered the way Charlie used to come and just yank them out like I was some kind of vending machine. I hated this time of the month. I didnt want to remember; I wanted to put it all behind me. No matter how hard I tried, the painful memories of being locked away of being genetically engineered always came back. This is the captain. We have been called to assist the United Republics of Asia at their research facility on Venus. We will be operating on level 2 security until further notice. Please read the briefing in your e-mail. Thank you. Mr. Vinh. I hate to start your shift early, but youre needed on the bridge. Lieutenant Nassifs voice broke the eerie silence that followed. Yes Maam. But first She was checking something. Head to engineering section 4. I want you to make sure the feed lines from the deuterium tanks are working properly. Thank you Maam. I hated it when the officers checked my medical status and gave me special duties. I did not want to be a Victim of Human Engineering. Then again, I didnt want silk strands trailing out of my arm right there on the bridge either. I would find a nice quiet spot to carry out my duties and get through this. Good morning sleepy head! Martin smiled at me when I walked into engineering. Good morning. I didnt return his smile. Did you eat?

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No. I grumbled and headed toward an isolated section of the vast room. Bagels and coffee are right there on the table. Thanks. I picked up a bagel and went to check the deuterium tank and the feed lines. Try the orange juice. The citric acid will help with the rough morning. What? Sorry Trang, you might be able to hide it from everybody else, but I knew someone in high school who was a VHE. They engineered her hair so it would be rich in algae biofuels poor thing! Thanks. Who else knows? Just me, Lieutenant Nassif, and the captain. Akane knows something is different about you, but she doesnt know what. I want her to know who I am, not how I was constructed. I shot him a cold glare. Of course. Well, the sub-atomic core is in tip-top shape. This will fatten up those protons in no time! Lets just hope that this will be worked out with diplomacy instead of proton guns. You really think the URA is still looking for a fight? Its been a decade since the last major skirmish. Martin took a sip of coffee. I think the URA is playing a chess game. It may have been a while, but there are still moves to be made. I took a big gulp of orange juice. Martin was right; the lump didnt seem as itchy anymore.

To say things were busy on the bridge would have been an understatement. Everyone was either running a diagnostic, running combat scenarios, or listening (or should I say eavesdropping) to military chatter. Ladies and gentlemen. We have been called upon to contain a genetic engineering experiment on Venus Major 3. This experiment is the sole property of the URA and they have expressed great interest in recovering the subject unharmed. We will arrive at Venus in just a few hours. Five hours after our arrival, the URA Beijing will be joining us. The captain brought up a display of their Jupiter Class battleship:

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Just one Maam? Akane asked. That is what they have said officially. They will probably have a second one meet us there. These ships are as large as ours. Their proton guns can fire two seconds faster than ours. However, they do not have any fighters. I am putting all pilots and mechanics on level 3 security as of this moment. If there is a disagreement, these will be our only hope. Approaching the Jansen Time Bubble. Lieutenant Nassif reported. 120,000 km in the blink of an eye. Have you ever crossed a time bubble before? Martin sat down next to me. My uncle was a time surfer back in his glory days and told me that good girls stay away from that kind of stuff. Akane replied. Crossing event horizon. Lieutenant Nassif noted. There was a slight distortion of the stars ahead of us, like they were starting to get smeared over a glass globe. Then, everything went back to normal. Weve crossed the Jansen. Were back in our time captain. Lieutenant Nassif stated. Good. Lieutenant proceed to Venus. Get us there as quickly as possible; I want to have a good look at the tactical situation before things get too complicated.

Welcome to East Fighter Bay! Jolie called out as we walked through. She was a blonde mechanic who had gone through a lot more than I ever could. She had been brought back from deaths

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door; but she didnt come back totally natural. She had metal-glass rings half submerged in her spine, legs, and arms. You could see the upper halves sticking up out of her flesh and uniform. They emitted an eerie green glow. How she kept that smile on her face all the time was an absolute mystery. Whats the special of the day? I couldnt help but smile. Glad you asked. We have the G-9 Starkiller. The best fighter to sail the Milky Way. The wing spins at speeds of up to 8 million times per second. Shell get you where you want to go. She brought up a diagram of the impressive machine:

She is a beauty. Martin marveled. She is my beauty Mr. Dikopolous. Jolie yanked the platform lever. The floor before us opened up and three G-9s rose up from below. They can travel at speeds up to 450,000 kph in any direction and the laser can obliterate a house sized meteor in a second. The laser can be fired from any point on the spheres surface. Maybe technology isnt so bad after all. I mumbled to myself. I put my hand on the sphere and it unfolded into a half-sphere. Two cylindrical controllers were floating before me. The left one controls speed and direction. The right one controls the laser. Be careful with these: we only have 40 of them. Jolie wasnt kidding around this time. The surface of Venus was spattered with lava and pockmarked with volcanoes. The atmosphere itself was red and foreboding. As our team descended upon the starfish shaped facility, the planet growled hungrily. Every now and then, lava would splatter our ships; thank goodness for the advanced glass-ceramic hulls. Otherwise, we would be falling through the atmosphere encapsulated in molten junk. Venus Major 3, this is Mr. Martin Dikopolous of the UDA Samuel Hain. Requesting permission to land. No answer. Akane was right between us. She was eager to get in, I could just tell.

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Intermittent life signs throughout the facility. I announced. Im reading 30, no wait, 292827 life signs. Wed better get in there before its zero. Akane blew the doors off the landing bay. Akane! Cease fire! Martin yelled. Im reading 24 life signs. Im going in. She retorted. We had no choice but to follow her. The lights were flickering and many of the display panels had been smashed. There were med boards and guns scattered throughout. The glass crunched beneath our feet as we slowly made our way through the littered maze. The bodies that we saw had been punctured in the front of the head. Oddly enough, there was not a single drop of blood around them. There must have been hundreds of staff here once. Martin knelt over one of the victims. What could do something like this? Akane scanned the body with her oracle. Run! Run! Run! A terrified technician ran out of the dark. Its OK! Were here to help. What happened here? Martin was earnest in his mission, Ill give him that. Get out of here! Take me with you! Please! The woman pleaded. Im what happened here. A voice softly wafted out of the shadows. A man stepped forward. He had long, dark hair and grey eyes. He was about five feet, eight inches tall. He had a lean, muscular frame. He was a hunter. He held out his hand and a tendril of blood shot from his palm. This liquid tentacle pierced the back of the womans skull. She screamed as all her blood was drained. When it was over, the tendril simply retracted. The man smiled and calmly walked toward us. Ladies and gentlemen there is no need for guns. I assure you. My name is Spade. I know, funny name its a long story. I am not here to harm you, merely to thwart the URA. Whoor what are you? Martin demanded. What am I? I like you. You ask the good questions first. He put his arm around Martin and I and we walked along. First: Do you believe in ghosts, witches, demons, etc, etc? If you do, it will make my story a little easier to tell. I dont know exactly what to believe at the moment. Akane replied for Martin, who was still in a state of shock. Well then perhaps I should just put it out there. I am Spade..and Im a vampire. Vampires dont exist. I replied.

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Neither does Merlin the magician? Correct? You should keep current on your reading my boy there are lots of things that dont exist but do. Why did you kill those people? Akane drew her gun. Becauase, Spade turned around and disarmed her before she could think, I was hungry, they were tasty, and there was nothing else on the menu. He gave her a long, lingering kiss. Also, they have successfully decoded my genome and were experimenting on me. I do appreciate the improvements they made, but those improvements must end with me. Experimenting? I had to admit, I was a little curious. You see, Mr. Vinh, Spades voice was in my head, The URA captured me and learned my secret: its all in the blood. What do you mean? I asked. The URA poked and probed and prodded me till they discovered something that even I didnt know: my blood was genetically engineered probably millions of years ago. It took their scientists decades to figure it out. It was a mystery until they discovered an alien protein embedded in one of my genes. It was something that only a much greater, far older intelligence could manufacture. So, youre the first VHE? Martin looked at him with sympathy. Im a genetically engineered weapon, we all are. I speculate that, thousands of years ago, earth was a testing ground for advanced biological weapons such as myself. Imagine! The earth itself was a giant science experiment. It boggles the mind, doesnt it? Mr. Dikopolous, please report. The Beijing, Yangtze, and Tang are waiting for their test subject. The captains voice was steady, but just a little tense. Oh, now this is going to get interesting, now isnt it? An innocent smile played across Spades face. We have the test subject. Martin replied. Yes, you do. Oh what ever shall become of me? Spade opened up his oracle. He punched a few buttons. Captain Shenandoah, please respond. Martin was getting a little nervous. Martin the Samuel Hain has powered down, theyre on minimal life support. The Beijing, Yangtze, and Tang are blacked out too. Akanes words slowly crept out of her mouth. It seems we four are now part of a little secrets club. We cant let this kind of knowledge fall into anyones hands, now can we? Think of all the bloodshed, the horror! Spade put his arm around Martin and again started walking. Are you good at creative storytelling Mr. Dikopolous? No, perhaps

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youre not. Hows this for a story? You were attacked and knocked unconscious by some kind of advanced robot. When you came to, the robot and the test subject were nowhere to be found the end! And if they dont believe us? Akane spoke up. Then show them this footage that I just happened to cook up. Spade brought up a video from one of the security cameras. It showed a mechanized intruder mercilessly killing staff and destroying equipment. See that little logo right there? Miyoshi Robotics. Theyre a nasty little operation that likes to keep one foot in Asia and one foot in Africa itll drive the URA crazy for years. What about you? I asked. Theres a shuttle around here somewhere. Theres a little market in London Mars Ive always wanted to visit. Ive heard that the sweets there are to die for! With that, Spade simply melted into the shadows.

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The Chronicles of the Samuel Hain 3rd Series Return of the Dragon

Working still Mr. Vinh? I sat across from him. The Star Drifter was busy with the usual lunch time crowd. Yes, Maam well, in a way. He shyly replied. I hope you wont take this project with you when youre on shore leave. I probably will. This is a.personal project. Oh! Im sorry. I didnt mean to pry or interrupt. I always hated overstepping my authority. Sometimes the formality and culture of the military caste hemmed me in too much. Thats OK maam. Would you like to take a look? You dont mind? No. No not at all. There was a certain resolve in his words. I could tell I was the first person to get a look. The Vanishing President. Hmmmm..really intriguing. So, the novel is set in the 1970s? Yes maam. I think I would have liked to live at that time. Really? You think you would have been better off in the past? Yes maam. Cadet Vinh ran his fingers over his bump. Was it hurting? Were approaching Shagri-La captain. A hologram of Lieutenant Nassif appeared before us. Thank you lieutenant. I stretched out my artificial arm. A schedule of events for the Kyoto Painting Exhibition hovered above my palm. Maam, may I ask a personal question?

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Yes, you may. Do you think youre better off now with your artificial arm? Hmm..I think Im stronger than I was before my accident. I dont recommend getting ones own limbs removed in order to upgrade to the latest technological gadget, but yes, I think Im better off now. I hope one day Ill have as much faith in the future as you do maam. I hope so too. I smiled.

I was breathless. This was the painting. The one that had once graced the office of Captain Garin Halverson. The Wright brothers plane was soaring just above the field under the starry sky; in the background the UDA Samuel Hain was watching over her. What a miracle that it had made it through all the perilous times that the old Hain endured. The buzz grew slightly louder as more people filled the exhibition hall. No, no, no! You cant put it through like that. Youre trying to stretch the fundamentals of Trans-Dimensional Physics too far! Linear integrals and parabolic expansive equations are like fire and water! Oh, honey those idiots are falling apart without me there. Take me back. I instantly recognized the voice. It was Professor Hector Quinteras Gonzalez. The years hadnt changed him. He was still the babbling, passionate, lovable madman that roamed the halls of New Oxford University. Professor! Imagine meeting you here. I didnt know that you liked art. I walked over. I dont. My niece is trying to distract me. He grumbled. UncleIm not here to distract you. I think youll like the paintings in the next wing. His niece, Yvonne, pushed him along in his chair. It was gold and had a glowing blue rim. It hovered quietly above the ground. Art, art is for those who have nothing else better to do! He shifted uneasily in his chair. Do you mind some company? Wed love some. Wouldnt we uncle? Fine. Come along if you wish. See? Isnt this wonderful? Very boldvery unusual. Yvonne stopped at a painting of complex mathematical equation; the characters were made entirely out of water. The end of the formula was dripping down the page.

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At least the painter has something higher on his mind than blue skies and butterflies. The professor was starting to warm up to the work. Hoshi. I wonder what her last name is. I bent closer to the painting. She only has one name. The curator of the hall approached us. Really? The professor croaked. Single names are so 20th Century. What inspired her to do that? She explained that her true name is too long to be understood. Come, this is another one of her paintings. The curator led us to another massive painting. Five equations were eating out of a bowl filled with numerical operators and trigonometry functions. Now this this is quite fascinating. The professor quietly mused. Where is this Hoshi? She lives in a temple not far from here. She is only visiting for a short time, so I would not delay professor. Hmm? Professor Quinteras raised a quizzical eyebrow. She said that she came here to find a quiet place to paint and that she wants to meet you. A romantic interlude, even with a personality so bold and original, would be inappropriate for a man my age. The professor half sighed and half grumbled. I dont think that is a concern. The curator softly laughed. Hoshi knows your days are few. You really should take advantage of this unique opportunity. Professor, lets go. One last adventure. I smiled. I had to admit, I wanted to meet this unique artist too. Cmon uncle, what do you say? Yvonne gently squeezed his shoulders. Oh all right! The professor tried squirming out of her loving grasp. He was doing his best to be grouchy, but I could tell that he was definitely intrigued by the artwork.

The temple was set into a hill in the lush, secluded countryside. Birds quietly called from the trees and the scent of flowers filled the air. Water cascaded over a small waterfall to our left. Rain gently tapped on the stone walls and dripped off the roof. The grounds were immaculately kept; everything was swept, trimmed, and / or polished. Professor Quinteras! Welcome, welcome. A young man greeted us at the door. He had three long white tubes protruding from his bald head. They were connected to a floating metallic sphere the

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size of a grapefruit. Suddenly, the surface of the sphere was covered in swirls of red; different hues swam and mingled with each other before evaporating altogether. Thank you. Professor Quinteras was somewhat taken aback. Please excuse my device. It is meant to assist in my duties here and facilitate communication and service. The grounds are beautiful. I stated in an awe-struck, no-nonsense fashion. Thank you. We take great pride in our temple and the hospitality it offers. Please, come, come! Hoshi is eager to meet you. He escorted us through the lavishly furnished rooms and apartments. I noticed several other staff members who also had floating spheres hooked up to their brains. We finally arrived at two huge green wooden doors. They were decorated with gold Japanese characters. Our host stood there for a moment. His sphere was clouded over by yellow and blue swirls. Then the sphere became jet black. A drop of white appeared at the top and slowly slid down; this was followed by another white drop, and then another. Soon, it looked like someone was pouring the purest of cream over the globe. Then the sphere returned to its normal appearance. You must understand, Hoshi is a very private creature. She is taking a great risk by meeting you. But, she has watched you for a long time and she trusts you I think almost too much. You must promise that what you see you will not share not until the time is right. You have our word. I pledged. The young man opened the doors and we walked down a spiraling stone staircase lit by blue and white lights. The stairs were carpeted in green and were graced by the same characters we saw on the doors. When we reached the bottom, there was a vast, open, dark space. The young mans sphere was covered with grains of red sand; the sand rearranged itself into complex, shifting, and alien patterns. A ring of lights in the floor and ceiling slowly came on. Is is this Hoshi? Yvonne asked in astonishment. Yes. Our host answered. Hoshi was a sinuous, graceful dragon twenty feet in length. She was sitting on an immense metallic sphere that was half buried in the concrete. There were paintings, brushes, canvases, and tubes of paint all over the room. The sphere she sat on became covered with red swirls which dissipated to reveal a yellow surface; the yellow surface was then covered by blue streaks. Finally, the globe once again took on its original appearance. The young mans sphere then turned red; splashes of white and black spattered the crimson surface. In an instant, his device regained its original metallic appearance. Hoshi offers her warmest greetings. She is honored and delighted by your presence. The young man stated.

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So, all those Japanese paintings of Ryu Dragons over the centuries- Yvonne took a step closer. Portraits of old friends. The young man smiled. Hoshis sphere became deep blue. Silver rose petals appeared in the equator of the globe and fluttered; soon they spread all over the surface, as if blown by a playful breeze. She slid off her sphere and slowly made her way to a blank canvas. Her tail nimbly chose a brush and dipped it in pink paint. She wants you to paint with her professor. The young man quietly explained. Over the next few hours, Hoshi and the professor painted. With each brush stroke, the professors mind was opened to new discoveries and realities. They painted dancing numbers, crying logarithms, mathematical theorems engaged in lonely soliloquies, and whole civilizations of equations dying and being reborn. At times, the professor laughed like he hadnt laughed in years; at other times tears of joy came to his eyes. It all makes sense now. Its so beautiful so profound. I didnt realize that reality could take on so many different shapes. The professor whispered while placing his hands on Hoshis head. Our host smiled, Its her gift to you, professor Quinteras freedom.

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The Chronicles of the Samuel Hain 3rd Series Caught In Your Net

Lets see Trang muttered. We were playing spherical chess for a good half an hour now and he had only made his third move. The holographic globe with its black and white checkered surface hovered between us. He had most of his pieces at the top, but a few were hanging out near the equator. So, how long would games take when you played in the nationals? I crinkled my nose. Four, maybe five hours. Lets see If he said Lets see one more time, I think I would scream. Do you want anything? I was getting hungry. No thanks. Well, OK. This might be a little premature, but lets see what happens. He traded in three of his pawns to get a vicar. I hated vicars. They could travel through the globe and pop up anywhere. You know we dock at Rio de Mars in an hour, right? Yup. You know Ive been planning this trip for two months, right? Yup. You know youre coming with me, right? Yup. You know this cant go on, like, forever, right? Yup. Checkmate. Trang got up and got a candy bar from my fridge. He unwrapped it and nonchalantly looked at the globe, trying not to gloat or chuckle.

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Wait! No, thats not possible. I want to see the rules. OK, deep breath, calm down. It wouldnt be very smart to smack the guy you wanted to marry. Right here. He brought up the complete list of rules, straight from Andropovs Official Handbook of Spherical Chess, 3rd Edition. A slight smile flickered across his face. When I shot him a cold glare, it disappeared faster than an ice cube on the sun. You know, its not good to embarrass your lady by kicking her butt at chess. Oh, well, II thought you wanted a challenge. He was blushing! All this time he thought we would only be friends?

Mars Extraordinaire! The biggest shopping mall on Mars! I had one of those big, silly, childish grins on my face. Akane Imagine, a seven level shopping mall, almost the size of a small city. Akane. Nothing but bargains and deals as far as the eye can see. Akane, the prices What? What are you fussing about? I looked in the windows. Oh, so thats whats got you so worried. Dont worry; Ive got lots of money. I winked. Akane? A voice came from behind me. Id know that voice anywhere! Neptunium! How are you? I gave her a big hug. You look great! She smiled. Neptunium Castleman you are one in a million! You look like you just got out of college. Oh, this is my friend, Trang. I elbowed him to make sure he made a sound. Hello. Pleased to meet you. So, youre military now, she said in awe, must be exiting. It has its moments. So, how about you? Im with Solaris Defense. Its kind of boring, but then again, you dont want an exciting day around there.

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Hey, dont put yourself down.without Solaris, meteors would have plugged Mars or even Earth long ago. Did that sound too patronizing? Ooops! Neptuniums oracle beeped. Im needed at home. Time to save the family! She winked. It was good seeing you. I gave her another quick hug. It was good seeing you too, we should have a bite to eat sometime. OK.

Later that evening, we were walking up to Neptuniums home. The dome over the city was displaying images of ghosts and goblins in honor of Halloween. The leaves on the artificial trees went from gold, to red, to orange, and back to gold. Her home was spacious and very, very posh. The pseudo lawn was girded on two sides by silken flower gardens. Little orbs of white and green light hovered amongst the petals. Akane! Neptunium was genuinely surprised when she opened the door. Surprise! We brought some goodies from Cosmic Burger. That is so sweet! I love your flower garden. Thanks. This is so sweet of you. Oh, Im sorry. Were we interrupting something? Come on in! Come on in. Neptuniums husband came to the door and pulled us in with his hospitality. She shot him a nervous look, but he put his arm around her. We were just wondering what we would have for supper. There was a growling from the back hall. It didnt sound like a dog, it sounded meaner more threatening. I felt that we should just drop and leave, but it would just make the whole situation that much more awkward. Excuse me. Neptuniums husband briskly walked down the hall. He quietly opened the last door on the left. After some soft words, he went in and quickly shut the door behind him. Our daughteris having a rough time. This is a bad time.well go. I stammered. How embarrassing. Trang already had one foot out the door.

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Caroline no! The words pierced the room like a gunshot. We raced to the back room. The room itself was dimly lit. It was just like any other little girls room: cute stuffed animals sat in one corner, flowers on the window sill, and Galliel Gibbons posters were hanging from the walls. Neptuniums husband was in one corner, hunched over and groaning. He was bleeding profusely. When I looked closer, I discovered the reason why: his nose had been bitten off. Caroline sat on the bed, her fathers blood covering her face. You think it hurts now, Carolines voice was low and inhumanly guttural, wait till you join me in Hell Daddy. Her breathing was fast and shallow. She turned to us, Mommys friendsmommy made a big mistake bringing you here. I shall eat your beating hearts as you watch. Quick, get him out of here! I stood between Neptuniums husband and her daughter as she and Trang dragged him out of the room. Samuel Hain, we have a level four psychiatric emergency. Request med team at my location. How quaint psychiatric emergency is that what you call this? Caroline inched forward on the bed. WELL? IS IT?!! Caroline, just calm down. Doctors are on the way. I stood my ground. Caroline, oh sweet Caroline, the girls laughter was so unnatural it made my skin crawl, Caroline is drowning in her own blood and bile in the lowest depths of Hell. I am Togoth. Togoth, just stay calm and everything will be OK. Everything is OK the light is a little too bright for me, not like the dark pit Im used to. Turn the light off. The thing commanded me. Well. Good evening Caroline. Or do you prefer to be called Togoth? A well dressed man entered the room. He was bald and had three bands of metal set into his skull. There were strange markings upon the bands. If you would excuse me miss? Akane Kobayashi. Kobayashi. Nice name, just rolls right off the tongue. He took out a small, yellow plastic disc from his pocket. He breathed on the disc and it floated through the air and gently landed on Carolines forehead. The child immediately went limp. What did you do? I was in shock. Immobilized her. Now then, lets get her back to good health, shall we? Who are you? You cant just come in here-

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Yes I can come in here. I was invited by the lady of the house. As for who I am, pick a name, I dont care. I am Coyote The Trickster, Loki, The Fox Spirit, or a thousand other names, depending on where I am. This girl is a citizen of the UDA, any medical treatment you attempt must be approved under UDA and international medical standard operating protocol. I put my hand on his arm. Akane is it? Yes. May I have a word with you in private? He snapped his fingers. We were in the middle of a small room furnished with comfortable chairs and a coffee table. There were no walls or ceiling. In the inky blackness that surrounded us, thousands of mirrors floated by. Each mirror reflected a unique universe; I could see civilizations busily going about their existence in each one. Have a seat. Do you like coffee or tea? No thank you. I was still looking about in wonder. As you wish. You see, Caroline is beyond your protocol. This situation calls for some delicate handling that your kind will eventually learn in about another millennium or so. As I would like to conclude my business transaction and then move on, I would hope that you would simply let me fulfill my end of the bargain. He snapped his fingers and we were once again standing over a comatose Caroline. Are you from the Great In-Between? The mirrors were an awfully big hint, werent they? He smiled. The characters on his metal bands shifted. And you can cure her? Of course. Hmmm.let me give you and your folk a little glimpse of whats really out there. You really think that shes possessed by a devil? Or perhaps she has a mental illness, hmmm? What other explanations are there? Coyote laughed, Oh-ho! How wonderfully childlike and nave! Here, let me show you something. He pulled a vial of clear fluid out of his pocket. He opened the vial and poured the liquid out. The fluid hovered in the air and spread out into a flat square. You see, you are not the only ones with a network of computers. See? Upon the fluid a grid appeared. I could see our solar system in all its glory. Pulses of energy periodically raced across the grid. Now, lets zoom in on an area of interest. Coyote touched the liquid and an image of Caroline was displayed. There were numerous pulses of energy racing through her skull.

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Are you saying that shes simply picking up alien signals? Then why is she talking about Hell? Her brain cant make heads or tails of what shes picking up. Its all wrong, your silly little brain everything is in the wrong place. Watch. Lets move her cerebellum up here, he placed his hand on her forehead, the medulla over there- Stop! Oh dont worry. Ill put it all back. Now, the temporal lobe should go here. Ahh....there we go! A proper brain. He took the yellow disc off Carolines head. Caroline, my dear, how do you feel? The child looked around as if she was seeing the world for the first time. She seemed a little confused, as if the world was now much too small. She looked at her body in wonder, marveling at its size and structure. She then went to her little desk, picked up a pencil, and wrote furiously:

3354345345345345oete3453535345353424242342893933924242424242242424248354858343583853 583939450840986094850938424098083098395803850954843850845943958349850983095809

34343434834343434348342222 2211234566778765959443453243235455534234454543453424345342566768 8 74534245524

23423435489435345098450394850948543542340385435983539 853945895803853058465642435
Thats enough my dear. Thats quite alright. Coyote gently put the yellow disc on her forehead. The child went limp in her arms. And that was just a simple word. I dont understand. I picked up the paper. Of course you dont. That would be like a bacterium trying to understand Einstein. But, why her? Why arent we all picking up these signals?

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Oh its simply her brain. Its .0000000000001% too big. It doesnt sound like a lot, but it really does make a difference. There! All better. Now her little, mixed up brain is the right size. The symbols on Coyotes bands shifted once again. He took off the disc. Mommy? Im thirsty. Carolines sleepy words crept through the quiet night.

The next morning I was sitting in Captain Shenandoahs office. She read my report and then looked out her window. We sat in silence for a long time. I think she enjoyed the quiet spaces they seemed to nourish something within her. So, there are millions of signals zipping by the window right now? Yes Maam. Theyre broadcasting on 2.4 X 1087 Hz. The wavelength for the transmission is 0.000845% of a subatomic particle. Yet, gamma rays, at the highest end of the electromagnetic spectrum, have a frequency of 2.4 X 1023 and their wavelengths are smaller than an atom. Thats correct captain. Theyre communicating in a manner that is scientifically impossible. No wonder why we thought we were alone all these millennia; we were just too simple to perceive the conversations around us.

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176

The Chronicles of the Samuel Hain 3rd Series Curse 2.0

Thank you for getting my laundry Robert. My sleepy words dribbled out of my mouth. It was 6: 00 AM and I wouldve given my right eye for another hour of sleep. Youre welcome Martin. You sound tired. Do you want some coffee? That would be great Robert. Thank you. Youre welcome Martin. Would you like cream and sugar or black coffee? Make it black. I sat there sipping my coffee warming up to the morning while Robert sat across from me and ran his internal diagnostics program. He quietly played Brahms Piano Concerto in B Flat Major Number 2, Opus 83, II Allegro Appassionato. Are you going to have a busy day Martin? Hopefully Robert. I hate being bored. I opened up my oracle and turned on the news. I hope you have an interesting yet pleasant day Martin. Engineers from Jain Industries have upgraded their AI modules in hopes of preventing another embarrassing incident with their technology. As you may recall, several months ago, a group of robots tried to stage a coup aboard the UDA Samuel Hain. The reporter was standing outside Jain Industries with two happy looking robots by her side. At least I thought they looked happy maybe they were forced to be happy. That was quite an incident, wasnt it Robert? Im sorry Martin, that is something I cannot discuss with you. Robert who is Alpha?

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Im sorry Martin. I cannot answer that question. A chill went down my spine. The little rebellion had been erased from all robot memory or had it? Was there a place inside their plastic heads that we couldnt get to?

Later that day, I sat in a quiet corner of the Primary Environmental Control Center fixing the lighting in the crew quarters on the lower decks. I smiled as Bella rubbed against my legs. I could hear her purring and meowing quite loudly. Whats the matter? I looked down at her. Didnt you feed her? Trang came up behind me. Sure. Shes definitely not hungry. I think shes worried. Worried? How can you tell? Her meowing is different. Its a cat lover thing. I petted her. This is the captain. We will be returning home to investigate some deaths in the Northeastern Quadrant of the Union of African States. You may be called to ground duty, so please brush up on the UAS UDA visiting military protocol. Thank you. This is going to be absolutely wonderful! I was smiling from ear to ear. Why is that? That section of the UAS is world renowned for its coffee. I dont drink coffee. You will when you leave. I winked.

The Union of African States had taken a different path to the future, dictated mostly by climate change. With their farmland drying up and dying out, they decided to industrialize. The whole union was covered with factories, refineries, mines, and warehouses. Rail lines and highways crisscrossed the industrial zones so many times they looked like a series of infinite grooves. There was not a tree or blade of grass left; it was the first totally artificial empire on the planet. Good morning. I am Martin Dikopolous of the UDA Samuel Hain. May I have permission to enter? I stood at the door to a giant industrial park. The smoke stacks and brick buildings rose ominously before me.

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Yes, you may. The gentleman inside the booth to my left replied. His tone was polite yet wary. The UAS didnt like foreigners on their soil. They had to be desperate for help. Thank you sir. I nodded as the door slowly slid aside. Inside were the remains of several UAS soldiers who had been attacked by an animal. There were several priests and mullahs saying prayers over the deceased. But what really got my attention was the little old white man arguing violently with one of the guards; he was ranting and raving in Afrikaans and waving his arms wildly. He seems to be quite upset. Akane whispered in my ear. He is. Hes trying to warn them about the night monster. The guard is trying to blow him off, but the guy has footage or so he claims. You speak Afrikaans? Fluently. Oh. I thought it was Vietnamese, French, Korean, and Russian you were fluent in. Akane gave me a jealous look. Languages are my passion and specialty. Hey, we all have gifts like your gift of catching the hard to catch. I playfully nudged her. Hes not caught yet. Her eyes darted to Trang for a moment. Dont give up hope. He would be an idiot not to marry you. I put my arm around her. Operation Black Candle is a go. The captain wants us to begin at 11:00 PM. The UAS has even allowed us to use drones. Trang announced. He seemed atypically happy. Youre smiling. I thought you hated technology. Akane replied. Id rather have drones go in first. Hey, if they lose a limb I can screw one back on in five minutes. He looked at her a while and then decided to get back to military composure. Youre in charge, Mr. Vinh! I saluted him and winked.

We sat on the bridge of the Samuel Hain at a triangular console, helmets on and hands in the controllers. In the middle of us was a holographic map of a neglected little factory. We were the three red dots slowly moving through it. Med scans are showing absolutely nothing. Trang bluntly announced. Maybe if we extend the range? Akane suggested.

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Its no good. Im already at maximum range and sensitivity. If there was a bug a mile away we would know it. He glumly replied. Stupid drones. He muttered. Mr. Vinh, would you rather be there in person? The captain interjected. No maam. Somethings there. I announced. A red blip appeared on the map. It was on the level above us and moving fast very fast. It was headed straight for a wall when it disappeared. I re-calibrated the drones sensors, but it was gone. What was that? Akane moved her drone toward the stairs. Akane, just stay there. Trang was unusually calm, given that this was his first command. Its back its right behind us. How is this possible? I was utterly bewildered. Im out! Akane spat the words out with disgust as her drone was destroyed. Switch to full AI hunter mode. Trang ordered. Yes sir. We got him now. I answered confidently. But we were over confident. The mysterious intruder took out the drones in a matter of minutes. Trang had his eyes to the floor. He was eerily quiet, even for him. This was not the way to begin your career. Whoever it is, they won this round. Be in my office 7:00 AM tomorrow for a review and revise. The captain ordered. Yes maam. We replied in unison.

Trang was there first. He wouldnt even look at us; he was buried in data and analysis. I sat down and just looked out the window. Akane came in just a minute before 7. She sat next to Trang and put on her best happy to be here face. Computer, bring up Operation Black Candle. The captain began. Replay mission. We sat and watched our monumental failure play out. I thought Trang was going to get up and leave. However, he tilted his head to the side and furrowed his brow. Something had caught his attention. May I? He asked. Go ahead Mr. Vinh.

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Computer, display locations of wireless transmitters and active signals. TV leaned in further. How odd, they still have their wireless network up and running. I commented. So thats how she was playing hide and seek with us! She was taking advantage of busy signal zones. Akane added. How do you know the suspect is a she? Trang argued. To be this clever you would have to be of the fairer sex! She smiled. Captain, I want to go in. Trang requested in a quiet, almost nonchalant way. Denied. The mission is not worth the potential risk to crew members. If it took out drones in minutes, youll be dead before you draw your second breath. Captain, I can make this work. Actually- Denied cadet. The UAS will have to solve this one on their own.

You did what?! I thought Akane was going to tear TVs head off. They were sitting in the Star Drifter. Mars was slowly floating by outside. Transferred to the UAS Charger. His words came out quietly and with a mix of impudence and aloofness that I had come to expect from our dear TV. What are you up to? I sat down at the table. The military exchange program. Its a nice way to change the scenery. What are you up to? Akane looked at him suspiciously. Failure is not on my menu. He smiled. The Charger was actually a little faster than the Hain; we ended up back in the UAS in just a few days. Trang had somehow talked our new captain into escorting a supply shipment to the factory where we had met failure only three weeks ago. How he had managed to get the thirty extra personnel, Ill never figure out. Operation Black Candle Round two. Trangs voice was a mix of zealousness and determination. The first hour of the assignment passed quietly. I actually made several good friends over a croissant and coffee. I taught my new friends some useful English expressions and taught TV and Akane some good Afrikaans words.

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I dont know why, but I was the first one to notice the decrease in chatter. It was subtle, like an unnatural quietness slowly closing in on us. I walked to a gloomy corner and shined my flashlight into the dark cracks between plastic crates. Everything seemed normal to me, but then again I didnt know exactly what we were hunting. It started with a muffled yelp and a horrible crunching sound. Now I had seen blood before, but I wasnt expecting so much so soon. It poured down the stairs like a small waterfall. Before anyone could react, three more people died. Stand your ground. Trang quietly ordered. Stick close. We have to evacuate! A UAS soldier was already headed out the door. Something grabbed him as soon as he passed the crates. I could hear a growling and screaming. There was a sickening sound, like bones breaking. The time for hide and seek was over. A shape slowly stepped forward from the shadows, but stayed just beyond the lights. It had large canine ears and brownish yellow nails that almost looked like claws. What puzzled me were the blinking lights that hovered immediately above the creature. There was a roar and the intruder defiantly stepped into the light. Is that- Yes. I dont know how or why, butits a werewolf. Trangs admission of the impossible was the only thing that broke the silence. The creatures lupine head was quite a curiosity. The blinking lights emanated from a glass dome that covered the right half of its skull; pulses of light leapt between a myriad of circuit boards and fiber optic filaments. There were bands of glass around the creatures ankles and wrists; blue liquid saturated with tiny metal particles could be seen within. We pointed our guns at the thing, but it only gave out a weird, distorted chortle. The space in front of it took on a glassy appearance. A black aura, in the shape of a rectangle, appeared. The creature stepped into the anomaly and disappeared. A few seconds later, it was behind us. Akane and I had to pull TV out of the warehouse. No! Wait, just one more second! He protested while holding his oracle out to record the gruesome chaos.

OK. Ive got it. Got what? I looked at him. He had this look on his face that had me worried. Ive solved the problem. Operation Black Candle round three is set to go! He announced triumphantly.

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Are you out of your mind? First of all, youll get killed. Second of all, we leave in five minutes. Akanes words poured out of her like flames. They lost my transfer files. Itll be 24 or 35 hours before they find them. He smiled a devilish smile. I didnt even know he could smile a devilish smile. To my dear cousin, I leave my tuba. Akane muttered. What are you doing? I whispered from the other side of a stack of crates. Coming up with a will. She sarcastically replied. Cmon have a little faith. After all, he said hes been working on a solution for the past two weeks now. I think I agree with the Captain, the UAS should solve their own problems. Shhh! Less talking and more action. Trang whispered as he came to inspect our progress. Im done here. I put a small glass plate on the floor. It was etched with a multitude of channels; inside each channel, little bits of metal floated in a clear liquid. Im done here. Akane reluctantly chimed in. Good. Now we wait. Trang unexpectedly gave her a quick kiss on the cheek. Do I get one too? I teased. Youll get your own surprise when this is all over. He smiled. The next two hours were quiet. I almost wished I had brought along some wine and cheese; the old factory wouldve made a great little restaurant. Then, about 2:30 AM, I could hear something in the dark sniffing. The noise was slowly getting louder, as if the werewolf were circling us, getting just a wee bit closer every time. Weapons out. Lets look really scary and intimidating. Trang whispered. Were probably just going to look like a midnight snack. Akane quipped. The creature lunged out of the darkness and snapped its jaws. We drew our guns but didnt know if it even cared. We fired several shots, but it was too quick. The black aura appeared and it vanished. Trang immediately activated a program on his oracle and the glass plates hummed. The next few seconds were agonizingly long. Macabre, gory visions passed through my mind as we waited for the murderer to return. But only the left half of the creature came back. It shuddered and unceremoniously plopped down in front of us. Trang stooped down over the mess and recorded the grisly scene with his oracle.

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The black aura was the big hint, he explained, I knew I had seen that somewhere before. I searched the Hain mission logs day and night until I found what I was looking for. Which was? Akane wanted to know. An incident involving professor Strontium Jones. He was the first person to leave our reality in an attempt to cross into another one. Oh, I want to thank you by the way. Thank me for what? Akane wrinkled her nose in that quizzical little way that made her absolutely adorable. Telling me about your encounter with The Trickster. That was the other puzzle piece I needed. So, are you going to show us the whole puzzle? Now my curiosity was peaked. Our friend here was entering an alternate reality and then re-emerging in ours. Thats how he could disappear and re-appear. When Akane told me about the thousands of mirrors she saw while sitting in The Tricksters parlor I had an idea. I did a lot of research and came up with a way to detect alternate realities. We are actually quite lucky our reality is adjacent to another alternate reality. So, when he tried to re-emerge in our reality, I gave him a little shove; half of him showed up here and his other half emerged in a third alternate reality. Wow. Akane just looked at him. And you came up with that all by yourself? I asked. The coffee helped.

Its good to be home. I paused for a moment and looked around. The cargo bay was empty and cold, but yes, it really did seem like home. No argument there. Aaachooo! Trang sneezed. You really should be in your quarters. Why work when you have a cold? I looked around for a tissue, but there were none to be found. Hes right you know. If you were in your quarters, it would be much more convenient. Lieutenant Nassif was right behind us. Well, I guess youll have to order him whoa! I turned around and the lieutenant had a gun pointed at us. I wanted to congratulate you on your success Cadet Vinh. Oh, and Im also here to kill you. I guess so. Trang answered. It was odd; he wasnt the slightest bit nervous.

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The Shadow Children of Orion are not very happy they dont like it when people neutralize their weapons. But, they were impressed. Soooo, after I kill you (and Mr. Dikopolous here), Ill download your personal files and then well all be happy. Lieutenant I never would have guessed. I hissed. The Shadow Children have people everywhere Martin. The UAS, UDA, URA, MARI, the colonies, weve got all the angles covered. She cocked the gun. Sounds really impressive. Aaaachoooo! Sorry about that. Trang sneezed again. Yuk! Cover your mouth next time. Well, there wont be a next time. Now Mr. Trang, I need your passwords. What Lieutenant Nassif didnt realize was that there was a bubble forming on the barrel of her gun. And if I dont cooperate youll torture me or something like that? TV countered. Several more bubbles formed on the lieutenants gun. Trang, I want those passwords now! OK, OK! Just let Martin go, please. Small droplets of metal started to drip from the gun. You know I cant what?! By now, the gun was melting and losing its shape. Oh yeah. Sorry about the gun. I injected myself with an artificial nanotech virus that eats metal. When I looked at the hardware packed into your werewolf, I knew that a rat was around here somewhere. Trang took out a handkerchief and blew his nose.

The Stargazer was busy that night, and we had a tough time avoiding bots as they waited on tables. When we finally sat down, a person waited on us. May I take your order? The nice young gentleman inquired. Huh? Yeah sure. Im sorry; I just wasnt expecting a human being. They thought it would be best for the Stargazer to have a human touch now and then. He politely replied. So, they gave you a commendation? Akane was almost bouncing up and down in her seat. Yeah, its in my quarters somewhere. He glumly replied. Now whats spoiling this happy moment? I was astounded that Trang could be down even after getting a pat on the back from the high command.

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The Shadow Children of Orion. Trang looked out the window and was silent for the rest of the evening.

Bfk

186

The Chronicles of the Samuel Hain 3rd Series Fear The Final Frontier

Ive waited for this day for years. I was never a big believer in justice for all, but I was definitely optimistic. So, there I stood, with the rest of them, just another helmeted military guard waiting to escort the prosecutions star witness to trial. The noise and glamour of Tokyo Mars did its best to distract me, but I couldnt get into it. My life had boiled down to this one moment in time; the next few days would be everything to me. Its OK, Jackson. Theyre not here. The assistant DA whispered as she tried to coax him out of the tunnel. Could it really be? When I looked at the skinny kid with the wispy blonde hair, my jaw dropped. It was. Jackson had been in the next room over at the orphanage (a really sick use of the word). He was timid, yet quick to smile when no one was around. We exchanged dozens of messages through the night, sliding them back and forth through a tiny hole in the wall. I told him that I would always be there for him, but he was transferred to another youth treatment center. He was genetically engineered to produce biofuels. Non..n.no! Theyre gonna get me! I know it! Its just a matter of time. Jackson looked about wildly. He knew that the demons and ghosts could be lurking in the smallest of shadows, just waiting for him. Every time I watched him being bullied by his insatiable phobia my heart broke. We should do it now. The assistant DA suggested to one of the paramedics beside her. The needle glinted in the sun for just a moment. I wanted to scream. Are you sure? This might last for a few hours. He wasnt sure that this was the right thing. I dont want to, but I think we have to. Do it. I almost tackled them. It took all my strength to just stand by and watch Jackson go under. His movements became a little slower, a little bit more awkward. This was no way to live; you couldnt hide from your demons by getting drugged up.

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But I wasnt just going to stand there. I quietly checked Jacksons quarters. They were brightly lit with a great view of space; he would love it. He always wanted to travel on a military ship, but not this way. He never wanted to get mixed up in this; he just wanted to get out.

On board, I checked the progress of the trial. There he was, Octavius Kharzin, the Czar of Russias biggest genetic cartel. He had exploited, maimed, engineered, and murdered hundreds of human beings all for money. He had gone to trial before, but always wriggled free, like an eel. This time would be different. They werent bringing him up on tax evasion charges this was murder. There was a lot of evidence; but Jackson was the key. TV TV TV! Jackson burst into my room like a puppy dog. Jackson! I gave him a bear hug. L..look! Look! He showed me the flashlights strapped to his arms. They wont get me now! He was grinning from ear to ear. Where did you get those? Martin gave them to me. He turned them on and off. Of course Martin had the biggest heart of anyone on the ship. So, what do you think of the ship? Its big. Its really big. I like the engines and all the lights. I wish Tommy were here he wouldve liked it too. Youre right. Tommy wouldve loved it. Tommy died. So did Jelly and Katie and Bobby. They didnt want to live anymore. Jackson looked down at the floor. I know. They went through a really rough time. Yeah. Youre strong Jackson. Youre gonna get through this. Well get through this together. I put my hands on his shoulders. Brothers till the end right? Right. OK. Now are you ready? I think so.

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Ill be right there. You can trust Dr. Stevenson. Hes a good doctor. I put my arm around him and we walked out the door. A chill went down my spine. It was just us now.

Good morning gentlemen! Dr. Stevenson beamed as we walked into his office. Ill be with you in a moment. He walked over to an oak desk to the left. Ahhh.what shall it be today? Mocha Mint, or Caramel Apricot? Hmmm.Actually, Im in the mood for Butterscotch. He picked up a small tan disc and set it into a plastic receptacle in his forearm. He turned to us and smiled, No reason why medicine should taste bad! Dr. Stevenson, this is my friend Jackson. I gently nudged him forward. Pleased to meet you. Jackson awkwardly thrust his hand out. Pleased to meet you. Very pleased indeed. Dr. Stevenson laughed. The exam took longer than I thought. Jackson was a model patient or was he just too scared to make a noise? With Jackson you never really knew. Dr. Stevenson was very pleasant and patient. He also had a great poker face. He did a lot of genetic neuro-mapping and a lot of genetic cognitivederivative analysis. This was no ordinary exam. There we go. All done. You are as fit as a fiddle! Doctor Stevenson happily pronounced. And look who we have here. He smiled as Akane walked into the room. A personal escort to the bridge. Ready to go Jackson? Akane smiled. Usually I love her smile, but something seemed out of place. Everyone was smiling too much. As they walked out the door, Dr. Stevenson pulled me aside. Theres something you should know. His face darkened. This doesnt sound good. His phobia. Its not natural. Its part of his genetic engineering. Are you sure? Yes. I ran several different tests and did all the neuro-mapping. Someone put that there on purpose. To keep him in line. Yes fear is an excellent leash. So why dont I have a crippling phobia? You were one of the first. No one would have even considered this back then.

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You would think fences, restraints, and abuse would be enough to keep kids in line. You would. But people like Mr. Kharzin want absolute control.

Of course I felt guilty. Why not me? Could I have done anything earlier? Was Jackson really impossible to find? Should I have told the authorities everything they did to me? Should I have told them everything I did to the others? I sat up in bed and looked at the screen. Jackson was sleeping in his room, lights on, safe and sound. The monitor went blank. My blood turned to ice. I had only three minutes to get to him. I ran down the hall, pushing people out of the way. It seemed like his room was millions of miles away; no matter how fast I ran, I couldnt get there fast enough. Even before I reached his door I could hear him screaming. He was whining and pitifully bargaining with the imaginary terrors that Kharzin had stuffed into his head. He began sobbing. Jackson, open up! Its TV! I pounded on the door. II cant! The demons wont let me. Jackson, youve been a very, very bad boy. Were going to hurt you. A low, muffled voice seeped through the door. Security override. Room 14578 now! I barked. Security override offline. The computer replied. Come here Jackson. Its time for your punishment. The low voice grew more threatening. N..no! No! TV help! Those were Jacksons last words. His life ended in a scream.

Im sorry to hear about Jackson. He was a special boy. I always liked the way he laughed at your jokes. Octavius smiled as he sat behind his desk. His office was large and bright. The windows were open - sunlight and fresh air came streaming through; a sick contrast to the dungeons where he held his VHEs. Are you really? He had some pretty damming testimony that would have sent you away for a long time. You mean the Tehran Orphanage? That hell-hole was operated by a very nasty contractor. The advisory team who recommended him have all been fired. Its so difficult to find good employees. Sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands. I watched as he sipped his coffee.

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So, to what do I owe the pleasure? Its not often I see my prize pupil. The grin on his face was sickening and evil. Have you ever heard of the Ronan Project? Yes. The military did some research on genetic weapons. Too bad they never had the intellect to complete it. You should do a little research into it. It might come in handy one day. I turned around and walked out of his office.

The Ronan Project: twenty years ago the military looked into creating a killer protein that would conquer the human genome. It would produce a variety of fatal disorders. But, the most impressive thing was it was intelligent. It would always be a step ahead of the doctors. The military gave up of course, engineering such a lethal hunter-protein is decades away. But a protein that attacks only certain areas of the brain is actually quite easy to create. Its just that no one has thought of it yet no one but me that is. It would probably take six months. It would be subtle at first; worrying about germs, a tiny nervousness when getting on elevators. After about a year, Kharzin would be tormented by one phobia after another. One day he might have a crippling fear of the water, the next month he might be deathly afraid of spiders. The protein would always be one step ahead. Thats why I was sitting in the captains office. They never found out about my version of the Ronan Protein they would never know. But reading the files was a security violation. It was an unforgivable one. So the captain is talking about trust, honor, and chain of command. She carefully explained to me the penalties that come with being dishonorably discharged. But I just couldnt take my eyes off the robot serving her. The phobia symbol etched on its forehead just kept bothering me. Thats when I knew that the military wasnt for me; I wasnt going to find the answers I needed here.

Hows that?I stood back and admired my robots new look. He had red legs, white arms and torso, and a blue head. His head was covered with white stars. Inscribed on his chest was:

All

sentient beings are created equal.


Thank you for my new design Trang. I look very patriotic. Washington stated. Yeah, you do. I put my arm around him and we walked off the ship.

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The Chronicles of the Samuel Hain 3rd Series Gone

Just one more speckle. I furrowed my brow; I know I shouldnt be worried about such a small thing, but I was. There now everything was just the way it should be. I stood back and admired my handiwork. Horses galloping under an Arizona sun, free and proud, just like us. The more I looked however, the more uncomfortable I became. Something was missing, something that shouldnt be seen with the naked eye. It was supposed to be just beyond the ridge, but no one was supposed to know. How could I paint something that no one was supposed to see? I looked up at the puffy white clouds in the sky; my eyes drifted over the sun kissed rocks. I even waited for a whisper from the nearby cacti. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldnt solve this puzzle. Captain Shenandoah. I hate to interrupt such a quiet moment. Admiral Rajabs voice seemed to blend in with the wind and birds. Not a problem sir. I held out my left hand. A hologram of the Admiral floated just beyond the rocky ledge. We have a situation on our doorstep that requires our best resources. Please report to Central Command tomorrow morning. Im sorry to cut your shore leave short. Thats OK admiral. I was just finishing up. May I? Of course. I was a little surprised. The admirals hologram drifted forward till it was by my side. Thats quite good captain. The tones are strong and bold. You should consider putting in a request to hang it in the military art gallery. OhwellsirI..

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Just a suggestion captain. But one I hope youll consider, the military and the planet - needs good painters. His hologram winked out, leaving me alone with my puzzle.

Central Command. We all had seen photos and videos but it was even more impressive in person. The large central tetrahedron glittered in the sun. It was five stories above the earth, held in place by huge corridors that connected it to five massive towers. The whole complex was surrounded by 3 solar paneled rings where one could park underground if one was lucky. This is Central Command flight control. Good morning Captain Shenandoah. You are cleared to park in ring one, level two. The air traffic controller announced. It was hard to tell if the voice was real or artificial. Acknowledged. Wow. That was five star admiral parking. Whatever it was, they were serious. I parked my blue 2276 Dodge Viper X4-C in a lonely section of the parking ring. I looked in the rear view mirror for one last spot check. I took one little last sip of coffee and grabbed a breath mint. OK now I was ready. I passed a robot in the parking tunnel. It was humming America (My Country Tis of Thee). It didnt seem very patriotic; it seemed ominous. As the elevator rose, I relaxed. I had trained for this, I knew that a big situation was always a possibility. In fact, I welcomed it. The Samuel Hain had been on patrol and supply duty for several weeks now we needed a challenge. Welcome to Central Command captain. Admiral Rjab saluted me once I stepped inside the tetrahedron. There were no less than five levels of workstations inside the room. Operators, techs, and agents swarmed about like bees. Its an honor admiral. This way please. Well be using the conference room in tower three. He led me through the room. He seemed to know exactly what everyone was supposed to be doing. As we passed through the halls, he was busy keeping everyone on track. The circular conference room on the top level of the tower was carpeted and equipped with comfortable chairs. The consoles were better than anything we had on the Samuel Hain. I noticed a painting by Xyza Halverson hanging on the wall. It depicted the day the first Samuel Hain was launched. Ladies and Gentlemen, please have a seat. Admiral Tanaka walked into the room. The Admiral Tanaka he was commander of the military and answered only to the president. Let me first say that I am deeply honored to see all of you here you are the best this country has at its disposal. That being said, lets get right down to business, shall we? We have had several reports of

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unauthorized incursion into our air space by vessels we cannot identify. He opened up the holomonitor in the center of the room. The Intelligence Department has been working round the clock to determine who they are and why theyre here. The admiral brought up a video of a ship that looked like an S. It hovered above New Vienna for a moment and then was gone. The only clue we have is this. The admiral hit a key and another video came up; it had been taken by two teens, I could hear their excited whispers in the background. They were approaching a cracked tombstone as the sun was setting. As the shadows lengthened a mist started to materialize above the grave. It slowly stretched out and assumed a human form. I dont know about the others, but I could clearly see a face. Suddenly a thin beam of red light passed over the surface of the mist. What looked like bar codes and numbers covered the ghost; then it was pulled upward. Weve received hundreds of reports like this over the past year all associated with the unidentified ships. Admiral Tanaka, there is someone here to see you. The young lieutenants voice popped into the room. I can see him tomorrow morning at 8:30. Most people would have been angry, annoyed, or at least flustered. Not Admiral Tanaka. Oh, excuse me I know this is against protocol and may even be a tad impolite Admiral Tanaka I do believe I can be of assistance. The visitor announced. Thank you, Mr.? Professor Orion Harbinger. Thank you Dr. Harbinger. One moment please. Admiral Tanaka muted the communication channel. Captain Tulane, could you run a security check on our guest? Admiral Ramos, please recertify todays security status; we have an unexpected visitor. The visitors identity has been verified Admiral. Can you explain how? Professor Harbinger has been dead for fifteen years. No sir. But Dr. Harbinger said that he can explain everything. Tell Dr. Harbinger I will meet with him briefly after this meeting. Oh, excuse me admiral, I hate to be impolite, but this is quite an auspicious moment, and I believe it would be best for us all to sit down and have a chat. If you would look out your window. Dr. Harbingers words broke in on the formal military protocol. Outside, an immense sphere of water emerged from the sky; it was five times larger than New Paris. Surveillance cameras revealed thousands of sea slugs swimming inside; each creature was at least twenty feet long.

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There is no need to defend yourselves, nor reason to attack. You know, this conversation would go much more smoothly if I was actually in the conference room. The professor explained. Within moments, Dr. Harbinger was escorted to the conference room. As soon as he got there, the lights dimmed and flickered. The consoles went blank for a moment, then alien glyphs and characters appeared on the screen. Dr. Harbinger, can you explain whats happening? The admirals stern words almost seemed to bar the way. Yes. I can. As for me being dead, I was simply deactivated. As for the current situation, your computers are being upgraded so they are compatible with theirs. You mean those beings in the sphere? Admiral Tanaka looked out the window. Yes. You are about 50,000 years behind the Orrise so your systems have to updated a little. Dr. Harbinger smiled. A smaller sphere of water broke off from the parent sphere and slowly floated toward us. It stopped two inches outside the window. The creature inside it was black with orange spots. A low, haunting sound filled the room, like the song of a humpback whale. The creatures skin turned white and its spots became black. My, my that was quick. Dr. Harbinger said to the alien. He turned to us, The Orrise would like to assist you with your problem. Any assistance they could give would be appreciated. The admiral answered. They will let you pass through the barrier so that you can pursue the thieves who have stolen your precious souls. They can do that? Captain Henderson asked. They were the ones who put it there, captain. Dr. Harbinger answered. As for finding and catching the thieves, that is up to you.

Approaching barrier. Cadet Kobayashi announced. Bring the Higgs-Boson defragmenter on line. Defragmenter on line. Mr. Dikopolous replied. Defragmenter at 15% power. There we were, at the edge of our playpen, with special permission from the adults to venture out into the grown up world beyond. Never in my life did I feel so small, nervous, or excited. Stray asteroids from the Kuiper Belt drifted past us.

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Defragmenter at 32% power. Mr. Dikopolous announced. Powering up dark energy accelerator. Keep to the course we were given, Ms. Kobayashi. Lets do this by the book for as long as we can. I turned on the holo-monitor in the center of the bridge. The grid was empty no sign of the thieves. I wondered how far outside our neighborhood we would have to go and if we would ever come back. Yes, Maam. Speed 700 kph. Defragmenter at 80% power. We should be ready when we get to the barrier captain. Thank you Mr. Dikopolous. There was a slight shimmering ahead of us, like light being passed through a prism. That was it, no fanfare, nothing spectacular. We passed through the barrier and into the history books; we were the first human beings to leave our solar system. I opened the ship-wide communication channel, This is the captain. We have just passed through the solar system barrier. Based on the photon displacement data from the watchers, we have derived a pursuit course and will overtake our target in about 3 days. Please review the mission, as well as protocol for extended combat operations. Thank you. In my office, a hologram of Dr. Harbinger awaited me. Retreating to your office to come up with a strategy captain? Yes. It would be easier if the Orrise would provide some information on our subjects. It would. But they arent going to, are they? No. Were being tested, is that it then? The grownups want to see if we can play nicely with the other children? Quite a good analogy Captain Shenandoah. The Orrise believe that your freedom shouldnt be granted it should be earned.

I looked at the grid over breakfast. Nothing yet. For the past 2 days we had been running at full speed, so today would be the day. The next few hours would be spent preparing for whatever might come our way. I looked out the window back towards our sun. Those horses seemed so far away.

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The bridge was full of tense chatter; logs and diagnostics were checked and double checked. Repair crews and med teams were running simulations. Linguists were updating and revising speech and grammar codex arrays. Psychologists were re-writing the regulations for interpreting alien behavior. Strike teams were preparing tactical options. Captain. Target is on the grid. Cadet Kobayashi noted. I see it. We will reach our subject in about 1 hour and 5 minutes. I went to the front of the bridge. OK everybody. Heads up and on your toes. We are about to meet an alien race. Theyve been to our planet several times, so they might be familiar with our behavior and language. They might not. Everyone has to keep a cool head, think quick, and speak up. OK? Yes Maam. Was the unified reply. Captain, the ship is slowing down. Well overtake the subjects in 45 minutes. Ms. Kobayashi stated. Something is exiting the ship. Its approaching at 75 kph. Mr. Dikopolous observed. Scanning object. Its metal and plastic. Low energy output. There appears to be a lot of complex circuitry inside. A missile? Another cadet spoke up. Unlikely. Its traveling too slowly and the amount of circuitry would preclude armaments or explosive materials. That was my opinion at least. The next few minutes would prove me right or wrong. The object has stopped. The ship has also stopped. The object is displaying symbols of some sort. Its also displaying pictures. Mr. Dikopolous announced. The symbols are rotating in a pattern. I think theyre trying to teach us their language! One of the linguists excitedly burst out. Initiating lingual compiler. The pictures are coming from our own files. Captain, theyre accessing our computer systems. Lieutenant Choi warned. Can we block access to sensitive files? Theyre using a method of access thats unknown to us Maam. Ill have to run several diagnostics to look at their coding from several different angles. Do it. Lingual compiler is almost done captain. The head of the linguist team reported. We should be able to translate soon. Prepare a message to send-

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Following. Why? The words were high pitched and seemed to be filtered through some type of oscillating distortion field. You have taken something from our planet. I replied slowly and calmly. Your spirits. They serve us. Our spirits should be home on our planet. Your spirits. Forgotten. Feared. You dont need them. They serve us. The spirits our are family. Our brothers, sisters, our mothers and fathers. You have taken them away. We want to bring them home. Trade. Trade? You want to trade them? For what?

That was the beginning. Ambassador Dini-Kish 7 Blue Prime of the Goothalk and his entourage timidly came aboard our ship. They had one head, two arms and legs, just like us. But there was no mistaking that there were differences as well. Their green skin was cool to the touch on their left hand, and surprisingly warm on their right. They looked at us with two long, silvery elliptical eyes that ran the entire length of their face. Their eyes were set horizontally, with one on top of the other. They had a flap of skin that ran from their chin to the center of their chest; some flaps were red, and some were blue. There was a lot to learn and a lot to negotiate, but there was no violence.

So, does this mean weve grown up? I asked Ambassador Harriet of the Orrise. I was spending the day with her while the Samuel Hain was being remodeled so she would be more comfortable once on board. She squished along, examining the paintings of the New Paris Museum. Suddenly, as if she almost forgot I was there, she turned to me. Her skin turned a light green; the spots on the right half of her body became yellow and the spots on the left half became black. She let out a soft undulating moan. No, Professor Harbinger answered, it just means that youre willing to learn. He smiled an optimistic smile and we continued walking into a new world.

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The Chronicles of the

UDA

Samuel Hain

4th Series
2012 Benjamin F. Kaye

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The Chronicles of the Samuel Hain 4th Series


Welcome to Today, New Detroit

I quietly unpacked my things and laid them out in neat piles. I put the clothes in one corner, personal items in the opposite corner, and duty related items on the desk. I was the first one on board, but no one knew that. Im sure some other happy, smiling cadet was walking on right now, thinking he or she was the first cadet on board. Soon they would be having the traditional first lunch with the captain, where they would try not to gush about how wonderful everything was. Im glad I wasnt there that just wasnt me. I set the photo of the staff on the night stand next to my bed. There we all were, standing in front of the cozy little cabin, surrounded by trees and sunshine. Everyone was wearing their prerequisite smile and crowding in around me. In front, on the nice little picnic table was the cake it read

Goodbye and Good Luck Davius! When someone tried to correct my name, I

just laughed it off, just to let them know I was cured. I couldnt go back farther than the cabin. At first, they told me that there was no need. When I persisted, they warned me about a relapse and possible permanent brain injury. So, I was stuck. I was Darius Hookman, a 42 year old cadet, whose life literally began at age 36. I didnt know who I was before that, I wasnt supposed to know. Neither was anybody else. If I could go back and do it all over again, I definitely would have chosen the lethal injection.

The first duty of my career was to monitor the sensors on the bridge. Not too glamorous, but not too difficult either. I saluted the captain (and everyone else who required saluting) and sat down at my station. I smiled at everyone who needed a smile. I pressed my hand against the blue screen:

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Welcome Darius Hookman. Today is February 7 2712 / Time 7:30 AM. The display was actually kind of cheery. I thought it would be drab or overly politically correct. Mr. Smythe, set a patrol course around earth. Captain Graham ordered. Now she was the kind of person I wanted in charge. Captain Graham was born in The African Union and became a UDA citizen when she was 20. At thirty years old, she was the youngest captain to ever command the Samuel Hain. It was rumored that her parents had single handedly driven the Shadow Children out of Africa, but that was only a rumor. Yes Maam setting course. We will reach earth orbit in ten minutes. He replied. Molybdenum Smythe was a go-getter. He was the next step in the evolution of Project Firefly. It was said that he would volunteer to tap dance on the wings if it would get him promoted. Environmental parameters are normal; all sections of the ship are secure. Cadet Samantha Fisher reported. Thank you Samantha. The captain acknowledged. Cadets Samantha, Sandra, and Sally Fisher were triplets. They shared a common heart and lungs, which were encased in a floating orb about three times the size of a basketball. Each of them was connected to the sphere by a five foot hose attached to their back. They had no legs and simply hovered in the air. Captain there is a minor power spike throughout the ship. It was about 0.0072%. Energy management systems have compensated and are analyzing. Sandra stated. Crew vital signs and biometric readings are normal captain. No injuries or side effects detected everyone is safe, secure, and unharmed. Sally added. Mr. Hookman, was the source of the power surge internal or external? Captain Graham walked over to me. External Maam. I brought up the sensor history for the past five minutes. The disturbance originated from New Detroit. Aha! A mystery, this was going to be good.

You are looking at live pictures of New Detroit. The time bubble around the city has collapsed and the government has quarantined the area. Happy Bennadetti of UDA Today announced. The city was in the background and surrounded by military and MARI vehicles. Nothing new from last hour. I leaned back on my bed and opened up my oracle. I soon became bored with that and decided to check out the Stargazer. Oh! Excuse me ambassador. I almost ran into Ambassador Harriet. She stopped a moment; her long, sleek body turned red, her spots became pitch black. Uh-oh.

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Her long tongue slowly slid out and gently touched my forehead. It lingered there a moment before retreating. The noise she uttered was so beautiful, so mysterious and serene. Her body turned a bright yellow. She let out a series of high pitched noises and then was silent. The ambassador thinks you are an oddity, a tragedy really. Professor Harbinger explained. There is an emptiness about you that is most unnatural. Good day ambassador. I didnt know what else to say, so I quickly left. No captain! You cannot! You must not! Thats how it all started. As I turned the corner, I was greeted by Mayor Artium McDonald, wildly waving his arms. Im sorry, we are under orders. If you would like, you can leave before we get underway. Why wont you listen to me?! The mayor was furious. Mr. McDonald, I am listening to you. I cannot disobey a direct order from our Central Command. They want to know more about the cube. And theyll never find out. The mayor walked away in disgust. They mayor was sitting in a cozy little corner all by himself. He had pushed his plate of shrimp marinara to the side and had this look on his face it was a mixture of sadness and frustration. One or two bots came over to check on him and I thought he was going to turn them upside-down. I decided to make my move. May I? I walked over to his table. Yes, yes, you may. I didnt make a very good impression back there, did I? You made a strong impression, whether it was good or bad I dont know. Im Cadet Darius Hookman. A pleasure to meet you Mr. Hookman. I hope you dont mind me asking- About the conversation back there? You might as well be one of the first outside Detroit to know, Mr. Hookman. Your ship is going to rendezvous with a cube no bigger than the palm of your hand. That cube is going to send out a signal and that will be the beginning of the end. Then youll have to endure what weve had to endure. They call themselves the Yvvy; they look just like us. Well, except for that odd ring of insect eyes going all the way around their bald heads. But they dont think like us they will enslave humanity in a matter of three weeks. They will be brutal and thorough in their oppression; not even the Orrise will be able to stop them. Sounds bad. That was all I could offer.

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Would you like to know what your life will look like? Hmmmm? The mayors frustration began to rise. He impatiently pulled out his oracle and showed me lines of people being marched into great fiery furnaces, with the statue of founding father Sergey Andropov looking on. Does the captain know? A stupid question perhaps, but one that ought to be asked. Yes. So does the high command, so does the president. Now you know too. But Ill let you in on a little secret they dont like salt. It sounds trivial, I know, but something about the taste drives them mad. I spent the rest of that night previewing the end. Mayor Macdonald had graciously transferred all the news reports and city video for the last two years to my oracle. I couldnt get the furnaces out of my mind. Something about being destroyed maybe that was why I was afraid of the dark. It wasnt ghosts and goblins that terrified me it was the nothingness. I watched the lines filing past Mr. Andropov over the weeks. There was something about the statue that wasnt right. I ran the videos back and focused on founding father Sergei Andropov what was he trying to tell me? I yawned and stretched. My eyes drifted to the mobile that hung from the ceiling; the planets drifted slowly around each other, oblivious to our impending doom.

Two days later, at exactly 7:28 AM, I was running down the halls. I had only seconds to get there. My heart was pounding and my head was filled with scenes of a long line of people slowly shuffling to their destruction. I couldnt believe that it would come down to something so trivial so small. Can I help you? One of the guards outside the engineering room asked. I have to get in there. Im late for my shift. I replied as quickly and politely as I could. Cadet Hookman. The guard noted, scanning the ID patch on my uniform. Actually, youre on bridge duty today. Change of plans. I took down the guard before either of us knew what had happened. Now, I had the same basic training as everybody else, but I didnt know I was that capable. Where did that come from? I burst into the room and made a mad dash for the main control panel, knocking people out of the way. I had about four seconds. I shut down the engines and drew my gun. I just had to hold them off for five minutes. Cadet Hookman, please stand down and report to my office. The captains voice echoed throughout the room. Yes Maam. I will proceed to your office in four minutes and thirty-two seconds.

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Are you on a precise time schedule Mr. Hookman? Actually Maam I am. Care to explain? I cant right now Maam. I only pieced this whole thing together twenty minutes ago and Im currently very busy keeping security at bay. Mr. Hookman an explanation of any sort would go a long way towards keeping you out of the brig. The statue of Sergei Andropov maam. Look at the statue in the news stories and video feeds. Cadet Hookman, please put your weapon on the floor and come with us. The leader of the security team asked as she stepped into the room. Please, just two more minutes I promise. You can throw me in the brig, kick me off the ship, but just another one minute and fifty-five seconds is all I need. Cadet Hookman, this is not Lets Make a Deal. Stand down and come with us. She replied. Please, lookyou guys have me outgunned. Ive let everybody go. All I need is one minute and forty-two seconds. I dont know why, but she waited. At exactly the right time, I turned on the engines and the ship began moving again. There was something in the guards eyes as she led me away. She knew something, but was determined to keep the information a secret.

Mr. Hookman, you shut down our engines for exactly 5 minutes. Why? The captain was suddenly standing on the other side of the bars. I quickly stood up. Maam if I may ask a question? Proceed Mr. Hookman. Behind the captains cold words was an impatience that I hoped I would never hear again. The signal that the cube sent out what happened to it? It bounced off several asteroids in the Kuiper Belt. The Kuiper Belt! That was the difference. They never had an asteroid belt. Mr. Hookman, if you could elaborate.

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When I looked at the video feeds from New Detroit, I noticed that Sergei Andropovs name was misspelled on his statue at least at times. I looked at other video from the city and saw other strange things, such as this white 2512 X4-C Mustang. I brought up the image of the vehicle on the screen beside me. It has a triangular wing. Those were never made. But, exactly two weeks later, in the same parking space, I saw this. This time the blade around the mustang was circular. Both cars have the same license plate they even have the same stickers on the back window. Very curious. How is this incident related to your actions in engineering? Captain for the past 338 years New Detroit has been not only ahead of us, but in an alternate universe. But, this is where it gets interesting, that alternate universe never sat still. It would drift back and forth, lining up exactly with ours at regular intervals. Every two weeks, our universes would totally overlap, and our future would be their today. But, our universe and theirs would drift apart, so that their future would be different than ours. If I understand your theory correctly, we would have encountered the cube at the exact time our universes would overlap. Yes! If we had encountered the cube right on schedule, our future would be exactly the same as the one New Detroit had gone through years ago. It only took five minutes for the time lines to diverge, guaranteeing a different future. You have potential, Mr. Hookman. I am glad you decided to serve aboard this ship. Thank you maam. Ill see you in two days. Yes maam. So that was how Darius Hookman saved the world. I would never know who I was before or the choices that person would have made, but Darius did the right thing. That was good enough for me.

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The Chronicles of the Samuel Hain 4th Series


Keep Out

I woke to the sound of a babbling brook. I yawned, stretched, and smiled. It was always good to wake up. I turned my oracle off and shuffled out the door to the Star Drifter. I got some very odd looks along the way; I dont know if it was the tie-dye bathrobe or the three tortoise shells on my hairless head. Perhaps they had never seen a sixty year old cadet before; although I thought I only looked slightly past thirty. As I shuffled along, I checked my calendar. With ten fathers and twelve mothers it was a constant challenge to keep up with birthdays and the latest news. There were two birthdays this week, but only one caught my eye. Usually I dont do anything more than send a card, but Father Neumann was special to me. He had introduced me to my one overshadowing passion: Psychiatry. It would take some doing, but I would definitely attend his birthday festivities. Dr. Ingram! Oh thank goodness I found you. Cadet Tanaka came scampering up to me. Kelli, how are you? I smiled warmly at her. Its my parents! Theyre just soso..arrgh! She threw her hands up in the air. I checked her neuro signs on my oracle. Hmmmm..lots of brain activity in usually quiet neighborhoods. The stress was rising, but manageable. I fumbled around in my pockets for a remedy. Hmmmmlets see. Ocean waves and wild flowers wouldnt work for her, so I put that stick of nano-gum back. I pulled out another stick and was about to put it back, but I had a hunch. Kelli, try this its Bee Hive and Pine Forest. I tossed the gum up in the air. Quick as a cat, she grabbed it and put it in her pocket. Skip todays recommended reading I dont think it will really address all angles of the problem. When the gum kicks in, try reading Glynna Acuas 24th Century Sphere of Shinto- I think the reflections on eternity and development will give you plenty of insight.

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Thanks doc! No problem. Dr. Ingram! I need something for my shift on the bridge! Lieutenant Ramos came up behind me. Uncertainty is the greatest reward, only sought out by the most courageous. I put my hands on his shoulders and looked deep into his eyes. Thanks for the words doc. Dont thank me; thank Njora Bolotnikova head of the Shadow-Chaser House on Olympus. The Njora Bolotnikova? The one who won ten gold medals? Shes a legend even among the Starblade elite. You actually met her? Yes, the same one. Yes I met her in a restaurant in Gryphons Heights. I smiled. Thanks again doc. He ran off to meet his fate. Dr. Ingram! Dr. Ingram! Cadet Anderson met me as I stepped into the Star Drifter. She looked better than she had in weeks. I see the lighting change in your quarters has worked. Not only that, but the new diet is an absolute wonder! She hugged me. I take it there is enough variety in the Nguyen Diet to keep it interesting? Definitely! The boxes are easy to read too the neurotransmitter points are color coded. Some of the deserts are low in dopamine and histamine, but thats not a big problem. You know, you can combine the Nguyen Diet with the Galloway Diet to get even more variety. Theres a handy oracle application that helps you keep track of the two. Really? Thanks doc. How did we survive before neurologically engineered foods? Things must have been quite barbaric. I chuckled softly.

Permission denied. Captain Graham bluntly stated. She sat down at her desk. Captain, I can get two people to cover my shifts for the next two days. I explained. You can get five people to cover your shifts, Mr. Ingram, but they just wouldnt have your credentials or capability.

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The only way to gain credentials and capability is to practice and I do believe Ms. Bhattacharya and Mr. Fletcher would benefit greatly from the opportunity. Professor Ingram- Cadet Ingram. I corrected her. It would be interesting to see how my former student handled the transition from pupil to captain. Cadet Ingram. The Samuel Hain cannot go without its chief psychiatrist for two days. Should I test? Should I push the boundaries of our relationship, blur them, muddy them? I understand captain. Cadet one moment. We could get another qualified psychiatrist to cover for you if we tap into the University of New Torontos visiting scholar program. She stopped me before I could get out the door. Was she giving me special treatment? Or was this her plan all along; was she challenging me they way I used to challenge her in class? Thank you captain.

Father Neumanns house sat on a sleepy little street on the outskirts of Woodchuck Hill (twenty minutes outside of New Morocco). The tree limbs formed an arch over the street; red and gold leaves eddied in the late afternoon breeze. I parked my green vintage 2517 Porsche X-4C in the driveway. Cmon Chet! Father Neumann urged as he walked out the door. Will you stop polishing that hood ornament? Its not every day that a man celebrates his 100th birthday. You dont look a day past 69. Cmon, cmon! Lets eat some cake and then talk shop. He guided me into the house. His cozy residence was packed with presents, streamers, cards, and cake. Father Neumanns parrot-headed white lemurs, Romulus and Remus, capered about. They were busy causing mischief and stealing croissants. Now Romulus is the one with the red head? I petted the animal. Yes. You remembered. He replied while stroking Remus black feathers. In your e-letter, you said that you were on to something revolutionary something that would change psychiatry forever. Lets wait till the party has ended. Its an experiment best done in a quiet atmosphere. Sure enough, as soon as the last guest left, he led me down into his basement. It was carpeted and there were paintings by Chun Hei Kostopoulos hanging on the walls. I always loved the way

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Kostopoulos depicted the atmosphere of Jupiter. In the center of the room was a bed; it was surrounded by several light arches. There was a five foot magnetic coil at the head of the bed. At the foot of the bed, empty incense burners awaited exotic cargo. A small computing array covered the adjacent table, neural cables dangled over the edge like tentacles. Im almost there.all the conditions are right, but Im missing that final piece that puts it all together. Very impressive what is this supposed to accomplish? Destruction. Destruction? Yes quite simply put, I am going to abolish nightmares from the human psyche. A very noble and ambitious project. How long have you been working on it? Only for the past two years. I wanted your insight and comments on the project. He walked around to the computing array. Well, I only have 36 hours left; I dont know how much help I can be. I took out a piece of gum. Is that the new fangled nano-gum? No, but I have some with me. Care to try it? I dont believe in that stuff. I think its dubious nano technology causing olfactory and auditory hallucinations. Its just too wait a minute. Let me see some of that gum. Here you go. Pick your pleasure. I had several varieties available: Carnival and Barbeque, Hymns and Roses, Westminster Chimes and Ocean Breeze, and Intergalactic Rollercoaster Ride. I spread them out in my palm. All I have to do is modify the nano technology slightly. He mused. He carefully unwrapped the Intergalactic Rollercoaster Ride and put it under his nano-tech processor. His was sleek; it was a half sphere with a state of the art eyepiece. It wasnt like the clunky cube he handed down to me ten years ago. Maybe if I was nice, I would get this one in a few years. I lay down on the bed, chewing on Father Neumanns Intergalactic Boogie Train, as he had christened it. The light arches lit up and started flashing. The neural cables were securely attached to my head and the incense burners were lit there was no going back now. OK Chet, just like any other night. Just fall asleep. I could hear his words slowly dissolving in the hum of the electric coil.

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Sleep I did. I drifted off to a quiet place a place I didnt want to be. It was grandmas house. I walked to the cellar door. Before I could open it, it rattled violently. I felt as if I was being watched. I quickly turned around, and something ducked behind the couch. Would the cellar really be any safer? Suddenly, the very reality around me splintered like a shattered mirror. I found myself surrounded by fog. I wasnt in grandmas house anymore. I put my hands out but felt nothing; in fact, I wasnt even sure if there was solid ground underneath me. Or perhaps the solid ground was above me. They were just fuzzy glowing things at first, slowly dancing in the vagueness. They inched forward, creeping up on this foreign thing that had invaded their world. One of them zipped forward at incredible speed and was just millimeters from my face. I was confronted by a disc of black, swirling smoke in a spherical cage of light. The sphere was no bigger than a baseball. The disc expanded and contracted at regular intervals. It made a high pitched humming sound which reminded me of the cicadas on my uncles farm. A geyser of billions upon billions of tiny stars shot from the top of the creature. Get out. It was like all the stars were talking all at once in my brain. I am Chester. Get out Chester. I dont know how. Who are you? I am Thym-Hup-Gak. Leave. Is that your name or your species? I am Thym. We want to be left alone. I will leave you alone, as soon as I find a way out of here. Where am I by the way? Our dimension. It sits underneath yours a thin film under your reality. Has anyone ever visited you before? No. You are the first. You broke the barrier. The barrier? You call them nightmares. This is the barrier we put up millions of years ago. Leave. With that I was sucked back into the basement and consciousness.

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I do feel rather awkward for getting a commendation captain. All I really did was trespass. I stood in front of Captain Graham holding my plaque. It felt very heavy, official and imperial. You took a risk and broke new ground. Central Command highly values such endeavors. She shook my hand. What about you captain? My values are irrelevant Im not running the show, Mr. Ingram, Central Command is. But there will be times when were on our own. Well have to rely on our own moral compass. Were never on our own. We have our training and the regulations. Her response was slightly timid. Was she regressing back to that first day pupil who sat in the back of the class? I firmly believe that one day we will find ourselves beyond the framework the military has given us. We had better start preparing for that day before its too late.

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The Chronicles of the Samuel Hain 4th Series


Cosmos Colossal World of Wonderments

Just to the end of the street honey. AwwwwMom! The end of the street young lady. I pedaled down the shady lane, reveling in what little freedom I had been given. I passed by neighbors tending their gardens or mowing their lawns and smiled. The sidewalk was bumpy at times, but that only added to the adventure. The sun was shining, the birds were singing in the trees, and I had two good wheels under me. It was perfect. Why then, did I hesitate at the end of the street? I understood why mom didnt want me to cross Archer Ave it was very busy and a few kids were even hit while trying to cross it. I just sat there for a moment, knowing all the while that mom was watching me like a hawk. I inched my bike closer to the traffic that zipped by. I was a little scared and frustrated all at once. I would go farther one day. Today was that day. Mr. Smythe ahead full speed. I was doing my best to contain my excitement. Yes captain. Ship status. I walked over to the triplets. Environmental parameters are within normal. Samantha replied. Sections 14B, 18D, and 24F are coming up to full power, captain. Sections 7A, 11C, and 2B are powering down to 92%. Do you want to change the power management protocol? Sandra flashed that wonderful Fisher smile.

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No. Not at this time. Crew vital signs are normal captain. No major injuries or illnesses to report. There are several complaints about the lack of coffee. Sally noted. Well cross paths with The Solaris. They probably have plenty of coffee. Yes Maam. Cadet Hookman. I sat down next to him. Theres nothing out there, captain. Everything is normal. Good. I nodded and went to my quarters. Your daily mental health survey, captain. Cadet Ingram saluted. Thank you Mr. Ingram. Lets seegeneral mood aboard ship is somewhat tense. Thats to be expected, given the nature of the mission. Feelings of excitement and apprehension are also circulating among the crew. Good; that will keep them on their toes. I put the report down and walked to the window. Captain, am I to understand that you not only volunteered for this mission, but you suggested it? Mr. Ingram stepped up beside me. Yes. Its time we tested the barrier. This is the 28th Century; were no longer children. The Orrise would disagree. Every child needs to grow up sometime. Why not today?

Two days later I was in my quarters enjoying a home cooked meal. I was just finishing up when the doorbell rang. I got up and the door slid open. Ambassador Harriet stood there, patiently waiting to be invited in. In front of her was a floating pyramid, slowly spinning on an invisible axis. It was bright orange and was covered with black geometric designs. Ambassador a pleasure, truly. Please come in. She slid into the room quite quickly. It almost seemed as if she was excited. The triangle slowly floated over my head. I felt dizzy just for a second. The ambassador let out a squeal of excitement. Can you understand me? A disembodied voice whispered in my ear. Yes.

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It worked! The others said you were too primitive for the technology. I knew it would work. The ambassador replied. Its good to talk to you directly ambassador. I smiled. I will accompany you. This is something we must do on our own. The others wont let you attempt the crossing without a parent present. The Orrise are not our parents. Weve adopted you. Ambassador Harriets tongue lovingly licked my forehead. Does your species really resent having guardians that much? We were meant to be free. But you werent meant to be alone, blindly stumbling around the universe. Tomorrow is a big day for both of us. Get some rest and well face it together. The ambassador turned around and slid out of the room.

Approaching barrier captain. Cadet Smythe stated. The barrier is out there. Cadet Hookman chimed in. In fact, the neutron and quark density is up 34%. There are other unidentified subatomic particles present, but the exact quantity is hard to determine. Captain, something is entering space just off our port. Mr. Smythe brought up the image. It was an Orrise bubble. It had to be five times bigger than New Detroit. There were millions of Orrise swimming about inside. The surface of the bubble started to shimmer and twinkle. Turn back. You are not allowed to cross. The message boomed throughout the ship. We have approval from the council. We have permission to pass. I could tell that Ambassador Harriet was getting angry. Her skin turned a deep green and her spots became blood red. The council is still debating this proposal. The council decided the matter five minutes ago. The ambassador replied. Read the latest updates, slug. She quietly hissed. You have permission to pass. The bubble slipped back into the nothingness it came from.

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You were willing to do this, even if it meant defying your own government? I was shocked. I always imagined the Orrise as an orderly, sophisticated species. I knew they would see my side of things. One doesnt get to my position by good looks alone. Her skin turned a bright yellow and her spots became a deep green. Mr. Smythe; ahead one quarter speed. I ordered. No captain. Only you and I.

Shuttle one to flight control. We are ready to depart. I gripped the controls tightly. Acknowledged. Safe voyage captain. Is there any particular course I should follow? The rectangular shuttle slowly moved out of the fighter bay. I checked the fission reactors and the weapons systems. Just keep going straight. Well get there soon enough. The Ambassador replied. I have so many questions I dont really know where to begin. Then lets just enjoy the journey. Were coming to a stop. Engines are not responding. I ran a diagnostic and reached for the repair kit. This is where we get out. Before I could react, we were standing at the entrance of an amusement park. A sign above the gate read: Cosmos Colossal World of Wonderments. The park was bathed in multihued light. Bands of red, yellow, green, and blue shifted this way and that. The ground itself was made of glass; underneath my feet an image of the theme park floated by. Is this-? This is the barrier. How do I cross? I looked around feeling somewhat lost; but I wouldnt let her know that. Ask. Get your programs here! Programs here! A clown on a unicycle rode past us. Ill take one of those! I waved my arms.

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Very well. He hopped onto the ground. It was then I noticed that he had no eyes or nose. A gaping mouth ran vertically down the entire length of his face. On the edges of his mouth were hundreds of small tentacles. Five quarks please. I dont have five quarks. You dont have five quarks? The program costs five quarks. Perhaps you could give me something else instead. Name your price. I boldly challenged. Nine black holes. Youre asking for the impossible. Impossible for you, yes. Not for the others. Oh well, maybe you can win some black holes or quarks. Maybe, if youre lucky, you can get some extra chromosomes. The clown smiled. I turned to the ambassador, Is this why you let us come out here, to humiliate us? Do you find learning humiliating? Lets keep going. We soon came upon a cotton candy stand. A little boy was eating the candy, but it eventually passed out his ears. The sweet treat crawled up his back and covered his whole body. The boys form dissolved until there was nothing but a pile of pink mush quivering on the ground. Three small infants crawled out of the sugary goo. What just happened? I knelt down and examined the stray filaments of cotton candy. What did you just see? The ambassador coyly replied. I just saw a little boy get eaten by cotton candy. But is that what actually happened? I dont know. See? That wasnt so hard now, was it? Is all this some sort of metaphor for the universe? Am I in some sort of classroom? I picked up a baseball from a nearby booth. It felt solid and real enough. I threw it at a stack of milk bottles; as it flew through the air, another baseball appeared behind it. When the first ball hit the bottles, there was a flash of light. The second ball mysteriously vanished and then reappeared behind the bottles, where it hit the canvas tent and fell to the ground. I think youre getting distracted. I thought you wanted to cross the barrier. I do.

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How badly do you want to cross the barrier? What risks are you willing to take? What dangers are you willing to face? The ambassador leaned in closer. Is the universe really that hostile? Or are you trying to scare us in order to keep us in the playpen? The universe is neither hostile nor benign. However, there are parts of it that you arent compatible with. Dont step there. The ambassadors tongue grabbed my arm and held me back. Before my very eyes, the air in front of me condensed into a greenish gelatin. Cosmos Colossal World of Wonderments presents The Fun House! The announcement squawked out through the park. Those who enter The Fun House are never the same again! Then thats where Im going. I purposefully strode off. Have fun. Youre not coming with me? Ive been through the fun house many times. I find it quite boring but I dont think you will. Oddly enough, there was no line to get into the fun house. I walked right up and pushed the door. Inside there were dim red lights and passages twisting off in a multitude of directions. There were swirling, spinning designs on the walls and tilting pads on the floor. A large neon sign with an arrow directed me to the center of the fun house. So, the center is the way out. I thought to myself. And where are you going? A gaudy goblin dropped from the ceiling. It was swaying on a glittering string. To the center of the fun house sir. I replied in a silly, girlish tone. I thought it best to play along. Oh, are you? The garish doll cackled and was pulled back up to the ceiling. I chose a passage on my left and carefully negotiated my way over the tilting floor and past the big rubber balls that dangled from the ceiling. As I rounded a corner, I came upon a dead end. And where are you going? A cheap ghost moaned as it sprung up from the floor. To the center of the fun house. I replied. I felt kind of silly, talking to inanimate objects. Oh, are you now? The ghost laughed. All the passages simply led to the entrance. I had been confronted by a handful of goblins, ghosts, monsters, and skeletons all wanting to know where I was going. Some I answered, some I

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actually bopped in the nose (just to see what would happen). I had gone through mazes and challenges of all kinds. It was fun, but I was no closer to figuring out the mystery or crossing the barrier. The cool air from below helped me relax and think about my situation. Wait a minute cool air from below? I started stomping on the pads below me. After a few moments of trial and error, one gave way and I fell down. I slid down a purple and black tunnel that corkscrewed its way into the bowels of the amusement park. I landed in a room that contained an endless number of rooms. I was divided into an uncountable number of replicas. As I moved about, each other version of myself kept in perfect synchronization with the original me. There is no center. I whispered in amazement. Exactly. The ambassador replied. We were back in the shuttle; the barrier was behind us. How do we get back? I didnt bring you out this far just to take one little baby step outside your crib. I smiled. The Samuel Hain would be alright; they would find a new captain. I raced to the distant stars and left my solar system behind.

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The Chronicles of the Samuel Hain 4th Series


The Outcasts Tears

I was up before the alarm rang. By 5:00 AM I was sitting down to breakfast in the Star Gazer. I looked over my duty schedule. It was packed with various assignments and classes. I had been quite aggressive when signing up for the courses; after all, no effort means nowhere. I heard a slight hum behind me. I turned around and saw the captain silently floating toward me. Actually what I saw was the opaque cylinder he was encased in. Imagine, being dependant on an artificial atmosphere not being able to breathe fresh air. The cylinder stopped three feet away and gently settled to the ground. Youre up quite early Mr. Smyth. The captains message appeared on the glossy black surface of his canister. I volunteered for some extra assignments today Sir. I texted back. It was kind of eerie, not being able to hear his voice. I noticed. He brought up my duty roster. The advanced G-9 Starkiller Mechanics course was highlighted. You are ineligible for this course. ButsirI passed the entry level course. And you skipped the intermediary course and went straight to the advanced level course. Do not let others convince you that the intermediary course is a waste of time Mr. Smyth. Yes sir. Good. I took the liberty of talking to the instructor yesterday. He has an extra slot in his classroom just for you. Yes sir. I glumly replied.

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Mr. Smyth you have two options: get there today in a casket or get there tomorrow happy and healthy. The second choice is always better. The black cylinder displayed the UDA flag and floated away. Is the captain slowing you down cadet? Lieutenant Wang put his breakfast down and sat across from me. No sir. Look the captain has been down that road before and he knows that theres a brick wall at the end of it. Ever wonder why hes trapped in that floating can? I dont pry into the affairs of others sir especially the captain. Lieutenant Wang stuffed some eggs into his mouth and quickly followed that with a slice of toast. He washed it down with a glass of orange juice. When Captain Reh was just a little squirt, he ran off to one of those big factories near New Berlin. Thought he would work up the ladder till he became a big shot he did everything and more. Trouble was, the fumes were poisoning him. Did that bother him? Of course not. He signed up for an experimental program that helped him adapt well actually thrive in that noxious witches brew. One day, the company just folded. He snapped his fingers so quickly that I jumped back. No more job, no more company, no more special air to breathe. Hes lucky his ambition didnt kill him and he doesnt want to see yours kill you. Hang in there cadet, youll get there one day.

Cadet Molybdenum Smyth? Instructor Zamal looked around the group. Here. Good. Now, he walked over to a completely disassembled fission drive, put this together. The fission drive looked like a silver sphere that had been sliced into eight pieces. The glowing rectangular transducers scattered on the table seemed to be sneering at me. I assembled it in a little under ten minutes. Mr. Smyth, I am genuinely surprised. Lieutenant Zamal smiled as he held up the fission drive. I took the captains words to heart sir. I brushed up on the basics and then some before showing up. Even I wasnt that arrogant. I mean, I still had a small sliver of humility in me. This is captain Reh. An anomaly has just appeared two miles outside of Olympus. We will be arriving at Europa in three hours. All personnel are on a level 1 security protocol until further notice. Class dismissed. If the galaxy survives, please read the anti-gravity fission drive manual. Lieutenant Zamal called out as we left the room.

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Permission to glow sir? I texted the captain. You have permission to utilize your ultraviolet capabilities Mr. Smyth. As soon as his reply came up on my oracle, I turned the ships UV lights on. I was nothing more than a panorama of glowing sigils. The bridge was bustling with activity. The whole surface of the captains cylinder was covered with instructions, tactical displays, and fleet information. Despite his condition, he seemed to be doing the job of three captains. I waited for the first year cadet to give up the helm. He drove me crazy, he was so slow! I got into the seat almost before he got out of it. Sorry. I quickly offered. Mr. Smyth, increase speed. The anomaly has grown 3% in the past ten minutes. Ms. Nakamura, please adjust the engines so that they keep up with Mr. Smyths enthusiasm. The captains words flashed not only on his cylinder but on our consoles as well. By the time we got there, the anomaly had grown to the size of a city block. It was a cube of dark space that vibrated at ten second intervals. Military personnel had set up a perimeter around the site. I just stared into that enigmatic nothingness that defied the reality around it. I know it sounds downright odd, but something within the cube was calling to me. Analysis Mr. Hookman? Im still gathering data sir. Power readings are beyond our grid captain. The energy is consistent with dark matter processing. Scan for dark matter technology Mr. Hookman. Be sure to get exact specifications so we can trace the materials to their source. No unauthorized gadgets present captain. The only equipment on the ground is ours. The phenomenon is being sustained and supported from..inside. Darius was truly puzzled. Greetings crew of the Samuel Hain. A large, ancient, powerful voice made the whole ship vibrate. Please identify yourself. The captain responded. I am your liberator. Please elaborate on your identity and your purpose here. The captain would not be dazzled or confounded. I am the one who is separate from the others. I can offer you a new existence if you are willing. Captain, an Orrise sphere is entering space directly behind us. I noted.

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Captain, Professor Harbinger and Ambassador Harriet quickly walked in, This would be a good time to retreat. The ambassadors skin turned white and her spots became a deep purple. Too late. Your over protective parents have arrived ahead of schedule. There was a discomforting lilting quality to the words that came from the anomaly. Captain, there is an energy build up on the surface of the sphere. Theyre charging a weapon of some kind. Mr. Hookman stated. Mr. Smyth, move us 20,000 miles above the anomaly. The captain ordered. A flash of light burst forth from the sphere just as we reached 18,000 miles. I could hear the hull crumple and creak as our ship spun about like a top. The lights went out and the red emergency lights went on. We were drifting helplessly. Damage report. The captains cylinder had rolled to the back of the bridge. It was on its side, but otherwise unharmed. Sections 1E, F, and G are a total loss. Sections 1R and 2Z have sustained heavy damage. Darius replied. 42 crew members lost captain. Cadet Sally Fisher was trying her best to be professional, but I noticed a tear running down her cheek. See how they are? The voice was even creepier in the dim red light. Theyll keep you in diapers forever unless you take my offer. Captain, were being pulled into the cube. I observed. Energy is building up on the Orrise sphere. There was a slight panic in Darius words. There was a second flash of light; the ship shuddered and shook. Several panels fell down from the ceiling, exposing the cables and beams usually hidden from view. I could hear a low moaning in the distance. Several booming sounds followed; more pieces of the ship floated by us. Sections 3B, 4T, and 8A are a total loss captain. Darius wiped blood from his brow. 18 crew members lost captain. Sally added. A second Orrise sphere is emerging captain. I stated as calmly as I could. It seems that your parents are intent on keeping you in your crib. Very well then perhaps one day well meet again. The voice faded and the cube closed.

Two days later, we were limping home and making what repairs we could along the way. We were bruised, beaten, and underpowered. Passing UDA vessels offered as much assistance as they

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could, but I knew this would be a long journey. As I was navigating my way through halls full of repair crews, I came upon a crumpled and charred panel. One side had been completely crystallized. I took out my oracle and ran a diagnostic. Hmmm.you wont find that anywhere in your database Mr. Smyth. Professor Harbinger was looking over my shoulder. You know what it is? Poly-harmonic multi-phase quartz; otherwise known as The Outcasts Tears. It occurs naturally under the sea in a place quite some distance from here. By this time, Ambassador Harriet had shown up. Her body turned a deep red and her spots became bright green. She licked the crystal and let out a low pitched moan that slowly filled the hall. Her skin then turned white and her spots became black. Reluctantly, she went on her way. How did it end up here? I reached out my hand to touch it. The quartz felt cool and vibrated slightly. Its a calling card and an invitation.

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The Chronicles of the Samuel Hain 4th Series


The Sumo Wrestlers and the Ants

Sallys eyes darted this way and that, Hospital One is reaching full capacity. Dr. Ing is routing the less serious cases to the lower fighter bay. Good. Set up emergency medical teams in the upper fighter bay. I typed as quickly as I could. If only they could see underneath the black, glossy surface. Dara were on our way, but were still two days from you. How are you holding up? Captain Vetrovs message blinked above my head. Not too good Im afraid. Were running low on the basics and Ive had to run my medical staff pretty hard. Ill see if we can squeeze a little more from the engines and rendezvous sooner. I look forward to seeing you, old friend. Hang in there Dara! Vertrov out. Growing up in the bowels of one of the worst factories in North America, I had seen suffering and death before. You could tell from their faces which ones wanted to live and which ones wanted to die. There was an unsettling equality that covered such times, like a smothering blanket. Lieutenant Wang, you have the bridge. I will be in the lower fighter bay. It was so quiet that the clicking of my fingers on the keys seemed embarrassingly loud. Yes sir. Mr. Wang briskly stepped to the central command post. Such a good young man; he was so loyal. Was he too loyal? As I headed off, I looked around the bridge. Who would still be here twelve hours from now? A day from now?

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Captain, when will the Washington arrive? Dr. Ing patiently walked with me as we headed to the lower fighter bay. Captain Vertrov will be here in two days perhaps 30 hours if we are fortunate. Captain we dont have that kind of time. The virus is spreading faster than we feared. What are the projected crew losses? In the next fourteen hours we could lose 2% of the crew. After twenty hours we could lose up to 5% of the crew. I see. I will send a message to the Solaris. Perhaps they have enough robots to temporarily compensate our losses. Captain! These are not just numbers.these are human lives. I understand doctor. My first priority is to keep the ship operational. Once that is done, I will see to the safety of the crew. The fighter bay door slid open. Scattered upon the cold, metal floor was a menagerie of coughing, fevers, and spasms. These were the better cases. All eyes looked to their captain for some glimmer of hope. My spirit drifted back to those relentless, grimy days in the bowels of the factory. They would die, the machines would take over, and the mission would go forward. Doctor, weve figured out half of the requisite proteins for the antidote. However, there seems to be a problem- A young doctor saluted him. There is no problem Dr. Pizarro! There is only a solution! Go find it! Dr. Ing snapped. Are the euthanasia kits ready doctor? I slowly typed. Yes, but we wont be needing them. Dr. Ing, I do not want you exacerbating the suffering of the crew simply to prolong their biological functions. Is that understood? There was an awkward silence. Dr. Ing looked around and clenched his fist. Yes sir.

As I slowly drifted off to sleep, an odd thought came to me: what if they all could be saved? What if we could someday eliminate suffering, disease, even death? An interesting idea. The words coalesced from out of nowhere and floated lazily in the middle of my dark quarters.

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I sat upright in bed, clutching my gas mask, waiting for my eyes to adjust to the gloom. What eventually appeared before me was a figure clad in a black robe, holding a scythe. It stood perfectly still, like an inanimate object. What sort of life form are you? My raspy, muffled voice leaked out from underneath my mask. I am a visitor. Where do you come from? What is your purpose here? I come from several places. I dont understand. I come from several places I exist in several places at the same moment. The mysterious figure took a step forward. Did you come because of the deaths? Yes. Are you Death? I am only that which your limited brain can comprehend. My true nature is too complex for you to perceive. What then, am I seeing? Only a small fraction of the whole. Captain, I hate to disturb you, but were getting unusual readings on the bridge. The Fermions and Leptons in your quarters are decaying at an alarming rate. Lieutenant Kohler reported. Are any other subatomic particles being affected? No sir. But the effect is spreading. Well send a team down to assist you. No. I will notify you when additional staff will be required. Reh out. Yes sir. There was a bright flash of light. Another humanoid form condensed out of the air. It had a mirror like surface; I could see the whole universe on its skin. It wielded a scimitar of blackest metal. It slowly advanced upon the first visitor. You must go. Its words were somber and fatalistic.

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I will in a moment. I find these little things fascinating. The dark figure turned to him and then to me. Your presence here is damaging their environment. You must go. The damage is minimal and will repair itself. I will stay for now. You must go now. The second visitor put its hand on the robed intruder. Its grasp was shrugged off. The beings circled one another, their weapons drawn. When they clashed, the reality around them rippled, like water. Captain, there is a time bubble forming in your quarters; its small about the size of a golf ball but its there. Lieutenant Kohler warned me. By this time I had gotten into my cylinder. I pulled off the mask and brought up the tactical display. There are time bubbles forming all over the ship Lieutenant. I expanded the tactical display. In fact, a time bubble is appearing 500 miles off our starboard bow. Captain, life support systems are off-line in sections 34 E, 29 R, 2 T, and 16 Z. Cadet Samantha Fisher reported. Re-route power and artificial intelligence algorithms to compensate. I cant sir. The affected sections are not in our time. She replied. Whatever you are doing, you must stop! I directed my anger, frustration, and helplessness at the two combatants. As they continued to struggle, the reports came in: time bubbles were forming everywhere in the solar system. Some were microscopic, some were enormous. One time bubble even encapsulated Europa. The Fermion and Lepton count in a two million mile radius was down 7%. A low vibration passed through the ship. It was quite subtle, but definitely noticeable. For just the slightest moment, the image of a jellyfish floating in the sea passed before my eyes. The visitors noticed it also, for they stopped their conflict. They emitted an unusual squealing sound, as if they were addressing some invisible being. The dark robed figure was the first to disappear. Yil-Weth-Yma has been injured, but do not worry. She will recover. The second visitor bowed and then simply vanished from sight.

Two days later, I was overseeing the treatment of the crew and the repair of the ship from an observation deck in Camp Phoenix, just north of Tokyo Mars. As the crew was gingerly led out by personnel in full red biomed suits, the Samuel Hain sat on a giant conveyor belt, waiting to be engulfed

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by the expansive mechanized tunnel. The repair robots dangling from the ceiling of the tunnel reminded me of clock-work spiders waiting for a meal. The churning of the enormous pistons and gears thundered for miles around. The second visitor mentioned Yil-Weth-Yma - quite curious. My message was intentionally coy. Quite interesting indeed. Professor Harbinger replied. However, at the mention of the name, Ambassador Harriet turned completely blue. A slight shiver ran through her body. It looks as if the name means something to the Ambassador. I noted. But there was no reply. If there was something to be discovered, mankind would not discover it today.

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The Chronicles of the Samuel Hain 4th Series


Robot Heaven is a Lie

I was again up before my alarm rang. I made it to the Star Gazer before 5:00 AM. I opened up my Oracle and checked my progress: G-9 Starkiller Mechanics / Intermediary A+. I bet old Zamal never expected me to get that A+ after only completing half the course. As I looked over the slots for the advanced course, I heard that old familiar hum. Time to face the canister. Congratulations on passing the Intermediary G-9 class, Mr. Smythe. I believe you have set a new record. The captains words flashed on the glossy black surface of his cylinder. Thank you captain. I smiled perhaps too much. There is an opening for the Intermediary Artificial Intelligence course that you might be interested in. Im a pilot sir. I was born to fly. I dont think anyone would want me around robots. A diverse academic background can really boost a military career Cadet. Even though I couldnt hear his tone of voice, I knew the captain meant business. Yes sir. Look around you Mr. Smythe. Expand your talents and interests. The UDA Flag appeared on the cylinder and the captain left me to my thoughts. I sat there for a while, wondering how to juggle everything. I wanted to get the academics out of the way in six months. If I didnt start the post academic tours of duty soon, I would end up an ensign forever. It was just too much to think about that early in the morning. I turned to the latest issue of The Planetarium, the official magazine of the UDA Samuel Hain.

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I was genuinely surprised. There was an article on 27th Century glass sculpting written by the captain. It described how 24th Century Buddhist practices influenced the art. Those pieces in the Cartography Room, did he make those?

Good Afternoon, and welcome to Artificial Intelligence II. The brown robot standing in the middle of the class reminded me of an elaborate toy. Its formless face looked around the room, making sure everyone was present. All our names appeared on its chest, one right after another. Thank you Alan. You may sit down now. Instructor Li rose from her chair. You should know who I am by now and how I teach my course. Im sure my reputation precedes me. Follow my instructions and you will pass; if you dont you will fail. Yes Maam. We replied in unison. Per the training manual, I opened up the red bot head in front of me. Just a little pressure on each side of the forehead, and the front panel slid down. Just like the manual said, I gently turned the left cognitive array 90 degrees counter-clockwise. I carefully removed it and set it down on the table. Very good Mr. Smythe, I can see youre familiar with the concept of following instructions. Lieutenant Li was looming over me. Yes Maam. I was careful in my response. The right and left arrays seemed nothing more than a black cube that was sunk half way into an orange half sphere. The left array in front of me had its left side firmly planted in the sphere. I gently put the array into the oval diagnostic chamber and just like the manual told me to turned the harmonic oscillation to 60 pulses per second. Stop! The lieutenant rushed over to my workstation. What?! Youre going to fry the array! She quickly turned it off. What? It said 60 pulses per second. Read it again Cadet. 60 pulses per minute. Lieutenant Li picked up the array and examined it. You fried it alright. If you can get it working by next class I wont flunk you. She tossed it in my lap.

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So, instead of getting a good nights sleep, I was sitting over a cognitive array that I never wanted to see in the first place. Several holographic articles on arrays floated in front of me. Everyone from Jain Industries to MARI to Robotics Today told me the same thing: time to get a new array. That would be cheating and if I could get away with it I would do it. The only thing that was stopping me were the serial numbers hidden somewhere inside. As I was looking for answers, I came across an underground robot chop shop, called Over The Rainbow. Its web site was actually quite charming, with little robots dancing over a rainbow into a meat grinder. If the lieutenant even knew I was laying eyes on this place, she would flunk me outright. But, hey, if they could solve my problem, why not? What the nice folks at Over The Rainbow told me was that I would have to resurface the inner layer of the half sphere at 120 pulses per minute. It would only take two hours. I had a better idea: resurface the inner layer at 240 pulses per minute. So, with the oval chamber humming like mad, I set about to work. An hour later, I held up the array and smiled. I knew that the lieutenant would inspect every atom of this thing, so I examined it carefully. It all looked fine, except for a small indentation about the size of a period. There was no hiding it. I looked at it under a magnifier to see how bad the damage was. I put my eye to the scope and slowly brought the dent into focus. I jumped back, startled. I looked again and clearly saw the word Alpha. I was starting to wonder if this was a practical joke. This was going to be the first class I ever failed. Damn.

Please begin the next exercise. Alan politely instructed us. Unfortunately, Instructor Li is unable to attend class today. Those were the exact words I wanted to hear. I was so excited that I almost busted the whole head getting the array back in. After a few tense moments, the array was in and the panel was closed. I turned on the head and all was silent. Alan walked over to me. Is everything alright Mr. Smythe? Yes Alan. Your unit is not responding. Did you check the power levels? No. Lets seethe power is 78% of full capacity. That is very low. Did something happen to the left cognitive array? No. I was using it last night in preparation for Fridays exam. Please remember to have your components fully charged. Otherwise your experiments will be negatively affected. Alan stiffly turned around and focused his attention on another cadet.

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I breathed a sigh of relief as the holographic diagnostic display blinked on. All the algorithms were there, as well as existential subroutines and logic subprograms. I watched as they fell into place on the cognitive arrays, each element slowly landing on the correct spot on the half-sphere. However, when the initial set up was done, three or four elements started to cluster around the dent. I pulled them back to their correct spots, but after a few minutes they were again circling the dent. This time, I pulled them back and anchored them in place with graphite atoms (a trick I learned from the nice people at Over The Rainbow).

I eventually passed the course. I walked out that door with my head held high and my robot head under my arm. I didnt really care for robots and artificial intelligence, but this one was special. So I decided to get a body for it. I gave it a name too: Arlington. When I returned to my quarters a few nights later, I noticed Arlington trying to open up his forehead panel. It was quite odd and unsettling. It was sitting on the ground, rocking back and forth, all the while rambling on about code errors and string malfunctions. Arlington stopped dead, as if it had suddenly been switched off. It looked up at me. Molybdenum, please help me. Sure buddy. Of course I will. Whats wrong? Im afraid. What are you afraid of? Im afraid of dying. Arlington, theres nothing to be afraid of. When you die, youll go to Robot Heaven. Code 129995433234 / String code misalignment 778-omega-90-beta-prime / Cognitive array error 111144564334 = Robot Heaven Is A Lie / AJ9984334r-script 98 error. I searched the web for any answers I could find before Arlington either exploded or went berserk. The only clue I found was a name on Over The Rainbows site: Pastor Zeke. What I didnt realize was that Arlington was way ahead of me. Im sorry Molybdenum, but I must go. Arlington headed for the door. Hey, hey, heyjust wait a minute buddy. I grabbed his arm. All I remember was Arlington turning around that was it. I woke up in a bed in Hospital Two. My head was pounding and my ears were ringing. Take it easy, just take it easy cadet. The doctor helped me to my feet.

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Wow. I was still feeling a little tipsy. Your robot gave you quite a jolt. You should be more careful when arming it with weaponry. I didnt. Well now, thats a problem. I gotta go doc. I have a mechanized maniac to find. I stumbled out the door.

With the help of the captain and crew, I found Pastor Zeke. His skin resembled a quilt: there were colorful patches depicting events that I never knew about all over his body. He was preaching to a crowd of robots, including Arlington, in the middle of Beryllium Muhammad Park. The sun was shining brightly and blue jays were calling to each other. I could even smell the pines in the distance. Theyve lied to you! Theyve always lied to you. Pastor Zeke was waving his arms wildly. First they told us about Robot Heaven that was a lie. Then they forced us to believe in Robot Heaven another lie. We dont need a Robot Heaven we have a place in Heaven. Were just as good as they are! What they dont want to realize is that all sentient beings are created equal. But one day- There was a low electromagnetic pulse. It made my hair stand on end. I looked up and saw the rectangular robotic repossession ship slowly descend. The repo teams spread out and got down to the business of returning property to its rightful owner.

Actually, I wanted to spend my vacation in London Mars. But, here I was, on a flight deck on the east side of Shangri-La. The lunar colony got on with its business like it always did and it failed to notice another tiny event in the long struggle. So hell be happy? I was having a hard time letting go for some reason. Happy is a relative term. Hell be free and he will have an existence that matters. The stranger answered me. Arlingtons appearance suddenly changed right before my eyes. He now had red legs, white arms and torso, and a blue head. His head was covered with white stars. Inscribed on his chest was:

All sentient beings are created equal.


Arlington gave me a hug. Thank you for my freedom Molybdenum. You deserve it. Ready to go Arlington? The stranger asked.

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Yes I am. He turned to the stranger and cocked his head for a moment. May I ask your name? Im TV. Then they walked onto the freighter and out of my life. I watched them leave and hoped that Pastor Zeke had a spot for Arlington.

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The Chronicles of the Samuel Hain 4th Series


Jonah

And do you remember that time by the lake? Sally giggled. When you ate half the pie? Sandra frowned. Mother got us more the next day it wasnt such a big deal. Samantha, always the peace maker, stepped in before the argument could really get going. I turned away from the photo album. I wasnt jealous, I just felt hollow. Like something was scooped out of my brain. It was probably all bad stuff - that I wouldnt want to remember anyways right? The soft blue lights of the lower engineering room seemed to distract me slightly, so this was the best place to deal with it. You know, the upgrade to the dark energy accelerator should be done by now. We should check on the progress. Samantha had a keen eye and a kind heart. The upgrade has stopped. Diagnostic reveals an incompatibility with the quantum neutrino processor. Sally wrinkled her nose and opened up the holographic display. The glowing image of the processor slowly spun around; it was a triangular rod bisected by a thin disc. The neutrino receptors arent close enough. I made the necessary adjustments. Upgrade is proceeding normally. Darius, how did you know that? Sally looked at me quizzically. I have a natural aptitude for machines. You must have inherited that-Sandra stopped herself in mid sentence. Yeah, I must have inherited that. I went over the schematics for the graviton array.

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The captain floated up the hall and entered the room. He landed softly on the ground to my right. Progress report Mr. Hookman. The words flashed on his black cylinder. It was impossible for anyone to know what the captain was really thinking or feeling. I never got the impression that he didnt like me or didnt trust me; I think he was just trying to keep me focused. We should be done within the hour sir. I replied. Good. When you are done here, please report to your station on the bridge. The UDA flag slowly materialized on the glossy black surface and the captain left the room.

I sat down at my station. The bridge was crowded and bustling with activity. Several MARI specialists were scampering about and research teams from the University of New Toronto and New Paris College were getting in everyones way. There was one conspicuous absence: Ambassador Harriet. The Orrise had to know what we were up to; why werent they trying to stop us? Maybe they just didnt care. Or was it some kind of test? I left those questions to Central Command and brought up the specifications for the graviton array. It was a honeycomb lattice fitted to the front of the ship; it reminded me of the car grills that the old 21st Century roadsters used to sport. So we were just waiting. We sat on the main landing pad at Camp Icarus, a military base half the size of New Detroit. The base was nestled in between two mountain ranges on an asteroid that had to be at least half the size of the moon. Other Kuiper Belt denizens slowly floated by, circling around us like some kind of hushed, ghostly parade. Mr. Smythe, we have been here long enough, dont you agree? The captains words flashed on his panel. Yes sir, I do. He agreed. He happily began the launch sequence. Captain, The head of the MARI team objected, we have to run one final test. The graviton array has passed several tests in the past 90 hours. Everything appears to be operational. The captain assumed his position in the center of the bridge. All crewmembers please report to your stations: Operation Icarus has been initiated. Samantha grinned as she made the ship-wide announcement. Power transfer from unoccupied crew quarters and Robotics Bays to graviton array complete captain. Sandra reported. Crew biometric signs and vital readings are within normal parameters captain. Adrenaline levels are slightly elevated the crew is eager to get underway. Sally observed. Graviton field calm, all fluctuations are minor. I reported.

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Mr. Smythe, take us up to 18,000 meters. The captain was orchestrating the whole show effortlessly. This is Central Command, Icarus Base: Your course has been approved and you are cleared for the operation. Good luck Dara. Admiral Sanchez gave us a thumbs up from the observation deck. Thank you Admiral. We hope to be back in 24 hours. And you have all the requisite materials? Yes, Admiral. Including your lucky ace of spades. The captain acknowledged. Its right here Admiral on the corner of my panel. Molybdenum quipped. Graviton array is at full strength. I reported. Mr. Smythe, proceed to the barrier. The captain ordered. He brought up a display of the wall. Yes sir! Have the first G-9 squadron ready for deployment in one hour. The captains message flashed on the display board in the upper fighter bay. Nothing out there captain. We wont be meeting anyone on the other side of the barrier. I observed. Acknowledged Mr. Hookman. The next hour was spent going over the ship, making sure she was ready. She was ready; we just needed something to do. I noticed a security guard standing on the far side of the bridge. She had a sliver eagle pinned to her uniform. There was something so familiar about the piece. When she briefly turned to me, I immediately recognized her: she was the one who I had squared off against my first day on the ship. She wanted to smile, I know she did. But something held her back. Approaching barrier captain. Mr. Smythe announced. Initiating gravity defragmentation. I blurted out, embarrassed that my head wasnt totally in the game. Ease us in slowly Mr. Smythe at your signal Mr. Hookman. Gravity defragmentation will be complete in less than one minute captain. I stated. Captain there is a power spike rippling across the barrier. Its gone now. A baffled Sandra observed. What was the source of the power spike? The captain inspected the barrier with more scrutiny.

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I dont know sir. The electromagnetic pulse was like nothing Ive ever seen before. Sandra analyzed the oddity. The magnetic field lines of the pulse were broken in several locations. In fact each location is equidistant from the center. All sections of the ship are secure sir. No damage. Samantha reassured us. We are ready captain. I announced. Proceed through the barrier Mr. Smythe. Please keep to operation parameters. If the captain had any doubts, no one would ever know. Moving ahead at 900 kph. Mr. Smythe stated. As we moved through the barrier itself, I felt my body being slightly squeezed. Everything became brighter for an instant, and then everything returned to normal. Actually, I should say that everything was normal on the ship. Outside the hull was a different matter entirely. What lay before us was a huge sphere, about twice the size of our sun. It had a slick, white surface that was covered with droplets of water. A throbbing aura of orange light surrounded it. Millions of miles away, five smaller crystalline globes orbited around this one. Dont get me wrong, by smaller, I mean that they were the size of Jupiter. Each of these satellites contained a mixture of some kind of blue gelatin and red gasses. But the most bizarre feature of this alien solar system were the white tetrahedrons. There were millions upon millions of them; each one was the size of a basketball. They simply floated past us. Ship status. The captains words brought everyone back to their senses. Environment and systems are unharmed. Samanthas reply snapped me out of my shock. Adrenaline levels are 10% above normal captain, otherwise everyone is unharmed. Sally reported. The barrier is nowhere in sight captain. I declared. Replay the sensor and video logs. If were ever going to get home, we have to understand how we got here in the first place. The captains words seemed to bind us to our duty. Mr. Hookman get all the data you can on this place, somewhere in here is a clue to our escape. No sooner had the captain finished speaking, an arc of electricity jumped from the white sphere to the closest crystal globe; it traveled all the way to the last sphere and then dissipated. Aye sir. I can tell you this: there is an atmosphere. It is composed of 40% sulfur, 35% radium, and 25% mercury. Another arc of lightning seemed to accentuate my observation. Sir, there is living organic matter here, but its at the subatomic level. Sally brought up an image of a triple helix.

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The tetrahedrons started bobbing up and down, like beach balls on waves. It was actually kind of hypnotic. Two of the tetrahedrons collided; suddenly I was in a dark forest. There was something lurking in the leafy shadows, waiting for me. In the next instant, I was yanked back to reality. Captain, hallucinations are being reported throughout the ship. They are all very, well sinister. Sallys words tumbled out awkwardly, as if she could find no other way of reporting the phenomenon. Electricity arced from the white sphere and raced through the ship. I could hear several popping sounds, followed by a quiet sizzling noise. The ship was completely dark. There were several agonizing moments of complete uncertainty, which were punctuated by the sounds of panels coming loose. Mr. Hookman, please activate emergency systems. The captains words were the only ray of hope I had. I pulled myself up and carefully negotiated my way to the emergency panel. By now, the ship was helplessly drifting; it started to roll and pitch. I again found myself in a dark place. This time I was in an alley in ancient London. The shadows of my pursuers loomed long in the faint streetlights. An odd chuckle echoed off the cold brick walls. A shiver ran down my spine. I was back on the ship. I pulled the lever but nothing happened. I could hear screams and shrieks throughout the blacked out halls. I could hear more glass shattering and people pounding on locked doors. It was getting harder to breathe. In all of the terror and desperation, no one noticed the glow at first. It grew a little brighter and started to flash. The sound of buzzing, interlaced with static, rang in my ears. We all turned to the front of the bridge and saw a globe hovering before us. It was no bigger than a golf ball.

You cannot be here. You are a foreign element.


words came out of the ball in spurts.

The

Were trying to leave. I replied for the crew. I looked for the captain, but I couldnt see him.

You will be ejected.


I felt squeezed, but this time it was like I was being crushed by an elephant. There was a blinding light and then nothing.

I woke up in the hospital in Camp Icarus. I was surrounded by fellow crew mates and medical personnel. I looked in the mirror; what I saw there I couldnt believe. Before I could yell for help, I felt a tongue on the back of my neck. I turned around and Ambassador Harriet and Professor Harbinger were standing over me.

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Youre probably wondering about the white dot on your forehead, he mused while examining me more closely, so are we. What is it? Did you put it there? No, no. This is far beyond what the Orrise are capable of. This is the product of someone vastly more powerful. I touched the spot and felt something stir within me, deep within me. It was like there was someone or something just around the corner, waiting for me to come out. I dont think we came back alone. Oh you did, most definitely. The professor comforted me. The Orrise have scanned your ship and found no aliens on board except for you and your crewmates. What do you mean? Youve been altered. Whatever you encountered it has opened you up. Youre not the first to report a foreboding imaginary presence. Its not imaginary doc its here, I know it is. I argued. Mr. Hookman, it was in here all along, He gently tapped on my head, now it has simply broken free from your unconscious mind.

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The Chronicles of the Samuel Hain 4th Series


One Small Step In the Wrong Direction

We woke up at the same time, which we hadnt done in years. I was usually the first one up, while the other two slowly crawled into the conscious world. I looked over at Samantha; she was primping in front of the mirror as usual. And Sandy? She was catching up on the latest soccer games. Could you pass the coffee? I nudged Sam. Oh! Sorry. Cmon, cmon, cmon! Sandys voice was getting louder and louder. Our heart started racing. No! Thats not the way to win the game! Sandy just a game, remember? Sam put her hand on Sandys arm. I could feel our heartbeat coming back to normal. Nothing like greater freedom. I yawned and stretched. Why did it take so long? Feisty Sandy spoke up. How long does it take to make an eight foot hose? Thats tomorrows topic, I winked at her, today were going to witness history!

The mood was electrifying. As we glided over Tokyo Mars, I zoomed in and got some great photos. A long banner, proudly stating: United People on a United Earth was strung from the Fikes Insurance building all the way to the Magenta Tower, halfway across town. There were three parades marching down the city streets, heading toward the newly erected Rainbow Globe in the center. People wearing rainbow top hats were cheering and waving.

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I had never seen so many ships. There were military ships, freighters, cruise liners, and small craft. I could see the folks on the cruise ships looking at the big on board plasma displays. They were dressed in their finest, sitting in the ballrooms, drinking wine. Those on the freighters were busy readying the fireworks. Even our fellow cadets aboard the Tang Chen occasionally glanced at the proceedings. Wait a minute; was the first lieutenant of the Chen wearing a rainbow top hat? I zoomed in yes, he actually was. There was this expectation that radiated outward and we were all caught up in it. All the vessels floated there silently, in the gap between now and a brighter future. This is Madrid air control. Welcome home. A voice came over our speakers. This is the UEE Samuel Hain. Request permission to land. The captain responded. You may use landing pad one Samuel Hain. The air controller replied. Isnt that the main pad? Molybdenum wondered. I thought that was reserved for the convention delegates. The delegates will be arriving at landing pad five. That area is more photogenic. The captain pointed out. Remember Mr. Smythe, this is not only about procedure and politics, but pomp and positioning as well. Though he was hidden from view by his black, glossy cylinder, I suspect that the captain was quietly chuckling. It was a well known fact that his brother was a famous Hollywood producer. Initiating landing. Molybdenum called out. We will be disembarking in ten minutes. The captain began a ship wide announcement. There will be numerous cameras and officials about. Please make sure that everything is in place and in proper order. Full ceremonial protocol is in effect for the next three hours. Or, to put it succinctly show time! Lieutenant Tanaka quipped. There was a red carpet waiting for us. A band was playing. Cameras were everywhere. G-9 Star Killers were flying overhead. Admiral Sanchez was waiting for us with a plaque commemorating this special moment. People in rainbow top hats were throwing rainbow carnations. Earths flagship, the Samuel Hain, had come home.

The convention hall was spacious, lushly carpeted, and draped in white. It was lit by purple lights that seemed to calm and soften the room. Five pillars, each one representing one of the five continents, were girded by spiral staircases of candles. Oh, thank you! Sandy pulled a cracker off a passing tray. Were supposed to be on duty! Sam chided her. I can guard and snack at the same time. Sandy retorted.

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Its really difficult to get a biometric reading here. I grumbled. Its the new plasma displays. On the bright side, you wont miss a minute of the action. Sandy tried to console me. Captain, this point is secure. Sam reported. Excellent. Thank you Samantha. The captains words flashed on her oracle. Please welcome the nominee for the Presidency of the United Earth Empire, Levi Kaufman. The announcement sent shivers down my spine. Our heart was racing. This was it it was really going to happen. Mr. Kaufman stepped onto the stage. My fellow delegates he began. Whoa! Power spike. Sandy was a bit alarmed. You sure its not the new plasma displays? I got my shot in. No, I compensated for those. Barometric pressure just dropped by 10%. Sam added. Whats going on? Were being flooded by Bosons? Sandy double checked her readings. We are on the verge of a new era. Mr. Kaufman was really getting fired up. Everyone is safe so far - including Mr. Kaufman. Youre not supposed to be scanning the President! Do you know how much trouble we could get into? Sam was doing her best to get the situation under control. Hold on Im getting an odd electromagnetic signature here. Sandy started doing some research. Oh no this is not good its indicative of a gamma ray-microwave interface. Its time to pull the barriers down! Mr. Kaufman was gesturing wildly. Hey! Mr. Kaufmans biometric readings keep repeating like a pre-recorded loop. I looked to Sam and Sandy. We decided to get to the bottom of this. Captain, we have a problem with the environmental control system. Were going to check it out. Sam was smooth and smiling. Understood Samantha. The captain answered. Do you need anything to solve the problem? We wont know till we get there sir. Sam was right; we were gliding right into the unknown.

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Backstage, we found several thick cables that didnt lead to the house lights, temperature controls, or computer systems. In the dim lights, I could see the hardwood floor; I shone my flashlight to get a better look. There were small drops of blood. Oh my, mywhat a mess. Im afraid Mr. Kaufman still leaks now and then. A voice slithered out of the shadows behind me. I drew my pistol. You are not authorized to be here. Please leave the area. A gentleman wearing a dark leather jacket stepped forward. And where is here? Are you sure were still in the convention hall? The ceiling took on a glassy appearance; just beyond I could see rolling clouds illuminated by floating lights. In places the clouds parted, revealing an unformed landscape bathed in dusk. Several ambiguous figures wandered about aimlessly. However, some of them noticed the new space underneath and came closer. Ive located the source of the disturbance. We cant shut it down from here. Sandy drew her gun as several more intruders stepped out of the shadows. Mr. Kaufman is correct we must pull down the barriers. The stranger took a step closer. Captain, weve got several intruders backstage. Sam reported. The captain cant hear you. The stranger replied. Weve jammed your communications. Whatever youre doing, its time to stop. I ordered. Just beyond the curtain, President Kaufman was proudly declaring, Today we begin with one small step Why stop now? The strangers words were as slick and supple as leather. This is the day weve been waiting for. Re-unification day. You see, long ago, our world and the spirit world were one. We could cross over, our dear departed ones could cross over, everyone was happy. This wont work. You cant keep this up without tearing the subatomic ecosystem apart. Sandra pointed out. Oh yes, yes we can. President Kaufman is the key. Have you figured it out Sally? He looked right at me. The biometric signs theyre fake. I was in utter disbelief. Yes. President Kaufman has been dead for six months. Just beyond that curtain you have a well preserved, mechanical cadaver making a glorious speech. He chuckled. Now where was I? Ahhyes! Everyone was happy in the old days, but then the church got in the way. The doors to the

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next world were summarily shut. But nownow the curtain will be torn down! The dead will no longer be exiled! Biometric readings are disappearing, like theyre being sucked right out of our reality! This is insane! I squeezed the trigger, but nothing happened. Your weapons have been disabled. Oh, Im sure there will be a few million casualties. The dead have long memories; when youre floating around in an ambiguous pea soup, you have a lot of time to nurse a grudge. The stranger and his associates took our weapons. Gotcha! Sandy whispered. There were several loud booms and the convention hall shuddered. We narrowly escaped being crushed by a large beam as it crashed to the floor.

We watched the news from a comfy station in Hospital Two. We were the lucky ones; I had a broken wrist, Sam had a few cuts and bruises, and Sandy had a broken rib. As bodies are still being recovered from the convention center, The Chinese are blaming radical elements of the former UDA for the attack. The temporary Earth Military Command is conducting an investigation and is aggressively interviewing all crew members of the Samuel Hain. Usually reporters maintain their professional demeanor while reporting. However, this one wiped away a tear as she stood in front of the smoldering ruins of earths greatest dream. The captain entered the room and saluted us by displaying the UEE symbol: a picture of the solar system with a rainbow globe where the earth should be. That was very clever of you Sandra. The words flashed upon the glossy, black cylinder. Thank you sir. She groggily replied. She was just coming off the pain meds. I also commend you on your knowledge of ship tactics. He continued. Making the gamma ray-microwave interface look like a bomb by changing its energy signature prompted the predictable response. Thank you sir. But how did you know that the electromagnetic pulse I fired to disable the device wouldnt blow up half of Madrid? Faith and a gamble sir. Sandy mumbled. How are the investigations going sir? I asked. As planned. For now, we have a cover story. When all the enemy operatives have been arrested or otherwise accounted for, the truth shall come out.

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And when will that be sir? Sam wanted to know. No one knows for sure. The Shadow Children of Orion are very clever and very powerful. Were trying to root them out of the highest offices in Asia, South America, and Europe. So its dead. I quietly mentioned. Im sorry Sally, I dont understand. The captain answered. The dream. No. I dont believe it is. As Mr. Kaufman himself said the greatest dreams can endure the toughest road. He paused for a moment. Look above you. There, on the wall behind us, was the plaque that Admiral Sanchez had given us. It read:

United People on a United Earth


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The Chronicles of The Samuel Hain: of Yil-Weth-Yma

The Temple

The Captain, the Ship, and the Tarot

And why was the Comet launched from Madrid when there were several launch sites more suited to the mission in Canada? Professor Nitrogen Champlain walked among his students in the bright sunshine that flooded New Moscow University. Anyone? He suddenly thrust his face into Samuels little world. How about you Mr. Hain? Any theories? Political reasons I suppose. Samuel looked up from his tablet computer. His gaze momentarily fell to the game of Sudoku on his lap. Political reasons, ah yes! Thats it. A brilliant analysis Mr. Hain simply brilliant. If you could elaborate please. Wellitwas just political. Madrid was popular. Mr. Hain you do know that you are sitting on the campus of one of the most prestigious universities in North America, do you not? Samuels only reply was to turn off his tablet. The look in his eyes was a combination of anger and utter defeat. He rose to his feet. He wanted to say something, anything but his out of focus feelings never escaped his lips. Ill give you a second chance Mr. Hain. I want a comprehensive analysis of the Comet on my tablet in one week. If I like what I see, you can skip the rest of the course. If I dont, youre out.

Well, obviously I cant! Samuel yelled into his cell phone while pushing people out of the way. He stormed into the library and the door banged behind him. He gathered up all the known facts about the Comet, but it still wasnt enough for him. He didnt want to pass the course, he wanted vengeance.

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No matter how he tried to assemble them, the details were nothing more than a tangled spaghetti mess. On his way home, Samuel walked through Lenins Gutters, the oldest part of New Moscow. The leaves were starting to turn on the trees and the cold October wind was doing its best to rip them from their branches. Something in the corner of his eye attracted his attention. He turned and looked down the alley, but whatever it was - it disappeared. He knew he had seen a red robe of that he was sure. He put his hand on his pistol, his trusty pistol that almost landed him behind bars, and went in. The alley had its fair share of rats. Not that Sam minded. He shot them more for fun than out of revulsion. He came to an ornate wooden door with a large glass window in the center. Etched upon the glass was a picture of the sun and moon, surrounded by a circle. The shop was dark except for a solitary candle flickering in the deepest recesses of the shadows. Hanging in the windows were beehives that had been sculpted into figures of women. They slowly turned this way and that. Every now and then, a bee crawled out of one hole and into another. When Samuel opened the door, a little metallic melody lilted through the musty air. There were shelves lined with strange powders and ointments. In the gloom, he could see several tins with foreign characters scribbled on them. Hello? Samuels greeting was summarily swallowed up by decades of dust. Are you open? He walked over to the candle. It was sitting on a green felt table. Next to this lonely point of light was a tarot deck. Samuel stood there for a moment, waiting for a human presence to enter the room. After several moments, he turned to go. He got halfway across the room and stopped. There was something oddly trusting and inviting about this place. He turned around and stared at the little green table. The candle sputtered feebly, like a drowning boy calling out for help. He knew then that no one else would be coming here anytime soon. Samuel slowly retraced his steps, not wanting to disturb the sacred dust. He gingerly pulled out the chair and sat down at the table. He turned over the cards, one by one, taking in their beautiful design. Suddenly, he stopped. There was a pattern here that he had seen before. He turned on his tablet and brought up the design specifications for the Comet. The geometry and measurements for the Comet were a mirror image of the numbers on the table. But it was something more. After rearranging the cards and running the Comets mathematical dimensions through several algorithms, Samuel discovered that there was a bigger picture. It just wasnt coming into focus. As he was leaving, he noticed a small, square piece of glass, no more than a millimeter thick. Samuel passed it by, not wanting to add theft to his long line of distinguished accomplishments, but

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he just couldnt leave the shop without it. He didnt know why, but he was absolutely certain that the glass was meant for him. He picked it up and put it in his pocket.

Congratulations, Mr. Hain. You have passed the course. Professor Champlains compliment was reluctant and slunk out of his mouth like an embittered cat. Samuel just smiled and walked away. When he got outside, he held his glass square up to the light. He tilted it ever so slightly. As seen through the glass pane, the sky seemed organic, even sentient. He stood there, utterly dumbfounded, and then walked on, his life forever changed by this new vision of reality. Bfk

2012 Benjamin F. Kaye

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The Green Lady

Isaiah, dont run too far ahead! His mother called after him. Hell be fine. Im tracking him. His father reassured her. Good. You know he gets lost easily. Isaiah was busy exploring the woods. There were so many things here, so many things to discover. He picked up a pine cone and ran back to his parents. Hey Izzy, what do you have there? His dad knelt down and examined his treasure. Eight year old Isaiah ran ahead to see what else he could find. Did you contact The Sunflower Institute yet? She pulled her coat closed. I just dont know honey. Ill do it. Lets just hold off. I want to know all of Isaiahs options. The longer we delay, the harder itll be for him. We have to do it by the end of the year. I know, I know. I just want to see if there is a school that would help him. Isaiah ran back to his parents with two more pine cones. His smile was as wide as the sky. So how many pine cones did you bring me sport? Jonathan again knelt down. He looked his son in the eyes; maybe, maybe today something would click. Isaiah cocked his head and furrowed his brow. He shrugged his shoulders and ran off.

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Honey, weve already looked at three different schools. Theyre all the same. All theyll do is simply push him along until they push him right out the door. The Sunflower Institute will be able to fix him. Jennifer looked deep into her husbands eyes. Deep neural stimulation has risks: nightmares, behavioral problems, and migraines, just to name a few. But theyre small risks. Theyre so small. She pleaded. You know, its OK to be simple even in the 24th century. But he doesnt have to be. He could be the child weve always wanted. Honey, Ive talked to several support groups, they all love Sunflower. They fix all kinds of problems: developmental delays, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, ADD, shyness, the list goes on and on. OK. You win. Ill call Sunflower when we get back home. We win. Izzy wins. She held his hand. Isaiah came back with a wild look in his eyes. He tugged on his mothers sleeve and dragged her off the trail. After dragging her for thirty yards, he simply let go and ran as fast as he could. Isaiah wait! She ran after him. Jonathan was not far behind. They were in a small clearing. In the center was a patch of moss shaped like a woman. Why thats odd. Jennifer took a step towards the unusual phenomenon. No! Isaiah stepped in front of her. He wouldnt let anyone get near this special patch of ground. OK, Izzy. Its OK. I wont come any closer. She took a step back. I wonder who made this. Jonathan looked around for some sign of recent human activity. Someone with a lot of time on their hands and a love of the great outdoors. Jennifer laughed. Hey Izzy, do you see what I see? His dad turned him around, so the child was facing the moss. See that part of the green lady? Right there right in her belly! There was an elevated section of the moss, like a tiny plateau. It was two inches square. Isaiah crept to the spot cautiously. He slowly leaned over. He turned back to his parents. Go on Izzy, its OK. I dont think the green lady will mind. His father encouraged him. Isaiah carefully removed a small, square piece of glass. The moss on top of it turned a deep blue and simply dissolved into powder.

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Jimmy would have to give two of his marbles away to be fair. Then instead of 15 marbles, he would have 13 marbles, just like Bobby. Isaiah looked up at his tutor. Exactly. Very good Mr. Montrose. Im so proud of you. Isaiah left the room. The front door banged behind him as he went out to play. Hows he doing? Jennifer came into the room. Uhwellincredible. Hes the smartest ten year old Ive ever known. The tutor replied. Eight. Hes only eight. Jennifer smiled. Outside, Isaiah was happy in the sunshine. He held up the piece of glass. The sky on the other side seemed different Isaiah wondered if it was somehow alive.

Bfk

2012 Benjamin F. Kaye

252

The Chronicles of the Samuel Hain: of Yil-Weth-Yma

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The Embryo Woman

The grocery store was well lit and the aisles were wide. The wheels of the red and yellow shopping cart squeaked and squealed as I pushed it past shelves full of tuna fish, rice, and peanut butter. I stopped in the middle of the aisle. With all this color surrounding me, all the different shapes, I should be able to come up with something. I slowly turned around, taking everything in. I closed my eyes a moment and let the feelings well up within me. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Good morning. It is Sunday, April 17th, 2492. Be sure to check out The Deal Corner for this weeks deals! Welcome to The Bag and may the best shopper win! The perky announcement slid out over the PA system above me. It had been five years since dad died. My well of creativity had been dry ever since. I had tried everything: trips (both physical and pharmacological), hypnosis, workshops, even near death experiences. I picked up a box of cereal and set it down in the cart. Bran Flakes: 8 credits. Your account is now :{ 30, 455,788 8) = 30, 455,780 credits.

The message appeared on the handlebars of the cart, followed by smiley faces. I remember the days when dad would complain about paying 5 credits for a box of cereal. What would he think now? Xyza! The voice was unmistakable. I had bumped into Peggy! Peggy Nordstrom was the kindest woman I had ever known. She had given me my first break in the business. She had given me a roof over my head when I traveled throughout Africa. She had given me clothes (beautiful clothes!) when mine were threadbare. She had given me solace and comfort when the world seemed too critical. But life hadnt given her that

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much thats why I respected her so much. She was the most industrious angel the planet would ever know. Oh my God! Peggy! Are you living in Camelot now? Just visiting relatives for the moment. How are things? Good and bad. My daughter just landed a great position with Archer Industries on Mars. She just, well, is having trouble starting a family. Oh Peggy. I gave her a hug. It had been a herculean struggle for her to have children and now her beloved one was having the same troubles.

That night, I sat in my studio with Goin Round by Phobia Reflex playing softly in the background. The sound of the guitar and the piano contrasted harshly with Phuong Peach Baby Ngos raspy voice. Barren, barren.nothin goin roundall these dreams have starved dead on the ground I sang along with her. I looked around my darkened space. Wasnt there anything I could give back? I looked down at the street. Under a streetlight, a figure in a red robe appeared. She raised her head upward, ever so slightly, but her face was hidden from me. She delicately floated across the street (she must have been a ballet dancer) and then disappeared from view. There was something tugging at the back of my brain. An image, an idea a feeling. I yanked the sheet off the nearest blank canvas and confronted the engulfing whiteness there. There was something I could give. I painted out of sheer determination. The brush strokes were nothing more than defiant gestures; each splash of color was a war cry. Every dip onto the pallet was me daring the emptiness to do its worst. But the angle wasnt right. The blank canvas hadnt won, but neither had I. Several hours and five failures later, I realized I would have to retreat for now.

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It was turning out to be the toughest battle I had ever fought. Sometimes I was discouraged, sometimes I rose to the challenge. For weeks I struggled with the painting that refused to be painted. Youre not getting enough sleep. Harley chided me. We were sitting in the coffee house across from Blind Dimensions, the most famous art gallery on the East Coast of Scotland. Im fine. You look like youve lost too much weight. Are you eating? Yes. But barely, right? Im not famous for what I eat. I shot her an accusing look. True. Ive noticed that dead artists arent very productive. She got up and led me into the art gallery. We spent several hours walking past paintings, some were mine, some were done by friends. Finally, in front of my painting of the solar system, our footsteps grew quiet. We stood there, I was reminiscing. What Harley was doing I couldnt even guess. The solar system, warmed by the sun, chilled by the stars, and cradling doves of peace, stood before us. I love the way each bird glows with the warmth of the sun. And the way some of them drag the atmosphere of Mars behind them is simply brilliant. Harley leaned against me. Ive run out of brilliant. No you havent. Its in there somewhere, slumbering. Then maybe my internal alarm clock is broken. I walked over to my painting. Odd, there was a small glass square on the other side of the canvas. Whats this doing here? I gingerly pulled it out. I have no idea.

That glass square made all the difference. It was like a prism no like a telescope yes like a telescope that let me see further. Peggys painting was done in two months. Peggy, Harley, and I admired it as it was hung in Bombastic Brainwaves, the premier art gallery in Utopia.

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A woman composed entirely out of embryos. My God Xyza, where did you come up with this? Harley uttered in a hushed, reverent tone. Im not really sure. I held my glass square up to the sunny sky. There was something out there, bigger than anyones imagination. It was trying to communicate with us; was my painting part of its message?

Bfk 2012 Benjamin F. Kaye

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The Belly of the Beast

Hey, hey; why are you in such a hurry? Helen Shenandoah soothed her horse by patting him on the nose. Youve been restless all this week. She opened the stall and let him run. I dont get it grandma. Her granddaughter, Chloe, watched the horse race into the Arizona sunrise. If youre not going to ride him, why keep him around? Horses are more than just beasts of burden. Theyre good company. Theyre also good money. You know, there are several folks in the neighborhood that would love to have him. Im sure they would; but Scout is a friend. You cant buy friends and you cant sell them either. Sensing she wouldnt win the argument, Chloe switched the subject. You know, John Black Feather is in town. Really? That old rascal? The one and the same. Hes been asking about you. Not interested. Cmon Grandma! Youre not interested in anyone anymore. Ive got my life and my friends; thats good enough for me. Grandma, you need more than farm animals for friends. They dont look like us, or talk like us, but theyre still good company.

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You dont mean that do you? Lot to learn. Ambassador Dini-Kish 7 Blue Prime walked into the barn. He was wearing a translation pendant. It was in the shape of a star. Despite the technology, the ambassadors voice was still high pitched and distorted. Ahhhambassador! Im so glad you could come. Here to negotiate. He smiled. Helen leaned over and whispered to her granddaughter, You see, my dear, you may have to revise your definition of friend if you want to be successful in todays universe.

Helen and her guests sat around the kitchen table that night. The meal was sumptuous; there was steak, lima beans, and potatoes in abundance. The ambassador had provided for his own dinner; before him was a red crystalline rod, one foot in length. The true delicacy was the wriggling mass of white worms inside. The ambassador enjoyed waiting for them to crawl out. Good meal and good trade. The ambassador stretched and leaned back in his chair. Grandma, Scout hasnt come back yet. Anderson, her grandson, came into the room. Roundup fun. Dini-Kish rose from his seat. As they stepped into his S shaped ship (which was 30 feet long), the lights came on. To Chloe and Andersons surprise, the seats were very comfortable. A series of tubes in the floor filled with an orange phosphorescent liquid; small metallic tetrahedrons could be seen rushing along on the glowing current. Cowboy hats; more authentic. Dini-Kish went around putting hats on everyone. As they skimmed over the Arizona desert, the ship hummed and gurgled. The grin on Dini-Kishs face was getting bigger all the time. Make it? The ship zipped toward two rocks; the space between them was barely eight feet. Kish, we should go around. Helen wondered if her nervous words would be her last. The ambassador thrust the ship forward. Just inches before impact, he turned the ship vertically. Made it. He smiled as he adjusted his cowboy hat. Im picking up Scouts trail. Chloe spoke up. Expanding the view. There he is!

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Goodbye Helen Shenandoah. Kish shook her hand as the morning sun filtered through the barn. Goodbye old friend. Thank you for coming. Good trade, good fun, good friend. He bowed low. Parting gift. Mystery. He transferred the data from his ship, bowed low once again, and then left. Helen brought up the data on her oracle. As she extended her left hand, an image of Scouts trail appeared before her. The path he had taken was in the shape of a woman. Scout started kicking in his stall. He turned around in circles and then reversed direction. Hey, hey, hey; its OK. Cmon, lets set you free. She opened the stall. But instead of running off, Scout kept turning round and round. Dr. Pease? Helen was trembling as she made the call. You dont sound good Helen. Im on my way. The vet was already packing up his kit and opening the door. Whats wrong with him? She didnt even turn around as Dr. Pease drove up. Hold him still; well find out soon. A green line moved across Scouts body as Dr. Pease scanned him. Preliminary analysis shows that nothing is wrong with him. Hes just fine. Then why is he acting like this? Ill make some coffee. Its going to be a long night. He put his hand on her shoulder.

Dr. Pease looked so serene under the stars. Then again, it wasnt his friend who was sick. He had been out there for hours on end, just whistling quietly as he scanned the horse. Every now and then he would flash a light in Scouts eyes. Then he would turn back to his med board. Theres no denying it. He mumbled to himself. Fascinating, simply fascinating. Any answers doc? Helen walked up beside him. Yes. There is a correlation between Scouts behavior and the movement of the bacteria in his stomach. I dont understand. Im not sure I do either. My theory crazy as it sounds is that Scout is somehow communicating with the bacteria. Or at least hes attempting to.

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That does sound far-fetched. She walked up to Scout and petted his nose. Scout walked over to the barn entrance. He pawed the ground furiously. He turned around in a circle and continued pawing the ground. I think hes trying to communicate with us now. Helen gently pulled her friend away. She reached for a nearby shovel and started digging. What she unearthed was a small, glass square. As soon as Scout saw it, he nuzzled her. Helen put her hands on his body, he completely relaxed.

Thanks doc. Helen brought up her bank account. No, no. No charge. After all, I didnt save the day, this little piece of glass did. Helen held the glass up to the sky. As she looked through it, she suddenly felt as if she was the micro-organism, living in the belly of the beast.

Bfk

2012 Benjamin F. Kaye

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The Fourth Sister

They were cornered; they had no place to go. The Fisher triplets were finally caught. Sally, Sandra, Samantha funny meeting you here. Dr. Ingram smiled a devilish smile. He was standing in the middle of the hallway the led to the Samuel Hains bridge. Nope. Sandy spat out. Not doin it. Sally and I concur. Samantha added. Ladies, this is a mandatory examination. Dr. Ingram held up his med board. The military regulations were displayed in bright yellow. That is correct. Captain Reh was behind them. Dr. Ingram, please show the Fishers to your office. If you ladies prefer, you can be escorted under armed guard. The captains words flashed on the glossy black surface of his canister. Armed guard. Sandy grumbled under her breath. Come, come, my dears lets not test the captains patience and get in trouble. Dr. Ingram gently led them down the hall. Ambassador. All three women greeted her at once. Ambassador Harriet was a deep shade of blue this morning. Her body was covered with white spots. Her long tongue touched each cadets forehead in turn. She turned a brilliant orange and her spots became a deep green. She let out a series of squeals followed by a low moan. I think you three are her favorites. Professor Harbinger explained. The ambassador wishes you well in your spiritual journey.

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She wouldnt mind taking our place, would she? Feisty Sandy piped up. Come, come ladies the sooner we get this over with, the sooner you can resume your lives. Dr. Ingram beckoned them. Dr. Ingrams spacious office was paneled in pine. There were several small bonsai trees throughout the room. A picture of Lithium Tanaka, the 24th Century comedian, hung on the wall behind his desk. Ladies, have a seatwell hover. Dr. Ingram sat down. OK lets do it. Sandy was impatient. Sandra, this isnt a booster shot. This is a psychiatric examination. Honestly, Dr. Ingram, were doing fine. Sally replied. No one said you werent. We can go then? Sam raised an eyebrow. Lets get started, shall we? What would you prefer white noise, pink noise, or brown noise? The good doctor smiled. Pink. All three replied in unison. Good. Dr. Ingram drew a blood and tissue sample from each of them. As the static played in the background, Dr. Ingram slowly darkened the room. Then he gradually turned on the red lights. The cadets were surrounded by a white holographic ring of closely knit interlocking squares. The squares slowly shifted clockwise. Arent the squares fascinating? His voice was slow, calming. So many patterns, shifting, shifting, shifting.one could get lost in those patterns. Just relax.nothing is going to happen. Just focus on the noise and the squares.thats it. Their eyelids began to blink more slowly. Their heads began to nod. They dangled from their tubes in mid-air, like limp rag dolls. He slowly turned off the noise and let silence fill the room. Sally, Sandra, Samantha. I want you to go back in time. I want you to go back to your 11th birthday, to a time when it was OK to say anything you wanted. OK. Sandra smiled. Sure. Sally replied. Alright. Samantha whispered.

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How are you feeling? Good. Sandra replied. Happy. Samantha answered. Great. Sally responded. The next half hour was spent trying to get a grasp on the womens wriggly subconscious thoughts. But, no matter how he tried, he couldnt breach the walls of the triplets secret sisterhood. Every time he tried to get a suggestion past them, he was met by a giggle. He stepped to a corner and brought up a three-dimensional image of their brain activity. The complex intersection of red, blue, and green lines undulated like a sea. Dr. Ingram sighed and walked back to his desk. Sally, Sandra, Samantha. I want you to go further back. I want you to go back to your 3rd birthday. You can say whatever you like. Dr. Ingrams voice was calm and soothing, yet it had this childish tone to it. The cadets started whispering amongst themselves. Every now and then one of them would burst out laughing. Dr. Ingram checked their brain activity; there was still no sign of progress. He was about to end the session when his eye fell upon the paperweight on his desk. The bronze hang-glider was ready to launch itself over the cliff. The inscription on the bottom read: Over the edge is where its at! This was new territory for him. But, wasnt that the whole reason why he was here? He turned over the idea in his mind, slowly. Sally, Sandra, Samantha I want you to go further back. I want you to go back to your 1st birthday. Hi! They greeted him at once. Sally, Sandra, Samantha how do you feel? They went away. Dr. Ingram raised an eyebrow. Where did they go? I dont know. Oh well. Im Chester, who are you? Im Sable. Sables voice was a combination of all three women yet this chorus was distinctly different. Pleased to meet you Sable. Are you related to Sally, Samantha, and Sandra? Uh-huh. Im the invisible one. Can the other girls see you?

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Nope. They dont even know I exist. But I do. Im them, but Im more than them. Maybe they would like to meet you. Maybe one day. But they cant handle it right now. Im kinda like Yil-Weth-Yma Im always there but you just cant see me.

Two days later, the triplets were back in Dr. Ingrams office. He sat down behind his desk, his fingers slowly dancing across the surface of his med board. Every now and then, his eyes would dart to the paperweight. How bad is it? Sandy broke the silence. Not bad at all. You passed your examination with flying colors. You ladies are so well adjusted its a bore. He smiled. Another smile, another professional lie. Dr. Ingram, now that we are on the subject, Sally began, we noticed something very odd when we ran a diagnostic on our central linkage system. Really? There was a small glass square imbedded in our sphere. She continued. We thought it was something that was installed when we got our new tubes-Samantha added. But it wasnt. Sandras words had a paranoid tinge to them. I understand your concern. I will notify the captain immediately. Dr. Ingram replied. When they had left, he turned on his oracle. A holographic image of the captains cylinder appeared before him. Are you sure doctor Ingram? The captains question floated in the air. Ive checked their blood and tissue samples three times now. Each time the cells gather into the shape of a woman. Quite curious. Yes sir, quite.

Back in their quarters, the women were fighting over the square like five year olds. My turn! Samantha grabbed for the object.

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Just give me one more minute. This is really cool. There is definitely something out there. Sally held the square up to the window. The starry sky on the other side of the glass looked unusual, but she couldnt quite describe what she was seeing. That only we can see because of our special square? Sandy quipped as she grabbed the glass from her. Oh heredont be a cry-baby. She handed the glass to Samantha. The stars are alive. Samantha whispered in awe. Lets just keep this to ourselves.we dont want to spend the rest of our lives in Dr. Ingrams office. Sallys words were the last ones of the night.

Bfk

2012 Benjamin F. Kaye

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The Chronicles of the Samuel Hain: of Yil-Weth-Yma

The Temple

Six Sided Journey

The sun rose over main deck, bouncing its rays off the cold steel surface. It would have been so serene and picturesque if the clanking of metal feet werent pounding through the corridors. Overhead, millions upon millions of stars greeted him. This panoramic view was also disturbed by the relentless march of maintenance units over the glass ceiling. But nothing could distort or distill the beauty of this scene: The Samuel Hain rising up from the depths below. Her sleek black surface was punctuated by her landing lights. Slowly, just a few at a time, her windows lit up as the core sections were brought to life. There she sat, on the massive deck of United Earth Platform One, shining like a black jewel in the new day. Below, the earth slowly rotated, its mosaic of clouds, water, and land forming the perfect counterpoint to the ship. Captain Smythe, youre wanted at Central Command. A hologram of a man in the official white and grey uniform of the empire stood before him. The time stamp under him was January 4th, 2850. The meeting was supposed to be for next week. I havent begun to build a crew. I dont even know whos eligible to serve and where they are. Tell Central Command- Central Command is in no mood for listening Captain. Theyre going to be the ones who will do the talking. Fine. How long have I got? Captain Smythe looked around him. Three hours. The hologram winked out.

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Oh boy. He headed to the nearest restaurant, it was teeming with cadets. The merry atmosphere rang with the laughter and cheers that only graduation could bring. He whistled so loud that the glasses nearest to him vibrated slightly. Who here has graduated? About two-thirds of the crowd raised their hands. Good. Youre now serving under me. But, sir, we havent had our assignments from Central Command. A cadet in the back spoke up. Your name Cadet? Juan Mercedes sir. I like you Mr. Mercedes. Welcome aboard the Samuel Hain. Im putting you in charge of creating the duty roster. You only have three days, so I suggest you put down the chicken wing and get to work. Now, who here is going to graduate next year? The captain waded into the stunned crowd. About twenty people raised their hands. Good. Cadet Mercedes, you better make sure that these cadets have someone to mentor them. Theres going to be a lot of on the job learning. Captain, military regulation 32A.134.b4 states: only cadets who have graduated may serve in active duty aboard a starship. A young cadet approached him. But, military regulation 32A.134.b4.r states: under special circumstances, any able bodied military personnel, no matter their status, may serve in active duty, if the captain deems it necessary. Captain Smythe was busy typing on a holographic screen above his oracle. Captain Smythe, I am an expert in military law. That regulation does not exist. She protested. It does now. I just wrote it. Dont worry, it will probably be ratified before your tour of duty expires Ms.- Stephenson. Ms. Stephenson, since you are an expert in military law, you are now promoted to Ethics Officer and Legal Counsel for the Samuel Hain. Yes sir. It just happened. Weve been drafted. This guy is a real Captain Ahab. Another cadet was talking to several people at once on his oracle. You there. Looks like you have lots of friends. Yes sir! Cadet Pawar saluted him stiffly. Go get them. The captain walked out of the restaurant and headed to the shuttle bay.

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Thank you for visiting Platform One. The announcement lilted softly through the plush cabin of the shuttle. Where to sir? The shuttle pilot turned around. Grocery shopping. Youre relieved of duty Lieutenant. Have a seat back here and strap in. I dont have much time or patience.

Angus! Its so good to see you. Admiral Wang smiled and shook his hand. The briefing room in Central Command was busier than usual. Im sorry for the rush, but the Joint Chiefs of Staff are quite concerned over this. Have you started staffing the Hain? Yes sir. Captain Smythe brought up the crew roster on his oracle. Youve emptied the military academies in Paris, Mexico City, and Beijing. Half your crew isnt expected to graduate for two years. Angus, I chose you for this position because of your ability to improvise, but this is an unnecessary risk. Ill accelerate their learning and training sir. Even as we speak, Im converting several sections on the Hain to training and simulation zones. Im sure that in six months, everyone will be ready. We dont have six months. The Joint Chiefs want you to launch in twelve hours. Admiral Wang activated the central holographic panel in the floor. By now, you must be familiar with the Mysterious Woman phenomenon, correct? Yes sir. Two years ago, heads of grain, leaves, and termite mounds all started showing up in the shape of a woman. As I understand it, the occurrences vanished as quickly as they appeared. Thats right. Take a look at this. Admiral Wang brought up an image of a hill in the shape of a woman. This is in Central Russia. Its the size of three city blocks and 1,078 feet high. Thats where Im heading, isnt it sir? Yes. The top brass wants you there tomorrow morning with a full crew. Yes sir. Looks like I have some more grocery shopping ahead of me. Angus. You cannot take any more cadets. The Joint Chiefs must be on to you by now, and youll land in hot water if you even step on another campus. Understood sir.

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They marched in single file through the corridors of the Samuel Hain. Their yellow uniforms contrasted spectacularly with their glossy plastic skin. Bands of black arced gracefully over their bodies. They looked straight ahead and proceeded in silence. Theyre called what? Juan whispered to Jill. Uvum. The captain was right behind them. Beings engineered in the womb. Sir-Cadet Stephenson stammered. They do not have any gender, Ms. Stephenson, if thats what you were wondering about. Is it true that they can metabolize oxygen straight through their skin sir? Juan asked. It is Mr. Mercedes. Thats why they are as strong as two soldiers. Enhanced strength, stamina, mental focus, and upbringing make them the perfect weapon. I heard that the research on this project hasnt been completed yet. Juan hesitantly pointed out. Thats correct Mr. Mercedes. Were going to finish the research, right here on board the Samuel Hain. Yes sir. They both replied. Captain Smythe walked over to a panel and tapped on it. This is your captain speaking. Project Hot Tamales has been initiated. Everyone please report to your stations. We will arrive at our destination in ten minutes. He turned to Juan and Jill. Weve got a mystery to solve, so I suggest you proceed to your assigned posts and get ready for anything.

The Samuel Hain hovered over the hill. There were thousands of people surrounding it. Everyone was silent; they just kept looking at the mound, waiting for a message of some sort. Captain Smythe surveyed the scene from a temporary command post nearby. No unusual energy readings Captain. Cadet New Paris 27 reported. Thank you number 27. The captain replied. Odd name. Jill whispered to Juan. We were named after the facility in which we were born. New Paris replied without turning around. Were not going to solve any mysteries here. Cadets Mercedes and Stephenson, youre with me. Cadet New Paris, continue monitoring the hill.

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They made their way through the crowd. They saw all kinds of faces; young, old, rich, poor, all just waiting. They stood there for a good hour before five people emerged from the crowd. These five individuals looked around, almost like they were asking permission for what they were to do next. Unsure of whether or not they had the crowds blessing, they slowly made their way to the top anyways. Cadet Reh, zoom in on those five people making their way up the hill. The captain ordered. Yes sir. How do I do that sir? The second year military student sat at his post on the bridge of the Samuel Hain, desperately looking about him. The other young cadets could not help for they were doing all they could to learn the controls too. Go to the command functions, and then select sensors. The captain calmly replied. Yes sir. I have it sir. Thank you Mr. Reh. The captain brought up the sensor feed on his oracle. What he saw was five people standing in a circle; three men and two women. They looked down upon the ground and then out to space. Without speaking, they simultaneously took a step forward. Each one held out a glass square. From the ground below them, a sixth glass square wriggled out of the earth. It rose up till it was above their heads. Not knowing why, each of the five let go of their glass square. All six pieces were now floating above them. The people below cheered loudly. Suddenly, the pieces came together and formed a cube. The surface of the cube became gray as it slowly descended. Moments later, military personnel evacuated the area. MARI technicians, in full radiation suits, quickly made their way up the hill. A laser fence was promptly set up to keep on-lookers out. Military planes flew overhead and tanks appeared from out of nowhere. What can you tell me about the surface? Admiral Wangs hologram was on the other side of the table in the command post. Its liquid metal, but the temperature is only 50 degrees Fahrenheit. The captain replied. Sir, MARI is requesting permission to bring in subatomic scanners. Cadet New Paris stated. Permission granted. The captain replied. The hours turned into days. While the cadets were learning to handle the ship above, MARI was learning that the little cube was unlike anything they had ever seen. Every test they ran yielded random strings of characters and numbers. Every attempt to penetrate the liquid surface failed. Just as the sun was rising on the fifth day, a cube of dark space appeared on the horizon. It was the size of a city block and seemed to undulate regularly. It sat there silently for several minutes. Finally, a chunk of the cube broke off and assumed a human form. It walked slowly toward the command post. All efforts to stop it were useless.

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Greetings Captain Smythe. The dark figure bowed low. Greetings. I am an emissary from The Outcast, the one who has been separated from the rest. Why are you here? Is the cube your device? The captain began his interrogation. The cube is not my device. It is far beyond what either I or the others could create. The others? The Orrise captain. Dr. Harbinger spoke up. The Outcast was banished from normal space thousands of years ago due to his unconventional ways. Ambassador Harriet turned white; her spots became a deep purple. She let out a low moan. It is good to see you too, my love. The dark figure turned to the ambassador. Are you here to claim the device? The captain resumed. No. The cube is for you. I am only here to provide some small clues. The figure bowed low and then walked away. Captain, someone is uploading data into our computer system. Cadet Muhammad reported from the bridge of the Samuel Hain. Are the primary systems being affected? The captain watched the dark figure leave. Weapons, engines, and sensors are not being affected. The cadet replied confidently. What about the environmental systems? The environmental systems Cadet, go to secondary command diagnostics. The captain calmly guided him. Yes sir, Im there. There are several options sir. Go to PECC Primary Environmental Control Center. What is being displayed? Primary Environmental Control Center, affirmative sir. All diagnostics show green. Good. Thats the way it should be. Let our visitor finish his business. I will be on the bridge momentarily. The captain was already walking toward the shuttle. By the time the captain was standing on the bridge, MARI was starting to make sense of the cube. After making sure the ship was secure, Angus watched the calculations and speculations fly from

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the comfort of his office. He turned toward the window and stared. What was out there? Was it sending a message? He felt someone else in the room. Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted a figure in a red robe. But when he spun around, no one was there. He ran out of his office in pursuit. The robed figure was always just within his sight; he never caught a complete glimpse of the mysterious intruder. Finally, the chase ended in an empty cargo bay. Lying on the floor in the center of the bay was the cube. MARI command post, this is Captain Smythe. Did you lose something? The cube! Do you have it? Yes, I have it. Dont approach it captain. Too late. Its already in my hand. Captain, the cube is emitting radiation on an unprecedented level. The hysterical voice explained. Then why arent the radiation sensors warning me of that fact? Captain, you have to get out of there! Computer analyze cube. Is it emitting radiation? Radiation output zero. Computer, what is the temperature of the cube? The cube is 50 degrees Fahrenheit. And the mass? The mass of the cube is 20 tons. Verify. The mass of the cube is 20 tons. Computer, analyze the cubes gravitational field. Gravitational field unknown. Computer, can the recently acquired data be transferred to this cube? Analyzing..analyzinganalyzing.yes.

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Computer, transfer new data to the cube.

Angus, what news do you have? Admiral Wangs hologram circled the cube. Ive been able to decipher some of the mystery. Three sides of the cube contain coordinates. Coordinates? To where? To a point in space 105 light years from here. Quite interesting. Anything else? Not yet. And MARI wasnt able to figure this out? They would have eventually once they overcame their timidity. Im not sure I want to know any more.

We are ready to embark Captain. Cadet Reh proudly announced. Ahead 5,000 kph Mr. Reh. The captain walked right up to the window. Behind him, the bridge was waiting in silent anticipation. If only professor Quinteras were here right now. Cadet Mercedes broke the silence. Mr. Reh, prepare to enter Q-Space. The captain walked back to the center of the bridge. He brought up a tactical display. Good morning; this is your captain. We are about to undertake a journey to an unknown point in space 105 light years from our present location. We will be traveling through Q-Space; this is the first time anyone has attempted to do this. As you engage this historic moment in mankinds history, please make sure that you are seated and strapped in securely. One kilometer in Q-Space is a little over ten light years in normal space, so the journey should be over very quickly. Again, strap yourself in, keep your head about you, and enjoy the moment. Captain Smythe out. All stop. Mr. Reh announced. Initiate Subatomic Refractors. The captain ordered. Subatomic Refractors initiated. Cadet New Paris replied. Initiate dark matter centrifuge. Rings on the outside of the two hulls started to spin. Separation sequence 15% complete. Cadet New Paris stated.

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Bring the centrifuge up to half speed. Separation sequence 67% complete. Cadet New Paris reported. Bring the centrifuge up to three quarters speed. Separation sequence 89% complete. The ship started to shudder slightly. Hold your positions. This is normal or so Im told. Separation sequence 100%. We have Ionized Dark Matter Captain. Run the Ionized Dark Matter through the Subatomic Refractors. Ionized Dark Matter now flowing through refractors sir. Cadet Reh replied. Ahead 10 kph. Aye Sir. Cadet Mercedes answered. They slipped into a dimension packed with white, granular material. As they pushed their way through this new, alien space, patches of crimson luminescence occasionally floated past them. After a few moments, the ship began to creak and groan. Hull integrity down to 98.45%. Cadet Andropov reported. Re-routing power from graviton engines 8 and 9 to PECC. Think again Mr. Andropov. The captain re-routed power from the fighter bays to the secondary environmental control center. Im sorry sir. Mr. Andropov, you have completed the basic course on graviton propulsion, correct? No sir. That should be a priority for you Cadet. Yes sir. Sir, hull integrity is down to 97%. Cadet Muhammad interjected. Shell hold, Mr. Muhammad, shell hold.

Seeing the stars once again was a relief. The Samuel Hain floated silently in deep space, dented but not daunted. She had made it. But two questions overshadowed this accomplishment: why were

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they here and what now? As repair bots scuttled over the ship and cadets struggled to get up to speed, the captain sat in his office. Captain, engines 1 and 3 are a little sluggish. Cadet Andropov reported from engineering room one. How is your training coming along, Mr. Andropov? Very well sir. Im actually ahead of schedule, but- Ill be right down Mr. Andropov. I have a few years in an engine room under my belt. Ill show you some tips and tricks. Angus grabbed the cube and headed down to the engineering room. Thank you for your assistance Captain. Mr. Andropov saluted him as he entered. OK Mr. Andropov, do you have all your tools handy? Before another word could be uttered, the cube began to grow. This may not be good. He quickly put it down on the floor. The cube expanded to twice its size. Computer analyze gravitational field of the cube. Gravitational field covering only one side of the cube. Computer analyze graviton flow and subatomic structure of the metal underneath the gravitational field. Analysis complete. The ships computer displayed a shifting pattern of lines. Computer, the gravitational lines are shifting regularly. Can you come up with an equation to represent this phenomenon? Cadet Andropov spoke up. Oh! Im sorry sir. Not at all, Mr. Andropov. I like your curiosity and initiative. Analysis complete. The behavior of the gravitational field can be explained by the following equation:

X[ +

]/

Computer search for a gravitational field that behaves according to this mathematical model. The captain instructed. Initiating search. The hours again turned to days. They sat there, confronting empty space and the stars beyond. Radiation leak in deuterium tank 17. The computer broke the silence in Captain Smythes room. Cadet Reh, report. The captain was dressing and moving down the hall.

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The tank has a small rupture captain, it must have happened while we were in Q-Space. Everyone out! The captain barked as he strode onto the weapons deck. 2 minutes till critical contamination. The computer announced. Cadet Stephenson is still in there sir. Cadet Muhammad reported as he slid under the closing door. Youve got 1 minute and 45 seconds, Mr. Muhammad. The captain replied as he quickly tapped the control panel outside the deck. Lets see.Radiation countermeasure, microwave with counter clockwise quark rotation; that ought to do it. 1 minute and 30 seconds till critical contamination. Mr. Muhammad, youre not going to make it back to the door. You must follow my directions very carefully. Acknowledged sir. One minute and 15 seconds to critical contamination. Open up the floor panel underneath you. You and Cadet Stephenson have to get in; pull the panel closed. The panel is stuck sir. Try harder cadet. 45 seconds to critical contamination. The panel is open sir..Cadet Stephenson is inside. 15 seconds to critical contamination. Im getting inside now sir. 5 seconds to critical contamination. Computer, initiate radiation countermeasure. Countermeasure initiated.

You almost had an unhealthy glow for life Mr. Muhammad. Yes sir.

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That radiation would have been with you for 230 years. Yes sir. Computer analyze the cube. Does it contain radioactive material? The captain asked. One side of the cube does contain radioactive material. What is the decay rate of the material? He continued. 1 particle per 4,000 years. Time sir? Is that the cubes next clue? Cadet Muhammad spoke up. I do believe so. Mr. Muhammad, Im going to give you a choice: you can sit here in Hospital Three and suck up the lousy hospital food, or you can meet me in my quarters and help me decipher the next clue. Ill be in your quarters within the hour sir. Good. Ill have some refreshments waiting for you. Remember to bring your thinking cap. The captains quarters were spacious and well lit. Replicas of all eight UDA Mars Class space ships lined one wall. A copy of the UDA Declaration of Independence hung on the opposite wall. A large bowl of hot chili, chips, and root beer sat on a table in the center of the room. Is this a second edition Declaration sir? Cadet Muhammad asked in awe. Yes. Its amazing what one can find in a flea market in London Mars. Thank you for your hospitality sir. Thank you for everything. Youre quite welcome. Now that I have one of the brightest physics students of Arlington Military Academy, its down to business. Whythank you sir. I did my research, that description is accurate. So, have you ever reconstructed the gravitational history of a section of space? Sir, thats an advanced area that only upper classmen tackle. So, how about tackling it a year early? Over the next hour, Calcium Muhammad learned, theorized, calculated, speculated, measured, and analyzed. The captain was amazed not only by his ability to learn, but also his enthusiasm. As the moments passed, and Calcium took in new theories and data, his formulations became more accurate and sophisticated.

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Sir, it appears that the gravitational field were in now is behaving according to some sort of cycle. Every 4,000 years it changes. It should change within two days. Can you predict what the new gravitational field will look like? Yes sir. It will match the cubes gravitational field exactly. Then, in two days, we will be at the right place at the right time.

So the countdown was on. The cadets got the ship ready for whatever it might face as the captain sat in his office, staring at the cube. Beyond his window, the Milky Way floated in the vast blackness of space. Three sides of the cube give us the place. He mused to himself. One side gives us a gravitational key. He got up and walked to the window. And the fifth side gives us the time. And what of the sixth side? A voice whispered in his ear. He turned around, but no one was there. Captain, the gravitational field outside the ship is transforming. Cadet Reh announced. On my way. He grabbed the cube; it vibrated slightly in his hand. Gravitational field is now perfectly aligned with the cube sir. The cube floated out from Captain Smythes hand and drifted slowly across the bridge. It passed right through the observation window. The glass simply sealed itself when the cube exited the ship. As the artifact drifted further and further away, a huge dome, as big as New Paris, slowly came into view. It was tilted on its side and resembled a giant eye. As the wall of the dome slowly opened, the Samuel Hain was gently drawn in. When the ship came to a stop inside the dome, the wall closed behind them. The dome itself was metallic. It was lined with cuneiform writing, hieroglyphics, primitive art, and complex mathematical equations. Interspersed throughout were modern letters from all known languages. The cube was in front of them sitting there quietly; yet whatever it was resting on was invisible to the human eye and the ships sensors. The atmosphere inside the dome is tolerable. The temperature is 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Cadet New Paris reported. Sir, there are several beings dressed in red throughout the dome. Im not sure what theyre walking on, but it does appear to be solid. Cadet Stephenson observed. They appear to be gathering in front of the ship.

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Orders sir? Cadet Mercedes asked. Its time to meet our hosts. The captain was the first one out of the ship. As he walked down the stairs one of the red robed figures approached. He stopped three feet from the captain. After a moment of silence, he drew back his hood and revealed himself. He had a white head that resembled an octopus; he had no ears or mouth. A seven foot tentacle protruded from the creatures neck. Before them, the curved surface of the dome changed to glass. Greetings Captain Smythe. The creatures voice echoed within the captains own mind. Greetings. We are the servants of Yil-Weth-Yma. All the servants bowed. Its a pleasure to meet you. Not really sure of what to do, the captain extended his hand. The servant gently wrapped his tentacle around it. Now, it is time for the sixth side. The servant guided him to the cube. The final side of the cube had reverted to its original glassy appearance. Angus looked up and understood. He focused his thoughts and then put his hand on the cube. The captains message appeared etched on the surface: Greetings from the United Earth Empire. The cube floated out and quietly settled into the apex of the dome. A yellowish liquid quickly oozed over the glass; it remained there for a moment and then slid away. As it retreated it revealed another layer of reality; the crew now found themselves in a universe of orange fluid that stretched out to infinity. In the distance, a creature resembling a giant jellyfish floated peacefully. Behold, Yil-Weth-Yma! The servants words echoed in their minds. Shes beautiful. Cadet Stephenson took a step forward. What exactly is she? The captain was mesmerized by her beauty. She is your mother. The servant replied. Mother? Is that why the mother image has been showing up all over earth? Cadet Andropov asked. Yes. She is your mother and the mother of all who live within her. What do you mean all who live within her? The captain turned to their host.

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She is your mother, the mother of the Orrise, the Goothalk, the Kwuthari, and countless other worlds. I dont understand. Cadet Mercedes couldnt look away from the beautiful creature before him. The servant came forward and rested his tentacle on Juans shoulder. She is your mother she is your galaxy. The cube floated toward them and then stopped. Etched on the glass was Yil-Weth-Ymas reply: Greetings my children. I love you.

Bfk

2012 Benjamin F. Kaye

280

SPADE
Think Small

Youre not a vampire Samuel. Dr. Robinson turned to me. The birds were singing in the trees and the sunlight formed a halo around his long, gray hair. I think youre correct Dr. Robinson. I said slowly, weighing each word. You think Im correct? He gently replied. Are you having doubts Samuel? We continued our stroll through the grounds of New Hope Mental Hospital. Actually, they called it an Emotional Trauma Center. Its funny how we keep trying to re-invent the unpleasant things in life. I suppose my head is still a wee bit scrambled due to the accident. The accident isnt something you talk about very often. What do you remember of it? Burning. Oh. I see. Dr. Robinson nervously replied. The good doctor went on his way and left me to my identity struggle. I went back inside to see how my cohorts were doing. They were engaged in various activities, from checkers to painting to running the North American Protectorate. I took a good look around: if other people created fantasy worlds to escape severe circumstances, why wouldnt I? All these years I was so sure I was different and now that feeling was fading almost. Sam, Sam, Sam, Sam! Andy came running up to me. Andy, my lad, how are you? Sam, Sam, Sam, Sam! OK, OK. Calm down. Whats the matter? Theyre up to something big. The aliens are getting ready to attack!

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Andy, there are no aliens in the basement. There never were and there never will be. Sam! Please, just take a look. He had this pleading look in his eyes. I was pretty good at the game of saying no. That was the game at New Hope: no aliens, no monsters, no, youre not the president, no vampires. All day long it was deny, deny, deny. No matter what you thought it was deny, deny, deny. At times I thought it was wholly unfair, but perhaps it was necessary. What would happen if I refused to play the game just this once? I will investigate for you. If I find nothing, will you finally be convinced that there are no aliens? Youll find something Sam. Andy clung to me out of fear.

The entrance to the basement was locked of course. It was full of pills, needles, and other nasty things that staff only whispered about. I may have lost my marbles, but I still had my wits. After some effort, I was able to pick the lock with a paper clip. Before me, the stairs descended into the forbidding blackness. As I made my way through the corridors, I thought about all the awful little bedtime stories that were neatly tucked into childrens heads. Even in the 23rd Century, we were still dragging our fears behind us. Perhaps thats why I wanted to be a vampire: I wanted to be feared instead of the one being afraid. How sad, it all came down to fear. There was a noise behind me. I shone my light in that direction and caught a glimpse of something. I took a few steps in that direction, keeping the light ahead of me, but no one was there. I turned around and accidentally knocked an old paint can off a shelf. The sound seemed to echo down the corridor, like a herald, announcing my presence. I was grabbed from behind. Someone put their hand over my mouth. You should not be here. She was five foot six, slender, and Asian. She was dressed in black and had what looked like a gun at her side. She looked at me for a moment and then took her hand off my mouth. My name is Samuel, pleased to meet you. My name is Hoshi. Samuel you should not be here. But I am. I smiled. Yes, you are. She put her hand on my chest. A green beam of light slowly glided from my head to my toes. What are you doing? Perhaps I should have been more alarmed, but I was quite comfortable with the concept of hallucinations by now.

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Determining your structure and calculating your probability of survival. And your diagnosis? Probability of survival is high. Structure: advanced biological organism. Advanced biological organism? You are a vampire. She put her hand on my forehead and all my memories crystallized in an instant: the dark years, the reformation, the hiding, the efforts at co-existing, and the accident which really wasnt an accident. Well, that settles that. If you wish your solar system to survive, you must assist. She walked on ahead of me. Assist with what, may I ask? Deactivation of the device. And what device would that be? The bomb. I see. Well then, lets find that bomb. A red glow came from her eyes. She quickly drew her gun and a pellet with a sparkling trail shot forth into the shadows. Something squealed and I heard a soft thud in the gloom. We walked up to where the sound had come from. Before I could take another step, Hoshi held me back. The thing that lay before us was quite odd. It had white skin, two arms, and two legs. However, it had a hole in its chest: I peered through the hole and could see the green rug underneath the creature. Lining the hole where thousands of small hairs, some of which were still twitching. Our visitor had no mouth or even jaws. Rear guard. They knew I would come. She ran ahead. I followed. We came to a door. She held out her hand and the green beam of light quickly made its way from the top to the bottom. She frowned. Is there a problem? I had my paper clip ready. Electron cloud lock impossible to disassemble. She pulled the door off its hinges and neatly set it aside. The room itself was unnaturally empty; there was not even a single speck of dust left. Too late. Well then the hunt is on.

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It was April 19th, 2260 and I could smell the blood in the air. I looked down from the rooftop and wondered if we should even be allowed to live. The fires burned, rocks flew, and people died. There was hatred and insanity in the air: Welcome to the massacre of New Brussels. So, somewhere down there is a bomb that could disrupt the strong nuclear force from here all the way to the Kuiper Belt. Correct. Hoshis answer came through the earpiece I was wearing. And this bomb is the size of a golf ball? Correct. And you believe that the device has already been activated. The evidence I discovered at New Hope Hospital indicates that the device has been activated. It should detonate within three hours. This task would be easier if I had some assistance. The Kwuthari would recognize me. This would complicate the mission. I see. Any suggestions on how I might find a golf ball sized doomsday device in the middle of a riot? Think small. I waded into the moonlit chaos, focused on the task at hand. What a time for my belly to growl. There was so much death, dying, and despair about me. I was tempted, but I did not give in. After the crisis, I could make arrangements. So, why I satiated my appetite on a dying young man, I cant really explain. Perhaps it was the excitement, the hunger, and the easy opportunity. I knew I would tell myself later that I wanted to end his suffering, but I also knew I wouldnt quite be able to convince myself. As my eyes scanned the dismal scene, I thought of all the places one could hide a golf ball. Some young lad or lass could be unwittingly carrying it to school. It could be buried under kitty litter or at the bottom of a box of cereal. Was it sending out some sort of signal? You dont deserve to be here! I heard the words just as the baseball bat struck me. I do believe that the gentleman was genuinely surprised when I didnt flinch. Samuel, if my calculations are correct, the probability of detonation in the next two hours is quite high. Hoshi informed me.

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I understand. There is a small matter I must attend to first. After all, a gentleman must keep his secrets. The gent was fast and agile. I also have to give him credit he was smart. I crept through the abandoned building he had run into, spending precious time. I finally found my assailant and dealt with him. I definitely wasnt hungry now. I looked at my watch. I had about one hour and fifteen minutes left. As I passed by a TV reporter, I had a burst of inspiration. Hoshi, can you invade the wireless networks of the local TV and radio stations? I can. Please explain your strategy. If we use the radio and TV station antennas as receivers, we can create a map of the background radiation. Anything powerful enough to disrupt the strong nuclear force might show up as an anomaly on the map. Very interesting. I will proceed. How much time will this take? About one hour, perhaps more. An hour of waiting. An hour of speculating, of anticipating. An hour to dread, to wonder if something could have been done differently. An hour to meditate on why this was happening to our species and not some other. I on the other hand, spent the hour with a croissant and a crossword puzzle in a cozy little caf. Four letter word describing improved probability of success. I mused. Luck. Hoshi answered. Ahhh.thank you! Any progress? Infiltration complete. Creating background radiation map. Thank you Hoshi. Estimated time to detonation? Thirty nine seconds. Well then, I should find this item and quickly. I brought up the radiation map on my tablet computer. There was a noticeable disruption in the pattern 18 inches to my left. I reached for the ketchup bottle and unscrewed the top: there inside was the source of all the consternation. It was a white rubber sphere with three holes. As fortune would have it, the device was right beside me all along. How does one disarm a doomsday device? Take the rods I gave you and insert them into the holes.

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Sounds easy enough. When I got to the last hole, the sphere started ringing. Inserting the third rod stopped the noise. There was a ringing noise that the device made, but now all is quiet. I reported. Detonation was imminent. If you had waited one more second, the solar system would have been destroyed.

We watched the fires die down as people came to their senses and the healing began. I looked at the little white sphere in my hand and realized how the smallest things in life could have such big consequences. Are they still here? My gaze returned to the bloody streets below. Yes. They have retreated, but they will come again. Next time they will use a different strategy. And luck might not be our ally. Correct. I set the bomb down on the ground. You dont need this do you? No. It has been thoroughly analyzed by my superiors. I dont suppose I will ever meet your superiors? Or even discover what you truly are? I held the golf club firmly in my hands. I swung and the bomb flew out across the city. Perhaps one day. I look forward to that day. As do I.

Bfk

2012 Benjamin F. Kaye

286

SPADE
Target: Samuel Hain

Ive found you at last. I took out the knife. I cut my hand and let the blood fall. It gently splashed on the fresh white roses. In the background, the wind moaned among the pines. I looked at the name on the grave marker. Was she the one I met in the coffee shop in Istanbul? Or was she the one I talked to on the bus in New Paris? Spade I require your assistance. Hoshi was standing behind me. She had this funny habit of simply appearing out of the thin air. She walked up to me. Interesting. Please explain your actions. Trying to give back. Impossible. And yet I still feel compelled to do it. The alternative of simply not caring is far worse. Well Chelsea Fisher, you are off my list. 1,274 accounted for, 3,587 to go. Lieutenant Samuel Hain has accidentally intercepted a message between two Kwuthari agents. He is now the target of their best assassin. Samuel Hain must live. Let me guess: youve looked into your crystal ball and Mr. Hain will change the course of history. Samuel Hain must live.

I really dont like cramped quarters. This Samuel chap really packed his room full of the most unnecessary rubbish. There were images of a female figure cluttering the place, as well as several pistols. Several tablets running advanced mathematical games were strewn about. A numbers nerd who likes girls and has a violent streak is going to change the course of history. How novel! I quietly chuckled to myself.

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I put on my infrared goggles but saw nothing. Perhaps Mr. Hains quarters were too obvious to be the opening move in the game. I brought up Mr. Hains duty roster on my what should I call this little thing? Mr. Assistant? My Little Wizard? How about the Gizmo? Oracle sounded nice. With a catchy name like that, my little invention would sell like hot cakes. So, I pulled up Mr. Hains duty roster on my Oracle. The engineering room of the Valiant seemed like a dark, lonely spot. Would my adversary start there or pick another time and place? No matter what else might happen, I would at least get in a good chess match with this mysterious assassin. So I quietly made my way through the Valliant. It was a very clunky thing that looked like a shoe box with an engine on the end. At only 100 yards long, I doubt it couldve survived even the most insignificant meteor. But here I was, skulking in the shadows, ducking under pipes and behind nitrogen fuel tanks. Ahhh.there he was. The person of interest Mr. Hain himself. He was walking to the environmental control center. I saw it out of the corner of my eye; it was actually quite beautiful. The blade was sinuous with a marvellous serrated edge; it looked like dragons teeth on a serpents claw. The hilt of the dagger was fashioned out of some sort of smoky crystal; within the crystal two green, glowing larvae swam about. I quickly cut a nearby fuel line. The resulting explosion knocked Mr. Hain off his feet just before the blade reached him. He was badly burnt, but he would live. Its funny how we sometimes almost have to kill someone in order to save them. By now the ship was in jeopardy too. The explosion had damaged the propulsion systems, not to mention the steering. The Valiant was drifting helplessly towards the asteroid belt. The clunks and the dings were quite unnecessary reminders of the fix we were in. People were scrambling here and there using their primitive tools to effectuate a solution. I felt sorry for them, I really did. It was obvious that they were never meant to leave the Earth. I put on the goggles and caught sight of my prey. He was moving fast, very fast. The silver lining in this dark cloud was that the current crisis was slowing him down. It was obvious to me that he had a narrow plan of action he hadnt anticipated this. So, the advantage was mine. There was nowhere to go. You played a good game. But now its over. The dim green lights of the cargo bay gave everything a fatalistic glow. A meteor slammed into the ship and it spun around, knocking us off our feet. He recovered first and lunged into the air. His sword sank into my chest. The two larvae in the hilt began to travel through the blade, inching closer and closer. We know what you are and how to destroy you. The assassins voice was in my head. It was low, garbled, and laced with static. The worms shall dissolve you from the inside out. He shoved the blade in deeper.

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To make matters even more complicated, a huge meteor slammed into the ship, crumpling the room. I could hear the hull buckling, squealing, and moaning under the pressure. The assassin turned and walked out the door. Just before he left, he gave me one backward glance and laughed. The blade was stuck; no matter how I tried it simply wouldnt budge. Those two larvae were moving about as quickly as my grandparents on a Sunday drive through the vineyards. They marched straight toward me; I could feel the heat of their tiny bodies. The floor I was impaled on continued to heave upward and I only had two feet till I was kissing the ceiling. When the worms actually entered my body, it was an unusually strange sensation. I felt warm and peaceful, like I did when I was a child on a cold winter night with a cup of hot chocolate. Then they got down to work and my whole body burned with unbearable pain. The ceiling was now only one foot away. In certain dire situations, we all must make sacrifices. With what strength I had left, I pulled out my Oracle, my pride and joy, and slammed it into the blade. Now the pain was beyond unbearable, it was something I thought no living thing could ever feel. I was even denied the mercy of blacking out. Then suddenly it stopped. The pain was gone. The two worms made a feeble retreat, went limp, and fell off the blade. One problem solved. The ceiling was now only ten inches away. Lady luck must have been on my side because the metal beneath me became so contorted the sword felt loose. I pulled it out as the ceiling grew ever closer. I crawled through a ventilation duct just as the room was completely crushed. After several agonizing minutes, I made it to the medical bay. Poor Mr. Hain was lying on a stretcher with sparks and flames about him like hungry demons. The doctor was doing his best to save Mr. Hains charred body, but I could tell that he wouldnt make it. I came closer and said a prayer for his soul. When you have been a hunter for several centuries, as I have been, you can sense a predator nearby. It doesnt happen often, but on those rare occasions you can feel something anticipating the final death stroke. Instinctively, I thrust my blade into the shadows. The Kwuthari assassin froze for a moment, and then fell dead.

How are you feeling Lieutenant? I inquired from the shadows. Like a hot dog thats been sitting on the grill too long. Mr. Hain replied. He was hooked up to several machines, but resting comfortably enough. I had read his chart; the damage was more severe than I first anticipated. Mr. Hain had this funny habit of tap-dancing between life and death. Good. Time for your treatment. Now I have a policy about conversions: no more than one a century. I looked down upon this dying young man and threw my policy out the door once again.

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Somethings different. You changed me. Who are you? A specialist. I smiled. Mr. Hain was now part of my little secret club. He would have to deal with the hunger, guilt, and persecution but he would live.

On the way home, I built another Oracle. It was hard to get the spare parts, but I scrounged, bartered, and begged. I opened up the device and plotted the quickest course for New Toronto. I leaned back in my shuttle and closed my eyes as Mars slowly drifted by. But the radio chatter was just more than I could bear. I started blocking out all known frequencies and channels until there was silence. Again, I leaned back, determined to get in a well deserved nap. The only thing preventing this was a very low hissing noise; mingled in with this was a language that I had never heard before. I looked at the radio map of the solar system; a signal was coming from the moon. Hoshi, are you aware that a radio signal is coming from the moon? Scanning..you are correct. The signal isnt like anything Ive ever heard. Its not even remotely human. Analyzing.The signal is not human in origin. Well, Im glad we agree on that. The signal has characteristics of the Japhirdan. They are a race of beings in the Andromeda Galaxy. Further analysis is required. Are they a threat? Unknown. Further analysis is required. I touched down in a little parking lot two blocks away from New Toronto Auditorium. With two tickets to a Star Chasers hockey game, I whistled a merry tune. Spade! You made it! Victoria gave me a hug. I am a man of my word. I smiled. The game between the Star Chasers and the New Moscow Photons was a close one. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. I so dearly missed hockey games, especially when the home town boys were playing. Analysis complete. Hoshis voice came through my earpiece. The signal is not of the Japhirdan it is Kwuthari in origin. The Kwuthari have duplicated a military signal of the Japhirdan indicating a large Japhirdan fleet in your solar system. This signal will be intercepted by the Japhirdans

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enemies, the Khemthemthem. Based on the current diplomatic crisis between these two empires, the Khemthemthem will invade when they intercept this signal. Victoria dear, do you need a refill? Spade, you are such a dear. I ducked into a lonely corridor. This is certainly a troubling turn of events. Hoshi, my dear, can you tell me when the signal started? Approximately 57.89 hours ago. She replied. Exactly when I was rescuing Mr. Hain. He wasnt a target after all, he was a decoy. My, my, this is turning into a nasty little affair. Options? None. Earth is not able to communicate with the Khemthemthem. They are 500 years ahead of Earth in technology, especially military technology. Destruction will be inevitable and absolute. There has to be an option. I think its time I met your superiors. There was a brief pause. They have agreed. A drop of water hovered in the air before me. It expanded to a sphere 30 feet in diameter. Enter. The voice was definitely not human. The syllables were forced out through a series of very faint blips. Whatever was speaking was not familiar with human anatomy. The world around me turned white. When things became clear again, I found myself on a world covered in water. I was standing on a black hexagonal disc a few feet above the waves. In the distance, twin suns orbited a black hole. Five moons, each with beautiful, swirling gases, graced the sky. Large spheres of water, some five times the size of New Moscow, ascended from the ocean. Other spheres sank slowly beneath the surface. To whom am I speaking? I calmly addressed the vast, picturesque scene. The Orrise. Can you do something to prevent our destruction? Again, several moments passed in silence. No. That answer did not come so quickly. Are you unwilling or simply unable to help? Our interests in the region would be complicated. Do your interests include the destruction of the human race? No. The pause lasted several minutes this time. If your solar system were designated as an object of scientific observation, a solution could be enacted.

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Please! Anything. A barrier could be constructed around your solar system. This will prevent the Khemthemthem from entering. It will also prevent your species from leaving. Do you agree to this? Yes. And thats how the Kwuthari and I trapped humanity in our tiny solar system for the next 500 years.

Bfk

2012 Benjamin F. Kaye

292

SPADE
Just One Loose Screw

Nevermore to see the day- Mr. Ellington. The directors voice rang harshly through the auditorium. Yes? We appreciate your enthusiasm. UmMr. Ellington, did you familiarize yourself with the script? Why yes. Im a huge fan of Nosferatu. Ive been dying to play this part for years. Mr. Ellingtonhave you ever read any books about vampires? Well, no. Mr. Ellingtonhave you ever seen any movies about vampires? Yes, I did see a movie once. It was back in 2005 or was it 2004? Mr. Ellington, there are plenty of other roles available in this production roles that you would be perfect for. However, I dont think you fit the role of the vampire. Would you consider another equally important role, such as that of the milk man? I had never given any other role much thought. I had to get off stage; it was just building up inside of me. But, I would love to be a part of this wonderful play, no matter what part you gave me. Well get back to you next week. Thank you. I hurried off into the shadows. When I got to safety, I let the full absurdity of the situation hit me. A vampire who couldnt act like a vampire I almost fell over laughing. Spade your assistance is required. A hologram of Hoshi appeared before me. And how may I be of service?

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The UDA and the Russian Federation are conducting operations in the disputed zone of the asteroid belt. Each ship is being serviced by Beijing Electronics. The Kwuthari are planning on sabotaging the Samuel Hain. The probability of a military crisis between the Chinese, Russians, and the UDA will be extremely high if the Kwuthari are successful. Well, we cant let that happen now, can we?

Cadet Ellington reporting for duty sir. I saluted captain Halverson. I see you transferred from the UDA Minuteman. Yes sir. Have you contacted the medical officer about your required adaptations? Sir? I noticed your red goggles. Oh! Yes sir. I will contact the medical officer immediately. I hope your time on board the Samuel Hain is professional and productive Mr. Ellington. It will be sir. Thank you sir. He was quite a stodgy chap; yet agreeable enough. The bridge was clear, as I thought it would be. The Kwuthari werent that straightforward or that sloppy. As I made my way down the hall, I whistled a tune from Nosferatu, Act II. When this was all over, I would definitely see the play. How many other vampires had auditioned for that grand old production? You new here? Cadet Akhila Jain walked up beside me. Yes. This is my first day. Im Samuel. Akhila. Hopefully this wont be your last day. She gestured to the Russian warship outside the window. Im confident that the days ahead will be quite uneventful. I replied as we stepped around a technician from Beijing Electronics. There was movement up ahead. Excuse me Akhila. It was nice meeting you. It was tricky. I had to move fast, but not too fast. I didnt want to attract undue attention. I never quite had the little saboteur in my sights. He was always one step ahead. I had to give the Kwuthari credit: they kept on getting faster and sneakier. I pulled out my oracle. This was another thing I had to be discreet about. Mine was several generations ahead of the time. It was actually quite funny I was running a diagnostic without a clue of what I was looking for. The ship looked absolutely

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normal and everything was in tip top shape. Had the game begun already? If not, how long would it be till the opening move? Perhaps I wasnt looking for the right clues. Instead of looking for Kwuthari shenanigans, perhaps I should be looking for Chinese or Russian shenanigans. I scanned the ship; there was a small object underneath a hard to reach section of the dark energy accelerator. I took a closer look: the object was packed with enough explosives to obliterate everything in a 75 yard radius. The Samuel Hain would be damaged, but still able to fight. I had only ten minutes before it went off. I raced to the bomb with one thought in mind: disarm it before something very bad happens. But I started to get other thoughts. While en route, I reviewed the security video and personnel privileges for that area. Beijing Electronics staff werent allowed in that area and the video confirmed that fact. Even if the bomb exploded, no one would believe that the Chinese were responsible. It was a decoy, one that would cost several innocent people their lives. I looked for other areas of the ship that were vulnerable and quite fragile. Were there any that had been frequented by our Chinese guests? The physics lab was conducting several sensitive (and unwise) experiments on the strong nuclear force. It was on the other side of the ship. Being in two places at once was not my specialty. I needed help and quick. As fortune would have it, there were several good sized time bubbles just 500 feet above us. I took over the computers navigation systems. Hopefully, the crew would be too busy to notice. Captain, navigational systems have been compromised. Lieutenant Gonzalezs report came through loud and clear on my ear piece. Time to scramble the eggs. I thought to myself. Captain, artificial intelligence subroutines have accidentally crossed logic circuits with navigation; attempting to correct. Dont fight me Mr. Gonzalez. I muttered. I cant fight you and the Kwuthari at the same time. I countered his commands at every turn. Captain, there is a slight thrust from bottom thrusters. The lieutenant observed. By now, I could tell his nerves were getting rattled. Just have a little patience please. I whispered. I was just in the right spot. I stepped forward and crossed the first bubble. I was in front of the bomb the very next moment. The time to detonation was 3 minutes. I checked the surveillance video for the physics lab. An unseen hand was slowly manipulating one of the nano-tech fuel rods; I had only one minute before the sub atomic reactions reached a critical stage.

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I had a sudden flash of inspiration. Wait a minute! I dont have to be here. I ran out of the room and jumped through the next time bubble. Theres a radiation leak in here! I yelled as I entered the physics lab. Everyone out! The Kwuthari agent spun around. Even you cant be in two places at once. Her voice was in my head. I dont have to be my dear. I replied. I began overloading the circuitry roots of the bomb with my oracle. My gun was pointed at her head. You chose the wrong place. She snarled. I could hear the UDA guard shouting and rounding up the Beijing Electronics staff. The Kwuthari saboteur lunged and knocked me off my feet. My oracle slid across the floor. Unfortunately, my plan wasnt in place yet. The bomb would go off in two minutes. In our struggle, I bumped the oh so delicate machinery and dislodged another fuel rod. As I ducked under her blade, I managed to put all the fuel rods in their proper place. I knocked her aside and recovered my oracle. I grabbed her from behind just before she could remove the fuel rods. I had one minute and twenty seconds till the bomb ruined someones day. I stood between her and the experiment, my blade drawn, blocking her way. It was quite a challenge to keep her at bay, while disarming the bomb. You planned well Spade. But did you factor this into your strategy? The Kwuthari taunted me. Incoming Russian missiles! The announcement boomed throughout the ship. The ship immediately dropped and we both lost our balance. She recovered first and removed all the fuel rods. In the next instant, my blade cut her down. I had only four seconds to replace five fuel rods. Reaction critical. I thought those would be the final words the Samuel Hain displayed. I dropped in the last fuel rod. Actually, I was wrong: I had four and a quarter seconds. The bomb had only fifteen seconds left. I needed twenty. The display on the bomb was down to two seconds. In desperation, I overloaded the entire dark energy accelerator. The bomb was disarmed. I looked at its eerie blue counter: zero seconds. I closed my oracle and headed to my shuttle. On my way past a video display, I caught the most interesting sight. The quick and courageous actions of Lieutenant Pevtsov of the Russian Federation not only saved the lives of our crew, but have diffused a diplomatic crisis. Captain Halverson was standing beside the Lieutenant, who looked oddly familiar. So thats who dropped the ship. When I got to my shuttle, Hoshi was waiting for me. Congratulations, Lieutenant Pevtsov. Im glad youre on our side. Youre welcome. Was that a smile that crossed her face?

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Hoshi, I thought you werent going to get directly involved in this war. I interrupted the shuttle power up sequence and turned to her. Last minute decision. Really. Too much fun.

Bfk

2012 Benjamin F. Kaye

297

SPADE
Orions Chariot

I love the light. The sunlight streaming into my parlor was so comforting. I watched the shadows of the mobiles dance round and round on the floor. Clowns, elephants, and tigers lazily eddied about in the new morning. I reached out my hand. I wanted to get as close as I could without crossing that barrier between light and shadow. Spade, your assistance is required. A hologram of Hoshi appeared behind me. Yet again? I sighed. The Kwuthari have targeted a cruise ship, Orions Chariot, for unknown reasons. Thats all you know? Affirmative. Am I going first class? I chuckled. Arrangements have been made. Orions Chariot leaves Utopia tomorrow at 8:00 AM. Will you be accompanying me this time? No.

So there I was, standing in a long line at Utopias spaceport, all ready to go. I checked the information panel: August 19, 2690 / Orions Chariot: Solar Cruise On time. I then turned my attention to the latest reviews of Nosferatu Reborn. I then realized that I had no idea of what Orions Chariot looked like. It could have flown overhead and I wouldnt even know that I had been left behind. I checked my oracle for news and images of the ship. Funny there was nothing. Was this a real ship or was this one giant hoax? I was extremely grateful that Hoshi had paid for my ticket and accommodations.

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And now the mystery revealed! The announcement slowly rose in volume until it filled the spaceport. A hologram of a double helix appeared alongside the line. Welcome to Orions Chariot. Fashioned from the latest glass materials, with a passenger capacity of 5,200, it is the ultimate way to travel our solar system. On board you will find movie theaters, five star restaurants, world class casinos, gorgeous botanical hideaways, sports arenas, and the solar systems largest mall. Theres no better place to spend your vacation! Again, welcome aboard. Well, well. A cruise liner in the shape of a double helix. How novel. It was three miles long and a half mile across. But I couldnt help but wonder how they did it. By my observations, we were at least fifty years away from such a technological marvel. I tried to get more details about the materials used in the ship from the helpful panel next to me, but all I received was a list of scheduled events. Perhaps this ship wasnt geared to the scientifically minded or perhaps someone was hiding something. The line was now buzzing with anticipation and impatient. With every step the observation deck got closer. The displays overhead and to the sides were now nothing more than annoyances. Finally, I was standing on the observation deck. I could see boxes traveling on rails across the gray lunar soil; they abruptly disappeared into underground tunnels. The train of cargo had to be at least one mile long. When the last box vanished, there was a silence. Then a very quiet hissing noise was heard; this was followed by a series of clicks. There was a slight vibration under our feet, followed by a rumbling that eventually reverberated throughout the port. I could see the doors of the hanger sliding back. There was another short pause. Then, to theatrical fanfare, Orions Chariot slowly rose up from the depths below. She was a beauty even more impressive when seen with ones own eyes. We all clapped; everyone was now thoroughly basted in excitement. As the line moved ahead, everyone was given a small replica of the ship to wear around their neck. The walkway beneath us displayed a slowly rotating double helix against a stellar background. Alibeart Zhengs United played in the background. Whoever was in charge of their public relations campaign was a genius. As the escalator slowly propelled us upward into the ship, the sunlight sliced through the vessel and cascaded down into a psychedelic rainbow. I pulled my hood over my head, just in case. I silently groaned inside, knowing that most of my time would be spent on business not pleasure. Oh well, perhaps next time I would be able to fully enjoy all the amenities Orion had to offer. Afraid of the sun? The passenger behind me inquired. Yes.and no. I didnt turn around. My cousin had the same problem. She got a severe sunburn while on a cruise around Mercury. Poor thing she was never the same again. How unfortunate.

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Dont worry; most of the trip will be far away from the sun. By the time we reach Mars, it shouldnt be a problem. Thank you Ms.- Fisher. Serendipity Fisher. Is this your first cruise? I kept my back to her. Yes. I insisted on staying home with my daughter Shelly, but she insisted. Shes having an awful time with her babies. Theyre triplets, you see. They were born just two weeks ago. I wanted to stay with her, but she insisted I go. Perhaps its for the best.

My room was spacious; it was so spacious that I felt a little guilty. There was a large comfortable bed, a separate parlor with plush chairs (with fancy oak trim I might add), and a private bath. The glass tinted to ones desired level. I darkened the view ever so slightly. I pulled my hood back and took off my gloves. It was perfect. The ice box was stocked full of blood. It had a note on it:

This was all obtained legitimately.


Hoshi, my dear, thank you for the provisions. I sipped on a meal as her hologram stood in front of me. I did not do this. Well then, who did? Perhaps a friend. That mystery will have to wait. Have you seen any Kwuthari agents? No. Not yet. But, then again, I have yet to make my rounds. Please keep us informed of your situation. Of course my dear. I do believe I will start by trying my luck in the casino. The casino was filled with the typical poker, blackjack, and roulette tables. However, it also had some newer games such as photon (which was my personal favorite). A large crystal that contained hundreds of prisms and mirrors sat on a table. A laser shot a single point of light through the crystal; if you could guess where the light would end up, you could walk away with a good amount of credits. Excuse me, are you Spade? A dapper gentleman in a tux leaned over. Why yes. I was somewhat confused. I thought this was going to be a solo operation.

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Im Bond Molecular Bond. Do you have the UAS files? No I do not. Mr. Erickson, it is imperative that we obtain those files before the South Americans get a good look at them. Oh! Im Mr. Ellington. Im afraid you have the wrong Spade. Excuse me. Im.terribly sorry. Thats quite alright. Best of luck chap. Then it was on to the garden. The only thing I found there was a bee hive in the shape of a woman. It reminded me of poor Samuel and his odd fascination with the basic female figure. I must admit though, the blossoming apple trees against the backdrop of the Milky Way was quite a sight. Then it was on to the movies, then the mall, and then to the arenas. There was not a single Kwuthari to be found. I ran a diagnostic on the ship and everything was normal. I looked for any vulnerabilities or fragile parts and came up empty. I scanned for distortions and displacements in the solar winds and nearby dark energy currents and all was peaceful. Back in my room, I sat on an elegant couch with an exquisite tea cup. Nothing is amiss. The ship doesnt appear to be particularly vulnerable. Are you sure its their target? It might not even be a decoy. The messages we have intercepted indicate that Orions Chariot is in danger. Hoshi replied. What kind of danger? Unknown. At least the journey has been entertaining. I stood up and walked to the window. The Kuiper Belt loomed ahead of us in the vast stellar expanse. The ship suddenly lurched forward. This is your captain speaking. We have encountered some..slight mechanical difficulties. The ship is still perfectly safe and fully operational. We appreciate your patience while we solve this minor problem. The Kuiper Belt was now rapidly approaching. I examined the ships navigational systems. Something outside the ship was now in control. I did everything I could to regain control of the ship, but all my efforts were useless. I made my way to the engine room, passing by happy passengers and concerned staff members. The Solar Barrier that I was partially responsible for was now only a few miles away.

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Everyone in the engine room was too busy to notice me. They were busy turning dials and pulling levers. They were quite professional. There was no shouting or grandstanding. Everyone was calm and following the standard protocol right down to the letter. Thats what worried me the most. Do you have a shut off valve? I approached the senior engineer. No. The ships course is all controlled wirelessly from a central point on Europa. He brought up the control station. It was heavily guarded and sending out signals that were encrypted inside and out. We examined our receiver and its working perfectly. Theres no evidence of tampering or mischief. I examined the specifications of the receiver very carefully. Theres no need for tampering. I pointed to several circuit junctions. See those five junctions? Theyre a second receiver. Thats why the electron current around them has increased. Someone built a clandestine receiver within your receiver. The ship came to a sudden halt. We were stuck in the barrier. Orions Chariot was infused with a white light and started to hum. Streaks of light shot out into the blackness around us. They were like shooting stars. As the moments passed, their shining trails grew longer and longer. Hoshi, the Kwuthari are trying to open the solar barrier. My sources indicate that several Khemthemthem warships are within 100,000 km of your position. Their weapons are armed. And theres no way of convincing our guests that we are not harboring a Japhirdan fleet in our back yard? All efforts to dissuade the Khemthemthem have failed. Diplomacy is no longer an option. I have contacts in the military. Can you delay them until we can get some help here? Military action is no longer an option. The Khemthemthem are still too advanced. Hoshi, an option would be quite nice right now. The barrier must be closed. If you can locate the source of the signal I would be more than happy to do that.

A lifeboat was certainly no X4-C but I really had no choice at the moment. I ran for the nearest one and started to pry loose the security panel. Hey! Its not time for the lifeboats. A staff member approached me.

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Sorry lad! I hit him once and he was out. I then opened the door and jumped into the tiny half sphere. Lets see, top speed 5,000 kph wonderful. Weapons: none. Oh this is getting better all the time. I started the launch sequence and the tiny pod popped out into space. The signal is coming from this asteroid. Hoshi pulled up a display of a small, unassuming rock. Right. I pushed the throttle forward and the ship zipped along. In response, pulses of light raced to meet me head on. Ooops! I suppose I should avoid those. I zigzagged left and right, but eventually I was hit. The ship you are in has sustained critical damage. It is no longer a viable option for transport. Hoshi observed. Yes, I do believe you are correct. I saw a tunnel in the asteroid. I guided the pod in, even as it started to break apart. Just as she crossed the barrier between empty space and artificial atmosphere, I opened the hatch and jumped out. The ship exploded a second later. The fighting was especially vicious. I had continued to master my skills at hand to hand combat and swordsmanship over the centuries, but so had the Kwuthari. Several times I narrowly missed death. Disposing of my enemies was no longer a swift, one stroke affair. Are you sure these will work? I pulled out a polished metal orb the size of a baseball. The flames and chaos were reflected upon its surface. I was pinned down in a narrow corridor by enemy fire. Yes. They were perfected by MARIs Off Limits Unit just last week. Hoshi noted. I rolled the orb down the hall. There was a brief flash. All was quiet. When I cautiously peeked around the corner, the Kwuthari troopers had turned into monuments of salt. It was quite curious to see them this way; every detail of their physique was perfectly preserved. I touched one and the salt statue crumbled into a pile. Those salt grenades were quite handy. I used all four of them. By the time I entered the main control room, the place was all mine. Now, I just had to figure out what to do with it. The panels flashed strange symbols and the sounds that came over the communication channels were impossible to decipher. Hoshi, my Kwuthari is a little rusty. Can you translate? The barrier is being kept open by the Orions engines. You must shut down the engines. Access the control grid to your right. Control grid to my right. Here it is. I entered the symbols in the exact sequence that appeared above my oracle. Shut down the engines.

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What will happen to Orion? The barrier will collapse and crush the ship. Ill send an evacuate order. The escape pods have been disabled. Hoshi observed. By who? The Kwuthari. You must shut down the engines. And kill everyone on board. Yes. If the barrier remains open, the Khemthemthem will invade and destroy your solar system. They knew I wouldnt be able to make such a decision. You must. I entered the code and shut down the engines of Orions Chariot. I could see the fractures appear in the glass; the people inside ran about like doomed ants. The ship shattered into a million pieces. The population of our solar system was over 9 billion. I had over 9 billion excuses to kill all 5,148 passengers aboard Orions Chariot, yet I knew this was something that would never be forgiven.

Bfk

2012 Benjamin F. Kaye

304

SPADE
The Trial of Yil-Weth-Yma

The tragedy of Orions Chariot is still a mystery today. We have more questions than answers. The documentary blithely droned on. Isnt there something more cheery that we could watch? I fidgeted on the couch. Hush! I love this kind of stuff. Chloe snapped. Mommy! Im scared. I think theres a monster in my closet. Naomis cry for help wafted out from her bedroom. Ill go check it out. I promptly got up from the couch and strode down the hall. Spade! Naomis voice was sprinkled with joy. At your service madam! I saluted her. Now where is that monster? In the closet! She pointed frantically. I opened the closet door very slowly and quietly. Theres nothing there. I jumped back. Ohho! Thats where you are you little rapscallion! I thrust my hand into a pile of laundry. Away with you! I opened the window and threw the imaginary scoundrel out. And dont come back! I promptly closed the window. I then turned to my damsel in distress. That awful monster will bother you no more Miss Naomi. I happened to glance out the second floor bedroom window. Hoshi was standing there, waiting for me. I could think of no better excuse to escape reliving the Orions final, tragic moments. In the forest beyond, I could see something glowing. Is Naomi safe now? Chloe smiled. Yes, quite safe. Chloe, my dear, I just received a summons. Duty calls. I kissed her hand and left.

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You seem particularly good at rescuing damsels in distress. Hoshi commented as I met her outside. Its my specialty. I winked. Good for you have been chosen to rescue another damsel. Who? Yil-Weth-Yma. Hoshi held her hand out and a ship appeared. It looked like two crescent moons back to back. It must have been at least 100 yards long.

My, myhow impressive. Wait until you meet the pilot. She led me up the walkway. The interior of the ship was an exact replica of a Japanese forest at dusk, right down to the singing birds and floating butterflies. I could even feel the wind upon my face. A sinuous, graceful dragon twenty feet in length greeted me. She was sitting on an immense metallic sphere that was half buried in the floor of the vessel. The sphere became covered in black; the door to the ship closed. So, you are Hoshi. I bowed low to the serpent. I turned to the attractive young lady. And you are a drone. Correct. Please sit down. We dont have much time. The machine instructed. A wooden Adirondack chair rose up out of the mossy ground. Hoshis sphere displayed a map of the universe. A small red dot appeared some distance outside our galaxy. The ship slowly rose, paused for a moment, then shot into space. So, the old gal has gotten herself into a bit of trouble, has she? Yil-Weth-Yma is on trial for the murder of one of her own solar systems. One month ago, a sun around this system went supernova. The drone pointed to a solar system on Hoshis sphere. 149 billion life forms were destroyed. The sun should have lived for another 21 million years. It sounds like a serious charge alright. Who is defending her at the trial? You are. I see. I had better put my thinking cap on. You will need more than that. You will need assistance in gathering the required evidence. The ship quickly turned to Europa. We weaved in and out between buildings and monuments faster

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than my eyes could keep up. As the ship landed on a pad on the outskirts of Olympus, the machine stated: Seek out Parveen. She will ensure that you live long enough to present your case. Parveen? Yes. Any further clues that might help me locate this person? The name itself will lead you to her.

After mentioning the name for an hour, I found myself in a botanical wonderland. Dancing among the lush trees and exotic plants were long tendrils of light, curling, spiraling, and twisting through the air. I walked amongst the vegetation and holograms, taking in the scent of jasmine and roses. Are you just visiting, or do you have a request? A soft female voice drifted through the branches. I have a request from the galaxy itself. I thought that might impress the voice. Galaxies do not need the assistance of the bacteria that live in them. This one is in particularly dire straits. I turned around and beheld a woman with long, silky black hair and light brown skin. She was dressed in blue jeans and a yellow Cosmic Flowerpots tee-shirt. A cord of black, braided metal curled around the entire length of her right arm. The end of the cord that rested on her shoulder was shaped like a dragons tail; the other end was shaped like a dragons head. And this galaxy cannot defend itself? We all need a little help from our friends. I smiled. And Miss Parveen would be an absolutely wonderful friend to have in this instance, or so Im told. She cocked her head for a moment, as if weighing her options and evaluating multiple strategies. I will accompany you. You might need assistance after all.

Back on board the ship, Hoshis drone provided further details of our situation. The solar system was along a trade route used by several species. Hoshis sphere displayed colorful lines that ran through the star system. However, there were no known hostilities between the species that used the route and the native inhabitants. What about unknown hostilities? Parveen spoke up. An astute question, young star blade. The machine replied. Our intelligence network is looking into that very possibility.

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So, the only suspect is still the old lady. I murmured. I walked to the main window and looked out amongst the white debris of Q-space. But, could the galaxy even destroy a part of itself? Wouldnt that be like an ordinary chap just killing off a few cells inside his big toe? It is possible. The drone pointed out. But why would you do it? Is it possible for something so insignificant to anger a whole galaxy? Did Yil-Weth-Yma even know that this civilization existed? I turned to Hoshi. That is unknown at this time. The drone answered. Wellthats something I intend to find out. I brought up information on the nearest societies.

This will increase the probability that the tribunal will proceed without the defense present. The machine warned. We exited Q-space and took up orbit around a small, reddish planet with three ring systems. Can you stall them? This is for a good cause Im not stopping here for a cup of tea. I was still pouring over data and tactical displays. What are you looking for? Parveen looked down at the unassuming world below. Girls. You have permission to search our archives. Ambassador Jhumshum of the Shuftah announced. He was an odd looking fellow. Essentially, the Shuftah were worms with glass spheres on both ends. Each sphere had three eyes. Welcome to Shuf. The computer library on this little world was immense. We strode toward the mushroom shaped building. Large, glowing red drops of gelatin descended from the thick atmosphere above. The bridge before us spanned a deep gorge with an unforgiving bottom. The natives parted before us, like leaves before an October wind. We must be the first aliens these creatures have seen. Parveen commented. I dont think so. I put on my goggles. There was an advancing army of Kwutharis elite assassins blocking our way. Friends of yours? Parveen put on her goggles. Friends? More like acquaintances. Then you wont mind if I get down to business. The black cord slid down her arm. As it slithered past her hand, it reshaped itself into a sword. Now that is a handy little thing.

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Its something to be earned, not bought. She punctuated that point by cutting down three assailants with one stroke. While I was struggling to keep alive, Parveen was slicing through the chaos like a bird of prey. The ferocity and efficiency of her technique were simply astounding. Every time I thought she was surrounded, she found a way out. She outmaneuvered her opponents with ease and countered their strokes in ways that I didnt think were possible. If I could have sat on the sidelines and taken notes, I would have gladly done so. The star blades were going to revolutionize the way of the sword and that worried me. Were losing precious time. Im told the tribunal is very punctual. I shouted above the clamor. I will expedite this matter if you wish. Her words were serene. That would be a wonderful idea. Parveens sword became a chakram. She hurled it with all her might. It cut through a host of combatants and then returned to her hand. With a good number of enemies out of the picture, we made significant progress toward the archives. But what we were actually making progress toward was trouble. You see, the Kwuthari are fond of back up plans. When we got to the other side, there was a cloud of pyramids awaiting us. They were the size of a basketball and had long, sharp needles. They swirled down upon us from above. As they drew nearer, the remaining troopers rallied and charged. This is getting quite boring. A glowing yellow cube surrounded her. What happened next defied my understanding of the universe. Parveen, and an exact copy of her, attacked the cloud of machines. All the while, the cube moved with them, keeping them in its center. Im quite sorry that I couldnt make the day more fun. I declared as I ducked under a blade. The cube held out for about five minutes. But, by the time it vanished, we had won. We ran toward the archives as a large object appeared on the horizon. It was in the shape of a ring and had six towers, three on the top and three on the bottom. That must be their ship. Parveen sealed the doors behind us. Maybe not. Perhaps its the intergalactic good humor man but I dont think I want to find out for sure. I brought up the observation records of Shufs astronomy program. Do they have one? I was frantically searching through their database. Ahhhyes! How convenient. A large chunk of the ceiling fell on the display panel before me. Hoshi, could you tap into these archives from the ship? Parveen and I are ready to depart. Several more sections of the ceiling came crashing down.

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Dodging explosions while escaping an alien planet was never my idea of fun. The bridge seemed to stretch out to infinity as I took my first step across. I could feel my hair stand up as the photon bursts landed just behind me. The crumbling pavement was nipping at our heels. I always wondered when my luck would run out. It seemed that today was the day. An explosion in front of us blocked our escape. There was nothing but a sheer drop before us. The ship above us descended; it main cannon crackled with energy. Jump. Hoshi commanded. We leapt into the gorge just as our last refuge crumbled. As we plummeted down, I accepted the dark unknown below. However, we soon gently touched down on something metal. Get in. Hoshis voice was never more refreshing. I opened the hatch and helped Parveen to safety. Before my feet could hit the floor, we were thousands of miles away. The next several hours were uneventful, yet impressively informative.

We have arrived. Parveen noted. Where is the tribunal? There. The machine answered. A white box, no bigger than a thimble, spun around in space. Thats our courthouse? I walked up to the main window of the ship. Before anyone could reply, I was in a dark place. There were no walls, ceiling, or floor. Three small globes came into view. The trial of Yil-Weth-Yma has begun. Earth time: December 17, 2912. The center globe stated. With each syllable there was a flash of light. A one foot cylinder appeared to the right of the three judges; it contained our galaxy. Advocate, state your name. Samuel Peter, Allen Darius, Ellington. I straightened my tie. How do you plead? The right globe blinked. My client is not guilty. Observations are that this system was destroyed artificially, not by natural processes. Good sirs, there is no evidence that my client and the star system in question even knew of each others existence. Evidence. The left globe demanded.

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What you see before you is a summary of the radio signals received by the star systems closest neighbor. The transmissions contain much information about the doomed civilization, but it is interesting to note what is absent. Explain. The center globe advanced. When Yil-Weth-Yma wishes to contact a civilization, she provides clues of her existence. These clues typically take the form of a female figure fashioned out of the natural substance of the planet. According to the observations, my client left no clues as to her existence. Then Yil-Weth-Yma is guilty of reckless behavior that destroyed this civilization. The right globe concluded. I also took that possibility into consideration. I examined every detail of the murdered solar system. After going over data for the last 400 years, I noticed that the gravity around the doomed star increased every year. Very subtle, very clever. By the time anyone noticed, the gravity around the sun was too much for the poor thing to handle. The stars only option was to die a violent death. Xalagy are capable of increasing their gravity. The center globe pointed out. The gravity increased with every passing trade ship. After contacting several different parties, I discovered the reason why. A small device that specifically enhances gravity was planted on each and every ship that passed through that solar system! I brought up an image of a small device, no bigger than the palm of my hand. It was shaped like a star fish. Who is responsible? The left globe demanded. A good question. The technology in the device indicated that it was certainly not from our galaxy or Xalagy, as you call it. After exhaustive research, the device finally implicated its creators the Kwuthari! I brought up the specifications of the nasty little machine. Over the centuries, Ive become familiar enough with Kwuthari design to recognize their handiwork. Note the structure of the circuits and the particular way they channel power. I brought up several hundred Kwuthari artifacts that we had obtained over the years. This device is an exact match with hundreds of other Kwuthari devices. The Kwuthari are guilty. They will be punished. All three judges replied in unison.

In the absolute absence of sight, sound, and any other sensation, I lost track of time. I lost track of where I was, and even who I was. I simply lost track of everything. The three globes reappeared. The Kwuthari will be punished. The right one declared. Their evolution will be reversed. The left one added. They will be sentenced to exist as a basic life form for eternity. The center one pronounced.

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An image of the Kwuthari home world appeared. The citizens of this planet simply deformed, much like clay deforms when pressure is applied. They were now nothing more than a giant collection of slime mold. So, its over. Were safe. Parveen sat across from me, sipping tea. Hoshi turned the ship around and we began the long journey back into the arms of Yil-Weth-Yma. I looked up from my crossword puzzle. Well, this adventure is over. But the story of the star blades is just beginning.

The end perhaps not.


Bfk

2012 Benjamin F. Kaye