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COMMITTED

by A.R. Kirby

Episode 12
Choosing Wisely

T
al and Liv walked hand-in-hand across the lounge area,
their footsteps echoing around the domed room, back
toward where Gnorr stood waiting. As they neared the alien,
Liv squeezed Tal’s hand tightly and took a deep breath.

“Okay, Gnorr,” she said, her voice clear but her knees
wobbling. “We’ll do it. Or at least we’ll try. I can’t give you any
guarantees that we’ll be able to do what you ask.”

“But we will do the best we can,” Tal interjected, and they


squeezed their hands even more tightly together.

“Oh, that is most excellent,” the little alien exclaimed, with


an accompanying symphony of toots and whistles, his black eyes
sparkling. “I knew you would make the right decision, I just knew
it! Now the earth has at least a fighting chance!”

“Of course, there is still much to do, and so little time,” he


continued. “Please, let us begin.”

Gnorr moved toward the pedestal with the holographic


display and motioned for Liv and Tal to follow, which they did,
once more taking places on either side of Gnorr’s enormous blue
head. The alien waved a stubby arm at the display, and foot-
tall 3-D renderings of Liv and Tal appeared immediately, slowly
Committed by A.R. Kirby

rotating in place above the pedestal. Scrolling characters of what


Tal assumed were Gnorr’s native tongue ran horizontally above the
model couple’s heads and feet.

“My plan -- oh, excuse me, our plan” he said, glancing


back and forth to Tal and Liv with a smile on his face, “is to give
both of you capabilities far beyond those of normal human beings.
My sincere hope is that these powers will enable you to face the
danger and save your planet; but, even in your advanced state, I
am certain it will be a difficult task. However, I chose the two of
you because there is something about you -- something within you
-- which makes me believe that you are equal to the challenge, as
long as you have some help. These powers will be that help.”

Gnorr gestured at the display once more and the


holographic Tal and Liv moved apart from each other to stand on
either end of the pedestal. Immediately in the space they had just
vacated, a list of terms (this time in English) with accompanying
descriptive icons began scrolling in midair in front of their faces.

“Now, about your powers,” Gnorr wheezed, “I will be


giving you some basics -- flight, strength, speed, and so forth. It
is my belief that you will need to be generalized in some ways in
order to best combat the threat facing the earth. However, you will
each be able to choose two more powers from this list.”

Gnorr stepped back as Tal and Liv moved in to peer closely


at the display.

“Wow,” Liv let out a low whistle. “This is some list...


Advanced Acrobatics, Astral Projection, Psychic Ability,
Teleportation... there’s so many to choose from...”

Gnorr let out a small gurgle and smiled as the couple


reviewed the options.

“As I said, I enjoy your human comic books, and they gave

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me some wonderful ideas. I am pleased you find the possibilities


acceptable,” he said, and burbled gleefully.

“I like the sound of this one -- Aquatic Ensemble.” Tal


pointed to an icon featuring an ocean scene with various sea
creatures. “What’s that, Gnorr?”

“That, sir, provides you with the ability to exist underwater,


as well as communicate with all marine life,” he said proudly.

Liv looked over her shoulder at the alien. “Really, Gnorr?


Isn’t that like -- what’s his name -- Aquaman?”

“He’s one of my favorite characters,” Gnorr replied. “I find


the myth of your Atlantis fascinating.”

Liv rolled her eyes. “But who the hell would want to be
Aquaman?”

“I would,” Tal said quickly, still staring at the screen. “It


would be so cool to be able to just pretty much live in the ocean!
Think about it -- hanging out all day with dolphins, being at the
beach all the time...” Liv could see that Tal was far away in his
mind, swimming free with the manatees and talking to sharks
about wrecks of old Spanish galleons in the Caribbean. “Following
stingrays, listening to the whales...”

“Oh, come on, Tal.” Liv stood and looked at her husband,
still lost in his daydream. “We’re trying to save the planet, not
do this for ourselves.” Tal slowly turned toward his wife, and she
could see that he was still trying to reconcile the image in his mind
with the task at hand.

“Baby, listen.” Liv tried her best to sound diplomatic, and


the look in Tal’s eyes made her want to be even more cautious.
“It’s just that those powers are so -- so specific. They are pretty
limited in scope. Like you said, we don’t know what the threat is,

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so I think we should look at powers that are more general; stuff


that complements each other. I think that would give us a better
shot at taking on whatever it is we’ll be facing.”

“But I wanna be Aquaman,” he whined, but his eyes


twinkled . “I guess you’re right. So what do you think we should
pick?”

“Well, let’s see,” she said, looking over the list. “Does
anything strike you right off the bat?”

“It’s hard to say,” Tal said. “There’s so many to choose


from; any one of them might the just the right thing, but we have
no way of knowing, do we?” He turned from the display to find
Gnorr watching the couple intently, one tiny fist propping up his
gigantic chin.

“Fascinating,” he said. “I’ve been watching humans for


thousands of years now, yet it is always so very interesting to see
their personal interactions up close. Amazing.”

“Maybe so,” Tal replied, “and I’m glad you’re finding this
entertaining, but we could use some help here. Got any hints?”

“Unfortunately, no,” Gnorr said, and a sustained groan in


B flat minor escaped his protuberances. “I’ve already done too
much by bringing you here in the first place. I’m counting on the
technicality that I never interfered with your free will as my ‘ace
in the hole’, as you say. I can give you the powers, but you have to
choose them, and whether you will use them.”

“Hmmm...” Liv scratched her head. “All righty then. We


don’t know what we’re going up against, and we’ve got no help
from Mister Potato Head here. What’s the best way to approach
this?”

“Let’s look over the list and see what all we have to choose

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from,” Tal said. “We’ll be working together, right? I guess all the
powers will have potential strengths and weaknesses... we should
probably find things that will work well in combination. For
example, I don’t think if I get the Titanium Skeleton and Claws
that you should have Radiation Blasting.”

“Well, that goes without saying,” Liv agreed. “So what else
is there?”

“Psychic Abilities?” Tal asked

“That’s kind of creepy. I don’t like the idea of monkeying


around in people’s heads,” Liv said. “So ‘no’ to that one.”

“Commune with the Dead?”

“Ewww. That’s even creepier.”

“This looks interesting -- Time Travel. That might come in


handy.”

“Haven’t you ever seen a science fiction movie? We could


really screw things up doing that.”

“Phase Shifting? What the hell is that?”

“Telekinesis? Nah.”

“Laser Eye Blasts seem like they would be too limited.”

“Ultraspeed and Ultrastrength,” Tal murmured. “Faster and


stronger is rarely a bad thing.”

“I guess that would depend on just how fast and how strong
we will be in any case,” Liv said. “Gnorr, what do you think?”

“The basic powers are relatively high on the scale,” Gnorr

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replied, still watching in amazement as Tal and Liv deliberated.


“I’m pretty sure you’ll be strong enough -- and fast enough --
without the upgrade.”

“Hey, here’s one,” Tal said, his face lighting up.


“Monstrous Transformation. What does that do, Gnorr?”

“It turns you into a monster, as the name implies.”


“Well, what kind of monster?” Liv was also intrigued.

“Something similar to the monster from your Godzilla


movies,” Gnorr gurgled.

“Nah. Never mind,” Tal said, turning his attention back to


the display. “We could never go to Japan.”

Liv pointed to a reference on the display. “Is Animal


Transformation similar to Monstrous Transformation?”

“Yes, it is,” Gnorr said. “You can change into the shape of
any animal on your planet.”

“Great for a kid’s birthday party, but pretty useless here,”


Tal said. “What else do we have?”

“What does Power Absorption do?” Liv turned to the alien.

“It allows you to absorb the powers of anyone you touch


with a bare hand,” Gnorr said.

“Since we’re the only ones on earth with powers, that


seems like a waste,” Liv said. “Next.”

“Death Touch?”

“Too risky,” Liv replied. “You might touch me at the wrong


time, or one of the girls. Not a good one. Besides, I don’t want us

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to be all about death and destruction, do you?”

“Depends on what we’re going to run into,” Tal said. “We


might have to be all about kicking ass and taking names.”

“Hey Gnorr, what’s this?” Liv pointed to a section titled


“Elemental Powers” with subtitles of “Earth”, “Air”, “Fire” and
“Water”.

“They are four separate powers, actually, and some of my


favorites,” Gnorr said. “As you can see, I took a liking to the time
when Greece was the major power on your world, so I created
powers that would allow you manipulate the elements as the
Greeks knew them. ‘Earth’ allows you to manipulate dirt and rocks
or anything made of dirt and rock; so forth and so on for ‘Air’,
‘Fire’ and ‘Water’.”

“I think that’s it,” Liv said. “They’ll work perfectly


together, and they’re very well-rounded.”

“You think so?” Tal was unconvinced. “I still think the


Aquatic Ensemble might be a good idea.”

“Would you just drop the whole Aquaman thing?” Liv


turned to the alien “Yes, Gnorr, these are the powers we’re
choosing. We want the Elemental Powers.”

“Are you certain? The powers cannot be changed once you


choose them,” Gnorr said as he looked at the couple with a serious
face. “As you humans are so fond of telling each other in your
transactions, ‘no refunds and no exchanges’.”

“I like them,” Tal said. “General enough for most any


situation, and potentially very strong. Yes, I think these are the
ones. Hon?”

“Yes,” Liv said, smiling as she took Tal’s hand. “Yes, I

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think that’s it.”

“You’ve chosen wisely,” Gnorr said as he moved through


the couple back to the display. “Now who wants what?”

“You go first, baby,” Tal said to Liv.

“You sure?”

“Why not?”

“Okay,” Liv said. “Gnorr, I’ll take ‘Air’ and ‘Water’.”

“Leaving ‘Fire’ and ‘Earth’ for me,” Tal finished.

“Excellent,” Gnorr said. As the alien made a gesture in


front of the display, the laundry list of powers disappeared and the
images of Tal and Liv moved back together in the center of the
pedestal. “Now, we must get moving, and quickly.”

Gnorr ushered the couple hurriedly across the room and


out the doorway opposite where they had gone to the observatory
earlier, babbling the entire time about how little time there was
and how much there was to do. In some ways, he reminded Liv of
the white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland -- at least a white rabbit
with a giant, blue potato-shaped head.

They rushed down the hallway for about 30 feet or so until


a large doorway appeared on their left. Gnorr squeezed his way
between the couple and headed down three small stairs into what
Tal thought must be some type of laboratory. The Greek theme
continued throughout the room, but it was crammed full with
strange machinery. Two upended cylinders, each big enough for a
human to stand in comfortably and made of what appeared to be
glass, formed the centerpiece of the room.

Gnorr glided quickly down the steps and took a position

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behind a pedestal near the two cylinders. He waved his stubby blue
arm across it, and another display appeared. He began working
feverishly on it, apparently oblivious to the two humans standing
a few feet away. Liv looked at the strange array, her eyes wide,
her already wobbly knees wobbling even more. She held tightly
to Tal’s arm. The room and all its equipment were the most alien
thing she had ever seen, and she suddenly felt vulnerable and
weak. Tal, on the other hand, thought the room was the coolest
thing ever.

After a few more seconds, Gnorr raised his head from the
display and turned toward the two humans. “Well, what are you
waiting for? We’ve got to get moving.”

“Uh, Gnorr, what exactly is it we’re doing here?” Tal asked.

“You’re about to become the most amazing human beings


ever known,” he replied with a smile and a series of light toots and
whistles. “Now, if you will both remove your clothing, we can get
started.”

“I don’t know about all that,” Liv replied, her arms crossing
over her chest as she said it. “Why do we need to take off our
clothes? Are you some sort of extraterrestrial pervert?”

An embarrassed bleat escaped Gnorr’s head, and he


rubbed his chin. “You have to take off your clothing so you can be
covered,” he said. “It’s how you get your powers.”

“Covered with what?” Tal asked.

“A special biomechanical coating,” he told them. “It is


like a second skin. It’s only a few nanometers thick, and you
won’t even know it’s there. It won’t interfere with your ability to
breathe, eat, sleep, or anything else. What it will do, however, it
provide you with the ability to fly, give you strength and speed to
match, and make you practically invulnerable. It will protect you

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from extreme heat, cold, and pressure. You would even be able to
survive in open space. Of course, if the suit is damaged, you’ll lose
the powers. But I think that is a highly unlikely event. The only
thing we Empyreans know of that can damage the suit is the Blade
of the Empyreans, and that’s on my home planet thousands of light
years away.”

“I don’t know, Tal,” Liv whispered to her husband. “I don’t


like the idea of being naked in front of this guy.”

“We’ve come this far, we might as well run with it,” Tal
told her. “So an alien sees us naked. At least he’s not looking to do
an anal probe.”

“All right,” she said. “Let’s do this.”

Gnorr looked relieved. “Please, each of you, once you have


removed your clothing, stand in one of the cylinders, and we’ll go
from there.” He returned to the display while Tal and Liv walked
slowly to the center of the room, each careful not to step on the
myriad of cables that crisscrossed the floor. Once there, they both
started to undress. Gnorr burbled when Tal took off his underwear.

“You humans have the funniest genitalia,” he said quietly.


“I don’t see how you walk about with those things.”

“You can skip the commentary,” Tal said as he stepped


inside the cylinder nearest him. “Can we get on with this?”

“Is this going to hurt?” Liv looked fearful as she moved


into her own cylinder.

“There might be some slight discomfort for a moment or


two,” the alien replied from his position behind the pedestal, “but I
seriously doubt there will be any pain. Now, are you ready?”

Both Tal and Liv nodded toward the alien, and the doors

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into each of the cylinders slid shut with a hiss. Tal looked over at
his wife; her eyes were shut, and he could see she was breathing
heavily. Tal tried to make himself relax, but he too was tense. A
light like a 60-watt bulb flashed in the cylinder, and Tal closed his
eyes, clenched his fists, and awaited whatever was to come next.

After about 10 seconds, nothing happened.

Perhaps 10 more, and still nothing.

Tal opened one eye and cast a glance toward the other
cylinder where Liv still stood, head upraised and eyes closed, also
awaiting her transformation.

“Why are you standing there with your eyes closed?” Gnorr
looked perplexed as he watched the couple from the console.
“We’re all done here.”

“What?” Liv snapped her head forward and opened her


eyes. “But nothing happened! I don’t feel any different...”

“Oh, it happened all right,” Gnorr replied. “That one small


flash of light made you the most amazing humans the world has
ever known. And now, it’s time for you to get to work.”

“Wait!” Tal pushed against the door of his cylinder, but it


wouldn’t budge. “That can’t be all...”

“It can, and it is,” Gnorr said. “Now if you will excuse me,
I have work to do.” The alien made yet another gesture toward the
display, and Tal could hear a hum inside the cylinder. A blinding
light enveloped him, and he could feel himself being stretched.

“Good luck saving the earth!” Liv heard Gnorr say, and
then they were gone.

To be continued...

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