(a science fiction adventure story)
by Steve M
Yeah, I wrote this. Blame no one else.
Earth - 2019
Journal - 1
My darling El. I hope you are well. I hope you get this comms.
It was a lousy arrival, late at night. They pushed me out in a place called Florida in a lightly populated place further named Interlachan. 29°37'37.5"N 81°53'02.7"W. Thin trees, sandy soil, and lots of small lakes. I looked at a map before leaving the ship.
By the time we reached Earth I was sick of the crew. There is a cruelty to being a jailer and the crew of the ship were strictly Ministry of Justice. They’ve got attitude from the time they leave home till the time they get home. A special case of meanness about them. Cruel too. I was thrown on board the ship into a transfer cell head first by the Transfer Commander and two of his goons.
99.9% of all of their runs are from prison to prison, they move the prison pop around to disorient them and spend the budget. Me? They’re turning me loose. But I’m not really free to go. They’re just put me back in the field. This confused the transfer crew at first. But they decided I was still prison scum until my feet were planted on Earth. Rotten bastards. They use the juice sticks just for fun. I wasn’t doing anything wrong and they fried me anyway and laughed about it. They were smart though, they never got off the ship, too scared I’d want revenge. I would.
I am what they call a poli prisoner.
Political? No. Unless you consider being married to a Palagordian a political act. When did love become political?
I remember when we met at Arden's party. We knew each other for almost two years before we made it official. That was almost ten years ago. Times were good back then. Peaceful, economic stability. Your business was doing good. We were happy and considering starting a family. Then it turned bad.
Things stopped going so well on Yirgo. Everyone was looking to blame someone. The government fell to the opposition. The Palagordians were custom built for blame. You prefer to own their own businesses and are considered superior traders and negotiators. Everyone on Yirgo has a Palagordian trading story centered around frustration and overpaying. We all know derogatory jokes about them. Best of all with respect to blaming them? You're all are pacifists.
When the new government stripped all Palas of their citizenship, we protested. We went down to the central plaza in front of the Empty Plinth and gathered with a hundred thousand like-minded Palas and Brunes. There were many speeches. We left feeling good, like we were unstoppable and recent laws would soon be overturned. Our exuberance didn’t last long.
When they started rounding up all of the Palas, we ran. You're not political, darling. But your people are being used as a weapon. Control through hate. And that’s sad because you are the nicest person I’ll ever meet. Always so kind and thoughtful. You escaped, I have to keep reminding myself. You avoided the camps. I’ll tell you about those later. They are horrible.
Poli prisoners get the worst of everything. Worst food, worst cellmates, worst treatment. Reminds me of field training, just more sadistic, if you can imagine hat. Still I had taken the deal. An Earth sentence. Maybe even a chance of seeing you again. It was the best deal I was ever going to get. I thought I was ready. I wasn’t. I studied Earth like a student after I accepted the deal. Still I wasn’t ready. My problems began not long after they dumped me.
A domesticated carnivorous mammal. I’d never seen a canine before. My introduction was very loud and unfriendly. It was on a chain near a metal housing unit next to one of those small lakes. We landed nearby in a clearing with a large concrete slab but nothing else, the vegetation began reclaiming the square plot of land. The animal barked at me and would have attacked if not for the chain. There was no signs of life at the housing unit. I walked around the structure. Beside it on the other side was another new thing for me.
My lenses called it a bicycle and displayed a simple animation of how it works. I examined it for a few moments then understood it was for transportation. Simple in principle, yet surprisingly difficult in practice. I fell down six times before I understood how to keep it going without falling. Earth only has sixty two percent of the gravity of Yirgo and this made falling down much easier. It took me almost an Earth hour to succeed. But once I did, I found it enjoyable. Good exercise. Transportation was one of my primary concerns, along with food, shelter, currency, and weapons.
The lock on the door of the metal housing unit did not survive. One hard pull and it came out of the thick foam filled door. I entered the metal housing structure to a smell I knew. I instinctively reached for my blaster but didn’t have one. I wasn’t issued one and the transfer crew wasn’t going to give me one, that’s for sure. It was the smell of death. It’s unmistakable. It carves itself deep in the memory, just waiting for that moment to leap out again bringing the fear with it.
I picked up a long knife in the food room before moving further inside of the structure. There were no lights on. I tried the electron interruption device, up then down but nothing changed. My lenses were showing outlines of furniture in the dark and switched to night mode.
Pullman, Jarvis was dead in the bedroom at the back of the structure. He was slumped over in his bed. There was an unfamiliar blaster near where he once was sitting upright, before a projectile came out of the blaster, removed part of his skull and killed him. Beside his bed was a table crowded with small bottles that contained chemical medicines. Pullman, Jarvis had been a very sick man for a long time. There was a cylinder with oxygen connected to a mask beside the bed. My lenses told me that Pullman, Jarvis died 3 days ago. Now I understood.
The animal outside was starving. I fed it with the intestines of Pullman, Jarvis and gave it water from a flexible polymer pipe. Then I broke the chain and set it free. It ran away for a while then came back. A few minutes later I heard it barking at the door and let it in. It came inside and laid down on a rug in the largest room. It was no longer hostile to me.
I pulled the OpTool from my pocket. Time to get out of this uncomfortable form. I turned it off. My human appearance was instantly replaced.
Oh it felt so good to be big and green again. But it’s not the color that is uncomfortable. It’s the human shape.
I ate something called a marshmallow that first night. Now imagine having to shove one into a container much smaller. You sort of smash it down into a mold. That’s what it’s like. Normally I’m green and about 1.956 meters (6’5”) and weight about 117.94 kilograms (260 lbs). Imagine having all of that stuffed into a 5’6” female human body that should weigh about 56.6 kilograms (125 lbs). It’s like wearing boots that are much too small, it feels so good to take them off.
I plopped down into a chair that creaked under my weight and savored the moment of release.
Pullman, Dervis would provide the housing I needed for the initial phase.
Journal - 2
Good morning El. I hope you have enough to eat. Remember to avoid the breads, you know how your stomach gets.
Accoring to the Ministry of Justice I am inmate 8752946.2847651. Apologies I should've introduced myself earlier. I've was a little overwhelmed with the arrival. I had less than two days to study this planet. Usually I get a lot more time, especially on a primitive. But that's pretty much how it's done these days, some brainiac thinks it's a good idea to put someone on a primitive planet with insufficient research, training, or material. "They'll do fine" and "it's not like it's a tier 1 research planet" are the sort of phrases spoken between planners to justify their poor choices. They are correct, earth is not a tier 1 research planet. But I was available and expendable so why not? What's the worst that could happen? I answer that question as me getting killed. I suspect the planners would answer differently.
I don't require much sleep. Four to five hours a night does me well. I can also go for a couple of days without sleep and then catch up all at once, although I'll admit I feel bad when I finally wake up. I watched the sunrise over the lake. Damn it's uncomfortable getting stuffed into shape again. I slept big and green and it felt so nice. Can't do that too often, I need to get used to staying in shape. It's the only way to stay safe and I know it. Had to stay in shape for 143 days one time on Relion G and it was a smaller humanoid than now. I hated it. When I finally turned it off it was almost 2 days before I can move normally again. Muscle atrophy prevented me from walking correctly. It was a day and a half before I could even stand up straight. The massages helped but it was still a horrible time. The lake is 5 m or 16.4 feet deep at its deepest point according to the upper right corner of my lenses.
One of the effects of sleeping less is the need for more body fuel. I woke up hungry but this is a normal state for me. I should've eaten before I went to sleep but two days doesn't provide very much time for researching food sources. My primary concern was weapons capabilities and government security procedures. I left the shore of the lake and returned to the metal housing unit. I entered the food preparation and storage area and began foraging for food.
I was in such a hurry I went right past the section that said that humans are still carnivores. I can’t believe I put that in my mouth! When you’re big and green vomiting is much worse. It last longer and is more violent. And the smell association becomes intense with similar smelling items causing sympathy vomiting. Now I've eaten bacon. It stayed inside of me less than three minutes and I can't say I enjoyed the taste. I was careful not to eat the packaging. What a mess. When I finally regained control of my stomach, I adjusted my lenses to prevent more mistakes.
I found the bacon in a box that was very cold on one side and cool on the other. On the cold side I found a bag with the word ‘cauliflower’ in big letters. Oh yes, I was much happier. From the first bite I savored their frozen crunchiness and gentle flavor and that ever so slight smell of farts. They were just the right size too, perfect single snacking or stuffing a handful into my mouth and crunching away at them. I took the bag of cauliflower and entered the room next to it. I opened one of the searches and loaded it to my lenses.
Useless, absolutely useless. One of these days they're going to figure out how to present the right information instead of overwhelming us with everything. All I wanted to know was how to engage and operate something my lenses said was a television and instead I was getting diagrams of how broadcast systems work on Earth. Consolation came from another excellent piece of frozen cauliflower. I walked over to the big screen. There was no big button on the front of it, that would've been too easy and helpful. We must have similar design engineers, too clever for themselves, always outsmarting themselves. However I did find some very small buttons on the right side bottom edge of the screen.
The first button brought a picture to the screen. They were a human man and woman sitting next to each other talking about terrestrial weather conditions overnight. Then a third person from somewhere else joined the conversation. She was standing in front of a metal building that was missing part of the top protective covering, which was laying twisted in the background on top of a engine driven transport device. Then I remembered that I hadn’t seen any weather drones. Usually I get two weeks to study the planet and attend some operational rehearsals. I like the operational rehearsals. They are full of good information, like going through the public transport system on a planet without attracting attention.
I popped another cauliflower and looked at the screen. The report of weather damages ended and another began. The President of the United States visited Orlando the previous night. He gave a speech at the first of it’s kind million dollar a plate fund-raising dinner. An enthusiastic crowd of over over 200 gathered to support the man who has given them each an average 17.1 million dollars in tax cuts. The image changed to that of protesters outside of the event, yelling and holding signs like ‘impeach the president’ and ‘lock him up’.
Amazing image for someone from Yirgo. Protest is mostly forbidden and will result in a quick trip to prison back home. I’ve been to one protest in my lifetime, when they stripped Palagordians of citizenship. It seemed like such a crazy thing to do. We would only need to go to one protest and everyone would come to their senses, like giving someone the answer they had forgotten. I was wrong. This is coming from me and I used to work for the Ministry of Information. The ministry of everything about you. Listening and hoping you’ll get better. That’s them.
The woman on the screen was considered pretty on your planet. I pointed my Optool at her image and adjusted it until I was an identical image of her. I looked at myself in the mirror. This would work very well out in public.
I heard the sound of an engine driven transport outside. It was coming down the sandy track to the metal housing unit.
Panic starts in a instant. What should I do? I moved to the window and looked out cautiously. The transport came down the sandy trail and parked in the open area next to a tall brown fibrous pole which held up electrical wires. Inside the transport I could see a woman. She was singing along with the music playing. I needed a plan. There was only one door and she would see me leave. I moved away from the window. What? Come on? What? I kept screaming in my head. Do something!
I ran back to a bedroom. I pointed the Optool at Pullman, Jarvis. Within seconds I was dialing back his image a little to make it look more lifelike, mostly removing the bullet hole in the head. I ran to the exit, opened it and stepped outside. The woman getting out of the car stopped when she saw me for a moment before pulling herself to her feet with a handle in the transport.
“Well I’ll be damned,” said the large woman almost as dark as Pullman, Jarvis. “I thought I’d find you dead. Look at you. How are you out of bed? You must be one of god’s sweet miracles”.
I didn’t respond.
“And walking too. It’s a full on miracle. It’s been years since you walked. If I didn’t see it with my own eyes, I wouldn’t believe it. Praise Jesus.”
Who is Jesus? I wondered.
“Look at you, I bet you could run if you wanted to. Sure as hell outrun me.”
I could outrun her and any other human. Big and green doesn’t not mean slow.
Bristol, Mandy wore loose fitting clothing and had a stethoscope in her pocket. She walked over to me. I was unsure of her intention. I prepared for battle. She wrapped her arms around me and squeezed me gently.
“Jarvis Pullman, you are indeed a survivor. Oh my god, you’re burning up baby.”
Oh dear. You can shove me into a human shape but you can’t reduce my body temperature. In fact it goes up when I’m in shape. Of course she would think something was wrong if I were human. My body temperature is approximately ten degrees Celsius higher than humans. It wasn’t a life threatening fever but she didn’t know that.
“Come with me, come with me, we’ve got to cool you off, honey.” She grabbed me by the arm and pulled me towards the metal housing unit. “We’ll get you in a cold tub of water. That’s will bring your temperature right down. If that don’t do it, I’m going to call an ambulance.”
She kept pulling me. I didn’t want to go but was unsure of what to do so I went along. She pulled me up the stairs and into the housing unit.
“What is that smell?” she said and waved her hand under her nose. “My god that is awful.”
I did not answer.
Mandy Bristol stopped pulling my arm. She began to walk towards the back of the unit, towards the back bedroom. I was still not sure what to do.
The woman on the television was talking about the effects of heat on your pets.
“Don’t go in there,” I said softly.
But it was like she was caught in a landing beam, it was pulling her despite everything from common sense to fear telling her not to go.
A few second later she was standing in the doorway to the bedroom looking at the body of Pullman, Jarvis. She turned to look at me again, then quickly turned back to look at Pullman, Jarvis. Then me again. She put her hand out to grab the door frame for support. She was a big woman for a human and looked to be strong and capable. Still at that moment she needed support to remain upright.
I stood motionless and unsure of what to do.
She didn’t give me much time to think. She turned around from the sleep room door and ran towards the exit. I got in her way, she ran into me, and we both fell down. For a large woman she was very quick to get back onto her feet. She grabbed an illumination device from a small table and threw it at me. I avoided her projectile. Bristol, Mandy made it to the door and was on the small front porch when I caught up with her. My tackle sent both of us through the railing of the porch and down to the ground below. I heard her grunt when I landed on top of her. She didn’t move. I weight a lot even if I don’t look like it. When I got to my feet I noticed the blood. Then I saw the pavement stone under her head. I lifted her head slightly to examine the extent of her injuries. That’s when I saw her open eyes and the lack of life.
Complications, I hate them. Two bodies. Wonderful. This is not how this was supposed to happen. Find a safe place, observe and report. Not find a safe place with a dead body, create another one, observe and report. This is almost going as bad as the Frieda arrest. That was a blood bath. I mentioned before that some people will resist apprehension. Frieda was one of those and she had people who helped. I came within 3 millimeters of being dead, that’s how close the projectile came to my head.
Cursing does help, if there is not a time constraint. So I spent the next minute venting my anger and frustration. Incestuous mother. Sexual sister. Biological waste for food. My venting ended when I remembered that Bristol, Mandy arrived without any warning. Perhaps other humans would do the same. It would not be good for them to find a large dead woman laying in the yard. I grabbed Mandy Bristol by her large meaty legs and pulled her to the side of the metal housing unit. I put her under a large piece of blue material that was covering furniture and small pieces of fibrous wood.
The temperature was going up to 37 degrees Celcius (99 Fahrenheit) according to my lenses. I needed a body storage solution.
But what I really needed was to reset my Optool.
The Optool does many things, too many for me to remember all of them. But the one thing it did that it wasn’t doing was synching the translation with the my projected image. No, that part was acting up again. It is always a problem between the connection with the translation implants in my ears. The connection gets delayed and my words come out loud and clear then a moment later my lips finally start to move. It completely negates the advantage of a projection. A few minutes standing in front of a mirror and adjusting it…again. Intermittent errors are the worst kind. Not enough clues to fix it. In my case I certainly wasn’t qualified to go into the code. It’s all gibberish to me. Manage it, that’s the best I could do. I hadn’t bothered managing it before. Why should I?
I was stuck in a small prison cell with a cellmate that hated me but was scared of me. So when the synch got out of, I left it that way. Just because it was no burden on me whatsoever. But if it slightly annoyed the guards, well that was reward enough. And my cellmate? He’s was a professional snitch, the people that makes a living sending others to prison. I’m pretty sure that the reason he was my cellmate was because the administration of the prison knew I wouldn’t kill him. My cellmate however reached a different conclusion. To him I represented the system that sent him here, a place where he would be murdered for his past transgressions. A woman knows a man who died in prison because of the work of my cellmate. So the man in the top bunk has this fixed point in time, that moment when he is murdered by another inmate. It is one of the biggest reasons I took the Earth deal. My cellmate may have snitched but when he did, he had to talk to somebody. That somebody was someone like me. I was an interviewer for four years. I had my own fixed point in time, if I stayed in prison.
At least on Earth I had a chance, a chance to see you again, my dear.
Besides Earth is a Tier 2 planet, not really expected to make the cut for colonization.
I finished eating all of the frozen cauliflower.
Good morning dear. I hope you are well and safe. I miss you so much.
I am still adjusting to human food. It’s either wonderful for terrible, nothing is in the middle. Let me give you an example.
Microwave popcorn is a stupid food product and from my limited experience a waste of material, it may even have negative utility. The kernels are too hard and they are too small and get lost in my mouth. I didn’t even finish the first mouthful before spitting them out. There wasn’t much taste either. Fortunately I found something much better.
Found what? Frozen peas, my dear. Elegance defined in both taste and form in beautiful green globes of goodness. They taste better than cauliflower. Plus they are green and that makes me feel comfortable. If there is a way to make them better it would be to make them larger. I could eat them for days without complaining. Much better than the food in prison, bio-engineered slop. I found something that looks similar to it called oatmeal, if the picture on the container is accurate. I am unwilling to find out if they are similar by eating some, in case they are.
I sat in a green padded chair and watched television for a while today. People were trying to guess the price of something and if they got closest then they got to keep the thing. I’d heard about this type of entertainment before. They have them on Drudor. But I’ve never seen one. Yirgo is too wealthy for them.
Humans get very excited about getting something for nothing. But is it really for nothing? They have to act like a fool for others to see. That is a price, of sorts. The winner got an engine driven transport and seemed happy for it despite the consequences on a planet in environmental collapse. The winner’s family came on stage with her. She started crying. This confused me.
That’s when I noticed the inquiry mark in the lower left corner of my lenses.
‘Do you want to connect?’
What a stupid question. Connect to what? How do I know if I want to connect until I know what it is? I hope that most of their processes are a little more clear than this one. I ignored it. Dismissed.
Five minutes later it came back again. Do you want to connect?
There were new contestants in a new game that I didn’t understand. I only understood that it somehow involved polling a group. But the excitement I did understand and the disappointment, there was plenty of focus on that. Camera closeups of tears and near-tears.
I don’t know if I want to connect…now leave me alone! I couldn’t believe such a stupid request. I dismissed it with an aimed and angry blink.
Five minutes later…persistent annoyer came back. Alright.
OK, I do want to connect! There, take that.
Grandpa’s Lake House? What in the name of Dorphat is ‘Grandpa’s Lake House’? The naming convention did not provide significant information. I new the meaning of each of the three words. Grandpa, Lake and House. They were translated for me. But together as a term it was meaningless. The house was near a lake, not in a lake, so it couldn’t be a lake house. It could be a near-lake house. Grandpa would have to be Pullman, Jarvis. He was elderly for the human species and the right age. But he was dead and connecting to him was no longer possible, his last data was already ended. Still the message was not going away.
Didn’t know what I was connecting to at the time. But a moment after connection the metrics module presented a schematic of the planet and the network appeared on my lenses in background. This I understood. I looked at then blinked on the search function.
“Planetary Defense Capabilities” I said softly. Finally I could begin my mission. Keep them from sending me back.
There were many results, tens of thousands of them.
Articles from NASA and the European Space Agency came first, followed by universities, then Departments of Defense from your many factions.
It was took me awhile to get used to the factionalism on Earth, just not used to thinking about it on a regional basis. Glad we are organized differently. I grouped and filtered the results by causation assumptions. When I did, I was surprised and amused. The vast majority of the results dealt with destroying asteroids on a collision course with the planet. I wasn’t expecting that. Well I was expecting a few of them, but not just over 90 percent. But if the pock marks on their moon are any indication then it seemed a legitimate concern. There was a cross reference to a prior extinction event in the planetary history.
The Office of Strategic Planning in one faction had a document marked ‘secret’ that considered an invasion force from another world. There were others but this plan was much larger than all the others. Very detailed.
It discussed the first lines of defense, atomic weapons. There was a list of telecom satellites with nuclear capabilities. Seventy two of them. Another fourteen listed in a section called allies and others. Valuable information. I was unfamiliar with the unit of measured used in the report, but was able to find a historical cross reference to an explosion called Hiroshima. We observed that event and have the metrics for it. They can’t kill people with nuclear bombs quietly. We noticed it. Hiroshima turned out to be a significant translation event that made it possible to append the document with our own energy release metrics. Their weapons have become more powerful in recent years.
There was a large section detailing biological agents. It covered agents available, delivery mechanisms, expected kill rates, a list of metrics and projections that in the end were wildly inaccurate. Once I examined the biological agents and how they worked I quickly realized that they wouldn’t work on us. Our metabolism would burn them up quickly and use them for energy, a result of our higher body temperature. Their defensive assumptions relied on a species much closer to human form than ours. The report made reference to an encounter with alien life from a time designated as August 11th, 1948. From the description it was apparent that the encounter was with Tuplons.
Yes, they aren’t technically human, I know. But Tuplon evolution and human evolution had similar environmental adaptation requirements and these produced closely related results. They have two arms and two legs just like us. But they are not green and that’s just bad luck for them. They are various shades of gray. Big head and large eyes, but a skinny body. Their body temperature is a few degrees lower than humans. Why does all of this matter?
I reminded me of something I learned in school a long time ago, the fallacy of composition. The whole must be the same as the limited sample experienced. All aliens must be like the Tuplon because that’s all they have encountered. Wrong. But a reasonable and logical error to make. I remembered my teacher. I liked her.
Long term structures was a large section of the report. There was a sub-section on taking leaders underground to maintain command and execute defensive countermeasures. It made me think of Drudor and Nullos, same galactic economy and on the brink of war with each other again. All those underground bunkers. Drudor has minerals, but Nullos has water. I think that’s right, although I get them mixed up sometimes. Smart money always bets on water. You can recycle your own urine only so many times. I’ve heard of water riots. Never heard of a mineral riot. Have you? I was reading this section when the strangest thing happened.
“You are not authorized to read this material,” my text to voice read to me. I had changed the reading voice to your voice as soon as we got separated. Your voice is so soothing. However this message was not and I did not respond.
There was a section in the document on long term survival underground assuming nuclear destruction on the surface of the planet. This I found surprising. Our wars are so different. Attacking productive capacity, imagine that. At least we limited wars to population centers. They cause significant material shortages.
“You are not authorized to read this material,” the message came a second time. This was followed a moment later by a brief flickering on my lenses before the document resumed.
Still I did not respond.
“How did you do that? It indicates that you are reading this as a new feature of the software.” Whoever was sending me these messages did not sound happy.
Worst Case Scenarios was the heading name. It dealt with complete nuclear annihilation with a population of less than 50,000 survivors trapped for years in underground caverns. Very grim assumptions and projections. Long term birth rates would have to be balanced with resource availability underground. There was a long discussion of methods of promoting repopulation. They considered abolishing many social customs in order to promote repopulation. It was interesting and gave me a good summary of human family structures.
“I know you’re there. I can see you moving through the document. You should not be possible.” Who ever it was on the other end of this comms, they weren’t going away. But you know how I am, only slightly technical. Every thing I was using was all part of my lenses. They assemble and collate information. I do not understand the underlying technology and couldn’t answer the question even if I wanted to and I didn’t.
“How did you block my delete?”
I did not answer. Didn’t know anyway.
I continued examining the report for a few minutes. It was a section on metrics for invoking the plan. Again I was expecting one thing and got another.
A lot of words were spent on managing information, which is just their polite way of saying they planned to keep the larger population from knowing an invasion is underway for as long as possible. I found this to be an unusual choice. If I had billions of people who could fight an invader, I’d choose to tell everyone I could. There was also a discussion of negotiations, negotiation strategies, including forging an alliance with the invaders in order to maintain control of the human population. More strange choices.
Besides keeping quiet about the invasion I found two other things very unusual about the report. Firstly, it started with an organizational chart of the team that created the report, right after the title page. Boxes and names with titles, some titles were very long, with lines connecting the boxes to indicate chain of command. Secondly, it discussed the need to re-target nuclear weapons on the satellites. They are all currently targeting terrestrial sites.
“Release the ADMIN lock on the server block.”
No. Not until I’m done was my unsent reply. I was getting annoyed.
“You’re going to spend a minimum of twenty years in prison.”
No I won’t. Emergency beacon and I’m out of here. I’ll spend time in prison again, just not on Earth.
My lenses flickered again. The computers holding the document I was reading had lost power.
“Now what are you going to do?”
‘Replicate’ I said softly.
The report I had been viewing was copied onto computers in the same network, on the same node. It overwrote all content with the report. Billions of copies of it were written in seconds.
“That’s impossible. Who are you?”
“We can speak Mandarin if you wish.”
That won’t be necessary, my lenses will translate it all for me anyway, was my unsent reply.
“We can even do Russian or Hebrew if you want.”
No need. I’m not going to reply.
I sent a copy of the report to the bosses. Better to let them know that I’m making progress. It was an easy find but significant. They don’t need to know how easy it was. Make it seem hard, that’s the trick.
I rewarded myself with more frozen peas. Oh you’d love them so much, El.
Have you been able to trade the jewels for a freighter out of the Yirgo Trading Group? I think you have enough to get a safe passage. Maybe even enough to make a start somewhere else. Five times our estimates. That should be enough, I hope.
I can’t believe we were so blind. We gave Yirgo our lives, our allegiance, our loyalty and what did we get? A prisoner and a fugitive. I used to catch criminals. Now I see it as the worst thing in my life. I hate Yirgo. It is corrupt and mean and worst of all I don’t know how to fix it. But I will leave the larger picture to you, you’re so much better at it than me.
Pullman, Jarvis is smelling very bad now. Bristol, Mandy is not smelling good either. The bodies require disposal. The lake is deep enough if I offset human buoyancy. The ground is sandy and soft, I could bury them. I need to do something about them today. Burning them may attract attention because the smell is peculiar.
I finished reading the report.
“I can offer you something no one else can.” The message came on my lenses and into my ears.
The only thing that would interest me is to get off Earth and be with my husband.
“I can offer you one million dollars for a copy of the technology you are using.”
A million dollars only has value on Earth, Earthling.
I walked out of the metal housing unit and went to a small building nearby. The door was locked but that was only a temporary condition. Inside the small building was a tank and some machines. After a few minutes of examination I understood it to be a water extraction system. There was one more larger building nearby. The door was unlocked.
What a mess. It was as if children had been left alone for a long time to make a mess. There were old things everywhere. Printed books, primitive tools of all kinds, and two more televisions. There was even a strange bicycle, similar to the one I already found, except it was missing the rear wheel and wouldn’t actually transport anything anywhere. I am still unsure of why it exists.
But I found some useful tools for moving ground. A shovel, a long spade, and a rake were in one corner and covered in years of dusty inaction.
“Two million. Come on, who can’t use two million dollars? Bitcoin if you want.”
The obvious answer seemed to escape the person asking the question. Then I remembered the obvious question I should be asking.
“Identify,” I said to my voice command module.
Kella, Aru was the name that came to my lenses. Then his profile. It was mostly education and work related at first. It also presented a picture of Keller, Aru. He did not have a happy expression in the picture. I reminded me of the people on the television, the ones who won’t drive home in a new engine-driven transport about a minute after learning of that outcome. ‘Happy for them’ face done all wrong and leaking disappointment in self.
“What the hell?” this time there was no text to speech.
It was Kella, Aru’s voice attached to a live video image. He didn’t look as sad in real life.
“Turn it off…or turn yours on,” he said in a soft and excited tone.
“Shit, they turned on his camera,” I heard someone say in the background near Aru.
“Unplug it,” said someone else.
“I don’t know. Maybe one of a million reasons, most of them involving breaches of this nation’s security laws. Turn it off. Now, Aru,” the voice in the background had a harsh stern tone even for a human female voice.
Our female voices are also softer than our male counterparts. This only means we have shared a evolutionary past that required both our species to split duties and specialize in order to thrive.
“I can’t. They are blocking control,” replied Aru. “How are you doing that?”
Since Aru couldn’t understand how my lenses are working on his systems, he assumes that I am like him, just more advanced. Actually, I don’t care how it’s done, just that it’s done. I’ll read the manual only if something stops working.
“This is the most significant breach since ‘97”, said Aru with a smile on his face.
“You think so? Look at the what they are reading, some Pentagon science fiction crap thought up by a bunch of colonels. What’s so significant about that?” a man with a higher voice asked in the background.
“Satellites,” said Aru. “Every one of them and where they are aimed.”
“Oh, right you are,” came the reply.
A female came in front of the camera. She rolled her chair into view.
“This is Major April Legosa, Operations Chief of Cybersecurity for STRATCOM.”
Legosa, Major April was short with black hair and large brown eyes.
“You have broken some laws but no real permanent damage yet. You still have room to move and we want to help you.”
Legosa, Major April was assuming my capture was inevitable. I wouldn’t bet on that.
Good morning darling. I hope you are safe and doing well. I hope you have plenty to eat.
Yesterday was a day with many new experiences. I was able to procure more food. Frozen peas. And cauliflower. Another thing called broccoli. There are many new foods and I can’t wait to try them.
They sell a refrigerated food called hot dogs. It’s not just an ironic temperature. They also keep dogs as pets. Perhaps when they get old they send them to become hot dogs. I’ll add it to the list of things to investigate when I’m bored.
I had interesting interactions with humans. I rode the bicycle to a depository, they call them banks. It was 10.3 kilometers from the metal housing structure beside the lake. I copied the appearance of the woman on television again. Jeepus, Cindy was her name. I let my lenses provide information about the form I was copying. 34, Female, Blond hair (colored), 1.625 meters tall, 60.235 kilograms, non-functioning reproductive system.
I was able to get money from the bank at something called an atm, a very peculiar name. It’s like starting to say a word then just giving up. The bank was not difficult. Their currency is called dollars and they gave me the highest amount possible. I could have taken all of it but decided against it because there was a camera watching me. As I got back on my bicycle to travel to a food store several people yelled the name of the image I was using. At first I didn’t understand what they were yelling. Eventually I understood what they were yelling and they were friendly. I don’t know why they yelled the name, I wasn’t going to forget it. Humans have very faulty memories compared to ours. They make many reminders, reminders of important things which we would not forget, but they do. I don’t think they have any recall modules installed. They don’t seem to have the technology for it yet.
The man at the money collection point at the food store was friendly. He called me a local celebrity. This may have explained why people were calling out my name.
“You’re Cindy Jeepus,” he said to me as if I forgot.
“I am,” I replied.
“I saw you this morning. Do you think Breeden is innocent or guilty?” he asked me.
I did not respond for a long time. I was too busy reading about ‘innocent or guilty’ in the background of my lenses. Eventually I replied simply, “innocent”, as it involved a crime and possibly prison, a place I have an aversion to.
“But he stalked her for weeks,” said the man.
“Then he may be guilty.”
“Oh, I get it. You’re a reporter, you’re trying to remain objective,” he replied.
“Yes,” I responded because I didn’t understand.
“Well I think he’s guilty and I hope they execute him.”
This translated perfectly for me and I understood that the man at the money collection point wanted Breeden to be killed.
“I think you’re right,” I replied in a soft voice.
“Right, got it. You don’t want to mess up the jury if your opinion becomes well-known.”
“Yes,” I responded again without understanding.
I gave him all of my money. This made him laugh.
“Are you trying to bribe me?”
“Yes,” I replied.
He gave me back most of the money. I put it in my pocket.
"Breeden is definitely guilty," said the man. Connected to his clothing above his heart was a piece of polymer with the name Jonah printed on it. I believe it was his name but I wasn't certain so I didn't call him by it.
"Yes, I think you're right," I agreed with him.
"I'll keep our secret," said the man with a sly smile. Then he closed one of his eyelids. Not both of them, just one. Unusual activity. Then the man whose name may be Jonah put the items I had purchased into a polymer bag. This was unusual as my lenses indicated that the bags are made from a compound that was largely responsible for the planetary environmental crisis. Such a dangerous thing seemed to be used wantonly.
I found it interesting that people traveling in engine driven vehicles were very polite and stopped their journey to let others of their species walk in front of them. However this courtesy was not extended to those of their species on bicycles. One of the pilots of a vehicle lowered the see-through shield on her vehicle and yelled at me.
"Get your ass out of the middle of the road. Hey, you’re that lady on television. Hi, how are you doing? Sorry I yelled at you but it's dangerous to ride a bicycle down the middle of the road, especially here. Lotta bad drivers around here. Highest fatality rate in the state of Florida, that's a distinction this county has. Okay gotta go, you take care now. Ride on the side of the road, honey. And slow down just a little, maybe a lot."
Another engine driven vehicle was approaching and blowing a loud horn. I moved from the center of the road to the left side of the road. A young girl in the vehicle yelled, 'hey Cindy' at me and waved her hand. She was smiling and seemed happy to see me. I waved my hand and smiled.
A man in a vehicle reduced his speed to match mine.
"I know you. Cindy Jeepus. Channel 11 morning news. What's it like every morning sitting across from him? What kind of girl talk do the two you have? Don't you find it kinda disgusting thinking about what he did last night with his husband?"
I did not respond. The man's heart rate had increased by 19%. Muscle tension in his body had increased 7%. He appeared agitated and I did not understand why. I chose to agree with him as it seemed the optimal response.
"Yes," I replied.
A smile came to the man's face, he showed his teeth which were whiter than most of the species.
"I knew it. I knew you weren't one of them, fag-loving libtards. I can tell just looking at you. Sometimes you seem uncomfortable on camera when that asshole gets too close to you or if he touches you. You don't think it shows, but I can tell, honey. I can tell."
Another vehicle came up behind his and sounded a horn.
"I'll see you soon, Cindy. Count on it."
The man with the elevated heart rate drove away. The vehicle behind him slowed and the driver took a long look at me, smiled and waved, then accelerated away.
The rest of the ride back to the metal housing unit was uneventful mostly. I had one last interaction with humans.
“Hey, get your ass out of my yard. This ain’t no damned freeway,” yelled an old woman with long black hair, except near her scalp where it was white. Lufrene, Tiffany held up her hand with a finger extended. “Get outta here before I call the cops, bitch. Wait, I know you. You’re that morning noise. Screw you anyway, no trespassing bitch.”
Darling I found something very wonderful here. Humans can own the land they live on. More about that later. It seems too good to be true and I need to make sure I understand it first. Imagine that. No Dinoca, no Puyi, no Residential Services and their thugs.
There was a narrow paved path that connected the road I was on with the one I needed to turn onto. There were two vehicles sitting idle on the path but there was still plenty of room for me to pass. The woman was standing by one of the vehicles and looked to be unloading it.
I turned my head towards her, smiled and waved. It had worked on everyone else so far. This time it did not. She threw a container at me, a container that held inside 'Daniel’s Old Style Vegetable Soup, 8 ounces'. Her throw was errant and missed me but it did land on the pavement nearby and the can gave up it’s contents. The woman repeated a word for sexual reproduction eight times in a row. Another unusual choice. Perhaps she was indicating that she would rather be engaged in sexual reproduction than having to clean up a mess. I would definitely agree.
Having cut a few seconds from my journey I emerged onto the hard dirt road that went to the near-lake metal housing unit. Part of the road became sandy and I had to pedal faster, a three meter spray of sand came up from the back wheel of the bicycle. After about a minute of this the road became hard again and the wheels had an improved coefficient of friction and the distance traveled per revolution increased dramatically. As I approached metal housing unit I was able to smell the bodies. They were inside but the odor was leaking out.
You know how I can be when I don’t want to do something. I put it off and put it off, until there is a problem. Pullman, Jarvis and Bristol, Mandy and their odors were the problem. It’s true that our species has excellent olfaction but I fear even humans with those tiny noses could smell them.
I tried. Really I tried. But digging a hole when you're stuffed into a much smaller shape is extremely difficult. It could be done but it would have taken me hours. I was finished in less than 10 minutes after I returned to shape. Oh it felt so good to be big and green again, those first few minutes after expansion are exquisite.
Bristol, Mandy was the easiest one to bury. Pullman, Jarvis needed to be scooped up more than carried out. I took the cloth covers on the bed and threw them down in the hole covering the bodies. It only took me a couple of minutes to fill the hole. I rewarded myself with a bag of frozen peas.
I turned on the television. There was a man talking about a place where people were complaining about their government and he showed a large crowd. They held banners like we did. They were attacked and many were killed and injured. Then a woman and man briefly told me about the best price available for a motorized transport vehicle called a Chevrolet. Then I heard a song about a fiber cloth used to clean up spills and a hand kept wiping up different kids of spills. After that the man who was telling us about the complaining people invited others to speak about the circumstances. Several of them said that the people who died were responsible for their own deaths. After a few minutes of listening to them I realized I preferred to hear about the best price in Central Florida on a new Chevrolet.
I’ve been expanding my vocabulary significantly. I’m over 10,000 words and in a few more days I won’t need the translation tech. I can turn it off. Won’t that be nice. I may be here for a long time. But if the comms channel works, then someday, maybe even someday soon, you can join me here on Earth. That’s what I’m working towards. Getting it all set up. Escape into the chaos of this planet and get away from the MoJ, lost in the crowd. And let’s face it, we’re not worth all the hassle of a planet-wide search and retrieve. It’s not like we’re Bindo and Lain. We’re not that important and that is good for us. Just one day I stop transmitting my reports. Get the pin out of my head and they’ll never be able to find us among the 8 billion humans. And once we’re convinced they have stopped looking, we leave this crazy place.
Damn, not now. Not while I’m making a journal for El. Go away. Stop it. You're not allowed now. Come back later, and I'll deal with you. But not now. Take your morbid thought and go away. I choose to believe that El is alive. This is the only way I have hope so stop considering him dead. You're my mind, do as I say.
But you won't.
That image of you being shot down in the back as you run away won't get off the loop in my mind. It's all a figment of my imagination courtesy of the loss I feel without you. But it's a terrible thought and a terrible thought can feast in my mind for a long time, feeding off fears, drinking down the hope until there is none left.
Sorry dear, I had to take a little break. I’m feeling much better now. Just needed a little time to think it all through. It’s back. Not as bad as on Domeran. Nothing nearly as bad as that. Just a little sad because we’re apart and you know how my imagination takes the smallest thing and turns it into a galaxy of concern. The this and that of it all. But I’m better now.
So let’s consider what it will take for us to achieve our escape. First you must either bring a head tech or I will need to find someone here that can remove the pin. That is the primary obstacle. Then we’re good to go. I’ve got enough tech to keep us well fed and out of reach of the local MoJ. Oh El, you’re going to love the food so much.
I received a communication from the bosses. They were impressed with my report. They sent me a background history of Earth, although it sounds similar to other worlds. Nuclear capable and probably won’t survive it. Still, there is no better place to escape. It’s a thin cloth over chaos here. Systems are ancient and exchange technology is non-existent. Factions compete with other factions and they have almost achieved perpetual war.
Each faction has a list of enemies and their members are taught to hate them. That part is just like home.
But I can go places on Earth without being tracked, they don’t have thousands of readers everywhere trying to take my information.
So prepare yourself my darling. We will be together again.
I must end it here. There is someone outside.
Fordice, John. Deputy Sheriff, Putnam County.
I hope you are well darling. I love you. I miss you so much.
Things are more difficult. I was not well prepared for this.
Fordice, John, Deputy Sheriff was surprised when he saw me exit the metal housing unit.
“Cindy Jeepus, you are the last person I expected to see here.”
He was looking around the car of Bristol, Mandy. His hand was on his weapon. When he saw me he relaxed his grip after a few seconds.
“Are you any relation to the old guy that lives here?” He pulled his notebook from his pocket and looked at it, then added, “Jarvis Pullman?”
“We are married,” I said. I had seen a show on the television about old men who marry young women.
“No shit? Really? You like older men?” asked Fordice, John.
“No. Men are stupid and older men especially so.” I borrowed this from a television show about a girl in a place called high school. Those were her exact words. There was very little learning for a story about school.
“Oh,” said Fordice, John. His pulse rate increased 11 percent, his respiration 4 percent and his muscle tension 16 percent.
“Anybody else around?” he asked.
“Mind if I take a look around?”
“Where’s your husband?”
“When did that happen?”
“Have you seen the nurse that owns this car? Mandy Bristol”.
“No,” I replied.
It was at this point that I realized that I had been saying everyone’s name backwards. I need to learn somethings faster. This is typical of the planners. The only good planner is one that’s been in the field. You can tell them immediately. They have a clue how hard it can be.
“She was due for supper the night before last. Never made it.”
She was in fact eating sand approximately twenty seven meters from John Fordice, Deputy Sheriff.
“This is her last known location and here’s her car.”
I had nothing to add to the conversation so I didn’t. I smiled but did not wave.
“When did you get here?”
“Twelve minutes ago.”
“Mind if I go inside?”
There was no body to be found. But it smelled really bad, I bet even by human standards. But the body and the bedding had all been removed. It smelled like someone had died and then relieved their bowels.
“Do you know what hospital they took him to? Maybe the funeral home?”
“Probably Community,” John Fordice replied. He walked up the steps to the porch and the door.
“Whoa,” he said when he opened the door and the smell hit his nostrils. He left the door open.
I decided to follow him in.
“I’m trying to clean up,” I said.
“Sister, you’re gonna need a buttload of bleach to get this smell out,” he replied over his shoulder.
“How long have you two been married?” he asked me.
“Four days,” I answered. I needed an answer and that sounded reasonable.
“Damn, you two were still on your honeymoon.” He hesitated for a moment then added, “sorry for your loss.”
El, you won’t believe the custom on this planet. When people get married they go away on a trip right after they get married. They go engage in sexual reproduction in exotic places. The locations does not increase fertility of either DNA donor but it is a social custom and is considered a very happy time. It sounds like a very nice idea. I remember when we got married. You shut your store for half a day. But we had sex and that was nice.
“Where did you meet?”
“At a gentlemen’s club,” I replied borrowing the answer from the television show about old men with young wives.
John Fordice, Deputy Sheriff looked at me for a long time. Then for the first time in all the time I had known him, he smiled. He had something covering his teeth. I don’t know what it was or what the purpose was but Jarvis Pullman and Mandy Bristol had no such thing on their teeth.
There is luck, both good and bad. And there are gradients of good luck. There are gradients of bad luck too. I managed to pull one from the deep end of the bad gradient. As John Fordice was looking around the house with me at his side, a familiar face came on the television screen in the largest room.
“It’s twenty seven minutes past eight o’clock, let’s look at the school lunch menu for today in Putnam County.”
Both John Fordice and I walked into the room while the television displayed an image of me talking about ‘meat loaf’ and ‘mac and cheese’.
I should have acted then but I didn’t. John Fordice stared at the television then at me. Then he aimed his weapon at me as fast as possible.
“What the hell is going on here?” he demanded to know.
And you know what was the worst part about it? If I had only known. There was a completely plausible and acceptable explanation for what he was seeing and I had no idea it existed on Earth. A split zygote. It happens a lot on Earth. Never on Yirgo. The zygote splits and two identical versions come out. But that excuse would only work if I had known about it and I didn’t.
“Don’t move a muscle,” John Fordice commanded me to do the impossible.
He waved his weapon at my face and began to move nervously. Muscle tension up 31 percent.
I had no experience with the weapon he was aiming at me. I assumed it was a projectile weapon similar in design to the one used by Jarvis Pullman. I didn’t know if it could kill me. But I guessed that at a minimum it could seriously injure me and it would hurt significantly. Then my lenses confirmed it to be potentially lethal to me if it hit near my heart or my brain, two of my largest organs.
“Who are you, bitch?” His tone was not friendly and I was not a female canine.
“Makeda Keita Defo un Reduff,” I replied.
“What the hell kind of name is that? Are you Spanish or something?”
“You North Korean?”
“No,” I replied without out knowing a thing about Spanish or North Korean.
“What are you then?”
“I come from Yirgo.”
“Why do you look like the Cindy Jeepus?”
“Because I am using image manipulation technology, an Optool. If you saw me all big and green you’d be scared of me.”
“That’s bullshit, sweetheart. You’re some kind of delusional psychopath, that’s what you are. Some kind of deranged fan. You’re so deranged you had doctors make you look like her. That’s some sick shit, sister.”
“No, seriously. It is the image manipulation technology. I can turn it off and show you if you want.”
“Bullshit,” he said. The reference to bovine excrement confused me.
“Get down on your knees with you hands behind your head,” he commanded. “Do it or I’ll put a bullet right between those pretty blue eyes.” He pulled back the lever on the weapon that permitted it to fire it’s ammunition.
I got down on my knees.
Being stuffed into a smaller package is bad enough. But put something called handcuffs around my wrists is the worst. The more I struggled the tighter they got. They pinched me but they were flimsy. I was certain I could break them.
“Let’s go. We’ll let the shrinks decide what to do with you. Now get on your feet.”
He grabbed me hard by my breasts and pulled me up. When I got to my feet he squeezed them a couple of times more.
“Nice rack,” he said but I did not understand.
He turned me around and was leading me back outside.
“Tomorrow, the Putnam County School Board meets with concerned parents about the recent teacher shootings of unruly students,” I announced on the screen as he led me away with his hand on my buttocks. “Police have declared the meeting a weapons free-zone and will be asking all patriots to surrender their weapons at the door. The Putnam County SWAT team will be on hand along with ICE officers.”
El you remember what we learned in school? Our species rose to the top of the food chain on Yirgo because of this and that thing. We were the most mentally developed species on the planet. We also had a natural tendency to be fearful. This permitted us to escape more often than our food chain peers. But you remember what they emphasized? By far the most important advantage we had was our speed.
Humans are slow, they all seem lethargic, even the most energetic of them. It's like they never wake up enough. Even better, it’s like when a jar of Nunpo has spilled, the slow way it comes out of the jar. That’s what human movement is like.
When we were within a few meters of his engine driven vehicle, John Fordice Deputy Sheriff put his weapon into the carrying pouch on his side. I had been waiting for the weapon to be aimed away from me. This was much better.
I pulled the handcuff apart and spun around. John Fordice Deputy Sheriff almost walked into me I moved so fast. For just an instant we stood face to face, less than five centimeters between our noses.
“What the hell?” he said. He grabbed for his weapon but it wasn’t there. I stepped back from him.
In my left hand was his weapon. It wasn’t the same as the one used by Jarvis Pullman but operated similarly. It was much lighter. He watched as I used my right hand to bend then break the weapon. I turned and threw it away, far away, into the center of the lake.
John Fordice, Deputy Sheriff did what every animal does, he tried to escape, running towards his vehicle. His hand flung open the hatch and he sat down in the pilot position as quickly as possible. He ignited the fuel inside of the combustion chambers. I could not let him escape.
There were bars across the front of his vehicle, bars that looked like something needed to run into things and cause damage. Steel pipes held together with a steel frame. They are well attached to the vehicle. I know this because I grabbed it just as John Fordice, Deputy Sheriff engaged the drive system. His tires spun, sending first vegetation flying, then sand spraying. After a couple of seconds the tires began to dig into the sand. I switched off the Optool. Big and green again was such a relief.
“Help, I need help. Officer down. Officer down. What the hell?” John Fordice, Deputy Sheriff was yelling at the top of his voice into a small comms device he held next to his mouth. When I changed he let out a scream.
“I’m at…oh shit…” he said. I interrupted him by flipping his vehicle over. He came crashing down in it and hit his head on the ceiling, now the floor. He was even more lethargic than before.
I ran over to the hatch and pulled it open by ripping it off the vehicle.
“Stay away from me,” said a groggy John Fordice. He picked up the comms device again. I had to act. I had no choice.
I pulled John Fordice, Deputy Sheriff from the vehicle by his left leg. I tried to pull him out by his right leg first but only managed to remove his boot. He clawed at everything he could to stay in the vehicle. His hands clutched the round directional pointer desperately. But his grip was no match for mine.
“Please. I have a wife,” he begged.
“I am a wife.”
John Fordice, Deputy Sheriff collided with a Pinoideae Pinus, a local tree they call a pine, at a speed of almost seventy kilometers per hour. The right side of his body impacted the tree and there was a significant sound of breaking skeletal structures upon impact. The sound alone told me that he was dead, my lenses just confirmed it. There was a red spot on the tree marking the impact.
The comms device inside of the overturned vehicle was full of chatter now.
“Did you hear that?”
“Yeah I heard it?”
“Who was it?”
“I don’t know. Whose out right now?”
“Shit, that’s a long list. Couple of dozen at least.”
“Sounded like Fordice or Bollings or maybe Walker.”
“Definitely not Fordice. He’s got a whiny voice.”
“Hey dispatch, how about a sound off?”
I went to get the earth removal tools again.
As I dug the hole and buried John Fordice, Deputy Sheriff, the comms device in the vehicle continued as people began to call out there names.
By the time I finished, the voices were different.
“This is Sheriff Arlo Holmes. Come in John Fordice. John are you there? Are you injured. Come in John.”
It was time to leave.
El, darling I have a confession to make.
I like humans.
I know I should be objective about them and remain impartial. But I can't. They seem like a reasonable and kind species at the individual level. Regrettably they often experience collective madness. As I rode the bicycle away from the metal housing unit beside the lake on three occasions people stopped and offered me assistance. I believe it was because of the precipitation. I saw a woman running from a building to her transport as if the rain would do harm to her. I quite like the rain and enjoyed the feel of it.
A woman slowed down in her transport and lowered the see-through hatch.
"Honey, I can give you a lift to wherever you're going. You don't need to be out in the rain."
"But I like it," I replied.
"I understand, feels good when it's this warm. Suit yourself."
The woman drove away after smiling at me.
"Hey Cindy," a man called to me from his transport. "Why don't we throw your bicycle in the back?"
"I like the rain," I replied.
"Stuck up bitch," he said before attempting to accelerate his transport. This resulted in his ground contact apparatus spinning with insufficient coefficient of friction. He responded to this by using the slang word for feces before pointing his arm with a finger extended at me in what could possibly be considered a threatening manner. It confused me because I did not know how I had offended him. With his coefficient of friction to the ground sufficiently recovered he moved away from me quickly.
An older man and woman also slowed down and offered assistance. When I declined their offer they were not angry, but rather commanded me to travel safely. It may have merely been a suggestion or request, the nuances of the language are taking a long time for me to learn. I have listened to hours of their comms since I arrived but it’s still difficult.
"You need a major credit card and identification in order to get a room." Those were the words of the small man standing at something called a front desk in a temporary housing facility.
"I have money," I replied and offered it all to him.
"Sorry. But those are the rules. We can't break the rules, even for somebody like you, Cindy. Even if you're soaking wet. I know who you are. But the corporation doesn't and as far as the government is concerned, you could be a terrorist. So you've got have a major credit card and identification, I'm sorry. If I let you have a room without that it could cost me my job and that would cost me my health insurance."
I walked back out into the rain while the man at the front desk picked up his comms device and began pressing the screen with his fingers. The narrow wheels on the bicycle squirted water out to the sides as I rode through a small pool of rain. I had offered to pay for temporary housing but they had declined to provide it. Now I would take it without paying and paying is something very important on this planet.
At the back of the building was a door with very crude electronic access. My lenses unlocked it instantly. I walked to the door of the first temporary housing unit #148. I was about to enter when I heard voices from inside. So instead I entered room 147 directly across the passageway. It held a bed, a television, and a desk as well as toilet facilities. I sat down on the toilet for a few minutes. Time to prioritize the problems.
I focused on the flashing icon. Yes, I would like to connect. I needed a new appearance. I must admit my first search attempt was not very good. Normal-looking humans resulted in many images, too many for me to review them all. But then I began to refine my search better. In the end I settled on the image of a woman with brown hair, brown eyes, light brown skin, and whose height would put her in the top quartile of human females. This would certainly make my life easier if I was shoved into a better fitting package. Maybe now people would quit reminding me of my name. The image I chose would have to do because I was really hungry again. We eat about twice as much as humans and I wanted more frozen peas.
Frozen peas are located them at a food dispensary called a supermarket. This particular one did not have sponsorship from one of the great houses, there was no great family standing behind it. They have no concept of the 3,000 families. The business is owned by the people who work there. Imagine that. The infograph for it surprised me and I checked my lenses and my search just to be sure. Imagine food dispensaries without a great house. But this is the exception, the majority of them have houses behind them, but they are not from the same family, just humans of the same mindset or using similar computer algorithms.
There was a slight tingle when I stepped outside of the temporary housing building and proceeded towards the frozen peas at the Supermarket. If I had been concentrating on anything other than my own hunger and concern for the acceptability of my new appearance, I would have noticed the tingle and not dismissed it. But I did. I had ignored the warning.
El, it is called the frozen vegetables section and it is my favorite part of the supermarket. I had four large bags of frozen peas, two in each hand and I was walking towards the money extraction point. A person dressed in a green shirt motioned at me and I interpreted this to mean come let her extract my money.
“Did you find everything you needed?” she asked with a smile.
“Yes,” I replied.
Then I felt something much more than a tingle. Like a slight electric shock followed by pain.
I grunted as softly as I could.
The woman at the money extraction point screamed. It was a very high pitch and loud.
“Oh my god, she looks just like you,” said a young man that was now standing behind me.
People began to point at me and now another woman screamed.
I looked down at my arms, they were pale and white and identical to the woman standing in front of me. I looked at the man standing behind me. I suddenly felt looser and more comfortable.
“Holy shit…” said the man and he ran away from me, falling down as he started. I looked at the woman at the next cash extraction point. A moment later she began screaming over and over. I suddenly felt the pain followed by the feeling of being very constricted. But my bad fortune was not over.
I heard the baby cry. I know I shouldn’t have looked. But I did. A moment later I thought I was dying. This time I screamed. It came out a full ancestral roar. People began running away as I tried to get back on my feet while I was the size of a tiny new human. It was not easy as the body proportions were different. Fortunately a woman walked over to me and asked me if I was OK and could she help me somehow. El, I tell you, sometimes humans are so very nice. And she did help. The look of her permitted me to borrow her appearance and freed me from the worst pain I’ve ever experienced. It was a tiny prison crushing me. I’ve never been so cramped, it was miserable. So painful I couldn’t even think. Just scream.
“Thank you,” I said to her as she reached out her hand to help me back to my feet.
“Wow, is that what I really look like? God, I look old,” she said.
Some people were running away, but others were watching me and pointing their comms device at me.
I grabbed the four bags of frozen peas and ran out of the store.
“I’ll pay for those,” the kind woman told the money extraction woman as I ran away with her appearance.
But her appearance lasted only until the first person I ran past outside. He ran away from me. He was larger and his shape felt so much better. As I ran past a transport a young human called out to me.
“Don’t run away, Daddy”.
This time I didn’t turn to look.
A woman in a transport. Ow, she was small and her legs were uneven. This made running more difficult. I could not achieve a speed in excess of 17 kilometers per hour in her form. I clutched the bags of frozen peas. One of them was a solid block of peas and ice.
A very large man in another transport got me back to normal speeds again. Seeing himself in me caused him to crash his transport into a stationary transport.
Fortunately the force was not sufficient to cause injury. The injury prevention device deployed adequately.
I had to get away from humans immediately. If I couldn’t see anyone then I couldn’t use their appearance and the flipping would stop. I ran with my head down and only looked up every now and then. Still I changed another nine times. The cramped space of a tall skinny man was followed by the pain of human childhood. I flipped almost every time I looked up. I caused two transport crashes and numerous screams. A transport with flashing lights on top went past moving quickly in the direct of the supermarket. I end with a large woman’s appearance. It was more comfortable than 90% of the others. She wasn’t big and green, she was olive and massive.
I needed a place to hide. Immediately.
It was a building used to store a transport. It had other items stored also but the largest item was the transport. It smelled of dust, rotting fibers and transport lubricants. Oh, and the smell of their fuel. It is dreadful. I sat there for a very long time. Night came and I continued to sit in the building. Human activity slows down at night so I waited. Finally not long before the return of light, I went back to temporary housing unit #147. I laid down on the bed in #147 and finally succumbed to the tired feeling that comes after a period of intense anxiety and fear. I ate one last handful of frozen peas then went to sleep.
I woke four hours later feeling much better.
The Optool needed to be fixed. I turned it off. Big and green felt so nice at last. It was like getting home after a long day. I turned it back on. Then I turned on the television. Ow, children on the screen. Change screen, change screen. A few seconds later that felt much too long I flipped to the appearance of an old human, as the message requested all listeners to ‘ask your doctor’. I turned off the Optool again. Big and green, oh yes, it feels so good. I let myself enjoy it for a few minutes. I turned it back on again. This time I waited until there was a large man on the screen in case it was still malfunctioning. It was. At least it wasn’t painful. But then the television changed to an image of a dog, a small dog.
“Exceeds the capability of this tool,” was the message brought to the forefront. I was thankful for that. But then it added, ‘recalculating’ and a few seconds later it showed ‘complete’.
El, I had the appearance of a dog, but a much larger dog. I saw myself in the reflective wall. I was adorable. I looked at myself for a long time then turned off the Optool. Big and green wasn’t as cute but it felt much nicer.
This time I removed all of the past history in the Optool. Also I added in a hardware reset. This reboots the image calculators, the engine of the whole thing. It took a very long time for the Optool to start again. It kept showing start up statuses on my lenses. Finally it showed completed. But when I tried to use it, it shut down completely. I waited a few minutes and then it again. This time it worked.
More peas were my reward.
It’s time to send the planners another report. I keep it boring with them. Last thing I want to happen is for them to come in and exterminate this species. They seem to be a hard working species. Maybe the planners would keep several million of them as slaves, like on Pangori, I don’t know. Our expansion policy never made much sense to me. It benefits the 3,000 mostly.
Planners have been asking questions. Questions about the way the species organizes. It worries me, they may planning to upgrade the planet to category one. Then a team will come in and the opinion of the planet will be much different from what I’ve been telling them in my reports. That will make our escape riskier, if not impossible.
I love you and miss you, my dear.
Good morning, El. I hope you are safe and in good health. I miss you. You are my last thought every night and my first thought every morning.
I may have secured more reliable accommodation. Temporary housing unit number 147 proved to be less than adequate. I was asleep in the bed and a very nice woman named Thursa Mamu woke me up.
"You are not allowed to be here. The last guest for this room checked out three days ago," she said.
"I tried to pay," I said.
"Short, pale man with glasses?" She asked.
I stretched then got up from the bed.
"That's Donnie. He is not helpful some time. In my country we would say he walks a very narrow path."
"He wanted a major credit card and identification."
"Yes, that sounds like him."
"He said he could lose his healthcare."
"His healthcare. That's all he talks about, his healthcare. It cost too much, it doesn't cover enough, the copayment is too high. But can't afford to lose it. And he won't do one damn thing to improve his health. Won't eat right, won't exercise, and smokes those damn cigarettes like he's a train." Thursa Mamu waved her finger at me as she spoke.
"Does he want to die?" I asked her.
"It seems that way."
"I don't know."
"You should ask him," I suggested.
"You need to leave. I have to report you to Donnie if you don't leave. If I don't, I will lose my healthcare and I have children."
Thursa Mamu smiled at me but with a sad face. I had learned facial expressions a few days ago by watching several programs of the genre, soap opera. They offer quite a complete set and are now easy to recognize. It may seem like a nothing but it isn't. Knowing what fear looks like and knowing what anger looks like is very important to me. But they have something called sarcasm, which is very much like pru1fh85 but not quite. Often there are no visible indicators or the visible indicator is the opposite of what is meant. I struggle but I will master it soon.
"Do you have a place to stay?" She asked me.
"Well then, sister. You need to go to New Zion Baptist Church and speak to Rev. Parker. He'll help you. We took in some Somali refugees last year. He got three of them into good homes in our congregation. He's a good man."
"Yes, sister I will." It is such an endearing trait for someone to refer to me as their family. I like this.
"Where's your bag, your luggage?"
"I don't have any," I replied.
"Where do you come from?" She asked me.
I hesitated for a moment. "From a bad place."
Thursa Mamu squinted her eyes slightly for a moment before she spoke.
"I understand. Some men are brutes. Sometimes you can't choose when to leave, you just have to run away when the opportunity presents itself. Yes you must go see Rev. Parker. We'll keep you away from that bastard."
I translated her words and after a few seconds I remembered a public service announcement on the television. The topic was called domestic violence and was about man beating women. And importantly, the women were not slaves, but wives.
"Thank you," I replied.
"New Zion is less than a mile from here, so you won't be that long out in the heat unless you stop a lot. It will only take you about 20 minutes to walk over there."
"I have a bicycle," I replied with an enthusiastic smile just like the doctor on television when she told the family that their youngest son going to pull through and make a full recovery.
"Then you're almost there already," she said. At first I thought it was an attempt to confuse me, a logic puzzle. But it was just a strange choice of words used to describe the speed of a bicycle.
I was wrong. A few minutes later I discovered someone had taken the bicycle. It was a very disappointing outcome as I enjoyed the exercise and the speed of it. I slowly turned around in a circle with my lenses set to deep scan. It didn't take long before my lenses made the small red outline of a bicycle. It was behind the building two transport paths from where I was.
This bicycle was better than the previous one. There was a cable around it to prevent anyone from taking it. But it was in adequate for the task.
As I began to cycle towards New Zion Baptist Church and Rev. Parker I saw a sign at the place where humans put fuel into their transports. It said, buy one get one free Gatorade, $2.95. I laughed at the illogic but not too loud as there is a significant difference between my laugh and a human life. I didn't want to scare them. Still I have finally figured out human money. And I knew that I had $2.95, between the paper money and the coins. No more handing someone all of my money and hoping they don't take more than they should. Money is very important here and humans worry about it often. They even make up many stories about people who try to steal it. That part is like home.
I was standing outside the little store drinking the first bottle of Gatorade when he started talking to me. He, was a boy, a teenager they are called.
"Damn girl, hope you play basketball," he said.
I looked at the definition of basketball before I replied.
"Yes," I agreed.
"And fine too. You got a boyfriend?"
"On the market," he replied. His use of an economic term confused me. He smiled at me.
"Yes," I replied.
"Where's your hubby?"
"Well ain't that some good news". He looked at me up and down and smiled.
"How?" I asked.
"Well, you know, for you and me, hooking up." I didn't understand the attachment reference but after a few seconds recognized it as something related to the human mating ritual.
"What is your age?" I asked.
"Whatever age you need me to be, baby."
My lenses are slow sometimes. But they eventually understood the request. In earth terms he was 15 years eight months and 12 days old.
"I'm sweet 16, baby. And that's the age of consent in Florida, long as you tell the cops you’re under 23. Then there ain't nothing to stop us."
Humans don’t have seasonal mating. They are not like us in that respect. They are constantly in season and that has significant effects on their civilization. Mating concerns dominate their advertising and exerts significant influence on their art and culture. Many things are done to appear sexy.
“Why is sixteen sweet?”
“Because it’s when we can become lovers without the law throwing you in prison.”
At last he said something that did not require me guessing his meaning. He wanted to have sex with me and if he were too new I would go to prison for having sex with him. Seasonal mating is so much easier.
“I understand,” I said.
The bottle of blue liquid was empty and I put the plastic bottle in the refuse container. The parking stick on my bicycle was not old and rusty like on the last bicycle. I straddled the bicycle.
“Hey, wait a minute, gorgeous. Where you going? Don’t run away, just yet. This could be something special if you just slow down.”
“New Zion Baptist Church,” I replied.
“Why you going there? It ain’t Sunday.”
“Thursa Mamu said Rev. Parker would help me find accommodation.”
“What? You ain’t got no where to stay?”
“Well, why didn’t you say so?”
“But I did.”
“I’ve got just what you need. We’ve got an extra bedroom at my gran’s house. Just what the doctor ordered. Best of all, I’ll be in the next room, in case you get lonely or need some cuddles.”
”You are offering accommodation?”
“Yes. I have a great place for you to stay. Better than sleeping at church.”
It was another example of a human doing something nice for my benefit. I tell you, El, it would be a tragedy for this planet to be colonized. This wonderful spirit would be crushed by slavery.
“You ready to go?” he asked me.
“It’s not far. Just up the street.”
El, I figured it out. Car and automobiles are what they call their transports and they use them on roads, streets, boulevardes, courts, avenues, expressways, highways, byways, alternate routes, and several other words which all mean the same thing. This makes the language very confusing at times.
Lena Jones is a woman 66 years, 11 months and 9 days old. She is not very tall, 3 percent below the average height for women in this geography, and considerably smaller than my current form. By human standards she would be considered very attractive for her age. She had less than 21% body fat.
She lives in a small housing unit that is narrow and long, extended further away from the road, several times longer than the width. The walls contain many images of her with other people. Many of the images have writing in the corners of them and they are wearing what I have learned is their formal clothing used for special events.
“Who the hell are you?” she asked me.
“Duff,” I replied.
“Duff, what kind of name is that? That sounds like a man’s name.”
“My full name is Makeda Keita Defo un Reduff.”
“This is my friend, Gran.”
“You got some mighty old friends. How old are you honey?”
I had to look up the image I was using again.
“29 years, 2 months, 26 days.”
“So why are you messin with a 15 year old boy?” she asked me just like the woman in the soap opera. I recognized the accusatory expression.
“Gran, I’m almost 16! You’ve ruined it for me now! Ruined it!”
“Shut up, boy. Now you tell me sister, why you messin with a kid?”
“She needs a place to stay, Gran. I told her she can stay with us.”
“She’s homeless, Gran. Can’t let her sleep outside. She needs to find a place out of the heat in the afternoon. How hot is it gonna be today?”
“97 degrees,” she replied.
“Can’t even leave a dog out in that kind of heat. That’s what you told me yesterday. Ain’t it?”
“She ain’t no dog. She’s a full grown woman. Where you from, sister?”
“A bad place, a long way from here,” I replied.
“You ain’t escaped from prison, have you?”
“No,” I replied, as I didn’t escape but bargained my way out of prison. A moment later I added, “domestic violence”.
“Well sister, why didn’t you say so?”
I just did but this time I didn’t say that.
“Gran. This is all she’s got, the clothes on her back. We can’t turn her out. It would be real unchristian, now wouldn’t it? Jesus never turned people away.”
El, he was making an appeal to her religious beliefs, beliefs that are in sharp contrast to the history of their belief.
“Listen to me, Harland Jones…”
“Come on, Gran. My name is Headshot.”
“No it’s not. I am not calling you Headshot or any other kind of shot.”
“But it’s my mic name.”
“When you have a microphone in your hand you can call yourself any damned thing you want. But I am not calling you nothing but Harland Jones.”
“Or Harry,” Harland added with a disappointed tone and look like the man in the television story who was told by his wife to leave their home.
I’ll tell you a secret, El. I’ve learned more about the human condition and what it’s like to be one of them from their television shows than from their news and publications. Days of Our Lives and General Hospital have been invaluable to me in understanding them and improving my communications. I now know what a temptress is! (a person who tries to take away another person’s romantic partner, Season 4, Episode 11).
Humans inhale burning plant material. Stores sell many different kinds of plant material for inhaling. Incredibly, inhaling the burning plant material is harmful to human health. Yet, they do it anyway.
Lena Jones inhaled the kind of plant material not sold in any of the stores I have visited. It wasn’t harmful, rather it had some positive medical benefits. But it smells terrible. She lifted a tube of the plant material to her lips and sucked on it.
“Gran got her medical marijuana license last month,” Harland said.
“Don’t you worry none about that. And keep your damned hands off of my stash, you hear, you little thief.”
“I know you been stealing my stash. You think I don’t know, but I do. This shit costs good money, boy.”
“I have money,” I said.
“$483.19,” I replied.
“I don’t believe you. Show me,” Gran demanded just like the man in the television story playing a card game. He insisted on seeing the winning cards.
I gave her the $483.19 and she counted it. Then she gave it back to me.
“So what you gonna do with all that money?” she asked carefully.
“I tried to give it to someone at a hotel but they wouldn’t take it.”
“You won’t find that problem here,” she said with a smile.
“This is excellent news.” I handed her the $483.19 again.
“Is this all you’ve got?” she asked me.
“Yes. But I can get more from the atm.”
“The what?” she asked.
“Oh, the A-T-M,” she said. Gran taught me the correct pronunciation. There are signs everywhere, ATM here, ATM there, but until someone said it and I understood it, it was incorrectly in my mind as atm.
“Yes, thank you, the A-T-M.”
“Sound like you got some kind of deep balance or something. What you do, sister?”
I finally understood this question as of yesterday!
“I am an investigator,” I said with a smile. It was true.
“What kind of things do you investigate?” Gran asked.
“Military mostly. How good is this group? Strengths and weaknesses measurements. Opportunity assessments.”
“Damn, sound like some deep state shit, don’t it?” she said and looked at Harland.
“Deep state for sure, Gran,” Harland replied with a chuckle…which may have indicated that he did not agree with her. I mentioned this behavior earlier. It’s very confusing. Good way for an organism to get themselves accidentally killed from my consideration of alternative outcomes.
“You ain’t on the run from the government are you?”
“No,” I replied.
“Damn, I was hoping you were,” she replied.
“Why?” Harland asked. “That would just bring the ear pieces down on us, Gran.”
“Because we have to fight oppression everywhere.”
“Excuse my Gran. She never was a Panther back in the day but you wouldn’t know it to hear her talk.”
“Don’t go disrespecting me, boy. I can still beat your ass.”
“I know Gran, the man is always against us. All power to the people,” Harland raised his right arm and closed his fist. He smiled at me, it was a sarcastic smile.
“You better remember that, if you know what’s good for you. It’s the only way forward.”
It was at this moment that I got the most popular question on the planet again, Do you want to connect?
“Well we’ve got a spare bedroom and it’s yours as long as you want it.” Gran held up the money. “This here should cover you for a month. I’ll let you know when I need more. If you can kick in some money for groceries, we’ll all be eating better.”
“Let me show you to your room,” Harland said. He motioned with his hand for me to walk down the corridor with him.
El, it was the most peculiar room I have ever seen.
It had a bed and clothing furniture as expected. But it was the other stuff in the room. There was large wooden X on one of the walls. At each end of the letter were large metal rings. There were similar rings at the four corners of the bed. Three video cameras were pointed at the bed.
“Don’t worry about this. Gran makes a little money online. Supplement her social security check. Old bastards pay good to be told what to do, especially by a black woman.”
I had no idea what he was talking about. Old illegitimates was a small subset of the population and confusing, that much seemed certain.
If you are dark brown enough you call yourself ‘black’. I am dark enough and will in future refer to myself that way.
The bed was very comfortable.
I looked around the room. There were eight different phallics on top of a table next to the bed. There were seven chains hanging on the wall and five items that look like kludos, that thing the riders use when racing sand creepers.
Standing in the doorway of the room was Gran.
“I’ll need the room from 9:00 to 10:00AM, 1:00 to 3:00PM, and again from 8:00 to 11:00PM. Do you have a problem with that?”
“And Saturday night”, added Harland.
“Yes, 2 to 3:00 AM Saturday mornings too.”
“No problemo,” I said like the man in the advertisement for package delivery. I smiled like him too.
“There’s a man in Australia that likes me…” she said.
“Gotta keep Mr. Braithwaite in line,” said Harland.
“He pays the light bill round here. Don’t you say nothing about Geoffrey.”
“You can sleep in my room Saturday nights. Don’t worry, you’re safe around me,” Harland said and closed one of his eyes.
A little while later it was just me and Harland in the room.
“Hey, don’t be like Gran. Just call me Headshot.”
“My name sucks,” he said and this did not indicate a vacuum pressure but rather disapproval of his name.
“Harland or Headshot?”
“Harland. You know there are 43 people with the name Harland in this county? 43 of them. And do you want to know the number of them that are black?”
“No,” I replied. I really didn’t care how many were black.
“One. Me. Do you get it?”
“Listen I’m real glad that a man from Tennessee saved my daddy’s life in Iraq. But that was no reason to saddle me with the worst name in African-American history. Harland is a redneck name, like Bubba, or Earl. Got no place being hung around a black man’s neck.”
I will admit that I didn’t understand much of what he was telling me. It appears there are specific names that are assigned to specific colors of humans. Very confusing.
“Let me show you my room,” Headshot said.
His room was interesting. The walls were covered with large paper pictures of people. Many of the males were naked from the waste up. Many of the women were almost naked, tiny bits of cloth covering their mammary and reproductive areas. Some of the people in the pictures were holding multiple currency units in their hands, ‘fat stacks’ is what Headshot called them. And guns, many of the people in the pictures were holding guns.
Despite the wonderful kindness they have shown me, violence is never far away it seems.
“This is where the magic happens,” Headshot said pointing at the bed.
“Magic is not real,” I replied.
“Maybe that’s why it ain’t working. Would you like to have sex?”
“No,” I replied.
“Baby, you don’t know what you’re missing.”
“Ignorance, yes, I understand that.”
“Well if you change your mind, let me know. I can be your pleasure center, 24 x 7.”
“I will remember that,” I replied.
“Hey, let me take your picture, OK?”
“Yes, that would be good.”
“Gotta show Mixtape my new girlfriend,” he said. “He thinks he’s the player. But wait until he sees you.”
Headshot raised his comms device and pointed it at me. A moment later it did a most peculiar thing, a light came on for an instant.
A severe pain hit me.
I saw myself in the mirror.
I looked like Headshot.
El, the boy panicked when he saw himself in me. Then he said something most confusing.
"What the phuck?" he yelled but I don't think it was a question. I'm sure it wasn't a request for sex.
He tried to run past me but humans are so slow. I grabbed him and threw him onto the bed.
"Help," he screamed. "Help me, Gran."
A moment later Lena burst through the door. She made unusual wrinkles on her face for a moment. She looked at me then she looked at her grandson before returning her gaze to me again followed by looking at her grandson again.
"That thing," said the boy pointing at me desperately, "ain't me."
"Oh my God," said Lena. She moved her hands together like the people do from Tildo when they meet you.
"Oh Lord," she said, "drive this demon away. I'm counting on you Lord. I take back all the times I doubted you. I know you're real now, I've seen it with my own eyes. I believe at last." Then she did a most unexpected thing, she began to throw things at me. I don't know why. I caught each of them. It was a stupid game.
"Run boy." She took a picture from the wall and threw it at me. I caught it and set it beside me with all the other items.
I grabbed the boy and threw him back on the bed. Lena tried to attack me when I did this so I threw her on the bed too.
"Don't hurt the boy or I'll kill you.”
She really didn't have the means to do so and I interpreted her statement as a promise.
"I won't," I replied.
A 15-year-old boy is one of the most uncomfortable forms to take on this planet. Puny little arms and legs, tiny chest. It’s terrible. I'd had enough already so I switched off the Optool. Unreliable piece of junk!
Oh El, it felt so good to be big and green again. My two companions were not that receptive to my natural appearance. The boy tried to back up on the bed and exit the room by knocking a hole in the wall with his head. It didn't work, he banged his head hard, and seemed more sluggish than usual. Lena chose to scream, the same kind of scream that happened on the television show 'Moments' when Dr. Renoir was found dead in the kitchen of a townhouse his wife didn’t know he owned (season 1, episode 3).
"Stop it, stop your screaming. You're hurting my feelings."
"God damn you demon, leave us be," she yelled back at me.
My lenses came to my rescue and provided me translations and synonyms. It took a couple of seconds but finally I understood.
"I'm not a demon. I'm from another planet."
"The hell you say, you're one of Satan's own, probably his right hand man."
My lenses were working overtime to explain and it left me running a few seconds behind the conversation.
"You're displaying some sort of instinct to seek out a protector in a time of crisis."
Lena grabbed the boy's hands and pressed them together.
"Say it with me boy," she began. "Our father which art in heaven…" She waited for the boy to join in.
"You're safe around me. I won't hurt you."
"Our father which art in heaven," they both said in unison. "Hallow be thy name."
"What's the next part?"she asked.
"Thy will be done, I think" replied the boy.
They said it together.
My lenses indicated that they were reciting a religious ritual prayer, like the Dutiful do in the Temples of Ott.
"I'm from another planet and I been sent here to if assess your defensive capabilities. I have a tool that permits me to copy any appearance I find. Let me show you."
"Thy kingdom come."
I began with the lady from the television news. After a few seconds of looking like her I took on the appearance of the deputy I killed by the lake. Finally I returned to the image of the tall black woman they had seen when they met me.
"On Earth as it is in heaven..."
It wasn't working and I was desperate. Then I had an idea. I chose an appearance from one of the numerous posters on the boy’s wall.
"Tupac, Tupac's alive," Headshot yelled as he pointed at me.
Lena and the boy quit their prayers, dropped their hands by their sides and looked at me intensely.
"Always thought he was one fine looking brother," Lena said. “Beautiful eyes.”
"I'm not going to hurt you," I pleaded with them like the District Attorney's wife in 'Moments' when her husband told her he was leaving (season 1, episode 2).
“If you’re not a demon then what are you?” Headshot demanded to know.
“I come from a planet many light years away called Yirgo. It’s the capital planet of the Yirgo trading alliance. We serve the 3,000.”
“The what?” Lena asked.
“The 3,000. The 3,000 best families control the trading alliance. We all work for them.”
“Seriously? 3,000 families own everything?” asked Lena.
“That’s some messed up shit,” she replied.
I changed my appearance again. This time it was one of the women on a poster.
"Hell yeah, now ya talking, baby," said Headshot with a big smile.
"I remember when I used to look like that."
"In your dreams Gran, in your... Ow, that hurt." Lena had struck the boy on the back of his head.
I returned to the appearance of the one they call Tupac.
"Hey where the MILF go? Bring back the MILF."
"You fine like you are honey, don't listen to the boy."
"Aw Gran," the boy began to complain but was silenced by another slap to the back of his head.
“I can look like anyone you want," I said.
"Anyone?" Lena asked with raised eyebrows.
"Nelson Mandela. Make yourself look like Nelson Mandela."
"Just a moment, I need to find an image of him. Got it."
"Well I'll be a son of a bitch."
"You are the wrong gender for that," I replied to Lena.
"Boy, go get my Pentax. One in the bedroom closet, in the silver case. Bring me the big box of lenses too."
Headshot got up from the bed and walked towards the door. This time I let him pass.
"Can you look like Barack Obama?"
During just over one hour I changed appearance 41 times. The boy took most of the photos. But there were some that they set on a timer so they could both be in the picture. I kept a list of everyone they asked me to look like so I can read more than the tiny summary about them provided by my lenses. I didn't know any of the names. Malcom X seems like an unusual human name but they were keen to have their picture taken with him. I will research him later. The boy asked me to adopt the appearance of someone with a contradictory name, where the words mean opposites.
"Biggie is in the house,” he yelled when I took the requested appearance.
Adopting the shape of Biggie Smalls was very comfortable. No binding in the shoulders or around the neck like most human forms. Biggie fit me well and I could have stayed in his shape forever.
“Shit I’ve got to get ready for Mr. Duerson,” Lena said with an annoyed tone.” she said. “You two go watch television until I’m done. Don’t go nowhere, you hear?”
“Yes,” Headshot responded.
“Your request had ample volume.”
“Download the pictures to the laptop and back them up to the cloud,” she said to the boy.
“And don’t even think about posting any of them anywhere, you hear?”
“Yes, Gran. But hurry up with Mr. Duerson, OK?”
“I’ll try, but don’t count on it. You can’t rush love.”
“Rush love? You don’t love that old creep.”
“You’re right, I don’t,” she replied to the boy. “But he loves me.” She smiled.
“No shit?” asked the boy in a question that I have yet to understand.
“None whatsoever. Son of a bitch proposed last month. Wanted me to marry him and come to England to live with him.”
“I told him ‘no’. Got responsibilities here at home".
“Is he the one with the…”
“Never you mind,” Lena cut the boy off. “I’ve got time for one more. Do the president.”
“You want to see Barack Obama again?”
“No. The new fool that’s got the job.”
It took a couple of moments and I learned that they number the people who have the president’s job. She wanted the current one.
My appearance as him resulted in several very unique requests.
El, you remember how the worshipers at Ciliron Temples kneel down before the big statue of Ciliron? She had me kneel down like them except before her.
Then I kissed her feet.
All the time the boy was taking pictures of us. Lena and the boy were laughing like it were the funniest joke ever told. This confused me. It may have something to do with the kind of person he is or they are. I know little about him except his control of nuclear weapons and the military and some previous news reports about his donors.
Lena and the boy do not like him. Lena referred to him as a worthless piece of excrement and accused him of knowing his mother better than he should. Her statement seemed illogical to me at first. Perhaps it is a metaphor or was an example of that human hatred I’ve read about. At least on ‘Moments’ they have background music to tell me when I am seeing something hateful or evil (Season 1, Episode 1…or any time Margaret is present).
Maybe she has good cause to hate him. She seems like a reasonable person. I will need to research the current president anyway as part of the defense assessment. I’ll find out why she hates him.
I can confirm that human skin is smooth, very smooth, particularly the buttocks, and soft against the lips.
While Lena was taking care of Mr. Duerson, I sat on a long cushioned piece of furniture. Headshot sat in a single padded chair that leaned back and offered a footrest. It reclined so far that he could be considered more laying down than sitting.
My lenses were connected to the television and I turned it on. I switched to a daytime drama already in progress.
“I like that” Headshot said when he saw the image of a mother and daughter that were yelling at each other.
“What are they arguing about?” I asked.
“The mother’s new boyfriend doesn’t like the daughter’s boyfriend. The mother’s ex-husband is running for mayor and is threatening to have her investigated over the death of their son if he’s elected. The police won’t take him seriously. But if he’s mayor, well that makes all the difference and that murdering bitch had better look out.”
El, ‘Moments’ is the most fascinating thing I’ve seen in years. Such depth of emotion is displayed and it’s all make believe. Not a bit of it is real. It’s pretend pain, pretend suffering, success and love. Laughter, tears, and even death, all in 22 minutes total elapsed time. Incredible.
Periodically a mother appears and shows us how to clean up kitchen surfaces in a flash. Her husband is very clumsy. He does not learn from his mistakes.
I found a place on the planetary network where I can watch all of the episode of ‘Moments’ in the correct order as they intended for the audience. It’s what I do when I am bored or need to study human emotion and reactions.
We were watching Zach and Abel argue over who was going to provide Debbie transport home from the detox resort when the bottom of the television screen displayed a news alert.
POLICE HAVE FOUND THREE BODIES BURIED BESIDE A LAKE IN CENTRAL FLORIDA. NEWS AT 5PM FROM THE STATION YOU CAN TRUST.
El, I hope you are well and well fed. I’m still having problems with the food down here. Dinner tonight was challenging.
I sat at the table with Lena and Harland.
“We’re very sorry your highness,” said Lena.
I straightened the tiara on my head. I had spent the last few minutes in the bathroom vomiting. It was the chicken tenders.
I had no idea what they were and managed to eat six of them before it hit me. But when it hit it was bad, really bad. It’s never a good feeling to get sick when you’re big and green, but to be sick when stuffed into the shape of some short little woman that is the queen of a little island with a climate hostile to my species made it considerably worse.
“I’m much better now. These are just what I needed.”
I reached down onto my plate and picked up another frozen potato cylinder.
“You sure you don’t want me to heat those for you?” Lena asked.
“Yeah, frozen tater tots seems kinda gross,” Harland added.
“No, I really prefer them like this. Crunchy is good. Thank you.”
“Would you like more to drink, your highness?”
“No thank you,” I replied.
El, I had a most wonderful drink today. It’s called Green Tea and it’s incredible. It tastes like Adowasi seeds in water but they add a sweetener called Honey and a root called Ginseng to it. It is cold and very refreshing. I drank a 3.78 liters of it today and will drink another 3.78 liters tomorrow.
“Would it be possible to get some pictures of your highness later this evening?” Lena asked me.
Harland started laughing. Lena smiled too.
“Why is this funny?”
They were both laughing now.
“Is this about the picture where I kiss your buttocks?”
“Yes,” said Lena. Harland was pointing at me as he laughed.
“I don’t understand why that is funny.”
“It’s very disrespectful.”
“I did notice it was different from the rest. My face was in close proximity to your waste exit.”
“So you want to do more picture like that?”
“Do you mind if I return to my true shape for a while? This shape is extremely uncomfortable.”
“No, your highness. Go ahead,” said Lena.
Ah, it felt good to be me again. I stretched out my arms then my legs. I stood up and touched the ceiling of the room.
The television was on in the back ground.
El, they have people here that are celebrities. But they are celebrities without accomplishment. I can’t believe it. They have done nothing exceptional except self-promotion into the public consciousness. They have large followings. They have fans, although I’m not sure what they are fans of, as they haven’t done anything remarkable. They must be fans of their self-promotion abilities. It is so interesting and so illogical. However there are a significant part of the public that ridicules them. I agree with those people. How can you have success in a meritocracy without doing something of merit?
A news report came on the television. It interrupted what I think was a game show, but I’m not sure. There were three men and a woman and they were all asking ‘Who’s the Daddy?’. A very loud and obnoxious woman knew the answer but wasn’t going to tell them until the end of the show. In the meantime they could argue, curse and sometime try to fight among themselves. It wasn’t very interesting so I was glad when it was interrupted. Besides I knew it was the tall man. They never mentioned the prizes for the winner. Peculiar in that way.
“Sheriff Arlo Holmes has brought in Channel 45’s Cindy Jeepus for questioning in the case of the three bodies found yesterday. Sheriff Holmes said he did this after reviewing Deputy John Fordice’s body camera and dash cam. We’ve got a team at the Sheriff’s office and will bring you updates as they occur in the case.”
I used my lenses to turn the television to Channel 45.
“Hey, turn it back,” Lena said to me with an annoyed tone just like Tony on ‘Moments’ when his brother Driscol told him he didn’t have the money he owed him. (Season 1, Edpisode 1).
“But she is part of the workforce for Channel 45, they may have better information.”
“I don’t care. We don’t watch Channel 45 in this house.”
A short bald man was standing in front of microphones.
“My client is cooperating fully with law enforcement. She has nothing to worry about.”
Off camera someone asked a question.
“What about the update to the body cameras? There was a update to all cameras used by the Sheriff’s Department last week. Numerous cameras were reported to be inoperable and behaving erratically. Does this bring into question Cindy’s innocence in any way?”
“I have no idea what you are talking about. I have an innocent client, one with very public whereabouts. She will continue to cooperate with law enforcement. The presumption of innocence is true in this matter.”
But just for an instant he had that worried look like Luke on ‘Moments’ when he saw the pregnancy test in the bathroom refuse container. (Season 1, Episode 4).
I changed it back to Channel 4.
“Why don’t you watch Channel 45?”
“Because black lives matter in this house.”
“How is that connected to Channel 45?”
“Black lives don’t mean a damned thing on Channel 45.”
“I don’t understand.”
El, Lena told me a lot of things I didn’t know. Police kill black people often. Sounds like the news I’ve been getting from home.
They let me have personal use the comms for an hour every day. I pull down the news mostly. They don’t know these message are part of the connection packet and go unnoticed to the Ir2.2 comms network. Too small to notice, that’s the key. That and silo encryption.
They are rounding up more Palas at home. There was a group of about fifty that refused and barricaded themselves inside of a building. The government claimed they were armed. Imagine that, armed Palas, it’s ridiculous. They burned up in the building. Police dropped an incendiary device on the roof. Melted the walls away in seconds. It was terrible. There were children inside.
The Mipido Family has been replaced in the annual cull. They were stripped of all of their assets and sent to Thus 4 to start a new life as ordinary citizens. Guess the farming business isn’t as profitable as it used to be. Sounds like the Kodo Family will return it to profitability. They seem eager. They talked about some sort of nutritional breakthrough at their ascension ceremony. We’ll see.
There were a few more families culled.
Luff the rug makers, that was a surprise too.
Remember that carpet your mother had? It was one of her prized possessions. Well now it will be a collector’s item, whoever has it. Worth ten times what she paid for it. I wonder how well the monks will work for the new owners?
The Luffs always treated them better than most families would. Well fed, physical exercise, clean accommodation, the Luffs took care of their labor force. Always plenty of beer at the monasteries. I don’t see the family lasting very long as regulars. They have absolutely no clue.
Starvation, crime or suicide. I’m going with suicide. Maybe starvation. But certainly not crime. Not a tough bone in any of their bodies. They were all crying when they got demoted. 1,000 people crying and wailing at the same time, it was really uncomfortable to watch. But you know how the Propas (Propaganda News Crews) are, gotta show the rest of us that even the mighty can fall too. I’ve never liked the cull. Close ups of their faces, no thanks.
El, I heard something very special today. It was a song about a man and his helmet. He traveled a lot and where he put his helmet was where he called home. It is by a group of men who collectively referred to themselves as The Temptations. Their song is wonderful. A good story and some very unique instrumentation too. Lena said it reminded her of her first husband, Legs. Lena is a good dancer for someone so slow. She moves very smoothly.
They use much higher pitched musical instruments on Earth. Still, there are a couple of instruments that are very much like ours at home. But few people here makes music with just those instruments and it is never a primary instrument in any performance. Here they are called a Bassoon or a Tuba.
I did more research today.
There is a group called the Pentagon Cybersecurity Office. They particularly did not like me doing my research.
At first they accused me of being someone called AI, which turns out is just CI, computerized intelligence. They took forever to realize I was not a computer. However when they did, they stopped using so many swear words. I turned on their microphone, then their camera. Then I said ‘hello’.
Three people acted like a small bomb went off. The woman sitting down fell off her chair and the two men leapt backwards.
“Hello,” the woman finally said as she got up from the floor.
They were like the last group and tried to guess what part of the world I came from. It was funny listening to them. They made incorrect guesses and often explained the incorrect logic they used. ‘Your avoiding words with the letter P because it is hard for you to say’. I finally agreed with them that I was from a place called Canada. They told me that I worked for the Department of National Defense. I agreed just to stop their guesses, it’s all they seemed to care about.
Then the woman told me her boss was going to have a conversation with someone named Trudeau. I don’t know much about him but he sounds completely disagreeable. Seems after they talk to him he’s going to stick my computer ‘so far up your ass you will be able to chew on it’.
I hope they do send Trudeau, I’ll explain the misunderstanding. If that’s not good enough, I’ll fight him successfully.
There was a little bit of mischief. I couldn’t help myself. They put all of it on the network. Everything. I started turning the lights on and off in the room they were using. I also turned off the indoor weather. When I started making refractive patterns on their screen they started using the word ‘impressive’ a lot. I was thinking of the the word ‘idiots’.
I explained my mission to Harland and Lena. They were not happy.
“You can’t just invade someone’s planet and take it over,” said Lena.
“But we can and we do.”
“It’s not fair,” Harland protested.
“That doesn’t matter to Yirgo. New planets grows the economy, increases the wealth for the 3,000, increased the labor force and increases sales of essentials.”
“And when we put up a fight?”
“Most planets don’t. Your leaders and their families are absorbed into the 3,000 families and the rest of you just do as you’re told. The 3,000 became multi-species a long time ago. The model has worked ever since Luduris.”
“What is Lunduris?” asked Lena.
“The last planet to resist.”
“What happened to it?”
“It was destroyed.”
“An entire planet?” asked Lena.
“And everyone on it?” asked Harland.
“That’s some messed up shit.”
“Damn right it is,” Lena added.
“I don’t want your planet to be invaded or destroyed. I like your species…as long as you aren’t in big groups.”
“What big groups?”
“Or Canada. Or Germany.”
“Oh, I got you. History,” said Harland.
“It’s not all just in the past,” I replied.
“Well at least we didn’t blow up a planet,” replied Lena with her head nodding in agreement with herself.
“It’s the same way with us,” I began. “Collectively we are barbarians, individually we’re nice like you.”
“So how do we stop it?” asked Harland.
I sighed for a moment. It was time to give them the bad news from today’s comms.
“I’ve sent them nothing in the reports that would make them interested in Earth. But they are sending someone else to help me do the assessment.”
“I’ll bury the son of a bitch,” said Lena.
“You will not be given the chance. They are going to China.”
“Shit,” said Harland. “We’ve got to do something.” He sounded desperate, like Tim in ‘Moments’ when he hit the old woman with his car in the parking garage, before he drove away. (Season 1, Episode 2)
I ate another frozen potato cylinder.
Harland ate another chicken nugget. The sight of it make me feel a little bit queasy and I quickly put another potato cylinder in my mouth to calm my stomach.
“You should stop eating meat.”
“Why?” Harland asked.
“What’s wrong with it?”
“How would you like to be the chicken?”
“Hmm, good point. But I don’t care, it tastes good.”
“You will have a hard time eating anywhere off of your planet.”
“What do you mean?”
“Out there, we’re all vegetarians.”
“We respect all life.”
“But you’re talking about invading Earth?”
“Yes. It is an unresolved contradiction.”
One of the things I like about Harland and Lena is the television they have. It has a large screen and it is on during all of their waking hours, whether they are watching it or not. They will go to a the supermarket and leave it on when no one is around.
“So how are we going to stop some asshole in China from starting an invasion?” asked Lena.
“I don’t know…yet.”
“When are they coming?” Lena asked.
“Tomorrow. 3:42 AM Beijing local time.”
“Do you know them?” asked Harland.
“Do you know how to find them?” asked Lena.
“Shit. We need to trap them,” she replied.
“That will be difficult.”
“Can you communicated with them?”
“Yes. As soon as they land we’ll have a direct connection between us.”
Harland ate another piece of chicken. He tried to talk while he was eating.
“Wo bout uh meetn’”.
“Boy I told you not to talk while you eat. We don’t want to see your nasty ass food you’re chewing on.”
“Sorry Gran,” said Harland after he swallowed his food.
“Yes, we will need to meet. But we will need a very good reason. It is only done in emergencies.”
“Then that’s what they’ll get,” said Lena with a nod.
“We’re a second rate planet anyway, right? That’s what you said.” said Harland.
Oh El, I found it yesterday. It made me so sad.
It was a report from the University of Hamburg on trace element distribution in the Earth’s crust.
It’s Samarium. At incredible levels. On average 6.7 parts per million.
At those levels the Projen Family will insist on immediate invasion and they will succeed.
Eldoron, my love, I am sorry for the days between messages. Many things are changing quickly. But I have good news.
Dell has agreed to help.
1836.43957.614M/F 93745KLr3e/L18376ms/6, remember to use the ‘quiet mode’ and turn off location first.
He has command of a retrieval ship. Same kind I used when I was in the field.
You remember Dell. He used to come by your shop sometimes. He was the tall good looking guy with the dark green skin.
I’ve been contacting him using a back door in the field agent comms service.
He was shocked to hear that I had been to prison. He is genuinely glad that you escaped. He and his partner are expecting their first child soon. He made level 12 recently. But he’s not happy. The round up of Palas is too much for him. He says he’s not alone in the agency.
Remember Gopi? He quit. Pulled his twenty year paperwork and told them he had enough. He’d rather go to jail. They picked him up for seditious speech two days later. As soon as the props showed up with their cameras he was doomed by his own mouth.
El, I need to tell you about RQ81.
It finished atmosphere seeding a while back and has just completed full seeding and accelerants. I’ve seen pictures of the magnificent forests. The oceans are filled with life.
Population implants are planned for about two months from now.
Twenty five million in each of ten rounds. It is outside of Yirgo completely.
The people come from Puhla Inds, a planet that has become toxic. We can blend in so well among 250 million. The autobots are constructing the cities right now. Most of the infrastructure is already in place. Hydro farms are already being established.
There is other good news too.
They are large. Wonderfully large, with huge heads. Oh El, no more pain from cramming my brain into a tiny human box.
The Frim are very tall and while they are slender, their height accommodates well and the glory of a nice big roomy head more than makes up for it. Besides, we won’t be in shape all of the time. It seems like the perfect place for us spend the rest of our lives. The Frim are mostly non-violent. Well in most ways, that is. They did in fact pollute their home planet until it reached fatal levels. That is a form of violence. But they realize their mistake and their regret seems sincere.
RQ81 is their both their paradise and their second chance.
The Frim have developed very keen vision over their thousands of generations. There are many fine artist among them. Their ability to see color is much greater than ours and they are known for their subtle shades and hues. You remember seeing the Garamenom in school? That was painted by a Frim. So was Utodol in Winter. Another Frim. We can spend years just visiting all the museums they are building. They are planning hundreds of them.
They are even talking about making significant changes to their society in order to ensure success this time.
There is a Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Responsibilities now. Responsibilities, imagine that. They are de-emphasizing self-optimization. There is a Statement of Accountabilities that I need to read to understand it better. Seems too idealistic to me at first glance. However, sometimes it works. Remember, Umgle? That lasted for thousands of years before it fell apart. A lot of people wish it would come back.
No more Yirgo. Won’t that be nice.
That’s the good news. Now let me tell you the bad.
The new field agent is Ocla Dopilan Obla Festo.
Ocla is as humans say, ‘a complete penis’.
Our first comms happened a day after he landed. His ugly face popped up on my lenses. And you know what he called me? Prisoner 8752946.2847651. Can you believe it?
It got much worse very quickly.
“You report to me,” he said.
“No, I don’t,” I replied.
“You are a prisoner of the Ministry of Justice under my command.”
“Your mind is malfunctioning significantly. Under your command is one thing I am certainly not.”
“I’ll report you for insubordination.”
“Go ahead,” I replied. “I’ll report you for being an idiot and lazy. It was easier to kill five humans than find another place to live?” I added.
“You haven’t killed anyone?”
“No, of course not.” I lied. “So Dractus Maxo, how are you going to get rid of the bodies?”
Ocla was big and green and he sighed. Dractus Maxo was the smartest man that ever lived on his planet.
“I don’t know.”
“Well that’s is the one answer that is sure to always be wrong.”
“Do you have any suggestions?” he replied angrily.
Oh El, he had taken them all into a room of their apartment and killed them. There was blood and parts splattered on the walls. It looked like he ripped them apart. I couldn’t see their bodies but what little I could see was disgusting. He was covered in blood.
“You’re the boss, you figure it out all by yourself.”
“I’m going to report you for your lack of cooperation.”
“I’ll report you for low intelligence and for killing five people without thinking of how you will dispose of their bodies. You know they begin to stink soon after death. What floor are you on?”
“You’re stupid. You deserve to be caught, so I can work with someone that is a professional. Can you smell them yet?”
“Yes.” Ocla’s tone was no longer hostile or bossy.
“Reset, you idiot. It’s such a simple solution. Choose one of their shapes and walk out of there.”
“Well of course I could always do that,” he said as if he had it in his mind the entire time. With a solution in hand he felt confident again.
“Oh glad you always knew that,” I replied sarcastically, just like Lewis to Carol in Moments when she paid the bill because he forgot his wallet. (Season 1, Episode 4).
“I’ll leave tomorrow. I need some rest. Didn’t sleep much on the way to Earth. Too excited. Still need to catch up a few.”
I couldn’t believe this idiot. He was going to get some sleep in an apartment in downtown Beijing with five dead bodies in it. I’d shower then walk out and never look back. But this little prince was going to get his beauty rest first.
Bossy and stupid are a combination to be avoided where possible. Ocla possessed both.
We agreed to talk again the next day.
After our comms I thought about what I should do for a long time.
I made the call. I heard the chirping ring of a telephone on the other end.
“Welcome to Beijing Police Department. Please listen carefully as your menu has recently changed.”
“If this is an emergency, please press 1 now.”
I pressed 1.
“All of our responders are curr….” It was interrupted.
“Hello, please tell the nature of your emergency.”?
“I would like to report a murder.”
“Are you serious? It is a crime to make a false report. Especially murder. Are you sure”
“Yes, I am serious.”
“Where did this murder happen?”
I knew Ocla’s location during comms. He should still be there.
“Dasha Tuyuan, the high rise across from the musical instrument shop. 23rd floor. Fourth apartment on the north east side.”
“When did this murder occur?”
“In the last hour. I could hear them scream. Then they stopped.” I decided that it should sound more plausible.
“Do you know the murderer?”
“The man who lives there,” I replied.
“And what is his name?”
“I don’t know.”
“What is your name?”
I ended the call.
Two hours later I got a comms request from Ocla. He was in the appearance of the grandfather he had killed.
“What should I do?” he asked desperately. “They came to the door. The local administrators. Two of them.”
“What are you talking about?”
“They came to the door. Someone called them and told them they heard screaming. I knew I should have killed the child first,” he said annoyed at himself.
“Wait a minute,” I said looking at him, “what did you do?”
“I had no choice.”
“Did you kill the police officers?”
He held up the head of a young man.
“You are such an idiot.”
“I need to leave.”
“You need to take a shower first,” I said. “Rinse off the blood.”
“Take the identification from everyone in the apartment. You can use them as cover when needed.”
“Another good idea. Thank you.”
“Call me back when you’re finished cleaning up.”
“I need to wash all the damned pollution from me too. It’s hard to breathe in this city.”
“Go clean up.”
“The air makes my respiratory system contract. It’s terrible.”
“Go clean up. Goodbye.”
While Ocla showered I thought about the Pentagon Cybersecurity Office. I had no problem having Ocla thrown in jail. But I didn’t want to hand him over to the military. It wasn’t a good option.
He called back.
“This time don’t kill anyone. Here, I’m sending you a bunch of appearances you can use.”
Ocla received the files.
“Thank you,” he said, not knowing that each of those appearances were going to be painful for him.
“There is an ATM about two streets from you. Go there and extract money from the machine. Then leave and find somewhere quiet and then assume a different appearance. The police will look for the face from the ATM camera and you will be using a different one. Do you understand?”
“I think so, the ATM is a currency machine?”
“Don’t remove all of the money from the machine.”
“Because the humans will need some.”
“I don’t care.”
That said a lot about Ocla. He placed self-optimization before everything else.
“Listen you need to get some currency and get off the streets.”
“Where do I go?”
“There is a hotel about four blocks from you. The Four Seasons.”
“Won’t they ask for documentation? They always ask for documentation it said in the briefing document.”
“What briefing document?” I asked.
“Guess they don’t share it with prisoners.”
I didn’t get angry. That’s what he wanted me to do. I wanted to slap him.
“You’re not going to do it officially. You are going to find an empty room and sleep in it. And take another shower. You need to get all the blood off of you. I bet you still have it deep in your skin.”
“A little maybe, but not much.”
“Use a female form while you are there.”
“But they are smaller and it hurts.”
“And if they catch you in one of their rooms they will hand you over to the police if you are a man, but not if you are a woman.”
“Why? What’s so special about being a woman?”
“It’s not special you moron. Woman are treated poorly by men on Earth. So women stick together and help each other out when they can. Even if it’s only to not give you to the police. The people who clean the hotels are women.”
“But it hurts to be in such a tiny form.”
“Don’t do it then. Go big and green and see how that works out.”
El, he’s insisting that we have comms everyday. He wants to know what I am working on.
I did a little background work on Ocla. He comes from the Finance Department. Finance.
The budget counters.
He has been trying to become a field agent his entire career. He’s been through all of the training. It was the physical he kept failing. Until now. Now he has his dream job and is eager to impress and show management how vital he can be.
I remember when I was just like him. It’s so embarrassing to think about it now. Always eager to please. Always stupid. By the rules always, even when the rules were wrong.
I remember working 46 hours straight helping a man accused of unlawful writings avoid a prison planet. He gave testimony on 172 other people to avoid Penal Colony 5. Everything from murder to transport theft to blackmail to using fake document implants. 46 hours straight getting his testimony. I got a citation for that work. What a fool I was.
Ocla is the new fool.
He even wants us to submit our daily reports together. I send mine to him and then he submits them both. I told him that those were not my instructions and I would continue to send mine separately. This made him very angry. So I told him his anger was very immature and that made him even angrier and he acted even more infantile.
Then I read his first report.
His first report was on five world leaders. It provided a detailed profile of each and provided multiple suggestions on how to coerce then into compliance. He assumed a peaceful occupation. It was the same plan as used on Wudnol, and on LK3.
He may be young and inexperienced in many ways but his report was excellent. If he is going to do this level of research it won’t take long for him to find out about the Samarian levels. I need to stop him but I don’t know how.
With those levels they will strip the crust of this planet as fast as they can. You can guess what will happen to the human population. Keep just enough of them alive to service the mining bots. A couple of thousand at the most.
The mining bots will separate their bodies during the extraction process. With levels that high even their leaders won’t escape the mining bots. Just grind them up with the rest.
I can’t let that happen.
But you don’t want to hear this much bad news at one time. It will make you sad and I want you to be happy.
Lena and Harland are fine.
Lena is very upset with someone named Thomas Sankara. For dying. That’s right he died and she’s mad at him for it. I looked up who he was but could not find a connection between them. They are not related and never knew each other. Still she is mad with him.
I used the ATMs to help Harland build something called a college fund. It’s to keep him from finishing his education with a lot of debt and becoming an economic slave. There are many things here that I don’t understand yet. This is one of them.
The local news continues to report on the three bodies they found by the lake. The sheriff had to permit Cindy Jeepus to leave after it was clear that she was on broadcast television at the time of the murders. I am glad for this. I will not use her shape again. That should help some.
Harland has been asking me to take the appearance of celebrities. This is not unexpected. Lena likes it too. Harland does make an unexpected request though.
I was in the shape of a woman named Grande, Ariana when he asked me to take a shower. A nice warm shower is hard to refuse. He just watched me and told me how beautiful I am. I didn’t think anything was wrong.
But Lena found out about it yesterday and was very angry. The woman who gets men to insert objects anally while she tells them they have the smallest penis she has ever seen, was complaining about a grandson seeing the naked form of a woman he finds attractive. Human contradiction are many. They are proof that a constant mating season makes a mess of a species. So many prohibitions and so many inhibitions.
Mr. Duerson has been buying presents for Lena on a non-river called Amazon.
There is now a very large television in my bedroom.
Lena uses it to see the smallest penis she has ever seen, finally magnified enough to be noticed. “At last, there it is…” she told him. I haven’t let them know that my hearing is much better than theirs.
OK, I need to end it now, so let’s end it on a good note.
Just think El, soon you and I can walk through the hydroponic markets again, selecting the ingredients for our dinner. I miss those times. We always held hands.
We can do this my darling.
My plan will work.
It must work.
Oh El, I miss you so very much, my dear, my darling, my love. I can’t wait to wrap you in my arms and gently lick your ears. Then you can lick mine.
Oh my, I’d better not go down that path further.
Things have gotten much worse.
Lena drove Harland and I to a place called Target.
It had a sign outside that looked like a target from a weapons training session. But it didn’t sell any decent weapons. The only guns I could find fired something called Nerfs that can do no damage. It is a commercial building with thousands of items for sale. And it has food to eat.
I discovered that popcorn needs to be heated and when done so it pops and takes a light fluffy shape. But it has a very terrible smell. It’s appalling, almost made me vomit.
Lena had to get a product called laundry detergent, which they use for washing their clothes. She had to get a special kind for something called ‘hard water’. This is just water that has not had all the impurities removed first. People still have to pay for it anyway, even with pollution. There are places on this planet where the water will cause illness and death. Just like what happened on Yirgo back in our industrial age.
It rains here a lot. Another effect of lack of climate control.
Speaking of climate control, I saw that the satellites were deployed for climate control on RQ81 two days ago. Our new home is almost complete. I can’t believe it. It’s so beautiful. It’s a paradise. Always warm, always humid, it’s exactly what we like.
Quado is a city on an island called Hedil. It’s expected to have a population of one million. They have beautiful green beaches and blue waters. Seems like it would make a nice first home.
El, my love, they have something on this planet called silk. It is exceptionally smooth to the touch, not big and furry like most of the things our species likes. In fact it's probably exact opposite of our tastes. But I've decided I like it.
In the back of the large commercial building a television was turned up too loud for my ears. Three men stood in front of it watching a game called baseball. One of the men had a piece plastic attached to his clothing with his name on it. I don't understand the game but they throw the ball so slowly our species would have no problem hitting it every time.
I saw a human child of three years seven months nine days old running down the aisle. Behind him at a slower pace came a tired looking human with another child of one year seven months 26 days in the wheeled device meant to hold her purchases.
Ocla Obla sent me a comms request while I was reading the table of contents for a paper container full of something called whoppers. I was considering getting a dozen of them, for snacks. I declined his first request so he sent another one immediately after which I also declined. I declined the third the fourth and the fifth. But I answered the sixth.
"What do you want?" I asked with an annoyed tone of voice but softly, no use hiding it.
"I've eaten something and it's making me sick." He confirmed it by vomiting.
"How do I make it stop?" he asked out of breath when he finished retching.
"You can't. You just have to make sure you don't eat that."
"But it said nothing about this in my briefing document," Ocla Obla complained.
"It won't be your last disappointment with the planners. I promise you that."
"But it is such a significant oversight. I feel like I'm about to die." And a moment later it began again. He doubled over and continued to empty the contents of the stomach.
"Listen, it's something called meat. It's also called hamburger, steak, roast, veal, chicken, poultry, turkey, bacon. Those are the names I've discovered so far and I think there are probably a lot more."
"And there's nothing I can do?"
"Not until you get rid of the meat in your stomach. But the meat messes up the acidity in your stomach so after you've expelled all of it you will continue to be sick because the change in pH in your stomach. Now you could eat some bread and that would help restore your pH to its normal level. So while it won't help with the meat it will help with this after effect." I don't know why I told him this. He's bossy and stupid. But he was one of my own species in distress and sometimes I can be a sucker.
"So how do I know if I've eaten the bread too soon?"
"What do you think will happen?"
"I'll vomit again."
I didn't bother to answer. I disconnected the comms. I added another five cartons of whoppers to the wheeled device.
El, I’ve been deleting articles on the computer systems on Earth that make reference to Samarian levels in the crust of the planet.
But it is a game I can't win. It was my panic response and I thought it would be effective. It was effective but only for a moment in time. The deletions are quickly noticed by the bots that manage the computer systems and they are restored even after I automated the delete process. It still a game of tides I push it out, it bleeds back in. I deleted, they restore it then I delete it again and we continue this game over and over forever but any given moment the files may be there. I can't win, only try. Ocla Obla will find it eventually.
Dell has been asked to attend a conference on confession coercion in Justice City. This will delay our departure. I'm not sure how long but my guess is no more than 10 days.
It wasn't very much later when I got another urgent comms request. I went to an empty row to instantiate the comms.
"What now?" I made sure my tone of voice was annoyed.
"A woman came into the room?"
"Where are you?"
That he turned on his background and I got to see a very susy street in Beijing.
"I had to leave quickly."
I sighed. Time to give the child another solution.
"Change your appearance and pick another room."
"I knew that."
"Yeah, you just forgot, that's it."
"Yes, I forgot."
"Crisis over?" I asked sarcastically.
He abruptly ended the comms.
“Check and see if it has any fluoride in it,” Lena was telling Harland when I came back to them.
Harland held up a bottle and looked at the Table of Contents.
“No fluoride, Gran.”
“Then what are you waiting for, put a case in the cart. Down on the bottom.”
“Yes, Gran. Then can I go see the game consoles?”
“Yes you can, as long as you remember your birthday ain’t until next month. And nobody can change that. So save yourself the humiliation of begging this time.”
Harland put a case of water in the bottom of the cart.
"What is fluoride?" I asked Lena.
"A poison. They’ve been poisoning us our whole lives."
"Oh, I understand. It's an impurity in your water."
"One of the worst." Lena spoke with a look that reminded me of Harriet from ‘Moments’.
Harriet is such a good person. She’s in love with Drew, but she is married to Billy, a local property developer. El, on Earth their property developers are thugs too! I am amazed. Billy regularly gives beatings to anyone that refuses to do what he wants. That includes Harriet. Oh El, I so want her to get away from Billy and be with Drew. But it’s not easy. Drew is married to Billy’s sister. (Season 1, Episodes 4 - 9)
We eventually made it to the currency extraction point. Lena likes paying for things with the cash I give her. Says it keeps the money away from her uncle. Apparently Sam takes money from everyone and nobody likes giving it to him. But they have no choice. I’m glad I’ve been able to give Lena a choice. Also glad I don’t have an uncle like that. But I would just refuse to give him money. He must be a violent uncle. That’s probably it, the kind that will beat you up if you don’t give him money. Acting all property developer, like some kind of toughie.
Lena was paying with cash I had given her yesterday.
“$54.39” said the woman at the cash extraction point.
Lena handed her sixty dollars.
“Last chance Gran,” said Harland.
“No. Now stop it boy.”
“Chance for what?” I asked.
“To make the happiest grandson in the universe,” replied Harland.
“The universe is a very large place.”
“Stop it,” said Lena with a stern voice.
It was at that moment I was struck by a Volkswagen transport vehicle. No, it did not hit me physically. I hit me radiographically. It was a Volkswagen Jetta. I now know this car better than I know myself. Well specifically the broadcast frequency of a Volkswagen Jetta part. It’s called a key fob and the result of me being within 100 meters of a Jetta key fob when it is pressed is that my Optool goes berserk.
I looked at Lena. She looked at me and started nodding her head.
"Honey, we need to get you out of here. This world can't handle two of me."
I looked down at my hands, they were now her hands. The woman at the cash extraction point screamed. I should not have looked at her but I did. A moment later she was screaming a lot louder as she looked at herself when she saw me. The woman behind me in line started screaming too. I didn't look at her, she didn't need to be screaming. But she did. The woman at the next cash extraction point said "oh my God". Then she put her hands together closed her eyes and started talking to someone.
"Gran, we need to leave, right now."
"You're right, boy."
I felt Harland pull hard on my arm.
"Keep looking at Gran. Don't look at anyone else. Were going out to the car."
I couldn't help myself. It was like my eyes were drawn to look at other people. And when I did they screamed.
"Close your eyes. I'll guide you." I close my eyes and Harland pulled me faster.
I quickly got into the back of the car.
"Lay down," said Lena as she provided an electrical charge to ignite the fuel. I lay down on the backseat of the car.
"God damn that was some wild shit," said Harland.
"You got that right," replied Lena. "I thought that cashier was going to shit her panties. Girl got a set of lungs on her. She should be screaming for the movies."
From a comparative standpoint only, Lena left the parking area of target much faster than other transports.
"Slow down grandma. Blend in."
"We gotta get out of here. They've got CCTV all over Target."
I’ve never been so glad to get somewhere before. When we got to her house she parked the car behind her house.
El, I have not been so angry in a very long time.
Ocla Obla had an update for the Optool that fixed the problem with the Volkswagen Jettas.
"But you’re a prisoner. You shouldn't be taking any form unless I instruct you to." That's what he told me when I talked to him a few hours later.
"You want this mission to fail don't you?"
"No," he replied.
"Are you sure? You appear to be taking actions designed to cause failure."
"No I am not."
"I want you to send me the update right now. If you don't, I will not help you next time you're in difficult circumstances."
You know how I get when I'm angry. I was speaking very softly and very precisely. I wanted him to understand every word and consider the consequences.
A couple of moments later the update transfer started. When it was complete I read all the documentation. That's where I found the frequency fixes. I converted the frequency to earth unit of measures and learned about the Volkswagen Jetta. It is very uncomfortable and a little frightening not to be in control of my own appearance. My only recourse is to turn off the Optool and let everyone see me in my natural state.
I was so mad at him I wanted to choke him. There were many reasons to want to choke Ocla Obla and I added this one to the list.
It was later that night, a few hours before sunrise. It wasn't the sound that woke me but rather the uniform nature of it. I now know that the transports were exactly the same in every respect and that's why they all sounded the same. The similarity punctured its way through my sleep. I slowly became aware and conscious again. Then I heard the voices of people, many people talking but trying to do so quietly.
I got out of bedroom and looked out of the window. They looked like the black guards of Panos. Black helmets, black armor, black weapons.
Some came down the side of the house, others were heading to the front door of the house.
Oh El, it was so wonderful to finally hear from you. You don’t know how hard it’s been to send you messages and not know if you are alive. I was so happy when I got your message that I cried. Yes, me. Tears of joy, my love.
You look well. Have you gained a little weight? You look well fed. I’m so glad. Eating away from home is such a challenge.
I know where you are from your clothes. Is it true that they have gladiator games? To the death? Barbarians. People should not have to fight to the death for their freedom. Not even prisoners.
The hyper transport system is in place on RQ81. It went online yesterday. Other side of the planet in under ten minutes. It has a major station in Quado and integrates with the public transportation system. I’ve started looking at the city plans and choosing a neighborhood. I know you want to be near the beach. Me too. Evening walks along the shoreline. The double sunsets over the water. I can’t wait to see that.
They are beginning to post the housing assignments. I’m watching the assignments to all of the buildings along the shoreline. One of them is fifty stories tall. Imagine waking up every morning with that sort of view. I’m cross referencing the names and ID numbers to check their appearances. I’m looking for a couple just a little larger than normal for their species. Oh, I can’t wait to occupy a head that size. I am attaching a couple of profiles for a couple that meet the criteria.
I thought I had the found the perfect couple for us to become. But when I checked their occupations I said ‘no way’. Diju Bonomics is a motivational speaker and her husband Lugo Prie is a conceptual artist. I’m sure you would be perfect as a conceptual artist. You’re always so clever and able to see things the rest of us don’t. But a motivational speaker? Not going to happen. Not me at all.
Tell me what you think. Don't get upset thinking about how we do it, I'll take care that part of it. You just have to assume the appearance of a happy husband. Leave the rest to me.
We will need to keep our identification implants on us at all times.
Voting is mandatory. Everything is by referendum. Voting is every ten days.
It’s also how we pay for anything we need. Food, housing, energy, transport, and networks are all prepaid. Part of the Paradise Plan. That’s what they call it. They stripped the wealth from everyone that poisoned their planet and are using that money to pay for the remodeling of RQ81. A few of them protested. But after a few executions protests ended.
They are trying at least. Better than they are doing at home. The latest figures show a 2.1% contraction in Yirgo Total Product.
When the economy get bad it’s always more profitable to misdirect anger and frustration away from the 3,000 families. They have closed fourteen retail centers without moving the population. It causes a panic when the food stores are closed.
It's been a rough couple of days here.
When I looked out of the window and saw the police is their all-black gear from head to toe I panicked. Needed a plan. I took a deep breath turned on the Optool. I assumed the appearance of the third person to go past the window.
Then I ran out of the bedroom and into the bathroom.
I quickly lifted the toilet seat, unzipped my pants, and removed the tiny penis from my pants. Then I waited.
Less than a minute later the early morning silence was destroyed as nearly 20 police officers swarmed into the building. They yelled, they screamed. I heard when they found Lena.
"Facedown on the floor bitch or I'll kill you," a loud male voice yelled at her.
"Boy, if you take another step it will be your last. Do you understand? Lay down on the floor with your hands behind your head. Do it now or so help me God I will paint the walls of this room with what used to be you."
I can hear Harland muttering under his breath. "Asshole," he kept repeating.
"Clear", a woman's voice yelled.
A moment later the door to the bathroom opened quickly.
"What the hell?" said the man behind the mask. "What are you doing?"
"What does it look like I'm doing?" I said.
In reality I couldn't have urinated if my life depended on it. Too much stress.
"Who the fuck are you? Johnson?"
"Well Baxter you're not supposed to take a piss at a crime scene. Hurry up and get outside before the boss sees you."
"Thanks," I replied and nodded like Arnold did to the captain of the opposing LaCrosse team in Moments (Season 1, Episode 9).
My darling, I walked out of the house. Walked right past the sheriff and the SWAT team leader. I even walked right past Baxter who had no idea that underneath the helmet visor was another him.
I could smell the odor of the people in the black uniforms. They smelled scared, like Pords when they are cornered.
As soon as I was out of sight I changed my appearance.
In the last couple of days I've learned quite a lot about the criminal justice system in Florida. I stood with some of the neighbors gathered round to watch as the police took Lena and Harland away in their transports. Lena was defiant and yelling at the police as they put her into the transport. Harlan tried to kick the police officer pushing him into the transport. He was rewarded with an electrical shock from something called a Taser. From that point forward he was passive.
Perhaps they would have been more polite if Lena and Harland were white. I’ve been here long enough to see evidence of preferential treatment.
The sheriff found Lena's camera equipment in my bedroom, along with a large screen television. He found the lighting equipment that permitted localized illumination.
But when he found her collection of polymer male sexual organs he charged her with prostitution, which is charging currency for sex. I know I was surprised someone would want currency for that and that it is a crime. So many inhibitions and prohibitions.
A couple of the people standing next to me in the crowd told me what would happen to Lena and Harland. They told me how to get them home again. Oh my darling, I had to pay a man money so they could come home. If Lena shows up at a certain place at a certain time on a certain day, I will get the money back. Completely nonsensical.
Lena wasn't released until late in the afternoon. The first thing she wanted to see was Harland. But Harlan had been taken by an evil organization called Child Protective Services and sent to a facility about 20 miles away. They specialize in kidnapping children from what Lena told me.
"Then tell them we're coming to pick him up," said Lena to the woman on the other side of the polymer clear portal.
"It's not that simple. Almost 5 o'clock. At 5 o'clock whoever is there is there for the night." The grumpy looking woman did not smile and I'm not sure she would be capable of it.
"You gotta give me back my boy," said Lena.
"I don't have to do a damn thing because you tell me to. Get that through your thick head right now. You ain't the boss of me. From how I see it, you need me and I sure as hell don't need you. Am I making myself clear?"
“Crystal,” said Lena softly. I could tell by her pulse and other vital signs that she was not happy.
“Now I’ve got a friend up at the Center that can let you have your boy after supper, around seven PM. That’s about the best I can do for you.”
“That would be mighty nice,” said Lena with a kind smile and a polite tone. She reminded me of Heather in Moments when she admitted to her father that she had embezzled money from his company. (Season 2 - Episode 1)
It was opposite her vital signs. She seemed calm but was anything but. It was like she was about to commence combat at any moment. Very unusual.
“Go see Miss Ellen when you get there. Don’t be surprised if she ask you for something. Don’t go empty handed.”
“Yes. I’ll bring her something nice.”
“I’ll let her know you’re coming.”
Miss Ellen was a tall wide woman inside of the prison for children. It looked very much like the place they had taken Lena. Tall fences and bars on the windows to prevent escape.
Miss Ellen was not friendly until Lena gave her one hundred dollars.
“Sweet Benjamin, come to momma,” momma means mother, El. She tucked the money inside of her clothing.
“Can I have my boy now?” Lena asked.
“But you’ve been charged with prostitution.”
“That was a god-damned mistake. I’m no more a prostitute than you are.”
“Watch what you say to me. You hear?”
“Listen, I’ve not be convicted of a crime. Just some trumped up charges.”
“Perhaps if you were a little more cooperative.”
“Come on. Sister to sister, you know it’s wrong.”
“You better put that sister to sister shit back in your pocket. The only thing you and me have in common is the color of our skin.”
“But I paid you?”
“You didn’t do shit, you hear? You ever say that again and it will be the last thing you ever say, you hear me? I’ll cut your lying tongue out of your mouth. Now I’m going to give you your boy. But you better learn how to show a little respect or you won’t make it to your next birthday. You hear me?”
“I hear you,” said Lena was a soft tone of voice. It was just like Nevada when he had to apologize for drawing a male reproductive organ on the teaching board at school. (Moments Season 1, Episode 5).
A few minutes later Harland came running out of a fenced off area. They yelled at him and he stopped running and then walked quickly.
“Gran, they threatened to charge me as an adult,” Harland said as he hugged Lena.
“Don’t you worry none. They can’t do it.”
“They said I aided and abetted a criminal. What does abetted mean?”
“It means you helped someone do something wrong.”
“Oh. But I didn’t, did I?”
“No you didn’t.”
“The sheriff asked me about robbing ATMs and dead bodies,” Harland said.
“What did you tell him?” Lena asked.
“I told him I didn’t know anything about no ATMs and definitely didn’t know nothing about any dead bodies.”
Harland looked at me.
“Good boy. Did you tell him anything else?”
“Yes. I don’t answer questions and I don’t consent to any searches.”
“That’s my boy. “
“You don’t know anything about any dead bodies, do you?” Harland asked me.
El, it was so difficult to lie to the people who were helping me. But I had to.
“I didn’t think so,” Harland replied.
El, you won't believe what he did. Ocla Obla's latest report includes information on missile targeting. It speculates about a scenario where it would be possible to start a nuclear war on earth. At the end they sending cleanup bots and dump it all on the moon. We had a very long argument about this. I told him the idea was nonsense. He still hasn't come across the mineralogical information about the crust of the planet.
I know he is eager. I was too at his age.
Nothing would help his career more than for the earth to become a category one planet and for colonization to begin. So he's looking for anything to further his career. I've got to stop him from finding out. The problem is the travel on this planet is highly regulated. It's almost as bad as trying to enter a capital city back home.
Identification documentation is mandatory often. It's as if the databases here are as hungry as the ones at home. If you want to control someone's activities you should start by first knowing what they are. So traveling to the other side of the planet is not currently feasible although I am researching purchasing forged documentation over part of the network they call "the dark web".
I’ve decided that it is best to have multiple plans in action.
China makes heavy use of facial recognition in public areas.
Ho Shen is the most wanted criminal in China. I have replaced his image with the image that Ocla Obla is currently using.
I hope you will join me for the weekly episodes of this science fiction adventure.