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  Index > Observer





David E. Rutan

Copyright © 1999 David E. Rutan

Chapter: [1][2][3][4][5]



A novel of approximately 72,500 words






Observer Spaselopedus Barinium heard voices. In his semiconscious state he couldn't discern the words, but the laughter was sinister. He thought there were two of them. As he turned his head to look, a moan escaped his lips and something hit the back of his neck.

As cold metal scraped his side, Spaselopedus opened his eyes to see he was being hefted out of the hatchway of a spaceship. "Hey!" he cried, squirming to free himself from the strong grip. "let go!"

A hard fist hit his jaw and the painful impact sent his head spinning. He shook it off in time to see the upper edge of the spacecraft's door and black starry sky beyond.

Spaselopedus grabbed out and took hold of rough cloth. "Hey!" yelled an uncultured masculine voice. He kept his grip on the cloth as cool air rushed passed them.

He hit the ground and lay there. Pain writhed through his entire body as he stirred to rise. Warm liquid ran down his face. As he licked his lips he tasted his own blood.

A dark figure rose before him. "Think you're smart eh?" a gruff voice sneered. Spaselopedus couldn't see the man's face. It would be important if he were to get justice for this rude interruption in his life.

Looking up, Spaselopedus saw a Koplushian planet hopper, glowing green within its protective forcefield. It hovered a man's height above the ground near them. A head and shoulders leaned out of the hatch. The lit interior of the craft put it in silhouette.

"I'm coming to get'cha," said the one in the ship.

Spaselopedus sprang to his feet, but his head began swimming. He attempted to grab the dark form before him. The figure grabbed him, threw him back down and laughed. He heard the words "Stupid Observer," and jerked from the impact of a kick in the ribs.

When his eyes opened he saw a human form climb into the craft and the hatch close. Then it suddenly shot straight up and disappeared.

"What happened to me?," he moaned to himself. What have I done to deserve such mistreatment? He tried to stand up, but the pain shoved him back down. He faded into unconsciousness.



Morning sunlight in his eyes forced Spaselopedus to roll onto his stomach. As he struggled to get to his feet his legs folded under him. Every part of his body agonized as he slowly managed to stand and begin walking--but to where?

No part of the landscape was familiar. This grassy meadow was nothing like the forested hills of his home planet, Koplushia. The light wasn't right--it was yellower somehow . Even the air smelled--different, sweeter.

He heard a strange whirring sound behind him. When he turned he saw a wide, boxy groundcar moving across the field some distance away. The vehicle was trailed by a large cloud of dust as it traveled across his field of vision.

He tried to draw attention by waving his arms, but the action merely renewed the pain in his body. He put a hand to his side and carefully lifted his shirt. A large bruise covered his side. This wasn't a prank by one of his 'friends' in the Observer's dormitory. It was serious.

He shivered uncontrollably in the warm sunlight. I hope this is a human-inhabited world, he thought. I need a med-tech. Spaselopedus painfully started off in the direction the vehicle went, hoping to find it. His blue cape, held snug around him, caught on every prickly weed growing in the meadow.

Soon he found the dirt path the groundcar had traveled. His body, however, would go no further without rest. He slowly made his way to the ground and lay down again.



After a couple of hours of rest, Spaselopedus forced himself up and continued down the dirt road, hoping to find some sign of civilization. The sky was darkening and Spaselopedus was about to give up hope of finding help before nightfall. He continued on for a short while and spied a structure peeking above a hill. As he watched, a small square of light appeared in the side of the building. Hopefully the being inside could help him.

He slowly approached the structure. The building was made of two slanted sides which met at a peak. On the end that he could see, there were three windows and a door.

Though he held his cape tightly around him, he felt extremely cold. His teeth chattered uncontrollably, his eyes felt heavy and a ringing was growing more evident in his ears. He barely managed to pound several times on the door before slumping down into unconsciousness again.


* * *


Barbara Henning heard the pounding on her front door. Who is that at this time of night? she thought. Her daughter, Linda certainly wouldn't knock. As she got up from her computer, she toppled a stack of gardening magazines on the floor. "Damn!" she said, but continued out of the study and went to the door.

When Barbara opened it a man slumped onto the floor of her entryway. "Oh Dear!" she said. Barbara stuck her head outside to see if anyone else was about. There were no vehicles or people in sight. The only sounds were crickets and a lone owl.

Barbara went into action. Her fingers found a strong pulse on his neck. Good, he's alive, she thought. Barbara carefully dragged the unconscious man into her parlor and laid him on the floor. She placed pillows under his head and legs.

None of his bones were broken, but he was badly bruised and had a large lump on his head. Barbara concluded he had a concussion and put her old quilt over him to keep him warm.

Stragglers occasionally arrived on her doorstep seeking shelter. They usually earned their keep with chores and eventually left. However, she never had one arrive in such a state.

She guessed the man to be in his early thirties; it was hard to tell from his badly bruised face. He was of medium height and build, with short brown hair and a weak chin. His clothing was like nothing she'd seen before; perhaps it was the younger generation's latest style.

He wore black leather boots which came up to his knees. His gray pants started just below the knee and ballooned out at the thigh. The silver shirt he wore was collarless and over this he wore a long, gray, duster-type coat. The dark blue cape around him was filled with burdock and hitchhiker weeds from the meadow. The strangest thing she noticed was the material. It was lightweight and silky to the touch, but had no seams, as if it were molded into shape like clay.

The man moaned, and Barbara turned to see him open his brown eyes. He whispered, "Elar" and was immediately overtaken by a coughing fit. The man grasped his throat. "Elar," he repeated, breathlessly.

The problem was obvious to Barbara. "Wait a moment and I'll get you some water," she said, heading for the kitchen.


* * *


A voice roused Spaselopedus awake long enough to catch sight of his benefactor. She was a slight, gray-haired woman with a kindly face. He was lying on the floor in a sparsely furnished room, presumably in the shelter he had seen.

Despite the pounding in his head, he took in his surroundings. The room was rectangular with walls colored light blue. There were vid-graphs hung on the walls as well as shelves of printed books. The furniture consisted of several chairs and a couch.

His throat ached with thirst. Spaselopedus put his hand to his throat and croaked, "Water."

The woman said something unintelligible and left. She returned a minute later with a glass of clear liquid--hopefully water. She gently held his head up, assisting him in drinking, and babbled in some unknown language. Spaselopedus' ears began ringing again and he blacked out.



Sometime later a coughing fit woke him. He propped himself up on one arm in an attempt to stop it and saw a glass of water beside him. He sipped from the glass and the fit subsided.

There were pillows under his head and feet and he was covered by an old blanket made of stitched-together, patterned cloth. The crust of blood had been washed from his face. He felt something cold on his head. Bright sunlight from a window shone in his eyes as he turned his head to find out what it was, but another coughing fit interrupted his investigation.

The woman entered the room looking concerned. She pulled cloth panels shut over the window and spoke something in her language. His head began to spin again and he slumped back down onto the pillow.

The woman came closer to him and placed her hand deliberately on her chest. "Bar-bar-uh, I am Bar-bar-uh," she said. Spaselopedus didn't understand her.

He recalled the emergency procedure from his Observer's training. It detailed how to learn an aboriginal's language without hypno-learning. Aha, he thought, she's trying to break our communication barrier. Excellent!

"Do you understand me?" he said in his native language, Kopanset. The woman looked bewildered. Then he repeated the same question in Galacticom, the interspecies language of the Alliance. He received the same bewildered look.

The woman put her hand to her chest again and said, "Barbara, I am Bar-bar-a." He pointed to her and repeated through his swollen lips, "Barbra, Ah, em Barbra."

Barbara smiled and repeated, "Barbara." Then she pointed to him. Carefully, he pronounced his name to her, "Spai-sel-op-ed-us

She was taken aback, then smiled. She repeated it back to him, "Spencer Oedipus."

Spaselopedus licked his tender, swollen lips and repeated his name and Barbara pronounced it back the same incorrect way. It was obvious these people were incapable of pronouncing his name. Well at least it sounds similar, he thought.

She began speaking and using body language. It was evident she wanted him to get up. He rolled over slowly and pushed himself up to all fours. Pain shot through his body. It was tolerable, but he wanted to rest until it lessened.

Barbara came over to him and helped him up. She supported his weight as she took him into a room with a cot. She helped him lie down, putting her hand to the back of his head.

The bump smarted and made him yelp. She left the room. A minute later she returned with a bundle under her arm and a small lumpy bag which she placed on the bump on his head. He felt the cold immediately begin deadening the pain.

From the bundle, she brought out a faded, green pullover shirt and a pair of baggy gray pants. She held them up to show him what they were. Spaselopedus gave a protracted nod, hoping the meaning was understood. Barbara put the clothes on a small table on the side of the bed and began to remove his shirt. Spaselopedus allowed this until she grasped his pants fastener.

"Wait!" he cried suddenly, and grabbed her hand away. "I can do that myself." There was no way she was going down there.

She looked at him, a kindly smile filled her wrinkled face. She pulled back, handed him the clothes from the table and left.

Despite his aching body, he managed to remove his clothes and get into the fresh ones. The cloth was fairly smooth to the touch and elastic, but nothing like the shining Koplushian fabric, now ruined by his recent exertions.

He finished dressing and carefully sat up on the cot. He looked through the window. He saw trees and other odd structures outside. A few minutes later he heard a rap on the door. It opened slowly and Barbara entered, carrying a tray containing a bowl of steaming liquid, a glass of water and two white pills.

She said something in her language to him, but Spaselopedus only recognized the word 'Spencer'. She placed the tray on the side table, picked up the pills and pretended to put them in her mouth.

Then she offered them to him along with the water. Spaselopedus took the water and pills and looked them over. A sniff revealed nothing of their nature, though he presumed they were medicine for his pain.

Barbara said something in a soothing voice. Whatever the language, it reassured him. He popped the pills into his mouth and washed them down with the water.

She picked up his clothes and left the room. Spaselopedus laid on the cot. His body ached all over and he felt miserable. His head throbbed and the cold bag on his head wasn't helping. Hopefully the medicine would begin taking effect soon.

Again he asked himself, Where am I and how did I get here? He was a model Observer, moving through the ranks and living a successful life. It didn't make any sense.

Why had he, an Observer for the Koplushian Council, been attacked and put here? He was determined to discover these things and get back to his comfortable life.

From what he had seen he was on a backward colony world. The technology was low and the language strange. The woman, Barbara, understood neither his native Kopanset nor even Galacticom. She lived on the surface of the planet unprotected from the weather. This would indeed have to be a backwater of the Alliance.

The food she left him didn't appeal to his stomach. It included a bowl of hot yellow liquid and two, flat, light-weight squares cut diagonally. He sipped a bit of the liquid from the bowl.

It reminded him of the sickle-snake soup he had tasted while living with his grandfather. He knew keeping liquids in his system was important, so he drained the bowl. The squares were dry and crunchy and didn't appeal to him. They were left on the plate. He wasn't very hungry anyway.

As soon as he could communicate with her he would tell her he was Observer Spaselopedus Barinium of Koplushia. She would then tell him how to contact the Alliance of Sentient Beings and he would be on his way home.






Barbara Henning finished feeding her chickens and ducks and was now occupied milking one of her goats. Her thoughts remained on her mysterious visitor. Where was he from? Why had he been wearing such odd clothing?

It felt good to put her old nursing skills to use. It was a long time since she'd needed them. Why had he been beaten? There was so much violence in the world now, not like when she and Eddie were young. Sure the world always was full of problems, but since the World Union fell apart things everywhere were declining.

Homeless numbers were up; roving bands of them were being reported in the Midwest. Thoughts like this reminded her that she had no close neighbors and town was twenty miles away.

Barbara climbed into her solar-electric Hummer and drove to the woodlot. The wood she cut and split last fall was nearly gone. She'd have to put in another supply before winter arrived, but for cooking purposes there was more than enough.

After loading the back of the truck, she drove back to the house and unloaded the wood, stacking it neatly by the kitchen door of her 'A'-frame house. Barbara paused at the door and looked out towards her garden and the small orchard. If only Ed were here to see how I've carried on, she thought.


* * *


Spaselopedus awoke without his headache. The bump on his head was finally going down. He had been off his feet now for three days. Barbara brought him food and checked on him regularly. The food was filling, but nothing like the cubes of processed nutrients that were the standard fare on Koplushia.

Barbara came in the doorway with a tray of toast and something she called willow bark tea.

"Good morning Spencer," she said.

Spaselopedus understood her and said, "No head hurt now." He decided to let her continue calling him Spencer. The mangling of his name somehow endeared her to him.

"That's good." She placed the tray on the small wooden table alongside the cot. "The bump has gone down," Barbara said as she felt the back of his head.

He took a piece of toast. "I heal quick," he said between bites. "Me go Koplushia soon."

"Koplushia?" she said, looking seriously at him. "You haven't said that word before. What is it?"

Spaselopedus didn't catch quite what she meant and shook his head.

Barbara tried again, simplifying. "Koplushia. What is Koplushia?"

What is Koplushia? he thought. If she doesn't know that much, this world must be totally out of circulation.

Spaselopedus organized the words he knew. "Koplushia is home. Me--I is from Koplushia."

"But, I mean is it a city or town?" said Barbara.

"Koplushia is... world ... like is... this place--here." He made a spherical gesture with his hand and pointed to the floor.

Barbara looked perplexed at this. "Are you saying it's a planet? You think you're from a different planet?"

"If planet is world, then yes. Koplushia is my planet," he said.

"Oh my," she said placing her hand on his head. "I do hope this isn't permanent."



After a week, Spaselopedus was able to get out of bed and walk about the house. It wasn't a large dwelling, and he found the room which Barbara referred to as the parlor easily. Looking around, a vague memory of lying on the floor came back to him.

Several vid-graphs set upon a shelf caught his eye. He recognized a younger version of Barbara in one, standing next to a strong looking man. Barbara was wearing an elaborate white gown, the man, a formal looking black suit. They were posed before a colorful, translucent mosaic of some sort.

Another vid-graph was of a young man in a khaki outfit which Spaselopedus deduced was a uniform. His shaved head smiled at Spaselopedus from behind a black ribbon tied around the frame.

A third picture was of a woman a little younger than himself. She too was standing beside a man, and she, like Barbara was wearing white. Strange, though, it looked like the same gown. The man beside her wore a silver suit and a cylindrical, brimmed hat. What odd costumes, he thought.

"I see you're up and around," said Barbara. She had entered the room from behind him.

"Yes," he said, turning to face her. "I feel more well."

She beamed at him. "Better--you feel better."

He noted the correction of his English. Wasn't anything regular about this language? He pointed to the vid-graphs, Barbara called them pictures. "Who are these?" he said.

The smile faded from her face. "Well, Spencer, the first is of my husband and I on our wedding day. The second is of my son, Mark and the third is my daughter, Linda and her husband.

"Why the black band?"

Barbara gave him an odd look, was it disbelief?

"It denotes his death in a war."

The word hit him hard--war. How could a civilized planet be at war with itself? Why wasn't the Alliance here to stop it. When he returned home he must do something about this.

Barbara broke into his thoughts. "Do you feel like going outside?"

He had been cooped up in this structure for longer than he liked the thought of fresh air appealed to him. He nodded.

Barbara took him outside and helped him into the groundcar. She drove on the dirt road for a ways until they came to the top of a hill. They got out and Spaselopedus looked around.

Below them was a green valley with a small river. He could see her house, a group of trees in rows and columns, and several square areas of different colored vegetation.

"Look about Spencer." She swept her arm across the scene. "This is all mine, from the river over to those hills there."

Spencer looked where she indicated. He pointed to the square green patches.

"You grow these things?" he said.

"Yes, that's right. I grow everything I can. Anything I can't grow I don't eat."

Spaselopedus thought to himself. Why would anyone have to grow their own food? Isn't the food production automated here?

"Barbara, why, um, you live like this?" he said.

"I think this is the best way to live Spencer." She smiled broadly at him, accentuating her wrinkled face. "I don't need the world or his wife giving me the 'yea' or 'nay'. It's just me doing for myself."

An isolationist, he thought. Why would anyone want to work so hard? "On Koplushia," he said, "we get all from the Council."

Barbara looked at him and frowned. "You're still hanging on that outer space story. Maybe I should take you to a doctor and have you checked out."


"Doctor... a doctor is someone who makes you well. I think you may need to see a doctor about your head."

A med-tech, he thought. Spaselopedus realized where this was heading and stopped telling Barbara about Koplushia. The last thing he needed was to end up institutionalized here.



That evening Spaselopedus sat on the couch in the parlor while Barbara played a musical instrument. She called it a violin. It was fitting that something so gracefully formed was also capable of making such delicate sounds.

While she was playing, he realized she was wearing a pair of dispex. It made sense. Since he saw no paper music, she must be reading the notes off her dispex. If he could get use of them for just a few minutes he might discover what planet this was.

His dispex had been lost when he got attacked. How he missed accessing computerized information at the flick of an eye. There was a time, he knew from history files, when people used cumbersome keyboards to access data. They later advanced to bulky heads-up displays that looked like helmets or goggles. How quaint and inefficient those times must have been.

Barbara must have noticed his inattention for she stopped playing and said, "Something wrong Spencer?"

Spaselopedus brought his attention back and said in his best English, "No. All is okay."

"That piece was a bit slow," she sighed. "This one should wake you up." Barbara began playing a lively tune on the violin. Spaselopedus remarked how different the sound was from the light electronic stuff of Koplushia. Non-electronic instruments weren't unknown, but they were most popular on the colony worlds. Perhaps this was another clue to where he was.



This is farcical, he thought. It was a week since Barbara had taken him up on the hill to show him her 'homestead'. She was pleased that he was catching onto the spoken aspect of her language, called English. Now she had begun teaching him to read it.

Spaselopedus had always been a quick study but this was ridiculous. There were no set rules to English grammar. That he could handle, but to change the spelling or pronunciations of words without rhyme or reason? Who thought of this 'I' before 'E' rule anyway? he kept wondering.

The first books Barbara showed him were simple enough. She was impressed each time he requested something more advanced. Soon he hoped he could get a hold of something to help him identify this world so he would know where he was in relation to the Alliance.



Spaselopedus was feeling well enough to eat at the table and take short walks outside. His body was healing pretty well although his face still had purple patches around the eyes and felt tender. If he could discover where he was he would truly feel better.

He rose earlier than Barbara one morning--a first. He quietly made his way to the parlor so as not to disturb her.

He spied her dispex on the small table by the rocking chair.

Spaselopedus picked them up and put them on. His vision was blurred; the display disks were obviously too thick or ill made. He searched for the activation icon. It should be in the corner. Nothing happened. Maybe these have an external activator, he thought, but found nothing.

"Spencer, what are you doing with my glasses?" came Barbara's voice from the doorway.

Spaselopedus looked in her direction but could only see a blurred image of the woman. "I'm sorry," he said, removing the dispex. "I was trying to find some information."

"How are my eye glasses going to help you do that?" she said. "Are your eyes bad?"

"Eye... glasses? " he repeated slowly. "I thought they were a computer-access appliance." Apparently this was a real backwater.

"If you want to use a computer," Barbara said, "I've got an old CD-ROM encyclopedia you can read."

Spaselopedus put the glasses back on the table and said sheepishly, "If it would be alright."

The computer she led him to was unlike anything he'd seen outside a museum display. It was an ancient keyboard model, not even fitted for voice recognition.

"I know it's not as fancy as the modern eye-mouse whiz-bangs," she explained, "but it serves my needs quite sufficiently." Barbara turned the computer on and showed him how to use the encyclopedia. Then she left him alone.

Spaselopedus spent the better part of an hour figuring out Barbara's computer and exploring the encyclopedia before discovering just the name of this planet he was on. It was awkward pressing the keys with his fingers. If he had a pair of dispex he would simply flick the first few letters of the word and the indexed entries would scroll down till he got the one he desired.

He typed his request into the computer. When the article came up on the display, he despaired. It read:

'Earth: Fifth largest planet of the solar system and the only one known to support life. It's mean distance from the sun is...'





It was now four weeks since Spaselopedus so unceremoniously arrived here. After finding the information about this planet and starsystem on Barbara's barbaric computer he had sunk into a depression. He knew of no reference points to tell him what system this was in the Alliance At night only a few of the star patterns were even vaguely familiar to him.

His hopes of getting home were nil. On top of all that, he was outside working like the lowest labor classification. Barbara had asked him to dig post holes for arbors. Actually, ask was hardly the word.

Spaselopedus had balked at being made to perform manual labor. He was a Koplushian Observer and a Barinium, an old and honored name on his world, but Barbara calmly explained to him that now he was able to work. She told him if he wanted to eat he was expected to work as well. Since Spaselopedus did not know where else to go, he resigned himself to the labor at hand.

He didn't like digging postholes. His hands were hurting and his back ached, his faded blue trousers were ill-fitting and his good boots, the only vestige of his original clothes, were getting ruined. Again he threw the digger into the hole, pulled the handles apart to close the blades and lifted the dirt out and dumped it on the ground near his feet.

Again and again he dug until he reached the right depth. There were intervals marked on the handle of the digger to measure the depth of the hole.

Before starting the next one he stopped to catch his breath. It felt good to stop. He listened to the quiet sounds around him and took in the expanse of land. It was beautiful and peaceful. He took a deep breath and stretched his back.

Spaselopedus heard the sound of strange little creatures in the trees around him. He watched them fly from branch to branch. Barbara said they were songbirds and indeed they did make music of sorts.

He was about to resume his labor when he heard a noise above him. He looked up and saw a small aircraft slowly descending.

It was silver in color and was shaped much like a peach pit. He chuckled as he remembered learning to eat the native foods here. As the craft neared, he noticed other stubby protrusions and a transparent cockpit.

"So this is a high tech society," he said to no one. Suddenly his hope of finding his home returned. The craft was descending in the clear area near the house. Spaselopedus put down the digger and made his way to the aircar hoping whoever was inside could help him get home.


* * *


Linda Ann Prescott landed the aero in the yard near her mother's house. She expertly switched off all systems and removed her helmet. As the bubble opened, she vaulted out and slid down the smooth surface to the ground.

Expecting the reproval of her mother, she quickly looked about while dusting off her daffodil-yellow jumper. Mom would have certainly come out to greet me, she thought, if she were here. Linda adjusted the collar of her pale blue blouse and headed for the house. She walked to the back door and unlocked it--wait. It wasn't locked, she thought. Something's wrong.

A search of the house revealed nothing conclusive. Everything was more or less in its proper place. She decided to try searching the homestead by air and look for 'that old truck.'

Linda glanced at the cell-phone bracelet on her wrist. If only Mom would use the phone I gave her instead of keeping it in that drawer with the battery run down. She ran her fingers through her short black hair and huffed in frustration. On her way out the door, Linda spotted a man by the aero.

If he does any damage to it, he'll pay for it, she thought. The man was about her age, medium height, with close-cropped hair. As she closed the distance she could see his beardless face had a purple area on it. He was wearing clothes she recognized as being her mother's.

"Hey you!", Linda yelled. "Get away from that!"

The man by the aero quickly turned toward her and was regarding her. "Hello," he said.

Linda wondered where he had come from. The homestead was way out of town with no roads nearby. "Who are you?" she demanded closing the last few paces. "What's your business here?"

The man was taken aback, "Well, I uh..." he stumbled.

"C'mon, what's your name?" she was almost yelling; the concern for her mother was so great.

"Spas.. I mean, Spencer, Spencer Oedipus." he answered finally.

She pursed her lips and squinted her eyes at hearing his odd name. "What are you doing here in those clothes?"

"I... I'm staying here. She loaned these to me." He pulled at the shirt.

"Oh boy," Linda murmured in anger. Her mother was still taking in strays. "Where is she now?"

"She's out in the woodlot." he pointed over the hill.

"Damn!" Linda said, starting back to the aero. She climbed up the ladder, vaulted back into her seat and took off without donning the helmet and before the bubble had closed.



Linda landed the aero near the woodlot, opened the bubble and deftly slid down the side of the craft to the ground.

Seeing her mother look up from her work, Linda jogged over to her.

Barbara stopped splitting logs long enough to say, "Dear, someday you're going to get hurt doing that."

"Oh my God!" she threw her hands into the air. "I'm 32. Stop mothering me."

Barbara smiled, bringing down the maul, "'Fraid not. I've been doing it too long."

"When are you going to quit putting up hard luck cases Mom? I saw the latest at the house."

"I hope you introduced yourself," she said tossing a split log into the truck. "He's really a nice young man."

Linda's shot her eyes skyward. "Someday one of them is going to hurt you. My God, These aren't the nineteen eighties anymore. The world's a bad place Mom."

"I can take care of myself. Thank you. I don't need my rugrats overseeing me." She began walking toward the truck filled with cordwood.

"Mom wait," Linda caught up to her mother. "You know what I'm like. I'm sorry," she said. "Guess I panicked - not seeing you at the house and then that guy--"

"His name is Spencer."

"I know. I got that much," she said. "How long has he been here?"

"If you'd stop by more often, you might know such things," said Barbara.

"God, you know that's not possible, not when I'm on Luna."

Barbara was smiling. "You could write every so often."

"Or you could charge your cell-phone, or get an e-mail address."

She shrugged. "Perhaps we're both at fault a little. I know I'm hard to get in touch with."

"It couldn't get much harder Mom. You live twenty miles from town," Linda said.

Barbara stowed the tools in the truck and opened the door. "I'm going back to the house. Are you staying for lunch?"

Linda felt that was an absurd question, "Of course. You know I always stay a few days when I come."

"Just checking, just checking," she said getting in the cab and shutting the door.

Linda watched as the quiet electric Humvee rambled across the field to the road. Mother hen, she thought as she began walking towards the aero.



"Is this your home-made cheese?" said Linda, spearing a hunk with her fork. They were eating lunch in the kitchen. The old, wooden, drop-leaf table Linda had eaten at as a child only showed a few scratches for its age.

"It wouldn't be anybody else's now would it?" said Barbara.

"Sorry, I forgot." She looked about the room as she chewed. Nothing had really changed since she left home. There were the same old pots and cast iron pans hanging on the pegboard next to the wood stove. The sink and cabinets and refrigerator were all the same too.

"You know, Mom, I think you ought to write a book about this place."

"Why so, dear?"

"I think it would interest most people--what you've done here."

Spencer put down his glass of water. "I know I'd like to know more."

Linda turned to him. "Why is that?"

Spencer paused in thought, Linda noticed a small scar on his left cheek. "I'd like to know more about why she lives this way." He turned to Barbara. "You work so hard just for everyday things."

"It's the best way to live," said Barbara.

"But why?" said Spencer, "This world can't be without conveniences if it's produced such things as that aircar out there."

"There's such as thing as too much convenience young man," Barbara's finger pointed at the table top. "After Ed and I were married we both had jobs--out there in the real world. We left in the morning and came home at night. We had everything money could buy, but we felt empty. Even after my son was born, the feeling persisted that we were missing something."

"What was it?" he said.

"Well we started a small garden to grow a few things one year. The feeling of growing it ourselves was exhilarating, so the next year we expanded the garden. After a few years we bought this place and started over again. I quit my job as a nurse and Ed did less and less at his. He telecommuted in the end."

"So you just picked up and started living this backward way?"

"It's not backwards," she said. "It's just down to earth."

"But it's so hard to do it yourself." Spencer rubbed his upper arms.

Barbara's hand slapped the table. "If I weren't working for myself, I'd be working as a wage slave like everyone else."

Linda had heard it all before. "Mom, don't start that speech again please," she said.

"I don't understand," said Spencer.

"You see," said Barbara, "most people live in a circle. They go to work, to get money, which they use to buy things, which they use up, so they have to go back to work again, 'round and 'round."

"Wouldn't it make more sense if the employer supplied its employees with what they needed?" Spencer said.

Linda became curious. "What makes you think something like that?"

He shrugged. "I've seen it done like that in some places I guess."

"The only places I know of like that," Linda said, "are the old socialist regimes."

"Or the new corporations," said Barbara. She stood up and walked to the refrigerator.

"Mom, Lunacorp isn't socialistic; it's just more efficient to do it that way up on Luna." Linda put her fork down and refilled her glass from the earthenware pitcher.

"What's Lunacorp?" said Spencer, an edge of excitement in his voice.

Linda took a sip from her glass, "It's where I work. Surely you've heard of it."

Barbara was slicing bread over by the sink. Now she loudly put the knife down and walked towards the table. "Why don't you tell him what you tell me all the time? Lunacorp is great, Lunacorp is good, Lunacorp is going to save the world." She put her hands in the air and bowed to the window with each statement.

"Mom, stop. Please," Linda said. Her mother seemed to resent technology more with each passing year.

"I'm sorry Dear, I shouldn't let things get to me so much."

"Why? What's happened?" said Linda.

"I heard on the news the other night that they just found a cure for the cancer that killed your father."

Linda reached over and took her mother's hand, "Oh, Mom..."

Barbara sniffed briefly and used her free hand to wipe a tear from her cheek. "We're not being very polite to Spencer, wallowing in our self pity like this."

"I can understand," he said looking uncomfortable. "Would you excuse me for a minute?" he rose from his chair and left the room.

Linda waited until she heard him walk the steps and close the bathroom door. She looked at his place at the table and the dirty dishes. "He could at least offer to help with the cleaning up."

"No," said Barbara, "he doesn't do things like that. It took me long enough to get him to do anything really, but once he starts he stays with it."

"Do you know where he's from?"

"No, actually he seems to live in a fantasy world of sorts. Says he's from some--planet Koplushia. I wondered if it wasn't the name of one of those club bars in the city."

Linda shrugged, "I've never heard of a club called 'Planet Koplushia'--not in Sacramento at least."

Barbara kept glancing in the direction of the parlor. "I even considered taking him in to see a doctor. You should have seen the pitiful state he was in, and that costume he wore."

"So why didn't you?"

"Well you know what a hassle it is paying in cash these days, they'd want his ID and all. I felt I could heal his wounds myself."

Linda wondered that her mother was never arrested the way she skirted around bureaucracy. "And you say he was in a costume?"

"Yes, he had a cape and a fancy shirt and--breeches."

"Show me, "said Linda. "Maybe I'll recognize something on the labels."

At that, Barbara put on a little girl smile, "I can't. I should have read the labels. When I washed his clothes they just turned to a mass of threads."

"Dry clean only," said Linda.

"I've never seen cloth do that before though."

"You do pick them Mom. Maybe we should check in with the police to see if he's a missing person."

Barbara pursed her lips momentarily, "I suppose it wouldn't hurt to check."

"I'll go outside and call them." Linda pulled the sleeve back from her cell-phone bracelet and opened the kitchen door to leave. She didn't like this mystery man.







Spaselopedus entered the kitchen and began clearing the table. His keen hearing had allowed him to hear part of the conversation between Barbara and Linda.

Barbara looked over at him from the sink. "You don't have to do that Spencer."

"I know," he said. "I just want to."

He gathered up the plates and brought them to Barbara. "You've been very kind to me these past weeks." He smiled. "You've healed my wounds, fed me, and taught me your language."

"We never did find out what you spoke before," said Barbara.

"It doesn't matter. I can speak English now." No need to confuse them more.

The kitchen door opened and Linda entered quickly, "Nope. He's not wanted by the ..." Then, seeing Spencer, she stopped.

"Let me get changed Mom and I'll unload the wood from the truck."

"Actually Linda, I was hoping you'd take Spencer into town and get him some proper work pants. He's wearing castoffs at the moment."

"Don't you want to come along?"

"I've got things to do here," said Barbara.

Spaselopedus shook his head to himself and wondered at the relationship these two women had. One was anchored and heading further into the past, while the other was determined to make the future.

He decided that his best bet to find out more about Earth was to hook up with Linda. He was therefore determined to leave with her when she returned to Lunacorp.



"Let's go," said Linda looking at Spaselopedus and striding to the back door of the house. Spaselopedus followed Linda outside to where the aero sat. He reached the aircar and put his hand to the shining metallic surface.

Nice, he thought, primitive but serviceable. The craft had two stubby wings with huge fans aimed vertically. A tail section contained another fan for horizontal movement. He remembered seeing designs like this in history books. They were used before repulser technology was developed.

Spaselopedus watched in astonishment as Linda leapt onto the stubby wing and opened the cockpit bubble. After a few futile attempts to mimic her actions, he called up to her, "I don't think I'm that acrobatic."

Linda pressed a button in the cockpit. Footholds and rails emerged on the side. "Sorry, I keep them turned off most of the time." she said as he climbed in.

He sat in the bucket seat on the right hand side. There was a control console before them. Not having studied piloting, Spaselopedus didn't understand the functions of any of it.

Linda placed a helmet with fitted goggles on her head. "Is that a heads-up display in your helmet?" he said.

Linda turned her head towards him. "Yes it is. By the way there's a helmet for you in the back if you want. Sometimes things get bumpy."

"Thanks," he said reaching behind him.

There was a loud roar as Linda started the fans. She examined the instrument panel then relaxed into the seat. "Strap yourself in," she yelled as she herself did so.

An odd unbalanced feeling came over Spaselopedus as they lifted off. He had ridden in many a hover taxi in his life, but none were as unstable as this Earthly contraption.

"How long have you been flying one of these?" he said when the noise died down.

"I've been authorized for a year now, but of course I only get to fly when I'm planetside."

"How often is that?"

Linda smiled. "This is my third time," she said and pulled up on the control yoke so the aero's nose rose sharply.

Spaselopedus grabbed a convenient handle next to him and realized Linda was laughing. She had a high pitched squeaky laugh which he hoped would soon stop.

"Not scared are you?" she said smiling.

"No. I've been in lots of aircars."

"No way," she said. "These have only been out for a few years."

"It's a quaint little machine," Spaselopedus said. He thought of all the things these people probably thought they invented first.

Linda turned her helmeted head towards him. It bothered him not being able to see her eyes through her heads-up goggles. "What do you mean 'quaint'?" she said.

"I just mean that repulser-beam arrays are more stable than mechanically moving air to stay airborne."

She turned her head to the front. "Where did you come up with that? Wait--Mom warned me you were talking like you were from another planet."

Spaselopedus watched for her reaction. "What if I am from another planet, from a civilization more advanced than yours?"

She shook her head. "The logical arguments say you aren't. You're just talking UFO crap."

"Could you explain the logical argument to me? I don't believe I've heard it yet."

She adjusted a control with her hand. "Look, it goes something like this: If there are a lot of extraterrestrial civilizations in the galaxy then we on Earth would be too commonplace to bother with. If there are only a few, so that we would be interesting, then we would probably be too hard to find."

Spaselopedus felt embarrassed. "What does extraterrestrial mean?"

To his chagrin she squeaked out a laugh again. "It means beyond Earth, Spaceman."

"Your argument only makes sense in a vacuum," he mumbled. "There are more forces at work than just distance and population."

"It also hangs on the supposition that travel between the stars is feasible," she said.

Spaselopedus thought of how commonplace interstellar space travel was in the Alliance and smiled. "It's feasible, believe me," he said.

"Oh, I suppose you've done that too."

"Several times actually," he mumbled.

Linda harrumphed. "Okay Spaceman, what proof can you give me?"

Spaselopedus thought for a moment. All the gadgets he usually carried with him, his dispex or bookreader, were taken during his abduction. He had arrived here essentially naked of any proof of his origin.

"The only things I could offer as proof would be my boots and two languages I speak besides yours. Barbara took my clothes away and destroyed them."

"All she did was try to wash them when they should have been dry cleaned," she said, "and your boots look pretty normal to me."

"And my languages?"

"There are over three thousand languages spoken on Earth. Why couldn't you speak two of the arcane ones. I'm given to think you didn't learn English. I think you remembered it after a bad bump on the head."

Spaselopedus Barinium sighed. It's going to be harder than I thought to impress this woman, he thought.

A few minutes later, Linda began descending. Spaselopedus looked out the cockpit bubble at the large collection of buildings in one quadrant of a crossroad. He remarked how they were connected together in a web of walking pavements much as building complexes were on Koplushia.

"What's the name of this place?" he said.

"Stormcreek," she said.

Linda was flying the aero towards an unpaved lot. After a gentle vertical landing she opened the bubble and they climbed down.

There were a number of groundcars in the lot. The aero, with its gleaming finish, looked out of place next to them. Linda pressed a control and the footholds closed up.

"There. That'll keep them off," said Linda.

"Who?" said Spaselopedus.

She looked at him quizzically. "Anyone who doesn't belong on it, kids mainly. They try to steal anything these days."

Linda began walking towards a small booth on the edge of the lot. Spaselopedus followed her. The printed sign over the booth read 'BICYCLES'.

"Two bikes please," she said to the young girl in the booth. Linda produced a plastic card and ran it through a long slot on the counter.

"Take seventeen and eighteen," said the girl.

"Thanks," said Linda turning around and walking quickly around the corner. When Spaselopedus caught up to her, she was removing some sort of two wheeled device from a rack.

"Do you have a color preference?" she said.

"For what?"

"For a bike--Spaceman."

Spaselopedus looked at the device. It was built with two wheels, one in front of the other. A chain connected the rear wheel with a sort of crank located below a seat. He had never ridden such a device, but how hard could it be?

"I'll try that one." He took the bike Linda was holding up. He watched as Linda released another from the rack. She lifted her leg over it and straddled the seat. Spaselopedus did the same.

When she pushed off and started peddling, he smiled. This should be easy. He pushed the bicycle forward and quickly put his feet on the pedals. Before he knew what had happened he felt the bike and himself tilting. He fell over sideways and hit the ground.

"What happened?" said Linda pedaling over.

He caught his breath and overcame his embarrassment long enough to say, "I've never ridden one of these things."

"You've never...?" she looked peevish.






"C'mon," said Linda, waiting up ahead, "I don't want to be here all day."

Spaselopedus pedaled the three-wheeler as fast as he could. He had exchanged the bicycle for it at the counter. The problem was it had only one gear ratio while Linda's bike had several.

"I'm coming," he huffed. He followed her down a small paved path behind some buildings. Stormcreek was an array of above-ground structures connected by pathways. Spaselopedus remarked to himself that the people walking about and shopping were mainly women and oldsters. A few teen-agers were hanging around also.

They pedaled past a youth carrying a small box. A horrendous discordant noise emanated from it. As he passed the youth with the box, Spaselopedus could make out what he thought were the words to a song.


'Dance a jig until you're dead,
Pound a nail into your head,
Taste the blood and roll around,
Dig a hole. Go underground.'


"What was that?" Spaselopedus puffed to Linda after the noise had faded behind them.

"Puntry-Crap music. Don't you know anything?"

He pondered the sound of the music against the light cloud-like chords of Koplushian pieces and tried to keep up with Linda. She made several turns where other paths intersected and finally stopped.

Spaselopedus followed her lead in locking the bikes together to a post cemented into the ground. He then followed her into a shop displaying a sign which read 'PIONEER PANTS'.

The shop was small and contained racks full of denim trousers.

"Need help?" said a smiling young man with a nametag reading 'Stan'.

"Yes-" began Linda.

"I need two pairs of trousers, Stan," finished Spaselopedus, "but I don't know my size."

"Not a problem," said Stan. He looked once from Linda to Spaselopedus, then pulled a long cloth strip from a pocket. "I'll just measure you up sir and off we'll go."

He measured deftly, walked over to a rack and began to look through the selection.

Spaselopedus remarked to himself at Stan's skin color. He was very dark brown. In the Alliance there were some racial differences among the humans, but none so pronounced as this.

Stan returned having picked two pair of trousers from a rack and said, "Card please."

Spaselopedus hesitated and put his hand into his pocket.

"God," Linda grumbled and began reaching into her pocket.

Spaselopedus produced the small wad of money Barbara had given him and said, "I only have cash."

Stan smiled and accepted the payment. "Cash is still good last I heard. Let's see if I can find the drawer for your change, sir."

Spaselopedus stole a glance at Linda. She had an enigmatic look on her face.

Stan returned and gave Spaselopedus the change. "Sir I need you to sign this form stating that you paid in cash," he said.

Spaselopedus signed the slip and left the shop with Linda. Then he realized, "Oops."

"Oops what?"

"I signed that slip in the wrong language."

"What do you mean? Your name would be the same either way," she said.

"It's a different alphabet," he said.

Linda just shook her head. "You just never let up do you?" Her voice took on a mocking tone. "This aircar is primitive. I've traveled through space already. I speak three hundred languages."

"I never said three hundred--"

"Shut up! I don't want to hear it," she quickened her walk.

Spaselopedus strove to keep up with her quick pace. "Linda..."

She stopped short and turned to him, an angry look on her face. "I need to make a few more stops while we're here. Do you think you can stay out of trouble and meet me at the aero in an hour?"

"Yes," he said, "I can do that."

With a jerk of her head, she dismissed herself and walked over to unlock her bike. She mounted it and pedaled away.

Spaselopedus mounted the trike and made his way along the shops. He noted the wares they sold with interest. He saw a gourmet foods shop, a formal attire rental store, a glassware shop, and then--aha! A computer outlet.

He quickly locked up the trike and entered the store. There was a sign stating free access to 'the net'.

"Can I be of service?" said the store manager, a fresh faced young man.

Spaselopedus pointed to the 'net' terminal. "Uh could I try that out?"

"Yea, go ahead," he said.

Spaselopedus sat down, donned the headgear, and began to explore. The eye-mouse was harder to use than anticipated. Often there was an inordinate lag time in the response. At other times the icons in the display wouldn't respond to his command.

He was trying to access an encyclopedia with little success. Finally he gave up, removed the headgear and resigned himself to using the keyboard.

This encyclopedia revealed little more information than Barbara's. Spaselopedus tried looking up the founding of Earth, but there was no such entry anywhere. Many of the nation-states claimed to have histories stretching back thousands of years, but they all began in barbarism. There was no mention of the Alliance or Koplushia anywhere.

He only learned that he was on Earth, the third of nine planets orbiting a yellow star. However, without a reference point or knowledge of this system from his world, it was hopeless. He wondered if he would ever return to Koplushia.

"This planet is truly ignorant or must be really screwed up," he said quietly, and sat back in the chair.

"I know what you mean, son."

Spaselopedus almost jumped out of his seat. He didn't notice the old man walking up behind him.

The old man slowly pulled up a chair and sat next to Spaselopedus. "I just love watching you youngins at work on these newfangled computers." He laughed and fingered his long, scraggly beard. "My name's Freddie. What's yours?"

Spaselopedus looked at the old man. He was crooked and wrinkled with thinning white hair. He wore colored dispex--no, eyeglasses and his clothes were tattered and faded.

"I see you're looking at my threads." He pulled open one side of his purple vest to reveal a splotched, multicolored dress shirt. "Groovy aren't they? I dyed 'em myself. I didn't catch your name though, son."

Freddie's breath smelled of coffee and garlic. Spaselopedus turned his head in an attempt to avoid it. "People call me Spencer," he said, leaning away slightly, "but my name is Spaselopedus Barinium."

"Far out Space. Can I call you that? Space?"

"If you wish," he sighed, wishing this man would just leave.

"Back in my M.I.T. days my friends called me 'Moonshot'."

Suddenly Spaselopedus had an idea. "The moon!" he said. "I should look up Lunacorp."

"Lunacorp?" said Freddie. "Why do you want to look them up?"

Spaselopedus' patience with this interloper was running low. "I want to find out if they can get me off this planet or not."

Freddie laughed and tapped the side of Spaselopedus' leg. "They will soon," he said.

His hopes were rising but what if Freddie were lying...

"How do you mean that?" he said.

Freddie smiled, revealing broken and blackened teeth. "I found out they're working on a ship that can travel faster than light--literally

Spaselopedus began wondering if this... this... Earther was telling the truth. "That's impossible," he said, trying to bate him into proving his statement. Such a ship could take him into the trade routes where he might be rescued and returned to the Alliance.

Freddie laughed again. "I can prove it with that terminal there."

Spaselopedus wanted to know if it was true. "Do so," he said sliding out of the chair.

Freddie sat down at the terminal and donned the eye-mouse headgear.

"That didn't work for me," said Spaselopedus.

"Really? Hmm, seems fine."

He watched as displays on the terminal were brought up, icons were dragged and windows were opened. Spaselopedus was dismayed at how cumbersome these Earth computers were to operate. It's a miracle they keep track of anything with these, he thought. Nonetheless everything Freddie did was memorized.

Freddie leaned back and removed the eye-mouse. "Here we are son."

Spaselopedus saw a report on the terminal about a project in progress on the moon. It detailed power requirements, timeframes, and completed stages. At the bottom it reported the loss of a key worker--a computer programmer.

"There's my way in," said Spaselopedus. "They need a programmer."

"Oh man," said Freddie. "You'd need to be top notch to get into that place. I hear they only hire the best."

Spaselopedus stared at the memo on the display. I could be the best on this planet if I could figure out some tricks. He turned to the old man. "Freddie, I need to get into Lunacorp," he said.

"Hope your record's clean," said Freddie. "One blotch and you're out."

"Record? I don't even have a record," said Spaselopedus.

"That's real bad news then," he said. "without ID you don't even exist here."

Spaselopedus understood that. Even in the Alliance everyone was voice printed and retina scanned from the earliest age. "How do I go about getting an ID then?"

Freddie smiled, uncovering his rotten teeth. His face becoming all the more wrinkled. "Two ways," he said. "You can go though the bureaucracy and wait six months, or we can do it here and you'll have it today."


* * *


The flowers Linda purchased sat in the basket on the front of the bicycle. She closed the lock securing it to the post, picked up the flowers, and entered the Stormcreek cemetery.

She could smell the newly mown grass as she walked over to the large headstone. The name 'Prescott' was engraved into it. A smaller stone at her feet read 'Andrew Michael'.

She stood by the grave for a few minutes, thumbing her wedding band, then knelt down and placed a bouquet on the headstone. She wiped a tear from her cheek and stood up.

Further into the cemetery she placed bouquets on two other graves. They were marked 'Edward D. Henning' and 'Mark J. Henning'. Linda paused a moment over the graves, turned and left the cemetery.


* * *


"C'mon Space, you got it now," said Freddie as Spaselopedus entered the last command. They had been at this for some time. Freddie had walked him through many of the tricks of hacking on these primitive Earth computers. He was old, but he knew his stuff.

The display cleared and then recast itself as an accounts record. The title across the top was 'Chance, Harold'. Spaselopedus was about to manipulate the accounts when a hand clamped down on his.

"It's time to go now Spencer," said Linda's voice. Her firm grip lifted his hand off the keyboard and pulled the eye-mouse off his head with her other hand.

"Hey wait," said Freddie. "We were just gonna have some fun."

"Too bad. C'mon Spencer."

Spaselopedus barely had time to wave to Freddie as Linda dragged him out the door.

"Just what the hell were you doing in there?" she demanded after they were out of the shop.

"Just exploring," said Spaselopedus.

"Yea? You just about explored yourself into a prison sentence. That's illegal I hope you know." She unlocked her bike and mounted it.

"I... I..." said Spaselopedus climbing onto his trike. Linda paced him as he began pedaling.

"Yea Yea, I'm sure you do--whatever..."

"I was just exploring--really, when we... well, it sort of happened."

"It just happened that you got past all the security codes," she said.

"I'm very good with computers," he said. Spaselopedus hoped Linda would take the bate and ask him about his skills.

"Maybe so," was all she said.

"I am, really. I can program rings around anyone on Earth." He hoped he could convince her of his abilities. "On Koplushia it was a hobby of mine to--"

"I don't want to hear anymore about your... planet!" she yelled. Then in a scolding voice, "It isn't bad enough Mom is putting you up and it isn't bad enough I had to bring you into town with me, but then you keep me waiting by the aero for over half an hour and when I go and find you, what are you doing?" Linda threw an arm violently into the air, holding the handlebar with the other. "You're hackin' around with Freaky Freddie, the oldest hippie-bum in the area. Now I don't want to hear about space or computers or languages on the way back home. Got it?"

Spaselopedus got the distinct feeling that if he were five years old, she would be holding firmly onto his hand all the way to the aero. As it was she was keeping close distance between them on her bicycle.

After they returned the bikes to the rack at the lot, Linda walked quickly around the corner leaving him to catch up. When he rounded the corner he nearly plowed into her. She was frozen in place and staring at the aero.

Spaselopedus saw three kids crawling all over the craft. It was as if the aero was a playground attraction. They were jumping on the stubby wings and sitting on the bubble. One had scratched rude words into the gleaming finish near the nose.

"Hey you kids, get off there!" yelled Linda as she started to walk closer.

"What're ya gonna do if we don't?" said the red-headed youth on the bubble. He looked to be about twelve.

"I'll climb up there and pull you off," she said.

"Wait Linda," said Spaselopedus. "Maybe we should get the police."

"Shut up Spencer. I'll handle this."

Linda jogged to the aero and was about to leap onto the wing when one of the youths jumped down and knocked her to the ground. Spaselopedus' stomach knotted up. He was unsure whether to help or stay put.

As he watched, Linda stood up and leapt onto the wing of the aero. The youth on the ground began climbing back up as another dove at Linda's feet. She dodged out of the way while managing to stay on the wing. The whole affair reminded Spaselopedus of the Captain Hero virtual-reality adventures he was so fond of on Koplushia.

Linda was pulling the red-head off the bubble, but the other two had grabbed her legs. He had seen enough. Spaselopedus ran over to the aero and tried to climb up to help.

He gained a foothold and climbed on. One of the youths turned to him and kicked his leg. Spaselopedus fell over on the wing. He tried to grab at his attacker but the boy jumped down and ran off.

Spaselopedus tried to reach the kid pulling at Linda's leg. He got a hold but couldn't get him to release his grip. It wouldn't be right to beat on these youths. How threatening could they be?

He saw the red-head on the bubble produce a shining blade. "Look out! He's got a knife," he cried.

Linda let go of him and tried to get away but the other kid was still hanging on. She rolled off the wing bringing the youth with her. The aero canted with the sudden loss of weight and Spaselopedus fell onto the ground.

The red-head and his comrade ran off yelling threats and obscenities. Linda brushed herself off and pulled Spaselopedus to his feet.

"Thanks for the warning Spencer," she said. "Stupid kids have no respect for private property."

"We should have summoned the police," he said.

Linda put her hands on her hips, "You know, you're awfully in love with the law for a hacker."

"Isn't that what they're for? To prevent things like this?"

She didn't answer. Linda was opening up the bubble and climbing into the aero. "Are you coming or what?"

Spaselopedus climbed up. He put the helmet on and when she closed the bubble and started the fans he held on for his life.



When they were within sight of Barbara's homestead, Linda's cell-phone bracelet beeped.

"Prescott here," she said.

"Hi Linda," said a male voice. "We need you back at headquarters ASAP. Can you make it tonight?"

"Hi Kenneth... yes I can--I guess. What's up?"

"Can't talk about it over the air. It'll wait till you get here."

"Okay," she sighed. "I'll leave as soon as I can. Let you know when I'm en route."

"Very good. Bye Linda."

"Good-bye Kenneth." She pressed the button again. "Damn. Mother is not going to be happy about this."

Spaselopedus realized she would be leaving sooner than expected. He would have no time to try and win her confidence.

Linda landed the aero in the yard. She popped the bubble and they both got out and went into the house. Barbara was in the sitting room crocheting.

"Hello you two," she said. "You're a bit later than I expected."

"Spencer can explain that Mom." Linda put her hand on Barbara's. "I got a call on the way in. They need me back in Sacramento tonight."

"That's a shame dear," Barbara's voice dropped in pitch with each word. "I was planning a special supper."

"I'm sorry," said Linda. "Something's up. It sounds important."

Barbara frowned. "Well, there's always next time," she said putting her crocheting in her craftbag.

Spaselopedus and Barbara went outside and watched Linda leave. The fans of the aero raised some dust as it rose into the sky, turned and headed off to the southwest. There goes my best chance to get home from where ever it is I am, thought Spaselopedus.

[Index][Chapters 6-10]

I hope you have enjoyed reading this section of my novel, The Observer. I would enjoy hearing any comments on this sample of my work.

Dave Rutan