Index > Observer
David E. Rutan
Copyright © 1999 David E. Rutan
A novel of approximately 72,500 words
Warp-tech Modor imposed himself on Spaselopedus and Gudin once again. At least this time he brought food and drink. Spaselopedus eagerly speared a blue foodcube and bit into it.
"Well?" said Modor.
Spaselopedus answered with his mouth full. "Well what? It tastes fine."
Modor rolled his eyes. "How's the work going? You two have been in here for hours."
"Well, of all those who were in and out of the research facility on the day of the explosion, only a handful are still alive."
"Really?" Modor took a sip from his glass.
"Yea," said Gudin, grabbing a green foodcube and reclining in his chair. "Barinium's good, every one of the survivors are either in the hospital or off-planet now--everyone that is, but number seventeen."
"Number seventeen?" said Modor.
"His name is Croloon Zamonus," said Spaselopedus, "A.K.A. Zivorski Tosk, Lentakis Sidrow, and half a dozen others.. He's a citizen of Ozmodin, an underworld type and he escaped the explosion without a scratch."
"Yes, petty theft, grand larceny, and..." Spaselopedus paused for effect, "possession of explosives."
"On target!" said Modor. "Are the Peacekeepers after him?"
Spaselopedus shook his head. "The locals were taken off the case by the Council's Investigative Ministry. He's listed as 'at large'."
Gudin took another cube and bit the corner. "I don't see why we don't just report him to the Peacekeepers. If they're looking for him--"
"Are you kidding or have you forgotten?" said Modor leaning over him, "they and anyone else are looking for us too!"
"Besides, "said Spaselopedus, "turning him in wouldn't help us get evidence to back up my affidavit. If only we could see into the man's brain."
"I think we can," said a female voice in the doorway. Spaselopedus turned in his chair to see Shirma Dorem and Kelgin Bosuma of the Colonial Underground.
"Observer, it's good to see you again," said the young Kelgin. "Roines said your trip went astray."
"You could say that," said Spaselopedus. "Do you think next time we could book first class instead of coach?"
Kelgin stood staring for a minute, then said, "I'm very sorry for your trip, Observer. We didn't have any way of knowing the KIT knew of your route."
Spaselopedus couldn't stand up against his youthful face. "I understand," he said. "You were doing the best you could I'm sure. Did you say Roines and the others were back?" He was thinking of Linda now.
Shirma shimmied her lithe form through the doorway. The cabin was getting closer by the minute.
"Roines and Observer Ande sent us here," said Shirma. "They're still out looking."
Spaselopedus regarded her sidewise. "I thought they were looking for you. What else is there?"
Kelgin looked down at the table, speaking softly, "Apparently, while trying to contact us they misplaced Ms. Prescott."
Spaselopedus' heart skipped a beat at the thought of Linda out on a strange world all alone. Anything could happen. "Misplaced her?" he said standing up. "We've got to find her. She has no idea--and no ID."
"I'm sure she'll be fine," said Gudin. "Let's try looking on the security cams around town."
"Saskuit, I'm not sitting here while she's lost out there."
Shirma's calm voice silenced them. "Observer, we will go and find your companion. However, I believe it would be best if you and Gudin stay and search in your own way."
Spaselopedus found it hard to contradict her. "Very well, you're probably right."
"May Omniscient Seg guide our eyes," she said and led Modor and Kelgin out of the cabin.
* * *
"Some Observer you are," said Roines to Ande as they continued down the street. Ande knew he didn't really intend to be harsh, but in a way she felt she deserved it. 'An Observer cannot be distracted', the rule stated.
"She must have been behind one of the displays," Ande said. She would likely never live this down.
"Well, alright, we've checked all the shops. She was only in the pub and the bookshop and then left."
"Where else would she go? She has no money or ID here."
"Perhaps we should have seen to that, just in case. I just never would have thought..."
Ande's head bowed again in shame. She had a dark thought. "You don't suppose she's a victim of foul play do you? Maybe we should notify the Peacekeepers."
Roines sneered, "I'd like to stay as far from them as possible, thank you."
"We have proper ID. How could it go wrong to check?"
"How about we check in with the ship first?" he said frowning. "Maybe they found something."
"I'll do that, but then we're checking in with the Peacekeepers about Linda."
Ande fished out her dispex from a pocket and put them on. She eye-flicked the activation icon and chose the com-link. A moment later Barinium's face appeared.
"Oh, Observer Ande, have you found her?" he said.
"No, we haven't yet. Roines wanted me to check in. We're about to go to the Peacekeepers."
Gudin's image broke in. "Don't bother," he said, "I just saw her on a secure-cam at their headquarters..." he began sounding distant. "They brought her in a few minutes ago for loitering and lack of ID."
"Oh great," said Ande, "it won't be easy getting Linda out of there. Is Modor around?"
"No," Barinium broke back in, "he left with Shirma and Kelgin to help you."
"Get a hold of them and call them in. We're coming right back ourselves. We're going to need a plan for this."
With that she terminated the link and turned to Roines and sighed, "Things were getting too routine, anyway."
* * *
Back at the ship they gathered in the common room. Spaselopedus felt uneasy at the prospects of raiding a Peacekeeper stronghold. The last thing he wanted was for Linda to come to harm. It was his responsibility she was out here in the Alliance at all.
"Alright," said Ande, "you've heard the plan. Any questions?"
"Yes," said Spaselopedus, "you've left me out. I'd like to have a part in this."
"Observer Barinium," she said, "I think it best if you continue working on our other goal. I'm responsible for losing track of Linda. I'll get her back."
"I feel so useless while all of you run around doing things," he said.
Shirma piped up, "Your computing is just as important as our footwork."
"Besides Observer," said Kelgin, "we can't risk your capture. You're our best hope to stop the injustices brought on by the Council."
It was what he wanted to hear, but it didn't ease the guilt in his mind of bringing Linda along on this mad journey.
"I'll see what I can do," he said.
Ande stood up. "Very well, let's start our preparations. Roines should be back soon with a vehicle."
With that dismissal, the group rose and scattered about the ship. Ande and Modor headed for the conference room across the corridor. Kelgin and Gudin headed below decks to the engineering room. Spaselopedus stood to go back to his work in Gudin's room when he remembered something.
"Shirma, when you first got here today you mentioned something about being able to see Croloon's thoughts?"
"Those weren't my exact words," she said smiling, "but the basic meaning is there. You see, if Croloon is an agent of the KIT, he'll have a memchip implant."
Spaselopedus' face obviously didn't show comprehension because Shirma took on an explanatory tone.
"His memories are transferred to a computer chip implanted in the nape of his neck. I've seen it before. The chip gives them superior memory skills and allows emotions to be controlled. That's how they dispatched Prysin."
"They control people with implants?" he said, astonished. "That's the stuff of fiction."
"The truth is often stranger than that," Shirma said. "The technology is used extensively in the Nidee sector."
"If we could access that chip..." said Spaselopedus. "How is it done?"
Shirma shrugged, causing the round somely around her neck to rise and fall, "All I know is it's probably done by hyper-wave. Some frequency or code."
"I'm going to try and find out. Thanks." He headed for the makeshift computer center.
Knowing the task and accomplishing it were two entirely different things. Spaselopedus spent the better part of an hour figuring out the frequencies of hyper-wave radio and what they were used for. When he felt he was ready, he called for Gudin.
He stuck his head in the door after a minute and said, "You need me?"
"Yes," said Spaselopedus, "I need to hook up to the ship's hyper-wave transmitter. Is that do-able?"
Gudin's face screwed up in thought, "Well, you'll have to write a whole operating system to manipulate it. Shirma told me what you're doing--"
Spaselopedus snapped, "I know how to write an operating system. Can you hook me up?"
"Yea sure. Give me a few minutes," he muttered as he disappeared through the door.
Thinking about Linda was wearing away his nerves. He didn't have any reason to snap at Gudin like that. They would be leaving soon to initiate Ande's plan for Linda's escape. He wasn't involved and hadn't paid attention to every detail discussed.
Ah, there's my connection, thought Spaselopedus. "Thank you Gudin," he said.
Gudin's smiling face appeared in Spaselopedus' dispex, "Is that alright Boss?"
"Yes, perfect. Now let's see if I can pull this off."
"I've seen some icon-flickers. You're better than you think," he said. "Just make sure you don't overload the hyper-wave receptors. You could crash the system." Then Gudin's image winked out.
Spaselopedus mumbled something rude and turned to his work. If only you knew how much I figure out as I go, he thought.
* * *
Linda was upset and worried. She had been in this small cell for hours. The officers apparently didn't want to believe anything she told them. They just put her in here and locked the transparent door.
She heard someone coming. An officer and another woman were at the door. The officer opened it and allowed the woman to enter, then shut the door.
"Hello, Linda," the woman said, reading off an electronic notepad. She was gray-haired and short with pronounced wrinkles on her face, neck, and hands. "I am Public Advocate Twoom."
"Greetings," said Linda. "Are you going to help me get out of here?"
"Well dear, you're much better able to help yourself in that respect. What we need is the truth."
"The truth?" said Linda. "I've been telling you the truth. I don't know enough about this place to lie."
"It says here you claim to have come from Karpla."
"I am from Karpla. We call it Earth. I was born in Alturas Hospital in California in the year 1995."
"Dear, if you keep spouting out about that--. Are you sure you know what Karpla is like?"
"No, you tell me!" Linda threw her arms up.
"Dear, it's a planet inhabited by the most horrible kind of people. They're constantly at war and they're unable to feed themselves. They... they don't care about each other."
"How do you know that? I thought that no one has ever gone there."
"Radio transmissions, of course." said Advocate Twoom.
"Oh, that's right." Linda remembered her conversation with Kiprim in the Immigration Detention cell. "The Eruithairkans record and catalog the primitive radio transmissions from my planet. You shouldn't judge us on that."
"There's no other way, dear. Karpla is under protected status. No one goes in and no one comes out."
"That's a lie. I'm from Earth. I work for an Aerospace industry there."
Twoom took a seat on the bunk. "How then dear, did you get here?"
Linda's patience evaporated. She decided to spill it all. "My mom took in this guy she found on her doorstep. He was really good with computers so I hired him to work on the Pod Project, but then he tried to steal it. I tried to stop him but we ended up freezing in space until these squid guys picked us up.
Then we got on this ship with a bunch of stuffed shirts who dropped us off and we got arrested. Later I escaped from Detention and some people put us on a ship that got blown up. We escaped in a lifepod and ended up on another ship with some other people who brought us here. I was reading a book and suddenly they were gone and I was alone. Now don't tell me I'm not from Karpla because I am!"
Twoom shook her head slowly and stood up. "Well, it sounds like quite an experience," she said. "I'll review your case and get back to you." She pressed a button next to the door and an officer appeared.
"Hey," said Linda, "I haven't even been charged yet. I haven't even had my phone call."
"Dear, I have no idea what your talking about. Perhaps you shouldn't have left your... Earth was it?" and she left.
* * *
Roines had arrived minutes ago and the whole troop had disappeared leaving Spaselopedus to himself. He eye-flicked an icon in his dispex. The display became dim and staticky. Closer and closer, he thought. He removed his dispex and rubbed his face. He'd been at this table most of the day and he knew it must be getting dark outside.
If only I could figure this out, he thought. The Underground could have my affidavit and physical proof and I could... No! Never again would his life be normal. Spaselopedus felt like a dead man with no life and no future.
What would be the worst thing to happen if he just turned himself in? Death? Mindwipe? Either way he wouldn't know the difference. What of Linda though? He must try to get her back home. She didn't belong out here. She was happier on that protected planet where she was born and raised.
Spaselopedus replaced his dispex and activated the next subroutine. Suddenly his eyes saw what he wanted, a room, a room somewhere he wasn't familiar with.
There were new icons on the display as well. He tried one and the room moved backwards in time. A clock on the wall began counting in reverse. Interesting, he thought.
He flicked another icon and the room returned to normal time. The image angle changed. Was this person standing up? Yes. The person walked to a door. It opened. He was entering a water closet. As the man passed the mirror Spaselopedus could see it was indeed Croloon Zamonus. A toilet came into view and Spaselopedus quickly removed his dispex.
When he felt it was safe, he put them back on. He was still in Zamonus' head. He was walking down the street now. Spaselopedus tried another icon; now he could hear as well as see.
He flicked another icon. A time reference input was requested on the display. Spaselopedus carefully put in the day of the research center explosion and put the display on fast play.
He watched in the dispex as Zamonus went into the Research Institute and placed a device next to the power transfer conduit. Zamonus' hands armed the device and he slipped out. He even had the audacity to stand and watch the disaster.
So, this is what it's like to be a saboteur, Spaselopedus thought. Hmm, what's this? The playback was still going quickly. Zamonus apparently worked part-time on a ship. When the time index indicated the day before Spaselopedus and Linda were rescued by the Sentinels, he put the playback to normal and watched intently.
Not only was Croloon Zamonus the saboteur on Ozmodin, but he was also on the ship that tried to kill him by destroying the freighter. What was that? Spaselopedus replayed the scene he had just missed and watched it intently. Zamonus was talking to another man dressed in Koplushian garb. The other man was Kiprim, the Observer's Guild Representative from the detention cell.
Spaselopedus listened as Kiprim and Zamonus spoke.
"Now that I've finally rid us of that trouble-making Observer," said Kiprim, "I have to go to Karpla and see about this hyperspace project they have."
"What do they expect you to do there?" said Zamonus.
Kiprim smiled. "The usual, naturally."
"Better I don't know then."
He sighed and put on a frown. "Right, it was my responsibility the boys botched Observer Barinium's disappearance, but in a way it was a good thing. We never would have known they were so close to hyperspace capability if he hadn't brought it to our attention."
Spaselopedus realized he was seeing the very man who ordered his kidnapping to Karpla. The same man was now probably there, on Linda's homeworld doing who knew what.
Anger welled up inside him. I've got to get the memchip from Zamonus and stop that guy from fooling around with Karpla. He's going to pay for taking my life away.
Spaselopedus turned off his dispex and stood up to leave. Grabbing a handful of foodcubes and a closed container of red juice, he headed for the exit of the ship.
"Barkeep, bring me another," said Croloon Zamonus, sitting in his usual section of the pub. The pub's one waitress appeared with his drink on a small tray. She placed the glass on the table and hurried away before he could accost her.
"Thank you missy," he said loud enough for everyone to hear. The waitress ignored him. Some tip I'll leave for her, he thought, sipping from the glass.
"'Hi Crol, how's it going?"
Zamonus looked up to see his acquaintance, Shazo Arfgar.
"No complaints." He smiled and toasted Shazo with his half empty glass. "But boy are things slow since the disaster at the Research Institute."
"Did they find out what happened yet?" He snorted a laugh. "They say it might have been sabotage."
Zamonus put his glass on the table, "Who says?"
"I have my sources." He snorted again, pushing the dispex further up the bridge of his nose.
"And what do they say?"
A toothy smile appeared on Shazo. "You were seen going into and out of the facility and you're the only survivor who was unharmed. Wanna tell me about it?"
Zamonus smiled and leaned over the table at Shazo. "Yea, I'll tell you about it, but not here. Let's discuss it outside. There's too many ears in here--know what I mean?"
"Alright, Crol, we can go outside."
Zamonus stood up and led Shazo outside. He turned a corner into the alley. When the Shazo caught up to him, Zamonus spun around and struck him hard in the stomach.
* * *
Linda woke up in her cell to odd noises from outside. Some kind of commotion was occurring outside.
"How could that have happened?" she heard someone say.
"What do you mean it's offline?" said another.
The lights in her cell went out and she could only see the emergency lighting through the transparency of the door. There was the sound of escaping gas and people coughing. She smelled something then began to cough herself. Her chest grew tight, her eyes watered, and blackness rolled over her.
* * *
Spaselopedus stepped out of the taxi onto the main street of the town. He activated his dispex and tuned into Zamonus' memchip in real-time to see if he could find him. The image he received shocked him.
Through Zamonus' eyes, he saw someone being beaten up. Spaselopedus remembered the condition he had been in when he was dumped on Karpla. He needed to know where it was happening.
There was a sign on the wall at the scene of the beating. Spaselopedus zoomed in to read it. It was the address for the building's trash collection.
Quickly he brought up a street map for the city and located the alley. It was close by. Turning off the dispex, he broke into a run, trying to find Zamonus before it was too late for his victim.
* * *
Astra Ande and Rurn Roines opened the door to the holding cells one by one. Their nose-filters protected them from the anesthetic they released into the ventilation system.
They went cell by cell looking for the one containing Linda Prescott.
"This would have been easier if we'd looked it up on the computer," said Roines.
"We didn't have time," said Ande, "The power had to go down before they could sound the alarm."
"I know," he said, closing yet another cell, "but it still would have been easier."
"Here she is," Ande waved Roines over.
He moved past Ande and picked up the unconscious form. "I wonder if they're all this small."
"Hush, let's just get her and us out of here before the Peacekeepers sort themselves out."
"Yes Ma'am," he stalked out the door with his charge.
* * *
Spaselopedus was running and listening. As he passed a pub, he saw what he was looking for. In the indicated alley, Zamonus was striking a smaller man who was bent over almost to the ground. Feeling great compassion, Spaselopedus halted, took a quick breath, and called out.
"Hey you, leave him alone!"
Zamonus gave the crumpled form a final blow with his foot and turned around to see Spaselopedus. "Why? Who are you?"
Caught off guard, he blurted out, "I am Observer Spaselopedus Barinium."
Zamonus shot him a quizzical look, "You're supposed to be dead!"
* * *
Ande and Roines shot down to the bottom of the firestairs and grabbed open the emergency exit. Two Peacekeeper aircars flashed lights into their eyes.
"Back inside, quick!" shouted Ande. The door slammed shut as the stunner fire commenced. Ande wondered what to do next.
"Those cars shouldn't have made it back yet." They were supposed to be kept busy by the others, she thought, Am I getting too old for the plans I make?
"Well, they're here," said Roines. "What's next?"
"I have an idea," she moved quickly to the exit door. Ande opened it and looked out. In a loud voice she called, "They're still there. We'll have to try the roof."
"What do you mean, the roof?" Roines whispered, "You know the car is--"
"Hush and get up the stairs," she said.
* * *
"If I'm dead," said Spaselopedus, "then I must be a ghost of my former self."
"'Skuit that," said Zamonus walking towards him. "I'm going to take care of it right now."
A chill went up his spine as Zamonus approached. Spaselopedus spied something long and solid in the alley near the crumpled form. He tried to circle around to get closer to it.
"You've got nowhere to run, Observer 'troublemaker'. If I don't get to you, I'm sure the Peacekeepers eventually will.
"Don't be so sure!" Spaselopedus said standing his ground. "I can be pretty tricky."
Zamonus rushed him with outstretched hands, trying to grab him. Spaselopedus ducked and ran into the alley after Zamonus passed him. He grabbed the makeshift staff he had spied. It was in reality a light length of pipe but it would do.
Zamonus taunted him from the street. "Oh, oh the eye-man has a stick," he mocked.
Spaselopedus walked slowly to him. When he rushed at him again, Spaselopedus tried his maneuver and failed, landing on the ground.
"Give it up," said Zamonus. "You can't hit the side of a building with that."
Spaselopedus' blood was heating up. "We'll see. C'mon."
Zamonus rushed him again. This time the maneuver Roines taught him succeeded and Zamonus went down, tumbling into the alley. He lay there unconscious, blood oozing from a head wound.
* * *
Astra Ande stopped their ascent at the second floor and waited. She looked over the railing.
"What're we waiting for," said Roines shifting Linda's limp form on his shoulder, "if we're going up--? "
"Hush, and give me the rest of your gas bombs.
"What?" Roines said, "Oh, I get it," he shifted Linda on his shoulder again and handed Ande his last three gas grenades.
Ande heard the emergency door at the bottom of the stairs open and watched until she saw of one of the Peacekeepers. She dropped the three grenades. There were sounds of coughing and then only silence.
"Alright, let's go back down," she said, "I think it's safe."
Ande led the way down the stairs. Carefully stepping over the unconscious forms of the Officers, Roines opened the door and stepped out. More unconscious Peacekeepers lay on the ground outside.
"Well, it's about time you decided to come out," yelled Modor.
"If you hadn't been late..." said Roines smiling.
"Let's get to the car," Ande urged. "Is everyone alright?"
"Everyone's fine," said Roines, "let's get going."
I love it when a plan works, she thought.
* * *
Spaselopedus rushed to Zamonus' victim. He felt a pulse in the man's neck. Good, he's alive, he thought. Activating his dispex, he looked at Zamonus. After an eye-flick activated the com-link, Observer Ande appeared.
"Yes, Observer?" she said.
"I need transportation," said Spaselopedus. "I'm on the main drag next to the R & D Pub. I found our proof, but he's unconscious."
"What? Why are you outside the ship?"
"Are you coming or not? I've got our proof."
Ande, with unfocused eyes, stared at him for a moment. "Yes we're coming. We'll be right there. Good work Barinium." The dispex went blank.
"Ooh," moaned the victim. Spaselopedus went to the man. His face had a few cuts on it but had been spared most of the blows. "Who are you?"
"I'm Observer Spaselopedus Barinium," he said. How could it do any harm? he thought. "Are you alright?"
"I don't know. Where are my 'spex?" he whined, "I need my 'spex."
Spaselopedus looked around and found the mangled remains of the man's dispex on the ground.
"What's your name?" Spaselopedus said to change the subject.
"Shazo Arfgar. Do you see my 'spex?"
"I don't see them. Can you walk?"
"I don't know," he said. "Ooh, that hurts." He attempted to stand.
"Why were you being beaten?" said Spaselopedus as he supported the victim him with his arm.
"I...I told Crol I knew what he did. I didn't think he was gonna take it that way. Ooh."
"You know he planted the bomb that destroyed the research facility?"
Spaselopedus heard an aircar coming down in the street and turned to see it. He saw seven people crunched into the seats. Kelgin got out.
"Where are you Observer?"
"Over here in the alley," called Spaselopedus.
Kelgin picked up the unconscious form of Zamonus and shoved him onto the laps of those in the rear seat. Rumblings of protest were heard as Linda, now awake recognized the man.
"Let's go," yelled Roines at the controls.
"There's something else," said Spaselopedus. "There's a man here who needs help. We can't just leave him."
"Are you kidding?" said Modor and Gudin in the back seat, "We're already packed tight in here."
"We can't just leave him here, he needs help," Spaselopedus didn't want to leave a wounded man behind.
Kelgin ran over and examined Arfgar. "He's just got some bruises. He'll be all right."
Spaselopedus tried to think of something. He did not want to abandon the man like he had been on Karpla, but the wail of Peacekeeper siren interrupted his thoughts.
"C'mon S.B.," said Roines, "It's now or never. Get in!"
Spaselopedus jogged over to the aircar and then realized that there was no room for him.
Frustrated, Roines slapped the control column, "Someone has to stay behind."
The siren grew louder by the second.
Spaselopedus peered into the dark sky expecting to see the Peacekeepers aircar. "I'll hang onto the back," he said.
"What?" said Roines, "You're nuts."
The wail of the siren wailed as Spaselopedus climbed onto the back and grabbed onto the luggage rack. As the car lifted into the air, it pitched as if difficult to control. Spaselopedus wondered if he hadn't done something stupid, again.
His tightened his grip as the aircar accelerated above the small city. He looked left and right and noticed the many taxis going about their business. It wasn't the automated taxis that would be the problem, but rather the manned Peacekeeper vehicles.
The wail of the siren increased through the rush of air in his ears. An aircar bearing Peacekeeper markings and flashing lights was pacing them expertly. Spaselopedus saw the two occupants clearly: The operator was a young, clean shaven male, and an older olive-skinned female.
"Land your vehicle," the Peacekeepers demanded.
Spaselopedus hoped Roines would ignore them and somehow elude them. He'd had enough of prisons lately. Roines seemed to read his mind and pitched the aircar downwards. Spaselopedus clung for his life.
His dispex filled with Ande's image. "Are you alright back there?"
"I'm hanging on tight!" he yelled over the wind. "How much longer?"
"We're almost to the spaceport but Roines has to lose the Peacekeepers first."
"Tell him to hurry up and do it then."
Ande's face softened. "Can you do anything to jam their controls?"
He thought. He felt like saying something rude but instead said, "I'll see what I can do."
Ande's image disappeared as Spaselopedus called up his icons in the dispex. He flicked to one, activated it, nothing happened. Another icon chosen, Aha! made contact.
A second aircar pulled up and paced them. "We are Peacekeepers, land your vehicle," they announced. Spaselopedus smiled broadly at them and flicked on another icon. Both Peacekeeper aircars began falling behind and descending, their controls locked by his handiwork.
The lights of the spaceport came into sight and Roines began descending into it. Spaselopedus looked at his smarting hands. His fingers were bleeding where the luggage rack had bitten in.
Upon landing, everyone piled out of the vehicle as quickly as possible. Kelgin and Gudin came to the back to get him.
"Good work," said Gudin, helping him down.
Kelgin gently took one of Spaselopedus' wrists and turned his hand over. "You're hands are bleeding, Observer. I'll wrap them up when we get in the ship."
"Thanks," said Spaselopedus jogging as best he could to the ramp of the ship.
The forcefield's green glow enveloped the landing craft as it rose into the dark sky and left Kiprim alone on Karpla. He was in an empty part of a semi-populated area. The natives on this continent called their planet Earth, which in their language meant 'dirt'. How fitting for backward Karplans.
Kiprim examined his surroundings and noticed a pair of lights bouncing up and down and approaching him slowly. He thought it must be a groundcar. After a minute it reached his location and stopped, the lights shining upon him.
A young man jumped out and ran over to him. "Did you see it?" he gestured skyward.
"See what?" said Kiprim. The boy was dressed in tattered working trousers and a simple shirt covered by a red jacket.
"The UFO," said the boy. "I was driving along minding my own business and my truck like stopped. Then I saw this green glow going straight up into the sky there. You must have seen it!"
"I'm afraid I don't know what you're talking about. I've seen nothing tonight."
"I think you're like lying." He pointed his finger at Kiprim, "You're one of them government dudes, I bet." He stepped closer.
Kiprim was confused by the nomenclature. "Government dude?"
"You know what I mean, UFO coverups, dirty tricks, black Aeros hovering overhead." His voice became nastier with each approaching step.
"I tell you," said Kiprim, "I know nothing of what you say."
"Yea, well I expected that." He turned his back on Kiprim to return to his truck, "I'll just go tell my UFO society 'bout this. They'll know what to do."
Kiprim didn't want his presence reported to anyone, by anyone, no matter how bizarre.
"Wait, don't go! " He withdrew a small device from under his coverall. "Let me show you this, it fell off the uh, UFO."
"Really?" the young man turned back around and approached him. "What is it?"
Kiprim closed the contact and a section of the boy's torso burst from the heat of the microwave beam.
"Death," he said with a cold smile.
* * *
No sooner had the cargo ramp closed than Spaselopedus felt the ship gently lurch. They were taking off before anyone could stop them no doubt. Kelgin placed Zamonus on the deck and grabbed a first-aid kit from the wall. He medicated and bandaged Spaselopedus' hands.
"Come see me later, Observer and I'll do them up better," he said.
"Thanks," said Spaselopedus. His hands were stiff from the bandages but still usable.
Kelgin carried Zamonus' unconscious body up the ladder to the main deck. Spaselopedus followed, pain emanating from his fingers with every rung.
Almost everyone converged in the common room. Kelgin had taken Zamonus to one of the cabins and Observer Ande and Roines went to the bridge.
"We'll be safer after we make our first warp," said Modor heading for the door. "I need to get to Engineering."
"Where are we going?" said Spaselopedus.
"A safe world," Shirma said. "We have to lie low for a time."
Spaselopedus scanned their faces, pausing on Linda's. "But we need to go to Karpla."
"Why?" said Shirma.
He glanced at Linda. "I saw something in Zamonus' memchip to indicate an operative has been sent there to assess their superluminal capability."
Shirma sat at the end of the table. "That doesn't sound good. It's more likely they're going to neutralize them."
"They can't do that," said Linda outraged, "We didn't steal the ability; we developed it independently."
"It doesn't matter how you got it," said Gudin. "The fact is the Council doesn't want anyone to have it but them."
"What are they likely to do?" said Linda.
Gudin's face hardened. "I've seen them do several things. One time they took away the brains behind the project. Another time the research logs were erased and the hardware destroyed."
Linda touched Spaselopedus' hand. "We can't let that happen on Lunacorp Spence--"
"I agree," he said, "besides, the man who ordered my kidnapping is there. I saw it in Zamonus' memchip."
Spaselopedus whispered to Linda, "We're going to have to convince Ande to take us to Earth."
The bridge was empty except for Observer Ande and Rurn Roines. Both wore dispex. Spaselopedus noticed the holographic star chart floating below the overhead. He pulled his attention back from it and strode to the Captain's chair where Ande was seated.
"Greetings Barinium," said Ande, "How are your hands?"
Spaselopedus glanced down at the bandages and flexed his fingers. "Kelgin wants to do a proper job of it later, but they feel fine now."
"That was good work you did with the Peacekeepers S.B.," said Roines. His gaze remained on the vidscreen and his instruments before him.
"Thanks. That was some fancy flying you did too."
Linda nudged his side with her elbow. "Alright," he whispered to her. "Observer Ande," Spaselopedus put on his most officious voice, "We must return to Karpla."
The female Observer turned and looked at them over her dispex. "That request would be a near impossibility for us."
"I don't see why," said Spaselopedus. "We know the Koplushian Council's been doing it."
"The Council has a few more resources than we do," said Ande. "Don't forget, Karpla is surrounded by Eruithairkan space."
Linda took a half-step forward. "Please, they're sending someone to Lunacorp to destroy it! We've got to stop them!"
"What?" chorused Roines and Ande.
Spaselopedus stepped to Linda's side. "When I was exploring Zamonus' memchip I discovered that an operative has been sent to Karpla. That's why I want to get there." He raised a finger. "Also, that operative and the man responsible for my kidnapping are one and the same person."
"It's still out of the question," said Ande. "The Peacekeepers are alerted to us at the moment. Using Ozmodin as a reference, they could discover us. We need to get to a safe world and hide for a while."
Spaselopedus set his jaw. "If we don't go to Karpla," he said, "I will not give you my Observer's affidavit."
"He's got us," said Roines.
Ande frowned in thought, "If we were to go there, we ourselves would be breaking Karpla's protection."
"What's the difference?" said Spaselopedus. "You're already hunted by the authorities."
"Couldn't you just drop us off?" said Linda.
Ande got out of the command chair. "I suppose we could deliver you two to Karpla," she said. "We'll be just as well hidden there as we would be anywhere."
Spaselopedus smiled and looked over at Linda. Her back was to him. I told you I'd keep my promise to get you home, he thought.
Kelgin Bosuma placed Zamonus on the bunk in Linda's cabin. Zamonus sported a bandage on his scalp and was lying on his stomach asleep, no doubt due to Kelgin's administrations.
"How's our patient?" said Ande. She, Spaselopedus and Shirma were crammed into the one end of the cabin by the door. Kelgin was replacing his scanner in a satchel on the table as he spoke.
"He's fine. The wound on his head is superficial, no concussion."
"I didn't mean to hurt him," said Spaselopedus, "but he had done a job on that flicker and was coming after me."
"What about his memchip?" said Ande. "Can we remove it?"
Kelgin turned to face her. "The memchip cannot be removed. It's too intertwined into his brain. The best we can do is to dump the information into computer storage."
"Damn!" said Ande, "That doesn't help us a whole lot."
"Still," said Kelgin, "with Observer Barinium's Affidavit and the visual information, we should be able to shake the mountain."
"Barinium," said Ande, "can you do the transfer from the memchip?"
Spaselopedus shrugged. "I'll try. I don't recall seeing an icon in the chip's operating system for transfers though."
"Please get on it," said Ande. "We're three days from Karpla. I want everything we need before you leave."
* * *
"Damn!" said Spaselopedus. Linda was in Gudin's cabin with him, watching them work. Gudin and Spencer sat at the work table. It was odd to see the two men sit at the table, staring into space wearing what looked like spectacles. As yet they had met with no success at transferring Zamonus' memchip images to an outside storage medium.
"I don't understand it," said Gudin, rubbing his bald pate. "We can view the man's memories like a vid. Why won't they store in our computer?"
"Perhaps the signal is encoded somehow." Linda hadn't had much experience with these sorts of problems but thought any input might help.
Shirma entered the cabin carrying a tray of foodcubes and three glasses of juice. There was also a small plate of sliced fruit. "How about a break? You've been at it all day."
"I'm saved!" said Gudin taking a glass, "Thank you so much."
Linda took a fruit slice using one of the forks. Her mouth watered at the thought of real food, "It's very thoughtful of you Shirma. Where did you get this?"
"I brought it aboard with me from Ozmodin," she said. "I knew the crew would appreciate something fresh. Foodcubes get so boring."
"Thanks," said Spaselopedus removing his dispex, "I could use a bite."
"Any progress?" said Shirma setting the tray in the center of the work table.
"Not as yet." Spaselopedus speared a cube with a fork. "We can't get the images to store on anything."
"I think it sounds like protective encryption," said Linda.
"That's what I thought too at first," he said. "There's no evidence of it though."
Gudin drained his glass and placed it on the tray. "We'll figure it out eventually. How do you know about protective encryption Linda?"
"Programming is programming I suppose." She shrugged. "That's where I started at Lunacorp."
Shirma brought a stool over by Linda and sat down. When seated, Shirma's superior height wasn't so daunting. "I've been meaning to ask you about your world," she said. "What can you tell me about the dominant religions there?"
Linda hesitated before answering. "I... I'm not sure where to begin?" she said.
"Maybe I can help; we Engrethists have a book, The Eky Kraidtin-"
"Yes," said Linda, "I got a look at it in Widatin. My religion has a book too. We call it The Bible."
"If only you had one with you, I'd like to see it."
"Oh but I do, " Linda said. "It's in my cabin."
Linda quietly opened the door and entered her cabin. That crude man, Zamonus was asleep on the lower cot. Why Kelgin had chosen to turn her cabin into a hospital room she couldn't guess. She'd have to get her things out of here anyway.
She opened her satchel and felt around for the Lunacorp bookreader. She found her disused wristtop computer and the book that Ande had given her on Koplushian history. There. Her hand found it. As she was pulling it out Zamonus jumped from the bed and grabbed her throat. She couldn't scream or make any sound.
"Where am I?" whispered Zamonus. His hot hands on her neck.
Terror swept over her as she found it difficult to breath. Linda tried to pry his fingers off so as to answer. Zamonus slackened his grasp a bit. "Tell me where I am," he insisted.
"You're on a spaceship," Linda whispered.
"I can tell that," he said. "What ship? Where are we headed? Wait, I remember you from the pub. Who are you?"
"My name is Linda Prescott."
"Yea, I remember now, the shy one." His arm wrapped around her neck in a constrictive headlock.
Linda desperately wanted to be free from this man but his grip was too good. "Let me go!" she managed to whisper.
"How many are on this ship?"
Linda didn't answer. Zamonus squeezed her throat till it felt her head might pop. "Answer me or die," he said.
The thoughts racing through Linda's head had nothing to do with the questions Zamonus was asking. She was wondering how she was going to escape. The grip on her throat slackened again.
"Well?" said Zamonus.
Linda managed to say, "What was the question?"
He grunted and pulled her towards the door. He opened it and leaned his head out. Then, keeping Linda in the fore, advanced into the corridor. When he shifted his grip, Linda jabbed him in the ribs hard with her elbow.
Zamonus doubled over slightly exhaling loudly. He reached out quick enough however to get a hold of her again. "Try something like that again and I'll kill you," he whispered in her ear.
Zamonus pushed her down the corridor towards the cylindrical ladder leading to the pod bay. At that moment the door to the head opened and Shirma came out.
"What's going on?" she said.
Zamonus kept Linda in front of him like a shield. "I want off this ship. Do you understand?"
"We're currently in flight. You can't get off," said Shirma.
Linda felt a shudder go through her abductor's body. "Then get the Captain!" Zamonus yelled, tightening his grip on her. "I wanna see the Captain!"
Linda heard doors sliding open behind her. Then she was pulled partway into the doorway and spun around. She could see Gudin, Kelgin and Spencer emerging from the common room.
"Seg!" cried Gudin.
"What? Oh no!" said Kelgin.
Spencer stood motionless for a moment, then his face contorted and his eyes widened.
* * *
Spaselopedus followed Gudin and Kelgin into the corridor to see what was the commotion. In a flash he realized Linda was in peril. The thought of her being treated badly by this thug triggered feelings he didn't know he possessed. He cared deeply for Linda, and he must protect her from harm. It was what his Koplushian upbringing demanded of him.
"Together we can take him," said Gudin.
"No!" said Spaselopedus. "If we do anything he might harm her. I can't allow that."
"Let me handle this," said Spaselopedus stepping toward Zamonus. He heard his heart beating in his ears. "If you harm her in any way," he said deliberately, his hands balling into fists, "I swear you'll regret it."
"You again?" Zamonus sneered.
"Yes me," Spaselopedus halted only two meters away. "Let her go!"
"No. I want off this ship."
"We're in space Zamonus," said Gudin from behind Spaselopedus, "There's nowhere to run. Let her go and we'll talk."
"Saskuit we will. If I give her up you'll be all over me. I want the captain. Now!"
Spaselopedus stepped toward him again, "You don't need the Captain," he said. "This is between you and me."
"You had no right to kidnap me."
"As you had no right to accost me in Widatin," said Spaselopedus. I must keep him distracted, he thought.
"You had no business butting in on my affairs. I only regret not finishing you off right then."
Spaselopedus stepped toward him and Linda. He could see Shirma at the end of the corridor by the ladder. "As I recall, the last time, you were the one who ended up face down on the ground."
Zamonus visibly tensed up. His eyes became slits and his mouth contorted into a scowl. "That was just luck. You Observers couldn't fight your way out of a sicklesnake's stomach."
Spaselopedus let the remark go. He looked at Linda. Her face was red and tears were moistening her cheeks. To him it was as if her dark brown eyes were calling out to him. It was an intolerable situation. He had to act.
"Only cowards hide behind women," said Spaselopedus.
"Oh yea?" Zamonus yelled in rage and hurled Linda to the deck. Then he lunged at Spaselopedus. Spaselopedus, expecting the reaction, managed to dodge aside. Zamonus recovered quickly and tried again running toward him with his arms outstretched. "I'll get you if it's the last thing I do!" he yelled.
Spaselopedus successfully ducked and quickly glanced over in Linda's direction. He saw Shirma helping her into the Captain's cabin at the end of the corridor. She's safe, he thought. Now he turned to face Zamonus again. Spaselopedus put the ladderwell to the pod bay at his back.
Zamonus was now at the far end of the corridor trying to open one of the doors. Spaselopedus noticed that Kelgin and Gudin were missing. "C'mon," he said, "can't the big man hit a little trouble-making Observer?"
Zamonus turned toward Spaselopedus and howled an inhuman sound. He ran at full clip at him, bent over like a charging animal. Spaselopedus now feared for his life.
Once again he dodged as Roines had drilled him. Zamonus, unable to stop in time, collided with the cylindrical ladder making a loud clang and fell down the well to the engineering deck.
"Seg!" yelled Spaselopedus. There was no sound from below until Modor yelled up, "Hey, he's dead!"
"What happened?" asked Shirma as Spaselopedus came through the door of the Captain's cabin. Linda was sitting on the bed, rubbing her neck and left knee. Spaselopedus went to her and dropped to his knees to equal her level.
"Are you all right Linda?" he said looking into her eyes.
She hesitated for a moment and smiled, returning his gaze. "I think I'll survive--just got a few bruises. Thank you for..."
"I just couldn't let anything--" He smiled.
"What happened out there?" asked Shirma sounding impatient.
"Spaselopedus, we got it! We got it!" cried Gudin rushing into the cabin.
"What? What do we have?" he stood up.
"The visuals," said Gudin, "I have them recorded in the ship's computer!"
"But how? He's... dead."
"Dead?" chorused Linda and Shirma.
Spaselopedus turned to address the two women, but the exuberant Gudin broke in, "Yes, Zamonus is dead, but we got what we needed from him."
"That's a disgusting way to think of it," said Shirma.
Observer Ande, Kelgin and Roines entered at that moment, "What's been going on?" asked Ande, "I heard we had a problem with Zamonus."
Gudin stepped toward Ande. "We have the evidence we need," he said.
"Very good," said Ande.
"How'd you manage it S.B.?" said Roines slapping him hard on the back.
"I didn't do it," he said.
"Yes you did," said Gudin.
"Hold on! Stop!" said Shirma standing and pushing to the center of the group. "Somebody please tell me what I want to know. How did Zamonus die and how did you get the visuals to store in the computer."
Spaselopedus and Gudin exchanged glances. Gudin gestured for Spaselopedus to begin. "He was rushing me," he said looking a Shirma, "so I ducked and he struck the ladder and fell down the well."
Shirma turned her gaze at Gudin. "Well? You're next."
"After Zamonus released Linda, Kelgin and I stepped out of the way into my cabin. He was trying to get in so I connected to his memchip with my dispex to see if I could do something. When he fell down the well, something activated a dump sequence. All his memories emptied into storage in our ship's computer. We can retrieve it, copy it--anything!"
"Well that problem's solved anyway," said Ande. "All we need now is your Observer's Affidavit, Barinium and we're set."
"You'll have it when we reach Karpla," said Spaselopedus.
Spaselopedus stood next to Linda on the deck of the pod bay. As an Engrethist Minister, Shirma had insisted on properly interring Zamonus' remains. Observer Ande, Roines, and Kelgin were there also. Gudin and Modor were left to watch the ship.
The body, wrapped in a shroud, lay on a table. Shirma recited a few passages from the Eky Kraidtin, then she said, "Friends, we all know life is transient. Our portion of Seg leaves us in its time and returns to the source. We hope the knowledge that this man's life brings to Seg will help others avoid his mistakes."
She motioned for Gudin and Kelgin to place the body in the ejection chute and pressing the activator said, "May Seg accept you, Croloon Zamonus."
Spaselopedus recalled when he had witnessed his grandfather's interment. The image of the blue flames of the cremation stood out sharply in his memory. It was one of the disadvantages he knew as an Observer, the near inability to forget.
He knew he would never be an Observer again. That lifestyle was forever taken from him. Spaselopedus had no clue what he would do when they got to Karpla and found the KIT operative. He looked down and noticed Linda's hand in his.
The alien vessel loomed large on the bridge's vidscreen. "Eruithairkans," said Spaselopedus.
"Squid monsters," said Linda.
"They're not monsters."
"They are when you wake up naked with one hanging over you."
Astra Ande was wearing her Spaceguard uniform and communicating with one on the vidscreen via Galacticom. Spaselopedus translated the exchange for Linda's benefit.
"Astra's requesting safe passage through Eruithairkan space to Karpla. She's telling them it's a mission of utmost importance to the Alliance."
Linda smiled at a thought, "It's a shame they don't speak Esperanto."
He turned to her. "Galacticom is like Esperanto as it was created artificially to communicate between linguistic boundaries. It's particularly useful in cases like this."
"You mean because human speech doesn't sound like a drain clearing?" she said.
"Yes." he said. "There is a vocal mode but the Eruithairkans prefer gestures."
Linda's attention was drawn to the vidscreen. "What was their answer?"
"They said 'no'," Spaselopedus sighed.
Spaselopedus, Linda, Roines, Ande, Gudin, Shirma, and Kelgin were gathered in the conference room. Spaselopedus remarked to himself how odd they looked in the uniforms they had donned to try and convince the Eruithairkans. It reminded him of when he and Linda were first picked up in the lifepod by the Sentinels.
"They just won't let us through," said Ande in her silver tunic.
"We could attempt to lose them and go in from another sector," Gudin said, rubbing his hands together.
"You know we can't do that," said Roines. "They patrol their borders too intensively and watch for any activity."
"There's got to be a way," said Spaselopedus. "We already know the Council or the KIT gets some ships through."
"Perhaps if you and Linda went over in person," said Ande. "You could explain the situation to them. You're an Observer and Linda is a native of Karpla."
"Are they likely to be reasonable?" said Linda.
"They can be," said Ande. "I've known them to do the right thing at times."
"Question is, is this one of those times?" said Spaselopedus.
They entered the airlock to the Eruithairkan ship and opened the hatch. Warm, moisture-laden air hit his face and filled his lungs as he breathed. There was an Eruithairkan waiting for them on the other end of the tunnel.
"Greetings," Spaselopedus gestured. He felt Galacticom's gesture mode lacked the nuances of speech, but accepted the shortcoming.
"Greetings," it responded. "I will take you to Captain. Please follow."
They followed the Eruithairkan. It had a pattern of spots on its head that reminded Spaselopedus of a constellation visible from Koplushia. He nicknamed the Eruithairkan Hammerhead.
Hammerhead led them down a corridor and to a door. The door dilated open and they entered.
There were two Eruithairkans in the room, both floating in huge tubs of steaming water.
"Greetings, I am Observer Spaselopedus Barinium. This is Linda Prescott of Karpla."
The smaller of the two raised itself out of the tub and gestured with its smaller set of tentacles. "I am Ship-Captain. What do you want?"
Straight to the point, he thought. "I seek safe passage for our ship to Karpla." he said.
"Why?" asked the Captain.
"We are carrying a Karplan native," he indicated Linda, "who wishes to return to her world."
"How did the Karplan native leave her world? Karpla is low-technology and under protected status of Alliance."
"With a space machine of Karplan manufacture and of hyperspatial capability." No reason to lie, thought Spaselopedus.
At this point, the larger Eruithairkan began making slurping noises. There was no other way to think of it. The Captain turned a huge eye to the other Eruithairkan and slurped back.
"What are they saying?" Linda asked Spaselopedus.
"They're not speaking Galacticom," he said. "I guess they're discussing it."
The Captain turned his head towards them and signed. "We cannot allow your ship passage to Karpla. It is against our treaty with Koplushia."
Great! he thought. What do I have to do, get kidnapped again? "They won't let us through," he told Linda.
"We have to get to Earth," said Linda. "Is there any way at all..."
"I have an idea," he said, then began gesturing. "Captain, my companion and myself desperately need to return to Karpla. Is there any way we can be allowed through?"
Again the two Eruithairkans made slurping noises back and forth.
"My ship would be authorized to return the Karplan alone."
Spaselopedus turned to Linda. "He wants to take you back alone."
"Oh no," she railed, "I'm not going alone!"
"I don't want you to go alone either. Kiprim's on Earth. We need to find him. What's more, he's the one who ordered my kidnapping in the first place. I won't forget that."
"Captain," Spaselopedus gestured, "I too need to return to Karpla. I was an Observer there and need to finish my assignment." A little embellishment never hurt, he thought.
The Captain gestured, "if you are Observer for Koplushian Council, then why does not Council send clearance for your ship?"
Hmm, he thought, If they need clearance from the Council for ships to pass through...
"Captain, I am in reality an operative of the Council," he gestured. "I need to take this woman to Karpla on a mission of utmost importance." Spaselopedus thought and an embellishment came to mind. "There may be a traitor on my ship so I cannot make contact with my superiors at this time. Will you deliver us to Karpla?"
The slurping sounds resumed and continued for some time. Finally the Captain replied.
"We will deliver you to Karpla Agent Barinium and Linda Prescott. We are at the disposal of the Alliance."
Spaselopedus stood dumbstruck for a moment. "I can't believe it was that easy," he said.
"Are they taking us?" said Linda.
"Yes, just you and me, but they will take us."
"Captain, I need to get a few things from the ship. I'll notify you when we're ready to board
"Very good Agent Barinium. We stand to serve."
"They think you're what?" said Astra Ande. They were in the common room surrounding a bowl of foodcubes.
"I told them I was an operative of the Koplushian Council," said Spaselopedus. "They absolutely wouldn't take us through any other way."
"You two are going to go there alone?" said Ande. "I wish we could be there to help."
"Lunacorp will help us," said Linda. "Once we warn them, security will get right on the case."
"I kind of wish I could go too," said Roines. "It would be like stepping back in time to see a primitive space installation."
"I wish you were coming too," said Spaselopedus. "It was hard enough convincing Linda. Now I'll have to get all of them to believe me."
"Relax Spencer," she said. "I'll be there to help out."
"Just don't forget to record your Affidavit before you go," said Ande. "We have some convincing of our own to do."
Spaselopedus nodded confidently. He was finally going to be rid of this problem and start on the next one.
Spaselopedus sat down at the table in the conference room. Linda, Astra, Roines, Gudin, Shirma and Kelgin were all standing in a group near the door. Spaselopedus adjusted the position of the small wedge-shaped box before him. He had given an Affidavit many times before. It was a standard procedure for Observers.
The box before him was a specialized recording device used exclusively for this purpose. It was designed to be as tamper resistant as possible. To his knowledge no statement so-recorded by an Observer had ever been contested.
Everyone was watching him expectantly. Spaselopedus reached over and placed his hand on the Affidavit recorder. A small arm unfolded and extended to the level of his eyes. The arm was a retina scanner. It would allow an auditor to check his identity and his retinal blood flow to assure against untruth.
Spaselopedus removed his dispex, glanced at Linda and took a breath. Soon he would be free from this burden and be off to Karpla.
"Greetings fellow sentients," he said, "I am Observer Spaselopedus Barinium of the Koplushian Council. I have something very important I need to tell you..."
[Chapters 21-25][Index][Chapters 31-35]
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.