Index > Observer
David E. Rutan
Copyright © 1999 David E. Rutan
A novel of approximately 72,500 words
Kiprim stepped off the shuttle into the Lunacorp entry station. He was dressed in a gray business suit he had purchased on the planet. When asked for ID, he produced his expertly forged credentials and handed them to the receptionist.
"Very good Mr. Fisk," she said, "everything's in order. You're appointment with Dr. Michaels is at 11:30."
"Thank you Ma'am," said Kiprim affecting a very slight accent he had learned on the planet. It was refreshing for him to be in space compared to that backwards culture below. Even if it was in its primitive stages, this facility was the closest thing to civilization he had encountered on Karpla.
He was fortunate to have found out about the government agency investigating the theft of the 'Pod'. The computer security systems in this culture were so feeble it took him no time to get proper credentials to impersonate the investigator.
Now he would assess this facility and discover it's weakest point. In the mean time he would perform a mock investigation of the personnel here. The anthropologists in the Alliance would appreciate any first hand knowledge he chose to report upon his return.
* * *
On the Eruithairkan ship Spaselopedus and Linda were given quarters with environmental controls to keep the humidity down. He had given the Sentinels what they wanted. It felt good to have the responsibility off his back.
Spaselopedus was amused and wasn't hiding it well. When they arrived at the cabin and closed the door Linda finally asked, "What is so funny Spence? You've been grinning ever since Astra spoke to you alone. What did she say?"
He sat on the small cushion on the deck and wriggled into a comfortable position, "Observer Ande of Koplushia," he said haughtily, "is worried about my sensibilities and my honor."
"What?" she said in a near whisper.
"She pulled me aside before we got aboard to assure herself that I wasn't taking advantage of the situation," he smiled.
Linda smiled mischievously. "So what did you tell her?"
Spaselopedus mocked offense. "I told her she needn't worry about you, that you were perfectly capable of knocking me out if I got out of hand." He smiled back at her.
"You did not!"
"How would you know? Were you there?"
"Harrumph!" was all she answered as she went into the watercloset.
The room was large for a cabin. Their hosts, the Eruithairkans, had given them good accommodations so as to keep them out from under their feet. The arrangement suited him. He stood, collected the satchel he had been given and opened it on the table. Inside were foodcubes. (Water was a constant in the universe, food wasn't always.)
He reached into his inner coat pocket and retrieved and donned his dispex. He wouldn't go where he shouldn't in the ship's net but just to know anything made him feel better.
Linda reentered the cabin. "That's one weird room."
"It should be to us," said Spaselopedus, "we're not Eruithairkans."
She looked around the cabin, then at Spaselopedus. "So, what do we do until we get to Earth? Astra said that it should take a couple of days."
Spaselopedus shrugged, "Well, after we settle in, I guess we could look around the ship. I'll try to arrange it."
The guide that came to the cabin door looked like any other Eruithairkan to Spaselopedus. It was devoid of any spots, so he mentally nicknamed it "Baldy".
"Greetings Observer Barinium," gestured Baldy in Galacticom. "I am assigned to display our ship to you and your companion."
Spaselopedus gestured back. "Thank you. I'm sure we will enjoy the tour." Then to Linda, "Here we go."
Linda kept close to him as they walked down the corridor. "I realize these are sentient beings who possess language , culture, and technology," she said, "but I keep remembering my first encounter with them."
"To tell you the truth, they give me the creeps too. I don't know why."
"Spence," she touched his arm, "you say these aliens control the space around Earth?"
"That's right. They were here even before we Koplushians found it."
"Why do you think they never took over Earth?"
Spaselopedus thrust a finger into the air, "Ah, do you like mysticism?"
"Why?" she asked.
"Because that's why they never invaded Earth. The Sarvus Legnay told them not to."
"You mean the energy beings in your religion?"
"Yes, according to their religion, when their ships were approaching Earth, 'a shining being' appeared and told them to leave the area alone."
"And they obeyed?" she asked.
"Well, a few of their ships tried to find out what was so special but they never returned to Eruithairk to report."
"If that's true, why did they agree to land us there?"
Spaselopedus looked at her. "You ask the hardest questions sometimes. I don't know. I thought maybe I impressed them sufficiently with the urgency of the situation."
Their guided but un-narrated tour lasted about an hour. Spaselopedus noted three levels on the ship plus a cargo hold and docking bay. It was a good sized ship, though the ceilings were oppressively low. They both had to stoop in the corridors.
When the tour was completed, he rejoiced at entering the less humid quarters they had been given.
"I don't know about you," he said, removing his coat. "I'm all for going to sleep and starting again in the morning."
"Sounds good," Linda said, stifling a yawn.
"Oh Saskuit!" said Spaselopedus.
"What? Oh," said Linda, "there's only one bed."
He looked at her. Linda looked at him. Neither of them said anything until Spaselopedus laughed. "I'll take the floor for Observer Ande's sake."
"No, it's ridiculous," she said. "You've been through so much lately. I think you deserve some comfort. I'll sleep on the floor."
It would be improper for them to share the bed, and there was no way he would let her take the floor. "No, Linda. It's not right. I'll sleep on the floor."
"Are you sure? I won't mind."
Spaselopedus gave her a firm nod. She was right though; he had undergone some discomforts recently but propriety came first.
The next day they stayed in the cabin. To relieve the boredom, Spaselopedus tried working on perfecting Linda's command of Kopanset. Unfortunately, as a teacher, he irritated his student more than educated her.
"But it's silly to say pilgres when I mean megres," she said.
"Pilgres is very formal," he said. "It's use is restricted to people above your station."
"So If I were greeting you I'd have to say pilgres?"
"In polite society, yes you would."
"Sounds silly," she said. "If I didn't already know the language I'd be at it for years."
"It's no sillier than that spelling rule English has," Spaselopedus mocked. "'I' before 'E' except after 'C' and when sounding like 'A' as in 'neighbor' and 'weigh'--and Tuesdays and Thursdays and the first day in May..."
Linda began laughing. "Now you're just being ridiculous," she said.
After their evening meal, he announced, "According to this," he was using his dispex, "we're very near Earth. The ship has just passed by that huge gas giant with the big red storm."
"That would be Jupiter," she said. "Is there a way I can see?"
"Sure," he said removing the dispex and handing them to her. "Just focus on the dot and choose 'view' on the list.
"I don't know," she said frowning at him, "I remember the last time I tried this."
"Well, there was a reason for that," he said bowing his head. "I accidentally left them on 'expert mode' when I gave them to you last time."
"Oh, thanks!" She grinned. After putting them on Linda seemed to have difficulty at first. Then she said, "Aha, there it is. Yes, that was Jupiter and here comes the asteroids. We're moving pretty quick."
It was then that the door chimed and rudely opened without response. It was their Eruithairkan guide again. Obviously he was assigned to them for the duration.
"Greetings, Captain wishes me to inform you that we are approaching departure point for you," he gestured.
"Very good," Spaselopedus gestured back. "How soon before we land?"
Baldy's gesturing appendages hesitated, then, "I am to take you to the docking bay now."
"Excellent," answered Spaselopedus. "Let's get our stuff together Linda," he said. "We're going now."
"I wonder what Earth will think when we land," she said, grabbing their satchels and handing one to Spaselopedus.
"I guess we'll see. Hopefully we'll come down somewhere fairly secluded so there won't be any fuss."
They followed Baldy down the corridor and down the levels to the docking bay. There was a small ship in the center of the bay.
"I guess that's our ship," said Spaselopedus.
Baldy however had stopped by a hatch on the wall. Spaselopedus recognized the universal green symbol on the control pad and the hatch itself.
"Why did you stop here?" he gestured to Baldy. "The ship is over there."
"You are not leaving on the ship. We will not approach the 'Forbidden Planet'. You are to enter the escape pod and go to your destination."
"We can't arrive on Karpla like that."
"You must," Baldy insisted. "We will not make landing there."
"Saskuit!" said Spaselopedus. "Take me to your Captain," he signed. "I won't stand for this." Spaselopedus started back up the corridor to the elevator. When he turned, he saw the Eruithairkan picking up Linda and placing her in the lifepod.
"Hey!" he said, "put her down!" Suddenly Spaselopedus felt something cold on his neck and then he really didn't care what happened anymore.
"Spencer, Spencer, can you hear me? Wake up!" Linda said.
He awoke to her hand gently slapping his cheek. He opened his eyes and grabbed her hand. They were in the life pod and she was bent over him
"I'm awake," he said. "Are we all right?"
"Yes, I guess so," she said. "They locked the hatch and launched us a few minutes ago.'
"Omniscient Seg!" he said rubbing his neck. "We can only hope they are indeed sending us to Earth, however the method."
"You don't think they'd just kill us do you?" she asked.
He rubbed his face. "I don't know what to think, but logically they could kill us much simpler than putting us in here."
"Unless it has to look like an accident."
Spaselopedus sighed. "Linda, doom and gloom will get us nowhere. Let's see if we can discover where we are going." He donned his dispex and flicked the appropriate icons.
"Good news. I'm interfacing with the lifepod's computer. We are headed in the right direction to reach Earth... wait... no... we're not going to Earth. The flight projection has us heading for Earth's moon."
"Are we going to make it?"
"Hmm," he paused, searching the computer for information. "Yes, I think we will. The repulser array is set. I guess we'll land pretty soft... somewhere."
"I only hope someone there is keeping an eye out for us. We don't have spacesuits to get to the Lunacorp base."
He touched her hand. "Let's get into the crash webbing and have faith in that astronomer--Carlson wasn't it?"
* * *
Dr. Scott Michaels, Director of the Lunacorp facility on Luna sat at his desk reading the display on his computer. In the chair before his desk was agent Fisk of the FBI.
"Mr. Fisk," said Michaels stifling a yawn, "I've told you before, I had no idea the Pod was going to be stolen. The event took me by shock."
Fisk smiled slightly and said, "You insist also that Ms. Prescott was an innocent bystander in the affair. Could she not have been a collaborator?"
"First of all," Michaels' voice rose, "I've worked with Ms. Prescott for three years. I trusted her completely. She was the Department head and as such could hire who she deemed necessary. Secondly, I'm getting annoyed with your asking the same questions over and over. If you are through with your investigation I'd appreciate your going back to Earth and leaving me and my people alone."
"Very well Dr. Michaels, I have only a few more--"
A buzzer on Michaels' desk sounded. "Come," he said.
Samuel Carlson entered carrying a folder in his hand. "Scott... Oh, you're busy. I need to see you ASAP." He turned to leave.
Michaels stood up. "Sam wait! Mr. Fisk has just finished here--again." Michaels gave Fisk a cold look.
"Yes, I was just leaving Dr. Michaels to his work," said Fisk standing. "Please don't let me disturb you." He picked up his briefcase and left the office.
"Okay Sam, what now? The last time you came in this excited..."
"Exactly!" Carlson finished.
"Exactly what?" asked Michaels seating himself.
"Just look at these Scott." He handed the folder over.
Michaels opened the file and shrugged. "What's so special about Jupiter? Looks the same as usual."
"Not Jupiter. Look where I've circled."
Michaels examined the photo again. "You're kidding. What is it?"
"I don't know, but it ain't no Halley's Comet." Carlson's face looked like it might crack in half from the broad grin it supported. "A planetside scope spotted it last night and alerted us. Here's a picture from our big eye," Carlson handed Michaels a rolled up photo from behind his back.
"Good Lord!" Michaels exclaimed, standing up like shot. "Is it...?"
"It looks artificial and it's slowing down. They're coming to us!"
Michaels' jaw dropped. "We need to put security on alert. Where are they going to land? Can you tell yet?"
Carlson shook his head. "Can't tell. The object has made a few course corrections though. There's definitely intelligence involved."
"About four hours."
"Keep me informed. I've got a lot of calls to make."
"I'm sure you do," Sam said smiling. "See you in about four hours."
* * *
"Wake up Spence!" Linda had been watching him slowly close his eyes during the past hour or so. It concerned her that he was so quiet.
"I'm not asleep," he said jogging his head and rubbing his eyes. He remained silent nonetheless.
"I was just reading in this history chip that Astra gave me. There's a Lafris Barinium mentioned during the Early years of Koplushia's founding. Is he an ancestor of yours?"
Spencer, or Spaselopedus Barinium as was his real name didn't respond beyond a small shrug. "Hey, are you alright?" she said.
Spencer had been noticeably somber since the Eruithairkans launched them in this lifepod. Granted there was nothing to do here, but she was used to him always having something to say.
"What? I'm all right," he grumbled.
"Spence," said Linda, "you're acting funny. Like you've got something on your mind."
"Maybe I do."
She pocketed the reader and shifted to face him squarely in the webbing. "Do you want to talk about it?"
"No," he said, avoiding her eye.
"Would you at least tell me what it is?"
Spencer sighed and folded his arms. After a minute of fidgeting, he said, "I keep thinking about Zamonus. I killed him. I killed another human being."
Linda didn't have an idea of how to salve his emotional wound. It was logical that he felt responsible for Zamonus' accidental death.
"Spence?" she said.
"It wasn't your fault."
"It sure looked like it to me." Spencer turned to her. "He was coming after me--not Gudin, not Kelgin. I'm responsible for a man's death."
"If I remember," she said, "you got involved in it to help me."
Spencer avoided her gaze and looked away. "You can't know what it's like. We don't live among violent people. At least I didn't believe we did until my life as an Observer was torn from me."
Linda sympathized with him. She had experienced similar feelings when Andrew was killed. It took her years to begin to get over the loss.
Linda realized that she had made her career at Lunacorp fill the void Andrew's death had left in her. She rose from a lowly programmer to project supervisor in only a few years. Yet what did it really all mean to her?
"Spencer," she said. He turned to look at her.
"I can understand what you're going through. I can tell you're not the type to make life or death decisions everyday and I know these last two weeks must have been difficult."
"Not to mention my time on Earth," he said looking away and folding his arms.
"Yea," she said, "I was a bit hard on you, but from my point of view you were kind of ..."
"Insane?" he said.
"That's one way of putting it," she said smiling. She didn't want to hurt his feelings.
"So now that you've seen what I was talking about, what do you think of the Alliance?"
"From a historical perspective it's interesting that it's survived ten thousand years."
"Well, no civilization on Earth ever lasted that long."
"That's because they're all inherently violent," he said.
"That's just not true and you know it!" said Linda. "Your history is filled with just as much violence as mine. Astra told me about the bree'hah."
"The bree'hah were one of our first interspecies contacts." He raised his voice. "We had no idea what we were doing."
"What about the Vritians? They're human. You fought them too. You have no right to call my people violent!"
Spencer was quiet for a time. "You're right. Let's just drop it."
"You can't just drop it. You didn't have any choice in the matter. It wasn't your fault that Zamonus died."
He shrugged again.
"Spencer, you saved everyone on the ship. I'm grateful you were there."
He looked at her from the corner of his eye for a moment. Then he bowed his head slightly. "I don't think It'll do them any good anyway," he said.
"What won't?" she said.
"The information and my Observer's Affidavit. Who's going to believe a band of rebels except more rebels?"
"Then why did you do it?"
Spencer stared at the far wall of the pod and spoke quietly. "I did it to get you home."
"You did what?" Linda couldn't believe she heard him say it.
He turned to face her. "I made a vow to myself to do it anyway providing we didn't freeze to death in the Pod."
Linda could hardly believe what she was hearing. And to think I thought he was crazy, she thought. Then she remembered something.
"Did you know you're in the Eky Kraidtin?"
Spencer narrowed his eyes. "What do you mean?"
"When I got a look at the book in the book shop on Ozmodin I read a verse that sounds like you."
His eyes remained narrow. "Do you remember it?"
Linda looked at the ceiling trying to recall the passage exactly. "I think it read:
"'A man will come amongst his brothers.
An unwanted visitor, they will fail to do away with him.
A secret revealed, he will help them little.'"
Spencer looked at her expectantly. "Yes it fits, but it's so vague. What good is it anyway?"
"Oh Spence, why do you have to be so difficult?" Linda had hoped he would want to discuss the implications. It might change his mood.
"I'm not being difficult."
"So you're saying you don't hold any belief in the prophesies of your own religion?"
"No," he said. "I'm saying I don't think I'm fulfilling it. Engrethist ministers have been claiming fulfillment of those scriptures for centuries. I just don't think it matters."
"But if the prophesies come true," said Linda, "that adds credence to the belief."
"What would you say if I told you that Earth may be referred to in the prophesies?" said Spencer.
Linda's interest peaked. "I'd say I want to hear more. Do you remember it?"
"It's passage ninety eight," he said.
"'The others shall go to the youngest to nurture it, but the youngest shall be taken from them.
They will shun their lost brother.'"
Linda sat quietly for a moment. She believed she knew what part of Koplushian history was being referred to in the passage.
"That's spooky stuff," she said. "From what I've read of your history, I presume it refers to when Earth was discovered by the Alliance."
"That's what they say," said Spencer nodding. "Earth was discovered by Dagrith Karpla on an exploratory mission. When it was determined that primitive humans inhabited the planet, arguments broke out in the Council about what should be done."
"Yes," said Linda. "They attempted a landing to make contact but were stopped in space by an Eruithairkan armada."
"And so your Earth was preserved untouched," said Spencer.
"And now we're coming of age, being able to travel to the stars."
"That sent a shiver down my spine," he said.
"Why?" said Linda.
Spencer pointed his finger into the air. "Another of the prophesies goes:
"'The orphan has come of age.
He is shunned by his siblings.
Beware the shunned, for he shall rule.'"
"The shunned orphan being Earth?" said Linda.
Spencer nodded his head.
"And the siblings being the other human planets in the Alliance?"
"Yes," he said.
"And yet you hold no credence with these?"
"Let's just say I hold an open mind to them. I don't believe or disbelieve."
Linda shook her head, unable to understand Spencer's reasoning. She believed the prophesy about him was real and that's all that mattered to her.
* * *
Scott Michaels made it to the maintenance garage. Exactly four hours and eight minutes after his last meeting with Sam, the spherical artifact impacted the surface on the Moon and came to rest. A maintenance crane sent out to retrieve it was now bringing it into the garage where a proper examination of the object would be made.
Anyone of seniority had crowded into the area near the door in the hope of hearing or seeing anything firsthand.
"The moment of truth," said Sam Carlson, catching up to Michaels near the entrance to the garage.
"Is any post on this base is still manned? Apparently everybody's here."
The outer door closed and pressurized air filled the garage. When the door opened, security personnel entered and fanned out around the object. The science teams could not be kept out, but for the present they stayed away, choosing to examine the craft at a distance.
A loud click echoed in the garage and suddenly a hatch opened. There was strange light eminating from the object, then a shadow.
Something was coming out.
"Hello," a familiar voice said in English! "Don't shoot! It's me Linda."
Scott Michaels' eyes widened and his jaw dropped. "It can't be," he said.
Sam Carlson smiled broadly, "Maybe not," he said, "but it is. Look!"
It was Linda Prescott climbing out of the alien craft. She was wearing odd clothing, but it was definitely her. A cheer went up from the crowd. Michaels sprinted over to her. She was alive after all!
Linda smiled. "Have I got a story for you!"
Others from the crowd started coming over to greet her. The noise was overwhelming. As Michaels looked over to the craft he saw Spencer Oedipus come out. He wanted to walk over and slug the man for stealing the Pod and making him believe the woman he loved as a daughter was dead, but the crowd was around them and carrying them away.
Michaels managed to save them from the crowd by nearly dragging them into this sanctuary. They sat in the office, Spaselopedus, Linda, Scott Michaels, Sam Carlson and Julia Vance. Spaselopedus was unsure what was going to happen to them now, and he wasn't sure how to convince the Earthers of the truth.
"So," said Michaels dropping into his seat, "what have you been doing with yourself for the past two weeks?"
"You wouldn't believe it Scott," Linda leaned forward in her chair. "It was incredible! There's a whole new world out there waiting for us."
"Before we go into that, let's take care of a few fundamentals. Mr. Oedipus," he said scornfully. "Why did you steal my life's work and leave me to believe that you had taken this young woman to her death?"
"W-well Sir..." Spaselopedus shrank back. Michaels was looking right at him and he wasn't ready for this kind of confrontation.
"Let me, Spence. Linda placed her hand on his. "Scott, he took the Pod because he was trying to get home. He's from a human civilization beyond our own."
An odd look came over Michaels, he glanced at Spaselopedus, Sam, Julia and Linda, "By rights I should just turn him over to the FBI for grand theft. I don't care where you say you're from."
"You can't do that," said Linda.
"And why not?"
Julia cleared her throat. "We can prosecute him for theft of property if you like, Scott, but how are you going to explain that ship they returned in?"
Linda pursed her lips. "It's going to sound strange until you hear the whole truth Scott, but you have a saboteur in your midst."
"I know I do, right in my office." He pointed to Spaselopedus again.
"No, no," she yelled, "there is someone here on Lunacorp who is going to try and destroy our project. Listen to what we have to say."
"Okay," said Michaels, "go ahead."
"Spencer's people don't want us out there." Linda glanced over at him for a moment. "They've sent someone here to destroy our project."
Michaels listened patiently as Linda gave her synopsis of what had happened to them. The more he heard, the further he pushed away from his desk. Finally, as Linda finished, he pulled back to his desk and said, "Alright, for now I'll believe you. I really don't have much choice considering the pictures Sam got and the method of your arrival. It's just all so... unbelievable."
Linda placed her hand on Michaels' desk, "I need to see the pictures of everyone who has arrived here since we left. I think I'll recognize the man when I see him again."
"Okay," said Michaels turning to the terminal on his desk. "We had a shift rotation two days ago, just the regulars plus a Federal Agent. Here you go." He turned the display towards her.
"Why the Fed?" Then she realized. "Oh, that's right the theft of the Pod." She manipulated the computer while Spaselopedus watched. Finally Linda shook her head and turned to Spaselopedus. "None of them looked familiar. What do we do now Spence?"
"Let me try something," he said extending his hands to the keyboard. "Uh, Dr. Michaels, do you have an eye-mouse for this terminal?"
Michaels frowned and opened a drawer in his desk. He pulled out the heads-up and handed it over. Spaselopedus removed his dispex, donned the eye-mouse and went to work.
Sam Carlson spoke up. "So, what are the people like on his world Linda?"
She looked at him and Michaels, then back to Spaselopedus, "They're like us--human."
"Hmm," he said adjusting his glasses and looking over to Michaels. Michaels merely nodded back.
"What?" Linda said. "What are you inferring?"
Before either of the men could answer, Spaselopedus removed the heads-up and exclaimed, "Got it! This likeness was altered in the computer."
"Which one?" asked Michaels.
"Special Agent Fisk of the FBI," he said.
Spaselopedus turned the display to Michaels. "That's not Fisk," said Michaels. "What's going on?"
"Let me see it," said Linda leaning over. "I don't recognize him either. How about you Julia?"
She shook her head. Michaels picked up the handset to his intercom. "Ashley, have Mr. Fisk brought to my office please ... Thank you." He replaced the handset. "There, that will get things settled."
Spaselopedus entered a few more commands into the computer and sat back in the chair. "I've restored the image as it was originally."
Michaels looked at the display again. "Yes, that's him, that's Fisk."
"No it's not," said Linda pointing to the screen over his shoulder. "That's the man who interviewed me in my Koplushian detention cell. His name was..."
"Kiprim, Wilm Kiprim!" Spaselopedus interjected. "He's also the man who posed as my Observer's Guild Representative and the one who ordered my kidnapping to Earth."
Just then the lights went out, an alarm sounded and the emergency lights went on.
"What now?" Linda said.
Michaels, already on the phone, replaced it. "The reactor's gone offline. Maintenance is getting on it."
"Wait!" said Julia, "we have a saboteur on Luna and the reactor goes down just after these two return from who knows where? Sounds like too much of a coincidence to me."
"I agree." Linda stood up.
"Where do you think you're going?" said Michaels.
"We're going to find the saboteur. I'm not going to just sit around and let things happen. This guy's out to get us."
"You can't do anything that security can't handle. You'll just get in the way," said Michaels.
"We're going anyway," said Spaselopedus. "I have some insight as to how this individual will think. We can help." He stood up, opened the door, and led the way out.
"What are we going to do?" asked Linda as they made their way down the corridor.
"Isn't it obvious?" said Spaselopedus with confidence. "We have to find Fisk or whoever and stop them from destroying this facility. The logical step is to get to the reactor and restore power."
"And when we get there, do you know anything about nuclear fusion reactors?" she asked.
"Uh, no, I guess we'll need a tech for that."
Linda touched her wrist; damn, her cell-phone bracelet had gone missing when they started this adventure. Oh well, by rights every tech on Luna should be heading there ahead of them.
The reactor, the primary power source for Lunacorp facility, was located deep underground. The extensive cave system that had been discovered during construction facilitated access and power distribution. The elevators to the caves were not functioning during the power outage so Spaselopedus and Linda used the ladders.
It was a long climb down. Spaselopedus' hands and his instep ached from the rungs. A battery-operated emergency light shone down on them from above.
"How deep down is this place again?" he asked looking down at her during a short respite. She showed no signs of fatigue.
"About five levels more. Why, are you tired?"
"No, I'm all right," he lied. Spaselopedus flexed one of his hands and examined it for damage. He saw only the beginnings of blisters.
They descended and immediately noticed the darkness. "There's no lights on down here," said Linda, "and damn if we don't have a flashlight."
"C'mon," said Spaselopedus, "let's feel our way. There should be a maintenance crew around here somewhere."
But they only proceeded about a hundred meters when he tripped on something.
"Spence, are you alright?" Linda called. "Spence?... Spencer?"
Spaselopedus lay on the hard floor in the dark. It took him a minute to get his breath back. "Yes," he whispered, "I got the wind knocked out of me. What did I trip on?"
Linda was silent for a moment. He couldn't see what she was doing. "It's... it's a body," she gasped.
A creeping sensation came over Spaselopedus. He couldn't see or hear anything in the darkness. Linda found him and took his hand to help him up. "This is ridiculous," she said. "There should be people down here working on the problem."
"I think I just tripped over one of them. Kiprim's playing for keeps," he whispered.
"I've never thought of spies playing it any other way," she said. C'mon, we'll either die here quickly or up there slowly without power."
"Agreed." He squeezed her hand momentarily.
They continued down the passage, encountering a few more bodies. Finally they turned a corner and saw something.
"There's light up ahead, and a door," said Spaselopedus.
"At last," she said.
There were two doors actually, one blocking further progress down the passage and another off to the side.
"Which one do we try first?" Linda said.
Spaselopedus went to the side door and placed his ear on it. "I don't hear anything," he said. Then at the other door, "I can hear machinery in there, the reactor, I guess."
"Let's try door number one, then." She walked over to it and pressed the latch. It opened revealing a break room. In the dim emergency lights he could see food dispensers, a lavatory, tables and chairs, and a communications terminal. "Well, that's a lot of good," Linda said.
"Maybe it is," said Spaselopedus heading for the terminal. He began working. Linda looked over his shoulder.
"What are you doing? This is a com-terminal. The best you could do is..."
"I've activated the camera in the reactor room, see?" he said. An image appeared on the display. It was the reactor room, dimly lit with red lights glowing on every panel.
"That looks bad," said Linda," all that red on the panels. Try to call for a tech to get down here and fix this."
"Nobody's answering the com," he said.
"Let's try the other door. There may be something obvious we could do."
"Like a big button that says 'Press to Repair Reactor' I suppose." Spaselopedus rose from his seat.
"It's better than sitting here," Linda said heading for the door.
"Wait a minute!" he called after her. "Let's be careful about this. It may be dangerous."
"May be? The reactor's down. The backups will only last for so long. The ventilation's gone too. We need to get in there and get Kiprim."
Spaselopedus looked into the darkness of the passage as if expecting help to arrive. "By the way, while I was in the system just now I discovered why we're alone here."
"Why's that?" she asked.
"He's activated the emergency bulkheads. Everyone up there is sealed into nice neat cells."
"So it's up to us Alone."
"Let's try the door," Linda said. "If we can get to a real computer in there we can open things up and then help will be on its way." She walked over and reached for the latch.
"Wait, let me do it," said Spaselopedus.
"Okay, open the door," she said standing aside.
Spaselopedus pressed the latch. A motor began working and the door slid open. He saw a flash and suddenly his right leg was in agony. He fell to the floor."
"Spence... what happened?"
He looked down and saw the scorched cloth of his trouser leg and badly blistered skin. Between spasms of pain he was able to talk. "He's got... a beamer."
"You mean a ray gun?" she said.
Spaselopedus managed to smile despite the pain. Linda had the strangest way of thinking of things. "Watch out... If... you can... distract him... I'll try... to get... the computer."
"Okay," she said, "the office is up a flight of stairs. Do you feel you can make it?"
He nodded yes.
* * *
Linda braced and then hurled herself into the reactor room, dodging and rolling sporadically. She found cover and looked around. "I know you're in here!" she yelled. "You might as well give up now."
She got no reply, but could see Spaselopedus moving to stand up. She reached for the toolbox near her and opened it. Grabbing a handful of wrenches, she waited until Spaselopedus was about to enter the chamber again and threw the wrenches across the room.
She heard a muffled curse as they clattered off everything. Linda moved out of her cover and saw a flash of movement. She dove and rolled to safety.
"You Earthers don't know what you're fighting," a familiar voice said. Linda remembered it from her interview in the Koplushian detention cell.
So it is Kiprim, she thought. "It's you who don't know," she said defiantly.
* * *
Spaselopedus started up the stairs. Each step evoked agony in his leg. It began throbbing and he broke out into a sweat. Crashes and clatters emanated from the reactor room. He held fast to the railing and made it to the glass-walled office. He got on the terminal and began working to open the emergency bulkheads.
He tried to ignore the pain in his leg as he worked, trying to free sections of the Lunacorp complex. As they were freed, he hoped Security and Maintenance would make their way here to help. He even tried to re-route power to activate the elevators, but was unsure if it was working. Finally, he succumbed to the shock and could only sit and look at the display. His vision became fuzzy and then he blacked out.
He woke with a start. How long have I been out? he wondered. Frantically he craned his neck to look out the glass wall overlooking the reactor room proper. Had he heard Linda scream?
Spaselopedus pulled himself out of the chair and limped to the door of the office. He heard sounds coming from the floor below. He spotted Linda on the floor, dragging herself away from Kiprim who was menacing her with a long prybar.
What can I do? he asked himself. He could hardly walk on his hurt leg. The pain was intense. He must find a way to help her, no matter what.
Spaselopedus heard Kiprim talking to Linda as he slowly pursued her. He was taunting her more than anything else. Spaselopedus was sure Kiprim could finish her off at any time.
A hook-hoist hung on a long chain hung and was slung over the railing of the walkway. He would have to catch Kiprim by surprise. With his wounded leg, there was no way he could sneak up on him.
Braving the pain, he carefully pulled himself up onto the railing next to where the hoist was secured and sat down. He put the foot of his good leg into the hook and waited. Soon Kiprim would be in line with the swing of the hoist and...
* * *
"How can you do this?" Linda asked pushing herself backwards along the floor, "Killing people for a living?" Kiprim had hit her in the leg with his beamer before she had managed to disarm him.
"We must protect our position in the Alliance mustn't we?" he said keeping up with her retreat. "If everyone had free travel through space what kind of society would we have?"
"A free one," she answered.
Kiprim frowned, "It would be chaos. Koplushia would have no control over anyone. We must keep our place, and your kind must be kept where you belong."
"What do you mean, my kind? I'm as human as you are."
Kiprim laughed, "You? You Earthers are mere barbarians. A disgrace to our species." He smiled. "When I return to the Alliance I think I'll recommend we exterminate all of you."
"I don't believe you could ever do that," she said.
"Oh, I know it couldn't be done openly but there are ways to achieve any desired result."
Suddenly Linda heard a clang. She looked up to see Spencer swinging down on a long hoist chain. He plowed into Kiprim, catching him unaware.
Kiprim literally flew across the reactor chamber, hitting a diagnostic panel and finally landing on the floor. Spencer had ricocheted off Kiprim and lay on the floor in a heap. Linda frantically dragged herself over to him.
Spencer lay perfectly still. He had a bruise on his right temple and his hands were bleeding. Seeing him like this reminded her of Andrew in the cemetery.
"Spencer... Spencer," she said as she made her way to him. He didn't respond. He can't be dead, she thought, he just can't be. She gently shook his shoulder. No response.
Linda placed his head in her lap. His skin was cool and clammy. He must be in shock. "Don't die Spencer," she said. She knew that she should do something to secure Kiprim or try to restore power to the complex, but she couldn't pull herself away from Spencer.
Linda began stroking his face. A tear formed in her eye and began running down her cheek. "I'm sorry the way I treated you before..." she said wiping away the lone tear. She sniffled back her running nose, "Don't die on me... Oh God Spence, I think I love you!"
Spaselopedus awoke in the infirmary. There were about a dozen people occupying beds in the ward. Linda was sleeping in a bed next to him. He didn't want to disturb her, but wished they could talk. He wondered about her injuries. From where he lay, he could see bandages on her legs, one arm, and her left side. Several bottles fed tubes leading to her arm.
He had bandages on his leg, his head and his hands. His right arm was in a cast. There was a tube leading from a bottle to a vein in his left arm.
"Hey you," said a voice from the next bed. "I hear you saved us."
It was a young man. Spaselopedus remembered the face as one of the hydroponic techs.
"Pardon?" he said.
The young man leaned toward him a bit. "I heard the Medics talking when they brought you and her in. They said you saved Luna from the saboteur."
Spaselopedus flushed a bit, then he looked over at Linda again. "She's the hero. I didn't do anything I didn't have to."
"But you did do it," he insisted.
"That doesn't matter. It got done. That's what counts," said Spaselopedus ending the conversation.
A few minutes later a nurse came down the line of beds in the ward. She went over to Linda's bed and checked Linda's bottles and tubes. When she approached him, Spaselopedus asked, "How is she?"
The nurse smiled. She had a pleasant face. "Not bad considering," she said. "She'll probably sleep for another hour or so. How do you feel, hero?"
He rolled his eyes. How would he ever live this down? "I feel a bit hungry actually," he said.
"That's a good sign. You didn't lose a lot of blood, but that burn must have put you into shock pretty good."
"You'll be having visitors soon I imagine. Dr. Michaels wants to talk to you."
"Oh boy," sighed Spaselopedus, "just what I need."
The man in the bed next to him mockingly whispered, "Hero, hero, hero," to an obscure melody. Spaselopedus ignored him.
"Hej kosmulo, mia amiko, kiel vi fartas nun?" Spaselopedus turned his head to see his former roommate Isii Yosiako walking up to the bed.
"Pretty good, Isii," he said answering his Esperanto. "I'm glad to see you're okay."
"Heck, I was in the gym when the lights went out," he glanced over at Linda. "That's a nice little ship you came back in. I'd love to pull it apart and see how it works."
Spaselopedus frowned. Was there no sating the curiosity of these Earthers? "I'll give you fair warning Isii, chances are if you dismantle that pod, it'll never function again. They're designed that way."
"Thanks for the heads-up Spence but don't worry. The Air Force is taking possession of it next week. We've been told to keep our mitts off."
Spaselopedus wondered at that. Why wouldn't Lunacorp be in charge of it?
Isii looked down the aisle, "Well, I gotta go Spence. Michaels is coming. ÿis la!" he turned and walked past Dr. Michaels who had just entered the infirmary.
After a concerned look over Linda, Michaels turned to Spaselopedus. It was the first time he had seen the man smile.
"Guess I owe you an apology young man," he blurted out. "That was good work you did freeing up the emergency bulkheads for us. Nobody else was making any headway."
Spaselopedus shrugged again.
"I'd like to offer you a permanent job Spencer. We're going to build another Pod and I'll need your programming skills. You'd be more of a consultant really, but I need you for the project."
The thought of putting these events into motion again didn't appeal to Spaselopedus. He wanted to discourage Michaels from attracting attention to Earth. "If you build another Pod," he said, "you may attract another agent of the KIT. They don't want us--you out there."
Michaels stroked the edges of his mouth with two fingers, "Wouldn't it be possible to find the agent before he does any harm?" his face reverted to the serious frown that Spaselopedus was accustomed to.
He sighed. "From my recent experience, I'd say if they can't be subtle, they'll resort to more extreme measures."
Spaselopedus decided to try and scare him. He remembered reading in Earth's history about the giant lizards which were wiped out millions of years ago. "Well, I'm not much on these things, but I do recall some time ago a rogue asteroid destroyed a colony planet."
Michaels face went ashen and he whispered, "You're saying that if we succeed we'll be destroyed?"
"I don't know anything for sure. I'm merely suggesting it." He thought for a moment. "What is being done with Kiprim?"
Michaels' face became very serious again. "Kiprim is dead. I'm afraid we'll get no information from him now."
Spaselopedus wasn't sure whether to be relieved or anxious. What would the KIT make of Kiprim's failure to report back?
He shifted his position in the bed. "How did he get up here anyway?"
"I called the FBI," said Michaels. "The only thing they would admit to was that Fisk had falsified credentials. They're sending up a bona fide agent ASAP to talk to us about it. I'm sure he'll want to speak to you."
"I hope my government doesn't send a follow-up to see what's happened to Kiprim."
Michaels reflected for a moment. "Doesn't that craft you arrived in have a radio transmitter in it? Couldn't we call your people--?"
Spaselopedus broke in, "Earth cannot enter into negotiations with the Alliance as a collection of independent nation-states. You're going to have to wait."
They heard a low moan from Linda's bed and looked over. She was waking up at last.
"Well good morning Ms. Prescott," said Michaels walking over to her bed. She looked up at him and asked in a whisper, "Where's Spence? Is he alright?"
Michaels pointed to Spaselopedus. "He's right over there and doing fine."
She attempted to sit up and look. "Ow, that hurts!" she said.
"Take it easy young woman. You've been through a lot."
"Tell me about it," she said looking across at Spaselopedus. "How are you Spence?"
Spaselopedus smiled. It was good to see her awake. "Ready to go back to work yet?"
Linda glanced at Michaels. "Give me a minute or two to catch my breath."
"You'll both have plenty of time to recover," said Michaels. "You're both going back to Earth as soon as the Doctor gives the okay."
"I guess we'll surprise your mom," said Spaselopedus.
"That reminds me," Michaels unfastened his cell-phone bracelet and handed it to Linda, "you might want to give her a call."
Linda shook her head frowning. "She doesn't have a phone. I gave her one but she doesn't keep it charged up."
"Maybe she didn't," said Michaels, "but since you disappeared she's been keeping in touch with us on it. She charged it up after I sent Townsend out to let her know you were kidnapped by our saboteur," Michaels smiled and indicated Spaselopedus.
"Oh my God!" said Linda. "She must be worried sick."
"I called her when you were asleep," said Michaels. "She knows you're alive."
Linda fumbled on the bracelet and punched a few keys.
"Damn!" she said, "It's been so long I forgot her number."
It was mid-afternoon when Linda landed the aero in her mother's back yard. Barbara was waiting by the back door of the house. After Linda popped the cockpit bubble, she and Spaselopedus carefully climbed down and started towards her. Spaselopedus's right arm was in a cast and he had bandages on his leg, but was healing from his injuries. Linda's sprains and bruises slowed her down as well. Adjusting to Earth's gravity, after being on the moon would take some time.
Barbara bolted out of the door and ran to Linda. She threw an embrace around her, nearly lifting Linda's petite form off the ground. "Thank God you're safe!" Barbara said. "They told me you were dead!"
"I'm okay Mom," whispered Linda returning the hug enthusiastically. Tears were running down their cheeks when they parted.
"And you young man," Barbara hugged Spaselopedus, "I hear you're quite the hero."
"I only did what I had to," he said returning the embrace with his left arm.
"You wouldn't believe what we've been through Mom. It was unbelievable."
"Perhaps you two would favor me by telling me about it over dinner," said Barbara.
"Sure," said Linda. "Let us get our stuff out of the aero. We're staying for a while."
Barbara helped them carry the luggage to the house against Linda's insistence that it was too heavy. "Nonsense Dear," she said, "I lug hay bales around all the time."
Spaselopedus recalled the first time he had approached the house, that chilly night not so long ago. "Well, this is quite a change from my first time here," he said.
"And you won't be sleeping on the floor tonight either," said Barbara. "You can have the cot in the spare room, and Linda, your room is still made up."
"I know Mom," said Linda, "you tell me that every time I visit."
Over a supper of roasted chicken, baked potatoes and assorted vegetables, they told Barbara about their adventures. By the time desert was served they were finished and relaxing on the sofa in the parlor.
"That was a lot better than those soap cubes from the Alliance," Linda said.
Barbara had produced a tablet and pen to take down notes. "This would make a fascinating book," she said with the last scribbles of her pen.
Spaselopedus perked up. He was tiring of the retelling. "What do you think you would title it?" he said.
Linda drained her glass and smiled. "Why not call it 'The Adventures of Spencer Oedipus: Hero from Another World'?"
"I don't think that would do," said Barbara touching her chin with the end of the pen, "but I'll work on it."
"I'd rather you leave me out of it," said Spaselopedus. "All I was doing was trying to get my life back in line. When I found I couldn't, I made good on a promise to myself to get Linda home."
"And it was very noble of you Spencer," said Barbara. "What are your plans now, though? Are you going back to Koplushia?"
Spaselopedus bowed his head. "There's no way," he said. "I don't have a ship. Even if I could get back, there's nothing there for me now."
"Haven't you any family or friends?" she said.
Spaselopedus shook his head slowly. "I've got two brothers. But they went off to a colony world years ago. I haven't heard from them much."
"Dr. Michaels offered him a job as a consultant, Mom," said Linda.
"Well that's a good start," said Barbara, "working for Lunacorp."
Linda and Barbara began clearing the table. Spaselopedus brought his dishes to the sink.
"I'd like to be excused for a while," he said.
"Of course, Spencer," said Barbara, "we can handle this."
"Thanks," he said. Spaselopedus pulled on a jacket against the November chill and went outside.
He had been sitting up on the hill overlooking the homestead for about an hour when he heard Linda come up behind him.
"Looks like it'll be a beautiful sunset," she said. "Mom was getting worried and sent me out to find you."
"Your mother's a good person," he said. "She looks out for others."
"I know. Sometimes I think she takes it too far."
"There's nothing wrong with caring for others," he said, "but I've come to realize something."
Linda sat down next to him. After a long pause she said, "What have you realized?"
"I thought my life, my whole existence was being an Observer for the Council. I was wrong," he said. "I've since discovered I have a talent for flicking, for programming. What's more, on a more personal level," he turned to look at her, "I've realized there's more to life than what you do for a living."
Linda looked up and into his eyes, "I know what you mean, Spence. I lost my husband Andrew, six years ago." She looked down at her left hand for a moment. "I had just started at Lunacorp then as a programmer," she said. "After he was gone, I felt like my life had ended."
"I threw myself into the Company, avoiding any relationships. I didn't want to depend on anyone ever again. Well here I am, six years later. I've got a good job and nothing else. Maybe it's time I re-evaluate my life."
"We've been through a lot together, I guess," he said.
"Aliens, spies and spaceships," she said.
Spaselopedus sighed. "I've had enough hazards lately, I'm going to stay here and help your mom work the homestead for a while. I can do my consulting with Lunacorp via vid-link."
Linda moved closer to him, "I think I'll put in for a transfer to Sacramento so I can visit Mom more often."
"I won't mind seeing you either."
As the sun began setting behind a mountain, Spaselopedus slowly put his arm around Linda, resting his left hand on her waist. "I think I'll be satisfied discovering what living is really like on Earth." He watched Linda discreetly remove her wedding band and put it in her pocket.
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.