– 10 –
‘HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM!’
Michael’s makes his conserted request to the Hologen Attendant:
‘First human to walk on the Moon – Apollo 11 Mission’ Michael answers in a low discreet voice.
Michael briefly scans his memory banks: ‘…er, hum…quarter of a million miles from earth?’ he tentatively guesses, wondering why the assistant wouldn’t know how far earth’s one and only satellite was.
‘NAUT-IC-AL OR STAT-UTE?’
‘Emm… does it really matter?’
‘NAUT-IC-AL OR STAT-UTE SIR?’ the assistant repeats.
Thinking back to how the archives described it, Michael quickly replies: ‘NAUTICAL!
Realising that he certainly hadn’t thought about this properly at all. All that he and Henric would be able to do is to witness the big Saturn V rocket take off. They, along with half a billion others, would only be able to watch the rest being televised. Ah what the heck, maybe Henric is wrong! I’ll just aim high and go for a full moon shot and see what happens.
‘Early morning of the 20th July until late on the following day of the year Nineteen Hundred and Sixty Nine.’
EARTH OR LUNAR TIME?
Michael begins to display his growing impatience blurting out: ‘Earth Time of course!’
‘Highest administration level with full security clearance’ he responds confidently.
‘THANK YOU SIR. PRO-GRAM STAT-US PEN-DING…’
The short awkward pause seems to take forever, until the attendant looks back up from the screen saying:
‘PRO-GRAM PER-AMET-ERS DO NOT COR-RESPOND TO RE-QUEST – FUR-THER CLAR-I-FICATION IM-PUT RE-QUIRED… !’
He scratches his head and looks rather perplexed, until Henric makes a timely appearance from around the corner. He gently persuades his pod buddy to step back while expertly navigating the thin and flexible, almost invisible, graphite film screen, re-adjusting the coordinates.
The assistant finally announces: ‘PRO-GRAM AD-JUSTED SIRS’ adding the usual monotone: ‘EN-JOY YOUR TRIP!’
‘So, Henric…we’re going to see it all, aren’t we?’ Michael inquires enthusiastically as he tries to keep up with Henric’s long strides towards the Hologen launch pod.
Henric nods vaguely in the affirmative.
Lying in the darkened pod, the familiar and gut-wrenching swirl begins. Michael, trying to distract himself, recalls his method for getting over his fear while taking his first childhood deep dive from the precarious high-board jutting out of the cliffs into the deep freezing Atlantic swell. Attempting to console his self that it did get a little easier with practice, he takes a deep breath and braces his stiff horizontal body for a similar plunge.
Thankfully it wasn’t as crazy as his Maiden Voyage in the Hologen. Michael feels positively reassured as he watches Henric arise from the adjacent top bunk to survey the sparsely furnished vinyl-floored room below.
‘Well at least we didn’t land on the Moon Henric!’ Michael assures, grinning gormlessly.
‘Busy evening ahead of us Mick’ Henric urges as he swiftly descends from the bed, seemingly fully engaged with the protocol.
Michael clambers down the strong steel ladder feeling a little overdressed with his stiffly ironed shirt and bulky inner girdle; tightly tailored black suit and his long skinny black tie trailing from each rung, while his bulky dark trench coat and rather clumsy and hefty black boots makes his descent all the more precarious.
Following Henric’s lead and wriggling a fur felt black Fedora with satin ribbon banding upon his head, he watches Henric intently as he places the final piece of standard issue black shades over his bright blue/gray eyes. Knowing that of course it is still his buddy Henric, but, Michael can’t help feeling utterly spooked by his friend’s new and convincing demeanour. He dawns his own shades, plunging him into a strange ominous world of sinister proportions. Even Henric’s golden curls had disappeared, somehow, swallowed up by the large Fedora.
‘Henric, why are we wearing black sunglasses, everything looks really dark and we’re indoors?
‘Say nothing and keep saying it and don’t show any emotion!’ Henric strongly advises.
‘Well, if you say so Henric’ Michael shrugs.
‘You seem to know what you’re doing Henric; so, I’ll go with the protocol’.
‘One last thing Mick’ Henric adds, ‘You are Number Nine and I am Number Eleven.’
‘Who’s Number Ten then, Hen…ri…? Ooh, umm, I meant to say: Who’s Number Ten, Num…ber Eleven?’
Henric rolls up his darkened eyes behind the enigmatic shades while opening the door allowing Michael to walk out in front of him. Their militaristic footfalls echo along a narrow hallway.
‘It’s that room number thing again, Number Eleven – ours is flanked by 00-11 and zero-zero fifteen?’ Michael whispers as he looks back, seeing the numberless door just as solid as it had been when they exited it, giving him some reassurance that at least that door might be still there when they returned.
‘shuuushh…Number Nine!’ Henric urges.
Michael falters; groping around beneath his inner garments where he feels a smooth, bulging leather holster hugging his left side. Touching the hardware, he reels at the enormity of what he is unwittingly packing, wondering – what on earth had Henric gotten them into and what had this to do with landing the first men on the moon? And could he use it if he had to? And, would he have to?
Sorry Folks – that’s the end of sample version of Chapter Ten. Can’t give the whole plot away. But, there are other full short chapters below if you want to find out a little more about the story.
Michael had been at the United Nations building many times over the years, when it was still known by that name; and on a few occasions, with Kate. Entering this time, even with his own dawning realisation of how bad things had actually become – nothing prepared him for what he was about to discover in the heavily compartmentalised subterranean zones within the bowels of that edifice.
Upon entering into the familiar grand open foyer of the Centre for Global Affairs (CGA), the sophisticated and well-oiled military machine and copious lighting stood in stark contrast to the outer world. To Michael it was business as usual with only a greater degree of security measures and the fact that they had descended deeper into the building than on previous occasions.
The delegates filed into their assigned seating sectors and the lighting became more subdued. Michael was prepared for the usual, formal debriefing and monotony of information and protocol rolled out at such meetings, when a barely audible gasp was exhaled in ripples throughout the auditorium.
Raising his bowed head away from his personal interactive screen, Michael gazes upon the great congregation; his eyes fall upon the gradually illuminating scene. He thought just for a fleeting moment, what was coming into focus were a group of tall, and rather spindly elongated shadow beings. Seamlessly they appeared to float towards the front area of the arena.
Gradually, the stage came into sharper focus, revealing caped, grey, more solid forms. Their stature was not that of anything he had ever seen before. What on earth were they, Michael screamed silently – horrified by what he dared believe them to be. Stopping himself rising instantly to his feet to get a better view, he darts a furtive glance about the hall for some meaningful reaction – there was none.
Watching them intently, Michael notes their pale, almost glistening, appendices protruded from draped light responsive gowns. He studies their precariously perched large conical heads extending high above stiff conical collars. Facing hundreds of watchful and attentive onlookers, their great, broad noses extended down towards their thin, partial mouth and their oversized, dark, almond-shaped eyes filled with vast wisdom but, no warmth – pierced the entire assembly.
Gracefully, these powerful figures split into seven and stood in complete stillness. From the feeling exuding from these creatures; any illusion of these being holographic projections was quickly dispelled by their direct telepathy. Michael sits frozen within his seat; gaping in simultaneous horror and awe.
Protesting inwardly and swearing obscenities silently, Michael’s rebellion grew as the reality of these non-human entities became increasingly and undeniably apparent – they had invaded his head.
Michael is jolted from inward rage when his entire brain is filled, as if in a single download, with what was: on a need to know basis: and he certainly needed to know but desperately didn’t want to! The vision of these Beings was bad enough, but combined with the creepy mind invasion and the rapidly unfolding instructions of utterly mind-blowing proportions was too much download for Michael’s comparatively shrunken head.
No matter how he wanted to run from that hall and lash out in anger and disgust to the world at large; for the sake of his sheer survival and sanity, he had to pay careful attention and tend to his emotions later!
Finally, there was a slight pause in the mind-warp and he began to glance around, in the unlikely hope that all of this was just joke. He blushed prematurely at the prospect of having been suckered. But as much as he did not want to admit his foolishness, it was better than the paralysing and blinding awareness that there were no smirks, giggles or smiles: Everyone was deadly serious!
The rest of the assembly seemed to be going through the motions as if this was part of their every day professional life. It occurred to Michael that: indeed, for many it was.
Michael thought he was beginning to get the bigger picture, but little did he realise that this was only the tip of the iceberg and it wasn’t even about that particular piece of floating ice. Almost, seemingly, in response to his continued misgivings, via the telepathic transmission again, only with a more personable tone, he was disarmed by the comforting assurance that he was somehow ‘special’ and carefully chosen for ‘selective survival’.
He begins to squirm again and non-verbally demands off the omnipotent voice: survival from what? He could only assume that he wasn’t the only human who got the personalised message and then the answer came.
The spindly spooks glided across the platform to be replaced by a holographic display of the pending slowing of earth’s rotation. The days were already extending and the seasons were erratic, but, what was to unfold in the coming weeks, if not days, was much more profound – almost a full halt to the already precarious rotational wobble.
He gazes upon the display – watching as the worst case scenario unfolds – the scorched earth on one side; the Arctic freeze on the other. The sucking of the waters towards the polar-regions followed by a cataclysmic deluge soon after.
He tries desperately not to show his utter horror of helplessness for almost all of humanity. He knew he was supposed to feel privileged at not having to endure such horrors – but, Michael just felt utter betrayal – as none of the Surfers were aware of the gravity of the situation of an eminent cosmic tsunami hurtling towards earth, it was thought best not for them to know at all. Maybe they are right. He didn’t know. The survival rate on the surface did certainly appear to be a stupendous improbability – it was just a matter of time.
The meeting concluded with some urgency of the implemented at full capacity over the coming 26 hours. There he was: thrown into a zombie state by the enormity of the instructions which were to be followed according to his clearance and sector.
Precision preparations for the evacuation were being rolled out as they left the building. Tears of fear, horror and out-and-out abhorrence and goodness only knows what other emotions Michael had stifled, now erupted once he knew it was safe to let go. He did not know what to do. An avalanche of scenarios raced through his mangled mind. All he wanted was to not be there, in that particular moment in time.
Frantically he prays (as Michael seemed in that moment to have a sudden, but, fleeting re-conversion to religion), he bargains with the Big G – whatever it was, or if indeed it existed at all? He pleads: please, please, turn the clock, just a few hours so he didn’t have to deal with this new reality. His stomach heaves and twists and seems to writhe all the way up to his throat. Every impulse in his trembling body wants to run as far away from there as possible… Find Kate…? – But he knew he could do neither…
End of Sample Chapter Two … But, there is one more sample if you would like to read more about the adventures in the Hologen…
– 8 –
THE VIRTUAL VOYAGE
‘What will it be then?’ Henric probes?
‘You’ll see when we get there’.
‘Great, I love mysteries.’
‘Okay-doak!’ Michael proclaims confidently even though he had gotten distracted and entirely forgot to come up with a really good adventure and to catch a bite along the way. Changing his focus, he thinks – something above ground, but something manageable for Henric’s sensitivities to nature – just in case a gnat bit him – Not too hot: Not too cold… Then an inspired flash enters his mind.
Michael asks Henric to wait in the seating area and assures him that he is more than capable of doing the business.
He prepares his mind and clears his throat, making his confident request to the awaiting Hologen Attendant:
‘RMS Titanic – Maiden Voyage!’ Michael declares
‘Earth, North Atlantic Ocean’.
‘Sunday 14th of April in the year nineteen hundred and twelve – AD. Day 4 after sailing from Southampton, England… Oh, six hours before midnight – ship’s time – before it sank. Wait – hold on… commencing 7 hours before midnight’.
‘Oh… make it First Class of course for two gentlemen of high station!’
‘Thank you sir. Program activated – Enjoy your trip’ the attendant replies with the usual ‘have a nice day’ type of inauthentic voice, typical of their type-class.
Michael feeling quite smug about his inspired choice, certain that Henric will really love it, returns excitedly with magical thoughts dancing around in his head – only to find – Henric is nowhere to be seen.
A familiar, yet, disembodied amplified voice breaks the silence beckoning him towards a large globular room. Groping his way through the darkness, Michael feels around, double-checking that it is Henric that he just tripped over on the floor. Being tugged to the floor, Michael falls into deep cushions face first beside his pod buddy.
Henric calls out: ‘Hold on to your britches Mick! – we’re off!’
In that instance swirling light fills the space. Michael’s stomach heaves a little as the darkened space erupts into a whizzing colorful kaleidoscope, turning to white streaks as the speed becomes almost unbearable.
Suddenly, everything stops!
‘Are we there yet?’ Michael whispers anxiously with no response from his travelling companion.
Henric grabs Michael’s hand, squeezes it tightly – and yells: ‘HOLD ON… BUD…DEEE!’
‘Ya, waoo, shi…t! Hennn…riccc…whao’t the….!’ Michael cries while losing Henric’s strong grip – free-falling at a tremendous speed and finally, plops unto something relatively soft.
The two new arrivals have landed atop a high canopied-bed each.
‘We’re there now Mick,’ Henric announces as he swings his long legs onto the hard timber floor and tugging at the crisp white-collar around his muscular neck.
‘What a trip Henric!’ Michael sighs looking around at their old world abode. The faint smell of manly wax polish wafted in the air. The bedside lamps gave a soft yellow and flickering glow, illuminating a rather stately room, clad in a deep rich mahogany, amplified by the rhythmical ticks of an old world clock.
Henric strides over to the full length mirror to admire his reflection, touching the dark tailored tails and shapely satin lapels. Feeling the heavy woollen quality fabric, he runs his large strong hands down the low double-breasted pale ivory embroidered waistcoat. Glancing, slightly to one side, then the other, following the crisp creases on the tapering trousers, he marvels at his two-tone leather boots with white covering spats, dotted with a series of small black buttons running up the ankle ridge.
‘Let’s go outside Henric!’ Michael eagerly suggests dangling his legs from the side of the tall single bed.
‘This wouldn’t happen to be the ship that sank on its maiden voyage, Mick?’
Michael sheepishly confesses that it is. But, rapidly tries to alleviate Henric’s fears by assuring him that his instructions would give them ample time to have some fun before that happens.
‘Just as well Mick, as there is something I didn’t explain about the holo-program…’
‘…Concerning the timing of exit…’ Henric pauses.
Michael waits with bated breath.
Henric, clearing his throat presses onwards – in an unusually serious tone:
‘You see, Mick, once you have given the program parameters, you cannot terminate the program until it runs its course. Nor can you exit the program too late’ adding with increasing consternation,
‘Now, if one finds themselves in danger for any reason, usually one can get out of that danger by running away, or jumping to another holographic time zone. However, as we are on the high seas of the North Atlantic Ocean on a ship that will see a few thousand passengers drowned, and witnessing their deathly fate taunting them and teasing them into the bitter icy chills of the deep and ominous lapping around their feet….’.
Michael shudders with an icy chill running up his spine.
‘You chose the very night of its sinking – didn’t you Mick’ Henric further interrogates.
Michael bows his head in deep admission.
‘Maybe it would be best Mick if I choose the next trip – eh?’
But, Henric could not keep up the pretence much longer. It was painful for him to watch the anguish growing in his pod buddy.
Henric’s face suddenly switches, bursting into its more usual friendly form.
‘No time like the present – let’s make the most of it while we can Mick – Time is of the essence!’ Henric announces to the exact chiming of the Edwardian clock.
‘There is food to be eaten and drink to be drunk!’
Michael springs to his feet with a new-found enthusiasm, taking a brief glance at his own high society attire in the mirror as he goes. Henric grabs two bone-handled canes from the stand, tossing one to Mick. Both, now armed with flattened black satin top hats, expertly punch them into their rigid form, while selecting a few other appropriate garments, necessary for any gentlemen of the Edwardian period along the way. Henric swings open the double doors, just wide enough for Michael and himself to parade through.
‘Do we need to lock the room Henric?’
‘Probably best if we do’ Henric replies in a similar whisper.
‘Do we have any keys?’
Michael fumbling around in his jacket pocket exclaims, beaming: ‘Tad-dah!’ as he dangles a small bronze key with a metal tag attached towards Henric’s lower jaw.
‘Check the room number, as there doesn’t seem to be any on the door.’ Henric suggests.
Michael reads the swinging tag, blurting out: ‘C…thirt…teen! Henric, b-but…they didn’t have a room thirteen on this ship, or on anything else in those days!’
Michael hastily locks the double doors, darting glances in both direction for fear of someone else also recognizing the taboo number!
‘This is seemingly the creative part of the program Mick. A way to allow us to interact with as little impact on the overall variables as possible…’
With the doors fading into the otherwise solid walls behind them, they are joined by an increasing numbers of elegantly dressed passengers streaming out with polite grins from their cabin rooms along the way.
The rising excitement was emanating from the clamour and tinkling glasses with the swelling number of guests gathering in the stairwell lobby below. A roar erupts with a guffaw and snorting, penguin-suited young man guzzling an elegant glass of France’s finest.
An attendant offers to take the late arrival’s coats, hats, silken scarves and lambskin gloves, along with their cabin number.
‘Stateroom C-13′ Henric responds in a well cultivated Anglo-America accent. ‘ …just a little fun my good Man’ Henric continues.
‘It’s the stateroom next to cabin 13 if it existed’. The poor attendant was baffled. Michael was trying desperately to hide his own reaction.
They relinquish their outer garments to the already overburdened assistant.
Descending the grand stair case, they try to blend in with the others as they go.
‘Damned Good choice my friend’ Henric announces, while patting Michael on the back, doing a great job at mingling.
‘I see they have a heated swimming pool. Fancy a dip later my friend?’ Henric suggests.
Michael responds with a loud ‘Shuush!’ unintentionally bringing the party to a deadly silence.
The chatter cranks up again.
‘Perhaps this is not the right time, nor the place to be thinking of swimming Henry. It is Henry you want me to call you – right?’
‘Darn! I see what ye mean!’
A rather small waiter thrusts a tray of drinks in front of them. Both gentlemen simultaneously lift their beverages expertly exploring the aroma and approvingly savour the taste.
‘Want to go outside Henry? We can take our drinks with us. I’m sure it will be a little while yet before dinner.’
‘Spiffing idea Mick. Simply Spiffing!’
Stepping out into the slightly chilled night air, Michael gazes up towards the black night sky teeming with stars, thinking how utterly real everything seemed. He inhaled the freshness of the clean night air. It was so strange – nothing belied the virtuality of its reality
‘Cranky that’s super fast and such a long way down!’ Michael cries out while looking down over the side into the black lapping slicing water and the rising foaming crest running along the starboard side of the ship.
‘Not bad for such primitive fuel eh, Henry?’
Their attention turns to a female draped with less than authentic jewels, a shimmering clinging dress, her painted red lips pout while attempting to swipe at her ducking companion. She spins in a full half circle, only to be caught and bundled back down from whence the intrusive couple came.
‘Yes Mick, damned fast. Isn’t it interesting that they are burning coal at a rate of knots and yet, back in Britain there is a coal strike on and when it finally got resolved, there was still no time to load the stuff,’ Henric comments as he drains the last of his beverage and leans back over the balustrade, viewing the great tunnels spewing out a trail of elongated smoke high above.
‘Yes, interesting, I suppose!’ Michael shrugs.
‘Getting’ a bit nippy don’t you think Henry!’
‘You were the one that wanted to be out in the elements Mick!’
‘True, I grant you that…’
The eagerly awaited dinner bell rings out – breaking the silence of the still and icy air.
‘We’ll have to put that on the back boiler Mick. Let’s eat Man – I’m starved!’
Several dainty dishes of delicious cuisine later swallowed down by a steady stream of overflowing flute glasses, the evening runs smoothly. With an assurance that their table will not be cleared while they retire into the smoking room to ease their digestion, Henric declares with an exhale of utter satisfaction: ‘Superb!’ while pushing his heavy chair back from their two-person table. Michael follows Henric’s cue and they retire for a while across the floor along with a growing number of gentlemen.
‘…The combined wealth of those three men is in the billions of dollars!’ one lady whispers loudly to her companions while pointing at the last three gentlemen entering the room. Perplexed muttering emanates from the female trio as Henric passes, followed quickly by Michael. He looks back at their curious fascinated faces and winks at one of the younger women, causing her to go completely faint and having to be attended to by the others.
They enter the rather smoky gentlemen’s lounge. Small groupings of men mingle. Some move towards the grand lighted fireplace amidst low, muffled drawl from Anglo-American business types erupting into loud guffaws.
Michael couldn’t help but over-hear their conversation, but had no idea who they were talking about.
‘Astor! Whatever happened to Old JP?’ announces one of the more portly gentlemen in a slightly tipsy tone.
‘Told old Rockerfella – he’d be on the trip for sure’ he adds with a slight burp!
‘Fell ill, eh? Not likely. Cunning awl fellaw… Has something up his sleeve. I can feel it in my bones. Probably off with his mistress – eh what?’
The snippets of jibes continue as they crossed the low-set room into the gentlemen’s most closeted corner. Henric was close by, trying to get the attention of an attendant for cigars. Michael crosses over discretely. Again, not having any idea about their talk, he is intrigued.
They begin to compare notes rhyming off a list of all their business bed-fellows who had not managed to get themselves on the boat either. Michael chits-chats idly with Henric whilst, pretending not to be eavesdropping. The discussion grows into an overly heated debate as the list of missing passengers, seemingly rather strategic ones, grows at an alarming rate.
‘…Perhaps they knew something we did not’ suggests one of the less portly gentlemen who is quickly scolded harshly for suggesting such conspiratorial rubbish.
‘Don’t know what they are missing? Eh? What?’ suggests another – laughing nervously!
Henric finally receives his long-awaited choice of cigars from an attendant, presented within a wooden box. He produces cutters and a light when prepared. Michael politely declines the attendant’s offer. Instead, he draws great pleasure from watching Henric’s face as he merrily puffs away on his large leaf-wrapped Havana.
Returning to their now tidy and well cleared table, Henric calls out for, new crystal and some of their finest in an near perfect French accent. The jovial hours passed swiftly and began to blur into past history.
It is not long before Henric calls out once again: ‘Plus de votre meilleur oo..err…’ my good fellow!’
His otherwise good French was deteriorating by the minute to the increasing annoyance of their rather round, red-faced and overworked waiter.
Finally, Michael blurts out what he’s been itching to ask all evening: ‘What’s shurr your actual age – really Hen-ric-eee? You seem to know an awful lot of detailed history for someone – shemmingly sho youn-g’ Michael presses persistently with a slight slur followed by a small hiccup.
Henric, begins to divulge an almost audible response into Michael’s ear. But all that Michael could understand was something along the lines of: ‘I… was born-orn – [hiccup] ‘…sna verr…eee.., exac-tt…ssss-ame year – h’aft-terr..snis SH-IP ‘ [burp] ‘sna-unk!’
A spray of the finest champagne issues straight from Michael’s mouth, narrowly missing Henric’s face.
Henric swiftly responds in an almost sober state, passing Michael an unused starched linen handkerchief.
The death-knell rings out signalling the first warning from the crow’s nest.
Michael suddenly rises, toppling over his chair along with the silver ware and a crystal glass sitting atop his large white napkin still tied around his neck.
He scrambles to his feet, assisted by his companion’s strong hand, accompanied by loud and directed tut-tut-tutting from some of their more immediate neighbours.
Henric, apologizes on his friend’s behalf, while trying to shake Michael back to his senses.
Henric pulls Michael’s face straight up to his own saying in his more normal Nordic accent: ‘Look natural Man, just chill. The last thing we want is to arouse any suspicion!’
At last, while standing outside their now visible, but as yet, inaccessible cabin, after much panicked scrambling, the dangling brass tag ‘C-13’ is found with its key of entry attached! The urgency increases as they spill through the double doors, only to see the last of the swirling lights begin to weaken and fade over their respective beds.
‘Cum on Mick – we can make it!’ Henric calls out grabbing Michael by the hand and swinging him face down into a horizontal position on the bed he arrived on. Michael startles back to consciousness as he plunges unto the recovery mats, scattering them as he goes – followed rapidly by a thud from Henric’s more controlled landing.joy
Full book available on Amazon to begin with. Just search for title ‘SkyDome: Cosmic Conspiracy’ Enjoy!