"AFFINITY - The gate between earth and eternity"
By Andreas Ingo
It was not just unusual; it was very strange that Simone would take the space elevator to space lock this afternoon. The summer was hot and dense in the northern hemisphere surface. To look down towards the jagged contours that marked Europe was a staggering sight to the untrained eye. She saw Britain's boot-like design and cloudy sky that spread out from the home country further towards the northeast. It was a gigantic sea of blue and equally massive mountains of water vapor, which existed at different altitudes, and formed contours with chance accuracy.
Simone shared the space elevator with a few other travelers. These would probably go further to the moon, Mars or the outer colonies. The year was 2105.
Simone had fantasized all day about the man who approached her for a couple of days ago, with seriousness in his voice. The first meeting had been a purposefully muted but also strained display of something exceedingly rare: Christopher, who worked as a border controller on the space station, had encountered problems and needed a practicing psychoanalyst. His choice of words, with recurrent periods of rest, was like a bad sign. Simone didn't know the nature of the mission. Instead, the man stressed confidentiality, that the work was confidential and that the payment would be satisfactory. Simone was considering the offer, but knowing in advance that her thoughts were not rational. She had in her aridity tired of earth-life and selected danger before safety.
Simone looked again towards the shrinking globe. The space lock hovered above the globe, as any space-station, in geostationary orbit. The difference was that this one was much bigger. It existed as a definite barrier between Earth and the colonies out there. A sort of checkpoint where space travelers could be kept under observation and space terror could be avoided.
Soon the journey was over and the psychoanalyst docked with the destination. A feeling of weightlessness occurred while passengers passed through a unit made of folded plastic. This unit was used to compensate for any room anomalies that could occur between the space elevator and the space station. Passengers had to use a ladder. The steps would transport them last leg into the space station where they would have access to artificial gravity, and thus be able to walk as usual.
Simone's breath was strained. She was carrying a burden. Her time as a psychoanalyst felt like a time in a sleeping chamber. She pushed bravely into the human psyche, but she never saw the phenomena as they appeared in real life.
The lowest area of the space station was not unusual: It was ominous corridors through a landscape of cabinets and doors. First aid. There were shiny metallic doors, roaring fans in the ceiling. A floor that was marked by elongated bars.
Simone came to a restaurant in the vicinity of the lock. She looked towards the checkpoint, where the other passengers came and showed their identities. She sensed the man there: Christopher, the man she'd been in contact with and fantasized about. But now she suffered light tremors and ordered a sandwich.
The feeling of the restaurant was somewhat muffled: There were small windows, as openings in floating ships. It was somewhat dimmed. Amber light shone from the light fixtures along the pillars of the hall. Simone watched the staff behind the counter: Hardened men and women who were used to living in space: Individuals who'd removed themselves from nature. They were happy but still not entirely comfortable. They'd compromised between the comfort of earth and the challenge of working in space.
One of the men glanced towards Simone and walked up to her. He was dark, long and narrow. His posture was slightly stooped, even though he tried to keep himself upright. His face was troubled. A glimpse of a smile formed on his lips when he saw Simone. He had his hands in his pockets and a special apparatus at his side. There was an aura of a man who'd seen something others never seen, perhaps a well-read man who'd seen the mystery but didn't dare to talk about it.
This was Christopher.
* * *
They walked along the corridors of the space station. It was half-rotten banana peel on the barred floor: Parts of an orange, and an apple. Silence prevailed over the surroundings, a silence that pressed on and created nasty connotations.
"You're well aware of confidentiality?" Christopher said, as if to point out what he'd already said. "It's not an official mission; no one is even involved from above. It's very private in every way. Are you ready?"
Simone glanced at the lanky man next to her side. She wasn't quick to judge but in this case it was difficult: Christopher was lanky but not narrow in an unattractive way. It was like he'd chosen to refrain from food, in his continual focus on his mission, perhaps to do a better job than what was expected.
"It's a question of an informant working for the government." Christopher said.
"Yes. He has a frightening story to tell and I want you to listen to this story. Find out if he's lying or telling the truth. The details will soon be clear."
Simone was shown into a room where cigarette smoke was thick in the air. It was like the ventilation system wasn't enough to suck the smoke out: And in a corner, on top of an air bag, sat the informant.
Simone sat down beside the informant and looked him seriously in the eye. It was not a pleasant sight: The eyes were hollow, watery, torn. The informant had probably spent more time in the room than a few days. An unkempt beard was seen, remnants of a shaving that failed. He introduced himself as Harold and wondered how long he would have to be kept in the room. Simone said she didn't know. She would go to the root of the problem and only wanted to hear his story.
"It's not my story." The man said, "I would just submit a list of names to contacts within the U.N."
"Haven't you heard?" Harold said horrified, "Who are you? What do you want?"
"I work in psychoanalysis." Simone said, "I'm here to help you."
The man took out a cigarette and lit it. The smoke spread through the air, curled up at the ceiling and was united with the rest of the smoke in the room.
"Just tell me what you know." Simone said.
The man looked at Simone with horror. Then he leaned back in the bag and began to tell.
"Okay..." Harold said, "Something's going on in the solar system! I've seen them: Plants! They manufacture a new type of spacecraft equipped with laser cannons. I have been on different missions and seen the prototypes!"
The man stumbled and continued.
"I wasn't supposed to see this! I normally work with smaller assignments. Keeping track of the various colonies. To check that terrorism are kept down in difficult times. But this... It's bigger than anything I've seen before."
"Describe the spaceships."
"They're not like the spaceship we're used to! They're larger. They need to accommodate thousands of passengers. The laser cannons are big enough to knock out smaller asteroids. The whole army is involved in the build! It's a question of an extraterrestrial threat! They have observed man's technological progress and now treat humans as a threat to their position in the universe!"
"How do you know all this?"
"I've been at the factories and seen the ships. I've had contact with the commanders of the various stations."
"And what role would you play in this?"
"A threat has been found in the U.N!" Harold interrupted, "There are men and women on earth who interact in the alien agenda, trying to stop the arms race!"
The man groped for new cigarettes but didn't find any. He wiped sweat from his forehead and reached for another package. He found it and took out some new cigarettes.
"So the list you have…"
"Yes! There is a list of persons who conspire against humanity. The motive behind this is not clear."
Simone examined the man. She couldn't believe in the conspiracy, the space ships and the alien threat. What she could see was that the man was afraid for real: Afraid that his information would get into the wrong hands. Afraid that war would break out. Afraid of her. She examined the man at length: She saw his sincerity. Similar things had happened earlier in her career. She ran into maniacs every few months. She'd tried to do away with such clients. They weren't so interesting. The only thing that was needed was a listening ear: A clarity of vision that resulted in giving the right drugs. When the clients came out of psychosis, they always saw things in a new light.
Simone left the man and united with Christopher outside. She saw nothing unusual in the case and didn't understand the caution.
"Is he reliable?" Christopher asked excitedly, "Or is he lying?"
"Obviously, he speaks the truth, as far as his sincerity is concerned, but the actual story I leave to others to ponder."
"Okay..." Christopher said. "I have the list."
"The list of conspirators in the U.N."
"I can't. It's just not possible. Come with me on a short trip. I have to show you something you haven't seen before."
* * *
They departed in a small spaceship: Now, only inhabited by themselves and a robot. They were going to a major installation a few dozen miles from the space lock.
Christopher seemed to be getting quieter the longer the journey went. Simone looked at Christopher's condition as her main obstacle: Obviously he was crazy on one level, on another level, he worked normal. She wondered what they would find, and wasn't a little bit worried about their safety.
Finally she abandoned Christopher and sat down at the robot that controlled the entire ship. It was a sea of light from strange instruments she couldn't place. In the distance she could see the outline of the destination, the back illuminated by the setting sun. Being out on an impossible mission seemed to be a stroke of genius: Simone needed a break from the monotony of her hard work. Here she found deviants and dimwits: People who sold their souls to the space-devil just waiting for the inevitable end.
Christopher joined with Simone when the spacecraft decelerated and the massive destination filled the whole perspective.
"You won't believe me before you see the ships." Christopher said.
And the couple donned their spacesuits for an extraterrestrial evaluation.
Simone gasped when she saw the structures with her own eyes: On the inside, in an area of thirty thousand square meters, she could see the silhouettes of metal bound monsters. These were huge spaceships equipped with oval discs, which marked the difference between the upper driver's compartments and the weapons on the bottom. Simone used the gas mixture in the back burner to maneuver closer to the huge laser cannons and homing rocket throwers. Her figure seemed to disappear into the mouth of one of the laser cannons. She could pretend that she hadn't heard. But faced with the reality of the laser cannon, she wasn't quite the same person anymore.
Christopher spoke to her over the radio and gave her his version of the story: There was no question of an alien race who would invade Earth. The space ships were an earthly concern to obliterate parts of humanity. The U.N. had been divided into two camps, unnoticed. The list contained the names of the leaders who opposed the new empire. But they worked in secret. If the list were to be delivered the opponents would be revealed and the end would come.
"How did you come to this conclusion?" Simone asked.
"I've known about it for a long time." Christopher said, "I can't reveal it now. What I know is that Harold's list mustn't get delivered. We must detain Harold until the threat has been eliminated and U.N has closed the factories."
* * *
She was by herself in the tormented environments of the space station. She'd been shown to a room where she could sustain herself while Christopher and Harold conversed. There was a sense of lost time. The disc of the sun had disappeared behind the horizon; the earth was dark and menacing underneath.
The outline of the moon appeared next.
She did not know if she could trust any of the men. As far as she knew, they could be mad. The space ships could have been manufactured by some unknown purpose: Perhaps as patrons in a future colonization.
Yes, she was kept in the dark by forces she didn't understand.
She visited the restaurant where she'd eaten only eleven hours earlier. There was food scraps on the table, flakes of corn and other provisions.
It didn't feel like eleven hours since last time.
She returned to her room.
She passed the door to Christopher's room when she heard strange noises. It was a sort of hissing. She stood in the opening of Christopher's room, enlarged the gap and right there in front of her, she saw the outline of an alien.
It was a humanoid standing on two legs. But where the shoulder blades would sit there was a kind of outgrowth. It had dragon like scales, which continued along the back and along the hind legs down to the feet. These weren't obnoxious but rather inviting. The head also had a number of scales and the abdomen was marked by muscular bands. The alien didn't seem to suffer. Its eyes glowed with an unfamiliar darkness. And suddenly, when it realized it was being watched, it transformed to a human.
Christopher stood naked in the room and watched Simone. He went off to bed and put on his pants.
"It's not what you think..." Christopher said brusquely. "I'm just a human being. I've had telepathic contact and been taught how to grow beyond human reason."
Simone looked at the man. His pained appearance, his stooped figure now appeared more like it was: Christopher had shyly tried to blend in with ordinary people, adopted a reclusive attitude to not get noticed.
"It's all about genetics." He said, "Being able to transform yourself according to your own preference."
"And the conspiracy, then?" Simone said horrified, "What is the truth about that and why do you need me?"
Christopher went up to Simone and looked her seriously in the eye.
"I needed you to assure myself that everything was true. The truth is that we're alone and that the soldiers will come at any moment. The list may not be delivered; the informant must disappear or die. But we can't vanish."
"What shall we do then?" Simone said desperately, "Now you've pulled me into a conflict I've never chosen, against better judgment!"
"Follow me. We hide in the space station. We need some weapons. We take the informant and hide in the space station: In the mazes. Eventually, the soldiers will think we've disappeared and give up."
* * *
It wasn't long before the soldiers had arrived in the space elevator. The couple had been hiding in the ventilation system, which enveloped the entire space station and could be used as a protective chamber. Harold went with them, a sweaty fellow passenger who kept quiet by the threat of an automatic.
There, in the darkness, while armed figures passed below, Simone got a sense of unreality: A kind of unreality that wasn't in opposition to life. Rather, she felt she hadn't lived before but now had the chance.
Shadows could be seen through gaps in the ventilation system. An infrared detector could be seen in the hands of a soldier: Distress was imminent.
The soldiers stayed and watched the infrared detector. Some hid in the ventilation system: Three human forms that couldn't be others than the sought after.
The soldiers opened fire. The shots bounced off the ventilation system without making holes in the light metal. The three heroes crawled forward on all fours and ended up in a small room. There was no way out of this room, other than to continue through the ventilation system to other rooms. But they were already discovered and there was nothing to do.
"This is where we ended up." Christopher said somewhat resignedly. "All we can do is procrastinate and resist. It will take time before the others get here."
"Why not give up at once?" Simone said.
"I know it's only a matter of minutes, seconds. The time that the resistance needs to put an end to the threat within the U.N."
They stood there for a long time. Harold shook with fear and tears ran down his cheeks. Simone had never seen a more desperate man. She had never felt so brave, in comparison.
"We have no choice." Christopher said, "We leave Harold here, take the automatics and open fire on the opponents. We crawl on all fours into a nearby room. The soldiers will think that we're still left."
They did as Christopher said. Simone looked at the light that began to penetrate through the cracks. The morning had come and white streaks of light could be discerned in the slots. The areas around them were red. Simone and Christopher crept through the narrow space. Simone did badly on a protruding screw. They could hear Harold screaming in the background: Cries of despair in an attempt to save his life.
Simone and Christopher heard the sound of something give way and suddenly they fell down through the ventilation system, on the floor in the midst of the soldiers. They found themselves surrounded by them. Tanned men and women dressed in uniforms. Some directed their weapons against the invaders. Others did not.
"Where's Harold?" They wondered. "What have you done to our man?"
"He's in the ventilation shaft." Christopher said, "But you can't do anything now but to kill us."
The other soldiers raised their guns to shoot. But suddenly there came a call on the radio.
"Yes. So the sought go free? Why are they free?"
A silence entered the room. Darkness of space reigned outside, but was broken up by the rays of the sun.
The soldier with the radio asked the other soldiers to lower their weapons. Things had changed. They had orders to return home. Simone watched Christopher. He didn't look like a normal human being. It was the silhouette of a hero. Someone who tried something no one dared: Someone who failed but didn't bother. His form began to change. The alien came back again. The scales on the back were looking upwards. Muscular contractions appeared around the jaw. One of the soldiers raised his weapon and pulled the trigger.
"Die you bastard!" he screamed.
Christopher fell to the floor.
Simone saw the over-man go through the transformation: The young man became an alien or something else no one could understand. The soldiers stood in a circle and watched the entity that bled on the floor. Simone descended over Christopher in horror: Inexplicably in love with this man for no reason.
"We'll leave you to your destiny." The soldier said, "As a reward for doing nothing."
The soldiers took off and left the alien on the floor. Nobody cared about Harold or Simone. The desperate screamed from the other room.
Simone emphatically stroked her hand along the outgrowths on Christopher's head. The alien became a man again. Uncontrolled movements could be observed along Christopher's body. Tears formed in Simone's eyes and fell down on Christopher's cheeks. Dark eyes with a burning flame of zeal: An eagerness to live and accomplish something.
"Everything will be better now." Christopher said, "I wasn't dying. Far from it! I just wanted to test your loyalty, see your benevolence."
The wounds healed miraculously and Christopher sat up. Simone kissed the man who had saved her from boredom and shown her a better life.
* * *
The days thereafter were spent looking at the place where the giant spaceships had been assembled. But now new orders came on the saucers disassembly. The couple watched the demolition work and felt new hope in their hearts. They returned to the space station where Christopher told Simone about the time to come.
"I've been informed that the aliens are approaching. It should be a peaceful meeting between civilizations. I don't know how they look. Perhaps similar to me. Perhaps similar to something else no one can imagine."
The couple spent days in Christopher's bedroom. He showed drawings that he made, which demonstrated the engineering he used in the attempts to transform himself. He was proud of his achievements.
He had never felt like a normal human being. He had taken the job on the space station as a border guard, just to get closer to people like him: People who didn't belong in space or on Earth. Just at the border between territories, between earth and eternity.
Simone joined Christopher in the act of love. They groped in the darkness for the unreachable; the place where man and woman met and everything was new.
* * *
The following day giant ghosts hovered in the sky and overshadowed the human colonies. It was anachronistic ships, shaded in different batches. A language that was written in eternity, who told stories no one, had heard.
Creatures entered through the gates and joined with the pair on the floor. The creatures reminded not at all about the forms Christopher had created. These were black and they were a kind of collective soul, connected to each other through different fibers. It felt like a mixture between the animal world and the plant kingdom.
The creatures viewed Christopher in silence. It was a strange recognition, but not yet a sense of association. Someone raised a gun and fired a plasma charge. Christopher fell to the floor and tried to get up. Simone screamed in panic and stood in the way of the aliens. A creature pushed her aside and put an end to the man who crawled on the floor.
Simone couldn't believe her eyes. Feelings welled up again. But the creatures let her be, took place in their monstrous ships and abandoned the couple. They let streaks of fire consume the connections to the space station. Simone looked out and saw the space elevator go up in smoke. The whole setup began to rotate. It felt like the foundations of reality was breaking up.
But she couldn't believe in death.
Not in Christopher's death.
The artificial gravity gave way. The air was sucked out. She felt the air pressure change. She saw the huge explosions on the earth's surface.
This was no accident. Christopher's story was a false story. He wasn't a man who lied. The telepathic messages had been fraudulent in nature: This in order to undermine the human defenses and destroy humanity on her way out in space.
Simone didn't care. As far as she knew Christopher was a hero. She was a girl who finally had grown up: Who found her match in her opposite: That left psychoanalysis behind just to reach into the unknown.
And now she floated weightlessly into outer space only to be discovered by a distant civilization. There were creatures that would come to her rescue: Survivors from a destroyed civilization, in search of like-minded souls.
She climbed their ships, carrying the body of the deceased.
He was revived and the pair was immortalized in the journey toward the stars.
And they just enjoyed.