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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Part One. Ministry of Outreach on Zgorbov has ulterior motives for the two Earthlings.




1. Other Life


“How many times must the cannonballs fly before they’re forever banned…?”

Julie Marsh and Tim Price were singing the Bob Dylan classic, fairly quietly and horribly off-key while riding the “Trent Acres Retirement Community” bus on the way back from an outing to the Performing Arts Center. The community’s residents (who were well enough, and had wanted to go) had really enjoyed the evening’s entertainment. They had been treated to performances of cover bands doing renditions of 60s and 70s folk tunes. Some of the bands were average at best while others had been outstanding. The song Julie and Tim were singing had been performed by a female singer dressed as she probably had when the song first came out (tie dye, peace signs, flowers…). She had accompanied herself on a nylon string acoustic guitar. Julie had thought the singer sounded a lot like Joan Baez and she had always liked Baez’s version of the song. Julie and Tim were sitting close to each other on a seat near the back of the bus and they were both feeling a little giddy and almost young again. They were no more than close friends, however. Their friendship had grown strong over the past five years. It was almost five years ago to the day that Tim had taken up residency at Trent Acres. They both were of sound minds, but not so much physically. They received the medical care they needed at Trent Acres; the staff was caring and competent. They had physical therapy three times a week, always together and usually under the guidance of Lou. She was their favorite therapist. Neither Julie nor Tim was bitter towards their families as so many of the other residents were. It was mostly because they enjoyed a great deal of the amenities they had in their previous lives and the meals served at Trent Acres were for the most part excellent.

Often the residents at Trent Acres Retirement Community referred to the times before moving in as their “other life”. Tim had been a theoretical physicist/cosmologist working at a major university in his other life. His focus had been on scientific theories ranging from finding the proof of gravitons, quantum field theory and the implications of a multiverse. He had also been fascinated by quantum entanglement and the possibility of quantum consciousness. Tim had been a rare scientist indeed, being able to bring such complex subjects down to a level that many laypersons were able to at least grasp. Over the past five years he hadn’t taken his equations to whiteboards often, but he had kept his readings of scientific journals up as much as he could. His mind continued to be inquisitive and his memory just as sharp as it had been at the height of tackling the most elusive problems facing theoretical physicists. Occasionally the staff at Trent would worry that his mind was in fact growing soft. This was often the case when they would find him sitting alone and in an almost catatonic state. Actually at those times, he’d be lost deep in thought pondering the latest understandings of the physical underpinnings of the universe. He believed the TOE – Theory of Everything, which had been eluding scientists for decades, may well be within his grasp.

Julie’s other life had been centered on linguistics. She had learned, at a very young age, how to speak, read and write fluently in six different languages. These were in addition to her native language, English. She had been born with an almost savant-like gift of intuitively understanding and learning different languages as easily as children learn their colors. She had only needed to expose herself to a language briefly before she became fluent and was able to converse with ease. Because of her gift; she was afforded the opportunities to travel extensively as a child. Julie’s career had been primarily centered on being an interpreter for large companies that held interests around the world. She had also worked for a time at the U.S. State Department. She hadn’t held that position for long, just under three years, before growing jaded to the bureaucracy of government. Meaningless goals were set and tasks were required with no other purpose than satisfying some higher-up’s useless self-serving agenda. She often thought a private company couldn’t operate in the same manner; it wouldn’t last a year. The government thrived on inefficiency.

Julie, like her best friend, Tim had taken IQ tests several times during her life. It had been fruitless endeavors, however. They both represented data points that fell well outside the measurable scale. It was for this reason, as well as their unique abilities that Julie Marsh and Tim Price were chosen. The choosers were orders of magnitude more intelligent than either Julie or Tim. They were in fact; vastly more intelligent than anyone or anything that had ever been in close proximity to the planet Earth. 


2.  Bus


Lou was always the bus driver. She was also a PT at Trent Acres and the residents really liked her. She was often able to get her patients to struggle thru the grueling exercises with hardly a complaint.  Being recently widowed; she continued to work passed retirement age in order to stay occupied and help with the grief of her lost soulmate. Keeping active was just what she needed. Lou was the go-to gal for a lot of the activities at Trent and she didn’t mind driving at all. Her eyesight remained that of a much younger woman and unlike most of the elder staff; she had excellent night vision. Undoubtedly this is why Lou was the first to spot the object.

“We must settle our craft now; the two chosen are in the vehicle and are near.” Zgorbovian Ensign #3 resonated. “That will give us time to extend the incline and narrow the gravitational field.”

Zgorbovian Ensign #2 replied, “Once the preparations are complete, we descend. The chosen must not become aware of our presence before the gravitons have engaged. Captain Zxpahn will issue the order at the appropriate time. Here comes the Captain now, retract your phalanges and look prepared.”

The blue-white light was wavering and at first Lou thought it was one of those LED headlights from an approaching car. “They are annoying as hell.” She thought. Instead of approaching, the light remained stationary and grew brighter at an alarming rate. The passengers, including Julie and Tim, were suddenly bathed in an instant flash of much brighter bluish-white light. They were momentarily stunned and then they fell into a deep suspended state. Lou knew for the briefest of moments, the flash was why the chattering behind her stopped. That was her last thought; Lou’s mental processes were put on hold and her physical abilities were suspended as well. The bus, being tractored by a compressed gravitational field, continued on a straight path and at its current speed. Not a single passenger was conscious when the front wheels bumped up and onto the incline. Once completely inside the Zgorbovian SpaceFold –a craft with the ability to generate a wormhole by folding the fabric of spacetime back onto itself –the downward sloping incline was retracted by order of the Captain. Then the order to invert the gravitational field and direct it below the craft was issued. Ensigns #2 and #3 bounced up and down in agreement, trying hard to be noticed as they did. The two became even more congratulatory when the craft accelerated toward the wormhole. The four dimensional coordinates planned and executed by Captain Zxpahn would put their craft inside their universe and in orbit around Zgorbov – 19 billion light years away – in less than 30 septors; about one hour Earth time. They both extended their middle phalange and wagged it in approval at the Captain, spinning in circles and jockeying for position the whole time. The Captain paid no attention.

Julie was the first to regain consciousness and she sat motionless. She was reclined in a chair and bathed in a light that for a moment made her think she was having her teeth cleaned. It wasn’t just fear that kept her immobile; her muscles refused to cooperate. She regained her senses in the following order; hearing, sight, touch. Many weeks went by before she could smell or taste anything. The procedure she was subjected to on Zgorbov nullified those senses. Hers and Tim’s olfactory receptor neurons were blocked by the nano-filters implanted by the Zgorbovians. It was a protective measure against the much different and perhaps corrosive atmosphere of their planet as compared to that of planet Earth. The filters would dissipate in time after Julie and Tim were safely back at home. Tim became aware of his surroundings shortly after Julie had. His initial disorientation was just as severe as hers had been. Lou and the other Trent Acres residents would awaken, still on the bus, headed back to the community without realizing anything had happened. They were returned to a time slice that made them each younger by 15 seconds. Julie and Tim’s rendition of “Blowing in the Wind” had been sung so quietly no one had known they were even on the bus. They weren’t missed until the following morning when they failed to show up in the day room for breakfast. Some of the residents thought that Julie and Tim had finally taken their friendship to the next level. The gossip flew!

“#3! Assist #2 with preparing the timefold! The Captain barked. “We must return the vehicle and remaining occupants to less than 1 septor prior to bringing them on board! Any more and the risk of a temporal paradox becomes unacceptable.”

Both Zgorbovian Ensigns had scanned the bus and overseen the extraction of the two chosen Earthlings. Then they ran extensive adiabatic quantum computations, meshed the field vortex shields and generated a timewarp gate. Once it was all prepared, the Ensigns tractored the bus through. Complete and measured at just .125 septors! Phenomenal! Captain Zxpahn was proud of his underlings’ success, but didn’t let on, of course.

“Why are these two any different than the others?” #3 Ensign asked quietly.

#2 replied, “The Captain doesn’t entertain such questions, and I should report you. That would deny your promotion and rank me to #1 Ensign. These off-planet missions, especially ones involving local time travel, are held in utmost secrecy and even the Captain is kept in the dark. No more questions! He has the ability to alter our appraisals, those past, present and future. Therefore I suggest we wag our phalanges at every opportunity.”


3.  Missions


The Officials of the Zgorbov Ministry of Outreach had been alerted to the location of planet Earth. The organization’s sole and clandestine purpose was to spread their agenda throughout the multitude of universes –and reap the profits. The Ministry immediately created an official Save Earth Cabinet. The SEC’s first order of business was to involve the Department of Propaganda. It was their job to magnify importance and create (funds generating) guilt and fear among the always gullible Zgorbovians. The local populace of simple-minded Zgorbovians would often donate themselves into debt. Some would make a donation just to quiet the endless alerts. The majority donated because they’d been told it would help assure their place in the glorious infinity of spacetime. The Ministry of Outreach would of course, collect the funds in a most solemn and grateful way. Necessary appropriations were then made to the Galactic Transfer Group for a quick trip to the current “crisis” planet. The actual costs of the trips, given current technologies such as SpaceFold crafts, were negligible. The transfer group always managed to collect for major overruns even when things went smoothly. The trip would be made and a subject or two would be rounded up and brought back. The more knowledgeable, and therefore, more impressive the subjects were; the more interest they would generate. The Aliens the government would parade around and show off to the middle and lower class were proof positive that continued donations were needed to save their kind!  Of course that, in addition to the Department of Propaganda’s mind control, assured the continuing success of subsequent missions. Racketeering perfected! Every high-ranking officer in every department involved would make at least one, if not, two ranks per mission. It was imperative to keep employees at grades of Captain and below confused with misinformation and oblivious to the actual scope of the missions. By the time the Captain and crew would release the subjects to the Ministry; the search for other “suffering” planets was well underway. The “Save the Multiverse” scheme was one of the few endeavors that the government performed efficiently and with little to no infighting.

The latest two Aliens that had been collected for the purpose of display and fund raising were being herded down an uncomfortably narrow and dank corridor. A dim bluish-white light cast unnerving shadows on the translucent and slightly vibrating floor. The view to the left and right was unnerving on a whole different level. Creatures that could only be described as all lidless eye and toothy mouth were lined shoulder to shoulder behind the never ending glass panels. Every single abomination was either bouncing up and down, spinning about in tight circles or pausing to peer intently at their latest specimens. The Earthlings were still in shock, but it was slowly beginning to abate. Julie leaned toward her fellow captive meaning to ask him if he knew where the hell they were, or what the hell happened. A “WHAT THE HELL!?” would work just fine. The only thing she could manage was a strained squeak. The throat pain brought on from trying to speak nearly brought her to her knees. Tim grasped her shoulder, pointed at his own neck and shook his head. The sharp pain died rather quickly and Julie thought, “Gonna be a while before Tim and I can do another duet.” Shortly thereafter, Julie began to notice the sounds coming from their Zgorbovian captors. The noises they made were various tempo and duration bleats, clip-claps and hoot-bangs. She recognized it right away for what it was. It was their language. Her interest was piqued and her pain forgotten. Tim was much more captivated by the holographic display and imaging system that had at first been mistaken as clear glass. It allowed him to see the never ending motions of their captors in a forward, pause, or rewind fashion depending on where he glanced. The changes were so instantaneous it took him a while to realize he was causing them. He thought in amazement, “Apparently, observation does cause the wave function to collapse! At a macroscopic scale at that! Cool!” The former old-folks home residents were beginning to replace fear with curiosity.

The always talkative #3 Ensign continued his endless stream of bleats, clip-claps and hoot-bangs directed at his minor-step superior. “What a pair of hideous creatures these two are! Two eyes and such a small mouth! What on Zgorbov will the Ministry ever do with them? What do they do with ANY of the captives we bring to them? Are they mistreating them? I know they’re hideous and malodorous but that gives no reason to… These have NO cranial phalange at all!”

#2 Ensign continuing his pace beside his minor-step underling and just behind the captives replied, “Who knows what the Ministry of Outreach does with the creatures! As you well know; we are not allowed to remain on Zgorbov for any length of time once we’ve deposited them. Keep your eye ahead and your phalanges retracted and I’ll consider not reporting you to the Captain.”

#3, not satisfied in any way with the reply, extended his transverse phalanges and fluoresced them in anger with bright pulsating colors. He cared not one bit that he might be reassigned to rank 4. He had seen the last creatures they’d brought back, or maybe they were the ones before that, on a public transmission holograph. They had been anchored to tall display masts and were being hoisted above a massive throng of bleating Zgorbovians. The Zgorbovians appeared to be of the labor class and many were displaying Outreach Ministry insignias. None were jumping up and down or spinning at all. Phalanges were being waved slowly and solemnly everywhere. That was all he’d seen; Captain Zxpahn spied him and ushered him to their SpaceFold, double time! #3 was often repulsed by the appearance or smell of the creatures that they captured, but he also recognized exploitation when he saw it. That was a tactic nowhere to be found in the Galactic Transfer Group’s Guide to the Multiverse. He was intrigued!


4. Blown Over


Jack Trent was the grandson of Drs. Leonard and Sandra Trent. They had been the principal founders of the retirement community that bore their name. The community had been licensed and opened many years before Jack had been born. That was back when “nursing home” had been what they were called. Of course, that name had fallen out of favor, not so much with the elderly that went to live there, but with the guilt-ridden sons and daughters that placed them there. Jack was the chairperson of the board for Trent Acres, but spent very little time at the facility. He much preferred being out on his sailboat, or failing that, spending the day on the golf course. Only yesterday he had docked his boat at the marina and today he sat in the pro shop wishing more than anything he were still at sea. If Mrs. Marsh and Mr. Price haven’t shown up yet, they’re not going to. If they weren’t so well liked by the other residents, and the staff for that matter, this whole mess would have blown over by now.

“Yes Bart. I know Bart. I’ll be there as soon as I can. The board has to wrap this meeting up first. Hey, listen, they need me back inside now. Gotta go.”  Jack hung up his phone with no intention of going to see Bart Phillips, the detective assigned to the case. He thought, “Maybe I’ll head back to the marina. The boat is still stocked; beer, food, everything.” Detective Phillips was actually relieved when Jack didn’t show up; he was just following through with formalities. No evidence whatsoever had turned up and he was sick and tired of the whole shebang. “Could have been abducted or something,” he thought, “illegal aliens maybe. If so, they carried them off fast.” He’d just boot the Mac, pull up a few saved documents, do a quick find-replace on the names and file them away. That’ll satisfy the higher-ups, no problem. Show them a fancy spreadsheet with a couple of matrices on it once in a while and they’re golden. No muss, no fuss all the way up the line. Bart felt that he was just another mouse spinning the wheel. Running faster didn’t get you a thing.

Lou didn’t give up so easily. At first she thought the remarks like “wedding bells!” and “they ran off and eloped!” she heard in the day room may have had some truth to them. But surely Julie and Tim would have made some kind of contact by now; pictures from the honeymoon, a call, something. Then she began to worry that Julie and Tim weren’t getting the therapy sessions they needed and were probably having a lot of trouble getting around. They were… had been two of the few happy and content residents. It broke Lou’s heart to think they may be in pain. She’d had no luck with Julie and Tim’s few family members that were still alive; they were sure the “old codgers” had packed up and left. Taken everything that should by right be theirs! They cared only about any will that may have been drawn up. One of the brothers had the audacity to ask Lou if she knew where the will might be. Exasperated, she gave up on that line of pursuit; it upset her almost as much as the fact the two were gone. As far as the staff, up to and including Mr. Trent was concerned; the situation had already moved on. Apparently the police held the same view. Of course, once the media found that interest was waning and viewership declining; they discovered or created other headlines with which to sell their agenda. Business as usual.

Tim Price had, in fact, drawn up a will as soon as he retired, just before moving into Trent. He had been tired of the endless fighting amongst his siblings and not having children of his own, he’d interestingly enough, bequeathed all his earthly possessions to SETI -The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. Fascinated with the endless possibilities; he had spent most of his spare time helping develop applications that would further their research. Programs were written that farmed out the massive data processing tasks across the internet. SETI to this day remains a long way from success; the Fermi paradox continues to hold court. The Zgorbovian Galactic Transfer Group’s SpaceFold craft had come and gone without so much as a disturbance in the quantum foam.

Daily lives continued; attentions were turned elsewhere and the unexplained disappearance of Julie Marsh and Tim Price was mostly forgotten. The whole mess had just blown over.  


5. Handoff


The end of the march found the Earthlings standing two paces before a shimmering pool. Fingers of electricity dashed around its interior and emitted audible zaps! and crackles! as they did so. An eerie purplish glow pulsed in time with the sounds. The pool emitted a charge that made Julie and Tim’s hair stand on end. The circle of strange electricity was no more than 10 feet in diameter, but plenty large enough to swallow Julie and Tim whole! They had, in fact, tried to stop several feet back, but phalanges continued pushing them forward. They were brought to a halt just before the edge. Then in horror, they watched as one Zgorbovian after another charged through the display panels left and right of the corridor and hurled themselves into the shimmering pool. They each disappeared with a loud sshhh-POP! The ones in line were bouncing up and down and spinning as they waited their turn. “NOT ME, NO WAY!” Tim thought. Julie’s thoughts were almost exactly the same. Of course, in the end they didn’t have a lot of a say in the matter. Phalanges that had been more or less gentle in their pushes suddenly shoved with a startling force. Julie and Tim went headfirst into the pool.

The two Galactic Transfer Group Ensigns that were overseeing the handoff were speaking freely now that they remained behind and were alone. As always, data must be prepared and entered before any job was complete.

#3 said, “The creatures were weak; they entered the strata-portal with less than 10% of normal resistance. If they are representative of their species, the Ministry will not be happy. I regret the phalange lighting I displayed earlier; my curiosity overcame due respect.”

#2 didn’t think his tone was apologetic at all and replied, “Your observations are correct, but my official testimony as to your behavior has already been teleported to Captain Zxpahn. We expect you to submit your demotion papers before our SpaceFold leaves. I am expecting a two rank demotion; submit nothing less! Your newly assigned duties will consist of maintaining waste apertures and seeing to the proper care and maintenance of newly acquired creatures. We know how fond you are of their appearance and smell.”

#3 would have been furious had his thoughts not been consumed with the quanta-cellular transmitters he had implanted in the Earthlings. As he was prodding them toward the strata-portal he had injected one into each creature. The implants will process and transmit the creature’s visual and auditory channels. He will be able to tap into the transmissions directly or access it at any time in the future. The quantum computing chip and onboard quantum random access memory can hold up to 30 quintseptors – 10 Earth years of visual and auditory data. He thought, “I’m gonna finally understand the Ministry’s agenda. Expose them for what they are!”

One Zgorbovian guard, all phalanges fluorescing, crouched beside Tim as he sat at a translucent and slightly vibrating table. Another crouched beside Julie. They were in a large room decorated so ornately that it made their heads spin just looking about. Outreach Ministry insignias adorned the ceilings and banners that hung from them. Jewels that appeared to be diamonds, sapphires, rubies and the like were in display everywhere. The smallest were the size of basketballs. Their trip through the strata-portal had seemed like much longer than it actually was. It had lasted just under three seconds Earth time, but the ensigns had programmed it to feel more like six hours. Once the initial jolt was over, it became a surprisingly relaxing and refreshing trip. It was designed to make the new Aliens as attentive and responsive as possible for the handoff. Empress Zxandovia sat emotionlessly on a jewel-encrusted throne at the head of the table. Her phalange display was intricate and beautiful. The throngs of Zgorbovians that had made the trip through the strata-portal were now dressed in uniform. They waited on her endlessly. She was the highest ranking official of the Zgorbov Ministry of Outreach. She had been elected to the position over 35 quintseptors ago and continued to rule without challenge. She cared not for the formal in-processing of new creatures, but she knew the Ministry’s continued existence depended on it.

The room became deathly quiet when she stood up. With clear and loud bleats, clip-claps and hoot-bangs she asked, “What planet are these two from?” She knew the line by heart.

Captain Zxpahn who was standing directly behind the two Earthlings replied, “Your Empress, they are from planet Earth, located in a bubble universe; two neighboring universes away.”

A three dimensional display of the explored regions of the multiverse appeared above the table. A pointer slid to the corresponding area.

Still devoid of emotion the Empress stated, “I trust you had an uneventful trip.”

The Captain, surprised and honored by her follow-up replied, “Yes Your Empress. Only 60 septors total. Thank you for funding the new SpaceFold crafts; they are extremely efficient at wormhole generation.”

She nodded and turned her eye to the Ministry’s official alien handlers. Captain Zxpahn knew this was his cue. He rotated his eye downward, turned and walked out of the room. He headed toward the strata-portal and once there, he flung himself through and caught up to his underlings.

Submitted: October 23, 2019

© Copyright 2021 DessoMoon. All rights reserved.

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