The Cadet

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A science fiction story with some unexpected twists

Submitted: February 21, 2014

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Submitted: February 21, 2014




The Cadet


Elton Camp

 “Have a great summer.  See you next fall,” Jonathan told his roommate at Breyton Military Academy as he snapped shut his suitcase and headed from his dormitory room.  A junior, it’d be his last summer at home before completing the rigorous science program at the private institution.  Four years at an Ivy League university would follow.  Being born into extreme wealth undeniably had its advantages. 

 Once he got past the narrow, winding mountain roads that led from Breyton’s campus to the Interstate, he accelerated his white BMW convertible to just over the speed limit, set the cruise control, turned the radio loud enough to hear over the roar of the wind, and relaxed for the long drive home.  There was little reason to hurry.  Jonathan’s parents were still “traveling abroad.”  The extensive trips increased in frequency and length after they’d enrolled him at the boarding school.  “We want you to have an excellent start in life,” his father had assured him.  “Only the best people go to Breyton and it’ll assure you admission anywhere you want to get your degree.”He wasn’t consulted as to his preference and still regretted the loss of his school friends and didn’t prefer the all-male environment. 

 Hours later, he arrived at the entrance to the family estate.  A brick wall shielded it from unwelcome visitors.  A click of the remote control on the visor caused the ornate metal gates to swing inward and then close a minute later, giving him just enough time to enter before they clanged shut.  The dull-red brick-paved driveway wound through the forest that hid the main house.  After nearly a mile, occasional glimpses of the mansion appeared before Jonathan emerged into the landscaped grounds that surrounded the house for several hundred yards on all sides.  As always, shrubbery was neatly trimmed, the lawn at carpet height and blooming plants added color at strategic locations.  The late afternoon sun reflected off the private lake at the back.  Over one thousand acres ensured privacy, although Jonathan would have chosen the word “isolation.” 

 The immense two-story house was in the style of a French chateau with gray, stone walls, many windows, and a steep slate roof.  Classical style statues stood at rigid attention in the formal gardens at each side.  Although impressive, it seemed more institutional than homelike.  Jonathan had lived there his whole life except for the three years he’d been a cadet.

 He considered pulling behind the house to the basement garages, but knew it wouldn’t be fair to the staff.  They’d have everything in readiness for his arrival as they always did.  To slip up the back stairs to his room wouldn’t be treating them right.  He pulled in front of the main entrance, left the keys in the ignition, and mounted the steps.  Barclay, the chauffer, emerged discretely from the service entrance and drove his vehicle toward the back even before he reached the front door.  His suitcase would appear in his bedroom.  The large estate operated predictably, like a well-oiled machine.  His father insisted on organization and it continued even during his extended absences. 

 Roberts, the butler, or household manager as he preferred to be called, opened the heavy front door before he knocked.  The servants’ appearance of standing ready for his arrival wasn’t entirely what it seemed.  A bell in their quarters rang anytime the driveway gate opened. The device and a security camera gave them about ten minutes notice of his coming.

 Roberts was a tall, gray-haired man who appeared to be in his early sixties.  He had been trained in the formal tradition of an English butler.  Employed in the household for many years, he had seen Jonathan grow from an infant into a seventeen-year-old.  Quite often he, in the absence of the child’s parents, had “forgotten himself” and played with him or provided comfort when he was upset.  He felt pity for the boy and was genuinely fond of him.

 “Welcome home, Master Jonathan,” he beamed.  “Everything is in readiness.  Cook has fixed your favorite meal and the upstairs maid has freshened your room.”

 “Roberts, it’s terrific to see you,” Jonathan replied.  He extended his hand, but the man turned so that he could appear not to have noticed.  Such liberties weren’t to be lightly taken by a servant now that the young master was nearly grown.  Appearances were important.  He knew his place. 

 “Your mother called earlier and asked that I relay her love and to tell you that they expect to return by the end of July.  She hopes you will have an enjoyable time at home.”

 “I wonder why she didn’t call me,” Jonathan muttered under his breath.  He reached into his pocket, withdrew his cell phone, and flipped it open.  Wind noise in an open convertible could mask a ring.  As he expected, it showed no missed call.  Disappointed, but not surprised, he snapped it shut and returned it to his side pocket. 

 Roberts pretended not to have heard the remark.  His standing procedure was “See nothing, hear nothing.”  Discretion was to be expected of anyone in service.  He had already crossed a line of propriety in reporting a call that hadn’t come.  He silently reproached himself and vowed to have more self-control in the future. 

 Over the next two weeks, Jonathan settled into a comfortable routine, getting up midmorning for a hearty breakfast, working out in the basement gym, watching DVDs, chatting or sending text messages to his friends from Breyton, enjoying a main meal about midafternoon, and jogging on a trail by the lake before dark. 

 A couple of times he called girls he’d known in the local school, but got the response that all boys recognized as rejection, “I’d love to go out with you, but I have to wash my hair.” 

 He lamented to Roberts, “I can’t understand it.  I’m not really that bad looking.  You’d think some girl would at least be interested in me for my money.” 

 Jonathan was correct in his self-analysis.  He was just under six feet tall, normal weight, and muscular.  His black hair was of medium length and slightly curly.  His blue eyes were well suited to his fair complexion.  His demeanor and style of dress were such as might appeal to most girls. 

 “Quite so, Master Jonathan,” Roberts uncomfortably replied.  “Perhaps they are merely intimidated by you.”  He dared not reveal his employer’s public orders to cause discharge of the parents of any girl who dared date his son.  All knew it wasn’t an empty threat.A man with enough money could do almost anything. 

 “My boy’s not marrying some cheap gold digger,” he had declared. 

 Two days later, his tranquil summer came to an abrupt end.  He’d started his jog by the lake later than usual and was hurrying to get home before dark when he saw an incredible sight.  Moving slowly on a shallow glide was an airplane of a type he’d never seen.  It was light gray, had two wings that came to sharp points, two large tinted windows toward the front, and paired landing struts.  Its approach was entirely silent as it splashed heavily into the lake near the shore with a crunching sound.  The wave it created sloshed onto the close bank and spread in all directions.  The plane sank a few feet into the shallow water and black smoke poured out the broken front windows. 

 “Wow, I’ve  never seen anything like that,” Jonathan exclaimed in disbelief.  As he watched from the trail, a door on the right side swung upward and a figure clad in silvery material crawled out, fell into the water and lay still.  He rushed the few feet to the edge of the lake, waded over to the pilot and pulled him to the shore.  When he tugged off the white helmet, he saw that he had rescued a young man who appeared about his age.  The pilot was breathing, but his eyes were closed.  A gash on his chin bled freely.

 Jonathan grappled in his pocket for his cell phone.  “Hold on, I’ll call 911 and get you some help,” he assured the crash victim.  “I don’t think you’re hurt too bad.”  Just as he was about to press SEND, Jonathan felt a strong hand on his arm. 

 “The communicator, no,” the pilot urged.  “I will be all right in a short time.  Thank you for assisting me.”

 “You may be hurt worse than you think.  Let me call for the paramedics,” he replied.  “And the FAA always investigates plane crashes.  We need big time help with this.” 

 “That is the problem,” the pilot said in a voice that revealed that he wasn’t from the area.  “This plane is a secret government project and must remain so.”

 The pilot sat up and glanced toward his stricken vessel.  Jonathan was surprised to see that the cut had stopped bleeding and seemed less severe than he’d initially thought.  “I must get something,” he said with an urgent voice as he rose to his feet and waded toward the plane.  Despite the dense smoke, he climbed inside and returned with a square electronic device with rows of buttons across the top.  “Do not be concerned.  We are in no danger,” he said as he pressed a red button near the center. 

 Jonathan was astonished to see the plane begin to quiver.  Within seconds, it seemed to disintegrate and dropped out of sight into the water. 

 “Why’d you do that?” he demanded.  “That thing must have cost the government millions of dollars.”

 “It was necessary.  The shielding against radar was nonfunctional during my descent.  It is likely that the plane was detected so if there is an investigation, they must find nothing.  Secrecy is the most important consideration, even more than preserving my life.  I will call my base for help, but it will be weeks in arriving.”

 The pilot pressed a series of buttons and the device began to emit a high-pitched whine.  Satisfied, he tossed it far into the lake where it immediately sank.  “It will resist the effects of moisture for a time and then self-destruct,” he said in reaction to Jonathan’s look of shock.  “The signal it is sending will bring help.”

 Twilight was rapidly fading into darkness.  “We’d better get to the house before it gets any harder to see,” Jonathan invited.  “We need to get out of these wet clothes and cleaned up.”

 “I am most grateful for your assistance,” the pilot replied.  As Jonathan offered to support him, he added, “I am recovered and can move efficiently on my own.”  As the two hurried along the trail, guided by lights in the windows of the mansion, Jonathan found it hard to believe that his unexpected guest had just been involved in a plane crash.  He strode along at a steady pace as he followed Jonathan into the basement entrance. 

 “My room’s on the second floor.  Can you climb steps or do we need to call the elevator?” Jonathan asked.  In the bright light of the house, he was astonished to see that the youth’s facial injury had disappeared except for a thin, red line. 

 “I am quite well and will ascend by any route you select,” he replied. 

 “But how did that cut get well so soon?  It looked bad down by the lake,” Jonathan asked. 

 “The light was dim in that location.  Perhaps you did not see what you thought,” his guest replied, but offered no further explanation. 

 “Hey, my name’s Jonathan.  What’s yours?” 

 “My designation is a bit awkward, so simply call me Rolf.”

 “Sounds German.  Is that why you have an accent?”

 “My speech is not satisfactory?  I have been most thoroughly schooled in the four main languages,” Rolf replied. 

 “Guess that’s it then,” Jonathan said.  “Studying that many could make anybody sounds a bit strange.  I’ve been studying Spanish at the academy and know how that is.”

 In reply to Rolf’s three rapid sentences in Spanish, Jonathan merely grinned.  “I said I was studying it.  I don’t know a word you said.  I can count to ten, recite colors, and ask how you’re doing.”

 The boys reached Jonathan’s room.  He rummaged through his chest-of-drawers until he located Dockers, a pullover, and other necessary articles.  “These ought to fit you okay.  We’re about the same size I guess.  The bathroom’s in there.  You’ll find soap and towels in the closet.”

 As Rolf took the clothing, Jonathan got a quick glimpse of his hand.  Something wasn’t quite right, but he turned toward the bathroom before Jonathan could get a clear view.  “It almost looked like he had six fingers,” Jonathan thought, but I must be more shook up than I realized to think that. 

 While his guest was showering, Jonathan selected fresh clothes for himself and went into the bedroom next to his room to get cleaned up.  When he came back into his room, Rolf was dressed and sitting on a desk chair about to pull on socks. 

 “Feel better?” Jonathan asked.  “I know I do.  That water was muddy from the plane hitting it.”

 “Yes, I prefer to be clean.  It is pleasant and more healthy.”

 In the bright light of his bedroom, Jonathan saw with certainty that Rolf had five fingers in addition to his thumb.  Even more surprising were his feet.  As each disappeared into a sock, he saw six toes.  He thought it best not to embarrass Rolf by asking about a physical defect over which he had no control.  “Must be a genetic thing,” Jonathan thought as he recalled a biology lecture about dominant genes and extra digits.  The teacher had explained that the situation was ordinarily corrected by surgery except in Third World countries.  Rolf clearly didn’t come from a background of poverty.  He saw no ready explanation. 
 “My things just barely fit,” Jonathan ventured to keep himself from being tempted to ask personal questions.  In fact, Rolf was noticeably more muscular then he, despite the two being about the same height. 

 “Where I live, it takes more powerful muscles to get around,” he responded, but seemed to catch himself and added quickly, “There are many mountains instead of level terrain like here.” 

 “So, what made you crash?”

 “I really do not know.  I was gliding through the lower atmosphere when most of the instruments abruptly failed and the craft started to descend.  I saw the body of water and used it to cushion my landing.” 

 The two continued to chat amiably for a couple of hours, but Jonathan found it difficult to establish common ground since Rolf wasn’t able to name a favorite sports team or identify the type of music he liked. 

 “I’d be glad if you’ll stay here until your help comes.  There couldn’t be a better place to hide,” Jonathan said.  “It’d be fun to have somebody to hang out with.  Gets lonesome here in the summers with my parents away.”

 “I have not seen my parents for more than one of the solar rotations,” Rolf replied.  “This is my period of training.”

 Jonathan identified Rolf to the staff as a fellow student from the academy who’d be spending a few days.  Roberts stared directly at the newcomer, but said only, “Very good, Master Jonathan.” 

Rolf fit in with his host’s daily schedule.  After a few days, Jonathan became accustomed to his speech and other eccentricities.  He was puzzled that his guest always left any meat on his plate untouched. 

 One cloudless night, Rolf walked out on the balcony at the back of the house and stared into the night sky.  Jonathan joined him and asked, “Looking for shooting stars?” 

 “No, just at the heavens and thinking about vast distances,” he replied with a sadness to his voice. 

 The next day, they drove into town.  “We’ll stop at the video store.  I’ll rent a few movies,” Jonathan said.  “What type do you like best?”

 “I do not have a preference.  Anything you select will be fine.”  

 “Give me a clue.  You’re the guest.  What was the last movie you saw?”

 Rolf twisted uneasily and attempted to change the subject by drawing attention to two girls shopping on the next aisle.  The trick didn’t work. 

 “Rolf, for an intelligent guy, you sure don’t know much about normal things. Don’t you have time for sports, music, or movies?  What do you do for fun?” 

 Jonathan’s suspicions were growing.  “Something’s wrong here.  I’m beginning to doubt that he’s ever seen a movie or been to a concert,” he thought, but decided to bide his time and say nothing.  Rolf didn’t seem like a nerd so Jonathan held on to the thought that he took his studies and training very seriously.  Maybe he came from a military family.  He’d seen parents similar to that on visiting day at Breyton Academy. 

 It was a Friday night two weeks later before Jonathan got the answers to his unspoken questions.  The two were in his room watching a movie on his plasma television when flashes of bright light swept over the windows.  Accompanying them was a humming sound from the direction of the lake.  “They have come for me!” Rolf shouted as he bounded from his chair and rushed onto the balcony.  Brilliant searchlights extended in various directions. 
 “What are we waiting for?  Let’s go,” Jonathan urged.  He grabbed a flashlight from the bedside table.  “I can’t wait to meet them.  Are they from NASA or is it some secret branch of the government?” 

 “You will see, my friend,” was his cryptic response. 

 As the hurried down the walkway, Jonathan was surprised to see Roberts partly concealed by the trunk of an old oak tree.  He was staring in the direction of the lights, but turned his gaze in their direction as they two passed.  He didn’t speak. 

 When the boys arrived at the lake, a larger version of Rolf’s craft rested on the shore.  Male and female figures stood in the doorway, silhouetted by the bright interior.  “It is my parents,” Rolf said.  “I knew they would be the ones to come for me.” 

 He rushed up the ramp to the door and greeted the two in a guttural language.  They embraced him and spoke with similar speech. 

 “Oh, no.  Hope that’s not Russian,” Jonathan thought.  The idea that he’d become an accomplice to some international plot entered his mind.  He might be accused of abetting an attempt to overthrow the country.  He felt his heart race and sweat break out on his forehead.

 “Jonathan, come aboard.  There is no reason for discomfort,” Rolf urged.  “I want my father and mother to meet the Eartling who saved my life.” 

 The word used to describe him instantly confirmed the growing suspicions of the youth that his guest was an alien, not just to the country but to the planet.  Everything fit:  the extraordinary vehicle, Rolf’s stilted language, his build, the extra digits, and lack of common knowledge.  He reproached himself for not having recognized it earlier, but it had seemed too incredible to be true.  The searchlights, having served their purpose, dimmed and went out. 

 “You may approach without fear,” called out Rolf’s father.  “Yes, come in so we can become acquainted,” invited his mother.  She moved toward him as if to embrace him, but her mate’s hand on her arm caused her to stop.  Jonathan was mildly surprised to find that both spoke English.  He hesitated a moment and then strode up the ramp and followed the family into the spaceship. 

 Over the next two hours, the parents learned the story of their son’s crash and rescue.  They answered Jonathan’s questions and offered additional information that he couldn’t have known to ask. 

“Our planet is similar to Earth, but about ten percent larger which gives it a stronger gravity,” Rolf explained.  “That is why I have more massive muscles.” 

“Is it in some other galaxy?” Jonathan asked, having in mind a “galaxy far, far away” in the style of Star Wars. 

“Not at all,” the father explained.  “We are far more advanced in science than Earth people, but even at many times light speed, travel between galaxies is not possible.  Our star system is five light years away, but to conserve food and oxygen, we enter stasis for the journey that takes about one of Earth’s months.  During that time of sleep, language and basic information was fed to our brains about this civilization just as it was for our son.”

“Why have you come here?” Jonathan asked uneasily, concerned at the answer they might provide. 

“Rolf was assigned habitable planets in this sector for his graduation exercise.  It is customary after completion of training.  It is unwise to make direct contact with a civilization as primitive as this one.  It could cause immense harm to learn about other life forms before it is necessary.”

“How about me?  Am I just supposed to forget all this,” Jonathan asked.  “Or will you wipe it from my memory?” 

“We have found no way to safely remove memories,” Rolf’s mother explained.  “Past attempts proved disastrous to the brains of the life forms.  You could think that we might leave you behind with the expectation that nobody would believe the fantastic tale you would relate, but you must trust that is not possible.” 

Jonathan gulped nervously and cut his eyes toward the exit, but knew the powerful aliens would easily overcome him if he attempted escape. 

“The welfare of many is more important than that of an individual,” Rolf’s father replied.  “I am sure that you will understand and accept what must be done.”  Jonathan turned pale, wondering if he was about to be executed.

“You are scaring the boy,” Rolf’s mother interjected.  “You will not be harmed, but you must return with us to our world.  It is a place where there are few needs that are not met.  You will live for hundreds of years rather than the few decades your present way of life allows.  You will become another son to us and a brother to Rolf.  And, yes, I think you will find a wife who will overlook the strangeness of your hands.  I only regret that you cannot bid your Earth family farewell.  I feel sadness for them.”

“I don’t think they’ll be too upset,” Jonathan said grimly.  “I’ve been mostly a nuisance to them for a long time.  But there is one person I’d like to contact.  You can listen to every word and I promise not to reveal anything.” 

He pulled out his cell phone, turned on the speaker, and punched in the house number.  After two rings they heard, “Bosserman residence, Roberts speaking.”
“This is Jonathan.  I want you to know how great you’ve been to me all my life.  I’ll always remember you, but this is the last you’ll hear from me.  I can’t tell you where I’m going or why, but I believe I’ll be happy for the first time in my life.”

Unflappable as always, he replied “I am pleased for you, but what shall I tell Mr. and Mrs. Bosserman, Master Jonathan?” 

“Just tell them I said goodbye,” he replied as he closed the phone.  “Guess I won’t be using this anymore,” he said as he handed the device to Rolf.  “I’m ready to go.” 

When they were all secured into seats, the spaceship silently rose vertically and then accelerated forward and upward with increasing speed at a shallow angle.  When they reached the edge of the atmosphere, the stars, against the blackness of space, glowed with a brilliance Jonathan had never seen before.  He blinked his eyes in amazement at the incredible sight.  “Warp three.  Engage,” he quipped, but saw that the allusion to Star Trek was lost on the others. 

“Only twelve from this planet have been to their moon.  Can we take him there, father?” 

“Yes, my son.  He would enjoy that since he has seen it from a distance his entire life and will soon be far away.”

The group made three orbits of the moon.  Jonathan looked with fascination at the cratered, gray, surface.  “Really a drab place,” he observed. 

“Here is something you may recognize from Earth’s history,” Rolf’s father said.  He left orbit, approached the lunar surface and landed a short distance from a metallic object with wheels. 

“It’s the lunar rover,” Jonathan exclaimed.  “It looks just like the pictures.  I never dreamed of seeing it in person.  Except for dust, it looks brand new.” 

 “The vacuum of this satellite has preserved it,” Rolf explained.  “I saw it when I approached your planet.

 “Jonathan, it is time to enter the stasis pods for the trip to your new home,” Rolf’s mother explained.  “You will have no awareness of the passage of time, but when you arrive, you will speak the Sednian language and be prepared to assimilate into our society.  Yet, you will retain memory of your former world.”

 He drifted into sleep, dreaming of his new home and family, uncertain if it mattered whether he remembered the past.  An unknown planet and a life of adventure lay before him. 

The Cadet:  Part Two

“Jonathan, wake up.  We will soon be home,” Rolf urged as he reached into the open stasis pod and shook his newfound brother’s shoulder. 

Jonathan opened his eyes, blinked a few times, and awkwardly sat up.  For an instant, he thought that he’d been dreaming, but like a rush of strong wind, the language implanted into his brain during the month-long voyage flooded into his consciousness.  He felt slightly dizzy but the sensation quickly passed.  When Rolf spoke, it was in the Sednian tongue rather than English, but he understood perfectly. 

“We’re five light years from Earth, but it seems like we just left,” Jonathan marveled.  “Einstein sure was wrong to think that nothing could move faster than the speed of light.”  With a start, Jonathan realized that his words were in his newly acquired language.  Yet, he spoke without hesitation just as he had done on Earth.  He whispered a few words in English just to be certain that he still could. 

Rolf smiled and assured him, “No ability that you had before has disappeared.  And all your memories remain intact.  We’re about to eat after our long fast.  Please join us.”  With Rolf’s steadying hand, Jonathan swung his legs over the side of the pod and stood.  “Our world can synthesize food to any appearance and taste.  For many centuries, Sednians have eaten only vegetation.  It’s part of the reason for our long lives.  Meat with its excess calories, fat, and cholesterol no longer harms us as it did our ancestors.  Until you adjust, it is easy to duplicate the appearance of beef, pork, chicken, or even pizza.” 

“I’ll have whatever you do.”  Jonathan quickly decided it was best to make a clean break with the past and adapt quickly to his new circumstances.  He recalled the biology teacher at Breyton Academy having emphasized that failure to adapt is equivalent to death.  He intended to live. 
“We have mastered the conversion of energy to matter so that food for the billions of Sedna is no longer a problem,” Rolf’s mother explained.  She pointed in the direction of what superficially resembled an enormous microwave oven.  Four plates filled with food and glasses with a clear liquid appeared an instant later.  The group ate with good appetite after the long voyage. 

The spaceship dropped to sublight speed as it entered the planet’s solar system.  What had been a blur through the front windows, changed to the blackness of space studded with the steady light of millions of stars.  Several hours later, a bluish planet appeared as a dot that grew as the craft continued in its direction, still traveling at a velocity that Earth had never achieved.  “It looks a lot like Earth,” Jonathan observed. 

“Only planets of a certain size and distance from their stars can harbor life forms similar to ours,” Rolf explained.  “Such homes are few in the part of the Galaxy that we are able to reach.  Besides Sedna, we have found only two other such worlds in three centuries of searching.  Earth and one other harbor intelligent life forms.” 

The cosmology lesson ended as the craft slowed and entered Sedna’s atmosphere at a shallow angle to minimize friction.  After circling the planet several times at increasingly lower altitudes, the ship touched down on a concrete pad.  Other ships rested on similar supports.  Jonathan gasped as he caught sight of complexes of incredibly tall buildings  everywhere he looked. 
Their father lowered a ramp so the family could descend to the ground.  As Jonathan walked along, he had a heavy feeling that reminded him of the sensation when he came out of the swimming pool at the academy.  When he saw that the others didn’t seem to share the disconcerting sensation, he suddenly thought, “It’s the stronger gravity of Sedna just like they described.”  He realized he’d get a workout anytime he moved until his muscles and bones adjusted to the new conditions. 

“Take Jonathan home,” Rolf’s father said.  He provided the location of their vehicle.  “Mother and I have to report to the Council on the success of our mission to Earth.”

The air was thick with small, circular craft.  Each contained from one to five riders and seemed to be open at the top.  Rolf led the way to the family craft.  As they approached, a door on each side opened. 

“An electric eye,” Jonathan remarked.  “Guess lots of things work automatically on Sedna.”
“I’ll tell you about that later today.  It’s something that will take a bit of explanation.”

When the boys were seated in the vehicle, the doors softly closed and a light hum showed that it was activated.  “What happens when it rains?” Jonathan asked as he looked toward the sky.

“Reach up and feel,” Rolf suggested. 

About two feet above his head, Jonathan felt a force that reminded him of the feeling of bringing similar poles of magnets together.  His hand could penetrate no farther, but the view remained unimpeded.  “No way!  It’s a force field like in Star Trek,” he exclaimed. 

“It extends all around so there can’t be any midair collisions,” added Rolf. 

The craft rose evenly upward and swept in the direction of a tall building with what appeared to be a dome atop.  “Where’s the controls?” Jonathan asked in surprise.
Rolf smiled, but offered no explanation. 

The craft set down with a gentle thump on a platform that circled the base of the dome.  The doors opened, and the boys emerged.  Similar vehicles were parked in an orderly pattern on the deck.  Several sets of doors led into the dome.  Jonathan led the way, expecting the door he selected to open automatically, but he crashed into it with a thud.  “Must be out of order,” he remarked as he rubbed a red place on his forehead.  With Rolf in the lead, the door opened silently. 

“This is the elevator to the floor of our apartment,” Rolf said.  As before, the portal opened at their approach, closed behind them with a low hiss.  The lift swiftly dropped several floors, stopped, and the door again opened to allow them to exit.  The entrance to the apartment was similarly obliging. 

“Rolf, I just don’t get it.  There weren’t any buttons on the elevator.  How could it know where to let us off.  And why don’t things work for me?” Jonathan asked.  He walked toward the apartment door to demonstrate that it didn’t acknowledge his approach. 

“Mechanical equipment is entirely controlled by thoughts,” Rolf explained.  He glanced toward the door and it slid obediently into the wall.  It’s a skill you can easily master.  In fact, anyone on Earth can do it with training.  We have studied humans for over a hundred years and know that they have potential equal to our own. 

“You mean you’re not the first from Sedna to visit Earth,” Jonathan exclaimed in surprise. 

“By no means.  Our first ship to reach that planet was in the year it called 1908, but it ended in tragedy.  The vessel malfunctioned somewhat as did mine, but in that case matter and antimatter mixed.  The pilot realized the ship was lost and had only minutes to direct it to a thinly populated area.  It exploded in the air about five miles above the ground.  Only animals were killed, especially herds of reindeer.  Trees were knocked flat for miles.  Even the primitive technology of that time detected the explosion, but it was attributed to a meteor or comet.  Our contact remained unknown as was essential. 

“I studied about that at the Academy,” Jonathan said.  “It’s called the Tunguska Event.  Neither a crater nor remains of a meteorite were ever found.  It’s regarded as a mystery.  Now I see why. 

“Over the years that followed, other space vehicles arrived and studied humans without harming them.  Those who reported their experience were ridiculed as liars or possibly mentally unbalanced.  We know from those examinations that the human race was at the point of a great technological jump and would soon develop formidable weapons and venture far into space.

Just as Rolf had predicted, within a few days, Jonathan mastered the ability to concentrate his thoughts and operate the various devices of the Sednian world.  In the months that followed, he spent hours each day in what were called “learning chambers.”  The devices placed into his mind the technology, history, and culture of his new home. 

“It sure beats going to school for years,” he said to Rolf and their parents.  “The ministry says that I’ll soon be ready for practical training in the field.  But it seems strange that I’ve been shown no more about Sedna’s dealings with Earth.  What little you told me months ago is all I know. 

The father replied, “That information isn’t in the public realm, but revealed only as needed.  You now have that need, my son.”

A few Sednians have actually lived on the Earth, some of them for years.  The assignment was, for most, to implant ideas that would slow the advancement of Earth science.  The man known to you as Albert Einstein is one of us.  His mission was to convince Earth science that faster than light travel isn’t possible.  He succeeded well.  Orson Welles pretended to be a producer and discredited the idea of space invaders with a radio hoax.  A scientist called Carl Sagan is yet another of our race.  By logical arguments, he convinced many that contact with aliens represented bogus reports.  All three completed their missions and have returned home.  You will be allowed to visit them before you begin your fieldwork. 

“That’s fantastic!” Jonathan replied with enthusiasm.  “All that makes sense.  To think that they are still living.  I can’t wait to meet them.” 

“They will live for centuries yet to come baring accidents,” Rolf commented. 

“Are there any others from Sedna who lived on Earth?” Jonathan inquired.  In his mind he was going over a list of possibilities, especially Assimov and Hawking.

“There are only two more,” their father replied.  “One has only partially fulfilled his role and the other has completed his and is newly arrived back on Sedna.  He lives in this building and I am summonsing him now.  He closed his eyes in telepathic concentration.  After a few minutes, the door slid open to announce his arrival. 

“Greetings, Master Jonathan,” said a smiling Roberts.  He rushed over and put an arm around his shoulders.  “I’m so pleased to see you again.” 

“Roberts is a Sednian,” Jonathan exclaimed in shock.  “I thought he was our family butler.”

“That’s household manager if you please, Sir,” he said with a wink. 

“His role was that of caretaker for the one who will represent us to the people of Earth, my son.  Look carefully at the side of your hands below your fourth finger.”

Jonathan turned first one hand and then the other and noticed for the first time, on each, a barely discernible white line about an inch long. 

“That is where surgeons removed your sixth finger shortly after birth, my son.  If you examine your feet, you’ll find similar marks there.  Your mother and I substituted you for your parents’ defective baby that was destined to die and they never knew the difference.  You are truly our own son and Rolf’s brother.  We lent you in necessary service of our world and have been so thrilled to have you home.  Your destiny, and that of our world, made the sacrifice necessary.  You know Earth as does no other Sednian and will be better accepted as a leader by them when the time comes for us to appear openly.” 

“Brother, I was coming to bring you home when my craft ceased to function.  It was no mere accident that I crashed in the lake behind the dwelling.  Neither I, nor Roberts, had the right to tell you the facts before you’d been properly prepared to accept them.  That time is now.” 
Jonathan sat stunned for several minutes.  He looked again at his hands and slipped off his right shoe and sock and noted the former location of his sixth toe.  He looked at his parents his brother.  Springing to his feet, he embraced the parents he hardly knew and then his brother.  Roberts smiled genially at his charge’s acceptance of who he was.  All the years the two had been on a primitive planet were well spent. 

The Cadet:  Part 3

 Jonathan’s intense training for his role in the future of his people began.  While it was quite true that the need for food had been met through technology, long life spans were the norm and pollution was virtually nonexistent, a pressing problem remained for Sedna:  space to live.  With no need for agriculture, cities had spread to cover the entire surface of its three continents.  Generations ago, cities had been erected to carpet the ocean floors. There was no suitable place to expand except into the Cosmos. 

 Sedna’s two moons, one red and one yellow, were a beautiful sight at night, but were impractical for anything beyond tiny outposts.  Both were irregular objects without magnetic fields.  Despite advanced technology, it had proven impossible to create a pleasant and safe environment except on a planet similar to the home world.  Only three such bodies existed within feasible distance, but they promised room for expansion for generations to come. 

 Zorba, chairman of the Council, instructed Jonathan on Sedna’s secret plans for Earth.  “It is our Manifest Destiny to occupy all inhabitable planets,” he explained.  “Of that there can be no doubt.  All who stand in the way of that must be swept aside.  The people of Earth are not making proper use of the land.  They are savages and war against and kill others of their kind.  Their weapons, while destructive, are primitive and no match for our power. Nevertheless, we will deal kindly with them and compensate them for the loss of what they presumptuously regard as belonging to them.  The Council will establish treaties and set aside generous tracts for their exclusive use and see that they are fed, protected, and properly educated.  Although they will be treated as foreign nations, it may be, in time, that we can overcome their savage background and integrate them into civilization.  Perhaps we eventually can even grant them citizenship and a role in government. Our coming will be the best thing that has ever happened to them.  They will thank us as they see improvement in their wretched lives.” 

 “I am a Sednian and will do as the Council directs,” Jonathan assured the chairman.  “One thing puzzles me.  Why are these plans kept secret from our people?”

 A look of disgust appeared on Zorba’s face.  “There are a few, even two on the Council, who raise objections to what must be done.  Such troublemakers take the view that even inferior life forms have a right to be left to develop without outside influence.  They even go so far as to suggest that our plans border on cruelty—as if we are capable of such base motives.  They will see that we are correct when a new world is opened to colonization. 
 After additional months of training and experience with interstellar travel, Jonathan was declared by the council to be ready to be the face and voice of Sedna to planet Earth.  An armada of space vehicles, carefully shielded from detection, approached the side of Earth’s moon that couldn’t be seen from its surface. 

 General Zeb, in command of the operation, told Jonathan and Rolf, “Our plans go into action tomorrow.  We have a fleet of such size and power that it will shock and awe the Earthlings.  We expect to be welcomed as liberators from their miserable way of life.  They will, no doubt, throw down their puny arms and submit with joy to our superior government.”

 At virtually the same moment the next day, spaceships glided quietly into position in each of the major capital cities of Earth.  Jonathan’s vessel entered the restricted airspace over Washington D.C. without being detected until it settled into place on the south lawn of the White House.  Alarms sounded, armed soldiers rushed toward the ship with weapons in hand, and the air filled with fighter jets that circled the Presidential Mansion like swarms of angry hornets. 

 CNN and the other news networks interrupted their programming with the breaking news:  “Craft lands on grounds of White House.”  Similar reports came quickly from all over the world. 

 At the order from Homeland Security to evacuate, Washingtonians poured from the federal buildings in a virtual panic.  Within minutes, the roads became clogged to the extent that traffic came to a standstill.  People abandoned their cars and fled the city on foot. 

 “Remain orderly, but move as quickly as possible to the countryside,” authorities directed the crowds with bullhorns.  “This is merely a precaution.  The President is aware of the situation and has everything well in hand.  There is nothing to fear.  Move at a steady pace.  Do not attempt to use cellular phones so the lines will be open for emergency use.” 

 “Terrorists” many screamed in anger and fear.  “We should have wiped out those foreigners when they attacked New York.  Now look what’s happened.”  Unknown to them, the “terrorist” states were having a similar experience.  Many of them blamed the “Great Satan” and looked to their Mullahs for direction.  That they were having first contact with an alien species hadn’t yet dawned on them. 

 When the area within several miles of the White House had been cleared and the president and his family were safe in the basement bunker far beneath, the attack on the spaceship begin with sudden fury.  Tanks ground through the metal fence surrounding the mansion and began to fire point blank, soldiers directed hand held rocket launchers and fighter jets pummeled the ship in succession as they passed above.  Smoke filled the air, obscured the mansion, and spilled onto the surrounding streets.  An acrid scent burned the nostrils of the attackers and caused them to cough.  News cameras recorded the attack for live broadcast to an unbelieving world.  Those not in immediate danger sat in front of their television sets in stunned silence. 

The combined firepower of the military proved unable to do the least damage to the invading craft.  Its protective force field shielded it from harm.  After about two hours, the Joint Chiefs of Staff ordered the attack to stop.  The Chairman admitted, “We can’t use atomic weapons without killing millions and even they might not be effective.  There’s nothing to do but wait and see what happens next.”  After another half-hour, the military leaders got their answer. 

Jonathan entered one of the small vehicles that served as cars on Sedna, activated its shield, and caused a portal to open on the side of the main ship.  He glided silently through it, and moved to the front entrance below the Truman Balcony, just a few feet from the door.  Dressed in a neat business suit, he deactivated the shield and stepped from the car with a friendly wave to the throng of soldiers and reporters. 

“I come in peace to all mankind,” he shouted.  “You have attacked me, but I have not responded in kind.”
“It appears to be a teenager,” reported Wolf Blitzer to an incredulous world.  “Ladies and gentlemen, this is just an unbelievable moment.”  The camera zoomed in for a close-up view of a smiling Jonathan.  “I think he just promised peace.”

“Want me to take him out, Major?” a SWAT team member asked eagerly as he fingered his powerful rifle.  “It’ll be a hard shot, but I think I can do it.” 

“Put that down, you idiot,” the officer ordered as the door to the White House opened and the president stepped into view.  “That’s the Commander-in-Chief.  You might hit him instead.” 

“Come inside.  We need to talk,” invited the grim looking president in arguably the greatest understatement of Earth’s history. 

 “Thank you, Mr. President,” Jonathan replied with courtesy and respect just as he had been trained to do.  It was important to gain the cooperation of human leaders to ensure a peaceful expansion of Sednian culture.  Even when dealing with inferiors, it was preferable to avoid violence if possible.  Yet, nothing could stop Manifest Destiny:  Earth was to become living space for a new race of beings.  Eartlings’ lives, as they had known them, had come to an end. 

The president led the way to his private office where he listened quietly as Jonathan described what would become the planet’s future.  Occasionally, he interjected a question.  Jonathan had detected the president’s activation of a recording device, but took no measures to stop it.  Everyone must know what was to take place.  To avoid panic, he was careful to remain calm and cordial even as he outlined a new chapter in the planet’s development.  He presented it as a desirable consequence of natural selection, a concept well known to Earth science. 

“I have lived on Earth most of my life and care deeply about the welfare of humans,” Jonathan assured the shaken leader.  “I will be in charge, not only of the United States, but all countries.  You have nothing to fear from me.  We will establish colonies in every part of this world and spread outward from them.  As we require additional land, there will be compensation and other areas will be set aside for the use of displaced persons for as long as the grass grows and the sun shines.  There will be an era of peace unlike anything in your planet’s history.”  Jonathan didn’t reveal the whole truth:  he was mainly a figurehead and the ones truly in charge were the Sednian generals. 

Recalling Star Trek and the Borg, Jonathan was tempted to add, “Resistance is futile,” but his training prevented such a gaffe.  Instead, he added the firm, cautionary note, “There will be no negotiation, now or in the future.” 

As Jonathan rose to signal that the interview was over, the president pressed a button hidden under the back edge of his desk.  Doors on both sides of his office flew open and armed soldiers rushed into the room.  Jonathan’s training in mind control had been most thorough.  Without effort, he caused the weapons to fly from their hands and crash harmlessly to the floor.  Two burly marines advanced to seize the young man, but with only a look, he forced them firmly against the wall. 

“Perhaps I didn’t make myself clear, Mr. President,” Jonathan remarked with a calm voice.  “Our power far exceeds anything Earth can provide.  To anger us is unproductive.”

Jonathan then smiled reassuringly and extended his hand to the imperiled leader who unenthusiastically shook hands.  His cold, clammy hand showed that he had comprehended the situation all too well. 

Jonathan returned, unchallenged, to his space vehicle.  The next day, Anderson Cooper got the mother of all interviews.  A similar campaign of information took place in each of the developed countries of the world. 

Earth’s population, for the most part, reacted to the new reality with disbelief, followed by anger, and finally acceptance.  A new age had dawned in the history of the planet. 

© Copyright 2019 Elton Camp. All rights reserved.

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