“STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND”
The wafer-thin, rectangular logic unit sections behind Zack’s vinyl pen holder and in Leslee’s fatigues lit up the dank interrogation room with the …
… same rainbow of plasma wave emissions as they did during the interface with the University of Alaska supercomputers. Zack and Leslee quickly removed the devices from their pockets and the spectrums of light widened and painted the entire steel door. After a split second, the primary color waves in the beam began shifting their spectral order and then tapered down to a single blue beam which narrowed on the electronic security lock.
Simultaneously, Zack and Leslee heard a thump outside the portal and a whirring noise followed by a click. Then the door popped open and the security guard that was stationed outside was facing them but his chin was down on his chest. Directly behind him and supporting him stood the incontestably alive and sartorially-challenged Ahneevah. She easily and carefully guided him into the room and onto the floor. Initially, Leslee and Zack suffered sense paralysis. Their logic froze as they attempted to come to terms with the concept of exactly what they were seeing. Zack flashed on the vision of her in the flight-suit, helmet and gloves when they first saw her in the cockpit of the teardrop air vehicle. Leslee was the first to recover a crumb of composure. “Do I know dead or don’t I?” she ventured with somewhat less than full conviction. Though Leslee had a notion that Ahneevah was somehow not exactly dead, she never imagined that the billion-year-old being would be quite this not dead! It was almost too overwhelming to assimilate but undeniably there was this creature—this horseless Lady Godiva in mauve, and at that precise moment, in the twinkling of a pair of wide, entrancing, sea-green eyes, Zack and Leslee’s previous concepts of time and existence became substantially irrelevant.
Before Zack could blurt out the first of the fifty-million questions teetering at the tip of his scientist brainpan, the blue plasma beam emanating from the instrument in his hand became rainbow again and shifted its focus to the unclad figure’s forehead. Ahneevah exhibited a look of muted surprise then she extended her right hand toward Zack and Leslee and turned her palm upward. Zack, not quite sure of what to do, reached out and took her outstretched hand as if to shake it in greeting. But as he held Ahneevah’s hand he found it to be warm, soft and comforting and was in no particular hurry to let it go. He was also surprised to find himself speechless. After a moment, Ahneevah reached out with her other hand to Leslee. When they touched, Leslee smiled and completely understood why Zack continued to maintain his grip on this captivating being’s hand.
Ahneevah looked at their clasped hands and her eyes paled slightly. Surprisingly, she did not immediately withdraw her hand either and a trace of understanding appeared on her face almost as if she was aware of the unfamiliar ritual. She spoke a phrase in her language and the multi-hued beams emanating from the rectangular devices shifted to Zack and Leslee and bathed the two from head-to-toe. These life forms were not the enemy, Ahneevah thought. Then, with a slight shift of her saucer eyes, Ahneevah indicated the pair of instruments, and after puzzled looks, Leslee and Zack understood what Ahneevah was trying to communicate and reluctantly disengaged their hands from hers. “Oh, right. Sorry, this must belong to you … and I gotta tell you … its freakin’ amazing,” Zack said as he and Leslee handed the two sections of the weightless instrument to Ahneevah who joined them together and made a few adjustments. At first, the logic unit projected holographic images of her circle and her progeny. After a deeply melancholy look followed by a long sigh, she held the device between the thumb and forefinger of both hands and spoke a phrase of her mellifluous, indecipherable tongue into it. All at once, due to the instrument’s earlier interface with the university super-computer in Anchorage, a holographic history of intelligent life on the planet known as Earth was displayed. The exotic stranger’s vast cognitive network absorbed and stored the information as the millennia whizzed by in a blur.
Leslee and Zack stared transfixed as the process slowed a bit and more recent events appeared. They noticed Ahneevah grimace as a series of mushroom clouds from Hiroshima, Nagasaki and then progressively more powerful thermonuclear explosions flashed by. Finally, Leslee couldn’t wait any longer and let the name slowly and deliberately work its way out through her lips, “Ah…nee…vah?”
At hearing her name spoken, Ahneevah turned to Leslee and her face revealed a Mona Lisa smile. “That is almost right, Leslee R. Myles.” She said after a quick glance at the name tags. “However, the correct pronunciation of my name is …” When Ahneevah articulated her name in her tongue, the mere sound of it evoked an inexplicable sense of reassurance, calm and acceptance in Leslee and Zack.
“That’s incredible,” Zack said. “You … you picked up our language in a hairsbreadth.”
“Amazing,” Leslee crowed. “It’d make it so much easier for all of us if everyone could learn each other’s languages as fast as you learned ours.”
“It is possible, with this,” Ahneevah said softly as she indicated the rectangular mechanism.
Leslee nodded her head in recognition and said, “Of course, we’ve seen it in action … I’m not at all surprised.”
“It is a Neuronal Logic Unit,” Ahneevah explained.
”An NLU … got it,” Leslee responded.
Ahneevah smiled at the acronymic simplification and bowed her head once in the affirmative. “Yes, an NLU,” she repeated and then continued to receive and corroborate the depictions of Earth event chronology and other information via the World Wide Web. Her broader-vision optics were concentrating on the download while her close-vision pupils were zeroed in on Zack, who was mesmerized by the imaging procedure. “Dr. Isaac Ludlow Carver, my mind channels will require an uncertain time-span to process all of the information I am inputting. So I need you to tell me, exactly when in time am I?”
The open-mouthed Zack slightly closed one eye. “You don’t need to use all of my names; my first name is enough. My … uhhh … friends call me Zack. You are my friend, aren’t you? I mean I’d hate to think otherwise.”
Ahneevah contemplated Zack’s words for a split second and waved the NLU in Zack and Leslee’s direction. Zack flinched.
“Don’t worry Zack; it senses no danger from either of you. We shall start as friends and we will see. Now please tell me when I am? Your recorded history indicated that the earliest ancestors of the intelligent species now existing on your … Earth had their genesis at some point during the last few million years of the Cenozoic era.”
“That may be so but I think you are close to a billion years from where you might have come from. Give or take millennia or two.”
Ahneevah weighed the information. “A billion years?”
Zack continued, “A calculated guess. Potassium Argon dating is not as exact as … ooof …” Zack’s train of thought was driven off track by a polite elbow nudge in the side from Leslee.
“A year is one orbit around the Sun … your … Lano Sokyam.” Leslee said.
The holographic projections ceased and Ahneevah turned to Leslee and nodded her head.
“Your capacity for sounds is well developed Leslee R. Myles.”
“They called me Leslee R. Myles at Berkeley Law. Let’s keep it simple and go with Leslee.”
“Very well…Leslee. It appears that I have been dormant for almost a billion planetary orbits of the daystar … the Sun … and now, once again, I have conscious life,” Ahneevah said as she mentally shut down the NLU. “Where is the StarStream? My craft?”
“Kodiak Island, Alaska,” Leslee answered. “It’s still in the cavern buried in the glacier where we found it.”
Zack jumped in. “The ice melted and we took you out of it … then the … StarStream sealed itself in the ice again and started to generate a force field or something. No one could get near it.”
Ahneevah shook her head. “It was not a force field. You were fortunate to have been in possession of both … NLU segments when you removed me from my craft.”
Leslee shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t understand.”
“The logic unit scanned your cerebral networks and read your intentions as not being hostile. These results were relayed to my craft as they were just conveyed to me. If the StarStream detected any threat, it would have perceived you as the enemy and neutralized you the instant you tried to extract me.”
“Neutralized?” Zack gulped as he tried but failed to avoid doing a visual up and down of the stark-naked Ahneevah.
“The StarStream can restrict all surrounding electron flow both biological and mechanical either on a temporary or permanent basis. The great majority of organic life, most certainly yours … and mine, depends on natural electrical impulses.”
“Wow,” Zack whispered hoarsely. “We could have been short-circuited?”
“Permanently,” Leslee added.
“Yes, but fortunately the StarStream knew better,”Ahneevah said.
During the whole initial exchange, Leslee caught Zack slyly grabbing eyefuls of the striking vision nonchalantly standing naked before them. However, the quick peeks had finally grown into an obvious trance-like stare. Leslee gave him a subtle elbow in his side and whispered, “You’re ogling.
“Only as a man of science,” he countered.
“Never mind … it’s okay.” Leslee said and gestured for Zack to give Ahneevah his lab coat. “Oh … right,” Zack muttered. Without taking his eyes off Ahneevah, Zack slowly removed the garment.
Leslee smiled. “She is quite a specimen. Actually, I think she’s dazzling too.”
Zack’s eyes widened. “You do?”
“Yes,” Leslee responded and sniffed in Ahneevah‘s direction. “And I believe it’s more like vanilla than honey.”
Zack sheepishly draped the coat around Ahneevah’s shoulders.
“Thank you,” she said as she slid her arms into the sleeves. “It is undeniable that there was a point where my world ended and then your world began, but there’s no knowing at this juncture exactly what took place and why and how it is that I am here.” She looked down, skeptically as she experimented with the hook and loop closures on the lab coat. Leslee smiled. “It’s Velcro.”
“Yes, Velcro,” Ahneevah echoed. “Noisy. We use Tiered Molecular Adhesion to perform the same task. It’s based on a concept similar to your Johannes van der Waals interaction of attractive or repulsive forces between atoms and molecules, with a measure of a … highly advanced type of … artificial intelligence in the mix. The molecules of fabric act like gears meshing.” She demonstrated the concept by bending her fingers on both hands at the medial and end joints to approximate the cogs. Then she rotated her fingers of both hands within each other to simulate the gears in motion. “However, as you can see, Tiered Molecular Adhesion … TMA,” she gave a quick nod to Leslee and continued, “is a silent operation and leaves no observable junction sites.” Then Ahneevah took a quick glance at the NLU, smiled and then winced slightly. “I must report that the logic unit did a comprehensive physiological scan of both of you. Leslee, you are in perfect homeostasis but Zack,” Ahneevah shook her head. “The examination indicated that you have a fairly significant amount of calcium build-up in your plasmodic vessels, especially those associated with your cardio-impeller.”
“Artery schmutz … I’m not surprised,” Leslee said, hands on hips. “Smoking, drinking, not exercising and eating mostly crap will do that.”
“I stopped doing all the bad stuff,” Zack said guiltily. “I guess it was too late.”
“It isn’t … too late. The NLU initiated a hybrid combination of secretions from your endocrine glandular system that will flush away the clogging,” Ahneevah said clinically and then closed the lab coat. “However, I must caution you that for the next few days your liquid wastes will have an orange tinge.”
“I’m going to pee in orange?”
“A minor side-effect from the breaking down of your arterial plaque,” Ahneevah replied.
Leslee smiled at Zack. “Keep me posted,” she said. “I think Roberta Seymour will recognize a positive synergy between the NLU and her CEM.”
Suddenly, the NLU in the lab coat pocket became illuminated again and the amiable male voice came on. “Alert, security forces magnetic ninety-five, two hundred and seventy-nine … meters. Single entity … fifty meters bearing … nine zero.”
“Understood,” Ahneevah replied and then directed Zack and Leslee to the entryway. ”I’ll tell you about other intermolecular applications at a more opportune moment … right now we must leave this place.” The three dashed out of the cell and sprinted down a haphazardly lit corridor.
A short while later, as they raced through the subterranean catacombs, they rounded a corner and found themselves face to face with Dax Wolf. Before he could react, Ahneevah grabbed his arm and cast a deep passing blackness on his world. But as she guided Dax to the ground, she unexpectedly became weak and unsteady. When she tried to step forward she lost her balance, staggered and fell to one knee. Leslee and Zack, together, and with a great deal more effort than they anticipated, helped her back to her feet. Ahneevah regained her balance and was once again upright but recognized that she had just experienced an encounter with a mysterious and bewildering force. She glanced curiously at her hand and flexed her fingers several times, then shook her head. “Strange.” Ahneevah commented, and began rubbing her hand, “I am all right,” she reassured her newfound friends. Then the trio continued along cautiously down the long and dank underground corridors.
In truth, Ahneevah was far from all right—at least not by any measurement familiar to her. She had always been able to dig deep into her myriad channels of intellect for any answer to any problem. At this moment, however, she was stymied—totally unable to access the hidden reaches of her subconscious to obtain any understanding of what had just happened to her.
Neither she nor Dax Wolf had any awareness that they had just crossed mental swords in the opening round of an epic battle of wills. Neither of them imagined that the outcome of their upcoming conflict would decide the destiny of each and every Galactic Quadrant in both the known and the unknown Universe. The result of their war would determine the fate of every sentient life form in existence.
Zack and Leslee watched in amazement as Ahneevah used the NLU to locate the positions of the security squads. After a series of decoying and backtracking moves, the three arrived at the science lab.
Ahneevah stepped up to the door to check for any life signs inside. She discovered one being but seemed unconcerned and quickly disabled the locking mechanism. But as she cracked the door open, a Taser prong hit Leslee behind and below her left shoulder. Fortunately, Leslee felt only a slight tingle because a nano-tic after the dart struck; Ahneevah removed it, spotted the shooter and with blurring speed dispatched the electric mini-arrow back to its launch point. The barbed projectile easily penetrated the uniform and the skin of the security guard who fired it and in half a heartbeat, the 200,000 volt shock buckled his legs, and he collapsed in a pile of twitching desert camouflage. The high velocity at which Ahneevah was able to send the small metal object back at the shooter made Zack’s jaw drop.
“You know you sure don’t throw at all like a girl,” he whispered. “With a Major League arm like that all you need is a good curveball and I think you could have a pro career.”
“Curveball, I’ll have to research that,” Ahneevah noted in a barely audible tone as she steadied Leslee, took her hand and neutralized the electrical impact of the Taser weapon.
“Forgive me Leslee; I should have been ahead of that. It seems that my down time has resulted in some adverse physical and mental consequences.”
”Down time is a bit of an understatement.” Zack pointed out.
“That sounds logical and logic requires a search for all possible explanations,” Ahneevah responded. “There is one technician inside, give me a minute.” Ahneevah pushed into the lab and startled a technician who was at a well-stocked testing station, holding the wire-like substance that morphed from Ahneevah’s flight helmet with a clamp and preparing to heat it over a Bunsen burner.
“Don’t hurt me. Please. I am a friend. I mean you no harm,” the lab-tech babbled upon seeing the alien.
“We will not harm you,” Leslee assured her as she and Zack entered the room.
“But it is time for a nap,” Ahneevah added, then touched the technician lightly and guided the woman’s limp frame to the floor. Leslee recognized the thin strand of material that was the retracted flight-helmet now resting on the table and disengaged it from the clamp. When she picked the sliver up, it morphed back into its functional state. Ahneevah showed a hint of surprise that Leslee’s touch was able to accomplish that.
Zack picked up on the opening. “It’s a chick thing,” he put in and indicated Ahneevah’s flight gear, which was sitting on a nearby work bench. She ditched the lab coat and stood the one-piece uniform up in front of her, turned around and backed into it. The tunic opened and draped itself around Ahneevah and closed. Then she slipped into the boots which fastened themselves and seamlessly meshed with the uniform. The gloves went into a pocket that appeared and then disappeared.
“I wish I could get dressed like that. It’s like wearing an imaginary friend,” Leslee said with a degree of envy.
“Tiered Molecular Adhesion,” Zack observed.
Ahneevah nodded in the affirmative. “Partly … also …it remembers me.”
“Smart clothes,” Zack added.
“Yes, memory fabric,” Ahneevah corrected.
“How come you don’t wear any uhhh … under … thingies?” Leslee asked.
“Under thingies? Oh yes … they are not necessary. I’ll show you later.”
Zack chuckled, “I can’t wait. I bet you don‘t wear pajamas either.”
“Security forces intersect … these coordinates,” the logic unit voice interrupted. “Heading, magnetic two three zero.”
Ahneevah cast a quick glance at the instrument. “We must find some form of air transport,” she insisted and stashed the NLU into the instantly materializing compartment in her flight suit.
Leslee and Zack had already gotten the memo. “Molecular adhesion and memory fabric,” they said in unison and then high-fived.
Suddenly, alarms began to blare and lights snapped on all over the base. “They must have repaired the circuitry in the communications room. I’ll need my hands free to deal with any resistance,” Ahneevah said and took her helmet from Leslee. “The face-plate’s display will indicate and track proximate life forms.” She slipped the headgear on and the frozen-plasma shield dropped down in its transparent mode.
Then Ahneevah eyed Zack. “Oh, and by the way, we did have nightclothes−but they were not for sleeping.” With that, she sprinted out the lab door.
“Rosy, did she just wink when she said that?”
Leslee smiled. “Did you see a wink? I didn’t see a wink.” Then she sped out after Ahneevah. With the back-up alarm system sirens wailing, Zack shook his head and followed. “Maybe it’s time we turn the tables on those oppressive, son-of-a-bitch government goons, he muttered.