stare at the three white-skinned, fully dressed invaders intruding on their
He came to the rock-covered beach and began waving one hand as
though it had a handkerchief in it. His bodyguards tried to conceal their
embarrassment by scanning the beach for aggressors, though everyone had
already decided this man was not worth their attention. I was far enough out
that he had to yell, something he did not seem accustomed to. "Mr. Tarn… Mr.
Tarn, may I interrupt your maritime quest for a word?"
I pointed to the water and yelled back, "My lines already out. Your shoes
are getting wet."
He looked down, became alarmed, and tiptoed back away from the
foam. "Really Mr. Tarn, despite the importance of your immediate investment,
I think it would be wise for you to join me."
"Who are you?"
He looked down in dismay, gathered himself and began again. "My name
is Bernard Porre, senior advisor to the Global Space Initiative."
I cursed under my breath. His title commanded more respect than his
appearance. "You'd better get out of the sun. I'll be right there."
He stared for a moment, waved in disdain, and headed back toward the
Begrudgingly I made my way to their shuttle, tapped on the hatch and
stood back. It hissed upward allowing cold air to push by. Bernard sat at a
small desk behind the pilot. He motioned me in and pointed at a seat as the
door gushed closed.
"Bernard, right up front, if you're here to sell me on something, you're
setting yourself up for disappointment."
He was not deterred. He picked up a folder, opened it and patted the top
page. "I am going to propose a mission to you, Mr. Tarn. You are going to
accept, and then I will leave, hopefully forever."
"Well, you're right about one thing."
"You haven't been in trouble recently, have you? No new injuries or
illnesses? Anything that would affect your flight status?"
"For god's sake, Bernard. What is this about?"
"Have you heard of the Griffin, Mr. Tarn?"
"It sounds vaguely familiar."
"It is a prototype, designed by a retired transport pilot. It is unique in
that it's a spacecraft that can deploy wings and perform atmospheric flight, if
necessary. The designer disliked the idea that a re-entering spacecraft that
lost thrust and gravity repulsion became rocklike. Because of his reputation,
he was able to pull in a few investors, and the prototype was constructed. It's
the only one of its kind. Spacecraft systems became so fail-proof by the time it
was completed the concept was deemed unnecessary.
"Fail-proof is an oxymoron, I think."