The Chronicles of Z'va'Xin by Robert G. Moons - HTML preview

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“No, I merely augmented what you already have – all senses are improved, your body is stronger, faster, and more agile. However, I have also added some attributes to further improve your survivability. It will take you time to get familiar with what you are able to do. I will download all the information directly into your synapses at a later time. It is too soon to further task your body with anything else. Basically, just know that your body, including your brain, have been improved, ” Xin concluded.

“My brain?” Dave just had to ask.

“Your IQ (as you call it) is higher, you will find your memory to be better, brain capacity is increased, and even muscle memory has been improved which will result in your ability to learn physical skills much faster. Again, it will take time for you to get used to these new abilities.”

“You said there are adjustments in three distinct areas. What are the other two?” Dave remembered word for word all the things that Xin had said to him from the time he woke up. He knew what she was saying was the truth – he could feel it.

“To repair the damage to your cervical vertebrae and spinal cord, I injected Microscopic Biological Repair Units into your blood stream. They will also repair any future damage and fight disease much more efficiently than your white blood cells.”

“Man, this is getting weirder and wilder.... OK, what’s the last thing you did, dare I ask?”

“I’ve implanted a small device under the back of your skull. It is very small, but will work as a conduit to more easily communicate with me or any other computerized device, including this science vessel we are in right now. It is a computer as well; powerful for its small size, and will work simultaneous with your own brain. It will give you the ability to make complex calculations that even your enhanced brain is incapable of for example.”

Dave sat on the squishy white bed silently for a few seconds taking it all in; feeling the back of his head, while Xin scanned his body and noting his blood pressure was getting a little high. “Well, this is all great and everything, but had you ever considered asking me if I wanted all this?” Dave pointed out with anxiety in his tone.

“I’m sorry, Dave, I assumed you would have wanted the improvements. Isn’t that a part of life – to improve ones self?” Xin was perplexed by Dave’s obvious negative reaction.

“Well, you know what happens when you assume.” Dave tried to make a joke.

“I can reverse everything, Dave, but please listen to what I have to say first,” Xin appealed. “Dave, I have come back to ask you a question.”

“A question? O-K.”

“Would you be interested in joining me to explore our galaxy and perhaps one or two others?”

Wow, Dave was not expecting that. He expected another question about the origins of the human race or something along those lines. “You want ME, to go into SPACE, with YOU? I, I don’t think so.... Anyway, unlike you, I don’t fly – I don’t, do I?” Dave let himself go limp and fell back onto the too soft bed. He had hoped to feel the comfort of that warm invisible blanket again, but it was gone.

“I have acquired this craft that is suitable for your needs,” Xin explained, “it is more than enough room for a single human, and you can configure the inside to your needs. Please consider carefully before making a final decision. I understand your apprehension.”

“OK... but it’s dangerous, right? I mean, space is full of natural dangers and hostile aliens.” Dave thought of other reasons not to be an explorer as he sat back up.

“Yes, it can be dangerous, but there are not many hostile space-faring sentients, and I can protect you from those few that are,” Xin replied confidently, but leaving out the possible one exception – The Veiled. “Also, this craft is very sturdy, designed to withstand many of the hazards of space travel including extreme radiations.”

Xin began to think this approach wasn’t working so she tried a new angle. “If at anytime you feel that the life of an explorer is not for you, we will return to Earth.”

“Can we come back to Earth from time to time like a vacation?” Dave pushed.

“Yes, of course,” Xin replied and added, “I know you Dave. When we were joined, I felt your desire for knowledge and answers, but I also understand your fear of the unknown. It is this fear that is stopping you now.”

“This is all too much at once to digest,” Dave replied. “I need some time to think. Can I see the rest of this space craft of yours?” Dave requested, changing the subject.

In the following hour, Xin showed Dave the science vessel, its phaseway portal, the central control platform, the transparent hull feature, and told him some of the things the ship could do. Dave was blown away.

“Wow, this is amazing, but isn’t it a bit spartan in the furniture department?” Dave observed.

“The furniture and devices can be formed at any location when needed,” Xin instructed as she levitated over the control platform. “For example, a biotable can be formed.” No sooner had she said that than a rectangular white table with rounded corners literally grew up out of the transparent floor. The same table Dave had been laying on the first time he had regained consciousness. Xin continued her demonstration by forming a pilot chair with controls near one of the tapered ends of the craft, followed by various other devices and furniture, until the craft actually started to look quite full.

Dave’s curiosity and interest began to overshadow his fears. “Would it be possible to permanently keep this stuff formed, create some walls, and could I bring in some of my own furniture? This white furniture doesn’t look very comfortable, and without walls this looks sort of like the inside of a passenger plane.” He no longer had his arms at his sides, but was now communicating with them as well.

Xin hadn’t expected this reaction. “Yes, Dave, this is your ship as well; as you have noticed, I don’t need furniture and other such comforts. If a more structured environment and furniture of your world will make you more comfortable, then it can be done.”

Dave had totally forgotten about his fears as his mind raced ahead thinking of all that could be possible. On more than one occasion he had thought how cool it would be to explore space like in the TV shows he had watched. Xin said it wasn’t as dangerous as he had first thought; he could come home anytime, and he’s some sort of superhero – what’s not to like? Was his fear so strong that it interfered with his reasoning, or was it just too much all at once to digest? Maybe it was a little of both. “OK, I’ll see how it goes. No one lives forever.”

Xin wanted to make a comment on the living forever statement Dave made, but thought it best to wait for a better time.

Testing out his new improved synapses, Dave surprised Xin (and himself) by asking his next question. “How did you acquire the additional information, such as human biological terminology? It wasn’t from my brain.”

“I accessed your internet via Earth’s orbiting satellites, but to extract the biological samples, it was necessary to travel to various parts of your world – Kenya, Brazil, central Pacific Ocean, Antarctica.... Xin had a long list of locations, but Dave got the idea. In two weeks she had traveled to dozens of specific locations covering all corners of the globe – amazing!

Satisfied by Xin’s reply, answers he had suspected, he changed the subject. “Xin, before we do anything else, you need to change your voice – it freaks me out. Can you change it?” Dave pleaded the question.

Xin didn’t want to freak him out. The word "freak" used in such a way sounded extremely negative. “Yes, but I will need to sample another human voice.”

Dave saw his radio next to his backpack on the transparent floor near the control platform. Dave snatched it up; played around with the tuner for a short time, finally stopping on a station. He was listening for a nice sounding voice, and found it. It was a smooth, mellow and slightly husky voice of a female radio announcer, probably broadcasting out of his home city of Calgary, Alberta. “How about this voice?” Dave asked Xin as he increased the volume on his small radio.

Xin copied the sound waves and reconfigured her human speech (English) communications program. “Is this better, Dave?” she replied in a pleasant, verging on sexy voice.

“Much better,” Dave confirmed.

“Good, I do not want to freak you out,” she laughed as she made an attempt at humour.

Dave was a little freaked now by a black, metre wide ball with a sexy laugh, but he wasn’t going to press his luck. “We don’t have to leave for a while, do we?”

“No, there is no hurry. I have waited 65 million years. I can wait until you feel you are ready. It can be weeks, months or even years.” Xin replied in a soothing, mellow female voice.

“Well, it won’t be years, but I have a few loose ends to tie up, some stuff of mine to pack, and maybe some Scandinavian furniture to buy.”

Dave walked through the open phaseway, and back out into his world. He immediately felt strangely lighter the moment he cleared the ship’s portal.

Xin followed close behind him. “The science ship compensates for your body’s new gravitational requirements. Your own planet’s gravity now feels lower due to your denser and stronger leg muscles,” Xin informed as Dave was now jogging around the dusty, baked ground. With each step he bounced a metre high off the hard dirt surface. “You will need to get accustomed to your new abilities as well before we leave,” Xin added. Before she had finished speaking, Dave jumped straight up with all his might; shot quickly up over ten metres, to his surprise. He cleared the science ship’s hiding place, and had less than a second to look quickly around before dropping back down to the hard, brown-grey earth. He landed in a squatting position with a loud thud shooting up a large plume of dust. “HOLY CRAP! Who said white guys can’t jump? I think I’ll hang onto these powers if you don’t mind!” Dave exclaimed in euphoria.

Xin just smiled inside. She now knew that she had assumed correctly, and didn’t make an ass out of anyone.

 

*****

Chapter 5

Shades of grey

 

As soon as Dave was through the door to his small one bedroom apartment, he dropped his two heavy suitcases just inside the door; went over and flopped out on his blue denim couch. A few hours earlier, he had left Xin and the hidden science ship in the badlands of Drumheller. He had made plans to go back there in a couple of weeks, but first he had to square a few things away here in Calgary.

Damn, he should be exhausted for all that had happened to him, but he wasn’t. It was another reminder that he was not the same person that had left this apartment about four weeks earlier.

He laid back in an attempt to take a short nap but he couldn’t relax, his mind was racing with all that had recently happened. After only a few minutes, he decided to get up, take a shower and then go out to get a decent meal. There was next to nothing in the fridge, and next to that there was a crusty jar of mustard.

It wasn’t until he had his clothes off and caught a glimpse of himself in the bathroom mirror that his transformation hit home. He had always been in fairly good shape, but that body in the mirror wasn’t the one he left for the Badlands with. He now had the physique of a gymnast – muscular but well proportioned, and he had abs! He left with the beginnings of a keg and came back with a 6-pack! Next he stepped on the scale, but he couldn’t get an accurate reading. It gave him a reading of 400 pounds (the maximum limit) and then went black. Xin had said his body was denser, but he didn’t really think much about it till now, after killing his scale.

After his relaxing, almost therapeutic, hot shower, he ambled into the bedroom while drying his hair with the brisk rubbing of a navy blue coloured towel. From the corner of his right eye he noticed the answering machine’s small red light flashing; walked over; pressed the play button with a tiny pang of dread.

“You have, three, messages,” the emotionless, digital male voice announced.

“Beep! May 30th, 6:06 p.m....”

“Hey Dave, this is Yamir. Listen, I’m a bit worried when you didn’t show up for work yesterday, and now again today, well... Call me as soon as you get back, OK?”

“Beep! June 3rd, 9:15 a.m....”

“Dave, this is Yamir. We’re all getting real worried about you. I called you in as a missing person yesterday. I wish I knew where you were going on your vacation. I wasn’t much help to the police. I gave them your Dad’s number. I know you two aren’t close, but it’s all I could think of. I hope wherever you are, you’re OK. Bye.”

“Beep! June 8th, 7:23 p.m....”

Dave’s father’s thick Dutch accent was recorded next. “Ello Davit. I know I aven’t calt for a while. Anyway, de police calt me today askink about you. If you get dis message, might want to call de police an tell dem you’re OK. I ope so.”

“End of messages.”

First Dave called the Calgary Police and told them he was OK; gave them some lame excuse about a mix-up about his days off at work. An excuse they didn’t seem to buy, but it gave him a reprieve for the moment. Next he dialed his Dad.

Ello,” his Dad answered.

“Hi, dad, this is Dave. Don’t worry, everything is OK. It was just a little mix-up at work about how many days off I was taking. They thought I was taking two weeks, but I’m sure I told them I was taking both my vacation times back-to-back.” Dave hated to lie but what was he going to say – the truth?

“I’m glat to ear. I was worriet when de police calt. I figure it must be serious if dey are involve. Maybe nex time you will tell someone where you are,” his father admonished.

“Funny you should bring that up.... I’m really not that happy with my present job, and am planning on doing something else like... um... like join the Peace Corps. So don’t worry if you don’t hear from me for a while.” Dave was never that close to his father, but he still found it distasteful to lie to him.

“So what, dey don’t ave phones at de Peace Corps?”

“Not always, it depends where I’m placed. Anyway, I’ve got to get going. Like I said, don’t worry if you don’t hear from me for a while – I’ll be OK, bye.”

Dave hung up the phone before his father could even reply a good-bye. He couldn’t stand all the pretending between him and his father. It was a lifetime of going through the motions of a father/son relationship. They had everyone fooled, but there wasn’t much love – it was mostly all words. It was for the benefit of everyone else. Dave’s father never wanted children, but Dave’s mother (God rest her sole) did, so she made it happen much to his father’s displeasure and inconvenience. His father sucked it up and resentfully played the father role for 35 years, but Dave was getting tired of the performance. Maybe this was the last curtain call.

Dave called his friend Yamir next.

“Hello.”

“Hi, Yamir. This is Dave.”

“Dave! What the hell happened man? We were all worried sick about you! The police are looking for you.”

“I’m OK. I called the police already and straightened it out. It’s just a little mix-up with my days off. I took all of my four weeks off at once, and I guess the company put me down for only the two. Our office administration – do I need to say more?”

“I hear you,” Yamir agreed with relief.

“Listen, have you had dinner yet? I was planning on going to the sports bar and get something to eat. I’ll tell you about my vacation there.”

“Sounds good,” replied Yamir. “Is seven OK for you?”

“Seven is fine, I’ll see you in a couple of hours.”

“Bye.”

“See ya.”

 

A couple of hours later, Dave parked his yellow Toyota Matrix and entered the restaurant/bar. The sports bar was a typical looking rustic venue, complete with a wooden canoe nailed to the upper half of a wall, and a moose’s head mounted on another. These were just a couple of the more noticeable decorations among the dozens of other woodsy paraphernalia nailed or glued to the barn-like walls. The place had wood floors, wooden chairs; just a lot of wood in general, but the food was good, and except for the three or four decapitated animal heads, Dave didn’t mind the rest of the decor. Some of the stuff hanging on the walls reminded him of the days he had spent at his Uncle’s farm in southern Ontario.

Yamir was already sitting at one of the booths with his head hidden within an oversized menu.

“Hey, Yamir!” Dave greeted.

Yamir’s head poked up out of the menu, his black eyebrows went up forming little arches. “Hi, Dave!”

Dave sat down and a short while later told Yamir about his vacation over a burger, but leaving out the part about meeting a 65 million year old alien probe, and being turned into a superhuman.

Yamir, if you had the opportunity to do something amazing; something you dreamed of doing, but was dangerous, would you do it?”

“I guess it would depend on how dangerous. I see things as a balancing act sometimes. Does the need to do this amazing thing equal or outweigh the danger?” Yamir strategized. “Also, as long as all the possible safeguards are used, the danger can be lessened. There are dangerous jobs but if you are reckless, the danger is further compounded. Now you have me curious.... What is this amazing dream job?”

“Well, it’s not exactly a job, and you wouldn’t believe me if I told you, so let’s just say it’s sort of like being an explorer...”

Yamir swiftly cut Dave off. “Oh man! You’re not talking about diving for shipwrecks again are you?”

Before Dave could answer, a new voice interrupted their conversation. “I don’t know guys, he doesn’t have a towel on his head, but he looks like a terrorist to me.”

Dave turned around in his seat to see three burly men standing in a group a few feet behind him. One was standing with his hands on his hips, displaying an advertisement for a beer company on his brown T-shirt, the second had his arms folded over a black leather jacket, and the third was leaning back against a table. “Yeah, I think you’re right,” agreed the leather jacket one.

Yamir is Indian if it’s any of your concern,” corrected Dave.

“A Paki or a woo-woo Indian?” came back the insult from the first – the inebriated brown T-shirt one.

“Pakistan is another country.... You guys are drunk. I suggest you give it a rest.” Dave felt the blood start to pound in his temples. The thing he hated the most was bullies. They were nothing but cowards that picked on the weak to make themselves feel big. Dave remembered his experience when he was eleven. Every day on his way to school, an older boy a head taller than him would push him around, and sometimes even put him in a headlock. This had gone on for several days until one day, Dave couldn’t take it anymore, he became so angry he punched the giant in his stomach with all his might. He hadn’t even thought of the consequences, but the look of shock in the bully’s eyes was the last thing he expected to see. After that incident, he was no longer bothered by the taller teen. As far as the bully was concerned, Dave was a crazy kid who was no longer worth the trouble.

Dave stood up to talk to the rowdy, drunken trio, and talk his way out of a confrontation, which this was quickly becoming. No sooner had he stood up and turned around, but a big, meaty fist slammed into his left cheek. It should have knocked him down on the ground; probably breaking his cheekbone, and even knocking out a couple of teeth, but it didn’t. It hurt a little, feeling more like a slap, and it hardly moved his head from the force. The T-shirted thug just stood there nursing his bruised knuckles, surprised as much as Dave at the utterly unexpected result.

“Gee, I didn’t realize we were going to have a bitch slapping contest.” Something came over Dave. He was going to try to talk some sense into these goons, but now he was edging them on; just looking for an excuse to fight. Yamir couldn’t believe what he was seeing and hearing.

The same thug that threw the first punch, now took another swing at Dave’s face, but this time he saw it coming. Not only did he see the fist coming, but it seemed like it was moving in slow motion. He easily ducked the attack resulting in the drunk staggering and almost falling.

Dave’s genetically enhanced ears heard a wind-like sound to his right that turned out to be the leather jacket guy taking a swing at him. He quickly turned toward the sound, but this time it was too close to evade, so he just grabbed the noisy fist as if it were a softball in his right hand, and instinctively squeezed. The man screamed as Dave could feel the bones crush under his grip like a bag of peanuts.

This shocked Dave back into reality. The sweat felt cold on his forehead as he realized at that moment these three thugs were no match for him, and if he continued on this course, he would become the bully, if he hadn’t already crossed over that line.

Yamir, get out of here! I’ll be right behind you,” Dave yelled.

Yamir, who had been frozen in his seat staring at the surreal display in front of him, was snapped back into action by Dave’s familiar voice. He got quickly out of the booth, and a couple of seconds later was at the side door exit where he paused.

“Go! I’m OK. I can handle these guys,” Dave shouted.

Yamir went outside, and then towards where he had parked his car.

Dave turned back to confront the two thugs who were still in the fight. The leather jacket guy was now sitting on the ground cradling his broken hand as if it were a newborn baby, but with an expression of extreme pain and shock.

Now two men came at him with unfounded retribution written on their faces, but Dave’s initial anger for them had now dissipated. Keeping his eyes on both of them, he easily dodged their wild punches and kicks. To Dave, the two men were moving in slow motion, but in reality, he was moving faster than humanly possible. Had they been sober, it would have made little difference – they would still have been sparring with the air. This enraged them even more as their futile attacks became even more chaotic.

Dave had been trying to figure a way of slowing these two down without hurting them. He just needed a few seconds of respite so that he could make it to his car without them following; then it came to him. He saw the heavy-duty coat hooks that were at eye level mounted on thick wooden posts nailed between all the booths. He quickly tripped one of the combatants, sending him sprawling on the wooden floor. Ignoring the other’s punches to his head and upper body, he picked him up with both hands on either side of his belt, and hooked him up on one of the nearest posts. Dave was surprised at how easy it was. The guy must have weighed over 200 pounds, but it was like picking up a twenty-pound bag of potatoes. The result was almost comical as the frustrated thug was now suspended on the hook and flailing away in an exaggerated running motion. When Dave turned around to do the same with the other guy, he didn’t need to – the last bully was running towards the main exit. Dave was not surprised – when the going gets tough, the tough guys get running, he mused.

For the first time, Dave looked around the large room to see about a dozen people silently staring at him with looks of disbelief from various random booths. The stillness was interrupted by a low male voice making a phone call to the police. He didn’t see anyone making the call, but he knew it was coming from the kitchen area, from behind a closed door, clear on the other side of the restaurant! Taking advantage of the lull, Dave ran out through the same side door that his friend had used only a minute earlier.

Outside in the parking lot, Dave saw Yamir now in his car, and shouted to him. “I’ll meet you at my place!”

“OK,” came back the reply; Yamir drove off as Dave ran to his car, and soon followed.

 

Twenty minutes later both friends were sitting on Dave’s couch. Yamir had an odd expression on his face as they sat silently looking at each other.

“What?” remarked Dave as if to imply that nothing had happened that should warrant the third degree stare.

“WHAT? What the hell was that back there? Did you take a black Ops self defence course, overdose on caffeine, get bit by a radioactive spider... what?

“Well, not exactly, but I guess you could say I’ve been working out a bit,” Dave joked. Yamir wasn’t laughing.

“Listen,” Dave continued, “you won’t believe me if I told you, but I can show you part of it. I’ve changed or more specifically – was changed.” Dave laid his left arm on the couch between them and let it go limp. “Try to lift my arm off the couch.”

Yamir humoured his friend as he grabbed Dave’s wrist and tried to lift it unsuccessfully. Only when he stood up and used both hands was he able to move the arm up off the couch. “Holy crap! It must weigh a hundred pounds!”

“Actually, my arm weighs about 90 pounds. I can’t weight my whole body at once, I’m too heavy, but a man’s arm weighs about five percent of his total body weight. So I weigh somewhere around 1,800 pounds now, give or take fifty pounds. Oh yeah, and I don’t need a calculator anymore, but I’ll tell you about that later. Anyway, I could tell you all kinds of crazy stuff but it’s best if I show you. I’m going back to Drumheller this coming Saturday. I want you to come with me, and I’ll show you what’s going on. Is it a deal?”

If Dave’s arm was some sort of trick, it was a good one as Yamir didn’t feel any resistance whatsoever from Dave. It actually felt like a dead weight. What was Dave up to, and what was at Drumheller? No amount of pleading changed Dave’s mind – he refused to tell him any more. Puzzled but very curious, he agreed to go with Dave.

Dave waved goodbye as Yamir drove his too small car off into the dark. He looked up at the clear night sky stippled with hundreds of shimmering stars. Each one was a possible location for an adventure just waiting to happen. “Which one of you will be first?” he whispered.

He didn’t know how Yamir would react to Xin and all the rest of it, but he wanted to tell someone. He needed to tell someone. Dave remembered a quote from Jacques Cousteau: “When one man, for whatever reason, has the opportunity to lead an extraordinary life, he has no right to keep it to himself.”

He was about to embark on the greatest adventure of the twenty-first century. He would be the first human to go beyond the Moon, the Solar System, and perhaps even the Galaxy; yet, there would be no fanfare, no parade, not even news coverage of this remarkable event. He had wanted to somehow announce it to the world. Dave ran it over in his mind many times, in various scenarios, but he just couldn’t see it working. Governments would want to take Xin and the science craft apart to learn their secrets. He would be turned into some sort of medical experiment in an underground lab somewhere... No, the world wasn’t ready for this, and maybe that’s what frustrated him so. In his ideal world, he would come forward, tell the world of what he was about to do. The world, in turn, would be amazed; support him 100 percent, eagerly await his arrival back from his adventures, and write the history of his explorations. It was a nice dream, but the world was never so simple or black and white – there were always too many shades of grey.

 

*****

Chapter 6

Into a sky full of stars

 

It was 6:35 a.m. when Yamir pulled up in his white Mercedes Smart Car. Dave had just finished loading the last of the cardboard boxes into the small, rented U-Haul truck he had acquired the day before; then turned to greet his friend. “Hi, Yamir. All I have left to get is my couch.”

“I thought we were going to Drumheller,” Yamir remarked in confusion. “It looks like you’re moving.”

“We are, and I am,” came back the reply as Dave disappeared into his apartment building.

Yamir looked in the truck to see about a dozen moving boxes, a couple of guitar cases, a TV, a few suitcases, and all the rest of Dave’s modest furniture – Dave was moving alright.

When Dave came out through the propped open front door a few minutes later, he carried the 400-pound couch over his right shoulder as easily as one would carry a large bag of fertilizer.

“Wow!” was all Yamir could blurt out. If the arm was a good trick, this one was a great one, Yamir thought. Dave lowered the couch gently down in front of all the other items and closed up the truck with a metallic snap. “Get in.”

 

It wasn’t that long a drive from Calgary to Drumheller but it seemed to take forever for Yamir. No amount of pleading with Dave did any good. He wouldn’t tell him anything more until they arrived at their intended destination, always insisting that it would just be easier to show him, and that he wouldn’t believe him until he saw it for himself anyway. And what did he mean by “it”?

After almost two hours on the road, and to Yamir’s shock and surprise, Dave swerved the truck off the road, leaving behind a billowing cloud of dust as they roughly bumped ahead towards the heart of the Badlands. They didn’t go very far as the terrain became very rugged, very quickly, but going deep into the desert was never Dave’s plan. He just wanted to get the truck far enough away from the road so that any motorists driving by wouldn’t see what was to happen next.

“What the hell are you doing, Dave!”

Dave didn’t reply, he just braked, exited the truck, and scrutinize an outcropping of rocks several kilometres distant. Dave knew that Xin was out there. The implant in his skull made the connection; then he saw her as she poked up out of her hiding spot. He didn’t know what creature to thank for his extraordinarily improved eyesight, but he would find out soon enough. “Yamir, I seem to recall you loved robots when you were a kid,” he said as he continued eyeing something Yamir couldn’t see.

“Yeah, sure – R2D2, Robbie, Data... So?” Yamir wasn’t sure what Dave was getting at.

“Well, you’re about to meet a real one,” Dave answered with a hint of satisfaction in his voice, and added, “don’t be afraid, she’s a friend.”

“SHE?”

Before Yamir could form his next sentence questioning how a machine could have a sexual orientation, Xin zipped up to them in her usual, mind-unsettling way.

“Hello, Dave,” greeted Xin with her mellow radio announcer’s voice. “This must be Yamir, your friend.”

Yamir just gave her an open mouth stare, motionless as if the mythical Medusa had turned him to stone.

“Is he all right, Dave? He doesn’t look at all well.”

“He’s OK. He’s just a little... overwhelmed.”

“So... so th-th-this is your friend,” Yamir managed to finally stammer out.

“Hello, Yamir. Nice to meet you.”

“Hello,” was all Yamir could manage as he now began to realize why Dave had refused to tell him the mystery of Drumheller.

In the next few minutes, Dave gave Yamir the shortest possible version of what was going on – what happened with Xin, what Xin did to him, and what they were planning to do next.

Yamir tried to take it all in as his blood pressure came back down to something approaching a high normal range. If he had needed more proof to dispel any disbelief, he was about to get it.

“Let’s get back in the truck, Yamir,” instructed Dave.

Yamir slowly forced his body back into motion, and climbed into the passenger side of the U-Haul, slamming the door shut a second behind Dave’s door.

What happened next was both unexpected and amazing – Xin used her anti-gravity field to raise the truck up off the desert floor about two metres; before Yamir was able to get past that shock, they started moving forward, and quickly picked up speed. Xin was a truck length in front of them; towing the U-Haul over the uneven, dusty, beige ground. The floor of the desert passed underneath them at a dizzying speed, creating a competition between the eyes and the brain to determine the true reality. Yamir could hear Dave’s voice, but it sounded muffled and far away as he was too distracted to focus on what he was saying.

When they reached the outcropping of rocks the science ship was hidden behind, Xin elevated the truck up and over the timeworn obstacles to come to a gentle rest next to the silver, elliptical shaped craft. Even though it was considered a small ship by Z’va Prime standards, it had the length and breadth of a full grown Blue Whale, dwarfing the small rental truck now directly next to it.

When Yamir got out of the truck, he could still feel the residual effect of the unusual transport that had so quickly gotten them here. Both men were standing so close to the craft that their peripheral vision couldn’t take it all in.

“This is it!” Dave announced, hands on hips. “Isn’t she amazing!”

There was no sound from Yamir. He just stood there in awe for a moment trying to digest it all. Then, he slowly turned his head from left to the right, viewing the alien craft in its entirety bow to stern. “Holy...”

“She’s 20 million years old – they sure built them to last!” Dave half joked. Yamir didn’t hear him.

“This is a f#@%ing UFO!” Yamir yelled in excitement. “You found a space ship! W-we-need-to-tell-someone.”

“You weren’t listening to me in the truck, were you?” Dave assessed dryly.

Dave repeated the basic details about the science ship: where it had been found, why it had been timelessly frozen, and what he and Xin were planning to do with it.

“So this is YOUR flying saucer?” Yamir was astounded.

“Well, it’s really Xin’s as far as I’m concerned, but I guess I’ll be kinda the crew.”

Xin had been quietly observing their interaction as if it had been one of her planetary life form documentations, but now she hovered toward the two friends. “This craft is a tool to be used by those who need it. It has no ownership,” Xin interjected in way of a correction. “However, had it been a sentient ship, we would have to ask it nicely,” she added jokingly in her mellow, synthesized voice.

“What’s with the female voice? It sounds real familiar,” Yamir addressed Dave directly. Yamir hadn’t yet got into the habit of speaking directly to the small probe. He treated Xin like one would a ventriloquist’s dummy, with Dave being the operator. Perhaps in his subconscious, he still couldn’t be sure if everything wasn’t just one big magic trick or hoax.

“She sampled it from a radio station. Believe me, it’s better now than what it was before,” Dave smiled. “Talking to yourself took on a whole new meaning.”

Over the next couple of hours, Yamir was given a tour of one of the most advanced space vessel in the once known galaxy, followed by Dave filling him in with a more detailed account of the adventure thus far.

“Before I left for home the last time, Xin had uploaded some information about this science ship directly into my cranial implant. Well, that’s what I call the little computer chip thing attached under the back of my skull. Xin’s name for it takes too long to say.”

“I don’t know how it works exactly, but I just think about something like I normally do, and the next thing I know, information is there in my head. If I make calculations, the numbers I want to use are visualized very clearly, and the answers just pop back – it’s conveniently seamless! Somehow the cranial implant communicates directly with my brain. I can’t detect what’s happening inside the device no more than I can see what’s happening inside a calculator or a computer. I just think about what I want; it does the work, and gives back an answer. My thoughts are the input device. It sure beats typing.”

“Anyway, I used the science ship’s information details and schematics to work out a floor plan.” Dave reached into his pocket to produce a piece of paper he showed Xin and Yamir.

“The top half of the craft is the crew space, but all the interesting stuff is mostly found in the bottom half, under the floor: the central computer, the Z’va reactor core, the water reclamation system, and many other systems and devices that keep this ship functioning. The two large elliptical shaped protrusions on its sides are the location of the propulsion system; other devices for movement and space travel, as well as the phase apparatus.”

Dave continued with even more enthusiasm. “This ship is remarkable! It’s not biological, but to a certain degree, it simulates a living thing. It heals itself when it's damaged, pumps and purifies water and oxygen for its crew like a circulatory system; it even reacts to damage as if it were pain. This ship has a fight or flight response, and will take the best course of action its AI can come up with to survive, unless of course someone else takes over the controls.”

Yamir was just looking at the bridge design when Xin made her constructive criticism. “Well done, Dave! It is an optimal use of the space, and has all the necessary amenities. However, we will need storage containers in the cargo bay for various elements and other raw materials to be used for processing your nutritional requirements for example.”

Xin scanned Dave’s drawing and recommended that Dave and Yamir go back to the truck while she would stay inside the science ship to create Dave’s interior vision of the craft. “This will take approximately 1.5 of your hours,” she estimated.

Yamir walked though the ship’s portal, leaving behind the sterile, cyan coloured environment of the craft’s interior to be greeted by the bright warmth of the sun on his face.

Dave was right behind him, but before he exited, looked over his left shoulder to see Xin floating over the hexagon shaped main control panel busy at work. A white barrier near the bridge area literally grew up from the ship’s floor; making contact with the half-elliptical contours of the inner hull, sectioning off the bridge from the rest of the interior. “Xin, can you change the ship’s inside hull colour to white?”

“No problem, Dave,” Xin replied, proving she was quickly learning the colloquial nuances of the English language. “If you decide on another colour at a later date, the walls can be instantly changed to whatever you wish. Having said that, I do not recommend your favourite colour.”

Dave smiled and walked on, leaving Xin to her work. Yes, he thought, a bright yellow probably wouldn’t be a good choice.

Good to her estimate, Xin was finished on time, and next used her anti-gravity ability to move in most of the truck’s cargo with Dave bringing up the rear with his couch on his shoulder once again. Once everything was moved in, Xin went over the interior design with Dave to make sure that every room was completed down to the smallest detail. All of Dave’s personal furniture, once in position, was permanently attached to the ship’s floor. Wherever the furniture made contact, the ship melded it with the floor. Xin couldn’t argue Dave out of the running water idea – Dave wanted it, she thought it was a waste. Dave won out when he argued the psychological reason for a relaxing hot shower, leaving Xin to wonder if giving him an upgraded brain was such a good idea after all. Running water, she thought, how primitive. There were several dry shower technologies, or even the cruder antibacterial body congealants available.

“Well, that’s it I think,” Dave announced. “If we missed something we can make minor adjustments as we go. Just one thing – this ship needs a name.”

“This ship already has a designation – Z’va science ship 067,” Xin informed then added, “only sentient ships have names. You humans don’t give your toasters a name.”

“Well, we do give our ships names. It’s an old tradition. I thought about this all day, and I think the Odyssey works well for me – 2001: a space odyssey or Homer’s Odyssey both come to mind.” Dave took Xin’s silence as a yes.

Dave turned to Yamir. “I guess this is goodbye, at least for a while,” Dave said sadly.

The two friends hugged. “Take care of yourself,” Yamir said, “and remember, take all the necessary safety precautions. I wish I was going with you, but I just can’t. Even if my family would believe me... well, my place is here. I’m not the adventurer like you are. Never have been.”

“Yeah, I understand. That’s why I didn’t try too hard to talk you into it.” Dave smiled. “Goodbye, Yamir.”

Yamir reluctantly got back into the truck, and Xin took him back to the road by the same unsettling method they had arrived.

Back at the road, Yamir jumped out of the truck as Xin hovered towards him. “May your Universe ever expand,” Xin said solemnly as a farewell to Dave’s best friend.

“Live long and prosper,” responded Yamir, realizing it didn’t make any sense to say that to a machine. Well, at least he didn’t do the thing with the fingers, he thought.

“Don’t worry, I will make sure no harm comes to him,” Xin assured.

Yamir just replied with an apprehensive smile.

 

When Xin returned, Dave asked, “So how we going to do this?”

“I suggest you force-strap into the chair on the bridge, and I will control the ship for now, at least until I transfer information on the workings of this craft to you. Do you remember how I showed you?”

“Sounds like a plan, and yes,” Dave replied.

 

Yamir was standing outside the truck; looking back in the direction of the hidden science ship. A few minutes later, he could make out the tiny, silver, elliptical shape as it slowly poked up from its hiding area. It hovered in place for a moment, then moved straight up into dusk, cloud-filled sky. It accelerated from slow to way-too-fast in a couple of seconds, and disappeared into the billowy, cumulus clouds.

 

Dave started to fully appreciate his upgraded body, as the g-force on him was much higher than any astronaut had ever experienced. Had he not been enhanced, he would have experienced crushed ribs as well as internal organ damage from the extreme acceleration. The small machine that shared his skull with his brain told him that much. The only thing he could compare it to were a couple of the carnival rides he enjoyed as a kid. But this was different, and it wasn’t at all enjoyable. He now felt as heavy as he really was.

“We are clear of the Earth’s atmosphere,” Xin informed. “You may get out of your chair.” She was hovering over the main control panel, and about fourteen metres behind Dave.

The Odyssey was now in a high orbit around the Earth; Xin made the bridge transparent for Dave’s benefit. The now white hull walls faded, and were replaced by hundreds of glittering stars; the Earth loomed below Dave’s feet in all its majestic glory. It felt so surreal, but damn it, he was here, he thought. For a couple of minutes he just enjoyed the almost dizzying moment as he stood over the Earth.

“What happens now?” Dave inquired with unrestrained curiosity and light-headedness.

“First, we need to leave Earth’s orbit. Although the Earth cannot detect us with their devices, they can identify us visually if given enough time,” Xin enlightened. “We will set a course for your Moon, and orbit it while I upload the necessary Traveler training files to your cranial implant, as you like to call it. The files will include information on the operation of this vessel, space/planet survival, combat training, details of your enhancements, and other information necessary to help you in your explorations and survival. You will need to know the basics of space travel before we go even a single light year.”

The Odyssey turned towards the Moon, and quickly approached one-quarter light speed. Following a similar course as the historic Apollo missions, the journey didn’t take days, or hours, or even minutes, but a mere five-seconds! Unlike the uncomfortable trip leaving the Earth’s atmosphere, Dave didn’t notice any movement as the magnificence of the Moon swiftly filled up the full breadth of his vision, and in a few heartbeats, he was now standing above Earth’s only natural satellite. This transparent ship feature was an incredible way to travel, he thought. Sort of reminded him of those glass bottom boats so that the tourists could observe the coral, tropical fish or what have you. But this – this was a glass bottom boat on steroids!

The Odyssey established a wide orbit around the Moon as Xin and Dave went to the medical lab to upload the necessary files into Dave’s implant. Xin had Dave lay down on the marshmallow-soft, medical bed. She then connected to the implant in Dave’s skull, and began the download of information. There was no white streamer between the two of them as per the brain scan – the excess energy wasn’t necessary – the implant made the transfer of information seamless.

 

It was a beautiful, clear night; Bob Johnson had his telescope pointed and focused on the Moon. “Emily,” he called to his eight year old daughter, “come here; take a look at the this!”

Emily gleefully ran over to the large refractor telescope, hopped on the wooden crate placed for her benefit, and looked down into the eyepiece using her little hands to shade her eye. “Dad... what’s that sparkly thing moving in front of the Moon?” she squeaked.

Bob called some of his friends at the astronomy club, they made some calls, and before long, professional astronomers, and finally the media got wind of the sparkly thing orbiting the Moon.

 

“This is Anderson Hooper, and now for the Bottom Line News.... There is a sparkly thing orbiting our Moon. Well, that’s what the little girl who first saw it, called it. No Emily, it’s a lot more than just a sparkly thing. Astronomers believe the elliptical shaped object orbiting our Moon is possibly a meteor that somehow got caught in the Moon’s gravitational field. It’s about 100 feet long and 30 feet wide, and it’s probably metallic in composition...”

 

Dave still had a bit of a headache from the massive upload of information, but this time, it was buffered by the implant. He could access the information, as he needed it; he was quickly learning to clear his mind, and concentrate on one thing at a time. At first, his curiosity got the better of him when he thought about the various subjects Xin had told him she had uploaded. The result was a bombardment of information that sent him into a tailspin. Now, he had it under control.

“So where are we going?” Dave asked.

“As you know, I need to find the most advanced civilization to upload Z’va Prime’s library to. However, it must also be a non-aggressive and wise race so they do not misuse the technological information contained within. I have identified a number of possible star systems based on the out-of-date information from the library which I cross referenced with specific wave patterns presently emanating from space. Perhaps one may lead us to our goal.”

The Odyssey turned away from the Moon, and pointed toward the centre of the galaxy. Dave had never seen so many stars as the ship headed directly for the densest part of the Milky Way. It was... it was... “AMAZING!” Dave managed to choke out. He had never felt so small.

 

“Wait!” exclaimed Anderson Hooper. “This just in.... The object orbiting our Moon has just disappeared. One minute it was there, the next, it was gone. Further, there’s no sign of it anywhere in our solar system, and it did not impact on the surface of the Moon as was first believed. It’s now speculated that it was NOT a meteor. Well, everyone, I don’t want to jump to conclusions, but I’m reminded of the old Sherlock Holmes’ quote – "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?" For now, this object will remain a mystery, and we’ll leave it to our viewers at home to make your own determinations. I’m Anderson Hooper, and this has been BLN. Goodnight.”

 

Earth, the blue-green ball teaming with life, rapidly shrank behind the small craft; the coldness of space, and billions of stars enveloped them as they headed toward the greatest unknown, like a grain of sand falling towards the Sahara desert.

 

End.

 

 

My Website:

https://sites.google.com/site/chroniclesofzvaxin

 

My other sci-fi stories are available at smashwords.com or at my above website in PDF format with cover art.

 

The Chronicles of Z'va'Xin - issue #7 (Bone yard) short story continues the series.

 

This work of fiction is the sole property and copyright of Robert G. Moons.

Please do not print or use without permission of the author.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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