Friend and Benefactor
by Ken Dean
forum: Friend and Benefactor
speculative fiction for the internet generation.

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Friend and Benefactor


       John Ashley was sitting at his favorite coffee house at West 3rd and LaGuardia Place in Manhattan, sipping a latté and checking his email. This was the way he usually spent Saturday afternoons; his way to relax. Working for the government studying climatology was his mainstay, but he liked to write also. Some works had been published, both fiction and non-fiction.

       His income from the government was more than adequate, but he would love to write for a living instead. With today's technology, he could write from just about anywhere in the nation or most places on the globe. Just imagine the freedom! He had worked for the government long enough now to think about retirement along with pursuing the second career.

       John had been married once and had a daughter. He was now divorced from Andrea and he tried his best not to converse with her. All that came out of those discussions was bitterness towards him and the divorce. He, on the other hand, just wanted to forget that portion of his life. The only bright point was their daughter, Marcia, who was in college studying towards an archeology major with a minor in geology. She was quite bright and could accomplish anything she put her mind towards, and was also at peace with the divorce. She was old enough now to realize that it was an incompatibility issue.

       Luckily he made enough to have money to help her with most of her college expenses. John liked to discuss theories with her occasionally about the climate during different time strata that she studied from some of the core samples taken in Antarctica, especially if it concerned the trend towards global warming.

       Most of the booths in the coffee house around him were unoccupied. He was surprised to look up and see a beautiful, young blond woman heading in his direction. She had just the right amount of tan, wearing shorts showing plenty of leg, and had her hair up in a very feminine ponytail. Wow—enough to take your breath away. The epitome mixture of girl next door, beautiful blonde and tanned tennis female.

       "Is it okay if I share this booth with you?"

       Like he would say no?

       "Oh… of course. No problem."

       She was carrying a backpack with her and sat down a latté on the table while placing the backpack on the floor.

       "It's beautiful outside."

       "Yes, it's quite a day."

       "Little warm, though. That's why I thought I would sit inside with the air conditioning."

       "Same here."

       Obligatory weather small talk.

       She reached over to shake his hand.

       "My name's Becka Skysdale, glad to meet you."

       "John Ashley here, likewise."

       "What's your occupation, John? If you don't mind my asking."

       "I'm a climatologist for the government. Research division. You?"

       John realized something odd about her accent. It didn't fit the New York area. He felt certain she was American, but her accent didn't fit anything he had ever heard before in an American dialect; it was too perfect. Strange.

       "I'm a student; no… more like a study."

       A study?

       "And what do you study?"

       "Actually, I like to research climatology also, global warming in particular."

       "Whoa! That's my favorite field. Imagine you sitting down at the very same booth as myself. That's quite a coincidence."

       "I don't believe in coincidences. Everything happens for a reason."

       "That's cool—to each their own."

       "John, do consider yourself an open-minded person?"

       "I'd like to think so. I've found that open-mindedness is usually just a difference of opinion, with the supposedly open-minded person thinking they have a fresh new idea. Then when tempers rise, open-mindedness usually de-evolves into absolutism. So it's hard to find a truly open-minded person. I can try to be, though, depending on the subject.

       "Good. Because there's an idea I'd to run across you."

       "Great—go ahead."

       "What if I told you that I wasn't from around here?"

       "Where are you from, France?" John had to laugh inside. Sometimes his sense of humor was jackass and got him slapped, but he amused himself. Some shrink at one point in the past told him that was a good thing.

       "No, silly," Becka chided, making a funny but still beautiful face at him, "It's much farther than that."

       John's interest was piqued. "And just how far are we talking about?"

       "How about somewhere between five to fifty light years? I can't be specific because of secrecy issues and the fact that your species is extremely bright."

       'Our species?' he thought. He quickly looked around for cameras or other people watching, thinking he was being punked.

       "Okay—you're pulling my leg, right?

       "No, John, I'm totally serious. I can prove it, if you want."

       "Uh—I'm afraid you'll have to. Call me skeptical."

       "Okay—here goes. Watch your laptop screen."

       Becka looked around to make sure no one was watching. Then she reached up and touched the top of his laptop screen while touching a bracelet she was wearing. John's ordinary screen suddenly became a 3-D view of space. It seemed to envelop his entire field of vision, as if he had blinders on. The stars started to speed towards him for a few seconds and then slowed until a solar system was in view. He felt as if he could reach out and touch the planets.

       "This is our home system," Becka's voice came from outside his range of sight. "Can't tell you where it is, though."

       John's vision returned suddenly and he noticed Becka removing her hand from his laptop. He was feeling a little vertigo. Normal vision returned after shaking his head for a second.

       "Enough proof?"

       John was impressed, for sure.

       "That could be a programming trick, for all I know, although a really good one."

       "Okay—this calls for more advanced methods."

       She grabbed his wrist and looked him directly in the eyes, and he realized suddenly how strikingly blue and beautiful her eyes were in contrast to her blonde hair. He suddenly heard a clear voice in his head.

       "John, can you hear me? Answer back by thinking the words if you do."

       Becka's lips weren't moving at all, but it was her voice!

       "Yes—I can hear you," his lips not moving either.

       She let go quickly.

       "Wow! What was that?"

       "A rudimentary form of telepathy. But it requires touch to initiate."

       "Okay—you have my full attention." He had to admit it would be pretty hard to pull a trick like that.

       Could this be possible, an actual being from another world? They must be marketing experts though, sending a female looker like Becka, knowing it would pique his curiosity from the start.

       "If you're an alien, how is it you look so damn beautiful and human?"

       "We're very similar to your species, just a few minor genetic differences. The close similarity is what attracted us to your world. It was almost like looking in a mirror. We're much more technologically advanced though, as you will find out."

       "Why did you pick me to contact?"

       "Oh—you weren't the first. There have been several down through the years. We've been watching your planet and intermingling with your population for some time now.

       "And just how long has your advanced species been watching us?"

       "About fifty years or so. Once we discovered your radio and TV transmissions we started a study. We have a sense of humor just like you do. Your 'I Love Lucy' and 'The Three Stooges' shows have to be some of the best. But we've seen a progression leading to more of a normalcy towards violence, which will have to be addressed eventually. We faced the same hurdle ourselves, and luckily made it through. And we're happy to share our wisdom on the subject. We don't want your species to vanish, John; it has attributes that are very interesting."

       "Interesting how?"

       "The fact that you've made it this far speaks volumes, given the fact that you could have destroyed yourself many times just in the past century. Your species has a ruthless side and also a compassionate one. That makes you fairly unique. Not many species we've studied have that attribute. We're a lot more alike than we are different; that's why we've taken such an interest in your progressive advancement."

       "I'll have to say I'm impressed and awed. Your interest in us is flattering. And what are your plans for our advancement and this visit to humble, little old me?"

       "Well, the first issue is one right up your alley. Global warming. It will advance much quicker than your studies lead you to believe. You might have ten years left before your civilization is overcome by it. And you won't have the capacity yet to escape your planet or save yourselves once that time comes."

       "That's a damn short time frame. How can we stop it before it's too late?"

       "That's where your friendly neighborhood alien comes in; we have a way to help reverse the process."

       She reached into her backpack and brought out a silvery disk that looked like a hockey puck.

       "Pray tell how that little thing will do any good."

       "A little faith, John. Great things come in small packages. All you have to do is get in a private plane or drive up a mountain road until you're above two-thousand feet. Toss it up in the air at that altitude and it will take off by itself. It's totally self-powered and will ascend to the level in the atmosphere where the layer of carbon dioxide gathers. As it circles the globe at the same level, it will turn just the right amount of carbon dioxide into harmless gas elements. Then it will stay in orbit to ensure there's a normal amount in the atmosphere. It will take about a year to do its job, and it will stay there indefinitely, making sure the levels of carbon dioxide don't increase. How's that for magic?"

       "I'm awestruck. All in that little package?"

       "Don't be; humans would have come up with the same technology, just too late to do any good. Like I said before, your species is very bright and intuitive."

       "But why me? You could have done the same thing much easier."

       "Let's just say it's part PR, part testing your resolve, faith and determination. We want a human to be part of the process; makes for better species bonding. Plus, I've brought along some other gifts for you. Partly for helping, and partly for convincing. And I'm not worried if you say you met an alien; most people wouldn't believe you. If the disk or any of the gifts are tampered with, they will turn into inert and unrecognizable components. There will be nothing to back up your story. We're not ready for full exposure yet."

       "Gifts? Sounds like when the Dutch traded Manhattan from the Canarsee Delaware Indians."

       "Not quite that level of barbarity—just a way of thanking you for hopefully being part of the process."

       "How can you be sure I'll do what you're asking?"

       "I think you'll make the right choice. Our people have been watching humans for a while now, you in particular recently. It's made us fairly good judges of human character."

       "You've been watching me? To what extent?"

       "Not to worry; it's all been on a professional level. Let me show you what else I brought."

       She dug back into her backpack again and brought out a small bag, sort of a Ziploc-looking plastic one, about sandwich size. Also there was a masculine bracelet, not bad looking. Next was a laptop that looked to be an exact copy of his.

       "Hey—my laptop, I mean, one that looks like mine."

       "Looks like it, but very different. It's already loaded with everything you normally use day to day, which was fairly easy to do, but there are several enhancements. It's indestructible; you could drop it from ten-thousand feet and you wouldn't even see a scratch afterwards. Plus it would still work. You can also contact me if you wish using your standard e-mail program. My name is already preloaded into your contacts. Oh, a big plus, you won't need a power source or broadband connection; that's all taken care of."

       "A modern geek's dream!"

       "We thought you would like that. The next item is this bracelet. It's a distress beacon and time-space locator, along with what you would call a Swiss Army collection of other functionalities. All you have to do is touch it and think 'help' and I can be at your side in about ten seconds. And don't worry about false alarms; we can tell if you're sincere or not. It also has a shield function; touch it and think 'shield' and you will be protected with an impenetrable, invisible shield. Turn it off the same way. Another attribute is the ability to touch it and think of a place you want to go to and you will be there; but be very careful with this function. It is very powerful. Plus, if you do use it, do so discretely so as not to cause alarm. "

       "Plus, I'm sure you can also use it to track my movements."

       "Of course; that's part of the process for it to work. But remember, we have only your welfare in mind."

       "Okay, I guess I could live with that. I've no secrets to hide anyway."

       "Don't even worry about that; you're always free to live your life the way you want. Now… I've saved the best for last. This plastic pouch holds a skin patch that, if you decide to wear it, can make dramatic changes to your physiology. You only need to wear it overnight once. The next day you will feel different. It's basically a genetic enhancer geared towards your species."

       "What kind of dramatic changes are we talking about?" he asked nervously.

       "First off, you'll feel much younger, twenty-five years old, to be exact. You won't age past that point, although you'll still look the same as you do now to avoid suspicion. You'll never be sick or contract any disease, plus you'll heal incredibly fast from any injury. Try not to let anyone see that happening, because it would cause suspicion. But then again, who would believe them? And don't let your government get their hands on you. If they would happen to hear about someone with very special abilities, they would become a little too curious. And from what I've seen, they can be tenacious. Once they know your identity, they wouldn't leave you alone. But if you were discovered and they become a problem, we have non-lethal means to make them 'forget' about you.

       "I would encourage you to try these items, especially the patch, as a way of convincing you of our sincerity. If you decide to pass on using the disk, we'll have to find someone else, as your planet's future depends on it. The gifts you can keep as a token of our friendship."

       "Becka, I'll have to admit this is a lot to take in. But I will give it some deep thought. That I can promise you."

       Becka reached over and took his hand. He could almost feel what was like an electric tingle from her touch. Her eyes were hypnotic blue, deep enough to swim in. Damn, he was attracted to her! Maybe that was part of their plan though. He still couldn't totally trust an actual alien. She pulled her hand away, looking a little sheepish. Maybe she had read his mind.

       "I hope you do carry through with this, John. Besides being extremely important to your planet and species, we would still be able to work together in the future. I think we would make a great team. Now if you'll excuse me, there's someone else I need to talk to. Go ahead and take your items and try them out. Ask yourself if you're totally convinced. We'll know if and when you've deployed the device."

       "I do hope to see you again also, and for all the right reasons."

       "Of course—same here," she held her hand out to shake his. "To the future?"

       He took her hand and held it more than shook.

       "I'm still quite overwhelmed by all this, but to the future."

       "Great," she said as she picked up her backpack. "Catch ya later."

       She looked around to make sure no one was looking in their direction and then gave him a wink, touched her bracelet and was gone.

       All he could say at that point was, "Holy shit!" He plunked down hard in his seat and just sat for a few minutes, thinking. Could all of this be real, a beautiful alien with fantastic technology asking for his help to save the world? He wasn't dreaming; it all felt too solid.

       There was only one way to be sure. He gathered up the items she had given him and put them in his briefcase, handling them carefully, although he wasn't sure why. It was heavy now with two laptops and the extra items. Exiting the coffee shop, he made his way home to his townhouse on the upper west side of Manhattan. Once there, he walked into the kitchen and laid the items out on the kitchen table.

       There were a few other essentials he needed. He reached into a junk drawer and pulled out a basic hammer; next, the cupboard for his beloved coconut rum.

       It smelled fantastic as he poured it over ice in a tumbler. He could feel the heat running down his throat as he took several deep swallows. Yeah! That's what I'm talkin' about.

       Lord knows he needed a strong belt after what had transpired so far.

       He made sure the laptop was sitting square on the table. Bringing the hammer up high, he then brought it down hard on the laptop lid. It was like he was hitting a steel beam. The hammer jumped and almost flew out of his hand. But he had heard a crack, and looking under the table he discovered one of the legs had almost split off, but not a mark on the laptop. He opened the lid and turned it on as he would his own. It powered up instantly, with no hesitation or wait time. Looking at the display, he noticed a small infinity symbol beside the battery and broadband connection indicators. Okay; so much for the laptop.

       He didn't try the hammer on the bracelet, although he was sure it would be indestructible also. It had a good fit on his right wrist and felt comfortable. Touching it with his left hand, he thought 'shield'. Then he picked up the hammer and tapped himself on the chest with it; couldn't feel a thing. Swinging again harder, though not hard enough to really hurt him, the hammer made contact with his chest. Still didn't feel anything at all, but the hammer recoiled out of his grasp and imbedded itself into the far plaster wall. Damn!

       This thing could probably recoil a bullet or knife, but he wasn't ready to try that quite yet.

       He turned the shield off the same way it was turned on. Now for the other feature, which was a little scarier, but what the hell. Touching the bracelet, he thought of the Eiffel Tower, where he had once been on the top observation deck during a trip to Paris. It was suddenly dark—no—there were city lights all around him. Wind was causing rain to pelt his face. He was overlooking the city of Paris! It was about two in the morning here due to the time difference. The trip was instantaneous. Damn, this thing was powerful! He touched it again and thought of his kitchen; he was instantly back home again. This was going to be a fun toy.

       After pouring another drink and drying himself off, he went to the living room to sit and think. Should he try the patch? Everything Becka had said about the items she had given him turned out to be accurate. Should he trust her and her people? What the hell, he thought. It was worth the chance if it meant saving the world.

       Picking up the Ziploc bag, he opened it and took the patch out. It was wrapped in what looked like silvery foil. Tearing that open revealed what looked like a nicotine patch. It had no smell to it, although one side was slightly sticky. Examining the patch made him feel like a fucking monkey with a cell phone. Hey, what the hell, he was human. He pulled up his left sleeve and stuck it on his upper arm. Immediately he felt a tingling sensation that was spreading up and down his arm and across his chest. Drowsiness was starting to overtake him also. He quickly made his way to his bed and was instantly asleep.

       Somewhere far away:

       Becka was watching the monitoring panel. She turned to her supervisor.

       "In the past three hours, John Ashley has tested the laptop and the functions of his bracelet. He has also activated the patch and is now asleep."

       "Good. Hopefully by tomorrow morning he will be convinced that we are totally trustworthy and continue with his mission. Great work, Becka."

       Becka smiled. She liked John Ashley and was hoping to be able to work with him in the future.

       Back in Manhattan:

       John was waking up, rolling over to look at the bedside clock; about 8:15 in the morning. The sun was up and it was supposed to be a spectacular day. He noticed as he stretched and sat up that the usual small complaints from his body were absent: no sore back from laying a certain way on the mattress and his knees didn't pop when he stood up. His body felt different overall; strong and virile. Reaching down, he felt his abdomen. Instead of the flabby belly of a fifty-three year old, there was flat, hard muscle. He realized that some new clothes would be necessary also, to fit his slimmer body. The bursitis he had been suffering in his left shoulder was completely gone. Looking in the bathroom mirror he saw the usual face staring back at him with his graying, thinning hair. As she promised, he had what felt like a brand new body, but still looked the same. The weight loss and toning up could be explained away as regular exercise and eating better. Reaching up to pull the patch off his arm, he discovered it had fallen off by itself during the night. He went to the bed and found it, brought it back to the bathroom and flushed it. It was most likely inert now.

       There was one more test he had to try; curiosity had the better of him. Making his way to the junk drawer in the kitchen, he pulled out an exacto knife with a razor-sharp blade.

       Next he got a kitchen towel just in case the experiment went wrong. Holding the blade very carefully, he started making a very shallow cut on his left forearm. Amazingly, he saw the cut start to heal closed before he even finished! Along with that, he felt no pain whatsoever. The area he had cut looked perfectly normal, as if nothing had been done to injure the skin. Okay, this time a little more aggressive. Making a deeper cut in the same area, he saw a little blood come out, although there should have been much more. But it healed up just as fast, with very little blood residue on the skin. Again no pain. He wiped the slight smear of blood off with the towel. The cut area again looked as if nothing had happened. It had healed so fast! That was about as far as he was going to take this experiment, but it had made up his mind.

       It was a beautiful Sunday. He decided to drive to a park near Shandaken in the Catskill Mountains that he was familiar with. He could have used the bracelet, but it might have drawn too much attention being daylight and he also had no control over where he would show up in the park, although he figured the device was intuitive and wouldn't land him in the same space as a another object. And the elevation was right; Becka said two-thousand feet, and Shandaken was around four-thousand. It took about two and a half hours for the drive to Max V. Shaul State Park along Route 30. He pulled in and parked. There were lots of folks here enjoying the perfect summer day. Damn; he would have to find a more secluded spot.

       The hockey puck was in his pants pocket. A hiking trail might be a better idea; more privacy. He had dressed in just shorts and polo due to the excellent weather. There was a hiking trail just across the parking lot, and he made his way towards it. Hiking up and down the trail, he finally found a spot where he was alone. Pulling the puck from his pocket, he fingered it for a moment, still amazed at the array of advanced technology he had been introduced to. Looking around to make sure he was still alone, he reared back and threw the puck as far up as could, Frisbee style. It arced up into the sky, stopped and leveled out. Then it began to glow blue and snapped up into the sky with no noise and was out of sight in seconds. Curious; why hadn't the puck taken off by itself right out of his pocket once he reached two-thousand feet? Must have been designed to have sentient intervention before it started working. John stood there for a few minutes looking up into the sky. He had no doubt it would work as promised; he had seen what their technology was capable of.

       Somewhere far away:

       Becka was again talking to her supervisor.

       "John has deployed the device as we had hoped."

       "I didn't think he would fail to be convinced after all we had shown him. You now have permission to work with him in the future. But be careful to not get too emotionally involved. There species is very similar to our own. It could cause complications."

       "I realize that and will practice caution," Becka replied. But to she thought to herself, 'It might already be too late for that.'

       Back in New York:

       John took his time driving back from the Catskills, taking in the beauty of the early summer drive. Most of New York State was beautiful country. He wished he could have seen it about five-hundred years ago before the European settlers had come and left their inevitable scar on the countryside. He had stopped at a small roadside diner along Route 28 for a bite to eat. Couldn't beat it; the food was homemade and excellent. Had to make a mental note as to where it was for future reference. The beauty vanished, of course, as he neared the Manhattan area.

       Deploying the carbon dioxide controlling device had left him with a real sense of accomplishment. Hopefully in a year the results would be seen.

       John arrived at his townhouse in the early evening. Once inside, he headed straight for the kitchen. Opening the new laptop, he started up the email program. Sure enough, there was Becka's contact info. He keyed up a new message to her:

       'Becka, I'm sure you're already aware of this, but the device was deployed at approximately 2PM this afternoon. What's next?'

       He clicked send.




copyright 2007 Ken Dean.

Ken Dean started writing about four years ago and then got serious two years ago. Speculative Fiction or fiction in general is his genre of choice. Ken has had several publications at Silverthought Press
( He also has published several stories in different issues of Down in the Dirt magazine and in the anthology collections Chaos Theory and Distinguished Writings from Scars
Publications ( and at Bewildering Stories (

You may contact Ken at