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.
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
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.
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.
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. Wowenough to take your breath away. The
epitome mixture of girl next door, beautiful blonde and tanned tennis
it okay if I share this booth with you?"
he would say no?
of course. No problem."
was carrying a backpack with her and sat down a latté on
the table while placing the backpack on the floor.
it's quite a day."
warm, though. That's why I thought I would sit inside with the air
weather small talk.
reached over to shake his hand.
name's Becka Skysdale, glad to meet you."
Ashley here, likewise."
your occupation, John? If you don't mind my asking."
a climatologist for the government. Research division. You?"
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.
a student; no
more like a study."
what do you study?"
I like to research climatology also, global warming in particular."
That's my favorite field. Imagine you sitting down at the very same
booth as myself. That's quite a coincidence."
don't believe in coincidences. Everything happens for a reason."
coolto each their own."
do consider yourself an open-minded person?"
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.
Because there's an idea I'd to run across you."
if I told you that I wasn't from around here?"
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.
silly," Becka chided, making a funny but still beautiful face
at him, "It's much farther than that."
interest was piqued. "And just how far are we talking about?"
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
species?' he thought. He quickly looked around for cameras or other
people watching, thinking he was being punked.
pulling my leg, right?
John, I'm totally serious. I can prove it, if you want."
afraid you'll have to. Call me skeptical."
goes. Watch your laptop screen."
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.
is our home system," Becka's voice came from outside his range
of sight. "Can't tell you where it is, though."
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.
was impressed, for sure.
could be a programming trick, for all I know, although a really
calls for more advanced methods."
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.
can you hear me? Answer back by thinking the words if you do."
lips weren't moving at all, but it was her voice!
can hear you," his lips not moving either.
let go quickly.
What was that?"
rudimentary form of telepathy. But it requires touch to initiate."
have my full attention." He had to admit it would be pretty
hard to pull a trick like that.
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.
you're an alien, how is it you look so damn beautiful and human?"
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."
did you pick me to contact?"
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.
just how long has your advanced species been watching us?"
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."
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."
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?"
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."
a damn short time frame. How can we stop it before it's too late?"
where your friendly neighborhood alien comes in; we have a way to
help reverse the process."
reached into her backpack and brought out a silvery disk that looked
like a hockey puck.
tell how that little thing will do any good."
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?"
awestruck. All in that little package?"
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
why me? You could have done the same thing much easier."
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."
Sounds like when the Dutch traded Manhattan from the Canarsee Delaware
quite that level of barbarityjust a way of thanking you for
hopefully being part of the process."
can you be sure I'll do what you're asking?"
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."
been watching me? To what extent?"
to worry; it's all been on a professional level. Let me show you
what else I brought."
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.
laptop, I mean, one that looks like mine."
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."
modern geek's dream!"
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. "
I'm sure you can also use it to track my movements."
course; that's part of the process for it to work. But remember,
we have only your welfare in mind."
I guess I could live with that. I've no secrets to hide anyway."
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."
kind of dramatic changes are we talking about?" he asked nervously.
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.
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."
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."
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.
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."
do hope to see you again also, and for all the right reasons."
coursesame here," she held her hand out to shake his.
"To the future?"
took her hand and held it more than shook.
still quite overwhelmed by all this, but to the future."
she said as she picked up her backpack. "Catch ya later."
looked around to make sure no one was looking in their direction
and then gave him a wink, touched her bracelet and was gone.
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.
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.
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
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.
knows he needed a strong belt after what had transpired so far.
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.
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!
thing could probably recoil a bullet or knife, but he wasn't ready
to try that quite yet.
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 darknothere 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.
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.
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.
was watching the monitoring panel. She turned to her supervisor.
the past three hours, John Ashley has tested the laptop and the
functions of his bracelet. He has also activated the patch and is
Hopefully by tomorrow morning he will be convinced that we are totally
trustworthy and continue with his mission. Great work, Becka."
smiled. She liked John Ashley and was hoping to be able to work
with him in the future.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
was again talking to her supervisor.
has deployed the device as we had hoped."
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."
realize that and will practice caution," Becka replied. But
to she thought to herself, 'It might already be too late for that.'
in New York:
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.
the carbon dioxide controlling device had left him with a real sense
of accomplishment. Hopefully in a year the results would be seen.
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:
I'm sure you're already aware of this, but the device was deployed
at approximately 2PM this afternoon. What's next?'