Return to Oz
by Roger Haller
forum: Return to Oz
speculative fiction for the internet generation.

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Return to Oz


           It was funny, really; Pete the Auzzie and I had been picked for this task because we both had been reading an ancient tome called "Measuring America" by Andro Linklater at the same time.

           Boss had walked into the library while Pete at the desk and I at the fireplace were both scrubbing through the same book without knowing it.

           The reading modules didn't tell you the book was in play by another module, since the function was "read only", but the check out screen above the search desk displayed the title and reader stats of books in use.

           We both had a penchant for Earth history.

           Boss sat down beside me and called Pete over.

           We watched as Pete launched that overstuffed, gladiator frame from the desk. He rose and moved with a simple grace that always amazed.

           "Boys, that book tells me you are dying to get out and play."

           Two hours later we were triangulating the plot on the surface below to begin pre build operations. It had been decided Earth would be our next operations base and this spot in Pete's old Island-Continent would be the center.

           Pete pointed at the pink sunrise sweeping the eastern horizon. Clouds strung like popcorn strings above the silhouetted treeline superimposed themselves over windblown wisps. This created a soothing effect that almost made you want to lift your helmet and breathe the breeze. The atmosphere was coming back

           Of course that would be nice for a few seconds, until your lungs discovered all the carbon dioxide and the decidedly low percentage of oxygen.

           "I think I'm going to like this planet, little buddy"

           I grinned back at Pete, thinking the same.

           "It's weird, Pete; this does feel like home for some reason. I have spent all my life (and so have my parents) on steel worlds traveling the Milky Way, but there is something about Earth that has always pulled me."

           More and more vegetation was apparent on this planet as seen in the horizon, but the vegetation had a lot of work ahead before the O2 level would be high enough to sustain human lungs.

           I thought of the history in the dirt under my feet.

           Of course you could hardly call it Pete's; the term Auzzie was used pretty loosely here, as no one had lived on Earth now for three centuries.

           He simply had ancestry that suggested his line had come from here and our mission had his grin on.

           Dragging my focus back to the site, I could see Pete kicking at something light colored sticking out of a dune.

           I left my transit and went to see what he had found and to our amazement, the plastic likeness of a small horse was sticking out of the dune. I hadn't even seen a picture of one since my sophomore year when the class made a trip to the Arc base.

           We freed some of it from its time trap and noted gaudy splendor preserved by the sand, as the faded colors above Earth contrasted with a brilliant life before this era.

           Scanning the rest of the scene, we found many more garish trinkets and baubles.

           I thought the historians were going to have a bot-trot playing with this site as we planted anchors for our new home away from home, right on top of an ancient carnival of some kind.

           What was more fitting than Earthies coming home to a fairground?

           Tugging the plastic animal the rest of the way out of the dune caused a mini sand slide that now enveloped my gravitational compensation boots. Looking down, I noticed the sand had covered them clear to the environment locks.


           Pete looked at me with mild concern.

           "You OK?"

           Pulling my feet free, it was quickly obvious the dials were still at neutral, so no harm done, but a black object with a tiny window tumbled to the ground with the sand.

           "No worries, partner. Look what I've found."

           Dropping gently to my knees, I turned it over with the finger of my glove to find a clear window to a dial of some sort. At first I thought it was a rudimentary compass, but the four poles painted florescent green on the face, under the window, were numbered with 12, 3, 6 and 9 and two small luminescent dots were spaced evenly between each numbered point.

           "What the hell is that you've got, mate?"

           "Dunno. Was hoping you knew."

           At first this dial made no sense, but upon reflection, I glanced at the hologram produced with a touch to my time indicator and worked the control to a long forgotten option to change it to analog display. There in my hologram was a similar image to the one I viewed in the window of the small machine.

           Pete was interested now.

           "Is that a machine of some kind?"

           I nodded.

           "I seem to remember reading something about ancient time pieces called clocks on Earth, and I think I have found a personal clock of some kind. The plastic strap attached to this device would indicate it would attach to something and by attaching these ends somehow, I surmise the only place this would fit most humans would be on the wrist or ankle section of a bare arm or leg."

           Pete looked at me in his goofy puzzled way.

           "A wrist clock? Why would anyone need a clock on their person? Time indicators are imbedded in anything we wear, and in all areas of our environment. What would be the advantage of carrying one on your skin?"

           "Hell if I know, but it's kind of brain warming to think about who made this and who used it. I'm going to do some research when we get back to quarters tonight."

           I slipped the machine into my sleeve pocket, snapped the magnet clasp shut and continued with my survey set up. I didn't think of it again until I was going through decom. Unloading all my pockets, I found the device and ran it through the scrub.

           I showered, and pulled on my civies as Pete did, and on the other side we grabbed the scrubbed objects from the machine and headed for quarters. Pete had a hot date, but I had a hot imagination.

           My first stop was the library craft lab, where I ran the machine through the identifier, which pulled up records and obtained a schematic for this watch.

           There was a huge history on "Casio." It is called a "Wrist Watch" of all things. That gives me the mental picture of someone sitting for hours watching to see if time changes.

           I found access is to be had through the clip on cover snapped over the back. It was pristine inside.

           A small pry tool found my access and I was looking into a rudimentary gear and drive system with a small battery.

           I pulled it out onto the table and dug the specifications page out of the data bank. This data called for a NiCad battery, whatever the hell NiCad was.

           A quick call to Tech and I had a facsimile identified and replicated. Within 10 minutes, I had a battery for this antique and a grin that spread all the way around my head.

           Insertion of the battery, replacement of the back, and rotating to view the slightly worn window, proved impressive. The long thin needle was moving gently around the larger dial.

           Pete and Henny walked in giggling like school children and noticed me grinning at the lab table.

           "What's up with that little machine, mate?"

           "Hey, Pete… Henny. I have a working antique here. This is 'Cosmo Stompin'!"

           They laughed at my teen lingo and came over to see my revelations.

           I was deep into the instruction manual and was setting the time to sync with the time indicator on the wall. It amazed me some when I realized, with no apparent need, Earthies had stuck to the time metrics based on the revolution of the Earth. Some things just never change.

           "Well, my friends, I have set the time. Next is the day of week and month, but I became aware while reading the documents, the old thing doesn't even have a setting for year, so that little flaw made it work in 2614 just fine. I suppose leap year would mean a manual adjustment."

           Henny leaned in to get a better look; her amused smile told me what she thought of my task. "What in Milky Way are you going to do with that thing?"

           "Understand it." I winked.

           "Now for the alarm. I will set it for one minute from now so we know how it caught attention back when."

           Holding one button, I pressed another several times and watched a small, imbedded dial move to the hour, then a twin to this dial was adjusted to one minute from now.

           I started count down.

           "OK, you two, ready for an experience? 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 …

* * *

           Beep, Beep…Beep, Beep….

           "Dammit, Jim, you threw me off my aim."

           Pete missed the wooden milk bottles completely and had to fork out five bucks for another three balls.

           Henny stood pouting at the side of the carnival booth pointing at the huge Winnie the Pooh bear in the corner.

           "Come on, Pete, just one more blast and you win my bear."

           Fumbling with my watch, I apologized.

           "Sorry, Pete, I had no idea my alarm was set. Go ahead and win Henny her bear."

           I chuckled; Pete had already spent over 50 bucks on this game.

           I turned and walked over to the merry go round. The kids were having a ball on the painted horses.

           "Now why in hell did my alarm go off? I have never set the damn thing."

           To my left, a wizard of some sort in a fortune telling booth teased me.

           "Would you really like to know, lad?"



copyright 2006 Roger Haller.

Roger Haller, a cowboy geek with a seemingly paradoxal love for gripping fiction and quiet cowboy logic, has several works published to the web and an old history of newspaper drama stoked up as fuel behind his consuming need to have his first novel see print.

Guardian of the One is now ready for a publisher
Dreamer of the One is underway and..
Teacher of the One is framed to become Roger’s third offering in his debut trilogy.

Many and varied short stories and the odd poem are published at the Adult Creative Writing contest site at

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