Black Mac of Pegasi 51
by Roger Haller
forum: Black Mac of Pegasi 51
speculative fiction for the internet generation.

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Black Mac of Pegasi 51


           My life had been destroyed.

           I was a ruthless bastard and my ladder to the top was painted with the blood of dreams ripped from my opponents, but I didn't deserve this. That had been business. I had certainly curtailed the careers of a few, but I never ruined their complete lives… or at least to my knowledge I hadn't. Better said, I suppose, I never intended to ruin a life, just a dream.

           My demise had been planned and played out not only to remove me from a job, an industry or a livelihood, but from society or perhaps air breathing life itself.

           My nose had been rubbed in my crash as well. Candice was already married to my nemesis. I wonder if he has an inkling he is next.

           Looking back, I see how easy I was blindsided. I could see an attack coming from Jeb, I could see one coming from Candice, but I had not the imagination that would allow me to see them scarring my little daughter with this mess and turning the cannon that was society at both of us.

           They simply accused me of molesting my little girl. Of course she denied it and the medical report and investigation proved she was and always had been safe. It didn't matter. "Successful Hotshot accused" had hit the paper, the TV news. The world found me guilty; the court didn't have to. My career, my home, my family, my friends, all were gone.

           I tried moving to New Mexico, but I was so well known I had no safe haven, and all my money was now gone. I had no resources to travel or rebuild.

           Today I sat on a park bench back in Seattle, buried in six months worth of beard and hair growth, an old Mariners cap and a shabby overcoat. Beside me sat an old rice sack with all my possessions and on the other side sat Black Mac, a genius savant with a drinking problem.

           "Hey Mac, looks like snow. Think we can find a place to get out of the elements?"

           "Sure, Popeye." His smile showed a set of pearly whites that seemed strangely out of place in this place and time. His black beard contrasted and framed them in a way that set his smile apart from the life he was living.

           Mac's nickname for me came from the can of spinach with the pull tab lid I shared with him when we first met. It was the last of a small bag of food given me by the friendship center.

           He led me through the grimy industrial neighborhood and down a flight of steps to a hidden basement entry of an old Produce packing plant. Old steel posters of vegetables still hung along the walls. Over the stairs was a shiny picture of a bunch of spinach.

           The door was not only locked, but chained.

           Quickly Mac pulled an empty 45-gallon drum used for trash over to the door and tipped it over. Without a word he pointed at a window above the door. It was closed so I thought he was about to smash it.

           Much more nimble than I would expect, Mac scampered up onto the drum and pulled out a short, well worn pocket knife. With a very slight bite into the window-to-frame crack, a quick twist repeated a few times quickly gained finger grip and he pulled the window open to a 90-degree angle with little effort and no noise. He grabbed the drain support to the side of the window and one leg after the other, he moved to a sitting position on the window ledge.


           He disappeared into the building.

           I clambered up onto the barrel a bit less elegantly than he had, and quickly followed his example. As I entered, he pointed at the window above me and the handle on the inside of the window frame.

           "Close it."

           I did, and then stepped onto the old steel desk that was planted against the door.


           I followed as Mac led me up three flights of stairs to an old processing oven, beside which was stacked armloads of old pallet lumber. Opening the oven door, he displayed a very well used fireplace. From a steel cupboard he produced matches and a stack of newspapers. I noticed the top paper in his stash because of my picture in a business suit. He added it to his process.

           Pulling out a sheaf of paper, he crumpled a few and laid the bed for his fire. In moments we were warm and cozy on a couple of wooden crates.

           Mac hardly ever said more than one or two words at a time so what happened next shocked me some. He pulled out a chess board and hand carved figures I couldn't identify. They were carved in formations I could understand for use, but they had no relationship to Kings, Queens, Naves or bishops I had ever seen.

           In a most polished diction, he asked, "Popeye, do you play? Would you like a match or two to pass the time?"

           In stunned silence, I nodded and he set up the field.

           "What shade would you like?"

           I noted one set was natural and one was rubbed in dark oil.

           "I'll take Dark. Thanks."

           Three games went by with neither of us rushing. This man was obviously a master, so I won none of them, but I did learn from each game and the resulting challenge was slightly more even.

           "Popeye, you gots game. Lemme ast you sumpin' man."

           I noticed that his polished diction had returned to "street".


           "If'n I could show you a place wheh you could bid yo' laf agin', would you bid it diff'n'?"

           I thought about this for a moment.

           "You bet your ass I would. Far too late, I learned that the reason I should have been successful was for my family. The life my little girl has to live now is my only real regret. All of the rest of us got what we deserve or at least will in the end."

           He moved a pawn and looked me in the eye.

           "Wha's the bes' thin' y'can do fo' y'gul now?"

           "Well, I have had lots of time to think on that, and I suspect the best I can do for her is to stay as far from her as I can. Any connection with me from now on would just deepen the pain she has to live with."

           "You ready t'move to 'notheh country?"

           "I would in a heartbeat, if I had the means."


           Mac stood and pulled a candle from the steel cupboard. He lit it with a sliver and motioned for me to follow. Night had fallen so the light of the fire in the oven and the candle were the only means to see.

           In the next room, Mac opened the steel door on a breaker panel and pointed at a small button by itself near the bottom. There was no marking and the button was a simple white half-inch diameter cylinder.

           "When you ready, push dat."

           He headed back to the fire so I followed.

           After sitting down, he said, "Yo tun."

           No amount of pleading could get me any more information and Mac went back to mostly single-word comments. The games wore thin as my mind raced at the challenge put to me and the enigma sitting across the board from me. With my next captured king, I excused myself from the game and tried to get comfortable on the floor while Mac put the game away. After struggling for hours with racing questions in my mind, I slept.

           When I woke, Mac was gone and the room was lit with a bright daylight. Looking out a broken window I saw a skiff of snow. The shelter had indeed been more than I could have hoped for. Quickly I checked the next room, and the button was still unimposing, but for the fact it was there.

           I slipped out of the building to get down to the friendship center for the chance of a breakfast, and to search out Mac to see if I could get any more information. Scrambled eggs, coffee and toast were welcome, but no one had seen Mac at all today.

           I tried panhandling for a while, but the snow had made everyone hurry from point to point and I found I was avoided more than usual. Evening found me in worse shape than morning, so I headed back for the sanctuary Mac had shown me, hoping to find him and a warm fire.

           No Mac, but the fixings for the fire were as we had left them. I was shocked to see my picture again on the top of the newspaper pile. How many copies had he gathered? A cursory look found no more and I was soon warm and dry in front of the handy oven fireplace. As darkness began to fall, my curiosity began to outweigh my fear of the unknown and I headed for the button. I stood in front of it until I could hardly see it for darkness and reached for it one last time. My hat was in my hands to give me as much light as I could get.

           I pushed it.

* * *

           Awareness began to seep in as the poke to my ribs was getting more and more uncomfortable.

           "Hey Popeye, wake up."

           "Stop it, man. I'm awake, dammit."

           I began opening my eyes to the bright white heat around me but slammed them closed again against the glare of a hot midday sun. Slowly I worked them to slits and soon was able to focus on the chuckling black man in a red tunic sitting over me on a small hillock.

           "Welcome to my home." There was no hint of street slang.

           I looked around now, but could not recognize where I was. The grass seemed glorious, but I could not identify any of the flora around me and even the grass blades were different having three edges instead of two.

           "Mac, where are we? How did I get here?"

           "You pushed the button, my friend. Look above you."

           I looked and noted that I was lying at the foot of what looked to be a tree trunk or utility pole with no branches. Gray in color, rough in texture as tree bark would be, but for a smooth patch and one small white button.

           "If you ever want to go back, remember this place."

           I looked up at the grinning Mac and noted he was holding a white tunic and some thonged sandals in front of him. I shot a glance down to find I was naked.

           He chuckled at this and my head snapped back to look at him in time to collect the garment around my ears. Standing quickly, I slipped it on like a tee shirt then sat again to lace on the sandals. While doing this, I noted my Mariners cap on the ground. I reached, picked it up and put it on. This definitely helped with the sun.

           Mac broke out in a huge belly laugh that left him choking and gasping at the end. In indignation I planted my fists on my hips and glared at him, but he only laughed harder and pointed at me.

           "Look at your reflection, Popeye." He was pointing at a small silver-edged pond with cool, deep dark green water a few paces from where I fumed. The image was indeed funny, and through a couple of self conscious snorts, I began laughing too. A Greek Mariner was chuckling back at me from my reflection.

           "I thought you might need the hat for a spell, but the nasty clothes had to stay behind."

           "Are we in Greece?"

           "You have come a bit farther than that my friend. Welcome to the 5th planet in the solar system 51 Pegasi. The closest humans have been able to come to seeing this place is a radio signal from what they call 51 Pegasi b, a large planet near our sun. We see it as the "Eye" of the sun, a black spot often seen when looking though a filter. We like to call this place Tera, nothing fancy like Xanadu or something you can't wrap your tongue around."


           Mac grinned.

           "Am I in some science fiction dream here?"

           "Yep, but going forward, it is your life and it is by far more real than your last one, because you are going to deal with nature in a much more direct way here. Technology is isolated. You will live your life here a few centuries back in Earth terms. There is no electronic media, no TV, no radio. If you want to gain information, you need to communicate directly or read simple handwritten books.

           "Technology is here, no doubt, but it is controlled by the few, and for those who have lived all their lives here, these few are the local gods. Think the Wizard of Oz here. Smoke and mirrors."

           I blinked a couple of times while this was settling in to my grey matter.

           "Aren't you describing a tyranny here? Isn't this a dictatorship?"

           Mac chuckled at this.

           "Before you get all liberal on me, try adding benevolent to your rant. Isn't it beginning to sound like most religions you know?

           "The golden rule here is 'be good or else.' Of course, that means you have to live with someone else's idea of what good is."

           My head was spinning now. "So this is an imposed utopia?"

           Mac stood up, still smiling, and as he did, his hands were full of equipment.

           "Popeye, turn around and look at that button. Press it now, or come over here and take these. You have some heavy boot camp to go through."

           I turned to look at the insignificant little button, then turned to Black Mac.

           "My name is Paul."

           "OK, Popeye Paul." He handed me a long bow and quiver. "Let's get on with your training. Remember this little pool for later. This is your bathtub. Just upstream, that little creek is your kitchen sink."

           He headed for a grove of white trunked trees with glistening silver leaves quivering around low hanging fruit or nuts. I followed.





copyright 2007 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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