by TS Caladan
The Captain of the Intrepid did not believe what her instruments and what her eyes told her brain. Every sensor, monitor and machine onboard the new Galaxy-Class vessel confirmed the “discovery,” a discovery that was incomprehensible.
Closer. Closer. Closer.
Her crew of 111 barely believed the stark truth that stood only a few short “light-days” in front of the Intrepid’s bow. It was true. Instruments did not lie.
Captain Benson’s spaceship was a prototype, a first of its kind Galaxy-Ship. The Federal-Alliance spent an enormous amount of credits and produced a vessel that traveled to galaxies, not stars. Or could in theory?
The Captain was a gorgeous redhead who happened to be a skilled scientist as well as a shrewd and clever, military strategist. Perfect for the Captain’s Seat.
Only a matter of a few light-days ago, the first “gravity-vault” out of the galaxy was successful. The prototype was flung far beyond the disk of the Milky Way in a flash! In minutes, the Intrepid was tossed countless par-secs. Inertial-compensators [dampeners] functioned perfectly. No stress, no nausea. The crew wore Zero-Point, 1-Point wristbands that protected them from the hazards of high-warp, otherwise called “displacement.”
After the catapult-effect, the ship turned in the direction of the closest galaxy, Andromeda, at a distance of 2.537 million light-years. Intrepid and brave crew planned on a 9-month journey at top speeds of the new Warp 11 and 12. Gravity-Vault shot them one quarter of the way.
Because of “warp-communications,” transmissions from Intrepid to Earth experienced no time-dilation or delay. The Captain reported a major SUCCESS back to home world after the Big Jump into outer, outer space, where no one had gone before. Earthlings cheered, rejoiced and celebrated the early success and wished the Intrepid well on the long journey into the Great Ocean of empty space.
More light-days went by and the Galaxy-Ship cruised at a smooth speed of Warp 11, as to not tax the giant, pink fluorite crystals, which powered the ship. These first people and one alien that left the galaxy were soon generally bored. No cryo-sleep chambers, the Intrepid’s crew planned on being awake and lucid during the entire 9-month ride to Andromeda. But if you thought normal space was sparse and hardly contained anything, the super-distances between galaxies were true areas of NOTHINGNESS, really nothing. And there were zillions of galaxies, grouped in clusters. There were near endless clusters of galactic clusters in our one, single, Big Bang. Then…the numbers of Big Bangs were infinite. (Or was it?).
What a marvelous Multi-Universe!
There was nothing to do, until…
They made the “discovery” that seemed to be a WALL? The universe eventually came to an end? There was really a termination point in every direction without any stars and only a black, curved WALL? Apparently. Apparently the universe (real universe?) only contained one galaxy and that was the Milky Way. Every ship computer, sensor-system and device were set to analyze the data. The data and each bit of telemetry informed the Captain and crew that…
If a spaceship ventured, oh, a million light-years beyond the disk of our galaxy, the craft would encounter the limit and full extent of our total world. The End, and could not extend further. They’d have to turn back.
How could it be true? What of Andromeda, our sister spiral galaxy we’ve rushed toward? What of other galaxies? Elliptical Galaxies? Irregular galaxies? Galaxies that have a bar on the ends? How about photographs of many galaxies, thousands of worlds shown in one photo? Quasars? Distant neutron stars, dark matter? Multiple Big Bangs? The new truth did not compute to scientists, physicists on Earth or onboard. Warp-tech geeks were clueless. Reality made no sense. Were they caught within a false or artificial or VR universe and the real one was out there somewhere? Or was the world nothing like they thought it was. What was it?
Benson sat in the Captain’s chair. She had her briefings and staff meetings up the wazoo. She wanted answers now. Now that she ordered the ship to be taken right to the Wall. She wanted to park the Intrepid feet, inches if possible, from the black Wall, which never terminated and hardly curved. Ship’s main computer and all other devices showed that the Wall extended and extended and curved and curved and was truly spherical. They and their galaxy were enclosed inside a SUPER-SPHERE, a Wall that warped in on itself and was everywhere in all directions. Were they beamed inside a dark, spherical prison, or was this INTERIOR world always around them? Could the Wall be a Dyson Sphere, so incredibly massive that it encompassed our galaxy and all else were projected illusions?
Captain Benson said to her First Officer, “Everything was going along peachy-keen, Jay, great news for the boys back home, right? Then, then…get this: We pick up a, a, thing in the distance and I actually think we’ve hit the jackpot again with maybe the greatest scientific find of all time? Yes? Exactly why the Intrepid is out here! To find shit like this. And. And…huh…turns out to be a big Wall around us…”
Number One replied, “Don’t forget about the small mystery of an infinite universe not being there anymore, Captain. What’s that about? No other galaxies is a difficult concept to suddenly accept. Does it make our cluster of stars very special, unique?”
Commander Mandalor was the Science Officer on the bridge, an alien Dug from the Centauri Nebula with purple skin and no ears (he didn’t need ears). A bit on the stuffy side, aloof, cold, like a computer. He also functioned as ship’s councilor. He was psychic, empathic and damn smart. He used to hate the humans. He went into a Chad Rak Sa-state and discovered that he, subconsciously, was very jealous of the emotional crew. Mandalor wished he made jokes and understood their jokes. Anyway. The Commander stated to the Captain: “I have a theory, Captain. But…”
“…It would sound quite mad. I merely speculate, from the known facts, then jump to reasonable conclusions like your Sherlock Holmes character in literature.”
A dozen officers on the bridge looked around. They had never heard of the character. Not even Will.
Captain Benson ordered, “Speak. I enjoy your views, Dug. You impress me with a different perspective and are usually proven correct. If you can now explain the anomaly or have answers? Please.”
The bridge crew, with a couple extras, listened.
The Commander declared, “I do not know how this relates to legendary Solange, but it does…”
“Sandland?” Jay, First Officer, responded. “Commander. I thought that was only a story, an old myth?”
“No, Lieutenant. Very real, but obviously, very well-hidden. I’ve spent half my life trying to work out its location. I’m close. Not there, yet. As I was saying…there is definitely a tense Power Build Up in the cosmos; I swear I can feel it, out in space and broadcast everywhere around us. If it’s focused EM Feedback? Then we’re all screwed and we must discover the location of the Celestron and destroy it. That is, if we want to survive? Continue existing? You may also have heard a legend of 13 Octamids?”
“God. It all could be a fucking Test from some Rat-Bastard on a higher level?” The Commander used “colorful language” and expressions the humans used. He wanted to fit in.
Captain Benson was surprised with his words and ordered, seriously, “Explain.”
Mandalor replied, “…My psi-thought was: Could be a test? See if we could discover where the Big Bomb is, destroy it or disarm it…you know? In time? Before Everything Blows, eh? Cute. That’s just swell, huh? Shit, man.” The alien was so close to being funny, for one time in his ancient life. He’d do it. He will do it. He’d think up a completely original joke, not taken from any file or video in the archive. Ah. Brilliant. A challenge. It didn’t necessarily have to be outrageously funny. That wasn’t the point. It had to be original. The Commander believed he could do it; he’d have to work on it. He had an imagination. He could be funny. He could master funny. One time. One time he had to make someone laugh. Now there was little time, before the end of the world.
Mandalor actually received a few odd reactions in the faces and body movements of those around him. He may have already made them laugh, a little. Wasn’t the first time.
Captain Benson got off the Seat and got to her feet. She asked, “Was there more, Commander?”
“Yes, sir. A lot. The Wall. I don’t believe it. I can say, without a doubt. Yes, it’s like we’ve been tossed or beamed inside a Dyson Sphere…”
One of the ensign navigators (#3, with the ‘mouth’) stated, “It would be a huge, mother-fucking, Dyson Sphere, Commander?”
“Incredible,” the Captain exhaled and brushed back her long hair.
Mandalor continued, “It is not sensible that the known universe has suddenly ceased to be, except for a microscopic portion that includes us, yes?”
The Doctor added, “Right. What are the odds? That makes us darn lucky.”
The Commander expressed, “…Far more reasonable that the world we knew is out there, while we’re in here. Where is here and how do we return to our universe are the questions?”
Number One asked the Commander: “What do you mean? You said you don’t believe in the Wall? And how does it connect with 13 cloaked Octamids on Sandland?”
“Yes,” the Captain responded. “You haven’t explained crap, Commander.”
Now there were a few giggles.
The purple alien with no ears tried again. “Everything is connected, from planets to atomic particles. There is no size. A grain of sand is an entire universe. All is connected through vibrations. We are not particles, we are waves. On the matter of Solange and the evil Generator there, I know I will realize or see its location in time. Could be in ten minutes or 10 days. Captain! If my state of CRS does view the location, the precise location, Captain, you must inform FA fleet! They have to somehow find a way to knock out the Octamids. Or else…”
The Science Officer had everyone’s attention with the drama.
Benson insisted, “I believe you, Commander. Tell me the second you know for sure. Is that clear?” She paced back and forth.
“Yes, sir,” the Dug said.
The other navigator (Asian) received information from ship’s computer and told the Captain. “Sir! We’ve arrived at the coordinates you requested: closest, safe distance away from the Wall.”
“Jesus. Where’s my mind? How did I not have the front window activated, all this time? Get that shield off there and put up the window, aye? Let’s see where we are…ensign.” The Captain and others stared ahead as the clear, view-screen, forcefield appeared. They saw…
Lights on the side of the Main Deflector and top portion, above the view-screen, illuminated: a flat, black surface that, of course, took up the whole window and much, much more. The surface appeared like a semi-smooth, ebony rock. Dull, with very slight texture.
“Rather boring, wouldn’t you say?”
The Captain asked the navigator, “Ensign. How far away are we from the Wall?”
The ensign reported: “Eighteen inches from Deflector and holding steady. Wall is completely static.”
Number One stated, “Yeah. That’s pretty damn close, sir.”
Captain motioned with her hands. “All well and good. Number Three, we’re at a completely wrong angle, you know? Level us out. Land this thing. Right on the Wall. Extend the legs and land. Do it.”
“Aye, aye, Captain,” Will responded.
The Doctor walked up to Captain Benson. He asked, “Request to be part of the Away Team? I’d like to get out and stretch my bones, sir.”
“Way ahead of you, Doctor. I’ll also take Number One and Three, the Commander. Airlock #5. Let’s go.”
Minutes later, the 5-member Away Team were suited-up in white, FA pressure-suits with helmets securely fastened. Pressure within the suits were balanced and machines told them it was safe to leave the ship. Big, grey, portal-door opened, and…
“Look at that.”
“Amazing. Ha. The end of everything? Aaaah,” Jay (#1) reacted and exhaled a sigh over the com-system.
Blackness everywhere, except small areas hardly lit by exterior lights.
The team got outside, slowly, through the large portal and down upon the hard, ebony surface of…?
Number Three was a real “joker” that the crew loved and hated because he ‘spoke his mind,’ often inappropriately. Possibly a victim of Tourette Syndrome, without the ticks. His record contained numerous ‘demerits,’ yet the navigator also proved to be a valuable asset to the ship. The ensign may have been the only “movie expert” among the crew and had a fixation on the 20th Century. #3 was retro and loved the past. He wished he lived a few hundred years ago and not in the present. His comment was, “Ever see the movie, ‘The Truman Show’?”
None of them had. They shook helmets for no.
“It was a little like this, gang. Only brighter. And there was water. Or ‘Last Emperor,’ here’s where the empire ends. What the fuck? End of the universe, boys and girls. It’s…it’s a little scary. Guess we have to turn around and go back home? That’s all there is, folks. The end of the line.”
Number One crouched down and felt the ‘ground.’ “Looks flat, eh? Faceted, fractured Euclidean plane. If we could see more, ha, it would appear flat and go on forever. Inside a big ball.”
Commander replied, “Yes. The barrier actually curves, of course, but we do not see it. Like horizons appear straight. Mm. Wonder what is on the other side?”
Captain Benson asked, “Can we break through?”
The Doctor was quick and responded: “Sir. Do we want to?”
Mandalor added, “The good Doctor has a point. Should we proceed further? Break out? If we can, do we tear down the Wall?”
Jay stated, “Wait a minute. Commander. Should we? We better damn well be able to tear down the Wall! If we ever want to get out of here, that is. Captain?”
The Commander declared, softly, “Oh, I do not know. I do not feel we are trapped or have been imprisoned…”
The Captain exclaimed, “Man, you said earlier we WERE tossed or beamed in here and our universe is out there somewhere! We have a working Galaxy-Ship. Well, isn’t that simply Jim-Dandy!” Her right arm extended to the starless blackness. “Oh, in time, we can really travel to other galaxies. Only problem: There are no other galaxies!” Benson was emotional. She needed to come to a decision: What to do?
The Doctor calmly expressed, “Easy, sir. Your BP? Could the answer be as elementary as: We break through this goddamn Shell, and we’ll be a part of our galactic community once more?”
“Interesting. I merely meant I sense no malevolence here. Now mind you…” the purple alien suggested: “…I am only playing your Devil’s Advocate. But. Is someone telling us to not venture further? Could this be a personal message to us of the Intrepid? Stop…Larger Universes beyond our small world have been proven to exist, Infinite Big Bangs. A Super-Giant from an incomprehensible, bigger universe could have placed us in a test-tube, in a sense. It could be an examination? Studying us and our galaxy, our reactions, decisions at this very moment. Maybe?”
Wiseguy, #3, offered: “If you want my opinion and I know you do. Call me a fuckin’ psychic ‘cos I’m readin’ yer minds and I’ll wager most of you disagree with our esteemed Commander. Here you go. We have two decisions in front of us, two forks in the road…”
“One,” Mandalor corrected.
“…Okay, one. We drill through this thing or, or the other choice is turn back, like the scared rabbits we are and go home? Shouldn’t take too long. I vote, if there’s a vote, that we don’t do that. I say we Break on Through to the Other Side! You know? Like the Doors song?”
No one knew.
Number One suggested to Benson, “I agree, sir. The answers we, Earth people, the scientists, want are on the other side of the Super-Dyson. We may never break it, crack through or make the Wall fall. Could take forever, generations. But, ah, since we’re here? I think we should try. Sir?”
“Cool.” Number Three remarked.
Mandalor knew which way the Captain leaned and made her decision.
“Make it so, Jay. You too, Commander. Get the schematics of the Tactical Digger. Replicate its parts and have the robots build it. Uh.” She exhaled after the decision.
“It will be done, sir,” ‘Man’ replied, against his feelings and better judgment. “Oh, by the way, ah, gang?”
Captain and top officers heard the alien when he expressed: “…I’ve been working on a joke…”
Number Three replied, “You mean like your mamma?”
A few laughed.
Mandalor took him seriously, “No, Will.” The Commander was confused because his mother possessed very little humor [surprise].
The Captain smiled inside her helmet. “A joke? Commander, how marvelous. I think we need a joke right about now. Why don’t you tell your joke, Man?”
“Oh, no, no, no. I said working on it, sir. It’s in production. I have to create just the right, er, then deliver, or know exactly how to deliver it, to optimum effectiveness…”
A few of them laughed.
“Now that was funny,” Number Three said.
Commander Mandalor was surprised and responded, “It was?”
Will took over, over the com-system, “Man, you’re boring. Speaking of boring, boring is what we should do, for sure: bore into this baby! Did ya hear the one about the boring boar from Borneo I shot in my pajamas? What ‘e was doing in my pajamas, I don’t know.” Will looked directly into the purple face of the Commander.
Science Office had no reaction and maintained a solemn expression.
A few of the crew laughed. They never heard the joke.
“HA. Huh, ah.”
The Captain and First Officer were amused.
The comedy wasn’t over…
(To “Man”) “Oh, I got one for you, Commander…” the smart-ass ensign said, master of jokes.
The Commander returned the stare and listened and wanted to analyze and understand, very much.
Navigator continued, “…This was considered the funniest joke in England at the time, long ago, aye?”
Mandalor replied, “How interesting. I’m all ears,” he repeated the saying and the alien didn’t realize what he said.
“Ha. Ha, ha.”
“Did you hear what the Commander said?”
“What?” the Commander didn’t get his own inadvertent joke.
The Captain was curious and asked #3: “What’s the joke? Funniest in England?”
“Oh, you have the say: How does he smell?” Will answered.
“How does he smell? Okay.”
“Here goes. My dog has no nose…your turn…”
“Oh. How does he smell? Ha.” Captain Benson replied.
The navigator answered: “Bad.”
The humans got the joke and laughed. They needed to laugh. They needed the atmosphere to be lighter. Four human heads and helmets turned toward the Commander.
Mandalor shook his head. “Sorry. Do not even try to explain it to me. I think my people do not have the funny-gene.”
The Captain switched to serious and ordered them back inside the Intrepid. “Let’s go, gang.”
‘Tactical Diggers’ were called that for a number of reasons:
The vehicles could be 1-seaters or be fashioned into the larger model, 5-seaters. They utilized intense, front, yellow lasers that blasted through anything. Different missions required very big holes dug by the “tunnelers” or small ones. Also nicknamed “ticks,” Digger-crafts ripped through steel, adamantium, even corundum and diamond minerals melted under the power of its wide front-lasers. Tick vehicles had a history in warfare. They had burrowed through enemy bulkheads so FA troops passed beyond solid walls. Forts were penetrated. Any un-shielded ship or building could be entered. Also, bombs on enemy ships and installations had been set at the end of long passages dug by the Diggers.
Robots replicated the TD pieces and assembled it quickly. The same Away Team composed the crew of the Digger with the Captain’s chair out in front. For better or worse, the Digger did its thing and cut and drilled, but really radiated through the black material at a very fast velocity. [Rock (?) residue was vaporized into a gaseous state, which formed a long tail behind the Digger, in the tunnel it cut]. Because the Wall was not made of dense material, 5 brave explorers “into parts unknown” sped along at high speeds of approximately 10,000 miles an hour! Digger vehicles have bored through the center and out the other side of Earth in an hour. The Wall was constructed of a substance a little less dense than home planet.
Five of them were no longer in pressure-suits. They sat. They wore grey, FA ‘mission’ outfits.
The “jokester” in the crew, who didn’t really care, realized how humorous it was when he teased the Commander, who had no funny-bone. #3 said: “Commander? Can you dig it? Dude! You’re a Dug, right? And how do you hear without ears? Huh. Anyway. Okay. You got your hand on the joystick there. You’re kinda the Digger? Digger’s digger, and you’re a Dug, ah? Well you were on Centauri Prime. Surely, you get the joke, sir? That’s an easy one, eh? Dug’s diggin’. You don’t want to, but under orders, GREAT orders, by the way, Captain! Um, yer, ah, diggin’ up a storm there, big guy.”
Front window displayed an awesome sight: Lights showed a continuous disintegration or melting or “vitrification” of the dark substance, the endless stuff. Destroyed, and blown back in a fantastic maelstrom of force! Yellow lasers swept a huge field out in front and the photonic nozzle rotated @ 19,000,000 rotations a second! Path ahead of the fast vehicle was cleared, vitrified. Solid material was LIQUIFIED before the crew’s eyes, then electrically zapped into GAS form and blown backwards. The ‘dance’ or ‘show’ through the Digger’s front window flashed and flashed differently from microsecond to microsecond. Yet was always the same. Crew felt a constant, smooth vibration. They only heard a hum, yet forces around the exterior were tremendous. It was as if the ship sliced or burned through an infinite lump of coal at an incredible velocity. But. In two hours, four people and one alien were bored. It was the same old shit out the front window. Scans were always the same. What to do?
Will continued with what might be construed as humor, funny bits, to pass the time. Ensign said (to Commander): “God, I’m bored with all this boring. Bored out of my mind, eh? And I’m stiff as a board. I should call a board meeting and board up the windows. How long have we been boring? Maybe you’ve been boring, but not me, sailor. Only two hours! Seems like 200 hours. And not a cryo-tube in sight. I mean then, you could’ve woken me up when you struck something? Whatever we’re gonna hit…or find? Vein of gold? Hey! Oooh, here’s a creepy thought, people. What if we’re diggin’ and diggin’ and our instruments go whacko, yeah, and we’re so far in, er, OUT, that we can’t find our way back? There’s a fearful thought for you. No more Intrepid. Just a black sea we can’t get out of. Who’s paranoid? Who’s scruffy? Imagine at Warp we’re blisterin’ through the dark shit, but no matter which direction we go, there’s only this Shinola everywhere. You know I can’t swim? Ha. But. That’s a scary thought, eh? It means we, us, you guys; we’re the whole universe then. I’d be stuck here with you people. That’s it, game over.” Number Three looked over at the attractive Captain. “How you doin’?”
Again. Humans laughed and the alien did not.
Commander asked them, “That was funny?”
It was funny. Captain laughed.
Mandalor expressed, seriously, “It was colorful. I will say that for the ensign. Yes. But, no joke: We better be able to get back to the big ship, the ‘fly’ we parked on the Wall.”
Will got out of his seat. He turned to the food and drinks dispenser. “Ah. I feel a little peckish. Just what the doctor ordered, eh?” He walked over to the machine and helped himself.
The Doctor asked the Captain the obvious question that was on the crew’s minds: “Just how long are we going to keep this up, Captain? Have you decided, sir?”
Jay replied instead. “Have you no sense of wonder, Dr. Morrison? Ever wonder what was beyond the stars? Swim to the Moon? Dreams? Poetry. Break through the darkness of the unknown and find the light of truth? Color. Or, take the salesman. Does he stop at the first rejection? No. He carries on. Onward, upward. Our cute, little, pink, fluorite crystals in basically this ‘shuttle,’ will feed us power for the next 20 years. Replicators. We can do this for a long time. I say…push on.”
Doctor Morrison was curious of the Captain’s response. He asked her again, “Sir. I simply asked…when? You know, I’m only a country doctor. I’ve flown plenty of hovercrafts over wheat fields. There’s a point when you have to ask yourself the question: Am I going the right way? If I’m going the wrong way, when do I turn back? Sir?”
“Okay, gentlemen. Let me think. Commander?”
“You’ve probably scanned the data coming in the most, I imagine? Forward long-range sensors, monitors, A.I. conclusions?”
“I have,” the Dug replied.
Captain Benson asked, “Any changes in what we are boring through? Is it harder, less dense? Has it changed temperature or texture? Has the Black Wall changed in material or in any way at all, color? Anything been found on long-distance scans? Anyone else or anything else caught within the dark ocean? We’ve found nothing long-range? In this crust? Changes! Have there been any changes at all, over hours, since we first penetrated the Wall is what I’m asking, Science Officer?”
“No?” Captain repeated. “Hard to believe there hasn’t been even the slightest transition. The substance is…is what? Have we established what the bloody material is? Do we know that? People?”
Number One scanned and analyzed the data almost as much as the Commander. Jay volunteered, “It’s inert, dead/dark matter, exactly like the monolith on Phobos. That means ZERO. No readings, no radiation, no charge, nothing, as if it’s not there or doesn’t belong in our universe.”
“I could not agree more with Number One, sir,” Mandalor confirmed.
“All right, I’ve decided. One more day. We’ll drill for 24 more hours. If we don’t strike oil, pay dirt, the gold vein, the MacGuffin, find something, or break out to the Great Outside…then, yes, certainly, we will head for home. And, of course, we better be able to get back to my ship, huh? OH. I know what I wanted to ask you, Commander…”
“Never got your empathic feel about the Wall and what exists beyond. Will we break through? What’s out there? You’re the psi-guy. What precisely are we dealing with, Commander? Look into your crystal ball and tell us: What’s going on? Make it a good guess.”
Will returned to his seat, heard every word and listened to the alien.
“I have thought about what lies beyond, deeply. Tapped into my CRS abilities and may have glimpsed the truth, here and there…”
“And?” Captain Benson asked, sincerely.
Mandalor replied, sincerely, but it was an act. He lied. He lied for the first time in his long life! The alien told the gang of four: “Funny, you said tomorrow, Cap, because let my clairvoyant mysticism make a bold prediction and that be, ah, wait for it….In less than 10 hours, our Digger will burst through, yes, bust through to the other side. It will be brilliant, beautiful Light. Heavenly. I fucking see it very clearly. How about that, people?”
“You’re kidding?” Jay reacted.
“Really?” Will said in surprise. “That will be different. Break the monotony, eh?”
Dr. Morrison joked and told #3, “We’ve only been digging for two and a half hours, eh? Ha, ha.”
“Wait. Commander? You’re serious?” Benson didn’t believe her ears. She had a lot of faith in the earless, purple dude. “You really believe we’ll break out to the Outside? Tomorrow?”
“Ha, ha. That I wanna see,” said Doctor. “Watch. There will be another Wall far beyond.”
The Dug continued with more news: “In fact, my CRS is really kicking in now and I think, in a matter of a few hours, as odd as it sounds: I will be able to piece together a device where we will be able to SEE Outside, view what is really out there and what we will face…before we bust through.”
“Get the hell out!” Will yelled.
“That is where we are going,” the Commander responded and missed his own joke again.
The Captain stared at the alien and commented, “I also want to see what’s in front of us, Dug.”
Mandalor smiled, showed some emotions, and informed them: “We will observe Outside, soon. I am very confident. Really.”
Will suggested, “Would you like to place a wager on that, Commander? How about putting your credits where your mouth is? I got 50 it ain’t gonna happen, big guy. Is it a bet?”
The Commander perked up for a low-emotion lifeform. “How exciting! It is a bet, indeed.” His big eyes were bigger and brighter. “Anyone else care to wager?”
The Doctor chimed in, “Yeah, clip me off some of that. I’m in for 50. Not gonna happen. We’ll be turning back to Home Sweet Home after tomorrow. Ha. Wait and see.”
Number One smiled and asked, “Captain?” as if she might bet.
Benson replied, “Oh, no. Smart money is on purple. I believe…we’ll be going Outside tomorrow, gang.”
Witty Will responded, “That’ll be nice. Fresh air. Hope it rains.” He looked at Mandalor.
The Commander frowned at him.
Number 3 said, “What? It’s a gift.”
The gang of five eventually sought their sleep chambers and packed it in for the night. The ‘tick’ Digger-vehicle quietly vitrified what was out ahead and left a gaseous stream behind, all night.
‘Tomorrow,’ after a well-rested Captain and crew awoke, sonic showered and ate…
They prepared for the Great Unknown and the Strange Day ahead.
Who’d win the bet?
The Commander only needed to sleep for two hours. He was up, bright and early in the darkness and worked on the project, his brainstorm. Later, he gathered the crew in the front section with the comfortable five seats.
A weird apparatus with an aperture stood shoulder-level on a slender tripod. A thick, black wire or chord was attached to the device and extended to the front view-screen, forcefield window. A crystal lens from his wristband was altered and embedded at the end of the chord and ‘looked’ in front of the Digger, far out in front of them.
Commander Mandalor kept one of his large eyes against the aperture. As soon as the others were around him, the alien stated: “Success! I was right. I can’t believe my feelings were right, but they were…”
“Commander, you’ve just said your first contraction. Can’t,” Number One noticed.
“I have? I suppose I have, interesting. That means the more I hang around you guys, the more I become one of you ‘puny’ humans. Did you see what I did there? I am getting funnier, I think. Your fault…” Dug’s eye left the supreme telescope and looked at his friends.
Will remembered and asked, “Still working on your joke, are you?”
“Do not rush me, Will. I have discovered: Timing is everything. Later…”
The Captain asked, “What is this? Man, you’re saying you’ve seen what’s out there, in the Great Beyond?”
He declared, “Yes. But before I show you, let me test you smart people?”
“Look at me. Take a good look, closer. See anything different? Anything at all?”
The four examined him, up and down, front and back.
“No, I don’t see it.”
Will joked, “You seem a shade toward violet, today. And there’s definite spots under your uniform I’ve never seen before. You have spots? Oh! And you are definitely…uglier.”
Mandalor expressed, “Humans are hilarious, so cute and cuddly, but really…disappointing. I will just have to tell you, won’t I? Now. Where, where did I put my Zero-Point, 1-Point wristband?”
Jay saw it first. “He’s not wearing it, Captain.”
The Doctor reminded the alien: “Hey, Man, you’re not supposed to do that.”
“Commander?” Benson was awestruck and very curious, like the others.
“I am well aware it is a risk factor, Captain, Doctor. I know I am very grounded and I can assure you I will be ‘Jim-Dandy,’ as you put it, sir. Our look-see ahead is only possible by the removal of the transducer lens-mechanism in the band…amplified.”
Benson stated, “I don’t follow.”
#1 expressed, “I think I do. (to Mandalor) The photon-focus, you’ve increased its power? How?”
The Commander replied, “I have utilized our exhaust, the electrified particle-stream in our wake. I was able to connect it to the transducer, charge it with its own energy-loop, basically. Somewhat like… The unit is kick-ass now and I’ve ruined my band for good. Check it out, sir. You can see the light.”
“There’s light at the end of the tunnel?” Benson asked as she looked into the viewer. “I’ll be damned,” she said in amazement. “Looks like #3 and the good Doctor lost the bet. Ha. That’s prime.”
“Let me see!” Will shouted.
Number One ordered the ensign, “Wait your turn, ensign. We go by rank. It means I’m next. I’m One, remember?”
Captain conceded the view to Jay.
“I have an off-the-wall question,” Will announced. “…Cap, there’s a #1 and a #3. Why no Number Two?”
“Seriously? You don’t know?” Commander was surprised. He knew. (How did a young man obsessed with the 20th Century not know? It’s like no 13th floor). Maybe the alien was funnier than he thought?
Each took turns and saw the light.
“Yes, but there’s nothing distinct. All out of focus, just light,” Dr. Morrison told the gang. “Also. The bet was breaking through the Wall, remember? We haven’t crashed through any surface barrier.”
“The Doctor is right,” Will agreed. “The same-o, same-o digging could go on for years! Okay, friends, there’s a light, oooh, a light. As far as our little wager goes, doesn’t mean shit. Right, Doc?” The navigator turned and looked directly at the Commander.
The Commander felt it coming.
Then it happened…
They broke through to the other side!
Digger’s fluorite-powered engines STOPPED, ground to a halt…
Silence. The constant vibration ended. Stillness. Shock. Bright Light!
The 5 reached the Wall’s end. They reached the Wall’s beginning. <> NOTHING, no black/dark matter, was in front of them. There was no substance of any kind anymore in front of them to dig or vaporize, no lump of coal or ebony rock. The fast vehicle was suddenly stationary, stopped ‘dead in its tracks’ and on a slight angle. A microscopic section of black rock Exterior ahead of the vehicle was shattered and had broken away. Digger was stuck on a precipice, on the edge of an astronomically LARGE…? [What?].
Outside was viewed and Outside was very bright.
They covered their eyes.
The Commander thought of the idea first. He grabbed his FA visor, adjusted it and put it on.
The others did the same. Now each viewed a sharper, clearer image of the New World. And…
Nothing was any sharper or clearer. It was as if a jagged, dark Glass had shattered and formed an irregular Magic Window to a bright, undefined universe. The fuzzy field was an indistinct blueness at the top. Below, the extraordinary vagueness was a golden color.
The crew remained onboard, tuned the ‘contrast’ knob on the visors. They searched and scanned. Nothing definite was viewed, nothing defined. A minute passed. Not a word was spoken.
The Captain fiddled with the visor-knob and was frustrated. “Still can’t pick up anything. Only unclear blue and gold or yellow. Anyone view movements…or anything?”
The Commander was more familiar with the dark glasses. He realized there was a small mode-button on the other side of the visors. “In all the excitement, I had forgotten the button…”
“What button? Oh.”
“Try the view in the infrared.” ‘Man’ hit the button and: nothing.
The Doctor, Will, #1 and the Captain pressed the button once and also observed no difference in the scene.
Commander Mandalor stated, “That’s not right. It should have worked. No infrared?” He was genuinely surprised. He confessed, “I checked these a short light-day ago and they functioned perfectly.” The alien did not like mysteries. Odd. Then he remembered. “Ah, press the button a second time. That is the ultraviolet. See if it works, people?” he lightly ordered.
They depressed the visor’s mode-button a second time. Suddenly, and without any warning…
The view was an exquisite, beautiful, phenomenal, super-extraordinary, fantastic universe of bright enchantment that subtly, softly, slowly, smoothly changed, moved and flowed with the most wondrous colors, patterns and details. Indescribable. Sweet music and lovely sounds. Unbelievable, because the simple truth in front of the crew’s eyes was…they had broken out of a single grain of sand upon an endless beach!
The jagged, broken window was the smallest crack in one tiny grain of sand, which overlooked an infinite (?) universe of Light. The Intrepid crew of 5 viewed in the ultraviolet and actually observed an extremely clear and well-defined scene (when darkened), a scene they recognized:
The blue was blue sky, with only a few white clouds. The yellow was a beach of pure perfection, golden sand and utter beauty.
By this time, the humans and alien discovered how so very small they were, inside a grain of sand among an infinite number of grains of sand at the shore. No rain in sight. Reality had to be a dream because conditions outside the Digger were completely different: It was now safe for humans and at least one type of species from the Centauri Nebula. No pressure-suits needed. There was air. Comfortable temperature. The gang crowded together at the very edge of a super cliff, while the ‘tick’ cooled behind them. Some smoke. A few dared and peeked over the edge and looked down. The fall, if someone fell to, oh, the very next granule of sand that this granule rested upon…
The distance might be close to a million miles!
The view through the ultraviolet spectrum appeared like Heaven, a beautiful dream.
“Let’s go back.”
“I don’t think we can ever go back,” the Captain informed them as a philosopher.
Digger’s crew were in 100% awe (minus one). They again found themselves asking: What to do? “Now, what?”
The Doctor suggested, “Didn’t the Science Officer promise us a joke?”
Will said, “That’s right. Now would be a good time. Ha. What ya got, Commander?”
Four of them in grey mission-suits, looked around. Mandalor was seen nowhere. Gone? They searched for the alien. Did he fall over the edge? No. What happened to him?
In a minute, the Captain had the answer: “His 1-Point band. He dismantled it, remember? He…that must be it?”
Jay also reacted and said, “I think you’re right, sir.”
The Commander left; he was gone, not a part of the previous reality anymore, due to the removal of the Zero-Point wristband. Mandalor was between dimensions, times and no longer had stability in any world. He had his special “joke” prepared that he had worked on for ages. It went like this:
“A man walks into a bar…and hurts his head.” He was extremely proud of what he had accomplished in the field of humor. Screw the scientific awards, plaques of honor and valor for various achievements over a long career in the Federal-Alliance. The Dug was most proud of those 10 little words that originated from the center of his soul. Somewhere, his purple spirit smiled.
The mode-button, first click, should have functioned. If the infinite dream-view of extreme light, color and beauty was observed through the vibration-frequency of the infrared, then the distant scene would not have been of extreme light, color and beauty…
The view through the infrared would have appeared like HELL, a horrible/horrible nightmare.
The above story is a favorite section of my (potential) 11th published book, which is only partially completed at this time (8/1/19). Previous novel called ‘The New Men and the New World’ is a 320-page epic, which was written because of a disappointing end to ‘Game of Thrones.’ I had to write a more interesting version and now comes a sequel to NMNW (soon). I wanted wild stories that connected, but were separate. I wanted to paint in words or create different story-lines that interwove various threads and related to the original story. But were independent/different, like pictures in a theme gallery:
Short stories and shorter stories became “Acts” of a larger Story. I came up with 3 novelettes where each Act in them stands alone and also seen as part of the overall book. What to call it? The decision was ‘Beyond Barronsland.’ In the first book, ‘Barronsland’ was a general term for the main kingdom, similar to “King’s Landing” in ‘Thrones.’ The title sets a stage where numerous offshoot/connected sub-stories can be presented. Certain ‘words’ and situations repeated throughout the stories and Acts. It was a joy to continue the landscape in parallel stories and make it a tapestry of layers that touched.
The man on the cover of Book 11 is Jesus Christ, from the Shroud of Turin.
Copyright 2019 by Tray Caladan
Contact Tray for information on his books.
Comments and questions are welcome…