by A. D. Smith
The actress looked confused. She nodded compliantly and removed herself from the room.
“You suspect she is not what she appears to be. Why?” the man asked.
“She doesn’t seem to know that she is an actress,” Tink replied.
“An actress?” the man queried.
Tink spontaneously turned to the nearest computer terminal. He recognized the search engine on the screen and asked, “Is this on-line?”
“Ah, on-line,” the man mimicked and then added, “Oh, yes on-line, yes... all of these information manipulating binary systems are accessing the area communications system.”
Tink looked at the man wearily. He wasn’t sure what all that long-winded definition was, but he assumed that he had said yes. He quickly punched in “J-A-G” and soon found the character page and a biography about the actress in question.
“There she is. Her real name is Catherine Bell!”
The man quickly looked at the monitor and replied, “Real name?” Does every one have a real and a false identification?”
In the asking of that question, Tink came to the conclusion that he must be confronting individuals whom were not from here. He did not want to know from where they hailed, as he was afraid of the answer. Tink carefully chose his word, “No.”
There was a long pause of silence. The ill-appearing man looked at him rather blankly. It was if no one was behind the eyeballs. It was hard to explain. It occurred to Tink that there was something else lacking. Tink could not pick up any odors. The man before him should reek of formaldehyde, cough syrup or some old-man smell. In fact, he realized he had not picked up any perfume from the attractive major either. He noticed both of them seemed powdery dry, in a heated room. They should be wet from perspiration.
“Okay, so who are you really, and why did you take my garbage?” Tink finally worked up the nerve to ask.
“You believe we are not what we appear as?” The old man answered Tink’s question with a question.
“Not for a moment,” Tink replied collapsing his arm across each other in a gesture of finality.
“Hmmm,” the old man replied as he cupped his chin with his right hand. “Quite perceptive and yet...” he muttered and cut off his own commentary. “Ah what is your name?”
“Tink I think you can be of a great service to us. I need answers. The sooner I get them, the faster I can end my time here,” the old man announced. “How about it, are you willing to answer some questions?”
“No,” Tink replied sternly.
“What is in it for me? You get answers, then perhaps my existence is null and void. And even if you allow me to walk away. With what, the knowledge that I deserve a brownie badge? I think not.”
The old man tapped his chin, smiled and then added, “Have you seen any weapons? Did I force you into this room?”
“Well...” Tink started. The old man had a point. In fact it was a startling truth. Why was he there carrying on a conversation with this man so freely. Why was his hair not standing up in fear or anticipation. It was as if he knew the old man meant him no harm, and yet that position didn’t seem rational.
But before Tink could answer, the old man added something intriguing: “You know you are absolutely correct. A primary axiom of this universe is based on the principal of exchange. How about we exchange five questions. Each time you answer my question, then you ask me a question, and so on. Sound good?”
Tink thought about it for a short time. It sounded okay, but then he didn’t know what was going to be asked. “What if I can’t answer your question?”
If a question is not answerable, then either party can try another question until it can be answered.”
“I guess so,” Tink replied.
“Great! My first question. As you pointed out with the Major’s omitted information concerning her actual name, it has been noticed in your various archaic forms of media outlets that many subjects seem incomplete or omitted entirely. Is your media providers consciously emitting incomplete data and how does the recipient resolve such shortages?”
Tink stood there with his mouth gaping open. What had he got himself into, Tink thought. “Ah, well, I guess you could say they do know that they are not telling the whole story in the media. I guess some stories are slanted toward what the author wants you to know. But then, many people don’t want to know everything about anything. If you want to know more, then you have to research the entire subject. Of course that is if you suspect that there is more data, and if you really want to waste your time and effort to find out.”
“Hmph,” the old man replied. “Your turn.”
Tink was swimming in questions. But one question popped to the top of the stack. “Why did you take my garbage?” Once Tink blurted it out, it sounded stupid.
“Isn’t it amazing how the three letter word like “why“ requires so much explanation,” the old man replied. “Suffice to say, I will try to answer your question as concise as possible...”
The man stood for a minute or two and then resumed. “The initial wave of probe units which were sent in various directions and into various sectors had returned or had been accounted for except for Iod 123321. In an early report it had communicated about a crude geologic binary scouting device on the second planet of this system. Iod 123321 proceeded to the third planet, this one, which seemed to be the origin of the device. In what was a simple surveying mission protocol, Iod 123321 sent an occasional location beacon while on this planet until all communications was severed. We came here looking to retrieve Iod 123321. Several of his last locations needed to be investigated. Your address was one of these locations. We were hoping to find some clue of what happened to Iod 123321’s fate in the refuse dispersed from your address.”
Tink tried hard to follow what the man spewed out, rather impatiently and quickly in a string of words. All he could muster in response was an “Oh.”
Before Tink could think of what he had heard, the old man dived into his second question. “I have noticed in monitoring your planet that your governmental strata attempts to solve social problems before they have discovered what is the actual output which is causing the problem. An example of such an altered sequence is in testing the competence of school children before finding out what the barriers are that is preventing children from being scholastically competent. Is this a strategy widely accepted as workable?”
Tink blurted out in frustration, “Geeze, I’m not a politician! They do a lot of things that are stupid, that’s why people don’t really care for them.”
“Fascinating, a governmental body elected by the people of this world and yet are not made accountable by the people.”
“Hey now, that’s not fair. We have thrown a few out of office... well if they break the law or something,” Tink protested.
“Is there a law that the government must solve the problems of the people?” The old man asked.
“Well, no, I guess I don’t expect them to solve anything completely.”
“I see,” the old man replied with a nod of his head. “Now ask me your next question.”
Tink couldn’t put his finger on it, but he had the strange feeling he was doing a bad job in explaining life on earth. He looked blankly at the man and it took a while before he could think of a question which he thought was valuable.
“Okay, so who or what are you?” Tink asked.
The old man smiled widely and proudly straightened, “My designation is Iod 344052, I am a mission engagement specialist employed by Primary Field Generation.”
“Okay, but all them numbers and designating this and that, does not answer what you are?” Tink added.
“I understand you have a saying I recently found amusing of ‘seeing is believing’?”
Tink nodded his head in agreement.
“Then perhaps a demonstration is in order.” The old man announced. He stood there suddenly very still. His eyes became blank, as if no one was behind them. The JAG looking actress returned to the room and walked over to the far side of the room without acknowledging either Tink or the old man.
Mac, as she was sometimes called in the TV series looked briefly at the old man and asked, “ Is this necessary?”
The old man replied, “Yes, deactivate your field.”
Astonishingly the Marine Corps Major seemed to implode and without any body to hold itself up, the uniform and skin fluttered down into an unruly heap on the floor.
Tink was shocked, his eyes widened with surprise.
The old man walked over and plucked at the uniform, then pulled aside the thin blanket of flesh colored skin to eventually work his hand inside the pile. He felt around inside for a while and then retrieved a three inch cube. The faces of the cube looked to be a turquoise color with fine circuitry etched on each side. The old man stood up, holding the cube in the palm of his hand. “This is Iod 313019, recon specialist whom you say looked like an actress. This is also what I am. Iod stands for illusionary operating device. It is a field-generating trinary computational unit. That is what I am.”
Tink stood there staring blankly at the object in the old man’s hand.
“Okay, my turn,” the old man announced. “Is it a falsehood that people of Earth desire to obtain the greatest quality of life?”
Tink thought the question was odd. “Why would you say that? Everybody wants more, a bigger piece of the pie.”
“Such a bakery product is considered all that can be obtainable?”
“A piece of pie is a figure of speech; it means that every one wants to obtain the most out of life that they can.”
“Then how do you explain the desire to drink alcohol until it interferes with the operation of equipment, smoking tobacco products until one’s health is compromised, or the illicit use of substances which your publications warn against using?”
“What, you don’t have stupid people on your planet?” Tink answered with a question of his own.
“I am not from a planet. I am an Iod.” The man replied. “You would then say that something was defective in such decision-making processes to engage in such non-survival activities?”
“I guess so. Some times better judgment derives from the recognition of bad judgment.” Tink answered.
The old man stood there silently waiting for Tink to ask his next question. Tink wanted to ask a valuable question. Perhaps something that he could use later. Then he thought of some of the UFO debates and he asked, “On earth, we do not know how we could cross the vast distances of space in a timely fashion. How were you able to reach earth?”
“Taking into account that we are not biological units and we have self-diagnostic programs design to keep us functioning with in operational standards, and in combination with other Iods with redundant energy sources to last for two of a human’s lifetimes, Iod units are able to cross the distances between our original departure point and your planet in about one one-hundredth of the time which would have taken a present day earth craft. That has nothing to do with power plant systems or even the design of the craft. It has everything to do with knowing the universe and the particle-density stratum theorem.
“Can you explain this theorem in a way that a stupid earthling could understand?” Tink sarcastically asked.
The old man smiled before he replied, “Unknown to your planet’s scientists is the concept of the universe is composed of strata of denser molecular structure. It was described once as the big frozen pond concept. If you consider the strata of your present universe as the layer of ice on the pond, and the air above and the unfrozen water beneath the ice as additional layers of the universe, then obviously you could travel great distances at higher rates of speed in a medium of air or water than ice with the same proportion of kinetic energy.”
Tink wasn’t sure what kinetic meant, but he did understand the difference between ice and water. The whole idea of a stratified universe was wild and new.
“That was an informed question,” the old man announced. “My fourth question is how long have you resided at you current address?” “About three years,” Tink quickly answered. Relieved that the question was a easy one.
Tink had also quickly thought of a question, “You mentioned that you are neither biological nor from a planet. Where were you created?”
I was imprinted and activated four of your earth years ago by the Primary Field Generation corporation on orbiter station number 114.”
“Okay, my last question,” The old man inserted. “Where and what were you doing before you moved to your current residence?”
Tink blinked excessively. The old man’s question, as simple as it was, seemed hard to answer. Tink went blank for a moment, and then replied, “I grew up, of course, with my parents in Walla Walla, Washington.”
“I see,” the old man replied, “Now for your last question.”
Tink felt disturbed about the old man’s question. It seemed simple, but it confused him. His head was swimming and he couldn’t ask another question. He looked blankly at the man. All he could think of to ask was, “May I go home?”
The old man’s eyebrows raised in surprise. He looked hard at Tink and then replied.
“Yes, you may go home. I thank you for your help.”
Tink felt disorientated and looked around the room. He suddenly didn’t recognize the surroundings. The outside wall which he faced disappeared and the dry sagebrush rolling hills spanned out before him. Tink walked out through the opening. Once he cleared the opening he looked back to his left to see his car on the road a hundred yards away, where he had left it. He looked back and the entire building disappeared. He jogged to his car, afraid the aliens would change their minds and hold him as a prisoner. He jumped into his car and sped back to his home. He couldn’t remember the route he had driven to get home.
He felt very nervous and agitated. Nothing seemed to calm him, not even the classical music he had turned on. He felt he needed to tell someone, anyone his story.
He dialed 911 and heard the female voice answer, “911, what is your emergency?”
Tink hung up the phone immediately.
“What was he thinking!?” He thought to himself. They’d laugh in his face and throw away the key!
The phone rang and Tink picked up the receiver and left it off the hook. He wasn’t in a mood to talk to anyone until he figured out his best plan of action. He felt confused and his vision became blurred. He walked to the middle of his living room and stared at the small TV which sat on his coffee table. A flashing of a red light stabbing through the narrow open slit of the front window’s curtain caught Tink’s attention. But before he could investigate, his vision began to scramble and he suddenly couldn’t feel his limbs or body. He seemed to be incarcerated in the infinity of space.
He heard the familiar door bell blare, but he could not see anything. A loud rap on the door followed along with an indistinguishable muffled voice.
Tink couldn’t comprehend what was happening to him. He heard a loud crash and a ripping sound followed by a thud. He wasn’t sure what he was hearing, and why his hearing was the only sense which was functioning. He heard voices shouting, “ Mr. Tinkham? EPD?”
Tink understood that the police were in his house. He tried to shout back but could not hear any of the words he had shouted.
“This is 22, be advised, we have entered the residence and have not found anything of the occupant,” a voice surprisingly close to Tink announced. He could hear the click and the squelch of a transmitter.
“Check the back, Sam,” came another voice.
Moments passed, voices in the distance, doors opening and closing. Then some one drew near again. “Nothing? No signs of struggle. Just this odd pile of clothes on the floor. Yeah like he just dropped them in the middle of the floor,” came another voice.
“This is 22, we haven’t found anything indicating foul play, we’re returning to station,” came the first voice followed by a squelch.
“Come on, Sam, let’s pick up some of them sprinkles I like on the way...” came the last voice, which trailed off into the distance.
Copyright © 2004 by A. D. Smith