A Bridge to Earth
by Richard Merlin Smith
Chapter 4 : Visitors
The history begins millions of years ago and light-years away. The story commences a few thousand Earth years ago: a brown dwarf a rogue star with its attendant planets travels on a collision course toward the system of a yellow sun. Soon their disparate plasma sheaths begin to interact, and the Guardians and Stewards must make fateful decisions.
Sam stole a quick look back over his shoulder as he stepped through the door. “Were you followed?” Fred joked, as they moved quickly through the service porch.
Sam put his hand on Fred’s shoulder saying, “That’s not funny. The presence of your visitors could cause all manner of havoc in the ranks of the CIA and probably various other agencies, including those of some foreign governments.”
Suddenly Fred’s feeling of exhilaration changed to one of anxiety. “Of course,” he agreed, “there’s a need for caution. However,” he added, “so far I haven’t had any control over what’s been happening.”
But Sam was no longer listening. They had entered the den and he just stood there, eyes wide, staring at the two aliens sitting on the couch.
Fred steered Sam over to the seating area to make introductions. “This is my friend, Sam,” he said, gesturing, “about whom we have spoken.” He turned to Sam and said, “I’d like you to meet Ris and Panat.”
Sam started to hold out his hand when both Ris and Panat stood with arms crossed on their chests. Sam didn’t miss a beat, he returned the salute with a slight bow, saying, “Pleased to meet you.”
The Martians’ capacity for humor was as yet unknown, but at Sam’s bow Ris’ head tilted slightly and the deep blue eyes widened almost imperceptibly, perhaps in amusement. “We too are... pleased, to meet the good friend of Frredarrt.”
They all sat down again, Sam and Fred on one couch, the two Martians on the other. There was a long moment of silence while they looked at each other.
Fred tried to think of a way of breaking the ice when Sam said simply, “Well, what brings you here?”
Ris looked at Sam for a long moment then replied, “If you mean to this... house or to... Earth, is same answer.”
Sam smiled at the misinterpretation as Ris continued. “With... limitations we are able to transport in... space-time by... altering... certain relationships in phase space.”
“I’ve heard of that,” Sam said, still smiling. “It has to do with something we call chaos theory and the concept of non-linear systems.”
“Is correct.” Ris gestured with an open hand. “We understand the concept and we have... achieved a certain amount of practical... application of the... principles to... transportation. Results somewhat are different for each... person.”
Ris paused briefly, touching six fingertips to its temples, “because the... mind of the individual takes part in the activity.” Another slight pause. “We do not clearly... understand this... aspect of the process.”
“We have tried to transport to Mars but... unfortunately, none of our people have been... successful. When you” — Ris gestured to Fred — “were... transported... there a few days ago, was an... accident. Unfortunate... for you but... perhaps fortunate for us. Was our only... successful effort. Something about your mind makes it... possible for you to be transported a long distance. When we... discovered what had happened, we were able to bring you back.”
“That reminds me,” Fred interjected, “I’ve been afraid to look in a mirror since then. I’ve been shaving by touch.”
Ris was silent for a moment, head tilted slightly to the side, the deep blue eyes widened slightly.
Humor again, Fred imagined.
“The mirror did not... cause you to be transported.” Ris explained. “It merely provided a... focus of concentration that tuned you... mentally to our transporter field. After that the... reaction simply... proceeded in your favor, so to speak. While you were on Mars... a similar thing happened except that we were then directing the process to bring you back. You may safely use your mirrors.”
Ris’ words raised a battalion of questions one after another, most of which Fred couldn’t retain. But he managed a few. “Wait, slow down,” he said, “I need to understand what’s happening. First of all,” he said, “you told me that you come from Mars, but if you’re trying to get back that means you’re living somewhere else presently. Where?”
He continued without pausing for an answer as though his visitors might disappear in a puff of smoke at any moment. “Second, why are you trying to go back to Mars?”
He ticked off the third question on his fingers. “While I was there the other day, even though I nearly froze I was able to breathe. Why? The Martian atmosphere isn’t supposed to be dense enough to breathe.” He glanced quickly at Sam for confirmation.
“And lastly,” he sighed, “why were you searching my house last night?”
Ris blinked a few times and Panat placed a hand on Ris’ shoulder. They spoke rapidly in their own language for a few seconds and then Ris turned back and said, “I will answer your questions, but your last question is most interesting. We were not here last night. You have never seen us before tonight.”
Fred suspected as much because of the complete difference in the way that these two were conducting themselves, but he wanted to be sure. “Then who were the others?” he asked.
“Are... others” — Ris shrugged, apparently a universal gesture — “who also try to return to our planet.” Ris seemed to fidget for a moment. “Is... something that must be... retrieved.”
Fred started to ask another question but Ris was already continuing. “You were able to breathe... because your... specific mental state caused the... process to place you there at a time before the... atmosphere was completely lost.” Ris paused, looking at Fred expectantly.
“All right,” Fred replied, “that leaves the question of where you live now.” He shook his head. “It’s evident that you don’t live on Mars.”
Ris fidgeted again but answered readily, “We have lived on... Earth... since the great... catastrophe... destroyed our home.” Ris paused as if waiting for the next question.
Sam and Fred voiced the next question simultaneously, “Where?” And Sam added, “Where could you live without being detected?”
Panat, who had not participated in the conversations up to that point, sat forward on the edge of the couch and began to speak. “Is not... possible to remain... undetected.” Panat glanced quickly at Ris before continuing, “Even in the early times here.” Again a glance at Ris, but Ris seemed lost in thought, gazing at the face in the photo on the coffee table.
“When we first... came to Earth... we were many... and we lived in the place that is called by some ‘Tiwanako’.”
Fred felt a chill go up his spine as something began to dawn on him but he remained silent and waited for Panat to continue.
Haltingly, Panat resumed. “For several of our... generations... we lived... in that place, which was then... a broad plain and for a long time we were alone there. Gradually the local tribes began to... revere us as gods, perhaps because of our... physical appearance and our... technology... which they considered to be magic.”
The faces before him were prototypes for the face on the arch. The figure has its arms raised and is holding a serpent-like creature in each four-fingered hand. The face is marked with what look like tears dripping from the eyes.
Panat paused, and exhaled a faint sigh. There was a great deal of emotion behind the words.
Sam was enthralled with the story.
Panat continued, “From the beginning was obvious... that we had not... escaped the great catastrophe that... destroyed our home. When we first arrived on this planet we could see that there had been much devastation when the great catastrophe occurred.
“However, for many years there was relative calm here. Eventually earthquakes occurred with... increasing regularity and... severity. Local tribes looked to us for... relief... but we were powerless.”
Panat paused and seemed lost in reverie. “What,” Fred asked, “was causing the earthquakes?”
Panat looked at him without answering.
“How could the two catastrophes be related?” Sam pressed the question.
Panat remained silent and Ris slid forward, laying a hand on Panat’s shoulder. “Was not two catastrophes,” Ris said softly, “was... only one.” Fred shook his head not comprehending. “Was disruption of solar system... configuration.”
“Damn,” Sam breathed. “Shades of Immanuel Velikovsky.” Fred gawked at Sam uncomprehendingly. “Who?”
But Ris continued the narrative. “Great convulsions... raised the mountains and... destroyed most of that which we had built. The tribes... rejected us and we retreated to... secret places... that we had prepared. With few... exceptions we avoided further... contact with Earth humans and... concentrated our efforts on survival and developing a way to return to Mars.”
“Eventually we... decided that some of us would... attempt to transport forward in time to a point when earth... technology could produce the materials... necessary to build a better transporter.
“Time travel is very difficult and not well understood, but we were desperate. Although several attempts were made, we now know of only two groups that were successful. You have met the others.
“Unfortunately we found that our... inability to return to Mars is... due to our ignorance of the... interaction with the mind. When your accident... occurred, it renewed our hope of finding a way to return.”
“But you can’t live there,” exclaimed Sam, “the atmosphere is gone.”
“Is true,” said Ris, “and we cannot continue to live here.” Again, Panat and Ris exchanged glances.
Ris continued somewhat cautiously, “Is... something on Mars that will help us find a place to live.”
Ris paused and turned slightly toward Panat, who uttered a single syllable, perhaps consent or encouragement.
“The transporter... device that sent us to Earth is still on Mars. Is much more sophisticated than the device that we have now. We cannot... duplicate it here because the materials and technology are not available. We can not afford to... risk more of our... people in attempts to travel... in time.”
“And that,” said Sam, “leaves you with a big problem because you can’t transport to Mars.”
Panat turned to Sam. “Correct,” And pausing, turned to Fred. “But you can... Fred... Hart.”
“Oh no,” he objected, “I would have died if you hadn’t brought me back when you did.” He shook his head emphatically. “Even though I was there when the atmosphere was more dense,” he said, “I could hardly breathe and I almost became a human icicle.”
“We would not,” said Ris, “endanger your life... unnecessarily.” Ris paused and spread both hands at chest level. “But our need is most urgent.”
Ris paused, looking first at Fred and then at Sam. “To... simplify the... process we would send you in present time.” Ris paused again and took a deep breath. “You must go to Mars and... retrieve the... device.”
“But,” Fred interrupted, “going there with the present atmosphere just means that I would die more quickly.”
“Not if you were... protected,” said Panat.
“The only effective protection,” Fred argued, “would be a space suit.”
“That is correct,” said Ris. “A space suit is only way for you to survive.”
“Oh fine,” Fred said, “where are we going to get a space suit?”
“Steal one,” Sam piped gleefully. “They can use their transporter to go anywhere.” He waved an arm at the two Martians, “at least on Earth.” He grinned broadly. “It ought to be simple to get a suit from astronaut storage in Houston.”
Dammit, Fred thought, he’s enjoying this.
Ris gave Sam a wide-eyed look of amusement look and bowed slightly.
A sudden noise from the front room startled the four. Fred arose quickly and signaled the others to remain silent. He stepped through the doorway to the living room and closed the double sliding doors. As he did so he realized that the noise they had heard was the sound of the front door being unlocked.
It has to be Margie, he thought, but his pulse was racing just the same. The door opened and Margie’s cheerful face peered in.
“Hi,” she said.
Fred just grinned foolishly.
“What’s going on?” Margie asked, frowning.
Hearing Margie’s voice, Sam slid open the doors between the living room and the den.
Fred stepped back and turned slightly.
Margie looked past him at the three figures seated in the den. “Hi, Sam,” she called.
She stopped short as she caught sight of the two strangely dressed visitors. “Who are those people?” she whispered.
“People,” Fred emphasized the word, “you should meet. Hang on to your hat,” he said as he took her hand and led her into the den.
They entered from behind Ris and Panat. Margie’s first impression was that the two looked like fancily dressed skiers with odd headgear. As Ris and Panat turned in unison, she gasped at the sight of the intense blue eyes and strangely marked faces.
“Margie,” Fred began, “we have visitors. I’d like you to meet Ris and Panat. And,” gesturing toward Margie, he said, “this is Margie, my wife.”
Both Ris and Panat rose to face Margie. Instead of their usual crossed-arm greeting, the Martians used the gesture newly learned from Sam, bowing slightly toward Margie.
“Wife,” Ris repeated, glancing at Fred, “is your... woman?”
“Yes,” Fred answered, “I suppose you could put it that way.”
“Ah,” Margie interrupted, “these must be the, uh, people who visited us last night.”
“Not the same,” said Sam, “they’re related. That is, they’re of the same race but different individuals.”
“We are... related,” Panat said, gesturing toward Fred and Margie, “as you are related.”
“You mean that you two are married to those other Martians?”
“Yes,” Ris answered, mimicking Fred’s earlier response, “I... suppose... you could put it that way.”
“So, those other two are your wives.”
“But you just said that you’re married to them.”
“We are the... wives.”
* * *
Margie settled herself on the arm of the couch next to Fred as Panat continued, “For a long time... after the great... catastrophe... we were able to survive... in vaults... deep under the ground.”
“Vaults?” Sam asked. “Were they artificial?”
“But,” Sam interrupted, “if you lived on the surface, why did you build underground vaults? Were they bomb shelters?”
Ris stirred and exchanged a brief glance with Panat. “Shelters, yes,” Panat said, “but not for... protection from... bombs. We were... aware that the great... catastrophe... was to happen. It had been... foretold.”
“Who foretold the catastrophe? How could anyone know?” asked Sam.
“Our... race is very old and our... history and... science go back so far that we have almost... nothing of what you call... myth. Although the planets had been stable for longer than our history, our science was aware that... stability was... temporary and subject to... physical laws that we understood only... superficially. It has to do with what you” — Panat nodded toward Sam — “call... chaos... theory.”
“How was the planetary configuration different?” Sam asked, shaking his head. “How could it have been unstable?”
Ris shrugged. “We do not know. That information did not... survive the... generations since our... ancestors came to Earth.
But” — Ris held up one finger on her three-fingered hand — “there is a story, perhaps our only myth, that once there was a... bridge from our world to the world of the gods. It may be a... distorted memory of the former... configuration.” She shook her head slowly. “We do not know.”
“Of this we are sure,” she paused for breath, “we must... leave... Earth and find a place where we can live... more... comfortably, where we can renew our culture.”
“And,” Sam asked, “you couldn’t do that here?”
“There is not enough... room... for both our cultures.” She spread her hands, palms up. “We have tried that and learned a valuable lesson.
“Also,” she added, “remember that Earth... gravity... is greater than Mars gravity...”
“I was wondering about that,” Sam interjected.
“Yes,” she continued, “although we are quite... strong... and have adapted well, it is a... continual... burden.”
October 19 — Glendora, California
Using his contacts in the manned space flight program, it took Sam several days to ferret out information about where space suits and accessories were stored. Then, waiting until late on a Sunday night to minimize the chance of discovery, Sam and Ris transported into the storage area and made off with a complete space suit system, including batteries and oxygen.
The resultant transporter radiation was detected by NSA monitors in the Houston area.
It was decided that Ris and Panat would transport Fred from one Earth location to Mars and then move to another location to bring him back – to avoid getting caught. Sam and Margie would stay at the Hart’s house and use the communication feature of a transporter to monitor Fred’s activity.
To be continued...
Copyright © 2011 by Richard Merlin Smith