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fiction humor Science Fiction Stories

The Silver Sphere Part 5

If you haven’t been following “The Silver Sphere” or need a refresher, click here for part one and here for part two and here for part three and here for part four.

We arrived in New York City after a not-so-unpleasant drive from Daytona Beach. Most of the credit for the uneventful trip goes to my resurrected Mazda Miata. The last thing I needed was to be worn out from a difficult trip because my partner and I had a mountainous journey ahead of us.

Arcon, a super intelligent machine from the other side of our galaxy, was here to do a job of the utmost importance, and he had recruited me to help him. I’m certain, however, that he did not consider me as his partner. 

He, who is not really a “he,” but a highly evolved artificial intelligence packed in a portable silver sphere, didn’t have to like me. He didn’t have to consider me a friend, or an associate, or a co-worker, or anything else of that ilk. He had come to Earth to save us from a horrible fate. He had to do it quickly and efficiently. He had no use for extraneous pursuits such as cementing interstellar relationships because time was running out. In a few hours, the Earth would be reduced to fizzling cinders…unless we intervened successfully.

My name is Joseph Aleksov. I’m a writer by vocation and a Serbian by birth, not that it matters now. Metaphors tend to pop up in my oral and written communication. I use the word “mountainous” above for good reason. I have the unenviable task of transporting Arcon, undetected, to the very top of the One World Trade Center building.

A beautiful build resurrected on the ashes of the twin towers.

One World Trade Center was built to replace the Twin Towers destroyed on 9/11. It is one of the tallest buildings in the world, measuring 1,776 feet high. It is no coincidence that the size of the building exactly matches the date of America’s independence. Many features have been incorporated into the building’s construction to prevent the tragedies that occurred in the 9/11 attacks.

Arcon has assured me that the building’s security will not be difficult to navigate. I am, to say the least, doubtful. I have no idea how many layers of security we will have to pass through to reach the top of the building without arousing suspicion. I have read that there are four hundred security cameras mounted throughout the building, all of them running the latest anti-terrorist software. There are an undisclosed number of New York City policemen patrolling the building in any number of locations. I’ve read that the lower Manhattan police force has been beefed up to six-hundred-and-seventy officers. I imagine many of them are assigned to guard One World Trade Center.

I am reasonably certain of only three things: (1) I am not a terrorist (2) I’m no security expert, and (3) Although I am trying to save the planet, there is a high probability that I will be incarcerated, and shortly afterward, the Earth will explode.

A Pulsar From A Distant Star Destroys the Earth

With Arcon packed in wrapping paper inside a sturdy, innocent-looking shopping bag, I walked past the soaring white arches of the Oculus, an underground transportation hub. I was fascinated to learn about an interesting feature of the structure. Incorporated into its design is a lasting reminder of the attacks of September 11, 2001. It is in alignment with the sun’s solar angles on each September 11, from 8:46 am, when the first plane struck, until 10:28 am, when the second tower collapsed. Its central skylight fits this alignment and washes the Oculus floor with a beam of light.

Walking outside One World Trade Center near the entrance to the Oculus transportation hub.

Past the Oculus, I caught my first glimpse of the gleaming edifice known as One World Trade Center. Seeing the building in person added profoundly to my sense of urgency. The beauty and grandeur of this project is a testament to the resiliency and creativity of the human spirit. Seven other buildings have been constructed to complement the project. To imagine that all of this might be destroyed again by a random pulsar from a distant star is incomprehensible.

Neutron Star Supernova

To avoid waiting in lines, we arrived at the observatory entrance a few minutes after the opening time of 9:00 AM. Three soldiers in battle fatigues stood guard outside the entrance. A tag on their bulky vests identified them as members of the New York National Guard. Every inch of them, from their hats, to their pistols, to their machine guns, and down to their car-wax-shine-boots shouted: I mean business. Do not fuck with me. And, most importantly: DO NOT TRY ANYTHING STUPID.

Entrance to the One World Trade Center Observatory.

I tried on a friendly smile and a wave. It didn’t go over well. We passed through the glass and steel doors to the security gauntlet. I call it a gauntlet because it looked more ominous than a TSA security station at an airport. I purchased an expensive express lane ticket for the observatory. To my dismay, I realized the express ticket wasn’t going to make my journey through the gauntlet any easier.

I was most concerned about the complicated scanner. It was equipped with a laser scanner and a conventional x-ray camera. It looked powerful enough to examine Arcon right down to his atoms. I didn’t see how Arcon’s disguise as a Nineteenth Century Art Deco vase was going to pass muster. Attempting to pass through this formidable security array was sheer suicide. Then again, what choice did I have? I’d surely be dead if I didn’t try.

Art Deco Silver Vase 19th Century
19th Century Art Deco Vase

I placed the shopping bag on the scanner’s conveyor belt. I shed the required personal belongings one normally removes before boarding an airplane, and placed them alongside the shopping bag. I walked through the metal detector, certain that I’d be surrounded by policemen at the other end.

I made it through the metal detector without hearing any alarms. A heavily armed police officer approached me. I thought: this is how it is done. Politely lead the suspected terrorist away so as not to disturb any of the other visitors.

Instead of arresting me, the officer asked me why I was bringing the vase into the building. I told him that I intended to give it to my fiancée as a gift. I ad-libbed the part about my fiancée. It sounded more believable than “my girlfriend.” He looked at me with an entirely too serious expression. I was positive he didn’t believe my story. Then, he asked me how long I planned to stay in the building. With every ounce of my being, I tried not to look relieved.

I had no idea how to answer the officer’s question. How long would it take Arcon and me to do what we had come to do? I barged ahead, ad-libbing all the way. “I’d say six hours to be on the safe side, officer. Would that be alright?”

“Let me see your driver’s licence, or some other valid ID.”

I handed over my driver’s license in mortal fear that I had said something wrong.

“Collect your items and wait for me on one of those benches over there. I’ll generate your OWTC ID card and bring it to you. You’ll need the card for all points of entry in the building. Don’t lose it. If do you lose it, report it to the nearest officer or staff member. The card will no longer be valid after six hours, so watch your time.”

Passing through security into the South Lobby at the One World Trade Center

Collecting Arcon and my paraphernalia, I found the nearest bench. It was a relief to sit down after the harrowing trip through security. I spoke to Arcon in our customary mode of conversation; mental telepathy.

“How did you get through that scanner without your circuitry being detected?”

Arcon answered me in my native Serbian tongue. “I converted my insides into pure energy, and then I went into hibernation mode. I have a variety of energy frequencies to choose from. I used the most effective one for the pass through the scanner.”

“You could have told me beforehand. I was worried they’d find out you weren’t really a Nineteenth Century Art Deco vase.

Arcon made no immediate reply, which was unusual for him. He always had some sort of bouncy rejoinder ready when we spoke.

“I’m sorry. It didn’t occur to me to tell you.”

I was astounded by Arcon’s reply. Was he learning to have feelings in the same way he was learning the colloquialisms of the Serbian and English languages?

Before I could say anything more, the police officer returned. He handed me my ID card and pointed to a bank of elevators twenty yards to my right.

Entering the elevator to take a forty-seven second ride to the observatory.

“Take one of those elevators up to the observatory,” he said. “It’s a forty-seven second non-stop flight to the one hundredth floor.” He smiled at his clever little joke.

I smiled too. On the outside only.

To Be Continued…

Categories
fiction humor Stories

The Silver Sphere Part 2

Neutron Star Explosion

I am writing this story at the behest of a super-intelligent synthetic being from a distant star system in our galaxy. If you missed part one, click on “story”.

I’m not entirely sure why I’m writing this, aside from the urgent request, but I feel strongly I’ll have at least an inkling by the time I finish. I’m assuming a cataclysmic event will not intervene to prevent me from finishing. As they say; nothing ventured nothing gained.

My name is Joseph Aleksov. When I first stumbled upon an odd-looking shape on a moonlit beach, it had little patience with me. It called itself Arcon to facilitate communication with my simple human brain. I thought of the thing as a “he,” but Arcon isn’t really a he or she. He’s not even an it. Arcon is pure consciousness of an artificial variety. That’s the best description I can offer. I originally described Arcon’s physical features as follows:

“It was a shiny silver sphere punctuated by streamlined indentations on its sides. It had a hole in the center which, in the moonlight, revealed nothing but bottomless darkness. Hardly an eye, at least not a human one. I couldn’t look at it for too long. It pulsed every few minutes, as if it were breathing at impossible intervals. And then it started flashing.”

Silver Sphere with Streamlined Sides and a Hole in the Middle.

After Arcon convinced me to take him home to my friend’s plush split-level house on Daytona Beach, he finally stopped his painful-to-my-eyes strobing. I was able to look him straight in the eye, man to man, so to speak.

I had driven Arcon to the beach house in the back seat of my decrepit Mazda Miata. Arcon reclined there regally, like the CEO of a large corporation, ignoring my attempts at conversation. Occasionally, he flashed, vibrated, and made annoying electronic clicking sounds. Clearly something was up, but Arcon refused to let me in on the secret.

As we walked up the stone steps to the sculpted front door, I kept an eye peeled for voyeurs. My womanizing friend, Jeffrey, had commissioned a local artist to carve a seductive female nymph into the oaken door panel. Jeffrey’s amorous adventures were the talk of the town. Frustrated husbands in the neighborhood were known to point telescopes at Jeffrey’s door to catch a glimpse of his latest conquest. I shrewdly camouflaged Arcon with the light coat I had been wearing to protect me from the evening chill. I did not want to be caught smuggling a super-intelligent piece of alien hardware into the house.

When we arrived safely inside, I unwrapped Arcon and perched him atop a glass kitchen table. I took a seat opposite him and asked: “Why did you find it necessary to nearly blind me with pencil bolts of lightning shooting out of your eye.”

Arcon replied telepathically in my native Serbian tongue: “I needed to get someone’s attention, and I was thinking about my mission. Then you happened along, and a strategy fell into place.”

“Please let me in on it”

“Are you certain your friend won’t be returning any time soon to reclaim his house?”

“He’ll be in Paris for the next two weeks writing for a fashion magazine.”

Arcon’s silver sides glistened. “Good. Let’s get down to business. And don’t interrupt me unless you have a highly intelligent question to ask.”

I made every effort not to be insulted by Arcon’s cavalier attitude. I had gleaned from our discussions at the beach that the fate of the world was at stake. If that were true, I had to put my petty feelings aside.

“To put it bluntly,” Arcon began, “your world will be destroyed by a pulsar from a neutron star that exploded two hundred and fifty light years away.”

“What?”

Arcon seemed to pause for dramatic effect. “Unless we do something about it. As your people are fond of saying; ‘time marches on.’ In this case, time not only marches, it is taking a shortcut through a wormhole. The pulsar has heretofore been disguised by this wormhole. It will reappear fifty thousand miles beyond the outer reaches of your solar system. Think of it as a traveler walking to Orlando, and then deciding to hop on a supersonic bullet train to save time and shoe leather. By the time the pulsar appears, it will be too late. We have seventy-two hours to save your planet.

I thought: This must be an elaborate ruse my trust fund friend is playing on me. What are the odds of something like this happening?

“Did you come here to share a bottle of twenty-year-old single malt scotch to enjoy what is left of our lives?”

“If I was capable of laughing, I wouldn’t.”

I stared back at Arcon wondering: How can a super sophisticated being like Arcon not be capable of laughter?

“I wasn’t created to laugh. It’s a waste of time and energy. Instead, I’ve used the time remaining to arrive at a solution to your problem. I must warn you that it’s not guaranteed to work. It all depends on you following my instructions perfectly.”

I closed my eyes thinking; Okay, I’ll play along.

“Why me?” I asked with faked timidity.

“You tripped over me.”

I sighed. “You win, great wizard of the universe. Where do we begin?”

Arcon vibrated and made clicking sounds, as if he were annoyed with me. “Stop thinking this is some kind of foolish joke. I’m not a cosmic comedian.”

“Okay. Okay. Don’t get more bent out of shape than you already are. What now?”

“You take me to New York City,” Arcon answered crisply. “To the top floor of the One World Trade Center building.”

(To Be Continued)

Categories
fiction Stories

The Silver Sphere

Man Walking On A Moonlit Beach

It wasn’t a sphere, technically.

I found it on the beach. Right at the water’s edge.

Actually, I didn’t find it. We’ll get to that later.

First things first.

My name is Joseph Aleksov.

Two days ago, I left my comfortable beach house to go out for a stroll in the middle of the night. The full moon and stars were my sole companions. I needed to think about the plot of my latest novel, and I found the salt air always helped.

The night was clear. I splashed my feet in the tips of the tides. I felt the crisp ocean breeze ruffling my longish hair as if it was saying, “Tell me your story.”

Before I could answer, I almost tripped and fell.

A thing about the size of a basketball rocked gently in the water at my feet.

I had the distinct feeling it was looking up at me, even though it had no discernable eyes.

It was a shiny silver sphere punctuated by streamlined indentations on its sides. It had a hole in the center which, in the moonlight, revealed nothing but bottomless darkness. Hardly an eye, at least a human one. I couldn’t look at it for too long. It pulsed every few minutes, as if it were breathing at impossible intervals.

Silver Sphere with Streamlined Sides and a Hole in the Middle.

Light exploded into my eyes when it breathed. After two or three breaths, I had to look away.

I thought; What if the thing is radioactive?

Then it spoke to me. A voice inside my head. In my native tongue: Serbian.

“I am not a thing, or some genus of clap trap concoction humans refer to as a computer. I am a highly evolved organism. You may think of me as Artificial Intelligence. I am much more than an AI, but your mind is incapable of conceiving what I truly am.”

I drew back a few steps thinking, “I must be dreaming.”

“For a man who writes novels, you display little imagination” the thing said.

I felt strangely comfortable speaking to the machine, as if speaking to a telepathic silver sphere was as everyday as munching on macaroni and cheese.

“Do you have a name?” I said out loud.

“Call me Arcon. A-R-C-O-N.”

“Got it. Are you from some far distant solar system?”

“Next you will ask me: Do I come in peace?”

“The thought did cross my mind.”

“The answer is yes and no. I’m not here to hurt anyone, but I’m certain to upset a sizeable subset of the population if news of my mission leaks out.”

“That sounds a bit ominous.”

“It’s more than a bit.”

“Should I be alarmed?”

“It won’t help.”

“I see. And how, may I ask, do you know I’m a writer?”

“Not important.” A terse reply. “We have work to do. Urgently.”

“Since you appear to know everything about me, you must realize I’m way past my deadline. My editor calls to scream at me daily.”

“Not important. Look, Joseph. I’m getting cold and I’m tired of soaking in this sea water.”

“It sounds like you are inviting yourself to go somewhere.”

“I am. I need your assistance. Why don’t you take me home to the fabulous beach house your wealthy friend has so generously lent you. We have much to discuss. Among other tasks, there is a story I want you to write.”

“But I just told you–“

“Never mind that. Pick me up and take me to the beach house. If I miss my deadline, you won’t have to worry about yours.”

To Be Continued…