“Hey! Anybody home?” I shouted out my open window.
“Welcome, Daniel. You have brought up an interesting collection of possessions and nourishment. Some of the latter seems to defy the term “nourishment,” however; we must talk about it soon. You may unload if you wish, but I can easily take care of everything once you have left this chamber. I have prepared living quarters for you. I hope you find them comfortable and appropriate. The corridor you see to your right will lead you to them. Please go there now; several urgent priorities have arisen since you were last here.”
“Sure thing, big guy.” I hopped out of Morena, gave her a slap (à la Dick Lane) and looked over her hood to an opening in the wall that I’m sure wasn’t there when I arrived. There were things among my groceries that could melt, but having seen how efficient Adam was about his interior upkeep I went ahead and risked a ruined Cherry Garcia.
The corridor was indeed that and more, slightly uphill too. It was a long, well-lit tube with the same white walls that were pretty much all I had ever seen of my big friend. I began to think that my sense of time wasn’t quite the same up here, because this tube seemed to go on forever with just a twist or turn every 50 yards or so. After a few minutes I sped it up and began to jog. After a hundred yards or so I was walking again.
“Are we there yet?” I panted.
“Almost. At your current speed, you should arrive in one minute and 27 seconds.”
“Great. I can do that!” And one minute and 26 seconds later (Adam claimed I sped up just a bit at the end), I stepped into what could be my new home. It was all glowing white walls, just like everything else I’d seen so far, except there were built-in ledges and protrusions here and there that could easily serve as tables, chairs, sofas, shelves and anything else I might need. To say it was minimalist is being maximalist, but I knew that he was trying his best with what he had. As it turned out, the arrangement was near perfect, and the changes I’ve made since have been gradual and few, perhaps reflecting my need for some constancy in my new life (or more likely, a loathing of change). Besides, he had fully expected me to add the finishing touches. He was the architect, and I became the interior decorator.
I sat down on the “sofa” against the “wall” and surveyed my new domain. There was plenty of space; the ceiling was about 10 feet from the floor, but it varied in areas, and there seemed to be several other rooms connected to this main one. My sofa felt so comfortable that I was tempted to go supine for a while.
fore you relax, please reconnoiter your new premises and report any inadequacies or changes you might want. You will, of course, be able to modify and decorate to an almost unlimited degree, but I do trust that the basic floor-plan and furnishings are satisfactory.”
I reluctantly got up again and walked over to the first opening I saw besides the entrance, which, by the way, was no longer evident. The pristine quality of Adam’s interior so impressed me that I decided it would be an insult to wear my shoes here, so I doffed them. I thought of my old comfortable slippers, stashed away in La Morena, and of all my other belongings.
“Adam, I’m going to have to return for my luggage, aren’t I?” I asked somewhat peevishly.
“Of course not, Daniel. You will find your luggage in the chamber that is two doors down to your right. I have chosen that to be your sleeping quarters, although you may change it if you desire.”
I entered the next chamber, realizing that the first was an anteroom. This one was much larger, but even so felt more personal and comfortable. I felt it was meant to be the living room. The ceiling dipped on two walls to just a few feet above several alcoves inset very cozily, and there were walls and a bar dividing one side from the other. It reminded me of several apartments I had seen in the medinas of Marrakech and Es’Souara during my roaming days in North Africa. I was looking forward to doing something with this space. I’d never owned my own home, and although this couldn’t qualify as ownership, I wasn’t paying rent!
On the left wall from where I entered, a short corridor led to several more portals, and opposite the entrance to this living area was another passage. With a glance, I knew that there lay my dining area. I went to the left and found the first room to be quite a bit smaller but also very cozy and inviting, as Spartan as it appeared.
“Guest room,” said Adam.
“Guest?” I muttered. That set the wheels turning. Guests? How far ahead can this guy see, and what does he see? I backed out and walked about 10 feet to the next opening and knew that this was the master bedroom. Though far from being appropriate, I knew that when others were aboard, I would at least seem to be the Host. If it was OK with the big guy, of course.
On the far side and to the left (there were no real corners anywhere) was a wide platform about three feet off the floor that I knew was my bed. Just like I love to do in furniture showrooms, I took a flying leap, twisted in mid-air and flopped on my back in the middle of it. It was more comfortable than I ever knew a mattress could be — I didn’t want to move! Suddenly, I began to feel the slightest vibration up and down my entire body, and it turned into about as much ecstasy as one could possibly expect from a bed unshared.
“What do you think of this, Daniel?” my living quarters asked me. “It can be adjusted in myriad ways. I believe you will enjoy experimenting with and discovering the possibilities. Are you satisfied so far?”
“Adam, I think you know me better than I ever could have imagined. You’ve done exceedingly well, and I find it all quite luxurious and comfortable. Thank you!” I meant it too. It was better than any hotel or palace I’d ever stayed in, mainly because it was mine. About then I was feeling pretty darned lucky. “Can you help me with the decoration?”
“Certainly, Daniel. But please, use the bathroom and return to make yourself comfortable. We must discuss much and there is little time.”
Did your landlord or roommate ever instinctively know when you needed to use the John? This was going to be an interesting relationship.
So now I launched into the grand tour of my new water closet. Evidently, Adam had compromised with this most basic of human requirements to make me feel as much at home as possible in an innovative sort of way. The sink was obviously a sink because it had a faucet, which was in fact a seamless protuberance from the wall, formed in much the same way as Adam’s handshake. The basin was the same. But I also noticed there was no drain, one of those features of a sink we take for granted and eventually find useful.
“Adam, there’s no drain in the sink,” I reported.
“There is no water in the sink, Daniel,” he replied.
“Let there be water, Adam,” I ordered. I’d just have to show him what I meant.
“What temperature would you prefer?”
“100° Fahrenheit, please.” At this, a stream of water fell from the faucet and the sink began to fill. The liquid reached the rim and the stream continued unabated but didn’t overflow. I stood there mesmerized. “Please explain what I am seeing, Adam. I don’t understand it at all.”
“You are seeing water entering the sink, Daniel. Is it not obvious?”
“Adam, what’s obvious to me is that I don’t see water leaving the sink. Why doesn’t it overflow? What wizardry is this?”
“tt should be quite obvious that the water is now leaving the sink at the same rate at which it enters, even though how it does so seems not to be apparent to you. It is being reabsorbed through the bottom surface at a rate that I can easily control. It requires an infinitesimal amount of my attention, Daniel. You may control it yourself simply by indicating how you wish it managed. All controls in this bathroom and indeed, wherever you may find yourself, are simply verbal. Your wish is my command!”
“Wise guy. Empty the sink, please. Turn off the flow.” He did as I requested and soon the basin was as dry as if it had never seen a drop.
The tub, a rather spacey one with adjustable contours, worked the same way. I didn’t see a shower but didn’t doubt I had one. Nothing like a good shower to start off another day in the infinite solitude of space, although that tub looked mighty intriguing. The toilet was much the same (no, not intriguing — but structurally), and I’ll leave the details of its functioning up to your own scatological imagination. I’ll just say it’s better than yours. More absorbent too.
“Adam, what happens to the waste? Do you send it into the nearest star? Or do you just jettison it into deep space and leave it floating around in the void forever?” If the latter happened to be the case, I thought it good that there were few of his kind around and that the galaxy is big.
“Of course not. Very little escapes me. All is reprocessed. Daniel, I don’t expect such questions from you.”
I couldn’t decide if it was impatience I heard in his tone or if he was trying to stifle laughter. I felt pretty dumb, in any case. “Sorry. Go ahead and laugh if you want. It’s all new to me, big guy. I’ll try to think things out a little further in the future.”
“I have never laughed. Would this be an appropriate time? Would it not hurt your feelings? Should it not be spontaneous? I am at a loss for laughter. Please advise me.”
I laughed. Perhaps not the most polite thing to do, but I couldn’t help it. “Adam, this is something we’ll have to work on. I wouldn’t mind if you laughed if you sensed the humor in the situation. In fact, I think it would be a good thing for both of us if you laughed with me and at me from time to time. Do you recognize the humor in our situation?”
“I’m trying, Daniel. My previous occupants had no idea what purpose humor or laughter served among humans. They were intensely interested in all your emotions but had gained little understanding of any of them. I share their ignorance, but if it would help our partnership I will do my best to understand. Please help me, if you would be so kind. We must leave that for the future, however, because your existence is seriously threatened at this moment.”
Some people know how to end a conversation. I said nothing for a few seconds. All I had been seeing for my future was a blissful existence of freedom, adventure and relaxation. I hadn’t figured on having my fantasy threatened so soon.
“Shortly before you returned, I received a hailing message from the companion crew of my ex-inhabitants. I have not been able to decide how to reply. I found it difficult to lie to them, but they would find the truth to be rather unpalatable. They have continued to call me. At this moment they are demanding an answer. I am afraid they are suspicious and very curious since they have never been ignored in the most minimal way. I am in contact with my sister, who serves as their vehicle, but it is a very compromising position for her as well. Her duty and allegiance are to them, but so far she has agreed to withhold the facts of my current situation. It is a novel occurrence for her, and I sense her intrigue. This situation must be handled very carefully, Daniel; she and I cannot harm each other. They will do their best to solve this mystery and are preparing to come aboard. If they do and they find you, you will have to handle it as you handled it before. They are not your friends, Daniel. If they think they cannot capture you with little effort they will attempt to kill you. They can do it.
“Up to this point, I have not engaged in any communication with them, and they are preparing to come across as soon as they are within the range of assured transport. They are coming now, Daniel! There are five. They are armed. One group of three has entered the control room where we first met. It is 153 meters from your present location. The other two are 78 meters on the other side of you. I am closing off the corridors. They now know that their comrades are not on board — they do not sense them. They do sense your presence, however. Please advise me!
“For Pete’s sake, Adam, kill them!” I rasped. “Certainly you can?” My gorge was rising, I had butterflies, my pulse was pounding; all of my senses seemed to be ultra-hot. I was as scared as I’d been anytime in the past week. No, it was worse. I did not want to deal with those guys again, especially when they were no doubt looking for me with a few pointed questions.
“I cannot bring myself to do that, Daniel. I lack the will to do it even though I understand the desirability from your viewpoint. I cannot do it, but I can help you. This is a predicament for me, please understand!”
“A predicament for YOU?! Adam, what do I do? How can I do this? I don’t want to be in the same space with them! I’m not a killer!”
“You have done it before, Daniel. Do you remember how you did it? It was your outburst of hatred, of anger. They cannot stand it. They are not capable of handling intensely negative human emotions; that is why they have found you so fascinating. At the same time they knew it was imperative they learn how to defend themselves from your emotions. You must again use your wrath against them. Focus it. And do it, they know where you are and will soon request to be transported here. As yet they do not sense their danger. They are …”
And they were. I peered around the corner into my living room, my whole body now shuddering uncontrollably. I saw the air quiver and knew this was it. My knees knew it too, as they began to buckle and I began to slide down the wall. Some space hero.
Adam never leaves a sentence incomplete. As the two forms coalesced in front of me, I almost felt ready to throw in the towel. These creatures were from my nightmares, and they inspired more dread than anything else I had ever experienced. Except those damn black widows inside my head.
Then it happened again. Thank God for the old fight-or-flight syndrome. My back was literally to the wall, and the ceiling was low so flight was out of the question. I had to fight. This was no conscious decision on my part, you must understand; nature simply took over. My fear became rage. I began to go berserk. The two finally became completely solid in front of me. They had invaded my space. Both raised their arms and pointed at me with those silver wands I already knew about. I completed going berserk. I reared up to my full 5’10”, brought my fists up and charged, screaming “Arghhhhh!!!!” all the way. In what must have been less than a second I collided with them, my fists and feet flailing like a madman. And after about two very long seconds I had to stop; it dawned upon me that I was hitting air and nothing else.
It had worked again! They were crumpled up below me, extremely discolored in the spots where I had connected. I was panting and about ready to puke again. I backed off toward the hallway, surveying the carnage. If word of this behavior ever got out, my reputation as “Daniel of Earth, Mauler of Geeks,” would be secure.
I backed all the way into the bathroom and puked in the sink. “Cold water, Adam, please!” Out it came, diluting my vomit into a thin soup, which the sink finally absorbed. I drank water and washed out my mouth. I splashed it in my face. “Adam, recycle them please. I really don’t want to see them again.”
“They are gone, Daniel. You are victorious. There still remain three others, however they are unconscious. We now have a minimum range for your emotional energy: 155 meters. It is certainly deadly up to 2 meters. The two were dead before you made physical contact.”
Three still alive! What was I going to do with them? Kill them in cold blood while they were unconscious? “Adam, this is a dilemma. How long do you think they will be out?” I asked.
“They are quite unconscious, Daniel. I can revive them if you wish.”
“I thought not.”
“Take me to them. No, let me walk to them; guide me. I’ve got to get myself together first. How physically strong are they?”
“They compare poorly with you Earthly barbarians, Daniel,” he answered. For a guy that can’t laugh, he sure has a funny way of putting things. “They have little use for physical strength and have spent their entire lives in space. Their physical labors are performed by machines and other beings.”
“If I tied them up, could they hurt me in other ways? Like telepathy or something?” I asked.
“Immobilized and without their instruments, they are quite harmless.”
I was talking while walking out the front door into the corridor that Adam had provided me. I was feeling rather exhilarated, having just emerged on the right side from my second massacre. “Are they still asleep, Adam? Prepare me some shackles or cords or something to tie them up with. Please remove their weapons too. Are they still asleep?”
“Yes. Their breathing and other vital signs are very reduced but stable. I estimate you have five minutes.”
“I’d better hurry then,” I said as I started jogging down the white tube. Could I kill them in cold blood?
After three of those five minutes, the corridor opened up into the room that just a few days ago had been my introduction to the wonderful world of space. Just like the other time I was in this room, there were bodies on the floor. On the table where I had realized my first slaughter were long lengths of what looked to be nylon cords. “Adam, can you make me some gloves, please?” I didn’t like the way these guys felt.
“Of course. What are you going to do?”
“First, I’m going to hog-tie them. After that, I don’t know. Look at them all asleep. Aren’t they precious?” He didn’t answer me; Adam was beginning to recognize rhetorical questions.
I dragged each one over to the longest wall, put them face down, bent their knees back, tied their feet and hands together and then connected a cord around their feet to their necks with a loose but sure noose. If they even tried to straighten out their legs they would soon discover their necks being throttled. After that, I sat them up on their knees, and leaned them back on their feet against the wall. They were flimsy things, but even with such close contact I hadn’t yet grown to love them for their vulnerability. Loath is more the word.
I sat on the edge of the same table in the middle of the room where I had begun this adventure and peered at my handy work. I was in control and they would soon know it. Pity they didn’t feel the fear that they had caused me and many other humans. I remember wishing that every human whom these guys had ever touched could be there for this. Their impersonal coldness and alienness was daunting and frightening. These were my enemies. These were our enemies and I needed to know more about them. Could I dispose of them as easily as they could me, with as little conscience?
“Adam, I think it’s time we discussed the true nature of these vermin. Would you go through my belongings and fetch me my .45 please?” At some time in my life my gun had replaced my Teddy as a security object.
“Of course, Daniel. Which one?”
“The Series 70, please. How long until they revive? Are you sure I’m safe?”
“You are safe, Daniel. By the way, congratulations on your continued survival. I would have felt disappointment at the early demise of our partnership. I suggest we begin the enhancement of your survival abilities soon. There is much I can do for you and teach you. Space is a dangerous environment, particularly for the novice, and you will need to know much more than you do now if we are to venture forth.”
“I look forward to it, Adam.” As I spoke, I heard a “psssssss” and next to me the table opened up and my beloved Government Model rose to the surface. I checked the magazine — it was full. I checked the chamber — also full. Cocked and locked, Condition Three. Now I felt better. “Adam, if I had to fire this, would it damage or hurt you?”
“No, Daniel. I am completely capable of absorbing those small pellets with no damage or pain. We must see about improving your battle accoutrements. Do not hesitate to fire.”
“Thank you, but I don’t really want to.” That was when I discovered that I could indulge my enthusiasm for firearms with Adam — he could build me a range! “Adam, can these guys understand me if I talk to them? Can I understand them?”
“They can understand you, Daniel, but they will not talk to you. It is more likely they will converse with me. They will be very perplexed by their situation; they are not accustomed to such treatment, especially by humans. I look forward to this conversation. They will attempt to command me, Daniel. I believe I can withstand their efforts.”
“Hey, you’d better, partner” The possibility of Adam being bent to their will didn’t tickle me much. “Tell me the minute they try anything funny, OK?”
“Do not fear; I shall not fail you.” I hoped not.
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