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fiction humor Science Fiction short 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…

Copyright 2021 by David Gittlin. All rights reserved.

Categories
fiction Science Fiction short stories

The Silver Sphere Part 3


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

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

“How do you expect to get us to New York quickly?” I asked Arcon, and then immediately regretted it. I expected another irritated rebuke for wasting his time. There is no way a super-intelligent AI from the other side of the galaxy would not have a solid plan for the journey. I braced myself for Arcon’s withering response.

Arcon made humming and clicking noises, as if my question amused him. “Well, since I can’t fly or beam, I suppose we’ll have go the old fashioned way. We’ll take your car.

“Let me get this straight. You want me to drive you over a thousand miles to New York City in my ancient Mazda Miata with 120,000 miles already under its belt?

Arcon made crackling sounds. I imagined the noise was his latest way of communicating his impatience with me. “It beats taking the bus, don’t you think?”

“The odds are less than fifty-fifty my car can make the trip without having a coronary thrombosis.”

“Give me an hour alone with it in the garage, and I’ll have her as good as new.”

Shades of the movie “Christine” flickered inside my head. I saw my car reconstituting itself like the 1958 Plymouth Fury did after it was destroyed by a gang of bullies. I remembered the movie’s tagline: “Body by Plymouth–Soul by Satan.” I strongly suspected I was in some kind of elaborate nightmare. Perhaps this was my subconscious proving it.

1958 Plymouth Fury from the Movie Christine. James Cameron, Stephen King.

We were sitting at a chrome and glass table in an alcove of my friend Jeffrey’s ultra modern kitchen. Being a silver sphere about the size of a bizzarely sculpted basketball, Arcon fit right in with the decor.

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

I rose abruptly from the table. “Excuse me, I need a beer.” I was beginning to crack under the pressure of the situation. If what Arcon told me a few minutes earlier was true, the Earth had less than seventy-two hours before a giant pulsar from a distant supernova fried the planet into a crispy ember. Unless, of course, Arcon and me managed to do something about it.

Neutron Star Explosion

After removing an Amstel Light from Jeffrey’s built-in stainless steel refrigerator, I rejoined Arcon at the kitchen table. I was grateful that Arcon had sagely decided to reveal his plan and my role in it one step at a time. I was having enough trouble wrapping my head around step one.

“So, we drive to New York in my resurrected Miata, and then I somehow smuggle you to the top of the One world Trade Center building. Does that about sum it up?”

“You won’t have to smuggle me. I know how we can get past security.”

“Somehow I don’t feel relieved.”

“You should feel relieved” Arcon reminded me with his typical lack of diplomacy. I’ll disguise myself as a gorgeous 19th century Art-Deco vase. You’ll carry me into the building in a reinforced shopping bag. When you open the bag, the guards will be astonished by my beauty and originality and ask silly questions. I assume they’ll ask you why you came. You’ll tell them you’re a tourist heading for the top floor observatory to meet your girlfriend and give her the lovely heirloom I’m posing as.”

“You make it sound simple.”

“It will be. Even for you.”

Another question presented itself. Risking another reprisal, I asked: “If you made it from the other side of the galaxy to a beach in Florida, why can’t you project yourself from here to the top of the World Trade Center?”

Man Walking On A Moonlit Beach

Arcon answered telepathically, as he always did, in my native language: Serbian. All of our conversations were held in my native dialect to reduce the odds of eavesdroppers comprehending my end of our top secret discussions.

Arcon must have concluded that I needed to hear a nonabusive answer to my query to gain my trust and commitment. To my surprise, he replied to my question calmly.

“The mother-ship dropped me five thousand feet above the ocean. I’m able to navigate and land safely in free-fall, but I can’t propel myself, as I’ve mentioned. It’s a trade-off, Joseph. I don’t have room onboard for brains and propulsion.”

“So how will you get back to your ship?”

“I won’t. I’ll remain here on Earth, if there is an Earth left.”

The Mother Ship Dropped The Alien 5,000 Feet above the East Coast of Florida

I wondered briefly if that meant Arcon had more adventures in store for me, if we survived. Then, I remembered my latest novel and its sad status as distressingly past due. I imagined my editor calling to announce that she had finally lost patience with me and the book was cancelled.

Arcon seemed to sense my utter despair. “Why don’t you join me in the garage and watch me bring your old car back to life. Does she have a name?”

“Mathilde. She reminds me of a French woman I once knew with sunrise golden hair and intense blue eyes. I still have one of her paintings.”

The Artist With Spun Golden Hair and Intense Blue Eyes

“Then come along, Joseph. Let’s breathe new life into your lost love. I’m confident it will make you feel better.

To Be Continued…

Copyright 2021 by David Gittlin. All rights reserved.