"Really now, Mrs. Jefferies, you can't expect me to scramble a swat team to verify your failing vision," remarked young Bill Ebinson. "This makes three times this week that you and I have had this conversation. What makes you think that I'd react any differently this time? Our swat guys are busy fighting bank robbers, terrorist sniping kooks, and other assorted bad guys brandishing weapons slinging real bullets. You can't really expect us abandon all that fun and speed over to your place to corner something that 'was just there a moment ago!'"
"I know what I saw!" snapped Mrs. Jefferies. "If your people would do more than snicker at a crazy old lady for more than 10 minutes. they might see it too! Mark my words young man, just because you can't see it doesn't mean it isn't there!"
Mrs. Jefferies didn't know what to do next, so she sat down at her kitchen table and waited for tonight's show. Sure enough events now too familiar unfolded before her still unbelieving eyes. Her favorite cake knife left its wall hanging and floated across the room. The wayward utensil flew straight over to begin slicing her freshly-baked chocolate cake. At least this gremlin knew a good cake when he tasted one. It seemed to be especially fond of chocolate..
Each piece of the sliced cake hung there in mid-air, and then emitted a bright blue-white glow. Each piece disappeared, leaving the shadow of what she could have sworn was a man. "I see your outline, gremlin. Now just what the heck are you? I may be a crazy old lady, but I'm not blind or afraid of you.!'
The hazy outline of a satisfied humanoid gained shape and substance before Mrs. Jefferies' stunned eyes. "I knew you were real!" she exclaimed. "Now who, or what are you and what do you want from me, besides more chocolate cake?"
"I came to you for help, help of a most urgent kind," the figure replied. "You were the only person in my weakening telepathic scan range whom I could trust. Are you ready for an incredible story from a very hungry alien?"
"I'll get you some pot roast if you can digest that, and you promise not to vanish again," said the relieved yet dazzled lady. "Just what can I do to save having to make another cake for my church bake sale?"
"I'm sorry about that but that's the first real food I've had for three days. Might also say how calmly you're taking all this. I know it''s not every day that an alien materializes in your kitchen."
"Hell, I'm just glad you're not a figment due to my blood pressure medication'" said Martha. "I've seen enough of you alien types on TV to be more curious than afraid. Now what's this all about? Why me ? What's this all about?" questioned flustered Martha.
"Well, that and your ear flaps that make you look a little like a Cocker Spaniel make it hard to look at you too seriously," admitted Martha. "Do go ahead with your story. I'm convinced that you won't hurt me or you would have used that cake knife by now."
"I represent a world you don't know, in a part of the Milky Way that your race has merely glimpsed, near the center of the galaxy. It has come to our attention that the country you know as the United States has put an orbital ABM/ICBM package in polar orbit around your world. Not to be out- gunned, China, North Korea and remnants of the Soviet space program have joined forces to launch an orbital platform of their own with matching weaponry. Evidently the American plans were available for sale on world espionage markets. Now a space-based balance of nuclear power exists that every one swears doesn't exist. And it was only yesterday that everyone was agreeing to keep nukes out of space. Who's writing this script anyway?" The alien's voice tailed off in a cloud of frustration.,but he finished his pot roast.
"So now our race has to worry about an eventual space-based attack from earth. It's a good thing that you don't know our home system yet," finished Martha's uninvited guest.
"Well, if you're home world is so far away, you probably have years before we can even make the trip, much less attack you,"replied Martha.
"Your science is much closer to achieving warp drive to cross the interstellar void than you and the average citizen knows. Your scientists are more advanced than you know,"he said.. "You don't understand," he answered. "I was sent here by the Council of Elders to nip this thing in the bud. That"s why I need your help now. You still work at the Government Research on Anti-Ballistic Missile Project don't you?"
"I don't believe you told me your name,"said Martha.
"Call me Rupert. My real name is not important," stated the alien flatly.
"What's my custodian gig at GRAB-M got to do with this?" asked the now serious Martha.
"I need an insider, someone to scan some critical docs for me. Specifically that would be the first five pages of Dr. Batson's notebook comprising the platform schematics."
"You don't want much do you?" said Martha, "Don't you know that kind of espionage is a capital offence?" "I'm the only person you know that can disable those platforms, and you're the only person that I know that can get me the knowledge I need to stop a potential nuclear war, The U.S. has a test planned early next week to land and explode a low level nuclear device in a barren region of Siberia. The Asians plan to follow up with a package aimed at the desolate southwestern U.S. This whole thing could easily escalate into a real shooting war. Now do you see why I'm so concerned ?" The platforms are designed to have the two ABMs run interference for the ICBM nuke Thus there is a good chance of the weapons reaching their targets. It's my job to make sure that they don't."
"What would I have to do? I don't want to see my world in flames any more than you do," said Martha.
The next evening as she departed for work she was running a mental checklist of the plan. She had only the vaguest idea about how Rupert would carry out his final phase of nullifying the platforms but she trusted his conviction somehow. Imagine being a spy at my age, and for an alien at that thought Martha. At least she had settled her inner doubts. This wasn't an act of sabotage. But adversaries already possessed the knowledge that signaled the danger. She had chosen to help Rupert simply because she believe him, and she knew the ways of the world governments seeking power.
Martha walked confidently through the security checkpoint. Rupert had assured her that the device and gloves he had given her couldn't activate any alarms. The tiny scanner he gave Martha was an alloy of plastic, ceramics, and glass,. He said it was a plasmic scanner and it would take the pictures he needed . The gloves would prevent any fingerprints on the file cabinet she needed to access. She wondered how Rupert would get around the signal on the main security panel that would flash when she keyed the lab window open.
Dr. Batson's lab was deserted, as was his office. Martha eyed the clock to see that it was 715 PM, fifteen minutes before Barney made his nightly stop on his early security rounds, -plenty of time for her picture mission. She pulled the scanner out of her tote bag and placed it on the side of Dr. Batson's main filing cabinet. She then commanded it with a single word. "Open," she directed the alien device. The digital tumblers whirled and stopped at 6-6-6. With a pronounced snap, the drawer opened to reveal a single red notebook, the object of her search. What a strange sense of humor Dr. Batson must have to use that combination!" thought Martha.. She donned her gloves and quickly opened the red book to page one, the first platform schematic. "SCAN ONE.," said Martha. The scanner clicked on her vocal command and recorded a perfect image of the page. She deftly turned the page and repeated the process for pages two through five. She again placed the scanner against the file cabinet, closed the drawer after replacing the notebook and voiced"LOCK".
Next stop was the main lab sink Still wearing her gloves, she said "SCENT and pointed the scanner into the main drain. The unit unleashed a thin stream of a noxious smelling compound. She moved quickly to the window, keyed it and opened it wide. She yelled "FETCH , RUPERT! and threw the scanner toward the pale blue glow that marked Rupert's form.
"Very funny," came back the voice of the invisible Rupert. You'll be having company as soon as Barney sees the light indicating that open window."
"I know my lines." said Martha. "By the way, here's a parting gift for you." She tossed him a rectangular package wrapped in aluminum foil. .He jammed both items into his coat pocket He watched them disappear into his invisibility field, then beelined it to the front security gate where he got ready to ease out when first car came in. He could hardly wait to get back aboard ship and see the pictures.
Meanwhile, back in the lab, Barney came cruising in. 'Whew! What's That smell?!!" exclaimed Barney.
"Beats me," said Martha."I was wiping up the powder spilled near the sink when I noticed that the sink was draining slowly. I put some drain cleaner in it and it spewed forth this vile odor."
"Dr, Batson warned me that we might get bad odors out of that sink,"stated Barney."One of his guys ran experiments yesterday using mercaptoethanol. Evidently the stuff smells like burning hair. I see why you opened a window," said Barney.
"That stuff nearly choked me! You'd think someone would have warned me." said Martha. Rupert's telepathy was dead on. Now she had the reason she had needed to unlock and open the lab window.
"We'll just shut this now and relock it,"said Barney. 'The system can clear the air now. .Why don't you work in another area for awhile,"suggested Barney.
"Sounds good to me" said Martha tossing her used rag and gloves into her basket. As soon as they hit the basket the gloves dissolved into thin air
Meanwhile Rupert had made it back to his ship and was busily feeding the scanner photos into the computer. "Computer launch ship and match platform orbits," voiced Ruper. "Activate `Z cloaking on all frequencies except my space suit" He thought he'd best put some serious space between himself and ground radar as soon as possible :"How's. the photo scan coming?" he asked. Computer replied INITIAL SCAN COMPLETE. BOTH SETS OF ABMS RESPONSIVE TO MY CONTROL. AMERICAN ICBM CONTROL ESTABLISHED. ASIAN ELECTRONIC SIGNAL BLOCKAGE TRACED TO TWO POSSIBILITIES. ONE INTERRUPT SIGNAL BLOCKAGE. THE OTHER HAS A 55% PROBABILITY OF ACTIVATING SELF DESTRUCTION OF WARHEAD. SUGGEST EVA TO CUT APPROPRIATE WIRE. "Great. So now I get to guess which lucky wire doesn't blow me to smithereens," stated Rupert flatly..
THERE IS STILL A SMALL CHANCE OF YOU GUESSING CORRECTLY.
"Great. Put that on my grave marker 'He almost guessed correctly.'", grinned Rupert." Prep exit locker for space departure." Rupert donned his space suit and prepared to go EVA. " Wait for my command to launch all platform components" he told the computer as he clamped his helmet on tightly. "Nowhere to go but out," whispered Rupert to himself.. He leaped from the open airlock toward the towering Asian booster. Hitting his suit jets only once he slowed his approach and locked on to the nose cone via his magnetic boots. Then he used his combination light/screwdriver to remove the outer plate .Yeah , the wiring looks just like the schematic except for that one red and one blue wire he thought. "Computer , launch all weapons on my command. Use my calculated trajectories for the ABMs. Use the solar pathways for the ICBMs,"ordered Rupert. Now for my best guess he thought. Red or blue, what to do? he thought. No use wasting any more time on this. "Computer, launch all weapons," said Rupert as he clipped the red wire. The enormous booster beneath him roared to life showing him that he had guessed correctly and that the massive rocket had accepted the computer's command to launch.. The force threw Rupert tumbling away.
The two American ABMs arced upwards as did the Asian pair The four missiles intercepted each other just as Rupert had planned! The two remaining ICBMs were his main concern now-well that and using his suit jets to stop his dizzying spin.. "Computer, establish navigation control for both ICBMs. Lock trajectories into the sun." This will either melt the warheads or activate their relatively small explosions in the face of the sun thought Rupert. Now I have to get back to my ship before my breathing air runs out.
Rupert fired his suit jets, aiming directly at the small dot that was his ship on his scanner.. The dot grew larger and finally became his ship. He scrambled down its side to the air lock door. There he hurriedly punched in the entrance code, a series of primes (1,2,3,5,7) and plunged into the air lock "Computer, pressurize air lock and close outer doors." He hurriedly ripped off his helmet and drew in his first good breath that he had wished for about two minutes ago. Rupert just stood there breathing for a minute or so. The computer finally announced ATMOSPHERE NORMAL so Rupert opened the control room door and collapsed into his command chair WELCOME BACK , LUCKY chimed the computer. MISSILE TRAJECTORIES ALTERED TO SOLAR TARGET
"Send this message to all concerned parties and send one copy to Martha Jefferies's e-mail," said Rupert. GREETINGS EARTH WARRIORS. IT WAS ME WHO DESTROYED YOUR SPACE WEAPONS. I REPRESENT A UNION OF 50 PLUS WORLDS CALLED THE COUNCIL OF ELDERS. OUR UNION HAS A ZERO TOLERANCE FOR WAR.
WE ESTIMATE THAT YOU WILL ACHIEVE FTL CAPABILITY IN ABOUT 50 YEARS. THEREFORE YOU HAVE 50 YEARS TO SETTLE ALL YOUR PETTY WARS AND GET PREPARED TO GREET US AS A UNIFIED, PEACEFUL WORLD OR ALTERNATIVELY FACE OBLITERATION AS A WORLD WAGING WAR. THE CHOICE IS YOURS. THIS IS NOT AN IDLE THREAT CHOOSE WISELY AND LIVE. Martha read her e-mail. Who would have thought that chocolate cake could have such an impact on world peace thought Martha.
Back on ship, Rupert commanded "computer take us to the edge of this solar system. Then activate FTL drive, target home." About then Rupert spotted the aluminum package that Martha had given him. He unwrapped it to discover a message on a napkin "I KNEW YOU COULD DO IT! Beneath the napkin was a piece of chocolate cake.
Bob is a retired Organic Environmental Chemist and Professional Musician living inn Graniteville, South Carolina. He still enjoys all media presentations of sci-fi and is working on a CD of Sci-Fi Blues tunes for distribution later this year. Bob previously appeared in Aphelion with: The Last Day Home (August 1999) and again in March 2003 Triad 2017
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