by C.E. Gee
“Coffee?” asked the servingbot.
“Please,” replied Neil.
After breakfast Neil strolled across the parking lot to the motel.
There weren’t many motels in the town of John Day. Neil figured this
motel was probably as good as any.
Neil entered the motel, walked to the counter. Addressing the clerkbot,
Neil said, “I’d like a room.”
“Certainly,” replied the clerkbot. “Will you be staying long?”
“Not sure,” replied Neil. “If I’m here over a weekend I’ll probably go
on home for a bit. I’ll need to keep my gear in my room though. I
assume that’s permissible?”
The clerkbot said, “Of course. However, we’ll need a deposit. Please
present your iCard.” The clerkbot grabbed a scanner off the counter.
Neil asked, “Will you take a purchase order from my company?”
“It needs to be approved by our manager,” answered the clerkbot as it
placed the scanner back on the counter.
Neil heard a chime sound in the room behind the counter. A middle-aged
woman walked out.
The clerkbot said, “Our guest needs approval for a purchase order.”
The woman grabbed the scanner, pointed it at Neil. She asked, “The
purchase order is on your iCard?”
Neil held aloft his iCard, said, “Fire away.”
The manager scanned the card, said, “It’ll take a coupla minutes for my
secretarybot to access your references and such. You’re in town on
Neil replied, “I’m a geologist. I’ve been contracted by the Solarian
Bureau of Land Management to analyze the rock formations out at the
fossil beds to see if there’s any danger of collapse of the cliff or
bluff faces. Also, I’ve got the latest in downward looking radar and
other such gear, so the Solarian Bureau of Land Management also wants
me to look for buried fossils. Paleontologists have pretty much cleaned
out the obvious ones and Paleontologists are usually not as technically
adept or familiar with geology as someone like me.”
The clerkbot, connected to the secretarybot via the motel’s botnet,
announced to the manager, “Our guest’s purchase order is okay. Our
guest’s last purchase order was presented on Mars.”
“Really?” said the manager while turning to face Neil.” “I’ve always
wanted to vacation on Mars. I’m curious. What were you doing on Mars?”
“Well,” answered Neil, “you’ve heard on the news about that collapsed
cavern in an extinct volcano on Mars where the metal plate with Norse
writing and the dead Viking were found?”
Neil could not hide his smug smile. He said, “I was the geologist the
Solarian Guard contracted with to figure out how to investigate the
part of the tunnel behind the rubble of the collapsed section.”
After some polite conversation with the manager, Neil went out his
rental car. The car recognized him approaching, opened the passenger
door. “Take me to the fossil beds,” ordered Neil.”
The car asked, “Which unit?”
There were few other vehicles in the Painted Hills parking lot.
Neil told the car to open its trunk. Neil went to the trunk, looked at
all his gear, figured his field gauge boson detector was not suitable
given the time it took to resolve images using natural sources for the
Neil grabbed the ground penetrating radar unit, his backpack and
canteen. He spoke to the car via the trunk’s audio transducer. “After
you close the trunk lid, button up. Put yourself at the highest level
of security. If you have any trouble call my cell. When you see me
approach, open the trunk.”
Neil began hiking up Leaf Hill Trail. He figured he’d climb to the end
of the trail, then search for fossils and assess the bluff and cliff
faces on the way back, making circular searches off to the sides of the
trail until he tired.
The ground penetrating radar unit was the newest model, was relatively
light. Unfortunately for Neil, his recent trip to Mars had weakened
him. The planet’s low gravity had atrophied his muscles noticeably.
By the time Neil reached the end of the trail he was gasping for air,
needed a break.
Neil sat on a large rock, took sips of water. It was several minutes
before Neil felt rested enough to go to work.
He deployed the ground searching radar, slowly walked off the trail
toward the face of a nearby bluff.
The John Day Fossil Bed was aptly named. The ground searching radar
resolved a fossil within a short time.
Neil pulled his phone from a thigh pocket. Using the phone’s map
feature he expanded its image of the area, then marked to location of
the fossil, uploaded the image of it from the radar unit, which Neil
then referenced it to the map location.
Neil worked his way to the base of the nearest bluff, finding more
fossils. He carefully studied the bluff for his report. He then started
back to the trail. At the trail Neil took a moment to transmit his
findings to his office computer for a backup in case something happened
to his phone.
After another sip of water, Neil made a loop in the opposite direction,
found more fossils.
After a few rewarding searches in both directions off the trail that
Neil found something unusual.Near the base of the nearby bluff, Neil’s
ground penetrating radar resolved a buried body.
The body was in the fetal position, had not yet rotted away into a
skeleton. The body was small. Neil figured it had been a child.
Neil put down the radar, his backpack and canteen.
Neil had a friend who had served his mandatory public service to the
masses by joining the Solarian Guard. This friend had once stolen an
entrenching tool from an Air Force transport, eventually gave the
entrenching tool to Neil.
Neil pulled the entrenching tool out of his backpack, started digging.
After uncovering the body, Neil saw it was completely clothed in a
silver-colored jumpsuit. The jumpsuit had an attached hood, gloves and
boots. Oddly enough, the gloves each had only three fingers.
The three fingers were a giveaway. Neil immediately realized he was
dealing with an off-worlder body, though he didn’t know from which
Neil pulled the body from the grave, laid the body on its back. Neil
knelt down, stared into the body’s eyes, realized the eyes were large
and oddly shaped lenses. Neil bent down even closer, stared into one
lens, saw a skull.
There was no zipper or buttons or a seam on the front of the jumpsuit.
Neil rolled the body over to access the jumpsuit’s backside. Neil saw
From one of his pockets, Neil pulled out a Swiss Army knife. Using the
knife, Neil attempted to cut his way into the body’s jumpsuit. The
blade could not penetrate the fabric.
Neil sat back on his heels, pondered a moment. He realized the next
steps would be either use a laser to slice through the fabric, or use a
lab quality boson detector that had its own boson source to peer
through the fabric.
In his office Neil had a powerful laser used for cutting open rocks,
also a gauge boson detector that was far superior and faster in
resolving images than his field unit since it had its own boson emitter.
After strapping on his backpack and canteen, Neil slung the body over
one shoulder, picked up the radar unit. Neil began walking down the
trail toward the packing lot.
As Neil neared the parking lot, looking down the slope he saw a couple
at the trunk of their car, which was parked very near Neil’s.
Neil was in a hurry, didn’t want to wait for the couple to walk off, so
he folded the legs and arms in against the body so it looked like
Neil then casually strode down to his car. As he passed by the couple
the man said, “Howdy.”
Neil jauntily replied, “Good day.”
As previously ordered, the car opened the trunk. When Neil placed the
body in the trunk the arms and legs unfolded.
Neil didn’t look at the couple, thinking that his looking would be a
Neil told the car to take him home without stopping at the motel. The
car asked for Neil’s home address, then started off.
Hours later, at his house, which also held his office and lab, Neil
hauled the body into the lab, placed it on a table.
While was deploying his phase boson detector Neil heard a noise from
outside. Neil went to the window, saw a triangular aircraft –- the type
that flew by using strong cryogenically cooled electromagnets to
repulse against the Earth’s magnetic lines of force.
The craft landed on the lawn. Two men dressed in black jumpsuits and
with holstered pistols emerged, walked to Neil’s front door.
Neil’s housebot was standing in one corner of his lab. The housebot,
which was connected to the home’s botnet, announced “The security
system has detected two people approaching! Now they’re standing on the
As he left the room, Neil commanded the housebot, “Make sure the
security system is recording.”
Neil went to the front door, opened it.
One of the men asked, “I assume you’re Neil the geologist?”
The man said, “This is formal notification that you are in violation of
“You are accused of a misdemeanor. You have stolen governmental
property from BLM land.” At trial you will likely receive the
punishment of paying a fine.”
“You are also accused of possessing the body of an off-worlder. The
body may possess substantial historical value. At trial you will likely
receive the punishment of imprisonment.”
“Because of your skills as a geologist, I suspect you’ll be sent to a
labor camp on or near one of the outer planets. Be aware that few
humans ever return from those camps.”
The man, who had a stern expression, shifted to a smile. Neil was
amused at the man’s difficulty in smiling.
The man then said, “You are being recorded by our cams. If you
peacefully hand over the alien and if you tell me you’ll not mention
this incident to anyone or anything, I’ll recommend leniency to the
prosecutor. You will be free to go until notification from the
prosecutor. Of course, your movements will be monitored.”
“I will comply with your orders,” replied Neil. “Follow me.”
Neil took the agents to his lab, handed over the alien’s body. The
Neil went to the window, watched the agents enter their craft. The
aircraft lifted off, flew to the North.
Neil was shaking, needed to calm himself. He went to the media room,
grabbed a Martian beer from the cooler. After plopping down on his
favorite chair, Neil switched on the 3-D array, tuned it to a news
Nearly an hour passed before Neil felt like going back to work. He went
to the lab, stored the gauge boson detector.
Neil then heard a familiar noise from outside. Kathy, his neighbor to
the East, had her mowerbot outside, trimming her front lawn. Kathy
herself was outside too, watering flower beds.
Neil ordered his housebot to mop the lab, then went outside to talk to
As Neil approached, Kathy exclaimed, “Neil, haven’t talked to you since
you got back from Mars!”
Her eyes were bright, her smile was warm and genuine. She shut off,
then dropped, the hose.
“Been busy,” said Neil. “Took a BLM contract to survey the John Day
Fossil Beds. Probably going to take me another week, maybe two.”
Kathy looked downward as if eyeing her lawn. Kathy, who lived alone,
asked, her voice trembling slightly, “Maybe you’d like to have dinner
at my place? My housebot just uploaded the latest cooking program.”
“I’ll one-up you” replied Neil. “There’s a hotel at the amusement park
on the moon. It belongs to the same chain as the hotel I booked on
Mars. They have free breakfasts, an in-house lounge. Wanna go?”
Kathy couldn’t look at Neil, shifting her gaze slightly downward and to
her left. She bit her lower lip for a moment as if pondering the
She then flushed deep red as she replied, “Sure. I think I’d like that.”
“Great,” said Neil. “I’ll call you before leaving John Day.”
Kathy nodded, then said, “I was at my kitchen window when I saw your
visitors arrive. I was in the garage when I heard them take off.”
“Yeah,” said Neil. He then lied, ”They needed to take my rock samples
to their lab right away. We geologists, we have a saying. It takes many
forms, but my favorite is ‘every rock has its story.’”
“Well, I gotta get back to work,” announced Neil.
Neil was sensitive enough to know the moment was right. He took a step
forward, kissed Kathy on the cheek, stepped back.
Kathy’s knees buckled to the point to where she half-stooped. She
clasped both hands over her mouth as she giggled. She then stood
straight, said, “Oh Neil, you’re so naughty.”
Neil replied, “I’ll take that as a complement. Besides, I feel it’s
time for us to get something straight between us.”
Kathy raised her right hand, made the “V” sign as she said, “Go in
piece Neil.” Kathy again giggled.
Amused, Neil said, “See you.” He went back his house.
From the front porch, Neil heard Kathy singing to herself. Neil turned,
saw Kathy joyfully dancing from flower bed to flower bed, watering each
Neil smiled as he watched.
Neil gave his housebot its instructions, packed clean clothing.
In the garage Neil said to the car, “Let’s go back to the motel.”
On the freeway Neil napped most of the way.
Much later, at the Arlington, Oregon exit, the car took the access
road, headed toward John Day. The road had numerous curves. The car
swaying on the curves woke Neil. His phone beeped.
Neil answered. The Solarian agent who had seized the alien appeared on
the phone’s screen. Without preliminary greeting the agent said, “Well
Neil, you’re off the hook. I explained your situation to our
prosecutor. She said that because of your sterling service on Mars, and
because you are currently under contract to the BLM, she’s not going to
Neil felt as if a great weight had been lifted off his shoulders. He
said, “Many thanks.”
The agent replied with, “Keep your nose clean, we’ll be monitoring your
actions. And for your information, the alien had its skull crushed from
behind. Probably from an Aboriginal American war club.”
Neil replied, “I understand. Namaste.”
“Namaste,” said the agent before logging off.
Neil completed his contract in less than two weeks.
After uploading his findings to a BLM clerkbot, the agencies’ clerkbot
said, “Data looks good. You may expect our payment within 90 days.”
Neil loaded his gear into the car, called Kathy to let her know he was
on his way. He then checked out, headed to the tube station in the
little town of Arlington, Oregon.
Neil was relatively well off financially, was able to afford a long stay on the moon.
After returning to Earth, Kathy moved in with Neil, and rented her house to her sister.
© 2017 C.E. Gee
Bio: Born near the peak of the post World War II baby
boom (1947), C.E. "Chuck" Gee misspent his youth at various backwater
locales within the states of Oregon and Alaska.
During adulthood Chuck answered many callings, including that of
logger, factory worker, infantryman (Vietnam war draftee),
telecommunications technician, volunteer fireman and EMT, light show
roadie, businessperson, sysop (commercial BBS), webmaster.
Retired from the telecommunications/electronics industries and also a
disabled veteran, Chuck now writes Science Fiction.
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