Aphelion Issue 287, Volume 27
September 2023
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Pixie and MD

by George Schaade/span>

War is a gruesome, terrifying nightmare. Destruction, violence, and death create a mindset of fear, anxiety, and despair. Two hundred years of war is two hundred times worse. It can instill a horror that runs deep whether you’re a human or a supernatural. During that frightful time one side used nuclear bombs, laser beams, biological agents, and stealth jets. The other side countered with spell casting, hexing, astral projection, and matter manipulation. Yet despite all the death and chaos, neither side could prevail. Though the terror was strong and true, over the centuries the resentment eventually wore thin. So when a common foe appeared the scientists and the Sorceress set aside their animosity and reluctantly worked together.

“It was the largest conclave of pixies in modern times,” said the pixie. “There must have been twenty thousand that showed up. The ringfort was packed. Every clan across the Isles was represented. Believe me, no one wanted to miss this. It had been almost a hundred years since the Sorceress had met with pixies, so we all knew it had to be something really important.”

Suddenly the pixie realized that she had been talking too much. But when she stopped talking she began twisting nervously in the chair which was made for a normal size human not a two-foot tall pixie. The contrast in size only brought more attention to the fact that a supernatural was sitting at a table in the heart of a human lab facility.

The technicians and lab personnel walking along the concourse were giving her curious and suspicious looks; some were even pointing and whispering. Of course, humans were quite familiar with all sorts of supernaturals like trolls, elves, ogres, witches, fairies, goblins, mermaids, and orcs, but to see one in the midst of a human testing site was unheard of, until now. During the war years the scientists of mankind had mustered all of their talents into killing supernaturals, so to see a pixie casually sitting in the lobby of one of their most secure research facilities wasn’t just surprising it was quite disturbing.

The pixie was acutely aware of this hostility and that added to her anxiety. She pulled at the hem of her short, green dress and pushed tufts of brown hair behind her pointed ears. She tried to focus on the levitating, robotic box across the table and finally decided she would be more at ease in a rambling conversation with a floating metal box than watching the anxious looks of passing humans.

“Anyway, you can imagine, there was a lot of excitement when the Sorceress appeared at the ringfort with a couple of witches and an ogre, part of her entourage, I guess.” The pixie gave a short, nervous laugh. “She announced that she had an important mission that only a pixie could fill, then she began to slowly scan the crowd of pixies. Finally her cold, black eyes stopped and she pointed at me. Amazing, huh? Out of all the pixies she chose me for this special mission. How about you? How did they choose you?”

The robot made a short whirr sound then spoke in a male voice that reflected intelligence with a touch of conceit. “I was selected from an assembly line and taken to Lab 3N, which is located in this building. I was placed on a table and my electromagnetic shroud was removed. I was then connected to the mainframe via my DV-72 serial port located in the anterior of my frame. Over the next 14.36 seconds 177 gigabytes of a classified program were installed in my memory. At that point you can say that I was chosen for this mission.”

“So you know what the mission is,” said the pixie. “Let’s hear it. What’s this about?”

“I’m not allowed to tell you at this time.”

“Demon spit!” cried the little pixie. “You know and you won’t tell me, you… you little tin can,”

“There’s no tin in my structure. I contain aluminum, cobalt, arsenic, barium, copper, gold, iron…”

“Shut up!” yelled the pixie. “What am I suppose to call you, anyway? Do you have a name?”

“I am MD182-SeriesAX08Model#47352. I am an autonomous robot with a built-in AI system that can learn from my environment and experiences.”

“What does the MD stand for?”

“Mobile Defender.”

The pixie smirked, “I think I’ll just call you MD.”

“What shall I call you?” asked the little robot.

“Pixies don’t have individual names. We’re all just pixies.”

“Very well,” said MD, “I’ll call you Pixie.”

“Okay, they told me we would have a couple of hours before reporting for this assignment. So what should we do?”

“Actually, it is two hours, eight minutes, thirty-seven seconds and counting,” said MD.

“Listen up, my metal companion, being too exact can be very irritating.”

“Duly noted,” said the robot. “I’ll adjust my programming. As to what we should do, I suggest a visit to the cantina. Humans enjoy the eating, drinking, and dancing. Perhaps it would also appeal to pixies.”

“Dancing!” squealed Pixie. “Oh, yes! That’s one of our favorite things. And a pint of bitter might be just what we need. Do mechs drink, MD?”

“I assume you’re referring to alcoholic drinks.” The robot paused then added, “I’ve just downloaded an entertainment program that allows me to simulate various degrees of drunkenness. On a scale of one to ten with one being tipsy and ten being an alcoholic coma, what would you prefer?”

“Never mind,” said a disappointed Pixie, “we’ll just stick to dancing.”

Abruptly the anti-gravity lights on MD’s underside flared and he rose a foot more into the air.

“I’ve just received a message. The time table for our mission has been moved up. They’ve requested that we report immediately to the lab,” said MD as he silently floated to Pixie’s side.

“No dancing? Fairy poop! This isn’t fair,” Pixie said with a sigh. “Oh, well, at least I’ll get to know what this is about.”

When they got to the lab Pixie was awestruck to see all the scientists that were moving between buzzing machines and flashing monitors while mechs like MD hovered nearby recording and analyzing. The scientists were very nice to Pixie but she suspected that that was because they knew what was about to happen to her.

“Well, little pixie, it’s time to fill you in,” said a scientist with a thin mustache. “For the last two years our planet has been under assault from an unknown menace. Humans call them specters. Supernaturals refer to them as phantoms or wraiths. They’re all the same. They appear out of thin air near the North Pole and move south. Everything in their path withers and dies. Luckily, we in the scientific community have developed devices that can halt the specters while the spells and potions from your Sorceress slowly dissolve them. All of this is holding them in check but it’s not solving the problem. The specters just keep coming.”

“I’ve seen vids of them,” said Pixie. She shuttered. “Big, gray and black smoke things.”

“We believe they’re coming from another universe,” said the scientist, “but we’re not sure which one. We’ve detected traces of scalar electromagnetic energy in the areas where the specters appear. From that information we believe we can use the zero-point energy in our universe to punch a small hole into the specter’s universe. That’s where you come in.”

“It sounds like you plan to send me and the mech to another universe,” said Pixie flatly. “I hope you figured out a way for us to return.”

The scientist was a bit surprised. “Ah! The Sorceress has sent us a very bright pixie. Yes, there is a way to return. Once you determine if the other universe is or is not the source of the specters, the mobile defender will send us a signal and we’ll create another hole for you to come back. Tell me, did the Sorceress give you any special abilities?”

Pixie thought then said, “I’m not sure. She cast several spells on me but I’m afraid my Latin is very poor so I don’t know what they were for.”

“You can be sure they’re meant to keep you alive,” said the scientist. “If you’re ready we’ll get started.”

The scientist led them to a large machine in the middle of the lab. At the center of the machine was a small square platform that Pixie was placed on. As instructed, she knelt on the platform and put her head down. MD took a position floating just above her as the machine began to hum. The hum slowly gave way to a high-pitched squeal. Suddenly there was a blinding flash which changed everything.

Just as Pixie was about to open her eyes something very heavy hit her in the back of her head. It was MD. His artificial gravity unit had failed and he had come crashing down on Pixie.

“Ooww!” cried Pixie. “What happened?”

“My deepest apologies,” said MD. “It appears I’ve been grounded. I suspect the laws of physics are slightly different in this universe.”

“Well, the laws of pain are the same,” Pixie said as she rubbed her head and looked around.

They were sitting on a large open expanse of brown dusty soil that stretched as far as the eye could see. When Pixie looked up, she lost her breath. The sky was spectacular. There was no sun or moon or stars. The sky was a swirl of colors. Shades of purple, green, yellow, and red tumbled and spun in giant slow-motion eddies across the heavens.

“Beautiful,” whispered Pixie.

“I think the lights on the horizon are more important,” MD said. “That could be where we can find out if this is the universe of the specters.”

Pixie turned her attention to the glowing lights that were pulsating in the distance. She did a quick estimation in her head and said, “It’s going to take us at least three hours to get there, maybe more depending on how much you weigh. I’ll have to carry you.”

Pixie picked up the mech with both hands and carried him in front of her. At first, he didn’t seem very heavy but after an hour of walking she was tiring and needed a rest. She placed him on a small boulder and sat down beside him.

Once she was settled Pixie again looked at the sky and said, “This place is full of magic. I can feel it.”

“You probably feel the effects of that contusion,” said MD. “My sensors don’t detect any unusual radiations or frequencies.”

“That’s because you’re a scientific device that measures scientific stuff from a scientific perspective. You’ll never understand magic.”

“The existence of magic isn’t logical,” said MD. “Science can be explained in realistic terms while magic defies explanation. Magic is impossible.”

Pixie moved closer to MD and stared at the side of his metal box with a mischievous smile.

“There’s something I’ve wanted to do and now I’m going to do it.”

Pixie closed her eyes and crossed her arms on her chest. After a moment of meditation she said, “Spiritibus naturae, mittere me penicillo pictura magicam faciem.”

“You told the scientist your Latin wasn’t very good,” said MD.

“It’s called a lie. Look it up.”

An artist’s paintbrush was now floating in front of Pixie. She looked at the brush and mentally directed it to apply paint to MD’s box. In a few moments the brush had drawn a pair of brown eyes and a large mouth.

“So, MD, can your science tell me where that brush came from?”

“It may have been there all along but was cloaked by using meta-materials to bend light around the brush or it may have been composed of virtual particles forced into that shape and whose existence was not limited by the uncertainty principle. But the most likely scenario is that the brush appeared just as we did by using a scalar zero-point energy device to punch it through to this universe.”

Pixie was rolling on the ground laughing so hard that her stomach hurt and tears were pouring down her cheeks. As her laughter subsided Pixie sat up and caught her breath.

“The face I drew works,” she announced. “You look so silly. I love it.”

“Your pranks aren’t getting us any closer to the lights. We should leave soon.”

“Slow down, buddy,” said Pixie. “I need to rest. We could move faster if I didn’t have to carry you.”

Six metal legs telescoped from the sides of the mech. He raised himself on them and scurried off the boulder like a spider.

“Spawn of an ogre!” cried Pixie. “You’ve got legs! Why didn’t you say something before?”

“You didn’t ask. Besides you said you wanted to carry me.”

Pixie was infuriated. “I know you’re not that stupid. I’m not going to forget this; you crate of bolts.”

They trudged along in silence for over an hour. The distant lights grew brighter and the ground became rockier, but they still saw nothing to tell them if this was the specter universe. As they drew closer to the mysterious lights, Pixie put aside her anger to complete the mission.

“Whatever is causing those lights is on the other side of these rocks,” whispered Pixie. “Let’s crawl to the top and give it a peek. You need to stay low and quiet.”

When they looked over the edge of the outcrop, they saw a shallow depression filled with activity. On one end was a large house-size machine with a giant funnel on top. Colorful light danced around the opening to the funnel while strange blob-like creatures manipulated controls on the structure. The white globule beings were about three feet high and moved by using a wave motion along the bottom of their bodies. They had no faces but a circle of shiny black dots seemed to be eyes or light sensors.

The most distressing part of the scene was what they saw coming out of an opening in the machine. It was specters. One after another the dark ghostly creatures emerged and marched across the basin. The shapeless smoke monsters then ascended a platform and disappeared.

“They’re using magic in a machine to create specters,” said Pixie. “That’s why we have so much trouble stopping them. They’re made from science and the supernatural.”

She looked around a bit more and added, “I think we can get closer to that platform where they’re vanishing.”

There weren’t any blobs or specters that were guarding the area so it wasn’t difficult for Pixie and MD to steal their way to a boulder beside the platform. From there they could see the approaching specters and even sneak a peek when they disappeared.

“I’ve just finished an analysis of this platform,” said MD. “It’s not a portal to our universe. It’s a temporal transporter. The specters are being sent forward in time.”

“What? This isn’t another universe? It’s our universe in the distant past?”

“Correct,” said MD. “It would seem that the blob beings are creating specters and using them to invade our time period.”

“Well, use whatever communication thingy you have to send a message to the lab,” Pixie said. “They need to know that this isn’t another universe.”

“I lost contact with them as soon as we arrived,” MD said. “I thought you understood that, but it’s okay. The scientists had a back-up plan if we lost communications.”

“And what would that be?”

“If they didn’t hear from us in four hours, they would use the zero-energy device to send through an infinity bomb.”

“BOMB!” cried Pixie who then had to hush herself because she had said it far too loud. “What the witches is an infinity bomb?”

“It uses dark energy that spreads throughout the universe to create infinite density and temperature thus destroying the whole universe.”

Pixie’s eyes widened and her mouth popped open. “But this is OUR universe and we’re still in it. What’s the matter with you people?”

“I’m not people. I am an autonomous robot with a built-in AI system that can…”

“Shut up, tin box,” said Pixie. “How long have we been here?”

“About four hours.”

Pixie gave MD a burning stare. “EXACTLY how long?”

“But you said being too exact can be…”

“Just tell me.”

“Three hours, fifty-four minutes, and twelve seconds.”

Pixie looked over the top of the boulder and said, “If we stand on that platform, will we be sent back to our time period?”

“I would estimate success at sixty percent,” said MD.

“First we have to get past at least one of those specters,” Pixie said. “Do you have any weapons that would help?”

“I have a freeze ray that uses nanocrystals and infra-red light to radiate heat energy away from the target as light thereby freezing it in place.”

“Nothing’s ever simple with you, is it? Okay, use that and I’ll cast a diffusion spell that the Sorceress gave me. We’ll go for that one that’s closest to the platform. Reeeeeaady. NOW!”

As soon as they sprang from behind the boulder, a cylinder materialized on MD’s side. A beam shot out and hit the bottom half of the specter. Ice crystals quickly formed and it was frozen in place.

At the same time Pixie raised her hand toward the specter and cast her spell. “Aerem, nubes, nebula, fumus evanescit in inferiora.” Immediately the gray and black smoke of the specter began to fade and dissolve.

Quickly Pixie and MD stepped to the middle of the platform but nothing happened. One of the blob creatures began moving toward them and a globby white arm emerged from its body. By the time the blob reached the base of the platform Pixie was jumping up and down, and screaming, “Come on! Do it!”

Then everything went white and cold. Pixie raised her head and started coughing. She had been lying face down in snow. In all directions was snow and ice. She stood and hugged herself against the cold.

“MD! MD, where are you?” she called out.

The mech rose into the air from beneath the snow and said, “I’m here. We’re back in our original time period.”

“Quick! Contact the scientists. Tell them it’s our universe and not to send the bomb.”

“I’ve already sent the message along with our coordinates,” said MD. “A rescue vehicle should arrive shortly.”

For over half an hour Pixie sat on top of a hovering MD who used some of his internal components to warm her as best he could. Finally, an emergency transport arrived and took them back to the lab where they were debriefed.

“Did these white alien creatures do anything to try to communicate with you?” asked the scientist with the moustache.

“No,” said Pixie as she pulled the blanket tighter. “We were more concerned about getting out of there than talking to them. Which reminds me, why couldn’t MD communicate with you?”

“That’s because you were 14 billion years in the past,” said the scientist.

“13.799 plus or minus .022 billion years,” corrected MD.

“I’m just glad we were able to get back in time to stop you from using that bomb,” said Pixie.

“Oh, we used the infinity bomb. We sent it through just after you and the mech got back.”

Pixie was aghast. “What? Why? How is it that we’re still here?”

“The instant you got back we received the mech’s report and understood that the infinity bomb had to be sent to that moment in the past. You see, the bomb created a giant singularity that resulted in the big bang that eventually resulted in us.”

Pixie shook her head and said, “I don’t understand all that science stuff but I guess we did good.”

“Oh, yes,” said the scientist, “you did very well. The Sorceress will be very happy. We’re all very pleased. You’re a hero. So, what would you like to do now?”

“I know,” said Pixie with a big smile, “I’m going to buy a new dress and then MD and I are going dancing.”


2023 George Schaade

Bio: George Schaade is a retired history teacher that loves writing science fiction and humor. He's always been fascinated by the oddities of life and the quirks of human nature. His stories often focus on an unexpected twist or a shocking ending He has been published in Aphelion many times, as well as by Whortleberry Press.

E-mail: George Schaade

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