Still in pain, it was hard to breathe, and the last thing Tommy wanted to do was get up or even open his eyes. He was probably dead, so it didn’t matter if he opened his eyes or not, but, since he had never been dead before, he was too curious what it would look like.
“What are you doing here little guy?” a husky voice said floating somewhere above him.
Tommy peeled his eyes open one at a time. Standing over him was a middle-aged man, an Earthling by the looks of it, and a stocky one at that, with a well trimmed beard and squinting brown eyes.
Tommy couldn’t fill his lungs with enough air to answer him, and with the still lingering feeling of having the air knocked out of him, he wasn’t sure if still being alive was so great or not.
“Jim about felled that tree on you there. You oughta be glad I wasn’t too far off to tackle ya out of the way.”
“I… I…” he tried to reply, but his chest ached the more he spoke.
“Well, don’t you worry little guy. The Foreman here’ll getcha to your parents soon enough.”
Tommy glanced over to see the Foreman walking towards them. The man with the beard may have been an Earthling, but Tommy recognized the odd looking alien. Just like the two that had come to the front door delivering his Dad’s envelope: plastic face, dead eyes, hair plugs, even his eye-lashes could have been painted on. The Foreman came a little closer, and then glanced down at the dark band on Tommy’s wrist. He may not have been able to read the expression on the alien’s face, but Tommy could tell he was in trouble. “Don’t worry. I’ll take care of it from here.” That synthesized sounding voice was the last thing Tommy heard before passing out.
At least he could breathe now. That lumberjack had not only tackled him square in the ribs, but must have been at least ten times his size. Maybe the tree falling on him would have been lighter? Whatever. It wasn’t worth complaining about. The man had saved his life, for which Tommy was truly grateful. Now there was a new problem though: the Foreman hadn’t taken him to either of his parents, which wasn’t a surprise, but being thrown into what resembled a prison cell wasn’t exactly what he had expected either.
There weren’t any bars, only a shimmering wall of yellow static covering the way out. He couldn’t see much through the field; the yellow was thick and the field throbbed back and forth, distorting everything beyond a few feet away, serving to make Tommy’s head ache even worse. The field made a faint crackling sound, warning him that exploring or touching it wouldn’t be pleasant. Tommy had enough will power to control his curiosity when it made sense – once in a while anyway.
The rest of the cell was plain enough. It had smooth metal walls with occasional polished bolts protruding from them, along with a thin carpet floor. The most outstanding thing in the room was a hexagonal panel in the wall that had similar strange writing as Tommy had seen on the Metaparlance Decipherer before he had messed with it. A slab outcropping looked to serve as both a bed and chair. It wasn’t the most comfortable thing in the world, but he could at least lay there until his chest felt better.
He would have anyway, except that it wasn’t long before he heard one of the familiar, synthesized voices past the faint hum of the static barrier, “he’s awake sir.”
“Finally,” another strange voice answered in return.
One of the doll-faced creatures faded into view on the other side.
“Do you know who I am?” the creature inquired.
“No,” Tommy said sheepishly.
“I know what he his!” the wristband yelled out.
Flinching at hearing the wristband, Tommy worried that the cover story he was concocting had just been ruined. The creature continued talking however.
“But you think I’m not human?”
Tommy let out a quiet sigh of relief when he realized no one but him could hear the wristband. “Telepathy?” he thought out towards the wristband.
“If that’s what you Earthlings call it I suppose. I like to refer to it as Thought Transference,” the wristband quipped back.
Tommy returned his attention to the creature. “Well, you are sort of weird looking, but my parents said you were just foreigners.”
“Hmm, that’s right… just a foreigner. I’m completely human. As human as you are in fact! Not even in the slightest way anything else…”
“Not true!” the wristband shouted into Tommy’s thoughts again.
“Shhh…” Tommy thought back at it.
“But he’s lying! He’s in violation of U-L-O-S-T, section 4! And I can prove it!” the wristband objected.
“Against what?” Tommy thought back.
“ULOST: The Universal Laws of Successful Transaction.”
“What does that have to do with anything?” Tommy cinched his forehead in frustration.
“Thats what he his! He’s a….”
“What is the matter with you?!” the creature yelled out.
“It’s the, uh, well, the parasite sir,” the Foreman stuttered out from behind.
“Parasite?” The creature looked directly at the wristband. The emotionless eyes surprisingly widened as large as door knobs, “You didn’t tell me he had the MeDai!”
“Oh, right, sorry sir” the Foreman cowered back out of Tommy’s sight.
“SO, little Earthling! You know EXACTLY what I am now, don’t you?”
“Well, not really. You sort of interrupted us before we got to that.”
“Glibs! Get it off of him! Now!” the creature shouted.
“I can’t sir.”
“What? Why not?!”
“It, well, doesn’t want to come off.”
The creature swung around in a fury, grabbing the Foreman and dragging him off into the distance. Tommy tried to watch where they were headed but had to settle for the sound of gurgling pleas coming from the Foreman as they faded out of view.
“He sure seems upset,” the wristband quipped.
Tommy wasn’t sure what had just happened. His mind was full of a thousand questions with no reasonable answers.
He blurted out the biggest question first:
“What’s that about you being a parasite?”
“Common misconception. I feed off of a host’s brain activity in order to recharge.”
“So, in a way, you are a parasite then.”
“Let’s refer to it as a symbiotic relationship. You feed me, and in return I translate languages that your Earthling mind can’t possibly comprehend, take you places you’d like to go by folding space and time, and…”
“Of course! Can you fold us out of this cell then?”
“Well, actually, no.”
“First of all, I can’t fold space-time again until I’m recharged – and you’re going to have to start generating substantially more brain activity before I can start doing that. Secondly, there’s some sort of energy field near us that has a sub-dimensional dampener interwoven within its electrical fibers. I can’t go anywhere while it’s activated.”
Tommy didn’t like the idea of being helpless. Of all the possible, hopeless situations in the world, he considered them as scenarios where he failed to see the available options. “and, well, if that’s the case…”
Marching up to the smooth hexagon panel that protruded slightly from the wall, Tommy inspected it closely. It looked as though he might be able to squeeze his fingers in through a thin slot on either side.
The creatures must never had intended to hold a child, or someone with small fingers in this cell. Their mistake. For once, Tommy was glad to be small. With a couple of strong tugs, he was opened the panel a bit wider. Then, peering inside, Tommy found what he was hoping for. Circuitry! Or, at least, something similar to it. He reached further inside…
“Ouch! Get it off of me! Get it off of me!” the wristband cried out.
“Get what off of you?”
“The Nanite! Ouch! A Nanite!”
Tommy had no clue what it was talking about until he pulled his hand out of the panel and saw a blue spark jumping across the wristband’s surface. The spark made a popping sound, turned blue, sizzled out and then popped again on another section of the wristband.
“What do you want me to do?” Tommy asked frantically.
“Something! Anything! Just get it off!”
After thinking for a moment, Tommy started rubbing his feet across the floor as fast as he could.
“What are you doing?!” the wristband whined.
“Ack! Ouch! No! You try holding on!”
Leaning over to the wall, Tommy touched his finger to one of the metal studs, sending a static shock through his hand and into the wristband.
“Ouch! You shocked me!”
“Yep,” replied Tommy.
The blue spark had stopped.
“Ah. Nice thinking.”
“So, what was that?” Tommy asked.
“That was a static shock, generated by the friction between the carpet and your…”
“No, not that. What was that spark flying around?”
“It’s a security nanite. They’re a race of microscopic organisms that corporations often use to repair and defend internal circuity. If you attempt to change or override anything they attack. This one must of thought you were trying to link me to the system, so it retaliated.”
“Can you do that? Can you link yourself to the system?”
“No. Just the nanites.”
“To the nanites? I thought you couldn’t communicate with something that didn’t have a brain?”
“You Earthlings are so judgmental of other species! You think that just because something is small it doesn’t have a brain, or that if it works with something electronic it must be inorganic. Try looking at yourself some time little Earthling! I’ll have you know that nanites have colonized entire worlds! They’ve been around since before your planet even knew what fire is!”
“You mean, they’re alive?”
“Of course they’re alive. Well, all but the one you may have just fried. You should try apologizing.”
“Apologizing? I was trying to save you!”
“Still, ULOST section seven clearly states that if one harms another, even in self-defense, all due diligence should be enacted to aid said subject in whatever medical, mental, or emotional loss was caused by such action.”
“ULOST? You said that stood for the Universal Laws of Successful Transaction, right?”
“So what are they for exactly?”
“What are they for!? ULOST is the compendium of laws that govern all relations, business, activities, and henceforth for the known universe. Ratified by Intergalactic Monarch Tesselak the 4074th who forcefully usurped the corrupt and unjust throne of his grandfather, Tesselak the 4072nd, in order to establish greater order than the previous Monarch’s governing laws referred to as IRULE, or the Intergalactic Rules Underlying Legal Enterprises.”
“Sounds like the rest of the universe has as many problems as we do here on Earth.”
“Not even remotely. ULOST was established over four thousand of your Earth years ago, and the Universe has been mostly at peace since that time.”
“So, if these are universal, why didn’t anyone ever share ULOST with Earth?”
“Then how come I’ve never heard of it?”
“You’re the Earthling. If you don’t know, then I certainly won’t.”
Tommy rubbed the sides of his head with his fingers. His frustration with the wristband was growing, and although the way it worked and what it could do was fascinating, he was beginning to wish he could find a way to take it off. One major problem though: Tommy had no idea where he was, and he was afraid that the only thing capable of getting him back home was going to be the annoyance with a deathgrip around his wrist.
“Well, since I don’t know how much time we have before that Foreman comes back, can you translate to the nanite for me?”
“Umm, Mr. Nanite? Are you still alive?”
The wristband emitted a faint glow while vibrating, causing Tommy to jump at the tickling sensation.
A faint blue spark appeared on the floor across the room from where he was standing. “Who z’ere? z’I can’t zee! You blinded me! Zpeak foe!” the echoing voice entered Tommy’s mind through the wristband.
“I what? I’m sorry I…..”
The wristband interjected, “excuse me for interrupting, but nanites can’t be blinded. They don’t have eyes.”
“Um, ok. Hi, I’m Thomas Twist.”
“That zoundz like a z’Earthling name! Why would a z’Earthling be here!?”
“I wish I knew.”
“z’Earthlingz shouldn’t be here! z’Earthlingz do not belong here! z’Earthlingz are z’till too primitive! z’Earthlingz are…”
“All right! All right! I get it. I shouldn’t be here. So can you help me get out?”
“z’Of courze! z’you z’ouldn’t be here! What can z’I do to help?”
“Well, I was told you’re able to work with circuitry?”
“Yes zir! That ziz my duty zir! z’I am za zecurity Nanite! z’I guard zyztemz! z’I fix whatever ziz changed!”
“Could you change the circuitry in your panel to deactivate this field?”
“Yez zir! z’I mean…NO zir! z’I can’t do that! z’If my fellow zecurity Nanitez caught me changing z’it, they would zertainly deactivate me.”
“What if I guided you to make sure the other Nanites didn’t catch you?”
“No zir! Too rizky!”
“You said yourself that an Earthling shouldn’t be here, right? How else can we resolve the situation? You help me deactivate the field, and then, when I’m gone, you and the other Nanites can put it back the way it was.”
“Unless you have a better idea.”
“Z’alright then! z’I’ll get to work z’immediately zir! z’Awaiting your z’inztructionz!”
Reaching out, Tommy let the blue spark hop into his hand, and then gently carried it over to the panel. In a streak of light, the Nanite flew into the exposed circuitry.
“You sure you can really guide him through changing that circuitry without the other Nanites catching him?” the wristband asked.
“I hope so,” Tommy replied. “As long as they can’t see each other and I can see them, we have the advantage.”
…on to Chapter 8 Klibold’s Designs