The Glass Man | By: Ross Trevor Conrad | | Category: Short Story - Science Fiction Bookmark and Share

The Glass Man


The Glass Man

Copyright January 2010
 

Early in the 21rst century the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) went on line.  At the time it was the largest and highest-energy particle accelerator in the world.  It had high hopes of addressing the most fundamental questions of physics.  Its deep underground seventeen mile circular tunnel fired protons into protons and later heavy ion collisions.  There were doomsday fears of these collisions producing black holes and strange lets but nothing of the sort happened.  In fact very little happened at all; sometimes nothing at all.  Most notably, however, when something did happen it happened for an incredibly short period of time…micro factions of a second.

 

On occasion something new would pop into existence for a fraction of a second or even reality seemed to change, but little else came out of the LHC experiments.  After more of a decade trying, the LHC was largely abandoned by the science community and operated only occasionally when a grad student or two would find a reason to fire the LHC back up but it never produced anything remotely close to its worth.

 

In the fall of year 2039 an unremarkable pre grad student named Ramas Ignetty was assigned to sort through years of LHC on-site data and destroy what was deemed to be worthless and subsequently file what might have some value no matter how slight.

 

It started out as a dreary make-work task when young Ramas started to review the LHC results in earnest and slowly started to see a fascinating pattern.  While the sub particles collisions failed to produce anything substantial there was an interesting side effect when focusing a tremendous amount of energy into a small amount of matter.  When this happened there seemed to be a compelling amount of evidence to suggest that for the briefest fraction of a second the sub-atomic particle lost all its mass.  It remained a solid object but had no mass—totally weightless—almost a solid ghost in a way.

 

Ramas had a gift for numbers and carefully formulated a mathematical formula to explain what was happening.  When he was done the equation suggested something really interesting; this no-mass event or Significant Momentary Event (SME) did not seemingly have a size limit.  Now it was not practical or even possible to do this to a planet sized object or anything remotely close to that, but car sized or even house sized objects could theoretically have mass reduced to zero for a fraction of a second with the kind of energy the LHC produced.

 

It took a lot of power and the SME only lasted for .000339 of a second but a lot could be done to a weightless object in that time.  The immediate advantage was that although it took vast amount of power to produce the SME, almost no energy, at least in theory, was needed during that time to manipulate the mass less object.  Ramas saw no real practical application other than for his own personal entertainment and his fertile mind but that was more than enough for him to continue his unofficial research.

 

Ramas had access to the unsecured LHC—and little used—and went to work.  This actually worked out for his university since they would lose LHC funding without some minimum use in the guise of higher learning so Ramas went about his business unchallenged.

 

The main technical problem was that whatever was done had to be done at light speed; or in laypersons teams, before the mass returned.  This ruled out everything mechanical simply being simply too slow. To get around this Ramas tried multiple energy bursts in attempt to prolong the SME.  No luck, you got one event or at best several events in a row with unacceptable gaps in between.

 

Start small and think big Ramas thought.  He then built a ceramic muzzle loading BB gun.  BBs were steel and could be charged magnetically with one charge and the reverse charge could be done to a little steel disc at the bottom of the ceramic tube.  A simple computer driven timing devise made sure the reverse magnetic pulse happened during the SME.  Just for fun Ramas used a common 1.5V battery to power the opposing magnetic pulse; mostly to prove that indeed the BBs mass was truly absent.

 

Late one Friday night Ramas assembled his “cannon” at a secluded corner tunnel of the LHC.  This corner was convenient to the proton firing end of the LHC and the ceramic tube would take the place of the superconducting magnets normally needed to guide the protons.  He placed sensors and measuring devices all around his experiment aimed at the natural rock ceiling of the LHC.  He wisely left the area and monitored the experiment from a safe place.

 

First time success, if you could call it that, was beyond belief!  With no mass the BB shot skyward at tremendous speed.  At that kind of speed the BB hit the stone ceiling with the force of a plane crash.  Tons of rock fell onto his experiment and was buried.  Luckily the LHC sustained minimal damage and Ramas obtained a huge amount of data before his sensors were smashed.

 

The BB’s impact actually caused a measurable Richter scale event and the whole thing was passed off as an earthquake and at least for the moment Ramas kept his little secret…well, secret.

 

It took a couple of weeks for everything to settle down and engineers to determine the tunnels of the LHC were safe again.  They also wanted enough time for aftershocks—which there were none—to play themselves out.  Ramas was shaken up by the “accident” and not sure how to continue until he reviewed his data.

 

The BB lost its mass right on time and the magnetic charge propelled the BB up the ceramic tube but when the BB came out of the tube it had its mass back and it was travelling at almost the speed of light!  Ramas had assumed that the BB would be going pretty fast but not in his wildest imagination did he dream that a solid object could go from zero to light speed in a fraction of a second, and the BB came out fully intact since a mass-less object would not experience acceleration stress.  This had no practical value but it sure was cool!  Too much energy was needed to fire the BB so it would never make a decent military weapon and an object going at light speed was too destructive to have any use for transporting purposes.  Still, Ramas was pleased to have constructed the most expensive and entertaining tech toy in history.

 

Ramas now fired his BBs through a hole in the ceiling up and out into the night sky.  Friction burned them up in a spectacular display of colored lights.  This grew to be boring so next he set up a portable launch unit outside on the mountain and sent a cast iron safe into the sky.  He found that channeling the needed power was relatively easy and the only launch item required was two magnetic discs and a battery.  The old safe produced an impressive rainbow colored tail and cleared the atmosphere and into space and was picked up by an United Nation (aka C.I.A.) spy satellite.  There was much consternation about a badly scorched 1920s era safe in space and though no one could figure out how it got there or how it managed to travel so fast, they could figure out where it came from; Ramas was busted.

 

When two polite gentlemen in dark suits showed up in the dean’s office at the University of Geneva and asked about the safe originating from the LHC the Dean became livid.  Besides bringing this unwanted attention to the University, Ramas had managed to run up an astronomical electric bill.  In the Dean’s mind Ramas was already gone and he would never, never see a graduate degree in his lifetime.  The two men in dark suits politely asked to meet with Mr Ignetty without explaining why.

 

In the mean time word had gotten out about the massive electrical bill and the probable fate of Ramas’s future educational prospects so he and his friends had gotten drunk on cheap wine.  One thing led to another and Ramas was talked into a demonstration of his experiment.

 

No longer satisfied with BBs and fresh out of safes, Ramas and his friends “borrowed” the Dean’s 1967 Volkswagen beetle, gas to electric conversion vehicle and drove it to Ramas’s hill side test site.

 

The Dean, University security, and the two men in dark suits got to the impromptu test site just in time to witness the Dean’s 1967 beetle being launched into outer space—the first automobile of any kind to leave the confines of earth.  Ramas was reported to have said something vulgar and made a well known hand gesture to the Dean just before the launch.  These details were not deemed worthy to go down in history.

 

The beetle going from rest to light speed created a vacuum in its wake that pulled everyone off their feet and tossed them around like rag dolls.  When literally the dust had settled University security started to arrest a dazed and confused Ramas when the two men in dark suits intervened, dusted him off, and led the wide eyed pre grad student away.

 

This moment has always been considered the birth of human interstellar travel.  Ramas may not have seen much value in his research but he had accidently solved a great many problems in one fell swoop. 

 

Einstein had been correct when he proposed the fastest speed in the universe was light speed.  He was also correct when he proposed that time would slow down the closer to light speed you traveled.  The problem with interstellar space travel was that at maximum acceleration it would take 260 years to push a human to near light speed (NLS) and the same amount of time to stop…520 years just to start and stop a trip plus the relativity factor where the place you left behind would experience time at a difference pace.  A few thousand years might go by only to find yourself somewhere that didn’t exist anymore.  However, if you could jump up NLS and then jump back out at your destination; most of your problems would be solved.

 

Without knowing any of this Ramas had invented efficient space travel.  A test ship was soon designed and built at the international moon base.  It was basically a fifty foot titanium sphere with life support system, advanced navigation, and Doctor Ignetty’s launch control system including a 1.5 volt battery.

 

The initial power source was a problem.  Then someone remembered the hundreds of 20th century nuclear weapons left over from something called the cold war.  These nuclear weapons were ideal for producing the surge of power needed to achieve a SME.  Three carefully aimed magnetic steel plates were positioned at the moon side of the sphere.  They were carefully placed to provide the no-mass thrust in the desired direction of travel.

 

A dog, a chimp, and a convicted killer from death row were assigned to test the safety of NLS travel.  Near launch day animal rights groups protested that using animals in this manner was cruel so in the end only the convicted killer was used.

 

SME/NLS launches from earth’s atmosphere produced spectacular and detrimental effects, however, from the atmosphere free moon surface the test craft vibrated a little when the nuclear weapon was activated and then from the human observation perspective the space ship just disappeared from the launch pad.  A small dot could be observed growing even smaller as it sped away but to witness the event was rather underwhelming.

 

Instruments aboard the New Enterprise—as the test ship was called—was supposed to send the ship out past Jupiter, use its gravity to turn it back, and bring it back to the moon.

 

It had taken almost 2 years to work out all the details of Doctor Ignetty’s basic concept and apply it space travel.  Huge amount of tests, evaluation, and computer modeling was done, still everyone was surprised when the New Enterprise materialized and came to rest on its launching pad.  To everyone’s surprise the convict suffered no ill effects—although he was executed just three weeks later, his name lost to history—and the New Enterprise remained perfectly intact.  Success can be harder to accept than failure.  Too easy some said but the precision instruments aboard the New Enterprise proved beyond a doubt space travel using the Ignetty Effect (IE) was not only possible but practical.

 

Interstellar travel began in earnest.  It was soon discovered that just as Einstein had predicted 100% light speed was not obtainable so time and space became distorted a little.  IE travel produced roughly a three to one time/space ratio.  As such three minutes in IE flight would be nine minutes to everyone else.  Three days in flight; nine days etc.; you get the picture.  What proved unexplainable but welcome just the same, travel to the closer star systems took less than a year contrary to what was understood about the speed of light and time.  Either the stars were closer than once thought or something was giving them a break.  There were thousands of stars systems—with planets—within this one year travel band so the space faring human race was satisfied.

 

Some big problems are easier to solve than the little ones.  Mankind could now travel to other worlds but how to feed, water, provide air, and maintain these fledgling explorers during a long trip?  Just like every civilization in earth’s history, supply lines needed to be established and maintained.  The best of planets visited tuned out to be dry lifeless rocks with a lot of basic material but nothing useful without some effort.  There were many earth sized, earth temperature, but not one earth like enough to support life.

 

Terra Forming became the buzz word, however, what worked so well in science fiction did not work in real life…sort of.  Transforming an entire planet just couldn’t be done, not in a hundred lifetimes let alone any useful time period.  Still, if you had most of the basic building material it was possible to terra form a smaller space.  Terra forming towers were designed to extract life supporting material from the atmosphere and collect and release the proper mix into a confined space where humans could live and more importantly grow crops, raise animals for food, and maintain a fresh water supply.  Deep valleys were just about ideal to this end.  The terra forming tower could be placed in the center of the valley, half in and half out, the upper half would extract oxygen, water, etc. and the bottom half would release the same in useful quantities.  A force projection field would be used to contain it all within the confined space of the valley.  The concept was taken forward setting up way stations for interstellar travelers to rest up and stock up on food, air, and water.  Just like the days of old stagecoach travel these way stations were manned by tough spirited pioneers.

 

The idea was to set up a chain of these way stations and extend space travel.  Originally there was a half hearted goal to seek life outside planet earth but it soon became mostly a commercial venture locating and finding minerals and nuclear material needed back on earth or the at the way stations.  Besides the primary function of the way stations to provide food, water, and shelter for star ships the way station settlers combed their worlds looking for something useful humankind could use.

 

 

Planetary Station 52-18-B

 

Tawn powered the skimmer over the rough terrain.  The skimmer was a single seat, force projection all terrain vehicle.  Two rear force projection pads provided forward thrust and some directional control while the front side by side pads directional control and upward force projection.  The handle bars fed desired directional control to the computer program that moved the force projection pads creating over-all operator control.

 

Tawn had been born 16 years ago on B52, as the locals called Planetary Station 52-18-B.  B52 was a dusty hot rock outside the habitat.  B52 had all the basic elements but either in the wrong mixture or quantities.  Tawn’s environmental helmet provided him a breathable mix and conditions were favorable enough he did not need any other protection for his exposed skin.  From his earliest memories Tawn had felt out of place and too confined by the limitations on B52.  His parents came here 20 years ago for what was originally supposed to be a limited stay.  Earth was too crowded, too dirty, and had few employment opportunities; so they stayed on B52 and had no plans on leaving.  Two hundred and fifty six others felt the same way.

 

Tawn probably would turn to space travel when he was old enough but the thought of months of confinement inside a star ship held no appeal, only to end up somewhere just like he had left.

 

Tawn’s only distraction was his forays outside the habitat under the pretence of mining exploration.  And even without trying very hard he was usually very successful.

 

Tawn parked the skimmer on a small hill top and surveyed his vast and empty surroundings.  A lot of nothing his dad was fond of saying.  The landscape was tan colored accented by rust colored red.  Most of the habitable planets earth kind had found were just like B-52.  Finding a planet earth sized and in a near earth orbit circling a friendly sun had been easy.  Finding another earth like planet with any amount of water or any kind of life had proven impossible and some thought improbable.  Still, the universe had literally countless planets so there was some hope life might be found.  Some hearty earth bacteria had taken hold at some way stations and might evolve into something interesting in a couple billion years.

 

Tawn caught a glint of something in the sky.  It was small but gaining brightness.  Tawn watched the bright spot expecting it to burn out like any meteor should but this one didn’t.  The spot actually seemed to slow as if it were something under control.  Tawn set his helmet vision plate to magnification and was able to make out two bright burning spots descending to the surface.  It was without a doubt a controlled landing.

 

Tawn gunned the skimmer and made his course towards the estimated landing site of the object.  The skimmer had about six inches of lift with a momentary “bump” lift of about a foot when needed; still this was not enough to keep from punishing the undercarriage of the skimmer on the rocky terrain.  Especially the forward projection pads took the greatest amount of abuse as Tawn shot over to the intercept point of the points of light.

 

The skimmer was getting sluggish as the solar batteries depleted and impact damage had done something bad to the steering controls by the time Tawn reached the landing site.

 

The landing site was a roundish, flat area no more than twenty feet in diameter.  But the slowly descending object was small and needed only a fraction of the available space to land.  The bright spots were twin rocket blasts and made a measured hissing sound as they approached the surface.

 

Tawn had not had time to think about the implications of this event.  No matter what this event was it was hugely significant any way you looked at it.  Tawn, however, watched its descent with interest but no significant alarm.

 

The object was singular with two rocket blasts.  It settled down gracefully creating a cloud of dust.  Tawn could only make out something blurry in the dust cloud, maybe metallic but little else.  Tawn left the skimmer parked and walked the remaining distance to the landing site.  What stood in the clearing was a man—of sorts—but what a man!  He seemed to be male about six feet tall, naked but with no discernable genitals, hair, skin, eyes, or anything.  In fact he looked like a clear glass statue of a man…except this statue moved!

 

A rocket pod was fastened to each ankle and as Tawn hesitantly inched forward they split open and fell to the ground.  The glass man turned to Tawn and they stared at each other—as much as two faceless entities could stare—for several long moments.

 

Tawn finally said, “Hi.”  The glass man raised his arm and pointed glass fingers and hand at Tawn who took this to mean “hi” back at you. 

 

Tawn could look right through the glass man with very little distortion.  This did not make him exactly invisible since sun light reflected off his surface and his man-like shape retained a 3-D appearance.  It did seem as though if Tawn hit the glass man with a stone he would shatter into thousands of pieces.  How could something so fragile travel through the atmosphere without breaking?

 

Now what, Tawn thought?  As provocative as the glass man seemed he was probably just an advanced robotic form sent from Earth.  The only news from earth came from the star ships which ironically traveled faster than radio waves so B-52 would not have heard about a new robot until the next star ship that was still six months out.

 

Tawn finally said, “I have to fix my skimmer.”  He turned away from the glass man and walked back to his skimmer.  Once there, without sound or notice, the glass man was there also.  Tawn was startled but the glass man was in no way threatening.

 

Tawn did a quick assessment of the skimmer and it was not good.  The entire skimmer had taken an unnecessary beating but the left front force projection pad had been damaged the most.  Twenty percent of its grid had been smashed and was dripping burnt metal and sparks.  Tawn killed the power switch.  The solar cells would re-charge the batteries but the damaged pad would lose power faster than it could be replaced.  It was a long walk back to the habitat.

 

Tawn sat down and groaned and tried to scratch an itch on his head through his helmet.  Dad was going to be pissed.

 

The glass man had stood by and seemed to observe Tawn; how this was done without eyes was another issue completely.  The glass man moved with sudden and incremental movements that should have appeared jerky but were surprisingly fluid, as if a digital film were missing sections and jumping the images ahead.  The glass man knelt beside the skimmer and after a quick review started to work on the damaged pad.  As Tawn watched the glass man unraveled the damaged section of the grid and rewove the intact portion back together, making a slightly smaller but repaired pad.  This was done in record time and looked very professional when completed.

 

The glass man obviously was a repair bot lost from a star ship perhaps after being sent outside to repair the ship in flight.  It must have been knocked off by accident or malfunctioned and had been adrift in space until reaching B-52.  Cool.  One thing every way station in the universe needed was stuff repaired.

 

In an hour or so the skimmer’s batteries were charged enough to start back to the habitat.  At first Tawn wondered if the glass man would follow and when he did then Tawn wondered if the glass man could keep up.  Not to worry, Tawn was not sure exactly how but every time he looked back the glass man was right there with him, although, Tawn never was able to see him move with any haste.

 

The entrance to the habitat was a labyrinth which allowed the projection fields to interlace but still be weak enough to allow passage.  Tawn was told it was a little like walking through a water fall, something he had never done.  Left turn, right turn, left turn, right turn, etc. until you were inside the habitat.

 

The habitat was a valley about twelve miles long and two miles wide at its widest part.  It was L-shaped a little and about a thousand feet deep.  A lot of empty space was needed—but not too much—for the terraformer to work.  Directly center of the valley was the two thousand foot terraformer tower, similar to something called the Eiffel Tower on earth.  The inside the force projection field was made to look like an earth sky with clouds, blue sky and a milder facsimile of the real sun.  The terraformer produced a very convincing earth like environment, including rain when called up as needed and where needed.

 

The bottom of the valley floor was cut into one acre blocks of land.  Each acre grew a specialized crop of some kind, although, there were many repeated acres for high demand crops such as grass and hay for feeding cattle.  Since there was no summer or winter, crops were grown throughout the year.  The terraformer had a built in cannery and dehydrator to process the food produced and deep freezers to maintain fresh meat and dairy.  One resourceful B-52 resident even began distilling some of the grain and produced a rather good scotch…which was an instant hit with the star ship crews and everyone else.  Grapes also produced an acceptable wine.

 

Eight foot deep trenches were cut at the edge of each acre.  These trenches were used to transport People and equipment from crop to crop; being in fact the only roads or paths of any sort to access the valley.  Residents actually lived underneath the cultivated fields to be close to the crops and not use up valuable growing space.  The living quarters were quite pleasant units, warm and dry, and a quiet place to rest in privacy.  Each living quarter—or dorm—as they were called was twelve feet square with a door and window facing the closest access trench.  Lighting, toilet, shower unit, bed, and entertainment unit were built in.  Everyone could have their own dorm if they wanted it and most did, even some married couples.  Outside the dorms activities went on night and day so a quiet place to retreat to was necessary.  To accelerate growth an artificial sun shined most of the natural night.  Crop production was spectacular, but it took a lot of food to provision a star ship or two or three.

 

Tawn parked the skimmer at the assigned vehicle area and maintenance shop build into the valley wall.  Tawn pulled off his sweaty helmet and attacked the itch that had been plaguing him.  Like any good bot the Glass Man showed no interest in Tawn’s actions or the habitat.

 

Outside the habitat temperature was usually above 90 degrees F. and often well above 100 with very dry air.  Inside the habitat it was a constant 65 to 75 degrees F. and relatively high humidity to enhance plant growth.

 

Tawn and the glass man had entered the habitat unnoticed although standing next to the rock wall the glass man was nearly invisible.  Tawn set off to find his father and let him decide what to do with the glass man.  Tawn and his family lived near the edge of the labyrinth so Tawn was at his father’s dorm in short order; and unnoticed.

 

Tawn’s father was sipping coffee in his dorm when Tawn knocked on the plastic door.  B-52 was legionary first for its scotch and second for its coffee.  It was often said that star ships actually ran on coffee.

 

Tawn stepped into his father’s dorm and simply said, “Dad, look what followed me home, can I keep him?”  If Tawn’s father—Gus—was surprised he did not show it.  He sipped coffee from his plastic mug and asked, “What is it?”

 

Tawn blurted out the Glass Man’s short history and ventured his theory of he or it being a lost repair bot.  Gus absorbed it all with careful contemplation as he walked a slow circle around the Glass Man looking for some kind of model number or identification.

 

Gus stared hand on chin for several long minutes and finally said, “We need to make him look better, at least like a regular bot.”

 

Tawn and Gus acquired some white heavy duty rubberized paint.  Through hit and miss experimentation they managed to blend a batch to be roughly skin colored and gave him a coat.  They found some black paint and painted pants and a head of hair on him next.  Gus got ambitious and tried to paint a realistic face on the glass man but it turned out very clown-like and just a little bit scary.  The eyes were too large and being unblinking was clearly unacceptable.  Tawn found a pair of sun glasses and that fixed the problem.  A white lab coat finished the effect and the Glass Man was ready for his public debut.  Children might run, dogs might howl and bark, but the glass man looked like a proper robot.

 

Being covered in thick rubbery paint seemed to have no affect on the Glass Mans’ functioning.  It was a total mystery what powered him and how it was able to view and interact with the world.

 

The Glass man was first put to work in maintenance section of the terraformer.  He or it was a hit from the first minute on.  The Glass Man could diagnose and repair most things in record time and with a pride in craftsmanship that left its human counterparts envious.  No one even questioned where he or it had come from; they accepted him or it as a much needed labor saving devise.  The Glass Man was strong and tireless.

 

The Glass Man needed no rest and worked around the clock doing every conceivable task or chore.  He/it could not do all of it but did manage to lighten the work load a little for the humans in the habitat.  If there was any comment at all it was the desire for more than one of him/it.  Some started to call the Glass Man GM.  Besides work GM was included in group gatherings, dinners, celebrations, and most B-52 recreational events.  He/it seemed be something in between a valued co-worker or the pet/mascot of B-52.  People talked to GM as if he/it could understand what they were saying, although, in most ways he/it did seem to understand humans completely.  Everyone liked GM.

 

Tawn had become very attached to GM and they seemed to seek each other out.  Tawn spent much of his off duty time talking to GM as he/it worked.

 

The next star ship was a little more than thirty days out so B-52 was preparing for its arrival.  It was always a party when a star ship got arrived.  Fresh food and scotch would be served in large quantities while B-52 got the latest news from earth.  The ships’ crew would stay for a month or so while the ship unloaded repair parts and equipment upgrades; and their ship was re-provisioned.  These events made all the work on B-52 worthwhile.

 

It was decided to keep the Glass Man out of sight when the star ship arrived so if indeed it was a lost repair bot no one would want him back.

 

Twenty days ahead of schedule a star ship went into orbit around B-52.  Since radio communication was not viable they would have not known if a star ship had been diverted to B-52 or had left earth early.  Strange but not completely unheard of.

 

Tawn was assigned to hide the Glass Man.  It was thought best if the Glass man were locked up in something to keep a wondering star ship crew member from claiming him/it if discovered.  Tawn felt a pang of guilt as he locked GM into a heavy duty security cage normally used to hold farm animals.  The cage was not high enough to stand up in so GM had to sit on a plastic bucket.  Tawn kept apologizing to GM for having to lock him/it up.  GM sat quietly, enigmatic behind his/its Ray Ban sun glasses, impassive and serine.  Whatever GM was Tawn did not want anything bad to happen to him.

 

When Tawn returned to the meeting area at the base of the terraformer there was a buzz of concern going through the crowd.

 

The ship in orbit above was not of earth origin!  Earth ships were uniformly round titanium spheres of varying size.  The huge ship high above them was potato shaped and misshapen easily mistaken for an iron based asteroid.  Its flight pattern was clearly IE.  From space orbit the habitat looked like a silvery lake and the only one on B-52 so there was no hiding from a visitor’s scrutiny.

 

When smaller shuttles broke orbit and began a landing sequence near panic broke out within the habitat.  Since the beginning of star travel there had never been and threat requiring self defense.  A few law enforcement personnel had hand guns and there were a few .22 rim fires around used for recreational target practice, but other than that the habitat had no way of defending itself.  Calmer voices pointed out that there was no hostile intent and that this might be the greatest moment in human history.

 

So far whatever civilization was in control of the great ship and shuttles entering B-52’s atmosphere operated exactly like earth based star ships did.  Maybe there was only one way to travel the universe.

 

Thirteen sleek arrowhead shaped shuttles landed on the plane just outside the labyrinth.  Hundreds of space suited humanoids disembarked and made for the habitat.  All were armed and it was not looking like it was going to be a good day for B-52.

 

B-52 could not call for help and without the means to defend itself they were truly alone in the universe.  The approaching army walked through the labyrinth without hesitation and with confidence.  They were roughly five feet tall, wide shouldered, longish thick arms, and short legged giving the impression of being top heavy.  Each space suit had a smooth gray colored dome that offered no hint of its occupant.

 

With military precision the invaders poked and prodded everyone to a location at the base of the terraformer.  The invaders outnumbered the B-52ers at least two to one.  Once assembled one invader stepped forward and removed its domed helmet.

 

The alien had a gray misshapen face, as if a clay mask had gone bad.  Two deep set black eyes were set wide apart, no nose of any kind, and the mouth was large and flabby and located where its chin should have been if it had a chin; chin and neck were the same.  Its skin had a foul stench as if something dead.

 

It spoke through what must have been a translator. “You are now the property of the great leader Mockel and the empire of Trunge.  With cooperation some of you might live to serve us.  The old, infirmed, and very young will be converted to food stock.  Everyone will harvest all the food and load it onto our shuttles.  If you work hard you might be allowed to live.”

 

One old timer stepped forward and demanded, “You can’t do this, we are a free People!”

 

A soldier pointed a stick like weapon at the man and some sort of energy beam struck him in the chest, burning a clean two inch hole through his chest.  The man dropped dead in his tracks.

 

Tawn was aghast at this situation and the violence.  Without thinking Tawn bolted to the nearest trench and dove in just as an energy blast hit the place he had just been.  Tawn raced through the access trenches making random left and right turns.  The Trunge had great reflexes and were crack shots but could not run very fast so Tawn had soon outpaced his pursuers.  But there was no place to go to; everywhere in the habitat was a dead end.

 

Without much thought Tawn ended up at the cage holding GM.  GM had not moved from his spot on the plastic bucket.  Tawn would have let GM out of the cage but did not have the key with him.  Tawn grabbed the cage bars and with tears streaming down his face hurriedly recounted what was happening in the habitat.  GM did not move or acknowledge what Tawn said.

 

Tawn took refuge behind a packing crate and frozen in fear waited for the end to come.

 

Five Trunge solders soon entered the storage dorm.  They did not spot Tawn right away but did see GM.  Tawn had a clear view of GM when one of the Trunge fired his weapon into GM’s chest.  Lab coat and paint bubbled and burned causing a horrible stink to fill the small room, Tawn’s eyes watered and stung.

 

The Trunge weapon must have fired metal particles at NLS just as the young Ramas Ignetty had fired his BBs into the night sky so long ago.  The effect was devastating when used as a weapon—or should have been!  The Glass Man had a hole through lab coat and body paint but he/it himself was untouched.  The Glass Man turned once to Tawn for a second and then to the Trunge.  Paint melted away from the Glass Man and the lab coat fell from his shoulders, only his sun glasses remained.  The Trunge opened fire with all they had; the smell of ozone filled the room but the Glass Man was not harmed.

 

The Glass Man walked forward and through the metal gate which gave way as if being melted without heat.  Tawn lost sight of the Glass Man as he moved toward the rapidly firing Trunge.  Very quickly the firing stopped.

 

Tawn waited several long minutes before getting bold enough to leave his hiding place.  Two Trunge soldiers lay dead and the others were gone.  Tawn ventured slowly and carefully back to the common area where he had ran away from.

 

Tawn had to piece together from there what had happened.  The Glass Man had suddenly appeared and rapidly went through the Trunge disarming them with a wave of his hand cutting the weapons in half as if melted without heat.  A few Trunge still tried to fight the Glass Man and were killed.  The Trunge broke and ran for their shuttles but before they had got very far the Glass Man had been there first and disabled the ships preventing escape.  The Trunge still took refuge in their shuttles to hide from the Glass Man.

 

As if nothing extraordinary had just happened the Glass man went back to work.

 

At one point the Glass Man walked past Tawn, stopped, turned his head and Tawn would always swear later saw the Glass Man smile.

 

The Trunge mother ship left orbit and IEed away to parts unknown leaving their companions trapped on B-52, hiding in their shuttles from whatever would happen next.  Life on B-52 went on as normally as it could and no one ventured to re-paint the Glass Man, although he continued to wear his sun glasses for reasons never explained or understood.

 

Twenty days later three flying saucers entered orbit around B-52.  These ships eventually landed near the Trunge hiding in their disabled shuttles.

 

A single individual left each saucer accompanied by a Glass man each.  Each glass man was identical to B-52’s glass man except for the sun glasses.  The three individuals were human—at least human shaped and had human features under their clear space suit helmets.  They walked through the labyrinth and into the habitat where they were met by an entourage of nervous humans, and their own Glass man.

 

The three humans unsealed their helmets and removed them.  They were human looking except for a total absence of hair of any kind and Tawn noticed they had only three fingers and a thumb on each hand.  They were tall and slender and moved with grace,

 

The eldest of the three took several deep breaths and smiled broadly.  “You have a wonderful environment, your air if fresh and clean.  We love that you grow things.” He said in perfect English almost with an English accent.

 

Gus stepped forward and extended his hand which each of the three took turns shaking.  “What can we help you with?” Gus asked.

 

“We’d really like some fresh vegetables and some of that scotch you are so famous for.”

 

Two hours and a few scotches later the story was complete.  The hairless humans were known as “the People”.  They had been to earth—and not too impressed with what we had done to it—and knew all about us, but made no contact until the human race had indicated their intentions either peaceful explorers or another raider.  They were aware of our space travels and way stations such as B-52 and watched them from afar.  They were also kind of policemen for this part of the universe.  The Trunge were more or less scavengers and pirates.  When everyone traveled at the same speed there was no such thing as a high speed chase so the Trunge could stay ahead of pursuit and capture.  So Glass Men were placed at logical potential raiding points and waited for the Trunge or any other species that threatened the peace of the universe—at least the part the People controlled.  The People hinted that there were many life forms, although, usually great distances from each other.  As it turned out, just as it had been from the first humans on earth, food, water, and shelter was what mattered the most to any intelligent being in the universe.  Any species providing any of the three rated high marks with the People.  The Trunge, however, took what they needed from others and left devastation in return. 

 

Just what the Glass Men were was never fully explained but the impression was that they might be a separate species, perhaps, cooperating with the People to have a purpose and meaningful existence, although, their mystery continued.  They were beyond any doubt the ultimate peace keeping and enforcement tool.

 

The captured Trunge would be transported to a special planet the People controlled and left there to live out their lives.  They would have to produce their own food, however, or starve.  Previously interned Trunge found no problem doing that, after some initial complaining.

 

In the end it was probably the scotch that allowed the human race to enter multi species consortium (MSC).  The basic condition of membership was peaceful co-existence and the mutual sharing of the way stations.  The only practical way to explore the universe was to IE jump from way station to way station and share food, shelter, camaraderie—and of course scotch.  Life in the universe was too short to be serious all the time.  For Earth and the People life just got a little more interesting.

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