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The 5 series.
Published by Ripley King, 2015.
This is a work of fiction. Similarities to real people, places, or events are entirely coincidental.
First edition. December 10, 2015.
Copyright © 2015 Ripley King.
Written by Ripley King.
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Also by Ripley King
The 5 series.
One Last 5
5 Omnibus Edition
And Jesus Wept
Earth Improvement Day
Lonely Hero Thing
Nightstrider: The Spaces Between
The Pre-dead Saga
Watch for more at Ripley King’s site.
Also By Ripley King
Welcome To Machine
The Last First Hour
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Further Reading: The Pre-dead Saga
Also By Ripley King
About the Author
For those who like to turn the lights off at night.
Neptune’s livid blue presence was to the left, and less than a moment later it was to the right. This one fact, once verified, demanded time, an enormous amount of it, 142.44 years for the giant to revolve around Sol in order for it to occupy its present location in space had passed, yet ship’s chronometers indicated no such passage of time.
The vibratory signature of a single captured gluon in its instantaneous decay matched that of the known universe. A visual replay of the event paralleled against other sensor readings revealed nothing. A communication burst demanding clarification was sent.
Earth was still in an optimal position to respond, but monitored frequencies were blank. Other possible communications, emanating from thousands of ground sources as well as commercial satellite transmissions were simply nonexistent. The impossibility of the situation demanded the probe dismiss current mission parameters and investigate.
The probe turned, adjusted speed for optimal structural integrity, and proceeded home.
Edgar Gross intended to procure a glass from the far cupboard as a more civilized approach to his booze, other than tipping the bottle’s bottom up to greet the ceiling. That’s when he turned and saw a large man’s huge fist fast growing in perspective as it neared his face. It struck with the force of a greedy Hollywood divorce lawyer.
Sometime later, Ed could hear his assailant systematically ransacking every drawer and cupboard in the kitchen.
“You . . . are a slob,” a gruff voice stated. “My teenage daughter has more discipline. Ever hear of weekly trash pickup?”
Ed tried to fondle his smooshed eye, his throbbing nose, but found both hands securely tied behind him. He chanced his one good eye open and noticed duct tape, swaddling his feet. Slowly drying down the front of his t-shirt, a whole lot of his own bright red blood.
The voice said, “Where are the Intelliprobe files?”
A nicely dressed gorilla in shades, sporting a crew cut, stepped up to where he sat on the floor.
“In my head,” Ed said. Which was true. “The project was a bust. You know that, don’t you? Everyone else does.”
“‘Everyone else’ is dead,” Crew cut disclosed, taking off the sunglasses. A baldy stepped into view. The sunglasses and suits matched.
“The second floor,” Baldy announced to Crew cut, “looks like a makeshift lab with an artificial satellite center stage. Nothing on the first floor but rats and garbage.”
“Nothing up here,” Crew cut said to Baldy. “According to him it’s all in his head.”
“Is that version two of the Intelliprobe?” Baldy asked him.
Not really, Ed thought. More like an exact duplicate of the project from hell. Right down to the brain that puked somewhere around Neptune. He had rolled the dice with his own money the second time around. Not sucking the government teat allowed for better parts, but nothing happened. It didn’t turn on. He likened the second floor to a grave. It needed a stone with an appropriate epitaph inscribed.
“Fuck you,” Ed spat.
Crew cut winked at Baldy. “Whack him.”
Edgar Gross once rode life like Slim Pickens did the H bomb in the Kubrick movie classic Dr. Strangelove, a “yahooin’” an’ a swingin’ his hat. He had it all. A fellowship with The Turner Group, a cool hundred thou’ in his pocket each year, and his own lab with grunts to do the dirt work.
It’s not like he wanted to screw his life’s ambition into the soil. He needed the Intelliprobe project to work. And for what? Baldy whipped out a lethal looking semi-automatic and shot him in the chest. The end of the dart was feathered with short, red rubber tassels.
Roswell, New Mexico, 1947
“Sir! The craft is, for the most part, intact. A negligible amount of radiation is leaking from the aft compartments. Two squads as ordered are collecting all debris. We could use another squad.”
“Make do. Are the civilians out of the crash zone?”
“We still need the fire crew.”
“Debrief them as soon as possible. Continue.”
“Five humanoid beings were found in the wreckage. All female. Three dead, one critical, one is ambulatory and in considerably sound condition. She’s been trying to communicate, but we can’t understand her gestures.”
“Nonverbal communication? Bring her here and leave us alone.”
“One more thing, sir. All had on them small black boxes. We opened the boxes and found them empty. We’re not sure of their importance. I recommend guards be posted around the command tent.”
Ten minutes later the alien female was escorted into his tent. She stood, shivering against the crisp night air.
Naked, like a child she was. Her bald head seemed much too large for her prepubescent frame. No secondary breast development, and no pubic hair. Was he dealing with a child?
She had two arms and two legs, but six fingers on each hand, and six toes on each foot. Her eyes were large, all black, and frightening.
She slowly raised her hands up to her eyes and carefully removed two dark rubbery membranes. Her large eyes softened, the color of burnished gold.
“Please,” she spoke, much to his amazement. Her high pitched child’s voice was sweet. “I am no danger to you or your people.”
In many of the scientific circles he waltzed through, the idea of little green men was, to them, a joke. “Sit. I have a blanked to cover you. Would you like it?” Yet the last laugh was his.
He placed the blanket on the table next to her and said, “I must know who you are. Why you are here.”
“We are researchers,” she said, and wrapped the coarse wool army blanket around her slim shoulders, leaving her inner thighs exposed. “We are explorers.”
“Do you have a name?” he asked.
“My name is unimportant,” she replied. “We seek understanding of all things. I find you are interested in my form. Your eyes betray your thoughts. Do you lack companionship?”
Her question shocked him. “Are we in danger? Do you want this planet?”
“We do not need or want this planet. We represent no danger.” She opened the blanket, and her legs. “You are us. We are you. I wish for your companionship. Let me come to you. Let me wrap myself around you. Feel my heat.”
Mesmerized, he popped his belt buckle.
She stood and slowly walked toward him. Her head cocked seductively to one side. Her gaze had yet to leave his.
She slid onto his exposed lap, and he let himself sink into her tight warmth.
“We are one,” she said, gently rocking her hips.
Her touch filled his soul with something he couldn’t understand. Her tightness was more than satisfying.
His ample hands crept up her back, over her shoulders, up to her slim throat, wrapped themselves around the soft grayish-pink flesh, and squeezed.
“Mr. Stewart? Sir?”
Dean Oliver Stewart. Eighty-two, remarkably fit for his age, an agile mind. “Sorry. I was reminiscing.”
“We have Dr. Gross. It seems he built a second version of the Intelliprobe. He’ll be here within the hour. If I may ask, were you thinking of her?”
“No, Mr. Cochrane, of regrets. Simple everyday regrets.”
“We all have a few of those.”
“Quite.” He studied his stout square-jawed Assistant Director, and again wondered if he had chosen the right man to lead his organization when he was gone. “I reread the initial telemetry reports, and not one hint as to what happened to his Intelliprobe to be found on any page. The snafu destroyed his career. That and his alcoholism. Thoughts?”
“The Intelliprobe project shouldn’t have been allowed in the first place.”
“We were lax in that respect, however, I believe everything was for the best. We have an opportunity, Mr. Cochrane. To answer a mystery that has plagued me for over fifty years. ‘You are us. We are you.’ She said that to me, and I want to know why.”
“She’s a machine.”
“A mechanism, Mr. Cochrane. Synthetics and more we can’t yet analyze. She is, was, a living, breathing, thinking machine.”
Ed woke enveloped by a stuffy conference room, hands and legs gratefully free, seated on black leather, behind a long polished, inky marble table.
“The drug’s residual effects will vanish in a few minutes,” an elderly man said, appearing from somewhere behind him. “A cup of coffee, and you wouldn’t know anything had been in your system.”
The man pulled the chair to his immediate right out, and sat. “Tell me, Dr. Gross. What happened to the Intelliprobe? Your opinion. I’ve read the reports.”
“Your goons said my old lab mates were dead,” Ed countered. “You can kill me too, for all I care.”
“Strong-arm tactics. Nobody has died, Dr. Gross. In fact, Dr. Elder works for us here. My name is Stewart. Dean Oliver Stewart. I head Majestic, and indeed Joyce Elder has worked for us since The Turner Group dismantled your lab. We recruited her because of her expertise in AI. Specifically, your AI. It seems we now need you to solve our mystery. One you seem to be connected to through your Intelliprobe project. So, let me ask you again. What happened to the Intelliprobe?”
“How can I trust you?”
“You have no choice but to trust me.”
Which left Ed very much surprised a black ops program called Majestic (rumored, never proven) actually existed.
Ed said, “I think it was overwhelmed by the immensity space is. Too much information.”
The last readout from the package belched a series of numbers he likened to a quick “kiss my ass” goodbye. As far as he was concerned the Intelliprobe fried itself on the wonders of space, much like Harvard psychology professor Timothy Leary did his own brain on LSD, during the 60's.
A panel on the opposite wall slid to one side, and a rather large screen lit up with a black and white, three, two, one.
“Roswell, New Mexico, 1947,” Mr. Stewart stated. “The alien female you see being escorted into the command tent was one of a crew of five. All female. The other four didn’t survive the crash. I interrogated her before the incident . . . took its toll. I discovered nothing.
“Their craft, as you can see, was remarkably intact. We can duplicate all alloys. We can provide the same power source. We reverse engineered an amazing amount of technology. The twist? You independently developed most of the technology for your Intelliprobe. Please, let me finish.
“We dissected several aliens and discovered internal organs not much different from ours. Two were pregnant. The recovered fetuses were alien human hybrids. Because of our experiences with the first four cadavers, we soon realized we didn’t have the expertise to determine much more than dick. We kept the fifth alien on ice. Dr. Elder began her own examination of the alien one year ago, and discovered a few things we can’t yet comprehend.”
The movie ended, and a slide show began.
“One of the chips I etched for the Intelliprobe,” Ed said.
“This is an extreme enlargement of a brain cell from the fifth alien,” Mr. Stewart said.
“I’ll take that cup of coffee.”
“I rather thought you would. Joyce?” The old man spoke into the air. “A cup of coffee for Dr. Gross.”
A side door opened, and Dr. Joyce Elder, blond hair pulled back, looking much the same as years past, entered with a cup of coffee.
She said, “I think this is your probe, Ed, or an aspect of it, augmented somehow. Your probe taken to extremes.”
“I need to see her, Joyce,” Ed said, abruptly realizing his exit of a years-long drunken stupor, having somehow survived to see the other side. “I need to see her.”
He took the cup offered, and enjoyed a generous sip.
“I’ve been working on a way to activate her memory,” Joyce said. “If it works, we may have a few answers.”
“It seems you have a new recruit,” Ed said, placing the cup on the conference room table. He stood. “Next time, ask.”
“You might have said no,” Mr. Stewart replied. “I can’t afford no for an answer. You see, Ed, the security of Earth may depend on you. Your probe technology in the form of a humanoid alien crew, piloting a ship over two decades before you were born. A ship constructed from alloys you yourself developed. Throughout the years they have taken reproductive samples from our citizens, breeding human-alien hybrids. For all I know they govern the world, having bred every politico under fifty. Questions. No answers. Go to work, please.”
Joyce led him through the door, and down a rather long corridor. They smocked up, entered a clean room, and inside was his original Intelliprobe equipment.
“Majestic stripped the lab once you embarked on your big drunk,” she said.