The Wondrous Times of Amy From Mars

The Wondrous Times of Amy From Mars

the multiverse, and the things that happen there


Dazed, Tanis lifted his bare head, which no longer sported a hat.  Focusing his foggy eyes, shaking his head, and blinking deeply slowly brought him back to reality.  And reality at the moment was shocking.  He tried again to clear his eye and purposely focus them straight ahead.  He still lay stomach down on the perforated metal catwalk, and was face to face - at a distance of ten feet or so - with a large silver and gold orb, or globe shaped object, or that was as it appeared from his perspective; he was to close, and the object to large to accurately judge it's size.  What he could make out - still laying on the metal bridge - were huge black and white letters below the unmistakable stars and stripes of the American flag.

Now more perplexed than dazed, Tanis forgot any pain he had been feeling, and climbed to his feet.  He was shaking, but was unaware it.  He was mesmerized by the giant lettering in front of him;



was boldly painted below the flag on the side of the silver and gold orb.  Yes, he could now tell the object was indeed an orb, a perfect metallic sphere, a miniature world suspended, he realized, by numerous cables and wires.  He remained motionless; transfixed, and with his jaw stuck open, some pain returning to his muscles, and some colorful explicatories scrolling through his disturbed thoughts.

Tanis tried to gather his thoughts; he slowly approached the strange orb, and as he did he noticed an extension of the catwalk skirted the perimeter of the shiny sphere at about a two foot distance from its surface.  He made his way to the extension, and began circumnavigating the structure.

Whatever the nature of this most strange device it was most obviously American, but beyond that he did not have a clue.  NASA was more than likely an acronym for a government agency of some sort, and government because not a lot of private concerns would paint The United States of America on its product, but instead a company name, and made in the USA, and a logo of sorts would be prominently displayed.  So what was a NASA?  So science or research branch of something he assumed; maybe some national science agency budgeted under some obscure pet project he had never come across.  A telescope of sorts? he postulated taking into account the words Mars, and more to the point, Observer; a telescope, but no apertures he could see, or a radio telescope - these he had heard theorized, but wasn't sure of the technology.  But that didn't matter because he wasn't in the least sure of any of this.

Subconsciously, or unintentionally at any rate he that he had begun counting the stars in the royal blue field which had caught his eye due to a slightly irregular alignment he thought of the rows and columns.  After a second accounting, and then a third for good measure since he was only carrying around half his wits, the painted glory bore not less than two score and ten white stars; a mix up down at the flag painting department, he doubted it.  More likely a deception of sorts, or a training or test of some type; but on a telescope?  He had precious few ideas, and no answers, and was too confused to postulate in any great depth.  He continued his cursory investigation since the only thing he was sure of was that something was very wrong here; very wrong indeed.

No sand!  Thankful, but yet another mystery.  He checked his garments, his exposed arms, shook his head, examined the edges of the catwalk which had solid eaves, and ran his finger with a swipe along the railing that enclosed the orb, and there was not a single grain of sand anywhere.  He was pleased, and yet more perplexed at the same time. Since his arrival in Egypt months earlier sand had been omnipresent on his person - even when bathing, until now.   Actually he also noticed the lack of any dust, or dirt, or particles, or spider webs, or any debris at all.  And this was even more curious because there was obviously a noticeable little breeze of fresh air circulating about the chamber; just another mystery.
As an engineer during the war Tanis had the highest level security clearance, as he had worked on weapons design teams, and had played a minor role in the development of some nuclear devices; both obviously military projects.  But he also had a hand in some research projects involving advanced communications, and some new, highly secret, radar device being developed in conjunction with friendlies, like the Canadian Air Defense, and the British.  He had served on the Armed Services Committee during his stint as a Senator and was up to date on the technological, and military state of the arts, and had been in one way or another involved in, or had knowledge of the what was being funded, or what would be fund for both military and civilian use for the foreseeable future; some amazing things, very secret things, some horrible things, some wonderful things, and not much got by him.  But presently he was face to face with something that didn't fit into the overall scheme of things, not even if it was an independent or commercial enterprise.  Again, something was very wrong here.

Tanis continued his grand tour of the object, and as the novelty of it began to wane, or as the unbelievability began to blend with the believable, he took notice of his larger surroundings; the chamber itself, and its own peculiarities.  A couple of things puzzled him.  First; where the hell was all the light coming from?  He was in at the center of a stark, sterile, pure white chamber that, by his best estimates, measured roughly one hundred or so yards on every side to far distance white walls - which was absolutely impossible as the outer structure of the object only measured forty feet a side, but who cared since nothing here was possible.  The distance to the ceiling he felt he had a better grasp on having just fell from not more than ten feet from the top of the black object, and judging from his fall he had not traveled more than a total of maybe thirty feet.  Which also raised question since even though his fall had ended abruptly and harshly, with a fall of about thirty feet he should have landed much harder, and with more severe consequences than actually, he didn't even have a bump on the head, or a scratch for that matter, to show for his ordeal; he filed that thought for the moment.  So he was again surprised when he peered upward to find that the chamber had no discernible ceiling; just whiteness blurring into more distant whiteness, and all brightly lit.  Below? There was no below; just more whiteness continuing downward in brightness for as far as his senses could perceive.  In fact, the catwalk and the orb were the only clues Tanis had as which direction was up and which was down, and without these clues he doubted he could trust his own senses in what would be a void sea of whiteness; he felt his inner ear would not even help under the circumstances. So he kept close to the orb, the catwalk,and the railing since these at the moment represented his world.  And everywhere there was the bright light, but again, where the hell was it coming from.  There appeared, for as far as he could see, nothing but the orb, the catwalk, and some cables and wires disappearing into the white distance.  There appeared to be no mechanism, or device, or source of the bright light which he realized was distributed with even luminosity wherever he looked; there were no shadows.  The room was totally bathed in light, and yet no shadows were cast. This he new could be explained away if there was an equal amount of intense enough light hitting everything at once from every conceivable angle.  But that meant that both he and the orb would also have to be radiating equal amounts of light, and perfectly reflecting any light that arrived on their surfaces; that was not the case, and after a few experiments with waving hands, moving shoes, and hand puppets that produced no show, he halted this investigation as well, and filed with the rest of the current unknowns.  He continued inspecting his surroundings, and switch mental gears.

A second puzzling subject now moving to the front of his thoughts was the very existence of a US anything - installation, device, project, whatever - the very existence of it here in the middle of the Egyptian desert.  And international diplomacy aside, the building of such a facility, for whatever purpose, just the planning, the funding, and the logistics of the operation whether as a government, military, or private undertaking would have raised some flags that he certainly should have been aware of in on or more of the circles he lived in.  He still had considerable influence and connections in Congress, and with the Executive Branch, and he still had contacts at State and Justice, and both official and none official links with the military.  In the private sector he was highly sought after to consult, plan, or manage precisely this type and scale of project; whatever this project actually was.  His international connections, and his Washington connection, plus his familiarity and knowledge of the desert region were the reasons his present employer fought so desperately to secure his services.  If the US had decided it necessary to build an installation of this complexity anywhere, especially on foreign soil, and more specifically in the Egyptian desert, he would definitely have known about it; he would almost have to know about it for it to succeed, but here it was.  Something was very wrong here.  Following this trend of thought, he pondered something else peculiar: His company, TransAtlantic Construction Limited, was a close partner with the US government, and all foreign projects always had to submit to governmental review and approval anyway.  So was he meant to find this thing, this place, Maybe?  A test of some sort? Part of some grand scheme?  He reasoned that with the advanced nature and complexity of this installation, the obvious security involved and the advanced technologies present, wouldn't either the government - foreign or domestic, USA or Egypt - or who ever the principles of this operation were, wouldn't they have known, and even now be aware that he was surveying, mapping, and excavating this plot of desert for a very highly publicized public works project for the Egyptians; certainly they would.  He was certain because both governments had indeed investigated and analysed every detail of this project, and both had given their approval, support, and more importantly their funding, the location had been hand picked for him.  So how could they possibly have let digging begin on this very spot.  More Questions.

Tanis again pondered the interior construction of the vast bright tomb.  And that gave rise to yet another puzzle that nagged his tortured brain; there was no evidence of a power supply, or its accompanying familiar sounds, and while considering sound he wasn't sure of the physics, but it seemed that this many photons flying around ought to make some kind of noise.  There was no evidence of a power supply or power making device noticeable either inside - as far as he could tell - or outside of the enclosure as far as he and his people could find back in the real world.  To light up anything as brightly as the interior of this chamber would surely involve a mass of generators burning fuel, or using millions of gallons of water flow - which he knew was impossible; and these thing he was confident of the requirements - energy was his business.  Also, something had to be producing the actual visual candle power - the lums, the illumination, and although he couldn't detect any bulbs, or candles, or lights, or tubes, he believed that that could at least be explained away by the intensity of the light washing-out what's behind the light.  But that wasn't the concern.  With all of the light and lights, and power and generators or whatever, and with all of the invisible vacuum tubes, and transformers, and other electrical and mechanical devices that must be in operation to support the installation, where was all of the heat going. The sealed chamber should be as hot as a furnace.  But there was the constant breeze, the fresh air, and ventilation apparently, but in keeping with the oddities of the place the light breeze made no sound, and circulated showing no signs of an expected updraft from the non-existent heat.  And once again, something was very wrong here.

While mentally dissecting the situation, Tanis slowly kept moving along the circular catwalk extension taking in all of the details of the orb possible, and with a start, he came to an abrupt stop, and stood absolutely, perfectly, still; motionless, frozen.  His eyes were fixed on a newly discovered series of lights - lots of them, ad they were blinking.  Why this surprised him?  He didn't know.  For some reason he assumed the orb was turned off, not functioning or functional, static instead of dynamic, something left behind or in storage, but these ideas - which were baseless in the first place, came to an end.  This top secret non-threatening telescope or observing device suddenly took on a more ominous adventure.  Tanis now knew that the orb had to be anything but a benign observation device; a benign functioning telescope would serve no purpose buried beneath the desert sand.  No, he now was sure of what he had here, and he anxiety level rose dramatically.  This thing wasn't just functioning, he told himself, it was armed.  Whatever the hell it was, the orb, or observer, or A-bomb, or H-bomb, or God knows what was armed, and he had the good fortune to be trapped in the same room with it. Something was very, very wrong here.

Instinct urged Tanis to flee, and while he held full dose of adrenaline in check, he nonetheless scanned his surroundings for escape routes.  Even if this thing were not a bomb, he would eventually have to find a way either up, down, or through the wall to get out of the chamber.  But if he were found to be missing long enough, someone - probably Mahmud, would come searching for him.  He rather liked the option of getting out of the enclosure to bare witness to it than having more people becoming trapped while attempting a rescue; probably a futile attempt.  Fight or flight pulled at him, and he focused his attention on the straight piece of catwalk where he had earlier land.  If there was any way out of here the straight catwalk disappearing into the distant white was his only reasonable option; at least it want somewhere.

Tanis made his way back around to the catwalk, and started heading in the opposite direction of the orb.  He walked and he thought.  Too many stars on an American flag, a big, giant, soundless, sand less, chamber with no ceiling, no floors, and no sign of any walls - yet, and now he strode this strange path. NASA MARS OBSERVER, armed and ready, but armed and ready for what?  The very nature of the enclosure eluded him; what mysterious technology was being employed here, and why was he not aware of its existence?  And what was the substance of the outer black wall that had consumed him, and how was it that the inside of the chamber physically appeared practically endless, but the black outer structure was of a measurable construction of only forty feet a side.  He suddenly came to yet another not so implausible answer to his recent predicament; maybe he was dead.  Whatever the strange journey through the wall had been, perhaps that was his journey from life into death.  And this was what then?  Heaven?  Hell?  He continued his trek.

He walked on for quite some time, and to add discomfort to misery, he was beginning to feel hungry.  He looked to his wrist watch out of reflex, and surprise surprise, it was no longer operating having stopped he surmised around the time he landed on the catwalk.  He continued walking, and after some time he allowed himself a glimpse in the direction of the orb, and was somehow relieved to find it had vanished in the whiteness; if the distance he had covered was enough to leave the orb a speck in the distance, and strengthened his feeling that he had traveled not so far away from the orb as that much closer to the other end of the catwalk; he was half way to wherever he was going, or making progress at any rate.  He look forward, and to his total surprise something far off ahead in the white distance caught his eye.  If he had been slouching, or pacing himself, he now waled tall at a steady stride, and with purpose and conviction; he was renewed - a minor renewal, but a renewal just the same.

As Tanis continued forward down the catwalk shapes began to form in the distance, and whitewash became stained with blurs of color.  After another hundred yards or Tanis could definitely now make out the shapes people, about four or five people of equal height and bulk - and quite bulky at that it appeared - four or five people on either side of the catwalk lined up side by side flanking an archway, or portal, or maybe a doorway or tunnel; he could yet tell.  His excitement grew, and with no concern as to whether these folks be friend or foe he let loose a call, "Hello there!" he shouted with a waving of his arms over his head, but received no response at all.  He tried again with the same results, so he continued to approach, his curiosity aroused.  Strange too, there was no echo from his cries, but instead his voice returned to his ears as quickly as if he yell point blank at a solid wall.  He steadily approached the bulky forms which he was more convinced with every step were no alive, and archway or portal now became the unmistakable structure of a door, or more properly a hatch like one would find on a ship.  Above the doorway there appeared several small lights of red and green blinking in sequence, and to the right of the door there was a soft reddish blob glowing faintly.  There also appeared to be a small square window of sorts in the top center half of the hatch below which was a large round handle, or perhaps a locking device.  To the left of the door was a plaque, or writing - he was still to far away to tell for sure.  He also noticed a set of small steps, and more importantly, behind all this there was a wall, and a finite boundary to the chamber.

His journey came to an end, and he stood at a point were the catwalk opened to a large stage or platform.  To the left and right he saw now that the bulky forms were work suits, or pressure suits like those worn by test pilots complete with sealed helmets that looked more suited for under water work, huge gloves mechanically attached to the arms with metal locking rings of brass or gold, and matching boots built into the garment.  The whole ensemble was bright orange.  Tubing and wiring protruded from each suit, and disappeared into the wall behind them. Beneath the suits were metal benches or perhaps chests or lockers of sorts he surmised as they contained what looked like locking mechanisms on the faces. A small hinged panel, again with a locking mechanism, separated each suit.   Slowly, he advanced on to the platform. The plaque to the left of the hatch - which he could tell now was indeed a hearty version of a secure ships hatch - the plaque appeared to be made of a gold or bronze alloy, and contained an odd arrangement of unfamiliar symbols.  The steps were indeed two steps, with black treads on each step, the first of which he gingerly step up on.  In the square were a window should be there was only a recessed panel - a shutter he thought.  He touched the door lightly; it was body temperature - neither warm nor cool, and solid feeling.  He attempted a light tapping with his knuckles, and confirmed its density.  Next he experimented with a full fist on the surface of the hatch, and found it to be like punching the door of a large safe; very very solid.  He grabbed hold of the handle, and as he placed himself to apply torque the handle moved just from his grasp.  With one finger he pressured the handle in the counter clock wise direction; the direction his common sense told him meant open, and he meet no resistance.  The handle spun freely, and slowed to a natural stop.  He tried the clock wise direction, and achieved the exact same results.  Perplexed, he again grabbed the handle with both hands, wiggled it from side to side, tried to move it left to right, up and down, and attempted to push it in and pull it out, but there was no response or give of any type.  Frustrated, he gave the wheel on great spin as he practically leapt from the steps.  The lights above the door continued there march, the handle - which not surprisingly had been spinning absolutely soundlessly , now came to a soundless stop.  The arrangement of suits to the right of the doorway mirrored that of the left.  He glanced over the railing of the platform, and the view was the same as back at the orb device; straight down into white nothingness.  Even when he followed the wall downward it just simply continued down to blend with brightness, and the view upward was the same. He went back to the door.  On closer inspection he noticed that the hatch was missing one important detail; no hinged.  Was it hinged from the inside?  Did it open inward?  What the hell he told himself, and went back up the steps, placed his shoulder, and gave a push; no luck.  He descended the steps again moved in for a closer look at the glowing reddish blotch to the right of the door.  It was a glowing, throbbing shape of an open right hand with the the finger and thumb spread wide. The hand was slightly sunken into the glowing surface, and the area where the thumb would fit was sunk slightly deeper than the rest.  Tanis raised his right hand, turned it palm side up, and studied it for a moment.  He turned his hand palm down, and with the greatest caution he slowly placed it on the glowing hand print.  His heart skipped a beat.