A millisecond after he made contact with the glowing hand print a very loud,
very famine voice pierced every cell of his shocked body. Tanis ripped his hand back,
and for a moment was frozen in place quite stunned. The powerful high pierced voice had
come from everywhere at once, and spoke a language so foreign that except being obviously
female, it seemed utterly non-human. The voice had illuminated within his head, and
again there was no echo, and voice ended as abruptly as it had come; now total silence.
Tanis quickly took inventory of his surroundings, and nothing had changed; the lights above
the hatch still blinked as the did before, the bulky suits remained just as inanimate as
ever, he reached up and spun the round door handle which turned just as freely as it did
previously, whiteness totally engulfed his miniature universe, and the glowing throbbing hand
print went on glowing and throbbing. With nothing else to lose Tanis again placed his
hand on the glowing print device, and now aware of the likely outcome, he was not quite as
shocked by the piercing voice. He went to the steps at the foot of the door, and sat to
gather his thought, and investigate his options. Also, he was presently becoming
decidedly hungry, and somewhat wary. He leaned back against the unmovable door, folded
his arms, closed his eyes, and took a deep, calming breath.
He did not dream, but rather simply awoke completely refreshed after what could
have been five minutes, or five years; he didn't know, or care; he felt great. He stood
and stretched, and allowed himself a yawn, and a licking of his chops; he truly felt wide
awake, he no longer felt the least bit hungry, and he didn't even have bad breath; if there
were birds here they would be singing. The only down side of awakening was that he
awoke back in the chamber, and not from some strange desert dream. Calmly, Tanis once
again surveyed the area of the platform, tried the handle on the door, and put his hand on
the glowing hand print; nothing had changed. So, with really no other choice he decided
to head back to where he had started - back to the orb object - and he began to formulate a
plan of somehow salvaging some piece of the thing to use on the door, or the wall. His
two other plans involved a detailed investigation of the wires and cables attached to the
device - where they lead to? and if all else failed he could just sit down and die - if
indeed that was not already his status.
His uneventful trip back to the orb seemed take much much less time than his journey to the
doorway; going home from anywhere always seem quicker than a journey away from the home - its a
universal constant. Not surprisingly, the area round about the orb and its enclosure was
exactly as he had left it. And that being the case, he skipped by that portion of the orb he
had investigated earlier, and moved around the catwalk to where he was about half way around the
device. This time as he went though, he put any amazement on the back burner, and
concentrated on utility; something that he might use as a tool, or as a protection should climbing
unfortunately enter into the picture.
His search now revealed all manner of peculiar gadgets and devices, and gadgets
as passengers of parent devices, and a great many unrecognizable paraphernalia; he hadn't
given much more thought as to whether or not he was sharing this intimate distance with a
bomb - not that it would have mattered. From the far side of the sphere began to admire
the remarkable assortment of devices adorning the exterior, and the overwhelming tooling and
craftsmanship of the orb and adornments. But from his new vantage point the observer took
more the shape of a cube, with separate domes at either end; a matter of perspective.
On opposing sides lattice works of steel protruded like arms, or gossamer wings arms twice as
long as the body, and they were extremely thin, and fine, but of a durable substance he
decided. A large array of six mirror covered panels hung away from the body of the unit
on a third arm; each panel was itself the size of the central box unit. From the top
sprang a long thin rod topped with a round concave dish of sorts. A number of
unrecognizable devices covered the many faces of the box. On close inspection Tanis
noticed something familiar about some of the smaller devices.
Some contained what could only be optical lenses. So perhaps this Observer
really was some sort of observation or telescopic instrument, and not a vehicle of
destruction; cameras on a bomb? that wouldn't be very practical. This thought provided
Tanis with an overdue slice of hope. Coming half way again around to the next unvisited
quadrant of the orb a shine of gold caught his eye, and stooped down to investigate. He
had discovered a golden rectangular plaque about one foot by two foot attached to the lower
body of the object; leaning closer he read,
NASATHE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
LAUNCHED SEPTEMBER 1992
CAPE KENNEDY, FLORIDA
JET PROPULSION LABORATORY
PASADENA, CALIFORNIA CONSTRUCTION
BY MARTIN MARIETTA ASTRO SPACE, INC.
Hope jumped out the window, and reality flew in and punched in square in the
chest; Tanis wobbled, and sat before he tipped over; his brain hurt. NASA, MARS, 1992,
ASTRO SPACE, out of place flag, blinking lights, a chamber where the laws of physics simply
don't apply, lights, cameras, bombs, UNITED STATES, SEPTEMBER 1992..., something was very,
very, very wrong here.
So shaken by his most recent discovery that Tanis almost missed the wooden
handle of his faithful pickax dangling precariously with the very tip of the head half
hanging from yet another piece of gold work on the side of the orb, and balance against the
inner side of the catwalk; why it hadn't fallen was nothing short of a miracle. He half
crawled half rolled to where the ax hang, and in one swift - and unusually agile motion he
snatched the tool from it's perch with no thought to any consequences; a trophy for certain.
Only after this little victory and all of the celebrations that went with it did he take
closer notice of the other gold object where the ax had been stuck; it was unavoidable as he
was now close enough to comb his hair in its reflection.
Still happily clutching the ax, he backed away from the body of the orb so as to
bring the golden object into focus. He was face to face with a solid gold, semi-detached,
flat disk with pictures, numbers, and symbols rising out of it's surface. With the same
reverence most people have when handling precious metals, Tanis lightly touched the face of
the gold disk, and slowly ran one finger around and down the edge of the piece. As he
retrieved his hand, something remarkable happened; the disk shuttered silently, and then
drifted effortlessly from the facade of the orb and floated lightly into his hand as if some
one had handed it to him with love. Obviously shocked by such an event, he nevertheless
grasped the gift as if it were given from on high. It was heavy; solid. The back was covered
with finely tooled grooves, like a phonograph record. It was perfectly flat. The front
displayed a relief of a man and a woman hold hands; both were naked, and in anatomically
correct detail. There was a star burst in one hemisphere; a spiral with a large spot on the
second arm in the other hemisphere. A diagram of what could only be the solar system
highlighted another quadrant, and in no particular order he recognized symbols for base
elements, an equation for the speed of light constant, and Einstein's energy formula. After a
few more minutes of study he attempted to replace the disk, but found that it would not
reattach to were it had removed itself, so he slipped under his shirt just a little below the
top of his belt to hold it, and secured the button. Taking hold of his ax, he used it to push
himself to his feet. He had a tool now, and again his thoughts returned to escape. And
something else crossed his mind. As a retired officer, a ward of the court, a Senator who had
sworn a lifetime oath of service and loyalty to country and President, and as a US citizen,
he was bound by duty not only to save himself, but to witness this chamber, escape from it,
and to report what knowledge he had of what was surely a most guarded secret. And he reasoned
that if he had found what was obviously something not meant for general consumption, others
not so well meaning might stumble upon it as well. And since he didn't know if that was the
ultimate plan or not, he must report this installation immediately to US authorities. And if
he was to aid in keeping it secret then that he was more than capable of doing as well, but
first he would have to find out what the disposition of this site really
Tanis prepared himself for another great trek down the catwalk armed with his ax
and the strange disk, when for the first time since the experience with the piercing female
voice heard at the hatch door the deafening silence was shattered from a distance. In
contrast to the voice at the door that came from everywhere and nowhere at the same time, and
as if in his head, this sound came from a distance, and localized enough that he could raise
his head and instinctively gaze toward the source of the sounds; they emanated from roughly
where he had fallen through the black wall that had delivered him to this
"Measter Feek... Measter Feek... where are you Measter Feek?"
Oh what shock and joy, oh what holy deliverance, oh what wondrous turning of events; it was Mahmud;
it was Mahmud to the rescue. He laughed and smiled and cried.
"Measter Feek, can you hear me Measter Feek? Do you require assistance Measter Feek? Measter
Feek...," the worried voice uncharacteristically bounced around the chamber.
"Mahmud, I'm here," he blurted out uncontrollably, "I'm...," he held his tongue. In his jubilance
he had forgotten the possible danger of drawing Mahmud into the same trap as he; they both might
never get out. He had a much better chance of being rescued if Mahmud remained on the outside. He
was in no present danger, and they would have time to examine some options; there surely must be
some options. His assistant could somehow lower a rope ladder perhaps, or get food to him in the
interim, or he could get some help, or contact whoever built this place - now that would be
helpful. Yes, best that Mahmud was on the outside.
"Mahmud, can you hear me Mahmud?" he shouted in the direction of Mahmud's last
"Measter Feek? Yes Measter Feek, I hear you sir. Where are...," his voice seemed to trail off.
"Mahmud, Listen. I'm trapped. Stay where...," he stopped mid-sentence, and turned in horror in the
direction of a faint scream that grew very quickly, becoming ever louder, and rapidly approaching
his location from overhead. And half a heart beat later his worst fear was confirmed. For there,
suspended from one of the guy wires that attached to the orb dangled a quite distressed Mahmud; his
white robes all a tangle far above the bottomless chamber floor. Mahmud did not have the good
fortune to land directly on the catwalk, but a very uncomfortable distance from it. Tanis noticed
for the first time how similar in dressing customs the Egyptian men in their robes were with those
men of Scotland and their kilts.
"Measter Feek?" shouted the Arab in 'Hey, what are you doing here' kind of tone.
"Damn," mumbled Fick to himself; time for plan two he thought; 'shame there was no plan two. Tanis
leaped to the railing closest to Mahmud's location, and dropped the pick ax and the gold disk to
the catwalk. "Don't move Mahmud; Hold on," he said.
"Your greatest speed would be very much appreciated Measter Feek," Mahmud said shakily, but
politely. Tanis hadn't noticed. "Try sliding down the cable just a little bit; slowly," offered
Fick encouragingly. He then bent down and reached his hand behind him to feel for the ax
"Yes Measter Feek," said the hesitant aerobat as he moved about an inch or so down the wire.
Tanis started to fish with the ax. "I think I can pull you over to the catwalk here... hold on...,"
he said targeting a dangling piece of Mahmud's robe.
"If you say so Measter Feek," Mahmud said cautiously edging down the wire.
"That's it, good; I got ya...," he said with a strain as he hooked, grabbed, yanked and pulled all
at once. Tanis landed on his back, again; but this time with two hundred pounds of Egyptian flat on
top of his chest. He gasped for air.
"Thank you Measter Feek, thank you very much sir," Mahmud said very graciously and cheerfully.
"Auuuuh... Okay. Okay. Get... auuuuh off... mmmeee," groaned Tanis as he tried to push and roll
Mahmud aside. He took a minute to catch his breath, and then sat up. Mahmud looked around the
chamber in dazed astonishment, while Tanis straightened his clothing, and tucked the disk back in
his shirt. "Where... are...," began his bewildered aide; he reached a hand out in the direction of
the Observer. Tanis was looking for where the pick ax had gotten off to.
"I don't know where we're at," started Tanis clearing his head again, "or at least I'm not totally
sure my friend." He pulled himself together, and brought himself to his feet, as did Mahmud. Tanis
spied the pick ax near the edge of the catwalk. He shuffled over to it, and picking it up he said,
"What I do know is we have to get out of hear."
"Measter Feek this is most peculiar," Mahmud said as he fumbled with a small device on the surface
of the Observer. "I think this..."
Tanis turned to look toward the aide, and then screamed, "Mahmud, Don't touch th...."
...a light brighter than any light had ever been...