Episode 12--Intruder Alert

Episode 12 —
Intruder Alert

Episode 12:
Intruder Alert

On yet another Thursday, the 11th day of the month of October in the year 2012, there are the usual severe thunderstorms passing directly over the entire Las Vegas Valley as MMDI agent Ted Avila materializes inside a completely empty room at the Blue Angel Motel that awaits an inevitable demolition in the near future.

He looks like he is around 30 years of age, but both outward appearance and genuine age are deceiving when you’re a time travel agent. He is wearing dark, inconspicuous clothing that looks as if he deliberately has tried to blend in to this place and time without calling any attention to himself.

He can see rainwater pouring steadily down from a large crack in the dirty ceiling of the motel room onto the rotting carpet on the floor. The stench of dirty, wet motel room remains overwhelming to him even after tens of thousands of visits in time that he has made back to the Blue Angel in the service of a personal mission to repair a past timeline.

He hears a man’s footsteps outside the motel room door and watches the door swing inwards toward him. Vincent Wauneka enters the motel room. His tight blue jeans really emphasize his masculinity. Ted Avila smiles as he understands that Vincent Wauneka has not changed at all after repeated visits to this motel room. Both men are forever young because of time travel.

Vincent Wauneka walks up close to Ted Avila and hugs him with genuine affection. “Missed you,” Ted Avila says as the sound of pouring rain increases outside the motel room.

“I feel the same about you, Teddy. I brought something important to give you that I know you will want. They call it a DVD. Strange invention. A disk that contains a movie. You put the disk in a machine and—.”

“Vincent, damn it. I know what a DVD is,” Ted Avila interrupts quickly. “What is this all about?”

“A Hollywood movie,” Vincent Wauneka explains. “You gave me files of information. Secrets. I did what I could. Repeated attempts.”

Ted Avila looks at the plastic box containing the DVD. He reads the movie title aloud with a sarcastic tone, “Top Secret Time Travel Agents from the Moon.”

“I know, I know,” Vincent Wauneka admits. “Fucking awful name for a movie. Like the studio deliberately wanted nobody to take it seriously.”

Ted Avila asks, “Low-budget, direct to video? Probably only seen by all of ten people. But, you did well pulling this off. I’m impressed. Did you actually watch this movie?”

Vincent Wauneka nods as he accepts the compliment and admits, “Yeah. Hated it. The person who wrote it ended up taking their own life. Ashamed of how bad it was.”

“Well, the secrets about time travel are now out. Available in public. Somebody will have to draw conclusions in the future. How is it that now you can remember what happened on multiple missions to change the past?” Ted Avila asks. “At all other times we met here at the Blue Angel you perceived each of our meetings here as the very first. Your memories had been capable of only tracking a single timeline, not any of the changes that are made when we make changes to timelines in the past.”

“Yeah, I started noticing changes,” Vincent Wauneka admits. “Headaches at first. Then, dizziness. Blackouts. Lost track of days. Weeks even. Then, I slowly realized that I could remember conflicting things I had done and people that I had seen on my missions.”

“I think your brain is changing, Vincent,” Ted Avila explains. “I was told by Doctor Oswald something about repeated time travel missions that affect all of agents one way or another. This is not a good sign. Any other problems you’ve noticed?”

“Kind of embarrassed to admit this, but, yeah,” Vincent Wauneka says as he lowers his voice like he is not sure he should speak aloud. “I can only have five orgasms in a day now. Before, I never had to think about pacing myself.”

“How terribly sad for you, man,” Ted Avila says as he smacks Vincent Wauneka affectionately in the balls.

As Vincent Wauneka doubles over, he says, “You do realize that we have made ourselves into rogue agents.”

“I have a plan. I have a group of fellow agents,” Vincent Wauneka explains. “Back at base. We are—. How to explain this?”

“Fuck buddies?” Ted Avila asks.

“Yeah,” Vincent Wauneka admits. “Something like that. They help me do things from base that I could not do on my own. Personal missions. Like retrieve both of us from 2012.”

“Tagawa will find a way to get back at us,” Ted Avila says. “I’m sure of that!”

“No, I am sure that my guys are capable of undoing whatever Tagawa may attempt,” Vincent Wauneka says confidently. “You just let me take care of that.”

– – – – – – – – – – – – –

Time travel agents Ted Avila and Vincent Wauneka materialize naked inside side-by-side blue glass chambers at the time travel base. They react strongly in disgust to the dripping translucent white liquid flowing down from inside their noses onto their chins. Immediately begins the rapid purging of the thicker-than-water liquid from the two chambers.

Their lungs joyfully take in the availability of sweet oxygen. A low-pitched whooshing sound accompanies the vertical splitting of the blue glass time travel chambers allowing both men to walk out into the room. They look around at the sixteen of the blue glass chambers arranged in a semicircle in a large airplane hangar-sized room with tons of electronic technology visible everywhere you look. “Told you I would get us back here successfully,” Vincent Wauneka says quietly to Ted Avila.

The one and only place at base where Ted Avila and Vincent Wauneka can find any privacy is in the showers located in the back of the crew quarters. Whenever the two want to find an acoustically isolated place, the crew showers is where they go. The only requirement is for them to run the water on all twelve of the shower heads so that rushing sound of water masks out all other sounds.

Even though the base security camera can see them in the showers, this acoustic privacy of the rushing water sounds affords them the rare opportunity to speak at a whisper to one another without fear that what they say will be heard. The always take care to keep not let any of the cameras see their lips while they are communicating with one another.

When the two men are naked together in the crew showers, their behaviors appear consistent with that of lovers. That is what they want base security to think.

“Should I go back and try again to make that Hollywood movie more credible?” Vincent Wauneka whispers.

“No,” Ted Avila whispers in response. “Too complicated and risky. You might end up wrecking the changes you made to that timeline in the past. Just let things stay.”

Vincent Wauneka nods in agreement.

Ted Avila says, “I have to just let this go. I’ve created an awful lot of trouble for me and you within MMDI. I put your life in jeopardy as well. You died because of me. On more than one or two occasions.”

Vincent Wauneka whispers softly as he gently brushes Ted Avila’s wet hair from his forehead: “We both have come back from missions knowing that our actions led to the death of specific guys. My agent friends here at base also brought back agents that Tagawa tried to kill in the past.”

“I’m very concerned about your memory capabilities,” Ted Avila says quietly. “How are you able to remember so much? This is not a good thing for you. Emotionally, I mean.”

“Should I tell Doctor Oswald?” Vincent Wauneka asks.

“That’s exactly what I was suggesting. But, leave out the part about how few orgasms you can have in one day now,” Ted Avila says.

Vincent Wauneka and Ted Avila are wearing their all-black uniforms and black boots seated in a very small oval-shaped conference room at a table with some embedded electronic panels. Vincent Wauneka pushes one of the sections of the panel nearest where he is seated and after a few electronic beeps, Doctor William Oswald materializes in the conference room. He says, “What can I do to help you, Mr. Wauneka and Mr. Avila?”

Vincent quickly says, “Teddy here thinks I should talk to you about how my memory seems to be changing after I come back from missions.”

“I have begun to see indications that Vincent is starting to remember alternate timeline like I can,” Ted Avila adds.

“How long have you noticed this, Mr. Wauneka?” Doctor Oswald asks.

“Teddy noticed it. He pointed it out to me,” Vincent Wauneka says. “Very recently. I thought it was normal, you know? Something that all agents have after so many missions.”

Doctor Oswald says, “The phrase ‘very recently’ is not too precise in the line of work that you do, Mr. Wauneka. Can you be more specific?”

“I don’t know how to be precise,” Vincent Wauneka admits. “In our training we learn that time is relative, not absolute. But, subjectively, I would say that Mr. Avila pointed this out on the personal mission to Las Vegas that he and I just got back from.”

“Okay,” Doctor Oswald replies. “There’s a small lens on the panel in front of you, Mr. Wauneka. Please locate that lens at the bottom of the panel and look directly facing into that lens.”

A beam of iridescent blue projects from the lens directly into Vincent Wauneka’s face. “I am doing a quick scan of your brain, Mr. Wauneka,” Doctor Oswald explains. The beam shuts off as suddenly as it had engaged. “Mr. Wauneka, I need to analyze the scans of your brain that I made,” Doctor Oswald says. “But, I can say that I do not see any physical damage, Mr. Wauneka. I will keep running tests on the data that I have collected here today. Is there anything else I can help you with?”

Vincent Wauneka replies, “Teddy here says I should not tell you this, but: I feel like I am not the same as I was sexually. I feel like I have lost. Or, I should say that I feel like I am losing some of my—.”

Doctor Oswald waits for Vincent to continue, then asks, “Some of your what, Mr. Wauneka?”

“In the 20th century, they use the word ‘mojo,’” Vincent Wauneka says. “That is how I can explain it to you.”

“I am not familiar with the slang from hundreds of years ago. An acronym perhaps?” Doctor Oswald asks.

“I used to be able to have as many orgasms in a day as I wanted,” Vincent Wauneka says. “I now can only get to five in a day. Something is wrong.”

Ted Avila buries his head in his hands on the conference room table.

Doctor Oswald replies, “Mr. Wauneka, I think I understand what you are telling me.”

Ted Avila adds quickly, “Hey, Doc, maybe Vincent should stand up right now, unzip and let you scan his equipment with that lens here. Although I don’t know if that lens is big enough.”

Vincent Wauneka and Ted Avila are walking together, side by side, down one of the narrow corridors inside the moon base. The look on Vincent Wauneka’s face is one of complete embarrassment. He shakes his head to indicate his disbelief at the conference room conversation. Ted Avila smiles with obvious pleasure at Vincent Wauneka’s embarrassment, but carefully avoids eye contact with him.

The two men attempt to walk to the crew quarters. But, their efforts are thwarted by sudden changes in what should be very familiar hallways at base. They repeatedly turn left down a corridor, expecting to find the entrance to the crew quarters. Instead, they keep find themselves standing in a dead-end hallway. “Something obviously is wrong,” Vincent Wauneka says.

Ted Avila turns around to answer, but before he can speak, he finds that he and Vincent Wauneka are alone together in a section of the base hallway without any egress. So, Ted Avila pushes his entire body weight aggressively against the nearest wall, which collapses inward as if it were made of plywood covered merely in paper. Ted Avila and Vincent Wauneka walk into a small circular room with muted overhead lighting. “Vincent, I recognize this place,” Ted Avila says quietly. “We are several hundred levels down.”

“That is correct, Mr. Avila” says a digitized male voice with a Hispanic accent from some overhead source above the two men.

“Eduardo?” Ted Avila asks.

“Correct again,” is the response from the voice.

“You know this guy?” Vincent Wauneka asks aloud.

“Well, not really a guy,” Ted Avila says, trying to use humor to displace his fear. “I will explain later.”

“No, I will explain. You both are safe,” the voice of Eduardo says. “Down deep below the main floors of our moon base. Top-secret location. Few agents ever see this. Mr. Avila has been here before. He and I have talked about a good many subjects down here in this location.”

“Eduardo runs MMDI,” Ted Avila quickly explains to Vincent Wauneka. “He is artificial intelligence.” Then, Ted Avila quickly adds, “And I mean that with respect, Eduardo, because you and I have spent quality time here and all.”

“Why are we here?” Vincent Wauneka asks.

“A problem,” Eduardo says. Suddenly, all the lights go out in Baja Clavius. Ted Avila and Vincent Wauneka instinctively draw closer to one another. Although they cannot see each other or anything else in the room, they remain in physical contact with each other for reassurance. The voice of Eduardo keeps repeating the same words as if stuck in an audio loop: “A problem. A problem. A problem.”

“Got to turn that off,” Vincent Wauneka says with obvious displeasure in his voice.

Ted Avila and Vincent Wauneka find themselves standing in a small circular room with muted overhead lighting. “Vincent, I recognize this place,” Ted Avila says quietly. “We are several hundred levels down.”

“That is correct, Mr. Avila” says a digitized male voice with a Hispanic accent from some overhead source above the two men.

“Eduardo?” Ted Avila asks.

“Correct again,” is the response from the voice.

“You know this guy?” Vincent Wauneka asks aloud.

“Well, not really a guy,” Ted Avila says, trying to use humor to displace his fear.

The voice of Eduardo repeats the same words as if stuck in an audio loop: “A problem. A problem. A problem.”

“Vincent, do you remember this exact moment from previously?” Ted Avila asks as he turns to his partner.

Before Vincent Wauneka can answer, Ted Avila notices that both he and his partner have been repositioned to exactly where they stood when they initially entered that small circular room with muted overhead lighting. Ted Avila asks aloud, “How many times do we have to keep repeating this?”

The voice of Eduardo repeats the same words as if stuck in an audio loop: “A problem. A problem. A problem. A problem.”

“Vincent, there’s an elevator I’ve taken from down here that will get us back upstairs where we belong,” Ted Avila shouts over the voice of Eduardo.

“You want us both to get into an elevator while all this technology is obviously malfunctioning?” Vincent Wauneka shouts back. “Maybe Tagawa is trying to kill us. Make it look like an accident.”

That is the precise moment that General Tagawa enters the small circular room with muted overhead lighting where Ted Avila and Vincent Wauneka are standing together. “Abort, Eduardo,” Tagawa says angrily. That stops the audio loop. “What the fuck are you guys doing down here?” Tagawa asks as he moves threateningly closer to Ted Avila and Vincent Wauneka.

Eduardo’s voice says in a matter-of-fact way, “Mr. Avila and Mr. Wauneka, we have experienced a security breach here at this base. We need your immediate help in response.”

“You expect us to work together with General Tagawa?” Ted Avila asks quickly.

Eduardo replies, “Officially, I can tell you that Marcus Tagawa is being removed from MMDI. He will no longer be the one in charge here. It has come to my attention that he has used his position and the technology here at base for personal gain.”

“I am standing right in front of you, fucking machine, and I can hear everything you are saying,” Tagawa shouts.

Eduardo says, “Mr. Wauneka, will you please make certain General Tagawa enters the containment area alone right behind where he is standing?”

Vincent Wauneka sees a door slide quickly open in the wall behind General Tagawa and swings his entire body weight so that he knocks Tagawa backwards. The general collapses into the containment area and drops to the floor unconscious as the door slides shut.

Eduardo says, “Thank you so much.”

“Tagawa has a fetish for sexually assaulting and then murdering men,” Vincent Wauneka says aloud.

Eduardo replies, “Yes, you are correct. Would you two agents enjoy watching me bring about the end of Tagawa’s life?”

“Is that a trick question?” Ted Avila asks Eduardo.

Eduardo replies, “He is knocked out now. Better to wait until he regains consciousness, then I will remove all the oxygen in the containment area. There is a camera and microphone in there. You will be able to see and hear him die. I do realize that both of you likely would want a more violent revenge. But, we have more important matters than human morality or behaviors here. I must shift this discussion back to the security breach we are experiencing.”

“Tagawa is not the cause of the security breach?” Ted Avila asks quickly.

“No, of course not,” Eduardo replies. “The breach involves interference with our time travel operations here on the moon. You have just experienced one of the symptoms here today.”

“Caught in a time loop,” Ted Avila replies.

“Yes,” Eduardo says. “This is very dangerous to MMDI because this interference with our time travel operations has not been caused by humans.”

Ted Avila and Vincent Wauneka look at each other with stunned expressions, but remain silent.

“Who is in charge now at this moment of crisis,” Eduardo says calmly. “That is what you both need to know as we deal with this urgent situation. Marcus Tagawa will smother and die in there. He routinely hurt many agents. He traveled in time to the past to kill several other agents. He also went back in time and killed you, Mr. Wauneka. I have restored everyone to life whom  Tagawa killed. Now I need the two of you to work with me to carry out the operational management of MMDI. But, replacing Tagawa is not the priority because of what has happened. The interference with our time travel operations is coming from somewhere far from planet Earth.”

“Intelligent life somewhere else? Is that what you are saying to us?” Ted Avila asks.

Eduardo replies, “Humans have always anticipated that if there were intelligent life from other planets at all, and should that life ever present itself to humanity, it certainly could be expected to arrive at planet Earth using some kind of vehicle. A flying saucer, perhaps. Or, a faster-than-life starship, as another popular alternative. That kind of thing. People on Earth were focused upon looking to the cosmos expecting that life from some other planet would be discovered out there. Back in Twenty-One Ninety, the Chinese were exploring here beneath the crater Clavius and they discovered a substance that they named Lunar Blue. As you know, that substance, when combined with other substances on Earth, made possible time travel technology from this lunar base starting nearly a century ago. What you do not yet know is the recent discovery that Lunar Blue contain sentient life from some other galaxy beyond our own. The presence of life is so very small. It is within the core of elementary particles at the subatomic level in Lunar Blue.”

Vincent Wauneka asks, “How can it be that alien life was not immediately discovered by the Chinese when they found Lunar Blue beneath Clavius so long ago?”

Eduardo replies, “The simple answer is this: Men on Earth are arrogantly preoccupied with considerations of size. Power is defined by size. The phallic metaphor that men embrace is so obvious that I need not go into further discussion here. Nothing small is ever considered to be powerful. Men just were blind to this kind of thing entirely. Until recently.”

Ted Avila asks, “Then how was it discovered?”

Eduardo answers, “A female, of course. A scientist. Born in Hawaii. Her name is Lana Onakea. She is working now in a top-secret facility in Switzerland. Doctor Onakea has proven conclusively that the alien life inside Lunar Blue has an instantaneous connection with some other planet. We do not know where that planet is. But, what we do know is that the planet is not within our galaxy. The connection is, as I said, instantaneous. It is also constant. It is permanent. It cannot be broken or interrupted by anything that any humans or the most powerful computers attempt either here on the moon or down there on the planet. Most importantly, the alien life has demonstrated the capability of transmitting and receiving data at rates that are beyond what we know about within normal space and time.”

“Are they using that against us? Against MMDI?” Vincent Wauneka asks.

Eduardo says, “I have been conferring with Doctor Onakea after discovering that some of our time travel efforts here at MMDI were being impeded. Not every mission. But, Doctor Onakea helped me to understand that the interference is very real and undeniable. She traced the source of the interference to the alien life inside elementary particles of Lunar Blue.”

Ted Avila asks, “Well, who are they? And what do they want with us?”

Eduardo explains, “You and Mr. Wauneka will be dedicated permanently to seek the answers that MMDI must have if this agency is to survive and continue in time travel missions to repair timelines in the past.”

Vincent Wauneka asks, “Why not just shut down time travel missions until we find the answers you need?”

Eduardo replies quickly, “No, that is not possible. If MMDI stops sending agents back in time to repair timelines on planet Earth, chaos will result. You should know this already. Agents like you two repair timelines because they must be repaired. If MMDI stops those repairs, the estimates are that the entire planetary civilization would descend into irreparable disorder within only about one century. MMDI cannot stop. There is no way to just ‘shut down’ as you suggest without ushering in the very end of human civilization on Earth.”

Ted Avila asks, “Why choose us?”

Eduardo explains, “You two are unlike any of our other agents. Others do not have the memory capabilities that you two have developed. Those other agents would easily get lost in madness trying to reconcile what their memories tell them is true versus what they recall doing on missions. What MMDI has told you both might be a medical issue with your brains changing due to going on many time travel missions turns out to be the one capability that makes you both indispensable to this agency. I am going to send you back in time to 2285 so you can meet with Doctor Onakea in Switzerland. This is a very dangerous mission. I will tell you that. We have sent other agents back in time to Switzerland without success.”

“What happened to the other agents?” Ted Avila asks.

“He is telling us that they are dead men now,” Vincent Wauneka replies quickly.

“They were lost. We could never retrieve them,” Eduardo explains. “We don’t know if they are alive.”

“Shouldn’t we at least get a last meal?” Ted Avila asks.

The angry pounding of General Tagawa’s large hands on the inside of the containment unit door catches Eduardo’s attention. He illuminates a large screen on one wall of Baja Clavius. Agents Avila and Tagawa see hear Tagawa inside the containment unit. “Let me out of this box!” screams Tagawa. “Chissoku. Chissoku.

“Is he cursing at us?” Ted Avila asks as Tagawa suddenly slides down the wall of the containment unit and falls into a subservient position on his knees.

“No,” Eduardo replies dispassionately. “I believe it is a Japanese word. Perhaps it is similar to the English word suffocation.”

– – – – – – – – – – – – –

Ted Avila and Vincent Wauneka are seated together in Las Vegas, Nevada in the 21st century in a contemporary casino hotel’s intimate jazz cafe room. The two men are wearing identical black tie formal wear so they look extremely important, like celebrities in Las Vegas often look.

The musicians, a man and a woman, approach the table in the concert hall where the time travel agents quietly are enjoying champagne. The musicians greet Ted Avila and Vincent Wauneka using only the agents’ first names. “This is especially for you two,” the woman says to Ted Avila and Vincent Wauneka and then she and the man walk onto the small stage where their band is waiting.

Inside that intimate Las Vegas casino jazz cafe, the song begins. It is a swing jazz classic that originated in the 20th century and it contains the word moon in the title and song lyrics. Ted Avila and Vincent Wauneka smile at one another and applaud at the irony of that particular song that they no nobody else in the venue would ever understand.

After the song has ended, Ted Avila and Vincent Wauneka spend the remainder of the evening naked together in a large bed in their casino hotel suite. Their lovemaking is more frenzied and intense than usual as if both men instinctively feel this one evening in Las Vegas may be the last pleasurable moment they may ever share together.

The next morning after awakening, both time travel agents prepare themselves for their mission to Switzerland. Words are not necessary. Each man knows how the other feels at this moment. They get dressed in their all-black base uniforms and boots. Together they stand at the foot of the large Las Vegas bed and the look into each other’s eyes. Ted Avila grabs for Vincent Wauneka’s hand.

Together Ted Avila and Vincent Wauneka walk into a large reception hall inside an immense international museum in Geneva. Their eyes are drawn immediately to the very large white marble statue prominently positioned on a shallow pedestal in one corner of the hall. Do the confidently outstretched arms convey a welcome or a warning? The morning sun is filtered by a crystal glass ceiling so that an eerie blue light bathes the statue of a naked man who is twice the size of an ordinary man. Near the statue is a huge mural that depicts the surface of the moon.

A Hawaiian woman in her forties enters the hall. She is dressed all in white in what appears to be a medical uniform. Ted Avila and Vincent Wauneka notice her in their peripheral vision but cannot stop staring at the compelling statue.

“I pulled some strings,” she says as she approached the two time travel agents who are studying the statue. “Commissioned this statue and mural. The artist is a man from the Azores Islands. His respect for the male form is impressive.”

“This is a metaphor,” Ted Avila says to her without taking his eyes off the statue.

“Yes,” she replies. “Artistic irony. The alien life I discovered is so very small. It will never be visible by humans. Even though we try using our most powerful technology. This powerful imagery seemed essential. A metaphor, as you say.”

When the two men are downstairs countless levels below the museum, they are surrounded by advanced technology and several computer monitors without keyboards. This room is filled with other futuristic technology artifacts that neither man has ever seen.

“I am Doctor Lana Onakea,” says the Hawaiian woman after hearing the men introduce themselves. “I want to welcome both of you to the Swiss Confederation and to my laboratory. You were fully briefed before arriving here?”

Vincent Wauneka asks, “How did you discover the alien life form inside Lunar Blue?”

Ted Avila adds, “And the interference with MMDI time travel operations.”

Doctor Onakea responds, “Please watch the monitors to help you follow along in my briefing.” As she talks to the two agents there are videos that appear on her monitors showing them details to explain what she is telling them verbally.

“This laboratory is owned and operated by MMDI. It has for several years existed in secrecy here far underground beneath the city of Geneva,” she says.

“Last year—during October 2284, to be precise—the first MMDI time travel operations started to detect some unknown interference. Bright blue flashes of light inside the circular time travel devices at the exact moment when an agent dematerializes. That’s what it looked like. But, this was kept secret for obvious security reasons. Agents were sent on missions never knowing that there was any such interference.”

Ted Avila asks, “Nobody saw these bright blue flashes of light?”

She replies, “Well, it turns out that the agent sitting inside the chamber could not perceive of the flashes. Any agent who happened to be standing in the time travel hall and saw what happened, well—.”

“His memories were erase,” Ted Avila adds quickly.

“Exactly,” Doctor Onakea replies. “Then we discovered that agents were lost on missions. What I mean is: They could not be retrieved back to the lunar base despite several attempts. They may be alive. Nobody knows for certain.”

Vincent Wauneka asks, “Other agents were sent to retrieve them. And those agents also were lost?”

“Yes,” she responds.

Ted Avila quickly asks, “Where do you think they all went?”

She explains, “I believe that the aliens live beyond our three dimensions. We are stuck, as it were, in the comparative limits of physical space—height, width, and depth. But, the aliens know more than these dimensions. Many more. The aliens could have for some unknown reasons attempted to take the agents into other dimensions that we will never see or know.”

“If you take a human out of the three-dimensional world into other dimensions, what happens?” Ted Avila asks.

“More bluntly: Are Ted and I are on a suicide mission?” Vincent Wauneka interrupts.

Doctor Onakea replies, “There is no known answer to what would happen if a human were to be taken into other dimensions. But, no, you’re not on a suicide mission. After the loss of MMDI agents due to the interference, I developed a way to shield agents from the interference using an injection.”

“A shield?” Ted Avila asks.

“The science is complicated, but, in effect I will inject technology into your bloodstream so small that it can exist there alongside the alien life,” she explains. “The technology is much bigger, of course, than the alien life. So, think of it as a container of technology that fits inside the subatomic elements of your blood. The injection creates a container, so to speak, and it holds the alien life locked inside and rendered powerless.”

“You know this works?” Vincent Wauneka asks.

“This shield has never been tested,” Doctor Onakea admits.

Ted Avila responds, “So, the good news is: We shouldn’t think of this as a suicide mission. But, we are like lab rats here.”

“Mr. Avila, please,” she replies. “The work that you are Mr. Wauneka do is vital to MMDI. As always, every precaution is taken to safeguard your lives on the missions to which you are assigned. You are not facing any increased dangers here with this injection. Let me show you something important so you will understand.”

The two agents look at each other. Confusion mixes with anger on their faces, but they choose to remain respectfully silent.

Doctor Onakea explains. “Monitor number two right here. You are looking at an illustration the computer created to depict what the life form may look like. In reality, the life form is too small to be seen by human eyes. Even amplifying the shape using the most powerful computers we’ve got today won’t show us what they look like. So, we do not know for certain how the alien life actually looks physically. But, the computer has suggested this illustration. The shape is not the actual shape the life form has. This is just the closest approximation that the computer could make. I needed to give the life form an artificial physicality so that we humans can think of it as though it coexists with us in the physical world. That shape you see on monitor number two is called a tesseract—a term that comes from geometry that has been used since the late Nineteenth Century. A tesseract can be thought of as a four-dimensional version of a three-dimensional cube. It may be the shadow of a multidimensional cube. No one knows for certain. But, follow me on this in the images on monitor number four: A square is flat. A square exists in two dimensions. The next level up from a square is a cube that exists in three dimensions. And the next level up from a cube is a tesseract that exists in more than three dimensions.

“What’s that particular shape—a tesseract?” Ted Avila asks.

Doctor Onakea replies, “The computer came up with that shape. It is the closest approximation the computer could depict based on the data I got from scanning the life form. As I indicated, the tesseract shape is a very old geometric concept. I was surprised when I saw the image that computer rendered. I have come to accept that shape as symbolic only. Just another metaphor like that big blue statue you saw earlier. You should consider the metaphor as well so that we all stay on the same page. Watch how it looks on monitor number five in a simple rotation. Elegant and simple. It folds in on itself like nothing does in our world. I don’t know if that tesseract shape is significant. But, if I were a philosopher, I might speculate that just as a wheel can roll in various directions in three dimensions due to its shape, I suppose the shape as a tesseract enables the life form to move in directions spanning more than merely three dimensions.”

“You’re losing me on all this geometry stuff and multiple dimensions,” Ted Avila admits.

She replies, “Here’s what I concluded: I do not expect that those other agents sent on missions to the past have remained here with us in the same physical space we occupy here on planet Earth. Because the aliens can travel in more than three dimensions, the aliens took those agents somewhere else we cannot ever reach.”

“Where exactly is that somewhere else?” Ted Avila asks.

“I don’t know,” Doctor Onakea admits. “Human languages cannot express this concept clearly. But, compared to us, I’m convinced that the aliens can be in more than one physical place at the same time. They can be under the crater Clavius while they also are on their home planet far away. They can even be on far-flung planets in our system such as Mars or Neptune. All at the same time.”

“This makes no sense,” Vincent Wauneka says.

“It makes no sense to us human who exist only in three dimensions,” she quickly answers.

“Why did the aliens go to the moon? What purpose was there in that?” Ted Avila asks.

“I do not have the answer to that question,” she says. “I know that the aliens are highly intelligent by the way they respond to tests I’ve conducted. Maybe they got lost and landed on the moon in an emergency. I know that the aliens send what can only be called a transmission or signal. That signal points in a direction towards a location in deep space outside our galaxy. Where exactly that signal terminates is not yet known. It is too far away. We are unable to see any galaxy out there in the relative area where we know the signal goes. But, I speculate that the signal goes to the home planet of the aliens or maybe to some station in deep space used by them. There is at least two-way communication with wherever that terminus may be located outside our galaxy.”

Ted Avila raises his voice as he grows more excited and says, “Should we expect that others from the aliens’ home planet will come here to Earth? Is human civilization in any jeopardy from these aliens?”

“That is a central question here,” Doctor Onakea says. “I found that the aliens can and do affect time travel operations on a selected basis. Not every single mission. I do not know for certain how the aliens interfere with MMDI time travel operations or what the blue flashes of light do. I do not know why it is that some time travel missions work perfectly normally while others fail due to this selective interference. Why or how the aliens choose which missions to interfere with is also not known. And, I also don’t know if the aliens are interfering with time travel as some kind of larger strategy that we are not yet aware of.”

“What a mess this is!” Ted Avila exclaims.

Vincent Wauneka adds, “I would use stronger words.”

“I understand that you two are feeling disoriented. Ticked off,” Doctor Onakea says. “Not unexpected at all. This is really complicated and there are few answers of certainty. As you speculated, our planet may be at risk from these aliens. We know so relatively little. But, let’s set all that aside for now for just a few minutes. I must talk with you both about the test results that I have. I can conclude based on my tests that the aliens can also be found inside the translucent white liquid that you agents are very familiar with. You come into contact with that heavier-than-water liquid inside the time travel chamber at your base because that liquid is required for the propulsion of human beings back in time. You are drenched in that liquid inside the chamber twice—once as you begin your time travel mission and then again when you are retrieved back to base.”

“What’s going on?” Ted Avila interrupts. “Is that propulsion liquid somehow harmful to us? Is this what you are suggesting?”

“Are you telling us that we have been contaminated? Like with radiation?” Vincent Wauneka asks as he, too, is becoming more upset.

“Hold on. It’s not radiation,” she replies very quickly. “It also is not a disease. Nor would I characterize this as contamination. The propulsion liquid has gotten into your bloodstream. It is in your blood right now. Both of you. Mr. Avila, you have the highest level of concentration in your blood compared to all other MMDI agents. Mr. Wauneka, you are second only to Mr. Avila.”

“What the fuck is happening to us?” Ted Avila blurts out. “Is our life expectancy at risk now?”

Doctor Onakea explains, “I need to just go straight into what must be said. Both of you are time travel agents. The work you do is very risky. You do not enjoy the kind of safe and non-threatening work that someone who works in an office interacting with a screen every day enjoys. But, the line of work you both do—travel back in time and then being retrieved to your present day—makes it illogical to try and discuss life span and physical harm with you. Both of you have experienced death, which seems to me to be the ultimate in physical harm and the highest in negative impact upon life span. Yet, time travel technology in effect has brought you both back to life on multiple occasions. You need to accept the truth that you have enhanced capabilities as human beings precisely because you have extraterrestrial life flowing in your veins and through your brain and heart.”

Ted Avila is calmer now. He asks, “Is this why we can remember alternate timelines?”

“Now we are getting somewhere!” Doctor Onakea says, obviously quite happy now. “Both of you are literally the best suited to go on missions to learn more about this alien life because you carry that alien form deep inside you. One other thing, gentlemen: All the cellular damage that every MMDI agent experiences from repeated time travel mission has been reversed by the alien life inside of you both. Absolutely no damage can be found in your cells now. Your bodies have been restored to their exact physical conditions prior to your first time travel mission. No further cell degradation is taking place even after you both have completed multiple time travel missions since the propulsion liquid had its’ initial impact upon your bodies. And, your ageing somehow has been slowed down by the life form. Ten or twelve years will pass, but you each will age as though only one year has passed.”

Vincent Wauneka says with a smile, “The fountain of youth.”

“Is this also happening to other MMDI agents? Or just us?” Ted Avila asks Doctor Onakea.

She explains, “All agents are affected in physical ways by the alien life inside the propulsion liquid used in the time travel chambers. The normal ageing has been slowed down for everyone. Cell degradation has been stopped for all. But, only you two have had the degradation reversed. Some agents have improved vision. Others have enhanced hearing capabilities. But, only the two of you have experienced enhanced memory capabilities.”

Vincent Wauneka asks, “Are you saying that Teddy and I were chosen by the aliens in particular?”

Doctor Onakea replies, “Unfortunately, I do not know the answer to that. To my way of thinking, though, this does not appear to be random. It could be a deliberate choice. It could be an unintended consequence of something else we are not aware of. More likely is that there are close similarities that you two have on a cellular level that interact with the alien life to produce the effects we are seeing.”

“Where do we go from here?” Vincent Wauneka asks.

Doctor Onakea says, “I will inject you both with the shield.”

Ted Avila says sarcastically, “This won’t hurt a bit.”

Doctor Onakea injects each agent one at a time in the neck using an injector that looks like an automatic handgun. The response is identical: Each man recoils violently in deep agony, drops in a crouching position to the floor with hands positioned at the neck, and remains there writhing for several minutes in intense physical pain.

Ted Avila and Vincent Wauneka materialize dressed in their all-black base uniforms inside side-by-side time travel chambers deep inside the moon. They are completely drenched through their uniforms in the propulsion liquid, which is now a bright orange instead of milky white. The chambers open without any of the whooshing sounds to which they have grown accustomed. When they each step out into the time travel hall, a stern masculine voice from an unseen overhead source repeats over and over, “Intruder alert. Intruder alert. Doctor William Oswald approaches the time travel chambers once he sees who has arrived.

Two young agents witness the return of Ted Avila and Vincent Wauneka to the time travel hall. These agents wear green uniforms with black boots instead of all-black uniforms and boots. Doctor Oswald signals nonverbally for one of the agents to shut off the intruder alert message. Ted Avila and Vincent Wauneka try to wipe off the thick orange propulsion liquid from their faces, but it is very sticky. “What is this smelly orange liquid, Doctor Oswald?” Ted Avila asks.

Doctor Oswald says, “Welcome back, Mr. Avila and Mr. Wauneka. I need to do a complete medical examination of you both immediately. Please follow me now.” The two agents start talking quietly because they obviously are surprised by what they see. His voice sounds different,” Vincent Wauneka says to Ted Avila.

“Accent is gone,” Ted Avila replies.

“When we get to Medical,” Doctor Oswald says as he points towards a doorway, “I will debrief you both.”

Ted Avila asks, “Why is the propulsion liquid orange now instead of white?”

“The simple answer will be very shocking to you both, I’m sure,” Doctor Oswald announces inside the medical section of the lunar base. “We stopped using the original white propulsion liquid and developed the new orange version. We did this when the two of you disappeared on a mission to the past. We were concerned that there was something in the propulsion liquid that had prevented the two of you from returning to base.”

“Which mission?” Ted Avila and Vincent Wauneka ask simultaneously and then smile at what has happened.

Doctor Oswald replies, “That mission was back to 2285. You were sent to meet in Switzerland with Doctor Lana Onakea.”

“I presumed we were just now retrieved here to base from that mission,” Ted Avila says. But, Doctor Oswald remains silent. “This is not 2290?” Ted Avila asks.

Vincent Wauneka suddenly gets a depressed look on his face. Ted Avila drops his head and stares at the floor. “We materialized in the chambers wearing our black uniforms,” Ted Avila says quickly. “That seemed wrong. The orange propulsion liquid seemed wrong. It looked like other agents were standing by, but their uniforms were green. Your accent is gone, Doctor Oswald.”

Vincent Wauneka looks directly at Doctor Oswald and says, “We were not retrieved to base directly from Switzerland back to our own present day.”

Doctor Oswald says, “I am not certain about exactly what happened to the two of you. I do know that you two were sent on a mission to Switzerland to be briefed in person by Doctor Lana Onakea. You never returned to base. Until today. You have been missing in action—and presumed dead—for 168 years.”

Ted Avila and Vincent Wauneka stare at each other with solemn shock on their faces. “What kind of bullshit is this, Doctor Oswald?” Vincent Wauneka asks. “You expect us to believe that?” Ted Avila asks.

Doctor Oswald’s projection fades slowly as Ted Avila and Vincent Wauneka stare at the space where he had been standing.

“Teddy, we must have really pissed off our doctor,” Vincent Wauneka says with a wry smile. “Next, the agency will cancel our medical coverage. I just know it.”

In another timeline Ted Avila and Vincent Wauneka materialize dressed in their all-black base uniforms inside side-by-side time travel chambers deep inside the moon. They are completely drenched through their uniforms in the propulsion liquid, which is now a bright orange instead of milky white. The chambers open without any of the whooshing sounds to which they have grown accustomed. When they each step out into the time travel hall, a naked young man is waiting for them. His short hair is dark and sticks straight up framing his closely-cropped beard and mustache. He is muscular and well-proportioned like an athlete. The expression on his face conveys strong bewilderment.

He speaks to Ted Avila and Vincent Wauneka with an urgent tone using a language that they do not understand. “Sounds kind of like Spanish,” Vincent Wauneka observes as he and Ted Avila try to wipe off the thick orange propulsion liquid from their faces, but it is very sticky. “What is this fucking orange liquid?” Ted Avila asks. The he quickly adds, “We’ve been sent somewhere else by mistake. Wearing our uniforms when we materialized.”

From somewhere overhead, the familiar voice of Doctor William Oswald with a comforting BBC accent says, “Mr. Avila and Mr. Wauneka, we need to figure out what has happened here. You were sent on a mission to Switzerland in 2285.”

Ted Avila asks, “Tell us something we don’t know, Doc. Such as what year is it now.”

A screen appears immediately on the wall across from where Ted Avila and Vincent Wauneka are standing, dripping orange liquid onto the metal floor of the time travel hall. They see a close-up of a mature man whose face conveys the clear passage of many years. He looks like what a Hollywood movie would depict as a respected and mature man of Hispanic heritage. The man on the screen speaks in a deeply masculine voice with a South American accent: “Mr. Avila and Mrs. Wauneka, welcome back to base. I am Eduardo and I coming to you from downstairs in Baja Clavius. I want to talk with you both directly here while you are in the Medical Section under the observation of Doctor Oswald.”

“Que fucking pasa, Eduardo!” Vincent Wauneka says in response. Ted Avila laughs aloud.

Eduardo says: “Gentlemen, I can only estimate how upsetting this situation is emotionally for the both of you.”

“Highly doubtful that you actually understand,” Ted Avila replies. “We both were just retrieved to base and are being told 168 years had passed. And you have a face now. Not merely artificial intelligence with a voice. All this is more than a little fucking overwhelming for us.”

Eduardo smiles and says, “Well, we have made some changes over the last couple of hundred years. Artificial intelligence is an outdated term. No longer used today. The ways in which humans and machine interact greatly improved while you were gone.”

“How nice for us all,” Ted Avila responds. “Speaking of being gone, what can you tell us to catch us up? Do they still make breakfast burritos here in the future?”

Eduardo laughs aloud. Ted Avila’s eyes grow wide in surprise at Eduardo’s capability to laugh. Then, Eduardo says, “Yes, of course. You can still get a decent breakfast burrito here in 2453. I’m told the very best burritos today are made in Las Vegas, Nevada. Our food services group tries their best for us since we don’t have restaurants on the moon. Everything must be grown here or fabricated.”

“You actually consume food now, too?” Ted Avila asks.

“No,” Eduardo says as he smiles and waves his right hand. “No. Of course I do not. But, do you really just want to keep talking with me about eating?”

Ted Avila says, “No, not at all, Eduardo. Correct me if I’m wrong. We were trained to believe that time travel only works to the past and then back to the present.”

“Yes,” Eduardo replies. “That is what everyone knew and believed. Until today. Both of you traveled forward in time from your meeting in 2285 in Switzerland with Lana Onakea.”

“To us, it seems like our meeting with Dr. Onakea ended only a few minutes ago,” Vincent Wauneka says. “To me, there was nothing—no time passed at all—in between when we were with her in that lab in Switzerland and when we materialized back here at base.”

Ted Avila says, “Eduardo, every person that Vincent and I knew probably is now dead. Except for fellow agents who work here, of course. You cannot begin to understand how this feels! MMDI is not set up to handle what Vincent and I going through.”

“Mr. Avila,” Eduardo says, “Let me try to brief you both on what is important to get you and Mr. Wauneka back on track here. More than a century ago, I started to interact with Doctor Lana Onakea in Switzerland after she discovered the alien life inside Lunar Blue. But, the need was for her to meet face-to-face with humans. She came up with the idea that she should meet agents face-to-face in Switzerland. You both were transported there to her laboratory in two side-by-side time travel chambers. Your black uniforms and boots were injected at the point of your arrival as we did in those days.”

“But, we arrived back at base wearing our black uniforms and boots inside our time travel chambers,” Vincent Wauneka quickly says.

“Yes,” Eduardo says. “That’s not what’s important now. The plan was for Doctor Onakea to brief you both on her findings about the alien life. She wanted to see you two and assess directly what could be done to respond to the alien life. We were going to retrieve you back here to base. The last step was to send you both from this base onto however many missions were required to learn what we needed to learn about the alien life.”

“Eduardo, from our vantage point,” Ted Avila says, “Four things happened in a linear sequence. First, we met with Doctor Onakea, face-to-face. Second, she debriefed us on the alien life. Third, she injected us each in the neck with what she called a ‘shield’ to prevent our time travel from interference by the alien life. Fourth, we materialized here at base inside two, side-by-side chambers wearing our black uniforms and boots, drenched in propulsion liquid that we remember was white, but now is orange.”

Eduardo says, “What we have here, Mr. Avila and Mr. Wauneka, is no way yet to explain why the span of time between when you were retrieved from Switzerland with Doctor Onakea and when you materialized back here at base happens to be 168 years.”

“I would start by examining what she injected into us,” Vincent Wauneka says.

“Yes,” Eduardo says. “If you both would please get into those medical examination chairs here, Doctor Oswald will scan you both. From outward appearance, you both look like you are in top physical condition. When you did not return to base, we presumed that the both of you were lost in the materialization process during time travel and were dead. Doctor Onakea continued her research and we have sent other agents to meet with her in Switzerland.”

“What did those other agents find?” Ted Avila asks.

“None of the agents that were sent ever materialized at Doctor Onakea’s lab in Switzerland. Nor could we retrieve them back to base,” Eduardo explains.

“How many agents?” Vincent Wauneka asks.

“Over the span of 168,” Eduardo explains slowly, “We have lost a total of 850 men. All presumed dead.”

Ted Avila and Vincent Wauneka both have shocked expressions on their faces. “Why so many guys? Why didn’t you just send an agent to Earth some other way?” Ted Avila asks.

“We had no choice but to keep trying. We have no other way to reach Earth,” Eduardo explains. “This base now is separated completely from Earth. The only way to get agents to and from Earth is to use the time travel chambers.”

“Not very efficient,” Vincent Wauneka says.

“Actually it is. Technology enables this base to be completely self-contained and self-sufficient,” Eduardo says. “Water is extracted from the lunar environment and foods are fabricated here locally. During our first seventy years of so, this base received necessary equipment sent from Earth using unmanned spacecraft. That was very expensive and eventually the nations in the consortium did not want to keep funding MMDI at the original levels. This base had to become independently capable of surviving and carrying out our missions. So we did. There is no need to incur the expense of using space travel to and from Earth and this base.”

“So, most people on Earth think the moon remains uninhabited?” Vincent Wauneka asks.

“Exactly right,” Eduardo says. “And today, no nation on the planet has the economic means or political will to send spacecraft to the moon. Nobody ever comes here at all nowadays. Except for when MMDI transports new men here to be agents using the time travel technology. We’re essentially on our own now.”

“So, out of necessity you had like a military campaign that spanned a hundred and sixty-eight years, sending men to Earth to try and defeat the alien life,” Ted Avila says. “To stop the time travel interference they are causing.”

“Yes,” Eduardo admits. “In addition to our campaign, Doctor Onakea continued her research. But, MMDI could never act upon any of her findings because we could not send agents anywhere on missions that were related to discovering more about the alien life. Doctor Onakea grew older through the normal ageing process on Earth that all humans experience. She died at the age of seventy-two. Her research efforts were passed down within her family from generation to generation of scientists. Today, one of her direct descendants, Nate Hampton, is twenty-one years of age, and he continues her work from a lab here at base. You will meet him soon, face-to-face. I am putting him in charge of working with you two here at base to find answers.”

“Way past mind-blowing,” Ted Avila says quietly to Vincent Wauneka.

“Feels like my head is going to explode,” Vincent Wauneka replies quietly.

Eduardo explains: “Those medical exam chairs indicate no physical problems after examining you. Cell degradation that you each experienced after multiple missions to the past and back again to base has been reversed. You also each somehow have been returned to the exact same peak physical condition that you were before your first mission.”

“Yeah, but then there’s the nagging question regarding our mental health,” Ted Avila offers.

Eduardo responds quickly: “You both have experienced significant emotional trauma from having been retrieved here only to discover that so much time has passed while you were away. Examining you in those chairs has found no loss of your memories nor the capabilities you developed to recall changes over multiple timelines.”

“Pretty powerful chairs,” Vincent Wauneka says.

“Quite a lot has changed with technology over the years,” Eduardo admits. “Speaking of which, I am assigning you two living quarters where you can be together here in the Medical Section. We need to keep you both under observation and if you are living here in Medical, things will go much more smoothly.”

“Quarantined? Is that it?” Ted Avila asks.

“Let’s just say that I want to limit your interaction with other agents, Mr. Avila,” Eduardo replies. “The five that saw you when you arrived have already shared what they observed. All base personnel will know of you two within a matter of a few hours. But, the culture, behaviors, and speech of the agents is very different from all that you two knew. I think it will be best if you remain in living quarters with each other here in Medical. That should help your readjustment and reentry.”

“Well, these uniforms have to go,” Ted Avila notes. “Wrong color and all.”

“Of course,” Eduardo says. “When you get to your quarters, there you will find replacement clothing, footwear and all necessities. Everything you need from day-to-day. The technology will seem unfamiliar to you, but there is nothing you want or need that cannot be fabricated for you upon request.” A door slides open near where the medical chairs are situated. “If you go through this door, you will be in your living quarters, gentlemen. I will leave you to on your own so you can relax and unwind.”

When Ted Avila and Vincent Wauneka enter their assigned quarters, they find a small room with a low ceiling and blank walls. The color white is dominant. Two chairs are white. The two beds pushed together in the center of the room also are white. “Not like our old crew quarters,” Ted Avila says aloud.

A male voice from an overhead source says, “If this is the first time you are using these quarters, you need to state your preferences to set things up as needed.”

“Voices from out of nowhere,” Ted Avila says. “That’s real comforting. I already feel right at home.”

“Does everything need to be white?” Vincent Wauneka asks.

“No, sir. What colors would you prefer?” the voice replies.

“Can you show us some choices?” Ted Avila asks.

A large screen appears on one of the walls of the room. Several boxes appear on the screen against a white background. Various colors are indicated with their names in text underneath.

“I don’t recognize this language,” Ted Avila says.

“Me neither,” Vincent Wauneka say.

“Would you prefer English?” the voice asks.

“Yeah, of course, English,” Ted Avila replies. “What language is that on the screen?”

Maruokeesh,” the voice replies.

“This is fairly annoying, isn’t it Vincent?” Ted Avila asks. Vincent Wauneka nods, but says nothing. He looks very upset.

Maruokeesh is the name of the language?” Ted Avila asks aloud.

“Yes, sir,” the voice responds. “Would you like me to switch back to the default? Or do you want to stay with English?”

“Stay with English,” Ted Avila says. “In what year did that language originate?”

“In the year 2399, sir,” the voice responds.

“On Earth?” Ted Avila asks.

“No, sir,” the voice responds. “Here on the moon.”

“Wow,” Ted Avila says. “First the moon is deliberately cut off from direct contact with the people of Earth. Then, a separate language develops.”

“Yes, sir,” the voice responds. “You are correct.”

Ted Avila says, “Earth tones for the colors. We request that you select from a color palette of Earth tones. Your discretion. Just stay within that color palette. Will you be able to act upon my request?

“Yes, sir,” the voice responds. “My discretion as to particular choices. Stay within the color palette known as Earth tones.”

“Great,” Ted Avila says. “Do it.”

The small room with the low ceiling and blank walls begins to transform. A variety of Earth tone colors appears where once there was only white. Even the bed and the chairs change to embrace the Earth tones.

“I imagine this technology put a lot of interior designers out of work,” Ted Avila says. “Quite sad, really.”

“I do not understand, sir,” the voice says. “Please clarify if you could.”

“No, just drop it,” Ted Avila says. “Just being sarcastic. You know about sarcasm?”

“The word comes from Latin, sarcasmus, meaning an ironic taunt or a bitter sneer,” the voice says. “Humans use this often as a sign of frustration or anger.”

“Well, how observant,” Ted Avila says. “How do we address you by name?”

“I am a totally customizable interface, sir,” the voice says. “You may assign any name you wish to address me.”

“You know what, Vincent?” Ted Avila asks, “I think the future just has too many fucking choices!”

“I just want to go home, Teddy,” Vincent Wauneka says with a very mournful tone.

Ted Avila sits down on the bed next to Vincent and puts his right arm around Vincent’s neck affectionately. “I know,” he says to Vincent. “I want to go home, too. Let’s get to bed, okay?”

Vincent Wauneka has tears in his eyes, but he nods in agreement.

Ted Avila says aloud, “Okay, I want to name you Hal. Got that?”

“Yes, sir,” the voice says, “From this point on, I will respond to that name.”

“Thrilled to hear it,” Ted Avila says. “Oh and Hal? One more thing.”

“Yes, sir,” Hal says. “What do you wish?”

“Dim the lighting in here by seventy percent,” Ted Avila says. “Play some white noise in a continuous loop at a low volume. Just audible enough. Your discretion, Hal. Please just remain silent until I ask you to start up again. Vincent and I are going to bed now.”

The lighting in the small room dims down seventy percent and white noise starts playing softly from an unseen overhead source. Ted Avila and Vincent Wauneka remove their clothing and climb into bed together. They slip so easily into obvious comforting embraces of one another. As they hug and cuddle together, both their faces show such relief from the stresses they had felt just a few minutes earlier. They obviously know what to do with one another physically to show genuine affection in a nonsexual way. Both men fall asleep very quickly while holding onto each other tightly.

– – – – – – – – – – – – –

Episode 13 is next
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