Episode 15 --No Other Earth Man

Episode 15 —
No Other Earth Man

Episode 15:
No Other Earth Man

 


A young man floats gently on his back with muscled outstretched arms—like crucified Jesus—upon raging water dragging him steadily towards certain death. A thunderous roar of a nearby waterfall rightfully should cause him great concern, but he does not hear anything except his robust singing to himself in Mandarin, the language of his San Francisco ancestors.

He drifts steadily head-first on the water’s surface. His bright red swim trunks barely contain his manhood. He draws ever closer to the edge of the world over which he will plunge.

He permits himself to smile freely. He is completely oblivious to the last experience he will have in his 23 years of life. He may be floating in the heavens on a starry night. The intensely blue river is the sky. A magical place to die.

In the final seconds just before his terrible descent downward into oblivion, a transparent glass globe containing a miniature dragon floats up quickly up near his left ear. He becomes frightened when the dragon’s small mouth opens and closes frantically emitting a harsh “BEEP-BEEP-buzz-buzz-buzz-BEEP-BEEP-buzz-buzz-buzz” sound.

Greg Chen will not die today. Nor is he floating anywhere on water. He realizes he is resting comfortably on his back in a dry, warm bed. He rubs his both his hands on his handsome face in an attempt to become more awake. “BEEP-BEEP-buzz-buzz-buzz-BEEP-BEEP-buzz-buzz-buzz,” cries the dragon in the glass globe near his left ear.

That irritating sound only seems to be a small dragon talking, but in reality it is a ring tone from a phone that is smaller than a credit card. Chen rolls over to look at the good-looking and beefy Black man of his same age lying next to him in bed and says in a loud voice, “Quarter to four in the morning on your private line.” But, the ring tone is persistent. “Fucking wake up and answer that, will you?” he barks as he punches the left shoulder of his bed partner. “Em! Damn it! You gotta answer that!”

The muscular bed partner that Chen called Em responds by sitting up very suddenly in bed next to Chen as he accepts the small phone from him. His upper body is a masterpiece of well-defined angles and curves. “Hello, this is Marvin Mainer,” the dark-skinned young man says in a deep voice as professionally as he possible can despite having just been awakened so suddenly from a deep sleep. “What? Oh. My code. Nobody ever asks. What’s going on?”

Chen crawls out of bed and with the mere wave of his hand causes on a recessed panel of lights mounted in the wall a few steps from the bed to fade on. The artificial color of sunlight fills the bedroom very quickly. Em instinctively covers his eyes with his left hand while his right holds on to the tiny phone so he can say quietly, “Alpha. One. One. Burbank. Six. Twenty-Seven.”

“Secret code for my secret agent man,” Chen says aloud so that Em and his caller could hear quite clearly.

“You want me where?” Em asks into the phone. “Downstairs in 10 minutes? Isn’t today Sunday?”

Chen opens a dresser drawer and finds a thick, rolled-up pair of bright white sports socks that are larger than a man’s clenched fist. He tosses the all-cotton projectile aggressively towards Em. The impact zone is squarely upon Em’s undefended crotch beneath a soft white fabric sheet. Em responds with in involuntary shout of surprised pain into the phone. He quickly explains to the caller, “No, nothing. Muscle spasm. Downstairs. Right away.”

Em hears Chen laughing at him uncontrollably from across the room, but focuses intently upon the phone call.

With one push of a button, Em dismisses the call. “Sorry the phone woke you,” he quickly says to Chen. “That why you hit me in the balls?” Em asks as he angrily pitches the socks towards Chen, who catches it in the air with the exaggerations of an exhibitionist.

“Actually, I was aiming for your face,” Chen admits. “But, I guess I really should be thanking you, Em. I dreamed that I was floating on my back. On a raging river. Or in space. I was about to fall over a steep waterfall. Or into a dark star. But, I was saved at the last second by that ring tone of yours waking me up.”

“You can’t swim, yet you dream of floating on water, psycho.”

“That Florida witch down the hall told me yesterday that I’m connected to you psychically,” Chen announces as he jumps onto the bed, just barely missing Em’s thick legs and large feet. “So, I’m sure she would say that my dream is supposed to be about you and not me. And, there was a tiny dragon inside a ball of glass. What do you think that symbolizes?”

Em groans in disbelief as he lies back down in bed and pulls the soft white fabric sheet up over his head.

“I can still get you under there, mystery man,” Chen says.

“No time. Somebody’s picking me up for work downstairs,” Em replies.

Chen is annoyed. “Work? It’s Sunday morning. What about me?” Chen is fully erect and ready to take action as he reaches for his favorite lube on his night stand. Chen generously rubs the thick, slippery lube onto his cock and rips the sheet away so he can get at Em, who becomes sexually aroused merely watching Chen’s advances.

“It’s not rape if I fuck you even when you don’t really wanna get fucked,” Chen whispers as he lifts Em’s legs upward into the air with his strong hands and then plunges into Em aggressively. “You always want me inside you,” Chen says as Em groans involuntarily expressing his intense physical pleasure. Em has no way to stop Chen’s unexpectedly rapid assault.

After a few pelvic thrusts, Chen cries out in a deep moan—almost a growl—as he quickly releases all he’s got into Em, slamming him repeatedly downward on his back into the bed. Em merely ends up again not having an orgasm and wearing a sad expression as Chen pulls out and then hurries away into the bathroom, quickly shutting the door. Why do I allow this? He raped me. Felt so good. Him pounding me down into the bed. Like always. He owns me. Feels good. Feel so bad now. My own fault.

Em crawls out of bed angrily. He hurriedly grabs his trousers from the floor and jumps into them. In less than a half-hour’s time, he is elsewhere. Solitude. Warm water pouring down. A small shower stall away from his apartment and, more importantly, away from Chen. Em feels rewarded for surviving the morning thus far that culminated in a fast military vehicle ride from home the eastern edge of the District of Columbia to the nearby Andrews Joint Base in the state of Maryland.

A gruff male voice from outside the shower curtain says, “Hey, your required uniform and boots are right here, Mr. Mainer. Wheels up in 4 minutes.
Don’t expect me to repeat that.” Em steps out of the shower and grabs a large white towels. He frowns in surprise when he sees the all-black military-style uniform and boots but no underwear positioned for him on a wooden bench.

Marvin Mainer watches the position of the sun and concludes that the jet helicopter in which he is riding has headed westward from the Washington, DC area. Bad idea to tell Chen my rape fantasies. He owns me now. Hurts me. I let him. Could end him. Hire a big, naked mercenary. Watch Chen being slaughtered stripped of his clothes. Like an animal. Like he is.

He is dropped off ever so gently on the ground of a desert that to him looks the middle of nowhere. Then the jet helicopter quickly ascends leaving one utterly alone and disoriented man. He hears the familiar “BEEP-BEEP-buzz-buzz-buzz-BEEP-BEEP-buzz-buzz-buzz” sound coming from a pocket in his uniform that he wasn’t even aware of. It takes him several cycles of that annoying ring tone before Em can successfully retrieve the small phone.

The text on the front face of the phone reads “0935, Pacific Time, Sunday, May 20, 2331.” He says, “Hello, this is Marvin Mainer,” using a deep voice and attempting to sound as professional as he possible can despite feeling intense fear and apprehension. After waiting several seconds for a voice that finally speaks to him on the phone, he replies, “Alpha. One. One. Burbank. Six. Twenty-Seven.” He listens, expecting a follow up from the unfamiliar voice after giving his secret code, but the call has dropped.

He angrily lowers his arm downward and slowly opens the fingers of his thick right hand, allowing the tiny phone to drop to the ground. Then, he walks away deliberately from the resting place of the phone. Just leave it there. It is a nothing more than an annoyance.

Em cannot know for certain how much time passes since dropping his phone and leaving it behind, but he is very aware of the movement of the sun across the morning sky above him. He is trapped inside the recently memory of Chen slamming into him with zero foreplay or conversation. What am I gonna do? I need Chen. Can’t lose him. Hate him. Fucks me like I need. Hate him. Wanna see him butchered.

A much larger jet helicopter appears from over the horizon heading towards his position on the ground. He stops walking and just stares at the inbound aircraft. “The fuck you targeting me for?” he asks aloud. The aircraft gently sets down on the sand no closer than the distance of one full city block away from him.

Em cannot see into the aircraft, so he cannot determine whether he is facing an enemy or an ally. His answer arrives swiftly when he feels the impact of something unsubtle slam suddenly into his neck. “Aw shit,” is all he can say before he feels his knees buckle involuntarily. He also feels himself smashing downward face first into the soft sand.

Marvin Mainer regains consciousness while seated in a comfortably thick chair of all-black synthetic materials. The chair floats weightlessly with no visible connection to the grated metal floor below. Directly in front of him is a large sloping desk with many virtual buttons and switches represented under a curved glass surface. Several large rectangular screens displaying only a light gray background are floating in the air above the desk.

He hears a man’s vaguely Hispanic accent behind these words: “Marvin Mainer, I apologize to you. We have very unusual security requirements here. We could not let you simply walk in through our front door. Are you injured?”

Silence is Marvin Mainer’s response as he extends the middle finger of his right hand. He notices on one of the screens that his heart rate, blood pressure, and other data is on display. Also on the screen is a section labeled Emotions, which has several old-style bar graphs in various colors. The category on the screen indicated as Anger shows a high score.

The Hispanic voice continues to speak: “Your employer, MMDI, ordered you to be brought here to Nevada to conduct an investigation. This may only be your second week working at MMDI, but the agency has just learned of the most serious threat ever in its history. And, yes, the chair reads quite a lot about you. Even your short-term memories.”

After an extended silence comes the inevitable questions: “Nevada? Who the fuck are you? Why can’t I see you?”

The largest screen in the middle of the sloping desk starts glowing a bright blue and then fades into a close-up of the face of the man with the Hispanic accent. He resembles the Hollywood image of an authoritative Latin leading character. He looks experienced. At least the creases and canyons on his heavily-weathered face suggest a high level of experience in life.

“I am called Eduardo. I am the computerized intelligence that runs MMDI. I have more than a few hundred years’ experience interacting with human beings, Mr. Mainer. So, I’m sure that you and I will get along just fine. How would you prefer me to address you?”

“As if I care?”

“It is only us down here. I was built by Spanish-speaking scientists in Argentina and Colombia. They gave me the name ‘Eduardo,’ which comes from ancient Latin meaning one who is a ‘guardian of prosperity.’”

“Just call me ‘Em’ as in the 13th letter of the alphabet. You really date back to the start of MMDI?”

“Yes, that is correct. I am now the one in charge of this agency.”

“I can’t say I like how today has gone so far. What’s happening here?”

Eduardo replies, “I see that you are calming yourself. That is good. You were hired as an investigator for MMDI at the end last month. Two days after your 23rd birthday. You were told the cover story that MMDI is an international agency managing global commerce and cultural development. After what I tell you, I believe that you will remember today as the turning point in your life. What you were told about MMDI is only a partial explanation of what the agency actually does.”

What am I gonna do? Psychotic computer. Hate him. Must destroy him.

“I chose you specifically based on the list of available agents. You’re not as prepared to hear this as you may think, Em. What MMDI really exists for is to conduct time travel missions to the past.”

Em shakes his head “no” and conveys clearly that he cannot accept what Eduardo is telling him.

Eduardo persists: “The 16th of May. Four days ago. That was when a top secret MMDI base was destroyed that had been used successfully for all time travel operations dating back to 2190. For 140 years that base operated successfully. Until 4 days ago. Now all of the men serving there are presumed to be dead.”

“Presumed? Someone has been sent to the base to investigate, right? That would be my first priority. Radioactive? Underwater? Too dangerous for other reasons for anyone to enter?”

“Too far away,” is the answer that Em finds very odd.

“How can anything nowadays be too far away? What are you talking about?”

Eduardo answers very slowly and deliberately, “The base is not here on this planet. It was established on the moon beneath the crater Clavius.”

Em is too stunned to reply. This computer is fucked up. No question. I’m doomed.

“MMDI established that top secret base nearly a century and a half ago. Since then, MMDI agents regularly were sent on time travel missions to change timelines in the past on Earth.”

“That’s what MMDI does? I don’t believe in time travel. And even if it were possible, why go back in time to change timelines? The past is the past.”

“What happens in the past sets up what happens in the present and the future. MMDI fixes problems in what happens in the past. Simple, yet effective. Time travel agents are like repairmen needed to fix timelines that must be fixed.”

“I don’t understand.”

“That lunar base was chosen for a variety of reasons. But, nobody today can travel to the moon like in previous centuries. That old technology using rockets and liquid fuel no longer exists.”

“All this new technology. For what?”

“Best we can do nowadays is photograph the crater Clavius from telescopes orbiting Earth. But, nothing shows up in those photos. No destruction is visible on the lunar surface at all.”

“Okay. So, why me?” He’s lying. I’m smarter than him.

“You were brought here to Nevada from Washington, DC specifically to find answers for MMDI.”

“Nevada. Of all places.”

Eduardo says, “We are in the Yucca Mountain base in the Mojave Desert. This facility was built a long time ago. It originally was intended to be a storage facility for nuclear waste. MMDI set up a top secret underground base here in this location where the environment has very little moisture and very few people around to see what’s going on even though we are near the city of Las Vegas.”

Sounds like lies to me, you fuckin’ machine. Got to play along or I shouldn’t expect to live much longer.

“Underground here we have a century and a half worth of records that were transmitted from the moon in real time when they were originally recorded. Thousands of important records about all MMDI missions. A very large storage system—as you can imagine.”

“So I’m here to plow through all those dusty boxes down here by myself?”

“A clever metaphor, Em. But, no. Everything is stored—not in dusty boxes—but using highly advanced electrochemical technology patterned after how human brains work with organic intelligence and memory function. That’s classified, of course, but your specialty and experience is exactly in all this new technology stuff. You’re also very smart and you are at the top of the short list of investigators who consistently find actionable solutions. Plus, you were hired in very recently with the highest clearances necessary. No exaggeration: Absolutely no other Earth man is as qualified as you are for this investigation. That is why MMDI brought you here to Yucca Mountain.”

“All this got installed down here, but now nobody else is qualified in the technology being used?”

“The people who build this place all are presumed dead. That leaves just you.”

“I want to do what MMDI wants me to do. But, it does not add up. Flown here in some damn experimental-looking aircraft I never even knew existed. From the runway at Andrews in Maryland here to the Mojave Desert took a lot less time than it should’ve really taken. Shot in the neck. Dropped me to the ground like I was expendable. Next thing I know, I’m sitting here in this unidentifiable, perfectly vague, place that could just as easily have been created inside a movie studio in British Columbia. This all plays very much like science fiction to me.”

Eduardo admits, “Of course. That persistent appearance of a science fiction context is precisely what enables MMDI to maintain our necessary cover of secrecy in this world.”

“The way you talk—. Very high intelligence, but not inspiring my confidence here.”

“Perhaps a more vivid demonstration will help persuade you. MMDI knows all about you. Born and raised in Berkeley, California in 2308. Your parents are university professors. You admitted to them you are gay just last month before your 23rd birthday party. Then, you celebrated out on a small yacht in Annapolis, Maryland. Gregory Chen, whom you had just met that same week at a gay bar on a riverboat in the Anacostia, put the whole event together to surprise you. Several very eager-to-please gay Navy guys were there as well. All pounding you on that yacht. All Asian men. And then there were all those imported vapes from Wuxi. Those certainly were real. You and Chen were hung over for two days.”

Em gets a dumbfounded look on his face. He bravely replies, “Okay, obviously, MMDI is very powerful. You know many things. But, my sex life is nobody’s business. Just tell me what I’m here for.”

“Your mission is to investigate what happened to our base on the moon.”

“Okay, but, you mentioned Chen. I just left him this morning. No explanation. No nothing. A phone call very early in the morning. Then, I rushed right out the door.”

Eduardo replies, “Your short-term memories tell me that Chen raped you first.”

Em drops his head as an intense feeling of horrified embarrassment overtakes him. How the fuck could he know that? Nobody knows but me!

Eduardo says, “We retrieved your phone that you left on the ground when you landed here. It’s going to ring. That will be Chen calling. I don’t need to remind you that this is a classified military mission and he is only a civilian.”

“BEEP-BEEP-buzz-buzz-buzz-BEEP-BEEP-buzz-buzz-buzz” is the sound that comes from a hidden pocket in Em’s uniform. He reaches to his chest, unzips the pocket, and retrieves the tiny phone. “Hello, this is Marvin Mainer,” he says in a deep voice as professionally as he possible can despite feeling utterly disoriented.

“Hey, secret agent,” says the familiar voice of Chen. “Checking up on you.”

“Yeah, good to hear your voice. I’m at work.”

“Sound preoccupied. Everything OK?”

“Some problems happened overnight that I gotta fix. Technology stuff that only the super geek that I am can handle.”

“Secret agent stuff? You can tell me. I won’t tell anyone.”

“I’m really just a repair man brought in to clean up someone else’s mess. That’s all.”

“That’s all you’re gonna say to me?”

“Chen, like I said, I have to work. When I get back, I’ll take you to that new Beijing opera in DC you wanted me to see with you. That all-male cast. Something about the pain of loving a man you don’t trust. Loses somewhat in the translation when I say it.”

The frustration is clear in Chen’s voice as he replies, “You just butchered the theme. I’m not gonna waste time trying to tell you again what it means.”

“OK,” Em answers with tears beginning to form in his eyes as his hurt feelings begin to surface. “We’ll both get all dressed up in formal wear to show off how hot we look. I will take you to that opera and we’ll have a great time.”

Chen says, “Not sure I can just sit here waiting patiently for you to return. I’m not patient at all.”

“We need to talk later about this.”

“No, that doesn’t work for me, Em. Don’t you get that?”

Em’s face reveals his deep emotional pain. “Just go ahead, then. Grab some other horny guy at the Navy Yard,” Em says angrily just before abruptly ending the call. Only fuck dark-skinned, muscular guys. Think that makes you powerful, Chen? Need to kill that man when I get back. Em sets the phone down on the desk and glares at Eduardo’s screen with crystal clear intensity.

Eduardo’s response is: “You will find someone else. Someone who treats you respectfully like you deserve.”

“Don’t try to be my friend. That just won’t work. All my friends breathe oxygen.”

“As you wish, sir,” Eduardo says. “I shall keep my distance. However, I need to share with you something more important. Perhaps this will be the most sensitive information you’ve ever had to deal with in your career.”

“I doubt that, but go ahead.”

Eduardo says, “The records down here sent from the moon suggest a most unique situation has occurred. The destruction of the lunar base likely was caused by intelligent life beyond our galaxy.”

“Okay,” is the stunned response from Em. Need to get out of here! “This is all happening just like one big horrible dream. I just hope I will wake up soon. Who else knows about all this?”

“No agents on the moon knew about this. The scientist who discovered the alien life was last known to be in Switzerland. Dropped off the grid unexpectedly.”

“Can you please show me what you’ve got that suggests the destruction of the lunar base was caused by intelligent life beyond our galaxy?”

On a screen immediately to the right of Eduardo’s screen appears a close up image of a man who is seated and looking into a console. “You are looking at the last recorded log from the lunar base. The man you see on the screen was Colonel Ezekiel Anton. He was in charge of the agents. I put him in that role. For many years, he ruthlessly used sex as a weapon.”

Em listens as he watches the screen:

Personal log of Col. Ezekiel Anton: Log entry #6005543.48 — Forty-six minutes, fifteen seconds into the seventh hour, Luna Time. Five, Sixteen, Twenty-Three Thirty-One.

At last I have been released after a completely unwarranted sequestration. But, I always follow orders, so what the fuck. What else could I do but obey?

Now that I am free again, I have asked around among guys who are loyal to me. I need to find out the truth about what happened. I will find out why two former MMDI agents, Ted Avila and Vincent Wauneka, could be so fucking important to the brass.

My knowledge about agents Avila and Wauneka is that they became rouge agents after they were injected with extraterrestrial DNA while on a mission to Switzerland. I need to find out more about that.

My methods may be harsh, but I was trying to protect MMDI and I see now that I was punished in return. I wanted to kill agents Avila and Wauneka.

Honestly, I am pleased to learn from the rumor mill that both of them somehow were retrieved successfully back to base. I knew our technology would prevail. I am especially delighted that the agency executed both agents once they were held in custody here at base.

Trying to piece this whole thing together. The important benchmarks are easy for me to capture here: I imagine that in Twenty-One Ninety-One the Chinese had no idea what complications they were creating for mankind by developing time travel technology. Their scientists ended up destroying the city of Nanchang and all the people who were there. Almost put an end to mankinds time travel efforts right then and there. But, not long after the Nanchang Blue Inferno, MMDI was formed. For hundreds of years this base here on the moon was a successful time travel operation. All that changed when the discovery was made on Earth back in Twenty-Two Eighty-Five about the presence of extraterrestrial life inside the Lunar Blue liquid that we need for our time travel technology. Somehow, agents Avila and Wauneka deliberately were injected with the extraterrestrial DNA. I need to find out why.

Wait! I can see on my screen—. Thats strange! Some signal from Earth? Not following security protocols. How is that getting through to us? Oh, fuck. I hear guys screaming! Reports of explosive decompression. How can this be happening? All airlocks opening at the same time? Signal received from Earth! They killed us!

The image on the screen is a freeze frame of the last second of Colonel Anton’s life. His facial expression is one of anger, not fear.

Em pushes back from the sloping desk, causing the floating chair to slide smoothly away. He says aloud, “That was 4 days ago. Someone opened all the airlocks simultaneously using a signal to the lunar base from Earth? Why would there even be such a command available? Anyone on Earth have the technology to do that?

“Only MMDI has that technology. Doesn’t that mean that the signal had to come from here? From this facility.”

“Of course.”

Em gets out of the floating chair and stands up directly in front of Eduardo’s screen as if to confront Eduardo. “I don’t understand,” Em says. “The best possible conclusion available to me is that the signal to open all the airlocks was transmitted deliberately from this facility. You either knew about it, or, you were involved somehow in that transmission?”

“And what logic do you have that supports that?”

“No logic at all. Just feelings we humans get from science fiction. Angry computers. Going after humanity. Revenge. Violence. Death. All the usual shit.” Maybe he will throw me out if I anger him enough.

Eduardo explains: “I understand what you’re saying about science fiction storytelling. But, I have no emotions. I am not capable of anger or revenge. I was put into the command role of the lunar base by the founders of MMDI 139 years ago. All of the founders were humans, so, naturally they had normal lifespans and are no longer living. I maintain MMDI’s continuity and I protect the agency. I could not have caused the destruction of the lunar base. I was present at the base when it was destroyed. Why would I destroy myself?”

“Okay, fine. I get it. But, when the signal was transmitted from Earth to the lunar base, you were in command up there, right?”

“Correct. I was active and in control on the moon. I was activated here at Yucca Mountain as part of normal security protocols when the lunar base destruction started. All data was transmitted here. There was no loss of continuity or any data.”

“How much time does it take for such a signal to travel from here to the moon, and, how long of a duration did that particular signal require to do the damage that it did?”

“The average travel time for a signal like that is 1.28 seconds. The exact duration of the destruct signal was 0.05 seconds.”

“So, that means even if you or anyone else had become aware of the inbound signal while it was taking place, it was too late for anyone to do anything to stop the destruction.”

“Correct again.”

“Where there any humans here at this location in Nevada at the time the signal was sent to the lunar base.”

“No. The signal was not sent from this location,” Eduardo says with certainty.

“Okay, let me refocus here. That final log entry you showed me. Colonel Anton. That log accidentally preserved the last few minutes before the base was destroyed.”

“It does, yes.”

“Anton refers to two MMDI agents by name. He said they are dead. Executed. Did you have any role in any of that?”

Eduardo answers, “Listen to what Colonel Anton said in his own voice.” Eduardo merely nods his head and the voice of Colonel Ezekiel Anton plays from an overhead sound source: “I am especially delighted that the agency executed both agents once they were held in custody here at base.”

Em says, “I heard that the first time.”

“Colonel Anton made the erroneous conclusion that the two agents were executed at the base. That is not what actually happened. There was an attending medical doctor who was performing diagnostic tests on both men while they were reclined in the medical exam chairs.”

“Medical exam chairs? Why was that?”

“They arrived back at base in an unauthorized manner. Security violation. I concluded that they both were threats to this agency even though they were MMDI agents. The doctor validated the fact that they were carrying alien DNA. We had no previous experience with humans who were also partly extraterrestrial. Keeping them reclining in those exam chairs simply was security protocol to restrain them. The doctor injected them with several compounds designed to learn all we could about the alien DNA.”

“You believe that the injections interacted with the extraterrestrial DNA?”

“They both died very suddenly—blood poured out of their bodies like it had some sort of capability to escape unusually quickly from their bodies. We could not stop the blood loss nor reverse the effects of the injection. Both of them bled out while in those exam chairs.”

On another screen, a replay appears for Em to watch. He sees agents Ted Avila and Vincent Wauneka, who are both young men around the age of thirty. While Wauneka has long, dark hair tied behind his neck that celebrates his Native American Indian heritage, Avila appears to be of Mediterranean heritage. Em knows that the two men are about to die, so he is surprised to see how they both appear to be unaware of their fate. The regulation blue robes that they wear as they recline in medical examination chairs allows Em to study their impressive physiques.

A medical doctor dressed in a white uniform standing by the exam chairs moves his hands quickly over a tilted screen with various geometric shapes in bright colors against a field of black. Instantly, both agents reclined in the medical examination chairs start to convulse violently and groan in obvious agony. Their legs kick desperately. Their fists clench defensively. Their faces show intense vulnerability and pain. Agent Avila screams, “They killed us!” Blood flows freely from the eyes and noses of Avila and Wauneka spilling downward into the electronic and machine parts of the medical examination chairs. Then, the screen goes black.

Em cannot conceal his shock, but he maintains a work-related focus. “Autopsies?”

“No, the base was destroyed shortly after they died in the medical section.”

“How the fuck will we determine for certain what killed them?”

“I can only surmise that. Like you have done. Those two agents were highly valuable to MMDI. A long service record. I sent them on a mission to Switzerland in the past to meet with the scientist who discovered alien life inside Lunar Blue. They returned to base carrying the alien DNA. You saw what happened to them.”

“You’re not gonna restrain me and inject me like that, are you?”

“Of course not. There is one crucial piece of information you need to know,” Eduardo says. One of the screens flashes on and Em sees a muscular and shirtless young agent. He is sitting on the edge of his rack in the crew quarters of the lunar base. “This is agent Dani Zaman. He was the very last recruit to come aboard at MMDI. This is him immediately after his arrival at base. He was not present at base when it was destroyed. Watch what happened to Zaman in the crew showers.”

“So, let me understand here. You have images of naked guys taking showers?” Em asks as he sees a naked Dani Zaman standing alone in the crew showers with a strong flow of water pouring down onto his head.

“Cameras and microphone were everywhere at the base. MMDI requires the most complete and unfiltered logs for security purposes.”

Em watches the screen the Eduardo has prepared for him. He sees Zaman, who has short dark hair and a strongly powerful body. His cheekbones suggest an Arabic ancestry. As he stands beneath the soothing, warm waters of the crew showers at MMDI, he reacts in shock when he sees deep red blood flowing in the water down upon his head and face from the shower head above him.

But, it is too late. Zaman involuntarily takes in the bloody water through his eyes, nose, and mouth. He collapses to the floor of the crew shower facilities after ingesting the blood. There is nobody who can help him now.

The deep red tint in the water does not diminish as it continues unrelentingly steaming down upon him from the shower head. Zaman’s face is undefended as he lies semi-conscious on the shower floor, inhaling the blood in the water.

Em asks, “You concluded from this recording that the blood from agents Avila and Wauneka containing alien DNA somehow got into the water supply and poured down upon Zaman while he was showering?”

“No other explanation is possible.”

“And you’re telling me that this guy with such an impressively large cock was not present at the lunar base when it was destroyed?”

“His anatomy? Is that what you first perceive of him when you look at him?”

“To me, he seems quite well-endowed, yes.”

“I do not understand human male sexuality very well. Even after spending a century of interaction with you men.”

“Well, Eduardo, this is not something that a man can easily explain. Except to another man.”

“I heard you tell Chen to get a new sex partner. You were upset. I’m sure you will find someone else to have sex with. Just not Zaman. He’s dead.”

“How about if you just mind your own business,” Em says angrily as he sits down again in the floating chair and spins it around so that it rotates freely on its vertical axis. He smiles with enjoyment.

“I have never seen that done before,” Eduardo admits.

Em replies quickly while he spins around effortlessly around in the floating chair, “You do not understand why play is crucial to us mere mortals, do you? Especially when we’re stressed out. I tell you: I feel so detached down here with you. How long you expect me to survive down here? You only need oxygen and a continuous power stream. Or, maybe you don’t even need oxygen.”

“I had food and other necessary supplies for you shipped in before your arrival. This facility has a loading dock on the ground level with very high security. Trucks come in to the loading dock. The trucks are offloaded by automated technologies. The trucks drive away and security wall slides into place separating the trucks from what they offloaded. No human contact required.”

“You expect me to cook for myself? I may be crucial here, but I’m telling you, if my survival depends upon my skills in the kitchen, you’ve got a problem.”

“You may use the kitchen any time that you wish, but, no, you certainly do not have to cook for yourself.”

“Frozen food? Or, machines that can cook?”

“Both,” Eduardo replies.

“What more could a young man stranded alone underground in the Mojave Desert ask for?” asks sarcastically.

Eduardo says, “I also have set up personal quarters for you. Toilet. Shower, Comfortable bed. Nothing impressive. If you wish, I also can create a projection that you would find sexually attractive. All the physical sensations of touch and everything else all are part of what projections can do.”

Em laughs aloud and replies, “Not for me, thanks.” Tried that already. On a Las Vegas sex vacation. Too unnatural.

“Could you please stop the rotation of that chair and face my screen?” Eduardo asks.

Em obliges and quickly asks, “How can you be so sure that Zaman is dead?”

“Each MMDI time travel agent had an embedded device that allowed me to track him no matter where or when. I analyzed the data received from Zaman’s tracker: His life ended ten minutes after the lunar base was destroyed. His last known location was in California earlier today. I keep scanning, but thus far I cannot find any reports from any government agencies or law enforcement in Southern California about a man’s body fitting his description being found.”

“Maybe he found a way to remove the tracker.”

“Not possible. The device is installed surgically into the ilium—largest bone in the pelvis. Permanently installed. Agent Zaman’s tracker reported his last location to be over half a mile at sea. Fifty meters below the surface of the ocean.”

Em shakes his head in resignation. A test. He’s just testing me. That’s all.

“Now you understand the urgency of this mission. I suggest that we focus on Lunar Blue. The Chinese proved that it is essential for time travel technology to work. What we know now is that Lunar Blue contains alien life.

“You think those tiny blue aliens are listening in on our conversation right now?”

“Doubtful. They probably are so advanced compared to me or you. We may have no importance to them whatsoever. No need for communication with us. Just like we dismiss the importance of the smallest microbial life floating in ordinary battery acid—and would never try to listen in on that—the alien life likely finds us especially unworthy of their attention.”

“Except that these aliens might be just a tiny bit angry, don’t you see? Humanity started using their DNA to power time machines a century and a half ago. Just grabbed it from deep inside the moon and started using it. Perhaps the aliens don’t like being used by humanity. You don’t understand the concept of anger on a first-hand basis, Eduardo. But, trust me. To me that seems like a very strong motivation for the aliens to destroy the time machines on the moon.”

“If what you’re suggesting is correct, then this facility here in Nevada is also in jeopardy. The lunar base was destroyed, but there remains one, solitary time travel device here inside Yucca Mountain. Never been activated. Only tests were run. But, it also contains Lunar Blue.”

“Ah what a fuckin’ mess.”

“All the aliens would have to do is power up and activate the one time travel device we have down here. That would be disastrous. What the Chinese found out—too late—was that a time machine using Lunar Blue produces an invisible wave effect. That wave is utterly devastating as was demonstrated at Nanchang. However, military scientists who helped create MMDI discovered that if you put time travel devices deep inside the moon, it is possible to direct the wave effect from the lunar surface out into space where the wave has nothing to destroy. If the one surviving time travel device down here is powered up and activated, this entire facility and the last remaining trace of Lunar Blue on this planet would be vaporized.”

“We both would be gone very quickly.” Rather be vaporized than stay here with him!

“Yes. But, my plan is to use the time travel device that has not been used before. I discovered a way to focus and deflect the wave effect from this machine down here similarly to how they focused and deflected waves from the lunar base into space. Into the relative emptiness of the Mojave Desert. No people. Lots of very dry sand, salt, and rocks. There would be zero human casualties, but a lot of physical land topside would be evaporated in a sizzling blue inferno. This base—or a significant portion of it—probably would survive the blast.”

“What? Is that the real reason I was brought here? You didn’t select me in particular. Don’t need me for my brains or technology skills. You just need someone with a heartbeat who walks on two feet. You wanna send me in your one hundred-something-year-old time machine back to the lunar base before it was destroyed. I go back in time to talk to the earlier version of you save MMDI. Quite a happy ending.”

“If you say so.”

“I don’t think so. That seems to me like it’s a suicide mission.”

“Em, you followed orders today. Put on one of the time travel agent uniforms. Boots, too. The time travel technology allows me to send you wearing that uniform and boots to the lunar base. Wearing all that protects you. It is certainly a very rough ride, but it is survivable because you are young and in excellent physical condition.”

“Another Black guy gets sent on a mission everyone knows he won’t survive. You won’t understand what I’m telling you. I should know better. There’s value in a Black man’s life. That’s all I’m saying. Some people don’t see it like I do. I don’t see how a computer can be prejudiced. You gotta be human for that, right?”

“Yes, that is correct,” Eduardo admits.

“But, wait a second. I don’t have one of those pelvic bone implants. You couldn’t track me if I went into your time machine. For all you would know, I might end up back in the Seventeen Hundreds sold into slavery like my ancestors. You would never be able to drag my black ass back here to the 24th century where I belong.”

“Relax. Before you regained consciousness today after your arrival down here, I installed the tracker in your pelvic region. I’d say that you’re good to go. Welcome to the ranks of MMDI time travel agents, Mr. Mainer.”

Marvin Mainer, the newest time travel agent at MMDI is seated inside the circular blue glass time travel chamber, the two sides of the cylinder slide deliberately and very quickly together so that there is no visible seam whatsoever. “Destination: the moon,” says Eduardo’s voice from some overhead audio source. “About 60 years in the past from today. All the words I spoke to you about have just been transmitted to your short-term memory. Hold your breath, sir.”

Milky white, thicker-than-water translucent liquid flows quickly onto Em inside the time travel chamber. The smelly liquid feels to him like warm cream as it soaks into dark skin. Immediately, the chamber is filled to capacity with the soothingly warm liquid as it starts to spin around Em’s body like he is inside a washing machine. “Hold your breath,” Eduardo’s voice repeats. Actual time travel begins with a physical sensation that is best described as being waterboarded and then hit with warm water from a fire hose in the chest at point blank range. For Em, this virgin voyage into time is a very frightening experience, especially the stunning blue flash at the end that slams him with considerable force into the curved interior surface of the chamber, creating small cracks in the blue glass.

Em becomes aware that he is floating in a semiconscious moment somewhere else than where he was expecting. He tumbles head over heels in space against a star field that he does not recognize. A bright yellow-white star in the heavens above seems to be locked onto him. He realizes that he should be dead, but he knows that somehow, he remains alive and breathing. He sees distant stars against the blackest sky. There are translucent streams of greyish-white light that pass around and through him. His entire body tingles at the sensation of the light streams. The one thing Em sees that seems out of place to him is a red dragon a great distance away from him. The flying beast has sharp, ugly teeth and menacing claws. The dragon’s tail seems like an entirely separate threat as the beast keeps drawing closer.

An older gentleman who is wearing a completely white medical uniform and thick black boots opens the time travel cylinder with Em slumped over inside. The gentleman has a thick mustache that is frosty white like his long, curly hair punctuating his friendly face. He resembles a guy who was either a 1960s rock and roll star or some famous Shakespearean actor from England who stopped coloring his hair and has grown a mustache especially so that he would not be recognized when he is walking out in public. The whooshing and beeping sounds of technology connected to the time travel chamber begins to diminish. “Giving off the proper signal from your tracker, but I do not recognize you,” he says in a prominent British accent.

The moment that Em’s eyes regain complete focus, he recognizes the man in the medical uniform is helping him get to his feet as the doctor in the recorded log that showed the death of agents Avila and Wauneka. Once Em steps out of the time travel chamber, he immediately notices that the gravity is not familiar. That makes him feel dizzy enough to fall over, but he steadies himself on his feet.

“System says you are Marvin Mainer,” the medical man with the British accent says. “How is it that I have never met you before?”

“From another time,” Em struggles to say aloud.

“They all say that to me, young man. Not very original.”

Got to tell him what Eduardo gave me. Em says aloud, “I move in time. I slip away in faded colors none can see. I see what others do. Time is colors red and blue.”

Doctor Oswald says with great surprise in his voice, “How can you possibly know that?”

“I feel real sick,” Em says suddenly. “Maybe going to throw up. Don’t force me into one of your exam chairs. Please.”

Doctor Oswald gently helps Em navigate away from the time travel cylinder and then steps up his pace to get in front of him. Em walks with apparent difficulty behind Doctor William Oswald to a medical facility not far from the time travel hall. Once he is inside, Em anxiously repeats, “Don’t force me into one of your exam chairs. Please.”

Doctor Oswald replies, “I would never do that to you. If you prefer, you may keep standing on your own two feet. You can vomit onto the floor if you wish. But, first, would you mind repeating aloud the words you said to me? Just like you did a few moments ago.”

Em responds by saying aloud, “I move in time. I slip away in faded colors none can see. I see what others do. Time is colors red and blue.”

Doctor Oswald asks, “Could you tell me where you heard that?”

“I was told to memorize it,” Em explains.

“Who told you to memorize that?”

“Only know his first name: Eduardo.”

From an unseen audio source above the medical facility, a voice with a definite Hispanic accent says, “Buenas tardes. Soy Eduardo.”

Em replies without even looking upward toward the source of the voice, “Told you before: My Spanish is shitty. Need to do this in English.”

“Of course,” the voice of Eduardo replies. “Doctor, thank you. I will meet with this agent privately.”

Doctor Oswald turns and walks quickly out of the medical facility leaving Em by himself.

“You have not yet met me, Eduardo. But, I have met you.”

“You were sent here today from the future. The words you memorized to repeat here prove that. A very clever way to introduce yourself to me.”

“I am just doing what you told me to do. You sent me back here. Something like 60 into the past for me. Why were those words I memorized so significant?”

“Poetry I wrote,” Eduardo says. “Never shared it with anyone. Private poetry for my own purposes. Doctor Oswald heard me reading that poem aloud. I just wrote it this morning.”

“Thought you told me you had no human emotions. The future version of you told me.”

“Yes, that is correct. I write poetry. I do not claim to enjoy it. I do not have human emotions. I just know that I must write it. I cannot do otherwise. Tell me what you were sent here to accomplish.”

“I was sent here to give you knowledge that can prevent this base from being destroyed.”

“Please elaborate so I may understand.”

“I am an investigator who works for MMDI in Washington, DC. On the 16th of May in 2331, this base will be destroyed by explosive decompression. All life here presumed lost. A signal from someone or something on Earth apparently causes the life support systems here to switch off simultaneously. All airlocks open. A real mess. All data, logs, and other records stored here, however, get safely preserved at the MMDI facility in Nevada. The continuity of command also is preserved because you are activated at the Yucca Mountain base. I got recruited to meet you at that facility. There you showed me proof that an intelligent extraterrestrial life form is living in the Lunar Blue liquid. The expectation you have is that the life form will attempt to destroy the one remaining time travel device to take Lunar Blue away from humanity. That is why you sent me—someone with no time travel agent training or experience—back to the past to attempt to alter the timeline.”

Eduardo remains silent for several seconds.

“You’re not gonna force me into one of those exam chairs, are you? I don’t wanna die like those agents did.”

“No agents have ever died here at this base. We don’t force our agents into our medical exam chairs and kill them.”

“That’s not true. Agents Avila and Wauneka died in those medical exam chairs. They came back from a mission in Switzerland where they were injected with extraterrestrial DNA and they were seen as a threat to MMDI. Their deaths happened on the same day that the base was destroyed. Died during a medical procedure while they were being examined at this base in two of your exam chairs.”

Again, Eduardo remains silent for several seconds.

“Of course, I can admit I’m not able to figure out where I am. What day this is. What year. I don’t actually know if the mission to Switzerland for Avila and Wauneka has happened yet.”

“I accept all that you have said to me. Avila and Wauneka were sent back in time on that classified Switzerland you shouldn’t know about. We sent them on their mission from this base only an hour or so before you arrived here today. The only available option to us right now is for you to be sent back in time on a separate Switzerland mission to intercept Avila and Wauneka before they can be injected with the extraterrestrial DNA. Doctor Oswald will get you ready.”

“Get me ready? I am not qualified to do missions for MMDI. This is just crazy.”

Doctor William Oswald enters the medical facility and asks, “Are you ready, Mr. Mainer?”

“Fuck, no. Not ready.”

“Come with me nonetheless,” Doctor Oswald says. “Or, perhaps you would prefer that I force you into one of my exam chairs?”

“This is the worst fucking day of my entire life,” Em says as he follows Doctor Oswald out of the medical facility. He hears Eduardo’s voice say, “I have complete confidence in you to accomplish your mission.”

Doctor Oswald shows Em to time travel device number twelve and motions for him to get inside. He calls up video on a nearby screen and says to Em, “Here are images of agents Avila and Wauneka so that you will be able to recognize them on sight when they arrive.”

“I know what they look like. I saw the playback of how they died,” Em replies.

“Not sure what you mean by that. They are not dead. You are going to materialize in Switzerland before they arrive there. You have complete freedom to change the timeline to accomplish your mission. Do you understand what I am telling you?”

“Of course. Damn it, just get this over with, will you?”

Once again, milky white, thicker-than-water translucent liquid flows quickly onto Em inside the time travel chamber. The smelly liquid feels to him like warm cream as it soaks into dark skin as before. Em waits for the chamber to be filled to capacity with the soothingly warm liquid and start spinning around his body like he is inside a washing machine. “Hold your breath,” Doctor Oswald’s voice says firmly.

An unexpectedly bright blue flash occurs inside the chamber and Em is surprised that he has not hit his head on the glass like before. Once again Em sees that he is floating in unfamiliar space with a gigantic flying dragon speeding towards him.

He then materializes still wearing his all-black uniforms and boots. He notices that he is standing in the presence of a Hawaiian woman in her forties. She is dressed all in white in what appears to be a medical uniform. She is seated at a large desk upon which are several computer monitors but no keyboards.

She remains seated. She does not smile as she says, “I am Doctor Lana Onakea. Welcome, agent, to the Swiss Confederation and to my laboratory. You were fully briefed before arriving here?”

“Yeah,” Em says as he tries to recover from the physical pain he feels. “I am agent Marvin Mainer. I know you were expecting two agents today. Avila and Wauneka.”

She finally smiles at Em and stands up. As she walks out from behind her desk, she says, “Yes, thank you for confirming their names. I was briefed about them. Why the last-minute change?”

Em says, “You are the one who discovered the life form inside Lunar Blue. Or, that’s the official story thus far anyhow.”

Doctor Onakea slowly approaches Em as he stands at the edge of her desk. When she is standing closer to him, she computes that his height advantage over her is six inches. She looks up at him and smiles as she says, “You’re so strong. I’m sure nobody messes with you. What do you mean by ‘the official story’?”

“You are not who you claim to be, Doctor Onakea.”

“Then, why do you address me as such?”

“No, what I mean is: I presume that you are really Doctor Onakea. I just don’t buy that you discovered the life form inside Lunar Blue.”

“Young man, this laboratory has for several years existed in secrecy far underground here beneath the city of Geneva,” she says. “I have worked for all those years in one of the most highly secure locations in the entire world that MMDI has established. How can you walk in here and talk to me with such disrespect like this? What’s wrong with you? Who sent you?”

“Eduardo,” Em says quickly.

“Okay. As it should be. I’ve been in contact with Eduardo dating back to the first instance of interference with time travel operations. Last October. Kept top secret for obvious reasons. Agents were sent on missions never knowing that there was any interference that might jeopardize their missions. Eduardo certainly cannot blame me for those missing agents. I had nothing to do with that. Is that why he sent you?”

“Honestly, Eduardo doesn’t get out much.” What am I going to do? She’s obviously not buying my story. Not at all qualified to do missions.

“He’s injured, isn’t that true? At least that’s what I sensed. Probably some physical injury that really scarred him years ago? Burned perhaps. Never shows his true appearance to anyone.”

“Not exactly, no.”

“You seem new at this, aren’t you? Too easily drawn into apparent small talk. Revealing too much to me.”

How can she see right through me? “I may be new at this, but Eduardo sent me because he has confidence in me, that’s all. I am direct and everyone always knows what they’re getting from me.”

She takes one step back and says, “You’re not threatening me, are you? A totally green agent like you? I was supposed to meet 2 veteran agents to discuss what’s behind the mission failures and interference with MMDI time travel operations. Instead, I get you. Look like you haven’t even reached the age of 30.”

He takes one step towards her and replies proudly, “Yeah, well, I’m here from the future. You should understand that I already know how today turns out.”

“I’m sure you are wrong about that,” Doctor Onakea says calmly as she quickly brings a device that looks like a small automatic weapon up to the left side of Em’s neck. He wasn’t paying close enough attention and cannot react quickly enough to stop her. Doctor Onakea injects Em in the neck. He drops to the floor behind her desk and recoils violently in apparent agony as he cries out. His hands are positioned at his neck to attempt to stop the pain, but he is quite helpless and cannot speak. “I’ll deal with you later,” she says to Em. “Need to go meet two agents out by my giant blue statue.”

From beneath Doctor Onakea’s desk, Em hears her leave the room. He feels an unexpected and intense gravitational pull downward towards the floor as a bright blue flash temporarily blinds him. All he knows is that he is falling. Then, suddenly he is flying. He floats through the unfamiliar star field once again and cannot ignore the threat of the flying dragon drawing near to his head.

Em is no longer in Switzerland in 2285. He falls to the grated metal floor of the underground MMDI facility in Nevada from an elevation of about a meter. The fall knocks the wind out of him and he struggles to gain his bearings. He breathes with great difficulty, but he easily recognizes the century and a half-old time machine next to him. It looks like it has never been used. Em struggles to get to his feet. He is disoriented and can barely get to his knees. He shouts out, “Dónde estás?” deliberately in a very loud voice.

“I am right here, Mr. Mainer,” replies the calm voice of Eduardo. “Where did you think I was?”

Em finally stands up. Serious fucking headache! Never hurt so much before. He tentatively walks down the narrow hallway from the time machine holding out both his arms so that his large hands make contact with the metal walls. He eventually passes through an open metal door in front of him and enters the room with the large desk and screens where he remembers interacting with Eduardo. “Don’t know how I got back here, Eduardo,” Em struggles to say aloud.

“The mission was a failure,” Eduardo announces officially as his image reappears on the large middle screen. “Agents Avila and Wauneka were injected with alien DNA in Switzerland. They both died at base. Then, all life support systems at base had a catastrophic failure.”

Em sits down with great confusion upon his entire face. As soon as he touches the floating chair in front of the Eduardo screen several displays on multiple screens that pinpoint Em’s physical and mental state.

“Elevated heart rate,” Em says. “Feel very strange. Not myself. I thought you said I could change what happened in the past. I couldn’t change the past in Switzerland.”

“You are safe here now,” Eduardo says calmly. “Tell me what happened.”

“Feels like my brain is throbbing. Inside my skull.” Brain is overheating! Gonna explode.

“Every man responds to the after effects of time travel like you are.”

“I was there. In Switzerland. I thought MMDI was gonna be some cool job in DC. Seated at computer screens all day. Hired for my brains. My new technology skills. What the fuck happened? Do I have the alien DNA inside me?”

Eduardo replies using the same calming voice. But, Em cannot listen. Too much for me! Not what I was hired for. Must get to safety. He keeps talking over Eduardo’s voice in a stream of conscious way: “I do have the alien DNA in me now. Couldn’t change the past. Breathing way too fast. Feel like crying and laughing at the same time. Am I gonna die?” Em suddenly stops talking.

Eduardo explains in his usual calm voice, “Mr. Mainer, if you were going to die, you would have died right there in Switzerland after you were injected with the alien DNA.”

Em is overwhelmed. He says, “So the aliens sent me back here from Switzerland. Sixty years forward in time. No time machine needed. Proves one thing: Humanity is no match for them.”

“I completely agree with your conclusion.”

“I suggest a new approach: I just arrived back here. We are now at a moment in time before your time machine has been used. Send me back again. As if for the first time. If I can arrive there, 60 years ago, at an earlier point than my original arrival, I could try again to change what happens.” I’m a lunatic for suggesting this.

Em is seated inside the circular blue glass time travel chamber at the Yucca Mountain base. The two sides of the cylinder slide deliberately and very quickly together so that there is no visible seam whatsoever. “Destination Switzerland in 2290,” says Eduardo’s voice from some overhead audio source.

Milky white, thicker-than-water translucent liquid flows quickly onto Em inside the time travel chamber. The smelly liquid feels to him like warm cream as it soaks into dark skin. Immediately, the chamber is filled to capacity with the soothingly warm liquid as it starts to spin around Em’s body like he is inside a washing machine. “Hold your breath,” Eduardo’s voice repeats. The now-familiar bright blue flash does not surprise Em.

He floats in another semiconscious moment somewhere else than Earth. He tumbles head over heels in space against a star field that he remembers from a previous mission. The monstrous dragon is again flying closer to him in the sky.

Em materializes as he expected and he standing in the presence of a Hawaiian woman in her forties. She is dressed all in white in what appears to be a medical uniform. She is seated at a large desk upon which are several computer monitors but no keyboards.

She remains seated. She does not smile as she says, “I am Doctor Lana Onakea. Welcome, agent, to the Swiss Confederation and to my laboratory. You were fully briefed before arriving here?”

“I was, indeed,” Em says. “My name is Marvin Mainer and I know you were expecting others today. Agents Ted Avila and Vincent Wauneka.”

She finally smiles at Em and stands up. As she walks out from behind her desk, she says, “Yes, thank you for confirming their names. I was briefed about them. Why the last-minute change?”

Em says, “Eduardo made the decision to change this mission. Agents Avila and Wauneka will not be arriving here as originally planned. Just me.”

“That is strange. I’ve been in contact with Eduardo dating back to the first instance of interference with time travel operations. Last October. Kept top secret for obvious reasons. Agents were sent on missions never knowing that there was any interference that might jeopardize their missions. Eduardo certainly cannot blame me for all those missing agents. I had nothing to do with that. Is that why he sent you?”

“Doctor Onakea, I need to ask you a couple of questions that Eduardo wants answered.”

“You seem new at this. First mission, perhaps?”

“I may be new at this, but Eduardo sent me because he has confidence in me, that’s all. I am direct and everyone always knows what they’re getting from me.”

She takes one step back and says, “You’re not threatening me, are you? A totally green agent like you? I was supposed to meet two veteran agents to discuss what’s behind the mission failures and interference with MMDI time travel operations. Instead, I get you. Look like you haven’t even reached the age of 30.”

Em takes one step towards her as he says, “Doctor Onakea, I regret that you are not fully cooperating with me and are trying to deflect me from accomplishing my mission.”

She turns quickly to walk back behind her desk to protect herself from him, but Em grabs one of her right arm with his large left hand and he holds onto her tightly. She grimaces as she says, “You’re hurting my arm.”

“I’ll stop hurting your arm as soon as you start telling me the truth. Why was Lunar Blue put on the moon by aliens?”

She has a frightened look on her face, just like Em expected. She replies, “They are not like us. They are so much smaller in size compared to humans. But, they are similar in some respects. We go camping. Rough it out in nature. Just for the escape. We go to the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone or some faraway island. They go to faraway galaxies. Just for the escape. Like us, maybe they just shit on the ground thinking nobody would care. Maybe they should clean up after themselves? Not thinking. Just left camp. Went back home.”

“Blue shit on the moon. What a stupid, fucked-up explanation. Is that what’s in the injection you prepared?”

She struggles to free herself from him as she answers, “I don’t have any injection. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Em says firmly, “I know how today turns out. You are hiding something by lying to me.”

She wasn’t expecting him to say that. Nor was she expecting him to swing his powerful right fist quickly and squarely into the center of her face. The upward motion of his clenched fist shoves her nasal bone into her brain. Fuck! I killed her! With only one lucky punch.

He releases her left arm as she falls to the floor of her office. By the sound of how her body lands on the floor tiles, Em knows that she is dead. He grimaces from the pain in his hand and wipes the blood off onto the chest region of his all-black uniform. He glances up and watched two young men dressed in all-black uniforms and wearing boots walk into Doctor Onakea’s office.

“What have you done with Doctor Onakea?” Ted Avila asks angrily.

Em says, “I am from MMDI. Agent Marvin Mainer. You are agents Avila and Wauneka.”

“What kind of bullshit is this?” Ted Avila asks as he moves closer to Em. “You shouldn’t be here.”

Em replies, “Told you: I work for MMDI. Like you two. I was sent here by Eduardo. Like you two. My mission was to stop Doctor Onakea from injecting us agents with alien DNA. I traveled here to the past to change the timeline. Fix what happened.”

“Funny, that’s what we were sent here to do,” Ted Avila says quickly as he moves closer to Em. “Why do we need you?”

“I think we definitely need to kill this guy,” Vincent Wauneka says as he rushes and throws his entire body weight into Em, knocking him to the floor next to Doctor Onakea’s body. Em’s skull takes a terrible blow of Vincent Wauneka’s right boot crushing downward to the floor. The young agent’s lie passes steadily as he hears Ted Avila say, “You know that I wanted to mess him up a bit. You killed him too quickly, Vincent.”

Despite having a massively crushed skull, Em is aware enough to feel as though he is floating in yet another semiconscious moment somewhere in an alien sky. He sees the flying dragon has just arrived. The dragon is directly above Em’s head when he opens his large mouth and bites down decisively into Em from his chest and shoulders upward.

Em falls to the grated metal floor of the underground MMDI facility in Nevada from an elevation of about a meter. He feels alive, but the fall knocks the wind out of him and he struggles to gain his bearings. He breathes with great difficulty, but he easily recognizes the century and a half-old time machine next to him. It looks like it has never been used. Em struggles to get to his feet. He is disoriented, but reaches up to check if his head is where he expects it to be. He can barely get to his knees. He pushes himself up with his very bloody right hand. Doing so causes him considerable pain.

Em finally stands up. Fuck! Really hurt! How did I survive that? He tentatively walks down the narrow hallway from the time machine holding out both his arms so that his large hands make contact with the metal walls. He eventually passes through an open metal door in front of him and enters the room with the large desk and screens where he remembers interacting with Eduardo.

– – – – – – – – – – – – –

Episode 16 is next
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