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    Geron Kees
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It Doesn't Take A Rocket Scientist, Charlie Boone! - 2. Chapter 2

Casper stared at Charlie, a little bit of awe apparent in his brown eyes. "Split-presence? I never heard of it!"

Charlie just smiled. "Me, either."

They were in the control section of Lollipop, sitting on a long sofa provided for them by Max. Kippy was seated on Casper's left, and Adrian was on his right. Both boy's were still smiling, the result of giving the new arrival a fearsome joint hug. Ricky and Charlie stood nearby. Or, rather, Charlie was simply standing. Ricky was pacing back and forth, an expression of frustration dominating his features.

"Why haven't we taken off yet?" he whispered. "What are Max and Murcha doing?"

Lollipop was still grounded at the port on Engris, the soft glow of the city visible on one bulkhead of the control cabin. Charlie still had to admire the way the technology of the galactics made things appear as needed. You wanna see outside? Here!

Charlie looked over at Max, who was standing beside the central console, leaning against one of the upright pillar seats as he and Ragal talked to the artificial mind. Max looked slightly upset. Ragal looked thoughtful, his tall, spindly form encased in a flowing saffron-colored robe. Neither he nor Casper seemed dressed for a rescue mission, which was another trait of people with a superior technology at their bidding. They expected the ship to provide anything they might need for the job.

They were right in that attitude, Charlie knew. Murcha could fabricate just about anything they might need very quickly out of base components. Why lug around a lot of equipment when you could make what you needed right on the spot?

Max shook his head, and then he started over towards them. Ragal said something else to Murcha they couldn't hear, and then followed.

Charlie frowned as Max arrived beside them. "It's not like you to have secrets from us."

The elf looked pained. "There's no secrets, fellas. We just discovered a major problem, and were trying to figure out what to do about it."

Kippy emitted a sigh. "That doesn't sound good."

"It's not." Max held up his hands in frustration. "We don't know where to go."

For a moment no one said anything. And then Ricky threw up his hands. "What does that mean?"

"We don't know where to go," Max repeated, more firmly. "We don't know where Pacha and the others went on their expedition."

Charlie was stunned. "You don't know?"

Max looked pained. "No, Charlie. Murcha doesn't know. Illia did not share their location with him. And they went to a place that's not in the location guidebook. I can't teleport to places I've never been before."

"I thought Pacha's ship was in the guidebook now," Kippy asked, stunned. "You said we could always get there now that you had been there one time!"

"Yeah, well --" Max looked unhappy now. "Remember I said earlier I couldn't seem to find Pacha's ship? Even when it's in the guidebook? Well, places have physical characteristics that determine them. If they become altered too much, they become new places again."

"I never heard of that!" Ricky exclaimed. "You never said that before!"

"It's never happened to me before," Max said, trying to look patient. "See, most places have very strong locations, because they don't move around, and they don't change. Your house, for instance, Charlie. The Earth moves, but that's a large place, and all the smaller places on it don't move around. You could tear down the house you live in and build a new one right on the same spot, and I'd still get there because the location beneath it isn't changed."

Charlie nodded. "But space ships move around."

"A lot," Max agreed, wincing. "So the location guidebook has to recognize them by their unique physical characteristics. The guidebook is a magical construct, guys, and it's very good at what it does. But nothing's perfect. Pacha's ship is the exact same model in use by several thousand people from his planet. But even though they look the same, they're not exactly identical. Each ship has some small difference in their make up, and of course each one has been personalized to the owner. The location manual keeps a sorta total snapshot of all that stuff, along with the ship's physical dimensions, and lists a unique location for the inside, no matter where the ship happens to be."

"But that's changed, somehow," Kippy said, the dread apparent in his voice.

"Yeah. Something really bad must have happened to that ship. Something that so changed its physical characteristics that it just don't resemble the place it used to be enough for the location guidebook to find it anymore."

The room went silent as everyone considered the dire implications of such a statement. It sounded as if the vessel had been totally destroyed. What that meant for their friends, trapped within the remains...Charlie's heart quailed at the thought.

"Murcha said the planet was called Antariluma," Adrian said quietly. "We don't know where that is?"

"We don't," Ragal agreed, just as quietly. "It is a world out of myth, one of the lost empire fables common among the galactic peoples in this area of the galaxy. But there is no record of where it was located."

"I don't believe it!" Ricky fumed, pacing even faster now. "We need to get going!"

Ragal turned to appraise him, a little quizzically, Charlie thought. "There is no reason to rush now. Here on Engris, as well as during the flight of your vessel, no time has passed for Pacha and the others while we are within the Cooee. My concern for the ticking of the clock was only in regard to your time on Earth before departing. At this point, we can take a more leisurely tack in proceeding."

"Maybe you can," Ricky said, a little more restrained now. "But the waiting is killing me!"

Adrian rose and went to his boyfriend, and put an arm around him. "Come sit. This pacing won't help one bit."

Ricky stared intensely at his boyfriend for a long second, and then visibly sagged. "Okay." He leaned forward, deposited a kiss to Adrian's waiting lips, and together they moved back to the long sofa Max had provided for them. As they sat, Casper reached across Adrian's legs and patted Ricky's knee. "We'll find them."

"I think we will," Ragal agreed. "But as to how...I have no idea at this moment."

"We've got the name of the planet, and the name of the city," Max said. "The planet is Antariluma, and the city is Taraqua. Someone has to know somethin' about it." He turned back towards the center console. "Murcha?"

"Antariluma was supposedly a member world of a small confederation of colonized star systems belonging to a race that called themselves the Juacarvo. The stories say that this particular race did not originate in this area of space, but resettled here after fleeing some conflagration of their time. They were supposed to have crossed the gulf between this spiral arm of the galaxy and the next one to spinward approximately forty thousand years ago. That leaves their point of origin a complete mystery."

Charlie leaned forward, intrigued despite the seriousness of the situation. "And?"

"That is all I know," Murcha finished.

"You're kidding!" Kippy cried, bouncing to his feet. "That's nothing to go on!"

"Calm down," Max said, his voice uncharacteristically firm. Kippy blinked at him, nodded, and sat down again.

Charlie sighed, went and sat next to his boyfriend, and draped an arm around his shoulders. "We're doing the best that we can," he reminded, giving Kip a gentle kiss to the cheek.

He could well understand how his boyfriend felt. They were used to Max and his magic having the answers to most everything. It was the rare situation like this one that reminded them of the fact that the elves were, after all was said and done, still only people doing the best that they could.

Kippy tilted his head back, obviously fighting tears. "It's just...they're out there, somewhere. They're lost, and hurt. They need us, Charlie."

Charlie clamped down hard on an urge to give in to worry himself. "I know. I feel the same way. But let's keep our heads, okay?" Charlie looked back at Max. "So what's next?"

But it was Ragal that stepped forward. "Somewhere, somehow, Pacha found a clue as to the location of Antariluma. We just need to know where he found this clue, and...what it was."

"You don't want much," Ricky said quietly, his anxiety now under control. It didn't hurt that Adrian was leaning up against him.

Murcha spoke up again. "Pacha was guarding the secret of Antariluma's location. He was afraid that others would discover the planet's whereabouts, and a rush to exploit the place would ensue. He didn't wish to have valuable history destroyed by profiteers."

"He could have at least told you," Charlie said, a little more acidly than he he'd intended.

"The galaxy has ears," Murcha responded. "There are listening posts everywhere. My own former owner, T'ath, specializes in gathering such information. The Moth are masters at codebreaking. No information can be guaranteed to be safe, even while passing through the Cooee. So I was not told."

"Well, that sucks," Adrian said, offering a grunt after his words to accent how he felt about T'ath and all others like him. Ricky gave a small laugh, and nodded.

It served to lighten the mood. Charlie managed a small laugh of his own, and Kippy smiled and hastily drew the back of his hand across his eyes.

"Pacha and the others are safe while we are within the Cooee," Ragal reiterated. "They are within the flow of real time. Everything we do while we are outside the temporal confines of the real universe will occur for them between one second and the next. Hopefully, this will allow us to prevail."

Charlie winced at that hopefully. Ragal was an upbeat sort of guy. Yet it sounded as if he was not committing to the success of their rescue operation just yet.

He nodded. "Do you know anything about this split-presence thing?"

Ragal smiled. "You and your friends continue to inspire me, Charlie. I see the possibility of great things in your future."

"Okay. But what about right now? Do you know anything about it?"

Ragal's smile ebbed, but the light of approval remained within his eyes. "It was not a commonplace talent, even in my own time."

Adrian cocked his head to one side. "Some of the things you've said make me think that power users were a lot more common when your race was around."

"They were. That much is simple. But such abilities are normally the province of older races. It takes time for them to develop. Despite the technological achievements of galactic races today, most of these people are still younger races than were those that existed in my time."

"The Moth are old, aren't they?" Ricky asked.

Ragal waved a hand. "Yes. They are one of the oldest of the current galactic powers. But even their abilities are still developing."

Kippy turned to look at Max. "What about elves?"

Ragal smiled. "The two races of your world are related deeply. Yet neither is of an age I would have expected to be needed to have developed such abilities. The elf-kind among you seem as strong as any of the elder races of my time. Maybe even stronger. How this came to be is just one more of the galaxy's vast wealth of exciting mysteries."

"But we aren't elves," Adrian pointed out.

"No." Ragal touched his chin thoughtfully. "But both of your races share the same roots. And you have been around Max and his kind for some years now. It seems that exposure to such abilities has rapidly accelerated your own."

"What about Nicholaas?" Charlie asked. "He's human, and he's as strong as any elf."

"Stronger," Max injected, smiling. "Not that we're keeping track, or anything."

"A sport?" Ragal suggested, giving a small shrug. "He is obviously gifted well ahead of his time. Nature occasionally experiments with such things, to observe what will happen." The alien nodded then. "But he does serve to demonstrate the potential of your kind."

Charlie was slightly aghast at the idea of the whole human race being able to teleport, create things by altering matter, bend time in their bare hands, and just generally using magic of all kinds in their daily lives. He shook his head. "We're not ready for that."

"No." Ragal looked regretful. "I must agree. But while your kind may not be ready for such abilities, there would seem to be some individuals among you that are."

Casper gave out a tiny sigh. "That's what was happening on my planet. People started to be able to do strange things. The ruling party was alarmed, and set out to purge us from the population."

Charlie grunted. He was not at all certain that such a pogrom would not occur on Earth in the same situation. Leaders could be an unpredictable lot, always worrying about their power over their realms.

"Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown," he said softly.

Ricky laughed. "Britannica Brain strikes again!"

Charlie looked over at him, and smiled. "Well, it was good enough for Henry, anyway."

Kippy smiled, but squeezed Charlie's arm emphatically. "We're rambling, people!"

Charlie leaned over and kissed him. "We're just trying to figure out what to do."

Adrian sat forward and looked over at Charlie. "Mike kept us pretty well up to date on what they were doing, didn't he?"

"Yeah."

"Well, I don't remember hearing that they had gone anywhere first before taking off on this expedition. Wouldn't that suggest they found the clue here on Engris?'

Charlie shrugged. "Maybe. But Pacha might also have been carrying it around in that overstuffed head of his for a long time before he suddenly made something out of it. You know how he is on archaeology and history. All he ever did was read old accounts of that stuff. He could have gotten the clue anywhere."

"I have something to offer," Murcha said then.

Charlie looked over at the center console, where the Moth mind was installed. "You can't do any worse than us."

The artificial mind issued a fairly sinister-sounding laugh, one that caused everyone to smile. Murcha's, deep, slightly ghoulish voice was something they had become accustomed to, but his eerie laugh still carried all the subtlety of Frankenstein's monster tossing one of the town folk off a cliff.

Kippy squeezed Charlie's arm. "This has just got to be good!"

"What about it, Murcha?" Charlie prompted.

"The last time I was on Engris, Illia and I were speaking about their explorations, and I found them quite exciting to contemplate. I asked her if I might obtain some of the texts describing these vanished civilizations to peruse, and she in turn asked Pacha'ka if she might offer them. Pacha'ka agreed to supply me with quite a lot of material that he had gathered over several decades of time."

"I thought they didn't transmit that secret stuff?" Kippy said. "Even here on Engris, someone could be listening in."

"The information was not sent by com. Mike carried over a physical memory module with the information, which I downloaded into my storage area."

Charlie perked up at that. "So you have it here now?"

"The information, yes."

Kippy made an excited sound. "Well, what does it say about Antariluma?"

"Well...just what I told you earlier. There is not much information available about this world."

Kip rolled his eyes at Charlie. "Then how does that help us?"

"It may be that there is information present in these files that do not actually refer to the Juacarvo or their planet by name, but which Pacha'ka may have applied in somehow discovering their location."

Charlie considered that. "If that's the same information Mike read, it's an awful lot of it. How do we do this?"

"Everything is indexed. I can easily sort it into eras of time, if nothing else, which should reduce the bulk we need to examine more closely."

"Okay. You can start doing that now. How long will it take?'

Again, the artificial intellect's creepy laugh filled the room. "Actually, I have already performed the sorting, in anticipation of you wishing it done."

Charlie smiled. "You're always on the ball, Murcha."

Casper raised a hand then, and looked over at Max. "I have a question."

The elf's eyes smiled, and he nodded. "Shoot."

"Why can't we get Ms. Erma and Neelie back here to find Pacha and the others, the same way we found a companion for Oumuamua?"

Kippy gasped, and leaned towards Max. "Yeah? Why can't we do that?"

Ricky stood up again. "Erma said that locators can find anything, anywhere, anywhen. Can't they find Pacha's ship?"

Max gave a slow nod. "Maybe. I've already asked her and Neelie to come if we need them."

Kippy looked indignant. "I'd say we need them now!"

The elf made an unhappy face. "Erma needs a pattern she can pass to Neelie to search for. When we went lookin' for a companion for Oumuamua, she was right there with us. Erma could easily take her pattern, and we used that pattern to find another one like her. It's true a locator can find anything, anyplace, anywhen. But they have to know what they're lookin' for. A pattern has to be unique to find one certain thing. Otherwise, you'll just find a whole lot of similar things."

Charlie gave a whistle. "So if we used the pattern for a Kifta bubble ship, all we would find is a lot of Kifta bubble ships?"

"Pretty much all of them. Neelie would eventually be able to spot every ship like Pacha's, no matter where it is. But remember, Pacha's ship must no longer be even faintly the same now. It's pattern is so changed that even the guidebook can't find it." Max shook his head. "So I have a pretty good idea it wouldn't turn up in such a search, no matter how hard Erma and Neelie tried. Besides, Pacha's people probably got twenty or thirty thousand of them bubble ships. We would have to use just a general pattern, and that would show all of them to Neelie." He shook his head. "It would be more of a distraction than a help, I think."

"What about Illia?" Adrian asked. "She's a unique mind. Wouldn't that make Pacha's ship stand out?"

"Yeah. It would if we knew her pattern. But we don't. Illia and Murcha, and those like them are...what d'ya call it? Quantum minds. They don't stay in one unique pattern for very long. They're always changing. You can't measure them. There isn't anything concrete to look for."

More silence greeted Max's admission. The size and difficulty of the operation they were involved in now was now becoming apparent to all of them. Finding a single world in an area of space even as small - by galactic standards, anyway - as the one that could conceivably contain Antariluma made finding a needle in a haystack simple by comparison.

Max gave a small shake to his head. "If I could contact Pacha, he could tell me how to find them. But if I could do that, it would mean that he was conscious and able. And if Pacha were able, he would bring them all here. So he's not able, obviously. And those guys are someplace no elf has ever been. I can sense them...but I don't know where they are." He suddenly squinted. "Whoa."

Charlie leaned forward. "What happened?"

"I...I sensed Pach for a second."

"He's still alive?" Charlie asked eagerly, but hardly managing more than a whisper.

"Yeah. But I think he's in a bad way. Crap! We gotta find these guys!"

Charlie was unable to miss the note of desperation in Max's voice. He nodded, deciding. "We need to at least get started. We have to decide on some plan of --"

But then he broke off, staring at Kippy. His boyfriend had suddenly squeezed his eyes shut, looking to be thinking furiously.

"Something, Kip?"

For a moment there was total silence as all eyes turned to Charlie's boyfriend. And then Kippy's eyes popped open. "Billy and Will."

Charlie frowned at his boyfriend. "Billy and Will?"

"Yeah. The first time they came to the spirit dome to see us, I asked them how they knew we were there."

Charlie stared at Kippy, and for a moment he was transported back to the spirit dome in the dead city there on Engris, and the first time that they had met their spirit friends there, Billy Matson and Will Hopkins.

"How could you know we would be here?" Kippy had asked them.

Billy's answer had come with a smile, straight to the point. "We always know where you are, Kippy. Where all of you are. Even when we don't know where we are ourselves. We are linked to you, in spirit."

Charlie felt a sudden feeling of excitement, and turned to Max. "Billy and Will!"

Max's eyebrows immediately jacked upwards. "Maybe! I'll try anything at this point."

"We have nothing to lose," Ricky added. "We're in no-time here!"

"Let's go!" Adrian added excitedly.

Casper, who had been listening quietly, turned to Ragal then and smiled. "I'm glad I took a nap!"

Copyright © 2020 Geron Kees; All Rights Reserved.
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Chapter Comments

1 hour ago, Ivor Slipper said:

Is this going to be a case of "Where there's a Will there's a way"?🙂

After all, Will and Billy probably have the same root name -- William -- and wouldn't it be something if Grandma Sue's last name or maiden last name happen to be Williams, Hopkins, or Matson?

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2 hours ago, chris191070 said:

Great chapter. All these powers and they can't find them, hopefully Billy and Will can help.

Yep. Thanks.

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2 hours ago, Geron Kees said:

It is, indeed. Not just fragile, but not well-secured. It was a good idea to link America's power grid infrastructure together via the Internet, because it has produced a more flexible system able to better adapt to meet demands. But then not to properly safeguard those network connections...stupid. No one has attempted a large-scale cyber attack on the utilities of this country yet (that we know about), but our readiness to stand off such an attack is pitifully lacking.

Russia recently performed a test to see if they could take their entire country off the Internet and still retain internal connectivity. They said it was a success. They did this ostensibly as a precautionary measure in case of an attack. But it served just as well as a preparedness exercise for what they would certainly want to do if they cyber-attacked us first, and wanted to avoid retaliation by the same means. To my knowledge, the US has no similar program in place to isolate us from the world Internet should the need arise.

Because I live in the boonies, I have a whole-house generator at my place, that runs off of LPG, and I have two tanks that give me about a two-week run if I need it. Back when winters here were a lot worse, we had an ice storm that took town utility wires all over the county. We were without utility power for five days. Without the generator, we'd have been back to heating via the fireplace and cooking on a small portable gas stove. I doubt most of America would find that a fun way to spend a winter's day.

 

A single, rather small, nuclear bomb exploding just one mile above the surface in the geographic center of the US would fry all unshielded electronics across the majority of the US.

And, if you want to be really terrified of an entirely possible natural disaster, look up "Carrington Level Event."

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2 hours ago, Fae Briona said:

A single, rather small, nuclear bomb exploding just one mile above the surface in the geographic center of the US would fry all unshielded electronics across the majority of the US.

And, if you want to be really terrified of an entirely possible natural disaster, look up "Carrington Level Event."

Yes. Technology and lifestyle wise, we would instantly be back in the mid-1800's and 90% of the population would pperish. It's more than frightening.

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You did a good job of showing everyone's frustration in this chapter. Getting an answer, any answer, was a relief. Now to hope Kippy came up with the right one... Billy and Will. I had to read this carefully... cuz I'm sleepy. All the comments about reverting to the 'old days/old ways' made me think... and what I come up with is no one better mess with my central air! I'll give up my phone, laptop, and stove, but I need me my cold air. :)  Cheers, buddy... this is fun. G

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5 hours ago, Buz said:

Good on ya Kippy mate!

I even love his name. It is so cute.

I knew a Kip in high school that I liked a lot. :)

 

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4 hours ago, Fae Briona said:

Power, gas lines, water lines, all sorts of things in many places are many decades [or more] beyond their life expectancy.  Was a lot of, "we'll take care of it later" and later only turns up when something shorts out, explodes, or bursts.

Exactly. America used to have the most dependable infrastructure on earth. Back in the 1950's, anyway.

That's how old a lot of this stuff is now!

--G.

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1 hour ago, Headstall said:

You did a good job of showing everyone's frustration in this chapter. Getting an answer, any answer, was a relief. Now to hope Kippy came up with the right one... Billy and Will. I had to read this carefully... cuz I'm sleepy. All the comments about reverting to the 'old days/old ways' made me think... and what I come up with is no one better mess with my central air! I'll give up my phone, laptop, and stove, but I need me my cold air. :)  Cheers, buddy... this is fun. G

Even elves have air conditioning. They call it the North Pole! :)

Thanks!

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