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    Geron Kees
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It Doesn't Take A Rocket Scientist, Charlie Boone! - 4. Chapter 4

Sefton noted their changed mood on the return trip to the city. They were elated to think they had just taken the first step in finding Pacha, Mike, Bobby, and Kontus. But that elation was tempered by the knowledge that this was by no means a certainty. Not until Murcha weighed in with what he had learned, if anything. And as rapidly as the artificial mind was able to work, that they had not already heard back from him had given them all pause. Charlie had been tempted to call the ship, but felt certain that Murcha would waste no time in contacting them when he had news to offer. There was no use in distracting the mind from his work with a lot of questions.

So they were all quiet, and lost in their own thoughts. Sefton seemed to accept that it was a result of their visit to the spirit dome, and said nothing until they were back in the hangar. At that point the big alien stopped next to Charlie and Kip while the others filed back into the main office.

"If Sefton can help, please say."

Charlie smiled up at the big man. "That's really kind of you. But I think this problem is one we need to figure out on our own."

Sefton nodded. "Just so you know. I can help, you tell me. I will."

Charlie was touched by the offer, and reached out and patted the man's arm, which was as thick as his own leg. "I have a feeling you're a good guy to have in a fight, too. Thank you. If I think you can help us, I won't be afraid to ask."

That seemed to satisfy the man, and they joined the others back in the main office briefly, before wishing Sefton well and heading back out into the city. As soon as they were away from the building, Max took them all back to the control room of Lollipop.

"Charlie, I have some news," Murcha said immediately.

"Go." Charlie sat on the sofa, and Kippy and the others plopped down as well.

"I have compared the stellar views to maps on file from seven empires, as well as deep sky observations from eight more, and arrived at a conclusion."

Charlie and Kippy traded glances. "You found them?" Kippy asked.

"I believe I have determined the area of the galactic arm from which that sky was viewed. Please understand that this is an inexact procedure, as I must extrapolate the location based simply on views, without exact measurements."

Charlie blew out a frustrated breath. "Did you find them, or not?"

"The observation point would seem to be located somewhere within the Kyrtma, a dark area of space located twelve thousand light years from Earth."

"Kyrtma?" Kippy echoed. "What's that?"

"It's a Moth word, actually. It simply means 'void'. It is used to designate this area because nothing is there."

Charlie held up his hands. "What do you mean, nothing is there?"

"Exactly that. It is an area of space - quite natural, and one of many - of extremely low stellar density, where no stars have formed. The low density of gas there has simply not yet provided for it. The Kyrtma is approximately seventy light years in diameter, and to galactic north of the plane of the spiral arm."

Kippy looked excited. "Then we can go there?"

"I can take us to the Kyrtma. But from there...I do not know where to go."

"There aren't any stars there, Kip," Charlie said patiently. "No suns. No suns means no planets."

"I saw a planet in Billy's mind," Casper said then. "I'm sure of it."

"I remember. You said it looked cold, and dim, and was covered with snow."

"Yes."

Charlie closed his eyes and sighed. "It sounds like we're looking for a wanderer. A planet without a sun."

"A rogue, yes," Murcha agreed. "It may prove quite hard to find in so large an area of space."

"Pacha found it," Max pointed out. "So we can, too. May as well at least go to this Kyrtma, as a place to start looking."

"Is this what you wish?" Murcha asked.

To Charlie's surprise, Max looked over at him and smiled. "What do you think?"

Charlie let his jaw drop, but immediately turned it into a grin. "You're asking me?"

"Yeah. I am." The elf nodded. "This seems to be your call, Charlie."

Kippy put a hand on Charlie's arm, and smiled when he turned that way. Charlie could see the support in his boyfriend's eyes, and took Kip's hand in his own, and squeezed out a thank you.

"Let's go, Murcha."

"Very well. Departing Engris now."

They felt nothing as the ship lifted, but the view of the city on the bulkhead slid downward, briefly showed as a view from above, and then the dark orb that was Engris came into view, receded, and was gone.

Charlie squeezed Kip's hand a last time, and let it go. "Murcha, any idea how we can look for this planet?"

"There are several methods, Charlie. Would you like explanations?"

Charlie considered that, and the state of his already overburdened mind, and shook his head. "No. Just do it. I can already tell by the size of the area we have to search that it's not going to be easy."

"Must be a damn cold planet," Ricky mused, shaking his head. "With no sun to warm it."

"Not necessarily," Charlie countered. He looked up at the overhead. "Can't geothermal warming keep even a rogue planet warmer than the surrounding space. Murcha?"

"Yes, Charlie. And rogue planets have been found with dense atmospheres of hydrogen that help retain geothermal energy. We may be looking for only an icy world, not a completely frozen one."

"Providing the core has not cooled," Charlie added.

Ricky grinned. "Did someone say Britannica?"

"Leave him alone." Adrian gave Ricky a playful slap on the wrist. "He's got enough to worry about without hecklers."

"I never heckle," Ricky said, feigning disapproval. "I'm just not always a positive commenter."

The boys laughed, and Kippy came to Charlie and rubbed up against him. "I don't know about you, but I could use a nap."

"I could, too. It feels like it's been a week since this all started." Charlie looked over at Max. "Some beds, maybe? With curtains would be nice."

The elf laughed. "Roight on it, m'lord!"

Several canopy beds appeared in a line in the room, each with side curtains. "This do, Charlie?"

"Yeah. Thanks. Come on, Kip. We'll see you all in a little while, okay?"

Charlie pulled Kippy to the closest bed, pushed the curtains aside, and climbed in. Kippy followed, and pulled the curtains behind them. Charlie flopped onto his back, stared up at the canopy a moment, and then closed his eyes. "Wake me in a couple of days, Kip."

He heard Kippy sigh, and then felt his boyfriend snuggle up against him. Charlie raised an arm to let Kippy get closer, and then wrapped it around him once he was settled.

"Well find them, won't we?" Kippy whispered.

"Yes." Charlie tried to sound positive, though it was difficult just then. He only had a small idea of the volume of a void seventy light years in diameter. It was too large to really grasp. Too large even to imagine.

What Murcha had carefully not said aloud was that a search for a lone planet could not be performed from the depths of the cooee. They would need to conduct such a search in normal space, which would set the clock ticking down again for Pacha, Mike, Bobby, and Kontus. Such a search could take days, even weeks.

And at a time when even hours might be more time than their friends had left to live.

 

* * * * * * *

 

Charlie was swimming in a dark sea. He could feel the pressure of water around him...or was it water? It parted about his face as he moved, even as he realized that he was in no way propelling himself forward.

A dim light appeared ahead, grew far too quickly in size for the odd motion he felt, and then once again he was staring into the small space that held Mike, Bobby, Pacha, and Kontus.

"Mike!"

The Aussie boy was sitting on the deck now, holding the suited form of Pacha between himself and Bobby. Kontus now also seemed aware, and joined Mike and Bobby at looking up at the sound of Charlie's voice.

"Charlie! I thought I'd imagined you!"

Charlie felt the image waver, and suddenly feared that it would disappear again. "We're coming! To the Kyrtma, Mike! We're trying to find you!"

Bobby grabbed Mike's wrist and squeezed it, his face looking worn and haggard. "Hurry!"

Mike nodded. "Pacha can't hold out much longer. He's all that's keeping us alive, Charlie."

The image wavered again, threatened to go away.

Charlie suddenly felt a soft warmth beside him, and then the far off sound of Kippy's voice. "I'm here, Charlie. I can help. I'm giving you what I can."

The image wavered once more, and then steadied.

"What happened?" Charlie asked Mike.

"There was an earthquake, Charlie. A big one. The ship was down in the lee of a mountain, near the city. There was a glacier on that mountain. We think the quake made part of it break and slide off."

Charlie was horrified. "Onto the ship?"

"Yes. Pacha felt it at the last second. It overwhelmed the defense shields. It would have flattened the ship, but Pacha surrounded the cabin with that cocoon thing that he and Max and Billy and Will used to keep us from being flattened when we crashed on that Moth planet, Mufa'alatra. When we were chasing down T'ath."

Charlie remembered. It had been a stupendous achievement in his mind then, a protective cocoon that had completely absorbed the shock of a space vessel falling out of orbit and striking the ground at enormous speed. But that cocoon had been the work of four gifted talents, and Pacha'ka was just one of them --

"How can he do it on his own?"

Mike shrugged inside his suit. "The forces aren't nearly as great, I guess, but it's happening over a longer period of time. It's taking everything Pacha has to keep this last space from being crushed. And the cocoon is still slowly getting smaller under the weight of the ice. It's killing him!"

Again the image of the tight space within the crushed ship wavered. Charlie heard Kippy grunt with exertion, and the image steadied. He thought he heard another voice then, and a second soft warmth appeared on the other side of him. Adrian's voice reached him then. "I'm here, Charlie. I'm helping all I can!"

"Push!" Kippy said. "Together!"

The image of the room firmed even more.

Mike's expression within the transparent face of his helmet looked amazed. "I can see you now!"

Charlie shook his head. "You couldn't before?"

"Just a ghostly image of you," Bobby said. "Now you look almost real!"

"Amazing," Kontus said softly, leaning forward to look more closely. "What power is this? Are you able to transport us out?"

"No." Charlie felt real pain at having to admit that. "We're looking for you now. We've traced you to the Kyrtma void...but there are no stars or planets there."

Suddenly, Charlie felt more tired than he had ever felt in his life. Both Kippy and Adrian gasped, and the image before Charlie wavered again.

"You're fading!" Mike called. "Charlie!"

"I'll be back," he managed to gasp out.

"Look for the heat signature, Charlie!" Mike called, even as the image of the room receded and went dark. "Look for the dwarf!"

 

* * * * * * *

 

Charlie opened his eyes. Kippy was there, holding him, watching him. He smiled when he saw that Charlie was awake. "Tired?"

Charlie managed to nod. "Am I ever. What happened?"

He was still in the bed. The curtains were drawn back, and the others of their group were standing on both sides, watching.

"You exhausted yourself, Charlie," Max told him. "Kip and Adrian were able to boost you for a while, but it's you that has to do the hard work." The elf smiled. "Your new magic is still too young to operate for very long. I'm surprised it's working at all."

"It was needed," Charlie said, repeating his own thoughts from earlier. "It isn't ready yet. But it came out because we needed it. Because Mike and Pacha and the others needed it."

Max nodded. "Could be." He leaned forward. "You were able to talk to them?"

Charlie paused, took a breath, and then nodded. He still felt exhausted. But he was able to relate to the others his conversation with those trapped aboard the remains of the Kifta bubble ship.

Max looked grim afterwards. "That cocoon thing, huh? I remember it. It's a hell of a drain, Charlie. That must be why I can't contact Pacha. Why I can't hardly feel him. It's taking everything he has to maintain that cocoon. Not a drop left for anything else."

"It sounds desperate," Ragal said, shaking his head. "We must find them quickly."

Charlie frowned then, remembering something from the last moments of his visit with Mike and the others.

"Mike called something to me as I was leaving. He said...he said to look for a heat signature." Charlie looked up at Ragal. "He said to look for the dwarf."

Ricky blinked, and then grinned and held up a hand about chest high. "Little guy, bald head, pointy shoes?"

"I'm serious," Charlie said, but smiled at the image that popped into his head. "I thought he was referring to a dwarf star."

Ragal shook his head. "But there are no stars in the Kyrtma."

"It must mean something else," Kippy offered. He smiled at Charlie, and gently stroked his forehead.

Charlie returned the smile. "I felt you there, with me. Giving me a boost." He turned his head, found Adrian standing beside the bed, leaning into the protective crook of Ricky's arm. "You, too."

"I felt Kippy go in," Adrian said, his eyes looking bright. "It woke me up. I came right over to add what I could."

"They apparently can boost your ability," Max said, giving his head a slight shake. "Magic can be additive and complementary. It's common among elves. I guess I shouldn't be surprised you fellas can do it, too, close as you are."

Kippy leaned down and kissed Charlie's forehead. "Is that additive enough?"

Charlie laughed. "It certainly didn't hurt me one bit!"

"You've been asleep for three relative hours," Ragal explained. "Lollipop is still within the cooee, and we are well on our way to the Kyrtma. No time will pass for Pacha and the others during our journey."

"How does that work, anyway?" Ricky asked, shaking his head. "How can we be in no time, and the others in real time, and Charlie can still talk to them at all?"

Max gave a short laugh. "The universe is a neat and tidy place, underneath all the apparent chaos we see in it. What Charlie does works because it has to, is all I can say."

Kippy smiled. "That sounds a little evasive, Max."

The elf nodded. "Because I don't know exactly how it works. There's some stuff with magic that works, and no one really knows why. Ask the Big Guy about it sometime. You'll get the same answer."

Charlie was surprised at that. "Even Nicholaas doesn't know how some things work?"

"Nope. He says some things work because if they don't, something else will go bust. It's some kind of process of balance between forces."

Charlie nodded, his thoughts going back to his conversation with Mike. "I don't think Mike would have passed on what he did unless he thought it could help us find them. So we at least have to look for a heat signature of some sort. Murcha?"

"Yes, Charlie?"

"What about it? Can you do a search in the Kyrtma for heat sources?"

"Oh, easily. And I can emerge from the Cooee, take infrared spectroscopic scans of portions of the sky, and then drop us back into the Cooee while I analyze them. That will minimize the amount of time that passes for Pacha and the others while we search."

Charlie felt some relief at that. "That sounds great. Now I just wish I know what Mike meant about the dwarf thing."

"I can make a suggestion, Charlie."

Kippy grinned, and Charlie laughed. "You're in this, too, Murcha. What have you got?"

"In the absence of visible stars within the Kyrtma, dwarf stars or others, I suggest that Mike was referring to something a little different. A brown dwarf, in fact."

"What the heck is that?" Kippy asked.

"A failed star," Charlie said, whistling. "It makes sense."

"Precisely. An object the size of a large gas giant planet, more massive, yet of insufficient mass to ignite and become a star. Such objects are not luminous in the visible spectrum, yet can still offer a heat signature that is detectable against the background of space. Near-infrared spectral analysis of our scans will reveal any brown dwarfs by their atomic and molecular fingerprints." The artificial mind paused a second. Then: "There is just one thing, Charlie."

Kippy winced, and squeezed Charlie's hand. "I knew there had to be a catch."

"There is no catch, Kip," Murcha continued, allowing himself a small, demonic laugh that was scarcely reassuring. "I just wanted to add that brown dwarfs are fairly hard to detect. I will have to sample very small sections of the sky and process the data carefully. The search could still take some time."

"But we can still bounce in and out of the Cooee, right?" Ricky asked.

"Yes. The search will take much longer for us, in relative time, than it will for those we seek."

"I can deal with that," Max said. He extended a hand and placed it on Charlie's shoulder. "We're gonna need you able to go find them again to finish this, I think. You need to rest."

Charlie nodded. "That won't be hard. I can barely keep my eyes open now."

Casper, standing by the bedside and watching, reached over and laid a hand on Charlie's arm. "I felt the energy you were using, Charlie. It was...it was big. I think your split-presence thing is going to be really wonderful when it gets going full time."

Max nodded. "It's why you feel so tired now, Charlie. Momentary uses of your talent will not drain you. But the power required to keep such a path open for any length of time grows very quickly."

"Yes." Ragal gave a simple nod. "The universe is jealous of it's energy resources. You will find that resistance increases to power output as a factor of time involved."

Charlie squinted at that, and looked over at Max. "Is that right? It's harder for you guys to do magic, the longer it takes?"

"Oh, yeah. Think about it, Charlie. Most of the stuff we do is quick. Teleporting takes a single second, no matter the distance. Most magic is over very quickly. Just a few seconds, tops. You can uses tons of energy for ten seconds, easily. But to keep something going for a full minute, uninterrupted, like you did back there...that's saying something."

Charlie thought back to when Max and a handpicked team of elves had worked to cause the ancient arsenal planet of the Beltracians to deviate from its orbit and eventually fall into its star. That project had taken a long time, even with Max's ability to adjust the flow of time for them. It was no wonder that Max and the others had looked so haggard after it was all over.

Charlie smiled. "Come here, Max."

The elf nodded, and stepped closer.

Charlie raised his arms and smiled. "Closer. I need a hug."

"Aw, geez!" Max rolled his eyes, but put on his good-sport smile and leaned over the bed. Charlie embraced him, and squeezed the elf mightily. "Thank you," he whispered. "For everything you do. We love you, Max."

Max pulled back and nodded, and quickly brushed at his eyes. "I've learned a lot from you guys, Charlie. One of those things is that we're never too old to learn more than we think we can."

Charlie nodded, and closed his eyes. "Kip? I could use some company for a little nap."

Kippy sighed, and cuddled closer. "I'm here."

The others retreated, and pulled the curtains closed. Kippy kissed Charlie's face gently, and then sighed and went motionless beside him.

Copyright © 2020 Geron Kees; All Rights Reserved.
If you enjoyed what you have read, please leave a reaction and/or comment for the author!

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Chapter Comments

4 hours ago, Ivor Slipper said:

Hey-ho, hey-ho, it's off to Krytma we go

To find a place that's white like snow.

It's near a dwarf that apparently brown

We simply mustn't let our friends down.

Hey-ho, hey-ho.

Still waiting on that poster! :)

 

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3 hours ago, chris191070 said:

Great chapter. The search has begun, we're off to Krytma.

Yeeee-haaah! :)

 

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Okay, Geron, i want to throw some questions out there for your perusal and contemplation.  Since you are writing the story, your perspicacity regarding said story is greater than mine.

If Charlie appeared to Mike, Bobby, and Kontus as ghostly at first, how did he have the material solidarity to move the air molecules to produce audible conversation with them?  Or was he communicating directly with their minds? 

Kontus is obviously exposed to English from hearing Bobby and Mike speak to each other.  So he should be picking up some understanding of English, as he obviously has to be quite smart.  Otherwise, he might never have risen to Port Authority of the discworld.  Further, I am guessing that on trips Bobby, Kontus, and Mike might practice language lessons for Kontus to try to learn English and Mike and Bobby (and probably Pacha as well) to learn to speak or understand Trichani.  Something COULD happen to their translators.  

Mike was exposed to magic/ka  the longest, of anyone on the ship of Pacha'Ka.  So If anyone on there besides Pacha could be "sparked" into magic talent, Mike would be the most likely choice.

 

But the atmosphere and language question remains....

Edited by ReaderPaul
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I agree with you on the reliability issues, and I had not thought about the cold and atmosphere problem in that way.  

But what if the guys were captured, and the translators removed?  Or some electronic interference overrode the translators temporarily?  THAT is when a physical ability to have a rough translation would be handy.  Plus, expanded knowledge may come in handy at any time. BTW (By The Way) I added to the original comment while you were answering the above.

As a kid growing up in the 1950s and 1960s "Made in Japan" was some of the least reliable stuff one could buy.  But now, "Made in Japan" or "Made in South Korea" items are often the most reliable one can buy (but American car tech is coming along quite well).

Your comment about Charlie's other self being so-endowed with a translator sparks a naughty question:  Could BOTH of Charlie's selves make love to Kippy at the same time? LOL

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31 minutes ago, Buz said:

That was really cool of Sefton. I wish they could do something about his business. I know he doesn't need the money, but it would be good for more people to share in passion/be excited about the Ancients, the Tours he offers, etc.

I love how Kippy and Adrian were Charlie's energizer Bunnies. Pity they didn't have a method of sending enough energy directly to Pacha so he could push the ice off them and Illia. Even just having enough energy is way above what they have currently though. Poor Pacha.

I'd love to give Max the biggest hug ever :)

 

I'm sure Max would be embarrassed to be hugged. But also that he would enjoy it! :)

 

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Another wonderful chapter to experience, Geron. I love your creative mind... this world you have created is inventive, stimulating, and cohesive. Love the characters too. Oh, and the 'cooee' is a brilliant tool for a storyteller! Cheers... G.

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4 hours ago, Headstall said:

Another wonderful chapter to experience, Geron. I love your creative mind... this world you have created is inventive, stimulating, and cohesive. Love the characters too. Oh, and the 'cooee' is a brilliant tool for a storyteller! Cheers... G.

I think it's many minds you see here, Gary. I've read this sort of stuff since I was a kid. Imaginations are usually sparked by the things in our lives we experience, and in this case, I've read a lot! I tend to think some of the imagination I've absorbed over the years fuels these stories to some extent. Squeeze a sponge, and you get water! 🙂

 

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