Monday, December 26, 2016

Lonely Space - Chapter Nine

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine
Encounter with a Titan

As they climbed down an access ladder, because there were no lifts in evidence, it occurred to Tamita that the darkened corridor also had a higher ceiling than the rest of the ship she had seen. It was like they had simply welded another ship to the front of the Salutem Novis. She meant to bring this up to Jay Johnson but they were both climbing silently.

Finally they reached the next lower deck. Here she was certain the ceiling was higher. Much higher.

“Jay, the ceiling.” she said. He looked up and nodded “Yeah, I noticed that too.”

The main computer spoke to them “I had registered larger spaces through a radar scan but it was not nearly detailed enough to see how large it was exactly.”

They began walking but stopped. There was no corridor here. Instead there was a huge door hatch, and Jay did not see any device that would open it. “I don't know what is going on here, but something is definitely going on.”

Tamita nodded. “I'm not sure I really want to meet what uses this door.”

“Good point.” Jay agreed. “Computer, maybe it would safer to get back to where we belong.”

The main computer answered “I leave this up to you, as the human crew. If you feel it is too dangerous to continue, then by all means return. A hatch that measures 3 meters wide and 8 meters tall is quite a mystery.”

“Everything here looks like part of a different ship.” Jay said “This hatch looks like it might not even be a human one.”

“It's cold here too.” Tamita said “Quite a bit colder, actually.”

Jay nodded, it hadn't registered yet with him but she was right. “What could be the purpose of all this? You don't think it's some kind of protective buffer?”

The main computer “Negative. That possibility is quite remote.”

Tamita was shivering and tapping a foot “I don't want to stay here any more. Can we just leave?”

Jay put an arm around her and started back toward the access ladder. “After we reprogram the Rovers I could come back with a few of them and I can be armed. Then maybe we could find a way to see what is on the other side of that.”

Jay Johnson took off the wrist device and laid it on the floor, facing the hatch. Then he and Tamita climbed back up the ladder past where the ceiling was.

“Why did you do that?” she asked him looking down at him, noticing that he stopped climbing.

“Just a hunch.” he answered “Okay, lets go.”

So they climbed back the way they came and walked back to where they had left Gopher.

“If we go down a couple of decks we should be where that chamber is but on the other side.” he told her as they moved “I have a feeling there is a wall and not a hatch. There are probably not many routes into the dark part of the ship.”

“Okay, so why would they attach another vessel to the front of this one?” Tamita stopped and asked “That doesn't make any sense”.

Jay walked back to her and put an arm around her shoulder, again and walked again. Keep moving, he was trying to say without words. “Maybe the project chiefs didn't know about it. The world was falling into chaos, after all, maybe someone chose that time to make a secret addition.”

“You think there are stowaways?” she asked stopping again.

“Could be!” he said “Just keep walking.”

She looked back into the darker corridor. “There may be other people on this ship with us?”

“Come on” Jay said, this time holding her hand “Gopher is waiting for us.”

The little robot was watching them as they approached. “Gopher, I'm not going down there again without a plasma laser rifle and an army of droids.”

“Droids? Isn't that a fictional designation for robots?” Gopher asked

Tamita said “Don't listen to him. He missed you.”

Gopher moved in front of them and faced him as he walked. “You have formed an emotional attachment to Gopher, shall we hug?” It asked holding its arms wide and stopping. Jay walked right into it “Stop it, this isn't funny.” he said pushing Gophers closing arms away.

Tamita was laughing though.

“Listen, this is serious. I want to find out what is on this ship with us.” he told them “Then I want to know what we can do about it.”

With incomplete information there was no answer to these questions, the computer knew. If indeed there was a presence of other persons or things aboard, then it needed to be assessed whether they might be hostile or non-violent. They seemed to be hiding, this would suggest they did not want to be found and possibly not be offensively hostile. The best course of action in that instance would be to leave them alone.

Something had reprogrammed the rovers and the service modules though and left no real sign of how or why they had done it. That, the computer thought, had been a very hostile act.

“Options, computer, let's hear them.” Jay Johnson said as they entered the room that had become their main room. The two humans sat at the small round table and Gopher hovered nearby.

“If there are indeed others aboard they might possibly be non-violent, preferring to stay hidden. If these persons were responsible for the programming faults of the rovers and service modules, then I would have to classify them as malevolent.” the computer said “The options are, assuming again that they exist and that they are hostile, to completely blockade the few access corridors available. Or, your suggestion, send you in with arms and rovers programmed to defend you. Or I could place you both back into cryogenic suspension to protect you from harm.”

The humans looked a bit stunned by the last suggestion.

“If those things are hostile and responsible for damaging the ship, you can't afford not to have humans around.” Jay Johnson said.


“It would feel kind of strange to wall the area off without knowing for sure what is there.” Tamita said looking at the table top. “Not that I would mind feeling weird.”

Jay nodded “Have you manufactured the new rover computer cores?”

The main computer answered “Yes, Jay. They are available whenever you are prepared to install them.”

“If something in that part of the ship tampered with them before, they could do it again.” Tamita said “Going down there with an army of rovers that might turn against you seems really stupid.”

After some silence, during which the computer noted that Tamita took Jay Johnson's hands into her own as they stared into each others eyes. “I can design and produce what is called an interrupt function, or as you might say, a dead-mans' switch. One that would allow you to shut down the rovers with the touch of a button.”

“I guess I have to do it.” Jay said quietly to Tamita before adding loudly and looking at the terminal on the wall “But I'm going to be armed, okay?”

The switch would be on his belt. He would wear a multi-functional wristband this time as well as carry a plasma pulse laser rifle slung over his shoulder. Before this, though, he would make a space walk outside of the bridge dome and put new cores into 6 of the tiger-like rovers. While there were more rovers locked into a storage shelter, it was decided that these rovers would be the ones to use.

Jay Johnson wasn't exactly sure how they were picked but it happened. Each of them, after being reprogrammed, would have certain attachments to make them into his army. One of them would carry a scanner and jamming system, while another would carry a grenade launcher. Just as a for instance.

“Okay, recruits, fall into line.” he ordered them and they complied. They followed him into the airlock and then out into the corridor. Tamita backed up, she was still afraid of them. Jay smiled and took off his helmet. “I'll get the suit off and then I'll be right back.”

Soon enough they were back into their main room. The computer had something to report to them using the holographic monitor there. The six rovers were waiting patiently outside in the corridor.

“Using the scanning device that Jay Johnson left outside of the hatch in the dark area of the ship I was able to determine that something was moving inside.” the computer said “It is very sketchy but there is most certainly movement.”

An ink blot would have more detail than the images they were being shown.

“I see you do not understand. Let me superimpose the hatch.”

Then the same static-type movement was shown overlaying an image of the enormous hatch, whatever was moving in there was very large.

“That is not a human.” Tamita said “That thing must be at least eighteen feet tall.”

Jay Johnson suddenly felt like his gun was not big enough. “Computer do you have emergency hatch doors if this thing suddenly pulled free from the rest of the ship?”

After a second it answered “Assuming it did so without causing structural damage, yes. I do not understand how the question is germane. Do you have reason to believe that this entity has the ability to separate from the rest of the ship?”

“No.” he admitted “It's just a feeling.”

Then after another moment he asked. “Do you have a way to check how that section is actually physically connected? If you do, check to see if it was added with explosive bolts. If not, I would feel better about all this.”

The computer answered “Yes. I can send nanites into the ship to find out the answer to this query.”

“Nanites?” Tamita asked “You mean you have some of those microscopic robots on board?”

The computer answered “Affirmative. They are invaluable for any number of roles. They repair micro-circuitry, they clean the interior of the ship and other things.”

Jay Johnson stood up and checked the way the gun sling hung from his shoulder “All right. I guess we should get this show on the road.”

“If it gets too dangerous...” Tamita told him “Just get out of there.”

He nodded. “Hopefully it's not hostile. It might not have been it or he or whatever, that sabotage the robots before. We just do not know.”

Tamita walked up to him and kissed him “You better come back.”

“Oh, I will! I'm not that brave.” he told her “The rovers can do the real fighting.”

“Then hurry up.” she told him.

She watched him and the six rovers leave and turn down a corridor. “Okay Gopher, we have some work to do too.”

When Jay and the rovers reached the access ladder he suddenly wondered if these rovers could climb, then he remembered how agile they were. They had no problem climbing the ladder to the deck with the enormous hatch.

“Signals.” he called number six, the one with the scanner and jammer “Can you open that hatch? I mean, I order you to open the hatch.”

The robot pointed itself at the hatch and Jay could hear it send radio frequencies going from low to high and back again. Then hatch clicked.

“Attention!” he said and all the robots were suddenly prepared to do combat. The hatch had unlocked but it did not open automatically “Number One, open the hatch”. The rover put its back legs against the frame of pushed the huge hatch open several feet and then walked back to its position.

Jay Johnson expected something to burst out of the doors but it was quiet. He took a sensor ball from his pocket, another device manufactured by the ship and threw it into the opening in the hatch. He looked at a small screen on his wrist device.

It was dark inside. He saw some shadows, that looked like boxes and crates or furniture. Of course everything he saw was much larger than it should have been. Whatever that huge thing was it was hiding in the shadows. So instead of it being the one to charge Jay, he and the rovers would have to do the charging.

“Okay, go in and spread out, spotlights on.” he told the rovers and they immediately jumped to follow his commands and he followed them in, with his weapon at the ready. He climbed into the hatch and dropped to one knee once he was inside, he scanned back and forth with the gun. The spotlights of the rovers were not as bright or as effective as he had hoped.

“This place really is huge.” he said, knowing the computer had probably already started scanning and mapping it. One of the rovers made a noise and the others all turned in the same direction, so Jay followed them through the gun sight.

Suddenly something in the shadows rose up and up. It was probably even taller than they had first thought, and it was most definitely some type of robot. The lights showed its legs, its torso, some of the long arms and large claw-hands.

Finally the lights of the rovers illuminated the top. Jay fell onto his butt and began backing up toward the hatch door. Up at the place where some sort of robot head should be was the body of a man, it was connected to the huge metal frame through where its arms, legs and the top of his head should be.

Jay felt like he would throw up. His legs wouldn't work right, he was trying to stand up so he could get out of there. He was in the doorway of the hatch when he heard a cackle.

“Run, frightened mouse, run” its metallic voice said “I am the titan who shall inherit the Earth, not you puny pathetic humans!”

“Rovers, attack!” Jay yelled, but he was a bit behind the times. He hadn't seen that this titan had his own robotic army closing in on them. The rovers launched their grenades and fired their guns but the other robots also attacked. A nearby explosion threw Jay completely out of the chamber and past the open hatch.

“Don't think I'm not grateful you've let me out of my prison. I'll reward you with a quick death!” the voice reverberated. Jay told himself this guy or thing had seen way too many bad movies, but seems to have forgotten that the bad guys don't win. Usually.

Another explosion at the hatch as he was climbing the ladder got his attention. The hatch swung open from the blast and pieces of rovers littered the floor between him and the hatch. Finally two rovers backed out of the hatchway firing laser blasts into the chamber. Jay couldn't see much but he returned some fire too.

Jay began to climb frantically. Let the rovers slow them down a bit if they could.

“Computer, if there is a way to separate this part from the rest of the ship, it would be a great idea to do it now.” he said as he reached the top of the ladder and began running up the corridor as fast as he could.

“Not possible.” the computer answered.

Lonely Space - Chapter Eight

See Chapter One

Chapter Eight
A Quest

After they were back in the small mess hall they had been using for a while Jay Johnson pulled Tamita close and whispered “Even if we install new computer cores you said the bad programming might be coming from another part inside the robots”

She nodded.

“We might need to take some of them apart and inspect each piece” he concluded. The prospect of being electrocuted or torn apart by sabotaged robots was worth the extra effort to prevent. The main computer had a long-range 6,000 year plan built in to its system, while humans are worried about more immediate things, such as their own lives.

“If that is what needs to happen to end this mess, then we can do that” she answered “This ship needs those robots if it is going to have a chance to make it for 6,000 years”

Jay thought about this. Pretty much every part on every robot would be replaced several times over before this voyage is ending. He hoped replacing the cores was the end of it or barring that, finding the part that had been sabotaged from the design stage.

The main computer spoke up “I have designed a more efficient computer core for the Corridor Service Module and it is being built as we speak. Gopher should have it brought to you within a quarter of an hour.”

Jay Johnson was impressed “redesigned and built in such a short time, that is impressive'

The computer was silent but Tamita laughed “Please tell me you aren't trying to charm the computer, I don't think praise is going to compute”

As promised Gopher entered the room carrying a ceramic and metallic-looking all with grooved edged around it that were obviously meant to fit into a slot. Jay Johnson picked it up and examined it while the main computer spoke again.

“You will need to open the top access hatch on the unit, then open a secondary panel inside of that and replace the computer core. It should be fairly straight-forward, as these were made for humans to be able to repair easily” it told them

“See” Tamita said standing up from the table they were sitting at “Sounds condescending but it doesn't mean to be”

They returned to the lift and then walked back toward the bridge, all of the service module robots were still where they had been stopped previously. The one closest to where they had come from was the one Jay Johnson had named Goth. Corridor Service Module G-27.

“Looks like a silver and black refrigerator lying on its back, doesn't it?” Jay asked jokingly.

He climbed on top while she leaned over from the side. The access port was easy to open, being no real reason to make them otherwise. Jay Johnson laid on his stomach to get a close look at the inside, he could see where the secondary hatch was inside but there were things in the way. So he took the chance to hold the wires and stuff to the side with one hand and open the hatch with the other.

There was a white and silver ball, looking only a little different from the one printed up by the ships computer. He reached down and pulled, it came up out of its slot quite easily. He put it aside and Tamita handed them the replacement. He dropped it and it slide into the slot, a tap of a finger made sure it was embedded snugly.

“That was easy” he said, sitting up and closing the top hatch.

The computer spoke up through Gopher who was a few feet away “I will have this unit push the others out of the way and then fix some of the damage that was caused. If you want to be out of the way during this operation you might want to leave the area now”

Tamita and Jay Johnson walked back to the lift and he leaned close to her and whispered “Did you feel the urgency to the computer wanting to fix the damage? We're in the middle of nowhere, most systems are automated, what did the computer not tell us?”

The computer monitored the module called “Goth” by the humans as it reconnected and rewired the connections to the bridge. Some of the first connections to be reconnected were the least important, but it was progress, those needed done before the main trunk line could be fixed. There were thousands of computers on the ship but losing access to the bridge hindered some of its operations.

A lot of exterior sensors were directly wired to bridge computers, thus the computer had only partial data about what was happening outside the ship. This could leave the mission in danger, there were occasional meteors and comets even this far out into the heliopause. To the computer sensor darkness, not knowing where danger might be, was unsettling.

Tamita and Jay Johnson entered Biological Habitat 2, one of the smaller ones, so they could try to get a little privacy.

“This ship is so big that I haven't seen most of it” he told her “I have no idea where the passengers are being stored. I guess I could figure that out though, but there is so much else I haven't seen”

She nodded “What else is there?”

He took a fallen twig and found a dirt area without grass and sat next to it. He drew a rectangle “We have only been to about this much”

He filled in what he thought was right and they were surprised. Even after spending several years living and exploring Jay Johnson had been to less than ten percent of the volume of the ship. “I reckon a lot of this side of the ship is fuel that we took on from Jupiter” he filled in the back quarter of the ship. “I bet much of the center is the storage for the passengers” he filled in another quarter.

“The manufacturing and the stuff they make things out of must take up some space, but I bet there is enough air and water to take up a quarter of the ship too” Tamita added.

“That still leaves a good fifteen percent of the ship that is totally unknown to us” Jay Johnson said “I know the computer doesn't tell us everything. It took close to four years before I ever saw a corridor service module! The computer had never mentioned them to me before I ran into Goth while jogging”

“What would the computer do if we asked to see the other fifteen percent of the ship?” Tamita asked, curiously.

Jay Johnson shrugged. “That probably depends on what is there, I guess”

“So, we just go and look without asking then” She said with a grin “We're adults, we don't need to do what daddy computer says”

When they left the biological habitat they were holding hands and Tamita was leaning against Jay a little, despite not being physically handicapped. The computer noted this, it believed that the two humans were at least very good friends now. Watching them would teach it a lot about the stages of human bonding and its files on this were growing.

When Gopher approached them they let their hands fall to their sides. This was curious, was their friendship supposed to be a secret? At such as early stage in a relationship was it not secure enough to show others? There was much to learn, but 6,000 years was a long time.

“The service module is operating as expected. It is repairing the wiring and tubing to the bridge, fixing its connection to the rest of the ship!” Gopher reported to the humans “The computer has begun manufacturing enough replacement computer cores for all of the corridor service modules”

“How many of them are there?” Tamita asked

“The original plan call for there to be two hundred and forty of them, but this was an inefficient use of resources. Instead we have forty” Gopher told them.

“That is still a lot” she said looking doubtful.

Jay shook his head “If they are all as easy to replace as on Goth, then it won't take too long I guess, besides it means traveling to parts of the ship we haven't seen yet”

“Oh, right” Tamita said putting on a fake smile and laughing nervously to the little robot “Good point, humans like seeing new things”

The little robot then chirped “Okay, I'll go get the next batch of replacement computer cores right now!”

Then it was gone.

“Chippy little thing, isn't she?” Tamita asked

“She?” Jay asked, frowning “I never assigned any gender to the robot before.”

“Gopher just seems like a 'she' to me”

“I always thought Gopher was like a child” Jay asked “Or is that kind of the same thing?”

“You better start running!” she said with an evil smile. Then they laughed and ran all the way toward where the service robots were still cluttering the area near the bridge. Instead they were all lined up neatly, leaving room for the humans to maneuver their way through.

“That makes things easier, thanks Goth” Jay told the robot that totally ignored him, as it always did since they were not made to interact with humans. “I guess we'll get these first before having to travel to get the rest of them” he said.

“Let me do some of them” Tamita asked “Unless you think this is far too dangerous”

He laughed “It's like changing a light bulb, I think you can handle it, little lady”

She shook her head “You should at least attempt a John Wayne drawl when you say that”

“I'm terrible at impersonations”

They finished installing the new cores to the service modules outside of the bridge in little time and then began moving from section to section and deck to deck where Gopher told them others were located. Replacing the cores was easy, the traveling took longer and they mostly used lifts instead of walking.

Then Jay Johnson stopped, the door-frame here looked different, bigger, the frame was red too and entered a strange looking chamber. The chamber had a tall ceiling and was dominated by a silver cylinder at the center.

Tamita entered after noticing he wasn't with her and going back.

“What is this place?” Tamita asked in a quiet voice.

“I don't know” he said “Look how big those tubes to the cylinder are. It could be part of some kind of cooling system”. Tubes entered from the floor and ceiling connecting to the cylinder.

“No labels or signs at all” Tamita said walking around the vast cylinder “Not even a warning sign”

Jay Johnson was thinking hard. “I know the water and air storage sites are a thousand or more times this size. I guess it could be part of a filtration system but this is kind of weird”

Tamita shook her head “Don't you think this could be part of the cryogenic suspension system?”

Jay looked around for Gopher, it was hanging out in the corridor looking into the chamber through the open doorway. He wondered why the computer or Gopher hadn't answered any of the questions they had spoken out loud.

“Gopher what is this chamber for?” he asked walking toward the robot “What does that do?”

Gopher backed up a few feet.

“I do not know. My map of this area is incomplete” it said

Then the main computer spoke up “As you get closer to the front of the vessel there are bigger and bigger blind spots for my maps. I assume that the construction was becoming rushed because of the launch deadline”

How could they leave parts of the ship outside the control of the computer? It didn't seem to make much sense.

“Was there any last minute adjustments or additions?” Jay asked

The computer answered “There were many small last minute adjustments, mostly minor changes but there was one major addition. Part of the forward section of the vessel, which is a large blind spot”

“Me and Tamita can go and check that out” Jay Johnson told the computer. After thinking the computer was hiding something from them this was even more worrisome.

Gopher disappeared again. The computer answered “I will leave that up to you. If you do insist on exploring the unknown parts of the ship you should take certain tools with you. It will keep you in contact with me”

When Gopher returned it handed them small wristbands, then said “I also cannot access the dark parts of the ship”.

Jay looked at Tamita, he was starting to have second thoughts about this.

The main computer spoke again “Scan the dark areas of the vessel as you explore and I will be able to add it to my internal memories and the main map of the ship”

Gopher accompanied them for a while. Then the entire look of the vessel changed. The rail that Gopher hung down from did not extend any further. There was less lighting, the metal bulkheads were darker, as if the metal were not as refined as the rest of the ship.

“Everything looks different” Tamita said “I guess they really did add it at the last minute”

“This project took a long time, 'last minute' was probably a matter of months” Jay guessed looking around and moving the wristband like it was a flashlight. When they came to the first hatches Jay was almost surprised that they refused to open. He punched in the code for door access but got a red light in return.

“This is different” Jay said “I wonder how many of these will open for us?”

Not many, he decided after the next set of hatches refused to budge, So they continued to walk until they came to a T-section. “Looks like we might have reached the front of the ship” Tamita said.

The voice of the main computer came from their wrist devices, but it sounded tinny “Most likely, there is only about 4 meters between this corridor and the outside of the vessel. I believe it is made up of triple hull. There are other decks to check”

Chapter Nine

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Free at last...

 Finally free again at Amazon. I am not sure why they were repriced to 99 cents in the first place since they are free at Google and Smashwords.

8 Short Stories
10 More Stories
Dragon of Torik
Reward: Stolen Planet

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Character Intro & Setting

Stanley opened the file cabinet and thumbed through the contents to find the right spot to slide the folder into place. With it he closes his briefcase. It was this thing about his job that brought him satisfaction, putting things where they belonged.

Stanley is a short bespectacled man with thinning hair. He wears a crisp white button up shirt and a bow tie. The bow tie is not an affectation or a sign of character, it was just that a dangling tie could get caught up in a drawer or one of the machines he was in charge of when necessary. Stanley wouldn't hear of going without a tie at all, though; shudder the thought.

In fact not only is Stanley of the most white-bread, vanilla personage, he utterly lacks ambition and imagination. If he were the King of the Vikings, they'd never have invaded the English isles or discovered Nova Scotia. He is made of such stuff that abusing his power, even to retain the throne, would be unthinkable.

This made Stanley the perfect figure to keep order in the Universal Exchange that links and keeps track of pretty much everything that happens everywhere, all the time. A person with imagination or ambition would use such a position to, perish the thought, change things. Play God or at least play favorites and enrich themselves.

The filing cabinet was just one of trillions that Stanley is responsible for. Also he has been responsible for them for as long as he could remember. Not that it mattered. It could have been decades or centuries or epochs, but time didn't exist in this place as it did elsewhere.

A distant alarm sounded, sort of like the bugle of war but very far away. Stanley checks the readings on his holographic wrist computer.

“Oh wow, this is out of place!” Stanley utters to himself. Things being “out of place” is one of the worst possible things in his mind, the other was being “out of time”. Space and time are like longitude and latitude on a planet, they are like coordinates for the universe.

Quickly Stanley moves toward his waiting conveyance, which resembles a 1929 Ford Roadster convertible with the top down. “Sagittarius Majoris,” he intones to the vehicle, “2123832-1232”. This completes the coordinates and the vehicle takes off toward that sector. Although the vehicle was moving fast enough that everything else became a blur, it still took a good minute to reach the desired place and time index.

Stanley exits the vehicle and runs up the path between two tall rows of filing cabinets and assorted other things, as he turns a corner he spots the disturbance. Meanwhile the details of the incident appear within his briefcase, but Stanley paused long enough to take in the sight.

The creature was nine feet tall, humanoid, except that it's head was six heads all meeting at the center where they shared a mouth. Six noses and twelve eyes and six bushy heads of hair that sort of gave the impression of some bad artistic impression of a flower. This was a Sagitarian. A very confused and lost Sagitarian who was in a mild state of shock, unfortunately he wasn't the only one.

Stanley walked purposefully toward the creature and waving the file he had retrieved from his briefcase. “It says here that some sort of anomaly whisked you away from Sagittarius Majoris and deposited you into the closet of one Maylilin Disli of the planet they call Aslastia. The poor child was frightened out of her wits and nearly fell into a coma by getting a glimpse of you.”

The large Sagitarian responded, but it was short.

“Yes, yes, you've never seen a three-eyed being before and it's not your fault that you were there. The problem is that the anomaly must be hanging around your planet, possibly in some kind of orbit. It must be studied and rendered pacified,” Stanley tried to explain.

Obviously Sagitarians won't do it, being beastly and stupid. You would think they'd be more intelligent with six brains. All that wasted potential just waiting for evolution.

The creature responded again.

“About that, yes come with me. I'll get you back home to your...” Stanley checks the file, walking back toward the vehicle with a confused creature following him, “Two wives and seven children. I can't believe you can afford to support them on your waste retrieval salary.”

The creature responded.

“Oh, I see, you make them work and support you.”

The creature climbed into the passenger seat of the Roadster as Stanley got in on the opposite side.

“I'll have you back in your time and place in no time,” he assured the Sagitarian who was starting to become more animated as the shock of his circumstances wore off. They arrived at a large column-like fixture with a large transparent door.

“Just step through the door and you'll be home.”

The Sagitarian walked around the column and sniffed the doorway suspiciously.

Stanley checked the readings on his holographic wrist computer, “It's perfectly safe, I've used it often enough to send wayward beings back to where and when they belonged. All you need to do is step inside and you will be home again.”

Twelve eyes became suspicious slits for a moment but the creature sighed through its mouth and stepped inside and made a noise. The door slid shut again. The Sagitarian decided to panic, all twelve eyes wide open as it pounded on the door whining loudly.

“Well, no, I didn't say it was painless. It's not completely painless,” Stanley explained as he hit the ENACT key and began walking back to the vehicle without even looking back and the creature was sucked upward with the sound of a pneumatic tube before a bright light erupted for a second and his atoms were separated and then compressed before being shoved through a singularity set toward his appointed time and place.

The Sagitarian had been properly filed back to his own time and place, where he belonged.