Jet rolled painfully onto his side; where he was able to look up from
under his bushy black eyebrows. It was standing behind and over him. He
couldn't see for certain, but he knew it was looking down: drooling in anticipation.
He had seen its kin kill before; he knew it was relishing the moment, preparing
for the final killing lunge. Back then: before, he had, had the advantage,
but now he needed time. Time to let it believe it had won. It wasn't hard,
it almost had; and if it saw him move
Jet flexed his bruised wrist, as he desperately tried to get feeling into
Above his own tortured breathing he could hear it. The soft: vile, throat
rattle they made in victory.
He could smell it too: strongly, even through the
congealing blood, that caked the inside of his nose.
Carefully: slowly, Jet moved his hand up his hip, until his cupped palm
was touching the butt of the plasma pistol.
He knew it had come closer. His flesh crawled from the feel of its foul
hot breath on the back of his neck. It was enjoying its conquest: gloating
the way only swamp monsters did as they flaunted their success before the
pack. Even alone it still completed the ritual. Soon it would tear his throat
Jet curled his swollen fingers around the weapon. He knew he had broken
at least one, as a stab of pain surged up his arm. He fought back an agonized
gasp that almost burst out between his lips.
He heard it rattle again. It was satisfied that its prey was beaten. It
was no act he faked for the creature. It had hurt him badly; of that there
was no doubt.
It knew he was hurt, and it pitilessly prodded him in the small of his back,
with its razor sharp claws; testing his reaction.
He needed a cool head; he really needed a cool head, but his mind swam.
He couldn't think straight; other than he knew he had little time left to
Jet prayed that the creature's attention was centered on the soft tissue
of his neck as he gently teased the pistol from its holster. Again the pain
surged as the fingers on his right hand wound tightly around the weapons
grip. It felt like every bone: every piece of flesh below his elbow was
on fire. It was almost too much to bear, and for a moment his mind flickered
between awareness and oblivion.
Something wet and sticky was soaking through the torn uniform's shoulder,
and he realized with rising nausea that it was salivating over him, marking
a kill as they did.
Then he heard the whimpering. Female whimpering: her face came into his
mind. So clear, so beautiful. She was still alive. Somewhere where he couldn't
see, she was still breathing: watching: traumatized with fear. Knowing she
was its next victim. Almost as soon as it came to his mind he rejected the
vision of her torn and dismembered body. Revulsion surged in him and suddenly
his mind was clear. He knew what happened to him didn't matter; what mattered,
was what was going to happen to her.
Ignoring the agony Jet thrust his left arm under his body.
He sensed as much as saw the creature respond to his movement. It was arching
back its head to deliver the final, killing attack.
But he was already moving. In a fluid movement Jets bleeding hand hit
hard down against the metal floor. Ignoring the agony he jerked around with
a desperate twist: rolling onto his side while bringing the gun up to his
The creature reared back at his unexpected movement letting out a blood-curdling
snarl. It had no intention of loosing the kill now, and instantly unsheathed
its four talons, to tear his body apart. ........................................................................................................................
Jets hands were coated in blood; slippery blood; his blood. He could barely
focus from where it had run into his eyes. With almost pure instinct he
brought the pistol up, grasping the butt with both outstretched hands and
pointing the electrodes towards the exposed slimy flesh in the center of
the circle of six, angry, yellow eyes.
"Feel my heat." Jet taunted, tightening his fingers on
the contact and instantly sending a deadly burning beam into the beast;
at the very moment it came for him.
The recoil forced the weapon against his rigid arms with an unbelievable
surge of pain. He couldn't hold on any more, and felt the gun slip in his
grip. Desperately he fired again, but the powerful recoil tore it from his
grasp, and it went clattering across the decking.
Jet looked up in resigned horror to see the monsters hate filled eyes were
still looking down at him. It was still alive.
Then the slime that was its excuse for a brain flowed out of the hole in
its head, and dripped revoltingly onto the metal beside him.
With a terrible blinded roar it reared up; arms flailing and slashing
the air with such fury that Jet almost froze in fright; then with a thundering
crash it fell beside him, and with one last roar the monster died: its eyes
staying open: staring at him ............................................................
Jet looked in growing disgust as green body fluids oozed from the gaping
gash; dripping and running over the rough skin to form a putrid pool on
the rockets floor.
The viscous liquid began creeping, flowing across the gap between it and
him. In fascinated horror he watched, but didn't move; not until a relieved,
yet still frightened voice penetrated his dulled mind.
"You did it Jet."
For a long moment he had forgotten her, but now the busty, blue-eyed blond
ran to him. Falling to her knees she threw her arms around his neck as she
cried out again.
"You did it Jet. You've saved the planet."
"It was nothing," he said, knowing it was everything. Almost indifferently
he turned towards her an instant before her hungry lips covered his, in
a passionate kiss.
It was an eternity when he pulled away from the girl. He said nothing. He
had no need. .......................................................................
She sadly lowered her eyes. "You're going, aren't you?"
"I have to."
She had begun to weep. "Do you really have to?" She stared down
at his face, knowing it was already too late. His eyes were looking beyond
her, up into the black night sky. The words rolled
from his mouth as they had so many times before. "My work here is finished.
Somewhere up there another planet needs....."
She put her finger to his lips. "I know." she said softly. "You
must go home. To your home amongst the star's
Approved extract from Jet Black and the Planet of the Swamp
By Alan J Ellis
.. Another bestseller: I'm certain
of it." Effused Cyrus T. Preetyjon, as he almost threw the loosely
bound manuscript onto the glass topped coffee table between them. And know
it he did, for in all the years that Alan J Ellis had been writing the books
that Cyrus published, few had failed to be best sellers; in fact they all
had achieved remarkable success.
It was an achievement that Cyrus found hard to comprehend. Personally he
hated them: nearly as much as he did the arrogant; self-centered writer
sat opposite him. But there was no denying that both of them had become
very wealthy because of the improbable antics of Jet Black, and his star-ship
"Yea I thought so too," replied Alan without the slightest trace
of humility. He drained the last of Cyrus's brandy, and pointedly stared
into the empty glass.
Cyrus wanted Alan go. "Have you got the final draft ready for Makioto?"
Alan looked at him blankly. "Who?"
Cyrus tried not to show exasperation. "The vice president of Sonjay
Still Alan looked bewildered.
"He's the one making the motion picture about Jet and Planet Nine."
The relationship slowly dawned on Alan. "Oh yea." He nodded his
head leisurely. "Oh yea
.. Got ya."
"You've got a meeting with him in
," Cyrus looked at his
Cyrus tried to hide his annoyance. "I reminded you last week. You put
it in your Diary."
"Remember," said Cyrus almost unable to mask his frustration.
"I said they were ready to finalize the contract, but he wants you
to sign the latest draft changes, so it can go to production costing?"
.." Alan drawled as he remembered. "Oh..Yea
I meant to talk to you about that." Then abruptly his attitude changed;
his voice taking on a hard edge. "I don't want them to rewrite anything."
"What?" gasped Cyrus.
Alan carried on with more than a trace of bitterness. "They're trying
to make Jet into some kind of cartoon character. I won't have it. Jet's
a real.... Jets a real man."
"You can't be serious?" uttered Cyrus incredulously.
Alan stared into the glass. "Anyway it don't matter. I can't meet anybody
Cyrus had barely recovered from the first shock. "What?" he blurted
"I can't go to no meeting tonight."
"You... You have to." Stuttered Cyrus anxiously. He was used to
the unpredictable decisions of the conceited writer, but now he was completely
baffled by the man's attitude.
"Call him and cancel." Snapped Alan.
Cyrus could barely speak with his rising anger "You can't cancel now.
They're flying in especially, from....."
Alan glared at him; his voice was slow and threatening. "Remind me
whose the one who writes the books?" He was smiling, but his face took
on a threatening look. "
Which one of us makes the money to pay
for an office like this?" His words were issued as a direct challenge.
Cyrus eased back into his chair, trying not to show the anger he felt. "Makioto
won't be pleased."
"Tell him I had another important engagement." Alan leered.
"More important than a multi-million movie deal?" Cyrus said sulkily;
thinking of his percentage.
"Money. Money; it's the root of all evil. Ain't that what your mom
said?" Alan sneered.
"That Money," said Cyrus firmly. "As you have pointed out;
brought US." He emphasized the word. "
"Hey ain't that the truth." Alan leered. "Remember that redhead
who kept hanging around the book signing last week?"
Cyrus couldn't; there were so many: very many, very brief, liaisons. He
couldn't understand why women were attracted to the man. He had read once
that there was nothing quite so sexy as money and power. That had to be
the reason; it certainly wasn't personality. He reached forward to the coffee
table, putting down his empty glass and nodded. "The one who wanted
you to sign under where she had written that suggestive invitation?"
"Yea that's the one," Alan smiled. ".. I'm meeting her on
the coast at nine tonight."
Cyrus wondered why he bothered with the man; he was an animal. He pushed
the thoughts to the back of his mind, and forced the expected lewd laugh.
There was no escape, only alcoholic oblivion. He stood and crossed the room
to the glass lined wall cabinet. Opening the door he took a fresh bottle
of malt from the lower shelf.
"Then you had better have another one of these, to
. build your
strength up. Before you go
"I thought you'd never take the hint," said Alan mockingly.
The time signal from radio 4KA-FM marked eight-thirty pm as Alan came
out of the hairpin bend. He was way behind time, and another six kilometres
lay ahead before the welcoming lights of Smithfield marked the end of his
decent down the mountain road.
His concentration was drifting to carnal thoughts until a grating noise,
followed by a slight loss of control in the steering brought him rigidly
alert. "Damn you Cyrus." He grumbled aloud. "One for the
road. Why did I let that idiot waste my time with talking?" He looked
briefly up into the rear view mirror. The pale green light made him look
even worse than he felt. Again the sound of the Bentleys wide tyres slipping
brought his eyes quickly back to the road.
"Damn stupid car where's the traction control?" he snapped. "And
damn you Cyrus. Damn you too."
As he had descended the twisting road, Alan had seen the headlights from
an approaching car several times, but it only now; in his alerted sense,
occurred to him that they never seemed to be getting any closer. If anything
they were as far away as they had ever been. It was almost as if the vehicle
up ahead was going in reverse. Of course that was ridiculous. It was taking
him all of his remaining concentration to drive forward. It would be impossible
to keep up any speed in reverse. Even so he was not closing the gap.
Then the thought struck him that the car was parked. His winding path created
the impression that it was moving away. Almost certainly the other vehicle
was only a short distance across the chasm, and as if to prove him right,
at last he seemed to be closing the distance between.
Another image struck. "I hope to God it isn't the cop's," he muttered
as panic flooded him at the thought of a police checkpoint. He was in no
condition to face a Breathalyzer. "No: not way up here. They wouldn't
be up here." He pushed the thought from his mind.
"Maybe it's some stranded female?" He muttered hopefully; deciding
that, that was a preferred option. He would slow down just enough to see
the occupant; but fast enough to keep moving, in case it wasn't.
As he came around the bend the bright headlights swept back in from the
void to light up the road in front. It was empty; no moving car; no parked
car, and definitely no female in distress. Nothing: yet he was sure that
this was where it should have been. No matter, if he had been wrong it would
be around the next corner for sure. But it wasn't, or the one following
that, or the several after.
Alan pressed his foot onto the accelerator, pumping more fuel into the supercharged
engine. He had been slowly increasing his speed for some time; puzzled,
and irrationally angry. "What kind of game are you playing on me you
son of a bitch," he shouted through the open window into the stillness
of the night.
He turned the curve a little too wide, and far too fast.
The wheels were sliding again when he saw it; though in fact he was not
sure what he did see; for at that moment two powerful lights illuminated
the landscape around him as if it were a bright, sunlit day. At that moment
his own headlight's faded away as if all the power had been instantly sucked
from the battery.
One thing stuck in his mind as he drove under the intense lights. Whatever
it was, only a fraction of the vague shape that passed above him was over
the road, the rest was hanging out over the cliff face.
Of course it was only a fleeting impression for his mind was now occupied
with the crunching of steel, as the rear of the coupe bounced off the rock
face. The impact sent the tail end rolling across the gravel. Alan gripped
the steering wheel tight and fought to regain control. The headlights came
back on, just in time for his terrified eye's to see the road turn left;
and the edge of the precipice race toward him.
He stamped on the brakes, sending the vehicle into a broadside on the loose
roadside surface. Immediately the traction control kicked in an attempt
to counter the skid. The car was almost under control when the headlights
dipped from the horizontal: down; and down.
Alan had the strangest feeling. He could remember it from many years past,
vacationing as a child: on the old timber roller coaster, when the carriages
rattled over the summit for their run down. Now the same feeling in the
pit of his stomach returned as he dropped like a stone.
The Bentleys headlights had stopped cutting through the black void. Now;
below in the stark white light he could see gray trees and shrubs. He seemed
to be hanging in the air: suspended by invisible wires, until there was
a sickening crash as the wheels hit the ground. Air bags erupted around
him, pinning him into his seat as the vehicles suspension crashed against
its mounts so violently that they were punched up through the floor pan.
Then they recoiled; lifting the car almost off the ground as momentum and
the steep slope drove it forward and on through the forest vegetation. Saplings
and long grasses whipped onto the cars battered hood before disappearing
under the wheels. A stout branch hit the toughened glass of the windshield
so hard that it instantly shattered; covering him with shards; cutting his
face and hands in a hundred places. The following seconds were filled with
so many bangs and crunches from rock or timber that they melded into one
constant scream of noise.
Scared as he was Alan had not given up hope. While he was still on four
wheels: and was kind of going forward; he may just be able to ride through.
He thought through his fear, but almost as the idea came to him, the battered
wreck that had once been one of the finest of cars flipped onto its side
and began to roll. Alan's seat was ripped from the floor mounts, and with
him still belted into it was flung about the shattered cabin.
Every part of his body was filled with agonizing pain, and his mind no longer
separated one occurrence from another as the car hit tree after tree, until
it eventually came to an abrupt stop, almost upside down.
He lay on his side unmoving, sprawled against the flattened roof. Through
blood soaked eye's he could see the air full of swirling dust: illuminated
by the reflection of the single headlight that had miraculously survived
the decent. Somewhere there was the hiss of steam, and a whirring noise
as if one of the wheels was still spinning rapidly. Other than that, there
was total silence.
He lay trapped in the seat, wandering in and out of consciousness as the
steam dissipated, and until his brain registered another noise. The faint
sound of the radio station as it marked the end of the nine o'clock news.
Alan could not move any part of his body, only his eyes turned painfully
from side to side. 'I should be with the redhead now', he thought.
He tried to guess how long she would wait before she reported him missing
to the police. An hour? Then she'd call them? But something told him she
wouldn't. Of course she'd call them, he was famous; the cops wouldn't want
the publicity of delay in organizing a search.
Then the thought overwhelmed him; maybe she wouldn't call them. 'No
as soon as
..' But he couldn't remember her name. It didn't matter,
as soon as the redhead realized something was wrong she'd
reality wouldn't go away. She would know his reputation. She wouldn't call
the police. She wouldn't wait. She'd think he had stood her up, like he
had dozens of others when he got a better offer. Other than the redhead
no one knew he was here on this road. Except for Cyrus, and he'd think he
was in some hotel room with the woman. Nobody would know.
Somewhere in the distance he could now hear trickling water. He didn't remember
ever seeing a creek on the roadside when he had driven this way before.
He guessed he was well down the hillside. Even in his half comatose state
it didn't take much thinking to realize that where he was, he would be hidden
from the road, high above.
He tried to put it out of his mind that he was probably going to die, but
he couldn't fight the dread. He was going to die, and he would die alone.
If he didn't bleed to death, then he would starve. A feeling of panic welled
up inside him; tears mixed with the congealing blood that had turned his
world a hazy red. "I don't want to die." He sobbed through motionless
lips. "Not yet, not now; he wasn't ready: but no one ever was."
His fear seemed to sharpen his senses, and now he could hear another noise.
A noise like boiling fat; frying on a hot pan. A sharp crackling noise:
an electrical noise. Instantly he knew something was shorting and then slowly
the headlight started to dim. He sank into deeper depression as the one
and only chance of being spotted began to literally fade away. Maybe, just
maybe some passing car would see the glow down in the bush and report it
to the police; but now even that faint hope was vanishing with the light.
There was something else; he didn't know if it had been the blood that blocked
his nose, or maybe it had just started, it didn't matter once he smelled
the smell. Suddenly it was very strong and he wondered why he hadn't noticed
it before. Was it becoming stronger? He had once quite liked the faint smell
Alan tried to cry out in desperation; and tried to drag himself from the
car, but not a muscle in his body would answer his pleading brain. Again
panic surged, an urgent terrified panic that welled up uncontrollably from
inside him. He had so much to live for. He was famous, wealthy; he had everything;
but time. "Why," he wept, "Why me. Why now, Why this way?"
More tears flooded out of his eyes, mixing with his blood, making red streaks
down the side of his face. "I don't want to die," he cried uncontrollably.
The last thought that was in his mind as the flames erupted around him,
was that at least he would not have to starve to death.
The room was in absolute darkness.
At first Alan thought he was dead. Was this death: just nothing? But he
felt warm; even comfortable, and the agony of hurt was just a dream; maybe
everything in death was a dream? .................................................................................
He had become conscious immediately. His eye's had opened and that was it,
he was wide-awake. Even so he waited: immobile, afraid of reawakening that
awful pain. Slowly he tensed his fingers. They felt fine; as did his hand,
his wrist; his arm. One by one he tested all his limbs as if in some callisthenic
program. Everything felt fine. Everything he commanded move, moved, and
without the terrible agony he had dreaded.
Alan raised himself up onto one elbow. Before he had fished the action,
the room had become bathed in a subdued blue light, from an unseen source.
A low repetitive noise had started the same moment. Carefully looking backwards
he could see it came from a bank of computer monitors. There were several;
showing various graphs. No; he realized, some were graphs, others data;
and one amazingly looked like a video game. He watched a tiny space ship
move from one side of the screen and exit off the other. .......
He couldn't understand the writing on the other screens. It looked
like Cyrillic characters, but he was in Australia. Was Russian; if it was,
was Russian, the language of the afterlife? That was absurd; wasn't it;
he decided instead that it was just too awkward an angle; too obscure a
meaning to understand; but he was certain they related to him; though how
they were; whatever they represented, connected to his body he couldn't
Suddenly Alan was aware that he was not alone. A man was there. He had not
heard, or seen him enter; but against the monitors was the back of a man.
dead?" Alan said softly.
The man turned to face him. "No Mr. Alan Jeffery Ellis."
"Thank God. I thought I was dead."
"I see you are awake, Mr. Alan Jeffery Ellis." The man said in
a satisfied tone.
"Of course I am, I'm talking to you," Alan replied sarcastically.
"Apparently you are Mr. Alan Jeffery Ellis."
"Where am I?"
"The Oort research complex, Mr. Alan Jeffery Ellis."
Alan stared at him hostilely. "Has anybody ever told you that's very
"What is annoying to you Mr. Alan Jeffery Ellis?"
.. Saying my name in full; every time you open your mouth."
"I am sorry Mr
... . I was merely making it clear I was talking
specifically to you."
"Well I don't see too many other people round here you'd be likely
to confuse me with."
"No. Very well if you prefer I will ignore the reference to your name,
unless you wish that I refer to you by another title?"
"People call me Mr. Ellis, until I decide differently."
"Then I shall call you Mr. Ellis." The man seemed unfazed by Alan's
Satisfied he controlled the conversation Alan relaxed. "Where am I
"The Oort Research...."
"Is this some clinic or something? I ain't never heard of any Ort.
Is it new?"
"New? No not new Mr. Ellis, we have been here for a long time."
He turned away from Alan and began to alter some of the monitor's settings.
Alan noted he was very young; his long hair was tied back in a ponytail,
with a leather thong.
"Oh I get it?"
"There is no need Mr. Ellis. Please stay where you are, and I will
get anything that you require," the youth called back without looking.
"Moron," muttered Alan under his breath. "So the rumour's
"Rumour's Mr. Ellis. And what rumour's are they?" The youth turned
to look at Alan with a curious expression.
"About the military: having a secret research base; here in the mountains."
His look turned to one of amusement. "No. No. Mr. Ellis. You could
not be further from the truth."
"Look just forget calling me anything," snapped Alan irritably.
"As you wish Mr...." The man stopped and smiled as if he was either
teasing or taunting him.
"Just tell me where I am?" Alan demanded.
The youth put up his hands in a gesture of pacification, and walked to the
door. "Santouri will be here shortly, he will answer all of your questions
Mr. Alan Jeffery Ellis," and he was gone.
"The names Alan," Alan shouted after him, his voice raised in
frustration. "Damn you; call me Alan."
He was left alone with his anger.
The accident. The wreck of the car. He almost died, and now this fool of
an orderly treated him like a child.
Alan lay back on the bed. He must have dozed as again he had not heard anyone
enter, but once more he was not alone in the room. At first he thought it
was the same man, but he noticed the hair was turning a silvery Grey.
"Who are you?" He said harshly.
"You are awake." The man replied
"Oh." He said mildly surprised at Alan's attitude. "That
is unfortunate. May I ask for what reason?"
"Do you know who I am? And don't parrot my name like the kid did."
"I think so. We have tried to find out everything we could about you."
"Then you will know I have influence, and I like things done my way."
"Apparently that is so."
"The kid said some guy Santouri would tell me all I want to know?"
"That is correct: to a point."
"Are you Santouri?"
"I am known by that name."
"Then why didn't you say so?"
"Until this moment I had no opportunity."
"Don't try and be a smart arse with me."
"I'm not sure I would know where to begin."
Alan stared angrily at him. "Are you the senior doctor?"
"We are a team. I have my place as others have theirs; I do not consider
myself anyone's senior."
"Well I want to know who run's the show."
"I take it that runs; in the context you mean, indicates some chain
of control; as I have just said, our group does not function in that way."
"Look I don't care how you run your business. I just want to talk to
the boss; the chief; el supremeo. Someone who can tell me where I am; and
when I can go home?"
"Your impatience shows in much more than just your driving abilities
"Well you had better get used to it, because until I get what I want
I'll keep on asking."
"I see," he turned to the monitors.
"Well?" said Alan impatiently. "Where am I?"
"I though you wanted only to talk to the boss, el sup
"You're here," interrupted Alan. "You tell me."
"You are at the Oort resea..."
"I know that," he said angrily, his hands open wide he patted
the air around him. "Where is it? Where am I now?"
.. Place," said Santouri spreading his own arms. "Is
known as the Templar Explorer."
"Oh?" Alan said in surprise. "Well at least now were getting
somewhere. It's a ship?"
"One of a number of descriptions: but we do not go anywhere, independently."
"See," sneered Alan. "Answering questions ain't very hard
So sixty-four thousand dollar question; when can I go home?"
"Home?" Santouri dwelt on the words.
"Yes. I - want - to - go - HOME." Alan demanded patronizingly.
"I feel fine now. Whatever you've done, you've done a good job. Now
I want to get on with my life. I have business's to look after, people to
see, things to do, and that includes chicks." He grinned. "Wow,
do I feel up to chasing some skirt."
"That is rather difficult."
"Putting you off is out of the question."
"Bullshit. Your gunna put me off at the nearest port? Call someone
and rent a chopper. Whatever it takes. I want to go. Now."
"Alan. You do not mind me calling you Alan do you? Apparently your
friends used to." Without waiting for acknowledgment Santouri continued.
actually I do not quite know how to put this to you."
"Just form your lips together and it comes out." Alan snarled.
"Get on with it, will you. Tell me why you think you aint gunna do
what I want?"
"Well. The accident you had. It was
.. was very bad."
"I remember well enough." Alan said truthfully.
"Here." Santouri handed him a mirror.
Alan looked at the reflection: immediately he knew it wasn't his face. "What
the hell?" Alan looked up at the man angrily. "That's not me!!"
"No, I'm sorry Alan, but damage to the Dermis and epidermis, composed
ninety four percent burns to the surface area..." Santouri paused.
"Plastic surgery; as you would call it, has certain limitations. Past
that point replication becomes reconstruction. It may not be you, but surely
you approve of the result?"
Alan stared at the man stunned by his audacity. "Surely I approve?"
He snarled. "Surely you ain't that stupid that you think you can plaster
any old face you like on me?"
"Look again. It is not any old face, it a face full of character: of
strength; a rugged strength I think is how it would be seen by others."
Begrudgingly Alan had to agree. It wasn't a bad look; and if he was honest
with himself his lifestyle had begun to catch up with his old appearance.
A few age lines, and he had always thought his eyes were a bit too deeply
set. Maybe looking a bit more like a movie star wasn't a bad thing.
Santouri carried on as if there was no further argument to his description.
Close on thirty-eight percent of the bone structure
in your body was damaged; to various degrees and amounts."
"Thirty-eight?" Alan was staggered; but thinking back not surprised.
"Is that a lot? It sounds an awful lot?"
"And major body organs including your lungs, liver, and one eye received
impact damage somewhere between severe to irreparable."
The word was so final. "Irreparable?" He slumped back onto the
cot. "Okay. Okay: enough. So maybe I was a bit hasty. I don't know
how much of this is sales talk, but you seem to have done a remarkable job.
I've no doubt I'll find out just how good when I get your bill?"
invoice. Don't worry; it doesn't matter, you'll
get your money. I've plenty of money, so you can cut out the theatricals."
Santouri seemed genuinely puzzled at the accusation that he was exaggerating.
"I do not know what you mean Alan. I was only explaining what your
condition was when you were brought here."
"Oh I see. And there's me thinking your going to tell me your not just
running up justification for a bigger account."
"Of course I am not. As for payment we neither seek, or require any."
Alan looked into his eyes; He could see nothing but concern for his welfare
in them. "Are you shitting me?"
"No, that is, if it is what I think you are implying."
"You must be shitting me. You can't be serious. You've done all this
all what you said; surgery, convalescence all for free... No charge?"
"Yes of course," said Santouri sincerely.
Alan realized that the man was truly surprised that any gain was to be had
by him. "I'll hold you to that then," he said as Santouri's words
sank in again. "I was that bad? And I don't have to pay you?"
"To all intents and purposes Alan, you were dead."
"Dead?" The word rang in his brain.
"As good as."
"But I'm not?" he asked anxiously.
Santouri smiled. "This conversation would not be happening if you were."
"Well there you got me, I aint ever had any afterlife experience, so
I have to take your word for gospel."
"I say to all intents and purposes, but the spark of life had not been
"And you did all that..?"
"Why? I do not understand, what were we supposed to do?"
"You guys take the cake. Why do all that, if you ain't gunna get anything
"Anything in return wasn't a consideration. You needed it."
"Because I needed it?" Alan shook his head and laughed. "Okay.
Well maybe I did, but I need nothing now. I feel perfect."
"As would be expected after reconstructive surgery."
It suddenly occurred to Alan that the tabloids would make a meal of his
accident. "The public, do they know
.. I was that bad?"
"Nobody knows but us Alan."
Another thought immediately entered his mind. "Hang on a second; clarify
nobody knows but us?"
"I do not know that I can clarify it any more. A small team, that is
It was more accusation than question. "Nobody from outside here?"
"No just the people here."
Alan shook his head in frustration. "Look; now don't get me wrong.
Like I'm glad you did what you did, but who gave you permission to operate;
transplant; do all this reconstructive surgery?"
"No one gave permission Alan. It was necessary so it was done."
Alan sat up and stared at Santouri threateningly. "You ain't been practicing
no weird shit on me; have you?"
"If you mean new procedures; then yes, we have experimented with some
"With no permission. You had better not have given me no pigs guts
or something." Alan snarled.
Santouri seemed surprised at the accusation. "No; of course not."
"You're telling the truth?"
"Most certainly; I give you my word that as I look at you now; you
are totally human."
Alan was only momentarily relieved. "What do you mean by I'm totally
"I mean that any mechanical devices, or artificial structures that
supported your recovery have been removed, and any synthetic fluids have
been drained. You are as fully human as any of your kind."
"I'm not sure you word is good enough."
"It is all I can give."
"If I ever find out your lying."
"I assure you, you will come to terms with what has been necessary
to be done."
"Maybe but all the same you can't just operate on people, not just
however you please. Aint you supposed to take some oath?"
"Hippocratic oath is what I think you are referring to, but as I have
already said, oath or not without our intervention you would have died."
"Morality aside you can't do things like that to peoples bodies without
getting somebody to sign a legal authorization."
"You were in no condition to sign anything."
"I don't mean me: somebody else." He snapped.
"I see. And whom should we have got to sign this authorization?"
"My lawyer would have been a good place to start. He has my power of
attorney, strange as that may seem."
"Your lawyer is dead."
"What?" Alan was shocked. "Dead: how
"I'm afraid I do not know the details, it did not seem relevant."
"Not relevant, but you know he is dead?"
"No. I do not actually even know that he is dead, I only believe so
on the law of averages."
"You had better hope he is, cos' you are well on the way to buying
yourself a lawsuit mister."
Santouri didn't seem concerned and only smiled.
"Well what about my agent
. My publisher?" Protested Alan
"What about them?"
"Did you contact them?"
"No. But surely: if nothing else you must have realized they will be
looking for me."
"They very well may have been at one time, but not now." He hesitated
a moment. "Alan I have every reason to believe that they too have passed
away. All of them, every single one."
"This is ridiculous," Alan snapped. "You don't even know
these people, how can you stand there and say that?"
"You're quite right, I don't know any of your associates, and I can
not know whether it's because of disease, accident or natural causes due
to advanced age, but I do know there is an extremely high probability that
they are all deceased."
Alan slumped back to lie on the bed. "Somebody get me out of this place,"
"Alan," began Santouri in a placating way. "Once we were
able to get around to reconstructing the parts of your body that had been
damaged: and re-growing your tissue; we discovered that it was necessary
to adapt several of our techniques to your
At first we had other priorities so by the time that was done a period of
some thirty-five years had passed."
Alan listened unbelievingly.
"Of course during all this time we had to have you in suspended animation."
At last Alan had to speak. "Hang on. Hang on. Thirty-five... are you
telling me I am eighty-three years old?" was all he could say.
"No. Actually you are ninety-six in your years. The process took a
further thirteen to complete."
"What ever you like."
Alan looked at his hands. There was no loose flesh, no discoloring. "But
I don't feel a day older?"
"I would have hoped that you feel even younger," Santouri smiled.
"We took care to achieve the optimum of your individual peak health."
"Something is wrong here," said Alan suspiciously. "Nobody
can do that."
"You yourself are proof that your assumption is wrong."
I wasn't aware any of this could be done."
"I said we had to develop techniques."
"No it's more than medical advances. There ain't no medicine existing
to even start from," but he hesitated. "
That I've heard
"Such procedures are quite routine to us; the only difference was your
"My physiology," said Alan slowly. "You mean MY physiology,
Santouri looked at him as if he were a child. "It may not be immediately
obvious to you, but we are both
.. slightly different."
Alan brought his open hands up and covered his face. The voice was slightly
muffled when he spoke.
"This is gunna sound like a real stupid question. But...... you are...
human ....aren't you?"
"Yes, at least I like to think I am.... Shall we just say that we call
different places home?"
"Your an Alien?" Alan laughed nervously.
Santouri smiled back, "From where I stand you are the alien."
.. Is this some wind up?"
"Wind up? I assume you mean a joke or pretence. No, all that I have
said is true. You were as good as dead. We have repaired you body, and it
has taken many of your years."
"This is absolutely fantastic. But where are you from
. Wow." Alan looked down at his body. "Then you did
all this as a gesture of friendship."
"More guilt. We decided that we should make amends."
"For your injuries."
"I had an accident."
"You most certainly would have. Your bloodstream carried copious amounts
of toxins, not the least an almost deadly high alcohol level."
"But I remember what happened. I lost control and left the road."
"Yes, but not entirely of your own doing. We caused the accident. Our
craft often pass close by your planet; they need to be aware of everything
that may affect them. So for years we have been sending surveys to identify
all kind of phenomena. At the time of your accident one was examining a
source of energy. They were using wavelength at the very edge of the ultra
violet. Unfortunately for you, the beams were close to what your eyes accept
as visible light. From there on it was fairly straightforward. You saw the
lights. You saw the craft. You were distracted. You lost control."
"And you had to make amends?"
"Wow." Alan muttered again. "I can't wait to get all this
on paper. This is going to make Jet Black totally obsolete. You really have
to put me off A.S.A.P."
"As soon as you can."
"I thought I made that clear before. We can not."
"Surely you understand that you just can't just turn up after almost
a lifetimes absence?"
"When I tell my story everyone will understand."
"But you can not, No one must know of our existence."
"You can't keep me here. That's kidnapping."
"It does not matter what you call it, we must."
Santouri seemed oblivious to his need; it made Alan frustrated. "I
can't accept being kept here"
"What you can accept is immaterial."
"Then I'll jump overboard."
"I do not think you will," said Santouri smiling.
"I won't ever give up trying to get home."
"I am sorry Alan. You can not leave here."
"You're making me a prisoner."
"I prefer not to think of it in that way."
"Well fella, I can't see it any other way. I'm here against my will
and I can't go home."
"When you have had time to think about it, and can accept the situation,
you will understand."
"The only thing I understand is that one day you won't be watching
and I'll be off this ship real quick."
"I doubt it Alan. The Oort research facility is not on the Templar
Explorer. The Templar Explorer is part of the Oort research facility. The
name may, or may not imply that it is hidden amongst the Oort cloud. An
area of asteroids and space debris many millions of kilometres out past
your planetoid Pluto." Santouri stopped for a moment trying to remember
something. "Look upon the rest of your life as the conclusion to your
"What do you mean?" said Alan, his mind in total confusion.
"At the end of your novels your alter ego utters a statement that has
become something of a catch saying amongst your readers
Alan spoke slowly. "I must go home
To my home amongst the stars."
"Yes," said Santouri. "Alan this is your home now, and at
last you are amongst the stars."