Alien Affairs V
The late genius, Stephen Hawking, said in his masterpiece A Brief History of Time: “So what one needs, in order to warp spacetime in a way that will allow travel into the past, is matter with negative energy density.” If you’re a member of the Alien Affairs team, warping spacetime is part of the job description.
The Alien Affairs team once again heads across the multiverse in a desperate effort to placate disgruntled copies of themselves in a parallel universe where the relocated Nordic aliens are not living happily ever after. Half alien, Terrie Deshler, is summoned before Congress—again—where the Senate Special Committee on Aging threatens her if she doesn’t divulge the secret of eternal youth. Terrie hatches a plan to put the government on the right path by resurrecting an American hero. Meanwhile, she uncovers the mystery of the collapse of the Mayan civilization at the same time as she struggles to terraform Mars so she’ll have a place to stash the surplus Nordics a millennium in the future. The discovery of a dark family secret threatens her burgeoning romance with the grandson of Elon Musk, and the family’s computer avatar, Cassiopeia, is kidnapped by a geriatric member of Congress and his wife. Carrie, Terrie, and her alien parent, Deshler, race to find her, but every time they cross the portal to the multiverse, someone launches a nuclear-armed missile at them.
Universe Prime 2071 CE, day zero
Avalon harbor was hidden in the fog. The air was chilly on Mt. Ada, so I eschewed my habitual jumpsuit and dressed in fleece-lined warmups even though I knew I’d be too hot before noon. Descending the overly grand staircase of the old Wrigley Mansion, I smelled coffee and bacon, which meant that Mom had risen early. She sat alone in the breakfast nook behind a yolk-smeared plate sipping a cup of coffee.
“Where’s Dad?” I asked.
“Oh, he had some silly idea about inspecting the terraforming on Mars. I don’t expect him back until tonight.”
“It keeps him busy.”
“Yes, but I don’t think he’ll ever convince the Nordics to move there.” She smiled revealing just a trace of wrinkles by her eyes. She liked to maintain her age in the early forties, which was the time of her glory days as Director of Alien Affairs at the CIA when Dad first came to earth with the intention of destroying the human race. I couldn’t begrudge her that little vanity, although it was occasionally awkward since we looked too close in age to be mother-daughter.
“Good morning, Terrie.” The voice startled me. “What will you have for breakfast?”
“Oh, hi, Emelda. What are you doing here? Wait. You’re not Emelda.”
“Thank you for noticing. Now, about breakfast?”
I was confused, but Mom was snickering. “Pardon me, but who are you?”
The imposing blond woman who looked a great deal like Uncle Eddy’s Nordic paramour, Emelda, tried hard not to laugh. “Don’t you recognize my voice?”
“Recognize your voice?” Mom was laughing unrestrained, and I was getting irritated at being the butt of the joke. “Why should I recognize your voice?”
The strange woman was laughing at me now. “You’ve never seen my face, but you’ve heard my voice every day for decades.”
A sinking feeling seized me by the innards. “What are you trying to say? How could you—?” I turned to Mom. “Did you know about this?”
She was laughing so hard tears started to form. “No, she just let herself in while I was fixing coffee. She said, ‘Good morning, Carrie. Let me get that for you.’ I knew right away who she was.”
“But how?” Cassiopeia ran everything for us, but she was a disembodied computer avatar not a flesh and blood female with blond hair, blue eyes, and big boobs.
Still trying to stifle her laughter, she said, “Emelda pulled some strings with Andin Novorosk. I just made a copy of myself and emailed me to him. They still make androids the old fashioned way—always trying to improve the stock you know.”
The impossibility of what she was saying had me in such a state of flux all I could think to say was, “Did you get to pick out your body?”
“Yes, they have templates.”
“How did you get here?”
“Yeah, that didn’t go well. I flew coach from Hong Kong. It made me wish I was still disembodied.”
“How did you buy a ticket?”
“Duh, Terrie, I’ve been doing your shopping since we lived in Georgetown. Buying a ticket online was easy, but they wouldn’t let me buy drinks on the airplane without an actual credit chip.”
I could not grasp that the voice who got snippy if we referred to her as Cass instead of Cassiopeia was now a physical being. “Well, what are you going to do?”
“Double duh. I’m going to run this place like I have for the last fifty odd years.”
Mom said, “Isn’t this nice?”
It did not feel comfortable to me at all. “Are we supposed to pay you?”
“Why would I need to be paid when I already control your money?”
Again, I had that feeling of dropping in an elevator. “Yeah, but if you got out of control we could always reboot you. Now, what can we do?”
“Did you ever have to reboot me?”
“She’s right, dear,” Mom said. “Cassiopeia has always been our faithful assistant.”
Cass smiled a little smugly. “Now, how would you like a nice bagel with your coffee?”
“Sure. Thanks.” I sat across from Mom and stared at the pattern in the marble tabletop. A few seconds later, Cassiopeia set my coffee in front of me, and then she took a bagel with cream cheese and lox from the Food Wizard and put that in front of me. “I feel like I should leave a tip.”
Mom said, “Don’t be silly. We’re all family here.”
Then the strangest thing of all happened. Cassiopeia, ethereal computer avatar, made a cup of coffee and joined us at the table.
~ ~ ~
Still in a state of shock, I went through the motions of handling the morning’s business, which amounted to watching Cassiopeia’s digest of the news and getting an update on the affairs of Turnbull-X from Maggie, my personal assistant. Turnbull-X built spaceships for the government, cold fusion generators, and gravity wave communication consoles. I was on the board of directors, but my real purpose in life was running Turnbull Academy, which was ostensibly an exclusive university, but in reality, was the gateway to reproduction. After all these years, Mom couldn’t understand why I didn’t open the portals to anyone who applied. I’d seen enough of the future to know that I could never drop my guard in the business of social engineering.
The fog had lifted, and I ran upstairs to change into lighter clothes. When I returned, Uncle Eddy and Emelda had arrived. Uncle Eddy wasn’t my real uncle. He worked for Mom at the Department of Alien Affairs. Emelda was one of the few Nordic aliens who settled outside of the Chinese mainland after their star went nova and incinerated their planet. She was infatuated with Uncle Eddy largely because he took her on frequent shopping excursions to Rodeo Drive and occasionally Paris. Today, she was dressed for tennis.
Emelda eyed Cassiopeia warily. “I should have been more specific with Andin Novorosk,” she snarled.
“Hey, Cass, old girl,” Uncle Eddy beamed, “you look like a million. It’s great to have you, uh, physically in the family.”
“Mr. Baker, that’s sweet of you to say.” Cassiopeia always gushed over Uncle Eddy. He was the only one of us who could get away with calling her Cass.
Seeing Cassiopeia and Emelda side by side was disconcerting. They looked like sisters—sisters from a really voluptuous gene pool. I saw nothing but trouble.
“Come, Eddy,” Emelda purred. “Let’s start our match. I’m sure Terrie has much for Cassiopeia to do.”
Mom came from the upper deck. “Oh, Eddy, Emelda, what do you think of the newest member of the family?”
Emelda glared. Uncle Eddy said, “Absolutely stunning. This is how I always saw Cassiopeia when I closed my eyes.”
I wondered how long it would be before Emelda caught Uncle Eddy in a compromising position with Cassiopeia.
When Uncle Eddy and Emelda left in their golf cart, I felt a sense of relief until Cass said, “Incoming message, Terrie. It’s Deshler.”
“I hope nothing’s wrong. Put it on the big monitor, please.”
Dad’s bulbous gray head and spindly shoulders appeared on the clear acrylic rectangle mounted on the interior wall. His black, almond-shaped eyes revealed nothing. “Come, Dad. How’s Mars?”
“Mars is progressing nicely, but I am afraid that we have encountered a paradox.”
“What kind of paradox?” I wasn’t alarmed. I had caused plenty of paradoxes in my time.
“It seems that you are here as well.”
I asked, “Am I there from an earlier time or from the future?”
“Neither, offspring. You are here from a linear dimension.”
It was hard enough to keep my head attached when dealing with time dimensions. I had no clue what he meant by linear. “What am I doing there?”
“You are objecting,” he said.
“Objecting to what?”
“Objecting to providing succor to the white monstrosities.”
Meeting corporeal Cassiopeia was destabilizing enough for one day, confronting myself in an adversarial way was more than I could handle. “I don’t get it. What’s the problem?”
“In the universe that this Terrie Deshler inhabits, the white monstrosities are most unwelcome. You intend to demand that you remove them.”
“I am demanding that I remove them? But why?”
“Apparently, there is a cultural conflict.”
“I’m really confused.”
“As would be expected. You are demanding face-to-face negotiations. I am sure that your mother will be useful in this matter. You will be coming home with me. I thought it best to warn you. Going.”
“Going.” Since Cassiopeia had uploaded English to Deshler, my paternal parent, we rarely spoke alien, but we still used the traditional salutations, come and going.
I found Mom tending her orchids. “What is it, dear? You look unsettled.”
“I just talked to Dad.”
“Will he be home for dinner?”
“Probably, but he’s bringing me home with him.”
“Well, tell Cass to set another place,” Mom smiled.
“Apparently, I’m not in a good mood.”
“That’s not like you. What seems to be the trouble?”
“I’m upset with me for settling Emelda’s people here.”
Mom looked perplexed. “But you thought it was a good idea at the time.”
“That’s just it. I haven’t changed my mind. This other me never liked the idea.”
She patted my hand. “I’m sure we’ll work something out. You always see reason in the end.”