Thursday, May 28, 2015


   Commander McGuffin took the Galactic Academy Class of 2019 graduation photo from his office wall. His classmates had scattered. Bigsby had become a laboratory master-analyst. Matthews, an grand-archivist. Collingsworth, a researcher. Stevenson had taken to drink and gone into the show business.

   One fellow was absent. Khabarrah Khoom. McGuffin sighed. Odd duck. The mysterious, exotic Khoom had been his roomate. Driven nearly to madness by his quest for scientific knowledge and immortality. So many tortured nights of chemical experimentation. So many fruitless bids for breakthroughs.

   And then, the explosion in the abandoned laboratory Khoom had refurbished. The terrible fire. Young Khabarrah Khoom had been horribly disfigured. His dreams dashed, the tortured wretch had vanished. Never to be heard from, again.

   Until now. McGuffin looked to the letter he held. "Great danger looms on Earth's horizon, but do not be foolish. Other planets have found reason and discretion to be salvational. Anger and violence will beget only Earth's destruction. I will soon explain further. Khabarrah."

   The desk intercom buzzed. "Commander McGuffin," said the secretary. "Earth Agency Global Control is on line one."

   The space veteran returned to his desk. He pressed the line activator. "McGuffin here."

   "Commander, we need a status report on all EA West deliveries and arrivals for the week."

   McGuffin pawed through a sheaf of printouts. "Of course, of's all here." He read off the needed statistics.

   After documenting the data, the Global Control representative dropped the formal tone. "There's another matter. We've received reports of an independent craft's having left your hemisphere. What's going on there at West? You know all flights are to be pre-approved and duly regulated."

   The Commander sighed and fell back in his chair. "Of course I know that! I've been at the helm here since --" Too long. "But you don't know Captain Eddie Atomic!"

   "'Atomic,' you say? He's behind this independent space travel?"

   "He is, indeed." McGuffin studied the cosmic chip. "Atomic has a top-flight scientific mind. A marvel, really. But unfortunately, he also has an appetite for adventure, an instinctual craving for independence."

   A gasp. "But, such impulses are uncouth throwbacks. We live in reasonably-ordered, modern times, that populations might be productively channeled."

   "I know," McGuffin agreed. "But somehow, Eddie got past the uniform instruction and regimentation. He's a square peg with no time for round holes."

   The operator protested. "But there's a risk he could jeopardize Earth Agency's deliveries and financial transactions!"

   "Not a chance. Eddie Atomic has no interest in such things," McGuffin assured. "He's a wild one, I'll grant you. But otherwise harmless. He wants excitement. But no more."

   Fingering Khoom's letter, the Commander began, "I just received an alarming warning that other planets..."

The operator cut him off. "Earth Agency is not interested in other planets' affairs. Eddie Atomic's independence is unacceptable. And your own tolerant attitude toward it is most troubling. Your position with Earth Agency depends upon your effective and immediate resolution of the Atomic matter. He must return to Earth immediately."

   "But he is no longer an operative, I tell you! Now, about this message -"

   "Earth Agency has in its top echelon experts most able to deal with external issues. Confine your attentions to Earth Agency West business."

   McGuffin watched the intercom "In Use" light fade.

   Uncouth. Unacceptable. Troubling. Confine.

   He hurled his digital pencil across the office. It stuck in the wall.
                                                           * * *

No comments: