I was coming in hot, too hot to enter earth’s atmosphere. The rule is to not make any visible trail as you return.
This was a problem because I would have to dump some energy to slow to a decent landing speed. Flashing across the sky, I would cause the local TV station switchboards to light up with hundreds of UFO reports. There would be hell to pay when my commanders figured things out.
That’s what can happen when you jump into alter-space. Alter-space is that place you have to traverse to get to the other side of a fold in the space-time continuum. That is the best way to get from point A to point B in a given galaxy. But, crossing alter-space has its hazards.
Bad folks hang out, there, waiting for careless travelers to appear. In this case I could never identify who or what was doing the shooting and chasing. They were using proton torpedos, and I didn’t want them to get too close.
I was in a real hurry when jumping back to regular space. That’s why I was coming in much too fast for a normal arrival in the metro-Atlanta area. Fortunately, it was after midnight on a Saturday, and most of the witnesses would have little credibility when they admitted to the authorities that alcohol was part of their evening.
As I glided into the driveway of my suburban house, there was a man standing in the front yard. It was Captain Schwartz and he was smoking mad. I could tell by the way he flipped the stub of his cigarette at me as I disembarked from my craft.
As the craft molded itself back into its’ Ford Taurus camouflage shape, Captain Schwartz said, “This little screw-up will cost you plenty, Bobby. You really screwed-the-pooch on this one.” It was not exactly the first time I had lit up the Atlanta sky, and the Commanders could claim solar flares and northern lights only so many times. The Earth’s magnetic fields shield us from the worst of those solar storms.
“What did you want me to do, take a proton torpedo up the tailpipe? Some hot-dog jumped me in alter-space and I had to do everything I could to get away.” I said this hoping the Captain would sympathize with my problem, but that was not going to happen.
“No go, Roberto! I don’ t buy it, and I don’t think the General will, either after that little Santa Claus and his reindeers trick you pulled last Christmas. You need to cool your heels for a couple of weeks. What were you thinking, anyway?” The Captain had me, there. I had been thinking about my childhood, and how I used to dream of space travel.
These things never turn out to be what you thought they would. Space travel is boring as it can be, unless somebody starts shooting at you. Just think. No TV. No satellite music. No iPods. Nothing but absolute dark, and absolute quiet. That’s why it is so tempting to light up a sky, occasionally.
The Captain walked over to the Taurus, reached under the right front fender, and unplugged the anti-matter energy module. There’s enough potential energy in one of those cubic inch modules to start and end World War III. Without it, the Taurus could not become Rocket Man Bob’s space ride. I was grounded.
Dropping the cube it in his pocket, he turned around and said, “Have fun watching TV for the next couple of weeks. Oh! Be sure to catch the local TV news tomorrow morning. Almost every camera in town got your sky streaking routine on video tonight. You’re going nowhere for a while.”
Well, being grounded is what it is. Turning on the television for a much deserved entertainment session, I went straight to the channel guide.
Stay home for a while? No problem. This weekend there’s a marathon Swamp People showing. Then, starting next week is March Madness.
The NCAA college basketball tournaments will start next week, and everything else comes to a standstill.
Who needs space travel with the most important stuff happening right here on Earth?