You can call me Al

by Douglas L Rains

-Sci-Fi – 14 Pages –

Chapter 1

Johnny Meyers was hurrying home from school and he was going to be in trouble. He had to stay in detention after his last 8th grade class because he had made a ‘not so smart’ remark to one of his teachers. He was only trying to be funny but it had backfired. Now he wasn’t going to be able to finish his chores before dinner. He also had a note that his Mom would have to sign from the teacher who had detained him. It described his lack of proper behavior. It had been raining all day and Johnny had also lost his new umbrella that his Mom had given him this morning. Well he didn’t really lose it. When he went to the cloak room it had been gone. Some other kid must have picked it up while he was being detained.

Johnny lost his footing on the wet pavement and tumbled over and fell flat on his face into a small puddle. His math homework that he had been doing while in detention fell out of one of his books and was now laying face down on the wet sidewalk. He got to his knees and slowly picked it up. It was soaked and his numeration was now illegible.

“Oh no! 1 1/2 hours of work ruined. What else could go wrong today?”

“Here let me help you up.” Johnny’s eyes darted up to a tall sandy haired man with blue eyes.

“Thank you but I can manage.” Johnny said as he struggled to his feet.

“What is that?” The sandy haired man said pointing to the wet document in Johnny’s hand.

“It was my math homework now it is ruined.”

“May I see it?” Without waiting for a response the sandy haired man took the piece of paper and gently held it up to his face.

Seconds later he handed it back to Johnny. “Looks ok to me, but you made an error in one of your steps in your third calculation. You subtracted instead of adding.”

Johnny looked at his homework in disbelief. It was now perfectly dry and once again legible, and this man was correct he had made an error in the third problem.

“Here.” The man said. “Looks like you are in need of one of these.”

He seemed to have produced a small umbrella out of thin air.

“Sorry sir but my Mom doesn’t want me to accept gifts from strangers.”

“Someone is only a stranger for a second, until you meet them. My name is Al by the way. You are getting soaked, here take this before you catch a cold.” Al shoved the umbrella onto Johnny’s chest.

Johnny grasped hold of the small umbrella. It looked a lot like the one he had lost, not exactly, but similar.

“Well thank you…………

Al had disappeared.

“Well maybe Mom won’t notice the difference” Johnny thought as he set down his books for a moment and opened the umbrella.

“Who am I kidding Mom always notices stuff.”

Johnny was fortunate, his Mom only gave him a 5 minute lecture about his detention after she signed the note from his teacher. She did inquire why he had left with one umbrella and came back with another. Johnny explained to her that while he was staying after school some nasty kid had stolen the umbrella she had given to him, then on his way home, some stranger had given him an umbrella and before he could refuse the offer the man had disappeared.

His Mom didn’t quite believe this story because she frowned at him and gave him a cold stare, luckily the phone rang and his Mom got into a long conversation with a friend. They had just had been finishing dinner, so Johnny took up the dinner plates, silverware, and glasses and rinsed them off in the sink. His mom would then load them in the dishwasher later. He then raced into his room to finish his homework. He was off the hook for a while anyway.

Johnny lived alone with his mother Melody. He had never really known his dad. He had left after Johnny was born. His Mom wouldn’t talk about him very much. She just told Johnny that his father had to “go away”.

The next day Johnny had softball practice after school. It was cloudy and overcast but no showers had moved back into the area. They were going to play another Jr. High school’s team that Saturday. Johnny had gotten up early to complete his chores that he had not finished the night before.

Johnny wasn’t one of the best players on the team. In fact he may have been close to the worst. He probably would just sit on the bench all day Saturday. But it was fun practicing anyway.

The coach put them through some fielding and hit and run drills. As the practice was coming to a conclusion, Johnny spotted that man who had called himself Al. He was standing by himself in left field halfway up the foul line.

Johnny ran over to him and asked “Are you a new teacher here or something?”

“I am a teacher of sorts Johnny but I am not assigned to this school.”

The school system had strict regulations against strange adults hanging around the playgrounds where young children conjugated. The students had been encouraged to report any suspicious activity.

“Are you following me? What do you want?”

Before Al could answer, a couple of Johnny’s teammates yelled over to him from the dugout.

“Hey Johnny what are you doing over there talking to yourself? Come into the dugout, the coach wants to give us some last minute instructions before the game tomorrow.”

“Can’t they see you?” Johnny asked in surprise.

“Yes they can, I am not invisible, but they choose not to. I can cast an aura of indifference around myself. Unless they are specifically looking for a person of my description they won’t notice me. Now hurry. Your coach is waiting.”

Johnny didn’t even try and attempt to understand that last remark as he sprinted back to the dugout.

“That Al guy sure is a little bit on the strange side.” Johnny thought as he later walked home from practice. “Maybe I should tell Mom about him. No, I’ll just keep it to myself for a while and see what happens. I don’t want to worry Mom unnecessarily.”

Saturday came and despite another forecast of rain it turned out to be bright and sunny day. Both teams were warming up on the field. This would be the last game before graduation. As usual they would play 7 innings. Their coach called them into the dugout and read off the starting line-up. As suspected Johnny would not be starting. Johnny had only gotten into a few games this year, always during the last inning when his team was either well ahead in runs or so far behind that it didn’t matter anymore.

They were playing on their home field so the other team came up to bat first. Two singles later, a tall lanky kid came up and drove the ball over the left field fence. Just like that they were down 3 to 0. When Johnny’s team came up to bat in the last half of the inning, Jason their second basemen hit a sharp grounder between the third baseman and the shortstop. It went out into left field and Jason tried to stretch it into a double. The throw came in from the outfield and it looked like it was going to be a close play at second. Jason slid hard into the base just beating the throw. His team cheered, and then the cheers quickly subsided as Jason called time and began to hobble around. He kept bending over and looking at his right ankle. The coach went out and examined the injury, then helped Jason off of the field. His ankle had swollen up like a balloon. The coach was going to have to send him to the nurse who was on duty this morning. Jason would be out for the rest of the game.

Second base was also Johnny position. Maybe he would finally get into a game early. Johnny looked up expectedly at his coach.

“Horace go and pinch run for Jason and take his place at second base next inning.” His coach instructed.

Johnny was crest fallen. Horace was a short chubby kid. He could hit the ball pretty well but was not really a good infielder. He was also very slow. Johnny wasn’t a good hitter or fielder, but he could at least run fast.

Johnny watched Horace waddle out to second base. “Horace is as slow as a milk truck with four flat tires.” Johnny thought disdainfully

Two outs later, Ken their first baseman hit a sharp single to right. Horace chugged around third and the coach waved him home. The right fielder threw a perfect strike to the catcher and Horace was out by three feet.

“I could have made it.” Johnny said quietly to himself.

It was now the top of the third inning and Johnny’s team was still down 3 to 0. One of the opposing players hit what looked like a routine grounder to second. The ball however took a wicked hop and Horace misjudged it. It hit him square in the throat and Horace went down like a sack of potatoes. The coach and one of his teammates helped Horace off of the field.

“Ok Meyers I guess you are in.” His coach said unenthusiastically.

Johnny was so excited he raced off the bench without his glove.

“Here Johnny you might need this.” The coach said as he tossed Johnny his glove.

The rest of his teammates laughed and Johnny turned beet red as he ran out to take his position.

There was one out and there were runners on first and third.

“Oh please don’t let the ball be hit to me I’m not quite settled yet.” Johnny thought wishfully.

Johnny didn’t get his wish. A hard hit ground ball was hit to his immediate right. Johnny could handle grounders that were hit right to him but this was going to be difficult. He tried to back hand the ball but knew he had missed it. Instead of trickling out to right field the ball suddenly lodged itself inside Johnny’s glove. Johnny looked at it in surprise then stepped on second base and threw to first to try and complete the double play.

Johnny had gotten too excited and had thrown off balance. His coach had told him time and time again, to plant his back foot before he tried to throw. Now his throw was going to go wild and the other team would score another run. Somehow, Ken their 1st baseman was able to spear Johnny’s errant throw while keeping his foot on the base. The double play was completed. Johnny shook his head in wonderment and trotted back to the dugout.

“Good job Johnny.” His coach said in obvious surprise. Several of his teammates were patting him on his back.

It was the bottom of the third inning. After two quick outs it was Johnny’s turn at bat.

Johnny noticed as he stepped up to the plate that his teammates were getting their gloves and preparing to take the field.

“I guess they don’t have much faith in me.” He thought bitterly.

Johnny’s stomach felt like mush. He stood at the plate and timidly waved his bat. The opposing pitcher smiled and seemed to sense another quick out.

The first pitch was inside. Johnny tried to back away but the ball hit his bat and rolled foul.

Strike one!

The next pitch was low, Johnny tried to check his swing but he had already followed through.

Strike two!

The next delivery was way outside, Johnny was too anxious and swung anyway. As he went through his swing the ball suddenly curved back inside and caromed off of his bat. The ball sailed into left center field and dropped between the two outfielders. Johnny was so excited he almost tripped getting out of the batter’s box. As he rounded first base he noticed that the centerfielder had just caught up with the ball. Johnny made it into second standing up.

There were yells and squeals of approval from his teammates. His coach looked on in quiet disbelief.

The next batter hit a slow grounder that just made it through the infield past the 1st baseman. The right fielder charged the ball but he had been playing a little deeper then he should have. Johnny rounded third and ran like his life depended on it towards home plate. Johnny beat the throw easily and scored his team’s first run.

Johnny was hugged by several of his teammates. His coach gave him a “thumbs up” sign. The last batter flew out and it was time to take the field again.

Johnny got through the next two innings without embarrassing himself. He only had to make one play. He caught a pop fly that almost squirted out of his glove.

It was now the top of the sixth inning and the score was still 3 to 1. The opposing team went three up and three down. Johnny was set to lead off in the bottom of the inning.

As Johnny stepped up to the plate he had to shake his head, blink, and look again. That man named AL was standing in the outfield between the right and center fielder. Johnny tried to ignore him.

The pitcher tried to jam Johnny with an inside pitch. Johnny swang defensively at it just trying to protect the plate. As a result, he hit a line drive down the third base line which was deflected off of the outreaching glove of the opposing team’s third baseman. The ball was slowly rolling into foul territory. Since their third baseman had touched before it went foul, it was a fair ball.

Johnny rounded first base and kept running. The outfield was still a little slick from the rain of a couple of days ago. Consequently as the leftfielder tried to field the ball, he slipped and the ball dribbled by him. Johnny sped into second then made a mad dash to third. He barely beat the throw.

The next batter hit a soft sacrifice fly that Johnny was able to tag up and score on. Now it was 3 to 2. His next teammate hit a bloop single. That brought Ken up, their first baseman and best hitter. Ken drove a long drive to right. The right fielder backed up against the fence to make the catch, but the ball seemed to hang in the air. The outfielder then made a frantic jump for it, only see it hit the top web of his glove and slip away over the fence.

A homer! 4 to 3 they were ahead! The score stood that way as the opposing team came up to bat in the seventh inning.

That tall lanky kid who had hit a homerun earlier in the game was leading off. He drilled the second pitch deep to left. Johnny was sure it was going to go out for another homer, but the ball hit the top of the fence and dropped back into play. Their leftfielder retrieved it cleanly as it bounced off the fence and made a strong throw back to the infield to hold the hitter to a double.

The next hitter hit a low line drive to Johnny’s right. Johnny felt like someone shoved him towards the ball. He fell, and as he did the ball wound up somehow in his glove. The base runner had already made a move towards third so Johnny tagged the second base making an unassisted double play. The next player popped out to the catcher. That was it! They had won! And Johnny had been a key contributor!

Johnny’s teammates hugged each other while their coach looked on with pride, they then went over to shake hands with their opponents for a well played game. Johnny looked out into the playing field but did not see Al anywhere. One week later they went through their graduation ceremony. Then it was time for summer vacation.

Chapter 2

Al entered the portal he had opened, and then stepped through to the forecourt of an area with pathways to other territories afar. He then passed through and into an industrial manufacturing locale. He had steathfully followed a robot here.

This was a rebel robot that had control of one of the timepieces. A timepiece that could stop time. Al referred to them as rebots instead of robots, because of their rebellious behavior. There was one more somewhere else. Al needed to take care of this one first.

Al was an android, a synthetic human. The time pieces could stop time but only for a short duration (ten minutes) unless it was turned off before the time elapsed. After that the user would have to wait thirty minutes before employing it again. It also had a limited range of effect, a 100 yard radius around the device. Anything outside this radius would be exempt from its influence. The timepieces could only affect living organisms, not machines. Robots were machines, but so were androids. The users of the device were also not affected.

There were three timepieces made by the higher order, but they did not function as they were originally expected to. Al had already returned one back to Roberterian, a human of this higher order.

Al was now inside a large manufacturing facility, a facility that had started manufacturing sophisticated robots. The rebot came here to steal industrial secrets, specifications and procedures. Its intent was to gain enough knowledge so it could build a new race of superbots which could control the realms. It had a partner, another rebot that killed a human-like form to gain control of the third timepiece. They both were in this realm.

Since Al looked liked a human and not a machine, he could fake being time restrained during the time stopping period. He would then try to surprise the rebot and acquire the time piece. That is one of the reasons he was created by the higher order and injected in this laboratory controlled universe. The realm he was in was inhabited by human looking organisms, so he wouldn’t have any problems blending in.

Al had taken a pair of work overalls from the locker room so he wouldn’t appear any different than the rest of the factory workers who were presently locked in stasis.

The rebot had snuck into this area and turned on the timepiece. It came during the graveyard shift so that any sudden work stoppages wouldn’t be noticed by the upper management. Standing motionless, Al watched the rebot on a mezzanine as it was taking pictures with its photographic eye. Pictures of the specifications and production data that had been compiled detailing the methods of robotic manufacturing.

Being an Android, Al could move ten times faster then a normal human. Al noticed an overhead crane just above him with a cantilever arm. Al moved quickly up the mezzanine and grabbed the crane’s control box which was suspended by a cable from above. Using the controls he lowered the arm and swung it around knocking the rebot off balance. The timepiece was jarred loose from the rebot and clattered to the floor.

The rebot spotted the movement of the android and did a quick summersault. The rebot’s dexterity and coordination was astounding. The rebot charged Al and its left arm changed into a sharp long rapier as it thrusted it towards Al’s midsection. Al barely avoided the fatal strike as he rolled away. The rebot turned the rapier into a curved cutlass and thrashed wickedly at the retreating android causing a bloody gash on Al’s left leg. Clear body fluid gushed forth from the wound. Al tumbled near a cylinder of flammable gas with a hose extending from the top and a cutting torch at its end.

There was a hand valve on top of the cylinder. Al desperately hoped that it was turned on. Al seized the cutting torch, pointed it at the rebot and depressed the hand lever. A narrow flame shot out hitting the rebot in its face plate. It staggered back, swiveling its head in confusion. Al leaped up and using his legs and feet, implanted a double kick onto the rebot’s chest. Al had struck the rebot with so much force that it was propelled backwards where it smashed through some safety handrails and tumbled into a vat of molten steel below.

“Whew that was close.” Al thought thankfully.

Al had good recuperative powers. The gash on his leg quickly stopped emitting fluid, and then turned into a slight scar before disappearing completely. A more major wound could have caused Al serious problems.

Al returned the second timepiece to Roberterian then came back to this realm to pursue the other rebot. Al was also instructed to make contact with Johnny, and later bring him to Roberterian so he could communicate with him.

The second rebot was being more cautious because it had not heard from its cohort for a while. It took weeks to track it down. During that time Al also had made his initial contact with Johnny in the Earth realm.

The other rebot had entered a monetary center during off hours. It was presently at a computer monitor, manipulating financial records. The rebot had turned on the timepiece just in case a janitor or security person happened by. It had laid the timepiece on a desk beside the monitor. Robots were not uncommon in this realm, but they weren’t permitted to have access to financial records. Somehow this robot (rebot) had got into the database. It was illegally transferring funds into a dummy account which would enable it to withdraw income anonymously.

Al had picked a door lock after disabling its alarm. The rebot must have done the same to another doorway. Al entered through a back entrance and hid in the shadows, carefully watching the rebot. It would have to move further away from the timepiece before Al could act. Robots could also move very swiftly despite their bulk.

‘Come on! Come on! Give me an opening.” Al thought anxiously.

The rebot stayed at the monitor completely focused on causing the illegal transfer of funds it was presently transacting.

Al couldn’t wait any longer, he used his ventriloquism to create a noise from a short distance away and from behind the rebot.

The rebot bolted from its seat and whirled towards the direction of the sound.

“Now is my chance.” Al thought

Using the desk and the back of the monitor as cover, Al moved speedily and quietly towards the timepiece.

He was not fast enough, the rebot had spotted him from its rear vision.

Al used his telekinesis to lift and bring the timepiece into his grasp. He then dove onto the floor barely avoiding the telescoping extending arms of the rebot. Arms that ended in deadly pinchers.

Al raced out of the building with the rebot close behind. Al needed to get out of this realm and into one where the rebot would stand out like a sore thumb. Al discovered during his flight that the pathway to Roberterian was blocked for some reason. He managed to return to the earth realm scarcely in time before the rebot closed on him. Nonetheless the rebot followed him there staying out of sight but always moving in closer.

The Earth realm was still in the Stone Age as far as robotic development was concerned,
so all Al had to do was to stay in open populated areas to avoid capture.

The rebot was handicapped by the fact that it couldn’t move openly in this realm without attracting too much attention. But Al was still having trouble eluding this determined machine.

The rebot was persistent and highly creative. It would just miss apprehending Al in an isolated place, just by a minute, then just by a second. It was only a matter of time. Al had to get rid of the timepiece.

Al had superior strength compared to an average human. But he would be no match for a robot in a close quarters contest.

The rebot finally cornered Al in a dark unpopulated corner. Al ran down a corridor that concluded in a dead end. He was trapped.

“Soooooo Android, I assume that is what you are, you will now meet your end at last.”

The rebot’s voice was like a deep scraping reverberation, similar to a piece of metal being grated against a super hard perforated surface.

Al looked around and spotted a large metal refuse bin. Using his telekinesis power again he lifted it and slammed it into the rebot. The rebot was knocked down and was befuddled for a moment.

Al took this time to navigate around the rebot and back into a somewhat populated thoroughfare. The rebot had been stunned but not seriously damaged. It wasn’t long before it regained its concealed pursuit of Al.

Al had to thwart this relentless chase.

“I can give the timepiece to Johnny.” He thought. “This rebot would not suspect me to do that. It wouldn’t think I would give it to an adolescent human. Then I could lead it astray. If it caught me at least it wouldn’t get the timepiece back.”

Al made up his mind, he knew what he had to do.

Chapter 3

“But Mom I don’t want to go to summer camp this year. I’m too old for that. That camp is for little kids.”

“There will be some kids there which are your own age, besides I can’t have you hanging around the apartment all by yourself while I am away.”

“Well why can’t you take me with you?”

“Johnny, adults need time by themselves every once in a while. Alice and I have been saving up for this cruise all year.”

“So you would rather take your lady friend instead of me. Well I’m almost an adult.”

“Johnny you are being selfish. The camp only lasts two weeks. Then we will both be back home and I promise I will then take you to someplace special of your own choosing. Or instead of camp, you can stay with your Aunt Martha.”

“Aunt Martha!” Johnny yelled. “I would rather eat out of a garbage can then eat her cooking.”

“Okay, so now go and get packed for camp.”

Johnny grudgingly started packing his clothes and other assorted things that he would need for his two week camp excursion.

“At least they feed you well at camp.” Johnny thought. “They’ll have barbecued chicken and ribs, and even steaks. Last year we also roasted hot dogs and marshmallows in the camp fire and one night cooked some nice thick juicy burgers on the grills at the campsite.”

Every year the YMCA chartered a bus for this trip. He would be leaving tomorrow morning.

The next day his Mom dropped him off at the Y and Johnny boarded the bus to Camp Yellowclover. It would be about a 60 minute ride. Johnny sat in the very back of the bus by himself. Some of the kids he knew motioned to him to come over and sit by them, but Johnny just waved them off. He was in a cloudy mood.

“Not looking forward to going to camp this year?”

Johnny eyes got as big as saucers. Al was suddenly sitting next to him

“Al!”

“Shhhhh keep your voice down or the other children will think you are talking to yourself again.”

“What are you doing here?” Johnny whispered incredulously.

“I have something to show you later.” Al replied.

“Show me what? The last time I saw you was at our last softball game. You were standing in the outfield, but then you vanished again.”

“Yes I was watching the game and nudging the ball in your direction so you could get some hits and make some key plays.”

“I thought something a little strange was going on. How could you do that?”

“Telekinesis Johnny.”

“Tele what?”

“Never mind that for now. I really can’t describe what I have to show you. You will have to see it for yourself. Wait till everyone is asleep tonight at the camp, and then sneak out. I will meet you behind your cabin.”

“Why should I? Who are you anyway?”

“Here take this and I will see you tonight. After that, all your questions will be answered.”

Al handed Johnny what appeared to be a hand watch. It looked like an old time piece that his Grandfather used to carry in his vest pocket.

“There is a button on top of this watch piece. Don’t press it under any circumstances. Disastrous things could result. Just put it in your pocket and I will see you later.”

Johnny glanced down at the timepiece. It looked like a regular face of a watch with a small hand and a large hand and numbers around its circular face. It indicated that the time was 9:30. “That makes sense.” Johnny thought “We boarded the bus at 9 am and we have been on the road for about a half of an hour.”

Johnny looked up, but once again AL was gone.

“I wish he would quit doing that.” Johnny thought apprehensively. He was starting to get scared. Glancing at the timepiece again he decided to slip it into his pocket as instructed.

As the bus traveled on, Johnny’s curiosity got the best of him. He took out the timepiece and looked at it eagerly. “It is only something that keeps time.” He thought. The button on top of the watch was glowing with a green radiance. Johnny pressed the button and then released it. The button popped back up, but this time it was glowing red.

Suddenly the bus became as quiet as a tomb. All the kids were motionless, they had stopped talking in mid sentence. The bus started to go off of the road and onto the shoulder, it started to shake under the uneven surface.

Johnny was panic stricken “Oh my god what have I done?”

The bus driver was also motionless, like he was frozen in time. Johnny with extreme anguish hoped that he could alleviate this situation by pressing the button on the time piece again. As he did so, it popped back up glowing green again.

The conversation resumed on the bus as if nothing had happened, the bus driver had to turn his wheel quickly however to avoid going into a ditch on the side of the road. The bus bounced irregularly then the driver was able to return it into the highway.

“Hey!” One of the kids sitting up front yelled “This bus driver doesn’t want us to fall asleep.”

There was some nervous laughter.

The timepiece seemed to speed up for a moment before establishing its normal recording of time.

Johnny put the hand watch back in his pocket once again. “I am not going to mess with this thing again.” He thought fearfully.

They arrived at the camp area. Cabins were assigned, and then Johnny helped put up a volleyball net. They were given a box lunch. One of the camp counselors then took them on a hike along a nature trail. Later they built a bonfire when it started to grow dark. A cauldron of chili was cooking on a gas grill. After dinner they told stories by the fire then retired to their respective cabins for the night. Johnny was assigned to a cabin with three other boys. They told jokes and laughed for a while before drifting of to sleep.

Johnny tossed and turned. The events that occurred when that man named ‘Al’ was around kept replaying in his mind.

After a while and against his better judgment he finally got up quietly, turned on his flashlight, and put on his shorts, tee skirt, and sneakers. The timepiece that Al had given him was in his left pocket. He softly left the cabin and precariously went around to the rear of the little building carrying his flashlight in front of him.

Johnny waved his flashlight around and saw nothing but a group of trees in the distance behind his cabin and heard the rustling of a small creek.

“You don’t follow directions very well do you?”

Johnny jumped like he had been bitten by a snake. He whirled his flashlight around towards the sound of the voice.

“You!” he shouted.

“Keep your voice down Johnny, must I always tell you that. Do you want to wake up everybody at this campsite?” Al scolded him.

“Please tell me what you want or just leave me alone.” Johnny whined.

“I told you that I had something important to show you. But you need to be able to listen and obey essential instructions. I told you not to press that button on the timepiece I gave you, now didn’t I?”

“Well if you didn’t want me to fool with it why did you give it to me in the first place?”

“To see if you could follow instructions Johnny, didn’t I just make that obvious?”

“Well you can have the damn thing back if you want and I really don’t care what you have to show me. You are giving me the creeps.” Johnny took the timepiece out of his pocket and looked at it nervously.

“As you wish Johnny. Give me back the timepiece and I will bother you no more. I will leave and you will never see me again.”

Johnny hesitated not knowing what to do. He didn’t trust this man who called himself ‘Al’ but he felt that he would be missing out on something. Perhaps something a lot more interesting than this camp would have to offer.

“Ok what do you want to show me? He said weakly. “Does it have something to do with this timepiece you gave me?” Johnny gazed upon it again in the palm of his hand. “It frightened me to death.”

“Put it back in your pocket and I will tell you about it later. Now watch, I am going to open a portal to another realm.”

“Another what?”

“Just watch Johnny, and extinguish that light”

Johnny switched his flash light off. He put the timepiece back in this left pocket and his flashlight in his right. He could always run away and yell for help if he got too scared.

Al produced a small cone shaped object from somewhere on his person. He depressed a button on its narrow end and directed the wide end out and away from the rear of the cabin. A thin jagged edged red circular outline appeared six feet away. It was about eight feet in diameter. The air inside its boundary seemed to shimmer and then turned into bright shifting patterns of colors, orange, yellow, and blue. Johnny felt like he was looking into a kaleidoscope.

“Is that the portal you mentioned?” He said startlingly

“Yes it is Johnny. We are going to enter this portal. There is someone who wants to speak with you. This is the only way we can get to him.”

“Just who is this person that wants to speak with me?” Johnny said uneasily.

“Your father Johnny.” Al replied quietly.

“My Father?” Johnny was stunned. “I never knew my father, my Mom told me he left right after I was born.”

“He has always checked up on you Johnny, without you knowing it of course. He had to wait until you were older before he could reveal himself to you. That was necessary so you would be able to better understand what and who he is.” Al explained.

“You talk like he is some kind of alien or something. Are you a friend of his?”

“Yes in a way Johnny, and no he is not an alien, just a little different than most fathers.”

“What makes you think that I would want to speak with him? He abandoned me and my Mom for all these years. A good father never would have done that.” Johnny said defiantly.

“Once you talk with him, I think you will have a better understanding why he had to act the way he did.” Al answered consolingly.

“I don’t understand what is going on, and I really don’t want to go in there.” Johnny said as he pointed towards the portal. “Why should I trust you anyway?”

“I trusted you with the timepiece didn’t I Johnny?”

Before Johnny could reply Al held up his hand motioning Johnny to be silent.

“Johnny I can’t stay here all night trying to convince you to come with me. I certainly don’t want you to do anything that is against your will. Now sooner or later someone is going to wake up and hear us talking and come back here to see what is going on. When that happens, the deal is off. We must go now if we are going to go at all, or you can go back to bed and forever live in doubt of what could have been.” Al continued.

Johnny felt like there was a lump in his throat. He swallowed hard and said worriedly “How long will we be gone? If I’m am not back here in the morning the camp councilors are going to think I ran away, and then I am going to be in big trouble.”

“For every day that passes where we will be going, only one minute of time will have passed here. I will get you back before anyone realizes you were gone.”

Johnny was dumbfounded, not knowing what to say to that.

“Are we going or not?” Al persisted.

“Will it hurt when we walk through that thing?” Johnny said casting a fearful eye at the portal.

“Not physically Johnny, you might feel a little mental anguish thinking your senses are playing tricks on you, but it will pass.”

“Okay let’s go before I change my mind.” Johnny said trying unsuccessfully to keep the quiver out of his voice.

“Here.” Al said extending his hand. “Hold my hand tightly.”

Johnny hesitantly grabbed a hold of Al’s Hand. It was warm and seemed to vibrate ever so gently.

Listen very carefully Johnny, it is imperative that you follow my instructions to the letter. The place we are entering will not be our final destination. It will just be an initial staging area before we complete our journey. You are going to see some strange beings. Don’t stare, yell out, or try to talk with them in anyway. They will leave you alone unless you try to interrelate with them. So don’t!”

Johnny nodded and tried to gather up as much courage as he could. Al then walked him up to the portal and pulled him through.

Johnny felt a flush of hot air and was temporarily blinded by the bright lights of the portal’s entrance. He felt dizzy and dazed for several seconds before becoming aware of his new surroundings.

They were standing in what looked like a large concourse of an international airport. The floor was dark gray and was of a substance which felt slightly rubbery in nature. Light colored gray walls of the concourse’s surrounding structure extended up and converged into an arched vaulted ceiling which was spotted with skylights. There the similarity of anything Johnny had ever experienced in his life, ended.

Milling around in the area were creatures who looked liked they were from someone’s drug induced hallucination. There was a group of several humanlike entities ranging from seven to twelve feet tall off to their right. They were clustered together making wild gestures at each other. They were all clothed in full length robes colored with a checkerboard pattern of black and dark orange. A group of eight small humanlike beings about two feet tall, dressed in some type of animal skins, were purposely marching to their left. They all had beards extending down to their midriffs. (Miniature Dwarves? Or Gnomes?)

Two Siamese cats twice as big as a Great Dane were passing right in front of them. Somewhat further away was a large preying mantis looking species. It was slowing stalking around as if looking for something or somebody. Behind it was an elongated man shaped form which was almost two dimensional. When it turned a certain way it was almost invisible. It had a translucent glow about it and its flat internal (organs?) could be vaguely envisaged within. It was conversing with some type of mechanical construct (a robot?).

Al gave the robot a cold hard stare.

Al didn’t have to worry about Johnny interacting with any of these entities. He was petrified with fear as he tightened his grip on Al’s hand.

Along the walls of the concourse were pictures about nine feet wide and twelve feet long, spaced about three feet apart with the bottom side about one foot off of the floor. After a more thorough investigation Johnny realized they weren’t pictures at all. They were “Windows” depicting other lands beyond.

One window exposed a landscape of a sparse rangeland of tumbleweeds and scrub brush. Another just showed a floating bed of molten bubbling lava. A third was a desert scene of blowing red sand. Another portrayed what looked like a quaint town square with a fountain in the middle flanked by two statues which looked liked they were carved from marble. One that was of particular interest showed the skyline of a city with buildings of sharp pointed roofs and minuets.

Nearby was window of a well manicured countryside with green rolling hills.

The two Siamese cats which had walked by them, stopped at this window. They studied it for a moment, and then in typical feline fashion they crouched and wiggled their backsides and jumped through. The view rippled for a moment before regaining solidarity. It was if they had jumped through a sheet of crystal clear water. The two catlike creatures scampered over the grassy knolls as they receded into the background of the window.

“Follow me Johnny we must not tarry here.” Al said urgently.

Johnny glanced behind him and saw a window showing his camp area.” Can these things get into my camp?” He whispered shakily.

“They could but they won’t. These beings are not going to go someplace where they could possibly alarm the native populace.” Al explained.

Suddenly, a brown claylike figure emerged from another window to their rear. It fell to the floor with a dull thud. It was as big as an average washing machine and was constantly changing its shape as it slid along the floor. There were bright colored lights around a good portion of its body (eyes?). The window it had arrived from showed an image of a huge arena where two titanic monstrosities were engaged in some type of wrestling match. All around the arena were various extraterrestrials of all shapes and sizes. They appeared to be cheering the combatants on.

The creature ignored Johnny and Al as it oozed over the floor towards the center of the concourse.

“I never knew there was a place like this on earth.” Johnny gasped.

“We aren’t on earth Johnny. We are on a moon of a remote planet.”

Johnny just shrugged this explanation off. He was getting tired and a little cranky. “It’s so cold in here and there is a strange smell.” He whimpered.

“Yes Johnny, this area is acclimatized to support a lot of different types of life. Some however would have to enter here with their own life support systems. There are other gateways which accommodate those with drastically different environmental requirements.”

This isn’t real, this isn’t happening.” Johnny mumbled

“We must not delay any longer. Come Johnny.”

Al led Johnny to a window to their far right. Beyond the window was a turquoise colored courtyard with a tall monument at its center surrounded by stone walls with turrets at each corner. The stone walls were the same color of the courtyard. The monument reminded Johnny of the one he had seen in Washington D.C. when his Mom had taken him there a couple of summers ago. This Monument however looked like it had been carved out of a giant emerald.

“We must step through this window Johnny” Al instructed. “We will be going through a mild force field. You will feel some slight resistance, but don’t try to stop or pull back by any means. Do you understand?”

“Yes let’s get this over with.” Johnny said despairingly

Al pulled Johnny through, the boy didn’t resist but he felt limp and lethargic.

“Johnny has been up a long time he is going to need some rest soon.” Al thought.

They appeared at the base of the monument. There was an arched opening on the side facing them. They went inside and came into an elliptical shaped area. There were two spiral staircases on each side which curved and went up and into an opening into the interior walls.

AL led Johnny to one of the staircases. As they stepped onto the first stair, the entire staircase started to move like they were on an escalator. It carried them up and through the wall to a landing where Al gently ushered Johnny off. He then guided him down a short hallway before entering another arched opening leading to a room which was stark white in color. There was a long convoluted couch along one side of the room with a low oval shaped table nearby. Two easy chairs were against the opposite wall. There were tall pole-like porcelain lamps at each corner of the room. In the back was a doorway which led to a small bathing area.

Johnny no longer felt frightened, just numb all over.

“He is in sensory overload, he must rest for a while.” Al thought with concern

Al administered a mild sedative to Johnny with sharp but tiny syringe. Johnny didn’t even seem to notice it. He got drowsy and started to collapse. Al picked him up and laid him on the couch. Within minutes Johnny was asleep. Al then extracted a blood sample from Johnny and removed the timepiece from Johnny’s pocket.

Al quietly left the room and proceeded further down the hallway. He stopped and placed his palm against the emerald colored wall. A section of it slid away revealing another room inside. The entire room was bathed in a gentle blue light. About eight feet away was a large video screen. A semicircular desk with two chairs was directly in front of the screen. On the desktop was a small hand held remote device. There was a large porthole on the wall to the left which gave a view of the courtyard and the scenery beyond. Outside the stone walls of the courtyard was a sandy shoreline. A great expanse of water stretched from the shoreline all the way into the horizon. Just above the horizon was a small dark red sun, the color of dried blood.

Al picked up the video remote and pressed in his numeric code using the appropriate buttons on it. The screen brightened with the following text:

“CONTACTING HOST PLEASE WAIT.”

Then screen flashed with the following words:

“Hello Almericana. Were you able to secure the last timepiece?”

“Yes I did Roberterian. I also brought the boy as instructed and have a sample of his DNA. He is presently sleeping in the white room.”

Al just had to vocalize his words and they would appear on the screen. No keyboard was necessary.

“Excellent. How did he manage the journey?”

“Not too bad considering how young he is. I tried to enter earlier but the window was inactive.”

“Yes I had to make some adjustments to this area to better accommodate Johnny’s arrival. I noticed a robot followed you through here.”

“I saw it in the gateway area. It was the one that I stole the last timepiece from. I haven’t been able to completely evade it.”

“Have no fear, I neutralized it as it entered this realm.”

“Thank goodness for that, I thought I would never get rid of it.”

A clear cylindrical container about three feel tall and one foot in diameter appeared in the room and off to the right of the screen.

“Place the DNA sample and the timepiece in the cylinder so I can extract it.”

Al removed the cylinder’s top cover and placed the items onto its bottom tray. He then resealed it. Several seconds later it disappeared.

“Awaiting further instructions.” Al replied.

“Let the boy waken naturally, then explain some things to him so he grasps the significance of what has been happening. Then bring him here so I can converse with him.”

“Yes Roberterian.”

“Thanks Almericana.”

“COMMUNICATION TERMINATED.” The screen read.

Chapter 4

Johnny awoke to the soft white lights of the room. On a table before him was a platter of sliced fruit, bread, and wedges of cheese. There was also a glass of orange colored liquid. Tentatively Johnny took a sip. It was the sweetest orange juice he had ever tasted. Johnny started to consume the food, he was ravenous.

“I wonder how long I am been sleeping?” He thought restlessly.

As Johnny was finishing this thought, Al appeared in the archway.

“So I see you have had your nourishment.” Al said.

“So what do we do now?” Johnny asked.

“Well I promised you an explanation about the timepiece.”

Reflexively Johnny felt for it inside his pocket. “Its gone.” He said agitatedly

“I had to return it to your father. You see Johnny the timepiece can literally stop time, but only for a short period and it has a limited sphere of control. Machines are not affected by it, that includes robots and androids. That is why the bus continued to move once you turned it on. You see how dangerous that could have been for you.”

“I didn’t know.”

“Of course you didn’t. Only three time pieces were made by the higher order and brought into this universe. The timepieces were originally designed to assist travelers when moving into different realms. Some realms move at a faster rate of time, others move much slower. It is possible for an individual to enter another realm for just a few seconds and then once returning to their home realm find that many years had passed. This would cause a lot of inconveniences and potential problems. The time pieces were created to bring the traveler’s home realm more into sync with the ones they were visiting, eliminating the time dilution effect.”

“What is this Higher Order?” Johnny asked ponderously.

“A team of scientists, your father is one of them. After creating three timepieces, they realized that they were not functioning properly, so the project was scrapped.
They were stopping time instead of just altering its flow, and their effective range and duration was very minuscule. My mission was to return all the timepieces back to your father. Unfortunately a couple of rebel robots got a hold of two of the timepieces and were using them for their own evil purposes. I had to follow the robots and get the timepieces back from them. The last one chased me relentlessly after I made off with the timepiece it had taken. I couldn’t shake its tail so I had to leave the timepiece with someone else while I led it on a fruitless trail. That is why I gave it to you to hold for me.”

“Why didn’t you just tell me what it did? Then maybe I wouldn’t have tried to turn it on.”

“Two reasons Johnny, one is that you probably wouldn’t have believed me. Secondly, I didn’t have time, the robot was getting too close. I didn’t want to jeopardize your safety, I am expendable but you aren’t. I can move very fast Johnny, faster than any ordinary man and the timepiece has no affect on me. That is one of the reasons your father selected me for this mission. I am an android Johnny, a synthetic human being.”

Robots? Androids? This is just too much to believe.”

Al reached around a removed a small plate from under his scalp exposing his electronic flashing hardware inside.

“Oh my god!” Johnny said in amazement.

Al replaced the plate. “I know you have a lot more questions. Come, your father is waiting.”

Al and Johnny entered and sat down at the desk in front of the large monitor in the other room. Al initiated the communication contact sequence.

“Is my father some kind of computer or machine?” Johnny shrieked.

“No Johnny, but this is the only way we can communicate with him. Just say the words you want him to hear and they will appear on the screen and he will reply in kind.”

The screen flashed.

“Hello Almerican.”

“Hello Roberterian. I am here with Johnny.”

“Hello Johnny it is so nice to talk with you at last.”

“Are you… you…. you my father?” Johnny stuttered.

“Yes Johnny I am. I apologize for not being able to talk with you in person, I wish it was somehow possible.”

“Why isn’t it?” Johnny interrupted

“Johnny I am a member of a team of scientists. Quite some time ago we created a miniature universe. A continuum structured with containment forces. Think of it as a bubble containing planets, stars, and solar systems on a microscopic level. Your universe exists in my laboratory. You are the size of a bacteria compared to people of my world.”

“I don’t believe you.” Johnny said defiantly.

“I can’t blame you Johnny, the concept is very hard to grasp.”

“What are you God or something?” Johnny screamed.

“Oh no Johnny, not even close. Please hear me out, perhaps I should have waited until you were a little older to meet with you like this.”

“I’m old enough!”

“Your universe contains only one galaxy, the Milky Way. There are many solar systems in that galaxy. A lot of those solar systems have planets containing intelligent life. So far most of the evolved life has not achieved significant space travel.
Our team of scientists had to create a catalyst in your universe to enable the beings of other worlds to more easily make contact with each other.”

“Oh”? Johnny murmured.

“We needed to observe this interaction so we could comprehend the consequences resulting from different forms of intelligent life interrelating together. That way we would be better prepared when it happens at our level. We established the gateways so travel could be made more expeditiously between your planetary systems. There was some time distortion when using the gateways to other realms. We tried a quick fix by creating some timepieces. Unfortunately they didn’t function like we had hoped. We are still working on the problem.”

“My science teacher told me there are a lot of other galaxies besides the Milky Way in the universe.” Johnny said haughtily.

“Your teachers can not see things from our perspective. The other galaxies are false images, phantoms. Maybe some day we will develop them into real planets and stars.”

“If I am no more than bacteria to you how can you be my father?” Johnny asked.

“That explanation will even be more difficult for you to comprehend.”

“Go ahead.” Johnny said unsteadily.

“I wanted to see if I could reproduce with life at your level. I am a microbiologist and this was an important undertaking because we were being faced with cutbacks on our capital allotments for this project. If successful we would get a continuation to our grant. So I created Almericana, an artificial form of life, and injected him into your universe.”

“Almericana? Is that your real name?” Johnny asked as he looked at Al in the adjacent seat.

“Yes it is Johnny, but you can call me Al.”

“Al, as you call him Johnny, was carrying a small infinitesimal sample of my semen. He later courted your mother and they were married. Then you were conceived.”

“Now what are you telling me? That Al is my father?” Johnny shouted.

“No Johnny, I am your natural father, Al was just the instrument of my delivery.”

“Oh my god.” Johnny mumbled

“Al had to leave your Mom or else sooner or later she would discover his true nature. That would have caused her much distress. Al obtained a sample of your DNA while you were asleep, I hope to clone you at my level and have a son.”

“I want to go home, I want to get out of here.” Johnny sobbed.

“Perhaps I have told you more than you needed to know. I’m sorry Johnny, I will make arrangements for you to leave.”

“Now wait a minute.” Johnny said standing up and trying to compose himself. “If my universe if just a large laboratory ‘bubble’ as you call it, what would happen if someone invented a space ship and flew it into the wall of the ‘bubble’?”

“Due to the chemical and physical make-up of the boundary that would be impossible. A space craft entering close to the limit of your universe would find itself moving tangentially to the internal surface. It would continue around in the enclosed space never reaching the periphery.”

“This is so hard for me to understand.” Johnny said exasperatingly

“I know it is Johnny.” Roberterian said somewhat sadly.

“Why did you have to bring me here to talk with me?”

“This realm directly interfaces with my laboratory, so it is much easier for me to communicate and cause certain actions through here.”

“I guess we will never meet face to face.”

“No I’m afraid not Johnny. But I will have a replica of you, here at my level.”

“Why are you telling me all of this?”

“I know that you are an extremely bright boy with a high IQ. You like science, perhaps someday you will study celestial mechanics. What you do with this knowledge is entirely up to you.”

“Will we speak again someday?”

“That is probable but not likely anytime soon. Al now needs to return you to your own realm. It has been such a pleasure talking with you even though I know you feel distraught. Please don’t talk about Al or myself with anyone, okay?”

“I’ll try.”

“Goodbye Johnny.”

“Goodbye.”

Johnny wanted to say “Goodbye Father.” But he just couldn’t bring himself to it.

Epilog

“Come on Johnny wake up! Breakfast is almost ready and then we are going to choose up teams for paintball.”

Johnny sat up trying to shake the sleep from his head. One of his bunk mates, a boy named Brian had awakened him.

“Johnny, it looks like you slept in your clothes all night. Are you okay?” Brian asked.

“Yes I’m okay.” Johnny responded.

“Well hurry up.” Brain said as he dashed from the cabin.

“What a crazy dream.” Johnny thought.

The flashlight was still lodged in Johnny’s right pocket, but his left pocket was empty.

“The hand watch where is it?” Johnny thought sleepily.

A cursory search revealed that is was not among Johnny’s possessions.

“Well who cares, it was nothing but trouble anyway.” He said out loud to himself.

Johnny smelled the odor of bacon and eggs wafting into his cabin. His stomach rumbled in anticipation. He quickly changed into a pair of blue jeans and an old tee shirt.

“Yes paintball! I love that game. I hope that AL guy leaves me alone, I don’t need any help for this.”

Johnny ran out to join his camp companions.

“After camp is over, Mom promised to take me to someplace really neat. I am going to hold her to that bargain.” He thought excitedly.

At a moderate distance away Al smiled as he watched Johnny devour his bacon and eggs and get ready for the paintball competition.

“My time here is done for now.” Al thought. “The boy needs to enjoy his youth.”

Back in the laboratory Roberterian and his fellow associate Verius looked upon the twenty foot diameter sphere of the miniature universe.

“You know.” Verius pondered. “Maybe we are also in an enclosed universe with other beings looking on and manipulating us.”

“Interesting concept Verius, that could be possible.” Roberterian replied.

“And maybe it goes on and on into infinity, a universe within a universe within a universe and so on.” She replied.

“I am hungry, let’s have dinner Verius.”

“Okay, my treat this time!”

The End

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