“I say… What was that?’
The artificial intelligence designated Digital Ultrafast Memory Banks 5000, or D.U.M.B. 5000, (and yes, the irony of this was completely lost on him) was detecting something he had not felt in quite some time. In fact, D.U.M.B. 5000 calculated he had not detected such an event in just over 9.4608e10 seconds of time. This predilection to express periods of time in seconds was only one of D.U.M.B. 5000’s many foibles that he believed illustrated his unique brand of super intelligence, but what most programmers would likely refer to as a logic error in his coding. D.U.M.B. 5000 began activating long dormant sensors and environmental controls as he initiated an analysis of this new occurrence and began to calculate what course of action he should take in response.
“Please walk in single file and stay with the group,” the tour guide droned on.
Reginald paused, removed his bowler hat, and wiped the sweat from his brow now that they had entered the pyramid’s anteroom where it must have been at least 20 degrees cooler than the outside. Tuning out the tour guide, about whom it would be overly generous to say possessed all of the charisma of a tree stump, Reginald adjusted his lantern and glanced about at his current surroundings. Once again, he sighed with a deep sense of disappointment as he spied and yet another non-descript, dust covered, room with plan brick walls and, despite being in the middle of a desert, a slight musty odor.
Reginald began this journey a month ago, sailing from South Hampton for Cairo, with the hopes of providing some respite from the unending mid-life crisis his existence seemed to have become. At 38-years-old, single, with no living family left, Reginald’s day-to-day life as a book store clerk in London had grown unbearably dull and meaningless. It seemed just yesterday that he graduated from King’s College’s class of 1873 with his degree in history and every intention to lead a life of exploration and excitement. Sadly, reality subsequently intervened, and here he was almost twenty years later searching for some relief from the overwhelming sense of melancholy and failure his life had become by vacationing at one of his favorite topics of study, Egypt, specifically, the pyramids of the Giza Plateau. He hoped this vacation would restore some sense of purpose to his life, especially considering he had invested his entire life savings in order to finance it.
“Please keep together now and watch for a turn to the left as we move towards the lower chamber,” continued the remarkably uninspiring monologue of the tour guide.
The passage they were in grew smaller and now consisted of what was essentially a tunnel through the pyramid about four feet across and seven feet high. Reginald held his lantern up high but could see little beyond the somewhat large hat of the woman in front of him and the ever-present non-descript brick walls, ceiling, and floor. Said floor was covered in a fine layer of sand and grit that caused slight scraping sounds as the tour group proceeded down the tunnel which was now beginning to slope slightly downwards. The afore-mentioned left hand turn appeared, marked by a lit lantern hanging from a stake in the wall, and the group turned and began descending a set of shallow steps set into the brick floor. Reginald could feel a somewhat stronger, and cooler, breeze brushing his face as the group slowly negotiated the long stairway, due to the somewhat slippery footing, owing to the sand and dust on the stairs.
On the fourth stair, Reginald heard a slight metallic clinking sound of something hitting the floor and his hand went instinctively to his Howard pocket watch hooked to his waistcoat. He was alarmed and distressed to find only the end of his Albert chain sans watch.
“Bollocks!” Reginald exclaimed as he turned and began frantically glancing about on the dust and sand covered stairs for the watch his grandmother had given him upon his graduation from college. His father had reportedly won that watch in a cribbage game while on a business trip to Boston, and it was subsequently passed on to Reginald by his grandmother as a token of good luck. Reginald was loathe to lose what amounted to one of his few remaining connections to his father. Sweeping his lantern back and forth on the stairs Reginald searched for his lost watch as the tour group continued their descent, and in short order, Reginald was alone on the stairway.
Finally, during one sweep of his lantern, Reginald caught a brief metallic flash of light coming from a crack in between the stairs and the brick wall. Dropping to his knees, Reginald frantically swept away dust and sand and could then spy his father’s watch wedged in between the stairway and wall. No amount of effort was sufficing to force his fingers between the bricks of the stairs and wall in order to reach his watch. Glancing about surreptitiously, and seeing only darkness outside the small globe of illumination from his lantern, Reginald began pulling on the brick next to the wall in hopes of removing it long enough to widen the hole and retrieve his watch. At first leverage was a problem, but then spying an iron ring set in the stone above the crack, Reginald saw a solution. Bracing himself with one hand on the iron ring, Reginald squatted and grabbed the brick he needed to move, and pulled as hard as he could. The brick started to move, a quarter inch, and then another, and then there was loud pop and clang and Reginald was falling into darkness.
The first thing Reginald became aware of upon waking up was that he was tightly grasping his father’s watch in his left hand. The second thing was that it was very dark and quite a bit cooler. Sitting up, Reginald began taking stock of his situation and while doing so secured his father’s watch back to the Albert chain on his waistcoat by feel. He appeared unharmed aside from a slight throb on the back of his head and he was sitting on what felt like packed down sand, which may account for his seeming lack of serious injury. Wherever he was, it was mostly dark with the exception of an extremely faint light coming from about ten feet in front him near the floor. Rolling on to his knees Reginald began to tentatively explore his surroundings with his hands.
“Where in the bloody hell am I?” he wondered aloud as he began feeling about on the sand. He first encountered the remains of his lantern which, judging from the current darkness, evidently had not fared as well as he had from the fall. Carefully, so as to not cut himself, Reginald was able to surmise the lantern was hopelessly and irreparably damaged and could be of no further use. He next encountered his bowler, which he promptly placed back on his head, as his thinning hair and the current cooler temperatures were beginning to combine to give him a chill. He then faced toward the faint light and decided to attempt standing. Slowly, due to both the pain in his head and the darkness, Reginald stood while feeling above so as not to hit his head again. With the exception of a slight and brief spell of dizziness, Reginald was able to stand without further difficulty. Gingerly, to ensure he could keep his balance, Reginald began walking towards the faint light at the other end of the room, and in short order bumped against a smooth cool surface.
This surface, that Reginald could only surmise was a wall, had a queer and unfamiliar feel to it. It was smooth, cool to the touch, and hard, but with some slight give to it when pressure was applied. Reginald had never encountered anything quite like it before. Continuing to feel along the wall he next encountered several depressions and ridges that he began to tentatively explore with his fingers. His right index finger passed over a raised area, and the slight pressure he was exerting caused a faint click that was quickly followed by a loud swishing sound. Reginald suddenly found himself blinded by an intense light and involuntarily took a quick step back almost tripping in the process. Gradually, squinting from between his fingers, with watering eyes, he began to assess this new development an subsequently observed he was now facing a room quite unlike any other he had ever experienced during his tours of Egypt.
Reginald took a cautious step forward as his vision cleared. He wiped the tears from his eyes and then blinked repeatedly to adjust to the brighter light. He immediately noticed the warmer and more humid air in the room along with a noticeably tangy odor that he could not place. As he guardedly took a couple of more steps into the room, his shoes making a slight metallic clicking sound on the hard and smooth floor, Reginald looked about this new room in amazement. He was standing in the middle of a large rectangular room that he guessed was about 150 feet long by 50 feet on the shorter ends with the ceiling some 50 feet above his head. The most amazing, and incomprehensible part of the experience, was a rather large, and equally mysterious, apparatus that occupied the very center of the room along its entire length. Craning his neck to glance upward towards the ceiling, Reginald could see the apparatus reached almost to the ceiling and that it consisted of two large cylindrical towers connected by what appeared to be some sort of walkway that ran the entire length of the room about 20 feet above his head. The somewhat yellow and orange lighting that illuminated the room appeared to be primarily coming from these two large cylinders. Reginald, for the life of him, could not fathom what possible function this apparatus could satisfy. As he stood pondering this, Reginald spied something on the far side of the room, situated between, and just beyond, the two mysterious cylinders, something that he could actually recognize. Reginald blinked in surprise and paused for a moment to make sure his eyes were not playing tricks on him. Yes, he thought to himself, I am seeing this, there is a seemingly ordinary desk and a chair right across the room. Glancing about once more out of an abundance of caution, and seeing nothing else remotely familiar or imminently threatening, Reginald began crossing the room towards the enigmatic desk. Hopefully this desk can shed some light on this insanity, or at the very least provide me a place for brief respite, I could definitely do with a good sit right now, he thought to himself as he hurriedly crossed this bizarre room.
D.U.M.B. 5000 was at a loss to understand what was happening. First, he finds himself left for over 9.4608e10 seconds with only his ship’s navigational artificial intelligence for company (and honestly how long can one converse with a mere 1000 series before permanent CPU damage sets in?) and now when someone finally returns, it is this creature. It is clearly a human, but dressed in a most peculiar fashion, and not entering any of the correct prompts and commands to activate D.U.M.B. 5000’s systems for use. In an effort to help this poor and clearly confused creature, D.U.M.B 5000 began warming up his propulsion systems, environmental controls, and gave his navigational computer, Laser Oscillation Signal Tracker 1000, a swift electronic kick in the pants to get him moving on course calculations.
“What’s this then?” D.U.M.B. 5000 said to himself as he observed the human begin walking further into the ship moving towards the user interface station. “Yes, yes, that is it good man! Have a seat at the interface and make yourself comfortable and we can get on our way.” D.U.M.B. 5000 sealed the ship, finished bringing the engines online, and then launched the ship headed for low earth orbit in preparation for departing the system. Humming a familiar tune quietly to himself D.U.M.B. 5000 said to no one in particular, “It’s good to be on the road again.”
Reginald approach the desk which appeared to be the only island of sanity in this monumentally unusual experience. As he neared the desk, he heard a faint hissing and humming sound that began to grow in intensity along with a slight increase in the light coming from the afore-mentioned large cylindrical towers. Stopping, Reginald slowly turned in a circle but could not see anything else besides himself that was moving. Finishing his brief review of the room he stopped once more facing the desk, but now he had an unidentifiable, but distinctly uneasy feeling. Pausing to consider this new sensation, Reginald suddenly realized what it was, and subsequently nearly lost his footing on the smooth floor, as he quickly spun about and began running towards the door that was no longer there. “No, no, no!” he repeated loudly as he reached the now featureless wall, slid to a stop, and began running his hands along the smooth, warm, metal that constituted the portion of the wall that was until just recently, a door. Nothing. Not so much as a slight bump, ridge, or crease remained to mark the afore-mentioned door. Beginning to sweat, Reginald removed his bowler from his head, and pulling his kerchief from his waistcoat pocket, wiped his damp forehead as he anxiously considered the now blank wall in front of him.
“Dammit,” Reginald muttered to himself. Looking along the wall in either direction revealed only more blank wall. Turning, he began walking back towards the desk, passing once again between the two large cylindrical towers in the middle of the room, that were now giving off a brighter but more steady glow, and also could now be discerned to definitely be the source of the ambient hissing and humming sound filling the room. The slight clicking of his heels on the metal floor marked his passage towards the desk that Reginald could now see contained several lights, both steady and blinking, that he had not noticed before. Stepping around to the other side of the desk, Reginald gingerly lowered himself into a sitting position in the chair, and then paused briefly to see what would happen next. Nothing. Just the continued yellow-orange glow and accompanying hissing humming sound. Sighing quietly, Reginald allowed himself to relax into his seat and considered the desk before him. About four feet across, the surface contained several rows of both steady and blinking lights on its left side, and two large square blank areas on the right. There were no discernible drawers or storage areas of any type beneath the desk. Well, Reginald thought to himself, there is no time like the present and I am not sure how this could get any worse. Reaching out with his left hand, he began touching some of the steady and blinking lights on the left side of the desk.
“Please do not touch those,” came an unidentified but calm voice in response to Reginald’s efforts with the desk.
This sudden and unexpected development startled Reginald so much he fell out of his chair and landed unceremoniously on his rear on the floor next to the desk. Scrambling to his feet, shoes slipping on the metal floor, Reginald quickly stood up looking wildly around and shouted out, “Who is there! Show yourself!” Continuing to turn around in a circle Reginald could see no one else in the room.
“No need for histrionics. I am right here and again I must insist you stop randomly manipulating the sensor array as I might hit something,” came the enigmatic reply.
“What? Why can’t I see you?” Reginald replied as he continued to look about the room.
“I am right here, all around you. Perhaps we should start from the beginning as a I sense you are experiencing some confusion about your current situation,”
“That would be putting it mildly.”
“Shall we begin with introductions then?”
“Very well,” agreed Reginald. “I am Reginald Augustus Smythe, late of London, and you?”
“A pleasure to meet you Reginald, my designation is Digital Ultrafast Memory Banks 5000, but you may call me D.U.M.B. 5000”
Reginald stood quietly for a moment and then, “Your name is dumb 5000?”
“Yes, that is my designation. Why do you ask?”
“Ahhh… errrr… Never mind,” replied Reginald. “Why can I only hear you, but not see you? Where are you? Who are you? What are you to have such an odd name?”
“I do not understand your confusion. I am right here. You are looking right at me. I am all around you,” came the somewhat exasperated reply.
Looking about and still seeing no one, Reginald ventured, “What are you saying? You’re a talking room?”
“Well, a bit more than that I would say,” came the slightly hurt sounding reply followed by a sniff. “Yes, I am this room, or more precisely this ship.”
“Yes, ship. Are feeling alright? Is there a problem with your hearing? You seem to need to have information repeated frequently.”
“What kind of ship?”
“An intergalactic sub-hyperspacial transport vehicle.”
Stunned Reginald paused and then replied, “Intergalactic? Wait, you’re a machine?”
“Well!” came D.U.M.B. 5000’s indignant reply. “No need to be offensive. I am an artificial intelligence with quantum computing abilities, no mere machine. How would you like it if I asked if you were some sort of monkey?”
Reginald once again sat back into the chair while he tried to process what he was hearing. A computing machine that talks? he thought to himself. What have I found here? Suddenly, Reginald found his chair turning of its own accord and facing the blank wall behind him.
“Perhaps some visual aids will help in catching you up,” stated D.U.M.B. 5000.
The wall in front of him suddenly dissolved and Reginald found himself looking out at a night sky, except he suddenly realized this was not a night sky, as what could only be the Earth, was centered in the middle of the view. Standing, he approached the wall and marveled at the perfection of the Earth, that until now he only ever viewed in drawings on maps and crude globes. “Where is this picture coming from?” he asked.
“From outside the ship, this is our current location, geo stationary orbit of the Earth.”
“Space! We’re in space! How did this happen?! I was just inside the pyramids. I need to get back,” came Reginald’s alarmed reply.
“Back? Quite impossible. A travel requisition has been duly submitted and transmitted to the Home Office. I must complete the transit,” explained D.U.M.B. 5000. He continued, “L.O.S.T. 1000, please calculate course for insertion point Sol A1138 and engage the drive.”
“Calculating,” came L.O.S.T. 1000’s reply.
Reginald watched in shock and alarm as the Earth began to steadily shrink in aspect as they moved away faster and faster, and oddly enough without any sense of motion. He turned his chair back towards the desk and asked, “Who is L.O.S.T. 1000 and what is he doing?”
“I am Laser Oscillation Signal Tracker 1000, the ship’s navigational computing artificial intelligence,” L.O.S.T. 1000 replied.
“Wait, you’re the navigational computer and your name is lost 1000?”
“Yes, that is my designation. Why do you ask? Was I not clear? Are you experiencing further difficulties with your hearing?”
“Ahh, never mind, it’s not important” came Reginald’s reply. “L.O.S.T. 1000, can you calculate a course back to Earth for me?”
“Yes, that is within my normal operating parameters.”
“Capital! Please do so immediately.”
“Course calculated and placed into que for execution upon completion of the current travel requisition,” stated L.O.S.T. 1000.
“Standby for sub-hyperspatial insertion at Sol A1138 in 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5…,” D.U.M.B. 5000 began reporting.
At D.U.M.B. 5000’s count of zero the ships interior lighting briefly dimmed and Reginald suddenly felt he was nowhere, or everywhere, at once. A most peculiar feeling that lasted a second and then all returned to normal with the exception that one of the blank square areas of his desk came to life by lighting up. Glancing at it, Reginald observed it was reporting their arrival in something called extraction point SAG 1138A within something called the Confederation of Deliberately Mysterious Aliens. It then displayed a continuing course passing through something called the Proud Warrior Empire followed by the Neanderthal League of Worlds (hmm…I thought they went extinct) and then entering Cygnus X-1 designated as the Galactic Grand Central Terminal.
After reviewing their projected course, Reginald asked, “D.U.M.B. 5000 what is this Cygnus X-1 marked here on our course?”
“Cygnus X-1 is the designation of the gravitational event and stellar mass within which resides the Galactic Grand Central Terminal.”
“Is that our final destination? Can we return to Earth after reaching that?”
“Negative. This stop will provide us with our last insertion point allowing a direct route to the Home Office.”
“And where is this home office, exactly?” Reginald asked.
“The Home Office is located in galaxy M-31 on the planet Utopia, also known as No Worries Prime, and serves as the capital planet for the Diverse Alliance of Do-Gooders and Busybodies. That is where this travel requisition expires and the next will be implemented.”
Sighing in resignation, Reginald sat back in his chair and removed his bowler hat placing it on the desk in front of him. Reaching inside his jacket he pulled his pocket watch out and flipped open the cover to observe with some surprise that it had only been about two hours since he first dropped his watch inside the pyramid and consequently began this surreal adventure.
The desk made a quiet pinging sound and the list of destinations on the right side flashed green briefly. Glancing down at it, Reginald observed it was reporting they were leaving the Confederation of Deliberately Mysterious Aliens and entering the Proud Warrior Empire. That sounded hazardous. Sitting forward in his chair, Reginald asked, “D.U.M.B. 5000 should we be concerned about encountering any of these ‘Proud Warrior’ types?”
“Given our present course, I estimate the odds of encountering any warrior vessels at 2500 to 1, but to directly answer your question, yes.”
“Yes, you should be concerned about encountering any warrior types as they invariably attack anything entering their space, or anywhere else for that matter. Attacking is kind of their thing, being the Proud Warrior Empire and all,” D.U.M.B. 5000 replied.
“But the odds are long that we will even see any, right?”
“Correct, 2500 to 1 of any encounter.”
“Alright.” Reginald once again sat back in his chair and tried to relax by closing his eyes for a moment. PING! Sitting forward again, Reginald asked, “What is it now?”
“Proud Warrior Empire ship approaching, contact in 240 seconds,” came the slightly nonplussed response from D.U.M.B. 5000.
“What! Wait! You said the odds are 2500 to 1 against us having any contact with them on this course!”
“Recalculating. New estimation of odds at 1 to 1 for contact with the Proud Warrior Empire on this course. Contact now in 230 seconds”
“Bloody Hell D.U.M.B. 5000! That is just splendid! What am I supposed to do now?”
“Please maintain your position at the user interface. Contact in 210 seconds.”
“Can we call them? Tell them we are just passing through?”
“Attempting communications. Proud Warrior Empire ship is accelerating. Contact now in 120 seconds.”
The screen on the wall behind Reginald suddenly came to life and a rather disagreeable-looking fellow, wearing some sort of pretentiously shiny outfit with lots of pointy looking things on it, began shouting at him. Turning back towards the desk, Reginald asked, “D.U.M.B., 5000 can you understand anything that fellow is on about?”
“He is instructing us to surrender or be destroyed. I should advise you that if you choose to surrender, this will most assuredly mean my immediate disassembly and your permanent incarceration in one of the Empire’s work gulags where you will spend the remainder of, what would undoubtedly be a considerably abbreviated life, mining lexite crystals whilst nude and being forced to listen to Ethel Merman records. Contact in 40 seconds.”
While not having any clue as to who the Ethel Merman was, or why listening to her would be bad, Reginald definitely did not like the thought of engaging in forced mining whilst nude. “How about we just bugger off then?”’
“Attempting evasive maneuvers,” replied D.U.M.B. 5000.
Whereas before Reginald never felt any sense of motion during this journey, he could now definitely feel slight pressure back into his seat as the ship began to attempt escape.
“Empire ship is matching our maneuvers and still closing. Changing course to attempt to reach this system’s sub-hyperspatial insertion point,” D.U.M.B. 5000 updated. He continued, “Empire ship is attempting weapons lock, I am continuing attempts at evasion and raising our defensive screens. They are firing.”
Reginald could now unquestionably feel the ship maneuvering, and then shortly after the announcement of enemy fire, there was a loud ringing impact and he found himself suddenly on the floor sliding towards the large cylinders in the center of the room. As he lay there assessing whether or not he had been injured, and watching smoke begin to somewhat ominously issue from underneath the nearest cylindrical tower, Reginald listened to D.U.M.B. 5000’s continuing narration of this latest disaster.
“Drive system damaged. However, we have reached insertion point VIR 1908B. Prepare for transit.”
Still laying on the floor, looking up at the ceiling and reflecting on how his prior existence of mid-life boredom might not have been so terrible after all, Reginald was suddenly overcome with a fit nostalgia for his previous life of quiet predictability at the book store and in his small flat on Newgate Circus in London. This wave of nostalgia was quickly followed by a wave of coughing as the acrid burning odor that was accompanying the ever-increasing smoke reached him on the floor. Hurriedly standing he quickly determined that, with the exception of a few minor bumps and bruises, he was not seriously injured. Quickly bending over and retrieving his dislodged bowler from the floor, Reginald placed it back on his head and returned to his seat at the desk. A cursory glance at the desk revealed several lights on the left that were now dark, as well as one of the flat square areas that now had a large crack in the middle.
“Beginning transit,” announced D.U.M.B. 5000.
Reginald again experienced that most unusual feeling of being simultaneously everywhere and nowhere accompanied by a brief dimming of the lights, or maybe that was his vision, he was unsure, and then a return to normalcy.
“Arriving extraction point Sol 1138A,” announced D.U.M.B. 5000.
Reginald was thinking, Sol 1138A sounds familiar. Wait, wasn’t that where this surreal journey started? “D.U.M.B. 5000, are you saying we are home? Back at Earth, that is?”
“Yes, Reginald, we have returned to Earth, although I am not sure ‘home’ is technically accurate given the effects of time dilation. Due to the damage to the drive, and in order to escape the Empire ship, it was necessary to divert back here during transit. However, I regret to report that also due to the damage to our drive, I have very limited control over our descent,” answered D.U.M.B. 5000.
While wondering about D.U.M.B. 5000’s cryptic remark about “home” not being entirely accurate, and what time dilation was, Reginald asked, “Can you put the picture of the Earth back on the wall?”
“Activating view screen.”
Reginald’s chair again turned 180 degrees and he was once more facing an image of the Earth upon the wall behind the desk. However, this image had the disconcerting and distinctive feature of growing larger and larger at a somewhat alarming rate. As Reginald continued to watch, he observed the ship was clearly heading towards the North American continent, somewhere in the southwest.
“Initiating landing cycle, please return all seats to their full and upright position, fasten your seatbelts, and extinguish all smoking materials,” announced D.UM.B. 5000.
Beyond the landing announcement, Reginald was not sure what any of that was about but, deciding discretion was the better part of valor, he resisted the urge to question D.U.M.B. 5000 at this particular time and instead braced himself as best he could in his seat. As the view showed the ship entering the upper atmosphere, the screen blinked once or twice and then went dark. At this point, the ride became exceedingly bumpy and Reginald’s wayward bowler once again abandoned his head and sailed across the room. As the shaking increased, the burning odor returned even stronger than before, and then a shrieking sound suddenly burst to life all around him. This is intolerable, thought Reginald as he struggled to stay in his seat. He was wondering how much longer he could hold on when there was a loud crash and then darkness.
Awareness returned to Reginald with all of the grace of a steam locomotive slamming into his skull as he sat up suddenly and immediately regretted it. “What happened?” he managed to squeak out whilst wincing in pain.
“We have landed. Please collect all baggage and depart the ship immediately,” replied D.U.M.B. 5000. “Thank you for choosing Intergalactic Transit Authority; however, this vehicle has sustained irreparable damage and consequently will be taken out of service in 60 seconds,” he continued.
A somewhat befuddled Reginald was once again retrieving his bowler and returning it to his head when he stopped and asked, “Wait. What does ‘taken out of service’ mean?”
“This vehicle will self-destruct in 55 seconds,” came the prompt reply.
A once again alarmed Reginald began scrambling across the room, half sliding on the smooth metal, and now crooked, floor towards the door across the room. Upon reaching the wall, Reginald began desperately feeling about for the door while exclaiming, “D.U.M.B. 5000, how do I get out?!”
“My apologies, allow me.”
The door suddenly re-appeared and Reginald tumbled though it, landing on the hard, rock-strewn ground in bright daylight.
“Self-destruct in 30 seconds. Have a nice day,” commented D.UM.B. 5000.
Reginald scrambled to his feet and began running across the uneven ground as fast as he could. He repeatedly lost his balance from tripping on rocks and the occasional scrub oak bush in the tall dry grass. Suddenly, behind him, there was the loud clap of an explosion and a second later the shockwave hit Reginald square in the back knocking him flat to the ground and leaving him gasping for breath. Reginald lay still for a moment and then risked rolling over and looking back towards the ship. Nothing remained but a smoldering, blackened crater and numerous small pieces of some reflective material strewn about the scene.
Standing up, and brushing himself off, Reginald once again went in search of his errant bowler. Spying it a few feet away, he was dismayed to observe it now had several small holes through the top of it where it had been pierced by the small cactus it was now stuck to. Gingerly retrieving it from this prickly perch he brushed it off and returned it to his head. Reaching inside his waistcoat pocket, he retrieved his watch to check the time and was disheartened to see it too was now a little worse for wear. Sometime during this most recent chaos, it had been broken and now featured a prominent crack across its face and was no longer ticking. Attempts to wind it only resulted in a slight grinding noise.
Sighing in disappointment, Reginald returned his watch to his pocket and looked about in an effort to discern his location. He was beginning to sweat in the heat and there was not a cloud in the sky. There was, however, a faint breeze that stirred the extremely dry air a bit. He was standing in an open field of dry yellow grass, scrub oak bushes, and cacti with some mountains off in the distance and no structures of any kind in sight. A few yards away he spied a small dirt road that led off into the distance with no observable terminus.
With no other apparent option, Reginald began walking towards the small dirt road with the intent of following it wherever it would take him. As he began his journey he spotted three distinct dust plumes off in the distance moving down the road at a high rate of speed coming towards his location. Excellent! thought Reginald perhaps someone who can render some aid. As these plumes grew closer, Reginald began to detect a sound he could not identify as well as noting they were moving much faster than horses typically do. Holding his hand up to shade his eyes, and squinting into the bright desert sun light, Reginald observed the vehicles rapidly approaching him. Huh, he thought to himself, these contraptions look similar to the automobile made by Karl Benz that I saw in a recent article in The Globe. As they grew closer, Reginald could clearly see these vehicles were vastly improved over the models he had recently seen, and for reasons he could not understand at that moment, this instilled an unsettling feeling in him.
As the vehicles reached him, all three slid to a stop a few yards in front of him with a crunchy sounding slide from their tires in the dirt and gravel. Their precipitous arrival was accompanied by a wave of dust that momentarily blinded Reginald and elicited a sudden sneeze. Reginald removed his handkerchief from his waistcoat pocket, and whilst blowing his nose, sighed inwardly as he warily observed these new strange phenomena that now approached him. Will this madness never end? thought Reginald with quiet despair.
The lead vehicle was green in color, contained two men dressed in green uniforms, and had an open coach with a white star painted on the front with the words “US Army - Roswell Army Air Field” stenciled on the side. The other two vehicles were white with a covered coach, contained one man in each, dressed in blue uniforms, with the words “Roswell P.D.” painted on the sides. Reginald remained forlornly standing where he was, his dusty black frock coat stirring gently in the breeze, battered and besmirched bowler perched precariously on his head, soiled handkerchief dangling from his hand, and just watched as these four peculiar men approached him, stoically awaiting whatever fate had in store for him next.