9/24/2012

Cosmic Flash - Chapter 4: Lost In Space




His father needed the money tomorrow.  His girlfriend had recently made out with a guy he'd just lost a fight to.  His paper on the decline of the recent Black Monday stock market crash for business class was due that Friday and he hadn't even started on it.  So many things left undone and chances were they would never reach closure, now that he had being flung across the fabric of space at lightspeed.  This is going to be a horrible way to go out, he thought to himself.  I have no food, no way of surviving, no course to take with this ship, not that I even know how to pilot the damn thing.  I'm going to spend the rest of eternity drifting through this endless vacuum.  I'll eventually starve and wither away.

It was during this time that he was starting to regret everything he'd done.  He regretted the way he broke things off with his father the last time he'd spoken to him.  He regretted not laying down with Danielle when he had the chance; now she was going to end up losing her virginity, if she hadn't already, to Jack now that they were apparently together.  He regretted badgering Ward and all of the other friends he'd had in the past with useless info on the corrupt government, the Illuminati, and the New World Order, effectively ruining good friendships through his rigorious attempts to "spread the truth."  Now the "truth" was that he had stumbled upon an abandoned spaceship and sealed himself away in his own coffin as he drifted alone in this cold dark abyss.

He had fallen to his knees on the glowing altar of the ship, looking out of its window ahead of him at the endless cluster of stars, lightly planted with nebula clouds and glowing planets scattered across the portrait of the universe.  So beautiful and serene, yet haunting as he realized how vast and infinite it truly was, far beyond the comprehension of a mere mortal like himself.  This is nuts, he thought.  This shouldn't be happening.  He shouldn't even be believing that any of this was real.  He should be convincing himself that someone slipped something in the keg and it messed with his system somehow or he'd possibly knocked a screw loose and lost his mind when he was body slammed by Jack.  The reason why he didn't go through these typical techniques of denial was because Zach was a realist.  He never tried to kid himself.  He hardly ever watched movies and rarely engulfed himself in fiction because he knew what was really out there and it always ate away at him too much for him to enjoy it.  This was no different.  He knew what was going on.  He was in a spacecraft, drifting along in space with no destination.  Denying the truth wouldn't make this any easier.

The glowing violet tentacles of the ship were still strapped to him tightly, holding him down but it wasn't like he had anywhere to go.  Not when there was limited space for him to move on the ship as it was.  Catching him off-guard, Zach felt a rough tug from the tentacle around his right arm, pulling him aside aggressively.  Zach turned to it and looked curiously.  Suddenly, there was another tug that didn't just pull him from off his knees, but lurched the entire spacecraft.  Zach stood up and looked out of the window.  He had just come out of hyperspace not five minutes ago and already something strange was going on.  Another yank knocked him off his feet and soon the entire spacecraft had shifted its course, spinning around in another direction.  Zach looked up just as a magnificent sight revealed itself through the craft's window.

Coming into view was a large lucious green planet, the gravity of which had locked on to the ship and was reeling it closer in.  Had this not happened, he would never have known the planet was even there.  Now the ship was vibrating again, the planet slowly growing larger in size as Zach felt the ship being pulled in.  It wasn't long before the landmasses were visible behind the array of clouds sprawled across the atmosphere waiting for the ship to plow through and plummet to the surface.  That's what's about to happen.  The ship is going to plummet.  Well, he thought, at least I'll be going out quicker than expected.

It was difficult to tell the difference between the landmasses and the ocean, as they were both thick mixtures of green, both indistinguishable from each other.  Before long, the ship was shaking so much as it pierced the atmosphere's surface that he could no longer stand and was forced to lean on the surface of the window for balance.  The ship tore through the clouds, charging across the sky of this new celestial body.  At this point, Zach could spot where the ship was eventually headed.  The light green ocean that trailed along the coast of the tropical forest-covered landmass beside it was right in the middle of the path of the out-of-control spacecraft.  As the planet's gravity ripped the ship from the sky, Zach could see that collision with this new sea was iminent.  He braced himself for impact....

The ship smashed into the ocean and suddenly the vibration stopped.  There was no violent lurch or crash caused by its submergence, only a ceasing of all the comotion brought on by the atmospheric entry.  Now all he could spot ahead was a clear green infinite abyss, not much unlike the dark colorful one he'd just escaped from.  Okay, the ship didn't plummet, he thought.  Now I'm going to rot again.  Or drown.  Whichever comes first.

In the midst of his loss of hope, a figure popped in front of the window and Zach drew back in shock.  He soon relaxed when he realized he was still safe but continued to stare at it in awe.  It was a rather large fish, at least it looked like one, but it wasn't earthly in appearance, he could tell that by first glance.  It had a human's body.  Its skin was covered in scales and there were gills intruding and protruding from under its jaw through its rhythmic breathing.  There was an absence of a nose, however, its mouth and eyes were identical to a human's; its head was bald but its anatomy was unmistakable.  The creature stared into the ship curiously, watching Zach, who simply stared back with fascination and fear.

Suddenly, there was a loud bang and Zach could feel a sprinkle of water drizzle onto his neck, causing his hair to stand on end in realization.  He turned around just in time to see a gush of water spill into the ship all at once.  The entrance had broken open or was possibly forced open and now the spacecraft was about to flood.  The water swooped down and splashed across the window, quickly soaking Zach.  He tried his best to move from the spot where he lay, but the tentacles of the ship were fastened tightly around him, refusing to let up.  When he realized that the water was rising dangerously, he took a deep gulp of air just as his head went under.  Yep, I was right, he thought.  I'm going to drown.

Zach opened his eyes while submerged under the green water and immediately spotted more of the mermen entering the ship, swimming in closer.  Zach drew back in panic as one of them pulled out a small device that resembled some type of gun.  The creature pointed it directly at him and fired, creating a blinding flash.  Zach shut his eyes in pain but opened them again to see that his vision had returned to normal.  He looked up at the creature, who turned its gun to its side and a blue light illuminated its face as it studied what looked to be a screen on the side of the weapon.  Suddenly, the creature raised its eyebrows, or the part of its face where its eyebrows should've been, and turned back to another one of the mermen that swam behind it, flashing the device in its direction.  This one gave the same suprised expression as it looked up and stared directly at Zach.  The startled merman, who seemed to be the leader of the outfit, exchanged looks with the one holding the device, nodding with approval as the merman servant swam forward and placed his hands on the constricting tentacles.  At the touch, they finally released their grip.  He did the same with all of them until Zach was free and then, much to Zach's surprise, grabbed hold of him tightly and swam towards the exit of the ship.

By this point, Zach's lungs were exhausted and he was forced to exhale until half his lungs were filled with air.  However, the merman that handled him was such an adept swimmer that within no time Zach was outside of the ship and the trio of mermen were headed to the surface faster than he could have ever swam himself.  In a matter of moments, before Zach felt the immediate need to take in a gulp of air, he was on the surface of the water with these strange creatures, emerging onto the top of the green ocean under a sunless but day lit sky above them.  A sharp tropical auroma was in the air, much stronger than anything he'd smelled on Earth, although he'd never been anywhere as remotely exotic with the exception of Miami Beach in Florida with his mother before she passed away.  Now, he was actually breathing another planet's oxygen.  This was the closest I'd ever come to....ah hell, what am I talking about, he thought.  I'm on another planet.  No one will EVER come close to anything like this.

The creatures drug him onto the sandy beach just outside of the tropical forest behind it, which was clustered in towering palm trees, taller than he'd ever seen before in his life.  They were about the size of skyscrapers, similar to the immensely tall pine trees of Yellowstone Park back on Earth.  The creatures finally let go of Zach, staring at him with close curiousity.

"What's going on?" Zach muttered, half to himself, half to the inhabitants of this new world.  This must have been the species that sent their ship to Earth, he thought.  Maybe they're sentient enough to communicate with me, even if these are just common citizens.  The creatures exchanged confused looks with each other.  Finally one of them turned and tried to speak to Zach, but all that escaped his lips were a string of words in a dialect that Zach was not familiar with.  It almost sounded like a cross between French and German, except none of the words had a trace of english similarities that he could pick up on like the languages on Earth.  Zach shook his head and shrugged cluelessly to show that he couldn't understand.  By their mannerisms, these creatures displayed near human characteristics so he was sure that they'd be able to detect his body language and realize that the language barrier was holding them back from communicating.

The creature that stood in the back, the supposed leader of the trio, muttered something to the one that had just addressed him.  The creature obeyed and reached around his waist to what looked to be a utility belt, grabbing from it a small double-pronged device with a button on its handle.  He pressed it lightly and the two pronges began to electrify.  Uh oh, Zach thought.  What's about to happen?

The creature reared back with the pronged device and struck Zach in the middle of his right eardrums so quickly that he barely had time to react.  Zach's vision suddenly became blurry and he felt as if he'd gotten up too fast after sleeping, growing increasingly disoriented as the sounds of the jungle behind him grew faint.  Suddenly, he could hear a voice speaking to him.  In english.

"Can you hear me now?" it asked faintly.  "Do I need to do it again?"

"What?" Zach responded weakly, sticking his finger in his ear and shaking it furiously.  "What was that for?"

Zach opened his eyes as his vision cleared and witnessed an interesting sight.  The creatures began to smile in relief.

"You had us worried there for a second, English," the closest individual replied in what sounded like an Irish accent.  "Didn't even know you knew the Earthling's language.  I can't believe we've finally found you."

"What are you talking about?" Zach responded frantically with shock and confusion.  It was remarkable.  He was now having a conversation with an alien creature on another planet.  Had he been told this would be happening just a few hours ago as he beat the living crap out of a convenient store robber for trying to steal his car, he wouldn't have given it a second thought.  "Who are you?  Where am I?"

The creature once again exchanged confused looks with his colleague.  "You're on Ichthios.  Don't you recognize it?"

Zach looked around curiously at the beach that surrounded him.  Across the horizon of the sea was a magnificent purple moon, much closer to this planet than the lunar moon had ever been to Earth, making the sheer sight of it more unbelievable than he could have ever imagined.  "Can't say I do."

"Maybe you've never been to this sector before.  My name is Varus.  This is Camber and this guy behind us is our commander, Soter."

"I believe we've met before, English," the tall creature in the back said with a deep powerful Irish-accented voice of authority, his arms crossed with confidence as he watched the scene from afar.

"Um," Zach responded, shaking his head.  "I don't remember you."

Soter squinted his eyes suspiciously and walked forward with a careful stride.  "What exactly do you remember?"

"I remember being on Earth.  Then finding that ship that I just crashed and shooting myself across space.  Then I remember being pulled in by the planet's gravity"-

"It wasn't the planet's gravity that pulled you in," Soter interrupted.  "It was our Gravitator.  We use it to pull in unmarked space crafts flying within the vicinity of Ichthios.  Allows us to track down and terminate hostile forces.  Our team was sent in to get rid of the possible threat.  You're lucky Varus' scanner identified you, otherwise he would have ended your life and let you erode at the bottom of the sea."

Whoa, Zach murmured in his mind.  "What's so special about me?"

Varus and Camber looked worried at this response.  Soter addressed him again.  "Does the name, 'Tome Knightgrief,' mean anything to you?"

Zach shook his head and shrugged.  Varus and Camber looked at each other again in surprise.  "He's lost his memory," Camber responded, speaking with the same kind of Irish accent as the others.  "That's the only explaination.  He must've bumped his head back on Earth and forgotten everything from his time here."

"Hold on a second, Camber," Soter called, holding up his hand to stop him.  "English, who is the current ruler of your planet?"

Zach was immediately taken aback that they had such knowledge of his planet, though it made sense.  These creatures had to have been in contact with Earthlings in the past, thus the need for the government to respond when the ship landed on Earth.  Humans had made first contact long ago.  "You mean the President of the United States?"

Soter shrugged.  "Sure."

"Ronald Reagan."

Soter let his arms drop to his side and shook his head.  "Its worst than I thought.  He's been brainwashed."

"Brainwashed?" Zach replied with worry.  "Brainwashed from what?"

"We need to take him to the lab."

"Wait, I want to know what's going on," Zach said sternly, standing up from the sand.

Soter pressed the center of his ear and looked away.  "Send in evac. to Koine Beach immediately.  We have detained English.  I repeat, we have detained Zachary English.  He is unharmed but appears to have suffered some type of memory loss.  We need an extraction as soon as possible."

"Who are you talking to?" Zach asked, leaning to his side as he tried to get a closer look at Soter's communicator.  Soter turned to Zach.  "I want to know what's going on."

"And I want you to be quiet but we both can't get our way," Soter answered, taking his hand from his ear and giving Zach his full attention.

"Freakin' aye, Commander," Camber said, shaking his head.  "He may be a hero, but I didn't expect him to be this annoying."

"Hey!"

"He didn't used to be," Soter responded.  "Its that polluted Earth air talking, I'm sure."

"I don't appreciate that much," Zach replied with offense.

"None of us do, Mota.  Here comes our ride now."  With a powerful gust of wind, the palm trees above parted slightly and Zach turned in shock to see a large metal ship coming into view as it prepared to land in front of them on the beach.  As Zach marveled at at magnificent sight, Soter muttered softly to Varus, who nodded in turn and pulled another device from his belt, this one resembling a simple blunt object.  With a powerful swoop, Varus cracked the cylinder-shaped device across Zach's head, knocking him unconscious.

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Zach opened his eyes quickly to find himself lying naked in a transparent tube that might as well have resembled a coffin.  There was a blinding light above and a shadowy sillouetted figure looking down from beyond the glass covering him.  He couldn't make it out immediately.  He looked down at his chest to see that the Alpha Mu Delta tattoo over the right side of his chest was visible and so was the tribal wolf and moon Ward had coaxed him into getting his freshman year on his left arm.

"Okay, Mr. English, we're going to put you through the extraction process momentarily.  We're thinking that will help jog your memory loose from the confines of your subconscious," a soft-spoken Irish voice crackled through an intercom by the side of Zach's head.  He turned to it slowly.

"Extraction process?" he repeated with worry.

"Just try to relax, Mr. English."  There was a strange humming sound coming from outside the tube and Zach began to panic.

"Hey wait"- Zach's body jolted and he literally felt as if his entire body was being forcibly stretched out like a wad of bubblegum.  He screamed at the top of his lungs as his muscles were ripped out of place, his eyelids pulled down to his jaw, and his entire bone structure felt as if it were about to be torn out from his skin.  Suddenly, the pressure stopped and so did the pain.  The humming sound of the machine died down and Zach lay numb in the soft bed-like tube, panting heavily in relief as he looked down at his body which was visibly unscathed.  The glass cover slid back slowly.

"You can sit up now, Mr. English," said the voice, now live and clear beside him.  Zach sat up cautiously and looked around in surprise.  Before, the view of these alien creatures was slightly blurred without the help of his glasses, which were long lost back by the keg in the hurricane-covered Frat House on Earth.  But now his vision was completely clear; he no longer needed his glasses as he could now see with perfect 20/20 vision.  When his eyes fell on the merman creature beside him, he took in all of its features.

"How do you feel?" the creature asked, Zach noticing that it was wearing a long white lab coat, similar to the kinds of coats worn by scientists and doctors back on Earth.  It threw him for a loop that these creatures had cultural similarities to humans.

"Um," Zach began to answer.  And that's when he realized it for the first time.  "I feel....good.  Very good.  And happy."

"Glad to hear that, Mr. English."

"No no, you don't understand," Zach said, slowly climbing out of the machine.

"Mr. English, I'd advise you let your body rest until you have completely recovered from the extrac"-

"I feel SO good," Zach said, getting out of the machine and literally hopping around.  "Like....Like a new person."

"Mr. English, if you don't settle down, your body could shut down on you."

"I must have had the hugest stick up my ass, didn't I?" Zach said with a vibrant smile.  "I feel like I just spent my entire life worrying about nothing.  No wonder I didn't have any real friends.  No wonder I've never had sex....Oh my God....I've never had sex!  Quick!  Where are your women?!"

"Mr. English!" the creature scientist shouted finally.

"Yes?" Zach said innocently, smiling with a personal charm that had never existed in him before, but was now more evident than ever.

"Mr. English, the process of what you just endured involved the extraction of any and all earthly toxins that were present in your body during your time on Earth," the doctor said, motioning towards a container at the end of the bed-like machine, which contained a thick disgusting mixture of greenish brown liquid filled to the brim.  "Now because of this, based on the amount of time it seems you've spent there, your body and mind have gone through a drastic change and therefore might not be used to all of the activity you're putting it through right now.  I suggest you let me run a few more tests before you start running amuck, sir."

"Is he back to normal, doc?" asked Soter, who walked in through a sliding door way on the opposite side of the room.  He was sporting a pair of shorts that Zach had not noticed before, the belt buckle of which was engraved with the ancient greek Ichthys symbol that he'd seen on Earth.  In his original mindset, Zach would have been quick to find answers for its existence here.  However, now it would slip his mind fairly easily.

"Soter!" Zach shouted jovially, as if he were greeting an old friend.  "You look fantastic since the last time I saw you.  Man, those were good times.  Remember, Varus and Camber were there.  How are they, by the way?  You know I remember the first time he hit me with that thingy that made it so I could understand you-"

Zach suddenly collapsed to the floor and immediately lost consciousness.  "And there he goes," the doctor said, shaking his head pathetically.

"Well at least he's somewhat like the old Zach English now," Soter chuckled, walking up to haul him back into the tube as the doctor helped.  "Any idea whats going on, doc?"

"Can't say for sure.  The brain scan showed that he still had no recollection of his time here.  No signs of external tampering either, so I doubt he's been brainwashed."

"So what's going on with him then?  How come he can't remember anything?"

"I honestly have no clue, Commander.  I mean, he has memories but all of them are of his life on Earth, as if he had never been here.  And by the amount of earthly toxins that were extracted from his body, that almost reinforces that he's been on Earth longer than the time he's been missing here, not to mention these strange markings on his body and the lack of a scanner brand.  I don't know, Soter.  It almost seems as if we've got the wrong Zach English."

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"Zach, I need you to answer these questions as honestly and as clearly as possible, okay?" The doctor asked as he, Zach, and Soter sat together in the enclosed space that resembled a doctor's office.  Zach sat on a single stool that seemed to be made out of a material similar to bamboo from Earth, only it was black in color and soft in texture.  He sat on it patiently, nodding his head when the doctor addressed him.  "What is your full name?"

"Zachary Pharaoh English," he answered.

"What is your current occupation?"

"Um," Zach hesitated.  "I work at a bakery."

"A bakery?"

"Yeah, on Earth.  Its a place where they make pastries and sweets"-

"We know all about Earth," the doctor interrupted.  "No need to go into detail."

"Really?  What all do you know about Earth?"

"Please save your questions until the end of the evaluation, Mr. English."

Zach shrugged.  "Okay.  Continue."

"Okay, Zachary, I'm going to show you a few images on this hologram projector and I want you to name each being that you see, based on your current knowledge."  The doctor reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a small disk with a button on its center.  He pressed the button lightly and a light blue hologram appeared above it.

"Whoa," Zach said with a surprised smile.  The images flashed on the spot of the projector and Zach named what he and any earthling would name seeing the image for the first time.  The first was of a man with pointed ears, long brown hair, slick light-green skin, and crystal-like eyes.  "Elf."  The next image was nearly the same with the exception of jet black hair, slick pale skin, sharp fangs, and reddish mohogany-colored eyes.  "Vampire."  The next image was of a rather large rock-like figure that took up the entirety of the hologram's circumference.  "Um, Giant?"  The next image was of a human-like figure with large eagle-like wings and a white robe.  "Angel."  Next displayed was nearly the same, except the wings were black, skeletal, and bat-like and its features were much sharper, resembling a hawk.  "Um, demon maybe?"

"This one should ring a bell," The doctor said, as the image of one of their own creatures flashed onto the hologram.

"Oh, Merman," Zach said confidently, although he could tell by the winced reactions of the doctor and Soter that he'd gotten it wrong.  This was pretty much their reaction to all of his answers so far.  The next image up was of an anthropomorphic lizard-humanoid creature.  "Uh, Lizard Man, I guess?"  The next was a small grey figure with a large head and solid black eyes.  "Oh, an alien.  I mean, um....I don't know....Martian?"  The two were the most puzzled by this answer but continued on to the next image.  This one was of a being with crimson red skin, pure white eyes with transparent pupils, and an unbelievably fit physique from head to toe.  Its hair was lucious and flowing, almost like the teenage hollywood actor-types from Earth.  "Uh, red-skinned John Stamos?" Zach said with a laugh until he noticed that the doctor and Soter were not amused, after which he stopped and cleared his throat awkwardly.

"Soter, I need to speak with you outside, please," the doctor said, turning to him and motioning towards the sliding door behind him.  Soter nodded and led the way to it, pressing the button by the wall as it slid downward and allowed the two to exit the room.  When they were in private, the doctor addressed him with worry.  "He got none of them right."

"I know," Soter said anxiously, staring into the small window in the door at Zach, who's eyes darted around the room absentmindedly.  "Its like he doesn't know anything."

"Oh, he knows things.  He just knows Earth, nothing about the North Circuit.  A simple re-education shouldn't be a problem.  He's familiar with Earth's history, however way that's possible, so it shouldn't be too difficult for him to understand."

"That's a lot of information to be throwing at him in one sitting, Doc, are you sure he can handle it all?"

"If he's still the same strong-minded Zach English that we remember, he will be.  We should take him to Arias to speak with Tome.  I'll explain to him as much as I can on the way there."

"Sounds good to me.  Should I come with?"

"If you'd like, just to give your report on what happened when you found him."  The doctor turned and pressed the button to the sliding door once again, stepping through and addressing Zach directly.  "Please come with us, Mr. English."

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