13 November, 2010

On the New Frontier...Memories, Flashing Just By

(For the one year anniversary of this blog, I am dedicating this whimsically serious story. I know I am bloody late, as the anniversary date was October 23rd.  For those of you who know me well, you will recognize the traveling companion in this story easily.)

     I moved as swiftly as I could to the kitchen.  She, of course found my actions too slow, yelling at me the whole way.  Kicking around the kitchen, I located some food for her, presenting it to her with a flourish.  Smiling as she chowed down, I turned to leave.  Another yell, and I sighed, turning to sit down, waiting for her to finish.  Once she did, I looked in her eyes, shaking my head.
     "You know Graycee, for such a little cat you certainly are bossy."
     Another meow, and I strode off, heading for flight control.  Sitting at the navigational controls, I quickly fired through the prelaunch routine.  In minutes, I received clearance to depart from Trillium Surface Control.  Firing through the atmosphere, I entered clear space.  Smiling sadly, I reflected about this being the last time I would blast off from a planet on my own.
     A ping from the communications relay snagged my attention.  Flipping a toggle, I brought up the incoming signal on the main screen.  Surprise flashed across my face, as the image of Director General Tamela Itiri popped up.  Smiling, I said simply, "Greetings Director General."
     Smiling warmly, Itiri said, "Greetings to you Vincent Lissan.  Before you leave the system, I wanted to convey my gratitude one last time with your assistance concerning our problem."
     I nodded in a show of respect.  "Director General, "I said, " I appreciate the sentiment.  I was quite happy to assist.  Hopefully many more years of peace will grace Trillium because of it."
     Itiri smiled broader, saying, "You will always have a home among us.  Your contributions will never be forgotten."
     My smile shaded to sadness, although I kept my tone even.  "I thank you for that Director General.  I am headed for home."
     "Fare thee well in thy travels Vincent Lissan."
     I nodded deeply, closing the communications link.  My hands remained frozen on the navigation console however.  Thoughts unbidden ran over me.  I felt my mood darken as the import of the words about going home sunk in.  The darkening mood forced words from me.
     "This is goodbye."
     Shaking myself, I forced my hands to plot the course home, to Earth.  Sadness slowed my actions, knowing this marked the end of 15 years of traveling space, solving problems and helping people and planets.  In the last three years, less and less calls for help had come to me.  The last year had decided it, the stop at Trillium being the first in eight months.
     Graycee jumped on the console to stare at me.  I jumped a little, laughing at her and myself.  I told her, "We are headed to Earth Graycee.  Cats originally come from there."
     For a response, Graycee simply sniffed at me, then jumped down.  I punched the final command to lay in the heading for Earth.   Suddenly feeling old, I held onto the nav console.  The future stretched into darkness before me.  All I had known was going away, I thought sadly.  The only thing I had done for the last 15 years, being the 'talented amateur troubleshooter' was drawing to a close.
     I forced myself to action.  Punching buttons, I set my ship's automatic functions.  Rising slowly, I moved from flight control to my quarters.  I sat at my desk, tapping the screen before me.  Logging in, I checked for new messages, hoping.  Disappointed as always, I returned to the document I was preparing.  Pecking at it slowly, I fought myself to finish the letter outlining my retirement from my self appointed task.
     The chime of an old clock interrupted my thoughts.  Looking at it, I realized just how late it actually was.  Saving the document, I stood and stretched.  I glared at the boxes in the room, pondering packing some more memories.  In the end, I jumped into my bunk, dimming the lights.  Packing could wait, as I would not arrive home for several more days.
     Sleep seemed out of my reach, as my thoughts raced.  Memories of everything I had done flashed through my head.  I felt depression grab a firm hold, and my rebellious spirit rise.  Despite that, I knew my time was finished.  In the last three years the galaxy had changed, peace and stability finally knitting into an Alliance of Planets.
     I forced my thoughts away.  Tossing and turning, I fell into a fitful sleep at some point.

     My eyes snapped open, and I jumped nearly airborne.  Staring me in the face from bare inches away, Graycee jumped with me, accelerating to light speed and disappearing.  Laughing once my pulse calmed down, I returned to laying in my bunk.  I decided to attempt to get some more sleep, with little else to do.
     Laying there, sleep escaped me yet again.  My eyes snapped open, as a sudden thought surfaced.  In three years of living on board this ship, Graycee never once approached me when sleeping.  Disturbed by this sudden display of behavior, I rotated to my feet, heading to my desk.  Opening drawers, I pulled out a scanner and an ion blaster.  Setting both, I headed out the open door, scanning as I stalked the entire ship slowly.
     Thirty minutes and two complete searches later, all I had to show for my efforts was nothing, save a cat that was angry for scaring her.  Pouring over the internal sensor logs, I frowned.  Nothing showed, prompting me to speculate about the insane twists of feline psychology.  At a loss, I turned to return to by cabin.
     The sensor alarm screamed, about a microsecond before I was tossed right out of flight control and skidded down the corridor.  The ship pitched, throwing me back into flight control.  On the way in, I screamed. "Emergency stabilization systems!"
     The computer implemented the order, causing the ship to settle enough for me to strap myself into the seat at the navigation console.  I hammered at the controls, transferring the readings to the main display.  Blinking at the magnitude of hyperspatial distortion, I dropped from hyperspace immediately.  Returning to normal space, I ran a damage control check.  Outside of my wounded pride, and one freaked out cat, no damage returned.
     I fired the detectors to maximum range, looking for something.  Waiting, the detectors returned absolutely nothing.  Hissing in frustration, I ran the scan again, at maximum intensity.  Yet again, to my deepening disappointment, the scans revealed nothing.  In 15 years of being in space, I had seen many an oddball thing.  This little incident, however, presented me a new enigma.  I knew the route well, and a quick check of flight news and conditions yielded nothing I managed to miss while busy.
     After a couple of minutes of glaring at the main display, I fired up the ion pulsers and accelerated to 80% sublight.  Skirting the general area, after 12 minutes I shifted back into hyperspace.  Resetting the automatic controls, I enabled the detectors at maximum range and intensity.  Shrugging, I followed the meowing of Graycee to the kitchen, where the contents of her food dish lay scattered.  Punching the cleaning drone, in scant moments the kitchen was clean.  I filled Graycee's water and food, then turned to her peeking from the open door.
     "Maybe you can explain that one to me little cat."
     When she simply stood there, I turned and returned to my cabin.  Tossing off the scanner and blaster, I threw myself into the bunk.  This time sleep caught me.

     I groaned without opening my eyes.  Awake, again, for no good reason, I moaned to myself.  I sighed, struggling with the decision to open my eyes.  Giving in, I allowed my eyes to open.  I felt my pulse rise, followed by my hair once I focused on what was before me.
     Staring at me was a being, about six and a half feet tall, and faintly luminescent.  Frozen in place, even this sight could not prevent me being annoyed by the fact my intruder alarm never sounded.  Smiling back at the mysterious being before me, I relaxed my posture.  I slowly rose, hoping my actions would not be deemed hostile.  Smiling my best and hoping the alien had a translator, I spoke evenly and calmly, saying, "Welcome to my ship.  I wish to assure you of my peaceful intentions."
     Sweeping my hand towards my desk, I spoke again.  "Inside one of the drawers is a translation device.  With your kind permission, I would like to retrieve it."
    Maintaining my smile, I slowly moved towards my desk.  The alien watched my movements, and I kept an eye on 'him'.  Thankfully I knew precisely where the translator resided, so I opened the center drawer and removed it.  Tapping it on, I looked at the alien and realized I faced a serious problem.  How, I pondered bleakly, could I convince 'him' to speak for my translator?
     I walked into the clear, holding the device before me.  Pointing at myself, I said, "I am Vincent Lissan, a human."
     Right before my eyes, the alien walked through the wall.  Stunned for a moment, I turned to head for the open door.  Upon reaching it, I found myself tossed to the floor.  Shaking myself from the jolt. I looked again at the doorway.  Eyes narrowing, I noted a faint glow around the opening.  Pulling myself from the floor, I cautiously pushed my hand into the field.   In seconds my arm flung back, spinning me.
     I spent the next 50 minutes trying everything I could to escape my cabin.  Not one thing I tried, from throwing objects at the barrier to blasting it, accomplished any results.  I frowned in contempt at the doorway, throwing my chair at it.  Avoiding the chair as it flew back, I forced myself to sit and think.  Apparently I needed logic or a miracle at this point.
     I rose and moved to the open door.  Searching every inch on my side, I detected no mechanism for the field on my side of the door.  Carefully looking out the door, I spotted a box on one side of the door.  I studied it a moment, trying to guess it's precise location on the wall.  Moving, I pulled off the wall access panel that I believed was directly behind the device.
     Peering into the opening, I located the clips holding the panel on the other wall.  I tapped on them, then pushed for all I was worth.  One loud clang of the panel hitting the floor, and the field surrounding my door disappeared.  Rubbing the rapidly forming lump on my head from hitting the wall, I scooped up my blaster and translator.  Peeking out the door, I determined the coast was clear.
     I edged down the corridor, scanning and listening.  A small ship held some advantages, I mused.  A quick and uneventful trip towards flight control caused me to pause before the open doorway.  From inside, I clearly saw four of these odd aliens.  I quietly moved behind a strut to observe without being spotted.  Inside flight control, three aliens milled about over my systems.  I frowned deeply, trying to ascertain their motives.
     Realizing they were attempt to figure out the controls of my ship, I slipped off.  Stalking the corridors as silently as possible, I kept a wary eye out for aliens and for Graycee.  By now, I thought glumly, she has to be scared senseless.
     Reaching the engine room sans any sightings, I peered inside.  No one, I noted in satisfaction, appeared to be home.  I advanced on the main console, hurriedly punching in commands to disable the on board surveillance system.  Punching in more commands, I activated a program that encoded all my systems unless you used the right cipher.  I smiled, hitting the execute command, as this particular gift from helping the computer driven society of Mandaris worked away.
     I crossed to a nearby computer terminal, and punched in my cipher.  In moments I saw the heading the aliens had me on.  Shaking my head, it seemed to be nothing but empty space.  I halted mid shrug, as realization appeared.  They had my ship headed back towards the point of disturbance from earlier.
     Absolutely, positively, fantastically lovely, I thought sourly.
     A meow intruded upon my thoughts.  Standing on top of the console I worked on, Graycee looked at me in something approaching wide eyed terror.  I smiled at her, happy to see she was okay.  Smiling, I turned, plotting my next move.
     That is when I realized her meow wasn't for attention.  I smiled sheepishly at the two aliens I faced.  Graycee hissed, bolting down an access chute.  Maintaining my smile I looked at both aliens, vainly trying to decipher their thoughts.  I spread my hands in what I hoped constituted a non threatening gesture, saying, "Hello again.  I was hoping we could chat.  Perhaps you could explain your interest in myself and my ship?"
     Nary a reaction nor sound did either alien make.  I kept my hands spread out, trying to think of some way of communicating.  Before all my thoughts ran off the cliff, the aliens acted.  One of them walked through a wall, exiting to the corridor.  The other one raised a hand, prompting me to raise my hands in the universal gesture of surrender.  'He' stepped aside, and I marched back to my cabin under escort.  Once inside, I grabbed my scanner, flicking it on just as the alien walked out through the wall.  Glaring in total disbelief at yet another display of this trick, I also spotted the glow from my open doorway.
     I looked at the readings recorded by my scanner.  Blinking hard, I reread them three more times.  Nothing I ever encountered matched the insanity of what the readings told me.  Sitting at my desk terminal, I fed the information into my database, asking for a search of anything remotely similar.  Minutes passed, which I fidgeted through, before the computer displayed me an answer.
     The computer appeared as baffled as I in this instance.  Points of the data vaguely matched some vague theories on other dimensions, and such high science I could not fathom.  Beyond that, no mention of anything else.  Huffing, I leaned back, letting my thoughts wander about.  After a fruitless thought session, I decided to change course.
     Logging in, I received a nasty surprise.  The aliens had managed to lock out the navigational controls, as well as the communications system.  My system locking prevented another course change, but this provided scant comfort to me.  Traveling at transluminal speed, I saw we would reach the area of the disturbance in about seven minutes.
     Depression and weariness caught up to me just then.  I slumped over, feeling all my energy just flow away.  I just wanted to go home, not be shanghaied by a group of out of this universe aliens for some unfathomable purpose.  I simply could not believe this, letting my frustration boil over and slamming my fist into the desk.
     Looking up, I spotted Graycee in the doorway.  She sniffed at the barrier, then proceeded to come towards it.  Frozen to the spot, I couldn't even yell.  My fear gripped me that she might be hurt by the barrier throwing her.
     When Graycee walked through unharmed, I about fainted.  She jumped on the chair beside me to complain.  Staring at her, my mind took off running.  In a moment I managed to grab her.  Now yelling at me, I moved to the doorway.  Sucking in a deep breath, and fighting a struggling cat, I strode through the doorway.
     My surprise at this accomplishment nearly allowed Graycee to escape.  Petting her, I said, "Oh no little cat, you and I have a job to do.  You can yell at me later."
     A growl issued forth from her.  I sighed, heading for the flight deck.  Along the way I attempted to ponder a reason why Graycee, a Terran feline, could disrupt the barrier setup by these aliens.  When each passing thought turned more bizarre than the preceding thought, I stopped.  Perhaps, I thought in amazement, I can write a paper on this insanity.
     Slowing, I peered carefully into flight control.  Seeing it empty, I walked right in.  As I did, one of the aliens walked in behind me.  Graycee meowed her loudest, as panic firmly set in.  Stock still, I waited for the alien to do something since I had managed another escape.
     The alien ignored my presence, and the meowing of one annoyed cat.  Bafflement galore raced through my mind, as I watched the alien manipulate a device connected to my main access interface.  Mind racing, the alien moved out of the room.
     Managing to hang onto Graycee, I ripped the device off the access interface.  Throwing it on the floor, I kicked it straight into the nearest bulkhead.  Sparks issued from it to my extreme satisfaction.  I hurriedly entered my control system and shut down the engines.  As the ship lurched to a halt, four aliens raced into the room.  They hurriedly began doing all manner of things,  allowing me enough time to flick on my translator.  My hope they would make a sound, say anything.  My patience giving way after more silence, I let go of Graycee.  She stalked away from me.
     The aliens noticed me appearing suddenly.  I smiled, speaking slowly.  "For your peace of mind, the malfunction would have been caused by me ripping the device from the console."
     The aliens stared at me in something resembling shock.  Well, I thought, I guess it is shock.  Not a one, however, said a word.  Fighting to keep my face and tone neutral, I said, "With intelligence obviously as good as yours, you should be able to recognize speech and a translation unit.."
     Frustration crept up through my brain.  So far, the quartet of them had not moved, talked, anything.  I snapped my eyes closed for a moment, fighting off the feeling of a headache forming.  Upon opening, I drew a breath to say something probably not considered entirely diplomatic.
     At that moment, one of the four turned and pointed at my main viewer.  Pointing, the viewer sprang to life, showing me a chart of the immediate area.  Nodding, a pointer appeared, showing the area of distortion, then one showing my ship's position.  Nodding, as they appeared to understand and acknowledge that, a new pointer appeared.
     Figuring they would not answer me, I addressed them anyway.  "Okay gang, I understand what two of the pointers represent.  I am at a loss about the last one however."
     The four of them shared an unfathomable look at each other.  One of them moved to a device attached to my communications system.  Touching the device, the main viewer cleared.  Strange characters flashed across the screen, then settled into standard.  Fascinated now, I watched as the letters moved to form words.  Finally this message appeared to me:
     We understand your words but can not communicate to you.  The third pointer you are seeing is our ship.  It is trapped in transit.
     I mulled over this statement.  Thinking, I voiced a thought aloud.  "Why did you not simply ask for my assistance?"
     I watched again as words formed on the screen.  In moments, I had a vaguely baffling answer.
     We are unfamiliar with your form of Life, as well as your mental patterns and communication ability.
     Puzzled by this, I let the statement be.  Stretching, I addressed the aliens.  "Allow me to assume navigational control.  I will direct us towards your ship."
     Waiting, no response seemed forthcoming.  I held back a smile, realizing they did not know they need to respond to that.  Moving, I slid into the navigational console's chair.  Nullifying my overrides, I powered up the hyperatomic drive and got the ship moving.  Checking, I noted we would arrive in about four minutes.
     Turning, I said, "We shall arrive in approximately four minutes.  Do you have names?"
     We are the Houlisa.  You are of the Terran race, yet have a name separate.  Your assistance in our matter receives much appreciation.
     A smile escaped me at this statement.  I punched the detectors to maximum scan, transferring the readings to my console.  I checked the readings, dropping to sublight velocity about about 800,000 miles out.  The Houlisa moved about my flight control, making several modifications to my detectors.  Once complete, I could see a massive ship, flickering in a decidedly phantom type way.
     I stopped about 7,500 miles out.  pouring over the readings, I could not easily make sense of them.  Addressing the Houlisa, I said, "Alright, how can I be of assistance?"
     The answer startled me, as my ship began moving.  The assembled Houlisa simply watched in silence.  On the main viewer I watched a set of doors open, my ship heading inside.  In mere moments my ship entered a large hanger bay.  Settling onto what appeared to be a landing slip, I felt the ship power down.  A frown appeared on my face, prompting me to turn to the Houlisa.  The surprise on my face to find they had disappeared probably approached epic proportions.
     Noting a walkway leading from my main airlock to the inside of the ship, I grabbed the translator and headed off my ship.  Entering the Houlisa vessel, I felt dizzy suddenly.  Staggering against a wall, I fought to regain control of my raging senses.  I closed my eyes, senses threatening to make me violently ill.  After a moment, I settled enough to open one eye.
     Looking down the corridor, I realized that it was swimming.  Shaking my head and closing my eye, I looked again.  Definitely swimming, I thought as yet another shudder of nausea ran through me.  I turned myself, and slowly negotiated my way back to my ship.  Once inside, I recovered enough to go hunting through a storage locker.  In minutes I located a visual filter.  Quickly shoveling the scattered contents of the locker inside and slamming the door, I set out again.
     Several misfires later, I managed to tune the filter enough to allow me to see without wanting to empty my stomach.  Walking slowly down the corridor before me, I searched for a door.  The corridor kept going, no sign of a door to be found.  I found myself beginning to feel a sense of alarm, as I also found I had lost all conception of time.
     Maybe, I thought sourly, my alien friends had no need for doors.  With their penchant for walking through walls, I deemed this a likely probability.  Stopping, I pondered turning back.  Shaking my head, I decided to continue.  Perhaps, I thought in mild amusement, a leprechaun might appear with a pot of gold or something.
     Laughing, a door finally appeared to me.  As hoped for, it opened for me as I approached it.  Stepping inside, my eyes widened at the size of the room.  Looking about me at alien machinery, the dim realization of being way out of my depth reared its head.  Not the best with my own brand of technology, to me it appeared I entered a child's nursery.
     I moved slowly about the room, attempting to find a point of familiarity.  Searching, finally i spotted something vaguely familiar to me.  Using my translator, I ascertained it was a main engine console.  Some of the controls translated to me, including the rather troubling reading showing 124% output of the main drive.  I frowned at this, as the ship was stationary.  I recorded everything on the console, determined to try translating this on my ship.
     Turning to go, I paused in mid stride.  To this point, my thoughts catching me, I had seen nary a sign of my hosts.  One self conscious look about me produced no sign of any being.  Feeling a bit like being on a ship of ghosts, I retraced my steps and arrived at my ship.  Once inside, I dropped down in front of the terminal on my engineering deck.
     Feeding the readings through the translation program, I also punched up everything I had in the engineering database.  I tapped my fingers impatiently, waiting for something to give me an answer.  As I did, Graycee appeared in my vision range.  Looking at her, I noticed something approaching wide eyed terror.  Speaking to her to reassure her, and quite possibly myself, I said, "No need to worry Graycee, we are simply inside another vessel.  Strange as the aliens are, they require assistance."
     Her response of jumping on the console and sniffing and starring at me notched vaguely familiar to me.  Puzzled, I looked at her, trying to decipher the age old question of feline logic.  I found myself engaged in this preoccupation as I sailed across the engineering deck.  Slamming into a bulkhead, I crawled across the heaving deck to the main console.  I yelled at the computer, "Status report!"
     The computer spoke in a maddeningly calm contrast to the heaving I felt.  "Gravitational disturbance level 15.  All stabilization systems at tolerance.  Main power fluctuation to 23% level."
     Hanging on for everything I was worth, I yelled out to the computer, "Priority command Tango-Foxtrot-Sierra!  Locate source of disturbance and pinpoint on location map."
     The heaving subsided enough for me to haul myself into the chair at the main console.  Holding on to the console with one hand, I punched up the map display.  A shudder ran through my ship, forcing me to hang on with both hands.  I thanked all the stars for the gift installed in my ship's gravitational system from the engineers on Galatin.  Without it running right now, I realised I would not be in this chair.
     My eyes nearly shot out of my head as I looked at the map display.  The map displayed my position on the map, along with the origin point of the disturbance.  Blinking, I punched in commands to magnify, the computer responding minus hesitation.  Sure enough, the points were sitting right on top of each other.
      Another shudder rocked the ship, as I punched in commands to get readings.  I whistled once I saw said readings.  In defiance of logic, the readings showed the source of the disturbance as the ship I was sitting in.  Holding on, I double checked and the same readings returned again.  I punched buttons for the voice link, saying, "Computer analysis of phenomenon, cross referencing with information in database.  Relay findings via vocal output."
     "Computer analysis running.  Cross linking databases."
     Jumping up, I dashed across the room to the main drive console.  I quickly powered them to full capacity, using the energy to keep the ship as stable as possible.  A reading caught my eye, causing a rare burst of fear to sweep through me.
     Guessing, I had about all of ten minutes before the hyperatomic motors imploded from fusion decay.
     Pushing aside the sour thoughts, I dashed down to my storage hold.  Digging through the collected mess, I wasted three minutes searching for a device from the people of Altair Sigmas.  I located it, and raced about the ship.  A two minute search netted me an emergency space rescue pack and Graycee.  Fighting her all the way back to the engineering deck, I entered and sealed the control area.  Graycee ran under the enviromental console, looking for the worlds terrified beyond any version of reason.
     Knowing I had her in a defined area, I dropped the pack and the device.  Hammering away at the main drive controls, I attempted to do something, anything to stop my ship from exploding.  I fought tears, as I had come to help, not kill and destroy.
     Nothing I attempted produced any effect.  The seconds ticked away, each one bringing destruction closer.  The implosion decay alarm rang, as my face fell.  I tried opening a communications channel to warn the aliens, but static roared at me.  A sense of failure washing over me, I grabbed the device from Altair Sigmas and walked to were Graycee watched me.  Kneeling before her, I stretched out a hand and pet her, my free hand keying the device active.
     "Computer analysis complete."
     Graycee and I both jumped at the same time.  Laughing sadly, I yelled, "Vocal readout!"
     "Gravitational disturbance type unknown.  Distortion disturbance is variable, dimensional distortion approaching danger level.  Indicators register minus .9713 on dimensional gradients..."
     I stopped listening just then.  Intently looking at Graycee the cat, I saw something reflected in her eyes.  Getting on the deck, I nearly touched noses with her.  Sure enough, an image glinted off her eyes, one I was not seeing.  In point of fact, images that were moving backwards.
     Pushing off the deck, I attempted to figure out this strange occurrence, as I paused from pressing a button on my gift from the Altair Sigmasans that would remove Graycee and I from this impending disaster.  Dimensional gradients and distortion plus a negative reading...
     Negative dimensional reading!
     Somehow, this ship I currently sat in was existing in another dimension.  For some even more insane reason, the dimension was running backwards from mine.  And, my mind thought furiously, for the trifecta, I have 93 seconds to do something.
     I rounded on the main engineering console, attacking every switch, button, relay and who knows what else.  I invented new a combination of commands in waves, not a one having any effect.  The rumbling from my hyperatomic engine grew ominous, joining the screaming alarms.  Graycee managed to meow at maximum volume over the noise, running and jumping in the confined space I held us in.
     The thought raced through me, a memory attached.  I hurriedly tapped into my communications systems, shouting, "Attention!  Hyperspacial pulse jump commencing in ten seconds.  Order imperative, jump in 8 seconds!"
     I counted in my head, remembering a trick taught to me by the Novan Space Stunt Group.  A precise hyperspacial pulse jump my two vessels would unlock most anything.  I had seen it from them after I helped unravel a case of sabotage.  Hopefully, this would work.  Hopefully, the aliens understood what I meant to go with it.
     Closing my eyes, I pressed the enter command.  Feeling quite weird suddenly, all sounds around me dropped out.  I decided not to open my eyes, not quite ready to face what I may have done.  Afterall, I reasoned, I could be quite dead.
     "Vincent Lissan, we thank you."
     I opened my eyes slowly.  Floating before me, several radiating balls of light appeared.  Disbelief crossed my face, as I asked, "Where precisely am I?  And who are you since you have the advantage of me."
     "We are the Houlisa.  This is our natural form, from the place we come.  As for where, you are on the bridge between our realities.  You will return to yours in a moment.  We wished to thank you for getting us home."
     I nodded and smiled.  "Helping others is what I do.  I am glad I could help one more time in this life."
     One of the balls moved close to me.  Looking intently, I realized a ghostly image played across its surface.  I watched tears welling up in my eyes.  After a moment I smiled, nodding my understanding of what I saw.  The ball moved back, the voice echoing to me, saying, "A gift of our appreciation.  We will remember always Vincent."
     I waved, as my ship faded into view.  Reality returned with the yelling of one cat.  I leaned down to her, petting her.  Smiling at her, I said, "I owe you my thanks Graycee for the idea.  So, "I turned off the barrier around us, "I think a treat is in order for us both."
     As I led the way to the kitchen, I called out to my computer system.  "Engage automatic systems.  Abort previous course.  Plot and execute course to Proxima Dockyards, standard by three."
     Looking at the impatient Graycee, I smiled broadly.  It would be, I thought as I rummaged about the kitchen for something for her, necessary to have the ship checked over.
     Someone, somewhere always needed assistance...one may never know when they would require it.