Return Engagements (Book Two) PART 21

(Continued from part twenty)

The room – it had no square corners but was still a room – was an odd white, almost metallic and ever so slightly pink. I was laying on a bed-like platform, a little lower than our usual. The mattress was difficult to describe. It felt soft as I first emerged from sleep, but the more I woke up – opening my eyes, looking around, engaging my muscles – the harder it became. On a normal day I’d never pay attention to my mattress while waking up, but feeling it change beneath me got my attention right away.

But I pushed that back out of my mind. I had more important things to observe. I scanned the room carefully and found nothing distinctive. Nothing that located me in any way.

There was a door-like opening from my sleeping room to a much larger room, and that room was built of the same material. I’d call it metallic, except that it had an almost organic appearance.

We’re not in Kansas anymore, was the line that ran through my mind.

I sat up and found a roll of white clothing at the foot of my bed. I unrolled it to find a pair of underwear, a T-shirt and a pair of coveralls, all made of some unfamiliar fabric. The same went for the shoes and socks. Everything was appropriate and functional, but odd.

Come on out when you’re ready, Paul, “ a voice sounded from the main room. “I’m making some coffee… or something that’s very much like coffee.” The voice sounded like Jens, but with the acoustics of the large room, I couldn’t be sure.

I finished putting on my shoes, which involved something like Velcro, but not fuzzy. I stood and stepped into the main room. Off to my left, 25 or 30 feet away, at what seemed to be a cooking station hugging a curved wall, was Jens. He was pouring a brown liquid from a carafe of some type into a couple of mugs.

Sit,” he said, smiling and gesturing to a couple of chairs and a small table. They were also made of the quasi-metal material. I sat and waited.

Here you go,” he went on, handing me a mug and sitting next to me. “Good to see you again.”

And you,” I said, taking a sip from my mug (not quite coffee, but close) and looking around the big room. It was an easy 40 feet across, maybe 18 feet high, round and narrower toward the top, like a transverse section of an huge egg.

Where and when are we?” I asked while noticing that the room was bright without any visible light source.

Jens smiled. “40,000 light years from Earth – the Earth of this galaxy – and 3,500 years before your time.”

Fifteen hundred BC,” I muttered, “that would be entertaining… save for the language problem.”

I have a trick that could fix that for you,” he said with an off-hand sincerity.

What?”

You have the ability, kind of buried in you, to understand and even speak languages you didn’t previously know. You’d have to listen rather than speak for some minutes first, but after that you could jump right in, almost effortlessly.”

I’ve heard stories of brain-injured people who woke up speaking new languages, but I always figured they were false.”

Without a doubt you have people who would make up such a story, so perhaps they were false, but a serious brain trauma might cut through the obstacles and allow someone to do that… once in every few hundreds or thousands of such accidents.”

I was half-stunned, but Jens handled the subject like I’d handle a discussion of fruits and vegetables; it was a long-known, almost trivial subject to him. After a moment or two, I decided to put it aside and move on.

And what is this place?” I asked, turning my head and scanning the room as a gesture.

Jens smiled. “Do you feel ready for a pleasant surprise?” he asked.

He was smiling, and I could feel the benevolence coming off him, and so I said, “Yes, I think so.”

Okay,” he said, as he got up, walked over to a large console in the middle of the room and pushed a button.

I stood involuntarily as the far wall slid up, like a thick window shade, leaving as clear a window as I’d ever seen. And behind the window was a galaxy… our galaxy. In a fog of amazement I walked directly to it.

You can lean against it if you’d like,” Jens informed me. “You could run a truck into it and never come close to breaking it.”

I was dumbfounded and overwhelmed.

I’m going to obscure it a bit now, Paul.”

I suppose I had been standing there half a minute or so.

Otherwise it will hold your attention too much. We need to talk.”

I knew he was right, and a second later I could see just a hint of the galaxy through the window, but I still didn’t want to leave. I wanted to feel what was on the other side, even if I couldn’t very well see it.

Still, some few moments later I pulled myself away and made my way back to our little coffee klatch. I turned my back to the window, breathed deep, and refocused my mind on the situation in front of me.

Okay,” I said, “tell me about this.”

Certainly. We are in what you call a space ship, but not much like anything you’ve seen or imagined before, I’m fairly sure. We’re traveling at .65 C, by your measurements.”

I nodded, quickly calculating (too quickly for my usual thinking, perhaps) that we were moving 195,000 kilometers per second. Insanely fast. But I pushed that away and focused on Jens again. He continued.

There are some technical things you can learn here, and I’ll find some schematics for you, but I didn’t ask to bring you here for that… I wanted to return your favor of welcoming me to your world, and give you a first taste of the world that lies ahead of you.”

Favor? I thought. It was an amazing gift to me. But again I let it pass.

This galaxy will last only a few days… two or perhaps three… and so there’s nothing for you to do in it. But I would like you to feel space… to feel what being unobstructed is like.”

Thank you,” I said, then went silent again and waited.

This is not an area where you’d feel a powerful life-force, as you call it, but it is away from the influence of seven billion confused minds. Right now you’re overwhelmed, but once you’re alone and relax a bit, you’ll feel it. And so I’m only staying long enough to orient you. Then I’ll take one of their small ships and do some exploration on my own. Does that make good sense to you?”

I nodded my head, sipped some coffee and decided that I’d trust his judgment on the things I didn’t understand.

Yes,” I said. “In a way I’d prefer you stayed, but I’m sure your plan is better overall.”

I think so,” he said with a grin.

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