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June 2008 Volume 10 , Issue 6 submit to us!
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The+Messenger
by Lee Gimenez -- Contributing Author [Email This Story]

"Where am I?"

"You’re in the isolation ward at Evan hospital," the doctor replied.

The man on the bed sat up. "What happened? All I remember is falling and then . . . nothing."

The doctor looked at the bio-med monitors over the bed and then back at his patient.

"You were found by the police wandering around downtown, babbling incoherently. You don’t have an ID chip implant and you’ve been in a coma for 3 days. I’m doctor Lanar; what’s your name?"

"My name is Peter . . . " the man said.

The doctor wrote something down on a tablet. "OK Peter, what’s your last name?"

"I’m not sure."

"OK, what were you doing downtown? Do you work there? Do you have any relatives we can call?"

Peter looked back at the doctor blank faced. He didn’t have an answer for any of those questions. "I don’t know."

Dr. Lanar frowned. "We’ll keep you in isolation until we figure out what’s going on. Without an ID chip, you can’t be wandering around the city. You know that’s the Identification Law of 2017..."

"No, I didn’t know . . . actually, I don’t remember anything . . . "

"I’ll check on you tomorrow," Lanar said, walking out.

Peter looked around the room. It was strange looking, all white, very antiseptic. He didn’t recognize the medical equipment; it was compact and sleek. There were no windows and the metal door was securely locked. He found a mirror and looked at the reflection. He was tall, over six feet, with long brown hair. He had a ruddy complexion, like someone who spent a lot of time out in the sun.

The next day, Dr. Lanar was back. "Well Peter, how are things today? Remember anything yet?"

"Actually, I do. My name is . . . Peter . . . I’m a messenger . . . I was sent to deliver a message."

Dr. Lanar gave him a terse smile. "OK, that’s a start. What kind of messenger are you? Do you live here in Tampa?"

"No, I’m not from here. I have a message. Once I’ve passed that on, I’ll be on my way."

"Actually, without proper ID, you’re not going anywhere. What’s the message?"

"Humanity must not travel outside its own world."

The doctor frowned. "That’s it?"

"Yes."

"What do you mean by it?"

"Humans must accept that earth is their only world -- you must not travel beyond it."

"And why is that?" Lanar asked.

"You’ve polluted your own planet . . . we don’t want you to mess up anything else . . . "

Dr. Lanar gave him a long look. He’d had many patients over his 30 years of medical practice, and he’d seen his share of insanity. This guy, though, seemed very calm. No ranting and raving. "So, tell me, where do you come from?"

"That’s not important, doctor. I just need to get my message out."

"You know, NASA is launching its manned Mars mission next month . . . "

"That’s why I’m here," Peter said.

Lanar decided to humor him. "What will you do if it goes ahead?"

"Earth will have to be destroyed."

Lanar laughed; he couldn’t help himself. "OK Peter, that’s a good one. Now tell me, who are you really?"

"As I said, I’m a messenger."

"Don’t worry Peter; we’ll get you well again. We’ll do a full range of tests on you, and try to figure out what’s wrong. I’ll consult with some specialists."

Over the next week, they performed every type of physical and mental tests available. They prodded, probed and scanned. And they found nothing wrong with him. Just a normal, 30 year old male with some odd ideas. Lanar and his staff were baffled. The only diagnosis they came up with was psychiatric disorder. Insanity.

"Peter, we’ve completed all of our tests; physically, you’re fine. We’ll be giving you medication for your mental problems. But, don’t worry; our new drugs are quite efficient. Within a few weeks, you’ll see a big improvement. Trust me."

"Dr. Lanar, I’ve been very patient. But I need to go. I need to get my message out."

"I’m afraid that won’t be possible. You’ll have to stay at the hospital until you’re cured. I’m sorry."

Peter gave him a whimsical look and smiled.

By 4 am the next morning, Peter was driving on Interstate 4, heading toward the NASA space center on Florida’s east coast. He had quietly escaped from the hospital, and had stolen an old Buick sedan from the parking lot. By 8am, he was in the city of Titusville, just a few miles from the space center. He debated the best way to do this, and decided the direct approach would be best. He drove up to the space center’s main gate and was stopped by the guard.

"Can I help you sir?" the security guard asked.

"Yes, I need to speak to the person in charge."

The guard gave him a hard look. Peter’s long hair and rusty Buick didn’t look very professional. "Do you have an appointment?"

"No. I have a message for the person in charge."

"I’m sorry sir, but Mr. Nelson doesn’t meet with people without an appointment. If you’d like to call, I can give you his secretary’s phone number."

"I need to see him now; it’s very important."

"Look, that’s just not possible. You’ll have to call for an appointment," the guard said curtly, losing patience.

Peter turned off his car’s engine and crossed his arms. "I need to see him now."

The guard unholstered his gun and rang an alarm. He needed backup with this crackpot.

They took Peter to a holding cell. But since he had no ID chip implanted on his hand, they had to run his fingerprints and DNA to find out who he was.

Sergeant Adams from Security went to see him when the results were back. "Well, we ran you through the Database, and it looks like you have no criminal record. In fact, you have no record at all. You know how hard it is to not be in the system theses days?"

"I just need to see the person in charge. I have a message for him," Peter said calmly.

"So I heard. Why don’t you give me the message, and I’ll pass it along . . . "

"You can’t launch the manned Mars mission."

"And why is that?" Adams asked incredulously.

"If earth starts colonizing other planets, we’ll have no choice but to destroy you."

Adams shook his head. "OK, buddy. It’s all clear to me now. How long have you been off your meds?"

"Listen, it’s very important that you pass this message on to your superiors. There’s not much time left," Peter pleaded.

"I’m sure. We’ll hold you here overnight, for questioning. We’ll have the Titusville police pick you up tomorrow. They’ll have to figure out what to do with you."

Peter escaped from the holding cell at midnight and walked to town. He had no money, car or ID, and he was starting to worry that his mission was in jeopardy. There wasn’t much time left. He needed to get someone to help him.

He had walked the 8 miles from the space center to Titusville, and it was now 3am. He was in a rough part of town, mostly bars and tattoo parlors. There was a group of prostitutes at the corner, and he approached one of them. She was a woman in her 20s, a skinny girl with blonde frizzy hair.

"Can you help me? I’ll pay you well," he said to her.

"Sure, honey," she replied. "Want a date? I’ll show you a good time . . . "

"Actually, I need help with some things -- I’ll pay you $5,000."

The girl’s eyes turned into saucers. "Listen, honey, for 5,000 bucks, I’ll give you the time of your life!"

"There’s just one thing, I can’t pay until tomorrow, and I need a place to stay."

The girl gave this some thought. It had been a slow night; she’d only had two johns so far, and made only 200 bucks. This guy looked clean, and $5,000 was a lot of money. She decided she didn’t have much to lose. "OK, but don’t try anything stupid, or I’ll cut you," she said, as she flashed him the knife she carried for protection.

"Don’t worry," he told her. "You’ll get your money."

She drove him to her small, run down apartment. He slept on the floor, and the next morning, she made him breakfast.

"By the way, I’m Ashley," she said. "What’s your name, honey?"

"Peter," he replied. "Let me tell you what I need."

"Well, I’m sure it ain’t sex, since you wanted to sleep on the floor last night."

"No, it’s not sex. I just need your help with a couple of things. But first, I need you to buy a lottery ticket. I’ll pick out the numbers, if you buy it."

Ashley played with her frizzy hair and laughed. "So that’s your great plan? You’re going to win the lottery?"

"Actually, we’re going to win one of the smaller prizes, just $25,000 or so. That’s all I need. We’d generate too much attention if we win more than that."

"Peter baby, I’ve been playing the lottery for five years and never won more than 3 bucks. You’re crazy to think you can pick the right numbers that easily . . . "

"Trust me . . . just buy one lottery ticket with these numbers and you’ll get your $5, 000," he said, giving her a slip of paper with the numbers on them.

Ashley shook her head and laughed again. "OK, I’ll spot you the $1 for the ticket, but if we don’t win, you’re out on your ass, honey . . . "

Ashley bought the lottery ticket and they waited for the drawing that evening. She was shocked when their winning numbers were announced on TV.

"That’s incredible!" she yelled, grabbing Peter and giving him a big hug. "I don’t know how you did it, but you did!"

"I told you . . . now let me tell you what I need to do."

Peter repeated his story, knowing full well that Ashley wouldn’t believe it either.

"So what you need to do is get the Mars mission cancelled?" she asked incredously.

"That’s right."

"Honey, there’s too much money tied up with that mission. This whole area of Florida pretty much lives off the space center. And, anyways, only the top government people would be able to cancel it."

"Who would that be?"

"Well, it’d be the President or one of his people."

"That’s who I need to talk to then," he said.

"You crack me up, Peter," Ashley chuckled. "He won’t talk to you."

"I have to try; that’s what I have to do."

She gave him a funny look. "Why is this so important, anyways?"

"It’s my mission."

"Whatever," she shrugged. "As long as I get the money, it don’t matter to me."

The next day, they drove to Tallahassee and picked up the lottery winnings.

They drove back to Titusville and with Ashley’s help, Peter was able to find the phone number for the White House. He called the number.

"I need to speak with the President," he told the White House switchboard operator.

"I’m sorry, sir, but he’s unavailable. I can connect you with the public relations officer, Mr. Logan," the operator said, switching him through.

"I have a message I need to give to the President," Peter said. "It’s very important that he gets it."

"What’s your name, please?" Logan asked.

"Yes, my name is Peter, and the President needs to cancel the Mars mission."

"And why is that?"

"If the mission is not canceled, earth will be destroyed."

Logan turned to his secretary, while covering the phone speaker. "Susan, have the Secret Service trace this call. I think this guy may be threatening the President." He took his hand away from the speaker and spoke with Peter. "Listen, I’m not sure what you have in mind, but calm down a little. Can I get your full name and address?"

"I just need to get this message to the President. We’re running out of time."

Logan needed to stall for time, so the Secret Service could trace the call. "OK, no problem, I’ll be sure to pass the message along. Could you tell me why the mission needs to be cancelled?"

"Humans have polluted your own planet . . . we don’t want you to mess up anything else."

"When you say ‘we’, are there others involved in your operation?" Logan asked.

"That’s not important. What is critical is that you tell the President, and that he cancels the Mars mission."

"Sure, no problem," Logan said, playing along. "We’ll cancel the mission . . . now, if I could just get your name and location . . . ."

Peter hung up the phone, realizing how difficult it was to get people to believe him.

Ashley shook her head and laughed. "I told you they wouldn’t believe you. But, you got admit, it’s a pretty tall tale you’re spinning, honey . . . "

"I’m running out of time. If I don’t figure something out soon, it’s going to be too late."

"Why don’t you call the newspaper," Ashley suggested. "Maybe you’ll have better luck with them . . . "

With her help, Peter set up a meeting with a reporter from the Titusville Tribune, the local daily. They met at a bar close to Ashley’s apartment.

"So, you’ve got a big story you want to tell, is that right?" the reporter asked. He was young, just out of journalism school.

Peter went through his story again.

"Well, that’s some story all right. Do you have any proof to back this up?" the reporter asked.

"No."

"Then, at least tell me about yourself. Where do you work, where do you live, have family, that kind of thing . . . "

"My name is Peter and I’m a messenger."

"I gathered that -- can you tell me anything else?"

"There’s not much else. I have to get this story out before it’s too late." Peter said emphatically.

"I can’t really help you. Without any other information, there’s no way I can do a story on you. I’d be laughed out of the newsroom."

Peter shook his head and walked out of the bar.

By the next day, Peter realized he was running out of options. And he was running out of time. The launch was scheduled for next week.

"Ashley, I need your help one last time," he said. "I need you to buy some things for me."

"Why don’t you buy them yourself, you’ve got plenty of money now."

"I can’t buy anything without an ID implant. But you have one."

"OK, Peter baby. But I want more money. Just give me another $5,000 and I’ll do anything you want."

"That’s fine. Here’s what I need. First, I need a cargo van; a used one is fine. Then I need diesel fuel. And last, I need fertilizer; a lot of it."

Ashley gave him puzzled look. "What do you need that stuff for, honey? You’re not planning anything illegal are you?"

"Don’t worry about it."

"Whatever. As long as I get my money, it don’t matter to me."

It took a couple of days, but Ashley was able to get the van, supplies and tools. Peter loaded the van and turned to say goodbye to Ashley.

"Thanks for your help. I probably won’t be seeing you again."

Ashley chuckled. "Before you go, how about a roll in the hay?"

"I told you, this wasn’t about sex."

"OK, but you don’t know what you’re missing . . . " she said, waving goodbye to him.

Peter drove to a deserted area in the outskirts of town and worked for the next day. When it was ready, he got in the van and drove toward the NASA space center. He knew this was his last chance. If this didn’t work, it was all over.

He drove to within a mile of the main gate. They had already wheeled out the huge Mars rocket ship out to the launch pad. You could see it clearly, even from several miles away. It was an imposing sight, the gleaming white capsule above the immense booster rockets. It was just after 5am, and lights bathed the launching pad. Security was extremely tight; barbed wire fencing and concrete barriers ringed the space complex. He gunned the engine and sped to the main gate. The engine growled as he pushed the van to 70, then 80, up to 90mph. He could see the guards had spotted him now, and he heard loud sirens going off. He stomped the gas pedal to the floor. He held the detonator in one hand and the steering wheel with the other. The van crashed through the gate, plowing over the guard post and several guards. The van’s front end and windows were smashed. Incredibly, the van kept going, and Peter slammed down the accelerator again, picking up speed toward the launch pad. He heard helicopters overhead, and saw flashes of gunfire. Bullets ripped into the van, cutting through the doors, the hood, the roof. Several bullets tore into his arm. Another one slammed into his shoulder. Blood was everywhere now. Still, he kept his foot on the pedal, the van speeding toward the barricades that surrounded the rocket ship. Then, a snipers bullet hit the engine block and the van’s engine coughed to a stop. The van rolled another 100 feet before stopping, still far away from the launching pad.

Peter lay in the van’s front seat, bleeding. He knew he had failed.

The attempted bombing of the Mars mission was worldwide news. It was the first time a space launch had been attacked. Luckily, all of the security measures had prevented any damage to the rocket ship. Three guards had been killed and the gate had been damaged, but the flight launch had been protected. The wounded perpetrator was being held in a high security prison by the FBI. Dubbed "Peter the madman" by the media, he had been treated for gunshot wounds but was still alive.

The Mars mission launched the following week, as planned. The liftoff was beautiful, the rocket arching over the Florida sky on a clear, sunny day. It was a flawless launch.

The next day, Peter woke up in his jail cell to the sound of a TV blaring in the background. The guards posted outside his cell where watching a screen, a TV reporter talking nervously.

"Reports have been coming in all morning," the news reporter said. "There have been massive earthquakes reported in all major cities around the world . . . New York City reported a 10.0 magnitude earthquake, the same in Los Angeles and Chicago. Damage has been horrific. Tens of thousands have already died in London, Paris, Tokyo and Mexico City. Extensive flooding and fires have been reported. Never before in history have massive earthquakes hit multiple continents at one time." The reporter paused to read some new reports. His voice had a panicked edge to it. "We’ve just received word that earthquakes are being reported in smaller cities also -- Kansas City, Cleveland and Phoenix. The President has left the White House and is now on Air Force One. He has called on Congress to enact martial law until the crisis is over."

The reporter wiped the sweat over his eyes, and continued, his voice cracking. "Here in Miami, we are now beginning to feel tremors . . . " His anchor desk started shaking. Suddenly, the TV screen went dark.

Peter sat down on his cell’s cot. He started crying.

 
 
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Features -- June 2008 -- Beginning Month Issue
 








Lee Gimenez
-- Additional Work --