A small grey cylinder came hurtling through the atmosphere of a modest blue and green planet. It was just big enough to contain a normal sized adult male, which was a good thing because that's what was in it. An advanced technology had constructed it (The cylinder, not the adult male) in such a cunning fashion, that it didn't need either bulky heat shields or large parachutes.
Neither was it noticed on any radar or scanning device, but this was because nobody was looking rather than because of any fancy cloaking mechanism. The cylinder finally came to rest on the banks of the picturesque River Trent, settling gently into a deep crater it had produced on impact.
Pheelix Pandolo was not a happy man. This wasn't his first ride in an Intrusion Pod by any means, but it was certainly the worst. The landing had been far too hard, he had felt the bones in his back shunt together like primitive train carriages. The operator had assured him that these new Pods were great. "Like riding in a babies bed." Uh! like riding in a deep core bomb more like.
It was also far too hot in here, he was sure his shoes were on fire, and his sex, or whatever they were called. These primitives certainly had some strange ideas when it came to clothes. What's wrong with a single piece suit you climb into in the morning and throw away at night? On top of that he was pretty certain the Pod was actually visible! It should have moulded itself to resemble a common local feature, a tree say, or a phoon[sic] box, seamlessly blending in with its surroundings. From in here it still looked like a Pod.
Pheelix fumbled for the release lever and couldn't find it.
"Flnk!" he shouted, then remembered that this was a covert operation.
"Oops" he whispered. Pheelix looked around for a release lever or button or something. Just in front of his face he noticed a sign embossed into the cylinder metal. It seemed to be the instructions.
1) Please remain still until the pod has come to a complete stop.Failing to observe this precaution will invalidate your guarantee and is dangerous to your health.
2) Do not attempt to adjust the support cradle, it has been expertly fitted around your body by trained staff for your comfort and convenience.
3) On stopping the door will automatically open. If the door fails to open please refer to the user manual. The user manual is available at all major book shops for your comfort and convenience.
"Oh flnk", Pheelix said in a loud whisper. "Flnk" was quite a naughty word back home, not as bad as "yb" but still fairly offensive.
4) On returning to the Pod please close the door and fasten the support cradle. Then press the small blue button. On no account should you press the large red button. He looked around, sure enough on one side, where his elbow rested was a large red button. Further down, below knee level, was a small blue button.
5) This pod should give days of pleasure to you and your family. If it fails to please simply post it back to us for a free replacement. The address can be found on page 904 of the user manual. The user manual is available at all major book shops for your comfort and convenience. Underneath was a sticky label which read; "This mark 6f Pod remains the property of the Security Union of Member Planets. If found please return to your nearest S.U.M.P. station."
Pheelix stood very still for a few moments and collected his thoughts. Most of them had crash landed into his stomach on impact. First, and most important, he was still alive. For the moment at least. Second, the Pod didn't seem too damaged and was probably capable of getting him off this planet. Fourth, The secret mission he was on was very important and would show his bosses he wasn't past it.
"Now, if I can just get the door open," he groaned, as he pushed hard against it. It was actually unlocked, just not open enough to let in the light. The door shot open, banged against the metal side of the Pod and swung back towards him, giving him a brief glimpse of daylight before crashing into his head. Pheelix's skull cannoned back into the webbing of the cradle then bounced forwards smashing his forehead into the door.
Although there were a few unkind people who would have said, and laid large bets, that pheelix's head was the harder of the two, this proved not to be the case. The door boomed on its hinge and moved very slightly. Pheelix's head did the same. He stood dazed for some time. The thoughts that had been rescued from his digestive juices, and thought themselves safe, were now ricocheting around his skull popping tiny light bulbs as they went.
After a few minutes the emergency medication that had been patrolling his body, waiting for just such a moment, went into action. The chemical cocktail, encapsulated in microscopic trauma wrap, soothed his head, calmed his heart and paid him some compliments to boost his ego. The door needed, and received, no further attention.
Barely three hours later, when everything had settled down, Pheelix decided it was time to complete the mission. He checked his disguise; Three piece suit, dark blue silk tie, brightly polished shoes, black sex; he was sure they were called that but it didn't sound quite right. And a large green and white striped umbrella, perfect! It had all been made to match the exact time period and conditions by experts. No small detail was over looked, from the small plastic nose in his button hole, to the motif of two copulating crocodiles on his shirt pocket. Yes, he could walk among humans and be completely ignored.
Pheelix pushed open the door and stepped proudly out of the Pod, protected in a cocoon of superior technology. On contact with reality the cocoon shattered into a million pieces. He stood tall, shoulders back with an inane grin clamped across his face. In front of him stretched a wide grassy embankment beside a brown river. The sun was shining high in the sky. Humans walked, ran or lounged on the grass in short trous, their hairy legs akimbo, in bright shirts of different colours with no sleeves, in skimpy bits of cloth that barely covered their significant parts. But not one of them, not a single one was wearing the same as him.
The people stopped staring at the man with the woolly jumper and anorak and turned towards him. There was nothing for it but to bluff it out. He had maintained his proud stance, although the grin had long since retired to the coast. Pheelix turned to check the Pod then stepped lightly along the embankment towards the rendezvous point. He had taken only five paces when his posture finally cracked, hit by the image that had only now reached the end of his optic nerves.
The Pod had formed into a statue similar to one near by. Similar but for one small detail. It was a likeness of a famous general from the clean linen blockade of the crab nebula. He was standing bravely, weapon in hand looking into the distance. Much like any other heroic statue. Unfortunately General Airryng Kku Bbudd had his eyes on stalks, and there were four of them."They won't look if I don't," thought Pheelix, he didn't believe it but what else could he do? He turned away.
Moving in the way people move when they think they are being casual, Pheelix once again set off. Hanging the umbrella on his arm, he walked to the place his instruments said the matrix would form. Or where he hoped it would. He was no longer sure the scientists had got anything right. Then there was the umbrella. Of course it wasn't a real umbrella, that was just a convenient shape to hide the Matrix gun in. The gun or Ground Inititiation Zero Matrix Obliterator or G.I.Z.M.O. would cause the matrix to become unstable and leak harmlessly into the ground.
A few more steps and several more stares brought him to the exact spot. A wrist watch like affair throbbed wildly on his wrist the moment he was correctly positioned. Pheelix found himself standing three steps down on the concrete embankment, looking over the river. There was a slight smell of rotting fish and he was standing in the bodily waste of some aquatic bird. One of the birds, a big white thing, was eyeing him suspiciously with an orange eye.
Pheelix stood still for several minutes, waiting for the big event. He could hear people going past behind him, giggling and making comments. The bird looked, but said nothing. Pheelix kept his thoughts on the task in hand. Gripping the gizmo tighter he thought of the matrix and its creators.
Many light years away, right across the galaxy, lay a small planet. It wasn't very rich in minerals or metals, the people weren't very creative or artistic, but it was well populated with megalomaniacs. It seems they had bought some experimental weaponry from someone (mentioning no names, thought Pheelix). It turned out that one of these weapons could project a force matrix across vast expanses of space and form matter, to their specification, from local materials.
For instance, it could be aimed at this spot and draw up some of the concrete to make a fine piece of sculpture. To Pheelix's knowledge it had never been used for this purpose. What it was usually used for was explosives, particularly of the atomic kind. The weapon had been pointed at several member planets of the Security Union, but superior technology had defeated it. Actually it was a large mirror, strapped to the back of a truck, but don't tell anybody.
The megalos had then turned their attention to other more distant planets. Because they were further away the beam had to be followed then overtaken when its destination became apparent. The time limits involved prevented the use of the large mirrors, so the gizmo was developed. Strange how the scientists knew exactly how to stop the beams wasn't it?
Suddenly, the thing that looked like a wrist watch pulsed. Pheelix looked up and tried to focus about five feet away. He knew from experience that this was usually how close the scanning devices placed him. A few moments later a swirling point of light formed almost exactly on target. It was spinning, slowly at first, then picking up speed. The point got brighter and brighter, almost forming into a solid mass.
Pheelix flipped a switch under the handle of the gizmo. The umbrella tip began to glow a dull orange. His timing had to be just right. Too early and he would be blasted apart by the beam. Too late and the bomb would detonate, and he'd be blasted apart by that. "That's a cheery thought," thought Pheelix. Carefully he lifted the gizmo and pointed it at the swirling mass just in front of him. At what he judged to be the exact moment he pressed a second button whilst simultaneously, and at the same time, thrusting the gizmo into the mass. A thin silver wire fired from the gizmo whizzed passed his ear and stuck into the grassy embankment, missing a cola tin and a half naked student by inches. The beam of force flashed brightly, discharging down the wire to earth with a sharp crack, burning the wire to vapour. A second flash seemed to explode into the sky, following the line of the beam back out of the atmosphere and on in to space. Pheelix smiled to himself. The operator was in for a nasty shock when the feedback finally reached the other end.
Of course, none of the people had seen anything unusual. Only a man in a three piece suit pointing a large green and white striped umbrella at the swans. Sort of thing you see everyday. Certainly around here anyway. All the good bits had taken place too far out of the human visual spectrum. Pheelix, not being from around these parts, had slightly different eyes.
Pheelix casually turned around and headed back for the intrusion Pod. No one paid much attention now. The men were watching a young woman trying to re-fasten her bikini so she could turn over. The women where watching a fat woman, already beetroot red, trying to catch more sun. Pheelix watched with interest. He could relax a little now, he couldn't leave until it was dark anyway. Since they had blown seven tenths of the atmosphere away on his planet, it had brought a whole new meaning to the word sunburn. Fry eggs on rocks? You could cook chips out there!
Pheelix smiled inside, which illustrated nicely how alien he was. Another job well done. More proof that he wasn't over the hill just yet. Saved all these people from certain and squashy death. They'd never know though, at least not for a while yet, when they could send ships further than the moon. That was only a trip to the corner shop to buy a newspaper, in space terms. Don't even need to change out of your slippers for that.
He walked up to the intrusion pod and stepped in. A shimmer field around the pod created the optical illusion of Pheelix going behind the statue, not into it. But the technology was wasted, only a small boy called Tobias and his teddy "Teddy" even noticed, and he was only three. Later, at school he would write a story on what he saw and be complimented for his wonderful imagination. A couple of dogs were looking in that direction but they tend not to pay much attention to humans unless they have big pointy sticks or large pieces of meat.
Later that night a loud swooshing noise followed by a sonic boom was heard over the river. If you had been there you may have seen a brief orange glow. If you had been near the Pod you would have heard "Ohhh shiiiiii..."
- Copyright Steve Dean