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Science Fiction Adventure Friendship

Two middle-aged Caucasian men, Dr. Andre Lachance and Dr. Francisco Vega (aka Francis), sit across from each other in a busy diner. Andre gnaws nervously on his fingernails while Francis methodically looks over a thick file folder. Periodically, Andre would glance apprehensively around the noisy diner as though he was a man on the run. Lack of sleep coupled with a steady overdose of caffeine have elevated Andre’s hyperactive mind into a state of high alert.  

“Well?” Andre suddenly blurts out after a long pause.

Francis shuffles through the contents of the file. “Equations, blue prints, aerial photographs of crop circles.” Francis huffs. “What exactly am I looking at here?”

Andre practically pulls out his hair in frustration. “Just look at the evidence,” he demands frantically. “It’s all right there.”

Francis calmly closes the file folder and places it on the table between the two of them. “Andre,” he begins to say before Andre cuts him off.

“Don’t Andre me,” Andre blurts out. “Just look again for crying out loud.”

Francis peers at his friend and colleague with genuine concern. For over 6 years, no one has heard from him. One day Andre simply disappeared from the face of the earth. Then out of the blue Francis receives a phone call from him requesting a meeting. Francis only agreed to the meeting to ensure that his longtime friend was all right. Seeing Andre now made Francis wish that he had reached out sooner. It hurt Francis to see such a brilliant scientist, one of the smartest men he has ever known, reduced to such an incoherent state. There was a time when Francis secretly envied Andre’s intelligence, insight, and out-of-the-box creativity. Now he only felt pity for the man.

Andre vigorously shakes his head with a GRUNT, much like a prizefighter psyching himself out for a bout, before addressing Francis once more. “Look,” said Andre in a jittery voice. “Crop circles have been around since the 17th century, maybe even longer nobody really knows. That’s what got me thinking. They can’t all be a hoax. So I began to look into them as a hobby at first, until some crop circle patterns started to reveal things to me.” Andre hastily pulls out aerial photographs of crop circles from the file folder. He points to a particular photograph. “This one has an algebraic structural formula embedded within its patterns.” Andre rifles through the pictures before settling on one. “I ran this pattern through every algorithm I could think of, pored over it for months. Then it dawned on me that I was analyzing the pattern based on dimensional properties, instead of looking at it as a two dimensional representation of a three dimensional object.” Andre pulls out a blue print from the file folder and SLAMS it onto the table. “This object to be more precise.” They both stare at a blue print of a circular-machine-like-object.

“Obviously it’s a component of some kind,” Francis offers haphazardly. “But a component for what?”

Andre goes to drink from his coffee mug but realizes, mid-drink, that the mug was empty. “That’s the million dollar question.” Andre pushes his empty mug aside as he slumps into his chair. “What I found suggests a level of technology way beyond our own.” Andre spreads the aerial photographs throughout the table. “There’s something here. I just know there is. It’s elusive and incredibly complex. But sometimes I can almost see it. It’s like I’m looking at scattered pieces to one giant jigsaw puzzle just waiting to be deciphered.”

Andre lets out an audible sigh. He looks up at Francis with vacant eyes. His face is void of any emotion. Here is a man who had been running on empty for far too long. Now he has sputtered his final breath and has no more to give. “What am I to do, Francis?” Andre whispers. “I think I’m going insane.” Andre buries his face into his hands, defeated. “I don’t know what to do.”

Francis couldn’t help but feel for his friend. “Andre has gone off the deep end,” Francis rationalizes to himself. Many great minds have succumb to the mysteries of the universe. It is an occupational hazard in their line of work. But then an impossible thought began to creep its way into Francis’ head. “Could Andre actually be onto something?” For a long moment Francis stares wide-eyed at the crop circle photographs on the table; he quickly looks over the blue prints and equations with fresh eyes. “Well God damn,” Francis exclaims with a nervous chuckle. “The way I see it. There’s only one thing to do.”

“What’s that?” Andre asks in a weak voice.

Francis methodically collects the photographs and neatly places them back into the file folder. “I say we put the pieces together and build this thing.”

***********

Within a make-shift workshop, Francis and a husky Hispanic man, Dr. Roberto Valdes (aka Bob), are busy soldering together a complex series of wires and diodes. The two men refer to a blue print, verbally exchanging thoughts and ideas, while they work.

Andre is off to side working out calculations on a computer when he abruptly stops working and immediately glances over at Bob. “Did you know?” Andre asks unexpectedly.

“Did I know what?” Bob intentionally answers Andre’s question with a question. Bob knew what Andre was referring to but felt a need to be coy.

“You know,” Andre retorts impatiently. 

“Oh. You mean about Jimbo and Thomas?” Bob replies with a smirk. Bob clutches onto a cross hanging from his neck. “Ay, Dios Mio! I walked in on them a couple of years ago. I saw things I can never un-see,” Bob answers with a pronounced shiver.

“The five of us have known each other since Grad School,” Francis chimes in, “how could you not know?” Francis smiles as he thinks back to their Grad School days. Back then they were known as the FAB 5 of science, the brightest minds of their generation. After all this time, they managed to remain friends. Now they were all working together on something that could potentially change life as they know it.

“But they’re both married,” Andre quickly points out.

“You’ve been away for too long, buddy,” Francis counters with a laugh. “As long as it doesn’t affect our work, and they do their busy behind closed doors, it’s all good.”

“Just knock first before you enter a room,” Bob adds. “Just saying.”

An Oriental man, Dr. Thomas Chan, and a lanky Caucasian man, Dr. James Drakos (aka Jimbo), enter the workshop. “Okay. We hit another speed bump,” Thomas states in a thick Chinese accent.

“Just add it to the problem board,” Andre indicates while gesturing to a chalkboard littered with outstanding project issues.

“No. Not that kind of speed bump,” Jimbo explains. “The rapid prototype machine we have can’t produce all the parts we need. Some are just too complex.”

“We spent a lot of our dwindling funds on that heap,” Andre blurts out in an aggravated tone. “You guys assured us it would do the job.”  

“We didn’t know,” Thomas counters. “How could we? No one has ever done anything like this before.”

“Okay. Okay. Cool your jets,” Francis addresses the group in a calm voice. “We’ll have to outsource. But we’ll go through several milling companies, and only commission one or two parts per company. That way they won’t know what we are working on.”

“If you want to double down on security, maybe we should stop calling it the project,” Bob adds. “People catch wind that we’re working on something, game over.”

Francis stretches his arms behind his head while leaning back into his chair. “Okay. So what do we call it?”

“We call it a soufflé,” Andre responds in a crisp voice.

“Why soufflé?” Jimbo scoffs with a smirk.

Andre faces his companions while he answers Jimbo’s question. “It’s one of the most challenging dishes in the culinary world. It requires just the right amount of whipping and folding of egg whites to work. If under cooked, it becomes a soupy mess. If over cooked, it will collapse. But if done just right, it can be an exquisite main dish or sweetened to become a delectable dessert. At the heart of every soufflé,” Andre continues, “is the difficulty.” Andre turns back to his work on the computer screen as he speaks. “There are so few things in life that are truly worth the effort. That’s why this project is our soufflé.”

“Well God damn,” Francis exclaims with a chuckle. “Soufflé it is.” Francis addresses Jimbo and Thomas. “So how’s assembly going, boys?”

Jimbo playfully smacks Thomas’ butt. “Thomas and I are assembling the parts we have on hand. Then it’s only a matter of testing the structural integrity of each completed component. We’ll let you know which parts need to be outsourced,” Jimbo recites while glancing over at Bob. “But beyond that, without a working plasma ignition system, we’ve got bupkis.”

“I’m working on it,” Bob declares emphatically. “Just encountering a few issues is all. So why don’t you and Thomas play with each other’s parts while I figure things out?”

“Excuse me!” Thomas yells out in outrage.

***********

An intense light emanates from within a secured glass-housing. While wearing tinted safety goggles, Bob gazes into the pulsating light like a mad scientist. “It’s alive! ALIVE!” He bellows out loud. Andre, Francis, followed shortly after by Thomas and Jimbo (looking ruffled and flushed), file into the workshop. They are forced to shield their eyes from the light. Bob glances back at his friends with a crazed expression. “It took me four and a half years, hundreds of simulations and trial runs, but I told you I could get it to work. I told you!” He gleefully announces.

The blood drains from Thomas’ face as he turns away for the overpowering light. “How much saline are you using to power it?” Thomas asks tentatively.

“Three drops!” Bob yells back. Realizing that he has been shouting unnecessarily the entire time, Bob makes a quick adjustment to his response. “Three drops,” Bob repeats in a calm voice.

“Three drops?” Thomas echoes in a concerned voice. “That’s all it takes to produce that amount of energy?”

“Okay, Bob. Shut her down,” Francis orders.

Bob flips a series of switches. In response, the bright plasma flame within the glass-housing slowly dies down.

Andre slumps into his work chair, limp-like. His face flushes as he realizes the implications of what he had just seen. “This could work.” He gawks up at his companions in utter amazement. “It could actually work.”

Thomas slowly sidles up to the group. His expression is marred with concern. “This whole time, we’ve been so focused on whether or not we could actually build this, soufflé, that we never stopped to consider whether we should build it.” Thomas continues in a low resolute voice. “We just witnessed a sample of its power and capability, but we didn’t earn this technology. Someone. No. Something, way beyond our level of intellect, sent it to us for reasons unknown.” Thomas’ eyes dart from person to person in the room. “It’s irresponsible and dangerous to tinker with knowledge beyond our comprehension. Doesn’t anyone else see that?” Jimbo affectionately runs his hand down Thomas’ arm instantly calming him down.

“We’ve all taken the leap,” Francis suddenly declares. “We’ve sacrificed years of our lives, our resources, jeopardized many of our personal relationships, because we all believe in what we are doing. It may seem cold, but science isn’t about morality. It’s about discovery and pushing the boundaries of our understanding. We owe it to ourselves, to science, to see this through. There’s no turning back. Not now. We’ve come too far.”

“Okay. So where do we go from here?” Jimbo asks in earnest.

“We see this through to the end. Where ever it may lead us,” Francis answers in a steady voice.

***********

Jimbo, Thomas, Bob, Andre, and Francis stand quietly inside a large interrogation room. They are alone. Blaring lights shine upon their faces.

“We demand to see our lawyers,” Thomas shouts at the top of his lungs.

“NOT UNTIL YOU EXPLAIN TO US WHAT THAT LITTLE DEVICE OF YOURS IS,” an electronically disguised voice booms out, “OR HOW IT WAS ABLE TO EMIT A TRANSIENT ELECTROMAGNETIC DISTURBANCE STRONG ENOUGH TO SHUT DOWN HALF THE WESTERN SEABOARD, ALL THE WAY UP TO VANCOUVER, CANADA.”

“You mean our soufflé?” Andre blurts out, causing the group to smirk knowingly amongst themselves. “Yeah. It has quite the kick.”

“YOUR SOUFFLE?” The ominous voice asks inquisitively.

Andre takes a deep breath then lets it out slowly. “You want to know about our little device? Well. It’s something that no one has ever seen before.” Andre chuckles. “No one on this planet anyways.”

A brief silence follows. Suddenly, the blaring interrogation lights are turned off replaced by normal lights that shine from the ceiling. A door opens. Four heavily armed soldiers file into the interrogation room. The soldiers stare menacingly at the five startled men while clutching onto their weapons in a threatening manner.

Jimbo gawks at the armed soldiers before him then glances back at the concrete wall behind him. He is sudden struck by the thought that he was facing a firing squad. “They’re going to shoot us dead then drop our bodies to the bottom of the deepest ocean,” Jimbo stammers fearfully.

The blood drains for Thomas’ face as he clings onto Jimbo’s hand.

Andre anxiously gnaws on his fingernails.

Bob clutches onto the cross hanging from his neck.

Francis puts on a brave face as he looks over at his friends. "It's been an honor and a privilege to work with you," he states in a steady voice. With those words, the five men link hands and stand united.

Just when all seemed lost, two child-sized figures appear from the open door. The two figures tiptoe their way past the soldiers to stand before the five weary men. Upon closer inspection, the five men become aware of the two figures’ grayish complexion, as well as, their oversized heads, thin dangly arms, and large almond shaped black eyes. The five men have seen enough science fiction shows to immediately recognize what the two figures are—GRAY ALIENS!

The five men gape at the gray aliens in stunned silence. While the two aliens seem content to observe the five men with their large almond shaped black eyes. For a long moment no one utters a word until Andre finally breaks the catatonic stalemate with his signature abrupt, somewhat erratic, response. 

“You sent the hidden messages in the crop circles,” Andre declares.

You are correct, Doctor Lachance,” the first alien confirms. The alien’s voice is so smooth and calming that the five men fail to notice that its mouth never moves as it speaks. “And do you know what we sent you?” The first alien asks in earnest.

Without skipping a beat, Andre answers the question. “You sent us the blue prints for a power plant that produces zero-point energy.” Andre gulps down hard before continuing. “You showed us how to build a light speed engine.”

The first alien seems pleased with Andre’s answer. “We have waited a long time for someone on your planet to decipher our message,” the first alien adds, “when your civilization finally exhibited the capacity for interstellar travel.

Bob suddenly jumps up and raises his fists in the air in victory. “We just achieved warp capability,” Bob gleefully announces. “Now they are here to welcome us into the United Federation of Planets.” Bob calms down and clutches onto the cross hanging from his neck. “Ay, Dios Mio! We just got Star Trek’ed.”

The two aliens brief stare at one another before the second alien addresses Bob directly in the same smooth voice. “A humorous analogy, Doctor Valdes. But accurate none the less.”

Who leads your maiden expedition?” The first alien asks the group.

“Expedition?” Francis whispers clearly confused. He began to think about the crop circles that made them all scratch their collective heads; the ones that seem to depict nothing more than swirling galaxies and objects in motion. A realization registers on Francis’ face. “Doctor Francisco Vega.” Francis extends his hand out to the first alien in greeting. “Leader of Earth’s first interstellar expedition.”

The first alien graciously accepts Francis’ extended hand. “Welcome to the Universe, Doctor Vega. Welcome.”

While shaking the alien’s hand, Francis couldn’t help but chuckle silently to himself. “Well God damn. I think our tiny planet just got a whole lot bigger.”

September 17, 2021 06:19

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4 comments

Zion Hintay
07:06 Sep 19, 2021

Wow love the dialogue in this one. It ran so smoothly throughout. Very good premise and the ending brought a smile to my face. Well done again.

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Rodrigo Juatco
13:12 Sep 19, 2021

Thanks Zion. Appreciate the comment. Good to hear from you again.

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Roberto Valdes
14:09 Sep 17, 2021

Hehe, I want to know more about Jimbo and Thomas.

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Rodrigo Juatco
11:46 Sep 22, 2021

Yeah. There's a definite bro-mance between those two. Lol

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