Have Ray-Gun, Will Travel by James Rumpel
Have Ray-Gun, Will Travel by James Rumpel
The sleek, state of the art, craft hurtled through space, a silver bullet flashing through near infinite darkness. The ship’s owner, Torad Miver, sat in his workshop, oblivious to all but the project before him. Preoccupied with the modifications he was applying to an AGF ray-gun; he did not notice his assistant entering the chamber.
“The pilot says we are about three hours from reaching Earth,” said Plover, a small lavender-skinned being whose most pronounced features were his pyramid-shaped head and the myriad of thin, gangly digits that adorned each of his two hands.
Torad, a much more human appearing specimen, nearly dropped the ray-gun he was manipulating, startled by Plover’s entrance.
“Oh, thank you, Plover. You startled me. You’ve got to learn to give me a warning if you’re going to sneak up on me like that.”
“Sorry, boss. I will try to do so in the future. Am I safe in assuming that you are playing with that weapon because you need to use it on this mission?”
“Yes,” replied Torad as he reattached the casing around the gun. “The Hovians suggested that I modify it so that it will knock the recipient unconscious as well as perform its prescribed function. The incident has to appear to be an accident.”
Plover rolled his head as if attempting to crack his neck, his races means of expressing acknowledgment. “I was guessing this was another Hovian mission. You know they do not take well to failure. It can be dangerous working for them too often.”
Torad spread his arms and looked about the room. “But they pay awfully well. That’s how I got the money to buy this ship.”
“So why are they sending you to such a backwater planet as Earth?”
“The usual. They have detected a point of deviation in future timelines. Apparently, there is an Earthling whose survival or death causes the future to diverge. The Hovians want me to make sure the path the future follows is the one that is best for them. I simply have to deal with this Earthling. Should be as simple as going in and taking care of him.” Torad gave the rifle-shaped ray-gun an appreciative pat.
Plover held out the backpack he carried. “Records show that the Earthlings are similar enough to you in appearance that you should be able to get buy if you dress appropriately. You will need to cover your ears with a cloak, so I have created a facsimile of something they call a ‘hoodie.’ Your eyes can be hidden behind these tinted glasses.”
Torad took the articles of clothing his aide proffered. “I really shouldn’t have to be seen at all. This gun will let me shoot him from a significant distance. The Hovians have told me exactly where I need to be and when I need to be there. They insist the location is remote.”
Plover again made tiny circles with his head. “But you must remain careful. Even if you perform your task successfully, the Hovians will not take kindly to you causing other discrepancies to their desired possible future.”
The interstellar mercenary smiled, “That’s why I like you, Plover. You keep me focused. Don’t worry, I’ve got this”
Thomas Bauer leaned back in his canvas folding chair and admired the stars. Staring at the heavenly light show was his favorite part about camping. At home, the brightness of the city of Madison overwhelmed the night sky. Here in the solitude of Devil’s Lake State Park, the stars were not harassed by mankind’s artificial glow; they could be viewed in all their glory, as God had intended. Unfortunately, the celestial artwork would soon be lost for the night. Clouds were rolling in from the west, eclipsing the stars and threatening rain.
Thomas knew it was time to call it a night. He should be climbing into his tent and nestling into his insulated sleeping bag. The late spring air still held a noticeable chill.
He loved camping alone, reveling in the solitude. His second favorite thing about camping was the clarity of mind it provided, especially on nights like this when the campgrounds were nearly uninhabited. In the summer, he would have to deal with crying children, barking dogs, and blaring radios. Now, Thomas was allowed to be alone with his thoughts. A satisfied smile took form on his lips as he reviewed the trajectory of his life.
Things couldn’t be going any better. He had recently attained a position as an assistant to a state senator. His assignments included serving as a liaison between the Senator and environmentalist. He also would have the opportunity to advise the senator on environmental issues. Not only had he taken his first strides towards a possible career in politics, but he would be able to work towards preserving nature and the environment, something, clearly, dear to his heart.
His personal life was, currently, just as satisfying as his career. He had recently asked Tonya, his girlfriend of three years, to marry him. She had blissfully accepted. Thomas could not imagine a more perfect woman to spend the rest of his life with. Tonya was beautiful, intelligent and strong. Best of all, she was understanding. She was willing to allow Thomas to make his requisite sojourns to nature. She appreciated the mental therapy that these solo camping trips provided.
A soft drizzle started to fall, shaking Thomas from his reverie. He cleaned up his campsite and crawled into his tent. The plan was to wake early and take an early morning hike on Balanced Rock Trail. Hopefully, the clouds will have moved on by that time. The view of the sunrise, from the top of the bluff, was always glorious.
Earth may be primitive by galaxy standards, but they still had sufficient technology to detect an incoming vessel if proper precautions were not in place. The main ship’s cloaking system would protect it from observations as long as it remained in orbit. The shuttle that transported Torad to the surface of the planet was made of a material that was imperceptible by most, if not all, detection devices. With all exterior lighting extinguished, the autopilot system brought the small craft down through the atmosphere, following the coordinates the Hovians had supplied. Quickly and quietly, it settled into an area of heavy underbrush, along a secluded riverbank. A short distance away, the vertical face of a tall bluff extended upwards, stretching out toward the heavens.
Under the cover of night, Torad, now dressed in the garb of an Earthling, quickly covered the shuttle with a camouflage tarp and strategically placed assorted branches and tree limbs to further hide the car-sized vehicle. He was certain that no one would pass by this area on foot, but he wanted to be guarantee that the vessel could not be spotted from above.
As morning approached, he found a large boulder which had, years earlier, plummeted from the top of the cliff. He knelt by the emancipated rock and spied an open area at the peak of the bluff above. Torad assumed that the cleared position was provided to allow hikers or sightseers to look out over the pristine river which flowed, uninterrupted, a short distance from his current location. Leaning his elbows against the boulder, he pointed his AGF ray-gun toward the overlook.
With nothing to do but wait, Torad took a moment to assess the situation. The Hovians were an extremely wealthy and powerful race. They were also very secretive. No one knew how they were able to glimpse multiple future possibilities. Some theorized that it was an inherent ability of their race. Others believed they possessed an unimaginably powerful computer that could run astoundingly accurate simulations of future events. By whatever means they accomplished it, the Hovians could pinpoint events that would cause future timelines to diverge. Once they determined how they wished to see a particular timeline proceed, they would use any means possible to guarantee the divergent events occurred in the manner they wished. Torad was one of those means.
The Hovians had decided that the death of the individual who was about to appear in the clearing above was a point of divergence. If Torad successfully completed his mission the future would be directed towards the results that the Hovians desired. At least, until another divergence point was discovered. At that point they would, once again, attempt to control that event, in all likelihood by hiring someone like Torad to carry out the operation.
Thomas had made this hike many times. Devil’s Lake State Park was a short drive from Madison. He knew he would be rewarded by a gorgeous view of the river and the emerging sun, provided the clouds and rising fog would clear sufficiently. The previous night’s rain had left the hiking trail and stone stairway to the top of the bluff damp and slippery. Thomas found himself forced to push his pace, ever so slightly, in hope of guaranteeing he would reach his desired viewing area in time to see the magical moment when the sun crested the horizon.
His preferred viewing spot was an east facing opening found at the highest point of the bluff. Upon reaching the location, Thomas was disappointed to find that he was not going to be rewarded with the breathtaking sunrise he desired. Fog and clouds shrouded the rising sun. He was able to see a murky silhouette of the sun fighting to push through the mist. Thomas was able to appreciate the subtle beauty of the scene, but it was not the picturesque sight he had hoped for.
There were still other natural vistas to be seen. A copse of freshly budding trees partially blocked his view of the river as it snaked southward. By climbing on a spherical shaped boulder, which sat conveniently at the edge of the clearing, he could look beyond the curtain of trees and watch the river cut through the greening valley.
Torad watched his target through the scope of his AGF ray-gun. The Earthling stood at the edge of the cliff, looking out in the direction of the rising sun. Torad took a deep breath. He knew he would only have one chance and could not afford to miss. He waited, gun at the ready. Eventually, the Earthling moved to a large boulder and began to scramble up its side. As the young man pulled himself up to a standing position, his foot slipped from the surface of the massive stone and he fell backward, bouncing once on the very edge of the cliff before caroming over the side.
Torad fired. A blue ray of energy emerged from the gun, instantly enveloping the body of the falling human. Torad’s shot had been, as expected, perfectly accurate. The unconscious body of the man now floated, suspended in the air, at the edge of the cliff face. The Anti-Gravity Field ray prevented him from the fatal fall. Using the controls at the base of the gun, Torad carefully lifted the man’s body and moved it to a position on the top of the bluff, a safe distance from the cliff edge.
Releasing the Anti-Gravity Field, Torad lowered the ray-gun. With his mission accomplished, all he needed to do was remain hidden until nightfall. He would then return to his ship and head back to the Hovian’s home planet where he would collect a substantial reward for his successful mission.
According to the Hovian’s predicted future, Thomas would soon awaken from the concussion of his fall off the boulder. He would go on to lead an unspectacular life as a low-level politician. He would, however, father a daughter. That daughter would, in turn, give birth to a son. The son would eventually create a new type of pastry. A great number of races from all around the galaxy would develop an amazingly strong affinity for the taste of the son’s creation. Hovian descendants would buy the rights to the recipe and make an immense profit. A profit that would more than cover the expense of having to occasionally manipulate the path of time.
Copyright James Rumpel 2019