SPACE FRIENDS INDEED: Chapter 5

That evening Minnie gave the family a dinner of ham, fried potatoes and the best baked beans that either Kathy or David had ever tasted. She blushed and smiled at their compliments. During the meal Kathy recounted the meeting with the Chancellor. Dessert was the rest of the apple pie, rewarmed to just the right temperature.

Afterwards the family moved into the living room to view the evening news on the big 3d screen. The Chancellor appeared. He announced the creation of the Midgard project, with Kathy as the principle investigator. The name of the new planet or spaceship, he said, should also be Midgard. Kathy wanted to see "her" planet, so David paused the news stream and they went outside. Anne came along, begging for a look also. Bob stayed inside working on a simple app for his phone which was one of his homework assignments. David adjusted the telescope. Midgard was brighter, as expected, but what was this? The laser signal had changed. Now it was saying that the Midgardians would be visiting Earth in the next few days. Kathy and Anne looked through the telescope for a few minutes each. Anne started to read the English portion of the Morse code message aloud. David suggested that they go inside where it was warm.

In the ham shack they tuned in the 6-meter signal. The strength was the same as the previous night. After listening for a while they returned to the living room.

David resumed the news stream. The president had ordered NASA to get the country's telescopes on the new planet, saying in no uncertain terms that anyone who objected to being preempted could discuss it with the president personally. The European and Japanese space agencies were also looking. The various observations were consistent, but the explanations put forward for them varied wildly. The change in the signals had been noted a few hours earlier. Governments were considering possible defense measures, but it seemed that there was nothing they could do except wait warily. No alien spacecraft had been detected near Earth or Mars.

The news ended. Minnie brought in Jenny for nursing. Anne went to do her homework. The couple sat enjoying each others' company, not speaking. The doorbell rang.

Kathy and David both activated the apps on their smartphones which showed Minnie's video and audio inputs. She was on her way to the door. Peering through the spyhole, she saw a tall man bathed in the spotlight. "What can I do for you?" she asked through the grill.

"I wish to speak to Dr. Larsen about the Midgard project," said the man. "Is Dr. Stephens with her?"

Minnie's desire to protect her masters came into play. She demanded, "Why must you speak to Dr. Larsen at this hour? Couldn't you have made a phone call rather than disturbing her?"

"My message can be delivered only in person. Neither video nor audio would be adequate. In a word, the message is the messenger."

Kathy spoke through Minnie. "This is Dr. Larsen. Why couldn't you have come to see me at my office at the University tomorrow?"

"You may find me disconcerting. I wish to speak to you when both your husband and your robot are present, so that you may feel more secure."

David whispered with Kathy briefly, then spoke through Minnie. "This is Dr. Stephens. Minnie, assume bodyguard mode. Conduct the visitor to the living room."

In a moment the man appeared before them. Minnie was projecting a stern male visage. She had discarded her skirt to have greater freedom o movement. Kathy embraced the sleeping baby protectively.

The visitor was tall but nondescript. He kept his hands in his pockets. His face was rather prominent, and it was expressionless.

"Welcome message," said Kathy, "Deliver yourself."

In response the man removed his head. It had been a disguise. Before them stood an otherworldly being. It had a crest of feathers on its head and its face was birdlike. It extended its hands. They had only three fingers and a thumb.

Kathy handed the baby to David and stood up, almost matching the stranger in height. "Is this your true appearance?" she asked.

"Yes, I am from the planet-spaceship which you call Midgard."

"How did you get here? There have been no reports of alien spacecraft that could be landers."

"My body is on a different physical plane than you and your world, in fact, than my world. those of us who have reached this state move through space by a simple act of will, as you might move your arm."

Minnie had become more suspicious at the strange appearance of the newcomer and was assuming an attack pose.

David said, "Minotaur, at ease, but stay alert."

"Please explain what you mean by being on a different physical plane," said Kathy.

"I once had a mortal body much like yours, but when it was worn out and underwent death it was glorified. So Now I have eternal life with God."

Both the humans were stunned. They had been raised in nominally Christian homes but had become indifferent while pursuing their education and careers.

Kathy said, "So you believe in God?"

"no, I see Him. Our race preserved its initial state of grace. Your race was led astray by an enemy who still harasses you, though he knows that he cannot destroy you. He will oppose the mission on which we were sent."

"Who sent you?"

"You know Him. the Savior of your world, Jesus Christ, asked us to be here at this particular time. He knew you would need help. His mother has also appeared in Paraguay, urging the human race to unite and listen to the messengers who were being sent. We can offer you technology that will help you avoid the disaster of your own making. but I must warn you that unless the human race unites and heeds Jesus' admonition to love one another as He has loved you the technology will only make the disaster worse. nevertheless, your race shall not perish, for that is not what God wants."

"So you are our friends. You will have to give proof."

"First, let me shake hands with you. Sorry, I can't smile." The creature extended its hand. After a momentary hesitation Kathy gook it. The hand was warm and firm. The being bent and offered its hand to David, who was still seated. He took it also.

Now the creature said: "Dr. Larsen, I have something for you. It will be a memento of our meeting after I depart. It is a data storage device which contains specifications for the technology we are giving you and something of our history and daily life."

It unslung a satchel that it was carrying and took out a cube about ten centimeters on a side. Each side had an image of the planet and its moon. It handed the cube to Kathy and said, "Your computer can connect to this cube wirelessly and download files from it."

Kathy stiffened and exclaimed, "Oh, I've forgotten that I'm an astrobiologist. I must ask you about interplanetary infections. Couldn't you or us be carrying microorganisms which might be dangerous to the other?"

"Glorified bodies do not carry pathogens and cannot be infected."

Kathy said, "Pardon my curiosity, but may I examine you?"

"Yes, you may. Have no fear."

Kathy gave the extraterrestrial being a cursory physical. The skin was smooth and felt much like human skin. The bones and muscles felt normal, but the structure was strange, like that of a large bird. The creature obligingly opened its mouth, which was like a blunt beak. The tongue looked normal. There were no teeeth.

"Do you have a gizzard?" asked Kahy.

"Yes. The cube contains complete details on our anatomy."

The being continued, "take good care of that cube, both of you. You two are the first to whom one of us has come. Others are appearing to suitable people all over the world. The information in the cube is for all of humanity, not for one group or nation. You are among those who have been deemed worthy to be trusted with it."

The creature disappeared.

Kathy and David needed a few minutes to recover themselves. Minotaur stood like a statue. Finally David said, "Minotaur, exit bodyguard mode. Take the baby to the nursery, and then join us in the ham shack."

The robot became Minnie again and took the baby tenderly.

In the ham shack Minnie took her place in her special chair. David placed the cube on the table near her and commanded her to suspend robot mode. Her projector showed the operating system's start screen, with a small box indicating a new wireless device. David asked for its contents. there were folders on nuclear fusion and other technologies. These would have to be examined by engineers in the appropriate fields. Other folders were on history and daily life. Kathy was entranced. David downloaded these to the ham shack computer. Some of the others he copied to his computer at Best Friend Robots. He scanned Minnie's record of the last few hours and picked out the segment showing the apparition. This he commanded her to store permanently. Both humans copied it to their phones. He put the cube in the wall safe and commanded minnie to resume robot mode, so that she could perform her normal duties.

It was late. They checked on the children, then went to bed themselves. Sleep would not come until the small hours of the morning.