Franklin Pierce loved strange old shops. Pendergast's Emporium was old, a sign in the window proclaimed "Established 1898", and it was more than a little strange. Located on a side street in Pasadena's Old Town it was surrounded by a number of similar quaint odd stores and boutiques.

It was a cold November evening; icy air bit his face and hands as Franklin wandered the shops. It felt good, somehow, to be away from the comforts of his office at the newspaper and even the warmth of his apartment if just for a little while. Since Shirley had left, he had many such evenings to himself and rather than the emptiness he had expected, he found that he was enjoying them more and more. He was on a quest searching for his first true love, old books, when he happened upon Pendergast's. As he stepped inside for a better look the cheerful warmth and the wonderful odor of ancient manuscripts told him he had found what he was seeking. The bookshelves were a treasure trove of obscure publications written in many languages and covering an astonishing array of subjects. There was a leather bound twelve-volume collection on Necromancy, a whole row of works on sixteenth century Eastern Europe and a rather large tome dealing with leprechauns, gnomes and fairies. One entire shelf was devoted to Vlad the Impaler and another to the identification and punishment of witches in medieval Serbia. Pierce had no idea that such books existed, he was thrilled.

At the end of one of the aisles he saw a glass topped counter with a sign that stated All Items $50.00. Atop the case a large black cat regarded him steadfastly with golden eyes. As Franklin approached, the creature stepped aside to let him view the contents of the case. Inside was a jumbled collection of the old and the new and the strange. There

were several large "Turnip" style pocket watches, an ancient typewriter with Cyrillic letters on its keys, a complex and modern looking pocket calculator that looked like it was designed for hands with more than five fingers, and a number of other objects he could not identify.

Over in one corner, hiding behind a device that looked like a lead melting pot was a thing of indescribable beauty. It was a multifaceted polyhedron of glass or crystal about five inches in diameter, it was nestled in a rosewood base decorated with intricate carvings, and it sat upon an ancient book. Catching the light from every direction it glowed with an inner fire that gave it a life of its own. Franklin had to have it. He looked around the shop and caught the eye of an aging gentleman that seemed to be the proprietor. He pointed at the glass display case and nodded. The man stepped over and introduced himself.

Herman Pendergast had a peculiar air about him; it was as if he was somehow detached from the local reality and existed only for his little shop. He was as much a fixture as the books and other remarkable items.

Franklin pointed to the crystal "May I see that please?"

"Of course" said Herman. The man opened the case from behind and retrieved the object, its stand and the book. He placed them on the counter for Franklin to examine.

"The book comes with it? Wonderful." He opened the book and looked at the title page.


Var oustrn dek plesemblat

A.D. 1649

"What language is that? I don't recognize it."

Mr. Pendergast adjusted his glasses and stared at the page. "I am afraid I have no idea. Hmm. It looks a bit like Dutch or maybe Swedish but if it is, it is in a dialect I don't recognize. Most of the things in that case have been here since I was a boy, that was many years ago. The TELISKOP has been here for as long as I can remember."

"TELISKOP? Is that what this is called?" Franklin pointed at the crystal.

"I assume so, at least that is what it seems to say in the book." Herman opened the book to a different page; there was a line drawing illustration of the crystalline orb accompanied by a block of text in the same incomprehensible language. Beneath the image was the word TELISKOP.

"Fifty dollars? Is that for everything?" Franklin pulled his wallet from his back pocket and withdrew a sheaf of bills, "Are you sure?"

"Yes" he pointed at the sign, "These prices were set years ago, and I don't remember ever selling anything from of this case. When I was young I was curious about the crystal and its book so I examined it long ago. I had no idea what it was so I put it back. This is the first time I have looked at it since then.

Mr. Pendergast put the crystal, its base, and the book in a thick-walled open topped cardboard box, "Wouldn't want to break it," he said

With great care Franklin had placed the box on the seat beside him in the car and found that he could not avoid glancing at it from time to time as he drove home. There was something odd about it, even in the dark interior of the car the crystal seemed to flicker with its own internal fire. Must be getting a bit of light from the street lamps to flash like that. He thought to himself.

Once home, he placed the crystal in its base and set it upon a small table next to the book. He pulled up a chair, sat down and proceeded to study his purchase.

The crystal was remarkable. It was some sort of polyhedron. He tried to count the number of surfaces but kept loosing track. The facets took three forms, triangles, pentagons, and hexagons. The pattern of geometric forms was so intricate that it was difficult to follow, what's more, it didn't seem to be repeated. Each area on the surface was unique

The book had hundreds of illustrations of the TELISKOP each showing a different pattern of facets; each accompanied by that same undecipherable text. Then, as Franklin was trying to match up one of the drawings to the orb he noticed something, a flickering in one of the faces of the crystal. There seemed to be something moving inside. He bent closer and peered into the tiny window.

Clouds, the crystal seemed to be filled with moving clouds. They looked like the clouds that run before a storm. Then he could see tiny bolts of lightning and rain. It was raining inside the crystal. He leaned back and stared at his prize. What in the hell is this thing? he asked himself.

As he studied the TELISKOP he discovered that many of the facets seemed to look into other places, other worlds. There was one that appeared dark but as his eye became accustomed to the dim light he could see stars appear and the fiery mists of a spiral galaxy. Another facet looked out upon a desolate desert, all yellows and browns. And once he saw what looked like the ruins of a vast and alien city with strangely shaped buildings and an unfamiliar and distorted geometry to its streets and roads.

He was beginning to suspect what the orb was and to comprehend the true function of the book, but his fantastic suspicions, if true, served only to deepen the mystery.

The next day at work Franklin found he couldn't concentrate on his job. He was reviewing a paper by some astronomers that claimed to have discovered another extra solar planet and was planning an article on the subject, but for some reason, the words wouldn't come. He decided to go down to the cafeteria for an early lunch thinking that the break would get his creative juices flowing again. As he stared at the tray loaded with cafeteria food of dubious origin he sensed someone approach from behind.

"Dr. Pierce? Do you mind if I join you?"

It was a young woman, he guessed her age at about twenty-five; she was blond, slender and rather pretty in an outdoorsy Girl Scout sort of way.

"Not at all." He gestured at the seat across the table from him, "Please." He had seen her before at the newspaper but couldn't place where.

"Kathy Martin" she replied to the unasked question as she sat and held out her hand. "I work in OpEd." She had a smile that lit up the room.

"Interesting work?"

"It can be, I do page layouts and some graphics but lately I have been doing reads of letters to the editor. You know, filtering out all the crazies and then passing on the more promising stuff to the editor, that sort of thing."

Franklin chuckled. "I bet you see some real weird stuff doing that."

"You bet, and that's what I wanted to talk to you about."

Franklin did his best to conceal his disappointment. It was too much to hope that an attractive young woman would want to talk to him in a non-professional capacity. Oh well. "What seems to be the difficulty?"

She reached into a large canvas briefcase and took out a manila folder. "We've been getting letters to the editor from a guy that claims there are aliens living among us here on earth. At first I and everybody thought he was just a crackpot so we filed his letters in the appropriate receptacle." She smiled at the reference to the trashcan. "But then he began to document some of his stuff and we began to wonder if he was on to something."

Pierce stared at the woman. "You can't be serious."

She appeared to ignore the remark. "Anyway, as the lead science writer here, I thought we better run this stuff past you before we discarded the idea, or ran with it. Do you know who Ron Potter is?"

"Potter? Of course, he's the guy that started that new technologies company a couple of years ago; Airship I think it's called. What about him?"

"This guy claims that Potter is an alien or at is least working for them. He's put together some pretty convincing arguments." She passed the folder to Franklin. "I would like you to take a look at this and tell me what you think."

"You're taking this guy seriously?" Pierce remarked as he opened the folder and began to skim.

There were forty or fifty pages of single spaced typescript, several pages of mathematical equations and a number of diagrams. "This will take a while to wade through, may I take it with me?"

"Sure, that's your copy. I think it's everything we've gotten from this guy. I'm hoping that you can convince us that he's just a crazy nut, because, otherwise." She let the thought go uncompleted.

Franklin was skimming the sheets of paper when the words Pendergast's Emporium jumped off the page.

Pendergast's Emporium is a small shop in Pasadena and appears to be a gathering place for the aliens and their human surrogates.

He pointed at the words. "Pendergast's Emporium? I know this place, I've been there." He stopped short of mentioning his purchase of the TELISKOP and its strange properties.

"Really? I looked for it and couldn't find it. You say you've been there? What's it like?"

"Well, it's in a kind of out-of-the-way location on a side street in Old Town. The place is odd but I don't think there isn't anything about it that suggests aliens." For some reason Franklin's memory raced back to his purchase of the orb, Mr. Pendergast and that remarkable cat. "I collect old books and ran across the place the other day while looking for one on sixteenth century science. Pendergast's has an amazing collection of ancient manuscripts." He thought to himself, well, that isn't exactly a lie.

The young woman removed a slip of paper from her satchel and wrote something on it. "Here's my work extension my cell and my home phone. Please let me know if you find anything interesting." She glanced at her watch. "I have a staff meeting in a couple of minutes. Maybe later today we can pay a visit to Pendergast's together. I would like to see the place." She got up and left hurriedly.

The contents of the folder were chilling. It was obvious that Mr. Conrad Runyon was conspiracy buff but some of his revelations were difficult to disregard.

Until two years ago, Ron Potter lived in relative obscurity with his wife and family. He worked as an engineer for a small medical electronics company that has since been bought out by a Japanese firm. He has a BS degree in engineering but no indications of any post graduate education. Subsequent to the buyout, Potter dropped from view

for a few months he then burst upon the scene as CEO of a large research company that specialized in some very advanced and fantastic technology. The company, which went by the rather unusual name of Airship Inc., almost immediately obtained government contracts totaling over two hundred million dollars. However, the company its self was worth several billion. Where had the additional money come from? Why was the company privately held with no stock available? It was obvious that something very strange was taking place.

Another thing, according to Runyon, Potter has a large black cat as a constant companion. The cat goes by the unusual name of Mr. Pendergast. Runyon had researched the name and discovered several connections including Pendergast's emporium. He visited the place and discovered an almost identical cat in residence along with a strange old man in a shop filled with some very unusual merchandise.

Franklin was experiencing a chill in the pit of his stomach. It was clear, as Runyon had observed that something very strange was going on here and that somehow, he had been drawn, either by circumstance or design, into the middle of it.

Pierce wasn't ready to admit to Ms. Martin that her suspicions had some merit, not yet anyway. But he decided that he would take her up on the invitation to re-visit the Pendergast shop. He reached for the phone.

The shop was closed. A sign in the window stated that due to a brief illness that had struck the proprietor, the shop would be closed for two days.

Kathy and Franklin peered through the windows like children looking at an animated department store display. He pointed out the book stacks but didn't mention the glass case that had held the TELISKOP .

"Just a strange old shop." Said Kathy "I sure don't see anything alien here, maybe if we could get inside. Maybe we should try again in a couple of days."

"Well, OK, I'm not too sure what alien stuff might look like but most of this just looks old, not extraterrestrial."

As Franklin drove back to the newspaper office Kathy suddenly remarked, "Are you married?"

Startled at first by the question, he quickly recovered. "Used to be, it didn't work out."

"Oh, what happened?"

"Shirley, that was my wife, and some of her friends felt that I wasn't good enough for her. After a while I decided they were right. We separated, rather amiably, about a year ago. The final divorce decree came through a couple of weeks back."

Somehow Franklin sensed a release of tension on her part, "That's sad." She said.

"I suppose it is, we found all sorts of different ways to make each other unhappy. I think we're both much better off now."

She turned to look at him. "I think she's the real looser. Any kids?"

"No kids."

"Well, at least that's a good thing."

Franklin nodded in agreement and then turned to look at Kathy. "How about you? Married? Kids?"

"Nope." Was the answer. "I used to live with guy, he's a sports announcer for one of the TV networks. I figured we'd get married. Then one day I had to come home unexpectedly. He'd been out the night before covering a football game so I was real quiet so I wouldn't disturb him. Anyway, I found him in bed with someone else... another man. I packed all my stuff and moved in with a girlfriend, got an AIDS test right away and haven't seen him since. I think I'm pretty open minded but I couldn't deal with that." She stared out of the window for a moment and then ruminated, "Big macho stud like that and gay, go figure." She chuckled humorlessly.

"Wow! I can't top that. I guess the real problem between Shirley and I was that nothing exciting ever happened. If I had come home and found her in bed with someone it would at least have given us something to talk about. I don't think we exchanged a hundred words during the last two years of our marriage." Franklin thought for a moment and decided to ask the next question. "None of my business really, but I hope the AIDS test came out ok."

"Yep." Was the reply. "Clean for two years, but I still get one every six months. Scared the crap out of me I'll tell you. Haven't been with anyone since." She paused for a oment in thought. "You want to know what's funny and sad? Bill was scared to death that I would say something that would destroy his image as a he man sportscaster, I don't think he cared a bit about our relationship or how I felt."

Franklin tapped the steering wheel as he waited for a light to change. "It's amazing how many ways we humans find to screw each other up."

That evening he returned to Pendergast's Emporium and found Herman and his cat pretty much where he had left them the day before. "I was here earlier today and saw the sign that you would be closed for a couple of days. I was in the area and saw your lights and figured I would drop in."

"Had a bit of a cold, got better sooner than I expected so I opened up the shop."

"I see." Franklin wondered how much of that was true. "I have some questions about the TELISKOP and I wondered if you could help me.

Herman wasn't much help. He offered to let Franklin return the TELISKOP or to exchange it for another item, something Franklin wasn't about to do. "Oh no, I want to keep it, I just want to learn more about it. Do you have any idea where the thing came from or who published the book?"

"Before my time." Was the answer, "My father would have known, but he passed on a couple of years ago." For some reason, the cat seemed to react to this remark with increased interest in the conversation between the two men. The creature strolled over to them and stared with golden eyes into Pendergast's face and then into Franklin's.

"That cat, what a remarkable creature," said Franklin. "He seems very intelligent." With that, the cat began to purr and rubbed his side against Franklin's arm. "And friendly too."

Herman smiled. "He's very selective, and doesn't make friends that easily. What's more, you are right about his intelligence, I have learned much from that cat."

"I guess he realizes that I like animals, they seem to be able to sense that. By the way, on another subject, do you know a Mr. Runyon, Conrad Runyon?"

"Why yes, I believe I do. He has been in the shop on several occasions. Odd sort of fellow, he seems to think my shop and I and even the cat are part of some sort of conspiracy. So far, I have been unable to convince him otherwise."

"And Mr. Ron Potter?"

"Ah yes, Mr. Potter. He is a regular customer. Do you know him?"

"I know of him, he became quite famous, right about the time your father died."

Abruptly Mr. Pendergast changed the subject. "Mr. Pierce, what do you do for a living? Excuse my curiosity but your interest in this shop and its contents seems a bit... well... unusual."

Franklin could see no reason to avoid the question, "I am a writer for a newspaper, I specialize in scientific and historical articles. I also proofread similar work that has been submitted by others. I check for technical and grammatical errors, that sort of thing."

"Proofreader? I would think that modern computers would make that job obsolete."

Franklin gave a wry grin, "Computers aren't quite that smart, at least not yet."

"Enjoyable work?" asked Pendergast.

"I think so. I find the history of science and mathematics fascinating. That's why the TELISKOP is so interesting to me. It seems to be some sort of image receiving device, but where the images come from I can't begin to guess. And if the date in the book is correct, 1649, the thing predates any technology that could have produced such a thing by hundreds of years. In fact, I rather doubt that we could duplicate it even with today's science.

"Has it occurred to you that it might be magic and not science?" Pendergast smiled as if he was making a joke.

Franklin grinned. "Magic is just science that we don't understand; today's science is yesterday’s magic." Franklin looked around the shop, "Most of the things in here would have seemed like magic in an earlier age," he looked at the crystalline orb he held in his hand, "and some seem like magic even now."

The cat had been staring with a strange intensity at Franklin. Suddenly, it got up and jumped to the top of a display case and to a row of carved wooden boxes; the cat selected one and pushed it toward Franklin Pierce.

As Franklin stared, Herman said "You had best take it, he can be pretty persuasive when he want's to be."

Franklin picked up the box, it was quite heavy, he opened it and was astonished at what he saw inside.

Yellow metal flashed before his eyes. It was gold disk about four inches across; it bore the engraving of an eight-pointed star. He picked it up turned it over and looked at the other side. A diamond, the largest he had ever seen gleamed in the center of nine concentric circles. Each circle had somewhere on its circumference an imbedded gem. The stone in the third ring was blue green and looked like an emerald; the fourth ring sported a ruby. These two, even more than the others, drew his attention as they flickered and glowed with an inner light.

"It's... it's incredible, what it is."

Herman smiled, "It's many things but in your case it is a way for you to learn more about the orb."

The light was beginning to dawn, "You want me to take this? I can't afford a thing like this, it must be priceless."

Herman gestured toward the cat; "He want's you to take it. You may return it when it has served its purpose, if you wish."

Franklin Pierce was in way over his head -- that much he knew. A strange old man in an even stranger shop. Impossible devices that could not be made with any known science and a book printed in 1649 written in a language that looked familiar but which no one could identify. And now this golden medallion, worth at least several hundred thousand dollars or perhaps even more if that diamond was real. That one central stone was fifteen to twenty carats at least. And Pendergast and that phenomenal cat all but forced him to take it. There was a mystery here; one that Franklin was beginning to realize might take him in directions he would rather not explore.

When he got home that evening, the light on his answering machine was blinking. He played the single message; it was from Kathy. She had received another letter from Conrad Runyon. Runyon had asked to set up a meeting with someone at the paper and she wanted to know if he would like to participate. He returned her call and got her machine. He left a message stating that he would be willing to meet with Runyon and for her to try to set up a time in the next couple of days.

That evening Franklin discovered the relationship between the geometric patterns on the TELISKOP and the illustrations in the book quite by accident. There were markings at the bottom of each illustration that lined up with the drawings of the boundaries between the facets on the orb. Then he realized that he had seen similar markings on the ring shaped rosewood pedestal. It came to him in a flash. The pedestal was much more than a stand; it was an index of some sort. By placing the orb on the rosewood ring and then rotating it so that the boundaries between facets were aligned with the marks on the stand he could then compare it to one of the patterns shown in the book. When he did this the indicated window, as he had come to think of the facets, was facing him. He peered into it.

Later, even though he had stopped vomiting, the terrible images were still burned into his mind. He had watched with a mixture of revulsion and horrified fascination as impossibly alien beings fought amongst themselves with axes, saws, and knives. As they hacked each other to pieces, one of the creatures peered into the window, and into Franklin's

eyes. It could see Franklin! He blinked and the creature blinked back, with all eight of its eyes. With a mixture of nausea and terror, he had hurled the orb across the room regretting the action the moment the object left his fingers. As he watched it approach the wall he expected it to shatter when it hit, but it struck the wall will a sharp sound and rebounded like a rubber ball. Almost comically, it ricocheted several times about the room and landed undamaged, on one of the couch cushions.

It was then that the golden medallion spoke. "Please be careful, The TELISKOP is hard to break but it isn't indestructible."

And it was then that Franklin was sure he was loosing his mind.

Somehow Franklin made it to the toilet before losing the contents of his stomach, he remembered little after that.

The golden medallion was a sound receiver and transmitter; it was probable that it had other functions as well. TELISKOP was an imaging device with similar properties. Both were the products of a technology that couldn't be matched on earth for years. At first Franklin couldn't tell if the medallion spoke in response to certain inputs, a kind of

robotic speech synthesizer or if there was someone or something at the other end of the communications link. It was becoming clear that Runyon had stumbled onto at least part of the truth. These things had to be the products of an alien civilization.

The orb or "TELISKOP” was a true telescope in the sense of the Latin derivation, an instrument for looking at things at a great distance. The device -- and it was a device Franklin decided -- was the product of science that didn't exist anywhere he knew of, at least, not yet. It was also a "Chronoscope", an instrument for looking at things at different times. One facet showed the white cliffs of Dover but at a time where there was no evidence of human beings. Another, a favorite of Franklin's showed the Sphinx with its nose intact. It was without a doubt a scene recorded prior to Napoleon's occupation of Egypt and his assault on the ancient relic.

However, the most fascinating and disturbing images were those of what could only be a non-human species. The images of the creatures that drove Franklin to nausea were represented in many of the tiny windows of the orb. As he gained experience with the device he realized that it was providing a glimpse of the history of an entire culture.

It was time to put Kathy into the picture.

"Hi, I just got back from shopping when you called, I was checking my messages and...."

Franklin interrupted. "We have to talk, can you come over? I can come get you if you like."

"I guess so, have you discovered something?"

"Yes, I don't want to talk about it over the phone but there are some things I have to show you." He gave her directions and got her assurance that she would be there in less than a half an hour.

Franklin looked at the clock. Rummaging through the pantry he found a bottle of Chablis and another of Medoc. He set them on a table next to some glasses. For some reason he was excited by the prospects of Kathy's visit even if it was, for the most part, strictly business. Time dragged and finally, thirty-seven minutes after their phone conversation, the doorbell rang.

She was out of breath and her cheeks were rosy from the cold. "Got here as fast as I could, what's up." She said as she handed him her coat.

I could come to be very fond of this girl. Franklin thought to him self. "Wow, I don't know where to begin. Let me start by saying that I think this guy Runyon may be right."

"Oh my God, really? Aliens?"

"Yes, and Pendergast's Emporium and Ron Potter and his Airship Company are right in the middle of it."

"How can you be sure? I mean you must have some sort of evidence."

"Sit down here, I want to show you something." He pointed to a chair that was next to the table with the TELISKOP. "Take a look at this." He pointed to the crystal sphere.

"It's beautiful, what is it?"

"See all the facets? I want you to hold it up to your eye and look into this one." He indicated a facet that showed an alien city with hundreds of the eight limbed creatures walking in its streets.

"She held it up to her eye, stared into it for almost a minute, gasped, and then handed it back to him. "What is it? Where did you get this thing?"

"I bought it at Pendergast's." He let the statement hang for a moment. "For fifty dollars."

"And look at this." He opened a wooden box covered with intricate carvings and revealed the golden medallion. He took it out of its case and handed it to her.

"Is this thing real? It feels like gold, and that diamond, is it real?"

"I am betting that it's very real."

"Don't tell me, you got this thing at Pendergast's too? For what, a hundred bucks?"

He smiled, "They practically forced me to take it, for free. Said I could return it later after it had served its purpose."

"Who forced you? Pendergast? Who else?"

"Pendergast and his cat."

The two of them studied the orb and its many images on into the night.

From time to time, the golden medallion would speak. Its communication was not predictable but when it did give voice, the words were profound.

On one occasion, they were mystified by what was displayed in the orb. Two of the creatures were standing on several of their legs over a thing that looked like an open topped gourd. The creature's legs were intertwined and they were moving together in a sensual rhythmic motion. Then a green object looking much like a bird's egg was produced by one of the creatures. The object was lowered into the opening in the top of the gourd with great care by means of a pseudo pod. Then, a similar organ extended from the other creature and emitted a fine spray of a green fluid or vapor directly into the opening. Then as the gourd closed the creatures uncoupled and stood back. The creatures then embraced each other with several of their limbs while other appendages carefully

stroked the gourd like object. Then the image faded only for the sequence to begin again. It was obviously some sort of recording of a very important ritual.

After they watched the sequence for perhaps the tenth time, the medallion spoke. "They are mating" it said. "The two creatures are roughly similar to human female and male. They both provide genetic material but the gestation takes place within the Nursing Mother. There are three genders, the egg producer, the sperm producer, and the gestating vessel. Two are sentient the third non-sentient."

Apparently, early in their evolution, the creatures reproduced by depositing their fertilized genetic material into the body of a host animal, most likely an unwilling one, much like some wasps on earth. Over the millennia, a symbiotic relationship developed between parasite and host with the end result being a tri-gender reproduction cycle. It was interesting that the Nursing Mothers, as the gourd like creatures were called also reproduced among themselves with the result that more Nursing Mothers were created.

Franklin decided to try an experiment with the TELISKOP. He went into the bedroom, rummaged about for a few minutes and returned with a small camcorder. He set it up to view the images within the orb. The results were quite satisfying. Now, instead of holding the crystal sphere up to their eyes and staring one at a time with monocular vision at the tiny images, they could watch the scenes unfold on his big screen TV from the comfort of the couch. This provided two additional advantages; what ever they saw could be recorded on videotape but as importantly, while they could see they could not be seen. He remembered those moments of terror when he was convinced the creature within the orb could see him as clearly as Franklin could see the Ursian. He did not want to risk repeating that experience.

According to the medallion, the alien culture of the orb was called Ursia and its members were Ursians. This name was chosen because the star about which their planet orbited was, from the perspective of earth astronomers, located in the constellation of Ursa Major. Its human designation was Uma47.

There were eleven planets in the ursine system, three of which were inhabited. The original home planet, the second from their sun, was called Utopia. Like Earth, Utopia was largely water and its landmasses were either rocky islands or swampy bogs.

There were four giant gas planets, one nearly twice as large as Jupiter. It was this planet that had been discovered by earthly astronomers. The planet had several moons, one of which was covered with ice and was apparently being used as a base of some sort by the creatures of the orb. Like Jupiter and Saturn and to a lesser degree Uranus and Neptune,

these gas giants acted as celestial vacuum cleaners, removing asteroidal debris from the Ursian solar system. According to the medallion, intelligent life was not possible on planets in a system without gas giants because surface bombardment would occur so frequently that evolution would be set back every few hundred thousand years. This seemed reasonable to Franklin but he also suspected that it was a gross simplification of a much more complicated process.

As to Conrad Runyon, Franklin and Kathy concluded that he was exactly what he appeared to be a conspiracy buff that had stumbled onto an actual conspiracy. Runyon probably realized that it was unlikely that he would ever get anyone to believe him so he contented himself by writing his startling revelations to the Times in the hope that he could eventually get them to respond. From now on Kathy decided everything he wrote was going to be read carefully but it was unlikely that any of it would ever be published.

Somehow, the gold medallion knew which scenes they were watching. When it was appropriate, it would provide a narrative or sound effects to go along with the images.

They were completely unsettled when the medallion described how the Ursians used clones to mingle with human beings.

The medallion spoke of the rebellion against the Utopian slave masters, the exodus of the refugees, and their escape to earth. UMA47 lies at a distance of 44 light years from Earth in the constellation of Ursa Major or the Big Dipper. Ursian ships can approach about ninety-eight percent of the speed of light so the effects of relativity are significant.

Allowing for acceleration and deceleration, the journey from the ursine system to Earth takes nearly fifty years to complete, in terms of earth time. Ship time was an entirely different matter. Relativity compressed these years to months. Einstein was apparently alive and well even on Ursia and the gulfs of interstellar space. Ursians live an average of about seven hundred Earth years so the journey consumed but a minor fraction of their life span.

During the journey, many of the original refugees perished either from wounds they had suffered during the rebellion or from various problems that occurred during the trip. Fortunately, a number of Nursing Mothers had been brought along and they had been encouraged to breed amongst themselves. In this way, there was a sufficient supply of gestation vessels to permit the Ursians to reproduce. There were over two hundred Ursian infants born during the journey all of whom are now adults that have never known their home world.

The Ursian refugees fled their home system in seven stolen ships. These ships had been designed and built by enslaved Ursians that had been selectively bred for high technical skills. In their hubris the slave masters failed to take into account the fact that scientific ability requires considerable freedom of thought, as a result they did not understand just how dangerous slaves made from engineers and scientists actually were.

The Ursian slaves were treated little better than animals by their masters. Each had a "compliance disk" surgically implanted at birth. The idea was that if a slave became recalcitrant during the course of its life, the masters could use pain or even death to rectify the problem. When Achernar, one of the Ursian engineers and founders of the revolution discovered a way to jam the signals that controlled the compliance disks, the seeds of rebellion were planted.

Franklin was about to order pizza when the phone rang.


Dr. Pierce? Dr. Franklin Pierce?

"Yes, this is Dr. Pierce."

My name is Phillip Harris; I work for Ron Potter at Airship. I suspect you have heard of us?

"Yes, I certainly have. How can I help you?" He looked at Kathy and mouthed the word "Airship"

It's our understanding that you have been making inquires about Mr. Potter and his activities. We feel that now would be a good time for you and Miss Martin to meet with Mr. Potter. He should be able to answer many of your questions. We can send a car for you and if you haven't eaten yet we can schedule dinner.

"Just a moment please." Franklin put his hand over the mouthpiece and told Kathy who was on the phone and what they wanted.

Kathy's response was. "Let's go for it, we're in so deep now it wouldn't make any sense to back out. These people obviously know we have been watching their show on this thing," she gestured toward the TELISKOP, "And they can probably hear everything we say over that gold disk gizmo. Tell them we will be happy to join them for dinner and that we are very hungry."

The "car" was luxurious in the extreme. It was a double stretch limo with the softest velvet upholstery that either of them had either seen. There was an ebony and mahogany bar with liquor and fine wines and hors d'oeuvres plate. A Mozart sonata was playing on the sound system and there were long stem roses in the bud vases. The window to the drivers seat was dark but the rear of the vehicle was softly lit. When the car arrived the door slid open and a disembodied voice welcomed them in. Once seated, the door closed and the car silently and swiftly sped away.

Kathy looked at their surroundings. "My God. What a setup. Have you ever seen anything like this?"

"Not even in the movies," said Franklin as he looked around the car. "I wonder what a thing like this costs." On a small table next to the bar were two books, each was professionally bound with paper of the highest quality. One of the books was inscribed with Franklin's name in gold letters, he handed the other one to Kathy; it was similarly engraved with her name in large gold script. He opened his and turned to the first page.







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"Well, I guess they don't intend to kill us." observed Kathy.

"Apparently not." said Franklin as he examined the book.



The End