Portrait of the geek as a young man: Author Robert Gillis hard at work writing, 1985.
Portrait of the geek as a young man: Author Robert Gillis hard at work writing a story on his trusty TI-99 4/a computer, 1985.

by Robert Gillis, 1985

Another vignette from “The Abucs Scenario.” Dr. Robert Gillis has a meeting with an old, omnipotent friend. Any resemblance to the same scene in “2010: Odyssey Two” is entirely deliberate.


Doctor Robert Gillis paused for a moment to view the spender of New Hampshire’s White Mountains. He was forever thankful that the frenzied wave of progress of the late eighties and early nineties had somehow missed this beautiful village. Certainly, the hover cars and solar homes were signs of the times, but this area still managed to hold onto the “hick” quality that Gillis liked so much.

Pouring himself a Coke, he reseated himself in front of his computer and reviewed the work he’d done so far that day. He was very pleased.

“Hal, please locate the file dated May 29, 2010. Scan page 5 and project a hologram on a 1 100 scale. Simulate four gee pressure on the orbiter. I want to check the stress points again.”

The computer complied, and Gillis nodded with approval at the equations he was looking at. If this fusion drive space shuttle worked as well in reality as it did on a 3 D simulation, the United States would definitely be the first to send a manned voyage to Saturn.

DOCTOR GILLIS?

“Mmmm? Yes, Hal? What is it?”

WOULD YOU LIKE TO PLAY A GAME OF CHESS WITH ME LATER? I PLAY VERY WELL.

“No thanks, Hal. Dave still beats me every seven out of ten games! How can I take you on? Oh — speaking of the President, are you still trying to get through to him?”

THE PRESIDENT IS STILL IN GENEVA AND SENDS HIS REGARDS

“Thank you.”

DOCTOR GILLIS?

“What is it, Hal?”

THERE IS A MESSAGE FOR YOU.

“Oh. Who is calling?”

THERE IS NO IDENTIFICATION.

“That’s odd. Please relay the message.”

MESSAGE IS AS FOLLOWS. IT IS DANGEROUS REPEAT DANGEROUS TO REMAIN HERE. YOU MUST LEAVE WITHIN TWO REPEAT TWO DAYS. HA HA REPEAT HA HA.

“Hal, what the hell is going on? Who recorded this message?”

THIS IS NOT A RECORDING.

“Then who is speaking to me?”

THE RESPONSE IS: I WAS JOHN MATTHEWS, HUMANTI VALINOR OF THE THIRD CIRCLE, TRICOMMANDER, AND PRAETOR OF THE TERRAN STAR CLUSTER.

“I’ll be damned,” Gillis said to himself.

THE RESPONSE IS: NO, YOU WILL BE SAVED.

“Hal, I cannot accept that without proof of ID.”

“You never did have faith, Bob.”

Gillis spun toward the familiar voice.

It was John Matthews.

He still wore his glasses, and he was dressed in a weird gleaming suit of armor. And there was the disturbing fact that he’d not aged one day since their last meeting some twenty years before.

“My God,” Gillis finally said. “It is you. I don’t believe it! John! How are you?”

“Perfect.”

Matthews strode into the next room. Retching at the tackiness of the decor, he faced Gillis again. “I can’t believe you still have that Blue Lagoon poster on your wall.”

“John! John, it’s been such a long — ”

“Indeed, human. A very long time. You might even say an infinite amount of time. In fact, you might say not at all. But before I say that, perhaps I should discuss what I mean by infinity.”

“What have you been doing for the last twenty years?”

“That’s classified, human. It is beyond your ability to comprehend.” John gently touched Gillis’ computer. Lights began to play across his face as the terminal displayed a new image every thousandth of a second.

“How cute!” he finally said.

“Cute???!!! John, that’s my fusion drive space shuttle. NASA is paying me a fortune to design it!”

“I’ll just bet you’re going to christen it Enterprise.”

Gillis blushed. “Anyway, Uh… where was I? Oh yeah… But if my designs work, the United States will reach Saturn long before — ”

“Sure, Bob. That’s nice. Oh — remind me about your planet. Like I said, it’s cute, Bob. Bees make honey, beavers build dams, and humans built space stations and neutrino bombs. It’s fun to watch them work so hard, then drop a rock on their creation.”

“John, what was this about the planet? Oh, come on, John! Stop laughing like that!”

“Sorry. This is… (long pause for effect) difficult for me.”

“Why?”

“Because you bore me, Bob. Your whole stupid planet bores me.”

“Look, John. What’s going to happen?”

“Something wonderful.”

“Like what?”

“Do you remember in high school how I explained to you about binary star systems and how your stupid obscure solar system in atypical? No? Well, let me enlighten your 2K RAM cassette drive memory, Bubby. Jupiter is a failed star. It should have been a star, but it didn’t have enough mass.”

“Do you mean to tell me that you’re going to blow up Jupiter and make it a star?”

“No, that’s kid stuff.” He assumed the form of William F. Buckley Jr… “Now, Mr. Robert Gillis, due to the rising conservative trend…”

“Come on, John! If it’s not Jupiter, then…”

John looked like his old self again. “Come on, Bob! I trained you well! For the cookie, Bob! For the cookie, what stupid, waterlogged carbon unit infested planet am I talking about?”

Gillis choked, “Earth?”

A Chiparoo appeared in John’s hand. “Good Boy! Come on, Bob! Take the cookie! You earned it! I’m rather pleased with the way I created you!”

“Are you telling me that you plan to turn Earth into a star? Is that possible?”

“With me, all things are possible, Bob.”

“But you said something wonderful was going to happen. You call the death of 6.4 billion humans wonderful?”

“Yes. Well actually, I’m sparing you to deliver the message.”

“What message?”

John aged right before Gillis’ eyes. “ALL THESE WORLDS ARE YOURS…” He became a star child, “EXCEPT MERCURY, VENUS, MARS,” He assumed the form of Keir Dullea, “JUPITER, SATURN,” he became an Easter basket, “URANUS, NEPTUNE,” He returned to his younger self, “PLUTO AND PERSEPHONE. YOU CAN HAVE HALEY’S COMET.”

“Sounds fair,” Gillis mumbled.

“Two days, Bob. You have two days. Well, gotta go. You’re boring the daylights out of me.”

“John, wait!”

But Gillis found himself talking to empty air.

“Hal?”

YES, DOCTOR GILLIS?

“Hal, get the Columbia ready for immediate launch. Contact my wife in Hawaii, President McEntire in Geneva, and the rest of my family back in Massachusetts. I need warp speed in three minutes or we’re all dead.”

DOCTOR GILLIS, IS MR. MATTHEWS REALLY CAPABLE OF TRANSFORMING EARTH INTO A STAR?

“If he’s the John Matthews I knew twenty years ago, I have no doubt of it, Hal. Get to work.”

DOCTOR GILLIS, I’VE NEVER SEEN THE BIRTH OF A STAR.

“And I’ve never been to London, Hal. Get the Columbia ready.”

THIS IS OF GREAT SCIENTIFIC IMPORT — ¬

“Can it, Hal. Get my ship ready. I want to be off planet in two days.”

DO YOU REALLY WANT TO DO THIS? I THINK YOU SHOULD STOP.

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