The waist-high horsetails, equisetum, or “puzzlegrass,” were more of a nuisance to Bud Adorjan, who was high-stepping through all of it, laboriously; it was not a unique genus to him, the family of thin, tall, vascular plants and spores, and reminded him of nosy, chatty neighbors, or, alternately, fathoming gnats on a hot, and humid day. It redeemed the puzzlegrass, in his mind, to recall how the tall grass contained few scientific, medicinal, or largely useful properties, but was, nonetheless, some 100 million years old in the Milky Way galaxy; it was there so ineffably commonplace, and generally wanting, he like to muse, the noble 8th Laird of Merchiston, who was a physicist, felt inspired by enough to invent the gangling equations of mathematics, known as logarithms. “Well, there’s what, there’s why,” murmured Bud, using heels in contempt to shear his way through it, was prompted to his most familiar curse: “I am not hearing any banjos.”
A maxim in Hydra City, coined by Adorjan, the “banjo” saying was lifted originally from a scene in an ancient film on Earth, and it was quickly imbued with a new, and much different meaning. It became anything an aeronaut, or pioneer suddenly found, something with clear, and obvious scientific interest, or a unique personal experience from a voyage, like “mermaids, or Sirens, or a still in the woods, or Maker’s Mark.” Hearing banjos, to paraphrase Adorjan, was the intrinsic cause to all of space’s mundane effects.
Presently, the puzzlegrass had very little but venerability to recommend it. Bud had resolved to search an outer, unknown star, which was presumably still located in Hydra. He was alone, intending to supply further research to the data base of the LifeRaft® about this new berth, and embellish their notions of U.T., or Ultra Terris. The short-hand microcosm, U.T., was the sphere of what became known as “True Time,” colloquially, formally-drawn as a capital “T,” with a subscript “2”, – T2, – and indicating “True Time.” True time was derived from a map of the actual Age of the Universe, as it was first known in physical science. The map of U.T., as a theoretical place, contained “Rose Lines,” a human convent where a center, Hydra, was the point of reference in time, and in space, all else fell into a place around it; however arbitrary, it provided more astounding results, simply as a matter of perspective. Stars, and natural forms were organized by the map, by U.T., no longer in respect to distance, e.g., parsecs, or light years, but into standard time zones, allowing aeronautics to instantly note the oldest, and youngest parts of space, and those, like ancient civilizations, long-expired; Earth, for instance, was no longer old, isolated, and in search of interstellar life, but very young, pale, and blue, a place of trees, and spatial vegetation, having formed much after other worlds, which had visited, but long, long ago departed the Milky Way. Bud was unsure today whether U.T., or the puzzlegrass was more boggling. He stepped crookedly in Laniakea, the formal name of the universe, and decided, “Puzzlegrass is a waste of photosynthesis.”
He wore a blue, American Legion worksuit, which he referred to by the more dynamic name, “jumpsuit,” and longed for a more enjoyable journey. His plan was to hunt for a pioneer by the name of Ardi, who was believed to live in the aura of the distant star, Icarus, but first he had to “feed” the Selective Monitoring Unit, SUM, with raw data, the price of borrowing a unit from Hydra’s fleet. “More stuff, more stuff,” hailed the desk-bound technical staff, in Hydra City. Hydra was more interested in a colossal, looming adventure involving millions of adventurers from Earth, which Bud said was “light-months away.” He was pleased to watch their eyes try to calculate the number. Adorjan had left Hydra City, his home, for this pensioning orb in a dusty arm of the Milky Way, reminiscent of Orion, to look for “alewife,” the magnetic, horseshoe crabs, which was mostly a ruse to surf about the stars; alewives were purported to bring luck to one’s “empyrean quests.” His mind wandered to Hydra, and photographs of a place on Earth called Hawaii, and whether the similarity should be brought to anyone’s attention, deciding against it. Ardi was real, however, Bud thought, and as reasonably legendary, as perplexingly difficult to find. Ardi was a fan of the alewife, perhaps as a food source, and he known to advise one and all to, inexplicably, “swim the Congo.” Anyone who seldom made sense was sensible to Adorjan, in Laniakea, but he hated the prospect of a summons to Hydra City to explain it.
If Ardi was a pioneer, and hailed from Icarus, it was sufficient cause for a voyage to Bud Adorjan, and a fair bet. U.T. was still a small, and smaller world. His only clue to Ardi, and his whereabouts, was to “swim the Congo,” and Bud thought, and he said, “Hmm.”
An evening at a local night club, Dazzles, was intended to buoy Joe’s sagging spirits, but his colleague, and traveling friend had yet to define his sour mood. Joe spent most of the hours engrossed in a seemingly aimless gab with a professional women’s’ basketball player. She was a blonde woman, and plainly taller than either of them, causing him to wonder why, of all things, he felt surprised. He mentioned it in an aside to Joe, who, with a bleary tone of vodka, generously allowed, “Really!” It was essentially a bad night. The next day would be better, his solace. They had exactingly planned a dinner cruise of the intercoastal waterway in Florida, near Canaveral, which would trace the shoreline of the St. John’s River aboard a ship notable for service of prime rib, and craft beers.
They had driven like madmen the afternoon before to the airport in New York, and nearly crashed into the crossing arms at the train tracks, narrowly stopping before an oncoming train. It sparked Joe to hum the disco riffs of “Love Train,” sullenly, and somewhat adolescently, for the entire plane ride to Florida.
Afterwards, Joe completely forgot the train tracks, – honestly, could not remember the incident, and, perusing miniature, cinnamon doughnut holes, asked, “What are you talking about?” He nodded.
The ancient, circular pod was unmistakably a vintage ship. It resembled a “giant earplug.” Bud Adorjan chuckled to see it. He had been filling in a loquacious SUM about the air, an intoxicating atmosphere, which led him to suggest this sphere near Orion may, in fact, be habitable; the ambient oxygen was enchanting, with the ardor, and verve to his pulmonary system of aged scotch, amending the countless furlongs of equisetum puzzlegrass.
“It’s one of those,” Adorjan told SUM, enhancing his belief in nature’s odd proclivity. He had found many strange, unexplained objects in space, leading him to author a theory about its “dimensions.” He spoke about his “Dimension Theory” to budding new aeronauts, given to his disposal by the academy.
“They have believed, heck, they still believe today, the visions of their scientific forbears were some sort of fanciful poppycock, rantings or children’s stories,” Bud lectured, to about several dozen men, and women, enduring his preambles about the Vast in the vast, airy expanse of the Hydra City hangar, just to be close to the fly line, and the chance to use it. to generically explore. “They were alluding, they were trying to articulate Dimension Theory.”
Adorjan arrived at the favorite part of his stump speech. “They had all of these ideas, these visions. But what if they weren’t? They wrote about – islands of gaping men. An island of ants, ants who eat boats; islands of tame birds; horses, demons, rock-throwing beasts, biting animals; apples, pigs, birds, sheep who change color.”
A corporal, a devotee of Bud Adorjan, who liked to monitor his class, then asserted more admirable passion. He allowed, “They described islands of swineherd, placed with hornless oxen, maidens, colorful birds, birds who sing psalms; angry smiths, and monsters. There was an isle of eternal laughter, laughing which could never, ever be stopped; an island of the fire people, on and on – “
Adorjan interjected, before the aide stole his flame, “– And there was one, which was a lot like this one, an island with a truly ugly miller, who is wrinkled, rude, and bald.” The class was unsure whether to smirk, or ignore the faux pas. “Our object is to discover, discover if these were real places, or some kind of mirror of intelligent life,” Bud concluded. “To become like the Island of ‘Lamenting Men, and Wailing Sorrows,’ to become old men, and women, of noble and monastic words.” They clapped automatically, hardly diverting their gaze from the pod rows, or fly line, estimating the remaining light.
“Anybody want to fly?” he had asked, and waited for ovation.
Adorjan grasped a lug wrench from the LifeRaft®, and labored towards the ancient pod, through more of the puzzlegrass. He had inspected the pod, and had discovered a server keyboard, within a portal resembling a circuit breaker, which would allow him to interact with the ship’s control space.
He had begun to work on the pod, which appeared to be a wreckage, and a rare find. It occupied hours of Bud’s time. The craft, a drone, must. have belonged to someone, and somewhere, and was evidently gathering data, when it crashed, or more nose-dove, into a dune on the place. It became a compulsion for Bud restore its “whatsy,” and have SUM “fire it up!”
Bud employed a sort of mental auto-pilot, with his hand absently tracing the ceramic tile of the wall to the Hydra City hangar to the rest rooms of the hangar, and he stepped to a spot at the mirror, away from another person, who was preparing to use an electric razor. He flexed his image in the mirror, and used his palm to smooth the skin of his bald head. He noticed the woman with the razor, who smiled at him in the mirror. She was ready to shave her locks. He blinked, and guessed, “Regression?”
“Regression” was a well-known practice, used by aeronauts to change their age, and other vital, physical characteristics, to comply with the demands, and shortcomings of a given environment, essentially, to adapt. Most became younger, once the regimen was complete. The woman, named Aji, was a new Legion ensign. She said, “Regression, yes – but what to do with your hair?” Bud’s grin was muted, and hardly visible.
He emerged to the hangar, and gazed at another one of his aides, a veteran crew woman. He asked her about a new applicant, who had made an appointment to meet him to discuss “speciation.” The crew woman shook her head, and sported the bromide, “All the intelligent life in the universe is somewhere else.”
Adorjan didn’t lose a beat, offering, rhetorically, “If there are other dimensions, there may be paths, friendly paths, pathways we choose by instinct, like, oh, – finding where she is.”
The woman grinned, somewhat slowly. She said, “Her name is Aji. I haven’t seen her, which means she’s not on the fly line. I’ll – look around.”
He contemplated speciation, how new, and distinct species are formed in the process of evolution, generally from isolation. The class was discussing “open, and closed systems.” A recruit was explaining how “a closed system is a physical system, that does not allow for certain types of transfers, like a transfer of mass, or energy, in, or out of the system.”
Wistfully, Aji recalled her husband, Bud, and his musings aboard a LifeRaft®. She was approaching the Grand Lumineres. She told her friend from Coney Island, “Bud called me a perfect binary system. I was young, and so mystified. I had studied it for days: binary systems, binary systems. I think he meant a closed system, so he got it wrong. Of course, I was smitten. (Laughs.) He was so famous. I told him binary systems have objects with separate orbits, and evolve without each other. I think I got even.”
The Coney Islander asked, “Don’t they usually mean some type of abyss?” He recalled a video he had once streamed for one of his classes about DNA, which showing microscopic bodies bumping into each other, and then reattaching somewhere else, which facetiously reminded him of New York cabs.
Aji said, “That’s more analogous to bees. Like we say, there’s no Milky Way in a beehive.”
The Legion commander appeared to meet Aji, and was dressed in a perfectly swank, teal uniform, with shined silver, which reflected against on the dull, polished gray cement. He told her Aji how Adorjan was a legend in the ranks for his “anywhere, anytime” attitudes, and had “growing renown” in the crucial circles of Hydra City.” He would meet her shortly at the “star.” (The star was an actual, drab yellow painted star on the floor, upon which Aji was expected to stand, and wait. She crossed her arms.
While she was waited, she heard a loud wailing rising from beyond the walls near the star, which was centered between rest rooms; it sounded like someone was bisected by a spear, or by an arrow. A service women aide, who busily passing her, also heard it, and Aji worried a medic may be required. The aide rolled her eyes, after the loud, and consequent flush of a men’s room toilet. It was followed by the sound of water from a faucet, which continued for almost five minutes. An onrushing corporal stopped by her, and almost slid on the cement to the star. He was carrying a clipboard under his arm, and two sandwiches wrapped in tin foil, one in each hand. “You are Aji?” the corporal asked her, and she nodded steadily until he caught his breath. “Here you are,” he said, and handed her one of gobs, apparently a Sloppy Joe. He kept the other at a distance.
“Mortie,” a voice bellowed from the hall. Bud Adorjan emerged from the rest room, wiping his hands with a paper towel, and the water had stopped. His full attention was now upon the corporal. “S-J-O, sloppy Joe, excuse me, ma’am, right here.” The corporal’s eyes brightened, and elbow uncrooked. He carefully-placed the other sandwich into Bud’s hand. A drip of red sauce, and olive oil lined Mortie’s arm.
“Thank you,” Bud said, sincerely. “Thank you very much.”
Mortie whispered to Aji, and pronounced the word, “speciation,” far too loudly. He said, “He wants to ask you about speciation, but he’s liable to forget. He wants to fly, like everyone else.” Aji’s research paper about the subject gained her an invitation to Hydra City, and the Legion’s working hangar.
Adorjan was ready to speak to her, and nearly began, but the tin foil wrap gave way to his Sloppy Joe, and hamburger dissembled on his white jumpsuit. He didn’t curse, but his eyes bulged, and, recovering the paper towel, he wiped it from the blue teal Hydra seal over his heart. Aji didn’t budge, or try to help. She was unsure about her place. “Sorry,” he diffused, shrugged, and then said, “Ah, let’s walk.”
Aji feared the meeting would be a miss, because of the sandwich, and, despite the growling sound in her stomach, dropped her Sloppy Joe into a barrel on the floor, wondering if Bud recognized her from earlier. They walked astride towards a gape of floor-to-ground ceiling windows, which were known as the “Lucarne.” He accidentally bumped into her, his gait a bit unsteady, and took her arm. The Lucarne, French for a dormer window, displayed the entirety of the fabled Hydra flight-line, a magnificent sight to see. And it was situated in a hangar lounge, which some aeronauts rued as a place used even more, if possible, than the fly line, w here the LifeRaft® models were kept, and also launched; the Hydra City flight-line was fabricated into the side of a mountain. Aji heard it was captivating, and mentally confirmed it from the corner of her eye. It was nearly as majestic as the audience with Bud Adorjan, scientist, explorer, and de facto leader of aeronautics in Hydra, the “capital of the capital,” the home of the interstellar industry, in modern Laniakea.
She trailed Adorjan to the Lucarne. Bud purposely brought her to recessed footlights of the windows, and Aji exclaimed, “Yahh!,” It was a dazzling, and weighty sight, especially if one was afraid of heights. Bud, now controlling the Sloppy Joe, remarked, with his shoulder on the huge, gray support, “Four-hundred stories down.”
“Four hundred,” Aji repeated, viewing the immense structure, built with only one floor for the hangar. The flight-line was located at a ninety-degree angle at the lowest floor.
Adorjan shuffled to one side, and pointed out the mountain. He said, an aside, “You’ll drop by the paper for me?”
“Sure,” Aji said, startled, and quickly added, “Yes, I will.” She noticed a depth to her voice which sounded becoming, and noticed an azure pale to Bud’s blue eyes, and the youthful graying of hair on the sides of his head.
“Good,” he pronounced, and she knew he had already forgotten it. Adorjan pressed one of the buttons of the tech panel, recessed in the support. Bud seemed absorbed by the beauty of the lights from the flight line, at this height, still absorbed, despite the years of working at it. She was blank, and shocked by the button, which caused the routine opening of the sliding doors, a set of doors Aji didn’t notice, which created a wide opening of the Lucarne.
She gasped, when Bud Adorjan stepped through the door, through the open windows, and flailed his elbows, and arms like a chicken. He rose ever slowly in the air, casting to Aji, “I can’t get enough of this sh–!” ◊
¤ JUKE BOX ¤
Theme: “Close My Eyes,” Mariah Carey | playlist, “Flea Markets, Nos. 51-,” a myopic vaile, (No. 52)
..… from “^; or, CARET,” III of III,
The Echo By Seas; & Other Stories, by Soda Tom,
[Complete Works, No. 01]. Copyright (C) 2017-20, ff.
All Rights Reserved.
Created by Soda Tom