SAVING PLANET MOM
Homosapien Year No. 2525.
Place: Planet Eden, Trump Quadrant, Orion’s Belt
“Man, oh man,” the Boss murmured as he stared at the viewing screen. It was small compared to the wall-sized panels that graced the sides of every room in every home on every colony along the Belt. It was also illegal. “You know what this is, don’t you?”
“A catastrophe,” the miracle worker said, his voice quavering with emotion. “The whole planet, our mother planet, will be destroyed. Reduced to star dust. Every living thing obliterated.”
The Boss looked at him hard. Gave the man’s shoulder a shove. “No!” he insisted. “It’s an opportunity! No one cares what happens to that little watery rock. If they did, our ancestors wouldn’t have poisoned the place and made it next to uninhabitable a thousand years ago.”
“Five hundred years ago,” the miracle worker corrected.
“You’re going to quibble over a couple hundred years?”
“Five hundred, not a couple,” the stickler insisted.
The Boss shook his head. “This from the man who went against government regulations and built a time machine.”
“A future viewer,” the other said, looking away from his superior. Looking guilty, weak. “You can’t travel in it.”
“Travel smavel,” the Boss snapped, dismissing the idea as unnecessary. “All I need to do is transfer data before old Planet Mom is history.”
The miracle worker smiled, relieved that some good would come of the illegal creation. “The disaster will no doubt destroy records within fifty light years or more of the mother planet. All the policy holders’ files would be lost if not moved to the Belt offices.”
“Which is exactly why I intend to gather up every record within a hundred light years of the Belt offices and ship them to the home planet,” the Boss said. “What better way to cover up the fact that I’ve been milking the company for all it’s worth?”
The miracle worker looked aghast. His mouth hung open in disbelief. “Embezzling?”
“I prefer to think of it as enhancing my retirement fund,” the Boss said with a smug grin. “It’s a family tradition dating back to the turn of the 21st century.”
The miracle worker’s eyes grew wild; his breathing came in agitated gasps. “I won’t let you do it!” he announced boldly. “I did not tell you about the future viewer for you to—”
“Too bad,” the Boss declared as if terribly disappointed in his staff member and coshed him a good one across the back of his skull.
As the living daylights winked out of the previously ambitious miracle worker, the Boss was already rifling through his mental file of employees looking for the perfect dupe.
~ ~ ~
Bert 4132 had had a difficult time deciding which news source to access. The headline on one had claimed “Scientist Killed in Freak Accident”, while another had screamed “Slapstick Accident Not Covered By Victim’s Insurance Policy!” In the end he’d gone for the article on the Beltway Universe Network: “Mutant Banana Peel Kills Miracle Worker.” Within a millisecond the smooth, authoritative voice of the hologram news anchor was giving him the scoop.
“Sources at megacorp Orion Risk Insurance’s home office admit that something went wrong when Miracle Worker 12B entered his lab today.
“He’d been working on improving the common banana in an effort to insure that policy owners were no longer in danger of fatal accidents like the one that felled him in the workplace.
“Apparently while running a test on the banana in question, MW 12B lost control of said peel and in trying to retrieve the runaway inadvertently stepped on the yellow-peeled perp, and slipping, hit his head on the lab table, an action that resulted in his death.
“MW 12B was found by his supervisor and friend, Boss—”
“5132!” a disembodied voice boomed from the receiving unit in Bert’s ear.
Distracted, Bert’s concentration wavered, and the hologram report dissipated in the air.
“My office, now, 5132!” the voice ordered.
“4132,” Bert corrected under his breath. The numbers made a difference because it was illegal to make more than five thousand homo clonians like himself. The Boss knew that quite well, too.
“What’s the hold up?” the voice demanded. “Your response time is disreputable. Company policy clearly states that within two seconds you should—”
With a mental sigh—the only kind he could afford—Bert pushed the responding button on his uniform and materialized instantly before his supervisor’s desk.
“Ah, there you are, 5132. What were you doing?”
Bert squared his shoulders. “Company policy states that all employees must keep up to date on any news item that involves accidental deaths whether covered or not covered by company policies and—”
The Boss cut him off. “I’ve an assignment for you. One I wouldn’t trust to just anyone either, 5132, so don’t go bragging to the other knockoffs like yourself.”
Bert gritted his teeth at the slur. It was illegal to spout genetic insults, like calling clones knockoffs, but that never seemed to bother sapiens like the Boss. He could always trump up a reason to dismiss a clone.
Replacement was as easy as putting a requisition through channels. There were already far too many clones scraping for a living because they’d been reclassified as outmoded models. Bert wasn’t about to put his own number on the Boss’s hit list—even if the stupid sapien always called him by the wrong number.
“Wouldn’t think of it, sir,” Bert assured.
“You heard about the mutant, right?”
“A yellow-peeled killer, 5132. We’ve got to protect the company from its kind.”
Bert could understand that. Rampaging fruit was not something a number cloned from a 23rd century vegan could easily stomach.
The Boss held up a slim, silver disk barely seven centimeters wide. Rainbows danced across its surface. “Know what this is, 5132?”
“History,” Bert answered. “Outmoded technology from the late 20th and early 21st century.”
“Earth technology, clone boy. Only those of us with ancestors smart enough to jump that rock the moment the miracle workers stumbled on light speed flight have moved ahead. The idiots left behind are still using this stuff.”
Bert was astounded. He’d no idea that society on the home planet was so primitive.
“This little disk has been programmed to interface with company file caches throughout the Universe,” the Boss continued. “I want you to take it to Earth, take an hour to upgrade their technology to hold everything in the caches, then download everything to that central location.”
“Everything. Should take you another hour to do that, then give yourself a holiday and be back here the next day. We’re reorganizing and centralizing. What with mutant fruit strolling the halls here in the Belt, the safest place for the data caches is someplace so primitive that no miracle workers go near the place. That’s Earth.”
Bert had to agree. That was Earth, the home planet of all the homoilian species along the Belt and every colony within a hundred light years of the place. No one wanted to go “home” anymore, but the sad old rock was still known fondly as Planet Mom to one and all.
“When do I leave?” Bert asked.
The Boss slapped the shimmering disk into Bert’s hand. “Now,” he said.
In answer to the command, Bert’s physical form immediately blipped from the room.
~ ~ ~
The Earth spaceport was a place out of time compared to the modern, sanitized hubs along the Belt. Bert wasn’t sure what to absorb first, the fact that there were blue skies outside the building’s wide windows, or that those windows were open! What he supposed were naturally occurring breezes wafted through the building bringing with them foreign seeming scents. Beyond the windows were tall growths topped with greenery. Could they actually be trees? He’d read about trees but had believed they had become obsolete like many of the other things that had once populated the planet. It was fascinating to behold the living artifact.
As he gazed—all right, gapped!—in awe, a dark-haired creature in flowing garments rushed up to him.
“Mr. 4132?” the being gasped, excitement clearly evident in its voice.
The creature had a fragrance all its own, a delightful one that did strange things to Bert’s system. “Just Bert 4132,” he corrected. “I’m merely a clone.”
The girl—for he realized it was female and quite gloriously humanoid—looked puzzled.
“Only sapiens merit the title mister,” he explained.
“Oh, that’s silly,” she exclaimed and giggled. “As if you weren’t as human as the rest of us.”
Us. Bert sighed mentally. She was obviously a sapien herself or she would have been more familiar with the universal laws drummed into the heads of clone citizens, if citizens they could even claim to be. It would have been nice to interact with a female clone for a change. There were so few of them along the Belt.
Still, he could dream, and her laughter warmed a spot in his heart that he hadn’t realized was cold before.
“And you are?” he asked politely.
Her eyes grew wide. They were green he noticed, a quite uncommon color in the Belt communities, and her hair was not merely dark but glowed with amber highlights as though the Sun had caressed the tresses. Her clothing was free flowing rather than body hugging like his own. The fabric stirred in the lovely breeze.
“I am such a ditz,” she declared and stuck out her hand. “I’m Clarity, although everyone tells me I do not live up to my name.”
He thought it a beautiful name; thought her hand was the smoothest, most delightful hand he’d ever held. Possibly because it was the only totally human hand he’d ever held. Only female hand he’d ever held. He felt a bit deprived when she withdrew it from his grasp.
“Clarity is such an unfortunate name, too,” she said.
“It is?” As a data specialist, Bert thought it had a nice, well, clear essence about it. It was simple and to the point.
“Oh, yes,” Clarity insisted. “Once you add up the numbers, I’m a lowly seven on the scales.”
Try being one of 4132, Bert thought.
“You’re so lucky to be a One.”
Bert was sure he’d heard her wrong. “A what?”
“A One.” Apparently, he looked confused—which, Bert admitted, was a tame word for how he was feeling—for she took pity on him.
“You know, numerology. It’s an ancient science. Well, some people wouldn’t consider it a science, but I do. Each letter of a name is given a numerical value. For instance, Clarity equates to 3-12-1-18-9-20-25. Added together they make 88. When the two eights are added together it makes sixteen and once you add the one and the six together you’ve got what I am—a seven. A lowly seven.”
Bert felt his head begin to spin.
“But you! Oh, dear sir, you are Bert—which is 2-5-18-20, equaling 45, and four plus five is nine.”
A truly lowly number for truly lowly clone that he was, Bert felt.
“However, that isn’t your full name for you have all those lovely other numbers—”
“4132,” Bert supplied to make sure she didn’t make the same mistake the Boss always did.
“Yes!” Clarity breathed in awe. “And they add up to ten, which, when you add it to the 45 makes 55 which converts back to ten which becomes—”
Bert had the gist of the thing now. “One!” he exclaimed.
Clarity grabbed his hand once more. “It is an honor to meet you, sir,” she said.
“Not sir,” he corrected swiftly in the event that a clone patrol unit might be listening in. “Just Bert.”
“A One could never be a just anything,” Clarity insisted. “But I’m holding you up, aren’t I? I’m so very excited to meet someone from the Belt. Shall we head back to the office?”
Bert supposed they should. When she began walking toward the door, he fell into step a half stride behind her, as clone protocol directed.
“There isn’t much time left,” she said, “so we’ll be breaking some speed records to get the records transferred before the end of the world occurs.”
Bert nearly stumbled. “The what?”
“The end of the world. My uncle figures it will happen this evening.”
“He’s got an unfortunate name, too. Before the last calculation it’s a thirteen and we all know what that means.”
“He’s a four?”
“It’s bad luck. That’s why he changed his name and became a seer, so he would be prepared for disasters before they stuck.”
A seer? Did she mean a scientist? “I didn’t think there were any miracle workers on Earth any more. I understood they left with the colonists,” Bert said.
“Colonists?” Clarity made the word sound like an anathema. “Planet jumpers,” she sneered. “Quitters. Those left behind were the true heroes. My ancestors corrected all the errors made by the jumpers. With them gone emissions fell to nearly zero. We learned to reuse things. The saying here on Earth is ‘if it ain’t irreparably broke, don’t touch it.’ Every ecological system has been back to normal for nearly three hundred years. The greenhouse gases faded away, the ozone repaired itself, the polar caps refroze, and animals and plants returned from near extinction. Too bad the rebirth is lasting only a couple hundred years, isn’t it? This was a very nice planet to live on. I’d say I’ll miss it but considering everything on Earth will probably be vaporized, including you and me, that would be silly, wouldn’t it?”
Bert’s feet froze in place. Clarity moved on a few paces before realizing he wasn’t trailing her, then turned to look at him.
“You didn’t know?” she demanded.
That he’d been sent on a suicide mission? Heck, no! “I…the…what did I ever do…” Bert sputtered.
Clarity rocked back on her heels. “Maybe they didn’t know about this,” she offered. “It isn’t as if the Belt cities keep in touch with us often.”
But Bert knew. Somehow the Boss had learned of the pending powdering of Earth and set him up. Had sent him off to be murdered, probably by a clump of hurtling space junk masterminded by the same miracle workers who had cloned him.
Bert fumbled in the chest pocket of his uniform, retrieving the silvery disk that was to transfer company files—not away from Earth as Clarity thought, but to Planet Mom to be destroyed in a space accident.
Well, he wasn’t going to let it happen. He was a company clone and a One, and One’s had been singled out by fate for greatness. He was sure Clarity would back him up on that. The fact that he was probably going to die a hero would never be known by his brother clones, but a hero to the company he was darn well going to be!
“You’re right,” Bert said. “It is time to break a few speed records, but we aren’t headed for the office, my dear.” He felt daring just using the endearment. The clone squad could take a flying leap into a black hole. They couldn’t do a thing about his rebellious tongue. In a few more hours he’d most likely be just another piece of dark matter if something wasn’t done and done immediately!
“We’re going to visit your uncle! We’re going to save Planet Mom,” he declared boldly.
Clarity’s eyes glowed. “Oh, Bert!” she sighed, then grabbed his hand and took off running.
~ ~ ~
Seer Clearly—for such was the name Clarity’s uncle went by—beamed an approving smile when Clarity announced that Bert had come to save the planet.
“Left it a bit late, didn’t you?” he asked.
“Not really,” Bert admitted. “I only heard about it a nano sec or so ago.”
Seer Clearly, it turned out, had a fortune telling stand only a few feet from the arrival gate at the space port. He also sold Earth crystals to eager tourists.
Bert handed over several of the worn coins he’d received in customs to use when bartering with the natives and received a small unbroken geode in return. “What exactly is going to happen?” he asked, wishing his close-fitting uniform had come with a spare pocket in which to store the rock.
“The worst thing possible,” the seer said.
“Well, the Sun didn’t look like it was reaching supernova stage as we went by,” Bert noted.
Clarity’s uncle dashed the prospect away with a casual flick of his hand. “Of course not. Won’t do that for nearly twenty billion years,” he said.
“Gamma ray burst?” Bert suggested, worrying the geode between his fingers absently.
“Don’t be ridiculous. If one happened less than 100 light years away, we’d already be toasted considering it’s the equivalent of a million trillion suns smacking Earth. At such a close distance, once you see the flash, it’s already too late. Think, boy, and think big!”
Bert felt he was short of oxygen. “Not the Big Rip!” he exclaimed, nearly staggering at the enormity of the event.
Seer Clearly glanced at his niece. “Where did you unearth this bit of space flotsam?”
“The insurance company sent him,” she said.
“Ah,” her uncle intoned in his best seer voice. “That explains a lot.”
Bert frowned. Time was tripping by and he still didn’t know what was about to happen. “All right. If the Sun isn’t expanding, a far distant gamma ray burst isn’t about to—”
“Sear us,” the seer said.
“—and the Universe isn’t about to rip apart, just what is on the schedule?”
Clarity and her uncle exchanged a look. “What else?” the seer asked. “The commonest disaster in all the galaxies—an asteroid.”
“Great Orion’s broken belt buckle,” Bert breathed. “Why didn’t you say so? I can fix that. My donor’s great-great uncle’s second wife’s biological cousin-in-law was the seventh son of a rocket scientist. I’ve got space jockey in my DNA. All I need now is a few antiques.”
Clarity brightened immediately. “We’ve got a dozen old shuttle craft in the backyard at home.”
“You’re a collector of antiquities?” Bert murmured admiringly.
“Heck no. Just spare parts for my shopping cart,” she said.
“Spare parts will work just fine,” Bert allowed, but he knew he had more than just a planet to save. He had a manipulative Boss to expose, and that was a far more difficult task than getting a multi-tonned bit of space rubble out of Planet Mom’s way.
“I’m curious,” Bert admitted as he and Clarity waited for her uncle to drop the awning on his kiosk. “Why didn’t anyone contact the authorities on the Belt about this asteroid?”
“There are authorities on the Belt that care a hoot about Earth?” she asked, obviously amazed at his naiveté.
“A few,” he said, although if counted on his fingers he’d never have to use more than one hand before reaching the full head count.
“Well, I don’t know about others, but my uncle used a future viewer to foretell the disaster,” she admitted. “Considering they’re illegal, not many seers are willing to admit they use them, even if they are a vital bit of business equipment when it comes to fortune telling. There are even some miracle workers who’ve smuggled them off planet.”
Seer Clearly snorted. “Probably declare them as tourist curiosities when they go through customs, too,” he said. “Like that idiot who visited us a couple weeks ago. What was his name, Clarity?”
“You mean 12B? Didn’t he contact you asking if there was an instruction document to help him get it working?”
Her uncle chortled. “Yeah. Real idiot of a miracle worker, wasn’t he?”
Although Bert had mentally been making a list of elements he would need to nudge the asteroid into a new trajectory, one that would zip it past Planet Mom and on its way out of the immediate solar system, he perked up. “Who did you say?”
“Oh, just some ugly tourist from the Orion cities. Told us his name was Miracle Worker 12B.”
Bert frowned. “He was involved in a freak fatal accident just before I left the Belt.”
“Mysterious alien machine blow up on him?” Seer Clearly winked at his niece.
“Slipped on a mutant banana peel,” Bert said.
“Slipped.” The seer snickered. “When the man was deathly afraid of bananas?”
“When I offered him one, he said he was allergic to them,” Clarity said.
“You say allergy, I say phobia,” her uncle insisted.
Bert tossed the tiny geode in his hand as he considered this new development. “Then if there was no banana involved, it means that he was—”
Clarity gasped. “You mean—”
“Yes,” Bert said. “But how do we prove it?”
“We?” Clarity repeated, her voice singing the simple word. “Oh, Bert!”
Bert squared his shoulders. “If only there was a way to view the past as well as the future. To record it in a way to convince the legal system that it was made on the scene rather than after the fact.”
“You want a Past Finder 5000 with built in recording capacity?” Seer Clearly asked.
“You got one?”
Bert smiled. He took Clarity’s hand in his, drawing it to rest on his chest so that she could feel his heart beat beneath her fingers. He gazed down into her limpid green eyes. “Darling,” he murmured. “Once I save the planet, do you think you could find it in your heart to—”
“—negotiate a limited use lease on your uncle’s Past Finder for me?”
“Oh, yes,” Clarity breathed happily.
Bert daringly put his arm about her shoulders. “Then let’s go save Planet Mom.”
~ ~ ~
“This just in,” the evening anchor at the Beltway Universe Network studio in the Orion colonies announced. “Planet Earth has been saved from annihilation through the efforts of a small, dedicated team using basic pool hall science and an antiquated space vehicle to alter the course of an inbound asteroid. Watchers in neighboring solar systems have been alerted about ricocheting debris.
“But much closer to home, Orion Risk Insurance is back in the news today. With investor funds mysteriously missing and one of the company bosses newly arraigned for the murder of a miracle worker, stock prices have fallen to…”
Saving Planet Mom © 2009 Beth Daniels / J.B. Dane
Cover Design and Interior Layout: Beth Daniels
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information and storage retrieval system (such as file sharing), without permission in writing from the author. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author's imagination, and any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.