Sample Story from Space and Speculation


The Camberlin Observatory was a round cylindrical building with a hemispheric dome standing on a lone hill miles away from any homes, industries, or businesses. This was by design, of course, so that the scientists inside could gaze into the night sky with the least amount of light from man-made sources.

So it was quite surprising when a black limousine with six men rolled up in front of the observatory. They all wore dark suits and black winged-tipped shoes. Five of the men got out of the car; the driver remained inside and kept the motor running. These men, in their pinstriped jackets and trousers, did not look like scientists and it is was one of the reasons that their arrival at the observatory was so out-of-place and unexpected.

The five men went inside and came out of the building a few minutes later. With them was George Zyberg. George was a scientist – an astronomer, in fact; he had worked at the observatory for years. It was like a second home to him.

As George reached the observatory’s entrance he tried to reason with the other men. “Now is not a good time for me. Nebula NGC-983258 will be visible soon and I need to record the electromagnetic wavelengths coming from it.”

In response, the man behind George pushed him forward. “Into the car.”

George sighed. He was not getting through to these men. So rather than waste his breath, he got into the limousine.

When they were all inside the vehicle, one of the men said to the driver, “To the warehouse.”

The car sped off.

George couldn’t tell where they were taking him exactly so he spent the time studying his captors. They all seemed to have a family resemblance and the only thing that distinguished one from another was a scar or mole or some other facial feature. George gave each man a name to help pass the time. The first man was Scarface. He had been the first one in George’s lab and seemed to be the leader of the group. He had a long thin scar down his right cheek and George guessed it was an old knife wound.

Next was Big-nose. He had a broad, hawk- shaped nose; he said very little and kept fussing with his shirt collar, as if it was too tight.

The third man was the one George had spoken to outside the observatory. He had a very angular face that ended in a point. George called him No-chin.

Sitting next to George was a man who kept moistening his lips with his tongue every few seconds. When the man stopped, George saw his lips were very thin and a little blistered. George named him Chap-lips.

On the other side of George was the fifth man of the group. He kept rubbing his eyes with the inevitable results that they were red and bloodshot. George christened him Red Eye.

None of the men riding with George looked at him as the scientist made these mental notes to himself. When he was done, George became very bored but thought better than to start up a conversation. They did not appear to be talkative types.

Soon they arrived at a warehouse. It was a nondescript concrete box down by the waterfront. The salt air was noticeable to George as he got out of the car, and told him immediately where he was. He was about to inhale the sea air deeply to refresh himself when Scarface pushed him forward.

“Inside,” he said gesturing at the warehouse front door.

George went following behind Big-nose and No-chin. Inside the building, George saw another man was waiting for them. He was an older man with gray hair along the side of his face and deep-set wrinkles. George named him Old-man.

“Here he is boss,” said Scarface.

“You’ve caused us a lot of trouble,” said the gray-haired man.

“I know,” said George.

“And how would you know that? Got a spy in the Family?”

“No, I’m the astrophysicist who invented telescopevision; that’s how I know.”

Old-man looked at him, confusion playing on his face. “Double talk and gibber-gabber. Talk plain.”

George laughed to himself. “In simple terms, I invented a space telescope that captures light from distance star systems and converts it into images. The images are relayed down to me at the observatory.”

“So what?”

“So by using that telescope I discovered a world that is nearly an exact twin of our own. What happens there, almost always happens here about three months later.”

“Are you saying, you saw members of the Family commit the Central Bank heist?”

“I did on the planet I discovered. And so it was easy for me to alert the police with all the details of the robbery before it happened.”

Everyone in the warehouse was astounded. “Let me plug ‘em, boss,” said Chap-lips.

“Quiet you mug,” cried the older man. “Don’t speak again unless I tell you.” He turned to George. “Then you admit it was you who tipped off the police?”

“Yes, I admit it,” George said calmly.

“Do you know what we do with people like you?”

George nodded his head. “I have a pretty good idea. I’ll disappear and never be seen again as an example to others.”

“That’s right.”

George smiled back pleasantly at Old- man.

“You don’t seem too worried about that prospect.”

“I’m not.”

“And why’s that? Most people get down on their knees and beg at this point.”

“I’m sure. And if I were facing death too, I might consider that as well. But I’m not; in fact you are going to let me walk out of here untouched and drive me back to my observatory.”

Old-man laughed. “I don’t think so.”

“I assure you, you will.”

“And why would I do that?”

“Because if you don’t, you’ll all be killed. Even now the police are in place outside waiting to see if I come out alive or dead. If I’m dead, you’ll all be charge with murder. Otherwise, this has been just a pleasant conversation.”

“And how would the police know you’re here or that we planned to nab you tonight?”

“Because I saw it in my telescope about three months ago. I knew the price for going to the police about the bank heist. I knew you were coming for me tonight and where you would take me, so naturally, I informed the police. They’ve set up a stakeout nearby and they are just waiting for someone to emerge from the warehouse.”

The older man paused and pulled out a handgun. He cocked the hammer back and put his finger on the trigger. “But what’s to stop me from killing you right here and now?”

“Nothing, except you will then go to prison for my murder.”

“Without any witnesses to the event, who can say what happened?”

“The police will know. They saw me walk in here. If they hear the gun go off and find the bullet in my body, I’m sure they can build a case.”

“Perhaps, except that this is not my gun and when asked I can say I don’t know where it came from. And the surface of the piece is textured so as to prevent fingerprints from marring its beauty.”

“But they’ll know one of you killed me.”

“But they won’t know which one.”

“Perhaps. But the penalty for murder is death. Do you think one of your boys will go to the chair for you?”

The older man shrugged. “Why not? They do jobs all the time. Death is always a risk.”

“Sure there’s a chance of being killed in your line of work and they are willing to gamble, but this time it is a certainty. That’s a different game, one in which, I think you’ll find, they are not willing to play.”

The older man considered the situation. He looked at his men and they did not meet his gaze. Slowly he nodded his head and then disarmed the gun and applied the safety again.

“Get out of here.” Scarface was about to object but Old-man shot them a dangerous look.

George backed up a step.

The old gentleman addressed George again. “Go on. Scram. But if I find out you’ve messed with the Family again, you’re dead.”

George did not hesitate; he walked out of the warehouse alone and back into the limousine. It sped away.

“Have any trouble in there?” asked the driver.

“No. And thanks to all the boys in blue for me. Turns out I didn’t need the Kevlar vest they got me after all.”