Our Favourite Martian's Adventure
From "Science Fiction For The 21st Century' by R Bartlet (1999)

'Martin! Yoo-hoo . . . Uncle Martin!'

'Yes, Tim?'

'Where are you, Unk? I can hear you loud 'n' clear, but . . . hey, I know you popped up those antennas on the back of your head and turned invisible - right?'

'Ugh! Antennas?! Antennas?! When are you going to learn how to speak your own language, Tim? The word 'antennas' is the plural of radio or television aerials - I've got antennae. Anyway, the reason you can't see me is - I'm testing a new system for a flight I plan to take in my spaceship when I finally get it fixed. I'm enclosed in a bubble of what you might call 'exotic matter'. The gravitational field in here is so powerful that the light rays coming in get bent into a circle and can't get back out. Since nothing can be seen unless light reflects off it and into the observer's eyes, I'm invisible to you.'

'Wow! What a neat way to spy on girls.'

'Tim, really! How can you be so frivolous?'

'Can you eat in there?' .

'Can I . . ? Of course I can eat. The exotic matter is made of WIMPs (weakly interacting massive particles) which almost never interact with ordinary matter. So I can reach outside the bubble and pull in, say, an apple. The WIMPs have negative mass and generate an antigravity field -combine this with the intense gravity already present and I have the same freedom of movement as I do outside.'

'That's terrific, Uncle Martin. Cause it's lunchtime. You wait right there while I race upstairs and get the plate of sandwiches I made for you.'

With an inward sigh Martin despairs: 'That boy! I try to explain about exotic matter, and what happens? When he hears the word 'exotic', he thinks of girls - 'matter', and it's lunchtime.'

Bounding down the stairs outside his apartment, Tim nearly collided with Detective Sergeant Bill Brennan, who'd been next door visiting Mrs. Lorelei Brown, Tim's landlady.

'Morning, Tim. I was just coming up to see you. Is that uncle of yours home?' Looking down, he added: 'By the way, where are you going with those sandwiches?'

'Ah, hi, Sergeant Brennan. Uh, nowhere - I mean, would you like one? Egg or ham? And I can honestly say I haven't seen Uncle Martin all morning.'

Peering sideways at Tim, Brennan helped himself to two sandwiches and growled: 'Hmmm. All right. Tell him I'll return tomorrow.'

'Boy, am I glad he's gone, Uncle Martin. I don't know why but he gives me the creeps. Here are your sandwiches.'

'Who's Uncle Martin ?' reverberated from within the enclosure of exotic material. 'My name's Gordon - Gordon Shumway. But you can call me Alf.' To the tune of 'Thanks for the eats', a hand covered in orange fur appeared from seemingly nowhere and withdrew the plate into the invisibility of the bubble.

'Alf! What are you doing in there? Where's Uncle Martin?'

'Don't worry - he's perfectly safe. We simply changed places. Beats me how it happened, though. There I was, happily looping the loop a few hundred feet above the surface of my home planet Melmac . . . then I spotted this button in my spaceship I'd never noticed before. I pressed it to see what would happen, and here I am!'

As these words left Alf's lips, Martin found himself gazing down at a world he'd never seen before. He had no idea where he was, but realised what had occurred.

'Who was that guy I swapped places with? I glimpsed him as we passed - he was only a metre or so in height, had a big snout and oversized feet, and was sporting a coat of reddish brown fur on 90% of his body . . . maybe his Mum was an aardvark, and his Dad a kangaroo.'

Meanwhile, on Melmac's surface -

'Di! Di, come here . . . quick!'

'Just a minute.'

'No, now. Hurry - before it flies away.'

'OK, little sister, I'm coming. But this better be good!' Di threatened as she found the doorway without shifting her gaze from the TV.

'Janelle, how many times must I tell you? Don't call me Di it's Dianne . I start high school next year, you know.'

'Yes, Di. Whatever you say, Di.'

Some might call Janelle's attitude at this moment a trifle sarcastic, but she was merely amused and made no attempt to conceal the fact. After all, only two years separated the girls' birthdays. Spinning round, Janelle pointed to a bright light spiralling down the eastern sky towards the stream which split their parents' bush property in half. (Having spent the year completing a seemingly endless row of tax files, vacuuming and dusting day after day, and studying hard for exams that didn't appear to do anything except give the teachers a sense of power; the Flach family had opted for a relaxing end-of-year vacation on their property in the country.)

'What do you suppose that is, Di...anne?'

'Don't know. Jan. We're too far away. Let's run to the stream for a better look. Bet I can beat you there!'

For several minutes the girls almost forgot why they were racing to the rivulet, as lungs panted for breath and feet pounded the earth in an effort to carry their respective owners to the goal ahead of the competition

The younger girl then glanced up and what she saw startled her to a complete halt.

'Di! Over here! Get behind this bush!'

'Janelle, have you flipped? What's wrong?'

'Shh. Not so loud', Janelle whispered as she grabbed her sister's arm and pulled her down so the shrubbery covered them.

'Look! That light's a lot closer now. And it's not just a light, Di. It's some kind of aeroplane, with a row of windows right around the top.'

Dianne let her gaze drift upwards, then exclaimed 'You're right. Is that why we're hiding?'

'No. When I stopped, I saw a man standing next to those windows, and he was watching us.'

'There's no one there now.'

'He must have gone back inside the plane. Why is it so close now- we weren't running for very long. And why can't I hear its engines?'

'It must be one of those UFOs the kids at school were talking about. Some of them make no noise at all, Jan, I guess it must have seen us racing, and flown closer to see what we were doing.'

Sobbing now, Janelle cried 'Dianne, I'm scared . . .'

'So am I, little sister, so am I. We've got to find some way back to the house.'

Through her tears, Janelle managed to wail 'But he'll see us. . .'

'We'll wait a few minutes. He might go back to whatever he was doing before.'

No sooner had these words been spoken than the strange craft darted back to the stream at impossibly high speed. The girls watched it for a couple of seconds, just to make sure it wouldn't return, then bolted out of their hiding place and ran to the house as fast as their legs would carry them.

'Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!' they both started screaming when still a hundred yards from the house.

Hearing his daughters' desperate cries, Mr Flach rushed outside. Pouring themselves into his protective embrace, the girls recounted every detail of their intriguing adventure.

'You poor darlings!' consoled Di's and Jan's Dad. 'You must be frightened out of your wits. I'd like to have a look at this craft. You don't feel up to showing me where it is, I suppose?'

'Oh no. Daddy. we couldn't return to that place - we just couldn't! Please don't make us!'

'Shh - it's all right. You only have to tell me where it is.'

'Last time we saw the UFO, it was hovering above the stream near Big Joe.' ('Big Joe' is the name of a large boulder which marks the exact centre of the Flach property.)

'But Daddy . . .' began Janelle, a little apprehensively. 'I don't want you to go. It might be dangerous.'

'Don't worry, honey. I won't get too close to the ship, and I won't let anybody see me. You two go inside and wait for Mummy she should be home from her trip into town any minute now.'

Mr Flach stood watching until the girls had entered the house and closed the door. Nevertheless, a small voice in his head said he still shouldn't leave them alone. Then he felt reassured when he glanced up and saw his wife's car approaching, so he set off to find this mysterious Unidentified Flying Object and its strange occupant.

He wondered why a UFO would hover over a body of water. 'Those theories that I've read about must be correct - the ones that believe UFOs need this liquid as an energy source. I've read of methods for obtaining non-polluting power from water by first separating it into hydrogen and oxygen with electricity. How is the water sucked into the ship, though?'

Walking along in a daydream, Mr Flach had completely forgotten his promise to Janelle that he'd stay out of sight. Fortunately there was no-one around. However, his reverie did prove worthwhile - he thought of a possible solution to his question.

'UFOs can emit energy beams which excite electrons in a body of water, raising the water's energy level. If matter is an extension of the electromagnetic spectrum (that range of wavelengths to which every type of radiation belongs: including X-rays, UV or ultraviolet light, visible light and radio waves), increasing the water's energy potential could give it an identical frequency to the beam's radiation. The lenses and mirrors of the optical system generating the beam are so arranged that they can, at the press of a button, re-focus the beam inside the UFO. This draws the water into the craftt where it's stored in its energetic form until required for powering the lighting, air conditioning, radar, propulsion units, etc. Stored thus, voluminous quantities can be taken aboard (in material form, the molecules would occupy far too much space).'

'Whew! This is exhausting' Mr Flach proclaimed as he lay down in the cool shade of a clump of waist-high shrubbery. 'That sun's hotter than I thought. When you've been inside reading all morning, those clouds half-covering the wild blue yonder leave you with the impression that the day is slightly on the cool side. But when you get out and walk for ten minutes, you soon realise how hot it really is. Add to that all the things which have been occupying my mind during this walk, and you have the perfect ingredients for a nap. . .'

Almost before his lids had closed, our great Ufo hunter found himself in another world (Martin could telepathically communicate with him now that Mr. Flach was in a dreamlike state and, as a means of introducing himself, was transmitting images of Tim and Alf and the 'alien' world Martin had Just departed).

'Listen carefully Sean Flach, for I have a message for YOU which was logged on the Interdimensional Internet. The communication takes the form of a poem and reads thus:


The actions of President against the Sad One in B'dad
Helped ensure defeat by good of bad.
Though many were concerned and protested,
The fact is: the times these acts well suited.
They said they must free those in Kwaiti;
Maybe ........... maybe not ..... but what will be, will be.

There is, under heaven, a time to every purpose
In the infinite space of this and that cosmos.
A time for love and a time for war;
And a time for the world, that deserves more.
Clintpres and Aldan and Sad - the world needs new order
That can never see any more war.

As for now, times are not ripe
For growth of United Europe.
There's strife and bloodshed in Ulster:
Europe can't unite the brother and sister.
E-land (and the world) will soon see the light;
In cooperation everyone and thing must unite.
Like children learning to walk, divided lands will fall -
But from mistakes we learn, and unite the world.

In his dreams, Sean Flach nodded gravely and stroked his chin. Then he slowly raised his head, and uttered that immortal word:


Uncle Martin was amazed, and dismayed, and confused!

'Oops, sorry, Mr Flach. That was the wrong message. YOUR poem is entitled

"I Can Hear Music".'

Oh, to be able to SING, SING, SING
A bit like J. O'K

Longin' to be WORKIN' FOR THE MAN
I also long to say
Something our BIG O can't: LIVE IT UP

Just give me that ROCK N ROLL MUSIC
And let me shout YAHOO
Then I'll keep my DATE WITH DESTINY

Oops! What happened? My SPIRIT GOT LOST
How the shrill sound of 'boo!'
Greets the return of LITTLE BOY LOST

Is this poem meant for GREEDY SMITH
Or could it be BANANARAMA?

'Tis the time of APOCALYPSO

Wiping the smile off Santa's face
Amidst all this change, what can I know?

« Science Fiction For The 21st Century » « Australian Fiction » « Library » « Our Civilization »