BY PAT HANRATTY
Copyright is held by the author.
FRED THOMPSON watched the rain pouring down outside his living room window as he sipped coffee on the couch. Looks like I won’t be running today, he thought. His TV was turned to the local news and weather station.
“I guess our computer models didn’t catch this one,” the weatherman said with a big smile.
Do they ever?
“But tomorrow looks dry,” he droned on. “Although there’s a twenty percent chance of a morning shower.”
There’s that percent again. They really don’t know.
Fred watched as the fat little man smiled at his cohost, a shapely young brunette wearing too much lipstick. He’s laughing. That imbecile’s laughing.
Weather forecasting had been a sore spot for Fred these last months. Recovering from whooping cough, he hadn’t been able to exercise over the winter. Now that spring had arrived, he’d hoped to put some miles on and take some pounds off. Fred was well over six feet tall but had added a few love handles around the middle, hardly an appealing sight. And it seemed like every time he was ready to run, it rained — and on a day it was forecast to be partly cloudy, or, better yet, a twenty percent chance of rain.
Fred wondered why he couldn’t get accurate climate data in a city the size of New York. After all, this was the cultural capital of the free world, wasn’t it?
Fred worked as an interpreter for the United Nations and had a small but cozy apartment near Central Park. Being a linguist, he spoke numerous languages. Foreign tongues had always come easily to Fred and he had used this to his advantage in securing a position at the UN. While his job there was fulfilling, he itched to try something different. After all, he was thirty and hadn’t yet made his mark on the world. Right now, however, he just wanted to get out and stretch his legs.
I’d do anything to get a reliable weather forecast.
Fred knew that weather was a product of complex systems that seemed to arise suddenly out of nowhere in nature. In fact, it was a meteorologist who first came up with chaos theory, suggesting that what appeared random was actually controlled by exact mathematical principles. The trick, of course, was to get to the root of it all. I guess that’s just out of the question, he murmured to himself.
Fred checked his e-mails and then went to one of his favourite internet sites. Scrolling down the myriad of topics, something caught his eye. ‘GOBs’ Accurate Predictions’ claimed to be able to foretell climate nuances for up to two months.
Two months? Fred thought. That’s a bit far out. Then he scrolled down further.
It was an employment ad. “We use alien technology,” it continued. “Must speak five or more languages. Call to set up a meeting.”
What the hell? He sat back and stared at the screen. This sounded too bizarre to be true. He closed his laptop and strolled over to the window. Fred looked down over the park below but his mind was a million miles away. Turning, he hurried back to his couch and opened the computer. What have I got to lose?
George Kendrick was an odd-looking man, to put it mildly. He was very tall, towering over Fred, and round in every way. In a word, he was big. Short receding blond hair sat above eyes that seemed to bulge out. Dressed in a cheap gray suit, he carried a cup with a purple substance in it. George appeared to bounce up and down as he ambled to the table at City Diner.
“Thanks for coming, Mr. Thompson,” he said, starting out the conversation. “You won’t be sorry.”
“Glad for the opportunity. By the way, what kind of a name is Kendrick?”
“I’m Spanish,” George responded.
“Oh. You look tall for a Spanish person.”
George stared off into space, eyes bulging.
The waitress approached the table and took their order. Fred had coffee, black, and George nothing, apparently satisfied with his drink.
“So what type of alien technology do you use?” Fred asked, dispensing with any further small talk.
George took a sip from his large cup. Fred could make out the liquid moving up through the straw to his lips. He wondered if the bigger man wasn’t drinking grape juice.
“The group consulting on this enterprise is called the GOBs. That stands for Galactic Outreach Beings. They’re essentially business entities.”
“Their aliens?” Fred asked, seeming surprised for the first time.
“Yes, one of several species. The Reptilians have the corner on the market, of course, but there is some business left here on your planet. These creatures will go a long way to make good business decisions.”
Fred raised his eyebrows and cocked his head. “What planet are they from, if you don’t mind me asking?”
George continued to speak in a matter of fact tone. “A nearby solar system. However, interplanetary travel involves dimensional access. That’s where your species gets it wrong. We don’t come from outer space but rather inner space.” He took another sip from his straw.
“Whatever,” Fred said, appearing bored with all the details. “Let’s talk turkey. How’s this going to work? Don’t I have to be a meteorologist?”
George scoffed. This turned to outright laughter. “Their technology is stone age. We’ll set you up at a local radio station, retrofitted with GOB technology, and falsify any documents you may need. All you have to do is broadcast the weather in as many languages as you know. How many do you speak fluently?”
“Seven, mostly European tongues. I can get by in a couple more if you need that.”
“Seven will be fine,” George said, smiling. “You are highly qualified for this job.”
“What’s the pay?” Fred asked, now leaning forward in his chair.
“An even one million U.S. dollars a year. The ultimate goal, in the future of course, is to trade the GOB technology to your government. Or at least to some governments.”
“Trade for what?”
“Human DNA,” George responded.
The waitress brought George’s coffee and departed.
“What do you need that for?” Fred’s eyes were wide now.
George chuckled. “The GOBs are populating other planets with various species. It’s similar to what you do with canines. Breeding.”
“Oh,” Fred responded. “That sounds ominous.”
“Not really. Human DNA is highly sought after. Gourmet, really. Various alien groups have been harvesting it for millennia.”
“You don’t say. If you don’t mind me asking, are you an alien, George?”
“Of course,” he said smiling. “I’m from Genoa–the planet, not the city.”
“I considered there might be something different about you. You seem pleasant though. You won’t leap over the table and devour me?”
“Of course not. Genoa’s are the business creatures of the universe. We are great negotiators and are frequently contacted by various aliens to achieve business solutions. We’re not an aggressive species at all.”
“That’s good to know,” Fred responded. “Let’s get back to business.”
George nodded and sipped his fluid.
“Operationally, then, I’ll go to a broadcast booth and read an assigned statement that you, or rather the GOBs, have prepared forecasting the weather. Correct?”
“As they say, you nailed it, Mr. Thompson.”
“How many hours will be required a day?”
“Two hours or so in the evening five days a week. All you have to do is read a prepared statement. In fact, you don’t have to quit your day job.”
“How far out can you accurately predict weather patterns? Your website said two months but that seems like a stretch.”
George laughed. “We can easily go six months out. However, once our competitors get wind of our accuracy, they’ll possibly coopt the information. So, likely, we’ll provide data for four weeks at first, although that may change. The thing you have to understand, Mr. Thompson, is that this is a global undertaking and it’s somewhat in a state of flux. You will broadcast weather patterns for the entire planet, one country at a time.”
Fred’s eyebrows narrowed. “Am I responsible for covering the whole world?”
“No, we have employed many other forecasters as well. We’ll provide you with a list of individuals.”
“That’s a relief,” Fred said, exhaling. “By the way, are you going to advertise that the source of your knowledge is alien in origin?”
“Of course. How would we get the ear of governments otherwise?” George handed Fred his business card. “Call me if you have any questions.”
As he bounced up, the bigger man turned to face Fred. “One last thing, Mr. Thompson. I’ll need a blood test to make sure there’s so substance abuse issue. You don’t mind, do you?”
“Not at all.”
“And we need a contact list for emergencies. Next of kin, that sort of thing.”
“Of course,” Fred responded.
“Wonderful. You start on Monday.”
“Dad, what’s your take on all this?”
Fred’s father, Edgar Thompson, was a Central Intelligence Agency analyst with over twenty-five years of experience. “I’ve had dealings with the GOBs before. Mind you, much of my work is classified but I can say our government is in a race with China to get that technology; Russia, too. The problem is what we would have to give up to obtain it.”
“DNA?” Fred asked.
“The GOBs don’t just want DNA, they want human specimens as well. And some of their clients are… unsavoury.”
“The Manducins work their subjects, or slaves, forty hours a day. I suppose that’s because it takes much longer for the planet to transit their star. And the Clackers . . .” His voice trailed off.
“The Clackers? Dad, tell me about them.”
The colour drained from the elder Thompson’s face. “They have this vicious way of mating. The Clacker’s ravage their . . . Let’s not talk about it.”
“No, Dad. Please tell me more.”
“Let’s just say there’s a high attrition rate among the mating partners of male Clackers, Freddy. As you can imagine, because of this, they’ve been forced to import more aliens into their gene pool, which, of course, has diluted their species’ DNA.”
“So, they need females,” Fred said. He was sitting straight up in his chair now.
“Mostly. There are a few gay aliens, of course. But women are more in demand.”
Fred’s eyes grew wide. “Dad, has our government ever . . .”
“Yes, we have,” the senior Thompson said, answering his son’s incomplete question. “We’ve gotten rid of some undesirables that way, a win-win situation for us.”
“Like terrorists, criminals, those sorts of individuals?”
“No, mostly war protesters. There are more females in that group anyway. Besides, they’re a pain in the ass.”
“I had no idea,” Fred mumbled.
“But the White House wants us to make a deal, at any cost, with the GOBs. At any cost,” he repeated, looking at Fred.
“What does that mean, Dad?”
The senior Thompson changed the subject. “It sounds like you’ve got a dream job, Freddy. Short hours, great pay. Looks like that college tuition really paid off.”
“No need to say anything to your mother or sister. It wouldn’t pay to get the women upset.”
“Where’s Mom?” “Fred asked.
“She’s on her way. Just called five minutes ago.”
“What time is Marie coming over?”
“Any minute now. And she’s bringing that boyfriend, what’s his name?” “The tall man wore a scowl.
“Greg. He’s not a bad guy, Dad. Maybe a little rough around the edges.”
“I thought Marie would do better, maybe marry a doctor or lawyer. After all, she has an MBA from Harvard.”
“It doesn’t really matter what he does. So, he’s a carpenter. Lillie was a hairdresser and I fell for her.”
“And look how that ended, Freddy. She ran off with that real estate tycoon and you were left with a year of painful memories.”
Just then the door opened and in walked Marie and Greg. Tall, with long dark hair, Marie was the picture of health. “Hi Dad,” she said. “Where’s Mom?”
It was nearly seven when Fred’s cab finally arrived at the address indicated. Stepping on the sidewalk, he stood in front of a small building with the letters GOB on the side and a five-story antenna attached to it. Entering, he met a man who appeared to be of Middle Eastern origin. He was short with a black beard and mustache.
“Name’s Ahmed,” he said, stretching out his hand. “You must be Mr. Thompson.”
“Nice meeting you,” Fred responded.
Ahmed led Fred to a tiny broadcast booth located just down the hall from the front door. A chair and microphone and a control panel were situated in front of the small space. Several TV monitors faced him as he took his seat.
“There’s some vending machines, if you’re hungry,” Ahmed assured him.
“No thanks. How does this work?” Fred asked, looking at the monitors.
Ahmed pointed to a teleprompter on the wall directly in front of him. “We’re starting out in Berlin today and then moving east across Germany. You’ll be speaking Deutsche and, finally, the last half hour or so, Polish. If you need a bathroom break, just hit the pause button on the remote next to you.”
Fred picked up and examined the remote-control device. It looked like so many others he had seen except for the name “GOB’ on the bottom.
“Thank you, Ahmed,” he said. “I’ll get started now.”
Fred began broadcasting, speaking high German. He explained that this weather forecast was much more accurate than anything humans had ever conceived of since the technology was more advanced. Reading from the screen, Fred elucidated that the GOBs, an alien species several light years away, had provided this technology, which took into consideration weather patterns that were beyond human understanding. He then forecast the weather for the next four weeks.
At the end of his two-hour shift, he turned off his remote and left the room. Noticing Ahmed was nowhere in sight, he closed and locked the door behind him as he left the building.
As the weeks passed, cheques began pouring in. Fred started to enjoy his time at the studio, looking forward to it every evening. It also helped him brush up on the various languages he employed in the broadcasts. Occasionally George would drop in to see how he was faring. These interactions were always pleasant. Fred wondered why our species couldn’t interact more with these amiable creatures.
And the job was so fascinating. The interesting thing was how nuanced the weather predictions were. The GOBs could tell when it would rain or snow at the exact moment it did but weeks in advance. They could forecast the precise amount of precipitation a particular area would receive on any given day. Hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and avalanches, to name a few destructive acts of nature, were all prognosticated to the minute preventing people from being in harm’s way. Because of this, it was quite satisfying for Fred to be involved in such a helpful enterprise.
And the money was great. Fred wisely invested every cent he received. Before he knew it, two years had passed. Taking this job had been the smartest decision of his life. He so looked forward to every day.
One day, however, he got a call from Greg who said Marie was having disturbing dreams. Fred reminded his brother-in-law that Marie had childhood issues with nightmares. It’s not something to be worried about, he advised.
Fred remembered it was on a Tuesday when the call came. He was just finishing a session with a Polish diplomat when his cell buzzed. It was George. “I’m sorry to inform you, your services are no longer needed, Mr. Thompson,” the message said. “You will be receiving your final check in the mail. Never let it be said that the Genoa’s’ don’t live up to their financial obligations. It’s been very pleasant making your acquaintance.”
The second part of the missive surprised him. “Effective immediately, this number will no longer be in service.”
Then the other calls began to pour in. The first one came from his mother. “Something’s happened to Marie. Call me.”
A frantic call from Greg said, “Marie’s gone. They took her on a beam of light.”
Fred’s thoughts ran loose. Marie’s been abducted. But how did they find her?
He paused. The blood tests. The contact list. They know my DNA. By now they know we’re identical twins as well.
Another call came in. He retrieved this one before it went to voicemail. Greg had been arrested for Marie’s disappearance. It seems the police thought he was acting psychotic in talking about abduction and flying saucers. Naturally, Fred agreed to bail him out.
A sudden thought struck Fred like a bolt of lightning. Nobody believes in aliens. There’s no proof. It’s not like his sister was abducted by the Islamic State. There’s no retrieving her now. She’s gone.
It’s been said there’s a psychic connection between identical twins, an unseen bond. Fred could feel his sister’s pain and distress. He felt helpless. There was nothing he could do to help her.
Arriving at his apartment, he found an e-mail on his computer from George:
Dear Mr. Thompson,
I am shoving off now to another section of the galaxy.
Sorry to hear about your sister but, unfortunately, that was part of the negotiation. Your government drives a hard bargain. I’ll try to keep her away from the Clackers. Of course, there’s no guarantee with these things.
I realize, this has to be difficult for you considering your species’ strong familial ties. But on the up side, you have technology now that can predict the weather. That’s something at least, is it not?
One final note: What a strong resemblance between your father and yourself. You’re the spitting image of each other. And both fine specimens and what a firm handshake your father has.
Well, I must be on my way.
All my finest.