booksandstories.com

June 2002 Review

Web Page Progress

Apart from the slight increase in visitors I mentioned last month, there isn't much to report. I've had a look at my positions in some search engines, and the site features in a few of them. I think this is mainly due to the fact that I am listed in the Open Directory Project (ODP or DMOZ). The listings from this directory is often used as the basis for several other search engines, so it's worth while getting your site listed with the ODP. Of course, getting listed and getting in the first page of results for a search is a different matter. That depends on what people use as their keywords. For me, "read online", "books to read online", "books and stories to read online", or any other combination should get my site listed among the results somewhere. "books and stories to read online now" often gets me to the top of the list, but I think people use that whole phrase very rarely if at all.

I've had an email from Sandra in the USA about the pay chapters and the credit/debit card system. Although I've emailed her directly, it may be worthwhile repeating my explanation here.

First of all, the payment system I use is a secure system similar to many that are commonly used on the internet. Mine is administered by a bank called Worldpay. They are a legitimate bank based in the UK. Once you click on the button to accept conditions and purchase access to one of the books on the Order Page, you will enter their secure purchase system. The system requires you to enter your credit/debit card details on their page. They verify that the card is valid, and that the details match those of the holder. Then they authorise the transaction and complete the payment. At the end of the process you will leave their secure system and a final page will be displayed that gives you the password for the book you chose to buy access to. It should appear straight after the payment has been completed, there should be no delay or waiting period. Make a note of the password and go back to the Order Page, but this time enter it in the "Enter Password" box at the top. Click on "enter" and the pay chapters will then come up on your screen.

So long as you stay connected to the internet, you shouldn't need to use the password again. You just click on the pay chapters you bought and they should come up straight away this time. Once you log off and log on again later, the pay chapters will send you back to the Order Page. Just put your password back in to access them as before.

Finally, Worldpay will send you a receipt for your purchase by email. I also get one to let me know that a purchase has been made. It has worked so far, so it should be okay. But if you have any problems, please email me to let me know. If you have made a purchase but didn't get your password, or forgot it, ask me. I will have your original purchase details on record, so I can email you the password you need.

Okay?

Writing Progress

I have entered a period of review on "The Friendly Ambassador". I am going back over the completed chapters so far to add in the bits that I either overlooked or didn't write well. Didn't write well, you say? Nobody's perfect! What I'm doing is going back to make sure that mannerisms and characterisations haven't been lost or missed out. I have an awful lot of characters from different races, and I have to make sure each one remains the same throughout the story. One or two characters I think slipped a little, and so I've gone back and nudged them back in to place. The plot has also required a bit of work to ensure that there aren't any holes left in it. Because I'm working on so many parallel storylines I have to keep checking that they are all running together in the same time frames. Continuity is a big problem with this story. I'm also very conscious of the descriptive detail I've put into certain events. I'll explain what I mean.

How many of you have seen "Star Wars: Attack of the Clones"? Having seen it, how many of you have read the book version? Well, if you have seen the film and have the book, consider one of the final events in the story. It is set on a balcony where the Chancelor and Senators watch the clone army boarding several Star Destroyers. In the film it is a very powerful visual scene, with ships taking off, the buildings and backgrounds and the brilliant visual effects used to bring it all to life. Even the music is stirring. The actors also make their mark, Jimmy Smitts thumping the balcony wall exudes concern for the future of the Republic. In the book version the scene is no more than a paragraph. It describes little more than I have above, maybe less. In comparison, the two are very different, and it is obvious that those who have been responsible for the book are relying on the fact that their readers will have seen, or will see, the film. There is nothing wrong with that, the book is designed to support the film, not the other way around, so some scenes may be different.

Books that are written without a film in mind, or before films became a powerful artistic medium for the telling of stories, had to rely on their own descriptive content to get the image across. To make the same impact in the book version scene referred to above as that viewed in the film version would require a much stronger descriptive text. You would have to describe everything, the number of ships, their size and shape, how they took off, the background, how the clones marched up the ramps, the ramps themselves, how those viewing reacted, each and every character, the noise, the lot. What was a couple of simple paragraphs becomes several pages of descriptive text, and you will still not get the same effect as sitting in a cinema watching it in wide screen.

There's a dilemma here. How far do you go with your descriptions before the story gets bogged down? How much do you let pass with a cursory description when a little bit more will turn a simple scene into a visually dramatic one?

A picture tells a thousand words. The phrase has never been truer.

In "The Friendly Ambassador" I want to make sure that I don't breeze over events that are visually dramatic just because I'm lazy. At the same time I don't want to overdo it either. Pages and pages of descriptive text can get boring. In "The Friendly Ambassador" like in a number of my stories, there are several battle scenes that must be described to have any effect. I keep going back over some of them to add extra dimensions, to make the event, the scene, more visually exciting in the mind. Sometimes its just a description of the background or the scenery, but its just as important as what goes on up close in the foreground. Unless someone makes a film of my story, this is the only way I am going to get my vision across, so I should make the best attempt that I can.

When reading a book, if you can see what the writer saw when he was writing the book, then that writer is a good writer.

The Short Story Serial continues this month with the fifth instalment. The fourth part of the story entitled "The Dreamer: Part IV" has been added to the List Page. Have you worked out where its going yet? No? Well read on...

June's Short Story: The Dreamer: Part V

"Oh, my word, I've turned into Lucy...."

Angela breathed the words as she stared down at her reflection in the rippling water. The image she saw there mouthed the words as she spoke them. Her, but not her.

How had Angela with the short but winning stick body turned into Lucy with the tall and voluptuous curves?

"I'm dreaming," she muttered. "This can't be..."

There was a noise behind her. A silent hiss.

Angela turned to look at the contraption on the rock mound behind her. The second previously closed egg shaped container had lifted open. Something inside was waking up. Angela stared as the figure raised it's head and pulled it's arms from the appertues. Then it turned it's head and stared back at her.

Angela almost stepped back into the water. She was so surprised, so shocked, scared, amazed and traumatised.

What stepped out of the cryogenic/transporter was a completely different alien than any they had seen on the derilict, including Nac Tikmak himself. This creature was glistening red, with a long shaped head adorned with fins and horns at the top and back. It's eyes were set in the front of the head, and below them was a mouth full of long and curved teeth. The body was just as remarkable. Almost an upside down triangle, the top was wide and powerful while the lower part was small. Only the short but powerful looking legs gave the lower part of the creature any proportion. The huge arms almost allowed the creature to rest it's hands on the ground. But it was the enormous claws on both hands and feet that added to the complete and utter feeling of dread that the creature imposed as it jumped down from the rock mound.

The creature bounded towards her, using it's front two hands every second step as it switched between all fours and running only on it's hind legs.

Angela could hear it's footfalls as it ran towards her, it's mouth gaping wide. She stepped back and fell into the water, splashing, screaming. She floundered about, half swimming and half running in the shallow water, trying desperately to get away from the claws and teeth of the creature that pursued her.

The red alien splashed into the water after her. It waded in on all fours and then stopped, watching her swim and dive away. When she was safely out of reach, the alien stood up on it's hind legs and continued to watch her.

Angela swam as hard as she could away from the shore, looking over her shoulder from time to time. The creature was still standing by the bank, watching her. Maybe it couldn't swim, or maybe, maybe...

Angela paused in her swimming and looked around her, treading water. A sudden thought had occured to her. She was swimming in a lake on an alien planet, a lake that might contain aquatic creatures that were powerful enough to scare the other red creature on the shore from diving into the water after her. That thought had several effects on Angela. First she felt very cold, then she began to tremble, and finally, she looked around in abject terror as her mind took over.

Oh, God, oh, God, I'm swimming with monsters!

No you're not!

Yes, I am! And they're going to eat me!

Get a hold of yourself, you big girl!

They're going to pull me under any second! Oh, God!

Her panic caused her to flounder, and she sank below the surface only to spring up again spitting water.

Oh, God, I'm going to drown!

Then she heard it. It was unmistakeable, undeniable.

Angela looked up and saw a long and elegant boat, the drone of it's engine carrying towards her on the breeze. It was coming straight at her, heading out from the opposite shore and the distant city. She saw the water splash against the bow as it forged its way towards her, bouncing over the gentle waves. She could see figures on the deck, familiar but different figures.

In a few seconds the boat had drawn alongside her and one of the figures leaned over her. It was a big walnut shaped form with arms that were jointed in different places to that of a human, an alien pale green Humpty-Dumpty wearing a childish barrel shaped outfit in light blue. It's head and face seemed to just protrude out from the top of the outfit in a big egg shaped hump. The nose was wide and flat, the eyes big and round, and the mouth a wide slit. It had no hair. It's mouth curved upwards in a smile and it spoke.

"Late we not be, Missy, but early you are! Instead of meet halfway wet and cold, why not wait on bank dry and warm?"

In her surprise and trauma, Angela could only reply, "Blah gag -splurt- red thing back there -splurt- gah!"

The Humpty-Dumpty alien turned it's whole body to look at the shore. It's smile grew wider.

"In you get we help you," it said and the two of them pulled her aboard.

Angela gasped, floundered about and spat water as the two Humpty-Dumpty aliens helped her to a red cusioned bench seat in the back of the boat. She had her arms around what would have been their shoulders if they had any, and they were holding her in lots of different and interesting places. When they sat her down they continued to feel and squeeze her until Angela finally noticed the liberties they were taking.

"Do you mind!" she snapped at her erstwhile rescuers, slapping at adventurous hands.

The aliens smiled back at her. "Nice specimen you are. Nice and soft and spongy."

Angela still hadn't got used to her Lucy style body, but she had no intention of letting others get familiar with it before her. She slapped another hand. "Those spongy bits are mine!"

The aliens smiled but left her alone. They went forward and restarted the engine. The boat swept round and headed back towards the distant city. Angela sat back in the red cusioned seat, the wind drying her clothes and her long hair. She felt like she was in a "James Bond" movie, being taken back to the lair of the arch villain by two of his henchmen. She looked down at her legs. She had lost her socks in the water and her feet were bare. Her shorts still seemed shorter. No, it was her legs that were longer. Longer and shaplier. They looked really good. She looked down at her body again. Even her tee-shirt was too small for her now. It felt tight and it left part of her stomach exposed. It had never been like that before. The wind blew her hair and she looked up at the bright twin suns and the blue sky. Yes, she was definitely in a "James Bond" movie. But why had she turned into Urshula Andress? And who was the villain?

The boat sped across the lake, leaving the shore and the rock mound with the contraption on it far behind. The elegant four-footed creatures with the brown hide returned to feed on the grass, ignoring the red alien form still standing motionless on it's hind legs at the waters edge. The red alien watched the boat disappear across the lake, then it dropped onto all fours, waded out, and began to swim.

-o-

Nac Tikmak walked into the engine room on board the derelict. Even before he had reached the console that controlled the auxilary power coupling, the trap-door in the ceiling had swung silently open. He was at the controls when the long barrelled gun began to descend. Nac Tikmak opened a hidden flap and pressed the button underneath. Behind him the gun stopped and then slowly ascended back into the ceiling, the trap-doors closing behind it. He didn't even bother to check that it happened, he just continued, resetting the controls Carl had operated only a short time before. He turned the first dial anticlockwise, pressed the second button, turned the second dial clockwise, and then pushed the lever next to it upwards. Then he turned and calmly left the engine room.

Nac Tikmak paused by the smashed corpse of the long dead alien outside the door. He stepped over it and went into the room that contained the cryogenic chamber. There were now two closed containers. Nack Tikmak went to one of them and laid his hand against it for a moment, then he climbed into the open container next to it. He made himself comfortable on the seat and pushed his legs and arms into the appertures. Finally he laid his head onto the face cup. With a hiss, the lid of the container slowly descended and clicked in place.

All was silent now in the room and throughout the derelict as it continued on its journey.

-o-

Lucy was on the flightdeck of the Intrepid. She was floating just above the seat watching the stars. Among the stars was a distant blue disc that was tiny and invisible now, but which would grow each day as they returned. They were on their way home. It should have pleased Lucy, but it didn't. For a long time after they had completed the burn, Lucy had remained on the flightdeck, staring out the window at the derelict. Slowly it had moved out of view as the shuttle had turned for home. It was gone in a few minutes, but Lucy could still feel it out there, continuing on its way behind them.

Scott and the others had tried to entice her away, but she had wanted to stay and be alone for awhile. They had respected her feelings. They all found things to do. Jonathan was checking the samples he had stored on the EPD, Carl and Scott were checking the power cells and the shuttle systems for damage, and Luigi was delicately leafing through his alien library.

Lucy considered how strangely Luigi had reacted to Angela's loss. He hardly spoke and he never once said anything to annoy her since it had happened. He had a different look in his eyes too. He almost seemed to be a different person. He must have liked Angela a lot, more than she had realised. He had even fought with Scott over going back to look for her. Maybe she had misjudged him. Lucy had never thought of Luigi as being a considerate or loving sort of person. He just seemed conceited and lewd. Maybe it was just a smokescreen. Lucy wished she had a similar smokescreen.

It was her own thoughts that plagued her. She kept seeing Angela in her space suit that time before they boarded the derelict. It had been the first time they had both got their feelings out after all those days cramped together. It had been a revelation. It was only then that Lucy had realised that they were both the same in a way. The more she thought about Angela, the more she realised how she missed her.

Scott drifted onto the flightdeck.

"Are you still here?" he said.

She turned to look at him and hastily wiped away a tear. Scott moved closer and took her in his arms. She rested against him gratefully and the tears came properly now.

"I feel such a fool," she said with a sniff.

"For crying? Why?"

"Because we hardly got on well for most of the time we were together. She resented me, Scott, because of the way I looked. But the silly thing was that I resented her because of the way she looked."

"What are you talking about?"

"She didn't have the same problems as me. She didn't get the same attention. She just breezed through training. Whenever I put a foot wrong it was in all the papers! With pictures! And I lost most of my funding! This trip was a disaster for me even before we took off. And now I'm coming back and she isn't. It's not fair!"

Scott hugged her tighter. "Stop it, now! What happened wasn't your fault!"

She raised her head and looked up at him tearfully. "Then why is Angela dead? Why did it happen, Scott? What went wrong?"

"What went wrong?" Scott repeated with irony. "I could write a list about what went wrong! And right at the top would be the simplist one of all: Angela was much better at her job than we realised."

Lucy looked at him in surprise. "What do you mean?"

"Nack Tickmack related to her too well. What was in his mind we will never know. But he wanted Angela to stay behind, that's for sure. That must be why he carried her away. He never bothered anyone else, not even you and Carl when you were all in the corridor together. He just took Angela."

"But why? Why kidnap her and stay behind when he could have escaped with us?"

Scott shook his head. "I don't know. But Carl said Nack Tickmack helped him get back to the Intrepid. He even carried him. But then he just ran away. He didn't care about escaping. It was as if the derelict was home to him."

Lucy thought about that. "Maybe it was," she said wiping her eyes. "Maybe he was part of the crew."

"But we all saw that picture Luigi found. Nack Tickmack wasn't at all like the alien in that picture."

"Maybe the alien in the picture wasn't one of the crew," Lucy pointed out. "Just because he was standing in front of the derelict on a planet somewhere doesn't actually prove he was one of the crew."

"Then who was he? And why would his picture be on the wall of a cabin on the derelict?"

"He could have been a friend of one of the crew, a friend made on a planet the derelict visited whose picture was kept by one of the crew as a memento."

Scott sighed. "Great! That sounds so logical it just goes to prove how much we didn't find out while we were there. This whole mission has been a mess, and it's all my fault."

"Why is it your fault?" Lucy said.

"Because we should have been more careful. Because I should have seen what was coming."

"None of us could have known what was going to happen. We were in the trap before we knew it."

Scott stared out the window at the distant stars. "We let an alien aboard and gave him hardly a glance after we found out that we were stuck. I should have kept an eye on him. I should have got Carl to keep an eye on him. I should have warned you all to be wary of him. The last thing I should have done was to ignore him."

Lucy reached up to stroke Scott's face. "That's a lot of 'I should haves'."

"I have a good reason for my self recrimination. I'm in charge, Lucy, I'm responsible for all of you and the mission. And I messed up big time. Angela's death was my fault. I was responsible for her and I let her down. That's how it's going to be in my report, and that's how they'll see it when we get back."

They were both silent for a while, wrapped in each others arms, staring out the window at the stars. That was how Jonathan found them when he drifted in. He paused in the doorway to watch them floating together, then he coughed politely. Scott and Lucy both looked round and Jonathan moved forward.

"I have to take some samples," he said, holding up a transparent box of syringes and swabs. "Just in case, you know."

Scott nodded. "I'll go first." He and Lucy disentangled themselves and Scott rolled up his sleeve.

Jonathan took the blood sample from Scott. When he had finished he put the syringe back in his box and took out a fresh one. Ripping the plastic wrapping away he moved on to Lucy. Lucy rolled up her sleeve and grimaced as he took her blood sample. Scott watched as he rolled his sleeve down again.

"Did you get samples from Carl and Luigi?" he asked Jonathan.

"Yes."

Lucy looked down at her arm when Jonathan had finished. She placed her thumb over the red spot and looked up at him like a wounded puppy. He looked back at her and raised his eyebrows.

"Don't tell me that hurt?"

"Of course it bloody hurt!" she exclaimed. "It always hurts! When I joined this mission the first thing they did was treat my bum as a pin-cusion! I hate injections! And blood samples!"

"They are necessary," Jonathan stressed. "It would be easy to bring back a new and unpleasant type of virus or bacteria from the derelict. We have all been heavily exposed, both aboard the derelict and in the Intrepid, Carl and I particularly so. We can't afford to ignore the risk."

Suitably chastised, Lucy rolled down her sleeve. "It still hurt."

Scott watched Jonathan put away his last syringe. There were six in the box, five of them were now dark red while the last one was empty and unused. "How did those mould samples you took from the derelict pan out?"

Jonathan closed the transparent box. "Nothing malignant. It was just basic algae, very similar to what you might find anywhere on earth. Its surprising and not surprising. Everyone thought that life on other worlds, if it existed, would be comprised of the same basic material, and that mould proves it. It's the biggest discovery since the wheel, but absolutely meaningless now that we've all seen what we've seen."

Lucy looked up at him. "And what did we see?"

"Evidence of several aliens from different worlds and one live one that was definitely sentient."

"Prove it."

There was a heavy pause. Scott glanced at the drawing on the wall of the flightdeck, then he turned to the console. "We should have switched on the flightdeck cam!"

"But we didn't," Lucy pointed out.

Scott pointed to Jonathan. "Jonathan has his samples and Luigi has his books!"

Lucy shook her head. "It won't be enough."

"It's real proof, physical evidence!"

"No!"

Jonathan sighed. "She's right," he said, accepting Lucy's arguments. "Egyptian papyrus and mummified remains. They only proved that life and civilisation once existed, like the pyramids. So it is with our samples and the derelict itself. Neither are a living breathing Pharaoh or alien. No, we can only tell them what we saw. Whether they believe us is another matter."

Lucy sniffed. "They'll believe Angela's dead."

"But that is not proof of our alien," Jonathan replied.

Lucy became angry. "Nack Tickmack kidnapped her! That's why she was on the derelict! That's why she died!"

Jonathan was shaking his head even before she had finished. "Angela died in a freak accident while helping Carl in the engine room. That is how they will see it. It's far more simple and straight forward than a living alien awoken from cold storage after a thousand years."

Lucy opened her mouth to reply but Scott beat her to it.

"It doesn't matter!" he told them both.

Lucy looked up at him. "But how can you say- "

Scott held up his hand and waited for her to give up. When she had, he continued.

"What happened to Angela was my fault whichever scenario you accept. Either it was my fault because I didn't handle the situation with Nack Tickmack, or it was my fault for allowing Angela to be near the engine room when Carl was switching off the gizmo. Both you and Jonathan are right. The chances that anyone will believe that Nack Tickmack was anything more than just an invention of our collective imaginations is minimal. Like you said, we've no proof. Like Jonathan said, they'll go for the easy answer. Either way I get it in the neck. This mission was under my command, so I'm responsible. My career's over. I'm going to go and lie down."

And with that he pushed himself away and darted out the doorway.

Lucy and Jonathan watched him depart.

Lucy rubbed her face with both hands. "Oh, glory, what are we going to do, Jonathan? How do we explain the mess we made of this mission after all the preparations and training we went through?"

"We tell the truth and let them make up their own minds," Jonathan said simply. He began to move away. "I better get these samples checked."

Lucy watched him float out the door. She was on her own again, and her eyes soon turned back to the starfield through the window. She gazed at each bright pinpoint of light thoughtfully.

Tell the truth. It seemed the obvious thing. It was probably what they were all going to do anyway. But the truth was far from simple. How would the authorities respond to their story of a live alien kidnapping Angela? Had she done her job too well? Was it love, or did Nack Tickmack just want to eat her? Maybe he just wanted company. What would they really think? What would the world think?

"Oh, glory, we're all going to get it in the neck..."

-o-

The boat pulled up to a long jetty. There were other boats moored nearby. Some were quite large and impressive. It added to the "James Bond" movie image. There were several Humpty-Dumpty aliens on the jetty and on the boats. Many more walked by on a raised promenade that overlooked the marina. Some of them stopped to look down as one of the aliens helped Angela out of the boat. Behind the watching aliens vehicles of silver and gold with large wheels shot back and forth on the road at great speed and there was a general feel of hustle and bustle.

Angela looked up at the towering buildings of glass and steel. Now that she was so close they were even taller than she had thought. One of the aliens smiled and held out his hand to her.

"This way, Missy. Car waiting for you we have. Much further to go. Come, come."

Angela followed the alien as it led her along the jetty towards the promenade. Now that they were on foot she realised that she was a lot taller than them, even though she was barefoot. As she walked along she felt the warmth of the ground under her feet. She was already dry and the twin suns warmed her even though the breeze was still strong. It was a very pleasant feeling. The general atmosphere, the air, all of it was pleasant. It was a nice world. As she walked along some of the aliens they passed on the jetty stared at her. They quite obviously looked her up and down, their eyes fixing on the generous curves of her body. One after another did it, and she became very conscious of all the other Humpty-Dumpty aliens watching her from the boats nearby or from the promenade they approached. Of course, it was her that was the alien, not them. A tall and curvaceous alien among short Humpty-Dumpties. Considering what would happen on earth in similar circumstances, they were quite restrained. Angela did her best to ignore them without being impolite. She neither smiled nor frowned.

On the promenade more of the Humpty-Dumpties stopped to stare as Angela was ushered to a long and sleek gold car. The wheels were bigger than the car, and they were mounted at exactly each corner. Her escort raised the gull-wing door.

"Inside you get and take you I will."

Angela sighed and climbed in. She found herself sitting on another red cusioned bench seat. The alien closed the door, opened another one in front, and climbed in. As soon as the second door closed the car shot away from the curb with such speed, that Angela was crammed back in her seat, her breath taken away.

The car shot down the road at far too great a speed. Then another car over-took it going even faster. Angela sat back in her seat, her eyes wide, watching the road and the traffic on it shoot towards her and go flying by. Buildings shot by in a blur, the road curved and then ramped up, and Angela felt the gravity forces tug at her stomach.

"Do you have to go at this speed!" she ground out between clenched teeth as the car rose up another ramp and crossed a bridge.

"Sorry, Missy. Faster I go for you now."

The car accelerated and Angela was pushed further back in her chair. She could hardly move.

The car shot up a third ramp, took a tight bend to the left, then went up another ramp. It was now so high up that the view of the city was panoramic. Angela couldn't see it. All she could see were the other cars that shot by and the buildings that came and went with a glint of the sunlight. They were now on a long bridge that seemed to point straight at another tall building. They just went right towards it. The building got bigger and bigger until it finally shot towards them, a wall of glass and reflected sky and clouds. Angela saw a hint of a black dot and then they were in it. The car had shot into a large curved entrance and they were now inside the building. The car suddenly decelerated and Angela was thrown from her seat and crammed into the back of the driver's seat. When the car finally came to a rest, Angela tumbled to the floor in disarray, gasping for breath.

The alien driver twisted his body in his seat and looked down at her in surprise.

"Not put seat belt on, Missy?"

Angela climbed into a sitting position on the floor, her chest heaving. Her long hair obscured half her face and she blew at it ineffectively.

"I didn't get the chance!" she said in her annoyance. "I didn't realise we were in a race!"

"Sorry, Missy. Remind you I should. Not used to modern transport I forget. Come, come."

He climbed out and opened the door for her. Angela brushed her hair out of the way and clambered out. She was conscious that she wasn't practising her usual expertise when dealing with first contact situations, but this was not a lost tribe living in the jungle. If it had been, she would have felt much more at home.

Her driver led her to a glass door which slid aside with a whoosh. Angela bumped her head as she went through, she was too tall for the door. She looked back at the door in annoyance, rubbing her sore head. When she looked round again she found herself inside what was obviously a hotel foyer. Although the decor was alien, it was that obvious. Even the Humpty-Dumpties had the right sort of outfits for bell-boys, and she knew that the one that hurried towards her was the manager even before he spoke.

"Ah! Missy! Expect you we do! Come, come! This way room for you is!"

Other aliens watched as she was led across the foyer to the elevators. It was here that her rescuer and driver left her, and only the manager entered the elevator when the wide doors opened. Angela remembered to duck her head when she went through this time, and once inside she had to remain slightly bowed. The manager looked up at her apologetically.

"Sorry, Missy. Elevator designed not for you but for us. Pardon we beg."

"Don't worry about it, it's fine," she replied, and allowed herself a smile.

The manager smiled back and pressed one of the buttons. As the doors slid shut, Angela braced herself for a sudden acceleration, but instead the elevator began to ascend very sedately. Angela relaxed. There was a 'ding' and the elevator accelerated suddenly causing Angela's knees to buckle. She was conscious of a rapid ascension and then the elevator just as quickly decelerated. Angela bumped her head on the ceiling and cried out. The manager looked at her in concern.

"Sorry, Missy. Warn you I should. Forget you not used to modern buildings."

There was another 'ding' and the elevator slowed to a sedate stop and the doors slid open. The manager held out his arm, inviting her to step out.

"Room for you this is. All prepared for you has been. Be happy and content we hope. Come and go free to be you are. What you want we fetch if you ask."

Angela stepped out of the elevator with her eyes wide and staring. The room she entered was immense. It must have taken up half the floor. But it didn't stop there. She was obviously in a suite because the distant walls had wide and tall doorways through which she could see other rooms. She walked around, staring through the doorways. One was a very large bedroom with an enormous round bed. It had white sheets and a satin looking bedspread in pink. The next room was a bathroom with what looked like a sunken bath. It was more like a small swimming pool. And all the rooms were her height. But if the size of the rooms and the furnishings were outstanding, so was the quality and richness of it all. Every room was furnished and fitted out exquisitely. In the largest and main room there was a deep pale blue carpet, light pastel coloured walls, and furnishings in a light red wood. The many chairs and sofas had deep red cusioned seats, and in the middle of the room was an open fire with a canopy above it that took the smoke somewhere outside. And on the low tables and sideboards were statues and carvings. To her surprise, Angela recognised most of the statues and carvings as soon as she saw them. She picked one up and stared at it. There was no doubt about it. They were all hers, gathered in her travels and kept at home. All of them held a special memory. And now they were here.

"How did you- "

Angela turned to see that the manager had left and that the elevator doors were closed.

She was alone in her palace. A gilded palace. Or was it a cage. She walked around the room, staring at everything. She was amazed at what she saw, not because it was all so beautiful and rich, but because it was exactly how she had imagined her dream home to be. Years spent traipsing around in the jungles of one country or the desert of another had stirred thoughts of plush carpets and gold trimmed baths. It was just a silly fantasy that she always promised herself she would pursue 'one day'. Of course, the day never came. Until now.

Moving closer to the huge panoramic windows, Angela became aware of the view outside. She was very high up. Outside the city stretched out before her, building after building, some shorter, some taller. And in between were narrow bridges with tiny dots zinging back and forth. The twin suns glinted on the glass and steel of the buildings, and beyond them was the lake. And beyond that was the mountains that skirted the valley. She could see now that the lake was fed by a great river that flowed down from the mountains. In the distance she could see a waterfall that was wider and higher than anything she had seen before. A large rainbow arched through the water mist.

Blue skies, twin suns, it was all beautiful.

Angela looked down, and what she now saw caused her to press herself against the glass.

Almost next to the building she was in was another lower building. It's roof had obviosly been built as a landing pad. But it was much larger than anything built for a helicopter. And it was occupied. Right in the middle of the landing pad was a very large circular shaped craft. It had two engines sticking out at the back, and at the front Angela could see windows. Angela stared at it, her heart missing a beat.

"That's it!" she exclaimed out loud. "That's the- "

"The Massen'Acra," a voice behind her said.

Angela spun round, her back now pressed against the window behind her. She found herself staring at a man, a tall well built young man with fair hair and very soulful blue eyes. He was wearing a loose white shirt that hung nearly open. The exposed part of his tanned and lean chest had a faint covering of blonde. On his legs was a loose fitting pair of trousers. On his feet were sandals. He was only a short distance away from her.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to scare you."

He took another step forward. Angela pressed herself against the glass, staring into his eyes. They were so sad, so deep and, and...

"Is this a dream?"

He smiled. It was very pleasant. Very, very pleasant.

"No, this is not a dream. But you are confused. It is understandable. I should explain." He held out his hand, indicating one of the deep cusioned sofas. "Sit, relax, make yourself comfortable. You are quite safe here, Angela."

She stepped away from the window, staring at him closely. "Are you...?"

He smiled once more. It was even more pleasing and genuine.

"Yes," he replied, and bowing his head he added, "Permit me to reintroduce myself. I am Nac Tikmak, Captain of the Massen'Acra."

End of Part V. Part VI next month.

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