Summary: It was something we would scarcely expect; that the one who nearly put an end to us would so willingly come back and lend us a hand - and along with him he brought a solution unlike anything I have ever seen. The conclusion to Ghosts In The Machines.
Warning: Contains some very minor spoilers to the companion piece.
The Truth About Klaatu
It is the late summer of 2009, August the twenty seventh to be precise - Indian Summer as we know it. As I settle into my leather chair before my desk, I've decided to record the recent events that I have experienced this past year, concerning the extraterrestrial who calls himself Klaatu, in my own words.
I have never been one for in-depth documentation - one of the other professors' complaints about me - but for this I must, for it is one of those once-in-a-millennia miracles that we, as scientists, are granted the rare privilege to observe.
Yesterday around forenoon I was taking my stroll through town as I normally do every Sunday after Church. During my walk I bumped into a very good friend of mine, Professor O'Connell, or as I call him, John.
Our conversation started out being as simple as discussing the warmth of the morning and the little knot of people that were readying for some event that is to be held in the small park across the street from whence we stood. But eventually our little chat became something far more intriguing and perplex - being the professors we are would be to blame - about Astronomy.
John commented on Pluto and how it is no longer considered anything more than a mere moon; not another planet at all. We then discussed some of the moons that accompany the other planets in our Solar System and their bizarreness. I particularly began to comment upon Phobos and Deimos, the two moons that accompany Mars. I was saying something about what I heard once in an Observatory: Some theory that suggests that Phobos will be broken up by tidal forces that are slowly but steadily decreasing its orbital status around Mars. But that conversation took on a new form. We began talking about a new planet that has only recently reached the discovery point. This planet we were discussing is at least the size of Pluto and about three times farther away from the Sun. It is said to be quite cold and dark.
John said, almost humorously, that he would like to know whether or not it boasted life. I said that it was unlikely altogether going by what they knew about it - I can't imaging anything sustaining itself on a planet that is cold and has no substantial sunlight, save my late mother-in-law perhaps.
I told John however that there were planets in other Solar Systems that did boast life. He chuckled lightly at this, but then something came over him. A daunting expression covered my friend's face and he began puffing his pipe, that he had momentarily neglected, quite ravenously. I knew very well what he was thinking on: What had happened not so many months ago - that catastrophe with the organic Spheres and the destruction of the G.O.R.T. that had left our planet in a horrific crisis that provoked horrible wars - a crisis we cannot seem to resolve. And I haven't even begun to mention those machines that came and invaded.
After seeing John in this state-of-mind, I thought it fruitless to carry on in conversation with him any further, knowing very well how he was after becoming depressed - the man is never pleasant in that mood. So I left him with a friendly shake of the hand and returned to my house.
I stood outside for some time, just leaning against the fence and thinking whilst my eyes were on the sight of my home - though it wasn't the home at all that I was thinking about. I was pondering over it all, everything that had happened, the state it left our society in, the frightening things one heard over the radio or saw on the television - speaking of television, the only channel currently available now is the news, which can't be good for the common morale.
As I stood there, letting my mind fill me with doubt and worry, I spotted a movement in one of the front windows out of the corner of my eye. I was certain I had seen a silhouette of a man move about, and to be quite frank it wouldn't have surprised me the least bit had it been a robber - judging by these more desperate times we're living in. But as I stood silent and watching by the safety of my fence, I saw not another thing. So, I dared to venture inside.
I was prepared for most anything and at the same time I was prepared for 'nothing' in particular, save a fool's imagination. I rekindled a more rational mind and tried convincing myself that this suspicion would be no more than mere fancy. Nevertheless, the uneasy assurance of something wrong kept fast hold of me. And behold! In the living room there sat an uninvited surprise. I remember very well clutching my chest tightly whilst I looked upon him, as his presence frightened me terribly. I wasn't afraid of 'him' so much as I was 'why' he was here, in my home of all places.
I must've looked like a crazy old fool to him, though he shot me no characterized expression in particular that might have told me so. He merely sat there like a perfect form, as straight as a board, just before standing from my sofa to greet me. What it was he wanted I could not conceive on my own without him telling me, so after he gave me a polite nod, I returned the gesture and asked him why he had come.
"For visitation purpose." He merely said, as if it were no more than a chance to sit with me and puff a cigar as my good friends often do. But I saw something within him that told me otherwise. He had a good mind to inform me of something and I was yet to find out what.
"A visit?" I said. I offered him a seat and he took his place back upon the sofa whilst I made myself comfortable in my good chair across from him - he was courteous enough to leave me my chair at least. "It's been close to over four months since you last came. What on Earth brings you here now?" I went on.
He sat quiet for a moment, seeming to think of where he wanted to begin. As he did this, I mused at myself - I was rather quick to question him without even offering him tea, but this was an alien after all, no one of my world.
"I was sent back." He said at brisk length. "But not on negative terms." He seemed to say this in an attempt to relieve me.
"Then what?" I said, pressing him to go on. He gave an almost rattled sigh, sounding more unnerved than he should, and said,
"It is clear that the Earth has only dwindled down into a darker depression; instead of taking a step forward, your society has taken fifty steps back. We have been monitoring it closely after my departure and at this point, mankind will not succeed. My worst fears have become a reality."
Your worst fears, I thought to myself, what about ours?
"If man cannot resolve a financial crisis upon a world he lives in and learn to share his resources, he will not be able to replenish and nurture the Earth as I have hoped. You see, back when I spared your people it was because of a last minute revolution that was revealed to me. Dr. Benson managed to change my mind and after seeing the capabilities of your kind up close; the passion for each other, the emotion, the empathy and sympathy, I had to find some way to save your race, to give you another chance. The only downfall for me was becoming bound to this place for a good length of time and risking what was to come in the days after. The machines."
"Another chance. Yes, I know." said I. I have after all been mixed up with him at some point, though not as frequently as Dr. Benson.
"My people do not relish in the demolition of any living thing." He told me. "To destroy one form of life is a desperate attempt to save a greater mass of living things, as I once told Dr. Benson. We had to end mankind to save the Earth. You were destroying this planet, it was deteriorating slowly and every living thing was suffering for it. But I had a ... 'change of heart' as you humans like to put it. But now this planet is dying once again. The recent wars have diminished it further."
I could tell that he thought of himself as getting down on my level, and I couldn't help but appreciate him for it; but it didn't make me any less at a loss with my own opinions of it all. And in a way, I saw him in the same light I would a soldier who was once ordered to carry out something that his heart was not entirely in tune with. He didn't want to hurt anyone, not really. To blame him now and to scowl at him would be senseless. What's done is done, I've always said, and one should let sleeping dogs lie. But I could only imagine how the world would see him right now, the exact way they've seen him from the start: Confound him!
"I have come back to help save the Earth again, and at the same time I've come to save your society - every society upon this planet, from each other."
This took me by some emphasized surprise. I recall myself coughing a little and trying to look away from him.
"And how do you plan on doing so, Klaatu?" I said, straightening up in my chair.
He brought a metal box from the table to his hands - one I hadn't noticed before - and sat it in his lap and began opening it. I was leant forward in my chair with my brows furrowed in curiosity. I was anxious to see what was inside.
When the lid came open, a glowing light - white in its glimmer - came bounding out of the box in a gentle beam. The object he pulled out was almost in the shape of an egg, and its surface was rough cut, yet smooth, almost like a crystal. My mouth was gaping open as I took it in, and he offered it to me to hold. I cradled it as gently as one would an infant.
There was something extraordinary to it. The egg, as I like to call it, was warm as if there was some life form growing inside; it was heavy too. It glowed in my grasp and there was something inscribed around the top. The little symbols I could not decipher, but they looked something like this:
"What is it?" I asked after my eyes had had their fill of wonder.
"A seed." He told me.
I scratched my head absentmindedly - something I often do when I am reluctant to have faith in whatever.
"A seed." I muttered, carefully handing it back to him.
He nodded once and gently placed the egg back into the metal box, strapping it shut afterwards. He looked at me then, his eyes speaking volumes of trepidations as he spoke.
"It contains an energy source, one that is known to you as antimatter. I presume that you may be familiar with the substance; a hypothetical form of matter composed of subatomic antiparticles that correspond to and can annihilate other elementary particles."
After hearing this and recalling the knowledge of it that was hidden away in my memory, I knew I had heard about it once or twice in my life. I nodded slowly, giving him a look that wanted an explanation.
"And you know how powerful this substance is." He said.
"I'm afraid I do not know its full potential. I've only ever heard of it." I said.
He gave a small sigh, as if he were having to teach me something new - and in a way he was. I had no clue at the moment for where he was going to go with it.
"Antimatter is so powerful that if mankind were to build a spacecraft that could travel a million miles through your galaxy, it would take only a cup of the substance to achieve that journey." He told me, explaining it to me as simply as he knew how - as a professor I felt almost degraded.
I knew very well that that egg, heavy as it was, must've consisted of far more than a cup. It had to be as much as a large bucket's worth, maybe a little more. Then it flashed at me, the remembrance of what I knew. This was more than just a form of matter - it takes us near thirty good years just to make a little bit of the material, and we don't even know how to convert it to good use. But it was becoming apparent that his people might have found some way to mass produce this like fuel is produced here. I had to know more, so I pressed him.
"Go on." I said.
"This substance is what we use on our planet. It fuels our energy; our transportation runs on it, it is our life source and it replenishes itself naturally. It is everlasting, but only with the assistance of the crystal boundary it is held in. This shell, you might say in simpler terms, grows the substance." He said that last sentence almost awkwardly, as if simple speech was foreign to his tongue - and from what I knew of him, it was.
Everlasting. Now he had me reeled in and wanting to hear more. It was a bizarre thing and I wanted desperately to know how it all worked - according to him that egg it was contained inside of was capable of re-growing the supply within.
"I brought several with me. Each of them are contained safely in these." His hand signaled toward the box. "They are in my shuttle."
"Your shuttle?" I said.
"It is somewhere safe." He replied, and left it at that. "The antimatter I brought is enough to power the entire Earth until your people reach the point of where they can produce it them self."
"Yes. To produce such a thing would be far too much cost. It would make this depression impossible to overcome." I remember saying.
"That problem is being temporarily resolved."
Maybe he was right. Perhaps it would work. I could only imagine it all ... like winning the lottery, only it would be better. This solution could put an end to this World War if only he could convince them.
"It sounds like you have something there, but how will it work?" I said.
"Much the same way your fuel works. It is the alternative the people of this planet need to live on without damaging it; and with this supply, it will relieve the financial crisis you're facing now and the horrors of the war."
"I don't know." I said, shaking my head. "I'd gladly have it be, but how do you expect to convince the Government of this?"
"What do you mean?" He said.
"Well," I said with a wry grin, "for one thing, they dislike you. Another thing is this: They may react to this idea as futile, you know? Sort of like an ancient civilization that is unprepared to accept a new invention. Especially if they aren't the ones who came up with it."
"Even if it makes life easier." He stated it to no one in particular.
I leaned back in my chair, preparing to light one of my cigars.
"You know how we can be." I merely said. "You of all people know how stubborn we are capable of being. But then again, maybe with all of the bleak desperation you may be more successful than I think. However, I'm more concerned for you than anything else. Are you willing to risk your freedom? I know you're quite capable of defending yourself when the time calls for it, but if you were to react violently when cornered it would only give them all the more reason to put you down."
"You hold a fine point, Professor." He said.
It was a fine point indeed, I guess, but I wasn't proud of my own suggestions. It would've been better if the world wouldn't be so quick to shoot him, poor fellow.
"There is another way." He said at last. I could sense the hopefulness in his voice.
"What way is that?"
"I have been communicating through a personal satellite device with a scientist in the state of Arizona."
"A scientist? Through a satellite?" I thought it too unlikely to be so - but he was truthful.
"Yes. It is someone who may be willing to become a tool in this - someone who can make your Government see its potential."
"How so?" I caught myself questioning his words as if he were a peer, but he didn't seem to mind. It was as if he understood that I had every right to be reluctant.
"I have not spoke this over with him yet. You see, he only knows what I've told him - and it's no more than I've told you. I will be leaving to meet with him by morning."
"Klaatu," I began, "if I may, how did you come to find this man?"
"Wu knew him." He explained, and it all seemed sensible then. "The elder who came to this planet long before I, choosing to stay in the process."
"Yes. You mentioned him before." I recalled both of his visits then. I remember him coming to my house that second time when those machines first invaded Earth. He was speaking with me about his dear friend Wu.
I remember how I felt after he said all of this to me about the antimatter. I still didn't have a full understanding of how it could possibly work, if it were to work at all. It just didn't apply to me as entirely logical; but what I did learn is that he is indeed a mystery to dwell on, a mind capable of things that even a machine couldn't accomplish. And that alone can be frightening to most - yet I find it the most fascinating thing in this world, and I am privileged to know him.
"I wish you all the best of luck, Klaatu." I said at length. "And should you need my help or my good word in anything, you have it, and that's a promise."
"You've proved to me that you are one of the few humans I would trust the greatest secrets of my world with, should I have no other choice."
I mused slightly at this and said,
"Does that mean that you'd be willing to tell me those great secrets?"
"Not likely." He replied.
"I thought so." I grinned, my cigar hugged between my fingers. I could tell he was amused by my humorous attempt.
We talked for a good time afterward. I offered him a drink of water and something to eat - a banana sandwich - but he had no interest in discussing his plans for the antimatter with me any further. Strangely, it was a pleasant visit, taking into consideration that this is an alien I am seated across from - God knows what he might have looked like before he sacrificed his own body to live in a human shell in order to obtain himself on our planet - but of course I've learnt that to stake property claim on Earth is bad manners to him.
He did tell me a bit more about this man he was leaving to see in Arizona. His name is Wilfred Pyecraft, an Astrobiologist much like Dr. Benson, who works for the ARVU Observatory in a little place I've never heard of - perhaps one of those desolated laboratories hidden beyond the red hills of the desert.
"Wilfred Pyecraft." I said. "And you're certain he's trustworthy?"
"He's been a friend to Wu for countless years. He knows about our race very well and is a 'friend' to the Earth."
A friend to the Earth. He said this as if there were a chain of devoted advocates hidden throughout the world.
"Is he an extraterrestrial?" I asked him.
"No. He is a mere human." Klaatu told me. "I know enough about him to feel comfortable in his company, and Wu has agreed to accompany me on the way."
"That's good." I said. "I'd accompany you as well if I had the time. Not much happens around here anymore, save whining and peevish complaints. I'm tired of it, you know."
He seemed to notice the thud of my fingers drumming the surface of the small table beside me. I was stressed and anxious with myself - I always am now in these dark days. I want it to work, I want him to succeed!
"Perhaps, soon, the morale of the human race will be turned back on its good side." He commented, sipping his glass. "If the plan follows through."
I believe I asked him something about Dr. Benson, wanting to move onto a brighter subject. I can't quite remember my exact words but I was inquiring about how she was doing, if he knew of course. He told me that he hadn't seen her since his last departure when his people came and collected him, but that he wished her and her step-son Jacob well. He said that he was hopeful that she and Jacob would be here, but I confessed that I hadn't seen them since they left months ago - Helen was eager to search out her relatives. It makes me quite sad in a way, as I think of them now as good friends. Helen was always a good colleague of mine. I should very much like to know that she and her step-son are well and safe.
I told Klaatu that he could spend the night in my formal guestroom down the hall. He turned the offer down at first stating that he had a good place to rest in his spacecraft, but I convinced him to stay nonetheless. I felt that the longer I had him around, the more I could learn of him.
We sat and talked over dinner. He did open up and tell me a few facts about his planet. He said something about his people being water-bound, though not literally living 'in' the water itself, but rather building their civilization amongst its shores - he didn't really go in to why they preferred this, but I thought the reason was already obvious.
He gave me a rather vivid image of how it all looked. He described the buildings to be tall and domed at their tops and constructed of a dark grey stone, lighted by a type of crystal rock that is powered by the antimatter substance like everything else. The way I picture it is similar to how one pictures Atlantis: A beautiful architectural place where transportation reaches high speeds and hovers atop the ground and where the possibilities for technology are endless. It is environmentally perfected with air so pure and clean until the typical human may not know how to breathe it - considering that we are so very used to this more unclean air.
He told me a little about his people. He didn't so much go in to how they operated, rather than what he said about their ways and beliefs.
Everything is knowledge. They worship no idol Gods, and I'm not sure if they worship any God - though I had the hint that he understands more about it all than we could ever imagine as far as religion is concerned. They have no need for entertainment or gorging one's self in un-delightful pleasures because they do not suffer the woes of depression and regret that we ourselves do. They do not fill their intestines with gunk because unlike most of us, they fully (rather than partially) acknowledge what it does to their body, not to mention candy wrappers being thrown on the streets as they are here - after hearing this I was glad that I had served him wholesome foods rather than the brownies in the kitchen that I had contemplated on offering him. And there was nothing spiteful or snobby in his stories at all.
The more he spoke, the more delighted I became and the more I wanted to know about him personally, being the intriguing being he is. So I asked him about himself; did he have a family? He only told me that he had a dear friend - Muala, I think he called him or her. I didn't bother to press him about this individual feeling that is was no right of mine, as he looked too diluted by the mere mention of the name.
I also inquired politely about his own life. I asked him how he liked it compared to life here on Earth. He told me that he was overly satisfied - and why wouldn't he be, living in a perfectly organized society? He said that he enjoyed being who he was and living where and as he did. But he also told me something else, and in saying this I knew he was confiding in me in his way. He said that if there was one regret he still had, it was never knowing what it was to be more optimized by human characteristics.
This shocked me more than anything. It was something I would never expect to hear from his lips. He is perfection, a living thing that contains more knowledge than this world has alone to offer. As far as I know it, he was here long before I and might have witnessed the construction of the Great Pyramids - of course I could be fantasizing a bit, but if he told me it were so I wouldn't doubt it.
I dared to ask him why he had come to feel that way and he told me that he felt himself growing a fond fascination for us. Whilst he said this I began to feel like a little trinket he had discovered, perhaps like an African Grey Parrot who carries on in full sentences and fascinates an observer.
He began forking the questions out to me then, and in my bemusement he reminded me of a little boy from one of those little countries in Africa who wants to know the traditions of our culture.
He asked me a bit about human emotions and I cocked a little mirth and said,
"Don't you know? You've studied so much about us already."
"Yes." He said. "But I do not understand it from your perspective. What does it make you feel exactly? What is the relief, the pain, the joy you receive through your embodied emotional traits?"
"Well," I paused. Now I was the one trying to simplify it for him. His question was not an easy one to answer, yet it was simple. He knew why, yet he wanted to know why. It was confusing in a sense. "To be blunt with you Klaatu, I do not think that you will ever be able to understand how it 'feels' simply because it is not your instinct, your nature, no more than it is mine to perceive things through your complex eyes."
It was the very best I had for him and I was hopeful that it wouldn't be too unsatisfying.
"That is the precise answer I was expecting to hear." He said quite sadly.
"I am sorry, Klaatu. I truly am."
He looked up at me from across the table. The incandescent lights of the little candles were flickering and dancing warmly, highlighting our faces with a golden hue.
"Why do you speak in that term? Why express that upon me?" He asked, and for a moment I thought it was another scientific inquiry on human behavior or sympathy, but then it came to me that it was a simple question as to why I was sorry.
"Because I can only imagine how frustrating it can be. Both of us overwhelm the other. You with your extraordinary world that I can only envision in my own image, and me with my religious beliefs and desires to laugh and smile in order to wash away whatever pain daunts me. We're both very different, yet we're so very much alike, both you and I and our kind."
This answer I gave him seemed temporarily acceptable - until perhaps he could find something better.
We sat a good while after finishing the meal. He enjoyed it for the most part and I told him a bit about how to simmer and flavor a salmon - it was a queer thing to discuss with an alien who was sitting at my dinner table but he appeared to be listening with interest.
It is 9:44 a.m. and I'm near finished with this account.
As I write, he sits not a dozen yards away. If I glance over my shoulder I can see him, and if I catch his eye - and I usually catch his eye - it meets me with an expression …
It is mainly an imploring look, yet suspicious, too. If I wanted to tell on him, I could have long ago. He knows he can trust me - he said so himself - and he ought to feel at ease - who would believe me if I did tell? - yet he is worried, this much I see.
Perhaps I am one of the last things he is worried about. Isn't it more than likely that he is thinking about his new reason for coming here, does it have something to do with our discussion last night?
One could only wonder: Does he feel the same overwhelming feelings roused by fear that the common folk feel when there is talk of other life out there? Do we frighten him the way he frightens us perhaps, or are we just strange to him? Is he frustrated that he will never know us inside and out? Should we share that same frustration for him?
I begin to ponder altogether on this: It is something to think on but I'm afraid that, being the human I am, if I think on it too much I may drive myself to insanity with the questions that come to mind. There are so many questions and no matter how much I know, I'll never know it all - unless that thing they say about life after death is true. And when I'm in his company, I am almost fearful that there is no Heaven or Hell, and if I ask him enough, he may eventually come out and tell me so. But then again, he may know God himself. Perhaps God is the reason behind his knowledge. Whatever it is, I'd rather leave it unanswered for my own goodwill.
He's only just come from the shower. I know he's being courteous and waiting for me to finish my writing. I presume that he will be inquiring to read it afterward, and I may just let him if I must - or better yet, read it out loud in case I feel the need to sugarcoat something I've noted in this passage.
I know he's not evil, even if he has earned the reputation he has - yet a part of me has to continuously reassure that knowledge. And it makes me wonder if there will ever be an unconditional trust between us. I begin to wonder if Dr. Benson ever managed to trust him entirely herself - at least as much as she did her late husband - my reason for saying this is because I could tell she had grown fond of him when last they came to seek me out. There was something mutual there. Even her step-son appeared very close to him.
He'll be leaving shortly. I'm nearly surprised by my saying this considering what he is and the eerie sensation that overcomes me, but I'm almost sad that he's leaving. It isn't everyday that this happens. He's intriguing, and the best part of it all is that in some simpler way I intrigue him. We're observing one another - and I hate to admit that he's far more literate in math than I - and it's strangely enjoyable for the most part. And now he's returned with a new duty to help our society ... God willing, he'll accomplish the task at hand.
It was something we would scarcely expect; that the one who nearly put an end to us would so willingly come back and lend us a hand - and along with him he brought a solution unlike anything I have ever seen...
This is the beginning of my account on the extraterrestrial - who still hasn't told me the name of his race. I have no plans of publishing this. It is merely for my own safekeeping. I'm building a memory you might say.
There are more things in this Universe than we know, and more particularly right here in my own house than are dreamt in our philosophies. And it is better left a philosophized theory rather than deadly knowledge - for us at least. The truth about Klaatu, one might say, is that there's so much more to him than meets the common fearing eye. He's extraordinary no doubt with the abilities he has, but beyond those dark eyes that seem so human and that face that will never hold a meaningful smile, he is so full of curiosity himself, amusement and wonder. And I've come to the conclusion that on some level he may actually love us.
I don't think he's cold at all or entirely emotionless for that matter. He doesn't express himself the way we do, but then, a lot of wonderful creatures with hearts and souls don't. I think that Klaatu really cares for our race and he wants to see us become better - much like God himself does. I'd never dare say this in these exact words to him, but I know it's so - why else does he keep trying so hard?
~ Dr. Barnhardt
A/N:I had to post this early because I'm going out of town and by the time I get back, this doc will be gone. And since Ghosts is halfway finished, I figured I could get away with it. So don't bark at me. I wrote this a hell of a long time ago and wanted to freaking post it - I thought that all of the fellow science fiction fans would enjoy this piece. My inspired idea for this story, and the way it was written by Barnhardt's own hands, came from the Grandfather of science fiction himself, H.G. Wells, who is known to write from a character's perspective. I thought that Barnhardt, being an interesting and inquisitive character who is overlooked far more than he should be in this fandom, deserved this role over any other - I somehow like his role as a pleasant-faced, trustable counterweight to the heavy-handed warmongering. A big shout out goes to T-U-X-I-D-O-G-R-E-Y for the 'antimatter' idea.