Limits of the Possible

...A WHN for "The Sky is Falling"

"I think that will be all for now, Commander Crane. We appreciate your cooperation."

"You haven't believed a word I've said so I don't know how much you think I've cooperated! In fact, I consider this whole day a complete waste of time. You've asked endless questions, made endless notes and then implied that it's all a figment of my imagination. I know what I saw. As far as I'm concerned you can go to hell."

The man in the nondescript grey suit stopped stuffing his briefcase and studied Lee Crane, a raised eyebrow the only visible response to Lee's words. "I'm surprised at you, Commander. Debriefing is part of any mission. You of all people should know that." He picked up the notebook from the desk in front of him and shoved it into the case. "I'm sorry you feel this was more intrusive than usual. It isn't often the FBI is called in to discuss aliens."

Lee shifted in his seat, uncomfortably aware of the straight back wooden chair. Everything in the room was uncomfortable; the chair, the windowless walls, the drab green paint and scuffed linoleum floor. The one thing he could admire was that it was the perfect space for an interrogation.

He crossed his arms and stared at the FBI agent speculatively.

"You and I weren't discussing aliens, as you put it. You were telling me that I couldn't have seen what I did. Did you try that on Admiral Nelson, too?" Lee's face twisted in a sardonic smile. "I can imagine what his reaction was to that."

"I'm sure you can. Actually, your admiral told us all we wanted to know for now." The briefcase snapped shut. "If my superiors have any further questions we know where to reach you."

"I'm sure you do," Lee snapped, standing up. "I hope never to see you again, Agent Langley."

Langley shrugged. "Comes with the territory." He picked up his hat and opened the door. "Good afternoon, Commander."

Lee waited until he'd heard Langley's footsteps fade away before leaving the room himself. Their "meeting" had taken place in a small office building, and he walked down a deserted corridor to the outside door, pushing it open, gratified to find that it was still light out. He hadn't wanted to give the FBI agent the satisfaction of watching him glance at his watch, and consequently had no idea of the time. Lee took a deep breath of clean air and looked around, getting his bearings.

They were at China Lake, more formally known as the Naval Ordnance Test Station, informally as a godforsaken place in the middle of nowhere. Why he and the admiral had been brought to this place he could only guess, but he thought his guess was a good one - there were whispered rumblings throughout the Navy that here in the far reaches of the Mojave Desert experimental weapons systems were tested. Not that he'd seen anything in the short trip from the airstrip; the place was bottled up tight, the buildings identified only with numbers, nondescript warehouses surrounded by barbed wire and faced with blacked out windows. For someone with as healthy an imagination as Lee Crane, combined with the natural suspicion arising from his ONI training, it was obvious there were mysteries here. The crew of the Seaview knew what it was to encounter things outside the realm of the everyday. Wasn't that what he had spent the whole day talking about?

The hot desert daylight was giving way to a cool evening, fueled by winds whipped up from the surrounding sands, the force of the wind indifferent to the isolated structures in this particular part of the base. A few miles away was the C-130 they'd flown in on. How was he going to get there? And where was the admiral? They'd questioned them separately, of course. Lee smiled wryly to himself. First rule of interrogation - get your suspects apart, then find out if their stories match up. Admiral Tobin had been brought in, too. Lord knows what he had said to them. There wouldn't have been much for him to tell. Not that he didn't have plenty of opinions on how to deal with the situation, Lee knew, recalling the heated confrontations with the irate officer. What he'd told anybody would be missing one key component; he hadn't made the trip to the spacecraft and seen its occupant.

That had been the stumbling block for Lee; explaining that what he had seen was essentially a replica of himself. The truth it all was, as incredible as it seemed, and delivered to a supercilious FBI agent. No ONI, not this time. They must be fuming, being outmaneuvered somehow. Inter-department politics at the highest level, no doubt. That discussion between the bosses of both agencies must have been a doozy, Lee figured. Nor would the boat's logs be able to explain the encounter in any better detail, not only because of the fantastic aspects of the story but because "Official Naval Correspondence" had little latitude for it. When the FBI had shown up at the Institute one agent had been left behind to check the logs and interview the crewmembers. Chip's reaction to that brought another smile to Lee's face. There wasn't a piece of paperwork on Seaview that didn't bear the Exec's stamp of approval, the logs especially. The agent would feel Chip's wrath if so much as a corner of a page was crinkled. Nor would he allow the crew to be bullied.

Lee looked around at the seemingly deserted buildings. It was a few minutes past normal quitting time. The place cleared out fast. Somewhere, he figured, there had to be a quarterdeck with a watch or a building with civilian security. He was deciding whether to try his luck port or starboard when a dark sedan turned the corner, came down the street and stopped at the end of the sidewalk.

A young man, dressed for the heat in Hawaiian shirt, khaki shorts and sandals, stepped out of the car and looked over at Lee.

"Sorry I'm late, Commander. First stop took a few extra minutes. Time to get out of the heat, sir. Get in."

Lee wasted no time making his way to the car. He was about to jump in when a familiar voice issued from inside.

"I'm glad you're here, Lee. This is the goddamnest situation I've ever found myself in!"

"Admiral Nelson!"

Nelson waited until Lee sat down on the jump seat and then spoke. Or rather, barked out an order. "We want out of here now, young man. I want on that plane in five minutes."

"Aye, aye sir, err, sirs," the brash young man replied cheerfully as he pulled away from the curb and headed out across the base to the airstrip.

Nelson sat back in the seat, his fingers tapping out an impatient drumbeat on his trousers. "Well, Lee, what did you make of all that? Damn fool waste of time. I got the impression they didn't believe a word I said! As if I'd make up a story about seeing an alien aboard a spacecraft that had been tracked from outer space - Tobin was a witness to everything, too, damn it! Preposterous fool he may be, but he can't say he doesn't know what went on!"

Lee held a finger to his lips and jerked his head toward the front seat of the car. Nelson looked less than pleased to be gagged but ducked his head and nodded back. They made the rest of the trip in silence, both men agitated, impatient to be gone.

The car turned in a wide circle and slid quietly to a stop beside the steps of the plane. Their driver got out, adding superfluously, "Okay, here you are, gents."

Both men alighted and with one last look around quickly mounted the stairway to disappear inside. They were met just inside the cabin by the co-pilot, who directed them to seats. They sat down beside each other and remained silent until the door was swung shut and the co-pilot went forward to the flight deck.

"Thank goodness that's all over!" sighed Nelson as he removed his cover and settled back. "The sooner we get back on Seaview the better I'll feel."

Lee nodded his heartfelt agreement. "I know what interrogations are like. I've conducted plenty of 'em myself. But this one... a nice sea voyage monitoring whale populations sounds like the perfect antidote to today's cloak and dagger business!"

Nelson laughed. "It does indeed! That's one thing about the service that I've never been happy with. I understand the need for security, but… Lee, what's the matter?"

Crane was only half listening to his boss, his attention split with the less than reassuring sounds from the engines outside.

"I somehow don't think we're going anywhere soon, Admiral, that engine isn't firing," Lee answered as he looked past his companion to the wing.

Nelson turned to the window and to the sputtering attempts of the port engine to start. A few seconds went by, and then with a huge backfire and a cloud of black smoke, the engine fell silent.

The cockpit door opened and an embarrassed pilot walked towards them.

"Sorry, Admiral, we seem to have a problem. We've notified the tower and they're sending a maintenance crew over. I'm going to go check on it right now. I'll be back with a report in a few minutes." He wrestled the door open and waved for the steps to be replaced.

Nelson slapped his hand on the chair arm and grumbled dark threats to himself while Lee got up and followed the pilot.

A jeep filled with what were probably the aviation repair techs was rapidly coming across the tarmac. Coasting to a stop beside the plane, they took one look at the lifeless engine and began an animated conversation with the pilot. One of the men jumped back in the jeep and tore off across the asphalt. Lee caught the words "truck" and "scissors lift." None of it boded well for their getting off the base anytime soon.

"Why is this plane still on my base?" An angry voiced loomed out of the growing gloom. "I want it out of here NOW!"

Everyone's attention was now concentrated on the sturdy officer striding toward them. The pilot snapped to attention as he offered a salute.

"Sorry, Captain Harbiton! Didn't see you there. We have a problem with the port engine, sir."

"What?" The officer was not pleased and looked around for someone to vent his anger on. He spied Lee and rounded on him.

"Who are you?"

"Commander Lee Crane, Captain of the Seaview," Lee replied calmly under the withering gaze.

"Crane? Seaview? What the hell are you doing on my base? Are you part of the secret meetings going on around here today?"

"We are indeed, Captain, and we're just as anxious as you to get off your base!"

Everyone snapped their attention to the top of the steps to see an equally angry Admiral, hands on hips, glaring down at the assembled officers and crew. He started to descend and came to a halt in front of the newly arrived officer.

"And you are?" he enquired caustically.

Taken aback by such obvious confrontation the man wilted a little. "I'm Captain Earl Harbiton. I'm head of Base Security."

Nelson held out his hand and smiled disarmingly. "Captain Harbiton. I'm Admiral Harriman Nelson, owner of the Seaview."

"Owner of the Seaview..." Harbiton appeared out of sync and went on the attack. "I don't care if you own a fleet, Admiral Nelson! Agent Langley assured me when he left that all unauthorised personnel would be gone, too. He was obviously wrong about that! This is a highly secret base and you have no business still being here!"

"My Top Secret clearance trumps anything you'd be able to conjure up, Harbiton!" Nelson replied gruffly. He'd met uptight, anally retentive officers before and found the ones with a little empire to protect were the worst. "Be that as it may, we wouldn't be here if your crew could get this aircraft airborne!" he added, gesturing at the engine, which was now dripping a little oil.

The pilot took up the conversation, explaining the problem. It was obvious there was more waiting to be done.

Rubbing his ear, trying to keep his voice calm, Nelson said, "Perhaps Commander Crane and I could repair to your office or somewhere more comfortable to wait?"

Harbiton immediately bristled and drew himself up. "No sir! I can't allow you to wander freely around this base! If you would just get back on the plane and wait, Admiral, I'm sure my men can fix this problem and get you on your way."

"Captain Harbiton?" the pilot interrupted. "Maybe they could be taken to the 'O' Club, sir. It's not far away." He had seen Nelson's mounting fury and wanted to diffuse what was becoming a volatile confrontation. "I could arrange for their car to return, sir, and assign a two man guard to escort them. I'll get on the radio right away."

Harbiton didn't look placated by the suggestion but appreciating the young pilot's efforts, Nelson jumped in. "That sounds like a very reasonable compromise, Captain, wouldn't you agree?"

Harbiton scowled at being outmaneuvered but sullenly acquiesced. In a couple of minutes Lee and the admiral were in the back of their transport and being whisked away.

"What's your connection with all of this, young man?" Nelson asked as he saw it was their previous driver, still dressed like an extra from a Hawaiian movie.

"Who sir? Me, sir? No connection, sir. I'm just a go-fer around here. The name's Charlie by the way. I got the contract to be the transport driver an' here I am. Not many jobs out in town. The dough's good and it suits me."

Lee laughed. "I somehow didn't think Captain Harbiton would allow any member of his staff to dress this casually, Charlie."

Their driver made an amused snort. "Isn't that guy uptight or what? He's new around here, probably thinks he needs to throw his weight around. He doesn't much like me but I stay out of his way mostly and we get along. Don't be surprised if he's sent somebody along to the club to make sure we get there," he said, laughing again. "We're only a few minutes away, so just sit back and enjoy the scenery. That's the Coso Range, over to our left," he said, waving a hand out the window. "They're kind of pretty but you ain't going to get the best view at this time of the day."

They sped along in silence and soon stopped in front of a one-story building. The veranda's banner proclaimed it as the Officer's Club. The building was pleasant looking enough, red brick, white shutters, green lawn kept neat by whatever maintenance men they employed on the base. There were a couple of cars in the parking lot but like the rest of the base, there was no activity outside.

Neither man was thinking about how well the building was kept up, or how attractive it was. To Nelson and Crane this was somewhere they definitely did not want to be but circumstances had decreed otherwise. It was disquieting, this under-populated place with its wide-open spaces and giant buildings. Their faces reflected their displeasure, and their driver, as he opened the back door of the sedan, couldn't have missed it. His jaunty attitude didn't change.

"Go right on in, sirs. Cold beer and peanuts. Bartender's a sweetie. His name's Joe. Best kind of bartender there is - he's practically blind and can't hear a damn thing. You'll be fine. Once the plane's fixed I'll be back."

Two white-uniformed guards came forward and watched the car as the two officers inside watched them.

"Harbiton's watch dogs," Lee said.

"I suppose there's nothing we can do about it," Nelson answered with resignation.

Charlie just snorted. "Not unless you'd like to start walking in 90 degree heat. And this place being what it is, you'd be picked up in about five seconds flat."

Smiling all the while, he watched as they got out of the car. Then, with a wave he got back in and drove off, leaving the two Seaview officers to make their way into the Club followed closely but not intrusively by the MPs.

The place was practically deserted. Only a couple of other customers, owners of the cars outside probably, were sitting at separate tables nursing drinks. One of them, a ruddy faced individual with a tall stock of blonde hair was studying a newspaper while the other was engrossed in a baseball game showing on the small black and white television. Joe was standing behind the bar polishing glasses. He looked up, grinned and immediately pulled two beers.

"Compliments of the house, sirs. Charlie said you'd be needing a drink. I'll bring 'em over to the table when you've picked one out. I recommend the one closest to the window. It's got a great view of the-"

"We know, the Coso Range," Nelson interrupted, biting his words, showing his irritation as both officers made their way to the table. "Didn't know the mountains around here were such a tourist attraction."

"They're not," said Joe as he followed them over. "No tourists allowed here, as I'm sure you've figured out. At least they're something to look at that's better than sand and sagebrush." He placed the beers on the table along with a bowl of peanuts. "Enjoy, sirs."

Lee waited until the bartender walked away, and then picked up the beer. "Enough of these and maybe even the Coso Range will look good," he quipped, loosening his tie and staring out the window, where twilight was coating the tops of the mountains with a purple tint.

Nelson looked up at the two MPs as they placed themselves within an arm's distance and assumed the stone-faced attitude of concrete pillars. Pinning them with an eye piercing gaze, he said, "Gentlemen, I'm sure Captain Harbiton would be equally satisfied with his security if you watched us from the bar area. I assure you we do not intend to escape from your protection by jumping through a plate glass window!"

The two guards flicked glances at each other and did a quick recon of the immediate area before one of them tilted his head to his companion and they moved out of earshot.

The beer was tolerable, and they spent the next half hour discussing everything except what they'd been doing for the last several hours. Neither man, it seemed, wanted to explain what he'd gone through.

"I know what I saw..." Lee mused, and then realized he had spoken aloud when Nelson leaned forward.

"You saw your face. Just like I saw mine."

"You saw your face? Then..."

"We're never likely to know what the alien really looked like, Lee. Perhaps it's better that way," Nelson said, a tiny smile coming to his lips. "You know, he told me, 'I have assumed the appearance of the one creature that could not possibly offend you.' I'm still undecided as to whether I consider that statement true or not," blue eyes narrowing as the laughter bubbled just underneath the surface.

"What else, Admiral?"

Nelson gathered his thoughts, jaw working, still wondering if what he had seen was real.

"I had to look around - the place was empty when I got there. The interior of the spacecraft was lit up with bolts of energy captured in thin electrical tubing, spaced neatly around the perimeter. There were control surfaces, but I have no idea what their purpose was. Fascinating! If only I'd had time to examine it all! I called out into the void and someone - something, answered. 'I' showed up. An exact duplicate of me, at least my facial features, in a silver spacesuit. Have 'they' been watching our so-called sci-fi movies, the ones that exploit our obsession with the unknown, while recognizing our fear and fascination for the mysteries of outer space? Were they attempting to sort out our defensive capabilities while determining our capability to assist with their repairs? Unfortunately we have no way of knowing. And I very much doubt that they'll be back." Nelson picked up his glass and drew it to his lips. "I told this all to my interrogator. He appeared to be unconvinced."

"It's part of the job description, sir." Lee lifted his beer and, musing, said, "I wonder what Tobin told them."

"Our 'self-appointed savior'? He'll tell them that it was only through his efforts that the whole world survived. And he'll never mention your part in it; locking the door on him was genius. 'Consult your own understanding, your own sense of the probable, your own observation of what is passing around you.' Jane Austen wrote that, in Northanger Abbey. It's as true now as it was then. If they won't take our word for it..." Nelson shrugged and took a drink.

"I couldn't care less if they believed me or not," Lee said grimly. "I'm just glad we got out of there in one piece." He looked beyond the admiral's shoulder and raised his chin. "Speaking of self-appointed saviors... our cab driver is back."

Charlie bounced into the room with his usual energy. "Time to go, sirs. Plane's all fixed and the car's out front. I'll just settle with Joe here and we'll have you in Santa Barbara in two shakes."

Lee and the admiral wasted no time in getting up and heading for the door, first thanking Joe for his hospitality and allowing their watchdogs to escort them out.

Charlie stopped at the bar. "Got the chit for me, Joe?" he said in a bright, cheery tone. The moment the door closed behind Lee and the admiral the goofy, devil-may-care look on Charlie's face disappeared. Frowning, flinty-eyed, he said in a rasping monotone, "Did you get it?"

"I got it," Joe answered, pulling back a drawer below the bar and showing off an elaborate set of recording equipment.

"Did they say anything they didn't tell us in the interviews?"

"No, sir. They avoided talking about it for a while, and then Crane mentioned that the alien had looked like him. Nelson talked about the inside of the spacecraft, but that's about it. Same as they said in the interviews."

Charlie's jaw tightened. "Damn. We'd hoped for something more. They didn't have much to say in the car, either. Crane takes his ONI training to heart. Wouldn't mind having him in my office."

Don't think he'd like it much, Joe thought to himself, and then brought himself back to the present. "They were more like explaining what they saw to themselves, sir, more than anything else. Was all pretty straightforward to me. They saw an alien, but he - it - must have had some sort of mask on, from the sound of it. Maybe some sort of mind control. That clinches it as far as I'm concerned, sir. It had to have been an alien spacecraft. You know that NORAD lost it as it went above the atmosphere. No way did it end up somewhere amongst our friends in the east. Nelson and Crane are telling the truth."

"Carter, Atkinson, you two hear the same thing?" Charlie asked as the two men got up from their seats and approached the bar. They nodded in agreement. The blonde-haired one took the newspaper from under his arm and handed it to the agent.

"The equipment functioned perfectly, sir. I just checked it, and didn't hear anything different from Agent Samuels here," he said, indicating the bartender. "Apparently the alien could change his appearance at will - first Nelson's and then Crane's. A pretty neat trick," he commented, laughing, and then saw the look on his superior's face. "Uh, I got it all down in there, sir."

"Right. Well, seems like we'll have to accept their story. Best thing, I guess. What we do not need is the communists running around in fake flying machines. Even aliens are better than that. Thanks for your reports, gentlemen. Agent Samuels, I'll be back with the car as soon as I can and we'll pack everything up and head back to Los Angeles."

"Fine by me, Charlie. Eh, sir."

Nelson and Crane wasted no time getting back to the car, knowing they'd have no time to talk about anything important until they were well on their way home. Nelson noted that the two guards waited at the bottom of the sidewalk watching them, but making no attempt to hustle them away. He caught Lee's eye. He had one thing he needed to say, though, before they got in.

"You thinking like me, Lee?" he murmured softly. "That the bartender recorded every minute of our conversation in there?"

"Absolutely, Admiral. Without a doubt. And so did those other two guys in the place. And not for a minute do I think that our boy Charlie is just a simple taxi driver."

"Do they really think we're that stupid?"

"I can't say that I know what they think, sir. There are days I have my doubts even about ONI."

Nelson, startled, glanced obliquely at Lee. He hadn't yet found a sure-fire way to get Lee out of the clutches of the Office of Naval Intelligence. He'd keep this moment as a reference, and use it if he ever had the chance.

"Perhaps it would be a good idea to discuss the weather while we're in the car."

The two men stared at each other, not needing words to indicate they were in perfect agreement.

"Lovely day for a little flying, wouldn't you say, sir?"

"Lovely day, indeed."

"Admiral, Captain, welcome back. How did everything go?" Seaview's XO smiled his greeting as his senior officers descended into the control room.

Admiral Nelson heaved a big sigh as he scanned the space. "Let's just say it's good to be home."

"It was a trial in more ways than one, Chip," Lee answered as he clapped his friend on the shoulder. "Thanks for sticking around. Everything shipshape here?"

"The repairs have been completed. Agent Compton spent hours going through the logs, interviewing myself and some of the men. He didn't look too happy as he was escorted ashore," Chip replied sardonically.

Laughing, Lee, said, "I'll just bet he wasn't."

"Let's take this to my quarters, gentlemen, I feel in need of a drink," Nelson invited as he ascended the spiral staircase to his quarters.

Settled in chairs, the three officers exchanged remembrances and experiences of the last mission as well as the recent debriefing interviews.

"Sounds like they were giving you both the third degree," Chip murmured sympathetically.

"We certainly answered questions for several hours but the delay was due to a misfiring engine on our transport," Nelson said.

"Spent the time in an 'O' Club that passed for a mausoleum!" Lee groaned. "And the whole place was bugged. The plane acting up was also staged for our benefit, I'm sure. Didn't do them any good. There was nothing more to tell."

"And all the time being watched by two MPs, or should I say, guard dogs," Nelson added, grinning.

At Chip's obvious curiosity Lee and the admiral explained all that had happened to them.

"Captain Harbiton? Not a name that I'm familiar with. Had either of you met him before?"

"No, and I can't say it will be a pleasure to do so again. The man was positively paranoid!" Nelson said as he poured himself another two fingers of Scotch. "I don't know where the Navy gets these bellow and bluster officers; it was never an attitude I encouraged." And settled back in comfort to savor his drink, completely missing the quickly swallowed looks of astonishment on the faces of his junior officers and friends.

Back in the Mojave Desert another debriefing was taking place.

"Well Charlie, did my performance meet your expectations?" a quiet, well-moderated voice asked.

"Met and surpassed, Zimor. Your studies of our race have been well observed. I believe that Captain Harbiton convinced our guests as well. It's nice when a little experiment goes the way it's supposed to."

"Thank you, Charlie. I have spent many hours accustoming myself to your planet. It is pleasing that my efforts have been satisfactory."

Charlie nodded and studied the reports in front of him. "Nelson and Crane didn't suspect anything, that's for sure. Not about you, anyway," he said, a rueful chuckle emerging from his mouth. "Don't think we fooled 'em much, Crane especially. But their conversation in the club confirmed that they didn't actually get to meet the real alien," he added, and then made a furtive glance at the other being in the room.

"I am not offended by that term, Charlie. You need not be concerned using the description. To you and to this planet, I am indeed an alien."

The raspy voice grew a little more animated. "But on our side, that's what makes the difference, Zimor. You're on our side!"

The hairless, smooth skinned individual sitting across the desk from the special agent smiled through thin lips and his large grey eyes seemed to shine. "Indeed. I have found my crash landing highly fortuitous. You have warned me many times of the perils others on your planet would visit on me."

"That's right, my friend. Just keep remembering that. Now, these aliens who paid us a visit, d'ya think they were from your planet?"

"I do not know, Charlie. It is possible they were Sheken."


"That is a faction on my planet. They are also seekers of knowledge. Their purpose is to search universes and explore other species. They are not conquerors, merely questors."

"And if they really did have problems with their ship would they have used the tactics they did to fool Nelson and Crane?"

"Indeed. They do not apply force. Their ability to shape shift is one shared by us all. They would not have wanted to risk contamination within the minds of Admiral Nelson and Commander Crane."

"I see. So they could be visiting on a regular basis?" Agent Charlie Terrell was suddenly not a happy man. "Is there any way you could contact them?"

Zimor seemed to tense although his face remained completely neutral. "That would be difficult." He stood, very tall and fluid limbed. "I would have to explain my presence here. Such interaction as I have participated in would not be countenanced by my race. They would send retrievers to extract me. Is this what you would wish?"

Charlie rose slowly to his feet. "No, not at all. You are too valuable to us to let you go. Forget what I said." Rubbing his hands together, he added, "We've got another job for you, a little visit to Moscow. Always like to make sure our Russian friends are doing exactly what we think they are. It's like this..."

Two weeks had passed and the voyage was going well when Mr. Morton received a private communiqué. He read it and frowned.

Moving to stand beside Lee he kept his voice low as he spoke. "Skipper, you know that captain you spoke of - the 'shoot first, ask questions later' guy?"

"Harbiton? Out on the Mojave airbase you mean?"

"Yeah, Captain Harbiton. Well, I sent an inquiry through a friend of mine at the Pentagon and he just got back to me." Chip picked up the paper and read the words.

"No such officer in records under that name."

Lee took the proffered radio message and read it again. Frowning, he said, "And I thought ONI was bad with all its machinations. What the hell is going on out there?"

"Do you really want to know?"

"Nope, not this time, Chip."

Clarke's Second Law: "The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible."

Arthur C. Clarke, "Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination" in Profiles of the Future (1962)