Back in his quarters, Chuck Marley sat down and introduced Gaston Dimble and the Zorgon. The cleaning droid had attempted to tidy his room again. Pickle stains from the Betelgeuse Burgers remained, as did a couple of potato chips.
“Do you have a name?” Marley asked the Zorgon.
“No. On Zorge only the Guardian has a name. The rest of us know each other by rubbing our skin together.” My name is … the Zorgon approached Marley and rubbed his cheek on his chest.
Marley withdrew. “That won’t do here. As you’re one of the few Zorgons on Crete, I’ll call you Zorg.”
“No. The weight of that name brings too much responsibility. I would like to be called: ‘Zorgeous’.” As he said this, Marley noticed the little aperture in the centre of the alien forehead widen ever so slightly.
“Alright gorgeous Zorgeous, listen carefully. Gaston Dimble and I are going into business.”
Dimble looked sceptically at Marley.
Marley walked to the other end of the condo. “The pay is low, but could be competitive. If you put your antlers to use we may have places in need of holes.”
The Zorgon looked up at his antlers, although he couldn’t see them.
Dimble was inspired by Marley’s uncharacteristic leadership. “When you were away I scanned the multiweb for spare parts. There’s plenty of stuff at the salvage yards in Laudanum, west of Reticulum. You can find everything from microwaves to plasma shields, even refurbished engines.”
“Gaston, we’re not going to build that rocket.” He scratched his chin. “But we’ll have a look anyway.” The cleaning droid bumped against Marley’s leg, then scurried away to a recharge socket.
“I also scanned the Da Vinci diagrams.” Dimble entered a passcode into the wall panel and a recreation of the documents appeared in mid-air in front of them.
“This is too weird. What are these things?”
“I’ve done some cataloguing.”
Marley sat down on his bed while Dimble described the strange devices in the manuscript. His eyes started drooping, and he lay back on his bed.
One Cretan hour later, Marley leaned up on his shoulder. He must have been dozing. Dimble was still talking. He had pulled out a laser stylus and its beam interacted with the field of the holographic diagram. Zorgeous stood next to him nodding his antlers. “This is a parachute, we could use it as a solar sail, or a brake.”
Zorgeous nodded obediently.
“This, I’m pretty sure now, is a spaceship. See how the wings may be adjusted with these levers. See the aerodynamic vectors indicating airflow. And over here: I initially thought this was a diving suit, but on closer inspection, it’s a spacesuit.”
Marley was mildly impressed. Dimble didn’t just know history, he knew the history of science. He was about to interrupt the lecture when an A minor scale chimed about the room. It was his doorbell. He lifted himself off the bed and dragged himself to the door.
The display revealed a man in his early 30s with spiky hair and a few premature grey streaks. His dark eyes radiated the energy of excess caffeine consumption. It was Insomniac Fluton. He leaned close to the camera as if someone had called his name.
It was obvious Fluton was here to show-off his app, or maybe he had invented a new app.
Marley would run into him again eventually, so he may as well get the lowdown now rather than when he was on his way to something important. He pressed the alien-head sticker he had placed on the entry button. The door slid silently aside and Insomniac Fluton stood there before him, holding his flablet with both hands.
“Chuck Marley, I’m glad you’re awake.” Fluton always said this regardless of what time of day it was. “Look at this,” he shoved the flablet in Marley’s face and a red glow enveloped it. “I have improved FaceMash.”
Marley watched as the app cycled through historical figures he was supposed to resemble. There was no Pope Urban. This was an improvement. A couple of aliens also appeared in the mix – a Nunchian and a male Octomaid. Marley didn’t mind being matched to an attractive Nunchian. But comparing him to a tentacled species meant Fluton still had some work to do.
Fluton sensed Marley’s discomfort. He said unconvincingly, “That’s a joke. You don’t look like an Octomaid.” He craned his head. “Professor Dimble, good to see you!”
“Associate Professor,” Dimble corrected.
“You’ll be full in no time.”
Dimble rubbed his stomach. “I already am.”
Marley shook his head and rolled his eyes.
Insomniac Fluton took this as an invitation to enter. His eyes fixed on Gaston’s presentation, then on Zorgeous the Zorgon. He approached warily as if he’d never seen a Zorgon, which as a matter of fact he hadn’t. He pointed the camera of his flablet towards Zorgeous and performed a scan.
“Strange,” said Fluton, “FaceMash gives no results.”
Zorgeous looked at it without reacting.
“Even stranger,” Fluton shook his flablet. “Out of memory. I installed an extra terabyte of ram the other day.”
“Perhaps it’s an inefficiency in the code,” Marley suggested.
Fluton emitted a grunt that turned into a sigh. “Perhaps you’re right. But what do we have here?”
“This…” said Marley and Dimble at the same time.
Marley completed the sentence, “Is a silly idea.” He started to usher Fluton back to the door.
Fluton scanned a bearded head on the current page of the manuscript. His flablet lit up like a poker machine displaying the jackpot. “Leonardo Da Vinci!” Fluton emphasised the ‘Da’. “I knew it wasn’t out of memory. I know this guy, not personally of course, but I matched someone to him the other day.”
“Yourself?” said Marley.
“Haha,” laughed Fluton. “I wish. Professor Milton Moszkowski, in fact, your old engineering teacher.”
Marley suddenly felt sadder than usual. He had let Professor Moszkowski down after he given him so many chances, three in fact.
Fluton pretended to lean on a non-existent pole. “Moszkowski said this Da Vinci guy was ahead of his time. Said if he hadn’t wasted all that time painting he could have contributed as much to science as that other guy Newton.”
“Newton.” Dimble whispered the name reverentially.
“What is this anyway?” Fluton pointed at the Zorgon.
Zorgeous stepped forward. “This,” he said pointing at himself, “Is me. I am a Zorgon. The only one on Crete.”
Fluton spoke into his flablet. “What is a Zorgon?”
His flablet replied, “Zorgons originate on Zorge in the Pavlovian system. They are a non-technological civilisation discovered by humanity in 2670-”
“We weren’t discovered,” said Zorgeous. “We were already there.”
The flablet was oblivious to Zorgeous’s version of history.
“The Zorgons were observed for one hundred and fifty years in accordance with the League of World’s First Contact Protocols, prohibiting interaction with non-technological civilisations. In light of recent developments, the League of Worlds has amended the protocol specifically for Zorge.”
Marley stood next to Zorgeous. “This is our friend. I didn’t know you were so rare. You speak Standard Galactic Standard very well.”
At the same time the A minor scale of Marley’s door-chime sounded again.
Marley threaded his way through Dimble, Zorgeous and Fluton towards the door.
To be continued