In The Blink Of An Eye

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The last thing Professor Ludwig von Bruenstein remembered before the lab explosion was that a green fog was escaping from a containment capsule. There was a sickening sweet taste as he inhaled it, before passing out.

A Month Before The Explosion.

Ludwig was having a beer with two of his colleagues at a bar in the small town of Judas Corners. It was located near the laboratory, about two miles away, and was called The Happy Traveler.

It wasn’t a particularly large laboratory. Only 22 people worked there. It was a top-secret facility and was heavily guarded with an electric gate perimeter, and roving guards 24-hours a day, seven days a week. Because it was a top-secret compound, no one in government, with the exception of the president and two cabinet members, even knew about it.

The highly vetted staff agreed to literally give up their private lives and to live at the facility until it was time to shut down the program. After two years, those dedicated scientists were only halfway towards their goals.

The ultimate goals were harnessing time travel, and traveling between dimensions not yet discovered in the universe. The staff agreed not to ask how the knowledge was going to be used. For the good of man, or to help destroy lives with military applications. They all felt the magnetic urge to conquer time and space and were willing to set aside their conscience in its pursuit.

Ludwig raised a frosty mug of beer up high and toasted his friend’s birthday.

“Harold has hit 60,” he said, “and is still as ugly as ever!” 

The three friends gulped down their beer amid laughter.

“Hey! Maybe someday Harold will be able to go to the future and get a new face!” Blake roared, beer dribbling down his long beard and onto the table.

They’d been drinking for hours and were pretty toasty when they finally had to leave when the bar closed. They stumbled out into the street towards a black SUV parked nearby. Someone clicked an electronic key tab. The lights came on and the doors automatically opened. The engine started as they climbed in. The doors closed and they all three sat back and relaxed as the driverless vehicle took them back to the laboratory.

The First Sign Something was Wrong.

Ludwig and another scientist were studying a row of monitors when one of them showed a room where one of their colleagues, Harold, was working on opening a capsule retrieved by the US Space Force on a distant planet. He suddenly stood up when a green gas emitted from the capsule, filling the room instantly. They lost sight of him but heard a startled voice cry out “What the hell?”

Moving fast, Ludwig sealed the room off and turned on a duct vacuum system that sucked all of the green gaseous substance into another capsule and into another room for safe storage. When the gas was gone, so was their colleague! There wasn’t a trace of Harold left. Ludwig called the team’s supervisor Dean on the intercom. He, and the other man in the room, Blake, were told not to talk with anyone and to stay where they were.

The laboratory was built with numerous innovative safety features which included hermetically sealed rooms. Even the hallways were sectioned off into sealed sections. It was impossible to get into any area without proper identification. Only the supervisor had total access of the compound. Everyone else had assigned areas with limited access.

As Blake and Ludwig discussed what they saw on the monitor a door opened and the supervisor walked in, followed closely by two other staff members.

“I’m still doing a head count. Can you tell me who was working on the capsule?” Dean asked as he approached the control panel.

“It was Harold,” Ludwig replied.

“You said a green gaseous substance filled the room. Anything more about it I should know?” Dean queried them.

“It was a luminescent green and sparkled like bursts of electricity were going through it,” Blake said.

“And you said that you transferred this gaseous substance to a storage room?” Dean asked Ludwig.

“Yes. Number Three on the north side of this compound,” Ludwig assured him.

“What do you think we’re dealing with?” Blake asked Dean. “A life form? A portal to another dimension?”

“Both are good guesses. I wish this wouldn’t have happened. You know we can’t tell the rest of the staff about what happened here. Just the five of us know right now. Let’s keep it that way until we know what we’re dealing with.” 

Two weeks later.

Ludwig and Blake were swilling down copious amounts of beer and recalling good times before Harold disappeared. Ludwig was proposing another toast to their lost friend when he suddenly appeared next to them!

“I can’t blink...” Harold said before disappearing again.

Even in their inebriated state they knew he wasn’t a ghost. He was obviously being caught up in a dimensional dilemma that he had no control over. They looked at each other and went back to drinking in earnest. As usual, they closed the bar. On the way back they decided to tell Dean what they’d seen.

After telling their story to him they went to their sleeping pods and passed out.

Ludwig awoke abruptly when someone pulled on his leg!

“What the…?” Then he saw Harold standing there. His normally smiling face was angry and his eyes blazed with fury!

“We have to free the Szani and send them back to Aoqil!” He cried.

“Who are the Szani?” a terrified Ludwig managed to ask as he crawled out of his pod.

“Locked up in storage room three,” Harold said, gritting his teeth in an effort not to blink. “Damn!” he cried out, and disappeared again.

So there it was. The green cloud was an alien life form. Maybe numerous life forms. And they were being held captive. Did Dean know this? Ludwig pondered all the possibilities as he slipped his shoes on. He felt conflicted. He had no moral ground to stand on when it came the ethics of what was happening. In essence, holding other life forms hostage. He was excited about time travel and researching other dimensions, but this was another animal…literally.

Should he free the Szani? Did they have the key to dimensional travel? He had trouble trying to decide where his loyalties lay.

As Ludwig struggled with indecision Dean watched him on a monitor. He saw everything. Turning to his two guards/staff members he gave them instructions to take Ludwig to storage room number three and lock him in. It didn’t take long. He watched them overpower Ludwig. They laid him down on the floor near the capsule and left. Minutes later he regained consciousness and sat up and looked around. He stood just in time for the explosion that sent him careening across the room! The capsule had a long crease in it’s side and green gas was pouring out and filling the room! He could taste a cloying sweetness before passing out.

Harold was there when he woke up. They were somewhere else. He saw purple and gold hills and fields of foreign-looking plants.

“It’s not easy, but don’t blink,” Harold told him. “After awhile you’ll get use to it. In time, they tell me, that you can even control where you go when you do blink. Right now, welcome to Aoqil!”

As It Stands, first encounters with aliens are bound to be a messy process.