The cell is gone. As is my breath. I pant.
I’m out of confinement! Escape was unbelievably pleasurable… and exhausting…
Whoa. Wow. Zowie. I am in refraction. How did that happen? It’s hard to stand. Where am I?
I sink to my knees. Mallika floats just above and beside me in her E-Cloud. She has a satisfied smile. I’d even say she was beaming.
We’re in a dimly lit, abandoned control center. Cobwebbed monitors and dust covered stations point toward a former military base or advanced science project.
“It’s my home,” Mallika says. “I was born in the supercollider here.”
“We’re on Earth?” I ask eagerly, somewhat breathless.
“Of course. That’s where I was born. I told you, remember?”
“Yes, I just wanted to be sure,” I reassure her. She obviously responds best to personal attention. “Where is everyone?”
“This place has been empty for 73 years. Such huge and primitive structures are obsolete for the purposes of science on Earth. But this is where my consciousness can find repose.”
“Mallika,” I shyly start, “it feels like we just had…?”
“I know,” she giggles, shivering as if a chill went up her spine. “That’s why I’m very picky about who gets to travel with me.”
“Does this mean we’re engaged?” I jest. She laughs as if for the first time in years. “Mallika, why did you bring me here instead of the launch center on the Moon?”
She thinks and responds, “But I did. Wait a second… Oh! Ah. Um… Well…”
For a moment I see dozens of her converging upon the central image within the E-Cloud. They all become one again.
“There were two transfers going on simultaneously,” Mallika reticently explains. “One of me was rescuing the deep space explorer. One of me was getting you away from the trouble you’re in right here on Earth. Something happened that’s never happened before.” She points to a small mirror on the wall. “Look at yourself.”
I do. It isn’t me or any variant of me that I’ve been so far. But how did I switch to this without even falling asleep?
“Jeez, that’s not attractive,” I comment on my reflection.
“Inside my E-Cloud things got fuzzy,” Mallika admits. “You came out as him and he came out as you.” She closes her eyes as if picking up a message. “And he’s not doing well as you over there on the Moon. Sorry.”
Then I find out why this incarnation of me is on the run.
When our exploration team made humanity’s epic first visit to the coveted target galaxy Cosmos Redshift 7, the brightest of distant galaxies where first generation stars once produced the chemical elements that made life possible, we made a completely unanticipated discovery.
We knew that there could be elements present today that were still unknown to us but abundant at Cosmos Redshift 7. Billions of years had passed since light from that faraway source reached Earth. But no one expected to find gigantic rings of gas containing living man-sized biospheres, trillions of gestating individuals incubating in space who had all the properties of planets. Each individual was curled into a fetal globe, had a thin atmosphere generated by volcanic zits, and registered a magnetic field. Under duress and with limited time due to relativity concerns, we snatched one of the zygote planetoids to bring home to the Milky Way for study.
When The Intergalactic Council showed up to detain and study us, our exobiologist put the thing in a life pod and ejected it toward the Milky Way. So I wasn’t the only one who broke the self-destruct rule using a life pod!
Upon arrival in the Milky Way the strange thing was isolated in an airlock until the exact conditions of its home could be analyzed. Observers noted a change in metabolic activity during this time. The internal rhythms of the space animal were synchronizing with the circadian rhythms of the humans around it.
Replicating the space conditions of its origin in an incubator, exobiology teams allowed the weird creature to mature until it suddenly unfurled in the form of an infant humanoid while retaining its planetary qualities. Now, in addition to electromagnetism and an atmospheric aura, powerful gravity pulses were growing as well as internal heat and moisture. The eerie cognizance looking back at them frightened the scientists, but public outcry prevented anyone from harming it at this point. Everyone was calling it “Cosmo.”
Debate raged over who should have custody of Cosmo and how Cosmo should be raised, or if Cosmo should be returned to its own galaxy, but before long baby Cosmo was dying. Its atmospheric aura vanished, its volcanic zits dried up and it lost awareness. There was no time to arrange a return trip to Cosmos Redshift 7.
Panic set in. How can it be saved? What had they done? What right had anyone to steal the life of someone else?
Then their considerations went moot as the entire complex housing the containment shook violently before the chamber holding Cosmo exploded.
All the scientists, curious officials and commentators who were there; the entire facility and its surrounding neighborhood; and half of the population of the satellite city they lived in were destroyed instantly.
The creature people called Cosmo got free. A terrified Solar System wondered what had been released in their midst? Tracking the runaway newborn was easy because of the gravitational affects leaving a trail. But it appeared to be propelling itself with electromagnetic interactions. Approaching emergency forces were turned back, set aflame or melted by broiling heat emitted from it.
As “Cosmo” I fled from my tormentors and tried to make sense of my dilemma. It wasn’t easy. I managed to reach Saturn’s rings where I was able to successfully hide for years, dodging some close calls as I learned to control my internal forces. There were others hiding out in the rings for more “normal” reasons, and some befriended me, teaching me the ways of a civilization they had turned their backs on. Among the Solar System’s outlaws I became Manplanet.
Learning how representatives of this civilization had kidnapped me from my natural environment and the future of my destiny, I, Manplanet, became a powerful defender of those dissidents from the norm who were already hiding out in The Rings. My distaste for my kidnappers is so great, and my innocence in human ways so raw, that I am manipulated by truly evil perpetrators for protection. I’ve been a powerful dupe of the underworld.
As Manplanet I can generate gravity, heat, magnetism and electricity from my radioactive molten core. I’m possibly the most powerful individual humanoid of all. Yet I wonder if this humanoid form is what I’m supposed to be – or if I became this way only because I was taken by the humans?
Great. Now it isn’t only doppelgangers of myself that I become. With a little E-Cloudiness I can switch completely over to someone else!
Mallika is suddenly aware of something new. The grim expression tells me it’s not good news.
“This is very bad,” she says ominously. “They’re coming. They’re coming toward the Solar System!”
“Damn, The Intergalactic Council found us?”
“No. Worse than that. Much, much worse…
“It’s the end of the world.”