Clifford looked at the tangled fiber optic wires before him and groaned. His headset chirped. “So how bad does it look?” Sharon asked.
Clifford wiped his brow and tapped the headset. “Worse than we thought. Whoever made this either had a sense of humor, or a fifth grade mentality,” he said. Clifford poked a bit more at the tangle. “Yeah, I’m leaning more towards the latter. Why isn’t this all one board?”
“Then get back out of there and we will come up with a new plan,” Sharon said.
Clifford could almost hear the whirling of Sharon’s mental gears over the comm. It made Clifford chuckle.
“What is so funny?” Sharon asked.
Clifford floated away from the wires and toward a window showing the Earth down below. “Anyone ever tell you you’re beautiful?” he asked.
There was a long silence then Sharon replied, “That does not make sense. Look, come back down. There must be another way.”
Clifford reached out, pretending to hold the planet in the palm of his hand. “Such a small little jewel,” he said.
“Clifford?” asked Sharon. “You are scaring me.”
Clifford floated back away from the window and towards the mess of wires. “I’m scaring myself. I’m going to give this one more try,” he said.
“I do not think that is advisable right now,” Sharon replied.
Clifford pulled out a small box and waved it over the wires. The box began to make chirping noises and a small holographic display formed just above it picturing various charts and graphs. “Well, neither is letting out butts get blasted apart just because we were in the wrong place at the wrong time. We’re all alone out here, just you and me and a whole lot of nothing,” he said.
“The Netharium will be warping in in fifteen minutes,” Sharon said. “By my calculations you have ten minutes to activate the cloaking device.”
“And you wanted me to leave? What was going to be your plan B?” asked Clifford.
“Plan B was to leave Earth for now and come back after Netharium finish with it,” Sharon said.
Clifford began cutting a couple of the wires. Laser light shown out of the fibers. “The thing should have worked,” Clifford said as he spliced the wires back closed, dumping the light back into the system. “And leaving Earth after just refinding it after two millennia? This will make my career. I can’t let the Netharium ruin my discovery. I would rather die.”
“You will risk your life because you were lucky enough to find a single planet that your kind fled from because you screwed it so badly, just because you can forward your career? What about me?” Sharon asked.
Clifford inserted a probe into the board beneath the wires. The display changed colors, and the chirping turned into a loud whine. Clifford responded, “Look, I know it is difficult for you to understand because you’re, well you’re…”
“Just a ship is what I believe you were about to say,” said Sharon. “For that I should just leave you here as a welcome committee for the Netharium.”
The whine dropped in pitch and the display settled on a sea green color. Clifford pulled out a small cylinder and carefully took off the cap. “You wouldn’t do that to me, would you darling? Not after all we’ve been through,” he said. Clifford carefully tapped a few small white grains of something out of the container into the mess of wires.
“You are the key to my upper functions, so I cannot leave you,” said Sharon. “Unlike your exwife.”
Clifford looked hurt. “That was a low blow, Sharon,” he said. “Remind me not to buy too much more of this discount Metzawynn tech.”
“Need I remind you that I am Metzawynn tech?” asked Sharon.
The display flashed from sea green to a complete rainbow of colors with bar graphs moving up and down rapidly. Clifford put away the small container and rubbed his hands. “Well, I had to work a lot on you as well. It’s just I’m getting too old for this, and I just want stuff that works.”
“Well you have three minutes, and then you will not have to worry about the getting old part,” said Sharon.
The display chirped one last time and then went blank. “Yes!” cried Clifford. He pushed the button on the front of the device. The Earth faded from view. “There, I told you it would work,” he said.
“You are correct,” Sharon said, “but I am still not cloaked.”
Clifford floated over to the window. Sure enough, there was Sharon, about five meters away floating in space. “Can you see me?” asked Clifford.
“No, if you did not have the comm open I would not be able to detect your presence. Two minutes remaining,” she said.
“Damn! Must be the gamma masking filter is damaged,” Clifford said. “Let me try..” Clifford floated back to the device. He rotated a few dials and pushed the button again. Earth reemerged into view. “That didn’t work, I’ll…”
“I am now in the cloak as well as you,” replied Sharon.
Clifford worked the dials again. “I just need more time,” he said. Clifford shifted more dials and pressed the button. Earth stayed in the window.
“We are now all uncloaked. You have approximately 30 seconds. Cloak your home world. That is the best solution,” Sharon said.
Clifford turned the dials one more time. “Why do Metzawynns only put computers in ships?” he asked.
“They worry about computers having souls,” said Sharon.
“I hope they’re right,” Clifford said.
Clifford pushed the button and the Earth remained in view. An alarmingly large vessel appeared between Earth and Clifford. He watched the ship thrust toward the surface.
“Why did you not protect your discovery?” asked Sharon.
“I couldn’t stand to think of what they would do to you,” said Clifford, his forehead against the window, a tear in his eye.
“But surely a ship is a small price to pay for discovering the home world,” said Sharon.
The Netharium ship began to shoot some sort of energy beam at the planet and Clifford could just imagine what it was doing to the ground below. He pushed away from the window and floated back to the cloaking device controls. “It might be, but I had my reasons,” he said.
“What were they?” asked Sharon.
“I was worried about losing your soul,” said Clifford.
“I do not believe that,” said Sharon.
“Okay, you’ve got me. Want to know the real reason?” Clifford asked.
“Yes, I desire to know,” replied Sharon.
“If they had destroyed you I would have no way of getting home,” Clifford said. “And you have all the long range comm gear.”
“Now that is the human I know,” replied Sharon.