From the depths of the cold barren void came Silverbird; a speck of light amid the darkness. He had slept for an aeon, but now in the warmth of the newly found solar breeze his mind slowly became aware.
He opened his giant collector wings stretching them to their limits, then in his own way, he yawned. The sudden photon saturation sent a tingle down the full length of his body, exciting his aching joints and bringing new life to his inboard neuro-trionics.
His first actions did not concern his mission, there would be plenty of time for that later, after he had soaked up as much free energy as his photonic and protion field absorbers would hold. Now was the time to enjoy the richness of this sky field. He rolled upon his back, watching the vivid star streams of Galactica shift from beneath him, to high above his pellicle sensor outlet. It seemed so easy to roll vast star systems around the universe. He smiled to himself inwardly, not only at his illusionary feat, but at the wind of many frequencies, whispering gently past his ears and the softly coloured light, which entered his hyperoid eyes. Oh, it was good to be alive.
Before him riding on the vortex of heaven was a small yellow disc. He recognised it immediately as the star of his destination, a second-generation bio-sun; the source of his new found energy. How wonderful, he thought, that such a tiny part of creation could give so much joy.
His anti-gravity generator he carefully turned down, with the 'accelerator' minimised he could again experience mass, and acceleration; no longer was he inertialess. Though the drag of a near vacuum was small he could still sense himself falling.
The little yellow lamplight grew steadily in luminosity until Silverbird decided it was time to brake and turn into a falling spiral around the energy fields pleasure centre. This was a simple task, which his uni-conscious could handle effortlessly.
His retro's swung through one-sixty degrees upon his belly and his interchange submersion unit, an integral part of his anti-gravity generator, was activated. He then closed his ears and lower eyes to all emanations. A quick systems check proved all his faculties to be in order, all that remained was to re-fold his wings and give the command signal for ignition.
A tremendous roar ripped through the framework of Silverbird as his speed reduced dramatically. The small yellow disc stayed its growth and veered toward the outer edge of the enclon arm spiral.
The inertia of decelerating from nine eighty standards down to one, left Silverbird feeling rather giddy, despite the standard settings of ninety seven percent on the submersion units, but he knew it would pass quickly. It wasn't the first time he had experienced such a 'T' force and he hoped it wouldn't be the last.
An 'A' type ringworld appeared on his detectors. They informed him immediately, knowing how much he enjoyed such sights, even though he would pass by swiftly.
Silverbird thanked the detector-decoder-basers and again opened his wings, ears and lower eyes. He wanted to feel all of the vibrations of this glorious gas giant with its elaborate ring system, recording all the sensations for later analysis.
The flypast lasted only moments, but the sights were not missed. A slight course deviation had taken him across the ring-plane adding more pleasurable variation to his already heightened sensors. There were many cold moons abroad in this mini-system yet he knew the heat of gravitational drag would make them both weird and wonderful. He made a note in his jogger log to return if possible.
"Closing in on bio-world three," came the detector's voice. "Suggest an easing of speed to point zero two standards."
Again Silverbird thanked the detectors, though he guessed they didn't really appreciate this courtesy; they would merely take his words as an acknowledgement.
"You have previous soundings of the bio-worlds on data feedback," continued the detectors. "If you would care to latch on to the appropriate pointsenders." The basers always referred to Silverbird's uni-conscious as 'you' for their own reasons.
"Very good, I shall re-run the sounding for bio-world three."
Before losing himself in the data feedback section, Silverbird had a word with his auto-comp-basers. He, Silverbird, his conscious that is, wouldn't have time to steer himself while experiencing the re-run. "Drop my speed to that suggested, and wind my way into orbit. I want to have a close look at what is down there."
"As you wish," replied the auto-comps.
Silverbird tried to find the original dating of the soundings but had no luck. The only reference he could find was an archaic logger module, which gave the impression that the soundings were made around the time naught blob. Never mind, he thought, let's get on with the show.
The viewpoint for the recording came from the visionary of some ancient vessel, but despite that it was still in reasonable condition. There was also an internal sound recording, which increased Silverbird's interest considerably. He relaxed and slid into the space of yestertime, which came to him as if it was the present.
"Double zero one boost confirmed, altitude decreasing."
"Forward shield up, this is going to be a hot one."
The shield flared brilliantly as the vessel began its descent. The recording visionary, for a time, became blinded by the brilliance.
"Four jiffs to bounce, brace yourselves.........."
"Ugh, didn't like that, isn't there a better way?"
"We haven't got the thrust juice to spare on a controlled descent; what did you expect?"
"What I got I suppose."
"Altitude four five zero three, speed five zeros and a two, coming under powered flight."
The visionary cleared, revealing a rocky terrain, but a meandering river could be seen, surrounded by primitive vegetation and the occasional woodland.
On the forward horizon the familiar plume of an erupting volcano could be viewed spreading its obnoxious dust and fumes across the landscape.
"Do you think the place is habitable?"
"Wouldn't like to say for sure. I have an O.K. reading on the atmosphere content, but it certainly looks hostile down there."
"That's fair comment. I think we should investigate more closely."
"Your wish is my command."
The viewpoint dropped steadily toward the ground, until the vegetation could clearly be seen. It was sparser than at first thought, but the richness of colour made the place seem more appealing.
"Any sign of animal life?"
"No, the sensors show a blank and I certainly can't see anything."
The terrain changed suddenly from rock to water, a large lake it seemed, one of the few gathering points of water, on an otherwise liquidless land. The volcano ahead began to grow larger, looming high above its surrounding rockworld.
"Two degrees port."
"Two degrees port confirmed."
The hollow mountain drifted by.
A plain now lay before them, followed by crater after crater after crater.
"I think we are in the wrong place at the wrong time."
"I couldn't agree with you more. We have all the information we require for the three biological worlds. Let's head for home."
"You don't mind if we hit the hybo-tanks before we go stellar outriding?"
"Not at all."
Sky only appeared before the craft, a deep, deep blue. With an ear splitting whine the booster pods burst into life, and the picture went blank.
Silverbird mused to himself for a while. His mind smiling at what he had just experienced. It wasn't hard to see where he had inherited the old flaws in his speech and this amused him. It was always an experience to hear the 'bios' in action, though the ones in this sounding were very different to those of the present, evolution had seen to that. In his own lifetime, which had spanned many ages, he had seen much change; he often wondered how they coped with their little lifespans and endless diversities.
"Ready for descent," stated the auto-comps.
"Hold a while," replied Silverbird. "Let me have a quick look first." He closed his upper eyes, so that he could concentrate on the world below. What he saw was not at all pleasing. The world was dead, little atmosphere and even less moisture. Enormous red deserts covered the land and impact basins were abundant.
He asked the detectors for a second opinion and they confirmed what he already thought.
"Bio Two," said the auto-computers, "the third innermost planet?"
"Ride on," he didn't really mean to say it that way.
Boris Rigapolski was worn out after a heavy day of canvassing for the ninety-nine elections. He couldn't quite understand the need for democracy.
Huddling inside his cumbersome leather overcoat he surveyed the Moscow scenery. It looked bleak with its thin covering of snow and heavy March skies. He would be glad to get home and have a warm bath.
Boris absent-mindedly wiped a bloodstain from his coat as he trundled down one of the many back streets, which led to his residence. Not much further, he thought, just another ten minutes, then a nice glass of warming vodka.
His two helpers followed closely behind. All junior members of the Bureau had escorts, especially the junior member for defence. It annoyed Boris intensely that such a high ranking official should have to take to the streets, 'for the cause', as it was so admirably put. His helpers didn't seem to mind street walking too much, for they were members of the D.K.G.B., the D being for democratic. They were hardened to this type of work, in fact it could be said that at times they relished it. Not until they reached Boris's home would they finally part company. This was standard procedure, just in case the locals didn't think a great deal to the way Boris conducted his free and easy campaign.
At 4p.m. he arrived at his doorstep; he wafted his helpers away and reached into his pocket for his two keys to unlock the door. This always proved to be an annoyance. The difficulty of handling keys with frozen hands was immense. I will have to get a sentry, he thought, it would be much simpler.
Once inside the door, he called for his wife, a small slender woman, with a quaint, pretty face; a complete contrast to the brusque Boris. He often wondered why he had ever married her; she wasn't his type at all. Why hadn't he married someone with a bit more to get hold of, stronger thighs, someone with a stronger personality that could hold her own in a good conversation? It must have been the insanity of youth, he concluded, that had led him astray.
It wasn't Olga who greeted him on his entry but his little pet Doberman Pincers. They snarled lovingly at the scent of blood on his person.
"Down Hans, down Fritz," he said warmly, "your dinner will come soon enough."
Olga stood in the opening to their modest sized lounge, her soft hair hanging gently upon her shoulders, with just a wisp upon her brow, even her drab clothes couldn't hide her gentle charms. "Welcome, good husband. I hope your day was not too hectic."
"Of course it was," he snapped, "have you boiled the water for my bath and warmed my vodka?"
"Yes, my darling, all is prepared."
Boris threw off his clothes and settled down in the tub, in front of his thirty-centimetre black and white television. Only this sort of luxury was provided for Bureau members and Boris knew this well.
"VODKA!" he yelled.
Olga hurried to his side with his drink.
"Television," he commanded, "put it on the government channel."
"But both channels are government ones," Olga whimpered meekly.
"I know that," he scorned, "you know I always watch the news on D.K.G.B.B.C."
"I apologise for my ignorance," she uttered. "I will see that I am not so stupid in future."
Olga turned the set on and waited for the tubes to warm up before switching to the correct channel. She then retired to the room corner to hold the antenna.
"Be gone," rasped Boris, "the picture is satisfactory without you standing there." He then settled down comfortably, sipping vodka and blowing bubbles, until..........
General Fitspatrick Holding, head of the Deep West Retaliatory Command, sat in his long johns, looking bored at his thirty-inch tri-hi-fi sensorvision tv screen. He normally sat this way because he found it much more comfortable.
The commercials had just been interrupted by the 8a.m. movie, but now they were back on again.
"....How are you today, Miss Finebody? You look very healthy and full of the joys of life."
"Yes, indeed I am, Mrs Bodice. Yesterday I felt depressed and unclean. I even thought of throwing myself out of the window, but then I discovered new 'Cheekrub', the moisturised toilet tissue. It changed my outlook on life completely. I feel a new woman...."
"Load of crap," grunted Holding. He flicked switch thirty-three on his remote handset and the screen went dead. He placed the handset on a large smoked glass coffee table, then reached for his deodorant. On clasping it, he raised himself up and walked over to the mirrored wall. A quick spray under each arm and he plonked it down on his desk, using his other hand to obtain a large Havana from a silver beaded box.
Well, that is another rigorous night at the office over with, he thought. Now to go home for a bit of relaxation - or I would be able to have some, if it was not for that old 'Foxbat' wife of mine. Perhaps I should fix her up with some spare-time work, the D.K.G.B. maybe. He grinned fiendishly as he lifted his shirt from the back of his desk chair. Now, that would be a good idea ... I wonder when Phil will come visiting. He's a fine boy, takes after his daddy.
The next few minutes he spent practising his 'John Wayne' walk in front of the mirror, saying such phrases as .... 'The hell I will' and 'Let's get the hell outa here'.
His telephone, the presidential one to be precise, which was having its usual quiet time, suddenly sprang to life. Must be the presidential office, he mused, recognising the 'Star Spangled Banner'.
After stubbing his unlit cigar in the ashtray, he made his way quickly down the mirrored wall, past his personal transceiver to his desk. He brushed the fluff from his shirt and smartened his collar, then lifted the phone to his ear. "Holding speaking."
"Hi there, Pat. I hope I haven't caught you with your pants down. Have you been watching T.V.?"
Holding looked down at his long johns and answered, "Well, yes Mr. President.... I did watch it for a while earlier, but I had seen all the ads before, so I decided to switch off."
"No, not the commercials, something more important."
More important than the commercials, he thought. Then listened more intently, his face slowly becoming awe-stricken.
The rest of his phones were now playing their various tunes impatiently, but he ignored them. Only one thought came into his mind as he looked down at his long johns and he muttered it out loud. "If this is truly a national emergency, I think I had better................."
Silverbird approached the blue bio-world with apprehension in his mind. He had run the ancient sounding of this place through his conscious, and now felt a little uncertain of what to expect.
Bio-two had been inhabited, even in those distant times, by a race who wield power, not by technology or muscle, but by their very thought. They were a powerful race, they who had taken the task of carving a civilisation from the wild and barren terrain, and the appearance of an alien craft made them less than happy.
They would not permit the landing of the reconnaissance vessel. "Depart now," they had said. "We shall not tolerate interference while the world is yet in infancy."
The crew did not contest this wish, realising the power which was abroad. They had come upon the creators before and knew they worked with forces, not of normal space but of a place where matter and energy were as one, the conjunction of darkness and light.
The total sum of data obtained, amounted to no more than the place name, which like many other worlds was Earth, and the name of those who bid them depart, which was Monitor, a modest name.
Silverbird mused long over this sounding and eventually decided that the Earth would no longer be the domain of the creators, for once other races came into being, the power of the Monitors would decline, leaving all living things to their own.
"On approach run, reversing thrust to orbit."
Silverbird's mind jogged back to the present with the sound of the auto-comps voice. "Have I decoded any of those communication channels from below yet?"
"Indeed you have," retorted the detectors, "but it was thought best not to channel the information to you as yet, because of the sheer quantity you have received and the difficulty in ascertaining what is relevant. Some of the channels could not be decoded, the pictures did not sync with the sound, often the pictures would break up into squares or freeze or repeat themselves, grainy movement. I think they call it digital TV. You have however detected no coherent beam directed especially for you, the inhabitants must not be aware of your approach."
"Could I have a quick briefing on what I have received?"
"Of course, but you will not like it, here goes ....The world which we approach is made up of over one hundred individual races, all with the same chemistry and all with different ideas. The abundant races hate the sparser races, but not as much as they hate each other. The sparser races hate each other about as much as they hate the more abundant races. Many of the abundant races possess atomics of varying degrees, enough to wipe themselves from the universe, several times over. On the domestic front it seems that all races have a certain amount of poverty, strife and lawlessness...."
"Alright, point taken." Silverbird cringed a little. "Do I have any information on any of the individual beings concerning their mental states?"
"Only on a certain Miss Finebody, but it is a mistake to base your overall assumptions on one person, especially this one. She seems very unstable."
Silverbird dwelt on the words of the detectors, then decided to by-pass this 'misbegotten island'. "What of the 'distant survey' on Bio-One?"
"I am afraid you cannot be sure from this range, but it seems the surface temperature is far too high to support life and the atmosphere is made up of a thick layer of poisonous clouds. If you wait a while its position will become more favourable for analysis, or, of course you could make the short journey."
"No, it doesn't matter, Bio-One must have undergone some catastrophic changes since it came into being. I shall have to settle for Bio-Two. Perhaps I am hasty in my conclusions of this world. It would not have survived thus, had there not been great and courageous minds at work, maybe I underestimate its populace."
"Should the field deflectors be energised?" queried the auto-comps.
"It may be wise," added the detectors.
"They emit too much radiation," replied Silverbird. "I shall fly into the atmosphere without defence and put a general peace call out on their public communication systems. It seems that there is no way of making official contact through any one governing body without unsettling the rest, and all must be aware of my presence."
"Could you not place the Krykan incubator egg in some secluded place and leave its inhabitants to do the rest?" It seemed for a moment that the detectors voice held frustration.
Silverbird could feel the pressure of the Krykan incubator on his peritoneum. His trionics kept a constant vigil on its occupants in their hybo-matrix. "I must first try to persuade the Earthlings to my cause. It would be a shame to overcome them in such a way and it is by no means certain that they would be overcome. All life should find its own path, if that is possible without force or deceit." Silverbird realised that his sympathy would fall on deaf ears, but the detectors would accept the reasoning of a sentient mind.
"Should you inform Warcloud and Thunderwing of your decision?" queried the detectors.
The vision of Warcloud and Thunderwing swept into Silverbird's minds eye. They would be cruising wing to wing like dark shadows within the inter-stellar void. Huge in size and deadly in their tasks.
"I have no choice. I only hope that I have matters under control before Big Brother and Thunderwing arrive." With that final statement Silverbird cleared his mind of all unhappy thoughts and ignited his retro's.
Like a giant butterfly he came upon the land, his wings flapping in the air around him. Over hill and mountain, sea and lake he flew, drawing in the beauty of life and revelling in its lushness. For a while his sensors were overcome with feelings, not strange but very old.
Boris Rigapolski could barely believe what he was hearing on television. What was supposed to be the news, had turned out to be something entirely different.
"....And this my friends is why I beg your co-operation. Though we may be different in kind, I believe our aims to be the same. Let us join our forces to combat the common enemy, before it is too late. I, Silverbird, await your decision."
The screen returned to normal. Boris still couldn't comprehend what his eyes had seen. There was no such thing as silver butterflies. It must be an imperialist plot, he thought.
At that moment a loud knocking came at the door. Hans and Fritz began jumping about excitedly.
"I am coming, I am coming," yelled Boris, as he raised himself from the tub.
Olga passed him a large towel which he wrapped around himself. Then he made his way to the door, leaving puddles of water on the lounge tiles.
He opened the door slightly, just giving enough space for Hans to slip his head through and sink his teeth into the house caller.
The man let out a yell of pain, then quickly stepped back from the doorway.
Boris recognised the yell; he had heard it before. It was one of his D.K.G.B. escorts.
"What do you want?" called Boris, "apart from a doctor."
The helper grimaced. "You are required at H.Q immediately, comrade. Something very important has come up."
Boris's mind flicked back to his television, so it is an imperialist plot, he thought. That is why they require my services. My comrades are certainly on the ball.
He closed the door again and hurriedly dressed. Without a word being spoken, he kissed his dogs goodbye, locked the door and left.
"I want a full status report on the activities of that mechanical canary. I want fighter planes tailing it. I want ground stations tracking it. I want answers and I want them now."
General Holding's aide flew out of the room as if a nest of hornets were in hot pursuit. The General wasn't in a very cordial mood at all.
Holding picked up the telephone, "Give me the Pentagon…. Cheyenne Mountain…..Area 51, get me foreign affairs."
A few seconds later the voice of his clerk replied, "I am sorry sir, the line is engaged."
"GIVE ME FOREIGN AFFAIRS."
"Yes Sir, of course Sir." His clerk knew that Dr. Jekyll had been discarded and Mr. Hyde was on the rampage. He put his behaviour down to the two years he had spent in what was known at the time as White Africa. Not the best place to send the 'typical' American General, he thought. An ego boost was the last thing Holding needed.
"Foreign affairs, who is speaking?"
"General Holding, give me Wilder."
"Sorry Sir, Mr. Wilder is engaged."
"Give me Wilder and give me him now."
"Wilder here, what can I do for you, General?"
"Information. I want information on what you bureaucrats are doing about this clockwork cuckoo."
It is a pity he is a friend of the President, thought Wilder. "We are participating in a discussion in Moscow with various foreign affairs and defence attaches, to try to come to some understanding about the problem. Does that answer your question?"
"Make it snappy," the General scorned. "I don't want this bird to get away."
Holding slammed the phone down and began pacing up and down, up and down, up and down. Then he sat on his desk and tapped his fingers, tappity tap, tappity tap, tappity tap. Then he raised his sensorvision remote handset and switched on."
"Good-day Miss Finebody...." …crash.
Boris Rigapolski entered the conference room thirty minutes late for his meeting. He had been partially briefed on the situation concerning Silverbird, not his guests, and had been given his instructions. Normally his superior Alexi Krakarov would have attended the meeting but he had been taken ill, after a mis-timed remark concerning 'The Bureau' while addressing an audience in Bruzengrad.
The preliminaries for the meeting had been by-passed. It had been decided by all concerned that the three-day ritual, to decide what shape the table should be and who sat where, would be overlooked, they did not have the time.
Boris looked down upon his three adversaries contemptuously; none had the iron muscles of the ex-Soviets. They should all feel honoured at having him present.
Ricky Trickston, the U.S. Ambassador also looked down upon his adversaries but with sympathy, none, he thought, had the dash and sheer capacity of the Americans, everything in the States was bigger and better, especially in his adopted state of Texas, plus he wasn't a 'temp'.
Julian Smithers, the British charge d'affairs looked down upon his adversaries, because they simply weren't British, and that spoke for itself.
Jacques Bastille was his usual bloody-minded self. He hadn't forgiven the British for liberating France, back in 45, nor had he forgiven the Americans for helping them, or was it the other way round. Anyway, he would show them.
The rest of the world was not invited. It was thought in the Kremlin, that their atomics did not justify them a place at such a crucial meeting, apart from the fact that they couldn't find any more chairs, but they did promise to inform all of the situation as it arose. This was a pledge made by the highest available authorities, whom everyone knew were forthright, if perhaps a little on the devious side.
Boris surveyed the faces of the other representatives before speaking. They were just as he had imagined, faces have a habit of mirroring lifestyles and Boris had no queries about life in the West. "Good-day comrades, my name is Boris Rigapolski. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance."
It was quite obvious that he wasn't being completely truthful.
"Please be seated."
They all sat and awaited Boris to continue.
"I am afraid that I am new to this sort of meeting. Normally my superior would take the chair."
The hell, thought Ricky, I bet he really needs it.
"But at present he is disposed of."
A good choice of words, thought Julian.
"As this meeting was put together hurriedly, I think we should all introduce ourselves."
Julian spoke first, "My name is Julian Smithers, British charge d’affairs, my pleasure, Mr. Rigapolski."
"What is your pleasure?" asked Boris.
"To make your acquaintance," replied Julian.
"Oh!" Boris gave Julian a dubious look.
Next to speak was Ricky. "Howdy doo Boris, ma name is Ricky Trickston. From the States that is." He doffed his size eight Stetson courteously.
"You surprise me," said Boris. "Please hang your hat next to the bowler, if it feels uncomfortable."
Ricky looked puzzled, "It's fine, but thankee all the same."
Last but least came Jacques, his face sullen and determined, "Je suis ..."
"Ah! That is happy Jack from Nice," interrupted Ricky, realising that Boris's French probably wasn't too good. "That right, Julie baby!"
"I wish you would not call me that."
"Hi Jack," said Boris.
"Nice in Nice, ain't it Julie!"
"Oh nice!" exclaimed Boris turning to Jacques, "and what is your title, comrade Bastille?"
"We hold the same positions, for different governments," intervened Julian.
"Oh!" exclaimed Boris.
This conversation went on for the best part of an hour. The duty guard had to be excused twice, to relieve himself, as he put it. On both occasions he returned holding his sides. He complained that they hurt him. Boris politely gave him some abuse in his best Russian, then offered in English to get a doctor. The guard assured Boris that he would be all right; he said the trouble was due to an old complaint with his ears, then commenced fitting cotton wool.
After their introduction they pressed on with the matter at hand and by dawn they had issued a joint communiqué which read as follows:-
We, the joint committee of Europe, Asia and America, have decided to pool our resources in an effort to come to an understanding with our alien visitor. All actions we may undertake will be done jointly and in close co-operation with all countries concerned. We would ask the general public for its co-operation in exercising calm. There is no reason for alarm. Our visitor has shown no hostile acts and we have no reason to suspect a ploy. Our joint forces are on a constant vigil and together they can handle any threat which may be poised. We ask again for calm and restraint.
The broadcasting of the communiqué would have been met by the usual disinterest by the populace, had it not been about the worlds most momentous happening for two millenniums, but even then, most of the world heralded the news with no more than a keen interest, some even thought it a hoax, especially in one American city.
Over the Arabian Gulf and high above parched lands, he glided, soaring like an albatross on the warm air currents of terrene.
It was here that Silverbird had taken thought and spoken his plea for unity. He had spoken to all who could receive his message and when he had done he waited, for what he hoped would be his hearts wished answer.
The dying embers of daylight saw him swoop, wings locked toward the Indian Ocean. The Suns last rays dancing upon his body. No longer was he alone for now he had drawn company. He listened intently to the conversations of his guests, but as yet found naught to answer to.
"This is Nightrider, patch me through to General Holding."
"Holding here, what is the latest, Nightrider?"
"I have a sighting on Silverbird, I am turning to pursue."
"Are you alone, Nightrider?"
"No, I have two Mig thirties for company, General. They look like gnats on the back of a great silver eagle."
"Play it cool, Nightrider."
"Will do, General...Wait! We have more company. Bogey inbound at two six zero, ten miles, four hundred knots closure."
"Too far away, General. Will close on mystery craft for identification."
Silverbird watched Nightrider draw near to the new arrival; in fact he thought them dangerously close for foreign vessels. They seemed to be flying wing-tip to wing-tip.
"I see, but I do not believe."
"What do you see, Nightrider?"
"This fella with a turban on top. He's ... shaking his head and talking to himself."
"How close are you, Nightrider?"
"Very close, General."
"What is this about a turbine?"
"Not turbine, General, turban, like bandages."
"Has he hurt his head, Nightrider?"
"Turban, General, its a head-dress."
"A redskin. Warn him off, Nightrider."
"Will do, General."
"Nightrider to new arrival, acknowledge new arrival."
"I am being a new arrival, what is it you are wanting, Nightrider?"
"You are interfering with United States operations, new arrival, please abort."
"But it is being such a lovely evening for flying."
"ABORT, NEW ARRIVAL."
"As you are wishing, Nightrider, I am being aborted."
"Task accomplished, General. Returning to pursuit."
"O.K. Nightrider, what is your position?"
"Coding beta beta six five - L.C. eight six two four, alpha three two zero zero six niner. Altitude two five four zero zero. Cruising at mach one point five. That baby is really moving."
"Stay with him, Nightrider."
Silverbird calmly processed the information received. The coding was simple to crack, but he had difficulty with the phrase, 'really moving'. It was, after all, quite obvious that he was moving.
"Could it be some sort of reference to how you are moving?" suggested the detectors.
"Perhaps," replied Silverbird, "but I thought they used such terms as amble or dawdle, however, it is not important. I do find it curious though, how they refer to me as an infant."
A short, thoughtful pause, an inward smile.
"Let me proceed, just a little faster, and see what other innovations the Earth holds for me."
Silverbird maintained his new speed over the South China Sea with little incident. There were comings and going of the little 'fireflies', but this did not perturb him unduly. On occasion some had tried to speak with him, but he could not answer. Not until he received a joint call would he deal with the natives, for fear of causing envy. He knew this emotion well.
Over the vast Pacific, he continued, seeing many small islands below. It was upon one of these small lands, locked within a deep sea mist, that he decided to place his Krykan incubator.
He flew low over the appointed area and caused a brief but violent electrical reaction in the overlaying cloud. He still hoped the 'bios' locked within the incubator of Krykan, would not be required, but he thought it best to play safe. The last thing he wanted was to bring his warring brother, Warcloud, down upon this little island world. He then considered transferring his uni-conscious to the mind of Krykan himself, if his plans for a peaceful joining with the Earthlings went amiss. So he could direct the tutoring of the 'bios' when they emerged from their embryonic shells, but this thought he dismissed, he would not force his will on another. The most he may do was to implant his conscious in the depths of Krykan's basers and lay dormant until the arrival of his big brother, but this was a dangerous idea. He could quite easily loose himself, and lay dormant forever.
Silverbird returned to his flight plan, night turned to day; the sun sped across the sky. Again he saw the pursuit craft close in behind.
"You are approaching a large land mass," commented the detectors.
"Yes, I see," replied Silverbird, who was breathing the fresh sea air and channelling it over his analysis lungs. "I wonder what I shall find here. I will watch and listen."
"This is Highflyer calling General Holding, come in General Holding."
"Holding here, Highflyer."
"We are approaching the mainland, General."
"Where do you expect to intersect, Highflyer?"
"North of L.A., somewhere in the Frisco vicinity.
"Can you give an exact location, Highflyer?"
"Sorry General, Silverbird is making constant minor flight adjustments, he may pass over either city."
"What of the Russkies, Highflyer?"
"They are peeling off, do we inaugurate plan Zeta six five?"
"No, Highflyer, peace is the order of the day. We have received a communiqué from Moscow; we are to work jointly with all nations. Let nothing hamper Silverbird's progress."
"Roger, General, will keep you informed..."
Silverbird again came over land and saw many tall buildings; he coughed a little and closed his analysers. He then proceeded inland at a much-reduced speed, so as not to make nasty bangs and disturb the inhabitants below.
He saw it all, high mountains, painted deserts, lush fields and many varied habitats. For this he didn't require daylight, his eyes used many wavelengths.
With the dawning of the World, he hovered high above New York, where sleepy eyes would not observe him, and with his keen vision, he saw many contrasts, but one thing especially took his interest. A large lady, holding what appeared to be an ice-cream cone in her hand. His conscious had little information regarding such things as ice creams.
"Who is that?" queried Silverbird.
"You have received this information already," replied the detectors.
"Miss Finebody?" queried Silverbird.
"No," replied the detectors. "It is the Statue of Liberty."
"I am sorry," replied Silverbird. "I must have been so engrossed with the scenery, my location reports never registered. I will have to pay more attention in future."
It was at this point that Silverbird received his first joint contact. The message came from high above the atmosphere, broadcast from the other side of the world, where Boris Rigapolski had been standing by his transfer technicians for many hours. He was waiting for them to rig up a satellite link on their American imported giro beam equipment.
The difficulty had simply been a dud chip, but the techs could not replace it. Something to do with another high technology embargo, the technicians had said. However, they had finally by-passed this fault and after congratulating themselves the link had been forged.
"I, Boris Rigapolski, speak for the joint committee for alien contact. Please acknowledge, Silverbird."
A short pause. Boris waited with anticipation.
"I am Silverbird, ambassador of the free worlds of Pentakon. I acknowledge your beam, Boris Rigapolski."
Silverbird's pulse began to race as the heart of his trionics increased his perception. It made his pellicle sensors tingle.
Boris showed obvious delight at Silverbird's acknowledgement. He glanced around himself as if to say, 'Look at me, I've done it.' He noticed that the rest of the committee had joined him and this served to please him even more.
"I .... I mean we of the joint committee bid you welcome, Silverbird. We assure you that our disposition is friendly, but you must appreciate that we have many governments to satisfy, please bear with us."
"Your position is understandable, Boris Rigapolski. I shall do all in my power to satisfy your curiosity." Silverbird's voice gave no hint of excitement; he simply spoke in his normal way.
Boris noticed that the voice of Silverbird was not only coming from his own highly sophisticated receiving equipment, but from the rear of the room also. He turned to look behind and saw an old television set, perched on a cabinet in the room corner and there upon the screen was the animated image of Silverbird, just as it had been when he was sat in his tub.
This threw Boris off balance; he didn't even know the set was switched on. The measure of concern this caused him reflected in the way he forgot to abuse his technicians. He began to stutter into his phonic pick-up. "We .... er .... Those of us who .... er ...."
"Please feel free to use what language you wish," said Silverbird. "My decoders will translate to my own tongue, they even mimic my accent."
Julian Smithers, realising Boris's shortcoming, quickly stepped in his place. "My name is Julian Smithers, also of the joint committee. We realise that you mean well, but could you possible narrow your bandwidth. Though we of the committee welcome you, we feel your presence may cause disruptions in some of our more unstable societies. Some repressive regimes may even use your presence to further their own ends; acknowledge Silverbird."
Silverbird was dismayed at what he heard, but he thought it only to be expected. His detectors fed him close up views of the ground below to enlighten him of the situation. He took a moment to re-adjust to the detectors, eye to visionary exchange, an odd sensation, one of the few functions that he always achieved with a conscious baser request.
The view he received of the streets was not unlike his normal eyes on full magnification, except for the lattice board effect and of course the limited angle a single scanner gave.
He zoomed the view to a single street. The first thing that struck him was the large quantity of people recently gathered, many standing around in groups, the scene didn't appear normal at all, surely they had other things to do. This made Silverbird fearful.
"What rides the airwaves?" he queried, it was much simpler to ask than to clog his awareness with numerous irrelevant broadcasts.
"You have one wavelength of particular interest," replied the detectors. "It will be filtered out and given to you direct."
".... And this is the scene here in New York City. As you can see, crowds are beginning to gather at the news of our first alien contact. What was thought yesterday to be no more than a hoax, has in the last fifteen minutes become more of a reality than ever ...."
Silverbird stared into the crowd; he saw many carrying placards which read, 'WELCOME SILVERBIRD, WELCOME TO THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA'. This made him wonder for a moment whether he had been detected by the crowd, visible yes, identifiable perhaps but he quickly dispelled the thought and continued to observe. He saw other placards, one of which read, 'PREPARE TO MEET THY DOOM. THE ANGEL OF DEATH IS UPON US'.
This caused Silverbird to cut the link with the committee to assess the situation. The continuous aircraft drone above him, only served to upset him even more.
"This is General Holding to Skyraider. Come in Skyraider."
"What is happening up there, Skyraider? I have word from Moscow that they have lost contact with Silverbird."
"Things are just as they were, General."
"No signs of hostility, Skyraider?"
"No General, he just seems to be watching, but I doubt whether he can see much from this altitude. It's hazy, I can barely see the ground."
"Do not underestimate, Skyraider. His technology is beyond our understanding."
"Should I put my cameras on him, General?"
Holding glanced at his new forty-inch sensorvision screen. "It would not do any good Skyraider, he has left his silent animation overriding all visual channels.... Wait a minute, the image has disappeared."
"Switching on cameras, General."
"Roger and out, Skyraider."
Sweat poured down the brow of Julian Smithers as he stood before the communication equipment. Why had Silverbird gone silent, leaving only a screen image?
Boris Rigapolski was also perspiring, his early bravado gone. "I could do with a vodka," he choked.
"Me too," said Julian.
"No bourbon?" quipped Ricky.
"Trust Ricky Trickston."
"Would you be so good Jacques? There is a bottle in the cabinet under the television," Boris spoke nervously.
"Jacques, I said could you please get the vodka." Voice strengthening.
"JE SUIS, JE SUIS."
"OK, OK," said Boris with a Russian accent.
As they all watched Jacques walk over to the cabinet, the picture suddenly vanished from the screen.
They held their breaths.
A voice came from behind.
They all jumped, then turned to the communication equipment.
"I apologise for my lack of thought. I have narrowed my beam and now await your instructions." Silverbird spoke with his usual calm.
A huge sigh of relief from the committee.
The senior transfer technician approached Boris, a few words in Russian and he dismissed himself.
"I have been informed that we are receiving direct pictures of Silverbird via the American Defence Network. The department of a certain General Holding. If you would care to view the video screen to your right, we should have pictures any moment."
The screen burst into life and Boris's face fell. "Is this some sort of joke?" he spat at the technician.
The technician held out his hands palms up, in a gesture of incomprehension.
General Holding sat in his office and smirked. "I think that is enough," he said to his aide. He never did like bureaucrats, all talk and no action.
In Moscow the picture of the lady holding a box of toilet tissue vanished and was replaced by an incredible view of Silverbird, hovering miles above the distant skyline of New York, balancing on huge wings.
"Wow, golly gee whiz," cried Ricky. "Lookee here at that."
They all stood and looked, amazement on their faces.
After a few moments, Julian again spoke into the phonic sender, which had remained continuously on. "Do you need re-fuelling, Silverbird?"
"Do you mean, am I hungry?" came the reply. "The answer is no. I had a light meal when I entered your stellar system."
Julian didn't quite understand the answer. Even if Silverbird uses solar power, he thought, surely he couldn't have gathered and stored enough energy to power all his needs. He decided not to meddle further in what he didn't understand.
"We will assemble a joint naval fleet in mid-Atlantic, Silverbird. We would appreciate your presence. It would alleviate our people's misgivings and would allow us to provide you with protection. Although I doubt that you need it. It will also give us time to contact more heads of State with regard to our future relations."
"I will gladly oblige," replied Silverbird. "I would assure you, that while I am upon your world. I will not pursue any course which may cause harm to any individual of the Earth. I sincerely regret any disturbances I may have unintentionally caused already."
"Thank you, Silverbird. One last question, could you clarify your earlier remark concerning a joining of our forces against a common foe?"
"As our civilisations are drawing together, this matter need not concern you unduly. I have friends on the way, who are quite competent to deal with any disturbances. Your part will be small and not for many years yet. Let us talk of these matters when our bonds have been formed."
At first the committee was shaken by his answer, which seemed a little none informative if not ominous, but the warmth and confidence of Silverbird's voice, continued to grow on them, even after he had spoken, and their fears were allayed.
"We thank you again, Silverbird, our co-ordinators will supply you with the location of our rendezvous.... "
"Could I ask one question, Julie?"
Silverbird answered for Julian Smithers, "Of course, go right ahead."
"What in this cock-eyed universe, are you?"
"I am to me, as you are to you, Mister Trickston."
Ricky Trickston's bewildered face, held its pose for many minutes.
General Holding was feeling whacked, after the many hours he had been on duty. His only consolation was that he hadn't been able to get home to his torrid wife.
He sat now with his aide, talking and joking, anything to keep his eyes open.
"This nigger I was telling you about, got out of his ramshackle automobile with his mouth full of custard, ha ha, ho ho then he walks up to the fancy dress ball entrance, ha ha ha, bet you can't guess what happens next?"
"Well you see, it goes like this: The doorman, all dressed in his fancy duds, with his pretty white shirt says, 'Hey man, this is a fancy dress ball. What do you think you're supposed to be?' ha ha, he ho, grunt and the nigger spits out the custard all over that mans fancy duds ho, he ho and says, 'AAS A BLACKHEAD' he he, ha ha, ho he. You know, a zit. You ain't laughing boy."
"Ma Pa was a nigger, General, died in the Vietnam war."
"Well I'll be. You cotton picking son of a bitch, and you all pearly white."
Holding's transceiver burst into life. It was now used only for matters concerning Silverbird.
"Calling General Holding. This is Sunchild calling General Holding, come in General."
Holding sprang to his transceiver, "General Holding here, Sunchild. Is that you Phil?"
"It sure is, General."
"How on earth did you come to get mixed up in this business, Phil?"
"I was riding shotgun for a naval manoeuvre, apparently the cameras that were fitted to the long range fighter escort, which were to accompany Silverbird required adjustments, so here I am."
"You have the task of escorting Silverbird down the North Atlantic coast until he turns out to sea?"
"That's right, General. A piece of cake really."
Holding turned and picked up his phone, "Get me Commander Hilroy. I want him in this office. He has some questions to answer."
"But the commander is in Florida, nearly two thousand miles away," replied the clerk.
"GET ME COMMANDER HILROY AND GET ME......"
"Yes sir, General, of course General, right away."
"Sorry about that, Phil. How are things out there."
"Me and Silverbird are just fine, General, and yourself."
"Oh, plodding along. You know I hate sitting in an office."
"Yeah, know what you mean. Could I ask a favour, General?"
"Sure, go right ahead."
"Well it seems I'm gonna be late for supper. I was due on leave tomorrow. I promised the kids I would take them down to Rocky Park. Would you let Jenna know I'm gonna be late."
"Sure kid, I used to worry too. You sure love that family of yours."
"You bet, General."
Holding fumbled about in his pocket, searching for the phone number. He knew the house call number, but the interstate exchange always had him beaten. Finally he found the tatty piece of paper he was looking for.
"I have the number here, Phil. I'll get right on it."
"No hurry, General, I ain't due home till the early hours."
"Say Phil, if you are going on leave, why not call down my place sometime. I'm sure the old Foxba ... er, I mean Bertha, your ma, would be pleased to see you."
"Can do, General."
"Is there anything else I can do before I sign off?"
"You could check where my relief has got to. I am already off the Central American coast about fifty miles out, fuels running low and the skies getting dark. I will have to return to base shortly."
"Message understood. I will see what I can do."
"Just a mo, General. I think you can cancel that request. I have four blips on my radar, must be the escort, strange though, I have had no recognition code."
"Perhaps with us chatting so much, Phil, maybe you missed..."
"Maybe, General, will take a look anyway .... I have them in view, but I can't make them out clearly, it's too dark up here."
"Give them a call, Phil."
"Will do, General."
"Sunchild to Foursome, Sunchild to Foursome. Identify .... Sunchild to Foursome, come in Foursome .... No reply General .... HELL AND DAMNATION, WE HAVE A MISSILE LAUNCH. THEY'RE ATTACKING SILVERBIRD."
"GET OUTTA THERE, PHIL .... DO YOU HEAR ME?"
"No can do, General. I have a job to do here."
Sunchild swung through one eighty degrees at the speed of sound, but even the oppressive 'G' force couldn't slow Phil Holding. His duty was clear.
"SILVERBIRDS HIT. DAMN THOSE BASTARDS .... Launching Tracker Dogs one and two.
"GET OUTTA THERE, PHIL."
"Running on target. Hit one......Two hits, General. Swinging round to engage remaining bandits."
A thunderous roar ripped through General Holding's speaker system. "PHIL, PHIL, WHAT`S HAPPENING?"
"Taken a hit, General, but I ain't finished yet .... Launching Tracker Dogs three and four .... Can't hold her, I'm breaking up."
"SUNCHILD, COME IN SUNCHILD. SPEAK TO ME PHIL. PHIL, IT'S YOUR DADDY."
"Tell Jenna I love her Pa. Love you all ........"
The speakers fell silent.
General Holding's face was a ghostly white. His hands were trembling and his legs felt weak.
"Let me help you, Sir, " said his aide, "I know how you are feeling."
Pain racked Silverbird's body. Thunder was in his ears and his eyes were blind. He screamed heedlessly in his anguish, his cry reaching out into the distant heavens. All his thoughts were numbed by the agony of his body, but like a passing hurricane the pain was gone. His conscious drifted freely in utter blackness, no thoughts passing through his mind, for he had no language in which to think, nor had he any memories to fall upon, all was gone.
From out of the darkness came voices.
"Flight path stabilised. Have directed auto-comp-basers back to Silverbird uni-conscious. All remaining detector functions channelled similarly."
Silverbird's sight began to return, but his vision was not his own. A single lattice screen appeared before him, as his mind again connected he recognised the detector visionary. The sound of the wind again became apparent, but it was metallic and cold. His body remained numb. It could only mean one thing.
"Detectors, report please."
"I am afraid you are flying on borrowed time, Silverbird. You have lost all sensors and analysers. Your trionic nerve centre is dead. All normal sound and vision functions have been rendered inoperative. It is only the deeds of the auto-comps which have kept you airborne. All detector functions were channelled directly there."
"I understand, detectors. Thank you and the auto-comps for bringing me back on line. What of our aggressors?"
"They did not cease hostilities voluntarily; they were destroyed by our escort. He fought valiantly before his own end. He died well."
Silverbird wondered at his detectors sentiments. At times he found it difficult to believe that they and his auto-comps were no more than his subconscious and at times the alter-ego of his Trigon mind.
"Probably my fighter escort," retorted Silverbird. "Have I the means with which I can warn them to stand off, for my departure?"
"Perhaps," replied the detectors. "One can only try."
The detectors attempted to put out a message of warning as best they could, then spoke no more.
The battered hulk of Silverbird groaned as it changed course; propelled only by his directional thrusters, for his wings were crippled and his engines lifeless. No more did he speak with his basers; there was nothing more to say, they knew their final task.
The committee for alien contact stood motionless, staring at their television screen. The fighter aircraft had directed their camera vision via normal channels to all who would watch. These were the orders of General Holding, given with the consent of the President.
Upon the screen the shadowy outline of Silverbird could be seen moving out to sea. He moved with laboured determination, until he came at last above a small island atoll and there he paused, and in the light of a silvery moon, his broken body came to its final destiny.
A cruel detonation of horrific magnitude, rent the calm of the night air asunder. With the likeness of a huge atomic explosion, the powerful, but pathetic remains of Silverbird transcended the world of humankind. A brilliant light before a darkened sky.
With a deliberance borne of hate did Warcloud break his bonds with his companion; the tortured cry of his little brother still echoing in his mind. His boosters burst into life and like the true angel of death he pounded his way down the celestial star lanes. The galactic myriads shrank and cowered at his coming. Even the perpetual river of time stemmed its flow to stand breathless and in awe. A mighty phantom, he seemed, menacing, foreboding, but most of all, vengeful.
General Holding sat in a darkened room reciting to himself:
A cold moonset of blue
A blooded sunrise of red
A deathly hush lay upon the world
For all birdsong was dead
x x x x x
A friend he did come
And trust he did give
A joy to the world
Why could he not live
x x x x x
A darkness descends
A shadowy shawl
For what we have done
God help us all