Birth of a Cult
Sunday morning. We woke up around 11:00 in Deke's living room. We had spent the evening asleep in bags on the floor, having collapsed as soon as well pulled out the bedding. Cynthia looked after the kids once we had returned. She had obtained several large oxygen tanks, and had put masks on them. She explained that they seem to require more oxygen than what our natural atmosphere could provide, and that unless they had regular access to pure O2, the CO2 would slowly build up in their systems, and their brains would be starved for oxygen.
We had called the meeting for around noon, so folks started to trickle in. First the regulars; those who had met the kids already. Then shortly later, two others that had not. Lynda Byerlie, Cynthia's Radiologist friend and Rick Eldar, the computer dude, rolled in around 1:00. Rather, he rolled in, Lynda walked. Fortunately, Deke's mobile home was almost on level ground, and we only had two steps to lift Rick's wheelchair over.
He entered the world without the use of a substantial portion of his central nervous system. As a result of his mother's long labor, oxygen flow was restricted from the parts of Rick's brain that were to control his arms and legs. So within a matter of minutes, Eight and a half months of development were shattered. But his higher brain functions were left completely intact, and with the constant encouragement from committed parents, Rick rapidly developed into a genius despite his physical handicap. Lynda had met him at ASU, where he worked in the Computer Science Department, and she assured us that he was one who would be interested in this "odd bird" Cynthia had showed her a picture of.
He had been helping with much of the digital portions of her and Cynthia's genetic research. I decided to start the ball rolling, with introductions all around and a ". . . thanks for taking the time to change your life forever . . ." comment to our two newbies. Needless to say, Lynda at least got kind of a worried look on her face, and replied in a tone like nervous laughter, "What do you mean? What was that picture Cynthia showed me? Some mutant rhea?"
Rick just watched her with a perfect poker face. I placed a copy of the photo of Nuzzle-Muzzle's corpse over on the built-in desktop of his chair. She did look like a big bird. Except for the arms. This resulted in the sudden upturn of his left eye brow as he eagerly eyed the image. "Where did you get this picture?" he asked. "Deke took it," I replied ". . . it's a dead dinosaur."
"I don't have time for this shit!" he snapped back, as he started rolling towards the doorway.
"The other two are still alive. Wanna meet them?" Mike offered. The chair stopped, pulling the throw rug forward slightly. The chair turned. "Say WHAT?" Rick answered. We asked the kids to join us then. Lynda jumped out of her seat, and quickly cowered with a scream in the corner, while BOTH of Rick's eye brows raised, and stayed raised. "And they're intelligent." Mike added.
Cynthia immediately calmed Lynda, and took her by the hand and led her to FB. She gave her a headset, and soon she was smiling and chatting. I gave Rick a set, so he could follow along. He was plainly impressed, which we got the impression, seldom happened. I quickly recapped the events of the previous week, and we settled down into discussions on logistics.
What sort of trip did we need to set in place to provide a constant, yet low-profile source of cash? We all decided that an underground research group was in order, with the benign cult front end to launder the bucks. Where to start. With the Feds out there, we needed a plan quick.
Then Bob mentioned the Sunday paper. "Too bad we couldn't recruit that crazy dude who build that weird dome place they found." He then mentioned the lead local story of how the cops thought they found a big pot farm, but it turned out to be some crazy squatter that liked to record weird shit on cassette tapes. We had all forgotten about Skip! Deke grabbed the paper, which we never got to in all the excitement. There in color, was a picture of his dome surrounded by several narkish-looking gentlemen in SWAT clothes holding boxes of Skip's tapes. "Remote Pot Farm? Raid Yields Only Bizarre Tapes!" the headline read. The caption to the picture had more detail:
"During a routine 'Green Harvest' over flight of state forest land, officers from several different law enforcement agencies investigated what at first appeared as a large cannabis grow operation. Upon closer examination, it was discovered that inside the dark green plastic dome was not pot, but literally hundreds of cassette tapes, neatly numbered, and packed away in plastic wrapped boxes. The owner of the tapes remains a mystery . . ."
So maybe they weren't chasing us after all, I thought to myself. And it looked like Skip managed to escape as well. But what will he do now? He knew about us! The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. He could indeed be the answer. But we needed to get a hold of him. I filled in Bob on our meeting with Skip, and started talking while the plan grew in my head.
"This is perfect! If we can get Skip to be our 'Channel' for the lost teachings of the Dragon Masters, he becomes the mysterious reclusive prophet who talks to the ancient ones! For content, we can use old dragon stories. They're everywhere! Maybe even weave in some history from the Car's databanks.
"We can record the stuff, and print it out into books which we can sell through new age bookstore! We can have the whole thing done at Kinkos! Heck, look at how well it worked for the Rajneehees! Except, that we need to be more benign, so we don't draw too much attention. We don't want to 'force' our 'beliefs' on others. Yet we need to attract some rich folks."
"The downside will be that we will have to dedicate ourselves to this totally." Cynthia mentioned. "Our inner circle will know the truth, but to the rest of the world, we need to become 'dragon cultists.' We'll no doubt need to recruit others to the inner circle, so we'll need a mechanism to deal with that when it happens. Now, as for Skip, we will need to keep him in check too, assuming he will agree to all this, which is still a big 'if.' Regardless, he has seen the kids, and fruitcake or not, we should have him within our sphere on influence. But we need to move fast."
The kids especially seemed to enjoy their new roles as "The Ancient Dragon Masters." Scrawny had already become familiar with the basics of dragon lore.
"Some of these dragon pictures kinda look like us anyway," He observed with a oxygen mask-muffed voice, ". . . only the wings. Where did they get the wings? We don't have wings."
"Well, humans weren't even around when you guys' ancestors were here, so these are probably not Capthraw anyway." I mentioned. But I wondered. After all, the kids were here. Maybe other Capthraw starships came back already? This line of thought started to make me dizzy.
We had already been calling ourselves the "SLU" for Space Lizard Underground. I threw this out for comment. What should be our real name? I asked the kids if the Capthraw had any sort of religious leanings. How did they view themselves spiritually in the universe. FB replied that most civilized Capthraw did not waste their time on such foolishness. It was only the odd mystics of Mars in their grandparents time that dealt with such matters.
"Mars?" I asked.
"Some of the Capthraw that colonized and terraformed Mars became a group of librarians that worshipped information." Scrawny added. "They saw themselves as the memory of the entire Capthraw empire. Everyone else thought that they were crazy. To this day, we call crazy people 'Seeraens' for the Capthrawnian name for Mars."
So Capthraw had cults too! "OK, how about "Seeraen Light Universal?" I jokingly suggested. It was unanimous. We remained the SLU after all.
Cynthia then took the floor. She had more details regarding the kid's oxygen problem.
"After talking with Scrawny and FB, and checking out their blood samples I took, it seems that their 'Earth' had a much thicker atmosphere than we have today. Seems as though that big rock that smacked the Earth 67 millions years ago also thinned out the atmosphere somehow.
"The Capthraw blood samples look very similar to various types of birds. But there are several major differences. Most notably are the presence of smaller and more numerous red blood cells. Looking at data from the Capthraw computer shows that the air not only had a higher pressure; almost four times that of today; but it also had a larger percentage of oxygen. Close to 30%, versus the 21% it is today.
"The result is that their hemoglobin cells are smaller, because they had less work to do. Curiously enough, their atmosphere would be harmful to us. While the increased percentage of O2 means less nitrogen, that nitrogen is under pressure. Constantly breathing in their atmosphere would be like breathing through a SCUBA tank underwater at 120 feet."
"So? What does that mean?" Mike asked.
"Rapture of the Deep . . ." I replied; ". . . officially known as 'Nitrogen Narcosis.' The N under pressure dissolves into the human blood, and builds up in the tissues. Lengthy exposure, and it effects the brain by making one 'drunk' in much the same way laughing gas does. Fortunately, we have not spent enough time in the car for this to happen to us yet. What about 'the bends?' Will this be a problem too?"
"Yes," the Doc added; "I think we can do a work-around. Scrawny knows how to adjust the pressure in the car to half theirs and twice our normal pressure. This should work as a happy medium. But don't hold your breath when you leave the car, as the expanding air could make your lungs explode. And I will see about rigging up some portable oxygen tanks for when they are in our air."
I could see that that SCUBA class I took at the YMCA as a teenager may payoff after all! The meeting finally wrapped up around midnight, and we returned to our homes. Over the course of the next several days, we worked at getting our affairs in order. We decided that the first thing we needed was to rent some place near town with power and water so we can set up a basic laboratory. But yet not so near as to draw attention. A place with a large meeting area and offices, which was separate from the lab would be handy. I next started researching cults.
I had read about a bunch of UFO enthusiasts grouped around a little old lady who liked fancy dresses and magic wands. These guys were pretty much harmless, believing that the "Space Brothers" would soon return, and usher in a new era of enlightenment. The type of folks that tended to buy into their rap were, for the most part, lonely losers. Social outcasts who watched Star Trek too much and never grew up to fit in with the rest of the world.
They were contrasted by the Rajneehees' "In Your Face" style, which rubbed people the wrong way to the point of inviting close examination. And then there were all the various Christian cults. The really nasty ones: Like the Jones' and Arian Nations. Scary.
The lonely losers won out. At least in style. We decided that we would treat our "converts" with respect though. We may have been a bit condescending, in that we saw ourselves "rescuing" them from the potential grips of a real nasty cult, or one intent on fleecing the flock to line the pockets of the prophets. Our 'cult' would have a noble mission. A scientific, albeit clandestine one.
The Government has been doing that for years! Time for a "private sector" approach to this. They can keep the Roswell stuff. We'll handle the Space Lizards!
By Tuesday, Lenny had located a nice piece of industrial property. It was an old saw mill which had gone belly-up because they had cut down all the trees. We got it on a six month lease for $500.00 a month, which Lenny ponied-up from his savings. We told the owner, a local bank, that we needed it for storage. It was perfect. A large covered building, now empty, with an adjacent office building. And it was off the beaten path, out of town along the Abiqua Creek.
The first order of business was to move Nuzzle Muzzle's refrigerator from Llama Land. We set it up in a corner of the big building. This same space would soon become a secure hanger where we could park the kid's "car." We just needed to go get it.
Then on Wednesday, we found Skip.
To Be Continued . . .
© 1996 by R. D. Frederick
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