Overwhelming Power (Part 2)
Every person with whom he ingratiated himself would have looked more at home at an upscale drag club than a science lecture. Bouffant hair and a metallic silver tuxedo. Dried scorpion earrings and horn-rims. VR visor and combat boots. The weirdest of the weird had oozed out of their penthouses tonight to hear the professor’s latest sham. Luckily, Owen’s grace and charm flowed just as smoothly as the thick white fog which cascaded over the rim of his surprisingly sensational cocktail. As he shook hands and received some unexpected hugs from these strangers, he was pleased to learn that he was a bit of a local celebrity around these parts.
“Oh you’re that young chap with the news. Loved your piece with old ‘Phonse - you almost made him seem understandable,” one older purple-haired lady with an obviously fake British accent crowed. A younger chap wearing lycra trousers was quick to chime in. “Yes, the crystals exhibit is a triumph. In fact, your piece reminded me that I need to stock up on my supply.” He turned to address a six-foot four, muscle-bound man sporting an incredible handlebar moustache. “Kentobel, when was your delivery from Ceylon coming in?” The conversations continued in this fashion for some time before the lights flickered thrice, and the attendees took their seats in the now-darkened lecture hall.
An ill-timed flash of light combined with a puff of smoke to create what was supposed to be a grand entrance. However, Professor Caldo-Stett had not been standing on his mark, and his lungs and eyes had both been assaulted quite violently. He stumbled onto stage coughing, and his enthusiastic audience burst into applause. Once his wheezing had subsided, the tiny, wrinkled man adjusted his deep purple bow tie and clicked his slide presentation to life.
“Friends. Thank you for joining me on this most auspicious night. I’d like begin by taking a moment to appreciate your continued patronage and support. Without your donations of time and, uhm, effort, the California Museum of Weird Science would still be, ah, just a few whirring machines in my garden shed.”
Some nervous titters emanated from the crowd before a smattering of applause broke out. Owen was surprised that despite the professor’s charisma and easy patter in their initial encounters, he seemed quite out of his element up on stage as a presenter. Owen was reminded of the week that the KCDR meterologist had contracted strep throat, and Glen on the sports desk had to fill in.
“As you know, this lecture series serves to keep our community up-to-date on the most recent developments of the scientific world: those that exist only, uh, on the, eh, furthest fringes of human knowledge. The museum is dedicated to the discovery and curation of the amazing possibilities of human endeavor. Tonight, I am pleased to present to you, uhm, that is, the museum’s oldest and dearest supporters, a discovery that will change the way humans see the world. Tonight’s lecture will present to you, the public, evidence of a most unusual and exciting artifact. This revelation is perhaps the most amazing discovery I’ve ever been a part of, and I am, well, I’m humbled and honored to share it with you.”
The first slide clicked on, and excited murmurings erupted from the crowd. The slide simply showed one high-def drone photograph. It appeared to be an overhead shot of some kind of crash site in a plowed field. A small, yellow object sat on top of the ground, directly in the center of a perfectly circular dirt crater. Owen couldn’t see any shards or debris in the crater, so the object was clearly still intact. The professor clicked to the next slide, and the entire audience, which had been involuntarily leaning forward to get a better look, was thrown back in their chairs by a closer image of the strange object.
Owen’s STEM classes back in college were clearly failing him. While others were mumbling to themselves, to Owen, it looked like a small, smooth yellow cube, about the size of the Tupperware containers he kept his leftover pizza slices in. Aside from some gentle burn marks on the top of the cube, there was nothing particularly unusual about the box. What was all the fuss about? The professor stepped forward, and his audience immediately gave him their rapt attention.
“As you can see, last week, a research team in Nevada discovered the crash site of an unidentified interstellar object. The ninety-degree angle of impact with Earth seems to suggest that this cube is not a random celestial encounter, but a deliberate delivery from somewhere out in space.”
The professor was coming into his stride now: “Uhms” and “ers” no longer peppered his speech. Like a star baseball player fielding a grounder, Owen could see that the professor was well-practiced at this portion of the lecture. With complete command of his audience, he leapt into the climax of his speech.
“So you may be wondering: ‘Professor Caldo-Stett, why don’t you have the artifact here to show us in person?’ The reason I can only bring you photographic evidence of the find is … well … take a look.”
The professor clicked to his next slide and a drone video began to play. The drone was hovering directly over the object, and then was piloted in an arc down toward the ground, camera fixed on the yellow cube. Seconds before the drone landed on the ground and its rotors stopped spinning, the crowd gave a collective gasp.
The cube was levitating.