September 26th, 2010
Two employees, Gregson and Steckler, find Paul Craig (who is owner and operator of the Golden Aquarium) in a bar and bring him to the aquarium to sign checks. On their way, they are unknowingly followed by a man named Eltrin. Still intoxicated, Craig proceeds with the signing of the documents. He expresses his position that the aquarium not be sold off from under him, as he has been suspicious of this action being conspired by his very own "loyal" employees.
Paul has a tendency towards violent behavior when intoxicated, and grabs hold of Gregson out of frustration, but then thinks better of it and lets him go. He then notices the unknown man who was present at the aquarium, saying to him: "I remember you, you..."
He has no memory of what happens next. (He apparently blacks out...)
Craig finds himself in what appears to be the large tank in the Golden Aquarium, harpoon in hand and facing a large shark. Feeling as if he had just came to after a late night binge, he tries to recall the events of the previous night. In the bar, he was engaged in a conversation about women's constant search for beauty, then he recalls his condition of "alcoholic amnesia," previously suggested to him by Dr. Utson, his psychiatrist.
Bringing his attention back to being in an aquarium, seeing many species of tropical fish swimming about, and still facing the shark which is surprisingly indifferent to his presence, he gets out of the tank and vows to see Dr. Utson about what someone must have put in his drink the night before. He then realizes that what should have been a narrow alcove opening to the staff members' private apartments, is, in fact, a wide corridor that expands into infinity, in what appears to be a massive building.
Paul pulls himself out of the large pool that he realizes is a replica of the shark tank at the Golden Aquarium. Once out of the tank, he is mystified to find himself unable to breathe, his face covered by some sort of wrap. Removing the wrap, he notices long gashes under his arms. After a brief panic, believing himself to be injured, he realizes that they are gills! He correctly speculates that this surgery is somehow connected with the "unknown man."
Heading down a series of corridors lined with metal doors, he pushes one open to reveal what appears to be a small deserted typical "American bar." Craig sits at a stool and pours himself a drink of his favourite Canadian whisky, when a young woman in Scottish dress appears. He is about to ask her how to get out of this horrible place when...
Craig awakens to find himself in a bed in a small room. He wonders if someone moved him from the bar to this room. He gets dressed (finding clothes in the closet as expected), wondering why someone would go through the trouble of surgically "implanting" him with gills. As he learns that the door to his room is locked, the sound of a key is heard. Eltrin, the unknown man, enters.
On route to the refectory, Eltrin explains that they are aboard a large space vessel, and tells him some of the reasons for Craig's abduction. This is Captain Schock's ship, the Shooting Star, and he wants to secure trade between Gondon and Kiber. He also mentions that they routinely make annual trade stops on Earth as well. Craig is told the limits of his freedom on board the ship and given the key to his cabin. Eltrin tells Craig that he is the best fighter they know of (because Kiberans are pacifists, they do not have such violent people). Craig retorts by explaining that he is only violent when drinking.
The room is full of "human looking" men eating. Craig is given a headset that functions as a language translator. Eltrin introduces Craig to Captain Schock. The Captain asks Craig to help solve a problem dealing with psychology, involving the ship's Chief Engineer. The Captain is upset that the chief engineer has stored five nuclear "initiators" on board the ship and loads of scrap metal instead of spare parts, which seems illogical. Second, he believes the engineer has the ability of ESP, and hopes Craig can confirm this. The engineer has had foresight in the past which, on several occasions, saved the ship from catastrophe. The Captain adds the startling fact that not only does the engineer have ESP, but he's an android as well.
The Captain points out the engineer where he's having his breakfast in the refectory. Oddly enough, the engineer is dressed like a Scotsman, kilt and all. Eltrin explains that this is because androids struggle with identity problems and tend to take on the characteristics of the strange and unusual around them, and the ship had recently touched down in Scotland.
Craig, reminded of the Scottish woman he saw earlier, asks if there are any women on board. The Captain answers in the negative, explaining that it has something to do with the ship's "aidlai field." Craig makes note of the term and is asked to join Mr. McPherson, the engineer android, at his table.
Craig joins the android, finding it curious that he has such an authentic Scots accent and appearance. When Craig questions the android about his ESP ability, noting the catastrophes he was able to avoid, McPherson dismisses them as coincidence. As for the five nuclear initiators, McPherson says there is a market for them on the planet Rahdd. Craig asks if he could investigate the engine room to confirm his story, but McPherson discourages him. Craig tells him that he suspects that has something to do with the Scottish woman, and assures McPherson that he will keep the information confidential. McPherson refuses to comment on Craig's suspicion, and also remains silent about his supposed ESP abilities.
Suddenly, the Captain gets up to leave and the breakfast meeting is over. Eltrin announces that Craig will need some training before engaging in combat. As part of this training, he provokes a man to quarrel with Craig. The man lunges at him, punching at the air, but somehow, mysteriously, makes contact with Craig from a distance. Craig manages to get a grip on his opponent, getting him to hand over a device he had used against Craig. Eltrin, returning Craig to his cabin, informs him that he has just been in battle with an Ool from the planet Yanemel.
In his cabin, Craig examines the small flesh-coloured metal cylinder taken from the Ool. He stretches out on his bed and, almost indifferently, contemplates his situation. He concludes that he must make a decision: should he do what Eltrin wants him to do?
He then proceeds to study his small room: small bed, closet door, exit to the corridor outside, washroom, and a sophisticated wall-sized television opposite the bed. He is not impressed by this since he doesn't watch much television. Overcome by boredom, Craig decides that he wants out, to quit this Kiber game and return to Earth, but does not know how. Suddenly, he realizes this is a situation of total isolation: he is a prisoner!
Suddenly, he begins to hear voices. An overheard conversation — sent to him telepathically perhaps? — telling of a plot to assassinate him by the supporters of Garren, King of Kiber. Craig then correctly predicts that he will be engaged in a battle with someone very soon, and feels uneasy.
Eltrin arrives with a tray of food and drink, informing Craig that he can no longer dine in the refectory because he is too intimidating to the others. Craig tries to get further information from Eltrin, but all he manages to learn is that the Captain and the bridge are located somewhere above his room. He also learns that his abduction is legal since Earth is not a member of the "Federation of Planetary Merchants," so the law against such things do not apply there.
Wondering what to do next, and wanting to at least know more about the ship, he remembers the key to his room that Eltrin had given him. Craig, being mechanically inclined, manages to figure out how the key works, and alters it to open all the doors on the ship. He pretends to sleep, assuming that monitors would not keep watch on a sleeping man for very long. As it turns out, this assumption is wrong: the observers are androids, and androids do not get bored. He slips out of his room and finds his way back to the bar he had been in earlier. Searching the various corridors, not finding what he is looking for (the room had since been cleared out), he stops abruptly at a metal ledge. He finds steps that descend to a lower level, entering into a vast area full of machinery. This is evidently Angus McPherson's domain. He then comes across someone whom he first thought might be a crew member, but is, in fact, a "man-creature" and realizes the meeting was not by chance.
Craig does not consider the thin "mere caricature of a human being" as a real threat, which proves to be a mistake. His opponent defeats Craig's attack simply by moving his lips, not making a sound, causing a sense of vertigo in Craig, bringing him to his knees. Craig suggests that they cease their struggle and discuss things. His assailant initially refuses, but soon yields after Craig figures out that all he has to do to resist the vertigo is to stay down.
During this standoff, his opponent says his name is Yissah from Gegg. Craig takes this opportunity to ask Yissah to tell the crew that Craig is not there to fight everyone, despite what Eltrin might have told them. They then go their separate ways.
On his way back to his cabin, he is aware that these deserted corridors may have an unknown number of the King's assassins out to get him. Entering his cabin, he immediately notices the object placed on the bed.
The object is a bottle of Craig's preferred brand of Canadian whisky. He also notices the scent of women's perfume in the air. After falling asleep, he "dreams" the second voice of the last telepathic conversation continued from where it left off: "I thought you were going to kill him, what happened?" Upon waking, he notices that the bottle is gone, and thinking about the voices, he wonders if maybe he is like the android, capable of ESP at least to some degree. While trying to come up with a way to confirm this, he feels the ship moving, a sensation similar to descending in an elevator. The ship is landing! According to the monitor on the cabin's wall, they are on a planet called Glida (known as Kiber to its inhabitants). The first letter "G" in the name represents the G-type star (like that of Sol) that it orbits and the other letters in the name describes other specific characteristics of the planet itself. Glida / Kiber is completely covered with water, creating a monotonous sight.
The Shooting Star is sinking below the surface of the water when it is hit by something. Captain Schock comes on to the monitor and confirms that they have been hit by a projectile fired by the Kiberans, and that the ship is taking on water. The Captain then orders everyone to begin emergency procedures. This worries Craig, who lacks the crew's training for such situations.
The communication device at the head of his bed sounds. It's Captain Schock, asking Craig if he remembers the conversation they had earlier that morning about Angus McPherson. He wants Craig to deal with him in the engine room right away. Finding his way (with a little difficulty) to the engine room, Craig observes the ship's various systems of operation, and then alarms start sounding. Craig views the chaos as McPherson and his technicians immediately attend to each disaster.
McPherson reports that the nuclear initiator was damaged, and that he is in the process of replacing it so they can leave "this God forsaken planet." He is upset that they are down to only four of the five initiators he has on board. Craig recalls that McPherson had said that all five would be required. Craig then wonders if this means that the ship will be fired upon again. Fearing for his life and the possible carnage that could take place there in the engine room, Craig is anxious to leave, but reminds himself that he is there to learn what Captain Schock wants to know. He decides to find a better vantage point where he can see the hole in the hull where the men are dealing with the flooding.
Craig wants to benefit from McPherson's ESP ability. Craig is concerned whether the five initiators are in fact necessary for their survival. McPherson explains that if the Kiberans destroy the second initiator, there will be no further attempts at repair and it would force the Captain to negotiate with the Kiberans. He then asks Craig to get out of his way, for he has work to do. Craig complies and goes up to the bridge, intending to report what McPherson had said, but decides to reconsider events before proceeding. Immersed in thought, he enters his cabin to find the lean young Scottish woman aiming a weapon at him.
The weapon is a sophisticated cylindrical object with a blade that springs out of it. Craig realizes that if she were to kill him, no one would know who had done it, for no one knew of her presence on the ship except him and McPherson.
Craig, reacting automatically as usual, says "Where's the whisky?" He immediately recognizes his dreadful folly. She replies, "Angus has it." Craig considers this a good omen. Craig recalls that his uncle (for whom he has the deepest respect) forbade all dealings with women. At this point, he reflects on his history with addiction. He had dabbled with drugs from the age of twelve to fourteen and then quit, before he was then addicted to alcohol at the age of sixteen. He later broke the habit when he began college, where he was very dedicated to his studies. One day at college, however, at the age of 23, he reluctantly agreed to go to a bar with a friend. After this, alcohol consumption quickly developed into a renewed habit. Eventually, the presence of girls encouraged him to drink even more, and naturally, in this intoxicated state, they lost all interest in having sex with him. Craig was also often the instigator of bar-fights. Other than attracting the attention of a galactic observer named Eltrin, no one admires a bellicose drunk.
Craig cleverly questions the young intruder and learns that her name is Mary McGregor. She also has been abducted, but secretly by Angus McPherson, and was hidden on board by the android as his mistress. It was McPherson who sent Mary to put a whisky bottle on Craig's bed and later retrieve it.
She then walks him back to the elevator that leads to his cabin, and after promising to meet again, they part. Back in his cabin, Craig demands to speak to Captain Schock. He describes his encounter with McPherson, and tells him what he is proposing to do, though Craig does not mention Mary. The Captain suggests they meet for dinner with Eltrin.
Craig reminds himself that the unpleasant "telepathic dreams" occur only while sleeping, so he decides to avoid falling asleep.
The phone rings. It is Garren, King of Kiber, calling to inform Craig that if he leaves the ship, the King can do nothing to save his life. Disturbed by the threat, Craig hangs up and realizes that, yes, there is another person involved in all of this. Up until now, he had the impression that he would simply come in, take over the throne, and vacantly smile at his loyal subjects after having ingested too much honorary wine.
Eltrin suddenly appears and reports that the attack on the ship was aimed at Craig. He also says it is a mystery how Garren could have known the exact time and place of the arrival of the ship. No one can be trusted, therefore they should not have their planned meeting in the refectory. With further thought, Eltrin realizes that the reason why the Captain wanted them in the refectory was so Craig could be detained and not be allowed to disembark the ship.
Once the initiator is installed, they will take off. Craig (having a few molecules of alcohol left in his brain) suddenly feels a touch of bravery and empowerment to take on King Garren. He does not, in fact, want to leave Kiber on board the ship, but rather to get off with Eltrin. They head off to the refectory.
Craig and Eltrin have a table to themselves. Craig asks about the problem of identity that androids have. Eltrin explains that humans define their identity based on what they have experienced during their lives, i.e., upbringing, occupation, standards, and limits they set for themselves. Eltrin then changes the subject, declaring that he had immigrated to Kiber from the planet Aldo, after hearing of Kiber and its system of longevity. Craig, noting the change of subject, drops his question (which he had asked with the ulterior motive of learning more more about McPherson, hoping that it would lead to obtaining more whisky). Craig asks about the longevity Eltrin mentioned. Oddly, Eltrin disregards Craig's question and returns to the subject of androids, pointing out that they don't develop, but simply come into existence fully formed. They never had parents, early memories, life history, or anything like that. Therefore, they have a chief engineer with an adopted stereotypical Scottish guise. Craig asks if anyone knows why the android has these ESP abilities, which Eltrin seems not to hear, returning to the subject of longevity. He says that one can live approximately three times as long on the ocean planet. Perplexed, Craig wonders if this has anything to do with the water. Eltrin explains that the longevity is due to a rare phenomenon, involving Kiber's sun being at that the centre of an aidlai field. He dreams of the day when intelligent life will finally have control of this phenomenon, to be used in ships equipped with super computers coordinating all the changes of time and space.
Craig also wishes to discuss the confrontation he had with Yissah in the corridor; he's curious about how he had acted against Craig with his mind. Eltrin explains that it was due to a flow of energy from his brain to Craig's. It was a sort of ray of small particles, like quarks, a technique that could, probably, be mastered by Craig with a little practice.
Eltrin then intends to set Craig up for another fight. Angered by this, Craig reacts by grabbing Eltrin's arm and spinning him around violently. A muscled character stands up and immediately intervenes to defend Eltrin, attacking Craig with a shock akin to that of an electric eel. Craig, having knowledge of marine biology, quickly figures this out, and also realizes that this character is, in fact, another android.
He and Eltrin then head back to his cabin when Captain Schock announces over the speakers that all on board are to be on alert and be prepared to abandon ship when and if the order is given.
In his cabin, Craig contemplates the fact that the universe is waiting in vain for the day when human beings reach such the level of perfection that Eltrin had suggested. He also wonders why he is an alcoholic. Was it due to his father's death, which left his widowed mother to work, leaving him alone for much of the time, and the truancy school that resulted from his delinquent behaviour? The inheritance from his uncle improved things for him (education, the aquarium) and now he has been chosen for another kind of inheritance: to be King of Kiber. In his cabin, once again, Craig drifts off to sleep.
Craig hears the Scottish woman's voice saying, "Now!" Instantly, Craig finds himself clinging onto a rock in the water. Unaware of the change of scene, he is still contemplating various things: how he does not want to be King of Kiber; past disputes with his employees Steckler and Gregson about his running of the aquarium; Eltrin's comments on longevity (and how sharks are considered "long-lived" on Earth without the effect of an aidlai field). Then he realizes where he is. He accidentally lets go, drifting off into the unearthly current. He notices that Eltrin is there right behind him, as he manages to grab hold of another rock. He asks Eltrin what they are doing there, while Eltrin in turn asks Craig what happened to him. At that moment Craig again hears the Scottish woman's voice: Now!
Craig is back in his bed staring at the double monitor on the opposite side of his room. It displays the surface of Kiber on one side, and beneath Kiber's ocean on the other.
Captain Schock is then heard announcing that they will take off in one minute, followed shortly by an exclamation. The Captain then announces that they have been hit by a second missile, in effect preventing their escape. The ship appears to be sinking. Craig muses someone should have pointed out to these "stupid fish" that the problem would have been solved had the ship been allowed to take off with him on board. Dozing now, the voice of Mary is heard again: Now!
Craig finds himself swimming in the waters of Kiber, accompanied by twelve natives. He believes this time that he must surely be dreaming, but the water is very cold and everything just seems too real... Again he hears Mary's voice: Now!
He finds himself in bed. He tries to recall all the details of the underwater "dream," noting that with those twelve Kiberans he was "breathing" normally through his gills, and moving quite well without difficulty below the water.
The phone rings, snapping him back to "reality." It is Captain Schock, informing him that they have made an agreement with the Kiberans. The ship is permitted to leave, providing they hand over the three remaining nuclear initiators along with Craig himself. Soon, six of the King's representatives will arrive to escort Craig from his cabin.
Then, Eltrin arrives at the door. He is jubilant because he is certain that before the King executes Craig, he will want to interview him. This will create a great opportunity for Craig to kill the King. Eltrin then escorts Craig up to the lounge.
Everyone there takes no notice of Craig. It is obvious to him that he is being ostracized. He is surprised to feel wounded by this, since he normally avoids attention. Eltrin tells him that this predicament is Craig's own fault — he did not keep his focus on the task of conquering Kiber, but rather seemed more concerned with his own personal ambitions.
Craig is growing weary of these types of comments from Eltrin, but Eltrin continues, telling him that, he as a "guest" on the ship had caused nothing but chaos from the instant he first left his cabin. As he rises to leave, Eltrin adds that there is another type of attack he should know about before meeting the King's supporters. Eltrin approaches a solitary, muscular figure. The man gets up as the room empties. Eltrin explains that he is a Rudain from the planet Ruda, and that he attacks by using his opponent's psychological weaknesses. Not wanting any part of this, Craig tries to simply leave with the others, but Eltrin explains that the others were leaving to avoid Craig, believing once again that Craig had started yet another fight.
The Rudain, believing that Craig is the instigator of the fight, pulls out a small silver object that extends telescopically into a rapier a metre in length, and the battle begins. After a bit of a scuffle, Craig manages to get a firm grip on his opponent. Craig tells the Rudain that if he drops the weapon, he will release him without objection. The Rudain accuses Craig of having started the fight. Craig comes to the conclusion that these confrontations only prove that those from other solar systems are as evil as those on Earth. The Rudain, rather than continuing with the battle, becomes withdrawn and finally drops his weapon. Craig figures that possessing the weapon may have been the key to the Rudain's behavior. Craig's first intention is to get rid of the weapon, but decides to keep it.
Captain Schock enters, telling Craig to accompany him to the engine room, and that he intends to take him personally to the Kiberans. As Craig, Eltrin and the Captain head down to the engine room, Eltrin points out that, as McPherson had predicted, all five nuclear initiators will be indispensable before the end of this affair.
Craig is released into the Kiberans' custody. He and a group of about a dozen Kiberans wait in a large room with an impressive view of beneath Kiber's ocean. Craig becomes aware of some political intrigue within Kiber's society, involving a man named Arin who is an associate of the current king. As most of the group leave to lend their support to Arin, Craig — with an alcoholic drink in hand — is left alone with a Kiberan woman named Tret.
She tells him that she is to be one of his "ten-day wives," and that Kiber women feel free to have such arrangements because they live longer and have need for new experiences. As Craig contemplates all of this, he senses Mary's voice say Now!
Craig is then immersed in his third "underwater dream." The next "moment," he is looking out of the view port at the underwater landscape, noting that it is dark out there. He wonders if it is night outside, or simply due to the ocean's depth? He sits back down and notices Tret is gone. Then, instant chaos!
Craig is walking along a brightly lit deserted corridor, which reminded him of a large building or the interior of the spaceship, but he can see no further than fifteen metres or so. Seeing a barrier ahead of him, he instinctively stops and takes a step backwards. Behind him is Captain Schock. Craig is now certain that he is back on the ship. The Captain has him enter an oval-shaped door that leads to a tunnel or tube. Worried that he is going to be ejected missile-like out into the Kiberan sea, he realizes it is a sort of air lock. Captain Schock tells him through a speaker to take note of this location (for the ship returns to the same area each year), in case he ever wants to return to space. However, he would have to pay his way with a large quantity of some Earth product such as wheat or rice. Craig is not really listening, for the realization had hit him: He is on Earth!
Once on the ground, he is impressed by the ship's colossal power to defy Earth's gravity as it rises up into the night sky.
Craig walks through the fields until he comes upon a small country road. He is in need of a stiff drink, sees a bus, manages to get it to stop, and gets out at a place called "Seventh Heaven Cocktails." Craig then ends up in a hotel room and calls up old friends on the phone, inviting them over to join him for a drink.
After awhile, an employee of the hotel requests that he immediately settle his account for $233. Once he pays the amount, he is surprised to see how little cash he has left in his wallet. He decides that Steckler and Gregson are responsible for this. Just as he has this thought, they both walked in to greet him (Craig assumes that word of his arrival must have got around). They clear the room of his guests, as Craig collapses onto the bed and passes out while cursing both of them.
Craig wakes up (still in his hotel room), surprisingly clear-headed and alert. He wants to know what day it is, and to rectify the fact that he has little cash on hand. He calls Steckler's office. Steckler suggests that Craig get himself a lawyer and hangs up. Looking out the window of his room, Craig notes that it is already getting dark, so it must be late in the afternoon or early evening (therefore explaining Steckler's abruptness), as he would be closing up to leave for home.
As Craig goes down to the aquarium, he rationalizes that, having been on board a faster-than-light vessel for more than a day, the Lorenz-Fitzgerald contraction effect would surely apply. He tries to estimate how much time must have passed on Earth while he was on the Shooting Star. Based on the estimate of one ship day equalling one Earth year, he must therefore have been gone for a year and ten days at most.
Once he arrives at the aquarium's administrative offices, he notices Steckler sitting at his desk, looking plumper and a fair bit older. Craig dismissed this observation, and asks him for an advance of $2,000, to which Steckler replies that the law states that a person is considered deceased after being missing for seven years. He adds that two years ago Craig had already been missing for this seven-year period, and that the aquarium has since been sold to a society. He has also been instructed not to give Craig any money.
He asks for a loan, but this enrages Steckler, who rants about how Craig had so poorly treated his own employees in the past. He refuses Craig the $200 loan, and orders him to leave, never to return — sober or drunk!
Needing to find another way to raise funds, his first strategy is to call on those he had the night before. So he has a few drinks, picks up the phone, and tells over and over his story of how he was abducted, nine years had passed, and he was deprived of all his capital. He has some failures, but some successes as well. He manages to raise $158. He feels that it is nice to have some real friends.
He then considers calling his cousin Peter, the son of Craig's uncle's older brother, who is his only living relative. The problem here is that Peter had not benefited from his uncle's inheritance as Craig did. It had never occurred to Craig to share his fortune with him. In fact, he never even bothered to write Peter into his will (for he never bothered to write one at all, despite it being suggested to him often). This certainly would work against him.
Could Craig perhaps find work? What kind of work? Lecture in a University or College? He then wonders if it might be better to consult a lawyer. But first, he decides to make an appointment with his psychiatrist Dr. Utson.
The next morning, he tells Dr. Utson his story in great detail. He even displays evidence of his fantastic story by showing the doctor his gills. He also mentions that the Shooting Star lands at the same spot once a year. That inspires an interesting thought. His one day on the ship had actually meant nine years on Earth (contrary to his own original estimate of a year and ten days). That means that the Shooting Star had landed on Earth nine times, routinely exchanging cargo while he was on board; therefore, by now, his Kiber story is old news. This explains the question of "holes" in space-time, instantly linking several sights, locations, and experiences of instant transport between the ship and the aquatic world of Kiber, and right there on Earth. He remembers Eltrin discussing what he called the aidlai field, that if directed by super-computer could control the space-time phenomenon.
Dr. Utson invites Craig to join him for breakfast, and explains to him that there are theories on hypnotism that could explain the phenomena he had experienced. It is a classic case of paranoia. He then lectures at great length on the subject as it pertained to the certitude of self in the enigmatic universe. The monologue is not to be taken as a diagnosis, but the thesis is that the fantasies, hallucinations, and behavior of Craig, an alcoholic, had led him to reflect on the unique aspects of his excessive drinking, revealing some of the aspects of human nature. Craig tries to ask a question, but Utson continues, ignoring the interruption. He points out the essential questions: Who operated on him to give him gills? Who kept him under hypnosis for nine years? Why did they liberate him at this time?, and, finally, Who represents the society that now owns the aquarium and what do they still want from Craig?
Utson finally gets up and requested that they meet again the next day. On their way to the elevators, Utson opines that the aquarium must be worth several millions, and advises Craig to look into his cousin being part of the conspiracy. He adds that Craig should be aware that the mere power of suggestion could cause him to have hallucinatory episodes, due to suggestions that may have been implanted into his subconscious. Craig agrees to consider these suggestions. But as usual for him in times of trouble, he heads straight to a bar for a quick drink. Craig then takes a taxi to his lawyer Bellatin, and (after a quick stop at the bar in the lobby) repeats his story to him.
Bellatin (as Dr. Utson did) listens attentively and examines the gills. He suggests a lawsuit against the government for failing to protect a citizen from mutilation by alien invaders. Millions of dollars are spent for an army that could not take notice of a space ship landing on Earth once a year! The lawsuit is to be for $100,000,000. Craig agrees. Bellatin wants to begin work on the case by challenging his cousin Peter, firstly by looking into his bank account. Craig admits to himself that he is happy to reveal to the world what has happened to him, and that he isn't just raving mad due to the loss of his fortune. The lawyer insists on being paid a retainer of $2,000 to get things started. He suggests that Craig borrow the money from his friends and colleagues.
On his way back to his hotel room, Craig stops the taxi twice to get a drink. He wrestles with the problem by going over the free advice that has been repeated to him over the years: "Be an adult, look after your responsibilities," "Get married, stay faithful," "Have children," "Have faith in God, join AA," and "Become a man, rescue stray animals." He then proceeds to counter every suggestion with a self-justifying argument (except for the bit about rescuing stray animals; he feels that might be an attractive idea). Over the years, he had discussed the problem of his alcoholism in bars with bar-stool philosophers. A particularly interesting theory came from a man named Harris, who said it had to do with the survival instinct. He explained that in Stalin's Russia, the deviants were deterred by the policy of "no-tolerance capitol punishment," i.e., simple execution. In Craig's case, if a doctor were to diagnose him with cirrhosis, that might be the day he quits drinking.
Back in his room, while counting the bit of money he has left on his bed ($83.28), there is a knock at the door. It is Steckler, with a proposition that would enable Craig to earn money. The idea is that he go to an island in the Antilles (near Haiti), where they own nurseries that breed tropical fish to replenish their tanks back at the aquarium. Craig had gone there voluntarily in the past, but they were willing to pay him to go on this occasion. He would get $200 a day, plus expenses. Craig is suspicious of the offer, but, not having any other option at this point, he accepts. He takes the opportunity to ask Steckler who currently owns the aquarium, but Steckler casually dismisses the comment. Craig, thinking of the lawyer's fee he needs to raise, notes the irony of Steckler and Gregson funding their own demise.
Once settled in on the island, Craig checks the equipment and sends his local steward (Sawyer) out on a motorboat with a list of supplies. Craig's intention is to keep Sawyer away for a couple of days so he can experiment with breathing with his gills in the ocean. Once in the water, he decides they work just fine. After swimming for a while, looking at schools of tropical fish and such, he encounters a shark. Luckily, it regards him (much to his surprise) with indifference, but the scare reminds Craig that the sea is not the natural habitat of man.
Later, fast asleep in his cot in his cottage, Craig hears voices in his mind. It is the voice of Yissah [from Chapter 9] conversing with someone: "He is alone on the island. We could surprise him. It would end the threat against Garren [king of Kiber]."
Craig wakes up angry, with the impulse to go out in the dead of night to the lagoon. From the open door of his cottage, he sees a wall of water explode into a million misty particles. He had vowed to Mr. Bellatin that he would not drink while out on the island. There were temptations, but he managed to resist them. He feels that somehow Yissah and his gang would succeed in accomplishing their mission if he were inebriated. To Craig, the new disturbing truth is that some of Garren's men are presently on Earth in some form to assassinate him. Craig decides that there is no alternative but to return to Kiber and become King.
Craig awakens with a jolt to the sound of a knock on the door. It is Mary, telling him that Angus is looking for him. She is gone before he opened the door, but he then realizes that he is no longer on the island, but on the Shooting Star. He concludes that Mary must have had something to do with the transference.
He proceeds to the engine room to meet with McPherson, but another change occurs. Craig is suddenly entering a "drying room," accompanied by a group of Kiberan men. He notices some technological advances since he was last on Kiber. He figures this is due to the time dilation.
Craig is dressed in grey and sent through a vast domed space that is evidently beneath the Kiberan sea. There he is led to a door where he immediately engages in physical combat with Garren, King of Kiber. In the midst of this battle, Craig manages to ask why they are playing at this game. The King accuses Craig of barging in and interrupting his purification practice. Craig points out that he had been away from Kiber, so why had the King sent assassins after him back on Earth? Craig ends the dialogue by stating that he could not imagine why anyone would want to be the King of a boring aquatic Kingdom. Garren admits that he would love to visit Craig's native planet, then suggests that maybe they could share the burden.
Craig wakes up on a floor mat in his cabin on the tropical island. Once he knows where (and when) he is, he realizes Yissah and his gang are most likely planning to attack him. He takes a rifle off the wall and loads it. He determines that it is now late afternoon and, to beat the fall of dark, he must act quickly.
From the top of a hill, he notices Sawyer has returned from his errands with the motorboat. It isn't until the next morning that he finds Sawyer's murdered body lying under thick bushes. He buries him (as if it were a natural death), then thinks better of it and reports it to the Santa Yuile police.
That night, he contemplates the effect of "purity" in relation with the aidlai field. How would it respond to alcoholic behaviour? Would it operate following the principles of the norms of Earth? What of the case where (like Craig) alcohol was used "therapeutically"? But Craig is unable to convince himself of the purity of his motives. There are impure consequences to an alcoholic's behaviour toward others, physically and mentally. The path to "purity" is paved with enigmas. Even criminal behaviour can be judged more leniently if one considers that the subject has been psychologically influenced by his early upbringing. In what way does the aidlai field operate in these conditions? Does it operate automatically?
The next morning, Craig calls his lawyer Bellatin who notifies him that his cousin Peter had received $3,000,000 from the sale of the aquarium. Peter now claims that he had lost it all in Las Vegas casinos, but in fact there was evidence that the money was tucked away in various bank accounts throughout the world and that he was living quite lavishly with apartments, cars, and various beautiful women. Unfortunately, it means that they could not have access to any of the assets. Also, the "society" that now owns the aquarium is, in fact, Steckler and Gregson themselves.
To Bellatin's surprise, Craig says that he wants to drop everything; that he believes the sale was legitimate, based on the fact that he was considered deceased by law, and concludes by saying that he no longer requires Bellatin's services.
The island police want Craig to show them where he had buried Sawyer's body, then ask him to help them exhume it. They then require him to accompany them to the coroner's for further examination. In transit on the police boat, Craig eventually jumps overboard. At that moment he feels the change in time-space. He immediately finds himself back on the Shooting Star.
Craig asks Eltrin for the key to Garren's combat method. As Eltrin explains, the King is firmly indoctrinated with the principles of pacifism, and that his method consists of making his adversaries believe "by illusion" that they see guards flocking to his aid. Eltrin adds that the King is no match for him, and is, in fact, essentially harmless. Craig points out one important difference between the battles he fought with those on the ship and the fight against Garren — he was sober when he battled with the King.
Captain Schock interrupts, pointing out that the scrap metal McPherson has been hoarding has not yet played a part in this whole chain of events. At that moment, the screen shows a panicking Kiberan in the flooded parts of the engine room. The water is on fire, burning spectacularly and violently! It resembles "the nightmare of an abstract painter," but, amazingly, all of the machinery is still running perfectly. Opposite them, amidst the chaos, stands McPherson and two mechanics with disintegrators in hand pointed at the Kiberans.
Captain Schock worries that McPherson is putting the Ship at risk with his actions, with the possibility of the Kiberans sending a third missile in retaliation. McPherson calmly explained that with Craig's help everything would turn out all right. First of all, he had prevented the Kiberans from entering the passageway by barricading it with metal scraps. Trapped, the Kiberan delegation could not get out without permission.
Craig cuts in and asked him what he meant by "with Craig's help." Angus explains that this was a strange universe, and he and Mary, two beings without fundamental identity, are able to situate themselves in a space-time zone, precisely imitating human beings. Craig, who had been firmly situated in the past, had spent many years disorienting himself, and so with a little training he became the catalyst for this situation. He could now continue to operate by inversion and resistance, as he has done up to this point, or he could just as well choose the direct path of purity. McPherson urges him to do the second. This is the way to ultimate control, through his own will. He then hands him a disintegrator, hoping its use will not be necessary.
McPherson reassures Captain Schock that he does not believe that the Kiberans will be any further threat, as they would not jeopardize the lives of their own men. The Captain then asks what is burning in the water. McPherson explains that it is a stew of magnesium, tin, beryllium and zirconium soaked in oil, and ignited with an equal variety of gas molecules causing the spectacular phenomenon, which is nonetheless harmless to the ship. Angus then abruptly returns to work.
After safely returning the twelve trapped Kiberans back to their aquatic home, the Shooting Star then rears up and, with a fantastic display of power, departs the planet.
Gregson shows Craig the account ledger, which shows that the aquarium is doubling its profits. This positive news gets Craig thinking that he might soon be able to purchase a plot of land he knows of, renovate the house there, and open up a shelter for abandoned animals. Gregson adds that their success is mostly due to Craig's "underwater show" which has attracted so much more business, and he offers Craig equal partnership in the company. Craig refuses, claiming that he would not accept the offer unless he felt he was sincerely contributing equally to the business of the aquarium.
Once alone, Craig wonders about many things:
- Had he really been the King of Kiber? More likely, he thinks that it was the changes that he had made in his life that had brought an end to all his miseries.
- Was he accused of the murder of Sawyer? Bellatin would have to look into this matter.
- Should he expect a second attack by Yissah? Not likely, as Craig no longer posed a threat to Garren.
- Had he married a Kiber woman for ten days? Women problems still had to be resolved.
- Had Eltrin returned to Kiber to continue the search for longevity?
Craig feels that he has achieved a positive operational state in the last nine years that no one can take away from him, having created neural relays that place him in relation with the real universe. Some time would pass before he could fully sort out all of his shortcomings, but they would eventually be cleared by eternal light and the ultimate truth.
|5||Paul Craig is in a bar; taken by Steckler and Gregson to the aquarium|
|7||from aquarium (or a drunken night out), to the tank on the Shooting Star|
|20||from the bar on the Shooting Star, to waking up in bed in his cabin on the ship|
|102||from his cabin on the Shooting Star, to the Kiberan waters clinging to a rock|
|105||from Kiberan waters (swimming with Eltrin), back to his cabin on the Shooting Star|
|108||from his cabin on Shooting Star, to swimming in the Kiberan waters|
|109||from the Kiberan water, back to his cabin on the Shooting Star|
|123||delivered by Captain Shock from the Shooting Star to the Kiberan dome|
|125||from the Kiberan dome with the Kiberan woman Tret, back to the Shooting Star|
|129||from the Kiberan dome, to the Shooting Star air lock, to Earth nine years after his departure|
|161||moves from the U.S. to a tropical island in the Antilles near Haiti|
|166||from the tropical island to his cabin on the Shooting Star|
|169||from the Shooting Star elevator to the Kiberan Dome to fight King Garren|
|174||from the Kiberan Dome to his cottage on the tropical island|
|180||from the Police boat in the tropics to the Shooting Star|
|187||finds himself at the Golden Aquarium in the U.S.|