In Absence of Sense

By: James Rumpel

"I just don't believe it. You mean to tell me that the scientists on Alpha Base survived." Captain Garret Hoffman couldn't decide if he was more shocked at the announcement or upset that he was not important enough to have been informed earlier.

"Yes, but they may just as well have perished in the attack," replied Commander Green. "They were, how shall I say, severely affected. Frankly, what happened to them is sort of embarrassing. That's why we haven't advertised their survival. Unfortunately, their existence and whereabouts have been leaked."

"Not to me," muttered Hoffman.

The Commander ignored Hoffman, "We need to send a ship to evacuate the scientists from their currently hiding place. They must be relocated before the Glarmians try to finish what they started with the attack on Alpha Base. That's where you come in, Captain Hoffman. I am sending you to get the scientists and transport them to their new home."

"That sounds easy enough. I am curious about what happened to them during the attack."

Commander Green shrugged. "I am not at liberty to tell you that. You will find out for yourself soon enough. Trust me, the state of the scientists is not what makes this mission challenging, though it probably won't help. The real job here is to get them safely off the planet before the Glarmians launch another attack. You should ready your transport ship. The coordinates of the planet will be given to you once you are on your way."

Hoffman stood and saluted his commander. "I want to thank you for showing the confidence to trust me with this mission. I will do my best, Sir."

Green had already turned away and was sorting through some papers on his desk. "Oh, sure. You'll do fine. None of the really good pilots were available at such short notice, but even you should be able to complete this mission."

#

The planet where the scientists were hiding was an inconsequential world in an insignificant solar system located in an irrelevant corner of the galaxy. The journey would take a couple of days. Since it was a solo mission, Hoffman found himself with quite a bit of time on his hands.

A good portion of it was spent brooding over the fact that he was not as highly regarded by his superiors as he hoped. During the remaining time, he researched the original attack on Alpha Base. He found every piece of information available about the scientists stationed there. Maybe, with a successful mission, he could change Commander Green's opinion.

Hoffman looked over the official report and studied the personnel files of the men and women who worked on the base. The report stated that the scientists had been creating an effective but humane weapon to be used against the Glarmian forces that had been raiding remote settlements and newly-established colonies. No further detail was given about the nature of the weapon the scientists hoped to create.

A Glarmian force had invaded Alpha Base and, supposedly, destroyed it. Fifteen of the galaxy's brightest minds had been working on the weapon. There had been no survivors, though Hoffman now knew that wasn't the case.

What was he going to find when he reached his destination? His mind jumped from one bizarre scenario to another. Were the scientists all severely injured? Had they been mutated into some sort of deformed monsters? Green had been very cryptic. What did ‘severly effected' mean?

#

Hoffman followed the coordinates given to him and landed his transport ship on the outskirts of a very ordinary-looking camp. There were no quarantine markers or emergency hospitals or grotesque monsters to be seen. A series of small fiberglass domes circled a large central building. front door swung open to reveal a welcoming committee of two healthy humans. Hoffman recognized them as members of the scientist team from Alpha Base. One of them was Doctor Myron Shepler, the lead scientist. The other was Margarette Perryman, a brilliant chemist.

To Hoffman's surprise, Doctor Shepler stopped feet from him and reached out his hand.

"Not yet, Myron," said Margarette. "You're not close enough to him."

"Oh, sorry." Shepler lowered his hand and took a few more steps in Hoffman's direction. "Now?"

"Close enough."

Shepler again offered his hand.

"I am Captain Garret Hoffman," said the Captain as they shook hands. "I have been sent to take you to a new location. It is no longer safe for you here."

"It's nice to meet you, Captain," replied the doctor. "I am Dr. Myron Shepler, but you can call my Myron and this is Doctor Margarette Perryman, but you can call her Doctor Margarette Perryman." He laughed at his own joke.

Hoffman couldn't help but chuckle also. Perryman, on the other hand, stood completely stoic.

"Don't mind her," said Shepler, "she has no sense of humor."

"I have the orders right here," said Hoffman. He extended a large envelope toward Dr. Shepler.

The scientist reached for the orders but missed, poking Hoffman in the shoulder. After three more unsuccessful attempts to grab the papers, he finally, with Perryman's help, was able to take them.

Hoffman tilted his head and stared at Shepler, not knowing what to make of the doctor's odd behavior

"You look confused, Captain," said Shepler. "I assume they did not tell you about our afflictions. Why don't you come inside and I'll explain everything to you?"

"I would like that," replied Hoffman, "but we can't take too long. The Glarmians may already be on the way."

"Then we must hurry. Here, Margarette, you take the orders and look them over while I explain our conditions to the captain." He started to extend the papers toward his fellow scientist but dropped them on the ground before reaching her. "Well, let's get going. It's a long walk to the main building."

#

A third scientist, Thomas Broker, cleaned up the broken cup and spilled coffee while Shepler continued his explanation.

"You see, we were working on a sensory deprivation weapon. We were hoping to render the Glarmians temporarily incapable of sight or hearing. It would allow us to peacefully stop their attacks and return them to their home planet. Unfortunately, they attacked us before the weapon was completed. It backfired and we were the ones affected."

"But you're not deaf or blind. What happened to you?"

"It turns out that the weapon wasn't particular about what type of sense it eliminated. The effects were not limited to the five traditional senses. For example, I completely lost my sense of distance." He gestured towards the man who had just finished cleaning the floor. "Poor Thomas lost his sense of accomplishment."

"I'm done wiping the spill," said Thomas. "though it really wasn't a big deal and anyone could have done a better job than me."

"You did wonderfully, Thomas," insisted Shepler.

"No, I didn't get everything. There's still some coffee down there. I'm going back to my room and lie down for a while. I might be able to do that, though probably not." He slowly shuffled toward the door.

"Ok, that's pretty strange and all," said Hoffman, "but it's not terrible. You seem to be getting along pretty well."

Shepler shook his head. "Not as well as you would think. We were sent here to try and find cures for our lost senses. We haven't been able to come up with anything. One of our top neural biologists, Joan Hart, lost her common sense and died when she stuck a metal fork onto a light socket. Another one of us, Doctor Hugh Gropely, lost his sense of responsibility. He sits in his room playing video games all day."

"Okay, I understand that it's difficult. But we need to get you packed up and out of here ASAP. Do you have an evacuation plan?"

"Yes, we'll get started immediately. Somebody is going to have to help Doctor Howser though, he lost his sense of urgency."

#

The fourteen surviving scientists gathered in the conference room and Hoffman began going over departure procedures. The briefing barely began when Hoffman's communicator beeped. His ship's sensors had picked up multiple Glarmian vessels approaching the planet.

"We have to leave immediately. Everyone to my ship, now."

What Hoffman had hoped would be an easy evacuation was far from simple. One of the scientists stood and started toward the door, but fell, unceremoniously bashing his head against a chair. Doctor Shepler went to help him up but walked past the prone man and into the wall.

"Margarette, you will have to help Doctor Styles," ordered Shepler as he attempted to rub his bruised forehead but only managed to massage his chin. "You see, Captain Hoffman, Styles has no sense of bal…"

"I get it," interrupted Hoffman. "Let's just get going. Hey, why is that lady just sitting there? She needs to get going."

"Claire has no sense of time," said Shepler. "Oh Claire, it's time for us to be going. You have to get up and go to the ship now."

"Already?" was all she said as one of the other scientists helped her to her feet.

Finally, the entire group started toward Hoffman's ship except for one scientist who started heading the wrong way. The woman sprinted further into the building."

"Hoffman," yelled Shepler, "someone has to go get Doctor Lu, she has no sense of direction."

"Oh, just leave her," called out one of the other scientists.

"I'll get her," shouted Hoffman, "everybody else just go to the ship."

Hoffman raced after Lu, managing to catch her just outside the building's furnace room.

"You're going the wrong way, Doctor. Follow me."

"Okay," said the woman as she turned and headed in the opposite direction.

"Oops. I guess you're going to have to hold my hand." Hoffman grabbed her arm and started dragging her toward the exit.

Hoffman and his companion emerged from the main building just in time to see the last of the scientists, a man dressed in a gaudy purple shirt with green pants and a yellow fedora, climb into the ship.

The sound of engines rained down from above. Hoffman glanced back to see three bright red Glarmian warships closing on them from behind. Constantly redirecting Doctor Lu was costing the pair valuable time. It soon became apparent that they were not going to reach the transport in time.

"Duck!" he shouted as he dove to the ground and Doctor Lu jumped into the air.

Miraculously, the first pass of the Glarmian ships failed to hit him or Doctor Lu. His ship took a couple of glancing blows from the laser fire but no major damage. Hoffman needed to get inside and activate the protective shields.

He looked toward the horizon and watched the three enemy vessels turn to make another run. Dragging Lu by the hand, he ran as fast as he could. Heat from laser fire whizzed past his ears. In one final desperate motion, he pushed Lu toward the hatch and dove inside.

The ship's shields immediately came on. The furious assault from the Glarmian attackers was successfully deflected. Hoffman looked up to see Dr. Shepler standing with his hand over the shield power switch.

"Oops, I was trying to shut the door and hit that button by accident," announced the doctor.

"That's perfect," shouted Hoffman as he jumped to the controls. In seconds, the ship was rising into the air and heading out of the atmosphere. The Glarmians followed close behind but their ships proved no match for Hoffman's powerful vessel and his expert piloting skills.

After a few well-timed rolls and sharp turns, Hoffman had his ship far enough away from his pursuers to make the jump into hyperdrive. The enemy would not be able to follow. The escape was complete.

Hoffman and all but one of the scientists sighed in relief.

"We did it," shouted Hoffman as he was slapped in the face by an ill-aimed high-five attempt from Doctor Shepler. "Let's get you back to the main base and let them figure out where to hide you next. Maybe the Commander will finally show me a little appreciation."

"You know, Hoffman," said Shepler, "you should do something about your low sense of self-worth."

Hoffman couldn't help himself. He broke out in uncontrollable laughter. The laughter was contagious. One by one, the scientists joined in. Soon, everyone on the ship was rolling on the floor or howling with glee. Well, everyone except for Doctor Margarette Perry; she just stood there, shaking her head.

The End

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