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Cronos Part Two

A young woman finds space helmet that leads her on to adventure and love.

The sun was very hot on her shoulders as she came out into the small clearing. She was perspiring heavily now and realised that over the past couple of hours, the temperature must have gone higher. She mulled this over as she approached the carcass and lifted the visor to see the scene change back to the exposed bones.

Audrey turned and made her way back to her tent, noticing that the two men were back at the table, still talking. Must have a lot to say, she thought as she entered her tent and took off the helmet and placing it in her locker.

‘Hi fellas, time for dinner?’ she asked as she approached them after leaving her tent. They both turned, Brendan looking at his watch.

‘Bit early I’d say. We only had lunch two hours ago.’ Audrey gave a gasp and looked at her wrist, and remembering that she’d forgotten to put on her watch again.

‘I…I guess I was feeling a bit hungry,’ she said lamely.

‘Well go grab a sandwich or something. Cookie’s in the mess tent,’ Brendan said, turning back to Martinez.

‘How long have you two been talking?’ Audrey asked, trying to sound as though it was just a casual question.

‘A couple of minutes. Why?’ Martinez answered.

‘No reason. No reason at all,’ she mumbled as she went back into her tent, trembling, and sat down on her cot and picked up her watch off the small side table.

‘I’ve been away nearly three hours,’ she whispered fiercely, ‘and it’s still only three o’clock. It should be six! Why?’ She strapped the watch onto her wrist and went up to the mess tent and got a sandwich from the cook and sat down at one of the tables. She was hungry, so the sandwiches were quickly demolished as she tried to work out where the time had gone.

After thirty minutes hard thinking, the only answer she could come up with was that the helmet was as she first thought, some sort of time machine, and with the visor down, time as she knew it, stood still.

It was the only solution that fit, but she was too tired to pursue it any further that afternoon. The sandwich had stopped the rumbling in her stomach and hoped that it would suffice until dinner.

Audrey left the mess tent and went and checked the tables to catalogue the days finds and was pleased that the total was light so that she could then get on with making her notes and doing her typing before dinner. As soon as dinner was over, she said her goodnight’s to everyone and turned in early.

She was woken as usual at seven the next morning by one of the boy’s bringing into her tent a hot mug of tea. After a shower, she dressed and went up to the mess tent for breakfast. She lingered over her meal, waiting till all had left, and cookie had started to clean up.

It was a bit difficult to make him understand, but he finally got the message that she wanted to make herself some sandwiches. He waved towards the fridge that was run by a portable generator and carried on with his chores whilst she made up a pack for herself. Also taking two bottles of water, placed them all in a bag she had brought with her. Armed with these provisions, she scuttled back to her tent.

With her backpack of food settled on her shoulders, a compass in her pocket along with pad and pencil, watch firmly strapped to her wrist, checked against her small alarm clock, she was ready. Retrieving the helmet from the locker, Audrey put it on, and with full confidence in her invisibility, went outside the tent.

Pausing there, she saw one of the boy’s cleaning the large bone that they had excavated the day before. She noted down the time on her pad and pulled down the visor.

As before, the scene changed from a treeless plateau with the tables and tents to a small clearing in the forest. But something was different, and Audrey was puzzled. It was not the scene in front of her, but something else. Something she couldn’t quite put her finger on. Ha-ha, she laughed to herself. Only if it’s dead I can, she thought. But what is it, her mind continued to ask?

She snapped the visor back up to see the boy still at the table with the tents of the latrines behind him. Pulled the visor down again to see the same clearing. It wasn’t until she had done this action twice more before it struck her what was wrong. It so literally staggered her as she realised what it was, that she sat down with the shock.

‘The sun has moved!’ Audrey whispered in awe. ‘No. It can’t be the sun, it’s the Earth itself that has moved.’ She squinted up as best she could, and kept flipping the visor up and down. The sun was definitely there in the sky at a different angle between the visor up and the visor down.

Pulling the compass from her pocket, she checked the polarization with the visor in both positions. No change. So the magnetic pole was still where it should be. Checking again with the visor up and down, she estimated that the difference of the two suns was about ten degrees.

‘I must brush up on my sciences,’ Audrey told herself. ‘So the Earth has moved off its axis. Wow! Wait till I tell the boys!’ Then she remembered that she couldn’t tell them without divulging the existence of the helmet, and there was so much more to see before letting anyone else into the secret.

That would explain the lack of snow on the mountains, she thought. We must be that much closer to the, what would be, equator. That would also mean that Canada and England would be like a frozen icecap. She shivered at the thought.

So with a sigh, Audrey got up from the ground, and with the visor down, turned round to pick up the homing signal. When the ping came, she noted down the bearing for her return trek. She checked her watch and noted down that the time was nine forty-five in the morning as she started off to follow the brief white line inside her visor. She crossed the clearing singing the well known song from the Wizard of Oz, only it wasn’t a yellow brick road.

She strode into the trees without hesitation, passing through them and bushes, but being careful to step over what looked like dead wood. Audrey checked her watch and confirmed the beacon as repeating itself every forty five seconds with the white line lasting only two seconds.

It didn’t take long to pass the spot where she had turned back the previous day, making short notes as she moved along. It was a strange experience to be striding along and not being able to see where she was going.

Trees, bushes and leaves were continually just in front of her face, but not touching her as she moved forward. It was like having your face up close to a television screen that was showing a film of you moving through these trees. It was uncanny to see a large tree loom up in front and just pass straight through it. So it was a shock to suddenly step out into a clearing. Well it wasn’t really a clearing, but a trail. One that had been blazed through the forest.

The trees had been trampled and most were without foliage, which could have only been the passage of one or more vegetation eating animals. A huge pile of dung off to her left confirmed that the animal was big.

‘Another Brontosaurus has passed this way,’ Audrey chuckled at her own toilet humour, and waited for a moment to pick up the beacon and carry on her way.

Audrey had been checking her watch to see if the hands moved, and they did. They moved as if she were in normal time so she knew that she was now just over an hour away from the camp, and was now wondering how far away the source of the beacon was.

No sooner had she thought this, was when she saw it. It was just a glint in the sunlight, but there was definitely something just up there ahead of her. She carried on, the foliage not causing an impediment as she sailed through the brush and trees before coming to a full stop as it became clearer.

It was still partially hidden by trees, but she could see that it was some kind of ball. As she got closer, it proved to be the case. It was spherical, at least forty feet high and just as wide.

The top section appeared to be made of some type of transparent material or glass, though Audrey doubted it being glass. The rest of the sphere seemed to be of the same manufacture as that of the helmet.

Moving round the object, not yet giving it the appellation space ship, Audrey saw that there was an opening in the side with a short ramp down to the ground. Retreating back to the bushes, Audrey stopped and sat down and decided to have a sandwich and a drink before going any further while she contemplated and studied the craft and thought through her options.

It looked perfectly round with not a seam to be seen, apart from the door opening, and she was quite sure that if it had been closed, you wouldn’t seen any join whatsoever. She’d finished one sandwich and stowed the rest and water bottle back in the bag as she considered what was to be the moment of truth. To enter the machine or not to enter.

Surely it must be deserted, otherwise, if there had been anybody connected to whomsoever had worn the helmet, would have already been out looking for them. Maybe they were wearing a helmet so that she couldn’t see them.

Don’t be silly, she said to herself, this was a hundred million years or so ago, and surely if the helmet was the same, they should be able to see each other. There were too many variations on this theme for her to consider at this time.

She couldn’t really put it into words that they were aliens. Not those from another country, but from another world. Not human. Images of Sigourney Weaver fighting them in the spaceship came to mind first, and she shuddered at the thought of meeting creatures like that, but realised that they wouldn’t have worn a helmet like the one on her head. That would be more in line with those from ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’, which was more acceptable.

So it was with some trepidation that she approached the craft and went up the short ramp, and hesitated at the top and surveyed the gloomy interior before going in. The doorway was just over five foot high, so she had to duck her head as she went and entered the craft.

Just inside was some kind of soft rubber matting, and when she stood on it, a soft wind blew over her with a strange odour to it. Must be some subtle type of disinfectant Audrey thought. Also, she seemed to be enveloped in a soft orange glow as though she herself were a lamp.

Audrey could now see that there was more headroom inside than the doorway suggested. From floor to ceiling was about seven foot and the walls were curved like those of a pipe with the ceiling being flat like the floor.

A few steps ahead of her was another open doorway, but the light that surrounded her didn’t penetrate any further than that. So with her heart pounding, she said a quick prayer and taking a deep breath, moved forward to this other open door.

The first surprise came as she stepped off the mat and had moved forward two steps before she realised that her feet were not touching the floor. Audrey stopped and looked down to see that she was nearly a foot above the floor and still moving forward.

She had lost gravity! Don’t panic, she shouted to herself as she started to do so. Keep calm! Keep calm! Her hands went out as though on a tight rope, to steady herself and not bang into the sides of the short passage.

Don’t panic was good advice as the daylight behind her also disappeared, leaving her in this small orange halo of light. Audrey turned her head quickly to see that the door had indeed closed behind her.

Claustrophobic panic set in as she fought the lack of gravity to get back to the door. As she came back over the mat, her feet settled down upon it, and lo and behold, the door suddenly opened and it became the ramp.

Daylight flooded the entrance and Audrey fought hard to stem the tears of relief that welled up in her eyes. She waited a few minutes for her heart to slow down from its wild beating before attempting to move again. Then, very tentatively, she experimented three times of moving off the mat and returning, watching the door open and close each time. Satisfied that her way of retreat was open, or rather, could be opened, she smiled.

Courage once again fortified, she moved off the mat and watched the ramp come up and become part of the side of the craft. Suffused in her orange glow, she turned and drifted the few steps into a circular room in the centre of the sphere. The door hissed closed behind her, and here she could look up and through a circular hole, could see the sky through the transparent dome at the top.

She looked round this chamber on the lowest level and saw that there were four distinct doors, all closed, including the one she had come through. They all looked the same, and if she was to spin round, there was doubt as if she could pick out the right one for any escape.

‘Think, think, think,’ Audrey admonished herself, ‘if I could only mark this door behind me. I can only touch dead or inanimate objects…oh you fool.’

Up to now, Audrey had not touched anything since entering the craft, except the ramp and mat with her feet. If her feet could touch, so could her fingers. She reached behind her and gave a triumphant grin as her fingers made solid contact with the warm feeling metal of the door.

Pleased with herself, she turned round and placed her hands flat on the door. It opened immediately to her touch, and as she stepped back, the door slid shut again. Audrey then poked it with a finger, but it didn’t open. Placing one flat hand against it caused it to open.

So, Audrey mused, did ‘they’ not have fingers, or did it only open to a more solid touch? Another unanswered question.

‘Huh! The whole thing is full of questions,’ she said out loud, ‘let’s have some answers,’ she shouted up the central hole in the ceiling. Then another thought struck her. Can they hear me, she thought? Would they understand what she was saying? Probably not. Besides, there shouldn’t be anyone, correction, anything here after a hundred million years.

Would they hear if she took the helmet off? No, Audrey said to herself, this would all disappear if I did that, or lifted the visor. But then, if I lifted the visor and then closed it again, I would still be back here she reasoned.

So with a trembling hand, she snapped up the visor and saw that she was still standing before the closed door to the exit. Maybe the helmet only works outside the spacecraft or time machine whichever it was. Without any more hesitation, Audrey released the chinstrap and took off the helmet and found that she was still there.

‘That’s better,’ she said, shaking her head and using her fingers to open the strands of hair that had become somewhat matted with sweat. ‘Now the dog can see the rabbit, or whatever the saying is.’

Placing the helmet on the floor, took out her pencil and drew a large cross on the door. Only it didn’t make a cross. It left no mark at all. Audrey tried again, but still no sign upon the metal. Pulling out her pad, she tried the pencil on the paper and found that it marked it perfectly, but it meant that she couldn’t leave her mark anywhere inside this machine.

So with a shrug of her shoulders, she pushed the helmet close to the door instead as a marker. Well I don’t need it for the time being Audrey thought and then laughed at her use of the English language. For the ‘time being’, meaning here at this time. But what time? Here she was, a ‘being’ in time. A time past and yet now. What a conundrum! But not one that she was going to try to explain now, she thought. I’ve got places to go and things to see, looking through this circular hole in the ceiling.

It was about four feet across and it was like being in a well, looking up to the top and the sky beyond. There appeared to be three or four floors between her on this lowest level to the one where the dome was. But on looking round the bare chamber, could not find any means of access to these levels. No ladders, steps or lifts that she could see, or any other means of hoisting the crew or whatever up this central well.

‘Think,’ Audrey said to herself, think. ‘You’re a scientist of a sort, so use your brain and think. When I entered this thing and stepped off the mat, I was without gravity, but I’ve since settled back down to the floor.’ So she gave a little jump, but found she only rose a little way of the floor before gently settling back down.

‘Scratch that idea,’ Audrey said, ‘keep thinking. Air is an element, as is water and earth. Earth is solid because you can walk on it. Water is solid, well up to a point it is. If you were to drop from a great height onto water, it would be like slamming into a piece of concrete, because it doesn’t have time to absorb the displacement of your body weight. We also were not fast enough to be able to skim across the surface of it either. Air doesn’t hold you up because gravity is stronger, otherwise we’d all float off the planet.

You can swim through water but humans are not built to fly through the air like birds, but even these have to land eventually. Air can be as solid as water sometimes, and we call it air pressure. The higher you go the less pressure there is compared to ground level. Another kind of air pressure is wind. That’s only air moving at varying speeds and can get very strong. Just think of what gales and hurricanes can do. But this digressing is not getting me up to that dome.

What if I do get up there and find that someone, or something is waiting for me? How do I tell them that I’m harmless and only want to talk. How do I know they can speak? They might not have vocal cords as we have. We’d have to use hand signals, just like the cowboys when they meet the Indians. Deaf and dumb people talk to each other with their hands. Politicians use them to emphasis a point, and that’s how policemen on point duty direct traffic. The preacher in the pulpit raises his hands to God when talking to him.’ Audrey had lifted her hands up in the same way as she was speaking, and suddenly felt herself, and could also see, that she was rising up from the floor.

‘I did it!’ she yelled out, and turned her hands over so that her palms were now facing downwards, and she started to descend.

Like a child, she played at going up and down with her hand movements. By holding her palms inwards, she stopped in mid-air, by moving her left hand outward, she went off in that direction. The right hand caused the movement in that direction.

The speed was slow, but constant, so it took several seconds for her to float up to the top deck. When she judged that her feet were level with the floor, she indicated with her right hand and drifted over so that she could step onto the solid floor.

By concentrating on her hand movements, Audrey hadn’t looked at the floor levels that she had passed on her way up to the dome. But there was time for that later, on the way down were her thoughts.

There were eight chair like structures, in pairs with some sort of console between each pair. They were set facing outward equidistant around the circular dome of whatever transparent material they had used. This gave these chairs a panoramic view all round and not a seam or join to mar the view.

Audrey pulled out her compass and checked the bearing towards the camp, but couldn’t see anything of the clearing. Just tree tops as far as the eye could see. She sat down in one of the chairs and leaning back, felt it gently move beneath her. She started to rise in panic, but stopped herself as she realised that the chair was actually moulding itself to her body shape. Then came a gentle movement running up and down her back and legs.

‘Wow! What wouldn’t I give to have this chair back at the camp,’ Audrey exclaimed, laughing. She let herself relax and closed her eyes and let the chair continue to give her this massage. Backache was a common complaint in her profession and this would be the answer. She could have dozed off to sleep it was so relaxing, but forced her eyes open and looking between her outstretched legs, gazed out over the forest.

‘It must be wonderful to cruise through space, sitting here watching the stars and comets and things,’ Audrey mused. ‘You’d need some massaging if you had to travel for that long. Then land on some planet and look out at the forests and mountains. Mountains!’

Audrey sat bolt upright and quickly scanned round. There was a fairly high ridge off to her right, but the sight of the far off mountains that she had been seeing for the last four weeks were not there.

First this time machine. Then the sun in a different place in the sky, and now no Andes. What on earth did the Earth really look like? This period must be at least pre-Mesozoic Era, before the continents divided and the dinosaurs could roam.

As Audrey sat up, her hand touched the console between the seats, but fortunately, she hadn’t pressed any of the buttons. Looking at it made her realise that the people of this craft did have fingers of some sort for pushing those buttons. The console was angled so that it could be seen and touched from a reclining position. There were six rows of seven buttons, each row a different colour, and underneath each one, a small plate engraved with symbols that she couldn’t understand.

Audrey didn’t dare touch any for fear of setting up some reaction that she couldn’t control. Getting up from her seat, she went and checked the other three consoles and found that they were all the same, leaving her to believe that this craft would be operated by two persons. So whichever angle it was travelling, they would be able to navigate in comfort.

It was with some hesitation that Audrey walked out into the central well, half expecting to suddenly fall down between the decks to the lower floor. But trusting to what she had seen so far, and with hands out ready, stepped into the void.

She seemed to be walking on air until she reached the middle, and with her hands out, palms facing downwards, she started to slowly sink down. Reaching the next level below, she turned her palms inwards and stopped moving. Then with a hand turned sideways, drifted off towards the solid floor. Stepping out at this level, Audrey noticed that she was again now surrounded by this orange glow, giving her illumination to see her way.

But the light faded as she moved, because large screens flickered to life as she touched down on the floor plates. She was very pleased with herself and proud to have mastered one of the secrets of the ship. Now to try and learn some more from this floor was her thought.

This level seemed cramped for space because of the six large screens around the walls. These were angled down because of the curvature of the hull, and angled up to meet them, were more screens. But looking closer, Audrey saw that three of the latter were in fact keyboards with a mini screen built in above them, set alternately. There were two chairs on this level that were set in a circular track that ran the whole way round in front of these screens. Four of these screens were now lit, and

Audrey moved towards one for a closer look, and as she came close to it, the keyboard lit up of its own accord.

Sensors, Audrey surmised as she took a step back and watched the light fade, then by moving forward again, it lit up. They were not conventional keyboards as a typewriter or computer terminal. These were much bigger with more keys, or buttons and each with its own symbol, similar to the consoles on the upper deck. The buttons themselves were much larger than normal and some double the size.

Her eyes were drawn to the illuminated screen on the wall that was next to this keyboard. It appeared to be a topographical photo of what she surmised to be the immediate area, and it was duplicated on the table type screen below as a map. But this lower one was covered in grid lines, some of which were slightly shaded.

Audrey’s first thought was that the ship was on an exploratory expedition, hence the map. Obviously a photo had been taken before they landed, and was, or had been in the process of being investigated. But what a place to pick! Here in the middle of nowhere. Why here and not some other place to study the inhabitants.

Then Audrey mentally kicked herself, as if this area was inhabited. Not by people but by mammals. The questions Audrey began asking herself were flooding into her brain so much that she wanted to sit down and think. She walked over to the nearest chair and started to pull it round on its rail, but it would not move. She tugged hard, but couldn’t shift it an inch.

Giving up the struggle, she moved round and sat down with some relief. The wall screen before her flickered on as her body made contact with the seat and the keyboard gently glowed with light. When the screen settled, it showed a wide expanse of the universe. Audrey snorted as astronomy was not her subject. The Pole Star and the Southern Cross were her limits in identifying and naming stars. She could name all the horoscope signs, but it would be pure guesswork to pick out the constellations that they were named for.

‘This isn’t the screen I want,’ Audrey exclaimed out loud, banging her fist on the arm of the chair, ‘I want to see that one!’ Pointing toward the screen she had first stopped at. Suddenly, the chair started to move along the rail.

Audrey gripped the arms as the chair rolled on round, and the screens flickered to life as she approached them, and faded as she went past. Then she swore at the chair as it carried on past the screen that she wanted.

‘That way,’ she shouted, pointing back. The chair stopped, and began to return back along the track. Audrey raised her hand, palm outward in the usually fashion of wanting to stop something, and was surprised when it did stop. Not quite where she wanted it, but by her various hand movements, got the chair to move to exactly where she wanted it.

Now she could study the screen that was displaying the map with the grid lines upon it. The screen itself seemed to be either of a glass or plastic type of material, probably like that of the dome. It was illuminated from below, like an engineer or draughtsman’s table. Of the grids, some were shaded and others not, but one square was brighter than the others. Peering closer, she saw that all the grids had symbols in the top left hand corner, obviously designating its position.

Looking up at the screen with the photo, she saw that on either side there were panels with rows of buttons. The left hand panel had the most, four across and sixteen down, like a crossword puzzle she giggled. The panel on the right was half the size with half the number of buttons. Those on the right hand panel that were lit, Audrey noted that they were the same symbols in the top left hand corner of the brightly lit square on the lower screen before her.

So that panel was in relation to the map she gathered, but not of the other, larger one. But in respect of the left hand panel, as long as she looked at it, she couldn’t work out the meaning of the lit buttons. This panel, she believed, was an indication as to the time period.

But on whose calendar? Earth time had been worked out that the planet went round the sun in three hundred and sixty five and a quarter days. Also that the Earth turned every twenty four hours as it did so.

But we, that is, the people back in ancient times, determined that because the sun rose in the East on a regular cycle, and set in the West before it came up again, they called it a day. This day they split up into twenty four equal segments and called them hours. Split again to make minutes and then split again into seconds. Now in the modern world, they even split that down into tenths, hundreds and even thousandths when it comes to competitions. It sounds silly, but that’s how it is.

But what if the people, question mark on that; what if the solar system of the builders and pilot’s of this craft has more than one sun. Then again, they might only have one sun like ours, but their planet takes two or more of our days to go round it?

That would mean that their concept of time would be much different from ours, so to try and convert their time to ours would be an impossible task. Unless you knew from what particular solar system that this craft had come from. Then, and only then, could you start to try and work out their time system. If that were known, then maybe she would be able to make sense of the buttons on the left hand panel.

But all she could do for now was to make notes as to the symbols used on the lit up buttons. She took pages and pages of notes and drawings, looking and checking all the other screens around on that floor level.

When finished, Audrey realised that she was ravenously hungry, so dug into her bag and produced her packet of sandwiches. So hungry, she took too big a bite of her first mouthful and tried to chew and swallow at the same time. This made her cough, and to her embarrassment, a large piece flew out of her mouth and stuck to the wall screen in front of her.

Coughing and swallowing the remains in her mouth, tried to wipe the piece off the screen. It was out of reach, but still attempted to wipe it off with her finger and then found herself rising in the air and closer to the screen her finger was pointing at.

‘Ah ha,’ she exclaimed, ‘that’s how they reach everything!’

Audrey floated off in this non gravity space to the next screen that lit up at her presence and saw that it was a picture of a slowly revolving planet which she guessed was the Earth. It was only a guess, because it looked nothing like the Earth she knew, except for its shape. Audrey watched fascinated as the globe turned, showing that the world was imbalanced by a heavy land mass that filled one side of the globe, and the other with water.

This must be how it looked that long ago before the continents divided. It must have been a cataclysmic shock to separate the land and shift the Earth off its axis, she thought, remembering the angle of the sun that morning. This then put a different time scale on things and her estimate of two million years must be way out by at least another forty, if not more.

She floated back down to the floor and regained her seat and looked at the grid map before her. Without conscious thought, she reached out and touched one of the unshaded squares with her finger. It instant lit up bright and the one that had been lit before went shady. The buttons on the left hand side of the upper screen changed and now read the same symbols as the lit square. Rather than upset things too much, she retouched that lit square for it all to revert back to what it was before.

This, what she had seen so far, convinced her that the people, or whatever who built this ship, were similar to humans. They had heads, only one obviously, and not far off in size because the helmet had fitted her own head.

Their height would be smaller as seen by the entrance door to the craft, notwithstanding the height between floor and ceilings of the two levels she had looked at. They had hands, because the use of them triggered off whatever it was that could make them rise up and down between the floor levels, as well as fingers to direct movement and push buttons.

They certainly had brains! The technology proved that. Eyes? Yes, but no indication yet as to whether one, two or more. This is immensely

exciting, Audrey said to herself, mentally hugging herself. She didn’t want to hug herself literally because with her hands going around her body with her fingers pointing, she might have put herself into one hell of a spin. She laughed out loud at the picture that this thought conjured up.

What about ears? Nose and mouth? Did they eat talk and hear? She guessed that they breathed, or there would have been space suits of some kind in the ship. So many questions ran round in her brain that she had to shake her head to stop the thoughts, and just try and concentrate on one thing at a time. There was too much to look at on this level that was distracting her thoughts, so she decided to go back up to the top level and have a massage while she finished off her sandwiches.

Here, with the soothing motions of one of the chairs, she ate and drank while trying to think logically. It didn’t work, because as soon as she closed her eyes, she fell asleep.

Her dreams were wild and various to start with then settled down to her inner desires. She was wearing the helmet and went and stood in the shower with Brendan and watched him wash himself. She liked his broad back, the muscles that he’d developed from his rowing days, rippling beneath the skin. The thick strong thighs from his horse riding and willing him to turn round, which he did so that she could see his manhood.

She reached out to touch and found that she was giving him the helmet and for her to be naked under the shower. Then washing herself, knowing he was watching her, imagining that it was his hands running over her body instead of her own. She groaned in her sleep and stretched out, the chair, still moulding to her body, the massage continuing.

The scene changed to her watching two small sexless creatures in identical helmets wandering through the forest. They didn’t appear to speak, but rather used hand gestures, pointing at things and nodding to each other. Was it telepathy instead of speech?

They stopped in a small clearing and took off their helmets so that she could see that their heads were slightly larger in proportion to their thin bodies. Hairless, but with large round eyes and small holes in the middle of their faces instead of a nose. The mouth being very small in comparison and almost no chin at all.

Then a Brontosaurus came lumbering into the clearing just a few yards from them. She could see the panic in their eyes as they tried to get their helmets back on. One was knocked flat by the lumbering creature before it had time to put the helmet on. The other had something in its hand which she hadn’t noticed before, and pointed it at the beast. It reared up and fell over onto it left side, its head swinging round in a low arc as it hit the ground. This head caught the small creature square in the midriff, knocking it head over heels, the helmet it had tried to put on, flying out of its hand to land a good fifteen feet away.

Audrey woke up sweating and all of a tremble as she sat bolt upright. Was that what happened, she asked herself? Or was it my imagination making up a story to fit the fact of the helmet she had found.

‘Good Lord!’ she exclaimed, looking at her watch. She saw that she had been away from the camp for nearly eight hours, and it was time to be getting back. The sun was low in the sky and reckoned that she might just make it back before darkness fell. She quickly stowed the wrappers and drinks in her bag and making sure that she’d left nothing behind, went to the central well and gestured to go down.

At the lowest level, she picked up the helmet and put it on and placed her hand on the door. It silently opened and she drifted through to settle on the rubber mat. The door opened out and down to be the ramp and daylight flooded in to the small space.

Audrey went down and checking her compass, made off in the direction of the camp. When she was over halfway back, she realised how silly it was to keep going on in the old time when she could try in her own time, but because she was timing this trip, she kept the visor down. It was still light enough to see when she entered the small clearing and hurried on to reach the camp before full darkness fell and reached the dead carcass of the Brontosaurus just in time.

She noted the time on her watch and saw that she had been away for exactly nine and a half hours as the watch showed it to be a quarter past seven. So, taking a deep breath, she lifted the visor to note that the sun was high in the sky and see that the boy was still cleaning the bone at the table. She looked at her watch and gasped, for it now showed nine forty five and nearly forty seconds.

Audrey stumbled across to her tent and when inside, took off the helmet and took a long drink of the last of her water. She sat down at the small table and looked at the time she had noted down just a few minutes ago. She then checked her watch against that of her alarm clock and saw that they were in perfect time together. So time did not stand still as she had first thought.

Between dropping down the visor in the camp in her own time and lifting it again when she returned, nearly forty seconds had elapsed. The closest she could get to working this was that for every fifteen minutes in the other world with the visor down, she lost one second in the real world.

So twenty four hours, either with the visor down or time spent in the spaceship, worked out at one minute and thirty six seconds of real time. Good Lord! I spend more than that just sitting on the loo, she mused. So to do what I needed to do at the latrines, I could spend over two days at the ship!

*

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