Here’s another great story from my Champions: “The Orb”

The Circle of Champions, the winners of my monthly writing contests, bring forth another great Sci Fi story collaboration. Today, we reveal Part 5, the conclusion of the story!

The Orb

A Circle of Champions collaboration story

Jim Hamilton, who won my October Contest, took on the challenge of writing a story in five parts with two other champions, Katherine Shaw and S. Songweaver. Each writer wrote a segment of 500 words or less and handed it off to the next writer, pass-the-baton style. Jim started the story below and wrote Parts 3 and 5.

And now . . . the complete story!

The Orb

Part 1 by Jim Hamilton

It was five o’clock on a Saturday morning when Elizabeth and Robert Tanwell were rudely awakened by a pounding on their front door.

“Who the hell can that be at this hour?” asked Betty. She nudged her husband. “Go see who it is, Bobby.”

“I will, honey,” he said, getting out of bed and drawing on his bathrobe. “Wait here, I’ll be right back.”

As Bobby descended the stairs, the pounding continued. “I’m coming!” he yelled, as loudly as he could. When he reached the door, he peered through the peephole and was surprised to see a policeman and a man in a dark gray suit staring back at him. He unlocked the deadbolt and opened the door. “Good morning, officers, what can I do for you?”

The middle-aged gentleman in the suit regarded Bobby with piercing eyes. “Are you Robert Marris Tanwell?”

“Yes, sir, that would be me.”

Holding up several folded sheets of paper, he handed Bobby one of them. “You are hereby under arrest for felony theft, including breaking and entering a government facility.” He handed Bobby another set of papers. “This is a warrant allowing us to search the premises for any evidence involved in the afore-mentioned crime.” He handed Bobby the last of the papers. “And this is a warrant authorizing the freezing of any assets you may have.” He nodded at the uniformed policeman. “Officer Wilmington here will take you into custody.”

The officer spoke up. “Please step out of the house and face the street, sir.”

“I haven’t done anything wrong!”

Dazed, Bobby complied and became aware of the numerous vehicles that lined his driveway. Within seconds, a menacing-looking, riot-gear-clad squad rushed past him into the house. As the officer brought Bobby’s arms behind him and fastened them with handcuffs, Bobby swore he could hear Betty screaming over the policeman’s words.

“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.” He turned Bobby around to face him. “Do you understand these rights as I have explained them?”

“I haven’t done anything wrong!” Bobby protested. He looked at his house, searching for Betty. “What about my wife?”

The officer repeated, “Do you understand these rights as I have explained them?”

“Yes, yes, I do.” Bobby shook his head, “I think I want a lawyer now.”

Without replying, the policeman led Bobby to a marked SUV and opened the rear door. “Watch your head.”

Before climbing in, Bobby turned once more toward the house, hoping to catch a glimpse of Betty, but there was still no sign of her. As the door closed behind him, he wondered what he had gotten himself into. One thing he knew for sure, it had to be something to do with that alien artifact he had found in his backyard two weeks ago.

Part 2 by Katherine Shaw

Bobby’s heart hammered in his chest as he sat sandwiched between two stern-faced officers, both of them staring forwards as the SUV jostled them in their seats. No one had spoken to him since they had set off, ignoring his anxious questions until he finally gave up and succumbed to their silence. With nothing to distract his whirring thoughts, Bobby’s panic only grew.

They hadn’t told anyone about the artifact, had they? No, definitely not. It was in his office, in its box, while they figured out what the hell they were going to do with it.

The journey was taking much longer than Bobby had anticipated. He’d had no time to properly dress or put on his watch, but the rising sun told him it must be nearly six. Surely the police station is much closer than this? Unless . . .

A dull ache spread across his tightening chest. Are they going to kill me?

Finally, the car slowed, and the crunch of gravel under the wheels suggested they had reached their destination. Bobby braced himself for the worst as the officer to his left stepped out of the car and signaled for him to follow.

He was led into a stark, featureless building with no obvious signage or markings, and the inside was equally devoid of identity. The walls were painted a humorless gray, and the expressionless staff members walking the corridors were dressed in plain, dark suits. He could have been anywhere, which only frightened Bobby more.

The leading officer stopped partway down a corridor and motioned for Bobby to enter a room to his right. It didn’t take a genius to recognize it as an interrogation room. He shuffled to the lone chair in the center of the room and sat, his hands clasped tightly on his lap. After several long minutes, a new officer entered. He was tall and thin, all angles and corners. His eyes were like cold steel.

“Where is it, Tanwell”? His voice was as sharp as his features.

“I’m sorry, what—“

“Do not play dumb with me. We’ve seen the tapes.”

“Tapes? What tapes?” Panic roiled in Bobby’s stomach. “Will someone tell me what’s going on? I haven’t done anything!”

The officer’s mouth twisted into a smirk and Bobby’s panic froze into ice cold dread. “They say a picture is worth a thousand words, Mr. Tanwell, but what about several minutes of film?”

He held up a small remote and pushed a button. The nearest wall opened up to reveal a large, black screen which came to life at the officer’s touch. It showed a security tape from some sort of museum or archive, dated the night before.

What does this have to do with . . . ?

Bobby’s eyes bulged as a figure walked into the shot. A recognizable but impossible figure. It was him. Bobby himself!

“No! It can’t be! I’ve never—“

The words caught in his throat as he saw his doppelgänger punch into a glass case to retrieve an item from within. He didn’t even flinch, simply pocketed the object, turned and walked back out of the shot. The tape flickered and looped around, showing Bobby over and over again. But it wasn’t Bobby; it couldn’t be. 

Part 3 by Jim Hamilton

Bobby had a sinking feeling in his gut. He didn’t remember this place or breaking into it, but now
that he thought about it, this explained where the meteorite must have come from. And that nasty
gash on the back of my hand
, he thought to himself.

He glanced at his bandage as the officer spoke. “Isn’t that where you hurt your hand?”

Bobby paled as he looked back up again. “I . . . I think so, but I don’t remember it, I swear!”

The officer smirked as he said, “Let me guess—you’re taking Ambien?”

Bobby shook his head. “No, nothing like that, but I’ve had several blackouts recently where I don’t
remember what happened.” He pointed at the screen. “That must be one of them.”

“Blackouts? Seriously?” The officer laughed. “Do you really expect me to believe that?”

Bobby nodded vigorously. “It’s the truth, officer. It all started with an alien artifact that fell into
my backyard.”

The officer laughed again. “Oh, now you’re bringing aliens into it?”

“I’m serious! Two weeks ago, my wife and I heard a loud thump coming from the backyard.
When we went to see what it was. There was a dull silver sphere, about the size of a golf ball, embedded in the dirt. From the very beginning, we both felt . . . I don’t know, drawn to it. I picked it up and we brought it back into the house.”

“Maybe a large ball bearing fell from a plane?”

“That’s what we thought. However, when we went to bed, it was on our coffee table. When we
woke up, we found it in our microwave. It was glowing brightly enough to hurt your eyes to look
at it.”

“How did it get in the microwave?”

“I don’t know.”

Bobby shook his head, knowing it sounded insane. “One of us must have moved it,
but neither of us remember doing so.”

He paused for a moment, collecting his thoughts. “Since then, we found it in the sink, filled with water. Then it moved to a large wooden box. Next it was nestled into some kind of sawdust and fertilizer. Then a light coating of sand was added. Last night, I found what looked like a meteorite in the box next to it.” He pointed at the video that was still looping. “One that I . . . apparently stole from this place.”

“Do you honestly expect me to believe that cockamamie story?”

“Yes! Because it’s the truth! I went to the store last night to get groceries and when I got home,
the meteorite was in one of the grocery bags and my right hand was bandaged.” He rubbed his
temples. “I remember shopping and coming home, but I don’t remember anything else.”

“As we speak, we’re searching your house. Care to tell me what we’ll find?”

Bobby nodded. “The box is on my desk.” He smiled. “However, I don’t think that your meteorite
is actually a meteorite.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Because, when I went to bed, it had cracked open and green goo was oozing out.”

Part 4 by S. Songweaver

“Green goo?” The officer raised an eyebrow; it sounded absurd.

“Yes, green goo,” Bobby insisted. “Actually, not unlike the stuff that’s coming out of the door behind you.”

The officer didn’t budge, his steely, cold eyes fixed on Bobby. “You really think I’ll fall for that?”

“I mean, it’s nothing to fall for, sir.” Bobby said, frowning at the green sludge squeezing through the crack of the interrogation room’s door.

The man in front of him scowled and turned. “What the . . . ?” he managed before his face was accosted by the green mush sliding up his nostrils and into his mouth.

Bobby panicked and jumped up from his chair as the officer slumped and fell forward onto the floor.

A few moments passed before he gathered enough bravery to nudge the man with his feet. “Sir?”

“Sir . . . ? Are you . . . OK?”

The man stirred, causing Bobby to jump back.

“Mr. Tanwell, you are safe.” The officer broke into a broad smile.

Bobby gulped.

“We have to get you out of here.” The man’s voice sounded squeaky; it was different than before. His eyes were glazed, like he didn’t quite know how to operate them.

“Uhh . . . ”

“Don’t worry, we might be alien, but we come in pieces,” the officer offered, making a Star Trek-style sign with his fingers.

Confused, Bobby managed, “Are you the orb thing that’s been controlling my wife?”

“Yes, terribly sorry about that.” The officer gathered himself off the floor, seeming like he was learning how to walk again. He looked down at his arms like they were new to him. “We needed something from the museum and this facility. I promise we’ll get you home safe, and you won’t remember a thing. Nor will the people here.”

The man made a hiccup noise as he walked into the door. “Right, primitive technology,” it reminded itself, finding the doorknob. “Follow me, Mr. Tanwell. We shall meet up with your wife. My mates are with her now.”

Bobby hesitantly looked at the officer and the open door, then back at the chair that he had been seated in just moments before. “This is a weird dream. I’m dreaming and I’m going to wake up soon.” He pinched himself. No dice.

“Hurry, Mr. Tanwell, we are on a line-dead.”

The man gestured for Bobby to go.

“You mean deadline,” Bobby corrected, following the officer out of the room and down the hall.

“No, I mean line-dead. My connection to the others was terminated when I came to get you. And until we meet up with them again, I can’t restore my live connection. If we don’t meet up at the checkpoint, I might miss them, and my ship will leave without me,” the officer replied, rushing past the security doors. “I just want to go home, Mr. Tanwell. I hope you can relate.”

Bobby frowned. It was as much as he could relate to a clump of green goo, he supposed.

“Your planet is terribly primitive, and we never, ever wanted to end up here again,” the officer added. “We were supposed to go to Andromeda, but my mates insisted on exploring something new. This is the last time I let them drive.”

At that moment, Bobby realized he might have a lot more in common with the strange alien sludge than he had thought.

Part 5 by Jim Hamilton

As he followed his former interrogator through the door and along the same unremarkable hallways, he asked, “You said that Betty—my wife—is okay?”

“Yes, Mr. Tanwell. We just need to collect the rest of us and get to the checkpoint.” He turned his head and smiled. “You can call me Zed, by the way.”

They arrived at the entrance where another man in a suit waited for them. Bobby watched as the new guy handed Zed an orb that looked like the one that had landed in Bobby’s backyard.

“Good job, men!” The man collapsed on the floor and, in only a couple of seconds, green goo oozed out of his pores and disappeared up Zed’s leg. Bobby was surprised by how fast it moved. Zed opened the outer door and walked over to a black SUV, apparently waiting for them. “This is where I turn us over to Harriman, here, who’ll drive us back to your house.” He passed the orb to the driver and green goo flowed down his arm and up the sleeve of Harriman.

“Get in, Mr. Tanwell,” said the driver, as the interrogator collapsed in a heap on the ground.

Bobby ran around to the passenger side and hopped in. He was glad to see that this Harriman knew how to drive as they sped down the gravel road and turned onto a highway. As they rode along, Harriman explained things to Bobby.

“I’m sure that you’re confused and have a lot of questions.”

“That’s a bit of an understatement,” replied Bobby.

“We come from a galaxy, far, far away. Our ship crashed here several hundred years ago and has lain in a museum all that time.”

“That’s the meteorite I stole?”

“Yes. And while we were waiting for a rescue probe, we kept tabs on your development.” Harriman laughed. “Your species is quite amusing.”

“Is the orb we found your rescue probe?”

“Yes. Actually, it’s the second one. The first one collided with one of your weather balloons and was taken to this facility for study.”

“And the green goo?”

“Actually, the ‘goo’, as you call it, is actually a colloidal environment that protects our silicon bodies from oxidizing and seizing up.”

“Silicon? Like nanobots or something?”

Harriman nodded. “Close enough. There’s trillions of us in this goo. We can control anyone that touches the orb, like you and your wife did.” He gestured to himself. “Or Officer Harriman here. He was the first to enter your office and was drawn to the orb. Once we controlled him, he passed the orb around to the rest of those present.”

Bobby saw that they were nearing his neighborhood. “So, where is this checkpoint?”

“It’s actually in your backyard. They’re all waiting for us.” He held up the orb. “We’re no longer line-dead. Physical contact with the orbs allows us to communicate.”

He turned into Bobby’s driveway, still filled with other black SUVs. Bobby and Harriman made their way to the backyard where a dozen enforcement officers welcomed them.

“Bobby!” exclaimed Betty, as she ran to give him a hug. “I was so worried about you!”

He hugged her back, his body flooded with relief at seeing his wife alive and well. “I’m okay. They told me you were safe, but I had to see for myself.”

One of the FBI agents called out, pointing at the sky. They all looked up and spotted a silver ball descending to where the probe had originally landed.

Bobby eyed the small sphere. “That’s it? That’s your rescue ship?”

Harriman laughed. “We’re microscopic. We don’t need a lot of room.”

Bobby and Betty watched in fascination as a large hole opened in the sphere and the goo flowed from Harriman and others into it. One-by-one, the various officers collapsed on the ground until only Harriman was left. He deposited the two smaller probes into the hole and it sealed itself.

“In a few more seconds, we’ll be gone,” he said, turning back to Bobby. “None of you will remember anything, and the videos have all been erased.” He smiled. “We want to thank you for your valuable assistance and apologize for any inconvenience we may have caused.”

With that, Harriman collapsed and the silvery ball shot up into the atmosphere. Bobby and Betty barely had time to lock eyes in bewildered amusement before their vision faded to black, and their bodies collapsed from under them.

Later, they groggily awoke. They were alone, the only sound being the cool early evening air stirring the shrubbery around them. 

“Why are we lying out here in the yard?” asked Betty.

“I don’t know,” answered Bobby. “But I had the strangest dream about aliens.”


“Yes. Aliens.” He pulled out the notebook he always kept with him and began furiously scribbling. “It’s a great idea for my next novel, and I want to get it all down before I forget it!” 

Bobby smiled and looked up at the darkening sky. “This one’s going to be a real corker!”

And, indeed, this pass-the-baton story was a corker! Thanks to Jim Hamilton, Katherine Shaw, and S. Songweaver for sharing this fun Sci Fi story.

If you enjoyed “The Orb,” please leave some kind comments for Jim, Katherine and S. below.

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross