Tales From Earth:ilovenatalie.exe

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This is part of the compilation created for the book Tales From The Third Planet, created by the Cubehunters on Earth, and printed by Lulu. Anyone can buy it here, with proceeds to go to unfiction! :)


A man's wife lost. A suspicious fire. A secretive meeting. A coded message. A hopeful first chapter to a lucrative trans-universal book deal! Join William as he solves his way to his love, a dark truth, and the greastest adventure he will ever embark upon...



Natalie had been missing for days; everyone worried himself or herself sick for her, as they hadn’t seen heads or tails of her for three weeks. Ads in the paper, appearances on television, cash rewards for accurate help; nothing had worked. The entire Hilsenrod family was struck with anxiety and sadness. But nobody, not even Natalie’s own blood relatives, felt the pain that William felt.

William had supported Natalie’s decision to work for the Wexler Biotechnology Co., even if it meant only coming home on the major holidays. She would always write from her base, the specific lab where she and a few other scientists from around the world toiled night and day in search of various cures. It was definitely taxing on their marriage, but the distance only made their love stronger, helping to keep it alive.

But now, things had gone horribly wrong. Three weeks earlier, Base 9 had caught on fire, and all the staff that was working there, including Natalie, had gone missing. Once the fire had been put out and the damage assessed, no signs of any workers, nor a handful of research documents, could be found. But, one deduction was made very clear by the investigators: it was no accident that the compound went aflame.

William wrapped his arms in as comforting a hug as he could muster around Natalie’s mother as she continued on another fit of bawling. As much as he could sympathize with the rest of her family, the constant air of sadness was getting to him. All the memories, concerns, what-ifs, what-weres, what-could-have-beens; it was simply too much for William to bear for so long in one sitting.

He told the Hilsenrod family he was going to take a nice, long walk through Battery Park; perhaps the cool, autumn New York air could clear his mind and soothe his nerves. He donned his favorite brown jacket, left it unzipped, and meandered out of the apartment’s lobby in the park’s general direction, furrowed brow and panicking imagination in tow.

The light breeze blowing in his face was helping him relax. His shocks of dark brown hair swayed back ever so slightly, and William was lost in the moment. He had always loved New York City; the experience of being alone among so many people, and happy about it, would constant bring a light smile to his chapped lips. As the fall rainbow peered its way around the corner, he ambled along to the mouth of the nearest walkway, finally in the little safe haven he knew so well.

The state of affairs still weighed heavy on his mind, so he sat down on a convenient bench along the path. The wood creaked in welcome of William’s body, acclimating to his weight and holding him as he sat. He flung his head back, sighed, and took deep breaths of the chilled air around him; pragmatic meditation, one might say.

Minutes passed uneventfully, save for the occasional passerby, fantastically unconcerned with what William was doing. He was well relaxed, if not quite ready to return either to Natalie’s parent’s apartment, or his own. It was a blissful period of floating, detaching himself from the tethers of his chaos, if even just temporarily. At least that was the case until an older man sat down on the other end of the bench.

A fair period of silence passed between the two, until the man began studying William’s face intently. He was desperately trying to recall where he had seen William before, racking his brain and squinting thoughtfully. Then, it struck him very suddenly, prompting him to ask, “Sorry, but are you that guy whose wife got lost in that big Wexler fire?”

Grudgingly pulled from his makeshift zen, he rubbed his eyes and mumbled, “Yeah, why?”

“I saw you on television; hey, tough break, I hope things turn out alright.”

“So do I, believe me,” retorted William with a sliver of distaste in his tone.

“Well now, that’s no way to talk to well-wishers, kid.”

“No way to talk to twenty-something adults, old fart.”

“Cheek. Well, regardless, I think you might want this.”

The man opened a briefcase he had placed on the side opposite William, out of his view, and produced a piece of paper. It was a long string of three-digit numbers organized in a grid.

William took it, pondered over it, and then leered aghast as the meaning of the paper came to him. He recognized the pattern almost instantly as the emergency code he and Natalie shared, in case anything ever happened to one of them.

William glanced back and forth between the paper and the unknown man, his mind racing back to the present crisis at hand, and how crucial this paper was. Eventually he regained his senses enough to ask the gentleman, “Where the hell did you get this? How did you find me?”

At this, the mystery man leaned in and spoke very, very low. “I’m a colleague of your wife’s, the name’s Carter.”

“Carter Ford?”

“Yeah.”

“Natalie mentioned your name from time to time, aren’t you the supervisor of her base?”

“Bingo. I’m one of them, at least. I was off the work cycle that day when I received a fax from the lab. It was Natalie, she wrote that the guards in the lab staged a takeover and abducted most of the scientists. She was barely able to get the message to me before they got her and wrecked the base, I guess. I messaged her back with no response. That was all she sent, other than this grid and the clear instructions to find you in New York and make sure you got this.”

“I can’t thank you enough, Carter.”

“No problem. I know that the safety of my team is in danger, and I especially would hate to see Natalie in trouble, she’s one of the finest researchers we’ve got.”

“Alright, but I need the key. Did she give you that?”

“Nope,” Carter announced sternly.

“What?! You rotten bastard, what I am supposed to do?!”

“Wait for a while, I know you’ll get the key.”

With a sigh, William relented. “You’re right, sending a code and key at the same time is stupid, even in a panic, Natalie would know better.”

“Well, take care of yourself, kid.”

“You too, old fart.”

“Until we meet again.”

“When’s that?”

“Beats me,” Carter gleefully chirped.

With that, Carter shifted himself upright from the bench. As he closed and picked up his briefcase, the bench creaked its goodbye, and he walked quickly away. Will sat dumbfounded as he desperately tried to piece everything that just happened together with the situation. It sloshed about in his mind like a restless tide, each wave dredging different thoughts.

And then it all clicked in William’s mind: the code, the key, and the message were all before him. He jolted from the bench, folded the paper neatly in his pocket, and dashed for the subway entrance he passed on the way in, hoping to catch the soonest train home.

On arrival, William scrambled to his computer, booted up, and immediately scanned the numbers into an image and grafted the grid into type. From there, he dug deep into his file directory and pulled out what would open the way to an adventure the likes of which he was totally unprepared for.

ilovenatalie.exe.

He dragged the text into the window, entered the key, and watched the message unravel letter by letter before his eyes. The sheer immensity of what William now faced was so much that he was dumbstruck at what he read. Once he escaped the trance of his disbelief, he immediately booked the soonest possible coach flight out of JFK or LaGuardia, and began packing hastily for tomorrow night.

333 428 088 050 013 510 027 304 121 137 220 013 103 010 010 222
230 015 318 150 220 561 050 222 005 077 615 007 150 005 010 341
413 015 220 150 026 586 121 140 005 072 220 015 181 005 200 428
483 077 440 100 220 586 115 057 005 077 165 005 150 022 080 077
023 062 318 100 206 250 115 318 110 005 484 010 126 015 010 341
516 134 121 020 013 535 027 086 083 126 341 004 126 023 220 150
540 237 066 160 323 137 110 072 022 088 286 001 118 021 220 253
540 325 121 210 220 362 027 028 005 016 484 005 150 010 010 206
483 015 318 170 170 137 115 086 110 083 318 014 214 013 010 031
516 253 187 160 170 112 027 347 027 110 615 016 118 005 010 341
516 134 121 230 206 250 121 072 022 077 022 022 070 016 150 325
460 015 341 210 220 362 033 236 110 005 066 008 007 020 070 077
380 103 363 150 066 474 126 014 022 110 220 013 103 010 160 237
103 253 286 130 013 510 115 401 083 126 187 001 181 005 220 253
150 150 341 040 183 708 066 014 011 088 022 020 165 015 050 310
150 310 363 140 286 224 027 028 005 115 121 013 038 025 100 325
023 237 088 060 130 387 022 236 126 121 187 016 188 027 160 356
070 015 341 150 066 586 121 280 005 066 220 028 038 022 080 077
173 077 440 140 273 250 088 280 005 148 615 016 173 003 010 237
150 150 341 040 116 250 072 028 027 033 363 020 038 022 080 077
070 253 318 170 013 387 148 014 038 027 341 022 157 004 160 150
276 237 363 250 286 224 005 318 066 027 561 010 157 025 010 325
483 341 022 270 130 387 038 140 077 005 143 013 007 022 100 237
483 015 341 060 260 025 077 304 050 115 066 016 188 010 220 134
206 150 462 250 130 163 027 072 072 050 286 027 054 016 160 062
310 356 066 120 053 025 110 183 050 077 165 004 126 015 160 341
586 253 440 200 363 025 011 236 126 121 318 027 188 005 130 206
046 077 220 150 103 586 077 183 027 115 462 022 062 005 210 077
173 356 022 200 053 535 022 072 016 083 088 005 165 008 100 325
333 077 462 210 013 188 027 207 148 066 363 024 038 006 160 310
643 253 516 250 130 336 066 222 027 132 121 020 046 001 040 077
516 134 121 060 013 561 027 236 033 077 022 022 070 016 150 325
230 325 516 170 286 423 148 236 126 077 022 022 007 013 100 077

Where is William going tomorrow?




PLEASE NOTE: Fully corrected and ready for your brain to be splattered against! Good luckers, suckers!