Dr. Vanaver and LAJA rays
“The imaging results are in. These are LAJA rays,” Dr. Vanaver said. They were sitting at a table in one of the rooms where the offices were, up near the entrance to the installation. A very utilitarian place, nothing fancy, just white tables and white metal chairs, though this meeting room had a big picture of the Apollo lunar module on the wall.
Dareen felt insolent and rude, sitting naked at the table with these people. She should be dressed in business clothes like they were. She just couldn’t get used to being naked in an office. Her nudity, along with the white decor, made her brown skin in the presence of all these white people so much more vivid. Then there was the recent memory of that second shower, out in full view of course, everyone watching her breasts bobble as she scrubbed her fingernails and toenails and scrubbed the sap off her breasts and her tummy and her thighs. “Laja rays?”
“‘Low amplitude jovian anomalies’,” Colonel Mike said. “Jovian means Jupiter.” Dareen, the librarian, knew that. “Since 1955 they’ve known that Jupiter emits a special kind of electromagnetic waves, like radio waves, only slightly longer wavelengths.”
Dr. Vanaver said, “There seems to be a field of laja rays surrounding your body.” Dareen looked at her hands, then down at her breasts, remembering how they used to have a normal sag, but no longer. Maybe it was her imagination but he made it sound like clothing covering her. But she sure didn’t feel surrounded by anything; she felt exposed and open.
Dr. Vanaver’s eyes were hidden by the glare of the overhead lights in his glasses. “We still have much processing to do of our findings, but apparently during that storm, laja rays got a hold of you. The storm was of unusual character. There were a lot of free ions in the air that night. Possibly they acted as a conduit for the laja rays.”
Ms. Danby said, “The laja rays were very strong that night. Jupiter was at its closest approach. It was at perihelion, while Earth was at aphelion. That means -- ”
“Yes I know,” Dareen said. Perihelion is the point in a planet’s orbit closest to the sun, aphelion the point furthest. “But my powers . . . ”
“That is the big question. We don’t know why you have them. They are considerable, and beyond the measurement of the devices we have,” Dr. Vanaver said.
Dareen tried not to look down at her nudity a second time. She had been sworn to secrecy as to these findings but was as curious about it as the rest. “When I put on clothes . . . ”
“Apparently the field is disrupted,” Colonel Mike said. “You say that even putting on a ring turns the powers off?”
“We’ll test that in a moment,” the colonel said. “We won’t use metal, we’ll start with the most inert possible material and work our way up.”
Dareen’s legs were pressed together. “Can I use the ladies’ room?”
“I suppose that cesium milkshake is going through you,” the colonel said. “It’s done its job. Ethel, can you show her?”
Ms. Danby led her to the women’s room, down the hall past a secretary’s desk. Dareen walked in and sat down in the stall. At least she would have privacy in urinating. She looked down past her violet pubic hair at the strange green pee coming out. Then she stared blankly at the door of the stall, contemplating her situation.
On the stall door was an old graffiti that had been scrubbed over but could still be read. “George Vanaver is really Clark Kent.” Dareen grunted.