Krykowfert stared down the long oblong conference table at nine robed figures. Only Councilor Five, seated at the far end, left her face visible. The other eight hid in their hoods, projecting authority rather than possessing it. If the Councilors failed to intimidate, the dimly lit room did its best with shadowy niches separated by grand arches curving up into the inverted oblong dome protruding from the ceiling. In the darkness behind him hovered images of planets, star fields and mathematics. Krykowfert smirked, slightly embarrassed by the theatricality. The Honored Guest stood beside him, politely unimpressed, showing only his inscrutable smile. Nia Feric stood beside the Guest, waiting to see what Krykowfert would do next. Councilor Five spoke.
“The Council has great interest in what our Honored Guest has to say, but the atoll of Caldera is under flood, and it is this which must now concern the Elders.”
Ironic… Krykowfert thought, since most of the women of the Council were younger than he.
Krykowfert looked back at Feric, the Guest, and the floating field of numbers and images; huffed, and turned back to speak. “Broad Plain is capable of assisting Caldera. I urge the Council to consider the facts I’ve presented.”
“The Guest has waited two weeks,” Councilor Six interrupted. “Another hour will not change his opinions.”
A glance from Five silenced what would have been a cutting retort from Krykowfert. Instead he just sighed, let his shoulders drop, and gave a brief nod to Feric. She spoke softly to the Honored Guest then led him out of the Council Chamber. As the door closed Krykowfert dropped into a vacant seat, slouching and stretching his legs, swinging the chair slightly side-to-side.
“If you’re going to stonewall like this I won’t be held responsible.” He said.
Six made her away around the table towards him. "You pay more attention to that- that Earthman than to your own Council. We need to drop Relief Capsules, you should be deploying Shield Guard troops. The surface settlements look to Central Command in times like this."
“Not anymore!” Krykowfert snapped.
“It’s more than material assistance,” Six barked. “They look to us for a sense of permanence and security.”
Krykowfert aggravated Six by ignoring her and turning to speak to Five. The lights were up now, threadbare robes whisked away by nameless Clerks. In full light the majestic columns revealed themselves as ill-fitting appliques, the domed ceiling, a dingy, claustrophobic appurtenance.
“The Earthman came in peace with warnings and data to support them,” Krykowfert said, “these were not threats, he’s not armed.”
Six also appealed directly to Five. “He’s trying to manipulate us with fear, limit our technological growth, hamstring us, it’s the diasporas all over again.”
“You must admit,” said Five, “four hundred years without any contact, and now this?”
Krykowfert turned to his hovering images, “our own people have gone over his-”
Six used her implant to dismiss the images of planets, stars and numbers. “You had no authority to bring that person and his propaganda into this chamber.”
“I’ve been promised an audience since the Earthman arrived. Two weeks-”
“And for that we apologize,” said Councilor Five. “But Caldera IS under threat.”
Six now manipulated her own images, allowing the planet below them to fill the room before shrinking it to a more manageable size. She panned and zoomed across an arid and mountainous landscape settling finally on the atoll of Caldera; one large, rocky island dieing away into a circle of low green keys. The other Councilors retook their seats and brought their focus back from whatever implant consultations they’d been hiding in.
“They’re fine.” Krykowfert said.
“No one here is doubting that you’ve accomplished great things with the surface settlements. But can you be sure?” Five asked.
Krykowfert looked back at nine pairs of eyes. “I’m sure.”
Five nodded and took her seat. Clerks reappeared and Councilors murmured quietly amongst themselves. Krykowfert took the hint and slipped out into the hallway, marching straight for the nearest elevator. As his two personal guards fell in step he blinked, imperceptibly connecting his implant with Feric’s.
How is Caldera? Has Broad Plain responded?
Myles sat on the edge of the bed. With his legs fully relaxed the balls of his feet rested gently on the wooden floorboards, his heels just an inch above. He leaned forward slightly, letting his heels come down and take some of his body weight.
“Would you like to stand now?” Sach asked.
She spoke softly but even that was almost too much. It seemed he’d spent an eternity senseless. Sight and sound, smell and taste, it was all new to him. Physical sensations of cold and warm and touch, he couldn’t handle touch at all. She stood away from him, close enough to lend a hand if one was needed but far enough not to crowd him.
“I think so.” He said.
The Doctors had told him, if ‘Doctors’ was the right word, that Sach had been coming to see him since before they drew him from the tank. He lifted himself off the bed and took a step towards her, feeling every imperfection of the floor through the soles of his feet.
They’d showed him images. Pink and stripy, a fleshy boneless mass of atrophied muscle, a bag of barely functioning organs suspended in a tank of mystery juice. A mystery to Myles, he assumed the Docs knew what it was. His skin had reformed its epidermis before his bones regrew, that was normal they said. But then it had to stretch and grow as structure returned to his body. That was the little pains and aches he had felt before becoming fully conscious.
Sach returned the following week, as promised. In her absence he’d learned much about his time in the tank.
“I guess I’m the first homo sapien-sapiens to be Flashed.” He said. They walked slowly in the gardens, Sach letting Myles use her as a crutch.
“Well, technically that’s not true.” she said. “Physiologically we are sapien-sapiens as well. It’s the mind’s development, our extra-dimensionality where we differ.”
“So we can still interbreed?”
Myles thought he saw a flush of color in Sach’s face.
“Our children would not have two heads, if that’s what you mean.” Sach said.
They walked in silence, pausing every few steps for Myles to rest. He guessed by the many blooms that wherever he was, it was springtime. They reached the edge of the gardens. The opposite side of the street was lined with grand stone apartment buildings.
“You’ve done it?” He asked. “Flashing? The Doctor told me it was why you were so concerned about me. Is that true?”
It hadn’t been the only reason. Sach considered how honest she should be. “Before ToEv went to Legong, Chanly and I tried to do some data gathering. We took the long route in, from the outer system. We chose a trajectory we thought would not attract attention, but your Shield Guard is quite efficient. The incident would show in your records as just another meteor, but both Chanly and I had to Flash back.”
“You have a lot of these tanks?” He asked.
Sach let his hand drop. She tried to look him in the face, but turned away, pretending to be engrossed by the traffic flitting along the edge of the park.
“It’s not just about the Tanks, Myles. We couldn’t Flash your people because of their linear minds. You were in that Tank for six months. The Flash itself took only an instant, but in that instant you stepped out of these four dimensions into the greater world beyond. You experienced the infinity of space and time. To you it came all at once, a bad enough psychological shock for an Earther, but for most of the Legongs it would have come linearly, one second of time after another. Seconds would pile up and become years, and the years would never stop coming. They would feel that Myles, they would go mad.”
Sach couldn’t read Myles’s emotions. She could be seeing seething anger or deep, suppressed sadness. Or he might just be having trouble processing.
“They might not have come through at all.” She added.
Myles wanted desperately to find a way to blame Earth for the catastrophe. Instead, he let Sach help him back onto the stone bench.
“I tried, Sach.” He said, too numb for tears.
“It was an impossible task.”
“I want to see ToEv. Or Gabrile.”
“They’re no longer working on the Legong project.” She replied.
Sach’s visits came at shorter intervals. Walks and talks grew into lectures and tests. If he were to become an Earther he had several hundred years of technology, economics and sociology to catch up on. A month after being extracted from the tank Myles was once again free. He returned to his little apartment in Paris and sulked. A week of that bored him, so he set out to reconnect with the petanque league.
Myles watched the old ladies and gents from the bench. He had his strength and his coordination back, but he wasn’t quite ready to re-join the group. They all treated him well enough, asking about his experience, what his plans were.
“You will, of course, always be welcome in Paris, but it is a large and varied planet, you should travel.” The game stopped and the elders surrounded him, Ferew plucking randomly at his guitar as Yasli and Tatko told tales of travels, both on and off Earth.
“There is only one place I want to visit, but it’s not there anymore.” Myles said.
“Ah, yes,” said Yasli, “we know of this. It is a terrible thing.”
“They are in a better place.” Said Tatko, “and one day you will join them, we promise you that, but in the mean time you are young, you have a life to lead. It is that which you must focus on.”
“Maybe I’ll just sit in the park, play petanque.”
“No no no.” Said Ehun, “this is for the old. We have accomplished our goals, we’ve lived our life.”
“At least take up a hobby.” Ferew held out his guitar for Myles.
“No.” Myles said, putting up his hands in a defensive gesture.
“Take it. I have another.” Ferew continued holding it out. Myles hesitated, then accepted the gift. “I can’t play.” He said.
“You can learn.” Yasli interjected.
“You can do anything you wish.” Ferew winked, then smiled broadly.
Myles declined a round of dinner invitations and set himself to wandering with the guitar awkwardly slung over one shoulder. He considered taking the instrument straight home, but felt that would end his day too soon so he decided instead to go on about his business, visiting shopkeepers and craftsmen, imagining himself first here, then there. He didn’t really expect to solve his problems in one day, instead hoping for inspiration.
I’m an Advocate, an Envoy.
Not any more.
Then what shall you do?
The new presence of the guitar brought to mind Harry. It seemed his rival was never under stress, always pleased with himself or pleasing others. Like Carson and Sgullen. They too seemed happy, always surrounded by people. He began taking special note of the restaurants he passed, looking for patterns either in decor or menu. He could find none. He decided the restaurants could be divided into two broad categories: those that served only to satisfy the need for sustenance, and those that satisfied the soul. The third realization he made was that the cuisine of Legong was entirely unrepresented on Earth. At least in Paris.
He continued his research, snacking and imbibing samples from a variety of restaurants until late into the evening, and then, when he could be reasonably certain that the favored place of the petanque league would be closing, he took off across town.
A few lovers and mischievous youths promenaded the streets around Carson and Sgullen’s eatery but the place itself looked empty. Carson sat by the window, recording the important events of the dinnertime in his culinary notebook. He looked up, and seeing Myles outside the window, leapt for joy, calling back to the kitchen for Sgullen.
“Cochonnet! You are back with us!” Carson said, dragging Myles in from the street.
“I have made a decision.” Said Myles. “I am going to be a cook.”
Sgullen came out from the kitchen. “Ah, a noble profession.” He said, taking Myles’s guitar from him and strumming a random chord. “You know Myles, an ordinary man has only the tools to please one at a time, but with talent and a well equipped kitchen, a chef may please as many as he can coax into his chambers.” He played a suggestive riff and smiled mischievously.
Myles looked suspiciously at Sgullen, who looked back with such honesty and innocence that for a moment Myles doubted the nature of his entendre. “How do I learn?” Myles asked. “Is there a school, a training program somewhere?” Sgullen put the guitar down and poured some wine for himself, Myles refused.
“First we must discover if it is in your blood, if you are meant for the life of a chef.” Said Carson. “Then, with time, you may become as good as Sgullen.”
Again Sgullen winked mischievously and sipped his wine.
“Fine. How do we do that? Figure out if I’m a chef?” Myles asked.
The two men looked conspiratorially at one another. “Well,” said Carson, strapping an apron around his waist, “there is no time like the present.” Sgullen and Carson dragged Myles through to the kitchen, making a clanging and banging as the tools so carefully put away were dragged back out. “First we must decide on what to make.”
“Don’t you have a menu? Doesn’t the customer choose from that?” Myles asked.
“The Customer?” said Sgullen. “What does the customer know about food?”
“No no, Myles,” Said Carson. “this is part of your responsibility as a chef. It is for you to know what is good, what is fresh. You must know your patron. How is their health? What are their plans?”
“and you must feel the day,” Sgullen added. “Is it raining, cold? Humid? Has there been some great news, a public catharsis? The preparing of the meal is the last task for a chef.”
Carson and Sgullen outlined hypothetical diners: A man and his son, out for his son’s seventh birthday. They have spent the day in the art museum and counting fountains in the park. They had done a lot of walking, and afterwards would be going to see a show. It was early, perhaps six o’clock.
“Now Cochonnet, what would you make for them?” Carson asked, both he and Sgullen watched Myles closely.
Myles thought about it for a minute. “Um. Ground cattle-beast with a grain paste and dried algae.”
Carson rolled his eyes and turned away.
“No, he has a point.” Sgullen said. “It is simple, bland, but with a touch of the exotic. The boy is young, if he is unsophisticated…”
“Very well. I think we can start there.” Carson said.
Carson pushed Myles into an out-of-the-way corner of the kitchen and he and Sgullen started working. He did not stock algae, so instead he called for carrots, celery and onion. A sample of each flew out of a cabinet, carried on a carpet of blue haze. They positioned themselves over a pan and fell into small pieces. A lump of butter came from nowhere and a flame danced under the pan. Sgullen watched and listened, adjusting the flame with the twiddling of fingers and straining of vision. A lump of solid cow muscle lifted itself from a cooler and laid down beside the stove top. Myles stared into the blue haze surrounding it. It was covered with tiny five-legged spheres, ripping it apart, leaving a pile of tiny shreds in place of the disappearing slab.
“Wait!” Myles shouted. “How am I going to do this? How do I control all these things?”
Sgullen stopped what he was doing. “Ah, right. I forget, Cochonnet. Forgive me.”
The lesson changed from cooking to controlling sputties. This was a mental game. “First decide what you want.” Carson said.
“I want to cut up the vegetables.” said Myles.
“No!” Sgullen said. “You want the vegetables to be a certain size. How they become that size is not for you to decide. At least not yet.”
His first lesson lasted an hour, and at the end of it, he, along with his teachers, were exhausted. Carson went out to his podium to re-assess the supplies they’d need for the next day. Sgullen put together a package of the vegetables.
“Take this,” he said, “and this,” he handed Myles a kitchen knife. “Use it to separate the carrots into pieces this size.” He held his fingers apart. “Tomorrow, when you arrive with your petanque fellows you will leave them at their tables and come in here with me.”
Myles somberly agreed, took his package, slung guitar over shoulder, and headed out.
Despite his failures in Sgullen’s kitchen, Myles felt energized. He carried his burden down to the river, a sparkle in his eye matching the moon’s reflections in the gentle evening currents. He walked along the embankment at street level, looking down on the river and a second path a few meters below. Lights flickered on ornate poles, competing with the moon for the rights to cast shadows. The scene was as from like a Legong entertainment, designed more for romance than anything practical. He longed for someone to share it with. He instinctively looked into the sky, try to find a Legong that wasn’t there. The wind suddenly picked up and stars winked out as clouds moved overhead.
He’d been unable to prevent the landing from being repulsed, failed to save the Guards from annihilation, and hadn’t even been aware of the catastrophe of the Rip and Legong. He knew nothing of the fate of his family, Bento, Harry. With the moon obscured, the dim street lamps only managed the occasional glint off the cresting waves. A misty rain began to fall. Ahead lay a bridge, and with no cover in sight Myles took the next stair down to the lower path, reaching shelter only after being caught out by the cloudburst. Just a meter or two from the water, here there was no railing, the stones wet enough to be slick, but not so wet as to be washed clean. The feeble light of the street lamps failed completely at penetrating the shadows under the bridge, and in the confined space Myles felt claustrophobic. Through the pounding of rain Myles heard a noise.
His voice echoed off the stonework. Myles clutched his guitar and turned around slowly. The rain was coming down in buckets now, bringing with it a cold breeze, sticking his damp shirt against his back. He strained to hear the noise again. Rain smacked stone like meteors on Legong, each producing its own little muddy crown. Between the smacks came the scraping noises. Myles peered into the darkness.
Sgullen gave you a knife.
Myles put down the package and opened it, dumping the vegetables on the pavement. He found no knife.
Beyond the bridge the river danced, and each raindrop threw up fingers, reaching for him from below as the sky attacked from above. The swirling, pitching whorls of hte river climbed the banks.
It’s getting higher.
Again he heard the scratching sound, close, louder now than the noise of the mingling rains. Chittering noises joined the scratching and the shadows, a gnashing of teeth.
What creatures are there on Earth?
What monster birds awaited beyond the bridge, scheming to catch him if he ran from the beasts that must surely be slithering up from the dark waters. Myles dropped to his knees on the cold, muddy stone flags and felt for the spilled contents of his carrier-bag. Something brushed against him. Myles grabbed the guitar and swung it wildly, smashing it at the sounds all around him. With his gift in pieces his hands reached for vegetables, grabbing and throwing until one resisted.
Claws and teeth gripped the vegetable at the far end, brief flashes of light illuminating a four-legged furry thing, the size of Myles’s foot with a long, hairless tail. Myles ripped the vegetable away from the beast, stood up and backed away, pointing the vegetable like it was Peto’s pistol. The animal leapt at the offer, wrenching the food from Myles’s hand and landing at the very edge of the stone embankment. Myles kicked at it, and in it’s retreat the creature slipped over the edge, frantically scrabbling claws against stone. Myles took a deep breath and looked at the scattered bag of vegetables.
It was hungry. It was only trying to get some food.
Two more hairy things dragged away vegetables, all smaller than his attacker, a third creature sniffed the air and looked around curiously.
Children? It was trying to feed its children.
Myles took a few steps towards the unguarded edge and peered over. The stones making up the riverbank sloped, and on a dry day the creature would have had no trouble climbing back up. But the rains continued, sending waves and currents to catch the beast, dragging at its hindquarters as it scratched and slipped, reaching a little higher, then falling back. Myles stood with the other the animals, chittering away as the desperate wet thing screeched up at them. He searched the underpass. No twigs, no rags, just the neck of his guitar. Myles lay on the cold wet stones, digging the fingers of his right hand into the dirt between while dangling the guitar neck over the edge with his right.
Don’t be a fool.
The guitar reached the animal easily, but instead of grabbing onto it the creature slipped, scrambled and moved away.
“Grab it you stupid beast. Grab it!”
Screeches, chittering and Myles’s own yelling combined with the sounds of the torrents. A flash of light filled the sky, illuminating the situation well enough to remind Myles that not only the rat was in danger. He gripped the stones more tightly. The three little ones moved away from the edge, away from Myles’s flailing limbs and violent shout. “Shut up!” Myles yelled. “Shut up!”
“Useless!” one of them said.
“You’re only going to stab her and eat her.” screeched another.
“You can’t even keep a lizard fed.”
“Shut up!” He screamed back. He let his fingers slip from between the stones and stretched his arm farther down towards the river. “Grab it! Grab it you stupid animal!” The creature did, grasping one of the strings without getting a hold. For an instant it scrabbled with both front paws and then it was gone. No splash, no screech, no more little beastie.
“Aahhhhhhhh!!!!” Myles spun around, flinging the vegetables and guitar neck against stone and river, and then, waving his empty arms like a lunatic, slipped, falling on his ass on the cold hard stones. He pulled his knees up to his naked chest and muttered. “stupid animals. they don’t know. how can they know. it was just a stupid animal. they didn’t know.” He resisted the sobs that so desperately wanted out and lay on his back, spitting out the drips the fell from the damp stones of the bridge above.
Are you finished?
Myles took a breath. He sat up amongst the nibbled-on vegetables, silently gathering those within reach before standing. With guitar-neck and half-eaten vegetables Myles waited for the rain to subside, and as the dim light of the street lamps reasserted themselves he stepped out, climbing back up the stairs to the street level.
Krykowfert guided Councilor Five’s little K-ship down to Legong’s surface. He avoided settlements, choosing instead a high alpine valley in an uncolonized range of mountains. The sky was quiet now, filled with unfamiliar stars. The flashes of dying meteors continued, but, Krykowfert surmised, those would diminish over time. Legong was no longer in Legong-space. The Rip had sent it elsewhere.
A few meters away the land raised to a blunt, rounded mound, and Krykowfert left the ship, climbing up the mound to gaze unfiltered at the strange stars making up this foreign sky. For forty years he’d searched those stars, for thirty he’d invented and built the tools, for five he’d poked holes in space. Finally he’d found it, the planet his ancestors had aimed for, the planet his forebears had missed, the safe, comfortable, terra-formed home created for this human colony lost-in-space. In a sense he’d succeeded. Feric’s ship, assuming she’d made it through, would bring Eden’s population to fifty thousand, a sustainable size by any calculation. But it would have been nice, Krykowfert thought, if it had been fifty thousand and one.
Myles woke with the sun in his eyes, his wet clothes on the bed and he on the floor. Unwrapping himself from the rug he walked, naked, into the kitchen, mumbling to himself as he searched the cold storage locker for scraps. He found two-day-old leftovers, slopped them onto a plate, and took them to the door. Instead of a walled yard leading to an empty expanse of rock and scrub brush he looked out at the narrow top floor landing, and his neighbor, Ms. Fipler.
“Good morning Mr. Tugot.”
“Bonjour Mademoiselle Fipler.”
Fipler disappeared down the stairs and Myles closed his door.
Ain’t no lizard out there. Well, other than the one you’re dangling.
Myles went back to the kitchen and disposed of the homemade carrion. Before he became aware enough to fall into a gray funk, the phone rang.
“Myles?” Gwirionedd’s voice improved his mood rapidly. “You’ve been asking to talk to ToEv and Gabrile?” His mood dropped again. “They’d like to see you. Today, if possible.”
Myles dressed, and took a bubble-chair to the lake.
The trip went quickly, the bubble-chair setting Myles on the sand next to the lanai. Nafasi welcomed him and announced him to Gabrile and ToEv. The lovers sat in the familiar clutch of chairs, fussing over a bassinet set on the low table. Gabrile looked up at Myles with a smile. Myles looked down at the infant. It was a tiny, wrinkled thing, looking more like Nafasi than either of its parents.
“Congratulations.” Myles said.
ToEv stood and picked up the bassinet. “I’m going to leave you with Gabrile. I only have one thing to say. Listen. Think. Consider as many variables as you’re capable of before making a decision.”
“That’s three things.” Myles answered back.
For a long time Gabrile and Myles sat, each waiting for the other to speak. Gabrile broke the ice. “So you’re thinking of becoming a cook?”
“Mm. Where’s Sach?” asked Myles.
Myles could see Nafasi in the garden. “How’s he doing?” he asked.
Gabrile twisted around to see who Myles was talking about. “I’m sorry we couldn’t help your friends. They were too-”
“They were not my friends.”
Again, a long silence.
“Legong was caught in its own Rip.” Gabrile defended herself. “We tried to close it, but your people destroyed three waves of sputties. It was not until the Rip had caused its damage that your ships stopped firing.”
Yeah. I know.
“Councilor Six was right.” Myles said. “You were spying, it was about controlling our technology.”
“Would Legong have done different?” Gabrile asked. “There are many colonies out there Myles, some with good reason to dislike Earth, old Earth. You know that the First Diaspora was of the Power Elite, the rats leaving the sinking ship. Your colony was a product of the Second Diaspora, a more egalitarian venture, assisted, however, by my ancestors. We expected a more friendly reception. What you could not know was that there was a Third Diaspora, many years after the Second. My ancestors, after several generations in the orbiting shipyards, the moon, and mars, decided that they felt Earth worth saving. I say Earth, not Earth’s people.” Gabrile paused to be certain the distinction set in.” So they returned, as your people wished to. I won’t drag you through all the details, if you wish to know more you’ll find your access to this period of history no longer restricted. Suffice it to say the Third Diaspora was less of a voluntary affair than the previous two.”
“You ‘transported’ them,” Myles said, “like Krykowfert.” Myles thought back to the day he met Krykowfert in the Rim Bar. Krykowfert had played him from the start, and now Gabrile was doing the same.
“Yes, and no.” Gabrile paused again to find the words. “The result of all this is that there are, I don’t know, dozens, hundreds, thousands maybe, of colonies like Legong out there. As you’ve seen, Earth itself is in little danger, but the truth is that we, as modern Earthers, have unleashed upon the galaxy hoards of backward, often violent, and pathetically unevolved human colonies. Even if they don’t pose a threat to us they may soon pose threats to each other, themselves, or perhaps more importantly, as-yet undiscovered civilizations of non-humans.”
At first naive and gullible, Myles had since learned to read through the words, to uncover the hidden motivations of those around him. “You want me to go out there, to be your point man.” He guessed.
“In a word, yes.” Gabrile said, only slightly surprising Myles. “You see how ToEv was greeted on Legong. We’ve changed too much, we can’t anticipate, or in many cases even understand, the motivations for Colonial behavior.”
“You seem to like Krykowfert. Why not ask him?”
“He said his place was with his own people.”
Ouch. Second choice.
That caught Myles off guard, giving Gabrile an opening for more of her twisting. “You are different from most Legongs. You’ve spent your life contented enough, but all the time knowing you were different, not understood, not really one of them. It’s true, Myles, you’re not. But neither are you one of us. You exist in a space between Earth and the diaspora colonies. You’re a man of two worlds, perhaps not able to thrive, but able to get by in either, and you’re a trained Envoy, not a cook.”
In the time since Myles’s implant had been removed he’d found his mind clearing, quite the opposite of what a Legong would normally expect. Instead of finding it more difficult to understand others he found it simpler, often gaining the impression that he knew what others were thinking before they themselves. It was not a new sensation, in fact it was no different from the games he played in the Rim Bar on Central Command, picking out individuals in the bar and fantasizing about what they thought, who they were, what their lives were like. It was something he’d done all his life, but without knowing how accurate he’d been. He couldn’t do it with Bento, his feelings were too strong there. He couldn’t do it with Krykowfert, but he could do it with Gabrile and he knew now where this was all leading. But he needed to hear it.
“There are others like you,” Gabrile said, “often as much as ten percent of the population presents a neurology of your sort.”
“I would be an Envoy from Earth, eh? Re-connecting the motherland with its wandering children?”
“Legong. You’re an Envoy from Legong.”
Myles froze, his brow wrinkled. This wasn’t at all what he’d imagined. “Legong is gone.” He said in a whisper. Gabrile neither nodded nor shook her head.
The conversation continued well into the evening, Gabrile laying out the pros and cons, how the mild subterfuge would protect Earth without actually being untrue. There was never any question in Myles’s mind. He didn’t care if he represented Legong, Earth or hell, there were others out there like him, not-quite-Earthers yet more-than-colonists. But, determined not to agree to Gabrile’s offer as rashly as he’d jumped at Krykowfert’s, Myles said goodnight and took the bubble-chair back to Paris.
Myles slept deeply, dreaming of home, spaceships and Earth-women. Despite his waking worries, when freed of his higher mind Myles felt not despair, but bittersweet longing. His family was fine. He knew, without knowing how, that Li and his nephews were safely on Eden, along with his parents, Harry, Bento, Feric and Asha.
Feric and Asha? Why do I care a about Feric and Asha?
They’re people too.
Not MY people.
Myles became aware that he was dreaming. Even so, the comfort he felt from the irrational knowledge of his family’s safety and happiness was real, and persisted long after the dream-state ended. He lay asleep, continuing to question those feelings of Feric and Asha. The more he focused the more firm those feelings became, as if another consciousness was intruding, insisting on their truthfulness. A feeling of certainty, confidence and power accompanied the knowledge of Feric and Asha, along with a pronounced pridefulness concerning almonds. None of it made sense to Myles, but then little did these days.
Myles finally let go of the dream-anomaly and fell back into deep slumber, comfortable in the knowledge that everyone, and everything, would be just fine. He was home, and this new home needed him.
The ship was nothing like ToEv’s little sphere. About two hundred meters long, it was an ellipse lying on its side, a single band of blue stretching around its perimeter. Within one end some unknown power source hummed and whistled. At the opposite end, a hole, and a gap where the ring of blue didn’t quite meet up. Sach took him through a panel in the ship’s underside.
In the center, a garden, open to the sky, filling most of the interior. Fish of orange and black swam in central pond, while low buildings of ornately carved wood or stone served as walls. The size of the space was carefully disguised, each path leading to a new vista, it was impossible to know it was a ship.
Myles could see into the buildings along one edge, those opposite seemed to be merely covered passageways. The far end held a low waterfall tumbling down an interestingly figured rock wall. Sach let Myles wander for a while, then took his hand and led him into the structure at what Myles imagined as the back end, where the thrumming power source would be. It was the only location with a two-story building. They entered the lower level and Sach took him lower still.
Do all Earth-ships have basements?
The space was beginning to look like a ship, with walls of mostly smooth, diffuse light emanating from hidden strips lining the corners of the ceiling. They stepped out onto a balcony, below the level of the blue ring.
“There.” Sach pointed. Myles had felt nothing, but the ship was now several hundred meters above the lake. Nafasi looked up at them, waving.
“He made this?” Myles asked.
“The ship? Yes. Not with his hands, with his mind. He created the garden before ToEv left for Legong.”
Myles looked around him. He recognized most of the plants from his visits to the lake, now disappearing under clouds. They returned to the upper level, where ToEv and Gabrile waited with their infant child in a structure much like their lanai, in the middle of the garden. The sky above now showed only stars, and even though the air was warm Myles felt the chill of space. They walked around the pond to join the little family in the pavilion. More substantial than the lanai, it was still barely more than windows, a heavy wooden column supporting each corner and framing each door. They sat silently, watching the sky as his own ship came into view.
Also a truncated ellipse, this one had no garden, its underside pinched near the flat end into a gondola-like protrusion ringed with windows. As they approached their garden-ship lifted above the other, and Sach took Myles back down into the ship’s belly. This time an elevator took them directly from the one ship to the other.
Although it had no garden, the entire blunt front end of the ship was glazed, giving the crew’s dining and lounging area a panoramic view of Earth. Myles sat himself at a table near the window.
“I’d forgotten about that.” He said, as Sach handed him his guitar.
“Sgullen sent some things along from your apartment.” said Sach.
“That was thoughtful.” Myles took the guitar and held it up. “I don’t really play you know. Never have. Always wanted to though.”
“Would you mind if I-”
“Of course, Go ahead.” He handed it back to Sach.
Sach took a seat, back, away from the windows. Myles remained, mesmerized by the receding Earth. As Sach plinked and tuned the planet faded to a tiny disk. The ship turned away, showing him again the skies of his new home. A tiny circle of dark appeared before them, growing rapidly to reveal a new, strange set of stars within. In a moment it enveloped them. Myles searched for the Milky Way, trying to catch his bearings as Sach’s testing of the strings evolved into an unfamiliar tune.
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About Tim Dennis
Since the turn of the century Tim Dennis has been a writer, actor, comedian and teacher, touring North America with improv shows and lecturing on a broad variety of subjects to a diverse collection of clients. He is a recovering engineer whose love of people drew him away from the computer and into his creative soul where he lives in a mosaic of real and imagined worlds populated by people and beasties. He loves to travel but always returns to the greatest neighborhood in the greatest city in the United States, Portland Oregon. You can connect with Tim via social media and his website, aptly named .
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This “Alternate History” opens in Antarctica in 1919, where a young journalist has attached himself to an aging scientist who, following the theories of an earlier time, thinks he can rejuvenate his career by discovering a route to the subterranean world beneath the Earth’s crust. As Government funding dries up other, less scrupulous financiers insinuate themselves. The journalist, always a skeptic, chases two stories, his reports home straddling the line between fiction and non fiction. Along for the ride are the scientist’s seventeen year old daughter, her suffragette governess-cum-lady’s companion, and two highly suspicious financiers’ agents.
For Myles’s first mission as an agent of Earth he visits a First-diaspora colony. Stuck in a constricting economic system and lacking the freedoms even the most pathetic Legong enjoyed, the decadent, languishing society welcomes him as a God, but soon both he and his hosts discover each are not what they appear to be. Myles has his first taste of human flesh, falls in love, again, and becomes that which he hates the most as he tries to bring civility to this back-sliding colony.
Krykowfert, stuck on Legong after the collapse of the Rip, wrestles with his personal goals as Legong struggles to survive in their new galactic sector. At first he’s careful to keep his distance from Cokely and the remains of the Council. But when a non-human race comes visiting, Krykowfert realizes he can’t make it home alone and so forms a surprising alliance to preserve his own comfort, and the sanctity of Eden. Meanwhile, Mallick, Nia Feric & Asha, Harry & Bento, and the Tugot clan get on with the task of making Eden the place Krykowfert wanted it to be.