Master Mixer Sslasl
(A Power Colors Short Tale)
This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously
Copyright 2015 by Talee
First Edition: December 2015
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
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Thanks to all those who have supported my efforts by reading my books and especially those who provided reviews encouraging others to read my books. I write for you, and am happy that you find my works entertaining.
This book is dedicated to all who struggle to find their way in the world. Remember great things happen in everyone’s life, the key is to make the most of them when they come.
Sslasl looked up at G’Hass who was telling another of her great tales of adventure. Her long black hair dancing and shimmering as she waved her arms trying to simulate the movements of the flying Sliaps who was the hero of her latest tale. It seemed this Sliaps had magically developed a friendship with a young girl and rather than eat her as any Sliaps would, it had chosen to protect her from a pack of Wwolns. The story was so ridiculous that Sslasl had to choke off a laugh as the port children all listened intently hanging on every word.
Everyone knew that Sliaps while beautiful were vicious hunters and the Wwolns while ugly and mean looking never hunted anything large enough to fight back, certainly not a human. But G’Hass was such a good story teller that the children all ignored those facts and listened with fascination as the gentle Sliaps swooped in and lifted the young girl to safety once more, leaving the Wwolns yipping and growling in frustration.
He smiled and shook his head, not so long ago, he had been among those children begging G’Hass to tell another story. Truth be told he still enjoyed the sound of her voice and the way she manipulated it to add flavor to the tales.
Well, back to his studies. He looked back down at the vid unit and the numbers that were there. This was the formulae for mixing class one fuel used in the smaller starships, and he needed to commit it to memory along with the variations needed to increase purity for the larger ships or decrease it for the local shuttles.
The certification test was tomorrow, and he had to pass that test to get the new job. G’Hass and the children were depending on him to cover the financial gap left when G’Hass’s husband had been killed in the explosion last month.
Sslasl concentrated and felt the formulas settle into his memory. Yes, these were simple, just like all equations there was a pattern and a fit to them. Yes, if he made these modifications, he could increase yield significantly, or this to reduce the yield. Make this adjustment and the formulae would be much more stable for longer voyages.
Such things had always come easily to him. Just before the explosion he had been tested by one of the masters from the university. Well, best not to focus on that. This was his future now. He would be a chem mixer and support the house so that someday one of these young children would have the opportunity to go to the university and become a master.
He felt the warmth of G’Hass’s gaze and looked up to see her smiling at him as if to say “I know what you have given up, and I appreciate it very much.”
He smiled back at her. After all she and her husband had done for him and others like him, it was an honor to be able to give something back. He turned back to his studies with renewed energy.
“You are truly special my Sslasl. I’m so very proud of you.”
Sslasl looked up quickly; he had not heard G’Hass move across the room. And… She was not there. He could see her taking the children outside. But, she had just spoken to him like she was right there next to him.
Am I going crazy? Did I hear that or only think it? Not the first time I thought I heard someone say something when they were not even near me.
He shrugged his shoulders and returned to his studies…
…”Are you certain, you have never taken this test before?”
“No sir, this is my first time.”
“Well, there is no questioning the results. I ran you through all three variations of the test and you had nearly perfect scores on all three. Congratulations, you qualified at expert for chem mixing.
I’m still going to have you work with one of our expert mixers, for a few days. But if they verify what these tests indicated, we will move you into one of my vacant expert mixer slots. That will mean more pay, of course, but it will also mean you will be working with mixtures that can be very volatile if you make a mistake. So don’t make a mistake, understand?”
“Okay, return here at lunar rise for your first shift.”
“Yes sir. Thank you, sir.”
The man had already turned away and was walking back toward the factory doors.
I can’t believe it. G’Hass will be so happy. Expert! That’s almost twice as much pay. The kids will certainly benefit from the extra credits.
“No way that kid is taking these tests for the first time. I’d bet my last credit this is some sort of auditor. Better team him with one of my best mixers, don’t want him to catch them taking shortcuts.”
Sslasl swung around startled; he had not heard the boss come back. But he was not there, Sslasl could see the factory doors closing behind the man.
Good grief, my mind is really playing tricks on me now. I better talk to the healer. I cannot afford to lose this job because I ate something wrong and am daydreaming.
Sslasl hurried back toward home. G’Hass would be anxious to learn how the test went. And she almost certainly needed help with the children; a couple of the boys seemed to take great joy in moving things on her and watching her look for them…
…“That is wonderful news Sslasl, we could really use the additional credits.”
Sslasl noted the subtle hand signal that meant G’Hass wanted to speak to him alone immediately.
“Children, why don’t you give Miss G’Hass a break and go clean up the toys in the yard.”
Sslasl almost laughed as he heard himself say those words that he had sworn he would never say if he ever had children to raise. Clean up the toys was parent for get lost, and he could see the reaction in the children as he said it.
After a few minutes of arguing and whining the last child went outside and joined her mates as they pretended to pick up toys and then got lost in the fun of playing instead.
“Thank you Sslasl, that was well done. You are really getting the hang of this enforcer job.”
The smile G’Hass flashed him diffused his immediate reaction to being called an enforcer. She was just ribbing him a little.
“Thank you ma’am. What did you want to speak to me about?”
“You mentioned going to see the healer before reporting to work tomorrow. Why do you need to see her?”
“It’s kind of embarrassing really, but I must have eaten something wrong yesterday, because several times today, I could have sworn that someone was talking to me when they were not even close enough to do so. I want to find out what I should be avoiding to stop this from happening.”
Sslasl’s stomach knotted up as he saw the look on G’Hass’s face. It was pure fear.
“Sslasl, please do not speak to anyone of this. It could be viewed as a mental disorder, and they would immediately block you from working in any of the refineries.
I will work on the menu. We will find the food that is causing it and eliminate it from our diet, but don’t take this to the healer; she will certainly put you on the watch list. And that is the best case scenario.”
“I had not thought of that. Thank you. I thought speaking to her would allow me to protect the job. It never occurred to me that it could cost me the job. I will cancel the appointment immediately.”
“No! Keep the appointment; you do not want to raise any red flags. Tell her you are starting a new job, and want to do everything you can to avoid any possibility of catching the flu you have heard is going around. She will probably sell you an inoculation or something, but it will send a positive signal instead of a warning flag to the company.
Remember, they will be watching you very closely for the next several months. Do not do or say anything that might make you look less than perfectly normal. And for goodness sake do not mention what you just told me to anyone. Ever…”
“I will change the diet every day. Each day you have an episode, signal me like so.”
She twisted her fingers in a unique manner while running them through her hair.
“If you have no episodes, this is the signal.”
Another slight adjustment of the fingers while running them through her hair.
“I will find the combination that eliminates the issue and change the menu accordingly. But after today, we do not speak of this again. They will monitor the house before long to find out what you share. Be careful not to ever discuss specific formulae when outside the plant either, that’s a firing offense.”
G’hass smiled at him to break the tension, then turned to go to the kitchen. It was his turn to watch the children, and she was done discussing the matter. Sslasl headed for the yard with a new appreciation for the mind of the woman who had raised him. She clearly understood the world in ways he did not yet. He felt fortunate to have her to advise him so he did not make terrible mistakes early in his work life that would haunt him forever.
They would monitor his home? And the healer would report to them on his visits? There was a lot to learn about dealing with the companies, he just hoped he did not let her down by making a fatal mistake before he learned better.
He entered the yard and immediately saw the scuffle going on between the two biggest boys.
“Alright, break it up. You two are going to have to be brothers and watch each other’s backs when you are at school. Let’s not make that more difficult than it might already be.
Break it up. Now!”
…Sslasl focused on the new formulae that had just been sent to him for review. He had never seen this combination of chemicals before, and it troubled him that they were combined in their purest form. This could be very toxic if something went wrong and there was a spill.
“Look at him over there. Not even a year in the plant and they are already having him review my mix proposals. Damn low life homeless child has the gall to think he is qualified to review my mixes? Shouldn’t even be here with his betters. Damn well better not object to my mix, or I’ll….”
Sslasl sat very still for a moment and focused on clearing his mind. He must focus on the mix and the mix only. The daydreams could not interfere with his work.
Suddenly his focus was back and he began writing his analysis of the formulae.
This mix will produce the desired thrust in large engines such as those used on interstellar cargo ships. However, making and transporting such a mixture presents a significant risk as the mixture itself would be highly toxic. The amount of this fuel required for a standard run from G’Ham to Iridian Seven, while very small could wipe out an average sized starport in a few minutes and render it unusable for 3 to 5 years. We could build a mixing system to allow the chemicals to be stored independently and mixed as they are consumed, but this would be costly and likely would consume the storage space the mix is intended to save.
Based on standard cost projection models, this mixture has too high a risk/reward quotient.
Sslasl read through his analysis twice before sending it as he had been taught by the master mixers he had assisted for the first several months after taking the job. It was accurate, concise and decisive. That’s what they wanted from him.
Having completed the analysis, he returned to his daily routine, reviewing the mixes proposed for the day and then setting the mixer schedules to maximize throughput based on each mixer’s talents.
Hours later, Sslasl was changing out of his mixer suite when he felt an overwhelming sense of hatred and anger.
“That son of a filthy fin wench! How dare he say I put the company at risk? That formulae would make the company billions of credits before it even hit full production. I would have been promoted to master mixer or maybe even overseer with that to my credit.
But no! That low life homeless kid says it is too risky. I’ll show him too risky, doesn’t belong here anyway. Part of that damn equal opportunity movement you ask me. Give good jobs that should go to deserving hard working folks to those low life bastards.”
Sslasl put all his energy into fighting down the daydream. And finally pushed it out of his mind, but the sense of foreboding remained. The voice he kept hearing here was a man that clearly was angry that he had gotten moved right into a master mixer role bypassing people with much more seniority, so it made sense that his insecurities would make this up. But why so persistent, and why did he still feel like he was in danger?[_ _]
“You okay boy?”
Only months of training himself not to jump in reaction to anything kept him from jumping through the wall at the sound of his boss’ voice.
“Yes, sir. I was just going through the list of things I need to pick up on the way home. I know G’Hass asked me to get something I don’t usually get, but I can’t seem to bring it to mind.
It will come to me.”
He heard the laughter rumble from the man’s chest as he slapped Sslasl on the shoulder.
“Only a woman’s scorn can cause a man to think that hard about something he was supposed to pick up at the store.
Trust me, I know the feeling boy. Well, you can always come in early tomorrow if she gets too angry. With the new orders coming in from the high councilor, we will be pulling some overtime this month.”
“Uh, yes, I could use the extra hours. I’ll be here for sure. How much early can I come in?”
The laughter rolled out even louder.
“That bad, huh? Well, you have been more than pulling your weight; I’ll give you up to 10 extra hours this week, if you want. Use them however you need to.”
The man laughed again and slapped him on the shoulder one more time before heading out the door and disappearing with the remarkable speed that he was known for.
Sslasl finished storing his chem suite and headed for home. Now he was focused on what he could pick up at the store that would not cost too much and would be consumed by the family eventually. They did not have a lot of extra credits, but he had best cover his story in case the boss checked.
“There he is. I will teach that bastard some manners today. Just come on over here boy. Step into this alley and I will wear you out.”
Sslasl almost turned to run the other direction; the hatred and anticipation were almost palpable. And… He could see himself in his mind’s eye, as though he were walking toward himself. He stopped and tried to clear his mind.
“What the… Why you stopping boy. You some kinda telepath or something? Come on I got something for you right here. Move your ass.”
Sslasl could not clear his mind, and he could see images of the man he associated with this particular voice striking him repeatedly with a large stick. If the daydream were true, he was waiting just around the corner in the alley Sslasl always walked down on his way home. He could not shake the feeling this was real. He walked into the nearest store to gather his thoughts and courage.
“What the crap? How much crap you gonna buy on the way home boy? Get on with it, I gotta get home before they notice I’m late.”
Sslasl decided he had best take the vision seriously, daydream or no. He focused on the here and now. He was in a hardware store, and right in front of him were the steel posts he had envisioned using to put a fence around the yard to keep the kids from running off when they were out playing.
“How much are these?”
“5 credits each, or 4 credits if you buy 10 or more. Planning to put up a fence?”
“I’m thinking about it. How much is that chain link netting?”
“Depends on how much you need. Why don’t you give me your measurements, and I can scope the project and have the materials delivered to your home. You will need one of these drivers too.”
“I’ve got a sledge at home.”
“You won’t like trying to use a sledge for one of these. Why don’t you take one today and try it. Then come back tomorrow, and I will get you set up with what you need.”
That was the opening he had been hoping for.
“Okay, that sounds like a plan, but I may have to wait until payday to get the rest of the order.”
“Oh, that’s fine. You’re a master mixer aren’t you? I’m sure we could work a credit line for you so you could go ahead and get things going.”
“Let me think about it. For now, I will take one of these posts.”
“Yes sir. That will be 5 credits. I’ll give you back 1 credit if you place the rest of the order in the next week.”
“Thank you, that would be great.”
Sslasl took the post and hefted it in his hands. That would work. It was a little shorter and heavier than the staff he had been taught to use, but it should work if there was any trouble at the alley.
He stepped back out of the store and headed toward home moving at a leisurely pace studying the fence post he had purchased as if he were trying to figure out how well it would work.
“There you are you son of a Fen Wench. Now come to papa. Just keep looking at your fence post, I’ll make you eat it soon enough. Come on boy.”
Sslasl could see himself approaching the corner again, and focused trying to stabilize the image and get used to the perspective. He stepped up to the corner, and dropped something from his bag bending over swiftly as though to pick it up.
He felt the stick swoosh just over his head exactly as he saw it happen in his mind’s eye. He came up quickly swinging the fence post and caught the man squarely in the chin, and the image in his mind disappeared as the man crumpled to the ground.
Sslasl stepped over and looked at the man, it was the mixer he had envisioned it as being, and the man would not be at work tomorrow. The metal post had a bit of a sharp edge to it and had cut through the skin on his chin then broke his jaw.
Sslasl’s street smarts kicked into full gear and he stepped fully into the alley, picking up a rock which he slammed into the man’s jaw where it was already broken. That changed the shape of the tear in his skin and further broke the jaw. Then he used his booted foot to turn the man over so he would not drown on his own blood, and wiped his finger prints off the rock with the man’s shirt as he tossed it to the ground next to the man.
In this neighborhood, they would not look too hard when they saw the scene. Just a would be mugger getting what was due him. A finger print check would be all that any cop around here would run.
Sslasl then moved quickly and quietly down the alley sticking to the shadows until he was well away from the place of the attack. As soon as he got home he slammed the bloody end of the fence post into the soft ground near the house and went inside to get his sledge hammer.
…”Did you have a good day?”
Sslasl read the hand signal smoothly as he responded to G’Hass’s question. She wanted to talk later at the place they went to have such conversations.
“It was very good, thank you. The boss told me they will have some overtime now with the new orders that have come in recently. Says I can get up to ten hours this week. We could sure use the extra credits.”
He signaled his agreement and set the time.
“Yes we could. Never enough to go around with all the children. It was good of your boss to think of you when the hours came available. You will have to work extra hard to make sure he knows you appreciate it.”
“I will ma’am.”
…”I think all the children are down for the day. I’m going to take a walk and get some fresh air before I turn in. Got to go in to work early tomorrow.”
“Okay, I’ll get your clothes ready and set out. I may try to get some reading time in after that. Rest well.”
“Thank you ma’am, you too.”
Sslasl slipped out and wandered toward the park at a slow leisurely pace. He wandered around in circles for a while until he was sure no one was tailing him and then slipped into the shadows and disappeared. Several minutes later he saw G’Hass slipping from one shadow to another making her way toward him.
“What’s the matter with you boy? You came home late with things we don’t need, including a fence post that you beat like a madman for nearly an hour before you paused to eat with us.”
“The daydreams have been getting steadily worse. Only, I’m not sure they are daydreams now. Today, I was attacked in the alley I always walk home through.”
“Attacked? Are you okay?”
“Yes, let me finish. I swear, I could see through the man’s eyes. And I know why he attacked me, I think. The daydreams came as I got nearer to him, and I swear he was talking about attacking me for having done a review on a mix he proposed.”
“Wait, this was a man from the plant? Is he going to make trouble for you?”
“No, I think he will call in sick for a few days. He has a broken jaw, and he knows that he tried to attack a master mixer, that could get him fired.”
“So you knew he was waiting for you from the daydreams? And you say you saw through his eyes?”
“Yes ma’am. I know it doesn’t make any sense at all, but I swear it is true.”
“Damn! You have the possession. You must learn to control it. If anyone learns of this, you will not only be fired from your job, you will be sent away to one of those sanitariums. And the children will all be evaluated, and the house will be shut down.
Please, control it. In two years, we will have two other children reach adulthood. They can get jobs and then you can disappear. I hear people with the possession can sometimes hold out for that long. And if you can make it, there is a whole village set up for that kind over on the other side of the continent. I think they call it a place of mastery or something like that. Strange name for sure, but you could be happy there, I think.
Can you control it for that long Sslasl? Please? For the children… For me…”
Sslasl’s heart fell as he heard her words. The possession? That was a death sentence. No one survived that here. He had heard of the village G’Hass spoke of too, but no one he knew of had ever been there, or even close enough to say that the place really existed.
And he had never heard of someone with the possession controlling it for years. He would have to work as many hours as he could and put away as much money as possible while he could still control it. Then when he felt it overwhelming him, he would give G’Hass the credits and leave. Anything else would result in the children being put back out on the streets and G’Hass losing everything.
“Yes, ma’am. I will hold out. I have to.”
Sslasl knew he was lying to her, and he suspected she knew it too, but he said it anyway. He slipped back into the shadows before she could say anything else. He needed to think.
He made his way back to the park somehow and wandered back and forth across it several times. He must have looked crazed or something because this late in the day, even a young, fit man could not normally walk the park safely. He was lost in thought though, a deep despair settling in as he pondered the implications of G’Hass’s words.
Hours later he found himself walking back into the house and he slipped into his sleep station to try to get a couple of hours sleep before he had to get up for work.
…”Sslasl, they called you down to the bosses office. You better move.”
Sslasl looked up to see one of the other master mixers pointing to the announcement board. Sure enough his name was there with an urgent notice to report to the boss’s office.
He nodded his thanks and moved to shut down his mixer. As soon as he had it shut down he hustled to the locker room to remove his chem suite. By the time he got to the boss’s office, he had been worrying for nearly half an hour. He had come up with all kinds of horrid scenarios, including that they had discovered he had the possession, even though he had been meticulous in controlling all the daydreams.
As he approached, the boss’s assistant waived him toward the office urgently. He hurried toward the small office and saw three others standing there with the boss. The boss looked scared. He was not scared of anyone. That had to be an illusion.
“Ah, here he is. Sir, Ma’am. Ma’am, this is the master mixer I told you about. His name is Sslasl.
Sslasl, these honorable people are from the corporate office. They wish to speak to you.”
“Sslasl, that’s an unusual name? Come on in, take a seat. Your boss will see that someone else covers your mixing duties while we talk.”
The young woman who spoke looked pointedly at the boss, who quickly nodded his head and nearly bowed as he rushed to leave his office and close the door.
As soon as the door was closed, the other woman spoke.
She was very tall, and extremely thin. A woman in her middle years, she wore her long red hair down below her waist framing her very pale skin. The light blue eyes she cast on him seemed to twinkle but there was no mistaking the serious nature of what she was about to say.
“Nev, make sure we are secure.”
The equally tall and slender man moved quickly and set out some devices which he somehow produced from his jacket. He turned them on and watched the indicators for a few seconds, then lost all focus for a few seconds longer.
“We are secure, ma’am.”
“Thank you Nev.
I am Master Masl. This is Nev, my apprentice and right hand. This other young lady represents the corporate sales office and deals only with the military contracts. You will forget you ever saw any of us after this conversation ends, is that clear?”
Now Sslasl was really worried. What could he have done to involve one of the masters? And Masl, she was one of the top masters if memory served.
“The high councilor tasked me with finding solutions to our need to travel over very long distances of space without the need to refuel. If you are familiar with the mastery, you likely know that while we could transport one or two ships around with the power colors, we could not efficiently move fleets in that manner and the high councilor wants to move many fleets simultaneously.
So what does all this have to do with a mixer on a small rock called G’Ham?”
Sslasl was lost, did she want an answer? If so, what answer? She was waiting watching his eyes. Then he remembered the mix he had analyzed last year. The day when he learned he had the possession.
“The only thing I can think of is my analysis of a mixture that on the surface might have met your needs, except that it was extremely toxic.”
“You wrote that it might be possible to build a device to do the mixing as the fuel was needed, allowing the individual ingredients to remain inert, did you not?”
Sslasl, swallowed. She had read his analysis, and that was why they were here. They wanted to use that mixture.
“Yes, ma’am. But the mixer would likely take up the space we had hoped to gain on the freighters.”
“We are not talking about freighters; if the same mixer could be used continuously, would it be possible to attach large fuel cells to the outside of say a battle cruiser, then mix the fuel as needed?”
Sslasl’s eyes widened. A battle cruiser with external fuel cells. Where could they possibly be going? The witch hunters….
“Oh my god. You are planning to attack the witch hunters!”
“Ma’am, we cannot have a mixer in a backwater mixing plant…”
Yes, Sslasl. The high councilor has always planned to return and free the lost realms. Could it be done? More importantly how long would it take to do it?”
“Ma’am, I agree with her, we cannot leave this man here with such knowledge. We will need to do a memory block.”
Sslasl, exerted all his will and shut down the daydream.
Not now. Good god not now. A master would know.
What was her question again?
“Yes, ma’am. It is possible. I would have to pull the mix back up and see how much we could optimize it to determine how much we could gain with that mix, but it would be significant in the scenario you defined. As for the mixer, a large one would be fairly quick, possibly two months? But I’m betting you would want to make it as small and light as possible. For that I would need to work with an electro-mech tech and a miniaturizer. That could take as much as a year.”
“You are right, smaller is much more desirable, but we need some quickly and we can deal with large if that’s all we can get quickly. I will get you your team, but I need the small version in six standard months. Full production in seven. Can you do that?”
“I don’t know ma’am, it will depend on how quickly you can get the staff here and how good they are.”
“Here? No you mistake me. We will not be putting the plant here. In fact, no one here will know anything about it. I will be taking you to a secured military facility tomorrow. Can you be ready to move by then? I understand you are single, living with a foster mother right now. Is that correct?”
Sslasl’s head was spinning. They intended to whisk him away tomorrow, possibly never to return. What would G’Hass do? She needed his income to keep the children fed.
“Ma’am, the house needs me, I am sorry; I cannot leave with you, certainly not tomorrow.”
He could not believe he had the courage to speak those words, but he heard them tumbling out of his mouth.
“We will see to the house. It will be protected and funded by the high councilor while you are gone. Trust me, they will be okay. You have my word on it.”
He started to ask which high councilor, and then realized it did not matter, no one would mess with someone protected by either the Guul High Councilor or the G’Ham High Councilor.
He had no choice now. It was clear they were going to make him go whether he wanted to or not. And the idea of someone messing around in his mind as the young man had hinted was very scary. They would certainly notice that he had the possession if they did that.
“Yes, ma’am. If you will make that kind of guarantees, I can leave as soon as you want.”
Again, he could not believe he had uttered those words, but he heard them tumble out of his mouth.
“Very good. I think we will get along just fine Master Mixer Sslasl. Now, we must put a temporary block on your memories. We will remove it tomorrow when you are aboard the ship. You will believe you are being sent to another part of G’Ham for further training. Your pay will be deposited into your account as usual and G’Hass will be able to access it. While you are gone, you will receive a special duty stipend rate to allow her to hire some help since you will not be here to help with the children.
His heart sank. She was going to rustle around in his head anyway. Well it was over either way. He might as well cooperate and hopefully she would still take care of G’Hass as she had promised.
“Okay, just relax, I am going to touch your temples and you will go to sleep for a bit.”
As she spoke she reached for Sslasl’s head and he felt the depths of despair descend on him. It would be the sanitarium for him now, and the house would be broken up.
…Sslasl could not believe his great fortune. When the boss called him down to his office, he was certain it would be something bad. Instead he was being sent to a special mixing school in the capital, what an honor.
What was it he had been so worried about? He could not remember. Oh well, it would all be good. He was even getting a special duty stipend to help G’Hass out while he was gone.
He walked into the house feeling better than he had in… well he could not remember when he had felt so good.
“G’Hass! Wait until you hear what happened at work today.”
G’Hass walked out of the kitchen with concern etched on her face.
“What’s gotten into you boy, yelling in the house at this time of the day. You know the little ones are down for a nap.”
She signaled urgently for him to use caution.
He absently responded with the appropriate signal.
“Oh, sorry. I’m just so excited. They sent me home early so I can pack. They are sending me to the capital for a couple months to attend an advanced mixing school. The company is paying for everything. And get this, they are even going to give me a special pay stipend so you can get some help while I’m gone.”
G’Hass stood still stunned, staring at him to see if he was kidding. Then her fingers flew as she asked him silently if he was okay. Clearly she did not believe the company would do such a thing and was worried he had finally succumbed to…. What was it he would succumb to? Oh well, it didn’t matter.
“Good grief boy. You are home early and talking about something that happened at work today. You about scared me out of my mind.”
“Sorry, ma’am. But it is good, I swear.”
He signaled his response, reassuring her that he was just fine and nothing had happened except that he had gotten a great opportunity.
“The man they had selected to attend left the company suddenly, and they chose me to replace him. Isn’t that wonderful?”
She signaled an urgent meeting at their place for privacy.
He responded and set the time.
“Yes, that is wonderful, but are you sure? I mean the capital is way on the other side of the continent. And it is a very large city. And tomorrow? Really, couldn’t you take a week or so to think about it?”
“No ma’am. I have to go now, or they will give the opportunity to someone else.”
“Okay, well if you are going tomorrow, I had better get your clothes cleaned. I need to take one of your shirts to the mender’s. Get the big kids in here so I can give them instructions on how to heat the dinner and when to serve the little ones.
Go, go. We have a lot to do.”
Sslasl went out quickly to gather the two oldest children. They would be carrying his load he had no doubt. G’Hass would not spend good money on help when she could spend it on food and clothing instead.
An hour later, he made an excuse to go out for a walk. He wanted to set the area firmly in his mind before he left for months.
G’Hass had left earlier in the evening to get one of his shirts to the mender so it would be ready tomorrow for his trip.
Half an hour later, he saw G’Hass standing in the shadows at the designated spot, and moved over toward her silently slipping from one shadow to the next.
“Are you crazy? Taking this trip so far away from home. In your condition? What if you have another episode?”
Sslasl was confused. What condition? He knew there was something he was supposed to be concerned about, but could not for the life of him bring it to mind.
“I have to go. Turning down such an opportunity would definitely raise suspicions. And my condition will be fine.”
He kept trying to remember what it was that G’Hass was talking about.
“People who have the possession have illusions just before they lose it. Are you sure you are not suffering from one of those?”
Possession? Oh my god! That was horrible, how could he have forgotten something as horrid as that? But her words rang true. He reached for his memory. He had to remember such a thing.
“I don’t think so. I hope not. If so, we will know early tomorrow.”
The elation that had been with him since he left work was gone now replaced by dread. What if this was an illusion? What if he were losing it? He had to remind her of what to do.
“Remember, I have that second account. If they take me get the money and take as many of the kids as you can and get away. I know you have a plan. I hope you are ready to implement, just in case.”
“I am. God help me, I am. I love you boy, and I really hope that they are sending you for training as you say.”
He heard the scrape of a foot and looked up, but she was gone. She would beat him back to the house and have his bag packed and ready to go. With the company monitoring the house, there was no choice but to follow through with the packing and hope that this was not an illusion.
Sslasl got to his feet and started to work his way back across town. This would be a very long sleep period. He kept searching his memory, but could not come up with anything that told him that this was an illusion.
Eventually, he made his way home and slipped into his sleep station. But he was unable to sleep, and he lay there tossing and turning as disaster after disaster played out in his mind.
Finally the sleepless sleep period ended and he dragged himself through his morning rituals. His bag was packed and ready to go when he went down to the kitchen to grab his breakfast. As usual G’Hass had it set out and waiting for him. But she was nowhere to be found. He ate in silence, and then grabbed his bag and headed for the factory.
How could he have forgotten he had the possession? Something in his mind struggled as he thought that word, and to distract himself from the doom that certainly awaited him, he focused on it as though it were a mix problem to be solved. And suddenly he felt something give and a small memory surfaced.
“You don’t have the possession, whatever that is, you are telepathic.”
It was a woman’s voice, but he could not place it, and try as he might, he could not pry any other memories out.
[_Telepathy? Could it be? _]
Let me try. That girl over there, what is she thinking about?
“got to get plox strips, and ground…”
Wow, how about that man?
“She is cute. Should I say something to her. She’s looking at me…”
Oh my god. I can read minds. They will not like that at the factory. Better keep it to myself. But if I am telepathic and do not have the possession, then I did not have a hallucination. This is real, I’m going to the capital for training.
Sslasl smiled to himself and headed for the factory, consciously trying not to focus on any one person. Apparently now that he was aware of it, his ability was multiplied. He had best figure out how to control this or it would be a real problem when he went back to work.
Can’t have someone’s random thoughts intruding when he was focused on a chem mix. At the rate they were intruding now, he could never produce anywhere near the required workload by stopping to clear his mind every time it happened. Special training or not, they would fire him if he could not keep up with production.
Sslasl arrived at the plant and went to the designated door. Sure enough there was a transport waiting for him. The driver loaded his bag and then held the door as he got in the transport. They sped away from the plant and Sslasl finally allowed himself to relax a little.
“Will you be taking me all the way to the capital, or will I have to change to a commercial carrier for the trip?”
“I have instructions to take you to a specific destination and am not to talk to you about it otherwise. But it is a beautiful drive once we get out of the city. Just sit back and enjoy the scenery.”
Sslasl’s heart skipped a beat. A specific destination? Not the capital, or the mass transit center? Maybe they were taking him to an asylum after all. But he did not have the possession.
He focused on the driver as he had with the people on the way to the plant, then he spoke.
“What do you mean by a specific destination? Are we not going to the capital?”
“Sir, I’m not at liberty to say.”
But it was clear as if he had spoken the words, they were on their way to the starport.
Why would he be going to the starport? Was the training really on another planet? G’Hass would not like that at all.
“Damn, I hate these fares. Corporate big wigs don’t tell the man where he is going, and then they want me to keep it secret. They don’t pay me enough for this crap.”
Sslasl focused and was able to stop hearing the man’s thoughts. It seemed to be getting easier, at least with just the one person near him. He looked out the window and watched the landscape change from large buildings, to smaller ones, then the houses got further and further apart, until there were only occasional houses with long stretches of colorful rock and water. It was pretty as the man had said, but it was also a little scary for a man who had never been outside his small part of the city. What if the transport broke down? There was nothing out here, and he had heard that the temperatures got very high in these long stretches of rock.
An hour later, he began to see the tall ships at the starport.
[_My god they are huge. The buildings in the city that house thousands of people are dwarfed by these monstrosities. _]
They got closer and closer, and Sslasl began to try to identify the types of ships he was seeing. Most of them would be cargo carriers, completely automated ships that did nothing but transport cargo from one planet to another. But that large colorful one, that was probably one of those luxury cruisers he had heard so much about. And there, way at the back, that had to be one of the solar system military cruisers. It even looked mean all black and bristling with points that Sslasl imagined were large guns.
He saw the port buildings drawing nearer.
“We are going to the starport? I know, you cannot tell me anything. But the obvious assumption would be that I’m going off planet. Which one of those ships would be a corporate transport?”
“I don’t see any that would fit that class of ship from here. Most of them are cargo carriers of one type or another. That large one with all the colors, that’s a yacht. I believe it belongs to the high councilor for the Guul system. She is here on an inspection tour according to the news feeds.”
“What’s that black one in the back?”
“Don’t know. I haven’t seen one of those before. I’m guessing it is military, but it’s way too small to be a battle cruiser. Maybe a destroyer.”
Way too small? It was bigger than the yacht and nearly as large as the cargo ships, but much sleeker.
A battle cruiser must be impressive indeed if this was way too small to be one of those.
They approached the main starport building and Sslasl ordered his thoughts focusing in preparation for being around a lot of people. But they did not stop, the driver drove the past the main building through a gate with human guards that checked his credentials twice before signaling them to go to a small building some distance away from the main starport building toward the large black ship.
The driver pulled up and got out holding the door as Sslasl stepped out then the driver brought him his bag and pointed toward a small door on the side of the building.
“They will meet you over there. Good luck sir.”
Sslasl was pretty confused, why would he not be going through the starport, and why all the security? He had not been told the school was for military mixes. But clearly this was a military building, and the guards at the gate looked very military too.
As he walked toward the door, three people emerged, two women and a man. One of the women and the man were both very tall, and Sslasl knew he had met the three before, but he could not place where. He focused on the tall woman. Perhaps her thoughts will give me a clue.
Suddenly his mind was filled with pain, and he fell to his knees.
“Never try that again! No one touches the mind of a master without their explicit permission. Am I clear?”
Sslasl thought he responded affirmatively but then he passed out from the pain.
…”He reached out to you? But I blocked his memory of that talent.”
“Natural telepaths are always different than we expect them to be. There is no way that I have learned to block their ability. The only option is memory of the talent, but as you can see, that is not reliable either. They may rediscover the talent, or they may have a memory that we missed that triggers the talent. Who knows what happened in his case. But there is no doubt he reached out to me with intent. And there was no mistaking the draw of the power colors when I punished him for doing so.”
Sslasl had a horrid headache but he could hear the voices clearly and quickly identified them. The woman was Master Masl and the male was her assistant/apprentice Nev. Memory came back and Sslasl felt sick to his stomach. He had tried to read the mind of a master. He should feel lucky to still be alive. The masters were said to have the ability to make a person die just by deciding they should.
“I am so sorry ma’am. Please forgive me, I did not recognize you.”
“Well, you are awake. Good, now lay back for a second, and I will fix that headache I gave you. Just wanted you to remember it so you don’t make the same mistake again. There are many masters who would have made it much more unpleasant for you.”
Sslasl felt her cold fingers touch his temples and instantly the headache was gone. He felt wide awake and full of energy.
“Yes ma’am. Thank you ma’am.”
“Well, Sslasl, master mixer. I think your days as a mixer are at an end. You have shown talent with telepathy, and I see signs that you are able to draw the power colors as well.
When this assignment is complete, I would like to take you in as an apprentice. You will study under me and learn to be the master you were always intended to be.
What do you say to that?”
“A master? Me? But I’m an orphan raised by the kindness of G’Hass. Orphans are not even tested, it is so unlikely that one will have any talent. Are you sure you want me?”
“Yes, Sslasl. I want you, and with the battle that is coming, we need all the masters we can gather. You will need to learn quickly, Nev here will begin your training on the trip to Ginl Five. I apologize, I must port ahead of you to get the staff you need and plan the production lines. Would you be willing to become my apprentice and learn the mastery from me and my masters?”
Sslasl responded before he even thought about it. This was a dream beyond any he could possibly have dreamed.
“Yes, ma’am, I would be honored.”
“Good. Now get your rest, Master Nev will be back to collect you shortly.”
As soon as she and Nev left the room, he again felt the drain of a long day seep back into his body.
He went to sleep with visions of going back to G’Ham with a master’s pin on. No one would ever believe an orphan from G’Hass’s house could dream of becoming a master, and he was to become one. All this was happening because he had been lucky enough to perform the analysis on a highly toxic fuel mix proposal. He slipped off into blissful sleep for the first time in more than a full year.
P’Hilz Story Available now
The K’Jin Mission Available now
K’Jin Released Available now
Alla’s Path Coming Soon
Torl’s Journey Book 1 in the series
Rebuilding a Legacy Book 2 in the series
End of an Era Book 3 in the series
Seala’s Burden Book 4 in the series
_Taarl and the Fools _
[_ Game Coming Soon_]
Master Mixer Sslasl
Sslasl and the Mastery
[+General Reference +]
All Things Real A reference to the people and places in the Power Colors books.
Barth Reality A reference to the people and places in the Barth Novels
Orphaned by unknown parents on the planet of G’Ham. Sslasl was raised in an orphanage run by G’Hass and her husband. When G’Hass’s husband died, Sslasl took on the orphanage financial responsibilities and worked wherever he could to keep food on the table while he prepared for and pass the mixer test to get a job in the chemical mixing factory in the city he was raised in. He later became an apprentice to Master Masl and eventually became a master and fought in the wars against the witch hunters. During his life though, he always ensure that the orphanage where he was raised continued to be supported financially.