(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 2016 by Talee
First Edition: January 2016
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Shakespir.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
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.
Zaable looked up from the comp unit which was currently prompting him for a response to an advanced physics problem related to starship propulsion. He was having trouble concentrating today after his parents had reminded him that the time was near when he would be forced to work or leave the asteroid. He remembered how they told him and that they did not seem to care at all which choice he made.
Zaable looked out the view plate behind his comp unit and saw a young couple giggling and kissing just down the path toward the company store. He recognized them as being a couple of the kids that had been in his class when he went to the public school. The sight made him feel even more alone. He remembered the boy with his friends mercilessly teasing him calling him Dumb Zaable. That particular day Zaable had finally gotten up the courage to speak to one of the girls in the class and she had ignored him. One of the boys witnessed it and had led an endless chant “Dumb Zaable will never have a girl, he is too dumb to know what they are.”
Zaable knew he was not a looker, short and heavy set, with long blond hair and grey eyes that peeked out of his full round face. But he was smart, smarter than any of the other kids in the class anyway. But he had not always been that way and kids never forgot.
So, what did he want to do? He could become a miner like his parents and spend the rest of his life on this asteroid belt, or go to an uncertain future on whichever planet the next cargo ship was headed for. It just didn’t seem fair that those were his only options. What about the universities he had heard of. Surely the mining companies needed skilled geologists and engineers. Just apparently not from the mining communities.
Zaable turned back to the comp unit and quickly answered the question. These were so elementary, why could they not provide more challenging problems. Zaable often wondered why they called these advanced classes if he did not have to work hard to complete them. The language classes were a little challenging, but the math and science courses were so elementary anyone should be able to pass them.
Zaable completed the last question and the comp unit promptly informed him that he had received a perfect score and had completed the course. Unlike all the courses before, though, this time it told him there were no other courses available in physics.
Well, if I have to go to work running a driller or a mover, I guess additional physics classes are meaningless. Guess I had better focus on completing the geology and advanced medical aid courses. Probably wouldn’t hurt to take that course on geothermal radiation, it might be useful if I should get stranded below like that group of miners last month.
Zaable called up the geology course and the regenerator spun up quickly giving him a series of ore samples to test and identify. He looked at them and concentrated until nothing else existed except the ore samples. This was simple too. The first one was…
…Zaable looked up from the comp unit. No more language courses available did not surprise him. When it told him that there were no more geology courses available Zaable began to wonder if they were already disconnecting him from the systems. But he still had nearly a full year before he would be required to join the mining workforce or leave the asteroid belt for good. He had never heard of anyone being cut off from course work before the last day, and if they chose to join the mining crews the course work remained available to them. This was very strange.
He quickly coded a course inventory analysis program and executed it. It churned for just over 2 minutes before coming back with a list of 5 courses he had not completed. Two were on the art of makeup, and one each on janitorial machinery repair, childbirth preparation, and origami.
Zaable checked the statistics the program had returned and the library consisted of just over two hundred thousand courses. He pulled up the school overview page and sure enough that was the number of courses they advertised having available.
So, he really had completed all their available courses. Zaable sat there stunned for a few minutes running through the various areas of study that he had gone through. He knew he was a very quick study, but had he really completed all the coursework available in the company’s library? Clearly the answer was yes. He knew his talent at programming analysis routines was beyond expert. But just to be sure he wrote another routine in a different language and kicked it off. 2 minutes later the same results appeared before him.
“So what now? Am I really supposed to take a job here running a digger and abandon education forever?”
“What did you say son?”
Zaable nearly jumped at the sound of his mother’s voice. When had she gotten back?
“Sorry mom. I was speaking to myself I think. The system is telling me that I have completed all the available coursework unless I want to learn to fold paper into the likeness of animals I have never actually seen.”
“Why do you bother with that stuff? We have told you for years that none of it means anything when you are pushing a crusher for 12 hours a day. Study how to fix a crusher motor, that would be useful. Learning how to plot a course for a starship from here to Guul Nine is a waste of time.”
Zaable knew it was useless to tell her he had studied all the equipment used by the mining company, but that none of it would be useful the way she meant because the crushers and all the other drilling equipment only had breathing environments in the cab, and none carried the tools needed to do a repair if such were needed.
“Your mother is right boy. So, you decided if you wanna work for a living or not?”
Zaable bristled at his father’s ribbing, but he remembered the calming techniques he had studied in the psych course work and applied one before he responded.
“Yes father, I will work for a living. The question is more accurately, will I work for a living here?”
“Don’t you give me none of your lip boy. You will either work for the company or get dumped on some planet with nothing but your cloths. I ain’t gonna spend good credits supporting a bum who chose to go planet side.”
Zaable again applied calming techniques and answered calmly.
“I would not ask that of you father. Whatever I decide, you will not need to support me after my decision day.”
“Damn right I won’t. And don’t come trying to get a job on my crew. Ain’t gonna support no nepotism neither.”
Zaable lost control for just a second.
“They could not pay me enough… Sorry father, I understand and would not put you in such a situation.”
His father grumbled and left the room shaking his head.
“You should not provoke him that way Zaable. You know he is under enough stress already what with the pit petering out and his team’s production slipping.”
“Sorry mom. I will try to do better.”
His mom nodded and followed his father out.
Well, that settles it. I have got to get out of this asteroid belt. I don’t know what’s ahead, but I cannot become my father.
With the decision made, Zaable was surprised how relieved he felt. He was going to an uncertain future on an unknown planet where he had no idea what would be expected. And he was relieved? That made no sense at all.
He turned back to the comp unit and signed up for the janitorial equipment repair course. Might as well be thorough, besides that was likely a skill that could be used anywhere.
The course started up and he lost himself in the focus that came on when he studied new things.
…The comp unit signaled that he had completed the course and Zaable came out of his focus looking at the unit for a few seconds before he realized he had taken the course in one continuous session lasting over two days, and his stomach was quite upset with him for ignoring it.
He forced himself to get up and walk over to the food regenerator and keyed up a meal of hot broth and fresh bread. Then he laughed to himself. How could it really be fresh bread if it were regenerated? He doubted anyone really knew what fresh bread was anymore, but it struck him as funny anyway.
As soon as he swallowed the first bite, he could feel the energy supplements in the broth begin to work. By the time he had finished the meal he was feeling strong once more. But his body also needed rest, so he made his way to his rest station.
All he wanted to do was curl up and rest for a day or so, but there in the middle of his rest station was a travel bag filled with all his belongings and a list of positions currently vacant in the mining company. The positions that came with quarters were all highlighted and sorted to the top of the list.
Zaable felt his heart beating in his chest and his eyes blurred briefly as the message sank in. He reached for the calming techniques immediately and focused on them completely for a few minutes.
Apparently his father wanted him out.
Zaable felt the forced calm but also could feel the emotions boiling under the surface as he continued to work the techniques and gathered himself for action.
He moved over to the console and pulled up the cargo carrier schedules. Three were scheduled to depart in the next two days, one to Guul Nine, one to Friz Two, and one was going all the way to Lyyn Four.
Friz two was a mining planet, he ruled it out immediately. Guul Nine was interesting, but the mining company had a corporate office there and people from this asteroid belt regularly caught that freighter for a little R&R. Zaable’s analytical mind told him that he would have the best chance of getting into an engineering program for the company if he went there. But his heart said to get as far away from here as possible and never look back.
Zaable made his decision and checked the departure time. The ship for Lyyn Four was departing in 15 hours. He checked and there were several stasis berths remaining, so he reserved one and entered the code he had been given with his choice mandate at the beginning of the year. Seconds later the system returned a notice that this was a one way trip and that if he wanted to return he would have to pay the fare himself.
He confirmed his understanding and the system then provided him with an account number where his final settlement credits would be deposited as soon as his decision was confirmed. He set the account number to memory and wrote it down using an encryption algorithm he had learned to secure it. Just in case the stasis drugs had undesirable side effects.
He acknowledged the account number and a second later the system displayed a pop-up. Dependent decision confirmed Zaable to depart today, no return authorized.
Zaable stared at the screen for a full minute before pushing himself back to his feet and returning to what was no longer his sleep station. He gathered his bag and headed for the door.
Zaable made his way across the station to the transport center. Then he waited for the transport going to the right asteroid and climbed in.
Twenty minutes later, they landed on the asteroid and he could see the large cargo ship hovering just off the edge of the asteroid belt. He would be aboard that ship for half a year in a deep sleep as it traveled across the realm to his new home on Lyyn Four. What was its name again? Ah yes, that was Greentree. Even the name sounded welcoming, but Zaable was too numb to really enjoy that thought much. He wondered briefly if his parents would even notice that he was gone.
The departure alarm sounded and he rushed to get off the transport running through the enviro tube toward the small building that served as a transport station on this rock. There he would be put into stasis and moved out to the cargo ship he had seen from the transport. He was just one more piece of cargo that needed to be moved.
He caught up with the last miner just before entering the transport center and sighed with relief as the door closed behind him and signaled that the transport was departing.
Zaable walked over to the nearest check station where the miners were checking in and getting their work assignments. He pressed his palm to the hand scanner and winced as the DNA sampler poked his thumb.
“Identity confirmed. Zaable, proceed to station five for stasis injection. One bag authorized not to exceed 5 standard units size or weight. Deposit bag here.”
A slot opened in the wall and Zaable obediently slipped his bag into the slot, surprised at how small it looked in the container space. He could easily have had twice as much stuff based on that.
The slot closed.
“Identity Zaable. Bag size and weight within allowable limits. Collect your bag at customs on Lyyn Four.”
Then the screen went blank and he turned to follow the line that had appeared on the floor to guide him to station five.
Zaable walked into a small room that looked more like a storage box with a chair. He sat down and the chair immediately clamped him down startling him for a moment until he remembered the process involved. He had studied this and knew that an actual needle would be injected into his jugular vein and he would be pumped full of drugs known as sleep juice that would put him into a sort of coma until the same needle was injected again to fill him with the wake juice at the other end.
He heard the door close and the gas that would prep him was pumped into the room. Then everything went hazy and he went to sleep.
…Zaable felt the chair release him and heard the steady drone of the computer giving him instructions.
“Identity Zaable. Place your palm on the ident plate and prepare to depart.”
He looked around and was a little disoriented until memory stirred and he realized he was in the biological transport section of a cargo ship. Directly in front of him about two steps from the chair he had been in during the trip, was a low end ident screen. He pushed himself to his feet and was surprised at how slowly his limbs responded and how stiff they felt. He searched his memory for the reason and found it there. The drugs used for stasis would cause such a hangover effect that could last as much as two days. His muscles had been exercised by electro stimulation regularly throughout the trip and he should not feel any ill effects once the hangover wore off. He concentrated and pushed himself over to the screen pressing his hand to the ident screen.
“Identity Zaable confirmed. Enter bio cargo mover number 3 for immediate transport to customs where you will gather your bag and make your declarations.
You must report to immigration for processing immediately after you clear customs.
Identity Zaable, confirm.”
“I am Zaable, and I confirm. I am to proceed to bio cargo mover number 3 which will transport me to customs. I must report to immigration immediately after I clear customs.”
The screen went blank and Zaable followed the line on the floor which led him to the cargo mover. No frills here, there was a bench with an older gentleman already seated. As soon as Zaable sat down the railing closed around them and the mover lurched forward taking them down several halls and then out through the cargo door and down a long ramp to the ground at the starport. The passenger area of the starport was at least a parse away and the cargo carrier sped up significantly once they cleared the cargo moving area. With no cover, Zaable and the old man faced into a brisk wind and held onto the bench, wincing as small unsuspecting insects were smashed into their faces and clothing.
Zaable closed his eyes and worked the calming routines he had studied. Amazing how quickly they had become part of his everyday life. He focused on calculating the time of day based on the distance, speed of the freighter and difference in time measurements in the asteroid belt as compared to this large planet. That kept his mind busy until they were pulling up to the steps that would lead to the passenger customs entrance to the terminal.
Based on his calculations it should be just past mid-day break for the customs agents, so they likely would be running a little slow and not be really focused on their work at this point in time.
He climbed the steps and entered the terminal area where there was a long line of people waiting to be interviewed by customs. He had filled in the questionnaire before departing the asteroid belt, so Zaable went directly to the line and pressed his palm on the ident screen.
“Zaable, male, adult, traveling from asteroid belt 1.678.23156. Luggage in route, take a seat your name will be called when your luggage arrives.”
Dang, forgot about that part. Guess I will be here for a while.
Zaable found a seat and settled in for the wait, pulling up another formulae to calculate the wait time based on the time each person was taking at the customs counter. Then modified it by how often people were redirected to the questioning booth for further screening. There were sixteen screening stations each with slightly different speeds to add a little challenge to the math.
By the time his luggage arrived and his name was called, Zaable had completed the calculation. It would take just over one hour, one hour 6.32 minutes on average to get to a screening station once he got back in line. Of course that could vary by several minutes due to the fluxuations in number of people in the line.
Zaable made his way back over to the line and pressed his palm on the ident screen once more.
“Zaable, male, adult, traveling from asteroid belt 1.678.23156. Luggage present and being inspected. Please wait in line for the next available customs agent.”
Zaable stepped onto the line regulation belt and settled in for the wait. He decided to spend the time identifying where the people in line came from based on their clothing, possessions, and appearance.
He began by studying the older lady at the front of the line. She was short and plump, with a very dark tan, wearing a fluffy dress that accented her chest area, and was carrying a bag that appeared to be made of a thick furred animal skin. Based on the markings on the fur, that was likely a Gzlaa skin or a simulation of one. The dress was common among the elite in the P’Eng and Iridian solar systems. But the coloring would be unique in the Iridian system. He pegged her as an aristocrat from Elos.
Next was a very tall, very thin man in a jump suite wearing some very valuable jewels on his hands and around his neck. He was wearing a tall black hat tilted to one side and carried himself with authority. He had a very deep space tan and curly gray hair. That was the classic appearance of a senior officer on one of the pleasure cruise ships. Based on the body build and hair, he likely had been born in space and rarely spent any time planet side.
Then another, shorter man in a jump suit but without the gaudy jewelry. He was a tall lean, athletic looking man with a dark space tan and wavy black hair showing early traces of gray creeping in. The only jewelry he was wearing was a single lapel pin on his right collar tab. From this distance Zaable had some difficulty making out the pin, but it was round and had a large stone in it that reflected the light when he moved.
There was something different about this man, and how he held himself. It was as though he was ready to move in an instant, yet perfectly calm at the same time. Zaable focused on the pin and tried to push his vision to its limits so he could make it out.
“Do I know you citizen?”
Zaable knew he jumped at the deep toned voice, and looked around, but there was no one near him.
“My apologies, I see that you have the talent, I just assumed you would be used to telepathy. I am Master M’Elv of the Krial order. You have been focusing on me intently long enough to make me believe you know me.”
Zaable looked back at the man in line he had been focused on, and sure enough the man was looking directly at him with piercing dark brown eyes.
But how could he be standing there and speaking so clearly to Zaable here. Wait he said telepathy. Zaable had studied that. One could theoretically speak to another person by willing his word to flow to the person.
“I’m sorry sir. I was trying to kill time by attempting to identify the origin of people by their dress, appearance, and possessions. I was having difficulty making out the details of your pin. That’s why I was staring.
Please forgive the intrusion and the rudeness of my stare.”
“Ah, so you do know how to use that talent. Who do you study with?”
“Study? I’m sorry I don’t understand sir.”
“What master are you apprenticed to?”
“Apprenticed? Uh, sorry sir. I am not apprenticed to anyone. I just came here from an asteroid belt where my parents were… are miners. I reached the age where I had to make a choice to leave or become a miner.
Sorry, I am rambling. My apologies sir. I will find something else to do to bide my time. Sorry I intruded on your space.”
“Nothing to apologize for. If you really are not an apprentice but are this good at telepathy, I would like to speak to you more. I will wait for you after customs. Perhaps we could speak for a moment or two when you are done here.”
Zaable wanted desperately to say no and sneak off where he could hide and recover from the near miss. But masters could not be hidden from, and one did not want to irritate them in any way. He calmed himself and then pulled an answer together.
“Uh, yes sir. Certainly sir.”
“Good. Sorry, I’m up. I will wait for you on the other side.”
Zaable felt him release the contact and saw him turn to walk toward one of the screening stations.
Three hours later, after having had his bag and his person searched multiple times to ensure he was not carrying contraband, Zaable was finally given permission to move through the line and report to immigration. Apparently, only smugglers and criminals flew into large star ports like this one on cargo ships.
Zaable was so exhausted from the questioning and probing that he wanted nothing more than to find a room and crash for the night. He had been given two days to contact immigration, and had decided that he needed time to recover before dealing with what would likely be an equally unpleasant ordeal.
He walked out of the customs office and looked around for some indication of where the shuttles to the local temporary boarding facilities would be.
Just a steady stream of people moving back and forth across the large open expanse of the terminal building. People as far as he could see, and Zaable suddenly felt very small and alone.
“There you are. That must have been some interview. I’m sorry, I did not get your name young man.”
It took Zaable a moment to realize the man was speaking to him, then it all came back. This was the Master, what was his name? Oh, yes Master M’Elv of the Krial order.
“Sorry, sir. I thought you would have moved on by now. My apologies for keeping you waiting. My name is Zaable, and I am the son of asteroid miners. I’m sorry but I have no real knowledge of the appropriate way to act and speak in a large community like this.”
“You have nothing to apologize for, clearly you eventually convinced customs that you were not a threat or they would not have released you. I would be interested to know why they were so concerned about the son of asteroid miners though.”
“Sorry, sir. Apparently it was my method of travel. I came in on a cargo ship, which is, it seems far less common here than it is on the asteroid belt.”
“Ah, yes. That would do it. Smugglers and criminals are the normal travelers on cargo ships here in the main commerce channels.
But that is the only method available for someone leaving the asteroid belt unless you have a lot of credits to spread around. Interesting that you chose to come here rather than one of the smaller refining planets where cargo ships are more common than passenger liners.”
“I had little choice sir. Once I made my choice, I had to depart immediately, and there were not very many options. Greentree sounded much more pleasant than the other options.”
“Fair enough. I’m betting you are hungry, and you probably don’t have a place to stay yet. Am I right?”
“Yes, sir. Er, that is I do not yet have a place to stay. I am used to working on small rations so hunger is not really an issue. Can you point me to the transports that will take me to the more economical housing facilities? I don’t know how long it will take for me to find employment and need to conserve my credits.”
“I could do that, but I really would like to speak to you about the mastery, and your talent with telepathy. With your consent, I would like to buy you a meal so we can discuss things. Then if you still want to proceed with your original plans, I will ensure you have transport to the appropriate housing facilities.”
Zaable felt trapped suddenly. One could not tell a master to go away, no telling what they might do to you if they were irritated. And he had read quite a bit about what masters had been credited with doing. Some of it sounded pretty farfetched, but there was always a kernel of truth in these stories.
They probably could not make a person disappear, or cause their heart to stop, but might well be able to hurt him in other ways. He could think of no alternative but to accept the offer and hope the master was true to his word. He searched his memory and could find no indication that the masters were particularly deceitful except about their abilities.
“Sir, if that is what you desire, I would be honored to join you for a meal before finding housing for the evening. Am I correct in assuming from your manner that there is sufficient housing to ensure I would still be able to find a place after the meal?”
Master M’Elv’s voice boomed as he burst out in laughter.
“Well said Citizen Zaable, well said. Let me assure you, that you are perfectly safe with me and I will indeed provide you with a good meal in return for a chance to speak to you about the mastery.
And if you are not interested, I will ensure you have housing before sunset that is within your budget.
You have my word as a master of the Krial order.”
His oath at the end seemed to shimmer through the air, and Zaable somehow knew that there was no possible way Master M’Elv would break that promise.
With that reassurance, he nodded his agreement and turned to go with the master who had already begun to merge into the mass of humanity moving away from the customs center.
Zaable dodged back and forth to avoid running into people while staying with the remarkably fast master. As they moved, Zaable became more and more aware of his discomfort with the number of people around him. He felt completely out of place and was constantly worried he was breaking social rules or even laws that he did not know about.
Finally, Master M’Elv turned out of the main stream of people and toward an exit where several small transports waited.
“Are you still with me Zaable?”
“Yes, sir. Sorry sir, I am not used to so many people. Is the whole planet like this?”
Again there was rumble of laughter before the response.
“No, the whole planet is not like this, but there are several cities that have main commerce areas which make the starport look small and unused.
I would imagine to a young man on his first trip away from a mining community, even the smaller cities will have places with more people than you are used to being around. I would recommend spending as much time as you can in the commerce centers until you get used to the people. If you join the mastery, you will likely be sent to some of the busiest areas to assist in emergencies. If you don’t you will find that most of the available employment is in these areas.
Ah here we are.”
Master M’Elv handed Zaable his bag and pointed to a transport with the available light on while he went to speak to the driver.
Zaable took the bag and put it and his own in the vehicle’s cargo area then climbed into the seat nearest the cargo section.
Moments later Master M’Elv came and sat next to him while the driver sent several other potential customers to the next transport and got into the driver’s seat.
That was strange, he had sent away other customers and there was plenty of additional space.
Master M’Elv must have noticed the confusion on Zaable’s face because he smiled.
“The driver is a friend of the mastery here, I have had occasion to visit his home and help with a couple of birthing’s that were not going well.
I asked him for some privacy so we could talk and he agreed.”
“Birthings? Are you a doctor then?”
“No, but I do have some skill with healing and both telekinesis and teleportation. All can be quite handy in a tricky birthing situation.”
The words sank in and Zaable began to feel very uncomfortable once more. Master M’Elv indicated he could make things move without touching them, and could make things or people disappear from one place and appear in another. He had read about such things, but did not really believe they could actually be done.
“That surprises you? Did you think telepathy was my only skill?”
“Uh, no sir. I mean, I had no idea what your skills might be. I have never met a master before, sir.
One came to the belt once when we had a column collapse in one of the shafts. But that was when I was very small, and the stories told about that sounded more like tall tales to entertain small children.”
Again the laughter. Then Zaable’s heart nearly jumped out of his chest as his bag suddenly raised up and floated over to him.
“I don’t usually do demonstrations, but a little proof seemed to be in order. This is a pretty rudimentary demonstration, but that is how telekinesis works.”
Zaable reached out and gathered in his bag, and then his heart did another flip. No sooner had he taken the bag into his arms than it disappeared and reappeared in the cargo area. Had he not felt the texture and weight of the bag in his hands, he would have believed the whole thing an illusion.
“And that my friend is teleportation. Again a crude demonstration but it should provide the proof that is needed here.”
Zaable could not believe his eyes. He must have been bemused somehow. Surely that did not just happen. Still, he had felt the weight of his bag as it settled into his arms. And he watched it move across the transport, and now it was back where it started.
“Those of us who have one talent usually have more than one, but which ones a person has vary dramatically. New apprentices are all tested to determine what talents they have, and how strong those talents are.
Based on the strength of your telepathy projection, I would guess that it is your primary skill, but it would be quite interesting to see if you have others that are strong.
And given the way the power colors gather about you, I would say that there is no doubt you have a talent there as well. Are you certain you have had no training?”
“With telepathy? No, I have read books that discussed the mutation, but until you spoke to me earlier, I had never experienced the actual use. Is that the right term? ‘You spoke to me’”
“Well asked. We typically say that I reached out to you because it is kind of like reaching with your mind when you make contact. And you say this is the first time you have reached out to someone? Remarkable. Master H’San will definitely want to meet you.”
“Master H’San? The Master H’San who is rumored to be a close personal friend of High Councilor RinTorl? He would want to meet me?”
The laughter rolled once more as the transport came to a stop in front of a dining establishment with a plexiglass front. Stenciled on the front window in clear universal were the words ‘Eats and Treats… Food for your body and soul.”
They climbed out of the transport gathering their bags as they went and Zaable stood by uncomfortably as Master M’Elv gave an unbelievable stack of credits to the transport driver and spoke to him for a moment before turning his attention back to Zaable.
“Shall we eat? This is a small place but they have good food actually prepared on site not reconstituted from packages.”
Zaable’s stomach responded as well as he breathed in the smells of various delicacies wafting from the building.
As they entered an elderly man working behind a drinks counter looked up and smiled coming out to greet them personally. Zaable saw him steal a glance at the pin on Master M’Elv’s jacket, followed by a quick glance at Zaable’s clothing. He quickly focused on Master M’Elv and spoke.
“Good lunar honored Nar Master. It is a great pleasure to have you join us for your mid-lunar meal. May I show you to a private table in the rear that we reserve for special customers like yourself.”
“That would be fine. Thank you.”
With that the man guided them through the establishment past many open tables to the back of the building where there was a lone table surrounded on three sides by high walls.
“Here we are Nar Master. Please be seated. We have the holo menu available at this table, just waive your hand in front of the projection unit to bring it up and a second time to close it. My daughter Arel will be your server today, please let her know if you have any questions or special needs.
It is an honor to have you grace our establishment. If you are pleased with the service and food, please tell your friends. If not, please tell me.”
“Thank you, we will.”
No sooner had the man walked away than a tall dark skinned beauty with long black hair reaching to her waist and deep brown eyes walked up. Her hair shimmered in the lighting as she turned her attention to them. She did the same quick glance at the two and quickly focused on Master M’Elv as her father had.
“It is a true honor to serve you sir. I have never before met a master who had achieved the Nar Mastery. I have heard Prin Master Amyl speak several times, and I know that she has a couple of Nar Masters beneath her, but I do not believe you are one of those.
Are you here on business or pleasure, sir?”
“Some of both, and you are correct, I am not apprenticed to Master Amyl. My master is Prin Master H’San. How did you come to hear Master Amyl speak several times?”
“I applied for apprenticeship in her school several times, but alas, I apparently do not have strong enough talents to get in. I guess I will have to settle for what can be learned at the University here.
Have you had a chance to look over the menu? We have a wonderful….”
A few minutes later Arel brought them drinks and went off to get their meals prepared.
“She is very pretty, but comes through like a storm stirring up waves and whisking off again. I noticed you barely spoke, did she make you nervous?”
“Yes sir, she is definitely pretty and very pleasant. But she had no interest in me, it was you she wanted to speak to, so I remained silent.”
Master M’Elv laughed quietly.
“You are very quick young Zaable. Yes, she and her father were both very interested in this.”
He pointed to his mastery pin.
“While it is impressive that they know the pin and the level of mastery associated with it, they were not interested in me per se. Rather they were interested in the possibility I might bring credits into the establishment. I suspect young Arel also was hoping to get me to influence Master Amyl or one of her staff to let her into the apprenticeship, but it just doesn’t work that way.”
“Yes, I believe you are correct sir. She clearly wanted you to know she was interested in an apprenticeship. Why would she not be a viable candidate?”
“Did you notice how the power colors got confused when she was here? They were bouncing around constantly. She disturbs them, so there is clearly a small amount of talent there. But as many colors zip away from her as come toward her.
With many years of training she might someday learn to control her small talent and possibly even reach the Jin mastery, but that would be a long shot, and we don’t have enough teachers to accomplish what we need to accomplish now, so tying one up with her would be a misuse of our time. In years to come, the mastery will grow enough to provide opportunities for people like her, but I can clearly see why Master Amyl’s team turned her away.
We are looking for people like you who seem to calm the power colors and draw them to yourself without causing great disturbances because you are easier to train and the potential is much greater. Which is not to say that training anyone in the mastery is easy, we just look for those who we believe have a better chance of succeeding.”
Master M’Elv gave him a glance that clearly indicated he was to remain silent, and then turned suddenly toward the kitchen. Moments later there was a shriek and the sound of dishes hitting the floor.
Master M’Elv relaxed and turned back toward Zaable.
“Now, you had asked about Master H’San. Yes, he is an apprentice to the High Councilor, and I believe you could call them friends. And yes, I believe he would want to meet you.”
“First things first though. I would like to confirm your story. Will you consent to a truth weave?”
“I’m not sure what that is. I assume from the name it is some device that will make me tell the truth, or will identify if what I’m saying is the truth as I see it.”
“Use your telepathy to respond, please. A weave is the technique used with the power colors to create a desired result. In this case, it would not allow you to speak an untruth while it is on you. It would be a very short implementation and I would limit my questions to things related to the development and use of mastery techniques. And no, it will not hurt you, nor will it remain active any longer than required to validate what you have already told me about your talents.”
Zaable felt the fear creep into his mind and fought it off. This master was asking permission to put a spell on him that would force him to tell the truth. Clearly this was the day for new experiences.
Zaable started to answer, and then caught himself. When he concentrated, he could feel the difference between the spoken word and telepathy. He should have picked up on the switch earlier.
“Sir, I have never had a spell cast on me before. I’m not sure I’m comfortable with it, but I can feel your sincerity as you speak of what you want to do. And I have to admit, you have definitely sparked my curiosity with your discussion of the mastery. So, against my better judgement, I’m going to say yes, I consent to this limited use of a truth weave on me.”
Zaable could feel the approval from Master M’Elv as he responded.
“Okay, watch as I form the weave, this will be your first introduction to the use of the power colors.”
Suddenly, Zaable saw dim flashes of light moving around the master, and they appeared to twist themselves around one another. He could dimly make out several different colors, notably white and yellow. There were places where it seemed that there must be another color of strand involved in the twisting and turning. But Zaable could not make out what it was.
“Did you see the formation of the colors and the manner in which I wove them together?”
“Sir, I saw some strands of color draw together and twist around one another, but I don’t know what you mean by manner of weaving?”
“Fair enough. It is enough that you saw the colors weave themselves together at my will. I am going to place it on you now. And in accordance with honorable practice rules of my master, I have included an element to cause it to give you a tingling feeling for as long as it is active on you. Are you ready?”
Zaable had to fight down the fear once more before he responded.
“Yes, sir. I’m ready.”
He saw the flashes of light move toward him and then touch his chest. As soon as it made contact, it seemed to dissolve into him, and he felt the tingling the master had warned him of.
“Okay, to help you understand what the weave does and validate that it is in place, I would like you to make up an answer that is not true for this first question.
What is your true name?”
Zaable, laughed to himself, he had defeated the truth detectors on the asteroid belt several times after he read how it was done. You simply had to control your breathing, heart rate and nerves and you could defeat the machines.
He had used several false names in chat sessions with students on the belt, he would simply use one of those, perhaps Fred.
“My true name is…….Zaable.”
Zaable was amazed. Try as he might, he could not get himself to provide an untrue answer. He might have been able to not answer, but he could not make himself give an incorrect answer. That was impressive.
“This weave works by using your own knowledge of the truth to validate your answer. If you have been taught that your name is something else, and you have accepted it, then you can provide that name even though it may not be technically true. but you cannot knowingly tell an untruth while this weave is active. Do you understand?”
“Yes, sir. That is impressive.”
“Okay, so I am now going to ask you a series of questions in rapid fire sequence and I need you to answer in rapid fire sequence as well. Are you ready?”
“Where were you born?”
“The asteroid belt hospital.”
“Have you ever been outside of the asteroid belt before coming here?”
“Yes, I went with my parents on a shore leave to Signal, where we got very ill tasting exotic foods.”
“Have you been to any other planets?”
“Are you a spy for the witch hunters?”
“Are you in alliance with or working for any agent that is opposed to the High Councilor or his policies?”
“Are you opposed to the mastery or any of its agents or masters?”
“Do you currently have any plans for your future?”
“Would you like to apprentice in the mastery?”
Zaable, paused for a moment as he examined his feelings. He had read about the mastery, and there were a lot of tales of both positive and negative impacts by masters. But what he had read indicated that they always made a difference.
“Yes, I would be honored to have the opportunity to apprentice with the mastery.”
“Do you have any legal, financial, or moral concerns that could negatively impact the reputation of the mastery?”
“Thank you Zaable, I will dissolve the weave now.”
Zaable saw flashes of light move away from him as he felt the tingling sensation cease. The weave had been dissolved.
“Give me a false name when I ask.”
“What is your name?”
“The truth weave has been released and you are no longer under its influence.”
Zaable felt an unreasonable sense of relief. He had no intention of telling this man an untruth, but the fact that he was no longer compelled to tell the truth filled him with relief.
“Thank you sir.”
“Now, I must ask you directly. Do you wish to become my apprentice and study the mastery under my direction?”
“Yes, sir. It would be a great honor to study under your direction.”
“Excellent. We are in need of all the masters we can train. Your quick familiarity with the techniques required to use telepathy are remarkable, and I believe that is an indication of your ability to learn the other skills of the mastery.”
“Are there that many disasters then?”
M’Elv laughed once more.
“There are always plenty of those to go around, but that is not why we are so desperate to build the mastery once more. The reasons for that will be revealed in due course. Suffice it to say, we expect to need more masters than we currently have, very soon.”
Master M’Elv looked around toward the kitchen once more and moments later young Arel came out of the kitchen wearing a different set of clothes and looking very embarrassed. As she approached with a tray containing their food.
“Sir, I am sorry. I never meant to offend. Please enjoy your meal, on the house. I hope you will not hold my lack of manners against the restaurant.”
“Misuse of one’s God given talents is never right, and you must learn to control yourself if you are to have any hope of apprenticing to the mastery.
But with that said, I believe you have a lesson to remember, and as far as I’m concerned the matter is settled. I will accept the generous offer to pay for our meal, however. Please reassure your father that this will not reflect on the establishment in any way.”
“Thank you sir. Thank you!”
She set the meals on the table and bowed repeatedly as she backed away and rushed back into the kitchen.
Zaable looked down at his meal and focused on eating. Clearly Arel had broken some rule or done something that was not acceptable to Master M’Elv and had felt his ire. Zaable felt the tension in the air as she came to the table and it did not reduce until she was well out of site.
Perhaps this idea of apprenticing was not a good thing after all. Zaable had no idea what rule Arel might have broken, and he knew nothing of the rules around apprenticeship. Everything he had read said that people disappeared into a school and reappeared 1-3 years later as masters.
There was very little information on what happened in the school. A couple of failed apprentices (there were many of those apparently) had given hints at the hard work involved in the training. One had described his typical day in the apprenticeship as he would rise before lunar rise and work in the cafeteria getting breakfast ready, then clean up after breakfast eating quickly in the brief break between serving and cleaning up. Then off to classroom studies, followed by martial arts training, talents training and power colors training before returning to the cafeteria to prepare the evening meal.
It sounded like hard work, but not as hard as apprenticing in the mines on an asteroid belt. And there was no indication that anyone died in the training like happened in the mines. The disconcerting thing was that there was so little information about the process available. Even the person who described his day in that post was not willing to talk about it when Zaable reached out to him.
In fact none of the failed apprentices appeared to be willing to talk details which really made a person wonder what was being hidden.
Now this instant response to some unknown offense the master took with a serving girl. Zaable felt suddenly very uneasy.
“You are wondering what just happened. If you become my apprentice you will need to know this anyway, so I will tell you.
The young woman attempted to listen to my thoughts. This should never be done without the express permission of the person whose thoughts are to be listened to. The only time we allow any exception to this is in cases of injury where it is not possible to get prior permission and the person in question is in extreme danger, or in time of war, it is allowed for interrogation of prisoners, but only during the interrogation.
When someone attempts such on a master without permission, they risk severe consequences as we often have information that is highly sensitive and not to be known by those not involved with the situations in question. I made sure she would remember the lesson by giving her a severe headache and telling her how she had gone wrong. The pain caused her to fall to the floor and spill a tray she was carrying at the time. Since she clearly knew better, I allowed the pain to persist for a short period of time to make the point.
She received no permanent damage although it would have been within my rights to separate her from her talent.
The rule to remember with the power colors and the talents is if it would give you an advantage over someone without those talents, you may not use them to gain that advantage without the other person’s express permission except to defend yourself.
Do you understand?”
“The mastery is strict in its rules because we teach you how to do things that could be as bad in the wrong hands as they are good in the right hands.
I can feel your uncertainty and concern. You need time to think about the offer, unfortunately, I have very little time to give you. I need to get checked into my lodging and do the business I was sent here to accomplish. Then I will be leaving the planet again tomorrow.
I can give you until tomorrow morning early if you are willing to accept a room in the lodging facility I am staying at. I can cover the lodging for this evening in return for you keeping watch over my room while I’m gone.
Would you be willing to do that?”
Zaable was confused and uncertain. This man was stern as a mining foreman one moment and then offering to pay for his lodging so he could have time to consider the offer the next. But something inside him told him that he must say yes to the offer and give the new information some time to settle in.
“Thank you sir for allowing me the time to consider my options. I would be honored to watch your room for you in repayment for that time.”
“Excellent. It is a big decision and if you choose the mastery, your life path will be changed forever. It is appropriate that you take time to consider the offer.
But now we must go, I have commitments and you have much to think on.”
They got up from the table and made their way back to the front of the restaurant where Arel’s father met them once more.
“It was a pleasure to serve you Nar Master. Please remember us when you return this way.”
“Thank you, the meal was excellent.”
The man bowed to Master M’Elv in much the same manner as his daughter had bowed earlier, and Master M’Elv nodded his head in response.
Zaable decided that given the easy manner in which Master M’Elv accepted the courtesy it must be the appropriate manner to show respect. But apparently it was not required of everyone because the man had not bowed when they entered, and no one else was bowing. He needed to study this more thoroughly. But it was probably better to err on the side of caution as long as the possibility existed that he might become an apprentice to this man.
They walked out of the restaurant and Master M’Elv again assumed his ground eating pace leaving Zaable to dodge people and push himself to keep up carrying both their bags.
A few minutes later they rounded a corner and Zaable missed a step as he saw the huge building they were heading for. This building clearly could have housed all the miners on the asteroid belt. It was positioned across two city blocks with the transport road they were walking along dead ending into the front of the building. When Zaable looked up he could not see the top of the building as it disappeared into the thick cloud cover that had accumulated while they were in the restaurant.
“Are you still with me Zaable?”
“Uh.. Yes sir.”
“Good, I am in a bit of a hurry, so we will check in and then I will leave for my appointment. I need you to get our bags to our rooms and then keep an eye on my room. There are rumors that a group opposed to the High Councilor’s plans is in the area, and caution is essential. No one should enter my room except you until I return.
Do you understand?”
“Yes sir, I understand.
Sir, is that building full of people?”
The rumble of laughter came once more.
“Not always. It is temporary lodging for visitors. But at this time of the year, it is likely to be nearly full.”
“Sir, that whole building is for temporary lodging? How many people live here?”
The laughter boomed for a moment, and then Master M’Elv turned to smile at him.
“The capital city here has just over 28 million people in it, but at the peak of the business season which is starting now, it grows to a little over 32 million people.
As the capital not only of the planet, but the seat of the solar system, there is a lot of commerce conducted here, especially during the warm months.
You should take advantage of the free time you will have this afternoon to do some research on the local economy. I would also consider looking up the commerce and facilities on Xuml, that is the planet master H’San and I are based on.”
“Yes sir, I will.”
As they spoke Master M’Elv led them into a huge lobby area in the huge building. They were greeted at the door by a real human, a clear sign that this was an expensive place to lodge. The young man took their bags from Zaable and carried them over to the check-in desk and put them on a cart there, standing next to it while Master M’Elv stepped up to the counter and spoke to the clerk there. Again the check-in clerk was human, or at least appeared to be human. A young woman with a pleasant smile and a voice that sounded like the shift chimes he had grown up listening for.
Zaable kept a close eye on the clerk with their bags until Master M’Elv turned back to him and asked him to step over and press his hand to the ident plate on the counter.
“Zaable, you will have access to both rooms. They are across the hall from one another on the 123rd floor. The baggage clerk will escort you there.
I will likely be pretty late this evening, so go ahead and order room service for your late lunar meal.
Remember, no one enters my room except you and me.”
“Okay, I’m off.”
With that he turned back toward the entrance to the building and was instantly in his ground eating stride once more.
“Sir, this way please. I will show you to your rooms.”
It took a moment for it to register that the clerk was speaking to him. It was the first time he could remember anyone calling him ‘Sir’.
“Yes, of course. Thank you.”
Zaable followed the young man who took them deeper into the massive room and over to a wall of elevators. These were technically the same type of device as was used on the cargo ships and the housing facility on the asteroid belt, but they were much larger.
When one opened to let a couple of people out, Zaable could see that it was large enough for a whole mine shift to fit inside. Not only that, but this one had mirrors on the upper half of the walls and some sort of exotic wood on the bottom half. It was beautiful. Zaable figured he could be happy living in a room this large if it only had a refresh facility.
“This way sir.”
The clerk had stepped into the elevator and was holding the door open. Zaable quickly stepped in beside him and was amazed to see the large bank of floor numbers. This was indeed a large building, it showed numbers from 100 to 150.
“This building has 150 floors?”
“Oh no, sir. We have 268 floors with available rooms and another 12 floors for storage and maintenance facilities.
We are building a larger building out near the star port. It should be complete by the middle of the summer. It will be much nicer than this one, but they say this one will remain open until we can acquire space to build a larger facility here in town.”
268 floors with available rooms spanning two city blocks? Either the rooms were huge, or this building would house the population of 8 or 9 asteroid belt mining facilities. How could so many people all live in the same place?
The elevator came to a stop and the doors opened once more.
“This way sir. Your rooms are on the east wing.”
Zaable followed the clerk as he stepped out of the elevator and turned down a long hall to the right. He counted as they went, and they passed 56 other rooms before reaching the two that Master M’Elv had secured for them. The clerk waited for Zaable to press his palm against the door frame to open the door to his room.
He knew that the room would be large based on the spacing between the doors, but he had not calculated how deep the room would be. When the door opened and the clerk entered, Zaable could see that this was not just a room, there were what appeared to be three rooms and a refresh station all large and elegant. There was a room that appeared to be a business office with view screens and various devices he had seen in the mining supervisor’s office. Then a large room clearly intended for entertaining with a wall sized view screen showing scenes of a large mountain range and clear blue skies. There were enough seating spots in that room for a couple of families to be comfortable. Then there was the room with the sleep station that would hold five people comfortably. It also had a small table with chairs around it and a reconstitution station for ordering drinks or meals. As he stood there taking it all in the clerk unloaded his bag onto a table that was clearly intended to hold much larger bags. Then he went over and opened the curtains on one wall and Zaable’s breath caught as he saw a view of a city that went on for many parses, as far as the eye could see.
The floor to ceiling windows made Zaable a little nervous as it seemed that one could fall out if you got too close.
“Sir, can I escort you to the other room? I can deliver the other gentleman’s bag there and turn down his sleep station.”
“No, thank you. I will take his bag over in a few minutes. I just need to get settled here first.”
“Yes sir, I will leave it here then. Enjoy your stay sir, and if you need anything just ask for the lobby and we will get you what you need.”
Zaable dug in his pocket for some credit chits but as he turned around to give them to the clerk, he caught just a glimpse of the man’s back as he exited the room and closed the door.
Looking around, he could not believe the luxury he found himself surrounded by. Apparently Master M’Elv was well to do, if this was the type of accommodation he typically had. Zaable had known many families that had done with much less space, and did not know anyone who lived like this… Until now.
He went into the office room and recognized the console although it was much newer than he was used to, he had studied this model and knew how it was supposed to work. He stepped over and passed his hand over the security panel, then spoke.
“Provide population, primary industries, and history for capital cities on Greentree, and Xuml.”
He turned to go back and unpack while the data was retrieved, and was startled by the immediate response.
“Planet Greentree, capital city Greentree Commons, population 28,987,832 full time residents, and an additional 3,625,183 temporary residents currently registered in the city. Primary industries in Greentree Commons are food production, exotic food production, food regeneration compounds, mineral refinement, manufacturing of specialized mining equipment, manufacturing of general mining equipment, higher education, and contracting for governmental needs.
Planet Xuml, capital city Xum, population 46,297,123 full time residents and an additional 4,823,261 temporary residents currently registered in the city. Primary industries in Xum are Gaseous compound formulation, Chemical Compound formulation, Fuel exploration, food regeneration compounds, exotic food production, and food production, higher education, and contracting for governmental needs.
Would you like a listing of companies?”
“No, thank you.”
“You are welcome.”
Zaable shook his head. Those cities were huge relative to anything he had every witnessed before. He had studied the Free Colonial System of course and knew which planets had started with the largest number of settlers, and which, based on available natural resources and lack of natural predators were likely to have grown the most over the years. But until he saw this temporary lodging building, he had never truly quantified what those numbers would mean.
It was definitely going to take some getting used to. Doubtful he would ever get to the point where he knew all the people in the common areas as he had back on the asteroid belt. There would be both good and bad because of that. With everyone knowing who everyone else was, there was no escaping reputation on the asteroid belt, but in places this large, Zaable figured a person could start over with no reputation and no past to deal with. That had been his goal in coming here in the first place. On the other hand, he would have no idea who to trust and who to avoid, which he knew very well back on the asteroid belt.
Strange that people actually grew up and lived in such an environment. He knew for example that there were hundreds of people in this building that he would never even see before he moved on. And millions in the city that he might never meet even if he chose to settle here. How strange that must be, to grow up and live one’s whole life in a place where you would never know everyone.
Well, I had best get Master M’Elv’s bag over to his room. And it wouldn’t hurt to put an alarm on the door so I know when he gets back.
Zaable, picked up the bag and headed across the hall. Pressing his hand against the panel and waiting for the door to unlock and open. He stepped in and was amazed at how much larger the room was than his own. He had assumed based on the size of his own that it was the largest available room, but this one was at least twice as deep with an additional room that had something that looked like the privacy equipment the mining executives had in their offices. Clearly this was more modern, but it had to be the same type of equipment. The room looked like a meeting room, and had vid units all the way around suspended from the very high ceiling. When he looked more closely, he could see that every seat at the table had their own console built into the table, and there was what appeared to be a full disconnected comp system in the corner.
What in the universe could Master M’Elv be working on that would require a disconnected comp, and a privacy conference room?
Zaable waived his hand over the console at the end of the table facing the door, figuring to confirm his understanding by calling up the privacy console.
“I’m sorry Citizen Zaable, you have not been cleared to operate this console. Please contact Master M’Elv for authorization.”
Well, I guess that tells me how far Master M’Elv trusts me. I can watch his room, but not access the privacy controls.
That makes a certain amount of sense, only why would he ask me to watch his room and give me access to the main door then? He is a master, so no telling his logic. But he must know by now that I don’t intend to become his apprentice after seeing him punish that innocent waitress.
Ah well, he is allowing me to stay in a high end temporary lodging facility for a night before we go our separate ways. I should quit worrying about what he is thinking and doing, and set about trying to secure employment.
Zaable went back out to the main room console and set the alarm to let him know when the door was opened again. Then he went back to his room.
He entered and went straight to the office waiving his hand over the console once more.
“Access my education and work experience and match that to available employment outside of the capital city.”
“Education is the key, dedication is the way.”
“Thank you, Citizen Zaable. Here is a listing of positions with their distance from the metro area. Same day interview availability is indicated by a green interview icon. To apply for a position, simply say ‘Apply’ followed by the position number.”
Zaable looked at a long list of positions ranging from sanitation engineer in a temporary housing facility, to mining consultant for a small mineral refining company. But nearly all of the positions were within five parses of the metro area. It seemed that Master M’Elv had told him the truth about that.
He sorted the list to put the same day interview list at the top. These were likely to be the most high stress and least desirable positions, but also the ones most likely to hire a newcomer just in from the asteroid belt. He had the rest of his life to upgrade to other positions, but for now the critical thing was to secure a job so he could know that he could safely walk away from the apprenticeship opportunity Master M’Elv had offered.
First things first, he went to his bag and took out his best jump suit, went to the refresh room and got cleaned up and dressed in his best clothes for the interviews. Then he returned and scanned the positions once more looking for the most desirable of the positions to interview for first…
Four hours later he stood up and walked into the rest station room and lay down to consider his options. 10 grueling interviews had yielded two opportunities. One as a sanitation engineer, and one as a courier. Neither was a step toward any career options, and the sanitation engineer position was a night job working very long hours, but paid the best of all the opportunities he had looked at. He had put in applications for a number of other positions to get the process started, but at the moment, his best option appeared to be an entry level position as a courier. That meant spending a lot of time on the streets of the city, something he had hoped to avoid. But it was better than spending long nights moving garbage from the city out to the recycling facility on the edge of the metro area.
And his goal of studying at one of the great universities had also taken a significant hit when he saw the price for non-residents. He would have to wait the four years required to qualify as a resident before he would be able to afford to attend one of those.
So much for the great destiny he had dreamed of having. His father’s words came to mind once more.
“Zaable, there ain’t nobody in the universe who is out there hoping for the opportunity to help you become somebody. You got to make the most of what is available, and hope that means you can eat tomorrow.”
Zaable slumped into his sleep station and closed his eyes.
I’m not done yet father. I will keep trying as long as I’m breathing.
Zaable felt the weight of those thoughts sink in and knew they were true. It clearly would be harder than he had hoped, but he would still make his own destiny, and it would not be as a laborer in the mines or in the city.
Zaable awoke early the next day and packed his meager belongings, then formulated a message for Master M’Elv. He was just preparing to send it when the room announced he had a visitor, he would have to tell Master M’Elv in person.
Zaable moved quickly to the door opening it before checking the announcement. And he had just enough time to see that it was not Master M’Elv before he felt the impact and slipped into darkness.
…”telling you no master gets taken that easily. I don’t know who this guy is, but I lay 10 to 1 odds he is not a master. Probably not even security. You better hope he is someone that M’Elv values or you will be joining him in his forever sleep station.”
“Why me? You were there too.”
“Yeah, but you were in charge.”
Zaable was confused by the voices, but something told him to keep his eyes closed and his breathing slow and shallow until he had a chance to figure things out.
There had been two men at the door when he opened it and one of them fired some kind of weapon at him. He could still feel the impact to his face and chest and knew that there was swelling to go with the bruising. Hopefully nothing was broken.
Now he could feel the tightness around his wrists which were apparently bound behind him and the same tightness around his ankles. Both his hands and both his feet had the tingling sensation that indicated they were not receiving enough blood circulation.
So, he was now a bound prisoner, and from the conversation, it was clear that his captors thought that they had captured a master or someone Master M’Elv would value. Zaable was in big trouble there, once they learned he was just some random person Master M’Elv had met at the starport, they would not bother to keep him around. He had best learn as much as possible. He refocused on the conversation.
…”will be here by lunar set. No time to make another attempt on M’Elv, but you could check with your people at the hotel and see if he has set off the alarms and started the clock on us.”
“Just did, no alarms yet. He is probably still meeting with Amyl and her people, but you can bet that won’t last long.”
“Never know with them Masters, they think they are really important now that we have a high councilor who is one. Can’t wait until that changes and they are put in their place again.”
“That boy should be coming around anytime now, probably better cycle the guards so they stay attentive. Don’t want none of them fancy tricks the masters use going unnoticed.”
“I’m telling you he isn’t a master or we would not have gotten him so easily. But I suppose he could be in training, best to make sure he is watched.”
Zaable heard the communicator open a line, and one of the guys who had been talking so much asked for a fresh set of guards to come in and watch him.
So there were at least 4 people in the room then, and two were supposed to be watching him to prevent him from doing any tricks. Not much hope of escaping with 4 people in the room and two focused on his every move. If only he did know some of the things masters knew how to do. He had read that many of the masters could move from place to place instantly. What did they call that? Oh yeah, that was called teleportation. That would be pretty helpful right now.
Well, he had learned that there was always a solution to the problem if you could just gather enough information and think of enough options. So what did he know?
The people in the room had been sent to capture Master M’Elv. They got him and brought him back instead. Did that mean they didn’t know what M’Elv looked like, or that they were afraid of coming back empty handed and decided to bring him instead?
They knew they didn’t have M’Elv, so likely the second.
They hinted that if he was of no use they would bury him somewhere and likely one of them would be buried there as well. Presumably they would kill him first, but that was not clear.
They were opposed to the Mastery, and believed that its relevance would decline when the high councilor changed. But the implication was that they believed that would happen soon. That was some information he might be able to trade to Master M’Elv in return for his help. What else did he know?
They were suspicious of the mastery, but clearly respected its teachings, believing that no master would have been captured as easily as he had been. Also, they referred to use of the power colors and use of extrasensory talents as tricks, and that they could prevent them by watching someone closely and intervening.
What else? They had someone at the hotel that gave them information on what Master M’Elv was doing, but clearly not someone who could watch him constantly because they came when he was not there, and they did not know if he was there now.
And they believed that when Master M’Elv noticed he was gone, he would set off some sort of alarm and then they would have a limited amount of time before something happened. What?
Possibly they could be tracked down, or possibly their options would be limited after a certain amount of time. If Zaable only knew more about this planet and how cities worked here. On the asteroid belt, they would simply ask the comp to locate someone and it would tell them where they were. That was possible because there was such a limited number of possible places a person could be. But in a city this large? Even for a comp such a task would take many days, if it were possible at all.
So what else did he know? Zaable concentrated on the conversation he had overheard and nothing else came to mind. Then he tried to remember what he had seen in the instant between opening his door and being knocked unconscious. Nothing there either.
Okay, if that was all the information available, what were his options? He could bluster and possibly convince his captors that they needed to release him to have a chance of staying free, or even alive. The only problem with that approach is they had already discussed the possibility that if he did not turn out to be valuable one of them would likely die.
So no real hope there. He could continue to feign unconsciousness and try to gather more information hoping to learn something helpful. The problem there was that it was just a matter of time until it became obvious that he had no value to Master M’Elv, and then there would be no chance of escape or survival.
He could reach out to Master M’Elv and try to relay enough information to be seen as valuable. There were two problems with that approach. First there was Master M’Elv’s reaction to that server who reached out to him with telepathy. Zaable had no desire to experience that. The other problem was that he knew so little that by the time he had relayed enough to get Master M’Elv’s attention, he would have run out of information to share and have no further value.
If only he knew more. Like where they were, and who this mysterious person that was coming by lunar set was. He refocused on the voices, but they were talking about some girl they had seen at the hotel.
Zaable felt the frustration rising in him as he felt precious minutes slip away while they talked of meaningless things. He could feel his time running out. Without more information he would surely die soon.
Zaable focused on one of the faces he had seen when he opened the door to his room earlier. He just guessed which voice might go with that face and tried to will the man to talk more about the visitor.
He had no idea how to push someone, but he had read that it could be done by some who had telepathic skills. So he just focused on the man and hearing him speak of the visitor, willing it to happen. He focused all his will on that effort and demanded his mind think of nothing else the way he did when he was studying a problem. He paused a moment to listen to the conversation again, but they were still talking about the girl. Apparently he either did not have that ability, or at least he did not have the knowledge to accomplish that.
Well, he had read one other thing about telepaths. It was said to be very unethical, but they were supposed to be able to listen to the thoughts of those around them, and if they were careful, they could do so without being detected.
Zaable struggled with his conscience for a while, this would not be the same as encouraging them to talk and then listening in. This was actually listening to the thoughts behind the conversation. Could he do such a thing without being tainted forever?
There has to be a better way. Perhaps if I touch his mind and will him to talk about the person that would work without actually reading the man’s mind.
Zaable decided, and focused on the face and the voice then envisioned his mind reaching out to the mind of the man, gently. He did not want to speak to the man, just give him the urge to speak of the visitor once more.
He pressed his talent, but nothing happened, he could not feel the man at all. Now what?
Zaable felt the frustration threatening to overrun him once again. He held the frustration back with sheer will.
I’m missing something, what is it? I focused on the man and his voice, then reached out. That’s how I reached out to Master M’Elv when he touched me. Maybe my talent only works when someone with greater talent reaches out to me. No, surely it doesn’t work that way. I have not seen anything like that in my reading. Okay, apply logic.
When I reached out to Master M’Elv, I looked at him and focused on projecting my thoughts to him. I felt the connection and then it worked just like talking.
I could hear his voice, and afterward his voice brought his image to mind…..
Wait, what if I have the wrong voice for the image?
Zaable refocused using the other voice with the same image, and he immediately felt the man’s mind. Rather than send a thought though, Zaable just visualized the man talking about the visitor.
“Speaking of good looking women. The boss is kind of hot in her own way, don’t you think?”
“What? No, and I would not say that too loud, she will cut your private parts off for even thinking you could be good enough to get with her.”
“That’s not what I was saying. Just she is kind of attractive in her own way. Anyway, what flight did you say she was on?”
“Didn’t, don’t know really. Message said she was flying in from Zelus. Probably coming in on one of the Kranus Star Ship Corporate Yachts. Rumor has it she still has some stock and influence there. The family is not completely locked out, just can’t run the company anymore.”
“I thought she was like a 6th cousin twice removed. Not like she’s a descendant of O’Mil or nothing. How would she have stock?”
“Don’t know, but apparently she had some connection to O’Liv when they were kids. I think I heard she was one of the lower level execs in the power generation division when the high councilor kicked the family out.”
“Yeah, that makes sense. No wonder she wants to interfere with his plans. Just don’t know if it’s so smart to mess with someone so close to the high councilor.”
“M’Elv isn’t close to the high councilor. His boss is, but he isn’t any closer to the high councilor than we are to the Kranus Star Ship Corporation.”
“I hope not. Don’t want to mess with nobody that could take down O’Mil.”
“Nope, but the high councilor is way out on Fleron. O’Bix will be here by lunar set, and we best keep in mind that she can have our heads in a bag by dark if we piss her off.”
“True enough. Let’s get off that subject. I liked dreaming about getting with that desk clerk a lot better. You suppose she likes to dance?”
“Probably, but not with a klutz like you. I on the other hand am a very good dancer. I will let you know how good she is when I’m done dancing with her.”
Zaable could not believe that worked so well. Now he had some meaningful information to share with Master M’Elv. Just one more bit of information he needed. Where the heck had they taken him?
He focused and reached out with his mind once more, as soon as he felt the touch of the man’s mind, he focused on their location.
“So why are we meeting here in this old warehouse if the boss is so rich? The Ritz is just a block down the street, surely she would be more comfortable there. And I’ve seen some of the clerks going into that place, man, they are hot.”
“Hey, she says to meet her in the old sleep juice factory, I meet her in the old sleep juice factory. But you are right about those clerks. I saw one yesterday, must have been about 20 years old and man did she know how to strut that stuff.”
Zaable had to focus on math formulas to keep from screaming his joy at having gathered the key information that might make him valuable enough to Master M’Elv to be worth saving.
“Where are you Zaable? Did you decide not to join the mastery after all?”
Zaable nearly jumped at the sound of Master M’Elv in his mind.
“Sir, am I glad to hear from you. I have been kidnapped by people who hope to use me to get something from you.”
“I can’t be certain, because they knocked me unconscious, but I believe it was this morning.”
“Do you know where they took you?”
“I think so. They were discussing a warehouse, possibly an old sleep juice factory that is just down the street from the Ritz. I think that is a fancy temporary boarding facility from the way they talked about it.”
“I know the Ritz, give me a second… Yes, there is a sleep juice factory near there that was shut down last year.
Do you know how many people we are dealing with?”
“I think there are four here in the room with me. I’ve been pretending to still be unconscious so have not had the opportunity to look around. They must have more in the building though because they called for a change of shift right after I came to. It only took a couple minutes for the new guards to arrive.
I also overheard them say that their boss is coming in by lunar set. They apparently were supposed to kidnap you and there is some concern that she might want to kill these guys if I am not valuable enough to you.
Her name is O’Bix and she is apparently a distant cousin of O’Liv of the Kranus Star Ship Systems. If she is the one I read about, she was the Chairman of the Board of the Propulsion division before she challenged the High Councilor and met her end.”
“Damn, I thought the High Councilor had pacified all the family members who were still around.
Well, we will deal with that later. We only have a couple of hours before lunar set. I need to gather some help. We will come and get you before she arrives. Be patient and learn what you can. I’ll contact you when we are ready to move.”
“Thank you sir. I can’t tell you how relieved I am to hear you say that.”
Zaable felt Master M’Elv pull back and almost reached out to re-establish the connection. He did not want to be alone in the situation again, but he knew better than to reach out to the Master when he didn’t want to be bothered.
It was enough that there would be an attempt to rescue him. Zaable focused on the conversation once more.
They were still talking about women they had seen and thought they might try to pick up later.
…”We are coming. Have you opened your eyes yet?”
Zaable was again shocked to feel Master M’Elv’s touch, but this time it was much easier to control the impulse to jump.
“No sir, they have been discussing trying to wake me to be sure they didn’t hit me too hard with their weapon, but so far they have not forced me to give up my ruse.”
“Okay, when I tell you, I would like you to open your eyes and immediately send me an image of what you see. A couple of us will teleport into the room to make sure we can act in time. But we need to be in position to secure the building first.
I’m going to drop contact for a little bit to focus on getting the team in position, but if anything happens to make you fear for your life, reach out to me immediately.”
Zaable once more fought down the urge to reach out immediately when Master M’Elv broke contact.
He wondered who all was coming. Did Master M’Elv get the police, or someone else? He did work with a legend in Master H’San, and might be able to use that influence to pull in almost anyone.
Zaable heard something in the distance that sounded like something heavy had fallen. And then the two guys he had been listening to went quiet.
“Did you hear that?”
“Yeah I did. Check it out.”
Zaable heard boots scrape on the floor as one of the men moved. Based on the guard change he had listened to earlier, the man was moving toward the door.
That noise was likely Master M’Elv’s folks or the reaction to them arriving. Zaable decided he needed to do something to distract them, so he moaned and kicked his feet slamming them down on the floor.
Then he moaned again as though he was having a bad dream, or at least that was what he hoped they would think.
He heard the man who had headed toward the door come back toward him and suddenly felt the toe of his boot slam into his stomach.
This time the moan was not feigned, and his eyes came open automatically as he looked to see if another boot was coming.
“It’s about time you came to. Never seen anyone take so long to recover from a stun gun. Must have a pretty soft life for it to have that big an impact.”
Zaable’s mind kicked in and he quickly decided he would be safest if he played the part of someone who had just been awakened after being taken so suddenly at the hotel.
“Who are you? …Where am I?”
Zaable winced as the boot struck again.
“I ask the damn questions around here. You give the answers. And if you are smart, they will be quick and true answers. I’ll part you out quick if you lie to me. Understand?”
Zaable did his best to nod his head as he fought back the tears that had somehow filled his eyes.
“Okay, open your eyes and give me an image.”
Zaable focused on what he could see of the room and tried to project that image to Master M’Elv.
“What’s your name, and what’s your relationship to M’Elv?”
Zaable found he could not formulate an answer and maintain the image in his mind at the same time, so the truth just came rolling out.
“My name is Zaable. Master M’Elv asked me to consider becoming his apprentice.”
“I told you. He’s no master, just a damn apprentice. Worse than useless.”
Zaable saw the man’s hand slip into a pocket in his jump suite, come back out holding what had to be a blaster. Then his head snapped around awkwardly and he fell to the floor. Zaable thought he saw movement and turned his head toward where he believed the other man would be, just in time to see him slump as well, but this time he saw Master M’elv’s boot strike the man in the face first.
Suddenly there was a commotion behind Zaable, and then a couple of moans and the thumps that Zaable had no doubt were the two guards falling to the floor.
“Sorry to take so long Zaable, we had a little trouble at the main entrance. There were a few more of them than we thought.”
Master M’Elv paused for a moment and then continued as he came over and knelt down next to Zaable.
“The building is secure now, and we will be here waiting when O’Bix arrives. She is important enough we need to catch her coming here before we can move on her.”
Zaable felt someone remove the bindings on his hands and then his feet, and wiggled both for a while until feeling returned to them.
Then he tried to get up to show proper respect to Master M’Elv, and immediately stopped at the sharp pain in his chest.
“Stay put, I’m doing a diagnostic on you.
Okay, you have a couple of broken ribs and a cracked cheek bone. With your permission I would like to lay a healing weave on you to fix those. Do I have your permission?”
Zaable blinked the tears out of his eyes once more and nodded.
Master M’Elv moved his hands over Zaable as flashes of light streamed out from them. Suddenly the pain was gone, and even his hands and feet felt good once more.
“Okay, you can sit up now, and the pain should be gone.”
Zaable moved and was surprised when there was no pain at all.
“Thank you Sir. I am indebted to you.”
“No it is I who am indebted to you. You would not have been here if I had not asked you to watch my room at the hotel.
And I am indebted to you again for keeping your composure, and learning who the enemy was and where they were. When this is all over, you will have to tell me the story of how you managed to gather so much information. But O’Bix will be here shortly and we have some work to do to make sure there is nothing to tip her off when she arrives. Master Bal will take you back to Master Amyl’s place where you will be safe until this is all over. ”
The middle aged, very powerfully built woman looked up from the body of the man who had kicked Zaable and nodded at him. She checked for a pulse in the throat of the man before nodding her satisfaction and standing up in front of Zaable.
“They are all departed M’Elv. I can take him now and be back in just a few minutes to help with the mop up.”
“Thank you Bal.”
She nodded and then looked directly at Zaable.
“Citizen Zaable, with your permission I will teleport you to Master Amyl’s dining hall where you will be safe until we finish here and Master M’Elv comes to get you. Is that okay with you?”
Zaable was confused by all the respect they were paying to him. He had never heard of a master asking for permission before helping someone, it just made no sense at all. But he did not want to offend them, and he was definitely grateful that they had come to rescue him.
“Ma’am, I would be honored. Thank you.”
She reached out and touched his shoulder with a firm strong grip and the room shimmered and was replaced by a large dining facility that was nearly deserted except for a few people cleaning tables.
“There is usually some snacks and quick food over there at the end of the serving line this time of day. Help yourself to whatever is there, we will likely be a couple of hours, so make yourself comfortable.”
“Thank you ma’am.”
“It is an honor to serve. I apologize, but I must get back, my staff will be much more comfortable with me there.”
Before Zaable could respond Master Bal shimmered and was gone. He felt a little uncomfortable for a moment until one of the people cleaning the tables came over and spoke to him.
“Welcome. I’m sorry but the evening meal has been cleared away. I would be happy to warm up some stew for you, or we have some box meals over on the serving line. Of course there is always hot caf and water.”
“Thank you, I think a box meal will be fine. Is there a relief station nearby?”
“Yes, there is one over there.”
The young man pointed and Zaable could see the sign indicating a men’s room.
…Two hours later, Zaable was beginning to wonder if something went wrong when a group of ten or so people just appeared in the middle of the room near the serving line. Master M’Elv and Master Bal were easy to pick out in the group, and there was a tall thin woman with a blindfold covering half her face, and her hands bound, in the middle of the group.
Master Bal said something and the two people nearest the bound woman took her by the arms and guided her toward a set of doors at the side of the room, then she and Master M’Elv came toward Zaable.
“Well Zaable, it appears that your destiny for good or bad is now tied to mine. O’Bix was very talkative once she realized she had been caught red handed. It seems that the group she is part of had a precog who told her you would be here and that you were very important to our cause.
I hope you have decided to accept my offer and become an apprentice, but even if you haven’t I am under orders to see to your safety until we can figure out what role you have that is important enough for O’Bix to take such a risk to get you.”
Zaable had been re-thinking his decision to decline the offer for the last couple of hours. What he had experienced over the last day made it clear that he was not nearly as capable of taking care of himself as he had believed yesterday.
“Yes sir, I would be honored to become your apprentice. But I must tell you I do not have the money to pay the normal rates for the universities here. I am very willing to work to pay the fees but from what I have seen so far, I will not be able to earn enough to pay the going rate for quite a while.”
Master M’Elv laughed and Master Bal smiled.
“Don’t worry about fees. With what is coming, we need all the masters we can train. This is not about money, it is about survival.”
Zaable felt the truth of that statement, and the weight of the decision he had made. The finality of the decision settled in and he knew that this was the destiny he had known he would find one day.
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
Sslasl and the
Mastery Available now
Mika’s Story Coming Soon
Dirk’s Duty Coming Soon
Master Mixer Sslasl
Sslasl and the Mastery
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
Raised in a mining community on a remote asteroid, where his parents worked the great mining machines extracting minerals from an asteroid belt rich in the components commonly used in spacecraft engines. Zaable’s parents did not value education and had not enrolled him in the mining school until he insisted, and as a result he had fallen well behind the other children his age. It took several years for him to catch up and by that time the other children had taken to calling him dumb Zaable. It was a moniker he had not been able to rid himself of even after he surpassed most of them in knowledge of the things taught in the classroom. He eventually stopped attending class in person and took all the available classes from the comp unit in his family’s quarters. Now he was nearing the age where the company would demand that he either learn to run a mining device or leave the asteroid belt for good.