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MY BEST 2012 SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY SHORT STORIES
PUBLISHED BY CAT FIRSTMAN AT SCRIBD
Cover Design and Photo: by Cat Firstman Copyright © 2012 C. Firstman ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
SPIRIT 101 CATORI AND HER HUMAN BETWEEN GALAXIES THE FIRST SPACE CAPTAIN IT IS 2AM ON THE MOON GREELY MIND VS. METAL ON PLANET ZUDDAH
About the Author
I was supposed to go to lunch today! I went downstairs to the kitchen and through the back door to the alleyway. I turned to look at my bed. But the car was still pulling out. There he was in midair—his legs madly pumping.my body . I guess it was time to get a new life. what are you going to do?“ Good question. I got up and went to the bathroom. There she lie . I was 95. Little Dog was STILL barking. It must be Death Day. talking to my friend next to me. But. but he was barking at me. but I didn't see my arms holding him. raised my kids. I turned to tell him to hush and picked him up. I hadn't driven anywhere. I stood confused. And I was no longer driving it. if I may credit God for asking: I’d lived my life. And barking. I woke with a start. my little dog had somehow gotten out of the house and was running after the car. looking up and down my alley. God interrupted my dazed wondering with a gentle question.4 SPIRIT 101 (A Different Kind of Ghost Story) Chapter 1: Getting Started In my dream. and looking behind me as I pulled out of the alley behind my condominium. I got out of the car and ran to pick up the dog. in great health. Still holding my dog. and done my fair share. but God had hit the timer. barking madly. Uh Oh. I chased it. peacefully dead. Little Dog WAS barking. and then I turned to say something to my friend. right? . calling to my friend to grab the wheel. “So. I wasn't expecting this today.that Ol’ “Model 95”. The dog kept on barking. My garage was still closed. asleep in eternal slumber. I was in my car. Darn. paid my dues. Darn. Nor any other part of my body for that matter.
He had been a good helper. . I didn’t care too much about things. the door doing my bidding.I should have thought of all this before! “Ms. For a final measure.. but didn’t see me watching him. I jumped and almost knocked my mouse off the table. The dog already loved the little boy next door. perhaps a bit hysterically. ghost-like I guess. and put the dog down. I did some texting too. It complied just as if I had hands and arms. it lay. I needed to do background checks. I hoped that I’d done eno ugh good deeds to deserve a decent start. So now what? I should sit and send a few messages to my family.” I went back inside. I surveyed my cozy condo. I'd been prepared for years. Easy enough. I howled with maniacal laughter and cleaned and howled and cleaned some more. He had come in the door I’d left cracked.. and leaving him some extra cash. they did my bidding. He was about ten. I was running out of time. Wow. I wondered if I would get what I’d asked for “Next Time. After about ten minutes I finally sobered up. I walked into the kitchen. When I went to clean it up. Armstrong?” A small voice came from the kitchen. Luckily. I really was leaving nothing to chance. I told them what to do with certain things. “Yes?” I answered. The whole charade of living with a body started to unravel. and they fall apart. I sent a computer message to the young man who comes to help me. loyalty checks. He was looking around. That went fine until I tried to drink the coffee—the lack of a real stomach proved its undoing and on the floor. I usually gave him cookies. I didn’t want to repeat so many sorry histories—think you’re getting good parents. Someone could have them. I went to run the water for a pot of coffee. telling him what to do. Little Dog was content to be in my ghostly grasp. Something about trying to clean up coffee with a white rag flopping around at the end of a ghostly arm just undid my composure. watching the morning. It would creep them out but what did it matter? I started to giggle again. The neighbor boy.5 I stood there perplexed. it was time to find new parents. I was just about to be adrift without a computer. I should have done these things before. I didn’t alarm the neighbors. but controlled it as I sat in my front room and wrote love notes to everyone. My life was in order. My possessions were so accustomed to my intention that even without my body. He didn’t answer. I started to laugh.
but then stared at the spot where he took it from. and took out a freshly baked chocolate-chip cookie and handled it to him. Girls really did have it harder in our society. I was going to be a boy. several branches of my church. It was time to go. I was going to have to memorize whatever I found. I left the door open. no one should be upset at all. write my own books and plays. learn to do music. Then he went to lie in his spot. “Kicking it” at 95 would be considered a “job well done”. One reas on why I worked so hard this time was so I would have totally earned my dream gig in the eyes of God. and factually. Should I go to my own funeral? I really hated making people cry. Then I re-thought. I had more data than I could remember. My dog of course. His eyes went wide. make a note: choose creative parents. For starters. and he slowly backed out of the kitchen.6 Not thinking I went to the cookie jar. then took off and ran like the dickens across the street to his house. Point. For my next life. And parents from my church. If I did go to the funeral . He sniffed around the floor looking for any crumbs and smelled at my feet. colleges. I told him to go back. I'd go for a long walk while I waited for the car to be found and the wheels of change to be set into motion. and it could take a while to find the right combination. This was getting harder. I went to my computer and did a search for nearby hospitals. I had to handle the problem of my next parents before I left the safety and security of my well-ordered life. I was going to go wholly into entertainment next time. yes or no? If I went to the funeral. Boys just had it easier. It was one reason I lived so long already. Funeral. I’d have to listen to everyone: might be nice. I could see now why people liked lots of grand-kids. I’d given it all the chances I could give it. Cripes! Since I couldn’t take anything with me. He took it automatically. I could search for a nice young lady who liked me a lot. I told Little Dog to guard the house. He followed me out. There was obviously nothing there to support it. I left him lots of water and food. be a director. and then I could stay with her and be her kid. Now I just wanted to get it all over with. And I had a job to do. They should be affluent so that education and lessons wouldn’t be a problem. One had to wonder why it was that animals could see ghosts. I knew what I wanted. Be an actor. still holding the cookie. He stepped back through the outside door. If I didn’t. My own kids didn’t have very many kids. might be upsetting. then I’d miss out on finding out who cared and who didn’t. a “life well lived”. and people couldn’t? No matter. didn’t care. .
I had the distinct impression of an older woman coming out of the carriage. As I got closer. I waited. Or rather. I Loved Lake Tahoe. I told Little Dog to sit. What I met there completely contrasted with the peace of the lake. When the sun started to set. I don’t really know how long I was there. I reached the corner of the main street with the convenience store and the gas station. I floated. My goodness. waving me away. mile-high lake in the middle of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. had been previously claimed by other people! I was making a hasty conclusion. or rather all babies. My favorite. and went over to see what a baby looked like. in fact. I never found anything later! I never remembered my account numbers either. go find your own baby body!” Startled. I left. I started to daydream. I backed away and watched the carriage continue down the street. I stopped and considered. pristine. I turned my attention homeward. who cared? Probably. That was an eye opener. I was almost magnetically drawn. and knocked on the door. At that moment. It seemed likely that the baby. the sparkling. favorite spot. I walked out onto the street. The little boy came out and saw the dog. I took one last look at my condo. I just floated along the beach oblivious now of anything. Leaving it and leaving my life was like leaving home for the first time. It was midday. I realized that perhaps something might be happening back home. I could. Dog had a new home. but it seemed obvious. looking at the lapping little waves and the minnows flitting in the shadows. the mother of course oblivious of the exchange. Promising the lake that I would return. I didn’t. Instead. Ha ha. I had been planning to meet my friend for lunch.7 and had him follow me to the neighbor kid’s door. Walking down my alley backwards. I wondered if she was going to find my body or call my family? Or. He looked around furtively and let the dog in. the sand between my imagined toes. “This one is taken already! You shoo. a lot of people. I saw a lady with a baby carriage. it was so beautiful. take some things with me and hide them for later. There was a little breeze rustling through the pine trees in that special whooshing sound only Tahoe trees make. Lake Tahoe. was I just dreaming all of this? But then. . Nah. I suddenly got the urge to visit Lake Tahoe. I’m sure I’d tried that in other lives. and was suddenly on its beach. I was testing not having to walk. I made a note to find some other newborns and see what happens when I approach them. I felt like I should have a stick with a bag on my shoulder.
She found the file on Little Dog. He came over to my daughter and pulled on her shirt. She covered the phone and looked down at him. . The little boy was outside holding Little Dog looking wide-eyed at all the activity. I watched. My spirit memory was becoming visible. it quickly made its search and moved on to another branch. The brain fog was lifting. I always wondered what they did. Poking and probing in the rough bark. Bugs. like schools attended. Now I really knew I didn't only live once. made him wait. I didn't have to use the restroom. Then. People were milling about. standing outside talking on her cell phone. that was that. Even though I had thought about the end of this life. it was hunting for bugs. Well. It was dark now. The trip to Tahoe had been invigorating. or boyfriends I’d had or homes I’d owned. Then he ran back to his house with the dog and the file. Each one distinct. seventy-five years old herself. I just sat. I didn’t think. I could look if I wanted. I didn’t want to go home. I knew I had chosen right.8 There was a police car parked in back of my condo. I knew what that was about. I was still sitting. Chapter 2 – Getting Around As the day began for the people along my alley way. I could see the many lives I had lived. the people leave. I recognized my daughter. I sat in the tree just outside my back door on a prickly branch and watched the alley. I didn’t have to eat. The sun rose. I was feeling better. I hung around in the cedar trees watching the hustle and bustle and conversation. Little Dog was a good dog. Things rustled around me. I could tell he was asking what had happened. Atta girl. to my desk (I was following her now). She got it and brought it back outside. he smiled. time to go home. The moon rose and traveled across the sky. she answered. I watched the sun set. Gave it to the boy. It was getting dark. I didn’t have to change my clothes. it hadn’t really been real to me until it happened. I wanted to go out. I didn’t have to do anything. and now I could see. and someone locked the condo. went into the house. a moment’s thought. It was all up to me. Now it was changing. It was pleasant to simply be there. I didn’t really have to do anything. I watched the bird that came to my spot in the tree. My daughter called him back. and ran back to the house. And my past lives had been hidden by the current one. She looked resigned but determined. Then another question. He would enjoy the little boy. holding Little Dog.
I needed to rethink some of my life-living methods before I launched a new one. I didn’t think. The tumblers moved. He stood for a moment looking at his hand and the door and then cautiously turned the knob. I pushed. He had his cookie look on his face. He went over to the counter. There was a very strong chance that my kitchen was as I had left it the day before. The little boy came out and quietly padded over to my door and tried it. He opened the door and walked into the silent kitchen.9 I thought about my life. all business and bustle. His eyes were wide. and left. He looked earnestly concerned. sitting in a tree. He got a chair and pulled it up. That touched me. perfectly cognizant of what was going on. Why hadn’t I just come and sat under a tree every now and then? My life was a fine life. It was pretty basic: tumblers with pins that needed to be pushed up a certain distance. He jumped down and looked around. Just a few moments later. I went over to one and pushed it off. Quickly. and the cookie jar was there. I hoped I didn’t scare him off. I wondered what had driven me to be so hectic. This time it gave way. but it was busy. He stuffed one in his mouth. I knew that look. He walked to the open door turned and looked around then gave a little bye-bye wave. The curtains had been drawn —I never drew the curtains! But he was unfazed. She carried boxes . I had little magnet pictures hanging on one side of the refrigerator. The boy had actually considered that we had a relationship. and now it seemed to be a lot of extra motion. But unlock a door? Why not? I got into the lock mechanism of the door. I knew that I could move things a little in my spirit state. It hit the floor and settled. my daughter’s car pulled up. It seemed so right at the time. I just made a very strong picture of my key in the door and turning it as I had so many hundreds of times. so busy. He grabbed all the remaining cookies and stuffed them into a pocket. I could see what the key pushed. I watched him return to his house. Now what could he be up to? I zoomed over to examine his hand and his face. So did I—it would be fun to give him a memento. It appeared that she’d hired them to come with her. busy. After all here I was. Yes! The door was free. The little boy picked it up and looked it over and put it in his shirt with the real cookies. busy. I rarely slowed down. she had two ladies. My actions must have created a vibration. and opened the jar. It was a little framed picture of a cookie that some artist had painted in acrylic. In it. I was taken aback. a simple square of goodness about two inches on each side. got on. The little boy stood at the door looking at the knob.
I gave her a hug which she tried to shrug off. and her life must live on. now I glided along. The branch was fibrous and rough and stupid. I had parted with the concept of walking. For all her reliability. If it occurred to her that the door was open. Time to move on. they felt the same to me. I couldn’t do much about my mood. I moved on down the alley way. I stood back. She looked around once. I left. I sulked anyway. 16 years to get my hands on a wheel. not interfering with her actions. I must strike out on my own.” I backed off and fought back tears—physical or spiritual. I went back to my cedar tree at the side of the alley way. she was wasting no time. I fought with wanting to sulk. little spirit hobo bag on my spirit shoulder. Perhaps she had finances to consider. Let my daughter handle the living. Game over. However. I gave her a kiss on the cheek. Mom. flushing a bird off the branch I had used the night before. I was resolute: I had known this was coming ever since I had passed 50 and I’d done very well with it all. that it would be possibly 25 years before I had another that was my own.” she said suddenly to the air. They each picked a room and started to bag any loose item. my. she was never very interested in the spirit world. “Not now. but let me just get through this without any interruptions. so let’s just get it over with. She never was one for kind words in moments of stress. time to shove off. thank you. I didn’t want to freak her out. wrapping delicate ones in paper. too. took a deep breath and turned to instruct the two ladies. Why did cedar trees even exist? It occurred to me that the kitchen and living room that I’d so lovingly put together over the years would now be gone. but I was too tempted. for the moment.10 and plastic bags and walked with a determined stride into the condo. Further. but I gave it to her anyway. I supposed I could fly if I wanted. Her point was clear though. her mortgage to pay. There was lots of that left. and face a brave new life. I moved in back of her and made as if I was going to tap on her shoulder. “I know you are out there. Well. This isn’t making me happy. My. I noticed a flock of seagulls circling . she didn’t notice. Waiting 15. Such a drag. Driving? Ha—that would be a laugh.
I walked. what it would be like to be gliding on those wonderful wings. safe with the gravel that I’d walked on so many times. round and round. I flailed around while they completely ignored my presence. I wished for my car. Dummy. He didn’t notice me or didn’t want to. I dangled in the air. Hmmm. The runner passed me on one side. as I normally walked. hopping higher. hopping. I reversed direction to go to the high school track. Nope. until I knew what my plan of action was. That would be useful maybe. Nope. I became engrossed with the different ways to move: fast. I didn’t want to fight with any ghosts. The runner ran on. I wasn’t ready for that yet. slow. The runner sneezed. I laughed. I needed to collect my wits and get a plan of action laid out. then hopping up to the top of the gym and back to the track. I wondered. I blessed their warm hard edges and their little gravely centers. Well. I got busy going around the track. at least I still had my voice. round and round. My wonder had an immediate effect: I was suddenly up at their height. a runner went by. A high school track runner went right through me. I was back in the alley. and this went on until the lights went out. running on long effortless legs.11 overhead. just as if we were physically sharing the track. for the billionth time. better yet I needed to walk the track. I whooshed over to get a closer look. standing on its artificial rubbery lanes in the sun. Now that was just downright strange. Nasty thought. I swooshed myself along in the direction. A ghost! This one was a really determined ghost. remembering that it was a few miles off. No. feeling the wind supporting me like so much water. I continued down the street. I got to the corner. evenly paced. I forgot to make a plan of action. The runner looked around puzzled. that didn’t really matter. because it was ten at night. I looked longingly down the 1. . Well at least I wasn’t invisible to him. careful not to look at the birds or planes or think about flying. remembered the new library and took off to go sit in it. Nope. Ah ha. Just as I was arguing with myself. Eek. and suddenly. What was I thinking?! I tried my new technique of thinking that I was at the track. Now it was dark. I pretended I was a big rubber ball. Then they passed. Whoops! With a swoosh.000 feet to the small alley I’d just been in. I peered at the runner. right? W hat if there were ghosts haunting the track. they were whooshing past me. I went ahead and started my paced walking. and then a track star. I was right there.
The really nasty ones I’d send to the desert to be a bug. That’s a yes. Goof around. That seemed to be faster. and flying in a plane. I got busy. but then dizzy was a body thing wasn’t it? I looked down at the rake-scraped dirt that looked so far below me. I imagined that I could feel the cold dew damp metal glistening in the growing light. (B). The ghost runner had left. silly thought. What could I practice on? I stopped walking and looked around. Get myself over to the potential parent locations: hospitals. I needed to work on that. One. I wanted to remain an earthling for now. driving. Well. just go as I was accustomed: walking. Shazaam! There I was. Never-mind. I did it! Next target: the top of the basketball hoop in the court near the field. I did believe in other life. figuratively speaking. I needed to practice getting around.. The other was to think myself around. I could feel them. The predawn light was showing in the east. A plan of action was needed now. I could get used to this game! Next? I tried something that I couldn’t immediately see but which was in my recent past: the grocery store on the corner of Main Street. The weirder ones I’d send to the zoo or the ocean. This was cool. I wasn’t very kind. I looked around and picked my first target—the top of the goal post. See what I could see. But. try flying. church and church functions. and check out the inside of anything I wanted to and so on.12 He didn’t say “Hi” or anything. Visit places. I saw two methods. The track was silent and cool. Maybe there was a ghost running competition he was training for. I walked to the middle of the field. swimming. I mean when I had a body. what would you do? Now I needed to focus. I’d tell them to get lost. The stars had always given me the creeps. ahem. And there I was! Right on the drop of water on the top of the hoop as it connected to the backboard. First. I remembered the door and how . I listed them off: (A). check out the bottom of the ocean. A few rabbits were about tasting the turf. stay on the planet. A plan was forming. Attend the funeral. I wouldn’t let any ghosts in my house. The one that opened early for the mom in a hurry before work. and this was just on a hunch. Sometimes I’d tell them to go to the maternity ward and get a baby body. Check out the moms or potential moms! (C). I looked at the very exact middle of the pole and deliberately imagined looking down at it as if I were standing on it. I was almost dizzy at the sudden height. but maybe.. When I was alive.
Thank God. A bright idea came to me: I would visit Alaska! Why Alaska? Because it is different. I think I had ended up somewhere really different. I wanted to go to the Moon. very exact when self-transporting using ideas. much too far and needed to return to familiar turf immediately. The . I should upgrade my choice of night spots. I looked around. It was n ow “Day 2” of my new life: the first night I spent in a tree. obviously. They had strange words with stranger letters. I imagined my storefront as real as it had been earlier and Zap! I was back. I got the creepy idea that I’d really gone too far. that wouldn’t work. an intersection. (pardon me Alaska people). They didn’t really make sense. That would be home base. but I knew I wasn’t certain enough to succeed. how did I know the rays were warm when I didn’t have anything to feel them with? That was wrong thinking—I could feel the energy. and frozen to boot. I turned to an easier task. I didn’t want to land in snow! I wanted Fairbanks itself. A lesson learned. and I didn’t want to go there. It sorta.. A few cars went by. I certainly landed in the middle of a cold frozen spread-out town in the middle of somewhere North. kind of worked and then it didn’t. I zoomed up and down a few streets trying to read street signs. It was very early morning there. Just like the good ole days. I swore off the moon trip until I was more stable. So I would go somewhere “exotic” yet be securely in America. the second in a football field.That big-for-Alaska town smack-dab in the middle of nowhere. surrounded by posters and pictures of produce. That said.13 it opened out. Very exact. Shazaam again! I was right there! I looked at the buildings in the growing light. flooding the town with its warm rays. Be very. I wondered. Which first? What if I failed? I knew how to get back to the store front. I imagined opening the door with my hand on the metal bar. The sun was up now for real. and something from a book or a poster that I’d seen. I focused on a picture of a map and hoped for the best. Perhaps I could mark something somewhere to keep track? To feel confident with my methods. and I gave it a shot. I remembered a picture. the pictures are stunning. I then decided to go to the store. and it was the USA. So I closed my spirit eyes and envisioned the beautiful poster of the white covered mountains…but no. I needed to try two more targets: the Moon. There was a good chance I might lose track of time. staring at the door handle.. Ridiculous to wonder how I felt it. I think I landed in Alaska. people still spoke English. I could do some sightseeing.
What fool trick was this to dump somebody in the middle of nowhere with no life to live. there in the parking lot. “Well now there Little Lady. It must have been several hours before I started to wind down. His eyes were vivid. He tipped his hat. with either everything or nothing to be happy about. facing him. visible as a bold watermark on the scenery. There in back of me in shimmering outline was a cowboy. Well there I go again. I didn’t want to go there. and it followed me here! After death! Now I was getting angry. in front of the store. Not now! I groaned. what are you hollerin' about?” A deep-voiced drawl from behind me broke my soliloquy to the air. hat and scarf. magically avoiding me as I paced the parking lot. . a scene I knew by heart from all my years of being an elderly resident. “Huh?” I replied spinning about. watching the hustle and bustle of the town kick up. His face. warm. mouth open. I lost track of time. I had a sudden attack of melancholy. brown and intelligent. gave a surprised “Peep!” and darted away. but obviously all the qualities of life and then saddle them with nostalgia? How ludicrous can you get? I started to laugh uncontrollably. Now wasn’t that just the thing? Here I was. chaps. I wasn’t even slightly amused by the fact that life after death didn’t solve melancholy. potential problem of getting lost. As I paced and argued with the air and complained about the ridiculousness of life-after-life and laughed madly. Sorry.14 radiation was as perceptible as the air molecules it was speeding up. “Ma'am?” I stopped. was a classic chiseled tan. never to return. but at least I have lived to tell you. Chapter 3: Cowboy I hung out around the front of the store. the worst that happened was that an unfortunate sparrow tried to land in me. call me a chicken. spurs. haven’t I? And what about all the other souls who supposedly have moved on as I have? Where are they? I’ll tell you. just anywhere. better get myself a mom before I floated away on a physics theory! My desire to indulge in a little spiritual vacationing was cut short by the real. they could be anywhere. people came and left.
I thought that I might be able to get around and see some things. now. The smile was Cheshire-Cat like.. Cowboy followed me at a respectful distance. I just can’t do that! I wanted to find a good mom. and who are all these people? Who are you? Why are we just wandering around like this? How dumb can you get?! No offense. Not to mention the fact that time was quite irrelevant without a beating heart to keep it for me. I mean spirit. just not innocent. If he wanted his spurs to glint. “I am so lost. I didn’t bother to wonder how that was possible. why not? My dismal failure at safely getting around crushed my selfconfidence. I saw that you were tearing around here like a mad bull and thought that I might be of assistance. just come with me. in a dead. As he walked his spurs glinted in the sun and threw some rays on a side store wall. and a genuine cowboy at that.” . and now I’m just scared. this was the first person. by golly. I put my head in my hands.” “Now. “Great. Introduce you to some nice folks and we can set a while and watch some sunsets. it was all just a point of view. I was rapidly becoming aware that just about anything was possible. “I am who I am. Glad to meet 'ya. I came from the West.15 “Who are you? Where did you come from? And why do you hear me?” I was dumbfounded. My plans were rapidly dissolving in a puddle of confusion. I’m just very unsettled. Ma'am. My rage was spent. there. but I landed in the middle of nowhere. wide and lacking innocence. tipped his hat again. we all go through this our first few days out of the body. I wasn’t counting the spirit baby-watcher. visit many nice spacious places.” I went and sat on a parking block on the side of the lot. Except for the silent runner. they were going to glint. subject to consideration and the decision to have it so. I’ll show you around a bit. It will calm down for you. frozen town. He’d taken his hat off and was now holding it in front of him. “What time is it?” “What does it matter?” “I thought that I might visit my family one more time.but I doubt that I’m in any condition to do so. not mean.” Sure. Now. I think. and I’m a member of Wild Spirits Anonymous. if you will excuse me. Don’t be all frazzled.” He smiled. I was busy ranting about lifeafter-life.. care to join me?” “Well. well. who I’d met. on some other planet. I can promise that. Ma'am. and get a good view of the world without trying too hard. sir. Little Lady. The trick is to stay calm.
“is to know where you want to go and to go there.” I did see a speck in the sky.. It was clear that our physical forms were really by choice rather than necessity. 600mph was pretty impressive when you were riding outside.” . I’m on board. somehow. so I may as well just enjoy some moments of freedom — if I could do so without losing my mind that is. babysitting my own body. Cowboy. but I knew that I had done it too. “To help you out. “See the top of the tip of the tail?” “Yes. ma'am?” “Yes. “We are going to catch the tail and take a ride. he pointed upward toward a visible plane making streaks in the sun. but I could feel it if I wished.” He had a point.16 “But I need to find a mom! I should visit my family!” “These are all good thoughts. but it didn’t blow me off my perch on top of the rear wing.” He went out towards the middle of the parking lot and gestured for me to follow him. Wow. Don’t worry. “We are going to be there at the count of three. The secret. “OK. Just stay in contact with me. I nodded. Never walk when you can ride is what I say. Little Lady. “See that there?” I nodded. The concept of holding on helped my confidence. I’ve got hold of you and you will be able to do this. but what’s the rush? A little time away from all those pressing earthly demands might give you a different view of where to go next. One. It wasn’t ruffling our clothes..” I looked unconvinced. and I had arms to grab him. I arrived still holding on to him. We were sitting along the fuselage in front of the upright tail. I did. Two. I want you to grab me around the middle like we were ridi n' a horse. What was the rush? When I came back. where to?” “Just follow me..” I could now. “Look down.” he paused. I’d be spending lots of time in a crib.. We were impossibly perched in the wind. and I will make sure you make your target. When I reached him. alright Missy?” He smiled his wide smile again.I’ll show you how to do that. I was surprised to find that I could feel that he had a middle. Three!” The wind in my face was fantastic. “See that plane again. The spirit world was becoming more and more real as I learned its language and customs. why not? I got behind him and grabbed him around the middle.
” “Thanks. Now this here. Ma'am.” He nodded.” “Now why you want to go and do a thing like that?” he protested. but if you are a man on a mission. “I don’t plan on being Ma'am much longer. And good point. everywhere.” “Oh really? Whatcha gonna be? A Misses?” “No. Nice plan.” He chuckled.” “Why thank you.” “Your method?” “I ride the air planes. all over. a man. scarce landmark. Figures. ‘er. After that. then my method may be better for you.” Cowboy was pleased with himself. It’s a lot like riding’ in the old west. that is your landmark. I want to be a boy. “My modern-day horse and I catch it wild. “I find you to be a very attractive lady spirit. It was wonderful. the faster you can get around.17 I did. Which reminded me. But it was my policy when I started all of this to change. lady.” he hollered back. “Good for someone who is experienced or who really just doesn’t give a hoot about where they end up. lots of land. I can just think myself there with confidence. too!” “But what about the places you have never been?” That was how I’d gotten in trouble. and then I make my landmarks when I get to wherever they are going. All of the city and the surrounding mountains spread out below me in a huge panorama. “Smart of you. I’m planning on changing sex next time around. I can always find a plane and ride it. “I’ll give you some tips on gettin' around out here spirit-like. The more landmarks you have. few folk to talk to and plenty of wildlife to amuse yourself with. “What do you mean about scarce landmarks?” “Well what I figure is when you know a place so well that all you have to do is think about it.” I could agree with the wildlife and the lack of folks to talk to.” . I didn’t mind a little carefree floating around. “Don’t know. I’ll tell you when we get there. “Where are we going?” I shouted in the wind.” and he patted the steel of the plane’s tail. “is a landmark for me.
” “What’s the purpose of that?” “To reach a big final goal that takes at least one eon to complete—takes multiple lives. almost a shimmer of reflection. give me your hand. you keep buying and selling houses until you get what you want. all you have to do is tell yourself to remember where you were. His eyes were closed. and were now coming up on what had to be the Grand Canyon! “Hey. it does. What is your final goal?” He asked innocently.” “Oh. but if he had a problem with my long-term plan then he was the one that had the problem. so you are one of those long-lifer spirit types then. I didn’t know.” “Really?” “Works for me every time! You gotta know what you're aimin' for before you start a new trail ride. The answer will come moseying back to you all bashful like. He'd taken off his hat and was letting the wind ruffle his silver hair. “Well. If the question weren’t coming from a fellow spirit. east over the high desert and Las Vegas. ‘Cept you are trading one life to the next. I recognized our flight path. and turned my attention to other things. He was bright in the sun. I was silent and watched the landscape move below us 30. I told myself to remember what my multiple life plan was. I’d back off. and you just go down and take a look around?” “What?” “I said it right. Cowboys always take a good long look before mounting a ride. Sort of like Monopoly.” “Well. and then you go down and take a look. and I had just arrived! “Someone with a multiple life plan..18 “Started all of what? Change what?” Now Cowboy was the mystified one.” “A what?” I already fit a category.” . isn’t that the Grand Canyon down there? I always wanted to visit it and never did!” Cowboy spread out on his back along the fuselage. He spoke. when you get to track'n down your own scent. then set back a while. why don't you let me hold your hand here.” I couldn’t argue with that. The rocks and forests of life will hide your path—you must have a clear fix on where you're headed. “I don't know. “I started alternating sexes with each consecutive body. I must have lost it along the way. I was sitting with my back propped on the tail fin..000 feet down. We’d flown out from Souther n California. If I’d had one.
” We flew on with the plane. ain't it? Always was partial to it myself. That’s why I’ve got your hand. Nearly a mile up I could see the edge of the plain. give me your hand. so now what do I do?” “Get a visual on the bottom of that canyon.. “You won’t. right next to the dark shadow. I looked at the sand beneath my spirit feet.” I was very nervous about that. I was surprised to feel genuine warmth. aren’t we?” . The bottom of the canyon rested on a layer of rock 350 million years old. The walls spoke to me of whispering wind.350 million years old! Before any human memory.” I reached over. and he grasped my hand. I don’t know how to do that.. Before any species of today roamed the earth. and it worked! I landed. We were crossing the Great Plains veering towards the North. Now are you tracking?” Cowboy had been right ten out of ten times. 'What hand?' No. one’s eye followed layer upon layer of earth history laid bare in the walls. torrential rains.” “It’s really somethin’. I don’t want to get lost again. You keep the idea of your hand in mine. Time to go.19 “No. “We are headed to Chicago. The flight path was familiar. I pulled back and slowly shook my head in awe. sun red in volcanic ash. I remembered my spot in back of Cowboy on the tail of the plane and intended myself back there holding his hand. so I just decided to go with it. “Yes. lush forests. “Imagine yourself at that spot down there and let yourself go. sand storms. it doesn’t work like that up here. go!” I stuttered.” I did. “How did you like your visit?” “Just amazing. I touched the canyon with my mind. “OK. Just for a few minutes. I felt a tug on my hand. “How?” Patiently he replied. To look up the sides of the canyon. it works better. “OK. arrived.” “How does that work? Won’t I take my hand with me?” “I won’t ask. now. Rather. The canyon was fantastic.” I spotted a dark corner way down there.” “OK. and the rest of your attention goes to the bottom of that there canyon.
” another nod. molecule-based logic was going to have to take a back seat. I didn’t have any of those cells or genes or molecules now. “what IS your name anyway?” I skipped the first question to answer the easy one. “Say. “Existing.” he propped himself up on one elbow. therefore. Or none. “Besides. albeit without being blown off the plane. “So? I can be as many people as I wish. but I had one interim step. eyes catching sunlight in a glint of brightness. If I referred to my earthly teachings.” I protested. and. closed his eyes. “And. you are alive. “You can’t be Rogers Hammerstein.” Cowboy was relaxed. exist.” He nodded slightly.20 “I reckon.” I made a face. the entire cellular-based. my name is.” “Hmmm. “Oh. Now that I was a true example of life-after-life. and yet I was experiencing a plane ride. and how I exist are two different matters. settled his hat.” Cowboy opened one eye to look at me. True. or rather I was Sheila Armstrong. “And why not?” “Rogers and Hammerstein were two people. “And yours?” “Rogers Hammerstein. So unless I was in a coma.” “Well Ma'am. Maybe so. leaned back. sunning himself on the fuselage.” Cowboy smiled his wide. at your service.” He was so proud of himself. glad to make your acquaintance. there you have it. you didn’t answer my first question: how do you exist at all?” Tough question. not one. “Well. So answer both. eyes closed.” “See. universal issue should solve with direct observation. “OK. how do you exist at all?” he asked. hallucinating and not really dead (doubtful). relaxed smile. the question remained. how do you figure we can feel the sun’s rays when we don’t have a body. genetic-based.” he interrupted my introspection.” . with a Cowboy. hat on stomach. “How come you aren’t dead?” “Because I’m not. en-route to Chicago. It seemed that the answer to such a vital. I’ll make it easier for you. heard or studied. I could pick any number of answers depending on what I’d read.
do you know the answer?” I rounded on him. assuming you have all the directions and contact points. I simmered in frustration. I couldn’t see what they were talking about.” The wind from the ocean whipped my hair in the Pacific twilight. “Like I said—now stay with me here on this trail—you say you are not dead. remember to keep your hand in mine. visualization and decision. knowing I was missing the obvious.” “So. I muttered to myself..” “OK. “And how did you get here?” “Same way. There was a slight chill on the familiar salty breeze as the waves rolled in rhythmically at high tide. come back. Ma'am. “Good start. and I was there!” Still a moment of triumph for me. So we are settled now that you can be where you want to be. “OK. next question. how did you get to the bottom of the Grand Canyon?” His eyes were closed.. as per your instructions. Think about some spot near the ocean that you are familiar with. Cowboy.” I snapped back to the tail of the plane. So.21 Thanks a lot. Let's try a few more tricks. usually right in front of me. then decided to be there.” . “Because. “I visualized where I wanted to be. why aren’t you dead?” “Because I don’t want to be?” I felt as I’d felt many times before when someone was pointing out a landmark: try as I might. My favorite beach where I would walk on the weekends. rightly so?” “Yes.” “Got one. Then somehow the right description fell into place and Oh! There I saw it! Plain as day.. That is the first step. why are you not just somewhere else?” “Meaning? “Why are you here on this plane and not in Central Park?” he re-phrased patiently. now go there as I’ve instructed you. hat on head. “Well. “Now.. I didn’t trust myself after my Alaska failure to try. half-considering just staying on the beach. aside from matters of practice and familiarity.I didn’t consider it? Or really. sun now striking from behind the tail as we flew away from the sunset.” “Excellent. Very well.
I briefly remembered that I was supposed to attend a funeral. For many moments. but just then the night darkened. “But what about God?” “What about him. “Let’s define our terms: you mean a superior creator? If you are a spirit. I was here because I wanted to be here. Now. or was it now the fo urth day of my new life-after-life. but it was my choice t o play in the first place. scattered lights were showing as we reached the end of the dry prairie. but since I did. “What is God. There are many different ways to cut the pie. in truth. I mulled for a bit then ventured my own private question. go around and get on another —just one neverending cattle drive. “No. and the stars came out above us in total pristine glory. I’m not one to put up with a losing hand. “Aren’t they just the prettiest things you have ever seen?” he asked. A blanket of lights surrounded us in the night. “Indeed. the plane and Cowboy as he lay now looking at the night sky. then a greater spirit?” . other than my other one of what was I supposed to do with myself. like your game. of course not. you can throw it in. the state I was in was under my control. What was I supposed to see?” “I will make the tracks plain for you. Keeping count was going to be hard. and want to get out. like a poker player who has a losing hand. get off that life. Now. me. are all here because. the only life that mattered was the stars. go around and get on another. We crossed the Mississippi into the farming belt. That didn’t answer why or how I existed at all. Below us in the darkening night. most distracting. Some folks are chronic gamblers and can’t stop playing the game: they get off one life. we. we want to be. If you do. but there is still the choice to cut or not to cut. His eyes had changed from brown to blue and sparkled in the night.” I wasn’t sure if he had clarified or muddied the issue. I like to set and rest a while. straddling the fuselage facing me. you have a decision to make: if you don't like it. That was certain. I. why is there a God?” That was my big question.22 I dreamily watched as our plane flew ever onward across the Great Plains. I realized with a start that I’d passed my third. Are you done with your questions?” “Are you done with living?” He replied with a touch of irony. the night. You. or it—what do you want to know?” Cowboy was sitting up now. or her. or don’t. but I got his point.
My Supreme Being God seemed to be truly a superior life force. But I begged to differ. I asked. My concept of God was a private concept of a Supreme Being. in the night. It always involved more than just myself and often much more than myself. Unlike some others. for me. and certainly not more than three days after. Why would there be God?” “Now. God usually influenced my environment around me. As I sat on that plane. is it?” I nodded. (I say ‘He’). . why don’t you just go ahead and ask God?” he replied lazily. My God was capable of changing the entire course of history. A figment spoke of a stick figure that only moved in a feeble manner. It was always some sort of impetus towards resolution or direction. why God was there. “Oh yeah—I’ve never thought of that. “It matters to me. “Obviously. or even saw anything other than my own body lying in that grave. flying to Chicago. pardon the assumption.” “Don’t you care?” “Does it matter?” He replied with an arch to his eyebrows. something would happen or manifest in reply. a higher awareness.” I sulked. but my God was vastly more powerful than I. There are those that figure that God is there because we make him out of our mind. IF he exists I’m sure many have challenged. you realize of course that no one asks God why he. While I was waiting for my reply. Now. Each person has his own view of God. his own understanding. “Yes. I tried to tune in my inner ear.” Then I tried. “What did God tell you?” “Ever since I didn’t go to heaven. He. and that took an awfully powerful imagination. a spirit lady. Like the stars and the sun and my own spirit self. I’d called on God many times in my life. I was familiar with the atheists who would like you to believe that God was a figment of your own needy imagination. Usually just after. I didn't consider that God was watching everything everywhere but when he decided to get a problem solved it usually got moving. I may have spirit qualities. and it seemed to me that I’d received assistance as needed. an unexplored imagination. to see or feel or hear some sort of reply. I just don’t bother to ask. my understanding of God. let’s just start with that. I used what I would call my “thought voice” or “mind voice” to direct the question. a senior force in the universes. I stopped wondering about it. but not why. I asked God. exists.23 I thought a bit. whenever I’d asked God for help with a situation or a thing. As obvious as you are sittin' here with me. but that’s not the God we are talking about now. is just there.
24 “I see your answer!” Cowboy exclaimed. at least from my perspective.” Cowboy drawled. The lights of Chicago and the surrounding neighborhoods were visible right ahead. “They do now!” Cowboy was excited.” Chapter 4: Party Time Cowboy stood on the fuselage and gave a long stretch.. Seems God has taken a liking to you. I was on good terms with God. There above us was an impossible display of Northern Lights. “Free Country” had a new meaning these days. “I ain’t never seen the likes of those down here.. After a long silence.” “Well. “There are no words really. The enormity of the show dwarfed anything man made on the earth below. Sheets of pulsing parallel streaks of green energy ran across the sky from the north to the south and then turned up to disappear into the dark upper atmosphere. “Oh. I am humbled and honored. so you may as well take the compliment. Green waves of raw energy flowed across the sky from out of the Canadian north. care to come with me down to the city?” “What else would I do?” Following Cowboy was my mode of transportation. It was really quite beautiful in a raw energy kind of way. Below I could see a marina and several buildings at the northern end of it. “What? Where?” I roused myself and looked up at where he was pointing. “Thanks for the kind thoughts. If that was a light show for our behalf. Cowboy. Northern Lights that never visited the Great Plains and only greeted persons in upper Canada and Alaska. I finally spoke. The plane was approaching the center of the city. . “Those don’t come down here do they?” I asked. flying over Lake Michigan.” I gave a little snort. my grand-pappy made sure of that!” Cowboy was flippant. Did I think I was noticed or recognized out of billions of potential persons to knock on his door? Nah. The display was lengthy but eventually dissipated back into darkness. it is a free country. We both sat in awe as the sky above shimmered and throbbed with sheets of energy. but I caught his drift. “We are gett ing close to landing time. whatever you felt like doing. I do my best. He was turning all about looking at the green sky above him.
still quite a dis tance below.. “How about you dress up and be my Cowgirl?” There was a glint of speculation in his eyes. on the count of three: one. shirt. but you are definitely improving!” . two.” I closed my eyes and imagined myself dressed to go to a two-step dance. Cowboy surveyed me with an appraising look in his. “Very well. the hottest party spot west of the Appalachians!” He looked me over a bit. you can do just about anything you think of. He smiled at me. He nodded down at it encouragingly. three!” We arrived fairly well arranged. now imagine yourself in that outfit. still wearing the same outfit for three.. “We will meet there on that lawn in front of the main steps which are lit up. That was fun! Quite something to find that I wasn’t stuck with the same “look” anymore.” He put down his arm and motioned at me. See them there?” I nodded. So how about you shift your age about a bit. I shed my 95 years and redesigned my look to that of a young woman. nodded at my feet. a few studs here and there. or was it four. “How could I do that?” I looked down at myself... found a good one and nodded. “How do I do this?” He rolled his eyes in exaggerated playfulness. I want a nice skirt. hair up on a ponytail. whereas mine were about 6 inches off. “Well then get a very good idea of a cowgirl look. change your outfit and jus’ git’ right on over here on my arm?” He crooked an elbow like we were about to enter a two -step dance. “Your aim is off. I was still holding onto his arm. I finally looked at Cowboy pleadingly. “Well. cute lil’ tie.” he crooked his elbow. “Nicely done! Now we are ready for the party. I slid my hand around it. “See that there? There’s a party there tonight. OK. “Well.25 Cowboy pointed at one of the buildings. in case you didn’t catch on to this yet. but his feet were visibly on the ground.. and go ahead and shave off some years to match. days.this could be interesting! I opened my eyes. “OK.” I thought of all the cowgirl pictures I might have seen in my life.. I will show you greenhorn how it is done. I spent a few moments in flustered silence as the plane moved into a circle. “See that outfit you have on?” I nodded. boots. It’s the Field Museum. He pointed at our target.
I adjusted my height. Then I looked around. The grounds in front of the museum were dark and empty as the museum had closed at dinner time. In front of us were long low rise stone steps leading to the front double sized double doors, wooden and locked tight. “How do we get in?” Cowboy looked at me. “You really don’t quite get it yet do you Little Lady? Foll ow me.” He turned forward, offered his elbow again, and we marched up the steps. We reached the doors, and he said, “Now, you hold onto my elbow, and we’re going to the other side, one, two, three!” The hall on the other side of the double doors was simply enormous. It was lit by night lights and lit again by spirit-made fireflies all across the top of the domed roof. In the middle was a colossal T Rex dinosaur, proudly named Sue, surveying all that surrounded her. Swarming below her display and across the marbled museum floor was a throng of spirit people, all dressed like a giant Halloween Party. Costumes from every era and culture of man were visible, and a few nonhuman ones too! I looked around in awe. “Who are all these people?” “Spirits like thee and me, all coming together to celebrate life and have one heck of a party!” Cowboy was aglow. He was taking in the huge hall with its teeming life. “These are all my friends, and we have a mighty good time!” There was a seven-piece spirit band set up at the other end. At first, I couldn’t hear any sound at all. I looked at Cowboy, who seemed to be enjoying the music just fine, tapping his steel-toed boot as he looked around. “Cowboy,” I tugged on his arm, “I don’t hear anything.” He looked down at me, “You don’t? Well, what you need to do is to reach out your spirit fingers and touch the players, get on their wave length, and then you will hear jus’ fine. Like tuning a radio, ‘cept that you are your own radio.” I felt confused, but like his other instructions, I just tried doing what he said, even though really I didn’t understand him at all. I focused on the players and conceived the idea I was touching each one receiving their music. Sure enough their jazzy band-like tones were shortly filling the hall with pleasant beats. Just then there was a commotion on the left side where a side hallway led off into some exhibits. Emerging from the darkness was a bodied couple, a young man and a young lady, hanging onto each other and looking around them, peering into what must have been a twilight type darkness for them. Their words were audible.
“I swear to you; I felt something touch me in that hallway!” The girl was clinging to the young man’s arm as she pushed him towards the front doors. “It really feel s like there is somebody in here! We really need to get outside; I told you, I didn’t want to stay past closing time. They say the museum is haunted, and now I can see why!” They were walking towards Cowboy and myself, brushing past a multitude of guests as they came; guests who all moved away watching the young couple as they walked. Some of the guests made as if to pull a prank on them, but others stopped it. The girl came up the steps now dragging her boyfriend and came to a full stop right in front of me, looking forward as if she could see me. I looked into her eyes; they were deep and intelligent with a spark of defiance...Defiance of the mundane and of the commonly accepted. Defiance which spoke of intelligence above normal awareness. She spoke again. “I can feel someone right there,” and she stabbed the air into my face. Then she turned to look out over the attentive hallway. “I can feel the multitude of history living right here in this hall!” She turned, shivered, “Come on! Let's get out of here!” Before I could move out of her way, she’d pushed past me, boyfriend in tow and busted out the side emergency exit. The alarms went off. The hallway throng gave a joint groan as the siren blared across what had been a festive scene. “Quick, someone go call in the code and shut that thing off...who has a voice?” This came from a side of the hall. “Here!” Came a booming reply from the other end. “I’ll take care of it.” After a period of time, while Big Voice handled the security issue, the party resumed. I'd been standing where I first came in the entire time. I kept turning to look back at where the girl had gone. The girl that could feel me. Cowboy stood proudly surveying the thriving party, looking over to me while I considered the recent events. Finally, he spoke, his handlebar mustache bobbing humorously as his mouth moved. I didn’t remember the mustache before, but then maybe he had just assumed it. “Some of them can tell there’s someone there. Not often, but sometimes.” “My dog knew where I was, and so did the birds...” “Oh yes, the animals are always aware; it’s the people who have the blindness.”
I considered. Suddenly, a great fatigue came over me. That surprised me, I hadn’t been tired for days, literally days. I looked at Cowboy, “Why am I tired?” He looked over at me with a slight wrinkle in his brow, “Maybe you thought of a big problem? Something bothering you?” I went across the front of the hall to sit on a side bench made of marble. I hunched over my knees and studied the marble floor. My fatigue was dripping off of me. I wanted to go to sleep and just forget the whole thing. Like a kid after too much sugar, I was suddenly spent. I had to shake myself to keep from going unconscious. Cowboy came over and stood in front of me concerned. “Now don’t let yourself slip away there; you might disappear from my friendly party and wake up in a cold and different place entirely. A place I can’t find you.” I shook my head and stood, and jumped up and down to stay awake. Something was bothering me, something I’d happily ignored in my rush of freedom. However, now it was back. I knew what it was—it was people’s blindness. Not a new subject for me, but certainly a new perspective. I guess I had always hoped that life hereafter would give me the answer to man’s behavior, but no, there were some definite questions remaining. Cowboy came over and took my elbow. He steered me back the bench, sat me down, lifted my chin with his finger. “Now look here, Little Lady, something is bothering you, and it is going to take you to an early grave if you don’t get it off your pretty chest right now.” His gray eyes (they were gray now) were concerned, and I was touched by his care. I was also amused by his reference to an early grave, one that I had somehow escaped, but, which now yawned before me in the guise of an unsolved depressing question. He continued, “You know if you stop creatin' and stop lookin' ahead to the next big idea then you will die for all intents and purposes. Having a body makes it easy to hide, for a while, but it catches up to one. In our spirit state, if you stop creatin' the future, you'll just fade away, like a dream on a sunny day. And I've taken a liking to you, Little Lady, and don’t want you fading on me.” I looked around, at the festivities still on-going. In an open-space dancing was in progress—in many different styles as the guests were from so many different eras, but dancing was dancing no matter the style. I let myself be soothed by the obvious enjoyment of everyone involved, their apparent unconcern at the blindness of their human relatives; totally content to party the night away.
this is my take on it: everyone has som ething they want to hide. He studied a distant point in the hall. But then I wasn’t everybody. I enjoyed the communication I shared with the life around me . as the sun came up. I spent a diligent life trying to do it all as right as possible. and the partiers began to go their separate ways. And THEY definitely don’t want any spirits around. and the party sounds now came rushing at me with a bustle and a clatter. Cowboy was happy to oblige. Indeed. He waved a hand. there are also some people. Cowboy taught me the two-step.29 “Too bad I don’t have the carefree attitude of the other guests. .” I looked up at Cowboy. “They have all. Cowboy stood and pursed his lips for a moment. “So what is it about people? Why can’t they just acknowledge the spirit worl d? Why do so many insist that there is nothing there?” My depression lifted as I vented my frustration. it could just get plain messy. I looked over at the party dancers and hooked my hand around his elbow. Dumping dead bodies down a deserted mine shaft just wasn’t something I would do. I was ready for a tourist tour of the City. That is not good for secrets. who are just plain cussedly evil. in my new state. There would just be no privacy! That is how some people see it. But then. dealt with their personal demons at some time in the past. he offered his hand. obviously. “Lemme put it this way. and I stood. I wanted to finish the one I had started with first. The next morning. I was happy to note. We laughed and fell on each other in giggles for the rest of the night. a few in every hundred or so. We sashayed out to the middle of the floor.” he smiled a broad smile of pleasure. The great cloud on me lifted away. I wasn’t tired or fatigued and didn’t need to sleep. We are all aware that it happens. I looked up at Cowboy. I hadn’t looked at it that way. each one of them . “Don’t mind if I do. A spirit world can see whatever it wants to see.” Personal demon? A new concept. A spirit world can go tell on you to someone else. “Let’s dance!” I tugged.” I had to snort. Especially the spirits of the people they knocked off and buried in a deserted mine! In their view.
Ma'am. It wasn’t all scary stories and dark corners either! Matter of fact. for as long as I want. it could be a rather good time. and now was a good time to talk. Ma'am. even if they were not aware of it. trying out different views. where I want to do it. Yet. “So what do you do Cowboy besides show greenhorns how to get around?” “That’s my self-proclaimed duty in life. Well. in order to play the game of life. but what’s your purpose in life?” My purpose in life. all in all. it does. He and I had been everywhere in Chicago and around it—inside buildings.” Cowboy answered a bit too formally for his 13-year-old state.” he smiled a big smile. After all. “Really? Is that what you do? Nothing else?” I was incredulous. it amuses me to find lost greenhorns and show them around. it wasn’t what I thought it was before my spirit life began. as I surveyed the hustle and bustle of human life. it became clear that just hanging out having a good time—what the Chicago Spirit Club was best at— wasn’t going to cut it when faced with the demands of human life. I needed something to stay focused and to make the best of my time. “And. now lighting up his young sun-tanned face. I had made some new friends in the Chicago branch of the Spirit Club and had hung out with them many nights. At the moment. He had tasked me with the job of figuring out what I was going to be good for. waiting for some crumbs to fall from the neighboring. they belonged to that world. Cowboy taught me more on how to change my form and shape at will. lobbies. I’d had something on my mind. Ma'am. if you think about it. It gives me great pleasure. Cowboy made it clear that a spirit had to have a purpose. I wanted to see the overall condition of mankind improve. Most of all I wanted people to hear and see the spirit world. I was quite comfortable with my spiritual state and hadn’t had any emotional episodes for weeks. top side. “Well. picnic. we were in the guise of two middleschool kids having a day off at the marina. What was I going to be good for? Now what kind of question was that? I quietly bristled at the concept. not to pry. Cowboy and I were dangling our feet off of one of the larger yachts in the marina next to Soldier Field. and hotel rooms. I had given it some thought.30 Chapter 5: Mom Three weeks later. his dangling feet swishing below. So why limit myself? Besides. if you took the Chicago Spirit Club as an example. . We watched two ducks cruise around below us. I can be and do jus’ about anything I want. outside buildings.
And that means a fight at the end. He took me to the Mercy Hospital Birth Place. We talked about the spirits that were tagging along as well. dangling his spirit heels and watching the bright sunlight reflect off of the calm marina water.” That put a bit of a rush on things. His eyes were still gray. I turned to look at my good friend. I know. I chose to go back.” Cowboy smiled another cute smile. There are many. “I want to make them see. some several to a potential mother. That looked troublesome. “Well. that’s right. babies spent a lot of time sleeping. the good moms always have a following. I had my answer. “I think. and they deserve to be encouraged. some with their family in tow. some alone. his thirteen-year-old freckled face cute under a shock of blond tousled hair. I was ready. but if you thought about it. After all.” Wow. I assumed.” Cowboy turned to look at me. but now they reflected the water’s sparkling. many reasons why they don’t see. “Tough go. that there are those that are looking. He stood up on the deck and gave me a hand. if you get my drift.” . let’s go mom hunting. He nodded thoughtfully. “True. that finding a mom was just part of his game. at least not as much. where do you suggest we start?” “I reckon the easiest and fastest would be to visit my favorite maternity ward of the local hospital. We sat on some benches outside and watched a parade of moms-to-be going and coming. I figured with his job of showing newbies the way. If I went back to having a body. I pointed out the surplus of suitors for a given child. “Yup. what’d you think?” “Sounds good to me. That was the choice of the matter. true. He had returned to being a mature man with his hat and spurs. I looked at Cowboy. Cowboy knew where to go. Even so. someday they will be wandering around wondering what happened and why are they still here. I wouldn’t be able to play with my new friends. He didn’t need to ask. and I could still go hang out with my buddies. My hat is off to you in your endeavor. I liked it. Cowboy nodded sagely.” The maturity of his tone and the youthfulness of his look made an incongruent picture. I will be sure to stick around and help you whenever possible. you realize.31 I came out of my reverie. They want to know what goes on the outside of a body. It was swarming with pregnant ladies from all walks of life. We talked about the qualities I wanted in a family and a mom and a dad.
32 My spirit hair went up. vivacious. It seemed to be a nice upscale. She looked right at me again. I looked around. She had arrived. surprised you. so let’s get busy. Cowboy and I checked out the other maternity wards around in the city. and a good mom deserves a good. the laws of natural selection are alive and well in the spirit world. If any wimp could take her. I have my own preference. “Well hello. but just a little one. but I really was partial to the Birth Place. I just never tested it. I looked to see if her family had noticed that she was talking to the air. There was something about her that created instant devotion. “Well what do you expect Little Lady? Everyone to part like water and let you have the best mom? Just like that? Nope. and said. . And her belly was big. “I am talking to you. That’s my view.I’m sorry to say. I even spoke to some of the other spirits in waiting. They looked well off. I know how to do that. A place that suited the type of life I wanted to live. I swooped over in front of her to get a good look at her face. Call it love at first sight. our society would simply collapse.” She was smiling. fastest. We were all very civil to each other. happy to be alive. Then I’d have to fight for her. She was having a boy. Then one day it happened. the good moms are for the strongest. Well maybe I might be making a little glow. “OK. I wanted her. I was strong enough. They seemed to be in good spirits.” “After you. Little Spirit! What is your name?” What?! I jumped back.” I spent several days trailing after moms as they came and went from the center. well managed facility. I’m not really sorry. I looked to see if I was glowing or something. I took a big breath. No one noticed. “A fight? I have to fight?” Cowboy looked at me like I’d just asked the most naive question in the world. the mom has the final say. whatever amuses them.) She looked straight at me and smiled a big white smile in a happy tanned face.. that’s all. accompanied by her husband and a little girl (my future sister possibly) and several parents. The tension was clear—may the best spirit win..” Really? The mom has the final say? I’d better get busy making friends. smartest and even the nicest spirit people. I used to be part of the spirit world too. Dark haired. And there was a trail of suitor spirits around the block. I wanted a mom who could see. bugs. It takes strength to be nice. Well. dogs. No. Just super. didn’t I? Well. strong kid. and I never forgot. (I didn’t bother with my lady form at this point as I was practicing for my new form. The weakling spirits can practice on squirrels. Besides.
“Step aside interloper. I knew what I really wanted. Ha ha! I had to laugh. but she knew it was time. Ha ha! He ran into a tree. I had no limit—I realized that in the past. She could hear AND see. He hadn’t left me alone. she hadn’t moved her mouth. and I grew larger and larger. He was just a glob of weird colored air. The other spirits were standing back looking at us. I surely was. I saw Cowboy out of one corner of my space standing with his mouth open. not on my watch! I suddenly found it in myself to beef up my size. She was mine. I shuddered. And I liked her. I sighed with relief. . I was relieved. The little girl was going off with her dad. He couldn’t. “I said.” Quietly. I surrounded mom and her entourage with my space. Mom looked concerned as if she could feel something was going on but wasn’t certain. hand clasped in hers. Bruiser was looking in through the door to see if I was still there with her. Figures. I looked down at Dirty Bruiser and said. Yup. it had been my own concept of person size that was my limit. In the midst of defending her. I gave her a spirit kiss. and he should know what was good for him. Like I didn’t want to fight. Mom was doing the paper work. I could feel myself swelling. this is my woman. “Get lost. Nice! Boom! I was suddenly pushed to the side by a bowling ball of a bruiser spirit. step aside!” He screamed at the top of his spirit lungs. He was two small and mean to grow. and I let him go right through me. I wanted that mom. Not going to happen. She smiled. The other spirits pulled back. registration had begun. I almost panicked. He was going to try and butt me again. I called for Cowboy. I hadn’t noticed that we’d entered the hospital. Her labor was mild. It felt good to be huge. I guess when you know what you really want you can get as big as necessary to get the job done. and the entourage was taking its station in the waiting room. He came in for a giant head-butt like a bull after a red flag. Just to seal the deal. So fast! Suddenly I was headed down that rabbit hole called protect it or forget it.33 I looked at her closely. Dirty Bruiser looked at me and tried to swell up too. No one was going to get through me to her. for a drink and a snack. I saw the little girl following her mother. I could feel my own energy sizzling inside. “Come and keep me company!” Cowboy came around the corner. I was getting direct spirit-tospirit contact with her. Having made the commitment I looked up and realized we were headed for the delivery room. not yours!” He didn’t bother to have a form. my future dad. I had images of a bully brother tormenting her. They were following the mom but had already lost to this bully. Now I grew to the size of a house.
‘Never corner something that's meaner than you. protect. It's heart beat was strong. at the moment the best I could do was to watch. “Gross! What’s that?” “I call ‘em the Black Beings. . think. and at the moment it looks like you are going to have to fight for your baby’s life. yes you are. but we’ve got trouble. or Bruiser is going to take my spot!” Cowboy raised his hands in a gesture of helplessness. and wait. the closest you can get to pure evil. I loved the mom. Can you watch her?” “Nope.34 “Now what? I have to stay here. “What?” I looked around. “What did you expect? A walk in the park? This is now a matter of life and death. but thanks for the sentiment. A bright idea came to me. because they wanna take it down. Wow. I thrilled. it was really happening! “Don’t look now. You have to do your own dirty work of keeping the other wannabe’s out.” I heard Cowboy’s voice in my spiritual ear. Cowboy. Sorry. I was already pinned down having to protect the space. that’s all I can say!” “You are no help.” I had to think fast. Good Moms are precious!” I was triumphantly resentful.” “Too late. Spirits who gave up their truth and integrity so long ago it makes the universe look young.’ is what I say. No doubt about that. You want that baby? Better stick around. I just know what I’ve seen. This isn’t a babysitting service you know. think. OK. Salvation is a long. No thanks to the Bruiser of course. It was my mom they wanted to mess with and my new body too. and it pushed back against the contractions with its feet. careful to keep her covered. Now it was time to be born! Oh my god.” “But why! What do they have to do with her or anyone here?” “Maybe she’s too good for them? I dunno. I was chagrined at my instant loss of freedom. I told myself. just the way it is around here. they were practically visible as a dark shadow. There had to be a way out of this without turning everything upside down in a huge confusion. a baby boy.. I took a peek at the baby. There in the upper corner were three churning whorling black balls of energy. I definitely needed help from somewhere.the filth of the spirit world. what had I gotten myself into? Well.. Think. I expanded myself to continue to envelop her space and prevent other spirit wannabes to take my spot. only the chosen one can do that. Her labor was picking up and getting stronger. and they're here for a shoot-out. long way off for those folk.
I focused on the Black Beings. “You are gone. I held the line and sweated. repeating. but three could overpower me. Fine. The black energy was starting to impinge on my protective covering. I tried to surreptitiously counter one of their tendrils. I’ll try anything. That left the biggest fattest meanest one of them. It seemed almost like it was hypnotized and it backed out of the room. My challenge was to find a method of using my superior spirituality to get them out of my life without using force. The labor was progressing. There was no room for distractions. as the sun was setting. I could possibly “pop” them out using a concept instead of force. it instantly beefed up in strength and quickly overpowered my tentative push back. a Black Mamba busily swirling up its storm. and he crossed his fingers on both hands. but the concept was repeated: the high level intention would be senior to their force waves. they could put the pressure on me too. I thought I could smell the metallic scent of sparking electricity. The being couldn’t help itself! It stopped and started to back out of the room. It took a few tries to get the right wavelength of intention. . I quietly shuddered to myself. Great. Mom was now pretty deep into the process. having to protect the mom. I scoffed at this simplicity. Within minutes. that the only light in the room was in my protective bubble. Since I was pinned down to a location. very airy. was keeping a cheerful outlook even as her contractions grew stronger and closer together. as a clean well-meaning spirit. and soon it seemed. People in the delivery room were starting to look anxious. bless her. a way. What was Cowboy waiting for anyway? I looked over at him.35 “Cowboy! Get the Spirit Club over here.” in a total no-energy concept flow. he was back. The big meanie had wised up and was coming for me. The nurse and doctor started to sweat even as the temperature in the room was dropping. tipped his hat and vanished. pure intention. I tried another idea. It occurred to me that I. although my mom. was technically more powerful than a dirty electrical engine of a spirit. Think. Their swirling was getting larger. think. think—I appealed again to God for an idea. I focused on what seemed to be one of the smaller beings. They knew I was there. Now!” Cowboy looked up. “What happened?” I was keeping an eye on the black trio. I received the concept of thinking a crystal pure intention at them to 'Go Away'. Then it stopped swirling. like a summer hurricane growing in the Gulf of Mexico. now a swirling black mass enveloping the room. a method. What was this? A senior directive? I started in on the next one. One of them I might be able to keep off of her. “You are gone!” I thought at it forcing myself to keep it very light.
I was happy to be on my way with my new project of helping people see the spirit world through entertainment. He disappeared but for one little black tendril floating in defiance. I looked up at the mobile above me. Trevor!” One of the club members shouted to me. and the fight was starting to affect the delivery. the Spirit Club surrounded Black Mamba and backed him into the corner. She had done it. Trevor? Just then I heard the baby cry. She whispered to the baby. do something!” I couldn't look and didn't see anything but suddenly a breeze of cool air developed in the room. but what a fun game to be playing! And I had a great family to share it with. I could get my composure back and make more space for mom. Then he was gone. I focused on my task and tried different concepts until I hit the right wavelength. Little black energy barbs pushed through my outer layer. Mom was getting a bit frantic. I wasn't kidding myself as to how much work it would take. They held him there in a spirit pen.. Congratulations were passed all around. “Take care of him. —It was several months later.” and she kissed it and cuddled it close to her. What a relief. Bruiser was still sulking in the corner. I had protected her. The nurse and doctor were busy trying to soothe her. but I was definitely going to keep very close and help it grow. The Spirit Club! They arrived! Like a brisk refreshing fog.to her. The baby stopped crying and calmed down. “I knew you could do it Trevor and thank you. but with considerably more respect. I liked it. Black Mamba was still in the corner. I looked around. But Trevor? They handed the baby. I woke up in my crib and stretched my tiny body. I wasn’t in the baby body. The baby's heartbeat was becoming erratic.. “Cowboy. and the baby settled down. I yelled. I booted that one out too. The room continued to lighten.. That was Me?! And my new name? Cool name.me. I had the impression of many hands pushing him away. and tears of relief were streaming down sweaty mom’s face.. no thanks to Bruiser and the Black Beings. Black Mamba being was being pushed off. Black Mamba was putting the squeeze on me. and she took the child tenderly. Even though it was a bit early to be restarting my next life. lazy butterflies moving . The barbs pushing through me were lessening. I tried to get my attention clear enough to put out another concept but doing that while being pounded with black barbs was proving difficult. Everyone was safe. warm and snuggly in its sleeper. my friends were waiting for the banishing intention.36 Surrounding me with swirling black electrical energy it tried to penetrate my shield.
I turned my head to one side where my favorite doll was sitting waiting for me. It was Cowboy. END BACK TO TABLE OF CONTENTS .37 slowly in a slight draft. reflecting sun rays as they came through the window. He winked at me. and I gurgled a reply.
her yellow eyes a slit of concentration. tapered ears laid back. claws out. Stitches in the scalp would be sufficient. Too much damage put her species in disrepute. too little and her job wasn't done well enough. Catori made her decision and rose to a crouch to gauge the jump to the man’s head. He’d made his report and was now awaiting the . covering his face and head with his hands. He would wake soon enough. the very early morning of the next day. and the other summoned the Sheriff. Her perked ears were outlined by the half-moon in the sky above her. just below his window. Burglar! He threw back his covers and dashed to the hallway. but the man wasn’t looking up.38 CATORI AND HER HUMAN (Note: Reader’s consensus is that this story ends too soon and must be made into a Novel. a young female mini-panther. lay on the roof of her master's home. jolted George awake with an explosion of heart-pounding adrenalin. George sat in a hard wooden chair in the Sheriff Station lobby. his cat. Please do enjoy the first several chapters. safe from retribution. long tail straight for balance. As a sentient mini-panther with house protection duties. laying in his garden. Catori crouched nearby. He hit two buttons: one flooded the outside of the house with blinding light. sleek fur. monitoring the prowler below her. Looking out his dining room sliding-glass doors he saw. I intend to carry this story on. Her master was sleeping soundly in the room below her. She would strike the scalp of the prowler and then leap to darkness. The man’s terrified scream. her choice of damage to an intruder was a point of professional judgment and pride. and her front legs stretched ahead. Several hours later. in the middle of his squash patch. the man curled in a fetal position. She tensed her 25 pounds of pure lean muscle and supple frame.) Chapter One Catori. and the yowl of an angry cat. Her claws flexed involuntarily as she considered her options: to scar his face or gouge his scalp. a blur of black. and with a steady stream of growls and hisses kept the man in his place. a floor below her. He was trying to blend into in the black shadows of the hedge next to the house as he peered into a dark window. She leapt from the roof.
her warm body was a comfort to his sneakered feet. “Leave. Despite the obvious setback. He was one hundred percent deadly danger to any hostile element and. “Easy Catori!” George said with alarm. hairs raised on his shoulders. He needed the cash. George speculated on how much money her kittens could bring if he could get her to breed. utterly in love with her. as he looked at his mistress. back arching with a low growl in her throat. “Miss? Miss Hamilton?” . Conceptually. now she’d grown into an impressive young feline. and with a few fluid steps. she was in constant contact with him on a level of mutual perception and understanding. To his credit. George moved quickly. Her eyes were fixed with deadly intent on the male. The size of a medium dog. The woman looked up. A mini-panther was a genetically engineered breed. and then took in the event unfolding between their mini-panthers. designed for companionship. the male mini did not growl in reply. but no one had been able to prove it. He was gorgeous. He looked back in wary curiosity at the still stiffened Catori. She stopped for a moment. looking into her bag for some item. “OK Miss Hamilton. Catori was sprawled across his feet sleeping soundly. She’d caught him more than one meal and helped with a wide range of everyday tasks: she clearly responded to several hundred human words. She had been his last expensive investment before he’d lost his execut ive position in a dying company.” The Sheriff’s office door opened letting a woman and her mini-panther out into the lobby. and suddenly she was on her feet. protection and special tasks. “Hopi. distracted. went to stand at the outside door. loyally hugging the side of his mistress. we will be sure to return any recovered items. He needed a job too. she was a barely weaned bundle of snuggling fur. Pitch black. for a fleeting moment noticed George. Catori had saved him from the deepest of despair. but his search had gone nowhere for over a year in a depressed and depressing job market. in contrast. It was rumored the mini-panthers as a species had telepathic contact among themselves.39 final OK to return home. At the time.” The cat looked up in surprise and then reluctantly left her side.” the woman said with intention to her cat. George immediately focused on the male mini-panther. but his ears were laid back. her nose twitched. Catori’s ears flicked. highly intelligent. and muscles tensed. distracted. about 35 pounds.
making sure not to lock her gaze again. she gave no indication. The woman stood puzzled. take my card. He felt her perception inside of him but couldn’t release his eyes. and he struggled to force the memory of the traitor female from his mind. even in the ways of breeding.” George took a gamble that the woman was not above making some easy money.” He reached out one of his few remaining cards. They have ways of enticing the cat so it is no problem to get him to. let’s say. I was wondering if you participated in the purebred registration program? Your male is a splendid member of his species. “Yes?” She asked again. She took it with some caution. contribute. to be civil. or perhaps she was an off-world crossbreed. isn’t he? No. the ones that said that he was a Technical Writer and Patent Agent. She looked skeptical. George was taken aback. “Yes. Under his hand. They would buy the sperm of your cat from you. . If the moment of intimacy was mutual. Their gazes held for several embarrassing seconds. Then a picture of the last woman who had touched him flashed in front of him—the image of her as she left the subway platform to boarded the last train out of his life one night over a year ago. before she could push open the door and let her cat squeeze through. George could feel the too-thin layer of fat between Catori’s fur and her shoulder bone. he is magnificent.” Tact. “Yes. and if you decide to let your cat participate . He looked up at the woman’s face. the woman had slate-gray eyes flecked with what had to be genetically engineered gold. dropping his hands to Catori’s back: the Catori who saved him.” At her look of consternation. Tearing his life apart. Mam. But what made him hold his breath was the sensation of falling into her universe as their gazes locked. The pain rekindled. “Yes?” For a moment. he added quickly. she simply abandoned him to loneliness and despair. right on the heels of his crumbling company. He continued hurriedly. She turned with tired surprise. “It is a program dedicated to the further development of the species. I’m not familiar with the program. She smiled a social smile. was always a good practice. “It is easy.40 The woman had followed her cat and was about to open the door.” The woman smiled in a dim appreciation. “Please. and he looked down. He could distinctly perceive her social layers of protection part as he passed by them with blinding speed to touch her core. I would have my Catori breed and share in the profits from the kittens.
my number is 878-3714. dream-filled sleep. remembering. and then froze. He inspected the damage done to his garden by the prowler—and began to work replanting a damaged row of his late-summer squash. “And thank you for responding so quickly. It was a few months yet before the big freeze so the squash could be saved. Mr." . The Sheriff let him out into the still. Once home. When he finished. he returned to a fitful. He finally gave up on sleep at 11 and rose. I will consider it.” he said ruefully. he collected some ripe tomatoes and peppers and went inside to make himself a meal. Unfortunately. the Patent Agent work. The call must have come in while he was outside. this is Miss Hamilton. George groaned. while her big cat rumbled a purr nearby. Peralta. but about your other job. He gave a little prayer to the job spirits. George looked at Catori. Catori walked plastered to his side. As exhausted as he was. showered. No one would be missing him. It was a number of months since he’d received a call on that phone. “Too bad you don’t know a good thing when you see it.41 “Thank you. and turned it off. cold. A message was flashing on his business phone console. too late. and he ignored the hope that was trying to rise. we have all we need. with mild interest and curiosity." Catori arched her back and purred. in which the gray-gold-flecked eyes of Miss Hamilton watched him. Peralta. George stopped. “Thank you Mr. punched the message play button. young lady. dark. bye now. night.” George replied. "Thank you.” And then she’d left into the night with her remarkable cat.” The Sheriff’s voice from the door startled George. a mere three hours later. but aesthetically pleasing home. He would have to sleep late to be worth anything. you did a good job. but call me Kate. "Hi George. George bent to stroke her head and back. If you could give me a call. I am calling. that he should have done that when he went to bed at 4 AM. Catori looked at him like he was not entirely in command of his senses. The habitual alarm woke him from a deep sleep. and puttered around his modest. tucked into the woods at the end of his outer neighborhood road. not about the cats. George closed all the blinds to his room and fell gratefully back into his bed. George hastily rose to shake his hand. I'm looking forward to hearing from you. reached. The trees sheltering the house filtered the sunlight into little sparkling bursts that came through the windows as the morning breeze passed by.
and—" George snatched the phone up. He jumped. the sliding glass door to his garden. not sure what to do next.. "Yes. What do you think about that?" Catori continued to purr. but I do have a project for you. George stood looking at the answering machine for a full minute after the message had played.42 At the sound of her voice. he reminded himself. Kate. and quickly left. The caller spoke. He wouldn't let himself speculate on the source of the funds behind the driveway or the fact that Miss Hamilton was at the other end of it. It is Kate Hamilton again. and catch up on world events." "Would you come this morning? I have to leave town.. Kate.. "Hi George. What was it about this woman?! But. and. partly to calm his wonder and partly to get . listen my day is short. She broke her concentration on him. all over his head. the random contents of the kitchen counter. and it was still her. hunting most likely. prickles ran up his back. I mean. the door to his lab. George looked around distractedly. then her ears lifted at a sound that only she could hear. He knew what to do. The phone rang. if you are interested. Catori. and only then. call her back. Now she rose and arched and purring hopped down to come over to George's leg and rub along it. George was driving uphill on a long private tree-shrouded road in the exclusive gated community of Jefferson. I'm here. I will leave in a few minutes. First. a job is a job is a job. and down his arms. Where shall I meet you?" Half an hour later. "I would be happy to take a look at what you would like me to do. and slowly he felt himself calm down and collect. she wouldn't call back so soon. "Yes. George forced himself to stay calm. clean up. and then. it had to be her! But it couldn't be. to glide out the door. just to be sure it wasn't going to dissolve into some mist—a dream figment from his fitful morning. Catori had been watching the activity from her favorite spot on the couch. She went into the garden. Miss Hamilton. "Well. George bent to pet her. then dress in the fashion of someone who has a lucrative contract. He then took a full minute to stand still and observe the four corners of the living room. He played the message again. Clean up? Change? Call her back? Breathe! He told himself sternly. this time remembering to breathe." He forced himself to slow down. eat a healthy breakfast. A job is a job is a job. The answering machine picked up again. it seems your boyfriend's owner wants a visit." For what seemed to be the fifth time that morning.
It seemed that paying his bill wouldn't be a problem. She continued down the left row towards the back. "Yes. had to have at least fifteen rooms. and she smiled a professional smile. He drove around the front of the house. Through the door. and park in front of the adjacent greenhouse.. The expansive home. a wide expanse opened in front of him. but I just make use of the greenhouse for my projects. "Hi. that. He reached the top of the road. yes it belongs to my family. No one came out to inquire or see who he was. His driveway curved in the shape of a horseshoe. Kate looked up. He drove up to the open door facing his driveway. He was a damn good Patent Agent and thoroughly enjoyed the development and explanation of new inventions for winning patents. George knew cat signals: the twitching tail meant he was being watched rather than welcomed. he could see Kate Hamilton in a smock holding a plant over a pot. He wondered what Miss Hamilton might have in mind." They shook hands. thankfully. Come. and then put it on a shelf under a shaft of light from an open skylight. He cleared his throat. Hopi right behind her. Past the far side of the house. and walked towards him. a bumpy dirt road extended a short distance to stop in front of a large greenhouse.43 himself into a professional frame of mind." With that. As he watched. thank you for coming! I see that you made it here OK. before things could get out of hand. he just stopped the car and gawked. at first distracted by her own thoughts. This was curious: a mansion that size should have someone in attendance." "Oh. if she called it home. Startled he looked down: Hopi was at his thigh looking up at him in frank curiosity. then her eyes cleared. tail twitching. she placed the plant in its new home and patted dirt around the root ball. quite a mansion you have here. George. first dusting off her hands and then holding one out in welcome. she turned and walked back into the greenhouse. around a front lawn that proudly displayed a three story columned mansion. . He glanced at his directions: he was to continue past the front porch. and as he passed through yet another gate in a vinecovered wall. He couldn't help himself. "Kate!" He called. let me show you my idea. to the far left of the house. George looking into her eyes with his own thoughts guarded against potential probing.. In that same instant heard the low meow at his feet.
This will eventually enable the land to be used for some husbandry and arid herb farming. support legs with solar panel “feet” topping each. "I have it already done for you. George was a bit taken aback." she held up a hand even as George opened his mouth. But wait. I'll get it over to you." Just then a crash and a tinkle of falling glass came to them from the distant side of the mansion. "These are three prototypes of my invention. The dirt around the bottom of the dishes was damp. and there were grant funds dedicated to just this sort of purpose. "Yes. . but inadequate precipitation to reverse previous desertification due to the poor farming techniques of past decades. He found himself entranced by her childlike enthusiasm and unmistakable personal triumph. against the glasslike panes of the back wall. antenna first. jutted into the air. were three large objects looking like hijacked radio collection dishes jammed upside down into the ground. The purpose of this project is to reclaim land that has adequate moisture in the air. Satisfied. which could protect her product." She finished just as she ran out of air and took a large breath. "Hear me out. If I can get enough of these funded. Her gray-gold eyes were sparkling. Patent requirements could be satisfied with individual claimed parts. He nodded. I think I can do something with this. I will have to do some research into prior claims—" "Oh!" And she held up a finger. and he could smell a rich-fertilizer odor. they will reverse the lack of moisture in the soil. Hopi left the greenhouse in a flash of sleek black sheen. He appreciated her humanitarian goal. she turned to speak to George. On the back of each dome. who had now reached her.44 At the far end of the greenhouse. and make it possible for the lichens and desert grasses to grow again. "I knew it! I could do this!" She was beaming. George's first thought was that her invention had already been patented. inspecting George's face for feedback. It was his job to draw out the genius and exemplify it. the Solar-Powered Air-to-Water Condenser and Soil Humidifier. He smiled. and a fresh design all her own. and she flashed a victorious smile. She went to the first one and inspected a wing nut on the support for a solar panel and gave it a little twist. to cover sufficient land area. but then perhaps she had some unique method that could be protected.
George followed quietly. "Someone is trying to break in again." She brushed past George and walked out of the greenhouse. she continued. "We'll be right there Miss Hamilton. "Sheriff!” A few moments later. she doubled over and laughed in a hoarse whisper. "Sheriff Department?" "Yes. and then a flat business voice was heard. When she could breathe normally again. "Someone is always trying to get at our money. "Oh." Another voice replied. "Isn't that just priceless?! Did you see that poor man's eyes?" She covered her mouth again to prevent herself from making loud guffaws that might disturb her cat. "Sheriff’s hot line. that is just precious. glass breaking. Hitting her communicator again." . "Sheriff's emergency?" "Hamilton’s residence. where is the response to the Hamilton residence?" Then a different voice." The communicator was silent for a moment. Slapping her thigh. Word's out that my father has passed away. He tried hard not to feel like he was one of those people. she continued. lying unusually still with Hopi sitting on his chest gently holding his neck in his teeth." With a heavy voice.45 Kate's smile turned into a scowl. "Miss Hamilton?" "Yes?" "It seems that the attempted break-in triggered the estate alarm system." And the line was silent. one minute ago. Well. The man’s breathing was shallow. where is the Sheriff? She managed to stand straight and wipe her eyes. and the front gate has been locked. "Let's go. an air of sad solitude surrounding her. trying to “get at” her money Chapter Two They had to walk all the way around the mansion to the far side before they found the unfortunate would-be thief. Thank God for that cat! Whew. She pressed on a band around her upper arm and spoke. across from a broken ground-level window. Kate smiled a tight smile. She turned and walked away quickly to the front of the building before letting go. Kate covered her mouth to prevent herself from laughing out loud. and tears of mirth came to her eyes instead. his eyes bulging as he stared straight into Hopi's fixed cat stare. He was on the ground.
"Figures. I developed a unique method to draw the air into the layers using a solar driven fan.” She reached the end of the greenhouse and touched one of her upside-down cones. "I need to tell you a bit more about my condensers. one with a multi -oxygen mineral blend containing Magnesium. They eat my mineral combination and produce water as a byproduct. This causes the cooling and condenses what moisture there is in the air. You see under the large outer cone. he remembered where he was. He didn't hear her question and just gazed at her silently. "I had to let them in. Then there is another to collect condensation and direct it downward. She stood looking all the part of a reigning lioness in her territory. she entered and continued walking towards the back. She again pressed her upper arm.46 Kate rolled her eyes. What were we talking about now?" George just looked at her. with the peaceful. what did you say?" He stammered. mixed with a hydrogen and carbon mineral base. He noticed the highlights in her long honey hair and uniquely flashing eyes. Then she turned to face him.” Then she pointed to the damp ground around the bottom lip of the cone. then shrugged. "Just a moment officer. “On the inside of the cone layers I have different surfaces. which are layered. she came back down the steps to George. She gave him a squinty look. talking all the while. turned and started to walk to the greenhouse. she turned on her heel. I dressed each mineral layer with the bacteria." she muttered. I have a series of inside downward facing cones. green. Not seeming to notice George. I placed cubes of dirt-conditioning bacteria under each cone to prepare the soil to support life. She disappeared into the darkness and did something on an inside wall. "I am sorry. Waving her hands in demonstration. a small .” She reached the greenhouse." She walked up the steps to the front door of the mansion with George slowly following. She raised her eyebrows at him. lawn surrounding him and the white mute mansion behind her. but properly shielded it creates an environment that allows rehydration of the soil in extremely arid environments. and the door opened. the house lights flashed once. I'll have it open in just a minute. Eventually. She was lovely. and broke his gaze. muttered something. She pointed to a few of the damp jars lining the wall on her side. This is a slow process. These devices can be settled and left to create moisture over a period of time with very little attention. “Last. “For the production of new water molecules my father provided me with genetically engineered bacteria. Emerging.
I mean aliens. "Anyway. "They were a gift from the space station visitors whom our government revealed to us several decades ago. before you ask. We keep it here in this greenhouse. "Also. George stood and looked at the upside-down cones with a new appreciation. It’s a peculiar breed that my father gave me. but she had already continued." George had a dim memory of a news report of this sort of thing happening many years ago when he was still a kid. "You are aware of the genetically engineered gold flecks I have in my eyes. "You realize that. He hadn't heard anything since that initial report so it had faded from his attention. Hers were comparable but not earthshattering. He'd never been scared by the thought of aliens. Now it was fitting together. She squinted at him again. He wouldn't tell me the source. started to reply. "You don't scare easily do you?" George thought of the adrenal-pumping scream that woke him this morning. George nodded. they licensed them to the pharmaceutical companies for commercialization." George looked at her with narrowed eyes and considered the ramifications. they wouldn’t need to claim the invention of the bacteria itself "Who was your father again? He must have had some intriguing line of work?" Kate stood and looked at George with shielded gaze. getting a sense of where she was headed. correct?" She said this matter-of-factly. by visitors. from a different solar system?" George nodded. "I will have to return with my sketch pads and inspect and draft descriptions for each of the components. The bacteria would form an essential part of the claims. but I have a pretty clear idea where it came from. and then in a fit of fiscal desperation. She nodded. He had his own secrets. I cannot patent or give the source of my bacteria. They seemed to be inevitable in his mind.47 oasis of hardy plant life would grow around the devices. If the bacteria were purchased from some other source. Bacteria which could tear apart . not only were gold-flecked eyes put on the market. but unique strains of bacteria: bacteria that could function in any environment." She finished and looked at him expectantly. The government experimented for many years with the genetic formulas that they had been given. Her gold flecks suddenly stood out." he said half to himself and half to her.
Oh well. what did he have to lose? He just stood and let her look inside of him. learn a little. somehow he'd always thought that humans came up with the cats. He also learned to hide his skills very. Bacteria that would form water as their byproduct if they were allowed to munch on the right rocks. I have my own family secrets!" Kate looked at him with sudden interest.48 mineral compounds to release individual elements. He toyed with the concept in his mind of a hybrid human—genetically modified alien genes mixed with earth-proven Homo sapiens. and resignation. He nodded to Kate. He raised them here in this greenhouse." he said lamely. George could feel her probing. Her gold-flecked eyes were beautiful. and. he reminded himself. what the hell. He stayed mentally passive while she made her appraisal. How about if I went back to my office and got started." This was a new concept. my mom knew. Until Now. "whether you know this or not. now noticing the many jars strategically placed in different spots along the walls. Now he felt a little uneasy. I want to make my mark upon the world. Alien probing. "I mean. My father bought packages of many different strains. He looked at Kate." She said this last with a touch of irony. and then we reconvene at a later date?" . OK." she said. He hid that thought before it could be read or come to the surface. Alien bacteria farming. he carefully recomposed himself. But. People trying to rob his home apparently fell under his radar—he needed to work on that. He only allowed me and a few other family members know of them. live a little. the strain must have been evident. we are already connected through our cats. It seemed that he was just born more aware of his environment and intentions than other humans. The gold flecked eyes represented more than just a color shift. She squinted again. "That's nice. as she pulled away. don't worry about it. I'll get over it. I won’t let them eat you! I just want my patent. He waited. intently looking at him with open curiosity and appraisal. Their heightened intelligence and modified form are also gifts from our alien neighbors. She smiled a sad smile. "Well. "No. Of course. She had perception abilities on an interpersonal level much higher than the normal human. she had the kids with the gold-flecked eyes!" George looked around the greenhouse. He didn’t question his own level of perception. He wanted to kiss her slightly pursed lips. She came back into focus. Believe me. The tone of resignation prompted George to reassure her. "Don't worry. very early in life.
how is it going?" "Quite well. Chapter Three By the time she returned. "Sure. obviously she took her telepathic connection to her cat as common knowledge. She walked in. He walked up and down the aisles slowly looking at. and then there were oddly shaped and colored plants he didn't recognize. He started. and maybe study up a little while I take care of this? You don't want the press getting the word that you know me or my family. he'd see what's what. better than his Masters from UCLA. She left. but he was going to test it out for himself. that I should come out." George nodded. The green house was full of life. thinking she had a splendid start." she said. would you like to sit?" She indicated some benches off to one side. but careful not to touch. "Date of graduation? Other patents?" . had worked out a number of potential descriptions and claims for her invention. and he'd had studied the invention enough to have a hefty list of questions. He swallowed. and being a physics major himself. which is the name he chose for it. Kate watched the exchange but said nothing. He had taken all the pictures he needed. The name would set it apart from the already existing condensers and would start his patent out on the right track. "First. but let me ask some questions. what sort of training do you have to support these claims?" "Stanford PhD in physics and biological engineering. say 'Hi' to Catori for me. Then she smiled slightly and leaned over to look at his list. George looked ruefully at the cat and said to him out loud. He started to take pictures from different angles to prepare his drawings. He wasn’t going to let her think he didn’t have that level of certainty with Catori too. "Hopi. He went to inspect the Soil Humidifier. "Hopi says the Sheriff is here. will you? Ask her to show me that she got my message. The whole telepathic angle intrigued him. The invention was working well: the soil under the Humidifiers was wet even though they were protected from the elements inside a closed greenhouse. He stood looking around at the generous greenhouse. How about you stay. He involuntarily shivered. George shrugged. followed closely by Hopi." "Go ahead.49 Something distracted her. OK?” Hopi gave him a blank cat look. He recognized several herbs and flowers." They sat. the various plants and jars. the sun was setting. I have a good start. and she cocked her head. "So.
" So it went on a while longer. he had other patents. Ten miles later and he was pulling into his own wooded driveway." He stood. wide eyes staring up at him. I don't want my father's money traced. with a loud purr rumbling. He could feel once again Catori's too thin coat. His . It helped to have some money. He put forth his most professional manner. He left the mansion as the sun was setting into a deep dusk. "Ok.. "No. Hopi's fur was slightly raised as he looked up from his spot at his mistress's feet. As he got out of his car. you are being hired to write it.50 "June. I will have an outline ready for you in approximately one week. before that I was participating in a research program at the local university for the utilization of the biologically engineered bacteria. He would swallow his pride. "No.Top secret of course. "Who do I make the invoice out to?" "I will pay you in cash. I will have to put my name on the patent you realize?" George was uncomfortable with the secretiveness but wanted the money. Miss Hamilton. As long as whatever he had to do wasn't illegal or unethical he just had to do it. He would do his job. and his headlights played with trees and shadow. I will sign the patent myself. He would do anything within reason to keep that going. The fact that she entranced him was sternly pushed out of the way. And finally. but sternly forced it back down. The road back down the hill to the main street was dark. he hadn't planned to be gone all day. followed by the smudge of the professional slight and the unacknowledged romantic rebuff." Ha. and that was all that mattered. then.. actually now I'm the executor of my father's estate." She said this matterof-factly. "Occupation?" "Rich girl?" She gave a little giggle. George was a jumble of emotion. It would take at least an hour's jog to settle it down. a dark. Kate Hamilton. "Very well then. George didn't care." George was put off. The house lights were off. no other patents. He would do a decent job and would receive proper compensation. Why was he thinking this way? Stop it! He told himself. 2030. He needed this job. George obtaining more than enough information to start his work. he felt the urge to retort rise in his throat. furry creature appeared at his leg. holding out his hand. The quiet elation at having a flow of funds leaked back to the surface first.
packed in tight. Fish. he turned to Catori. A large shatterproof transparent globe. snaked across the floor and went over to an adjoining table. was composed of an array of centimeter-wide speakers. fourteen inches across. was a thin conducting membrane to translate pulsed sound from minute speakers into electric signals. in the globe. they could understand to specific signals. "What would you like for dinner?" She went and sat in front of the refrigerator and licked her right paw. since they had been cross-trained with each other. His ten-year fantasy of creating a hologram generator that responded to real-time thought and sound manipulation was within reach." he added ruefully. a head cap to capture and translate brain waves. He bent to pet and hug her. and the emitters. you are such a sweetheart! When you aren't jumping on prowlers that is. Supporting them.51 relief was great. Suddenly famished. he changed back into his trusty jeans and t-shirt and went to his lab to ponder his own invention. Although she couldn't talk. he hadn't realized what a trusted companion Catori had become and what a comfort she was. They plugged into the master console with a connected keyboard. pulsed the lasers. The plasma gas went into the globe. Next to it. the layer immediately below the mesh was composed of square-millimeter interlaced laser emitters. the next layer. recording and playback computer. wrapped in a woven cord. with a stiff polymer mesh cover across its open side. Inside the base. He named it the Holo Globe. the bottom and third layer. the globe sealed on the mesh. He flexed his hands and cracked his knuckles in anticipation of his evening work. twelve inches in diameter. stimulated by the speakers. its open rim slathered with sealant. Finally. which excited the plasma into holographic forms and images. Several canisters of multigas plasma stood nearby waiting to be used. lay upon its side. Ultimately. . She continued to purr and led him to the front door. microphone and the crowning achievement. It was always fish. The cable inputs. He was immediately absorbed in contemplation of his creation. He pulled several pounds of tuna out of the freezer. a hollow square wooden base. he wanted to see the thoughts and images in his mind mirrored. left the base of the box and ran off the table. He walked in and clapped on the lights to his kitchen and lab. "Catori. four inches tall. in motion. sat. While it was defrosting. waveform display. The device was in pieces on his lab table.
"I thought that you would understand since you were just there. He forced himself to look at least slightly calm and confident. lean. He stood hopeless and watched her approach his front door. George hadn't moved since she started . Hopi tried to fight. I don't have a body guard.52 He assembled the globe and carefully filled the gas. He'd forgotten to eat all day! He cut up a pound of raw tuna for Catori. Hopi clinging to her leg. I'm sure the Sheriff is there now. with a day’s shadow of a beard. but they started to shoot at him. She knocked. He reached and put on the head cap. Kate started to cry. He took a breath and opened the door. placed it down where she could begin to eat. haggard. "Come in!" George forgot his personal worry and rushed her inside. I am so sick of this! I came to find you. more of them. Clearly outlined was the figure of another mini-panther walking up his path with a tall female. He moved to close the door to his lab. Catori gave a cat mutter and ran off. "They came back. which glowed slightly when he was flustered. He expected images resembling the Northern Lights. He was ready to see his alpha waves in the Holo Globe. Maybe you can help me. Kate looked like she'd been in a fight. but I couldn't stand to go back. Handling anything about its shambled condition in two minutes was out of the question. He looked at himself in his hallway mirror: lanky. her nails were broken. Kate? George's hair rose on the back of his head and arms. salt and garlic under a broiler. right after you left. His stomach rumbled. A successful mad-scientist. The defroster sounded off. He reluctantly removed his cap and left his work table to prepare the meal for himself and his cat. He had to fix that. that's what he wanted to be. He reached to turn on the power strip and adjust the amplification. black mussed up hair. And he was flustered now. and looked around his home. and brown panicked eyes with black flecks. They nicked his ear. I had to run away in the dark through the forest so they wouldn't find me and take me. He had blood spots on his head and ear." She looked at him. George jerked back to his other world. Dirt was on her face. and then prepared another pound for himself with butter. He set it for 3 minutes. simple trauma across her face." She'd stopped crying and stood there clutching her handbag in front of her dirty jacket. The motion sensor lights flashed. and her eyes were tearful. All George saw was a blur as she ran through the living room and out of her cat door into the night. I don't know what's next. I don't want one. and gold flecks muted. Her clothes had been stained. he ruefully told himself. eyebrows furrowed. He hit the perimeter sensors and infrared camera monitors. Food.
I can call my sister. For all of his isolation and lack of funds. Luckily. I just want my greenhouse and of course. "I went down the back through the forest. I have a guest room. It was down the side hallway across from his room. "Well. Then she looked up at him and did a probing squint. but I’m sure she’ll let me go and stay with her.. but George would remind her in a day or two when she wasn't clearly traumatized. I just don't want to let him down. She smiled a little smile of relief. you can.. "No. They just want to loot the house. it's not in the house. She looked up at him. It seemed the idea suited her just fine." George's attention jerked back to the kitchen table. Now he went to his bachelor kitchen table. Kate’s eyes followed his. and all it needed was some air and a change of linens. "Sure." George looked at her. "Come. She would be OK. May I get you something to drink? Did they follow you here do you think?" Horrible thought. Sometimes. It occurred to him that he really didn't want to be alone." he offered. maybe hours. A sudden feeling of desolation struck him. They can have it. Then he left to ready the guest room. I caught a cab here. The Sheriff alarm was tripped again I'm certain. of making it happen. he was within days. but they won't go there. his inspiration continued to burn brightly. let them think I'm out of town or something. that won't be necessary. I don't care. Went through the fence where we'd left a hole when we were kids. he had kept it closed and clean. and sit. but he had to ask. for the third time. He snuck a peak at his closed lab door. maybe I should call a cab and be going off to a hotel or something. appraisingly. I'll get it ready!" He looked at her with an uncontrolled silent plea. She’s in another city. All my important work is there in the greenhouse. as necessary as solitude had seemed before." How much was enough for her to live on was another question. enough to live on. I don't want to talk about it tonight.53 talking. He showed her the first aid supplies. George got her something to drink and prepared more fish for all of them. I told my father I'd take care of everything. He itched to be in there working on his globe. the way some of the well-off abandoned their possessions just astounded him. . All of his money is in our family trust. "I'll be happy to run an auction for you if taking care of the house is too much for you.
His baby. The two cats went out the door. And thankyou. George caught himself noticing that she wasn't as tall as he had first thought. Ready to go. as the quiet of near midnight deepened. making a pleasing blend of three-dimensional waves. and the house lights reflected off of the gold specks in her eyes in an eerie luminous way making them look like they were faintly glowing. Now. Chapter Four An hour of small talk later and Kate retired to the guest room. George busied himself cleaning up in the kitchen and straightening the house. Catori Will stop anyone who tries to inflict harm. Kate looked at him and then George. After a few minutes." "Well I did the best I could." "And Hopi the same. he thought. The globe glowed with a hazy misty interior as the gas interacted and swirled within itself. Now. He worked as long as he felt it was necessary to ensure that she was long asleep and no longer paying attention to his activities. He put the head phones on and muted the sound. Catori had been watching from her spot by the back sliding-glass door. just . stop that. She made a low mutter." She turned slightly. and Hopi stood and went to follow her. "I think I will sleep well tonight. He grabbed his keyboard and tried a few soft notes. The top of her head came just under his nose. It was time to begin her night patrol. It was play time. There it was. He pulled up to the table and sat down and reached for his head cap. "There they are. His invention.54 When he was done. you want your ear to heal you leave it alone!" He sat and looked up at her with an innocent expression. The colors shot from the miniature lasers into the plasma. Hopi. Kate was just finishing some doctoring Hopi's right ear. Then." Kate concluded. Now she rose and stretched. "I'm happy to help. and raised her eyebrows in silent comment. George motioned to Kate to follow him." He replied. The plasma was nice and warm since he’d left the base turned on all evening. He got her outside and backed into the garden to where they could see the top of the roof. He now had some salve and a bandage on the side edge of it. "I'll bet you that in less than an hour that will be gone. he tiptoed into his lab. he finished lamely. There. A cute size. That's a great spot for patrol. She's not yours and not going to be. the two cats sat side by side looking down on them. George smiled.
slow breaths. this was artistic heaven. and the lasers created a three-dimensional ripple in the plasma. and he grabbed the thought before it could run and hide. The Holo Globe images correspondingly slowed down and became longer bursts of light. he had seen what he thought he saw. body laid itself across his left foot. A breeze moved the door behind him. he lost all track of time. he was much better at making mental images than he’d thought possible. A warm. furry. Hopi? George jerked his head up. peaking out towards the top of the globe to fall back. After several hours of focusing. She returned and rubbed his leg. Another warm. spreading outward from the center like a pond that had a rock thrown into it. and purring looked up at him. then his Globe was working much. and he was still too groggy to formulate his thoughts with precision. On both sides. He fell into a dreamy sleep. He dreamt. He blinked at it. with no apparent pattern. just in time to see a holographic image in the globe of two embracing people dissolve into a confusion of sparkles. The sweet poignant emotion engulfed them in a sea of bliss. He struck one note repeatedly. . the cats had come in and had left the outside door open. looking like fireflies or June bugs in the night. some of them now little streaks. Catori got up and went out into the other room. Before he could say anything. Then he held it steady and started to grow and change it. One note was a light green. Then he switched the input over to his head cap and instantly the globe was filled with sparkles of different colors. He kept trying different thoughts until he found the one that corresponded to it. much better than he had anticipated. He stayed seated in the chair and promised to do a victory dance later. He heard a door closing. He realized that he was jittery with excitement and forced himself to take deep. or. George focused on the globe and concentrated on one of the longer streaks of color that appeared most frequently. His next target was the tour de force: making an image in the globe using his mind. He was looking deep into Kate’s luminous gold flecked eyes. If. Catori. He saw a reflection of the two of them in an embrace. He looked at it. and looked at it in relief—it had been faithfully recording the entire time he had slumbered. He fumbled with his amplifier. body lay next to his right leg. and then looked down. popping off and on randomly at different places. George almost purred himself. another was a deep purple.55 like ocean waves crashing on each other. Or. cap and globe still running. head down on the table. the cats had come to lie. furry.
. “Bed time. Holding his head to control the throbbing. I’m impressed. I had to get right back to work today. Thank you for your hospitality and Hopi thanks you as well. "Dear George. "I did it. Catori came to visit him in the kitchen. immediately groaned and grabbed his head. Normally. He looked in his lab. He looked even more like a mad scientist with his hair sticking up and dark stubble on his cheek. The past two days were a complete disruption of his normal schedule. getting in a workout and taking care of his garden. into his own room and fell into bed. It truly was a breakthrough evening. the fire of victory was in his eyes. kitties. so he stopped. he was up early in the morning. He looked in the mirror. Kate. he started to chant as he pranced down his hallway. The day turned into evening. I think you understand what I’m thinking after all. He shuffled into the kitchen. He looked at his ceiling for a few minutes to assemble his thoughts.56 “Catori. He fed her and himself. By then the sun was well overhead. He didn’t wake until after noon. The painkillers had worked fairly well. It was four in the morning.” He stumbled out the lab door. But. and started to work on the patent introduction and claims. It was going to change the world. drinking them down with a glass of tap water. His moments of infatuation were obviously one sided." She'd made no mention of the robbers or her estate problems. Having the work was good enough for him. George ignored it the best he could. He took the cap off and turned off the globe. Besides he had his Holo Globe. he was certain. As the boss lady she didn't need to explain herself. and then he remembered his nighttime visitor. he went to his medicine cabinet in his bathroom and took two headache tablets. I did it!" That hurt too much. so he may as well comport himself accordingly. even as his head continued to throb at intermittent intervals. but the headache wasn’t going away as it usually did. he felt disoriented. He looked around and saw the note on the kitchen table where she had sat the night before drinking his tea. It was hand-written in a legible block print. what a headache!" Still holding his head. Please let me know when you have a draft to review. He noticed that it was cleaner than usual. I did it. and then leapt out of bed. His black eyes specks were positively sparkling with joy. "Oh my God. Heavy fatigue draped itself all over him. Happiness and triumph filled him. He focused on his chores and garden. it was just as he had left it. and sat to catch up on his planning.” George sat in wonder looking from his Globe to the two cats at his feet and back again.
George looked at her and then pulled his chair over and sat down. and thank you for asking. On the fifth day of steady progress since his initial visit. trust me. ready to see me?” He got his lungs to release their air. the day after. We can review it and redline. and he was worried that he’d damaged himself. Catori came in the room behind him and started to rub herself on his legs. He went into his lab and looked at the Holo Globe. getting him to eat more protein. “Hello George. he was ready to present his first draft of the patent. He bent over to hold her face and look into her tawny cat eyes. and she answered immediately. The next day the headache was there. George reflected when he wasn’t absorbed in his patent writing. deal?” Catori was satisfied. By then it was just an annoyance in the background. George pondered the implications and possible solutions in the back of his mind as he wrapped up his draft patent for Kate and prepared to present it to her. His head was still throbbing. as well. a bit better.” . and take some herbs and vitamins. “Ok. and again. and he did feel better. but his brain was still sore. He called the number Kate had left him. He didn’t have the energy to turn it on. He shouldn’t have slept with it on. but he had to admit she was right. “We can meet tomorrow at the greenhouse. I have the drawings sketched out in a draft. and we will see what’s up in the morning. tell you what. he had collected himself and made decent progress on the patent claims for the Humidifier. or I can drop it off or send it softcopy. of that he was certain. I’m ready to present the first draft. “I am fine. Miss Hamilton. Matter of fact. He involuntarily held his breath as she spoke. I’ll be back in town then. “Yes. back and forth.” She purred and then continued to rub on his legs back and forth. She didn’t believe him. I will go to bed and get a good night’s sleep. Needless to say. she was almost a down right pest. it didn’t bode well for the marketability of the Holo Globe if it gave people brain damage. “Catori? What’s up?” She looked up at him and gave a questioning “Meowerp?” She then gave her tail a single quiver with a shake and snap. She rubbed hard enough that he almost lost his balance. The next morning the throbbing had subsided.57 By the later part of the evening. Catori kept up a steady conversation with him the entire time. drink more fluids.
His headache disappeared. since the patent was the priority. tail high in the air. By the end of the day. George followed her back. remembering—he had recorded the dream state. George had to walk faster to keep up with her. He motioned brusquely for Catori to follow him.58 When he hung up the phone. and followed her. She rose. Good God. following her upraised tail. no. Catori seemed to know where she was headed. gave a “Meowerp!” and went into the garden through her cat door. his home office was in great shape. His head gave a little throb. He hadn’t touched the Holo Globe. The console had a feature that allowed him to see the wave pattern of the file in two dimensions. how about it? What’s the problem?” About half way back home. He started to tidy it up and stopped. was a young intertwined couple enjoying a leisurely conversation interspersed with kisses and caresses. she looked back at her master. he finally spoke. George raised his eyebrows. The land was crisscrossed with trails and was often hiked by neighbors for exercise or pleasure. They had gone about a half a mile when she suddenly sat down. that’s not what I should be doing!” His face was still hot. and he sat in his chair and fired up the multi-purpose console. There was a little clearing in the trees up ahead with winter rye grass covering the ground in a soft green layer. George felt a blush warming his face. On a blanket. He turned and walked back down the path silently. “Catori. The lab beckoned. did his workout and then spent the rest of the day cleaning and reorganizing. he thought to himself. “Well. Curiosity flared. but then was still. and then satisfied. next to the stream. front paws out in front. Catori did. arched her back in a long stretch. The next day George was up before the dawn and ready to go by 8 AM. looking intently in front of her. He had an hour before he could drive up the wooded road to her greenhouse. Catori had crossed the garden and was heading into the woods that bordered his property. as if to say. He fast forwarded through the sequence to the point where the . and he had to push away the image of Kate and himself in the same setting. George stopped in back of her and looked out over her head. This can’t keep happening! “Catori? What am I to do?” He asked of the basking cat as she lay stretched out in a patch of sunlight before the sliding glass doors. but the Globe was next on his list. with a nonchalant air. slowly. his hand was trembling. and a little trickling stream through the middle. Catori didn’t respond but instead pushed past him and continued home with a smug cat prance step.
he had to refrain from complimenting her on her appearance—one didn’t do that to bosses. It’s too large and too empty for me. Chapter Five He pulled up before the greenhouse. I was just reading over my father’s estate reports. As he reached her. what do you have for me?” She pulled over one of the copies. “I’m sorry to hear that.” she said with a smile. All aspects were in ratio to each other. . Now there was nothing in the globe. The image started to warp and break up. I’ve hired a caretaker couple to stay and maintain it while I work on the disposition. He slowed his search and hit Play. She set the papers aside. She looked up and motioned to him. He had brought two copies of his draft. “Hello there. They are happy. He got up to look at the entrancing image from all sides. there was a moment of her distress. he saw her at the far end seated at a worktable. If it weren’t for the greenhouse. it almost costs nothing. an entire half hour had passed in what seemed to be an instant. He must have woken up at that moment. so they could review it page by page. she disappeared. He had so many unanswered questions! He looked at the lab. a remarkably clear image of a miniature man and a woman in an embrace. I don’t like working in the house. She was not immediately visible. It was perfect. and a cat walked all through the middle of the globe.” George placed his papers on the table and sat across from her. Then it also disappeared. closed the door and left for his meeting.59 amplitude started to jump erratically. An image jumped to life in the Holo Globe. they were at the end of the recording. It was time to leave. He turned off the console. George blushed again. but once he entered the building. George. George looked at the file. I hope that you can find some sort of satisfactory resolution for it—” “Well. I’d sell it and move on. So. It looked exactly as if real. but his fascination overtook his embarrassment. good to see you again. he reappeared. “Have a seat. living people were in the Globe. She had been reading something before her. and the would-be robbers know someone is home. He looked at his watch. he disappeared. for now.
George looked back.” George’s hand closed over the envelope. He followed Kate's slightly swaying form. the prior science. “Wait here for a minute. numbered and listed. He immediately folded it and stuffed it in his front pocket. his choice of claims and why they were unique.” She gave him a coy smile and motioned for him to follow her back into the greenhouse.” He was almost stammering. She smiled and handed him a fat envelope. George. I’ll take it from here. and then said. Miss Hamilton. “So. now that I’m not your boss lady anymore. and so on. He’d brought his drawings with the tentative three-dimensional expanded assembly sketches. She appeared suddenly at the front of the green house. Hopi came in. She would study one page. He felt gratified and confused at the same time. “I like it! Here. He was at the entrance of the greenhouse when she rose and called to him. thinking about both inventions in the pauses while she read and considered his proposal.. I will be right back. go back to another. the sequence of logic leading to her new science. He excused himself and wandered up and down the aisles of the greenhouse examining the various plants and pots. She surprised him with her fast decision.. She was wearing khaki slacks. In the back of his mind. Thank you for a job well done. purring. but she was at home. let’s discuss some other things. After he’d reviewed the proposal with her. they were the people he was trying to please.60 Together they reviewed his draft patent. gave him a sniff and then went to lie at his mistress’s feet. and her flecks were sparkling. fewer pages. She gave him her squint. it’s been a pleasure. Now she seemed to be glowing slightly. more pages. the introduction. Hopi followed. a tucked in shirt and a belt —giving her . cats normally didn’t purr when they were walking. “Thank you. he was tracing the same steps for his Holo Globe. He fought the sudden disappointment that he wouldn’t see her again. and wondered what her final word would be—more revisions.” He gave her a little wave. is your pay. then look at the drawings. he fell silent while she studied the pages. the one he recognized as looking into deeper motives. or more drawings? He had made the patent as straightforward and as understandable as possible—that made it easier for the patent officers to validate and approve the patent. She was quietly engrossed and making notes for over an hour. Briefly. Ultimately. it felt just like it should feel for forty one hundred-dollar bills—the agreed upon amount. George wished Catori was with him to interpret.
" he trailed off as she continued to stand with a hand indicating one of the chairs at the working table. as if to reply." She gently massaged his scalp. He gasped lightly as he instantly felt a rush of released energy and a heavy weight lifted out of his head.61 a western look. He could feel the utter relaxation of his head and neck." Kate was still waiting. He gave an involuntary shiver as another surge of energy passed through his body. "Here. Next he could feel Hopi's body. I think I can help. "Just relax. He kept his thoughts under control as he didn't want her to eavesdrop. the big cat started to clean his paws. He noticed that Hopi was aware of it all. and felt the lighter bone and slimmer muscle. "Hopi tells me that you've had a headache for most of the week. is this true?" She turned to look at him as she finished the sentence with obvious intention to catch his reaction. "I can help with the tension. As she stroked his head." "But I don't have one now. sit down. he told himself. . He closed his eyes in momentary bliss. with Hopi at their feet and the expanse of the greenhouse around them. He went to sit. and the sensation sent shivers down his spine. looking down. He should let her try and help. As she reached the end of the greenhouse she started to speak. Her hair was long and sleek down her back. His head gave a twinge. a lowly cat. She stood behind him and put her finger tips along both sides of his head. half in surprised affront. He was surprised and stopped walking with hands open looking at Hopi. He had a very clear view of the top of her head. His ears perked forward. and the feeling of bliss as she touched him. but tendril-like thoughts. Then he moved through Kate's body. "Catori is a snitch?" Hopi looked at him with zero expression on his black triangular cat face. George could feel Hopi’s tongue as if it were his own. It felt like he was a balloon starting to float upwards. He reached out from the top until he could feel all the plants in the greenhouse. "And who told you?" He asked half joking. Unconcerned. and of his perception. He'd no idea how tense he'd been until she released it. He came to rest somewhere near the top of the building. He felt their awareness of the sun and the energy of the humans. mere human. "You think that I. would have conspired against you? Think again. full and calm." she said gently. he felt himself lifting out of his body. his yellow eyes wide with innocence. the raspy edges catching and cleaning the individual hairs. reminding him that it could start hurting again at any time. He felt their certain.
and then gave him a “I’m thinking” squint. but he would at least have a better chance to make the right choices. thoroughly. what are you talking about?” He almost didn’t want to know. Kate came around and kneeled in front of him. the better and quicker he could respond. She had a slight smile as she beamed with a spiritual illumination. and then. and Hopi started a rumbling purr. He was alive and in love. it would end their magical moment. and her eyes were sparking. pulling her up with him. He took her hands and stood up. One rule he promised to follow after his last fiasco of a relationship was to make sure he understood what was being said. the greenhouse was glowing with light and life. He held his hands out. and into her eyes as she gazed down on him. which she returned with eagerness. “Apparently not. “Who are your parents?” “Does it matter?” . who is ‘Us’?” She looked at him and pondered for a full minute. he gave her a longer kiss. He laughed. "You Are one of us. “You don’t know anything." Then she smiled. “You are beautiful. her eyebrows raised in graceful brown arcs. George had never felt better. He might not always know the right response. even as he was still sharing all the combined senses. The more he understood. but it was the door that she’d opened to let him into her world. you know that! Now. of that he was certain. he pulled back to look at her. She looked up at him.62 George slowly opened his eyes. and he reluctantly let her go. Her golden flecks were glimmering. Her upturned face was beaming. Holding her head. She stepped back. do you?” She asked with a note of incredulity." she said gently. He was undeniably and irrevocably in love with her. Happily. "Well if this is what a little alien genetics can do for me. and looked up into his face. looking through his own eyes. He tilted his head and looked up into Kate’s face. "Well. I'm all for it!" He felt relaxed and unafraid. and make no assumptions. Chapter Six George’s moment of bliss settled into a larger feeling of contentment. She was light and responded easily. He looked at Kate and leaned over to kiss her nose with unassuming affection and open tenderness.
But. This gets embarrassing with jokes or comedy. I’d be itching in my seat. yawning and squirming. and she was just trying to enjoy herself.” Kate waited with open curiosity. I suspect it is part of what drove her away. Some are little. No one was born with the gene without connections. However. My ex-girlfriend.” “My flecks?” He asked with surprise. “You have the flecks. he was sure. movies—I would start a movie with my girl. most of my life I know what someone else is going to say long before they finish. nothing else. and he was only too glad to be done with the ordeal. “Ok.63 “You have the gene. “So. he would have noticed that her studied casualness was concealing excitement. some are bigger. She hated that. “Nothing ever came of it afterwards. after a while. what’s the use of it.. His mother had said that he had to make a doctor visit. I’d know how it’ll end.” and she walked over to her invention and laid a hand on one of its solar panels. “I guess I may have been taken somewhere and tested as a child?” He said. “What about them?” “They are the other alien gene—black—opposite of my gold. . taking strange thought challenging tests.” Geroge thought for a minute. He stoically withstood the poking and prodding so well that his mother rewarded him later with a trip to the amusement park with his best friend. The white smocked people looked in every part of his body. and shrugged. nothing was said about it. it just gets in my way?” He remembered the annoyance his ex would express at his impatience with simple pleasures. So tell me. and I never went back. then turned to ask him..I laugh before the punch line! Or. So who are you? You must be registered with the Hybrid Agency and your DNA profile on record. but it received five instant answers which all jammed on the tip of his tongue. then I’m bored and want to leave. He drove on. got pretty fed up and freaked out with me and them. She said the question lightly. He had a vague memory as a child visiting a large brick building with no windows.” She came up to him and peered into his eyes. cash and a pedigree. He took a breath. hating the needle they put in his arm and the blood that they took out. brushed away the questionable wisdom of revealing any or all of his secrets. and after the first 15 minutes. “What unique qualities have you been hiding for most of your life?” If he had been less concerned about the impression he was making on her. I’ll share a few.
where would you like to go?” He forced his voice to remain neutral. “What kind? I’ve never thought of it that way. just like any other ability. he ruefully told himself. “Well then. “What else can you do?” George didn’t notice that his secrets had gone from something that he’d been hiding to something that he could do. he chided himself.” That last one got her.” . My ex said I muttered in my sleep in a strange foreign language. She took a deep breath. then squinted. with an unreadable expression on her face. “Uh. I suspect that if you made use of your skills they would grow. And this time. George pulled back. you really let the nutty cat out of the bag.” Kate started to say something. “I can see spirits as they wander around. Catori. feeling rejected. No offense. I guess. we should be going. Care to join me for lunch?” She turned without waiting for an answer and picked up her bag and keys and started walking towards the door.” She stood and looked at him. did it ever help you to predict a situation or an accident and to prevent it? That might make it more useful to you. and then we can decide. then seemed to reconsider. and they subsided. and ashamed he’d opened his mouth.” Kate strolled back over to their work table and casually started to put things away. “And I dream that I can see my past lives. “Sure. sure. “That’s fine. Another mistake in the world of girls and people. I always thought it was just another one of my quirks. and after an unbearably long pause.64 “Well. and said. barely containing his disappointment. just sporadically. In an expansion of showing off to this new girl. just in case you are listening. It would freak her out. “Let’s meet at your house. he brought out one of his best two.” Her eyes flared for a moment.” she raised her eyebrows in appreciation. George considered. the gold sparks literally glowing on their own. deliberately ignoring his otherwise healthy caution. Not from here—other planets. “Really? What kind?” What kind? Who was this girl? George warmed to the invitation. It doesn’t always give me warning. Hopi following close behind. I mean I didn’t look at it that way. said. Most of them are places I’ve never seen before.
standing in the door. he didn’t notice the flash of an image of a man in his lab or the growl of warning from a cautious Catori. He rushed in and frantically ascertained that nothing had been permanently damaged. Through his front door. “What the hell?” He slammed his car to a stop and leapt out. he started to pick up the pieces and carefully arrange them on the worktable. and one he hadn’t planned on sharing before it was ready. drawers emptied—for what George had no idea. His mortification was sufficiently deep that he didn’t recognize the additional feeling of malaise. George stopped and stood and took a deep breath of relief. He stood and took some deep breaths while he considered the possible reasons for the break-in. As he pulled up his drive. leaving the car door open as he ran inside. He skidded to a stop before the breakfast table.” George started. he had forgot about her. He almost glowered at her but caught his reaction before it could do any damage.” was all he could say. patently. Catori was nowhere to be seen. George groaned and would have covered his face except that he had to drive. His previous feeling of well-being wasn’t even a memory as he glowered his way home. of things not well. his embarrassment was forgotten and replaced by stunned disbelief. its parts torn into pieces and tossed around. its dark interior a threatening sight. he could see his lab door was open. “I guess so.65 Chapter Seven As George followed Kate's pert pink sports car the ten miles to his place. His front door was open. He swore to himself to get an off-site backup immediately. but what could she possibly come up with next? Her crisp acknowledgement of his other planet dreams had to be certainly the acknowledgement that he was quietly. no more procrastination. he struggled to control his urge to berate himself for being such an idiot. He verified his amplifier and computer equipment hadn’t been tampered with. broken open. His Holo Globe was his secret. to anybody! He had to think fast to anticipate what she had in mind for him now. He didn’t want to talk to anybody right now. He looked in the lab. “Oh no! The bastard!” The Holo Globe had been thrown to the ground. nuts. It was just another bad dream in the midst of several. As the adrenalin subsided. “You should get the Sheriff in here to take prints before you touch too much more. How could he reveal such private details to a total stranger? Correct that. “What could he have been looking for?” Kate said. . His home had been rifled—cabinets opened.
And then he remembered; where was Catori? He brushed past Kate to go outside to look for his cat when she spoke. “Hopi knows where Catori is and is going to get her. She fled to the forest when she smelled a gun on the man and his hostile intentions.” George stopped and turned to face her. She returned his look, frankly, and with concern. Her gold flecks were muted; she was still beautiful, even if he didn’t trust her. The other one was beautiful too, and she ran away, at the worst possible moment. At least this one was sticking around, so far. She continued, her expression earnest, “Look, I know this is all new to you, but I mean you no harm, and I do not think that your dreams or abilities are frivolous. However, you are deep in enemy territory as far as I can tell, and you have no clue as to what you are dealing with.” “You can say that again,” George said ruefully. “I didn’t even know there was an enemy, or that I was in its territory, until just now.” He rubbed his temples; the multiple shocks were bringing back his headache. Just what he needed. He was losing his patience. He looked back at his lab and the woman standing in the door. He re-entered the lab and started to clean up a bit more, something that helped him compose his thoughts. The room smelled faintly of neon and the other gasses that escaped. Expensive gasses at that. Kate watched him and asked no questions. “I guess I should report this to the Sheriff. Twice in a bit over a week, what could he be looking for?” George said, mostly to himself. “I could find out for you,” Kate said simply. George stopped and looked at her directly. Enough was enough. “OK, so how are you going to find out what the thief wanted?” She ignored the hint of exasperation. She maintained her composure with a professional air; her sheer calm settled George down. She could be a great partner, he thought to himself, if I can trust her. “Catori is an excellent mini-panther. She knows much more than you are aware of. I will ask her, and she will show us the man’s actions. Remember she is a cat and her sense of smell is fourteen times better than a human being. I also have my own suspicions of what this is about. I made inquiries, as soon as I saw your black flecks and learned quite a bit about you and your parents. I am surprised that they left you unaware. Your mother probably wanted you to have a normal childhood. One I didn’t have—but I was kept busy
with school and lessons. My father briefed me when I was in college. You apparently, and I do believe you, know nothing.” George went into the living room and sat down. He almost never sat on his own couch; he was usually too busy, but this time, he sat. He didn’t want to look at her. She’d put a private investigator on him or whatever she could do with connections and money. No doubt she knew more than he did. For one, he didn’t care about his background and never asked. His parents died in a car accident nearly ten years before, leaving just enough to let him finish his degrees and start a career. He only cared about his inventions, garden and cat. Secondly, he didn’t want to be a public figure of any sort. So now he was a half -breed with alien genes. No, not happening. He saw Catori come into the garden from the forest, followed by Hopi. He jumped up, relief flooding him, and he ran outside to kneel and hug his cat. “Catori! How are you? What happened?” He petted and examined her; she seemed to be ok, just a little dirty from the forest. He hugged and let Catori lick his face, her warm raspy tongue scraping his cheek and her clean cat breath tickling his nostrils. He felt himself calm down and regain his rationality. Catori had always been able to help him regain his stability. Kate spoke from the sliding glass door. This time, she seemed a little strained. “I know this has been a shock, but if you let me, I want to ask her some questions.” George stood up and walked into the house, Catori hugging his side. Hopi ran ahead and joined Kate. He went into the kitchen and got out a treat for the two cats and put it down on the floor. While they ate he stood and considered Kate, still standing at the door. She looked concerned and a little tense. Ok, so she was still human, George thought. Maybe he should give her a little credit for being cautious, given her status and background. “Ok, go ahead.” “Catori,” Kate began. The cat looked up from its meal. “Show me what the man did and what he was looking for.” Catori promptly went to the front door, which George never locked in his normally safe community; she reached up to paw the door knob, then fell back and backed up with her hackles raised and a growl in her throat. “This was the thief entering; he was hostile and had his gun out.” Kate clarified the pantomime. George had caught most of the message but not the gun image. Catori then went to each of the opened drawers and closets in turn to smell and look into each one. She paid extra attention to several items on the floor.
“This is the sequence the man followed to search your home and some of the items he spent time examining.” Catori then went to the still open door of the lab and stretched into the air with her paws up, then came down and entered the lab. Kate and George followed to stand in the door and watch her. Catori leapt on to the table and almost batted the Globe off the table but stopped short. Next, she prowled around the lab space, paid attention to the computer equipment, sniffing it very carefully, and abruptly gave a yowl and sprinted out of the lab. George jumped out of the way when Catori went tearing past him. “Catori!” He called after her, but she had already stopped running. She came back inside and sat at their feet. “She showed you what the man looked at, but then he realized that she was observing him and pointed his gun at her. That’s when she took off.” “What could you have that he may have been interested in?” Kate asked, squinting at him. “Catori said that the globe and computer were very special to you.” George felt his face go white, realizing how close the thief had come to finding his real secret—his image-in-the-globe secret from just a week before. He was boxed in. He was being hunted and for a barely understood reason. Going to the Sheriff would do very little. They could hunt for the thief, but his home and life were wide open. He needed a better grasp on things. He gambled on the female whom he had to trust because she was the only one that seemed to know what was going on. George looked at Kate. He took a deep breath that was almost a sigh. “Ok, I’ll show you what I have. I don’t think the thief actually knew what he was looking for. Maybe just anything related to your half-breed idea, but I will show you what he missed, and you can help me decide what to do. First,” and George still had some of his wits about him, “I need you to sign a non-disclosure contract.”
Several hours later George had reconstructed his Holo Globe, called the Sheriff, saved the outer room mess as the evidence, took pictures, and finally sat with Kate in the lab, door closed against prying eyes, which might exist. He fired up the Globe and saw with happy satisfaction that it demonstrated the do-re-me scale he played on his keyboard with beautiful rainbow shimmers.
Somehow he knew that he had been hiding that skill. He felt like a kid caught stealing cookies.69 “Ok. for that matter. I think that the cap and the secondary purpose we do not need to share with the general public. please nudge me at my website www.catfirstman. George thought. even from himself. and they are adorable. so here is a recording…since some of this has already come to pass. I’ll just share it. “I want to sell these Globes for art and amusement. the abrupt ending and the scattered light as he awoke.com.000 each once trained! If you want me to Hurry Up and get this Novel finished.” He replayed the tape from the computer of the dream hologram. George could tell she wanted to try it. “You are further along than I suspected. The globe brought it forward in a particularly obvious but still cleverly disguised fashion. or anyone. There was a quiet but definite fire in her gold-flecked eyes. Catori DID have kittens.” “Maybe this Globe can be of use to us for practice?” Kate was speculating.” “What?” “The genes remove a barrier in the human make-up that inhibits the spiritual ability to exercise command over matter.” Kate looked at the now silent Globe and back to George. . I will once I understand how the headache came to pass. more correctly the first chapters of a novel that I will continue. It has been rumored. “Really?” A lovely lame stalling answer. it needs to be worked on.” “I can help. You just proved it yourself. but instinctively hidden by any half-breed. They will be available for $10. The cats woke me up.” ********************** Dear Reader: This ends the short story. that the half-breeds can manipulate matter through thought and intention. Mind-over-matter. “It isn’t safe yet. and I know what they are looking for. While you wait for the continuation. He and a reasonably well rendered Kate in a dreamy embrace.” George looked from the Globe to Kate and back again. “And that experience is what gave me my headache. Kate and George continued their romance. I haven’t worked on it since.
70 END BACK TO TABLE OF CONTENTS .
He stepped into the legs. It felt as if the pod had abruptly shifted in its course or been struck by some object. and almost fell. Only silence filled the speeding space pod. “Gorman!” Zacky called out in alarm. did he not? What strange idea was this? Whose idea was this? He lived in perfect isolation! Zacky turned on his side. Mind? Mind? He had his mind. he lurched.nothing could find it. but he didn’t have to like it. despite the lack of audience or need. but not without its price of emaciation. He rose carefully to stand next to his bed at a height of six feet tall. withered torso and skull-like features with no hair to soften its severity. He inhaled and sighed deeply. The robot flashed around the corner of the storage bay. arriving by the Captain’s side. shrugged it on and pressed shut the mid-torso seam. his ancient voice croaking the command for his robot to arrive by his side. Suddenly. thinning skin and lack of hair. a feat indeed. reached behind to slip on the arms. reminding himself that he might have to deal with the process of aging. He stared at the ceiling of his sleeping bunk. But that was impossible! Nothing could contact his pod . . He reached and gathered from the nearby shelf his form-fitting multi-function captain’s jump suit. A faint reflection from the opposite metallic wall of the pod showed the continuation of his knobby thin legs. lifting its arms to steady him. Eyes that flew open as his body broke into a cold sweat. At least his frozen and suspended wife was spared the process of aging: she was able to sleep until their arrival at the new system. and in one fluid movement sat up in his form-fitted bed. He tried to ignore the gaunt and bony frame that responded to his command to rise. he won’t be taking it back.71 BETWEEN GALAXIES: The First Space Captain Ever “We have his mind.” The words filled the blackness behind his sleep-closed eyes. He felt more comfortable wearing the symbol of his command. Zacky was nearly five-hundred years old. grabbing the side of the bed. The pliable softly shimmering fabric pleased him. swung his legs.
plant and animal DNA "seeds. But now he hesitated. Gorman complied.” and a functioning knowledge of self-sustaining life systems. taking one of his sensor-filled robot hands to turn and hold his Captain’s hand. and he gingerly reached to touch it. He and his pod carried a precious load of DNA. It took only a moment for the robot to send sensory pulses throughout Zacky’s frame. offering a shock-trembling hand. in the supernova. its control lattice has been altered. its unhurried tone contrasted to the speed of his arrival. “except for your transponder chip. “All systems respond normally. except for his wife. “It no longer responds to a null query. He was on a thousand-year mission of salvation of and for his species and culture. He’d left his pulsing and dying star in the Tarantula Nebulae to cross the inter-galactic void at many multiples of the speed of ordinary light. Gorman?” Gorman simply stated. four hundred and fifty years ago.” Zacky felt an involuntary chill wash over his body. It was quiet since. not wanting to acknowledge any interruption of his carefully planned mission and certainly not the possibility of a mental intruder.” The transponder chip! The chip he allowed his family to slip under his skin in a final frantic and tearful moment. He imagined the spot felt warmer than the surrounding scalp. “What about the chip. Zacky could only believe he was the sole survivor of his race.72 “Captain?” Gorman queried in his smooth synthetic male voice. establish habitable conditions and engineer the rebirth of his race and family. The chip had served as a telepathic “aid” to validate and calibrate the exchanged concepts between himself and his family. and their receding system. He had to ask. The chip at the back of his head.” Zacky began to relax. The spot where the chip had been implanted suddenly started to itch. . Despite his age Zacky still tested on par with what had once been the most intelligent and stable members of his society. and it is transmitting a pattern of micro-waves unmapped in my databases. His formidable mental strength was amongst the many qualities that earned him the captain’s chair in their first and only inter -galactic attempt at survival. He was determined to arrive at his target system. of which Zacky was benefactor. social culture (stored on archival crystals). “Take my vital signs immediately!” Zacky commanded. That was until they all died. continuing to hold Zacky’s hand. that permitted orientation and validation between his speeding pod.
At the 500-year mark. his acceleration had been constant since leaving the boundary of the last Light-Mass System. all he could see were smudges of brighter light against a gray diffused background. and Zacky stood panting shallowly. he started to crumple \. He saw nothing and was just about to command the ship's computer to run a comparison between readings from . Something what? Zacky clutched Gorman’s arm and gingerly worked his way across the interior of the ship to his captain’s chair. The chip was compromised. There. just in time to enter the gravitational zone of the target galaxy’s Light-Mass System. Zacky sat in his captain's chair and scanned the panel of indicator displays to ascertain any other clue as to what had intruded upon his mission.500 light-years into his trip. he was completely cognizant that somehow his mission was suddenly and inexplicably in severe danger. the hold of the gravitational laws of the star system snapped. and his free flight began. but the robot caught him. After a moment. something was draining his mental resources with a sudden vindictive pulse. Acceleration under the steady.550 left to reach the next.73 He looked at his robot with alarm. the darkness passed. Meanwhile. Zacky was to reverse the hydrogen thrusters. and with another 91. He saw no indication that anything had changed in his pod's condition since the last time he'd gazed upon the vast expanse of undefined inter-galactic space a mere day-cycle ago. “How do we get rid of it Gorman?!” He asked urgently.450 light-years away from his original home system. He faced the large view screen windows that transmitted what could be seen from outside the pod. hijacked by something else. Simultaneously. "Gorman!" He shouted in a panic. careful not to think any thought that might unsettle his chip’s new owners. Doing so would gently slow the pod’s speed over the ensuing 500 years to a speed of less than one light-year per year. They ran from one side to the other of the command console. gentle thrust of an ion drive would remain unfettered until stopped or reversed. all across the front of the pod. Zacky felt a wave of blackness. At a distance of 89. the inevitable average of the null of deep space. Zacky and his pod were smack in the middle of the utter void of the between-galaxy No-Influence Zone. Traveling close to 278 times the original speed of light. that boundary was located precisely at one light-year from the final edge star of last galaxy. It was clear to him that he had to immediately implement a response level of Full Alert. at what would be exactly 90. as if some other force could sense Zacky’s intention to annihilate its attempt at control.
His moss! What could be going on with his moss? He got up from his chair and forgetting his prior frailty. return a few days later and attend to the newly vacated section of the atrium." the ship's female voice responded. "Life form enclosure reporting increased reaction heat at twice the previous rate. But now the plants were generating increased heat? Zacky couldn't see any visual change in them. He peered through the pane into the enclosure. it would have risen at this news. scanning the opposite moss-covered side for any indication that his precious lifegiving plants were in danger. neutral cream color to a slightly tinged orange-cream color. He’d mentally instruct the moss to move over. replacing the nutrient-gravel. "Ship!" Zacky ordered. and exchanging the exhausted carbon dioxide tank for a full one from the ship’s filtration system. "Yes. After that. There was a humidity around them that was greater than he remembered from his last visit. but when he opened the atrium and stepped in to feel the environment. . fuel and robots. he travelled twenty paces to reach the clearpane enclosed atrium running along the back wall.74 yesterday to today when he noticed the internal heat reading had turned from a cool. life-support system. So far. with long strides rushed to his life support eco-garden at the back of his pod. he could immediately sense the increased temperature. Then he would enter the enclosure and clean the dirty section. When he needed to clean the garden. "Moss? Moss!" he whispered to the clear window." If Zacky still had hair at the back of his neck. It was quite pleasurable to have this living exchange in his otherwise mechanical environment." "Yes. captain. His pod was designed to accommodate two persons. "What are you doing?" After 470 years of travel Zacky had made several critical discoveries about the true sentience of his sustainable moss colony. he could send an intention directing the moss to move to one side of the air-exchange atrium. "Source of the temperature increase please. He squatted next to the first set of plants and reached to touch their softness. A radiation was exciting the molecules to a higher level of activity. Somehow the ground water in the atrium had warmed up. The internal temperature of the ship's atrium had risen by a few degrees. A few days later the moss would have cleared a space for him. He saw no source. nothing made any sense. captain." then after a pause.
"Who are you? Freak voice!" "Look who is calling who a freak. of course! Or at least hugely. whatever this was it was a leech on his mind. head. "Precisely!" the voice returned.. and mission immediately. But it might be a clue to the nature of his tormentor if he could grasp the implication. that he had to figure his way out of this situation and recover control of his body. Life without a body was not possible. The heat subsided after a few excruciating seconds. . just as quietly. you embodied life-force!" The scathing note of depreciation and sarcastic pity came through loud and clear. and Zacky grabbed for the back of his head and frantically looked for escape. Just conceive and do. still standing in the atrium. he thought again. that he now knew how to have a private thought.. "Like I said. Stupid Man!" The voice interrupted Zacky's train of thought. "He thinks a plant will save him. And action! He could do action he suspected without the chip voice catching on to what it meant. He thought to himself very. "Moss? Tell me what is happening? Point my attention in the right direction.75 He appealed on what he hoped was a viable line of communication. and it was just as clear and as gloatingly insulting as ever. He looked around the atrium. with beads of sweat on his face. very quietly." He turned his head a bit in an instinctive tilt to listen for any mental concept that might be from the moss. that's the answer. Since he didn't hear a rejoinder to this extra quiet thought. Pitiful to be an "embodied life-force"? Pitiful? A life force with a body? He'd never heard such a viewpoint before. The gloat continued. but he felt a wave of righteous anger. "And furthermore. testing to see if It would hear him. Action without verbalized thought. Zacky gave a guttural growl. his hand at the back of his head. and silently implored. and Zacky stood panting. The source was the same entity as the one in his dream that woke him up. considering the implication of the insult. Zacky straightened from his position in front of the plants. "Stupid Man!" The rude tone sounding in his head was unmistakable. Zacky was certain of this. how pitiful!" Zacky had no idea who or what the voice actually was. He didn't respond immediately. Zacky continued to stand in the same spot and assessed the magnitude of his predicament. Zacky jerked back. you will be doing as I wish from here on!" Suddenly the chip spot turned white hot. even if it was an internal voice.
feet now resting comfortably on top of the console.76 He looked at the Moss and wondered. or get it out of him. your robot." Zacky's first reaction. no gravity. "Voice!" he said out loud. he indicated to Gorman to come and stand next to him. as that was how he and his family used to communicate. no molecules. left his moss and returned to his captain's chair. he cradled the notepad in his lap and with its stylus started to list out all the things he knew he couldn't control or didn't know about the situation. certainly not the interminable trip between stars. "What do you want with me?" The voice came back in a confident drawl. Zacky involuntarily shivered. There was nothing out there. he would consider that the solitude and other factors had finally driven him mad and his mind out of control. allowing him to gain a bigger view of . your DNA. He'd learned to do this from his mentor long ago as a way to flush out ideas. Unreal. Reclining in his multi-function captain's chair. nothing to promote sentience. Upon a sudden inspiration. he grabbed an electronic notepad from a lap drawer in his console. and it had friends apparently as well. "And how did you come to find my pod?" "Easy. for that matter. determine a plan of attack. If it were not for the fact that a scan showed activity in his otherwise dormant chip. "Your body. A sudden angle occurred to him. keeping his wonder as quiet as possible. Zacky was comfortable with basic telepathy. which was a complete rejection of the voice and its concept. your ship. of that now he was certain. Zacky imperceptibly shook his head. It got in. but this was more than telepathy. somehow. you were the only thing out here. he would have reacted with considerable force and heat. He turned to look out his view screen at the smudges of light. He had to get out of this. and he was going to get it out. He had to collect himself and. your mission and basically. everything." the voice stated with obvious satisfaction. He let the answers come to him in free form without restriction. He suppressed his reaction and continued his query as calmly as possible. If it weren't for his situation. so was the robot and so was his own body. His entire reason for existence was his mission and future colony. Oh. But the ship was functioning normally. We don't need you. It worked well for him. he immediately controlled. thinking in sub-quiet mode. Careful not to think any thoughts. a life force had come to reside in his head. He could only guess at how the voice intended to separate him from his body. Nothing to carry life. just how it was that the voice came to take over the chip and what the blazes it was.
Tenth. 12. What? How? 7. the Moss was heating the water.. Twelfth. it wanted his DNA? Whatever for? (Possible angle to explore for leverage. he straightened up and continued to write more eagerly.77 a situation and to see opportunities and angles. what? Zacky sat and looked out the view screen and tapped the tip of the stylus on the notepad. even if it said it didn't? Zacky involuntarily swallowed. . Fifth. 4.But nothing else (Zacky underlined that last then paused. the entity used waves that the robot could scan. 5. it could permeate materials at will. he began: 1. he didn't know what the thing was. Eighth. then continued his pursuit of items to list: 12. Ninth. 3. it had control of the chip in his head.) 8. did it need his cooperation. No apparent explanation. Zacky winced and looked around the ship. and with unfocused eyes stared out the view screen. Oh—right. The ideas came to him fast and easy. The quiet hum of the ion drive and the trickle of the small waterfall in the moss atrium were the only sounds. Twelfth. Eleventh.after all it had just come in out of deep space to interrupt his thoughts. Third. He hadn't used it on a captor-captive situation before. Sixth. Second. What was here that required waves to operate? He thought of all the voice controls and quickly suppressed the thought that if the chip figured out how to control his voice or how to generate similar wave patterns. he wagered that the chip-voice hadn't figured out how to use his eyes yet and could not see what was being written. then the fight for control of the ship could seriously escalate. First. Seventh. so it could use waves. it needed his body to control the ship and robot? Yes or no? 11. Careful not to think words in his mind. heating the chip. it wanted his material. Now Zacky could feel his thought processes loosen up. noticing a causative shift in his thinking: 9. or something was heating the water.. Extreme problem here. 2.) Yet. it apparently didn't actually need his ship or body or anything else to subsist in an aware state . Fourth.) 6. it seemed that it could influence thoughts but not actual hard material. but what better opportunity? What greater necessity? He sat. it could or couldn't control ships or robots? Did he want to find out? 10. (Important.
over the rest of the afternoon and into the ship's evening he worked. it really came down to Zacky as the owner of the mission being challenged by an interloper who wanted to take over the mission. prepared mixing vials. A hazy plan of action was forming in a quiet. possible bargaining angle. if this was to be a test of skills or will. a long nose and head set on a medium . intelligence and cleverness than the chip-voice interloper. Zacky put down his pad. Thirteen. then so be it. 15. The flask was put in a small warming chamber. shielded from the chip-voice's ability to perceive. and his mind sharp. He set up a metal worktable. and programmed code into the lab console and prepared a mix of raw free-form DNA pieces. Zacky went to the back of the cabin. Now. Fourteen." Zacky stated. satisfying his own desire for something pleasing. "Captain?" "We must prepare a life form" "Yes. Fifteen. with his robot's assistance. Zacky could and would simply not let that happen. did it know that the ship had to decelerate at the exact right time or run the risk of shattering against the next Light-Mass System boundary? Zacky made a star. His lanky. or at least all the materials of the mission. He extracted a body-starter-egg from a frozen vial and placed it in a generous serving of nutritious gel set in a larger wide-mouthed flask. a sterile and metallic environment. where his laboratory materials had been carefully packed for the flight. but to him as warm and cozy as a fire-warmed living room. rose and stretched. and he would finish it as captain in command. private part of his mind. putting his notepad away.78 13." Zacky put his pad in its drawer. captain. He looked around his comfortable pod—to many. and that's what mattered. The material was being prepared for body generation. 14. He had ideas. He would finish out his thousand-year mission. opposite the atrium. and he set the temperature set for incubation. "Gorman. He was convinced now that he was of equal or greater strength. invented a four-legged knee-high creature with silky tan fur. extended lab counters. He used his species design program and. did the interloper have a clue as to what Zacky's mission actually was? Would it matter? The ship and its design were far more limited than the chip may at first consider. and tall frame was still strong.
It was quiet with only the ship’s sounds in the background.” he stated simply out loud as he stood before his view screen. and not interested in playing the part of an amenable captive. there will be many more. right?” Zacky was annoyed.” Zacky announced to his robot as he returned to his front console. and make two—a male version and a female version— and then experiment with reproduction. well. what brought you back?” Zacky responded dryly. “Gorman..” “Explain please? What is your understanding of the nature of things?” “Why? You already know everything. though he didn’t want to demonstrate weakness. a medium tail. Zacky probed. I do not think I’m a body. He was very satisfied with his day’s work and had almost forgotten his mental intruder entirely. he was not concerned that his pet could expire before a comfortable life span had concluded. though Zacky reluctantly perceived intelligence behind the brute tone of domination. no. not of a specific nature. then instructed.79 sized neck. And the spot at the back of his head gave a little tingle and itched. prepare my meal. If he liked it. pervasive nature. his stomach growled. Although he had worked for hours and was under severe threat. Zacky stood for a minute more. “I need to eat. Every culture holds its delicious differences in method and nuance. “This is our first attempt. he could return. controlled his annoyance. Gorman. my mission? Why?” Voice was silent.until I take it over of course. golden tawny eyes. Since he was choosing reliable elements from many prior successful animal designs.. he selected the "mix" option and left the lab alone to perform his DNA instructions.” The voice smacked of smugness. This time he chose a non-reproducing asexual mode. “Whatever for? You think you are a body don’t you?” Chip-voice was back. When his design was finished. “Ah. and for a final touch. a vegetable diet. Not surprisingly. our understanding is of a general. he enjoyed the designing of what he hoped would be a pleasant pet. So I am interested in yours. “And even though I shouldn’t bother with your ill-humor. “What do you want with me. Because he had to know.” “No?” “No. took a deep breath. “It was nice and quiet while you were busy elsewhere.” .
. with an itch at the back of the head.” Zacky gagged. Zacky pulled up a stool and began to eat. thank you. Zacky leaned over the tray and sucked in the different smells and let out a big breath in satisfaction. It smelled heavenly. the moss water. Zacky did nothing. He covered the voice intrusion. Zacky sat at the console and made a few notes in the ship’s log. that makes it easier for us. the programming included tastefulness and when Gorman brought the tray laden with different types of dishes. contrasted to other ratios for other days. the pain. “Say it now!” the voice commanded. Zacky’s mouth began to water in anticipation. and then he placed a surreptitious query to the ship’s computer to research any reference to bodiless invaders. “So they include olfactory and taste stimulators in your programming do they?” Voice intruded again. The flame receded. Zacky slowly put down his eating utensil. “Say it. He wasn’t on a 1000-year mission to be calling some other entity “Master.” Gorman went to the back of the pod and proceeded to busy himself with his already programmed instructions for the captain’s meal.” No. say ‘Master’” the voice insisted. While Gorman worked. “For you. one of his daily duties. Suddenly. “Say it!” the voice said again. He shut the data entry drawer just as Gorman was finishing. Thankfully.” The Voice interrupted again.80 “Yes Captain. Master would be fine. sensing an impending fight. Stimulators in his programming? Where were these people from? “You think loudly for an embodied life-form. day number 171650. This meal would emphasize a higher portion of protein over carbohydrate or fats. and the pet design. “Thank you Gorman! Well Done!” The robot set the tray down on the counter in the personal-care section. “Voice! Do you call yourself anything?” Zacky started on his line of questioning. Zacky grabbed at the spot and nearly fainted. a white-hot flame of pain shot on at the back of his head. Zacky was doubled over sweating and panting. even as he chewed his food.
“Listen Voice.. The voice hadn’t come back with a rejoinder.” Zacky gambled with what they didn’t know.” the voice sneered. if not maintained properly. And if you kill me. Yours seems to be an accomplished one. it seemed like it had vacated the chip again. “Perhaps you could educate us as to the details of your mission? After all. “And perhaps you could come to your senses and act like civilized people rather than greedy parasites?” “You teach us. if only for a while. They had ruined a perfectly decent meal. you have found a bundle of failure and disappointment. Zacky rose for his end-of-day walk on the exercise machine and after that. Matter of fact.” . A pause. The silence extended long enough for Zacky to collect himself and to start eating again. It wasn’t until Zacky was relaxing in his sleeping bunk. A very high tech meal. Silence. you lose everything.” Zacky couldn’t resist his response.” He refrained from adding any little comment like “Ha!” At the end of his declaration.you have no idea how frail this old body ca n get!” He felt the voice presence pull back. Indeed. that the response came back. it is our intention to learn and absorb all the cultures that we encounter. Now his food tasted flat. sleep. leaving you with nothing. “Perhaps you could share a little of that last thought?” Came the interruption. The Voice was smooth and soothing now. reflecting on the amazing events of his day.” Zacky paused for effect. “I at least have the data. and Zacky made a face as he listened.81 “No. but really. “We won’t kill you. Zacky surmised that it was off having a conference about his last statement. “You almost did a second ago.. without the training and knowledge that I have. you think you found a mother lode of opportunity in my little pod.. in a short period of time. “I almost had a heart attack. It was calculated precisely to maintain his health and lengthen his life.yet..” Zacky flatly gasped out loud. These people had no idea what they are getting into. “And we will ruin more. after all we want you to abandon your body to us! The less you enjoy it the better!” Zacky forced the rest of his meal down. for an embodied life-force variety. and we will talk. this whole project will explode and shatter into little atoms that will then dissipate.
too much. thank you for that. he spoke out loud. Zacky read with eagerness. “Voice!” Zacky demanded. leaving its planets uninhabited by any intelligent group. he rose and paced the front deck of his pod.” was the reply. inter-planetary and inter-galactic conflicts seemed to have occurred periodically throughout the reported history of the known universe. For that matter. the Glimmers.” “Glimmerforce.. suppose this group. for example. just suppose. . “Yes?” The voice seemed a bit surprised. for example. inter-star. For effect. if it was of the same species as the one in his head. it had much. As he paced. but he had to do this right. He slept keeping one internal ear open. “Now what is your plan here? Do you intend to fail like you have before?” Zacky could feel the surprise. and it had been reported by a multi-planet culture. I will call them Life Force A.. for the moment. Glimmers.82 Zacky figured that this was the furthest he was going to get.” He paused for effect. without location or physical form. there was no further data and the planets seemed to have continued for a while in a satisfactory state. arrogance for its own good.” “Glimmerforce! Very well. Then the culture mysteriously died off. “Let us suppose there was a life force species. to deliberately wander the universe. which transmitted reports off world during the period of invasion. just. “Fail? What fail? Us?” Zacky had a slight edge. which decided. There was only one other reported instance. But. in the event that he might be able to eavesdrop on the voices. The next morning the ship had a report ready for him. “Then. The no-body life form type of invasion was much rarer. at its inception.” “Five Hundred to be exact. Zacky shivered. After a certain period of time. He gathered that the invading force was relatively intelligent and perhaps had even attempted to mimic the culture. Reports from visiting scouts contained no explanation. Zacky now had an angle he could use. tried to jumpstart a society or two. “Yes!” the Voice responded. There had been various periods of invasion by different life forms taking over territory belonging to other life forms. well the Glimmers.
pains..In short the whole gamut. the Glimmers might have been getting an idea that they weren't quite doing it right. operating on the basis of taking over a going concern. inside his head.. "You want to run a society? You need to learn how to be a society." "We were doing everything right! They just wouldn't survive! It wasn't our fault! We just needed better stock!" "Well then the plan needed tweaking to ensure that the projects that the Glimmers started were maintained and survived longer than.83 “Good. "We are here.." the answer came simply. He stated it as complete fact." he let it trail off." Zacky gambled." .. nuances. don't interrupt what is happening and try to run it. rather than investing themselves in the actual body of their species. "Well let’s say that after five hundred tries.. emotions. joys. "So. You don't know what you are doing!" It was quiet. today you are going to listen to me.." "A Generation! One even survived Two generations!" "Ah. he was sure they did. "What is your idea?" Glimmer spoke finally. But over time their opportunities became less and less until we come to today. hungers. if you are going to be outside then stay out. After all... rather than actually experiencing the life it was managing. and so the Glimmers.” Zacky was nodding as he walked in a wider circle around the inside of his ship... "Glimmer where are you?" Zacky finally asked out loud. Outside forever you will remain if outside is where you want to be. But.." Zacky paused for a bit. He continued. "What I propose is training you on how to run a society. From Inside The Game! Not outside... and to experience all of its aches." Zacky stated this simply and without any emotional stress at all. it would be fairly pleasant to have company and some help in the coming years. "a few years. using my tools and supplies of course. "I have an idea for you. "Today we try again!" "No. He paused behind his captain's chair to look out the view screen.. the Glimmers tried to continue to remain separate." "We took good care of them!" Zacky grimaced. good.
The pet wagged its little tail. "Excellent.. "So. "So Glimmer One how do you like your new home?" Zacky was asking the Pet... "Because if you don't. then you will listen to my plan... which hadn't been in the original DNA programming.. we can look into more advanced models..... which was licking his hand with a small black tongue.would you prefer different colors? Very good. ### A few months later: Zacky sat holding a small tan colored fur ball. again.. and the tawny eyes were large and luminous." Zacky plopped down in his captain's chair ready for a long conversation with the voices in his head.84 "Why would we want to deal with an embodied life force?" Another Glimmer spoke in a snide tone." END ### BACK TO TABLE OF CONTENTS . you will fail. then I will prepare several more of these for your tribe.. His pet had been born successfully. And if I understand this picture right.. And once we have enough of you moving well on your training." one Glimmer seemed to be addressing another.. They also held another intelligence. and it licked harder." "Correct. you really would prefer having a successful life form to call your own.
“Goodnight.. but she was worried about her daughter. and it came again. Avena turned and walked to the front living room. had settled into a deep sleep when a knock was heard at their topside door. Comet avoided her mother’s eyes. Avena sighed and turned back to the room. “Well she said ‘Goodnight’ nicely enough. put on her robe and went up the inside stairway of their hillside home to the door. Avena and her husband. keeping a cheerful tone. Avena knew that if she tried to discuss it with her husband that she would only upset him.” Avena let her words hang. And her daughter refused to discuss what it might be. Comet. watching the door at the end of the hallway close with a concerned and puzzled look on her face. Oscar.” Avena replied.85 It is 2 AM on the Moon Greeley (Do you know where your daughter is?) Chapter 1. absorbed in his own thoughts. and she wondered if she’d heard the sound correctly. He probably didn’t hear her. Avena’s eyes opened. its lights twinkling. It seemed like there was nothing she could do about the invisible chasm between them. a chasm that mysteriously appeared over the previous half year without explanation. and came to stand behind her husband’s chair.. close the door to her room. “Goodnight. deeply worried. He didn’t respond. Several hours later that night. She noticed that her perimeter alarms were off and reminded herself to remind herself to turn them on at night. She peered through the simple but functional viewing hole and saw a badge of authority. he knew even less than she did about what could be done.She seems to be OK. She got up. shaking her head to herself. she didn’t have anything more to say. A polite sound that was totally out of place. his outline silhouetted against the dusky horizon..” The feeling of finality was impossible to shake as Avena watched her daughter. She looked out of the windows at the darkening valley below. the expression was set on her sixteen-year-old face as it disappeared behind the gap between the door and the door jamb. leaving Oscar snoring lightly in bed. Her husband was sitting in front of the bay windows.. Still too sleepy .
she looked at the officer. “Hold on. Rockyhill? Have you been arguing? Is there something that could explain this?” The Officer looked professionally concerned. Avena stood back. She tried to open the door. “Allow me. The daughter who couldn’t possibly be missing. She looked around at the shamble of books. It blinked a light indicating the home . Rockyhill? We believe your daughter just tripped the airlock identification system. and the Officer launched into the door with a shoulder. but it was jammed. demanding. Comet could have left without creating any noise. “Where the blazes did she go?” Avena’s question sounded small and inadequate in the face of her missing daughter. she shoved at it with her shoulder trying to get it to budge. “Mrs. Avena internally shook herself. Avena turned and rapidly ran down the short steps. “Yes?” Of the slightly familiar Officer of the Peace.” the Officer was now behind her. alerted on a level much higher than her sleepy body would permit. Avena shook her head. He looked down at her upturned face from his height of six-foot something. then coming back to herself.86 for any emotional response she opened the door and asked.” and she ran and grabbed her phone unit from its station in the hall. and we wish to verify her presence. The emergency exit stairs had been deployed. stepping over her teen’s clothing carelessly scattered across the floor. outgoing. He was easily half a foot taller than Avena. with the alarms disconnected beside them. staring at the open window and the darkness outside. She walked into the center of the room. allowing the officer to reach in and pull the chair away from the handle that it was shoved under. involuntarily shivered. then down the hall to her daughter’s bedroom. “Think! Think! Do something! This has gone too far!” Avena stopped. “Was there any problem Mrs. “Oscar! Come here! Comet’s gone!” Hearing her own voice at full volume put a stamp of validity on the situation. Avena’s mind started to function. the open window and Comet’s workstation against the opposite wall. Entering the spacious room. music canisters and bedding. his brown eyes were gentle but cautious below his short-cut black hair. suddenly turned and hollered to the room down the hall as loud as she could. and the blinds pulled back.” Avena was immediately alert. A crisp outside draft entered the room as Avena and the Officer surveyed the scene. Her perimeter alarm was off. The thin door cracked open. they saw the far window was open.
he came to stand in the bedroom doorway. Avena had the network back up in a minute and hit her emergency number. “So Officer. “Comet has blown the hous e. “Glad to meet you again Officer Pace.And he’s a certified genius too. The Officer watched her and commented.” Officer Pace responded with his own handshake. then dashed further down the hall. “Mr. yanked open a closet and threw back on the disconnected breaker she knew had to be there. “Zacky!” She said into the phone to the sleepy voice that answered. but then a colder thought hit her—Comet was in physical trouble. The nosy neighbors.” Avena didn’t elaborate and returned to inspect the room and its contents.” Avena answered.. wearing loose-fitting shorts and t-shirt. Just then. on one foot. Rockyhill. too.” Avena made a face. you have to come help me find her!” A few confused mumbles were heard from the other end. Well now they had lots of fuel for that fire! Avena was sure the town gossip was already burning the lines over the Officer’s visit in the middle of the night. to put on a shoe. He surveyed the broken door and looked at the Officer. “Just come!” And she hung up. The ones who always thought they were perfect and that there was something morally wrong with Avena and her family. He can help. He started hopping. She stared at it for a split second. a tousled and sandy haired Oscar came shuffling down the hall. Her hysteria was rising as she returned to survey the abandoned room —where was her daughter? She noticed suddenly she didn’t feel well—a little faint: something was gnawing at her physically too! ‘Not now!’ she mentally implored. “Yes. Their . Shoes on. She loves him. what do you know about this?” Avena briefly stared at her husband.87 network had been disengaged. Sometimes she wanted to scream at her evenpaced husband and tell him to hurry it up.. glad to meet you again. “Officer Pace works outside the civic center. I had to call your neighbors to let me in as your network wasn’t answering.” Then he continued. thinking at first it was one of her adrenal attacks. and left through an air lock. But tonight. Avena looked at the officer after finishing the call.” Oscar explained to his puzzled wife. “That’s her big brother. move along. and quit being so polite. “I have no data at all. and I see him often at lunch time. he reached out a hand. she realized she was glad to see him being civil and maintaining sanity in the face of the situation.
Avena kept the knowledge to herself. She saw the correspondence console open on the workstation and the light flickering.her daughter’s account! Avena had previously noticed that she could get into her daughter’s account when it had been left open but had refrained from snooping. she was not the daughter who had said goodnight planning to go through an airlock while her parents slept. And. where his mom stood. Avena reluctantly had to admit to herself that the daughter she had been trusting was not the daughter who had let herself out of the window. But Comet was not easily bullied. had thrown a gauntlet. Comet had gone too far and now matters had to be handled differently.. No. until today. would be broken. he was ready to go anywhere at the hint of excitement. Avena with nearly equal reluctance realized that she was going to have to use her own cleverness and guile to outsmart a very smart daughter. and now was no exception. but Avena refused to succumb. Avena let her daughter think that her mother was the slower and stupider of the two. He looked like a younger version of his dad but without the easy paced drawl. Somehow he always . Today. Comet. it was all fast and quick and lightly repeated before he was on his way to the next subject. Her daughter was entitled to privacy. sometimes too strong—one side ill drained the other. as unfortunate as the need was to call upon those talents. or was she? How far down the wrong path had Comet actually gone? Dread was threatening to drown Avena in its cold sweat. Instead. in his world. Something was making them sick. And. Avena started to inspect the room for clues as to what could be going on. and whoever she was mixed up with. now it was time to enforce ethical behavior. In his early twenties. Comet was not stupid. he must have run to jump on his scooter and jet over the small hill between their homes at top speed. He stood catching his breath. they would be called. clamping her lips into a tight line as she looked at the room. probably leaving it still smoking at the front door.. but Comet was doing something terribly stupid. Avena stood staring at the console grappling with the implications of the situation. Avena realized. only needing two huge strides to get from the hallway to the center. whoever had lured that same daughter into what should have been obvious danger. the privacy barrier. Well. was no match for a professional team. but it was not meant to bolster illegal activities. Comet.88 mother-daughter bond was strong. “What’s going on?” A sandy haired Zacky bounded into the room. and whoever. and Avena was going to take up the challenge. Keeping one ear on the conversation that Oscar and the Officer were having about her daughter’s identification being logged at the airlock after curfew.
If she enters any of the colonies on this side. The Officer held up a hand. "No. “We don’t know. “She just went out the window and the airlock!” “How long ago?” Was Zacky’s immediate question. Comet might be on her way there. showing the remaining phrases of a conversation with one of Comet’s friends: “And no matter what happens. “Is there anyone with her? Was anyone following her? Can you get a trace on her?” Zacky fired off not taking any breath. “Zacky. “Where was she headed?” Zacky asked. She looked at Zacky.. who was looking around his sister’s room.” And he came over. why not now? Lena lived outside the public airlock in a private compound. it flickered to life. No matter what happens with what? What were they talking about? What was going on? Avena had a sudden idea—what if Comet had gone to Lena’s? She had gone there in the past when upset at her mother. “Just a moment. there are no reports. As she sat on the stool in front of the panel. yet. Avena stood up.” said the Officer. she had an investigation of her own to tend to.” He then addressed the family. she didn’t care. “And perhaps one of you can fill me in on what’s been happening with her lately?” Oscar immediately began to speak.” the three responded in unison. that he would find it.” It was from Lena. come see this. He finished up quickly.89 radiated a genuine affection and warmth for people no matter his situation and was already a favorite of the community. “She’s gone!” Avena launched. “Maybe she’s there?” “Maybe!” He said. She knew that if there was anything odd to find.. She looked at the blinking console and dived over to see what it had to offer. telling the officer the beginning of what he knew of the story. and we will have a trace on her. I will always be there for you.” He looked at a special device on his wrist and fiddled with it for a few moments. She can’t stay out there long without help. Even though Avena knew Oscar’s version was incomplete. the identification system will let us know where she is. . Avena discreetly tried to see what it was by standing up a little taller. not giving the two men time to speak. “About half an hour ago now.
she was on a mission. Individual homes. all of them orbiting a giant gas planet. The moon-planet itself had an atmosphere. which included low lying hills. no answer. but it was too thin for human use. the Mother Planet. Go see what your sister has been doing.90 Avena tried to call Lena’s communicator. The entry code is ‘gotcha’. . flexing in the stresses only it could collect at its immense height and size. with domes compensating for weak atmospheres. I’d installed a copy robot program a few weeks back. “To Lena’s. Oscar and the Officer stopped talking just as Avena brushed past them. had their own air support and air locks. The Mother Planet orbited a much larger orange sun. Lena’s house. She had to know where Comet was. about 3500 miles in diameter. Well.” Avena prepared to leave. belonging to those who had the resources to build or buy such. There were two sister moon-planets also settled. with an iron core. and could stand outside of the settlement domes. as well. Zacky’s doing research. scattering sand all over her front yard. A person could barely breathe outside the controlled atmosphere dome and usually fainted within minutes of trying to. There were many such domes all over the small planet. And she had another angle. plastic-silicon alloy it covered 100 square miles in a circular footprint around the settlement. keep in touch. But. Lena’s mother.” and before anyone could protest. pliable. Avena was on her own scooter. Really a giant bubble. It was to one of these homes that Avena was headed towards now. “Zacky. The air dome glimmered overhead. spinning out at maximum speed. the purpose of the dome was to hold a sufficient concentration of breathable and plant-arable gasses to support farming and human life. she wasn’t going to wait until the morning. There were airlocks all around the perimeter of the dome and entry or exit identification was logged as a matter of routine. no answer. It’s on the front console. reminiscent of Jupiter’s Ganymede of the old Sol system. “Where are you going?” Oscar called. She’d clean it later. Made of a clear. Avena jetted over the top of the ridge which held the road to her house as well as other homes overlooking the settlement valley. actually a large moon. no answer. Chapter 2. I’ll go to Lena’s house. it was after midnight. The edge of the dome was at the bottom of the crest she was now riding down.
The device connected to a compressor built into the scooter. A sleepy looking older woman. A little door camera off to the side swiveled to point at her face. and then distractedly remembered that the occupants were probably asleep. Avena nodded thanks. stopped.. Lena looked puzzled. Lena’s mother stood there. She pounded again. probably Lena’s mother. looking bedraggled in her robe but awake. paused. A half-awake Lena opened it. then pounded on the door with her fist. She approached the front door and punched the entry buzzer. She did. this barely made any noise on the solid wood door. and knocked on the door. Avena got the mask working. the air pressure transferred. the entry lights went on. was on the other side. out of the window tonight-your daughter may know where she went!” With that. She kicked her scooter back to life and headed for Lena’s house. Avena couldn’t keep the urgent desperation out of her voice. and started to look for a rock to throw at the window. seemed to realize she shouldn’t try to hide anything. The scooter would suck in and compress the surrounding air as it ran. raising her eyebrows above dark eyes set in a pale face. Avena left her scooter and looked at the darkened house. and feed it to the rider. entered the lock. It was very. punched in her ID. strode straight down the hallway. and the inside door opened.. In her despair. “Where is Comet? You just wrote her?” Avena demanded. and the front door blinked that she should enter. “Is Comet in there? She’s missing. The inspection screen underneath came on. waited as the doors closed behind her and opened ahead.91 She reached the truck-sized air lock at the bottom of the hill. looked away with a calculating expression.There seemed to be a faint light on in one of the front rooms. She stood aside and indicated Lena’s room where the door was slightly open. She truly didn’t care. walking into an intermediate entrance. “Yes?” The woman asked. It took about fifteen minutes to reach the entrance to the home set along one side of the well-maintained street in the outlying suburb. The front door closed. She wondered at the silence for a moment. and time could be extremely important. this was an emergency: her daughter was missing. the contrast between the two heightened by the camera and the night. she’d forgotten how late it was. which was apparently broken. reached into the seat of her scooter and pulled out her air mask. very quiet inside. and turned to indicate her comm center sitting on her .
.92 bed. out in the park. Lena had to know something of use. Comet’s life could be in danger. “Who’s that?” Lena now looked surprised. entered some data. Avena resisted raising her voice: Lena’s mother was watching the exchange carefully if not without a touch of suspicion of her own. With a weak dismissive wave of her hand. “Take a look. turned and held it up to show Avena... “Lena listen. she said.No matter what happened. for that matter. a NDE drug user. went to her comm center. the crowded market areas where all trading was done between the planets and the other worlds. looking from her to her mother. “You wrote Comet just a little over an hour ago that you’d always be there for her.” “Her boyfriend!” Avena said not able to disguise her shock. “About four months I guess. but already knew there would be nothing on it. She left through the air lock. embarrassed. “Where does he live? Does he have a family?” Avena had to have a lead and Lena had to have data.. . She felt sicker as she studied the boys face. with the distinct markings of a chronic Near Death Experience. lifted it. I don’t know anything.” Of course. Obviously.. the well of deception had to be extremely deep. Avena looked at Lena. Avena looked at a picture of an older boy. waited. almost a man. there’s no evidence of where she went..” Avena almost went to pick up the comm center. you must have an idea!” Avena couldn’t believe that Lena didn’t know anything. going steady. “She’s out the window – where did she go? Surely.Why? She’s gone!” “She’s gone?” Lena seemed a bit mystified. she must be off to see him. “How long has she been seeing him?” Lena lowered her eyes. Avena took the only tack left to her. next to the market near the air locks where all the traders meet. The perfect place to hide a relationship or anything else. She confronted Lena. “Her boyfriend.. a stricken look in her eyes. Everything came to the market. He looked vaguely like one of the identification shots of members of a smuggler tribe she’d seen on the public notice boards at work.” Lena’s aloof attitude turned to worry.But of whom wasn’t clear. I can feel it.” “How? Where?” “After school..
. The night outside was advancing and getting colder. and. No sign of Comet on any network. but Avena had lived on Greeley 101 her whole life. Reaching the air lock.” Nodding at the mother. Avena had reached the decision that she would visit the Safron residence but not alone.” “And his?” “Kyte Safron. “Mom.” Oscar’s calming tone came through the hissing in her ear. but her mouth could feel the bite of the dropping temperature. She fought the tears that threatened to fill her eyes. using the despair to strengthen her resolve to get the situation under control instantly.. Avena debriefed to Oscar as she rode. In this period..Comet was in serious trouble and probably more than just moral. She cleared her throat. are you there?” She demanded of the static that met her ear. Avena let herself out.” Avena knew Lena would tell her nothing more. The day/night cycle on the moon-planet and its two sisters was difficult for newcomers to grapple with. though Zacky had hacked into the correspondence archives on the network. “Oscar. took a deep breath and hit her comm button on the side of her mask. you gotta see this!” Was the alarmed and excited reply.. “Oscar!” She shouted into the speaker. Avena kicked on her scooter. even as she gunned the scooter back towards the air lock. She remembered to tell Oscar to tell the Officer that she thought the boyfriend resembled a member of the smuggler tribe posted in the detective office." Please let me know if anything comes up.. She was thoroughly accustomed to the cyclic length changes of the three moon-planet system. “Gotta see what?” .Her name is Crystal Safron. She looked up to see Greeley 102 disappearing behind the black disc edge of the giant gas Mother Planet. along with the cold.93 “He lives with his mother still. the darkness around her deepened. “Yes Avena. and obtained an update on their side of the search.. up the hill over in the next valley dome.. as it circled around to the other side of the planet.. It was time to leave.” Lena’s mother was starting to shuffle. “Thank you Lena. Then she rode in silence. and she cursed the stupidity of the younger generation. the night was in three stages – two stages counter-lit by the sun reflecting off of one or other of the two sister moon-planets and one stage in total eclipse darkness. “Zacky!” She called into her speaker. “Mom.. Her face mask kept her nose and eyes warm.
and a drug-dealing criminal. and it wasn’t even her music.94 “She’s been talking sex and drugs with this guy for months. got on her scooter and gunned it all the way home. pushing her scooter.And as far as I can tell she’s been hiding drugs for his gang somewhere around here.. paused. “Mom?” The sound came faintly from the mask in Avena’s hand.” she muttered to herself. Avena stood there in silence even as the opposite door opened and waited for her. if she had been a little braver herself when confronting hostile situations. clever daughter. A small voice at the back of her mind protested that perhaps it wasn’t all as it seemed? Perhaps—but Avena had to brace herself for the worst. She took a deep breath.. I’ll be there in just a moment. her daughter. Avena hoped that the worst wasn’t true. as a government employee. and thus.. at the moment. “Oh my God.. and she took off her mask as soon as she could. to go from a strangebehaving but reasonably recognizable daughter. Who would have known? The small voice suggested that she may have known.” She trailed off. closing her eyes. we’ll be visiting someone tonight. It was a surreal feeling. and continued walking towards her home. it was time to face the music. She took a deep breath. and she continued to pump herself with energy and determination.. staring blankly at the opposite wall as the door behind her closed. looked at the ceiling and rubbed her face in disbelieving resignation. by connection. Her feeling of illness was constant. to one that had joined forces with the other side. The aftermath in her private world would be dealt with long after the current situation had played itself out.” Avena had entered the air lock. . She couldn’t. and. She forced herself to walk out of the air lock. believe what was unfolding before her. She stretched a crick in her neck. A side that Avena dedicated her life to eradicating. “Hold on Zacky. well. even as Zacky was detailing possible scenarios. she had to assume that it was. to her clever son. but.. but had to. apparently an equal but opposite. and then uncharacteristically cut the signal in the middle of his protesting questions. So her daughter was acting like a slut. But this voice trailed off at the receipt of an internal glare of scathing hostility. until the entire situation was unfolded and confronted.
and in the now bitter cold of the deep night it needed more than a scooter visit. “Forget it officer. he’s in the next dome. Once they were all settled into the Peace Officer All-Terrain Vehicle. It was set on a moderately well-kept street with some potted import flora set around. Safron. that was a bit further. Oscar looked at her stricken face.” Zacky glanced at the two older men. She bounded down the short flight of stairs. and I’m going there now.” The vehemence of her statement startled the older men. The controlled atmosphere of the vehicle was deceptively reassuring as they traveled between domes.” Oscar interrupted her resting moment as they pulled up in front of another darkened house. Officer Pace looked at Oscar. I need a location for the Safron Residence. Officer Pace.” and he showed the m ap to his mother.. “but it may be several hours before we find him.. Rockyhill. Zacky. “Zacky. “Men.” he fiddled with his console.” Avena leaned back into her padded seat with her eyes closed.” Officer Pace began.” Avena interrupted the discussion. “Just a minute Mom. the map. are you going to help me?” Avena demanded primarily of her husband.” “I’ve put a tracer on the entire network. who faintly raised his hands in acquiescence. Twenty miles.I can’t sit at all. Oscar and Officer Pace were seated in the living room apparently engrossed in printed conversation from Comet’s past correspondence. The lights were off.” “Now Mrs. “Officer.95 Chapter 3. and anyone can mess with that. Cover me if you wish but someone is going to pay. this is more than just a justice matter. . unaccustomed to Avena in any state other than agreeable attempts at understanding. commonly known as the “ATV.” “Well I know his name. at the house.” Officer Pace was saying. “Let’s go!” he answered. “Yup. I can only give you the system identification. “Avena. The lights were on as she slid to a stop outside the topside door. Avena looked out the tinted window of the vehicle. “I don’t know. shall we use your vehicle?” And they were out the door. and I’m not sitting still. “Who is this guy?” she overheard Oscar demanding of Zacky. “Zacky.
” . roused.” Her visitors looked at her. “is in danger.” indicating Avena. “your friends too if they must. Safron looked puzzled. Avena closed her eyes briefly in selfcomment. but this time it worked. looking from Avena to the Peace vehicle on the street behind her. She was thin. we have good reason to believe that your son is involved in illegal activities and that her daughter.” Avena must have made a face as Mrs. Safron where is your son? I assume my daughter is with him?” “Please come in. and turned on the light. one moment.” Mrs. but was oddly not surprised. “And it seems that you didn’t know!” “Mrs. “But of course. She paused. opened the door.” She turned to go sit on a couch in the front room. my daughter Comet has apparently been seeing your son.” she shuffled towards the back of the small house. Safron.” she waved out the door. and in fact. She paused for a moment. “Yes?” she asked with a slight off-planet accent. Mrs. she again rang a bell. Safron then said. “Kyte?” she cracked the door. then opened it fully. She wore a comfortable light shirt and pants of the popular home wear variety. he said goodnight. From the front door it was obvious that the room was empty. brown hair. Safron. but that was hours ago.” she explained to the four of them a few moments later. Walking up to the front door. “He’s not here!” she exclaimed. and then rang again. Safron. is your son here?” Avena asked simply with no explanation. short and of medium age with short cut. raised her eyebrow. "Kyte?” she in quired of a closed door. and.. and I can’t keep track of him. Mrs. normal home. and she’s missing. “Mrs. “and who are you?” “Mrs.. Safron came back to the front door. climbed down to the street and tensed her body in a flex-stretch and let go. In a few minutes. “So I did think he was here. a woman looked at her through the door hole and opened it. Officer Pace was the first to speak. “My son is usually home. “Oh is that nice girl your daughter? She’s been visiting quite often. “Mrs. but he’s an older boy now. Safron looked at Avena. knocking softly.96 and it looked entirely like a quiet. she seemed resigned more than surprised.
“Officer Pace. and then realized it was a question she could answer safely.” she looked up pleadingly at the officer. Safron’s hand and strode out the front door.97 Mrs. and then addressing the Rockyhill family. looking all the world like someone who’d been told that her dog had bitten the mailman for the twentieth time and was now going to be put down.. She seemed defeated in some way but didn’t speak immediately. “Where did he go to Mrs. looking at a spot in the air between the three of them. Safron looked at the officer. Officer Pace driving at a moderate speed across the town they had visited. She was closely followed by the rest of the visitors. looked up at the ceiling. Safron intently. I always find him at market. Officer Pace spoke. She looked at the floor. silently indicating the vacated open room with an inclination of his head. quickly. “Slightly over a year ago there was another disappearance of a girl. Safron looking through the narrowing slit to the street as it shut. Safron. it was. rising. Safron and Officer Pace had spoken of. They rode in silence for a bit. Avena assumed they were now en route to whatever market Mrs.. what was that all about?” . then at Avena and Oscar. Officer Pace seemed to understand something that he didn’t share with the Rockyhills. He sat back thoughtfully massaging his hands together while looking at Mrs. Safron?” She continued to address the spot in the air.” said Officer Pace. the Revel Matter. resignedly. no matter what is happening. Now aware that her situation was due in part to making assumptions. down the front stairs.” he responded to the query on everyone’s face.. Avena had seen and heard enough.. No questions. Avena didn’t look back at the house until the front door was almost all the way closed— Mrs. into the cool night. pursed her lips. I believe it was called. “He always goes to market. Apparently. She started. Safron?” he asked softly.” she trailed off obviously hoping that this was enough information for the Officer. crossed herself absently. and I thought I’d seen her before. He threatened to burn our little home down if I ever mentioned it again to anyone. “Too Far Mrs. “we need to leave now. has he?” she said cryptically. and climbed straight into her seat in the ATV. “So he’s gone too far this time. I asked my son about it randomly one day because it was on the wire news. silently shook Mrs. she rose. “Thank you very much Mrs. she spoke. and then left her reverie to speak.
and have a good idea of what we are dealing with. hiding out in caves and killing all who came to investigate. The Officer had driven across town and now pulled into a parking lot next to a market park near the edge of the dome. Safron mentioned a case of a girl..98 He started to speak. had claimed squatter’s rights on the second moon-planet.” Avena’s worry deepened exponentially. I hope that I am wrong.” Officer Pace then used the drive to explain how the Basses.. his face in silhouette against the outside road lights. The trail led to the offworld smuggling tribe.” he said. but the consequences of disrupted orbits and flying bits of crust were too great to seriously consider it. “Officer.” “What’s that?” Avena asked. The Spaceports were constantly patrolled and the secret tribe space landings in the Bad Lands monitored by satellite. peering out of the fogging window at what seemed to be a moving light between the tents. I am also limited in what I can share. In addition based on her behavior her home is very likely bugged so that she cannot safely say anything other than what she said—which is why I didn’t continue questioning her. and they sat in darkness. I already know quite a lot about the case she mentioned. In the distance between the tents was a flickering light. He killed the vehicle lights. then paused. Her son is involved in or at least aware of details surrounding the disappearance of a girl who we believe was murdered or dead from an overdose. along with a few other smuggling tribes. As it stands. “She is in physical danger. then. To Avena it looked and felt like a complete dead end in the search for her daughter. his voice both familiar and hollow sounding in the internal darkness of the vehicle. “How do you come to that conclusion?” “Well. and the parents didn’t report it right away as they thought they would handle it themselves. and continued thoughtfully. Thus the threat of trafficking. “I’m thinking. only a few little courtesy dots glowing inside the cab. thievery and drug running was ever present. . how do we find Comet?” There was a pause. who disappeared. However. Shrouded trading tents and booths stood silent across the adjacent field in the weather-less night. The only alternative solution to being slaughtered by the tribe on approach was to literally blow up the moon. Zacky spoke. “but Mrs.much like a candle or a lighter held between cupped hands. Kyte Safron has been seen in the company of the other smugglers. And the girl was never found. the Basses.
” Officer Pace held up a hand to emphasize silence.. He spoke into it in hushed tones... His expression was closed... “Can you make out what is going on over there?” Zacky had been noticeably silent during all the events that had transpired since entering the ATV. in the distance. “Is it true that in the Open Market . He said nothing as he peered out the window with a look of concentration on his face... She wished she had a distance viewer.whether legal or illegal.99 “Shssh. The moving light acted like a dog that had suddenly found a playmate.. and skidded to a stop. The Officer came back. In other words. Slipping out he softly closed the door against the jam. he reached into a . and no laws invoked.the Open Markets and the land they were conducted on were free territories for any party.missing persons. just sit. “I think we triggered an Exchange Protocol by parking here.. the smugglers had every right to trade their illegal drugs in the Open Market just as Officers had a right to negotiate for return of stolen goods. “Don’t move or do anything. there can be no weapons and no interference with any business of any kind?” Avena nodded.” he paused and looked back at his mother. Avena could barely make out a bearded face above the flickering light.it bobbed and then bounded across the grass towards the slowly moving officer. He walked away from the vehicle across the grass in the dark with his hands spread open from his sides. Goods or persons could be reclaimed and no one died—one benefit of the zone... seemed to get a confirmation..” He reached to ensure the interior lights were off then took the door handle and opened the door very slightly. He grabbed a special communicator from inside a vehicle compartment and stood a few feet away. “The Officer is negotiating.. They all peered out the windows to see what was there. across the park. he had no intention of sharing the details of his business with the Rockyhill family.” he said in a hushed whisper. It was an old rule from the beginning of the settlements. Avena supposed it meant that he wasn’t carrying a weapon.without the right to arrest the perpetrator of the crime as well.he invoked the All-Clear-No-Weapons Rule for all parties using the Open Market to transact their business... but whispered to Zacky. and returned to the vehicle.. No weapons were allowed.or in this case she supposed. The lone figure he’d been speaking with was a waiting silhouette in the dark distance. Again.
. “He’s giving the package to the man now. her second desire was to scream at her stupid daughter for getting into this mess. We’re taking her to the hospital. “What’s this about NDE?” The officer started to detail the history of NDE use on the moon-planet.it’s Comet! But something is wrong with her.. scrunched as close to the one side as possible.” Then after what seemed like hours to Avena. Avena didn’t envy his job.. She felt sick as she recognized her daughter’s outline. sort of limping and dragging at the same time. and now the dread that had threatened to line her stomach settled in for the long haul. Zacky continued to peer out the window. The tribe was willing to give her up to prevent the charge of murder being placed against them. He lifted the half-conscious Comet into the rear seat. Her mind seized on the first detail.. and then third to find a place to send her daughter for the rest of her life where she’d be safe. “What’s wrong with her?” she couldn’t resist demanding the moment the officer opened the back hatch to the car. . His voice faded into a background of darkness and engine hum as Avena nodded off into an exhausted sleep.” he answered flatly without emotion. “The man is coming back with someone leaning on him. All three impulses roamed madly in her mind like a ferret trying to escape a small cage but finally had to come to rest back in the second seat of the ATV headed for the hospital. Avena looked intently out the window and could see the Officer returning with a figure half supported on one side.the Officer is waiting for him. her first desire was to immediately murder whoever had done this to her daughter.. without explanation he left across the grass back to the waiting figure. While driving to the hospital he calmly discussed the increasing use and efforts to contain it. positioning her lolling head to one side... At the ne ws of the overdose.” Zacky continued to describe what he was seeing.. He didn’t answer until he was in his seat and pulling out of the parking lot back to the main road. but hers right now was the most difficult... in case she vomited.the person is smaller and lim ping.the man is walking away..100 compartment and took out a small brown-wrapped package. “She’s having an overdose on NDE.
Now. she could feel the fluid hydrate her tissues and simultaneously clear her head of the emotions threatening to cloud her judgment. now she remembered that she had ridden the scooter. The girl looked at her almost as if she didn’t recognize her. The previous night had been long indeed. just as the reflective Greely 102 returned from the other side of the Mother Planet.Now they’ll kill me for sure. It had to be partly due to Comet’s condition crossing the mother -daughter connection. By the side of the tall bed. Avena struggled to sit up. Orange. She ignored the adjoining ro om. It was several minutes before she trusted herself to approach the room with the big white bed. “You’re lucky to be alive. Detox fluids had been passing through her system for hours. both sister moons were in the sky as well as the edge of the orange sun Octarious. she could see a huge white-covered bed with a relatively small figure on top kicking the sheets off. casting an orange-red glow across the landscape. She must have looked awful as her husband glanced up at her as she shuffled over and his brows creased in concern. It was her daughter finally coming to consciousness. They had finally arrived at the Home Dome Hospital. Avena awoke. Oh yes. Somehow she had gotten inter-dome grit all over her face.. then she slowly shook her head. The girl on the bed looked haggard and shocked. She had a tube in her nose and an IV drip in one arm. Through an open door.. stood from her couch and walked gingerly over to it. a hovering white synthetic orb cast its glow across the occupants. She recognized her dehydration and tried to lick her lips. ignoring the protests of age. leaving the security of the teen to the capable hospital staff and her family. She was lying upon a side couch in an anteroom adjacent to a hospital room. with cups and multiple selections. yellow and red light interplayed in patterns on the opposing walls. The Officer had long since gone home. Inside the adjoining hospital room. Many hours later. “You should have left me there. She drank a cold drink and several refills. She saw one at the other side of the small room. Zacky was asleep on a neighboring couch. her relief at her daughter’s survival mingled with rage at being so driven to terror. pale and weak. and she could feel the powder as she touched her face. And the rest of the painful facts returned in full force.101 Chapter 4. and looked for a fluid dispenser. Finally. her husband stood leaning over holding the hand of the treasonous child. at midday. Avena’s eyes could barely open.” and started to cry– .” Avena remarked dryly as soon as she could find her voice.
Your safety was purchased by the Officers of the Peace in a fair negotiation. turning to look at them.. Avena stepped back and shook her head slightly to herself in denial.” He paused and looked at her to see if she understood his words. For the rest of your life if we need to. She seemed to understand. You will not die. “Comet. The cafeteria was spacious and well lit with both natural and artificial light. even as her eyes portrayed that she was looking for ways to get out of what she considered a predicament. and so are we. you will be given complete protection. and in the background. “Oscar . Just rest for a while and get your strength back.You will tell us what has gone on. and no one will be killed.” He turned to Comet. as she sat hunched and haunted over her meal... squeezed her eyes tighter. She looked at her husband with concern and alarm and silently mouthed. “Nurse.” And then he took Avena down the hall and a stairwell to the hospital cafeteria. then spoke. and I will brief you. at her look of alarm.” She kept crying. “Your time to brief us will come. As he left. please ensure someone stays with her at all times. Oscar continued. ‘What is she talking about?’ He raised a finger in silence. she is awake.. “You are safe here. Oscar faced his haggard and dusty wife.You owe us that much. “And. turning over to hide her face in the corner of her pillow. . the clatter of washing utensils could be heard. mother of his daughter and son. . He marveled at their predicament. what is she talking about?” “Let me get her settled. Oscar just sighed at her visible lack of forthrightness and signaled to his wife to come with him away from her room.” then. understood?” She nodded. forcing her voice to be calm. and you Will tell us everything. Her hazel eyes that barely met his were pleading.. No one is going to kill you and no one will harm you. her short wavy brown hair dirty and somehow tangled.. A hum of low speaking voices scattered across the sparsely used tables.And you’ll be dead for sure!” She said the last in a high-pitched cry which turned to loud sobbing. “You have no clue. He marveled at her layered control. and shook her head. Avena took a deep breath and spoke. desperate and angry all at once. speaking to the back of her head. This is a fully fortified hospital.They’re everywhere.. her tears abating. he signaled to the outer nurse on watch.They have infiltrated everything.102 silently sobbing with tears coursing down her cheeks as she lay back on her pillow with her eyes closed. They settled with cups of WarmUp and food at a small table in a corner of the cafeteria..
“Our daughter is.” He paused. some spirit showing in her eyes. It was obvious to him that the connection between mother and daughter was much more than genetic. considering. unfortunately.” She looked up wearily. he quickly got up.” is spreading like wildfire throughout the dome communities. “You know we never heard what Zacky found in her correspondence.” he commented and turned. Oscar settled back. or trees or whatever happens to be in the way. and returned. no comment in her eyes. he responded. She didn’t comment. living users end up craving the experience repeatedly – usually not aware that natural spiritual separation is available through much better means and exercises! The drug. dome repairmen. The user. went over and purchased a packet of small bottles.” he took a sip of his WarmUp. She looked almost as drained as Comet certifiably was. The spirit then looks down on the body from the ceiling. assuming the dosage is correct-which it never is—is thrown into such an instant state of shock—-literally a near-death state like those in accidents or operations. Oscar wondered if two would be enough. Spotting something. The users rave about it and all the things they realize. immediately assuming a professorial tone. It is well known that 1 out of 100 of firsttime users leave their bodies and never return.” handing her two bottles of Rejuv. “What is this?” She finally asked. We. He looked at Avena and continued. “ that the spirit is kicked out of the body.103 He suddenly realized something. “We need to get you some Rejuv supplements. was lucky . she. The drink contained every known supplement that medicine had isolated for the rejuvenation of all body systems. and successful. In other words. scanning the far counter. “But the drug is instantly addictive. she merely opened each small bottle and downed each in two gulps. primarily the teens who are too naive and immature to acknowledge the danger. She was obviously lacking energy. a few moments later.” At Avena’s flare of alarm and anger. “Here drink two of these. “NDE is called the Near-Death-Experience drug because it prompts exactly that – a Near-Death Experience. fire fighters. It was used often by doctors. looking out the window for a moment. mothers in distress. “What is she doing with NDE?” The words were bitter. the lives they see and so on. and now. one of the not-too-bright teens who both tried it and had an overdose. they simply die. a literal instant “high.
what is the story on the Basses? What did Officer Pace say about what he did while I was sleeping?” “You were pretty gone in the vehicle. “The Basses are one of the two largest smuggler tribes on Greeley 103. looked earnestly at Avena. We have only seen the picture that the Officer showed us. bases of operation on Greeley 101 and 102 which the Officers haven’t been able to dismantle. it was all a serious muddle. “Comet apparently met up with this smuggler guy. “The problem with the tribes is that they are expanding.” Avena pondered for a moment looking into her WarmUp. hope returning. something could be clear. maybe more.” he shrugged his shoulders. “we don’t want a war against the smuggler tribes—they simply wouldn’t care.” With food held half way to her mouth. Avena ruefully thought to herself. Then you lay down in the ante room and were out. They have established at least one. Besides. the idea of her Comet doing something as dangerous and stupid as taking NDE just didn’t add up. and that was becoming clear. which Comet may or may not . Thankfully. Due to the Market Area truce rules.104 you were so quick to follow the trail and that Officer Pace was so well versed in the smuggler ways. Oscar took a deep breath.” He paused. sat back. With that. The problem is with recruitment and manipulation of the teen age group. then looked up and away out of the windows. Avena waited for his next words with intense curiosity. Officer Pace sat down with Zacky and me and went over what he knew of the Basses before he left for the night. but she didn’t have enough data. which is happening slowly. at a dance for teens. There was something here to solve. Yet. fiddled with a piece of food still on his plate. Otherwise. his grey eyes meeting her hazel. they come to market to trade and transact business without being arrested. The bases are in the desert areas far from the domes. Her eyes narrowed briefly as Oscar watched. but remember. excused himself to refresh his cup of WarmUp.” He took a deep breath and blew the air out of closed lips. He could pass for an older teen. “Oscar. she started to revive. and returned. He’s actually in his twenties.” he said wryly. Kyte. “they manage to kill themselves or die off rapidly due to their own drug use and internal fighting. And I couldn’t get you to wake up! No matter. And a dangerous one. I think you may remember coming into the hospital and seeing Comet put in bed.
just as he was interrogating the nurse there. having taken the time to refresh. and handle other housekeeping details. and then continued out the door into the hallway. we can only suppose that she went out with him a number of times with some innocence. due to the withdrawal stress of the NDE. judging from her alarm this morning. investigate. got her to swear secrecy-which is the point at which she would have distanced herself from us-and thereafter led her deeper and deeper into their network.” Comet was asleep. getting his comm unit out of his pants pocket. collected his dish and cup to dispose of them and motioned to Avena to follow. “So she was demanding more NDE?” Oscar was asking.” the nurse responded primly. Then he went out the door and started down the hall in long. “This particular formula will give her eight hours of sleep. Avena found the bodyguard both reassuring and eerily bothersome. In any event.105 know. a reminder of how much her life had changed in such a short period of time. “We should call him. Avena followed more slowly still weak from her and Comet’s shared stress. and we followed hospital protocol and gave her a sedative. which we need to. “Yes. She motioned to Oscar to follow her.. “What did Officer Pace say we should do?” She demanded when they were a safe distance from the rooms. went to the Ante room where Zacky was still snoring lightly.” Another big breath. Chapter 5. all with an armed bodyguard standing near.. apparently drugged to sleep. standing straight backed at the head of the hospital bed. “How long will she be out?” Avena interrupted. One day she . “And. Avena found him in Comet’s room.” Oscar replied.Starting now. Avena almost didn’t care. according to Officer Pace. she stated that she had to have it to go on.” He abruptly rose. purposeful strides. Several hours later the three of them were in Officer Pace’s office. he has threatened her and our lives. that he may have introduced her to some sort of drug activity. In Comet’s case. the smuggler tribe men will seek out and attempt to seduce the teen girls in order to recruit them into their network of suppliers and users.
suffering from a deadly addiction and a deadlier store of knowledge in her head. and the next she was under armed watch as a possible target on the smuggler hit list. The big question is. They also served as the smuggler containment force and occasional hit squad in distant regions.. set towards the north end of Home Dome—north assigned due to the right swirling patterns of water as it ran down drains and pipes. with her daughter hospitalized. Avena assumed they had plants on the smuggler base or other monitoring devices that had been installed there somehow. Great. that all of you are under 24-hours protective surveillance going forward until further notice. “The pattern as we have seen it is that the smuggler recruits the teen members through a gradient pattern of deepening involvement and eventual addiction to the drugs that they sell. If she fears that her . Officer Pace was a teen runaway/smuggler recruit specialist who was instantly assigned to the case of Comet Rockyhill as she checked out of a dome air lock a mere 18 hours before. in an unadorned office inside a cinder-block building with few windows. If we can get that information from her.. “No they don’t all die.. not only will it strengthen her and allow us to protect her better going forward.”She trusts me. Taking NDE has become the rite of passage for anyone wanting to join the smuggler team. or at least she used to.” At the look of concern and question on their faces. but I would rather not—I just want her to talk. The NDE of course is the most feared and coveted. Let me try. why did Comet do it? This is what I want to know. somewhat fatiguing life.” “Good. Who can help us?” Zacky half way held up his hand. I need the information that she holds.” He didn’t elaborate on how. We know this due to information that trickles back to us from that base. “I need someone to talk to her that she trusts. and you can refresh her memory.106 had a normal. I could put her away for many years as an NDE user. The Officers of the Peace were a well-trained and highly trusted team upon which the lives of all Dome citizens depended.Secrets the Officers would not be divulging anytime soon. Officer Pace looked at each one of them in turn seeming to assess the resources. He was speaking to them. just what she wanted at the start of her day! Officer Pace faced them from the other side of his simple but functional desk.. but they are taken off moon to the smuggler base Greeley 103. let me remind you. but it may unlock the question for us in the case of other teens seen with these smugglers and particularly those that disappear.
She moved around on her bed and settled for sitting up with her hands on her lap looking at her brother with slightly narrowed eyes. “Comet.. and Officer Pace were seated in the small padded room.” And to her look of dismay mixed with relief. her hazel eyes locking on his gray.” she started to rise from her bed IV drip and all. “And the Officers know everything I know. she can be reassured about this. “don’t do anything to him!” Reassuring herself. Avena. and he held firm as she slowly started to recognize him fully and relaxed.. The family had carefully not asked any questions. “Comet!” Zacky commanded again. you can’t hurt him.” he said deliberately for effect.. we need to talk. Perhaps that will help her be more forthcoming with detail.107 family will be harmed in any way. a genuine psychotic flight response. I’m your brother!” Zacky commanded her. and she had some color returning to her skin.” then with a flash of fear. He waited until her breathing had stabilized. Zacky took a direct tack with the information that he had.” Zacky began. where they stay. he didn’t violate the treaty. she started to move restlessly and said in an urgent rush. she knew something was coming. “I know everything. but the breathing tubes had been removed. Her bed was still several feet above the ground due to all the equipment around and under it. but she was on the mend and in a more stable condition.. Comet still had her intravenous drip. She still had the hunted look of a small animal stuck in a cave. He stood up. She started to pull away and finally looked at him. deep down. Zacky entered and sat next to Comet on a high stool. look at me. Except..” He looked up at her. Comet looked at him with slight curiosity as she ate her lunch. . “why did you fall for him?” She got a distant look in her eyes. She was looking everywhere but at him. She had already been visited by her family several times over the days and had been cautiously friendly but offered no explanation or information as to her involvement or circumstance.. Oscar. “Comet. “I read all your correspondence with Kyte.” A few days later they had moved Comet into a room with observation panel walls that looked just like regular walls. and her drug tests showed traces of several drugs. and the panic subsided... “I love him. grabbing her hands. waiting for Zacky to approach the now awake and eating Comet.He really is a good boy. “You don’t know where he lives. Her room was wired to transmit sound to an observation recording deck in a confidential closet that only the Officers and hospital staff had knowledge of. Comet immediately stiffened and put her meal down.
I thought that if I just went along with him that somehow it would be discovered.To leave us and to disappear without any explanation. I had to do something.108 “Listen Comet..” Zacky was nodding. He said if I said anything at all to anyone that awful things would start happening and that nothing could stop it—even if I went to the Officers of the Peace. he would set things in motion to kill you. “Where is he?” She asked Zacky. “We don’t know. so I used my own ID without his knowledge. but it wasn’t.. They can put you away for years for your NDE use. So I was the cleaning crew.” He looked int o her eyes. acknowledging his intense care.. I might add. And protected.” She squirmed and looked away. She looked at him. He shook his head. they just care that someone has left and returned.” She still struggled to look at him. then he threatened to make one of you disappear in an accident. tears starting to well. I was afraid. has. other identifications. “Tell me now Comet. and I left my comm station on and went out the window. I was trying to get someone to follow me! He didn’t know. I want you to tell me what he told you that convinced you to go with h im. as was he. that you will be pardoned. The hospital staffs assure us that had we brought you even a few hours later you would no longer be with us. Zacky thought of his trail of clues and where it had disappeared.” She started to cry in earnest. “He threatened to start killing t he animals first. as soon as he even saw them come into our house through his observation spies. A whole group of smugglers left the moon a few days ago. regardless of his condition. “But the other night as I was leaving for good. and he became more and more demanding. We know where his mother is you know.” .. how did you leave the dome and return with no one having knowledge until the other night?” “He had. but I’m assured that if you explain what really went on. “Now. “and Comet it would have been too much to bear to have you dead. he knew that she had to say it to be strong. “I didn’t know what to do.” She continued. This is what he saw in the correspondence even if the open threats weren’t there.” A look of fear again crossed her face.” He continued to look directly into her eyes until she dropped them.. The air locks don’t check your identification against you. you almost died and whoever had you at the market area was paid for your freedom. He may have been with them.. He didn’t help her with what he suspected from everything he’d seen and heard. “Comet . He would have cut my throat if he knew that I’d left myself so wide open.
Zacky was back at his own home. probably Kyte. “Comet!” He hissed. Unknown to the rest of the family she also had cleared a path to her roof from inside the house. rifle to sight. She had infrared cameras installed to show a 360 degree picture around the house. belo w Comet’s window. “Put your hands up now and don’t move. “So now what will happen?” “You will be assigned to a group of teens that are recovering from NDE addiction. and flipped on floodlights. “I’ve come to save you! Come with me before they brainwa sh you and send you to the farms on 102! Comet!” And he reached to grab a pebble. Heart pounding she stealthily rose. It was a smuggler tribe member. The dog slept nearby. You will be entirely safe..109 She looked startled at that. feeling triumphant. speaking words she’d rehearsed over and over anticipating the day she would use them. She then stood. a scooter lying nearby.” . He looked up. bead on his forehead. The light flared bright in the night. We also have our own guard in case some sort of retribution may be coming our way. just as she dropped down to turn on the communication jammers she had installed.” Chapter 6 Several months later Comet was fast asleep at home. closed the door. and obtained a ½ inch laser rifle capable of boring a hole in a steel bunker at 50 yards.. tip toed to her study. startling him with intense light. stood a dark male figure. As was Avena and Oscar. sent an emergency alert to the Officers on watch. Out in the back. That rifle now sat primed and ready inside the secret roof access closet at the back of her study. The perimeter alarm went off. We’ll work it out. Avena had a buzzer strapped to her thigh that was directly connected to the perimeter alarm sweep that she’d installed before letting the body guards have the night off. Avena stood up and with three practiced shots put holes in both scooter tires and the gas tank. She snuck to the edge overlooking Comet’s window and eavesdropped on the man. the composite picture of which arrived in a small wristwatch screen on her arm. opened her closet-to-roof access and in the cool night air. Then she looked resigned. silently as a buzz against her thigh. or I will be delighted to put a beautiful hole through your head. laser rifle in hand. emerged on the top of her house.
and family the grief and agony that I.” Chapter 7.110 The man put his hands up. his eyes squinting against the glare. Six months later. and my family. how to tell a user and in short. and your time is up!” Avena said. END BACK TO TABLE OF CONTENTS . “And I have decided to offer a seminar weekly right here in this auditorium to all students and any who are interested. Avena eyes misted with happiness and relief. “You don’t know who I am!” He started to protest.” As the audience stood to clap in tribute to the brave teen before them. “I know who you are. Comet was speaking. Avena had a permanent smile on her face and turned to hug Oscar sitting next to her. personally experienced at the whim of the smuggler tribes. anything you may need to know to save yourselves. I will describe the infiltration methods of the smuggler tribes. Avena sat in the Upper School auditorium with other parents watching their son or daughter address the audience in turn. “The Officers will be here momentarily. the drugs they use.
She could barely hear in the planet’s magnetic vibration a transmission f rom her village. Master Artist Agriya had his ice-blue eyes closed. A work of art in every respect. Scattered across the garden were other cushions. The air was soft and warm with a hint of peach blossom in the wafting breeze. With his mind’s eye. Again. Vedika pressed an ear to the hardened dirt of the path she’d taken. She strained to make out what was being said. collecting and reflecting the sun's power into pools of water ready to turn into steam. cross-legged on a simple cushion. The image of the generator glowed vividly in his mind with every detail necessary to make a working installation. He didn’t disturb his concept download to his Note takers: his schematics and renderings for his new superb Tulip Sun Generator were due for production on a neighboring planet. flaring. his concept transmission. and white-maned head bowed as he sat. his personal Note takers.111 MIND VS METAL ON PLANET ZUDDAH Chapter 1. why is she such a wild child? Why was she missing this time. It was garbled and distressed. he could see the entirety of the Garden of Creativity. pen. ‘Vedika. He had created a true masterpiece: a gold tinted and translucent ten-story tall Tulipshaped generator to capture and magnify the sun’s rays. and brow wrinkled.’ Agriya grumbled to himself in a remote corner of his mind. She was ten when her unexpected genetic development suddenly revealed itself: it allowed her to literally tune-in on any transmission meant to be received. Seated on each was an artist or engineer. In a field of wildflowers not too distant from the garden. They focused on his Notes still writing. its quiet flowered walks and lush trees shading spans of grassy lawn. note tablet in one hand. drawing or calculating his design vision. pencil or brush in the other. Her eyes were closed in concentration . And she was missing. with thin sheets of ray-capturing fiber arching stories into the sky. These. . twenty in total. Vedika. A beautiful addition to any planetary landscape. He finished his Wave of Export and with a sigh of completion slowly allowed his eyes to open to view the Garden. and commit to paper. were groomed to capture. Except one.
lost in shock. and a shiver to run up her back. and his white meditation robes flowed like surging waters about his tanned calves. Master Artist Agriya. Master Agriya was perplexed. hastily moving away from the bunker back toward the path. Whoever was sending the signal was most likely hidden in a basement below the floor boards of a house in her home town. She wavered. easy strides. a force in formation. She jerked around. Water by the Sea. but necessity demanded action. her eyes still distant and unfocused. “Vedika. she would have to take immediate leave and return at once to her home town. but seeing the flowered field. Water by the Sea. The afternoon sun made his white hair glow. But now his talent was occupied with the task of finding his apprentice. not waiting for his reply. Vedika was a recent hire. metal on cement. entrusted with the most challenging of solar power projects was an important member of the Planet Zuddah’s telepathic ruling class. its tone made her hair stand on end. .112 Faintly. she could hear scraping and dragging. an applicant possessed of rare capability and equally rare innocent aplomb when confronted by the Guild’s Grand Masters. his lanky legs taking long. a talent just budding. Even though whatever was happening there made no sense. Something about the girl was at once regal and unassuming. Vedika was momentarily taken by confusion. came back to the present. was situated halfway across the medium-sized continent from the Garden. Vedika seemed quite agitated. “Master Agriya. right now. protests and muffled screams. I must ask for your assistance immediately! Please grant me private audience?” She already started running back to the Garden. a lovely small community of family-owned fish farms. Something grievously wrong was happening.” she intended a reply. she had come into the field in boredom but then stumbled upon the distress call from her town. “Yes. He began a leisurely walk back to his offices through the garden paths. Master Agriya. She broke her concentration and stood. He rose from his seat and stretched his lean frame. “Where are you and why?” Came his patient question. Chapter 2.” the call sounded inside her head.
screams.” he commanded. Vedika came running up from behind. even if she couldn’t see them. preying on his planet’s people. She shivered.taken. “Master Agriya! Master Agriya!” Reaching him.... most all of them Master Artists in command of their own Guilds... “They.” she managed to gasp... forcing her golden eyes to look at and into his blue. in the back of his mind he was assessing. They had perfected a vast range of techniques for thought transmission. bent over.... almost angry at her presumptuous behavior. and it contained times and events the likes of which several generations of common Citizens had never seen. He did not like what he saw now. “Vedika.being. refusing his gaze at first but then returning to it. Master Agriya had an impressive memory.. and calling out. she could not see all of what her mind retained. tell me what is going on. Master Agriya belonged to the Ageless Ones. As she spoke. He could see in her memory the transmitted images. and her sandy colored hair flew about her head in untamed frenzy. He and his fellow Masters saw plenty in their lives. but caught himself as the panic in her golden eyes flashed a warning. She stopped and stood panting. the Total Telepaths who had mastered and reversed the aging of their bodies.” The hair crawled on the back of his neck. as were the ages of his peers. finally focusing and collecting herself. Her skills were not yet matured. hands on knees. and Master Agriya carefully let go. Master Agriya grabbed at his shoulder and spun about.. “Now. and then back down again. What she said and what he saw registered as eerily similar to what he remembered from his distant past: Saving raids from another system.from under the house. calling on the Network of Protectorates for a widening net of alert .. His actual planet years were kept in strict confidence by the Citizen Registry. standing again to catch a breath.. catching her side from a stitch.” he said..somewhere. He didn’t like the sound of this one. A plan began to emerge in the back of his vast mind even as he looked down at the pleading girl in front of him. She was panting... she caught his robe to steady herself and it started to come off his shoulder. the sound of her bare feet on the smooth stone a muted thumping.are. She stood straighter.heard. Her rust-colored robes billowed behind her. pacing a few steps. looking for clues in the network awareness.113 A few moments later. He firmly grabbed both her upper arms..the transmission. “I.
the word spread through the Telepath network in minutes. He looked around for a solution. and beyond that. Master Agriya had to assign her a task. In the same building. He heard them coming behind him with tones of curiosity and excitement in their voices. caught himself and remembered to decide that he had the answer and not dwell upon the problem as the answer would come to him. The planet was under attack. Mentally. get their attention by hitting the attendance gong. to use mental skills in every possible way: all items considered a mental crutch had been dismantled. Acquiring first hand sighting of the turmoil was the immediate order of business. the Chamber of Contemplation. he returned to his office. dusty feet flashing under flapping rust colored robes. and then she spun and ran down the path to the assembly hall. 100 degrees longitude. He would have to re-create the entire transmission of the day. your Note taker peers. Master Agriya briefly wished the Network of Protectorates of Zuddah hadn’t dismantled All the surveillance satellites: a good view of Vedika’s town from a distant orbit would be invaluable. “Go to my guild. the mental imagery that he had just transmitted would fade with time or distraction from the minds of his Note takers.” Like a tidal wave warning or volcano siren. over a century ago.” Vedika gave a little start of surprise. do this for me?” He asked urgently. her golden eyes widening. Master Agriya momentarily considered his nearly complete Sun Generator project. a few hundred feet beyond his office were the Assembly Hall. Vedika gave a little bow of respect and deference. “Vedika. . That taken care of. long strides taking him there ahead of the swarm of Note takers being herded by Vedika. “130 degrees north latitude. and” listening to Vedika’s panting description. tell him to assemble immediately in the Assembly Hall. It was a weakness of his culture that there was no secure solution. Vedika finished her brief and scanty story. Chapter 3. Contrivances such as towers and satellites were taken apart bolt by bolt. The planet voted. quietly. He had to buy time to muster the power of the Network. What to do? Master Agriya’s mental work had to be stored safely in times of trouble.114 status. Concept to concept hand-off was almost instantaneous. he transmitted a warning: “Slaver Raid rumored.
Mental skill was 50% self-confidence. but this planet is under attack. But later. and you will see. Agriya was afraid of that. He continued. “Are you kidding? Master Apprentice!” Daiwik almost floated off the ground as he glowed and pranced around the room. He needed Daiwik to be totally confident about his ability. which silently and heavily swung open on ball bearing pivoted hinges. Master Agriya seized the moment. The Master and his Apprentice entered.” Daiwik sobered up.” They leaned towards each other. what if I told you that you were absolutely the BEST Note taker I’ve ever met and that your native skills are so strong that you are being considered for Master Apprentice?” Whatever Daiwik thought of himself.115 He needed both. “What I need to do is to memorialize my entire Sun Project so that when we are done with this sudden emergency we can pick up and finish it without redesign. and learn what I have to share. Daiwik jumped up.” Master Agriya reached the center of his spacious tiled office and spun around. He stopped briefly in his office where his deputy Daiwik awaited his any need. “and I want you to take the download and continue to process the design documents while we are out. Agriya also closed his eyes. “Daiwik. . Close your eyes. Ten cushioned chairs sat around the perimeter of the table. query the encyclopedia for Slaver Raids. his short sandy hair flying. robes flowing in assent. it wasn’t that. “Yes. and Agriya reached out to take Daiwik ’s head in his hands as they rested their foreheads together. Agriya continued. I realize that you are not of the age that would remember such a thing. “So follow me to the Chamber of Contemplation to take your first Master Apprentice assignment. Its rug and textured walls absorbed all sound in a tangible hush. bringing a breeze of outside air through the office door. Master Agriya took one of the chairs and motioned to Daiwik to take the one next to him. Daiwik looked up as the Master entered swiftly.” Daiwik nodded. The Chamber of Contemplation was naturally lit by a skylight. past the filling Assembly Hall. Master Agriya! Gladly!” He followed Master Agriya down the hall. to the Chamber of Contemplation. “Daiwik. Daiwik. “trust me. closed the double doors. and padded silently down the few thick carpeted tiered rows to a circle table in the center.” At Daiwik’s amazed tawny eyes. “Put your forehead to mine.” Daiwik now looked less than confident—eyebrows raised in question. Master Agriya opened the foot thick doors.
I will deal with the threat. the vectors. He opened his eyes and could see the red impression his forehead had made on Daiwik’s. This. The Note takers milling outside the Hall fell silent as Agriya stepped out into the hallway. steam roiling and pushing against generator valves. “All attend and be seated!” Agriya bellowed. Under the light. and focused them into pools of captive water.. and his eyes grew dark and focused.116 He could see into Daiwik’s active universe. “Now I want you to return to the office and proceed to complete the designs. he saw the forces. then rubbed his own. Agriya concentrated on building a fully equipped image and model of the Sun Station in the universe and mind of Daiwik. An instant later. Receiving the instructions on both verbal and mental levels the Notes nearly leapt to their places.. He and Daiwik walked together as far as the entrance and embraced. every calculation. he built in the mind of Daiwik. downloaded. the water boiling. the speeds. Daiwik glowed. his tanned face contrasted with his white hair gleaming. His smile vanished. . the thickness of the metal. the size of the valves. They rose and went through the doors. He imaged every detail. Even though it had only been ten minutes the expanse of what transpired made it seem like an eternity. he felt a surge of gladness. Agriya thought ruefully to himself. He smiled a bright smile.All of it. Daiwik had automatically cleared his mind as he had been trained to do. “Beautiful Master! Your creation is safe with me!” “Good. Daiwik opened his eyes slowly and focused on Agriya. and his blue eyes shined with internal energy. into one fully formed functioning mental model. They watched their Master Artist with intense curiosity as he came to the podium at the front of the gently tiered auditorium. As soon as a beam of light passed the opening the outside sound followed as a blast of noisy bustle and loud talk.” Chapter 4. and every plane of translucent. Agriya surveyed the milling Notes.” Agriya said. Agriya smiled to himself. Daiwik could very well be a Master Apprentice. glowing fabric as it caught the sun’s rays. Then. Agriya’s hands felt stiff when he finally pulled back from Daiwik’s forehead. Then Daiwik continued on. he returned to the sobering events that called them there. it was always like that. Looking up at his Notes.
slavery or any serious hostility.” At first.117 “Note takers. brightly.” she interrupted again. distracted. “We are under attack.” Vedika’s voice suddenly interrupted him from behind his right side. shifting his role instantly from Master Artist to Derider Team Captain. tangible hunger in their attitude.” she said loudly and innocently. “Find out from Daiwik any other information. as did many of the Notes following the exchange.” her voice held a touch of grief and terror causing Agriya to turn to face her. He stood.” his natural voice boomed in the well-crafted auditorium. It dawned on him that this generation of Zuddah people had no experience with warfare. More advanced players had a tournament version of Derider in open countryside. The Notes all looked at him in surprise. “Living slaves. Boys nudged boys. “Players!” He commanded again. “They have a metal air ship. Agriya paused. Agriya was a fairly decent master’s level player. How do we deal with them? What are they here for?” Agriya didn’t want to say. his mental projection reverberated in their well-tuned minds. girls looked down haughtily from upturned noses and turned in their seats for a quick huddle. “Not yet Vedika. her eyes were pleading and wide.. His eyes focused on their upturned faces.” he responded in a hushed tone.. thought and tapped his podium as all the concepts and images flashed through his mind. Well. Master Agriya. A game plan took form.” or “fresh meat. my Notes are more than ready to play a little game. They were completely inexperienced! Except for their favorite game of Derider! Derider: a strategy game with complex rules for getting a ball to a goal using a combination of ridden horses. “Master Agriya. Derider was played both on formal courts and in informal settings. “Your assistant passed to me a Network note about my town. his attention returning to his expectant Notes. She nodded. I know what I’m doing. “Master Agriya. the off-world pirates who break code to plunder and steal from disarmed planets. Derider challenged its players mentally and physically...or two. “Do you even know what this is?” He demanded of her. ball tossing and highly agile players who could leap off and on their horses to retrieve the ball.” . he replied. Brilliant! He thought. with a nearly visual.” Instead. eager Notes watching. Agriya thought to himself. bring me a direct connection. then in delight. “We were taught about them in school. their response was curiosity—never in their living memory had their planet been under attack. trust me.
Someone on his staff had to be a Derider pro or military buff.. Minutes were being wasted. “some sort of concrete vision to share with you. An uncharacteristic sweat broke out on his brow. He saw neither. He chewed his lip and studied his Notes. He returned his attention to his auditorium. or limp bodies. Vedika burst back into the auditorium. He could only tell them what he knew. He was an engineer. Soon. His mental call for help brought fast results from the Network. Chapter 5.” and he turned to ward the front of the auditorium where he would normally project images. He took a deep breath. He held up his hand to halt her.. The auditorium of Notes was waiting. Since he couldn’t tell them what to do. She stopped halfway to the edge of the stage. to achieve its goal of Ultimate Harmony.” He paused. from what appears to be an off-world antagonist. He needed more information. but not unprecedented. intrusion upon our planetary affairs.118 She nodded. He gestured to her fellow Notes in the auditorium and indicated she . I await. He had to educate them and solicit their help. Someone must be living close to the town or perhaps even in it. His challenge was defined. stunned into submission by powerful electronic prods. the Fulcrum of the Universe chose him. He could tell them now. “We have an unexpected. he was automatically responsible for its outcome as per the belief and training of the Total Telepaths in the ways of the Universe. For some reason. he needed them to understand the problem thoroughly. He wasn’t happy about this problem at all. They needed it soon. As the first adult to receive the news. imagining or perhaps even seeing. eyes wide. he was going to solicit ideas. not a military strategist.History which most of you have probably not yet studied. “Information is very scarce. considering the upturned faces before him.” he began from the modest wooden podium at the front of the auditorium . turned. “Notes. hungry with curiosity. and ran back down the corridor. the concept she held in the front of her mind as clear as a broadcast video. Our best information is possibly history. bindings about the legs and arms of the citizens of Water by the Sea. what the situation was. He was now to serve as the missing end of a spiritual magnet — he must balance the energies of the universe. He needed to See with whatever eyes could be made available. We have only minutes to comprehend this threat and to devise actions with which to approach it.” He turned back to the room and glanced at the entrance hoping to see Vedika or Daiwik waiting there.
we must act immediately to reverse the actions and damage you just witnessed in the transmission so aptly delivered by your fellow apprentice. their luminous eyes. This was her home town under siege. simultaneously calm and panicked. She said nothing. A Slaver—a pitted steel and silver ship. The field pushed back the waves as they struggled to reach the shore. Master Agriya recognized the need for a swift strategy. Dogs were chasing and nipping at the heels of the intruders only to yelp and fly away on a burst of energy as soon as any touched one. narrow noses and thin mouths gave them a greedy. translucent transporter tube extended from an open hatch and reached the ground.119 should play the sequence to them. shots being fired. human shaped. were suited in gray fabric-looking material wearing open helmet’s housing equipment and communications gear. turned to face his small army of Notes—all twenty of them—and spoke. master engineer. senior member of the Protectorate. determined look. indulged in one more second of protesting refusal to recognize this massive interruption of his peaceful life. The intruders themselves. taped.. It snaked along the principal coastal highway for half a mile to the outskirts of the town. Then he took a deep breath. apparently unconscious. With recognizable faces. all of you. but he struggled against a blank slate of ideas as he viewed the metallic mammoth lying siege to his planet. with her wide golden eyes looking at him. all ages and gender. A whitish. its power generators made the air shimmer for hundreds of feet around it. Vedika almost fainted as she relayed the information. Some were limp. The nearby town was in an uproar with fighting going on. Bound. a bit larger than the townspeople. Time was passing at an ever increasing rate. She turned distress in her eyes even as she dutifully replayed the sequence of events she’d received from Daiwik and the Network.. The Notes grew still and wide-eyed as they received the information. “Notes. alarm bell’s ringing and a littering of possibly dead bodies in the streets. half a mile outside Water By The Sea.” He turned slightly to nod at her presence. Vedika. and struggling citizens were being carried or hauled into the transporter tube. The transmission ceased. With a small wave of his . Vedika stood silent. trembling. building’s smoking. architect and artist of Sun Generator power stations. Master Agriya. its 100 yard-long side lined with protruding equipment interspersed with view plates. lay suspended in mid-air ten stories above the lapping waves of the shoreline. As wide as it was long.
gracefully. “These. her petite. “And in the past . as it were.120 hand. Agriya nodded that he should speak. “I have no idea of what to do!” He placed his hands on the podium and looked at them. had our own massive forces with which to drive them away. Agriya remembered she was a top-notch physicist in optical heating elements—in disguise.. this one belonging to a lanky boy with blond stringy hair and brown eyes in a thin face. spiked hair. He nodded. feminine feet flashing under the still dusty robes.. they are what we historically called a ‘Slaver’. he added to himself. “But. She moved quickly. plump girl with bright blond.” They looked at him trustingly. together. A Note with curly red hair raised his hand. but he did recognize a Slaver. “Yes. The room was silent. Murmurs went about the Notes.have we seen them before?” Agriya didn’t recognize the ships’ markings. He looked at them. he then indicated she should join the other Notes in front of him...” A look of horror passed through his small crowd. “What are their weaknesses?” Now we get down to brass tacks. They are here to collect people they can use as forced labor. waving madly from a short. She ran up the short aisle and abruptly plopped in an isle chair.. Agriya was betting on his team’s hidden talents to come forth with ideas.” A move still in debate.” he squinted briefly in thought. “They don’t have physical weakness that we’ve been able to surmise from past encounters. trust the physics majors.aggressors. we. The fastest way to solve a problem was to face it boldly with no frills or alteration —even if it meant that a fearless leader had to draw upon other resources. .” Agriya paced in front of them. “we chose.. Chapter 6. to forgo many of our mechanical crutches and contrivances. we have a problem to take care of before us. Agriya thought to himself.. The sun’s rays entering through a skylight incrementally moved a beam across the soft floor in front of him. Another hand shot up. but. Another hand shot up. “So I would like to confirm that this is a hostile force with electronic and mechanical weapons preying upon our people?” Agriya nodded. in order to foster the growth of our mental abilities and telepathic languages. as a planet.
we all have skills. data wands. computer discs. Master Agriya nodded. “This are merely a metal and electronic ship and culture. “As most of you know from your prior schooling. None of them were in use now. After all.” Agriya nodded assent. and speaking tools were visible. not all devices were banned. We are all able in ways many of us haven’t disclosed. time is running short. surely we can come up with a way to repulse their attack and overcome their desire to visit us here!” Agreement went through the group. . my name is Kumar.” Agriya was very pleased. “Notes. Black Hair addressed Master Agriya.” “I need to know what resources we have. black hair continued. considered the group for a moment.121 “We need to do something!” A wavy black haired young man stood and announced. quickly moving to rest on large tanks. “Move to Defense Equipment. None had seen this equipment before. his leader had come forth. and I have studied in the mechanical arts of aggression as well. and the book shook itself. in particular. bearing the image of an ancient book hovering over a path made of historical images receding into a distant infinity. our planet had banned these types of devices in favor of mental development—a move which has benefited us all in the main. The tabbed pages were too many to count. A frayed corner waved slightly in a breeze. Addressing no one.” As looks of surprise rippled through the group. Some had even used a few in special classes. Restrictions and Waivers. None even heard of defense forces. and I hope that enough of what we need now was preserved by our governmental defense forces.” Agriya motioned for him to continue. he announced. Some of these students had seen in display cases. turned multiple pages to bear on one large page with the requested heading.” He instructed the encyclopedia. “Go on. orbiting satellite dishes festooned with gunnery. and one space station huge enough to swallow up several towns in its expanse. “Zuddah Planetary History.” Agriya commanded. I know we can defeat these people. Kumar.” The pages obliged. then turned and looked at the space and wall behind him. Master Agriya was letting them wonder. “I am a master Derider player. “Encyclopedia On!” The wall sprang to life. how fast we can employ them and any other connections you may have at the immediate location. Electronic Contrivances. Black hair addressed his fellow Notes. I take care of your upper web design for the Sun Generators. Pictures of monitors. However. “ Master Agriya. The eyes of the Notes grew wide.
Show of hands. what can we do.” . the Protectorate is mobilizing now.. Suddenly. Kumar looked slightly surprised at the shift in direction. While Kumar was coming down the aisle. “All legitimate questions.” Daiwak answered. We need to execute a double strategy.” “Yes. “Ah. Agriya elaborated.” “Kumar. enable full communication services between the auditorium and any terminal we call. “They are at the command of the Protectorate. “Daiwik. how can we get there. The front area of the auditorium was filled with the holographic image of a wind whipped sea shore. I know the means. The Jett Orbiters will bring us to the town. The Derider gaming network has sub-teams all over the planet. We need to get this Slaver to move out but leave our citizens behind. We will use this auditorium to focus on our target. there was a sound of wind and water in the Auditorium. “This auditorium was built to enable any and all communication levels with any and all terminals of equal capacity. I am positive there’s a team in that jurisdiction. He was now standing in an aisle. Master Agriya. “Kumar. call them on your telepathic wave. but our resources and ingenuity are requested due to the emergency and delicacy of the situation. but the spiritual is superior. I am certain they will assist us.” Agriya prompted. We must succeed. Kumar broke the silence first. if I may. the Notes looked around for the source. find your team. “Are these at our disposal? Are they active? Who commands these?” Agriya answered. Our citizens are being held captive and are in danger or worse if the Slaver so decides. Agriya called across the hall to Daiwik. W e have no time.122 Chapter 7. The view was shifting in focus and depth as they watched. but too much time will elapse before we can arrive. one physical and one mental. what resources do we have?” Agriya held up his hand.. Kumar spoke excitedly.” Agriya nodded and motioned to Kumar to come forward. We need every available network resource. Agriya explained. “Master Agriya.” Kumar was ready to move out. who has telepathic links to persons near Water by the Sea?” Perhaps seven raised their hands. We can threaten it physically and influence it mentally. These aggressors chose the mechanical over the spiritual.
and spoke out loud. one which focused down on a town with the Slaver ship hovering not far off.” Agriya ordered. we have an outpost. but they were liquid and distant. Agriya moved to the opposite aisle of the auditorium from Kumar. “Notes.123 Kumar nodded assent. two Notes following.” said Agriya. a slight smile upon his lips. and shifted his head slightly back. Have the third rider patch in his view to our communication station here. closed his eyes. Four Notes remained behind. and ran out of the auditorium. four of you must stay and act as support to Kumar. “130 north latitude. his soft black curls bobbing above his equally black eyes. Vedika. “We must do a command merge. 5th hill. Daiwik... turned his palms out at his side.” Agriya grew quietly excited. “Derider 3rd.” he addressed the still pale girl. shifting into Derider mode. Two remaining two positioned themselves Kumar.” Kumar nodded. and I as we do a telepathic leapfrog. waved to her Notes.. “We are ready. Fourteen Notes followed her on silent feet. His expression showed the distance of his attention. tanned face opposite olive features. .. The other Notes in the auditorium leaned forward with eager interest. “Perfect.” “Name your vantage.” She nodded. 98 longitude. I just downloaded my entire project to you. Remain patched into me and focused on your team and town.” Agriya nimbly left the stage and strode over to Kumar.” The rest of you must immediately join Daiwik on a Jett Orbiter to the port on the outskirts of Water by the Sea. “Who is present?” “Three riders. Stay safe. two capable of throughput and telepathic leapfrogging.” The view of the seashore suddenly cut out to a view from a higher elevation. “go with them as their co-captain. He stood at the foot of the aisle. The outpost was certainly close enough for effective action. he opened his eyes. All faced the view at the front of the auditorium. He looked at Agriya. placing hands on Kumar’s shoulders. his white mane contrasting to black curls.. Finally. He focused on the front of the auditorium. turned. We will be working together upon your arrival if not before. Then turning to the rest of the auditorium. Chapter 8. and a dreamlike conversation played across his features. please patch through to our terminal at the Sun Guild Central Auditorium.
turned forward and addressed the front of the auditorium..” Kumar suggested. Agriya chuckled. nodded. We want the invaders to believe that the townspeople have an infectious disease that will kill the invaders from any contact with blood.” Kumar looked appreciatively at Agriya. Agriya thought. fifteen people crammed into the middle of it.” Kumar raised his eyebrows at the long shot. or even skin cells. they were in quite a rush. “Yes Master Agriya?” “I need you to work with your team and Vedika to create an impression in the minds of the invaders. Until then. We must act now to shift the perceptions of the Slaver command. .124 Agriya spoke forward to the front of the auditorium even as he addressed his cocaptain. and two. “Kumar. They will only be of use once the Slaver moves away from the town... Another good point. “If we make our impressions convincing enough they will not even question the source of information.. The view of the town shifted to a view of the inside of a small Jett Orbiter. “Yes. of any town's person. one moment. “Let us begin with releasing the citizens—we can see from our vantage point if the pillage and plunder ceases and the enslavement reverses. I don’t have the particulars yet. “We should assign the task of additional forces to the traveling Notes. robes tangling with arms and legs. their resources were limited. Daiwik’s head.” “Which comes first?” Good point. that the citizens they have just taken on their ship have an infectious disease which is deadly to their species. I have summoned our space stations to move into intercept position. our citizens are in complete jeopardy. At the moment.I know we can do it. Some figures were dragging citizens to the tube snaking from the hovering ship. and if the citizens are killed or damaged then the spores of the disease will immediately release into the ventilation of the ship and kill the entire crew.Daiwik?” Agriya queried in a different tone.” The view of the town showed a continuation of figures moving erratically.. then body emerged from the tangle and addressed the two -way viewer. we will do a blanket mind-wrap on the intruder command team. Vedika can help tune in with the people there. “Captain. Agriya insisted.. what shall we tell them?” “We must influence them into believing two different points: one they are surrounded by hidden enemies with superior fire power.
Now quickly focus and get the concept pumping. the concepts were clear—the slavers felt satisfied that they were taking on a substantial crop of slave labor for their nurseries and farms. locking the doors. Some of their food had to be grown in oxygen based environments too rich for their own species. injecting some with a sedative before placing them in rooms with bed. as much as I loathe the entire concept. but never outside of the farm and nursery. Looking at Kumar. “Very good both of you. eyes wide but gleaming wit h appreciation. What the two saw and reflected on the screen.. Agriya winced. toilet and water. . Well she had the power. “Return to town. now hopefully she could use it to save her town.” They both moved to sit in seats and their two assistants in back of them. I have no doubt you are capable of such a skill..” Agriya shifted his attention back to the auditorium. even as you travel.” “Yes Master Agriya!” She shouted from the back of the Orbiter. they found the captain with his distinguishing purple flower tops standing before his own view screen on the command deck of the ship. find harmonizations. The slaver species spoke in a low note series of grunts and whistles. so the slave labor was a cheap source of oxygen tolerant effort.. however. The Slaver crews grunted and whistled as they grabbed the struggling townspeople. get to work mustering your team with Daiwik. To the eavesdroppers. the front screen of the auditorium shifted the view to reflect the perception waves of the two captains even as they were impressions and out of focus.” Kumar and Agriya focused their attention on the slaver. “Let's find compatible views in that slaver.” he commanded the screen. started with the tops of waving sea-anemone-like flower-tentacled heads on top of humanoid bodies standing before the open bay doors of the slaver. “Let's get busy. “Yes Vedika... and your team. we must confront the middle of the parasite. she didn’t realize she had also shouted on telepathic waves into his head. The slaves for the most part were allowed to live their lives. We will keep an eye from here on the town. shift the belief system. The third rider on the 5th hill assisted with the focus of the screen.125 but you can certainly create the basic concept of inherent and imminent danger. The entire ship was busy with its harvest. Kumar and Agriya together as awareness’s entered the ship. Moving inward.” Agriya saw Vedika’s head suddenly pop up at the back of the Orbiter. while the two leapfrog riders provided the closer view for the distant captains.
” the townsman replied. they gave each other an imperceptible nod. Agriya turned to follow Kumar’s attention. the townsman who was awake suddenly took on a crafty look combined with his fear and anger. “Voila.” Kumar said simply. Kumar. Looking forward. and. and as Agriya watched. They seemed to be on the main deck.” Kumar again commented. one unconscious. Suddenly the towns person erupted with a warning to the doctor. One probable doctor came over to the unconscious one to draw a vial of blood. which is so virulent to their species?” “Watch me. they will eat you from the inside out. eyes still fixed forward in the auditorium. and one observing the Slavers with obvious fear and hatred. question still unanswered.” he commanded. The skin of the doctor was soft looking and translucent. Bustling inside were several pink tentaclehaired. There was one scratch on her arm that appeared to be festering slightly. “What I mean. It appeared that Kumar had found and started a conversation with an experienced town’s person. Agriya glanced over at Kumar who looked back. on the Slaver. bound before them were three townspeople: One squirming against his bonds. light-skinned Slavers. Agriya said out loud.” She waited. as. “that we humanoids are poisonous to you anemone children.” Kumar said. is that we humanoids have a symbiotic relationship with the phylum bacteria. and each entrance had a vital function behind it. “Ah ha.126 In the auditorium.” . “What sort of organism shall we carry. a door yielded to a room of obvious medical uses. “You had better be careful with that vile of blood you just took. as he concentrated they were back behind the Captain. eyes fixed ahead. “Wait here.” The pink flowered doctor started. for we are virulent to any descendent of the cnidarian sea anemone genome. Kumar’s attention then travelled out the main corridor and down a hallway as he examined each room in turn. On the floor. his Oceanside twang obvious even over telepathic waves. looking from the vial of red blood to the townsman on the floor. The doctor spoke slowly but clearly enough with its slightly translucent lips revealing rows of sieve-like teeth. “What are you saying?” “I said. possibly from lack of attention in the hustle of the catch-taking. and whereas bacteria are good for our digestion.
” She jerked back and hastily ran over to a sink and washed her arm with some sort of soap. She dried herself and while looking warily at the now highly contagious townspeople. and closed their eyes for full Tele-reemerge. the fires started.” He finished his comment. it seems. Agriya and Kumar had just broken the telepathic leapfrog when Vedika appeared on the front screen. Of course. something in what the town’s person had said made sense to her and she wasn’t happy with the idea at all. Satellite Command isn’t going to be able to save this one either. Her flowered tentacles started waving at a faster rate. Apparently. Agriya and Kumar made sure that she knew that what he said was true. screams of command and terror. The meaning of her communication was clear. We have no time. called on her ship intercom. In the background was the dancing light of flames and again. and her eyes were now intense and suspicious. a scratch which I think one of us gave you in the struggle. “you will notice that it is not healing and. She seemed to be somewhere on or near the Derider outpost on Hill 5. The matter of the ship’s presence had been left to Satellite Command to complete. in fact. and glanced at Kumar. The ensuing pandemonium was even more impressive than the original slave taking. let their assistants give them sips of a nutrition drink. now wearing head to toe protective suits. other free town’s people rushed to recover them and release their bonds. “Master Agriya! They are torching the town!” Agriya looked at Kumar. pushed or carried the townspeople out of the ship and left them unceremoniously on the ground. “And if you will look at that scratch on your arm. Slavers. they exchanged a nod. Panic and sweat were visible on her face. leaving the vial of blood abandoned on the counter. “I think that the bacteria may already be hard at work on your tasty flesh. “Get the humans off this ship immediately and sterilize anything they may have touched or left bacteria on. hurriedly dragged.127 The doctor seemed to be agitated at his statement.” she looked alarmed. “Sore losers.” The town’s person leaned forward and peered at her arm. mere minutes after they had disconnected from the volunteer townsman now safely back in the town. . Just as Agriya and Kumar were about to congratulate all concerned.” Chapter 9. sat back in their chairs. but the Slaver had already made the next move.
They returned to Hill 5, Water by the Sea, where the three Derider team mates had just shaken off their own daze from the Telelink and transmission work. Kumar took the lead, “Leapfroggers we must re-engage, Derider 3rd, please provide viewing. This time we will also utilize the mobile Derider team.” Then Agriya spoke seemingly to the air, “Where are you Vedika and Daiwik?” His voice hung in the silent auditorium. He realized he had just spoken the names of two of the most important people in his life. The random realization was disconcerting. Now they had to win. The game got serious. The view of the town under attack by a rogue Slaver enraged him. His future family lived there. However, emotion would block his skill—he must control it. After all, he was the Master; centuries of training couldn’t fail him now. Why the challenge chose him above the other Masters had revealed itself—many hidden facts of his life were emerging and demanding resolution. They would not be ignored. “Vedika? Daiwik?” He repeated. “Master Agriya,” Vedika suddenly filled the screen of the auditorium, eyes flashing, and her robes now dusty and torn, hair in a tangle. Behind her, in the background the hovering Slaver continued to fire laser pulse after pulse into selected buildings until they burst into flame, then they moved to the next building. “Daiwik and I have sent the Notes to cover the outer perimeter of the town; we have a plan of attack.” “Go on?” “We will render the town invisible to the Slaver, build a reflector shield or the mental equivalent, whichever works, while you and Kumar convince the Slaver that they are in the direct fire line of the orbiting satellite war ships...And that the Satellites only need a few more moments to finish the final trajectory fix on the slaver before blowing it out of the sky.” Strong language, Agriya mused to himself. Yet her plan had merit. Did the Notes have the skill? “Ok, Vedika, engage. We will work on our end.” Looking at Kumar, “Agreed?” Kumar nodded. They both faced and focused forward. Agriya joined with Kumar and the leapfrog Deriders. Their attention quickly raced back to the Slaver, up the ramp, through the now-closed bulkhead door, into the command deck, to the purple Captain manning a laser control stick, and his pink Doctor reading the heat map of the village below.
“OK purple head, this is an important announcement,” the mental communication blasting into the Captain and Doctor’s heads was so strong, generated between Kumar, Agriya and their Leapfroggers that the Captain jerked up, releasing his control stick, and the Doctor jumped. Both looked at each other wide eyed. “This is your only warning; you will be under attack from orbiting warships in a matter of minutes. If you do not cease firing on our town immediately, we will open fire instantly upon trajectory lock in. If you do cease fire and pull off our planet, we will let you leave without incident. It sounded too trite, and the communication was made through intention, but the point was clear, leave or be fried. Agriya and Kumar concentrated on forming the image in the minds of the Captain and the Doctor of the Slaver blowing to smithereens out of midair...Much to the satisfaction of the Zuddah defenders.
Vedika was out of breath. She had climbed to a vantage point on Hill 5 above the Derider Leapfroggers and the viewer who were in the outpost bunker, safe behind a wall of cement and rock. She climbed further up the rock and shale to gain a clearer view of Water by the Sea and the other manned points on a circumference around the outside of the town. She had fifteen contact points in all – her fellow Notes and Daiwik. Daiwik was opposite of her, across the center of town on the seashore. Between the two of them and the team of Notes, they would carry out her strategy. She hoped it would work. If it didn’t, she didn’t know what else she could do. Her town was already in a shamble. Suppressing her own worry, outrage, and sadness, she concentrated on drawing close the ties between her and the other Notes in their planned undertaking. She had two goals: One, to make the town invisible in the minds of the attackers; Two, to derange the aim of the lasers, or the aim of those persons controlling the lasers, so the strikes were no longer true. Better yet, she thought, the best of the challenge would be to make the laser reverse itself and melt its own crystal mounts. That would take mental skill well beyond her ability level. Or would it? It would be extremely satisfying to make it happen. Vedika shook herself. Time was preciously dripping away. Smoke from a torched wood building tickled her nose, and she sneezed. She surveyed the town and sent out
threads of mental contact to Daiwik and each of her fellow Notes. She could barely see each of them as small figures in their positions on the outer edge of a geographic circle around the town, hers was the highest. She could feel each respond in turn taking up a mental handhold back to her; then each reached out to others all around the perimeter of the circle. One to the next, they created a grand weaving of fifteen points crisscrossed above the town in a tapestry of telepathic threads. Between the each of them, they made a nearly palatable woven star. Vedika sat down and braced her back against the mountain side behind her. Her fellow Notes all secured themselves...Sitting or leaning on a support. They were interlocked in awareness and action. Their skill levels were all comparable on this point —it had been a requirement of their employment. She sent them the concept of a combined mirage of energy that they would create on command, protecting the town like a shield while also repelling light rays like a mirror. She much liked the idea of a sudden reversal of light, the laser shooting back at the ship. The town would simultaneously experience darkness—like a storm cloud had intervened between the town and what was overhead—but that had to be better than being fired upon. It was a Derider strategy to engage in defensive shielding though this team of Notes had never practiced together. She hoped they would know or learn what was needed. She gave the command as a pulse of intention, “Shield!” The result was gratifying and disconcerting. The woven net of telepathic connections went from being invisible to a glimmering sheen, which then grew brighter and brighter. As they intensified their concept of a shield, each concentrating fully with eyes closed, seeing only with their mental eyes, the gaps between the weaving filled with increasing brightness. When they had a solid white, they then turned up the frequency, shortened the wave length, tightened the net, and it became a shield of microwaves, almost as palatable as metal infused fabric. Suddenly, the density reached a critical level. The wavelengths were small enough that the laser shots were diffracted, though some started running along the outer edge of the shield to either shoot out over the sea or angle off the edge. The ship hadn’t reacted to the misdirecting of its f irepower, yet. Vedika smelled something burning nearby and opened her eyes, they went wide, and one of the refracted laser beams had traveled across the face of the shield and had come within inches of her cheek before burying itself in the hill side. Vedika hastily reformed her image to include a rise in the field before each of the players. None too soon
but unlike clouds. Vedika herself was learning in precious seconds what did or didn’t work. real military engagement. In your mind review the event of the laser cutting you over and over until it stops hurting. Finally. From the ship’s vantage. Your wound is already cauterized and sterilized. coming within a foot of Daiwik’s head. Agriya was finally able to get a clear concept of what the Captain was thinking: something technologically advanced had moved to protect the town. making several of the Notes feel ill.but do not let that shield down!” Mental first-aid she knew. and hopefully last..131 as another laser pulse traveled erratically across the shield toward the sea. several were not prepared for real blood and damage. and the flinch was his undoing. Chapter 11. individuals could weaken and break their thread. so much so that it was difficult for the two mental intruders to get anyone to pay attention to their concept of imminent danger from above. the ship could realign its aim. Breathe! Recreate your shield. He flinched. Daiwik’s pain now filled the telepathic net. and such a technology was not listed in their planetary survey. “Daiwik! Breathe! Hold your end of the shield up high. and the laser followed the crease to cut his arm before burying itself in the sand behind him. Vedika quickly took control. “Notes. but the circumstance would allow no further attention until that cursed ship was gone. He lost the fabric image on his corner of the shield.. this was her first. Then silence. and moved to comply with his order. His purple flower stalks bobbed wildly as he muttered and paced. and someone else had claimed the town before them! . The fact that the laser fire was being misdirected was causing quite a stir. Do not back off now!” For all their posturing and practice as Derider players. The shield was up but fragile. it looked like a glassy metallic layer of clouds had covered the town. The Captain was rushing about the deck to the different view ports to look at different sides of the now barely visible town. he held up a hand and barked an order that could have been “Halt!” Other Slaver staff s on the bridge nodded. We are making progress. the layer was reflecting the laser fire in erratic directions. Something had to be done to eradicate the threat altogether. Agriya and Kumar were mid-attempt in their quest to convince the Slaver that it was in mortal danger and must leave immediately.
he wiped his face with both hands. Agriya briefly mind melded with her. looking out the view port at the shrouded town. Little did he know. “Master Agriya?” She queried from the side of Hill #5. and it couldn’t be good.. who with eyes still closed.” she confessed. “Vedika. attention returning abruptly to the auditorium in full. The Slavers think you are another outside force!” Agriya almost gloated.. caught the scent of dirt and dust. “Let's take care of the Slavers. but we cannot hold this for long. “Need to move this along. the culture of planet Zuddah was considered too backward or defenseless to come up with something as brilliant as the town shield. sounding almost like the young woman whom she was.132 Agriya raised his eyebrows in surprise. Opening his eyes.” “True. Agriya needed to capitalize on the Captain’s train of thought—it was the Captain’s own fear: some other invading force had gotten here first and was now interfering with the Slaver. shall we?” He continued. Then.” he thought to himself.” he suddenly switched focus. seemed distantly engrossed in his side of the project. standing wide eyed. “Master Agriya?” Came her startled and surprised reply. but the reflecting rays almost fried me and Daiwik both. her sweat and exertion. and then caught himself.” . “Your shield is brilliant and is working beautifully. That worked for him. and felt for a fleeting moment the fatigue that was growing within her. Apparently. he could almost imagine what Kumar was running through her head. Agriya mused ruefully. Please make them go away. His assistants looked at him with concern. Masters do not gloat. Agriya almost snickered. “I almost forgot you were out there. “What can you do to convince them from your side that you Are an outside superior force? Kumar and I can play upon your effect to complete their thoughts for them. period. The Doctor looked positively spooked. he glanced over at Kumar. Agriya returned to his monitoring of the Captain and in so doing observed the Doctor.” Agriya wasn’t happy about that. “The slavers think you are from another outside force. pink stalks barely moving on her head. and they have stopped the firing. “Yes. still holding on to the fabric of the shield.” she pleaded.
” Agriya knew that. The Captain and his crew were just going to have to be convinced to leave on a subjective basis. “We can extrude from the shield the image of numerous missiles being brought to bear on the Slaver. Agriya assumed he was looking for some physical indication of the approach of attackers. at any time. the vision could be challenged by the Slavers. Influencing metal devices to register non-existent warships was beyond Agriya’s skill level. They returned to their positions in the ship. The shrouded town showed no shield on the radar scans. they had suspicions of a possible retribution coming from above. Precious moments went by as the question was pondered. each of them monitoring their key person. “Yes?” The Captain was walking the deck peering at different devices. The young. He again broke contact with the Captain to look at Kumar. This time Kumar looked back. Agriya immediately felt better. Vedika. and your concept is approved. They stopped firing.133 Chapter 12. He winked. Agriya had already returned his attention to the deck of the Slaver to pump up the concept of the incoming missile from the satellite war ship in the mind of the Captain when a burst of excitement surged into his awareness. We just don’t happen to have any. something that Agriya noted for fixing in the future. Why is that Master Agriya?” “Another question for another time. Note had his own accompanying strategy to employ via the Doctor. . Their instruments were not registering in concurrence with their perceptions. The Captain and the Doctor were getting restless. Agriya and Kumar resumed their plummeting of the two with concepts of disease and hidden imminent danger. The Slaver is easily in the range for any normal metal weapon. Agriya almost held his breath waiting for Vedika and Daiwik to get busy on their vision. “Master Agriya! We’ve got the perfect idea!” Holding in place for the Captain the picture of a war ship taking aim on the Slaver from a hidden location. He also knew that if they moved with speed and certainty that the critical turning point where a concept turned into action could be reached. Vedika put the question to her team of fifteen on the tight band of connection they all shared via the shield they’d built of their intentions. Agriya replied. but powerful.
Vedika broke the moment’s silence. “See you later. Signing off.134 Agriya felt and heard a gasp from the Captain. making the effort even more rewarding than it already was. but then Agriya and Kumar returned to the auditorium at the same moment.” The auditorium screen went blank. Agriya and Kumar stayed with them as far as the outer layer of the atmosphere to verify their trajectory was out of their solar system. They had now had too much. Kumar looked at Agriya and gave him a broad smile. shunting a reflecting light over the ship. Something was just wrong with this town. Tremendous talent between you and Daiwik. followed by the Doctor. who rushed over to the view port. and the rest of you. I will see you in a few days. and they didn’t want to find out what it was. Agriya didn’t even want to speak. He barked an order. with assistants mopping their faces. I am relieved and proud. Vedika. She gave a big smile which to Agriya was as radiant as the sun’s rays. The alarm from the two Slavers was almost palatable. As successful as the operation was it had been much too close for comfort. Their hunting foray for easy prey had turned much more difficult than they had planned. Go take care of your family.” She visibly brightened up. “Master Agriya. All pointing at the ship. END BACK TO TABLE OF CONTENTS . despite grime and fatigue. The Captain jumped: it had to be the orbiting war ship. They took large gulps of their drinks. they may. and Agriya looked at Kumar. both sweating. It took several minutes. Below them suddenly the shroud of the town was bristling with weapons. Other help will arrive shortly from Planetary Construction. and the ship’s crew scrambled. Just at that moment the sun sparked off of a passing Orbiter in the upper altitude. may we return now?” “Absolutely! If some of the Notes wish to remain for a few days to help the town reconstruct. And Vedika?” “Yes Master Agriya?” “You were incredible.
On line at www.com. filled her mind with worlds of possibility and freedom.Doc Smith and Robert Heinlein at a very early age. and other classic Science Fiction authors have told. A novel will be available within a year. I can do it. She has a motto. both in the external and the internal universes. she writes about what fascinates her.” With the universe to conquer and an imagination to meet it with.com . The stories they. “If I can conceive it.135 About the Author Cat Firstman has loved Science Fiction since her first encounter with writers such as E.E. Connect with her at Catrinafirstman@yahoo.CatFirstman.
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