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“Orange with black stars?” Shev walked around my jet bike, slowly, inspecting every inch. “That’s how this whole adventure started. I thought it was appropriate.” I gently settled the nuclear reactor into the ignition matrix. As it clicked into place I smiled. “I thought the whole purpose of your homecoming was to be more Nethasian.” “Can’t I be Nethasian and myself at the same time?” I hopped on my bike. “I don’t know…not many have tried it.” I started my bike; the high pitched whine of the engine made my spines quiver. “I’ll let you know how it works out.” Then I was gone.
I had seen him travel that way before, on a rusty, sputtering bike. I had better things to do (at least that’s what Uncle Zarphan liked to remind me). There were alliances to forge and alliances to shatter. There were allies to support and enemies to kill. There was even an occasional crime to thwart, but that was mostly petty theft and politically incorrect kidnapping. But the old one wasn’t affected by all that, he was fascinated by the wastelands. Didn’t he care about what people said about him? Didn’t he care about what people said about his family tree? Apparently not. So, while the political process worked itself out back in town, I sought the old one out, more for my own peace of mind than for his safety. “Bloar Goathan Shuzthoar! Voag Nauf Omkaon Nugruz?” The old Nethasian hissed and then knelt down in the dusty wilderness. “Translating speech – please wait” [“Good day Sherriff! How may I help you?”]
“Note formal sentence case usage combined with age differential. Note the use of the word Goarthan: day. Note the multiple uses of the word Bloar: Good, happy, victorious, or successful.” “Klyph uz mushu loaz niosh murg nata’ushba?” Which hopefully meant “Why are you alone out here?” “Nata’ushba ufoargok Juktoath Corox.” “Translating speech – please wait” [“Out here I look for the forgotten past.”] “Note that subject is disconnected from usual cultural references. Sentence case is early Nuthgoarian Dynasty. Note the use of the word Juktoath: forgotten. Not the use of the word Corox: past.” Now what? Leave the old one to his business and hope that no one robs him? Drag him back to the relative safety of town? He was different, this one. After several months here, I could tell who had seen their share of victories and who had not. The physical scars extended beyond the body and twisted and shaped the relationships one had with their compatriots. The social hierarchy was complex and always subtly shifting depending on who killed who. But this old one was removed from all that. Many days he would be out here in the middle of nowhere, digging in the dirt. Even when he walked through town, no one noticed him. To me it was just dirt and rocks, rocks and dirt. I looked at the old one as he scrabbled around in the meaningless jumble of dusty stones. He was busy bending over certain outcroppings and taking notes. At times he took out a small shovel and brush, to clear away centuries of sediment. He would hem and haw; then toss whatever he found over his shoulder. He would look around, as if to make sure this was where he wanted to be, and begin all over again. This all made sense to him, but not to me. “Well, old ghost, I’ll leave you to your work. I’ll see you in town tonight.” I muttered. He laughed. [“Old ghost, eh?”] Before I could say another word, he pointed to his ear. Why the crafty old Nethasian had his own translator. [“Come back tomorrow, seedling, and I’ll teach you the old language, what was spoken before the Great Upheaval.”]
But the day took an unexpected turn. In the distance, a bright flash of light, shaped like a square, lit up the landscape. I looked and what I saw I could barely understand: I was staring into infinite reflections, like being caught between two mirrors. These infinite landscapes started to collapse into one another; as they did so, huge towers started to appear. The buildings were many stories high and filled with a light blue liquid. Domes appeared, each one reflecting the red sky perfectly. Finally, a series of square planes of light, arranged horizontally, shimmered into view. When the landscape returned to normal, a new city lay before us, like a scattering of precious jewels.
I put the old man on my bike. “You’re coming with me old one. You’re the smartest one around here and I’ll need all the brains I can round up to deal with this.” [“I have nothing else to do. I am Professor Qonthoar, of the tree of Qon.”] “Let’s go say ‘howdy’ to our new neighbors, professor.” [“You’re assuming they have ears, Sheriff.”] I gunned the bike. We zipped over the rocks and through the canyons. This is what I missed: the adventure, the mystery. Months and months of listening to trivial bickering and breaking up petty fights had dulled my soul. Now I felt alive, truly awake. My mind was racing with a million questions: Who were we going to meet? Why had they come here? Were they peaceful or hostile? Where were they from? Did the government know that they were coming? I stopped the bike just a few hundred yards from the city. We got off the bike and slowly advanced. However, after a few steps, our progress was halted by a force field of some sort. I walked back and forth, examining the barrier and the city beyond. The towers had square particles floating through them, as well as larger objects. The larger objects appeared to be swimming up and down. The mirror like skin on the domes retracted and then recovered the buildings, like the blinking of an eyelid. [“What are you looking for?”] “A doorbell.” [“Door-Bell?”] I poked my finger at the empty air. “It’s an ancient earth device, used to announce one’s presence.” A one meter cube formed itself from the very essence of the force field; it started out as a glowing blue box but eventually became totally white. Characters suddenly appeared on the cube. They were jumbled and scattered. They shifted and organized themselves into several different structures, but they still appeared unfamiliar. The characters were also accompanied by pictures of animals, planets, and geometric designs. A wide variety of sounds played in the background; some seemed totally random, but others had a definite pattern. There were also smells emitted from the cube. Even the cube’s surface changed in temperature and texture. After several moments, a different (and equally alien) set of characters and stimuli appeared. It was several minutes before something recognizable appeared. “Hello. We The People greet you. We are peaceful.” “Hello. I am Sheriff Zarthithy of Coal Town. You are in the Nethasian Cluster. Please state your purpose here.” “We are….seeking a place to live.”
By this time, several Nethasian war ships had arrived. For some odd reason, they were not firing upon the city. I could hear the whine of thousands of jet bikes descending on the scene. I looked around for someone in authority, which was always a delicate, fluid subject, but all I saw was aggression. A sea of red warriors was advancing, guns drawn, with destruction in their eyes. As they drew nearer, I was expecting some sort of defense from the other side of the force field. However, everything on their side was eerily calm and silent. Then the shouting began. I never saw rage and frustration on that scale before. The guns were useless and so were the battle staffs. They started pounding on the invisible wall with their fists; it was unusual, for I thought it would have made a sound, but their pounding was rendered uncannily mute. The ships dove down like hungry birds of prey, their blades gleaming in the sun. Suddenly, a wave of light slowly marched out from the city; as it touched ship and warrior alike, they simply disappeared. “They are unharmed. They have been returned to their point of origin.” The city announced. “And we were not?” “You did not attack. You were wise enough to ask questions instead of trying to destroy.” “How long will you be here?” “Unknown.” “Are more of your kind coming?” “Not to this planet, but we are many. We have settled in different areas of your galaxy. More are on the way, but this is the only settlement on your planet. We are peaceful. We will not harm you and we will minimize our impact on your environment.” Then I did something very human. “Do you need anything?” “Understanding.” “It would be easier to understand you if we could see you.” The air seemed to stand still. For the first time, I noticed a low, regular throbbing, spaced apart by one minute intervals. A slit opened in the central dome; the doorway remained open for several minutes. The objects in the towers stopped and simply floated in the blue liquid; their attention was riveted to this moment. I could see a lone figure walking toward us. The closer he came, the more the irony hit me. I felt like I was one of the humans in the movie “The Day the Earth Stood Still.” My anticipation and excitement were beginning to build. After all I had been through, this moment seemed truly historic: I was about to come face to face with something utterly new. And I wasn’t disappointed: when the visitor stopped in front of me, I was truly amazed. It had a clear, humanoid shell, with a head, torso, arms, and legs. On top of its head was a crest of finger like appendages. A thick, viscous, orange liquid was within the shell. Three spherical organs floated in this
weird soup; their shape stretching and contorting when they went from the chest to an arm or leg. When it was time for the organ to move back to the chest or head, it simply reshaped itself into a ball. “I am 784-Triangle 43rd Codex. We are the U.” He touched the force field and a symbol appeared:
© 2013 Benjamin F. Kaye