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Lost on Earth
Chapter Seven Fall 2008 Edition

By:

Rob Diaz II
Jodi Cleghorn
Cara Moulds
Dale Challener Roe
Ani Chibukhchyan
Karen Maxwell
Virginia Diaz

A Write Anything Collaborative Story

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Chapter Seven Fall 2008 Edition
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Copyright 2008 by Write Anything


(writeanything.wordpress.com)

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this work without the authors’ permission.

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Chapter One
By Rob Diaz II
Bob Price fought violently against the panic he felt welling up within his belly.

What am I going to do now?, he thought as he leaned back against the door and
watched her walk to the kitchen, placing the wet umbrella on the floor and the
tray of cookies on the table. He closed his eyes and listened to her humming a
song he did not know as she went familiarly to the cabinet to pull out plates.
Reopening his eyes he saw his car keys hanging on the hook by the door and
considered grabbing them and retreating back to the peace and quiet and safety
of his office, where he could submerge himself into the piles of data streaming
through the SETI project’s satellite systems. But looking at his already cold, bare
feet, still wet from having just slogged home through the rain, and hearing the
continued pounding of the rain outside his door, he shook his head and slowly
walked into the kitchen to be a polite host to his neighbor.

“Sorry for the clutter,” he said awkwardly as he picked up piles of papers and
stacked them precariously on the piles that were already teetering on the other
end of the table. “I… haven’t had a reason to clean up in a while. Oh, and, I’m a
slob. I guess that could be a larger factor in the equation.”

“Don’t worry,” said Nico, laughing lightly. “It’s all fine. I’m not here to see how
clean your kitchen table is or determine if you leave your socks on the floor all the
time.” Bob’s eyes drifted slowly to the dark sock draped over the side of the
couch. “I’m here to visit you, Bob. Besides, we all have to put our dirty laundry
somewhere, right?”

“Right,” said Bob, moving first to stuff the dirty sock under the couch cushion and
then back into the kitchen. He poured himself a cup of coffee and got a glass of
water for Nico.

“You remembered!” said Nico. “How nice. Most people forget that I always want
water.”

“Of course I remembered,” said Bob. “It still surprises me, though, that you have
never had anything to drink besides water.”

“That makes me sound so uptight,” said Nico with a dismissive wave. “I’ve just
never found anything to satisfy my thirst the way water does. So, you know, why
bother with anything else?”

“To each their own, I guess,” shrugged Bob, taking a big drink of his coffee.

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They sat quietly for a few moments, Nico eating a cookie while Bob mostly broke
his own cookie into tiny bits on the plate. Feeling awkward about the silence, Bob
asked, “Work okay?”

“Yes,” came the reply. “It’s great. Yours? Find any aliens yet?”

“Well,” said Bob laughing uncomfortably. “I guess only time will tell.”

“You must have the most amazing job imaginable,” said Nico. “You are there,
seeking out first contact with the universe, searching for intelligent life… out
there among the stars. I’m sure that people must envy you when you talk about
your work.”

“No kidding,” said Bob with a sarcastic laugh. He pushed his round, somewhat
too large glasses back up onto his nose and said, “I’m sure everyone is slightly
envious. I’m a slightly overweight, slightly balding, slightly-older-than-middle-
aged guy who spends his days, nights and weekends locked in a room deep inside
some non-descript building, talking only to a computer as it mindlessly spits out
bits of data that it, in its artificially intelligent way, thinks might be interesting to
someone like me. Who wouldn’t want to be me? But seriously, if I ever actually
found something in the bits of data… now that might be something people would
be interested in.”

“I think you’re underestimating the value people place on your work,” said Nico.
Then, more hesitantly, “So, have you ever thought that you might have found
anything in your bits of data?”

She knows that I suspect something, he thought and he felt the nerves building
up within him again. “Well,” he said slowly, trying to contain the thoughts that
were firing rapidly across his brain.

“Sometimes I’ve imagined order where the data seemed to be only chaos. You
know, the problem with what I do is not a lack of data that could be significant or
even marginally interesting. There are plenty of data feeds that might be real,
legitimate signs of intelligence, but then they may be nothing but so much
random noise.”

“So, how do you tell the difference between noise and intelligence?” she asked.

“You know,” said Bob with a sigh, “I don’t know. The problem is that we don’t
have the funding or the public support to really further the science of SETI. We
listen for patterns of signals that originated somewhere else and we then
interpret them in our own way, trying to force them to mean something to us
when we aren’t even sure that they meant anything wherever they originated. In
the movies, if we encounter intelligence, all we ever see is some kind of numeric
signal, usually binary and, sadly, usually a countdown to doomsday or something

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like that. At this point, we’re nothing more than bad cosmic hackers, trying to
steal a password when we don’t even know what it is for.”

“What do you think the answer is?” asked Nico. “I mean, is there intelligence out
there and are they communicating with us?”

“Oh, I’m sure there’s someone out there,” said Bob. “They might even be nearby. I
don’t think they’re sending us random streams of numbers, though. I think they
would be sending pictures and music and words, just as we would do.”

“Why do you think there isn’t more support for your efforts?” asked Nico. “Surely
everyone wants to know what’s going on out there.” She looked away and said,
“Well, at least I want to know what’s going on out there.”

“Well,” continued Bob, taking Nico’s interest as permission to continue talking


about his work, “it comes down to the current state of the naïve assumptions we
make about the universe. While we might all say that yes, we are wondering if
there’s someone ‘Out There’ and yes, it is unlikely that we are the only life to have
come to be, accidentally or not, the reality is that most of us don’t want to face the
larger questions that this knowledge could bring along, about our origins, about
our place in the universe, that sort of thing. You might even find that the majority
of us are absolutely certain that there must be someone else ‘Out There.’ But
when push comes to shove, you’ll find that the same majority of us is largely
paying so little attention to what’s going on that we either wouldn’t believe it or
more likely we wouldn’t notice if someone from ‘Out There’ were standing in
front of us with eleven tentacles, purple skin and laser vision, wearing a sandwich
board advertising their planet of origin while singing disco hits.”

“So, you think people from another planet would have eleven tentacles, purple
skin and laser vision?” asked Nico, with a laugh that sounded forced. “I mean,
they wouldn’t look human?”

“No,” said Bob. “Well, maybe. I’m sure people around the universe come in many
different shapes, sizes and colors.” He hesitated for a moment, willing himself to
stare straight at Nico as he continued. “They might even be larger than the
average human, have blue-gray skin, wings and two antennae on their hairless
heads.”

Bob watched Nico as she caught her breath and looked at him, unblinkingly. Was
her unwavering stare the acknowledgment he was seeking or was she waiting for
him to continue? Bob listened to the ticking of the old grandfather clock in the
living room and it felt like each second was taking several minutes to go by.
Finally, Bob broke the silence, saying, “I’m going to ask you something crazy,
something you probably would have figured you would never be asked in your
lifetime.”

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“What is it, Bob?”

“Nico, are you an alien?” Bob felt his face flush red hot with fear and
embarrassment and wished he could catch the words before they reached Nico’s
wonderful, completely human ears. What if he was wrong? What if he was right?
He hadn’t thought through to his next step. Nico’s expression hadn’t changed at
all. But he couldn’t be wrong, he knew what he had seen.

“What would make you ask such a thing?” asked Nico quietly, looking down.

Taking a deep breath, Bob explained. “I walked over to your house a few days ago,
maybe a couple weeks ago now. I was bringing you a bag of tomatoes from my
garden because I knew you enjoyed them last year. I heard you humming in the
backyard and so I let myself in through the gate.”

“I remember,” said Nico. “The tomatoes were fantastic.”

“Good,” said Bob. “I’m glad you liked them. So, as I came around, I saw
something, I mean, someone, wandering around the patio. I assumed it was you,
since I heard your voice humming, the same song you were humming when you
got here today, actually. But the—person – seemed too large to be you. As I came
toward the patio, I noticed pale-looking skin, kind of blue-gray. I saw wings on—
her – back. I apologized for intruding and turned to leave, but then you called my
name. I turned around and you were, well, you again.”

“I am always me, Bob,” said Nico. “We can never escape being ourselves.”

“I’ve tried to explain it away. I have been telling myself that it was just that I had
not had enough sleep, that you were, perhaps, involved with a Community
Theater or something, that maybe I was working too much in a field where my
job is to find alien life in every burst of background radiation I see. But I haven’t
been able to shake the feeling, the image. For a moment, there, in your yard,
when you called my name, I- I was sure I saw my back as though I was standing
where you had been on the patio, watching me leave. And I know that I didn’t
hear your voice; it was more like I – felt it….” Bob sighed heavily and looked at
the floor while he waited for a reply he knew would not come. Feeling foolish, he
forced himself to laugh and continued. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m obviously
mistaken. Sorry for embarrassing you – and me.”

Nico remained quiet for a few moments as Bob headed to the kitchen to warm his
coffee. Returning to the table where Nico was waiting, he looked up and dropped
the mug filled with scalding-hot coffee, ignoring it as it shattered across the floor
and onto his feet. Standing before him was Nico, only she now had blue-gray
skin, wings and antennae. She was nearly as tall as he was now, perhaps taller.
Suddenly, as Nico’s words filled his mind, Bob’s vision split, as if he was seeing

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with two sets of eyes, one set looking at the tall, hovering creature before him
while the other was looking back at him.

I am Nicomeda, Empress-designate of the Th’Urn.

The words did not come to him through his ears, they were an integral part of
him. Bob stood there, unmoving, barely breathing, as he watched Nicomeda
before him and also watched himself at the same time. The words coalesced
around his consciousness in a way that conveyed their meaning, the emotions of
the speaker and more. The words expressed relief, as if a burden was lifted.

Bob’s sight returned to normal as he watched her shrink back to her normal form,
at least the form that was normal to Bob’s eyes, and continued in a spoken voice
that was normal to Bob’s ears. “At least that’s who I was, before I came here to
Earth,” she said.

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Chapter Two
By Jodi Cleghorn
Bob reached out for a chair to steady himself as Nico’s confession splintered his
world and shook him to his core – just as the strange shift in perspective that had
accompanied her step out of the closet had done.

“There really are aliens among us. Christ one of them lives next door to me,” Bob
thought, feeling it safer to explore it all in his head before he dared to open his
mouth. Now was not the time for one of his infamous foot-in-mouth forays – he’d
prefer to begin this interplanetary relationship without a gaff on his part.

While he explored the possibility of the impossible every day, sitting there
logically attempting to interpret the volumes of data in his small cave-like office,
part of him really debated whether life beyond the known universe was feasible.
While part of him fantasised about it – the other part, the analyst and
mathematician – knew there had never been a probability of an oversized, blue-
grey, insectoid creature dropping by with cookies in the middle of an
unseasonable downpour because it was the neighbourly thing to do. He’d come to
SETI on the strength of his resume and the challenge that the project presented
him, rather than a passion for planets or all consuming beliefs about life existing
in the big beyond. It seemed the mountain had come to Mohammed in that
regard.

Nico stood looking at Bob, his facial expression oscillating with his thoughts, but
giving her no fixed indication of what he was feeling or thinking. Neither Nico nor
Bob felt comfortable or uncomfortable in those precious minutes as each of them
processed what had just gone on. It was as though they were paused in time and
space, existing in the microcosm of the kitchen, grappling with the wider
implications. All was silent – even the cacophony of the rain on the iron roof
seemed to be muted.

Nico waited patiently for Bob to say something, but when it became obvious he
wouldn’t or couldn’t, she looked at the shattered coffee cup and the slick tide of
coffee making its way across the worn linoleum of the kitchen floor and asked,
“Do you have a dust pan and broom? A rag? I don’t want you to step on the
broken mug and cut yourself.”

It took a moment for Nico’s simple statement to register with Bob. He looked
down at the floor, his anemic white feet were pock marked with splattered coffee.
For the first time he felt the small fiery pin points of pain, where the coffee had
burnt the top of his feet.

“Ahh, in the little cupboard beside the fridge.”

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With quiet efficiency Nico cleaned up the mess and poured another brew for Bob,
who had sat down at the table. He sat sipping his coffee slowly and deliberately,
while Nico played with a cookie. In a sudden flurry of activity, Bob pushed his
chair back, so violently it fell backwards as he moved with uncharacteristic speed
away from the table, returning with his briefcase. A moment later the lock was
opened, and the case sat lid up in front of him, obscuring the petite form of Nico
from his line of sight. He took out a pile of data printouts… the type that rolled off
in one continual stream, each page punctuated with a line of perforation, and
pushed the briefcase to the side. He searched through the pages, his doughy
fingers moving expertly through the paper jungle, as he searched for the pages
embellished in pink highlighter, biro marks scribbled in the border.

He looked up, pushing his heavy glasses back onto the bridge of his nose. “Are
there others here Nico?”

“Others like me – or just others?”

“You mean there are more aliens?” It was difficult to keep the astonishment out
of his voice.

“I prefer the term extra terrestrial.”

“Semantics,” Bob muttered, running his finger along a line of data that
terminated in a string of hand written numbers, ignoring Nico who had
successfully reduced two cookies to neat piles of crumbs.

“I thought I was mad,” Bob said and passed the printout to Nico. “It’s in the
silence not in the chatter – when you did what you did to me, that temporal
spatial shift in perception. Now I understand.”

What do you understand Bob?

Bob’s jaw dropped. Nico sat there rearranging the pile of cookie crumbs
nonchalantly, but he was certain that she’d spoken to him.

“Did you just say something to me?”

Yes I did Bob.

He looked at her in disbelief.

Surely you’d have suspended all your atrophying beliefs by now Bob.

“I can hear you in my head.”

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This is the way we communicate on my planet. There is little need for spoken
words most of the time. We move through time and space in silence.

Nico reached out and took the printouts from Bob, reading the data with growing
uneasiness. “The breaks… the periods of silence. When did they appear?” she
asked.

“About three months ago. I thought that they were a by-product of static, space
storms, electrical disturbances, a programming error, but they’ve become more
regular… there is a pattern.”

“They’re searching for me.”

“Your people?”

“They are following the psychic trail I left behind. And it ends here - Earth.”

“Then they will come – here?”

“My people only travel with their minds. We do not leave our planet. The
Empress will send others to get me and take me home. Or negotiate with your
government to have me sent back.”

“But you travelled here?”

“I followed another. He came with one of your kind who was a scientific envoy
from Earth.”

“So the urban legend is true.”

“Yes, Bob.”

“So your people – they could come if they chose.”

“Technically - yes. But - no. It is not our way.”

Bob took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes that were sore and itchy. His head
was aching, and the excitement of the evening was giving way to a deep sense of
exhaustion, that was invading each and every bone and muscle in his body. His
sedentary, non-eventful existence was unused to this sort of drama. The closest
he’d had to any excitement in the last year was a bag of microwave popcorn
exploding and the inevitable argument with his mother about another of those
hand-knitted jumpers she’d given him for his birthday.

“Has the signal stabilized? Has it become regular, like a beacon?” Nico asked,
peering over the top of the papers in her tiny hands.

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“No but it can’t be far off. Based on the rate of normalization over the past three
months, it can’t be more than a few days, a week at most before your people get a
lock on Earth.”

Nico paled, laid the printouts on the table and clasped her hands together on top
of the table, hiding Mount St. Cookie. The alabaster white of her knuckles was the
only other indication that her graceful poise had been shaken.

“I suppose that I should turn you in Nico.” Bob said the words with a halting,
palpable discomfort, more from a sense of duty than a true desire to do so. “Your
presence here could…”

“It will be a moment of, what do you call it here – first contact. Well public
contact because it’s obvious that your government knows more than it’s letting
on.”

“Nico it’s greater than first contact.” He paused, fighting to try and find the right
words, not wanting to offend Nico. “Are we harboring you?”

“I’m not exactly a criminal, a fugitive. I’m more a refugee – a political or religious
exile.”

“How so?”

“Can I have another glass of water?” Her mouth felt dry and the enormity of what
she had done finally seeped all the way through her being. In the past three years
she’d never been called to account for the decision that she’d made, much less
casually discussed it over cookies and drinks. There had been no one to talk to
and she’d been able to delude herself that she had every right to choose – to leave
if she wanted. She lived in a society now that put selfishness on a pedestal. No
one disagreed with the concept of free will here. Bob would not judge her for what
she had done. He would understand, unlike those on her home planet.

Bob stood up and filled a jug with water, placing it on the table in front of her.
Nico poured herself a glass of water, swept Mount St. Cookie into the palm of her
hand and brushed it onto a plate – the shifting sands of the Great Cookie Desert.

She was lying to herself about Bob. It did matter what Bob thought. If he was
unable to empathize with her position, he’d turn her over to the authorities. He’d
earn the respect of important people. And she knew how important respect was
for Bob. If Bob did not care about her decision, then he’d get a crack at being
someone important – for the first time in his life.

“My people are unlike anything you can even begin to imagine. We are bound
from birth to follow the path into which we are born. Free will is a totally foreign
concept and we have never had cause to question it. Our first and only priority is

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to…” she struggled to find the right word. “…to the Hive. We are born as one - we
do and think as one. We are interconnected through genetics, through work and
united psychically through a thought bond. We are a collective and no one person
is more important, even the Empress, than the Hive.

“Three years ago, a human came among us, sent from Earth as a Science and
Cultural envoy. She changed the way in which one of our men thought and that
variation, like a virus, infected him. He was to be my mate and the change in him
altered me, too, through our psychic connection. It made me see for the first time
what lay ahead of me as Empress. And I chose to leave – to follow him here to
Earth.”

“Why Earth?”

“Because I knew nowhere else to go. I followed his psychic trail as my people are
now following mine. I found a home here on Earth - one that allows me to
indulge my need for individual freedom without guilt or reprise.”

“What happens to your Hive without you?”

“Our Empress is old, but not so old that she could not train another. There was a
girl born in the last generation who came with the mark of Empress…” her words
petered out and she poured another glass of water. “She will take my place.”

“What if the Empress dies before that?”

Nico chewed her bottom lip and looked up at the light bulb, trying to focus her
attention away from the question, playing with the electrical current and making
the bulb flicker in response to the change in the voltage pattern. The Empress
would not allow herself to die.

“You know what, it’s late. Maybe we should both sleep on this,” Bob suggested,
scooping the printouts back to his side of the table and re-arranging them back in
his briefcase. He realized it was none of his business if Nico’s people lived or died.
It was probably rude to ask anyhow. And he was sure he’d gone and put his foot
in his mouth by asking. Who was he really to ask - he was just an analyst. He was
sure that there were others, somewhere, who were far more qualified to decide
Nico’s fate. He clicked the case shut and spun the little dials on the locking
mechanism.

Nico stood, folding the tea towel to keep her hands busy. “Keep the cookies. I
know they are your favorite. And thank you for listening. I’ve carried this burden
since I arrived here.”

Bob collected her umbrella. “It’s still raining. Really unseasonable.” Bob thought
it best to return to small talk. He unlocked the back door for her and held it as she

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stood staring out at the rain, not wanting to leave but at the same time wanting to
run far away from Bob and his cozy, chaotic house.

Thank you Bob. You are a good man.

And she was gone, huddled under the umbrella.

With Nico gone, Bob booted his laptop and punched in his password to access the
SETI server. He went straight to the program that ‘listened’ into the Universe and
keyed in a string of code to bring up just the spaces of silence that he’d been
casually tracking over the past three months. Now that he knew exactly what he
was looking for, he was able to isolate the pattern of silence. With new clarity and
with a rising sense of urgency he saw that the signal had already stabilized. The
origin was unknown, but a regular and unique pattern of silence was transmitted
every ten minutes and had been for the past 24 hours. Nico’s people had found
her.

He emailed his superior with the data, classifying it with a Code Green status and
then dialed his brother’s phone number.

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Chapter Three
By Cara Moulds
Raindrops hit her head as she walked back to her house but Nico didn’t bother
opening the umbrella. There was no rain on Th’Urn and she remembered the first
time she experienced it on Earth. It had been a cool summer evening like this one
and the water droplets tingled when they hit her scalp. She remembered being
scared at first, especially when she saw other people carrying large discs over
their heads to protect themselves, running indoors to escape the onslaught. Then
she’d seen a little boy running down the sidewalk, ahead of his mother, jumping
in puddles and laughing, and she realized the wet drops weren’t dangerous. It
was one of many things she’d had to ask Anakin.

It had been nearly three years since she’d communicated psychically and it felt
weird to do so with Bob. When she’d first arrived on Earth she’d found Anakin by
calling to him psychically, but he had quickly warned her about the dangers and
taught her how to speak with her voice. She hadn’t really liked talking but Anakin
knew that the Empress would have to send scouts to find her. They might not
have bothered looking for him but they would surely need to find the Empress-
designate and they would start by tracking psychic conversations.

Anakin had settled in quite happily with Lisa Silverman, the astronaut who had
visited Th’Urn. She had helped him learn the ways of Earth and had even secured
a job for him as an expert on artificial intelligence with SETI, working in a more
classified division than Bob’s. After so much time, both Nico and Anakin had
decided the Empress wasn’t going to pursue her but would just train another as
Empress-designate.

Now it was clear that this wasn’t the case. She arrived at her house and let herself
in, pausing to look at her living room and kitchen. She loved this house. She loved
the way it was decorated - the plump, overstuffed sofa she’d picked out from JC
Penney’s, the artwork she’d bought from students at the arts festival two years
ago, the books on the bookshelves lining an entire wall. There’d been so much to
learn once she realized how little she knew. There was so much more to learn, so
many more books to read. She didn’t want to leave this house or this planet.

She couldn’t go back. She couldn’t be the Empress.

She wondered whether Bob would help her or turn her in. Even if he was going to
help her, she would need more help than that. She would have to contact Anakin
now and might as well do so quickly since her soundwave silence hadn’t
protected her after all.

Anakin, I need to talk to you. They’ve found me.

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*****

Reg Rosnik heard the ding from his computer signaling a new email but he didn’t
check it right away. He was testing a program he’d written that would allow him
to play streaming video without the network monitor catching it, which was
important if he was going to watch the Steelers football game next Monday night
when he had to work. He was still pissed about working that night. Finally, he
clicked over to his email and saw a Code Green from Bob Price.

“Hey Larry!” he hollered to the next cubicle. “I just got a Code Green from Bob
Price.”

Larry burst out laughing. “Well, drop everything and get right on that one.”

Reg laughed as he went back to his program. The Steelers game was more
important than another Code Green from Bob Price that would turn out to be
nothing. He finished keying in the code and started a test run. He switched back
to the email and opened it. “Holy crap, Larry. Wait ‘til you hear this one. Bob’s
Code Green is a pattern of silence.”

“You’re kidding, right,” Larry said, standing up to lean over the cubicle wall and
get a look at Reg’s face.

“I swear I am not kidding. ‘The attached data file shows a unique pattern of
silence.’ That’s his Code Green,” Reg said.

“It’s probably just a short in one of the transmitters. Holy cow. That’s pretty
desperate,” Larry said, sitting back down. “I suggest you spend your time working
on a Steeler’s program, my man.”

“I’m with you on that. I’ll just forward this big Code Green on to more important
people than myself.”

“People who are important enough to work days and not miss Monday Night
Football.”

“Yeah. Let’s see what Anakin does with it,” Reg said as he forwarded the email
and went back to his football program.

*****

Bob paced behind the sofa as the phone rang. Pick up, please be home, he
thought. The only person he could talk to about any of this, or anything at all
really, was his twin brother John. On the seventh ring, John said, “Hey Bob.”

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“Oh, thank God you’re home,” Bob said, breathlessly. “You’re not going to believe
what I have to tell you.”

“What? What’s wrong,” John asked, with an edge in his voice. It took a lot to get
his brother upset, or excited, or whatever he was. He almost didn’t recognize the
voice on the phone.

Just as Bob was about to speak, he stopped, realizing the enormity of the
situation. Every spy movie he’d ever seen flashed through his mind and in his
hand, the cell phone betrayed him.
“I can’t tell you on the phone. But I need your help. Can you come over right
away?”

“I’ll be there in 15 minutes,” John said.

“Good, good,” Bob said, about to hang up. “Oh, and pack a bag,” he said quickly.
“I might be going somewhere. And you might want to come with me.”

*****

Anakin read the email twice. Then he stood up, walked across the room and back
to his seat to read it a third time. He couldn’t believe it. He opened the data file
and looked at the symbols of silence. It read like a symphony to him, but in a
language he had long forgotten. Then, suddenly, a single serenade filled his being
as he heard his name in a way he hadn’t heard or felt it in years. Anakin. It
echoed within him for several still seconds as he swirled within himself, lost in
memories.

Anakin, I need to talk to you. They’ve found me.

Slowly, he emerged from his reverie as her words reverberated with meaning.
Yes, they had found her. And nothing would be the same for either of them again.
He sat frozen in that moment, hoping that if he were still and emptied his mind of
this knowledge, it would go away. Back to the way it was ten minutes ago, before
he read the email, before he understood the message. But it was too late.

Anakin, I need your help. They’ve found me.

He replied, Nico, the Empress is dead.

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Chapter Four
By Dale Challener Roe
“You did WHAT?”

For the past hour, John had sat on the ottoman in the middle of the living room.
Bob frenetically paced across the cheap shag carpeting and laid out the whole
story, watching his brother’s face journey from stark disbelief to shock and back
full-circle to disbelief.

Bob knew the story was outlandish—at best—but he also knew John would
believe him. As identical twins, they had always shared some sort of—well,
psychic would be the wrong word—but there was a connection on a level others
didn’t have. And while it wasn’t even on the same planet with what Nico had done
to him, he knew that he and his brother could always tell when the other was
lying.

As Bob wrapped up his story, they had switched places—Bob sinking down onto
the ottoman, while John leapt up and took over the duties of wearing tracks into
the carpet. Now John was staring down, uncomprehendingly at Bob.

“Why?” John pleaded.

Bob jumped up. “It’s my job. And it’s one of the most important discoveries ever.
I can’t keep it quiet.” He sounded confident—far more confident than he felt. In
fact, he was having serious misgivings about having sent the email.

John put his hand on his brother’s shoulders and waited until Bob met his eyes.
“You love this girl.”

“No,” Bob replied reflexively.

“It wasn’t a question, Bob. You love her.”

“I do not,” he said rather more weakly than he’d intended.

“When was the last time you even so much as mentioned a girl to me? Grad
school? And all you ever told me about her was her name and how cute you
thought she was in her glasses. For the past two years you’ve barely had a
conversation with me where you didn’t mention her. It’s always Nico and I this,
and Nico that. Christ, by now even I know she only drinks water.”

Bob laughed but quickly stopped himself. “OK, maybe I have been a little…
infatuated, but that’s all different now.”

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“Is it? Maybe it is. I don’t know. Maybe you can’t love someone from another
planet, maybe you can. We’re not going to solve that problem here tonight. But I
know, for damn sure, you can be friends with one.”

“True…” Bob’s voice trailed off in a tangle of unspoken thoughts.

“Or, at least you were in love.”

“Meaning what?”

“Bob, you turned her in. You got the chance to tell someone that you, Bob Price,
found a signal from outer space, and like that,” he snapped his fingers, “you
turned her in.”

“No, I didn’t turn her in.” But John didn’t look convinced. “In the email… I told
them about the signal—or more precisely, the lack of signal—but…”

“But, what?”

“But… I never mentioned Nico.”

A wide, smarmy, smile spread across John’s face. “Sounds to me like you’ve
already made up your mind to help her.”

Bob looked his brother squarely in the eye. “So?”

“So… what are you still doing here?”

Bob started to say something but thought better of it. He smiled—an odd,
mischievous smile John hadn’t seen on his brother’s face since childhood.

As his brother watched, Bob picked up the overnight bag John had brought with
him and ran out the door.

****

As soon as Anakin had given her the news, Nico felt the panic welling up inside of
her. She immediately stepped out of the house and started to walk, intending just
to go around the block to clear her head. Now, Nico’s walk had turned into a
marathon. When her mind was troubled nothing helped more than a long walk in
a drenching rain. The cool water falling on her head calmed her—stopped her
from spiraling down into panic.

The Empress was dead. And they were coming for her. To drag her back to her
home planet. To make her take up her position as Empress. To leave the life she
really wanted.

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After three years on Earth the thought of entering back into the Hive sent shivers
from the tips of her antennae out to the spines of her wings. The voices—
everywhere—constant. Everyone always looking to her. Here it was so peaceful. It
was wonderful to make her own decisions. Without the input of hundreds—or
thousands—of others. And to have her decisions affect only her.

She hadn’t listened to others’ voices for so long that, now, she had to concentrate
to hear them. Even the brief conversation with Anakin has been less like a psychic
connection and more like a psychic… discussion—no more than each of them
sending words rather than speaking them.

Deliberately, and with careful thought she reached out to contact Anakin. I don’t
want to go back.

His answer was immediate. He had obviously been waiting for her to call to him.
What about your duty?

Don’t lecture me about duty. Without meaning to, she stomped her foot in a
puddle attracting the attention of a woman huddled under the roof of a bus stop.
We both abandoned our expected roles when we left.

Nico, I am not lecturing you. It was you who spoke of duty when we left. It was
you who wondered what you would do when they came for you and you had to
make a decision.

She noticed that she had her finger to her mouth. Even though she had no
fingernails, she had taken on certain human habits. Do you know who has come
for me?

Not precisely. But I do know that there is one Th’Urn among them.

That was worrisome. Th’Urn rarely left their planet. How do you know?

I can hear him.

How is it that he cannot hear you?

He is a messenger and not psychically strong. He is not looking for me, so unless
I announce myself he will not find me. He is only looking for you.

Reflexively, Nico looked around for anyone following her. Does he know where I
am?

No. But…

What are you keeping from me?

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Nico, I have found out why he is here.

Don’t we already know that? If she had been speaking her voice would have shot
up an octave. He’s here to take me back.

Yes, but that is not the complete truth. Back on Th’Urn when I met Lisa and
started to speak and work with her, the contact inadvertently affected me—
some of the Th’Urn said she had infected me. And because of my connection with
you, you became affected as well.

Her impatience was growing. This was all old news. What does this have to do
with anything?

Everything. It now seems evident that Lisa did not leave soon enough. Or
perhaps we didn’t.

Soon enough for what? Why are you speaking in riddles?

There was a long pause before Anakin answered. Nico, there is an epidemic on
Th’Urn. A plague is wreaking havoc.

Oh no. The humans brought some sort of disease?

No. This is a plague of the mind.

I don’t understand. Tell me what’s happening.

There is a plague of individuality spreading through the Hive.

Nico was silent as she tried to understand what he was saying. Was individuality
such a bad thing? She and Anakin had certainly taken well to it.

Nico, the Empress didn’t simply die. She was killed. By her own people.

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Chapter Five
By Ani Chibukhchyan
Nico felt weak and helpless when she heard the news. Strange emotions welled up
inside her until she felt like she was going to explode from the pressure

She took off at a full run in an attempt to distance herself from her confusion and
fear.

She realized that in only three short years, her entire existence, her old way of
life, had completely changed. Her planet was in a revolutionary crisis and very
soon, they would start over, destroying old traditions, creating new rules and
living by different expectations… and when compared to the drone-like existence
they had now, that could only be a better way of life, right? Or would it only seem
better. What if it wasn’t? What if, in a desperate attempt to live independently,
her people realized they couldn’t handle it? After all, they had lived and
functioned a certain way for thousands of years, what if trying to change the
infrastructure of their civilization failed? Would that mean the end of her
species?

Although it was her duty to go back and assume her rightful position, Nico had no
desire to be involved in a revolutionary war, even for the sake of her own people’s
freedom – she was more determined than ever to stay on Earth and fight for her
new-found independence.

In her mind, she was no longer Th’Urn.

Nico returned to her house and stopped to catch her breath in the shadowy
doorway. She was soaked to her human skin. She bent over and placed her hands
on her knees in an attempt to catch her breath.

“This is ridiculous,” she muttered aloud. “I am not a coward, why am I acting like
one? I’ve never run from a challenge…” she stopped. She had never really been
challenged until she arrived on Earth. Up until that point, she had simply moved
through life in a trance-like state, doing what she was told and never questioning
authority. There was never any reason to run before.

In fact, her life had been pretty peaceful until she had left her planet, peaceful
and predictable.
Nico stood up and brushed water droplets from her eyes. What will Bob do? Nico
thought. Will he turn me in, or will he help me hide from the Th’Urn? And do I
really want to spend the rest of my life running?

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She reached into her back pocket and pulled out her house key. She stepped into
her safe haven, flicked on a lamp and concentrated on resuming a normal
breathing pattern.

Nico looked around once again at all the nice things in her house, things that she
had spent quite a lot of time shopping for and learning about; she loved every
single thing, not just for the materialistic value, but because she, and she alone,
had decided to buy them. She had made her own decisions and she quite liked the
independence and the thrill each item gave her. They somehow verified her
existence. Her people were not allowed to have identifiable emotions and those
who had the “defect,” as their doctrine labeled any thought that was not included
in the collective masses, simply disappeared. Most were never seen again.

The years on Earth had changed her so much that she had become someone in
between those two completely different worlds. Nico was not only a part of the
Th’Urn, she now considered herself half-human, at least on a psychological level.
It was a bittersweet realization because now she wasn’t sure where she belonged.

And that’s when she realized that part of the reason she felt compelled to stay on
Earth was not only the freedom of choice, the house she adored, or the lifestyle
she had gotten used to… it was the man she never thought would become so
important to her.

A simple human man named Bob Price – her neighbor, her friend, and now
someone who had the power of her life in the palm of his hand.

She frowned. What if he chose to destroy her? Or perhaps sacrifice her for his
career? Would he do that? She still didn’t feel like she knew enough about human
emotions to presume anything, and even though Bob had never said anything to
her directly about how he felt about her, still, there was something…

Nico sighed and walked into her bathroom to retrieve a towel. She began
vigorously rubbing her hair dry. The short ebony strands stuck together to form
small spikes all over her human skull. Her human skin was beginning to itch and
she suddenly wished she could simply discard it and assume her natural shape.

But of course, she could not do that. And if she stayed on Earth, she would have
to retain her human disguise and become someone different. Was she willing to
forfeit her identity all for the sake of being an independent being?

She released another slow, sad sigh while tossing the wet towel on top of her
washing machine. If Bob helped her and she was allowed to stay, would anything
happen between them? Did she want it to? Was she capable of feeling human
love, or better yet, was she capable of returning human love?
The knock on the door squeezed a squeal of surprise from her lips.

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The pupils of Nico’s human eyes dilated and she ran her tongue over her lips
nervously. Who could that be? Had the Th’Urn messenger already found her?
How would they react if she fought them? She narrowed her eyes and clenched
her jaw in determination. She wasn’t going back.

She shook her head. “I can’t do this,” she muttered. “I should do this, it’s my
duty.” She couldn’t be selfish, her people needed her. Didn’t they? But if the
whole planet was rebelling, they didn’t need her as their Empress, did they?

Nico continued staring intently at the door, indecision gnawing at her stomach.

Another hurried, brusque knock echoed off the door and Nico jumped nervously.
She blinked and then issued a quiet, self-depreciating chuckle. If it was the
Th’Urn, they wouldn’t know enough about human customs to knock… would
they?

Nico cautiously moved toward the door and sticking her eye to the peep hole
looked out to see who it was.

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Chapter Six
By Karen Maxwell
Nico could only see the outline of a body on her front stoop. She tried turning her
head to one side, then the other side in an attempt to gain a better perspective,
but it was no use, she simply couldn’t determine who, or what, was outside her
door.

“Who is it?” she asked softly. Her voice sounded strange, almost hollow in pitch
and she felt a peculiar squeezing in her stomach.

She placed a hand flat against her abdomen and nearly forgot about the person
on the porch as the peculiar sensation persisted. She tried to decipher what she
was feeling – fear perhaps?

“Hmm, that’s an interesting emotion,” she muttered quietly.

“Nico, it’s Bob,” his voice hissed through the door. “Let me in, we need to talk.”

Nico placed her palm on the doorknob before pausing. How did she know it was
Bob? What if it was the messenger trying to trick her? Was that even possible?
First, she wasn’t aware of any trick to turn a person’s voice into someone else’s
and secondly, how would the messenger even know about Bob to begin with?

Her fingers curled around the handle and she slowly turned the knob. Taking a
breath, she eased the door open a few inches and peered out.

Nico recognized the slightly overweight, slightly balding, slightly-older-than-


middle-aged guy standing on the other side and with a relieved smile, ushered
Bob into her house. She gave the outside a hurried, cursory glance before shutting
and locking the door behind him.

“Thank J’tis, it’s only you,” she said as she faced him.

Bob cocked his head in confusion. “Thank…who?”

“Nothing,” she said over her shoulder while walking into her bedroom. “I need to
change out of these clothes; I’ll be out in a minute.”

“Right,” Bob called after her.

Nico peeled off her wet clothes and stepped into a pair of loose-fitting jeans and a
pastel t-shirt. She left her feet bare. She padded back into the living room and
sank onto her sofa.

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“Wow, that was fast,” Bob said with surprise.

“Fast?”

“When women say they’re going to be back in a minute, that usually means half
an hour.”

“Ah well, I’m not like other women.”

“You could say that again.” The couple stared at each other for long moments
before Bob cleared his throat and sat on a nearby, high-backed chair. “Look,” he
began, pausing to gather his thoughts before continuing. “I’m not sure where to
go from here. I mean, this is so… you’re so…” he grunted in frustration and ran a
plump hand over his scalp. “I think I might have done something… I made a
mistake. I wasn’t thinking.”

Nico’s back straightened and her stare changed from slightly amused to wary and
alert. “What do you mean?”

“I emailed a Code Green to my colleagues,” he said, his expression apologetic, his


voice coated with regret.

“A… Code Green?” Nico repeated with confusion.

Bob’s fists clenched and he explained through gritted teeth. “It’s code for
‘something is off, weird, strange,’” he quickly corrected himself. “And I’m
recommending they take a closer look, see what they think.”

“And what do they think?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t heard back from them yet. Which is sort of…
disappointing,” Bob said.

“Why is it disappointing that you haven’t heard anything? Maybe they…” Nico
suddenly stopped and her face lost all remaining color.

“Say, are you alright?” Bob said while pushing himself out of the chair to sit
beside her.

Nico’s eyes remained on the chair that Bob vacated; in fact, she didn’t appear to
realize he had moved at all.

Nico, said Anakin, he is close.

How close?

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Three blocks away.

Nico jerked back to awareness and moving at a slightly inhuman speed, she
grabbed Bob’s hand and dragged him to her bedroom.

“Hey, wha – what are you… where are we going?” Bob sputtered in surprise.

“We have to leave, now,” hissed Nico as she released Bob’s hand and stuffed her
feet back into her damp sneakers. “He will be here soon.”

“He?” Bob squeaked. “Who’s he?”

“The messenger,” Nico responded and raced to the kitchen.

“The… what?” Bob repeated and stumbled after her. “What are you doing? Where
are we going? What the hell is going on?”

“I can’t explain right now,” Nico said while shoving four water bottles into a
canvas tote bag. “You will need food,” she said absently as she threw granola bars
and a tube of Pringles potato chips into the bag.

He’s on your street, Nico. Get out!

“Who’s coming, Nico? What’s going on?”

“They have come for me, Bob. I can’t let them take me. Not now. Not before I
figure out what I’m going to do.” She began racing toward the back door. She
paused, the bag slung over her shoulder, her hand on the doorknob before she
realized that Bob wasn’t behind her. She turned.

“Are you coming?”

Bob chewed nervously on his lower lip. “They couldn’t have figured out what was
going on so fast, Nico. I’m sure it’s nobody. I just sent that email an hour—”

“Not your people, Bob.” Nico said, her voice surprisingly steady, “my people.”

Bob’s lips formed a slight “O” shape and before he could utter a sound, the front
door began to jiggle.

Someone was trying to break in.

Anakin, he’s here! Nico screamed silently.

You have no choice, you must fly.

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But what if someone sees me?

What if he catches you? Anakin shot back.

“Bob! I need an answer!” Nico yelled and her human shape began to melt away.
She stretched and spread her beautiful wings. Her blue-gray skin looked slick
with moisture. “Will you help me or not?”

The front door shuttered and groaned as the being on the other side of it began to
throw its weight against it.

Nico threw open the back door and held out her hand to Bob. “You must trust
me,” she said.

Bob stared at her and then looked back over his shoulder to the front door. There
was a long, jagged crack down the left panel

“If he catches me, I will be forced to return, Bob. I will likely die. I cannot escape
this without your help.”

A low, inhuman sound screamed through the house.

“He is agitated. Messengers are not very quick, but they are persistent, and when
agitated, quite dangerous. We must go now!”

Beads of sweat broke out on Bob’s forehead and he visibly swallowed. Hand
shaking, he reached for Nico.

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Chapter Seven
By Virginia Diaz
With a loud crack, Nico’s front door gave. The Th’Urn messenger was inside and
all but upon them, crossing the small house quickly.

“Oh- what is that?” Bob asked, shocked into stillness by the sight of the great,
black-shelled alien that was suddenly menacing them. Messengers were large and
slow and dumb, but their thick shells made them nearly indestructible. Nico, fully
transformed into her Th’Urn self, grabbed Bob’s hand, pulled him through the
back door and into the screened-in porch that led to the backyard, realizing that
she now had to face the messenger and at the very least hear his message.
Pushing Bob behind her, she issued a command.

I am Nicomeda, Empress-designate of the Th’Urn. Reveal your message!

Allowing the dimwitted creature to deliver his message would both lull him into
believing that she would cooperate and, hopefully, give them time to try and
escape.

As Nico stood waiting for the message, she had a niggling feeling that something
wasn’t quite right. Despite that premonition, it was Bob who regained his nerve
and slipped am arm around Nico to pull her back as the messenger struck out
with one of its powerful front legs.

“Nico, honey, we have to move,” he shouted. He continued to pull her with him as
he backed away from the creature, maneuvering them so as to put the picnic table
that was there between them and the messenger, in the hopes it would act as
some protection.

What are you doing! Nico screamed at it inside her head. Reveal your message!
she again ordered.

The messenger lashed out at her again, striking the redwood picnic table, which
split into pieces as he finally answered Nico.

No Empress may be left, he told her and she saw his memories inside her own
head along with the connection- the death of the old Empress, of the waiting
potential Empress, of Th’Urn after Th’Urn who had stayed loyal to the monarchy.

“No!” Nico gasped, reverting to speech as she tried to sever the connection, tried
to push the images back out of her head.

The messenger hopped forward, flapping his wings to rush in faster, breaking
through the thin awning that served as the porch’s roof so that rainwater rushed

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down on him. Nico glanced up at the lamp that hung from the ceiling in the
middle of the room. It took only a moment’s concentration to send the current
from the light bulb’s socket arcing down into the form of the messenger, making
him twitch and fall to the floor stunned.

“What did you- how did you do that?” Bob shuddered.

Ignoring Bob’s astonished question, she said, “Hurry, Bob, he won’t be


unconscious for long.”

Coming back to himself, he responded, “Uh- my car’s waiting, we can be out of


town in half an hour.”

They were halfway down the block when Nico put a hand on Bob’s shoulder and
said, “Wait. We have to go back.”

*****

Anakin spent several minutes accessing the SETI mainframe and setting off the
virus he’d installed several years earlier. It was his contingency plan for just such
a day as this one. He had designed it to not only wipe all traces of him from the
official SETI records, but to search out and corrupt any and all Th’Urn type
patterns snatched from the reaches of space by the radio telescopes. It would take
a few days, but the virus would eventually propagate to all systems connected
wirelessly to the mainframe, as well. Anakin had used an old Th’Urn
programming language that no one on Earth could have even a passing
familiarity with, making the virus practically unstoppable.

Then Anakin wiped his laptop’s hard drive and telephoned his wife. There wasn’t
anything more Anakin could do to help Nico- even if he had rushed to where she
was facing the messenger from Th’Urn, he knew he would come too late. It was
all he could do to protect them- Nico, Lisa and himself- from the Earth’s
government scientists.

“Hey Ani, what’s up?” Lisa’s sleepy voice came through the phone. She must have
been napping again.

“Coming home early. How’s your back?” he answered nonchalantly. It really


wouldn’t do to start the pregnant woman worrying before he had to- the
messenger wasn’t actually after them. “You need anything?”

“Ice cream would be nice, but no, I really don’t need anything.”

“I’ll see what I can do.” Anakin pulled a box of the good cookies out of his desk
drawer to bring home to her. He wasn’t coming back there to eat them anyway.
“Say Lisa, did you get a chance to check the suitcases this morning, like you

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planned?” The suitcases had been packed for a good three weeks in anticipation
of when they would have to go to the mountains for the birth.

“Yup, everything we need to disappear until little Luke or Leia can master
camouflaging him or herself as human, just like dear old Dad does,” Lisa chirped
cheerfully. It was good that she felt safe enough in all this to view hiding in a
rustic mountain cabin for five or so years as an adventure. Anakin reckoned going
to another planet all by her lonesome put something like that in perspective. It
had for him.

“You know we aren’t using either of those names- it was cruel enough of you to
name me after a movie character for your amusement,” he chided.

“Your people had no names- I needed some way to keep you all straight in my
head. How was I supposed to know yours would stick?”

“Don’t worry, I’m changing it when we go away.”

“Uh-huh. Spoilsport,” she groused.

“Coming home now,” he responded, deciding that he could spring the news that
they were heading to the mountains a couple of months early, once he got home
and could do it in person.

*****

“That ought to hold him,” Bob pronounced, double checking the knots they had
tied on the garden hose that was currently serving to bind the Th’Urn messenger
so that once he woke, Nico could “talk” to him.

“If not, I can always apply more electricity. It’s primitive and brutal, but so is he.”
She gestured to the slowly stirring beetle-like Th’Urn that was lying on the floor.

“Right, so- uh… What are you going to say to him? I mean, he’s essentially an
assassin here to ensure you can’t try and take the throne. How do you even start
with something like that?”

“I’m not so sure. Maybe I can start by showing him how much I’d rather be here
with you,” Nico muttered more to herself than to Bob.

“You would?” Bob asked, just a little shocked that she had phrased it like that. He
wasn’t much of a catch and even worse, he had betrayed her. Why would she
want to be with him?

Nico smiled slyly at him and took his hand. “Of course.”

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The messenger made a sharp hissing sound as he came to, distracting them from
their conversation.

“All right,” Nico said, determinedly, “You keep an eye on him and warn me if he
looks like he might be getting loose. I’ll do what I can to convince him I’m not
interested in the Throne of Th’Urn.”

“Wait, Nico, how will I know how you are doing? I can’t know what you’re saying
to him psychically,” Bob questioned.

Nico bit her lip and considered for a moment. “You’re right. You better be in on
the link, as well,” she decided and suddenly, he was.

Bob could see Nico from both front and back, although from the back (his own
true vantage point) she looked perfect and beautiful and from the front (the
messenger’s view) she looked menacing even as she still looked like herself. “The
link must be subjective,” Bob thought to himself. He could also see the messenger
as Nico saw him- not the repulsive black-shelled beast that Bob was so terrified
by, but one of her own- a cousin who was trying to serve his people. Bob also saw
himself the way both of the Th’Urn saw him- Nico’s warm, familiar friend (he
seemed to have more hair in her mind’s eye than he did in the mirror each
morning) and the messenger’s barely acknowledged annoyance (Bob was
somehow a little blurry to the messenger).

I, Nicomeda, Empress-designate of the Th’Urn, renounce my claim to the


Throne of Th’Urn. Nico began.

No Empress may be left. The messenger repeated the images of the revolution to
them- the Empress and the potential Empress dying along with those still loyal to
them.

I do not wish to be Empress, Nico sent her words along with her own set of
images- the first time she felt the rain on her skin, the taste of cookies and fresh
tomatoes, the joys of discovering Earth’s art and literature, the pride she had in
her pretty little home.

No Empress may be left, was still the reply. The images of death ran continuously
out from the messenger’s mind like a horrific piece of performance art.

I want to stay on Earth- stay among the humans. Nico tried sending images of
all the people she had come to know and care for on the planet- her coworkers at
the health food store, the children she knew from the neighborhood, and Bob, the
man who she had let so far into her life that he was now sharing this dangerous
moment with her.

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No Empress, the messenger send to her again, but with a hint of doubt, as if it
was a question instead of an order. The images slowed and stopped.

I don’t want to go back to Th’Urn. I want to stay with Bob. And then the images
she produced were just like how she had seen Bob moments before- warm and
familiar. Bob accidentally backing over her garbage can the first day they met and
offering to buy her a new one, Bob bringing her lush, overripe tomatoes, Bob
pulling her back from the messenger’s own threatening blows.

Bob was overwhelmed by these images- the way Nico saw him- there was only
one word for it- Love. She loved him! Empowered by this knowledge, Bob
thought his way into the “conversation”.

I want her to stay with me, too, Bob sent out to them. He thought about Nico as
he’d seen her the first time- carrying an armful of wildflowers across her front
lawn, about how she had looked months later when they had baked Christmas
cookies together- covered in flour with colored sprinkles in her hair and laughing
so hard she couldn’t breathe. He thought about how she looked earlier that very
day when she had let her true form roll over her- skin rippling to her true blue
color, wings and antenna sprouting back into their rightful places (she was
breathtaking).

No Empress. This time the messenger said it with surety and the images he
attached to it were those Nico had sent out earlier- Earth and her life in glorious
color.

Yes, came from Nico.

Stay on Earth. Stay with Bob, the messenger added and a mix of Bob and Nico’s
loving images washed over them, the mental pictures bleeding together.

Yes, Nico acknowledged again. You’ve got it. You can go home now. And
abruptly, the connection severed.

Bob was back in the wreckage of Nico’s back porch watching Nico lean down to
work at the hose that tied the messenger down.

She turned to smile over her shoulder. “You going to help me here, or are you just
going to watch?” she said with a wink and smirk.

“Oh- right. Here, I’ve got the scissors,” Bob answered and stepped up to help.

Five Years Later

It was a bright, clear day- unseasonably warm for February, when the Th’Urn
ambassador and her delegation arrived. Among the honor guard from Th’Urn

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was Bailey, who was one of the few who had been to Earth before, although his
mission then had been to eliminate the potential Empress to ensure that she
couldn’t challenge Th’Urn’s fledgling Individualistic Government. Bailey’s hard,
black wings shone iridescent in the noontime sun. As he landed beside the lithe,
delicately winged and blue skinned ambassador, Bailey thought greetings to those
Earthlings he’d come to know.

Nico stood beside her mate, Bob, who held their small offspring- a girl named
Tabitha. She was very small and squirmy, her skin colored a light purple. She
wore a traditional Th’Urn headdress wrapped around her small antennae and
she, like most little Th’Urn girls didn’t seem to like it. Bob’s brother John, who
had been a particular friend to Bailey when he had been there five years earlier
and recovering from electrocution, was next to Bob. John waved his small pink
hand, but Bailey resisted returning the human gesture since the occasion was so
formal.

The ambassador moved forward to greet the Earth’s representatives (there were a
dozen of them or more, since the humans didn’t have one government, but
hundreds). Bailey took the opportunity to note the other Th’Urn-Human hybrid
family that stood watching the signing of the alliance treaty. The Silvermans-
Lisa, Anakin, and their two offspring Leia and Michael stood to the far side of
Nico’s family. Both of Anakin’s children fidgeted between their original and fully
human forms showing their impatience to be somewhere else. As honored as he
felt to have played his small part in making peace with Earth, Bailey’s feelings
were similar to the children’s about all the pomp and circumstance they had to
wait through to get to the cookies.

Bailey didn’t mean to intrude on Nico and Bob- he had meant to pay attention
when the ambassador and each of the Earth leaders were signing the treaty and
giving speeches (the Earthlings’ words being translated into accurate thoughts by
Anakin Silverman), but he’d connected with them despite his intentions.

“Been a long time coming,” Nico’s proud and grateful thoughts included
memories of her flight from Th’Urn, the day she convinced Bailey to not kill her
and hours upon hours of mental meetings between Earth’s governments and
Th’Urn’s envoys for which Nico served as a translator.

“Worth all the work?” Bob asked her, flashing his own memories of the last few
years- their continued courtship, his new responsibilities advising his
government on interplanetary affairs, the birth of Tabitha.

Every bit of it.

And the sun smiled down on them all, Th’Urn, human and offspring, as they
embarked together on a new chapter of peace and prosperity.

Lost on Earth
Chapter Seven Fall 2008 Edition
35

This concludes the Chapter Seven


Fall 2008 Edition
Thank you for reading!

Lost on Earth
Chapter Seven Fall 2008 Edition

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