Who lives on Hyperiten? Not only
Nenarian’s, I think.
The galaxy is a big
place and they tell me I’ve been to just a tiny part of it. Peir tried to
explain how far apart stars and planets are in the Local Group. Where Cattaran
is in relation to Vega and Caes Valane, and how far Hyperiten is from Valdi. He
talked about light years and billions and trillions of kilometers, and he did
some math problems. He made his explanation simple to understand, and I’m sure
it’s all true, but it’s also so unbelievable.
The best part was when he took a handful of
gappa fruits and placed them on the floor. He called them Cattaran, Vega and
Caes Valane and then he told me that each length of my foot was five light
years. I understood the arrangment of the stars and I understood most of the
math, but my mind just can’t grasp how
big it all is.
He showed me an image
of our galaxy and he pointed to where the Local Group is, far away from the
center in a remote part of a spiral fragment.
I kidded with him
because he’s so smart and we laughed, and then we tossed the gappa fruits to
each other across the room, but I feel small every time I think about how far
apart places are, and how far away my home is.
How can I know who we
Nenarians share our planet with? Where do I start? Who do I talk to? I’ll have
to travel the entire planet and discover who is there. I know of the Mykanis
people of the north, but who else? It’s such an enormous place. Space is such
an enourmous place.
I like it up here in the
roof garden, it’s so much like home, and it has the look and smell of a real
forest, but they’ve made a forest way up here. This roof garden is amazing. I
can’t believe all these plants are living at the top of this building. I never
expected anything like this, but Valdi has so many wonderful and startling things.
When they need a forest, they build one. When they need a river to be bigger,
they make a river bigger, and buildings
are everywhere. It’s all so surprising and unexpected, and this forest is
different than my home, but it’s still a nice place.
asked me to come up here and think about my home, not how I would like it to
be, but how it actually is today. How can I do that when I don’t know who all
the people are. I think she’ll be disappointed. She’ll come up and join me when
she’s finished talking to the Princess, but I won’t have any answers. This
makes me feel small too, but I can’t have answers for things I don’t know.
Maybe she doesn’t want answers, maybe she knows, maybe she wants me to ask
questions and find out in my own way. She’s very shrewd, and sometimes she gets me to answer my own questions. She makes
my mind work. She’s making me better.
I’ll sit under this
group of trees while ambassador Xanszia talks to the Princess. They talk every
day, and they talk for a long time. I don’t remember speaking to my mother that
long. Maybe it’s because we haven’t had much to talk about because our lives on
Hyperiten are always the same, but I think that’s going to change. When I
travel the whole planet I can tell her what I find and I can tell her about
everything I see and about all the people we share our home with. I know she’ll
enjoy listening to my stories. I wonder how many there are?
Yesterday it was
cloudy and cold, but today it is nice, warm, and I’d like to go swimming, but
there’s no pond to swim in. I can’t walk naked either. They have a law against
being naked in public here. That’s very strange, we never wear clothes at home.
It’s always warm and we all know about each other.
Wearing clothes every
day is still new to me and it takes some getting used to. Fynn wants me to wear
clothes all the time, even when I’m sitting in our room or lying in bed. He
says it’s how people everywhere behave and when I walk through the city I see
that people are always dressed. But I understand why they cover their bodies,
it gets so cold here sometimes and clothes help to keep me warm in the early
mornings. But I still think it’s strange that most women wear clothes to sleep.
What’s the purpose, our bed has many blankets and I can get close to Fynn to
stay warm. Why shouldn’t the woman sleep naked, the man will take her clothes
off for sex and she’ll sleep naked after.
Women here do wear
pretty clothes and they’re always getting new things to wear. It’s not just to
keep them warm, they use clothes to make men look at them, and the men look,
sometimes the women look. I look too.
Xanszia likes nice clothes, especially shoes. I laughed at her yesterday when
she showed me a new pair of shoes and I told her that she’s crazy with shoes. She
has so many, I can’t even count them all. I asked her why she had so many. She
smiled, embarrased a little I think, and she made me laugh again, and she
laughed too because I think she agrees. She talked about the color, heels and flats,
and sandals, and then considering all those options, they have to match the
color of her clothes. Most women are like her that way, but I think it’s too
much to think about. Maybe I’ll be that way some day. Fynn likes it when I wear
different things, he smiles and says nice things when I dress nice and comb my
hair. Maybe that’s a good thing.
I do like
the makeup though, it really makes a big difference and I can change how I look
every day with a different style. At first I thought it was strange, but then I
remembered that mother always painted Pane’e and my faces at the Sun
Celebration. She always painted our eyes like bird eyes. It was fun but it’s
different how they do it here. Princess Ayalla is very good with her makeup.
She always looks so natural and her lip paint is always a pretty red. I’m going
to practice with makeup, it’s what ladies do here and I want to be like the other ladies, but mostly I like how the Princess
I’m an envoy to
Hyperiten now. I’m still not sure what that means, but I need to be thinking of
home and how to take care of our people and how to keep our home safe. The
first thing I want is for Ambassador Xanszia to help me keep the priates from
cutting our Landappa forests and raping my Nenarian sisters. Then we need to
find all the people, I think there are many.
Who else out there
knows of my home? I used to think it was only the pirates but now that I’ve
been to other planets I’ve learned that many people know of us. I’ve heard
people talking when they think I’m not listening. They say bad things about the
Nenarians, they think we’re savages and killers. Nothing could be further from
the truth. Our last war was against the Mykanis in the Equator War. I don’t
know why we fought, but it was bloody, it was awful, but it was long before me and I don’t even
know who won the war. Mother won’t talk about it and I really don’t know what
to ask. I know she was a warrior and was wounded. It was a bad wound and she
still has trouble walking. A photon round in the back almost killed her. I saw
the mark on her skin and it looks awful. It must have been very painful and I
can see why Ambassador Canar needs more time to recover from her wound. But mother
won’t talk about what happened after she was hurt. I know many others were
wounded worse than her and many more were killed.
I wonder who else lives
with us on Hyperiten? I feel ignorant because I only know of the Mykanis. To be
a good envoy I need to know all of Hyperiten, I need to learn of the others, if
they exist, but a planet is a big place, bigger than I ever imagined. I’ve seen
my home from space and there is so much land for many more people. Maybe Hyperiten
is like Vi’van or Valdi and people are everywhere, people I don’t know.
People on all these
planets are all so different and somehow they’re all the same. I heard
Ambassador Canar say something like, ‘the same but different’. It was a strange
thought at first, but I think she’s right. It can’t be just the Mykanis in the
north and Nenarians in the south, there must be more.
I love the little red
birds here, and the yellow birds with blue heads. There are many more birds,
but these are the one’s that catch my eye. They’re all so small and the birds
at home are so much bigger, some are as big as me. And there are animals even
bigger, some dangerous, but we know how to keep them away. Down on the ground I
don’t see animals in Heedley, just people. It’s all city, buildings everywhere,
as far as I can see.
I’m still amazed tht
I’m here in a forest on top of a building in the middle of the city. I can see
other buildings under the tree canopy and above me there are coupe’s and
scooters flying below the long sky-trains. If I told my Nenarian sisters about
this place they would never believe me, it’s like a dream, but I could never
dream of a place like this. Nenarian life is simple and this world is so
Ambassador Xanszia said
that INSAT will provide more protection for Hyperiten. There is so much,
satellites and roving cybots to do surveillence. She said these things will let
us know when pirates or others come. I don’t know how they manage it, but I
need to learn so I can teach the others. Hyperiten is our planet, our home. So
many pirates have come and Ambassadors Xanszia and Canar were right, if we
don’t do this then our Landappa forests will get clear-cut. The forest world
will get destroyed and all the animals will run or be killed, people will fight
and die. The pirates come to our village to have sex with my Nenarian sisters,
and then after they have their way, they kill my sisters. They bring disease, and
they make a mess of the Nenarian world. I wonder if the pirates do the same in the
north? I should know this, it’s my responsibility to protect them too.
Oh, no. The Sura-Chanjaman,
I’ve forgotten about them. But who are they? Changlings I think. Do they live on
Hyperiten or do they come and then leave? Are the Sura-Chanjaman real, are they
people or something else? Mother has spoken of them. She says they move through
the forest like water walking and their voices are like whispers of the wind. I
heard something like voices in the wind once, but I’ve never seen anything for
sure. If the Sura-Chanjaman are changlings that would be very strange. I’d like
to see one of them and I should know who they are too.
said that as the envoy to INSAT I have the power to make things different, I
can make things better. I can be a warrior like her and like mother, I can make
good changes and protect the people of Hyperiten. I just wonder how many are
How we will be treated
by other people when they learn that we are a member of INSAT? I’ve heard
people say that we’re primitive savages, but they don’t know us. We just try to
be who we are and not bother others. But others come to my home and only take, they
destroy and kill and no nothing of us. Their words hurt and it makes me sad to
hear them talk about us that way. We are nothing like the words I hear.
How can they say these
things when they don’t really know us? I need to speak the truth about the Nenarians.
Ambassador Xanszia says that I can be the voice of the people of Hyperiten,
just like she is on Vi’van. But I need to speak better, I think. I need to tell
everyone we aren’t savages, but I need to speak like ambassadors Xanszia and
Canar. I need to use better words and dress nice. Fynn is happy when I look
nice and people will notice Nenarian’s are just like them. We’re not savages,
we’re peaceful and we just want our home to stay the same, stay safe.
This is a big job,
envoy to Hyperiten, bigger than I ever imagined. There are so many people on so
many planets. I never imagined so many. How can I know all of them? How does ambassador
Xanszia know so many?
Will they like us? Will
they respect us and our home? I’m sure there are many people on Hyperiten and I
need to know them and help them, all of them.
“I’ve only heard of
the changlings.” Xanszia began. “Canar has spoken of them on occasion but
little is known.”
Xanszia carried a
small jug of sparkling water to the roof garden and sat next to Jen’gii. It was
late afternoon and the air was warm and a light breeze rustled the leaves of
the small grove of trees they sat under.
“We know dees people
as Sura-Chanjaman.” Jen’gii said. “Dey very strange. I hear dey can change to
“But you’ve never seen
one of these changlings?” Xanszia asked.
Xanszia filled two
glasses with the effeverescent water. She lifted a small metal box from her
pocket and opened the lid. “There’s a little spice shop here in town and the
owner is a good friend.” She spoke softly. “He poked around and got these for
me.” She looked at Jen’gii as she turned the box toward her.
“Sen-Zen berries.” Her
eyes opened wide, and taking a deep breath, she sat up straight and her body
wriggled like a fish squirming to return to its home. “How you get?”
“My friend is very
resourceful. But there is more to this.”
carefully at Xanszia. “Me not sure what you mean by more, what is more?”
Xanszia handed the box
to her. “How many should be put in a glass of water?” It was a slip of the
tongue, her stream-of-consciousness opened the gate to her brain and the words
escaped. She hoped Jen’gii would be distracted by what she had in store.
Using her fingertips,
Jen’gii lifted two berries and dropped one in each glass. “Sen-Zen very stong,
one is good. Now tell me, what is more?”
“This is your first
lesson in international and interplanetary relations. It’s called commerce and
trade. If the Nenarians cultivated these berries, collect them and put them
into packaging, you can sell them.” I like this girl. She’s being
diplomatic, but her curiosity is going to press me for an answer, Xanszia
“Dis what you talk
‘bout before. We need to find ways to make money.”
“Yes. Your people are
going to carry a debt to INSAT, probably for many years and you need to
consider how to repay this debt.” Xanszia took a drink of the water laced with
Sen-Zen. “This will be very popular on Valdi and I’m sure many others will
enjoy them and want to purchase these berries. There can be many more strategies,
but this is a good starting point.”
“Dere so much to know,
much to do.” Jen’gii said.
“This isn’t something
INSAT likes to do, Jen’gii. Canar and I are nervous about what we’re attempting.
I mean interfereing with the evolution of life-forms and the development of
civilizations on a planet. But Hyperiten is a special case. If we don’t act now
you’re home will be a desert and many lives will be destroyed.”
“Me understand. No
want home to be destroyed.” Jen’gii said.
“Now about these
changlings. Are they from Hyperiten?” Xanszia asked.
“Me don’t tink so. We
don’t know where dey from. Nenarian’s once believe dey were Gods, but now we
“Somehow we’re going to account for these
people if they’re full-time residents of Hyperiten. You’re INSAT’s envoy and
you represent all the people.”
“Like de Makanis?
Jen’gii need be friends?” She stood and walked to a close by tree. “We no get
along wid de Mykanis.”
“Yes, you need to get
along. The Nenarians share the planet with them and our task is to formulate
peaceful relations, even with those people our leaders disagree with. We’re
supposed to remain neutral and find a common thread that links our
civilizations.” Xanszia took another drink of the water. “This is an advanced
lesson in commerce and diplomacy. We find something, like a resource, something
you both need to exist. Technology, for example. All emerging civilizations
need some type of technology to advance.”
weapons to protect against pirates who come.” Jen’gii quipped.
“I had something a
little less threatening in mind.” Xanszia laughed quietly. “We all seem to need
bigger and badder weapon technology, but sharing weapons isn’t something INSAT
“Why is dat?” Jen’gii
“History shows us that
the sharing of weapons seems to lead to wars. We feel that the development of weapon
technology is best left to your own people. I was thinking of things like the
clearing of lands to grow crops. Sen-Zen for example.” She lifted her glass and
pointed to the liquid-filled container. “Our imagary shows signs that the
Makanis have equipment to do that work. Maybe there’s a way the Nenarians can
offer something to share that technology.” If she only knew how many remote
civilizations exist on Hyperiten. If she doesn’t drag it out of me I’ll let her
discover the reality with her own eyes. Xanszia thought.
“We no offer Landappa.
Too much been cut.”
Jen’gii. Landappa is protected by INSAT. We’ll find other resources when we
visit. But remember, everyone has something to offer.”
Jen’gii sat on a rock
closer to Xanszia. For a short time her eyes were open wide and she stared at
her. “You said dat you’ve seen more. Your images have shown you dere is more?”
Smiling and shaking
her head, Xanszia laughed quietly. There is more to Jen’gii than I ever
hoped. “Yes, there is much more.”
Check out all of the other episodes on Glossi Magazine
The air of the commons splintered with another
round from a photon rifle. It’s thundering eruption disrupted the jittery
silence within the expanse between the buildings. A bright flash streaked
across the commons, exploding on the wall behind Xanszia and Peir and two more
rounds followed close, embedding into the barrier they hid behind. The
vibration from the impact shook the wall and it’s intense impact rippled
through their bodies.
More shots were fired,
this time from a plasma canon and the eerie crackling sound like lightning from
an afternoon thunderstorm streaked above their heads. The rounds impacted a
column behind them and concrete sprayed down over their unflinching eyes.
“Can you smell the
trace element of that one?” Xanszia’s eyes opened wide and her voice raised.
“That was plasma. Whoever this is brought his entire arsenal. There must be two
or more of them. What else?” Xanszia looked at Peir as the dust particles
rained over them.
Four years had passed
since Xanszia was embroiled in combat. She’d forgotten the feeling of adrenalin’s
sudden deluge within her blood, the jump in her heartbeat and the feeling of
anxiety the exchange of fire brought. The blasts were deafening and the
destruction was wanton and unexpected.
More shots indulged
the usual tranquility of the commons and the tall glass window behind them
exploded with the impact. Large sheets of glass fell to the ground making a
loud crackling sound as it fractured, and then breaking into smaller shards, scattering
in all directions over the polished stone flooring.
They had just left a
long afternoon of meetings at INSAT headquarters, looking forward to some rest
and a warm meal when the sniper shots ripped through the calm. The first shots
came close and Peir pushed Xanszia behind a low wall, forbidding her to unholster
her pistol, and like all the innocents caught off guard, Xanszia crouched below
the low garden wall to become a spectator to the assualt.
“I’m reaching for my
pistol if they get closer. We don’t stand a chance against plasma. I can only
take this for so long.” Her eyes were wide and her words were barked in short
“They won’t and you
won’t either, Ambassador. Nath’eil’s directing the response and all the cadets
are just about in position.” Peir’s words were unforgiving and his hand
descended on hers as she gripped her pistol. “You’re participation isn’t necessary.”
He stared into her eyes. It was the cold, hard stare of a warrior in battle and
Xanszia removed her hand. He then looked over the barrier and raised his
photon pistol and quickly returned fire with two bursts. “I just need to keep
them pinned down until our cadets take action.”
Turning to inspect the
shattered glass wall she could see office workers huddled behind furnishings
and on the floor inside the lobby. Their eyes were fixed on her and Peir. They
were paralyzed with hoplessness, unaccustomed to the daunting sounds and destruction
caused by battle.
Minutes earlier the
lobby was a calm and peaceful entrance
into the world of INSAT, and now it’s once tranquil air was penetrated with
destruction, the smell of smoke and vibrating tension caused by the anxiety of
battle. The pattern in the joint lines of the natural stone tiles were confused with
shards of broken glass and people remained huddled behind walls and under
Xanszia could see a
young couple she was speaking with just before the assault The young man was a
new engineering recruit that came to sign his admission papers, accompanied by his
pretty, young wife. She watched as their eyes were soiled with the despair of a
scene foreign and unwanted, and they comforted each other within their arms. Xanszia
looked carefully as his fingers stroked her hair and he whispered something
into her ear. What could he say to comfort her at a time like this? Is there
any comfort in words now? She thought.
The couple recognized
Xanszia as they passed through the lobby and the young woman approached and engaged
her in conversation. She was charming and giddy with the life choice they made.
They knew of me, she thought. She was so proud her husband had been
accepted. This is not a comforting welcome by INSAT, I hope this
doesn’t discourage them. Xanszia thought as she watched them console each
other. She engaged their eyes and afforded a supportive smile, hoping it would
impart a sense of assurance that INSAT had control and this would soon pass.
Raising her arm, Xanszia moved her hand through the air, suggesting they should
stay down on the floor.
“Their after us, Peir,
who else could they want? We’ve got to stop this before any innocents are
harmed. Can you see where they are?” Xanszia asked as she looked at the young
Peir was watching a
map of the area around them on his com-tablet. “Nath’eil said there are two of
them this time and he has the location of their heat signatures.” He pointed to
a spot on the map. “His last com said they’re one-hundred and eighty meters
north and west. That puts them on the far side of the commons.” He checked his
com-tablet once more. “Our cadets are behind them now. This should be over
“Does he have a cybot
scanning?” Xanszia asked.
“He released three,
all with plasma weapons.” Peir turned an ear to listen. “I can hear the hum of
their levitators. I’m afraid if they don’t give up now their bodies are going
to be ravaged.” He raised his head to look over the wall and two more shots
rang out, both rounds impacting on the wall just below him.
“They don’t stand a
chance,” Xanszia said quietly. “I pray they’ve realized the hoplessness of
their situation and lay down their weapons.”
A barrage of three lasar
bursts from a cybot exploded in the distance, followed by a volley of photon
shots and two loud explosions, and then an eruption of shots before three
plasma bursts, and then the shooting stopped as quickly as it started.
Xanszia looked at Peir
and then both pushed their heads above the wall, looking across the wide
commons. There was a cloud of smoke rising from the spot where the assassin’s
took refuge. The concrete wall that once protected them was blasted to rubble
and the shrubs that once displayed colorful flowers were burnt and leafless.
Two cybot drones
hovered above four INSAT cadets as they inspected the damage and the carnage at
the sniper’s final position. Xanszia turned to look at the couple still huddled
in the lobby. Their eyes were hopeful that the incident was over and Xanszia
smiled and nodded, hoping they were encouraged by the ease with which INSAT
neutralized the threat. This is going to get ugly before it gets better I
“This was a bold act, an attack in
daylight in a place impossible to escape from. Whoever is doing this is sending
snipers on suicide missions.” Xanszia watched as the last sniper’s mangled body
was covered with a death shroud and removed. She looked at the face of the
second sniper as the shroud was closed. “Two young women.” She shook her head.
“What a shame they’ve wasted their lives like this. They must have known that
INSAT cadets would rather capture them alive.”
“Yeah,” Nath’iel said quietly.
“I have a sense this is a diversion.”
“A diversion from what?” Nath’iel
“I wish I knew. But isn’t it odd how
they keep sending snipers to come after us one at a time? They had to know this
was a suicide mission.”
Nath’iel grasped her hand and began leading
her away from the devastation. “You might be on to something. It reminds me of
a course in military tactics. I remember reading about a conflict on a planet
in the Zeus system.” He continued as they walked. “One culture’s ideological
and spiritual beliefs were significantly different from the others on the
planet. They were savage fighters led by a succession of brutal warlords, and
they tried for centuries to dominate all the other cultures, but time after
time they failed.”
“How does that relate to this
situation?” Xanszia asked.
“It may be similar to what we’re
facing, there may be a lesson for us in their experience. All aggression is a
reach for power and domination, this can’t be any different.”
“Explain,” Xanszia looked at him.
“Their desire was power and dominance
and they wanted to rule all the lands of the planet. They felt their ideology
was superior, but brutal as they were, they realized they couldn’t win a
straight up war with the others. As a culture they were disorganized under
brutal warlords who often fought among themselves. Their technology wasn’t as
advanced as the others, but they knew their greatest asset was in their numbers
and the control the leaders held over the masses. Using religious beliefs as a
propaganda tool their leaders convinced many fighters that suicide missions
were the only way to conquer their prey.”
“And were they successful?”
“Not in the long run. But through a
number of attacks in different locations they did destabilize many world
governments. Chaos and fear reigned on each continent for centuries, and then
something unexpected occurred.”
“What was that?” Xanszia asked.
“Those who infiltrated the cultures
they intended to overtake actually enjoyed the free lives they had assumed.
They assimilated into the world of their adversaries and became productive members
of the new culture.”
“That sounds like a conflict that could
be carried out over a long period of time,” Xanszia began. “Time and patience
isn’t something I can afford now. I would like to see this stopped sooner than
Nath’iel stopped walking and pulled at
her hand. A discouraged look fell across his face and he raised his hand to his
ear, listening to a new message over the voice-com, and then he began speaking.
“Where?” He spoke in reaction to the voice coming into his ear com-link, and he
shook his head as he spoke again. “We’ll be right over.” He pulled Xanszia toward
him and motioned to Peir to gather close. “There’s been an attack by another
sniper. Tara li Assar has been shot and gravely wounded.”
“Did she survive?” Xanszia asked.
“Barely and the doctors don’t hold much
“We have to see her.” Why is she
caught up in this? What is going on? Xanszia thought.
Rushing into the medical facility they
were met by a therapeutic liaison who took Xanszia aside. She looked into her
eyes and spoke calmly. “Miss li Assar was walking down the promenade doing some
shopping. She was in a crowd and the sniper singled her out.”
“Did they catch who did this?” Xanszia
The woman’s face assumed a pensive
smile. “A cybot scanner brought him down. The cybot only wounded him, he took
his own life.” She touched Xanszia’s arm. “We heard you came under fire at
INSAT headquarters. Are you okay, Ambassador?”
“Yeah, just shaken. Can I see Tara?”
“Yes, but the doctor wants to speak
with you before you go in.” The woman turned and indicated that Xanszia follow.
Before entering the recovery room the
physician took Xanszia into a private office to discuss the details of Tara’s injuries. She watched his eyes and
felt the awkwardness of his movements, and she sensed he had deep concerns for Tara.
“She took two hits, Ambassador. One
went through her shoulder, much like Ambassador nu Isso. The other round went
directly through her heart. We’ve inserted a new pumping assist, but she’s not
responding well.” The doctor moved closer and spoke quietly. “I’m not sure that
this is Tara li Assar, Ambassador. To be truthful,
I know it’s not, the anatomy isn’t right.”
“She’s not of Valdian origin?” Xanszia
“I’m afraid not. A Valdian’s heart
would be in the back of her chest. This woman’s heart is in front and off to
one side.” He sighed, “She’s also had some reconstructive work done, and I’d
guess DNA shifting. I don’t know who this young woman is, but her life is in grave
danger and she seems to have resigned to her circumstances.”
“I understand,” Xanszia said quietly.
“You can determine her species and let me know?”
“Of course, Ambassador. I have my
geneticists working on it as we speak. We’ll send a report once we have
results.” He lowered his eyes and spoke quietly. “Regardless of who she is, don’t
press her, she’s weak and I’m afraid she may not survive the night.”
Lighting in Tara’s recovery room was dim and electronic
monitoring devices were perched just over her pillows. Lines of graphic data
scrolled horizontally in colorful graphs, rising and falling with each breath
and beat of her heart, and Tara lay motionless like a discarded doll
in a child’s unoccupied room.
Sitting on the edge of her bed, Xanszia
extracted a Hynderia lamp from her pack and ignited the oil as she set the
glass container on a tray near Tara. The oil glowed with a soft light and
the sweet fragrance of the Hynderia tree engulfed the room. She then took Tara’s hand and tenderly lifted it. Her eyes
were nearly closed and Xanszia squeezed her fingers again to revive her attention.
She looked at the woman’s ravaged body and decided not to press Tara, or whoever she was. The doctor
will tell me what I need to know of her origin. Comfort is all I can
offer now, she thought. Just see if you can get a name.
“You’re in good hands, Tara.” She said quietly. “The physician’s
will get you through this.” She strained to keep her tone encouraging. I
sense a strange need to feel the darkness of a cry on her behalf, but I can’t
do that to her, she thought. Not here, not now.
Tara’s eyes responded to the touch, but her
eye lids barely opened as she turned her head toward Xanszia.
“Can you help us find them, Tara? Why did they come after you? Is it
the same one’s who killed your father?”
Her head rolled slowly side to side and
tears pooled below her eyes, running over her cheeks. “He’s killed me…” She
whispered, her voice was weak and laboring. “I’m going to die; I can feel my
“No, Tara. You have to fight. Don’t let
go, you can beat this.” Xanszia pleaded softly. “Who am I to go clothes
shopping with…” She laughed a nervous laugh.
“I can’t, I’m slipping, slipping down…”
“Fight it, Tara. The doctors can save your body, but
only you can ward off death, be strong and fight.” Xanszia smiled and spoke
quietly, hoping her words could encourage her.
“I, I…” Her eyes filled with new tears
and she turned her head away. “I’m not Tara…”
Xanszia sighed and leaned forward,
pushing the hair away from the woman’s eyes. She held her breath as her fingers
lightly stroked Tara’s cheek, holding back the tears she
knew would come. “I know, they told me just now.” She said quietly.
“I told him it was too much…”
“Can you tell me what is going on, who
is doing this?” Xanszia could see the far-away look of death hovering in her
eyes and she blotted the tears that were gushing volumes of moisture, flowing
over the woman’s cheeks.
“I can’t, I…”
“Who are you? You can tell me. If not
Tara, then who?”
“Please, who then? Who are you?”
Tara’s breathing shuttered as her eyes
closed and her body stiffened. Xanszia could feel her grip tighten around her
hand, and then slowly release and she knew that Tara had resigned. Somehow she wanted to
go, something was compelling her to give up the life force that Xanszia had
In a previous battle Xanszia was the
person lying flat on the ground. She remembered feeling the formidable grasp of
death pulling her down, away from the light. It was a soothing feeling and it
compelled her to let go, it could have been so easy to accept its temptation
and release, to give up the natural urge to fight and let her soul slip away.
Desperate for an answer, Xanszia looked
into Tara’s withering eyes. She ran her fingers along
Tara’s cheek again and her smile offered an
unnoticed comfort. “Can you tell me anything? Can you tell me who you are?”
“I…” Gabi’s body shook violently for
several seconds and her eyes opened wide, and they engaged, and then closed. Her
grip relaxed, and then her body began sinking, deflating like a punctured
balloon as her last breath exited her body, and her lips formed the words “I-am-
Nath’iel held her as she slipped into
the coupe. Navva girls never cry or openly display emotion, she thought.
Girls of the Navva were taught that crying was a display of vulnerability,
something that proud warriors didn’t openly expose.
But the emotion was quickly upon her.
It caught her by surprise. She hadn’t felt sorrow this way since she was an
adolescent, and infrequent tears streamed from Xanszia’s eyes. She’d forgotten
the dark and lonely feeling of crying. Her breathing heaved and the tears
flowed unhindered as she lowered her head to Nath’iel’s shoulder. “She was
Gabia Vi’i.” The words quietly slipped between her lips. “She likely started
down her road with an evil goal, but I somehow believe she was an unwilling
participant in all this.” Xanszia pushed a cloth against her eyes. “She could
have lived. Some unknown fear convinced her to let go.”
CONTINUED Check out all the other episodes on Glossi Magazine Beyond the Door
The light of a candle spread in a sphere
of luminescence around the single flame, spreading out away from the light source and
then slowly swallowed by the blackness of night.
An asylum for the play of shadows cast by the flickering light,
Xanszia and Nath’iel moved slowly, illuminated only by the candlelight within
the room. The air was opressed with a heavy layer of moisture made of
perspiration and respiration, and its sanctity was disturbed only by the carnal
laments of the rooms occupants.
“Mmmm.” Xanszia held her breath as she rose up and pushed
down over him. The oil she rubbed on his body earlier still glowed like the
last incandescent embers of a fire, and its sweet fragrance clutched the air.
She pulled a long breath into her lungs and gasped as she lowered
her body onto Nath’eil’s, and then released her full weight against him,
consummating her movement with a crowning exhale. The oil was still warm and
the fragrance intoxicating and she held motionless as her breathing calmed.
“I needed that, it’s been too long.” Her body shuddered and she
could feel the coolness of a thin layer of perspiration that covered him. Xanszia
ran her fingers through his thin beard and giggled. “Jen’gii asked me the other
day if we were going to make babies.” She giggled again.
“How did the two of you get on to that subject?” Nath’eil
pushed his hands over her back and dug his fingers into the skin at her waist,
pulling her body tight against his. “Is this leading to something? Am I
supposed to declare my love for you and then ask you to commit the word of
honor with me?”
“No,” she laughed and kissed his neck. “We were just talking,
you know, girl stuff. Get two of us in a room and we just sometimes ramble.”
She ran her hand down his chest. “I
don’t know too much about the Nenarians but there are many rumors. I was
curious. I’ve heard there were no males in the Nenarian civilization and yet,
the waifs of Hyperiten are known as voracious lovers.”
“Maybe their voracious because there aren’t any males.”
Nath’eil laughed. “When I think of Hyperiten my mind conjurs up an image of
skinny brown-skinned girls running naked through the jungle.” He laughed
quietly. “Fynn pretty much confirmed what I’ve heard.” He laughed again. “He
also said as lovers they are unmatched in their passion.”
“Is this something you think about often?” Xanszia smiled as
she ran her fingers around his waist and his body jumped when she pinched the
skin at his hip. “So this is what men talk about, sharing details of their
conquests? Maybe you should find a Nenarian waif instead of a lowly Navva girl
from Hobaton.” Xanszia smiled and pulled his lips against hers.
“I didn’t think about it until you brought it up.” He wrapped
his arms around her body and rolled her onto her back. “And that lowly Navva
girl takes good care of my needs.” His fingers massaged the pliable skin of her
breasts and she breathed a sigh. “What did you tell her?”
“The truth, silly.” Xanszia gently bit the skin at his neck.
“We’re not ready to start a family yet, but the incident with Canar and Reis has
led me to think.”
“About what?” he asked.
were going to commit the word of honor while they were on Epstion. Canar was
thinking about a child.”
“She isn’t with child now is she?” He
“I don’t think so. But what if she
“That would be sad.” Nath’iel’s fingers
stroked her cheek and he pushed her hair behind her shoulder. “Raising Reis’
child alone, it seems like her worst nightmare would be staring her in the face
“I promise not to bother you about a
child until I leave the diplomatic corps.” She stroked his back, her eyes
lowered and a sullen cast grasped her face. “If I’m killed would you find
someone else?” She said quietly. “I’m not the kind to feel disrespect if you
“I don’t want to think about losing
you, Xan. It took long enough to find you.”
“But it could happen, and it could
happen to you.” Xanszia pushed her fingers against his lips gently and her eyes
“I don’t want to dwell on that. We both
have jobs to do and we both knew the risks going in.”
“So then we’re done talking about
conception now?” She laughed.
“We need more action, more training.”
Nath’iel lowered his head and ran his tongue over her breast and his lips
massaged the nipple.
“I see you’re eager to practice again.”
He doesn’t know. He thinks she’s dead. He thinks they got both of them.
Gabia stared at the ceiling as she recalled Leiped’s words, trying to remember
the exact statement. I’m sure he said they got her as well.
She could hear the minister’s regular
breathing and the warmth of his body filled the space between them. A wave of fear
galloped through her and she suddenly felt cold, and then a bead of sweat formed
on the skin at her forehead. This puts me in a different maneuvering
position, she thought as her ears listened to the minister’s breathing.
That must have been why Ambassador
Oppollu looked at me so strange. Leiped’s informants missed a crucial detail,
this could change everything. Maybe she knows, she’s a smart one, I’m sure she
Looking around the room Gabia thought
of the road she was currently on. I could stay with Minister Deff, I could
make this work, she thought. But could this be another confinement of
suppression like with Leiped? I could be found out. Am I safe here? Ambassador
Oppollu knows, I’m sure of it. What might her next move be?
Not wanting to wake him, she slowly pulled
herself from the minister’s bed and stepped delicately toward the window,
finding her skirt and top draped over a chair. Before dressing she reached for
the curtain and thought about the choices now laid before her.
“If Minister Deff knew about Leiped’s
plan, then what? What if I were to tell him.” She whispered quietly as she
pulled the curtain aside, looking into the garden below. If I tell him what
I know would he shield me or expose me for who I really am? Leiped told me of
his ruthlessness and the truth makes me vulnerable. I feel another truth
is more to my advantage.
Gabia could hear birds singing in the
distance and the horizon had an aura of light. She pulled her top over her head
and stepped into her skirt. I think my chances with Princess Ayalla are much
better. It’s time to test the water with Ambassador Oppollu.
Mornings were Xanszia’s sanctum of
contemplation. It was an ascetic time of seclusion she relished, her personal
allotment of peace and a period in which she could think undisturbed about the
Today her morning ritual was preempted
by a curiosity that surrounded Tara li Assar, and she agreed to meet for
an early morning rendezvous at Bolla’s new café. Maybe I’m being too
cautious, but Tara just seemed a little strange, she
seemed too unsure for someone who was born to privilege and surrounded with
self assurance. If I had to guess I’d say she’s hiding something.
Knowing Bolla was still in Heedley, and
he always opened his café early, Xanszia called two of her cadet escorts and
arrived while the city was still waking. For a time she watched from a distance
as Bolla went about preparing tables and discussing the day’s menu with the
staff. This is going to be especially hard on Canar. She and Reis put up a
lot of money to help him get set up. It will be difficult for her to come here
alone and enjoy her investment. Xanszia thought of her friend.
Although Bolla’s business was new to
Heedley she knew the people would find his gregarious style and delectable menu
combinations appealing. The advertising campaign had notices on every
billboard. Life-sized images of Bolla holding plates of food were now holograms,
walking the broad avenues of the city. He was laughing infectiously and calling
to passersby, asking them to come to Bolla’s.
After watching for a short time, she
motioned to her cadet guards, indicating she was ready to approach the café and
catch Bolla’s eye. This is a chance I have to take, but it’s also an
opportunity to spend some time with an old friend.
She stepped closer to the café and
Bolla’s eyes opened wide and with a bright skip in his step he opened his arms
and approached her. “What brings you to my café so early, Ambassador?” Bolla
hugged Xanszia and kissed each cheek as he always did.
“I came to see a good friend and to ask
a favor, Bolla.” Xanszia pressed her lips together and grasped his fingers,
pulling his hands toward her. “You’ve been so busy getting the cafe open and I
hate to impose on your good nature, but people’s lives may be at stake.”
The skin of his forehead wrinkled and
his face changed from the gregarious host to a concerned friend, and the air
between them adopted a character immersed with uneasiness. Pointing to an open
table in a deserted corner of the outdoor seating, Bolla grasped her hand and
began leading Xanszia. “Of course.” He held a seat for her and then sat across the
small table. He grasped her hands and pulled them toward him. “What can Bolla
do for the Ambassador?”
“I want to ask you some questions about
a person in the government.” She closed her eyes and slowly opened them again. “If
you feel I’m probing into areas you’re uncomfortable with, just say so and I’ll
Bolla grasped her hands tighter and his
round face smiled with a familiar warmth. “You saved my life when Princess
Ayalla assumed power on Vi’van. You risked your life for me and my family. How
could I not cooperate?”
“I just want you to be honest with me,
just as you have always been.” Xanszia looked into his eyes. “But I’m not
asking you to take chances. I swore I’d never put your life in danger again,
nor would I endanger Deneb and the children, and I’ll keep that promise.”
“Thank you, but as always, Ambassador,
Bolla’s at your service when important matters of state are at hand and lives
are in the balance.”
A server brought a carafe of tea and
poured for each of them. Xanszia leaned backward and smiled at him, waiting for
the return of their privacy. She watched Bolla’s fingers nervously fidget with
the place setting as the server finished pouring. “I have a breakfast meeting
here with Tara li Assar in about an hour. We’ve only just met and I was
wondering if you knew anything about her?”
A contagious smile encased Bolla’s
round face. “I’m sorry, Ambassador. I just met her only a short time ago myself.
She came in for lunch with Minister Deff.” His smile grew wider. “She is very beautiful.”
He laughed quietly. “I think Minister Deff likes her.”
“Have you talked to her?” Xanszia
sensed Bolla’s discomfort, and although she knew he would do anything for her, this
wasn’t the occasion to cast a large demand on friendship.
“Yes, she asked me about the café, you
know, mostly about items on the menu, and she wished me success here.”
“Did her conversation seem natural? Did
she speak without hesitation? Was she comfortable speaking with a stranger?”
“I suppose,” Bolla’s words were spoken
softly and his eyes probed for another message. “But there was something.” He
looked at Xanszia, and then pointed to his eyes. “Her eyes, there was little
eye contact and she did seem a little nervous.”
“Nervous or preoccupied?” Xanszia
“Maybe both. I’d say she seemed to be
thinking of something other than me at the moment we spoke. She did seem
Xanszia leaned back into her chair and
smiled. “Thank you, Bolla, as always you’ve been a big help.”
“That’s all you wanted to ask?” He
reached across the table and grasped her hands again. “Bolla can do more.”
“That’s enough for this morning. You
know me; I’m a woman of few words.” Xanszia laughed quietly, but she noticed
his eyes were seeking more. “How is Deneb dealing with your multi-planet
Bolla breathed a sigh and squeezed her
fingers. “She is doing splendid and has made some wonderful friends already. I
brought the family with me on this trip. Maybe if you have some time we could
“Thank you, Bolla. That would be
lovely, but I don’t think that would be wise right now. There is so much
turmoil surrounding me. I might be bringing more danger into your life.”
Xanszia sighed. “Bolla junior is a handsome young man now and Lula is such a
cute little girl.” She sighed again. “I hope things work out soon and I can
have my old life back, I miss the little things.”
“How is the Prime Ambassador, have you
seen her?” He asked.
“I sent her home. She’s still has some discomfort
from the rifle shot, but the real pain is in her head. She hasn’t given herself
time to grieve.” Her fingers turned her cup of tea and she smiled at Bolla. “I
think her first visit to the cafe will be difficult. I’ll bring her here when
it’s quiet and she’s ready, and when you have time to visit with her.”
“Deneb and I were devastated by the news
of Captain Vartesarian’s death. You take care of her, Ambassador. I love her
like a sister and Deneb and I want only the best for her. Like you and Princess
Ayalla, she is a kind soul.”
“Thank you, Bolla.” Xanszia looked around
the seating area taking into account the location of her cadet escort. “I
should let you finish your opening chores and I can do some window shopping
while I wait. A girl never has enough dresses or shoes.”
When their fingers met and retracted
Xanszia watched Tara’s eyes. A woman’s eyes engage and
her’s don’t. She’s uncomfortable about something, it’s written on her face and
in her manner. It can’t be me or my position; as a minister’s daughter she knows
status. There must be something else. Xanszia thought.
“It’s nice of you to meet me,
Ambassador Oppollu.” Tara said. “I know you’re busy and you’re under
“If we can find out who is causing this
unrest I can go back to what I love, my normal duties of looking after the
Tara sighed and smiled at Xanszia. “So with
all that you do for INSAT, it seems you have become Prime Minister for Princess
Ayalla as well. How do you do it?”
“It’s not part of the job description, but
I enjoy doing what I can, and it’s not a thankless job.” Where is this going?
Xanszia thought. “And I love the people of Vi’van. They’re so grateful the
Princess came to power and restored sanity after so many years of tyrannical
rule. The people are happy and prosperity has returned.” Don’t ramble, get
to the point and then let her talk. “You’ll come to learn that I’m not a
woman who does well with idle chit-chat.” She knew this statement might startle
Tara, but she didn’t want to prolong
preliminaries. Find a common interest with her, something you both can
share, and keep it moving, she thought. There’s something hiding deep
inside her. “But I’ve noticed how well you dress and I love your taste in
clothes. Maybe you could refer me to a shop you like. After I took this
position with INSAT I discovered fine clothing and stylish shoes. Now it’s my
indiscretion.” Xanszia giggled.
Tara sighed and then smiled. “I noticed
your good taste when we first met. You’re so pretty, Xanszia.” She stopped
speaking and her eyes circled the dining patio. “May I call you Xanszia or
should we be more formal?”
“Xanszia is fine.”
“Good, I’ll introduce you to Mehanna su
Lemm’ai. She runs a little shop in town that you would never find without my
help. She’s much sought after and she’ll do wonders with that beautiful figure
CONTINUED Check out all the other episodes on Glossi Magazine Beyond the Door