Friday, August 23, 2013

Beyond the Door - Episode 12

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.
Ambassador Xanszia 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.
Ambassador 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 does hers.
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 complex.
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.
Ambassador Xanszia 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 out there?
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 ‘most anything.”
“But you’ve never seen one of these changlings?” Xanszia asked.
“No, never.”
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.”
Jen’gii looked 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 thought.
“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 know better.”
 “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.”
“Nenarians need 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 encourages.”
“Why is dat?” Jen’gii asked.
“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.”
“You’re right, 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.”


CONTINUED



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Friday, August 16, 2013

Beyond the Door - Episode 11

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 staccato bursts.
“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 furnishings.
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 couple again.
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 soon.”
“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 think.

hhhhh

“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 asked.
“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 later.”
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 hope.”
“We have to see her.” Why is she caught up in this? What is going on? Xanszia thought.

hhhhh

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 asked.
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 asked.
“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 life leaving.”
“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?”
“I can’t…”
“Please, who then? Who are you?” Xanszia asked.
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 encountered before.
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- G-a-b-i-a.”

hhhhh

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

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Beyond the Door


Friday, August 9, 2013

Beyond the Door - Episode 10

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.
“They 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 asked.
“I don’t think so. But what if she were?”
“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 everyday.”
“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 said yes.”
“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 held his.
“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.” Xanszia giggled.

hhhhh

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 suspects something.
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.

hhhhh

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 days ahead.
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 back off.”
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 asked.
“Maybe both. I’d say she seemed to be thinking of something other than me at the moment we spoke. She did seem distant.”
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 operation?”
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 get together.”
“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.”

hhhhh

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 INSAT’s protection.”
“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 Princess’s needs.”
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 of yours.”


CONTINUED


Check out all the other episodes on Glossi Magazine


Beyond the Door