Excerpt From A Guardian From Earth

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I woke up suddenly in the dark. There was somebody in the room with me. I heard Riley bark once, then go silent. The shape of a woman resolved itself in the closet door. It was dark, but she wasn't much bigger than I was. I grabbed for the little blaster in my bag, but she interrupted, "Don't bother with the blaster; it won't work on me anyway. How did you get it and what happened to my brother?"

"Your brother?" I replied. I hoped she had something to do with ScOsh, but wasn't certain.

"His name was Osh Scimtar. He probably called himself ScOsh. There is a Mindsword in this box that shows his pattern, but he wasn't known to have a Mindsword or be capable of forging one. It's inactive, which means he's dead, and you're operant with at least some training. Did you somehow manage to kill him?"
"First explain what you did to the dog and my parents!"

"They're asleep. Nobody is going to interrupt us. Now start explaining!"

"Oh, I am sorry!" It took a while for my brain to get going sometimes. "I knew there'd be people looking for him, but he told me there were so many people in the empire I never thought it would be family first. He gave me a log for the whomever it was. Have you found his log yet?" She gave a little noise towards the end of the sentence, which meant she had as soon as I mentioned it. I watched her face fall. She must have accessed something that told her ScOsh was dead. It was like a hammer hit her, but she maintained her presence of mind.

After that pause, "Are you Grace?"

"That's me," I replied. Since I hadn't yet given her a name, that meant she read it off the log or out of my mind.

"I'm sorry," she said, "But Osh was close to all of us. A surrogate father whenever Father was gone. I'm Anara Scimtar di Baryan. Call me ScAnara." Unlike ScOsh, she emphasized the connection enough that I caught the soft cee and figured out that the beginning was an informal patronymic of sorts. "To expect him to be here so I can harass him about an error he made, only he's gone, dead, it's just going to take a few moments. He thought a lot of you, evidently. Enough to leave instructions concerning you in his log. Would you like to come to the empire with us?"

"Yes, I would." I had already made up my mind on that score. "How long do I have?"

"We need to verify that he did kill all of the stons that were here. And we're going to run an astral survey, compute a temporal ephemeris, drop a beacon. As long as we're here, let's do what we need to in order to keep track of a planet with seven billion humans. That will also insure you can find your way back, incidentally. Eight hours at least. ScOsh's log says our hours are about one point seven of yours so thirteen and a half hours." I looked at my watch, just to be sure. It was 5 AM. I had until 6:30 tonight to say goodbye.

"Do I need to bring anything?"

"A couple days' worth of clothing might be prudent, but not necessary. Artificial environment shipboard." I turned on the light, and discovered that ScAnara looked nothing like ScOsh had. Her skin actually had a slight orange cast to it, and if she didn't have the brightest head of red hair I'd ever seen, it was close. She also had the build of the smaller, heavily built mindlords rather than ScOsh's tall and skinny. She was about five foot six, looked like she weighed maybe one-seventy, not fat, but rather the sort of muscles that come from hours at the gym. If you'd forced me to guess her ethnicity, I would have said Irish but her accent was pure California.

"Do you have time to wake my parents? I'm an adult, but talking with you might calm their fears."

"I have a few minutes, unless there's an alert."

I went down the hall and knocked on their door. "Papi? Mama, there's someone here you want to talk to."

It took them a minute to wake up, then, "What is it m'ija?" There was definitely sleep in Papi's voice. They were both in pajamas, sitting up in bed.

"This is ScOsh's sister, ScAnara. I'm going to be leaving with her tonight. I'm not certain when I'll be able to come back. Probably at least a couple years their time, maybe more of ours."

Papi: "Huh? Why? We just got you back!"

"Your daughter is operant sir," ScAnara replied, "She needs to learn how to use her abilities. Here, she will never learn it all on her own, there is too much to discover. But we've had billions like her and like me for a hundred thousand years. We've learned how to do a lot that she will never learn on her own, and how to pass it on. When she comes back, assuming she decides she wants to, she will be the start of a new era on your world. We don't die from old age or disease; she'll be able to bring that same knowledge to your world, along with many other things. Have you noticed a difference in your daughter?"

"Si," Papi replied, "She changed a lot since the last time. No glasses, and I haven't seen her fool with contacts either. It's like she suddenly spent two years working out in the space of three days. And maybe I'm getting old, but she seemed smarter and faster as well as younger." Mama also nodded.

"ScOsh did all of that for me in a few seconds Mama. I have to go learn so I can do it for others. And the things they can do - you saw, both of you. They can travel between galaxies and alternate dimensions in the twinkling of an eye. I have to go learn!"

"M'ija, are you sure this is alright?"

Remembering something he'd often said to Esteban when we were younger, "You mean 'tear my arm off and beat me to death with it', Papi? No, I'm not. But it's not because of anything like a cookbook called "To Serve Man" like that old TV show you showed us. It might not be right for me, but it's something I have to try. I'll never know the difference I could have made if I don't."

"It's going to be hard, m'ija, losing you again. Mama and I, we don't know how much longer we have. We don't know if we'll see you again."

Copyright 2024 Dan Melson. All Rights Reserved.

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This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on April 30, 2024 7:00 AM.

Excerpt from The Man From Empire was the previous entry in this blog.

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