Chapter 6: Sing to the Stars
Unegen left Rowan in the guest quarters and headed straight for her cabin.
That cousin of hers, Niurgun, was going to get a piece of her mind putting a Tolui in such danger. Of course he must be acting on his mother’s orders but still a Tolui was only born once in a hundred generations and Rowan was obviously young and inexperienced.
Unegen reached her cabin. Although it was not as grand and large as the quest quarters it was not without its comforts; located one deck above the quest quarters it did not have quite as large a viewing window but the furnishings were much the same. Of course this had been Unegens room for over three hundred years so there were many of her personal touches.
Unegen could kill you in a thousand ways before you had a chance to look away from her stunning smile but deep down she had a real girly side and she was not afraid to show it and one of those girly things were flowers. The commander loved flowers and there were always fresh ones in her room. She sat at a small desk shaped like a half moon and admired the arrangement of orchids that she had found growing on a small island in the middle of the planets largest ocean. They made her whole stateroom smell wonderful and she absolutely loved them. She turned her attention from her flowers to the three silver orbs hovering slightly above the surface of her desk. Unegen waved her hand over one.
“Ship, scan the guest quarters. Relay all information on the life form presently in the room to me only.”
“Commander the scan is complete.” the ships voice answered perhaps a minute later.
“Report please,” said Unegen and the disembodied voice began to fill her in on Rowan’s biology.
“The life form in the room is not biostabilized nor has her aging been stopped. Her chronological age and her biological age are the same. She carries only lingual nanocytes and those are of a more advanced nature than are currently available. Her organic health is excellent. Genetically she is quite unique. Four distinct genetic markers indicate her main ancestry to be Human, Thracian, Fadian and Annunaki. Her brainwave patterns indicate that she is Tolui and Sender. I do not believe there is any record of such an individual ever existing so my data on this condition is limited. It is my opinion that she is not of this time period although I cannot say whether she is from the past or the future.”
The ship stopped talking. Unegen did not know what to think. A Tolui Sender, no wonder she had been sent on such a mission but the Fadian blood, that little fact concerned Unegen.
She waved her hand over the second silver orb.
“Fleet Commander Unegen to Captain Niurgun,” she said out loud.
Niurgun answered almost immediately.
“Fleet Commander Unegen is all well? You rarely use this private channel.”
Unegen, never one to mince words, laid it out as simply as she could.
“I have on board my ship at this very moment a Tolui named Rowan Ross who claims you have sent her, in the company of Brannoc Tong Durai, to infiltrate the royal court of the Fadians.”
Niurgun paused and then answered, “Please repeat.”
“You heard me perfectly,” answered Unegen. “They were picked up on the surface. I believe they were in the process of requesting reinforcements at the Callinish Stones. They were alone with no escort.”
There was another pause.
“I know of no one, especially a Tolui, named Rowan. I have authorized no such mission,” Niurgun replied.
“I expected you to say as much but it gets more complicated. I believe she is a time traveler and even though it pains her to do so I do not believe she is telling me the entire story of her journey here.” Unegen added.
Again there was a pause.
“This may sound like a strange question Unegen but is she wearing a small gold necklace that looks like an egg?” Niurgun asked sounding almost excited.
“As a matter of fact she is,” replied Unegen a bit surprised. “How did you know?”
Nuirgun answered quickly.
“What is she like Unegen?”
Unegen thought for a second and then answered.
“She is tall and beautiful. She reminds me in many ways of your mother, especially her red hair. I believe she grew up on Earth but that is just a guess. She is kind and seems wise beyond her years. The ships bioscan says she has genetic markers from Human, Thracian, Fadian and Annunaki. Oh and one more thing she is also a sender, untrained and collarless but a sender none the less. Can you believe it Niurgun, a Tolui Sender?”
Niurgun didn’t answer for a moment. When he did he sounded very serious.
“Unegen you must do anything she says and help her in any way you can. This is a direct order from the Empress. I know letting Brannoc Tong Durai go seems unthinkable but he is not the Brannoc of this time. I will be honest with you and say that I don’t know what is going on any more than you do but if she has the necklace she must be trusted. You must not tell anyone else what you know, no one. Do you understand?”
“Yes of course I will tell no one, but what about the Fadian ancestry? Does that not concern you?”
“Who knows what the future will bring Unegen. She is Thracian and that is all that matters. Please keep me informed. I want to know everything she does and says. Take good care of her Unegen, she is family but she does not know it yet and all of our futures may be tied to hers.”
“I will keep her safe while she is with me. I promise cousin.” Unegen answered earnestly.
She waved her hand over the communications ball and leaned back in her chair.
I must prepare for the banquet, thought Unegen. She touched one of the communicators and said, “Sub Commander Gal.”
“Yes Commander,” Gal answered immediately.
“Please prepare the banquet hall for dinner tonight. All non-essential personnel should attend. I want a traditional Thracian feast Gal, spare no expense or detail. Make sure all the arach are groomed and in attendance and I want the band in full dress and flowers, lots and lots of flowers. Send two parties to the surface for any supplies we need.”
“Yes Commander I will see to it that it is a banquet the whole crew will long remember.” answered Gal
“Oh and see that you are seated next to the Tolui. It is her own request,” Unegen added.
She knew that Gal was honored even if he didn’t say so. Unegen spent a good bit of time going over the menu with Gal. She wanted everything to be perfect. She was entertaining Thracian royalty even if Rowan or the crew didn’t know it.
After Gal had signed off Unegen leaned back in her chair and though about what an unusual day it had been. Oh I forgot to tell Gal to be sure and serve mondic, she thought. Unegen reached forward to reactivate the communicator when suddenly she heard one word transmitted in Rowan’s voice.
They found Rowan naked and covered in blood, collapsed by the bed. The wound to her neck was deep and bleeding badly.
“Why are her nanocytes not healing her!” exclaimed the terrified yeoman who was holding a cloth to Rowans neck.
“She is not biostabilized.” Unegen answered. “We must get her to the nanolab immediately.”
Two more crewmen rushed into the room with a carrier for Rowan. They laid her on it and immediately the green glow of a stasis field enveloped her.
Unegen looked at the two men.
“Take her to the nanolab. They are already prepped for biostabiliztion.”
The yeomen looked stunned as he sat in the puddle of blood.
“How could a Tolui not be biostabilized?” he asked bewildered.
Unegen took in a deep breath and answered him. “It is a very long story and even I don’t know the end of it yet.”
Unegen could see feet sticking out from the door to the bathroom. She had been so concerned about Rowan that she had not even noticed them. She walked around the bed and saw Vashir’s eyeless corpse staring out into space. Blood and tissue was splattered all over the room. She saw the wire in his hand and his half undone nanoleathers. She kicked his body, hard.
What am I going to tell Niurgun, thought Unegen. I promised to keep her safe, what am I going to say?
Rowan awoke back in the big bed. She slowly opened her eyes. In the big chair by the huge viewing window sat an equally huge Thracian. She recognized him instantly, her cat guy from the parking lot in Pittsburgh. He had his feet stretched out in front of him with his heels down and his toes up. He was completely absorbed in a holographic display that danced in the air in front of him. Rowan could have sworn he was playing a video game.
He would occasionally wave his hand as if turning a page and the display would change. He had shoulder length blond hair so light it was close to white. A day old beard only helped define his strong jaw line. His slanted almond shaped eyes were the same blue as the earth miles below the window.
He is not so scary, thought Rowan. I should not have treated him so badly in the parking lot when we met.
Niurgun it is nice to see you again, Rowan said with her mind.
Niurgun sat up straight, the holograms disappeared.
“You’re awake. You’re okay?
Rowan smiled, how could she been so afraid of him.
“Yes I feel wonderful,” she said as she reached up and felt her neck where Vashir had torn her throat. The skin was slightly raised but there was no pain.
“In fact I don’t know when I have felt better,” she added.
Niurgun had walked to the side of the bed.
“Oh that is the biocytes,” he said matter of factly. They are busy repairing anything in your body that needs repair. It creates quite a feeling of wellness especially the first time.”
Rowan closed her eyes and looked inward. Yes she could feel them, hear them working, looking for damage. The tiny sparks of their life-force felt like champagne bubbles tingling in her blood, such remarkable little creatures so pure in their thought. She felt Niurgun sit on the edge of the bed. Rowan opened her eyes and looked directly into his. She reached out and gently touched the glowing blue collar that lay around his neck.
“This is what you use to control the sending is it not,” she asked?
“Yes and no,” he answered. “It can control the sender as well but you will learn all these things in time. For now you must rest and heal.”
He looked at the golden charm that hung around her neck and he gently reached out and touched it. “This is lovely,” he said, “how did you come to have it.”
It seemed like a strange question to Rowan.
“It was a gift to me from my mother and to her from her mother and so on as far back in our family as anyone can remember. Why?”
“Oh no reason,” Niurgun said with a smile, “I just thought I had seen one like it before, that’s all.”
Niurgun reached down and took Rowans hand. He turned her hand over and kissed the heel of her palm. Rowan could feel her face blush as he turned up his deep blue eyes to hers.
“You are Tolui,’” he said. “A kiss is the traditional greeting.”
“Oh of course,” Rowan stammered.
Suddenly there was the sound of someone clearing their throat.
“Well I see you too are getting acquainted or reacquainted whichever the case might be” Unegen said as she leaned against the door jam.
Niurgun looked up and smiled like a tiger about to devour his prey.
“Indeed cousin I am simply honoring the Tolui as is our custom.”
“I am sure you are!” Unegen laughed and winked. “How are you feeling Rowan? You gave us quite a fright. We are not accustomed to dealing with non-biostabilized individuals. You actually gave our medics something to do.”
“I really feel remarkable, thank you.” Rowan said sincerely.
Unegen sat on the other side of the bed and nodded towards the bathroom.
“What happened here? Vashir attacked you without doubt but what made him behave in such an insane manner? No Thracian would ever raise a hand to a Tolui much less try to do what he tried, such a thing is unthinkable. He has always been a bit of a problem but this I would have never imagined. I feel that I have been remiss in my duties to allow something so terrible to happen to you our guest. I hope you can forgive me.”
Rowan reached out her hand and laid it on Unegens arm.
“You have nothing to apologize for. I should have sensed the danger from Vashir when he started to interrogate me but I let it pass as youthful immaturity when it was actually true evil. In truth I did not relay to you his true intent earlier. I did not want him harmed on my account and I thought I could deal with him myself.”
“Looks to me like you dealt with him just fine,” Niurgun said with a slight laugh. “I saw those eyeballs stuck to the window.”
Rowan shuddered remembering the sticky eyeball sliding down the window. “I was sorry I had to do that,” she said, “but when he attacked me I saw something in him that I cannot explain.”
“What do you mean?” Unegen asked.
“Well when he came at me I was asleep in the tub. I sensed he was there before he could get the wire around my neck and I stopped him but before I could get out of the room I fell and then he was on me. I thought I was going to lose consciousness so I reached into his mind and there was something in there. Something was there that was not Vashir. It was darkness like I have never seen before. It was the absence of light and matter but yet it had form. It wanted me; I could feel its hunger and its desire. It was death, lust, anger, hatred and all things evil coiled into one, like a serpent in his sub-consciousness. I managed to push it back but it was so close, I think I only escaped it by killing Vashir. I am sorry I had to do it. I have never taken a life before.”
Rowan felt herself shaking and she realized the toil the attack had taken on her. Unegen rubbed her arm.
“You did what you had to do. I would have killed him myself given the chance; his attack on you was unforgiveable.”
Rowan looked at Unegen, “there is more. I saw the things he has been doing to people on earth. He has killed so many children and done things to them that I wish I had never had to see. He or whatever was in him was a monster, an unspeakable monster. He planned to kill you as well and not quickly I might add.”
Unegen sat back obviously shocked.
“This thing you saw in his mind did it communicate with you?” Niurgun asked.
Rowan shook her head.
“It only projected rage and hate. It seemed to want me so badly it was consumed with need. I heard no cohesive thought but truthfully I was only trying to get away from it not try to talk to it.” Rowan answered.
Niurgun looked as if he was searching for a memory and then he spoke softly, “when I was a small child mother sent me to stay with our grandmother The QutughTolui. She had hoped grandmother could teach me patience and inner peace. Mostly she let me run wild in her garden but now that I look back on it maybe that was the lesson, but anyway grandmother once told me a terrifying story which at the time I thought was just meant to scare me. She said that when she was a young Tolui a man was sent to her to be judged. He was accused of the most heinous crimes imaginable. It was said that he had murdered seventy four people, violated their dead bodies and then eaten them, most were young boys. When he was brought before her he was not repentant. He was neither ashamed of his actions, nor afraid of her. When she looked into his soul she said there was something else there. She described it very much as you did Rowan but it did speak to her. My grandmother is the most powerful person I have ever known and she said it frightened her to her core. She called it the Burilgi, the destroyer.”
“Well what did it say?” Unegen blurted out, “don’t stop now.
Niurgun looked as if she had jolted him from a dream.
“It told her that it would come for the Eki, the eye of the needle. The Burilgi said that it would feast on life until the day came when it could come back into this world and then darkness would be unleashed. It said that the Eki would be its door and it would devour her soul. Grandmother said she stopped the man’s heart instantly just to be away from its loathsome darkness. She said she felt it clawing at her own consciousness and it terrified her.”
The three were quite for a moment.
“What or who is an Eki?” asked Rowan breaking the silence.
Niurgun answered her.
“The Eki will come and unite the star children. She will walk in both worlds. Her living heart will beat for all and all who hear her song will know joy. She will be the many and the one. She is the one for whom we wait. The door has been opened and the ghost is free. Now is the beginning. All things will come through the eye of the needle.”
“That is the last few passages from the most ancient story known to exist. It is from an Annunaki story called The Eki or The Beginning.”
Niurgun didn’t say it but he realized he had heard part of that passage years earlier on the devastated Tunguska plain. The red headed specter who had given him the little egg had said; you will have a daughter Niurgun Bootur. She must be given this and every daughter after her must be given it until the one for whom we wait holds it in her hand.
“Hah,” scoffed Unegen, “the Eki is just a legend left behind by a race that might as well only be a legend, the great Annunaki. Where have they been for so many eons, our all-powerful creators? If they ever did exist they abandoned us a long time ago. I set no stock in their stories.”
“Well our grandmother believes this one,” Niurgun answered her, “and now Rowan has seen the Burilgi as well.”
“Well,” added Rowan, “I don’t know what any of this means but I can honestly say that I hope I never see it again. Your grandmother was certainly right about one thing, it was the most terrifying experience possible.”
“Indeed,” Unegen said as she patted Rowans hand. “You have had a dreadful time with us so far, wrapped in biogel, assaulted, and almost killed, you need to rest a while and then we have planned a special banquet in your honor. Hopefully I can make up for all the awful things that have happened to you since you arrived and if I can get Niurgun to stop hovering over you and help me with the preparations perhaps you can rest.”
“No, please,” said Rowan. “I really feel wonderful. Let Niurgun show me the ship. The last thing I want to do right now is lay in bed.”
“Certainly if that is what you wish,” Unegen said with a sly smile on her face. “He wouldn’t really be of any help to me anyway.”
Rowan looked at Niurgun, “I mean if it is alright with you?”
Niurgun stood and took a solemn bow.
”I can think of nothing I would like better. I will wait in the corridor while you get ready.”
Rowan and Niurgun had been looking at the ship for hours. She had seen some amazing things and they finally ended up in a huge viewing room. Niurgun began to point out stars.
“We come from the sector of space where the constellation you call Cygnus is seen from Earth, about six hundred light years away.”
He pointed to the Northern Cross. Rowan remembered her father showing it to her on a camping trip to the Appalachians. Who would have ever thought she would actually meet someone from there, she so wished her father could see her now.
Niurgun showed her the agricultural areas, they were fascinating. The ship could produce enough food for the entire crew in several huge aquaponic-terraformic chambers. The chambers were complete ecospheres with fish and birds and plants. He said they even had their own weather and just to prove it the two of them took a walk in a gentle rain that rolled around them on Niurgun’s personal force shield. Rowan couldn’t help but remember the droplets of melting snow running down the conservatory roof when Brannoc had taken her from Pittsburgh. She hoped Brannoc was alright but she was definitely beginning to wonder if she should not have left with Niurgun when she first met him. He stopped and they stood in the artificial rain. He explained that the personal shield could funcntion on several different levels. A shield could repel attacks from energy weapons atleast for a certain amount of time, a shield could function as an environmental barrier in cases of extreme cold, heat, gas, etc. and while it could repel things of very low mass like water droplets or dust it would not stop low tech weaponry like projectiles. Then he paused and seemed to ne thinking something over.
Finally he asked, “Would you like to see the ships mind?
“The ships mind?” Rowan seemed puzzled. She wondered why he would even ask and not just show her. “Sure why not?” She answered.
Niurgun took her down many dim corridors until they finally entered a darkened room that smelled salty like the ocean. Several Thracians in white uniforms were moving quietly about the room. They seemed to be attending to something that was in a large tank in the middle of the room. Soft music was playing and there was an air of reverence in the room. Rowan felt like she was in a cross between a library and a church.
Niurgun took Rowan gently by the arm and they walked into the darkened center of the room towards the tank. Rowans eyes had adjusted to the dimness of the room and as they came to the glass wall of the tank she could see into the clear liquid. She gasped. Niurgun’s grip tightened on her arm as if he was afraid she was going to run.
Rowan saw a huge brain suspended in the liquid and what appeared to be threads, perhaps millions of threads, running from the base of the brain across the bottom of the tank. They seemed to disappear into the floor or base of the tank as if they simply grew into the surface.
“Let me explain,” Niurgun whispered.
A voice came into Rowans mind at first it was a soft whisper and then it became clearer. Rowan put her forehead against the glass and began to speak.
“Her name is Sara. She knows you call her Juchin but she wants you to know her name is Sara.”
Niurgun looked shocked.
“I never knew; I am sorry.”
“She says you never took the time to ask,” Rowan answered.
“How did she get here? How does something like this happen?” Rowan demanded.
The Thracians milling about the room stopped and stared as if she had yelled in a library. Niurgun waved them back to their duties.
”Everything is fine.” He assured them and then turned back to Rowan.
“Please don’t raise your voice.” Niurgun whispered, “This is a sacred space. I will explain as best as I can.”
“Well please do,” Rowan lowered her voice but her tone was one of deep concern.
Niurgun thought for a moment.
“I am not exactly sure where to start since I really do not know how much you actually know about our ships.”
“I know the ship is alive. I could feel that almost from the first moment I was aboard but I never thought it was run by a giant brain in a jar!” Rowan answered.
“I know it looks bad but please let me explain,” Niurgun answered quite sincerely. “This is why I was hesitant to show it to you.”
“Okay,” Rowan said as she crossed her arms in front of her, “I’m listening.”
Niurgun cleared his throat.
“I am sure by now you are somewhat familiar with our nanocyte technology. You understand that we can create synthetic life and these microscopic life forms can be programmed to perform various biological functions. The ship is basically a synthetic life form created by using the nanocytes to function as one enormous organism. The nanocytes are programmed to function as different cell types in conjunction with actual cloned organic tissue from a creature that lives in the depths of the seas on my home world, Erdene. Do you understand so far?’
“This highly intelligent creature is called a celiph and it is very similar to the whales of your world except much larger. We found that the brains of these gigantic animals made the perfect control center for our ships. Organic brains function at a much higher productivity rate for processes like environmental control, ship maintenance and repair, circulation of atmosphere and many other things. Her brain basically controls the ship just as it would have controlled her body. The brain now works in tandem with very powerful computers that function for space navigation and communication. Our computers are also semi organic so in reality they are a single organism that consists of organic and inorganic parts. The ship has a very advanced AI system which we communicate with but I was never aware of the higher consciousness of the organic brain. It is just a cloned animal brain after all.”
Rowan pressed her hands to the glass.
“She says that she awoke one day looking down upon Erdene. She says she looks through eyes of many kinds. She saw a silver ball rise above Erdene and she knew it was called Sara. She said to herself on that day, I am a Sara, so this must be my name. This is the day of my birth, the day my eyes opened.
Niurgun smiled, “Sara is the name of our moon. She believed she was a moon. She is describing the day her systems were brought on line. The day the computer and her brain were linked and she took control of the ships structure.”
Rowan looked at Niurgun and spoke again as Sara.
“I swim through the eternal sea and I sing to the stars. I am happy to serve the ones that live within me and care for me but know that my name is Sara.”
Niurgun placed his hand against the glass, looked into Rowan’s eyes and gently said, “You are Sara.”
Niurgun seemed a bit quite as they walked down the corridor away from the shipsmind. Finally he spoke.
“Sometimes I wonder if it is the right thing to do to take the minds of living creatures and force them to control our ships. In the beginning when the process was first developed we actually took living celiphs from the sea and removed their brains. This was well before my time but I have heard stories of how their minds would conflict with the ships AI and cause problems so portions of their brains were removed to control their behavior.”
“Like a lobotomy?” Rowan said; the disgust in her voice was obvious.
“Yes,” Niurgun said, “I am ashamed to say, yes.”
Rowan was about to say more but then she realized that she was in no position to pass judgment. She only had to think of all the cruel things her race did to animals and each other every day.
Niurgun continued, “The brain removal process was eventually seen as cruel. Many protested its use and the process was discontinued once the cloning procedure was perfected. The cloning process was thought to have solved the AI conflict problem, basically starting with a blank slate. This is the first time in over a thousand years that anyone has known that the ships minds still had thoughts of their own. Did she really seem happy?”
“Yes,” Rowan answered,” she is quite content. I sense a bit of loneliness but also an enormous sense of pride. She swims among the stars and she loves to sing. Did you know that the ships sing to one another?”
Niurgun just shook his head.
Rowan continued, “She does wish that you all could hear her sing. Niurgun why can I hear her and no one else can?”
“I don’t know Rowan. Your genetic analysis indicates that you have some Fadian ancestry so it may be that their ability to communicate with so called lower life forms combined with your Thracian abilities somehow allows you to telepathically communicate with animals.”
He answered her as honestly as he could.
“There you two are!” Unegen practically shouted as she came around the corner of the corridor.
“The dinner is almost ready and I am here to take you back to your room to get ready. Niurgun you need to go get dressed and make sure that unruly arach of yours is on his best behavior. Come now Rowan I have a lovely surprise for you.”
She took Rowan by the arm. Niurgun looked reluctant to leave but he took a slight bow.
“I will be with you at dinner.”
Rowan looked over her shoulder as Unegen pulled her down the hall.
“Thank you for the tour,” she said as she and Unegen walked away.
She turned to Unegen, “Did you say arach? Exactly what is an arach?”
Unegen laughed; her bright blue eyes sparkling, “why a dragon of course, silly.”