Raven

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CHAPTER 41 – Revelations

It was early evening by the time all were settled and quieted in The Judge’s oversized parlor. Three days had passed since the battle at the high school. People were still hurting physically and emotionally, but they all agreed that this needed to get done. Maybe some of the losses would be easier to bear if the ones remaining could believe it was all for a reason. Maybe even a good one.

With Emmie backing her up, Raven had finally convinced everyone that Ronald had telepathically implanted a great store of information in her mind. After all, it was Ronald, himself, that had declared that Raven understood what was happening and could explain it all. Those not present when Ronald’s body had burst into flame were reluctant, but they, too, finally relented under the insistences of those who were.

Standing before them, Raven felt very small. The gash rending her heart since Jamal’s murder along with the deaths of friends felt as deep and cold as a crevasse cleaving a glacier down to bedrock. But she knew she had to speak; no one else knew what she did.

She took a deep breath and began. “Ronald wasn’t a human. He was a glurrik.”

Several in the audience exchanged nods and whispers, apparently already aware of this assertion. Others who had not heard about what Jason and the others had learned in the auditorium reacted in a variety of ways. Some smirked, and others merely gaped. One arose and started to walk out but was stopped and encouraged to stay long enough to hear the rest.

Raven waited until things settled down before she continued. “They are able to alter their bodies, assuming the shapes of other species, even their sizes, within limits, so they can live and move among humans, or other species, without arousing suspicion. Their real bodies look something like a large sea cucumber with four long legs and four tentacles instead of arms and a bunch of smaller tentacles like fingers. The kryls conquered and enslaved them, so the ones that accompany the kryls are required to assume the kryls’ shape, but smaller. They are benevolent to humans when not under kryl control.”

Jason spoke up. “The second kryl we talked to at the museum said it was a glurrik. It looked just like the other one, only smaller. It didn’t say anything about changing shapes.”

Raven nodded and went on. “The kryls conquered their world and almost destroyed it. They saved their world by agreeing to serve the kryls, but many had already escaped off-world by then. The major way those remaining serve the kryls is to track humans. They are able to sense humans, especially our magic, which they can track like a bloodhound does a scent. They were required to serve faithfully as they had agreed or one thousand of their citizens would be killed for any minor incident that the kryls considered a failure or betrayal. A major incident could mean the entire planet, or at least a large part of it. Those that had already left sought ways to oppose the kryls – secretly, of course. One way they discovered was to live among humans, study us and our magic, and help us to develop it as a weapon to defeat the kryls,” she paused as her buried memories churned and allowed bits to surface, then added, “… as it almost did a long time ago. I’ll have to work on that. I’ll tell you about it when I understand it.

“Anyway, glurriks have been on the earth for a long time … a really long time – centuries – lots of centuries. To humans, they are very long lived. Ronald was over seven hundred years old, and he was just a youngster. They observe us humans and study our abilities to work what has been termed down through the ages as magic. They seek out persons that they sense as having various abilities, even if it’s still buried. Usually the persons they’re studying aren’t even aware they have any special powers. The glurriks devise ways of remaining around their subjects over long periods. I had noticed Ronald hanging around Lila and Emmie an awful lot, and I even started thinking he was a pervert or something. …Sorry, Ronald.

“One way for them to hang around us has been to assume the shape of a common animal, one we would be comfortable with as a pet. Cats, dogs and crows were commonly used in the past. It usually worked pretty well. Sometimes too well. When other humans accused their subjects of being witches, the glurriks, in the shape of animals and called familiars by the persecutors, were also persecuted. Many of them died along with their subjects of study.”

Leroy Abernathy raised his hand before he spoke up. “Why can’t they just switch off their human appearances when they’re injured, like Ronald’s stab in the belly, so the injury just disappears?”

Raven shook her head. “It doesn’t work like that. They don’t just assume appearances with smoke and mirrors or stuff like hypnotism. Their new bodies aren’t illusions; they’re real. Their bodies are just like humans, inside and out, with a couple of exceptions. Two of their organs are vital to them and have to remain in their original shape in order to function. When Ronald was stabbed, the knife damaged one of these organs, triggering a process that cannot be reversed once begun. If he had changed back, he still would have died. They can undergo most surgeries with no problem, but they don’t want anyone doing autopsies. That’s why they self-destruct. The ones living among us, those dedicated to finding a way to defeat the kryls, have permanently altered their bodies so when they die, their bodies spontaneously combust. The flames are so hot nothing is left but powdery ash. So, even though Lila repaired his damaged human body, the burning of his body couldn’t be stopped, and he knew it. … So did I.”

Suddenly, the heat of such recent memories threatened to sear her mind. She stopped, took a deep breath and let it out slowly while she wiped away a tear stalled on her cheek.

“They decided long ago that it’s better if their presence is kept secret from humans as a way of keeping it from the kryls. If the kryls found out, it would probably mean the destruction of the glurriks’ world, and if it was common knowledge among humans … well, we aren’t really that good at keeping secrets. Among the younger ones like Ronald is the belief that they should be more open to us, trusting at least some of us to keep the secret while they actively assist us to get beyond the stage of our own intolerance when our magic becomes suppressed under charges of sorcery and witchcraft. They believe widespread understanding would eliminate a lot of problems.”

She could tell by the looks of confusion on most of the faces about her that she had assumed too much. She said, “Okay, I realize it’s kinda hard to take it all in, but, believe me, that’s what happened. I may throw things like that out without even thinking because, to me, it’s all so clear – sometimes. If I do it again, somebody holler, and I’ll try to make it clearer.”

After a moment, she pushed herself on. “Anyway, human magic is not really true, fairytale type magic, but it’s not just mind power, either. All humans don’t have the same abilities, either the same kinds or the same strengths. Some, maybe even the majority, may not have any abilities, at all. Or, it may just take more to get it to surface. Some types of magic are more common than others, like telekinesis.”

Raven noticed the look of incomprehension on several faces and realized she was, again, revealing many strange and confusing concepts, and she was rushing through it too much. She understood it as it came flooding out of her recalled memories, but only because of the background memories and knowledge that had been implanted with them.

She went on, “That’s the ability to levitate and move objects about, even other persons, and is the most common. In times considered ancient and even prehistoric, many great works of construction were accomplished with levitation, frequently used in joint efforts by teams when very large or heavy objects were moved … like the pyramids in Egypt and other places, and rings of giant stones in southern England, you know, Stonehenge … things like that. Not so easy is the ability to levitate oneself, for rookies, anyway. Probably because it’s hard to focus on lifting while ignoring how much it would hurt to fall – just not natural, you know. Or, maybe it is. Anyway, it’s harder to do.

“More rare is pyrokinesis, that’s creating fire, and telepathy, such as how I can talk with dogs, mostly, and a little bit with people, although that’ll get easier the more I use it. In that group, too, would be creating heavy electrical discharges similar to natural lightning. Rarer, still, is teleporting, or moving instantly from one location to another. But that also involves something else I really don’t understand at this point, something about some kind of force moving about the universe in every direction at the same time and at speeds faster than light … and also connected, somehow, to a popular subject talked about around universities – dark matter and dark energy. The kryls use it in space travel, but not with mental power. They have to use machines.”

This last revelation caused double-takes in half the audience and hanging jaws in the rest.

“Huh!” It was the closest she could come to a laugh. “Now you know why I’m having a little trouble with than one. And then there is the ability to heal another body, which is a form of telekinesis, but much more profound. That’s what Lila can do. Plus, she can do common telekinesis and maybe some other stuff. Emmie’s healing ability is very limited, but it’s there. It’s unusual for a person to develop more than one ability, but it does happen. Ronald had sensed a depth of Lila’s abilities, even though they had not yet come out. He was fairly sure she would be able to heal my injuries if she got back to the auditorium in time with Vonnie and the others, especially if he was still alive and could guide her into using her abilities for the first time. That was why he pushed me so hard to let him give me all this … stuff … this information. Turns out, she got herself primed all on her own when they told her they couldn’t save him.”

She couldn’t stop her gaze from landing on Lila, drawn there by the connection she and the girl recently shared, both of healing and of loss. The pain of loss of a brother shone back to her from Lila’s eyes. She resisted mentioning that Lila could probably have saved Jared, and even Jamal, so great was her power, if they had still lived when brought to her.

“Ronald knew he was dying, and I was the only hope of preserving what he knew. Most of the glurriks on the west coast were attending a meeting in San Francisco when it was destroyed. Ronald was on his way there from up near the Oregon border when the kryls came. Bad luck that they had chosen that day to hold their quarter-century conference. So, you see, if he didn’t give me the information, it might have really been lost. I don’t know how many glurriks are left, if any are, or where they may be. At least, right now I don’t think I do. Maybe tomorrow or next month I might remember more.

“Anyway, those glurriks that couldn’t return to their home planet came to Earth and the other planets where human populations survived and dedicated their lives to studying human magic because they hope we are the answer to overthrowing the kryls. The kryls have dominated the other species in the Federation of Worlds for what many member species consider far too long.

“The glurriks belong to a secret group that calls themselves the Alliance. They are all Federation members of various species and are opposed to the kryls’ domination of the Federation. Of course, their opposition has to be covert or the kryls would come down on them, too. They aren’t strong enough to fight openly, so they use their memberships in the Federation for things like what they’re doing here.”

Raven looked about the room and saw mostly confusion, disbelief, and awe. With the vast amount of inside information that she now possessed, even she was having trouble swallowing it all. She said, “Maybe it will help you – and me, too – to better understand things if I start at the beginning.”

She paused, closed her eyes for several moments, opened them and began. “A very long time ago – millions of years – and not on Earth, but on a world like it, humans first came to be. Several hundred thousand years ago, they developed intelligence, then civilizations and eventually advanced to a level where they spread out to colonize other suitable planets in nearby star systems. Earth was the most remote colony in their modest empire of thirty-something planets. But, they bumped up against the kryls’ empire – the same bad guys we met some weeks ago – the real bullies of the Milky Way, or this part of it, anyway.”

Raven paused, again, with a sudden, far-off look in her eyes. Then, as remote and buried memories of learned histories bubbled to the surface of her consciousness, a look of disbelief twisted her face: frown lines across her forehead dipped to meet one rising eyebrow while the other scrunched up over its respective eye, with the corner of her mouth on that side lifting up to fold the skin around the eye until it was nearly closed. Slowly, her face softened as acceptance replaced shock, and then slipped into a grin.

“Oh, my god!” Enthusiasm for strange and wondrous things filled her mind, masking the agony of her recent losses. “Atlantis was real. No – I mean … not like we thought of it – you know, how the Greeks described it – but it was real … sorta. What came down through myth and legend as Atlantis was actually the heart of the original Earth colony. Wow – and Plato just scratched the surface when he described it. Sorta like trying to explain the Roman Empire by describing just the city of Rome. Of course, he never saw it or even talked to anyone who did. He was just passing along myths and legends that were ancient even to him.”

She shook her head and said, “My god, the stories I can tell you just about that. … Anyway,” she went on after taking a deep breath, “the kryls were reluctant to allow another intelligent species to develop in their sphere of influence, especially a species that showed traits that could allow them to supplant the kryls in the foreseeable future as the dominant species. The traits that disturbed them were humans’ magic abilities.

“In the beginning, and in every era since, not all humans could harness or direct or focus the power to use the magic. I’m not sure which of those terms is more correct; they are probably all close. The glurriks believe all humans do have the potential, though, just like having the ability to carry a tune. Some are just better at it than others.

“So, the kryls engaged the human worlds in a war that lasted for only a short time. The kryls, after all, were long established in their position of power in the Federation, and they had the might of their armadas of giant ships. Humans’ abilities to use magic against the kryls delayed their defeat, but not for all that long. Each of the human worlds became cut off from the others. Each one fought valiantly, but none was strong enough to resist the kryls for long. More than half were destroyed, their human populations utterly wiped out. Many were left a blackened cinder. Even back then, the kryls had weapons that were truly awesome. The lasers they use during capture missions and culls like what we just went through are actually primitive, even the ones on their flyers. It’d be like us sending a company of Marines armed with just cross-bows against a tribe of cavemen – awesome to the cavemen, but rather quaint to our guys. The kryls consider it sporting to limit themselves like that. They’re big on sport.

“Of course, the kryls misunderstood what human magic is. They assumed it was just something an individual’s brain created to use against an opponent in battle, sorta like a different kind of spear. During the final months of the war, they developed instruments to detect the emissions that the use of magic creates—not brainwaves, but similar. Actually, their devices were crude, often unreliable, electronic applications of the same principles that allow glurriks to biologically detect our magic. But they worked well enough for the kryls to locate and destroy enough of the humans’ strongest fighters to enable them to overwhelm us – them – back then.

“Soon after, with the development of these devices, all the humans’ worlds fell. And that was when the kryls developed a liking for the sport of hunting humans. Apparently, we can be quite a challenge. Except, of course, they considered the humans’ use of magic in those events to be unfair. These one-on-one duels were never meant to be equal against equal. The kryls made sure they were always more equal than their human prey. It was only this fondness for sport-hunting humans that kept the kryls from annihilating the human species.

“After the war, the kryls continued to use these devices whenever they returned to the human worlds during frequent hunting safaris. Believing, as they did, that magic was an individual accomplishment for humans, they sought to locate and eliminate the ever-diminishing number of magic users. They were determined to remove magic from the human gene pool.

“Now, the kryls enjoyed hunting humans. But, even without magic, the eventual rebuilding of advanced human technologies that had been all but destroyed in the war tended to make them more able to resist the kryls when they returned for their sport. The kryls’ safaris turned out to be more like major battles, almost like replays of the war the humans didn’t have the decency to realize they had lost.

“At the same time, advancing human cultures tended to decrease the survival capabilities within those cultures. Civilized humans get soft. It seems after our civilizations achieve a certain level of sophistication, we allow, even favor, the survival and breeding by the non-fittest. Also, in ancient times – and times not so ancient here on Earth – human societies tended to pursue the ability to destroy each other along with their own environments. The kryls didn’t like it that advancing human cultures produced less than prime stock for their sport. Also, they didn’t want to lose large portions of their herd in some nuclear disaster due to local warring.

“So, the kryls set it up to return to each planet with a force large enough to destroy whatever civilization had developed when periodic harvesting expeditions determine that we humans are getting too advanced, or that a significant increase in the use of magic has been detected by the monitors they leave behind. This may occur anywhere from every couple of hundred years to as much as every two or three thousand years. Rare instances of magic use are ignored as not worth the trouble. They developed a policy in which each of the remaining human home worlds is otherwise left pretty much alone except for harvesting of hunting stock.

“These harvesting expeditions are normally clandestine so as not to alert us humans that we need to prepare for the next visit. As long as we don’t advance too far, this allows a good supply of stock to breed, producing enough survival-oriented hunting stock that gives them better sport than weak, easily killed prey. Since the kryls conquered the glurriks a couple of thousand years ago, they have used them to screen the human specimens they collect instead of using their old, unreliable machines. The humans are then taken to other worlds set aside by the kryls exclusively as happy hunting grounds.”

Sudden memories of Adam surged into her mind. For several moments she could think of nothing but the hard and probably short life awaiting him if he had, in fact, survived, and she berated herself for making light of it. As she wiped a tear from her cheek and looked out into her audience, she recognized understanding in several faces. Everyone that had known Adam could now understand a little better just what he could be facing.

With some effort, she continued, “Any specimens identified as possessing magic abilities are summarily eliminated. The worlds they are taken to are generally hospitable to humans and without any dominant species with high intelligence. The kryl aristocracy then uses these planets where they may be assured of sport unspoiled by magic.

“Other members of the Federation, especially those secret members of the Alliance, resent the kryls using an intelligent, sentient species for their own sport. But the kryls claim it is their right as victors to utilize the vanquished as they see fit. After all, they point out, this is not so uncommon throughout the galaxy when the defeated side is not completely destroyed.”

Dagar held his hand up to catch her attention. “I have always believed the universe was chock full of inhabited worlds. However, I have also always been led to believe that we would be forever kept apart by what someone once termed the quarantine of the universe due to the distances involved. Even traveling at a good percentage of the speed of light, only the nearest stars would be within range of less than a lifetime or more of travel. Now you’re talking about the kryls and even our own ancestors whisking about all over the galaxy like puddle jumping from one county fair to another. Is it possible to travel faster than light?”

Raven’s face got a big grin. “Oh, boy, is it! Remember when I mentioned some kind of force moving around the universe? Well, I remember it now – I mean I understand it now – sorta. Yeah, there is a kind of force, the specifics of which I don’t understand yet, that has been bouncing around the universe since the Big Bang, and it moves at many times the speed of light. It’s only a force, so I don’t understand how – or maybe that’s where dark matter comes in – but there is a way to latch onto it so that you move along with it – at lots faster than light speed. The kryls have … devices on their ships, even their little flyers they zip around in to burn cities, that allow them to hitch a ride on this force. It would be sorta like a surfboard riding a wave, except just imagine your board riding a tsunami out in the middle of the deep ocean where the wave’s height isn’t even noticeable, but the thing’s force is scootin’ along at close to mach-one. You might actually be able to do it if it weren’t for wind and water resistance. But, now, in a vacuum …”

Nate asked, “But, wouldn’t that cause a problem of being mashed to pulp by acceleration?”

“It would,” she answered, “except, as soon as they hook up and until they release it, for those seconds or hours or weeks they are part of that aspect of the universe, so there is no acceleration or deceleration. The instant they latch onto the force, they are part of it and no longer part of where they had just been. Same as when they slow down by easing their grip or stop by unlatching. They literally switch from one universe to another … although, not really, because it’s all just one universe. And since the force is going in all directions at the same time, they can go one way and switch directions without actually turning. Still pretty confusing, isn’t it? But – now get this – those humans that can teleport are able to do the same thing, but mentally. Something, huh?”

Vonnie said, “Okay, you said the magic isn’t just mind power. Then, what is it?”

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