“I’m going to call you Cray,” Hanuman told his new friend. “I want to talk about you without getting you mixed up with Master Craygarta or any of your siblings.”
“Human culture does celebrate the individual. I’m supposed hang around you, and you hang around with humans, so call me Cray!” The mantis monk looked happy about his short name.
“Does Master Craygarta want you to keep an eye on me in case I turn into a big monkey and trash the town?”
Cray leaned back on the bed. His scythe arms were folded up, his second arms tucked back behind his head, and he spoke by rubbing his third set together. “Well no… Master Craygarta feels that your home life and time spent at our temple will civilize you. I’m here more like a documentary film maker. All Craygarta can share memories and experiences with each other telepathically. Master Craygarta chose to live at LARC1 among humans for the same reason I am to live with you, so we can learn new things from those who different from Crayarta.”
“So I’m your homework?”
“You’re my friend. Sita and Wisp are my friends too. We have the added benefit of Master Craygarta’s wisdom- anywhere, anytime.”
“I like the sound of that!” Han was casually swinging from gymnastic rings covering the ceiling of his room. Wisp trailed a few paces behind, passing through the rings rather than swinging by them.
“Are there Craygarta with other species, like Grisdorans?” Sita asked. She had been exploring the content on Han’s slate.
“Well, not among the races who live at LARC1. We interact with them enough. One of Master Craygarta’s siblings, one of the old ones from the home world who had been frozen in stasis, has joined the defectors on Haran. Another lives in Beltyre with the Nefilim, and another lives in the city the Pneuma have formed here on Nibiru.”
“Then why dedicate someone to Han? He lives in LARC1 with the rest of us.” Sita set the slate aside, Han hardly used it, he preferred more physical forms of entertainment so there was little of interest on the device.
“Hanuman is special. He is infused with the gemstone that turns Pneuma into Nefilim. No Liberty monkey has ever been changed like this. His intelligence, size, and growth may be just the start of his abilities. I’m also here for Wisp. She is the only child of Nefilim. Her people were all created by the ancient Anki, and have only recently gained free will. She is the result of a strange accident, and for all we know that could be the only way Nefilim can have children.”
Wisp emanated a soft hue of yellowish-pink at the mention of her name.
“How do we know she’s even a whole person? She doesn’t even talk,” Sita replied. The girl’s right ear raised over her head and she poked at Wisp’s yellow cloud form, which now hung inches from her face, and crackled with tiny surges of lightning.
Wisp extended a tendril over the surface of Han’s slate and pinpricks of vapor tapped rapidly on the display’s virtual keypad. Sita gasped and scowled.
“What?” Cray asked.
“It says, Sita talks all the time but that doesn’t prove she’s an intelligent person,” the girl grumbled. “Sorry I doubted you Wisp. Truce?” she held out a hand.
Wisp formed into the shape of a girl, grasped the others hand and shook.
“Well that’s settled,” Sita said. “Cray’s here to study the two most unique beings in existence. Meanwhile I’m half human, half Grisdoran, and all plain. I have six siblings my age and another seven that are still in diapers. I can’t even be unique in my mixed heritage. If my parents have another litter, our living quarters are going to span the entire block!”
“I can relate to that,” Cray replied. “Every Craygarta on Nibiru has been cast from my mold, and we share thoughts freely. Our people traditionally have no concept of individuality, we consider the notion an unnecessary distinction. My broodlings and I are among the first to grow up, immersed in the concept.”
“I think you are unique,” Han chimed in. “You are Cray, the only one that hangs around me and Wisp. Besides, your shell has a dark spider web design and the others’ shells don’t.”
Cray hummed a sound that Han took for laughter. “I was the runt of Master Craygarta’s first litter. Of all my siblings, I was the one who kept falling off branches during our earliest martial art lessons. Now my shell is heavier. It makes me a bit slower in flight, but I can take a fall, or a punch better. Cracked shells heal thicker and stronger than they were before.”
“See, you are unique.” Han replied. “Sita, how about your grades? You are the smartest girl in class. I couldn’t keep up if you didn’t help me study. I can’t concentrate on books and stuff without you. Besides, none of your brothers or sisters are in student council.”
Sita blushed at Han’s attention. “Really Han? You don’t think I’m the same as my sisters?”
“Of course not. A couple of them get put in my group for concept help, while you are only grouped with me when you are the helper. Besides, your sisters all have brown hair like your dad, you’re the only one with strawberry blonde hair like your mom. I think that color of hair is pretty.”
Sita’s cheeks turned red, which really brought out the tint in her locks. “I guess I do stand out.”
“Besides,” Cray said, “You are the only one who came to the Craygarta Temple to learn our fighting style. You are bold as well as smart.”
“It’s not always fun being unique,” Han frowned. “I have a plan to make my cousins grow big and clever like me. Someday, I’m going to find Anki gems and feed them to my cousins.”
“Are you sure it works that way Han?” Sita asked.
“No one is sure,” the monkey boy replied, “but I dream about it.”
The quartet were fast friends. They spent nearly all their time together over the next several months. Cray was separate only while the others were in school. This was his time to learn of the world from Master Craygarta, as well as to practice his martial art, the race’s spiritual beliefs centered on the fighting style. Sita lived at home, but other than sleeping and bathing, she spent all her time in their company. Han and Wisp were completely inseparable. Even their motions were beyond coordinated. The little Nefilim had no desire to be alone, especially after spending her early years cooped up in Zimmerman’s lab.
Their afternoons with Master Craygarta and the brood helped more than simply strength training and character building. The skills they developed over their first months of training would save them from uncounted scrapes in the days to come.
Since Wisp refused to train on her own, or to let Han defend himself, so Sita and Cray worked as a team to spar against them.
“Now!” Sita yelled, flailing two night sticks, dissipating and distracting Wisp. Cray jumped high, fluttering his wings to get an added lift, then bore down on Han, both scythes arching.
Han jumped back fast, bumping into Sita, who stumbled backward to regain her balance. Cray adjusted his approach to cover the extra distance, but yellow fog billowed between him and Han, slowing him just enough for Han to swing his staff around and connect with Cray between two left shoulders.
Cray yelped and pranced back a few paces, rubbing a new spider web crack on his shell.
Sita had recovered and used a night stick to grapple Han into a choke. Her legs wrapped tight around his waist in a figure four lock. Han pried desperately at his neck, trying to get free. Wisp began to crackle little bolts of lightning at Sita, but Cray had opened his wings and they fluttered furiously at the grapplers, pushing the cloud girl apart from their struggle.
Suddenly Han shrunk to no more than a foot tall, instinct had taken over when he began to struggle for breath. Han’s unintentional size change meant their match was over.
The four ceased their spar and all faced inward, bowing to pay respect. Then they bowed toward Master Craygarta, and the members of his brood who had paused their training to watch. Han and his friends’ matches were always entertaining.
Over the months, the quartet mastered the fundamental motions and trained their way into excellent examples of teamwork and discipline. The four jogged together after sparring practice, improving their endurance.
“I can’t wait for this weekend guys!” Han said. Free Day, the colony’s holiday to mark peace with the Nefilim, landed on a Friday, making a long weekend.
“I can’t believe our parents agreed to let us all camp out with the Liberty monkeys, unsupervised!” Sita said.
“Well, I’ve still got my connection with Master Craygarta,” Cray added.
“Besides,” Han said, “We’ll be surrounded by my cousins. They may not do well at school, and most only say howdy, but they are clever and will alert us if danger is near.”
Visit www.LARC-SciFi.com to read flash fiction from Han’s universe or to buy other LARC books.