Ambassador to NASA
Jerry wondered if what he felt was real, her thoughts, her emotions, the warmth of her body. He wondered, how could he feel this from so far away? Yet, he did. For 15 years, nothing, void, emptiness. But, minutes ago, while pouring over NASA documentation, he felt it. He felt the moment she arrived. He felt her breath on his skin; her fingers on his arms, her fragrance.
He shook his head to focus on the display. He read the words, “…human military base,” and his mind drifted back. So much had changed, the Tlaloc wars, thousands of allied dead, conflict in the Anurian system, at Tiamat, Erish abducted, the timeline.
He stood up. She wouldn’t know the base now; rebuilt, redesigned, more like a fortress. She wouldn’t know about the attack; about her friends who died.
He thought he had healed, so many downloads, so many Tayamni memories floating in his mind. He thought his all too human longing, thirsting for her, had passed. Convinced he had moved on, he was unprepared for this. Her presence grabbed him and pulled him back to his human self, to his human past. He felt her. It was 1977, 15 years later, 15 years of working to protect Dennis, 15 years of keeping Dennis’ savage father calm, day in and day out, working to soften a monster. For her, it was only a few weeks. For him, it had been an eternity.
She just arrived at St. Louis.
He would not contact her. She was married, or, he thought, shaking his head, laughing at his own weakness, mated. It had been too long. He was over her, determined to be over her. Pushing away the feelings, pushing away longing, the pain tearing at his chest. He didn’t need this, didn’t want this.
He sat down again in the darkened, oval room in the reconstructed base, rebuilt with webs of support beams and stronger materials. Crossed beams were apparent throughout the structure. Almost as a reflection of the less optimistic, wartime mood, colors were darker. Little time was spent on making the atmosphere of the base seem optimistic or permanent. To his right Kirashi placed an ancient wooden table. Standing on the opposite wall, a statue of Anubis, given to him by Amun. He looked aside with irony, the irony of Amun, Batresh’s husband giving him a gift. The statue of Anubis with his jeweled eyes that seemed to follow him, as if Amun, her husband, were watching. On the other wall, a batik wall hanging depicting a scene from pre-colonial Indonesia, a gift from Sagar. In the curve of the wall opposite him, an animated light sculpture from a future century, a gift from the diplomatic core. Works of art and luxurious appointments surrounded him here at Luna Station, while beneath his feet, a naked steel floor, with beams and struts clearly visible.
He walked to a darkened display and touched it. There, in front of him, was live footage of his home town, Saltillo, Mississippi, as it is now in 1977. He saw the hole in the ground left by Mr. Wesson’s burned down store, was covered by a new building. Looking up the street, he saw the new hang out, a BBQ place selling beer, rough and rowdy teenagers in the parking lot. The cotton gin was gone.
Looking around at his office, thinking of this base, decorated with original and copied human accomplishments, he sighed, knowing his education was still incomplete. Looking around the room at artwork, he felt lost. Sometimes he felt out of place. Last night, he dreamt he was on a ship at sea, with no sign of land in any direction. He knew enough to understand what the dream meant.
Dedicated to the Tayamni mission; for 15 years, he thought of little else. He was committed. He believed in the goodness; the justness of the missions. He understood Tayamni culture better than his own. He worked to ensure the survival of the human race, to promote the force of Love. This work was more important than anything else. He didn’t have time to think of her.
“Perhaps,” he thought to himself, “the Tayamni DNA spliced into humanity over millennia, made him more Tayamni than human.” Remembering his previous life at Mississippi; the emptiness he felt without her, he knew he could not go back.
The meeting he had earlier in the day, with Elders wearing ancient Greek togas, drapes and sandals; he thought of the irony. He felt dissonance, dissonance from his home, his previous life, and the contradictions of his life here, now. He was living and working in an advanced culture of people who dressed like Ancient Greeks. These people who embraced him so lovingly were advanced, with technology so futuristic it seemed like magic, these people who wore ancient clothing, who worshiped ancient Gods, and who moved and spoke in the courtly style of the oldest human cultures. He tried to slow his breathing; to look at objects around the room, and focus on them; to calm himself. He knew techniques to slow down his thinking, to quiet his emotions. He consciously breathed slowly and deliberately. The panic lessened.
He looked towards the place in the wall that would open, admitting the short, old man who applied downloads. The old man looked human, mumbling to himself, smiling at times, entertained by a thought, laughing at an internal joke. Jerry wondered how old he was. All the Tayamni he had met here were tall, beautiful, in perfect condition and health. It was odd to see this old man among them.
He sighed thinking about the download process, the fatigue, hunger, and thirst that followed.
He stood again, and walked over to a window, or what appeared to be a window. Looking out, he saw a scene from Tayamni-Pa, from Mussara, the moon where Batresh was born. A flying vehicle streaked across the orange sky in the distance. Looking down, he saw he appeared to be on the second floor of a steel and glass structure. A narrow, graveled path led though a wooded garden, to a tall, central structure. All Tayamni settlements were built in this style, a central structure with robots, replicators, and ships to take them where ever they might go. The people living in these settlements could retrieve anything they needed. Forests grew thick. Wild animals, brought here from other planets, including deer, elk, rabbits, and song birds from Terra, lived and flourished. He saw a small, dog-like creature appear at the edge of the woods, then turn to go back. A Tayamni female, wearing what looked to him like an ancient Greek toga and wrap, was walking down the path. He knew that this image was not real. It had been recorded millennia ago, and was displayed on the screen, made to look like a window. In reality, he was six stories underground, on Earth’s moon.
He saw her face as she was then, blonde hair, blue eyes, so fearful of the strange culture, Mississippi of 1962. He saw the goodness in her eyes, her optimism, always hopeful humanity could be better. Her eternal optimism, giving her enemies every chance to improve themselves was the reason he fell in love with Batresh. He remembered flying with her to the Lunar base in 1962, before the Apollo missions. He was terrified, seeing the Earth, or Terra, as she called it, recede into the distance beneath them. The technology of the ship fascinated him. She activated artificial gravity when he felt sick. He at least wanted to know which way was up. She laughed at him, covered with sweat, trembling with fear, but determined to go with her. He remembered being fascinated by the surface of the moon, or Luna, seeing the craters. She looked at him with confusion when he said he saw the moon was not made of cheese.
When he asked why the far side of Luna had so many fewer craters, she looked at him and told him she would explain later. He had heard that response from her so regularly that he mouthed her response and rolled his eyes. Once they safely landed on the station, he asked her why so many of the Tayamni were dressed like Ancient Greeks. She responded, “No, the Greeks are dressed like us.”
He missed her. They had been an effective team. It was because of his efforts that Dennis survived his childhood, damaged, but well enough to move on with the emotional tools he needed. Dennis was 19 now. Still just as feminine and gentle as he had been as a boy.
What was she was doing right now? Was she with Dennis? Was Dennis in St. Louis? Did he have a place to live? The young man was finally out of his father’s reach.
Of course, he knew Tayamni women regarded monogamy as a Patriarchal relic. Was she with another human man?
He and Batresh agreed, the best way for him to protect Dennis would be to become friends with the brutal and abusive father. So, he got a job at Orkin. The other men there avoided the hot headed, young redneck. It was easy enough for Jerry to step in, pretending to understand Eddie’s situation, his frustration with almost everyone and everything.
He remembered, sitting outside on the gravel driveway, next to the house, playing with a tape recorder Eddie bought. They recorded their voices, playing the sound back. Eddie was fascinated with the sound of his own voice. He brought a case of Schlitz out of the house. He placed it on the ground, and said, “Let’s have a little fun.” Jerry was familiar with Eddie’s pattern, the suspicion in his voice, the way his eyes narrowed when he looked at his victim. He knew Eddie was focused on him, the same way he had seen him focus on his wife. Time passed slowly. The night was hot. Bugs and moths orbited around exterior lights.
Eddie drank a lot. At one point, he brought his chair very close to Jerry. He reeked of beer and sweat. “I thank you like me, Jerry,” he had whispered through his teeth. Then, he unzipped his pants and pulled his penis out. “Go ahead, I know you want to.”
Jerry was stunned. He stood and backed away. Eddie stood, wavering with drunkenness. “Go ahead, dammit!” he shouted.
“What in the hell are you doin?”.
He stumbled over to Jerry and grabbed his collar, both as a threat and in order to steady himself. “You damn Queer,” he sneered. Jerry held the drunk man back easily. Then, Eddie reached down, putting his hand in his pocket. Jerry saw him withdraw shining metal; it was a small pistol. “When I tell you to git on yer knees, you git on yer knees!” he threatened. He brought the pistol up to Jerry’s face, pointing it right at him. Jerry moved to the side quickly, and struck him on the left side of his face. Eddie dropped the gun, and fell to his knees.
Jerry shouted back, “Looks like you’re the one who’s on his knees.” He reached down and struck him in the face again. Eddie looked at him stunned, blood at the corner of his mouth. Jerry struck him a third time. The rage that had been building as he watched Eddie abuse his wife and son, came to the surface. “You goddam monster!” He struck him again. Eddie fell back onto the graveled drive way. He was unconscious. Jerry stood there looking at him for a moment, then reached down and picked up the pistol.
Drenched with sweat, he threw the pistol into the woods across the road. He walked to the front door and knocked. Betsy came to the door but wouldn’t open it. She knew the punishment that lay ahead of her if Eddie saw her talking to another man. “Your husband passed out in the driveway,” he told her. He turned and walked back to his own car.
Jerry stayed away for a week. When he drove by the following weekend, he saw that the whole family was gone. They had moved.
Returning to the present in the oval room here at Luna, Jerry looked back towards the door, and wondered if the little old man was late. He did not have an accurate internal clock like the Tayamni. He wished he had a wrist watch.
Looking at Sagar’s face and blonde curls, it was hard to believe she had been badly burned, or that she almost died. Fifteen years later, she bore no scars, and was, if it were possible, more beautiful. He sat at a table in the common area at Luna Station, across from her. He wore a modified environmental suit. It was not the same as those worn by Batresh, Amun, and Namazu. It had zippers and was put on manually. The Elders wanted him and his diplomats to wear these less advanced suits while negotiating with humans. They believed it would be less unsettling.
“They will be here in 48 hours,” she told him.
“Do they know that we know?” he asked.
She nodded. “We threatened them.”
He looked at her with curiosity and turned in his chair to face her more directly.
“We told them we would destroy their bases,” she smiled at him.
She nodded. “We will destroy them anyway, but we’ll help them build a science station,” she continued. “It will be attached to our base here.”
He looked down at the floor, and shook his head.
“We warned them.” She turned and looked through the windows at the scene displayed there; a Tayamni city on some distant planet. Futuristic structures and Earth-like trees. It looked as though they were simply looking through a window in a building from a future time at Earth. “They thought they would trick us,” she said, smiling.
“Who are their representatives?” He asked.
“Big wigs from the Air Force and NASA,” she smiled. “They will pressure you, humiliate, threaten, but, you know that already.”
He took a lift to the top level of the station. From there, a tunnel, hewn through rock, the metal floor clanging with each step, bright, rectangular lights mounted to the ceilings. His destination, a stark, empty room. Boulders were left in place against the walls. An electronics cabinet seemed to grow from the rocks. The floor, dark marble tiles. The walls similar to the tunnel, carved from rock, gave the room the appearance of a cave. A double door of transparent metals, darkly gray, slid open. Straight across was a conference table and chairs. His delegation would sit on the left, facing the window that looked out onto the crater floor.
He sat down and thought of the issues assigned to him, a group of Potacas at Angola, an underground base near Luanda, alliances with the Soviets. The Elders suspected they were in Africa to help the Cubans wage war and to find raw material, in the form of bacteria and viruses.
He shook his head, thinking of those pale creatures trapped at Calisto, Tayamni allies orbiting above. What were they doing down there, hidden underground? Had they found biological entities? Devoid of emotion, they didn’t respond to repeated attempts to communicate. Several Tayamni were at Angola now, in the guise of Cuban soldiers fighting a proxy war.
Since 1963, the Kataru Alliance kept Potacas from leaving Calisto. The results of initial battles wrested all Jovian moons from them, except Calisto. They reached a stalemate in 1965, neither side able to advance. Anurians, Potacas, Tiamatu-Lukur, and Tlalocs were all stuck there for 14 years, unable to expand their settlement or leave. They tunneled down to water, and built a desalinization plant. A disease of some kind, mistakenly created by the Potacas, had wiped out many of them in the early 1970s.
The Kataru installed battle drones around the Jovian satellite, making escape impossible. The Tlalocs had only a small presence still on Earth. The only reptilians still there, were ones punished and modified to appear human. The Kataru monitored all enemy communications.
Venus was a different story. Since the wars began, Tlalocs had ships in the Venusian atmosphere. At various times, they sent pumps around the planet, in an effort to thin it and cool the surface. But, each time, the Amelu were able to shoot them down. So, again at Venus, a stalemate. They estimated that at least 30 Tlaloc ships were still there, hovering in the atmosphere. Half their ships crashed to the surface. But, for 14 years 30 hovered there, taking what they could from the atmosphere to create fuels. Only recently, with more of their ships’ systems failing, did they send communications to negotiate a truce.
“At both Calisto and Venus,” Jerry thought to himself, “we’re conducting siege warfare.”
He looked to his right, towards the sound of hydraulic doors sliding open. Kirashi entered. She wore a tight fitting environmental suit that Jerry jokingly called, vacuum packed; her brown hair pulled back, and curled, hanging down one side of her face like a 1940s film star.
“Thank you for arriving early, Jerry,” she said.
“You may not know that we have met with NASA before,” she said.
He looked at her questioningly.
“It was in 1973, before they began construction of the bases. I am going to send you my own memories of that meeting, telepathically,” she advised. “Of course, you know already, these memories will be colored by my emotions.”
He looked at her with sadness, knowing that the exchange of feelings and emotional responses must feel like a violation. He placed his hand over hers to give her assurance.
Feeling his concern for her, she smiled. “You may remember that the Lunar program supposedly ended after Nixon was elected,” she continued.
He nodded again.
“It didn’t end. It just became, what the Americans call, black-ops,” she told him.
Then, it seemed as if he was receiving footage, or a film of her memories. She was in a meeting room, similar to this one, looking out onto the crater floor. There were seven human men in the room with her, wearing what looked like military uniforms. One member of the delegation was elderly and frail. He wore a civilian suit and tie.
One of the men, who seemed to be their leader, looked out the window at Tayamni vessels coming and going. “Sure is a lot of activity,” he said.
She and her small delegation turned their palms upwards in greeting. The human men seemed confused; some extended their hands. Only one other human, the older man wearing a suit, turned his palms upwards, in response.
In the images she sent him, her delegation sat at an ancient Roman table; wood with gold emblems and leather bindings. One of the humans remarked that it looked authentically Roman, to which Kirashi responded, “It is authentic.” The men looked around the room, at art and decorative items from Earth’s history. The decorative room in the images she sent contrasted sharply with the stark emptiness of the room in which they both now sat.
She must have skipped ahead, because next, she was explaining to them that much of the DNA contained in their human bodies was Tayamni. They seemed shocked when she explained Tayamni history at Earth, or as the Tayamni called the planet, Terra. She explained how the Tayamni came to Terra 200,000 years earlier, encountering the creature scientists called homo-erectus. She told them how splicing homo-erectus DNA with that of the Tayamni, produced humanity. She also explained how their enemies, the Potacas and the Tlalocs, wanted this system for themselves.
Their leader asked, “What about God?” he looked around at his team, surprised none of the others seemed dubious of these explanations, “What about Christianity?”
Kirashi responded, “We do not wish to shock you. We also have a religion, one that we brought with us to Terra. We taught it to you, in ancient times. But you changed it. Your political leaders wanted a religion that would allow them to control you, to oppress you. They wanted to keep the riches of human production for themselves.”
One of the human men seemed to be getting upset. His face was turning red. “Are you saying that Christianity is not valid?”
Kirashi, calmly looked back at him, and responded, “The ancient Roman religion you call Christianity, has validity,” she stopped, not explaining further. In the images, Jerry could see widely different reactions to the information the humans were being given. One man smiled with satisfaction; another one seemed angry, and another simply seemed to be in shock.
“How do we know we can believe you?” one of the men asked.
Kirashi responded, calmly, “You are free not to trust us. That is your prerogative.”
He was brought back to the present, by the gentle touch of her hand on his.
“Jerry,” she offered, “They are on their way here now.” They both stood.
He looked towards the entrance, hearing footsteps on the metal floor of the tunnel. Seven Tayamni, their diplomatic team, walked in front of the men.
The humans moved to positions facing the table. The Tayamni diplomatic team turned their palms upwards.
Without waiting for introductions, a middle-aged man, who Jerry assumed to be the highest ranking among them, asserted himself.
“We are here to talk terms,” he said. His bald head shone in the light, his bulbous nose veined from too much drinking. “We are prepared,” he continued, looking to his right at another middle aged human, “We are prepared to allow you to stay on our moon, in exchange for technology.”
Jerry looked at the floor and smiled. Then, looking back at the man, he asked, “Your moon?”
The man cleared his throat, and looked back at the NASA delegation, “This moon belongs to the United States.” He looked at Jerry harshly, daring him to disagree. “We claimed it back in July, 1969.”
Jerry now understood more completely, the purpose of the downloads he had received. In addition to information, the downloads had given him a sense of peace and authority. Before coming to Luna, a claim made by such a man would have angered him. Now, he calmly looked at the man who giving off an attitude of aggressive certainty.
Jerry looked at Kirashi, then back at the men, responding, “We are prepared to allow you to construct a scientific base here, close to ours at the Tsiolkovsky crater, where we can manage your activities. You will not be able to militarize your base.” He looked into the man’s surprised face and continued, “In exchange, we are prepared to help you develop some technology.”
The man sat down in one of the chairs across from the table, “You don’t seem to understand.” He was growing anxious. “We have weapons; we have split the atom.”
Jerry looked at him with calm and serenity. “We have found disabling your weapons to be trivial.”
The man looked back at his delegation with concern. The older man, apparently ill, stood with a walking stick, and with a German accent, said, “Vee should meet alone to discuss.”
“As you wish,” Jerry responded. He and the Tayamni delegation stood to leave. “You may summon us by pressing this device. Jerry pointed to a disk mounted on a decorative brass rectangle. The Tayamni left, walking into an adjacent room.
The middle aged man who had spoken initially began, “You know they are listening to us from the other room, make no doubt about that.” He was right, because they were indeed listening. Jerry smiled.
The older German man, still seated responded, “Vee encountered dees people during de var.” He breathed heavily, and continued, “Dey are peaceful. Dey vill not allow us to militarize space.”
“Maybe they just didn’t like the Nazis!” the middle aged man responded.
“Go ahead,” the elderly German continued, growing impatient, “Go ahead, spent millions of dollars on veapons, on missile systems.” he had to catch his breath. He was exasperated. “Dey vill disable our veapons and vee vill be sitting ducks!”
A younger man stood and began, “I agree with Herr Von Braun.” The older German scientist withdrew a handkerchief from his pocket to cough into.
The middle aged man, walked to the table, but rather than pressing the button, simply stated, “You may come back now. We have made a decision.”
Jerry decided to forego the charade of using the button, and led the way for his delegation to return to the room. As they entered, the middle aged man turned to his team smiling, “See, I told you they were listening.”
Jerry simply smiled. “What is your decision?”
The middle-aged man spoke for the human delegation, “We will do as you ask.”
“Of course, it’s a trick,” he blurted out. “Have they ever been truthful?”
Berenib simply looked down at the metal grating. It had been days now, and the isolation was taking its toll. “Kurum will be there to help you.”
“And who the hell is Kurum anyway? Nobody seems to know.” He stood and walked to the window.
“When did you last receive downloads?” she asked.
Moving his hands to his forehead, he rubbed his temples as if the rubbing would take away the frustration.
“Yesterday? I don’t know. It seems like every day,” Jerry barked.
“You are behaving strangely. Have you been sleeping?”
He could hardly think. Looking at her as if she were speaking an unknown language, he drew his brows together.
“I am going to take a look,” she offered.
He brought his palm out, gesturing for her to stop. But it was too late. She was inside his mind.
He felt disembodied, having no hands or feet, no head. All he could see is what she showed him from his memories. Images from the last few days, like a film, feelings, conversations, dreams. The same image, a man’s face, brown skin, short hair, thick eyebrows, hairy. Hair grew from this bare shoulders, his teeth uneven and yellow, eyes black and bristling with intelligence. And the same question. The questions he heard over and over, every night, in his sleep, “Why are you here?”
She withdrew and he could see again.
Her eyebrows were raised, her mouth open in surprise.
“The same dream every night?” she asked.
“Have you answered him?”
He shook his head.
“Answer him tonight,” she instructed.
“It’s just a dream,” he responded.
“No, it’s not,” she said standing, walking to a display on the wall. “Dreams do not have that quality. He is communicating with you telepathically.”
“What?” Jerry asked.
“Tell him who you are, and why you are here,” she offered.
“Ask him where he is.” she told him.
She pressed a control on the display. “Mr. Means will require a sedative, cognitive stimulation,” she instructed the replicator.
She turned around to Jerry, “You will dream, but you will be aware and you will remember what I am telling you.”
“Who is that person? What is he?”
“That is what you will find out,” she responded, “tonight.” She walked over to him and took his hand. “Look at the replicator.”
Looking at the console against the wall, he saw a cup of steaming liquid.
He hesitated, holding her hand. He looked back into her face. She was excited.
“Drink it now,” she ordered him.
Doing as he was told, he took the cup and sipped it.
“Drink it all, immediately. I must go tell the Elders,” she commanded.
Dutifully, he drank it all. It burned his throat.
“You asked me earlier, who is Kurum,” she continued.
He is from a collective on the other side of the galaxy, the Egigi. We have heard of but never encountered them. He is what you might call a shape-shifter, but with us, taking human form. You will see.”
He began to feel sleepy.
“They are a deeply spiritual people,” she said. “Lie down.”
He stumbled, hardly able to remain standing. Walking over to the floating pad, he fell onto it and drifted to sleep.
He saw the ship from the outside, as it sped towards Mars, the markings, corrosion of fittings, loosened rivets. He saw Berenib sitting at a console, the pilot going over readings on a display, and he saw himself, sleeping.
Then he heard the voice, “Why are you here?”
Slowly, the image of the man’s face appeared again, the same as it had night after night.
“Mars,” Jerry groaned.
“Why are you here?” he asked again.
“We’re going to Mars.”
“You are human,” the man smiled. Then he repeated the question, “Why are you here?”
“Negotiate,” Jerry answered.
“There is no one at Mars,” the man responded.
“Who are they?” the man asked.
The man’s smile disappeared.
“They come to meet us at Mars,” Jerry continued.
The man had been seated. Now, he stood. Jerry could see that he wore a type of kilt wrapped around his hips. “You are Tayamni and human,” he said. “More Tayamni than human.”
Jerry remembered, “Who are you?” he asked the man.
“We are you,” he responded.
If Jerry could have seen, he would have seen his face wrinkle in confusion while he slept. “What?”
“We are you, without them,” the man continued. “Without the Tayamni, we are you without them.
Jerry sat up with a start, panting, sweating, muscles tight. He realized the man was speaking English.
“We will arrive tomorrow,” Jerry looked at the display, speaking to a man made of shining silver metal, dressed as an ancient Japanese swordsman. Through the large window behind him, stretched a Martian landscape pockmarked with large craters.
Jerry heard words appear in his head, although Kurum’s mouth did not move. “The Tlalocs are already here, two of them, along with one Potacas. They are confined on deck seven.”
“Deck seven?” Jerry asked. “Isn’t that where detention cells are?”
“No Anurians? Don’t they all want to leave?” Jerry continued. “How many are still there?”
“Seven Tlalocs, four Potacas, two Anurians. The Lukur all died in the epidemic,” Kurum continued, referring to an accidental contagion created by the Potacas as a weapon.
“Will we release them after negotiations?” Jerry asked.
The man smiled, ignoring the question. “You are human?”
Jerry nodded and narrowed his eyes, trying to peer into Kurum’s face. “You are the shape-shifter? How do you know I’m human?”
“I have been to your planet,” he responded.
“But, you are from the other side of the galaxy,” Jerry responded, wondering why someone would voyage so far away from home.
“Further than that,” he responded.
“Where are you from?” Jerry asked.
Kurum turned, looking at a large crater on Mars behind him. Then, he turned to Jerry again. “There is a gateway from my system to yours,” he responded. “I am here to help you.” He tilted his head and opened his eyes wider, looking into Jerry’s face. “I didn’t realize humans had ventured so far.”
Jerry felt strangely uncomfortable and looked away from the display. Turning back, he responded, “I befriended a Tayamni woman, and have been asked to serve.”
Kurum looked at him for a full minute, “Befriended?”
Jerry couldn’t read his face. The shiny, silver skin reflected too much light. He wondered if the shape-shifter could read his thoughts.
Without speaking Jerry tried to send the silver man a question, Do you know what I am thinking?
Kurum nodded. “You remind me of someone.”
Jerry saw an image of the creature who contacted him in his dreams. He gasped, “Did you do that?”
“Do you know who that is?” Jerry asked.
“Yes,” Kurum responded.
“Who is he? Why is he in my dreams?”
“Why don’t you ask him?” Kurum answered.
“How do you know him? Who, where is he?” Jerry asked again, feeling panicked. Then, he saw another image. The male creature who contacted him sitting on a treeless plain, with a female who had the same hair growing on her body. They were sitting in a wasteland on the ground, naked.
Kurum looked into Jerry’s face calmly. “He will tell you. Ask him. He is not far away.”
Then, shifting back to the hostile aliens trapped at Calisto for 14 years, he continued, “We will discuss their terms when you arrive.”
The display switched off.
Jerry wanted to cry. He was stressed, feeling as if he had not slept in days. He sat down heavily on the cot and put his hands in his head. Closing his eyes, he saw the image of the creature again, simply looking at him. “Who are you?” he thought to himself.
Then, he heard words as if they were spoken aloud, “I am you.”
Jerry stood sharply, looking at the wall in front of him, as if searching for the source of the voice inside his head. “Where are you?” he asked.
“I am here,” he responded.
Jerry balled his hand into a fist with frustration and struck the bed. “Contact Berenib,” he ordered the display across from him.
“The Berenib is unavailable,” a computer voice sounded.
Jerry fell back on the bed with anger and closed his eyes. This time, he fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.
After a half hour, a ping sounded from the display. Waking gradually, he saw Berenib’s face.
“You tried to reach me?” she asked.
Jerry nodded. “I spoke with Kurum today,” he sighed, looking down at the floor. “He knows who it is who contacts me when I sleep.”
She was expressionless and simply looked at him.
He continued, “Do you know who he is? Does he look familiar to you?”
“Then, who is he?” Jerry asked raising his voice. “Why do you and Kurum speak to me in riddles?”
She swallowed hard and sighed. “Jerry, you know the Tayamni came to Earth 200,000 years ago?”
“I don’t know where he is, or why he is contacting you, but he is one of the humans we encountered on our first visits. He should no longer exist.” She looked deeply into his eyes and continued, “He is an ancient ancestor of humanity. Your scientists call him Homo Erectus.”
The translator sputtered and emitted an electronic tone.
Jerry looked at the two Kataru guards with worry.
One of the guards, a Tiamatu female, simply nodded to the large reptilian male standing in the doorway. Two armed women stood on each side of him.
Then, the translator emitted the word, “…criminal.”
Jerry looked at the reptilian man, furrowing his eyebrows.
The Tlaloc spoke again, “Are you imprisoning us? You agreed to negotiate!” he yelled.
“Bring him to the table,” Jerry ordered. Looking at the reptilian man, he continued, “We have discovered over the millennia, that we cannot trust you.”
“You negotiate with prisoners?”
“If it serves our purposes,” Jerry responded, looking across the table at Kirashi. Turning back towards the reptilian, he continued, “Tonight, you will dine with us and we will consider your terms.” He paused, “What is your name?”
“I am Cococ,” the reptilian man answered.
“Those of you at Calisto chose you as leader?” Kirashi asked.
Looking back towards the entrance, Jerry saw two more guards accompanying a Potacas. As they approached he smelled chlorine, then he saw the rebreather. The Potacas breathed chlorine gas. “Please be seated,” Jerry directed them. “Our diplomatic team will arrive shortly.”
Both sets of guards led their charges to chairs at the long table. The Diplomatic Dining Hall adjoined a garden. Through a curved opening, more like a graciously shaped open window than a doorway, He saw an oak stretching towards lights placed around a window above. The tree grew from a bed of clover and tulips as if it were early spring on the ship. Artificially produced breezes gently wafted through the garden. The sounds of wind blowing through branches made Jerry homesick.
Berenib, Agu, Bosmat, Kurum, and Namazu entered. Jerry walked to the head of the table to stand with Berenib.
“Welcome diplomats and guests,” Berenib said, gesturing towards Cococ. “You will find that our chefs have created dishes suited to the diets of your home planets. If you eat meat, you will be served laboratory created flesh, mammalian and aquatic. We do not consume the flesh of living creatures, therefore, anything resembling animal flesh is produced by the rearrangement of raw materials.”
The Tlaloc looked away from her in disgust.
“We are here to discuss terms proposed by those remaining in the caverns at Calisto,” Jerry continued. “They have been there for 14 years, since the beginning of the Tlaloc wars.” He looked pointedly at Cococ. “Now, they wish to leave.”
Berenib turned aside, pointing to a space on the wall between her and Jerry. “Please observe the most recent information we have regarding the Tlaloc home system. This footage was recorded by a sensor attached to a Tlaloc vessel in 1963.”
Cococ looked at the display, pointedly. The Potacas looked at the surface of the table as if he were trying to focus on its texture.
An image of a green, yellow planet emerged. In the distance were three suns, two white, and one red that was closer. As the sensor descended through the fog the skies grew darker. It was soon clear that the mists were not natural, but smoke, burn-off from industrial waste. An orange, red ball, the closest sun, hovered near the horizon. The vehicle to which the sensor was attached, descended into a city. Structures, towering sky-scrapers, appeared as dark silhouettes against a dimly lit sky. Looking more closely, some buildings were in ruins, as if they were allowed to disintegrate and fall into disuse, remaining where they stood. In those still occupied, light peered through windows into the smoke. Moving closer, they saw thick, electrical cords connecting some buildings to others.
The sensor broke from the ship, flying down to lower levels, emitting a noxious vapor, it flew around the bases of structures. Then, the image changed to the interior of an apartment. Several male Tlalocs were in a room. One of them walked towards a locked door. Passing his hand over a mechanism, the door opened. Inside were spheres, white ovals, stacked in a framed structure. There were around 15 eggs. The focus shifted to a control on the wall. Perhaps this was a temperature control.
The image changed to one where a tall man stood wearing loose fitting, yellow cloth, draped from his shoulders. He stood on glistening marble steps, holding a scepter in one hand, gesturing out towards a gathering of Tlalocs. The hisses and clicks emitted from him were not translated, but Cococ turned his gaze away and focused on his plate, as if he were stung by the words. The view changed to one of the thousands of people in attendance.
The sensor drifted through the crowd. It seemed that males in military clothing, like that worn by Cococ stood near the front. Behind them, in a section cordoned off, were gray reptiles with no tails, scantily clad, but looking nervously forward.
Namazu looked at Kirashi, sitting across the table from her, and sent a telepathic message, “No females?”
Kirashi shook her head.
The display switched off and Berenib walked to a position at the head of the table. “You are observant to have asked the question, Commander Namazu.”
“Commander?” Cococ asked sarcastically.
Berenib continued, “All Tlalocs present themselves as male. Like certain reptile species on Earth, they can incubate eggs, or fertilize them. The roles apparently change depending on relationship dynamics.” She looked at Cococ who was staring at her.
“Thus,” she continued, “they are both male and female.”
Cococ stood abruptly and shouted, “No females!” He reached to his side hip to retrieve a weapon that was not there.
All eyes were on him. One of the guards stepped forward.
Slowly, but maintaining an air of superiority, he sat back down.
“Thank you for illustrating Tlaloc cultural biases, Cococ,” Berenib responded.
Looking back at those seated around the table, she continued, “Their culture is deeply hierarchical, with warriors, like Cococ at the top. Other races, workers, sex slaves, administrators are kept apart from the warrior class. Reproduction is tightly controlled.
“As you can imagine in such a Patriarchal culture, warfare and battle are deeply revered. Young warriors study strategy, weapons, and fighting from infancy. And, they are deeply religious.”
Cococ looked at her sharply again. Berenib only smiled in response.
She continued, “Their primary God, Quetzalcoatl, rules over the other Gods ruthlessly. He has emissaries to which they can pray and ask for help. But, it is thought that praying directly to Quetzalcoatl, can be hazardous. The supplicant must be pure in heart, and a great warrior, to connect directly with him. One’s position in Tlaloc culture depends heavily on the numbers of captives one had taken to sacrifice.”
Young male Tayamni entered the room, pushing hovering platters of food and wine. As they served those seated, Cococ looked at the servers menacingly.
“Is there anything you would like to add, Cococ?” Berenib asked, looking at him.
He looked into her face, the formal headdress he wore, resembling ram-horns mounted to his skull and extending outwards on each side. “We are here to discuss the terms by which you will allow us to leave this accursed system.”
“Ah, yes,” Kirashi offered, looking to her right at Kurum who sat silently, his face unreadable during the presentation. She then looked back at Cococ. “We have discussed your terms and made a decision.”
Cococ and the Potacas looked at her.
“You will be given a Tayamni ship, especially fitted for your purposes. It will have no weapons or defensive capabilities. All your people at Calisto and at Venus, will be permitted to leave this sector. We will escort you as far a Alpha Centauri,” she added, looking down at the food placed in front of her.
“But, without defensive capabilities we could be killed or taken captive on the journey,” Cococ responded.
Kurum stood slowly, turning his head towards the reptilian. Without taking a breath, or opening his mouth, they all felt his words appear in their heads, “The only creatures who would attack you, on the programmed route are your own kind. We are afraid you will have to trust your own race to safeguard your return.”
“You condemn us to certain death. That or enslavement,” the Potacas finally spoke.
“It does speak,” Namazu interjected. “I thought your friend,” she said sarcastically, “had forbidden you to talk.”
“We will take your offer,” Cococ said, looking down at the artificially produced meat on his plate.
“Now, please,” Berenib began, taking a seat herself, “eat, drink. I believe our negotiations have been successful.”
“When will we leave?” Cococ asked.
“That is yet to be determined,” Berenib responded. She looked at the plate of food in front of him, “You are not eating. Is the meat not to your liking?”
“It’s dead,” he said incredulously, looking away from the food.
Kurum, the shape-shifter, looked at him, then back to Berenib. “They eat live mammals. They can subsist on other kinds of foods, but their savage culture demands they sacrifice the living, in order to maintain warrior status.”
Cococ looked towards Kurum quickly and stood. “If you were a man, I would challenge you for insulting me.”
For the first time since any of them had known him, Kurum actually smiled. He raised the index finger of his right hand, and motioned for Cococ to sit. The Reptilian struggled to remain standing, but he could not resist the force of Kurum’s mind. He tried to speak, but could only gurgle. Seated, he tried to stand again, but could not. He brought his hands to the raw meat on his plate. The dining party were focused on his movements, watching him struggle. He tried to move away from the table, but could not, tried to turn his head to Berenib to ask for help, but Kurum’s will held him.
Fighting against an unseen force, causing him to move his hands to the plate, he lifted the raw steak and inserted it whole, the entire slab, into his mouth. Everyone watched as the reptile’s throat expanded and he swallowed the meat. Blood from the uncooked laboratory steak ran down each side of his mouth and onto his clothing. He grunted, struggling to assert his free will.
Kurum, still smiling, simply looked at him as a little boy might look at an insect under a glass.
Cococ turned his head, grunting against the force of the shape-shifter’s telekinetic powers. Looking at Berenib in desperation, his mouth twisted in unfamiliar ways, his tongue moving against his sharp teeth, he pronounced words in ancient Tayamni, “The meal … is de- … -licious. May I … have another serving?”
The party were astonished. Did such powers exist? Again, Kurum’s voice sounded, but from all around the room, not from the silver, gleaming creature seated at the foot of the table, but from the walls, from the floors, “We have history with this savage.”
Berenib stood, looking at Kurum as if she would demand that he stop.
Taking a breath, moving his mouth, allowing sound to come from his body this time, Kurum offered, “There are still Tlalocs on Earth. But, not in reptilian form.” He looked at the Potacas, “Isn’t that right, Pale Dwarf?”
The Potacas gasped. He also tried to stand, intending to leave the room. But, he was held in place by the force of Kurum’s mind.
“Kataru allies,” Kurum began, addressing the dining party, “there is another intelligent lifeform in your system, safely protected underground at a nearby moon. This creature, this reptilian savage tried, eons ago to enslave them and take this system for their own. The most recent war is the result of their third attempt.”
Cococ and the Potacas fought against him, trying to move and talk. The Tlaloc to defend himself, the Potacas to escape. They grunted trying, panting with the struggle, but they were held in place.
Kurum stood and walked closer to the exit to the garden. He looked back at them and spoke, but his voice sounded from the previous location, where he had sat moments earlier. “Before the Tayamni arrived here, these reptilian brutes came to the planet you call Earth. They intended to enslave the innocent creatures who later became humans.” He smiled again, looking at each of them, then, continued, “The Tayamni were not the first to offer genetic enhancements to Homo Erectus.”
He walked further away, towards the oak tree. But they heard his voice from the same location. “I must leave you for a time, but I will return. Dispense with these monsters as you see fit.”
Then, Kurum simply vanished.
Cococ began to cough. He reached for the goblet of water at his plate.
The Potacas was gasping, trying to catch his breath. He pressed a control on his collar causing a more continuous spray of chlorine gas. He breathed the pungent fumes hungrily.
Berenib stood, looking at the dinner guests. “My dear ones, I believe our visitor, our new ally is not from this dimension.”
The Potacas looked at Berenib with wide eyes.
They converted the desolate cavern into a paradise, large enough for gardens, animal husbandry, for laboratories and for living quarters. Large, leafy palms grew abundantly, fern-like plants from distant systems, pods, grains and fruit. And, the lighting, electronic orbs devised to absorb energy from the soil on the surface high above. Light mimicked sunlight from their home planet, giving them morning, afternoon, and evening.
Some analyzed the growth of vegetation, taking measurements and collecting data, while others worked in newly upgraded laboratories. They communicated with few words, easily understanding each others’ intentions and motivations. Sometimes, their work consumed them so ardently that they slept only briefly. Recently, they began to plan a colony on the fourth planet in this system. They discovered the oceans there were almost dry, and the magnetic fields had diminished haphazardly. They wanted to save the planet; to convert it to a duplicate of the one on which they had evolved.
Unseen, Kurum sat on a boulder, high above, and observed. He observed their capacity for cooperation, the loving feelings they communicated, their optimism. They had none of humanity’s failings, no greed or selfishness, no need to control. Humanity, on the other hand, was corrupted, whether by the Tayamni, or the Potacas DNA, the human race was lost.
He thought it odd that with each increase of intelligence he gave them, the evolving structures in their brains did not allow them to remember the previous stage. It was as if, each time he increased their powers, they awoke as new beings, constructing relationships with each other as if with strangers. Seeing them evolve, peering into their thoughts and feelings, seeing how they maintained original traits, occupied him so thoroughly that he rarely thought of anything else. He found himself constantly planning for the next phase. Strategies for these creatures, his children, consumed him. Each time they evolved, they used a different name for him. At first they called him Cloud-Man, then, He-Who-is-the-Wind and She-Who-Teaches. Now, after many evolutionary stages, they simply called him the name he called himself, Kurum of the Si’lat.
Watching them go about their industry, he found himself remembering the time he first encountered their leader. Looking down at the floor of this cavern, Si’lat could see him at one of the laboratories. Now, he wore protective clothing, woven from synthetic nano-fibers, but then, he had no need for clothing. Kurum still smiled at the name they gave their leader. One day, when he was a boy, he had been so absorbed with observing birds flying through the sky, that he didn’t realize he was standing on an ant hill. He suddenly began hopping up and down, slapping the ants from off his feet, screaming as they bit into his ankles. The others mad fun. Kurum remembered how they held their abdomens, shaking from laughter. After that, they called him “Ants-on-feet.” He thought it was unfortunate that they couldn’t remember those more innocent times. Although, he sent them these images in their dreams, they didn’t understand that it was their own histories they dreamt of. Now, retaining only fleeting, subconscious memories of those times, they called their leader, Foot, or Sepu.
Uncountable millennia ago Kurum discovered the gateway from his dimension; the exit that led him here. There were more obvious doorways to other universes, but few he could enter and experience.
He had seen and felt the patterns on his home world. But, one day it occurred to him the patterns were a gateway, a slit in the texture of space. Standing in front of it, he imagined it opening and it did so. He walked through and it closed behind him, leaving him in an entirely new reality, one in which his thoughts became real. Instantly, he could feel everything, life forms on moons and planets, climates, oceans of liquid water, ice, the fiery sun at the center of this system…and, a thinking creature…a creature that analyzed and was endlessly interested in and delighted by his environment. There Kurum stood, on a moon orbiting the sixth planet, at the closed slit that brought him here. He stood on a moon captured by a world with crystalline thin, icy rings. Insulated from the environment, he was protected and sustained by the power of his mind. From here he detected The Children, the feeling creatures, the loving creatures.
Kurum felt it emanating from the third planet, the planet from which life-energy radiated. He imagined himself there, and suddenly, he was there, only a few meters from the creature. He squatted down over a termite hill, dipping a stick and withdrawing crawling insects. Kurum felt the tactile deliciousness the same as the creature felt as he sucked the insects into his mouth, crunching them between his teeth, enjoying gooey textures and crunching sounds.
Kurum disguised himself as a gust of breeze, so he could observe without influencing. He followed the creature back to its tribe, its family. They were travelers, like him, but they were limited to travelling around on a small patch of land. They travelled from place to place to find food. After living with them he made himself known. Transforming into a pillar of fire, he sent his thoughts to them. They were terrified, and fell to the ground in fear. But, over time, he chose a more appealing appearance, one of their females, gentle, nurturing, a teacher. He showed them where to find the best and most abundant food. He was saddened by their limitations, so he gave them more intelligence. Slowly, incrementally, he gave them more and more intelligence. He adopted this group of 25 creatures as his. He stopped their aging processes. He nurtured them, helping them to use their new intellectual gifts. They learned to grow their own food, to build structures, and vehicles. They created duplicates of themselves, until there were hundreds. They built cities.
While the others like them remained the same, this group, his children, his humans, created miracles. They built cities on the Moon, colonies on Mars, and travelled to distant galaxies.
Kurum cast into the future and foresaw the emergence of more intelligent humans, mixed with Tayamni DNA. He saw others like his humans, the humans of Si’lat, would eventually die out, to be replaced by the more intelligent, more physically robust ones.
It was then, that he decided to give The Children intellectual gifts equal to the most intelligent creatures in this galaxy. Kurum was determined to protect them, to nurture them, and help them spread throughout this universe. Eventually, they would return to this system. The technology they left behind would be too advanced even for other space-faring begins to comprehend.
His humans, the humans of Si’lat would create a device with an intelligence enough to monitor conditions on their planet, to protect it from hostile forces. They would leave evidence of structures on the surface of its moon, structures that would confuse both more advanced humans and aliens alike. And, the various cities they created on the fourth planet, would be abandoned and left to the elements; ruins of a more advanced culture, but with no evidence of those who had built them or lived within their advanced architectures.