Second Coming

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Chapter 4

Sam and Leiyana, discover that living together, fulfills them in a way in which they both needed to remember. The first days together under the same roof, are sensual and romantic. They cannot get enough of each other. Their late night discussions allow them both a deeper look into the life that the other has lived, or remembers. Sam is learning more about Shi’ann society, as Leiyana is slowing understanding the world that Sam knew.

Daily life continues. Leiyana spends much time producing the new medicine which will forever change Shi’ann society. Sam drifts through the city while she works each day. He is becoming more familiar with his community and neighbors.

After a few days, Sam announces that he wishes to begin an education into his adopted society. Leiyana and he attend dinner at Jerdon and Martark’s home. They discuss the schedule and specifics for Sam’s agenda. A brief time will be spent through various young age group classes, as understanding the basics will prepare Sam for further advanced studies. The evening before Sam is to begin his first class, he grows nervous. His time among this society has already shown him the higher level of intelligence and mental maturity of all the different age groups. He is concerned that he may be a less than average student.

The first day of class is among twenty or so young children. Sam feels a little foolish setting on a mat and reciting simple rhymes. The day is not filled with learning an alphabet, reading or math, instead, the instructor shares an amusing view of Shi’ann society. With smiles and laughter, the instructor explains what it means to be a member of this society. Unity is the most important theme of every statement made. Sam is satisfied to see that everything in this society is based upon respect of others and the need to work together. He is excited to share a phrase he had learned with Leiyana, that evening. “All Shi’ann are friends. If your friend faces a challenge, help your friend.”

The next few days of Sam’s education introduces him to two young students whose friendship will enhance his life. Felitra and To’mas, though only seven cycles old, will become great instructors and trusted friends to Sam.

Felitra, a beautiful girl with dark skin, sandy hair and bright gray eyes, is the more intelligent and mature of the duo. To’mas, a round faced, pale skinned boy, whose green eyes seemed to compliment his bright orange hair, and is the joker and dreamer of the two. After a day of covering the basic math for the city’s water distribution system, Sam is assigned a group project and is placed among Felitra and To’mas.

“Is it true that you lived in a land where mighty battles occurred?” To’mas ask Sam.

Felitra speaks up in a serious tone, “To’mas, you make it sound like a battle is a good thing.”

To’mas quickly responds, “I am only asking for the historical perspective. Felitra, you should be as curious.”

“I am curious, just not about war and killing.” Felitra speaks as if she is sure her reasoning trumps To’mas’ childish view of war.

Sam smiles at the two children and offers “Well, To’mas, there were wars in my world. Throughout the years of my life, many battles were fought around the planet. But, the many battles that occurred in my land, happened there, long before I was born.”

“Were you ever in a battle?” To’mas ask in an excited voice.

“Well, no, I have never been in the type of battle that you’re thinking of.” Sam is impressed with his young friend’s curiosity.

“What other kinds of battles were there during your time?” To’mas raises one eyebrow.

Laughing, Sam says “I guess a divorce is a type of battle.”

Both To’mas and Felitra give Sam a serious puzzled stare.

“Hey you two, we should get back to our project” Sam says, while reaching for the hand sized geometric shapes that lay on the work table in front of him. The children quickly go to work on the activity with Sam. He enjoys the conversation exchange between the two. To’mas so curious and fascinated with life. Felitra is so matter of fact in every counter that she makes to To’mas’ statements. He feels close to them already.

Sam and Leiyana have dinner on the patio, just outside the apartment’s side door. This apartment is more spacious than his ‘little box’, but he misses the large back yard. Here, at least there are a few trees and flower gardens that convey a sense of being surrounded by nature. They discuss the day’s activities. Leiyana is excited that shipments of the fertility medicine have been received by all of the cities. She is eagerly awaiting news of any new ovulations. Sam shares funny stories of his time at school and especially of his growing friendship with Felitra and To’mas.

Leiyana ask questions about different topics that he may have covered already. She seems to be trying to draw some information from him. After a short time into her questions, Sam ask “Is there something specific that you are wanting to know?”

“Yes, have you learned of the ‘marvelous mystery’ of our society?” Leiyana’s eyes sparkle. He can tell that this is something very important to her.

“Actually, I’ve been meaning to ask about that for some time. When I first met Jerdon, he mentioned it, but he was pulled away to meet you at the biological center, on that very exciting day. He never had the chance to explain it to me.”

“I see.” Leiyana says, but continues to move her food around on her plate.

“Well, I’m waiting.” Sam reaches for her hand. She receives it, their fingers intertwine. She pulls his hand to her lips and kisses it.

Sam says “Doc, if you start that now, I’ll never learn about this mystery.”

She smiles, “Would you like a glass of wine? I thought one might be nice before we lay down tonight.” Leiyana ask, and goes inside to get the wine and glasses.

“Sure, I’ll have a glass with you, but hurry, I’m eager to hear you tell me all about this mystery.”

The two lovers recline at the table and sip their wine. Leiyana begins to tell her story of the marvelous mystery.

The first surface communities interacted with each other from the earliest days. There was an exchange of resources and technologies. Advances in the quality of life in general, occurred quickly, as all were eager to share and support each other. There were so few people in the early days. Everyone realized that they needed each other. The survival of every human and the planet was paramount to all other efforts.

Fourteen different groups of humans had existed beneath the earth’s surface for over three hundred cycles. Though there were many similarities among the groups, each group had its distinct contribution to the whole of civilization. The varied technologies from each city enhanced and quickly advanced the new emerging society.

The ability to reproduce biologically was an increasing crisis among every group. The medical technologies from fourteen cities merged and much research was performed. A screening of all humans provided a data base of life force pattern samples from every living citizen. The discovery of the mystery, the “marvelous mystery”, further strengthened the bonds of this humble and grateful society. Every living person shares a common ancestor. They are all distantly related. The life force pattern of each person displayed the evidence. Somewhere in the far past, long before the Great War, there was a people or tribe, from whom they could all claim their lineage.

Each new generation of scientist and physicians tested the claim of common ancestry. Every new study into the mystery, always reveals the same answer. They have speculated for years, how this rare occurrence took place. They have never found answers as to how one group of people, who became separated by such great distance and time, had bestowed their genes to the sole survivors of the planet’s human population.

“What an amazing story.” Sam says. “What are the odds? I would call it ‘The Marvelous History Mystery’. I’m not sure if you realize just how wonderful this society is, compared to the one that I lived in. Your technologies seem like magic to me, but the day by day attitude of caring for each other and the environment, the balance in all areas of life,” he shakes his head, “Doc...This is the most advanced and peaceful society that the earth has ever known. So if everyone is related, then, you all come from some very honorable ancestors.”

Smiling Leiyana replies “Yes we have come from a great people, and all Shi’ann honor the Ones Before.” She raises her glass in toast.

Sam toast as well, “And I honor the Shi’ann, for they have given me life.”

“Do you feel at home among us?” She reaches for his hand. Sam answers her in their embrace. Yes, he feels very much at home.

In a solemn and mindful tone, Sam whispers into her ear, “I believe that humanity has waited for this society, for a very long time. I know that I have.” He holds her close. Everything seems right in the universe, tonight.

Sam lays next to her in bed. She has fallen asleep quickly. The wine has relaxed them both. Sam’s mind is still dwelling on the “marvelous mystery”. He feels that he belongs here, with her. He falls asleep, content with sharing his life with Leiyana and with these people.

Continuing his education, Sam is pleased to discover that the next few days are scheduled for tours of different utility facilities throughout the city. The first day he and a small army of teen students and younger classmates, visit the main water distribution center for the city. Sam locates his friends, Felitra and To’mas, among the group. He walks with them as the tour guide leads the group throughout the facility.

He learns that this society has developed technologies that can harvest water from the atmosphere. Later tours of operating centers will reveal that solar and wind energy systems supply all the power required to operate the many functions and needs of the cities. This society is testament to the fact that humanity can arise from calamity and become kinder and more intelligent, more advanced, in spite of its violent history.

The group is led through a large room filled with an array of tubes and pipes. High above the pipes, Sam notices a few devices that look something like a shower head. The tour guide is explaining that the room’s function is to allow a filtering of the water, before it goes into the system which feeds the supply to the cities’ homes and facilities. Sam inquires and points to the shower head looking devices. The tour guide answers by walking to a wall and turning a lever. One of the shower heads opens with a spray of water. A release valve, of course. He thinks of how long it has been since he has taken a bath with water. The sound bath is effective, but Sam remembers how much he misses a hot steamy shower.

Near the end of the tour, refreshments are offered. Sam grabs a bowl of fruit and a container of colored and flavored water. He goes to join Felitra and To’mas, who are seated and engaged in a serious discussion. Sam doesn’t interrupt as he takes a seat near them.

Felitra says “There is no evidence to support your claim, To’mas.”

To’mas loudly proclaims “But you cannot disprove my claim.”

“That is not how it works To’mas! You have made the claim, the burden of proof is yours. So please present your evidence if you want to continue to discuss your unreasonable fantasy.” Felitra sips her purple water as her eyes dare To’mas to answer.

“It does not matter” To’mas says with a giggle, “I can still believe that the Others are giant insects if I want to!”

Serious Felitra cannot help it, and she laughs at her friend’s comment, as well.

“The others?′ Sam ask, “What are you two talking about?”

Felitra recovers her serious attitude and states, “To’mas is always talking about the Others. He always fantasizes about their appearance, which is unreasonable, since no one has ever seen one.”

“Exactly what are the others?” Sam ask.

“The Others is a name that has been given to whoever or whatever sends us messages from beyond our solar system.” Felitra states frankly.

“Aliens! Extra-terrestrials. People from out there?” Sam points to the sky.

“We do not know if they are people, or insects.” To’mas offers with a devious smile, “But they have to be intelligent. The messages they have been sending take a long time to translate.”

“You’re telling me that a civilization from beyond our solar system has been communicating with the earth, with humans?” Sam’s excitement grows.

“Yes Sam, you shall learn about them as your education schedule advances.” Felitra says.

But he cannot wait for a class to calm his curiosity and begins asking questions of his two young friends. They are enjoying his excitement as they answer, both trying to speak at once. The tour guide eventually has to interrupt their discussion, as their group is returning to the vehicles which will carry them back to class.

Later that evening, Sam engages Leiyana on the topic. The discussion carries them into the late evening. Leiyana has Jerdon’s ability to explain, with fascination, any topic. This topic captivates Sam more than anything he has experienced in this new world so far.

The first message was received one hundred and fifty cycles ago. The message came as energy pulses in a repeating pattern, from an area of space that was over seventy light cycles away. The repetition of the complex signal displayed evidence of intelligence.

Within one cycle the Shi’ann sent a return message, though at the time of earth’s first response, specialist were still studying the original alien signal. Many cycles past and the signal remained a topic of study and much research. An entire new department of study developed within Shi’ann academia. A position of research with the Communications Council, was sought after by many. At the time of the second alien signal, thirty-five cycles had past. The Shi’ann had already distinguished the senders of the signals as, the Others. The study of the first signal revealed little of its sender, but the intention perceived in the signal, was clear. This message was simply sent to be heard. The message from the Others called out to the Shi’ann in a familiar voice. The purpose of the message was a question. “Is anyone out there?”

Leiyana explains that the messages have continued back and forth, throughout many cycles. In total, six messages have been received and responded to. The communications have been occurring at slightly shorter intervals. Each new message has brought more understanding, and less apprehension. The senders are perceived as benevolent and non-aggressive. The Others present themselves as curious explorers.

Sam is overwhelmed with fascination, “We are not alone in the universe! This is amazing Leiyana!”

Leiyana has never known a world without the awareness of the Others, but she is delighted to see Sam’s intense interest. Sam ask questions, and proposes scenarios about the Others for hours.

Having answers to his questions satisfies his mind almost as much as Leiyana’s touch satisfies his body. After their long and late night discussion about the Others, and then their passionate late night love making, the two sleep soundly, bodies intertwined.

The next class tour is a visit to City One, the hub of Shi’ann government and center to many of the various committees and departments of this great society. Sam and the other students will travel in a pod craft to the great city. This is Sam’s first trip in a flying vehicle of this culture. Pod is a good name for the craft, he thinks, as it resembles a large metallic walnut. A viewing window spans the circumference of the craft, allowing all passengers, a view of the outside world. The interior of the craft is slightly rounded. There are dozens of passenger seats. Two control stations are at opposite sides of each other. Each station has a pilot seated at the controls. The craft moves so gracefully that Sam only becomes aware that it is moving by seeing the scenery change outside the window.

Sam is seated with Felitra and To’mas on either side of him. Though they have traveled in a pod craft numerous times before, both are as excited as he is, to look out the window and view the scene of clouds, sky and sun. As soon as the craft has cleared the domed edifice, Sam gets his first look at the entirety of the city. He is breathless for a few seconds, staring at the vast construction of the sky dwelling. It resembles a cruise ship in some ways, in others, it appears to be a gigantic floating bubble. The size of the city is staggering to behold. Sam makes a mental note to ask about the city’s dimensions and population.

After thirty minutes into the flight, one of the pilots announces, “For those passengers who are visiting City One for the first time, we are approaching and will land in a few moments. The City is within view.” Sam remembers briefly how pilots in his time would announce the city and offer a weather report, just before landing, then he sees City One floating in a clear blue sky.

Nothing could have prepared Sam for this sight. It is very much unlike City Seven. It appears to be a large column. Its height, possibly hundreds of stories tall. Rings extend out from the column and wrap around the entire structure. The largest cluster of rings being near the middle of the edifice. The architecture of the city reminds him first, of a huge replica of an atom. With a closer view, it appears to be a cathedral, a very large, high tech, space age looking cathedral. Sam is filled with awe. It seems as if he is beholding a sacred sight.

The City shines and glistens floating in the sunlight. Different colored illuminations strobe and blink from various places along the complicated and intricate structure. Large glass panes catch and reflect the sun and blue sky. Sam views small black dots moving along several of the enormous windows. As the craft moves in closer to the City, he sees that the small dots are actually people, carrying on the business of the day.

The pod enters an opening in one of the near middle rings. The landing is so gentle that it cannot be detected. Sam is surprised when a large exit door opens on the craft. He follows the other students as they leave and walk toward a station to board a trolley type vehicle. Off they glide to explore City One.

The day is filled with many wonders. The Grand Hall in which the Chief Council convenes, is their first stop on the tour. Several Councilors greet them and give brief descriptions of the Council’s function over all Shi’ann matters.

The architect of the room reminds Sam of the Capital Building where the American Congress used to meet, before the nuclear war. This hall though, is much larger and contains huge windows which look out at the open sky for as far as the eye can see.

The students are encouraged in their studies, because, in the course of their lives, they shall all serve and help to progress the path of the people. Sam searches his memory for a word. A word that describes this type of government and society. He is understanding more every day, about the dynamics of this advanced culture in which he has awakened.

Communism, yes, a type of communism. He thinks that word comes close to describing it. Sam doesn’t believe there was ever a society in his world that lived this balanced and peaceful of an existence. Perhaps these people have actually mastered the ability to live in common? By all sharing, all contributing, everyone’s needs are met by the very system, in which each one works. Communism without a dictator. A council of the people lead society, and the people of society, comprise the council.

Sam learns that the articles of government given by the Ones Before, created a system which has changed little in the last thousand cycles. Every citizen has a voice in society, and a chance to lead and to contribute. Everyone receives an abundance of resources with which to live and enjoy life, though Sam is certain, he has yet to experience any waste or gluttony among the Shi’ann, except for maybe, Martark’s food and wine consumption.

The visit to the Weather Control Facility further enhances Sam’s awe of the advances of this society. Weather control was actually its function. The Shi’ann have developed technology that allows them to manipulate weather systems. Storms can be encouraged or dissipated. Rain clouds can be moved to, or from, areas of need.

The function of this facility works in conjunction with the Earth Engineering Committee. Sam learns that most of the planet has been healed from the ravages of past wars, though there are still areas which contain poison and even radioactive environments. Many areas of the earth now thrive with forest, plains, mountains, jungles, rivers, oceans, and life. This society leaves a very small foot print upon the earth.

The end of the tour offers Sam a glimpse into the spiritual philosophy and practice of the Shi’ann. The group of students are advised and instructed before they enter the Hall of Sacred Words, as to its special place among all Shi’ann people. It is a place of memory and respect. It is a place of honor and gratefulness. It is a memorial to all those who are no longer living.

The hall is vast. The architecture of the room reminds Sam of his first view of City One. It is evident that the hall and city were designed to be representative of each other. Multi-levels of walkways allow visitors to travel along the spiral platform that leads to the very top of the room. The hall resembles the insides of a tall column. Silver plaques align the walls, each engraved with symbols. The symbols are the names of the deceased. The Shi’ann refer to them as having joined The Ones Before. Sam senses the quiet sacredness of this place. He, with the other students, show respect and move about slowly in silence.

At the top of the room a portal opens, allowing the sun to shine in. The solar rays strike a large crystal object that hangs at the center of the room’s ceiling. The reflecting lights shine upon each engraved, wall mounted plaque. The plaques catch the light and emit a glowing reflection. All are gazing upward, viewing the dance of sunlight upon the walls. There are many glowing plaques, so many lives represented here. Sam feels a peaceful emotion sweep over him as he takes in the spectacular scene. Felitra and To’mas are standing near him. The look on their faces tells him, they also are moved by this moment.

The tour guide moves to the center of the room. Immediately everyone becomes still.

“We shall now speak the sacred words, in honor of all those who have joined the Ones Before.” The guide announces.

Sam had heard a few mentions of the sacred words before. He knows that this is some type of spiritual idea that the Shi’ann have developed. He will come to understand that the sacred words are the foundation of this societies’ philosophy.

“Respect” says the tour guide, as she raises her arms, “All things, for everything has worth, give respect to the people, the earth, the universe.” She motions for the students to respond.

“Respect” they say in unison.

“Peace” she continues, “Freedom from war and violence and strife. Peace is the blood that flows through our veins. We will continue to live in peace.”

“Peace” the students speak together. Sam joins in. He feels that he has been allowed a special honor to witness this memorial ritual.

“Unity. Humanity is one, we stand together to progress the path of the people.” The tour guide’s eyes have become misty.

“Unity” reply the students.

“Responsibility” through her tears, she smiles, “All must be accountable to the being of all, the people, the earth, the universe.”

“Responsibility” Sam speaks with the other students. He feels the deep emotions of the Shi’ann for those who have passed. He thinks of their work and efforts performed with hope for future generations.

“Live. Sustain, learn and enjoy, grow and advance, in harmony with all, the people, the earth, the universe.” Though deeply moved emotionally, the tour guide speaks clearly.

“Live” the students voices sound like a choir to Sam.

“Love.” She lifts her head up towards the sun filled crystal, “Care and compassion and affection for all, the people, the earth, the universe.”

“Love” the students speak the last word together. They all stand still for a few moments in silence. Sam feels the lump in his throat, and chills on the back of his neck. He is moved by this experience. He feels humbled to be among the Shi’ann. He thinks they are the noblest people that he has ever met.

This morning is a non-work day. Shi’ann societies’ labor and education schedules remind Sam of a few progressive states from his time. Here, they practice a four day work week. Leiyana does not understand Sam’s term “a three day weekend”.

“In my world, my society from before, most people worked and labored, five or six days a week, or more. The days that we didn’t work, we referred to as the weekend.” Sam explains.

“When did you ever have time for yourself, to rest, to enjoy life? How did you ever enjoy the fellowship of others or pursue your own interest?” Leiyana is curious.

Sam laughs, “One or two days a week if I was lucky.”

“You must have loved your work, to have given so much of your personal time toward it.” Leiyana says.

Sam thinks about it for a moment. He didn’t love his work. He needed his work to pay the bills. He remembers his life. He thought he had a good life, back then. He and Beatrice lived modestly, and they loved each other. His kids knew a comfortable and secure life. He saw them often. They were happy. He suddenly realizes that everything he did as an employee, to gain the income, to live the life that he lived, to enjoy his family and friends, to pursue his interest, to go on vacations, to experience life, that job, kept him limited from the very things that he was working for.

“Is everything okay? You are deep in thought.” Leiyana reaches and touches his hand. Their fingers intertwine.

Sam smiles, embarrassed that he was caught remembering. “Everything is okay now, Doc. I am just realizing how much more freedom this society has compared to the one that I lived in. All of you are very practical in everything that you do, but free. Here, in this society, all of you work because you want to, and you work to benefit the others. In my world, we worked because we had to. The daily needs of food and shelter depended on it.”

“The world that existed just before the Great War, had a similar paradigm. It was a type of caste system. Some, who labored the most, were barley given enough substance to even survive. It was slavery for many people. While others, the ruling elite, lived in ease and comfort, at the expense of other human beings. It was so barbaric.” Leiyana eyes seem sad and sympathetic.

“You know, I’ve never thought of it until now, but what you just described sounds a lot like the world that I lived in, back then.” Sam sighs. “It seems I made a life out of working, and really never took a break to enjoy the life that I had.”

“Martark often scolds me about the need to take a break from my work, which I rarely do.” Leiyana shares.

“I’ve noticed that Doc” Sam replies “So, what would a relaxing break be like for the chief physician of City Seven.”

Leiyana smiles, “We should take a trip today. I would like to show you a place that I often visit. It is a place of beauty and serenity. Sam, would you like to visit the surface today?”

“What? I wasn’t even sure that was allowed. I mean, I know you have some of the population living there, I didn’t know that just anyone could travel down to the earth. Leiyana, I would love to. When do we leave?”

The pod craft that they took to the surface is much smaller than the one Sam had flown in before. There was only one pilot, and a handful of passengers on board. Hontel was among the passengers. He was accompanied by a young female. Hontel introduces Fawnhala. Leiyana is already acquainted with Hontel’s friend, as she worked with her for some months in a biological center.

Hontel explains that they have been working on a project together. Their visit to the surface is not for recreation but for research. They are gathering soil and plant samples. Though Hontel insist that this is an important work they are performing, it is obvious to Sam, he is really enjoying the female company, and she, his. Viewing their young infatuation, reminds Sam of home.

The pod enters heavy clouds. Sam was enjoying the view, but now cannot make out any features of the earth below. He ask Leiyana if she is able to show him the area that they are visiting. She opens a panel on the arm of her chair, fingers touch several controls and buttons. In front of their passenger seats, a console rises from the floor. The console appears to be made of white porcelain. Sam thinks that it looks like an old fashioned urinal. Leiyana wonders why Sam let out a soft laugh, but he doesn’t want to explain the function of a urinal in front of the other passengers. This urinal has a display screen and numerous control buttons.

Leiyana brings up a globe diagram on the screen. Sam leans in closer to view the diagram.

“Is there a way to make the picture bigger?” He ask.

Immediately a hologram globe of the diagram floats above the console. The hologram is slowing turning allowing Sam a view of all of the continents. “So this is the current state of the land masses ...of all of the continents? Things have changed some, it seems.” Sam is sure that the coastlines he remembers as California and Florida, have moved inland. The edges of other continents, also appear slightly altered, not exactly as he remembers.

“Yes, and this island...” she points to the pacific coast line of what was known as South America, in Sam’s era, “ where we will visit, today. It is a tropical environment, with a mild climate.”

Sam was never really good at geography, but he thinks that area was Ecuador.

Finally the pod breaks the clouds on its descent to the island. Lush green vegetation fills Sam’s view as he takes in the scenery. The pod moves inland past the coast line flying just above the trees. There is a break in the vegetation, a clearing that appears to be a small village. Once closer, Sam can see small metal buildings and half a dozen landing pads. The craft comes to a gentle landing and the exit door slides open.

Sam drives the small vehicle away from the visitor’s center, as he has become a very experienced driver in recent weeks. Unlike the vehicles in use on the sky cities, the surface cars are equipped with wheels. Not four, but six. Sam wonders how fast he could get one to go, if he was allowed a trek through the jungle, off road. He resists the urge as Leiyana is seated next to him.

The parking area for the cars extends for only a short distance and ends at the edge of the sandy beach. Just a few vehicles are parked here. Sam thinks that only a limited number of visitors are expected to enjoy the beach, at one time. The rippled sands continue for miles in either direction. Leiyana and Sam set up camp not far from the water, which rolls back and forth on loud but fairly calm waves.

Reclining in their beach chairs, Sam and Leiyana are quiet for a while, taking in the peaceful scenery. The sun is shining, darker clouds are drifting in from the east. Sam thinks they must be the clouds that the pod craft flew through earlier.

The sounds of the waves, the call of the various fowl species, the salty scent of the wind and the sun’s warmth on his skin, the entire atmosphere of this place has Sam in such a relaxed state of mind, that he was startled when he heard laughter. He looks around and sees a small group of people camped out further south. He thinks the laughter sounded like To’mas.

“Yes, Sam, your friends are here as well. I believe those are of some of your classmates.” Leiyana says.

“The dynamic duo, I call them.” Sam says as he watches Felitra and To’mas floating on a raft type device not far from the shore. “Is it safe to allow the children to be in the water by themselves?”

“All Shi’ann learn to swim at an early age. It is a great exercise for one’s body. Also, the man with the dark hair is Felitra’s father. The craft that the children play on can be controlled from the shore. I am sure that the father will not let them get too far out from the beach.”

Sam is satisfied with her answer. “So, since all Shi’ann can swim, what do you think about joining me?” Sam stands, kicks off his sandals and removes his shirt. He reaches for her hand and pulls her up from her chair. He starts towards the water, but Leiyana says, “Sam, let me undress.” She begins removing her garments. She removes everything, and looks at him as if she is waiting for him to remove his shorts. Sam looks back at the small group of people further down on the beach.

Leiyana says, “Sam, this is how I always swim, does it bother you?”

“Well, I’m not sure it’s appropriate, this close to the children.” Sam says as a matter of fact.

“Human biology is also taught to all Shi’ann at an early age. I am not sure that I understand your apprehension to swimming nude. It is the most natural way to swim.”

Sam removes his shorts and takes her by the hand, “Well, when in Rome...” He leads her into the water.

After they swim and re-clothe, Leiyana ask Sam to walk with her. He recognizes the amorous look in her eyes. Together they exit the beach and move into the edge of the dense jungle growth that covers the majority of the island. They follow a well-worn path for a few minutes. The path opens to a small clearing. Numerous flowers and plants adorn the small garden like area. Leiyana lays down the beach towel that she is carrying. “I often come here to relax and recharge.”

“I would love to relax with you, and recharge.” Sam kisses her.

She sets down and motions for him to join her, and he does. Their love making is intense and passionate. Afterward, they drift off to sleep laying on the beach towel, in the middle of their own private paradise.

Sam hears the scream before he notices the wind and rain that pelts his body. They both begin dressing as they run toward the sound of the shouting. “I thought that you people could control storms like this?” Sam shouts above the wind and rain as they trek through the jungle growth towards the beach.

“No, sometimes we fail.” There is fear in her voice. “Sam we must hurry and get everyone to safety, we must!”

Running now, across the beach, Sam’s fears are founded. The scream came from the camp of Felitra and To’mas. He can see the children still on the raft, further out on very troubled waters. Hontel and his date are helping. Felitra’s father is being lifted, and carried towards the parking area. The man appears to be unconscious. Leiyana is giving instructions. She demands that everyone board the vehicles and head to the safety of the port buildings. Sam is looking at the hand held raft controls that Hontel is managing.

“It’s not working, is it? Probably due to the storm.” Sam shouts as he watches the raft that seems to be moving even further away. The storm above, crackles with electricity. Hontel shakes his head.

“You, go, take Leiyana and leave with the others. I’m going to go help my friends.” Sam starts walking towards the water.

“No!” Leiyana screams and she runs toward him. “You cannot Sam, it’s too dangerous. You could be killed.”

He grabs her and speaks close to her ear, “I have to go get them, I can’t leave them!”

She looks in his eyes, even in the rain and wind, he can tell that her tears are falling. She is so afraid, Sam has never seen her act this way. She nods her head, “Please come back to me.”

He kisses her, “Go with Hontel, I’ll be back in just a bit.” He turns and runs into the ocean.

Sam’s first thought, as he begins to fight the waves, is that this is much more difficult than he had expected. The waves have him bobbing up and down, and he keeps losing sight of the raft. He pushes forward, with each motion up, and moves himself towards the direction of his friends. They must be terrified. He has to reach them. He will!

As he swims and manages the beating waves, he thinks of Leiyana. It is unsettling to see her in such a state of panic. Sam is confident that he can reach the children and get them back to the shore, to safety. And he will make it back to Leiyana.

After a time of intense swimming and battling the waves, he has lost sense of time. The straining muscles in his legs and arms are hardly noticed. He pushes himself forward. Just a little further and he will reach them.

Sam’s original plan was that as soon as he reached the raft, he would begin towing it back to shore. Now, holding on to the raft’s side, he hardly has the strength to pull himself onto it. As he is catching his breath, a hand reaches and touches his, it is To’mas. Seeing his friend’s face gives Sam the strength to climb up. The children rush to him. Both are crying, but seem to be unharmed. They are speaking and shouting but Sam can barely hear them above the roar of the storm.

“We will be okay. I’ll get you back to shore.” Sam shouts and tries to smile. The children are scared, wet, cold and shaking. He holds on to both of them as he thinks of what to do next. The waves and wind are even stronger than when he first entered the water. Even with his younger and stronger body, he does not believe that he can drag the raft back to land in these conditions. He searches and feels around the raft, looking for anything that might be useful to help their situation.

He discovers that a hidden compartment contains a sheet of canvas. It is of a light weight material and is attached to the raft on one end. Sam pulls it over them, creating a poor excuse for a tent. There are fasteners on the loose ends of the fabric. He finds the clips on the floor of the raft and attaches the canvas. This gives them a loose, blanket type protection from the driving wind and rain. The top of Sam’s head is the main support of their tent.

“Looks like we may have to ride out the storm for a while longer, I’m not sure that I have the strength to tow us back.” He tells the children. The look in their eyes lets him know, this is not what they were expecting to hear. “Hey, I’m here with you. We will make it through this together.” Sam hopes his words speak confidence, because he could really use some at the moment.

To’mas says, “I was very afraid... until you got here.”

Sam winks and says, “All Shi’ann are friends. If your friend faces a challenge, help your friend.”

To’mas smiles and winks at Felitra. She returns the wink.

“Well, we are not out of trouble yet, but I think that I’ll hang out with the two of you for a while, if that’s alright?” Both children hug Sam. It is difficult to speak with the noise of the storm, but Sam begins to engage his friends in a conversation. They can all use a distraction from the weather’s chaos. Sam tells them that he wants to study the Others messages, and hopes to make a career of it.

“We will find out if they have big bug eyes and antennas on their heads.” In spite of the storm, the three are soon smiling and laughing at each other.

Much later Sam notices that the children appear to be sleeping. He also notices that the wind has let up. The waves are still choppy, but he thinks the storm is weakening as it moves out to sea. He lifts his head above the canvas and looks around. The rain has stopped, there are still dark clouds rolling over head, but conditions are improving. Sam scans the horizon in all directions. He cannot locate the island. The storm may have pushed them a great distance in a short amount of time.

The water appears safe enough to try out his idea of towing the raft back to shore. If only he knew the right direction. He hopes that Leiyana and the others are safe. Perhaps they can send help, now that the storm has let up. He stands up, having to sway with the bobbing of the vessel, and begins scanning the horizon in all directions. Though he is not exactly sure, Sam thinks he caught sight of a small slither of land off in the distance. He shrugs and drops into the water, with one hand on the raft, he starts swimming.

Leiyana tries to keep herself busy. Her patient is stable, having suffered a concussion after losing his footing in the high winds. All the others in the room are as worried and grim as she is, over Sam and the children. Hontel and Fawnhala have become host to the few people present, dispensing snacks and comfort. Though this scenic vacation port is small, underneath the main visitor’s center, a cozy sized weather shelter remains equipped, in the event of need. Main power has been knocked out by the storm, but there is enough reserve battery power to provide lights and fresh water. Leiyana waits to hear if she shall yet, offer another mate’s name to the Hall of Sacred Words.

There is a noise outside of the room. The door is sealed, its power off, for the moment. It sounds like something is scrapping against the door. Hontel rises and moves toward the door, listening. Fawnhala offers advice, “It could be a wild animal, and there are a few of medium size on the island. The building’s entrance may have been damaged by the storm. Be careful Hontel!”

The door slides open a bit. Hontel and the others take a few a steps back, not sure what may be coming through. The light outside the door is very dim, but a figure can be seen. The door slides open even more, two hands are pushing on the door until it pops and slides all the way open. A wet and dripping Sam enters the room, smiling, with Felitra and To’mas marching behind him.

Hours later, on the return flight home, Sam ask Leiyana about her fears. She explains that her former mate, Caltrim, worked with Weather Control. He and four others lost their lives while on the surface, during a tropical storm. Sam understands now, her great panic. She has just faced the horror of loss all over again. He is sorry that he had ask, but she continues speaking.

A storm had slipped through the control grid and developed quickly. There was no time to evacuate the team, and they took shelter at an undeveloped island. There was no contact for hours. When the emergency beacon’s signals were finally detected, it was discovered that all five of the team had been washed out to sea. The search for their bodies took days. A time of mourning was announced for all the cities.

Sam holds her in silence for the remainder of the trip home.

The arrival back at City Seven, reveals a hero’s welcome. City Councilors and many citizens are present as Sam and company depart the pod craft. One Councilor gives a short speech that is broadcast to all of the cities. Everyone is excited that all have returned sound and safe. Gratitude is expressed to each storm survivor for their bravery and perseverance. Sam is singled out to comment about saving the children. He feels embarrassed and put on the spot, “Felitra and To’mas helped me stay calm, I couldn’t have done it without their support. They’re my heroes.” Sam removes himself from the spot light as quickly as he can. After many hugs, embraces and greetings, Leiyana and he are finally traveling toward their home.

Later, as they are lying in bed, he ask her more about Caltrim. She responds and continues to share the story of her loss. As he listens to her story, he feels pity in his heart and is reminded of his own loss. He has a sobering awareness of the nature of existence. Loss of anyone, especially a loved one, brings pain and sorrow, no matter what time or place in which one lives. We all hurt, we all bleed, and we all learn to continue, to recover, to find a way to smile again, to prosper, we have to, this is what defines our humanity.

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