ALL SE’YAN’T burned, for death ravaged the cities and fields.
In the skies above Se’Yan’t, Rjorck burned also, his native homeworld decimated, all his people wiped from its face.
A whimper escaped his throat as he reached one hand and gently touched the bloody trenches in his flesh, the swollen bands where the restraining straps had bound his wrists and feet. The tender skin, caressed with battered fingertips, roiled as he closed his eyes to the memories of the pain. It was too many years since he last entered the seas of Se’Yan’t, and now he faced a lifetime of deaths for his people. Ah, the torture he endured to deflect attention from those who remained in Se’Yan’t’s protecting seas, hoping some could return to a world left in peace, once again walking underneath the brilliance of its twin suns.
However, even those who had entered the seas for their year-of-months, their c’habor-reneis’t, were taken as they returned from the waters, only to be tortured when they could not tell the answers the minions of MegaCorp had insisted his people share. Despite all his centuries on Earth, he had only thought he knew humans and their greed, their capacity for cruelty. How could he have been so wrong?
He wanted to weep, but tears would not come.
Waves of sorrow knifed through him, cutting his soul—his hyr’yan’t—in two, and he accepted that he had lost all options except one. That option, though, might be worse than all the suffering he had endured at the hands of the humans, and certainly it would mean his final death, the dry-death from which none could return.
He had only one thing, his poi’ntr’in, to give.
There, in the darkest moment of his many lives, he turned his eyes inward. For a man to look inside himself and glimpse his wellspring of power, his poi’ntr’in, to see himself as the gods see him, to admit he has nothing, is nothing, can be nothing . . . to have reached the end of his days, willing to share his innermost being, his joys, his poi’ntr’in . . . to claim its raw power for his own designs—would it be enough?
Looking inside himself with his true eyes, really seeing his reservoir of inner strength for the first time, he knew his poi’ntr’in would perform whatever he asked of it. Whatever the cost, the time had come.
“Do it,” he commanded aloud, his hoarse voice filled with emotion, and in that moment, his poi’ntr’in burst from him, filling the room with brilliance.
CAPTGEN’L Willane Bofsky tapped the panel once, wakening the glassine filling the wall before him. The substrate of the molecules shifted, and with a drawn breath of anticipation, he watched it change to transparency. Without warning, piercing light seared his eyes. Screaming klaxons started drumming, and the sizzle of melting glassine began to permeate the room.
In the background, a melodious, feminine voice echoed, “Emergency escape pods now cycling online.”
Covering his face against the brilliance, CaptGen’l Bofsky slapped a panel on the wall and yelled, “All crew, battle stations! Updates! Have the shields been breached? First Offic’r Chero’nen, report—” Then his words were torn from him as a brilliant light stabbed into the room, pulling screams of anguish from those alongside him.
The radiance—Rjorck, his poi’ntr’in cast free from his body—reached out, thrusting, its fingers probing dark corners and dark-hearted men. His intent guided it, although not consciously. He simply wished to return to Se’Yan’t, and his poi’ntr’in took the steps necessary to provide him with that end.
When the light found those who had decimated his world, it reached inside and demanded payment from them, requiring of them that which they had taken from the dead: the very soul-essence of his people. Then it dropped the hyr’yan’t-stealers on the floor, letting them writhe in the pain of coming death until all life was gone.
Rjorck stepped through the empty glassine frame, a shining god, the power of his poi’ntr’in filling the room ahead of him. He moved into the corridor, the brilliance of his poi’ntr’in preceding him, fingers of light stabbing ahead, reaching, feeling the way, leading him to a place he dimly remembered: a landing bay, a transportation pod, a way home. If only he could reach passage to return to his planet, to feel the waters of his warm, blue seas, to bask one last time underneath his world’s treasured lemon skies, then to have given up his soul, his hyr’yan’t, would be worth all the cost.
Leaving a trail of soulless, lifeless shapes in his wake, his poi’ntr’in continued to grow stronger, releasing its power, helping him in his most desperate time of need.
“Return to Se’Yan’t. C’habor-reneis’t. Must go-and-return. Must . . . get . . . there . . . ah, this release of power is strong.” He groaned as he stumbled, one lined, parchment hand pressing against the corridor’s bare metal wall. “I can barely control it.”
As he walked unsteadily ahead, his inner power continually reached into distant parts of the ship, only marginally under his control, taking out souls, twisting equipment, burning bioware, probing the ship, searching for his way home.
THE LANDING pod flew from the fearsome MegaCorp starstrike class battleship. Rjorck stood inside, his arms spread wide, his feet akimbo, as the last of his inner wellspring flooded from him. The brilliance of his poi’ntr’in filled the small pod and burst forth, reaching lightning fingers out towards the mighty battleship, stabbing through the melting glassine windows, deep into the ship’s weapons systems. Before more than just a few of the warship’s emergency escape pods managed to fling themselves from the mighty vessel, his poi’ntr’in worked its vengeful deeds. With a stab on this circuit, a twist of that dial, an overload surge added just so, the light withdrew.
As his lifeboat dropped him gently through the atmosphere, a spectacular devastation even greater than he could have intended graced his beloved planet with a third sun for the briefest of moments.
But Rjorck never knew. His own sun, his poi’ntr’in, had gone out as well.
One Day Earlier
“A FULL YEAR we’ve been here! A wasted year! You do nothing in the sea except disappear! Where do you go? Why do only the old enter the sea to die, but we have plucked only the young as they emerge? I will know!” UnderGen’l Ma’jene Holcum thumbed the NeuroShok, holding it toward Rjorck as the tip began to sizzle. “Or have you begun to enjoy the pain?”
“Ahhhh!” Rjorck contorted away from the NeuroShok stick, its jolts of electric lightning quivering through his body. His back slowly dropped to the surface of the table as if expecting the pain to still be there to greet it. Ragged gasps of air tore his parched throat as the anguish forced his lungs to expand.
“This interrogation chamber is your world now. Can you even remember any other? Do you think this pain will give you release? You are a fool, if you think so.” Holcum laughed, and the sound was cruel.
Her answer was already there for her to see, in the many days he had spent tied to this table, wallowing in his own filth, with only enough water being trickled down his throat to enable him to speak, and for the many handfuls of days before that. It had been a full year he had endured her torture, left in darkness . . . or light, unable to remember. His sweat-soaked head rolled to one side as his blood-shot eyes pleaded with her.
“I beg of you—” He sucked air over his cracked tongue as he marshaled yet another appeal. “UnderGen’l Holcum, there is no other secret. We swim in the seas; that is all. You have it on your VidPlay. You’ve shown me the clips again and again. What my people do is nothing else other than what you see.”
“You lie!” She reached forward with the NeuroShok one more time.
NOT EVERYONE onboard the great MegaCorp battleship approved of CaptGen’l Bofsky’s and UnderGen’l Holcum’s cruelty.
Not all deserved to die.
“You should hear Bofsky and Holcum warring over who makes the next victim scream.” UnderPriv’t Rom’n Rezalton, Academy trained, although now devoid of rank, surviving with the lowest of inductees, stripped his overjacket off.
Disgust pasted contempt on his face.
“It’s a rarified world up there. Thank the stars we’re both down here.” Redzik Ajadijon, also an underpriv’t, although due to inexperience rather than deceit and lies, laughed. “I’m sorry, Rom’n. It’s that sour face you wear. It must be really bad up there. Who would want to be up on top? I hear one of the overoffic’rs sent his sweetie away, afraid something big was going down.” He made a heart symbol with his fingers. “They only care about their own, never us down here. Sissies, to the man.” He laughed again.
“Who was sent away?” Despite no longer being part of the “offic’r’s” club, Rom’n still maintained connections with many of those on the upper decks.
“D’Arc. You know her?”
“Bethany, jumpship commander?” Did he know her? She’d had a thing for him when they were together at the academy. “She’s sweet on Rob’t, um, Thangorsen. They were a couple the last time I heard.”
“That’s the guy, in logistics now, someone important in the rat race upstairs. But hey, who cares, anyway? The best of the ranks are here with us, in the belly of the beast and forgotten. I like it that way.” He reached and clapped the other man on the shoulder, squeezing quickly before shoving him away.
Rom’n forced a smile on his face. “You know how to put things in perspective, my friend. Thank you.”
“Now, I have a treat for you. First, I have this report to deliver. But I just received a performance bonus. The credits are burning a hole in my pay account. How about you and me head out for some refreshment and good company, some soul renewing?” He held up a glass, the images inside flickering with the movement. “As soon as I drop this off. Corridor D, okay?”
“I’ll be waiting on you, be sure of that.” Rom’n reached a hand out, and they clasped for a moment before Redzik disappeared out the door.
The smile fell from his face. He had been there, an offic’r, part of that elite, before Holcum’s trickery had forced his fall from grace. He had been swept up in her reign of terror, an integral player, right up to the end.
“You believe in me, Redzik. I couldn’t have a better friend than you.”
Shaking off his dismal mood, he grabbed his ID cards from the top shelf of his stor’lok and headed out the door. His eyes were damp, but he would never admit to that. It was only the air currents, and they would dry when he got to a better part of the ship.
“SHE IS QUITE good, that Holcum. I trained her myself, you know. Many people on many worlds have enjoyed the caress of that touch.” CaptGen’l Willane Bofsky stepped away, allowing the glassine to opaque. He reached down and straightened the cuff on his overuniform’s sleeve. “Although few of those ever will again,” he said to himself.
“But, Ser,” First Offic’r Chero’nen ventured. “No more have come from the sea for many days. This Rjorck is the last native alive. And we still don’t know their secret.”
“It wasn’t about getting answers to which I referred,” growled Bofsky.
Opening the weapons cabinet, the captgen’l wrapped his hand around a NeuroShok stick and headed out the door, a red flush of anticipation rising above his finely starched collar.
Date: March 17, 2810 A.D. (O.E. Standard)
To: Chair, University of NAS
From: Alb’t deFralin, SSM.rl.
RE: Preliminary Report
No man is an island.
Someone nearly ten centuries ago made that statement, and it is as true today as it was then.
Only by peeling away the layers of the present can we truly understand the events that have brought us to this point. A world—Rejuvenant for some of you, and Se’Yan’t for others—has been decimated. We can look at the damage that has been done and hope that it never happens again, or we can dig into the motivations that have caused this precipitous disaster, and find ways to ensure it never happens again.
I would like to suggest we ask ourselves a question: What would bring a person or persons to such a base level, to wipe genocide across the face of an entire world?
We know the history of MegaCorp, the documented abuses of power that tipped the scales of justice the wrong direction. However, we must dig deeper, revealing those whose hands wielded the knives. Who cut the throats of the innocents, and what drove them to such horrid abuses of human rights? Only by knowing the individuals’ stories can calamities such as we are facing now hope to be averted in the future.
In my esteemed position upon Se’Yan’t, having been given the authority and privilege to come to this world and ensure its redemption, I would like to propose that the University of New American States extend a team to pursue the histories of the individuals involved in this travesty against humankind and the universe.
If the University should be so kind as to consider my proposal, may I also suggest a novel approach to understanding the motivating forces that have visited this travesty upon Rejuvenant. We know the culminating events. Begin there and slowly work backwards until the foundations of MegaCorp’s depravations are laid bare.
I leave the matter in your kind hands, although I fear I have opened a door to a fetid cesspool that may surely choke any who step through.
Alb’t deFralin, SSM.rl.
The Decimation of Rejuvenant: A Regressive Study of the Motivations that Precipitated the Misuse of Power by MegaCorp Minions
El’Tirest’n Ragusin, SSM.rl.adjunct
Historical Studies 2250-Present
University of New American States in Conjunction with New Boston College and Ganymede Fellowship of Higher Learning
It is an established fact that unchecked military abuse of civilian populations can precipitate inbred hatred that can and will erupt at inopportune times. (Military Might Does Not Make Right, Farsi Largo, SSM.dr.edu, 2767) Care should be taken when admitting civilian populations into a military environment to ensure background stability. (Childhood Monsters Made Real, Sister Marta Spin’ter, DRL.rl, 2591)
Deleted for brevity: Contents, Discussion, and Annotations. Please message Adjunct Ragusin Heirs and Assigns, care of UNAS/UT for additional information.
All information in this report is the sole property of UNAS/UT and may be referenced in any educational document with permission from UNAS/UT. Due to the unusual nature of these studies, several of the compilations rely heavily on inference and such should be taken into account.
Original Draft, 2815 A.D. (O.E. Standard)
Approved: Natal La’Sterene, Senior Chancellor, University of Terra (formerly UNAS), by the Hand of the Terran Supreme Father on 3301 A.D.
Compiled by: Alb’t deFralin, SSM.rl, UNAS
Earth-Reference Date: 2800 A.D. (O.E. Standard)
“LEAVE EVERYTHING! Come aboard now!”
Desperation—as well as determination—had Rjorck’s weary body moving as a much younger man. He slammed his fist down on the autopilot trigger, starting the warm-up procedure that would ensure the safety of these five hundred of his kin, all those who had been able to reach his ship in time.
His aged face leaped at him from a reflective panel, and his haggard expression caught him by surprise. It was only the adrenalin rush of his desperation that kept him going. At least the transport’s ignition sequence and liftoff were now on automatic. It would take them away from beautiful Se’Yan’t to a distant world, a place where his people could find shelter from these humans.
He turned to his sister. She had done well. Her poi’ntr’in had not let her down.
“Adhor’k, remain here. I must help the others inside.” He brushed her arm in gratitude as he turned from the control center, glad his old muscles still responded at his command. His strength would not last long, he knew, for his body screamed in protest. This must be done, though, and there was no one else. He also knew he had only minutes left to hurry the rest of the refugees on board before the doors closed. He could only trust it was enough time. MegaCorp’s deathship was even now raining down firepower on those who scrambled for the safety of the transport.
He peered at the sky, taking a moment to scan the heavens, the pause bringing home the weight of the heaviness he carried in his heart.
“Will you simply kill those you cannot torture for your answers?” His muttered words filled with bitterness, he turned again to his people, determined to do what he could.
Rushing down the loading ramp, knowing the transport must leave now, he called out, encouraging as many aboard as possible. Even as the last Autowarn light blinked a glowing red and the mighty door began to swing closed, he lifted a final re’anlt to clamber through the shrinking opening. He ignored the hands reaching for him as the plasteel metal doors clanged shut with finality, the flat sheet of the loading ramp withdrawing into the belly of the ship.
Stepping back, his energy now drained, he felt lighter in his heart. He would not be leaving Se’Yan’t. His time for c’habor-reneis’t was too near. Leaving, for him, meant he would meet his dry-death while in hiding with his people. Some would find safety in this escape, those who had answered Adhor’k’s call, those who had come. He was of no importance. Let the humans wipe all remaining people from this planet. When they tired of this place, his people would again live under its yellow, no, lemon sky, swim in its blue waters, and enjoy the warmth of its twin suns.
He held up a hand to shade his eyes as the transport, his people’s seedship, picked up speed to arch across the heavens out of the reach of MegaCorp. He felt the first wave of hope swell inside his breast.
Then, even that was flayed from him. His eyes welled with tears as he watched the air ripped apart, the lemon sky shredding into flaming contrails heading straight for the transport. A searing hiss of unimaginable power brought the burning smell of ozone-laced energy to his nostrils. He knew both that sound and that smell. No longer was the fleeing vessel a seedship. It had become a deathship, the dry-death coming for all five hundred aboard.
Falling to his knees in anguish, he watched the flaming air as it reached out to decimate his hopes and his people, enveloping their ship, shredding it into a hundred exploding parts, and casting the blazing contents from the tortured sky.
Ahhh! Adhor’k! His re’anlts, his family. All was lost. All were gone. He had failed them again. His head fell to his chest, his body cowed with despair.
He didn’t even turn at the hiss of air escaping the airtight seals of the MegaCorp landing pod coming to rest at his back.
“Take that man! I know this one from Earth. He will certainly have the information I require. Place him aboard my pod for transport to the ship.”
“Yes, CaptGen’l, Ser.” UnderGen’l Ma’jene Holcum whipped a pair of ziptites from her belt.
CaptGen’l Willane Bofsky turned to board as Holcum snapped the restraints around Rjorck’s wrists. Pausing, the captgen’l glared at him. “You will tell me what I require, or your people’s secrets die with you. You are the last. We have cleansed this world of your vermin.”
With a click of his heels, CaptGen’l Willane Bofsky strode purposefully up the ramp and through the door.
Compiled by: Adel’ Eriks’n, SSM.rl.sub.adjunct, UNAS
Earth-Reference Date: 2800 A.D. (O.E. Standard)
ADHOR’K knelt by her sister’s torn and bleeding body. Shadow fingers caressed them, the leaves of the plants holding the suns’ light at bay. She placed a palm against her re’anlt’s cooling face, feeling her own grow wet with tears.
“My beloved. You have been denied the most precious of our planet’s gifts. C’habor-reneis’t will never be yours. You shall return to become one with the soil of Se’Yan’t. I would cry the ocean for you, sister. Ahhh!” Her heart wrenched as she stood and shook her fist at the sky. “The dry-death is all you allowed her! Do you know what you’ve done? What you’ve taken? Do you care?”
Looking out over the beautiful yellow sky blanketing the green fields of the rift valley spread out below her, she felt the incredible splendor of her world softening her pain. She was grateful for this one small favor—her sister had died the dry-death here on her home world, not in that death-delivering ship in the skies overhead!
The lengthening shadows meant the “little night,” the last eclipse of Se’Yan’t’s minor sun for many handfuls of days, would soon hide her grief. Tomorrow, this world’s twin suns would again flood the land with the harshness of eternal day, the dueling shadows they cast across the landscape given as teasing respite from the probing tongues of warmth. Then she could think again.
I would cry the ocean for you, my sister.
As she knelt to pick up her sister’s lifeless form, tears fell from her face to the limp form in her arms as if to wash the dry-death away. Only the death remained.
Even a sea of tears could not undo what was already done.
ADHOR’K caught sight of Rjorck by a large outcropping, the sun glinting on his hair. He stood tall, but age cast a pall over his face. Leaping from the rise on which she stood, and landing heavily beside him on the sea-washed stones lining the beach, she felt her remaining resolve drain from her
He gazed at her, and she felt his compassion. Glancing the way she had come, she saw smoke rising in the distance. It was death following her every move.
“I am sorry, brother, Bringer of News. Violence has never been our way.” She sang with the sharpness of the tortured wind that whistles through the high places. “We could not have known, not imagined. Must all die?”
Dusty from her long trek down from the Heights Ridge, she dropped her bag and collapsed, her head bowed on her knees. As the whispering waters sounded in the distance, a gentle hand cupped her chin, forcing her to look up, exposing tears she had hoped to hide.
“You feel their pain, as I do, sister.”
“A sea of tears and she could not come back to me, Rjorck. At least they will not find her. She is safe in the high fields.”
His face twisted. “Only goodness is found in you, my sister. Never will you understand the monsters in the gleaming black deathship overhead. Gods below, may you never understand! I have lived centuries surrounded by Earth-humans, their hopelessness, their petty desires, and their willingness to take, take, take! I have shielded Se’Yan’t and all my re’anlts, protecting you as I could, knowing what humans could do, would do when tempted with their darkest dreams.”
“But to rain death upon all—” She felt her voice break, and she could say no more.
“I had long hoped otherwise, for my earliest centuries on Earth were as a salvation to me. Oh, but humans have vitality! To live in only one lifetime, in one single burst of being. To be young only once, carrying the weary years of existence heavy on old bones with only the snuff of the dry-death to look forward to. I love to partake of their vitality. But it means to learn of their dark sides, too. Now I have failed to protect my people, and they are dying by the thousands. Because of me. Because of my failure.
“Will none survive?” Anger swept through her. “Is there nothing that can be done?” She pictured her sister, then more that had been left to rot in the city. The images were too much, and she felt herself weaken.
“Perhaps a few can yet live.” Kneeling before her, he spoke with vigor. “I have a transport. Tell all who will travel with me. We will go offworld, somewhere we can be safe, hide, until the Earth-humans despair of finding that which they cannot share. We will preserve life. We will return when our waters, our lands are ours again, when there is no more death hanging over us in our lemon sky. Do you know lemons, Adhor’k? Not all from Earth is wicked. Just this. These madmen. They will tire of our world eventually. Tell all you can find. We have little time.”
“Is there time, my brother?”
He brushed the tear-streaks from her face, with tenderness in his touch. Turning, he gazed at the blue waters lapping the shoreline in the distance. Adhor’k could see that his c’habor-reneis’t was calling, pulling his hyr’yan’t to the sea, rest and renewal in its welcoming waters. The need was in his eyes.
“Curse the gods below, there are too many years on my weary shoulders.” Pulling his sister to her feet, he admonished her, “Remember, time is short. Have all you can gather meet me on the yellow plain south of the Ribbon Waterfall. My transport is hidden nearby. Hurry!” Reaching beneath his tunic, he withdrew a slab of nutrient bread and placed it in her hands. “This will give you strength for what is required of you.”
“Not all are convinced, my brother. Not all have seen the many who have died the dry-death at the hands of the Earth-humans.” She pulled her bag over her shoulder once again, tearing off a chunk of bread before dropping the rest inside. “I will bring all who will come.” She broke for a moment, emotion overcoming her need for haste. “Ahhh! Rjorck! So many have died the dry-death! Is it even possible to go on?”
He looked at her tenderly as he grasped her arms. “Do you wish all to go to the dry-death? Many have. Many more will. You can help those who would be saved. Go, my sister!” He watched her face.
“I can be strong. My reserves of poi’ntr’in run deep.”
He stepped away, his eyes fixed on her. He smiled as she took a deep breath, squared her shoulders, and blinked back her tears. “Yes, my sister, you are a strong one. You will bring others. Some will choose to survive.”
They both knew the truth that hung like a fetid cloud between them. Se’Yan’t was aflame with death. Only the gods who dwelt below could truly save them now.
Compiled by: Ne’rosi El’ganti, SSM.rl.sub.adjunct, UNAS
Subject(s): Willane Bofsky/Ma’jene Holcum
Location: Starstrike Class Battle Cruiser
Earth-Reference Date: 2800 A.D. (O.E. Standard)
COULD THAT one not see? MC. MegaCorp! It was emblazoned across his tunic. That was all the authority he needed to present to these groundies. CaptGen’l Willane Bofsky spat on his hand, wiping the residue of blood on a small cloth. How many more would he have to hunt down until he found one who would not just bleed, but bleed information?
“Haul that mess out of here! Make sure it is gone before I return.”
Slapping the NeuroShok stick down on the table, he spun on his heel, driving his anger through the doorway and into the corridor.
Only when the door slammed behind him did UnderGen’l Ma’jene Holcum let out a stale breath, sucking in much-needed air, only to choke on the stench in the room.
“JE’VARK. Rezalton. Get those exhaust fans going. Thomps’n. Bag this and carry it to recycling. Stat! The gods know how soon Bofsky will have another one in need of this theater. Then the three of you grab a drum of Sterilspray and wash this down. Page me when complete. I’ll be in my quarters.”
Already lost in her thoughts by the time she reached the door, Holcum strode briskly past glassine clearwalls, oblivious to the stunning view of the planet Rejuvenant hanging just outside the ship. Planets were all the same, places for groundies. Why would she want to look at a place she wouldn’t even visit? Her home was shipside, was what she would say to anyone who asked. Most people didn’t. Not more than once, anyway. She had little tolerance for taking time out of her life for anything to do with groundies. And that especially included ones who wouldn’t ante up.
Only one person aboard the menacing MegaCorp starstrike class battleship felt more strongly about groundies than Holcum. She would begrudge that to him only because of his rank.
CaptGen’l Willane Bofsky.
Compiled by: Adel’ Eriks’n, SSM.rl.sub.adjunct, UNAS
Subject: WorldPresident Benetin
Earth-Reference Date: 2799 A.D. (O.E. Standard)
TRANSMISSION 16/000873862-45682 VERIFIED. SECURITY LEVEL ALPHA.PROXY.DOG.
ORIGIN OF TRANSMISSION: BAR’AKKER’ENT WORLD.
RECIPIENT: WORLDPRESIDENT BENETIN.
IMMEDIATE REPLY TRANSMISSION URGENTLY REQUESTED.
-Official government use only. Violators will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Interplanetary Code 4418.164003.
My Most Humble Greetings to WorldPresident Benetin. In this time of interplanetary peace and prosperity, it is most vital to maintain the open lines of communication that enable our vast multi-global civilization to survive the calamities that history has shown to be most detrimental to single planet cultures. With that in mind, rumors of the utmost concern have reached my ears.
As per our most recent meeting at the Glok’dik Trans-Planet Conference, financial prosperity is agreed to be paramount to the survival of the social ties binding the many planets of our civilization. One of the most stable financial institutions in the entire worlds we know is based upon your homeworld of Earth. This institution is, of course, the corporation known by both name and logo as MegaCorp or MC. While widely noted as the most unprecedented and recognizable name throughout all the known worlds, and while the good that MC does cannot be disputed, a concern has arisen.
As recently as two local planetary years ago, reports were circulating regarding the aggressive nature of MC’s advances toward my homeworld, Rejuvenant. Your records will show my previous query regarding this matter as little as one-quarter local planetary year ago (TRANSMISSION 16/000873862-42093.09). Although no punitive action was initiated by your government, I accepted that proof of misdeeds must be the basis of accusations, and without these proofs, action on a matter can be very difficult to initiate.
I believe action must now be commenced. Your office has affirmed by its very charter the sanctity of human life and the due diligence private enterprise must pursue in the respect of that sanctity. That very diligence has now been so severely abused as to be nonexistent.
All communication from my homeworld, Rejuvenant, has ceased. Any and all attempts to contact Rejuvenant have been futile. In the local planetary year preceding this unprecedented collapse of communication with my homeworld, numerous messages of concern were transmitted directly to my domicile via sublight slow-link concerning the aggressive advances of MC. The transmitter was a person of some note on Earth, the Munificent Rjorck of longstanding repute on your planet. Although the fact may well be unknown to you, this Rjorck was, as I am, also a native of Rejuvenant. His concerns were my concerns. While I encouraged him to absent himself from Rejuvenant until this pending crisis resolved itself, his concern for the homeworld overpowered my entreaties for caution. Since returning to warn our peoples, it is feared this Rjorck has been silenced for his views concerning MC’s aggressive stance toward the homeworld.
While caution is always a wise stance when extreme measures are to be considered, I fear that caution in this situation is a measure we cannot afford. I fear great harm may have already befallen my fellow citizens of Rejuvenant. If you can find it in yourself to take great strides toward pursuing the resolution of this difficulty, my greatest gratitude will certainly put me in your debt.
Your honorable and extreme supporter,
GrandSet ComChair Ren’xe t’Le Frieks’n, Rstt.con.
WORLD CITIZEN OF REJUVENANT, LOCAL NAME OF SE’YAN’T
CURRENT POSTING: BAR’AKKER’ENT WORLD
END TRANSMISSION. VERIFICATION CODE GBERY847DI73.
The message faded from the glass, its insinuations still felt throughout the room.
“Shall we tell him?” A male voice.
A dozen breaths exhaled together.
Another voice spoke, feminine. “Let’s think through this carefully.” Looking around the room, all eyes hers, the flunky continued, “Here we have a clear accusation of malfeasance by MegaCorp. Now, what does that mean to us here on Earth? Of all the inhabited worlds, our planet is the oldest socially and economically. We are long established, and what Earth does carries a great deal of clout with the newer governments found elsewhere.”
As she continued, the sense of cohesion on her subject seemed to tighten throughout the room.
“Over the years, our economy has had its ups and downs. It has been very strong for years due to the overwhelming strength and power of one and only one corporation. This corporation has built itself as a power throughout all the known worlds, both economically and militarily.” Pausing, she saw the light shine brighter in the others’ eyes, enjoining her own enthusiasm to even greater heights. “Do we really think all the successes MegaCorp provides for Earth come with no price? Just as long as the price paid is far, far away, what is that to us? I say to let sleeping dogs lie. Just as the transmission states, there is no proof. What is one person who chooses not to be found? He is of no concern to us.”
“You do realize we cannot really hide this direct request. It will make it to Benetin eventually.”
“Eventually is not today. Let matters take their course. Let it alone long enough, and it may even fade into the background. I say to let it go. Agreed?” Looking around, the nods of confirmation settling the action, the transmission was relegated to the pending file.
Immediate transmission to the intended recipient would have been the better choice, as they would soon find out.
TO: ALL BENETIN WORLDPRESIDENT STAFF
FROM: WORLDPRESIDENT BENETIN
RE: UNDISCLOSED COMM TRANSMISSIONS
HEADS WILL ROLL! WILL ONE OF THEM BE YOURS? IT HAS COME TO MY ATTENTION THAT NUMEROUS COMMUNIQUÉS FROM FOREIGN OFFICIALS REGARDING A POSSIBLE CONFLICT BETWEEN THE MEGACORP CORPORATION AND THE PLANET REJUVENANT HAVE BEEN SUPPRESSED. I HAVE TAKEN A PERSONAL INTEREST IN THIS MATTER. IF YOU ARE FOUND TO HAVE TAKEN PART IN ANY SUPPRESSION OF THESE COMMUNIQUÉS, NO MATTER HOW MARGINAL YOUR PARTICIPATION, YOUR HEAD WILL ROLL.
AS PREDICTED, many did.
Compiled by: Alb’t deFralin, SSM.rl, UNAS
Earth-Reference Date: 2799 A.D. (O.E. Standard)
RJORCK, old now, and weary beyond belief, carried with him the news of the human cancer he had sliced away time after time during his many lives. With the information he carried, only dimly could he hope to see Earth and the things he had learned to love once again. The vitality of being alive there. Blue sky. Lemons. Ahh . . . lemons. The intensity of existence on that distant world.
His people. His own jeweled planet. These must be his focus now.
Pushing his heavy thoughts aside, he smiled, turning from the rising sun, and looking back to the clear blue waters of the inlet and the distant ripples just forming on the surface. He squinted, raising his hand to shade his eyes from the setting sun.
Did he see her? He squinted in the glare of the setting sun’s fading light as he looked out over the water.
Impatient to reunite with Adhor’k, still, trepidation edged his excitement. Having missed her c’habor-reneis’t during his stay on Earth, would she be the Adhor’k he knew? Would her memories of him be fresh? Or would she be fract, her partial memories excluding him from her life?
As he waited, watching the disturbance edge closer, he recalled the vitality of Earth. His love for Se’Yan’t had brought him back, that and the years he carried. The peace of this planet the humans called Rejuvenant was good for his hyr’yan’t, but gods below, the vitality of Earth! If he looked down at the blue of the sea, he could pretend the lemon sky to disappear, and he could be there again, if only for a moment.
Kneeling, he reached down, holding one hand just over the sea’s surface, the water reflecting long fingers back at him. With a flex of his hand, the almost invisible al’las’ emerged between each finger. He ran his fingertips over the surface of the water, the movement of the air creating a play of ripples, disturbing its crystal clarity.
With a sudden motion, he thrust his hand into the water’s warmth.
Water-weir! As the water rose and ebbed on his arm, he watched the flesh disappear and return with the movement of the inlet’s surface. C’habor-reneis’t. To go and return.
The years weighed on him. C’habor-reneis’t called. And so, now, did his sister.
He stood, shaking the clear liquid from his hand, snapping his al’las’ back into its sheaths, watching for signs of Adhor’k’s arrival at the shore, knowing he wouldn’t see her until she rose from the water’s embrace. She would be as invisible as his hand had been. Ripples were all she would tease him with, hints that she was near.
Ahh! There! He glanced at the surface of the water to his right, the disturbance revealing his sister’s approach. Their reunion was imminent.
The growing disturbance at the water’s edge rose, mounded up, and as the water peeled away, the shimmering form of a young woman appeared. As she stepped from the water, he drew a silken cloak from under his tunic. Holding it out to his sister, he looked into her eyes for a sign of recognition, listening for something, a voice no human would understand, perhaps not even recognize as a voice, the sound of his sister speaking to him.
“Thank you, brother.” She sang her whistled reply, the beautiful sounds teetering at the very upper edge of human hearing. Recognition was there. Warmth, too.
Relief flooded his body.
His sister continued, “I had hoped your ship would arrive before it was time for me to return.” She slipped the cloak over her shoulders, shielding her body from view. “I have heard many whispers during my sojourn. Others also in c’habor-reneis’t shared their hyr’yan’t with the waters. I feared for my memories of you. C’storr, Berian, and Wolmn were present at my ceremony. Others were not, but it was you I most missed.” She reached out and touched his shoulder. “You must swim with me. Your time will be soon. Your years weigh heavily on you. I can see them in your eyes.”
With a voice as the sound of a note warbled by a bird on wing, he returned his own musical reply, “You alone lift my burden, Adhor’k. My sister.”
She began to walk along the shore. He drew near, cradling his sister’s elbow in the palm of his hand, pulling her near as he poured out the reason he had returned early.
“Our people are in danger. An Earth corporation has pointed insidious investigations our direction. I have worked many years to invalidate the reports and deflect their interest, but their suspicions will no longer be ignored.” He reached out, pausing, resting his aged hand on a large boulder blackened with eons of rising and falling tides. “I still have time before my c’habor-reneis’t.”
“And still you do not yet speak your heart. I know you, brother, perhaps better than you know yourself.”
“I have grown to love that place they call Earth. But for needing to share my concerns, I would have stayed still longer.” After a moment of pensive silence, they moved once again along the stones lining the water.
“We are all aware—and grateful—for your affection for your home-away-from-home, favored brother. How else could you bear spending so many years away?” She stopped, reaching to grasp his arm, pausing his steps, her voice suddenly hard. “But these suspicions. How can there be suspicions? They cannot know, cannot prove what we have never shared. This is our world, our way. They have all they desire and do not need anything from us.”
She released him and turned away, her lips pressed tightly together.
He knelt, caressing a smooth stone at the water’s edge. Glancing up at her, one gray eyebrow lifted, a cheerless smile at one corner of his mouth, he mused, “You do not know them, sister. They want whatever they do not have. They are a young people. Immature. Short-lived.”
“Then they should strive to improve their natures, rather than attempt to satisfy their desires with what they cannot have.” Her words were bitter.
Turning his eyes again to the stone, he spoke almost in a whisper, “Humans have one thing they do want from us. They think of incredibly long lives as being the greatest of riches in the entire galaxy. Our people will soon find that Earth-humans have grown accustomed to taking what they want, handing out payment in return if possible, violence if necessary.”
“Violence!” She spit the word with distaste, the keening of her voice splitting the sky. “We are not a violent people. We know only peace with our world and ourselves. It has been that way since the beginning of all we have known.” She knelt, her hand once more touching her brother’s arm, speaking in a sequestered confidante’s voice. “And they cannot take what we cannot give.”
“Sister. Sister. They will try. Our people must prepare. We have a little time, but that is all. A little time.”
“Se’Yan’t’s waters will soothe you, brother. True refreshing will come only in c’habor-reneis’t, but just to immerse yourself, the water-weir to refresh yourself. You must miss it with your c’habor-reneis’t so near. Come with me. Breathe the waters.”
Moving to the water’s edge, she slipped her cloak to the stones at her feet. With a pleading look in her eyes, she stepped into the sea, disappearing as he watched.
He trusted her. She had come back to him, her memories true and strong, even though he had not returned for her ceremony. And she spoke the truth. The waters would refresh him. Rising, he slipped his tunic over his head. Laying it aside, he let his breeches fall, stepping to the water’s edge. Glancing at the reflection accusing him of many years spent away, he saw the years in his gray hair, thickening middle, and mottled skin.
C’habor-reneis’t! To feel youth on his weary frame once again. To go into the sea, to swim for a year-of-months, and to absorb all that was whispered to him. C’habor-reneis’t. He knew it would be his soon enough. Time for going-and-returning would come when it came. The natural order of things could not be rushed.
He stepped ahead, his body disappearing as he slipped beneath the water’s welcoming surface. The sea seemed to rejoice as it wrapped tenuous fingers around his limbs, drawing him ever closer in its much missed embrace.