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Dolores Esteban

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  1. Dolores Esteban

    Chapter 9 - The Dawn of Day

    A moving walkway took them into the spaceport hall. A crew, maybe twenty individuals, possibly the crew of the giant ship, went to a door. They were tall beings with prolonged heads and olive skin, all dressed in navy blue space suits. One after the other went through a double door system. Each individual placed a hand on the wall before the entrance door to the cabin closed behind them. Shesha had explained the procedure to them. All space-faring crew had finger implants with their personal data saved to them. The sensor in the double door system read the data and compared it to the data sent from the ship and the data saved to the central database and other archives in space. The door on the other side of the system opened when the data matched and the individual could be identified. Security waited on the other side for the individuals who didn’t pass the identification check. This was the critical point. The humans had no finger implants. The Aryaka implants were deactivated but the finger implants could be passively read. The Aryaka, however, had no interest in the check and wanted to avoid identification. The system could be bypassed, but it was difficult and very expensive. The finger implants could be reconfigured and there was a black market for false identities that hackers had registered to the databases and archives in space. Most illegal crews, however, avoided the cost of the fraud and preferred to operate on shady planets and platforms where security controls were lax. Nahusha had bought false identities in the past when they had made plans for gaining more independence for the Aryaka space hub near the galactic center. They had been captured before using the identities because their communication lines had been overheard. The Dragon computer had saved the file with the false identities to a protected location. The Izanami squad had removed the gravitational drive from the ship, deactivated the Aryaka’s implants and cut the connections to the databases in space. The squad was efficient but not thorough enough. They had not detected and deleted the protected file from the Dragon computer. The Dragon had sent the file to the Child. The Child randomly picked three false identities from the file. It was an incalculable risk. The Aryaka had spent a few months in hibernation. The false identities could have been detected and canceled from the archives meanwhile. The Aryaka didn’t have access to the space archives without the implants and the Child’s rudimentary communication system was fragile and consuming a lot of energy. Any log-on attempts to the central database would be easily detected by Izanami. The Aryaka therefore needed temporary data cards, like the humans who didn’t have finger implants at all. They went to a manned check-in counter. Shesha had prepared six data sets and had saved them to a portable device. Eric seized the gadget firmly in one hand. He held a pile of paper, the printed cargo list, in his other. No space-faring crew printed lists in these days, but Eric was from a backwater planet and didn’t know better. That was what Nahusha had instructed him to say to the person behind the check-in counter. A yawning individual waited for them, a warm-blooded individual of Ektari origin. The Ektari rubbed his eyes tiredly. The Aryaka exchanged brief looks. Their chances of passing the identification check had increased tremendously. Eric placed the device and the pile of papers on the counter. The Ektari looked at the papers with obvious disgust. Eric talked to the spaceport employee and pointed at the gadget and the papers. The Ektari, not understanding a single word, gazed at him impatiently. Nahusha interrupted Eric, turned to the Ektari and explained the situation. He told the employee that the human crew was from a backwater world that was registered in the archives as not operating in space. He said it was the crews’ first flight to a trading place in space and he asked for patience. The humans naturally didn’t know the procedures. They had to be registered to the space archives first. Nahusha told the employee that the identification data sets were saved to the gadget Eric had placed on the counter. The papers were the printed cargo list. The Ektari sighed and looked at the papers and the device tiredly. “And what about you?” he asked Nahusha sulkily. “You can go through the security gate. Have your finger implants checked and wait for them in the front hall.” “Is this really what you want?” Nahusha asked. “They don’t speak the language and don’t know what to do. We could save you a lot of time by helping with the procedures.” The Ektari looked at the humans. Every first-time arrival from a backwater planet meant a lot of work to do. It was late at night, he was tired and he was not in the mood for long and complicated procedures. “Sure,” he said. “It’s all saved to the gadget? Does it have a wireless connection?” “Yes,” Nahusha said. “You have to run a more complex reading tool, of course. The gadget is from the backwater world.” The Ektari frowned at Eric. Eric pushed the papers to the man. “Not the papers, good man,” the Ektari said, sounding unnerved. He took the device and placed it on a crystal tile. Long minutes went by, but then the man’s eyes lit up. “Done,” he said cheerfully. “The spaceport computer has received the data sets. These backwater people are now being registered with the various databases and archives in space. The computer found the saved cargo list, too, luckily.” He pushed the papers back to Eric with an artificial smile. “You can discharge the shipment after receiving your temporary data cards. I strongly recommend you finger implants, good man.” “I’ll tell him,” Nahusha said. “Could you produce cards for me and my crew too, please?” he asked. “Why?” the Ektari asked in bewilderment. “Your data sets are good. Do you have problems with the finger implants?” “Yes,” Nahusha said. “We traveled on a ship with a crude gravitational drive. The simple ship experienced deviations in space and time, as is often the case with ships from backwater planets. The deviations had an unwanted effect on our finger implants. They must be reconfigured, I fear,” he lied. The Ektari frowned again at Eric. “Backwater species should not be permitted long-range flights and the use of gravitational drives,” he said. “Alas, I cannot change it. I’m not Izanami security.” “But you are of great help and you are handling this unpleasant situation professionally,” Nahusha said. His words produced the wanted effect. The Ektari felt flattered. He produced six data cards and handed them to Nahusha professionally, smiling a professional smile. Nahusha bowed his head politely. Eric grabbed the papers and the device from the counter and thanked the man several times. Nahusha pointed at the double door system. It had sensors for the finger implants and also a slit for the data cards. They went through the controls one after the other and then left the spaceport hall quickly. Nahusha went to a metallic pole, took a card from a pocket and pushed it into a slit. An air car arrived a few moments later, a side door slid open and the group climbed into the cab. Shesha entered the destination. “Dharana,” he said. The word sounded like a short hiss to the humans, but they understood the sound meanwhile. They were going to the Aryaka center in the heart of the continent. The car ascended into the air and then hovered above the ground and along an invisible airway. It moved through the suburbs of Patha, a large and densely populated town, and finally left the city. The car moved fast. The men saw only shadows outside, the schemes of tall trees and thick shrubs. The drive was monotonous and the scenery never changed. The humans soon fell asleep in their seats. The Aryaka took turns in watching their ride on the automated car. While one of them kept watch, the other Aryaka slept for a while. The car reached Aryaka territory at dawn and stopped near a metallic pole. It was the last stop on the way to Dharana and was located outside the city. The group climbed out and moved on by foot. They followed a road that led into a tropical forest. The thick vegetation looked grayish at twilight, but the color changed to a deep and saturated green when the sun was rising higher. They walked through thick and lush vegetation, tall trees with huge leaves, high ferns and bushes with big red, blue and yellow blossoms. Garlands of white flowers crept around the trees and the fragrance of flowers and blooms wafted through the air everywhere. Animals, some with scaly skin, others with feathers and plumes, scurried about on the ground, jumped between the bushes and flew between the trees. The men heard squeaking, croaking and cooing everywhere in the forest. The temperature was rising quickly and the men soon started to sweat and breathe heavily. The Aryaka coped better with the rising temperature. They were agile and advanced with great strides. The humans struggled to keep up with the alien crew. They entered a place. Buildings, huge step pyramids, were erected between the trees, bushes and ferns. A few pyramids looked old and decayed. The stone was crumbled and weeds and thistles grew from every crack and hole in the walls. Other pyramids were newly built. The stone blocks were smoothed and the walls were painted in bright colors, red, blue and yellow, the colors of the jungle flowers. A few small white cubes were erected between the pyramids. Their function didn’t reveal to the humans. The sight was surreal, totally unlike what the humans had expected to find. They passed a building that was currently under construction. The building blocks were clearly modules that had been produced by machines. The Aryaka stopped in front of a blue pyramid. It was the biggest pyramid of all. The sides were covered with blue scales that reflected the light. The ruby-colored top was made of a shining material. Nahusha spoke to the others, gestured at the humans, and then entered the pyramid. The Pyramid of the Elder, Shesha explained by typing a few words into the translation gadget. He handed the tablet to Eric. Nahusha was going to talk with the Elder. Eric wiped his forehead. The sun was still low, but the temperature was rising rapidly. The air was moist and hot. Vasuki leaned against a nearby tree. He closed his eyes. The morning sun was warming his face. A group of Aryaka entered the place. An Aryaka female, dressed in trousers and a loose yellow blouse, led a group of children to a green pyramid in the sun. She was beautiful in an alien way, tempting in a sense, like a siren or a mermaid. The men stared after her. The female and the children sat down on the pyramid steps and started a lively chatter. School. Warming up on the blocks, Shesha typed on the keyboard. Eric looked at the group sitting on the steps of the pyramid. The Aryaka were cold-blooded beings. The children warmed up in the sun. Nahusha returned with the Elder. The skin of the old Aryaka was of a leathery texture and brownish scales were scattered on his face and on his bald head. His almond eyes were narrowed to slits. Eric felt taken aback. The Elder actually reminded him of an old serpent god. The old Aryaka mustered him. Eric pushed his feeling aside and read the text that Shesha had typed into the gadget. The old Aryaka was the king or the mayor of the city. The translation tool underlined the word because the proper translation was unknown. The Elder’s name was Varyuka. Varyuka studied Eric long, without a sign of emotion, then made a gesture with his hand and said a few words to Nahusha. Nahusha took the translation tablet from Shesha and told Eric that the Elder invited him inside the pyramid. The Elder, Nahusha and Eric entered the building. Vasuki opened his eyes and spoke to Shesha. The two Aryaka went to the green pyramid and sat down on a step not far from the children and their teacher. They both closed their eyes. Brandon watched the female and the children. He went over too and sat down next to Vasuki. Vasuki didn’t react and Shesha opened his eyes only briefly. Dave watched them for a while but then turned away to see more of the surroundings. A smaller red pyramid attracted his attention. A sign above the entrance showed a white egg surrounded by a flower garland. Dave entered the building and stared in shock. Eggs were arranged on shelves on the walls. Each egg was warmed by a lamp above it. The room was clean and sterile. A female sat on a chair next to an egg. The egg was cracking open. The female jumped up and screamed at his sight. She hurried towards Dave, hissing at him in her language. Dave retreated and the female shoved him out of the pyramid. Shesha and Vasuki came running, followed by Brandon, the teacher and the children. Vasuki seized Dave by the shoulders, dragged him away and threw him to the ground. He shouted at Dave in rage and raised his fist for a blow. Shesha pushed Vasuki aside. The Elder hurried towards them. Nahusha and Eric followed him, both of them shouting. There was quite a commotion. Dave finally rose to his feet. The teacher and the children gazed at him with widened eyes. The other female scolded him and then went back into the red pyramid. Shesha typed into the gadget and held it in front of Eric’s eyes. Eric took a deep breath, embarrassed and not knowing how to cope with the situation. The red pyramid was the birth house where the eggs were brooded and the young ones were born. Eric explained it to Dave and Brandon. The men stared in shock. Varyuka watched the scene, then stepped forward, placed his hand on Eric’s arm and spoke to his people. The Aryaka calmed down. The female reappeared from the red pyramid, holding a bundle in her arms. Varyuka spoke to her and she came closer. She showed Eric the baby she was carrying, a small naked creature, eyes firmly closed, thin arms and legs stretched from a small body. The skin was pale and the scales were tiny. They had a faint opalescent shimmer. Eric smiled at the female. She made a step back, then turned around and went back into the birth house. “I apologize on behalf of my crew. I’m very sorry for this unpleasant situation,” Eric said and also typed the words into the gadget. Shesha read the words to the Aryaka. The Aryaka frowned at Eric but then turned away and left the place. Varyuka, Nahusha and Eric went back into the blue pyramid. Shesha and Vasuki returned to the green pyramid in the sun. Bandon and Dave sat down on a step of a small decayed pyramid that had no apparent function. They waited quietly for Eric’s return. The sun was already high when the Elder, Nahusha and Eric left the pyramid. The Aryaka left the place and Eric joined Dave and Brandon. “What did Nahusha tell the Elder and what did the old Aryaka say?” Brandon asked. “Why did it take so long anyway?” Dave added. “The talk was difficult because we had to use the translation gadget,” Eric said. “Nahusha asked for the Elder’s help. The Aryaka crew plans to fly to a space hub that is located close to the galactic center. That’s the place where they lived before they were arrested a couple of months ago.” “Criminals,” Dave snorted. “Exactly what I have thought.” “Who arrested them and why?” Brandon asked. “Nahusha didn’t go into the details,” Eric said. “There’s much we don’t know. There are many space stations close to the galactic center. The hubs are gigantic. Many are very old. The central space station is named Izanami. Earth has absolutely no idea of what’s going on in the galaxy. Earth is just a backwater planet. There are many civilizations in space, old civilizations, advanced already when the Earth was a trilobite place. I understood that several parties waged war thousands of years ago. Izanami won and now dominates the galaxy. The Aryaka are a very old species. They never really accepted Izanami’s dominion. Several Aryaka parties joined the enemy force during the war in the past. Smaller groups stand up against Izanami every so often and struggle for more independence.” “Like Nahusha and his crew?” Brandon asked. “They planned a fight for more independence but got caught early on, after leaving the hub with their ship. They were taken to the 55 Cancri system,” Eric said. “The Izanami squad threw them out on the planet. They also got rid of the Aryaka ship.” “They left them there to die on the planet? This is absolutely cruel,” Dave said in shock. “Why didn’t the Aryaka leave with their ship?” Brandon asked. “The squad removed the gravitational drive from the ship and deactivated the Aryaka’s neural implants. The Aryaka were left behind on the planet, their implants not working and their ship not capable of warp flight. That’s quite a punishment,” Eric said. “Captives are usually taken to a prison in space. The Aryaka don’t know why, or maybe they didn’t tell me why the squad threw them out on the planet.” “I see,” Brandon said “Our arrival was a stroke of luck. Our ship is equipped with a gravitational drive. It meant escape for them from the planet. That’s why they’ve captured our ship.” Eric nodded. “They want a sophisticated ship now in order to get back to their hub close to the galactic center. They asked the Elder for support. Kunjara is an Aryaka dominated planet and there are many more Aryaka outposts in space. The Elder promised to help them. He has wide-spread connections on Kunjara and in space.” “Help criminals,” Dave said, disgusted. “They don’t see it this way,” Eric said. “It’s all about balancing scales, whatever this concept really means to them. The Elder promised to help us, too. Another way of balancing scales, he said.” Dave straightened. “He’ll get a ship for us?” he asked. “He’ll help us get back to Earth?” “He promised support,” Eric said. “It could simply mean he’ll help us to start a new life on Kunjara.” Dave’s shoulders slumped. Eric rose to his feet. “We’re free to move around,” he said. “Let’s see more of this place. Tonight is special. It’s a celebration night or a holiday. The Aryaka sing the Serpent Songs.” “They sing songs?” Brandon asked. “Strange creatures. Just imagine reptile beings singing songs. Weird picture, isn’t it?” “Culture,” Eric said. “The Aryaka evolved from reptile beings. They’re an intelligent species. They know music and lore. I understood the Serpent Songs were passed down orally for thousands of years. The history of their species is recorded in the form of verse and song. The songs have long been digitized, but they still add verses to their songs.” He brushed the dust from his suit. “Humanity also descended from predators and prey. It was all about the daily struggle for survival in the beginning and it hasn’t changed much to the present day. Humanity has developed culture over thousands of years. We don’t descend from singing weasels and bush rats painting a work of art.” Eric turned around and left the place. Dave and Brandon exchanged a look. “Patience,” Brandon said. “We need to learn more. We better watch out and keep an eye on everything. It’s good we have the Elder’s support. I’m confident we’ll find a way to arrange a flight back to Earth.” ***
  2. Dolores Esteban

    Chapter 8 - The Dawn of Day

    Thank you.
  3. Dolores Esteban

    Chapter 8 - The Dawn of Day

    A long written exchange followed. Eric was exhausted when the Aryaka took him back to the cargo room. Dave and Brandon jumped to their feet when he entered. “The situation has changed,” Eric started. “Space pirates,” Dave said after Eric finished his report. “I wonder what happened to their ship. Did it crash or is take-off impossible because of a malfunction? Or did others throw them out and steal their ship?” “I don’t care who they are and what they did and how they got stranded on the planet,” Brandon said. “We better do what they want. I’m fully convinced they’ll throw us out into space if we don’t show our willingness to co-operate. What do you think, Eric? Can we trust them?” “Hard to say,” Eric replied. “Our survival depends on co-operation, but they need us, too. They spent time and effort on developing a translation tool. They’re in a predicament obviously. They could have long thrown us out into space, but they didn’t. We could try to regain control of the ship, but they won’t risk losing the ship lightly, trust me.” They talked it over and finally agreed to co-operate with the aliens. Eric rose to his feet and knocked three times at the door. The door was unlocked and slid open. Shesha waved his hand at the men and pointed down the corridor. They were free to move to their rooms in the sleeping area. The men plodded down the hallway. Vasuki and Shesha followed them but did not enter the room. “I sure need a shower,” Dave said, stripping his suit and underwear off. He threw the clothes into a waste tube and went into the adjoining bathroom. The others followed him. They stood in the shower. The smell of soap had never been so good. They went to the lounge area finally and sat down at a table. The Aryaka sat down on the other side. The two crews studied each other. Nahusha took the tablet from the table. Balancing scales, he typed. The men stared at him. Shesha seized the tablet. We believe that everything you do comes back to you one way or the other. Good and bad. Scales are balanced in the end. Eric nodded and typed. Give and take. Corrective justice. A written exchanged followed. The Aryaka introduced themselves and their plan. The Aryaka crew wanted to get hold of a sophisticated ship in order to return to their home space hub in the galactic center. The Aryaka on the planet Kunjara were supposed to help them with the ship and the humans were supposed to divert attention from the three Aryaka upon arrival at the Kunjara spaceport. The plan sounded reasonable and simple. They went into the cockpit. The Aryaka sat down in the seats at the front console. Nahusha took Eric’s seat and thus made clear who commanded the ship. The humans sat down on emergency seats in the back of the cockpit. Dave studied the displays and screens on the console but soon understood that the systems had been massively altered. Vasuki watched him with a cold stare. A feeling of rage seized Eric, who felt downgraded, but the emotion ebbed away when he focused back on the facts. Both crews were stranded in space. They had met on a foreign planet. The Aryaka captain had only done the appropriate and seized a ship to get off the planet. Eric knew he would have done the same in a hopeless situation. The Aryaka were an advanced species and the alien captain was an experienced commander, regardless his motives and his possibly dubious past. The Aryaka captain was taking his crew back home, a task Eric had yet to achieve. He changed his attitude. He could learn from the alien commander. Every new understanding would enhance their chance for a successful return to Earth. Eric grabbed a manual checklist from the console. He studied the displays and the lights on the console and tried to figure out which system parts had been changed, shut down or improved. Nahusha watched Eric and noticed the change of attitude. The human captain had not yet given up, albeit the chance of getting back home was practically zero. It deserved a little respect. Nahusha spoke to Shesha. Shesha rose from his chair. Nahusha made a gesture with his hand and invited Eric to sit down in the co-pilot’s seat. Eric, surprised, rose to his feet slowly. He sat down and studied the screen with the flight course. “No deviance from the projected course,” he said. Nahusha didn’t understand the words but grasped the meaning. He gave a nod. “How long until drop-back point?” he asked. “38 hours, 27 minutes, onboard-clock time,” Vasuki replied. “Hell, still a long way to go,” Nahusha said, leaning back in his chair. Eric resumed studying the checklist and Dave eyed Vasuki suspiciously. Brandon handed the translation tablet to Shesha. They were engaged in a written exchange of facts and views. The Aryaka instructed the men during the warp flight. The humans learned the essentials of the landing procedure and a few facts about their destination Kunjara. The USS Explorer finally reached the drop-out point. The tension in the cockpit was growing. The ship entered real space and continued its flight to Kunjara in conventional flight mode and at a reduced speed. The Child, the rudimentary copy of the Dragon computer, dimmed the light in the cockpit, turned off the lights in other parts of the ship and shut down all non-essential systems. Shesha had prepared them for it. The Child established a communication line to the spaceport by projecting virtual copies of itself through space-time, each copy on a straight line to Kunjara and each copy slightly ahead of time compared to the predecessor copy. The time differences were minimal. The Child had improved the ship’s systems and had configured new systems, too. It was based on the ship’s conventional computer, because the ship from Earth had no built-in quantum functions. The new system was nonetheless a superior system, far more advanced than any computer built on Earth. The Child was simulating a quantum computer, but unlike a quantum computer that projected copies of the entire system through space-time, the Child projected only the communication system. It was a fragile construction and needed a lot of energy, but it worked out fairly well. Kunjara spaceport answered their query from the edge of the star system with almost no time delay. “Excellent,” Nahusha said with a content look. “Vasuki, announce the ship and ask for updated maps of the system.” Vasuki announced the arrival of a Class XO cargo freighter and requested updated maps of the star system. Class XO was the denotation for a ship that had no advanced hardware and software systems. Class XO ships were rarely seen in the space sectors close to the galactic center. They were more common in the outbound regions of the galaxy where young species developed space flight and traveled to their neighboring systems where they sooner or later encountered other species. Most young species joined the trade communities at that point and soon built more capable spacecraft. Many Class XO ships had a simple gravitational drive that protruded only a weak gravitational beam. The simple warp ships were sometimes off course after drop-back into real space and hence had to update their system’s database by pulling data from an external source. More advanced ships were connected with the central Izanami computer and other major databases during the entire flight. Kunjara spaceport confirmed and opened a line to the flight information database. The Child started updating the ship’s database. The Aryaka straightened in their seats by the console and stared at the controls and screens. They had donned their helmets to study the information the Child sent to their helmet displays. The Aryaka were in combat mode, frozen in their seats, taking in and connecting bits of information, updating the bigger picture in almost no time. The process would have been even faster with the neural implants, because they would have allowed them to practically merge with the computer and process the data more directly. The implants deactivated, the helmets served as substitutes. The men watched the alien crew. The Aryaka looked vulnerable in their frozen state, easy to attack and knock down from their seats. Dave rose from his side seat, but Vasuki saw the movement out of the corner of his eye, almost subconsciously. He jerked his head and stared at Dave with a predator stare, a cold cruel look that sent shivers up the man's spine. Eric called Dave back and Dave sat down immediately. The Aryaka weren’t vulnerable in combat mode. They were dangerous, ready to stop everyone with a single blow, anyone who had the nerve to shake them out of their focused state and concentration. The Child searched the spaceport database. The database contained information about the local star system, about spaceways and flight corridors, the frequency of arrivals and the origins of incoming ships. The Aryaka learned that Kunjara had expanded its trade activities with other trading places and the central hub Izanami. The spaceport and the city, Patha, would be crowded with species from everywhere in space, from adjoining space sectors but also from far-away places in the galaxy. They had to reckon with Izanami presence at the spaceport also. It was not an ideal situation at all. The Aryaka realized that they depended on the humans more than they had thought. Nahusha snapped out of his concentration. He moved his fingers choppily and licked his lips with his split tongue. The men winced at the sight. Nahusha grabbed the translator tablet, jumped to his feet and commanded Eric to follow him into the lounge area. Vasuki and Shesha came out of their frozen state and turned to Dave and Brandon. The men leaned back against the wall and suppressed the urge to run from the cockpit. Nahusha and Eric returned to the cockpit a short while later. “He explained to me what is at stake and he told us to play along,” Eric said to Brandon and Dave, then told them in detail what Nahusha had said. The ship continued its flight to Kunjara. Kunjara spaceport finally assigned them a flight corridor. They would arrive at the planet in approximately five hours. The Child sent an image of Kunjara to the front screen. Kunjara was an Earth-like planet, a rocky planet with a gravity similar to Earth’s, a passable temperature and an air they could breathe. The planet was covered by a huge ocean. They saw two continents, close together and bridged by a landmass in the south. The poles were ice-free. The average temperature was much higher than Earth’s, about 32°C. The continents were covered by green vegetation except for the coastlines where most of the cities were built. The Aryaka prepared the ship for landing. They would do the talk, register the human crew as traders and register themselves as security crew hired on a stop-over from Earth to Kunjara. The stop-over was a minor platform located in a dwarf galaxy with a huge asteroid belt that was mined by the Kalaki species. The Child had identified Earth in the spaceport database. The space sectors and the planets were all mapped and registered. Earth was registered as planet XO-10874no, a planet in the habitable zone of its star system. It was not recommended for colonization and mining activities. No further explanation was offered. The entry into the database would be changed after the ship had landed on Kunjara. The spaceport computer would register the ship and send the updated information to the central Izanami computer. It was an automatic process. The Aryaka were confident that Izanami wouldn't pay much attention to a registry change sent from an outpost in a spiral arm of the galaxy. The Child produced a cargo list. The ship carried food, drinks, suits and equipment, the goods destined for the platform in the Kuiper belt. Vasuki sent the cargo list to Kunjara spaceport and declared the cargo bound for the community Dharana, an important Aryaka city, the place where the Elder lived. The city was located in the center of the continent. The spaceport confirmed. Kunjara spaceport asked the usual questions. So far, everything had gone according to plan. Kunjara spaceport finally sent the landing vector. The USS Explorer descended into the planet’s atmosphere. It was night time on the planet. A band of light illuminated the coastal area, the light coming from the cities built on the coast. A few light specks could be seen on the continent, Aryaka cities in the tropical forest. The ship reduced speed and descended to a lower flight level. Kunjara spaceport cleared the ship for landing. The USS Explorer began its final descent and touched down on the assigned runway in the spaceport Kunjara. The ship rolled down the runway reserved for Class XO ships and came to a halt. Kunjara spaceport contacted the ship and after a few minutes permitted the crew to leave it. The Aryaka rose to their feet and proceeded to the hatch. The humans followed them quickly. They left the ship. The air outside was moist and hot. A white light illuminated the landing place and the schemes of buildings could be seen in the distance. The place looked much like a landing place on Earth, but the difference became obvious at once. A huge ship landed. The disk-shaped vessel hovered down vertically, quietly, without a sound. A chain of lights around the hull indicated the immense size of the ship. The wheel of lights descended majestically to the ground and the giant ship touched down in the distance. Two ships took off, climbed vertically into the air and proceeded towards orbit. The men gazed after the alien ships. Kunjara spaceport was very different from any spaceport on Earth. The Aryaka moved towards the spaceport hall. The men followed suit. They reached the entrance. A door slid open and they entered a tube. ***
  4. Dolores Esteban

    Chapter 7 - The Dawn of Day

    I thought about following the events on Sin but decided against it, because the subplot wouldn't support the main story and would practically be going nowhere. I agree, however, that it would be interesting to write a side story in the same world and see how the meeting with the human crew changed the monks' life, their cult, and their society. The human crew had no time to uncover the truth that is buried in the monks' secret chamber. Maybe a plot for a sequel. Nothing decided yet, though. No work in progress. Thanks again for reading and commenting.
  5. Dolores Esteban

    Chapter 6 - The Dawn of Day

    Thanks. I've just posted the next chapter.
  6. Dolores Esteban

    Chapter 7 - The Dawn of Day

    Vasuki joined the others in the cockpit when the Dragon computer had seized full control of the ship. Many hours went by. Finally, Shesha turned to the others with a glow in his eyes. “The Dragon is implementing a copy of itself on their ship. It’s a rudimentary copy of itself, but we’ll have a highly augmented ship when we reach the drop-out point at the edge of the system.” “A rudimentary copy of the Dragon computer. Child of the Dragon,” Nahusha said pensively. “A small child,” Shesha said with a facial expression that could pass as a smile. “Anyway,” Nahusha said. “Child of the Dragon is a good line to add to the Serpent Songs.” “A title of a verse rather,” Shesha said. “I’m hungry,” Vasuki interrupted the pensive moment. He rose from his chair. “I’m looking for a food processor,” he said, walking through the cockpit door. He stopped short and turned back to the others. “What about the prisoners? They need something to eat and drink.” Nahusha made a quick gesture with his hand. “Get them some food and drink. Shesha, you’ll go with Vasuki. I don’t want the men to stage a desperate act because that’s what warm-blooded creatures love to do in complicated situations.” Vasuki and Shesha left the cockpit. Nahusha remained sitting in his chair. “Child of the Dragon,” he said. “The stars light our infinite kingdom The fire that ignites the dark Child of the Dragon Look down upon our place of refuge” Nahusha nodded contentedly and then followed the others. *** “We must regain control of the ship and fly back to Earth,” Brandon said. “We can’t go back, even if we get back control of the ship,” Dave said. “How do you think should we return to Earth? I don’t think the ship can jump into the past.” “The computer saved the route after the gravitational wave hit our ship,” Eric said. “The computer might figure out a reverse course.” “The computer is under control of the aliens,” Dave said. “We must get back control of the ship,” Brandon insisted. “How?” Dave asked. “Who are they anyway? What did they do on the planet?” “We didn’t detect any artificial signals and we didn’t detect their ship. Maybe it crashed,” Eric said. “Or others left with the ship and left the three on the planet,” Brandon suggested. “Whatever. I don’t particularly care. I want to know where they take us.” They were sitting on the floor, staring into the room. “Is there a food processor in here?” Dave asked. “We need something to drink.” “No,” Eric replied. “And neither a bathroom. Switch the suit to emergency mode. I already did so. This will solve the latter problem but not the first, I’m sorry.” “Shit happens,” Dave said drily. “True,” Brandon said, grimacing. The light in the room dimmed suddenly. The men exchanged looks. “Quiet,” Eric said. “Do you sense it, too? The ship’s accelerating.” “This means they have canceled the pre-programmed course,” Brandon said. Dave took a deep breath. “They’re damn quick. How did they do it?” “They’re far more sophisticated than we thought,” Eric said. “This is bad news,” Brandon said. “Not exactly,” Eric said thoughtfully. “I’m certain they’ll perform a space jump at the edge of the system. Maybe they know how to perform time jumps, too?” Dave and Brandon stared at Eric. “I don’t think they consider us best friends. They won’t help us,” Dave said. “We must regain control of the ship and force them to do what we want them to do,” Brandon said stubbornly. *** The Aryaka found a food processor in the lounge area, pressed random buttons and received several plates with meals and cups filled with liquids. They carried everything to a table, removed their helmets and sniffed at the food and drinks. They ate and drank what they liked and placed the other plates and cups on a tray. The Aryaka went to the captives’ room. Shesha opened the manual lock and commanded the computer to unlock the automatic lock. The door slid open. The men jumped to their feet. Dave threw himself at Vasuki. Vasuki sent the man back into the room with a single blow of his hand. Dave stumbled and fell to the floor. Brandon and Eric froze and stared at their kidnappers. Shesha placed the tray on the floor. The Aryaka left the room. The door closed and was locked once more. “Bastards!” Dave shouted, enraged. “Did you see it?” Brandon asked in shock. “Scaly skin, eyes like slits, they look like serpents in space suits.” “A reptilian species,” Eric said. He sat down on the floor and took a plate from the tray. “They have no intention to let us starve to death. This is actually good news.” “They won’t kill us as long as they think they might need us,” Dave said, seizing a cup. He emptied it in one gulp. “God-damned bastards, space pirates, serpents who have captured our ship. They’ll kill us as soon as they have figured out the computer system.” The others didn’t reply and focused on their meals instead. Two days went by. The Aryaka brought them food and drink once a day. “The computer found that a gravitational wave swept their ship through space,” Shesha said on the third day. “We’ll reach the drop-out point soon. Implementation of the Child is complete.” “What kind of gravitational wave?” Nahusha asked, turning his eyes away from a screen. “I don’t know whether it was a natural or an artificial wave,” Shesha said. “The latter most likely. It occurred in their star system and carried the ship away. The ship’s gravitational beam was weak in comparison.” “The ship can’t ride a beam?” Nahusha asked. “This is dangerous.” “The ship won’t ride a weak beam. The Dragon has improved the ship’s systems considerably,” Shesha said. “What about the hardware?” Nahusha asked. “Will it stand a far jump through space?” “It sure will,” Shesha said. “The ship jumped 4.2 standards from their star system to the Sin system in less than two minutes.” “This was a damn strong gravitational wave,” Nahusha said. “This could have been disastrous to their home system. Think of the possible time effects. When did it happen? Perhaps the ship comes from their past or their future.” “A couple of days ago, according to ship time,” Shesha said. “I can’t say how much time has passed in their star system, neither do I know if their ship moved into their past or their future. Time, by all means, is relative.” “Whatever,” Nahusha said with a dismissive gesture of his hand. “Are we able to balance time dilation or will we arrive thousands of years in Kunjara’s future? That’s not the plan.” “This was the first thing the Dragon computer implemented after seizing control of the ship,” Shesha said. “The ship will travel on a straight, flat and directed beam, space dimension only, no time side effects. The Child can handle this.” “That’s definitely the most important system improvement,” Nahusha said. “What will we do about them?” Vasuki asked, pointing down the corridor. “We better throw them out over the planet as soon as we know we’re able to land the ship.” “Yes,” Nahusha said. “That’s probably the best we can do. I’ve not been to Kunjara for a while. I don’t think things have changed a lot. Our implants don’t work, unfortunately, and we can’t do a research in the database. We’ll land the ship in Patha and move on to Dharana. We’ll talk to the Elder. I have no doubt he will help us to get a ship. Kunjara’s only loosely allied with Izanami. The planet’s a trading place, an outpost in space in the outbound regions of the galaxy. The Aryaka on Kunjara never broke with Aryaka traditions.” “Maybe they did while we were on this rotten planet,” Vasuki said. Nahusha shook his head. “Only a few months went by since the Izanami squad threw us out on the planet. I don’t expect a major change on Kunjara. What do you think?” he asked, turning to Shesha. Shesha shook his head. “There’s another problem, though. Dharana is an Aryaka place, but there are many more species operating in Patha. Kunjara’s a trading place. The spaceport will be crowded with many different species. How will we explain the simple ship? Many will think we captured it. Security controls were lax last time I was on Kunjara, but you’ll never know. The antique-looking ship will attract unwanted attention.” “Kunjara’s a trading place and we have a ship full of cargo,” Nahusha said. “Shesha’s right,” Vasuki said. “No Aryaka crew will ever fly an antique cargo freighter. We’ll never pass as traders.” There was a silence. “They are the traders and we’re security crew,” Nahusha said, jerking his head at the unpleasant thought. “No one will ask questions if we pretend we’re security crew.” “Throw them out over the planet,” Vasuki said. “That’s the simplest solution.” “But not necessarily a clever one,” Shesha said. “Kunjara’s only a stop-over for us. Our destination is the Aryaka space hub close to the galactic center. We’ll get an Aryaka ship on Kunjara and off we go. How long will it take? A day or two? We can’t afford unwanted attention.” “And how do you think you’ll get the captives to co-operate?” Vasuki asked. “They’ll try to regain control of the ship.” “They can’t,” Shesha said. “The Child won’t listen to their commands. They’re entirely dependent on us.” “We must make clear to them that co-operation is their only chance for survival,” Nahusha said. “I really don’t care if they stay on Kunjara or somehow find a way to get back to their planet. They can do whatever they want as soon as we have a new ship.” “There’s a major problem,” Vasuki said. “Communication. We can’t talk to them.” “Just a minor problem,” Shesha said. “The Dragon was able to read their system and re-configure it. The Dragon can also figure out their language. We could program a language tool.” “We’ll lose contact with the Dragon in short,” Nahusha said. “The Child is also capable of deciphering their language,” Shesha said. “Okay,” Nahusha said. “I don’t like the situation, but I’m confident we can handle it.” “Arrival at drop-out point in five minutes according to the onboard clock. That’s 2.78 SSE, small standard units,” Shesha said. “Engage the gravitational drive,” Nahusha commanded. The Aryaka turned to the console. They were meanwhile acquainted with the screens and controls. The Dragon computer had provided them with fail-safe instructions. *** The captives were staring into the room. “Can you sense it, too?” Eric asked suddenly. “The gravitational drive is engaging. I sense the typical humming of the engine room.” “Space jump,” Brandon said. “We’re going somewhere far.” “Our fate is sealed. We’ll never return to Earth,” Dave said. *** The ship traveled on a gravitational beam. The Dragon had improved the system, but the beam was still weak compared to a beam from a sophisticated Aryaka ship. The Child developed a translation tool by comparing and referencing Aryaka texts from the Dragon and texts found on the computer of the captured ship. The Aryaka had meanwhile learned that the species named itself humans. The Child started with mathematical texts, proceeded to texts about physics and chemistry, then compared other science texts and finally analyzed other recordings. It took the Child almost half a day, but it developed a suitable software in the end. Shesha installed it on a gadget they had found in the cockpit, a small tablet with a screen. Two keyboards appeared on the screen, one on top for typing the Aryaka language, one on the bottom for typing the human language. One window showed the typed text and another window showed the translation. “It would be way simpler with the implants,” Nahusha said as he studied the tool. “Our implants are deactivated and the humans don’t have implants. The Dragon computer found no communication lines from the ship’s computer to any implants of theirs,” Shesha said. “That’s an example of the difficulties you face when operating in the backwater regions of the galaxy,” Nahusha said. “It’s tiring at times. Okay, get one man out and take him to the room with the food processor. Let’s see how he reacts to this.” “Not the one shouting, hitting his fists against the door and jumping at me every time I bring the food,” Vasuki said. Nahusha was thinking. “The dark-haired,” he said. “He’s the captain. He has the look in his eyes.” The Aryaka went to the captive’s room. The door slid open and Dave jumped to his feet. Vasuki entered, shoved Dave aside and grabbed Eric by the arm. He dragged him out of the room, ignoring the men’s protests and shouting. Vasuki shoved Eric into the lounge area, pushed him on a chair and placed his hands hard on Eric’s shoulders. Eric looked wildly between the Aryaka, his heart racing fast. Nahusha and Shesha sat down. Shesha typed on the keyboard. Eric gazed at the gadget, his thoughts running wild. Shesha pushed the tablet to him. Eric stared at it, then saw the text, finally bowed forward and read it. We’re Aryaka. On way to Kunjara, a trade planet. We want to offer you a deal. Your survival depends on accepting it. Eric raised his eyes and met the aliens’ cold looks. Everything about them was alien, their bold heads with the pale scaly skin, the almond eyes that narrowed to slits, the choppy movements of their heads when a situation got challenging. He had seen the snapping of Vasuki’s head every time Dave had thrown himself at him. The alien had dealt a blow that threw Dave back into the room. And he had hissed something in an unknown language. The tone of his voice alone was threatening. Eric looked back at the text. They tried at least to talk to him. He pulled the tablet closer and studied it. Shesha pointed at the keyboard at the bottom. Eric typed. Why do you call it a deal? We don’t have a true choice. Dead or alive. Nothing in between. The Aryaka read his reply and exchanged looks. Nahusha seized the keyboard. You sure have a choice. You’ll either co-operate and survive or you don’t co-operate and we’ll throw you out over the planet Kunjara. Eric read the text. It was plain clear. He typed: What do you want? ***
  7. Dolores Esteban

    Chapter 6 - The Dawn of Day

    The monks froze and stood in shock. Another shot was fired. The monks fled from the place, many hitting their hand against their forehead and chest. Kheti and Ainesh stared into the night, shocked to the core. Dave shouted from the gate. “Brandon, Eric, I’m right here. Run.” He fired once more into the air. Brother Kheti retreated. “Too soon returned to Sin! Too soon returned to Sin!” he repeated endlessly while running to the dormitory. Ainesh clenched his teeth. “Go! Leave Sin alone,” he shouted. “You have brought disaster. Destroyer of worlds, may you be cut down to the ground!” He spat out, then turned around and entered the temple. Dave shouted again and waved a flashlight. Eric and Brandon scrambled to their feet, ran across the yard and hastened through the gate. “Run,” Dave shouted. “I parked the second car behind yours.” The men ran into the night, stumbling along the path, but they finally reached the place with the cars. Dave unlocked the car and the men climbed in. Dave switched on the lights and started the car. It disappeared into the night. “They jumped at us like madmen. They wanted to kill us,” Brandon stuttered. He turned to Dave. “Where did you come from?” he shouted. “Get a grip on yourself,” Dave said brusquely. “You ought to be grateful that I’ve rescued you.” “Sorry,” Brandon said, wiping his forehead. “It was all too much. We’ve discovered a horrible truth. And we’ve lost a car.” “The car is of no use to them,” Eric said. “They’ll probably get it and stow it away in their secret chamber.” He told Dave of their meeting with the monks, the secret room with the items on the tables, the paintings on the walls and the suit with the NASA logo. “The gravitational wave must have swept the ship into the future,” he said. “Oh my god,” Dave said in shock. The men fell silent. Dave steered the car and focused ahead. *** Vaajat stood by the gate and watched the disappearing lights of the car. He could barely breathe and a terrible fear seized his mind and his heart. He held the flashlight Brandon had lost. Vaajat had picked it up from the ground after the fight. The High Priest had ordered to kill the men. What plans did the High Priest have for him? Vaajat let out a sob and then he ran again from monastery. He ran from horror and madness, from men and events he didn’t understand, and from an awful truth that was rooted in the past, that cast a shadow over Sin and had made the monks act like madmen. Vaajat ran to find safety and shelter at home, at his parent’s farm in the north of Sin. *** The men reached the rocky plain. It was dark and dawn was still far. Dave unlocked the ship. The ramp descended. Dave drove the car up. The men went into the cockpit and sat down in their seats. The hatch of the ship was closing. “Time to go,” Eric said. “Ascent to orbit. At once.” *** The Aryaka arrived at the ancient airport shortly after the men. “Vasuki, up the hull,” Nahusha commanded when they saw the men entering their primitive ship. The Aryaka ran along the runway at an incredible speed. Vasuki shouted a command to his combat suit unit and then made a gigantic leap. His boots switched to mag-lock mode and kept him on the hull. Vasuki proceeded to the hatch. Nahusha and Shesha followed suit. They positioned on either side of the hatch. Shesha pointed the portable device at the hull. The tool jammed the electronic locking mechanism. The hatch stopped opening. Vasuki and Nahusha squeezed through the gap. Shesha followed at once. Every movement of their bodies was fluent. The hibernation sleep had done no harm to them. They were already on their way to the cockpit when the humans realized the cause of the ear-deafening alarm ringing in the cockpit. “The hatch stopped closing,” Dave exclaimed. “What, why?” Eric asked, turning to a monitoring screen. They turned abruptly at the noise of feet in the corridor. The Aryaka stormed into the cockpit and jumped at them. Vasuki sent Dave to the floor with a single blow of his hand. Brandon jumped at Vasuki, fighting the fight of the desperate. Eric stood frozen for a split-second, but then turned to the console and reached his hand out to a button. Nahusha was at him at once. He pulled Eric away from the console and threw him out of the cockpit and into the corridor. The physical strength of the Aryaka was way superior to that of the men. Shesha flung himself into a chair and bowed over the console. It had been easy to hack into the drone and pull the data from the simple ship, but quickly grasping the alien console was a nearly impossible task. The alarm ringing in the cockpit was deafening to his ears. A message was blinking aggressively on a screen. Shesha stared at the alien words, looked over the controls and then hit a button under a blinking light on the console. The alarm stopped and the blinking message on the screen was replaced by other messages that followed each other in quick succession. Shesha turned back to the others. The men were lying on the floor, semi-conscious. Vasuki stood over them, a weapon in his hand. “I’m going to the engine room,” Nahusha said. The Aryaka almost lost balance. Only their mag-lock boots kept them on their feet when the ship’s engine came on and the ship started rolling down the runway. The hatch had closed after Shesha had hit the button and the ship had started the pre-programmed course for take-off and climb to orbit. The Aryaka flung themselves into the cockpit chairs. “Cancel take-off,” Nahusha shouted. Vasuki and Shesha desperately tried to grasp the console. The ship left the ground and rose into the air. The speed was steadily increasing. The humans clung to handholds in the corridor. Dave struggled to get into the cockpit, but Eric and Brandon were too numb to act. The ship reached the upper layers of the atmosphere and continued its ascent to orbit. Nahusha saw Dave creeping over the floor. He jumped up and threw Dave back into the corridor. Nahusha turned to Shesha and Vasuki. “I feel sorry for leaving the Dragon behind, but we can as well leave with their ship. Kunjara’s not far from here, in the adjoining sector, 150 light years from here, not even a day-trip with the Dragon. It will take longer with their ship, but it should work out, I’m sure,” he said. “The ship follows a pre-programmed course, probably to the edge of the system. We must find out how to engage the gravitational drive. The ship’s currently flying through real space with a chemical engine. The speed is low,” Vasuki said, pointing at a monitoring screen. The screen showed the planet falling back behind the ship. Nahusha moved his fingers choppily. They had finally left the rotten planet. They were on board of a ship and soon would traverse interstellar space. He was back in command mode, although the new dragon days began on a ship fit for scrap. “We’re still connected with the Dragon,” Shesha said. “We have a direct command line through the helmets, and the Dragon computer is connected through the drone with their ship. The drone is still active. It wasn’t shut down after it entered the ship. The Dragon computer pulled data from their ship. We could reverse the process and have the Dragon computer feed the computer of this ship.” “Excellent idea,” Nahusha said. “It would be easier with the implants, but it should work out anyway,” Shesha said. The squad had not only removed the gravitational drive from the Dragon but had also deactivated their brain implants. The implants would have allowed a more immediate connection with the Dragon computer. The Aryaka, like most species operating in space, had brain implants that augmented their brain’s activities. The implants were also connected to many space archives and databases through the space crease communication system that was based on the gravitational technology and allowed transmissions in space without major delay. Grasping the controls of the foreign ship would have been easy with the implants and the practically endless data resources. Without the implants, the three Aryaka depended on their natural traits, cold focused thinking, intuitive understanding of complex patterns, quick reflexes and fail-safe instincts. “The Dragon computer is way superior to theirs. It should manage to take over their system and re-configure the essential parts without difficulties. We have to hurry, though. We can’t use a space crease communication line. This ship has no such communication system. The Dragon computer pulled the data conventionally and it will feed the ship through a conventional line. This means the signals are getting more and more delayed as the ship proceeds to the edge of the system.” “Go for it. Start the process at once,” Nahusha said, jumping to his feet. He pointed at the men in the corridor. “Vasuki, let’s lock them up somewhere.” Vasuki rose to his feet and pulled a small device from a pocket. He placed it on each man’s forehead and the men passed out at once. Nahusha and Vasuki dragged the bodies down the corridor. Shesha connected to the Dragon computer and focused on the commands. The Aryaka found a small cargo room that could be manually locked from the outside. Boxes were stored inside. The Aryaka threw the crests into the corridor and dragged the men into the room. They searched their suits and took all items and devices, then left the room and locked the door. Vasuki positioned by the door and Nahusha went to search the engine room. “Antique equipment,” he said when he returned to the cockpit. “The Dragon computer is gradually taking over the systems,” Shesha informed him. “It already controls the life support system. The oxygen level is lowering and the temperature in the cockpit is rising,” “Very good,” Nahusha said. “I don’t want to fall into semi-hibernation state.” The Aryaka, like all reptilian species, performed best at high temperatures. They were not necessarily dependent on the cabin temperature as their suits balanced the temperature by pulling energy from the surrounding air. The suits functioned well and would do so for many more months, but proper oxygen and temperature in the cockpit would save them their own resources. The light in the cabin became dimmer. A few screens went out. “The Dragon controls the electric circuit,” Shesha said. “It’s shutting down systems that are not essential. It has also identified the ship’s destination, a planet in a star system in the adjoining sector, 4.2 standards away.” “In the direction of Kunjara?” Nahusha asked. “No,” Shesha said. “A different star system.” The Dragon computer sent messages to Shesha’s helmet displays. They came in quick succession. The Dragon computer made progress at an incredible speed. “Done,” Shesha said. “The Dragon canceled the ship’s pre-programmed course and programmed a course to our destination Kunjara. The Dragon computer is currently establishing a line to the gravitational drive. We’ll lose connection with the Dragon as soon as we engage the drive and drop out of real space. After drop-back into real space, we must handle this ship without the support of the Dragon computer.” “We’ll engage the gravitational drive at the edge of the system,” Nahusha said. “Thus, we gain time to grasp their console and the Dragon can help in the process. I’m confident we can land the ship on Kunjara. Should any problems occur, we’ll force the crew to land their ship.” The Aryaka focused on the console. They were in combat. Reptilian species were superior in combat and war. Implants and other artificial body improvements augmented their natural skills. They were practically invincible with the proper equipment, sophisticated ships with quantum computers, gravitational drives and highly advanced weapon systems. The Aryaka could stay in hibernation for long periods of time. They were the perfect crew for long-range trips into deep space. They were vulnerable, however, when the temperature system of their ship or suits failed. It happened rarely since their ships and suits had several backup systems. The Aryaka had refined their systems and taken them to perfection over thousands of years operating in space. Nahusha and Vasuki sat frozen in their chairs. They sensed nothing, not a hint of emotion. The pattern became readable while they focused and stared and the bigger picture of the command and flight controls emerged. The Dragon computer helped to identify the proper buttons. *** The men finally regained consciousness. They woke up in a dimly lit room. Only a blue emergency light was on. The men looked around, feeling disoriented. But then the memories came flooding back. Dave jumped to his feet and ran to the door. “Locked,” he shouted. “Bastards! They’ve locked us up in a cargo room.” “They took our devices,” Brandon said, searching the pockets of his suits. The others searched their pockets, too. “The bastards have captured our ship!” Dave shouted and hit his fist against the door. “Open that door, you god-damned bastards.” “At least we know now who they are. Space pirates who lost their ship,” Brandon said. “They can’t go anywhere. The ship’s on a pre-programmed course to Earth,” Dave said. He let out a breath. “I have no doubt they’ll change the course,” Eric said. “They didn’t kill us, just knocked us out,” Brandon said. “They think they might need us for whatever task.” “Only until they know how to fly the ship,” Dave said resignedly. “We’re practically dead. That’s what I know.” “They will open the door sooner or later,” Eric said. “We must prepare for it. Let’s think it over. What do we know?” “Three,” Dave said. “Three individuals entered the ship. I’m sure that one of them is the one we saw on the roof of the spaceport hall.” “Human-like body plan,” Brandon said. “Adapted to the gravity of the planet. Maybe not adapted to the contents of the air. They wore helmets.” “Immense physical skills,” Eric said. “Remember how the one we saw jumped from the roof. And they knocked us out with a blow of the hand. They’re physically superior.” “Or are adequately equipped,” Brandon said. “How did they get up the hull of the ship and through the hatch? How can they jump so high and so far?” “Suits,” Eric said. “They wear suits and helmets, just like we do. They’re space crew, I guess. They wanted the ship. They have a destination in mind, an alien planet, whatever. A place in space, a place they know.” “Most likely a place where other aliens are, a more advanced place than the decaying planet they left,” Brandon said. He leaned his head against the wall. “We know now at least that space is a populated place and has already been in the past. The ancient spaceport on the planet. Someone was there ages ago.” “We know very well who built the spaceport,” Eric said. “This planet was a human colony. The gravitational wave swept us into the future.” “Yes,” Brandon said. “The NASA logo on the old suit was practically identical with the one on our suits. They must have sent a ship to 55 Cancri not long after our ship was lost in space.” “But what happened?” Dave asked. “Why did they give up on the colony and leave the colonists to themselves?” “I have no idea,” Eric said. “A conflict between the colonists and Earth?” “When did they establish the colony?” Brandon asked. “This would give us a hint as to how many years we have jumped into the future.” “Hard to say,” Eric said. “The artifacts looked old but well-preserved. Decades to centuries? I don’t think thousands of years.” Brandon nodded. “How fast will an advanced civilization drop back to a primitive stage? I was under the impression they had no clear picture of their past. I didn’t understand them. Their language sounded to me like, I don’t know, a crude variant of French? Or an odd mixture of English and French maybe?” “What good is this talk?” Dave asked, unnerved. “Do you realize what happened? Our ship was captured by aliens. It’s on way to some unknown place in space.” ***
  8. Dolores Esteban

    Chapter 5 - The Dawn of Day

    The Aryaka were an old species. They were among the first species that had evolved in the star systems close to the galactic center, more than four billion years ago when these systems were young and the galaxy small. They ruled over twelve star systems and 127 planets. They had explored even more. The Aryaka had never shied away from deep space travels. They were a reptilian species and could spend long times in hibernation. Sophisticated technologies, implants and nano treatments had vastly increased their lifespans and they had long solved the mysteries of space-time. The Aryaka had developed the warp drive, the gravitational drive that made faster than light travel possible and had long perfected the technologies. Their ships had been the best and they had reached regions of space far away from the galactic center. Time went by, eons passed. The star systems close to the galactic center aged, their suns grew old, expanded and finally destroyed the planets. Many suns exploded and others turned into red dwarfs. It was the age of doom when many species died and many worlds went down. A few civilizations survived by building gigantic space stations where entire populations migrated to. Others left the galactic center region and moved farther away, settled on young planets that had formed in the outbound regions of the galaxy. Izanami was the central space station, the undisputed power of the galaxy. The entire galaxy was being watched and monitored by Izanami. Any upcoming threats were immediately stopped, the criminals were taken to a prison in space or sometimes banished to a place in the galaxy far away from the galactic center. Banished to a far-away place but not thrown out on a rotten planet in a spiral arm of the galaxy, Nahusha thought. How long had they spent in hibernation? A couple of months. It felt only like a day or two, luckily. Shesha snapped his head. “The Dragon computer detected a programmed take-off sequence. They’re preparing the ship for take-off. The ship might launch to orbit anytime soon,” he said in alarm. “They didn’t shut down the drone for whatever reason. We’ll lose connection to their ship once the drone is shut down.” “That’s not going to happen,” Nahusha exclaimed, jumping from his chair. He started for the exit of the ship. “Combat mode. We’re entering their ship,” he ordered. Shesha and Vasuki followed him. Shesha took a portable device from the console. The Aryaka donned their helmets and left the ship. It would be a tough walk trough the nightly rainforest. *** Dave was in the cockpit, his eyes fixed on the monitoring screens. An hour went by. Neither Eric nor Brandon contacted him. Dave grew increasingly restless and he had a sense of foreboding. This was not how a scouting mission was supposed to be. The situation was getting out of control. Dave tried to contact Eric and Brandon, but none of the men replied. Dave followed his gut feeling. He donned his suit and helmet, opened the hatch of the ship and let the second ground car, originally bound for the platform in the Kuiper belt, down. He locked the ship and entered the coordinates Eric had sent him. A map on a screen showed the route from the spaceport to the monastery. Dave steered the car cautiously across the sand dam and then switched the car to automatic drive mode. The car proceeded quickly despite the difficult terrain and disappeared into the night. The USS Explorer was left behind, on full alert but without a crew. *** All eyes turned to the Eric and Brandon when they entered the yard. The monks were staring at them with widened eyes. When the initial shock subsided, they fled, hitting a hand against their forehead and chest. Ainesh stepped out of the temple building. He stared at the group, his eyes and lips narrowed. Brother Kheti hurried to him and talked to the High Priest, pointing at Vaajat and the humans. Finally, Kheti waved his hand and shouted a few words to the novice. Vaajat moved towards him and the humans followed. Ainesh turned around abruptly and went inside. They all entered the building. It smelled of old stone. Kheti led them down a dimly lit hallway. They entered the assembly hall where the nightly ritual had taken place. The room was lit by several torch lights. Brother Kheti locked the door and then pointed at the stone benches. Vaajat sat down in the first row. Brandon and Eric sat down beside him. Ainesh was standing by the altar, his eyes fixed on the novice. Vaajat shifted uncomfortably. “How art thou fallen, shining one, son of dawn, star of the morning. Too soon returned to Sin!” Ainesh said. Vaajat protested. Ainesh silenced him with a wave of his hand. He turned to Brother Kheti. The elder monk talked long, gesturing and pointing at Vaajat and the humans. Ainesh looked at the strangers and ordered Vaajat to rise to his feet. Vaajat was afraid. He pointed at his forehead, told Ainesh of the accident and the events that had led to it. Eric and Brandon watched silently, not understanding, only guessing from the looks and gestures what was being said. The hall reminded Eric of an old Roman church and the men looked like monks. Was it just coincidence? Eric told himself that he must not conclude their thoughts from their gestures and looks. Those people looked human-like, but they were aliens who had evolved on a different planet than Earth. Vaajat sat down. Ainesh looked at the humans. Minutes went by before the High Priest spoke again. “It happened in great antiquity. Let me show you, so you understand,” he said. Brother Kheti jumped to his feet. He made an inviting gesture to the men. Vaajat stood also Ainesh moved to a side door, took a torch from the wall and left the room. Kheti and Vaajat followed him quickly. Brandon and Eric exchanged a look but then left the room, too. They went down a narrow hallway. The corridor led downwards and the air was getting crisp. A waft of fresh air suddenly filled the hallway. The High Priest had opened a door. Ainesh put the torch into a metal ring on the wall. The room was semi-dark, but suddenly a bluish light came on. It came from a lamp on a table in the center of the room. Eric took a breath. “An electric lamp,” he said in disbelief. Kheti lowered his head as if in prayer and Vaajat approached the lamp cautiously. His trust in Ainesh and the priests had returned. The light was truly a thing of magic and Ainesh was the master of it. The priests were not guardians of madness but guardians of wonders unseen and unheard of on Sin. Vaajat looked at Ainesh in awe. He bowed his head. “Imagine a being so vast and powerful, it could snuff out our sun as you would a candle between your fingers. Such beings exist. If the splendor of thousands of suns were to blaze forth all at once in the sky, even that would not resemble the splendor of that exalted being,” he said under his breath. “I’m not this being. I’m just a worm,” Ainesh said, casting Vaajat a bitter look. Vaajat looked bewildered at the man. Brother Kheti placed his hand on Vaajat’s shoulder. “All at a time,” he said in a low voice. “I have seen the wonder of the lamp and I have seen more wonders in the room, but I have not seen all of them. Ainesh will open the last door now. It is opened usually only once for the High Priest, on his appointment day. Ainesh will make an exception because the circle has closed.” Vaajat cast Kheti a questioning look. Brother Kheti smiled encouragingly. “The Transit,” he said. “The journey that the elders told us of. Sin was the end of their journey, but the starting point of the journey is unknown. It happened in great antiquity, but our visitors may know.” Vaajat looked at Brandon and Eric. Kheti patted his shoulder. Ainesh took the blue lamp from the table and opened the last door. “The sun will be dark when it rises and the moon will not shed its light,” he said. He turned back to the others. “But maybe the time of the light has come and light will illuminate the darkness.” The room was dimly lit by the torchlight but, once their eyes had adjusted, they saw items on tables and painted pictures on the walls. “Artifacts,” Brandon said. “Artifacts of an advanced civilization. Look, this is a sheathed cable and here, a gadget with buttons on it.” “This could be a watch. And here, look,” Eric said, pointing at a plate embedded in a bigger object. He reached out his hand and touched it. “A screen.” There were more items, clearly artificial, built by creatures with an advanced technological knowledge. “What do you think?” Brandon asked. “Are they the descendants of an advanced civilization that went down a long time ago?” “I don’t know,” Eric said. “It’s hard to tell how old these items are. They’re aged but otherwise look well-preserved. The air is dry in here. They could lie here for decades or even centuries.” “The population is small,” Brandon said. “They could be the only survivors of a catastrophe. Think of the ancient spaceport. Someone built it a long time ago.” “But otherwise we have not detected any signs of a civilization, no ruins, no big roads,” Eric said. He turned to the paintings. Brandon joined him and took a flashlight from his belt. He switched it on without a thought. The natives let out surprised cries. Brandon turned to them and made a calming gesture. He pointed at the lamp in Ainesh’s hand and then to the flashlight. Ainesh held up the lamp and nodded. “Strange pictographs,” Eric said. “A mixture of crude paintings and modern looking maps.” The third pictograph from the left showed a map of a star system. A yellow big dot was in the center. Nine circles were drawn around it, each with a white spot. The sixth dot was marked with a cross. A small red dot was painted on the right. “The 55 Cancri star system,” Eric said. “How do they know?” “The first image shows a yellow sun and nine circles. No red sun,” Brandon said. “A different star system?” “Maybe,” Eric replied. “Look at the second picture. Is this a bird or a flying vehicle?” Ainesh stepped forward. He pointed at the first and the third pictograph and then spread his arms as if imitating a bird. “I think he wants to tell us that a spaceship flew to the 55 Cancri system,” Eric said. Brandon glanced at him. “Do you think their ancestors established a colony on the planet?” “This is exactly what we plan to do. Someone else could have had the same thought,” Eric said. They moved closer to the next sequence of pictures. The images showed figures working above and under the ground. Others stood by a vehicle. The wheels were drawn distinctly. “Mining activities,” Brandon said. The following pictures showed people building houses, people exploring the rainforest, people celebrating and many more activities. “The artifacts on the table tell of an advanced civilization,” Eric said. “They came from a different star system. They established a colony here. The pictures, except the first ones, tell of a more primitive civilization. I think the colonists dropped from an advanced level to a more primitive state.” “But they remember their origin,” Brandon said. “I doubt they have a true understanding of their origin, however. The artifacts became holy objects. They have built a cult around it. Why did he take us here?” “We’re visitors from space,” Eric said. “We remind them of their origin. We’re living proof of their myths. We have traveled through space.” He pointed at a table. “What’s this? It looks like a space suit.” The men went to the table. “It looks very similar to the suits we’re wearing. Amazing,” Brandon said. He bowed forward and froze. Brandon pointed at a logo. “Look,” he said under his breath. Eric stepped closer. “Oh, my god,” he whispered. The logo was a blue circle with a spaceship orbiting a yellow planet. The word NASA was written on it in white letters. The men exchanged a look. “How can it be?” Eric whispered. Ainesh joined them. He pointed at the logo on the artifact and the identical logo on Eric’s suit. Then he mustered the men with a grave look. “What does he want?” Brandon asked in confusion. “I have no idea. I don’t understand a thing,” Eric said. “This suit is old, very old. How can it be? When did they send a spaceship here?” He fell silent. Brandon gazed at the artifact suit. Ainesh stared at them and crossed his arms in front of his chest. Kheti and Vaajat watched the scene in bewilderment. “Time effect,” Brandon said finally. “The gravitational wave that hit our ship. It carried the ship to the 55 Cancri system and into the future.” “For heaven’s sake,” Eric said. Ainesh suddenly rose a doom-filled voice. “It happened in great antiquity That their ship set ashore On innocent Sin Their ship touched down on Sin’s shore It happened in great antiquity That the lords sailed the heavenly seas The vast and wide deep The lords crossed the expanse of the deep It happened in great antiquity That the lords descended to Sin The crown of heaven The lords descended the crown to Sin It happened in great antiquity That the lords built their house on Sin The House of the Lords God’s dwelling on untouched Sin” “What does he want?” Brandon asked with a desperate undertone. “He sounds enraged. Why?” “Whatever happened, it happened a long time ago,” Eric said. “We’ve jumped into the future, but the monk doesn’t know. A human colony was erected here long ago. The ancient spaceport was built by humans. They must have left the colony to itself at some point, long ago, for whatever reason. The civilization here dropped back to a primitive state. The monks know. They know that their ancestors were abandoned by a more advanced civilization. The colonists were left to their fate.” “We are proof to him that this advanced civilization still exists, prospers and is much better off than theirs,” Brandon said. “Now that they have gotten hold of us, they can finally make their demands.” “Back to the car,” Eric said. His eyes met Ainesh’s. Eric was sure they had the same unpleasant thought. Ainesh pointed at the door. Brother Kheti opened it. Vaajat left the room. Eric and Brandon followed him. Kheti and Ainesh stayed behind. Eric and Brandon heard their clipped talk. “Let’s get out of here,” Eric said. The men ran down the corridor to the assembly hall, crossed it hastily and hurried along the hallway to the temple exit. Vaajat ran after them. Ainesh bellowed a command. Brother Kheti tore open a narrow side door and hastened up a steep corridor. The men stepped outside and looked around in the night, searching the gate of the monastery. They ran towards it, but a horde of black figures threw themselves at them, shouting, kicking and hitting them with shovels and pitchforks. Brother Kheti watched the scene from the distance, breathing heavily after his sprint through the steep corridor, a shortcut, an exit path in times of emergency. The exit wasn’t far from the dormitory where the priests and novices had retreated to after their encounter with the alien visitors, the evil lords, the destroyer of worlds, the lords who had left behind the Sin people in ancient times, the destroyers of the early Sin civilization. “Bind them. Lock them up in the cattle shed,” Kheti shouted. Eric and Brandon struggled, but the monks overwhelmed them. The men were struck down on the ground. Ainesh joined Kheti. “Shining morning star, how you have fallen from heaven! In the darkest of the nights you fell,” he said in a spiteful voice. “You destroyer of nations, you have been cut down to the ground,” Kheti said, gloating. “We will praise another glorious morning. Dawn is near, ending the rule of the fallen one,” Ainesh said, rubbing his hands with satisfaction. The monks set to bind the men’s hands and feet. They stopped any protests and shouts with a slap in the face. Vaajat watched the scene helplessly. He had overheard Ainesh and Kheti’s talk. Vaajat felt their words were a lie. He felt a different truth in his heart. The shot of a gun silenced them all. ***
  9. Dolores Esteban

    Chapter 4 - The Dawn of Day

    That's true. The story is more on the soft side of the science fiction category with elements of fantasy, myths and lore.
  10. Dolores Esteban

    Chapter 1 - The Dawn of Day

    Thanks for reading. I didn' know PERN. It sounds interesting.
  11. Dolores Esteban

    Chapter 4 - The Dawn of Day

    I'm happy you like the story. Many thanks for reading.
  12. Dolores Esteban

    Chapter 4 - The Dawn of Day

    Right. The humans most likely have no idea of what they will have to deal with soon. Thanks again for reading and commenting.
  13. Dolores Esteban

    Chapter 4 - The Dawn of Day

    Nahusha was sitting in the commander’s chair. He looked at the screen that showed the alien ship in the spaceport. It was a primitive ship, by far not matching their own ship that sat on the ground in the jungle, concealed by the leaves of huge trees. The Aryaka ship suffered a malfunction, a failure with the warp drive. Everything else was intact, computer, hardware, shields, reconnaissance and weapon systems, and the hibernation chambers of course. The Aryaka ship was equipped with a conventional chemical drive that usually served as an auxiliary drive. The ship didn’t need a runway for ascent to orbit. The ship’s lasers would burn the trees away and the ship would then take off from the ground and rise vertically into the air. The chemical fuel was limited, however. How far would they get with a ship in emergency mode? Certainly not to the Aryaka space station that was located close to the galactic center. They were nearly 25,000 light years away from the space hub in an outbound region of the galaxy, on a rotten planet in a spiral arm. The squad had thrown them out on the planet and had left them an Aryaka battleship Class 1 Dragon without a gravitational drive. This was actually the worst about the situation. The Aryaka had retreated to the cold sleep chambers. They could spend a long time in hibernation, decades and even centuries. It was in their genes. They were a reptilian species. The alarm had woken them from their sleep. The computer had raised the temperature in the hibernation chambers when the ship’s sensors detected the alien ship descending into the atmosphere and landing in the ancient spaceport. Nahusha leaned back in his chair and wiped his smooth and scaly forehead. The alien ship was primitive. It looked like an antique, but the ship’s signature had revealed that the otherwise simple ship was equipped with a gravitational drive. It was simply perfect. Vasuki returned. He flung himself in a chair and took off his helmet. “They saw me,” he said. “They should find the way here. Did you watch them on the screen? A species adapted to gravity. Two legs, two arms, head on top. They’re from a rocky planet for sure. Where did they come from? There was no advanced civilization registered in the central database in this sector of space at the time they brought us here.” “I’m sure they’re from a planet in a neighboring system,” Nahusha said. “They built a ship with a gravitational drive. It’s a crude drive, but we can implement it into our ship and then we’ll leave this god-damned planet. We’ll fly to a better place in space.” “Did they leave their ship?” Vasuki asked. “No, they’re still on the ship,” Shesha replied. “They’re warm-blooded creatures for sure,” Vasuki said with a shrug. “Hiding, huddling together until they have figured out a plan. Wait and see what happens. I’m sure they’ll soon leave their ship to investigate. It will be easy to capture their ship.” Vasuki half-closed his almond eyes and sat motionless in his chair. He jerked his head when Shesha spoke up. “They sent up a reconnaissance drone,” Shesha said. “I managed to hack into it. We now have a connection from our computer to theirs through the drone. The Dragon computer is pulling data from their computer. It should be done before they even begin to bother about the possibility.” “What can you say already?” Nahusha asked. “A simple ship. Simple construction of hardware and software, but everything works fine. You can’t get far with the simple ship, but you can certainly do a short interstellar trip. The shields are weak and don’t guarantee the ship can hold a tight gravitational beam in vortex situations, clashing of a gravitational wave and such, but that’s not a problem at all. We only want their gravitational drive. Implementation of their drive into the Dragon should pose no problem, although we must bridge the drive to our computer with a virtual copy of their engine system. I’m confident everything will work out and we’ll soon leave the planet,” Shesha said. Nahusha licked his lips with his slightly split tongue. “I am a dragon Majestic and glorious Oblivious to the world below” He recited a verse from the Serpent Songs. Then he rose to his feet. “Day of the Dragon,” he said. “The Rainbow Serpent darts beyond the clouds The serpent speaks the echo of the deep Golden scales are lighting ancient skies A crown of gold is dancing in the sky Sacred passage of the Dragon” Vasuki and Shesha bowed their heads respectfully. *** Vaajat looked into the eyes of the stranger. They were blue and looked warmly at him. The man talked to him in an unknown language. Vaajat didn’t understand the words, but the tone of his voice was soothing him. He gave up his resistance and started to sob. The man placed a hand on his cheek. Vaajat stared back at him. Eric took a plastic bottle from a pocket and removed the cap. He held the bottle to Vaajat’s mouth. Vaajat sniffed and recognized the smell of water. He took a sip and then emptied the bottle. Eric connected to Dave. “Listen,” he said. “We can’t leave him here. He suffered a laceration. I think he’s from one of the villages in the north. He won’t make it back there on his own. I’ll send Brandon to get the ground car. You’ll stay on the ship. Lock it. Full alert mode. We’ll be back as soon as we can. We’ll stay connected with the ship.” Vaajat started to sweat. His head hurt terribly. “He needs antibiotics,” Brandon said when he returned with the ground car. “I hesitate to give him one of our pills. They could have serious side effects. We’ll better get him to his people,” Eric said. He turned away and helped Vaajat up. Brandon opened the door of the car and they helped Vaajat on the back seat. Vaajat stared out of the window, feverish and scared. “He came in contact with Earth’s microbes. We don’t know how it will affect him,” Brandon said, pulling pills from a pocket. “Take one,” he said. “We’ve come in contact with their microbes, too. Those pills were made for the case.” “Getting out without helmets. We acted like idiots,” Eric said. “True. Too late anyway,” Brandon replied. He nodded at the car. “Let’s get him back. He needs proper treatment.” The men climbed into the car. Eric steered it. The car crossed the sand dam at the side of the runway effortlessly. “I saw a path farther up,” Brandon said. “I suppose he came from there.” The car crossed the rocky plain and drove along the path through the sand field. Brandon stopped the car and pointed at a metal pole with a sign. The men climbed out. Vaajat watched them with feverish eyes. “I would say it means ‘access denied’. Too bad we can’t talk with him,” Eric said with a nod at the car. “Let’s move on,” Eric said. “Let’s send up a drone. It can fly ahead and scan the way.” “Good idea,” Brandon replied. He opened a hatch of the car, took out a small device and activated it. A minute later, the drone was up and flew to the north. The road got better. Grass fields and trees now seamed the way. The drone sent images to a screen in the car. The fields were empty and the path was deserted. A few animals scurried about, but the men didn’t have an eye for them. They reached a crossroad finally. One path led north and a smaller path led west. “Straight on, I’d say,” Brandon said. Vaajat protested when the car moved on. He pointed wildly to the west. “This way,” Eric said. “Do we have images of the area?” “Yes,” Brandon said and switched on a screen. He pulled up the images they had taken during the flight. “That’s the best image we have, but the drone will soon send better ones.” They looked at the image. The main path led to a village farther north. It was far away, perhaps a three hours drive. The path to the west ended at the edge of the image. “Does he really want to go there?” Brandon asked doubtfully. “I guess so,” Eric said, turning his head to Vaajat. The young man leaned forward and gazed at the screens. “Sit back,” Eric said, making a gesture. Vaajat stared but then leaned back. “All right then,” Eric said, turning the car and reprogramming the drone. They stopped twenty minutes later. The drone hat sent images of buildings. “What’s this?” Eric asked. “A large compound, definitely not a village.” “A castle, a fortress,” Eric wondered. “A churchyard, a cloister maybe.” He pointed at the image. “There. People.” Vaajat leaned forward and stared at the image. This was the monastery seen from above. It was a map like the ones the priests used in classes, although the priests’ maps were drawn with ink while the men’s map looked far more real. “That’s the monastery of the Order of the Light,” Vaajat said excitedly. “I must speak to Ainesh at once. He’s the High Priest, supreme to all others. I must tell him that everything he said is totally real, except perhaps that I don’t find you’re evil lords. Despite the fire in the sky.” Vaajat leaned back. Eric and Brandon exchanged a look. “This was a long talk. The first words he said to us. Too bad, we don’t understand him,” Brandon said. “I think he recognized the facility,” Eric said. “We must proceed with caution.” Brandon nodded. He steered the car from the path and behind thick bushes. Vaajat protested and tried in vain to get out of the car. Tears welled up in his eyes, but then he leaned back and fell silent. His head hurt so badly and now it hurt even more. “We could just let him go. They won’t believe what he says. He’s totally feverish, hallucinating. We’ll be long back at the ship before anybody goes looking for us, if at all,” Eric said. It was too late, however. An elder man came through the bushes, lifted his robe, but immediately dropped it at the sight of the vehicle. His eyes and mouth opened wide, his face paled, and he looked as if he had seen a great horror. But then he got a grip on himself. He hit a flat hand three times against his forehead and three times against his chest, and then he raised his hands up in the air and his eyes to the sky. He started a wailing song. Vaajat leaned forward. He recognized the song and the voice. “Bright star, would I be steadfast as thou art Thy black is fairest in my judgment’s place Thou art the fairest and most precious jewel Too soon returned to Sin! Where flowers and weeds at will may grow For dust thou art and unto dust thou shalt return Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines Look thou no further, but affix thine eye The world keep watching with eternal lids apart Too soon returned to Sin! Too soon returned to Sin! Too soon returned to Sin!” The man fell to his knees and placed his forehead on the ground. “Brother Kheti, Brother Kheti,” Vaajat cried repeatedly. He hit his fists against the window pane. “The man can’t hear him,” Brandon said. “The outbound channel’s closed.” “He recognized the man,” Eric said. “This means we’re in the right place.” A minute went by. “Let him out,” Brandon said. “They’ll either run and we’ll leave, or they’ll come here and we’ll make contact. Let it happen. I have no better idea.” “All right then,” Eric replied. He reached out and pressed a button. The rear door opened. Vaajat stared, turned his head to the men in the front and then jumped out of the car. He hastened to the elder man on his knees, shouting excitedly. Brother Kheti raised his head, cautiously. He jumped to his feet when he recognized Vaajat and began scolding the young novice who had run from the monastery while the others had been working hard. Brother Kheti fell silent when he glimpsed the car once more. He made a step back and stared at Vaajat in horror. Vaajat talked to him incessantly. Brother Kheti seemed not to listen until he spotted Vaajat’s blood-smeared forehead. He stepped closer and spoke a few words. Vaajat stopped talking. Brother Kheti examined the injury, then pulled a small vessel from a pocket of his robe and poured a liquid on Vaajat’s forehead. “Oh my god. What did he do?” Eric said, startled. “He may know a remedy that works better than our antibiotics,” Eric said, shrugging. “Hell, what do we know?” Brother Kheti listened attentively now. Every so often, he glanced at the car, each time hitting his hand three times against his forehead. Curiosity, however, finally got the better of him and he slowly followed Vaajat to the car. Brother Kheti stopped at some distance while Vaajat pressed his face against a side window. Brandon pressed a button. The front doors of the car slid open and Brandon and Eric got off the car. They looked at the native who looked astonishingly like an old monk on Earth, perhaps of Tibetan origin. Vaajat talked again to the elder man. The monk silenced him with a wave of his hand. He stepped forward, clearly fighting his urge to run and stopped in front of Eric and Brandon. He gazed at the men. Long minutes went by. The men didn’t move while Brother Kheti’s piercing eyes studied their faces. Suddenly, Kheti reached out and touched Eric’s face and then the sleeves of his suit. Finally, he made a step back and wiped sweat from his forehead. He talked to Vaajat, poured more liquid on the young man’s forehead, and then turned back to Brandon and Eric, talking rapidly and waving his arms. Vaajat pointed at the monastery walls. “I think they want us to come,” Eric said. He made a few steps in the direction. Kheti nodded repeatedly with a broad smile. He pulled a small fruit from a pocket and handed it to Eric, all the while pointing at his mouth with the other hand. Eric took a bite since it seemed the proper thing to do. The fruit tasted of melon. Vaajat dragged on Brother Kheti’s hand. The natives moved towards the monastery walls. Brandon locked the car and activated a self-defense mechanism. Anybody who touched the car would sense a tingle that was strong enough to scare away any curious monk. Brandon took a gadget from his belt, entered a code and ordered the drone back to the car. Eric connected to the ship and Dave answered at once. Eric reported the events and sent Dave the coordinates of the monastery. He told him he would contact him every full hour. Dave confirmed. They ended their talk and Eric turned back to the others. The natives were standing by the gate. They were watching the men. Brother Kheti mustered Eric suspiciously but then opened the wings of the gate. Eric and Brandon exchanged a look and then approached the gate. They entered the monastery compound. ***
  14. Dolores Esteban

    Chapter 3 - The Dawn of Day

    We'll learn more about the natives and the aliens in the upcoming chapters. Thanks for your interest in the story.
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