Friday, July 17, 2009

Excerpt From Rainbow's Start

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
The week that Ron learned to walk without falling, the family seemed to fall totally apart. Mr. Brown packed a bag and left. Mrs. Brown stayed in her bedroom crying for the first three days. Ron disappeared; a policeman ported him home after Molly had searched for him as much as she could and still attend school. He reeked of pot and had needle marks on both arms. Si and Rur called Brit. They discussed his somnolent condition in hushed Elshar whispers Molly didn’t understand.
“That’s the last straw. They’re all going back to Servants Unlimited!”
Molly stared at her mother. “Mom, you can’t! I mean, Ron needs help—”
“I didn’t agree to house drug addicts—”
“Mrs. Brown,” one of the officers said loudly, “Ron didn’t use the drugs willingly. His terminal verified that he wasn’t guilty; that’s why we didn’t take him to jail and just brought him home to his healers. He didn’t understand what they were going to do to him. You need to supervise him more cl—”
“I need to send him back, and that’s precisely what I’m going to do now.” And Mrs. Brown called Servants Unlimited for a pick-up.
Immediately, six strong men in Servants Unlimited T-shirts picked up sleeping Ron, crying Fubret, Cachar, Hin Tu, Kida, and Los Fa. They disappeared through a portal.
Molly went to her room.
Brit whooshed through a portal. She sat on Molly’s bed and put a hand on the wobbling red curls.
“Oh, Brit! My life’s over!”
“You are almost sixteen—”
“So what? What happens to our ‘students’ now? Will Ron be okay with all those drugs in him? He won’t even have a healer, will he?” She sobbed wildly for a few minutes, then quieted to hear Brit’s sigh.
With a voice thin in her grief, she spoke very softly. “They will be sent into the Siva. One of the depositories for broken slaves. They bring little trade, but are used for growing organs to be harvested and implanted in others.”
Molly snapped her head up. “Hades! They’ll be used for spare parts?” She imagined screams of pain.
“No, no, no, they are not tortured. Given pleasurable substances so that their minds are not with their bodies. So organs removed are grown again.” She looked down. “Living death. I know it is necessary, but I loved these. I hoped they could be spared—”
“What if I bought them? Brit, what if I bought their freedom? What would I have to do to earn trade? And, how much trade would it take? You said they weren’t worth much—”
She frowned in thought. “I have nothing to trade; Elshars have nothing. But, Earthans. You could trade your experiences, poetry, artworks, almost anything creative! Earthans are new in the trading circle. Many are interested in you. I can help you trade—”
“Then let’s start!” Molly gave Brit her homework, past assignments, her large poetry database she had written, a lot of artwork she’d created in her account, even her old kindergarten pictures. And she began writing the stories of the slaves and her parents’ possible divorce, changing all the names. Brit traded far into the night. By morning, but long before her mother woke up, Molly had become fairly prosperous.
Brit woke Molly. “You have trade balance. What do you wish to do with it?” Her eyes turned light, and she smiled.
“Let’s buy freedom for all six of my students—”
“You have barely enough to do this, but where shall they live? Who shall take care of them? You are fifteen years old with no legal rights in your country. You cannot buy property or hire caretakers. Or support them. Perhaps you could buy them, then sell them to someone in another place.”
They contacted Adopt-A-Slave and Servants Unlimited. Neither would conduct business with a minor. Yet, Molly had more trading freedoms than Brit, because Brit was still a slave with pending free status.
Molly began to see how trading worked, so while Brit tried to find a benefactor in some of the healing colonies, Molly tried simply to buy the slaves from the trader Servants Unlimited sold them to. She was successful. Earth did not need to be involved. It was far less than Brit thought.
“How will you take custody of them? The ship is in transit. The next port is Questalod.” The man looked old and blank.
“Let me contact Questalod—”
“Then I will null the trade. Without custody, the titles are null.”
“No! Wait! I’ll port over to the ship and take custody myself.”
“You must have passage to Questalod. Threetrade more.”
“Okay, threetrade on the table. I’ll be there in a few minutes.”
“You must hurry. If you die in the portal, I collect your slaves.” The man suddenly smiled a toothless and wicked-looking smile. His holo faded.
Brit stared at Molly with dark eyes. “What have you done? You cannot port onto a moving ship! What if you slam into a wall or step out too far and enter airless space?”
She took a deep breath. “I didn’t have time to do anything else. I’ve gotta do it. If I die trying, well, it was nice knowing you, Brit. Six lives against one.”
“Wait! Let me speak to people at Adopt-A-Slave. Perhaps I know someone who helps you.” Brit talked to holo after holo until a pleasant purple man appeared before them. Like Fubret. Down to his blonde curls.
“I’m Tim, Thordes Embassy Liaison For Slave Rescue. Are you packed, Molly?” She wasn’t, so he compacted her entire bedroom, sans walls and furniture, into a silvery coin, an Alliance terminal. Then he ported her into the ship.
4. Ship To Ilhanhsa
Molly stepped out of the swirling green of the dimportal into a large open space. Everywhere, people laid close together, some crawled, some walked, a few fought! People as far as Molly could see. Above them, around the gray, featureless hull of the ship, a striped walkway ringed upwards, shadowed by crowded feet. She imagined that the FourSquare Mall, largest mall ever built, would fit inside the space.
She spotted Ron lying in Fubret’s arms with the others. Ron did not move, and Fubret cried, his blonde curls lurching with every sob. When she moved to take a step, her body moved slowly; almost fell over other slaves on her awkward way towards her group. Three steps later, she crouched beside them.
“Fubret, I’m here! How’s Ron?”
All of them crowded about her and touched him. His blue eyes opened, deep blue, and he gasped. “Molly!”
“Ron, you talked! Do you know any English?”
He cried briefly, then fell asleep again. Molly called Brit. “What do I do now?”
“There is probably a healer on the ship. If you can find one in your trading, you might be able to buy one. Remember, buy slaves, do not free them, that you might bring others with you. Think ahead; you must find place on Questalod or another safe place, and you must have some help to accomplish this. For immediate safety, find a group of zheien—the ones like Hin Tu and Kida. Look not for orange or greenish skin. Look for wide, flat fingers and toes with calm dispositions.” Molly giggled. ‘Toes with calm dispositions’?
It did not take Molly much exploring to find fighting slaves; or a group of zheien peacefully holding one another. Their faces reflected apathy, fear, pain, fatigue.
Two Elshars had a zheien between them, shoving him around and laughing at him when he fell. Molly didn’t think in her anger. She grabbed the zheien, who fainted in her arms. Lucky for the low gravity on the ship! Molly took a second to cover the zheien’s ears. Then she yelled at the Elshars to get away. They laughed. They stared at her green eyes and red hair! But, before they tried to threaten her, guards heard her shouts and took them away.
Carefully, she helped the dazed zheien onto his feet and took him to the zheien group she’d spotted. Laid him in the lap of a man who eagerly reached for him. Then, she sang healing to him as Brit had taught her. She didn’t know much to do for him, but many of the zheien gathered around her and hugged her when she finished. The man lay unconscious in the older man’s lap.
Painstakingly, she used gestures to indicate she had others with her and wanted to bring them. When she got up, five zheien went with her and helped her move her group to theirs. After they settled in, she counted seventy-six zheien. Opened her terminal and did a little trading with her databases she traded with Brit. They traded again to different markets. She found the zheien’s holos in the ship’s databases and bought them all. It surprised her how little trade it took to do this! A lot less than she paid for the original six.
Then, one of them put a wizened, shriveled man beside her. “I can speak to you,” he said in a language half-telepathic and half-English. His red-gold eyes watched her as she gently touched the heads of her friends.
“Great! This is Fubret, he’s Thordes; that’s Ron, the yellow Elshar, and he needs a healer—”
“I am a healer.” The man put a bony two-fingered hand gently on Ron’s forehead. “I am Forsay.”
Molly giggled again at the man’s name, then straightened up. “Ron’s been given drugs by somebody —he didn’t do it himself—”
“Drugs? Intoxicants?”
“What’re intox-intoc—”
“Intoxicants are substances that mar the thinking. People take them, then crave them and become irresponsible.” Forsay’s red-gold eyes filled with tears. “This one suffers much before we heal him. I fear he may always crave intoxicants; he has taken them many years.”
“Years? How do you know that?”
Forsay lifted Molly’s small hand and put it on Ron’s forehead. He smiled in his somnolence. “Do you use colors, sounds, or sensations in your healing?”
Molly shrugged. “I dunno. Brit didn’t have time to teach me much. She told me to send a little energy where it wanted to go.”
“For Elshars, Thordes, and hmas, a little energy is well. But, for zheien, a little energy can do great harm! Learn of me. I use colors for unwells that I find. A healer must see the points of well persons to learn what is well and what is unwell. For now, since we have no well Elshars, I use you. Feel your points through my eyes; hmas points are similar to Elshar.” Forsay gently took Molly’s other hand and put it on his forehead. “Feel the energy so you will know where to put your eight fingers. Since you have ten, your thumbs can feel two extra points; sometimes useful. Points are where vital functions come close to the surface of the head.”
“But, you don’t have eight fingers—”
“Eae, I have two. But, each of my four fingers has two corners; I bend the corners to touch eight points—”
“I feel your fingers!” Molly laughed. “I see green spots.”
“This is well! Color will be your marker. Green is your color for normal functions. When you see other colors, there is healing to ply.”
“Ply?” Molly thought of the thickness of toilet paper. Forsay laughed softly. “Your random thoughts amuse me!
I like you, Molly.” Through the afternoon, Forsay taught eager Molly the nine sets of hmas points, the nine sets of Elshar points, the eight sets of Thordes points, and the nine sets of zheien points.
“But, novas, Forsay! Everybody’s got rainbows in their heads! How’re we going to heal all of them? I’m exhausted now just learning all this stuff!” Molly blew a strand of her curly red hair out of her eye, and it floated lazily up. “And, I thought low gravity would make me a supergirl or something. I think I’m more tired ‘cause I have to move so slow.”
Forsay laughed again. “Molly, we have time to ply our healing. I will teach you, and you can teach others what they can learn. We heal each other. But, exhausted healers do no well. If you learn none else of me today, learn to rest when you tire. If not, you can damage yourself and heal nae more!”
Both of them took a nap.

Molly woke up when she felt the breeze from passing slaves. A mass migration!
“The food is out. Our group is too slow to get enough food,” sighed Forsay.
“I’m quick! What can you eat? Breads?”
“Breads, and certain fruits. Be careful, Molly. Many of the slaves with mind injuries are violent.”
She ran with the flow of bodies. Soon she came to a large oval on the floor filled with foods! Some of the slaves hovered over their favorites and dared anyone to take any; she easily reached around them and grabbed armfuls. Quickly, she ran back to the group, tossed food into zheien’s laps, then went back. Trip after trip she took breads, fruits, and then tried to get a variety of little dishes of jellies, puddings, meats, and vegetables. She also noticed that most of the rest of the ship were zheien.
When she brought a dish of what looked like black pudding among other things, Fubret stared at it.
“Want that, Fubret? Here you go.” She gave it to him. He quickly scraped it into his mouth with a finger.
“How did you know to bring him tesfa? Thordes must have it once a season or die!” Forsay patted Molly’s hand.
“Is there anything else somebody needs bad?”
“Sit and eat, Child! Let me guide you. That is Svecha. Let Hin Tu and Kida share that with Los Fa; zheien and xchou share some common ancestry and Svecha is a rare treat for them. You already gave dishes to the others. Wonder be! How did you bring so much food for us? We feast this meal!” He eagerly bit into a blue bread.
“Easy! Mean slaves try to hog all of one thing. I take a little here, and a little there.” Molly licked the piece of meat and dropped it in her lap. “Disgusting! That’s spoiled!”
Forsay sighed. “I cannot advise you of animal products; we cannot digest them. You will need such or suffer malnutrition.”
“I’ll try this.” She held up a cube of something dense and brown. It tasted good, and was probably some kind of meat. Another thing might have been a boiled egg. Some of the vegetables were pleasant. Some were nasty.
Slaves soon came to scavenge, and one snatched the ‘spoiled’ drumstick-shaped piece of meat. But, most of the zheien ate all they wanted and gladly shared their leftovers with the greedy Elshars.
Ron woke up enough to eat. Then got violently ill; a guard came, vaporized the mess with a golden ball, then put a thin, golden tube about an inch long between Ron’s lips. The Elshar gagged for a few seconds, then started to pull the tube out. The guard slapped his hand. Ron cried.
Forsay put his thin fingers on Ron’s forehead. “Leave the tube, my son. I am most sorry that it causes discomfort, but it will give you water.”
Ron nodded sluggishly and passed out.
“That thing gives him water? How?”
“It takes moisture from the air and brings it inward. Also, we can give him food through it if needed; if food does not stay, the tube makes it stay. Tubes are well when there is no healing.”
Molly put her hand on Ron’s yellow forehead. “I’m ready to do some healing.”
“Now I teach you how to decide who needs healing most. See Ron’s sleep? We are able to wake him. So, in sleeping he will heal himself somewhat.
“Come with me to Kassa. She cannot wake. If we fail, she dies in the night. Now that I have you, perhaps she will live until tomorrow.” A man picked Forsay up; Molly followed to the back of the group. Her group whimpered behind her.
“I’ll be back in a min!” She waved to them and flashed a big smile. Some of them calmed.
Kassa lay in the lap of a very sad-looking green man. His pale blue eyes poured tears.
“This is Mor. Kassa is his wife; she was harmed by men in the group next us two days past. She had incomplete regen. Tonight, when Mor put food on Kassa’s aandat, it did nae absorb. And so, she is our most unwell.”
“How did you know—”
“Some of us have telepathy intact. Do you nae feel our minds?”
Molly listened, then shook her head.
“I will teach you. First, put your hands on Kassa.”
“Ow! She really hurts!”
“Can you bear her pain? I have nae time to teach you the levels of telepathy, to protect yourself—”
“I can do it.” They put their hands on her head and sang. Forsay sang something that sounded like major scales. Molly sang “500 Miles Away From Home”. Molly finished long after Forsay.
Forsay stared down at his hands.
“Did I do something wrong?”
Forsay burst into tears. “Child, today I call you Sister, for your skills are great! Look! Kassa wakes!”
The small, green woman opened her eyes. Light blue, like Mor’s. Her husband wept. But, he smiled at her. They suddenly moved closer and Molly felt pure joy from their minds! They hugged her, they hugged Forsay, and then it seemed that all the zheien were hugging everybody.
“Forsay, let’s help somebody else! I’m still fulla energy!”
“Molly, you amaze!”
“No, I’m ‘unsinkable’. The Unsinkable Molly Brown!”
Many of the zheien near them laughed.

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