Monday, July 20, 2009
4th Volume in Home Is Series Adia accompanies Ryonne~ on a dangerous mission which changes their lives forever. Yet, Adia's Gifts bring them through slavers, insanity, and a change of occupation. Because of her Gifts, Emperor Ry'nao asks for the new Ye~ Unwell Colony, and his new Ennead spreads the New Healing through thirteen needy galaxies. With some very unlikely members. 590 pp. 153,429 Words . $9.99 Rated PG Young Adult (Kindle Edition - Jul 20, 2009)
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Adia shared the memory of their Esteerr experiences:
We arrived, our greeting speech was wellreceived, and we even made it through the food rituals without incident. I thought the treaty would be signed before sunset.
The gigantic trees hung over the spacious plaza and shaded us from the tropical heat. A strong breeze always blew from the lake nearby, so I stayed comfortable, but Ryee found the humidity difficult. Not high enough to hinder him much, but it did seem to fatigue him.
We sat at a massive stone table laden with many different Esteerrian foods. There were at least twenty Esteerrians seated with us, and at the head of the long table sat King Lyyyrah, engaged in conversation with Ryee. I could follow it, since there was little or no voicing. What was important to them were the rate of lip motions, not the sounds that came out. And since I was female, the only female at table, I was not expected to do anything but 'listen' to my husband's conversation.
A welcome respite; I did not feel too badly, now that I had eaten the pink gel Bohzhee. I saw no sign that Ryee felt badly at all; but I knew he must be miserable and wished to help him.
"Now we go on to the Yaht," Lyyyrah said excitedly.
"To the Yaht!" signed Ryee. I was so proud of him. My husband, at his diplomatic best.
At this Father smiled. "I was wrong to worry about his skills. My bae performed as skillfully as our missions together."
Adia smiled also, but seemed to hide something as she continued her memory-sharing:
A dimportal led to a silver eggshaped craft, just big enough for the three of us to sit nearly lying down. The King entered first, then I was motioned inside, then Ryee 'scrunched' in, as you would say, Laura, beside me. If we had been Esteerrian, only two would have fit.
"Ryee, my friend, I enjoy your presence here. Have you the treaties drawn up?"
"I have, Lyyyrah, my friend. Shall we sign them after this respite?"
"We shall see. First I will have a test of your capacity to enjoy life. On with the Yaht!"
Suddenly, my head felt as if it stretched beyond my toes. I saw that the men on either side of me were totally unconscious; I worried that I would not be able to rouse Ryee. It took all I could do to keep my eyes open.
Then an explosion ripped through the hull! I saw blue flames and felt impact.
I opened my eyes in near darkness. As I groped beside me, I felt the leathery skin of King Lyyyrah, and a wetness that did not seem normal. On the other side, lying across my legs, I barely made out Ryee's still form. I tried to sit up, but pain stopped me. My hand brushed against the back of Ryee's head, and I felt a warm stickiness. Yeff blood. Fear gripped me; this was the worst location in the Eighth Galaxy for an injury of any kind.
There was nothing I could do; I could not move, so I tried to just slip into RG.
We all cried, as Adia continued sharing. She and Ahstam cried, too.
I woke, fully alert and long before limit. Ryee lay in RG, so I looked over to King Lyyyrah. I did not know enough of Esteerrian physiology to know if he was well, but I put my hand on the space between his eyes with hope that was near his brain. I felt pain and regen activity. I decided to leave him alone as well.
A split along the side of the Yaht let the sun and humidity in, and I saw the irregular bubbled metal signature of a dissolution weapon. I wondered if Lyyyrah had enemies.
Father turned pale. "You ne knew of Esteerr's tumultuous governmental history? My bae should have told you of it—"
"He saved the historicals until after we learned the language and enjoyed a little of the festivals; there was so little time, and communication so laborious, he could only make sure of my knowing how to act at table. Not his fault; had I my hearing or telepathic ability, he would have told me of it." She sighed. Father also.
Ryee reached limit, so I tried to give him some energy. To my surprise, I opened the flow slightly, but I could not augment his RG enough to give full alertness. Not a full regen. He ordered the King to be transferred somewhere via the terminal in his pocket, and opened a dimportal for us to go back to our ship, explaining laboriously what he attempted in Esteerrian for my benefit. He moved very slowly, and with much effort, so I am sure he was not able to tell me much.
When we stepped onto the ship, he nearly fainted! I saw him giving commands to the server, and felt the lurch as we hastily took off. I saw a sudden look of alarm flash on Ryee's face, a sudden flurry of activity between him and the server. I could tell he sent an emergency message home because a holo appeared of us briefly. He fought to stay conscious; I helped him sit down and tried to use healing, but it did not seem to help.
The lights dimmed and we both hit the floor as sparks bounced around the ship and it jostled as if a giant shook it.
All became still, except for the flickering lights from a few dimming sparks. I sat up quickly, and looked at the console. It sagged in the middle; the heat from the overload melted it. We must have been attacked by the King's forces, I thought. I could not feel the engines, and the floor cooled under us. Ryee's lips moved, but his eyes remained closed. Soon he lay completely still, in RG again. His injuries made a full regen impossible the first time—too severe—a second this soon endangered him greatly. I tried again to give him energy, but I could not hold the flow open.
"Were you telepathic again? After your RG?" I couldn’t wait any longer.
Adia frowned. "Not very; I could only send small amounts of energy, not thought. So frustrating!"
I felt a small lurch, and the small vibration accompanying it told me another ship pulled us along. The light from the sparks ended, and we lay in total darkness. Panic welled inside me as I tried to anticipate what would happen to us. From Ryee’s pocket, I got his herb terminal. Put 5 leaves of nesfa and a sprinkle of tesfa je over his tongue. It absorbed slowly. I feared to touch my husband much while in RG, but I held ea fae under his nose and spread it on the back of his head. Such feeble healing! My love stayed in regen so I put ea fae on every bruise. Found them by light touch, where his skin had more heat, or if I felt the sticky blood. Hoped if I saved his capacity for serious injuries, it might make a difference.
Our captors delayed boarding for hours; Ryee reached limit next to me on the floor. The cold now made my poor husband shiver, and I alternated massaging Ryee's limbs and holding him close to my body so that I could keep him warm. No way to tell if awareness of me existed in the dark. I used much ea fae on him. Gave him nesfa.
Suddenly, a dimportal opened and green light flooded our ship. Two beings stepped through, an Esteerrian, and a man of a species I had never seen. Tall, impossibly slender, with bluish skin and blue eyes with three pupils that converged in the center of each eye. As he looked at me, the three pupils stretched out to slits, and he reached for me with a hand like mine that clamped around my upper arm.
"This one is Areonian, and that one is Yeff." The Esteerrian signed as the other easily lifted me off the floor with one cold hand. I stood up, and he felt my arms and legs. He did not seem to care that I held Ryee’s red herb terminal.
He let go of me, and lifted Ryee, who could not find his feet. He held him up by right shoulder with his left hand, and quickly slapped the back of Ryee's head with the other. I grimaced. Ryee straightened and his legs stiffened. The memory came to me of Yeff brains and the increased activity effect of injured cells. Whoever this man was, he knew something of Yeff physiology. He felt Ryee's arms and legs, briefly put his hand on Ryee's forehead, then let him go. I tried to catch Ryee as he fell painfully against the wall, and the being slapped me, knocked me backwards.
Ryee attacked the man and pulled him down. In the scuffle, the bluish one drew a weapon and put it to Ryee's temple.
No light emitted from the discharge, so I knew it must be some sort of magneticshift weapon. Very dangerous for a Yeff, especially when already injured. Ryee dropped immediately to the floor as if dead.
"Eja ne!" Jo cried, and I held him tightly.
Adia wanted to speak, but rushed through the rest of this memory. We knew she would reveal how bad Ryee was, and all of us tried to be patient. Tears streamed down all our faces.
I stayed motionless, sitting about three meters from Ryee's head. Perhaps if I held still they would leave Ryee alone, if he yet lived.
The Esteerrian argued with the other man. I could not decipher what he had to say, but I could understand one side of the conversation:
"I did not know he was unable to work. But you can get him the healers; Yeff make good slaves, they are very strong."
This man was a Slave Trader! But I had thought they only worked the Sixth Galaxy—we were in the Eighth, much closer to home.
"Yes, the other one is not much better, but I take less trade."
The man still did not look happy.
"All right, the ship as well. With repairs, it will serve many years."
They both left once more. I scrambled to Ryee's side, took him into my arms with care. Somehow, the server sparked to limited life. I imagined the slave trader from his ship made some temporary repairs; I hoped he would set the environment warm enough for Ryee.
The lights came up, and I saw Ryee's eyes stare up at me. They were black, completely black! He did not move; at first I thought he must be dead, and I started to cry. But, one of my tears fell on his face, and it absorbed into his skin, so I knew he lived.
Quickly I made sure no more tears fell on him, until I saw him draw a shallow breath. I felt his arm, and it still bore the imprints of the being's hand. He needed water! I rubbed his hand on my face, watched him again. He moved his head slightly. After a few more tears, I saw the imprints begin to fade. I kept giving him my tears until I saw no more improvement.
His skin was cold, and the temperature of the air no longer increased that I could tell. I massaged his limbs until I grew too tired, then pulled him into my lap. He yet stared before him, and did not react. The weapon bruised the side of his head badly, very swollen. The back of his head swelled also, but not as the side. I tried to find points of contact and heal him, at least slightly. I could not do much, but the swelling lessened, the discolorations lightened. His eyes worried me; one pupil grew larger than the other, and I knew that was not well from Laura's teachings. Quickly, I gave 5 more leaves of nesfa.
I rose and studied the server; I tried to communicate with it in Esteerrian, something I had not done. Apparently Ryee programmed it to accept Esteerrian commands, because I was able to create a hologram. I quickly sent it, on a not readily detected frequency and in diplomat's secured mode. Hopefully, it would reach home and we could expect help; I knew the chances of it even reaching the Areon Hub were slim if this species knew of our technology.
Father sobbed. "It ne reached us, and we ne recovered it from the server. We were only able to repair a few files, among them Ryee's first message."
I could do nothing else useful; the server had just enough energy for limited environmental control. I could not access the databases, navigation, locator service, or even fabricate food or water.
At length, I finally gave up and sat by Ryee. When I took his arm to massage it, he turned his head towards me and his eyes searched for me. He swallowed the nesfa.
"Ryee," I began in Yeff, "Are you well?" Unthinking; so many times I had tried Yeff before and he could not understand. And, I knew he could not be well, so badly injured.
He slowly moved his head from side to side, closed his eyelids, opened them. He understood!
"Are you cold?" I knew that he was, but I wished to make sure he could understand.
He nodded, expressionless, as if in a dream. His eyes wandered in slight movement, and did not work together.
"Does what I do help?"
Again, a slight nodding. I would have massaged his limbs until my arms broke if it would give him comfort. I put his arm down and massaged his leg, which cramped from the cold.
"Are you in pain?"
His head moved to the side and back towards me.
"I will move to your other side now." I rubbed his other arm. "Can you speak to me?"
He opened his mouth, but after a moment, he moved his head sideways as it dropped stiffly open. "Just as well, I could not have heard you." Ryee tightened his grip on my arm as I finished massaging his.
"What is it, Love? Have I hurt you?"
Sideways motion told me no. His face did not move, but his fingers clenched and unclenched around my wrist.
"Was it what I said?"
"When I said I could not hear?"
"I was thoughtless to bother you with asking if you could speak. I cannot hear anything. I was poisoned before we left for this mission." Tears came to his eyes, and they wandered back to me several times; he frowned.
He released my arm, and I lifted his other leg. "I am well, so do not worry. Let me warm your leg, and then I will hold you, to try to keep you warm. Ryee, can you rest, can you sleep?"
He turned his head away from me. It was an effort for him to return it.
"I need to stop asking you questions. It is safe for you to rest; I will be here with you, I will not leave you." With care, I gathered him in my arms. He was limp, but his eyes were still open as I carefully turned his head towards me. He tried to focus on my face, and then his arm tensed. I took his hand, and he squeezed mine, ever so slightly. His eyes drifted, and he lifted his hand weakly so I took it for him up to my face. He felt my hair and closed his fingers about a curl or two, and a faint smile came to him. I held him more closely, and his eyes slowly closed, the smile still on his face as he completely relaxed. I used much tesfa je, and he did not react to the bitter taste. Then, I gave him a nash lozenge. Perhaps candy has a few calories for my husband. I ate one also, since he had many. I pulled a large bag of them from his alt storage and poured them on his aandat. Wished I could bring food from it! When I put a few on mine, I felt cold. They will run stasis on us.
A rough kick in the back of my leg awakened me. Quickly, I sat up, and found myself looking in the eyes of that being who had injured Ryee. I did not find Ryee’s herb terminal in my hand!
He jerked me to my feet. Another man, dressed in Tessite, gently helped Ryee to stand. Never had I seen Tessite except in small amounts on the uniform of the Emperor: Yet here was a being dressed in a tunic and pants made of WOVEN Tessite. He looked Zheien, but his color was greenish-white. A thin man. If he had been Yeff, he could not have been well.
It amazed me that Ryee could stand, in his condition, but then I realized it must be exposure to the Tessite.
Not much time to notice Ryee. Other beings dressed in Tessite came and stripped our clothing off. To my surprise, they dressed us also in the same woven Tessite tunics and pants. It did not make sense; they then put heavy chains of ship’s metal on our ankles. Could Tessite be a common mineral here?
Our captors pushed us quickly out into the light, and as my eyes adjusted, I saw that we were herded up a ramp with many other species onto a raised platform. Many of the species of Ryee's attacker awaited us, armed and watching from in front of the platform, which stretched out as far as I could see in front of a barren, orange, rocky landscape. I could not see far to the horizon for a brownish haze. The air seemed dry here, but at least, warm. A single yellow sun shone dim in the dingy orangish-brown sky, not very bright, and low. Sunrise or sunset?
When we reached the platform, the other slaves who led us took places beside us and stood at attention with their hands behind them. One being looked at me with a frown, apparently shouting, pointing from the slave nearest me to me. But the Zheien slave touched my arm gently and put my hand on Ryee. The guard apparently wanted him to get in line like the others, and Ryee could not stand without help. His knees trembled, and I feared he was to have a seizure. I quickly lowered him to the floor of the black stone platform. It reminded me of D'gharr; I hoped Ryee would not notice.
I could not be sure Ryee's condition allowed him to notice his surroundings. His limbs jerked irregularly, and his color paled even more. Orange eyes stared. I held his head so that it would not hit the stone flooring. His eyes turned completely black again, the pupils so dilated they showed none of the familiar golden color. The slave who had helped Ryee stood beside us, at attention, but watched with a worried expression. The guard who had scolded him ignored us. I thought, surely he knew we were in no condition to try to escape or attack; exhaustion, and heat took all my strength.
Slowly, Ryee became limp, and with one final tremor, collapsed in my arms, staring upwards. I caressed his face gently. His eyes appeared strange. As I studied them, I realized the white area of his eyes was also larger—his lids sagged away from them to reveal more. What sign was this? Surely he was injured even more severely than when Eriganh attacked him so savagely with the force of his mind! Even when he lay comatose for fifteen days, he did not look as frighteningly deathlike! The Zheien slave touched my arm, spoke to me.
"I cannot hear, my ears do not function." He jumped, and I saw the guard point at him. Quickly, he took his place at attention once more. As I turned my attention back to Ryee, I vaguely noticed that a crowd gathered in front of our long platform.
When I looked down at Ryee, his unwilling eyes flitted on me, yet would not stay. "Lie still, Love. You are injured, you must rest."
He lifted his trembling hand, so I pulled it gently up to my face. When it touched my hair, he stopped struggling. I leaned closer, so that he could hold some of it without having to reach. He smiled, weakly. It seemed strange that he could find comfort by touching my hair, but I was glad that something of me could help him for the moment. He closed his eyes and seemingly fell asleep.
I wished to sleep as well, but could not lie down without disturbing Ryee, so I just closed my eyes for a time.
Awareness came to me that I must have slept, for a nightmare forced me to open my eyes. I leaned, but did not fall; I turned my head and saw that the Zheien slave stood so that his legs supported me as he stood at attention. He smiled at me, and I smiled at him. "Ea yeo." My phrase meant roughly, 'loving thanks' or thank-you-for-your-gift-of-kindness, if I could only inflect it right. He smiled. His blue eyes watched Ryee, with tears.
Ryee stirred in his sleep, so I rearranged his head on my lap, and he relaxed. As I looked up, I saw a little girl. She looked like me, except her hair was long, straight, and brown, and she had pretty dark brown eyes. If she had been Areonian, she would probably be about ten years old. She smiled, and spoke to me. I smiled back, and told her in Areonian that I could not hear her. Then I asked her if she understood me, and she kept on speaking, giving no sign that she gained meaning from my words. She looked off suddenly, and ran in the direction she had looked towards.
The sun sank lower in the sky now, and the temperature began to drop. Our friend shivered, and so did Ryee. I started my massage routine, tried to ignore my sore muscles.
Soon we were taken to stone rooms in a nearby building, more like a cave in the nearby rock. Ryee could not walk, so I and our new friend carried him. He yet stared at the ceiling as we made our way down a dimly lit hallway. The guard pushed us into a room perhaps three meters square, which had no furnishings but for straw on the floor. Our friend laid Ryee's upper body gently on the straw, so I followed with his legs. Once again, Ryee would not rest until he held some of my hair. Our friend pulled my arm, and I realized he gently tried to have me lie beside Ryee. I did. Warmth filled the small room, and the two men stopped shivering.
I noticed that the opening to the room had a shimmering containment field to keep us inside; it also provided heat and a dim light, I hoped not of some harmful radiation.
The man tried to communicate with me. He put his hand gently on his forehead, then gently put it on Ryee's forehead. My husband did not blink; his eyes stared ahead without moving.
"Do you speak to Ryee's mind?" He shook his head.
He pointed up, then put his hands together in a ball and brought them to the floor. His thin fingers made walking motions to Ryee, then he put his hands on Ryee's head as if to heal him.
"Healers?" The man smiled and nodded. "Are they to come?" He nodded again. "Will they help Ryee?"
He mouthed 'Ryee' and pointed to Ryee with blue eyes wide. "Ea, that is his name, Ryee, short for Ryonne~. Will the healers help him?" He nodded.
Then he pointed to me. "My name is Adia Rayaline. We are from Ye~, a colony in another galaxy. Do you understand me?"
He nodded again. Then he pointed to himself and spoke a short syllable. It looked like Mahbah, so I said it. He laughed, and pronounced it again, but stretched his lips and slowed it greatly.
"Mayb?" He laughed again, and nodded. "I am fortunate to know you, Mayb, but I wish it were better surroundings."
He nodded again.
"Now, wait a minute. When you spoke to us, you spoke gibberish. How come Ryee understood you, and now this Maybe fella?"
"After my regen, it was different. My mouth obeyed me; I cannot explain it. And his name is Mayb, not Maybe. May-bh."
I smiled. Pronouncing all these weird names was almost impossible for me. Jo’s name had that sigh in it, too, but I couldn’t—
I saw movement out of the side of my vision, and looked towards the door. A guard set a plate of food on the floor, and backed out as the lights flickered on across the doorway once more. Mayb brought it near, and gave me first choice at the contents. I could not tell by looking what might be safe for Ryee to eat.
"Which of these foods might you eat?" He pointed to the breadlike spongy square which dwarfed the other foods. Then he pretended to drink and did a comical death scene.
"Water is poisonous to you?" He nodded fervently. "Are you of my husband's species?" I patted Ryee's arm gently. He spread his hands far apart.
"Perhaps Ryee can eat what you can eat." I broke the square into two roughly equal pieces. I left one on the plate, and held the other under Ryee's nose. He tried to look at it, but his eyes would not work together, so I gently lifted him and put the bread to his lips. He did not bite it, so I pulled off a tiny corner and put it in his open mouth. Then he chewed it, swallowed awkwardly. I fed him all of it in this way, relieved that he ate. We had no food for probably two Yeff days, but for Esteerr, not counting stasis. Ryee would surely yet be feeling ill from our last meal.
I looked at the plate, and Mayb had not touched the other half of the bread. "Please, eat, Mayb. I will try the other foods." He hesitated, but I picked up a small green root and gingerly bit into it. Then Mayb took the bread.
The root tasted bitter, but a pleasing sweet taste lingered when I swallowed it. I waited a few secs to see if my body would react; there seemed no immediate harm, so I slowly ate the rest.
Next, I tried the small blue round food. It was chewy and had little taste at all; after waiting for unpleasant effects, as before, I finished them off.
A stiff leaf of some sort remained. My first bite released a flood of juice, even though it appeared dry, and I had to swallow it all quickly so I would not spill any on Ryee. My mouth and throat felt dried out. It finally emptied, and I found the shell inedible, so I laid it back on the plate, completely dry. Mayb then ate it, with a pleasant expression.
I did not feel well at all, and could not guess which of the foods, had or not made me ill. Mayb helped me lie down, and then brought a large pitcher of liquid to me: He lifted me so I could drink. My thirst overcame me. I drank the whole contents, not even testing it as I had the foods. As I finished it, I came to the realization that it had not been water, as I thought, even though it had little taste. The liquid was in a metal container, so I could not see the color of it, but as I wiped the last of it from my lips, I found it to be sticky and pale green.
"Oh, Mayb, the food makes me sick, and now I drank something that is not water. If I die of this, will you take care of Ryee? Will you help the Healers find him?"
Mayb patted my hand and nodded. I felt overly warm; a burning pain grew in my middle and spread to my limbs. The pain gradually increased and I cried until I fell asleep.
As my eyes opened and adjusted to the light, I saw that I laid on my side, Ryee next me. His orange eyes were also open. His hand closed around a substantial portion of my hair as his arm rested on my left shoulder. The stone floor made me ache.
"Ryee, ea pas?" He did not move or attempt an answer. I did not think he understood. He was much thinner than on Esteerr.
Mayb sat up, on the other side of Ryee, and put his hand briefly on Ryee's forehead. He frowned.
"Is he well?"
He shook his head. Mayb seemed lost in thought. I wished so that I could hear him. It seemed that he wanted to help Ryee, but perhaps he did not know how.
As I wondered what was in the depths of Mayb's mind, the guards brought us morning food. The tray contained nothing but the bread, and there were three large squares of it. I managed to sit, despite feeling hot, and Mayb held Ryee up while I fed him. Again, with difficulty, he ate. When he finished, Mayb and I devoured the other two pieces. It stuck to my throat as it passed down and left a suffocating feeling. Afterwards, I felt shaky. I hoped it would not affect Ryee similarly.
"Does the white square make you unwell?"
He smiled and shook his head.
"Does it make Ryee unwell?"
Mayb patted my arm and again shook his head.
"Is it well for him?"
He nodded. I sighed, wishing I could feel well about such a ray of hope amidst this suffering, but I remained despondent.
The guards came for us. I shook so badly, I lost hold of Ryee's legs twice under way to the platform, and Mayb finally picked Ryee up and took him about ten meters to our same spot, and laid him down. When I reached it, I collapsed next Ryee. Mayb could not help me because the guards made him to stand once again; he did not look well. He swayed occasionally and almost toppled.
The air felt warmer this morning, thankfully, since I was unable to help Ryee bear it. Some tension showed in his face and arms, so I knew he remained uncomfortable, but he did not shiver.
I turned as I lay beside him, took one of his hands in mine to warm it. As I did, he smiled faintly. His eyes yet stared, and did not even move. He did not blink, nor did his chest move much with his openmouthed breaths. J~oie taught me that Esteerrian foods might burn Ryee’s absorptive chambers. Breathlessness after eating is a symptom. I held his upper body on my chest, but he did not improve.
"How I wish the healers would come." I hugged my husband. "Perhaps they can help you."
Beyond Ryee, Mayb fainted.
The heat increased early today, and I sweated. From where I lay, I could not see the crowds, but I saw the other slaves, and as the hours passed, their numbers were less. Mayb lay as if dead, and I felt badly that I could not go to him. I could not even turn, I felt so weak. Ryee closed his eyes, and I could not see his chest move. I feared that he had died. He was cold.
I prayed that the Healers would come NOW, and that they would be able to help us.
Suddenly, I saw three Zheien in white robes gather around Ryee. They were more orange than him, but their clothing under the white looked like what we slaves wore.
Three of them went to Mayb, and three of them came to me: nine in all.
"Are you healers?" I asked them in Yeff. They smiled, but they did not seem to be able to understand me.
The one nearest my head put his hands in front of my ears. The others sat on either side of me and put their hands on my middle. Then I felt energy pour into me. In only a few secs I felt strong enough to sit. I stretched my mind out, and found the minds of the Healers.
I looked at Ryee. The three oldest healers still were trying to help him. One had redviolet on his sash. Close to our family color.
"Are you well, Daughter?" The youngest held me.
"There lies the reason I am not." I clung to the oldest one’s wrinkled hand. "He is Ryonne~, my husband. If he does not live, I do not live. We are Joined with a Link even stronger than is your Healer's Link, and I am glad of it because I do love him."
"My sadness is that we must take him from you."
"Please take me also, do not separate us!" I held to his arm.
"I am afraid the Slave Traders will only let us take the ones who are near death. From your group, only your husband and the other, there."
"His name is Mayb. He has helped us; I do hope he will be well."
The Healers lifted Mayb and Ryee. "We must leave you. It is our hope that you will find us someday to take your husband home, if he lives."
"But how? How will I find you?"
"You must travel this galaxy until our paths cross. We move constantly; You will know us through the Link."
They stepped into a dimportal and were gone.
The guards prodded me to stand, so I stood with my hands behind me. The heat of the day beat fiercely upon me; no shade. Hours passed, and I bore them by thinking of Ryee, looking over sweet memories of him. I did not remember yesterday as lasting this long, but then I slept through a major part of it. Now I was aware, and rapidly felt unwell.
When I next opened my eyes, I lay in the cell I had shared with Ryee and Mayb, on the straw next to two apparently sleeping Otherworlders. I sat up and looked for food. The empty plate and pitcher lay next to the shimmering doorway. My exhaustion overtook my hunger, so I lay down to sleep, to conserve my energy.
Morning came, and I could not rise. The guards tugged at me, then left me. They took the other two away. I noticed only an empty plate.
Hands pulled me up, and I looked to see who stood with me; the little girl I had spoken to smiled, and a man—her father?—supported me kindly. The guards took the chains off my feet, and they led me to their ship. It had a wide outer ring connected to a sphere by three junctures. Redmetal hull had obvious dents. We bent to squeeze through an opening into the small outer ring, a mere hall that curved inward on either side of the tiny hatch. I noted that it had an ancient console with physically operated switches.
"Who are you?" I spoke in Universal Qvarn, now that I could send once again. He looked puzzled. I tried Elshar. All who trade have to know it. Gently, he pushed me into a hard chair and poked at a terminal. It echoed my question, then symbols appeared on a display. The man looked at me, not the screen.
"Ah, you can communicate in Elshar. Good. I am Mihps, a trader of Limt, colony of Elshar. My daughter, Ihaierah, convinced me to buy you, as she has done before with other slaves. You, like the others, are one of the frail ones, so I will give you your freedom. Of course, my profit suffers; my daughter keeps wanting me to spend it on her saving efforts. We fed you our food for two days. Amta, a safe bread. I think you were poisoned."
"Two days?" I did not remember them. "I wish I could compensate you. Are you a Slave Trader?"
"Tephna, no! I am a trader, but in information, not slaves."
I thought carefully. "Would you care to trade in other galaxies?"
His blue eyes grew light, and he smiled. "I would; but how? My ship can send and receive from other galaxies, but I know no one who can open the doors of trade to me. My server system is not secure enough for the Alliance's technologies; the pirates would rob my cargoes of information." He pulled at his dark curls, almost like Ryee’s. Many wrinkles lined his face.
"My husband is King of Ye~, Most High Diplomat to the Emperor himself; and I am Adia, Queen of Ye~. The Unified is always wanting to open trade and teach traders our ways so all can profit. You have given me my freedom; I cannot assure you that you will be successful in trade with the Unified, but at least I can open a dialogue between you and us. My husband has been taken by the healers: Can you take me to him?"
He thought quickly. "I do not know where the healers are, and I am soon to be low on resources if I do not continue my business. I will search for them for a short time, but if we are not successful, I cannot stay out in the galaxy longer."
"I will accept whatever time you can give. Perhaps Father can send me a ship—"
"You are mad! The Slave Traders would have you in hand once again. They trade with me, so they do not hinder me; but strange ships are always detained by them. You would be an easy target: No, you must stay with me. Perhaps there is a way, if it takes too much time, that I could carry out my trade and search for the healers also." He bowed at the waist like an Areonian, but looked at me as he did. "Let us begin our search." The trader motioned his daughter to a seat with straps.
He helped me with the straps by thinking instructions to me as he quickly flipped switches and set dials. Vibration increased by the sec. What manner of propulsion was this? I had never felt such on board any ship, though on Areon we tested many different technologies from many different worlds. I thought I had seen all of the major forms of energies, yet here Mihps operated a technology totally unknown to me. Could this ship possibly send and receive to other galaxies? A ship such as this could barely travel from one solar system to another, much less communicate from one galaxy to another, by my estimate. Was there something to his technology that I could not discern?
Our departure from the planet seemed an adventure in itself. Several of the dials' lights went out, and he banged on them with his fist. Lights inside the ship dimmed ominously. Items fell out of lockers against the wall onto the floor. The ship shook as if to fall apart! Finally, we left the grip of the planet's atmosphere and the lights came up once more. The severe shaking left me dizzy, and I noticed it had the same effect upon the others.
Mihps unbuckled me. "I am afraid that my ship's artificial gravity is performed by spinning the ship. We will have to stay in the outer ring area, here." His daughter sighed and awkwardly sat on the hard wall.
"May I use your equipment to call my people?"
"We use a translational wavemitter. I do not know what equipment is."
"How long does it take for a reply with your system?"
"I do not know how to answer you. Your time concept differs from mine."
After we compared time as he knew it to time on the planet, which he called Ndibph, it seemed that communication would take exceedingly long. He brought up the device, and then we attacked the problem of direction.
His star charts made no sense to me, and I did not have any memorized in my mind; our servers did all of this. Everything on his ship had to be set manually.
"You do have a server system?" I half expected that he did not.
"Yes." Mihps walked about eight meters away from the wavemitter and he motioned to a seat in front of a console. When I touched it, I felt a sickening vibration. If it operated in the same manner as the ship's console, I wondered if it was help at all to use it. Sitting in the seat took an inordinate amount of propping until Mihps set the angle to match the curved wall’s gravitational pull, with handled screws.
"This is the command mode." Large fingers flipped a switch several times with a certain rhythm. A small window with a luminescent screen glowed about 15 centimeters square. "I will control it; what do you wish to do?"
I reached into the pocket of my slave clothes and pulled out my terminal. Thankfully, the items of my pockets physically existed in an altered dimension linked to a terminal Pas inserted into my shoulder. "It has little power, but if I could transfer the information contained in it, I could connect with the Areon Hub. How do I contact your server?"
He looked puzzled. "I am afraid I do not have a way to transfer information without a direct connection."
"You mean a physical connection?"
"Yes." I stared at him in disbelief; but then I realized I would have to batter through my concepts of how to accomplish this in order to learn his technology. I must put aside my notions of how it had always been done so to be receptive of new procedures.
"Do you have a physical means of connection to your server so that it can accept information?"
He pulled open a small door, and produced a wire.
"Terminal, if you fabricate a connection, will you still have enough power to function and communicate your information with this server, and through it, to the Areon Hub?"
"I can draw power through the Energy Seeker." I shouted for joy! My terminal had an energy seeker built into its workings.
I turned my attention to Mihps, and gave him my understanding of the implications of using the energy seeker—that it would draw power from his ship to operate.
"Will it leave enough power for us to live?" His hands shook, and he nearly dropped the wire.
"I will order it not to draw away energy from critical systems."
I held out the green cube, which glowed. It lifted from my hand and went to the console, then the cable rose and connected to it.
"Several critical systems need repairs; shall I repair them?"
I looked at Mihps. "Yes, if he can!"
The engine's vibration lessened, and I noticed that the ship seemed to be spinning more slowly yet we kept artificial gravity.
"Major repairs completed," the server said, "and I continue to modify, but can connect to Areon Hub."
"Good! I wish to speak with the Government of Ye~."
"Connection allows voice only; insufficient power for psi wave transmission." Primitive. No holograms?
"This is Adia Rayaline, Queen of Ye~. I need to speak with Eanne~, Elder King."
I heard the reply by using Mihps' ears. "This is the Yeff Node, M'Naga, Minister Of Trade, here. Is it really you? I cannot believe—"
"M'Naga, old friend! Join with us; please add the rest of Ryee's family to this communication."
"I do as we speak; Lydda is here, J~oie, and Laura."
You know the rest, so I will skip ahead here:
I queried the server on the downloaded information.
"You did not speak of my business," Mihps complained. His blue eyes turned dark.
"Do not worry. You have made a friend of a very powerful man. The Elder King of Ye~ has the ear of the Emperor."
He smiled. "I can be patient."
"Server, how do we contact the healers?"
"I will connect to the Link, but you must provide access."
"I do not understand." I shook my head.
"You are Joined to the healers; I will trace the psi particle stream to them."
Think of your love for your king, the White Cube of Light told me in the Fortress. I thought of Ryee and how much I loved him, and how I ached to see him, and how I wished him well—
"Our course is changing. What is happening?" Mihps frantically watched his display.
"It is well—we are setting course for the planet of the healers."
"You—you have not touched the Guidance Array. How could the course change without settings?"
"Our server operates via thought commands, and it is translating them into commands your server system knows."
"Via thought!" He stared at the display. His blue eyes wavered between dark and light.
"Terminal, are we on course for the planet of the Healers?"
"We are on course for Zhea~, the Motherworld, or, the planet of the healers."
I felt them; and I could feel—Ryee.
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