Saturday, July 18, 2009

Home Is Far Away Excerpt

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

I lifted his hand to my chest. "This heart beats for you; when you are not with me, I look for your face every time someone comes. I listen for your voice. I do not know if my time is short; the server can give me no information. But I do know that with the medications, I have had no further problems with my heart stopping or changing its rhythm. I cannot, will not, stay in bed as someone waiting to die. My place is by your side."
"Ne, my Love, it is too dangerous—"
"When your father sent you on the mission to D'gharr, did you argue with him saying, 'No Father, it is too dangerous'? Did he say it was too dangerous to send you?"
"Ne. But I am a diplomat and so is all my family."
"Including ME. I am a DIPLOMAT'S WIFE. When we were to marry, we explored the dangers. I accepted them. WE BOTH ACCEPTED THE RISKS. If I am to die, will you make me to die alone, without you? My place is by your side." I sobbed violently, and Ryee held me close. Too close; my tears fell on his neck, and it took me some mins to realize that he lay in unawareness.
"Ryee! Terminal, separate us! Analyze, how much water did he absorb from me?"
"Four Earthan ounces equivalent." That did not sound right!
I looked at Ryee. Stilled! I could not stop crying, which angered me at myself.
"Oh, Ryee!" Sedation lowered me to the pillow. My eyes did not leave my prostrate husband.
I watched him until his eyelids fluttered. "What? Ay?" He gasped, as moisture drenched his brows. I quickly tried to wipe the sweat away, but most of it reabsorbed. The prog to remove the moisture, what had Laura named it?
Ryee gasped violently. His arms and legs drew tightly to his middle.
"Ryee, can you hear me, Love? I am here with you." I held him in my arms as best I could. Suddenly, he bent away from me and threw water. I could not remember the name of the prog!
"Server — run prog to remove sweat!"
"Unknown prog."
"A prog written by Laura Martin. Scan for routine to remove sweat when Ryee throws water; she may have called it ammonia."
"Unknown prog."
I became very frustrated. If Ryee continued to reabsorb the ammonia, it would be as if he had many times the amount of moisture to poison his system. The computer kept sedating me because of my upset; hard to think—what to try next? I decided I was in no condition to write a prog quickly, so I did the next best thing: I used my dress to mop as much of Ryee's skin as I could.
He rested, limp and motionless, on my left arm. No moisture to remove; it had all reabsorbed.
I tried to calm myself; I could not afford to let the computer sedate me further.
"Ay," Ryee said weakly. I could barely hear him.
I pulled myself closer. "I am here, Love."
He forced his eyes open. "Where are we?"
"On your ship. We are safe; I gave you water poisoning with my tears, but I think you will be well in a few mins. I am so sorry, Love!" I kissed his cheek. He smiled for a moment. Suddenly, he tensed and the tempo of his breathing increased to gasps of pain.
I spoke softly to him as he threw water again. When the moisture appeared, I frantically tried to soak it up in my dress, but not enough dry space remained to soak all of it. Worse, I could not stay calm, and the computer sedated me again. This time, I fell over Ryee. My left arm remained pinned by his weight.
"No! Ryee!" I struggled, and the computer again sedated me. This time, I lay over his chest, unable to move or speak. I tried to think to the computer, but I kept falling asleep. I retained enough awareness between naps to listen for Ryee to respond, but I could not help him now. I could not even be sure the ammonia in my dress did not reabsorb.
Finally, Ryee moved. I could not help him.
"Ay, you lie across me," he mumbled. "Are you well?"
I heard him but could not answer.
"Adia!" He released my benumbed arm gently, grasped my shoulders until he could see my face, but I still could not move. "Carrier, lift Adia, and sit me upright!"
My eyes were still open. I watched him as he reached for me and took me into his shaking arms. "Ay, please answer me! I must know if you are well.” The hoarseness and broken quality of his voice went straight to my heart.
I wanted so badly to answer him, but my body would not respond. He held me in his jerking arms and cried over me as if I were dead. Surely he knew I lived. Perhaps he was not in an alert enough condition himself to determine. His head drifted next my cheek. The sound of his spasmodic breathing terrified me.
After a few mins, I found I could throw off some of the effects of the medication.
"Ryee," I whispered. Can you hear me above your sobbing?
He jumped, and looked into my eyes. He trembled so; the words I wanted to say, comforting phrases, left me.
"Rest with me."
"Ay, are you well?" He positioned us so we could see each other, then he relaxed completely with heavy sighs. I thought him near fainting in his exertion! He waxed so pale the moons of Areon would seem dark.
"Meds." I remained too sleepy to voice other words. My hand dropped conveniently on his neck, so I tightened my fingers slightly. He smiled. His lips quivered.
"What hap-pened? Can you tell me?"
"My tears—"
Ryee appeared deep in thought. "Your tears," he repeated slowly several times. "You cried? But I ne remember." Then he shifted his gaze back to me. "Did you give me water poisoning?"
"Yes. I am so sorry!" Tears came to my eyes again.
"I am well, Love. Tell me, can you see my lips? Are they green?"
I tried to focus on them. They were their normal orange. "No." I smiled.
"Then, ne be sad. You have done me a great service, since I needed another nitrogen treatment. Rest now."
We shared memories during a passage of mins, and I remembered our conversation as before interrupted. "Will you let me?"
"Let you do what, Love? Anything."
"Accompany you."
"If you can single-handedly help me through water poisoning with the giver sedating you, I suppose you can survive diplomatic functions. How can I refuse?"
Tears came to my eyes again, from pure joy. No more separations! We felt too exhausted to discuss more, and I closed my eyes.

Laura came in several hours later. I woke, so she turned to me.
"What happened, Adia? I was supposed to give Ryee his water treatment tonight, and his lips are not green and the computer says he has a low nitrogen count. You didn't give it to him yourself, did you?"
"An accident—I cried."
"You should have called me, I would have come to help!"
"My fear caused the computer to sedate me repeatedly. I could not remember the name of the prog to remove the extra moisture!"
Laura looked at the results. "We won't need it next time. It seems your tears are more efficient at removing the extra nitrogen than plain water, and it was beneficial to him to reabsorb what didn't evaporate. Maybe if you let several tears fall on him every time you cry, he won't have to go through throwing water at all."
I smiled. Then my eyes rested on his peaceful face, and I stroked it very lightly. Only in sleep did his face show its true youth, free of the worry lines that possessed it each waking hour. “How I wish he would never suffer again! Oh, Laura, I love him!” My heart grew so full of emotion that tears sprang to my eyes. No words could describe the love we shared!
Laura put her hand on my shoulder. “He loves you as much as you love him! Y’know, I’ve seen a lot of couples in love through my life. I’ve seen people who would follow each other off a cliff. Yet, before you two, I never really understood what true love was. Maybe we humans aren’t capable of the kind of love you have. Too many secrets. Your telepathy makes a giant short cut through the brambles of getting to know somebody. Ryee knows you well enough, and you know him well enough to predict what’s going to happen. No rude surprises to mess up your relationship like we spring on each other.”
“We do not know each other’s deepest thoughts.” I shook my head. “Telepathy does not shorten the path, or ease it. There is always fear to love, at first. I feared Ryee would see my cowardice and despise me for it; bravery is everything to him.”
“Cowardice? You? You saved my life from that mugger when you didn’t know me! You checked yourself out of the hospital! You went to the Fortress, alone, to get Ryee!”
“Yes, I did those things, but I did them in fear. Motives are important. My motives were not noble. I saw that the mugger would strike you, and grabbed his mind with force. I possessed a weapon he did not, and knew he could not hurt me.
“I left the hospital with the vigilance of a computer. Hardly a great act of bravery.
“As for the Fortress, Father, our troops, J~oie, even the Emperor, no one could save Ryee! I feared life without him more than I feared death at Eriganh’s hands! My journey to the Fortress took no courage. Why should the Cube function when I could not make it do so before then? I wished to die with Ryee. The Cube knew, and tried to discourage me. It told me what to do and it saved both our lives. Nothing I have done in life required courage of me.”
“You’re wrong, Adia. Ryee says you were brave, and he sure knows what defines real bravery!”
I smoothed his soft hair away from his forehead and rested my hand there with a long sigh. “There is no kinder, more loyal, compassionate, courageous mortal being in all the universe than my gentle husband. He loves even his enemies, and many times turns them to friends by his kindness. Our Link enabled me to hear his honest thoughts about his mission to D’gharr. He came to awareness there in a large chamber. Alone. Unwell. No weapon. No means of escape. His shoulder pained him intensely because of its dislocation, and he wavered at the point of ‘shock’, in a room so cold that his fingers stiffened and pained him. I felt the echoes of his suffering then, and it increased much more before I could help him. Do you know what he thought of, after his capture?” I could barely force my words past gathering tears.
Laura grimaced at the scenario. She shook her head and put her hand on Ryee’s left shoulder thoughtfully.
“He warned me not to attempt rescue, sure I would die. He told me not to grieve for him. He concerned for my happiness! Laura, he knew he could not escape and accepted the fact that he would die. He decided to use his remaining time to search the smoothness of the walls for a way out. To try to distract Eriganh from the Unified forces. He hoped to enable them time to find a weakness and save other lives, not his. Every thought focused on what he could do to help others. Love. Duty. Devotion. Ryee felt the fear of death, yet he had perfect control over it so he could function, even through such pain that I cannot imagine!” I leaned over my sleeping husband and gave him a tender kiss on each cheek.
I could hear Laura’s thoughts: a mixture of desires to comfort me, convince me that I had true bravery, worry for our future, and sadness that she would have no one with whom to share such a devoted love.
Far into the night, we shared memories, until Laura nodded with fatigue and laid on my other side. Sleep evaded me until I lay my head on Ryee’s quiet shoulder. Without waking, he moved to embrace me. I smiled when I touched his dream of dancing with me in our wedding festival, and joined him in it.

A nightmare woke me to find him holding me. “Pa! Ea veh,” he whispered softly, and to my great relief, his voice sounded strong. With exquisite care, he pressed the heel of his hand to my forehead and sang to me. I thought it odd, for him to sing healing when usually he merely comforted me after nightmares. The warmth took all cares from my mind, and I smiled up at him. Time seemed stilled by his rich baritone.
“What does pa eh vay mean, Ryee?” Laura asked, when he finished.
We laughed. “Pa! is an expression to comfort.”
“In Tennessee, Pa is something you call your dad.”
Ryee smiled. “Is ne father synonymous with comfort?”
Laura sighed. “When you get along with him.” He patted her shoulder as she sat with us on the bed. “Anyway, what did the rest mean?”
“Ea veh means eternal love.” As he said so, his fingers rested on the side of my face. Our eyes met until Laura cleared her throat loudly.
“Y’all feel like breakfast? Everybody’s in the Presidential Dining Room.” We opened a dimportal and stepped into the Queen’s Suite. Laura touched Ryee’s forehead, and her eyes showed concern. “Even from one room to another drops your temp! Don’t you have a hatch or something?”
“Dimportals are part of our technology base. All Yeff learn to ignore this pain.”
“Your dad said that.” Laura shook her head. “Maybe you should lie down a few minutes before we go in.”
Ryee laughed. “It is ne severe, and will be gone soon enough. Let us go, before the food grows warm.” If not for his pale coloring, I would believe him well.
“Uh, Ryee, food gets cold when it sits out, not warm.” He opened the door wide, and gestured for us to pass by him.
“On my world, it warms. The frosting on my snack cakes would melt quickly in comfortable temperatures, but then here is never comfortable.”
“Well, maybe they’ll send you to Saudi Arabia.” She grimaced at the thought of traveling there and enduring the heat when the realization came that she must accompany us wherever we journeyed. “Computer, comfort program! Just the thought of someplace that hot makes me sweat.” Laura fanned herself with one hand.
I grew much amused at their joking. Ryee did seem very well. He ate four snack cakes as they discussed plans of the day. At my request, no one discussed my unwell; yet no one mentioned my part in any of Ryee’s schedule.
Am I not to accompany you today? You promised me, Love, that I would not be separated—
You will be with me! Ne upset yourself, my Love, my Life! Plans for these meetings could not be altered so quickly, but we will be together tonight if you can complete the speeches. It is my hope that I leave you enough time for preparation; are you well, my Love?
I am well for this. I would learn fifty combinations of manual calculations for intergalactic navigation mixtures this afternoon if it would allow me to go with you!
O my Love, I am glad I ne have to ask such a difficult task. The five you once learned gave you ne pleasure. I apologize for the amount of work I have left for you in your unwell, and of ne enjoyment for you.
Apologize not, my Love! There is pleasure in doing this small service for you.
Ah, it is not for me but for our Emperor. We shall open new avenues of trade which will benefit many.
“Ryee, we gotta go now or we’ll have to use a dimportal.” Thank goodness Laura went with him! Reluctantly, I loosed his hand.
My thoughts go with you, my husband, my Love.
They strengthen me. O, would that time pass quickly until I return to you!
“Are y’all okay? You look like you’re saying goodbye for the last time or something.”
“We are well.” Both of us spoke simultaneously, and all of us laughed.

I pulled out my terminal. I had to put all emotion aside and relearn everything taught to me of my queenly role. And I only had little time to become an expert at it, since we were to attend a State Dinner at the White House!
As a scientist, I had been trained to study and memorize, but such a long interval passed between then and now. My brain felt sluggish. I did not want to work at it for more than a few minutes, but I forced myself to stay. My mind kept wandering, and everything worried me about Ryee, about us; my heartache seemed impossible to ignore. I finally wrenched my mind to the task at hand and put all my energy into concentrating on what the computer poured into my mind. It could give me the information telepathically, but it was my task to keep it in mind long enough for it to become part of my recall memory. If I did not concentrate on each section long enough, I would not remember it later when called upon to quote long speeches of welcome and peace. The formal forms were very necessary in order for no misunderstandings to happen. Once, a young Queen who did not take her responsibilities seriously started an interplanetary war because she quoted incorrectly and offended a State official. The talks broke down because she did not know the speeches well enough to overcome her mistake, and only she could have rectified it. As a result, she was exiled from Zhea~ to an Elshar colony [she was Elshar]; and her King died of shame there with her. Her name was never recorded, and all information about her destroyed, save for documentation of her mistake. I felt sorry for her; I made many mistakes in my youth and was able to overcome them. I wish she had not been so foolish. I hoped that I would be able to do what was required.
Parts of the speeches were historic and had to be rote-memorized. I had to supply some parts of them from research of the culture of the planet concerned, or in this case, the country. Ryee also had to write some of them, and he had already supplied me with his sections and much of the research for mine. What an incredible amount of work on his part, in only hours! I resolved to work harder.
I finished just in time to outfit myself in my diplomatic finery to match what Ryee would wear this evening. Ryee came in quickly, and waved for his change of uniform!
I stepped before the mirror in the Queen’s Suite, admiring the silky, luminescent white material of my dress. I had matching shoes, in American-style fashion, and a small, white headdress in the same material in Yeff fashion with a veil. My hair braided through the nine corners of the headdress and out in back with a jeweled multicolored ribbon holding it. It looked very fragile, but was actually quite sturdy. The dress, shoes, and headdress were adorned with braided gold Linneate, which sparkled when I moved.
Ryee joined me. I always loved to see him in diplomatic uniform, and the white of his coat was such a wonderful contrast to his yellow-orange skin, his dark curls and orange eyes. His headdress was a simple nine-cornered flat with Linneate trim, but his coat and pants were trimmed at the same points as my dress. His shoes were more rounded than mine, but a good match. As usual for a diplomat, Ryee had made minor changes in the design of our uniforms to symbolize brotherhood between our culture and theirs, and a different uniform design for every meeting, every speech. He had worked an outstanding scheme, but I doubted humans would notice or care. I looked up to see Ryee stare at me in the same way I gazed at him, admiring my dress and smiling. We were both in diplomatic mode, not sharing any thoughts but of the task ahead, not to let our emotions distract our way. He offered his arm, I took it, and we stepped through the dimensional doorway and into a hallway in the White House, accompanied there by now-General Brantley. He led me to a gentleman dressed in a black-and-white outfit. All the men I saw—the hall was filled with couples—dressed similarly. The women wore dresses in many different colors. How odd that they dressed not to match their consorts. I feared that other important bits of information had escaped our database. This was my first diplomatic function. I wanted to perform perfectly because I did not represent myself: I represented the Emperor!
Ryee stepped in front of me as we faced the President and his wife.
"King of Ye~ and Most High Diplomat of the Emperor of the Unified Galaxies," the aide announced.
The President shook hands with him. "I have looked forward to this day for most of my life, King Ryonne~. It will be a pleasure to introduce you to many of our world's most influential leaders tonight."
"Thank you, Mr. President. The prospect is very pleasant to me as well."
The aide introduced me. "Queen of Ye~."
Ryee shook hands with the First Lady while I exchanged pleasantries with the President. Then I shook her hand. Together we entered the Diplomatic Reception Room and stood to the side. We were asked to stand to their right as the receiving line began to form. I was nervous about greeting all these strangers; and seating arrangements would take me from Ryee's side, something I did not expect.

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