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ICE WORLD     by Michele Dutcher


“What’s the next star system, Saltz?” asked the Captain to his helmsman.

“17XE23. I hate these check-up missions,” answered the tall, veiny, male, his angst barely hidden below his respect for the commander.  “I just always wish that we’ll find a product of a seeding mission that is prospering.”

“You know the directive – seed what seems to be an up-and-coming planet, leave it for a few million of their years, then slip back through the portal to see what happened.  Non-interference, you know.  Let civilizations develop as they will.”  The commander looked out through the transparent sides of their bubble of a star-ship, to see a star-system racing towards them.  “Which planet was it?”

“Fourth one from the star, sir,” reported the onboard ship historian, leaning forward a little towards his holographic console, to get a better view of the system’s chart and historical information.

The bubble-ship flew through a spherical cloud of stardust and debris; past orbiting balls of rock and ice; on past giant balls of swirling gases

“There it is sir.  Fourth planet from the star…” Saltz’s voice trailed off a little as he listened to the ship’s detectors.  Silence, silence – eventually only a sigh.  “I’m sorry, but it looks like another dud, Captain.”

The historian began to expound upon facts and calculations now.  “The loss of life was probably due to the loss of the planet’s molten core.  We’ve been seeing this a lot.  The core goes down, the planet loses its magnetic shields, the star’s radiation blows away what atmosphere the planet had.”  He sat back in his seat with a sigh, as the lifeless, red sphere below him slowly rotated on its axis. 

“Maybe they moved inward,” ventured the Captain with a shrug.  “Saltz - any artificial energy readings coming from the third planet?”

The helmsman refocused his search.  “I may have something.  It’s very faint – but probably worth a look.”

“That’s what we’re here for,” said the commander as the bubble began to speed towards the next planet in.  “Description of overall planetary environment?”

A lavender colored female, a little thicker than the others, brought up equations before summarizing.  “There are three land masses separating liquid water. The entire planet seems to be buried beneath a thick layer of ice.”

The historian piped up, beginning to get excited.  “That’s probably why your reading is so slight, Saltz – the signal may be coming from a source beneath the ice – perhaps within the water.” 

Within ten minutes the galaxy travelling bubble was heat-blasting its way through the frozen cover.  Suddenly a plume of steam rose up, encircling the ship as liquid water turned to gas.  “Moving towards signal,” said Saltz as the orb shot downwards, into the depths.  As they descended, odd lifeforms floated past, all being recorded by the historian.

“Could we take in some of these for observation?” asked the historian. 

“Let’s keep on track for now,” answered the Captain.  “I want to see what’s making that artificial signal.  The finding of intelligent life is our primary directive.  We can always come back to this.”

They were hovering now, the alien bubble floating over six metallic tubes, all of them partially covered with eons of silt from the ocean bottom.  “The signal is very clear now, Captain.  In one moment, we’ll have the translation.  It seems to be a loop.”

The crew waited silently until a mechanized voice began the translation.  “To whoever finds this signal – know that we have been waiting for you.  We hope these tubes will not be caskets, but rather sarcophaguses – a mechanism of bringing us or our DNA descendents back to life…To whoever finds this signal – know…” The translator shut off. 

“That must be the total of the loop,” ventured the historian.

“Is there anything within those tubes able to be re-animated, Merly?” asked the commander turning towards the female.

A moment passed and then, “Nothing, Captain.  The time has just been too long.  There’s just dust left by now.”

The historian’s shoulders sagged a little now.  “I guess we could take back one of the tubes as an artifact.  I just wish there would have been someone left.”

Suddenly there was a small voice coming over the translator.  “Have you come to visit the grave-tubes of the surface dwellers?” it asked quietly.

All on board came to attention.  “Yes – yes we have!” answered the Captain, stumbling over his words.

“These surface dwellers had always hoped someone would come.  It is good to know you finally came back.”

The historian could not help but jump in.  “How do you know we have been here before?”

By now, outside the star-bubble, there were thousands of soft lights, as if someone had walked into their backyard on a summer’s night to watch fireflies pour down from the hills.  “We have always been here, in the deepest depths, watching, far away from the surface dwellers and the devastation they wrecked upon themselves.  We are as much children of the molten core beneath us as they were the children of stardust.”

“Would you like to come with us, into the heavens?” rushed the historian, overwhelmed.  “We could build an environ for some of you aboard our ship.”

There was a moment of quiet as a wave of light went through those assembled outside, and then the light washed back towards the starship.  “We are content to remain where we have always been.” 

“Then we’ll eventually go on our way without you,” said the Captain.  “But we’d like to stay for a while and document your world and your culture.”

“As you wish.”  There was silence now, as though the two cultures were resting in the knowledge they were no longer alone.  “We have only one request: after you leave, don’t wait so long to come back.”

Both groups smiled. A Breakfast of Champions

I doubt it, Dezmond.  I looked down at the human's face, shaking my head in disagreement as we hiked along the moonlit trail.

I can hear the cynicism in your voice, my huge, fiery friend, but my statistical memory is impeccable. If you take a person 20 miles away from their place of birth, and tell them to point towards home, 78% of humans will point in the correct direction.  

I flexed my wings twice before giving in a little.  “I guess it's possible for humans to do something useful.  However, that means your kind would head in the wrong direction 12% of time.” 


Dezmond snickered, slightly.  “You seem to distrust me so much, Simon.  Have I ever lied to you?”


I looked at him, almost shooting fire from the audacity of this statement.  “Of course you have.  I know you can't help it, being a lawyer and all.”


“Please!  I prefer to think of myself as a man of letters: a person of leisure who has fallen on difficult times and been forced into a bourgeois life using my mastery of languages, common and foreign.”


There was silence between us for a moment as Dezmond looked around.  “I think our journey has us quickly approaching a town. Perhaps, in case we meet others, you should do your magic and downsize your reptilian presence into a less horrendous form.”


“You mean make myself small...”


“Exactly, yes.”


And so I did exactly that, shrinking from a dragon ten feet tall at the shoulders, down to a loveable dragon the size of a small poodle – which are good eating by the way.  Tasty.  Yum. 


Dezmond picked me up, and placed me on his shoulder.  “I know it exhausts you to shrink, so let's rest.”


We sat in the moonlight, upon one of the five hills overlooking the village below. We watched as one oil-lamp after another was put out, leaving just a gray silhouette of the town below us.


It was so quiet, in fact, that Dezmond took out his earplugs. He took a deep breath, as though to begin a sentence, and then stopped cold. 

What is it? 


I floated upwards a little. 

“Can you stop all that fluttering about?” 

I grabbed my wingtips and landed on the soft ground with a thump. 

Ouch! You know how sensitive my ears are! 

Sorry boss. I sat quietly, trying not to breathe. 

I hear money, he whispered finally. Someone is digging a hole two someones in fact, named Ken and Louie.   


Who digs a hole after midnight when everyone else is sleeping? 

True, boss, true! 

He reached into his pouch and threw me some fresh meat. Let's get a room in this village.    


Dezmond was already awake when I opened my eyes. 

I found them, he told me. 

Already? I rooted around in a nest of sheets I had made on top of the bureau. Is it daylight yet?

Not yet.  You know how muddy sounds become when a village wakes up better to give a good listen before that happens.  He was leaning out a window overlooking the street.  Louie and Ken are in the pokey.  I heard them whispering to each other in Erithian.   They robbed a pawn shop yesterday and got $7000 of the Mob's money. 

Where is it, boss?  Where did they bury it?   

“They weren’t talking about the location – not even to each other.”


“That's bad boss. We can't get close to them while they're in jail.” 


Dezmond looked down the street, putting one figure to his lips.  I think opportunity is presenting itself. Four men are talking five blocks away.  They are going to pay the foreigners a little visit and get their money back. They need an interpreter.  And now theyre saying something that they were once the #1 Snooker team in the county.  I will go to the sheriff, introduce myself, and by nightfall the money will be ours. 



The office section of the jail was small, especially for a sheriff, four mobsters, two prisoners, Dezmond and myself so the sheriff accepted a bribe and left. The mob boss pulled out a gun. Tell them I will let them live if they tell me where the money is. 

Dezmond nodded and began speaking in Eritian. Ken, he says tell him where the money is or he'll kill you.  Louie, in two minutes I'll make a deal with you. 

Louie puffed up. I will never betray my partner. 

And I will never tell you where I hid the money, said Ken. 

They say they will never tell you where the money is. 

The angry man put the gun's barrel beside Ken's temple and drew back the hammer. The foreigner began to speak hurriedly. We buried the money below the oak tree, behind the barbershop! 

Dezmond turned to the Mob boss and said coolly, He says he'll never tell you where the money is, and you don't have the stones to pull the trigger. 

The boss blew the man's head off. Dezmond looked at the little guy in back. Are we partners now? he asked in Erithian. Louie furiously nodded yes. 

Dezmond turned to me and said 'now'. Finally! I could feel my body growing as I began to spit fire at the four gangsters.  A second ball of fire blew out a wall of the jail. 

Dezmond and Louie ran out through the smoldering hole, eager to grab shovels and get out of town with the $7000.  But I decided to stick around for a bit how could I pass up a breakfast of champions?  Tasty.  Yum.


No one told Mrs. Eebie that her newborn was a beautiful baby, for little Cjaneash most certainly was not that.  The bay’s skull was oddly shaped and there were strange flaps of soft bone around her ears.  The baby made odd gurgling noises in her throat instead of communicating telepathically like the other infants.  There was no use in prancing around it: Cjaneash was a throwback: a genetic echo of a time when Bissenites lived above ground.  But there were so few live births nowadays that Mrs. Eebie was overjoyed to hold the small bundle of joy in her arms.

                Cjaneash was a good-natured baby whose personality fit in wonderfully with the happy inhabitants of the Fifth Hall of the Seven Sisters.

                As her daughter grew, Mrs. Eebie taught her to speak with her mind, although Cjaneash occasionally made that strange sound with her throat if startled.  When she entered adolescence, Cjaneash discovered how to style her hair so that most of her physical faults were hidden.  Everyone knew that she would never marry, but she had many friends and was intelligent and open to new ideas.

                So it was not out of character that she was excited instead of frightened when she was told about the Aliens.  All Bissenites had accepted the premise that life might exist elsewhere in the universe, but that vague idea had now landed at their doorstep. 

                “The welcome ceremony is going to be held at 1630,” thought Dintae to the rest of the teenagers around her.

                “What took them so long to get here,” quarried Busic as he followed the girls towards the Great Hall.  “I thought they landed over three weeks ago!”

“Cjaneash stopped leading their small band long enough to answer his question.  “The aliens had living creatures in their fluids.  These creatures had to be killed before the aliens could meet us.”

“How do you know that,” Busic fired back.

“She’s studying aboveground history,” smirked Dintae smugly.

Cjaneash almost blushed.  “There are legends that all ancient Bissenite clans had to be cleansed before we descended.”

“I’ll see you later,” thought Dintae loudly as she raced towards her family.  The eight teenagers filtered through the crowd, each finding their own families.  Eedie’s aura mellowed as Cjaneash joined her towards the front of the crowd.

Over a million Bissenites stood in front of the Staleamic Sea as its gentle waves lapped the shores.  Overhead, a holographic star blazed, giving light to those below.  All eyes were now focused on the elevated mouth of the Great Hall.  A sonar wall had been activated between the crowd and the visitors which would act as a translating device. 

The exalted Governor of the Seven Sisters walked through the opening, followed by five figures in helmeted suits.

“Gentle people of the Clan of Passell, I am here to introduce to you visitors from outside our world.”  He stepped aside as the five aliens walked forward.  They removed their helmets.

An alpha male, obviously the leader, stepped to the edge of the translation shield.  He began to use his throat to make noise.  “People of Mars I bring you greetings from the inhabitants of Earth,” shouted Captain Shiva, before quickly stumbling to a halt.  All eyes were focused now on a Bissenite three rows from the front – a female who stood taller than the rest.

“Look Captain,” whispered Lieutenant Straker, “there’s a human among them.”

“And what a beauty she is,” whispered the Captain, beginning to smile.

Cjanease began to smile also.

Heirs of Atlantis

How were we to know, at the beginning of a new millennia, that two of our most intriguing mysteries would be solved at the same time.  Those who revealed the answers called themselves the ‘Heirs of Atlantis’ and introduced themselves to Head s of State as first cousins to humans – and there were often humans in their entourages.  These beings insisted that they had reappeared in the surface dweller’s world to help humans in our efforts to clean up the Earth’s oceans – which had been their home for the last 20,000 years: first as inhabitants of an island chain in the middle of the Atlantic, and then as an underwater empire in the same vicinity. 

As an expert in mythologies both ancient and modern, my curiosity could not have been more stoked;   I was delighted when a friend from ‘across the pond’ proposed an informal meeting to discuss the amazing events of the past year.  It was to be, in fact, less of a professional meeting than a circle of friends.

We agreed upon a pub in a historic hotel in the mid-section of North America, because it was easily accessible by those travelling in from other continents.  There were five of us in total: two elderly men from New Zealand; Lucinda, a thirty-something woman from South Africa;   Marshall – the organizer of the tiny assembly was from Great Brittan; and me, the youngest of the lot, from only sixty miles away.  I had no idea, however, as I ordered a hot liquored drink, how far one hotel guest had travelled to attend our meeting. 

When the five of us were seated comfortably, Marshall rose to his feet with a start and directed our attention to a tall stranger who approached us quickly through the dimness of the elaborate Art Deco era room.  Marshall and the pale man clasped hands before the rest of us could come to our feet.  “Gentlemen and madam, it is my pleasure to introduce to you one of the Heirs of Atlantis – Berigo of the 7th House.” 

The five of us were enthralled by our amazing visitor, some offering handshakes while others bowed slightly to acknowledge him. 

“Please, please, let us sit,” insisted the visitor in an accent reminiscent of ancient language groups surrounding the Mediterranean.  “I heard of your small gathering through a friend and became eager to meet with such distinguished experts in ancient mysteries.”  His broad smile revealed the protruding canines which were so much a part of the legend.

“How do you say your name again,” asked Lucinda.  “Ber-gi-o?”

He laughed quietly, obviously amused.  “No, no – say it fast, as though it were one syllable – Berigo.” His manner was easy, relaxed, and completely open.  It was the difference between American brashness and Old World confidence.  He held within his person history ancestors who were rulers of a vast undersea culture.  “Please do not hesitate to ask me anything – this is why I have come here tonight.  Nothing would make me more happy than to talk with you about my home and the seven Houses of Poseidon.”

So we began to talk, the six of us, about an Atlantic-rim commercial power that suffered physical destruction.  “Millions of us were killed when the Earth’s smaller moon crashed into our capital city.”  He noted our surprise.  “Yes, at one time Earth had two satellites.  The power of the impact made the Earth shiver and sped up its rotation by a full ten of your minutes.” 

“Incredible”, I said.   Only then did I see her in the darkness behind him.  Her tiny hand was upon his shoulder now, and he brought it to his lips to kiss it in recognition.  She whispered something into Bergio’s ear before looking at all of us.  As clearly as Bergio was a vampire – this amazing creature was clearly a human. 

“Allow me to introduce my symbiot – Mirleana.” 

She was the model from which all women should have been cut.  Her thick auburn hair curled about her face, over her tender shoulders, before plunging down to her waist.  Her eyes were as green as emeralds and seemed to glow softly, even in the dim light of the bar.  Her skin was softly freckled and her cheeks were rosy, her lips full and as red as fresh blood.  

“You use the term ‘symbiot’,” said Marshall.  “Could you explain what you mean?”

“Sure, sure, sure.   After the disaster, it took the better part of a century for our inhabitants to dig out of the sediment that covered our watertight cities and make our way to the surface.  Having been born in the middle of the ocean, our nation had always seen to it that our cities could survive tsunamis and hurricanes, you see.  Sure, sure, sure.  When we finally made it to land in our vehicles, we captured humans and took them back to Atlantis with us.  These were bred to be our symbiots – those who supply our need for nourishment, as we supply their needs.”

We had all been trained by our disciplines to view societal deviation simply as variants, but Lucinda was obviously outrages.  “What you are describing is merely slavery in a disguised form.”

Bergio drew a breath as though to answer the attack, but Mirleana answered instead.  “I am Bergio’s symbiont by choice.”  She looked around the table once, and glanced back at me.  She looked at me a second time, longer now.  I felt myself falling into her jewel-like eyes, as if the rest of my colleagues and Bergio himself had disappeared.

“Griffin!” whispered Marshall frantically, his voice piercing the mist.  “Griffin!  Bergio was talking to you!”

“I apologize for my lapse.  I was distracted.”

The creature chuckled softly.  “She is amazing, isn’t she?  Her ancestors were bred for their beauty.”

“My beauty encourages Bergio to feed deeply – so he remains healthy.”  She removed a thin scarf from her neck to reveal to deep puncture marks, which were healed but easily apparent.  I knew from that moment that I must do what I could to free her from this monster, and have her for my own.  

    Family Feud

“And remember to exercise, Gwynn – at least 30 minutes every day,” instructed the shortish woman in her 50s, as the trio quickly walked north on 2nd Street.  “If you can’t take care of the planet, you can at least take care of your own body.”

“I got you here, didn’t I,” muttered the 20 something woman under her recently liquored breath.

“I’m sorry, Neenee – we didn’t hear what you said”, inquired the old man standing beside the first questioner.  He touched the young woman on her arm, forcing her to turn towards the couple.  “I hope you don’t mind us calling you ‘Neenee’ – it gives us such a hoot!”  The elderly couple just laughed and laughed, the frail man throwing his arms about like a seagull in a high wind.  He turned to his wife, schmoozing down to her eye level.  “I do love these little visits, sweetums, but the heat is just beastly!”  He took a silk scarf from a sequined belt tied loosely around his waist, and rubbed it against his forehead, with as much flair as was humanly possible.

“I’ll certainly give exercising my best shot,” answered Gwynn before sliding into the next dive bar along the street.  “At least yours will be the last generation I’ll have to deal with.”

“Oh, now, don’t be that way, Neenee,” fussed the elderly woman, keeping the door open long enough for her companion to sashay inside.  “You sound as if I’m some kind of disappointment.”

“Brian, a drink please,” demanded the young woman, hitting the palm of her hand against the countertop. 

The bartender turned around, being irked somewhat, but seeing Gwynn’s companions, he softened up.  “Fuzzy Navel?”

“Make it a Hairy Navel, Brian - If you would be so kind.”

“Brian?” shouted Edgar, waving his scarf over the counter.  “This can’t be…is this him?”

Gwynn shot her descendents a look that she hoped would stop them from saying anything further, but to no avail.

“Well, it does add up.  Gwynn Stewart and Greg Cornish.  Is your last name Cornish?” she finally demanded.

“No, madam, my last name is ‘Nunnayerbeeswax’… Greg W. Nunnayerbeeswax.”  The bartender threw his bar towel upon his left shoulder and leaned forward on the counter, exposing a muscular upper body in his tight, white, tee-shirt.

Edgar giggled wildly.  “Isn’t he just scrumptious, Edweena!  I can see why he was the one, NeeNee…you sly old dog.  Maybe on our next visit we’ll arrive ten minutes early and I’ll give you a little competition, Neenee.”

Gwynn rolled her eyes, praying quietly for her descendents to just shut the freak up. 

“Come on, Gwynn,” said the bartender, edging in towards Gwynn with a playful look on his face.  “Maybe they have the right idea.  It does happen anyway – so why don’t we start this line of descendents right here, right now, right on this bar.” 

“I’m with you,” laughed Gwynn with obvious delight.  She was on her knees now on the barstool, crawling onto the counter, beginning to undo her belt buckle.

The old woman was obviously upset by this turn of events.  “Well I never,” she exclaimed before leading Edward out of the dive bar.

Gwynn quickly settled back onto her barstool.  “Yeah, I’ll bet you never, and certainly not with him!”  Those sitting around the bar laughed quietly at the spectacle.

Greg had moved to help other customers at the far end of the bar, but after a bit, he moved down the counter and smiled at Gwynn.  “Did I make your drink strong enough?”

She looked up at him and nodded.  “The drink is working its magic, one more time.”

“They make you crazy don’t they? – the future people.”

“My…OUR…descendents are just so annoying.  People in the old days didn’t know how good they had it when everyone stayed in their own time.”

“It’s probably just because it’s June 9th back here.  You know how crazy they are about HIS birthday 150 years from now.”

“Yeah, what’s that about?  He’s a gay pirate afterall.”

“He says he’s not gay,” said Greg.

“Even with the little sunglasses and the whole Mad Hatter thing?”

“He has kids,” said Greg, shrugging his shoulders.  “Your guess is as good as mine.”

“Well, if he has kids, I hope his descendents are making him as miserable as mine are making me.”

“The ones that make me nuts are the ones that try to blend in, just watching me, not saying anything.”  Greg looked nervously around the bar.

A light appeared at a corner of the bar, starting out as big as a pen light, eventually widening into a hole in the fabric of time 6 foot wide.  “Great-great-grandma Gwynn!” shouted the three people who stepped out, all headed for the woman at the bar. 

Without warning, Gwynn got off her barstool and walked towards the new arrivals.  The new trio excitedly held out their elbows in greeting when Gwynn pushed passed them, jumping into the time portal, which closed immediately. 

As the trio in the bar began to fade into non-existence, half-a-dozen other patrons did the same.

Turning Off the Lights 

Tau Ceti  11.9 light-years from Sol

“I've heard the AI Gaia has re-opened Earth to humans”, he told her, anticipating her reaction.

“Earth?  You mean THE Earth? - like Sol-system Earth?”  She looked at him with disbelief.

“Earth, yes.  THE Earth.”

“I never thought I'd see it – not in my lifetime.  Humans walking on Terra.  Amazing.”  The initial shock gave way to the obvious question.  “Do you think we should go?” she asked.

He smiled, the slit in the bottom third of his face becoming the shape of a 'U'.  “How can we not go?  I already have the tickets.”  His fingertips began to glow as a holographic light sphere appeared with information about their trip inside.  “On Corday we'll take the Einstein Bridge wormhole to the edge of the system, and we'll be on Earth two hourids standard after that.”  He looked at the face of the woman he adored – still.  “Happy 300th anniversary, my love.”

“Happy 300th, my life,” she echoed.  “I love the way your ear-hole flaps vibrate when you're happy, Delslume.”

  His ear-hole flaps vibrated even more when she touched his glowing fingertips.

Milky Way Galaxy, Sol-system, Earth, 200,000 years in the futureThe globe holding the first humans in 175,000 years to enter Terran space, landed effortlessly on a white, sandy beach.  The sentient star-ship was courteous as it allowed the ten humans on-board to disembark.  “I have chosen to land exactly on the twilight line,” informed the soothing voice.   “Within 1/48th solar, the scenery shall be in total darkness.  Have no fear – Gaia, or gracious host, has promised we will be under her protection.”

“This beauty is exactly as I envisioned – only more-so,” Marquite told her Delslume after stepping onto the planet's surface.  They felt the soft sand move beneath their feet and marveled at the vastness of the ocean that was tearing away at the cliffs in the distance.  They walked away from the group and headed towards a tree-lined slope.  “Everything is so alive, vibrant and growing.”

Delslume looked towards the hillside when suddenly something moved.  “What was that?”  He found he had automatically taken his life-partner into his protective embrace. 

“What is it, Del? - what did you see?”

“Something moving among the shadows – up there on the slope.  It looked looked like a Homo sapien.”

“No, it can't be.  Homo sapiens have been extinct for...” and then she saw it too.  “Shall we follow it, Del?” she asked cautiously.

“Do we have a choice?  What an opportunity!” 

So they began to climb the hill.  The creature sat in a clearing now, near the crest.  They approached the hulking form slowly, but steadfastly.

“It is a beautiful evening,” started Delslume, knowing Gaia would automatically translate for him.

The Homosapien male nodded politely.  “It is indeed.”

“May we sit here beside you?” asked Marquite.

“Please, seat yourself.  It has been far too long since I talked with a bionic.”

The pair sat on the grass, noting their host was twice the size of either of them.

“We are surprised to find a Homosapien living on this planet.”

“I am surprised as well – to see two of whatever you are.”

“We are Homopaxiens.  Do you know about us?”  Delslume leaned in a little as he asked, so as to get a good view of the male's reaction, but there was almost no response – at least none that he recognized.  “That is our shuttlecraft on the beach.”

“That is my home at the top of the cliff.”  The three looked up at the seaside house.  “When I first came here, that house was three hills from the beach.”  The lights in the windows began to glow as the twilight deepened.

“Have you always lived there alone?”

“No, no.”  The male hung his head in such a way that even the Homo paxiens knew was sorrow. He began slowly.  “At one point, I lived there with a female and her two children.”

 “My name is Delslume and this is my life-long companion, Marquite.  Your name is..?”

“They called me Cinsen.”

“Will you tell us your story, Cinsen?”

It took the Homo sapien a moment to collect his thoughts, but then he nodded, took a deep breath, and began.

“My life began when the human who was Cinsen was sent to fight in the War around Bernard 3.  It would take him 5.9 light years to get there, and 5.9 light years to get back – perhaps a little less with Relativity's affects.   So a replacement was built to hold his station – as was the custom.  This was so the children would not forget their parental unit.”

Marquite was sitting beside Delslume and touched his arm lightly as she asked Cinsen a question. “And you are the replacement that was produced?”

“I am that replacement unit.  I am a turing-grade nanobot, absent of degeneration.”  Cinsen made a small flourish with his hands and bowed his head slightly.  “I fixed meals for the family, protected them, and accompanied the female – Tortontis – to social functions.  I was to have been de-activated once my predecessor returned – but he never came back.”  He took a deep breath and really looked at them for the first time.  Their lack of any facial hair took him aback for a moment – but he had grown use to creatures other than Homo-sapiens to talk with.  “How goes the war on Bernard 3?”

“There is no war anymore,” answered the female quickly.  “The concept of war simply proved to be evolutionarily invalid.  It was destructive and wasteful.”

Delslume stepped into the conversation.  “Why destroy someone who disagrees with you when that human might have an answer you will need someday?”

“You talk as if there are no humans who look like I do,” said the man.

“This is exactly the case.”  Delslume could see the disbelief in Cinsen's eyes so he raised his hands to make it clearer.  His fingertips began to glow as the trio studied the night sky.  A thin, sustained shaft of light shot out from his left hand, seeming to point out a few of the multitude of stars above them.  “Our historians tell us that, until 100,000 years ago, homo-sapiens inhabited this small group of stars here.

Our ancestors, however, chose to migrate to these stars here – and now we are as plentiful as the stars themselves.”

“There are none who look as I do – at all?”

Delslume and Marquite shook their heads no.  “50,000 years ago, some of our people went out to find our lost cousins – but found only ruins.”

“Perhaps there were diseases or famine...”

“War was simply a dead end on the evolutionary tree.   As Homopaxiens, we are in constant communication with each other.  Even now, those closest to us are learning of this conversation.”

The Homo-sapien's bitterness was palpable.  “Tell the future I said 'hello'.”

“Come with us.  You have so much to teach us,” said Marquite, unable to contain her excitement.

“I have no interest in this bold new future.  I am truly a child of war.  This planet is where I belong.”

He looked up at the house on the top of the cliff.  “They are buried up there – just to the left of the willow tree.  I expected Tortonis to de-activate me before she died – but she told me she couldn't bear to do it.”

  The odd trio sat for a while, not knowing what to say next.  The shuttlecraft began to glow a deep burgundy.  “It nears time for us to go.  What can we do to help you?”

He straightened up a bit before answering.  I've often thought that:  if I had an expiration date – not known to me, but still a deactivation date – my life would be better.”

Delslume looked over at him.  “We could do that yes, but are you so eager to die?”

The last quasi Homosapien in the galaxy drew his arms around his legs, as though he was cold.  “No, it is not that I'm eager to die, it's's just...”  His eyes brightened a bit.  “If I knew that eventually there would be an end, then every morning I woke up I would say, 'Look at this!  I am still alive today!  What a gift life is.  And then one day, I would be like them – at peace.”  He looked longingly at the glow of the windows as the quiet light reflected off the willow tree.”

“Understood, my friend,” said Delslume.  We will tell Gaia of your wishes.”

 The three got up now, shaking the chill of the night air from their arms and legs.  The difference in size was overwhelming, but Delslume held out his hand.  The Homosapien looked down at the three fingers and a thumb, but finally took it, holding the tiny hand in his.  The trio shared a smile.

As the pair climbed into the shuttlecraft, the others looked at them with pleasure, for they too had mentally been a part of the meeting on the hillside.  The ship began to climb and, unbeknownst to any of those aboard, the Homosapien nanobot raised his arm and waved goodbye.   


 Moving Day

As published in Alien Skin ezine Dec/Jan 2006

 Sudafell and her father sat in the common area of their home, facing the holographic viewing cube.  The five-bedroom house at 1437 S. 3rd Street hung there in midair.                 “That piece of property should have been ours by divine right,” Louie Monroe said, punching his right fist into his left palm for emphasis.  “It’s been in our family for nine centuries!  We have maintained it, keeping it historically viable for almost a millennium!”                 “I know you’re right, papa,” comforted Sudafell, “but the bidding on these real estate parcels has been so intense.  It would be almost impossible to get a slice of the Earth at this point.  You know that.”  She rose slightly, putting her arms around Louie’s shoulders.                “I just wish the authorities would contact us and tell us we got it.  I hate all this suspense.”                Sudafell squinted slightly as the image on the cube broadened.  They could see the entire neighborhood now, or what was left of it.  Three huge crafts hovered over the block, proceeding methodically, dematerializing the Earth one acre at a time.                “Ours is next, Sudafell.  I guess I didn’t bid high enough or they would have contacted us by now.  I should have sent a higher offer.”  Louie buried his gray, stubbled face in his hands.  “I can’t bear to watch.”  The house next door, 1432 S. 3rd Street disappeared, being replaced by a square hole.  “Maybe if the registrar could have waited a few more days, then I could have come up the money.”                “They couldn’t wait, papa.  The moon will be in final decay in three days.  By that time, all of this moving business has to be finished.  There are still a handful of human beings on the surface, overseeing the completion of the project.  Their safety has to be of the utmost importance.”                A craft was directly over the Monroe estate now.  Louie could see clearly the two Bartlett pear trees out front, the gas light, the columned porch.  The image grew bright and disappeared.                “I should have bid more, Sudafell.  I’m just always so careful with my resources.”                Sudafell rose from her chair and walked to a glass well.  She smiled. “Papa, don’t be depressed.  Come see, come see!”                “Just give me a moment to recoup, sweetheart."                “No papa, come see, come see.”  The young woman motioned happily to him.                Louie drew himself up and went to her side.  Outside the glass wall, there on the surface of Cadbium 3, stood the Earth house, not even two hundred meters away.                The loving daughter giggled.  “We bought it for you, papa: Charles and I.  Happy birthday!”                Louie felt lighter than he had in six hundred years.  After kissing his descendant, he found himself running towards the mansion.  It was exactly as he remembered: one moment he was kicking up the blue dust of a moon in the Horse Nebula, and the next he was knee high in green grass and dandelions.  He was climbing the concrete stairs, jumping onto the brick-lined porch.  He pulled a metal chair away from the front of the house and seated himself happily.  Even the purple glow of an alien star didn’t seem so unusual now.  He was finally home.                “It’s exactly as they promised,” his daughter told him while happily sitting on the steps.  “The company transported every atom, every ohm of electricity, every molecule of atmosphere.  The surface dirt is guaranteed to go to a depth of sixty feet.  We own every worm, every clot of dirt, every ounce of H20, every drop of chlorophyll in the leaves.”                “Thank you, my sweetest heart.  It is amazing.”  He closed his eyes for a moment, breathing deeply.  “She and I lived here, you know.  Nine hundred years ago.”                “Celest, your first wife.”                “Yes, yes.  We would sit on this very porch at night and watch people pass by on the street, taking in the night air.  I still miss her, everyday.”                  “Was there never anyone else, papa?”                “Never.  Not like her, not in all that time.  There were other wives, of course.  Eventually, I could have children without a mate, which is how you were born.”  He smiled at her again.  “But there was never anyone, in all those years, who took her place in here..,” he pointed to his chest.                “She must have been very special.”                “She looked very much like you, in fact.  I suppose that’s why you’re my favorite.  After Celest disappeared, I lost the courage to truly love again.”                A quiet buzzer vibrated inside of Louie’s arm.                “That’s odd.  What would the Fledglors want this late in the season?”  Louie began to stand.  “Well, we had better find out.  We don’t want to insult the indigenous lifeforms by seeming to be indifferent.”                “Papa, I left the sensors in the common area.  We’ll have to go back.”                                Outside their 30th century home, Louie and Sudafell placed the sensor helmets over their heads.  Now they could see the few dozen Fledglors floating in the space between the glass wall and the old house.                “Fellow Cadbiums, I am surprised and delighted by your visit,” began the elder statesman.  “How may I be of service to my neighbors?”                One of the electronic entities moved forward, separating itself from the others.  “My neighbor, we are surprised you have brought a new entity into our shared environment without alerting us first.”                The Earth people looked at each other with puzzlement.  Then Sudafell smiled.  “You must mean the house, my friends.  This is merely an object my companion and I bought.  It has no life of itself.”                  “We are not without intelligence, Louie and Sudafell.  We are not surprised by the artificial habitat, but we are surprised by the entity who stands there now, before our very eyes.”                The entire assembly turned towards the brick home.  Louie saw her now, standing there, waiting for him.                “It’s her.  It’s my wife.  It’s her…ghost.”  He was running towards her: across the blue sand; through the grass; pounding up the concrete stairs.                He stopped dead at the edge of the porch.  “My love.  It is you.”                “Yes, Louie, it is I.”  He could see her through the visor, inching ever closer to him.  “I have been confined to this house since you left me here, so long ago.”                “I never loved again, Celest.  My heart kept it’s promise to love only you, forever.”  He could see her long red hair now, her frail arms, her deep eyes and her lips.  He fell to his knees in front of her as the hem of her dress faded through his fingertips.                “Where am I, Louie?”                “This is a moon in the Horse Nebula, my love.”                “And who are these beings?”                “They are the Fledglors.  These are the electronic lifeforms whom originally settled this world.”                Celest gazed at the small crowd and smiled.  “They are like me, Louie.  At last I shall have others to talk with.”  She began to float towards the welcoming crowd.                “Celest, my love.  Come back to me.  Don’t leave me again,” begged the man made of flesh and blood, following the spirit past the green boundary.                “I’ll be here, among my new friends, if you want to visit me.”                “But Celest, I have loved no one but you for nine hundred years.”                She turned one last time to look upon Louie’s bent and crying figure.  “I suppose that is penance enough.  I forgive you for killing me.”  Celest vanished into the atmosphere of a small moon, circling an unimportant star, within the Horse Nebula.By Michele Dutcher   June 1, 2006