Ok here’s a bit of unedited manuscript I’ve been working on when I get annoyed with everything else. Something from the time before now that we earth-seeded people have forgotten. First I give you the prologue, and then chapter 4, maybe… well maybe it’s chapter 4. It could turn out to be chapter something else, or chapter not at all, depending on how the rest of the writing goes. I might add more of it elsewhere. This is what you get for now. It’s like reading a chapter on Amazon before you order the book, only you can’t order this one because it isn’t written yet. LOL.
THE EARTH MASTERS
BOOK ONE: The Archivist
An Old Story
My mother was almost seventy and my father was thirty-five when they met. It was just after the terrible fallout from the crystal generators began to show degenerative effects in the human populations that scattered across the globe after Atlantis was destroyed. Before Lemûria slipped under the waves.
Her name was Marixtka Æsthizella, a Sithénna descended from the GaeL Uhannas. She was a Master and philosopher, and a scientist with a keen interest in cosmology—an astronomer of merit. She was also Keeper of the Records, a position she took over from her father, the Wikk of the Kumari Research Station archives in Lemûria. By that time, the Archive was the only place remaining on Earth that preserved data detailing the terraforming program that took place on the planet, and the progress of the experimental species seeded there by the consolidated Axis research groups from GæL, Heaven, and Inka. On-site testing was limited then to: a handful of GæLic field researchers who hadn’t fled the war, and who gathered information that was inputted by the Wikk into the database; a few Inkan Bilil—called by some human groups The Anunnaki—who had personal stake in the experiments and gathered their own data; and Heavenly Seekers who withdrew from Axis affiliation during the war. The Archives also contained one of the two remaining Spheres that could still communicate with GæL, even though the channel had been deteriorating for centuries. They called her Mistress Rix.
His name was Ghan Aasaña and he was a Wanderer. He said he was from Atlantis—from a family of craftsmen—and he probably was. After the downfall of Atlantis hundreds of survivors and mercenaries became Wanderers. It’s not surprising since many Atlanteans were part Bilil, and the Bilil were infamous Travelers. My father was interested in everything and had a knack for finding useful items, from space junk to bones, valuable rocks or medicinal plants, and everything in between. Ghan Aasaña was a man welcome in any town or village because people knew he’d bring something valuable they could trade for. He kept a book wherein he wrote down items that people wanted, and it wasn’t so unexpected to see him come back with that item in a turn or two. They called him The Collector.
More than once I heard my mother say that love worked best when the man loves the woman more than she loves him. But I don’t think it would have been possible for someone to love my mother more than she loved Ghan Aasaña, especially not someone with my father’s nature. He loved her well enough that he returned to Kumari often in the twenty years before Lemûria broke up. He loved her enough that they had five children. I was the youngest—born after they fled the Great Flood together.
My name is Kyrridwen Nin-anna Aasaña. They called me Anna. I am a scientist and a myth in this rough, reshaped world. The markers I’ve tested in my own DNA show four distinctly different heredities. From my mother was the expected Uhanna; that’s GæLic of course. Then there was the also-expected marker from my father, the Earth-seeded human DNA easily traceable to the exact experimental test group. The Bilil marker was confirmed, somewhat unsurprisingly, and could only have come from my father. It explains much, not the least being the perfect niche of my parent’s genes, my father’s comeliness and indolent nature, and my mother’s tolerance of it. But, nothing explains the Elvich marker—there’s no precedent and no understanding how it’s traceable coding threads through my mother’s DNA structure.
This is their story. It is a love story.
4. The Pilot from Atlantis
Captain Ahntonee Jageer Khanchaç, known to his fellow pilots and officers as “Jag,” had been warned about the sidewinds on the landing field at Kumari Station. He’d been there once when he was a boy, but remembered nothing except the intimidating way the stone of the colossal building hunched above them as he and his father climbed the stairs to the Station. It was typical of the perpetual nature of the Uhanna that they would build a monolithic fortress for a science laboratory in order for a single facility to endure eons of wind. Though he was prepared for the winds, his inexperience with the fickle currents and the terrain made for a rough touchdown in the dark. He’d warned his passengers and they had webbed in—after the landing they did nothing more than tease him good-naturedly over his lack of finesse. Envoy Hæŋ’s son became motion-sick, and threw up in his headgear, so she was not pleased. But she withheld any criticism while the others ribbed Captain Jag. She was rather dour anyway, so he didn’t let it bother him. He hoped his father hadn’t witnessed his graceless piloting.
Motion lights came up when the transport landed, and an illuminated path arrowed straight across the field and up the massive stairs to Kumari Station. They were late. A delay boarding the envoys on Atlantis set them back a quarter pass. Jag wasn’t certain the nature of the argument—it had dissolved in his presence. The delegation members were likely aware that anything Jag overheard would get back to Master Chaç. The envoys were already dressed for the reception, which made it difficult for Envoy Hæŋ to carry her bag. Jag took it from her, hefted it over his shoulder and picked up his own bag, and her son’s. He had his spacer cargo over his dress blacks. He could easily unseal the tabs when they got inside and be presentable by the time they entered the Reception Hall.
It was a climb, and each tread step took two of his strides to get to the next step. Even Jag was a little winded when they finally reached the impressive double doors, but since everyone else was gulping air, he pushed the doors open. A butler greeted them, called the house servants to take their luggage, discarded coats and spacecargos, and escorted them to the Reception Hall. The butler preceded them into the large, noisy room, and loudly announced the arrival of “the Ambassadors from Atlantis.”
From his position behind the envoys, Jag was able to scan the room. Across the crowded space, his father met his eyes and nodded. A sullen group of Seekers clustered near the center of the hall, looking like they were planning an execution. His gaze moved past them.
To the tall, dark-haired woman wrapped in light. She was standing with Ceredyn Startrekker and the Wikk of Kumari. She was almost as tall as the Traveler, surprising in itself, and looked so much like Startrekker, Jag decided she was another Elvich moderator, or more probably, Startrekker’s daughter. He had never heard a rumor the Traveler had a family—but then, the Elvich were enigmatic, and loners for the most part but not expressly celibate. The young woman’s dark hair was wound onto her head and stuck through with gemmed sticks that flashed like starlight. Her dress was a soft drape of pale sage cloth, traced with lavender, and covered with silver leaves and tiny, winking stars. Compared to the well-dressed women of Atlantis who prided themselves in setting the bar for fashion, this woman was spectacular. She glanced up to see what the commotion was, and her eyes landed straight on his face.
The jolt was electric. He had once put both hands on one of Atlantis’ crystal collectors in the power station—the shock that went through him was about the same as what it felt like when he met her eyes. He was so surprised, he dropped his gaze so the woman wouldn’t see his reaction. She didn’t look very old, though she was extraordinarily tall. She had to be related to Startrekker. No telling how old an Elva was, since they lived hundreds and hundreds of turns. She could be older than he was and look like a girl.
His father was studying him—nothing new. The man was Bilil and manipulative even with his own son. This had confounded Jag when he was younger because it felt like Chaç didn’t care about him. But he had grown to understand this was the Bilil nature—love equaled many things for a Bilil, not the least of which was speculation, and strategy for a future in which the thing loved played a role. He even found some of that unemotional calculation in himself as he had matured. He wasn’t certain if the characteristic truly was a genetic trait of the Bilil species—which was half of his inherited nature—or if the use of control was more a thing he learned from being around his father. For Jag, the trait manifested in his mastery of flight and engineering. He had learned everything about the various shuttles and fighters, and even the deep space cruisers at the Lagrangian points, because his focus was acute and driven. He had actually disassembled Atlantis’ back-up shuttle and reassembled it. He wanted nothing less than to be the best pilot on E.A.R.T.H., at least on the par with his father.
Did his father anticipate this woman being here? Did he imagine what Jag’s reaction would be? There was an expression on his father’s face that made Jag question everything that had happened in the three months prior to the Summit. He had wondered at the time that Chaç had chosen to make a research trip to Ameridonia so close to the Summit date. When his father mentioned that Jag would pilot the Atlantean shuttle, Jag wondered if this was motivated by some unforeseen scheme. Jag welcomed the opportunity to be included in an interspace gathering—which had never happened in his adult life—but Chaç always had a plan. Was this woman—this girl—part of it?
Speculation fired through him faster than he could breathe in. His father’s unblinking, reptilian regard moved from his face. Someone touched his arm.
“Welcome to Kumari Station,” a low, rich voice said. “I am Mistress Marixtka Æsthizella. I am the daughter of the Wikk of Kumari Station. And you must be the shuttle captain from Atlantis. I believe Master Chaç said that you are his son. Now that must have been an interesting childhood.”
Jag was unable to find his voice. He stared—now that she was close enough to touch him, he could see she was just a girl, barely of age. She couldn’t be Uhanna. The Wikk’s daughter? Impossible. Her eyes were full of starlight, just like all the Elvich he’d ever met. Her mother had to be Elvich then.
He was being rude. The pulse under his jaw throbbed so hard he was certain she could see it.
“Jag,” he muttered.
Master Chaç appeared at Mistress Æsthizella’s elbow.
“Mistress Rix, my dear, this is my son, Captain Ahntonee Jageer Khanchaç. His fellow cadets know him as Jag, which is his boyhood name.”
“Ahhhh. Another Settlement child with a nicked name,” she said. Her laugh was throaty and quick.
“Nicked name?” he asked.
“Oh, just a word I have for it. Nicked off, you know. Shortened. Local word, I think,” she said. “Ahntonee. Tonee is a nice name.”
“Thank you, Mistress. No one has ever called me that,” Jag said. He gave her a very polished salute with the heel-knock and head-nod reserved for officers and dignitaries.
Mistress Rix’s candid friendliness confounded him. He was accustomed to the women in Atlantis who practiced aloof dismissal in public settings—it was a social skill they used cruelly, especially with a half breed such as himself. Privately, they treated him far differently—used him far differently. Jag found their prejudice hypocritical since many Atlanteans were of crossed blood. Hypocritical, but immensely pleasurable. He had learned not to listen, or even speak around them. It wasn’t the Bilil they looked down on, since most Atlanteans were related to the Bilil. It was the experimental E.A.R.T.H. group outcrosses they disparaged. Jag came from a family of engineers and educators on his earthborn mother’s side, so the constant rebuff was a source of humiliation that he internalized, and used to fuel his lack of commitment to women in general. He was certain that his slow advancement in his squad and on the shuttle pilot roster was a result of his earth-born genetics. The only reason he got on the roster at all was because of his father. He even reasoned his father’s renown was the reason the women he had spent time with had noticed him to begin with—before his reputation for sexual skill became a secret they shared like an addiction.
Chaç was a scientist. Jag had been on dozens of research forays with his father under the guise of pilot training. He had been exposed to the settlements of experimental hominids and the various off-planet research groups enough to know a little about what to expect from human genetics. She was too tall to be Uhanna, and far too beautiful. Mistress Æsthizella was not Uhanna.
“Mistress Rix’s mother was one of the assistant Uhanna researchers here at Kumari,” Chaç said casually. “She returned to GæL when Mistress Rix was a baby. The woman didn’t like it here, and missed her cultured, safe Uhanna life. Mistress Rix on the other hand, loves this wild place.”
“You are too beautiful to be Uhanna,” Jag said, without thinking.
Mistress Rix frowned and Jag was gripped in a physical force as though he had been compressed into his pilot’s seat during a particularly airless high-G entry into the atmosphere.
“I thought you were Elvich,” he said, choking. “I, uh….” He was released suddenly from the force that held him. His father was shaking his head, and he had that disapproving frown Jag dreaded. Jag gasped air.
“I am sorry, Mistress Æsthizella, if I misspoke. When I entered the room, and saw you and Startrekker together, my first thought was the you were Startrekker’s daughter, you look so much like him.” Jag wanted to take the whole overture back and start over. He wanted to have her just look at him with those amazing green eyes—so he could feel the electricity that he first felt when he saw her across the room. He couldn’t keep the thought from rising up in his mind that the Uhanna were a dark-eyed people. Chaç’s frown said he’d blown the moment. But, Jag had learned if he blew a landing, he just needed to try again. And somehow, he got the impression that being considered Startrekker’s daughter was not such a bad thing in her eyes.
“Perhaps being Earthborn, you have become a whole new gene sequence for Uhanna genetics. Perhaps it’s the wild microbial environment here,” he said with a laugh.
Thankfully, she laughed. It touched him like a physical shove, a good-natured one on the par with the jocular slaps he got from fellow pilots when acing a particularly difficult shuttle maneuver. With a quick glance at his father, he shrugged off his incompetence and stepped closer.
“Mistress Rix, can I buy you a drink?” he whispered, close to her ear. “As an apology for my lame first impression?” Where his hand touched her elbow, it felt as though he seized ice and fire.
“Well, finally,” she said, her voice turning sultry. “Finally, someone around here doesn’t think I am too young to drink,” she said, as they moved toward the bar.
Master Chaç decided he liked the way they looked together, his son and the Uhanna’s daughter. Mistress Æsthizella was an experiment gone right, even though most of the parties involved didn’t have an inkling that she was an experiment. His son had a keen eye for recognizing even the slightest genetic traces in the various species Chaç studied. The young man made an excellent assistant on the Bilil scientist’s data gathering expeditions and he had sorely missed his son’s willing hands and questions on the recent trip to Ameridonia. Jag was good with the natives too, and easily picked up most of the languages. Chaç had only gotten about half the work done he’d expected to before cutting the trip short to attend the Summit. A summit doomed to failure, he was certain. Seeker arrogance was as unbending as the Bilil of Atlantis and their science. But, perhaps the time was not a waste after all. As they moved away, he stared at the young woman and his son speculatively.
Jag had almost squandered the opportunity in the first few moments with the girl. The boy was right about her, but utterly inept to blurt out such a thing. She was quick to react, which was not an Elvich trait any more than it was Uhanna. Chaç suspected it was an adaption, or perhaps her environment ramped up her emotional sensitivity. She’d conducted plenty of field work for one so young, and not all species were friendly or human-safe. That had to make a person a bit reactive. She was raw, like Lemûria, something unexpected and unspoiled. She was smart, and candid, openly emotional. Bilil children were never negatively impacted from a lack of a parent, so he wasn’t accustomed to children being resentful or defensive about their parentage, but perhaps her mother’s abandonment contributed to the girl’s sensitive nature.
Oversensitive, Chaç corrected himself. She will surprise the boy.
Captain Tavid Khrishķ was at the corner of the bar, drinking too much. He had offended Rix, he wasn’t sure how. But she was easy to rile up. He had somehow earned reproach from Master Chaç, and even Startrekker, for voicing his disapproval of Rix’s ridiculous costume. Now, however, when he watched her and the new pilot make their way to the bar, he realized she moved with the grace of swaying trees and possessed a non-human elegance. She appeared unfamiliar and otherworldly, accompanied by the Atlantean shuttle pilot in his dress blacks—the man’s hand was conspicuously on her elbow. She was interesting in a way Tavid never considered her interesting. She was chatting animatedly, her attention on the pilot. Instead of annoying, she was annoyed—with him—and those around her seemed to think he deserved her censure. It was confusing. This afternoon, on the stairs, everything had seemed as it always had been. He was the pilot, and she was the kid in the research station where he had been stationed for as long as he’d been in the Navy. Tonight, the world was skewed, and, almost, it made him angry. But what he felt was more than anger, it was the same burning resentment that flushed him when he met off-world pilots. Tavid didn’t like it, but knew he had butted up against the wall of his own envy. That made it worse. He caught the juice’s attention and pointed at his empty ale glass.
Master Chaç slid onto the stool beside him, and signaled the juice to bring him the same. They drank in companionable silence, and observed the room. Chaç’s attention was mostly on the envoys from Atlantis and the Seekers. Tavid forced his attention away from the other end of the bar. They drank, and the silence between them stretched. Chaç asked for another round. He took a sip, and sighed.
“They will never agree to a limit on their GOD program, you know,” the Bilil muttered. Chaç sounded bitter. “Sentient beings in 13 realities believe the Bilil to be arrogant and uncompromising. As a people, we are modest and agreeable by comparison to those frakking Seekers. They won’t be happy until they brainwash the entire 3rd Astral plane.”
“That’s this one… the 3rd plane?” Tavid asked.
Chaç gazed at him for a moment, his expression curious. Tavid squirmed on the chair and felt stupid. He should have kept his mouth shut.
“She is out of your league,” Chaç said.
Master Chaç said it as a goad. The Bilil were cruel and brutally direct more often than they were diplomatic. Tavid would have ignored the scientist if what he said hadn’t been true. Tavid tried to frame a half dozen different responses but none of them sounded anything other than defensive or jealous or angry. He stared at his beer and said nothing.
“All these years you’ve spent with her, you had to know she is practically royalty. Her Uhanna mother is a niece of the Uhanna Suprema. And Wikk Æsthizella is senior GæLic Paleontologist and Master, Chair of the IASCO, probably the most respected scientist in all 13 Realities and spokesman to the AC. He is only here on this backwater planet out of scientific interest and to keep the peace between the Seekers and everyone else. And to train Mistress Rix.”
Tavid looked up sharply.
“Train Rix? For what? To be Wikk?”
“She is already almost that, from what I understand. No, my friend, the Astral Council has far bigger interest in Mistress Rix,” Chaç said, his voice very low. “You have been extraordinarily fortunate to have had this time to spend with her.”
The captain’s temper flared.
“Is she going somewhere?” he asked, allowing sarcasm to singe his tone.
“Without a doubt. You probably both are. Keep tuned in to what happens with this summit. I believe a war with the Seekers is inevitable. The Wikk does not. But if war comes, captain, I don’t need to remind you that you are in the Uhanna Navy.”
“War over some struggling experimental species on a terra-formed rim planet in the Milky Way Galaxy?” Capt. Tavid said, allowing his skepticism full voice.
“No my friend, a Universal war between the Seekers and the Bilil. Détente is disintegrating in more than a few places. The insufferable zealots have insurgents on multiple worlds in two different realities, without permission from the AC. The Bilil will not tolerate it much longer, not to mention what might come down from the AC.”
Tavid studied the Bilil Master’s face, so beautiful and human-looking at the moment. But the eyes flickered with the saurian deadliness of his less-human shape. Tavid had never seen a Bilil shift. Did the morph change them mentally as well as physically? What shape did they take on their homeworld? 4th reality was said to be similar to 3rd but with variable laws, so was their shape-changing a choice, a convenience, or a necessity?
“Why would the Uhannas become involved?” he asked.
“The Uhannas will uphold AC law, and will not tolerate an IASCO affiliate to break the laws or undermine experiments on target planets. They are the cosmic peacekeepers as well as the data keepers, don’t you know? It’s only here on this world you have such a cozy job as a pilot, and do not also operate as a Peacekeeper. The girl understands this inherently, why don’t you?” The Bilil had an expression that wavered between amusement and seriousness. Tavid wondered if he was being tested in some way. Probably.
He was utterly failing at everything today, so he expected he would fail the Bilil’s test as well. He caught the juice’s eye, and pointed at his empty ale glass. He would not fail to get drunk.
Oddly, it was eukarotes that Rix was thinking about. It was said the Astral Council’s Magician created the first one, melding designed bacteria with a random, powerless archaea to come up with the building block for all physical life. Eukarotes were a miracle of design and chance, self-powered, dynamic, friendly to each other, but made from two disparate things, programmed bacterium, and naturally occurring archaeon. It was impossible that they under any circumstances would combine, and yet the Magician tinkered with the structure of the bacterium until they did combine.
Which means, Rix thought, The Magician is not a physical lifeform, or was not before eukarotes. Was that why The Magician created them—to give shape to thought, to make ideas solid?
So why was the AC so against the interbreeding of human species, whether they were off-world, or experimental species specific to a particular planet? The structure of all physical life was so similar, especially with hominids from the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th realities, that it really made no sense to have an interdiction on hybridizing. The only thing she imagined was the AC, and probably IASCO, wanted the microbial experiments to stay pure and not be contaminated by foreign microbes or pathogens that would ultimately compromise and influence the experiments. Her eyes had wandered to somewhere above Jag’s head and gotten lost.
“What are you contemplating so seriously?” Jag asked.
“The structure of basic design,” she replied, amused.
“Of this research station?” he asked. “It’s big. Uhanna stuff.”
“No. Of all life,” she laughed.
“Ho. Isn’t that hundreds of different designs?” he said. “How can I compete with that much distraction?”
“No, it is one design—a single structure created by a brilliant mind. The Magician combined a programmed bacteria with natural….stuff,” she laughed, using his word, “and voila, a self-powered, self-replicating living organism. It’s the coolest, most brilliant thing ever.”
“Was he Uhanna?” Jag asked, “this bonna smart scientist who is now not even remotely human?”
“Of course not,” Rix replied. “He’s one of the Astral Council. That’s not even a question I thought to ask. If he even is a he. He began formless.”
“By formless, do you mean thought?” Jag asked. “And if you ask questions, shouldn’t you ask them all?”
“Yes,” she said, the idea worming through her in a slow seep of revelation.
“So if he was formless, that means he was pure energy, right?” he asked.
“Sure, I guess. I hadn’t thought about it.”
“So maybe he created eukarotes so they could have shape. So the formless AC could shape shift.”
“That’s an interesting theory.”
In fact, it was an intriguing idea. Why hadn’t she thought about that long ago? Jag’s eyes were full of humor. The planes of his face were an exquisite example of the gene cross between Bilil and the Atlantean native group. The Atlantians were quite similar to the Kumaris in physical type and gene sequence, but the Atlantean people were slimmer, taller, and fair.
“Yes, I should ask all the questions, if I can even identify that it is a question. I should ask that then… what are the questions?”
“Perhaps you should, but could it wait until tomorrow?” His slight look of merriment was almost sultry. It made her sweat. She focused on him, so sharply he straightened and drew back.
“Wow. That’s daunting,” he laughed. “I diverted the attention of the Apprentice Wikk, and it bored a hole in my forehead!”
She Pushed him. Playfully. And raised her empty glass. The juice brought her a fresh drink.
She Pushed him again. A little shove of energy that she sent outward like a physical laugh.
He resisted. Playfully. Her stomach jumped. That Startrekker could Push was a revelation. That someone could use it for play was—exciting.
Eukarotes, Rix thought, were the impossible magic from the AC. The building blocks of all living things. They were the original hybrid. What were she and Jag but very diverse, specialized hybrids? What could possibly be wrong with a little hybridizing? Seemed like a lot of fuss over something that was already a fact.