Saturday, June 13, 2015

Seeing is Becoming: Boarders (Part IV)

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Click here for the previous installment...

“You want me to do what now?” Vearden asked.
A Gondilak doctor was standing in front of him, hands on his hip. “I would like you to cut yourself. With that knife. It doesn’t have to be too deep, but it can’t be too shallow either.”
“I’m not into that.”
“We just have to see what it looks like.”
You do it.”
Dr. Reeder—translation unclear—rolled his eyes. He moved shockingly like a human. “Fine.” He took the knife back and carelessly ran it across Vearden’s arm.
“Oh my God!” Vearden screamed. “Does it always hurt like that?” The cut sealed up almost as quickly as it was created.
“For us, we get used to it,” Reeder replied. “Especially for those of us living so close to the Orothsewan border.”
“I was to understand that Orothsew was the name of the entire planet?”
Reeder cut Vearden on his other arm.
“Ouch again! Jeez, you never told me you were going to do it again.”
“Did I not?” He stabbed Vearden in the leg. “The Orothsew and the Gondilak evolved on two different continents, separated by a treacherous ocean. Each culture had named this planet on its own before the Orothsew progressed enough to discover us. We’ve been warring for centuries. They only recently made claim to their sliver of land on our continent, which they were able to do with slightly superior technology.”
“Do you get aliens on this side too?” Vearden dodged a few more attacks, but a stealthy archer shot him with an arrow from behind.
“We do occasionally,” Reeder said while he was breaking the arrow. “But humans only ever help the Orothsew.” He pulled the back end of the arrow out quickly. “We do not know why.” He lowered his gaze, obviously preparing to drop the knife on Vearden’s foot.
“Let’s...stop this for now,” Vearden said, gently taking the knife. “I think you have enough data for the day. And I need to contact my partner.”
“She is still with them.”
“Well, it’s not my fault that you only took me.”
“Not my fault either. That is not my job.”
He sighed. “Do you have a telephone, or a carrier pigeon, or something?”
“I have no idea what those words mean.”
Vearden thought about his options for a moment. “Okay. She’s going to try to find me. But she doesn’t know the terrain, so she would request a guide or a search party. Assuming they agreed, where might we be able to intercept them? Where would they start their search for me?”
“Well, they would go back to where the ambush was, probably. But that’s still in their territory. Our operatives took great risk to get you but that’s only because they value you. For her, the leaders would never agree to cross that deep past the boundary. Your next best chance is in the Diamond Forest.”
“You have a forest of diamonds?” Vearden was excited.
“It’s shaped like a diamond,” the doctor condescended. “Calm down. Anyway, I doubt they would let you go. You are, as I’ve said, valuable to them.”
“I don’t need their permission. I am not a prisoner here.”
Reeder shrugged. “Semantics.”
“Can you help me or not?”
“I can’t help you, per se. But I can lead you to someone who can.”
He gave him directions on where to go, but it wasn’t necessary. His new liaison-slash-bodyguard took him there. They walked into a tent and found themselves with a crowd of both Gondilak and Orothsew. One such of the latter was clearly in some kind of position of authority.
“Ah, the human,” she said. “What is he doing here?”
“I was told that you could help me get back to my partner. She’s with the...um, you know, with you guys.”
She laughed. “Don’t look so surprised. This war is based on land; not race. The Orothsewan government would like you to believe that they are following a singular vision, but they are most certainly not. The majority of the population on both sides disapprove of the war, and a few of us have temporarily defected in hopes of forming a new culture, composed of the entire planet of Orolak, free from segregation.
“Ked rihl,” one of the other Orothsew muttered in his native tongue.
“Quiet, Mujel. It isn’t a pipe dream. And please speak English in front of our guest. Those are the rules.” She looked back over to Vearden and extended her hand. “I am Uhyiopa.”
“I can’t help but notice,” Vearden admitted, “that there is a surprisingly high number of people here who speak my language. Even with the supposed hundreds of human visitors, most of you should not be able to speak it, especially not so fluently.”
“We teach it in schools now. We have determined it to be the most widely spoken language in the galaxy.”
“It is?” he asked. “How is that possible?”
“You have heard that Orolak is some kind of natural hub for alien visitors?”
“Indeed.”
“In the spirit of that, Earth seems to be a sort of ambassador homebase. It’s true that only a few hundred have come here total, but a not insignificant number of those few hundred have been transported to planets besides ours. You’re like a colonizing race, but without all the conquering. The strange thing is,” she paused for effect, “not a single one of you appears to have any control over it.”
Vearden took a second to process the information. He had already known that he and Saga weren’t the only ones. But it seemed to be so much bigger than that. The people in charge had some kind of grand design. They plan these missions, and they send their unwitting minions out into the field. No one knew who they were, or why they were doing this, but there was clearly a consensus that they existed. No one was even so much as entertaining the possibility that there was no plan at all. What if it was all just random? What if these...what should he call them, powers that be, aren’t there at all? What if people just didn’t realize that this was how the universe worked; a strange form of chaos theory where sometimes you’re simply teleported somewhere else?
“I need some air,” Vearden said, nearly hyperventilating. He walked over and pulled the flap of the tent back. What he found there was a change in scenery. He had been transported, just like before to Orolak, but this time he was back on Earth. At least, he assumed it to be Earth. He saw no Orothsew or Gondilak. The buildings looked more familiar. And he saw humans.
“Vearden?” came the voice of his sister.
“Allison!” he cried out. “It’s so good to see you.”
“You too,” she agreed. She didn’t act like he had been missing at all. “I honestly thought that you would crap out on me again. But you’re here. On time. And on the day that I asked.” That wasn’t right. Not only had he spent a few days on Orolak, but he had set out for this summer camp a day later than he had promised. Even if the powers that be had moved sent him back to Earth the moment after he first left, he would have been late, according to his sister’s schedule.
“What day is it?”
“What are you asking, V?”
“Just humor me. Please.”

She eyed him suspiciously, but felt like it wasn’t worth arguing. “It’s Tuesday, May 19.” That was the proof. He left for Orolak on Wednesday, and had already been scolded by Allison about that. He had traveled back in time. Click here for the next installment...

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