The plexihide hull of Relentless shone like a copper brewer's vat as it lowered itself through the rings of orange illumination created by a thousand sodium vapor uplights. My hands were damp as I watched the great ovoid shuttlecraft level itself off before dropping its landing gear. Re-entry had burned off its hotskin, and I let myself wonder briefly on what bit of sea or earth the shredded remains of the skin might fall. They'll make someone rich, I thought. Either that or get them shot. The first scraps of alien memorabilia to reach the earth in its five billion year history were bound to create a sensation. Money or ammunition would change hands...but the boys from the black out would get it in the end.
The boys were here now, on the eighty six rocky and windswept kilometers of Ascension Isle in the central South Atlantic, forming heavily armed quads around the Containment. Beyond the containment fence, concealed beneath a hide of rock and soil six meters thick, lay the big guns; their eighteen centimeter calibers trained upon what was officially code-named Golgotha, but had become known to one and all as the "G Spot".
Relentless hovered two hundred meters above the "G", its landing gear fully extended, its stabilization kites making soft tearing sounds in the updraft. Watching the ninety ton mass of biometal and polymers prepare for its final descent, I was struck with a sense of my own good fortune. This would be my greatest introduction of all...
Ten thousand years ago, amidst the swollen purple blooms of my father's gravity garden, I made my first introduction. My sister was flawlessly beautiful, with skin of spilt milk and eyes that shifted through the color spectrum, refracting light more artfully than any physicist armed with a cube. She was clever too, though thankfully not in the way that some women are clever, with their equations and one-man-upmanship and quick charmless talk. No. Sironica was all charm. She could have been many things--a chartmaker, a biolanthrapist, or a wet-nurse in the great solar hatcheries of V-Mayga--yet she had chosen to be charming instead. Make no mistake, my friend, charm is not something to be lightly dismissed, nor is it something that you are either born with or without as is so erroneously believed by many cultures. On the contrary, as was well known by the geishas of Hein Period, the courtesans of Lois XIV and the Nail Women of Satow's lesser moon Ji, charm is something to be worked on.
It came in handy in the gravity garden, let me tell you. There was I, sitting in Thought on a bed of newly-trimmed bloodmoss, idly watching my sister in the distance as she took cuttings from the not-roses to dry then press in her book, when who should enter the garden but one of my fellow students from the Chartery, Barro Hor, First Son of the Riselord Bannoi Hor. Even then Barro had little love for either learning or nature, and in his determination to get to me (when bullied into helping with his studies I had provided him with a little...how should I put it?...incorrect information), he kicked a direvine out of his way.
Now, as I'm sure you know, many plants are named in hopeful earnest. Forget-me-nots are easily forgotten, no one has ever successfully rendered butter from a buttercup nor received a black eye from a black-eyed susan. Bluebells are more purple than blue, and snowbells look more like streetlights than bells--and neither of them could toll if their reproductive cycles depended upon it. Even so, bearing the romantic tendencies of native peoples and botanists in mind, there are a handful of plants that are so aptly named that one wonders if the gods hadn't whispered them on the wind. Deadly nightshade is one such plant. Direvine is another.
Direvines normally grow in two gee. Their sap runs as slow and heavy as mercury and their scaled and wooded stems contain ten percent lead. They are heavy, muscular, charmless as an iron bar sprouting whiskers and as territorial as a moose stag in rut. When Barro Hor kicked a direvine runner from his path, he triggered a response known as "luring", where one direvine mistakenly believes that his territory is being invaded by another.
Suffice to say that this particular runner, being newly grown and not yet fully articulated and muscled, only had enough strength to swat the Riselord's son off his feet (to this day I thank the gods it wasn't oldgrowth!). Barro Hor hit the ground like a felled tree. "Shit!" he said loudly, I remember.
I immediately stopped sitting in Thought and stood in alarm instead. In good gravity, Barro Hor had ten kilos over me; and although I'm no mathematician, in the artificially lowered gee of the gravity garden it looked as if it might be more. I will tell you that I felt my bladder muscles soften. There was Barro, thirteen meters ahead of me, his face red, his great bull arms moving to push his newly-enhanced mass of the biofloor.
That was when Sironica did her thing. I can see it all as clearly as if it were yesterday; the soft squelch of bloodmoss as my sister's feet came down upon it, the pale not-rose losing petals in her hand, the eyes switching to the violet end of the spectrum as she turned her smile upon the Riselord's son. Seeing her, Barro froze in the position of half-squat that he had levered himself into. Violent rage turned to stricken embarrassment, and I feared for myself even more. It's one thing to lose face in front of a fellow male--if you're muscled like Barro Hor you can always beat the crap out of him-- but quite another to lose it in front of a girl.
Charm saved me that day. And an introduction turned the man who would one day be known throughout the galaxy as Emperor of Seven Suns from an angry and disgruntled bully into a friend.
Well, perhaps not a friend exactly, but certainly someone who could be called upon later for favors.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. After three thousand years of this you'd think I'd have learnt how to tell a decent after dinner story by now.
Back to that golden wavering moment in the gravity garden, where the scents of lime and not-roses hung in the air, and the fates of three people hung in the balance. Sironica moved to my side, all the while smiling at Barro. As her flower-filled hand came up to touch my shoulder, she said to him, "I wouldn't study those direvines any closer if I were you. If you're not careful they'll knock you off your feet."
Words fail me when I think about my sister's brilliance that day. She was a gem amongst women, a princess (well, an empress later as it happened), a lady of the highest order. She had seen him fall, make no mistake about it. The violet mirth in her eyes told me that, yet there she stood, brazen without being brazen (if you know what I mean) and lied with delicious charm and impeccable tact to Barro Hor's face.
Best of all Barro believed her; believed perhaps that her view had been obstructed by a crown of New England ferns, or that she had just entered the garden from a mysterious second gate. It hardly matters what he thought. The point is, she convinced him that she had not been party to his humiliation and thereby saved his pride.
With that Sironica dimmed her smile and went to turn away. That was when I did my thing. I can't tell you in all honesty that I noticed the first bright gleam of infatuation in Barro's red-spectrum eyes, nor can I say that I had a plan other than saving my own hide. What I can say is that I acted on instinct. And instinct has always been good to me.
Extending my arm to halt my sister's withdrawal, I said, "Barro, I don't believe you've had the honor of meeting my sister Sironica Toru, First Daughter of the Third Ringlord Ganbanis Toru, and great granddaughter to the Handmaiden Lalonis Mai. Sironica. Meet a classmate of mine, Barro Hor."
It was all smiles after that. Sironica charmed Barro--how could she not?--Barro impressed Sironica with his lineage, his military grays and his boldness, and I, Sadaver Toru, inserted myself into history by the most deliciously easy route.
How many times have you read, If so-and-so had not met so-and-so the world would have been a different place? Imagine for one moment if you will, what might have happened if Jesus Christ had not met Judas Iscariot, if Christopher Columbus had not met Queen Isabella of Spain, if Colonel Parker had not met Elvis, if Karl Marx had not met Friedrich Engels, or Bill Gates had not met Paul Allen. I bet you don't know the names of the people who introduced them. I do.
It was me.
©J.V. Jones 1998. Reproduction of this material is not permitted without the author's written consent.
New | Meet | Message | Read | Order | Bodger & Grift | Index | Home