C7: Chapter Seven – Lost on Earth
With a loud crack, Nico’s front door gave. The Th’Urn messenger was inside and all but upon them, crossing the small house quickly.
“Oh- what is that?” Bob asked, shocked into stillness by the sight of the great, black-shelled alien that was suddenly menacing them. Messengers were large and slow and dumb, but their thick shells made them nearly indestructible. Nico, fully transformed into her Th’Urn self, grabbed Bob’s hand, pulled him through the back door and into the screened-in porch that led to the backyard, realizing that she now had to face the messenger and at the very least hear his message. Pushing Bob behind her, she issued a command.
I am Nicomeda, Empress-designate of the Th’Urn. Reveal your message!
Allowing the dimwitted creature to deliver his message would both lull him into believing that she would cooperate and, hopefully, give them time to try and escape.
As Nico stood waiting for the message, she had a niggling feeling that something wasn’t quite right. Despite that premonition, it was Bob who regained his nerve and slipped am arm around Nico to pull her back as the messenger struck out with one of its powerful front legs.
“Nico, honey, we have to move,” he shouted. He continued to pull her with him as he backed away from the creature, maneuvering them so as to put the picnic table that was there between them and the messenger, in the hopes it would act as some protection.
What are you doing! Nico screamed at it inside her head. Reveal your message! she again ordered.
The messenger lashed out at her again, striking the redwood picnic table, which split into pieces as he finally answered Nico.
No Empress may be left, he told her and she saw his memories inside her own head along with the connection- the death of the old Empress, of the waiting potential Empress, of Th’Urn after Th’Urn who had stayed loyal to the monarchy.
“No!” Nico gasped, reverting to speech as she tried to sever the connection, tried to push the images back out of her head.
The messenger hopped forward, flapping his wings to rush in faster, breaking through the thin awning that served as the porch’s roof so that rainwater rushed down on him. Nico glanced up at the lamp that hung from the ceiling in the middle of the room. It took only a moment’s concentration to send the current from the light bulb’s socket arcing down into the form of the messenger, making him twitch and fall to the floor stunned.
“What did you- how did you do that?” Bob shuddered.
Ignoring Bob’s astonished question, she said, “Hurry, Bob, he won’t be unconscious for long.”
Coming back to himself, he responded, “Uh- my car’s waiting, we can be out of town in half an hour.”
They were halfway down the block when Nico put a hand on Bob’s shoulder and said, “Wait. We have to go back.”
Anakin spent several minutes accessing the SETI mainframe and setting off the virus he’d installed several years earlier. It was his contingency plan for just such a day as this one. He had designed it to not only wipe all traces of him from the official SETI records, but to search out and corrupt any and all Th’Urn type patterns snatched from the reaches of space by the radio telescopes. It would take a few days, but the virus would eventually propagate to all systems connected wirelessly to the mainframe, as well. Anakin had used an old Th’Urn programming language that no one on Earth could have even a passing familiarity with, making the virus practically unstoppable.
Then Anakin wiped his laptop’s hard drive and telephoned his wife. There wasn’t anything more Anakin could do to help Nico- even if he had rushed to where she was facing the messenger from Th’Urn, he knew he would come too late. It was all he could do to protect them- Nico, Lisa and himself- from the Earth’s government scientists.
“Hey Ani, what’s up?” Lisa’s sleepy voice came through the phone. She must have been napping again.
“Coming home early. How’s your back?” he answered nonchalantly. It really wouldn’t do to start the pregnant woman worrying before he had to- the messenger wasn’t actually after them. “You need anything?”
“Ice cream would be nice, but no, I really don’t need anything.”
“I’ll see what I can do.” Anakin pulled a box of the good cookies out of his desk drawer to bring home to her. He wasn’t coming back there to eat them anyway. “Say Lisa, did you get a chance to check the suitcases this morning, like you planned?” The suitcases had been packed for a good three weeks in anticipation of when they would have to go to the mountains for the birth.
“Yup, everything we need to disappear until little Luke or Leia can master camouflaging him or herself as human, just like dear old Dad does,” Lisa chirped cheerfully. It was good that she felt safe enough in all this to view hiding in a rustic mountain cabin for five or so years as an adventure. Anakin reckoned going to another planet all by her lonesome put something like that in perspective. It had for him.
“You know we aren’t using either of those names- it was cruel enough of you to name me after a movie character for your amusement,” he chided.
“Your people had no names- I needed some way to keep you all straight in my head. How was I supposed to know yours would stick?”
“Don’t worry, I’m changing it when we go away.”
“Uh-huh. Spoilsport,” she groused.
“Coming home now,” he responded, deciding that he could spring the news that they were heading to the mountains a couple of months early, once he got home and could do it in person.
“That ought to hold him,” Bob pronounced, double checking the knots they had tied on the garden hose that was currently serving to bind the Th’Urn messenger so that once he woke, Nico could “talk” to him.
“If not, I can always apply more electricity. It’s primitive and brutal, but so is he.” She gestured to the slowly stirring beetle-like Th’Urn that was lying on the floor.
“Right, so- uh… What are you going to say to him? I mean, he’s essentially an assassin here to ensure you can’t try and take the throne. How do you even start with something like that?”
“I’m not so sure. Maybe I can start by showing him how much I’d rather be here with you,” Nico muttered more to herself than to Bob.
“You would?” Bob asked, just a little shocked that she had phrased it like that. He wasn’t much of a catch and even worse, he had betrayed her. Why would she want to be with him?
Nico smiled slyly at him and took his hand. “Of course.”
The messenger made a sharp hissing sound as he came to, distracting them from their conversation.
“All right,” Nico said, determinedly, “You keep an eye on him and warn me if he looks like he might be getting loose. I’ll do what I can to convince him I’m not interested in the Throne of Th’Urn.”
“Wait, Nico, how will I know how you are doing? I can’t know what you’re saying to him psychically,” Bob questioned.
Nico bit her lip and considered for a moment. “You’re right. You better be in on the link, as well,” she decided and suddenly, he was.
Bob could see Nico from both front and back, although from the back (his own true vantage point) she looked perfect and beautiful and from the front (the messenger’s view) she looked menacing even as she still looked like herself. “The link must be subjective,” Bob thought to himself. He could also see the messenger as Nico saw him- not the repulsive black-shelled beast that Bob was so terrified by, but one of her own- a cousin who was trying to serve his people. Bob also saw himself the way both of the Th’Urn saw him- Nico’s warm, familiar friend (he seemed to have more hair in her mind’s eye than he did in the mirror each morning) and the messenger’s barely acknowledged annoyance (Bob was somehow a little blurry to the messenger).
I, Nicomeda, Empress-designate of the Th’Urn, renounce my claim to the Throne of Th’Urn. Nico began.
No Empress may be left. The messenger repeated the images of the revolution to them- the Empress and the potential Empress dying along with those still loyal to them.
I do not wish to be Empress, Nico sent her words along with her own set of images- the first time she felt the rain on her skin, the taste of cookies and fresh tomatoes, the joys of discovering Earth’s art and literature, the pride she had in her pretty little home.
No Empress may be left, was still the reply. The images of death ran continuously out from the messenger’s mind like a horrific piece of performance art.
I want to stay on Earth- stay among the humans. Nico tried sending images of all the people she had come to know and care for on the planet- her coworkers at the health food store, the children she knew from the neighborhood, and Bob, the man who she had let so far into her life that he was now sharing this dangerous moment with her.
No Empress, the messenger send to her again, but with a hint of doubt, as if it was a question instead of an order. The images slowed and stopped.
I don’t want to go back to Th’Urn. I want to stay with Bob. And then the images she produced were just like how she had seen Bob moments before- warm and familiar. Bob accidentally backing over her garbage can the first day they met and offering to buy her a new one, Bob bringing her lush, overripe tomatoes, Bob pulling her back from the messenger’s own threatening blows.
Bob was overwhelmed by these images- the way Nico saw him- there was only one word for it- Love. She loved him! Empowered by this knowledge, Bob thought his way into the “conversation”.
I want her to stay with me, too, Bob sent out to them. He thought about Nico as he’d seen her the first time- carrying an armful of wildflowers across her front lawn, about how she had looked months later when they had baked Christmas cookies together- covered in flour with colored sprinkles in her hair and laughing so hard she couldn’t breathe. He thought about how she looked earlier that very day when she had let her true form roll over her- skin rippling to her true blue color, wings and antenna sprouting back into their rightful places (she was breathtaking).
No Empress. This time the messenger said it with surety and the images he attached to it were those Nico had sent out earlier- Earth and her life in glorious color.
Yes, came from Nico.
Stay on Earth. Stay with Bob, the messenger added and a mix of Bob and Nico’s loving images washed over them, the mental pictures bleeding together.
Yes, Nico acknowledged again. You’ve got it. You can go home now. And abruptly, the connection severed.
Bob was back in the wreckage of Nico’s back porch watching Nico lean down to work at the hose that tied the messenger down.
She turned to smile over her shoulder. “You going to help me here, or are you just going to watch?” she said with a wink and smirk.
“Oh- right. Here, I’ve got the scissors,” Bob answered and stepped up to help.
Five Years Later
It was a bright, clear day- unseasonably warm for February, when the Th’Urn ambassador and her delegation arrived. Among the honor guard from Th’Urn was Bailey, who was one of the few who had been to Earth before, although his mission then had been to eliminate the potential Empress to ensure that she couldn’t challenge Th’Urn’s fledgling Individualistic Government. Bailey’s hard, black wings shone iridescent in the noontime sun. As he landed beside the lithe, delicately winged and blue skinned ambassador, Bailey thought greetings to those Earthlings he’d come to know.
Nico stood beside her mate, Bob, who held their small offspring- a girl named Tabitha. She was very small and squirmy, her skin colored a light purple. She wore a traditional Th’Urn headdress wrapped around her small antennae and she, like most little Th’Urn girls didn’t seem to like it. Bob’s brother John, who had been a particular friend to Bailey when he had been there five years earlier and recovering from electrocution, was next to Bob. John waved his small pink hand, but Bailey resisted returning the human gesture since the occasion was so formal.
The ambassador moved forward to greet the Earth’s representatives (there were a dozen of them or more, since the humans didn’t have one government, but hundreds). Bailey took the opportunity to note the other Th’Urn-Human hybrid family that stood watching the signing of the alliance treaty. The Silvermans- Lisa, Anakin, and their two offspring Leia and Michael stood to the far side of Nico’s family. Both of Anakin’s children fidgeted between their original and fully human forms showing their impatience to be somewhere else. As honored as he felt to have played his small part in making peace with Earth, Bailey’s feelings were similar to the children’s about all the pomp and circumstance they had to wait through to get to the cookies.
Bailey didn’t mean to intrude on Nico and Bob- he had meant to pay attention when the ambassador and each of the Earth leaders were signing the treaty and giving speeches (the Earthlings’ words being translated into accurate thoughts by Anakin Silverman), but he’d connected with them despite his intentions.
“Been a long time coming,” Nico’s proud and grateful thoughts included memories of her flight from Th’Urn, the day she convinced Bailey to not kill her and hours upon hours of mental meetings between Earth’s governments and Th’Urn’s envoys for which Nico served as a translator.
“Worth all the work?” Bob asked her, flashing his own memories of the last few years- their continued courtship, his new responsibilities advising his government on interplanetary affairs, the birth of Tabitha.
Every bit of it.
And the sun smiled down on them all, Th’Urn, human and offspring, as they embarked together on a new chapter of peace and prosperity.
Chapter seven by Virginia Diaz