The Lola and Pavel that Brad borrowed the bedding from invited everyone to their place for breakfast. They live next door, in a wood house with a dirt floor and only two rooms: a gathering slash dining area and the back room, a sleeping area. There are two tables in the dining area. One is for adults and the other table is for kids.
Lola and Pavel greeted Crys and Odelta with hugs and a kiss on each cheek. Lola commented immediately how Odelta looks so much like the Emmy they all loved. Every time someone said Emmy’s name, Chloe got angry. Lola and Pavel are the oldest out of everyone in the room.
There’s another couple, Raja and Honza. Raja has a swollen belly like Chloe’s. Raja and Honza have two girls, Inka and Carla. Inka is eight and Carla is five. They warmed up to Odelta on the spot. The girls walked over to the kids table and sat down, talking and waiting for their food patiently.
Then there is Josef. He looks like a combination of Lola and Pavel. He has dark hair like Lola, brownish hazel eyes like Pavel, and a medium nose that is not as sharp as Pavel’s, but not as wide as Lola’s. Josef is Honza’s and Chloe’s little brother. Honza, the oldest, looks like Lola. He is a very pretty man. Chloe looks like Pavel; she is a handsome woman. Now that Crys has seen Pavel, he’s not as attracted to Chloe anymore.
Josef is the tallest in the room next to Honza. Honza is still taller by a few inches. Fortunately, the ceiling is very high.
As they all sit down at the adult table, Pavel comments, “I didn’t know how tall the kids would get, so I made sure the roof was very high. It looks like I called that one right!”
Everyone laughs but Crys. He’s afraid that if he does, the energy he picks up from their laughter could cause him to sound loud and obnoxious.
He’s glad everyone is in good spirits. Crys doesn’t think he could take negativity with this many people around.
Pavel sits at the head of the table and Lola sits at the end near the door. Raja sits to her left across from Chloe. Honza sits next to Raja across from Brad, and Josef sits to Pavel’s right, across from Crys on Pavel’s left.
They all sit before a bowl filled with a hot creamy substance. Crys doesn’t eat much and when he does eat he’s a picky eater. Apparently Crys’ human appendix works, so he doesn’t need to eat every day. He can get away with eating every three days, but to appease Alikah he eats every other day.
“What is this?” Crys asks.
“Hot oats with goats milk. I’m sure it will be your new favorite meal,” Josef says.
Everyone at the table laughs except Josef and Crys. They look at everyone like they are the only two sane people at the table. When everyone’s laughter settles, the eating and conversation begin.
Pavel asks what the dome city is like since they never heard much about it from Sam and Emmy. Sam’s name makes Chloe uneasy and almost sad. The emotion overpowers her hatred for Emmy.
Crys answers as ambiguously as feasibly possible. He says it’s dark and that he’s left alone often. He eats little and he rarely sees his sister.
Everyone but Chloe hangs their head. Crys can feel the wave of their genuine sympathy. Then Crys hears Chloe speak again without opening her mouth:
I bet he’s one of them. The little girl too.
Who does she think Crys and Odelta are?
Samses! Chloe says cockily in Crys’ mind.
Crys understands what’s happening. He can read her mind! Wait, she just said his dad’s name… Does she know him? Is he the Sam they all talk about?
Crys remember Emya’s stories about living among humans. She said Alikah and father lived with them for a time to make sure the humans didn’t know anything about the Zenty or the Zonians.
Crys recalls the names of the people Alikah and father lived with: Brad, Honza, Josef, Pavel, Lola, Raja, and Chloe. These are the exact people. What are the odds?
Actually the odds are good. There are only 300,000 humans in the area. About 1,000 live close to the river. About 193 live near the river in close proximity to the colony’s roots, which is the way in which Crys and Odelta traveled. Who knew the fishing hot spot used to be where Alikah skipped rocks with the human boy Brad? What a small world.
Crys is getting depressed from everyone’s sorrowful mood. He says, “But I’m glad my sister and I made it here safely.”
Then Crys hears Pavel’s thought:
I hope they didn’t encounter mad soldiers- those savages!
“We didn’t run into anything in the wasteland, fortunately,” Crys says.
He can feel Pavel’s worry dwindle.
From that point on, no one asks any more questions out loud about the dome, but Crys can hear the swarm of buzzing questions, pouring from their mind into his. Their thoughts are clearer than their words. Crys can hardly focus on the path of the conversation. Their thoughts hum loudly in his head, one right after the other. He looks so much like him. I wonder if it’s true. No, she wouldn’t let them leave alone. She must miss them so much. Emmy must be one too! Curse you Samses! Curse you… Emmy couldn’t be their mother could she? I wonder who their father is. Could their father be Sam?
Crys can’t take it! He slams his clenched fists on the surface of the table. The wood cracks, forming craters where his fists struck and everyone’s bowl topples over from the force.
Everyone stares at Crys. He doesn’t hear their thoughts anymore. Brad lies a hand on Crys shoulder, who feels the vibrant wave of Brad’s concern, confusion, and fear. Crys rolls his arm back and Brad’s hand slides off from the motion. In the process, Crys’ collar dips down, revealing his Kwab markings. Crys’ heard Brad’s immediate thought: Poor child! He’s been tortured… Emmy would never let this happen… would she?
Frustrated, Crys gets up.
“We’re leaving, Odelta.”
Odelta hurries to her brother’s side.
Cautiously Brad and Pavel rise. Brad asks, “Where are you going to go?”
“Don’t be foolish,” Pavel says.
Odelta turns to the door and excitedly shouts, “Mommy!”
Just then there’s a knock on the door.
Crys hears Chloe’s thought:
Yep. They’re both aliens.
Crys doesn’t understand how she knows. Brad is completely puzzled as he walks over to the door. Slowly he opens it and his eyes grow wide with awe, like he stands before the Alikah for the first time.
A woman with auburn hair, brown eyes, and wheat skin walks in. Everyone but the girls metally guess her name as Brad says it aloud.
“Hello Brad,” She says.
…Alikah’s Only Human..?
Crys knows this Emmy is his mother by her heartbeat. She looks at Crys, who refrains from looking her in the eye. He braces himself for the wave of fury she’s set to unleash. He looks into her eyes, and to his surprise, his mother radiates a wave of relief. She bends over, holding out her arms and Odelta rushes into them. She yells, “Mommy!” again.
So Crys doesn’t look abnormal, he walks over to his mother and gives her a side hug. She takes him boldly in that side embrace and holds him gently but firmly. Crys can feel her unconditional love seep into his soul. He didn’t expect his mother to react like this. It’s a little overwhelming. Tears build in his eyes.
“Don’t cry, son,” Emmy says genuinely out of love. “I grew worried when I didn’t see you by the creek- the river where I told you to meet us.”
After she said “us,” the man who everyone, except the little girls, knew as Sam walked inside. Odelta blurts, “Daddy!” towards Sam.
Odelta deeply regrets her outburst. Crys’ mother is panicked now. He’s never sensed that feeling in his Alikah. Crys’ father isn’t afraid though. He casually says, “We’re cousins through marriage only, not by blood.”
Pavel’s first thought is, Family is family… How could they?
Lola thinks, He went with my Chloe better.
Raja thinks, She goes with Brad better than Chloe does.
“So are you all back for good?” Honza asks.
Inka asks, “Who are they?”
“Inka sweetie, take you sister and go into the other room,” Honza says.
Raja added, “Listen to your father, girls.”
Inka took Carla by the hand and they went into the back room.
“We left to be a family… We will leave and let you all be.”
“You will always be our family, Emmy. You know that,” Brad says to counter Alikah’s words.
“Stop lying Sam. Tell everyone the truth,” Chloe says with tears in her eyes. Everyone heard the teary crack in her voice.
They all wanted to know what the truth was, but they didn’t dare to ask for it.
Crys sensed the house was surrounded from the outside by six guardians. Alikah was going to make sure they didn’t find out about the Zonians. Crys didn’t want anything to happen to these people, even though they annoyed him. He liked them and so did Odelta.
He stared into Chloe’s eyes and thought, If you don’t want anything to happen to you or your family, go along with it… inside Chloe’s mind. Chloe flinched and looked around herself. Crys felt her rush of terror. It worked! He placed a thought in her mind from his.
Relax, I’ll explain later. He did it again. Chloe shook her head and took a deep breath.
“I mean, Sam… Emmy… You came here to tell us the truth didn’t you?” Brad asks.
Alikah knows what to say now, Crys senses. She says, “I would like to speak to Brad in private.”
Brad refused. He figured whatever she had to say could be said in front of everyone.
“Brad, Crys is your son.”
Alikah said when she got back to the dome city with everyone, the bionics took Thatcher and Mya. She hasn’t seen them since. They told Emmy she was pregnant, and kept her in a room where she was monitored around the clock. She said when Crys was born, they took him away. A few years later, they brought Sam to her, and somehow they forced the two of them to be together. She didn’t want to go into detail around the children. Later Odelta, aka Odel, was born. Then, they released her, with her child. They placed the three of them in a home. Occasionally, they got to visit Crys on the dark side of the dome. She assumes they took Crys because he was the offspring of an outsider, and the bionics wanted to monitor him.
Crys knew Alikah was able to fabricate such a story by tapping into Odelta’s memories. Everyone believes her but Chloe. She knows Alikah is lying, because she knows Alikah isn’t human.
Brad is outraged. He yanks Crys from Alikah’s grasp and lifts the back of his shirt. “You call this monitoring him! I should have never let you leave… Why didn’t you leave sooner?” Brad yells.
Alikah hands Odelta to Samses. She steps forward and puts her face close to Brad’s. She lays one hand on his shoulder and the other on his chest. Gazing into his eyes, she softly says “I’m only human Brad.”
Brad rotates his shoulder so Alikah’s hand slides off and smacks her other hand away simultaneously. “A parent does anything and everything for his child and you did nothing…” Brad says with the bite of rage in his tone. “You did nothing!” Brad shouts angrily, with the veins in his neck bulging and his face flushing red.
Chloe comes from behind Brad and folds him in her arms. Tears have formed in Brad’s eyes. He turns away from Alikah and takes Chloe in his arms. He buries his face into the nook of Chloe’s neck. Chloe rubs his back to sooth his jumbled emotions of anger, grief, fear, and heartbreak.
Alikah takes Crys’ hand and says, “We’ll be on our way now.”
Brad jerks out of Chloe’s arms and firmly pulls Crys away from Alikah. Pavel, Honza, and Josef crowd around Brad and Crys. Crys feels the flood of their territorial protection. All of them will fight to keep Crys with them.
“He’ll stay with us and know what real family is like.” Brad doesn’t suggest, he demands.
Alikah begins to cry softly. She shakes her head, “That isn’t fair and you know it! I had no control-,” Brad didn’t let her finish.
“It sounds like you visited him more than once and had plenty of power to get him out. But you left him in the dark for the monsters!”
Crys knows from his mother’s barrier, shutting him out of her emotions, that she will leave him behind with the humans. He doesn’t understand why she would do that. Brad isn’t his father… Wait, Crys doesn’t look like her or Samses. He’s human looking all the time and can’t shape shift. When Alikah said Crys was Brad’s son, he didn’t sense she was lying… That’s why Crys can link with humans and not Zonians, because he is part human.
Why does he want to go back? All he has to eat is nasty food, and he lives in the cold, damp, filthy roots of the host. They rarely spend time with him. With the humans he can dine with them, listen to their stories, and be part of a real family. They treat Odelta better than him anyways. If he goes back, he’ll be punished, not her. It isn’t fair. He doesn’t want to go back.
“I want to stay,” Crys says.
Suddenly a high pitched shriek whistled in the air. A bright light flashed, nearly blinding. Crys could still see the outlines of people’s figures. The humans fell to the ground. When the light faded back to normal, all of them were asleep on the ground.
Six humans walked inside, then they shifted into Zonians. One of them was Tayla. They weren’t guardians like Crys had thought. It was a team of scientists.
“What are you doing?” Crys shouts.
Crys’ family phased back into Zonians.
The Alikah says, “Fixing your mistake. There was no way out. Chloe was still going to ask questions.”
“You can blame your gey’foi for that Alikah. He told her about us!” Crys argues.
“Go back home Geocrys,” The Alikah orders him.
“No, I want to stay.”
Abruptly, Crys feels a sharp pain burn in the middle of his back. It slowly began to cool. Then the same unpleasant sensation formed on the backs of his neck and limbs. His vision tunneled until he blacked out and collapsed to the ground.
CRYS WAKES UP in the hanging chamber of (:): is’ sis’ oi :(:). He hates the green goop, especially the pods that hang from the ceiling in the Tri’oi’ta. He really pissed Alikah off. She stored him away in the medical bay.
Without warning, his pod plunges to the floor, and the (:): is’ sis oi :(:) sack bursts, and setting Crys free. The impact caused little pain. Crys uses his arms to lift himself to his feet.
Tayla appears before him. He didn’t hear her coming or notice where she came from. She tosses him a long, thick cloth made from a strong, soft, fuzzy fabric to wipe the green goop off himself. He isn’t like the Zonians, where the goop just slides off him perfectly and then nanos go to work and build an outfit on him. After he wipes himself off as best he can, he takes the cloth and wraps it around his waist to cover his lower body.
He abstains from motion, plundering deep in thought. He is significantly different down there… He’s way bigger. He stares at Tayla and his eye matches hers. He’s taller! He puts his hands before his face and they are big and full, yet sleek. He has manly hands like Brad and Pavel! He’s grown! How long was he in the pod?
Tayla didn’t give him a chance to ask about it.
“Isn’t it interesting? The (:) is’ sis’ oi :(:) has a different effect on you. It slows our aging process, but it progresses yours,” She says.
Crys wonders when scientific fact became interesting to Tayla. She always says the proof is the fact, that fact is truth, it can’t provoke truth. It’s the unexplainable that’s more interesting to her, because everything has a meaning waiting to be discovered. The unexplainable provokes her to test her knowledge.
She throws a white t-shirt and a pair of white, coarse pants at Brad. “Put those on. Then proceed to Alikah’s chambers.”
ALIKAH SAT in her reclining chair in the middle of the room. She had her purple ceremonial garment on, a very long, flowing dress. Zonians aren’t very expressive in art and especially not in clothing, but many would think her outfit is marvelously extravagant.
“Hello son,” Alikah greets Crys, as he stands steadfast before her with his hand behind his back and his feet shoulder width apart.
“Hello Alikah,” Crys says.
“There’s no need for formality among us, son. It’s not like the colony is listening. Please, call me mother.”
“Hello mother, what do you want?”
Alikah titters. “Why do you assume I want something from you? As your Alikah you have nothing to offer me, but as your mother, you have everything to offer me.”
Crys sighs. He’s not really up for the family moment. He just wants to return to the roots of the host and continue to plan for his long overdue trip to the wastelands.
A calla lily shaped glass rose out of the floor beside Alikah. She took the glass into her right hand and took a quick sip. Holding it in her lap in both of her hands, she says, “As a right of passage, a newly mature Zonian must be commissioned on behalf of the colony. He must fulfill his mission and return home to be titled an adult by his Alikah.”
She takes another sip of her drink, this time a slower one.
“Look at me, Alikah, do I look Zonian to you? I think I took after my father, wouldn’t you say?”
He wants his mother to say directly to him Brad is his father. Yes, she told Brad, but in the Zonian community everything is considered a lie unless said directly between Zonians.
“You’re not anything like Samses. You’re more like your grandfather.”
(:: Aur’mi’us =:= AHT-YE’OI’DOI ::), a great warrior of a warrior clan, is Crys’ grandfather and Alikah’s father. He was once a general in the ::)(::=::= Kli’san’doi =::=::)(::, or as humans would say “elite military”. There are rumors the Kli’san’doi has been reestablished and Armeus runs it, but Crys isn’t in the loop with his fellow Zonians.
“I always thought he was this cruel, arrogant man who expected me to fail. But,” she takes another swig of her drink, “that wasn’t him. That was the cocktail personalities of all the past Alikahs of our colony.” She chuckles softly. “I thought I could fight them and be different, but when you become the Alikah, you’re all the Alikahs!” She boasts, raising her glass to make a toast.
“To the Alikahs!”
Then she drinks until her beverage is gone. She throws the glass towards the ground, but before it makes contact, the floor turns into liquid. The glass sinks without breaking and disappears beneath the floor.
“Imagine all the thoughts of a group of humans swirling in your head. You can’t silence them. Imagine that, times a hundred, plus every single train of thought of everyone in the colony… It’s some kind of hell.”
Another full glass emerges from the floor and rises to meet Alikah’s hand, which is reaching over the side of her chair for it. She takes it and holds it out towards Crys, “Come, drink it.”
He can’t disobey the Alikah. Who knows what would happen to him…
He takes a weary few steps up to Alikah. The glass is freezing cold in his grasp. The tips of his fingers begin to tingle. He knows he can’t question what it is he has to drink, he just has to drink it.
He puts the glass to his lips and conjures up the courage to drink it. It doesn’t have a smell. He tilts his head and the glass back, and the yellow liquid slides into his throat. The beverage has no taste but is the texture of moist soil. He doesn’t want to know what he’s drinking.
The beverage packs a kick as he swallows the last of it. Blood rushes to his head and a subtle headache stirs. He loses feeling in his hands and drops the glass, which is rescued by the floor.
Crys tried to ask his mother if she poisoned him, but his tongue wouldn’t move. His entire body was paralyzed and he fell on his side on the ground. He tried to give his mother a piece of his mind, but he still couldn’t speak.
I didn’t poison you son. Tayla and Runther are scientific geniuses! They discovered a way to give us a link and help equip you for your mission.
As Crys remained motionless on the floor by no will of his own, the Alikah briefed him for his mission. Once the effects wore off, he would go. Wait… a change of plans. Crys feels the middle of his back burn slowly. The same unpleasant sensation happens again, the same way it did back in the home of the humans. At least this time, all he had to do was wait to pass out. Since he was on the floor, he didn’t even have to worry about falling.
CRYS DIDN’T ACTUALLY THINK he’d ever have to perform such a ridiculous ritual. The ritual of mission to adulthood…
It’s not ridiculous Geocrys. You never know what you’ll gain from this experience. His mother is linked to him. They are hundreds of miles apart. The Alikah and Crys are the first Zonians ever to link across such a distance. Weeks ago he couldn’t link with Zonians and now, he can link with his mother in what amounts to a monumental milestone for his people. It’s amazing how quickly life changes in an instance.
Crys has been outside a shielded, opaque dome that reaches thousands of feet high for hours. He’s thirsty, his skin is covered in the pasty texture of sweat and dirt, and the heat is unpleasant. The occasional burst of harsh dust devils, or whirling funnels of dust, don’t help. He’s supposed to wait here until he’s picked up by security, which should have happened hours ago.
Say something… So they know you’re not savage.
Say something? Like what, mother? Say, ‘I come in peace’… ‘Let me in’… Oh I know. My life is long and prosperous because I’m Zonian. Are you sure I’m not walking into my death?
I would never put you in death’s way.
But that doesn’t mean I won’t get hurt. Got it. I love you too, mother.
A pair of hands snatch him by the shoulders and throw him into the side of the dome. Crys slides down onto the rocky, dusty ground and onto his back.
A yellowish, white man with bulging veins and glowing purple eyes hollers in fury. He bends over and picks Crys up by the front of his security dome uniform shirt. White foam drools from his mouth. He brings Crys to meet his nose. The savage yells again, like a wild animal warning that he’s about to attack. The savage is wearing a security dome uniform also.
You’ve been trained to fight against this. You can take him, especially since you’re upgrade.
Crys hates that he’s not Zonian enough or human enough, and now he’s part machine… They replicated the bionic limb technology that the Zenty use on the humans. Crys was modified after he was taken from the humans, but not before he finished maturing in his pod. He has two bionic arms and two bionic legs. His natural, enhanced eyesight and hearing make him seem like he has a brain implant.
As Crys lifts his arms in between his attacker’s bridged arms, he lifts his leg and presses his foot against his attacker’s abdomen. In one swift motion, Crys pushes his attacker’s arm out as he kicks him away. The savage releases his hold on Crys as he falls onto his back, sliding out of the light surrounding the dome and into the darkness.
So they kick them out of the dome once they go savage? Crys links to his mother.
Actually, they kick them out before they go savage. That could be why they don’t want to let you in.
The same savage charges at Crys from out of the darkness and tackles him to the ground. They both struggle and fight for control. Crys manages to put the savage in a headlock, squeezing his elbow tighter and tighter together.
The strength of your arms is as limited as your thought. Think invincible, not just possible.
Crys conjured up the spirit of invincibility. He told himself he was unstoppable and no savage equipped with human technology could conquer him. The harder he squeezed, the faster his adrenaline pumped. The savage’s neck snapped completely sideways over Crys’ bicep. As Crys stood, he released the savage and took pride in his victory.
Crys felt the energy of glares from behind. He looked over his shoulder and saw five savages waiting to attack him. As they roar, charging him all at once, he turns to face them. He positions his footing as his father taught him, and prepares to fight.
When the closest savage pounces for him, a yellow laser beam from behind Crys hits the savage in the head. Remnants of the savage’s blown up head splatter onto Crys. The next four are taken down before they even get close.
Crys hears a female voice say, “Come inside.”
Crys turns around expecting to face a woman, but he sees no one. He only sees a doorway, leading to darkness, carved out of the shielded dome. Crys takes a deep breath and walks inside, not knowing what lies ahead.
Immediately Crys is shot in the neck by prongs. An electrical current surges through his body and he falls limp on the ground. The charge wasn’t strong enough to knock the Zonian out in him, but it was strong enough to knock a human out, even a bionic one. Crys pretends to be unconscious.
He is picked up and held in a small set of arms. A female bionic must be carrying him. Crys is curious to see what the dome city looks like, but he can’t open his eyes, at least not until she takes him wherever they are going.
Minutes later, more than ten but less and twenty, Crys guesses, he is set down in a chair. His arms rest on the arms of the chair and bands latch around his forehead, his biceps, his wrists, and his ankles. Somebody doesn’t want him to escape. It’s not like he could if he knew how, not until he completes his mission. Who knows how long it will take him.
Crys can tell a bright light is shining over him. It’s interesting how humans, Zenty, and Zonians have the same interrogating method in common. The universe has to be balanced somehow, right?
“My readings indicate you’re conscious. Who are you?”
Crys opens his eyes but the light makes it impossible to see. “I’m 02-09-01 of the Alan Spectra sector, from dome (coordinates of East Grand Rapids), Grand Rapids, MI.”
“923-01-04, you may leave now.”
There’s an awkward silence for a while.
“We got worried during that 22 hour blackout you had a few weeks ago. Two more hours of silence and we would have sent sentinels to you.”
“Should have sent them after an hour of silence. We were acted on by our enemy. They wiped us out, now they run-,” Crys was interrupted by his interrogator.
“How dare you insinuate I’ve been outwitted by those scoundrels!”
“It’s true! They run the city themselves now. They have de-weaponized the bionics and have restored their humanity as much as they could. They train the humans for combat with their technology. I’m sure they intend to do the same in the surrounding domes. When other colonies have learned what they have done, it will happen worldwide and everything we’ve strived for will be undone.”
“How did you escape?”
“I made them think I was going savage. They let me out.”
“I can’t sense that you’ve been assimilated.”
“Take a look for yourself.”
The light turns off and now Crys is in complete darkness. The chair Crys is strapped to flashes blue like a camera. When the flashing stops, the voice says, “I can’t believe it. Your scientists were successful. You’re the first of our kind humanized. What did they do?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t seen the technology myself.”
“Well Alan Spectra, 02-01-01, you seem like a good fellow, but I’m going to need that Zenty.”
Crys can hear the hum of a razor-like device.
“Take a closer look. Look at the makeup of my DNA. Check the records of my dome city.”
The razor-like hum stops and awkward silence builds again.
Moments later, “That’s so interesting… They created you this way. In essence, you are Zenty. Your conscience won’t be destroyed when your Zenty cerebral cortex awakens. You will assimilate as you are into the collective conscience. How were you created this way?”
“Like I said… I don’t know.”
“I’m Stigmo and I think you a deserve a new name… What do call yourself?”
“It is an honor to meet you Chris.”
*Edited by Aly Fry