Shame and sorrow were to be her lot in life. The legacy given to her and the legacy she herself would pass on.
The baker and the blacksmith were gathered around the inn’s fireplace on a frozen blustery night. The fire was roaring and the wooden pillars from which the inn was built were stout and sturdy. Yet with every patron who entered, a sweep of snow and a shock of chill air barged in. It was late, and most patrons had retired to their rooms. But some remained in the common room, finishing the last of their hot mead or a late meal. Or hoping that the innkeeper would overlook it if they fell asleep by the hearty fire instead of retiring to their frosty chambers.
Do you see him? Right there, between Mig and John? As if he’s part of the crew?
Nico drove up to the mouth of the cave. He got out of the truck and walked around to the other side. Normally, the young retriever would have hopped out of the open door in a rush. But Ruby lay there, still sleeping.
“Mars, help me. Help me, Mars.”
Betty Garimonde wasn’t dead. Mars could see the slight rise and fall of her chest as she breathed. Her body was so frail that when he lifted it, it felt as if all her substance were gone, and he was only lifting her skin and her bones. The light, not just sunlight, but even the light of the torches, seared her skin, so that Mars had to keep her covered from head to toe with a cloth. She looked even more so like a corpse when he did. Maybe she was close to being one. So there was nothing to lose now.
“There were people who once knew how to harness energies that we haven’t yet discovered, or rather, rediscovered,” Dr. Taisho said as she strapped the leathery cuff around his right wrist. “They did so by learning about the world around them and building tools to understand and then use the forces and energies they observed. Wars and calamities overcame the world and most of the knowledge and the tools were destroyed or lost. There are those in the present time who are trying to regain that knowledge. They are finding some of the tools and devices and testing them to see if they still work. This is one those devices.”
“I should go first,” Azi whispered, wiping his brow and adjusting his cap in one movement. It was unnaturally warm in the dragon’s den.
The little brown mouse, standing on her hind legs beside him, twitched her whiskers. “You’re too big. She’ll hear you, and she’ll smell you. We’ve already decided. Why do you waver?”
“What do you think, Spencer?”
“Doesn’t it belong to the people that live in this area? Inherited from their ancestors?”
“The ancestors of the people that made this lived far, far from here, my boy.”
In the year 2025, humanity received an answer to one of its most fundamental questions: “Are we alone in the universe?”
Only one thousand standard years later, unnoticeable and unfathomable to the greatly aged cosmos, a galactic alliance was formed, a coalition of inhabited worlds bound together in cooperation, friendship, and mutual progress. The Grand Unified Milky Way. The G.U.M. was protected by the Milky Way Planetary Rangers, whose members hailed from every planet in the alliance, and whose mission was to patrol within and outside the borders of their home, the galaxy the Earth humans charmingly named the Milky Way.
In the suddenly dimmed room full of seated strangers, I heard subdued coughs, the click of a heel, the crack of a knuckle, and the hushed hiss of fabric shifting against fabric or against the hard plastic chairs.
The room brightened from the front, where the image slowly appeared and came into focus, radiant white and familiar. Gasps and murmurs rippled through the room as eyes adjusted to the monotone image and grasped the subtle sight of the unexpected.
When I first arrived in the desert city, raw and untried, eyes wide with wonder, heart filled with longing, and head filled with air just like the myriad dirigibles that crowded the skies, I could never have imagined where my path would lead me.