Monthly Archives: January 2013

Chasing the Arcade

Ven sat behind his glossy help desk and sighed. He didn’t want to be at work. That was hardly new. He never wanted to be at work. The computer screen on his left blinked at him. A frown creased his very young and very brown forehead, before he turned away from it. I will not spend the entire day filing paperwork for guests. He declared internally. Instead, he stared out the huge windows in the lobby. The windows themselves were lovely, with heavy, detailed frames, etched designs, surrounded by luxurious chairs, and lavish throw rugs leading up to them.

Ven didn’t care about any of it. His eyes were riveted on the casino across the way. Lucky Lady, it was called, had bright lights, flashing signs, and a slight spin the bloated, floating building. It has been weeks, since I was last in the arcade. He thought his eyes almost in tears. A quick glare over his shoulder, at the manager’s office behind him. The only reason he worked here, was because of the free access pass to the Lucky Lady. Other people worked here for the access to diplomats, artists, and politicians who came in incognito. They thought Ven was stupid, and Ven thought the same of them.

The desk ring went off, and Ven forced himself into a bright, vapid smile. A customer is coming, be nice.

A large bobbing form, in dark brown, a long saggy face moved at a sedate pace to the desk. The single eye on its round face focused on Ven. The words floated on the air in front of it.

Ven managed to stop a groan. A race without vocal cords, great. “Hotel Staff, I need you to place me in my assigned lodgings.”

Once again, grateful, for the translator, Ven gave a serious nod. “Of course, honored guest. I will look up your reservation. May I have your name?”

There was a long pause. “Grixt Giffrit, of Greenita Groas.”

Ven blinked twice. He typed it into the computer, and his dismay at the strange alien turned into panic. Nothing could ruin his day more than, having to fix someone else’s mistake. “I apologize, most honored guest, but we appear to not have a reservation for you.”

The words flashed fast, and furious. “This happens to often. I have heard many complaints about your service. Many of Greentia Groas have claimed bigotry on your race, Einlari. I must have the room I reserved. Unacceptable!” Grixt danced back and forth like a child playing with a ball.

Ven bowed his head, schooling his expression into mournful sadness. He lifted his head. “I assure you, honored guest that is not the case. There are many rooms to keep track of, we are only Einlari. Let I tender my deepest apologies at offending you, and inconveniencing you. If you give me room number, I will see if the room is available.”

“The thousand floor, room two, three, nine, and one.”

A few strokes on the computer revealed the worst news so far. The room was occupied. “I apologize, the room is currently occupied. May I provide you a free upgrade to a room on the twelve hundred floors?”

Grixt jumped higher, his brownish skin turning an olive green. “No! No! No! I must have that room. I cannot stay anywhere else. I will lodge a complaint with the International Office.”

Ven eyes widened, as a jittery pain filled his stomach. He had to admit to not care what happened to Aoi, his home world. However, if Grixt did that, he would be fired, no more arcade. “I will speak to the other guest right away. Won’t you go to the hotel bar, and enjoy free drinks on the house, while I rectify the situation for you.”

A spin sent him to the elevator, as he went to pinged one the other staff to take over the front desk. He banged on the call button over and over. A happy chime signaled the large doors opening. Ven had always hated the elevators. They were shiny, black, and filled with irritating music, the manager called soothing. The ride was short, as he could feel himself floating a bit.

He clambered onto the conveyer to take him to the section where room two thousand, three hundred, and ninety-one was. There were several aliens on it with him. He ignored them, they ignored him. The trip was as fast as the elevator, and he jumped out, making the quick trip to the room. Ven shoved his finger into the communicator button. “I am sorry to bother you, honored guest, but I need to speak with you.”

A minute or two passed before the imprinted metal door swung inward. A reedy voice reached his ears. “Come in.”

In a rush of fast steps, Ven made in to only stop suddenly, and stare. It was one of the few races he recognized. An ancient, powerful race called the Runnil. Tall, with a sparse frame, large antler on its head, with striped brown and red fur. His, as Ven could tell from the antlers, face was long, narrow, with big, round brown eyes. A bit of worry came from behind the awe. Runnil were telepaths, the most powerful anywhere. He didn’t want anyone, walking around in his mind.

“How can I assist you, Einlari?” Runnil language was a quick chain, followed by translation.

Ven took a hard swallow to get rid of the silence. “I came here to beg you a favor. Another guest, Grixt Giffrit, of Greenita Groas, wishes to have this room. There was a mistake with the reservations. I will be more than willing to get a better room, if you would help me by allowing him this room.”

Runnil stepped toward Ven. He felt a light pressure on his mind.

And against all the policy of the hotel, Ven threw up his hands, and shouted, “No.”

The alien stepped back, and gave him a long look. “I merely wanted to understand why it matters so much to you. I can feel the distress leaking out. I am puzzled, because due our earlier interaction, you have a great deal of disdain for the Lucky Lady Hotel. “He seemed to smile, at least as far as Ven could tell. “If you give me an honest answer, I will even act as if it was my idea to change rooms, therefore saving you from any reprimand.”

At first, Ven was angry. Runnil had walked around in his head, and checked around. But, on the other hand, the offer was great. He frowned a bit longer, ran his hand through his hair. “Alright. Truth is I only work here, so I can get into the casino for free. I eat the cheap eats, check out the naked shows, and hit the arcade.”

Runnil let out a long sound which was a cross between, a hoot, and a yelp. “I appreciate your honesty. I will go with you, and resolve this issue.”

The relief hit Ven so hard, he nearly toppled over. He had to smile. I hope the rest of the day isn’t as half as exciting.

 

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Ship of Jirth, Part 4

The three fingers hands lifted the metal ring up high. The ring bopped up and down. My feet skittered across the floor. The chilly, hard surface of the wall seeped through the thin fabric of my shirt. My heart thudded in my chest.

“Teacher of Einlari, calm yourself.” Priest of Jirth tone was sharp. The circle moved over my head.

I slide down the wall, my arms thrust upward to protect my vulnerable head.

Priest of Jirth did not even pause.  The circle hovered above my arms. “You fear. There is no need.”

I flayed, and the band went flying, it bounced off the ground with a twang.

“Teacher of Einlari.” With a step, the Priest of Jirth had retrieved it. “You will wear the solution. If you fight, I will bring Warriors of Jirth. Be easy.”

My doom had arrived, I accepted it. I had seen the university, had a good life, and got to ride on a starship. The cool, icy metal rested on my head. A moment later, my mind filled with pain. A flood of images, thoughts, and words streaked across my vision. My brain throbbed, as felt myself panicking. But, it was at a distance, as if I was not longer connected to myself. More and more until I felt myself scream.

I sat up in my bed. I wasn’t sure how, or when I had gotten there. The Priest of Jirth was gone. The band was still on my head. Yet, a new thought came to me, a thought not my own. The knowledge transfer device was almost done, now I needed to operate with it a few days, before the new knowledge was fully incorporated. A yelp tore out my throat, as I tumbled off the bed. It was my thought, but how did I know that? I didn’t even understand, what I knew.

The knowledge flowed in, explaining it was a device that taught primitive people, like the Einlari, about knew the technology. Suddenly, it all made sense.

A starship, I understood how it could work. A computer, it was much the same as a quill and pen, but advanced. Jirth lived in another world, far away, far more vast than a single ocean. A vein of confusion ran in all these words, but I could sense it fading. I, even, understood how advanced the technology was to have a knowledge transfer device.

The magnetic door slide open. Priest of Jirth stepped in. “Greetings, Teacher of Einlari. Do you understand more?”

“I understand more, but I still feel confused. A little lost.” The feeling was confusing, and enlightening.

Priest of Jirth’s spots flushed a deep crimson. “Good. I am pleased. We are a week away from our home. You should start using the computer to learn more about Jirth. Jirth are not like Einlari.”

I smiled. I wanted to use the computer. It could give me the answers I craved. “What does your planet look like?”

Priest of Jirth opened the door. “Soon, you will see. Very soon, Teacher of Einlari.”

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Ship of Jirth, Part 3

“Teacher of Einlari, why are you not studying on the computer?” Priest of Jirth voice woke me up.

My lids flickered open. And, I stared shocked, once again, at its appearance. The strange oval, angled head, with eyes on the side of its head. The spots on yellow smooth spread across the smooth yellow skin, as it blinked at me.

“Are you a woman, or a man?” I asked before I could prevent myself.

Priest of Jirth stood holding a small circular tray. It shifted back and forth. “The question does not apply.”

My back ached with pain, due to the fact I moved so fast sitting up. “What do you mean, ‘the question does not apply’?”

It sets the tray down. It turned my eye toward me, than the other. “Jirth do not have gender. Your people have gender?”

My mind began to thrum with pain. I pressed my fingers against my temples. “Yes. How can you not have gender? How do have children? How do you pick spouses?”

Priest of Jirth stepped back and clasped it’s three fingered hands together. “I am not sure you are ready for this type of information. I think…” It trailed off for a moment, staring at the computer. “You are not ready. You were not ready for computer.”

I did not know what to say. I had felt better before the Priest of Jirth had returned. The shakes came back as reality fell upon me. My knees gave out and I landed on the ground, the pain barely registered. I buried my face in my hands. Wet tears ran down my face, as I sobbed.

A soft touch of a robe brushed against me, as I felt the Priest of Jirth sat beside me. It was very still. How long we sat, I could not say. “Priest of Jirth has erred. Teacher of Einlari was the most ready of all Einlari for new knowledge, but not enough.”

I dropped my hands. “I…” I let out a final sob. “I don’t know what to say.”

It stood up. “No blame can fall on you. I decided. Now, there is only one solution.”

The way Priest of Jirth said ‘one solution’ terrified me. There was a finality to it. “What is the solution.”

“Eat your nourishment. I will set up the solution.” And, then it left.

I shook myself off. I leaned against the bed, and lifted myself up. The round white tray, had a ball bottle filled with clear liquid, and three white bowls. Each one of the bowls was filled with different items, one had a black pellets, one was brown strands, and lavender liquid in the last.

The clear liquid smelled like water. I sloshed it around, it moved like water as well. With great hesitation I took a drink. It tasted like water that had been in a keg too long. The lavender liquid had a smooth, smoky flavor. A sauce, I decided. I lifted up a black pellet I had to take a drink of water to chew it, but it was nutty, and enjoyable. Brown string things were crunchy and the flavor was off. I poured the lavender on it, and it did not help. I ate, the rest of the pellets, and drank the water.

I set the tray on the floor, and laid in bed. I had put off thinking about the solution as long as possible. ‘There is only one solution’. The phrase refused to be put away. “Voice.”

“Do you require assistance?”

“What is the solution?”

There was a pause. “A solution is an answer to a problem.”

“The solution the Priest of Jirth spoke of.” I managed to hold my temper. The voice had only helped me.

“The solution, when regarding primitives, opens their minds to advanced knowledge.” The voice responded it the same monotone it used earlier.

My forehead was throbbing. “I don’t understand, can you explain it?”

The voice took a moment to rebuttal. “There is no other explanation in my database available to your clearance level.”

As I opened my mouth, the door opened. Priest of Jirth stepped in a strange metal headband in its hands. “I bought you the solution.”

An acidic taste filled my mouth, and I felt the blood drain my face. I feared this was the end.

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Ship of Jirth, Part 2

Together, we continued down the hall. Priest of Jirth stopped and waved her fingers in front of a panel, and a door opened. “Now, you will use the computer, and learn. I will return with food.”

Panic began to crawl around my stomach, as it shoved me inside. The door shut behind me. I turned around, and pounded my fists on the door. I would like to say I had a rational reason for it, but I didn’t. The fear and panic overrode everything. I pounded and pounded, I don’t know for how long, but eventually my hands ached, and I leaned against the door panting.

“Get a hold of yourself, Rilas. You are a grown woman, not a child.” My voice was weak, but I managed to look around the room.

There was a flat, tall platform, with a folded up cloth, and a round pillow. A single chair, by a movable picture box, sitting on a desk. I touched all the walls, looking for a closet or even a place to shower. I couldn’t find one. Why didn’t the Priest of Jirth stay, and explain what was going on? Was I going to be left here to starve?

I shook the thoughts from my mind. It said, it would return to feed me. I was not abandoned. Priest of Jirth wanted me to look at a cimpoter. “Cimpoter.”

“Computer.”

“Who’s there?” I spun around, feeling my old bones creak.

“There is no other lifeforms in the room with you.” The quiet voice spoke again. It seemed to be coming from above my head.

The fear started to bubble up. “What is a computer?” One problem at a time, worry about what the Priest of Jirth wants.

A light beamed down on the movable. “A computer is an interactive device that allows program systems to be used, and stored. It is often used for education, social networking, and business. This unit is set up to teach you about the social customs, and mores of Jirth.”

“I don’t understand, most of that.” My shoulders shook.

“You will understand, you must use it, to learn.”

I swallowed hard. “I don’t know how to use it.”

“You must turn it on.”

My fingers tangled themselves up together. “I don’t know how to that, either.”

A long time passed before the voice spoke. “Approach the computer.”

Each step I took seemed to take forever, before I stood before the computer.

“There is a series of three buttons at the bottom right corner. Tap them on the furthest right. After you tap it, it should light up.” The voice didn’t use any inflection at all, it unnerved me.

My finger found the button, and pressed it. A light emitted from it, in a pale green. My heart beat faster. Never in all my days, had I ever seen a green light. The computer made a humming sound, and large circle appeared. The circle had four smaller circles in succession in altering color of blue and red.

“Now you ask it questions, and it will give you answers.”

“What kind of questions?” My curiosity warred with my fear.

“Anything you desire. If the computer cannot answer you, it will say ‘query not found’.”

A thousand questions cluttered my mind. But, I couldn’t ask any of them. My mind ached, too many things I had known were now shattered. The bed called me, and I decided to rest instead. Reluctantly, I took off my clothes, folding them, and placing them in the chair. The last time I slept naked, I had been a child. I pulled up the sheet

My thoughts wouldn’t let me rest. I worried what the Priest of Jirth would do, since I did not use the computer. Regret sneaked in, if this had been a good choice for me. Admittedly, I had no children, but the village relied on me. Priest of Jirth said I was needed, but what if I had been a falsehood?

No, I thought to myself. The decision had been made. There was nothing I could do, or anyone could do to change it now. Choices have consequences, for good or for ill. Since, I arrived on strange, star ship I felt calm. And, finally, I was able to rest.

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Ship of Jirth, Part 1

*Note: Ship of Jirth is a continuation of an earlier story, People of the Sky.  If you want to read more you can find story starting here

I was taken into the strange metal object, Priest of Jirth kept insisting it was a ship. I had seen ships, they looked nothing like it. The inside smelled wrong. A feeling of the world pressing down around on me, made me start to back out. Two of the armor wearing ones grabbed and hauled me further in. Priest of Jirth walked behind. “Be calm, Teacher of Einlari.”

My breath came in gasping waves. I fell against the hard, metal wall. I let out a cry as my lungs burned, my throat was closing. A felt a prick from my arm. My lungs filled with air. I laid against the wall in pure relief.

“Are you calm now, Teacher of Einlari?” I could see the Priest of Jirth kneeling beside me.

I nodded, bracing myself against the wall I stood up. My knee was aching with throbbing pain. I had overused it. “My knee.”

Priest of Jirth stood up with a fluid grace, I was growing used to it. “Do you have a physical aliment?”

“I have an old knee injury.” I motioned to my right knee. “I forgot my cane.”

Priest of Jirth stared at me for a bit. “Cane.” It bobbed its head. “Cane, yes, we will bring you another one.” It stepped away.

The hallway seemed strange to me. Lamps were recessed somehow into the ceiling and shining with eye stinging brightness. The walls had a strange, dull, metallic appearance. I could see a few recessed shapes, similar to doors, but there was no way to open them.

Priest of Jirth motioned to me. “You must see Doctor of Jirth. Doctor of Jirth will have suggestions to resolve your aliment.”

“Oh, it is only because of injury I had as a young girl. It is old age more than anything.”

Its skin flushed blue. The color was new, I pondered briefly what I could mean. “Jirth may have ways to lessen or cure the problem. Doctor of Jirth should get you a cane.”

Cure old age, I thought to myself, how would that be possible? They flew ships in the stars, perhaps old age was nothing. I followed, as more Jirth passed us. Some of them dressed as the Priest of Jirth, others like the warriors. There was some who wore different outfits. I wondered if the outfits signified anything.

Priest of Jirth stopped. It ran it’s three fingered hand over a small panel next to one of the recessed doors.  The door slides open. It stepped inside.

I stood at the doorway, my mouth gaping open. The walls were in thousands of colors, large black panels hung on the walls. Large clear barrels lined the walls, and flat white platforms filled the center. The only thing I recognized was a white cabinet on the far wall. Another Jirth was there, it wore a tight fitted white long shirt.

My companion took a long stride to the other Jirth, bowing deep enough it’s robe pooled around it. “Doctor of Jirth, this is a primitive from the planet. It will be Ambassador of Jirth. It has a joint aliment. I wish to examine.”

Doctor of Jirth motioned me over.

My throat worked up and down as the metallic taste of fear filled my mouth. I counted until I felt the fear fade. I forced myself to ignore the insect features of the doctor. With a few ginger steps I made my way to it.

It stared at me with more brown than black eyes. “What is your title?”

“Administer Rilas.”

It bobbed its head. “Sit there.” It pointed to one of the platforms.

I climbed on top of the very high platform up. I managed. I brushed stray strands of my hair out of my face.

Doctor of Jirth moved in front of me. In its hand was a small, slim device about the size of my pen back home. It ran it up and down. “You have many old injuries. You ache in the morning?”

“Oh yes.” I laughed. Every morning made me wish I had just stayed in bed. “I feel better after I move around a bit.”

“It is as I thought. You have a chronic disease. You are not very old for your people?” He took a thin, round disk of his belt and was writing on it with a circle with a point on it.

I gave a grim smile. “No, not really. Only forty – five summers, but I was injured in a cart accident as a child. My bones have ached since then.”

“I see this, yes. You must be a scholar. You have bone wear consistent with sitting, and writing often.” It’s three fingered hand moved in quick, sharp movements. It ran it’s finger’s down my arm.

I fought the urge to fidget. The local doctor often yelled at me for my inability to sit still. “I write all the time. Not as a scholar exactly, I am the local administer of the town. My job is keeping track of yields and resources in the area.”

Doctor of Jirth didn’t seem to be paying attention to what I had to say. It went back to writing on the strange circle object, with the strange circle pen. It stopped and walked over to one of the large black screens. It lit up with a skeleton displayed on it. He tapped the screen and it moved the picture around.

I tamped down the urge to go examine the magical picture closer. It might be dangerous. The doctor moved the image around, making small parts of it much larger. He was using some invisible magnifying glass. After a few more moments of examining he walked over to the cabinet.

“Teacher of Einlari, do you know what that object is?” Priest of Jirth’s voice shattered my thoughts.

It had been so quiet, I jumped at the sound of its voice. “No. I mean perhaps. It is a moving picture. It seems magical.”

Priest of Jirth shook and its spots darkened to black. “No magic. It is technology. You have carts and irrigation on your world. Imagine, before things existed, they would seem magical.”

This was true enough. I read about other people in other parts of the world. As far as farming, our people were the most advanced I heard of. I wonder what they thought of our animal driven mills and stone canals to water crops. “I understand what you mean. There are people now, who don’t have the same technology as we do.”

It moved closer to me. “There are other people in your world. Do you know what language they speak or what they call themselves?”

Thinking about it, made me frown, I was not as familiar as I would like with other countries. “There is only one other language I know. Gelinil from the far south. They call themselves the Geli. They are the closest people on the mainland to us.” We lived on a large island in the ocean. I studied the maps of the known world while I was in school. Once, I had dreamed of traveling, but my life took me on another path. I almost laughed, thinking how much had changed.

My thoughts were interrupted. “You take her to her quarters. In a week, we might operate. Many of her aliments could be cured. I am not certain, I must study her physical structure further.”

I stood up. Priest of Jirth motioned for me to follow. And, I walked onto even more strangeness.

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