20160131_092358-EFFECTS

Mountain of Silver Dust, Part V

V.

On the kitchen counter beside an unplugged Egg lay a sheet of notebook paper, which read:

Dear Hulé,
I do not expect you to approve of this decision, but I know you’ll take good care of Saio.  As you’ve probably guessed by now I’ve gone to seek the truth about my husband.  I cannot say where this quest will lead, nor how long I will be gone, and yes, it is possible that I will not return.  Please do not worry, and please don’t be angry, for neither of those feelings ever do any good.  Love my baby for me.  I go with God.  ~ Zeeah

P.S.  The Egg is for the traveler.

*         *         *

The sidewalks of Calperon T15-30 were made of reinforced glass suspended every thirty feet around the buildings to allow traffic to fly between the levels.  Zipporah walked quickly up a ramp along the Gomtroyer Heights, the tower that housed, among thousands of other offices, the Raanvedian Embassy and Travel Bureau.  She ascended the ramp, traversed the crosswalk to the wall of the adjacent tower, and ascended the next ramp, and so on and so forth until estimating the number of ramps she’d climbed at somewhere in the triple digits.  The architecture struck her as being absurdly inefficient despite the fact that the ramps were intended for people to advance from one level to the next, or perhaps to walk up two or three.  Everyone else used the elevators inside of the buildings, however admittance to the elevators required an ID scan, and preferring not to leave a trail of bread crumbs, she had no option but to take the ramps.

The nebula had fallen by the time she reached Floor 462, when the sector lights switched on, saturating the streets with blinding fluorescent light.  The various caps and boards zooming by enabled their shield screens while the pedestrians all disappeared into the towers.  At night, apart from air traffic, the city streets were bright and vacant.

“Name?” asked the gnarly-eyed Talitron behind the travel counter.

“Abimiku Ckezvwa Topepsmaquodrote,” said Zipporah, covertly reading the ID.

“Date of Birth?”

“Quartember 9th, 12,091.”

“Place of Birth?”

“Bazeldown, Fohposkal, on Raanved.”

“Can you spell that please?”

“Uh, sure…” she hesitated.

“This town and country isn’t in our system.”

“That’s because it doesn’t exist anymore.”

The Talitron looked up from his Egg screen.  “Can you spell it or can’t you, Ms. Topepsmaquodrote?”

“Of course I can,” she answered, looking him in the eye.  B-A-Z-L, I mean E-L-D-O-W-N.  And the nation is spelled, F-O-H-P-O-S-K-A-L.  Would you like me to spell Raanved also?”

“That won’t be necessary, Miss.  How long will you be staying?”

“I’d like an open-ended ticket, please.”

“How many items will you be taking?”

“Just me and my time suit.”

He leaned forward and inspected the weathered silver garment.  “Is that standard issue?”

“Yes, for five solars ago.  They’re still regulation for intra-System space flights.  Are we almost done here?”

“Almost, Miss.  May I ask the purpose of your journey?”

“Visiting family.”

He finished punching sensors on the magnetic Egg pad, and the inverted pyramid to her right spat out a holographic ticket.  “Your flight leaves at 19:00 on the forty-first of Thorgh, one waxing moon from tonight.”

“Is there no earlier flight?”

“Not to Raanved there isn’t.”

“Right, thank you, Mr…”

“Thank you, Miss.  Have a pleasant journey.”

*         *         *

Zipporah spent the days leading up to her departure reading what information she could find about contemporary Raanvedian power shifts and land disputes.  Failing to discover any connection between the current governments of Raanved and Korratrea, or any logical reason for the KWPAF to send troops there, she resolved to find the village where the genocide had occurred.  Whatever interest the Korratrean Military had in that location was somehow linked to her husband’s death, or possibly… well, too early to say.

 

20160131_092358-EFFECTS

Mountain of Silver Dust, Part IV

IV.

The papoose had been shifted to Zipporah’s back for the climb, the child looking out over the desert through which they’d hiked to the foot of the mountain.  She moved quickly, gripping holds with confidence, even leaping to catch ledges a full body length above her.  The reflexes she’d acquired as a young warrior returned alongside the exultant joy of climbing, the fresh air, the danger, and the thrill of freedom.

“Don’t worry, Saiojéte, I could do this blindfolded,” she called back.  The child squealed a reply touched with fear.  “No, I won’t actually try it,” she added.

The steep cliff they scaled flattened onto a broad shelf where they could rest and rehydrate.  Zipporah untied the papoose and gave Saio a drink from her canteen.  “Look,” she pointed, “you can see the village from here.  You see the supply tent, and the Shell, look, aha.”  She squeezed the last of the water into her mouth.  “What will we see from the peak I wonder?”  She kissed her baby’s forehead.  “You’re a brave one, little théquo.  Your papa was brave, too, as brave as one could be.”

The rest of the climb was relatively easy.  A thin ledge circled the highest rock so all she had to do was cling to the wall and shuffle sideways, one step at a time, until the uneven plateau came within reach.  Hoisting herself up and sitting atop the tallest boulder, she unfastened the papoose and cradled Saio so he could see the vast horizon.

The metropolis of Calperon T15-30 dominated the skyline, its massive buildings looming far into the purple and green swirling vapor that filled the upper atmosphere.  T30 limits ended more than eighty miles away, yet the colonies gave the impression of bearing down on the outer territories, of imposing on the inhabitants of T34 despite their considerable distance.  Even from the mountaintop Zipporah felt as though the city were towering above her.  “Okay, brave one,” she said, casting a final glance at the stars twinkling out beyond the radiant mist.  “Let’s go home, shall we?”

*         *         *

On the way to work the next day, she stopped into the temple so she and the child could receive the sacraments.  The village priest, a cheerful old Urguit, greeted her with a hug and kissed both her cheeks.  He inquired about her work, the baby’s health, the general wellness of her existence on Calperon, and they stood before the altar and prayed.  The priest anointed the baby’s head with oil, then Zipporah’s, before distributing the elements.

“In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” he blessed them, making the sign of the Cross over the empty sanctuary.

The store was busy that morning.  A shuttle of Chambrekian refugees had arrived with no clue where they were or why they’d been displaced.  The dhreion bomb that hit their sector dissolved their mid-range memories, a trick employed by rogue nations in the Outer Four.  When people don’t remember their lives before a change of power takes place, they’re more adaptable and less likely to revolt against the new leadership.  Two hundred and thirty amnesiacs filed into the village like so many children in need of grownups to provide them food and shelter.  Hulé and Zipporah took charge of collecting their time suits and arranging proper clothes for them all.

“Next,” called the flustered arachnoid, motioning the line forward with her eight skinny arms.  “Name please.”

“Abimiku Ckezvwa Topepsmaquodrote,” said a small human woman.

“Alright if we call you Miku Todrote?  Good.  Date of birth?”

Zipporah passed out clothing vouchers, guided people through changing stations, and directed them to the bathing facility just past the hospital tent.  In between gathering time suits and replacing fresh polyrobes she unfastened Saio and let him chase his pneumo-ball around the sideyard of the store, keeping a close eye on him at all times.  T34 could be peaceful for long stretches but was no place to let a human child go unsupervised.  The price one could get for him could pay a year’s worth of rent in one of the looming towers on the horizon.

Perhaps it’s for the best, she thought to herself.  The Chambrekians looked almost happy as they received their instructions and ventured out into their new temporary home, their unknown futures.  For a moment she wished her own memory had been erased when the news of Karrick’s death arrived, then quickly no, she thought.  No peace of mind, nor even freedom, was worth her memories of him.

Later on after dark, after all the refugees had been cared for, Hulé offered to buy dinner at the market bar and restaurant.  She chose a table inside opposite the patio where they could talk and ordered a bottle of warm liquor and two small mugs.

“I didn’t want to tell you amid all the craziness today, but yesterday I went and spoke to your injured traveler.”

“What?” cried Zipporah, “without me?  How could you—”

“Shhh, quiet, sister.  Here, drink.”

“No, you’ll need the bottle to yourself, once I snap off one of your arms.  Why did you not wait for me?”

“He would have held back with you there, he might not have told me what I know.  Will you listen?”

“I’m listening.”

“Before I say this you must promise to not do anything foolish, Zeeah.  You have a baby who needs a responsible mother.”

“I also have a friend who gives me no credit.”

“And don’t forget a temper that sometimes gets the best of you.”

Zipporah poured herself a cup and drank it down.  “I’m listening.”

The traveler, Ccazolan, he lived in a sector of Raanved where rebel forces frequently sought provision and shelter.  They rarely had problems with the Trozek rebels, but one day last solar a division of soldiers arrived on a destroyer ship.”  Hulé spoke slowly, “Korratrean soldiers.  A commander, a captain, and their men.  They annihilated his whole village, Zeeah.”

“Karrick was not among them.”

“I don’t know.”

“I know.  How much money do you have?”

“No way,” Hulé shook her head, “none for you, sister.”

“Suit yourself.”  She leaned over the table, hugged her, and whispered in her ear, “You are my only friend.”

The following morning Hulé rose from bed, stretched, and walked out to find Saiojéte in her living room, standing and watching the crabfish swimming laps in her aquarium.

 

20160131_092358-EFFECTS

Mountain of Silver Dust, Part III

III.

The cots were lined about one pace apart, about a hundred and twenty beds in the hospital tent.  It reeked of sour blood and excretions, the rotten odors mixed with the sterile smell of rubbing alcohol and fresh medical supplies.  Zipporah slipped past the rows of patients, some dazed, others sleeping, a few of them wide awake and frightened.  One who’d arrived the previous week from crash landing in the outlands, a male TigerMole, a soldier, beckoned her as she passed by the foot of his cot.  Pausing for a moment, she turned and stepped up to the creature’s bedside.

His eyes were watery, elliptical orbs, gray iris’s nearly eclipsed by the pupils, gazing up through her face, through the roof of the tent and into distant space above them.  She held the digits of his paw and smiled.  Under the sheet lay the form of a right hind leg and the absence of a left one.  Zipporah placed her palm on the mole’s forehead and stroked his charcoal fur with her thumb, quietly humming the gospel hymn her mother used to sing to her when she had lain sick as a child.  Fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, come, He’ll show you the way.  Sons and daughters, great-grandfathers, come, He’ll show you the way.  Follow Jesus, Lord and Savior, take a drink, be still, no greater, peace, He’ll show you the way…

The traveler she’d rescued had settled down since the day he was admitted.  He sat propped in the corner intently watching the Egg mounted over the center aisle of the tent.  Nodding curtly when he saw her, he kept his eyes on the System news, watching over her shoulder after she pulled up a stool and sat beside him.

“Do you remember me?”

He glared at his visitor, then back at the luminous Egg.

“I hauled you in from the road the other day.  I helped you.  Helped, remember?”

He shook his head and muttered something in Braekean, likely a profanity.

“I only want to talk,” she continued.  “It’s possible you can help me.  I need to ask you about Raanved.”

The mention of his home planet got his attention.

“I need to know what happened there.  I know this is painful for you, but will you talk to me?”  Zipporah tapped her fingertips together and pointed back and forth between them.  “Talk?”

The man stared in her eyes for a moment as though he knew exactly what she wanted, then turned and locked his focus on the Egg.

Work was slow that afternoon, she and Hulé sorted boxes of worn out time suits, making three piles for the varying levels of dilapidation.  She glanced at her boss.  “How does the store look, Hulé?  Clean, is it not?”

“You did a fine job, Zeeah.”

“Thank you.  It took quite a while.”

Hulé sliced open another box of time suits.

“Hot yesterday, too.  And the dust, aye, terrible.”

“What do you want, sister.”

“Talk to him again?” she asked.  “Please?”

“The sick traveler?  What about?”

Zipporah smiled meekly.

Hulé’s four top-eyes opened wide then narrowed sternly at her friend.  “Not in a million solars would I ask that man to discuss his past.  His wife and son were murdered, Zeeah.  Would you like to relive that?”

“I do relive it,” she answered.  “Every morning, every day, every night I wonder what happened to Karrick.  I lay awake and watch him getting blasted, exploding in his craft or worse, getting shot down in some terrible outlands where God knows…  I do relive it, sister.”

Hulé stood now with head bowed and eyes closed.

“All I want is one conversation,” she said softly.  “And I think I know how to appease him.”

*         *         *

Saiojéte rose up and ran forward, toddling across the floor at an increasingly reckless incline until she caught his arms and swept him up, twirling around under the dome of their tan metal igloo.  “You are mad, little théquo,” she laughed, rubbing her nose against his.  “Just like your papa.  What should we do today, huh?  Take a drive in an airsled?  Go and hike by the river?  If only that stream were water and not indrosludge we could jump in and have a swim, you and me.  Cluck-cluck-cluck,” she chirped in his ear.

The land around their dwelling was desert; dark red sand, weathered rock formations, and harsh dusty winds.  Woodland also with patches of thick forest, tenacious plant life, gnarled old trees, and the occasional pool of slime welling up from subterranean currents fed by the colonies of Calperon T15-30.  The area was far from safe, although as long as one didn’t fall and cut one’s skin, or physically ingest any elements of the environment, it was possible to survive the wilderness for short periods of time.

Zipporah trekked through the trees with Saio bound to her chest in a papoose, the limbs curling above them as they hiked, wandered, seeking something new.  “Look at this flower, little one—no,” she slapped his hand away, “just look.”  The pedals were white with purple flecks like teardrops running out from the center.  “Beautiful, no?  Bee-yoo-tee-full.”

“Brrrrrrmmmphrrrll.”

“Yes, that’s right.”

They trekked on past the plants and trees and out into a rocky expanse of rolling sand hills that rose into reddish crags and layered rock walls overlooking shallow dusty canyons and dry ravines.  The tallest peak spiked half a mile into the sky, a makable trip from where they stood now, not too far from their dwelling.

“Do you feel like an adventure?” she asked the child.  “A bit of a climb?”

Saio cooed happily.

“Alright, mum-mum,” she wrapped the head cloth round his nose and mouth and fixed the goggles over his eyes.

*         *         *

“Eklokeyli gand lávwequor, beczun vaknegáu,” spoke Hulé to the traveler.  “Vikhan Raanved.”

“Uliel ke guavgon,” he retorted, not without compassion.

“I know this is difficult,” she continued in Braekean, “I wouldn’t want to look back either.  My friend is like you, seeking only peace.  Is there anything you can tell me about the invasion, anything at all?”

The man sighed, looked down at his stomach.  “If I do this, I do this one time.  You mustn’t return with your widow friend to ask me more questions.”

“No, of course not.”

“Alright.  I was a clayworker by trade.  My store crafted dishes, pots, bottles, mostly kitchen pieces for those in my village and sometimes the neighboring towns.  My wife, Duijairo, helped at the store, firing the kiln, repairing broken vessels, manning the register—”

“I too run the register, at my store,” Hulé said cheerfully.  “Sorry.  Please go on.”

“The Trozek armies had been robbing our land for years.  Every two weeks, when it was bad, a new gang would fly through and storm our town, take what little food we had.  When it was good, half a solar might pass without a visit from the thieves.  Nevertheless we hid portions of our goods away, you know, always keeping enough in the open so as not to anger them or cause suspicion.”  The traveler smiled faintly, “One thing about the Trozeks, they never raised a hand against anyone in my village.”

“No?”

“No.  Their war was with the rich, the government, not us farmers.  As long as we had enough food for them to eat their fill they remained civil.  People feared them, complained.  Duijairo, she complained all the time.  ‘Trozek this, Trozek that, a Trozek stole the Egg remote.’  Most of us knew it could be worse.  Some Raanvedians,” he shook his head, “never knew peace.”

“Your son,” said Hulé, “did he work in your shop too?”

“Ccazi?  No.  Ccazi was a musician.  Altophone, drums, harpong…  He played everything.  The night… it happened… the night they died, he was playing a drum and singing outside in the market.  Duija and I had come to take an order and buy groceries when they arrived, eighteen of them, on a Rettrian Plank.”

“A destroyer ship?  Trozek rebels?”

“These were not Trozeks.  They were Korratrean soldiers—I know,” the traveler’s face darkened, “I was surprised as well.  Until then I had only seen Korratreans on the System news.  What are these men doing here? I asked.  Then the leader, a commander, you can tell from the eyes, he looked over the whole market, like he was scanning the place for, I don’t know, something.  Then he turned around, spoke a word to the captain, and reboarded the Rettrian.  That’s when it happened.”

“What happened?”

“Genocide.  They murdered my village.”

Hulé held his hand between two of her own.  “I’m so, so sorry, Ccazolan.  How did you survive?”

The traveler scoffed.  “Dumb luck, I guess.  No reason for the gods to spare my rotten bones, not when my wife could have walked away instead.  She saw me, truly.  My soul was the last thing she saw.”

They talked for a while longer about pleasant things.  She asked easy questions about Duijairo’s favorite foods, favorite trees, favorite seasons on Raanved.  When it was time to go he asked, “Don’t you want to know what the commander said, the word by which he murdered my family?”

“You heard him?”

“I saw his lips.  My son, Ccazi, was deaf since birth.  The word he spoke to his captain, I’ve never heard it before, but there is no doubt in my mind as to what this man said.”  A spark of silver flashed in the traveler’s eyes.  “Manglokel.”

 

20160131_092358-EFFECTS

Mountain of Silver Dust, Part II

II.

The hazy green nebula over the distant horizon swirled slowly, but not too slowly for its tranquil rotation to be observed with the naked eye.  The inhabitants of Calperon-T34 called it the distant side because that was the direction of the uncharted lands opposite the highly populated, heavily policed colonies of sector T15-30.  T34 designated a liminal territory between the crowded city and wild country, both hazardous in their own ways, the land between providing a supply station, a hospital/information center, and a village for the local residents as well as the occasional weary ex-traveller, a category to which Zipporah now belonged.

She ducked out of a tan igloo, straightened her back and reached for the sky, letting her eyes drift from the pale green cloud up to the starry space above, opening her mouth and releasing a mighty yawn into the galaxy.  A second later the baby started crying and, smiling drily, she turned and ducked back inside the metal dome.

“Hush, little théquo,” she said, rocking him gently in her arms.  “What’s wrong, don’t think today will be a good day?  Shhhh, shh, shh.”  Her warm brown eyes were circled underneath by dark crescents, her black curls cropped short at her ears, and her forehead marked by three sharp lines from squinting in the evening winds.  The dust on Calperon tanned your skin a chalky copper color if you spent any time outside, which you had to do if you lived beyond the colonies, where fresh water was scarce, reserved mainly for cooking and hydration.

On her way to work she noticed a body stretched out among the nettles by the path, she almost kept walking but heard a faint cough and saw a limp hand draw toward it’s cloth-wrapped head.  Glancing at the infant bound against her chest she asked, “What say you, Saiojéte, should we investigate?”  The goggled head of a miniature mummy tipped back and peered up at her, dark lenses staring, and emitted a gurgling squeak through his beige mask.  “I agree,” she circled round to see the man’s face.  His cheek and jaw were red, possibly wind-burnt, lips dry and dark, eyes concealed by a fabric head covering.

“Can you walk, sir?” she called from several steps away.  “Hello.  Can you walk?” she asked more loudly.  Hugging the child tightly, she walked over, slowly, and nudged the man’s shoulder with the toe of her boot.  “Are you alive, sir?”

“Ah, huh,” he mumbled.

“Okay, I’m going to fetch an airsled.”  She bent down close to his ear, “I will be back in one hour.  One.  Okay?”

“Ah, uh-huh.”

Edging her way past the line of customers and into the supply tent, she hurried along the right wall to the other side of the counter, and up to the slender arachnoid woman operating the register.

“Hulé, I need you to watch Saio for twenty-five, thirty tops.”

“Do you see this mob I’m dealing with?”

“I know but someone’s injured, a traveler from the outlands I believe.”

“He better take a number.  I’ve seen fifty injured travelers this week.  Put some gloves on, please.”

“Hulé, I promised to help this man.  I promised I’d come back.”

“You promised me you’d mend these time suits today.”

“I will just as soon as I get back.  Here…”  Zipporah untied the papoose and hoisted her son into her highest left arm.

“Don’t you dare walk away.”

“Relax, you still have seven good arms to work with.”

The man lay on his back when she returned.  The airsled fishtailed to a halt and hoverparked beside him, she dismounted, approached, and gently shook his shoulder.  He awoke, attempting to look around through the cloth over his eyes.

“Here,” she said, folding it back.  “I’m taking you to a hospital.  Hospital.”

“Manglokel,” he groaned.

“Yes, medical.  Come now, help me lift you.”  Sitting him upright, she hooked his arm around her neck and stood him up on wobbly legs, guiding him to the vehicle.  Once she’d secured him to the rear bed she looked into his wandering blue eyes, squeezed his hand and said, “You’re safe now.”  He nodded and closed his eyes.

*        *        *

The music that evening reverberated from the Shell like an echo chamber, as if the sonic drums and whale horns were being played at the mouth of a cave.  Zipporah and the child had remained in the village after her shift ended to await news about the traveler.  She bounced Saio on her knees at a table not far from the arched enclosure where the less reserved inhabitants of T34 celebrated their evening revels.

Behind the Shell a flock of théquos grazed at the edge of the creek, snuffing at the dusty ground with dangling beaks.  “Look,” said Zipporah, turning Saio around.  “See them?” she pointed, “Your papa used to call them flying pigs.  Whenever we saw them back on Korratrea he’d say, ‘Anything’s possible, Zeeah, now that pigs can fly.’”  She made a high-pitched clucking sound in his ear and the baby squealed and started laughing.

A young man of nine or ten solars jogged up and stood before them panting.

“What news?”

“He’s awake, your traveler.  Frantic, speaking Braekean, no one understands him.”

“Where is Hulé?”

“I don’t know.  How should I know?”

“Never mind, I will fetch her.”

The two women hiked along the trade road in darkness with only their ion lamps to light the way.  “You owe me, sister.  First you abandon me at work and now you drag me out of bed to translate for you?  I want extra shifts for this, Zeeah.”

“Fine, whatever you want.”

“No, you know what?  You can clean the store for me.”

“I said fine.”

This week.”

They heard him wailing before entering the hospital tent.  He sat straight up on a cot in the rear corner, waving his arms at the doctor and two nurses, shouting what sounded like accusations then reaching up and crying out to heaven.

“What’s he saying?” Zipporah asked.

“Help me, save me…  Dear God, save me from these lunatics,” Hulé answered, rushing toward the corner with all eight of her arms extended, palms showing.  Upon seeing her the traveler shrieked and froze for a second with wide terrified eyes, then, apparently recognizing her species, exhaled a deep sigh of relief.

They spoke for a while as Hulé relayed messages to the medical staff.  The man had a severe drug allergy and had been refusing the pills they’d attempted to give him.  After a while he calmed down, took the medicine, and reclined on the cot to try and sleep.  Zipporah watched with Saio from a distance until he looked relaxed enough for them to leave.

“What did he say?” she asked on their walk back.

“His town was invaded.  His wife and son were killed, across the System, way out in the Outer Four.”

“Which planet?”

“Raanved, early last solar.  Claims he spent ninety moons on a salvage freighter before arriving here.  What is it, what’s wrong?”

“Probably just a coincidence.  Karrick, before he left, that’s where he was going.  His last mission was on Raanved.”

 

20160131_092358-EFFECTS

Mountain of Silver Dust, Part I

I.

Each grain of azurcose was a truncated icosahedron.  She remembered this from school as thousands of them avalanched into her crystal mug of dark brown coffee, “like a million tiny footballs,” she whispered.  Only these had flat faces, whereas the tiles on a football were convex, giving it its smooth rounded shape.  “Thirty-two faces…  Twelve pentagons, twenty hexagons, sixty angles, ninety lines.  Remember that the next time you slurp your darn SyraNova drinks,” she mimicked her Chem teacher’s gravelly voice.

Someone snorted a few booths away, the group of punks she’d clocked on her way inside, only other people in the diner besides the cook, the server, and herself.

She wasn’t going to make him stay in her life if he didn’t want to, baby or no.  How could she?  Korratrea was still a free country, unless there’d been a coup she hadn’t heard about yet, which was unlikely.

The short one slid in beside her, and two more across the table, while the cautious one sat lightly at the adjacent table to her right.  Clack-clack-clack, the man’s knuckles tapped on the hard plastic surface beneath her chin.  Clack-clack-clack.

“Did you order yet?” he asked.

“Nope, just trying to enjoy this coffee.”

“Nice ring.  Where’s your husband?”

“He said he was on his way.”

The man smiled to his friends, who laughed.  “Yeah, well, I think he’s crazy to leave you alone like this.  Middle of the night, strange neighborhood…  Uncivilized company.”  His friends laughed again.

“Funny, I was thinking the same thing.”

He reached around her shoulders with his left arm and let it rest on the back of the booth.  “Amazing girl like you, if I was him I’d be afraid someone might take you away.”

“Did you take Chemistry in high school?”

“What?”

“How about Geometry, do you remember Geometry class?”

He stared at her quietly, boldly, in offended disbelief.

“Because if you do, you’ll probably recall hearing about the Goldberg polyhedron.  It’s a multi-sided shape made up of hexagons and pentagons, the faces joined together at vertices like this, here.”  She picked up the azurcose shaker and sprinkled some out on the table.  “Every grain is like a—”

“Like a tiny football,” said one of the friends, before a dark glance silenced him.

“That’s right,” she continued, “and unlike snowflakes each grain is one hundred percent identical.  Zero variation, upon production at least.”

“Is there a point to this little lesson?”  He let his hand fall gently on the back of her left shoulder.

“There is,” she nodded.  “Because azurcose, due to its structural shape, has an amazingly high degree of both molecular strength and flexibility.  So if I were to say, smash this container on the wall, the stuff would fly everywhere.”  She swept the shaker up and crushed it on the wall to her left, simultaneously leaping out of the booth, eyes closed, and flipping backwards onto the tabletop behind them.  As the short man and other two sat groaning and rubbing their eyes the tall one darted from the farther table, his lightblade drawn and glaring.

Waiting for him to slash, she caught the knife under the sole of her boot and stomped it down against the plastic tabletop, pivoted on his hand, and caught the hinge of his jaw with the toe of her other boot.  Two seconds later she was out the door and in the pilot seat of her motordeck sailing up toward the storm cloud where she could lose them.  Their engines revved and hummed below, behind her, fading gradually as she launched into the flashing mist and set the coordinates for Jadengate 794.

*         *         *

The motordeck hatch shot open as she approached, and the vehicle maneuvered into position on the landing board.  Zipporah swiped the ignition card and stepped out before the pilotside door closed and the board raised the motordeck into the ceiling.  Removing her jacket, kicking off her boots, and pulling the elastic band out of her hair, she grabbed a bowl of leftover noodles from the fridge and plopped into the basket chair in the corner by the window.  Space looked cold and blue, like it always did.

After dinner she checked her mail, took a shower, and crawled into bed—the bed they’d shared until a few months ago, before he ditched her.  Her fingers dragged across the skin of her softly rounded stomach as she descended, away from consciousness, her mouth whispering, “Great and marvelous are your works, Lord God Almighty.  Just and true are your ways…”

The Egg in the center of the living room broadcasted the System Daily News from every angle, literally, as she cleaned up and made breakfast.  Dark matter readings off the Southeast edge of Chambrek’s orbit were “disturbingly disproportionate,” higher than any time on record.  The InterSolar Truth Observers commissioned a quantification team to investigate the anomaly.  Planet-wide political and social reconstruction on Taldrathon was coming along nicely, with fewer incidents of intra-species assaults-and-consumptions than in prior weeks.  System health in general was up, effective plague containment, lower cancer and terminal disease statistics, continued vaccinations on the Outer Four (less advanced worlds), and the Sun shone bright and strong despite the frequent outcries of the Implosion Hypotheorists.  Zipporah felt in her soul that it would be a good day.

While eating her breakfast salad the phone rang, she jumped up and ran into the living room.  “Egg off!  Hello and greetings…”  She stood waiting.

“Hello, honey.”

Her eyes dropped to the maroon carpet.  “Hi, Mom.”

“Don’t sound so excited to hear from me.  Where were you last night?  I called seven times and no answer.”

“Cabin fever.  I went out for coffee.”

“What happened to the coffee maker I gave you for Christmas?  Does that not work anymore?”

“No, it works.  I wanted some air so I went over to the sand fields for a short walk.  It was nice, actually.”

“Did you see anyone?”

“A few guys at the diner.  I’m fine, Mom, no worries please.”  Zipporah glanced at her boots next to the doormat, eyeing the brown crust on the right toe.

“You aren’t fighting again, are you?”

“Me, fight?  Pshhh, I…  Come on, I…  Pshhh.”

“Okay, just remember, ‘those who live by the sword will die by the sword.’”

“Will die by the sword,” she echoed, “yes, I remember.  Thank you, Mother.”

That afternoon she went for a jog around Power Town, the enormous generator in the center of their quadrant, forty-six cubic miles of engine machinery encased in a mammoth bubble of reinforced explosion-proof glass.  The platform of steel grating around its perimeter measured to just under fourteen miles, a little more than a half marathon.  She’d been running there for years and had completed the lap with no problem a few weeks ago, but that was before she’d started to show, and this time she only made it three-quarters of the way around before having to slow down and walk.

“What are you doing, child?” she said cradling her belly.  “Trying to make me a couch potato?”

*         *         *

Nights were quiet, slow, and lonely.  She took her mom’s advice about steering clear of the sand fields and the outlands in general.  The worlds were too dangerous these days, and the child far too precious.  She spent her free time listening to music, reading French Existentialism, praying, and dreaming of the day when Karrick would return.  He would return, she felt it, knew it to be true.  The only question was when.

On the fifth waning moon of Quintember the doorbell chimed at four o’clock in the morning.  No phone call, no warning, no guests expected, and by now Zipporah was visibly pregnant.  She approached the door in her husband’s boxers, a t-shirt, and one sock, and pressed a button illuminating the screen by the keypad.  Three soldiers appeared on the step, one in uniform and two in full body armor behind him.  Captain’s hat.

“No, no, no,” she bowed her head against the door.  Then, drawing a deep breath, punched a code on the keypad.  The door clanked, parted, and slid open.

“Zipporah Dallens?”

No, no, no…

“I have news from the Colonel, ma’am.  May I come in for a moment?”

“Just say it.”

“Your husband, Lieutenant Karrick Dallens, perished honorably in service of the KWPAF.”

 

PoetryCovers

Robert Lampros Poetry

Robert Lampros is an author of Christian poetry, essays, and fiction who lives in St. Louis.  His writing focuses on healing, love, and revelation through faith in Christ, as well as on the beauty of the natural world.    He currently has three poetry books available, entitled Fits of Tranquility, Illuminating Sidewalks, and What Is Sacred.

Available at Amazon and Barnes&Noble.com

Reviews of Fits of Tranquility

“A great sense of connection with human nature and the human condition which I found refreshing…  A delightful read.  5 stars.”  – Lauren, LivingABookLife.com

“This book made me feel overwhelmingly good.  As a religious person myself, I felt like there were some lines that really resonated with me.  Even if you’re not religious, a lot of the poems deal with nature and the spiritual experiences that being outside can bring…  I definitely recommend.”  – Ashley, What’s She Reading?

“Each poem offers the reader something to reflect on that will lead to other meditative thoughts.  If you enjoy poetry, you will enjoy Fits of Tranquility.”  – Terry Delaney, Christian Book Notes

“Containing over 20 unique poems and short stories, this book ranges in topic from inspiring images of nature to thought-provoking stories filled with charming dialogue and everything in between…  I would recommend giving Fits of Tranquility a try.”  – Prairie Sky Book Reviews

“Ideas of hope, healing, joy, and faith mirrored in poems about family, lightening, life, and wilderness, the second part is comprised of prose about falling in love…  A book for avid poetry readers.”  – Jen Pen, Savurbks.com

“I enjoyed many things about this book, foremost is the author’s tone.  It is understated, but capable of conveying some deep thoughts quite effectively…  There is a religious perspective in this book, expressed with artistry, understatement, that avoids sentimentality.”  – Arthur Turfa, author of Places and Times

“One of my favorites is ‘Family,’ it describes the value in a heartfelt and touching way.  I also really liked ‘Invisible Arms,’ a vivid picture of how God protects us from physical and emotional harm.  I am a hopeless romantic so I appreciated the sweet moments described in the short stories.  I would recommend this book for anyone who enjoys reading smooth thought provoking poetry.”  – Ivory M, Beautyful Word

Fits of Tranquility contains a variety of styles and structures which makes this collection immediately more appealing to the poetry connoisseur.  Lampros’s poetry contains a sensitivity and emotional eloquence which flows gently through his work…  Fits is a superior collection and I recommend it to those readers who want to read beautiful, family-safe poetry.”  – Karen Jones, The Poetry Bookshop

 

Lampros_Resolution_Ad

Last Year’s Resolution

Available at Amazon and Barnes&Noble.com

“I genuinely liked reading this book from beginning to end.  The writing was simple and felt like a classic book I should have read years ago.  The characters were well-developed and the gentle romance felt sincere and really carried the story well…  It is Christian enough to be called Christian romance but it’s also secular enough to pass as a simple love story.  One of the things I liked most about this book was that it intertwined the characters’ faith with romance and realistic events…  A comfortable cross between contemporary fiction and love.”  – Valicity Garris, Author

“I am continually amazed by some of Mr. Lampros’ imagery…  Thematically, I would say that this novel is about friendship, love, Christ… a real knack for dialogue and characterization through said dialogue, rounding out the characters even if the description of where they are and what they see is subservient to the plot and the overall thrust of the story.  Bravo!”  – John Morris, Author

“This is a very well-written Christian novel with a plot running in fast pace…  The author did a superb job creating characters that are lovable, and the book is definitely a boost to our faith…  I recommend this book to the permanent library of all readers who appreciate a well-written novel, very entertaining, with a strong Christian theme.”  – Roberto Mattos, BooksAndMovieReviews

“Great writing, great story!  I could’ve read it in just a few days but you kind of want to take your time with it and reflect on some of the passages and things that happen… a great book, fun and exciting and even edge-of-your-seat action at times.  I highly recommend it!”  – B. Hill, Goodreads Reviewer

Last Year’s Resolution is a well-written, clean, Christian story.  One of the more thoughtful depictions of a popular theme.  It is not an over the top horror-fest, but it is not sugarcoated either…  Those readers interested in such a topic will find this telling both entertaining and faith-affirming.  Not a bad feat to accomplish.  Enjoy!”  – Mike Siedschlag, Books are Theater of the Mind

 

SacredFrontCover

What Is Sacred

Available at Amazon and Barnes&Noble.com

What Is Sacred is a collection of poetry and essays about faith, love, and Jesus Christ.

Robert Lampros is an author of Christian poetry, essays, and fiction who lives in St. Louis.  His books include Fits of Tranquility, Afternoon, and Last Year’s Resolution.

Title:  What Is Sacred
Author:  Robert Lampros
Paperback:  54 pages
Publisher:  CreateSpace, 07/21/2016
Language:  English
Retail Price:  $8.99
ISBN-13:  978-1535422192
Category:  Christian/Literature

 

BraveNewWorld

Foreword to Brave New World

From Aldous Huxley’s foreword to his novel, Brave New World:

Chronic remorse, as all the moralists are agreed, is a most undesirable sentiment.  If you have behaved badly, repent, make what amends you can and address yourself to the task of behaving better next time.  On no account brood over your wrong-doing.  Rolling in the muck is not the best way of getting clean.

Art also has its morality, and many of the rules of this morality are the same as, or at least analogous to, the rules of ordinary ethics.  Remorse, for example, is as undesirable in relation to our bad art as it is in relation to our bad behaviour.  The badness should be hunted out, acknowledged and, if possible, avoided in the future.  To pore over the literary shortcomings of twenty years ago, to attempt to patch a faulty work into the perfection it missed at its first execution, to spend one’s middle age in trying to mend the artistic sins committed and bequeathed by that different person who was oneself in youth — all this is surely vain and futile.  And that is why this new Brave New World is the same as the old one.  Its defects as a work of art are considerable; but in order to correct them I should have to rewrite the book — and in the process of rewriting, as an older, other person, I should probably get rid not only of some of the faults of the story, but also of such merits as it originally possessed.  And so, resisting the temptation to wallow in artistic remorse, I prefer to leave both well and ill alone and to think about something else.

Link to rest of Foreword