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The Antar Chronicles, Chapter 2: Goodbye Cruel World
Reply to Alex Parrish
Posted to the RoswellSlash mailing list June 23, 2004
I hope it is you reading this. If you are, that probably means the you got my original diary and know all about everything that happened from the time we left Roswell until the time we left Earth. God, that still sounds strange to write, even though I know that you know all about it. You might be curious whether they have 'journals' on Antar for folks to buy and write in. Actually, no. Back when we were 'on the run' we each had a backpack which we kept ready at all times in case we had to leave where we were with no time to spare. The bags had toilet items, a change of clothes and one or two personal items of choice. Liz, (who else) saw to it that there was a spare journal in each bag. These bags are really the only things we took when we left in the spacecraft, so, as it turns out, we each had a spare journal to write into. Good old Liz.
The spacecraft was totally amazing -- not all that big, but every square inch was utilized. It was sphere-shaped but somehow we were able to walk all around the inside without falling -- as though, every direction was down and gravity kept us on our feet. Even more amazing was the skin of the ship. There were no windows to speak of, but the crew could make almost any portion of the ship appear transparent if we wanted to see out. That is exactly what we all wanted to do as we left our home planet. All three women cried, and I confess to being a little misty myself. Fortunately, it was over rather quickly. We were on the far side of the moon within 2 hours. There was another ship, a little smaller, waiting there for us.
The ship that rescued us from Earth had a crew of two. Isabel had said that there was a pilot and a steward, but we discovered that she got it wrong -- both were pilots and engineers. They were called Rae-tree-ordt and Kuhn-ah-rakay. I have spelled these the way they sounded to me. Actually, even these are nicknames. Antarians seem to like to give super-long names, including dozens of ancestors and all their deeds and so forth. We actually called the guys Ray and Kuhn. They were lovers who had been mates since early childhood. Neither was married yet. They were chosen for this mission because of the fact they both spoke English, and pretty well, too!
Forget all that crap about little green men, or glowing skin or any of that stuff. These Antarians looked very much like humans. They tend to be about ten-percent shorter (Kuhn's information) and their skin is a little paler than ours. Their faces looked a little strange to me for a while and I couldn't figure out exactly why, but I finally decided that the Antarians I've met have eyes that are a little too big for their face -- at least by human standards. Anyway, they aren't scary-looking or weird or anything, just a little short. I kind-of like finally being tall -- at least by their standards.
I expected that all the Antarians would have powers like the 'pod-squad.' I was wrong. It seems obvious now that, just like Max, Michael, Isabel, and Tess, different individuals manifest different powers. For example: Michael can't dreamwalk, and Isabel can't heal -- at least she says she can't. It seems that thought-reading is exceptionally rare. Some Antarians never develop these supernatural powers like the 'pod-squad' but exhibit unusually well-developed cognitive powers. Some are capable only of self-healing. Different powers seem to run in families, and not everyone in a family develops powers. Well-established families seem to have more powers, and tend to be leaders, either in Arts, Academics, or Politics. Because of the monarchy, people with strong powers tend to be in, or close to, the ruling families.
Many Antarians do not manifest their powers until they mature, and, considering their average 400-500 year life-span, this can be up to 200 years. I learned that it is possible to petition the Sacred Granolith, through the Avatar, to grant a particular power to an individual, and if the Granolith agrees, it can blast open those parts of the brain to grant the desired powers, much like it did to me to give me the powers of the Avatar. This is a rare occurrence, but it does happen, particularly if the Granolith sees the person as a potential leader.
I asked Ray and Kuhn about their powers shortly after we boarded, and they explained that the military sought out individuals with exceptional math, science, and engineering skills to be pilots. People with the ability to construct force-fields, or trans-mutate substances tend to be combat forces, which depend on pilots to get them where they are going. Apparently, it's all pretty-well thought out by the military. Shape-shifters, as we learned from Larek, are a different race altogether. Apparently, all the business about 'little green men' actually describes a vary rare sight: a Shape-Shifter in his natural state -- that is, not taking someone else's shape. Shape-Shifters prefer not to be seen in this form. They are particularly vulnerable in that form.
When we first got on the spaceship, Ray and Kuhn were busy getting us off the planet and trying -- apparently successfully -- to avoid detection. Once we were safely out of range for any Earth defenses, the men (can I call them men?) left their posts and came to where we were all standing watching our home grow smaller and smaller in the distance. For starters, they both knelt down and looked at the floor while they introduced themselves. That felt weird to us. We didn't want to insult them or their culture, so Max asked them to agree to a compromise: they could kneel or bow while greeting us, but after that, they had to stand and look us in the face. They were uncomfortable about it, but they tried to remember , and, after all, Max is their King, and if that was what he wanted, they were anxious to accommodate.
Waiting for us, in the other ship, was also a crew of 2 -- Kier and Seed -- also lovers since youth, but officially bonded to each other and both married with children as well. Seed also spoke English. We went through the same bowing and scraping routine with him, and explained our compromise. Kier didn't enter our rescue ship. Seed explained that he had a last-minute repair to make on his own ship.
Seed then explained that two ships were sent out of a concern for safety. He said that they didn't expect any trouble from Kivar's forces, but they felt it best to err on the side of safety. He was the first person I ever heard use the word 'err' in an actual conversation. They planned to split our party between both ships. That way, if there was any trouble, Kivar's forces wouldn't know which ship held the King.
I didn't really like the sound of that. First, why so much concern if Kivar's forces were 'on-the-run' so-to-speak? Second, I didn't like the idea of our splitting-up.
I was really conflicted about whether to use my thought-reading power to scan these rescuers, but Ray put my mind to rest about that by announcing, "It will probably make you all more comfortable with us if you, My Lord Avatar, are permitted to scan our thoughts at will. This is, of course, acceptable to us."
I took them up on their offer. Mostly what I learned was about their curiosity about us, fear of us (especially me) and routine operational matters. I thought that it was a little fishy that whenever I scanned Seed, he seemed to be involved in some complex mathematical or scientific equation -- and If I were a smarter person, that should have tipped me off to the danger, but, somehow, everything around me was so strange that this didn't set off alarms as it should have. I read it as him trying to impress us (me) with how hard he was working. He didn't say very much either, but at one point he made a point of telling Isabel that he liked her "maroon" blouse, which I thought a little odd because the blouse was more of a bright red, but I chalked it up to Seed not knowing the language quite as well as he might. I also thought it odd that he only complimented Isabel, and said nothing to, or about the other two women, but that could just be cultural differences or, more likely, nerves.
More than anything, I regret that I missed the danger signals, and there were many days when I was sure that my fuck-up would mean 'curtains' for all of us. It almost did. I keep asking myself what good it is to have all the power and knowledge of the Sacred Granolith at my disposal, if I still have the judgment of a 20-year-old Kid from Roswell. More about that in a little while.
The rest of the group were too involved in being grateful for our rescue from the MIB and too traumatized by being ripped from the only planet we'd ever known and thrust into space with only such short notice, or time to really think through the consequences. They were no help to me in judging our rescuers.
My suggestion was that Max and Liz and I would take one ship and the other four take the other. That seemed logical-- it kept couples (and triples) together. Both Seed and Michael vetoed that. Michael's point was, in his words. "No way Max, I mean, the King, is going anywhere without me to cover his ass. NO WAY!" He has always been protective of Max in his own bizarre way, but since we decided to head for Antar, he has taken on the role of "Rath, the protector" with a vengeance.
Seed's objection was that the King and the Avatar shouldn't be on the same ship in case anything went wrong, at least one might survive to lead the kingdom. He said this with such a cold detachment that it sent a chill up my spine, but I was still too dumb to realize this was a part of the plot. I didn't have a clue.
So it looked like it was going to be Max, Michael, Liz and Maria on one ship and me on the other with Isabel and Jesse. My heart sank. It was likely to mean as much as two weeks apart from Max. We had not been apart, even for a day, since the shopping trip when we first arrived at the Lodge, months and months ago, and even that was only for a day.
[Well, there was Max's "prisoner of love" melodrama, but we were at least still under the same roof]
Liz, of course, was free to be with Max the whole time, but, good old Liz, she has a really bad case of 'fairness.' She announced that if I had to be separated from Max, so would she, "It's only fair; we're in this together."
The only thing that I could think of at the moment was that I doubted that I would have done the same for her if our positions had been reversed. But Liz is Liz, and her mind was made up. She and I would suffer Max's absence together. Misery does, in fact, love company, so I did not insist she go with him. I wondered if she had counted on me to be 'noble' and spare her the sacrifice, but it just wasn't in me. Even though I felt a little guilty about it, it turned out to be a lucky thing that I didn't, and the only thing I did right at this point of our travels.
It was settled. Max, Michael and Maria would go to Kier and Seed's ship, and Liz, Isabel, Jesse and I would remain on the first ship with Ray and Kuhn.
Max reached down for his backpack -- which was on the deck -- only to have Seed snatch it before Max could, pleading, "Forgive me, Your Highness, you should not be carrying your own bag. Please allow me."
Seed picked up the bag and headed for the point where the other ship was docked with us. Max glanced back at us and just shrugged. While Seed headed off with his bag, and Kuhn picked up Michael's and Maria's bags, Max turned and kissed first Liz and then me. If there was any favoritism in the passion of his kisses, I couldn't detect it, and I wondered what made me even think about that -- I'm not the jealous type -- at least I don't think I am. I guess I was just disoriented by the prospect of being separated from him for the first time. He then kissed Isabel and hugged Jesse before heading for the other ship. Liz and Maria made their goodbyes, then she and Michael were off to the other ship as well.
It was only two or three minutes until Kuhn returned, then he and Ray were involved in preparation for us to disengage from the other ship and start our journey in ernest.
It was exactly then that I realized that I could understand what they were saying to each other in their own language. I wasn't exactly translating, I just knew what they were saying. In between technical stuff, they were making small-talk. They agreed that Liz was very beautiful and would make a lovely queen, and then they agreed that I was beautiful too (I think I blushed) and they used a word which I can only translate as 'hot' but it actually has a more erotic-slang tone, more like 'hot-fuck' and then I knew for sure I was blushing. They were oblivious to me -- they must have guessed that I wasn't monitoring their thoughts anymore -- and I wondered if they were somehow actually aware of this? It apparently hadn't yet occurred to them that I could understand every word they were saying.
I waited a respectable interval, and then spoke to them in their own language, asking, "How long before we'll be underway?"
They both looked at each other in horror and hit the deck on their knees at the same time. Kuhn, trembling, offered, "We are most humbly sorry and pitifully ashamed of our words, my Lord Avatar. When we return to Antar, we will immediately present ourselves to the royal executioner. Until then, we are at your mercy. We would be grateful if you would spare our lives only to permit us to complete our mission of piloting you home. Then we will present ourselves for the painful death we truly deserve."
He was going on and on like this and Ray was joining in agreement, and, the only way I thought I could stop them was to finally just say, "STOP!" They both froze, staring at the deck.
"Nobody's going to execute anybody -- especially not me. You were just making small-talk with each other, and I dunno what the previous Avatar would have done, but as far as I am concerned, you are entitled to state your own opinion and you shouldn't be afraid of being killed for it. That's not the way we do things, and I think I can speak for all of us, including Max, uh, I mean, your King, or, uh, my King or...Damnit! All of us. Got it? Now get back up and go back to work, OK?"
They were slow to rise, but finally did, though each had a grateful look on his face.
"Besides," I added, "I was kind-of flattered. You can keep that to yourselves."
"Yes, my Lord." "By your leave, My Lord Avatar" and blah, blah, blah, then they were back at work. I moved to another part of the ship to bring some closure to this little scene, but truthfully, I think I enjoyed being thought-of as a 'hot-fuck.' I did, however, keep this knowledge to myself.
A few minutes later I overheard another conversation which should have thrown-up red flags in my pea-brain, but didn't.
Kuhn said to Ray, "I hope Seed and Kier aren't fighting."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, when I took the King's bag to their ship I took it to the sleeping pods and I noticed that two pods had been slept-in."
Ray seemed surprised. "That's not like them at all. They are known around the palace as 'the eternal lovebirds' because they are always so romantic and affectionate with each other -- even after all their years together. I can't imagine them sleeping in separate pods."
"That's what I thought, but, I'm telling you that there were definitely two used pods in that ship. If they've had a falling-out, I hope the can keep it to themselves and not let the King and Lord Rath find out. And can you figure out Kier not coming to greet the King? What could have been so important that it kept him from reporting to the King? It just seems odd to me."
"Me too. I hope whatever's going on, they get it straightened out right away."
Then they went back to operational stuff. Now, if I were as smart an Avatar as I am supposed to be, the fact that they noticed something out-of-place between Kier and Seed should have tipped-me-off that something was rotten in Denmark, but... it didn't. I took it at face value, which turned out to be another damn dumb mistake. Just goes to prove that 'smart' isn't everything. It's all so plain in hindsight.
We had to sleep in a common area, but at least we each had a separate sleeping pod. The worst thing was the toilet. It was basically a high-tech bucket in a tiny cubicle with a curtain over the entrance -- pretty crude and a little embarrassing, I thought. The sleeping-pods are really cool. They are kind-of like sleeping bags hanging three-high, and once you zip yourself into your pod, you press a button, and the gravity turns off. The pods are secured at either end so they don't drift away or bump into each other, but otherwise, they are "free-floating." It took less time than you would imagine to get used to sleeping in zero-gravity. It's really pretty comfortable -- you might say 'heavenly.'
Jesse had a digital watch, and so kept us aware of 'Earth-time' and the fact that we had been up for 22 hours. No wonder I was bushed. I had just drifted off to sleep, when something woke me up. Maybe I should say that 'nothing' woke me up. I realized that I had suddenly lost the feeling that I was connected to the Granolith, like somebody just 'pulled-the-plug.' I panicked, at first trying to get out of my pod without restoring the gravity -- a very bad idea, don't try it. Once I managed to get out of the pod, I made my way over to where Kuhn and Ray were still working.
"Guyz, something's wrong. I don't feel the Granolith. This isn't right. What's going on?"
"Don't worry, Kuhn explained, "We've left the area where the power of the Granolith's messages is reinforced. You see, there is an entire network of reinforcing stations between Earth and Antar installed shortly after the King's arrival there. It would be nearly impossible to communicate with Earth, even for the Granolith, at such a great distance unless the communication was reinforced artificially. That is how Antar has kept track of the King for all this time."
"OK, that makes sense I guess, but why are we leaving that route -- why not follow it back to Antar?"
"Too obvious. Too dangerous -- if there were any forces bent on intercepting us --that -- would be the first place they would look. We are taking a purposely circuitous route just to be on the safe side. That's why we have to leave the "Earth-conduit" area."
That did make sense to me, but was not comforting. I suddenly felt very powerless and terribly alone. Ray must have read it in my face."
"Do not fear, my Lord Avatar, you still have all your powers, it's just that the Granolith itself is out-of-reach. You still have incredible powers on your own -- many more powers than some of the most powerful Antarians."
However true that was -- and it surely didn't feel like it right then -- it didn't calm me, because whatever those powers were, I had never used them on my own, and basically had little or no idea how to summon them without prompting from the Granolith. I decided to ask Isabel for some pointers when she woke up.
Now, re-living this in hindsight, this is like the plot to a bad horror movie. I should have recognized the situation as a set-up. There were plenty of clues:
Max and I were separated -- actually on separate ships. Something unusual and unexplained was noted about the crew of Max's ship. I had not actually been able to scan Seed's thought -- he was preoccupied. None of us had actually seen Kier and I had not scanned him. I was completely cut-off from the Granolith. We were on a route the put us out-of-contact with both Earth and Antar. I didn't know how to use my powers; I was power-less.
I was too tired, or too trusting, or just too plain stupid to read the signs. Or, maybe, I was too afraid to acknowledge them. I can also see, in hindsight, that there wasn't much I could have done to change the situation. I should have insisted that we not be separated -- at least we could think-it-out together. I've stopped beating myself up about this, but I still think about it sometimes.
At least, we were under way.
Continue to Chapter 3
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