Emerald Legion, chapter sixteen
“Rokkfall” – the events on Venegar have unexpected repercussions
Rokk tossed down the pad, severing the connection to Dr. Gym’ll and ending the one-sided ‘conversation’ that had been taking place. Of all the doctors Rokk had seen in the endless parade of specialists called in to deal with his ‘unique condition,’ Dr. Gym’ll had been the first to offer a conflicting hypothesis. To the three-armed curmudgeon, *every* patient was unique, since none of his patients had a physiology or biochemistry similar to himself. Instead of looking at it from a Braalian perspective, he had seen a larger picture, and it wasn’t a pretty one.
~What does that mean? Will you lose your powers? Will you lose your…~ Imra’s mental voice trailed off, but it was clear that she meant his mobility.
“He doesn’t know. All he knows is that the contamination of the ferrous hydraxaline when by spinal cord was severed is causing it to break down into ferrous annaline. He says that it *should* interfere with my magnetic powers, but he also says that I shouldn’t be walking anyway, that the ferrous hydraxaline was never enough to replace an entire nervous system.”
“But all those experts on Braal have to know more about Braalian physiology and, uh, magno-physiology, than him?”
“I asked him the same thing, when he let me get a word in edgewise, and he said that they were too close to the problem, too used to thinking in only one set paradigm.” Rokk said. “Well, he also called them all sorts of names in the process, but that’s the jist of it.”
~Is this more than a theory? I mean the evidence is that you *are* walking, and that your powers are stronger than ever. So just based on the evidence, the Braalian doctors are right, no matter how many names he wants to call them.~ Imra added, clearly frustrated, and taking it out on the tactless little doctor.
“He pointed to the various studies published by the Braalian doctors. He *did* read them all, before even working with me. Not a single one of them had any explanation at all for why I could still feel pain. For why I could still see, and hear, and taste. I don’t have optic nerves. I don’t have tactile nerves. Even the sensory nerves in my nose are gone. Whatever sort of magnetic manipulation I could do to my muscles wouldn’t let me *smell,* would it? It wouldn’t let me feel pain,” he said, smacking his hand down hard on the table and flexing his fingers.
“So, it’s a mystery, but a good one, right? If your body doesn’t need this ferrous hydraxaline, does it matter what it degrades into? I mean, is this ferrous annaline stuff bad?” Garth asked.
“No. It’s pretty much inert,” Rokk conceded, “and Gym’ll says that the degradation is moving along slowly. It should take years before it’s run its course.”
“So, I don’t want to sound like I’m making light of it, but it doesn’t sound like a problem, really…”
“It just got me thinking of something that the Kathooni Ambassador said. I thought she was trying to scare me or something, but she knew a lot of things that she shouldn’t have.” Rokk said, still flexing his fingers absently, as if wondering if he would still be able to do this simple thing.
~She’s a Seer, right? They have some belief that they are connected to the minds of their ancestors, or something.~
“I don’t think it’s just a superstition, Imra. We’ve seen what Jath can do, and she insists that it’s because she’s calling on the strength of her ancestors, and that sunlight blocks her connection to them. She spends an hour or more a day going over those metal discs she wears as a belt. Each of them has the name and a poem about some long-dead Warrior, and she sits there reciting stories to herself about their exploits. She says that if she doesn’t honor them, they won’t lend her their strength when she needs it.”
~I’m not sure this isn’t simply a psychological tool that they use to help focus their abilities, Rokk. Just like how magno-ball players will point at the ball with their hand, even ‘though they don’t need to do anything of the sort.~
“In any case, the Seer definitely knew stuff she shouldn’t have. She could just be a telepath for all I know, but she told me that she didn’t see me as a Braalian. She saw me as half-flesh and half-energy, and said that I was a hint of the future, a time when ‘the children of Earth’ would ‘abandon the flesh’ and ‘sour the stars on wings of spirit.’”
“It sound poetic, but is that even possible? Isn’t your magnetic field anchored in the iron in your body, enhanced by all that mag-steel you wear?”
“I don’t know anymore. If so much of what made me able to manipulate magnetism is gone, why am I even better at it?”
Imra had fallen silent, but finally ‘spoke’ up, ~Rokk, you told us that a church on your world believed that your people had somehow fused with the energy creatures that used to live on Braal. Could this be related to what the Seer said?~
“I don’t see how, Imra. It’s a neat theory, but I think it was just whipped up to cover any residual guilt over our arrival spelling the end of their species, and maybe even to make the believers feel less like intruders and more like they have somehow ‘become’ part of the world.”
Garth perked up, “Yeah, I thought of that, and it comes back to thermodynamics. Energy, magnetic or not, can’t be created or destroyed. The creatures have been gone for centuries, and new Braalians are born every day, with magnetic powers getting stronger every generation. If it was some sort of energy-fusion thing between the races, the Braalian children would have stopped being born with powers when the last of the energy creatures died out.”
~But he also said that the storms had mysteriously subsided as well. I wonder…~ Imra thought and pulled a pad over the table and began working out something.
“Stand back,” Garth said, scooting away from Imra with his hands in the air, “Genius at work.”
Rokk leaned over to see what she was doing, but the columns of numbers were moving too quickly. He was pretty sure that meteorological data and census records were involved.
~There.~, she thought, pushing the pad in front of Rokk. ~The numbers aren’t perfect, but the decline of the storms has shown a definite correlation with the birthrate. The more of the planetary magnetosphere is ‘bound up’ in the living Braalian population, the less is rampaging around wreaking havoc. Right now the storms have retreated to the polar regions, and over 40% of Braals surface is habitable. If the projection is valid, within a couple thousand years, Braal’s storms will be gone entirely, and *then,* Braal is going to have a problem, as the newer generations will start having weaker and weaker magnetosystems.”
“Not to burst your bubble, hon, but Braal’s been around for centuries, and I’m sure someone would have noticed this correlation.” Garth said gently.
~But this is *new* data. A thousand Braalian scientists didn’t have the example of Rokk to consider, or access to Ambassador Marin’s theory. Think about it Rokk. What if the energy within you *isn’t* as connected to your physical self as your people like to believe. What if the reason that you can walk and see and feel is because the energy is self-sufficient, and allowing you to replicate your body’s functions?”
“Okay, time out,” Garth said, crossing his hands. “One second you’re like, ‘Marin’s a fraud,’ and the next you’re like, ‘Rokk’s an energy-form.’” He shook his head. “Pick one!”
~I reacted to the idea of Marin’s superstitions being correct, and I’m still not convinced, but if there’s one thing you keep beating me over the head with Garth is that not everything in this universe needs to be analyzed and boxed up and put away. Marin’s a mystery, and I’ll leave it at that for now, but her words make sense to me. Just about everyone on Titan believes that we will eventually transcend our bodies, and become pure thought. Our ‘energy-selves’ will be psionic in nature, not magnetic, but the principle is the same.~ Imra’s mental voice was excited, and she clearly found the idea appealing.
Garth attempted to lighten the situation, “So you guys aren’t going to ‘transcend into energy’ any time soon, right? ‘Cause I’d get lonely.”
Rokk smiled, “I’m for putting it off as long as possible. I’m pretty sure Jath would dump me…”
~Speaking of Jath?~
“She wanted to ‘challenge’ herself. She put on her skinsuit, sunblock, sungoggles and is out jogging. In broad daylight…”
“Won’t that kill her?” Garth exclaimed.
“No. If the sunlight doesn’t touch her skin, she’s fine. Just unable to use her strength. And with the goggles on, blocking out 99% of the visible spectrum, she should be able to see okay as well.”
~I’m surprised you aren’t with her, just in case.~
“She insisted on doing this herself, and I had the call from Gym’ll coming up, so I didn’t press it.” Rokk said, looking at the pad again and poking at it absently.
~She doesn’t know yet, does she?~
Rokk snorted. “Uh, no. ‘Hey honey, remember when you stabbed me in the back? Well, it set off a chain-reaction that’s tearing through my body and might leave me a cripple, or I could turn into an energy-ghost and haunt you, we’re not sure yet. Whadja bring me for dinner?’”
“Ouch.” Garth sympathized.
~Oh Rokk, I can’t even think of anything reassuring to say. That’s going to be a hard conversation…~, Imra folded her cloak around herself and held her arms. ~Why is this planet so damn cold all the time.~ she thought suddenly and got up and left.
“Okay, that’s my cue to go,” Garth said, eyebrows raised as he hurried out the door.
“Hon?” Garth called out as he let himself into Imra’s room. The telepath was huddled on her bed, holding he knees, head down. ~Come in already.~
He made sure to close the security door behind him, and noticed that the room’s temperature settings were set high enough to make sweat bead out almost instantly.
“What’s wrong,” he said, sitting down and taking her shoulders in his hands. She looked up at first, and then folded up against his chest.
~I can’t seem to warm up. The walls are too far away, and I know it’s all in my head, but it just makes me feel cold. The only time I feel warm…~ she paused and he rubbed her back, not wanting to press, ~when your asleep.~
‘Not what I was expecting,’ Garth thought, but let her continue at her own pace.
~I sit awake, reading a pad, and your arm is over me, and I feel warm. I can turn up the heat until I’m sweating, wear all sorts of clothing and this damn Ring is supposed to keep me warm in *outer space,* and I still get chills.~
“We could put in a divider, make the bedroom a smaller sub-unit…” Garth began.
~It’s not just that. I didn’t get chills like this before the Mindfire den. And they just got worse after Reyu told me about the surgery. And now all those telepaths on Venegar? It’s like the universe is getting colder every day. I know it’s all in my head, and I’m the big telepath, with years of training at dealing with this stuff, but it’s too close. I can’t seem to shake it, Garth. I’m losing my focus.~
“Hey,” Garth said, pulling her close and looking directly into large pale-blue eyes, “We’ll find this bastard, and put him away forever.”
~Reyu said he ‘took’ from him, and I feel like he’s already ‘taken’ from me. I’m having trouble concentrating, I’m having trouble relaxing enough to enjoy even simple things like this,~ she thought, stroking his face, ~and Rokk is back there feeling his entire life burning away, and I can’t even keep focus long enough to help him, so scared of what *could* happen, of some unknown shadow-man that I’m losing track of what’s really happening, of what I should be concentrating on.~
Garth stroked her hair, “I’ve been kind of jealous of you two, having powers that are such a part of you. Mine just got tacked on, and I didn’t have a couple hundred years of culture or tradition or specialized training to fall back on. But now I feel guilty. There aren’t any drugs designed to make my powers work better, at a cost to my health. There aren’t any predators out there looking for the ‘lightning-people of Winath’…”
~I always saw it that way, too. I wondered if you were scared, the first time lightning shot out of your hands, and if you couldn’t turn it on, or turn it off. Then I saw Mekt, and realized that even if there wasn’t a race of ‘lightning-people’ at least you didn’t have to go through it completely alone.~
“Ayla, too. All three of us.”
Imra pulled back and looked up into his face, ~Someday you’re going to tell me.~
“And spoil the mystery?” Garth said smiling, before his face turned more serious. “After all this build-up, the story itself is pretty dull. I’m just keeping it mysterious to make it seem more interesting than it is.”
~You’re not going to tell me, are you,~ she said with a pout.
~Go turn down the heat. You’re all sweaty.~
The figure dropped her backpack just inside the open doorway of the Embassy. “Hello?” she called out to the empty reception area. ‘Great. No doors. No door*men.*’ “Is anybody home?”
A robotic receptionist bobbed up from behind a counter on the far wall. *Welcome to the Venegarian Mission to Earth. The Ambassador, Queen Sarya, has a full schedule today, but if you would like to make an appointment, please leave your name, a contact ID and the purpose of your visit, and I’ll see when I can pencil you in.*
‘Great. The answering machine.’ She thought. “Whatever, sparky. I’m looking for one of her so-called ‘Champions,’” she said, with much sarcastic focus on the last word. “My name is Ayla Ranzz.”