Newearth: Year 25
It’s been five years now since Cerulean arrived with his Inter-Alien Alliance agreement. Governor Sharp met her match in him, that’s for sure. I wonder who’ll take over now?
Lordy, I’m tired. Way too tired to take notice of all the recent upheavals. I do care but… Uh oh, here comes someone in an all-fired rush.
“Alcina, there’s been an accident. Hurry. We’ll need your healing bag.”
So much for quiet time and contemplation.
I step out of my little herb shop, and who do I find but my friend, ‘Roux to the Rescue’…again. Even for a Luxonian, he’s fast. And he’s too handsome for his own good…well, for my good.
“I’m coming! Let me grab my stuff and check something.”
Dash in. Grab a cloak, my bag, and check—Anything on the boiler? Nope. Opps. Gotta strain those berries before the ants—
Rush, rush! I’m coming! And dashing right—
“Sorry. Didn’t see you in the doorway.”
Even when he’s perturbed, he’s handsome. Sigh.
“So—Who is it this time? An Ingoti construction worker fell off his high-rise? An Uanyi merchant tackle a thieving intergalactic trader? Don’t tell me—A Cresta has blown himself to smithereens in one of his new labs?”
I’m jogging along to keep up, trying not to sound like I’m completely breathless. Building my shop out here in the wilds of Westland has its advantages, but not so much when I’m in a hurry…
“Sarcasm doesn’t become you, Alcina. Healers are supposed to maintain their professional dignity at all times—with all races. It’s in your creed or code or something.”
“Huh. Must’ve missed that part. Roux! Would you please slow down? I’m not made of light so I can’t move as fast.”
“Sorry. It’d be easier if I could—”
“Don’t even think about it.”
“We’ve improved our transportation methods. Really. You’ll hardly even notice…”
“No, thanks. I’ve buried enough transportation failures to give me a strong devotion to pedestrian travel.”
“You can’t live in the Oldearth past.”
“I can try. Well, sort of. Though, I must say; I’m deeply in love with my whirligig.”
“It does all my laundry, dries it, and leaves it folded on— Oh, never mind. Where are we rushing off to anyway?”
Roux didn’t even blink. “The past.”
Speaking of sarcasm…
“You really ought to spend more time with the Bhuacs. They love riddles and you’d have a gorgeous time figuring your way out of their labyrinths. I hear their settlement in Song—”
Roux is still not blinking. No emotion whatsoever. “Been there. Nearly died. Not my best memory.”
I’m trying not to express my jumbled feeling on every fiber of my face. “Oooh-kay. So, you want to tell me what’s going on?”
“Simple case. New community named Amens, guy broke something in his back while building a house. They want to keep close to nature, so they use the old ways and only natural resources. You should get along great. They’ll love your plant-of-the-day shop— natural remedies and all.”
“I’m an herbologist.”
“You’re an Oldearth naturalist.”
“Why do you make that seem like some kind of insult?”
“It’s not intended. Look, I respect what you do, but you can’t ignore the reality of living in a world with universal technology.”
“Who’s ignoring? I told you about my whirligig and look, see, I’m advanced.”
It’s a tab bit embarrassing holding out my arm for inspection like this, but hey, a comp-insert is pretty blinking impressive.
Lordy, he’s holding my arm…and looking me in the eye. Sheesh. He dropped my arm like I’m made of ice.
“Where’d you get that?”
“Cerulean gave it to me. He said we needed a better way to stay in touch, I mean, in communication. He’s like that… You know how he is.”
“Yeah, I know Cerulean well indeed. Listen, I’m just going to shorten this little jaunt by a hair’s breath if you don’t mind.”
“A hair’s breath? What does—?”
Now Roux looks smug. Seriously smug. “Here we are.”
I’m checking my heart…Thank God! It’s still beating. Honestly, I’m grateful it is still there. “Roux! I outta shoot you. How dare you—”
Uh ho, he’s grinning. Dang, I can’t be mad at him when he smiles like that. Deep breath. Regain some semblance of dignity.
“I apologize. I’m just afraid this guy will die while we’re traipsing through Newearth’s natural elements.”
“Okay. Good reason. I’m looking around but I don’t see much. Just an old barn and a few outbuildings.”
“That barn is bigger than it looks, and it’s the center of the Amens community. Here, follow me.”
We’re inside a huge structure, like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It’s a luminous, pulsing green with lofts and little niches all over the place, built of some kind of plant structure; it could be a tree, but it’s not like any vegetation I’ve ever encountered before. It feels…alive.
Roux strides up and knocks, bold fellow that he is. “Hello? It’s me Roux. I’ve brought—”
“Oh, Roux! Thanks for coming.”
Hmmm…. A Bhuac. Charming little beings, elusive though. Wonder what…
By the look on his face, Roux isn’t here to exchange pleasantries. “Shira? Where’s the patient?”
“I’m sorry for troubling you, Roux, but he’s passed on. The damage was too great, and his family didn’t want too much intervention.”
“I tried to get here as quick as I could. I brought a neighbor of yours, Alcina, the herbologist.”
Those luminous eyes! Bhuacs are gorgeous no matter what shape they take. But she’s so sad…touched.
“Alcina? Yes, we know of you. Song of Wisdom admires your work.”
The Song of Wisdom? Seen me? And I failed to notice? “Sorry we didn’t get here in time. It was my fault. I’m slow—”
“Don’t trouble your soul. The Amens have great faith. We have found strength in each other. I will introduce you. They are in mourning now.”
“Certainly. Is there anything I can do for you…or anyone?”
“Thank you, child. I’ll inform them of your arrival and preparations for burial will begin immediately. You may assist in preparing the body, if you like. I am sure they would appreciate your skill.”
Skill? “I can’t heal the dead.”
“No. But you can ease the passage for those who remain. You have buried many, and your respect for the body is admirable. Let me know what you need, and I’ll procure the materials.”
She’s turned her powerful laser-like gaze on Roux now.
“Roux? Would you inform Cerulean that we need his assistance?”
“Cerulean? Sure. Why? I thought the guy fell off the roof.”
“Only after he was shot with a Dustbuster. There’s trouble ahead.”
Poor Roux. It’s never easy being a hero in a universe of villains. Sigh…I’ve been hidden away—too old to notice the troubles of our time—too young to care… But now…
That I am. Sigh.