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The Saa'ar Chronicles #2: Nature
“What date is it?” Sookie glanced over at Isaac who was, as usual, slouched in his wheelchair staring moodily at the exterior vid screen.
He gave a cursory glance at his watch. “June 22nd.” A slight pause and then, almost as if against his will, he dragged his attention away from the image of the huge spaceship parked beneath the space station and added somewhat testily. “That’s on Earth, of course. Why do you want to know?”
Sookie held up her leather bound book. “This is the first chance I’ve had to write in my journal for ages. Been too busy, and I’d lost track of time.” Sighing, she turned to the correct page. “Summer solstice,” she noted absently and started writing.
“Does that mean, you’ll be throwing off your clothes and dancing butt naked down the corridors?”
Sookie’s jaw dropped in amazement. Did Isaac just crack a joke? Or at least attempt to? Given the fact that his girlfriend had died along with her compatriot aliens, his usual glumness was understandable. Still, he was the last person she expected to make her smile.
When Ethan was around, she’d often found herself laughing, but since the transferral of the hibernation pod he shared with Dana, the whole atmosphere was subdued, almost in mourning. She missed seeing the big man, missed hearing his heavy tread, missed seeing his instinctive smile whenever he saw her no matter how tired he was. And she had always known when he was exhausted because of the slight jerkiness in his stride as he struggled to deal with his lower leg prosthetics. She sighed. No time for regrets, best to focus on something else. “Where I come from, June the twenty-second would be the longest night and definitely too cold to prance around the streets in the all together.” Not that she would have done that even if it had been midsummer. She wouldn’t have dared.
Isaac levered himself more upright in his wheelchair. She definitely had his full attention now. “But Korea is above the equator.” He flushed and looked uncomfortable for a second. “Oh, the war... Where did you end up?”
“Australia. Our boat brought us to Christmas Island along with thousands of others.” Sookie snapped her journal shut. She hated being reminded of her family’s desperate flight when the atomic bombardment from the north began. “After we left the detention centre, they sent me to high school in Darwin, then I was lucky enough to be awarded a scholarship to study at Melbourne Uni. June the twenty-second is the middle of winter there.” Much as she was impatient to reach her destination, the impending departure was bringing back too many bad memories. In a way, that’s what she felt like again. Not a participant in an exciting trip to another galaxy, but a refugee who could no longer return to her home-world, totally dependent on the generosity and goodwill of others for her future.
Part of her problem was that ever since she’d been selected as one of the hundred “Bright Young Things” to start up a new colony as man’s first venture out of the solar system, she’d felt useless. What could she contribute? A doctoral thesis on the comparative evolution of plants on different continents hardly qualified her as an expert in anything.
The journal’s cover wasn’t providing her with any inspiration. How could she put into words the dramatic and tragic events that had happened since they had arrived here? Where to start? The last few weeks had been surreal, the stuff of an action movie. Even now, outside the Saa’ar comm’s room, everything was go go go as preparations were made for their departure.
The rest of her friends had specific tasks. Gaby and Kenji had taken over the security role and were busy organising everything. Hu and Adrienne were packing up Ramirez’s surveillance equipment and Astrid Dreher’s office. José and Olga were over-seeing the hibernation process . Rory and Thanksin were looking after all the medical gear, taking good care to ensure that all the drugs and chemicals were being transported safely. After a hurried meeting, they’d decided not to inform the Saa’ar what was inside the containers, hoping that the warnings on the tightly closed and locked lids were sufficient.
She was supposed to keep Isaac amused and make sure he didn’t sink back into his black funk. Judging by the way he’d slumped back into his chair, his brief period of interaction was over.
Stashing away her journal, Sookie took up her usual position at the back of his wheelchair. It wasn’t in her nature to force the issue and tell others what to do, but before he left them, Ethan had told her to trust her instincts, and her instincts were telling her that allowing Isaac to remain isolated was not in his best interests or anyone else’s.
“What are you doing?” Isaac snapped, but he didn’t try to stop her as she released the handbrake and wheeled him out of the room.
Once his belligerent tone would have made her shrink back into herself and defer to him, but now she had to be strong. Dana had insisted that Isaac be looked after, even if he didn’t want to be. It was time to snap out of her blue funk anyway. She didn’t have his excuse of being a paraplegic and confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life.
“Let’s check on how they’re going with putting people into the pods. You know José. He’s sure to be wanting to know something and without you there to translate, he’s only guessing.”
“My chair will just get in the way.”
That had been his favourite excuse for not getting involved. True, the narrow corridors were teaming with humans and Saa’ar as they transported the gear down the ramp, but the stasis room was big enough for them to find a spot.
Before they got there, they were forced to squeeze into an alcove so that two of the Saa’ar carrying a full pod back to the spaceship could pass.
“We’ll be fine.” A shiver ran down Sookie’s spine. She definitely wasn’t in a hurry to get into one of those things. She hadn’t felt as apprehensive when leaving Earth, but then Ethan and Abu had been around to reassure her. Anyway, those chambers had been more like humidicribs with glass sides. These were totally solid, and although she’d seen the inside of one, they reminded her too much of a coffin for comfort. At least these were bigger than the ones she’d initially seen. The need to bring more suitable ones from Saa’ar had been the reason for the delay, though there was still confusion as to whether this was the same Inter-stellar space ship or not. Two of them could have passed each other in transit. Although he could converse with them fairly well, Isaac still didn’t understand everything they said to him.
One of her suspicions had proven correct. Not all Saa’ar were the same.
When the new crew of Saa’ar arrived to take them on the final stage of their journey, everyone had been surprised that accompanying the tiny albino-like aliens were some absolutely gigantic specimens. No, she had to stop thinking of them like that. They weren’t animals to be studied as part of an experiment, however humans wasn’t the right word and people seemed inadequate.
Even the huge Maori, Rory Te Morenga, was dwarfed by these... creatures. At least the ones who had accompanied them from Earth looked like humans. These new arrivals may have had two arms and two legs, but there, the resemblance ended. At first, she’d assumed they must have been wearing some sort of armor or cloaked themselves in the skins of a beast, but then she’d realized that the grey, thick covering was their skin and the clothes they wore were rudimentary at best. Not that they seemed to have much to cover up.
Their job seemed to be providing the physical grunt as they operated at the direction of their smaller, paler counterparts. Slow and lumbering, more like an elephant until she’d seen one sprint to catch a box that had been knocked off a trolley. Then they were more like a rhinoceros attacking at full speed.
“Good, I’m glad you’re here, Isaac. I was just going to page you.” Gabrielle gestured at them both to come inside the room where, one-by-one, the humans were placed into the pods ready for transit.
Sookie studied the tall, fit figure of the Frenchwoman who had been thrust into the leadership role. She was looking tired, but no way would she ever admit it. At least she had Kenji to back her up. He was busy restraining a scowling man. Carlos. The security guard. Ramirez’s offsider. Sookie felt herself bristle. The guy who’d tried to kill Ethan. Twice.
Looking on, in their typical impassive fashion were two of the smaller aliens. One was holding what looked like a cylindrical wand.
“Isaac, can you find out what the damn thing is for. Carlos won’t let them near him.”
Carlos had been shot when he and his boss had tried to prevent Ethan from rescuing Dana. His injury had only been a flesh wound in the shoulder while his boss had been killed. Just another death to add to the total since they left Earth. The bandage on his chest seemed to be worrying the alien, he was picking at the edges as if he wanted to take it off.
“Bastard.” Carlos jerked his head to the side and spat. Sookie wasn’t sure whether he was aiming at the alien or Kenji who had just twisted his arm up higher.
Isaac spoke a few words to the alien but looked confused by the reply. After a moment’s silence, he shrugged and said, “Cha’ang used the word mahjaan which is Sa’ar for healer, but he used the negative form by placing otur before the word. Then he followed that with nokat usi which translates literally as blessed gift.”
The Saa’ar raised the shiny implement again. Carlos still eyed him warily, but the strange alien didn’t seem to notice the hostility that positively oozed from the man. Sookie couldn’t think of anyone who was less likely to be blessed, but then, who was she to judge.
“You’ve got no choice, Carlos. Either let him put that thing next to your skull, or we’ll leave you here.” Sookie could almost hear Gaby crack her infamous whip.
“Everyone’s had the procedure.” José hardly looked up from where he was adjusting the nozzles inside the chamber.
“I don’t trust you.”Carlos struggled for a few seconds, but finally settled enough to allow the tiny alien to reach up and place the instrument near the base of his skull.
Sookie wasn’t sure what she expected. Some dramatic convulsion perhaps, but apart from the fact that Carlos’s eye widened and he seemed to lose concentration for a second, from what she could tell, the machine had done nothing at all. The alien seemed satisfied though.
“Nokat usi,” he repeated, nodding his head as he carefully marked the cylinder with some kind of stamp that melted the surface before sealing it completely and stacking it on a trolley alongside about thirty others.
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