Because of the vision he was caught up in, his voice was sharp, without inflection, almost cold, lacking emotion. “Do you understand what this could mean?” He looked around, his eyes probing us all. “Do any of you? Keith, Luigi, you tell me.”
Bravely Keith tried. “Over years we could become storehouses of all the knowledge available to Mankind.”
“Mankind Keith!? Terrans or of all the species?” Before he could speak we felt Robbie’s mind flare as he realised. “Storehouses! Oh God!! The Library of Alexandria!”
By now our house was surrounded by people who could not fit in, called to us by his emoting. Aganthi got rid of the walls, keeping only enough to support the roof so that all can hear and speak if they want to. I kept my mind focussed on Robbie, refusing to allow it to wander off in the many directions it wanted to examine, I wanted the ideas to come from him, from the man who has taught me to think, the man who is my life. This moment, this epiphany belongs to him.
He called out, his voice tortured, in need, “Cherine!” and she ran to him, her arms going around his neck as she sat on his lap. She did not make a sound as his arms wrapped themselves tightly around her, even though she could hardly breathe. He waited until the trembling had subsided and he could order his thoughts to explain to all.
“I hardly know where to begin, surely you have all seen it?” None answered. “First of all, let me tell you, this does not belong to any one species. Keith used the word Mankind. I will take it to mean all sentient beings, even though he was being sloppy in using the word. Keith, I will start off within the narrow meaning you unintentionally used. Imagine we can all learn hundreds of disciplines, science, philosophy, you name it, it is more likely we will each choose what interests us. Each family could, between them, know almost everything of importance to keep civilisation alive should there be a planetary catastrophe and our libraries and computers destroyed. We are surrounded by scientists, perhaps one of them would like to tell us what the greatest problem they face is?”
None spoke, all waiting for him to continue. He smiled, appreciating what we are doing.
“You have each had to concentrate on one, two or at most three specialities. Till now we had thought you could with your Cherinian longevity learn another three, five, ten? What if you could learn within a few years another fifty so that your mind is no longer limited to your speciality? Would it help you see your problems from a wider perspective, see more possibilities? A simple example, taken from my species. If you are a surgeon, you could be a specialist in every branch of medical knowledge, the heart, the brain, the spine, you would understand the medicinal side, learn the psychology of ill or good health, avoiding operating when some other less traumatic combination of healing exists.
It was a bad example because of our healers, but still, does it help you see what I am seeing? Can you imagine how our knowledge will blossom, new discoveries creating new branches of knowledge and those each leading to new branches? Each of you, of us, will grow only as fast as our own creativity and need to understand limits us.” He gave us a moment to see his vision and there was awe on a number of faces already.
“All that comes from knowing everything known by your own species. My beloved Inguel, how would your knowledge expand if you could add to that all the Anadir scientists know? What about the Eminixx, have you not wondered about their mummy trees, what genetic manipulation they know that you do not? Has it not been difficult to learn from their explanations? What if you could learn, starting from what a child of theirs learns and follow their own paths of learning and understanding? Perhaps the Sparklers, the Elipian have something to teach you also? For certain the Kinytians and all the other species have knowledge none of us understand. Can you imagine sharing a pool of knowledge as diverse as is available throughout every reality of every universe?”
He shut down again, lost within himself, but I suspected it was partly to avoid feeling the reaction by everyone to his ideas. I too was lost in imagining what it could be like, so I did not notice. Robbie suddenly became fully aware again, all his attention on Allan.
“This is a moment for everyone to enjoy Robert, leave it, we can discuss it later.”
We felt a sadness in Robbie, but he instantly shut it off, hiding it from us. I tried to imagine what could be making him sad, what had he seen in Allan? Allan was blocking his emoting from us, so I could not steal a clue from him. How could such a moment of joy for all be a sadness for them? I had a feeling the reason is very important, just as important as the concepts we had just been given. A warning in Robbie’s eyes kept me quiet and I dampened myself. I am glad I did, it was wonderful feeling how everyone else felt and especially Cherine. She had buried her face in his chest and I could feel the tears of joy.
Iziko could not understand why Candy was weeping and it frightened him that she was clinging to him. By now he was aware that his exterior is rough to us and thought some terrible calamity must have occurred for her to be holding on to him so tightly. She felt him and pulling herself together managed to tell him what had happened. He collapsed onto the seat she had been lying on.
“Everyone could share in this?”
“All Cherinians. I guess that means everyone someday.”
“But, that is impossible! There are trillions of people!”
I sent through her, “No, Iziko, not trillions of people. Trillions of planets of people. How many realities do we count?”
“There is no end to them? No mind can know that much!”
“I think you misunderstand. Why would you want to learn how to care for a cow from Terra? You would choose what you want to learn. I do not have to learn how to help a female of your species give birth or how to bring up a young one of yours. The more I know about it for my own species, the better it would be for my species. We choose Iziko and the choice is infinite, but what we would want to know is finite.”
“If I become a Cherinian, you would get a copy of my memories?”
“No. You decide who you want to share them with. If you want my memories, surely you would consider it fair that I get a copy of yours?”
“If I do not want to share mine, I could not trade something else for yours?”
“Ask Candy, what else could you trade? Giving and taking of memories is a precious act of love, a way of letting the people you love know you as you see yourself. We do have rules about it and you would have to learn what they are first.”
“I have not been talking with you Candy? Who was it?”
She giggled. “Samantha, who else?”
He showed his mouth. “Who else indeed sweet Candy. What are these rules she speaks of?”
“We are not allowed to look through the memories we hold of others, we are only looking after them in case something bad happens to them and they need them back. We all have our secrets and it would not be right to look at what is private. First we ask permission to see only specific memories.” Seriously, in a grown up way she added, “It is only polite to do so.”
“Something bad? In the storytelling, they showed Robert losing his memories a number of times, you mean at such times?”
“But I thought that can only happen to Robert?”
“You are forgetting me?”
“Didn’t I need some memories of Wendy to become a person? And Jade. Also the copies of the others. Lots of people could you know.”
“But if you all have a copy of my memories I could never make a profit again. You would know what I am thinking.”
“If making a profit makes you happy, why would we?”
“Huh?” He thought about it. “But it would not be fun making a profit if you let me.”
He was genuinely distressed, so I interfered again. “Do not allow those you want to trade with to look in those memories Iziko. For instance, all I would want to see of your memories is how you reacted to meeting us and how you feel about becoming a Cherinian. Once you are a Cherinian, feeling love from you would be more important.”
“It is Samantha again?”
Candy nodded. “Yes, she does not think I know how to answer you.” Properly chastised, I apologised to her and stayed out of their conversation thereafter.
Kyria Maria had cooked ‘arnaki frikassè’ and since Candy loves it, Robbie sent her a plate of food with a Coke (he had to increase the size of her sheath, or else the food would taste very strange).
There was a yearning in his voice that betrayed the true meaning behind his words. “This will be the first time ever our little Candy sleeps apart from all of us.”
She must have missed us too, as we found out a bit later. She made herself small when she saw Iziko needed to sleep and let herself fall asleep. Robbie woke up a few hours later, waking us all up with his feelings of wonder. Though the body of Candy was still apart from us, she had come to us in a dream of hers. She let each of us give her a kiss and then went into the mind of Robbie where they played a while and then she let him hold her while his body slept. (R: We still differentiate between ‘astral projection’ and travelling in our souls. The one is done deliberately and with our full awareness, whereas the other is done while asleep - as to the amount of awareness, we still argue about that.)
While Robbie was shaving, Candy woke up and immediately changed back to her normal size. He was distracted as he was shaving over his Adam's apple and did not react fast enough. Candy inhaled and choked. Iziko ran to her side, frightened at her struggle to breathe. She was making wheezing sounds as she tried to inhale, her membranes burnt by his atmosphere. Within four breaths her healer repaired her and she stopped trembling as she felt herself breathing again. Iziko held her, his mouth hidden as he stared down at her, not certain the crisis is over. Robbie appeared next to her and Iziko let her go as he reached for her. He held her, stroking her hair as he apologised.
“What happened to her?”
“I wasn’t paying attention and when she altered her size, she was outside the filter that converts your air.”
“Our air is different?”
“I’m sorry, we should have mentioned it. While you were with us you were covered by an energy shield that also acted as a converter. We are so used to it we do it without thinking about it anymore. Surely you did not think all the species on Freddie come from the same atmosphere?”
“I did not think on it. Even among the people of the Unation we have the same problem, it should have been obvious, but I did not see any mechanism and assumed you all breathed the same air as my people.”
“I’m alright Robbie. Can I stay until we arrive?”
“With an idiot like me watching over you I’m not certain it is safe for you my love.”
“Please? Iziko, he is not an idiot, he always blames himself for anything that goes wrong.”
“This time even Cherine will agree with me love. Stay as long as you are welcome, Candy mou.”
“If that is an order, she may never return Robert.”
“You are supposed to smile when you say that Iziko.” Iziko lifted his head so that his small mouth could be seen fully open. Robbie smiled back, kissed Candy and jumped back.
Iziko had felt her curiosity from the previous day so he spent the rest of the morning teaching her how the ship is run. He was pleased with the speed she learnt and at the end was telling her what has to be done and she would do it for him. A voice was heard and he took over again.
“We have arrived it seems. They are curious how we arrived here suddenly. Robert brought us too close. Excuse me Candy.”
He spent the next hour being grilled and he must have satisfied them, for his computer was given permission for his ship to go into orbit. Candy watched until he was in place and then jumped back home.
“Robbie, Iziko said his computer is an old model, but it is fantastic! His hard drive is over two thousand terabytes and the speed of the processors are about 180,000 megahertz. He says the new ones are much faster and can hold about ten times as much data.”
“Just you wait until Keith begins production of our new computers love, ours may not be faster, but they will hold much more data.”
“Ours will be faster Robert. Elia, Eddie and Alki have asked me to find a way to slow them down and limit the memory. They say it does not make sense starting off with our first model already at the maximum speed and capacity.”
“You disagree?” Alki asked, smiling.
“No more throw-away technology please. As a planet we cannot afford it.”
“It is likely our computers may last forever Roberto. Once we have supplied the whole world we will not have a market.”
“Good.” The four men glanced at each other with smiles and shrugged.
Once Candy had finished talking about her time with Iziko, Robbie placed her on his lap and kept his arms around her, kissing her face or the top of her head every so often. She was happy to let him do so for as long as he would.
It fast became obvious we have caused Iziko problems. The report that should have got lost in the system surfaced immediately when his unorthodox arrival was entered into their computers. No sign was given that anything was suspected, but a number of tracers were installed all over his ship - some of them obvious and meant to be found and others impossible to detect by eyesight. Robbie did not destroy them and bringing Iziko to us we discussed the problem.
Iziko was willing to give up his future profits and was in favour of us announcing ourselves. “When they know why you are here, they will gladly give you all they can.”
“We thought so too Iziko, but what we would be doing is making your reality poorer and upsetting the balance on many worlds. We would prefer to earn what we need. We cannot pay in coin of your worlds and those would not prevent what we fear. All the energy used to make the equipment we need must be supplied by us and other metals needed we must import from realities that do not have life.”
“I have an idea dad.” I avoided looking at Haven and Shiyra or the eight as I spoke. “Destroy the bugs on his ship and from here we go to the worlds of the Meéjeira. We should confide in them and explain what we are trying to do. Let them announce to the Unation that they are in contact with a new species who are fearful as they have just destroyed themselves and need to buy equipment. Let the Meéjeira be our agents through Iziko.”
They argued my suggestion, more or less burying it. Cherine decided to intervene. “I prefer Sam’s suggestion above anything else I’ve heard. If we meet with the leaders only and they are made to understand what we fear, they will work with us. I like the idea of our first Cherinians in this reality being from their worlds.”
She sent me a grimace of apology when they caved in. My darling Cherine does not understand that I am happy to have all argue with any idea of mine and it makes me happy to see everyone bow to her wishes, whatever they are. She is our Cherine and that is all that needs to be said, as far as I’m concerned.
Once it was agreed, Athia demanded that Haven be our Ambassador. It did not need a Cherine to get all to agree to that. Haven was the only one who did not agree, but she was told she does not have a say in the matter. Iziko was sent back to his ship and Robbie used his energies to burn out all their tracers once Iziko had travelled a great distance from the planet.
Candy has taken to jumping over to Iziko for short visits and she went across to tell him his ship is clean and we will be jumping. He showed his mouth. “Candy, trading the equipment for ore is a problem. Robert had to put most of it in a platform he created as it would not fit in my holds. As far as they can tell, we left the equipment outside when we left and it followed us without being connected to my ship. We must have half their navy tailing us.”
“In a few minutes you will disappear. Without the tracers they won’t know where you went. The equipment is already stored in Freddie. We only have to stop long enough to take whatever equipment was stored in your holds, jump to the other reality to mine and fill your holds and then we will jump to the worlds of the Meéjeira.”
When Robbie left us to do his mining he took Iziko with him. If he does not want others to be in awe of him, he should not do that. Candy tried to explain to Iziko how Robbie feels about it and he stared at Robbie for a while and then with his head high he told us, “I cannot help being in awe of him. When I think what the mining costs him and what prices he is able to charge, the profits he makes are awesome!” Even Robbie had to laugh.
“How do we get to the Meéjeira leaders? We can’t go in openly. Do we kidnap them?”
“I suggest we wait until night and collect them from their homes. Your people do go to sleep don’t they Haven?”
“We do. There will be electronic alarms in their bedrooms.”
“What if we collect their souls and bring them here from the void?”
“They will return and think they were dreaming.”
“Don’t worry about it, I’ll take care of it.” Soon as we were alone I giggled. Robbie filled my mouth with a sour lemon taste in revenge and everyone laughed - at him, not me. He was admitting that I had been right to giggle. He keeps on insisting he is not a leader, that whenever possible we should all share in solving problems, and then he tells everyone, don’t worry, I’ll take care of it!
The Meéjeira here have evolved politically from the way they were before being destroyed in the other reality. Having now about twenty eight planets, some of them shared with other species of the Unation, they have created a council made of the leaders of each planet. The leaders tend to stay on their own planets and their meetings are mostly held electronically. How can we get them all at the same time?
Robbie refused to be rushed into taking action and we concentrated on the home (or Mother planet) of the Meéjeira. Haven, Robyn and the eight, taking on the form of their own species, visited their libraries and studied their history. At first Haven and Robyn would return excited and easily moved to tears, but after days of reading they were finding all the treaties, meetings and speeches tedious. Robbie explained to them, with tongue in cheek, that the politicians are only doing their job. They have to make it boring so that the public will lose interest and stop reading everything they say. Then they will be free to say and do whatever they want. The two girls nearly fell for it, but the reaction of the eight saved them (of the seven actually, the ‘king’ thought it was funny).
“I think we may have what you were looking for Robert. It was agreed that a meeting will be held once every eight years with the other leaders of the Unation. For that I am certain they would have to be physically present.”
“That sounds promising. Could you check reports of the last such meetings?”
It was just as well we did not dash off to the time of the next meeting. If the leaders of the Meéjeira cannot be bothered to attend their meetings in person, it was foolish of us to expect the Unation leaders to do so from much greater distances. Robbie just shrugged, said something to the effect of, back to square one, and we sat and waited again.
At last our patience was rewarded. Though the events we were looking for happen often, nobody had noticed them because they are not reported as political news and are in the social pages. Not all the leaders come every time, but on some occasions up to eighteen of them do, more often about fourteen. They are celebrating the anniversary of the day the leaders and people of their various nations signed a declaration on the home world, ridding themselves of national boundaries and choosing to be one nation for all Meéjeirans, on and off planet. (At first I was troubled by this, for it is too similar to what the Cabal wishes to do with our world. However, the big difference is the intention behind such a plan. With our people the intentions are not honourable and, apart from using their wealth and power to sterilise children and cause populations to kill each other deliberately, they want to be in control of that single government and army so that the rest of Mankind are slaves or serfs to them.)
Freddie jumped, carrying Iziko’s ship with, by two months. We moved back into normal space and watched the leaders arrive. We picked up broadcasts that this year the leaders are troubled as the Unation have notified them a new super advanced species have shown themselves, but have not deigned to meet with any governments. These mystery visitors it was said, might be hostile, even though all they have done up to now is secretly trade using a miner of the Sprakil people. The Sprakil government announced they know nothing of the matter, only that the miner had recently bought a larger spaceship with armaments. His family are being held by the government and will only be released if he surrenders himself and divulges all information he has about the visitors. One of the commentators asked whether that was wise of the Sprakil government, as it could be construed by the visitors as hostile.
“Sam, Iziko is here. We are doing as you suggested. What do we do about his family?”
I asked him, “Are they likely to harm any of your family?”
“Not directly. They will suffer financially, as they will not be able to work and will lose their businesses.”
“I suggest, if you agree, that we keep to our original plan, but we also keep a watch on your family. If we see any harm is about to come to them we bring them here. Financial damage we can compensate them for. Do you agree?”
“They do not know we are family to you, but when they hear, they will agree I did the correct thing. I am relieved to hear you will monitor them.”
“Sam, if we are forced to take his family away from their home world it will make it more difficult for them to be returned.”
“I think the Meéjeira leaders will be able to help us on that score. According to the eight, the Meéjeira representatives should have the same rights as any other species under their Constitution.”
We have nineteen leaders on the home world, more arriving than usual because of the anxiety and excitement of a new species appearing, but it is not easy to find a time to get them. They are busy during the day and at night they meet each other in smaller groups, lobbying as Robbie calls it. There is a small faction who want to broadcast messages of welcome in every language, but especially in that of the Sprakil. The majority are against them and it seems the division is causing many bitter arguments. We used this time for Haven to refine our knowledge of the expressions and gestures her people use.
Every time Robbie goes down to their planet as the void, he takes Cherine and Dommi with him. Cherine for handling the sensors in their bedrooms and Dommi for reassuring them. On the fourth night they were all asleep at the same time and he made his move.
We had found out that when the Meéjeira sleep they leave their bodies, most of them staying on their planet with a few visiting the void. That was why we have not gone there to dance. Robbie had to move fast to capture the souls as they left their bodies, as some of the leaders, as souls, return to their own planets where their families are.
Solomon provided them with bodies that have their own appearance, but that can breathe our air and eat and drink our food. They awoke to find themselves in a strange world, but with no creatures nearby that can be thought of as dangerous. Freddie had already moved to another reality so that we can take our time, while returning them before it is time for them to wake up.
“This is an alien world. They must have got tired of waiting for us to welcome them and brought us here for a meeting.”
“Nonsense! Do you see any aliens waiting to speak to us? They have taken us so that our people will be confused and delay in responding to an attack.”
They quarrelled between themselves and Haven was upset to start off. As they came to conclusions that were far off the mark she also began to enjoy herself, giggling at their absurd conclusions and decisions to fight us.
“Haven, I will come with you. Should I take on the same form?”
“No. Robert, don’t send me first, let the eight go.” She giggled. “I want to hear them, I bet they will try to convince them they must fight us.”
The eight did not speak, but it was obvious they did not like the suggestion, finding our attitudes, especially that of Haven as childish.
“Perhaps you are right love. When they realise I am not of your species they will think I had ulterior motives for pretending to be one of you, I’ll go as myself. You should come to help them interpret my facial and other gestures.”
By now the nineteen had seen the spaceships of the Inguel and surprisingly had guessed what they are. The small number of ships helped convince them we might not be here to attack them. Robbie created a platform, made it visible and with Haven by his side, he went to them.
They saw them approaching and stepped closer to each other. That is a Terran reaction, I thought. The platform stopped about fifty metres away from them and sank to the ground. Robbie held the arm of Haven as they stepped off and then he let her go, so that they do not think she is his prisoner.
“Welcome to our Spaceship. I apologise for bringing you here without making a formal approach first. We do have our reasons and once we have explained, you may advise us whether we did well or not. There is no attack planned, despite your fears. The young female of your species by my side is named Haven by us and should you feel you may have misunderstood me at any time, please ask her for an interpretation. My name is Robert and I know that you have difficulty in pronouncing my name, so do not worry about how you say it, no insult is taken where none was intended.”
“Are you the leader of your people?”
“I do not represent my own species only.”
“How many species?”
“Before I answer that, after all, it does not make any difference to you at this moment, do you have questions about where you are and how you came here?”
Robbie laughed. “I love it when I am given an honest answer. You will probably not want to believe what I tell you, but I will try to speak only the truth. You are not here in your own bodies. Those are in your beds and asleep. This however is not a dream. We collected your souls, brought you here and provided you with bodies that look and feel like yours, but that can breathe our air and eat our food. I do not expect you to believe me, but once you have the full story you will. We have an informal area where we usually meet with a variety of food and drinks. May we go there? My family are waiting to meet you.”
“Girl, which planet are you from?”
“I am and am not from the home world. Robert spoke the truth, it would be better you hear our story before asking more questions.” She stood taller, proud now. “As you are leaders of your worlds, so am I. Where I come from I represent all Meéjeira.”
“That cannot be!”
Smiling Robbie gestured for them to get on the platform. Grumbling and with some protesting, they did.
Robbie has long since decided never to introduce Cherine as our true leader before he knows our new friends are friendly. They stepped off the platform and Robbie led them to the wooden floor of the taverna. The building was a shock to them. As far as they were concerned it is ugly and very primitive.
As they arrived and were about to step up, Cherine stepped forward. “Welcome. I am Cherine. As you step onto the wooden floor I would ask that you allow me to touch each of you. No harm will come to you, I promise.” She was emoting calming feelings and none of them protested. As the last one joined us she mindspoke Robbie. *Three I’m not too happy with, but they are a maybe. The rest are okay.*
Only once they had been seated at the long table with Robbie did the eight and Merlin with Shiyra in their original shapes come out. Quickly they all got to their feet again. Their dismay could be felt.
“They have attacked your planets too?”
“There have been no attacks. Do you recognise any of us?”
The nineteen looked at them, at each other and then admitted they did not.
Merlin gave them his name and which time period he comes from. The others did the same, only Shiyra not speaking. Merlin brought her forward.
“As you should realise by now we come from different times. This one has been named Shiyra and appointed by our Unation as overall leader. I am going to presume you know something of science and have heard of alternate realities and how they are created. Shiyra will explain once you are seated and have refreshments.”
Shiyra tried to explain, but we quickly sensed their minds shutting her out, none of them believing her. Robbie sighed.
“Shiyra, it will not work this way. Take a seat, it would be better the girls do a storytelling about the Ii and everything from thereon. We may be aliens to them, but perhaps they will be able to feel some of what they are told and keep their hearts open.”
For some inexplicable reason, Cherine decided not to do the golden circle of love first, so Meli and the girls walked onto the stage Robbie created for them. Meli stood with the girls around her and spoke simply at the start, the storytelling ways weaving into her voice to create a tapestry that Jade was able to make clear to all.
“The story of Robert and the Cherinians is a long tale and it will be told another day. We start at a time that our family needed to spend some time on Freddie, our sentient spaceship. We had, as always, a few thousand scientists of various species on board. Robert wanted to show us a binary system and we discovered something strange, a darkness that called itself the Ii. This is where our tale begins……
Whether they wanted to believe or not made no difference to the way they listened. The Meéjeira have a healthy dose of curiosity and here was a story such as they had never heard before. It was not long before they were lost within the magic telling by our loves.
The story had no meaning to them, not even once Dark Cloud arrived to live with us. It was only when the play put on for her benefit was re-enacted that they understood. Meli had the wisdom not to break off the story because of their shock and anger. She carried them with her and soon they were immersed in the telling far deeper than they had been before. She stopped when they exclaimed at the mammoth task that Robbie undertook of re-creating their planet.
Candy stepped forward. “We need to take a break. The telling will resume soon as we have had a small rest and some refreshment. Please do not talk to us or ask questions, the telling sits in our minds and we do not wish to lose the thread.” Meli put her up to saying it and it was of course pure hogwash, but it kept the voices of the nineteen low as they discussed it between themselves. As one they turned to look at those they recognised as being of the Unation and they gestured back, confirming what they’d heard/watched was the truth. Robbie had decided to hell with protocol and politics and pulled Haven, Robyn and Shiyra to him in their alien shapes and was trying his best to help rid them of the grief they’d felt as they watched the telling.
The girls resumed their telling and we all wondered at how much they told. Much of what was family matters only, we’d expected them to skip, but they did not. Finally they arrived at the conversation where we discussed returning to this reality to buy what we needed. Meli made certain all our concerns were shown in detail. The telling ended (I thought it amusing) with the nineteen pictured by Jade watching the telling. Freddie darkened the sky, the Sparklers swooped down over the girls and as our eyes adjusted to the returning light, we saw the stage was gone and the girls back among us.
Robbie spoke without getting up. “Please do not comment yet. It is early evening for us and we all need some time to think first. The sled will take you to housing we have provided for you and a meal we hope you find satisfactory has been prepared. We will meet in the morning and you may ask your questions then. Please keep in mind that even should we stay here for weeks, when you return to your bodies only an hour will have passed, allowing you time to have some dreams before awakening.”
Robbie stretched and yawned, his eyes sleepy. “Before I met Cherine, my body would at times force me to catch up with the sleep I needed and I’d sleep for twelve hours. I’d wake up feeling rested, but sleepy. I feel like that. It’s nice.” He had only slept four hours so Irene and Noelle lay next to him and tried to make him sleep. He dozed for about ten minutes and woke up with a guilty start. “We have guests.”
Haven was right. They all enjoyed the taste of our Greek coffee with sugar. Since some of them have habits similar to his of smoking, Robbie lit up and placed his cigarettes on the table for whoever wishes to try them. “I suspect none of you slept well.”
“Seeing our people killed senselessly….how did you picture it for us since you were not there?”
“We saw it in the mind of Haven. I had to take the healers to your planets not long before their deaths so as to collect tissue samples.” He did not elaborate further, but they guessed.
“Your child, Athia, she did well. She should be honoured by our people.”
“She only did what had to be done. When someone hates, it means they are also suffering. We could not bear to watch Haven suffer. Your comment suggests you have accepted we are telling the truth.”
“We do not understand this matter of alternate realities. It has occupied our thoughts and once we accepted the possibility, we realised that if everything is possible, then there is bound to be a reality where what you showed us did happen.”
“Despite that, it is still a bitter thing to learn that what they did was a possibility in any reality.”
Robbie listened to their comments without saying much, mostly lighting up cigarette after cigarette. We’d never seen him do that before and finally Cherine sat on his lap to prevent him from smoking. Holding her, caressing her arms and legs soothed his need, but he mostly kept his eyes fixed on those he felt were being hurt by the comments. We had to let them say what was on their minds, we felt it would be a mild sort of catharsis for them.
The eight had not previously had to endure accusations or see the pain, and they were visibly wilting as the nineteen leaders spoke about the despicable act their people had committed. Robbie sat straighter.
“I think enough has been said. You have proven we were right. To have come to you openly would have poisoned this reality also. You are foremost people, with hearts and minds that can feel pain, so I’ve had to allow you time to speak of how it affected you, but we have to come to a decision now. You may be human beings, but you are also leaders of your people. Think as leaders now. What must we do? Should we take these memories away from you and return you to your bodies, or are you able to feel the pain your words are causing them?” They turned to look at the eight and our two, Shiyra and Merlin.
One of them stood up and bowed to them. “Part of our pain was seeing how this affected your people. You have suffered for millions of years. Surely it is time to let the past go and concentrate on the future? I cannot speak for all, but I commit my people, those of the planet I am leader of, to give all the help we can to all of you, not just the Meéjeira. Please bear in mind that mine is one of the planets shared by many species of the Unation.”
Robbie let the ‘king’ respond first and only then spoke. “We feel strongly that to let your people know of all we have shown you, would make them bitter, driving a wedge between the Meéjeira and the rest of the Unation which they are part of. Not all people are able to forgive and understand.”
One of the eight, from the Unation, said, “Robert, we could not speak before because we were not certain this reality is similar to ours in the way it is governed. We have learnt from studying the people of your planet that your governments are allowed to keep information from their citizens. Our people discovered a long time ago that governing that way encourages those in power to feel they have rights they are not and have not been entrusted with. To allow such power is to invite abuse of it and with our technology growing as fast as it was, our people would have ended up faceless slaves to their own governments, as we’ve heard is happening on your world. Because of you Cherinians, your own people may be saved from that future, but do not ask our leaders to adopt the ways of your Normals.
What has happened will cause bitterness, it will hurt many, but with wise leaders to point out the dangers, they will get over it. We have a role to play also. I should say Haven does. If she, in both her guises, is able to speak of her road through hate and back to understanding and the rediscovery of love, the lessons she learnt will not be lost on them. As she came to understand what our actions cost our people and our need to pay for what we had done, as she came to find it within her to accept us and open her heart so that we can now stand at her side, so we ask that you allow this reality to grow and learn how precious are their friendships and unity.”
“He speaks the truth. Robert, there will be those of the Meéjeira who are not able to see the truth and will remain bitter and turn away from our friends, but they will be a small minority. There will also be those of the other species who will be overcome by guilt and try to sacrifice all they have to make amends. The majority of all species will find a healthy balance if they are trusted to do so. That should be what you hope for. Once there is traffic between our realities you cannot keep it a secret. For the knowledge to spread as rumours would be far worse.”
Robbie was blushing, but inside himself he was feeling sickened and determined to resign as our leader as soon as this matter has been resolved. As a weak excuse he said, “When Iziko was shown the truth he decided to work for no profit. We feared that was a sign of how it would affect you all.”
“A Sprakil working without profit! That would worry us too.” There was amusement all round and Iziko glowered at all as if he had been insulted, his mouth hidden. Candy caught his eye (isn’t it great being able to say that and be literally correct?) and he raised his head to show her his mouth in soundless mirth.
I asked, “Robert, which reality are we in now?”
“The empty one.”
“Why don’t you show them? Let them see how their planets have no life here. It will convince them that you are doing the right thing by taking from here energy and metals to replace what we take from them.”
One of the politicians asked, “Is there any way we could visit this reality on our own?”
“We have not discovered a way through science, only by becoming Cherinians.”
“How do we do that?”
“Would you be willing to sit for days through another telling to learn all about us?” Their agreement was unanimous. Robbie got up and walked away with Haven and Robyn by his side. Reacting to them Shiyra left us also and joined them.
“He is angered by something we said?”
“No, by something he said. We will handle him. I suggest you use the sled to view Freddie and we will have the storytelling tonight after supper.”
One of the nineteen said softly to one of the eight, “I sense he is troubled. Do you know what is wrong?”
“As you get to know him you will learn that is how he is all the time. He is a leader who fears for his people and watches every word he speaks, afraid he will do or say something that takes them into the wrong future.”
“I don’t understand.”
“You will. The telling tonight will amaze you, but it will also trouble you.”
Silently Cherine and I listened to them, looked at each other and then at Dommi. She shrugged, as if to say, so what is new?
Once Robbie and the girls were out of sight, the girls reverted to their Terran little girl bodies and Robbie smiled. “I can feel your hearts my loves, whatever you look like.”
“But it is awkward being held by you in my own shape.” He laughed and picking Haven up walked on. They kept silent for a long time, straining their gifts to feel what is going on within him. I sent them an explanation and he felt their dismay. Sharply he rebuked me for interfering and I found Cherine and Aganthi holding me, assuring me I had done the right thing, whether he liked it or not. Dommi actually told him off, reminding him we are a family and we share our problems.
I hope you enjoy reading this story of fantasy, adventure and love - and should some of it be true for our reality, I hope you will love our Cherine.
Αλέξανδρος Ζήνον Ευσταθίου(Alexander Zenon Eustace)
16th December, 2019