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Greetings from Europa!
I’m not sure how much, if any, of the last transmission was broadcast before my transmitter died, so here’s a brief recap to bring you up to speed:
Less than a day out from Dery’Ylok Prefecture, my son, Jampi, and I stumbled upon the crash site of my ship, the Expediter, and I might have missed it completely if not for the five grave markers bearing the helmets of my crew. The last time I set eyes on the place, it was scorched dirt as far as the eye could see, now it nearly resembled a tropical rainforest.
In my excitement, I foolishly explained to Jampi that this was the place I came from, and the boy took off like a shot to the largest grass-covered section of the ship’s wreckage. I followed, trying to warn him to be careful, but if he heard me, it hadn’t slowed him down one bit.
There was an entrance in the wreckage, large enough for me but I was forced to leave the egami carrying the transmitter and uz cu’nal outside as I searched for my son.
The section of the ship I was in used to be stellar cartography and when I eventually found Jampi, I’d make it a point to come back here and scrounge around for a possible alternative power source for the transmitter.
That was when I heard a sound behind me. Thinking it was my son, I spun and saw…the impossible.
A woman stepped from the shadows of the wreckage, bipedal like me, not like the Europans, and said, “Hello, Eddie. Been a while, hasn’t it?” in perfect English.
Besides the sound of my own voice during these broadcasts, I hadn’t heard my native tongue spoken to me in so long that it shocked me, almost as much as seeing the face of the woman who spoke it.
Grinning like the Cheshire Cat was a person who resembled the Expediter’s atomics engineer, electronics and power technician, Dr. Natasha Marsden. The same but different.
Seeing her in this way, reminded me of a program I saw a long, long time ago, in which blind people described their significant others’ faces to a sculptor based on touch alone. And I was amazed that the final sculpts were remarkably close. Not spot on, but close. And that’s what this person was, a remarkably close facsimile of a woman I was about to become intimate with moments before the meteors punched holes in the ship’s hull, damaging life support and navigational systems, as well as the engines.
“It can’t be,” I said. My jaw must have shattered because it hit the floor pretty hard.
“Oh, but it is,” the Marsden-replica answered. Stepping into a shaft of light, she appeared to be wearing a form-fitting bodysuit that sparkled as it caught the sunlight.
“But I saw you die.”
Before she could respond, Jampi burst into the husk of stellar cartography, too close to Marsden, and she snatched him up.
“Marsden—Nat, if that’s who you really are, look, I swear to you that you were dead when I put you in the ground! I checked and double-checked. I would never have buried you alive under any circumstances. So, whatever grievances you have, take them out on me, just don’t hurt the boy, please,” I pleaded.
“Hurt?” Marsden looked genuinely surprised and slightly offended. She knelt and looked Jampi in the eye. “I wasn’t going to hurt you, moppet, you just gave me a start, that’s all.”
I told Jampi to remain calm, that I would explain everything, but he would have to do exactly what I told him. Jampi said that he would.
“You speak their language?” Marsden’s face was full of astonishment.
“Not fluently, but enough to get by. He’s my son, Nat. His name is Jampi.”
“Thank Christ for that. Saves me from having to lie about him having your eyes,” she said to me, then looked at Jampi. “Hello, Jampi, pleased to meet you! My name is Natasha, but you can call me Nat. I’m a friend of your father’s.”
“Father…friend?” Jampi said.
“He speaks English?”
“Only a few words. He’s learning little by little. He’s a bright kid who’s absolutely fascinated with Earth culture, just like his mother and sisters.”
“A wife and kids? Why Alexander Edwards, I never pictured you as the type to go native,” Marsden said.
“Nat, can you please let go of my son? I still haven’t worked all this out and I’d feel better if he was with me.”
“Oh…certainly,” Marsden said as if she hadn’t realized how tightly she was gripping my little boy. She released him immediately and I called Jampi to me, scooped him up, and held him close to me. Something I hadn’t done since he was very little.
“Eddie, I think you’ve got the wrong end of the stick here. I’m not angry at you or holding any sort of grudge. In fact, putting my body in the ground was the best thing you could have done.”
“I don’t understand,” I said.
“Neither do I,” Marsden admitted. “The working theory is that this place is what it is because of a project we thought had failed. The soil you buried us in is saturated with NASA nanotech and for lack of a better explanation, my dead body was terraformed. Now, how my consciousness and soul are still attached to it? We’re still trying to work that bit out.”
Marsden nodded. “Yes, the rest of the crew. The gang’s all here, Eddie—well, they’re in a nearby village…”
“Is that what it’s called? I’m sure they’ll be as happy as Larry to see you again. We’d given you up for dead,” Marsden said.
I hadn’t noticed at first, but she had been inching closer as she spoke. Now, she was right up on me, and there was something about being so very close to a human face that made me homesick. It wasn’t helped by the fact that she was beautiful. I would have gotten lost in her eyes if not for her body.
From a distance, it looked like she was wearing a bodysuit, but up close I saw that she was naked. From the neck down her skin was a different hue.
Marsden caught me staring and said, “Skin 2.0. Most likely a combination of flesh and spacesuit.”
“May I?” I asked, my hand hovering just above her shoulder.
“Touch me? By all means, fill your boots, just keep it respectful, Eddie,” she said. There was a bit of devilment in her voice as she eyed me suspiciously. “Your little ’un’s keeping an eye on everything you do. It wouldn’t do to have him running back to mummy and grassing on us, would it? I don’t fancy the idea of constantly looking over my shoulder for a jealous wife.”
I was about to say that my wife didn’t get jealous, but I honestly don’t know how she would have reacted in this instance.
Pushing that thought aside, I put Jampi down and ran my hand along Marsden’s shoulder. It felt as smooth as silk, soft but not slippery, with the firmness of meat. I couldn’t stop touching her, and part of me didn’t want to stop.
“Ahem,” Marsden cleared her throat when the contact had gone on too long. “Say, who were you talking to before you entered? You were speaking in English—”
“I was broadcasting a message home. I do it on a regular basis, hoping someone will pick up the signal.”
“You have the transmitter?” Marsden asked, her eyes wide as saucers. “We’ve been searching high and low for that thing. That’s why I’m here, to give this wreck one last going over for it.”
“Well, I don’t think it’s going to be much use to you, it’s nearly out of power,” I said.
“Where is it now?”
“Outside in the egami.”
“In the what now?”
“Long story, I’ll explain it to you on the way to the village,” I said.
When Marsden got her hands on the transmitter, she wouldn’t stop going on about the mind-bogglingly bad-patch up job I did and marveled that it was able to work at all. She jury-rigged a temporary fix that’s allowing me to broadcast this message and says she’ll take a proper look at it once we reach Dery’Ylok Prefecture to rendezvous with the rest of the crew.
Until next broadcast, this is Captain Edwards, signing off.
To be continued…
Text and Audio ©2014 & 2021 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys
Glossary of Terms
- Abogzons – Gynecological engineers.
- Agvann – Translation: The will of Nes’Tim; an accident.
- Alum’Vedca – The day marking the new solar cycle of Peace and Maturity; a tribute to the era when Europans evolved from their primitive prey state.
- Arcek – A spiritual theologian
- Biem – A time to show respect for the aged.
- Biss’ore – Travelers, nomads
- Bokloryn – An unrepayable debt; an act that places the receiver in a lifetime contract of servitude.
- Cu’nal – A biological storage unit.
- Denpa – An envoy equipped with an audiographic memory that can store and recall spoken messages at will in the same voice, tone and inflection of the original person who spoke it, who travels from village to village to deliver messages from other communities both near and far.
- Egami – A docile mineral-based creatures primarily used for family transportation due to the fact they are virtually inexhaustible.
- Gates of Juh’holl – Europan afterlife; where souls are released from the flesh to become stardust and rejoin the universe.
- Grahas – A gerbil-sized creature, resembling a stone armadillo, that emits heat when stroked.
- Homnils – A warm, yet sad, reminiscence about something in the past.
- Ipu llqr mwyll xfrr – Abogzon credo meaning “success or death”; satisfaction guaranteed.
- Isogoles – Europan monthly day of pay.
- Jampi – Captain Edward’s son.
- Jbwqnadb – The Europan spelling of lemonade.
- Jhisal – Meis’lo’s home village.
- Klanea – Translation: unknown to us; stranger.
- Mecot’ra – Unterraformed areas of Europa.
- Meis’lo – The only surviving witness to the murder of the prophet Nes’Tim.
- Micdow yl – The vessels of new life; children.
- Nes’Tim – The most revered spiritual prophet on Europa, slain by a heretic tribe who call themselves Sel’Tab.
- Pwyll – Europa’s highest mountain.
- Qik’climajh – Depending on its usage in a sentence, denotes either the act of telling a story, or the storyteller themselves.
- Sel’Tab – A heretic tribe responsible for the death of the prophet Nes’Tim.
- Shig’umfu – “Interesting world of another”; a documentary qik’climajh in which neighbors tell the story of a person’s life as learned from casual conversations.
- Spo – Food.
- Uz Cu’nal – A biological storage unit used primarily for food preservation.
- Uz – An unspeakable sexual act; a derogatory term; an insult.