- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
Our familiar world will look a little less familiar after you read one.
Ursula K. Le Guin
Kamala Shastri came back to this world as she had left it — naked. She tottered out of the assembler, trying to balance in Tuulen Station's delicate gravity. I caught her and bundled her into a robe with one motion, then eased her onto the float. Three years on another planet had transformed Kamala. She was leaner, more muscular. Her fingernails were now a couple of centimeters long and there were four parallel scars incised on her left cheek, perhaps some Gendian's idea of beautification. But what struck me most was the darting strangeness in her eyes. This place, so familiar to me, seemed almost to shock her. It was as if she doubted the walls and was skeptical of air. She had learned to think like an alien.
"Welcome back." The float's whisper rose to a whoosh as I walked it down the hallway.
She swallowed hard and I thought she might cry. Three years ago, she would have. Lots of migrators are devastated when they come out of the assembler; it's because there is no transition. A few seconds ago Kamala was on Gend, fourth planet of the star we call epsilon Leo, and now she was here in lunar orbit. She was almost home; her life's great adventure was over.
"Matthew?" she said.
"Michael." I couldn't help but be pleased that she rememberd me. After all, she had changed my life.
I've guided maybe three hundred migrations — comings and goings — since I first came to Tuulen to study the dinos. Kamala Shastri's is the only quantum scan I've ever pirated. I doubt that the dinos care; I suspect this is a trespass they occasionally allow themselves. I know more about her — at least, as she was three years ago— than I know about myself. When the dinos sent her to Gend, she massed 50,391.72 grams and her red cell count was 4.81 million per mm'. She could play the nagasvaram, a kind of bamboo flute. Her father came from Thana, near Bombay, and her favorite flavor of chewyfrute was watermelon and she'd had five lovers and when she was eleven she had wanted to be a gymnast but instead she had become a biomaterials engineer who at age twenty-nine had volunteered to go to the stars to learn how to grow artificial eyes. It took her two years to go through migrator training; she knew she could have backed out at any time, right up until the moment Silloin translated her into a superluminal signal. She understood what it meant to balance the equation.
I first met her on June 22, 2069. She shuttled over from Lunex's L1 port and came through our airlock at promptly 10:15, a small, roundish woman with black hair parted in the middle and drawn tight against her skull. They had darkened her skin against epsilon Leo's UV; it was the deep blue-black of twilight. She was wearing a striped clingy and velcro slippers to help her get around for the short time she'd be navigating our .2 micrograv.
"Welcome to Tuulen Station." I smiled and offered my hand. "My name is Michael." We shook. "I'm supposed to be a sapientologist but I also moonlight as the local guide."
"Guide?" She nodded distractedly. "Okay." She peered past me, as if expecting someone else.
"Oh, don't worry," I said, "the dinos are in their cages."
Her eyes got wide as she let her hand slip from mine. "You call the Hanen dinos?"
"Why not?" I laughed. "They call us babies. The weeps, among other things."
She shook her bead in amazement. People who've never met a dino tended to romanticize them: the wise and noble reptiles who had mastered superluminal physics and introduced Earth to the wonders of galactic civilization. I doubt Kamala had ever seen a dino play poker or gobble down a screaming rabbit. And she had never argued with Linna, who still wasn't convinced that humans were psychologically ready to go to the stars.
"Have you eaten?" I gestured down the corridor toward the reception rooms.
"Yes ... I mean, no." She didn't move. "I am not hungry."
"Let me guess. You're too nervous to eat. You're too nervous to talk, even. You wish I'd just shut up, pop you into the marble, and beam you out. Let's just get this part the hell over with, eh?"
"I don't mind the conversation, actually."
"There you go. Well, Kamala, it is my solemn duty to advise you that there are no peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on Gend. And no chicken vindaloo. What's my name again?"
"See, you're not that nervous. Not one taco, or a single slice of eggplant pizza. This is your last chance to eat like a human."
"Okay." She did not actually smile-she was too busy being brave-but a corner of her mouth twitched. "Actually, I would not mind a cup of tea."
"Now, tea they've got." She let me guide her toward reception room D; her slippers snicked at the velcro carpet. "Of course, they brew it from lawn clippings."
"The Gendians don't keep lawns. They live underground. "
"Refresh my memory." I kept my hand on her shoulder; beneath the clingy, her muscles were rigid. "Are they the ferrets or the things with the orange bumps?"
"They look nothing like ferrets."
We popped through the door bubble into reception D, a compact rectangular space with a scatter of low, unthreatening furniture. There was a kitchen station at one end, a closet with a vacuum toilet at the other. The ceiling was blue sky; the long wall showed a live view of the Charles River and the Boston skyline, baking in the late June sun. Kamala had just finished her doctorate at MIT.
I opaqued the door. She perched on the...
Posted October 2, 2014
Posted September 25, 2014
Posted October 1, 2014
Posted June 22, 2014
Posted July 22, 2014
Posted March 20, 2011
No text was provided for this review.