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Singularities Of The Soul Of Stephen Xi
By A. R. Davis
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2012 Dr. A. R. Davis
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Chapter OneOriginal Sin
"Are you the plumber?"
He dropped his pipe wrench at the sudden interruption. His nerves were getting worse every day. The wrench fell slowly to the floor. His fears spun his mind faster than his body could turn in the Lunar gravity.
"Yeah, that's me. What d'ya want?"
He hadn't heard any emphasis on the 'the' so he hadn't lied, yet. In his contax the singers sang, "... tell me who built this ark ..." and he silenced them with a twitch of his fingers. The visitor wore a uniform with a patch of the James Irwin on his left breast, not one of the larger ships. The other man's piercing eyes pinned him against the workbench, and he felt the familiar discomfort at being observed.
"Do you know how to repair X2 pumps?"
Crap! This guy was recruiting for a berth on the Fleet! His heart rose into his throat.
"Of course," the misinformation was a deliberate lie, but only a white one. They weren't too different from the X1s. He could figure it out. Angie only worked on the new ones because he had seniority. Hell, where was Angie today?
"Then this is your lucky day!" The visitor placed a hand against his cheek and his eyes refocused onto an empty place in the air where his contax must be projecting a roster. The fingers twitched and the man frowned as he checked the list. If the roster had a picture, he was screwed. He had an average face, an Asian everyman, but his colleague was a younger man. The crewman seemed annoyed at being delayed because the man he was sent to shanghai was nonFoM and had no embedded chips to confirm his identity. "What's your name?"
He mumbled his full name. They were looking for Angie, not him. He was caught, and he would be left behind.
"What? Stavinci? It says here Angelo Sheehy ..." The eyes struck again, reminding him of his fifth grade homeroom teacher taking attendance. He hated that guy.
"You must have made a mistake," he claimed, hoping the desperation didn't show in his voice. "I'm Angie Stavinci. There's no Sheehy around here." At least not at the moment.
The man abandoned his list, apparently satisfied that he had met his quota of plumbers. His eyes refocused, and seeing that his quarry hadn't moved he growled, "Get your stuff and come with me. We don't have much time."
He grabbed Angelo's tool box and followed the spacer down the corridor, twitching his fingers again. And the singers sang, "... I asked old Noah can he take anymore ... Noah cried out 'I'm sorry my friend' ... God's got the key and you can't get in ..."
* * *
Too bad they couldn't find him. He told them where the guy hung out, but they said they couldn't wait. They didn't even give him time to go home. Just ran him out into the hanger with several others and pushed him on board this shuttle.
"Hi! I'm Stephen Xi," he introduced himself cheerfully to the man facing him across the crowded fuselage.
"How yu'doin?" The man mumbled back, as if distracted from listening to music.
"Better than I was yesterday," Stephen replied, almost allowing a smile to cross his lips.
The man was about his own age, early forties probably, and his clothes were a somewhat disheveled dirty work uniform. They must have grabbed him right off the job too. Focusing on external reality and accepting the offer of conversation the man asked Stephen, "You leave any family behind?"
I've always been kind of a loner. No one's gonna miss me. You?"
"Only one guy may care that I'm gone, but we weren't really friends."
They were all strapped in tight, about two dozen people. Stephen and his new acquaintance were unlike the others, whether the others were all Family or not he couldn't say, but the women were not the type to be interested and the men seemed to be students or scientists. Probably science students. Too smart for him.
The other man looked through the viewport in the roof of the rapidly ascending shuttle and his eyes widened as the gravrings of the James Irwin came into view. A hologram of a man walking on the moon in an old fashioned bulky space suit jumped nervously back and forth on the ship's hull. His oversized spherical helmet made him look like an alien insect.
Stephen thought that more small talk might relax his new acquaintance. "You ever been on one of those before?"
"Nah, I was born here on Luna." That explained the delicate fingers, somewhat at odds with the working clothes. With the gravsteroids it was hard to tell whether someone was an Earthie adjusting down to Mars' or Luna's gravity or someone bulking up for a trip back to the home world.
"My family came up from Hotan when I was a kid," Stephen said.
"Isn't that where Oyun Karabayeva came from? You related?"
Immediately he shook his head in denial, then shrugged his shoulders as if leaving the possibility open. He hadn't heard that one in quite a while; his Asian eyes and crew cut black hair were so common that at times he often felt invisible. At other times he saw himself scattered in pieces all around him. He looked again at the others on the shuttle and recognized his distant cousins, or the possibilities of what he might have been had he ever gotten a break.
"Where the hell are we gonna go?" The man across from him suddenly moaned, his fears breaking loose.
Stephen immediately recalled Confucius, "The way out is through the door." Instead of spouting that philosophy he answered, "I don't know, but cheer up, the Fishmen can't find all of us can they?"
Chapter TwoEscape from Cibolla
Stavinci clung to the pipes in the maintenance passageway of the first spoke of the fo'ring, peering across the pit in terror. What had he done? What had he gotten himself into? The pit was the core of the ship, and spacers scrambled up and down the spiral ladder that lined it during acceleration, ducking in and out of openings preparing for it. "It" being, apparently, the headlong crash of the James Irwin into the Fishmen's mother ship.
A crewman bumped his arm as she rushed by.
"Strap on, you fool!" she yelled and disappeared into the spoke elevator terminus.
He dropped his wrench and searched madly for the nearest safety hook while the tool clanged and banged its way down the first five steps of the ladder. As he stepped back into the maintenance passageway he nearly dislocated his shoulder, having forgotten that his arm was wedged between the hydraulic pipe and the bulkhead. He clumsily untangled himself and fumbled for the clips of his safety harness. His breath was rapid and his heart continued to beat furiously many seconds after he had buckled on and crouched against the deck.
But nothing happened.
Nothing except the constant pulse of the claxons echoing along the passageways. Their shrieks tore at what little self-control he had left. He twitched on his music to substitute sounds, and the singers sang, "... rest my bones on the alabaster stones ..." He joined the chorus spontaneously, his trembling voice barely in tune, "Go to sleep you little baby ..." But the lullaby in his contax couldn't calm the sirens inside the ship's hull. When the emergency warnings abruptly ceased it felt as if his body had been flung against the opposite bulkhead.
But nothing moved.
His heart almost broke through his chest wall, and the pounding blood roaring in his ears was sure to cause a stroke, as all parts of his brain throbbed with new sensations. He wished he were still in Cibolla safely under the Lunar crust, but someone said that Cibolla's dome had collapsed and the hyperthread reservoir had disappeared. Everyone left behind was dead. Angie was dead. Angie was dead because of him.
His guilt became confused and went off to hide as everything about the James Irwin became eerily silent. The singers sang, "... I've got a brother in Beulah land ..." He wasn't hooked in to the FoM channels and he didn't know any of the nonFoM aboard. He was happy to keep a low profile, but now no one contaxed him with news of what was happening. No one shared the images they were seeing with him. He realized that he was staring at ibblebox 322z5 near the deck of the opposite bulkhead but it told him nothing.
Something had been altered though. His body tingled strangely, and not just from the physical effects of terror. The acceleration of the immediate past had changed from 3g to something other than weightlessness.
He looked out the end of his passageway, but the pit and what he could see of its opposite wall were unchanged. He looked at his hands and gradually began to believe that he had survived. As a test of that hypothesis he flexed his fingers, then made two fists.
"I've never seen anything like that before!"
"Look at the stars!"
When he tried to move the straps grabbed him back and before he could force his voice to call out, the two spacers danced past the circular opening where his spoke entered the pit. He tripped over ibblebox 322a5 trying to follow the crewmen, and lost his chance to catch them when he stopped to kick the inanimate offender. The discrepancy in labeling failed to scratch his consciousness. His music was an ignored sound track to his current crisis. What was wrong with the stars?
And the singers sang, "... I've got a brother in Beulah land ... outshine the sun! ..."
* * *
Stephen Xi entered the maintenance lounge through the rear hatch and saw the engineer and several crewmen clustered around a viewscreen. Three other spacers sat in chairs along the far bulkhead, mouths open, staring ahead like zombies. Staring at the views of space on their contax actually. FoM often had that distracted, distant look. He probably appeared the same to others when he was absorbed in studying the Confucian scrolls in his free time.
"Stephen, have you seen this? Come over here!"
He hurried around the table and joined them at the viewscreen. It was full of stars, although they were distorted, and they were moving. He couldn't make sense of it. Something had gone wrong. From what he had heard they were supposed to escape the Fishmen and hide in the Oort Cloud until the aliens were gone. This was definitely not the Oort Cloud.
"How fast are we going, Schmidt?" the Engineer asked a man in one of the chairs.
"The Navigator said he could only guess, but it was faster than light!"
"Not for us," a voice from the other side called.
Stephen continued to look at the display. Every time he blinked the wonder began anew. He lost track of the time, until one more blink and the scene changed dramatically. The three seated crewmen stood up unsteadily.
"What the hell!"
"Is that Sol?"
"Can't be. Look at the nearby stars."
"Is that a cluster?"
Stephen no longer felt that tingling sensation. Wherever they had been, they had returned to real space now. The stars froze on the screen again. He remembered a line from an ancient adventure tale, "Everything and nothing were scattered around him as if they were something." - Tsu Ming.
The Engineer received a message from the bridge. "Yes sir."
"Stephen, get your toolbox and a twenty centimeter flow diverter and follow me to the second spoke elevator of the aft'ring."
Stephen hurried into the passageway and turned to open the tool cabinet. The bulkhead before him was just a mass of circuit boxes; the cabinet was on the left side of the hatch. Not until he had the things in his hands did he wonder why he thought the cabinet was on the right side of the hatch. Before that thought had time to sizzle, the engineer and two spacers hustled into the passageway and he followed in their wake.
Constancy Rralf the 317th looked on any arrivals to the island of Kakakafaloong as an opportunity. One could never tell on first appearances whether a visitor would turn out to be useful or not. The smooth skinned bipeds certainly seemed unpromising. They had been dragged in from the trading lanes. The Pinkskin crewman from the Untskol said they popped out of hyperspace and floated around for days as if they didn't know where they were.
Now that they had been processed, Rralf was able to scan the reports. He flicked through the screens on his comppad. They were refugees from an uncharted system. Their species had never been seen before, so they were officially "unclassified." Fair game. At the bottom of the imperial caste system. He could study the details later though, so he put the comppad into the inside pocket of his vest, scratched an itch on his hairy chest, and grasped the knob of the cane that he had tucked under his arm.
This was one of those rare events, an outlier in the data field, that could not have been predicted. But it would be predicted once the Empire had enough time. The Emperor's prophecies would be reinterpreted and history would be rewritten. He snorted to clear his head of heretical thoughts. Meanwhile, there was work to do.
* * *
Stavinci rubbed his ears where the ape monster had branded him with the implants. He moved along, keeping his place in line with the rest of the crew and passengers of the James Irwin. He couldn't help thinking about cattle being led to slaughter, even though they had been told that this was nothing more than the customs procedure of an alien planet. The furry armed guards with the big feet didn't ease his fears.
"Jesus Christ! What's your fuckin' hurry?" he snarled at the greenish-skinned, Medusa-headed, toga-wearing official who had just grabbed his arm and guided him toward another doorway in this maze of bureaucratic cubicles. He caught his breath as he desperately searched the eyeless face for an instant before the snakes on the official's head turned to look at him. Christ, he moaned to himself. Then he almost sobbed out loud at the realization that Christ was just an Earthly god.
He shuffled through the opening into another room as he tried to comprehend the words the green monster had said. "My name is Ipssstan, sir. I want to go to lunch." Stavinci failed to find their connection to his previous outburst, and forgot them altogether as he saw what was next.
Being able to understand the giant pig woman as she demanded of him, "What talent can you give to the Empire?" didn't make this nightmare any easier to live through. The chips in his ears had turned him into a linguist, although he didn't know what Algorithmic Chemistry or Transcendental Economics were. He couldn't pilot a simple hoverbubble, even though the symbols of its control console somehow distorted into recognizable characters. AG+3.73zs meant nothing to him. The globe just sat there with him inside it like a gerbil in a plastic toy.
It wasn't until some large hairy kangaroo guard asked him what he did onboard ship that he got his "papers stamped" or whatever their equivalent was for electronic passports. Apparently plumbing and hydraulics had some use here on ... what was this place called? It had sounded like Kackackackfalloon.
After he emerged from the processing areas Stavinci stood trembling on the fringe of the crowd of Humans. He wished that he could be hiding inside the herd instead of standing on its boundary as an outsider, vulnerable to the hunters. Scattered around the building were more armed guards, the kangaroo things, watching the passing multitudes. What were they watching for? Terrorists? He stared belligerently at the aliens and he didn't care if it was impolite as long as it kept them away from him. The strange creatures passed by as if they were a common crowd walking through Cibolla's space port on a Tuesday afternoon. What right did they have to act like ... like people! The "humanity" he recognized beneath the fur and the feathers and the scales seemed to him stolen and monstrous.
Among the crowds of giant crabs, upright raccoons, snake-headed humans, and two meter long worms on wheels he could distinguish males and females, adults and children, old and young. They were fellow travelers, but they knew where they were going. He didn't even know where he was. Like some early 21st century animated cartoon characters they wore clothing and carried their belongings, but unlike those digital simulations, these characters had the light of life and reason in their eyes.
Stavinci turned and saw the ship's Captain standing with some of his officers, talking to what looked like local officials, probably negotiating some place for the fifteen hundred human refugees to stay. A large, dark-brown bear strolling by with a slight limp, using a cane to support his bulk, wandered over to the group. The kangaroo people moved aside as the bear joined them. Stavinci was too far away to hear what they said, and no one was sharing the conversation with his contax, so he had to guess at what was going on. He filled in their conversation, beginning with greetings all around.
"Welcome big great hairy one!"
"Good to see ya' again your richness!"
"How're the little ones, Thumper?" the bear responded with a smile. Or was it a snarl? Stavinci saw teeth.
Then the creature was presented to the Captain, or was the Captain presented to the bear?
"What have we here Mr. Furry Ears?"
"We thought you might be interested, sir. They're lost. No one will miss them."
He expected the creature to reach out and check the Captain's teeth, as if inspecting horses. Stavinci's eyes darted around the huge building trying to distinguish alien sentience from alien pets. Was everything that crawled, hopped, or flew by his equal? As the discussions and negotiations continued, Stavinci lost interest in his conversation game and turned to watch a trio of rolling snakes attack a defenseless luggage carrier. They rose up and mechanical arms sprouted from their protective tubes. Each arm brandished a different tool as they repaired the engine of the machine. Or had they performed emergency surgery? Then they retracted their appendages and rolled off into the crowds. The luggage thing floated off in the other direction as he realized he couldn't even be sure of the difference between robots and aliens, much less their pets or the local fauna.
Excerpted from Singularities Of The Soul Of Stephen Xi by A. R. Davis Copyright © 2012 by Dr. A. R. Davis. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsChapter 1 Original Sin....................1
Chapter 2 Escape from Cibolla....................4
Chapter 3 Kakakafaloong....................8
Chapter 4 Day Labor in the Metropolis of Leap....................15
Chapter 5 The Prison Pools....................22
Chapter 6 The Coliseum....................30
Chapter 7 Entanglement....................46
Chapter 8 Premeditation....................62
Chapter 9 Imperial War Crimes Committee....................76
Chapter 10 Who Are You? Who? Who? Who? Who?....................84
Chapter 11 Climbing Air....................101
Chapter 12 A Genealogy of Ghosts....................113
Chapter 13 Humpty Dumpty....................128
Chapter 14 Fountains and Angels....................140
Chapter 15 In The Beginning....................147
Chapter 16 Deliverance....................168
Chapter 17 Revolution....................213
Chapter 18 Release and Capture....................223
Chapter 19 Arrival of the Teachers....................232
Chapter 20 The Ectometaverse....................241