Thursday, July 18, 2013

Me and Aldaris (p14): Down on Earth

The light shone in his face, its brightness stinging at even his eyes.  It had been some time since Aldaris had been in the light such a bright sun, and as he stood there with his eyes shut, he could imagine that the scenery around him was the ancestral home of his family.  He could feel himself standing in the open valley before the country cottage, surrounded on all sides by trees and the pathway to the seaside.  The cottage, one story like the most ancient of Protoss architecture, lay extended over a small hill like a blanket.  Aldaris almost expected that he would turn around and see its wooden eaves and tan plaster walls again.  

It was the thought of his mother standing at the door that brought down his little fantasy.  Certainly, she had been there in the past, standing at the door in her traditional karagou robe, waiting for her son to return so that together they could prepare for the summer festival in the Pyrgos province.  However, his mother had been deceased for many years,reminding him that the scenario in his head was a distant memory and no better than a fantasy.  Her death was peaceful and unremarkable, nothing at all like those lost in the Aiuran war.  It pained him to think what might have happened to his mother's grave in the advent of the Zerg.

At that point Aldaris forced his eyes open.  Instantly his dream collapsed.  The scene that replaced it was at least better than thoughts of Zerg-ravaged Aiur; instead of trees older than his grandfather before him, there was a massive cliff, leading down into the ocean.  Humans called it the Pacific.  What few trees there were far smaller in scale, some distance back from the cliff.  Many looked to the Judicator more like massive bushes.  They were, however, inoffensive, and the sparse grass that grew beneath his feet was at least more pleasant than the sands of Shakuras.

Though the sun was bright, Aldaris shuddered.  As much as the Dark Templar seemed to like the smoky haze that was Shakuras' cloud cover throughout its year, he'd always known he could scarcely tolerate a world where only the moonlight could shine through such a mist.  The only place on that blue, blue planet Aldaris felt even slightly at home was at the Xel'Naga temple, where somehow the presence of the ancients was palpable.  

Aldaris stood there in the morning light, forced to admit to himself that there was nothing especially wrong with Earth as a planet, at least what he'd seen so far and absent of whatever the humans had done to it.  Even his disdain for the type of tree was really a personal choice; they were simply too small.  Now that the Judicator found himself in such a peaceful place, he realized that all he really missed were his companions.  Aiur was gone, and he had no home on Shakuras. All that really called to him were his companions, those loyal to the Khala, all depending on him, waiting in the sands of Shakuras for their leader to arrive.  

And he would not.  Because he was here.  On Earth.  While everything he'd stood for was mocked by the little creatures, all ignorant that their computer game was his true life.

Aldaris shut his eyes again.  The strength of this sun refreshed him, and he could feel it soak into his skin and give him strength.  It was a strong light, and part of him wondered if Earth's star was younger than Aiur's.  How embarrassing it was to have stumbled in front of Bethany!  He hadn't realized how low his energy had gotten.  Artificial light only went so far in sustaining a Protoss, and he'd been stuck on his ship for several weeks.  As much as he hated to admit it, even if only to himself, the human was right; he was obliged to leave his vessel after a time.

I am no Templar....I am of the Ara tribe, the family of Pereclus.  Aldaris' eyes darkened along with his thoughts as he stared at his hands.  One cannot modify the inheritance of the body.

Aldaris paused.  He extended his hands before himself, staring at his fingers as he stretched them in the light.  They moved better, he thought, and as he clenched and relaxed his hands the stiffness he'd suffered from them the past two weeks melted away.  The sunlight here was more than enough to soothe his condition and render it ignorable, at least for a while.  


The jolting noise snapped Aldaris out of his thoughts.  He silently cursed his lack of caution and instantly scanned his surroundings as he went for the nearest clump of trees.  The Judicator detected the mental presence of a human not too far away, and with relief noted that the man felt annoyance -- not anger, confusion, or anything more logical for someone who had just seen a giant alien in his yard.  Apparently this person found the sound as annoying as Aldaris did.  

Curious, Aldaris extended his powers.  He couldn't hear any audible sounds from that distance, but with only a little mental effort, he could make out a conversation by listening to the man's mind.  It never occurred to Aldaris that he was being rude, and had it, there is no guarantee he would have cared.

"Hello?" said the local human.  

"Mr. Kensley?  It's Tom." a voice burdened with worry spoke.  Aldaris sensed that this person was not present, so they must have been communicating with some sort of machine.  "There's been an's Alice."

"What happened?"

"She was in a really bad accident.  She's in the hospital now, and I don't know if she's going to make it out of surgery..."

Aldaris listened with one "ear" and with the other examined the thoughts of this "Mr. Kensley".  He was an adult male, not too recently widowed, and Alice was his daughter.  He lived alone in the country, and his daughter lived at some place called San Francisco.

He could not be snuck up on a second time.  Aldaris detected instantly the violent impulse directed toward him, even before the sound of frantic barking distracted him from the phone conversation.  Up through the underbrush came a dog that only humans would call large.  The brown thing still barked and snapped at him, but didn't dare come close.  Aldaris already had hold of its mind.

"Sharashnana, Raasha...polempatul sharashnana..."  

The chant and simultaneous neural connective technique worked best on Aiuran animals, but it seemed to do for this dog.  After all, in theory it would work on any domesticated animal.  Aldaris looked into its mind and forced his way into its emotional core, silencing it and having it sit down.  Kensley was still having his conversation with Tom, and he wanted to know what was going to happen.  The talk between the humans did not last much longer.  Soon enough, the sound of a door opening and slamming jolted the countryside.

Is everything about this human obnoxiously loud?

Mr. Kensley graciously confirmed Aldaris' theory by yelling out for his dog.  

"Wolf!  Woooolf!" the man shouted.  "Where are you, boy?"

Aldaris turned to the dog.  It lay there, peering out at him with its somber brown eyes.  With slight gesture of the hand, Aldaris released it.  Instantly Wolf took off, heading for the sound of his master's voice.  The Protoss waited a couple of minutes, slowly going nearer to what he knew had to be a house of some kind.  Soon enough the ingratiating sound of a Terran motor engine roared into the air, then faded out as Mr. Kensley departed.  Aldaris waited only a few minutes longer inspecting this person's homestead with a critical eye.

Good. Aldaris raised a hand over the quorrian embelm tied tightly around his left shoulder, lightly touching the deep purple gem on its surface.  This place shall perhaps prove useful to me in the short term.

With the flick of his fingers, the embelm produced a cloud of blue smoke.  When it blew away, the Protoss was gone, with no one to witness the disappearance but a small chorus of birds.

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