Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Me and Aldaris (p23): Charlie and Cheonha

Aldaris was lucky. It was over a month since Kensley had been gone, and he still never returned to his lonely home in the countryside of California. That meant Aldaris had the place more or less to himself and Raasha, the human's dog. If he told the time to read the dog's collar, he might have discovered its real name, but Aldaris preferred the one he'd given it. Raasha was a mighty animal hero in Protoss legend, and though the creature wasn't an Earth dog, this particular canine almost resembled a picture Aldaris had seen in a picture book from his childhood. So Raasha it was.

All the same, Aldaris was not entirely heartless. From time to time as he sat in the sunlight of Kensley's large backyard and basked in the shower's of Earth's star, he thought about the human who lived there. Kensley had left the home because something bad had happened to his daughter, and if it was taking her this long to recover, it must have been a devastating accident.

Still, Aldaris needed the sunlight. Staying on his ship exhausted him, even when he turned the sun panels inward and allowed the light to enter his study. Somehow this was just not the same as sitting under the sun on the human homeworld, not to the Judicator's weary nerves. Though he had been there only the day previous, Aldaris sat once again amongst the sparse trees, absorbing sunlight as he varied between meditation, drawing various trees on his stand-up sketchpad, and simply playing with Raasha.

Aldaris looked upward. The noontime sun, wonderful as it felt, was starting to sink down. He knew he had to get out of there; the neighbor that fed Raasha generally showed up about one o'clock. Not eager to show himself to more humans than he had already. Aldaris reluctantly touched the quorrian embelm on his shoulder. His ship summoned him, and when Aldaris re-opened his eyes (the recall process always made him a bit queasy), it was the controls of his ship he saw around himself.

He shut down the teleporter with the touch of a key. For a few moments, he stood there in silence. Coming back to the sheltered corridors of the Juniadros was always a let down after basking in bright sunlight. That, and with a stirring in his heart, Aldaris reviewed his impossible task list: on the Juniadros, the only things to do were beyond his capabilities.

Repairing the ship? It worked as well as it ever had, as far as normal travel went. Aldaris had used the extent of his Judicator's training in machinery to keep it running, and if something out of that range went wrong, he was out of luck. Securing fuel to maintain his orbit? Well, he could keep going for a few years, if all he ever did was simply orbit. That didn't count whatever fuel he would use to get back home. And there lay the rub; his last task was to run through his ship's trajectory records, and using that massively complex set of numbers, calculate a way to go back. And that was assuming he'd traveled to Earth on his ship's power alone. If something else had catapulted him to the past....

Aldaris shook his head. It did no good to think like that, and if his mind dwelt too much on the possibility of being stuck on Earth, he would lose it. For now, Aldaris touched various control panels, and many of the lights on the eight viewscreens shut down. Low power mode would help conserve the Juniadros' fuel for the way back, whenever he got around to finishing the calculations. Theoretically, Aldaris had completed them. Over and over. But, as only an average talent at higher maths, Aldaris didn't trust his own numbers to keep him safe, and he couldn't compensate for the strange power surge that sent him back almost five hundred years, as well as several millions of lightyears in a direction he didn't know.

"Hn'dara macjolineer." the alien muttered as he continued shutting down the recall unit's controls. "P'kashi na yulunterna. ...Eeyntu?"

There it was again. The recall unit power light was still on. Odd. The teleporter didn't usually take that long to power down. Aldaris extended his hand over a translucent control unit. With a slight movement over his fingers over the movement inputor, he accessed the system assessment. And was at once horrified. It was happening again.

His eyes narrowed. "Mac'ah."

Aldaris manipulated the controls as though his life depended on it. The last thing he needed was his computer to malfuction again and bring those annoying humans back to his ship. Hadn't he fixed it last time? Or had John done something to break the system when Aldaris had allowed him to help stabilize the ship? Then again, that would have left John with no way home, and restraining the computer took too much attention for Aldaris to dwell on other things.

Finally, the console obeyed him. Aldaris shut down the computer into low power mode. It would be at least two hours until it would be ready to teleport anything again. That meant a lot of guarding of irritable, messy humans. The spot on the floor was still sticky from where one of them had evidently spilled their drink, and since Protoss avoided shoes whenever possible, Aldaris had discovered this very quickly.

"Mac'ah menadera."

Summoning his psionic powers into full force, Aldaris let his mental waves flow about the ship. It was not a large craft, and Aldaris was a psychic of many years. He could fully well detect any life aboard, and it had aggravated him for weeks to have that Earth rodent present and not be able to get at it. This time, however, it wasn't a rodent mind he came into contact with. It was a timid mind, shy of the unfamiliar and awkward. Aldaris concentrated a little harder. No, only Cheonha was on his ship this time. Good. Due to the language difference, she was the easiest of the four to put up with. No backtalk, mistrust, or off the wall philosophies.

All the same, Aldaris kept up a hurried pace. He followed the pattern of her thoughts, hoping all the way that she wouldn't mess with anything. Surprisingly enough, he found her in the exact last place he'd kept the other humans their last time here: his study. Cheonha was in one of his chairs, on her knees so she could see what lay on his table. She'd remembered some of her manners, at least. Her little flowered shoes sat together under the chair, and did not dirty up the Protoss' furniture.

Aldaris stood there in the doorway. His shadow fell back into the hall, so Cheonha hadn't seen him yet. She still peered silently at the contents of his table: drawings. Cheonha paid attention to each of the massive sketches, but kept her hands together on the rim of the table. She didn't touch them. After a moment, she turned her head and startled. She immediately backed down from the table.

"Shillyehamneedah." Cheonha shrank into the chair, bobbing her head in a respectful half-bow. "Anyonghaseyho, sansengneem."

The words meant nothing to Aldaris. Still, he tapped slightly into her emotions. Shyness, expectation of manners, and a little guilt for having pried into his things. Her meaning was clear enough, and he was only slightly offended. After all, humans to him were such short-lived beings that few of them outlived childhood. He expected such behavior from them. He didn't quite expect Cheonha, though. She seemed to shrink in the chair, especially juvenile for being too small for it. For the first time, Aldaris was slightly curious about her background. What place had she lived where the humans were subject to such timidity?

The Judicator said nothing. He stepped forward into the room and took the chair beside Cheonha. He gestured up at the table. Cheonha shyly reached back again for the edge and placed her elbows back on it for balance. Aldaris lifted one of the papers and drew it gently where Cheonha could see it. He pointed to the twisted spires of a blue and green building, and only had a few of the golden pillars and supports so typical of Protoss architecture.

"This is Eunjin Orailis Temple." Aldaris said. "It is close to my home."

"Eun-jin Oralisu?"

"Eunjin Orailis." he corrected. "That is where the monks of the Shelak tribe honored our gods for generations of my people by speaking the works of our culture to the people. I think of it often. The temple no longer stands."

He wasn't sure if Cheonha liked it. At the very least, she liked the drawing. The color of it pleased her, and he could sense slight envy at his shading abilities. She pointed to another drawing, one that was half covered by the picture of the temple. Aldaris gently set the temple aside. Underneath lay a drawing of an Aiuran field. It was a little more of a typical drawing, where rolling landscapes set with flowers led to high mountains. The focus of the drawing was a large, low cottage. The left and right sides of the cottage came forward and sloped downwards to the ground, creating a circular courtyard in the front. Flowers dotted the sides of this courtyard, and also where the sloped roof touched the ground. It seemed as though the flowers would, over time, grow right up over the roof.

"Ah..." Cheonha, in awe, reached out towards the picture. Her hand hovered over it without touching. "Kogi salgo ship'oyo."

"That is the home of a neighbor of mine in the Kydonian province." Aldaris said, more for his own sake than his guest's. "That is near the place where I stayed in the summer months."

Aldaris didn't pry into her mind. He sensed that she was imagining what she would do if she lived in such a place, and it didn't seem polite to intrude on this. The Judicator let his own thoughts wander to the times when he stayed there himself. Telemnos had been a good neighbor, a polite though somewhat crusty Khalai of nearly nine hundred. It did no good to think of him, though. Telemnos had suffered in a accident in his youth that left him with a serious limp, and Aldaris did not wish to think of what could have happened to him during the Zerg's onslaught. He put this picture aside as well.

Underneath was still another picture, not finished. Other than it definitely being a Protoss building, it's nature wasn't obvious.

"I am attempting to recreate the Conclave tou Diafotis." Aldaris reached forward to a small (for Protoss) and well-worn wooden box. He pulled out a black sketchpen. "It is here my father served our people for two hundred of our years."

Cheonha nodded as though she understood. From beside her she picked up her own sketchbook, which apparently had been with her when she teleported. She patted her pockets a moment, and smiled when she found her mechanical pencil. She pulled open her far smaller pages and began sketching for herself. Aldaris peered over her shoulder, but she immediately covered it with her arms.

"Oh, so you may see my work, and will not share your own?" Aldaris expressed through emotions rather than words his amusement. "Be at peace. I do not expect someone so young to have comparable talent."

Cheonha shook her head.

"Very well." Aldaris returned to his own work. "I shall not ask."

They sat together, the sound of their drawing the only noise above the gentle humming of the engines. After a moment, Aldaris let one eye stray to her sketchpad. She was drawing a the face of a human female, older in appearance. Aldaris didn't recognise the face, but whoever it it was, this person looked more like Cheonha than the other humans the Protoss had seen so far. Clearly this person meant something to Cheonha. He put his eyes on his own paper again before Cheonha noticed. For now, putting his memories to paper was more important to him than prying.

It was nice to have a companion around, even if she was a human and had no idea what he was talking about. She was quiet and untroublesome, and he could still work on his projects with her there. As long as she didn't have to go to the bathroom, everything would be fine.

For just a moment, Aldaris' hand stopped. Was he forgetting something? Yes, the power the recall unit had used was more than enough to take Cheonha to the Juniadros. There was wasted power somewhere. Aldaris darkened a little. He wasn't sure how to correct a power leak. For now, however, the power to the recall unit was shut off, so there was nothing to worry about. He went back to his drawing.

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