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Friday, January 7, 2022

HEIRS OF THE SHATTERED SPHERES: Emerald of Earth – CHAPTER 1: INTO THE JUNGLE

Almost-thirteen Emerald Marcillon lives with her parents, who have dug up evidence of aliens in Chicxilub Crater in Yucatan, they have found artifacts that point to a long-ago alien war. An alien artificial intelligence called Inamma has survived that war. It tries to steal the artifacts that when assembled, can destroy all of Humanity. But it can’t find them and kills Emerald’s parents. Emerald escapes and is taken into Earth orbit to the SOLAR EXPLORER. Inamma follows Emerald into space, and the ship’s captain, who is also her great-aunt, tries to hide her from Inamma. Emerald holds the key to the artifacts. Emerald is not the best at making friends, but manages to make a few on SOLAR EXPLORER. When her friends and crew members find what Inamma is, they fight together to protect the artifacts.

(I will be posting Fridays, because if you like what you see and you’re a parent/aunt/uncle/friend of the family, you can forward, text, Instagram, or tiktok the story to your child/niece-nephew/friend-of-the-family – and your significant young adult would have Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday to read it, so it won’t interfere with the Homework Schedule.)

Emerald Anastasia Nhia Okon Marcillon wanted to scream. Near the center of the Chicxulub impact crater, the compound where she and her parents lived had been overrun by soldiers pretending to be professors and college students.


All ten of them strutted as if the land was theirs. Two old guys and two old ladies bossed everyone, including Mom and Dad. Emerald bristled, hunkering down in the underbrush looking up at their research station. No one bossed her parents around! Dad hated the military and so did Mom sometimes. They’d showed up weeks ago – way too many soldiers at their quiet little station. They were nosy, paranoid and ignored her ‘cause she was a kid. Academic types ignored all of them, busy with their own research. She took a deep breath – salty, humid scent of rotting jungle; manure smell from an old-fashioned cattle ranch three klicks west; semi-sweet stench of boiling sugarcane; hint of chemical smell from a portable latrine.

Calm down. Listen. Don’t make a mistake.

This group of soldiers was doing worse than ignoring her – they were watching her. One or two touched their chests like they had concealed guns. All of them were in better shape than the usual wingnuts visiting the compound.

“THE most buff professors the world has ever seen,” Emerald set her ipik to record mode and spoke in Portuguese. “There’s something really strange about all of them.” She turned it off. She fingered the necklace of tektites Mom and Dad had given her on her twelfth birthday. Beads of meteorite impact-melted glass strung on Mexican silver wire, the twelve black teardrops clicked as she moved. Ducking down behind a stump her father had cut with his own axe when they’d established the research station, she listened as two of the ‘professors’ passed.

The older one was saying in English, “Whoever gave them clearance to do this research was insane!”

The younger one, a woman, snorted then replied in Spanish, “Everyone thought it was insane when they were slapped with a Confidential security clearance, Colonel .”

“The only reason EGov granted it was because he’s Vice-Captain Marcillon’s nephew. Though I heard she wanted to make their whole song and dance Sensitive Compartmented Information,” said the Colonel. He muttered something about military intelligence being an oxymoron. Then they were gone, heading down the path that led to the highway between Progresso and Telchac Puerto. They weren’t acting like the usual stuck-up professors, adamant researchers, internet news fact-checkers, save-the-world college students, and other wingnuts who usually showed up. There were still three or four of those as well. One was digging holes looking for roots that would cure Alzheimer’s, another was searching for some Lost City of the Mayans, and a cryptozoologist wanted to find a link between chupacabra and the coatimundi common in the Yucatan jungle. She sighed. Those she could handle.

The older soldiers were eerily quiet, disciplined and listened carefully when Mom – Dr. Nhia Marcillon – lectured on her and Dad’s Shattered Spheres Theory of the Solar System.

Emerald liked to think that she believed her mother, but so many other people thought Mom and Dad were crazy. Now that she was practically thirteen, she had to make up her own mind. When she was ten, eleven, and twelve, there was nothing more fascinating than the possibility that alien intelligences on Venus had conquered the Solar System! The possibility that they’d been colonizing the other planets sixty-five million years ago made it sound boring at first. But when she accessed Mom’s 3D scenarios...

That was one of the problems. Dad found out and blocked her access to the Shattered Spheres file. Not that that had stopped Emerald. But Dad had given up on the Shattered Spheres Theory.

Emerald shook her head. She’d ask questions if she could, but she never really, really wanted to. High functioning autism made her hesitate before talking to anyone about anything, and she’d been this way all her life. Most days, she felt like she was one of Mom and Dad’s alien People. She more or less got what the rest of the world was talking about – though sometimes not. She knew she was supposed to chat with people, but couldn’t usually bring herself to do it. Understanding languages wasn’t any trouble. Spanish, English, French, Chinese, Portuguese, and Italian were pretty easy if she could listen to people speak it for a while. But she never seemed to get the hang of saying the right thing at the right time. Or doing the right thing at the right time. She was an alien on the worst days, a permanent tourist in her own life on the best days.

She stood up and looped back into the jungle, picking up a trail that headed back toward the trailer to the adjacent giant silver tent the Combined Forces people had put up when they arrived. Made of solar cells, the dirt underneath had been razed of plant life, pounded flat, sealed with a resin and was swept clean every morning by minibots. There were chairs, tables, big solar fans that ran all day and most of the night and a half dozen computer stations. There were always people sleeping on the tables beneath tipis of mosquito netting. Cliques of young soldiers would circle their chairs, lean back and then text each other for hours, the only sound beside jungle life and wind, the click of keys and bursts of laughter. Then people would glance at each other, smile then bend over their ipiks again.

At first they acted like she was a regular kid and that the files regarding her autism were a cover story so she could spy on them. They’d talk at her, smile, offer her candy and little trinkets. But Emerald would only scowl at them and move away. Not too far away, because she was able to intercept a few of their texts. They had some kind of encryption whose code kept randomly changing, but she’d break it, catch up on the gossip, then repeat the process each time it changed.

They’d learned that they couldn’t make her talk and pretty much had given up on her. Everyone except the pushy one who kept talking to her but wouldn’t ever look at her like everyone else did. Emerald wiped her forehead on her tan T-shirt sleeve then pulled the front of the shirt up to wipe her upper lip. She tied the material in a knot and hopped up on her stool in the corner.

Usually after a week like this, she’d become effectively invisible to the visitors. But this group still seemed to see her. Maybe sneaky precision and analytical thinking was something that professor-soldiers really liked. The older ones would pepper her with questions, but she wouldn’t respond. One or two of them realized that she was listening when they’d find her comments on their organic tablet computers – otabs – posted anonymously to their websites or on their rLife accounts.

Sometimes, it made her friends. With this group, the oldsters seemed to be getting more and more paranoid. The circle of old people in the tent leaned more tightly together as she settled herself, then they got up and walked away, following the other two in the direction of the road into Progresso.

She was pretty sure this group saw her as self-centered, aloof, pedantic, unable to sustain eye contact, rigid, lacking spontaneity in social interaction, completely uninterested in their interests, and obsessively concerned with her own.

The younger soldiers – the ones pretending to be college students – were both more flexible and less paranoid. She smirked. The best way to find out what people really thought was to feed them, close your mouth, and listen carefully…The only thing that was important about her to them, was that she was a spectacular cook.

Image: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-shCROTG0xHA/Vf23FAhb2QI/AAAAAAAAX80/aEG8ZyFwyhA/s320/Heirs%2Bof%2Bthe%2BShattered%2BSpheres%2BEmerald%2Bof%2BEarth%2B%2B%2B%2B300dpi.jpg

Guy Stewart is a retired teacher and counselor, with science fiction for young people and adults published in ANALOG Science Fiction and Fact; podcast at CAST OF WONDERS; and in CRICKET the Magazine for Children. For links to his other works, go to https://faithandsciencefiction.blogspot.com/. For an interview about EMERALD OF EARTH, try this: http://www.writersandauthors.info/2015/09/interview-with-guy-stewart.html

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