Friday, April 15, 2022

Emerald of Earth – EPISODE 13: The Intensive Training Team...

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’m posting Fridays, because if you like what you see, share the link with a friend – and you’ll have Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday to read it, and it won’t interfere with your Homework Schedule.)

Emerald was released from the hospital to return to her room. Rashida was there, waiting for her. She also didn’t say a word. She stood up, went to the tiny kitchenette, and tapped the counter, leaning over on an elbow to look at it.

“Rashida not very happy,” said Emerald.

“Don’t call me that,” muttered Rashida. She was in the kitchenette – microwave, counter, sink, small built-in refrigerator – and not looking up from the computer screen. “Lunch.” It wasn’t a question. More of a statement. Not meant to sound like she cared.

“What should I call you then?”

Rashida snorted, “It’s a wonder I’m not going to make you call me private first class.” She tapped the screen twice. “After your great aunt got through yelling at me – and by yelling, I mean she spoke so quietly I had to lean forward from where I was standing at attention to make sure I heard every word of her order – she sent me to Chief of SOLAREX Security Ms. Berg. I thought she was going to rip my heart out, take a bite out of it and then put it back in.”

“The Aztecs did that. Only they didn’t put the heart back,” Emerald said helpfully.

Rashida glared until Emerald stopped smiling. “Listen, kid, I’m on kitchen patrol for the next two months and I’ve been assigned as your personal body guard when I’m not sterilizing dishware. I am not with you to protect you from assassins, but to protect you from yourself and the ship from you – indefinitely!” The last word was a cry that cut off suddenly. Like when a White Hawk struck its prey.

Emerald didn’t say anything, rubbing her should instead. She’d slammed into the door jamb of the hospital level when the girl had blocked her kick. “Don’t blame me. I’m just a kid.”

A bolus next to the kitchen counter opened up and a tray slid when its floor tilted. Just like the floor of the bolus did when it stopped on the hospital floor. Rashida glared at her, “Yeah. Right. And I’m a rear admiral.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Emerald said. She had no idea why she felt the need to to talk to Rashida.

“You’re no more a ‘child’ than I am a high ranking muckety-muck. You’re creepy mature.” She picked up the plates and brought one to Emerald, who was sitting with her legs curled in a big, round chair. There was a short table next to the chair. Rashida set down the plate. Steam rose faintly from the grilled sandwich. Emerald sniffed, took a wedge-shaped half and bit into it. She closed her eyes and after she’d swallowed said, “How did you know I like Swiss cheese?”

Rashida had two halves of pita bread, one stuffed with vegetables, the other with dark brown disks of falafel. She started with the vegetables, chewed and replied, “I read your dossier.”

“I have a dossier?”

“You do now.” She put down her pita and held up a finger, continuing, “Your parents have a bizarre theory about why the Solar System is the way it is – and SOLAREX just happens to be heading out on a twelve-year mission to look at the way the Solar System is the way it is.” She popped up another finger, “You’re the great niece of one of the eight vice-captains of the SOLAR EXPLORER, Hu...”

“...manity’s Last Greatest Adventure™. Yeah. I know.”

Rashida shook her head and held up a third finger, “You somehow single-handedly prevented a possible space elevator disaster...”

“I did?”

Rashida snorted, “Not that anyone would tell you in case that overinflated genius head of yours got any bigger.”

“That fungus stuff on the cable?”

She lifted her chin in acknowledgement – Emerald had seen others do the same thing, lifting the chin instead of nodding – and said, “Some sort of biological weapon. Left and right wackos don’t like the Beanstalk. Left says it’s destroying the environment, right calls it the New Tower of Babel.” She sighed. “I’m glad we’re rid of the mother world.” She held up a fourth finger, “You managed to send the entire ship into high alert when you gave me the slip,” she glared. “Which won’t happen again.” She tapped her taser, “I have clearance from your great aunt to use whatever force necessary to restrain you.”

Emerald’s eyes bugged, “I’m just...”

“Yeah, I know. You’re just a kid.” She held up a disk about the size of her hand. “This is a stun disk. I don’t have to throw it. It has a tiny gravity modifier chip and floats. It’s programmed to seek you. Only you. Once it connects, it doesn’t knock you out, but short-circuits your muscles for a second. Most people just collapse. But someone who’s running away as hard as you do might, you know, end up hitting the floor hard and getting a bloody nose.” She shrugged. “You’re a kid who’s brought all kinds of interesting – baggage with her.” They finished lunch in silence, then Rashida stood up. “Your orientation to SOLAREX is done for now. I’ll be back to tuck you in every night.” Emerald gagged. Rashida smirked. “I’ll also be around for whatever else Vice Captain Marcillon gives me orders for.” She went to the door. “Which means I’m headed for KP now.” She tossed an analyst’s Vorkosigan salute in Emerald’s direction – a two-fingered wave in the general direction of the forehead. “Later, kid.”

She was gone.

Emerald sat on the round chair, staring at the blank wall then stood up and went to the shelf above her bed. Along with her ipik – which held all of her music and a couple of holographic images of Mom, Dad, and the house on the beach at Chicxulub – was a small box, a little bigger than her hand, made of cocobolo wood. Inside was the only thing she still had from the dig: a necklace made of tektites Mom and Dad had gathered from the Crater. Mom had hired an artisan in Puerto Chicxulub to drill tiny holes in them and string them on silver wire. She got it on her tenth birthday.

Emerald put it on, touching it lightly as she stared at a hologram of the three of them mugging at a Chinese restaurant in Merida. She sighed and went to change into the giant T-shirt she used for pajamas.

When she was ready, she said, “Lights out, bed light, on, GADI.” She’d renamed the quarter’s nanny program after finding out the software’s official designation was Global Audio Diary Interface. The acronym was simple and not insulting or annoying. She thought giving it a human name was creepy, though she’d briefly considered calling it Rashida, but she already had her own Human nanny and it didn’t seem fair – to the machine.

The overhead lights dimmed and she read for a while. Finally, she said, “Lights out. ‘night GADI.”

“Good night, Emerald,” said the machine in a voice that sounded suspiciously like Rashida’s. Emerald rolled her eyes and onto her side. She was asleep in minutes.

She dreamed of rainbow cubes spinning in a ring.

A voice whispered in the distance, indistinct, fading out of her hearing then growing stronger again, but she couldn’t make out the words except for one that sounded like “Inamma”.

She didn’t know anyone by that name at the dig site. There were faces, too: a young man with dark, wild hair; a black girl with tightly curled hair and a violet gaze; and eerily, the Asian girl who’d blocked Emerald’s kick in the hospital, though she had black marbles where the retina should be.

GADI said, “Emerald, you have a guest at your door.”

“What?” Emerald said, sitting up in bed, swinging her legs over the side. For a moment, she had no idea where she was. Expecting the soft, slippery surface of her tent floor on beach sand in the Yucatan, she couldn’t figure out why the floor was solid and she was in a room with walls and there was no sunlight setting the tan material to glowing. “Who’s there?”

“This is GADI, Emerald. You have a guest at your door. He identifies himself as Daniel Clayton, Intensive Training leader for Team Twelve. He has authorization as you will be joining Team Twelve today per orders from Vice-Captain Marcillon.”

Emerald’s eyes snapped open. The door twittered again. She stood up, shouting, “Hang on!” and got dressed in sweat pants and a loose shirt by the time she got to the door.

She touched the glowing blue security panel alongside the door and it opened. The man – boy – standing there smiled and said, “Hi. My name’s Daniel Clayton. I’m going to be your Team Twelve leader...”

Emerald stared, her mouth open. His had been the first face to float up in her cube dream. He had dark, curly hair and his eyes were nearly as green as they had been in the dream.

He frowned and said, “What? I forget to wipe my nose this morning?” He brushed at his face, glancing at the sleeve of the dark brown coverall he wore. “Listen, you ready or what?”

“For what?”

“Duty. I’m introducing you to Team Twelve today down at our assignment.” He made to step into the room, but Emerald held her ground. He scowled. “So, you’re not dressed yet.”

“I’m dressed,” Emerald snapped.

“Not for working in the sugarcane fields, kid.”

“I’m not a kid!”

He snorted then said, “Then why aren’t you in uniform? The only people who get to play school are boys and girls. Anyone who isn’t a kid goes to work in an Intensive Training Team.” He shrugged and Emerald noticed the muscles under his coverall. “But, if you’re just a kid, I’ll let Vice-Captain Marcillon know that you should be reassigned to school…”

“No! Wait!” Emerald slapped the door to close it and ran back into her room, pulling open a dresser drawer – all that was there were her old clothes from Earth. She went to the closet and opened it. In front of everything else hung five long-sleeved coveralls of the same brown has Daniel’s. She changed into one, slipped on her tennis shoes, and hurried back to the door.

“I’m ready,” she said as the door opened. There was no one there. “Hello?” She leaned forward and a tall figure jumped out at her. She stumbled backwards and landed on her rear with a little squeak.

Daniel offered his hand. “Sorry. You seemed a little tight. Relax. It’s the only way you’ll live to see your twenty-second birthday and get back to Earth again.” Ignoring his hand, Emerald scrambled to her feet, pulling the coverall down tight again. He nodded. “If that’s the way you want it, let’s go.” He led and she followed him to the elevator and they were alone. “How old are you?” he asked.


“Sorta young for an ITT.” He paused, adding, "But not the youngest."

“If Vice-Captain Marcillon said I should be on a Team, then I guess I’m old enough.”

Daniel lifted an eyebrow and said, “There are seventy-two ITT members. You’re the youngest I’ve ever met. People are supposed to stay on the Team until they turn eighteen, but some of the other Team leaders are almost twenty.”

“How old are you?”

“Almost eighteen.” He paused and tapped a keyboard above the regular elevator buttons.

“What’s that for?”

“Our actual destination. As an ITT leader, I can tell the bolus to deliver us to the exit nearest our official destination. The bolus always orients so that gravity is down – that’s why you get the squishy, rolling motion as we move. That and the fact that it’s mostly organic and slides along on a modified mucus layer.”

Emerald wrinkled her nose again but said, “Where are we going?”


 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 online works, go to For an interview with me about EMERALD OF EARTH, try this:




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