Friday, May 20, 2022

Emerald of Earth – EPISODE 18 ...and OUT of the Manure Pit...

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 nodded and walked around the edge, noting the rungs of a ladder that led down into it. She also stopped at the machine where Ayaka stood. A rack of purple-capped test tubes lay in a full tray, a red light blinking. Emerald reached out to pick it up, saying, “Where do I take these?”

Ayaka slapped her hand. The test tube rack fell to the ground, two of the tubes breaking open. She snarled, “Now look what you’ve done!”

“Me? I was just asking where they were supposed to go! You slapped my hands!”

“I did not! You dropped ‘em, you clumsy infant!” She looked at Izegbe, “She dropped ‘em ‘cause she’s a clumsy infant, didn’t she Izzie?”

Izegbe’s eyes had grown large, the whites of her eyes stark against her dark skin. She stepped back.

As they heard the bolus open on the far side of the boiling shed and the buzz of a returning four-wheeler, Ayaka launched herself at Emerald. The girls weren’t very different in mass despite the age difference, but Emerald couldn’t kick because of the thick rubber waders she wore. Ayaka bowled her over instead.

Then it seemed like there was a crowd around them.

“Cat fight! Cat fight!” someone shouted – not a voice Emerald recognized. Head high stalks of sugarcane screened a dozen teenagers from SOLAR EXPLORER’s security cameras.

She and Ayaka rolled on the ground, hampered by rubber boots and heavy gloves as well as goggles strapped on their heads. Ayaka dug her fingers under the necklace and yanked. The wire cut into Emerald’s neck and she yelped, flailing. But Emerald saw when Ayaka danced away from the fight, she dangled the tektite necklace over the edge of The Pit.

Scrambling to her feet, Emerald shouted, “Give that back!”

Ayaka didn’t smirk. She was deadly intent. Daniel stood at the back of the group, his face slack, eyes unfocused, almost like he was dazed or high. He stepped forward, grabbed Ayaka by the wrist hard enough to elicit a shriek from the girl and pulled the necklace free, saying in a clam voice, “From your locker, of course. Where else would she have gotten it? You should lock the door, you know.” His face animated a bit and he managed a smirk as he said, “You can have it back, though. All you gotta do is beat Ayaka to a pulp.”

“I’m not gonna fight anyone,” Emerald snarled, stepping farther from Ayaka. Enraged, the other girl was looking back and forth between Emerald and Daniel. The older girl had landed one good punch to Emerald’s face. She’d felt a trickle from her bloodied nose and licked it away.

“Then you’re gonna get killed.” He shoved Ayaka at Emerald. They grappled then Emerald threw her off. Ayaka had a split lip. Besides her own blood, she was smeared with Emerald’s as well.

It was shift change, so Team Four had shown up about then as well. The two IT Teams had formed a semi-circle, pinning Emerald, Daniel and Izegbe between the line of bodies and the pit.

Emerald said, “Oh, that would just make everyone’s day, wouldn’t it? I’d get confined to quarters after you all swear I beat up Ayaka!”

“No one will tell,” said Daniel. “Lay her out and I’ll give you your jewelry back.” He dangled the tektite necklace over the manure pit. His green eyes were dull, but his face was flush with more than sunburn as he watched the girls. He said, “Fight or I drop it!”

“What happened to you?” Emerald shouted. Daniel’s face went blank and he blinked rapidly but he didn’t move, standing as if he were frozen in place. Emerald wiped her bloody nose. Besides Ayaka, who had a legitimate quarrel with her she’d never even met Team Four.

The six boys mostly stood at the back – and the kid she’d seen in the Core, Zech something stood apart from all of them. The six girls cheered Ayaka on.

“Knock her off her high horse!” Coraline Maine from Team Four shouted – she was Daniel’s current girlfriend.

“Show her who’s boss!” Izegbe snarled. For the first time since coming aboard SOLAREX, she regretted decking Ayaka the day she’d arrived. She could have used a friend right about now.

Daniel said, again without much enthusiasm, “Fight or the necklace goes into the pit.”

“I’ll fish it out!” Emerald screamed.

He turned on Ayaka, who didn’t move and was blinking rapidly, too, saying, “What are you, chicken, Ayaka? You ain’t gonna pay her back for trying to take your head off?” Daniel said softly.

Ayaka looked at him for a few moments then said, “How do you know what happened? You weren’t there...”

Three of the girls and five of the boys shot Daniel a look. But he was oldest and the leader. Team Four’s leader, Cordelia McMaster hardly said a word to anyone. She led by doing, not by bragging and rarely confronted anyone. Especially not Daniel, but she wouldn’t directly stand up to him in a face off and she demurred now.

He was biggest and strongest even though they’d all been cutting sugarcane by machete for months now. “Come on girls, fight!”

Ayaka glared at Emerald.

Holding her taekwondo stance, Emerald locked gazes with Ayaka and said, “No one cares what I say, why would you?”

Ayaka’s lips thinned slowly and she straightened up, looked at Daniel and spat. “You can get off with something else, Team Leader. I’ll beat her up when I feel like it – not when you tell me to.” She spun and walked away.

“What? No fight? Then you can go swimming for your necklace, Em!” Before he could open his hand, Emerald charged, grabbing for the pathetic looking piece of jewelry that held her past. He shouted an obscenity and crouched. Emerald’s shoulder plowed into his and together, they plunged into the manure pit.

The liquid manure was only half a meter deep and Emerald landed on her hands and knees. He landed on his back, only his hands and feet sticking out of the grayish-brown slurry.

Daniel didn’t move at first, and Emerald couldn’t see the necklace. She scrambled to her feet.

Standing on the ledge, his knees level with her head, Dagur Fjarlson, one of the Team Four boys pointed and said, “About a meter to your left.” He stood up then and walked away.

Mouth clamped shut, Emerald crawled in the right direction. A girl from Team Four, Zoe Newton-Orr, said, “It’s sinking next to your left shoulder.” Emerald gingerly plucked the necklace with her right hand before it vanished. When she looked up, Zoe was gone.

“About four more meters, same direction, the floor angles up a bit. Ladder’s recessed into the wall. Boiling house is straight ahead. The girl’s showerhead farthest back has the hottest water but mixes with cold water from outside,” said Mikhail from the edge of The Pit. “Just in case you were wondering.” He stuck his hands into his coverall pockets and watched her slog through the liquid manure. Emerald looked up at Mikhail and snarled, “I don’t need your help!”

“Right then, you’re doin’ fine,” he said, turning away as well, laughing.

Behind her, Daniel groaned. Glancing over her shoulder, Emerald could see that Daniel had finally surfaced. He was still sitting butt down, clean hands in the air.

Emerald climbed out of the manure pit and when she emerged, everyone was gone. Looking down at Daniel, who was still sitting in the pit, a smile flitted across her filthy face. No one had bothered to stay around to help him get out.


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 online works, go to https://faithandsciencefiction.blogspot.com/. For an interview with me about EMERALD OF EARTH, try this: http://www.writersandauthors.info/2015/09/interview-with-guy-stewart.html
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