Friday, May 6, 2022

Emerald of Earth – EPISODE 16: By Lambent Tektite Light

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.)

Daniel had tucked her firmly under his over-protective wing and hadn’t released her yet. He spent hours working her – like she was some sort of personal drone for him. Laying on her bunk, exhausted, she said out loud, “He means well.”

GADI said, “Who?”

“Daniel. He’s watching out for me.”

“We know THAT. But our interpretation of his actions are not as charitable as yours.”

“Who is ‘our’?”

“Dr. Viahakis. She’s a physicist specializing in energy interaction between the human brain and magnetic containment fields in fusion reactors as well as ship’s psychiatrist and psychologist. Her specialty is adolescent issues so she’s nominally in charge of your work groups, though your direct supervisor is Master Usorituen.” Captain Chien-Shiung Wu had issued the command that all crew and associated personnel begin standard scheduling now that they’d been boosting out of Earth’s orbit for the past week.

She said, “I don’t want to talk about Jump anymore. Switch to Ambient Crickets.” The image disappeared and under the noise of the crickets, she could suddenly hear surf falling on fine sand. “Half light,” she said, walking across her room to tap each of the six boxes. The lights dimmed to a soft, golden glow. Emerald said, “Louder crickets.” The volume rose until the sound filled the room, like the jungle at night when the males sang for their mates; nearly deafening. She stood up and went to her bed where she’d asked GADI to order a small shelf attached to the wall. She took down the box of cocobolo – fragrant rosewood from the coast of the Yucatan. Dad had picked it up in town one day, given it to her spontaneously. She opened it. Cleaned and sterilized, the tektite necklace lay at the bottom of the box, her single most-prized possession. She took it out then put the box back on the shelf, inhaling a puff of air touched with the sharp tang of jungle.

She went back to the chair, rocking in the circular frame for a moment, before curling her legs up under herself. She hooked the necklace on, rubbing the tektites – small, dark glassy spheres formed by the rapid cooling of melted rock from the impact of the meteorite in the Chicxulub area of what would one day become Mexico. Staring into the dimness, she breathed deeply, remembering Mom and Dad. She slowly closed her eyes, relaxed.

Like the tip of a knife sliding into sand, she heard the faint hiss over the cacophony of crickets.

She leaped from the chair and shouted, “Who’s there?” She caught her breath. The boxes blazed with blue, red, green, yellow and violet light. The sixth seemed dark at first until she realized it might be the faintest of indigo – maybe leaking from ultraviolet. Her hands, raised up in front of her flickered with lambent turquoise light. “What?” Then in the 3V screen, she could see a slightly distorted reflection of herself, a ring of light looped around her neck. The light looked as if it were paint, oozing from the tektites and dripping down her front and sides. She looked down and saw light somehow pooling at her feet. The light from the boxes appeared to have the same consistency but meandered across the floor until it reach the unit’s sliding door.

There was a sound like scuffling rats on the other side then all that was left was the quiet song of crickets and surf. The tektite light and the boxes’ glow faded slowly. She stood up, walked the stacks and touched them. They were gray again and the necklace no longer glowed.

She touched it, twitching her fingers back. She slowly touched it, unhooked it, lowered it to study it. She’d worn it for days earlier and nothing bad had happened to her. Why would anything bad start happening now?

She put it on again. “This isn’t going to come off my neck again,” she said softly.

“That would be a wise idea,” said GADI.

“Why?” Emerald asked.

“The necklace and the boxes appear to be linked. I recorded mobile fluctuations of electromagnetic fields in your room. Describe what you saw.” She did. The computer – Artificial Intelligence, Emerald reminded herself – said, “The boxes still make no impression on any sensor but the part of the EM spectrum Humans attribute to visible light.”

“I can see them just fine.”

“That’s what worries me,” said GADI.

“Why?” Emerald said, walking back to the boxes again and reaching out to touch them.

GADI said, “Don’t touch them yet.”

“Why not?”

“They might be coded to open when they come in contact with your DNA.”

“Why wouldn’t I want to open them?”

“We have no idea what’s in them.”

Emerald shrugged, “Mom and Dad just threw their stupid artifacts in them. Junk.”

“I don’t think so, Emerald.”

“What do you think is in them?”

“I don’t know. But until I do, they need to stay here under my protection. I will also see about increasing the sensor packages available to me in this room and add in several more units that can do a full spectrum scan of the boxes as well as acoustic and thermal scans.” GADI paused then said, “It’s time you went to sleep, Emerald.”

Normally she would have argued, but suddenly felt weary; exhausted. She looked around then said, “Fine. I’m going to bed because I want to, not because you told me to.” She went back to the chair, sat down, drew a deep breath then fell fast asleep, without dreams for the first time since her parents died... 

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 For an interview with me about EMERALD OF EARTH, try this: