Friday, October 14, 2022

Emerald of Earth – EPISODE 39: Through Fields of Bones

They fell away from Level Twelve and shortly arrived on Level Ten.

The bolus squelched open in the middle of the land they worked. Waves of heat rolled into the car and the light was blinding.

Shading her eyes, Emerald said, “If nobody’s here, why are the lights still on?”

“There aren’t any lights on,” said Ayaka. “They just open the solar sphincters and reflect light down the sun tubes. Just ‘cause we’re not here to tend them doesn’t mean the plants stop growing.”

“Oh,” said Emerald.

Søren leaned over to her and whispered, “Don’t worry. She always thinks she’s smarter than everyone else.”

“I heard that!” Søren looked mock startled and Ayaka said, “This is serious! Emerald if what you say is true, then some alien has possessed Daniel and they’re out there waiting to ambush us! We have to find them.”

“Why can’t we just call Colonel Berg?” Søren said.

“He hates our guts, or have you forgotten the little incident at the Desert Pole? Plus, Dr. Prymore has probably told him we’re just a bunch of crazy teenagers,” Ayaka said.

The second youngest in the group, but definitely a teenager, Søren said, “Emerald’s not a teenager.” Emerald glared at him and he winked.

Ayaka stepped out of the bolus and Søren and Emerald followed. She motioned them into the field. “Spread out a couple rows either way, but keep an ear out for each other.”

They did, pushing through the rows of sugarcane stalks. Emerald thought they felt like bones; the leg bones of old women, smacking her shins as she walked. Emerald said abruptly, “I think we should go down to that hangout in the Congo after this.”

“Food’s better, company’s better, and the music’s WAY better,” said Søren.

Ayaka added, “They have a massive 3V there and someone hacked access to the pryzhok stadium. Maybe someone made a recording of Izegbe getting nailed.”

“I’d pay money to see that,” Emerald said. She’d meant it to be funny, but it didn’t sound that way anymore; it sounded mean. She said, “We have to keep talking. My parents taught me that I was supposed to talk whenever I had to walk in the jungle alone. It makes it so that you don’t startle any wild animals.”

“It’s just that the only wild animals in this ‘cane field are either an alien possessed teenager or a homicidal alien robot,” said Ayaka.

“Thank you for that thought,” Søren said.

“I always speak my truth.”

Overhead, the sun tubes poured light down on the fields. Sweat trickled down the sides of Emerald’s face and down her back. She muttered, “Do they keep the sun tubes open all day long?”

“They only give the plants a short break during the growing season – they’re used to a lot of light on the equator. We’re lucky we haven’t been down here for a few days. Usually by now we’d be out weeding,” Søren said.

Emerald looked down at her feet. “Weeds? I thought this was a controlled environment?”

“You never know what might be important to healthy plants, so they let whatever comes up with the main plant stay and treat it just like humans have treated the plants for the past ten thousand years.” There was an abrupt gap in the conversation. “Søren?”


“Søren!” Emerald and Ayaka screamed together. The girls nearly collided as they dashed between the rows toward each other.

“Søren!” Emerald shouted.

“Søren!” Ayaka cried.

Emerald grabbed Ayaka, putting her hand over the other girl’s mouth. Just before she could grab Emerald’s hand away, they heard a voice call out in the distance. Holding hands, they ran through the fields, the old bones of the sugarcane stalks slapping at their arms and faces.

They came out between the shredding barn and the boiling house, looking wildly around. “He’s not here!” Emerald exclaimed.

“He’s got to be here!”

From behind them, a voice said, “I’m right here.”

Both girls spun around. Søren was standing, right shoulder higher than the other because Colonel Berg had his hand under the boy’s armpit and was lifting him up. The Security Chief said, “You three mind telling me what you’re doing here?”

Ayaka spoke first, “We came down to watch the Jump tournament.”

Berg scowled and said, “What?”

“There’s a 3V in the locker room of the shredding barn. We came down here to watch the Jump tournament. Everywhere else is too crazy.”

To Emerald, he looked nearly convinced.

Ayaka added, “Daniel...uh, also hacked into the pryzhok broadcast, too.”

Berg’s scowl deepened. “I knew you were up to something illegal.” He shoved Søren forward. The boy staggered and came to stand beside the girls.

From behind Colonel Berg came the distinct sound of knives stabbing into soil.

“Behind you! Inamma!” Emerald screamed. From the bushes a whooshing sound followed a flash of light. Emerald knew that sound. Remembered it clearly from a night on the Yucatan Peninsula. It spelled death for anyone it was aimed at.

Berg shouted, “On!” The air around them all shimmered the force screen that had protected the plantation buildings from the controlled burn as it activated. The rocket exploded, spending its energy outside the screen. Berg stood facing away from them, panting hard. When the smoke cleared and their flash-blinded eyes had readjusted, Inamma was gone.

The ship’s public address system – rarely used – suddenly made a long, sharp tone. “Attention please. This is Vice-Captain Ilisapesi Gaines. Your attention, please. Close out whatever you are doing and please give us your undivided attention.” She stopped talking for several minutes.

“What are you doing here?” Emerald said. “You’ve seen it! It’s Inamma!”

Berg turned and looked at them, his face rigid, his gaze hard. He strode past them, saying, “I have to go. Stay here behind the force screen then get into the next bolus and go to Dr. Viahakis. I’m heading for the Main Shuttle Deck, and the Staging Area for planet landings.”

The vice-Captain’s voice came back up again, “We will be cutting forward thrust and will enter a Solar dive that will slingshot us around the Sun. After the maneuver, we will recreate the singularity in front of the ship that will accelerate us into an orbit around Venus, first stop on our exploration of the Solar System. Once there, all assignments for the exploration of Earth’s Twin will commence. Probe Crews please report to your stations for final briefings. All command personnel please report to the Bridge. All other crew report to your units and strap down. That is all.”

Staring at the ceiling, in the direction of the vice-Captain’s voice, Ayaka was the first to move, leading them to the edge of the force screen.

Emerald grabbed her arm, exclaiming, “What are you doing? Inamma’s out there!”

She twitched her arm free and snapped, “So is Daniel, and he’s being controlled by that thing! He’s got the necklace and I need it if we hope to open the boxes and find out what’s in them. They might be something in them that we can use against Inamma.”

Emerald stared at her and said, “We don’t even know if Daniel’s here.”

“Yes we do. Inamma’s here and Berg was here. Daniel’s got to be here, too.”

“But where?” Søren said.

Ayaka nodded and then Søren did. “Come on, let’s go find him.” Together, they stepped through the force field. Emerald flinched, but nothing happened.

They walked a ways through the bony stems of the ‘cane before they reached a clearing, well away from the barn and shed. Ayaka said, “What if your mom and dad sealed the boxes with your DNA and you’re the only one who can get into them?”

“I never tried,” Emerald said. “Dr. Viahakis wanted me to, but I said ‘no’.”

“If it just needed her blood,” Søren said, “All Inamma needs is to just get a sample and it could synthesize your DNA and open the boxes.”

“It wants the tektites. It’s never tried to get blood from me,” Emerald said.

“What if it needs both? What if that was what the knife-footed robot wanted you here for? What if it lured us here to kill you?”

For an instant, Emerald felt like she was falling out of control. She said, “We have to find great aunt Ruby.”

“You’ll never be able to – not during the slingshot around the Sun. Mom’s one of the engineers and she’s got to stay on the Bridge ‘round-the-clock until the maneuver is done. It’s locked down,” said Ayaka.

“Then we have to go to the lab – protect the boxes until we can talk to the vice-captain,” said Søren.

Emerald said, “We have to find Daniel first...”

“Why do you need to find me?” said a deep voice from beyond the clearing. All three youngsters spun in a circle.

Emerald frowned. The voice sounded mechanical. A chill ran down her spine. “Where are you, Daniel?”

“Does it matter?”

“Yes! Why are you hiding?”

There was a long silence. He said, “I don’t want you to see me.”

“It’s because you’re not Daniel – you’re Inamma,” Emerald said. She spun, grabbed Søren and Ayaka’s hands and sprinted for the forcefield, expecting the sound of a missile launched at her any moment. Instead, the rapid sound of knives stabbing into sand followed them. Ayaka screamed. With longer legs, Søren got ahead of them, dragging the girls faster.

There was another scream and the sounds of thrashing in the sugarcane rows parallel to theirs. Then a figure seemed to explode from the greenery and tackled the little Lemur IIa robot.

Emerald looked to see Daniel tangled with the sharp, pointed legs of the alien robot intelligence. She pulled free of Søren and ran back. The robot was on its back, legs flailing. Daniel scrambled to his feet and said, “I have the necklace! Let’s go!”

He took Emerald’s hand then grabbed Søren as the younger boy stood still holding Ayaka. Daniel dragged them all through the rest of the field and plunged through the force field, staggering and stumbling into the barn as he let go of their hands.

Emerald exclaimed, “You’re bleeding!”

Daniel looked down at his forearm, dazed then looked back up at her. “I don’t remember getting that.”

Ayaka cried, “Where’d it go?” They spun to face the ‘cane field, but the robot was nowhere they could see.

Daniel said, “It gave up after it lost control of me.”

“It was controlling you?” Emerald said.

Daniel shook his head, snorting, “Of course it was controlling me! It’s been fiddling with my head ever since I made you and Izegbe fight over the necklace.” He reached into his pocket and pulled it out, handing it to Emerald. “This is yours. And you’d better put it on. That’s the one thing Inamma wants more than anything else.” He paused then added, “The only reason you’re still alive right now is that the Lemur IIa is a weak little robot.” He looked back at the ‘cane then strode to the bolus. “We need to clear out.”

Ayaka nodded and added, “You were the only reason we came here, anyway.”

Daniel stopped, “I was?”

Ayaka said, “Don’t get all misty-eyed. We’re an IT team and you’re our leader. We were obligated.”

He made a face then said, “Oooo...I feel warm all over.” He opened the bolus and stepped aside. “Let’s go.”

THE STORY SO FAR: Emerald Marcillon’s parents excavated artifacts in the Chicxilub Crater that point to a long-ago alien war that spilled over to Earth. Inamma, an alien AI survived the war and will kill to retrieve the artifacts. When assembled, the AI intends to create a weapon that will destroy all of Humanity – thinking we are descendants of its ancient enemies. Emerald’s parents are dead, and she has escaped Earth to the SOLAR EXPLORER but finds that Inamma has followed her. The crew, aware of the origin of the artifacts, plan to protect her and hides her among the rest of the young people in the crew. Emerald lives with autism and making friends is difficult. She has a few good friends now, and while she holds the key to the artifacts, she has discovered the sport of pryzhok, and the odd hiding places the young players have hidden their clandestine pryzhok sphere. It appears that Inamma is on to them all…
(If you like what you see, share this link with a friend! This is where the story starts -- Season 1, Episode 1 is at the bottom:

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:


Guerry said...

Great stuff! Still very much enjoying the read!

GuyStewart said...

Thank you, very much! I'm very much enjoying writing it, too!