Here is a continuation of a series experiment I’m still fleshing out. A Cooperative prospector had chanced upon a gate that the Sadari had surreptitiously created in the Mori’te system, and ended up being shot down by the Sadari over Terra. This experiment picks up the story where she was gravely injured not just by the violence of the assault, but by chance here on Terra, and her rescue by a recluse with interesting abilities. Ultimately, the goal is to get home. It will, naturally, be an extremely circuitous route, with interference from the Order, from the Sadari, and from regular Terrans themselves. After many challenges, they arrive at at apartment building hoping to enlist the aid of a longtime friend of Travis.
The time period this story takes place would coincide with the timeline between Books 2 and 3 of the Crow series.
Bear in mind, as an experiment, this is a rough draft. Later on I may give it some editing love, but it’s still readable, so enjoy…
They hesitated briefly at the entrance to the apartment highrise. Travis glanced at Li’loa and adjusted the hood of her jacket. For once, he was thankful for the overcast weather. She reached up to help, and he noticed her gloves were not on. “You have to wear your gloves.”
She looked at him blankly. Remembering, he grabbed her hand and repeated himself.
“They feel funny on my hands.” Li’loa looked at her fingers. “I never liked gloves.”
“You don’t wear them back home?”
“Only for certain tasks.” She looked at him. “I avoided those tasks.”
Shaking his head, Travis returned his attention to the door of the apartment complex. The building was a modest, fifteen story apartment highrise owned by shareholders, some who resided there, others who sublet to other tenants. He used to live there. His best friend still lived there. “He’s going to freak when he meets you.”
Li’loa glanced furtively at him. “We really don’t need, I can just keep going.”
“No. Someone is after us and we need help.” Travis looked at her sternly. “Someone knows about you. Cecil can help.”
Li’loa shrugged. A human expression.
Travis smiled, noting their similarities. She was not so alien after all. Even though she was. He keyed the door and ushered her in. There was no foyer or reception area. Just a hall to the bottom story apartments and the elevator. He pressed the up button at the elevator and waited patiently while Li’loa looked around curiously. “Not what you’re used to?”
“A few of our worlds construct like this. Only, more…” she hesitated.
“More advanced.” Travis smirked. “Yeah, we’re still a bit primitive, aren’t we?”
Li’loa pursed her lips, and Travis laughed at her reaction. “Hey, we can’t do that plant thing you do. So, bricks, steel, and concrete for us.” The elevator dinged, opening. They dodged a resident leaving, Li’loa keeping her head down.
“5th floor.” Travis pointed. The panel was closer to Li’loa. She looked at it curiously. He was about to reach when she poked the button with the number five on it. “So, you can read, after all.”
“I saw it in your memory,” Li’loa said, looking nervous as the elevator started ascending. “Is this safe?”
“Almost no one dies in elevators nowadays.” Travis grinned.
She looked sideways at him, frowning. “You’re mocking me.”
“No. Yes. Having a little fun at your expense.” Travis lightly hip-bumped her. She shook her head, grinning at his mirth. “You Terrans are odd.”
“That we are,” Travis said. The elevator stopped, opening to the fifth floor landing. “After you, m’lady.”
Li’loa peeked out the door down the hall, then exited and turned right. Travis followed her, letting her hand go to adjust his jacket. “That door.”
She looked back at him. He pointed. “There.”
Li’loa grabbed the knob of a door and twisted.
“No! The door next to it.” Travis caught up, trying to stop her. The door opened abruptly, revealing a middle-aged man dressed to go out. He flinched and took a step back.
“Sorry! Wrong door,” Travis said sheepishly, pulling Li’loa back and stepping between her and the man. “That one.” She nodded and grabbed the knob on the neighboring door. “No, you need to knock. They’re locked anyway.”
The man looked at them curiously, and Travis tried his best to block his view of Li’loa. “We’re guests here. Sorry.”
“You look familiar. Have we met?” The man adjusted his coat and closed the door behind him.
“I lived here a few years ago. Just visiting my old roommate.” Travis tried to smile disarmingly while Li’loa banged on the door. “No, just knock. Like this.” He knocked on the door. He glanced at the neighbor, laughing nervously. “She’s not from around here.”
“I can tell.” The man hesitated, looking at them oddly. Travis fidgeted, maintaining a smile he hoped was convincing.
Travis jerked and looked around at a slightly overweight man beaming from his open door. “Cecil. I’m so glad you’re home. Can we come in?” He pushed Li’loa into the apartment, glancing furtively at the neighbor. “Sorry to bother you, sir.” The man just stood there, staring at them.
Cecil closed the door behind them after waving at his neighbor. “Dude, you freaked Eliot out.”
“Yeah, about freaking out.” Travis took a breath. “You need to promise not to wig out, okay?”
“Huh?” Cecil took Travis’s jacket and draped it on the couch.
Travis looked at Li’loa and nodded. She timidly pulled her hood back, then removed the jacket. Travis looked back at Cecil. “Her name is Li’loa.”
“Dude.” Cecil gaped, trying hard not to stare. “I’ve never seen… I thought I’d never…”
“You know about them?” Travis looked surprised.
“People with fur?” Cecil shook his head. “Just read about them. They’re on the news once in a while. There’s a word for it, but I can’t remember. I never thought I’d meet one. I can’t imagine how hard it’s been for you, with your condition.”
Travis opened his mouth, then closed it, looking at Li’loa. “Cecil, you might want to look closer.”
“What?” Cecil glanced at Travis. Travis nodded towards Li’loa.
Cecil sighed and returned his attention to Li’loa. “Sorry. He’s weird.” He stopped, at once transfixed by her eyes. “Um, I have coffee…” Blinking, he rubbed his eyes. Travis just grinned. Cecil looked at Travis. “I’m going to get coffee.” He seemed a little woozy.
“Yeah, her eyes do that to me, too.” Travis smirked.
“Don’t be rude. She’s our guest,” Cecil stammered, trying hard to avoid staring at her.
“Gonna go down fighting, huh?” Travis crossed his arms. “Li’loa, do your mind thing.”
Li’loa just looked at him. Travis sighed and grabbed her hand. “Show him where you’re from.”
Li’loa nodded and reached for Cecil’s cheek. He looked at Travis questioningly, then his eyes got big.
“What? What? You’re, what?” Cecil took a step back, waving his hands at something only he could see.
Objects in the apartment seemed to tremble, and Travis looked around, amused. “I think he sees it now.”
Li’loa put her hand on his arm as she looked around. “What is happening?”
“It is hard for Terrans to see you because they don’t believe in you. So, he is having an epiphany.” Travis waved his free hand. Cecil was leaning on his couch, hyperventilating. The couch suddenly lifted from the floor, and Travis pushed it back down. “Come back to us, Cecil. You’re making a mess.”
“He is too big to be an Ordan.” Li’loa said, staring at the couch.
“Ordan?” Travis glanced at her. He saw what he would call a Dwarf in her thoughts.
“They move things like this.” She pointed at the couch.
“Really? That’s so cool.”
“Travis!” Cecil clutched his chest, gaping at Li’loa. “What, what?”
“Yeah. What.” Travis grinned. “You were getting coffee?”
“Shut up!” Cecil tried to calm down. “You’re, you. An… the…”
“What did you show him?” Travis raised a brow.
“My office on Dherring,” Li’loa said.
“An office? He’s freaking over an office?” Travis held his hands out, then grabbed her hand again. “An office?”
“The Ordan on Dherring build similar to this. I thought he would appreciate it.”
“Show me.” Travis closed his eyes. His brows scrunched, and he shook his head, opening his eyes as he stared at Li’loa. “Holy shit. Just, wow. You weren’t kidding. We are primitive. Holy shit.”
“Did she do that mind thing to you?” Cecil pointed at her excitedly. “Did she show you?”
“Yeah. I thought she was going to show you her home. Trees and stuff.” Travis wiped his brow.
“What is she? Where is that?” Cecil started hyperventilating again.
“He asked me what I am?”
“You heard, huh?” Travis looked at her hand on his arm. “Touch him and tell him.”
Li’loa reached for Cecil’s hand. He flinched, but Travis looked at him sternly. Li’loa grasped his hand softly. “I’m sorry I have upset you.”
“What… she’s… you’re thinking to me?”
“I don’t know your language. Nor you mine,” Li’loa said. “I showed you where I work because you live here in this.” She waved her other hand around at the apartment. “We have cities there like this too.”
“No. Not like this.” Cecil shook his head vigorously. “I’m… this… my…” He took in a breath. “My mind is blown. Just… we’re not alone. You’re real.”
Li’loa nodded. “You have never been alone. I am sorry if I have distressed you.”
Cecil laughed, looking at Travis. “She’s apologizing to me. An alien is apologizing to me.”
“I’m just an Elf,” Li’loa said.
“What, like Keebler? Lord of the Rings? I don’t think so,” Cecil said, touching the fur on her hand. “This is real. You’re really furry. Like, on purpose.”
“She has teeth too,” Travis said. Li’loa fidgeted, and Travis noticed. “Sorry, Li’loa, but you had to know this was going to happen.”
“You didn’t have a problem with me.”
“Yeah, I’m weird.”
“Oh, I so don’t have a problem with you,” Cecil gushed. “I’m… we’re not alone. You have no idea how paramount that is. How big this is.”
“How secret this needs to stay,” Travis said sternly.
“Hey, I’ll take it to my grave,” Cecil said flippantly. He sobered and looked down.
“You’re sick,” Li’loa said, looking concerned.
Cecil removed his knit cap, exposing a shiny scalp. “Cancer.”
“Shit. Dude!” Travis half stood up.
Cecil waved him back down. “Been doing chemo. Hopefully…”
“It’s not working,” Li’loa said. “I can smell it. I wasn’t sure.”
“Um…” Travis hesitated, not sure what to say.
“Alien. We’re talking about an alien.” Cecil waved his hand at Li’loa. “And lots of them?”
“We have over a thousand worlds in our society.” Li’loa squinted at him. She glanced at something in the air and waved her hand at it. Cecil and Travis looked at each other. “It’s actually nothing. This is killing you?”
“Nothing? It’s cancer,” Travis said, exasperated. He looked in the air, trying to see what Li’loa saw. She noticed.
“Here, touch this.” She held out a small brass cylinder.
“What is… oh crap!” Travis gaped as he sat back on the couch. He looked around them in the air at a half dozen holographic representations of data. “Is that what you were…?” He waved his hand at one, then jerked back when the data moved.
“I’m not a physician, but I do have basic medical aid. For emergencies.” Li’loa moved the data back. She reached into her pocket and pulled out a small brass patch. “There is an anomaly your defense system could not counter. Garbage collection seems to have broken down.”
“What?” Cecil stared at her as she placed the patch on his neck. He glanced at Travis. “Garbage?”
“When cells misbehave.” Li’loa retrieved the patch and put it back in her pocket. The displays vanished, and she put the brass cylinder in her pocket, too. “There. You may feel stuffy for a few days, but that will clear up.”
“Did you just…” He felt his neck, staring at her. “Did you just do alien shit to me? What was that?”
Li’loa shrugged. “Just some basic corrections. Your defensive system should work much better now.”
“Defensive.” Cecil left the implied question hanging.
“Immune system?” Travis looked at Cecil’s neck. “Not a mark. What was that?”
“A deployment patch.” Li’loa sat back on the couch, looking at Cecil. “I’m sorry I have disrupted your day.”
“You healed me?”
“Yes.” Li’loa nodded.
“Girl, I was dying. Stage four.” Cecil rubbed his neck again, trembling. “This has to be a dream.”
Li’loa fidgeted, then looked at Travis. “Is there somewhere I can void myself?”
“Void… oh, you have to pee?” Travis blinked. “I thought that was me.” He pointed. “Through that bedroom. Door is near the back.” He squinted at Cecil. “You never sublet? I’ve been gone for five years.”
Cecil shook his head, watching Li’loa walk briskly into Travis’s old bedroom. “I couldn’t find anyone like you.”
“There is no one like me.” Travis grinned. “Cancer. I’m so sorry you had to go through that alone.”
“Alien. I’m so sorry you got to…” Cecil started sarcastically, then stopped, looking at the ceiling. “How did you meet her, anyway?” Cecil pointed.
“Dolly found her.” Travis looked back into the bedroom. “Caught in a bear trap.”
“Ouch. Not the first encounter I would have wanted.” Cecil shook his head. “Dude, there is an alien peeing in my toilet!”
“There’s more happening here. She got shot down by another alien. And there are people here that are looking for her.” Travis sighed. “Not the first encounter anyone would have wanted.”
“Other aliens?” Cecil stood up. The couch abruptly floated to the ceiling, forcing Travis to jump off.
“Cecil. I hate it when you do that.”
“I wasn’t touching it.” Cecil looked up. The couch lowered back to the floor. “I always had to touch it.”
“Really?” Travis poked the couch, then flinched at a knock on the door.
“Hold up,” Cecil said.
“Remember, she’s a secret.”
“Duh.” Cecil rolled his eyes as he looked out the peephole. He opened the door. “Mr. Coleman?”
“Your neighbor? Eliot?” Travis sat up straight. “He’s not angry, is he?”
“Hardly.” Eliot walked in. “I knew I remembered you.”
“How can we help you?” Cecil said, stepping back as another man walked in.
“Definitely.” The new man nodded.
“Thanks, Andy. I wasn’t sure. But now I am.” Eliot looked at Cecil. “You and I have something to discuss.” He squinted, then turned to face Travis. “And you too.”
“Discuss?” Travis glanced nervously at the bedroom.
“Yes. Nothing to be alarmed about.” Eliot looked at Andy, who promptly left the apartment. “I’ve been watching you for a…” He stopped, cocking his head. “Is Steven here?”
“Steven Crow. It feels like he is here.” He turned his head to the side, then walked into the bedroom. “Steven? I thought you went to the Sanctuary with Roland.”
“There’s no…” Travis started, then stopped when Eliot backed up slowly, gaping.
“You’re real. You cannot be real.”
Li’loa followed him out.
“This cannot be. You’re just Steven’s fantasy. His coping method.” Eliot started sweating profusely, leaning on the couch. “What he said, it’s all real.”
Li’loa said something and Travis rushed to her, grabbing her hand. “He was not supposed to find me. He must forget.”
“Yes, he must. But…” Travis stopped. “No, no messing with his memories. Just, that’s not right.”
“You’re talking to her?” Eliot said, pointing.
“She doesn’t know our language, but our thoughts have no language. Or something like that,” Travis said. “Just ideas.”
Eliot sat hard on the couch, gaping. “This is really happening.”
Cecil coughed. “Mr. Coleman, what did you want?”
Eliot glanced at Cecil, then sighed. “Sit down. You too, Travis.” He looked at Li’loa.
“Her name is Li’loa,” Travis said, sitting down on the loveseat. Li’loa sat on the armrest, holding his hand.
“You share thoughts. Or is she?”
“Huh?” Travis crinkled his brows.
“Some of us can share thoughts,” Eliot said. He scratched at his pants, clearly divided. “Okay, you’re not… normal. You’ve known that all your life. You too, Cecil.” Eliot nodded at Cecil, struggling to tear his eyes away from Li’loa. “How you two found each other is just amazing. I think we are attracted to each other.”
“We are called Evos. We exhibit our identity in various ways,” Eliot said. “I can sense Evos. Andy is similar, but he also amplifies us.”
“What, like mutants?” Cecil laughed. “Marvel might come knocking.”
“Nothing so cheeky as that.” Eliot grinned. He leaned forward. “Travis, what is your oddity?”
Travis grimaced, looking at Cecil. “Mr. Coleman…”
“Eliot. I, um, I just…” Travis shrugged. “I feel people. And animals.”
Eliot sat back. “Feel people.”
“You know, but you want me to explain it.”
“You really do feel people. Excellent. You’re an empath. Cecil?”
“I kinda move stuff. By touching it.”
“We all do.” Eliot grinned.
“No, I mean,” Cecil grimaced. The couch they were sitting on abruptly lifted to the ceiling, forcing Eliot to duck down.
“Wow.” Eliot looked at Cecil, who was also ducked down. “That is potent.”
“Yeah. Um, but I don’t have to touch things anymore. I mean, I could make stuff jiggle, but now I can do this without touching.” The couch lowered to the floor.
“I can’t tell you how many times I woke up with my face on the ceiling. I had to put a lock on my bedroom door.” Travis grumbled.
“It doesn’t seem to have disrupted your lives.” Eliot glanced at Travis.
Travis fidgeted. “It, people were too much for me. I moved away for a while. They’re just, too much. Like, a real mess. Li’loa here is a cakewalk compared to you guys.”
“We can help with that.” Eliot nodded. “There’s an organization that can train you, help you control it. If it gets too bad, we can send you to a mission that will give you time to come to grips with it.”
Travis raised his brows. “Mission. That Sanctuary place?”
“How’d you know about that?” Eliot sat up straight.
“You said you sent a Steven Crow there.” Travis waved his free hand.
Eliot pursed his lips, returning his attention to Li’loa. “She feels like him. I thought he was here. Yes, I sent him there. He was having problems coping. But now that I am looking at… I may have made a mistake.” He leaned forward. “Asherah?”
Li’loa shook her head. Eliot looked at her hand grasping Travis’s. “You communicate through touch?”
“May I?” Eliot held his hand out. Li’loa glanced at Travis, then moved to sit next to Eliot. “Wow, you are incredible.”
“Thanks.” Li’loa smiled.
Eliot almost flinched. “It’s true. It’s all true. I am just floored.”
“I did not mean to cause any trouble.” Li’loa said apologetically.
“Oh, dear. You have opened up a whole new reality for us.” Eliot patted her hand. He looked at Cecil and Travis. “We must keep her secret. We have seen how people react to us. She would suffer even worse.”
“Yeah, about that. She’s… not the only one,” Travis said. “She was shot down from space. And someone has been dogging us since we’ve been traveling.”
“Shot down?” Eliot looked at Li’loa. “By who?”
“The Sadari are here,” Li’loa said, somber. “We had been at war with them thousands of years ago.”
Eliot’s eyes got wide. “And they are here?”
Li’loa nodded. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know. I was just prospecting in the Mor’ite system and suddenly I was over Terra and being shot at.”
“A new cloud of asteroids had entered the system and our surveyors found useful mineral deposits in them. I am head of a team that extracts these minerals. I was going there to verify it and plan the extraction.”
“Head of…” Eliot shook his head. “You, how old are you? You can’t be over twenty years old.”
Li’loa closed her eyes briefly. “About a hundred and sixty of your years, I think. You’re right. I’m still quite young for the position I hold.”
“Young my ass.” Eliot laughed. “You are so special.”
Li’loa fidgeted. “Back home, I am not. I prefer it that way.”
Eliot looked at her for a moment, then nodded his head. “Sorry. You are right. We have had the same problem for hundreds of years.” He looked at Cecil. “This is a very unique situation. You said you can do more stuff than before?”
“Just after she arrived?” Eliot looked at Li’loa. “Are there pathogens we should be worried about?”
“She healed me. I think.” Cecil said. “I was… cancer. I have… had cancer.”
“She has technology.”
“Just minor cleanup of his genetics, and a boost to his immune system,” Li’loa said. “We do that frequently.”
“We don’t,” Eliot said. “You may have amped him. Our boss would be interested in that.”
“Boss?” Cecil said. “I have a job.”
“Eyes Open. An oversight organization Evos started. You remain at your job. I’m still a psychologist, after all. But we are a family too, and look out for each other.” Eliot smiled. “You’re not alone.”
Travis looked at Li’loa. “Oh, we are indeed not alone.”