Progress is happening with Warrior. I’m in the final editing, and am going to be looking into the cover art.
Critics might notice I’ve changed some of my styles since Transition–mostly ’cause of a better knowledge of gramma, and more daring to let my editing software scream all it wants when something I think matches the character doesn’t agree with the rules.
As for WHEN, I know “soon” isn’t going to work so I’ll say I’m hoping for the next few months. I’d like to say weeks, but I’ve already stepped back on so many promises I’m embarrassed.
Meanwhile, as I hoped to do last year, below is the prologue for Warrior.
For those who celebrate, have a Merry Christmas, and–to all–a Happy New Year!
Parched Earth, Green Corn: Warrior
“I love you.”
Those were the last words Dr’sey had said before he, Hart, Caroline and Mary-Lynn, and the fields and mountains of the Pisgah Forest faded to white. Then the white faded away and Morel found hirself in a strange room, feeling confused as nausea came to hir in waves.
Zie grasped hir stomach, making a growl that became a groan as zie fought the urge to vomit. Soon—after what seemed minutes, but was merely seconds—the nausea eased, but the confusion remained as zie found hirself in a strange room.
“How did I get here?”
The room was about 23 feet wide by 40 feet long. Zie was facing a wall of shelves eight feet high, but the wall behind the shelves curved inward as it rose from the floor. Morel lifted hir gaze and followed the curve as the wall became the ceiling, filled with banks of pipes and trays of electrical conduit running along it from left to right—each branching away to curve along the side of the wall to the floor. Below the piping and trays hung a long rectangular ventilation duct, interspersed by vents.
Concern filled hir. “Where am I?” zie asked.
Zie remembered buildings used by the military in World War Two—Quonset huts. Was zie inside such a building?
Then came a voice: “Hello, Morel.”
Morel recognized the voice, but had only heard it in hir thoughts. Now, it came from behind hir.
Zie whirled to the sound and took a breath—shocked at seeing the man standing there.
“Don’t worry, Morel,” he said. “You are safe here.”
He stood over six feet tall and wore tan coveralls similar to denim, with a wide brown belt at his waist.
But the color of his face and hands were blue, his irises were almost black, and his sclera gray. His hair was long and light blue, done in dreadlocks that flowed over his shoulders.
“You… are Q’rellian?” zie asked.
He grinned, his white teeth set out against the blue-gray of his lips. “Yes, Morel,” he said. “I know my appearance shocks you, but don’t be frightened. You know about us—you mentioned it the first time I communicated with you—when you were in Huntsman’s jail and asked Dr’sey if I was one of the legendary Blue-Skinned People.”
He shrugged. “I am. Like you, I am likely affected by climate change. My blood carries a higher level of methemoglobin than most humans. Methemoglobin is a hemoglobin that carries iron, making my blood unable to release oxygen very well. As a result, my skin is purplish and my blood appears dark brown. It’s like a rare genetic mutation called methemoglobinemia.”
He smiled, tugging at his hair. “My hair is blue because I color it,” he said.
Morel cocked hir head, curious. “You say ‘like me’—how do you mean?”
“You suffer an Intersex condition called Hudson Syndrome, which you call fem’an. But the belief that your bottom is male and your top is female is wrong. Many cells in your body have a condition called Mosaicism. Some cells have XX chromosomes and others have XY. Mosaicism is why you have the legs, arms and shoulders of a man, and the hips, abdomen and chest of a woman—and a… mixture at your pelvis. The cellular structure is the same in all fem’ans, which interests researchers.
“I suffer Deviated Methemoglobin Syndrome, or DMS. But—just as they call you fem’an—Terrans call us ‘Blue-Skinned People’. We prefer ‘br’sjed’, a word for brown blood. Thousands of us exist.”
“What do you mean, ‘Terran’?”
He gave a deep chuckle. “Terran are humans living on Earth—it’s a better word than earthling.”
“I don’t understand…”
“You will understand soon as you arrive at Z’t’sha—you’ll find many new things to learn there.”
Morel twisted hir lips in a smirk, hoping zie would learn soon. Hir head was already spinning from the little zie had learned in these few minutes!
“And climate change caused our conditions?”
“We believe so, Morel. Neither syndrome existed before climate change. Scientists aren’t certain what caused us—they tried to study the phenomenon, but politicians wouldn’t fund the studies—they felt it unnecessary.”
“If DMS affects carrying oxygen, how is your health? Can you breathe well?”
“Some br’sjed have higher levels of methemoglobin, which affects their health,” Q’rellian said. “Some live brief lives—dying not long after birth, while others can live longer with medical help. I’m one of the luckier who doesn’t need much medical help—I can’t run far, but I can do sprints.”
Morel wondered what “much” meant, but didn’t ask. Instead, zie glanced about again, drawing a long breath as hir eyes narrowed with suspicion. “Where are we? More important, how did I get here? Was I drugged?”
“No, I didn’t drug you, Morel—a method of transportation called flashing brought you here. A flash generator created a portal between where you stood at the Blue Ridge Cooperative’s compound and here, then it pulled you through it.”
“What?” Hir look became frightened and zie patted hir body as if searching for missing parts.
Q’rellian laughed. “You appeared here safe! You are now aboard my craft, the Blue Falcon, heading for Z’t’sha.”
Finding hir body in one piece, Morel furrowed hir brow and said, “How is that possible? I’ve seen and read stories of tele-transportation such as you say, but experts say it’s impossible!”
“Yeah—it is by current Terran scientific knowledge.”
Seeing confusion in Morel’s eyes, he grinned again, turned, and motioned with his hand for hir to follow.
“Follow me, Morel. I understand how confused you are—you have a lot to learn, and only two weeks to do so.”
Still trying to figure whether Q’rellian was lying, Morel followed him through the room, looking at the gray cylinders and the strange characters on them.
“You say we are on a craft—do you mean a boat?” zie asked. “Are we on the ocean? I’ve ridden on a boat, and it doesn’t feel like we’re on the ocean.”
“No, Morel,” he said. “We’re not a boat—we are in space.”
Disbelief filling hir eyes, Morel stopped, placing hir hands at hir hips. “What? In space?”
He chuckled, continuing on. “Z’t’sha is a planet 13 light-years from us and 12 hours to travel—a place our friends, the Teratellans, developed centuries ago. They rescued many Terran plants and creatures threatened by climate change and brought them to Z’t’sha to save them.”
Morel shook hir head—thinking zie was dreaming. This couldn’t be possible!
“Who are the Teratellans—are they someone also mutated by climate change?”
“No. Teratellans come from a planet 16 light-years distant from Earth.”
Morel stopped again, hir eyes widening in shock before turning angry.
“This is impossible—you lie!”
Q’rellian chuckled again. “I’m not lying, Morel.”
Morel watched him for a moment, then began following him again.
He pointed to the cylinders as they passed them.
“We are in my cargo hold—these cylinders are shipping containers. I brought supplies to a Teratellan research craft observing Earth and am returning to Z’t’sha.”
Thirty cylinders—15 on each side of the hold—lined each side of the room. Each cylinder was four feet in diameter and 10 feet long.
Zie looked at the bare metal deck plates between the cylinders—40 feet of open space.
“Couldn’t you carry more cargo cylinders in the center?”
“I can, but the cylinders you see are ample for what I must transport, and the open space leaves room in case I have passengers.”
“Yes. I have few quarters so, should I need more bunk space, I have mattresses they can use for sleeping.”
“What are you bringing to Z’t’sha?”
“Equipment needing repair from Savol’ou, research papers and lab samples from the Blue Ridge Cooperative, and you.”
He nodded. “That is the Teratellan research craft studying Earth.”
Morel now felt overwhelmed. “I feel like I’m learning too much at once! Aliens and space travel? Why are aliens studying Earth? Why not say hello and let us tell them our story?”
Q’rellian pressed his lips together—remembering when he had met the Teratellans, and understanding hir confusion.
“Because Terrans are destroying the planet yet have no other to go to,” he said, “and they are curious what will happen.”
Morel’s face turned angry. “Then why not help us instead?” zie asked.
“We’d like them to help, but they won’t—not unless Terrans realize their mistake and try correcting it first. It’s a much-debated issue on Z’t’sha, and you will probably hear it often.”
They approached a wall with a door and, when they neared it, the door slid aside—disappearing into the wall and allowing them passage into a narrow hallway. There were four more doors on each side of the hallway, and a wide space ahead.
As the door slid closed behind them, Q’rellian pointed to a door on their left.
“That is your room for the voyage. But, first, let me show you more of Blue Falcon.”
He continued down the hallway and entered the wider area—a space the width of the craft that served as a dinette or kitchen.
To Morel’s right were three tables, each with four chairs. To hir left was a counter with a sink and faucet, stove and oven, and cabinets above and beneath. A small refrigerator sat on one side with another appliance that looked like a dishwasher.
Next to the stove was a coffeepot, different from hirs.
“The coffeemaker can serve a single mug or a three-liter pot,” Q’rellian said.
“Twelve cups. The coffeemaker senses the size mug you have placed on the tray, grinds the beans, then pours the coffee. But I’d suggest not having coffee now—you will want to sleep during our journey.”
“Sleep will help the time pass faster,” zie said. “And help clear my mind!”
Q’rellian continued past the kitchen into a shorter hallway, ending in a door, with doors on each side.
He pointed to the doors on either side. “These doors lead to more quarters,” he said, “mine to port, and another to starboard that would be for an officer—but I pilot alone and have no crew, so I use it for storage instead.”
At the lone door ending the hallway, he pressed his hand to a plate next to the door, and the door slid aside, exposing a 20 foot by 12 foot space. Just inside the door was a long console stretching port to starboard with two chairs behind it. To port and starboard were more consoles with indicator lights—some flashing, but most solid.
But what caught Morel’s attention was the window beyond the console, showing blackness dotted by stars, and the moon before them—slightly to port and approaching them.
“So we are in space.”
“Yep,” he said. “We are in Blue Falcon’s command space, watching the Moon approach, which will pass beneath as we head away from Earth.”
“May I enter the space?” zie asked.
Morel entered the command space and stood before the center console, watching the moon approach.
“I knew you’d enjoy the view.”
He bent over the console and touched several square icons which lighted under his fingertips. He slid his index and middle finger forward and the craft sped up. The moon approached faster, growing larger until the craft seemed close enough to land on it.
“You are seeing space through a viewport, Morel—not a window. It’s like a computer monitor. It also does not weaken the structure of the craft like a window would.”
Q’rellian touched the console again, and the view changed to one of a planet in the distance.
“Earth,” he said. “You can’t see her well from this distance, but she is not as beautiful as you may remember seeing on the Internet.”
Morel scowled. “I’m not sure I want to see Earth,” zie said, “not until we save her.”
“I understand. Let’s get you to your room, Morel.”
They retraced their steps aft, then stopped at Morel’s door and Q’rellian had hir press a plate like the one at the command space.
The door opened, showing a small bedroom with a bed covered with blankets and pillows. Morel’s luggage lay on the floor next to the bed, still stacked as zie had left it outside hir apartment in Pisgah.
To the right was another door and Q’rellian pointed to it. “The bathroom is there if you need it, but please rest. While you rest, you will learn about the Blue Ridge Cooperative and Z’t’sha.”
“How will I learn that?”
Q’rellian chuckled. “I will show you—just as I showed you the beach in Richmond.”
Morel’s eyes grew wide again—zie wondered if they’d ever return to normal!
“That was you in my head?”
“Yes. I knew you wanted to go with Dr’sey, but were nervous about it. I hoped to encourage you with the dream.”
“You did,” zie said. “I’m glad, too, or I’d still be sitting in Huntsman instead of here.”
Q’rellian motioned to the bed. “Rest, Morel. You’ll know more soon.”
He left, closing the door behind him.
Morel used the toilet, brushed hir hair, then returned to the bed. Zie pulled back the sheet and blankets, and laid on the mattress. The room was warm enough that zie didn’t need the blankets, but pulled the sheet over hir. Zie slid a pillow to hir head, then closed hir eyes.