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The Vulture Chronicles

A woman has adventures in the far future along with her vulture companion.

Microstories: stories for people in a hurry 

Chapter 1

She looked over at Edgar. That 6 foot vulture walking beside her was entirely too big to continue to be fed by hand and he knew it. She checked her carrion supply. Some doggy bag! Well the bird was worth it. His loyalty would continue past her death, she laughed dryly at the thought. Edgar would be hurt if he was tuning in, but fortunately he was too busy digesting what was left of her friend's noisy dog. Disconcerting that, but it had proved convenient. To his dismay, she stroked the morbid, disturbing face with fondness and muttered the few avian words she knew and wondered how they would be received at the embassy party. 

Chapter 2: Edgar Parties Down

Edgar stood in a corner picking at hors d'oeuvres. She flashed him a quick mental note not to get himself sick. He gave her his best "yes mother" sarcastic look. She headed for the nearest biped (excluding Edgar, of course) and quietly inquired as to the location of the golden arm of John the Baptist. Even the quiet inquiry turned a number of heads in her direction. The arm, a relic encased in gold, was last seen in a Museum in Istanbul . She knew if she could locate it she would find her father, well one of them… the one who had donated the greatest portion of his genome to her DNA complement. It was her number one father who had discovered that the golden arm contained software encoded as minor disruptions in the chemical bonds of the gold alloy. That software was designed to reverse the gradual expansion of the universe. It was referred to, on occasion, as the Dark Matter Program. God help them all if it fell into the hands of some amateur astronomer or computer hack.

After a number of discussions, she realized she had gotten all she could from this illustrious gathering. It was time to move on. Besides she had promised Edgar some free time to breed. She would miss that silly vulture. He was good company provided you didn't smell his breath too often!

Chapter 3: Edgar Does Dallas

Dallas was a sweet vulture, obviously well-bred with a sensitive nature and for Edgar it was love at first sight. He spread his wings and tried to look attractive in a vulture kind of way.

Chapter 4: Quoth the Vulture: Chaos

The twins were rolling a golden finger, one of five, between them while Edgar was examining an extensive printout.

"It's a subroutine alright with an index of elasticity that increments in micro-light years. Both the software and the hardware appear to be modular. I suspect it could be reinstalled with little difficulty." She nodded a grateful look at the Vulture and smiled once again at his playful progeny.

"I'll be back", she said like some ancient, long-forgotten cinema character, then she switched on her variable-G belt and jumped gracefully from the cliffs.

She sat at the negotiating table discussing pleasantries with a neighboring biped. The golden index finger was at the end of the agenda. She hoped no one was as well informed, as she was. An arbiter listened to the case presented by each sentient and ruled on the ultimate possession of an artifact. She was beginning to think that this might prove simple, when the Fly-man walked in with two of his henchmen. Damn! she thought almost audibly. The man was ruthless and a master of the "veiled threat!" He also had no ethics about entering your mind, if you left your guard down and his eyes seemed to positively glow with pleasure at any pain he caused in the process. Why had the most formidable biped in the galaxy chosen the most crucial arbitration to show his smirking face? But she knew even as she formed the question, that only his extreme presence could elicit her very best. She acknowledged the honor of such an accomplished adversary and began to mentally rehearse her arguments.

The ancient insect was a master at survival. He had had to be ever since he lost his wings at an early age. He had developed considerable wisdom in his extensive travels and he would be sad, when his time came to recycle and he realized that his whole life had been in preparation for this moment. He sucked in his breath and jumped into the water glass.

When the biped known as the Flyman lifted the glass to his lips, three things happened simultaneously. The arbiter was seeking comments on the plea placed by the female biped, a star was born in a heretofore unknown galaxy and a lowly insect's karma determined the fate of the universe. Don't you love it? By the time the Flyman quit spluttering and spit out the remnants of the little brave wingless hexaped, the negotiations were over. She left quietly with the small golden cylinder and wondered at her luck.

Chapter 5: The Flyman's Revenge

The strange woman was slim and fairly attractive. Her dress was a soft brocade accentuated by a golden talisman dangling from a velvet string around her neck. And she could swear that there were two pint-sized vultures following her!

"Nice snatch brother!"

"Well nice distraction yourself!"

And they flew off in the direction of the cliffs with the golden thumb between them.

*

Meanwhile, Edgar and she were putting down brew in a local establishment trying to pin down a lead on the ring finger.

"Yeah, I hear some rabbits have it in a warren south of town. Apparently, they worship it. You may have some trouble relieving them of it from what I gather!" The tri-ped blinked his goodbyes and wobbled for the door, as Edgar and his companion thanked him for the tip.

When Edgar and she found the warren, the sun was just clearing the horizon. It was just enough light to see the damage. Even Edgar was upset to see the crushed bunnies, the senseless cruelty and the unmistakable smirk that was the Flyman's face! She felt that helpless anger well up in her, and dreamed about a faraway place. It steadied her long enough to kick him in the shins with all her might. He yelled as Edgar snatched the small prize from between his fingers during the commotion. One ran and the other flew, dangling a glinting object in the early morning sun, in the direction of the cliffs.

"The thumb contains a relative attitude stabilizing component. As far as I can tell, the rotation of planetary bodies, astronomical bodies, etc., provide the stabilizing factor in the process, great flywheels if you would, maintaining essential and complementary vectors throughout the continuum. I would say somebody's done a nice piece of work here." Then Edgar and the twins turned back to their specially-fired ceramic plates with each of their names on them and pondered their food. She went and sat with her feet dangling off the cliff, trying not to think about the bunnies.

Chapter 6: The Body Apoplectic

The weasel had on a uniform of his own design. The irony of this eluded him, as a great deal often did. He demanded precision from everybody, except, of course, himself and he felt strongly that if he didn't abuse power, what was the point in climbing over all those bodies to obtain it? Fortunately for all of us, he couldn't recognize a thing of real value if it had a nameplate etched with the forty names of god. This is how he came to be using the basic component of the golden arm as a gauntlet or showpiece to offset his personally-designed uniform and matching armor. Well, at least it wasn't an ashtray, not that it remotely resembled one. And of course he could not decipher the ancient runes inscribed on the fingerless golden glove which translated as: This equipment will not function properly if allowed to get wet. Why does the weasel smile? A Question For Our Times. A lecture followed by a book signing is scheduled for later this afternoon.

Meanwhile two miles away (as the vulture flies), our hero, a solitary biped with his three traveling companions, the twins and herself, are sitting around a campfire reading an entry from Jane's Fighting Boffo's.

"How shall we locate this weasel?" asked Edgar.

She addressed the question, "We shall follow the trail of least information and the weasel shall be at the end or is it the beginning?"

"Heh, Pop is she being facetious?"

"Hard to say, Son." and with that the twins drifted off to sleep.

"We're going to need a plan. I don't think we can wing this one." said Edgar. She agreed mentally so as not to wake the little ones.

"His greatest weakness is his requirement to humble any who dare to oppose him. Time wasted on vanity, is time wasted indeed and perhaps to our advantage." With that she slipped off to dreamless sleep. Edgar stoked the fire wondering at his good fortune in both offspring and friendships, and smiled that elusive vulture smile.

The next day found the little twins and herself tied to skewers and slowly roasting over an open fire. Edgar was flying back with his mouth full of take-out when he spotted the strange little barbecue scenario. He went in close for a look and caught a mental nod. It wasn't too late but what to do? He saw the weasel savoring the anguish he was causing and about ten other bipeds just standing around gaping. It was then that he felt the transmission from herself.

"He's a phony! Edgar. He's never accepted an honest challenge in his life. He's never put his life on the line, although he spends his life deceiving others. To further hide his perceived inadequacy, he roasts women and children! Challenge him openly, in front of his men!"

Edgar groaned, "I hate it when this happens!" and he dove straight for the pompous biped decked out in the metal paraphernalia!

The weasel went over with more than one rattle and clang.

“Somebody help me, I'm a pompous biped in armor and I can't get up!" she said out loud, but with a straight face.

"Hush!" shot Edgar, "how can you crack jokes when you're being barbecued?" His men ceased staring at the roasting innocents and proceeded to shift their mindless gazes to him. Some even laughed at her joke! This emboldened Edgar further who wasn't clear how to handle ten weasel-bullied henchmen.

"Okay, who's next?" inquired Edgar, flexing his wings and trying to look menacing.

One of the taller bipeds remarked, "I've never seen a trained vulture before!" Herself snorted at that!

"I reckon you can take your companions and go!" said the henchman.

While a few others of the henchmen untied the woman and the twins, Edgar reached for the gauntlet on the weasel's still prone form. Again the tall henchman gave him the nod! As they gathered to depart, she noticed that the twins weren't following. She looked back puzzled to see the twins munching on bits of the weasel's uniform even as he lay trapped in it! Edgar turned to follow her gaze and groaned audibly.

"I should've known that outfit would be irresistible at their age. It's those damn goat genes from great uncle Saul! You grab one and I'll get the other. Let's get out of here!"

Chapter 7: In the Power of a Pinky

"Scatology! What does it say, Edgar?"

"Give me a minute, it's pretty condensed! Okay, roughly translated it says, look for the strangers that usually walk upside down! It's a note from Great Uncle Saul, that old goat-lover always did enjoy a good riddle!"

They walked on past the vulture droppings, pondering, when the twins trundled up falling and laughing and generally enjoying themselves.

"There are strangers in town from the other side of the planet!" they yelled in unison.

"Do they walk upside down by any chance?" Edgar inquired quizzically.

"Satori!" she exclaimed. "Relative to us, they do!" They proceeded to town.

The strangers were expecting them. Things like that always made her nervous, but it did save time.

"This pinky has been in my family for generations, but the time has come to return it" said the tall biped stranger with a strange, almost quadruped accent. She felt a strong admiration for this being's integrity and spoke without thinking,

"Walking upside down all your life must build great character!" He obviously did not understand what she meant, but upon reflection, she did.

*

Sometime later, a bag of hand parts in tow, they approached the old castle. It was sunny but snow fell around them in fairy tale flakes. And the surrounding mountains, alternating snow and fir trees, were none-too-shabby. Edgar resisted an urge to buzz the ambient quadrupeds. They ultimately found themselves in a bar situated in a cave at the base of the castle cliffs discussing the clues gathered-to-date.

"Yes", Edgar said, the pinky is some sort of miniature power source."

At the advice of the strangers, they had sought out a castle famous for its gravitic anomalies and of course licentious libations. Having indulged in a guilt-free gaseous substance she particular preferred, they approached the castle directly through the numerous merchandise establishments.

The castle was more than beautiful, it felt right. It was a rare day. She felt that elusive love of being. When they crossed a discrete zone of time dilation, it was not immediately obvious. The first clue was the rustic but quaint dilapidation in an incommensurate combination with perfectly-preserved ancient tapestries and xenophilic art of almost non-terrestrial proportions. The two young vultures jumped on the beds, while the taller bipeds searched. They discovered and glimpsed a device of no small complexity lying in an ancient mobile unit for transporting infant bipeds. Upon closer examination, it was a mechanical infant biped, beautiful but inanimate. It held an intricately decorated box with a soft velvet interior where coincidentally the assembled hand would neatly fit.

They proceeded to assemble the hand. In less time than it takes a fly to recycle, they placed the golden oddity unceremoniously in the box. She thought she saw the child smile briefly but it could have been a trick of the light. Nothing else occurred. They could see no signs of change even when they departed the castle.

The falling snow was soft blue all around them and on the mountain peaks. She tried to remember if it had been blue before. And who had she been looking for?

EPILOGUE

On a planet far away, in another lifetime, the Flyman cannot understand why he was inescapably and inexplicably afraid of flying. Edgar's children grew up to be the first non-human bipeds to be experts on cosmic mechanics. Meanwhile, Edgar in his later years liked to sit by the ocean eating canapes. The ocean seemed so peaceful and oddly familiar.

The End of Part I 

  

Chapter 8: Not Microwaveable Without Notice

He looked at me as though I was from the Banana Planet. I could return his stare but it seemed a waste given that he had failed my test, albeit, one I hadn't consciously intended to administer. I felt lonely. It was getting harder and harder to find my own kind these days. I made some weak excuse and rolled home in my accelerated mode. With a shifting of protons, I slipped into bed as a mercury puddle and dreamed the silver liquid dreams of the basic being I had become.

When I awoke I realized I had become a biped sometime during the night. I had forgotten I had programmed the change into my alarm system, when I had scheduled the upcoming meeting with the Terrans and the Andromeda system colonists.

I went through my morning ritual consisting of several incantations of "I don't want to go to work!". Having steeled myself thusly, I journeyed to the rendezvous point. It was an ancient structure and it was difficult not to lose myself in the beautiful windows which I could sense were composed of lead supporting polished quartz pieces in crystalline colors. The Terrans were resplendent. I viewed it, if briefly, as a possible compensation for an inability to modify their consciousness containment vessel. But I then guessed or sensed that such an ability would terrify them. A well-defined and structured reality was important to a number of sentient species. The alternative could lead a little too closely to the uncomfortable and very lonely truth which was the basis of existence as we knew it; but never mind that now.

A small soft moss had been cultivated throughout the vast expanse of the stone structure interior, particularly on the floor surfaces. I shifted to bare Terran feet to optimize the soft-textured experience. And then I could avoid the inevitable no longer. Although the Terrans were staring fixedly at my feet (and unbidden to my mind came the thought "banana planet!"), I suggested that they present their problem and their terms. Parts of me were growing used to parochialism, and also it would be interesting to work again. 

Chapter 9: The Banana Planet

When a number of colonists left earth to settle on a new world, they filled the remaining weight quota on the space ship by purchasing a number of banana trees on sale that day at the space dock and putting them in the hold. As luck would have it, the banana trees thrived on the new world even to the point of displacing the indigenous species. The new owners of this fine world proceeded to develop a whole line of banana products for domestic use and export purposes.

The economy of this little world was insignificant, until one day, when the last banana tree on the earth succumbed to pollution and excessive ultra-violet exposure. The colonists of the banana planet had the banana market cornered, especially with the banana providing a rich source of organic potassium crucial to a number of biped's metabolic and neurological functions.

The colonists had named the little world "Serendipity", but the expression "banana planet" seemed to persist in most intergalactic circles.

A further extension of this persistence was the development of the expression "from the banana planet" which had been assimilated into regular usage. The expression was used to indicate a sentient which insisted on non-conformity or eccentricity. It was even considered derogatory in some circumstances.

Regardless of the origins and developmental factors of this planet, the economy continued to thrive and many sentients visited annually to see the cultural attractions acquired by the now affluent colonists.

END of REPORT

(For further information, contact: The Galactic Information Service: 95 credits per page). 

 
Meanwhile elsewhen...

Chapter 10: When Small Gods Pray

"It is said, that when small gods pray, the winds ignite!" __Old Vulture Saying

He awoke wondering why. He ran to the back of the cavern where she sat crying. He sat beside her making comforting sounds. She sighed and stroked his soft hairs. And they fell asleep.

*

The giant hand reached down to touch the small lichen colony. Phosphorescent light glimmered in the night. Tiny sensors measured pressure variations and marked the distinct striations on the biped's digit.

The buzzing of the detector woke them both.

"Has the identity been established?" he asked.

"Looks like it" she replied.

He recorded the event, while she checked different camera angles and jotted notes. It appeared that they had successfully reestablished this species on its planet of origin. Soon it would be time for both of them to be reassigned most likely to different locations, depending on where their individual skills were needed. She felt the tears well up again but fought to control herself.

Meanwhile the giant had fallen asleep in the sensor patch, lighting up several monitoring screens.

Sometime later they received the interstellar message. It was brief but glorious, as was their response.

The message said "with success in the reintroduction of homo sapiens, would like to attempt to reestablish several others of the mobile life forms as well to make the new indigenous self-sufficient. Request unscheduled extension of your stay. Job well-done. Await your reply." 

Chapter 11: The Silver Surfer

She found herself suddenly transported. As always, it took her by surprise. Just as she had completely forgotten such things occurred it would happen again. She found herself in a museum of sorts. There was a party in progress. She could smell the banana peel tea before she located the refreshment table. Several individuals were admiring a display. They were attempting unsuccessfully to discern the meaning of the vulture droppings protected under the glass-like casing. A small smile crossed her lips. It was an unfamiliar dialect, but she was fairly certain that it was an obscene remark about a goat. It must have been her strange reserved knowing smile that first drew his attention in her direction, but his attention then drew her attention in turn. Many things about him gave her a warm chill.

It was difficult to miss the fluidity and grace of his movements, almost mesmerizing and not unlike a reformed vampire she had once dated. Had that been her? Well, no matter. Equally striking was the way his clothes fit him so impeccably, inexplicably even for this age and planet! It was as though they were made for him, flowed from his very being. What a strange thought! She sipped her banana peel tea and reluctantly returned her scrutiny to the vulture droppings display in front of her. She wasn’t sure exactly when he joined her.

Chapter 12: The Black Jewel

"I am tracing the whereabouts of the black jewel," said the stranger. Someone at a nearby table must have accidentally overheard, for he looked at them and made an ancient sign which began by touching his forehead and ended in a clasping of hands.

"Why, is it valuable?" she inquired.

He gave a strange, crooked smile and replied, "Not in the sense you mean. But it is crucial to the current paradigm. It's not something a sentient can or would want to possess for any length of time. I'm not attempting to acquire it. I've simply been hired to update the records on the progress of the universe. The simplest approach, I've been told, is to document high black jewel activity preliminarily detected in this vicinity."

"How will you know when someone possesses the jewel?" she asked.

"Their eyes shine black, for in truth, the jewel possesses them, if only for a moment." was his cryptic reply.

"What determines who possesses it and who doesn't?"

"Well, apparently, there was a schedule once, but except for tiny excerpts, most of it was misplaced at some point…which is fine. It's job security for we of unusual talents." He took a sip from the sweet-smelling tea.

Her mind sparked pleasantly with curiosity, and soon they walked peacefully together by an alien sea talking about such strange topics as pain distribution curves throughout populations and related allocations of resources, until both suns set.

*

"How will you begin to track the jewel's path?" she inquired upon awakening.

She wondered at what point in their brief but poignant acquaintance, it became clear she would help him in his quest.

"Well, some naturally gravitate towards its secondary reverberations especially if they have held it at some time, and ache to hold it again. These secondary and tertiary effects are noticeable in sentient behavior and in some cases even in words." She felt like she hadn't been answered exactly, but she dropped it for the moment.

"I get the impression that they all want us to take the black jewel or at least support those with it” he continued. "They have to rationalize their choice. If you embrace the choice you confirm the value for them."

"Say what?" she inquired… and so it began.

Chapter 13: Day at the Beach

I reached out to touch his foot but he didn't notice. Edgar seemed more sullen than I had remembered. I called to him with each lapping wave but he seemed distracted. He had aged well as buzzards go. When he did notice me, it came with a shocked expression, followed shortly by that ineffable vulture smile.

"So you made it after all", said Edgar. "Is it really an eagle's gift as you thought?" he inquired, more than a little interested.

"I think so ", I replied, "or as close as one can come to it in this closed system, I believe".

Edgar recalled, as years back, she had walked off in search of volunteer companions to share in the final hour with her. She did not wish to die alone, above all else. She had turned back once to wave goodbye to Edgar who had remaining commitments and could not accompany her.

"So where are Dallas and the twins?" I inquired.

" Dallas has joined a vegetarian monastery, now she eats dead plants instead. The kids are on a world tour turning cosmic mechanics into rock lyrics for some group" replied Edgar.

"And you my good friend? I asked.

“I am tired" Edgar replied, indeed sounding weary.

"Would you like to join me?" I asked gently in a soft mental voice.

"What is it like? he inquired equally softly, a veritable tentative whisper of a thought, no more.

“It is not that different from being a biped, your consciousness is free to roam and there is much more internal area to explore. When I approached a bed of corals, I must confess that I jumped back, mentally of course. They had sensed my presence and struck out to sting. The dolphins are a hoot and a favorite with many of the oversouls. I've been meaning to check out reports of non-planetary beings on certain South Pacific islands, when I sensed an all too familiar essence on the New Jersey shoreline sulking, as it were.”

“What would it take to join you?, inquired Edgar, a little fearfully.

“Nothing we couldn't handle, old friend, I responded. "A few Zen non-breathing lessons and a willingness to detach from a body you have invested a great deal in. What do you think? Are you interested?”

When the body of a vulture washed up on the New Jersey shoreline, there was some mild speculation, but it passed as all anomalies did.

She was anxious to show Edgar around. You would think that you would have to find all new friends, but oddly enough there were more than a few familiar essences. Even the sharks reminded him of the mindless robotic bipeds he had experienced from time to time in their adventures on land. And as usual, they avoided them. Many of the lessons were the same and even a few new experiences, but not many. There was a peace and a pace here where laughter could be found at the next school of dolphins, and a fresh wisdom in the hulking bulk of the giant serene whales. He still didn't care for fish, but he just didn't tag along mentally when the locals were sweeping up krill or whatever.

One day Edgar inquired, "Do you think Carlos Castaneda is here somewhere?"

“I don't know, but I would like to thank him wherever they placed his data. I guess it's a fair compromise if nothing can be lost in a cool sweet ground.” And she mentally kissed Edgar on his silly beak which she knew would in time lose resolution as he adjusted. She was surprised at the fresh image in Edgar's mind of her former human state and nostalgically remembered what a sweetness there was there, but no regrets and there was assurance in the infinite possibilities which remained within the rules of the system.

"Don't tease the coral reefs Edgar!, you'll deplete their energy supplies."

"Yes Mother", and his essence regarded me with only that sarcasm that teenagers and vultures have perfected over the years.

Chapter 14: Interplanetary Transport/Edgar Finds a Friend

"A plesiosaur! As I don't live or breathe!" Where did you find it?" I inquired more than a little interested.

"It’s a he! Meet Fred. He was a paleontologist in his former existence" exclaimed Edgar. "I've agreed to help Fred drum up some interest in converts, soul donors to see about getting together a possible breeding population for the future. Of course we'll have to work up an environmental statement and discuss ecological niche sharing with the whale's population planning commission."

"That's all well and good, but the non-planetoids have an old interplanetary transport up and working and they've offered me one free round transport to a nice vacation spot. Would you have time for a mind scan so I could arrive in my old human body, just for comfort?” she pleaded. “My picture is pretty hazy and I was fond of that old body."

With Edgar's usual sweet help, I found myself staring at some old vulture droppings in a display case on a fun planet dedicated to one of the more unusual earth fruits and marveled at how similar the written dialect was to those of seagulls, taking into account of course the difference in the canvas media, so to speak. 

Chapter 15: Darkly Shine

"No, his eyes were jet black with a pinpoint of white highly focused light." she reported.

"Hmmm, you do say." he replied. “What did you make of him?"

"Charisma, confidence but he doesn't know the next moves", she recited as though recalling a storage file.

"Recommendations?" he inquired.

She liked working for this strange silvery biped, just for reasons such as that. He treated her like an equal. She may never return from vacation, at this rate. Edgar will have populated Earth's oceans with plesiosaurs by the time she did return.

They continued to discuss the subject's history, metaphors and short-term potential for change to determine optimum use of their time and the contractor's good faith in their use of the available resources.

And then they went for a nice dinner, where he continued to fill her in on the various projects he had worked on, each more interesting than the last. She too enjoyed making him smile in that odd surprised amused-sort of way he had that made her feel special and made her lonely uniqueness feel almost worthwhile.

"When our subject's friends were stealing earth transportation called "cars", he was sneaking into hospitals and places for the old or infirm and stealing wheelchairs" she interjected with the forgotten fact.

"What do you make of that?" he inquired politely giving her a shot.

"I guess the question is one of motivation, evil or good intentions. Was it noble on his part or simply maladjusted implementation of personal anger?" she replied.

"I will need at least three more data points to determine that answer, he said. “It is difficult not to make judgments this close to the jewel's activity. Is the work growing disturbing the closer you get?" he inquired with simple care and concern.

"Actually, mildly, yes." she replied. "What should I do?"

"Get some sleep; give it a lot of personal thought. Stop trying to gauge his potential for change and don't give up on yours. Time is no issue. All must move to new spaces but at the same time, well proportional to the square of the distance from the jewel… sort of like a wave front.

In other words, take your time. Set the pace so that you enjoy the work. The fire drills only come at nodal points and hopefully, there won't be any for some time." He stared into her eyes reassuringly. "Oh enough for one day, let's go. I know a place with banana cake to transport for." And they clocked out.

Conversation overheard emerging from a black hole long thought to be one end of a spatial worm hole: "What is it?"

Reply: "It's a damn nodal point alright."

Question: "What do we do?"

Reply: "There is nothing we can do. Hold on. Play the cards as they're dealt. Good Luck."

Chapter 16: Being Paid to Shop

"We have to go to St. Drosophila's today, meet with our contractors. Okay? Oh, and you should wear clothes. They're earthers and well, they're...."

"Religious?" she offered.

"Something like that, yes" he replied.

"Not gymnosophy I take it?"

"No" he snorted a laugh, smiling at her in his silvery way.

"No problem, I love an excuse to shop" and off she went cheerful to have a fun assignment.

Over breakfast after shopping they relaxed and conversed.

"You're an earther, do you have a name?" he asked quietly.

She appreciated his sensitivity to how dear earther's held their names and for that reason agreed to offer hers to him but only telepathically and even then as a small whisper.

"I once heard a guardian call me Perelandra, and it felt right, so I kept it."

"That does suit you" he replied. "Are you aware of the origins?" he asked. When she replied, he repeated, "Yes it does suit you indeed."

"I come from a long line of Joneses on the maternal side, I guess Arielle being the most famous." she continued, slightly embarrassed that she wanted to impress him.

"Wasn't she the first non-earther to be contracted by earth?"

"Yes," she replied visibly surprised that he did know after all. At her surprise, he laughed.

"Earth was composed of a proud lot back then. Your ancestor broke the ice and opened up a new market for all of us. But even more importantly, she reintegrated the Mendelian population and revolutionized the nature of the earth population itself."

"I guess, I never gave it that much thought." she replied, but somehow she had been grateful and proud of her maternal genes mostly because from that ancestry had come Edgar and the wonderful diversity that she now knew on her planet. She couldn't imagine the old stilted ways at all.

Sometimes she wondered what it would be like to have wings like her great, great, etc. grandmother Arielle. Rumor had it that her middle name was Acrobat and then it would be Arielle Acrobat Jones, but there was nothing to support that family joke.

When they entered St. Drosophila's Cathedral, she couldn't help but note the excellent craftsmanship of the windows and the sweet soaring airy design and wondered all over again at life. She remembered the saying of one of her favorite guardians as she viewed the abstract but recognizable symbol above the altar. "No cross too bear" she would say in her croaky vulture voice. He smiled at her, she assumed for her thoughts, which he confirmed when he inquired as to the status of that universally famous set of karma.

"I don't know” she replied, I used to track it as a hobby, very few would fund it as work, especially after the great visitation of 6083. Geese, traveling 2 million light years in that pathetic craft just to add that one piece to their metaphysical puzzle.

"It confirmed all over again the greatness of the event in the eyes of most and once again no one wanted to let it go and let that poor soul finally rest. I gave up trying to suggest a new paradigm with the rest of those who cared for him and the rest of us tired of rehashing that resulting universal karma, but it was hopeless.

"I can see that you don't feel strongly on the matter!" he quipped.

"I gave up my contribution to the cause as much as my allotment allowed when it seemed to be a case of diminishing returns. I became an ocean back on earth. You should come see me sometime, I'll show you around."

"I would like that", he replied seemingly sincerely, although she knew he had many things that needed doing.

When he looked at her she said, "I know, I know, people get bored in Paradise , there has to be evil for there to be a story and I know first hand how important a story is. The ultimate truth is very high on the boredom and loneliness scale. Until the search committee comes up with an alternative, nobody wants to go back to that! I just get carried away with a problem like an old fashioned earth dog with an organic bone."

"Are you quite finished?" he asked. But she wasn't.

"I suppose, maybe I miss my ocean. Maybe they shouldn't have programmed my transmutable genes with that damn old piece of literature. Do you know they called me Phoebe Weatherfield for the longest time during the incubation process.

"What are you babbling on about?" he inquired almost irritably now. He was nervous. He could sense the earthers approaching and it was time for a pseudo-professional demeanor on both their parts.

He touched her on the shoulder gently and she too was ready for the charade one more time. He was glad he hadn't doubted her. She would've been hurt and rightly so.

He made a mental note to question why her tirade had even made him irritable for even that small period of time. Irritability only came when someone hit a small personal button. Maybe he was beginning to question the work. He'd better have a look at that later for more than his own sake.

An ocean she had said, a smile came unbidden to his lips, but he suppressed it quickly, at least for the moment's endeavor at hand. Nevertheless, he paused for one last thought. This woman was dangerous. It was a wonder they let her wander around freely. He knew he was unflappable and already she had him doubting himself, his purpose, his very existence, for Christ's sake. He didn't want to think about that thought! Damn her!!

Chapter 17: Next Day

"Wake up, we've got another contract." the silvery one was saying.

"What is it?" she queried sleepily.

"The Banana Rights League. They think they've located a sentient banana."

"Oh Lord, that would wreak havoc with this planet's economy." She furrowed her brows. "Are they sure?" she asked.

"That's where we come in as non-partisan observers. You can imagine the consequences of a mistake either way." he said.

"Well, I suppose they could just subject every banana to a sentience test on an individual basis before they incorporated it into some ingestible form. Then again, what if it reached critical mass for sentience after the test had been performed and just prior to pureeing as it were?" she pondered. "I once knew a sentient desk." He raised an inquiring eyebrow. In response, she expounded, "Oh an old piece of earth furniture, but nevermind that now."

"How did you know it was sentient?" he asked.

"Well, whenever I would work on it, I received an overpowering sense of annoyance. After much testing, I won't get into, it turned out that it had a broken drawer which I was never clever enough to fix. Why this annoyed it I never did establish, but I gave it to a good family of re formed woodpeckers who would do it justice and keep it up in a manner that I didn't have the time or skills for."

"The economy of the banana planet in the balance… this is heavy stuff. Wow. It's a good thing I bought clothes." and she wandered off to dress.

Chapter 18: Some Wear to Go

They were in the library at Wayward Ministries researching ethical decisions from a historical perspective involving multiple planetary accounts. Titles such as "Ethics versus Diminishing Returns", "Ethics versus Financial Convenience" and "The Ramifications of Ethics Ignored" littered the plastic desk. Even as she read, she was beginning to conclude that being a hero or a fool was strictly a matter of history; nevertheless, she still found hypocrisy to be an annoying trait. She concluded that she would do her best to always check if she were being a hypocrite and looked forward to the discussions about their research. This was fascinating stuff.

Chapter 19: Reach Out and Almost Touch Someone

"I received a psychavideogram from Edgar." she said adjusting the public headset to return his call. She selected the holographic reinforcement option and Edgar stood there next to one of his usual surprises.

"Did plesiosaurs come in pink?" she inquired of the still fairly strong vulture image despite some time since his disassociation from that form.

"Well they do now! Meet Sara Ann? We're offering itinerant souls their choice of colors in a full texture holographic which they can overlay and view themselves in their possible new bodies."

"Sounds excellent, you'll have to forward some of the choices, I'm curious." After greetings were duly exchanged with Sara Ann, the actually semi-petite prehistoric aquatic quadruped courteously went off somewhere out of transmission range. “She” was then more comfortable to tease the old scavenger about his newfound commitment, as was their way.

"Ah, is the rumor true that a plesiosaur climbed right up on the beach and attacked those twins?" she inquired.

"Who those Spielberg kids, Hamlet and Horatio?" replied Edgar. "Shades of the Interplanetary Inquirer! No! A small baby plesiosaur nipped at one of their ankles. A witness heard the twins veritably taunt the poor frightened little thing to come out of the water. Then they startled him and well, sheesh, one lousy ankle and you're suddenly a man-eater!"

She rolled her eyes in mock empathy and then updated him on events she found herself involved in. She also queried him for ideas on the subject because that was their way too. Inevitably he thought of things she hadn't and put it in a different perspective. This never ceased to amaze her because of his usual flippant indifference which tended to throw sentients off as to his remarkable mental capabilities.

Chapter 20: The Banana

"You're eyebrows are green" the silvery one commented.

"Yes, do you like them?" she inquired.

"A nice pale shade, it suits your coloring".

"Thank you "she said pleased that he had noticed.

Just then others entered the elaborate conference room with one banana on a pillow in deference to its possible status. They set the pillow near the silver one and “herself” and began the story of its discovery.

The banana spoke, “Fading once more into consciousness, listening to a conversation about the vicissitudes of the banana plant and the plant Earth, it struck me, not coincidentally, my purpose for being a banana on the banana planet and so I addressed the couple having breakfast at my expense I might add… and well here I am… so to speak.”

"Well please continue", someone prompted the banana, which still boasted at least one green spot. It was probably a good sign at the rate the banana was telling the story.

The banana continued “At a previous incarnation, I was being eaten at a lecture by Ms. Elaine Morgan on an earth book she had written called The Descent of Woman. It caused me to recall that I had been the famous “missing link” on planet earth and I was a woman. The Morgan theory was excellent for accounting for my whereabouts, which was along a shoreline.

As accounted for in the Morgan book, female apes wandered into the water to escape predators, thus elevating their physical stance and losing fur in lieu of subcutaneous fat which also served to suckle children in water by flotation, etc.”

After a brief pause, once again the banana continued, “I've been reincarnating for generations as tropical fruit on various islands in order to tell my tale, as it were, but to no avail, until much to my surprise I awoke on a planet where they cherish a tropical fruit and the origins of the planet earth at the same breakfast table."

It was decided to place the sentient banana in a stasis field where its aroma and tale could be savored time and again as yet another of the famous attractions of the banana planet. They actually located the little fellow in the vulture dropping museum, much to our personal enjoyment and convenience.

Chapter 21: Famous Galactic Celebrations: Banana Fall

It was a dark and stormy night, and the bananas were falling from the trees, ripe with discontent.

"Let me have those binoculars", her cat, Byron said. She passed them over to him. They had made this trip especially to catch the great annual migration of conscious bananas, via rushing irrigation channels to the receiving facility.

At the facility, telepaths contracted by the planetary government, questioned each of the bananas as to their memories regarding their origins. Thus far there was little in the way of a pattern. The bananas had incarnated from various times and places. The only commonality apparent was that wherever that they had originated, they had been beings with strong religious spiritual beliefs and had wanted to go to a place of great worship. The banana planet was the most notable in the galaxy for its dedication, but unfortunately, they worshipped the banana for its culinary qualities and flexibility: banana cake, banana drinks, banana pies, banana soup, banana bubble bath, etc.

Following their preliminary interviews, the bananas were stamped with a warning which read inedible under penalty of law! and placed in good homes for the duration of their short lives. To adopt a banana, the waiting list would make you choke! Only qualified candidates who could prove that they were willing to focus attention on the little sentient beings and assure its protection during its short stay, were even considered.

"Dare I eat a peach?" J. Alfred Prufrock (T. S. Eliot)

Chapter 22: A Tale of the Great South

She sat at the water's edge in the warm sun on powder blue snow and cried. And laughed a little even so as a thought tiptoed into her consciousness. She burst into song filled with a frustrated ironic overtone, "Don't cry for HER Argentina !”

“Cry for me!" she finished in a low sarcastic mumble.

Golden seals were frolicking in the green ice water, so she watched for awhile to forget her predicament.

Maybe an hour had passed as she daydreamed because when she refocused, the seals were gone. Who knows how long she would have sat there dazed, had not she been struck in the back with what could only have been, by the very distinct feeling, a snowball! There was an immediate elation as it dawned on her that someone else was also in this sentient-forsaken place! She whirled around and scanned the snowy surroundings, but was at a loss when she detected no one. She stood up and moved to look closer when she was thoroughly startled to see a large polar bear sprawled and sunning himself nearby.

It looked unconcerned at her presence; neither frightened, nor excited…at least it did not appear to be viewing her as dinner, as far as she could tell. She should have been frightened, but for some reason she wasn't, especially when the very same bear rolled another snowball and missed her by inches.

His name was Gerard and he had a wry sense of humor.

"So what brings you here little lady", he inquired, pretending very courteously, not to notice the tears freshly drying on her cold cheeks.

She greatly appreciated his kind sensitivity in this regard and decided to begin by liking him. And so she told him her sad strange tale of misfortune, and when he did not revel in her sad events, her spirits rose even more significantly. Her curse was beginning to emulate a blessing.

As was fairly common in those days, he had a decent stockpile of staples consisting predominantly of dehydrated banana soup. It was warm and soothing and they talked long into the polar night. To her surprise, (actually at a much later time), she realized that for the first time in her life, she had her first true friend.

In time she began to realize that he was extremely well-educated for a polar bear. He had a remarkable library in his banana-wood den filled with philosophy and science from the nine known galaxies, and eventually, she came to know his strange story, as well. 

Chapter 23: Nano-story: Weds. Night

One of those standard issue Wednesday night pseudo-technical lectures one was apt to attend on an evening of the Banana Planet, circa 10,056 A.D. (or 8,056 IBM-great computer collapse and reboot, "what else could we do but keep the software and reinvent time" time)

Yes, there was some debate between two local contending belief systems which drew our attention to the period of time under discussion. The debate was with regard to the female human, who contended that that there was no human contact prior to conception of the earther child. This was unusual for the timeframe involved by a large (statistically significant) factor of historical time and concomitant scientific capabilities.

Now presuppose with me for just one minute the hypothetical possibility that non-terrans artificially inseminated the human woman. She would have known that she had not had the prerequisite intercourse to human childbirth of the time. She would always know, even when others doubted, that the child was unusual and special in an inexplicable way. Is it not possible that given the steadfastness of her understanding, she would have raised the child in such a way to have treated it specially in accordance with its strange birthright, and in so doing, may have environmentally accounted for his sophisticated telekinetic abilities, regardless of the origin of the original genetic material. In other words, my premise was that her attitude alone towards him created a vessel for the greater probability of god and drew it like a vacuum. She developed or instilled in the child an impeccable sense of self-worth and mission.

The sociological implications of this should not be overlooked in a time when there is over-emphasis on genetic manipulation as the sole answer to all the questions of character and ethical development. It also supports and correlates nicely to the Unified Field Theorem unearthed at the Sodium Chloride Source (Great Salt Flats) mid-American United States of Earth (USE), as it is referred to by locals.

One final note with regard to the genetics of Jesus of Nazareth and autonomous tracking of the antithesis phenomena associated with the absence of dark jewel activity: I can safely conclude that...now what was I going to conclude? Damn, I hate it when that happens...to be continued...

[Chapter 24: The Twins]

to be continued

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