796 ALF (After Land Fall)

On the planet, Yiven, the Blessing of Regeneration festival ran at fever pitch, with revelers filling narrow streets of the planet's six contained cities. The religious aspects of the event were over, and now streamers adorned every corner and confetti littered the pale green pavement. Among the many stone alcoves and awning-covered palisades, adults careened from one loud street party to another. Children and the less adventurous watched and yelled their excitement from balconies. Fireworks that had been set on the pod-city exteriors lit the sky with streaks and bursts of color. By next year, the pods could be dismantled. Much of the terraforming efforts on this small continent would be complete. That would be another Blessing of Regeneration.

With the night sky of Yiven alive with real and artificial glitters, a sober marking of the night took place in the far reaches of the planet. History elders of the aboriginal Yivenese, those sentient creatures who had lived on the planet for millennia, looked toward the solar fault. Through centuries of oral history and another twelve hundred years with their written glyph language, they kept the records and could speak of times when this solar fault didn't exist, when the three planets beyond it had not been and only Yiven revolved in the space around their sun. Now the solar fault had created two sectors: inner, where Yiven had always been, and outer, with the three "new" planets. While humans celebrated, Yivenese shamans peered to the heavens and studied a preternatural shimmer beyond the far edge of the solar system. Before dawn, they gave an ominous prediction: Sougalo, The Warrior star, was returning. By legend, it was Sougalo that had caused the solar fault.

Few humans on the planet knew the legend of Sougalo, nor would they be interested in the Warrior's return, even though it would profoundly change their lives. Regeneration festivities wore on. Women rejoiced if their child was born during this time, and others were ensuring that they would have a child by next year's celebration.

Junior Senator Marta Tovich, had declined going to a party hosted by Tyus Derkson, the head of state-the Supreme. She remained in her apartment, preparing for her dinner guest. On hearing the doorbell, she went to the entrance of her second-floor suite, her gauzy yellow caftan swinging around her; the glowing panels in the wall made her wavy brown hair shimmer with golden light. She opened the door. "Edgar! You're early. Not that I mind, of course."

"I've brought you this," Edgar Jahn said holding out a cloth-wrapped bundle. He glanced over his shoulder and closed the door. Marta sensed tension from him as she took the gift. She carried it to the main room and set it on a console. "It's not quite finished," he was saying. "I'd wanted to add more patina, but..."

She unwrapped it. "It's lovely, Edgar," she said, smiling at the sculpted bust of her and their daughter. She kept her hand on it as she turned toward where he paced into the main room.

"We have to talk," Edgar's voice was tense. Giddy laughter wafted from the street through the open window. "You sound so serious?"

He paced back to her. "There's a good chance the Senate police are looking for me."

"What's happened?" She gripped Edgar's sleeve.

"It's because of Gerren," he said, his voice low and tense. "He became angry that he wasn't involved in any festivities-hadn't been invited to parties. He used his mental skills. Hurled things around. He scared himself."

Marta remembered Gerren Simsun as the youngster she had first seen nine years ago. A beautiful boy with sleek long hair as black as night, and green, green eyes. He was still an arresting character as an adolescent.

"Derkson tried to placate him, but after he left..." Edgar drew a long breath. "Well, I decided it was time to explain, so I went to him...started to tell about the differences, about Terms and Sigens. They keep psi sensors on the boy's room, Marta. I hadn't realized."

Marta bit her lip. The differences. Would that ever be forgotten?

"No, I don't think so," Edgar responded to her thought. "But it should be discussed honestly, not avoided."

"There's no need. You and Gerren are the only two—" Marta swallowed and licked her lips.

"The only two Sigens in this sector. Yes. But anyway, Derkson's guards burst in...I'm sure he'll know I was there."

"Why didn't they arrest you then?"

"Well, I wasn't quite there...was..." He sighed, and Marta nodded, believing Edgar had visited Gerren with telepathy-a skill Derkson had outlawed.

"Marta, I'm afraid for the lad. I think Derkson has revenge on his mind, and somehow Gerren is part of his plan."

Marta frowned. "Revenge would mean going into the outer sector-traversing the solar fault." She knew others of the governing senate held an altruistic dream to free the Terms on New Esrii and bring them here to Yiven so they could be normal. She just wanted to live peaceably on Yiven-learn more about the natives; yet....

"If the New Esrii leadership could learn the truth about procreation, I'm certain they would—"

"Oh, Edgar," Marta turned away, her brown curls wafting about her shoulders. "They didn't listen on their hypocritical amnesty visit, and there's no reason to believe they would listen now."

"You were just an infant at that altercation. But I still sense your anger toward the New Esrii people."

"Stories of that visit...the attacks they started; and you know what they prohibited us in the outer sector. All of us...even you. Look what you have here." She touched the sculpture he had brought, her expression softening.

Yet no matter how she tried, Marta couldn't stop resenting the ruling class of the outer sector.

"Do you resent me, too?" he asked.

"You know I don't, Edgar." She took his hand, kissed the fingertips, sent a silent apology for her prejudice.

"I have informants," Edgar said quietly. "Yivenese, who Derkson doesn't attempt to understand. They've apprised me of his communications through the solar fault. There must be sympathizers on New Esrii who are willing to attempt reconciliation. But, knowing Derkson, I doubt he wants a peaceful dialogue." Edgar rubbed his forehead with his fingertips. "I'm convinced all his planning is geared toward the Lambda Apex."

Marta searched her knowledge for the term. "You mean when that binary system star passes close to our solar system?" He nodded. "In another twenty-four years, the outer-sector planets will be in direct alignment with Lambda-two, causing great stress. Derkson probably plans to hit them while they're hampered with environmental calamities."

"That might be his dream, Edgar, but even if there were a way to do it, the young people here won't allow a war. Their lives are comfortable...without needs!"

"The young don't control the Senate, Marta. It's the Senate Elite, whose memories, like yours, go back to the supposed amnesty visit." He frowned, drew a long breath. "Guards are on there way here," he stated. "I'm sure Derkson will issue a severe reprimand for what I did tonight, but..." He squeezed her hands. "I won't let him destroy the civilization of our progenitors! And if what I suspect is true, I have to go back to warn them."

"Go back?" Confusion crowded her thoughts. "Derkson would never allow you—"

"I have a special way to travel, Marta. Another option."

She stared at him, realizing what he meant and appalled by the thought. Thought transference, remote viewing, they could all do that, although the talents were forbidden by Derkson; but those of Sigen genus could do more, such as telekinesis. And someone as precocious Edgar...

"You don't mean you'd attempt...strellics?" Just saying it seemed to take her breath. She shuddered and pressed her hand on her chest. "It's so dangerous! You told me once that the most advanced students have little control of the procedure. Gerren's mother tried and it led to her death."

"We don't know that for sure; she might have gotten home."

"Nonetheless, strellics are freak occurrences with no guarantees."

"I have no choice but to attempt it. I have to warn New Esrii."

"But who will you warn? So many years have passed, and high-ranking Sigens were involved in the attack here."

"I know of someone. Gerren's other parent. I'm certain he'll be receptive."

Her doorbell rang. They both stared toward the foyer. Someone pounded on the door. "Professor Tovich," came the call from the corridor.

"I'll protest this," Marta said in a whisper, her anger rising. "It's not fair."

"No, don't do that. It would only jeopardize your standing in the Senate. You're needed there."

The doorbell rang. Neither she nor Edgar moved, staring into each other's eyes, longing for more time, for different times.

He embraced her and whispered, "Watch out for Gerren. The boy's potential is magnificent for either vice or virtue."

He pulled away and headed for the open window. The pounding came again. "Professor Tovich! We need to speak with you."

Tears stung her eyes. "Be careful, my love," she whispered.