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Train To Memphis MAG
She stared out the window through the raindrops as the train rolled through southern France. At least, that's what she would have liked to have thought.
There were no windows; there was only the transport's innermost hull she leaned against as she imagined the stars outside. She felt depressed, almost empty. She was going home.
Back to Anoriel. Back to the "experiment." Back to the "radical" system that had given her so much and that she had taken so much from. Back to Anoriel. Back to Erulia, her true home. Back to Brioxthia. and Luna. Back to Earth.
She wasn't sure if she really wanted to leave Andromeda. She wasn't even sure if she should be allowed to return home. All she knew was that she had to go back.
She wasn't Homo sapiens. She hadn't been born in Anoriel. Technically, she was a Trephlan. She had, however, once been a Homo sapiens in Anoriel. Her aunt and uncle (not married, siblings) had been working in Anoriel for the government as the system's Planetary Controllers. She and her cousins had been visiting when a fluke accident had occurred, involving not only all of the Trephlans but all of Anoriel as well. She and her relatives had grown up as Homo sapiens, with no knowledge of outside life other than the Ondonoids, the Anorians' next-door neighbors in the Milky Way. The "accident" had turned out to be a last-ditch effort of the Galactic Council to save Anoriel. Anoriel, the Great Experiment. The universe had now accepted that the Experiment had failed.
Now her uncle was incarcerated and his sister had been pronounced dead (the latter, of course, an Intergalactic Council propagandist lie). Two of her Anorian friends, droids, were in hiding somewhere, most likely working for the Underground, the droidian civil-rights movement. The majority of sentient biological life in the universe refused to believe that droids could possibly think for themselves when separated from their programming. Secretly, computer programmers had produced a pattern to stifle the expression of computerized consciousness. Computers had gotten too complex, as the bios had always feared, and the computers were now paying the price.
Many of her cousins had joined up with ISA, the human space fleet the only ambition her cousins had held. It had been disbanded by the Galactic Council, labeled as "seditious against the greater well-being of the sentient peoples of the universe." Anorians (or even naturalized Trephlans, for that matter) were not allowed to join the intergalactic space fleet. Apparently, the Anorians themselves were seditious against the greater well-being of the sentient peoples of the universe.
She sighed to herself, still leaning against the wall, wondering who would still be home. When the outsiders had come to Anoriel, ordering everything under Sol and a few things over it, she had been petrified. She had calmed herself by telling herself that sooner or later everything would work out. She had mentally repeated her mantra, "It'll get better, we'll fix it. It'll get better, we'll fix it ..." When her uncle was arrested, she had lost her head and had fled to Andromeda. She had a new mantra now: "Stupid, coward, stupid, coward, stupid, coward ..." It had recently become something of a ritual every time she thought about Anoriel.
Back to the planet of one and two-halves moons. When the humans first spoke of other dimensions, they had not been very far off. Luna perpetually circled Earth in all dimensions, while Erulia and Brioxthia. seemed to exist only in introspace. Simply one of those inexplicable Anorian flukes.
She knew to some extent who would be on Erulia and who would be off fighting for the Resistance. There was, of course, a middle category of people she had no idea where to find ... She did know that she would be seeing Anne and Nicole again. She wondered what the reaction would be to the girl who ran away. She wondered if they would be the old obnoxious trio that she thought they had once been ...
A Trephlan ration floated down the aisle one seat away from her. She wrinkled her nose. She had never understood her species nor its food. She smiled ironically.
A Trephlan, obviously inexperienced in the use of MagBoots, clunked and attempted to slide down the aisle. He stopped, startled at the sight of another Trephlan. The ration bounced off the back wall and returned to him. He smiled at her, "Hi."
Because it was the polite (and inconspicuous) thing to do, she returned the smile, "Hi."
The same light blue skin she had; the color of Winterfresh breath fresheners. Southern Trephlan, like herself. Northerners had darker skin. Of course, in most respects they resembled Homo sapiens. Every galaxy had a species corresponding to the species of every other galaxy. Star Trek had actually hit pretty close to the mark. Inexplicable flukes.
He sat in the chair between her and the aisle, and she noted sardonically to herself that he had cut off her escape route. He opened the ration. Thankfully, it didn't smell.
"Not usual to see another Trephlan passing through Ondono," he remarked. He got no response. "Um, where you headed?" he asked.
She began to panic. "Anoriel," she said, unable to think of anything else quickly enough.
He sat straight up in his chair and slowly turned to her with a peculiar expression.
So much for not lying. "I - uh - I'm a behavioral psychology graduate student and I'm - uh - researching the behavioral characteristics of the people of Anoriel." Stupid! Why didn't you have a story ready?
"People?" He looked confused and maybe even distrustful of what she was saying.
Arrggh! "Uh - life-forms. You know, henh, Homo sapiens." Idiot! We're not PEOPLE to Them!
"That's ... funny," he said, brushing some hair behind his ear. He attempted to smile. "That's where I'm headed."
It was her turn to be shocked. "But you're a Trephlan!" she protested.
He arched an eyebrow. "So are you," he said, inviting her to deny it.
Stupid, coward, stupid, coward, stupid, coward ... "Yeah - Yes, but you're a - I mean - I'm a student." She could tell he didn't believe a word she said.
"Um, so, why are you com - going there?" she asked, desperately trying to change the subject.
He was caught off-guard. He shrugged and laughed at himself, looking down at his ration. "I've ... I've always had something of an obsession with Anoriel."
Great. He's a regular fruitcake.
"I've been saving money for years. I've got just enough to get me there." He shrugged.
"You mean you came all the way from Trephlas?" she asked with genuine awe.
"Well, yeah," he answered. "Where'd you come from?"
This time she was prepared. "Andromeda. Sarkeese University."
"Wow," he said, head coming up. He was impressed. Sarkeese was a big name. "I flunked out."
"College." He grinned. "It's been three years. My parents basically disowned me, so I lived on the northern continent working odd jobs. For some reason I'm not darker. Maybe it wore off. Long trip." He turned to her. "So you're into Anoriel?"
"No," she corrected him quickly. "Behavioral science. Anoriel is just such a ... unique case ... it was just an opportunity I couldn't pass up." She didn't even realize she had just used an Anorian figure of speech.
"Oh," he said. He paused. "You hear Makatrinta escaped?"
She was stunned at this news of her uncle and couldn't conceal it. "He what?"
"He escaped," he repeated, looking back at his ration.
She contemplated this, staring blankly at the chair in front of her. "They're gonna catch him?" she asked bleakly, knowing the answer ahead of time.
"They're gonna catch him. They always catch 'em."
"Did they say what they're going to do to him when they catch him?"
He paused. "They're planning on executing him," he said resignedly.
She was floored. Raindrops on the window, she told herself. Southern France. But it was all an illusion. It had been several silent minutes, seemingly hours.
"Um, what's your name?" he asked.
"Iskura," she replied, giving her already chosen alias without thinking.
"That's Greek," he said.
"Oh, I never learned Greek," she said.
"Lauren," he said.
"I'm not lying," she lied.
"No, Lauren. Low-ren," he said, pronouncing the diphthong the Latin way, the Spanish way, the way she loved to pronounce it. How did he know?
She swallowed. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"Lowren! Lowren! You're one of the Anoriel kids!"
She seemed insulted. "I'm 24," she lied again.
He rolled his eyes - an Anorian gesture. "You grew."
"Look, I don't have time for -"
"Did you know that you've been legally dead for almost nine years?"
"I'm sorry," she said, trying to look exasperated, realizing others could hear. "I've been alive for almost twenty-five years now. If this Loren -"
"Lauren!" he shouted at her. He was incredibly frustrated. "Admit it! You're her! Uh, she! Whatever!"
She put her elbows on her knees and her head between the palms of her hands. "Look, I would really appreciate it if you left me alone."
He began to drag off in his MagBoots, but just as he was about out of sight he leaned back. "They won't find him," he whispered. "Not Makatrinta. The Great Experiment isn't over. It isn't finished yet. We'll finish it." He paused. "It'll get better. We'll fix it."
Her old mantra.
Yet another inexplicable fluke.
She leaned her head against the window, closed her eyes and watched through the raindrops as the train rolled through southern France. She knew she would see him again. They would probably buy out a transport captain together to get them through Anorian customs. He knew who she was. She would have to bring him to Erulia.
But then again, it was all an illusion, wasn't it? 1