Part Three – Chapter Two – Introduction of main characters
Elnac liked to think. To consider, ponder, and cogitate on matters it thought important to itself. It gathered information from objects that passed by it or ran into it. In a small solar system on a far end of a complex galaxy, Elnac had been stuck for literally eons. Not that it minded, really, as it had no other concept of ‘elsewhere’.
Elnac liked to watch the various organisms that had formed on its skin. Little beings that moved or rooted or swayed or died where they stood. Elnac fed them what they needed and watched them all interact with each other.
Then, instead of an organism forming, an organism came. These were different. These had intelligence. These made permanent homes. And, most importantly, these were independent of Elnac. They made their own food, made their own water sources, and made their own environments.
But what made them even more fascinating is that they cared for Elnac and the other organisms. They planted forests, helped any ill organism they found. They gave back to Elnac whatever they took.
Maratha Verdan was fifth generation native. She’d grown up on an arcology community far from any city. Choosing to leave the only home she’d known to attend the university had been a tough one. But it was the only way to learn more than what the university there had to offer.
And now, six hours after getting off the transport tram, she was definitely lost. The font used for the street signs was not one she was familiar with, at least that was the excuse she kept running through her mind. But most likely what had distracted her the most had been the noise. Crowded streets, far too many types of media at once, and far too much to filter through in her tired brain.
Finally, exhausted and disgusted with herself, she sat down on a bench to rest. Soon she would see a Constable go by and she would ask for assistance. ‘Always trust the Constable’ had been the slogan she’d been taught since she was old enough to learn.
She took the time to look around her, to see just where she was. Behind her was a tall flat sided building. Perhaps 17 stories tall, it was much taller than the biggest back home. She could see no doorway leading into it, finally spotting it around one side.
In front of her, across the street, were a variety of shops and businesses. One was a media store, selling the latest in auditory and visual receptors and disks. The front glass had several flashing lights, as if the sound was not enough to attract attention.
Next to it was an honest to goodness shoe repair shop. The streets were far too crowded with pedestrians to allow for motorized transportation. People must therefor go through a lot of shoes.
But on the corner was the most spectacular, at least to someone with Maratha’s rural background â€“ a cybernetic evolution port. Tables lined the sidewalk, people using them to sit down and plug into the cybernetic library. A part of her, a small part, wanted to know what it was like, having all that information at one’s fingertips. To tickety-tap the port keys and there it would be.
Maratha shook herself, forcing herself to look away. She’d rather get her information the old fashioned way: by learning it and storing it inside her own electric-organic facility â€“ her brain.
As the sky grew darker, the crowd finally began thinning. She felt more relaxed now that the noise level had dropped. She sat leaning into the bench, feeling drowsy in the evening heat. She didn’t hear someone approach until that someone politely coughed.
“Greetings. I happen to have a leftover belara and hoped you could eat it for me.” She held out a cellulose bag that held a wonderfully smelling open-ended sandwich.
“Um, I haven’t much credits on me….”
“I don’t expect you to pay. It would have been thrown out so you aren’t costing me any money.” She put the bag down on the bench and turned her head as Maratha opened the bag and began to eat. “We delve so deep into the informatics, into knowledge, becoming engrossed in theories. Yet, our stomachs are still very primal and are capable of pulling us out of our research and back into our skin.”
“That sounds almost poetic.”
“Does it? Just thinking aloud. I’ve been across the street at work and saw you out here. You look quite out of place you know.” The other woman smiled, showing her white teeth.
“I suppose I do. Here I am wearing plant material clothing while everyone else is wearing…something else entirely.” Maratha took another bite as she watched the crowd around them.
“It is still plant based, just spun differently. It’s all the latest rage here. Personally, I can’t stand the loud colors. May I sit down with you?”
“Please do! I am Maratha Verdan.”
“I am Zenith Torado. Welcome to University City. How lost are you?”
Maratha laughed. “Quite lost. I can’t read the street signs. I thought I knew almost every font and language, but not this.”
“We told the city they were making a mistake putting those up and you just proved our point. Don’t look at the sign, look through it.”
Maratha focused on the closest street sign, then focused her eyes past it, as if she could see something behind it. “Oh! I see that now! How obnoxious!”
“Exactly. I suspect they’ll come down soon. In some districts they’ve painted over them. Where were you headed?”
“To Checkmate Dormitory.”
“Ah. Now, that tells me several things about you.” Zenith leaned back, turning slightly toward Maratha. “First, you aren’t from anywhere near here. Two, you are a true scholar and quite possibly follow the Geocentric belief system.”
“And how did you figure that out?”
“It is not pronounced ‘chek-mayt’ but ‘chek-MAH-tay’. Not knowing how it is pronounced means you have never sat down at a port long enough to hear it spoken. And, Checkmate Dormitory is only for those here on special scholarships.” Zenith took the bag and the wrapping paper, tossing it one handed into the closest recycling bin.
“How do you know so much? Wait, you plug into a port on a regular basis.”
“Yes, I do. Plus I read the news flashes. So, was that enough? Do you need something to drink too?”
“I have some water in my bag.” Maratha reached into the side pocket of her pack and pulled out a flask.
“Where is the rest of your things?”
“They were sent by cargo. Since I can’t put postage on my forehead, they made it safely while I got dumped at the platform.”
“I go by Checkmate on my way home. Would you like to walk with me?” Zenith stood. “I need to go get my things but I’ll be right back.”
“That would be nice, yes. I’ll cross the street with you and wait for you there.”
Gathering her things, Maratha closed the latches on her bag before slipping her arm through the strap. The other bag could have been attached to the first but it made it very heavy so she carried it instead. The road, a insert description here, was less hectic now and it was easy enough to cross. In her home community, the roads had been packed dirt but these roads consisted of ground up coral. It allowed for excellent water drainage as well as a firm surface.
Zenith soon joined her and together they began walking. “So what are you here to study?”
“I am here on a biology scholarship and in particular reptile and insect biology.”
“Ah. I have seen some of the long snakes they have at the zoo. Frightening long.” Zenith shuddered.
“I have personally seen a 20 foot barn snake. Wrapped itself around one of the smaller pigs. We had no choice but to cut its throat so it would stop squalling. The pig, not the snake.”
“I figured. 20 foot, eh? Poor little thing. The snake, not the pig.”
“You have quite the sense of humor for an Informationist.”
“Humor is, after all, just another form of information.”