AntipodeanSF Issue 308

By Chris Gladstone

We were coming in blind, turbulence rocking the ship from side to side, Grooth growling, eyes tightly shut, fur standing on end, my hands hovering over the ship’s controls with my teeth tightly clenched.

Jezra was calm. She gently patted my face. ‘Trust your ship, Cal. Resurrection will get us through.’

‘Providing Primeria’s guidance system is accurate.’ I patted her hand.

A supernova of light exploded onto our view screen. Even Jezra jumped and Grooth howled. In an instant it was gone and we were hurtling down a narrow, dimly lit tunnel.

‘Bloody hell! Too damn dramatic for my liking.’ I glanced at Grooth. He’d opened his eyes but still looked terrified.

‘It’s okay, Grooth.’ Jezra patted his arm reassuringly. ‘We’ve just come through Primeria’s containment field and we’re descending to the spaceport.’

Grooth grunted and began smoothing down his fur.

An announcement echoed through the ship’s speakers. ‘Your landing has completed successfully. Your ship will soon reach its docking point, please remain in your seats until we inform you it is safe to disembark.’

 ‘It’s been a long journey, Grooth, but we’re finally here,’ I said.

Giving me a sabre-toothy grin he sighed, ‘Home, I’m really home?’

‘Let's hope so.’

The ship slowed as we emerged from the tunnel onto a cavernous brightly lit platform surrounded by numbered doors.

‘Wow,’ Jezra said. ‘Impressive.’

The engines died. As we came to a standstill, the final announcement played. ‘You may now disembark. Please turn on your translators and proceed through door five. You will be met at the end of the travellator.’ 

Grooth leapt out of his seat and padded off.

‘Wait for us,’ Jezra called as she installed the earbud translator in her left ear.

 I did the same and we hurried after Grooth. He was waiting patiently by the airlock. I surreptitiously checked that he was wearing his translator. He was.

We stepped through door five into surprisingly fresh, clean smelling air. A travellator receded into gloom. ‘I hope there are no surprises at the end of this,’ I said.

‘I quite like surprises.’Jezra grinned, grabbed my hand and Grooth’s and we stepped onto the travellator. Lights came on progressively as we travelled along. Ahead of me Jezra reached across and gave Grooth a sideways hug. He gave her head a gentle pat in return.

We made it, Cal, came my inner voice. It had taken six weeks. We’d extended our stay on the tourist planet of Jaroom, where we had gone to recuperate and make plans after I’d rescued Grooth and Jezra from Serratoria. We needed the time to navigate the multiple bureaucratic wormholes of passports, visas, Primerian protocols and etiquette, plus the puzzling non-disclosure agreements we’d all had to sign. Grooth had endured multiple scans and blood tests. 

The Primerians had experienced many alien raids, and abductions were common until Primeria was granted Space Federation protection. We were none the wiser about Grooth’s test results, as they were sent directly to the ice-planetoid, and we were only granted visas because we were bringing Grooth. I shook my head and my heart went out to him. What if we failed to find anything? What if there were no family members or worse still they were all dead. Cal, get your brain in gear. There are no ‘what ifs’ my inner voice reminded me.

 I took a deep breath and swallowed down my fears. After a few minutes we came to a halt and a green flashing arrow directed us through another door. We came out into a small reception area where a female Primerian was waiting to greet us. She was slightly smaller than Grooth, and her fur had a reddish tinge. We approached her and stopped at the appropriate distance. Taking one step forward I held my right hand out palm up then placed it on my forehead with my palm in. ‘I am Cal.’

‘Welcome to Primeria, Cal. I am Garsia.’ She mirrored my movements and followed with a slight bow. It hit me like a meteor storm –– she had not spoken, but her words had come through loud and clear from the translator in my ear. Why weren’t we told that Primerians were telepathic and didn’t vocalise?

I dropped my hands and stepped back glancing at Jezra. Her face remained immobile and serene. She calmly repeated the routine and received the same welcome. Grooth stepped forward and matched what we had done. When he said his name, Garsia stepped forward, placed both her hands on top of one another over her heart and then placed her hands over his heart. ‘Welcome home, Groother.’ She stepped back and gave him a huge toothy grin.

‘What was that?’ I whispered to Jezra.

She put her finger on her lips and shook her head slightly. ‘Wait,’ she hissed.

I glanced at Grooth, he was grinning.

Garsia turned to us and smiled. ‘You are all family to us.’

I didn’t know what to say.

Jezra jumped in with, ‘Thank you, Garsia.’

‘I will take you now to your accommodation. When you are rested I will collect you. We will go to my home where you can meet my family, and I will explain what will happen next.’

An astounding vista greeted us outside the exit door. In a mega cavern filled with skyscrapers, transport tubes wound away in all directions. Primerians were making their way on walkways arranged on multiple levels. Jezra and I were almost miniatures in comparison. It was amazingly quiet.

Garsia guided us into a transport tube and we soon reached a multi-story building made of some sort of crystalline material that sparkled in a bright, warm, natural light.

‘Garsia, what is your light source?’ Jezra asked.

‘It is generated artificially but behaves just as sunlight does on many other planets.’

‘This is wonderful.’ Grooth was still grinning and looking remarkably relaxed.

‘Are there many cities like this?’ I asked.

‘We have three large cities which hold all of our people. This is the largest.’

 Cal, this is a planetoid covered in ice, my inner voice reminded me.

‘It’s breathtaking.’ Jezra took my hand and gave it a squeeze.

Our accommodation was in a high-rise hotel with views over the city from the 50th floor. I could see a number of parks with greenery that looked like trees. We each had a bedroom, and the windows could be made opaque with a flick of a switch. The beds, although huge to suit the Primerians, were soft and felt exquisitely comfortable. The bathroom was mega sized as well.

‘I will check out the shower,’ Grooth announced, grabbing some clean clothes from his bag and the huge towel from his bed.

Jezra and I laughed.

‘There goes the shampoo,’ I said. ‘The beds are big enough for two.’

‘I don’t remember anything about sleeping arrangements in the protocols so let’s have this one.’ She put her bag on the bed. I did the same.

***

Time can move slowly when travelling in space but other things can move at light speed. In the three months journey to the ninth rim, Jezra and I had fallen in love, something I had never contemplated or expected. Grooth was ecstatic. 

We decided to pool resources and run both our businesses from my ship. Jezra, because she’d only been imprisoned on Serratoria for two months, was able to restart her “Collectables, Artefacts, Antiquities and Rare Finds” business with people literally queueing up to place orders. Access to Primeria was extremely limited so I was able to organise a contract for a delivery of medical supplies and Jezra, the collection of two large commissioned ice carvings for two clients. Ice carvings were a huge industry on Primeria and one of their main exports. Commissioned works were extremely rare and cost the earth, but Jezra had many wealthy clients. We hoped we would be able to negotiate an ongoing relationship with the Primerians and our visit would not be just a one off.

At the arranged time there was a knock at our door. Garsia had changed and was dressed in a pantsuit patterned with large pink flowers with a matching flower in her hair.

‘Are you ready to go?’

‘I am ready.’ Grooth stepped forward and patted her head. She patted his in return.

‘Jezra and I are ready, too.’ I stepped forward, uncertain as to how I should greet her now.

Jezra stepped past me and gently patted Garsia’s head. She smiled as Garsia reached down and returned the gesture.

Garsia stepped towards me and patted my head, so I did the same back. It was too much for Grooth. He put his hands on his hips. ‘We go?’

We laughed and headed out the door.

After a short journey in the transport tube we arrived at Garsia’s home. It too was located on the 10th floor of a massive high-rise. Each apartment, equivalent to a house sized dwelling, occupied the whole floor.

As Garsia opened her door, two cute, cuddly soft toys ran towards her.

‘This is Misra, my daughter.’ Misra gave a slight bow so we bowed back.

‘This is Skreedi, my son.’ A slightly taller Skreedi stepped forward and repeated the ritual.

‘And this is my bond partner, Brabson.’ A black furred male came towards me and the head patting ritual began anew. After he had greeted us he invited us to sit down. There were two enormous couches and Jezra, Grooth and I all fitted easily on one. Once we were seated Brabson stood in front of us and said, ‘You are family to us.’

Jezra jumped in, ‘We are honoured to join your family.’

‘Yes, very honoured,’ I added.

‘You have returned Groother to us. He is Garsia’s brother,’Brabson announced.

 Before he could say anything else Grooth leapt up, jumping up and down in sheer joy. The room filled with his growly laughter. Misra and Skreedi joined in as well. I felt myself tearing up. I looked across at Jezra, tears were running down her cheeks too.

When all the commotion had died down, Garsia said, ‘I have much to tell you. Grooth was kidnapped when he was galactic equivalent six years old and that was twenty-six years ago. Along with all this joy I have sad news.’

I wondered what was coming next. I reached across and took Jezra’s hand. I put my other hand on Grooth’s arm.

‘Our father died two years ago, Grooth. Our mother was in a mental institution for several years. She never recovered and died three years after you were taken. I am so sorry to have to give you this news.’

Grooth let out a long drawn out howl. My insides shattered and my soul shrivelled as I put my arm around him. Jezra did the same. Garsia came and knelt at Grooth’s feet and put her arms around his knees. We stayed that way until the howls finally subsided. Nobody spoke, nobody knew what to say. Finally after some time had passed Misra’s voice piped up, ‘I’m hungry’.

Brabson said, ‘If you are hungry, my daughter, then we shall eat.’ He stood up. ‘Come, come and eat with us. We have some other things we must discuss.’ He ushered us into the dining area and we sat down as Brabson and Garsia brought out plates and dishes of steaming food. It smelt delicious, and in spite of myself I felt ravenously hungry.

After our meal we sat around the table and talked. When the children had been put to bed our conversation turned to more serious matters.

‘We need to talk of Grooth’s medical results,’ Garsia turned to Grooth. ‘You do have an implanted device in your skull and we have discussed in detail with the doctors what should be done about it.’

‘What does it mean?’ Grooth asked, smoothing down his fur.

‘The device contains an inhibitor that suppresses your telepathic abilities, but it is also generating interference signals within your brain. The doctors think it is probably disrupting some of your behaviour and thinking.’

‘Oh,’ was all Grooth could manage.

‘Can it be safely removed?’ I asked.

‘Yes, but it will mean a small operation, a short hospital stay and a week in rehabilitation to train Grooth to control his telepathic ability.’

‘So there are no risks in removing the device?’ Jezra asked.

‘The risks are small, so the doctors have advised that the procedure should be done, but it is your choice, Grooth,’ Garsia concluded.

‘I could be like you?’ Grooth asked. ‘I could speak to you with my mind?’

Garsia hesitated before she answered. ‘You would think in Galactic English, not in Primerian language, Grooth. You would still have to use a translation device as would I.’

Confusion and disappointment tracked across Grooth’s face followed by anger. ‘I leave it then, not have surgery.’

‘You do not have to decide now, Grooth,’ Garsia said. ‘Talk to Cal and Jezra before you decide. We will meet and talk again tomorrow.’

We were all tired so we called it a night and Garsia escorted us back to our accommodation. 

***

After Grooth went to bed Jezra and I talked at length. We decided we would try and persuade him to have the surgery. The risks seemed low and the advantages appeared to out-weigh them. We talked to him in the morning over breakfast and after much to-ing and fro-ing he finally agreed.

Garsia collected us for lunch and we had a long discussion about the surgery, possible side-effects and outcomes. In the end Grooth was happy to have the procedure.

Arrangements were made for him to have the surgery in two days. We were not allowed to see him during this time or while he was in rehabilitation as it would interfere with the process of him learning to control his telepathy.

Garsia had taken a couple of weeks off from her work as a biochemist. She arranged for us to go out to the ice cliffs to see the ice carvers at work. It was a long journey involving changing transport tubes numerous times. I expected the ice cliffs to be on the surface, but constant gales and snow necessitated that blocks of ice were cut from about 400 m down. Even though we’ve been kitted out in extra gear it was still incredibly cold. We finally emerged into the cutting arena.

‘This is stunningly beautiful,’ Jezra said, her breath fogging the air as we stepped out of the airlock into a huge cavern of ice. We were surrounded on three sides by deep blue ice cliffs. There were four gigantic cranes working the area and I counted five artisans on the cavern floor, dressed in red protective gear to shield against the cold and laser burns.

‘The cranes use lasers to cut blocks of ice from the cliffs for the carvers. You can see over there where the latest batch has come from.’ She pointed to an area in the cliffs that had big chunks missing. ‘They lift them down with the cranes and place them where the carvers are working.’

‘Are we able to go closer?’ Jezra asked.

‘No, it is too dangerous so we must observe from here, but if you come to the viewing booth we can see the workers up close via cameras on a big view screen. It is also heated.’ Garsia pointed to where we needed to go.

I breathed a sigh of relief as we stepped through double doors and into welcoming warmth. ‘This is heaven, Garsia,’ I said, after shedding multiple layers of clothing and sinking into a plush chair in front of the huge screen.

Jezra snuggled next to me in the ample chair. ‘Hey, this is awe inspiring, Garsia. I feel incredibly privileged to be able to see the artisans close up. My clients will be fascinated to hear how the ice carvings are done.’

‘The lasers used for carving are cooler. They are of many different sizes to enable fine detail to be created. Ice carvings are Primeria’s top export and earn us a large amount of money,’ Garsia concluded.

‘I understand the carvings are housed in a temperature controlled cabinet with its own power source, is that correct?’ I asked Garsia.

‘Yes, that is correct.’

‘The carvings are huge, how do we get them back to the ship?’ 

‘Each cabinet has its own transport mechanism but only for short journeys. The carvings you have ordered, Jezra, will be loaded into special transport tubes for the journey to your ship,’ Garsia explained. She turned to me. ‘Don’t worry, Cal, it has all been taken care of. I will take you back to your ship tomorrow and we can collect the medical supplies you have bought for us and you can work out where you are going to put the ice carving cabinets.’

Pity all of your clients aren’t as organised as this, Cal, my inner voice piped up.

We spent an hour observing the carvers after which Garsia took us on a tour of the city. There were numerous shopping arcades, and the only difference between human worlds and Primeria was that everything was bigger. The Primerians were very polite and didn’t stare so we tried not to as well.

Grooth’s surgery went well and we were able to speak to him via a vid phone. He appeared a little groggy but other than that just his usual self. He would leave hospital the next day and be admitted to the rehab facility.

We had many meals with Garsia, Brabson and the children. We discovered that Brabson was a paediatric specialist and worked in one of the local hospitals. They seemed happy and normal people and they asked us lots of questions about our lives and our past. By the end of the week we knew them very well, and Jezra and I were feeling well and truly part of their family.

The big day arrived when Grooth was allowed to leave the rehab facility. Garsia picked him up and brought him back to our accommodation around lunchtime.

‘How are you feeling, Grooth?’ I asked as he came through the door.

‘I am feeling well and,’ I could see he was groping for words, ‘and … and different, yes that’s the word I’m looking for, different.’ He beamed at me and patted my head. I inwardly breathed a sigh of relief, he seemed okay.

Jezra threw her arms around him and gave him a big hug. ‘Welcome back, Grooth, we’ve missed you.’

He hugged her back, something I’d never seen him do.

Over the next few days Grooth’s communication skills improved. It was like someone had stripped away whatever had been suffocating his thoughts. He also began to remember pieces of his former life. Little by little he became whole, helped by Garsia sharing her pictures and videos of their parents. He found peace and joy in his memories and hers.

A week before we were due to leave we discovered things had been evolving behind the scenes. We were having dinner with the family and were stunned by what was revealed.

‘You mean we are actually part of your family for real?’ I asked Garsia.

‘Of course,’ she said, pushing a red folder towards us.

I passed the folder to Jezra and held my breath as she opened it.

‘Oh this is wonderful.’ She passed a single paged official document with gold lettering to me and gazed at her own.

There was such joy on her face that all my doubt and hesitation evaporated. The document was in English and granted us permanent citizenship in Primeria.

‘Does this mean we can…?’

Grooth jumped in, ‘You and Jezra can come and go as you please –– no more paperwork. No more complications.’ He sat back and folded his arms grinning from ear to ear.

‘Thank you Garsia, thank you Brabson. This is a tremendous honour,’ I said.

Jezra leapt from her chair and hugged them both in turn. I hugged Garsia and shook hands with Brabson.

‘We cannot take all the credit. It is our government’s policy to reward all those that return our lost people to us.’ His expression became tinged with sadness. ‘Unfortunately there have not been many such as you.’

‘This is such an honour and so unexpected,’ Jezra said, turning to Grooth, ‘Did you know, Grooth?’

‘I knew yesterday, but I did not want to spoil the surprise.’ 

The old Grooth wouldn’t have been able to contain himself, I thought as I realised just how far he had come in a few short weeks.

He stood up and looked around at us all. ‘I am so grateful for everything you have done for me, Garsia, Brabson, Jezra and especially you, Cal. You are all my family now, but I have made a decision.’

Oh God, Cal, here it comes, came my inner voice. Jezra and I had been dreading this. I reached under the table and took her hand.

‘I have decided to go with Cal and Jezra. We will be back probably two or three times a year.’ He looked at Jezra. She grinned and held up three fingers. ‘Now I am free, I would like to travel and share in Cal and Jezras’ adventures. I was locked up for so many years, physically and in my mind, and now my thoughts are my own.’

My heart sang with joy. I looked at Garsia and Brabson expecting disappointment but they were grinning too.’

Brabson said, ‘We are happy for you Grooth, and you are all welcome to come and visit any time.’ 

‘I will look forward to that.’ He padded over and stood between our chairs. With a deadly serious expression he said, ‘We go?’

My jaw dropped. ‘What now?’ Had he suddenly become un-hinged?

He burst out into a fit of growly laughter. ‘Your faces.’ He could hardly get the words out, he was laughing so much.

Oh my God, I thought, he was joking. Grooth’s made a joke –– the first one ever! 

The room erupted with everyone’s laughter, a laughter filled with happiness and love.

rocket crux 2 75

About the Author

gladstone uploadWith the advent of accurate speech recognition software I began writing speculative fiction in 2011. The spark of creativity was lit and writing became one of my passions. While challenging, it gives me a sense of empowerment and joy and enriches my life.

My other passions are science, nature, animals and all things sci-fi. My stories reflect these interests. My very first published story was ‘What If’ in ‘AntipodeanSF’ in Jan 2012. Since then I have written 17 stories for the magazine.

My short story ‘Serratoria’ was included in the ‘Antipodean SF Issue 250’ print edition in 2019 as well as online.

I enjoy reading many of the classic writers as well as Terry Pratchett, Alistair Reynolds, Robert J Sawyer, John Scalzi and S.K.Dunstall. 

My Science Fiction novel, ‘Upload’ is available from Lulu (print edition), Smashwords and Amazon (e-book editions). Check out my website at www.Christaleyes.com for more information.

I am a senior citizen, and live in sunny WA with my husband, John, and our cat Tigress, who well and truly lives up to her name.

aus25grn

Issue Contributors

The AntiSF Radio Show

antipod-show-50Our weekly podcast features the stories from recently published issues, often narrated by the authors themselves.

Listen to the latest episode now:

The AntipodeanSF Radio Show is also broadcast on community radio, 2NVR, 105.9FM every Sunday evening at 7:00pm.

You can find every broadcast episode online here: http://antisf.libsyn.com 

Meet the Narrators

  • Sarah Jane Justice

    Sarah Jane Justice 200Sarah Jane Justice is an Adelaide-based fiction writer, poet, musician and spoken word artist.

    Among other achievements, she has performed in the National Finals of the Australian Poetry Slam, released two albums of her original music and seen her poetry

    ...
  • Geraldine Borella

    geraldine borella 200Geraldine Borella writes fiction for children, young adults and adults. Her work has been published by Deadset Press, IFWG Publishing, Wombat Books/Rhiza Edge, AHWA/Midnight Echo, Antipodean SF, Shacklebound Books, Black Ink Fiction, Paramour Ink Fiction, House of Loki and Raven & Drake

    ...
  • Barry Yedvobnick

    barry yedvobnick 200Barry Yedvobnick is a recently retired Biology Professor. He performed molecular biology and genetic research, and taught, at Emory University in Atlanta for 34 years. He is new to fiction writing, and enjoys taking real science a step or two beyond its known boundaries in his

    ...
  • Tim Borella

    tim borellaTim Borella is an Australian author, mainly of short speculative fiction published in anthologies, online and in podcasts.

    He’s also a songwriter, and has been fortunate enough to have spent most of his working life doing something else he loves, flying.

    Tim lives with his wife Georgie in beautiful Far

    ...
  • Laurie Bell

    lauriebell 2 200

    Laurie Bell lives in Melbourne, Australia and is the author of "The Stones of Power Series" via Wyvern's Peak Publishing: "The Butterfly Stone", "The Tiger's Eye" and "The Crow's Heart" (YA/Fantasy).

    She is also the author of "White Fire" (Sci-Fi) and "The Good, the Bad and the Undecided" (a

    ...
  • Marg Essex

    marg essex 200Margaret lives the good life on a small piece of rural New South Wales Australia, with an amazing man, a couple of pets, and several rambunctious wombats.

    She feels so lucky to be a part of the AntiSF team.

    ...

  • Alistair Lloyd

    alistair lloyd 200Alistair Lloyd is a Melbourne based writer and narrator who has been consuming good quality science fiction and fantasy most of his life.

    You may find him on Twitter as <@mr_al> and online at <...

  • Emma Gill

    Emma Louise GillEmma Louise Gill (she/her) is a British-Australian spec fic writer and consumer of vast amounts of coffee. Brought up on a diet of English lit, she rebelled and now spends her time writing explosive space opera and other fantastical things in

    ...
  • Sarah Pratt

    sarah pratt 200Sarah Pratt is an avid fiction writer and a Marketing Consultant.

    She is currently working on her first novel but loves diving into short stories to bring a little lightness, intrigue or humour to the day.

    Her work has appeared in Sponge Magazine and The Commuting

    ...
  • Juliette Cavendish

    juliette cavendish 200Juliette Cavendish was born in Liverpool UK and is of Welsh and Norwegian heritage. Juliette has an interest in Artificial Intelligence and Quantum Science and writes in both Science Fiction and Contemporary Fiction genres. Juliette was fascinated with space as a

    ...
  • Ed Errington

    ed erringtonEd lives with his wife plus a magical assortment of native animals in tropical North Queensland.

    His efforts at wallaby wrangling are without parallel — at least in this universe.

    He enjoys reading and writing science-fiction stories set within intriguing, yet plausible contexts, and invite readers’ “willing suspension of

    ...
  • Michelle Walker

    michelle walker32My time at Nambucca Valley Community Radio began back in 2016 after moving into the area from Sydney.

    As a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, I recognised it was definitely God who opened up the pathways for my husband and I to settle in the Valley.

    Within

    ...
  • Mark English

    mark english 100Mark is an astrophysicist and space scientist who worked on the Cassini/Huygens mission to Saturn. Following this he worked in computer consultancy, engineering, and high energy research (with a stint at the JET Fusion Torus).

    All this science hasn't damped his love of fantasy and science fiction. It has, however, ruined his

    ...