This is the first draft of the beginning scene of Red Planet Revolt. It is longish for a blog entry, but not for people who read novels. Look back to the 3 June entry to see what is going on. I changed his name...
"Whew, that's enough for today," I say as I remove a small hand decorated leather-bound book that had belonged to my paternal grandfather. He was responsible for my love of antiquity. I smile fondly at the memory of sitting in the sunny meadow listening to "Papa" tell stories of Greek and Roman mythology when I was too young to go to school with my brothers and sisters.
Slowly over the past few weeks, I have been removing items from my office shelves, pondering their worth, and taking the chosen items home. It shouldn’t, but it amazes me how many possessions accumulate over twenty years in the same office.
The sun shining through the window illuminates the dust floating in the air. I place the book in the box and top it with a second century Roman helmet. The helmet was a gift from the first department chairman that I worked under when I came to the university. Now, I realize that it was given to me, not so much as a gift, but out of uncertainty of what to do with it when he, too, was retiring.
Eventually, I have done the same thing as I prepare to move on in life. Many of the items that I treasured are now being passed on to my proteges for proud display on their shelves. It is the passing of the baton, as it were.
One last look around, and I pull the door shut. I touch the name plate, as I have every time I have closed this door. It is a little ritual of mine, perhaps steeped in my interest in mythology. I look back at the name plate one more time before I leave.
I will be back, but not before I have gone over the data cartridges that are stashed in the pouch slung over my shoulder. I already know who has mastered this class, and who has made only the slightest effort to conform to my request to provide me with a knowledgeable review of the information presented in class. But, I will read them as I am required to do, perhaps with the helmet looking over my shoulder from a new shelf at home.
This is the way I enjoy spending my time – quietly entertaining myself with a passive activity. Next week there will be the usual farewell party, but I am no longer obligated to attend other end-of-the-year faculty functions. In a few weeks, I will be free to enjoy living a more reclusive lifestyle. I have had dreams about this time for the last three years. That is when I decided to retire after twenty years of teaching Greco-Roman Antiquity.
As I leave the building, I step on the mobility tread and announce my destination to the voice activated control panel. Smoothly, it moves me along the concourse to my waiting shuttle. Most days, I walk on the surface pathway. I enjoy the walk, and quite frankly, it’s less congested. That suits my tendency to enjoy my own company over the company of the masses. But, today I am in a hurry to get home with my treasures.
Ternion is scheduled to transmit tonight and I don’t want to miss talking with him. It is rare that we can speak with each other. Now, that Ternion is on the planet, he can communicate to Earth only when all of the satellites in the system are aligned and available for personal messages. Because of the various orbit dimensions of the planets and moons between us, that occurs only once every eight months. It will be next year before I hear from him again.
Once the shuttle hatch closes, I request the time only to discover that I have worked later than I had planned. The ignition sequence activates and the shuttle eases toward home. Before he left, Ternion set the shuttle memory for the places I routinely go. It requires only for me to speak my destination to take me home.
Ternion gave me this new shuttle before he left and I haven’t mastered much more than what he programed into it. I get most places I want to go, and I can do a few simple manual maneuvers. I plan to spend time and learn enough to please him when he returns home in five years.
I lean back into my chair and gently touch the seat beside me, imagining Ternion is there. Everyone said we were a poor match, but that hasn’t been true. He is more precious than all of history and I miss him terribly.
It is a forty minute trip from the university in North America to my home on the hills above the Marathon Plains in Greece. I rarely fly above the atmosphere. I love the sight of the Mediterranean Sea from this lower altitude.
The instrument panel signals that my home beacon has activated. I acknowledge with the voice command to began descent, and lock the glide path onto the auto-park beam. The doors open, and my shuttle settles to rest in the pod bay. Nearly silently, the beam concludes upon landing the craft. It is good to get home. I breathe a sigh of relief the moment the hatch opens.
I skim through the data cartridges during the two hour wait for Ternion’s transmission to arrive. At least I have sorted the cartridges into stacks: interesting, enlightened writers, and my marginal students. That will balance the task of grading the exams when I finally have to face that task.
I ask the sentinel if there is a transmission from Ternion, and am disappointed that the response is, "No." I wander into the kitchen to consider dinner. Mindlessly, I request my favorite meal, hoping it will fill the void my anticipation created.
The weather is lovely, so I stroll through the columns to the outer gardens. I sigh as I activate the biosphere for the night. Ternion developed the biosphere technology when he was in graduate school. I remember how excited he was when he received the Nobel Prize for his creation.
I sit down on a garden bench, as I watch the biosphere activate, enveloping the garden. Technology. We take it for granted when there are other worlds in desperate need of the things we dismiss without a thought. There are many nights that I don’t activate the biosphere, yet it is so simple to do. I am proud of Ternion, though I don’t really understand his work.
He is a bio-chemical engineer. We met shortly after I began my professorship. He is slightly older than I, in Earth years. He is from Ka’Bobk, a planet in the neighboring solar system. His people have a natural knack for science and are recruited by every university imaginable. I miss him terribly, though I should be used to his long assignments away from home.
I lean back against the back of the bench staring dimly at the plants across the sky. We had several years together in the beginning when we both taught. It was fun to have quiet lunches together on the days that our class schedules coincided. Those years together at the university proved that our decision to marry had been correct.
We knew when we married that our genetic makeup was not compatible for having mixed-race children. Before Ternion and I married, there were long discussions with my mother about whether it mattered that we couldn’t have a family. After a while, we adopted two children from Ka’Bobk.
My melancholy mood is interrupted by the sentinel announcing a transmission from Ternion Ka’Bobk.
"Yes, activate the transmission," I respond as I hurry toward the view station.
"Victoria, my darling," Ternion begins.
"Hello, Ternion. I love you. Are you well?" I ask quickly, knowing that transmissions to the distant galaxy are sometimes interrupted by any number of anomalies. I want to have a long and lingering conversation with him, but I know that isn’t possible. Since he left the university and began working with the development company, we have had only brief periods of what I would call a normal home-life.
When he would come home after being gone for several years, he would have to readjust to living with a family. The children were eager to have him return home, but it was always an awkward adjustment. Then, when we were accustomed to living like a normal family, he would have to leave to set-up a biosphere that kept him away for several more years.
"Victoria, the fighting here subsided months ago, and the biosphere is just about ready to activate – why don’t you join me when you finish at the university?"
He looked good considering the transmission quality. I think I detected a slight grin as he spoke. He knows that I fear intergalactic travel, but it was a sweet thing to say. His species were known for their considerate ways of interacting. I knew he was sincere.
The children are busy with their own lives. I really didn’t have any specific plans after I finish work. But, then there was that flying thing. That was my only reservation in leaving Earth. I was the only one in my family for three generations that had not been off of Earth – ever. Several times I made plans to take a trip, once even to meet Ternion on one of his work sites. But, I never quite made it out of Earth’s gravity. To be fair, it wasn’t always my fault that I didn’t go – but, I was felieved that the trips didn’t materialize.
I have to think about Ternion’s proposal. "Yes, that would be fun," I hear myself say back to the screen.
Ternion smiled. "Good, I'll have it all arranged. Check with the Company and they will give you the details," he said as the transmission faded out.
I didn’t mean to say that I would come. I missed him so much that I wanted to say what would please him since we spoke so sledom. I waited a little while to see if the transmission would come back on. It did not.