Fortunately, the rest of the afternoon passed without incident. After disabling the remote access, the Kids said the image belonged to an adult Capthraw, who was some sort of celebrity back on the ship. "A politician I think . . ." Scrawny said. ". . . named 'Svik' F.B." added.
I asked them about their names, which to us seemed rather odd. They said that it was Capthraw custom that an individual's name must be earned. Until that time, their parents bestowed upon them "temporary" names that reflected some physical aspect of their offspring. One usually earned their names in late adolescence through some sort of community service. This would explain why the translators provided readily understandable names for the three kids, but gave us "Svik" for the adult. Scrawny explained that one chose their own names, and they could be anything they prefer, as long as it is "earned."
I guess it is similar to some Native American tribes where the braves earn their names in battle. Only in Capthraw culture, this custom applied equally to males and females. The dudes then related that early Capthraw cultures were matriarchal, and that lineage was traced through one's female ancestors. As they became more socially and technologically advanced, the males demanded and received equal treatment and rights.
F.B. added sarcastically, ". . . we did that because we wanted to keep the boys happy . . ." to which Scrawny shot him a nasty look. Then it struck me. Maybe F.B. wasn't a him at all! I had been applying human stereotypes on this "guy" and assumed from the way F.B. carried "him"self that "he" was a male. I had to ask.
Both Capthraw started squawking hysterically. Finally Scrawny piped it ". . . you thought she was a "he?" at which point F.B. chucked a small pebble at Scrawny. "Yes, I am a girl . . ." F.B. finally said. ". . . what ever made you think that I was a guy?"
I just shrugged. They seemed to understand, and changed the subject.
The discussion drifted back to Nuzzle Muzzle. Turns out, she and F.B. were best friends and were suppose to be "baby sitting" Scrawny when they decided to enter into the car. Apparently their parents were occupied at some sort of political rally, and the kids slipped off on an adventure of sorts. The un-used car was a favorite hideout, and was considered inoperable, except in some sort of "training mode." F.B. and Nuzzle Muzzle were studying to become pilots, and often came here to practice up on their skills. They brought along Scrawny to help them modify the simulations.
They had mastered all the simulations at their level, and wanted to skip ahead. Scrawny assured them that if they let him play too, he could hack the system and get to the advance programs. Apparently they got a great deal more than they had bargained for. All was proceeding fine until suddenly there was a blinding flash from Nuzzle Muzzle's station, and the next thing they knew, they were on Earth. I sensed that they were on the verge of depression from this line of conversation, so I again changed the subject and asked them if the rest of the Capthraw knew about their apparent closeness to Earth.
F.B. added that for the last couple of months prior to their departure from the home ship, there was a great deal of activity. The Elders had said that they were finally approaching their destination, and would soon start the process of building a new Thrawn. But she added that after many generations living in a star ship, a sizable group of the colonists wanted to remain in space. "That Svik guy was the leader of the ones who wanted to remain on the home ship."
Scrawny said that his dad had told him that those people lost, and we were going to our new home world after all, but that it would still be years before they finally arrived. ". . . and no one ever saw Svik again. He just disappeared." Until now I thought. Ironic that the leader of those wanting to stay in space should end up being one of the first to make planet fall.
"So here you are! But what about the rest of the Capthraw?" Mike asked; "What will they do when they see that their new world is their old world millions and millions of years later? And how could that have even happened?" F.B. matter of factly related Einstein's theory of relativity, which to them was ancient knowledge. She explained that a couple of hundred years out from Thrawn, the star ship encountered a black hole. It was far enough away that it did little damage to the ship, but the close passage accelerated them like a sling-shot far faster than they thought possible.
It would appear that their path took them on an elliptical path which eventually returned them to their starting point 67 million years later. But apparently no one on the ship was aware that they were approaching the home world. We were left wondering when the rest of them would get here. F.B. mentioned that it could be years or even decades, since they got here much quicker than the main ship, which apparently is still traveling out beyond the orbit of Neptune. The approach plan involved orbiting the new star system beyond the farthest planet, and start spiraling in towards the center over the course of several years.
Greg observed that this was probably a planned psychological ploy to get the new colonists prepared to the idea of living on a planetary surface. "After all, none of them have known any life except one in a large spinning can!" he added.
I was left trying to visualize this huge craft out there somewhere inching its way closer to Earth. What would they do when they got here? How would they react? We were at least encouraged in this prospect by the fact that the only two Capthraw that we have met turned out to be decent kids, which usually mean decent parents. But what about the rest of them? Tens of thousands of individuals. If the human model was any indicator, there were bound to be at least a few bad apples in the barrel. Especially after discovering "Svik."
By now, darkness was growing, so we retreated back into the ship to ready it for our departure. Inside I worked with F.B. and located our next destination on the crystal ball. It was only a manner of minutes, and we were transported silently to the base of Homestead Falls. We picked an area that was overgrown with vine maple and salmon berry vines a few yards from the pool next to the cliff, and set down there.
Scrawny pointed out that he found it rather unsettling to see an empty blue sky instead of the "natural" bending up of the horizon. "But I feel safer down here in this canyon except that the air's too thin and dry and it's sooo cold!" he concluded. I had to admit that they both seemed noticeably worn out after spending any time out in the open. I made a mental note to mention this to the Doc. Scrawny set the outside of the car to mimic the cliff, and we settled in for the night--Us humans outside in the cool, refreshing August evening, and the Capthraw kids inside their steamy hot car.
As I slept, the dreams returned. Only now they were much more detailed. This time I was alone, and being pursued by someone or something. I ran down the same escalator as before and into the same tiny room. I seemed to vaguely recall a computer, but it was a Capthraw computer! I was programming it, and was interrupted by someone. I remember being furious. I was filled with a blind rage . . . and then I woke up.
© 1996 by R. D. Frederick
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