Chapter 1: School of Thought



With the Birth of Andrew Alan McKesson, Dave and Ginny decided they needed to build their own home on Meadow. They began looking all across North America for the perfect place. It wasn't until Sheb Halliday suggested it that they looked in the area of the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee. When they saw Meadow's version of the Cataloochee River valley, the knew they had found their place.

They picked a spot near the upland end of the valley, on a small rise that gave them a dramatic view down the valley. With the spot picked, they soon began looking at plans. After three months of endless changes, Dave's mom finally made a proposal.

"Do you two trust me?" She began. They both nodded. "Then why not leave this to me? The two of you are too wrapped up in being parents, and the millions of details involved in getting the folks on Obsidian operating smoothly, being Legionnaires and explorers, its no wonder you can't make a decision about a house. I'll get together with your Grandpa A.J. and a few other people, and we will design and build your home, and present it to you. Everyone's happy, and we all get back to business. What do you think?"

They should have known that Elizabeth McKesson was just acting as the front man for a larger organization. The plan to build a house for the new family was a joint effort of ... everyone! Every member of the McKesson Clan, every one of the Holders of Rhel, everyone in the Legion, every one involved in Obsidian and with Obsidian Research. Everyone but Dave, Ginny and Baby Andrew McKesson were in on the building. And they built big!

While Dave and Ginny had been thinking of a house just big enough to raise three or four children in, everyone else understood one simple fact. Wherever they lived would become the center of the universe for their friends, family and followers. There would always be company at their house. It would be a place where people gathered, groups met and decisions were made.

So while there was a small dining table in a rear sun room near the kitchen, perfectly placed to catch the morning light coming up the valley, there was also a massively huge dining room which could seat a hundred. The kitchen was also greatly oversize, with room for a large cook crew to prepare large meals for the crowds that might fill the dining room. There were a dozen guest bedrooms on the second floor. The third floor was the 'private residence' part of the house. There was a basement, even a secret level of sorts, but there was no massive underground component like they had built for the first house on Meadow.

Built of massive timbers and stone, but with all the modern amenities, as well as all the Seeker extras that Con and the Obsidian staff could hide behind and inside the walls, ceilings and floors, the house was completed and they were moved in within six months. A house that size was going to need a full staff to take care of it, and unlike in the past, they built the caretaker's house at the same time, in a side valley a few miles to the northeast.

It was during this time that Arden Anderson and Alicia Jackson got married. Dave's prediction of a double wedding turned out to be oddly accurate as well. Pete Parkin and Sarah Granger were married in the same ceremony. Arden and Alicia honeymooned on the island of Maui in Hawaii. Pete and Sarah honeymooned on the island of St. Thomas in the Caribbean. Within a month, and only days apart, Alicia and Sarah announced that they were expecting.

The applicants for the head caretakers position was limited to couples 'hitched or fixin' to get hitched', as Hoot Jenkins put it. Dave and Ginny selected their surprise preferred choice, Dwight Alvarado and his bride to be Shelaana Dru.

The two had met during the basic classes all Meadow settlers were required to take. According to Dwight, they had walked out of the Garden on Obsidian at the same time, thanked their teachers, turned and saw each other. The attraction was instantaneous and mutual, and they stopped on one of the low benches that surrounded the garden and struck up a conversation. They were at the meeting-the-parents stage within three weeks. They were married in their new home in what everyone referred to as a combination wedding and house warming party.

Dave, amongst others, had noticed the high incidence of romantic connections being made between McKesson and Rhellian candidates. It was hard not to notice, with his Uncle Ambrose and Ia Sardic now each very seriously disinterested in most anything that did not involve the other.

The other nice thing about living in the Smoky Mountains was being able to stay synchronized with the folks in Chocowinity. They were regular visitors to the McKesson house, and Aaron, Ambrose, A.J., Sheb and Violet became regular benefactors of their Light rejuvenation treatments. This soon came to include Doc Aillard and Ia Sardic, as they became regulars at A.J.'s house as well.

One pleasant morning, just before Andy's fifth birthday, Dave was sitting with his Dad and Grandfather A.J., Drinking tea in the sun room and watching Andy and Ginny playing, when A.J. Started an interesting conversation.

"Dave, how difficult do you think it would be for Constantine to build an exact copy of my house in Chocowinity here on Meadow?"

"Not much of a problem at all, grandpa. Why? Are you thinking of moving to Meadow?"

"I'm planning on dieing, Dave. At least I'm planning for everyone on Earth to believe I'm dead."

"What!" Dave exclaimed in surprise. When he realized his dad hadn't reacted similarly he turned to him "Dad, are you in on this idea?"

"Yup."

"Of course your dad knows what is going on Davey, he's my chosen successor after all." A.J. Said with a wicked grin. "Listen, I've been thinking for quite some time about how to handle the fact that I'm looking younger and younger every year. You rejuvenation treatments are not only working nicely, but the effects seem to be building some momentum. I'm starting to look too young! Hell, I'm 83 years old, but I look like I'm 40! I have to wear makeup to make myself look older when I go to any McKesson Group functions."

"Wow! I hadn't thought about the age difference thing. Too involved in the process to think about the long term results, I guess."

"Well the same problem is starting to worry both of your Uncles, Doc Aillard, Sheb and Violet too, although they have less to worry about since they're not quite the public figures your Grandfather and you are."

"Thanks for reminding me Dad." Dave said with a laugh. "I assume, knowing the way the McKesson mind works, that you all have devised some sort of plan?"

Of course they did, and it was dramatic.

Three years after the triggering of Dave's original set of inspiration bombs, the publicly known research in the field was sufficient for Obsidian Research to announce the Obsidian Fusion Reactor. The oil and power industries on Earth had immediately tried everything in their power to suppress it. They dumped millions of dollars into the pockets of congressmen and officials of the Atomic Energy Commission and every other Federal agency who had a shred of control or influence. Legislation was introduced, PR agencies were hired, TV advertisements condemning the reactors as dangerous and untested blanketed the airwaves. The reactor technology was on its way to being bogged down in red tape for decades.

Then Howard Dexter stepped forward. Howard was a senior aide to Senator Warren Remington of Virginia, and he quickly became history's most famous whistle blower. He stepped forward with digital video recordings of both the meeting between Senator Remington, three other senior Senators and a group of OPEC oil ministers, as well as another meeting between Senator Remington and the heads of three of the four largest American power companies.

"I just had an epiphany that woke me up in the middle of the night." Howard was quoted as saying. "I realized how truly evil our actions were, in trying to suppress the fusion reactor, merely because doing so benefited those people willing to pay for the Senator's influence. So I decided to do something."

A couple more whistle blowers came forward from the ranks of congressional aides and corporate assistants to confirm Howard Dexter's story, and the tide shifted. TV, radio and newspaper news organizations seized on the corruption story and ran with it.

Obsidian Industries, Obsidian Research and the McKesson Group were all publicly the world's biggest Howard Dexter fans. But it took only a second of consideration to make us wonder about our benefactor.

Obsidian Industries invited Howard Dexter to a symposium on fusion energy at Duke University, as a special guest of honor, all expenses paid. The Dave/Ginny full fusion gave him a thorough going over. Howard Dexter was definitely under the influence of a coercer, and one with much more finesse than Lyle Boyle.

The compulsion that had been laid on him to reveal the actions of his employer, the former Senator and currently indicted co-conspirator Warren Remington, was still there. When the time came, Howard Dexter would testify, with utter truthfulness and an uncanny level of detail. Several other compulsions had been laid upon him. The simplest was one that compelled him to get as close to me, or the McKesson family as possible.

Whoever he was, this coercer was infinitely more sophisticated than the sick combination of Dwayne and Lyle Boyle. Howard Dexter had no idea who controlled him, no idea he was being controlled at all. Faint traces, bare hints of a masculine touch lingered and nothing more.

To find the coercer who held Howard's strings we were going to have to keep him as close as possible, and monitor him heavily whenever he was near any of us. It became a waiting game.

The powerful men he had exposed had been quick to hire investigators and researchers to look for some dirt in Howard Dexter's past. We arranged to get the results of their efforts ourselves. More importantly, we looked for signs that the investigators themselves had been tampered with.

Three months after Howard Dexter came forward, the Chinese physicist whose work had 'inspired' the development of the Obsidian reactor held a press conference to claim that the reactor technology was indeed safe, and that the Chinese government would immediately begin negotiating with Obsidian to open a plant in China to produce reactors for the global market. The rest of the world, and the rest of the U.S. Congress, took notice.

It was in the midst of this chaotic series of events that we finally got a nibble from our surveillance of Howard Dexter. We were able to do a quick trace to an unknown face in the crowd during an independence Day parade in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We planted our faintest, most gossamer tag and then studiously ignored him. With our tag planted, and Howard Dexter's testimony before congress completed, Grandpa A.J.'s plans were enacted. To celebrate the recent good news, A.J., Ambrose, Aaron, Sheb, Violet and Doc Aillard took the Nereid out for a run up to Boston.

After a stop in Ocean City, Maryland to pick up our new good friend Howard Dexter, In full view of at least 6 other vessels, as well as a large number of people on shore, the Nereid exploded in a blinding and deafening blast that completely and utterly obliterated it.

Public opinion quickly placed the blame on the energy companies that had so recently been exposed. We definitely felt a little guilty when the President declared a national day of mourning. Of course there had been no one on board the Nereid when the blast destroyed her. They were all safe and secure in the new replica of A.J. McKesson's house on Meadow. Howard Dexter, freed of his compulsions was giddy with relief, and just a little awe struck.

With A.J. McKesson having been 83 years old, nobody thought it odd that his estate was so well prepared for his demise. The transition of control of the McKesson group from A.J., Aaron and Ambrose's hands to Gerald Alan McKesson had already been in the planning stages for several years, and the various boards and subsidiaries had no problems with the sudden passing of power. Because of the loss of so many family members at once, everyone understood when the family announced there would be only a small private service at the family home in Chocowinity.

Dave, Ginny and Eru were joined on their morning runs on Obsidian by Riah and Zaia. The twins had been the first success for the Ginny/Dave fusion in bringing someone else into a fusion. With the girl's deep reservoirs of power, and now able to follow them into the Light while in the fusion, it took only 4 months to tear away the barriers to their perception of the Light, as had been done for Ginny.

It took another 6 months for their combined four way fusion to bring Eru to that same place. That brought the number of known Light sensitives in the universe to five.

Dave had finally had to get together with Con and built a separate running track. They had begun to draw crowds every morning when they ran. Perhaps it was the sight of five people running at thirty miles an hour, or perhaps it was the sight of three beautiful women in relatively skimpy running gear running at thirty miles an hour. Con built them an interesting clover leaf out of the perfect running surface that was the ring material. The track was five miles away from the rings

Their cool down period usually consisted of 45 minutes of mental sparring. Eru had built on the experience Dave and Ginny had with the Boyle brothers, as well as on his own experience, and they sharpened their offensive and defensive mental techniques on a daily basis. Two observers were always watching, in full fusion, ready to prevent any accidents. They were able to practice one on one and two on one as well as one on two.

After the 'cool down', they just sat joined only lightly, and talked for a while. Today's chat began with a familiar topic.

"Riah, Zaia, have you worked the kinks out of your love life yet?" Ginny asked them.

"We're still stuck with the same problem." Zaia said. "Dave's already married to you, Andy is still too young, Eru simply says no, that it would be unhealthy to have a relationship with our teacher, and we still are always picking the same guy out of a crowd."

"We've given it a lot of thought, and we are probably going to have to find someone who will be willing to have a relationship with both of us. Eru says it used to be a common thing for twins in the old days." Riah added.

"There is one guy who has always made us swoon a little"

"But he's never indicated any interest"

"Probably because of the age thing, though we're all getting closer to the same physical age every year."

The twins were usually pretty good about not slipping into their ping-pong speech mode, but they still did it now and then when they got nervous or excited.

"Well that limits my guesses to someone in the Legion, since they are the only ones besides Eru and Dave's family who are getting regular doses of our anti-aging Light work." Ginny said. "Let me guess. Chet Alvarado?"

The two glanced at each other and blushed.

"Well, that's a yes, obviously." Eru added with a laugh.

"Girls, if you are interested, you're going to have to make the first move." Ginny said. "In the society in which Chet was raised, multiple marriages were not just frowned upon, but were actually illegal. He will need a lot of encouragement to overcome those inhibitions."

The Great Library at Ureda was already becoming legendary, and as its legend grew, so did the prosperity of Borthun's Rest. At first the Library's staff had been comprised of McKesson Clan and Rhellian volunteers, while Borthun's rest had been staffed completely by locals. As the bright young minds of first Ureda, and then other regions arrived, the brightest were quickly recruited, and the staff at the Library slowly shifted towards a greater and greater percentage of locals.

Borthun's Rest actually went in the other direction, but only slightly.

It had been no fluke, or freak coincidence that the mental gifts that Dave discovered he shared with Eru were awakened in Ginny and the rest of the Legion. Eru and Felicia had been set the task of picking other candidates for mental awakening. Stability, Integrity and 'depth of character' were the selection criteria. In the first three years since the establishment of the Great Library, 6 McKesson Clansmen and 8 Rhellians had been awakened.

When it was realized that the volume of people passing through Borthun's Rest was at least four times greater than actually made the trip to the Library, Borthun was suddenly inspired to hire two 'hostesses', who met arriving patrons at the door and found them a table, but did not actually wait on tables themselves. The hostesses were Tavi Brek and Cuhi Sul, awakened Rhellians who had gone through the first year of Eru's soul diver school. They began screening every guest for those qualities which would make them candidates for awakening.

Three months into the assignment, Tavi encountered the mind of Laik Hulin. For the first time since Dave met Eru, they found a fully awakened mind.

Tavi was stunned to encounter an aware and active mind. Eru's Soul Diver classes had stressed the possibilities of encountering coercers, and with no other experience, she made that assumption, and called for help. When Cuhi touched this man's mind, she too panicked and sent out a call to Eru.

When the alarm reached Eru, he was in the middle of observing a class. He sent a quick thought to Felicia that there was a coercer report coming in from Borthun's Rest and jumped to the spare room at the inn that was aways mysteriously unused. He made his way down the stairs and found Tavi and the newcomer standing, staring at each other, unmoving.

"Well, this is interesting. Tavi, Cuhi, you may stand down, He is not a coercer." Eru said to the women.

"I am Eru Jehn. May I invite you to join me at a private table?"

"Yes, thank you. I am Laik Hulin of Espos. We Esposians are supposed to be renowned for our gastronomic sensibilities, though I confess to having fled the region as a child, well before my inner gastronome was revealed."

Tavi escorted the two of them to one of the private rooms in the rear of the inn and told the waitresses that she would be waiting on these guests herself. The two hostesses were known to make this request for users of the private rooms now and then, so it was nothing unusual.

"Tavi, I suspect our guest would not object to trying the house specialty, and if we could have a pitcher of the Ryennian Dark Ale to go with it?"

"Yes teacher!" Tavi said, and spun sharply and exited the room.

Laik's eyes followed her as she left. To be honest, most men's eyes followed Tavi when she walked away.

"I was so stunned to encounter her mind as I entered that I did not quite have time to appreciate her beauty. Was she there specifically to catch me, or others like me?"

"She is a beautiful young woman, as is Cuhi. Please accept my apologies, but they are here simply to screen those who pass through in the hopes of finding likely candidates to send on to the Library. We are currently seeking to fill a great many staff positions there. Her training made her assume you were a coercer, and act accordingly."

"Ahh, I heard you use that word earlier, and I saw it in the young lady's thoughts, just before she was able to close them off from me. What is a coercer? And she called you teacher??" Laik asked excitedly. "Hers was the first mind I have ever encountered that was able to resist my probes. Quickly followed by the other woman's and yours of course. How is this possible that the world could seem so empty of others like me, and then I stumble across three of them at once!"

"Coercers are people who are somewhere between the unawakened and awakened state. They are able to use certain aspects of the gift, usually very crudely. They are also set apart by their willingness to use the gifts to compel others to do their bidding.

Where I am from, you or I would be called Soul Divers. We came by our gifts naturally. Tavi and Cuhi are what we call 'awakened'. Normal but sensitive people whose minds have been shown the way to the gifts. I run a school where we teach the skills of the Soul Diver to the awakened."

"That it is possible to give the gift to those I've come to call the mind-blind is amazing to me. How did you come to be able to do this?"

Tavi came back into the room with a large pitcher of the rich ale and two glasses. Cuhi accompanied her, carrying a tray with their meals. Cuhi walking towards a man was as much a magnet for the eye as Tavi was when walking away.

"Lets discuss that after we finish our meal." Eru said. "Thank you Tavi and Cuhi."

As Eru spoke to Tavi, he reached out with his thoughts to find Dave.

<Dave, can you join me at Borthun's Rest? We have a new wrinkle!>

"This is very fine glass work." Laik said, holding his up to the light.

<I can't get free for another twenty minutes or so. Can I meet you somewhere?> Dave thought back.

"The people of Eruda are very progressive, and are perhaps the premier craftsmen of Eruda. This is, in part, the reason why the Library was established here."

<Can you be waiting for us in the Head Librarian's quarters?> Eru thought back to Dave.

<Yes. I'll be waiting for you there.> Dave finished. Eru turned his attention to Laik's words.

"Word of this legendary library is what brought me here of course. But by the smell of this marvelous food, there are plenty of other good reasons to come to Borthun's Rest. Certainly the quality of the staff would recommend it as well!"

The two men tackled their meals then, and were interrupted only once when Tavi came in to see if they needed a fresh pitcher.

Finally they had both pushed their plates away, full.

"Laik, there is a simple solution to the dancing around we are doing here. You can let me into your thoughts." Eru said.

"Will you then let me into your thoughts as well?"

"I cannot. There are secrets there that are not mine to give you." Eru sighed. "But I can promise that unless your thoughts reveal you to be some hideous monster or diabolical villain, you will be in my thoughts before the day is out."

"Very well." Laik answered. "To be honest, I have no idea how to prevent your from taking my thoughts anyway."

The Esposian drained the last of his ale, wiping the foam from his lips.

"Proceed!"

Eru slipped, a gentle shadow, into the mind of Laik Hulin. He sifted gently through the man's thoughts before diving into his memories. The experience was memorable. Laik had a mind at least as ordered and deep as his own. Unless he was a master deceiver of a magnitude beyond Eru's comprehension, he was a decent man who had spent half his childhood and all his adult life looking for something he had come to think probably didn't exist. Others like himself.

<You find us at the end of a long and incredible journey. I hope we do not disappoint you.>


Because I was sitting in as the Head Librarian at the Great Library this month, Ginny, Andy, Serenity and I were spending the month at the Montecristo station. Andy loved the beach, but for Ginny and I, being at Montecristo always reminded us of our honeymoon.

Andy and I were on the plateau behind the cliff top above the Montecristo station using the debris-strewn expanse to expand and strengthen his telekinetic gift when Eru's thought came in.

"Do you want to go meet Uncle Eru at the Great Library with me?" I asked Andy as we ran across the rugged and windswept plain.

"You bet!" He said with youthful glee. "Can we go have a buffalo burger and see Borthun and Yela after?"

"We'll see. Your Mom won't like it if I ruin your dinner. Here, catch!" I sent another piece of rock flying towards him. There were a dozen rocks circling him already.

He caught the rock with his mind and held it for a second before adding it to the spinning ring that circled around him. The new piece jostled its way into the ring, and it looked for a second as if it was going to settle in, but suddenly it faltered, and the smooth progression of the stones faltered, as stones began to wobble in their orbits, dipping down or straying out away from the rest of the stones.

"Ack!" Andy hollered suddenly, and the entire spinning ensemble flew apart before dropping to the ground around us.

"Not bad Son, but you're still running into the problem of trying to steer each stone like you were flying a model airplane." We stopped and I began pulling rocks and pebbles from the nearby area, adding them to multiple orbits around me. "That works fine when you're dealing with only a small number of objects, or your objects are all on linear or ballistic flight paths, but the secret to doing multiple orbits is to tell the object what to do in a way that lets it continue on without needing constant input."

I went from dozens of orbiting rocks to hundreds, until there was a blurry cloud of items whirling around me.

<Look in my mind Andy. Do you see how I do this? Do you understand why this works for me so easily compared to what you were doing?>

<Yes Dad.> Andy thought back after a while.

I let my cloud of debris drop to the ground around us.

"Good! On your next trip to the Garden, ask your teacher about orbital mechanics. Let's get changed and go wait for Uncle Eru and his guest."

The Great Library was an imposing structure, with a central round and domed building somewhat reminiscent of the Taj Mahal on Earth. Our building was a true cylinder, where the Taj was not, and our dome was not so imposing, nor did it have a spire. The slender minarets of the Taj were replaced by a single tower that rose a hundred yards to the South. The tower contained the living quarters for the staff. The Head Librarian's quarters were the top two floors of the tower.

After a quick change, and a stop by the beach to let Ginny know where we were going, I jumped Andy and myself to the Head Librarian's study. The room was lit with oil lamps, as most homes in Eruda were. Our lamps were not really using the local oil of course, but something much cleaner burning.

I was showing Andy the wall map of the 'known world' when Eru and his guest arrived.

"Well hello Andy, I wasn't expecting to see you today!" Eru said on arrival.

"Hi Uncle Eru." Andy said.

"Wow, that's some shortcut!" The stranger with Eru said with humor. I liked this man immediately. He reminded me of my dad.

"Laik, I'd like to introduce you to Dave McKesson. He is currently serving as the Great Library's Head Librarian. Dave, this is Laik Hulin, Meadow's only known natural telepath."

"Welcome to the Great Library Laik." I said, as we clasped forearms in the common manner on Meadow. "The gift that allows the use of that shortcut is what brought me to Eru's doorstep many years ago, and began a friendship that has lasted for many, many years now."

"Dave, Laik has shown his trust in me, and allowed me to enter his mind. I have read his thoughts, and seen his memories and I find him to be a perfectly trustworthy individual. He awaits an offer from me to return the privilege, but of course the secrets I hold are yours to give, not mine."

"Of course. Laik, will you extend that same privilege to me?"

"Dave, I've already come to the conclusion that finding you all is going to turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to me. Go right ahead."

I slipped into his mind, and immediately liked what I found. Here was an orderly and organized thinker with a desire to learn and a lifelong desire to find a place where he felt he belonged. A desire I saw in his thoughts that he felt he may have finally satisfied.

"Eru, I think we've found the man we've been looking for."

"I concur completely Dave. We will never find a better candidate than Laik." Eru said with a grin.

We spent a while just letting Laik talk about his life, and the different parts of Meadow that he'd visited. He really had been traveling most of his life.

"Laik, we enjoy surprises, so before Eru fulfills his promise to you, would you journey further with us?"

"I would be happy to. I have spent a good portion of my life looking for something that would surprise me. I suspect I enjoy surprises as much as you do."

<Blossom, I'm bringing company, are you dressed?> I sent out.

<We're fine. Ren and I are in the kitchen baking a pie for our dinner tonight. We made some fresh lemonade too if you'd like some.>

<Be there in a minute.>

"Laik, what do you think of our map on the wall there?" I asked, pointing at the map Andy and I had been looking at when they arrived.

"I am very much amazed by it, to be honest." Laik answered. "I've never seen a map that so completely covered the world in such detail. Most maps of the world that I've seen have blank areas, usually with 'unknown' or 'here be monsters' or some sort of superstitious drivel."

"I have another map to show you." As I said this, I jumped the four of us to the living room of the Montecristo station. The back wall of this room was covered with a complete map of Meadow, done in bas-relief from chromed steel.

"I met a man in the city of Hedera once, a mathematician and stargazer named Uris Peleka." Laik said, staring at the map. "He told me that he had done extensive calculations, based on what he had observed of the world and its movement within the heavens, and that based on those calculations the world should be more than twice the size of the world as men knew it. He would be amazed and very pleased to see this map."

"Perhaps we should go find him, and invite him to the library. We built it to attract minds like his." Eru said. "In any case, Here is the reality of the world, which we call Meadow."

"Why does the world need a name?" Laik asked. I knew he was anticipating my answer.

"Because it is not the only one."

We all stood staring at the map for a while, sharing in Laik's sense of wonder.

"Andy, mom says there's fresh lemonade in the kitchen." That sent Andy zipping off to the kitchen.

"Let's follow him. I'd like you to meet my wife and daughter while we're here."

We followed Andy into the kitchen, and I introduced him to Ginny and Serenity.

"Ginny, I have a job offer for Laik, do you have time to help me give him the company physical?"

"Can we watch?" Serenity asked.

"Yes sweetie, but if you have questions about what you see, ask your Uncle Eru. Your Dad and I will be busy." Ginny answered. "Lets all go back to the main room and get comfortable."

With all of sitting and comfortable, Ginny and I joined our minds and slipped into the full Light-fueled fusion we used for our medical investigations. With the familiar world washed away by the familiar diamond and silver version our Light sight rendered, we sent our senses washing through Laik's body.

Laik Hulin was an incredibly fit and healthy individual. We found nothing that needed correcting except for a slight bit of scar tissue that marked an old stab wound near his left shoulder blade. We quickly dissolved the scar tissue and pushed the memories of the healthy tissue into the Light signature of the surrounding cells, which quickly regrew the missing tiny bits.

"You, Mister Hulin, are an incredibly fit young man, and you have absolutely no health issues. There was a little scar tissue that probably caused a twinge now and then when you rotated your left shoulder, but we cleaned it up and let healthy tissue replace it. You shouldn't be feeling that twinge any more."

"Amazing!" Laik said, then he laughed and shook his head. "Somehow I expect I'll be saying that a lot in the near future."

We sat and talked, went swimming at the beach with the kids, had dinner and talked some more. Laik didn't know it yet, but he was acing his interview for the job of Head Librarian of the Great Library at Ureda.

That evening after the kids had gone to bed, reluctantly of course, Eru fulfilled his promise and Laik swam in Eru's thoughts and memories. He saw and experienced through Eru's remembrances everything that had happened since joining us, as well as Eru's own history as a Soul Diver on Taluat.

Laik cried, as everyone had at the remembered end of the Guardians, and at the return and passing of Aya, Kes and Beloth. It was only late afternoon in North Carolina, so I jumped us to the grotto and we all walked between the statues, and wept.

The next morning, Laik joined us for our morning meditation. We gathered in the main room, beneath the map we had been examining the night before. We sat together in a close circle, almost touching, as I preferred during my Spirit Master classes. We linked, and Eru gently pulled Laik into the link with us.

He had seen us linking in Eru's memories, but now he was able to experience it for himself. We slowly ramped it up, tighter and tighter until he couldn't stay focused, and fell out.

"Practice is required to be adept at the gifts. Once you begin your service as Head Librarian we will make sure to let the gifted there know to include you in the morning meditations. Tavi and Cuhi will both be delighted to assist you." Eru teased.

"Andy, please list for Laik the gifts as we know them."

"The gifts are those of thought and memory. We share our thoughts and join our minds." Andy recited. "They are sense and touch. We reach out to both the physical world and the world of thought. They are heart and soul. We share our feelings and our future, and strive to protect and promote those without the gift."

Andy stopped, but I sensed his desire to continue.

"Do you have more to add to that? Go ahead!"

"The gift is Light, and Light is life." He finished.

"Very good Andy!" Eru exclaimed.

<Precocious children can be a blessing.> I thought to myself.

"On Taluat, the world I come from," Eru continued. "people such as you and I were known as Soul Divers, and we once held a special place in the hearts of the people, for we offered guidance and knowledge and healing, even in the darkest of times. Those like Dave were known as Spirit Masters, and they were legendary as 'walkers between worlds', but they had long ago vanished from the world. Of course you have seen the reason why in my memories. Andy has just added to the standard Soul Diver recital the key difference between us and Spirit Masters. They wield the Light that flows between the worlds."

"Except this Spirit Master has figured out how to turn Soul Divers into Spirit Masters!" I reminded him.

"It is true. Dave has found the pathways in the brain where access to the Light lives, and he has been able to slowly free those pathways in a few of us. Ginny and myself and the twins Zaia and Riah Seco."

"And then there are the children!" I said, ruffling Andy's dark mop of hair.

It was my turn to chair the monthly Report the Legion gave to the Directors. We had already been at it for five hours, not counting the lunch break. I had let my thoughts wander a bit from the current presentation, and forced myself to focus in it.

" ... researchers are now concentrated on the rabbit hole, we've made substantial progress."

The Legion had long since given over the exploration of the facet designated as Autumn to Sarah Parkin and a crew of trainee archaeologists. Sarah had pressed for the recruitment of other scientists in the field, similar to our recruitment of Porter Burgess, and we had finally found and recruited Jonathan Turley, PhD from Earth and Master Diyr Oli from Taluat.

Sarah and Jon had spent the last five years organizing and carrying out expeditions to various locations across Autumn in search of some understanding of the mysterious ending to the advanced civilization which had once flourished there. Every location was as unrevealing as the last.

Until they found the rabbit hole - similar to the old Strategic Air Command facility bored into the earth deep beneath a mountain on Earth.

"The outer doors lead to a tunnel that runs more than a mile into the center of the mountain range. That's where we found the second door." Sarah told us, the assembled Legion and the Directors, gathered in one of the many meeting rooms on Obsidian. As she spoke we were getting the familiar holographic display of both still images and video from the scene.

"A series of inner doors actually," Doctor Turley amended. "What we would have called airtight blast doors. The doors and everything inside them were engineered to be as basic and fundamentally tamper and interference proof as possible."

"Whatever its original purpose, the entire area was air tight and moisture free. Every single room had been individually sealed and flooded with an inert gas and left behind by the people who once lived on this world" Sarah continued. "They buried their history in those chambers, every scrap. Scribed on plates of a beryllium alloy of some kind, intended to last forever. We called in Constantine Fylakas for assistance, and with his help as well as that of Diyr Oli, a linguistic anthropologist, we've been able to translate the language. We've invited Master Oli here to make the final presentation to you. Master Oli, you have the floor."

Diyr Oli was a tall, thin man, bushy-haired and bespectacled. He stood and cleared his throat several times, clearly nervous, and began.

"Thank you Doctor Parkin. The core fact which we can pass along to you, the piece of information which we know will be significant to you, is this: The people of Autumn, whose name for themselves and their world was 'Kri', were Light-aware."

Chaos Bomb, executive version! Except for Con and the three presenters, everyone in the room went briefly nuts. Things finally calmed down and Master Oli continued.

"The Kri were Light-aware, but it would appear they were also completely without the gifts. They were forever limited to a look but don't touch mode as far as personal interaction went. They did develop machines to use and manipulate Light, and their entire technology and the society which grew up around it was completely Light dependent."

"Oh my God!" I exclaimed suddenly.

"What? Oscar Alvarez asked.

"Dave has anticipated the next bit of information, would be my guess." Con said. "Go ahead Master Oli."

"We believe, based on the evidence, and the history left behind by the Kri, that the day that the Seeker probe struck the facet on Obsidian, and the Choctowineh Guardians were able to deflect it back to them, and in the instant of their sacrifice preserve the facets themselves from utter destruction, the Light disappeared from Kri, and some unknown other number of facets for a long but indetermined length of time, probably centuries. Without the Light, the highly developed technology of the Kri was rendered inoperable."

The sure knowledge that indeed the Seeker's moment of arrogance had caused an entire people to die out, cut off from the Light, literally made me ill for a moment.

"Keep us advised on the details, and thank you for your efforts." I said to the three scientists. "Con, are you finding any information on the Kri Light-based technology?"

"There is a high amount of detail available, and in addition there are huge amounts of pre-disaster data stored on what appear to be a nano-crystalline composite material, similar to what our Seeker AI's use. It will require extensive study before we will be able to read data from them, and I continue to look within the beryllium plate data for specific information on the devices the Kri used to read them."

"Very well, thank you. Folks, I propose we officially change the designation of this facet to Kri."

My proposal was immediately approved. A decision to use the local name of a facet, when known, was something of a given anyway.

"Cyrus, do you have a report on the triplets?"

The three facets originally designated as Treeline, Mudslide and Possum were collectively referred to these days as the triplets, and for good reason. Their local names were Fohr, Onje, and Lirica. And the peoples who lived there shared a common language and culture.

When Ginny and I had found them, we were initially struck by the coincidence of finding three facets similarly populated and of about the same level of advancement in a back-to-back-to-back fashion, but we thought it was just a wrinkle in the random distribution, not that I understand yet what my mind is doing when it brings new facets to the forefront of my consciousness.

The common language and culture, our experts were telling us, after over five years of study, started differentiating somewhere between one and two thousand years ago. There was either large amounts of traffic between the three locations up until then, or the three facets had been settled at the same time by people moved from the same facet.

We had also initially classified the three worlds as non-technological, but that was not true. All three were at about the same early industrial level of advancement. They had gunpowder and mild steel, as well as the printing press, steam engine and gaslight illumination. Electricity was in its earliest stages of development and understanding. We had close to fifty people operating on the three worlds, posing as locals, studying the current societies while at the same time trying to garner more information on the mystery.

"We really have little to report from there." Cyrus answered. "Our teams on all three facets just keep running into dead ends when it comes to anything resembling organized history at about 1800 years back. Everything else is legend and superstition. There is some statistical data that suggests some of the commonalities in their respective legends and fables may based on actual events. But nothing we would be comfortable mentioning here."

"Thanks Cyrus. Arden, how about you? How are our friends the Hurlons doing?"

"Very well indeed!" Arden replied. "Riah jumped eight of their ... senior leaders to Meadow six weeks ago."

"I understand why you hesitated there Arden, why don't you share the reason with everyone?" I said, suppressing a chuckle of my own.

"Well, the phrase they use to describe their 'best and brightest' literally translates as 'big fish', and I can't seem to say that phrase out loud without laughing. Those of them who've seen the thought in my mind have been quite happy to share the humor of it. Apparently the Hurlon sense of humor is quite flexible."

The giant, bottom dwelling denizens of Cloudburst, whose name for themselves literally translated as 'hurtle on', we decided to humanize into Hurlon. The Hurlons had been collectively delighted with the concept of other beings especially when they understood we were from the 'Great Not-Wet'.

When the collective chuckle had died down, I motioned for Arden to continue.

"The eight Hurlon's were positively giddy when we showed them the Sea-swarm super colony on the surface of Meadow's oceans. I believe their collective official position was 'Yummy!!'" This got Arden a good laugh.

"They brought their report back to the full Council of the Deep as I translate their governmental body's name, and we now have an official request from the council to seed the Sea-Swarms into the Mediterranean basin of Cloudburst. I am told they believe they can establish their own gravity curtain barriers at the Straits of Gibraltar, but I think we should offer to take care of that piece ourselves. They would have to station Hurlons there on a permanent basis to maintain the gravity curtain that they envision. We can do the same thing with a few totally automated field emitters place in strategic places."

The directors took little time in discussing the proposal, and quickly voted to accept the proposal from the Hurlon Council, and to make our counter-offer for establishing the barrier. With the vote taken, Fred Sabarte stood next.

"Also from Cloudburst, I can report that we have solidified our deal to include Hurlon's where appropriate in our advance teams. If you have not made the trip to Cloudburst since the institution of our treaty of cooperation, you should consider it."

Fred flipped a switch somewhere and we got a visual of the Hurlon neural web. Their brains were not located in a single cluster as ours were, but rather composed a dense web of neural tissues in the innermost layer of their bodies, equally distant from both their inner and outer skins.

"The Hurlon's are all born gifted, and communicate using the same mental linking that we use for our learning and other group stuff, and they seem to have a knack for tying in the senses. There is nothing like the feeling of linking minds and sharing the senses of a Hurlon flying across the ocean floor at 200 miles an hour.

The Hurlons consider it an equally awesome treat to link to our minds and experience the joys of walking and running in the 'not-wet'. The mere concept of using what we call the 'visible spectrum' rather than magno-gravitic resonance for vision tickles their funny bones greatly, as does the concept of needing a sense of 'balance' to stay upright.

Surprisingly, they had no problems adjusting to the senses of hearing or smell. They think of our reaction to sound waves and the directional nature of the sense as akin to pressure waves, which they sense through their skin. Smell makes perfect sense to them as well, although they consider us to be woefully under-equipped in the olfactory organ department, since their entire inner pass-through feeding chamber is their equivalent of our nasal cavity."

"Have they tried extra-oceanic exploration at all?" Master Lev asked. "Can their bodies handle being out of the water?"

"They can, and have, and in fact it is considered something of a rite of passage amongst the Hurlon young to make the journey to the surface and do so. It is our opinion, based on our understanding of their cellular structure and density, that they could probably withstand hard vacuum just as easily. They uniformly find the feeling of being out of the water unpleasant in the extreme though, and I've linked with one of them when they did it. I'd describe the feeling as like having bugs crawling all over every inch of your bare skin."

"Thanks Fred." I said. "I'd like to call this meeting to a close unless someone has something else?"

Thirty minutes later, as Ginny and I were walking out of the board room on Obsidian, chased out finally by the staff who had come in to clean up behind us, Ginny whispered in my ear

"The kids are with their Grandmothers for two more hours, beggar boy. Take me home and make love to me!"

Some duties truly are more pleasant than others.

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Story tagged with:
Coming of Age /