Children of the Light
Chapter 4: Pride and Precipice

Copyright© 2010 by Sea-Life

The second half of our 'Boy's Night Out' was full of dancing and flirting. I managed to avoid most of both, but not all. I even managed a dance with Glova!

The defining moment of the evening came when Ariana Burgess, walked into the Event Horizon and up to the table where Porter was sitting with Fred, Diyr, Aaron, Jon and two of our students.

"Hi Daddy. Is there room for me to join you?"

Fred was up and out of his chair so fast he almost knocked it over. He gave her a bow, and kissed her hand before offering her his seat next to Porter.

"My Lady, please allow me to surrender my seat to you. I will be content to merely sit nearby and bask in your beauty."

It should be noted immediately that Ariana Burgess was not just a beauty to rival anyone in the room, including Glova, but she seemed to smolder with sensuality and something else I can't really define. The closest I can come is to say that Ariana is the visual representation of the tone of Ginny's voice whenever she calls me 'Beggar Boy'. She had jet black hair that fell straight to her waist, with deep blue eyes and full red lips. She wasn't quite as curvy as Glova, but she seemed to radiate appeal.

It should also be noted that Fred, while known for the occasional flare of chivalry, was acting so outside of his normal shy, quiet state as to be suspected of being under the influence of a coercer. We were collectively stunned by both of them.

"Oh, I think not!" Ariana answered, looking him up and down. "I think I'm going to want you right where I can reach you. Ask me to dance."

"Would you honor me with a dance?" Fred responded immediately.

"Ooh, yes!" Ariana answered, and the two of them were off.

Halfway to the dance floor we heard the band switch to something soft and slow. Fred's fate was sealed then, if it hadn't been already, I suspect.

Ariana's arrival on Meadow, and being reunited with her father had been quite the event when it happened a couple of years ago.

The initial giddy happiness he shared with his wife and children had faded after a couple years into something less. His wife Octavia adamantly refused all offers to join Porter wherever he was. The sure knowledge that this option existed and her mom would not accept it embittered Ariana, and she made sure she was far from home when she went to college, enrolling in Georgetown University's Microbiology degree program.

Araiana remained at Georgetown until she had gotten her PhD. The money from our deal with Porter allowed her to lease a nice apartment near campus and live on her own while attending school. She only went home once in the six years she was there. During the summer of her fourth year, her little brother Karl was killed in a car accident. There wasn't even a drunk driver to blame, just a slick road on a rainy night.

The final straw for Ariana was her mother's indignant insistence that Porter return for the funeral. To pay respect to their dead son. Porter did attend, heavily disguised, and said a prayer over his son, but Octavia railed at him afterwards for not joining her at the service to mourn their son. It didn't matter to her that Porter was officially deceased, and too many people who knew him would be there.

Ariana, on the other hand was ecstatic to see her father again, however thoroughly disguised. They renewed their bond, and the day she left Georgetown, it was as an Obsidian Research recruit.

"My daughter inherited my mind and sense of humor and her mother's looks and depths of emotion." Porter said. "As a father I am a bit squeamish in saying it, but she has far surpassed her mother in the beauty department, and I am glad we are not in the same fields, so I don't have to worry about being eclipsed professionally as well."

The last two hours of our evening were spent in Ariana Burgess' orbit. She, it turned out, was a regular here. Half the students who came up to have their beer and spend their alloted time with us greeted her by name! We wound up finding three more students, after Eru Apric, that we thought deserved serious consideration as recruits, and they were given the opportunity to leave us their contact information as well.

Ariana danced with everyone at the unattached tables, but Fred got every other dance, and all the slow ones. We had often wondered why Fred wasn't more of a lady's man. He had two thirds of the classical Tall, Dark and Handsome formula going for him, and with his flashing eyes and smile, good looks and old world mannerisms and manners, he had a lot of appeal, but he always seemed to go out of his way to avoid personal attachments. I don't think we were going to be wondering about Freddie's love life any longer.

Most of us were either Light-connected, as Eru and I were, or had been through Eru's Soul Diver school, so keeping the worst effects of the alcohol at bay required only a simple bit of mental manipulation. We were all having a good time and none of us was in danger of becoming drunk. The tower of Copper Cauldron did not last long, and we quickly ordered a tower of the Black Ocean in its place, but kept the students coming.

Spirit Master or not I was not about to attempt using my gift to empty my bladder, so I eventually had to head to the restroom. Straight shot to the restrooms or not, the Event Horizon was now officially packed. On my way back I asked Glova if it was usually this busy.

"Not on Third Chantrim! I think it is your presence tonight that is drawing this crowd." She said.

"If you're at capacity, would you object to turning this into a private party then, and barring the door?"

Glova hesitated. "We have three hours left before closing, and I'd hate to turn away students with money to spend in favor of students who have already spent theirs."

This is when it finally occurred to me that Glova might just be more than their best hostess.

"Glova, are you actually the manager?" You seem awfully concerned about the bottom line. She blushed and leaned over to whisper in my ear.

"I'm the owner. I have to worry about the bottom line."

"I guess that means I can't hire you away from all this." I said, trying to hide my surprise. I hadn't been letting her beauty blind me, but I definitely hadn't been adding up all the clues. Her blinding smile in response to my offer immediately trumped all those thoughts.

"You don't know how much even the suggestion of that offer tempts me, but I am quietly getting rich here, and making a lot of connections that will serve me well later on."

We walked back to my table together, where I saw all tables had fresh towers.

"A.J., I know I'm stinking, filthy, impossibly rich back on Earth, and that collectively we are as rich as we want to be called on Meadow, but how wealthy am I on Taluat?"

Grandpa and Eldo put there heads together for a couple minutes before Eldo answered the question.

"Dave, as far as bank deposits and hard assets go, you're relatively middle class. But the remnants of the Board of High Governors has ordered you personally, and us as an organization, be given an unlimited open line of credit. In support of that, I have personally provided access to hard credits up to the limit my accountants will allow, which means if you wanted to buy the Event Horizon, or some other successful business, you could pay cash."

I knew Eldo was successful, but I had no idea he was that successful! Seeing the expression on my face Brin filled me in.

"Dave it's to your credit that you are so unaware of things like this, but Master Lev is currently the third richest individual on Taluat."

So I cleared the tab from every table in the Event Horizon, retroactive to our arrival and ordered a tower of Black Ocean for each.

Taluat, at least in the West, does not use currency. Everything is payed for with credits and kept track of electronically. Thus it was very easy for Glova to credit every account with the amounts they'd spent, and transfer the charge to mine.

When the towers of Black Ocean began appearing at the tables, Glova had to interrupt the band to explain.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, your charges this evening have been credited back to your accounts, and covered by Spirit Master McKesson, who wishes to thank you for giving his party such a fine evening."

Cries of "Speech! Speech!" began to rise from the tables, so I decided to have a little more fun. I walked to the front of our section, activated my Legion armor and called up the comm mode, setting it to public address. As I did the cries changed to wild cheering.

"Thank you all, not only for the nice cheers, but also for the nice evening. Even a Spirit Master needs to unwind once in a while."

That drew a nice laugh, so with the mood right I jumped in with both feet.

"But!" I warned with mock seriousness, "You don't get anything for free in this world, or any other, so you are going to have to pay for this evenings festivities!"

A smattering of good natured hisses, the Taluat equivalent to booing, quickly faded into laughter.

"I declare a talent show! Every table has to enter one act. It can be one person with talent, or it can be a group, we don't care. Sing, dance, act, tell jokes, anything that won't get us all arrested, and the fine people here at the Event Horizon in trouble."

When the chaos bomb my announcement created began to subside, I made my next move.

"Since we are fine, fair folks, just like you, we will participate in the show as well, and to start things off, I offer from my table, the fine singing voice of Legionnaire Cyrus Poole!"

The cheering went through the roof, and as Cyrus stood and came forward, he shot me a dirty look.

"Give them Danny Boy, and do it in English, and you might even win the contest." I said.

"I will get you back for this you know." He said as he came up to me.

"I know, that's what makes it so much fun." I answered.

"I can only assume you expect me to be the master of ceremonies, and the staff be the judges." Glova said, "So I must ask that unless you plan on sharing your public address system, all performances must be from the stage."

Con and Arden put their heads together for a second, then Con jumped a couple of the ubiquitous black equipment carriers from Obsidian.

"These should work nicely." Con said, holding up what looked like a little hearing aid that hooked over an ear. The box held a dozen of them. The second box was the remote receiver and speakers for the system that the little ear units fed into.

Con took the receiver unit out into the middle of the room, pushed a couple of buttons and soon the unit was hovering just beneath the high ceiling.

Unintelligible English or not, Cyrus has a fine voice, and Danny Boy, sung well, will evoke a response in those who hear it. The applause when he finished was impressive.

Con had given Glova one of the earpieces, as master of ceremonies, along with quick instructions on how to use it.

"The Spirit Master's table has set the bar high!" Glova said as the applause began to die. "Who shall be next?"

We had singers and acrobats, jugglers and musicians. I noticed some frantic conferences and even a few folks jumping out of the room, only to reappear a short while later. I saw Ariana lean over and whisper something in Fred's ear. He appeared to be worried as he whispered something back. Ariana listened to his answer, then leaned in and laid a serious case of lip lock on him!

My attention was drawn back to the center of the room, where two of the students from one of the tables had begun to sing a duet, accompanied by a member of the band, who played the melody on his instrument, a keyed instrument that produced a very 'synthesizer' kind of sound. The two singers were very good, and they had obviously practiced this song a lot, as they wove the melody and harmony in and out, switching parts occasionally.

An hour later, I would have had to call it a close race between Cyrus' opening performance and the duet. Eru had gotten up when his table was called upon, and with his own fiddle, or the Taluatan equivalent of a fiddle, played a rousing tune that would have been at home in any square dance hall in America. That took care of the two 'attached' tables, and uncle Aaron surprised me by getting up and juggling four plates, even managing some variations and between the leg and behind the head moves.

"Last, but not least, we arrive at our final table for the night, from our Spirit Master's section." Glova announced. We turned and looked at the table. Ariana and Fred were still missing. Porter got up and came top stand between Glova and me, sliding an ear piece over his ear.

"Ladies and Gentlemen," Porter said, doing a credible impression of that deep voiced boxing announcer who made the 'lets get ready to rumble' phrase famous. "If you would please all clear the dance floor, it is my pleasure to present to you, performing a traditional Earth dance, Fred Sabarte and Ariana Porter, dancing the Tango!"

Porter nodded, and I saw Con flip a switch on what appeared to be a standard portable CD player from back home. At the same time, Eru nodded as well. A spotlight hit the center of the dance floor, and in the cleared area suddenly appeared Fred and Ariana!

Fred was decked out in his best Tuxedo, with white tie and tails, while Ariana wore a dress that went to her ankles, but it was red, clingy and sheer!

They had the long stemmed rose and everything. Their performance was incredible, and the contest was over ten seconds into it. The applause when the music and the dancers stopped was thunderous. Fred and Ariana maintained a long passionate kiss through the applause, which lasted several long minutes.

"I believe we have our winners!" Came Glova's voice at the end. Once the congratulations were done and the winners had made the rounds of the tables to shake hands with the other contestants, I saw Fred whisper into Ariana's ear, followed by her nod, and the two of them disappear in mid stride. I did not expect them to return.

As the crowd milled around, finishing their drinks and food and just generally enjoying the moment, I sat with Glova, thanking her again for such a fine evening.

"I believe I should be thanking you, Dave." She said. "Half the people I've spoken to asked if this was going to be a regular event, and I think the Event Horizon will be featuring a talent night in the future. I would also be more than willing to cancel the charges to your account tonight if you told me I could keep this incredible audio system."

<Con, is there any Light technology in this system?> I sent to Con.

<None, Dave. The Anti-Grav unit is pure Seeker tech, but that is very similar to the magno-grav systems the Taluat already enjoy. The fuel cells aren't Taluatan standard, but we can provide an adapter.>

"Glova, you will be keeping all the credits the Event Horizon is due, however I will be happy to give you the unit as a personal thank you for the fine service you personally have given us this evening."

"Thank you! Thank you!" She squealed, leaning over and hugging me with enthusiasm. As she broke the hug, she whispered in my ear.

"While I'm close, would you tell me the name of the deep voiced gentleman who introduced Ariana and Fred at the beginning of their dance? His voice makes my panties damp."

"Glova, his name is Porter Burgess, and he is Ariana's father." I pulled back slightly and looked her in the eye with disapproval. "Did you just lie to me?"

"What?" She asked in confusion.

"My hands were all over your ass when we had our dance, and you were definitely not wearing panties!"

That got me a big laugh and another hug. Something in Glova's lap chose that moment to chime loudly. She reached into a pocket I didn't realize until then she even had and flipped open a Taluatan portable communicator, their version of a cell phone.

"Mat, you and Arom open the doors, its closing time." Another button push was followed by "Reda, closing time, bring up the house lights and kill the music. Tell the staff they'll all be getting a bonus from me. That includes the band."

As the lights came up and the music died, I dropped the sound deadening field I'd put around our section of tables.

"Glova grabbed one of the ear pieces and walked over to Porter, leaning down and whispering in his ear. I saw him nod and slip the piece over an ear. He spoke, once again in his 'announcer voice'

"Ladies and Gentlemen, the management thanks you for your patronage tonight, and would like to take this time to announce that Third Chantrim is now officially Talent Show night at the Event Horizon!"

While the crowd cheered, Glova grabbed the ear piece back from Porter and put it back in the box. I raised an eyebrow as she went past me on the return trip and she blushed, then grinned big, before walking back over to slide herself onto Porter's lap.

"Dave tells me your name is Porter." She said.

"Yes it is." Porter answered with a gulp.

"Can you talk in that announcer voice even when your concentrating on something else?" She asked him.

"I think so." He said, a little puzzled.

"Mmm goody!" Glova replied, before pulling Porter into a steamy kiss.

I let Ginny relive the highlights of the evening in my thoughts. She was extremely happy to see that Fred seemed to have found someone at long last, and between their steamy dance, and my deja vu inducing line about Glova lying about wearing panties, Doctor McKesson's motor was definitely running!

"Okay Beggar Boy. You let me see the action at the Event Horizon, and now its time to provide a little action right here." Ginny said in her throaty purr. It had its usual effect on me, and as always, Blossom's wish is my command.

We awoke the next morning to my cell phone ringing. It was Porter.

"Dave, whatever I do for the rest of my life, no matter what else happens in both our lives, I officially owe you, big time!" I heard some sounds in the background, followed by "Thanks again, I've got to go, I still have to call Sarah and let her know I"m taking a day off."

The conversation, which Ginny had shared, as our minds were still wrapped together, set us both to laughing. Ten minutes later the phone rang again.

"Dave, all I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you! Dragging me along for Boy's Night Out has changed my life! Could you tell Arden I'm taking a day off today?"

It was Fred of course. After Ginny and I got the laughter from that call under control I sent a thought to Arden to pass on Fred's message, which Fred could have easily done himself, and then Ginny and I got busy in the shower. We even got clean.

It may have been the morning after, but it was also a mission day. We had breakfast with Andy and Serenity, and jumped to the 'office'.

Con already had Dare prepped and ready to go when we got there, and we each had a cup of tea poured and waiting when we climbed aboard.

I shared my two morning phone calls with Con, and once his laughter had died down we took off.

Our first jump took us to a facet I immediately designated 'Terrace', due to the terraced hillsides, similar to the terraced rice fields of Asia. Alarms went off immediately upon arrival, and Con slipped the Dare into stealth mode immediately.

"We've got saturation in all the E-M bands, and the grav detectors have been tripped as well. I'm trying to dump as much of this traffic to the recorders as possible." Con said.

Ginny and I quickly jumped into a full Light-contact joining, and sent out our senses. There were thousands of people nearby, and most of them were slaves! More amazingly, their overseers were not human, and not local. We let the recorders run while we expanded our senses farther and farther out. Finally we jumped Dare to Obsidian and dropped ourselves out of the Light. The three of us sat there in shock for a moment.

<Brin!> I sent out the thought.

<Dave? Is everything okay?> He thought back.

<We need a full director's meeting tonight, and if it can't be arranged, everyone who can should show up anyway.>

<I'll get to work on it immediately.>

That's what I loved about Brin. I know he had a million questions, but he shoved them aside instantly in favor of getting the job done.

I had a decision to make, and with Ginny and I still more or less thinking together, made the call.

"Con, I want you to get to work on this data right away, but first, were there any audio broadcasts that you can play? I'd like a language sample from whatever is being broadcast."

Con pulled up something that sounded like a human voice speaking in a dry monotone. We listened for about five minutes before we took off. We jumped to Taluat and quickly found Eru, Riah and Zaia, along with the morning class of Spirit Master students.

"Eru, we have a situation." I said as soon as we had their attention. "We need to go into full Light with as large a fusion as we can manage. That means the five of us. Anyone else at that point yet?"

"Outside of the kids? No." Eru said. "But would you mind these students monitoring us from the outside? It would be an invaluable aid to their understanding of where these classes are headed."

I looked at the five 'students' Eru referred to. Three of them were the elder Soul Divers from the East who had come to help restore the Soul Diver traditions in the West. The other two were Laik Hulin and Byl Thron.

"Do you all agree to participate in this?" I asked them. I got serious nods from all of them. "You'll need protection, just in case."

I jumped five of the 'special' bracelets that Con and I had built. The were not blue like the Legion armor, or green like Andy had, and which the other kids would get when the time came. These were black, and had the basic comm modes only, along with the stealth mode.

"Put these on." I said, tossing each of them a bracelet.

Five minutes later we were all suited, in full combat and stealth mode and sitting in a circle at the Meadow focus. I wanted to be in my place of strength when we made the jump to Terrace. It was time to fill in the troops.

"This morning, Ginny, Constantine Fylakas and I went on our weekly scouting mission. Once a week, we visit one or two new facets and do a quick look around to check for signs of people and technology. The interesting ones get a follow up visit from one of the two Legion teams who do a more complete survey, including putting an orbital surveying system in place. The really interesting ones get teams of scientists or other explorers, as appropriate.

All of this is in support of our mission, which is to resume the task the ancient Spirit Masters, who were known in their own language as the Choctowineh, had to leave behind all those countless years ago. That task is to protect, preserve and advance the people of all the facets, wherever they are found in need.

This morning, we found a facet I named Terrace, a facet with a people enslaved. Enslaved by masters not from Terrace, but from another world. Alien beings who traveled through space to get there.

Now, we will be going back. Now we use our gifts as Soul Divers and Spirit Masters to learn more about those who would make slaves of the people of Terrace."

We let our five observers form their fusion before Ginny, Eru, Riah, Zaia and I linked ourselves. We went straight into full Light mode immediately, and we jumped to the facet on Terrace, taking the observers with us.

The facet on Terrace was a pool of boiling mineral water, which shortly proved itself to be a geyser. A small cluster of three huts dotted the shoreline, and when we swept the hut we found one old man, fast asleep!

We did a quick sweep of his body while we walked over to the hut he slept in. He was suffering the effects of advanced old age, but nothing else seemed wrong with him. We took the time to give his body an initial rejuvenation session, and then with a surge of energy to give him some immediate vitality, dropped our armor out of stealth and combat mode, and woke him up.

The old man took one look at us, standing around him in our Legion armor and smiled.

<<This man needs food. Go find some and bring it to him.>> We sent to our five observers.

We focused again on the old man, who was now jabbering away rapidly to us. The language seemed to be the same as the one Con had played us the audio of, but it was spoken much, much faster. We dove into the old man's mind and found the knowledge of it in him. He felt us in his mind and stopped talking!

"Please speak more. We learn!" I said, very roughly in his language.

He resumed speaking then, and we actually understood him now, more or less. As he told us of his life here at the focus, we concentrated on diving deeper, and pulling the muscle memory needed to speak the language well from his body's Light signature.

"It was always known by those who lived by these waters that this was a special place. Sheltered and somehow outside of the world's events. Legend said it was a special place of the ancient guardians, who were lost to us in the dawn time.

When the aliens arrived in our skies and began their bombing attacks two hundred years ago, my people fought them valiantly, but our aircraft and missiles proved no match for their weapons, nor were our minds capable of resisting their mental control. Small groups struggled to remain free, but their situation grew more and more desperate and their numbers fewer and fewer with each passing year.

When things grew too perilous for the group my parents were in, they and four other families built rafts and made their way to this place, praying to find sanctuary, as the legends had suggested would exist here. Their prayers were answered, after a fashion."

The old man's tale was interrupted by the entrance of Laik and the rest of our observers with food.

<We were not sure what you meant when you said 'find this man some food', so we jumped to Borthun's Rest on Meadow and bought some soup and toasted bread with butter and cherry preserves.>

We dropped ourselves out of the fusion we had been in, and Ginny spoke to the old man in his own tongue.

"We have food here for you. You must eat, and then we will talk some more."

The soup was one of Borthun's Rest's favorites, Potato and Bacon chowder, and the old man gasped and murmured his appreciation with every spoonful. They had brought a small pot of it, enough for three bowls, as well as a half dozen slices of the buttered and toasted bread and a small earthenware jar of the preserves. While the old man ate, we returned to our Light fusion and passed the language on to our observers.

<<We will be sending our senses out into the world a little, keep the old man safe.>>

Rather than learning about conditions on the surface of this facet, we chose to satisfy our curiosity about what might be orbiting above us. We rose up into the near space above us, and began to search. If we had not been fully in the Light, it would have taken a long time to find anything in the vastness of the space that surrounded us, but being in the Light, every object which was not void, glistened and swam with Light, and stood out like beacons. When a shuttle craft of some kind passed relatively nearby we discovered that even from a distance the minds of the aliens stood out like beacons as well. Their thoughts seemed to form as harsh, bright globes around them, incredibly strong for twice the distance one could reach, and then fading quickly to nothing.

We found eight craft in low orbits around the facet, and a ninth, larger vessel orbiting further out. We tracked their orbits, letting our joined mind grasp the mechanics of them, until we knew we were tracking their positions in our own minds. With this accomplished, we pulled our senses back to our bodies, and dropped out of the Light and out of our joining.

We had obviously been gone for longer than we had thought. The food was gone, and so was the old man!

"Did we miss something?" I asked.

"TeJon had been existing on fish and berries for so long that the richness of the chowder got to him a little. He's visiting the outhouse." Laik said. Nodros went with him."

TeJon, as we now knew his name to be, returned from his duties dressed in some ragged old clothes. He saw that we were 'back' from our search and walked up to me and bowed deeply.

"I have learned that you are indeed the Ancient Guardians reborn, the protectors out of legend, walking the worlds again. I greet you as a son of Precipice, as a son of the last of the believers, as a son of the people enslaved, and beg your aid for my people."

I reached down and touched his thin shoulder.

"Do not bow to me, Tejon, son of Precipice. The Ancient Guardians asked obeisance from no one when they walked the worlds, nor do we now."

I held out my hand, and he took it.

"We will not remain any longer here than we must, though as your parents suspected, it does appear the Light shelters this place. You must come with us. Gather up whatever you would keep close to you."

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