Kirashi, E5 and the crew of the Essuru arrive at Kataru
Erish sat watching through a window, as the ship descended through whispy cirrus clouds. She could make out directly below, a small reflective shape just above grayer storm clouds. She guessed was the floating city of Sippar. E5 showed them images of spires, lakes and gardens. It would be their home for the next few days, as arrangements were made for governments within the Alliance to come to an emergency session of parliament.
She looked at the hieroglyphic controls on the console. She knew them well, having designed these systems herself. She saw the control that activated the laser canon, and an intensity modifier next to it. The half-moon shaped hieroglyph above fired a particle beam that caused molecules to fall away from each other. To her left was the receiver into which the operator placed her hand. These weapons were operated telepathically.
A million or so years ago, Kataru had been uninhabitable. Conditions at the surface were too violent for any developed form of organic life. However, at the altitude where Sippar lay, conditions were ideal. The five cities were constructed at the same height and at equal distances from each other. Since the planet did not rotate, the connected cities orbited as a ring, at regular intervals. Every day, they experienced rain and gentle storms where the dark side of the planet gave way to the sunlit side.
Kirashi focused on the city as the ship descended. She could see domes, spires and towers.
Captain Hurin would dock under the city.
The five cities were self-sustaining. Each city had elevated terraces and fields in which vegetables and fruits were grown. Floating farms allowed each city to specialize. The flesh of living creatures was not eaten at Kataru. Carnivorous consumption was forbidden.
Erish went over the meeting from night before. She, the diplomats and E5 met urgently, having received an emergency message from Namazu. The message explained that the Elders sent a crew to Titan to investigate an uninhabited Potacas colony. When they arrived they found one person alive, a human whose memory had either been wiped, or who had amnesia. The Elders were unable to extract information from him. They found traces of Tlaloc DNA in his systems but were unsure if the Potacas were experimenting with ways to splice human DNA with the Tlalocs, or the reverse. They also found over one hundred dead Potacas, all apparent suicides.
Also, a buoy stationed at the inner planets detected robotic pumps in the Venusian atmosphere. The pumps, increasing in number, were ejecting greenhouse gases into space. Tlaloc plans to colonize the second planet, were underway. The Elders asked Kirashi to return home with military allies quickly. E5 suggested that they spend a short time at Sippar.
Kirashi kept looking at the entrance to the bridge, hoping to see him. They descended into a mass of buildings, parks, and towers. The floating metropolis was spare and elegant. The Essuru descended through an opening at street level and navigated underneath. Kirashi saw towers extending downwards under the city as well. The craft stopped adjacent to a tower thrusting downwards a hundred meters.
E5 sent a telepathic message asking them to follow him.
Pressurized doors opened. The air outside was the same as the air inside the vessel. E5 had configured environmental controls to set the air mixture within the ship to the same as the city. They stepped down onto a platform, and were greeted by two Cyborg females. E5 took Kirashi’s hand and sent her a message, “My comrades will show your team to their quarters. Come with me.”
As they walked into the adjoining building, he continued, “Since our time here is limited, I suggest cancelling the welcoming banquet. I will recommend that you address the Alliance in instead.” He looked into her eyes and saw concern. They stopped and he took her hands in his. “We will put the entire force of the Alliance at your service. You WILL stop them.”
She looked into his eyes, and responded, “I don’t understand why the Potacas at Titan killed themselves. And,” she looked to her left, through a window. A bush with palm leaves swayed gently. “Did they modify a human to make him more like a Tlaloc? Or a Tlaloc to make him more human?”
He took her hand and walked to a teleport. A door slid to the right, and they entered. “I believe,” he responded as the door closed, “the interdimensional doorway the Si’lat use to enter the Spur may be at that moon.”
Kirashi’s eyes widened. “The Si’lat?” she asked.
He continued, “Titan is a moon at the sixth planet of your system, correct?”
“We encountered the Si’lat near the Enkara system in the Perseus Arm. We found they were unpredictable, highly emotional, and powerful. They could wipe out entire systems with a thought. We try to avoid them,” Kirashi froze in her tracks.
“Humans encountered a species they called Si’lat,” she responded.
E5 looked into her eyes. She continued, “They were spirits of the desert, granting wishes and causing mischief.”
“Perhaps the Si’lat at Titan perceived the Potacas to be a threat,” he added. The door of the teleport slid open, and they stepped into a hallway decorated with non-representational sculptures. “Come,” he continued, releasing her hand.
A door slid open and they entered an open space, with lounges, facing each other. There was seating for 20 people. At the back of the room, was a narrow dining table in front of a large window. Obviously, he entertained here. To the left of the dining area, was smaller room, with seating and consoles. Displays switched on. Systems in the apartment activated. He stopped at the dining table and reached his hand outwards, asking her to join him. He took her hand, and brought her close, wrapping both arms around her, pulling her against him. Even though he was cyborg, and the panels on his chest and abdomen were artificial, his body felt completely organic. The coverings over his arms were soft and indistinguishable from human flesh. He pressed his lips onto hers. She felt his tongue push into her mouth. Moaning softly, she relaxed into his arms.
During the journey here, they had spent days together, talking, discovering each other, joking, but this was the first time he expressed passion. After being so close, she found herself wanting him the same way she wanted other men. She slid her right foot up his bare calf, feeling soft masculine skin there, and muscles. He moved his mouth over her chin, and down onto her neck. Her head fell back as she invited him to kiss her neck. His breathing grew faster. She opened her eyes and saw an intense expression in his eyes. How could she have this reaction to a man who was mostly machine? To her, he was fully organic. She felt him back away from her, so she opened her eyes. He held her hand in his, and was pulling her to the other side of the dining room. As they approached the wall, a door slid open. She saw a bed. She had not slept with him. She was unsure whether he slept in the same manner as other creatures, or whether he slept at all. He pulled her to the bed, and sat down. She remained standing in front of him. He slid his hands upwards, under her toga. His hands were strong and gentle. He pulled her closer and buried his face into her abdomen, pushing the fabric higher, over her hips.
Hours later, he brought fruit and water for her as she lay in bed. She could smell his human scent on the sheets, and on her body. He consumed something that looked like a type of cracker. She looked him with curiosity.
“Is that nourishment specifically for your body?” she asked.
He nodded, “I don’t think you would like it.”
“May I try it,” she asked, smiling mischievously.
He handed one to her. She brought it to her nostrils but detected no scent whatsoever. Then, she placed it on her lips. Still there was no discernable scent or taste. She placed it on her tongue, and bit off a small piece. She gave the rest of it back to him. “I don’t taste anything,” she offered.
“Give your body time,” he looked into her face curiously, and took another bite himself. “This evening, you can address the Alliance.”
He took a sip of a dark liquid from a goblet. She looked at the goblet, and he shook his head negatively. “I am sorry, my dearest Kirashi, this liquid would be unpleasant for you, not only the taste, but the effects on your systems.”
She chewed a piece of fruit that tasted like a Terran apple. “You seem organic to me. If I didn’t know better, it would be hard for me to distinguish differences between you and a completely biological man,” she offered.
“We are quite an old species,” he responded, taking a sip from the drink. “Our technology allows us to appear organic.”
She sipped water, and found herself examining the panels covering his arms. His forearms were strong and muscled. She saw a blood vessel bulging from the underside of his right arm, and short, dark hairs. Then, she felt something strange on her lips. She tasted a bitterness. Then, her tongue went numb. She looked into his face with confusion. He turned his head to the side, trying not to laugh. He turned back to her, “Can you feel your tongue?”
She tried to speak but could only nod. The taste of bitterness in her mouth grew stronger. “Don’t worry,” he smiled, as if he were enjoying her predicament. “It will pass quickly.”
Then, as soon as the sharp bitter taste had begun, it diminished. She could feel the inside of her mouth again. She could move her tongue. “Remind me not to eat your food again,” she struggled to speak clearly. He laughed.
“Let us ready ourselves to go,” he said, smiling broadly. “Forgive me, I was toying with you.”
She reached over to his exposed thigh, and pinched him.
He winced, as if he really felt pain. “That hurt.” He responded.
“It was meant to hurt!” she replied smiling. He moved closer to her, pushing her down on the bed, and moving over her, placing his mouth on her neck. She moaned with pleasure.