Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Sass Guard: Chapter 5

"Get up! a strange voice says.  "It's time." Lance is lying prone, feels a pinch on his arm, and makes to swat it.  He instantaneously reaches for the something causing the pinch, and finds that what he grabs is a small hand.  She spins around, making sure his grip is strong so the person does not get away, and he pulls the person close to him so he can see.  It's an alien.

He whips the alien back with such a force the alien falls to the ground, landing on it's butt, and supporting itself with his hands, one of which is clutched around a syringe with needle exposed.  He stands up quick, and settles himself against a wall. The image of the alien was a blur, and Lance tried hard to focus.  That was when he realized it was an alien all right, but it was not a he but a she.

"What are you doing?" Lance shouted, feeling guilty for tossing a lady.

"Shhh!" the lady alien said, placing her finger to her lips.  "You don't want them to hear you." She was wearing a black toga, similar to the one's of the slaves, only she had a black scarf wrapped around her neck, the ends of which dangled on either side of her neck.  She had an under toga that was only visible because it went down to her knees while her outer toga went down to her thighs.  She had nice sized breasts, something Lance never thought of when he thought of aliens.  But here in real life, she looked as appealing as a girl in a high school classroom.  She had long wavy, blond hair, some of which was secured by a bow in the back, and it was a fine compliment to her blue eyes.  Her shoes appeared to be wooden.

"Are you done studying me?" she said, smiling. It was a pretty smile.

"Why do you poke me with that," he motioned to the syringe in her hand.

"Oh, that? I'm waking you because we have to go for a walk," her voice was soft, mellifluous, and most pleasing. "My name is Mary.  Do you like it?

"Woh! That's a pretty name.  It's an earth name.  How did you get it?"

"I chose it for myself.  I thought you'd like it."

"Oh! um", Lance scratched his oily head. "I do."

"We have to get that cleaned for our big day."

Lance shook his head.  "Big day?"

"The sun is bright," she said, motioning to the beam of light through the window.  "Father is in town.  This is a great day to meat him."

"Where am I? How long was I out?"

"No time for such answers now.  We must get you read for dinner."

"Where? What?"

"We must get you read for dinner," she said, "That means we must prepare you."  He looked down and realized he was exposed.  He quickly made to cover himself with cupped hands.  "No need for that," she said.  "I have seen many of you this way, and can do nothing with it."

"What do you mean?"

"I am a eunuch."

"Oh, how so?" It was a dumb question, perhaps allowed to slip due to whatever drugs were in his system.

"It is a long story.  I will tell you it if we ever get a chance.  Now I must get you read."  She reached into a basket and pulled out a large white cloth.  "I made this for you.  It will make you look nice for the queen.  We will have lunch with her today." She set it on the bed, and pulled out a much smaller white cloth."

"Well, what I meant was," Lance said, "'I have seen many of you this way.' What did you mean by that?"

"Oh," it was squeak.  She stood over him as he sat, the beam of light glittering off her shiny hair as though she were an angel, her expression, Lance figured, was nonplussed.  "I am the fixer of humans."

"I don't know if that's something to smile about or frown about," Lance mused.

"To be honest, neither do I," she said.  "Stand."

He stood, and she wrapped a cloth around his waste and secured it with a tie.  It's a loincloth.  Here he is in some futuristic place, where they live in the past and dressed the part.  What irony, he though.  He looked around the room.  It was small, although there was plenty of light, compliments of the sun shining through a large window next to a thick log door.  The dark curtains of the window were pulled open, and a warm breeze felt good.  Outside the window he could see what to him looked like a deciduous tree.

In this room Lance saw of course the slave girl, the eunuch, and her basket of goods.  It was a large brown basket, the sort that she saw some slave girls carrying the other day as he and Para were marched into town with Mistoosha.  There was a bed, the one he slept on, which was covered with white and black blankets and a pillow.  The bed was low to the ground: perfect for the smaller aliens, quite inconvenient for the larger earthling.

Next to that was a nightstand, and there was one table under the window which had an oil lamp on it.  Yet the lamp was not needed at present. A third table set at the end of the bed, and on this was set the slave girl's basket.  Also on the table was an ash-tray like thing, with some kind of flaming powder in it.  A light, white billow of smoke wafted above it, bending slightly in the breeze.

 The ground under his feet was cool, and he figured it must be some type of clay.  Or, maybe, as the walls were build of mud brick, so too must be the floor.  And even on such a warm day, the clay felt cool to the touch.

"Arms down," she said, and she placed the toga over his head and slid it down so it covered him to below the knees.  She wrapped a belt around his waste, and tucked some of the toga into it, lifting the lower part of the toga so that it now only went down to his knees.

"There," she said, "You look sharp.  You look really nice for a human."

"So do you, for a Sassa woman."

"Thank you," she said.

"So who are you? Why am I still alive."  He took in a deep breath, and with it came a smell of incense.  It was a sweet smell, one that gave him an eerie sense of dejavu.  Where did he experience this before?  Was it on earth? Alton One? Alton Two? or right here on Alton.  His mind was so fogged up he couldn't tell where his memories came from, or if they were even his own.  Perhaps it was all a dream, or a figment of his imagination.

"You are in my house," she said.  "I am in charge of healing the slaves.  I am from Alton," she said.  "I was once an Alton queen.  I was kidnapped while on a mission to save a boy from being killed by hanging who was wrongfully accused of raping me.  It's rare that an Altonian is beheaded, but actions against the queen are not looked highly upon, even for a boy.  There are no second chances. This job is my reward for being a queen.  Queens in Alton are trained in caring for the men who are wounded in battle.  That is what I did before I became the queen.  So here I am doing that for you."

"You are a nurse," Lance offered.

"A what?"

"Nothing," Lance said, "So, what are we getting ready for?"

"You were presumed dead, Lance.  After the beating you were left for dead.  So they tossed you into the dessert to rot.  But you weren't dead when I found you."

"What are you talking about?"

"It's understandable you don't remember.  They put so many drugs into your system."

"So what happened?"

"I do not know it all.  I do know, however, that you were offered to the Queen.  She took you in as her slave.  You were thrown into the arena with the Lioscats."

"What are those?"

"Scary beasts," she said, smiling.  She reached up high, on her tip toes, and touched Lance's shoulder.  "Sit."  He did,  and he collapsed to the bed.  He didn't think how low it was.   He sat up, his bare feet on the floor, his knees bend to his chest.  He wrapped his unfettered hands around his knees.

She sat next to him, her feet going to the ground, bending easily at the edge of the bed.  He was like a giant towering over her, yet she had all the power in the world over him, mainly due to his ignorance, and now due to his lost memory.

She said, while looking at the window. "There is a lot to tell you."  Lance peered over in that direction too, and a bird that came close to resembling a robin landed in the window.  "I'm sorry, the picka means it's time for us to go."

She hopped off the bed.  He made to get up as well, but she motioned for him to stay seated.  She reached into the basket and pulled out a pare of sandals.  "I hope these fit you."  She bent down before him, and placed a sandal on his left foot, then his right.  She secured them snug, and said, "Go ahead and stand.  Walk."

He did.  The shoes felt comfortable.

"It's time we meet father."

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Sassa Guard: Chapter 4

After the pterodactyl appearance there is a long silence.  Para and Clan are again walking immediately behind the leading Mistoosha.  Behind Lance is the subtle clip clop, clip clop, clip clop of the horses, and the slight rattle and hum of the carriage.  Lance still had no idea what was inside, or who was inside, that carriage.

The boy is awake, now breathing easy.  He sits silently alongside the equally silent driver.

Ahead he can see the tower more clearly, and then the trail turns to the left, and after a few paces only the peak can be seen.  The rest of the view is blocked by trees and a long, shady object in the distance.

The air is cool, yet the sun that peers through a few openings in the bowing Sassafrass trees feels good upon his face.  In the beam of sun he can see dust particles that he inhales, and he wonders how this will affect the boy.  The smooth macadam surface below is now nothing more than sand, although it is not brown like Michigan sand, nor white like Florida sand, but black.

Lance looks back at the boy, "Are you okay," he says.  The boy does not respond.  Yet he does take a deep, easy breath, and by this Lance receives his answer.

Is the dust on Sassa the same as on earth?  Are there dust mites in it?  Para, come back here.  Come back here so I can ask you some more questions.  I have so many questions. I don't want my head to burst.   What is the tower ahead?  Is this where the gifts will be provided

The silence incurred no answers.  The men in front of him, nor the men behind him, nor the Alton boy, gave
answers.  And he was sure it was an Alton boy.  He was an Alton boy because allergies only develop in civilized worlds.  Allergies are are the consequence of modern living, or so he read.  Men do not develop allergies who live amid the earth, amid the animals, amid the dust.  Immune systems of civilized men have no natural enemies, so they create their own. That is why the cat caused the boy's reaction.

"Men" was an awkward word that rolled around in Lance's mind these days.  Surely the Sassa considered themselves men, although the term in Lance's mind was "alien."  Yet to the Sassa Lance was an alien, yet they preferred to refer to him as "the subject."

There was a long silence for all but the animals in the woods.  Lance hears footsteps on the leaves to his right.  The animals are unique here as compared with earth.  Surely it was exciting to see a deer in Scottville, and it was even more exciting to see a critter here on Alton.  And what Lance saw standing amid the trees was a deer. It is a white tailed deer.

First the horses, then the cat, now a deer.  How many other earth animals are here?  What have these aliens not taken from earth? He stares long and hard at the animal.  He cannot help but to smile.  He stares at it until the animal is out of sight.

The path under his feet, the sandy path, is wide enough now so that three horse and buggies can ride side by side.  The towers can no longer be seen.  What can be seen is a large wall.  Mistoosha walked past the slaves and Lance and approached the rear of the carriage.  Clan followed close behind.  Now the two are not seen for several minutes.

Clan reappears carrying withe cloth.  Mistoosha walks back to the front of the caravan, his toga now adorned with small gold buttons, and he wore a gold necklace with a pennant.  There was a symbol on the pennant of a skull and cross bone, and Lance wonders what it represents.

On his head is a woolen hat that was rougher in design compared to the cap-like hat's of the Sassa Guard.  On his feet were moccasins, which were not unlike those the aliens wore, nor unlike the American Indians wore on earth.

Suddenly the path closes, turns once again, and the trees thin.  The sun shines through, a gift that is appreciated greatly by the human who wonders his fate.  He can see some large structures ahead and some random billows of white smoke that aims in random directions into the sunny, windy sky.  What has blocked his view of the tower, he realizes as he closes in, by a large yellow stone wall.

The blazing sun shines off what looks to him to be golden steeples on towers in the distance, barely visible over a huge gate.  Mistoosha orders his men to dismount from the carriage and disconnect the chains from the animals.  The carriage is set on a cement slab.  Clan and Zinka lead the animals across the bridge as to not scare the Sassoonians.  Lance knows very little about them, but he does know that they are very gruff, rapacious people, so much so that even Mistoosha fears them.

Zinka leads the boy ahead of me, and so obviously the slave, or the gift, or whatever you want to call Lance, has to trail behind.

"Okay, it's time guys."  Para and Clan rush at Lance, who ducks in surprise.  His head is covered with the cloth Para carried, and he feels an arm wrap around his waste.  Although the arm is smaller than the width of his waste, so the hand pressed against the small of his back.  "Don't worry." Para whispers.

"Easier said than done," Lance says.  "You try not to..."

Para smacks Lance's back, and Lance takes the hint.  He looks up and is surprised to see Mistoosha, Zinga, Clan and Titan looking at him.  Para sticks his up to lance's chest, and looks up, and whispers,  "Do not let them know you can see. It is a gift from Mistoosha. He must really like you to do this.  It is a special cloth from Alton."

"Thanks!" Lance says, loud enough for Mistoosha to hear, although Mistoosha does not acknowledge.

"I came here often when I was a free man," whispers Para.  "I wanted to write an accurate history of them.  In return, I was hoping they would take knowledge I had to offer about the Altonians. Yet King Plinoo had no use for such bargains, he ultimately decided to take me for a slave. He sold me to Mistoosha.

"So, you're saying..."

"Shhh! Do not speak," said Para, leading Lance onward.  "Just take slow, normal steps.  Please do not fall.  Please do not cough or sneeze.  Please do as you're told."  He paused a moment, before saying, "It is always a gamble to approach Plinoo."

Lance can see eight large, stone arches extend from inside the river and tower high.  Ropes splay between the arches make for a magnanimous artifact.  On the sides of the road is a stone wall the height of about three Altonians.

Para says, "So, you can see, getting a view of Sassoon without actually being inside the border is nearly impossible.  One cannot go into the water, as it is full of Gatorfalls, which are creatures similar to yet way larger than Aligators on earth. One cannot walk through the woods without risk of creatures. One cannot go in the open without fear of Pterodactyls."

The stone wall curves out as the path widens, and leads the travelers to the bridge.  At the base stand three armed Sassonian soldiers.  They likewise wear black dark wool tunics, indicating they too are slaves.  "They carry Splissopoons, which are basically large laser guns with very accurate and deadly aims," Para whispers.  "I know this by my experience on the slave market.  The guards are shorter than the Altonians, although they are quite deadly.  If you don't have good communicating skills, or something useful to offer, you are killed.  So Mistoosha must have faith he has a good product to trade for his entry.  He must also have settled all his affairs back home in case he never comes back.  And, chances are, he never will."

The massive golden gate expands in the middle of the bridge.  As the travelers approach, Mistoosha continues to lead the way,  Clan and  Zinka leading the horses closely behind, with Para and Lance trailing several paces behind.  While the others stand back, Mistoosha walks up to the guards, and bows.  This is what he believes is the appropriate introduction.  He crisscrosses his arms across his stomach, and says, "I am Mistoosha, and these are my men.  I have a human slave to offer.  I bring you wisdom so you can conquer them.  In exchange, I want to learn your history."

"Human slaves are strong, and offer wisdom," Para whispers so his words are barely heard.

Lance breaths a sigh of relief as the gate starts to open.  The soldiers move to the side, and Mistoosha can see that a series of pulleys are attached to oxen, who are working hard to pull the gate up.  As he is motioned  forward, he can see building upon building lining the path.  Some are two stories, some are way taller.  Some are only one story, and each of these have potted plants in boxes under their windows.  "These one story buildings are homes where the women live.  The larger buildings are shops where products are made, or as we would call them, large industrial factories. You can see the smoke billowing from many of them, polluting the air."

The smell is strong, almost like a mixture of sulfa and wood fires.  He also observed smoke billowing from chimneys in many of the homes Para pointed out, and he figured these were from cooking fires.  A horse and buggy whipped past, bringing up a billow of dust.  Titan sneezes, and goes into a coughing fit.  "This is not the place for a sneezing attack.  What can we do to help the boy."

"Place a cloth over his face," Lance whispers.

Para rushes forward, and, without stopping, lifts the boy's toga so that it covers his mouth and nose.  The boy sneezes twice.  Moments later Para was once again guiding Lance, who realized he was walking blindfolded forward without his guide. "I hope no one noticed you were gone," Lance said.

"You likewise observed my blunder," says Para.

"You are a foolish sage," Lance says, and laughs silently.

Para laughs too, and also silently.  Then he stops as fast as he starts, and then giggles again, as though it were a reflex giggle.  "Maybe some day we can enjoy a laugh together.  For now we have to pretend that we find no humor in life."

"It would be so nice if what you say were so," Lance says. "I mean about the laughing."

"Yes.  Now we best be quiet, as we are being watched.

Lance looked around and saw that there were more and more people approaching the sides of the narrow streets to get a glance at the human, or so Lance figures that's what they were doing.  Word must get out quick when strangers are in town, or at least when slaves were in town, or at least when a human was in town.

In the distance, to the right or left, as far as his eyes could see, so long as no forest of trees were blocking the view, were houses stacked side by side.  "These are made of mud-brick, and each is surrounded, as you can see, by a mud-brick fence so that there is a small courtyard for every homeowner.  In the courtyard is a fire pit, a larger fireplace, and tables.  There are no chairs.  This was where the women spent their days, cooking and taking care of the equipment the men needed to fight their battles, or perform their work in the shops.  At night the men slept in beds in the small houses, and the women returned to their homes.  Children lived in special schools until they were 18, and they were run very strictly (you can get a small taste of this by clicking here).

Finally they are at a place on the road where neat looking square buildings, all made of a yellow rock.  "These," Para said, are the shops, and above them are apartments where the shopkeepers live, or where their guests stay.  These apartments were also reserved for official visitors, and this is where Mistoosha figures he and his men will be housed. I wish I could say the same for you."

At that Lance gulped.

Finally the travelers are far enough along the path that they can see what they came to see: the temples, museum, library, and the castle that housed the King and Queen of Sassa.  "The castle stands high up on a hill so that it's more magnificent than even the temples to the Sassa gods.  It is and coliseum, and the museum, and library, and other amazing and interesting structures."

Occasionally Para points to what he's referring to, although such gesticulations are fewer and fewer as they get closer and closer to the castle.  They are now walking up a slight incline. Lance sees that soon the path gets steep and turns in either direction.  That awaits about a 100 feet ahead.

Para continues:  "To approach the Acropolis, which is what such beautiful structures on such hills are called, one has to dismount animals and approach on foot.  It is also advised that only one person at a time approach.  When more than one person approaches, this is seen as intimidating and arrogant.  One man, or one alien, or one visitor, is seen as humbling and giving of himself fully to the King and Queen.  It also makes it easier for the pat down. If you have any weapons on you, even a pencil, you are beaten by hand until you
are dropped to the ground, and then you are thrown into the prison that is on the other side of the castle, and on Sunday you'll be thrown into the Lions Den of the colosseum in front of over 30,000 spectators, and the Queen and all their followers.  If you are lucky, if Mistoosha is lucky, the King will be there with the queen to send out weapons for you to try to defend yourself, but he only make sparing appearances when he thinks you have something that may benefit him. And you do."

Those last words seem echo in the hot, dusty sunshine.  The crowd thickens, and the caravan comes to a sudden halt.  Lance can no longer see Mistoosha, and only the heads of the horses.  The eyes are overwhelming, almost mezmirizing, as they appear to be focused on the hooded creature -- Lance.

The kind arm is no longer wrapped around his back, and he looks around.  "Para! Para!"  There is no response from Para.  And even if there were, he wouldn't have heard it through the alien chants of "Alien! Alien! Alien! Alien!"

Something seems to pinch his butt, and he tries to get his hands back there to swat it away, but he cannot reach his own butt through the aliens hovering over him.  Suddenly Lance feels his feet give way, and he's guided to the ground by the hands of impoverished Sassa.  Over his face he now sees many large eyes peering down at him.  He closes his eyes, and there is no more.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Sassa Guard: Chapter 3

The pterodactyls circle for several minutes, and now, Lance sese, they are headed in their direction.  As they got closer, Lance's mind verifies the creatures are the same that used to fly through the skies of earth, verified by wisdom learned from his many hours spent reading.

As the dinosaurs close Lance observes they soar silently; almost to the point if he didn't see them coming they could easily sneak up on and chomp his head off with that pointed beak, and swoop his head away with those gigantic claws.

Mistoosha stops, and Clan stops next to him.  Para keeps walking until he is standing by Clan, and Lance stops a few short steps behind Clan and Para and Mistoosha.  Both clan and Para walk past Mistoosha, as though to shield him from an impending attack.

Lance has a sudden urge to run and hide into the woods, but he need Mistoosha and the slaves for protection, and he has no idea what to expect in the woods, and Titan needs him.  So he decides to stand, in plain sight of the creatures, as two of them land on the yellow rocks before them.

Lance sees clearly that these creatures are in fact pterodactyls.  They are creatures that existed about 150 million years ago on earth, and became extinct.  Apparently, obviously, the brown feathered birds with elongated yellow beaks, with black lines over their eyes that angle down -- giving  them the appearance of the devil's partners -- are like drones used to spy on Iraqi soldiers.

Lance hears a loud SQUAWK overhead, and looks up.  He sees one of the creatures continue to soar gracefully over head.  This bird continues to circle, while the other two lift off and disappear somewhere behind the trees.  The wingspan, Lance estimates, is about three feet.  It's black claws are tucked under it, and attached to the leg was bright, silvery object.  On it's head was another silvery object, and off this the sun glittered gracefully. He was certain these shiny objects were not natural, and probably placed on the animal to either act as cameras, or to control where they traveled.  He would have to have this confirmed by Para later, if there is a later that is.

Now all three creatures circle overhead, like vultures over prey, for several minutes.  Then, as silently as they approached, they returne to the tower in the distance, where they continue to circle.  Then, for some inexplicable reason, they disappear.

"What was that?" Lance asks.

"That, Mr. Goodman, is what you might call an unmanned aerial vehicle," Clan says, as Mistoosha starts trekking forward again.  "It's a drone.  It's a drone Sassa style."

In other words," said Para, "the Sassa know we are here.  Better say your prayers."

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Sassa Guard: Chapter 2

For several minutes there is conversation, just marching.  Lance can no longer hear the moving of water, and so he figures they must be moving away from the river.  The wheezing of the boy continues, marking each inspiration with a red flag.  He sneezes and moans. Para continues to look around, as though searching for something.

Lance looks at what he thinks Para is looking at, and sees nothing but things expected: trees, bushes, animals.  What's going through Para's mind? What's he looking for? Whats he expecting?

"Your efforts did not work," says Mistoosha.  "You wish to lose your life in a failing effort."

"He will get better in time now that the cat is gone," Lance says, quickly setting his head forward, his eyes on the master.  The master does not look back.

The day seems to linger long, and Lance isn't sure if his feet can last until the end of this day.  The pain in his hip joint aches hard, and he starts to limp.  Para and Clan seem to be impervious to the impacts of the long journey, as though they've done this many times before.

"I think the Sassa Guard will love our gift," says Clan.

"I think they will too," says Para."

"The question is, what will they do to him.  I hope they spare his life."

A cool tingle rushes up Lance's spine causing his eyes to bulge and his mouth to pop open.  "What! I thought a gift was purchased in that last town we passed," he says.

"No!" says Para.  "Zinka paid the toll."

"Toll?" Lance said.  "What do you mean toll?

"We have to have our presence well known, and sneaking on the path is punishable by death," Para said. "So we sent Zinka to pay the toll."

"And so I'm the gift?"

"Yes.  I'm sorry for that.  But you are from Earth, and humans make the strongest slaves.  You will probably be useful for lifting heavy objects for the king."

"I cannot do that!" Lance said, kicking his feet into the macadam, bringing up a puff of dust.

"You can and you will."

"I cannot!  I will not!"

"You can and you will!"

"I will not.  Mistoosha must kill me as was his promise when I saved the boy."

"Mistoosha will not kill the gift."

"THEN I WILL NOT GO FORTH!" Lance shouts.  He kicks his foot into the dirt along the side of the path, and only quits when the boy sneezes.  "Shit!" he says. God, what do I do not! I can't go into the woods because I will die and the boy will die.  I can't stay here or I will die.  I can't march forward because I will die.  I can't go back because I will die.  Why doesn't he just cut off my head!

Lance spits, only to have it land on his own face. I can't even spit right!

Several hours pass without conversation.  Lance continues to glance back occasionally to check on the boy, who continues to sleep.  What kind of work will they have for me? 

"I'm sorry that I got angry," Lance said.

"It does not matter that you are sorry," said Para.

"What do you mean."

"You have no more control over your destiny than we do.  We do what we are trained to do.  We do what the Sassa Guard want us to do.  We are born with free spirit, but the Sassa Guard take that spirit away."

"How so?" It was a rhetorical question.  He saw how the Sassa Guard rid you of spirit.

"In Alton our free spirit is protected by our Constitution.  It prevents the government from making any law taking away our natural rights."

"It's like the U.S. Constitution then."

"The what?"

"The U.S. Constitution.  It's the only Constitution in the world, um, on earth, that tells a government what it can't do, as opposed to telling the government what it can do."

"Yes.  The Alton Constitution is like that.  But the Sassa Constitution says what government can do.  And the government can take away spirit.  It does not matter that we don't want our spirit taken away."

"That's too bad."

"It's been this way on Sassa for ever."

"How long is forever?"  It was another rhetorical question, one that Tsatso answered on Alton One.

"Since the Guard was formed out of the outcasts of Alton.  They believed the Alton Constitution should be a changing document, one that changed as society changed.  So what happened is that they created a document that allowed it to grow, like a flourishing tree. Only, what happened is that so many laws were made that men were no longer free.  Government leaders turned into dictators and kings.  So you see what is the result.  We now have to fear for our lives.  We now have to be monitored wherever we go."

"What do you mean be monitored?"

"You will soon see when the pterodactyls arrive."


"Yes, the drones."

"What are the drones?"

"I must say no more about this.  Stop looking back now.  Stop looking around.  We must now act like the Sassa.  Well, soon anyway." He shakes his head.  "Actually, I think we have time to answer some of your questions.  A little time.  Then we must act like Sassa.

"Why is there no science?" Lance asks, wasting no time.

Para stops.  He waits until Lance catches up with him before he starts walking again, now alongside the human prisoner. He says, "Technology is forbidden in Sassa.  It is against the wishes of the gods, who chime that ignorance and poverty is better than knowledge and materialism.  The god Titan, the god of the common man, of which Mistoosha is and we are not, wishes that we not focus on materialism, which knowledge promotes.  If we are ignorant, we are more likely to concentrate on the gods and not so much on our stuff."

The alien looks at Lance as he speaks, walking backwards, and this was the first time Lance has a good shot to look into the its face.  Para has a smooth face, as though it was well taken care of.  He is a slave now, but Lance can tell by looking at him he was something more prior to being a slave, but what?  Now was not the time to ask.  Instead, he said, "Can... er.. may I speak?"

There is a silence for a long moment, and then Lance repeats his question, only slightly louder.  Mistoosha said, in a voice that is barely audible, "You may.  Just do not let anyone know you were spoke to by a member of the Sassa.  We will all die.  That is all I am saying."

"Thank you," Lance says.

"Consider it your gift for saving the life of my slave boy."

"You may speak." Para said, and Lance sees what he figures to be a slight frown on the alien's face, sees a sparkle in his large eyes.  Lance remembers something Tsatso said once, Surely he was an alien, but he was still a person, and people are the same wherever you go, wherever time goes.  Societies change, societies are different, but people are the same.

Lance said, "That sounds much like how the Roman Empire ended.  People were forbidden from being educated for the next thousand years by the Church.  The Christians were great, even eventually lead to democracies and republics and capitalism, but it took many thousands of years for the Church to realize that people can be smart and believe in God at the same time."

"You mean gods!" said Clan, who slows down and is now walking alongside Para, although not looking back, and not walking backwards as Para was.

"You are wrong to say smart," Para said.  "All people are smart in their own way.  Some people are music smart, some are talking smart, some are book smart, some are political smart, some are rock smart as my friend Para is."

Clan smacks Para on the chest with the back of his hand.

Ignoring the hit, Para says, "Some are society smart as our master is.  We are all smart, you see.  The word I think you meant to use is ignorance.  We are also all ignorant in anything we don't know.  Your ancient philosopher Socrates taught us that."

"There is science here.  That's how I got here," Lance says, his chains jangling as he gesticulates.  "Where is it?  Why all the horse and buggies, when you guys have space ship? How you know about Socrates? What do you know about earth?"

"You're head going to burst with all these questions," says Clan.

"And why all the formality? Why the horses and buggies when I know you guys have science?"

"Shush!" Clan whisper, and stops, and places his little, cool fingers over Lance's lips.  "You must never speak of thus.  I will not speak to you if you ever mention this again, unless we get free and are out of earshot of the Sassa.  They must not know what you just thought.  You understand!" It was NOT a question.

"Yes!" Lance whispered. "I thought by you speaking we were out of earshot. Sorry."

"We are never out of earshot."

"Oh, I... thought you said we were."

Para turned and continued marching forward alongside Clan, just behind Mistoosha.  "Shit!" Lance thinks, kicking dirt again.  Yet once again he reasons, and stops.  He marches along, thinking again that he's not heard any sneezes or coughs from the boy in a long while.  He looks back briefly to see the boy is still sleeping well.

A cool, refreshing breeze causes a sudden whoosh of  the heavy leaves, and Lance notices it brush across his face.  Being he must have walked over 20 miles along this darkened path, the breeze is ominous. His chest feels tight.  He speaks:  "I was wondering," he said aloud, "if you could explain about the trees. I find that so fascinating."

Para's voice radiates smoothly: "The trees have a wonderful history.  They are called Sassafrass trees, which means they are guardian trees, protectors of all the Sassa.  The trees are possessed with the spirits of dead men from the various families in the city.  When a Sassa dies, his spirit becomes a Sassafrass tree.  When you see them, you will know there is a Sassa city nearby.  That is why we must be careful.  And that is why Mistoosha may have to do things that you may not like.  The Sassa are a rough and gruff people.  Where you and I see white, where the Alton sees white, they see black.  Where you in America on earth use the colors white to show innocence, new and virginity, and black to show death and the end, on Sassa it is just the opposite.  Sassa is dark, gloomy, melancholy, solemn, or any of those types of dark words."

"Dark men," Clan says.

"Sassa is where the term black magic comes from.," says Para.  "Sassa is where melancholy comes from.  Those are Sassa terms. Those are not terms of primitive humans, but of Altonians."

"Those are terms used in the ancient world on earth," Lance says, excitingly.  "Black magic is evil magic.  It's when the spirits, gods, or other such transcendental forces use their ability to cause harm, sickness, and death.  It's what primitive and ancient worlds thought caused disease.  The evil eye was black magic, and could actually cause disease.  So you mean..."

"Yes, that those terms come from Sassa.  Your country was invaded by the Sassa years ago, many years ago," said Para.  "I do not know the year, but I know it was long before the first Altons traveled to earth.  However, it was an Alton ship that was used.  It's always an Alton ship.  And the Sassa who stole the ship were outcasts of Sassa."

Lance has no response for this. Instead, he rolls Para's statements over and over in his mind.  It's always an Alton ship.  And the Sassa who stole the ship were outcasts of Sassa.  That was never in any of the Sassa History books Tsatso had in his office.  "You mean," Lance said, "that the first visitors to earth were not Altons."


"So what about the miracle?"  The miracle is a wrinkle in time that allows transport of a ship from Alton to Earth in only a few months, as opposed to millions of years. The miracle is a time warp, with an opening near mars, on the earth side of the asteroid belt, and somewhere close to Alton.

"What are you guys talking about?" says Clan.  "What's a miracle?"

"Yeah," says Lance.  "I figured you wouldn't know about the miracle.  Tsatso said it was esoteric men."

"True," says Para.  "We should not speak of it.  I was wrong to answer your question."

"I'm sorry," said Lance.  "I never should have mentioned it."

Lane closes his eyes, and thinks up another question.  So many on his mind.  Yes, he thinks, Clan is right in that his could easily explode, bursting question upon question.  Yet he must be careful.

Yet, instead of freeing his head of one, Para asks one of his own: "You know how Columbus is credited for discovering America?

 "Yes!" answers Lance

"And you know how the Vikings traveled to America long before Columbus?" Para asks

"No, tell me about this miracle," Clan interjects."You guys need to stop flipping around.  I want to know about this miracle."

Para turns, walks backwards again.  He says nothing.  Lance says, "Yes, Para, and  you mean..."

Para says, "That the Sassa are akin to the Vikings."

Lance's jaw drops.  "Holy Cow!"

"Yes.  There is more to history than what is in those books you read, wherever it was you read them.  I know it wasn't on earth, because there are no Alton books on Earth."

Through an opening in the trees ahead Lance sees a gray tower.  Over the tower circles two large objects that look, from his view and distance, like pterodactyls.  Given what he had seen so far, and what Para said earlier, he can't rule out in his mind that that's what they were.

"Are those the pterodactyls?" Lance asks.

"Yes!" Mistoosha says.  "I pray they didn't hear you guys talking or we are all dead."

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Sassa Guard: Chapter 1

Mistoosha walks along a yellow stone path along the edge of a river followed closely by Para and Clan, Mistoosha's slaves.  Mistoosha wears a black toga and carries a walking stick, and his slaves wear black togas.  About ten paces behind them walks Lance Goodman, loosely dressed in a black tunic made for him by an old lady in a town they passed two days before.  Before that he trudged for days in his earthen clothing. His hands are chained to his waste.  Sweat drips from his pale face

Large leafed trees hover over both sides of the path, and their leaves are so huge that they bow over the road so it's like they are walking in a tunnel.  It is dark inside, although not so that they can't see enough to make their way. The only sound is of feet on macadam, the soft whiff and whoosh of the large leaves above, and the gentle flow of water.  Occasionally there's an opening so he can see the river, and the distant mountains and forests, although at present the beauty of Alton is hidden by dense trees.

Lance momentarily glances back over the gravel path the caravan trudged over.  "Where did the riders go?" he wonders. "Isn't it illegal for slave riders to ride alone? Mistoosha seems to pay no attention, as he continues marching on, banging his long walking stick, two long, thin yellow leaves still fresh on the top, into the gravel with each step.  Clan and Para seem to not heed this either.  "Why?  What's going on here?"

"Clan," said Para, "Did you know these trees are the history of Sassa."

"I don't know no Sassa story, let alone Alton.  I trapped in caves of Titan for twenty years, inhaling only the wisdom of dust and smoke and Grattan stone."

"What did you do in the caves?" Thought Lance, and just as he thought it, Clan said it.

"In charge of the buckets.  You have all this science up here, and we had buckets and pick axes."

"There's no science up here," said Clan.  "There's no science here."

Just then a loud SNAP comes from behind, followed by the clip-clop-clip-hop that sounded like horse shoes  patting on macadam.  He turned and that's exactly what he sees.  Closing in fast is a horse and buggy being lead by two black stallions.  Lance's instincts tell him to jump out of the way.  Yet neither of the slaves, nor Mistoosha, stop.  So, once again, lance finds himself tagging right along.

He can hear the horse and buggy closing in, galloping right along, and can feel a thump in his chest.  He bites his tongue as to brace for impact, as though tongue biting would do any good.  And just as he iss ready for impact, the clip-clop-clip-clop-clip-clop slows.  Lance turns and sees the buggy is now about ten paces behind him, cantering along at the same speed as Mistoosha. A trail of dust behind it makes it impossible to see beyond the buggy.

In the front of the buggy are two more aliens, both wearing tunics of the same color and design as the slaves Para and Clan.  The one on the right, the drivers side in Michigan, is wrinkly, and Lance thought this was the first old alien he saw since visiting with Tsatso on Alton One. His name is Zinka.  In a way, the old man looks eerily similar to Tsatso.  On the left side of the buggy is a smaller alien, small enough that Lance is sure he is a child. He is petting an animal that sets on his lap, which to Lance looks to be a cat. The boys name is Titan.

Lance wants to ask about the cat, but he's still afraid to say anything. After the incident yesterday when he witnessed a school boy beheaded by his teacher because he answered a question out of turn, Lance had no intention of speaking unless ordered to do so.  Lance figured there was a good reason Para and Clan walked so officially behind Mistoosha. So Lance tries to pretend the buggy isn't behind him, and marches along

This is how it is for what seemed to Lance several hundred hours, although in reality it's probably more like two hours.  It gave him time for thinking, and the more he thought the more questions he had: What are these trees? Why is this path here? How long is a day? What is a day? Where are we headed? Where did we come from? Who is the boy? Why is a boy riding in the middle of the woods with an old man? How did he end up a slave? Where did he get the cat from?

That last question was the question lingering on his mind at present.  The boy did not have the cat prior to venturing off on a side excursion to a village of Sassoonians.  He wasn't told, although he assumed the mission was to get food to offer to the King of Sassoon, which, by listening to the slaves talk, he figures is where Mistoosha is leading him.  And, of course, this brings upon the biggest questions of all: why? Why is he taking Lance to the king, and what will become of Lance Goodman, the speaker to aliens?

Yet, for the moment anyway, those two important questions slip to the back of his mind.  Right now he can't help but wonder why a cat is on Alton.  How did the boy get it? Better yet: how did it get on Alton.  Who brought it here? Or, is it possible cats are native to Alton and brought to earth by the Altonians.

He wants answers, and hopes the slaves start talking again so he can get some.  Yet for a long duration there is no talking, just an occasional sneeze from the boy in the buggy. Lance looks back and sees the boy's eyes are swollen shut.  He's constantly rubbing them, and Lance figures he's allergic to the cat.

"Master! Master!" says Titan.  "We must stop now!"

Mistoosha does not seem to recognize the chant.

Several moments pass.  Lance keeps peering over his shoulder at the boy.  He's having a severe allergic reaction.  Something needs to be done now.  Yet Mistoosha continues his march, apparently oblivious of the emergent needs of his child slave.

"Master!  Mastere!" says Titan, slightly louder this time. "We must stop now!"

Several moments pass again.  There is a series of sneezes, and now Lance can hear the boy wheezing.  It's a harsh croupy wheeze, and Lance recognizes it well.  He glances back, nearly tripping this time over his own feet, and sees that the boy is now leaning against the side of the buggy, so that it appears he might fall out.  His shoulders are high and his chest looks stiff.

"Mistooaha!  Mastere!" Lance says.  "I understand we are not to talk.  I understand we must respect the Sassa Guard.  But if we do not stop the boy Titan will die.  We need to stop!  Please! Please! Do it for the boy."

There is no response from Mistoosha.  His march is adamant.

"I will risk my life for the boy," says Lance, breaking the vow of silence he made when Mistoosha bought him.  "You can kill me.  You can cut off my head.  Let the boy live!"

"Enough!" shouts Mistoosha as he comes to a halt.  The slaves stop when he does.

Mistoosha shouts: "What do you propose we do for the slave boy?"

Lance says, "He's having a severe allergic reaction to the cat."

Mistoosha: "Why do you imply this? What is your proof?"

"He was fine before he had the cat."

"Then let the cat go."

Lance walked to the buggy, jumps into the cab, and helps the boy to sit up.  He grabs the cat, and tosses it to the ground, where it lands on its four paws and quickly scampers into the dark woods.

"Now let us walk," says Mistoosha, and he starts forward. The slaves follow.  The buggy starts moving even before Lance has a chance to get out, and he falls out, landing hard on his left side, nearly getting his feet tangled into the spokes of the buggies wheels. Yet he manages to roll away from the moving vehicle, and runs to his position in the caravan.

"Now you may kill me," he says.