Rainbow Made of Tears -- 1
"I'm not a Baby Sitter!"
The fountain was beautiful. It had started out as an oblong or oval with lots of bowed out and tucked in convex and concave bulges to give its stained, cement and granite form a crenellated shape. Inside it was lined with a well maintained, and still intact mosaic in various shades of royal blue, creamy white, orange, and aqua marine.The blues mostly dominated, but that was fine with me. There were nobs in the center of the fountain, but no water emerged. Perhaps the mechanism that powered the fountain was broken, but I doubted that. The water in the fountain looked too clean for the fountain not to be working. Perhaps if I could find the control room, I could get the fountain working again, but something else about the fountain bothered me.
It was too clean. No one threw coins in it, though not everyone observes this custom. The fountain was certainly wish-worthy, but more troubling, there was no garbage in the fountain, no candy wrappers, bottle tops, used prophyllactics, not even dry leaves and twigs. Someone was keeping this fountain clean. That meant this old city was anything but abandoned. Well, it was a nice enough place, that it should not be abandoned. Still, who knew who or what had gotten here first.
I was mulling over those thoughts when I caught the signal. It was just in the back of my head, a gentle buzzing. I was usually easy to reach, and those who wanted to talk to me had no need of electronics even though I had an implant so that those with less talent could reach me. I could not tell who was signalling me. I did not like the idea of being summoned any time, especially when no one needed me around in the middle of the afternoon or had it become early evening? Either way, this had better be good I reasoned.
"Zurielle," Josef's voice began. His mental voice was always male. His spoken voice is nasal and self-effacing, so I'm giving him the voice of authority. I'd add thunder too, but that is a bit over the top. "Zurielle, Martha has vanished."
"How could Martha have vanished?" I asked. This was I admit a rhetorical question. On the ship, there was no where to go, even down in steerage where I bunked and where they put Martha when she ceased to be interesting which was pretty fast. Still, Josef who is one of the mates if you want to think of it that way, sounded serious.
OK, the ship stopped all sorts of places. I jumped ship any time I felt like it. I usually got on board before we left or else knew how to get back on board after the ship pulled out. Martha was a newbie. She had jumped ship and... Well she hadn't vanished. That was for sure. She also was not homesick, not in the usual way.
"I don't know why she left the ship," Joseph told me.
This was not entirely true. Josef is about as intelligent as I am and in some ways far more skilled. And face it Martha was crazy, not insane, just good and nuts. And people who are nuts like Martha do strange things. Most likely, when I found her, she would say she had just gone for a walk to t hink things over and lost track of time. "Don't get too far from port and I'll try to find Martha," I answered.
"I'll fix it so you can signal for another ship. The current is strong here..." Joseph ALWAYS spoke in metaphors. "They'll transfer you over."
"F****" I told Josef and then I said I'd get right on finding Martha. Now I knew Martha and her story well enough to know that she did not like cities. She was not afraid of them, but they were totally unfamiliar to her. I love old cities. I'm a scavenger by inclination and an archaeologist by trade. I dipped both hands into the fountain with the gorgeous tiles nad splashed my face. The water smelled treated: chlorine. Whoever lived here was not too subtle about hiding. I walked next to the fountain's edge. The square was full of three and four story buildings in reasonably good condition. The glass in the windows was unbroken or had shutters pulled over it. There were trees planted, very domesticated trees with only a few weeds growing in their round sidewalk spaces.
At one end of the park was a monumental structure of white marble or alabaster or some kind of synthetic material designed to look like glowing stone. this made the trees growing around it shine like emeralds. As I got closer to the big ,white building I noticed the trees were good sized and there were more of them than elsewehre in the square. "A park!" I thought and felt that good, sweet sensation of having luck running in your direction. Martha who felt frightened in cities would head either for the edge of town or the nearest large park and the grassy space to the left and behind the big white building was just the right kind of place.
"Mar-tha!" I shouted. "Mar!!!!! Tha!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" I wanted this hunt to be over. I wanted to be back on my own ship near my own sweet, field cot with the unwashed blankets and striped sheets and my own underware, pajamas, and books, my own little nest. I did not want to sit up half the night on a strange craft until a captain or mate with no time on his or her hands could arrange to have Martha and me transferred. I did not need Martha causing this kind of aggravation.
"MAR-THA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" I was crying msyelf hoarse, working up a sweat, and someone or something was watching me. The someone or some thing was a human or human looking creature in blue denim overalls and a faded green t-shirt. She wore sandals made of tire treads on her feet. She stared at me. People didn't shout here. They kept their heads low, put chlorine in the water, trimmed the trees, and did not even run the water. In the park they probably hid behind bushes. "Excuse me...." I froze. We did not even share a language. I decided to ignore the stranger and keep shouting.
That's how I found Martha. She emerged from a grove of bushes covered with pale pink flowers. This day, she wore the homespun dress she had been picked up in. The dress needed a wash. "Martha, Joseph is loking for you." The girl in overalls kept staring at us. Martha pointed to her. "She doesn't understand a word we're saying."
"How do you know?"
"I don't, and I don't care if she can hear us. We need to get back to the ship. I closed my eyes and activated my implant. "Joseph we need pick up now. Throw us a rope if you PLEASE!"
"Are you all right?" Josef thundered. "Yes, if you get us out of here NOW!"
Needless to say we got back to the ship in a flash of blazing purple light, something the unobtrusive creature in overalls would report to her comrades. We ended up in Joseph's quarters. He had a big soft, cream colored rug on the floor patterned in bright geometrics. Martha liked to pat the rug. Joseph was small with a dark scisor crewc grown out and combed over. He had a pink face, and small grey eyes. He looked over Martha and me.
"I just wanted to get back to the ship," I apologized. "Also the city is NOT abandoned. It's very well lived in and cared for. The population just doesn't like to be seen or else they're nocturnal. We disturbed one by accident."
"She disturbed her," Martha interjected. "Zurielle was yelling all over the place."
"I had to find you and I didn't want to get transfered," I protested.
"I guess there's no harm done except shock to one inhabitant."
"How close are we?" asked Martha.
"Close to what?" I asked.
"Linda told me," Martha explained. "They found Paul's ship, the one where he and his wife are sleeping."
"You should never send people sleeping through space," sighed Joseph. "There are things that can prey on them. We don't know what condition those sleepers are in until we have them on this ship and awake."
Martha held a wad of her homespun skirt in her two big hands. Her light brown hair hid her face like a veil. "Paul," she repeated aloud. "After all these years," she said to no one.
"When do we catch the ship of sleepers?" asked Martha coming back to herself.
"Early this evening," Joseph replied. "We thought you had tried to return to your people."
"Paul's people are my people," Martha's voice grew cold.
"Martha, that dress needs a wash if you want to wear it for Paul, and my bed sheets have seen better days. Let's get ourselves and the quarters ship shape."
"You think Paul will leave his wife?" Martha asked.
I shrugged. Like it or not I would be stuck in a ship's soulless belly. Like it or not, I would be stuck with Martha, oh that poor crazy Martha.
Zurielle Digger/Takwi Ship Mason Bee Express 2/Somewhere too far from Earth.