When Gelantrik’s eyes fluttered open, she was seated in an acceleration chair on the bridge of the alien vessel. Compared with the cramped ships she was used to, this one was flat-out luxurious. Her eyes snapped up to the right as Ludovica walked up to her, waving her right hand — a greeting unfamiliar to the confused Gantoorni.
“How did I get here?” she asked the alien. “I don’t even remember leaving the spaceport.”
“We brought you here, directly, by quantum transfer,” said Ludovica.
“What about your lander?” asked Gelantrik.
The captain smiled.
“It was never at the spaceport,” she said. “And neither were we. As a precaution, we used e-mag-clad holography to create the illusion we were there in person.”
“I have no idea what that means,” said the young Gantoorni female. “But I guess it’s nothing, compared to time travel.”
A flicker of light in Gelantrik’s eye made her turn her head toward its source, a transparent portal to her right.
“Are we in flight already?” she asked.
As Ludovica was quick to point out, they couldn’t afford to wait.
“Our world is coming unstuck in time,” she said. “Before we left Earth, our military was putting down an assault from an army of soldiers, some on horseback, armed with flintlock rifles. They’d just claimed our western continent for ‘His Majesty, King George the Third.”
“What’s a horse?” asked Gelantrik.
“The point is,” said Ludovica, “the soldiers don’t belong in our timeline. Worse, we also have to deal with busybodies from the far future who insist only they know how to handle the crisis.”
“Don’t you need all the help you can get?” said Gelantrik.
“That would be true,” said Ludovica, “if they had our interests at heart. Instead, they don’t care how much pain they inflict on us, as long as they stabilize their own timeline.”
“Wow,” said Gelantrik. “But I thought time didn’t work like that.”
“They claim to know better, and rightly blame us for causing the temporal anomaly,” said Ludovica. “Still, allowing billions of people to suffer across thousands of years of history, can’t be excused by saying ‘It’ll all work out in the end.’ That’s why we need you.”
Ludovica helped Gelantrik up from the acceleration chair and led her to the alien ship’s dining room, where her crew were waiting.
“Let’s explain our plan to resolve the crisis over dinner. I know I always find complex ideas easier to grasp with food.”
“Sounds great,” said Gelantrik. “But we’re so different. I doubt you have anything I can eat.”
They now entered the ship’s dining room and Gelantrik flashed a shy smile as every member of the crew stood up to greet her.
“You needn’t worry,” said Ludovica. “We know exactly what you can eat, based on the genetic profile our ancestors developed when they created your species thousands of years ago.”
“I … I still can’t believe …” Gelantrik stuttered. “When Director Jantraz told me about your claim to have brought us to Gantoorn, I thought your message must have been garbled.”
Nevertheless, her multifaceted eyes seemed to sparkle as a crewmember placed a small tray in her hands.
“My favorites!” said Gelantrik. “But what do you mean about my ‘genetic profile’ and why would your ancestors even think of creating us? It sounds rather arrogant … oh my, sorry.”
“No need to apologize,” said Ludovica. “My people eventually came to the same conclusion. That’s why we found out about Gantoorn only by accident. In their shame, our ancestors had encrypted all record of their experiments.”
According to Ludovica, ancient Earth scientists had directly manipulated the human genome to produce a new species. They wanted to use controlled test subjects to study sentient cultural development on a world far enough away to be completely uncontaminated with influences from Earth.
“It appears they succeeded,” she said, “but at a high cost. The list of ‘failures’ recorded in their files is … well, disturbing doesn’t begin to cover it. And the greater tragedy is that it was all for nothing. A short time after your people were settled, a rare meteor shower destroyed the tracking array that my ancestors had developed to monitor your social evolution.”
“Sounds like Earth has a lot to answer for,” said Gelantrik. “But I still don’t know how I can help you.”
“It won’t be easy,” said Ludovica. “And I’m afraid there is an element of risk.”
“Risk?” asked Gelantrik. “You mean, I could die?”
“Worse,” said Ludovica, “your species might cease to exist.”
(To be continued)
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