27 A Link to Home

The project was given space in an unused military facility, far from any city, within a short distance of a tube route. It was refurbished in a few days and included living quarters.

While the members of each group were being contacted and organized, Zeke started a course in Anyari culture and history, more detailed than the material he'd read and watched before. Ereine, with advice from Jonephs, was assigned to choose material for him to study. He found, to his surprise, that her field of study before entering the Academy was psychology, or what Zeke took to be the Anyari equivalent. She was briefed on the project and spent her time consulting with Jonephs and choosing material for him to read and view.

One of the things he'd come to understand, on his own, and which his studies confirmed, was that the Anyari had as few rules and laws as possible. This was more than a principle, it was codified in the founding documents for the Anyari government. However, the rules covered things differently from what he was used to. The punishments for crimes committed by a member of one subculture against another were taken seriously, especially if the crime was motivated by prejudice.

Different subcultures, or Ti'lin, still existed on Anyar, though they might better have been defined as sects or even political parties. The definitions didn't fit with anything Zeke was familiar with from Earth. Members adhered to different philosophical tenets. Membership spread throughout the society, often not remaining clustered in an area. Different Ti'lin often coexisted with each other in the same area, though most members associated primarily with members of their culture. He thought of these subcultures as similar to religious or ethnic groups, on Earth.

The genetic makeup of Anyari had become much more homogeneous than Earth's and with that, the size and influence of the Ti'lin diminished. These groups, though no longer an important part of mainstream Anyari culture, were still accepted. Some practices and beliefs conflicted with the main values of most Anyari, but respect for these differences remained an important part of the Anyari culture.

No laws ensured this, but there was strong social pressure to conform. Beyond the laws that applied to everyone, each Ti'lin had an additional layer of social conventions and explicit expectations that was clearly understood. Those who violated these conventions were subject to the disapproval of their friends and relatives that varied from minor avoidance to something as strong as formal shunning. This was almost always enough to avoid behavior that led to conflicts. For Anyari, avoidance of conflict and loss of respect were strong motivators. Of course, individuals could, and often did, leave the group rather than endure this.

Zeke found this needlessly complex, but it seemed to work to keep society stable and productive, except that it seemed to have a negative effect on creativity and independence. The conflicts in Anyar's history, in some ways like Earth's, had led to a conscious decision to make this trade-off to avoid the strife such conflicts caused.

Only the blatant abuse of power by the leaders of society had caused widespread violence, and society had gratefully returned to its strict etiquette in less than a generation after the dark times ended. Those times were seldom mentioned and scarcely had a name. When they were referred to, they were called me'nat, the Anyari word for nightmare. They would not mark the word a proper noun, so determined were they to force it from their consciousness and diminish its significance to nothing.

Zeke spent many days with Jonephs, reviewing the material that came in from the probe, and explaining, to the extent he could, its context and meaning. It soon became obvious that people with technical knowledge would be needed to probe and search the Earth's network.

Zeke spent almost as much time with a surprisingly young engineer, Gerendell, as with Ereine and Jonephs. They sent queries to the probe--somehow the probe had been able to establish a datalink through several devices on Earth. If Zeke had been in or near the probe, he could have cruised the web almost as quickly as he had from his old bedroom, perhaps faster considering the slow connection on his grandparents' farm.

It was at that point he realized that he could contact people on Earth, even his grandparents. He mentioned the idea to General Yalt. The general looked troubled, responding with something non-committal. The ability to let them know that he was OK was important. He knew the risk of landing on Earth, during the probe mission, would have been out of the question, and popping in to see his grandparents would have been a foolish risk.

He stewed about it for a day, and was preparing to seek out the general to pursue the issue further. He knew that this was not the Anyari way. He was not Anyari, but still felt a need to conform to their standards.

The next afternoon Zeke requested a meeting with the general. When he arrived in the meeting room, the general was waiting for Zeke with a few people from the intelligence analysis section.

The general began, saying in a measured, even tone, "I expected a visit from you before now."

Zeke dropped his head. The tone had not rebuked him, but still he felt ashamed that he had wanted to use the position he'd been assigned for his own purposes, no matter how noble he believed they were.

His voice shaking, all he could manage was, "I'm sorry." He couldn't look the general in the eye.

The general's voice softened, "You are in a difficult situation, no one can blame you for wanting to contact your grandparents. It is I who should apologize to you.

"At first, I considered it only a simple personal desire. Though it was, it was also more than that. It should be evaluated on its merits. If anything could be gained from contacting anyone on Earth, your grandparents are the most likely candidates. It is, I believe, a subject worth discussing."

The general looked at one of the analysts who introduced himself as Captain Tael. He began, "We must ask ourselves about the consequences of making contact. First, would contacting them in any way harm them?"

That was something that Zeke had not considered. "I don't see how. The government, I think, has monitored phone and emails, but I don't think they would monitor people like my grandparents. Of course there is talk, but I don't really have any idea. You can find out?"

Tael answered, "I'm pretty sure we can. It means penetrating the security of your nation's intelligence operations. I'm not sure how you feel about that, but it was always a necessity, and we've been surveilling the network and facilities since the beginning. We're in the process of determining if your NSA, or any other intelligence organization, would know or care."

Zeke nodded, a little relieved. "That sounds good. I wouldn't want to see them get in trouble and, to be honest, after the things that have happened in the last year, I'm not sure what I believe."

Tael nodded, "Second, will it do our cause any harm? We would not need to send anything hinting at our plans, and even if we did, my guess is it would not be taken seriously."

Zeke nodded agreement, "They would, or will, have a hard time believing what has happened---and what we are planning."

General Yalt added, "'Will' is the right word. Unless we find some overwhelming reason to terminate our plans, I think we must proceed."

Tael continued, "Finally, what do we gain by contacting them, besides relieving you of the burden you bear. I don't say that lightly, but I know that you recognize the importance and risks of what we decide."

"I confess to being persuaded by my emotions," Zeke admitted, "but I don't know if I can give you, or if there is, a justification for communicating with them. My grandfather is the best source for information about Earth that I know of. Perhaps you could somehow contact someone within the NSA or CIA that would be willing to break their vows and reveal things of value to you, though that would get them in serious trouble.

"My grandfather is just a regular guy, but he is an educated, honest, intelligent, and perceptive regular guy. I don't know who else would be better, and I have no idea how we would go about finding someone more suited. I'm sure that there are people who would be even more useful, but I don't know any or how to find them, or recognize them should we find them."

"We do not discount the value of someone you know personally, and that his relationship with you is reason enough to help us. You understand, though, that should you contact him, he will not have any context within which to put your message. At some point, he will be presented with the truth and that will surely be very difficult to believe, at least at first."

"I don't know how you can present something that will seem as unbelievable as what really happened to me, but just letting them know that I am OK--that is all I want to do. He is in good health, but he is in his sixties, and for someone on Earth, that is somewhat old, compared to an Anyari."

The general spoke up, "Let's discuss it and we'll talk again tomorrow. I am inclined to think that your grandfather will be very valuable to our plan," and he stopped for a moment and smiled, "when we have one."

The next day, Zeke and the general met with the king and Councilor Ekthon on a video link and described their plan. Rolenil was immediately supportive and Ekthon had no objections.

The small robotic couriers transported data back and forth to the probe several times a day and would carry Zeke's messages and, hopefully, his grandfather's replies. Zeke composed a message which was reviewed by the general, and probably by Tael's group:


This is the first time I've been able to contact you and tell you that I am OK. I know how you must feel and I cannot tell you how sorry I am. Everything will be all right. I hope to see you again soon, but I don't know when.

Please tell Grandma that I am OK, but it is important that you tell no one else that you've heard from me. It will endanger something far more important than my safety.

You can communicate with me at this email address. I will respond when I can.


It went out on the next MI courier. The MI in the probe entered it into his Gmail account where it would appear to come from.

He met daily with the general, Councilor Ekthon, and Jonephs, who had become the head of the "Contact" group. Zeke explained about the contact scenarios that humans would expect, those that had been presented in fiction books and movies. For the initial contact, the choices were narrowed down to three.

The first was a simple broadcast introducing the Anyari. The most favored plan was sending a video message from King Rolenil to the people of Earth, broadcast for general reception on standard TV channels. The problem with this approach was that it was unclear how long it might take to be noticed, since most people did not receive their television service via antennas and receivers.

The second option was to have a group, or a couple of small groups, land at various national capitols and request meetings with the heads of the government. They could not predict how this would be greeted---by the governments or by their citizens.

The third, and most dramatic option, was to put one or both of the carriers in orbit and initiate contact. Technically that was simple, posed no danger to the landing parties, and allowed Earth some time to adjust. It also allowed the respective governments to suggest methods for meeting in person.

Eyes turned to Zeke expectantly.

"I wish my grandfather were here," he said. "I'm not sure anything but making the carriers visible will be taken seriously. A demonstration of technology will garner attention, and it seems to me that we need the serious attention of the entire planet. However, I'm afraid that actions visible enough to do that might have effects I can only guess at."

The general summarized the discussion, "No amount of study from afar is going to allow us to predict what will happen. I suspect, even if we had a group of knowledgeable people from Earth, that even their prediction might not be more accurate than ours. This is an unprecedented event."

The king, who had been silent throughout the meeting, spoke, "I think we need Zeke's grandfather's advice. He will have insights that we do not. I don't think we should abduct anyone else, and I would not trust anyone we contacted to be silent. However, he might be persuaded to talk with us. I think we should consider that idea."

Zeke nodded, "You have trusted my thoughts and views, I trust his more than my own."

Councilor Ekthon looked uncomfortable. The general's face was impassive.

"Let us consider it until tomorrow, by then Zeke might have a response from his grandfather."

The next day, the data from the courier did, indeed, include a cautious response.

It is difficult for me to believe you are Zeke. He would not have contacted me in this way. However, I am desperate for news of him, so I will take a chance. Can you prove who you are?

Zeke wrote a short response immediately and sent it to the general for his approval.


You are right. If I had a choice, I would not just send you messages, but I can do no more right now.

When I was 8, you bought me a small RC plane. I took it out and tried to fly it without you, before you got home. You know what happened. You let me do extra chores so I could earn money to buy the parts to fix it.

Now, I think I will need your help again.


The general was still at the facility with Zeke and Jonephs, the others met with them via video-conference.

"I have come to agree with the king, we must find people whose opinions we can trust. We must go with whomever we think we can trust."

"We have studied and considered for a month; the time has come to start taking tangible steps toward our goal. One person out of billions seems like a good start," the king was more decisive than Zeke had seen him.

General Yalt voiced guarded agreement, "I am not strongly opposed, and I have no better ideas."

"I would like to see a step forward, but how do we proceed?" the councilor asked. "Do we bring him back here? This will take several weeks, if not longer, and that is if he is willing to come."

"I think he will do what we---what I--- ask, if we show him how important it is, and how valuable his contribution would be," Zeke answered.

"If your group agrees," the king directed the general, "send Zeke's last message. Let us start planning."

A courier drone was sent immediately with the message. It could reach Earth in a single jump.

It was instructed to return as soon as a message had been received. Zeke's grandfather had evidently been waiting for another message, the courier returned in barely over twelve hours, little more than the minimum time.


It must be you! I don't know what to ask. Are you alright? Can I ask where you are? Can I come to you?

Zeke's reply went out without delay.

I am fine. I think I will be back in a few weeks. It is important that you keep this between us. You can tell Grandma, but I have to avoid attention for reasons I will explain when I see you. That is important. I will tell you more when I can, but not in email. Please trust me. I know after the way I left without warning it must be difficult, but it is more important than you know.

Another large shuttle was almost complete and it would replace the R'tlin, the one which made the regular run to Mecran. The R'tlin, in turn, was large enough to carry a small Harrier class shuttle, the largest it could carry, and the smallest that was armed and could be modified to make it undetectable by Earth technology's radar and optical systems.

The shuttles would be ready in a week, during which plans were prepared.

Zeke would go. Although the king wanted to make the trip, he knew that would be vetoed. The general suggested that he accompany Zeke. Jonephs asked to be included, too. The R'tlin would reach Earth in a week and take another to return. How long they would be gone depended, almost completely, on John Taylor.

During the last month, the Redun had completed its mission and would be returning to Anyar. Zeke hadn't participated in the discussion, but probes were continuing to be deployed by MI's in an ever expanding sphere around Anyar.