31 Introduction to Anyar

The R'kind's jump into the Anyari system was more exciting than the others had been. This time they jumped in closer, so the first sight John saw was the bright sun. The planet itself was just another bright point that Dev pointed out on the viewscreen.

It was like the images he'd seen. Its oceans were smaller, less than sixty percent of the surface, and the ice caps were bigger than Earth's. Even in the magnified views, he couldn't see any sign of cities or anything else artificial and he commented on it.

"I guess that is something that was missed in the briefing," Zeke told him. "Before the first attack, there were a few large cities. After that, construction changed; usually only small cities and certain other facilities are above ground. Even those are designed to blend in with the nearby landscape."

Danil added, "I don't know if it was really a conscious decision. The mindset definitely changed and two hundred years is a long time, even for us, to gradually reduce our impact on the planet."

As they entered the atmosphere, the ground below became green with occasional patches of grey-brown. Overall, even though the oceans were smaller, it seemed a wetter and slightly greener world than Earth.

"We've been directed to Kanetel, the capital," Sephen explained. "I think we will have a small greeting party. Or, more specifically, you will," he added.

John's eyebrows arched in surprise, "Me?"

"Your grandson is quite popular, and I think some of that has rubbed off on you," Danil said quietly. "His popularity is well deserved. I suspect you will be popular as well."

Shortly the readouts showed them only a few minutes out from their destination. John could see the outline of a city ahead. As they drew close, he could see that it had been damaged severely and seemed empty. As they passed over, though, he could see new buildings, almost as tall as the old ones. They became smaller towards the edge of the city. Ahead, he saw a large flat area with a variety of other craft.

The flat, dark area grew larger and John could see many large craft present on the tarmac. A number of people were assembled near one corner, the spot towards which Sephen guided the shuttle. He set it down gently on the marked spot, only about twenty meters from the assembled crowd.

As soon as they landed, the crowd pressed forward, but it was clear that everyone stayed behind one man. The crowd did not advance past him.

John was sitting near the right side of the cockpit, Danil in the seat in front. He saw John observing the crowd as they approached.

"My father," Danil explained. "I'm not surprised, he is eager to meet you. If I know him at all, you will get along well," he assured John.

Zeke motioned for his grandfather to wait with him by the hatch.


"A little."

Zeke smiled, "Hard to believe it is not so new for me. Rolenil is a good guy. I respect him and I trust him. I'm eager for you to meet him."

The hatch door lowered to become a ramp. The king, dressed nicely but not ostentatiously, stood at the end. The talking in the crowd quickly quieted.

"John Taylor," he said in a pleasantly formal voice, "welcome to Anyar!"

He noticed that Rolenil did not wait for him to come down, but strode up to meet him, his hand extended.

"Our mission is public knowledge now, and it is a popular one. I think everyone expects all of Earth to be as honorable and brave as you and your grandson."

"I hope that we can find a way to give the wise and honorable among us a voice. All that I've heard and read in the last few weeks makes me hopeful," John replied.

They walked side by side through the crowd. The king stopped to speak with several groups, introducing him. John understood some of the Anyari that was spoken, but the king, as unpretentious as Zeke had promised, acted as translator.

They approached the king's shuttle. The king turned to wave to the crowd. Zeke, and then reluctantly John, followed suit. As soon as John raised his hand, the crowd let out a cheer. Rolenil said a few words to the crowd telling them of the work that lay ahead and asking their leave to begin it.

Dev and Sephen said goodbye as the headed to another shuttle to begin their leave.

Rolenil gestured politely for John to enter the shuttle. Zeke and Rolenil followed John as the hatch closed behind them.

They were the only ones aboard the relatively large craft and John, sitting in the right seat, commented, "Your retinue seems very modest... and you fly this ship yourself?"

"Often," the king answered, "I'm by myself, though usually I'm in a smaller craft, more suitable for the purpose. I'll confess, though, sometimes I do things for show, to represent the position I hold. Having a crowd of followers is more than I'm willing to put up with. And yes, I fly myself when possible, if indeed, I'm the one flying and not the MI's."

The small crowd stood a safe distance back as the shuttle rose. A gust of wind rocked the shuttle and Rolenil explained, "I keep the authority on minimum. The ride is sometimes a little bumpier, but it is more like flying instead of simply steering."

Rolenil continued, "I apologize for the hurried schedule that you will be immediately thrust into. The residence is not that far, and we would normally have taken a ground vehicle, but I'm determined to avoid any delays."

John simply nodded his understanding and looked out the canopy.

"How are you? Any problems with being dragged across the galaxy?"

John smiled, "I think I'm doing fine, but then I don't have anything to use as a reference, except maybe Zeke, and his experience was somewhat different, and evidently even more exciting."

"A little too exciting, from our standpoint, but much good has come from it. Much has been happening, even in the few weeks since the R'kind left to bring you back. To be honest, I'm torn between wanting to initiate contact with Earth and fear of mishandling it."

"A little uncertainty is far preferable, in my experience," John replied, "to an excess of confidence."

They approached the tarmac at the king's residence. No other ships were present, and only Egrenne and Enne were waiting at the edge. To John, the small welcoming committee was both a surprise and a relief.

Egrenne, he found, was an attractive woman with a warm smile. He was not surprised by her looks. He'd expect any prominent man to have an attractive wife, but her genuine warmth contrasted with the few upper-class women he'd met.

Enne, he could see, had eyes for Zeke, though she tried to keep it from being obvious.

"Would you like to rest or would you care to see the grounds here?" Rolenil asked him.

"I've had quite a chance to relax. One doesn't get a chance to wander around a new planet every day. I'd be happy to take you up on your offer."

Rolenil seemed perplexed for just a moment, "We've learned Earth syntax and vocabulary, but excuse me if we're a little slow with the idioms."

John had to think for a second, "Ah, 'take you up', your English is good enough that I just fell into common use."

He and the king, it was a little hard to think of him that way, headed west, towards the setting sun. The grounds were well cared for, but were clearly allowed to grow naturally instead of being meticulously manicured.

"The next weeks and months will be busy. I'm sorry we will only have a day for you to rest and adjust. We have moved quickly these last few months. Zeke told you of the Redun, we should have thought to have you see it before you landed. A second carrier, the Remarran, is nearing completion. We plan to start our mission to Earth when it is complete," Rolenil said earnestly.

"To be honest, this gives me a sense of purpose, a chance to do something with meaning. It was only a fantasy until now."

The king nodded.

"When will the mission to Earth begin?" John asked.

"A month, perhaps a little more. Zeke has told me that you have a technical background. I'm sure on Earth, it can be difficult to predict the time needed for technical projects. That is still true, sometimes, for us, but little new is being done. We haven't built a cruiser-carrier in many generations, but with the help of MI's, few unforeseen problems have delayed construction. Although sometimes I think..." and he paused for a moment, lost in thought.

John waited a respectful moment and when the king didn't reply, he asked, "Thought?"

"Oh, I'm sorry, my mind is many places right now and I meant you no disrespect."

"I can imagine, sir, no insult is taken. What were you thinking?"

"The ability to plan accurately is valuable, but sometimes I wonder if the predictability has its drawbacks."

"That may be. Solving problems is a worthwhile skill to acquire. I would say that if you don't have enough problems, you are not being daring enough," John replied. "However coming to Earth after me indicates you are prepared to try new things."

"I hope you're right, may I call you John?"


"Please call me Rolenil in private. The position I hold commands respect, and in public, I view it as a necessity. Informality and the warmth of friends and family, though, keep me sane," he said and they shared a smile.

Rolenil continued, "Do you have any questions I can answer? There are so many things to tell you, it is hard to know where to start."

"Why don't we talk with Zeke and Danil. They rely on us, but they are getting to the age where we should start relying on them, don't you think?" John answered.

"I have counted on Danil, but maybe I have not relied on him enough. He is a fine young man. I am proud of him and of Zeke. I attended Zeke's graduation from the academy as a family member would, but I would not interfere with your relationship with him."

"On the contrary," John said, "I am glad that the felt he had family here. It is easy to see that Zeke has changed and matured since he has been here. I could not be more proud of the young man he has become, of the young men they both have become. I see in him, and in Danil and in all his friends, well... they are an extraordinary group in many ways."

"I am glad boys--young men--such as these are his friends," John concluded. It is hard to think of him as a man, a little hard to let go, but that is what he has become."

"Yes, they are men now. It has crept up on me, too. There is a special relationship between father and son, as there is between mother and daughter. There are things we can share and understand that will always be different than with my daughter, although I love her just as much."

John looked away for a minute. He answered, quietly and simply, "Yes, that is true."

Rolenil sensed a memory, unpleasant, had touched his new friend.

In that somber mood, the king asked about the loss that John and Zeke shared.

"Sometimes I think I'm past the worst of it. The last few months were difficult and lonely. The excitement of the trip here, though, has pushed most of the sadness from my mind. Zeke... I can't tell. He is quieter sometimes, even more so than before his adventure here. He has not dealt with it, or with the guilt he feels."

"It is not difficult to put oneself in his situation and imagine the guilt. Fate--or chance if you prefer--often plays its cards at the worst times."

"We can only change some things, the rest we must learn to accept. Telling the difference between the two is difficult. It was stated more eloquently by someone when I was a boy. Many on Earth have religious beliefs to comfort them, those of us without that must rely on other things."

"Religion and myth are something we have, largely, abandoned. Our faith, well, we put that in each other. Comfort in hard times, joy in good times, we draw from each other."

They were silent for a while as they walked through the garden.

John's mind turned back to the reason for his invitation. "What can I expect in the next few weeks?"

"I think you will be talking with many people, asking many questions," he paused, smiling as he continued, "and hopefully, answering even more.

"You and your grandson will spend a great deal of time together. We have come up with a plan which we will be presenting to you, to get your viewpoint as if you were still on Earth with no knowledge of us. We'll change it as we see fit. The construction of spacecraft is going well. We will be able, should we decide to do so, to make an impressive demonstration to your people."

John nodded, momentarily lost in thought, imagining what would impress his neighbors down the road, and whether that would also impress those in Washington.

The light was fading. Rolenil pointed out the two moons, both in the sky above.

"Except for that, I could believe I was still on Earth."

As they walked back towards the residence, they could see pale lights, like candles in the windows. The evening had become cool, and inside a fire crackled in a circular hearth.

"A fire?" John asked.

"It is pleasant and comfortable, do you not enjoy them as much on Earth?" Egrenne asked with a smile.

"Indeed we do."

The furnishings were different than on Earth, more pillows and fewer couches. An unobtrusive robotic cart, clad in or constructed of stone and wood to match the surroundings, moved as needed about the room. Warm meats, sweet and spicy, were served on small plates with vegetables and a drink like wine.

Zeke looked up and smiled as he entered.

Rolenil and Egrenne guided most of the conversation, making everyone comfortable and welcome, telling him about their families and the events of their lives and asking him about his.

After a while, the young people moved closer and joined in the conversation. He noticed that Enne sat noticeably close to Zeke. He smiled to see a young love, like the one he could still remember himself. Zeke looked earnest and happy. The weight of Anna's death, for the moment at least, seemed to have lifted.

Zeke was, to John's mild surprise, drinking wine with Danil. Enne's cup was filled from a different pitcher containing, he assumed, something non-alcoholic.

They talked about the coming days, Zeke spoke of the group he was in that included Jonephs. John was glad he'd get a chance to talk further with him. Perhaps the few Anyari he'd met were an exceptional sample, but even if so, he felt optimistic about what they could--what they would--accomplish.

After a time Enne showed him to a warm and comfortable room, built of stone and wood. His bags had already been brought in. His bed was soft and warm, and even with the excitement of the day, it was easy to drift off to sleep.