Chapter 2: Leaving Home
Copyright© 2018 by Duncan7
I returned home late one afternoon to find several official looking vehicles parked outside my home. The entrance was open and there were a number of strangers inside. One of the strangers, wearing a uniform I did not recognize, blocked my entry.
“My name is Brian. I live here,” I stated calmly, and without a hint of emotion. I learned long ago to dial down my human side when dealing with other Tians. It made me appear volatile or disrespectful. Underneath I was anxious. I took a slow breath to centre myself.
The being signalled another who came out and walked with me a short distance from the entrance.
“What happened?” I asked. He took out a hand scanner from his uniform and confirmed my identity before speaking.
“Your mother is dead,” he said, straining to look up at my face.
I did not respond immediately. My intuition told me my next response was critical. Do not smile or do anything that could be seen as an admission of guilt. Do not get angry or upset. That could suggest I might become aggressive. My responses are being recorded as evidence.
I took another breath, and let it out. I kept my arms near my sides, no big gestures that could be misunderstood. So far so good. He was not preparing to apprehend or subdue me. I may be bigger, but I was unarmed. No need to compound things. “Can you tell me how it happened?”
“Initial evidence shows that she killed herself earlier this afternoon.”
“I see...” I had known this was a possibility for some time. It wasn’t a shock to me. Sometimes I was hoping for it. She was a mass of negativity and despair. Nothing I did could help. At least now she was at peace. “She has not been happy as long as I can remember.”
While I was processing the information another uniformed being, this one a female, came over and stood beside me quietly. I did not have anything more to say really. I was mentally going over the last interactions I had with my mother. I’m pretty sure the vid-recordings will confirm that I did not say or do anything to push her over the edge. (grin) They don’t have anything on me, or they would be treating me differently.
The female reached up to put her hand on my shoulder. Was she trying to show empathy with me? I tried to calm myself further and focused on neutral thoughts in case she was trying to read me in some way.
It’s not every day you lose your only parent. I don’t want to break down in front of strangers. Tears are definitely not Tian, there would be a time for that later. I am Tian, and I need to act like one. I took a breath and wiped my eyes on my sleeve.
“Your mother left this for you.” She said, passing me a note. I took a look at it but it was written in English. I’d never really managed to learn to read that language though. But I did not feel inclined to share this right now. I put the note in my pocket. I took another calming breath.
“So, what happens now?” I asked her. The other being had backed off leaving me in her care. As a minor, I figured she was assigned to my care.
“Brian. I am from the central orphanage. As of today, your status has been updated to orphan. I will help you gather your possessions and relocate you to your new home. I have also contacted the scientists, because your mother was a subject of their study. They suggested that human rituals involved burial of their dead. They would like to arrange a suitable ceremony, and ask if this would be acceptable to you as ‘next of kin’.”
I nodded my agreement. By now I was pretty sure she had not picked up any of my inner thoughts. My secrets were safe.
Within a short time, my mother finally left her self-imposed prison in a bio-container. Most of my life I had rarely seen her step out of the entrance to our home. This event seemed both surreal and somehow important. I had a hard time getting it though, I felt numb.
Shortly after, we gathered my things and left.
The central orphanage was very nice. It was well staffed with qualified and caring beings. I had a room to myself, at least as good as the one I had before. The decor was fairly plain, like all Tian dwellings. I was perfectly happy with it, since I grew up a Tian. They did have a slightly longer bed for me, which was a plus as I was starting to outgrow my last one.
A couple of days later, I got to attend the “funeral”. It was a simple ceremony, with a few of the scientists and some of my classmates in attendance. The scientists had provided a plot of land with a nice view of the mountains and we laid her to rest there.
I learned from the scientists that their study of about 15 cycles in duration was now concluded. They were moving on to something else and they bid me farewell. I smiled. I had long ago made a list of all their names, and one day I planned to deal with them. I was not ready yet, I was still young, and I needed to plan it out carefully.
After the funeral I returned to the orphanage. Free from distractions, I applied myself to my studies. Over time I took subjects more focused on a career involving space travel, including advanced astrophysics and navigation. Whatever subjects I selected, I excelled at. Clearly I was on a mission. My mentors and the counsellors at the orphanage saw me as a model citizen, and a testament to their guardianship. Perhaps as a result of my good behaviour, they did not interfere with my progress. They could take credit for my success, or devote their time and energy to less well-adjusted beings in their care. I did not care what they did. I would not give them a reason to bother me. By now I was able to use the system to my advantage, and find what I needed without their help.
I added training in weapons and unarmed combat to my schedule. Tians were fairly peaceful, but I knew I’d need them sometime in the future.
At the early age of 18 cycles, I had all the pre-requisites, and I expressed my intention to go for training and certification as a shuttle pilot. This was when I first noticed a reaction. I was invited to an office for a meeting.
“Brian, are you sure this is a wise move?” my so-called career counsellor asked me. At this point in my life, I still needed the approval of a guardian.
“It is what I want to do. I’ve completed all the pre-requisite subjects. I’ve met all the entrance criteria,” I responded.
“I had hoped you’d choose something different,” she said.
“It is in my career plan that I prepared 2 cycles ago, the one that YOU reviewed,” I was getting red in the face. She had noticed my reaction, and seemed anxious. How could she about face and shoot me down now? Was she under orders to keep me grounded? I took a deep breath. I did not want her to use my emotions against me and get labelled as irrational or unstable.
“How about some courses in applied physics? I’m sure you will find them more suitable?” she was some piece of work. I was fantasizing about doing some serious injury to her, but I could not show anything. Not here, not now.
“It is what I want to do,” I repeated calmly. “How about we see if I get accepted for shuttle pilot training? If not, I will meet with you to discuss alternatives then.” I was calm but firm in my resolve. We both knew I would be top of the list for acceptances. Besides, I had already sent in my application. If she blocked such an ideal candidate, she would have to explain her actions to someone. And I was very close to adding her name to my list at this point.
A couple of days later, I got an acceptance response. My so-called career counsellor was not happy at all, but I was now beyond her reach. I could care less for her, and knew to prune back any interacting with her in the future. I was done with her. I could not see any logic in interactions with a being that was of no benefit to me. It turned out that was the last time we met, perhaps she had the same assessment?
I took to shuttle pilot training like a duck to water. I was motivated, and exceptionally keen for a Tian. I completed my shuttle pilot certification with near perfect scores. I had my first vocational qualification!
I immediately signed up for shuttle assignments. There was plenty of demand for qualified shuttle pilots. Tian Prime is a hub in this part of space, and lots of vessels would arrive in orbit and need cargo and personnel moved. I encountered no further resistance, and I had a job to keep me busy. I was a productive member of Tian society.
From then on, I spent more of my time piloting a shuttle into orbit, and delivering cargo and personnel to vessels that were visiting Tian Prime. I got to look down on the planet of my birth, and see it in all it’s glory.
Actually I saw how small Tian Prime was in comparison to the galaxy. It was quite the paradigm shift. As a child you look up to your elders, but now I looked down on them all. I looked down, and I was not impressed.
I met beings from other star-faring races, either aboard their vessels while loading cargo, or planet-side at the Central spaceport. I knew some of their languages from my earlier studies, but I soon reached the limitations of my knowledge. Fortunately they almost all spoke Tian. I was one of the youngest shuttle pilots, looked kind of weird (for a Tian) and I was passionate/less reserved (for a Tian). I became popular for the first time in my life.
Planet-side, no-one questioned my choices any more, or perhaps it was that I did not need to get some being’s approval. I was calm, rational and unemotional. I performed a needed role as a pilot. I gave all the right responses, ensuring no justification for anyone to interfere with my life. I was a perfect Tian, with a career ahead of me. My experience in space gave me a calm confidence, that few would be able to disturb.
The day arrived, and I celebrated my birthday, of 20 cycles. I had reached the Tian age of maturity. This day my status changed from orphan/ward of the state to adult Tian. I was free to move out from the orphanage, to pursue a career or do anything I wanted.
I had no family to tie me here. It was time for me to move on.
As a citizen of a space-faring race there were multiple opportunities to travel the stars. There was of course the Tian military, and scientific exploration vessels, and commercial passenger and freight transports.
Based on my experience as a shuttle pilot, I decided to try out as crew aboard a cargo freighter. It would take me away from here, and I would get to see the galaxy.
There was a freighter I had contact with before, the Opolu Naa, from the Ori Confederation. The Ori were marginally taller than me, so they were significantly taller than Tians. I was reasonably proficient with their language by now. I commed the captain, and asked for an interview at the Central spaceport.
I arrived at the offices of the Ori Confederation at the spaceport. It was a bit more luxurious to me than I was used to. Tian buildings were mostly spartan. I already felt a little out of my comfort zone. My previous experience with Ori was loading cargo into the hold of their ships. In comparison to Tian decor this felt pompous to me.
I walked up to the desk in the entrance area, and announced myself to a female Ori seated there.
“Hello, my name is Brian and I have a meeting with captain Jegho of the Opolu Naa,” I said. I tried to keep calm like the Tian I was.
“Welcome Brian to the Ori Confederation!” she said with a smile in perfect Tian, except Tians never smile. “Just so you know, these offices are sovereign territory of the Ori Confederation. Our scanners checked your ID as you entered. I have approved your visa for the duration of your visit today. Please follow the floor lighting to the meeting room down the hall on the right.”
Woah, I am no longer on Tian territory? I kept a calm face, nodded and proceeded as directed. A lot of buildings had these kind of floor lights, which helped you find the right place to go.
I entered the meeting room, the door closing behind me. There were two Ori beings seated at a large table. The wall on one side was a huge window with a view of the spaceport outside. The one on the left I recognized as captain Jegho, having met him before. They both stood and greeted me.
“Welcome Brian,” said captain Jegho, in Ori, “you know me of course, and this is Trade Ambassador Wolak. He is in charge of these offices, and represents the Ori Confederation in trade and diplomatic relations with the Tian federation.”
By now I felt a little overwhelmed. I expected to meet the captain only. I nodded. I did not know what a polite Ori response was. They seemed to overlook that. We sat down at the table.
“Brian, the captain asked me to join him in meeting you today. I hope you don’t mind, but I have some concerns I’d like to address,” said Wolak. Like the captain, he had a warm smile, and seemed genuine enough. But what concerns?
“Ambassador Wolak, it is kind of you to take time out of your schedule to meet with me. Please ask away,” I responded in my best Ori. I tried to project calm, radiate the absence of issues. One thing my late mother taught me was good manners.
“Brian, you are Tian by birth. But you are not genetically Tian?”
“Correct sir, my mother and father were from a planet of a primitive, non space-faring race. My mother was brought here before I was born.”
“And I understand that until recently you were a ward of the state, but you are now past the age of maturity?” He asked.
“Correct again. I reached the age of 20 cycles about one lunar cycle ago. Is that an issue sir?” I maintained the calm face, the unfathomable nothingness that was characteristic of Tians. Inside I was confused and waiting for the shoe to drop.
“No. I was getting to that. According to your ID, your credentials are impeccable, you have no criminal record, and best of all, the captain here vouches for your polite attitude and shuttle piloting skills.” He looked over at the captain and they both smiled.