Süssday, 3rd black moon, 20 New Age Revo
I stepped out of the spaceship into a marvelous, clear, jungle-like wilderness. I did not even have to disturb the blue trees with their silver trunks and the soft, thick bushes with yellow stalks like tentacles as I walked. The Sestry have carved a stone path that winds clearly across the blue, just wide enough for a creature to walk on. I wanted to stay where we landed and observe my surroundings for hours. But I must rest.
I can even breathe the air here.
The planet welcomes me. I love it already.
Frühday, 3rd black moon, 20 New Age Revo
Yesterday, I felt no trace of the restrictions the Council has placed on the planet Gaína. Today I feel them; in full force.
I have seen some three Sestry since I arrived here, even though the planet, as my guide put it, is “infested with them.” I expected this, as the Sestry are Gaína’s native rational race. The ones I have seen are not permitted to address me, touch me or look at me directly.
My parents didn’t want me to come, even though, as an Intergalactic, I’ve already traveled to the rest of the planets of the Confederacy.
“How will you find a pair, if you keep hopping from planet to planet?” fretted my mother.
She makes an excellent point-but we both should have thought of romance before I became an Intergalactic. Besides, I know she’s only afraid for me.
I know what danger is, and this planet seems the least dangerous to me. I know it was once the center of great cruelty: I know the Sestry race is guilty of the horrors of the Intergalactic War. But when it ended, the entire Sestry army was wiped out. No Sestry here had a hand in the war, and most of the able-bodied have grown up under the New Age order. The Confederacy leaders here keep them in strict check, and they work almost from dawn til dusk towards Reparations for the war.
My guides don’t understand that I want to speak to the Sestry-it drives me up a wall. They know the Intergalactic don’t come only to study the flora and fauna of each planet, but also the lives and customs of each rational race.
I went to the local Intergalactic embassy, which is just a few meters away from my lodgings, and asked to speak to a Sestry leader.
They all looked at me as if I’d blasphemed.
“There are no leaders here.” They said. “Every industry is overseen by members of the Confederacy.”
Well. At least my parents will feel comforted.
Uhrday, 3rd black moon, 20 New Age Revo
I’ll never get enough of Gaína.
I arrived with a brand-new log, and I’ve filled it to a quarter of its capacity already. There’s so much to see, experience, record, describe. I am the first Intergalactic to attempt to study Gaína in depth; it is a privilege I’ll never be able to repay.
I write now lying under the wide amber sky. I’m hiding from my guide, Nena-she’s a sweet, obliging Jot, but I’ve never met anyone more obsessed with rules and lineaments.
I’ve been breaking rules since the day I arrived. The first thing I did was request the Sestry secretary inside the embassy to look at and speak to me directly, always. She told me her name, Tare, and since then(among other faults of propriety) I’ve been getting to know her. I’ve started asking her the names of all the local organisms. I assume the Sestry, as an intelligent race, have their own classification systems, but every written record they have has been confiscated by the Confederacy. It’ll be released in three revos, but I don’t want to wait that long.
So, without saying anything to my companions or superiors, I’m naming everything under Tare’s direction. I translate the names I can; I have to be subtle about it, after all.
I started exploring the jungle that surrounds me three days ago. I’ll continue the list here:
· Pastiz(flora): Low, moss-like vegetation that covers the jungle floor. Light green in color, soft and dry to the touch.
· Larrotam(flora): Tall, thin, cylindrical trees with metallic gray trunk and bright orange leaves, arranged in a way that they resemble flowers. Tare assures me that its pollen has medicinal properties.
· Evael(fauna): Foot-long, finger-wide, ropelike creatures with spiky skin, no legs or eyes. Their colors range from coal-black to maroon. Tare says she keeps one at home and feeds it bugs.
Merkúrday, 5th black moon, 20 New Age Revo
I witnessed something today. It happened about mid-afternoon. It’s night now, and my insides are still churning.
After spending 2 moon cycles in the jungle, I requested to explore someplace else. I could spend my whole life where I’ve spent the last two cycles, but if there’s a whole planet of places as amazing as the jungle…I’m impatient to see it.
Bkani, the Intergalactic ambassador and my boss for as long as I remain on Gaína, grudgingly agreed. We passed by the fields: row upon row of tall plants with black leaves as big as balloons. The Gaína workers climbed up the trunks to gather the fruit hidden under the leaves, and drop it in the baskets underneath. They sang as they worked, a curious, atritonic work song that hummed in my bones.
As we passed, a Tori overseer, one of my own race, singled out one of the workers. The Sestry had climbed down from the end of the row. The overseer gestured upwards, but the Sestry walked out of the field, towards the path where we were passing.
One of Bkani’s secretaries made a motion to shield me. A group of Tori showed up out of nowhere and apprehended the Sestry. They marched him (I’ve noticed the aesthetic difference, despite the fact that I’ve only seen a few Sestry so far, between the sexes) towards an open cell a few tenget away from us and locked him in.
The singing stopped.
I turned to Tare, saw her wince. The Sestry hardly ever show emotion.
“Do you know him?” I asked.
“He’s my brother, Miss Jaya.”
“Do you know what’s going on?”
She shrugged, but I could tell she was lying.
Before anyone could stop me, I walked up to the overseer and greeted him.
“I’m an Intergalactic. I’ve come to document this planet. Could you pardon my curiosity, and tell me what the problem is here?”
“This Sestry has refused to finish his shift for the past week, Miss Jaya. He will stay in the cell until he decides to work as he ought-or until the bell rings.”
I walked closer to the cell; my heart unexpectedly started to beat faster.
“Is this cell charged, Mr. Cawls?” I asked.
The overseer nodded proudly, and I understood Tare’s wince. The Sestry exoskeleton is mildly electric; I have no scientist colleague to help me discover the exact purpose of this. If the cell is also negatively charged(and heavily so, from the way my heart beats), it must be pushing down on the worker.
I walked up to the cell and introduced myself to him as well; I thought this punishment unjust, but it was not my place to say so.
But I could at least listen.
“What’s your name?” I asked him.
Despite the pressure he endured, there was no expression on his face.
“I am Ono.” He answered.
He’s the biggest Sestry I’ve seen, easily two heads taller than me, while Tera only passes me by one. His ten-fingered hands were folded behind his back and the gaze of his five eyes dutifully on the ground. I could hear his black skin vibrate under the strain.
“Why are you being punished, Ono?” I ask.
“I refused to work more than the rules state I must.” Ono’s voice was calm, soft and neutral.
I turned to Bkani, who had come to persuade me to go on.
“How long is the average shift for these workers?”
“Eight hours, Miss Jaya.” Bkani answered, through gritted teeth and slitted eyes.
“Mr. Cawls,” I ask the overseer, who stands a step behind me and didn’t hear Bkani. “How long is Ono’s shift?”
“Twelve hours, Miss Jaya.” Mr. Cawls answered obligingly. “The Gaína are very capable workers.”
“Bkani, please step in for him.” I requested quietly. “There are rules being broken.”
“I can’t do that, Miss Jaya.” Bkani answered, just as quietly. “It’s simply how things are done here.”
So much for Bkani’s rules.
I can’t sleep. I can’t believe I left Ono behind. I can’t believe I did nothing.
Uhrday, 5th black moon, 20 New Age Revo
I woke up at midnight. I heard Tare’s soft voice and knocking on my door.
“What is it?”
“Please don’t be afraid, Miss Jaya.” She said. “But…my brother has asked to meet you.”
I opened the door. There they were, stark against the amber glow of the full moon. They stood shoulder to shoulder; Tare looked vaguely exasperated.
“Please, come in.” I grinned.
I made them tea, the way Tare had taught me. I learned that it was Ono, not Tare, who made up names for the creatures and plants I was attempting to describe; they no longer have any names, because those who knew them are dead. No Sestry has been to the jungle since the planet was occupied.
I asked Ono why his boss overworked him. He reluctantly explained.
“Some time ago I worked in the place of my cousin, who was pregnant. This is customary; but usually, several of us share the extra work. Most of my companions have worked too many years, so I told them I could do Irit’s work alone. When Irit returned, overseer demanded I continue to do extra.”
“How long has this been going on?” I asked.
“A moon cycle, Miss Jaya.”
Nearly thirty days.
“How can you stand it?” I asked, almost in a whisper.
Ono shrugs. “I grew a few palms.” He says, as if it were the simplest thing in the universe.
I’m almost ashamed to write it-I laughed out loud.
Ono has asked me to teach him how to write. His sister has no time, and the official classes are over by the time his extended shift is over. I tried not to look too elated; this is the greatest thing that has happened to me since I arrived at Grelia. So much for Bkani’s plans never to let me learn from the Sestry.
I can’t sleep. By the stars, my skin hums with excitement.
Taiday, 5th black moon, 20 New Age Revo
I spent most of yesterday transferring my notes to my official log. I can’t show my field journal to Bkani anymore. I can’t show it to anyone, now that I’ll be writing about Ono.
He came in last night and bumped his head on the doorframe. We sat on the floor and he made tea for me; he explained that Tare was too shy to teach me to make tea like she should have. He must be right. I like Ono’s tea much better than I like mine.
I have to be honest: I shirked my duties as a writing teacher last night. Ono taught me words in his language, and showed me how to make real tea. I scribbled the words on my skin, though the Common system doesn’t have the necessary letters for the Sestry tongue. I end up mixing several alphabets and showing Ono my terrible attempts, giggling like a youngling.
“We have a script system.” Ono says proudly. Then he shakes his head. “I have not learned it. Our elders prefer to teach those with time to study.”
Tare knows this system. Ono says he will ask her to teach me, though I will be intruding on her scarce free time-and forcing us all to greater secrecy. Maybe this isn’t such a good idea.
Merkúrday, 7th black moon, 20 New Age Revo
I am overstaying my welcome on Gaína.
Bkani has just told me I have to apply for a new permit every moon cycle. This is not the norm. Intergalactics are welcome everywhere, as long as they keep within the law. They may suspect something of me; but I think they are wary of my love for Gaína.
I have made many friends. I now know Tera and Ono’s parents and siblings, some of their friends, and every overseer between the city and the jungle. I’ve memorized the Sestry writing system and applied it to my nightly lessons with Ono. Tera tells me that Ono shares his lessons with the others.
I have finally-finally-found a biologist who is willing to work with me on Gaína.
His name is Kotoko, and he’s fresh out of Intergalactic Academy. He arrives in two moon cycles.
That’s at least three cycles in which Bkani can’t deny me his blasted permit.
Süssday, 8th black moon, 20 New Age Revo
“Why am I attracted to you?” Ono asked me last night, in the Sestry language.
I explained to him-as best as I could, in the same language-that my skin is positively charged. We have been together so long that we are used to the way we gravitate toward each other. There have been no more spilled cups, no stumbles or awkward bumping into each other.
Ono smiled and shook his head. I assumed he hadn’t understood me: my Sestry is still basic.
But then he leaned in and kissed my mouth. He literally took my breath away.
It’s the most electric thing I’ve ever experienced.
I can’t stop laughing now- can’t stop smiling.
By the stars-what are we going to do?