Traffic is something else as I go last minute shopping for some of the people on my list. Yal-hune is back at the house with Skuuinja, getting her set up into her new human life. Everyone complains they don't know what to get people, but I think I've really got it worse than most. I'm still buying gifts for some of the people at SDAI, who are hard enough to buy for, but they seem positively easy next to the prospects of buying gifts for Yal-hune and now Skuuinja. Not only are they tough to buy for, but they are plugged into my mind each time I think about them.
It feels good to get out all by myself. Shopping for gifts I find is best done alone. When one shops in groups one can't quite focus. I didn't even make a preliminary list as I was afraid I would reveal the gifts. I just grabbed the keys to the Town Car (Yes, the one made of Atlan-98) and headed out. I threw in the Faryl Smith CD and here I am sitting in traffic on the 151 west bound, which is unusual for this time of morning. What does one buy an alien woman who can do almost anything and manufacture anything she wants with but a thought? And what does one buy one's long lost daughter - from another world - who now comes to live with one and who looks 27 but is really 125? Somehow I think I've got the toughest shopping list on the planet right now. Faryl belts out "Annies Song" as I idle along and I can't help but think she sings it far better than John Denver ever did.
Just as Faryl finishes up, I look in my rear view mirror and notice the car behind me looks like an Agency vehicle. It's easy to spot the armoring and custom touches that identify the various vehicles in use by the Special Activities Directorate and this is one of them. The smoked glass makes any identification of the driver impossible. Here in traffic there's not much I can do but wait. It's very likely the Agency has been following me and Yal-hune around for the past while. It's just amateur-hour to do so and be so terribly blatant about it.
Traffic loosens up and I see what the driving skills are of the tail as I exit the freeway on ramp from the middle lane at the last possible second. The tail swerves over but misses the exit and I see the car impact with the guardrail and start to back up.
It buys me some time to make a few rather quick moves and head east on Desert Plains highway, which runs parallel to the freeway. I pop out the Faryl CD and activate the special frequency band scanner.
"Repeat. Have lost vehicle. Request assistance from big eye."
"Your request has been placed with big eye and meanwhile aerial tracking assistance is en route."
So a chopper is on its way here and the real-time satellite array is being queried for data. One of the cool properties of Atlan-98 is the ability of the metal to emit different color wavelengths when charged. In it's natural state its a cool silver-blue and when charged it becomes green. Charged with even more current it emits a yellowish hue. I pull into a Texaco gas station and run in to pay for a car wash token. I enter the car wash and as I do, I flip a small switch built into a panel underneath the dash to start charging the sheet metal. The car becomes an emerald green while under the car wash structure. I slowly emerge from the car wash and make my way back to the freeway. The satellite array will be looking for a silver Towncar and hopefully a green Lincoln Towncar will pass unnoticed.
I don't see anyone and I keep the scanner on to listen for any chatter. I don't hear anything but the Agency uses constantly revolving frequencies for communication and so I might be missing something.
To heck with it. I'm not going to let them ruin my shopping trip. I switch off the scanner and put Faryl back on. "River of Light" is just what the doctor ordered. Very calming.
"When Shadows descend...and I see no end..."
The sound system in this car is awesome and every chord reverberates with amazing clarity. I turn off at the Paradise Sky Mall and shortly I am trying to find a parking spot somewhat close so I don't have to walk forever. A new BMW 7 series is backing out of a spot and it looks like I am at the right place at the right time. I pull in to the spot and make sure I have my wallet and credit cards. I switch off the charger and the color resumes its silver-blue hue. I grab my phone and lock the vehicle.
I start walking towards Dillards. I'm thinking about what to get Yal-hune. Just as I get up to the door I notice someone approaching the door at the same time.
"A moment of your time?"
I turn and see a man in a big leather jacket and wearing gloves.
"Sure. What can I do for you?"
"I need to talk to you"
"Who are you?"
"I'm an illegal alien."
"So...why tell me. There are 500,000 illegal aliens around these parts."
"No...I'm an illegal alien and I need to talk to you about Yal-hune."
"Who are you...specifically."
"I'm a refugee from a Confederation world known as Skalon. I am here on Earth illegally."
"Follow me...we can't talk here freely."
We start to walk back to my car. Meanwhile my mind is processing the data I know about Skalon. It is a new Confederation member and the planet is very large, about 16 times the Earth's mass. Its government is a perfected oligarchy run by the most mentally developed. We get to the car and I open the locks with the remote on the key chain. I motion the man to sit inside. He climbs in, I enter the car and close the door behind me.
"How do you know about Yal-hune?"
"I left my world after hearing about what was going on here on Earth. I wanted to help and my petition was denied. Once I realized that not only was my petition denied, but that no further debate would ever be permitted on the subject, I cracked our worlds inter-planetary teleportation system so it would send me here - to Earth."
"Can you get back?"
"No. But I don't want to get back. But I do have a problem."
"What's the problem?"
"I wasn't prepared for the transfer to Earth. The transporter wasn't programmed to deliver me here with any significant modifications. The teleportation system often tailors life-support equipment for the travelers. As a result, I have to find someone who can recalibrate some portions of my body - Yal-hune can do this without devices."
"What did you plan to do here on Earth? You know this world is quarantined."
"Yes, I know. I planned to help you build a shielding system."
"Yes. I know that the Confederation would not stand up to the overshadowing worlds and tell them to stop. They are all slaves to the politics of the alliances and the fear of conflicts. Overshadowing is one of the galaxy's oldest evils and worlds like Earth would be overshadowed forever if not for people willing to come down here and get their hands dirty."
"Yal-hune wont like this. She will probably have you sent back home. She does not believe the world is yet ready for a shield."
"She'll listen to me."
"Yes. She used to be an emissary on my world for a number of years. I knew her quite well."
"What's your name?"
"You shouldn't have come here Cerata." It's Yal-hune. She's sitting in the back seat as if she had been here all the time.
"Yal-hune! I missed you so much."
"And I have missed you, but to come here was pure folly. You know I can't let you remain here, much less help you violate the Confederation's mandates. But first...hold on."
Yal-hune motions her arm in an intricate dance and I realize she is correcting the flaws in Cerata's cell structures.
"Thank you! That feels so much better!"
"Cerata - my brother is already aware of your presence and has orders to force-teleport you back to Skalon."
Cerata disappears in an instant and his words fade out as if he were never there.
"Was that really necessary? Couldn't he have stayed a short while?"
"Cerata is headstrong. He means well, but did not think out the consequences of his actions. He's rash - as you might put it."
For a brief moment I sense something personal between Cerata and Yal-hune. It seemed as if Yal-hune was frustrated and then the feeling vanished.
"What's going to happen to him?"
"He will be charged with violations on his world. He breached and manipulated the teleportation system, he violated the Earth quarantine. He is going to be in trouble. But he would have been in even more trouble had he remained here a moment longer."
"How did he find me?"
"Well...other worlds are watching this scenario - on Earth - real time. It has captured some of the Confederation world's interest. You and I are one of the favorite topics of some world's gossip shows."
"Yes. 'The Earth man and the Emissary' has been commented upon and broadcast on many worlds - including Skalon."
"So even this conversation...at this moment...is part of some...some...interplanetary reality show?"
"Yes. Probably. It's edited to capture the interesting highlights - much as you do with your blog."
"Wow. I feel so violated. Isn't that illegal. Don't they respect privacy?"
"As you know there is a vast disparity between the many worlds of the Confederation. The worlds that watch such shows are on the lower end of the spectrum."
"So what are we talking here? Billions of people know what happens to me - even the intimate stuff?"
"Trillions. Many trillions."
"Jeez! How am I supposed to go around knowing that?"
"You've known for some time that there is no privacy in the galaxy. Just shrug it off and don't let it interfere with your life."
"Wait a sec...you were just thinking about Cerata. You think he did this just to bring attention to his cause and himself?"
"Yes, by contacting you here, he is now guaranteed to be on the show."
"So it was a sort of stunt - like streakers used to pull on live broadcasts watched by many?"
"Not quite so trivial. More like someone jumping up with a political poster saying, 'Free Earth Now!' "
"I suppose I should be thankful there are not more such incidents. After all trillions of people will generate some statistics."
"Cerata is an engineer. He had the knowledge of how to hack the interplanetary teleportation system. Very, very few could do what he did and then they would also need to have motivation.
"Well there goes my shopping trip."
"Don't let this stop you. I'll pop right out and you can get back to your shopping!"
She laughs her delicious laugh and then disappears. I don't know what she was thinking about, but it clearly amused her. I look around to see if anyone noticed. Then I realize my life is now much worse than the celebrities. This interplanetary paparazzi is everywhere I am - 24/7 and can monitor me no matter where I find myself here on Earth. I try to block it out of my mind. I tell myself there must be trillion different channels to watch and can find something far more interesting.
On the plus side, she has given me an idea for gifts...time to start fighting the crowds.