One Different Decision
“Do you want me to shoot him?” Caine asked.
Jupiter wasn’t even sure what to say. Everything was happening at once and everything was completely insane. Here she was at her wedding, which was actually just a contract signing, marrying Titus, who thought she was his mother and wanted to make her his heir, except that required a wedding? And there had been kidnappings and craziness and aliens and space and everything happening at once, but the one thing that Jupiter knew was that Caine was almost always right.
She looked Titus who had tricked her into a wedding so that he could kill her and inherit the Earth. These people measured their life spans in millennia and she was a mere thirty years old. But, “apparently my genetic clone lived for 90 millennia by bathing in the blood of innocents. And her children are hoping to do the same. “
She looked Caine, who she loved, who had rescued her time and time again from impossible situations. “Hold off for a moment.”
And then she lowered her hand once more to the device that would write the marriage contract into her very skin. It didn’t even need to the vows to be restated. The contract was already embedded in Titus’ skin, and recorded by all the witnesses. All that was left was embedding it in her own.
“What?” Titus yelped. “No!”
Caine looked pissed. But he didn’t do anything to stop her, and he kept his gun trained on Titus.
“Now,” Jupiter said to Caine, “Please kill him.”
She wasn’t a natural killer. She couldn’t bear to look at Titus when it happened. But she loved Caine and nothing was going to stop that. She watched him pull the trigger.
The Impact: A Story Told in a Thousand Ways on a Thousand Different Worlds
“Hello, Grandmother. You asked to speak with me?”
Certilla wasn’t sure why her grandmother asked to speak with her alone, in her dark chambers, but it made her nervous. Her grandmother was getting old, the scales that had once been bright as a setting sun had grown dark with age. And she had an antique box open by her side that Certilla had only ever seen briefly before, hidden away in the family vault.
“Yes, child. Sit with me for a while. I have a story to tell you. One that my grandmother told me. And maybe one day you will tell your granddaughter.”
“But,” she said before she managed to snap her mouth shut.
Her grandmother just looked at her.
After a long silence that she just knew her grandmother wouldn’t break, Certilla finally spoke, “but what about my mother?”
“That is an honorable question to ask and I would not tell you this secret if I didn’t think you honorable. Ours is an important family line, and you will soon learn how important. But this secret is passed from the eldest person to the youngest adult, so it is held by a single person for as long as possible. You must grow very old before you tell it to your descendent.”
She wasn’t sure what to make of this at all. But, “yes, Grandmother.”
Her grandmother nodded her approval. Without saying anything else, she lifted something out of the box by her side. It was a shiny black square, not quiet as big as a plate. Her grandmother held it out to Certilla in both hands, and Certilla carefully took it. It wasn’t as heavy as it looked. She could see her own reflection in the dark surface.
“What is this?”
“It is an alien device.”
Certilla considered that answer as she continued to inspect the object. She still didn’t know what it meant and the explanation didn’t help.
“Listen to the story, and be sure to remember.”
“This story took place many generations ago and has been told four times. This will be the fifth time. The events happened many, many years ago, before this country was even formed, when our great grandmother many generations back lived in a small collective at the base of a cliff, on the edge of a forest.
“Despite all the warnings to not go into the forest, our ancestor was so curious that she would sometimes go in amongst the trees to see what creatures hid there. And one day she found two of the strangest creatures she had ever seen, before or since. Their surfaces were pale like stone but soft and wrinkly like old fruit and had white moss growing on their heads.”
Certilla couldn’t help giggling at this description. So far this story was like a fairy-tale told to the children. She wasn’t sure what the secret was yet, but it was funny.
“But the strangest thing about them was that they wore clothes. And when they spoke, she could understand them. They asked her if she would like to protect her whole world against Evil.”
Certilla squinted a bit and wondered what answer was the correct one to that question. Because fairytales always had those turning points, where you had to know what the correct action was. If you help the stranger, will you be rewarded or betrayed? If you deny them, will you be punished or protected?
“How would you answer that question?” Her grandmother asked, as she always had when telling fairytales.
“I would say, ‘yes.’ Because I do want to protect my world against evil and I already know some ways to do that, so even if they tell me something horrible to do in order to stand by my word, I can always do something else instead and not be foresworn.”
“Very good. And those were the same thoughts that our ancestor had. She said, ‘yes.’ And the strange creatures then told her about an Evil that was so huge that no one had even noticed it before. It was like looking up into the night sky and seeing the dark between the stars. There was a vast evil in that dark that thought it owned the whole world. That it could do anything it wanted with the world and what it wanted was to kill everyone.
“The creatures said that they were from a different world that the Evil Between the Stars thought it owned. The creatures fought long and hard to protect their world and in the end, they tricked the Evil Between the Stars into giving one of the creatures ‘ownership’ over everything that the Evil Between the Stars had thought it owned. And the creature had declared that no one had permission to hurt or destroy any world that it now owned.”
“How did the creature trick the Evil Between the Stars?” She didn’t worry about interrupting this time. Pauses in stories were intended for questions. Plus, it wasn’t a very useful fairytale if the manner of the trick wasn’t explained.
“They didn’t say. But one of the creatures showed our ancestor its arm and there was a little shimmering circle that showed ownership. It said that whenever evil came back, all it had to do was show that circle and Evil would try to kill it to get ownership back rather than attacking the world.”
“The Evil Between the Stars isn’t very smart, is it?”
“No, my dear. It really wasn’t. But to continue…”
“Sorry,” she muttered.
“The creature said that it was growing old. That the Evil Between the Stars had tried to tempt it several times but had always been turned away. But the creature was getting old and would die soon. It needed to make sure someone had proof of ownership for each its worlds so that the Evil Between the Stars couldn’t take them. It had already given ownership of its own world to its own child, but now it was finding people in all the other worlds it had tricked away from Evil, so that each world would have its own protector. And then it asked our ancestor again, do you want to protect your world from Evil?”
And her grandmother stopped talking again and stared at her. This was not like any fairytale Certilla had ever heard of before. This story didn’t make sense as just a teaching lesson, not if it was only told once every other generation.
Certilla stared back at her grandmother, frozen with the realization that this couldn’t possibly be a fairytale. That this was, this was…
Her grandmother took off one of her arm cuffs, revealing the soft inner wrist that Certilla had never seen before. She had never thought it odd to have not seen it either. Why would she ever have had reason or occasion to see the inner wrist of her grandmother?
But there was a symbol there, a little shimmering circle of shining blue against her grandmother’s dark scales. It seemed to float there under the surface.
It was nothing like anything Certilla had ever seen before.
And she thought of the creatures her grandmother had told her about, who had asked her ancestor if she was willing to take ownership of the whole world so that Evil could never take it without killing her first. Her ancestor had said “Yes.”
The same question had been asked of her ancestors four times, and each time her ancestors had said, “Yes.”
It wasn’t a theoretical question. Her grandmother was asking her if she would be willing to take ownership over a whole world, make Evil think that she had ownership of a whole world. Make sure that Evil always came to her first before attacking the world.
She knew the right answer to this question. It was the type of answer she had given a hundred times before in response to fairytale questions. But this was the first time she’d ever answered it for real.
It took a moment for her to speak.
“Yes. Yes, I do want to protect my world from Evil.”
Her grandmother nodded her approval. “Yes. And that is what your ancestor said too. What five of your ancestors have said before you, including myself. And the creature presented this black stone tablet that you now hold. And it put its arm across it so that the symbol laid pressed against the surface.”
As she spoke, her grandmother placed her own wrist against the surface of the device that still lay in Certilla’s lap.
“And it told your ancestor to put her own wrist against the surface as well.”
Certilla had to bend a bit oddly in order to do this, but she managed without shifting it too much.
“And the creature said ‘I transfer ownership of this world.’”
At her grandmothers words, the dark surface under their two wrists lite up with a golden glow, and only her Grandmother’s sudden harsh grip with her other hand stopped Certilla from flinching back. The light under their wrists shifted incomprehensibly, before going out.
Then her grandmother let her go and took her own wrist off the tablet.
Her grandmother put her arm cuff back on, but not before Certilla could see that the symbol was no longer on her wrist. When she turned her own wrist over, the symbol now floated in the scales there.
She was still staring at it when her grandmother spoke again. “You’ll need to get an arm cuff for yourself now. And the tablet is now yours. You must keep it safe, because it is what will allow you to transfer ownership to your own granddaughter when you are old. Keep it safe. And keep the world safe.”
Ownership of the whole world. Proof that the Evil Between the Stars had to come through her first before attacking anyone else. The whole world was hers to protect.
“Yes, Grandmother,” Certilla said again. “I will keep it safe.”