This was the last place Jani wanted to be, in the middle of a mob outside some ancient…no, not just an ancient building, but a historical one. It used to be the Capitol of the old United States of America, but that was long ago. The nation fell like all of the other empires before it. The ideals of freedom, unity, and courage were consumed by greed, collectivism, and so-called inclusiveness.
She knew better, but only because it was in her history books.
“Come on, Lucifer. We’ve got to get out of here.”
Her mother was Inuit, but Lani took after her father’s ancestors from Samoa. Cradling the wrinkle-skinned sphinx cat, the six-foot-tall woman shouldered her way to the back of the crowd. They were yelling and screaming. The Marine thought she heard gunfire in the distance, but she was strangely unarmed. Why was she here, witnessing an event that happened a hundred years before she was born?
Then she remembered, or rather it was Luci.
Lani and Luci were closer than friends, closer than lovers. The cat was one of the new breed of neuro-animals, a non-human partner to a Marine that could lend its senses, reflexes, and understanding of a situation to its human mate. That’s what was happening, except they really didn’t travel back in time over a century. They had entered the temporal gate that was discovered orbiting Saturn.
“Luci, what can you see? Where are we really?”
“I’m sorry, Lani but I’m only a cat.”
Lani’s heart almost stopped in her chest. She and Lucifer were linked in a way only the few others who were experimented on would understand, but Luci wasn’t telepathic nor was she sapient. They just shared sensory abilities through a series of artificial DNA and AI linkups. So how was she talking to her?
“No, Lani. It is not just Lucifer here, it’s all of us, it’s us. It is I. I am.”
“I am, but that’s from the…”
“From one possible understanding.”
“We…the ship entered the gateway around Saturn nearly a minute ago. I shouldn’t know that. I was told a ship’s chronometer measures exactly 72 seconds between entry into our gate and exit out of the gate at the colony world, but no living being experiences the passage of time.”
“Except you and Lucifer.”
“Why? Who…what are you?”
“Have you ever wondered about the nature of the universe? In using the gate, have you ever imagined what realm, what form of reality you would have to experience to travel across light years in what you measure as seconds?”
Lani remembered her Inuit grandmother’s stories of the gods of the sea and her father’s father reading her the Christian Bible. “Are you…”
“Those who made the gates understood. There is no way to use them and stay sane without a…symbiote. Only with a special merging will the gates ever be used.”
Then the test pilots…”
“Will become lost…what you call insane. They will kill or you will be forced to kill them to protect yourself.”
“That’s why I had that dream… the riots…”
“Your species is like that of the creators of the gates, doomed to self-destruction.”
“But Luci and I are different.”
“You and the other are unique, and in that, you protect the others on this vessel. You will arrive at the other gate whole, but you must warn them that only those like you…”
“…can protect anyone using the gate. Then Luci and I aren’t just tools for battle, instruments of death.”
“You became who you are to protect the innocent, but you never understood what that really meant. Not until now.”
Another wave of nausea hit Lani and she understood the ship had exited the other side of the gate. Somehow Luci had escaped her cage and was sitting on her lap. They were in the lower deck with the other five Marines in her detail. On the deck above, she remembered there was four scientists and in the cockpit forward, two pilots. They were the first detail to use the gate, the first living beings outside of the test pilots to travel across the alien gateway.
There were twelve others she knew now who were either dangerously insane or actual alien personalities. Some here at the first exo-colony planet “Homeward” and the remainder back on Earth.
Lucifer stared at Lani with almost human eyes sensing the dilemma they both faced. How could they convince an unbelieving humanity that only their kind could safely guide them across the interstellar depths?
I wrote this for Sunday Writing Prompt – When a Crowd Gathers – March 14th. As with many of these stories, it’s an experiment testing a concept I have rolling around in my head. It’s still half-formed, but I believe when fully developed, it will be a terrific story.