The Blind Alien
The Beta Earth Chronicles Book 1
by Wesley Britton
Genre: SciFi Fantasy
"The Blind Alien is a story with a highly original concept, fascinating characters, and not-too-subtle but truthful allegories. Don't let the sci-fi label or alternate Earth setting fool you--this is a compelling and contemporarily relevant story about race, sex, and social classes."--Raymond Benson, Former James Bond novelist and author of the Black Stiletto books
Told with one of the most original styles you'll ever experience, The Blind Alien begins when Dr. Malcolm Renbourn, a young history teacher, walks into an ordinary bank on an ordinary day. Suddenly, he feels excruciating pain. Unexpectedly, he loses his sight and discovers he has been drawn against his will across the multi-verse to a slave-holding country on a parallel earth. He doesn't understand a single word he hears, but he soon learns Betan scientists hope his body carries the cure to an ancient plague that kills 3
out of 4 male babies their first year.
Branded state property, he must escape, but where can a blind man in a strange world dominated by desperate scientists run? And on a world where polygamy is the norm, how can a fugitive alien adapt into becoming the husband of five independent wives who never expected to be the mothers of a generation a planet hopes carry the genes that will change everything? How can Tribe Renbourn survive the aftermath of a catastrophic explosion that kills thousands?
And that's just part of the story.
"A most commendable and unique novel. I can honestly say I have not come across anything quite like it. The Blind Alien follows the life of an unremarkable man who by some twist of fate is pulled from his world, into that of one parallel . . . What follows is a story of rebellion, politics, love, science, and religion . . . without a doubt, this is an admirably well crafted piece of work, that was both entertaining and very thought
provoking."--Tosin Coker, author of The Chronicles of Zauba'ah
Blind Alien is free on KU and only 99c to buy.
Immerse yourself in an extraordinary universe revealed by the most original storytelling you’ll ever experience. “Science fiction yes, but so much more.”
Besides his 33 years in the classroom, Dr. Wesley Britton considers his Beta-Earth Chronicles the most important work he’s ever done. “I suppose an author profile is intended to be a good little biography,” Britton says, “but the best way to know who I am is to read my novels.”
Still, a few things you might like to know about Wes include the fact he’s the author of four non-fiction books on espionage in the media, most notably The Encyclopedia of TV Spies (2009). Beginning in 1983, he was a widely published poet, article writer for a number of encyclopedias, and was a noted scholar of American literature. Since those days, for sites like BlogCritics.org and BookPleasures.com, Britton wrote over 500 music, book, and movie reviews. For seven years, he was co-host of online radio's Dave White Presents for which he contributed celebrity interviews with musicians, authors, actors, and entertainment insiders.
Starting in fall 2015, his science fiction series, The Beta-Earth Chronicles, debuted with The Blind Alien. Throughout 2016, four sequels followed including The Blood of Balnakin, When War Returns, A Throne for an Alien, and The Third Earth. Return to Alpha will be the sixth volume of this multi-planetary epic.
Britton earned his doctorate in American Literature at the University of North Texas in 1990. He taught English at Harrisburg Area Community College until his retirement in 2016. He serves on the Board of Directors for Vision Resources of Central Pennsylvania. He lives with his one and only wife, Betty, in Harrisburg, PA.
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NOTE: The following story is told in the form of an oral history. This means a series of alternating voices will share a variety of perspectives. Many
of these voices speak in dialects from Beta Earth, and are not phrased in Standard Alpha English.
I Bergarten Arrivals
Bar: True said, I was raised not to do the things I have done. None like me expect to see the things I have seen. Deep in my womb, I still fear to share my memories of the shakings of two earths. Deep in my womb, I would prefer to keep our private memories within our tribe. But the lies, the distortions rage on. So our skolings begin.
For my part, in 5 of 1720, in the 24th year of my being, I had honored to complete my training at Stadsem Wostra for Independent Literates. As I was an orphaned blue-skin with no family linkages, my Brown Shapers had determined I was marriageable. This possibled, they told me, only if I became skilled enough to secure a position where my talents could be shown at their best advantage. Still, I stunned when I was told to report to Director-Shaprim Uneld Kharg at the Central Science Institute in Bergarten just hours after collecting my certificates. I had expected not my first assignment to be in such an important place, in the middle of the capital of Balnakin. Few blues worked at such Institutes, at least in the mid-level positions. This was no mere task
as a scribe assisting some Brown Master. Instead, this was a call to go to the core of my country.
I doubt anyone, in those days, could go to the great Bergarten Institutional Collective without feeling awe at what had been built there. As a blue slave, all my life I'd been accustomed to tight, functional four-square buildings that were clean, mobile, ecologically sound. All my nights had been spent in cramped sleeping slots where six, seven, eight girls shared space waiting the results of our tests and how they met the needs of our exacting masters.
Now, on this day while I walked through Bergarten for the first time, I stared skyward at the immense round structures of stone and crystal. They were all spacious, permanent, imposingly beautiful. True said, Bergarten architecture had not the dignity or aged looks of similar cities across the Philosea on the Old Continent. There, wooden stack-modules showed every human where civilization had begun. here In Bergarten, the awe was in the size of the smooth walls that cried power and grandeur. Here, there were no age cracks in the stones. Here, the rounded Sojoa-sheets bulging from each window, drawing power from Our God reflecting light and energy, seemed to say without words — "Here grows the future."
Entering my assigned building through the back arches for Blue Professionals, I surprised even more when the Security Op looked at my papers, scanned my travel-satchel, and then personally escorted me to the sixth level. I certained I was in some trouble — why would any Brown escort a mere applicant through an easy, if winding maze? More amazing, waiting not, she marched me into a long room where four dignified Browns sat behind a thick, long shining frost-white desk full of skols and skol-books. Bright without shadows, this room was lit by a long, wall-to-wall Sojoa-sheet pulsating with energy behind the Shaper's table. The other walls were mellow, white-spine wood connected by plush, silenting brown-rope carpet. Everything was polished, new, a place of importance.
Walking to the table, I marked that all four women wore the short-hair and bare ear shells of females who'd never bonded by choice or had been found unsuitable. None were young. Considering where they sat, I presumed all four were there by choice and lacked not in solid tribal Alliances. I could see not their tunics
with their tribal sewings on their breasts, because of the piles of skols on the table. I kept my eyes proper low and looked not at the faces contemplating my future.
At first, the committee talked among themselves and ignored me in the customary way important Shaprims and Maprims always deal with blues in their presence.
Then, with no introductions, the four went quiet and the eldest Brown in the middle, the taut, long-armed woman who I knew must be Shaprim Kharg, sat back and studied me. With a face full of doubt and isapproval, she looked like an old monument, crows-feet crowding the skin above her cheeks.
"Give ear!" she commanded sharp. "Come child." I
"Turn and show," she ordered.
I spun the proper slow turn for the group. I ended with my head kneeled with the gesture of open palms to show my deference.
"Speak child," she commanded. "Say anything. Let us hear your voice."
Puzzled, I recited my gratitude greeting, staring at my open hands. Shaprim Kharg barked for me to stop. It was so hard for me to avert my eyes, so intense was her stare. I focused on her thick face muscles which made her words seem like sounds coming from a dark machine.
"Think you," she asked, turning her head to the long-cheeked graying Brown to her right, "our guest will like this fleshy Bar Tine?"
Gazing at me with sad eyes, The second Shaprim measured me as if choosing house ornaments. She sounded neutral as she shrugged, "Who can tell? Tine carries the bearing of innocence. As non-threatening as we could ask."
These notions were strange to hear. But I said nothing as I awaited my first assignment.
Malcolm: As all Beta knows, I hate talking about my former life, my life before the day I was ripped through the universal barrier. As I’ve said many times,
I wish all the pictures in my mind from the days before that torment weren’t now filled with bottomless feelings of loss. I think all my memories should
be private movies inside my mind shown to no one. But my children need to know about their invisible roots. Perhaps knowing where I came from might explain
why things happened the way they did.
Before the transference in Shaprim Brann’s House of Horrors, I'd spent, by Alphan reckoning, twenty-nine years living mostly in and around the small city
of Charlaloi, Pennsylvania in the country we called the United States of America. I can think of nothing that distinguishes Charlaloi. Like many like towns,
it mainly consisted of a few short, quiet streets of shops, restaurants, and offices surrounded by longer streets of houses and barns sitting on rolling
hills leading through fields of corn, grazing cows, and alfalfa. Once, Charlaloi had been one of many towns housing miners, men who went down into long
tunnels to dig up the black stuff we called coal, a rockish substance we burned to heat our houses. Charlaloi was near the muddy river we called the Monongahela
where barges transported that coal to bigger cities to the south. I loved that river, I think, because I felt that it was the only natural thing around
that linked our little valley with the rest of the world. It seemed ageless, permanent, cleansing. Not like dirty, dusty coal which had once seemed a precious
resource before our people learned burning it was poison to our skies. Then, no one wanted to use coal anymore. So the mines started closing and jobs disappeared.
After that, you could sense an undercurrent of gray resentment and disappointment in the conversations in the hamburger joints, shopping malls,
even Mom’s church. In those days, Charleroi was a place where most everyone I knew wanted to leave.
But when you’re young, of course, you don’t really think about all that. When I was a boy, kids like me could run around the endless woods and find the
foundations of buildings long gone along the shores of the mighty, muddy Mon. Exploring these shores from our little paddle boats, we could find the drawings
by a people that we called Indians. Centuries past, they had drawn these simple pictures on the rocks in their magical hope animals would be attracted
to the pictures and become food. Perhaps that’s why I became a lover of history. It was all around me, in the burial mounds on top of the forested hills,
in the museums showing where great leaders had come through our little valley. My pleasure was in the past, not in a present where life seemed so mundane
Like all my kind, I had one father and but one mother until her death under the wheels of an alcoholic preacher. Ah, she had been everything to Dad and
me! I remember Mother peeling onions in her small kitchen, trying to reassure me that it was no sin to be different after our walls were soaped on the
night of a festival we called Halloween. The neighborhood boys seemed annoyed to find her religious pamphlets in the bags of trick-or-treat candy, her
refusal to show up for gatherings where alcohol was served. In her eyes, we Renbourns and all like us were special, those who sang the right hymns, gently
shunned the ways of the wrong, and stoically strived to live as blameless a life as possible. As a result, once a week or so, three or four boys would
beat the tar out of me between the bus-stop and home. Mom’s holy book, one we called the Bible, advised sufferers like me to turn the other cheek. Well,
when six or eight taunting fists are pounding you, there’s not much chance of doing anything else.
Back in those days, I tried my level best to fit in with the other boys. One year, I joined our school’s track team and happily ran myself to exhaustion.
But I never won a race. "You got to have a fire in your belly," the coach had admonished me, "if you’re ever going to be first at anything." That wasn’t
me. I’d try things and abandon them if success wasn’t quick and easy. I tried playing the guitar, and gave it up, discovering having short, stubby fingers
made fingering chords painful and difficult. At least, that was my excuse. The simple truth was that I’d rather be left to myself digesting books. I forget
what grade it was, but one day I was standing by the stairs leading into a library pit full of novels. A teacher walking by stopped and asked why I looked
so distressed. "I’ve read them all," I said. She gaped at me with amazement. "Really? All of them." "Yep. Well, except for all those romance novels for
girls." She studied me and said, "Come with me." She led me to stacks of non-fiction books, and she introduced me to biographies. My eyes lit up. Now,
I had a quest. I had a fire in my belly now — to understand what made great ones great. And what made them different from the likes of me.
My parents noticed this new curiosity, so Mom made sure the three Renbourns were always on the road, looking for places and sites we'd not seen before.
I remember Mother and Dad photographing me in front of flag poles, masted ships, forts, their son a historian by nature and nurture. Then everything changed.
I remember my Father standing by the mound of my Mother's grave. Me, 12 years old, unbelieving. All around, shoes and cuffs and grassy green. For a long
time, my memories became disconnected shards, watery clumps of images running together like a kaleidoscope of dim colors. Little pictures like walking
to the bus stop, looking down at the mindless nightcrawlers all over the road, the rain confusing them and leaving them stranded unprotected in the morning
sun. Visiting my aunt in Lancaster and seeing the Amish farmer in his buggy using the ATM machine. Fishing with my cousins and reeling in nothing but box
turtles and crayfish. My father exploding with wrath every time he saw my report card. Chemistry, Geometry, anything
associated with math always failing grades. Do moments like these mean anything now? Like me standing in the road looking at the empty house where Rick
no longer lived, my best friend, only friend, the master of comics and toy soldiers now moved to the town of his new father. He’d escaped Charlaloi and
left me behind.
Bar: Finally, Kharg bid me to sit. I placed myself between Kharg and the sad-eyed Shaprim. The others looked as if waiting for other matters to discuss,
my presence but mere distraction from their affairs. "Child," Kharg began after I took my place, "Give total ear. What I will say is very special indeed.
You are one of the first people to know about the historic changes that have happened here at this Institute. You are more than honored to hear these words.
You have been chosen to participate in history!" I startled, but waited as she carefully continued to scrutinize me. Then she sat back and started the
"You should know, just over four moons past, our great scientist, Shaper-Prim Mica Brann, completed the most secret of all experiments in this Institute.
Her purpose was, simple said, to give form to an entity from the Spirit World." My jaw dropped. Kharg bared her teeth. "Blasphemy, think you? Raising the
dead? Capturing some mythological being?" All four women laughed as one.
With my fingers, I circled my breasts with a protective Ward Loop. Kharg laughed again. "I think your superstitions will die this day. What we learned
had nothing to do with the dead or with gods without form." Then Kharg reached across her table, handing me a picture of a man naked from his waist up.
He looked ordinary, a balding man with a stubby nose and clipped beard. He looked almost 30 years in experience. His expression was wariness, alarm, empty
green eyes. One puzzled eyebrow rose high on his forehead. He looked like a blue-skin, although with an odd reddish tint.
"Four moons ago," Kharg continued, "our Institute tapped into the largest energy battery yet created on this planet. It is housed below this very building.
The network fills a space underground as large as the building you see around you. We focused that unprecedented energy into Shaprim Brann's Para-Arch
Frame, as she calls her network. As a result, we captured that being you see in the picture."
Malcolm: After Mom’s death, my empty home was just my quiet, brokenhearted Dad and me and books and books and books. For, after they had piled the dirt
on Mom’s grave in the Alphan way of burying our dead, my father told his 12 year old son he meant to see that his wife’s dream would happen. That is, that
I would become Dr. Malcolm Renbourn, professor of history. There it was, my ticket out of the valley. There it was, my personal quest to understand greatness
now locked into a graveside vow. So I read. As the years went by, I
decided the greatest ones of all had gifts I didn’t. Like the unbelievable talents of artists like Leonardo Di Vinci or Michelangelo. Or great ones rode
the waves of great causes like David Ben-Gurion or Mahatma Ghandi. Or had the abilities and energy of a Sir Richard Burton or the perseverance of a Winston
Churchill. Or had the supreme self-confidence and ambition of a Franklin Roosevelt. None of this was me. I decided the Big Three attributes were energy,
timing, and luck, luck, luck.
By the time I went to college, I think I had only one really lucky break. I went to Shippensburg State University because History majors had no math requirements.
Dad loved laughing about that. I spent a lot of nights at the Green Derby bar and enjoyed grad school, everything about it. I thought of the great teachers
I was hearing and really understood I was on the right path for me. Being a teacher was no small thing. To tell the stories of the past, to tell why they
mattered, to perhaps inspire a handful of faces to do more than talk, talk, talk. The classroom was my theatre, my battleground, my reason to be. When
was I happy on Alpha earth? When I was in a classroom.
Such a simple goal, really. But, in the end, the cards didn’t turn my way. by the time I collected my calf-skin in the year my earth called 2001, there
were no full-time jobs for history professors anywhere in my country. None. For two years, I drove to teach two classes at one school, one class at another,
and still another at the prison each semester. Coming and going, I didn’t even know the other teachers. What had I done wrong? Just hitched my wagon to
an impossible dream.
Bar: Kharg handed me a series of other colcars of the same man wearing unusual garb. His strange tunic was plain, with tribal sewings not, no marks of
any family alliance. This tunic had strange flaps around the neck with no purpose I could guess. It took me a moment to realize the tiny dots down his
chest were miniature buttons. They looked practical but with creativity not. This tunic matched not his leg togs, apparently of different fabrics. At first,
I thought he must have come from a privileged family. He wore shoes shaped for his feet instead of the Nui-Boots most blues wear, the very practical coverings
we can find either singly or as pairs. In some of these pictures, the man laid naked on a scan-table, his eyes closed. In other colcars, he was visibly
distressed, always held by Secops, all with his mouth open as if his jaw hung loosely from his cran. In one colcar, I saw black bruises from glove-prints
on his cheeks. They must have held his jaw open by force for some reason.
"At first," Kharg said as she chose and passed me each image, "we thought this creature's form was that of a resurrected blue, so human in shape and movement.
His language, however, was garbled and pointless. Later, we learned part of this incoherence came from the fact his body had been
somewhat disassembled, stretched, and distorted in the capture. This state corrected itself in short time. Except for the creature's eyes. The jelly reassembled
My curiosity growing, Kharg handed me new pictures of the man now sitting behind a table with various Prims sitting across from him. He now wore plain
Balnakin togs. In each colcar he held one object or another. "Next, we learned this man had a language all his own. None of us could relate it to any known
tongue. To our surprise, what we learned was that this man is of this world not. He is no reborn spirit. He comes from another Earth, another planet."
Malcolm: Yes, I had lovers on my planet. But, on Alpha, a poor man doesn’t have the same choices males have on Beta. Not by miles. To be honest, I always
had trouble talking with any girl my age. I loved looking and looking at them, but it was usually look and don’t touch. My brooding nature didn’t help.
So I found a different road. Back in high school, I had lost my virginity to a dingy older woman named Maggie Smithson who told me she’d tutor me in algebra.
After spending thirty minutes showing me pictures of her dead husband and his nightclub band, she tutored me alright. That night, I became a connoisseur
of older women. Compared to the girls I knew, divorcees and widows had more interesting stories to tell. They didn’t waste time negotiating about sex,
they didn’t make young lovers leap through hoops before hitting the bedroom. I enjoyed that hunt until I got to grad school and met Nancy, the older woman
with huge doe-eyes and a sheep farm. I loved her with every cell of my being. She was the perfect woman, a perfect blend of sophistication and earthiness.
In winter, I helped her birth spring lambs and spent one early morning with my right hand and forearm covered in milk-sugar to push a prolapsed uterus
back into an ewe. For some reason, those nights left me feeling so connected with the natural world, just like the feelings I had when I’d stared into
the calm waters of the Monongahela. These moments felt more spiritual to me than any Sunday morning in a church pew.
But I came to learn, for Nancy, I was a secret fantasy best enjoyed after Scotch and soda, her tipsy mirror into her youth. When her mother popped by for
visits, Nancy would hide me in her shower. For Nancy, I was a trophy in the clubs and concerts, but a danger to the shepardess’s inheritance. So when she
met her carpenter one fall, I was out like a used tampon. Losing her, well, was a misery I didn’t get over. At least on my home earth.
In between these affairs, my life became my 1988 Chevy Cavalier and Freckles the dog riding along. We listened to tapes on Buddhist meditation as we traveled
from campus to campus. When I read the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths, I knew what my Number One demon was — envy. Everyone else had everything I didn’t.
So Freckles was more master of Zen than I. On good days, I leashed Frec to a picnic table while I graded exams in the little park on the lake. On bad days,
I sat in the old recliner with the fool television on for company. I didn’t have the fire to seek out another Nancy. I hated to call my father and talk
about anything in my life. As the seasons passed, the writing on the wall became clearer and clearer. There was no room in the inn. In those days, a rock
in my belly grew each time I thought of who I should be, what I should be. And trying to figure what to do next.
Bar: I gasped. The Shaprim nodded, her own face an expression of profound wonder. "I know exactly how you feel. Simple said, elementary science has always
taught that the bits that make our matter are filled with space." Her eyes became remote as she almost chanted her next sentence. "Child, we have always
believed more space is in your finger than there are bones, blood-trees, or cells." She held up her thumb to illustrate her point. "our foolish perceptions
see flesh, not the mass of swirling atoms that truly is. But this law has changed. Yes, this law has changed. What we now believe is that this space is
empty not. Rather, unseen, it is filled with matter from at least one other parallel universe. This creature is, as I said, the first alien from another
planet to visit our home."
The Shaprim paused long enough for me to process this fantastic information. I looked at each of the committee members in turn. Their faces were serious,
intent, almost reverent. I wondered which might be this great scientist, Mica Brann. I could tell not. Then I re-examined each of the colcars. I waited
to hear something that might signal all this was but a test of my limited blue intelligence. I had time to think as a messenger strode up to the table,
handing Kharg a new bundle of skols. He spun, departed, and Kharg quickly scanned the documents. She placed some in front of her. Others she distributed
to her committee.
Finally, she returned her attention to me. "Bar Tine, you need worry not about whether or not any of what I tell you is true. In point, your feelings or
beliefs matter not. These are concerns for better minds to explore." Then her voice rose with command. She leaned forward and I could no longer pull away
from her stare. "Bar Tine, give ear! You are chosen to be this alien's teacher. You will help us learn all we can from him. From this moment until you
are told otherwise, you will live in this building and will speak of this to no one outside of those who enter the hall upstairs. No one!"
Malcolm: At the moment I stumbled forward from my world into yours, I was standing before a Mellon Bank teller in a city we called Pittsburgh. With few
dollars to cover my bills, I was closing down my pointless savings account. I was thinking of my mother and the shame she'd have felt seeing me there.
That was my last thought before the pain.
The last human face I ever saw was that bank teller holding my little passbook with an expression half sympathy, half scorn. That aloof face is vivid to
me as is that wooden teller window where unexpectedly, mysteriously, in a flash, an acrid, pungent flash, the air changed around me. Gravity shifted, and
the space around me expanded strangely. There was nothing for me to grab, so I grabbed at nothing. Alarmed, I reached for that face but no one was there.
I felt a scorching white light. I could no longer see. I grabbed at my eyes and almost doubled over with pain and panic. I staggered forward into what
I thought was a teller window, swaying my arms in unexpected empty air. Then, every cell in my body exploded, stretched, every hair on my skin turning
into a field of burning wicks. In that wall of fire, every bone, muscle, and tissue of my body disintegrated and then, somehow, remolded.
Then unseen hands grabbed my arms. I must have been making noise, but I heard nothing. Saw nothing. My legs and arms went rubbery, jerky, then limp. Then
my hearing fog began to clear. I was falling on my knees, my arms held high by unseen hands. I heard distant voices, muffled voices, all very excited about
something. I heard words, but none made sense. Then, hands grabbed my ankles and I was stretched out on something cloth, I think. Then I passed out.
Bar: For short time, my body felt penetrated, overwhelmed by Kharg's intensity. It was my turn to speak, but thoughts failed me. Finally, I spoke with
my usual quiver. "Why me? I honor above many others, I see that. But I am simple and know nothing of such, such strange things."
After clearing her throat, the long-cheeked Prim to Kharg's right leaned forward and answered soft. "Child, as we have worked with this man, and I say
man certain the term applies, it certains he's suffered damage in his mind from his experience. This alien is still quite agitated and nervous. To be expected,
of course. We hope you can be a calming influence on him. This is why we want someone intelligent, unworldly, and reassuring. So your age and personality
profiles were as important to us as your training."
With each new revelation, I thought, I, too, have good reason to be agitated and nervous. I studied one of the colcars more close and thought that the alien had not an unpleasant face. Then I shamed, seeing the sadness and worry in each captured expression. Still, I mentally asked Olos to Certain this creature would desire me not.
The Brown Shaprim seemed to read my thinking. Her voice lost some of its kindness. "Your part in this study is most critical, my child. Give ear! When you meet the alien, know this man trusts no one. We need someone with precisely your presence to be our agent for trust. Your skols show a high degree of sympathetic impulses. All your recommendation notes point to your being most suited for a path in some institution of social care. Your softness is present in your voice, something obviously helpful in this matter. Yes, softness is the way. So, you are here. Like the alien, you are more Blue than Brown. This may or may not be a factor down the way. We know not."
Malcolm: During those moons, I had no idea how long they kept me there in what I learned was the Central Institute for Science of the Species. For a long
time, I was strapped to an uncomfortable metal half-tube, half-table where gloved hands ran over me, removing my clothes, poking and prodding every cell
on my skin. At first I couldn't resist. Finally, I was freed from this tube-table while all these voices kept talking to me, each word seemingly a slow
test for comprehension. What I comprehended were needles taped to my naked body, cold metal circles and squares strapped to me, and thick fingers exploring
where lovers shouldn't go. Again and again. They put heavy helmets on my head, triangular masks over my nose and mouth. They forced my hands into tubs
of fluids that ranged from the frigid to the scalding. They put me into some metal box where, I guess, they experimented with air pressures and I don’t
know what else. One moment, I was light-headed and giddy, the next my lungs were so
heavy I thought I’d die. I was collapsed on the floor when they pulled
me out of that one.
In those days, wires and tubes cut into me, all with nothing to dull the pain. I wailed and tried to fight back and was carried by tight hands gripping
all four limbs from one place to another. I bit someone, my teeth unable to tear into rubbery protective clothes. I remember being pushed into a small
room with a bed and table and toilet with slick walls. Strange clothes were on the table. The shirt had puzzling, very large buttons.
One day stands out in my memory. That day, after dawn-plate, one guard pulled me by one arm, another guard secured the other. They hustled me to some room
on a different floor from my cell. First, they strapped me into a chair. Then they pushed my head forward onto a chin-rest sitting on the bottom rim of
a hole in some weird globe. Then they put four clips onto each of my eyelids. I couldn't close them. That was the last time I ever perceived light. I saw
streams of colored lights shooting right to left, and then that was it. Years later, I learned this was a special camera used to measure eye damage. First
they blind me, then they measure the level of their work.
Bar: The sad-eyed Shaprim sat back as Kharg nodded and took command again. With a touch of unexpected humor, Kharg bared her teeth and added, more for
her fellows than me, I think, "For blues, according to your skols, you
are considered attractive and comely. We hope the alien will believe the same."
My face filled with hot blood when another Brown, who'd sat quiet without
words, suddenly said lowly, "Comely! This Tine looks like a furless wolf with a stolen Kiyi mane!"
My eyes dropped as the group again laughed as one. True
said, I had a prominent nose that seemed to spread upward and into my forehead. My round eyes thus seemed set back and framed in bony flesh. But at that
moment, if I was suddenly considered unattractive, well, this might be the best. For Kharg stared at me and added, "It matters not what any of us think
on this. Especially you, Bar Tine. If the alien responds to you on any level, permit, encourage any contact he desires." My mouth opened with revulsion
and fear. Being assigned to a man of my master's choosing, I knew, might be inevitable. But a red-skinned alien? An unsighted alien? I feared to speak
and too quickly dropped the colcars from my hands to the table.
Kharg looked at me harsh. Her smile flattened. She looked down at her desk and pulled another skol in front of her. Then her gaze fell full hard on me
again. She stated firm, "True said, it seems innocence brings with it complications. So it seems best we send with you a second. I know just the agent.
Someone more culturally mature. She shares not your profile, but she questions not orders. your official duty, simple said, will be to communicate with
this alien. Skols about him are in the outer office. Take them to your quarters for study before returning them to me. Then, learn his language, teach
him Alma." She looked down at her skol and then looked at me again. "Our linguists briefly implanted a stimulus node in the alien's brain. But we feared
it could be too damaging to leave it there for long. The hole to burrow the implant caused considerable pain. Still, we believe the node opened mental
paths of comprehension in terms of language construction. We believe your primary task will largely be a matter of vocabulary and the contexts of words.
It would seem blues on his world have deeper abilities than we normally expect here." She looked at me with the usual doubt of browns unaccustomed to working
with blue-skins. "As with all duties," she added, "be water. Be fluid. As with any Master, shape your will to any container the alien shapes. Your associate
will handle the rest. Understand you?" I nodded. "Then begin reading. Feel the honor, blue-child! When this is known, you will be one of the most famous
slaves in history!"
The Origins of the Beta-Earth Chronicles
By Wesley Britton
One simple idea inspired the Beta-Earth series. One afternoon, I thought about the many stories where ordinary humans were drawn against their will into extraordinary circumstances. Sometimes they were pulled to alternate universes or to distant planets. But what if one such human was blinded in the process of being captured by scientists on a different earth? How could a blind alien cope with a world he couldn’t see, how could he comprehend what was happening if he couldn’t understand anything that was said to him? How could he describe another planet when so much was so different from what was familiar?
That was the starting point. From that concept so many early ideas sprouted. How could the blinded Malcolm Renbourn of our earth evaluate the size of buildings or gauge distances? Facial expressions, gestures, body language would all be lost on him. How could he learn a new language when the only useable tools would be objects he could hold and hear described? If a glass bottle was placed in his hand, how could he know which spoken term applied to the container’s function and which applied to what the bottle was made of? Could he be certain what he thought was glass was actually glass? And that’s just the beginning of our hero’s travails.
Then I wondered what kind of people would populate this second earth. What sort of culture was our unhappy traveler trapped in? From the beginning, I knew I wanted to have the Alpha man the subject of a long epic. But what would make him so valuable that he would become the center of ongoing struggles? It couldn’t be any objects he brought with him—they’d have been taken from him right after his capture. I couldn’t think of any special knowledge that he’d carry. I didn’t want him to have super-powers as I wanted Malcolm Renbourn to remain off-balance, confused, vulnerable, desperately trying to adapt to completely, well, alien cultures. So if there was going to be anything special about Malcolm Renbourn, it would have to be something to do with his body.
And that’s when the Plague-With-No-Name came to me. That plague set up so many possibilities. What if, on Beta earth, that ancient curse killed three out of four male babies their first year? Curing that plague would be a central quest of the planet’s scientists. Surely, learning of the gender balance on our planet, scientists would wonder ifMalcolm’s biology might carry the cure that might change their planet. Naturally, they’d want to keep the blind alien in some sort of confinement to monitor him as a resource for study. Certainly, Malcolm would have other ideas.
At the same time, the Plague opened the door for creating Beta’s social structure. If women outnumbered men by a margin of four-to-one, obviously polygamy would be the norm. Thus came Beta’s tribal system. Being joined to a male would be competitive. Bondings would often be arranged to make alliances between tribes. Power and prosperity could be built by wise alliances.
So, with these abstractions, my fantasies began to take form. A cast of characters then quickly gave these concepts meaning. But that’s another story . . .