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Denizens: 28 - Miracle

...[When we first met, I inquired of your affliction, and why you chose to endure it. I recall that you said you did so because it was beyond the ability of your science to cure]. Jonathan nodded, but made no reply, and the alien continued.

[That which you and your companions are doing for my world and my people is a great thing, ensuring the survival of the Loti. I have met with the council, and they have agreed, by a margin of four to one, that we should do something more for you than merely provide a vessel, for which we have no further use, to enable you to reach your world.]...

Earthman Jonathan agrees to an operation to restore his physcial abilites - and has difficulty in coming to terms with the results.

Meantime spaceship skipper Cal and crew member Karen finally realise they are made for each other.

Brian William Neal's epic space adventure deeply involves you in the lives of its characters. The narrative drive more than fulfils its primary task: you are left at the end of each chapter wondering what will happen next.

To read those earlier chapters please click on Denizens in the menu on this page.

During this period of learning, in the midst of the preparation for departure, something happened to each of the travelers, events that would change each of their lives forever. These occurrences varied in their complexity; only one could be called momentous, but all would have far-reaching consequences.

Being the only people of Earth on a planet of aliens, however benign, it was their habit to take their meals together, alternating between each other’s rooms. After they had eaten, Bill and Jonathan went off, either together to work on the ship, or separately to be alone with their thoughts. This had the effect of throwing Cal and Karen together.

One such evening, after the others had retired, they were alone in Cal’s rooms, enjoying a glass of wine. They had been increasingly aware of each other’s presence lately, and it was a confusing time for them both. Karen had always found the American attractive, if somewhat cocky, and she now acknowledged that her earlier reasons for her determination to let nothing interfere with her reinstatement as a doctor no longer applied. Cal, for his part, found himself stealing glances at the English beauty when he thought he was unobserved, and he knew his attraction to her was growing daily.

The situation was beginning to simmer, and it was Karen who finally took the initiative.

“Cal, did you leave anyone behind on earth? Anyone special, I mean?”

Cal thought for a moment, then said, “Well, in a way, but not as I suspect you mean it.” He then went on to tell her about Joe McCulloch, and the friendship they had enjoyed. Karen said nothing, and Cal said, “How about you? Anyone waving goodbye at the platform?”

Karen smiled and shook her head. She stared at the reflections of the lights in the tabletop for a moment, then said, “You know, I’ve always felt I was given a raw deal by the world, that the world owed me a living, so to speak. I worked in all kinds of shitty jobs after I was struck off, and I didn’t have even one relationship with a man. I suppose I must have got a reputation as a man-hater, but it’s not true. I don’t hate men in particular; I guess I just hated the world for a long time.”

Cal nodded, but said nothing, and Karen went on. “I think I stopped hating when I met you guys. Oh, I know that Bill can be a pain in the arse sometimes, with his cowboy bullshit and all, but if I’m ever in a tight corner, I want him watching my back. And Jonathan is the closest I’ve ever been to a living saint.” She laughed suddenly. “You know what he said to me the other day? He said that you and I should be together, because we were so alike, and so suited to each other.” She looked across the table into his eyes. “Can you believe that?”

Cal held her eyes with his steady gaze, and she didn’t look away. He reached out and touched the back of her hand, and said, “Yes, I think I can,” and it was as though a spark had ignited a magazine. Almost before they were aware of it, they were in each other’s arms. His mouth found hers, and her hands were in his hair. He lifted her up and carried her into the bedroom and laid her down on the bed. They undressed each other, tearing at their clothing, kissing all the while.

When they were naked, they looked hungrily at each other for a moment, taking in the sight of each other’s bodies. Cal saw the long, athletic legs, the flat stomach, the large, firm breasts; Karen saw the deep chest with its light matting of dark hair, the ridged abdominal muscles, the thick, heavy penis just beginning to stir.

Cal bent and cupped one perfect breast, sucking the nipple and sending what felt like electric shocks through Karen’s body, reminding her of what she had missed these past years. He moved lower, kissing her all over, and burying his face in her tangle of red pubic hair, tonguing her clitoris and pushing one finger deep inside her.

Karen sighed and arched her back, holding his head in her hands. When she felt she was about to explode, she lifted him up and kissed his face, then pushed him on to his back. Moving down his hard body, she cupped his heavy balls in her hand and stroked the shaft of his penis with the other. Then she moved lower and took the head of his penis in her mouth, swirling her tongue around and sucking softly. Cal groaned, and ran his hands through her hair, then he pulled her up towards him again. He moved to her, but she pushed him back and straddled him. Reaching down, she took him in her hand again and guided the thick muscle inside her, settling slowly and gingerly until the entire length was buried in her. Then she began to move, slowly at first, then faster as they found their rhythm.

Cal stroked her smooth flanks and rolled her nipples between his thumb and fingers, feeling the wonderful wet warmth of this beautiful woman engulfing him. She began to pant and gasp, and he rolled them both over, still inside her. She wrapped her long legs around him as he plunged into her, and he felt his explosion approaching. A tingling that began in his groin rapidly spread throughout his entire body, and his eyes blazed as they began to move faster and faster. Karen cried out, and then he was pulsing, erupting inside her as she bucked helplessly in the throes of her own orgasm.

It seemed to go on forever, but finally they lay still. Gently, he slipped out of her and they side by side. Karen stared at the ceiling and said, “My God, I almost came that time,” which set them both laughing, and they embraced again. Cal felt himself getting hard again, and they made love a second time, more slowly and lovingly, as if they had been together for years. Sometime in the small hours, they fell asleep together; just before she drifted off, it occurred to Karen that she hadn’t felt like a cigarette at all.


*

On one of those evenings, Jonathan was in his rooms when the door chime sounded. He wheeled over and touched the panel; the door slid aside to reveal ’tau standing there. Mentally, the alien requested permission to enter.

“Good evening, ’tau,” said Jonathan. “Please, come in.”

’Tau entered, and sat on one of the ever-present cushions. Typically, he came straight to the point.

[When we first met, I inquired of your affliction, and why you chose to endure it. I recall that you said you did so because it was beyond the ability of your science to cure]. Jonathan nodded, but made no reply, and the alien continued.

[That which you and your companions are doing for my world and my people is a great thing, ensuring the survival of the Loti. I have met with the council, and they have agreed, by a margin of four to one, that we should do something more for you than merely provide a vessel, for which we have no further use, to enable you to reach your world.]

Jonathan noted the phrase ‘four to one’, but made no comment. ’Tau paused for a moment, then sent, [If you wish it, we can cure that which afflicts you].

Jonathan sat, stunned, as the words sank in. Recovering slightly, he said, “But how…how do you know what is wrong with me?”

’Tau smiled. [We have scanned you while you slept. I must confess, we also did this with your companions, although we did interrupt Colonel Ferguson and Doctor Purdy at a somewhat intimate moment].

Jonathan blushed and turned his head, not knowing where to look. ’Tau seemed not to notice his embarrassment and went on.

[If you wish this to be done, then it can be done now. If you wish]. He looked at Jonathan closely. [Do you wish?]

Unable to speak, Jonathan nodded dumbly, and ’tau sent, [Very well, I will make the arrangements]. The alien hesitated, then went on. [There is another matter I feel we should discuss. The day we saw the Loti, you said there might be some on your world that would exploit them for their Kivvex, perhaps even to extinction].

Jonathan nodded solemnly, his trembling hand pouring glasses of wine for them both. Its bouquet went uninhaled as he took a large mouthful before replying. “Yes, I fear that may be so. I believe I must be completely honest with you about this. If you feel you would not want such wondrous creatures going to what could be a bad home, as it were, I would quite understand.”

’Tau regarded the Earth man for a moment. [Tell me about your world. From the little you and your companions have said, it would seem that, in the time that you lived there, there were serious problems with the environment].

Jonathan smiled wryly. “You might say that,” he said, and went on to describe in detail the overcrowding and pollution that had been crippling the world they had left behind.

“I know it is something of a paradox, considering that the world I speak of doesn’t yet exist. All the same, I wish there was something we could do to prevent it from happening in the future.”

’Tau tasted his wine. [It may be that we can both achieve our aims, although it will be a dangerous business, and may require some sacrifice on all sides]. Jonathan looked at him quizzically, but the alien would not be drawn. [We will speak of this later], he sent. [Now, there are other matters of which you should be made aware. I fear there may be grave difficulties ahead of you and your companions before you finally leave my world. ’Klor has been spreading poisonous rumor among my people regarding your aims and motives, and I suspect that he has also been in contact with the rebel forces in the mountains.]

Jonathan expressed alarm, and ’tau sent, [I do not think there is anything to fear yet. I still believe he will not attempt anything while you are guests of the city. However, it might be prudent for you to be on your way as soon as you are able].

Although he was sending telepathically, ’tau moved his cushion closer to Jonathan, and continued conspiratorially. [I will ask the head of the Guild of Physicians, a close friend of mine, to schedule your surgery for tomorrow morning. I foresee no difficulties in what is, for us, a routine procedure. As to the matter of your departure, I feel I must say this. Your companion, Doctor O’Rourke, called Bill, is a complex man. The image he presents to the outside world is at odds with his inner self]. He looked at the floor for a moment, then went on.

[At certain times, my people have been known to possess the gift of prophecy. I must tell you, I fear for your friend. His destiny is closely linked with this world].

Jonathan looked questioningly at ’tau, but the alien would not elaborate. They conversed long into the night, and ’tau outlined his proposal regarding the Loti. When he heard the plan, Jonathan was at once thrilled and frightened, awed and shocked by it. In the end, however, when ’tau had left and he was alone in his rooms, Jonathan realized it was their only hope of regaining what they had lost.

He thought long and deep that night, excited and a little afraid of what the morning might bring, and light was beginning to show through the windows of the room before he fell into a fitful and troubled sleep.
*

Jonathan came to full wakefulness immediately the alien surgeon removed the strange device from his head. ’Tau had called it something unpronounceable, saying that they should think of as a sleep inducer, with several levels. When Karen asked if they could take one with them, ’tau replied that there were already two in the sick bay on board the ship. The alien doctor bent over Jonathan, checking his eyes with another instrument, and his ‘voice’ sounded in the Englishman’s head.

[What do you see?]

Jonathan blinked his eyes several times in an attempt to clear away the fuzzy mist that seemed to have settled over his vision. “Everything’s blurred,” he said. “I don’t seem to be able to focus very well.”

The doctor smiled. [That is normal. It will take a day or so for the effects of the procedure to dissipate. There is nothing for you to be concerned about; your eyesight will soon be better, I suspect, than it has ever been. Now, I want you to try to move your right leg].

Bill, Cal and Karen watched as their friend summoned all of his willpower and attempted to send a signal to nerves he had forgotten had ever existed, to move muscles rendered almost useless by disuse. His thin face was a mask of concentration as he struggled against years of habit and conditioning. The veins stood out on his neck, and finally he sank back on to the pillow, tears welling up in his faded blue eyes. To be given hope, then to have it snatched away; surely, that was the cruelest blow of all.
Jonathan looked up at his friends crowded round the bed, and could not understand why they were smiling. Karen was weeping openly, and even Bill O’Rourke was blinking back tears. Then Karen leaned over him and said, “Jonathan, it moved! You moved your leg!”

The Englishman looked at them in disbelief. He had not felt anything, but the joy on his friends’ faces was unmistakable. He propped himself up on his elbows and they crowded closer, Bill’s strong arm supporting his back while they hugged him. For a moment they held each other, then the doctor moved them away, saying that the patient needed to rest.

With a final few words to Jonathan, they filed out of the room, promising to return later that day. Karen said to the others, “I saw it, but I don’t believe it. What happened back there is simply not possible on our world, given our medical science. Did you see what they did? I saw it on that…that…X-ray thing, that monitor or whatever. The spinal cord reconnected itself! They didn’t cut him, or anything.”

They walked down the corridor, away from the infirmary. “I still can’t believe it!” she repeated. “All they did was place that…whatever it was over his lower back, and the other thing over his eyes. I just can’t believe what I saw.”

Karen turned to ’tau, who had caught them up after leaving the room. “Will he really be able to walk, ’tau?” she asked. “I know he’ll have to exercise his lower body; after all, he hasn’t used those muscles for a long time. But he will be all right, won’t he?”

The alien nodded. [The process has also begun the rejuvenation of the muscles of which you speak. He will require assistance from you all, but I believe he will be well again. And, yes, he will walk].

They began to move away from the medical area, and Karen felt tears pricking at her eyes again. She slowed her steps, and looked back towards the room where Jonathan was sleeping. The whole operation had been so simple. First, the “sleep inducer” had been placed on Jonathan’s head, and then the other mysterious instruments placed over his eyes and lower back. In all, it had taken about fifteen minutes. Something that could not have been accomplished by earthly science of any time, yet these people had been so matter-of-fact about it, as though they did it every day. It was a miracle, no less.

With these thoughts in her mind, she hurried off down the corridor after the others.

*

Early one morning, after Cal and Karen had become lovers, Bill was walking towards Cal’s rooms for breakfast when he saw Karen slip out and head back to her own quarters. He stepped back out of sight, and waited until she was gone, then turned and went back to his own rooms.
Once there, he sat on a pile of cushions and tried to analyze his feelings. Behind his smart ass façade, a need had been growing, something he had not felt since Kathy’s death. His attraction to Karen Purdy had been deeper than he had realized, and the level of his disappointment surprised him.
On the other hand, a large part of him liked and respected them both, and it was this part that won the conflict. He decided that he wished them nothing but well, and shortly afterwards he breezed into Cal’s rooms, demanding to know where the hell breakfast was.

Later that evening, when he was alone in his quarters again, he was able to put his feelings into some sort of order and perspective. He realized he had been a fool to think he could love another woman so soon; that ability had gone, at least for a while yet, in the fiery wreck on the freeway.

With a start, he also realized that that event would not take place for another two thousand years. But how could it take place at all, if he was not there? Was Jonathan right? Would another Bill O’Rourke, another Jonathan Edge, another Cal Ferguson and another Karen Purdy be born at the appropriate time? And if so, would this be a never-ending cycle, with the events repeating themselves, over and over, forever?

Maybe that’s what the Buddhists mean when they talk about reincarnation, he thought, as he lay on his bed and stared at the ceiling. Maybe the Wheel of Life is nothing more than a celestial time machine. Coming back to live, not a different life, but the same one, only one to a customer folks, over and over until you get it right. Kind of like your life being one long Groundhog Day, except you’re not aware it’s happening. Maybe enlightenment is nothing more than wising up to what is going on. He laughed; a short, happy sound. Maybe God does have a sense of humor, after all.

As he prepared for sleep, Bill thought again of Karen and Cal. He was glad to find that he felt no jealousy towards them, no resentment at all. He accepted his aloneness, and he wished them well. Maybe he could be best man at their wedding, or something. With this thought in his mind, he slept, and it was the best night’s sleep he had enjoyed in four years.

***

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