“Kenlyi?” I hear Janil’s voice.
I wish desperately I could hear his mind.
I wish desperately I could hear them all.
I choke back my tears and open my eyes. “Janil.” Forcing a smile on my face is hard right now, but I manage it.
“I hate to shake things up, bu-”
“We found the Aevocar?!” I sit up, my eyes wide.
Janil smiles and nods as he comes closer. He reaches out and touches my face. “Yes, but it’s a small, scout ship. Smaller than this one, actually. We’ve got to split up. We’re going to send a small delegation to the Aevocar. The queen is staying here, so a small group is going to represent us.”
“I assume you and Kehl?” Janil pulls his hand back and retrieves his armor. It’s… such a fine set of armor. Lighter than mine, and more flexible. It… felt good against my skin when I tried it on earlier.
“And you, too. She wants you as a part of the group representing the Groyin. She trusts you now, Ken. She loves you.”
I smile and start to put on my leathers. “I’m… honored. My goodness, I’m honored.”
“Me, you, Kehl, and three workers. I… can’t believe we’re here finally. To think we’ve gone from fighting desperately for our lives in holes, to representing this glorious species now? This is…”
“Unbelievable, really. Yet, here we are. I… just wish…” I look down.
“In time, Ken. You’ll hear our song again.” He grins. “Come on. They’re sending a shuttle.”
I nod and follow him out. I smile to Kehltanril as we turn toward the docking bay.
I wanted you to know, Kenlyi, some workers are making a set of armor for you, too. It won’t be ready until we get back, but we all wanted you to have it. Kehl slows and puts his hand on the small of my back. We want you to be able to show that you are family, that you are Groyin.
Am I? Am I really?
In her arms, the universe was a bright place, with billions of voices of encouragement and love. Countless higher minds told me how much I could grow and learn. Yet, when I pulled away, when I had to bring my body back, the song faded.
I want it. I need it. But the song doesn’t sing for me, and I’m too scared to try to leave my body enough to hear it again. I’m not even sure I could do that without her help.
So just what am I? My body is Camfurdian. That can never change. My mind, my heart, my soul? Clearly, I am touched by the Groyin, and yet being touched isn’t enough to truly say I’m still different, is it? If you drink water once, that doesn’t mean you’ll never thirst again. I heard the song, but I do not now. How does that make me Groyin?
Instead, I am nothing. I am not Groyin; I do not hear their song. I am not Camfurdian; I have turned my back on my vows. I… long to be. To simply be.
Kehl’s voice is a distant whisper as we wait in the docking bay.
One of his foreclaws touches my back and I jump, scared back into the moment, away from my thoughts.
“Ken, what’s wrong?” Janil wraps an arm around me and pulls me close.
“I just… zoned out. I’m okay.”
It’s a lie. I’m not okay. I… haven’t been okay in a while. Days? No. Weeks? No. Months?
Since before this fucking war.
I want out. I just want it all to stop. I don’t want to fight anymore.
I just want to be happy again. I… was for a moment. In her arms.
No, I suppose that was the last time I was okay. In her arms, when the universe stood still for a few perfect moments.
“Ken? Talk to me!”
I jump again, this time at Janil’s voice.
“Ken, I need you to focus. Stay with us. I need you, okay?” I nod and Janil squeezes me. “I need you.”
I nod again. “Okay, Janil. I’m here.” I take his hand and squeeze as an alarm blares and a metal shutter seals off a section of the bay.
We hear the Aevocar shuttle land and the bay doors close. The sealed section begins to pressurize and eventually the shutter recedes. The Aevocar shuttle begins to open.
I look around the room, at Janil, Kehl, and the three workers. Janil looks at me and I can see the concern.
Just focus on me, Ken. I love you.
I love you, too, Janil.
The Aevocar shuttle is a wide thing. Probably wide enough to fit five or six Groyin side by side easily. It’s probably long enough to fit another six lined up single file. My guess is that this is a cargo shuttle, not a personnel shuttle.
The shuttle begins to open. A large ramp begins to descend, with the ramp making up a portion of the hull itself. It hits the ground with a soft clang.
Two beings step out side by side, their steps in perfect unison. They’re probably a foot or more shorter than the rest of us. They have slightly different shades of blue skin, the tops of their hairless heads seeming to almost have a sheen about them from the lights above. In fact, there’s no hair at all. None on their faces or heads, no eyebrows, no eyelashes. The species is completely hairless, and the hairless nature further exemplifies their genderless nature. Their bone structure appears, strangely enough, both feminine and masculine, and yet somehow neither. Feminine cheekbones, yet a squarer profiled jaw, full lips, yet narrow eyes with a dominant brow bone. They are… eerily beautiful.
They both wear identical jumpsuits, black with a wide gray stripe going down the left side. The jumpsuit somehow further accentuates their genderless body, showing no profile of breasts and no bulge of genitals. I don’t understand much about their physiology.
Kehltanril and Janil take a few steps forward, then I follow, standing beside Janil. The three workers stay behind us.
Hello. We are Mer’rel.
The two beings look back and forth at all of us.
Kehl looks at Janil, then me, and finally back to the two Aevocar.
I am named Kehltanril. You two… are a hive…?
It’s an awkward question, but for anyone seeing a bonded Aevocar pair for the first time, it’s a fair question. I don’t understand all of the details, and Janil must not either.
We are bonded. Our consciousness is one. Two minds from two bodies have merged to become one, inseparable. We are a small part of a greater whole within the Voice. They both smile and come closer. All bonded Aevocar are connected through the Voice, but it is just that… the combined voice of all nearby Aevocar. No individual controls it. It simply is. The three of us nod as the workers look on stoically.
Thank you for the explanation. We’re pleased to meet you. I am Janil. My lover says to them.
We thought so. There is something about your mind that is closer in nature to Kehltanril compared to your other Camfurdian friend. We knew your body was Camfurdian, but we did not know you had an actual Camfurdian with you.
Their thoughts cut like a knife. As unintentional as it may have been, they hit on everything that had been running through my mind.
“He is not Camfurdian anymore!” Janil barks reflexively. The Aevocar blinks, confused. I’m surprised that the Aevocar was able to understand him.
My name is Kenlyi, and… I am not Camfurdian. Not anymore.
Mer’rel looks at me skeptically. We… did not mean to offend. We can sense a difference between you two. It is quite distinct. We also assumed, given that one of you is wearing Camfurdian leather armor, there was a difference. Could one of you explain? I feel Kehl bristling anxiously and he looks back at me apologetically.
I look at Janil. He holds his hands up a little, indicating he’d explain. I shake my head and look back at the Aevocar. Janil joined the hive first. I… attempted to. I was able to tap into the hive mind for a while, but it… didn’t stay with me. They believe it is because my mind isn’t prepared yet, that I need more training with my telepathy because of years of Camfurdian oppression.
One part of Mer’rel winces. The other part’s eyes tear up and a bizarre third eyelid, locks into place. The nictitating membrane casts a dark hue over the Aevocar’s pale red eyes. We apologize. We did not mean to offend. We… had no idea.
The red eyed one takes a few steps toward me. We’re sorry, Kenlyi. We… The two Aevocar look at each other for a moment before the red eyed one turns back to me. We experienced similar. Our first attempt at bonding was a painful failure. This part, the red eyed Aevocar pats their chest, was shattered for nearly a year. We would never have meant to offend.
I nod. It’s alright, you didn’t know. You had no way to know. I… am still trying to cope. I force a smile, but I can tell from their expression that Mer’rel sees right through it.
They nod to me and I nod in acknowledgment. It’s a silent understanding that no harm was meant. Mer’rel looks at Kehl. Kehltanril, should we assume that you are sort of the… delegate?
Kehl shakes his head. No. The queen has deemed me, Janil, and Kenlyi as representatives. We will each have slightly differing viewpoints, but between the three of us, we will come to a consensus.
Mer’rel smiles and glances at me. We’re glad to see that your queen has such faith in you given the circumstances. We’re glad they are treating you no different.
It’s… one of the few things that I’m trying to focus on.
And who are you three? Mer’rel, now a bit more relaxed, peaks behind us, looking at the workers.
They respond in unison. We are workers. Our queen has assigned us to stay with Janil, Kenlyi, and Kehltanril.
And your names?
We are Groyin. Names are not necessary. They say, still in one thought.
Mer’rel looks back at Kehltanril now. Okay, so, we’re a little confused. We understand why Kenlyi and Janil have names, they were born with them. If Groyin do not use names, why do you have one?
Me and Janil chuckle as Kehl smiles. Those two gave me this name to help themselves deal with the existence of a unique, intelligent being without some means of labeling. This was before Janil joined us, of course. A name is simply easier for them, and I imagine your kind, to deal with.
Mer’rel nods. We certainly understand both sides of it. Our culture has always had names, and our young are not a part of the Voice. Names are still a necessity for many reasons for us.
They pause for a moment and the green-eyed part of them looks back at the shuttle. We should probably get to the shuttle. The quicker we’re back aboard the ship, the quicker we can get to Aevoculenar, our primary space station.
I nod in agreement. “Still, I’ve enjoyed the conversation. It’s… fascinating learning more about your kind.”
The red-eyed part smiles and nods. Indeed. We’ll have plenty of chances to discuss, well… everything.
The three of us look at each other, then back to the workers. Kehl nods and Janil leads us all toward the shuttle.
I… want to talk to Mer’rel later. Maybe it’s what they briefly mentioned, but they feel like a kindred spirit.