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Boro and Sata
NEBADOR Book Five: Back to the Stars
This book includes the short stories Buna's New World by Karen Buchanan, and First Taste of Freedom by Katelynn Persons, winners of the Early 2011 NEBADOR Writing Contest.
A long line of mysterious planets, all stranger than any story, lie between the birthplace of the young crew and their destination among the stars.
original cover art commissioned to artist Rachael Hedges
Each planet, and the vast stretches of space between, hold frightening dangers and wonderful opportunities. Events from twenty thousand years in the past have much to teach the new crew, but they fall into a deadly trap from which even the captain cannot find an escape.
"The most beautiful and most profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the sower of all true science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead."
-- Albert Einstein
Chapter 19: The Sonmatia Four Puzzle
The bridge of the deep-space response ship was deathly quiet, save for a slight sniffling sound coming from the navigator's station. Tears ran silently down the pilot's face. Rini had his knees up in his chair and was hiding his face in his arms. In the command chair, Boro's unfocused eyes glistened with moisture.
A quarter hour later, Sata silently made her way to the galley and reheated some left-over soup. They gathered like zombies and poked at their bowls, but ate little.
"I think ..." Mati finally said in barely more than a whisper, "I think it doesn't really matter what the puzzle is. We're here to ... you know ... feel what happened to these people, twenty thousand years ago."
A few minutes later, Rini collected his thoughts. "Yeah. We should do the puzzle, which is to learn everything we can about what happened, but the puzzle's not the important thing."
Boro nodded. "I think Nosta said something in her journal, near the end, that will let us find the Mines of Sarto."
"She said she saw smoke at Memna in one direction," Sata remembered, "and smoke at the mines exactly opposite. Calculating reciprocal compass directions is easy. The only problem is ... I forgot to mark the city on my chart. I didn't think we'd be going back, or needing to know where it was."
"I can find it," Mati said, examining a spoonful of soup before slipping it into her mouth.
"Good," Boro began, "because I need to stretch my legs ... in the City of Memna. Something about the place calls to me, and I think I would have liked it there. I want to walk the streets and see what the stones whisper to me. Rini, you're in command."
By following their flight path in reverse, Mati brought them to the old mainland shore within a few kilometers of the City of Memna, and a minute later lowered the ship near the Nebador marker.
After leaving through the airlock, Boro stood beside the marker as the Manessa Kwi retracted its landing struts and floated away.
"You guys have fun," Boro said through the intercom. "If you find the mines, look for something for our display containers."
"We will," Sata replied. "Remember to watch your air supply!"
"I've got two hours. I'll either find my ghosts by then, or get bored. Manessa will yell if I start turning blue."
"I guarantee we'll be back before then!"
"Thanks!" Boro waved one last time to the departing ship, then started walking down one of the streets where people worked and children played twenty thousand years before.
Rini looked very uncomfortable perched on the edge of the command chair on the trip back to the island. "I can almost see Nosta when I close my eyes, meditating under the Arch of Glimpa."
Mati turned her head slightly, a gleam of jealousy in her eyes for a second. "You want to walk around there?"
"Um ... yeah."
Mati lowered the ship near the Nebador marker.
Sata went to work. "I marked the City of Memna on the chart when we dropped off Boro, and it matches his tracer molecule. All I have to do is draw a straight line, and we should be able to find the Mines of Sarto."
Rini hopped up. "I'll pay my respects to Nosta while you guys go find the most beautiful gemstone in the world! I guess ... Sata, you want to be in command?"
"Um ... sure. It doesn't really matter. Me and Mati are a team -- we'll make decisions together."
Mati swiveled around and smiled. "This'll be fun, just two girls and our space ship!"
Rini smiled and stepped into the lift.
As Rini walked down the sandy hill toward the Arch of Glimpa, a noticeable spring in his step even in a space suit, Mati prepared to lift the ship back into the air.
"We could just sit here awhile," Sata said from her station. "I have to do some trigonometry."
"I want to give Rini some space. He's got a thing for Nosta, and I don't want to come between them."
Sata glanced at her friend, but didn't say anything.
"Why trigonometry?" Mati asked as she piloted.
"We just had a review of all the trig functions. If that isn't a hint, I don't know what is!"
"I trust you. If you can't figure it out, I sure can't! I'll just pilot the ship wherever you tell me to go. I hope we can find it before we have to get Boro and Rini."
A minute later, Mati lowered the ship onto an ancient beach somewhere on the edge of the Desert of Bakka.
Rini slowly climbed the surrounding rocks, then stepped carefully onto the rock arch, about three meters wide at that point. His bracelet chimed the four-minute reminder he had programmed. He paused to glance at his air supply, then looked around.
The yellow sky almost completely surrounded him, broken only by a small cloud of dust somewhere in the desert to the northeast. Directly overhead, the sky was nearly black. The sun hung in the west, over the City of Memna. Rini thought of Boro, opened his bracelet, and tapped at the tiny keys.
"Boro, this is Rini. Can you hear me?"
"Hi, Rini! Are you outside too?"
"Yeah. I'm on the arch. The girls are looking for the mines."
"Nosta really spoke to you, didn't she?"
"Yeah. I could see myself in her shoes. You find anything interesting?"
"The more I wander around, the more I can understand how deeply the people believed they were doing the right things to make their gods happy and reverse the climate change. I guess Zolko believed it too. And Sarto."
"And Nosta," Rini added.
"Yeah. I think they were all off the mark."
"Ilika can help us understand it when we get back. I'm almost to the middle of the arch, about two meters wide here. No cracks that worry me."
"I'm on the northern edge of the city. Just a large village, really. Nothing left but stone and dust, but every time I sit down, I can almost hear the people talking ..."
Sata cocked her head. "Manessa, how much air does Boro have left?"
"Assuming normal activity, one hour and seventeen minutes."
"Okay, let's see if I can figure this thing out," Sata said, moving her hands on the console. "Zolko to Memna was west by northwest, and I've got those points on the chart. Manessa, please playback the story of the Monuments of Zolko where it mentioned the Desert of Bakka."
"On the third day, Councilor Sarto crept away and sold all his property to hire a ship and many strong men. He believed the gods would look favorably on them if they found the most beautiful gemstone in the world and placed it in the temple. He carried books and maps from the great library, all telling him that such a gemstone could only be found across the sea, in the Desert of Bakka, somewhere along the eight degree line, for that was the number most sacred to the gods."
"Eight degrees ... eight degrees ... I hope it really was on the eight-degree line," Sata mumbled as she worked. "Okay, there it is! And we've got a nice, pretty triangle. I just have to figure out which trig function to use."
While Sata worked, Mati got her crutch and hobbled to the galley. As she slowly put together a snack for the two of them, she heard mumbled trigonometry functions, intermixed with curses, coming from the navigator's station. The words and other noises started out sounding a little annoyed, soon became frustrated, and eventually seethed with anger. Mati left the tray and hobbled down to the bridge.
Sata burst into tears when Mati put her free arm around her friend.
"Rini, this is Boro."
"I'm under the arch now, probably about where Nosta died."
Boro was silent for a moment. "Any bones?"
"No, they would have turned to dust a long time ago. Any more ghosts there?"
"I think I found the place where they built the smoky fire. It's a pit in the middle of a small plaza. I scooped out some of the dust, and can see blackened sides, maybe even some charcoal."
"The smoke Nosta saw."
"Yeah. As things got worse and worse, I bet the people became frustrated and angry, so they burned stuff." Boro was silent for a long moment as he gathered his courage. "Rini?"
"I'm worried about something. I'm down to about half an hour of air. I was hoping I could let the girls finish what they were doing, but I'm starting to get a little scared."
"Want me to teach you how to change that half hour into an hour?"
"First you have to let go of that fear -- it will only make you breathe faster and waste air ..."
"I've tried everything!" Sata nearly screamed, red-faced. "It's not sine or cosine, tangent doesn't work, and forget the reciprocal functions!"
"Secant or cosecant?" Mati asked in a timid voice.
"You're worried about Boro, aren't you?"
Sata burst into tears again. "He's down to ... about a quarter hour of air ... and I wanted to have some beautiful crystals to show him. And I wanted to show him ... that I could be in command and not mess up!"
Mati wrapped her arms around her friend as best she could. Eventually, Sata relaxed and started wiping her tears on her sleeve.
Mati sat down at her own station. "Why don't you ask Manessa for help?"
Sata sniffled and pursed her lips in thought for a long moment. "I wanted to do it myself ... but I guess I should. Manessa, please analyze the problem on my screen and tell me which trigonometry function to use."
"Ilika asked me not to tell you."
Sata didn't start crying again. Instead, she became beet-red and looked ready to explode. "Manessa! Who is in command of this ship?"
"You are, Sata. Rini transferred command to you before leaving the ship."
"Am I in complete command of this ship?"
"Then why won't you answer my question!"
"I will answer your question, if you wish. All you have to do is override Ilika's request."
Sata's mouth opened, but no sound came out.
Mati was trying very hard to hold in a snicker, but a little bit escaped.
"What?" Sata snapped.
"Manessa never said she wouldn't answer your question. It's happened to Kibi too. Manessa just said, 'Ilika asked,' not 'I can't' or 'I won't.' No one's ever tried overriding Ilika's request."
Sata was silent for a long moment, dumbfounded but thoughtful. Finally she took a deep breath. "Manessa, override any requests Ilika made about not helping with this problem."
"No trigonometry function works in this situation because it is not a trigonometry problem. The triangle on your screen is not a right triangle, nor are you attempting to find an unknown angle or length. It is a position problem defined by the intersection of two lines, and is best solved by creating two directional functions, one in which the direction to Boro's tracer equals the direction to Rini's tracer, and another in which the direction to Ilika's tracer equals the reciprocal of eight degrees. Then the pilot can use the functions, just as she would a navigation beacon, to adjust the flight path until both functions have a value of zero. We would then be right over the target. Altitude is not an issue because the target is, by definition, on the surface."
Sata remained silent for a moment, swallowing and breathing. Mati watched her friend, but said nothing.
"Boro should be out of air in eight minutes," the ship suddenly said.
Sata sat bolt-upright, moving her hands on her console, all hints of earlier emotions gone. "Boro, this is Sata! We're coming!"
Mati quickly raised her flight control.
"What's the hurry?" Boro asked through the intercom. "I've got forty minutes of air, several more stones to photograph, and a few more ghosts to talk to."
"Are you sure?" Sata asked with a wrinkled brow. "Manessa said you should be almost out."
"Rini taught me how to relax, turn down my suit temperature, and sort of meditate while I walk. I've almost doubled my suit time!"
"Um ... okay. We're about to go find the Mines of Sarto. See you in half an hour or less!" She made another selection. "Rini? How much air do you have."
"More than an hour. I'm sitting under the arch, and sometimes I think I can almost feel Nosta's presence."
"Okay. See you in an hour or less."
Mati, following the conversations closely, let go of her flight control.
"Manessa," Sata began, "give me those directional functions again ..."
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