Pevtha Zalthu, known to her fellow researchers as "Pevi", died yesterday at the age of 158 years. Recognized for her role in the discovery last century of the bioremediation process that is now reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, she had enjoyed a peaceful retirement at her beachfront property in Arkansas, not far from Memphis. Until the last five years of her life, Ms. Zalthu taught a course at the University of Tennessee on the engineering of photosynthetic bacteria.
* [Editorial note: I've translated the year into the calendar of the Final Reality. In the Etruscan calendar of the Ekcolir Reality year 2315 is actually year 2706.]
A medical opinion might have held that Irhit died of old age, but there is also the wider perspective to consider. Earth was in the grip of an ugly little war and objective observers would count Irhit as a casualty in the Time Travel War, although he had only once traveled through time, a little trip into the future that accounted for his death coming more than three centuries after his birth.
Grean had been timing Irhit's breaths and monitoring the blood oxygen level of the body that was linked to Irhit's replicoid. When that body (which happened to be a female body) began its natural descent into brain death, Grean finally severed the link that forced Irhit's replicoid to maintain its connection to the nanite endosymbiont of the dying body.
On Earth, the woman's decaying body was found the next day and disposed of. She had led a useful life, having played a key role in discovering the means to use bacteria to suck unwanted carbon from the atmosphere. Her obituary had long before been written and it duly noted her seminal work, but few Earthlings had ever been stirred to celebrate her work or her life. The oceans were still an acidic soup and the people of Earth had long since adapted to the rise in sea level that had accompanied the melting of the Antarctic ice sheet.
When Irhit found himself back in the Hierion Domain, he was not surprised to have survived Pevi's death. He let his eyes slide from Grean and he looked for Gohrlay. Grean said, "She's not here."
Irhit tested the look and feel of his replicoid's body and confirmed that he no longer had any link into Pevi's mind. Trying not to show the depth of sadness he felt at not being greeted by Gohrlay upon his arrival in the Hierion Domain, he returned his attention to Grean and asked, "Who are you?"
Grean smiled and said impishly, "I'm your secret admirer. I've long watched you and I'm taking this opportunity to speak with you."
Irhit chuckled, "I suppose that means that you don't plan to tell me who you are or what you want from me."
Grean shrugged. "I don't mind telling you those things, but it will do you no good. Not where you are going."
Irhi frowned and asked, "Has the plan been altered? Am I not to be sent back into the past?"
Grean giggled. "Relax, Irhit. Your game of twenty questions is not productive. My name is Grean."
Irhit had heard rumors about Grean from his Interventionist friends. Now he felt a cold lump deep inside. So, was this the end of his long mission?
Grean shook her head, "No, I approve of your mission."
Irhit could feel something massaging his consciousness, a kind of cognitive tickle, that left him with no doubt that Grean was inside his mind. He had to ask, "Telepathy?"
"Technology-assisted telepathy. I can read your replicoid like a book, I've read its memories through the course of your entire life."
Irhit looked at her carefully and resisted the impulse to touch Grean's skin. Grean move close to him and said, "You can touch me if you like. I've taken human form in an effort to put you at ease."
"So, you are an alien."
"I'm Kac'hin, so yes, technically I'm an alien. However, you tryp'At and we Kac'hin are close cousins, evolutionarily speaking."
"That's the human variant, the modified clan of the human species that you are a member of. Both you and I were carefully designed for our missions on Earth."
"Wait, are you saying that I'm an alien?"
"Well, that's a matter of opinion. You were conceived on a planet of the Galactic Core, but you were born on Earth. But as a tryp'At you are human, at least as far as the Rules of Intervention are concerned."
"The Rules of Intervention?"
"Golly, I don't want to go into that with you, not now. In your next life you can sort all this stuff out. First, I need to get you back to Gohrlay."
Irhit demanded, "Where is Gohrlay? What have you done with her?"
"Calm! Calm. She's waiting for you in the next Reality. In fact, this interview is my last task before I terminate the current Reality. You were the last part of this Reality that had to be brought in and shielded from the upcoming Reality Change." At that moment, Grean dissolved the barrier that was keeping Irhit from having access to his memories of the last time that he had spoken to Grean.
Now regaining access to those memories, Irhit remembered what was meant by a Reality Change: a discontinuous shift in Earth's timeline of events. Before being linked to Pevtha, Irhit had learned from Grean that no matter how long Irhit remained linked to Pevtha, Grean would wait patiently for Pevtha's death. Irhit had insisted on that, hoping that somehow, if given enough time, Gohrlay might find a way to reach him.
Of course, Grean had told him that he was being silly. Now he knew that Grean had not lied. Silently cursing himself for all the wasted decades he had spent attached to Pevtha, decades after he had completed his mission, Irhit began to sink into a feeling of defeat. Was there no way to resist this devil Kac'hin?
Grean said, "Don't think of me as an evil force, Irhit. Look, I know you want your girl and you want to save your planet, but don't be so impatient. You'll like the next Reality. All the more so given the hellish time you've been through in your first two lives."
Unable to control or hide his dislike and distrust for Grean, he snarled, "Then let's get on with it."
Grean shrugged. "I expected you would be impatient." Grean sent a swarm of infites into Irhit. "Okay, I'm done. When the time is right, you will recall what I wanted to tell you about this Reality, details that even Thomas does not know."
Irhit experienced a brief image of Thomas in his mind, then that memory path was closed off. Grean explained, "You'll meet Thomas in about 18 years. Try to be patient with him. See you on the other side." And with that, Grean was gone.
The infites that Irhit had received from Grean continued their program. He did not notice as memories of Grean were once again isolated from his conscious mind. In their place, his thoughts were flooded with awareness of the next phase of his mission. For that, Irhit needed to travel into the past, back to the previous millennium, where he would be born again into his new life.
[Editorial. I grudgingly acknowledge Irhit, my analogue from the Ekcolir Reality, as one of my collaborators. During the past few years, with the help of Ivory and the "permission" of Irhit, I have had some small success using the Bimanoid Interface. That gave me limited access to some useful sources of information such as Ivory's mother, Marta. This chapter and its brief introduction of Irhit marks the end of Part I of Trysta and Ekcolir. I've introduced you to all of my important collaborators who have helped me learn about events that occurred in the Ekcolir Reality, back before the Final Reality was brought into existence. Now, on to Part II and the story of the time-twisted lovers Trysta and Ekcolir.]
Trysta and Ekcolir is copyright John Schmidt, but the text of the story is licensed for sharing under the Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA) license.