Saturday, February 11, 2006

4. Homecoming

Blissenobiarella didn't feel the Jump, but she felt the effect. In a fraction of time too short to measure, the _Far Star_ had moved three thousand parsecs in space, and her link with the rest of Gaia had changed from a tiny, tenuous thing to a mental avalanche. The shock of it woke her from a sound sleep, and her own awakening woke Pel. She felt his mind shift from remsleep (a term whose origin was lost in the mists of time) to full consciousness.

Pel looked over at her, and she felt his curiosity. "We're here," she explained.

Pel's curiosity changed to understanding. He had deduced from her words (as she knew he would) that they had jumped into Gaia's planetary system, and were now within a hundred million miles of the unified planetary consciousness that was Gaia.

Within minutes of the Jump, the two were dressed, and had made their way to the ship's pilot-room. There they found Trev sitting at his computer console. In the screen above it, there was a view of stars, with one particularly bright star centered in the screen.

"The stars," Blissenobiarella murmured.

She could feel Trev's amusement as he said, "You've seen the stars before, surely."

She suspected he knew very well what she meant, but she explained anyway. "It's just been so long since I've seen these stars."

Trev nodded. "It's a common reaction. For most of the people in the Galaxy, the pattern of stars they see when they look up at their world's night sky is part of the familiar environment that they're used to. No matter how many other starfields they see in their lifetime, that one particular pattern is always what they think of as the stars. To someone from Terminus, for instance, the Diamonds and the Mist are the stars." A smile on Trev's face matched the amusement he radiated. "It's comforting to know that even though you're a part of Gaia, you're still human enough to feel homesick."

Hour by hour, the sun of Gaia grew brighter on the screen, until it was almost too bright to look at. After that, its intensity remained constant, and only its size changed. Finally, a blue star drifted onto the edge of the screen, and that star grew quickly into a blue and white circle. Then the circle grew into a world, and Trev brought the Far Star down to land on it.

When the airlock opened, and she could smell the air of Gaia, she knew in a way that was beyond conscious knowlege that she was home. As Trev stepped out to join her, she said, "No exclamation of 'Back home to the crap'?"

"Gaia may be the only world in the Galaxy where returning from offworld is not a crappy experience," said Trev. "I think that may be the real reason I chose Galaxia." Trev was being facetious, of course. He wouldn't choose to transform the entire Galaxy into a larger version of Gaia just because of the way Gaia smelled. On the other hand, even Trev himself couldn't articulate just exactly why he did choose Galaxia. Perhaps, in the end, it really was the smell that finally decided him.

Trev had landed the Far Star on the same spot it had occupied during his first visit, and Dom was waiting to greet them all when they left the ship. Once again, familiarity brought with it a sense of satisfaction. Blissenobiarella wasn't entirely happy to learn that, as Trev had observed, she was still human enough to feel homesick. After all, she had been in mental contact with Dom, along with the rest of Gaia, throughout her voyages on the Far Star. Something as relatively crude as visual perception shouldn't have so overwhelming an emotional impact upon her, and yet it did. In the final analysis, it was humbling to learn just how much she had in common with the Isolates of other worlds.

Normally, she would communicate with Dom on a largely nonverbal, emotional level. However, out of deference to Pel and Trev, she and Dom conducted their conversation verbally. "You seem different," she said to Dom.

"I am different," he said, "and you are the reason."

"How so?"

"As you can imagine, we've all been following your exploits among the other worlds, and we've all found it terribly interesting. You've become a celebrity."

"A what?"

"It's an Isolate word. A celebrity is someone who is celebrated, someone whose existence has become known to a large percentage of the population. Here on Gaia, of course, everyone is more or less aware of the existence of everyone else. On the Isolate worlds, however, an individual remains unknown unless his or her actions are communicated, for whatever reason, to the general population.

"Your own adventures on the other worlds have made everyone on Gaia particularly aware of your existence, to an unusual extent. As a result, I find myself thrust into the role of intermediary. For the moment, I represent not merely myself, but also an appreciable fraction of the human population of Gaia. We all wanted to be here to welcome you back home. Welcome back!"

Momentarily overwhelmed, all Blissenobiarella could say was, "It's good to be back."

Dom continued, "It is also the general feeling on Gaia that the experiences you've accumulated offworld entitle you to add another three syllables to your name. We're a bit ashamed to admit to a certain curiosity concerning which syllables you'll eventually choose, so we would appreciate it if you could let us know as soon as you've decided on them."

She smiled, for to her the choice of the new addition to her name had become blindingly obvious as soon as Dom had mentioned it. She said, "You won't have to wait long, because I've already chosen them. My full name will now be Blissenobiarellapelorat."

1 comment:

Krishna said...


I am Krishnamoorthy Iyer, from Bombay, India. I am a PhD candidate in Electrical Engineering at IIT Bombay. I just came across your short write-up "Homecoming" dealing with the return of Golan Trevize, Janov Pelorat, and Bliss to Gaia.

As a fan of Asimov since age 14 at least (I am now 36), your piece gladdened me.

Keep up the good work!

Krishnamoorthy Iyer (Krishna)