an excerpt

What You Will: Chapter One

Mado

Before stepping across the threshold into the alien spacecraft, Mado stopped and peered inside, but he only saw darkness. He was having second thoughts about coming here.

A voice inside Mado’s head said in Prevorian, “Please come inside, Mado of Prevor.”

Mado was surprised to hear this voice speaking his own language inside his mind.

“Would you rather we converse in Kodan?” the voice said.

Mado thought, “Are you reading my mind?”

“Yes, that’s one way of defining how we communicate. Please come in.”

Mado glanced over his shoulder at the outpost and the WAEF parked beside it.

“No harm will come to Yor Vanderlord or the spaceship.”

“If you know Prevorian, why not broadcast it over your speaker system?”

“You’re an intelligent creature. You already know the answer.”

Mado chuckled. He had to be in close proximity for them to communicate in a language familiar to him, he thought.

“Correct,” the voice said. “Please enter. We will do you no harm.”

Mado stepped across the threshold and a door slid closed behind him from the ceiling to the floor. There was absolutely no light in the room. He could see nothing. He thought about turning on his helmet’s lights, then a dim glow materialized over his head. He couldn’t locate a source.

The room was circular.

A small rectangle appeared on the curved wall, displaying a poor-quality vid. Mado walked closer and realized that he was looking at the slope of the crater on B-452 where he and Yorlik had discovered the alien spacecraft. The scene kept cutting out to static and back in again. This place had been in Mado’s thoughts ever since Yor told him about observing the aliens during his spacewalk.

In the vid, two figures in spacesuits descended the slope. It was Yorlik and himself.

Mado chuckled.

“Yes, you were correct,” the voice said. “This moment was captured by a device on the outside of the craft.”

The rectangle disappeared and the entire room became an immersive holographic reenactment of himself and Yorlik in their spacesuits at the bottom of the crater. Mado was shocked by the realism. It was as if he was standing on B-452. He kicked at the surface and dirt flew forward in concert with the planetoid’s gravity.

The two figures approached until they were standing on either side of him. They were talking. Mado couldn’t hear them, but he recalled the conversation. He had been hesitant to go any further. Yorlik was excited to forge ahead. The sight of Yorlik alive made him emotional.

“Your tech is impressive,” Mado thought. “But is there a point to all this?”

“Patience.”

The holographic image of the planet’s surface changed in a blink of an eye to a scene inside the spacecraft where Yorlik and Mado were observing the dead aliens at the helm.

“This is a revered moment in the history of our people,” the voice said. “It altered our view of life in the universe. We debated for centuries about whether other life-forms were worthy of contact, considering how they treat others. Your act of leaving the bodies undisturbed and Yorlik Vanderlord’s emotional reaction at the loss of life changed our outlook, giving our species purpose.”

“That’s why you hailed me to your craft?”

“Yes, and that’s why we’ve been watching you and the Kodan people.”

“The Kodan people?”

“Yes, we’ve been watching from afar. We have our reservations about them, but we are intrigued by why a Prevorian would be inclined to care about them.”

There was a flash of light and Mado was standing on a Prevorian beach. The ocean was washing up on the shore. In contrast to the silence of the previous hologram, Mado could hear each wave crashing on the sand, then drawing back with a hiss for another to follow. He could hear the flying sea creatures squawking overhead and even smell the salty ocean air. Memories flooded his mind, of evening meals around the table with his parents as a child, of swimming in the ocean, of his coming-of-age ritual surrounded by his entire clan—mother, father, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, great-grandparents, great-great grandparents—at the deepest trench on the planet.

The voice said, “For all intents and purposes, you’re on Prevor now.”

“How is that possible?” Mado thought.

“You will understand this science in the near future, but please satisfy our curiosity now. Why do you care so much about the Kodan people? They’re not of your kind and their worthiness is questionable,” the voice said. “We are all listening.”

“Who are ‘we’?”

“We are we.”

“We are we?”

“We are individuals of the same planet and the same race, and we are of one consciousness.”

Mado thought, “If you’re in my mind, then you know why I dedicated myself to the Kodan people.”

“Although we are surfing your conscious mind, we’re not allowed to access another’s deepest thoughts, emotions, or memories, unless you release them yourself.”

“Seems arbitrary,” Mado thought reflexively, then wished he’d practiced more self-control.

“Many of us believe as you do, but the rule has been in place for as long as we have possessed this ability.”

Mado said out loud in Prevorian, “I’m going to speak now. This is getting weird for me.”

“Whatever makes you comfortable,” said the voice inside Mado’s head. “You are our honored guest.”

“That’s good to know,” Mado said. “The answer is simple. I believe in the sanctity of life. I shared this value with Yorlik Vanderlord. I find it ironic that you should place me on Prevor, because this philosophy is one of the foundations of Prevorian civilization.”

“That is debatable given our knowledge of Prevorian history, and your Protectorate would not look kindly on you helping the Kodans by sharing your tech. It is against their code.”

“That may be so, but they’ve never been in my position and met someone like Yorlik.”

“The value you shared with Yorlik doesn’t appear to be prevalent among Kodans. Yorlik was atypical in that way.”

“I can’t argue that fact, but why would Prevorian code or Kodan ethical standards stop Yorlik and myself from preserving life, respecting life? One hopes a species might be led in the right direction by example and evolve. All species should be afforded that opportunity. They should be given the benefit of the doubt.”

“Is that why you did not disturb our life-forms in that craft?”

“One of the reasons.”

All at once, a multitude of voices inside Mado’s head erupted in simultaneous rapid-fire conversations, speaking over one another. Mado focused to isolate individual voices and noted that they were expressing themselves in something similar to an ancient Prevorian dialect. He thought this might be in deference to him. Some of the voices believed what he’d said. Others were skeptical of his intentions. They debated whether to move forward with the reason they’d exposed themselves to him, why they’d risked bringing him onboard. This continued for an indeterminate amount of time, then all at once, like a switch was thrown, the discussion stopped and there was silence. Mado’s head hurt.

He waited for a voice to engage him, then called out, “Anyone there?”

The original voice in his head said, “Yes, and we apologize if we caused any discomfort.”

“You want to tell me what that was about?”

“We can show you what we’ve decided.”

The Prevorian landscape faded away and the room was plunged into darkness. Mado felt a sense of loss. In all his years on Koda, focused on saving the humanoids there, he had forgotten on an emotional level how much he missed his home.

Suddenly, a part of the wall in front of him became a window into outer space like the one in the WAEF’s control room. The spacecraft appeared to be approaching a planet. Mado recognized it as the habitable world that Yorlik discovered.

Mado said, “Is that…?”

“It is,” said the voice in his head.

“A projection?”

“No, we’ve just arrived.”

“Why have you brought me here? For that matter, how did we get here so quickly?”

“We will show you the answer to the first question. The second is beyond your comprehension.”

Mado didn’t appreciate the condescension although he was amazed that this spacecraft had traversed the distance from Koda’s solar system to the habitable planet in what felt like a few moments. He hadn’t felt any acceleration or physical effects from whatever means of propulsion they were utilizing, and the journey would’ve taken the WAEF over twenty-five years at close to light-speed.

The voice said, “Sorry to rankle your self-esteem. Ego is an interesting quality in the under-evolved. We do have great admiration for your people’s scientific achievements—limited though they may be—and how you applied them to save the Kodan people from disaster.”

“Thank you, I think,” Mado said. “I’m curious. Where I come from, it’s rude to communicate with someone from another room, especially a complete stranger.”

“In this case, you are communicating with a collective of minds, so we cannot all be there physically. We’ve also evolved to a point where our physical beings are sensitive to unknown viruses, so we shy away from interacting with outsiders.”

“Sure, that makes sense,” Mado said. “So why are we here?”

While they’d been chatting, the craft had moved closer to the planet until the blue orb filled the window.

“Keep your eyes on the screen. You will experience dizziness and a sensation of discomfort.”

The clouds over the planet had been moving at a normal pace, but now they began to accelerate in one direction until they were a blur, as if an unseen force was causing the planet to spin on its axis at an extraordinary velocity. Mado felt woozy. When the planet’s spin slowed to normal, Mado’s legs were rubbery. There was nothing in sight to prop himself up with and keep him from falling, but thankfully, he regained his equilibrium before that happened.

“That was interesting,” Mado said, then took a long look at the planet. It reminded him of Koda before he and Yor left. The continents had shrunk, overtaken by the oceans. He also noted dozens and dozens of satellites. On the dark side, except for small spots of light, the planet was pitch-black. “What am I looking at?”

“This is the planet in the future, approximately three thousand Kodan years. The Kodan people settled here—that part of your plan worked—then they gradually destroyed it like they did Koda. At this point in time, they are a species on the brink of extinction.”

“How is that possible?”

“They never learned from their mistakes. They never followed your example.”

“I meant, how am I seeing the planet’s future and why should I believe you?”

“In the simplest terms that you’ll be able to understand—and again, no disrespect—”

“Of course.”

“We have found a way to use technology to view the future through a dimensional shift. You are still in your time of existence.”

“So we’re not physically in the future?”

“Our minds are in the future. Our bodies are in the past.”

“But I can see my body.” Mado attempted to touch his arm, but his hand passed through it, then through his torso. “Oh—so my mind is separated from my body?”

“Yes—in a sense, the body you see is an illusion created by your mind.”

“So I’m seeing this planet? It’s real? It isn’t just a depiction of what might happen?”

“Correct.”

“I’m still skeptical.”

“We thought you’d need convincing,” the voice said. “First, you must understand this is all history for us.”

“History? So you’re communicating from the future?”

“Yes and no. We exist in the present, but we have knowledge from our future selves of events that haven’t yet occurred in your time.”

“So you’ve culled your technology from the future. That’s why it’s so advanced.”

“Advanced? That’s all relative, isn’t it? The easiest way to explain our technological leap from what you saw on what you call ‘B-452’ is that it’s partially due to our communication with the future.”

“That does answer a few of my other questions,” Mado said. “So what I’m perceiving is something one of your spacecraft in the future is seeing, or has seen, or will see?”

“Yes, that explains it within your range of comprehension, but we understand you still need more evidence,” the voice said. “We imagine that your most vivid memory of this planet is the oceans filled with life.”

The craft accelerated toward the planet, entered the atmosphere, and broke through cloud cover. It headed for the ocean below and rapidly decelerated before diving into the water. On the WAEF, Mado would have been strapped into the control-room chair to prevent him from being thrown about the room. Here, he was standing the entire time and didn’t feel any effects of the maneuvers.

The craft descended into the ocean’s depths, leveled off, and moved forward.

The voice said, “You can see for yourself.”

The ocean was lifeless. When he and Yorlik had explored here, the water was teeming with aquatic creatures in symbiotic coexistence, and the plant life on the ocean floor was effervescent. Sadness washed over Mado. He thought again of how much he missed Prevor.

“Do not despair. You will be home soon.”

The wall went blank and Mado felt woozy once again. When he regained some semblance of balance, he reached with his hand to pat his arm and he struck himself now.

The voice said, “After frequent encounters with the dimensional shift, it gets easier. You’re back in your own time now.”

A portion of the room’s curved wall faded and six aliens stood before him. They were unclothed with smooth grey skin. No genitalia. Their faces appeared just as Mado recalled from the spacecraft on B-452. One of the aliens stepped forward.

The voice said, “To foster trust, this is the captain of the spacecraft and part of his crew. An energy field separates them from you for viral protection.”

“I appreciate the gesture,” Mado said. “So I guess you know my next question.”

“Why are we showing you this now?”

“Yes, it kind of feels like you’re rubbing my face in my failure.”

“We’ve revealed the truth about the outcome of your work on Koda as a token of gratitude for honoring our sacred site and gifting our existences with new meaning,” the voice said. “Since you’re returning to Prevor.”

Mado sighed. That was his plan, but maybe he could still do something to save the Kodans.

“And no,” the voice said. “Our consensus is that nothing can be done to prevent the future from unfolding the way you’ve seen. It has been written. It is inevitable.”

“I can’t believe that.”

“Yes, we know.”

A doorway opened behind him.

The voice said, “We have returned you to the time and place you came aboard.”

Mado approached the aliens. One of them stepped forward while the rest retreated, disappearing behind the missing portion of the room’s curved wall, which rematerialized in front of them. The lone alien was a meter shorter than Mado.

“So that’s it?” Mado said to the alien. “I know you’ve revealed all this in good faith, but it’s depressing news.”

“There is a theory among a minority of our people based on ancient texts.” The alien’s mouth never moved, but Mado somehow knew that it was this alien alone expressing itself now. “They say the future is malleable and can be altered by behaving differently in the past. The text says, ‘The future is yours. Make of it what you will.’”

 

From Vol. 3 of the SEEDER Series