This is a brief excerpt from “The Farr Road,” the lead novelette in my science fiction collection, Beyond the Farr Road, available on Amazon.com.
I have been an idiot for the better part of my life, but I have rarely been stupid. Now, I realize one might think those two things the same, but you wouldn’t if you’d spent your life in the military, as I have. An idiot follows orders without questioning. A stupid man doesn’t realize there were questions to ask. An idiot marches into a battle he cannot win. A stupid man does not realize he cannot win it. I am not stupid; up until the glide with my lovely Xaarell, I had simply chosen to be idiotic. But no longer. It took me no more than a Farran hour to realize what was happening. I was not a bright, blue novelty to show off to Mother. I was not an indigo prince sent to charm the simple peasant folk of North Farr. I was not a suave lover sweeping the tall lovelies off their feet as they fought for my attentions with promises of lovemaking. No, I was a tattered blue ball, passed from one athlete to another, sent to cross a goal line I’d never see on my own. Deeah Betus had started my journey by paying a room full of rowdy women to keep me awake for more than a week. She took my sleepy body, worn-out ball that I was, and handed me off to Letha Commis. Letha broke me by allowing me to break her. Her reactions to my affront were real, and I only now realized that a businesswoman of her caliber would have never risked offending me with the truth. Were this a purely business venture, she would have pretended not to notice my insult while quickly ushering me out of her rooms. Instead, she taught me to feel as the Farrans do instead of sat atop logic as I’d been programmed. We spoke for hours after my error, the entire dialog a lesson in Farran social norms. During our intermittent meetings, all of which I’m sure she’d arranged, she tested me, seeing if I were adapting to her culture. Once she was certain I was ready and could appreciate her people, she made the final handoff, to my current hostess, the silent Xaarell, who sailed along this noiseless sea of Farrans, carrying me home. Three hours and thirty-six minutes into our journey, she turned to me and finally spoke.
“Are you in love yet?” she asked.
“I am getting there.”
I looked away from her and to the tan and red-streaked sand; to the white, cascading seas; to the flocks of four-winged sea birds; to the dearth, the total absence of evidence that a single humanoid had ever breached these shores. These creatures, these Farrans, lived completely within the bounds of nature. Unlike us, they had not scarred their home. They never depleted their resources. Farrans treated their planet like a loved one, coddling the land instead of developing it. Their world is rich and they have wanted for little. They never knew hunger, want, or fear. They never learned to hate those who would take what they had. Our worlds would never be compatible. Not with all the hope I could muster. Not in a million years.