This a short story I’ve written as a companion piece to my novel, Gemini Song. It takes place after the events of that book, and before the possible sequel.
You can read Gemini Song here:
It was a beautiful day on the planet Tara, as usual.
The sky was the perfect shade of cerulean, offset with the occasional puffy, white cloud. Apeilon, Tara’s star, shone brightly overhead, illuminating the avenue, which was lined with café tables and trees with purple blossoms.
Leah sat at a table at the end of the avenue, under a tree with heavy, low handing branches. She stared up through the branches through her pink framed sunglasses and frowned. Every once in a while, she would sigh loudly and, in response, the time would display on her glasses frames before flashing away once more.
Of course, she couldn’t blame her companions for being late. Life had been weird ever since their arrival on Tara. She’d lived in at least three different apartments so far, as space was shifted to allow for the sudden influx of refugees from the now destroyed Earth. The refugees, too, had been lulled into sloth by the pleasant atmosphere on their new world. Earth had been a paved-over, grey skied dump; there was nothing to do on Earth but work. But here on Tara there were fields, forests, streams, and endless sunny days. Many new arrivals were taking weeks off to go hiking and camping- to hell with filing reports and overseeing infrastructure building.
Thankfully, Prometheus- the great computer that ruled civilization- had been able to use the limited apartment space to incentivize workers, and the world seemed to be settling down into a routine, once more. Still, long lunch breaks were now the norm, and there weren’t many times during the day when, like now, the street cafés were almost empty.
Leah considered herself lucky. She was a member of the artist caste, meaning she had a fairly non-essential job. She could take as much time as she liked during the day, and Prometheus had still given her a nice-sized apartment all to herself. There was no one around to hassle her.
“Hey, Leah. Don’t you dare be late for rehearsal again, or I’ll hang you from the rafters.”
Well, no one but Grant.
“Hi Grant. I have plenty of time before rehearsal. You are the one who was late for tea.” She smiled sweetly at the tall, skinny man who had sat down at the table beside her.
“Oh no- late for tea. How will our dance company ever recover from such a mishap? I can see the critical reviews now. ‘Eminent Artistic Director Late for Tea.’”
“Just wait- once we debut The Music of the Spheres we’ll all be famous. It will be hailed as the greatest ballet of all time.”
“As long as I’m on time for rehearsal.”
Grant nodded. “Exactly.”
He leaned over the table and pressed a glass panel on top with his thumb, and a holographic menu in pink and lilac popped up in front of his eyes.
“I’ll have black tea, plain-“ he waved the menu away, and his order popped up automatically, seemingly from inside the table.
“We aren’t waiting for Cherry?”
As if in response to Leah’s question, a tiny, curly- haired redhead pounded up to their table, and then bent over, gasping and out of breath.
“You’re out of shape, Cherry,” Grant said. “You should take classes with the company students every day until opening night.”
“I’m already,” Cherry gasped and bent over again, panting, until she caught her breath again. “I’m already taking the advanced student class after company class. That’s why I’m late. But guys, you won’t believe what happened.”
“Does this have anything to do with the company?”
“No-“ Leah answered before Cherry could. “She’s been reading the gossip on usernet, again. She’ll believe anything they post-“
“But it’s true, this time! They have leaked videos and everything. Listen,” Cherry sat down and took a communicator from her pocket. “I’ve been reading-“
“What do you want to drink?” Leah interrupted, removing her glasses and pressing her thumb on the table. “I’m getting a boba tea, and maybe a croissant-“
“You’re on a diet,” Grant said.
“Ok, no croissant.”
“I’ll just have green tea,” Cherry said. “But listen, guys, you know that Prometheus’s orders have been getting weird ever since the Tiamat incident-“
“Do you even know what the “Tiamat incident” was?” Leah asked.
“No one knows what the Tiamat incident was!” Cherry said, shaking her ginger curls excitedly. “The whole thing is a huge secret. First there’s a giant ether storm in space that almost destroys the computer who runs our whole society, and then a new computer called Tiamat appears from nowhere? Mysterious.”
“And some random weirdo on usernet has figured it out?” Grant said, arching his brows.
“No, but the gossip is getting really good. You know that there were peace talks recently with the colonies on the galactic rim, right?”
“Yeah, I know that. Big waste of time, though, right? It’s not like there was a war or anything. I think Prometheus just wants to keep our ambassadors from getting bored,” Leah said.
“Ok, so after the peace talks were over, Prometheus gives High Priestess Z0, and her assistant, Sister Z12, an order to go to Zairi 3 and wait for further orders.”
“Zairi 3, the resort planet?” Grant said.
“Yeah, to this really awesome resort called the Grande Poseidon.”
“Oh- I know the place. My mom went there with my ex-stepdad when they were trying to save their marriage. They got divorced anyway- she met stepdad #3 at the resort bar.”
“Anyway, so the High Priestess and her assistant go there, and a couple of weeks go by- no orders. So the High Priestess contacts Prometheus and says, ‘what’s the deal?’ Prometheus replies, ‘oh, you have high levels of stress hormones. You should take a yoga class.’”
“Wow, who cares?” Grant said. “Usernet can’t make up any interesting gossip?”
“This isn’t made up. Anyway, so she takes the yoga class, and still no orders from Prometheus. So she contacts him again and this time he said, ‘Oh hey, both you and sister Z12 have really high levels of stress hormones. You should get a couples massage , to relax.”
Leah snorted, and put her hand up just in time to keep from spewing tea all over the table. Grant just shook his head and took another sip of tea.
“That’s so cruel! Everyone knows that Z12 is totally gaga for the High Priestess, even though she’s totally clueless. “ Leah scooted her chair closer to Cherry and took her communicator, peering closely at the screen. “And the priestesses are supposed to be celibate.“
“And now I’ve lost Leah to the madness.” Grant sighed.
“Yeah, the High Priestess was completely clueless, and she tried to get Z12 to go with her to get the massage. Z12 just started crying and had a complete breakdown in the hotel.”
“It’s really awful to spread these kinds of rumors,” Grant said. “That poor woman-“
“But there’s an article in the actual news- apparently Z12 has announced that she’s really leaving the priesthood. Not only that, but Prometheus has officially announced that they’re getting rid of the celibacy rule in the priesthood. Last week, Z12- well, Katherine, she’s going by her real name now- was spotted in the same hotel again with the High Priestess.”
“And?” Grant said.
“I’m glad they got rid of the celibacy rule. It was stupid. There a lot of talented people who can’t be in the priesthood because of it,” Leah said.
“But isn’t this weird? People on usernet are saying that it’s the first of a lot of changes that Tiamat is going to make.”
“Prometheus gave the order,” Leah pointed out.
“Sure, yeah, but this all must be Tiamat’s influence. A lot of weird orders have gone out since Tiamat appeared.”
“There have been some weird things going on,” Grant conceded. “A lot of unpopular companies have been getting top venues for plays, operas and ballets. No one had ever heard of Starkid productions, and all of a sudden they have the hottest play in this quadrant.”
“Now you’re being silly, Grant,” Leah said. Prometheus has always given nonsensical orders- at least, orders that seem nonsensical. But everything always works out for the best. We’re just picking out strange orders out of a whole bunch of normal ones to fit our story of a weird new computer coming in and taking over our civilization.”
“Not weird, just different,” Cherry took her communicator back and smiled and mysterious smile. “Trust me, new, wonderful things are going to happen soon. They’re already happening.”
Leah stared at Cherry for a moment, almost in awe at the certainty in her voice, and then she shook her head and put her glasses on, again. “Sure thing, Cherry.”
“I’ll believe that when I see it,” Grant said. “Come on, Leah. Let’s get to rehersal.”
“I’ll be along in a minute,” Cherry said. “I want to finish my tea.”
“Ok- see you at the auditorium,” Leah said with a wave. She linked arms with Grant, and the two walked between the blossoming trees on the sunny avenue.
Cherry smiled as they left, and then her communicator vibrated. She pressed the screen, and held the communicator to her ear.
“Hello- Prometheus! Yes, what are your orders? Of course. I’ve already shared the story on usernet. I’ll be sure to get Grant on board as soon as possible. I agree, he’s perfect to share Tiamat’s message. Yes, Prometheus. I await further orders.”
Cherry put the communicator into her handbag, and then stood, putting her teacup into the nearest trash receptacle. Then she put on her own sunglasses, and strode up the street, a spring in her step.
It was another beautiful day on the planet Tara.