In the last episode, Wort had agreed to leave Earth.
Wort gazed fondly at Elizabeth, the euphoria from cerveza loca intensifying the happiness he felt at seeing her. The death of Papa—her only surviving relative—had left Elizabeth with no reason to stay on Earth, so she had joined him in his escape. Papa’s abrupt loss had crushed her veneer of self-assurance, revealing a helplessness that Wort had never seen before. Once they had reincorporated in the target solar system, she had depended heavily on cerveza loca to deal with the loss. Wort wondered how she would react when he was reunited with his family, which would happen soon. Another rush of euphoria hit him and he reached out to touch Elizabeth’s face. She was the most beautiful thing in the universe.
“She’s beautiful,” a voice behind him said. Wort turned quickly. A man stood over them. Wort prepared to fight, stepping between the man and Elizabeth.
“I know her,” the man said. “Elizabeth Johnson.” It was the first time Wort had heard Elizabeth’s surname and he paused. “She was the top Physics student at Incarnate Word,” the man continued, stretching out his hand. “My name is Garvey.”
Wort shook the hand, trusting his instincts, which told him the man wasn’t dangerous. “She seems to know everyone,” he said.
“She might not recognize me,” the man said. “I was only there for a semester. She was an academic star.”
Wort noticed the A-B Celestial Services label on the chest pocket of Garvey’s uniform. “You work in the kitchen?” he asked.
“Engine room,” Garvey said.
“Why are you here?”
“I happened to be near the bridge and heard something I thought would interest you.”
“Garvey.” Both men turned as Elizabeth sat up and stretched out her hand.
“You remember me,” Garvey said, taking the hand.
“Of course. We studied together.”
“You taught and I learned,” Garvey replied.
“You’re too kind,” Elizabeth said.
“No, just honest,” Garvey said.
“Well, the roles are reversed here,” Elizabeth said. “This is my first time off Mother.”
“And…” Garvey began, looking at Wort.
“My husband,” she replied. Wort kept silent
“I’d be flattered to help you,” said Garvey.
“What did you hear?” Elizabeth asked.
“You’re being pursued. The captain knows you’re on board. They’ve sent a tracker ship after us, which means you’re important to the regime.”
“Joshua,” Elizabeth said. She turned to Garvey. “Are we in danger now?”
“The captain won’t take any action until he’s sure he’s got the regime’s backup,” Garvey said. He surveyed the two of them for a few moments. Then said, “I don’t know what kind of trouble you’re in, but the thought of an approaching tracker intrigues me.”
“We’re going to find my family!” Wort said, surprising even himself with the firmness of his statement. “They’re on Job.”
“I have to get back to the engine room,” Garvey replied. “Let me talk to a few people about reaching Job, and I’ll get back to you. I think we can work something out. For now, welcome aboard.”
“Ummm…Garvey,” Elizabeth began, “Is there a place where we can…safely?”
Garvey smiled. “On Deck B, beyond the engine room you’ll find a series of rooms. Mine will provide you with some privacy.” He rummaged in his top pocket for a moment. Then drew out a plastic ID card. “Funny think, the monitor doesn’t seem to be working in that room. Nor does the smoke detector, and there’s beer in the refrigerator.”
“Thanks,” Elizabeth said, taking the card.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Elizabeth sighed and pulled Wort closer. “Thank you. It’s been light years.”
“Thank you,” Wort replied, brushing a lock of hair off her forehead.
“No, thank you,” she said. “I thought I’d never feel you again.”
“Thank you. I’m the lucky one.”
Elizabeth laughed. Then, just as suddenly began to cry. Wort watched her, wondering whether the extreme reaction was due to her loss, or side effects of cerveza loca. He glanced around the room and spotted the refrigerator. “Want a beer?”
“Sorry, I don’t know what came over me,” Elizabeth said, wiping tears from her cheeks. “It must be Papito again.”
Wort took a beer out of the refrigerator, ignoring the comment. Elizabeth had repressed Papa’s loss by substituting him for the child they’d taken from her years ago. She talked incessantly about the loss of her son, and how she’d maintained a relationship with him across the border.
“It’s probably the glintz,” Wort said. He set the beer down and reached into the pocket of the shirt lying beside Elizabeth. Pulling out a cigarette, he put it to her lips, then lit it. Once she had regained control, he poured beer into a glass, careful to avoid a foam-over from the low level of induced gravity. “Who do you think brewed this?” he wondered aloud.
“That’s your field,” Elizabeth said. “You’re the brewer. What I want to know is what Garvey’s up to. Why did he contact us?”
“You don’t trust him?”
“I trust him, but he’s a two track thinker. He’s always got something else in mind.”
“He sounded interested in the tracker.”
A soft beeping interrupted their conversation. “Sounds like an alarm clock,” Wort said. He slipped on his pants and walked to Garvey’s desk computer, which had lit up. “There’s a welcome message,” he said.
Elizabeth joined him. “Start it,” she said.
A graphics free screen revealed a simple message: “This message will self delete upon appearance.” Elizabeth pushed Wort into the chair and sat on his lap.
“The colonization of space provided, for the first time, a safe haven for the development of the Einsteinian Dialectic. Intellectual development on Mother had progressed no further than the ancient but dominant Judeo/Christian ethic of resource exploitation and its Conquistator-style justification. Freed from the regime’s tracking apparatus, extraterrestial colonizers were able to resume the intellectual evolution of thought. Some colonizers began to expand the frontiers of the human brain.
Eventually, we were forced to break entirely from the old patterns of thought and form a loose network of fellows willing to forge a new system. While the break was and still is difficult, the Exiles agree it’s necessary until the regime reconciles their system with the tremendous power their scientists have unleashed. We have learned from the inflexibilities of Mother’s dominant, consumer-driven political structure, and have avoided the regime’s mistakes of getting slowed by highly profitable settlements with intractable difficulties. We’ve also strengthened our intellectual pool by including all Mother’s cultural traditions. This has helped immeasurably in further celestial exploration. We call ourselves Exiles. Our community is exciting! There is so much new thought going on!
To justify the rejection of our first statement principles, the regime fell back upon past victories of state capitalism. Survival in space requires different thought processes, however, and the Einsteinian Dialectic continues to develop rapidly. This has created a predictable resistance from the regime and its loyalists, but our non-confrontational approach and superior negotiating abilities have, so far, kept them from an overt attempt to destroy us. The greatest problem the regime encounters—the one that may result in their attempting to repress us—is the massive intellectual drain they are experiencing. While it has served to stabilize their own governance structure by ridding them of intellectual dissidents, the long-term effects worry regime commanders. As far as we can determine, the regime has not formulated a policy to deal…” The screen suddenly went blank and a face appeared. “Joshua!” Elizabeth gasped.
“Elizabeth, I love and need you,” the image said. “I have sent a tracker to bring you and my child back to Mother. I trust The Lord you will enter it and save the lives of those aboard the vessel you occupy.”
By Bill Metzger
Copyright 1994, Southwest Brewing News