Chapter VIII.

22 Jul

Violent, strong turbulence arrived that spring to the aurora that enveloped the planet Tegumen. An unprecedented quantity of galactic radiation descended on all the mountain stations, including the one at Zeviv. More iotic energy than ever before was being created every day and night. A highly tense static seemed to permeate the air all about. The iotic meters and energy gauges registered that a flooding overflow was in progress. Nothing this severe had ever happened before.

“Some nearby star is going through a cyclonic convulsion, that is all,” opined the chief of dynamics. Emies was sitting with his understudy at the circular table in their apartment. He appeared to be in a contemplative mood as they waited for Joa to arrive with their midday meals.

“If you are going to become my official assistant, as I hope, then you must become accustomed to these occasional eruptions and outbursts in outer space. They are part of the overall order of our universe. There is nothing any of us can do about them.” He smiled calmly at Yie. “There is no possible explanation or rationalization. These happen, and that is that. We must live with them, because they are inevitable.”

The prentice frowned. “Must we, then, always submit to what Nature decrees for us?”

“What are you thinking of, Yie? That insane scheme of yours for the diversion of iotic energy to the lower altitudes, perhaps?” He gave his pupil a quizzical look.

What shall I say now? pondered the belower to himself, his mind going far beyond what his instructor seemed to be implying with his question.

But before he could decide how to reply, Joa appeared in the doorway of the apartment, carrying their repast to them on a metalline tray.

Yie was thankful that he was saved from having to devise any detailed, lengthy explanation of where his thoughts were leading him. He was not too certain where that might be himself.

_

Rain, rare and unusual up at the heights, began to fall in torrents over the claustrum. Strange and unsettling was this precipitation, so different from the winter snow. An early spring was clearing off the mountain’s terrain.

Few inhabitants could remember the last time anything like that had happened.

Some updraft of air from the lowlands must be the cause, many remarked. But rain would not interfere with work or normal operations. It must be taken in stride, said several wise, experienced individuals. There was nothing to become worried about. The snows were beginning to melt off the rocky surface of the summit. Never had it occurred this early. The mountains had always been the way they were for ages. No one expected them to change.

Yie came to the depository in the hegumenia building despite the drenching rainfall. He found Joa there, awaiting his arrival.

“I wasn’t sure you were coming tonight,” she told him wistfully. “There is so much bad weather outdoors that you were justified in staying away.”

“It would have been a first time for me,” he said, taking off his soaking saque coat and hanging it to dry on the back of the chair he usually used.

Joa stood a few feet away, facing him.

“You must not catch a cough in this damp chill,” she warned him. “I want you to stay healthy so we can continue our important work together. That is important to me, and I know it is the same for you.”

“I will begin doing something as soon as I dry out,” he promised her.

“There is no need to hurry,” she murmured. “The folios will wait for us.”

She moved one step, then two steps, closer to him.

As Yie watched in wonder, she seemed to be signaling a message that indicated that the overture of their relationship was ended and that a new, more intimate stage was about to start soon.

Neither of them could say for sure what might happen next. That seemed contingent on a number of different factors.

“Your shirt blouse is wet,” she said in a low voice. “Why don’t you let me help take it off?”

He watched unmovingly as she went to his side and began to unfasten the laces that held his shirt blouse tightly to his left arm and shoulder.

At one unspecified moment, the unexpected happened.

The door to the depository flew open in a flash. A shape with formidable power and authority stood there. Both researchers turned their heads and eyes to catch sight of the Hegumen, Nomb Aacn.

He occupied the doorway like a mountain rock, firm and solid.

The minds of both Yie and Joa went blank in surprise and near panic.

What will he say to us? What will he do? The pair waited what seemed an interminable period.

Although something would surely soon occur, no one could foresee what it was going to be. Even the Hegumen was at a loss as to what he intended to do. The suspense reached an unforeseen peak of nervous tension.

His baby blue eyes, as hard as granites, focused on the half-removed shirt blouse hanging down from the body of the prentice.

Shock and outrage suddenly rose up the throat of the irate father.

Something was called for, Nomb Aacn decided. At last, he knew what the moment demanded. He saw what he had to do.

“Get out of here!” his hoarse voice roughly crackled. “I mean out of our claustrum. You are no longer welcome here, scum from the valley. Go back to where you belong, or else I shall choke you to death myself. Get out and never return. It was a mistake to allow such vermin as you into our midst. You do not belong in our community at all. You shall have to depart at once.”

Yie looked at the fuming, raging father whose face had turned an almost purplish shade of red. He chose not to take the path of physical opposition or confrontation, but took his saque coat off the chair and began to put it on, his movements extremely rapid.

A glance at Joa made him realize that any fight with her father at that time would only cause her shame and distress. Her face was a colorless, pale mask without feeling in it. What was behind it, he could not yet tell.

The only way to protect Joa was to disappear quickly. That was the sole available means to lower the heat of her father’s ire. Once he himself was gone, she would be at the mercy of the Hegumen. His hope was that paternal love would prevail over every other feeling in the parent. There was no alternative to leaving her here, Yie decided. The risk had to be taken.

The prentice made his way out of the hegumenia, into the pounding, pelting rain. But he was invulnerable to the brutally harsh weather. His attention was back there with Joa. Could she successfully handle her father’s wrath? Was he sane enough to let her out of the depository unscathed in any physical way?

Yie climbed up the stairwell of the residence building to the corridor, then into the apartment. The snoring of the somnolent Emies sounded through the door of his bedroom. Good, he was not going to disturb or awaken his teacher. It was best not to awaken him at this time.

It took only moments to gather his clothing and place it in the saque he had come with from Canara. He was going home with nothing beyond what he had carried with him here. Poor he had arrived, poor he was departing.

Slipping out of his bedroom, Yie made it noiselessly into the corridor. The rain continued to stream downward, striking everything exposed to it.

He halted, because a moving figure rose from out of the stairwell.

What or who was it? he asked himself.

All of a sudden, the voice of Joa, softly pleading, reached his ears.

“Take me with you, Yie. I can no longer stay in the claustrum. We must escape from here together.”

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