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The International Writers Magazine

Elin's Legacy
Wendy Metcalfe

Nia looked up at the cliffside where Elin had died. Rocks and scree were tumbling down again. She backed off to a safe distance.
"Nia? You okay?"
She turned at the sound of Abir’s voice. "Yeah, I’m okay," she said.
He came up beside her and put a hand on her shoulder. He knew what it meant to lose a sister.

She looked back towards the cliff. A small black head rose out of the tumbled rocks. It was one of those equines, a youngster. It wrenched its arms free of the rubble and started digging around it. She heard its cry, a cry of pain.
"I’m going to help," she said.
"Nia, no! It’s dangerous there. You know what Killian will say if you get involved."
"Why should I listen to him? The bastard killed my sister!" She started towards the creature. It gave one last push at a rock and scrambled up onto its feet. One hind leg collapsed, sending it sprawling onto the earth. "Come on," she said.
She ignored his protest and strode over to the alien. The creature’s head raised as she got close and she slowed her pace. "Easy, guy. Let me help." She saw that the hoof had been twisted sideways, and she knew the leg was broken.
The creature struggled to its feet again. She held it up. Abir supported the other side. It didn’t seem to be afraid of them. "We’re going to take it into the med center," she said in a voice that refused any challenge.
"But Killian…"
"Killian can burn in hell! I’m not gonna let him kill this creature too!"

Killian Laverne was furious. Despite his express orders that stupid medic had brought in an injured alien. He didn’t need this kind of complication. It was bad enough losing that geologist. That had made HQ notice him more than he liked. But if the damned woman got that equine established as a Class One sentience he’d lose the whole Project. No, not now. Not when I’m so close to retiring. He ran his hand through what was left of his greying hair and sighed.
Stevven came into his office. "Nia says that creature has a broken leg. She’s going to try to set it."
"I said no contact with any of the fauna here!"
Stevven stared at him, then his eyes narrowed. "We’re charged with evaluating this planet, Kil. This might be the dominant lifeform. We can’t ignore it."
"There are no Class One intelligences here!"
"We don’t know that yet. Nia thinks this creature might be."
He scowled at his deputy. "I’ll give her two days to get rid of it, then I’ll dump it myself. There are no Class One sentiences on Lorena! Understand?"

Nia had expected the alien to panic when she brought it into the med centre, but its dark eyes had looked around calmly, assessing the scene. She wondered how intelligent they were.
She finished dressing its leg and Abir lifted it down off the operating table. It was still groggy, but seemed to be coming round okay.
"Now we find out whether alien biology can cope with our medicines," he said.
"Yes, I know it was a risk, but I couldn’t set the leg without pain relief."
At least the creature was standing on the splinted leg. She hoped the splint would stay in place long enough for it to heal.
"What now?" Abir asked.
"I think…" She gasped. A clear picture of the equine appeared in her mind, along with a sound.
"What the hell!" Abir said.
"You getting an image too?"
"Yeah. It’s a telepath… What’s that?"
This time the sound was almost a word. "R… iss?" she queried.
The creature repeated the sound. "Ry… iss?" She asked.
"Ryiriss, I think," Abir said. The equine nodded its head vigorously up and down.
"Do we presume that’s yes?" she asked.
"We can’t assume anything."
"No, we can’t. But these creatures are definitely a high level intelligence. We need more time to study them," she said.

Caring for the alien took Nia’s mind away from her sister for a while. They found out that it was a male, and that his species were the Naquarra. He was an orphan, not expected to survive, but somehow he had.
"Abi, what’re we going to do about him?" Nia asked as they reviewed their notes late that evening.
"You don’t think Killian will accept their status, do you? I want to get word out to HQ. We have to find someone to send an ansible tightbeam for us."
"Mmm. Tricky. I’ll work on it," he said.

Once Ryiriss was back on his feet Nia resumed her daily visits to her sister’s grave. She always visited at sunset. At first her numbness had reduced her to tears and the technicolor skies merged into a blur of abstract colours. Now the pain had moved deep into her heart, an ache that dulled her senses.
Tonight someone was there before her. She broke into a run. "Hey! Leave her alone! Get away from her!" she yelled.
The figure turned towards her. Stevven. "I need to talk to you," he said.
"I don’t want to listen to anything that bastard has to say!"
"He doesn’t know I’m here. I came on my own behalf."
"Who do you think sent your message? I did. We received an answer this morning. I was on com watch, so I downloaded it."
"So he doesn’t know they’ve replied?"
"No. Xeno are sending a team to us, ETA four days. We need to hold him off that long."
"I’ll hold the bastard off for ever," she said.

Nia woke to the beep of the coms alarm. She reached over and switched on the channel. "Yeah?"
"Nia, the Xeno team are on final approach."
She squinted at the chrono. Four-thirty. "Why’d they have to get here this early?" she grumbled.
Stevven chuckled. "Because I asked ‘em to."
"Oh. Okay. Where do I meet them?"
There was a pause, then he said "How about your sister’s grave? They’ll be landing about dawn. If you just happened to be there then…"
"Thanks, Stev. I appreciate this."

The sun had just risen when Nia met the Xeno team. A tall grey-haired woman strode towards her, hand outstretched. "Nia, I presume? I’m Julinn, team Head. I understand you may have a Class One intelligence here?"
Nia shook the proffered hand. "Yes. They’re an equine species called the Naquarra. Am I glad you’re here."
"I gather we’ve got a fight on our hands."
"You could say that. Killian’s determined to close down the evaluation project today."
"Not if I have anything to do with it." Julinn’s eyes slid past Nia to the small mound with its headstone. "Did somebody die here?"
Nia turned from her, the sudden rage unexpected. She felt Julinn’s hand on her shoulder. "It was someone close to you?" she asked.
"My sister. Killed in a landslide. She was ordered in before the stability survey was complete." The words felt like knives dragging across her throat.
Julinn stiffened. "Then this time we’ve got him."
"What do you mean?"
"Killian has a history of ignoring inconvenient facts. Come on, let’s get this showdown started."

Nia arrived back at camp an hour after Julinn. Stevven met her in the compound. "Killian’s blaming you for bringing the Xeno team here. He’s demanding your presence right now."
"Are they with him?"
"Come with me, Stev. I need your support."
"Nia, I intend to tell him everything."
She stared at him. "But your career…"
"Some things are more important than one individual’s career. Telling the truth here is. Your sister died because of his stupidity. I can’t let that go."
Tears sprang to her eyes, and she rubbed at them with the back of her hand. "Thanks. Is Abi there too?"
"Yes. Your troops are in place. Let’s go do battle."

"There are no Class One sentiences on Lorena!" Killian thundered.
"Oh, yes there are," Nia said. "They’re called the Naquarra."
"An equine species cannot be Class One!"
"One thing working in Xeno has taught me is that there are no absolutes," Julinn said. "Class One intelligence can take any form."
"This project is finished! The shuttle’s on its way down to pick us up."
"Then it will have to delay. I have the authority to overrule you, and I’m doing it," Julinn said. She turned to Nia. "Where can we meet your alien?"
"He’s probably hanging around the compound."
"Introduce me."
"With pleasure," Nia said.

Nia watched the Xeno Head run through the standard first contact script. Ryiriss dealt easily with every test. Julinn straightened up from talking to him and said "Yes, they are Class One. We take over here now. You did a good job. I’d be happy to find you a place on my team."
Nia stared at her. She hadn’t expected this. She’d almost come to terms with having to abandon Elin here, on this beautiful but dangerous world. But now… Juliin’s offer changed everything. Somewhere, deep in her heart, a little chink of light pierced her darkness. For a brief moment she felt at peace, for the first time since Elin’s death.
"Yes. I’ll stay," she said, and knew that she meant for the rest of her life.

© Wendy Metcalfe Jan 2007
Author and Writing Tutor
wendy_metcalfe at

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