Like an actor who understood his character with profound savvy, Herald performed as a native of this world. He not only spoke language, he thought language. It fascinated him. Its poetry far outweighed its pitfalls: gross misunderstandings and out- and-out deception. So, when he sensed some one coming, he spoke -- cursed the event.
He said, "Shit!"
The some one was a female, headed for Earth in hyper space. She was a few real-time minutes away from this solar system, about ten from the planet.
Herald cloaked himself and sent out human signals. He hoped that sensing no trace of him, she'd go away. Of course, she might not have been looking for him, and she was too far away for even him to discern such. Still, he wanted to be left alone by his kind, and wanted none of them to know where he was for future reference.
As empowered as he was, he still couldn't read more than her gender and that she was one of his kind at such a distance because of the energy it took to cloak. She needed to be within one-hundred miles, or so, for any definitive reading. Only his uncle, who was the leader of his species' solar system, would've been able to sense more, while cloaked, from some one so far away.
Impatient, he sped himself to a hyper-time plane he sensed the traveler hadn't the power to reach and went to her. She seemed to hang suspended in the vastness. At this level a human second passed in what seemed several years. Actual vision was impossible there since light moved so slowly. Herald transposed what he sensed into sight.
The woman was a young adult, rather pretty. She'd not yet altered herself to human. She would have to drop her forehead in, change her skin, from orange and rigid, shrink and change the color of her tan eyes, shorten her limbs, widen her mouth, give herself a nose and ears, and organically metamorphose almost her absolute physical being. Herald commented to himself that her short, light-blue hair would, nonetheless, actually work in some Earth locales.
Herald, himself, was, and had been for a while, a blonde Anglo-Saxon in his late thirties with hazel eyes.
Herald probed her identity and her purpose. That was unethical. No one had the right to read what another didn't permit. That was a core social rule of his native world. And since it was so unfair an advantage, Herald never did it to humans. But here, Herald wanted quick, clandestine answers. He read the life experiences that she used to identify herself -- what could be called her name. He read her reason for coming.
In English, she might have been called an envoy. Herald's uncle had finally died, and because of his own strength, Herald was to replace him. Based on what she knew about Herald -- which was much -- she decided to come to Earth. This was the obvious place to start searching since he was intrigued by humans and, of the four known planets that had them, this was his favorite.
She couldn't wait to inform him of his new and wonderful role. He wouldn't accept it; he had no obligation. Unfortunately she had no obligation to accept his denial without some attempt to persuade. And having read more than just her identity, he knew she'd attempt it. She'd attained and learned most available information crystals on him. She was convinced he was the best choice as new leader. She admired him, too. For a couple reasons, Herald found both attitudes useful.
Deciding he'd gone far over the line of decency, Herald stopped trespassing her, went back to the den of his house in Indianapolis and returned to the standard time plane and his sensory cloak.
The young woman reached the Earth's atmosphere. For invisibility, she dampened the light bouncing off her, then zoomed down. Stoke-on-Trent, England was her first stop. Her choice was arbitrary, Herald was sure.
For the next several weeks she randomly trekked the planet, showing up indigenous where ever she went. On occasion, Herald sped to advanced time planes and went to read her. He went to her in Milan, where she was an average Italian teen. He went to her in Japan; she was a Japanese businessman. He went to her in Titusville, Florida where, simply for whimsy, she kept herself invisible. Every time he read her, her conviction that he was on Earth was stronger. She believed he was testing her abilities and had a useful purpose in mind for her if she passed the test.
She was clever. She would come into an area then speed to a time plane. It was a good move. A sensory cloak couldn't block detection if the detective was on a faster time plane. And Herald couldn't follow and match her plane. If he did, she'd sense him as a human doing what a human can't do. So he always had to anticipate her, then speed to levels faster than her, and before she sped. It was becoming bothersome since she was doing it all day long. The problem was that Herald sped out of existence from her perspective on her slower plane. The female's strength was too weak to notice him vanish out of several billion people, even several million. But if she were close enough, she'd notice. She might not be able to match his time plane, but she'd still catch him. She knew he wouldn't stay long in a super-accelerated time plane. Earth would be at dead stop to him. He would be stuck in limbo.
If she came close enough to him, he'd resign to the inevitable. He was both impressed with and irritated at her.
Almost a month after she'd first invaded his Earth, she hit Indianapolis -- just another random skip.
"Fuck it all to hell," Herald whispered. He dropped the cloak and waited for her to come to his house.
She was now Mediterranean. She had long, black hair and deep, sharp, coal eyes. She was at Union Station, down town, and instantly sensed him then quickly read all of him that he allowed her. Triumph and cascades of joy filled her. She sent her flood to him. Reading more from him, she wasn't surprised that he'd never gone long without checking her progress. He wasn't surprised she felt no offense at his trespasses.
In their native communication, he asked her not to change from her human form and insisted they speak with language upon her arrival at his house. He then closed his self to her, and refused to read her.
She materialized in his living room. She spoke like a seasoned talker. "Why this primitive communication?"
He shrugged and said, "It's my prerogative."
"True," she said, "but it's so. . . trudging and ambiguous."
"Think about what you just did to put forth your idea. The nuance in choice of symbols. The poetry of it. It's wonderful."
"You avoided me." she said.
"So I wouldn't have to tell you, no."
"That you say 'no' puzzles me. There's no other with as much as half your gift. No one half as qualified for the role."
"That's all tradition. The qualification shouldn't be the strength of the gift. Fact is, commoners deserve the chance. The strength of gift doesn't matter. It's the depth of wisdom that matters. There are some, stronger than you, too foolish to have any authority."
"Which is why the one in charge should be both wise and strong," she said, "You."
"I like the human you are," he said, "you should name yourself. You haven't done that yet."
After a moment she said, "How interesting."
"This avoidance through active communication. I'd learned the theory of it, but experiencing it is an intriguing thing."
He smiled and sat on his sofa. "Oh, there's much about this world that's like that. These people are immature, irresponsible, and have neither good hindsight nor foresight -- at least most of them. They're also very admirable. They struggle for truth, ethics, reason. They reach for higher love and great sense of being. You'll find a wealth of fascinating study here. I can't think of one of us I've ever met, or known of, that invigorates me like these people do, with the possible exceptions of my uncle, and you."
She furrowed her eye brows. Herald knew that for the first time in her life she wasn't sure what had been communicated to her.
After a few moments she squeezed her eyelids and said, "I must ask you what you meant by that last part."
Herald laughed then said, "Strange, isn't it?" He stood and walked toward the kitchen. "I'm asking you to stay here." He started coffee in his automatic coffee maker. "I don't need companionship from home, but I won't turn away a peer companion like you. This world would appeal much to your curiosity. And I welcome sharing the fascination from our common ground."
He gestured her to join him at the dining room table. "I'm not suggesting that we commit as mates, but I'm not against that, either. I would like sex with you every now and then. And you'd probably like human sex; I like it better because there's more chance to lose control. Thing is, you'll have to come all the way human-organic for the full effect."
"But," she said, a move back toward her purpose for being there, "Herald---"
"Yes, Maude," he interrupted.
"Yes, Maude. Your name. I've named you Maude. It's a joke. Another wonderful thing about language. The joke: a deliberate attempt to be humorous through communication that isn't physical. It's fascinating actually. It's tied into the ironies of language. And it's often coupled with the inexactness of language, which is part of it's beauty -- like my little comment that you questioned a minute ago."
"Why would naming me Maude be humorous?"
"You had to be there."
He walked to the coffee maker and started fixing two cups of coffee.
"You're needed at home," she said.
"No, my absence is. It was Uncle who recognized and convinced me of that. He's been dying for a long time and it was no big secret who was the preferred replacement. He convinced me I should be gone before he died. He understood that our world no longer sees that the strength isn't the real power, it's simply a tool." He sat down with the coffees and gave her one. "You're my best argument to you about that. I've got five- hundred times your strength, but that didn't keep you from finding me. It was your resourcefulness that did it. You knew and understood enough about me to know what to do. It didn't matter that I knew what you were doing, and you knew that. And you rightly suspected I wouldn't leave this place. You out maneuvered me. The strength was just a tool you used." He held up a finger, "That's power; that's wisdom."
Her face hinted a smile. "This language communication, it can be beautiful."
Taking the cup up to her mouth for the first time, she changed the coffee into a drink from home.
Herald reached out and stopped her hand.
"If you're staying," he said, "you can't cheat yourself from experiencing this place."
She changed the drink back to coffee, transformed her biology totally to human, and took a sip.
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