A_rose_from_old_terra_cover

Don Sakers was launched the same month as Sputnik One, so it was perhaps inevitable that he should become a science fiction writer. A Navy brat by birth, he spent his childhood in such far-off lands as Japan, Scotland, Hawaii, and California. In California, rather like a latter-day Mowgli, he was raised by dogs.

As a writer and editor, he has explored the thoughts of sapient trees (The Leaves of October), brought ghosts to life (Carmen Miranda's Ghost is Haunting Space Station Three), and beaten the "Cold Equations" scenario ("The Cold Solution," Analog 7/91, voted best short story of the year.) He's best known for his Scattered Worlds space opera series. Don is also the book reviewer for Analog Science Fiction & Fact, where he writes the "Reference Library" column in every issue. Don lives at Meerkat Meade in suburban Baltimore with his spouse, costumer Thomas Atkinson. Having recently retired from 42 years with the local public library, he is hard at work becoming a starving writer.

A Rose From Old Terra by Don Sakers

Librarians in Space

A single yellow rose summons Jedrek nor Talin back to Old Earth. A decade ago, he served the Terran Grand Library as one of the guardians of Humanity's collected knowledge. Now the last Librarian has called together the members of Jedrek's broken work circle to protect the Library from its greatest threat.

Four millennia after the Terran Empire fell, the Galaxy's communications system is breaking down. Jedrek and his coworkers set off into deep space to repair ancient Imperial equipment. But they aren't the only ones…for the warring remnants of the old Empire have also dispatched ships on the same mission.

Suddenly, a peaceful settlement becomes ground zero in a clash of Galactic cultures—and a bare handful of Librarians are all that stand between the Galaxy and disastrous interstellar war….

CURATOR'S NOTE

Don's writing is a slice of classic scifi with deep meditations on future cultures. The distinct narrative style blend the narrative with presentations of artifacts for the reader to examine and build the greater world in their minds. A very unique work. – Daniel Potter

 

REVIEWS

  • "Author and librarian Sakers adds to his "Scattered Worlds" series (Weaving the Web of Days) a tale of adventure and intrigue as only a group of librarians can do it. A good addition to most sf collections and sure to be popular with library staff everywhere."

    – Library Journal
  • "From the moment protagonist Jedrek nor Talin receives his summons, I was compelled to follow him on his journey for better or worse. Credible science and powerful character dynamics were nicely integrated into a narrative colored with ingeniously placed statistics and commercial advertisements."

    – Amazon Review
 

BOOK PREVIEW

Excerpt

1

Rose

[CIRCLE]

Year 511 of the Sardinian League

"Jedrek nor Talin?"

"That's him. He'll be with you in just a bit. Can you wait?"

"Very well."

The exchange reaches Jedrek distantly; he pays no attention. It is only words from an unreal world—reality is the universe within the three-centimeter marble he clutches between his palms.

Images swirl past him, endless linkages of thoughts and ideas. To his left, ten million designs for low-grav habitat modules dance intricate gavottes; to his right, a thousand equations quiver in ranked arrays. And before him, a maze of billions of documents stretches away to grey infinity.

He holds to his purpose and follows his quarry like a hunter pushing through thickest underbrush.

Gotcha. And following that, the experience of a powerful aha! Out of ten trillion bits of data, myriad techniques, he has managed to locate exactly what he needs. The answer sets itself into his forebrain and he lets the marble slip from between his palms.

The office and the world return, and as always Jedrek feels a tinge of regret.

He closes his eyes. "Denys, I've got it. It's simple. The Empire synthesized dellsite beams under a grav field curved to match the loadbearing struc—who are you?" The presence of a visitor penetrates to him and he snaps his eyes open to look at the new person.

A slender woman, light-haired and pale-skinned, many centimeters taller than Jedrek or even Denys. Over a bony frame she wears brown coveralls, the general-issue utilitarian style of work clothing for Humans throughout the Galaxy. Above her left breast is a geometrical design involving a tight spiral and a number of ovals.

Jedrek's eyes widen. An Independent Trader, here in his office—?

"I be Trader Raalhord, out from Independent Trade Ship LaMancha." She offers the quick hand-signal greeting of the Traders; when Jedrek returns it she smiles.

"Jedrek nor Talin, once out from Independent Trade Ship Franklin. This be Denys Archet, partner me." Even after so many years, Jedrek slips easily back into Trader pidgin. He cocks his head. "Trader Raalhord, surely LaMancha be not interested in space settlements to buy?"

"Quite not. This business be more mundane. Two days past rendezvoused we with Akbar; when Akbar captain hear we come toward Borshall, he ask we bear you a delivery. I here only to drop off package."

"Thank you. Surely you stay for meal?"

"No, truly must be on way. LaMancha two kiloparsecs away be, and back must me go, me cargo to supervise."

"At least let me give you chit for payment to cover." Jedrek reaches for his crediplate. Trader Raalhord's hand on his arm arrests his gesture.

"No payment. Profit with you be, Jedrek nor Talin."

"As with you, Trader Raalhord."

She places a package in his arms, a cylinder about a meter long and a few centimeters around. The outside is marked with his name and a few of his better-known ident codes; it also bears the warnings INERT ATMOSPHERE and DO NOT VACUUM STORE.

She kisses his hand, bows, and leaves the office. As the door slides shut behind her, Denys leans back in his chair and puts his feet up on his desk. "No payment. Since when do you get free favors from the Independent Traders? You know what they'd charge us professionally for that few hundred cubic centimeters of shipping volume?"

"The Library has a long history of helping out the Traders. When I left there I hitched a ride with Franklin and stayed on a few years. They take care of their own." Jedrek frowns. Very few people would think to send him a package through the Traders. Who…?

One way to find out.

"Hand me your knife, Denys."

"Did you forget yours again?"

Jedrek shrugs. "Old habits. I never carried one until I moved here." He takes the stylus-sized instrument from Denys, dials for minimum dispersion and moderate power, and touches a contact. A red beam slices cleanly through the end of the cylinder.

Outer wrapping peels away and the office ventilation system steps up to rid the air of a sudden argon buildup. The contents of the package lay exposed in his hands, shedding a bit of perfume.

Yellow and velvety and perfect in aspect, he holds a single longstemmed rose.

Roses grow on many Human worlds, but he doesn't need a tenday's work with a superb biochem lab to trace the origin of this flower—only a handful of people would send him a rose, and it can only have come from one planet.

"I don't get it. Some admirer?"

"It's from Earth, Denys. A rose from Old Terra."

"So?"

Jedrek's eyes go to his own screen, to the plans that wait patiently. Blast, why did this have to happen now?

"Denys, listen to me." Jedrek takes a deep breath. "I swear to you, this is very serious. I have to leave—I don't know how long I'll be gone, I don't even know when I'll be able to contact you."

Denys' feet hit the floor. "You're kidding. In the middle of a project? This project?"

"I know how much Terexta Trojan Two means to the firm."

"It's you the firm needs. Your access to Imperial technology gives us an advantage that no other planning corporation can beat."

Jedrek looks away. "I know you'll be needing me, for a dozen problems like the one I just solved. But I have to go. I'll try to anticipate what I can before I leave, and I'll dump as much data as possible from my marble to the puter, but it's going to be—"

"What?" Denys stands up. "You can't leave, not after we've worked to get Archetalin Enterprises flying…."

"The firm isn't going to fail—we've taken it that far together. While I'm gone, control will revert to you… and if you want to buy me out, I'll let you do it at half the market value." He meets Denys' eyes. "With any luck, I won't be gone more than a year."

Denys puts his hand on Jedrek's chin, his azure eyes burning into Jedrek's hazel. "Can you tell me what's going on?"

Jedrek nods. "When I worked at the Library—when our Circle broke up and we all went our own ways—we made a pact. If any of us got into trouble that we couldn't handle, we would send a message to the others." He holds up the rose. "This is the message."

"No other information? How do you even know who sent it, or where in the Galaxy it came from?"

"No other information can only mean that it came from Terra herself. I've got to make my way there, and I've got to hurry."

"And I suppose you'll fly yourself there in your personal starship?" Denys' tone is derisive; he seldom has anything nice to say for Jedrek's piloting ability. There is little nice to say.

"I know better than that. Even if I were the Galaxy's best pilot I wouldn't want to venture though the Transgeled alone. No, there has to be a Trader ship headed in that direction soon; I'll just hop a ride and keep transferring until I get to Terra."

Denys shakes his head. "You're a fool. I don't know why I put up with you." He waves at the office. "And you expect me to keep all this together while you're gone? Alone?"

"You can do it." For an instant the thought of inviting Denys along crosses his mind—Jedrek pushes it away at once. "I realize how much I'm asking. Believe me."

"Oddly enough, I do." Again Denys shakes his head. "I'm going to miss you."

"Don't."

"All right, run off to Terra. But first make sure you've put down all the details of that grav-field shaping technique. And…and please hurry back." A sigh. "When do you leave?"

"I have to check on Trader ships. No sooner than two days. As quickly as possible after that."

Eyes closed, brows raised, Denys whispers, "We have work to do, then."

*

Borshall falls behind at many times lightspeed, blue and white on the tachyscope. Jedrek glances at the Independent Trader shuttle pilot next to him, then back at the viewscreen. As quick as that, Borshall is invisible, its sun a star among many, identifiable only by the radial velocity assigned it by the boat's puter.

Ahead lies Trader ship Narmer, then step after step of transfers as quick shuttle boats outpace the slow-moving Trader Ships. And finally, more than a third of the way around the Galaxy, Earth.

Who is calling for help?

Why?

And…why, Jedrek asks himself, is he answering?

He sighs and closes his eyes. The days to come will not be peaceful; he'll be happy for any rest he can get now.

*

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