“So where were you stationed when communications from Myaad ceased?” the Muse of Mischief asked a Rogsaar that was wearing some very interesting garb.
“I was on Xinood 5.” Rogsaar said.
“I’ve never heard of Xinood 5, is there a Xinood 1, 2, 3, and 4?” M asked.
“Yes, but only Xinood 4 is inhabited. Xinood 1, 2, and 3, are too small and distant from the system’s suns to sustain life.”
Bartala and Brzko were mingling with other Rogsaars on the reception patio. Bartala was right; being in a crowd of Rogsaars was amazing. And not just because they were coming together after over one hundred Earth years of being cut off from their home. Each one had been someplace, away from their kind for all that time; each one had survived on their own on a distant planet. This was the third Rogsaar that M had chatted with. She was sad to see the suns of Ploosnar getting low, soon it would be dark. Empress Nalau was engrossed in the conversation, but thus far, she was fine with just listening and letting M ask all of the questions. M asked what seemed to be the logical next questions, “What are beings of Xinood 5 like and where did you obtained those western clothes?”
“Xinoods are like many other species in the Universe, intelligent beings with an advanced social structure. They are bipedal and as black as a night with no moons. They have bright green eyes, except when they get mad, then their eyes turn red, blazing red. They are not especially tall, about the same size as you or I. Trading is the basis of their economy and so a universal education is highly valued.”
“So you were there trading with them when communications with Myaad ceased?”
“Yes, and at first I thought my equipment must have needed repairs. But G’ess and I went over every component and could not find the problem. We realized it must have been a problem on Myaad. So I settled in and took my place in society.”
“G’ess? Is that a Xinood?” M asked.
“Yes, G’ess and I used to trade in Technology. He is the sibling of my partner G’ist.”
“Partner, like spouse?” asked Nalau. Evidently the idea of interspecies unions had provoked her enough to be more than an observer.
“Yes, Xinoods often partner with other species, it is not uncommon. They are a very accepting of all cultures. When compatible they reproduce with other species. Because Myaads are asexual parthenogenetic breeders we were not easily compatible from the reproductive standpoint. But there is a scientist working on the issue. He thinks we may be able to introduce genetic material from G’ist into one of my eggs.”
“Do you have an image of G’ist?” M asked.
“Is G’ist male or female” Nalau asked at the same instant. They all three chuckled. “We’re sorry Rogsaar we don’t mean to be rude. We are simply excited to be learning about a new place and species.” M said.
“It’s fine, really. I understand how strange it must sound for an asexual parthenogenetic being to take a partner. But not all beings enter into partnerships based on romance like your species probably do. For Xinoods the arrangements can be based on logic, or stability. And yes, I do have an image of G’ist. This image is from our last retreat, what some would call a vacation. G’ist is a male.” Rogsaar pulled a small pebble looking device on the table. In an instant there was a small hologram generated from the device. G’ist looked pretty much humanoid, the green eyes were brilliant, even in the image.
“You must be very torn, you’ve integrated into the society on Xinood and taken a partner but you must also miss Myaad, your home. It sounds like you have built a wonderful life, will you return to Xinood?” Nalau asked with clear concern.
“I feel an obligation to help other Rogsaars return to Myaad. Once all of the abandoned Rogsaars are located, I will return to G’ist and my life on Xinood. One day I hope to be able to share Myaad with G’ist. He was never seen a planet with no surface water.”
“Oh Rogsaar I had not considered the relationships that may have developed where Rogsaars were stranded. If you need any help to return to Xinood you must tell me. Bartala and I will provide you with transportation or anything else you need.” Empress Nalau said with compassion.
“Thank you Empress, thank you.”
“But that still doesn’t explain why you’re wearing Wrangler jeans!” M jabbed.
“I told you… the Xinoods are universal traders.” Rogsaar said with just as much jest.
The three new friends shared a good laugh. The Muse of Mischief excused herself from Nalau and the Rogsaar of Xinood 5; she wandered about looking for Brzko. But she came across a Rogsaar seated alone, their facial expressions could be difficult to read but she thought this Rogsaar looked concerned.
“Hello,” she said hoping to engage.
“Hello, you are the Muse of Mischief right?”
M took this as an invitation and took a seat at the table as she answered, “Yes, I’m the Muse of Mischief. And I know you’re Rogsaar, but I don’t know where you were stranded.”
“I was on Jinn,” as Rogsaar answered, M noticed a vase or bottle under the table in Rogsaar’s hand, “and I want to return to Myaad but I must return to Jinn first. But my ship no longer works; I do not know how I will get back to Jinn.”
“I’m not familiar with Jinn, I take it you had a life there?
You did not have to stay hidden from the indigenous population? “No, hiding was not necessary; the Jinns are an ancient, advanced race. Myaad was trading knowledge with them. They are travelers. Jinn star charts are always accurate.”
“Why do you need to return to Jinn before going home to Myaad?”
“I brought something, someone, with me that I should have left on Jinn. I did not ask if there was a desire to travel with me. After being on Jinn for so long I was desperate to bring someone familiar along with me.”
“You brought someone with you? How? Where is this being?” M asked.
It was then that Rogsaar sat the bottle on the table. The bottle was stunningly beautiful, it was wide and curved at the bottom, with a narrow neck. It was a deep blue color with an intricate pattern of black scrolls etched into it.
“There is a being in there, in that bottle?” M asked.
“Yes, there is a Jinn in the bottle. I took him while he was sleeping, I need to return him to Jinn. He is going to be very angry when he finds out I took him.”
“How big is this Jinn?” M asked.
“Do not be fooled by the bottle. A Jinn can be as large as it wants to be, it can take the shape of whatever it wants to be.
Jinn’s are highly intelligent; they have traveled the Universe since before recorded time. They mostly stick to themselves, they are laid back and fun loving unless…”
“Unless what?” Bartala asked as he took a seat at the table.
“Emperor!” Rogsaar said surprised that Bartala had joined the conversation.
“Yes, yes, continue, please. What is this Jinn, and what makes them fun loving unless…” he said with a slightly mocking tone. When you’ve been raised to be the Emperor of an incredible planet like Ploosnar, there is little that you fear.
“Well, unless you cross them. And I have crossed this one by taking him from his home. It’s just that, well, they are such magnificent beings that I wanted to keep one.”
“Give me the bottle I will have it returned for you.” Bartala said as he reached for the bottle.
Rogsaar was quicker, just barely grasping the bottle before Bartala had a firm grip on it “No! You must not open the bottle here, the Jinn may be very angry.”
“OK, OK.” Bartala said taking the bottle from a reluctant Rogsaar. “But really, how dangerous could a being in a bottle this size be?” he said. Before Rogsaar could even utter a sound Bartala had tilted the stopper at the top just a crack.
Rogsaar uttered a sound as if he’d been sucker punched “No!” he screeched As he pushed back from the table and stood, looking like he was ready to run.
As soon as the bottle was cracked the air around Bartala began to change color, as though it was filling with bright blue smoke. It instantly began to take shape. The Muse of Mischief had never seen anything like this, and it set her on edge. She jumped from her seat in case action was needed.
“Oh Bartala, what did you do?!” M scolded.
Bartala stood up knocking his chair over. This got the palace guards moving, they immediately surrounded the Emperor.
The bright blue cloud had completed its transformation. It was now a very tall, very large being. He was dressed in bright blue, silky pants with a matching shirt. He wore shoes of the same color with long pointy toes that curled up. He towered above Bartala and the guards.
“I am Afrit the Great of Jinn, why have you brought me to this place?” His voice was so loud that the entire courtyard of Rogsaars fell silent.
“It wasn’t me, it was him, it was him!” Bartala said pointing to Rogsaar.
Afrit began to turn to face Rogsaar. As he did, M got a good look at him, and knew this being possessed great power. In an effort to diffuse the situation quickly she jumped into his path and attempted to humor him.
“Hey you look like a genie, don’t you owe Bartala three wishes? Or is it only the genies of Earth that give wishes?”
Afrit stepped toward her, right up on her really. Uh-oh she thought, that might not have worked. The palace guards, seeing her under threat, began to step toward her. She held a hand up to keep them at bay. Afrit the Jinn continued to stare down at her. “And who is this, with striped legs, speaking to me as though you know me?”
“I’m the Muse of Mischief, nice to meet cha Afrit!” she said jabbing her hand up and forward toward the towering Jinn.
The Jinn’s face started to quiver; he was attempting to keep his stern look, but could not. He looked like a human when they try to stifle a sneeze. He released the laughter,
“Haaaaaahahaha. I like you kid!” He said slapping M on the back. Everyone immediately relaxed a little. Afrit seemed to shrink; he was now the same height as Bartala.
M returned to the table and pulled out a chair for Afrit,
“Please join us.” she said. She touched the Gaznzulian earpiece and activated the earcom link to Brzko. This was code between the two of them, she was in an interesting situation that she knew he would like to part of and wanted him to head this way.
Bartala righted his chair and took a seat, the palace guards stepped back but kept a sharp eye on this new being. M took a chair next to Afrit; the only one in the group that didn’t sit was Rogsaar. He was standing with his hands on the back of his chair, clearly concerned that he would be a target of the Jinn’s anger.
“Rogsaar, sit. I will not harm you.” Afrit said “at least not in front of all these…” Afrit looked left, he looked right, he turned in his seat and surveyed the entire courtyard. “I know I’m late to this party but what the jinn is going on? Are these your clones Rogsaar? I seem to remember you telling me about clones a long time ago on Jinn.”
Rogsaar didn’t answer; he managed to sit but still couldn’t seem to speak. Bartala was up for the task of explaining, “Yes, these are all Rogsaars from Myaad, and yes they are all genetically identical, or clones.” Afrit turned toward Bartala, he introduced himself “I am Emperor Bartala, it is a pleasure to meet you, welcome to Ploosnar. I don’t think anyone here but this Rogsaar has seen a Jinn before.”
“Emperor of what?” Afrit asked dryly.
“Ploosnar, the planet Ploosnar.” Bartala answered.
Brzko arrived at the table, he presented himself between Afrit the Great and M, “Greetings and salutations, I am Agent Brzko.” He said as he extended his hand toward Afrit.
Afrit slowly turned and looked up at Brzko, “I know you.” Afrit said, “I met you on Earth a very long time ago.”
“I would remember meeting a Jinn.” Brzko said a little perplexed. M had shifted over one seat so that he could sit down. Bartala, M, and Rogsaar all stared at Afrit the Great and Brzko. Could they have met before?
In an instant Afrit the Great was an Earthling, a black man wearing a white t-shirt, jeans and ridiculously bright red athletic shoes. “Remember me now? I used to hang out at Tommie’s Barber Shop”.
Everyone at the table was dumbfounded. Afrit transformed back into himself, “And by the way Ms. Muse of Mischief, I don’t grant wishes. That is a silly fable that the inhabitants of Earth concocted after they met Jinns.
“Yes! I remember you. I used to see you at Tommie’s, mostly I remember those shoes. Why would you visit a barber shop on Earth?” Brzko asked.
“There are very few places Jinn’s have not been. Given our ability to blend in, travel is generally safe for us. What can I say? I found that barber shop fascinating. It was a meeting place held together by one man, a place of cultural strength. I’ve seen many oppressed cultures, in many places. But none as strong as the black culture on Earth.”
Afrit paused and looked around the table, he realized that everyone was staring at him and only the Muse of Mischief and Agent Brzko had any idea what he was talking about. He transformed back into his natural appearance and continued. “Maybe we could catch up about the barber shop later Agent Brzko.”
“Of course, of course.” Brzko confirmed. “I’d like to hear more about your travels, I’m sure you’ve seen interesting things.”
“Yes. You might say we Jinn exist to travel. Which is why, Rogsaar, I forgive you for that dirty little deed of yours – capping my bottle and basically kidnapping me. But you brought me to a place I have never been, and it’s blue, so vividly blue. I LOVE blue! I’d like to stay here a while and take a look around. Can you arrange that for me Mr. Bartala? I don’t take up much space, I can sleep in my bottle.”
Bartala, rarely caught off guard, was tripping over his own words, “Um, yes, well… “He cleared his throat and tried again, “It would be my pleasure to host you in the Royal Palace of Ploosnar. I will arrange for you to have a guide that can show you around. But you do not have to sleep in your bottle, unless that is your preference.” He motioned to a guard, no doubt to giving instruction to prepare rooms for Afrit the Great.
“Thank you Mr. Bartala. Hey, has anyone ever told you that you look just like Londo Mollari from the Earth show Babylon 5?”
“Yes, I have heard that before,” he said looking across the table at M. “It’s this fabulous hair isn’t it?” he said touching the high peaks of hair at the top of his head.
Everyone at the table, with the exception of Rogsaar, got the joke and laughed. The tension was over. It seemed that Afrit the Great of Jinn might now be an ally.