Mira

MIRA
by Keith B. Phillips
Omicron (ο) Cetus, Mira (related to the words “miraculous”, and “ad-mire”, from Latin mirus, “wonderful”), is described as a deep garnet colored star located in the neck of the Whale or Sea-Monster. — The Constellation of Words

She was late, but he didn’t mind. It was pleasant to bask in the heat of the sun on the beach, listen to the waves crashing, and feel the light breeze whisk the occasional particle of sand across his face. The gulls honked overhead like a misdirected orchestra of bicycle horns, and all the while the surf crashed and hissed over the sand. Crashing and hissing, crashing and hissing, with the hissing being as though he could hear all the grains of sand colliding with each other as the sheets of foam and water withdrew, dragging themselves across the beach, and sliding seductively back into the vast sea beyond, as if beckoning him to follow.
Jason was tired, and this was a like salve to him. It soaked into his soul and healed him. Healed him from the steel of the city, from the sterilized and manufactured world that imprisoned him each day, from the chaos and noise. But here, there was only the crash and hiss. He breathed to the rhythm, and it lent strength to him. He felt restored by the sea, and Mira was right, the ocean had power that went beyond the physical.
“Hello.” A female voice, as if called into existence by his mere thought, sounded out.
He opened his eyes and squinted against the sun. She stood before him, catching some of those rays as they glowed through the thin flower-print dress that she wore, showing her curved and beautiful form as a cool shadow inside of a forge of glory. He stood up, admiring her long brown hair, which gleamed in the sun and cascaded over her shoulders. Her light hazel eyes sparkled brightly from the reflections on the waves about them. She was a vision; a beauty that took his breath away; a force of nature.
“Hi.” He breathed this nervously, not sure of himself, and treading into uncharted territory. He didn’t want to screw this up, and knew that he could do so very easily. She was a delicate sensible creature, and he felt like a clumsy giant with club limbs. “How are you?” He said lamely.
“I’m okay. Isn’t this wonderful? What an incredible place you live in. Everything is so bright and full of sounds.”
He nodded. “I was just thinking that myself. It’s a beautiful day.”

She approached and circled around him, looking him in the eyes as she crossed around front. He’d gotten used to this familiar greeting and asked, “How’s your mother?”
“She’s still very ill. My…family is concerned, but say that it will pass.” Mira’s sunshine face fell into shadow.
“I’m sorry. Does anyone know what’s wrong with her?” She had slowed to stand before him and he now followed her customary greeting and circled around her.
“We’ve asked your doctor to take a look. He said that he will a bring a team tomorrow.”
“That’s good. I’m glad of that.” Jason smiled hoping to lift her spirits. “I’m sure they will find a way to help.”
“I’m not sure. The older ones in my family don’t trust them.”
Jason nodded. “That’s understandable. I wish it wasn’t like that.”
An awkward silence passed between them for a few heartbeats, and then Mira spoke. “It takes a long time to heal some things.”
“I’d like to think that we’re doing that—I mean, you and I.” He reached out and put a gentle hand on her bare shoulder. She startled at the touch, but then relaxed and smiled at him.
“Let’s sit and let the sun soak into us,” she suggested, and then sat down on the sand, taking his hand and pulling him down next to her. They sat there looking out into the waves. Far from the shore the spout of a whale blasted a white mist into the air. It surfaced and rolled its back in the water, breaching and plunging back down into the depths.
“Beautiful.” Jason breathed in wonder.
“Do you really think so?” Mira asked.
“More beautiful than anything that I’ve seen.” He said, turning and looking into her eyes.
“It feels really weird.” Mira averted her eyes from his. “What do you mean?”

“This extra space. It’s like someone opened a passage to another valley in my mind. I can think things that I’ve never thought before.”
“It’s the way that the implant works. You’ll get used to it. I’ve had mine for a over a five years now. I don’t even notice it anymore unless I think about it.”
“It’s all I ever think about now.”
“It makes you more like us.” Jason said.
“I know, and sometimes that scares me.”
“Why?”
“Because of what happened. Because of what you used to do to us.”
“And you’re worried that you might become like that?”
“Maybe.”
Jason shook his head. “No, that won’t happen.” He smiled. “You’re wiser than we are.”
The sound of running feet approached, and sand went dashing over them both. A young boy of about seven came skidding to a stop next to them, and jumped up and down.
“Mira! Mira!” He said bouncing around them.
“Ralph! Knock it off, you’re getting sand all over us.” Jason grumbled.
“But the sand is everywhere. Let’s run. Let’s all run in it,” Ralf said, never ceasing to dance about them.
Mira laughed at Ralph’s antics, and Jason said, “In a little bit. We’re talking. Go run, and we’ll join you.”
Ralph took off down the beach dashing through the occasional wave that reached out over the sand.
“How smart will he get?” Mira asked.

“Not much more, I don’t think. He’s had the implant for about a year. The last time I increased his memory chip, he didn’t use it fully. I think he’s gone as far he can.”
“I like him the way he is.” she said.
“I like him too.” He brushed sand from his shorts. “Most of the time.” She laughed. He liked the way her mouth curled around the sound.
The surf continued to crash and hiss around them and they watched silently while the whale rolled and spouted in the distance.
“How much further do you think I will go?” She asked with a kind of anxious look.
“You, my dear, are as unlimited as the stars above.” Jason smiled, then added, “Truthfully, we don’t know how far. We both have spindle neurons. And your brain mass is about five times greater than ours, a lot of which is used for sound processing.”
“So what? I can think about sounds better than you. What good is that out here?”
“Ah, but you see that can be re-purposed. Some of our smartest men thought by using pictures in their minds. Einstein, Tesla, Hawking. These men changed everything we know about the universe using the visual cortex of their brains. We think that you can do the same, but using sound processing.”
She nodded.
“Do you think anyone else will volunteer?” Jason asked.
“I don’t know. I can see the advantage, but then I can think thoughts with the implant that they just can’t. And, while there is good will toward you, there is also much mistrust.”
“That was another age, and another time. A terrible one, to be sure, but we’ve both evolved. We want to move on and bring you with us, try to make up for the past.”
Silence between them again as the world went on, the gulls crying, the surf pounding and sizzling, and distant barking.
“I’m here.” She said softly. “I’m here to take a chance on you. I can’t speak for the others, but this is a start. I wouldn’t expect much at first. Let’s see how this goes.”
Jason nodded. “You’re right, of course. I just get excited about the possibilities.”

Mira smiled. “I do too. Tell me more about the stars.” She shifted to lean against him and he felt her strange heat.
“You have used them to navigate by, and so have we for thousands of years. Each one of those points of light is a sun just like the one that warms our oceans. And recently we’ve found planets that circle them, some of which could even support life.”
“I still don’t understand how I can help. It is a hard…” She reached for a word. “…concept.”
Jason laughed. “It’s a hard concept for anyone. The math is incomprehensible to me, it’s not really my area. I just work on the systems integration, but our physicists have found a way that we can open a hole in the spaces between the stars and travel through it. The problem is we don’t have a computer powerful enough to handle the kind of calculations such a trip would require.”
“And I can be your computer. I don’t understand how that works.” She frowned slightly and her eyebrows furrowed in concentrated thought.
“Our computers are very fast, but they aren’t smart. They can’t learn like biologicals can. To make the trip to other stars, we need a brain that can learn and make very fast decisions. The place the hole in space leads to is a realm we call hyperspace, and it’s very complex. It’s a place where time and distance change in various parts of itself. It has eddies and currents, and it would be very easy to get lost inside there. Several of our unmanned probe ships never returned.”
“It’s a dangerous journey.” Mira pondered.
“I won’t tell you any different. Yes, it’s a risk, and if you don’t want to take it, no one would think bad of you—least of all, me.”
“You are going, though?”
Jason nodded. “Yes.”
“I’m not afraid to go into the currents of space.” Mira said, pursing her lips.
“I know. I just want you to be aware of the risks.” Jason put his hand out to give her arm a reassuring squeeze, but his hand passed right through her. Damn glitches, he thought, and withdrew his touch.
“Come on. That silly dog is still waiting for us to chase him through the surf.” He grinned.

Mira laughed and got to her feet gracefully. He took her hand, and they raced over the sand, down to where the image of a boy skipped through the surf, shouting at the waves.

*

“How is she?” Jason burst through the doors, his heart pounding from running.
Mira knelt by the edge of the mirror-glass pool of water which contained an unmoving sperm whale. She looked up as he entered, but she didn’t respond. Didn’t need to respond. The tears were dripping down her face.
Dr. Franklin, the marine biologist in charge, came up and spoke in low tones to Jason. “It’s not good, Jason. She’s taken a turn for the worse. We’ve identified red-tide toxin and oxygen deprivation. She was out there a long time. We have her on oh-two,” he pointed to a tube running into the blowhole of the whale. “But it may be too late. As for the toxins, we’re doing what we can, but she’s a big animal. It will take some time and we may not have enough.”
Jason nodded. His face felt cold, and his heart wrenched for Mira who now started a low sob that was more like a keening moan. He moved to kneel beside her and put a hand on her very warm shoulder.
“I’m sorry,” he said woodenly. “They’re doing everything they can Mira.” He knew that wasn’t enough. Was not going to fix it. It was not going to console her, but what could? Only a miracle, and the miracle maker had just told him that chances were slim.
“The oceans are sick, Jason.” She said bitterly.
“I know. Even when we started to realize the damage we were doing, we just kept doing it.”
She stood and squeezed her eyes shut in pain. Tears slipped out between the lids and fell. He put his arms around her and held her close, let the heat grow until he couldn’t stand it anymore, and then released her. When he did, he gasped for cool air. Holographic imagery capable of physical contact required a lot of energy, and that energy had to go somewhere.
“I’m sorry.” He said, both for having to let her go, and for what his race had done. “She wants me to ask you a favor.” Mira said.

“Anything.” Jason’s voice broke. He sat down by the edge of the pool and looked at the large eye on the side of the whale’s head. It was closed tightly and the grey flesh of the whale wrinkled up at its edges.
“She wants you to take me to a new world that has a clean ocean.”
He rested his chin on his knees, and tears of his own flowed now. “I’ll do my best,” he whispered to the eye. For a moment the eye flickered to life, and opened a tiny crack. A window to the soul of the whale beside him opened, and then closed forever.

*

“We’re ready to breach hyperspace.” Mira’s voice reached him from his place at the OPS station. Jason’s stomach was a tightly clenched knot of rope. Two years had passed since the death of Mira’s mother. Now Mira was the heart and soul of the first “occupied” interstellar ship. The phrase, “manned ship” no longer applied, as there was a non-human crew-member with them. He looked to his left as she concentrated at the control panel. Her human holographic form standing there was beautiful. But her real body—the body of a large female sperm whale—was enclosed in the special cargo hold below, submerged in water, with a layer of air at the top for breathing.
“Brace for emergence.” Captain Gelder announced from mid-deck of the bridge. The ship shuddered mildly. Jason felt simultaneously stretched and nauseated. Then there was nothing but calm, and the view screens revealed stars once more instead of the energy charged plasma clouds of hyperspace.
“Where are we?” Jason held his breath. There was no guarantee that they had made it to the planet of their destination. And if not, they could have just taken a ride to a long and drawn out death. If they had popped out of hyperspace in an unknown region of the Milky Way, there was no way they could get home again. And finding a place where they could survive would be near impossible if the navigation theories of traversing hyperspace had failed.
“One moment.” Mira’s voice spoke again from the console. She was so immersed in the data processors that her voice was almost robotic. There was a long pause, and then, “We made it!”
Jason jumped to his feet and crossed the short distance between them. He wrapped his arms around her and kissed her tenderly. He didn’t care what the rest of the bridge crew thought. It was Mira’s moment. A moment they had both worked hard for. She had brought them to this new world.
“Sir! I’ve got a visual on the planet.” The astrographer said suddenly.

“Put it on screen, Mr. Williams.” The captain said calmly.
Jason turned to face the view screen as the live image of a giant blue world was displayed. Wisps of white clouds swirled around an ocean of blue, and not one continent could be seen.
“It’s beautiful.” Mira said.
“A new home for both our people.” Jason said. “And a new home for our children.”
Within the cargo hold were frozen whale embryo’s ready to be thawed and implanted. Mira would soon be a mother to a whole new world of her kind. There was much to do. They still had to make sure this planet would be safe for them. What kind of life inhabited the seas? What challenges lay ahead? Jason didn’t know, but he was excited about the possibilities. There weren’t any guarantees, but in life there never were any. They would take this opportunity and make everything they could from it.
Mira looked down on the blue of the ocean with the electron eyes of the ship. She probed the seas with her radar, analyzed the the spectral properties of the light.
“Mother, I’ve come home.” Mira whispered.