Hey so this is another Okal Rel Universe Bit from the 5th book.
Disclaimer: I don't own this and haven't written it… it belongs to Lynda Williams… I just sometimes borrow Amel :)
Call to Kendi (drafted 2003, edited to current form in 2006, by Lynda Williams)
An exploratory scene from Far Arena (book #5 of the main series) that never made it as far as the first draft. It is night on Rire. Amel and Erien are sharing a bedroom, upstairs, in Ranar's home where Erien grew up. Rire is focused on Amel and his troubles instead of coming to grips with the need to negotiate, diplomatically, with Erien. Erien and Ranar have been running interference by mediating most of Amel's communication with Reetions. The issue of Erien dealing with Amel's mail still takes place in Far Arena but without the call to Kendi that this snippet is based on.
The soft mummer of voices babbled at the edges of Erien's sedated sleep. The sounds went on for a few minutes, in the background, without disturbing him very much. Even when the exchange of voices ended to be replaced by another kind of noise, the sound was so subdued and also soothing that it was hard to recognize as someone crying until Erien sat up and saw Amel seated with his elbows on the desk and with his fingers braced at his temple with light from Erien's data stage illuminating his face.
Erien rose to his feet. Amel heard him, and swiveled his chair around, his face half in shadow.
"I started reading some of the messages," Amel explained to Erien in a voice that was husky and harsher than usual, like a small boy trying to sound tough. Emotion quivered just behind this inadequate barriers, bursting through it all at once. "It's so confusing!" Amel cried. "I am afraid of Reetions en masse. I just don't understand why they are so interested in me. What they want! But some of these people, individually, the messages - " he fought a sob that was rich with the raw material of a delighted laugh. "The things they say are beautiful, except they think I can – that I'm special in some way that – ack ." He got up, abandoning the desk, but pointed back towards the stage, "Read that one."
Erien went over to the stage to take a look. The letter was from the mother of a child who had been sexually molested by strangers while her family was posted on a mining colony out of scope of the Arbiter Administration.
"She was withdrawn for a year," said the letter, "until she saw pictures of you on the family stage. Nothing alarming, of course, and we let her see more because she seemed to find you safe and reassuring. She was interested to know about your talents. How you sang, played the guitar and liked to dance. When she found out you had been hurt, too, she cried so long and hard that we were frightened, but since then she has been able to take part again in family life. We have our daughter back. When she found out you were on Rire, she asked if we might send you our love and asked if she might talk to you. So I have to ask. Is it possible? I realize there is so much more at stake than what my daughter thinks or wants, and it seems pitiful to say we are so sorry about what took place on Kali Station. This message will probably not even get through the filters surrounding you for your protection but for Kendi's sake, I had to try. If you read this, and you decide to call, it will mean a lot."
Erien fingered the stage controls to bring up its recent history. It had been in use for hours. Amel must have woken in the night and begun to review the hundreds of messages sent to him, personally, which had made it through the automated filters Ranar had negotiated to get set up. Amel had answered a lot of them with a reply. The little girl, Kendi, he had called up, which accounted for the soft interplay of voices that had disturbed Erien's sedated sleep without quite waking him, just before Amel began crying.
Erien played the call back.
Kendi was about ten or twelve with large, luminous eyes in a face that was delicately boned. Her skin was a warm caramel in color. The promise of warmth and intelligence shone through her haunted expression as she recognized the caller she'd been woken to speak to. Her mother and father stood behind her excited and apprehensive.
"Hi, Kendi," Amel said, on the record. The call was much too high-interest to the rest of the world for privacy to apply.
"Hi," she said, shyly.
"I haven't been able to read all my mail," he told her gently. "I am glad I found your mother's message."
"You answered me," the girl said, inhaling the fact with evident pleasure. Then, with a quiver of uncertainty and awe. "You're crying."
"I cry a lot more easily than many Gelacks," Amel answered, his voice skillfully light hearted. "You get better and have a good life, you hear?"
Her hand went out to the screen, touched nothing, and withdrew a bit shakily. "How?" she asked. "I mean, how do you – "
"Yes?" he encouraged her.
"How do you trust people. Again." She shot the words out, like bullets from a gun.
Amel answered her out of a dead calm. "Because it is worse, in the end, if you don't."
She stared at him fixedly for long seconds. Then she nodded.
"I have to go now," he said, sounding strained and apologetic. On the verge of the sobs that had woken Erien at last.
Kendi's mother spoke in a voice laden with heavy emotion, "Thank you! Oh, thank you."
Amel smiled and broke contact.
What had happened next was predictable. The volume of Amel's personally targeted mail quadrupled within minutes. And Amel had stopped trying to read it all.
When Erien turned from the stage on the desk, he found Amel curled up in the armchair across from him, under a lamp set on low luminosity. Amel was sitting with his legs under him looking deceptively relaxed. "It's such a privilege being so important to someone like Kendi," he said. "As if I knew anything!" he added with a choppy scrap of laughter. "Gods!" He closed his eyes, troubled again, lashes damp. "But there's so much!" He threatened to sob again, and pressed the back of his hand across his mouth instead. His fingers clenched. The next moment he propelled himself out of the chair, distracted and angry.
"I can't do it!" he lashed out, in Gelack now, speaking in peerage. "I can't read it all and I can't set up the filters, either. I keep thinking what if I did something to screen out Kendi's message – or one just as important – but it's stupid to imagine that I'm so important! It's all just their imagination! What they think I am!"
He wanted out of Erien's sight then, and would have fled, but Erien called sharply, "Amel!"
Amel froze, and stood his ground, tossing back his light, silky hair with a petulant frown on his mouth. The anger, and even more the stubbornness about him, gave Erien hope. The dissolving, affectionate sweetness that he had seen in Amel earlier made Erien feel as if he had been charged with constructing a space worthy fleet out of butterfly wings and rice paper fans.
Amel answered him sulkily, "What."
"We have to do something about the mail. It can't simply be ignored."
"We have to?"
"Good," Amel said with force, "then it's all yours." He made for the door again.
"Where are you going?" Erien called.
Amel stuck his head back into the room. "Downstairs to raid your kitchen," he said, unrepentant. "I couldn't eat earlier, being watched. I'm hungry now. You want to give me lectures about how to behave around Reetions, you'll know where I can be found. I'll take it better on a full stomach." Then Amel's head disappeared and he was gone.
With a sigh, Erien went to back to the stage to see what could be done about Amel's mail problem.
The End… you'll have to read the book to know more :p