Vega of Loasby Micromegas
'Attention, passengers. This is your captain speaking. We are about to be treated to a rare sight. A Loatian starship. Everyone on the starboard side of the ship get a good look. It's a big 'un, folks.'
Jennifer O'Carolan's cabin happened to be on the correct side of the ship. Getting up from writing and drawing in her notebook on the coffee table bolted to the cabin floor, Jennifer peered out the window of her cabin at the stars. The Rheeus was making good time toward her new life on Regulus, an earth colony a couple centuries old. Ah, there it was. A Loatian starship. And, yes, their ship appeared twelve times the size of the Rheeus. Monstrously huge. Magnified. That's what made them a deliciously thrilling sight.
Not much was known about Loatians. They were humanoid giants sixty feet tall, therefore smaller spacefaring races tended to shy away from them. Loatian ships shared the same space with others, but passed by others like the proverbial ships in the night.
This Loatian ship was shaped like a great silvery bird. The Rheeus was shaped like a bird itself, a bird hunched over two long rectangular hyperspace engines which doubled as the landing gear.
Jennifer watched until the big silvery ship shrank to just another shining star in the firmament, then she turned back to her notebook, and her space fantasy about the fictional inhabitants of the planet Disarus. After an enjoyable session of sketching several more pages worth of ideas, dialogue and pictures, she hatched her bed out of the cabin wall and turned in.
The starship intercom in the cabin's communication console beeped twice for attention. Jennifer rolled over, annoyed that she had forgotten to turn the thing off. 'Attention, this is your captain speaking. As some of you have noticed, we're not moving. We're having trouble with one of the drives. One of the hazards of space travel. We're calling for help. Meantime, just relax and enjoy the view.'
Jennifer had heard of ships being held up by that hazard of space travel for months. Ah, well. She took that chance when she came aboard. There was no job waiting for her on Regulus, anyway. Getting up to turn off her intercom, she went back to sleep.
Next waking session, the stars outside her window were moving again. Thank goodness! After dressing, she encountered a crewman in gray Galactic Lines uniform with triangular blue slash across the chest. 'Walsh' read his badge.
'Looks like we're moving again!,' she said cheerfully.
Walsh brushed back his curly brown forelock. 'The very same. I hear they're not too bad, but I still get leery of people who are twelve times bigger than me.' Jennifer pictured giants dividing up helpless passengers and crew among themselves. That was not how she wanted her trip to end! 'Where are they taking us?'
'To Loas. It's the closest planet with a spaceport. I'd rather be on solid ground than marooned in space but still--I see you're nervous about it, too.'
'As long as they don't decide that humans make nice pets.'
Walsh laughed. 'Tell you what. If they do that, let's show 'em what a bunch of mean little ankle-biters we can be.' Jennifer laughed as the crewman snarled and snapped. 'That ought to change their minds.'
The Loatian ship gave the Rheeus more than a tow. The yawning maw of a cargo bay passed by the ship's cafeteria window at breakfast time as the larger ship drew in the smaller one. The bay doors closed behind the crippled little ship. Then the cargo bay filled with air, and then a great door opened and they entered. Yes, Loatians were huge. As tall as the Rheeus. Two big men and a big woman clad in tan uniforms slowly, almost shyly, approached the Rheeus. 'Seem pleasant enough,' said one of Jennifer's fellow passengers hopefully as they crowded to the window for a look.
One child started waving. One of the giant men saw him and waved back.
One ashen-faced traveler said, 'I hope they stay pleasant.'
As soon as they were safely deposited on the concretelike surface of a Loatian spaceport, another announcement came over the Rheeus' 'com. 'Attention. Due to engine trouble we have landed on Loas. The inhabitants seem friendly, but as you see Loatians are giants. One of them could snatch you up in their hand and be gone with you in no time. Therefore for your own safety we are insisting that all passengers stay on board. I repeat, all passengers stay on board the Rheeus while we are making repairs. We want everybody to make it to their destinations.'
They were away from the main landing ramps and near a gigantic hangar-like building. Curious Loatians came and went around the small peoples' ship, looking it over, uttering deep-pitched megabass comments.
Her first look at the giants had satisfied Jennifer's curiosity. Shy by nature, she pulled the metal shield closed on her cabin window so no one could look in. More than one of her fellow passengers were leery enough of the Loatians to do the same.
She wove this adventure into her developing story, though. A shipful of humans stranded on the planet Disarus. Inspired, she turned her scribbled notes into a first draft on her personal computer. And sketched more illustrations for her budding prose. She never worried about which came first into her mind. Pictures or words. For her, pictures inspired words, which in turn inspired more pictures, which in turn inspired more words. And on and on the happy artistic process went. She even composed a Desini song with the aid of a songwriting program. And started a computer game based on her fictional world.
The news soon came over the 'com that they would probably be on Loas for a month. It would take that long for United Galactic corporation to ship out the parts they needed to fix the engines. Meanwhile, the repair crew were fixing what they could until the parts arrived. As days passed in peaceful coexistence with their gigantic hosts, the passengers and crew relaxed. Sometimes Jennifer came out to join her fellow passengers in games or dancing in the rec lounge, then went back to her cabin with more story, picture or song inspiration. When she asked another crewman, named Jon, about how they were getting along with the giants, Jon said, 'They've been pretty helpful. Especially when we want something large moved. To them, it's like helping repair a toy ship.'
Next morning, Jennifer added details to her heroine's costume when she heard brushing noises outside. Something was rubbing the hull outside her quarters like a pregnant belly. A giant hand, she guessed. A Loatian giant satisfying his curiosity about the small peoples' ship. She had become so used to such touches in the past week that she paid them no heed.
A couple of stray lines came to her, as they always did. She wrote them down. 'I am lonely among many. I am the only one like me.' Oh, didn't she know the feeling. Not the only kid in her class who ever wrote a verse, but the only one consumed by fascination with art and literature. She once assumed everyone filled notepads, scratchpads, and entire notebooks with drawings, sketches and words until later in life she learned otherwise from one of her art teachers. What kind of house would she like if she could have any house she wanted. She pictured her dream home, a charming lavender Victorian residence with white gingerbread and a wrap-around enclosed porch. A nice, big home, with room for all her hobbies. She glanced around her cabin, with hardly enough room for more than one.
Then more inspiration.
Jennifer could almost feel this character's despair. Poor big fellow. Poor lonely giant. She sketched his portrait for future reference. A giant of medium build, with long curly hair like the Renaissance Man he was. The giants she had seen favored costumes either pastel or sandy-colored. Vega favored trousers and tailed coats of pale blue and green.
Then one day, Vega learned through his friends that a shipful of tiny humans had been brought to Loas for repairs. And among them was a creative mind that worked like his. Loatians were telepathic, she decided. And so he ventured from his home overlooking the ocean to investigate. And, sure enough, he found a little mind on that ship that worked like his. But the person who owned the little mind was shy of big people and didn't want to be seen.
'Talk about character identification,' she murmured. She wasn't about to make it complete by naming the character Jennifer. Name the character Denine.
Jennifer was a couple days into both her new storyline and her old one when there was a knock at her cabin door.
'His name is Vega.'
Jennifer's jaw dropped. 'Oh, my.'
'If I understood correctly, Vega is their Poet and Artist and Writer all rolled into one. He's like you.'
'Nobody's been snatched so far--we've tried to make sure of that by making all passengers stay on board. Need I say that everyone has been happy to comply so far?'
'How am I supposed to talk to him? I don't know a word of Loatian,' she said.
'They can project their thoughts into your head. That's how they've been communicating with our repair crew. Otherwise the language barrier would have been ridiculous.'
'I'll meet him, I guess. If you'll make sure I won't get snatched.'
'We'll make sure the best we can. The bridge is the best place. You can see each other, but you'll still be in the ship behind the solarshield. The solarshield's no barrier to telepathic talk.' Jon walked Jennifer to the front of the ship, where Jon opened the control center door for her.
'Here you go. Best view on the Rheeus. I'll stay near the door with my weapon.'
The Loatian sun lit up and warmed the center. A couple of the crew nodded to Jennifer as she entered. A six-story tall humanoid towered about a football-field length from the front of the hard, thick solarshield. The solarshield extended back into the ceiling so she could look up at him. Sandy-colored tailed coat and trousers with a pastel blue shirt. Shoulder length sandy curls. His blue eyes smiled down at her. Vega resembled her drawings too closely for comfort. As she approached, the Loatian giant crouched, then sat down crosslegged on the pavement outside. That brought his immense countenance level with hers.
His first thought felt like a mental paintball going Splat! in her mind. Mentally she translated it into: *You feel safe under that glass.*
*I know you could break it if you wanted to, but I hope you're too decent for that.*
He rubbed his lower lip. Another mental paintball. *I am.*
*It worked,* she acknowledged. *Are you lonely?*
The mental paintball deluge slowed while Jennifer translated it. Then another couple of mental paintballs. *The guard with the weapon is not necessary. But among non-telepathic races, people are not always what they seem, so we understand why you treat us with caution.*
*I write and illustrate outer space adventures, like you. I have composed the occasional song. I compose poetry. I like the music of words.*
*What are you working on now?*
*An adventure set on Plesserra, a fictional planet of mine.* Vega described the fern-trees and waterfalls of Plessura. His two heroes and heroine. Giants like him, of course. And their quest for rare gemstones. Jennifer told of her fictional world, Desini, and how the heroine defended the natives from encroaching colonists, and discovered a rare plant with the power to heal all maladies. Vega suggested a few touches to make her imaginary world even more realistic.
'Earth to Ms. O'Carolan. Do you realize you've been thinking with Vega all morning?' asked Jon.
'Huh? Oh.' She shook her head. 'It's been that long?'
'Time flies when you're having fun. At least, it looks like Vega's thoughts are lots of fun to you,' said Jon.
'Whew! They have been.' *I have to go, now. Time for me to eat.*
Vega's smile wanly dropped. *Until we meet again, Jennifer. I'll bring some of my work tomorrow.*
'Looks like you've got a boyfriend.' Jon's greenish eyes twinkled over a very wicked smile.
'Don't I wish!' Jennifer left the control center.
'When's the wedding?' Jon laughed.
Jennifer's mouth dropped. 'Right. And how many giant kids are we planning to have? None, because the first one I'd swell up and explode. But you're right in a way, Jon. Finally the right man comes along and he's hopelessly huge. I can't help but wish Vega was human. Or at least human-sized.'
'You can always hope you'll find a wee little version of him someday,' Jon chuckled. 'Or someone invents a shrink ray.'
Next evening, there was a knock on Jennifer's window. And a mental paintball went splat. *Guess who?*
Jennifer opened the shield on her cabin window to face a big blue eye. *Hello, Vega.*
The enormous Loatian had put one foot over the hyperspace nacelle on her side of the ship to reach her window. Now he drew back his enormous foot over the nacelle to set it back down beside his other foot. It was like watching an animated building in motion. Pointing to a green folder under his arm, he opened it, and showed his promised work.
*Excellent,* she thought of his sketches of scenery, buildings and people in elaborate costumes. *Oh, that's nice. I wish I could draw scenery as well as you. I seem to be stuck mostly drawing people.*
*Practice is the best teacher,* he thought to her. This time he wore a green suit with a green shirt.
*So Loatians like miniatures, too.*
Vega nodded and his lower eyelids rose up in a smile. *Yes. Some of us even collect them. And we've discovered that miniatures made by miniatures are the very finest, so some will buy up shipments of human-sized furniture to resell for Loatian dollhouses.*
*Just as long as you don't start collecting us.*
*You had better not come out here. I am very tempted.*
The entire tone of his thought was lighthearted teasing. Yes, he might think of snatching and running off with her, but he'd never really do it, was the impression his thought gave her. And yet---what longing poured through with that thought! To feel his feelings in her heart as well as his thoughts in her head--her thoughts and feelings tenderly enveloped by his. And his longing pulled with ever increasing intensity as they thought and felt together the next couple of weeks. He worked at his house during the day, so the evenings were when he always came to share and forge ideas with her. Sometimes she felt his longing would pull her straight through the ship wall to land her spreadeagled against his heart. That was how strongly he felt.
Then the ship's captain came to her.
A slight chill went up Jennifer's back. 'What are they saying?'
'To stay here as Vega's companion. For a while. Seems their artists are so rare they die of loneliness before they get to die of old age. Vega's people have seen how happy you make him. They're so fond of him and his work they'll do anything for him. I don't like it, but it's your choice. I wouldn't go for it myself. Once we're gone you're at their mercy. Helpless. They can do anything they want with you. We're prepared to pay up the usual way if you refuse. And I would not blame you a bit for refusing.'
'I--I don't think so,' said Jennifer. 'I enjoyed talking to Vega. He seems nice and he's very interesting. But if the Loatians think I'm a trinket they can buy for him, they're sadly mistaken.'
'Yeah. When we start trading people for favors, that doesn't make United Galactic Lines look good, either,' said the Captain. 'I'll tell 'em what you told me. And hope they don't get mean.'
Another day or two and the captain returned.
'The United Worlds Cultural Exchange Department has gotten into the act,' he explained. 'There's a fellow named Riskoff who's crazy about giants, and sees this as a chance to get to know more about the Loatians. He's talked the Exchange into offering you 1000 credits a month to serve as a cultural exchange rep, and check in on you every so often to make sure Vega's treating you right.'
'This gets better all the time,' said Jennifer. After all, she did not actually have a job lined up on Regulus yet. 1000 credits was a good offer--though useless as far as buying and selling to the Loatians was concerned. Still, she could always pay to have items shipped to her.
The captain mock-whispered behind his hand. 'I'd hold out for 2000 credits a month if I were you.' Then becoming more serious, he said, 'I'll have him talk to you himself. Wait here for the call to come through.'
The computer console in her cabin announced, 'Incoming subspace call from Theodore Riskoff to Jennifer O'Carolan.'
Jennifer got up from her notebook. 'Put him onscreen, please.'
A man with late-twentyish face rounded by sandy curls and beard appeared onscreen. 'Hi! Are YOU Jennifer?' he greeted her.
'Yes, I am. Hello, Mr. Riskoff,' Jennifer responded. Friendly computer-tech-type person, she thought.
'Just call me Ted,' he smiled. 'I understand engine trouble detained your ship on Loas.'
'About a month's worth, yes,' she answered.
'Yes. I'm one of the rare people who can write and draw. I'm interested in other creative areas, too. I've been called a Renaissance Woman, sometimes. Vega is the Loatian Renaissance Man--the only Loatian Renaissance Man alive right now. He's terribly lonely and wants a companion. I don't quite blame him for trying to do what he's doing--'
'Get you as a trade item. I can understand your resentment at being treated like a thing to be bought and sold. But you know, I've always liked stories like 'Gulliver's Travels' and 'Jack and the Beanstalk,' so I was thrilled when I first heard of the Loatians. And disappointed at how little information we have about them. I've wondered how we could get to know more about them, and their wanting you as a companion to their resident artist seems like the chance I've been waiting for.'
'I--I really like Vega--as a friend and as a good collaborator, but I'm not at all sure about this.'
'Yes, Loatians are huge, aren't they? Can't blame you for being nervous. But I hope you have some sense of adventure in you. You must have or you would not be shipwrecked on Loas in the first place. Loas is unexplored territory that we'd like to see explored. So you DON'T feel like an item that's been traded to them, we'd like to hire you as cultural exchange person to Loas. As such you would report the things you're learning about them by subspace once a month. Keep a subspace diary with us, so to speak. Believe me, I'll be the first to read them! We'll ship out a subspace transmitter to Loas right away. Don't go with any Loatians until it arrives. Then our liason person will follow you to whereever this Vega lives so we know where you are. After you've settled in, someone from our department will come out personally and check on you every Earth month. If all is well, the visits will go down to every three months. In any case, you won't be left completely at their mercy. We'll also pay you 1000 credits a month.'
'2000 credits,' she responded. 'The high risk of being dropped, stepped on or just plain disappearing never to be seen or heard from again rates additional combat pay.'
'Hold on.' Ted disappeared from the screen for twenty minutes. Suddenly he popped back on again. 'Okay, you win. I got my superiors to agree to 2000 credits per month. If you can get the Loatians to agree to the conditions to ensure your safety, the job is yours. Interested?'
2000 credits a month was more pay than she had ever made on earth. And Vega, despite his intimidating size, seemed a nice and interesting fellow. Now that staying on Loas did not mean being abandoned completely to giant strangers, her sense of adventure evenly matched her sense of caution. She heard herself say, 'Yes, I'm interested.'
The Loatians did agree to what the cultural exchange wanted. In a week, the United Worlds representatives arrived. A day and they rigged Jennifer with two transmitters. One to wear around her neck, and another inserted under the skin of her underarm.
'There,' said Pauline. 'Hopefully that takes care of the 'disappear without a trace problem.' If someone tries it, we can track you.'
Then she and the representatives, a man and a woman, waited outside for Vega to appear. He did.
*Afraid of heights?*
*Yes!,* she cried, clinging to his thumb for dear life and wondering what she had gotten herself into. *A fall---* she looked forty feet down at the pavement, *a fall from this height can really hurt me!*
*Believe it or not, a fall from that height can hurt us, too.* Vega went down on his knees and let her lower herself into a shirt pocket. *Thank you,* he thought to the two tiny United Worlds cultural reps, for he knew they had made this moment possible.
The Rheeus crew selected and hauled out the huge metal antigrav bin that contained all of Jennifer's earthly possessions. Then they were on their way.
As they drove home in Vega's solar-powered vehicle, Jennifer worried about her very altered state. From independent career woman to this. A tiny helpless companion to a giant. Totally dependent on both Vega and United Worlds for everything. On Loas, she could not go shopping or sightseeing by herself. Vega would have to take her everywhere. And if Vega, under all his nice thoughts, turned out to be a control freak--
Or--or---or---live happily ever after. Have her dreams come true. All of them. A totally unreal and gigantic infusion of love swelled in her heart. It was coming from Vega. It had to be.
Don't fight it. Just enjoy it.
Vega lived in a very attractive home of concrete and steel on a hill overlooking the ocean. The reps who followed him home decided to install the subspace transmitter-console in his study where his own communication center was.
When the reps and their space shuttle were gone, Jennifer finally had to face reality. Her Loatian host really was as nice as he seemed.
*Not at all.* She halted and looked up at the first eight-foot step to his home. *On Earth, I don't need help to get around. Here--you're going to have to take me everywhere.*
Vega crouched down beside her, then lay at full length on his stomach. Warmly regarding her, he put his hand behind her, and she sat down in it. He lifted her more closely to his eyes. He smiled slightly. *Jennifer, I think symbiosis is the most beautiful partnership in nature. When two different living things need each other. They keep each other alive. You need me, now. More than you like, perhaps. But I need you, too.* His warm regard and his longing tugged at her heart as if to emphasize the point. *Think of our companionship as symbiosis, and not master-slave.*
Then he airlifted her to the top of the steps. Then she followed him into his home. She was still too afraid of heights to be carried around all the time. She unlocked the antigrav bin which sat beneath an enormous table in what was the living room where Vega entertained guests. She opened a box, and examined a book to see if it was okay. Vega came and lay down on his stomach. *We had better put your possessions in an out of the way place. You may have a hard time holding onto them if some of my friends see them.* When Beth looked at him, he thought *To put in their miniature bookcases in their dollhouses.*
*Even if the title, text and all is in English, not Loatian? A tiny book in Loatian would be more fun for them.*
*True. But we had better keep them hidden away nonetheless.* When Jennifer replaced the book and closed the door, Vega picked up the bin and took it away to another part of his home. Then he came back for Jennifer, and after placing her securely in his jacket pocket, he took her to an out of the way spot past his bedroom, a small alcove with a window. He had placed the bin beneath a table in there. She once again opened it, and pulled out a book on cartooning. It was one of her favorite instruction books. In this strange place, it seemed like a familiar friend. She began reading it. Then she heard Vega's approach, and looked up. *No,* he thought. *Don't stop reading it. I am enjoying it with you.* His longing pulled at her heart. *I enjoy the creativity of others. The author of your book sounds like someone I would like. Please read some more.*
So Jennifer read while Vega eavesdropped. As to be expected, he did not understand all the earthly humor, but once in a while he chuckled deeply when he found something funny.
She sat on his gigantic desk as he showed and discussed with her one of his illustrated books, famed on Loas, titled Faraway.
*I'll bet people on earth will like it, too,* she thought to him.
Linking his mind with hers, Vega silently read Faraway, telepathically translating his poetic Loatian prose into thoughts, feelings, images and music in her head. Which she in turn translated into fluid, poetic English in her computer.
Their two minds were such a good fit, Vega sometimes called Jennifer by the nickname Tiny Wee, meaning both Tiny Little, and Tiny Us.
Finally, Faraway was translated, and the prose burnished until it shone. Jennifer transmitted the book to United Worlds and Rickoff. The evening she transmitted it, they conversed in Vega's living room.
'How old are you?' asked Vega.
'I'm about thirty-five earth years old.'
'Only thirty five?' Vega's countenance fell with dismay. 'How long do humans live?' he asked.
'With good care, about a hundred and ten years.'
'Humans--only--live--a hundred and ten years?' Leaning heavily on the mantel of his fireplace, Vega sobbed out the words. 'No-o---No-o----No-o-o-o......'
'I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make you cry. If I could live longer, believe me, I would,' she told him. 'Bigger creatures usually live longer than smaller ones. How long do your people usually live?'
'A thousand two hundred years.'
'Why don't you invite others to live with you? Start an art colony up here?'
'I love you, Tiny Wee. I had hoped you could be a lifetime companion. I don't want another.'
'I'm glad you think so much of me, Vega dear. But if you can love me, you can love others, too. Unlike you, I'm not the only one of my species who can draw and write.'
'I am sorry,' he said. 'I don't want to make you feel like a prisoner here. I know you might become lonely for someone your size, and want to leave. Anytime you wish, you may leave me and Loas. I hate the extreme shortness of your lifespan, but your suggestion for dealing with it is a good one. I would like to meet others of your species who are like you.'
'They won't be exactly like me, but that's good. You can learn different ways people can be creative.' Faraway garnered as much praise on earth as it did on Loas. The fact that the author was sixty feet tall made Faraway doubly intriguing to fans, who wanted to learn more about him. He fully answered the questions sent to him by his publisher, who in turn published articles about him. When he had garnered sufficient fame throughout the quadrant, in one of his articles he told of his desire to start an art colony. And, feeling like they now knew him through his book, fellow artists began to respond to that invitation. The first starship that landed on Vega's doorstep carried three creative people. A Spanish songwriter, an Alpha Centaurian poet, and a Scottish writer.
'So you're the tortured genius,' exclaimed the Scottish writer, reaching up to shake Vega's forefinger.
'Not anymore,' said Vega with real feeling.
And still more artists came and went, intrigued with the novelty of working with a very large member of their ilk. With the varied talents of the little group and Vega's telepathic ability to coordinate them, they turned out many a high-quality movie, book, music, poem and picture. And Vega was happy. And so was Jennifer. Vega loved all his little artists, no matter how long or how brief their stay with him.
Jennifer's stay proved very long, indeed. Longer than she expected.
She suspected something was up when she passed fifty without gray hair or wrinkles. But she was seventy before she said something. 'Vega,' she said. 'By rights I should be an old hag by now. I look and feel pretty good for seventy years old. Is there something in your Loatian atmosphere?'
An intensely tears-of-joy smile tensed up Vega's lips. 'No,' he said. 'There was something--in a drink I gave you. Long ago. The Elixir of Life from Prongeus. It worked. You will live as long as I will live. A thousand years or more.'
'Well--uh--thanks!' The Elixir of Life from Prongeus was one of the most expensive, sought-after, and rare items in the known galaxy. But Vega had enough fans who could somehow wangle that item for him. Now, she and Vega could look forward to a long and happy partnership. 'To many more years of happy collaboration with you, my dear friend,' she said.
He wrapped her in a giant two-handed hug. 'And I with you,' he whispered fervently.