TOUCH OF THE ELEGRIAN, Science Fiction - Cheryl A. Arko in New Worlds, New Voices - SFF Shooting Gallery Posted September 23, 2021 Author: Cheryl A. Arko Title: Touch of the Elegrian Genre: Science Fiction, complete at 89,000 words Comps: TOUCH OF THE ELEGRIAN is set on a future human colony world and would appeal to fans of Lois McMaster Bujold. Told from the point of view of a near-human alien like Julie Czerneda’s Sira di Sarc in her CLAN CHRONICLES, the story features a protagonist who manipulates technology using mental abilities similar to those wielded by the main character in Gerald Brandt's THREADER ORIGINS. The backdrop to the action shows the clash between opposing cultures reminiscent of ALIEN NATION. Hook Line: In the aftermath of a First Contact gone terribly wrong, a telepathic alien walks a narrow line between opposing civilizations and faces a choice between his conscience and allegiance to home when one of his own people sabotages the human colony's medical system. Pitch: Rys is a telepathic Elegrian, outwardly human, who uses his mind-body bond to work with near-sentient living data. Katie Kessler is a brilliant human technical expert with a legitimate grudge against aliens. When rogue intelligent data disrupts the medical system on Earth’s foundation colony on Loridan, putting the colony’s children in mortal danger, Rys is desperate to fix it. Stunned when he discovers an Elegrian—one of his own people—sabotaged the system, he forms an uneasy alliance with Katie. He hides a secret from her—his father killed the human envoy at the violent First Contact between Elegrians and humans, creating lasting hostility between the peoples. When traditional methods fail, Rys turns to his Elegrian psychic skills—which are banned on Loridan. Caught, arrested, prevented from completing the job, he escapes with Katie. In a moment of weakness, he lets his secret slip out. He’s on the run. Fighting to regain Katie’s trust. Only a last-ditch effort to form a mind link with Katie, breaking the most sacred tenet of the Elegrian-Human treaty, can save the children. Will she let him? And can he turn against his own people to follow his conscience—and redeem his past? Prose Sample: Purple bruises mottled the little girl’s face. A red line ran a jagged path from her delicate nose to her dry lips. Her eyes shimmered, but she made no sound. The white hospital sheet quivered with her small body’s trembling. Rys pulled up short in the doorway, every muscle abruptly gone rigid. A trick of his mind superimposed the image of another young innocent over the tableau before him. Memory tainted the scene with a dark stain. Another time, another planet… He straightened his uniform jacket and crossed the threshold. “Zhaaaaa... ” He crooned in the ancient language of his own people. It didn’t matter that the child was human, and he was not. He looked human enough for the young one, and the melody of solace was universal. He sensed the scarcest lightening of her spirit. Hasty steps brought him to the girl’s bedside. Hidden under the covers, the bio-bed’s myriad of sensors recorded enough infinitesimal measurements to enable Loridan’s treatment system to cure nearly any affliction. Or would have, if the complex network had not been broken. He crouched, pulled a sterile wipe from the dispenser and gently cleaned the blood from the child’s face. “There. Better?” He pronounced the words carefully. The harder he tried, the more the liquid trill of his accent exaggerated. Could she understand him? “Are you a doctor?” The small voice was faint, but her plea pinged loud and clear on his psychic senses. “No, shimwa.” He searched his memory for the translation. “Little one.” He softened his expression. “I’m here to make repairs. So you can get better.” He reached a finger to dab the wetness from her cheeks. She stared at his uniform sleeve. At the insignia displayed prominently along with those of rank and division. “It’s all right, shimwa. I can help.” She recoiled. He pulled his hand back. He had no words in any language to relieve this fear. A sob shook her little form. “I’m sorry.” He stood and retreated a step. The door snicked. “Katie!” The child’s voice filled the small room. “Oh, honey, don’t cry.” An athletic young woman dashed by to stoop low beside the bed. She grasped the little girl’s hands. “It won’t be much longer. The Patrol’s tech unit has sent someone to help.” Rys cleared his throat. “That would be me.” The woman twisted around and rose. Tendrils of swirling auburn hair glinted chestnut. Her brilliant green eyes reminded him of a mother rakktu. Especially the feline protectiveness. “Who are you?” Her gaze dropped to his sleeve. She inhaled sharply. He stopped himself from fingering the symbol stitched there. Just a bit of red thread—but it marked him as an Elegrian. An outsider. An alien. He’d better introduce himself. “Senior Intelligent Data Tech Rys—” “You’re the guru from the Patrol?” Each word tinkled with ice. “Yessss—” His accent made a hiss of his reply. Her eyes challenged him. “I’m Katie Kessler. Lead system designer. You’ll be working for me.” Bio: The notion of living data springs from my professional experience as a Senior Data Scientist, which includes several years of work in medical research. I’ve co-authored three peer-reviewed papers published in medical journals. I’m also a seasoned dog trainer/competitor, and I’ve been a guest columnist in the American Kennel Club Gazette. My dog training hobby has given me an appreciation of communicating and bonding with another species. Thank you for considering this project.