Broken Hearts of Crystal
Walking aboard a spaceship with J. Aurel Guay, author of “The Princess of Jasoom”
Today, I am in a shipyard. Once again, it is the Victorian era, and once again, I am surrounded by brilliant, impossible machinery. However, unlike my walk with the con artists of The Silver Scams, I am pleased to note that I can be a female on this walk. Small favors.
I wander down the boardwalk, merely curious. It looks as if a war was waged here. There are planks of broken timber, shards of wood, and then . . . oh, hang on, there is a young woman there, lying unconscious! Though her clothing is damaged, she is still well-dressed and attractive. I check her pulse, and she is living. She seems to be sleeping peacefully, but she has many cuts and bruises. Normally, I would help, but my tight Victorian gown with its full bustle isn’t going to give me much maneuvering room. I need to find someone to assist.
There, at the end of the dock, I see a ship under construction. At least, I think it’s a ship. It isn’t going anywhere on the ocean, that’s for sure. I stand, gazing at it, looking for a human face somewhere in the automaton construction crew. To my surprise, a ramp lowers down to my feet, inviting me to enter.
Ginger: [Boarding the ship] Curious, I have not seen anyone here yet. Hello? Is there a captain? There’s a girl outside that is unconscious, she may need medical attention.
Voice: How did you get in here? Who are you?
Ginger: Oh, I’m very sorry! My name is Ginger, and I am just a passerby. I came on board when the ramp lowered for me. I am curious about your vessel, and I also need your help, sir. I cannot place your location, would you mind stepping out so I can see you?
Voice: I guess it does not matter how you got in. It is a pleasure to meet you Miss Ginger, and I can assure you that the girl will be OK, I have been watching over her while she recovers.
Ginger: Oh, good, I will breathe easier now!
Voice: All that you see is me, from the automatons working on the hull beside you, to the masts being raised at this very moment. There is no captain here, and I no longer have a human form to show you. Please mind your step. As you can see, I am under construction. There is little time; I will be embarking as soon as soon as I am able. My true name is not well suited for the human tongue, but most recently, I was called by the name of Mr. James Brooks.
Ginger: James Brooks? Nice enough name, but you sound just like a man. How did you become a ship?
James Brooks: I have always been a ship, or at least as far back as I can remember. My memories are still poorly sorted. The last several months were the only time I spent as a man after your species. A machine is my truest form, however, and I am returning to that nature as quickly as I can.
Ginger: This ship doesn’t look very seaworthy, I’m sorry to be rude – but these sails won’t catch any wind on earth. Where will you sail?
James Brooks: Oh, I don’t sail the seas my dear. The stars are my birthplace and Barsoom, known to you as Mars, is my home. My purpose is to ferry creatures such as yourself across the vastness of space.
Ginger: But the young lady out there, do you know who she is?
James Brooks: I do. But I don’t know how to describe her to you. She journeyed with me while I walked in flesh, lost to myself. She stood beside me and came to my aid in my darkest hours. Her spirit was a relief to my heart in the times I wandered without memory of who, and what I was. We worked side by side for Automaton Incorporated. Her name is Elizabeth Carter, niece (of a sort) to my onetime captain, known on this world as John Carter.
Ginger: I have heard of her uncle, John Carter! Where is her uncle now?
James Brooks: John Carter has returned to his home on Barsoom. My charge was to carry him forth in search of some means of stemming the calamity advancing upon our home world. That was many millennia ago. We crashed on this planet, and both lost a portion of our memories. Even in my damaged and barely conscious state, my prime directives were active. In time, I managed to establish a wormhole between our worlds that John Carter could pass through my means of psychic link. They presume him dead on this world, but he has in fact travelled between his true home and this one more than once now.
Ginger: But wait, you said you worked with Miss Carter. How is that possible if you are a ship?
James Brooks: I am not exactly a ship. Rather, I am the heart of the ship. I am a Living Crystal, the highest pinnacle of a now ancient Barsoomian technology. When John Carter and I crashed, I splintered. My memories and mind were fractured and buried in the deserts far to the west of here. Automaton Incorporated mined the crystalline fragments of my being and employed them in the animation of their automaton. However, their machines had no will of their own. That is, until James Brooks fell upon the my Mind Shard and I was able to live and act through his body.
Ginger: But why would you choose the body of Mr. James Brooks? I mean you are a crystal, what do you want with a man’s flesh?
James Brooks: I didn’t mean it! It was an accident I swear! . . .
Ginger: [With sympathy] You have a heart, sir, whatever that means. I can tell I upset you, and I regret that. Please do not take my question as an accusation, I cannot imagine that you would intentionally harm anyone.
James Brooks: Still I cannot help feel the guilt of it. Mr. Brooks and Elizabeth were seeking new deposits of shards on behalf of Automaton Inc. They were close to finding my second crash site and the rest of my remains hidden in a mountain cave. However, the cave was not stable. The ceiling of my prison broke, delivering the crumpled form of a man to the floor beside me with one of my shards piercing his chest. I tried to save him. I poured every remaining piece of myself into the shard within him.
In the end, it was not enough, and it left me more fractured than before. I woke in a reanimated body, not knowing who I was. Neither did I know what I was, or remember the loss of James Brooks soul. Not until Elizabeth helped me unravel it all.
Ginger: What was it like to work with Miss Elizabeth Carter? What were some of your favorite moments?
James Brooks: She is simply splendid. Clever and witty. Just be careful not to get on the wrong side of her temper. I have been there myself, and to tell the truth she nearly abandoned me to my fate! Nevertheless, she came back; she always came back for me. Somehow, she understood me even when I did not understand myself . . .
Ginger: It sounds . . . I’m sorry, I know you are a crystal, but it sounds as if you feel tender emotions for her. I am touched, but confused. How can a crystal feel anything like love?
James Brooks: I wish I knew. Perhaps, then I could turn it off.
Ginger: The sign of a true lover! You are not flesh and blood, and yet you feel the pleasure and excruciating pain. And now you wish you had never loved at all?
James Brooks: I was wrong to say that. Miss Carter and I are from separate worlds and could never be together. However, I will never regret the feelings I have, or the joy of her memory, even if they cause me pain in what I must now do.
Ginger: If you could grant one wish to Miss Elizabeth Carter today, what would that be?
James Brooks: I would give all the heavens beyond the River Ish to know that she will be find joy and peace after I depart. I may always bear the sorrow of our separation in my heart, but I hope that she will live to be filled with the joy and hope she deserves.
Ginger: If I were Miss Carter, I do not think I would give you up so easily. Love like this is rare, and she is smart enough to know it. She will want to be with you always.
James Brooks: I wish that were possible. Now you must go. My reconstruction is almost complete. I must depart before she wakes to spare her the sorrow of a lengthy goodbye. Hurry! She is waking now!
I know a sensitive situation when I see one. Mr. James Brooks, a name he still wears with honor, is more human than some of the flesh and blood life that I have met on this planet. I can only hurry out to the dock as fast as my puffy skirts and parasol will let me go. From a safe distance, I watch a confused, weary young woman walk onto the ship that loves her enough to let her go.
Here eyes are sparkling with tears. I can see them from here. They are as blue as the open sea.
J. Aurel Guay writes fantasy and science fiction with an emphasis on strong plots and meaningful themes. Having played at writing fiction since grade school, he revived his passion in reaction to his day work in biomedical science. “The Death of Dr. Marcus Wells,” published in Shades and Shadows: A Paranormal Anthology is his first published work. His current work in progress Jagerund is a novel expanding on the previous short story.