|Vocals by Lucinda Peters|
Legend: Philadelphia, Bleeding Sun
Characters: Hiram, Commander Elyani Serah, alias Black Panther
Musical Image: Passion.
Now it's 04:37, TS5-on-Titan time. Bobby is nervously VR-pacing in his park. He hasn't had much sleep. As soon as he went to bed, images and impressions of his session with Szar rushed back into his mind – some ghastly, some tantalizing, none of them completely clear. But he wants to be presentable for the Panther, so he pushes the nightmare out of his reality and pulls himself together. And he starts reviewing mentally the 27 primary system areas of the Scalene fighter's command system.
She arrives early. He sees her walking in the park. Towards him.
She is so beautiful. So elegant. The knights' costume seems to have been designed specially for her. And such presence! Such a simple, perfect way of walking by putting one foot in front of the other.
Such a beautiful voice. Mellifluous (a word Bobby heard in Amy's encyclopedia, it has to do with honey).
"How are you today?" Now she is just in front of him.
"Oh, quite good."
There is not even one second of time lag. Meaning, her Real Reality body is less that 300,000 km away.
"Szar told me you were going through an eventful period," she says, and she asks him to tell her what happened during the past life session. While Bobby speaks, she listens silently. Flashes of lightning in her eyes.
Just telling the story to her seems to give it meaning. Bobby isn't sure which meaning yet, but he can definitely feel meaning. A great relief.
The Panther makes no comments, she gets straight down to business. In the middle of Bobby's park – it's called the Gardens of Babylon, Lou told him before leaving – she VR-manifests a Scalene 213 resting in the air one meter above ground level. "Do you know what this is, Bobby?" she asks.
"That's right. Scalene 213. The standard training machine for our pilots. Baba first: do you know why the fighter is called a Scalene?"
"Er... by analogy with a scalene triangle, perhaps?"
"Exactly. This is the common thread between all the fighters of the Scalene family: a flat triangular shape. Nearly an isosceles triangle – the right side is only a few centimeters shorter than the left. This one is 31.36 meters long and 4.76 metros high," she says as they are walking past the fighter's pointy nose. "No windows. Always painted black."
Bobby admires the way she remains personal when exposing bare technical facts. And her lips are even more finely chiseled than he remembered.
On the side of the craft there is a sign made of a black panther jumping out of a large golden sun. "My symbol. You'll have to find your own symbol when you graduate as a knight." Activating a switch, she unmasks the door. A five-step staircase silently appears under it.
"Get in, Sir Bobby!" she says, and she follows him into the fighter's flight deck. A large circular vault, 7 meters in diameter, 3.4 meters high. It's empty, apart from 7 chairs – gravito-armchairs with lavish black gravito-cushions. She invites Bobby to take the central chair, and sits on his right.
"The first thing a pilot must assimilate is the command system," she pursues. "In real-life piloting, the command system is activated through a mindboard. But for the purpose of learning, you unfold it as an eyeboard." She conjures up a fluorescent holograph, 3 by 2 by 2 meters, made of thousands of shining geometrical shapes with a dominant bright yellow hue. And she starts enumerating the 27 primary systems.
Bobby doesn't have to worry about following because he already knows the 27 areas by heart, so he can concentrate on the Panther. The more he looks at her, the more stunning he finds her. Everything about her shines: her Point, her skin, her heart. Her intelligence. He carefully studies the two little vertical lines on top and on the sides of her nose, and how they slightly contract when she wants to emphasize a point. There is a tiny beauty spot close to her left nostril. He hadn't noticed it before. And when she smiles, you can always see a little more of her upper teeth than the lower ones. It really does something to his Point (the smile, not the teeth).
"Now let's recap the main functions," she says. "What's this one?" She points to area 3 of the central command eyeboard by making it shine a little brighter.
"Left propulsion nacelles."
"And this one?"
"Aft facing phasers 1 to 57."
"Left phasers 1 to 101."
"And what's primary system area 27?"
"Peripheral maruding units."
"Excellent!" she seems delighted. "Excellent! Now why don't you show us how to take off?"
"Er... I don't think you told me how to take off."
"True. But as I hadn't told you about central command area 27 either, I thought that perhaps..." Amused smile, same fathomless irony as in Szar's smiles.
Caught! Bobby freezes.
"You react, you die!" she points an accusing finger at him. "Take off!"
Bleeding Sun 2.14
Music by: Samuel Sagan, vocals by Lucinda Peters