Author : Suzanne Borchers
Rebkkh stepped into the large rec-pod, surveying the room’s occupants with an experienced eye. Two off-worlds were tipped back in their chairs sipping orange drinks, three off-worlds crowded appendages onto the table jabbering loudly, two more off-worlds wrapped their drinks in leathery fins.
A man was alone at a corner table sipping something golden. His bald head was ringed with gray wisps of hair that straggled over large ears. His nose seemed poised to drop into the glass at each sip. One eye winked in her direction. His hand opened slightly and closed again but not before she glimpsed a small object within it.
She moved across the room, careful to appear random in her choice of direction. She chose a table next to the rumpled man, putting her back to the wall to face him at an angle. She opened and closed her hand holding the wooden figure. Did he see it?
“Granddaughter, do you know what you hold?” The man murmured to the table as his eyes swept over her.
“My inheritance,” she whispered. “But no.”
“Come to Section D, Number 22, an hour after I leave. I can help.” He pushed himself up from his chair, placed tokens on the table, finished his drink, and left.
An hour later, Rebkkh hesitated outside the D22 door. Should she knock? Should she cough? Should she turn around and run?
The door slid open. The strange yet almost familiar man ushered Rebkkh to a platform couch and asked her to sit. He sat close beside her to whisper, “Let me see it.”
The hair on the back of her neck rose and Rebkkh’s heartbeats crowded each other. She had to know what it was, no matter what. So much mystery about this object. Her family had never spoken about it, had never spoken at all when it was placed in her hand. Only the scrap of paper around it told of this man and where to find him. But who was he? Why?
She opened her hand. Lying on her palm was a crudely carved piece of what she guessed was wood. A man wearing a funny headpiece seemed to look back at her.
The old man opened his hand and showed her the figure’s twin.
She gasped. “Tell me please.”
“Countless centuries ago our family owned many such carved characters and kept them in a box with squares carved on it. Some characters were identical to this and some represented kings, queens, horses, castles, and bishops.”
“What’s a bishop?” Rebkkh couldn’t stop herself from speaking.
“These belonged to a game of skill and intelligence, something our people had in abundance. Others hated us and long, long ago when our people still practiced religion…”
“Their government butchered us and stole our treasures.”
“A fortunate descendant found this one family treasure so many centuries ago, and each branch of the family was given a piece to cherish and to remind us of who we are.”
“Who are we?”
The old man’s wrinkles at the corner of his mouth crowded each other as he smiled. “Granddaughter, let me whisper the Truth to you. We have a proud yet humble history that you should know. Be sure to tell your children and their children. You must pass down our secret.”
Rebkkh leaned toward him, her hand over her mouth so she wouldn’t interrupt.
He began his story.
But there came a banging on the door.