Edsen Balm’s Sacrificial Comm-Set
From New Dreams
Object Post 128
Source: Dr Dorotea Suchet delivered it to Edsen on Elydia
Significance: It allowed Edsen to have a single conversation with the person who had tried to help
Fate: The Elydian effect killed it, just as it had the first two
Edsen answered the comm-set when it flashed. “Jameel? Have you found out any more about the possible predator?”
When the folk on Indira tried to rescue the orphans of Elysian Dawn, Jameel Singh gave a modern comm-set to Edsen Balm, a fifteen-year-old whose parents had been com-tats (communicators) on the ship. This one soon started to glitch.
Edsen obtained a second one and Bede, his young friend, unscrewed the damaged one to find a growth of the ubiquitous silver substance that made up an important part of the planet’s ecosystem, had infiltrated the electronics.
“What’s that black and silver bit?” Edsen reached out his free hand to indicate a small mass in the corner of the shell.
“Maybe that’s the bit that makes it work?” Bede prodded it with his finger. “I think it’s broken. Look. Is this supposed to be loose?” He lifted a bit of silver free and handed it to Edsen.
“How would I know?”
Marianne held out her hand, and Edsen dropped the small mass into her palm. She rolled it about. “This looks like the silver rock stuff. Maybe it got in there by mistake.” She froze, as a nasty thought hit her. “Maybe it got in and killed the comm-set!”
The second comm-set failed as well. Naturally, Bede got at that one too. After all, he was an eight-year-old boy.
“Have you talked to Doctor Suchet yet?” she asked.
“She tried, I think, but…” Edsen held up the comm-set.
It seemed lopsided. “Have you unscrewed that one, too, Bede?” Marianne asked.
Bede grinned at her. He looked unrepentant. “Yes, I did. Edsen said I could.”
Edsen gave her a half smile and shrugged.
Bede went on, “Guess what, Mim? It’s got silver stuff in it like the old one. And guess what again?”
“What?” she asked, tweaking his ear.
“We unscrewed it before, while it was still working and there wasn’t any silver stuff in it, then. It must be the silver that makes it stop working.”
When all efforts at rescue had to be called off, Dr Dorotea Suchet paid one last visit to the planet surface with yet another comm-set for Edsen to use.
“Edsen, I take it your new comm-set has given out?”
He tilted his head, trying to read her mood. “Yes. The silvering is inside it. We think that’s what stops it working. I don’t see any point in you giving me another one, but please, can you let Cornelia Conti know—”
“You can let her know yourself.” Doctor Suchet handed him a comm-set from her pouch.
At the same time, Dr Harry Fejoa, Dorotea’s friend and colleague, had arranged for a similar comm-set to be delivered to Cornelia Conti, the Terran who had launched the rescue effort.
“I know you haven’t been able to speak directly with any of the Elysian Dawn people since their Terra-tat went down, and that’s why I arranged the comm-set for you. As you know, our rescue attempt failed quite spectacularly, but I think the remaining children have a good chance of making a successful community on the lines you intended. A boy named Edsen Balm has been given a comm-set, too, and I know he is anxious to contact you. Understand, this is temporary. The comm-set you have will last for the foreseeable future, but planetary conditions where he is mean this may be your only chance to speak with him. I trust you’ll make the most of it and not distress him with apologies and regrets.”
Thus Edsen and Cornelia finally got into contact, but Harry, Dorotea, Cornelia and Edsen himself knew his third comm-set would be his last, and that it was a deliberate sacrifice. Cornelia had her two colleagues Woo and Ash present for the one and only contact and miraculously Edsen, who was just as socially inept as Cornelia, managed to say the right thing.
Edsen met the gaze of each in turn. “Thanks to all of you. I won’t be able to talk to you again because Elydia messes up tech. I—we all—want you to know we’re all right.”
Orphaned, stranded on a planet with no hope of rescue, with a single comm-set that would presently fail… but they were all right. The sacrificial comm-set had earned its brief tenure… that was, until Cornelia asked if there was anything they could do and Edsen said yes and told them what it was!