*Continued from The Scheherazadi, Part I and The Scheherazadi, Part II
The Magic Carpet slowly whirs to life, emanating a hum that sounds a little like an alien version of the cooling turbines on a golem. I've heard Morgiana and Rashid talk about "carpet burns" before, but it was only yesterday that I learned what they were.
And, I must admit, the prospect of traveling via carpet burn scares the shit out of me.
They call themselves the Scheherazadi and they're not quite human. Human, yes, but even less natural than the tech-djinn. They don't talk about it with me, being an outsider and all, but as near as I can tell they serve some sort of entity - a god, a dictactor, a wet dream, I have no clue - they call the Shahryi.
Most of them stay away from me, save for Morgiana and two other women, Zumarra and Parizade. Although Parizade's kept her distance ever since we almost sealed the deal, if you know what I mean. The only male I have any contact with is Rashid, and he's the prick who walked in on Parizade and me. Everyone else I've interacted with has been on a sterile basis... braniac types who have been poking and prodding me, supposedly to ensure the modifications to my golem hold up under field tests, even though I haven't seen my golem since these people captured me.
I did happen to notice that there were no children present and that everyone was an intellectual of some sort. I couldn't figure out why, but Morgiana eventually let the cat out of the bag during my long indoctrination.
"While the rest of civilization were trying to save their useless children, our fathers were saving engineers, scientists, doctors," Morgiana says, the arrogance slipping through her kind's prescience.
I ignore it. Fact is, they all talk like this. "Is that why there aren't any kids?"
"We have children, though very few. The pleasures of nature are hard to suppress, as you know." She gives me an evil eye, obviously because of the whole Parizade debacle. I just chalk it up to jealousy. "But most of us are clones, either replacement bodies for those becoming too old or copies of those in high-risk positions."
"So, you don't die."
"Of course we do, though it is rare that a person is completely lost." Completely lost, she says. I like that. "500 years of research perfected the cloning and transfer of memories from body to body."
Whoa. Even I'm smart enough to have my mind blown by this.
"And, to think," Morgiana continues, "all you've managed to do is figure out how to transfer to machines."
Pathetic, I know.
"I'm still lost. How do you plan on saving the world?"
"Nothing more is expected from you." Because she's so beautiful, I let her insult me. Okay, okay, half the time I don't even realize she's insulting me. But that time I did. "And the same way we destroyed it. With technology and a desire to use it."
Funny, had I heard someone at home dune say that, I'd be worried. Morgiana's words, though, carry themselves with an immeasurable weight of trust. And I believe them.
"Open Simsim," Rashid commands and blast of bright light permeates the entire chamber. I was briefed for this, but there's nothing like seeing the Magic Carpet tear a hole through space-time in person.
Rashid and two of his soldiers step in with no hesitation and disintegrate in front of my very eyes. Morgiana smiles and follows. Parizade takes my hand and pulls me in as she herself disappears.
Now I know why it's called a carpet burn. I feel like I'm on fire.
When it subsides, something's not right. There's a bright blue planet over my head. Before I can even ask if that's Earth, Morgiana and Parizade lift me to my feet.
"Come," Morgiana says, her voice more deferential than I've ever heard it, "it's time for you to tell a story to the Shahryi."
Forget what I said about the Magic Carpet. Now I'm scared shitless.