The afternoon sunshine was a gentle pleasant warmth over Junior's shoulders as he idly redrew an angle in his design. He tilted his head at the changes he had sketched, comparing it to the image in his mind. He had seen a water pump system like this on another world and had been allowed to talk with the engineer who had fashioned it. It had fascinated him as he had wandered along behind the engineer as the woman described the working mechanics of the pump. Korlan had accompanied Junior on that visit and he teased Junior relentlessly afterwards that he had been so fascinated with the engineering and had completely ignored the engineer herself. Junior had noticed her beauty of course, but it had been her skills and her work that had pulled his focus. Besides, Korlan had enjoyed himself following along behind them, his focus purely on the engineer.
Junior looked up from his sketch and back over his shoulder towards his younger brother, who had paused from his wood chopping to chat with Asthra. She was a beautiful woman closer to Torren's age than Korlan's, but that didn't stop Korlan from flirting with her. Junior smiled as he saw Torren frowning in the distance at Korlan and Asthra. Torren had such a crush on her it was ridiculous. Junior shook his head in amusement and turned back to his work. He had completed all his chores for the day and had worked on the irrigation system this morning, where mother still worked now. The afternoon was his to do with as he chose so he sat here under the swaying canopy of a tree, the sun warming his back as he wandered in the landscape of his mind.
He squinted down at his designs and used his thumb to rub out the new angled strut he had added. Without really understanding how he knew he understood that the design would need more – the angle wasn't enough and needed to be further supported. Already his thoughts shifted as he redesigned it his him mind, reconfiguring how big each strut would have to be and how much force it could apply and take. Many said he was gifted in his ability to understand these things without even having to build them first, but he was simply surprised that other people did not think like he did.
He had always been fascinated by the idea of creating machines and devices like those that had been in Atlantis or from Earth. Mother told him many stories of the technology she had been able to use in the city of the Ancestors, and she had always collected any interesting pieces of alien technology from off world for him to tinker with, even if it were broken for then he could try to imagine what it had once been. Now he was older he sought out those things himself. He had amassed a large number of items, though most usually were incorporated into new designs of his own, but it was his small collection of random pieces of Ancestor technology that most fascinated him. He had found them over the years from various markets or even found buried in the ground of another world. Most of them he had no idea what their purpose was, but he would take them apart, sketch their design and put them back together very carefully. A couple of the pieces had activated as soon as he had touched them, but he had been none the wiser as to their function. Other than that one item which seemed to be able to draw several different species of the local wildlife to the device. Junior had tried out all of the frequencies on the device for many days, noting down each time which animal or bird would appear out of the trees towards the device. He always made sure to leave food out for them. Well, except for that snake like creature one frequency had attracted. Korlan hadn't stopped laughing for days when Junior had had to ask Mother to wade into the creatures to turn off the device. He had grown up since then of course.
A small shudder ran down his back at the memory of all those creepy creatures and returned his attention to the new pump design in front of him. He had purchased the book of blank paper from a trading partner. Mother had told him that those from Earth had kept all their notes and ideas on computer machines. Junior wished he had something like that and he had seen several examples from other cultures, but they were all clearly less advanced than those that were used on Earth. Mother had told him that all of his drawings put together would easily fit into one computer machine from Earth. Junior found that fascinating, but also confusing, because he had a lot of drawings. In fact he had had to construct new pieces of furniture just to hold them. He liked making furniture as well, because it was enjoyable to turn all those angles and shapes in his drawings into physical useful objects. The pump in front of him was far too big to ever be useful to the camp, but Junior drew and designed it anyway. Many of his ideas were 'far fetched' and not really all that useful, but he drew them away and kept them. Mother had told him that his father had been highly skilled at working numbers and Junior often wondered if he was the same, that perhaps his engineering ideas were an extension of his father's skill past onto him.
The sigh passed his lips before he could check it. He didn't like to let himself get like this - to wander into the unknown and wishes. Torren told him that he needed to focus on the present and the future he wished to create, but Junior found his mind constantly turning back towards Mother's stories. In his mind he had imagined walking the hallways of the lost city of the Ancestors. He had spent almost an entire year when he was younger trying to map out the ancient city that Mother had always described. He had pestered Mother for many days asking her to describe areas of the city and to precisely recall the details of the rooms. He had wanted to get it all correct - for he felt that it might be all that would be left of the mighty city.
In his head he had created the plans into full images and he imagined himself wandering those hallways at night when he could not sleep. He would lie awake and imagine what it must have been like to be surrounded by a vast ocean. Occasionally he had trekked out to the closest coast with his brothers, the three of them enjoying the 'camping trip' as Mother said Junior's father would have called it. Junior always enjoyed the trips with his brothers, but he especially enjoyed two things about them. First that he could stand by the ocean and feel what it must have been like living on Atlantis living with the constant presence of the breeze off the ocean. Mother had loved living there and had said that Junior's father had loved it as well. She told Junior that she had spent many hours on the city's balconies with her friends and with his father.
The other reason Junior liked the trips away from the camp was that he would always be allowed to carry an Earth weapon with him. The weapons were only used for protection and the camp had managed to only use them rarely. Before Atlantis had been destroyed the weapons caches had been well stocked, which had been important to his father apparently. Mother had taught Junior and his brothers out to handle the weapons from an early age and had impressed upon them how dangerous the weapons were. Junior was a good shot with the weapons, though practice had been very limited in order to ration the bullets. Junior liked using Earth technology. Mother had shown him how to take apart the guns and put them back together. He had drawn out detailed sketches of the weapons and he suspected that they could be replicated with the right metal forging skills and tools. But, he wasn't really all that interested in the fact that they were weapons, instead it was the knowledge that his father had perhaps held them. That through handling the weapons Junior was connected in some small tiny way to his father and with his lost heritage of that alien world named Earth.
Junior often imagined what Earth was like. Mother had only visited the planet a handful of times and had only once been out of the military base that had housed the Earth Gate. She had told Junior what little she could, though she had one book which had pictures from Earth in it. Father had given it to her and he had even written in the front of it. It held pictures of different types of Earth flying machines, almost all of which father had been able to fly himself. Junior had looked through the book more times than he could ever count and he had copied the pictures, trying to imagine how the machines were put together on the inside. But, it was mainly the brief scribbled words in the front that he liked to look at. Mother had taught Junior and his brothers the Earth written language and so Junior could read his father's message. Father had written Mother's name then 'one day' and then he had signed it clearly with his name and several x's beneath it, which symbolised kisses in Earth writing. Junior had looked at that message so often that he could picture it anytime precisely in his mind's eye. The writing was carefully written he thought, as if his father had wanted to make sure it was clear. Junior liked that it said 'Love John'. He liked to see that - to know that his father loved Mother.
Mother had only two actual pictures of Father and she had given one to Junior. It was a treasured possession of Junior's that he kept in a special box with a few other Earth items he had found over the years. The picture was of Father with Uncle Rodney and Uncle Ronon, standing with Mother. Mother told him stories about his 'uncles' as well and Torren remembered them a little from his childhood. Torren also remembered Junior's father, but Junior didn't like to push his brother about any details, thinking it might be odd considering their differing fathers. Torren liked to look at the picture as well though because he was pictured in it as a small child. Mother was holding Torren in one arm as the three men stood around her all smiling at the 'camera' device that had taken the image.
Junior had seen the other photo Mother had of Father, for she let him look at it any time he wished. It was of her with Father, the two of them smiling widely, pressed shoulder to shoulder. They looked happy in the picture though Junior knew it made Mother sad to look at it. Torren had told him that Mother had not looked at it openly for a long time until several years after Kanaan had passed to the Ancestors. Junior tried not to ask Mother his questions concerning his father when they were around his brothers, not wishing to upset them by making them think that Mother had preferred Junior's father over their own. Though, Junior believed that she had. Junior had once asked Uncle Halling about his father and Kanaan late one night when they had both been out on night watch together. Uncle Halling had replied carefully not really committing to any real answer, but the undertone had been clear for Junior – his Uncle thought the same: that Mother had loved Father more than Kanaan. Junior had never said anything to his brothers about this, and they had never said anything in return.
Their differing fathers had never really made much difference for him and his brothers growing up, for all three of them had for the most part grown up without any father. Though there were members of the camp who had kind of filled in that role, it was still far from the same as having a father around. The three boys had banded together and they had been known as the Emmagan Boys for most of their lives. They had done everything together and they loved each other. But, there were times when Junior could not help but feel different to them.
He glanced back over his shoulder to where Korlan had finished his flirting with Asthra and was back chopping wood. Korlan was good at that job as he had wide powerful shoulders - at least that was his excuse for doing the job shirtless in full view of most of the younger women of the camp. Korlan brought the axe down with a heavy fast blow and cleanly split the log before him.
Korlan and Torren were ridiculously strong and they could communicate with each other without talking out loud. Junior could capture the general feel of their thoughts and emotions when they 'sent' to him, but it was clear that he was not on the precise same frequency of thought as they were. Junior envied them sometimes, but at the end of the day he loved his brothers dearly. Yet, he was different and he felt different. It was almost as if some part of him was somewhere else. He was only half like his brothers when it came down to it and the other half of him he suspected he many never understand. For it was lost dreaming of a lost city, an alien world he would never see and of a father he could only meet through stories of his deeds.
Korlan looked his way as he added a new log to his chopping block. Junior suspected his brother had picked up on his sad reflective mood. Korlan smiled and then tilted his head in Asthra's direction. Junior looked off that way to see that she was talking with Torren. Torren and Asthra had been close friends all their lives, but Torren had yet to actually tell her that he liked her more than as a friend. It was a source of amusement and teasing for both Junior and Korlan. Junior looked back to Korlan with a smile. Korlan rolled his eyes and smiled before he swung the axe again bringing it down with a wood splitting crack.
Junior looked once more towards Asthra who was laughing at something, the sunlight sparkling against her beautiful skin, pretty eyes and lips. Torren needed to made his move soon or some other guy was going to catch her attention. Junior began forming some good teasing comments to use against his brother later. With that he turned back to his sketch and focused once more on his designs.
He had filled a further two pages when he heard the first indication that something was happening across the camp. Raised voices were not that unusual in a camp filled with many chores and woodwork, but it was that there were so many that drew Junior's attention. He looked up from his work, realising how much cooler the sun had become. Korlan was gone, the axe buried into the chopping stump. Junior looked to where Asthra had been sitting with her friends to see that they were looking off across the camp in the direction of the raised voices. It sounded like some people had arrived from the Gate path. It was very common for visitors and traders to arrive in the camp unexpectedly. There were also a growing number of Athosians living off world and they often visited, and were usually greeted with joyful shouting to gather family together. But, there was something different about the voices across the camp that Junior could not identify.
Asker, Asthra's brother, appeared from behind a tent pointing off towards the noise with an expression of surprise. He was gesturing a lot and then he and Asthra both turned to look at Junior. Junior felt a burst of worry at their attention. What was happening? Had something happened to someone? He was up and moving towards them in an instant, tucking his notebook into a pocket of his trousers as he ran jogged towards them.
"What is happening?" He asked worriedly.
"Halling asked me to call you over," Asker told him, but there was something strange to his expression and he was staring funnily, like he was scrutinising Junior's face.
"Is something wrong?" Junior asked.
"No, but…" Asker ran out of words, but he was still pointing off across the camp.
Worried, and a little annoyed at Asker, Junior headed off in the direction indicated. He could see a crowd had gathered at the other end of the camp and Junior could just make out some dark coloured clothes among the group – they did have visitors. Junior slowed slightly as he neared the open area. Members of the camp were all crowded around the group tightly, though he could see they were smiling widely and he could make out Korlan's back disappearing into the centre of the crowd.
"What is it?" Junior called to them as he neared the outer edge of the group. The visitors were collected together in the centre of the crowd and he saw Torren hugging someone. That was strange because Junior had never seen Torren hug anyone other than family. Junior strained to see the newcomers' faces, but there was too much movement ahead of him. He moved towards Korlan who seemed to have space around him. Torren had stopped hugging whoever it was and was turning towards Korlan.
"This is my youngest brother, Korlan." Junior saw Korlan reaching forward with one hand. It was the Earth greeting Mother had told them about. A strange thought entered Junior's mind at that, and his gaze turned to the first visitor he could finally see clearly through the crowd. The clothes were dark and cut in a familiar way. Junior didn't recognise the man, but the man stared back at him with wide surprised eyes.
Then Torren looked round drawing Junior's attention to him. Torren reached for Junior through their people and space seemed to magically open up in the crowd around Junior as he stepped towards his brother. Torren's hand landed on Junior's shoulder, gently pulling him forward. Korlan had stepped back allowing Junior to see more visitors' faces and suddenly he knew what he had suspected was true. These men were from Earth and even more shockingly he recognised two faces - one tall man who was staring at him and another shorter man with a very shocked expression on his face.
"And this is my middle brother," Torren was saying as he guided Junior forward. Junior was so glad for the warm weight of his older brother's hand on his shoulder. Junior stepped up beside his brother and suddenly the man who had been standing directly in front of Torren came into view. "His name is John. But we call him Junior."
Junior stared at the man before him and his breath was stolen from his lungs.
Junior did not need to have a photo of his father to recognise the man in front of him, for there were elements of his own features staring back at him. Junior's heart hammered in his chest and he would have said something but he was completely incapable. Everything around him faded away but for the man in front of him, and the gentle reassuring squeeze of his brother's hand on his shoulder.
It was as if nothing else existed around them as Junior met his father.
Junior became aware of people talking around him, though the voices were soft and there was laughter, and he realised that his mouth was hanging open, but that was alright because his father looked just as shocked. That seemed to help and brought the world back into focus for Junior. He worked to gather himself. This was his real Father and he really should say something smart and worthy-like. For what if his father didn't like him?
"Hello," was all he could manage and it sounded really weak.