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July 04, 2022

Anachronocity v9p9

By Josh Brown

Mama's Pride - Part Nine

Alex perched on the edge of Katlyn's bed as she prepared two mugs of tea. The nerves in his fingers twitched as he tried to suppress all urges to rush the answers forward. Somehow he had to try and explain this all to Katlyn in at least a semi-coherent manner.

"What do you mean?" Katlyn asked as she slipped a soothing warm mug into his hands.

A chip on the rim of the mug absorbed all of Alex's attention, focusing his mind and body. So he started in the most reasonable of places: The beginning. He told Katlyn everything she didn't know -- mainly the visitations by his brother. As he explained this missing portion of Katlyn's adventure, he could almost see chunks of information fitting together in her mind.

After he finished his story, Katlyn carefully considered, then asked the simple question, "You're positive it was your brother," she paused, "and not your mind trying to deal?"

"You think I'm crazy? After all of this," Alex waved his arms around wildly. "After everything and you think I'm crazy?"

"I believe you, Alex. I just want to be sure you believe yourself."

And for the life of him, Alex wasn't sure. He hadn't been sure since it started, and he still wasn't sure but what choice was left? He had to do something, had to believe something, so he chose to believe he wasn't insane. It was all he could do until he had reason not to believe.

"Where is Sela?" Alex asked.

Katlyn's gaze lowered, only for a moment, but it was long enough to tell Alex that the news wasn't good.

"Sela has been captured by Yerik and Horus. She tried -- and failed -- to stop the destruction of Zinar 4."

At first Alex felt his plans washing away. Then he stopped to think. Why was Sela so important? She wanted to stop the League, while Yerik and Horus wanted to continue with the League's mission of destroying the elders. That happened to be Alex's new mission, as well.

"Sela was correct," Katlyn said. "Greegan has offered us full asylum aboard the ship. Mama is still undecided on where she will go, but Bethany is staying. She said she'd follow Sela to the grave."

That's when Alex remembered why Sela was important. She trusted them -- Yerik did not.

"Tell me what happened."

"The plan was simple, really. All Sela had to do was tip off the patrols that there was a planet-killing bomb aboard, and the ship would be seized. Mama told me what happened based on an intercepted message sent to Anthony from Yerik. Just keep that in mind ... "

***

Yerik never felt more alive. Today the universe would finally come to realize the full power of the League and that nothing would stop them from eliminating the Elders -- not even a few billion civilian casualties. Far too long the Elders poisoned humanity; too many lives were needlessly destroyed in the war. Yerik was sick of it all and now that they'd acquired a planet-killer, this election would halt with a bang.

"Two hours out," Sela said beside him. She flipped through several com channels, listening for patrols. "Is good day to be Pure," Yerik said, unable to hide his grin. "Now if only Horus would ride bomb like a horse to the planet and blow up with it. The today would be perfect."

"We haven't succeeded yet."

"Good as." Nothing would turn Yerik's mood sour now. He knew they were in the right -- and how fitting would it be when the Elders on Zinar 4 were all killed by a weapon made possible because of their own technological upgrades? Surely that alone would show the universe just how dangerous the Elders are.

A red light blinked alive on Yerik's console. He studied it a moment, then turned to Sela. What is this? They were venting toxic matter from the bomb. Any passing patrol would read it. He looked back down at his console for errors and found none. Not only that, he was picking up two patrol ships nearing scanner range.

"Why have you not corrected course?"

Sela shook her head. "I'm trying. Something is wrong with the navigation controls." She slapped the intercom. "Horus the bomb is venting. Shut it off. Now!"

While Sela struggled with navigation, Yerik ran through several system checks looking for any sign of tampering. When nothing turned up, he narrowed his eyes. There had to be a problem somewhere, even if it was a simple reroute to confuse the controls. Yet, nothing showed up. So... Yerik switched to navigation and entered a course correction to avoid the patrols scans. The ship immediately obeyed and Yerik spun toward Sela only to get punched in the nose.

Then pain tore through Yerik's maimed leg as Sela's heel smashed nearly point-blank into his old wound. He recoiled straight out of his chair and slammed to the floor. He grasped out at Sela while she adjusted the ships course to intercept the patrols. Once he seized her sleeve, he yanked her back from the controls. He had no idea if she'd finished or not, but he had her off guard and managed to grab hold of her wrist. He twisted it back and to the right, then pulled himself up and tried unsuccessfully to pin her arm around her back. Sela brought a knee up and impacted with Yerik's stomach. He felt himself falling, then noticed the edge of the controls zooming toward his face. Before he got hit and passed out, he saw Sela frown and swear at the controls that weren't cooperating.

When Yerik woke up -- thanks to some sharp slaps from Horus -- he found Sela unconscious and tied at the wrists and ankles.

"Your bitch tried to turn us in." Horus sneered. "I locked out her controls from below, adjusted course, and got up here to do the real man's work -- since you couldn't."

Yerik swallowed his anger. "The venting?"

"Stopped. Looks like someone -- Bethany, if I had to guess -- tampered with it to cause the venting when it received a signal from Sela's console."

"Finish the mission. We deal with the traitors after."

***

"According to the message," Katlyn said, "they were nearly intercepted at the last minute by a patrol neither of them saw coming. But the bomb was launched and the planet destroyed. Yerik thinks someone here must have been playing backup and warned the patrols to watch out for them."

Alex squeezed his head with his palms. This was what he wanted, right? Destroy the Elders and go home. Could he live with innocent casualties in a far distant future that meant nothing but pain and suffering to him? He would have liked at least a moment's hesitation, but even that eluded him. Not this way. The Elders could die, it was necessary, but not the innocent lives. There had to be a line and that was it.

"What now?" Alex asked slowly. It hurt just to think.

"They're headed back here. No word yet on what happens now. Anthony has taken charge of the League for the moment, but he's weak and probably won't live much longer. Mama thinks he's going to give full authority of the League to Yerik."

"And us? Bethany? Sela? They're just going to let them back on the ship?"

"Greegan is allowing them back to sort out this mess at Mama's request. She wants to try and work it out peacefully. Since Greegan's crew vastly out-numbers the Leaguers aboard, she thinks this is safest. We'll find out soon; they're due back tomorrow."

Alex needed sleep and booze and possibly even death. Escape at any cost was starting to sound more appealing. Damn having a conscience.


To be continued...

Article © Josh Brown. All rights reserved.
Published on 2006-01-30
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