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June 27, 2022

Anachronocity v2p2

By Josh Brown

Mistaken Identity - Part Two

Alex looked up from the table as the door opened and the mystery woman entered. Across the table, Katlyn also looked toward the new arrival. Nerves twitched with anticipation, surged back and forth along Alex's arms, the tension rising with each moment.

"Mr. Sterling, Ms. Maruimatsu." The woman crossed the room, took a seat at the table. She remained rigid, formal, unwavering under their gazes. Alex sensed the military background in her right away.

"What do you want?" Katlyn asked.

"Well, for one, I wanted to thank you. Impressive feat back there, taking out that guard. I'm indebted to you."

"So you're going to let us go?"

"You're not a prisoner here. I'm sorry if you got that impression. I just wanted to talk to you both, give you some options before we turn you loose."

"Who are you?"

The hard gaze from the woman falter for the briefest of moments. She studied Katlyn's face, then Alex's face. "You two really don't know who I am, do you?" She shook her head, the disbelief tickling at her features. She almost seemed to want to smile, but her face remained stoic. "Sela Killigrew," she said and waited. When she saw the name didn't seem to ring any bells, she laughed. In that moment, Alex saw her true face. The face of a woman that enjoyed life without all the hardships that had taken control--then it passed. "Did you two grow up on an isolated planet?"

Alex said, "Humor us."

"I'm the leader of the Pure League, the most notorious person in the universe. Number one most wanted by Interpol for fifteen years running. Bane to the existence of the Elders."

"Elders?" Katlyn stared at Sela, her face masking none of the clear confusion on it. So much for trying to hide our ignorance, Alex thought.

"What's going on here?" Sela looked between them. "How are two grown adults this oblivious? Is this some kind of ruse?"

"It's complicated," said Alex. "You said something about options?"

Unfolding one of those pieces of foil, Sela nodded, reluctant. Their ignorance of current events had thrown her, put her on guard. "After reading your arrest records, I was intrigued. Your work is something we could use in the Pure League, assuming, of course, that you're only working with pure-tech. If you're not... well, we'll just have to depart company now."

Alex had no idea how to respond. Did they want to be associated with this woman? Her description of herself made her sound like a criminal mastermind. The information they had was just too sparse to make any kind of choice.

When nobody spoke, Sela continued. "Who are you working for? Why are you building this bomb that can only destroy buildings but not people?"

Not that again. Alex cleared his throat. "That's a big misund--"

"We're freelancers," Katlyn said, cutting Alex off. "Highest bidder, you know? Alex here is the genius, I'm the P.R. gal."

Flustered, Alex shifted his eyes toward Katlyn. Building a bomb of any kind couldn't have been further from his mind.

"Do you believe in our cause?" Sela asked. Alex realized a fishing expedition when he heard it. Sela still wanted to know if they were using pure-tech or not--whatever that is.

"With our constant hiding while trying to develop this bomb," Katlyn said, "we haven't had much time to keep up with things. So, forgive us if we're a little ignorant as far as your group and all. What, exactly, is your cause?"

Sela stood, the legs of her chair scraped against the floor. "Before I came in here," she said carefully, "I thought you two would be allies, given your ease at dispatching the Interpol officer. We were imprisoned together, after all. Now, I'm wary. Your story doesn't work, I'm afraid. Nobody could be as clueless as you two are pretending. So, one of you better tell me what is going on, or I may be forced to keep you locked up. I can't afford taking a chance on you two if you aren't straight with me. I just can't. Not when we're so close to the end."

"We're not building a bomb," Alex blurted. "The comment was sarcastic, but the police didn't seem to think so."

Sela leaned against the table, frowning. "You must have made a huge impression on them with your flippant comments. Not just anyone is shipped to Vool. It's for the worst of the worst..." Sela pressed at the foil as if it were some kind of computer display. Her face light up with a green glow as she scanned over the contents. "No ID. What?" She looked up, eyes narrowed. "Neither of you had ID. That's why you got the one-stop trip to Vool. Now I know something isn't right here. The only possible way you could be without ID is if someone removed your ID. And that would require an illegal operation. However, such an operation is only known to the Pure League."

"Or we never had ID to start with," Katlyn said.

"Impossible. The government IDs everyone on birth."

"Not where we come from."

"I've heard of these theoretical planets where the government has abandoned or simply forgotten about the inhabitants. But still... those people don't have the tech level to get off planet. So, assuming you are from one of those mythical places, that doesn't explain how you got to Earth."

Finally, something Alex could use. "Those places do exist," he said. "But society as a whole has completely forgotten about us and we've advanced far beyond anyone's expectations. Space flight is a reality for us now."

"It makes no sense. Why haven't any of these places made contact if they're capable?"

"Would you?" Alex asked honestly. "We were abandoned, left for dead. We had to struggle to survive without the help of any outside influence. The first thing we're going to do is tell the very people that ignored us? I think not."

"What's your agenda, then?"

"To learn. Our job is, simply put, to find out what has become of the universe and report our findings. Then we can make a decision on what we need to do next. But we can't do that without being informed first."

Alex took a breath. He never considered himself a particularly good liar. The lie seemed to come easy, more easily than he'd perhaps like to admit to himself.

"All right," Sela said. "Assuming I believe you, and that's a big assumption, your story does make some sense. That would explain why you were on Earth, the first natural place to go, and it could also explain why you're so ignorant of current events."

"But?" Katlyn asked.

Sela shook her head. "But nothing. It just seems a bit too convenient. You're telling me this fanciful story--after I first brought up the idea, let's not forget that--and you expect me to just accept it? I don't suppose you can prove any of this."

Katlyn turned to Alex with an expression that said, "Now what, mister smart guy?" He had no idea now what. Then an idea came to him.

"You have our police files, right? Look at the items they found on us. Do any of those things sound modern day?" It was a stretch. Alex held his breath as Sela turned her attention back to the foil-like device Alex had decided was some kind of computer interface. When they police took them into custody, Alex had had a watch, several tiny tools for working on the more delicate parts of computers, and some inks pens.

Sela's eyes shifted from the foil to Alex, then back to the foil. "Interpol couldn't classify anything you had on you. They'd never seen anything even remotely similar." She folded the foil and stuffed it in a pocket. "All right, I'll believe your story for now. I'm warning you, though. If I find out otherwise, I will personal see to it you both never return to where ever you're from. Understood?"

"I have a question," Katlyn said.

"What's that?"

"What year is it?"

"2552."

***

They were lying and it wasn't even subtle lying. Sela stood outside the holding room, a finger lightly massaging her temple. Inside were the two worst liars she'd ever seen, and she'd seen a lot. Over the years, more spies had been discovered by her seemingly flawless ability to recognize a liar when she saw one. Those two were no different. Yet, she didn't think they were harmful. Experience gave her a lot of things, the ability to detect a liar, and the ability to feel when someone was trouble. Why they lied, that interested her, especially because she didn't feel they had any reason to lie. So what were they hiding? That, above all else, made her decide to go along with their little story.

How could they not know about her or the Pure League? The war was older than both of them were; there's no way they grew up not hearing about it. Out of all the lies they told, their ignorance was the truth and that puzzled Sela greatly. Without the vibe of threat coming off them, she was going to let this play out for a while and see where it led.

Sela flipped a switch on the intercom attached to the wall next to the door. "Tell Yerik I'm letting the guests go. I'll talk to him later." She twisted the switch off, and then opened the door.

She led them along the corridor, out to the catwalks. A spiral of stairs wound around the vast cargo bay below, leading up one deck and down another. Three decks in all, the ship was small but served its purpose. "Crew quarters are on top, along with the kitchen. This section holds security, the bridge, and the med center. Bottom deck is the engine room and the cargo hold. There's a recreation area off to the left of the cargo bay. For now, I ask that you stay away from the bridge. I'll have quarters ready for you in a few minutes, are you together?"

"No," Katlyn said. "Separate quarters."

"Okay. You two should both see the doc as soon as possible. She'll implant you with false IDs so Interpol doesn't pick you up again. Aside from that, you're free to do as you please. Up top, some of the quarters have been changed into labs for various things. I don't run a cruise liner here, so, without knowing what you all actually do, I'll give you room to find out where you can help around here. Do so sooner rather than later. Yerik is second in command, but he's not very friendly, so I'd avoid him if you can.

"Any questions?"

They both shook their heads, despite their eyes brimming with questions a plenty. Sela just nodded. "All right, if you need anything, use the intercom."

She turned for the bridge, and then looked back over her shoulder. "Welcome aboard."

To be continued...
Article © Josh Brown. All rights reserved.
Published on 2004-02-14
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