History for Dummies - Part Three
Sela stood outside the unmarked room deep in the back of the engine room. The steady thrumming of the engines pushed to their maximum limits drowned out any sounds that might dare to venture from behind the closed door--and most of her thoughts. Vibrations rolled through her body in steady, uncompromising waves, one after the other.
Again she knocked, this time louder.
This time the door opened almost at once and out stepped Horus. He slammed the door closed behind him and then hastily turned an angry scowl on Sela. "What do you want?" His shout barely reached her ears in a whisper so close they were to the engines. Blood dripped from Horus's fists, fat droplets splattering on the ground.
"Answers," Sela shouted back in competition with the surrounding noise.
Peeved, Horus shouted, "You'll get them as soon as I do. As much as I relish this particular job, I'm not wasting time here. I know the stakes just as much as you do. You'll get your answers before we get there."
"I don't need to remind you--"
"I know! I know!" Horus snapped.
"Six hours. Not a moment longer."
"Six hours." Horus wiped his knuckles on his shirt, lifting his eyebrows in askance.
Alex's active and noisy neighbors were hard at work, minus clothes--their favorite attire when alone in their quarters. Nothing could deter them from what they ultimately seemed to find most important in life.
"No, that's not it," Heather said with a coy smile. "Try a little farther down. Yeah! Now you're there. Keep in that area."
"You sure?" Nicolas asked, uncertain. "This doesn't look right."
Heather peered down at Nicolas, more than a little surprised at his reluctance. She thought she knew him better than that. "Trust me, that's it. What's the problem?"
"It's just so... unusual. I mean, it's not as if I've never tried this before or anything but really, here? Where do I put it?"
"You just said you've tried this, and now you're telling me you don't know where it goes? That, my dear, is a contradiction. Do you need me to help you?"
"No, no," he said. "I'll figure it out. Just give me a minute here to try."
Nicolas frowned with concentration that Heather had never seen him exert before. The poor thing must be out of his element, and here she thought he knew just about anything there was to know about this. Yet here was one of the easiest maneuvers and he couldn't figure out where to start.
Heather's eyes widened. "Not there!"
"Relax, will you? A little experimentation never killed anyone."
He wouldn't like it too much if she hit the wrong spot. Heather pursed her lips together, praying that Nicolas would find it without too much more trouble. Times like these she wished she'd met someone just a tad bit more experienced. But who didn't wish that at times like these? The best she could do was to be there to guide him if he got too frustrated with the whole adventure.
"Easy," she said. "Easy. I think you almost have it. Don't rush it. Stop! Ugh. It slipped. Start over. You sure you don't need--"
"I can do this! I said I was opened to new things and I'll figure it out, all right? Just give me a chance."
Feisty! There was only so much of his fumbling that Heather could take before she'd have to lend him a little guidance. She admired his willingness to try, though. She admired that a lot. Not many of the men in her past would be so bold. Those eetee lovers found her adventurous soul intimidating and they'd never live up to any kind of potential. But Nicolas. Sweet Nicolas had magic hands and an imagination that could tackle the most difficult of problems, if given enough time and probing.
Heather peered down at him again. It normally didn't take this long, not even for Nicolas. He'd always been prepared for new challenges, new maneuvers, ready for anything. Maybe this one was just too tricky for him. How does one delicately guide the misguided without hurting his pride?
Just as Heather was about to take over, whether he liked it or not, Nicolas's boyish grin popped out. His face lit up with the achievement of a lifetime now under his belt. Very few men dared to go where he journeyed today, and even fewer of them succeeded.
With her SoftPAD, Heather looked over the data Nicolas had just decrypted--top-level data that most believed to be untouchable--and returned his grin. "You're a genius!"
After keying a sequence of codes to ship the information off to Sela and Yerik, Nicolas tossed his SoftPAD aside, slipped Heather's SoftPAD from her fingers and did the same. "Now we celebrate!"
Grinning, Heather had plans for this one. Nothing could prepare him for the congratulations he was about to receive.
Alex paced back and forth in the little clearing mid-fake-forest, fingers laced behind his head, brow scrunched in thought. Katlyn remained mostly quiet during the whole conversation, too cerebral at a time like this. He had questions, how could she not? Why wasn't she asking them?
The whole idea of aliens made Alex shudder. All his life he'd ridiculed the very notion. Aliens, as far as he was concerned, didn't exist except in the minds of loonies and desperate people out for attention. Naturally, par for the course, he's now being told the very idea of aliens is in fact true and has been since before his own time--unless these people were nuts, too. Based on what he's seen of this shit ship and its crew, that notion didn't stray far in his mind.
He turned back to Anthony, who still sat at his little table looking all the much like a little old man who couldn't possibly tell a lie. Hah! He didn't trust little old men or women. "Tell me something."
"If this hybrid technology is so advanced, why do you people in the Pure League not use it against the aliens? Seems to me you're quickly falling behind to an almost archaic technological level. You can't expect to keep up with all the advances and still win this little war."
A frown crossed the old man's lips. It was the first sign of any kind of emotion since this conversation began, thought Alex was sure he could sense the underlining anger in most of the story. Here was physical emotion, raw and unkempt. "The hybrid technology stands for everything we're against. It is nothing but a ploy by the aliens to not only further their technology, but to better ensnare humanity into a false sense of hope and belief that these aliens are benevolent, here only to help humanity out of a dark age."
Alex glanced at Katlyn. "You're quiet. Don't you have anything to say about all of this?"
Katlyn didn't bother even looking at him. She just sat there in silence. Huh. Alex shook his head. "Old--Anthony, how far along as these advances? I mean, is it even possible to fight them with such a disadvantage?"
"The advances are slow. They take time to perfect. The Elders have no need to rush things; they age about a hundred times slower than humans do. And they're being careful. Until such factions as the Pure League are eradicated, there's a chance humanity could revolt and they don't want that. They're stalling until they can be assured absolute power. And that's about to happen."
"What? How's that about to happen?"
"The government consists of a council made of 39 representatives from the 39 sectors throughout the known universe. Nineteen of those representatives are pro-Elders; twenty are pro-humanity and still struggle to keep the Elders out of certain aspects of human existence. The upcoming election will not only replace ten of those representatives, it'll also signify the election of five Elders to the council. Five elders, two of which will replace two of the pro-humanity representatives, this forming a new council of 18 pro-humanity and 21 pro-Elder representatives. Once that happens, the Elders will be able to seize control of everything."
"And you're sure they'll be elected?"
"Nobody is running against them."
"You've got to be kidding me. Why would--"
"The pro-humanity sectors that the two Elders are running in, why would they elect Elders? Easy, the people of those two sectors have received a bounty of assistance from the Elders over the past ten years. These sectors were specifically targeted as easy sectors to convert. And rightfully so, it seems. Their pro-humanity stance has been swayed and they will now elect Elders to represent them."
Katlyn looked up, her trance shortly subsiding. "How does the Pure League plan to stop this from happening?"
"Yeah," Alex said. "What she said."
"That isn't something I'm going to be able to discuss with you. If you are so inclined as to stay on and join our cause, I'm sure Sela will brief you on what you need to know. When the time is right, and depending on your role in the event, that is."
Alex gazed steadily at Katlyn. He didn't need to ask to know that she'd already jumped on the proverbial bandwagon and without even discussing it with him first. Why did he expect her to? That's a question for the mulling mill. Part of him assumed they were allies in this adventure. That didn't mean she had to run everything by him, of course. But it would have been nice.
Just a little bit disappointed, Alex thanked Anthony for giving them a quick history lesson before escaping this dreaded faux forest in the middle of a metal hell.To be continued...