Ends and Means - Part Four
A celebration started as soon as the tension of escaping undetected passed under the skillful hands of Jared. Everyone moved from the cargo bay to the mess hall. Food was set out, along with tons of alcohol--some of which Alex had never heard of before. The only people not present, again, were Heather and Nicolas, off partying in private as if it was their only chance to get away for a few moments of pleasure between the sheets.
Alex sat alone, hunched up in the corner with an unlabeled bottle of disgusting alcohol that shredded his throat and chest to tiny strips every time he took a swig. The ensuing numbness was a relief after the vicious hazing Franky put him through.
Horus had flashed a set of perfect white teeth at Alex when he picked up the bottle and told him it was a good choice. "Elder Piss," he said. "Nothing better."
Fear that the liquid inside might actually be Elder piss didn't stop Alex from consuming the alcohol. He didn't care anymore. The tingly, numb feeling that overcame his body and mind alleviated any hesitations he might have had.
From the corner of the room he watched the members of the Pure League wolfing down chunks of what was presumably meat of some kind, while washing it down their throats of booze. These people just killed fifty thousand human beings, and they were partying as if the dawning of a grand new age of enlightenment had just begun.
Katlyn stood by the table, chatting with Sela, getting sucked deeper and deeper into this future society of murderers. As he stared at those soft, exotic features of her mixed heritage, the way her hair brushed along her shoulders when she laughed, his heart ached to rescue her from the damnation these people were drawing her into. Each day he saw her moving farther away from the past and it sickened him to think the possibility of his return home might be without her.
"What're you doing over here?"
Alex's eyes drifted slowly up to Bethany's face. His vision blurred at the edges making it difficult to see her clearly. "I'm constructing a space ship--what's it look like? I'm drinking."
"Apparently not enough." She glanced back at the others before kneeling down and lowering her voice. "Later tonight, come by my quarters. We need to talk--in private."
Narrowing his eyes, Alex blurted, "Why?"
"Trust me, you don't want to get into it here."
She hopped up like a spring and winked. "Don't forget," she said. Then she was gone, back to the group, back to her companions.
For the first time, Alex wondered what exactly her relationship was with these people. Why was a girl that young on a ship like this? Were one or more of them her parents? If that were the case, he'd already know, wouldn't he?
And what did she want? An uneasy feeling not associated with the alcohol tearing up his already fragile stomach rumbled through him. A clandestine meeting of the minds in private did not sound like a good idea, not at all. Not for the first time, he felt like--
"News report comes in," Yerik shouted over the chatter.
Everyone fell silent, attention turned toward the back wall as it hummed to life like a television. Only this was no television. A woman appeared, lifelike in such detail Alex felt he could reach out and brush away those stupid bangs that hung over her forehead. Fully three-dimensional and life-size, this image was the one of the first rare instances Alex fully grasp he was in the future--aside from the fact that he was living on a space ship.
"...Pure League is claiming full responsibility," the reporter was saying.
Behind her, an all-too-lifelike scene of chaos unfolded behind the reporter; the wall itself seemed to have disappeared to be replaced by an image that half-tempted Alex to try to walk into it. Dark smoke filled the air, while the pitiful ruins of the Interpol building smoldered as the last dying flames flickered out of existence. The image turned; the movement of the image came across as if Alex turned his own head, but he remained perfectly still, mesmerized by what he saw.
Rows upon rows of covered bodies lined the street leading away from the heap of charred remains. Something struck Alex as odd about them, but he couldn't quite put his finger on it just yet. Fully armored men packed for war moved among the bodies. Some made room for more victims, others just milled about, probably supervisors doing a wonderful job of looking bored and at the same time vastly important.
"Why the Pure League decided to hit this particular building, we'll never know." The reporters voice drifted over the scene as even more rows of bodies appeared. "All we can say for now is that this atrocity will not go unpunished. Early figures are just now coming in. Over thirty thousand perished in the deadly blast.
"A task force the likes of which we have not seen since the latter days of the Elder Wars is forming as we speak to hunt down and destroy every last member of the Pure League. The council convened moments after the first reports of this attack came through and they issued an unprecedented directive ordering the immediate, swift execution of anyone associated with the this league."
"Uh," Alex said loudly to talk over the reporter. "Are we missing something here?"
Sela held up a hand to silence him. Her face, while blank, struggled to maintain that stoic stare as she watched the events transpiring.
"For those just receiving this transmission, a private school run by Interpol for high-level government officials and their families was attacked tonight by the Pure League. Children ranging from two to seventeen years of age were unmercifully slaughtered in an unprovoked attack by these soulless, psychopaths."
Alex's jaw dropped into his lap.
"Disconnect it," Sela said.
Everyone in the room stood stunned to silence. The only person that seemed to show any emotion at all was Franky, as he sat there on the bench, tears rolled down his cheeks, lips moving with no sound coming out of them.
As the image winked out of existence, Alex realized what bothered him about the covered bodies; some of them were too small to be adults.
He wanted to jump up and scream some righteous flood of profanities; he wanted to wrap his hands around someone's neck, several someones even. Instead, he sat there, numbed more by the news than any amount of Elder piss could make him--unable to move, unable to comprehend.
For a big man, Franky moved like lightning. In a flash, he'd gone from the bench to Sela, his enormous hands grasping her shoulders and squeezing. Sela's eyes bulged from the strain of pain that had to be shooting her arms. "Franky doesn't want this!" he bellowed. "How could you let this happen?"
Horus and Yerik were on Franky seconds later, both men seizing Franky's hands and trying to pry them loose. Katlyn stood, prepped to attack with a flurry of deadly moves, no doubt.
Franky's face burned fiery red; veins in his neck and head throbbed dangerously close to exploding. "Franky doesn't kill children!" he screamed. "Franky doesn't--"
"Franky! Franky, it's okay!" Bethany stood in the midst of all this, trying to talk the big man down. "Just let go on Sela, Franky. Let her go and we'll talk about this."
No matter how hard Yerik and Horus--two equally large men--tried to force Franky's fingers from Sela's shoulders, the digits wouldn't budge. Alex caught movement out of the corner of his eye and saw Mama preparing a sickeningly large needle. As Bethany continued fruitlessly in her attempt to talk Franky down, Mama came up behind the beast and stabbed the needle in his buttock, right through the clothes. She plunged the stopper, and a moment later Franky collapsed against Yerik and Horus.
Alex moved closer to the action, or dying action as the case may be. "What was that all about?" he asked.
"Time for work," Yerik said. "Party over." He wrapped his arm around Sela and helped her away. Horus followed them with Franky in tow, and Bethany and Mama on his heels.
Bethany's room--part geeky, part girly--far outweighed the sparse decor of the hole Alex called home. Silky material hung from the walls in a range of pastel colors like drapes over a window, and, yes, there was even a window. Alex didn't get a window. Stars flowed by as the ship moved through space. Several large, fluffy chairs dotted the room; chairs that anyone over the age of thirty would hate for the lack of any kind of support. There was even a waterbed in the far corner of the room, far from the stiff cot in Alex's room. Several tables were scattered with various projects, and a computer terminal surrounded by half-eaten plates of food and half-drunk glasses finished off the much more homey room.
As soon as Bethany had let him in, she disappeared into the bathroom, giving Alex time to snoop around and feel even lousier about his shit-hole room. In the trash bin, he spotted a half buried, nearly full, discarded bottle of perfume.
Easing into one of the fluffy contraptions pretending to be chairs, Alex grunted at the pain in his lower back. The affects of the Elder piss wore off harshly after a few hours. His head pounded with a combination of pain and stress.
Bethany emerged from the bathroom--hair combed, clothes straightened, face washed. She plopped down in the chair mashed up against Alex's chair and grinned. "Hey," she said.
"What do you want?"
The grin on her face faltered at the harsh tone Alex gave her, but grew strong a moment later. "Just wanted to talk. We haven't had the opportunity with all that's been going on."
"Now's not a good time. In case you didn't hear, we just killed a hell of a lot of very important people's children. Does that not have any affect on you at all?"
"We've known each other a while now, right?"
No affect whatsoever it appeared. "Yes, Bethany. We've known each other a while now. What about it?"
"But what do we really know about each other? I mean--I know your big secret. You trusted me enough to tell me--that means a lot to me. That you told me and that you trust me with it."
A decision Alex still wasn't sure was right. "Will you get on with it?"
Bethany sighed, her eyes closing. When she opened them again, she leaned over the soft sides of the chairs and kissed him--full-on mouth, lip locking, sloppily inexperienced kiss that paralyzed Alex.
Fear for his life stunned him stupid, but not for very long. He dove from the chair, knee banging against the floor thanks to the terrible design of those chairs. As he stumbled to his feet, Bethany collapsed headfirst into the seat he just vacated. He bolted for the door, then stopped and turned back, shouting, "What is wrong with you people!"
To be continued...