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July 15, 2024

Anachronocity v6p5

By Josh Brown

Ends and Means - Part Five

As Yerik's rough hands worked the pungent ointment into the bruises on Sela's shoulders, he said, "Don't blame yourself. No way to know children live there. How to know Interpol schools children on top secret planet?"

Sharp fumes from the medicine floated around her head, mixing with the dark thoughts and unwanted feelings. No matter how hard Yerik tried to convince her there was no way to know, she understood all too well that it simply wasn't true.

"We should have waited--plain and simple," she said. "Heather would have found something eventually. Then the strike could have been averted and none of this would be happening."

"Is unfortunate, yes."

"But not unforeseeable. I knew of these secret schools. Not once did I stop to think this could be one of them and I should have."

"You knew?"

Yerik knew too, but half the time he either didn't listen or didn't comprehend her English. She figured a combination of both.

Bethany came into her life because of one of those schools. In addition to housing government official's children, the schools were home to the top minds in the universe. All children received intelligence exams upon entering school and at various points in their education. If they scored high enough, the government had them shipped off to one of these specially designed schools in order to hone their minds and prepare them for a lifetime of work for the Elders. Usually this happened with or without the parents consent--most of the time they weren't even aware of the tests.

When Bethany's parents discovered their five-year-old daughter scored off the charts and was soon to become the property of Interpol, they fled their home planet and took to a life of constant hiding.

At the time, Sela had yet to become leader of the Pure League; she'd been in charge of a cell working in conjunction with the League's upper management. Her work there eventually led her to command upon the last leader's death--much to her, and many unhappy Leaguers, shock. There were no elections or chains of command follow; the leader was free to pick anyone to succeed, and he did just that.

While at the trade outpost Nicotus 3, Sela ran into Bethany's father--not by chance. He actively sought out a member of the League and bribed her name out of a soon-to-be-dead merchant. After her anger subsided enough for her to listen to his story (and zip out a quick bounty for the merchant's head), she agreed to meet with child and mother if for nothing else than curiosity. What parent didn't claim their child to be exceptional, after all?

Circumstances beyond anyone's control soon took charge. Upon arriving at the room they'd rented, the meeting stopped short by an advanced warning of Interpol agents zeroing in one their location. There would be a very large bonus for those particular agents should they happen to catch both Bethany's family and one of the League's cell leaders at the same time.

Not one for caring too much for prison and possible execution, Sela took the family back to her ship, only to realize it wasn't the family they were there to capture--it was her. Interpol agents had already found the ship and several stood guard right outside the airlock. Behind Sela, more agents were scouring the crowds, looking for her.

"Promise me," Bethany's father had said. "Promise me you'll protect them with the full power of the League."

What could she say? The fact that she brought Interpol straight to them weighed heavily. She said, "They are safe with me. I bid my life on it."

Sela turned away from the family as they said their goodbyes, giving them as much privacy as such a situation allowed. In that short time, she looked for any other possible way out of this situation, but in the end, his deed alone made escape possible.

"Thank you," he whispered before running straight toward the agents at the airlock. Shouting ensued, and then he drew a gun and ran. The agents gave chase, confusion ringing throughout the halls as bystanders screamed and dove for cover.

In the mayhem, Sela rushed the family onto the ship and departed before the sacrifice became pointless.

Several years later, Bethany's mother died while protecting her daughter during an Interpol attack on Sela's vessel. Ever since then she's cared for Bethany as best she could, though that didn't require much. The girl was fiercely independent.

"Sela?" Yerik said, drawing her out of her reverie.

"We need Anthony. He was the League's best spinner, correct?"

"Da--still best."

"Get him. We need to spin this quickly."


Alex stood there, face bubbling red, verging on losing his last marble--something he'd been expecting for a while now.

Untangling herself from the chairs, Bethany stood and made a fruitless attempt at fixing her disheveled hair. "Did I do it wrong?" she asked, blinking at Alex. "I'm sorry. I've never..."

A bitter, metallic taste tickled at Alex's tongue. His lip split where Bethany's disastrous kiss mashed his lip against his tooth. Blood rushed to his head, rolling through his ears like a tidal wave. "What are you? Nine? Maybe ten--"

"I'm fourteen!"

Alex groaned and turned away, wishing he could storm toward the door but the pain his knee caused him to limp. The last thing he needed now was a fourteen-year-old girl trying to make out with him. Franky's initiation techniques were party-time games compared to what everyone would do to him if they found out about this.

"Wait! I can do better!"

Alex jerked the door open. As he started to leave, though, Bethany's hand grabbed his wrist and halted him. She gazed up at him, round eyes pleading for him to give her a second chance that would never happen.

"I'm twice your age," he said. "This isn't happening."

"Give me a chance. You can't tell me your first time was expert."

This whole situation grated at him. Much as he hated to admit it, he needed Bethany. She had the knowledge and the ability to help him get home. Honestly, part of him actually liked the girl, but in a completely pure way. Not this sick, twisted version of reality she seemed to find perfectly normal. He had to do something and the consequences--he could deal with them later.

"Let go of me, Bethany. I don't love you. I don't even care about you. Just let me go and we'll forget about this."

She reeled as if slapped by the hand of God.

Alex averted his eyes, unable to witness the devastation that rocked Bethany's innocent face.

Again, he tried to leave--as if escaping would make it all go away. Yet again, though, he stopped. This time words stopped him. Words that roared louder than any rock music ever could.

"I know you sabotaged the rockets," whispered Bethany.

Alex stared at the metal wall directly across hall but he didn't see it. All he saw were visions of his death in many terrible, painful manners that would make even the most death-seeking psycho shudder. And for a brief moment, he even saw his brother as he looked that night, covered in blood.

Resigned to a fate he had yet to fully fathom, Alex slammed the door shut, and then turned to face his accuser. "What are you talking about?"

Bethany's eyes glistened, but no tears dared to fall. "You disconnected all the deployment mechanisms. I saw how surprised you were when Sela announced successful deployment. After Franky took you for a ride, I fixed them."

He didn't know what to say.

"There's something else--for you to know, and nobody else. I knew what was on Calisto. I knew it was a school."

Alex slumped against the door, slid down to the floor. What was her game? Why was she telling him this?

Crouching next to him, bouncing lightly on her toes, Bethany reached out and brushed her slender fingers against his cheek. "Don't you see, old timer? Fate brought you here so we could be together. I didn't tell anyone what you did; I just fixed your mistake. Everyone is allowed a bad judgment."

"Don't touch me."

Frowning, Bethany withdrew her hand. "Alex, I love you. Why can't you love me? So what if you're twice my age? It doesn't matter when love is involved."


"Because, love overrides--"

"Why did you fix the rockets when you knew there was a school down there?"

A deeper, darker version of Bethany surfaced at that question; her eyes took on thirty years of life in the span of a heartbeat. Then her features softened again--scorn and resentment fading, returning her to her youthful self.

"I know we can love each other," she said. "We're already half way there. Just give me a chance. You'll see you can love me as much as I love you."

"And if I don't?"

"You will."

"You're blackmailing me for love."

"I'm assisting you in finding your love for me. I know it's in there just waiting to come out. That's why I told you my secret. I can trust you like you've trusted me. Don't you see?"

How had he missed this? In all the time he worked with Bethany, how could he not have seen she's a complete and utter lunatic? Her secret had nothing to do with trust and everything to do with this twisted attempt at manipulation.

"Will you try?" she asked. "For us?"

Was this rock bottom? Was there any possible way to fall even farther down that hole of despair? That's not a question to ask, considering the likelihood that it was possible and probable and would probably prove itself.



"Will you try?"

He needed time. "I'll try," he said in an attempt to assuage her for now.

I'm so screwed, he thought.

To be continued...
Article © Josh Brown. All rights reserved.
Published on 2004-07-17
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