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June 27, 2022

Anachronocity v7p2

By Josh Brown

What a Mess - Part Two

A week of searching and still the Elder hid somewhere on the ship.

Sela Killigrew stood at the porthole staring out at the stars as they streaked by. Docking at the trade outpost on Nelson's Folly wasn't about to happen as long as the Elder remained free. If he got loose, given all the time he's been roaming the ship, there's no telling how much information he's been able to seep from the computers. The planet would be in range in only two days. Unfortunately, not docking wasn't an option either. The ship needed refueling; supplies needed buying. For about a week more the ship could remain in orbit, but that'd be pushing things a little too close.

In the dimly lit quarters, her mind buzzing with questions and no answers, Sela began to ponder just why she accepted the promotion to leader of the Pure League.

***

At first the report of the lies by the media and Interpol on Calisto made sense to Katlyn. Now, however, she questioned the validity of those supposed lies.

She sat on the edge of her bed, SoftPAD in hand, reading over the latest report from Sela to the League.

The news itself wasn't new to her or anyone else on the vessel. Sela gathered them in the mess hall and informed everyone that Heather and Nicolas entered a murder-suicide pact after the false news reports started coming in. It seemed pointless--the lie. More than half the ship already knew the truth about the escaped Elder prisoner. Frank's reaction wasn't nearly as strong about their deaths as he was about the children. Of the others that didn't know--Jared, Anthony (debatable), Bethany--Bethany seemed to take the news the hardest, disappearing from the room with a flurry of sobs.

The blatant lie to the people closest to Sela said a lot about the level of mistrust among even these supposedly most trusted of allies. Katlyn figured that, maybe, there was fear of one or more of them being captured and tortured for information--but somehow, she doubted that.

Alex's need to get away from these people started to sound more reasonable. Violence and death hung in the air threatening to suffocate all aboard the ship. Katlyn didn't wish to be one of the victims.

Therefore, the question remained, if she wasn't here to help the League in their fight for humanity. What, then, was her destiny? Why was she brought here? Perhaps, just maybe, her battle wasn't with the League... but against it.

***

Alex slammed his fist against the table. Some of the smaller bits and pieces of computer equipment bounced in the air. A moment later, warm hands brushed across his shoulders and then down his chest as Bethany leaned up against his back.

"What's wrong, sweetheart?" she asked. "You need a break?"

Alex shrugged Bethany off and stood. Without a word, he wandered through the shelves in search of a vital circuit board he had been looking for the past three days. Before disappearing behind one of the larger stacks, he spotted Bethany standing by his worktable. A frown sagged her face, her eyes narrowed to tiny slits.

Once he located the circuit board, he'd be able to begin testing the machine. If all went well, they'd be able to return home in a matter of weeks--a month at the most. If all went well. When does it ever?

"I told you before," Bethany called out, "we don't have the board you're looking for!" An edge in her voice made Alex cringe. "You'll have to wait until we get to the outpost."

He knew that already. His futile searches were just an excuse to get out of Bethany's presence. Reluctantly, he ventured away from the shelves and out into the open where he met a cold gaze from the girl of his nightmares.

As if he didn't know--Alex asked, "What's wrong?"

"Why won't you let me touch you?"

"I--"

"Careful."

"What?"

Bethany quirked an eyebrow. "What, what?"

"Careful?"

"Who's careful?"

Shaking his head, Alex tried again. "Anyway. I wasn't raised in a family that is very physical. So it's hard for me to get used to someone touching me." Lies.

It must have done the trick. Bethany's features softened. "That's so terrible. But it's something we can work on together. You can't do much more on your machine without the board, so..." She smiled then, a smile that could melt an iceberg--if anyone besides Alex was the recipient.

"I should get some sle--"

"Careful, Alex!"

"Sleep?" Bethany grinned. "I'm feeling kind of sleepy myself. We could take a nap together."

Groaning inwardly, most because of Bethany but also because he was beginning to hear voices again--voices that sounded an awful lot like his dead brother.

"That's not a good idea," Alex said.

"Why not?"

"What if someone walks in?"

"So what? We love each other. Who cares what they think?"

"I rather enjoy being alive and having both my balls. In case you forgot--"

"The age thing again? It doesn't matter. They'll understand."

"No--they won't. We have to restrain ourselves until the time is right to let the others know."

Frowning again, Bethany said, "And when will that be?"

Hopefully never. "We'll see."

"You don't know these people like I do, Alex. They'll understand. They'll be happy for us."

"I'm not ready!"

Bethany's eyes darted at the innards of the computer terminal on the table. "Why are you working so hard on your machine? I thought you wanted to be here, to be part of the future? The machine was supposed to be a project you fiddled with on the side. Now all of a sudden you're in full mode trying to get it finished."

"Katlyn's feeling hom--"

"Katlyn," Bethany echoed.

Alex realized the mistake, again, too late. Every time her name slipped past his lips, Bethany turned jealous.

"If you love me so much, why are you so eager to help her yet you have no time to spend with me?"

"It's not that--"

"Be careful, Alex. I ain't joking here!"

Alex fell silent. His head bounced around as he tried to locate the voice. Cracking under the strain of stress had to be the answer. All this time in the future, under these enormous constant fears of death if he said the wrong thing, and now his mind cracked, the voice of his brother haunting him from the grave--maybe even come to prepare him for his own journey into the afterlife.

"Then what is it?" Bethany said, arms folded over her chest.

"We're moving too fast. I do love you, Bethany. But I need time to sort through everything I'm feeling. You want to be in this adult relationship, then you have to trust me and let me show you how it's done."

Alex felt a little bad about saying that. Bethany's own battle with her genius versus her age often left her in doubt. People looked to her as they would any adult, forgetting many times that she was only fourteen. This left an impression on her. It gave her the image of being an adult, but she fumbled around many times in her attempts to act the part. Several times she'd blatantly asked if she'd done something wrong, trying to reconcile what she thought she should be doing with what she did. Using that against her wasn't entirely fair. Still, Alex had to keep her in check. His false proclamations of love were doing enough damage as it was, but the need to keep her at arms length led him to the necessity of manipulating her as best he could.

"For now," Alex said, "I need a little time to myself. Okay?"

Once he left, Alex hoped she wouldn't be as screwed up as he sometimes feared he was making her. Despite the troublesome nature that accompanied anything to do with Bethany, he still liked the girl. Without her, he'd still be lost in this unpleasant version of the future.

Bethany approached and slipped her arms around Alex. Despite his better judgment, Alex returned the hug. Encouraging her, not such a good idea--his guilt made him do it anyway.

"I'll go, Alex. Let you think."

With that, she left.

As soon as the door closed, Alex said, "Daniel?"

No reply. How could there be?

"You're losing it," Alex said to himself.

It's one thing to hear your dead brother's voice. It's a completely new crazy ballpark when you start talking back.


To be continued...
Article © Josh Brown. All rights reserved.
Published on 2004-08-14
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