What a Mess - Part Three
Somewhere in the ship an Elder remained hidden. Since the search had yet to turn up any results, Sela called a meeting of all those that knew about the special guest. Alex wanted nothing to do with this entire fiasco, yet the need to remain part of the group and inconspicuous urged him to attend. Hovering near the door, he watched and listened. Katlyn, Mama, and Anthony sat on the sofa while Sela and Yerik took the chairs across from it. Horus leaned against a far wall in the back of the room, very much away from all of those gathered.
"We reach the outpost tomorrow," Sela said. "Landing is not an option until we have the Elder secured."
Alex asked, "Why not?" All he wanted was his blasted circuit board.
"If he escapes the ship, we'll never catch him. There's no way to know how much information he's collected since his escape."
"You want us to help search?" Katlyn said. "I'm ready."
Sela nodded. "Horus and Yerik have been unable to locate him. It's possible he keeps moving when they get close. No matter how many times they pass through the same part of the ship, the Elder has already moved. If we have more bodies out there, it'll be harder for him to get past everyone."
"This is ridiculous." Alex glanced at the door wanting to leave. With the right adjustments, he just might be able to get the machine up and running without the board. Ah, screw it. "How can anyone hide on a ship like this? It's not big enough! Don't you people know your own vessel?"
"Is plenty big," Yerik said dryly. "You try searching whole ship alone and see if you find him!"
"There are too many places he could hide, Alex." When she spoke, Sela looked at everyone except Horus. "If we're going to expose him, we need to work together in order to force him to keep moving. Eventually he'll pass through a part of the ship that is monitored and then we'll have him. The problem is that he knows the layout of this type of vessel as well as we do."
"As well as you do," Alex said. "How am I supposed to be of any use? I don't know shit about this ship."
Hefting her bulky frame up from the sofa, Mama said, "By now, dearies, the Elder has had enough time to heal. The alien life form inside the host enhances the body's natural abilities to recover from serious injuries. He'll be back to his normal strength, or very near it."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Alex didn't like the sound of that.
"It means," Sela said, "If he wants to--he could kill us all."
Given Alex's lack of ship schematics, he received the dubious honor of monitoring the security feeds.
Inside quarters altered into a security center, Alex sat at the rounded desk and stared at the wall of miniaturized life-like three-dimensional displays that showed various halls and sections of the ship.
At first he welcomed the job; he figured Katlyn would be assigned with him. Then, of course, he found out that Katlyn had actually taken the time to learn the ship schematics not too long after Jared taught her about the nets.
Each member of the search party spread throughout the ship, entering all the possible hiding places. There were more hiding places than people, but narrowing down the hole the Elder had shacked up in seemed as good an idea as any.
For a while Alex watched the various video feeds, fascinated with how real they looked as different people passed through the halls. Soon, though, he got bored and his mind started to zone out. Sometimes he'd notice someone walking down a hall and jerk awake, only to discover it was one of the ship's crew. More than once he only caught a glimpse of a foot just disappearing off screen and he wondered if maybe he'd just missed the Elder.
The group remained in contact with the shipboard intercom system. All messages relayed through the security center, but even those were boring as hell, and Alex soon found he ignored them as well.
Then Alex bolted upright; all signs of boredom drained from his body.
On feed three, labeled Engine Room, Alex spotted the outline of a man. Unlike the rest of the feeds, however, this one seemed weaker. The man barely registered at all, the lines of his body almost fading in and out of existence. He fumbled toward the intercom toggle, fully prepared to alert the entire group he'd found the Elder, when his eyes widened.
The face of the man cleared enough for Alex to recognize it.
"Daniel?" he mumbled.
Alex started. No, that wasn't Daniel's voice; it was Sela. His eyes darted down to the switchboard in front of him long enough to see he'd accidentally flipped on the intercom to the group. When his eyes returned to the engine room screen, the man was gone.
"Nothing," Alex said. "Sorry, false alarm."
He flipped the intercom off.
His eyes scanned all the feeds but no sign--
"There you are."
Alex turned his head slowly to the right. There stood Daniel, exactly as Alex remembered him that night Daniel--covered in blood--woke him up. Well, half of Daniel, at least--only his upper body showed from about the waist up; the table he stood in the middle of cut off the bottom half.
This wasn't happening. Daniel died ten years. If Daniel died ten years ago--and there was no doubt about that; Alex had found the body--then how in the holy blue hell was Daniel standing in front of him now, five hundred years in the future?
"Earth to Alex?" Daniel said. It sure sounded like Daniel. "Anyone home, little brother?"
"That's my name, don't wear it out."
So lame. So unoriginal. So Daniel. "What the fu--"
"Now, now! There's no need for that kind of language."
Alex rubbed his eyes. Had he ingested more of those eye drop drugs without realizing it?
"Looks like you were right, Alex. The blood worked."
"What's wrong with you?" Daniel said.
"Let's see. You're dead."
"Uh, no I'm not."
"Yes you are."
"Yes! I saw you!"
"You are so dead. Don't argue with me!"
"I think I'd know if I was dead."
"No you wouldn't."
"Uh, yeah, I would."
"If I was dead, you think I could do this?" Daniel swung a fist at Alex's shoulder, fully intending to slug him with bruise-worthy force. Instead, he passed right through Alex and tumbled to the floor.
"Hah! Told you you were dead."
Daniel stood up, chuckling. "Not dead--just intangible."
"Trust me, you're dead."
"No, you trust me. I'm not dead. I'm older. I'm right. The end."
"This isn't happening."
"I assure you, this is happening. Did you forget our last conversation?"
"No, I remember. The last conversation we had was ten years ago, a few days before you died."
Daniel--thankfully not standing through the table any longer--frowned at Alex. "Something is very wrong here."
"Oh, jeez. You're just now figuring that out? I'm talking to my dead brother. Not only talking to him, but seeing him."
"Kill the dead talk already, wouldya? It's getting annoying."
A ghost? Daniel's ghost traveled five hundred years into the future to find me, Alex thought. Poor sucker's been trapped in the mortal world all that time? Sweetest justice Alex ever heard.
"I hate to break it to you," Alex said, "but you're dead. You killed yourself ten years ago. Well, five hundred and ten years ago."
"Didn't I just say ten seconds ago that that was getting annoying? Drop it already. If I killed myself ten years ago, why didn't you bring it up last time we talked?"
"You weren't dead last time we talked."
"No shit, Sherlock. And I'm not dead now. Do you seriously not remember our last convo?"
"I told you I remember--"
"Stop screwing around, Alex. It was funny for a while, now it's pissing me off. You're the one that suggested I use the blood to make myself visible to you."
"Huh? Five hundred years of ghosthood has made you a little loopy."
"You're lucky I can't touch you right now or I'd give you the worse titty-twister of your life."
Alex cringed at the memory of the last one Daniel ever gave him. His nipple hurt for two weeks after that particularly violent twistage. "I don't know what the hell you're talking about."
"Now you don't even remember what a titty-twister is?"
None of this made sense. Or did it? Alex gazed thoughtfully at his brother. Did ghosts breathe? He wasn't sure about ghosts, but Daniel sure appeared to be breathing.
On a whim, Alex asked, "What year is it there?"
The year Daniel died.
To be continued...