Hello, dear reader! So glad you’re back for chapter 10! As promised, this episode will be longer than the last. So let’s jump right in with the action, shall we?
If you are new to my story, please consider starting with Chapter 1 🙂
Worlds Rising: Rebellion
Chapter 10, Part 1
“Fine. Let’s talk. Where are the men?” Lian said.
“Funny,” Rona spat, “I used to ask myself the very question!”
“I’m here,” someone said from of the shadows, and Tarek stepped out into the moonlight. “Can’t a man relieve himself in peace?”
Lian raised an eyebrow.
“What? I like to take my time!”
“Oh, please! Let’s not go there,” Rona hissed.
Lian seemed to agree. Once more, she shoved her gun against that same sore spot on Abbida’s temple, making her yelp.
“Alright,” Tarek called, “you got me! I was out looking for Cole, and that’s the truth! Now, leave the girl alone, will ya?”
“When have you last seen him?”
“Not after sundown, I haven’t. That ridiculous satchel of his is gone, too.”
“Damn,” Rona muttered.
Silence fell. A strange feeling overcame Abbida, like a waking dream she couldn’t shake. How long since she’d shared what she’d thought was a farewell drink with her best friend? Instead, he’d filled her up, kidnapped her and dragged her into this wilderness. Where crocodiles could swallow oxen whole and someone was constantly pointing guns at her! A true friend wouldn’t do that to her, would he? Which begged the question if she’d ever really known Cole at all. Abbida bit her lips.
“Now what?” Tarek said, looking at Rona.
“We set up teams of two. You and me, Abbida and Lian.”
“You’ve got to be kidding!” Abbida gaped, pointing at the gun that was still piercing her skull.
“She’s not going to shoot you. There’s nothing to gain from that, is there? I guess we’re even now,” Rona said, patting her own gun.
Abbida sucked in her breath, wishing she’d use more caution with it. “Where did you get that, really?” she blurted.
“I am not accountable to anyone here.”
“Well, I think you are.” Tarek frowned and stepped right in front of her. Immediately, Lian changed positions, combat-ready.
“Out of my way, idiot!” Rona waved her gun about, and Abbida’s heart almost stopped. Rona glowered at Tarek. “Move.”
She shuffled her feet, but he didn’t budge. “I can’t believe this!” She let out a disgusted grunt, secured her weapon and shoved it under her belt. “Are you satisfied?”
“Almost.” Tarek pointed at the gun under her belt, “So?”
Rona shrugged. She wiped her palms on her pants. “Nothing to it. Ashok gave it to me.”
“Lies!” Lian shook her head.
“Well, ask him when he gets here!” Rona scoffed.
“Oh, I will.” Lian lowered her own gun.
Abbida let out her breath. She caught a glimpse of Tarek frowning, before he turned away. He didn’t say anything, but his body language spoke volumes: Rona must be lying. Icy shivers ran down her spine. What had they done to Ashok? He was Tarek’s younger brother, for crying out loud!
“Fine, let’s split up,” Lian said. Abbida had no choice, but to play along. Rona and Tarek followed the course of the stream to the north, and Lian made Abbida take the lead on the other side of the camp–towards the jungle.
Her eyes quickly adjusted to the darkness, and she let her gaze wander. If Cole really had come this way, would he have left any traces? Broken branches? Foot prints? How was she supposed to distinguish fresh marks from old ones? She was barely able to tell a Lynx’ trail from a human’s!
She tried listening for any tell-tale sounds, but it was pointless, what with all the rustling, scattering, croaking and hooting going on. Tarek would be much better at this. Or maybe Lian had some useful gadget or other packed with her gear! Abbida spun around, “Say, can’t you…?”
The rest of the question caught in her throat: Lian had put on some bulky glasses which made her look like a creature from the old scary tales. On the bright side, she had holstered her gun somewhere along the way. Relieve washed over Abbida.
“Can I what… see anything? Yes. But no, there is nobody here, but us.”
“Do you trust those two?”
The question caught Abbida off guard. Was that to say Lian trusted her? Why? Then it dawned on her: Lian took her for completely clueless. No threat at all. And she probably deserved that.
Before she had figured out, what to reply, Lian shrugged. “You don’t trust me, that much I can tell.” She brushed past Abbida and moved on, seeming unconcerned whether her hostage followed or not.
Abbida pursed her lips. Since when did she consider herself that way? She hesitated. Lians silhouette quickly lost itself in the shadows, and the rustling of her footsteps became more and more faint. Abbida turned around. Behind her the jungle lay dark and forbidding. Once more, she grew aware of all the sounds surrounding her. Trees, ferns and underbrush, crawling with life. They crowded together, shutting out all light, closing in on her. Gasping, she hurried and caught up with Lian.
Lian nodded, and didn’t say anything.
After that, they trudged on in silence. Soon, Abbida realized they were headed for the site of the wreckage again. And sure enough, there it was, looming above their heads, dwarfing century old palm trees and banyans, blocking the moonlight.
Abbida wrapped her arms around herself. Why would Cole have come here, alone, in the dark? Were they even really looking for him? Could this whole search be a ruse to… what? Split up the group? Put distance between them and Rona and Tarek? Did Lian want the wreck to herself?
“Why are we here? It’s too dark to see–much less find that device.”
“Not with some proper lighting, it isn’t.” Lian pulled some sort of stick from her jacket and aimed it at the ship. A blazing light shot out.
Abbida yanked her hands up and squinted her eyes shut. Bright and dark spots were dancing on the insides of her eyelids. She blinked. Lian’s footsteps moved away and Abbida risked peeking through spread fingers to see the light of the stick lamp sweeping the wreck, illuminating its outlines at the fringes. Wherever it touched, the surface gleamed. Like puddles of water on a bright day. It made for a stark contrast against the sky. What a sight!
Unreal, in shape and design utterly alien, the shattered hull towered over them into the night sky. Otherworldly. The cone of the light brushed over some markings that turned out to be ideographs–outdated, but legible!
“Great Emergence 2,” Abbida read aloud. “What does that mean?”
“It’s the name of the ship. She was a famous pioneers’ ship. Infamous, one might say, for sadly, the pioneers didn’t get far. As soon as they had reached Earth’s orbit, the control system failed, and they crashed.”
“It failed? Just like that?”
“It… failed. Yes.”
“But–how? Shouldn’t there be safety measures?!” Unbelieving, Abbida stared into the starlit sky. How did it even get up there?!
“There should have been, yes…” Lian lowered her stick lamp. Only a small spot between her feet was illuminated, making the darkness of the jungle that much more impenetrable. There was the sound of their breath, of the wind rustling through leaves and vines and of the nocturnal wildlife.
Lian sighed. “The Great Emergence 2 was a generation ship. A follow up to the first Emergence, which was built ages ago by a group of dissidents. They left our solar system in search of a new world that was not controlled by the Oligarchy.”
Abbida gaped. “Solar-… What’s an oligarchy?”
“Well, that…” Lian drew a deep breath. “They are a group of people who decide our laws and rules.”
“Like our village council?”
“Sort of, I guess. Their base has been located on the moon ever since the Great Exodus.”
“The moon!” Abbida tilted her head back. The glowing orb hung deep in the sky, almost full, unblinking. She’d always thought this a strange name for a piece of rock. Though she had never doubted what she’d been taught about the relations between gravity and centrifugal force, she’d always found it difficult to grasp the actual proportions.
The moon appeared to be doing its rounds at a leisurely pace, in reality it must be rotating around the world at crazy speed. Otherwise, how could something this big stay up without falling and crashing?
“Would you believe that the moon is actually much bigger than it looks from here?”
“Only, if it’s much farther away than I thought.”
“Huh.” She squinted her eyes.
“And could you also imagine that people succeeded not only in reaching it, but in settling there? In several habitats even?”
Abbida bit her lips. If that was true, the moon must be really far away! She pointed at the Great Emergence 2. “In this ship?”
“Some just like it, yes!” Lian beamed. “I’m so glad you believe me! I was afraid…”
“You were afraid you’d have to teach a dumb village brat about this relativity thing first!” Suddenly annoyed, Abbida balled her fists.
Awkwardly, Lian pushed a strand of hair from her face. “Well, yes. It’s kind of confusing. It’s astounding, how much you know about physics, considering, well…”
On the other hand, Abbida had never heard the term ‘physics’ before. She began to see where Lian might have difficulties in assessing what state of knowledge to expect. “All right. Let’s say, they traveled in ships like this one. That means it was able to fly? Like an air craft?”
A thought struck Abbida: Could it be… that was the plan? To restore this ship and fly away? No. Impossible. This wreck wasn’t going anywhere ever again. “Then why are we here? This is nothing but scrap!”
Lian didn’t answer. Instead, she jogged to Cole’s rope, took hold of it and began pulling herself up. “The ship is!”, she called over her shoulder. “But I’m hoping the comm device is intact! If I can get it to send out signals again… At the least I can try reaching Ashok with it. I don’t believe he stayed behind on his own accord. That was not the plan at all!”
With her own suspicions roused again, Abbida followed Lian with her eyes. Though petite, she was obviously strong. At the top, all she needed was to negotiate the jutting ledge and heave herself…
A streak of lightning shot through the night, blinding Abbida, followed by a hissing, screeching noise. Lian shrieked and crashed through the branches. Abbida dodged instinctively. Lian hit the ground, the impact pressing the breath from her lungs. Then she lay still.
Abbida pressed her belly to the ground, frantically searching the surroundings. Where had the shot come from? She hardly dared breathe, her heart pounding. The taste of blood on her tongue made her nauseous. Straining her ears she tried listening for footsteps, expecting another shot.
But the thicket lay strangely still, all wildlife fallen silent. Lian’s stick lamp had landed close by in the underbrush, casting a ghosty light under the belly of the wreck. Around it the jungle had plunged into darkness.
Thank you for reading!
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