Authors: Stephen Arseneault
Tags: #Sci-Fi & Fantasy
"The 13th baktun of the Mayan calendar came and went and we are still here. Now what are we supposed to do?"
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Copyright 2012-2013 Stephen Arseneault, All Rights Reserved
It had been five long years since my capture. During that time I had managed to befriend one of the evening guards who patrolled my hall. I parroted the sounds he made when he would pass my cell. He soon took an interest in what the Human could learn.
As I mimicked him I began to learn their language. It took many months of trial and casual conversation before I was telling him stories of my world. He had seen images, but as a military guard of low rank, those images had been few and far between. His name was Gor Hershen.
His family had a long history of military service. With few wars in the Frekkin Empire in the last millennium, they had failed to gain any position, but Hershen considered it a good living. He wanted not for food or comfort. His only regret for his post was for companionship. There had been a female on one of the destroyers that had shown interest at one port of call. But she was gone now, dead in the battles against my species.
Hershen worked the night shift. Without a sun there was no actual day or night, but the Kurtz were insistent on keeping time synced to their home-world. In Earth time, the 33 hour days were split into three 11 hour shifts. Hershen was one of only a handful who worked the night shift while most on the ship were in stasis.
He was a kind soul and would occasionally slip an extra portion of fish into my daily meals. In return I told him stories of Earth, stories about the freedoms everyone enjoyed and stories about how one could move from the bottom of society to the top with only hard work and a bit of luck.
Many of my stories were embellished, but Hershen would not have cared even if he had known. It was his escape from an otherwise mundane existence. He was like a sponge soaking up the tales that spilled out before him.
His interest was piqued further when I mentioned that perhaps he could increase his lot in life by becoming a bard. A bard in the world of the Kurtz was only three positions below a Royal. He was soon dreaming of the tales I had told and of the chance to move his position in life upward, if even only by a notch.
His parents had passed on in a mining accident years earlier where a container of Sodium came in contact with water. It was a rare occurrence, but one that would happen from time to time. He had a younger brother in service to another family back home, but it was he who was considered the family governor.
As our friendship and trust grew I began to slip in a question or two about the Royals during our talks. He was hesitant to answer until I told him it was his turn to tell me stories, stories that I had not heard, stories that would entertain me, stories about what he knew, because as a bard he would have to be practiced at keeping one's attention.
I asked about the number of Barhoo on the ship and he replied that it was only a small crew of several thousand for maintenance purposes and for re-breeding when we were close to our destination. I asked what happened to the seeming hundreds of thousands to which he replied that they were left behind, ejected into space as they were of no use on the long journey.
I was shocked at the thought of how little life meant to the Kurtz and the Barhoo. Death seemed to be something that was commonplace, with no real effort put forth to sustain or extend life. That revelation told me that Humans would never submit to the rule of the Frekkin Empire. We valued our lives and would do whatever we could to prolong them.
I asked about my BGS to which Hershen replied that he did not know of its whereabouts. I asked if the news of its existence had been sent forward to Rial Dorius to which he responded "No."
Rial Mabia would keep that information close and only deliver it in person where she could claim credit. That type of discovery would not be transmitted for fear of credit going to someone else. Position was a high stakes game and the Royals played it for keeps.
It was not long before I learned that Boota and the other scientists resided on the second level. Their labs were seven hallways outward from our position. Other than guards surrounding Mabia on the first level, there were no soldiers until level-four where the officers resided with some of the lower ranking civilians. The brig was on level-five.
The air corridors of the ship were arranged in circles around the ships core. There were 14 hallways with the higher ranking Kurtz towards the outer perimeter. Elevators going up were arranged every 50 meters. One had to have access codes to reach each higher level.
I asked about why it was rare that anyone besides Hershen and the two day-shift guards walked by my cell. Hershen explained that everyone was in stasis for most of the trip back to the planet I called Alvin. There were five air-levels with each having three shift guards. In addition, a small contingent of guards watched over the sleeping Rial Mabia. At any given time there was only one guard on each floor. When traveling at speed in the dead of space there was little to fear.
I then inquired about the device in my head and if he knew how it had been deactivated. I prodded him along about how it would be an interesting story on my world. He took the bait.
It took him months to get the information I sought, but he was determined to be the best storyteller Toleda had ever known. There was a small device in the science lab that would place a field around electronics making them inert. If the polarity of the field were to be switched my audio implant would once again begin to function.
I romanced about the idea of convincing Hershen to somehow retrieve the device, but I knew it was not a possibility. He had no access to the upper levels and I dare not attempt to include anyone else in my scheming.
I soon began to fake having trouble sleeping. Hershen was kind enough to bring me a sleeping aid that the Kurtz commonly used. Over a several month period I managed to save a large portion of the drug which remained hidden under the pad on my bed.
It was a courtesy on Toleda to share your food with others. I had shared many meals with Hershen as he was not one to break tradition. On the night I had planned for an adventure I asked if he could bring a tray of fish cakes. I convinced him that it was in celebration of an Earth holiday and that it was a tradition I missed. Hershen eagerly complied.
When he returned I asked if there would be a second helping, again I alluded to it being a tradition to which he quickly scurried off to retrieve another tray. I pulled the sleep aid from my pad and mixed it into several cakes. If my plan worked I hoped to have a chance to explore.
When Hershen returned I began to spin a tale about a man who was swallowed by a whale. Hershen listened intently as he feasted on the tainted cakes. The drug worked quickly and within minutes Hershen was fast asleep.
I tested repeatedly that he would not wake before I removed his arm pad. I spoke the command to open the door in my best Kurtz and was rewarded with the wisp sound it made when opening or closing. I stepped nervously into the hallway.
It had been five years since I had been taken captive and five years since I had been outside of my cell. It felt strangely odd to leave the familiar comfort of my room. It was also the first time in several years that I became aware of my nakedness.
My body was hard and taught and my mind sharp. My blond hair was down to my waste and had to constantly be pushed out of my eyes. I walked slowly down the hallway peering into each empty cell as I went. I was the only prisoner on the mega-ship.
I walked the hallway around the ships core coming once again back to my cell. Hershen continued to sleep. I then walked to the nearest elevator and opened the door. I nervously spoke the command to move to the next level. When the doors opened I waited for my inevitable capture, but it did not happen.
I peered out of the elevator down the hall in either direction. There was no one there. I stepped out and began a slow walk in an attempt to explore. As I stepped around a corner I came face to face with the level-four guard. He was startled to see anyone awake, especially an alien.
Inwardly I panicked, but I was somehow able to utter a greeting in his language. I then made up a story that I had mistakenly come down from the level above and was unsure of how to return. My armband code did not seem to be functioning. I begged that he assist me without notifying the guard on that level as I did not want to get in trouble and lose my new position as a liaison.
I was not sure where the words had come from, but to the guard they seemed to make sense. I asked his name in case I had the chance to return the favor or if perhaps I decided to send him a few credits. His name was Keris and his eyes lit up at the thought of someone in such a high position needing his assistance. I was soon escorted back to the elevator and given a warm goodbye as the door closed behind me.
On level three I looked for the guard and used the same ruse to once again move up. Brotic was most accommodating. Again I was bid farewell and I proceeded to level-two. When the elevator doors opened on level-two the guard was nowhere to be found. I walked the seven hallways outwards until I reached the hall that supposedly held the science lab. I tried each door as I stepped barefoot down the hall.
Each door opened with a wisp sound to a room that appeared to be a science lab. I did a cursory search in each, but found nothing that resembled the device in question. When I exited the fifth lab I was confronted by the shift guard Corthur. He was immediately inquisitive as to who I was and why I was there.
I told him I was under direct command of Rial Boota and that I was tasked with checking data in his lab. But I had not been to his lab and was lost. Again I begged for assistance and indicated that I would be extremely grateful for his help. I was then escorted in the other direction to Boota's lab.
I was amazed at how little security there was on the ship. But then again, it was a ship that traveled in one direction for 13 years. No one came on or got off and most of its inhabitants were asleep in stasis chambers. They were also very aware of the hierarchy rules and knew the consequences of any violations. What I was doing was just something that was not done.
The door to Boota's lab slid open and I turned to the guard and asked for his discretion about the incident before bidding him good-day. He hesitated for a moment and then turned to continue his dull and monotonous, uneventful rounds. He at least had thoughts of a possible reward for his kind service from someone of higher stature.
I moved through the lab examining drawers, shelves and cabinets. I was almost ready to give up when I opened a cabinet and saw a familiar looking device. It was as I remembered and as Hershen had described.
I gently picked up the tool and examined it for a button or switch. There was none. I checked for compartments or doors and again found nothing that could be opened. I shook the device in frustration. I was annoyed that I was so close to enabling my QE comm, but I had no idea of how the device worked.
I then thought back to my capture and to the first time Boota used the device on me. I raised the black 20 centimeter cylinder up to just behind my ear and was startled when I heard the double beep of my audio implant rebooting.
I replaced the device and hurried out of the lab. I rode the elevator down to level-five and quickly made my way back into the cell where Hershen still lay asleep. I closed the cell door and then replaced his armband. I shook him and he grumbled.
I shook him again and he awoke groggy, with sleepy eyes. I remarked that there must have been something in the fish because I had fallen asleep too. I helped him to his feet and then said good-night before turning back to my bed. He looked on with half open eyes and then turned and stumbled out of the cell.
Once he was down the hall I enabled my QE comm channel and sent a text to Command... "Is anyone there?" Several minutes later a reply came back asking who I was. I was rusty in my thought to text conversion and found myself continuously inserting Kurtz words into my conversation. It was all I had spoken for most of the previous five years.
My contact was a low level comm officer, so I immediately asked for someone from Command. He said that was not possible, but he could relay whatever I needed to the proper officers if I wanted to confer the information to him.
I was taken aback at the thought of being passed along, but I began to tell the story of what had happened, of my interrogation and of the fact that our BGS technology had been compromised. After my message was sent onwards a response from above the comm officer was slow to come back, so I asked what the status was with the Moon and how Earth had fared.
The news was not good. It had taken another year for the declining orbit of the Moon to be stopped and reversed. It was nearing its original position. During the time I had been gone the weather had turned nasty and earthquakes had been commonplace.
Food shortages had been severe due to crop losses from the alien attacks. They had only grown worse with the bad weather. Fish stocks had fallen dramatically in the oceans. There had been two major food wars fought over the remaining fertile grounds with billions dead from the fighting or starved from a lack of food. It had not been Man’s finest hour.
The last truce had only been holding for two months, but tensions were beginning to rise as food stocks were dwindling. Had the aliens only waited a short while their dominance over the human race would have been complete.
The world’s population had fallen from 11 billion souls to just under 10 billion when the aliens departed. The wars and starvation had taken those levels down to just under four billion. The devastation was immense with tsunamis, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, snows and earthquakes striking with little or no warning. And the fighting between nations had been equally as destructive with whole cities being razed.
I then asked about a mission to stop the progress of the alien vessel so that the BGS technology would not fall fully into the enemies hands. None was planned as all resources were being spent on defending North America and its remaining food supplies. I told of the likelihood that the BGS information had not left the ship and that if we could somehow stop the ship we could prevent the knowledge from being used against us. That information would be passed on to Command and decisions would have to be made by them.