Saturday, March 31, 2018

Void: Taken (Part XIII)

One week. After accepting the truth that she had no choice but to take her daughter to Earth, Saga took some time to get past it. Since they would not be able to leave until Leona and Serif returned to the timeline anyway, she decided to make the best of her situation. She joined a gym, learned how to meditate, and continued doing what professionals suggested to encourage her daughter to speak. She tried to be more patient and understanding with those around her, cognizant of the crew of The Warren’s position, and appreciative of what they were trying to do for her. In the end, even though Durus was now her home, it wasn’t the first, and only. She had lived in the early 21st century, mid-19th century, mid-18th century, and the turn of the 16th century. She had been a globe-trotting photographer, an alien revolutionary, and a nurse. She spoke four languages, built a full-scale replica of the Colosseum, and was quite literally torn out of time. She’d lived through multiple lifetimes, across multiple timelines, and experienced an array of adventures she would always remember. Her meditation instructor, Dar’cy taught her to think of this one as but the latest, and to prepare for the next. But then...one week.
When Leona returned, she really needed to do her own inspection of the ship before she would let them leave. Saga was in support of this, because if that took an entire day, they would have to push the whole thing a whole other year. That would just give her more time to teach Étude about where she was born. A three-year-old is capable of some independent thought, but people tended to not recall much from this early in their lives. If she wanted her daughter to have full and intact memories of life on Durus, she would have to at least make it to four. As badly as Saga wanted this for her, she didn’t want it like this. Not if it meant having to endure this one week.
Serif was helping her check the house Andromeda had built for their family for any belongings they would want to take with her. Despite the diminutive size of the vessel, Annora would be coming with them to create a pocket dimension. They would live comfortable in this parallel world, able to forget the stale and metallic world that lay just beyond. It also meant they would have room for just about anything they wanted to keep. She thought she had all they needed, but then Saga remembered the doorknob to their bedroom closet, which Andromeda claimed was a family heirloom that possessed great power. She went back upstairs to retrieve it, leaving Étude with Serif on the street. Suddenly, there was a great explosion outside that shook the whole house. She ran back down to search for her daughter, but found nothing. She looked all around, but there was no sign of the two of them. Hoping they had activated their emergency teleporters, Saga activated her own, and jumped all the way back to the ship. She was relieved to find this to be the case. Everyone else on the crew was already there, having undergone their own attacks simultaneously. They thought the worst of it was over, but then both she and Étude were taken hostage...separately. For one week.
The people who had attacked them were part of yet a new fringe group of Durus. Comprised fairly evenly of Earthan refugees and Durune natives, these people no longer wanted to live here, and decided it was the Warren’s responsibility to take them to Earth. Had they not known Annora would be creating a relaxation dimension, this group probably never would have formed. It was clear how few spots there would be on the ship without her. But they indicated they understood so many more people could fit, and they felt entitled to proverbial tickets, for all two hundred of them. Annora tried to explain that her worlds were of greatly limited scope, and would not be large enough to accommodate that many people; not for a years-long journey, at least. If they were just traveling to the other side of the world, on a trip that took a few hours, that would be fine. But they expected to live on top of each other for almost a decade, and that just wasn’t going to work. Still, they were determined make this happen, and their leadership proved to be completely capable of hurting people to achieve their goals. They weren’t sure how long this standoff was going to last, but definitely long after midnight central, which was the end of their departure window. Leona and Serif were taken out of the timestream, destined to not return for another year. Yes, Étude would be four-years-old by the time they could leave, but at too great a cost.
A man with the knife kept Saga in one of the ship’s cabins for the whole week, refusing to so much as give her his name. The only words he spoke—aside from whispered conversations with his people on his phone—were used to demand food from the crew left on the rest of the ship. He even refused to give Saga updates on her daughter’s condition. For all she knew, she was long dead, and her own life was completely over. Apparently Dar’cy managed to negotiate herself to become a hostage, in exchange for Étude’s return. Though they agreed to her terms, they went back on their word, and just kept them both as hostages somewhere outside the ship. Days later, the Durune police force—which had established itself as highly reputable, organized, and legitimate division of the world’s government—made their move. They raided the hostage-takers’ lair, recovering both Étude and Dar’cy, who were as healthy as could be.
A few days later, the police chief presided over peace talks between the crew of the Warren, and the hostage-takers, who were now identifying plainly as The Passengers. Obviously, the Warren owed these people nothing. As Captain Turner had pointed out when this all began, had they asked nicely, they might have been able to work something out. Their gut reaction to use violence to get what they wanted had immediately spoiled any good relationship they could have forged. But the situation was not so simple. These people were not happy with their lives on Durus, and since the government kept a reasonable tally of unhappy citizens, everybody knew that this was the limit of their numbers. If they could make Annora’s dimensions large enough to fit these two hundred, they would not have to be any larger. Furthermore, since they no longer wanted to live here, Durus was, quite frankly, better off without them. They were just bound to cause more problems down the line anyway, so if the Warren could take them off the government’s hands, they were for it. Again, it was not that easy. While Annora and Missy were using the borrowed access to the paramount database to see if the technical issues could be resolved, Paige and Saga were sitting down with the Passengers.
A man named Faustus Lambert was their founder and highest leader. He was given the authority to speak on the behalf of the Passengers, but Saga was not convinced every one of them was in favor of this decision. When she spoke to some of them privately, she found a general consensus that few were happy with the way he handled their plea for safe passage. Perhaps he was not the man they should be speaking to, and so Saga took it upon herself to color outside the lines.
“Mister Lambert, do you speak for the people?” Saga began the questioning, looking for a way to lead into what she was really trying for.
“I speak for my people.” He clearly felt no remorse for the pain he had caused others, and was still fully convinced that what he had done was necessary; honorable, even. Saga guessed he expected to go down in history as a great leader.
“Were you voted into this position of power?” she asked.
He smiled wider. “Well, no, that’s not how it works. I started something, and they follow me, because they believe in it.”
“They believe in holding people against their will?” she pressed.
“I did what I had to do to protect mine. I stand by it.”
She nodded, feigning acknowledgement of his predicament. “You don’t think there was a better way?”
“Like what?” He looked towards Paige. “Asking nicely?”
“Exactly.”
“Would you have even entertained the idea if we had just requested it?”
Saga stood from her chair, and leaned on the desk with her fists. “To be quite unambiguous...yes.”
He scoffed, and didn’t believe it. “You would have done exactly what I did. Get off your high house.”
“It’s high horse,” Paige corrected.
“What the hell is a horse?”
“I don’t think we should be speaking to you,” Saga said, moving on. “Because I don’t think you represent these people anymore.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“I spoke with some of them. Sounds like there was some trouble in paradise. Sounds like a group of parents had to step in, and protect my daughter, from you and your...violent cohorts.”
“They exaggerate, I wasn’t gonna hurt anyone,” he defended himself.
“I don’t believe you,” Saga replied. “The man who trapped me on the ship had a knife. Held it to my throat. Drew a little blood. Did anything like that happen, to my daughter, or Miss Matigaris.”
“Absolutely not.”
“You know we speak the same language, right? The two of them and I. And they have memories. You didn’t erase them. They told me how they were treated, and how bad you were. And how scared they were of what you would do.”
“Lies.”
“I’ve spoken with the police too. They tell me they’ve already been investigating your connections with the Dawidux, and the terrorist known as Barbwire.”
“He wasn’t a terrorist, and he was a great man, and a great leader, and you did something to him!”
“So you did collude with him?” Saga asked, still as calm as ever.
“Lies!” He stood up angrily. “It is you who works with terrorists! Crooked Saga!” He looked over to the police, who tensed up. “There’s evidence of her involvement with the Earthan Uprisers! I have it, and can show you. Maybe tomorrow, just you wait. I’m an upstanding citizen. Saga has been working against this world since the Deathspring, long before I became the leader of the Passengers. Also, no collusion!”
Saga sat firmly, and waited patiently for him to come out of his rage. “That right there, sir, is how I know you’re a terrorist, and have been plotting against us. I don’t know how you maintained control over the Passengers, but that ends here.” She directed her attentions towards one of the police guards. “Please send in Mrs. Kistler.”
“What?” Faustus questioned. “Her?”
Camden came through the door, ushering in a woman named Lavitha Kistler, who had been the most upfront to Saga about her dissension to Faustus’ poor conduct. She hovered over Faustus.
“The police asked me to bring out your true side,” Saga announced. Apparently they can’t charge you with anything without an understanding of your attitudes. They need to see how you really think, and how you treat others. I don’t remember that being in the Constitution, but okay. You, and those who directly carried out your violent orders during the hostage situation, will be excluded from negotiations. I think that means we only have to worry about, what, a hundred and eighty-four people? The Captain and I will be continuing these negotiations about the rest of the Passengers with Mrs. Kistler here.”
“You can’t do this,” he argued. “I’m the leader! I started this, and I’m gonna goddamn end it!”
“People like you make me not regret agreeing to leave,” Saga said to him, still calm.
“No!” he screamed. In true form, he reached over and removed a teleporter gun from the nearest police officer. They were nonlethal, of course, but were inconvenient. Once someone was teleported into a holding cell, it took a lot of paperwork to get them out. He pointed it at the crowd, and literally backed himself into a corner.
As if having been called, Kolby teleported into the room. He was a career security guard from Earth, whose job it was to incarcerate choosing ones who had abused their powers to the detriment of mankind. “Mine’s bigger,” he said in a phony gravelly voice. And he was right. His own transporter gun was massive, probably because it had to be able to send people through both time and space. He shot Faustus with it.
“He’s not a chooser,” Camden pointed out.
“We’ve expanded the prison’s reach,” Kolby explained. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have over a dozen more on my list.” He walked out of the room.
As promised, Saga continued talks with Lavitha, and the Passengers. Though they didn’t show it specifically during the hostage situation, a few of them had somewhat violent histories, and were considered too dangerous for the ship. Several others felt bad about what they had done to the crew, and especially Étude, so they volunteered to be excluded from consideration as well. They assured the government that they would continue to contribute positively to society, and not cause problems on Durus. Yet still more strongly believed in the Warren’s companion ship, the González, which was supposed to arrive mere days after the first. These Passengers were convinced that it still would, even after all this time, when the most likely scenario was that something had gone wrong since the Warren lost contact with them. They agreed to stay behind as well, though, leaving the number at a perfect gross of a hundred and forty-four. Annora and Missy were confident that this was a tenable number, with some modifications. Now all they needed to do was wait yet another year, which was when it was finally time for Saga to return home. The Durus chapter of her life was finished.

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