Pattern of Infinity - Part VI - Of What Devils Hid the StarsBy J. Kel
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This is a tale of those old fears, even of those emptied hells,
And none but you shall understand the true thing that it tells-
Of what colossal gods of shame could cow men and yet crash,
Of what huge devils hid the stars, yet fell at a pistol flash.
-G. K. Chesterton
It is not aloneness that frightens me. There is nothing in being separate that summons terror to me, even to a child of Auron, which I am. Nor have I ever understand the fear in others. There are far worse states than being alone . . .
Odd that the realization should rise before me at this time, under these circumstances like some guilt-inflicting spirit. Perhaps, because I sense my shared mind, my duality, is fading, that this exorcism of guilt is necessary. To be a wholeness implies an end to shared responsibility . . .
At this moment, I have been given a choice between guilt (forgive me, Mykal) and regret (I am sorry, Cally). And so too I have come to consider the reality of being forever alone, what is known as death. Humans fear it, I understand, more than Aurons, but we Aurons are not above such terrors. If our lives were to be weighed in the balance of judgment, would we profit the more? If so, I am sorry for us all . . .
I say these things to the inky night and the blackness like a fetid tide floods into me, drowning me. I am not afraid, I say, come what may.
Soon, my companion and I will be escaping Lindor. That is the plan and the hope. But to where? There is little in me at this moment that cares about ultimate destinations. Were it not for the closeness-wanting-I seem to be lacking a word, or is it an emotion?-of my companion, I might be indifferent. Now I sense shame for my fellow Auronar. She should understand my need to be away, even disregarding the current circumstances. That is why I fled my home planet in the first place. Tradition did not have so much to do with it. In this, I am close to my human cousins. The thought occurs to me that I could hardly sink further.
Forgive me, all of you.
I am Cally.
I am Molli.
I am Li.
What then is missing?
"Li," asked Franton (Have I been telesending? A red flush of shame sweeps over me) out of the darkness, "where are we going?"
Courtesy compels an answer. I do not want to respond flippantly to her or to anyone else, so let me do my best to explain. The two of us are in an aircar, heading west from the Capitol of the Lindor Confederacy. We are cruising at an altitude of five kilometers, our velocity just below Mach 1.
Appropriate security precautions have been taken, but I am edgy. It is shortly past midnight. A war has started and I have no confidence in my piloting abilities should evasive maneuvers be required. Yet it is foolish to think the vast defense forces arrayed above and below the planet are on the alert for a single unarmed aircar. It is not outside the realm of reason that we will remain unnoticed.
The aircar? I seized it in the desperation of the moment. Not a bad choice as such things go. An aircar, cramped as it is, does support the illusion of being cut off from external reality, a feeling that pleases me. Inside the pilot module, you are surround by monitors. At no time, unless the equipment went down - impossible, I was informed - do you ever "see" outside. No different, in effect, from being in a flight simulator.
Our prime hope in remaining in anonymity lies in the volume of traffic fleeing the capitol. I watch it as best I can, but eventually give up. Either it will be enough or it won't.
Angrily, I think of disabling Mykal's recorder. Why I would want to keep a record of this escapes me. Everything is so chaotic. Who would care to hear my meandering thoughts? Where are all these people going anyway? Anyone's guess as far as I can see. Damn few must have a starship waiting for them. Lucky us. Fewer still must have the personal orders of President Sarkoff himself on them as a passport. I suppose that is their problem. Franton and I have enough of our own.
We were heading for an abandoned base - well, it was until recently, until the Lindor Defense Command reactivated it. Our flight path is taking us to an area surrounded by lakes and mountains. Ridiculously romantic, says I. Like we were going on a vacation.
Mind you, I appreciated all that Sarkoff did for us. All of us do and that includes even Avon. I am truly grateful to the Lindor government. If the Federation captures Sarkoff, he won't last long. A tough leader, pragmatic in the best sense of the word; still, I doubt if Sarkoff would have approved of quite the way I was going about fulfilling his assignment. Our mission, if you wish to call it that, was legitimate as I say but the aircar was not exactly mine for the taking.
Yet Franton's question shouldn't have bothered me. It was not reasonable for me, or anyone, to feel guilt in this circumstance. Parts of me had always been fleeing one thing or an other. So why couldn't I just shrug this off? What was bothering me? I mean, I knew where we were going but is the real question I am dreading "why"? What were we going to do, all that was left of Blake's adventuring? You tell me.
Poor Franton. An honest reply would have been: "I don't care. I will never care," but I doubt Franton, given what was left of the Clinician's composure, would have been comforted by such. So I replied, not moving my eyes from the instruments, Li the professional pilot: "To ensure the safety of the children." (//Feeling sorry for yourself?//)
That was the wrong question I was replying to, of course. Thankfully, she did not question further.
My "skills" made this midnight flight a big risk. I know the principles of flying of course, aerodynamics and all that and have been in plenty of simulators, but I don't know any more about flying an aircar than a cat knows about barking. Luckily, my ever-present sister for once is a help (//And how!//). I know it sounds incredible, but Cally is an ace pilot (//Thanks.//) and if you can get past her manners (//Look whose talking!//) almost tolerable (//You're such a dear!//). In a way.
Over the past several months we have been "together" in a single body that used to be mine (//So-rry!//). I have become more like her (//Lucky you.//) and she like me (//You can't have everything.//). She's almost useful to have around at a time like this.
(And at that she shut up for the moment.)
Believe me, the trip to the base wasn't supposed to have become the hegira it did. Things were supposed to have been routine, smooth as they say, but by the time we arrived to the rendezvous point where we were to link up with our escort (VIPs we were, it says so in our security pass), the war had officially started and the local Commander (never came close to him) had more pressing business to attend to then escort two civilians out of the Capitol. I sympathized. Given the circumstances, Federation attack and all, it wasn't like we were a priority item! So as much as I loath officialdom, I acquiesced. Nevertheless, I wanted out. I fumed. Passivity and sweet reasonableness are not my natural style. We waited, I think maybe fifteen minutes while Franton was all nauseating understanding.
Finally, I couldn't take it anymore. It dawned on me that our being ignored might work in our favor. Never look a gift fate in the mouth, I say. I did not want to stay in the Capitol; therefore, a way out would be found. For my sanity, not to mention our lives, I had to get us out of here.
So I said to Franton: let's go for a walk, and clapping our hands in the cold, we went over to an adjacent field to see if there was anything we might, well, "borrow". Can't shoot someone for asking, right? We saw at once that everything big was gone or powering up to get out of there. The field was loud, incredibly noisy, but no attack seemed imminent. Was the Federation taking their time? Or were they having their problems as well? If so, good for them.
I approached a guard, a young, naive-looking type. More good luck, says I. Mind you, there were plenty of cyber-guards patrolling the area, scanning our security badges constantly, but military regulations require as least one water-and-carbon-based guard to oversee. And being a man, I figured how could we lose? With Franton along, the helpless routine was not a bad approach. He looked at us both as if we were the type who would have trouble crossing the street.
Not exactly the lustful stares I'm used too. (//Stop flattering yourself.//)
I dangled my credentials and authorization under his nose and endured the usual suspicions and delays while he made calls. Actually, he knew perfectly well who we were and what we wanted but he had to make it look official. He was dull about the whole business, but eventually he couldn't find anyone to say "No" and miracle of miracles, we were directed to an aircar. We must have looked disappointed. That? Yes, that. A squat ugly little thing with stubby wings that looked about as airborne as a slug (and thereafter, "slug" is what I called it) parked under a single glaring light. Our guard, gentleman that he was, quickly assured us it had extended range and enough speed to get us to our destination in time. I was past objecting and well into despair so I shut up. Maybe this wasn't total lunacy though it seemed close. I was worried. There was no conceivable way Lindor could hold off the Federation for long and if there was to be any chance for the children, not to mention the rest of us, we had damn well better be ready to take what we could get.
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