Thursday, October 1, 2015
Chapter 4 : Sacred Warriors
Book 1 : Sacred Warriors
copyright©2015 Florin Nicoara
Andee and Gono are walking up one of the many carved stairpaths on the slope of table mountain. They are beyond the upper edge, above the township, so the steps are steep. It's hot, but the shade of the mountain keeps their climb comfortable and cool. Gono yawns with his mouth wide, then stretches his arms out arching his back. He looks quite sleepy and a bit sluggish going up those steep steps.
"Man, I shouldn't have stayed up so late. I only got two hours of sleep." Gono speaks still stretching and rotating his neck.
"What did you guys do all night? Dirin looked in bad shape after Nayaa took care of him."
Gono starts laughing. "That was hilarious. Dirin is such on idiot."
"I'm glad you think so, but why do you still hang out with him?"
"We grew up together. His farm is right next to ours. Our dads are best friends. I don't really have a choice, to be perfectly honest. And he's ok. When it's just us. But in a crowd he suddenly needs to show off. In fact, you should have seen him trying to hook up with your girl."
"My girl? What are you talking about?"
"Oh... my... god! You're going to go all humble on me now? Yeah, your girl. That super hot Bitani chick! Your... girl." Gono agitated and now fully awake drives his point home shoving his index finger into Andee's chest.
Andee laughs. "She's not my girl. She's just..." but loses steam.
"Punk you, you arrogant humble bastard." Gono snaps, but with a playful tone.
"What is that even supposed to mean?"
"You're so humble that you're arrogant."
"Huh?" Andee laughs him off.
"Dude! You rescued a frigging pilot! Then you got the girl. Let me repeat, "THE" girl, the hottest Bitani chick in that place. When you hit jackpot like that... when you're that good, but you pretend you're not, well that's fake humility. And fake humility is arrogance."
Andee laughing. "What, you're a philosopher now?"
"Maybe I am."
"Ok, than I'm the man. I got the girl. I got it all. What can I say? Me and Dirin, we rule the world."
"Ha-ha, now that's called being defensive."
"So you are a philosopher."
"I'm smart enough to know you got something here, but you want to pretended you don't."
"What do I have?"
"You got an in with the Bitani." But Andee doesn't understand. Just looks at him with a hard frown. "I guess this is as good a time as ever."
"For?" Lifting his brows.
"To tell you."
"Ah the secret."
"Go for it, mystery man. I know you love to stretch it out, but spill it." Andee smiles.
"You... got me this interview." Gono responds mater of fact.
"Huh?" Andee's smile turns into a frown as he stares at Gono bewildered.
"You did. You got me this interview."
"You're going to have to explain that."
"The day after the race I came up here with ole'Jovial Jim, and talked to one of the screeners. We ended up talking about the crash and you. Guess what?"
"I'm famous in the city because they saw me rescue the pilot." Andee answers mater of fact. Gono stops in his tracks and swings to face Andee. Now his eyes are bursting out of his head, staring dumfounded, while Andee continues. "Hey, you asked me to guess."
"You punk! How did you know?" Gono asks still wide eyed.
"Silestra told me."
"Ahhh, wait who?"
"The Bitani girl."
"You, you arrogant punk!" Gono shouts getting more agitated.
"What? Why arrogant again?"
"Oh-ok, sure. First you say, what girl? Now, oh it's Silestra--you didn't even tell me that! But when I say 'your girl' you act like you don't know what I'm talking about, but you know her name, probably where she lives, been to her house--you punk! Thanks for ruining my surprise."
"I'm sorry man. I didn't keep it from you, it just never came up."
"See, this is what I mean. You're so humble you're arrogant. You should have been excited. You should have told me. Now I feel like an idiot."
"Come on man. I'm sorry. But when have you ever seen me jump in the air excited? I'm not like that."
"Ok, fine. I guess that's true." Gono deflated looks away. Both start walking up the steps. "Anyway, so you know, that's how I got this interview. They couldn't stop talking about how they'd never seen anyone climb rocks like you did. So I told them you were my friend. They got all excited and set up the appointment with a labor counselor immediately, and asked if I could bring you along."
"That's weird. They asked for me?"
"No, it's not weird. They respect you man. They want to meet you, but you doubt them. You think the Bitani are our enemy, but they're not."
"Just because a couple of Bitani like me doesn't mean they respect us as a people. If they did why would hey keep themselves separated from us? Why won't they let us know how their tech works?"
"Who cares how their tech works?"
"I don't trust anyone that hides so much."
"Man, you can't see the mountain cuz you're staring at the rocks." Andee rolls his eyes. "Dude! They're not hiding anything from us." Gono finishes his statement with pleading eyes. Andee doesn't say a word, but stubbornly shakes his head in disagreement. "They are a different kind of people from us. We probably couldn't understand their tech anyway." Gono continues somewhat deflated.
"Oh come on, you can't buy into that brainwashing bull."
"How can it be brainwashing? They teach it in school! Are they brainwashing us in school?"
"Yes, absolutely! Why do you think I quit? They don't teach us real history. They don't teach us about tech. But they tell us we're lucky. The Bitani saved us. That they take care of us. That the tech is too complicated for us. That we should be happy to live at their service, and be happy farmers."
"And how is that bad?"
"Because it is."
"Nonsense. If they hate us why do they give us free electricity and water? We live in a desert but we have more water than we ever need. And if we get hurt or sick, they give us free medicine and heal our wounds. You think that's bad?"
"In a way it is."
"How can you say that?"
"What if they change their mind? Or leave... or something. What do we do then? We no longer know how to take care of ourselves."
"Look man, I don't want to get personal, but I get it."
"You get what?"
"What about him?"
"You miss him, and lets be honest you guys are struggling. I'm lucky. I have my dad. We have a big farm. We always have enough credits. Now I'm going to get a job in the city, things are working out for me. And I want to help you. Lets be honest. You've been pretty miserable lately. You're always angry, and you keep blaming the Bitani, but they haven't done anything to you."
"Wow, so you are a philosopher."
"What's wrong with that?"
"I guess you got me all figured out."
"Maybe I do. That's why you should listen to me." Gono replies with a big grin.
"Who's arrogant now?"
"Look man, you're looking at this all wrong. Sure, you were unlucky in the past, but look how lucky you are now. The Bitani think you are a hero. You're guaranteed a job in the city, and because I'm your friend probably me too."
"Don't be so sure."
"I am sure dude. Watch, you'll see. And on top of that, not only are we going to get a job in the city today, you're going to get married to a Bitani girl tomorrow."
"Lol, you're stupid."
"No, you're stupid. All you do is try to find idiotic reasons to be angry at the Bitani. Then yesterday, a light fairy, a beautiful Bitani light fairy, came down from the moon especially for you. Dude, tell me you're not an idiot if you don't recognize that? That girl was so into you. Not only are we both going to work in the city, you're going to have a Bitani wife, and be living up in the city with her."
Andee laughs out loud. "Dude, you're delusional."
"Watch! That's your future man. But what do you do? You wine and complain. Oh-no, the Bitani hide tech from you. Dude, you're losing it man. I can't believe your luck. And I'm helping you the best I can. And you know what else, that's right, I'm helping you but yesterday you refused to help me with Nayaa. Now she thinks I'm a total loser."
"No you're crazy. And not much of a friend."
"Man don't trip me up with guilt. I didn't refuse, and why would she think you're a loser?"
"I don't know. I must have said something to piss her off cuz she just took off ignoring me. I don't think I'll ever be able to talk to her again."
"What did you say to her?"
"That's the thing, I don't know. I didn't say anything to her. In fact, I was talking about you, and your... Silestra, and she said something weird about being blond and old, and then she vanished."
Andee chuckles. "Dude relax. She's not mad at you. She was mad at me."
"Apparently I'm making everyone mad these days."
"Yeah, you are. What's wrong with you?" Elbowing Andee.
Andee just shrugs his shoulders then looks up pointing ahead. "We're almost there."
They reach the last of the steps and arrive on a flat portion of stone that is recessed into the mountain. The flat plateau is the base of a large 100 meter-plus tall crevice in the side of Table Mountain, but closed off behind a large adobe wall. They walk a few steps to a big arched entrance in the wall. At the top of the arch there is a beautifully ornate stone carving that reads; "The Bitani Friendship Center". The arch is made of the same orange adobe as the rest of the township but the workmanship looks far superior to that of the average Carpati home. It is also more elaborately decorated with ornate and tastefully carved grooves and geometric patterns. The decor continues on the walls on either side which terminate into the vertical stone edges of the crevice.
They look down through the open archway. Ahead is a colonnade of tall pillars of white stone in a deep courtyard. They are about four meters in height and line both sides of the long walkway to the back of the crevice. All have bright green plants and flowers around the bases as well as on top. That seems to be their only purpose since they support no structures. The colonnade ends at the back of the crevice with what looks to be a set of large glass doors into the mountain. On either side of the colonnade there are more doors and glass windows all carved right out of the mountain.
They step into the tunnel-like deep arch. To their left there is a large window with a security person on the other side. She speaks to them through a small gap in the glass where documents can also be exchanged.
"Do you boys have an appointment?" The older security lady asks.
"Yes we do." Gono answers with pride. "I am Gono Farmen, and this, this is Andee Star." Gono proudly gestures with both hands displaying Andee as if he is a product. Andee smirks embarrassed.
"Ok, I see, Gono Farmen, you have an appointment with one of our labor counselors. And lets see, I have an Andee... ah-Star... fighter listed here. Is that you?" The clerk asks elongating her words then looking up at Andee. He frowns before he answers.
"Uh-no. My name is Star, just Andee Star."
"Well here it says Starfighter. Do you have a citizen card?"
"Yes I do." Andee pulls it out and hands it to the lady.
"Yup, you are Andee Star. Unfortunately, I can't let you in. The names have to match."
"What? What are you talking about?" Gono jumps annoyed. "Look at him. This is Andee. Didn't you see him rescue your pilot in the last races? He's a hero up there. Your counselors told me so. In fact he's the one who asked me to bring Andee along."
"The names don't match. It's as simple as that. I can't let him in."
"Are you serious? Call him?"
"The counselor, ah-screener, he'll tell you."
"It's not my job to set up appointments for you. My job is to stop people that don't belong from getting in. His name doesn't match, so he doesn't belong, and he's not getting in, and that's that!"
"You've got to be kidding. It is him. Look, it's the same guy that rescued your pilot."
"If it makes you feel any better, I don't watch the races. I have no idea who he is, or who you are, and I don't care. The names don't match. That's the end of the conversation. Do you want to go in, or should I kick both of you out?"
"No, ah..." turning to Andee, "I'm sorry man I have to take this. I don't understand what happened."
"Go. I've got to get to the junkyard anyway. Old Tom's waiting for me. Listen, good luck. Be yourself, I know you'll impress them and get that job."
"Ok, thanks man."
"Don't worry about me. I'm famous." Andee winks, then walks away.
"I'm really sorry though." Gono follows him with his eyes, weighed down with a heavy dread of disappointment.
Brandberd Bret is seating behind a half dome shaped desk with a glass top. The dome is white and accented with vertical recessed ridges in various off-white shades. It is at one end of an equally ornate room. The ornamentation looks like a cross between Baroque and Art Deco. The walls, the ceiling, the large window frames, are all carved with elaborate motifs resembling organic shapes, but in a modernist style. The relief carvings are layered in materials that look like various forms of marble, but almost too perfect, so could be synthetic. They are elegant, high quality, and vary in tones, but all within a range of various shades of blue with light earthy colors as accents.
The furniture follows in the same fashion. All the pieces are very ornate but strangely asymmetrical. One side of a chair or sofa does not match the other, but all together, the shapes flow from one into the next around the room. In contrast with the wall reliefs, the furniture has no angular shapes or corners. Only rounded and beveled edges flowing from one piece into the next like waves on a sea. The color of the furniture is equally uneven from one side of a piece to the next. The solid frames range from white to variations of blue hues, and textured to look like either wood or stone grain. The textiles on the other hand are in light earth tones, and may weaved from ribbons of linen or leather in elaborate patterns of mostly geometric meshes, making the seating areas cozy and comfortable, while the blue and white hard surfaces make the room look elaborately imposing and cold.
The Governor is tapping away at his glass top display. A soft pleasant chime takes the Governor's eyes off his task. He looks up at a free floating 3D image that just appeared above his desk. It is the upper torso of a late middle aged military officer dressed in black armor.
"Hello Governor, I'm here for our meeting."
"Yes-yes, come in Commander." An automatic door opens and the man in black armor steps in. He looks to be in his fifties, has no helmet, but his suit resembles that of the riders by the electric fence. In the light of day it looks clean, glossy, and quite ornate, accented with horizontal and vertical groves in the material, and stripes painted in blue, mostly on his chest and shoulders. The blue lines highlight the many geometric insignia that seem to signify some kind of military rank and history. Over his back he has a cape made of some sort of polymer that moves a bit like cloth, but too unnatural to be cloth, and almost glows with a gleaming bluish on black shine.
The Commander steps up to the Governor's desk and stops in military attention.
"You said you had something interesting for me this morning." The Governor looks at him with inquisitive eyes.
"I do. Let me just show you first." The man lifts up his left arm and taps on what looks like his forearm guard. As he taps it, the Governor's 3D mid air display lights up again, this time showing two people running by a warehouse wall. It zooms in on their faces.
"Yes sir. That's the boy that rescued your son."
"What's his name again?"
"And the girl?"
"His neighbor, Nayaa."
"Hmmm? What were they doing?"
"Seems like they were just taking a short cut."
"Near our heavily secured property?"
"I'm convinced that's all it was. There is no possible way they could have any idea of what's going on in that warehouse. We did pick up some of their conversation and it was mostly about that illegal club being operated behind dome rock."
"I don't know. There's just too many coincidences here."
"To be perfectly blunt governor, we are not absolutely sure he is..."
"It's him, I'm certain of it. What are the odds he would just happen to be the one to rescue my son?" Brandberd takes a deep resigned breath, then looks back at the 3D image. "And the girl, what do you know of her?"
"There is not much about her. She lives next door to the Starfighter family, with an older woman that is possibly her aunt, and two brothers who are cacti addicts and working on a rehab farm."
"Who are her parents?"
"There are no records on that, or how she ended up with the aunt, or if they are in fact related. We would have to directly question the aunt or even Adinaa Starfighter."
"The boy's mother? Absolutely not. Right now their ignorance is our bliss. Plus, you know direct confrontation never works. We will continue working from behind the scenes, as we always have. That's our true strength."
"Yes of course sir."
"But I will authorize you to get some DNA samples. Just be discrete."
"Of course. That won't be a problem."
"And keep an eye on him. I think he's the one. I really do, but we'll keep our distance of course. I want this to play out. Even if it takes another decade. This is the only option we have."
"Thank you, you're dismissed."
"There's one more thing Governor, and this is the most important part."
"Yes, what is it?"
"Them being at the warehouse was not the issue that concerned me when I called you this morning."
"It's what happened afterwards. As I said, I'm personally convinced that these two were just on their way to that club, but got lost and decided to take a shortcut through our property. Unfortunately, two of our sentinels went after them thus exposing themselves."
"Wait, they were in the warehouse complex? From the recording I thought they were just outside the front wall."
"No sir. They were in. They were in the complex, and made it all the way to the back fence."
"What? How did they get in?" Suddenly getting agitated.
"They just climbed right over."
"What do you mean they just climbed over?"
"That's what they did. Just like the boy when he climbed down the mountain."
"And the girl?"
"Both of them?" Brandberd frowns.
"Yes, and they did it unseen. In fact, they used the shadows and avoided the recorders extremely well. Our two sentinels didn't see them until they got to the fence and the proximity lights came on."
"Ok, hold on, now you've got me confused. So not only did they climb into our heavily secured property, undetected, but they got all the way to the back fence, initializing it, without getting electrocuted? Nor captured? And then they got away? How is that possible?" Brandberd snaps at the Commander infuriated.
"That's the troubling part, sir. First, the boy seemed to understand that the fence was electrified, and when the sentinels got to them, they were overwhelmed."
"The girl pushed one of the hover-peds into the fence shorting it out, so the footage stops there." Pointing to the 3D display. Brandberd watches Nayaa destroy the fence, and then nothing.
"This is not good. How the hell did they get to the fence undetected?"
"That's what worries me sir. As you can see they were clearly recorded, yet the sentinels are adamant they did not see anyone until the perimeter alarm was triggered at the fence."
Brandberd stares hard at the Commander. "Are you suggesting these kids are..."
"I'm not suggesting it sir. But the fact remains... they got in and out, nearly undetected, and according to the sentinels, unseen, and when confronted they overwhelmed them."
"Ah!" The Governor groans displeased as he jumps out of his seat. "Unbelievable! This changes everything. Two regular kids would not get away from our sentinels... unless they were drunk? Do you just hand out rank and uniform to just anyone? Who are these two?"
"No sir. Those sentinels are among the best of the best. In fact they both qualified for Husarii training. They did not fail."
"Yet two kids got past them."
"These kids aren't like any Carpati kids I've seen before."
"So you are implying that these kids are being trained?"
"That is a possibility, yes."
"How? How could this be possible? Who? There can't be any on this planet. Who's training them?"
"I don't know sir. But if you're right about the boy..." Brandberd cuts the Commander off lifting up his index finger.
"This is bad. If you missed this and he's here, in the township..." Brandberd shakes his hand at the Commander.
"That's impossible sir. It must be someone else. He wasn't..."
"But he was connected. He had contacts. He's got someone here training them. Someone off our radar."
"We may be getting ahead of ourselves. There's no evidence of any of that."
"I'm not so sure." Turning away. "And here I thought he was going to contact the mother. He must be in contact with the boy." The Governor muses mostly talking to himself.
The sun is now directly above and beaming onto the north slope of table mountain. Walking down a different sculpted stairpath, Andee is in deep discussion with Mykee. They are both wearing the typical Carpati double-cape jacket, with the upper hoods pulled up overhead, to shade them from the sun. Andee's stiff hood is in the shape of a four pointed diamond. The two points extending over the shoulders are wider than the front to back points. Mykee has a triangular hood that's flat up front, with the point facing back. They look like a cross between a geometric hat and hood due to the cloth which attaches them to the shoulders. It's broad, front to back, shading the sides of the head while allowing the wind through. Seen from the side they looks like a hoods with flat tops.
"What do you think the Bitani are hiding in those warehouses?"
"I don't know little brother."
"Whatever it is, it must be important to have that electric fence all around."
"Any idea how that works? I really thought I was dead there for a second."
"Not so sure. I've been trying to learn everything I can about electricity, but it's not easy. School is no help."
"You're telling me. When I asked questions, I got in trouble."
"Did you really quit, cuz everyone says you got kicked out? Some even say you're a troublemaker."
"Whatever, I quit. I mean, they kicked me out first, but, then told me I could come back if I stopped stirring up trouble."
"So you are a troublemaker."
"Ha. If asking questions is a troublemaker, than I guess I am."
"They threatened to kick me out too."
"It doesn't matter. You've already learned everything useful."
"I guess, but can you imagine if they taught us the tech to build lightships. I could build one and you could pilot it. I bet you'd be a good pilot."
Andee looks at Mykee. "You're the second person to say that to me."
"Yeah? Who else said it?"
"That girl I was telling you about."
"Oh. I wonder what she learns in school?"
"Certainly not what we learn. I bet she was never told the same garbage over and over again. Hard work is a virtue. Farming is life. The Bitani are noble. Saviors who saved us from our own civil war, blah, blah, blah... just crap and more crap." Andee continues becoming more frustrated.
"Yup, most of the classes are ridiculously easy and redundant. Every time I ask about important stuff I'm told that's for the Bitani to worry about. Too complicated and dangerous for us." Andee nods his head in agreement partially lost in thought. Mykee continues. "My social responsibility teacher even said that we are lucky not to have lightships, because look how many Bitani die in the races. We're lucky to see them from the safety of the stands and not get hurt by such dangerous technology."
"That's how they've got everyone brainwashed. Sad thing is, most Carpati believe all this."
"Well I believed it too." Mykee adds with a resigned look.
"Come on, you're thirteen. You're just learning about this stuff. In fact, I'm amazed how much you already know. Besides Old Tom, you know more about Bitani tech than anyone else. Had you been there last night, I bet you would have known how to take the electricity out of that fence."
"Sorry, no. That's more than I know." Mykee answers resigned once again. "Well..."
"I know electricity needs a generator. Dun'no how it works, but that's how it's made, then sent through wires and other metal objects. So that fence had to have a generator. You cut the connection between that and the fence, or damage it, and the electricity would disappear from the fence. I think."
Slapping his little brother on the back. "There you go little man. I bet you're right."
"Maybe, but then I was wrong about the lightships. I was sure it was the light that made them float in the air, but since you saw two that could float, with no lights..."
Mykee just seems to get more and more depressed as they turn off the stairpath and head to their left onto a dirt road. They are on one of the lower, and much wider, terraces of the Township not too far above the flatlands. They stick close to the ten meter tall stone cliff that is on their left. Ahead, the road keeps getting broader and broader becoming a wide plateau. A few minutes into their walk they reach buildings built into the cliff. Most seem to house various types of business, from leather works and shoe makers, to furniture and appliance factories and their shops.
The plateau comes to an end at a wall of buildings directly ahead. In the middle of the three story adobe wall of buildings, there is an arched entrance leading to a space on the other side. As the brothers walk under the arch it opens up to a wide forum of sorts. It is essentially a huge Carpati strip mall, colloquially referred to as The Triangle--because it's the shape of a triangle. Its three perimeters are lined with two and three storied buildings that come to a point at the back. On the left side they are built into the stone cliff, but behind them, and on the right side of the triangle, they are all free standing adobe structures.
The ground floors are shops of all kinds, including many eateries and saloons. Some of the upper stories are the residences of the shop owners, but many are inn's and houses of ill repute. The center of the forum is filled with hundreds of wheeled carts doubling as stalls selling cloth, clothing, shoes, jewelry, and other trinkets. These are small hand pulled carts since alcama are not allowed in the Triangle. There are also many benches, water fountains, and large potted plants dotted around to make the place a bit nicer and cleaner than the standard market in the lowlands.
They walk through the crowds, past the wheeled stalls, and reach the triangular plaza in the back end. Directly in front of their path, there is something that looks like a shrine. It's a tall metal sculpture of two B's, back to back, on top of a three meter pole. At the bottom there are candles, gifts, and flowers, all as offerings, and all around men in white robes. Most are on their knees on individual rugs meditating in front of the shrine. Almost all the white robed men have long beards, and many have long hair.
"Talk about brainwashed Carpati. Look at these idiots. Brothers of Bitani..." Andee nudges towards them with his chin. "What a bunch of lunatics."
"Do these people really worship the Bitani?" Mykee asks shaking his head. "I'm 13 and even I can tell that's crazy."
"Some people are a lost cause." Andee answers walking by one of these bearded men who is handing out pamphlets to passers by.
"We are all a lost cause, but here," reaching out with a pamphlet to Andee, "learn about our saviors, and let them shape your purpose."
"No thanks man, I don't worship people just cuz they live in high castles."
"Brother be free. Take one, and open your heart. The Bitani are spirits of God, our saviors."
"Keep your paper. The Bitani aren't gods, they even say so themselves. Just ask them."
"They are humble my brother."
"We are not brothers." Andee retorts trying to get away but the man jumps in front of him.
"We are all brothers my friend. Don't turn away. The Bitani are humble. They do not demand much from us. Simply that we obey the law and work hard in the fields."
"Their law, and their fields."
"They are but our humble masters, with enough love for us all. Do they not give you light in your home? Water in your faucet? Medicine when you're sick? They give you life, yet you deny them?"
"This is ridiculous. Please get out of my way." But the man skips sideways blocking the two brothers once again.
"They give us life, so we can give them grain. What more would you ask of them?"
"You just gave yourself the clue. If they are gods why do they need to eat our grain? They are people... like us. Carpati like you disgust me. Fool." Andee snaps and forcefully pushes the bearded man out of his way and walks past.
"You are a fool. A lucky fool." The man yells out after Andee.
"What is that supposed to mean?" Andee stops and turns to the man.
"It means that you don't know what awaits you."
"Is that a threat? Punk!" Andee takes a step forward aggressively.
"Brother, I have no threats against you. I only have knowledge that you foolishly ignore."
"What knowledge? You believe people with advanced technology are gods. That's the opposite of knowledge. That's blind stupidity."
"I have knowledge of the Bitani's true power. Their tech is just a tool, like a hammer or a sickle. Their real power is something else."
Andee looks at him with a squinty frown. He's not sure if the man is concocting a sales pitch or maybe he actually has something interesting to say.
"OK, convince me that you have something other than foolishness to speak. What is the other power of the Bitani?"
"It's sad that you should ask. All should know this by now."
"As I thought. You got nothing." Andee turns and starts walking away.
"The Bitani! The Bitani possess the power of the Sacred Warriors." The man yells and Andee stops and turns back.
"You truly are a fool! Now you're mixing in fairytales with..." ...but cuts himself off and turns to his little brother. "Come on Mykee, I've had enough."
"Wait, wait a minute. I want to hear this."
"Don't be gullible little brother. This guy is full of nonsense."
"You and mom never want to tell me about the Sacred Warriors."
"Because it's a dumb fairytale."
"Yeah, but you got to hear it. I want to hear what this guy has to say."
"Old Tom is expecting me. I don't have time for this."
"Fine." Andee concedes then looks up at the approaching man. "You've got one minute." He snaps at the bearded brother.
"Little man listen with your ears open. Don't let your jaded older brother lead you astray." Andee rolls his eyes. "Do you know of the Great War my little man?"
"Of course. It's the only history they teach us in school."
"The Carpati were fighting each other in a great civil war." The man continues.
"That's one version of the story." Andee cuts in.
"The true version." The man responds looking up to Andee, then turns his attention back to Mykee. "It was the Bitani who swooped down from the sky and saved us with their law and order. But there were many Carpati troublemakers who resisted and fought the Bitani, but they were foolish to do so. You see, the Bitani have the power of the Sacred Warriors."
"What are the Sacred Warriors?" Mykee asks becoming more curious.
"A fairytale little brother. The enemies of the moon-fairies, in fact." Andee cuts in and finishes his sentence with a dismissive smirk.
"Not true jaded older brother." The man responds looking up to Andee and then back to Mykee. "They are not enemies. The light-fairies, from the moon, bring us fertility and good fortune, but the Sacred Warriors are spirits that live in us all. We all have a Sacred Warrior within us. You and me." The man points at Mykee's chest and than at his own. Andee stares suspicious but does not interrupt. "The Bitani discovered their inner Sacred Warrior and were able to easily subdue the Carpati. Today most of us Carpati, like your brother here, are still too unruly, to undisciplined, to get in touch with our own sacred warrior. But if you were to follow the path laid down to us by the Bitani, you too could find the warrior within, little man."
"So these sacred warriors, were they real warriors or was that just a title?" Mykee asks.
"Of course they were warriors. Men of great power and responsibility. Power does not come free. With power comes responsibility and discipline."
"What kind of powers did they have?"
"The greatest of them all could fly."
"In lightships?" Mykee asks confused. Andee, with arms folded, is squinting at the man.
"Anyone can fly in a ship, but the masters of the sacred art could fly by the power of the light within us all. They could simply will themselves to fly, anywhere."
"With their bodies?" Mykee asks bewildered.
"It's a myth Mykee." Andee interjects. Then looks up to the man. "You said the Bitani swooped down. So you're saying the Bitani have flying ships?"
"Really? You know this?" Andee responds a bit shocked.
"Everyone knows this. That's how they came to us, and saved us."
"From where? From space?" Andee, responds incredulous.
"See, Mykee fairytales."
"It's true." The man objects.
"Then how come I was told they don't exist, and in school I was kicked out when I questioned this?"
"I know of no such things my friend. Join us and you will learn the truth about the Bitani."
"What else can they do?" Mykee brushes his brother away with a swing of his right hand.
"Their greatest power was as light benders."
"What? What is that even mean?" Mykee asks perplexed but curious. Even Andee suddenly leans in.
"We are all beings of light. Sacred Warriors can reach within and bend it to their will."
"Do you mean that literally?" Mykee asks suspicious.
"How? In what way?"
"They can will the energy that exists in us all. It comes out of them like a light, and they can bend it to their will. Use it like a whip, or even spin it into a shield."
"I don't understand. What light?" Mykee squints at the man bewildered.
"The light in the hole in his head." Andee scoffs dismissively.
"Shut up!" Mykee snaps at him.
"I do not know these things myself, but if you join us you can learn as I learn." The man continues ignoring Andee.
"It's probably some kind of Bitani tech this idiot thinks is magic."
"The sacred is not magic my jaded brother. It's real, and it is in you." Pointing to Andee's chest.
"I still don't get it." Mykee interjects. "What is sacred? I don't understand what that is." "Little man, the sacred is not understood, it is witnessed."
"So have you seen this, sacred?" Mykee asks with suspicious eyes.
"Really, you have?" Andee scoffs and shakes his head once again.
"Our master is a sacred warrior. I am a Priest of the Brothers of Bitani. I had the honor of meting him during my initiation rights into the priesthood. It was a truly glorious day."
"How come I never heard of this guy before?" Andee asks, arms folded, and half disinterested.
"What do you know of our brotherhood?"
"Not much I guess."
"There is your answer. You believe us as fools, but I know the truth. I feel the truth, like I felt it the day of my initiation, a day I will never forget."
"Do you have any sacred warrior powers?" Mykee interjects.
"No, not yet, the priesthood is the first step."
"What's the next step?"
The man reaches out with a pamphlet to Mykee. "Join us, it is the only way to know."
"OK, that's enough." Andee grabs the pamphlet out of their hands in the middle of the transaction. "Come on little brother, we've got to go."
"Don't let your jaded brother lead you astray. Join us and become a priest, and you too will meet his holiness, our master, the great Sacred Warrior." The man's voice rises as the boys walk away. "He is a sight to behold little man! Join us up in the city, in his Bitani temple, and see him with your own eyes! See him gliding towards you in his glorious flowing blue robe!"
Andee stops frozen in his tracks. He snaps round with force. Locks his eyes with this Brothers of Bitani priest and then jumps forward, does two handsprings, and lands in front of the bearded man with his face only an inch away.
"What did you say?"
The man is startled by Andee's sudden move and takes a step back, but does not answer.
"Say it again."
"Ah-join us, you're welcome as well jaded brother..."
"No-no-no-no." Andee cuts him off. "Your master. Describe his robe."
"Why describe it when you can see it. Join us brother..."
Andee's eyes are sharp as blades. His left hand shoots out slamming into the man's throat, chocking him hard.
"Describe the punking robe, or I swear I'll snap your neck!" Andee grunts at the man. Mykee rushes up, grabs Andee's arm and struggles to pull him away.
"Stop! What are you doing?"
Andee lets go of the man's throat while Mykee pulls his brother back with all his force. A second later Andee steps back up and grabs the man by the collar, shoving it up into his chin.
"I swear I'll kill you right here! Describe the robe!"
"Brother, brother, relax, OK." The bearded man now becoming more nervous.
"Let him go!" Mykee shouts. Andee lets go, dropping the collar out of his hands, but holds the man hostage with his blade sharp eyes.
"It's a robe, like this one." Pointing to his own. "But nicer, blue, with silver designs on it, kind of fancy." The man's tone and demeanor is now less cultish and more scared.
"Does it have a hood?"
"I think so, but our master wasn't wearing it when I saw him."
"What does he look like, his face?"
"He's an older man, curly white beard and hair, very dark skin." As he speaks other guys in white robes approach after noticing the commotion.
"Brother Pious! Is everything all right?" One of the approaching parishioners asks as they begin to surround the two brothers.
"Come on Mykee we're done here." Andee steps away. Mykee follows.
"This jaded Carpati threatened to kill me!" Pious shouts pointing to Andee as the two brothers walk away. The two biggest men in white robes block the brother's path, while the rest form a circle around them. The robed men have them surrounded.
"We are men of peace." The largest of them all, a big burly guy, now in front of Andee, begins to speak. "But we are on the path to become sacred warriors, and we will defend ourselves if attacked."
Beyond the circle of robed men a crowd of spectators is gathering. Andee looks around concerned, then places his right hand on Mykee's shoulder. He leans to his brother's ear.
"Squat down into a ball if this blows up, and if you can, run to the junkyard." Than raises back up. "Listen... Brother!" Andee addresses the big guy. "Step out of the way, and this will be all over."
"Apologize to brother Pious, and you can be on your way."
"No, you're going to step out of my way." Andee orders the big man unapologetic.
"Dude, don't be thickheaded. Apologize and lets go." Mykee insists nervous.
"Listen to the wise one." The big guy counters.
"I am so sick of bowing down to all things Bitani. Mykee!" Pointing at a gap between the big guys and rest. "Walk through there, and run where I told you. Go!" Mykee cautiously starts walking and passes between the men, while Andee and the big guy hold each other in a stare standoff. The robed brothers do nothing to prevent Mykee from running past them and away.
"You're training to be a sacred warrior?" Andee asks, eyes still locked on the big man.
"Then lets see what you've got. Now we'll know if you're the real deal." And without warning Andee flips backwards into a handstand. He starts spinning on his hands with his legs spread out like a propeller, but at an oblique angle so that his feet scrape against the sandy ground kicking up dust. He quickly and skillfully directs the dust into the eyes of the fifteen strong circle around him. The circle breaks quickly as the men scramble to hide their faces. The big guy lunges through the cloud of dust towards Andee. Without breaking rhythm Andee sweeps the big guy's left leg from under him, dropping the man flat on his back. In twice the speed of the big man's fall, Andee is already back on his own feet. Then putting his arms up like a boxer, he lunges towards the other big guy, but instead of a punch, he swings his arm with a hard slap to the side of the his head. The blow is hard enough to cause the man to stumble to the ground, and then as if playing a game, Andee flips and tumbles back and forth, in the now broken circle, each time smacking the nearest guy with powerful blows at an astounding speed.
Some try to counter with their own punch or kick but they are clearly not trained fighters. Their moments are awkward and slow. Andee is like a machine in comparison, three to four times faster than any one of them, and whacks them all. Mostly with slaps, but those who tried to retaliate, either got a punch in the inner elbow, or a kick to the knee. The slaps are hard, but cause no serious injury, just bruised egos and a few limp joints.
Andee quickly reaches the end of the circle. The men are all dizzy and stumbling. The big guy is finally back up on his feet. Infuriated, he again lunges towards Andee, this time from behind. He comes with a hard swing, but sensing the big mass behind him, Andee leaps sideways with a spin kick, nailing the guy in the right ribcage, right under his outstretched swinging arm. The man groans, but quickly reorients and tries to lunge at Andee again. This time he awkwardly throws his whole body forward, driven by frustration but impeded by pain. Andee artfully dives to his left, spinning horizontally in the air, and again nails the big guy in his right ribcage with a kick from his spin. The guy falls in a ball.
Andee lands on the ground on his right shoulder and the momentum spins him over his back and up onto his feet, face to face with the other big guy now back on his feet. The man throws some skillful punches, but too slow. Andee easily deflects them, and like a boxer, explodes with a combination of punches into the man's face. Andee's speed is astounding. Four to five punches a second. The man can do noting but fall backwards. Even before the man hits the ground, Andee turns and freezes, and scans the area to asses at the damage. The first big guy is still curled on the ground, groaning loudly and being tended by some of the others. The other big guy is on his back, his face covered in blood. The rest of the men are still scrambling to their feet but a couple look like they are about to lunge at Andee, again.
"Stop!" Andee yells at the fumbling men in robes around him. Everyone freezes. "Look at him!" Andee yells pointing to the big guy on the ground. "His ribs are broken. You!" Pointing at the two ready attackers, and then sweeping at the rest. "Those slaps... it was just a game. If I hit you again with all my force, I'll break your bones! Look at his face!" Pointing at the other big guy, all smashed up and bloody. "You're all frauds! If there's a warrior standing here, it's me! Do you want to continue?" Andee delivers his speech with power and authority.
At that same moment a truly huge man comes running from an alley yelling Andee's name. Andee looks over and gestures at the giant guy to stop by raising his palm in the air. The gigantic man stops.
"So what's it going to be? Brothers of Lunacy. You want to take me, and my friend on?" Andee asks nudging his head over his shoulder to the gigantic man. The men in robes disperse and rush to attend to their injured brothers. Andee watches them for a moment, then causally starts heading towards the huge guy. Mykee is approaching the same man from behind. Walking towards them, Andee brushes the dust off his clothes. His double-cape jacket and pants are a brownish orange just like the dust. Andee is completely ignoring the robed men. His focus is on finding the orange dust and brushing it off his leather clothes.
"I always have to save you from trouble." The two-meter-plus stocky and muscled man snips with a smile as he puts his giant hand on Andee's shoulder.
"Thanks Mirceu. I can always count on you." Andee nods with appreciation than leans forward to look past Mirceu to see Mykee on the other side. "You OK little brother?"
"Why do you have to be such a jerk?"
"You're over reacting. These guys are..."
"You didn't have to fight them! You should have just walked away."
Andee takes a deep breath and looks up to Mirceu, who shrugs his big shoulders.
The scuffle was near the end of the plaza where the triangle comes to a point. At the tip of the triangle there is an alley between two large buildings, both shops selling hardware and farming supplies. They walk into the alley under a sign that says; 'Old Man Tom's Junk and Antiques.'
A small yellow sun is shining over alpine mountains outside a window framed by the flowing white drapes. Inside the clean glossy white room, Ricio is on the hospital bed surrounded by futuristic equipment, but he is no longer on a respirator. In fact, he is awake, watching a screen formed out of the ceiling above him. He is watching his own rescue. There is no audio, but filmed from somewhere high above, every moment was captured from both far and wide, and so close you can see the color of their eyes. The images cover everything. The crash and flying debris. His falling bubble smashing into the mountain side, and then bouncing and lodging into the crevice. Andee leaping off the outcrop, and Ghimpouring down the cliff side like an agile little beast. Then Andee and Ricio spending time talking before being pulled out. Andee carrying Ricio on his back to the rescue corps. It is all there in color and recorded for posterity.
The automated door opens. Brandberd Bret walks into the hospital room and up to Ricio's bed.
"How are you feeling son? Can you speak?"
Ricio gives his father a long hard look for a moment. "Yes." But the word comes out weak and strained.
"Good. The room is secure you can say anything."
Ricio's eyes go up to the room's upper corners.
"It's secure, all of the recorders are off. We can talk son."
"I... don't... under... stand..." Ricio mumbles struggling to produce the words.
"You spent a lot of time talking to that boy down there. What did you talk about?"
"You... re... going.... to... let.... me die."
"Nonsense. Look this is important. I'm sorry I have to ask you..."
"No." Ricio tires to yell, but then freezes, his teeth gritting with pain. A moment later his eyes gently close and his face relaxes as he slowly starts passing out.
"Son! You're a Bret. Be strong! Awake..." But the Governor is interrupted as the lady doctor rushes into the room.
"Governor! I can't allow this. His blood pressure is spiking. What are you trying to do, kill your son?"
"Doctor! Don't make me remove you from the room by force. Your orders were to say out."
"Unless his vitals went off the charts, which they did!"
"Do you not understand who I am? I am ordering you to leave the room now!"
"I know exactly who you are, but you seem to have forgotten." Turning to the closed door. "Security, open doors, initiate recorders!" The doctor yells and the doors open and stay open.
"You have no authority..." The Governor counters ostentatiously but gets cut off.
"In my hospital, I have all the authority! Ask your board of governors."
Brandberd Bret backs off a bit, his disdain painted on his face and clear even under his beard.
"You don't understand what's at stake here..."
"No." She cuts him off again. "You're the one who doesn't understand. I told you, your son has a ripped artery. He can't speak or move without causing it harm. You forced me to wake him against my better judgment, and now you agitated him making things worse. I had to put him back under, and he will stay that way until it is safe for him to awaken. If you have a problem with that, take it up with the board."
Brandberd puffs up like a toad and rushes out of the room. The lady doctor releases a sigh of relief and looks over Ricio, now back asleep. She takes a deep breath and clears it slowly, gently exhaling her agitation and frustration.
Mirceu and Mykee walk into the junkyard followed by Andee a few steps behind. On the right, the tall wall of the large farming supply comes to an end opening up the view to the west, with the huge mountain mesas and Crags in the distance, past the edge of the natural stone terrace. On the left, the side wall of the other shop ends. Its back wall extends all the way into the ten meter stone cliff which is again exposed. Shoved lengthwise into the stone cliff is a large tubular shed made of corrugated metal and large clear plastic panels up on top. On its long rounded side there is a giant curved sliding door. At the front end of the tubular structure there is a normal sized entrance with a courtyard in front.
The three head through the courtyard. It's crossed by paths lined with neatly arranged stones, and a few large boulders, at even intervals. Within the enclosed stone gardens there is a variety of shrubbery and some berryfruit trees, among a few others. There are a couple of benches and a few chairs, all tidily lined up like someone trying to make a little garden in the front corner of all that messy mayhem. The rest of the yard is full of all kinds of junk, from lightship parts, furniture, and just about anything else imaginable. At first glance it all looks like a mess, but on closer inspection there is a clear structure and organization to the place. There are walkways between piles of junk, and the junk itself is separated by type. Metals, plastics and polymers, wood, parts, construction supplies, adobe bricks, boulders, etc.
The Junkyard is long, and curves gently following the ten meter stone edge of the upper terrace. It's a long property with the back end not visible from the front, extending all way back to the very edge of the Township's west end.
The three enter the tubular shed. The interior is larger than it appears from outside. Half of it extends into the rock. The corrugated tubular half is bright from light streaming in through the large transparent sections, but the side carved into the rock is much darker. The dark side is mostly filled with industrial sized shelving units loaded with junk, while the lighter side is open space. Overall, the interior decor looks about the same as the exterior. A hodgepodge of parts that at first look all over the place, but with a clear order to them.
Sitting at a worktable, between the entrance and large and closed sliding door, is Old Man Tom. In his seventies, he is thin, and has a long pointy white Fu Manchu beard all the way down to his chest. His long white hair is braided into a ponytail in the back. He's got a broad rimed hat and is wearing dirty, faded brown mechanic's overalls. He turns to look at the group entering his shop.
Old Tom gets up with respectable agility for a man his age. He approaches the trio.
"Look what I found stirring the dust out in the plaza." Mirceu jokes.
"Having fun again Andee?" Old Man Tom greets him with a subtle disapproving look.
"Always, but it seems I've upset little Mykee here."
"What did he do this time?" Old Tom asks turning to Mykee.
"Picking fights for no reason." Mykee responds nearly pouting.
"Whoa little man stop right there. I picked the fight? Even though that Pious guy got in our way and would not let us pass?"
"But when he did you grabbed him by the throat."
"That was different, you don't..."
"Andee my friend, you never start the fights, but somehow you always find one to finish." Old Tom cuts in and finishes his remark with a smirk and a wink at Andee.
Andee shrugs his shoulders than looks away caught without a comeback.
"He was telling us about the sacred warriors. Interesting things I wanted to hear." Mykee continues.
"Ah yes, the sacred warriors." The old man muses.
"The things he said about the sacred warriors, did you know those things?" Mykee directs his questions to Andee still irate. "I didn't. Doesn't mean I believe him, but he said things I never heard before. They were light benders. Did you ever hear of that before?"
"They're all fantasy. You saw what I did to those... sacred warriors." Andee responds mockingly. "They're frauds."
"What do you think Old Tom?" Mykee turns to the old man.
"I think you are a smart young man. You already know all you need about sacred warriors, and their stories. Let's forget about them today because I've got something better than old tales for you. Look at Mirceu. See how excited he is. Why don't I let him tell it." Old Tom nudges his chin to Mirceu who is beaming with glee. Both Andee and Mykee turn to him.
"OK, look what I got." And he points to a tarp covering a wooden wagon. It is just barely visible in a dark corner of the large room. "The day of the race, I was out there at the back end of the yard, feeding the Alcama when I heard a distant thunder up the mountain. By the time I looked up all I could see was dust, but I knew what happened. A crash! Normally, if I'm a go collecting for parts, I'd leave in the morning to get to the Crags before the race, and find some place to hide, and then hope I can get to a crash before anyone else. But that day I didn't go, so I didn't even think about it. We haven't had a crash at Tombstone in a long wile."
"Most pilots learned to be real careful there." Mykee interjects.
"Right. So I barely had enough time to get the cart ready by last horizon, and then headed out there in the dark. I couldn't believe no one else was there. It was just me and there was parts everywhere, all around me. I loaded all I could and headed back before I got caught. Look how much I got."
Mirceu pulls the tarp off the wooden wagon and shows the boys the loot. All kinds of chunks, exterior pieces, and parts of various lightships all meshed together in that large wooden cart. Both bothers perk up and start investigating the stuff, visually at first, slowly circling the cart.
"Man look at all these parts." Mykee muses with a spark of excitement. All bad feelings seem to have melted. They continue circling the wagon several times, looking, touching, moving different parts around.
"Old Tom, what are the chances we got a working light generator?" Mykee muses as he looks towards the old man.
"Ha, not very good. You've seen the ships. Those engines are bigger than that cart. All we got there is broken chunks."
"But if we can get enough of them, and put them together, maybe we can build our own ship."
"Ha-ha." Andee laughs out lout.
"Punk off!" Mykee snaps at him angry again.
"Hey there now. I'll have no such language in my home. Certainly not from a decent young man like you." Old Tom cautions Mykee.
"Sorry. But Andee is dumb. I know it's possible. They're just machines. Put them together right and they will work. If the Bitani can build a ship, then so can I, even from broken parts."
"I wasn't laughing at you little man. I was laughing because I had the same thought when I was your age, when I started working here with Old Man Tom. Remember that?" Andee looks over to Tom.
"Of course. For me it was like yesterday. But lets be honest, you may have thought that once or twice, but you were more interested in chasing Nayaa up the cliffs than learning how this tech works."
"He's a meathead. I'm the brains in the family." Mykee retorts still angry.
"You're right little brother. I never had any interest in how the tech works. I just wanted to be a pilot, I still do. If you can figure out how these things work, and build a lightship someday, I'll win every race and give you all the glory."
Both brothers stand silent for a moment. Neither know what to say.
"I found the parts. Where's my glory." Mirceu intercedes with a big smile.
"You'll be the chief engineer." Andee retorts.
"OK, even though I don't know what that is." And Mirceu laughs out loud.
"Young Mykee, if you like tech so much why haven't you come around more often? Andee started about your age." Old Tom asks.
"Dun'no. I never thought of it before. I guess when I was younger, all I saw was junk. But now, now I see parts. Maybe I will. You know, looking at all these... I'm telling you... with all the parts you got around here, it might be possible to put a lightship together." Mykee nods his head up and down as he talks and visually inspects the parts. You can almost see the cogs in his head turning.
There is a moment of silence. Everyone is still, all watching Mykee. He on the other hand is moving, mostly just his head and torso, like a bird, as if trying to pierce the parts with his thoughts. The old man watches him for a moment, than picks up a white panel off his work table.
"Hey. I got a little enigma for you.. Come here, let me show you something." Mykee turns and looks at Old Tom who lifts up the panel. "I pulled this out earlier. It was sitting in that piece of bubble there." Nudging to a partial section of transparent material on top of the other parts in the cart. "What do you think it is?"
Mykee rushes to Old Tom who hands him the part. It is a rectangular white panel the size of a large book. One side is smooth, with a matte black surface encased in a solid but beveled silverish-white metal frame, about a centimeter thick. The back is uneven and grated, made of a very solid and stern white plastic. From one corner there are three wires dangling out, all with ripped ends.
"It kind'a looks like a vidrom." Mykee squints as he runs his fingers over its smooth matte surface. "Especially this black side."
"I was thinking the same thought." Old Tom responds.
"And you said it was in the bubble? Can you show me where.?"
"Sure." Old Tom walks with Mykee to the cart and shows him the smashed up glass bubble, but it is half buried under other parts.
"You two strong boys. Why don't you unload the wagon so I can catalogue these parts." Old Tom asks turning to Andee and Mirceu.
The two guys get moving. They're fast and efficient, and quickly lift out the larger parts. They place the broken piece of bubble on the floor. Mykee eagerly squats down to inspect his prize. Andee and Mirceu continue unloading the rest. They arrange the pieces on the floor in neat rows, separated by type to the best of their discretion. Some pieces are obvious structural sections, while others mechanical. They are each placed in the according row. Unidentifiable parts are placed in a third row. After grabbing a binder, Old Tom starts cataloging each item.
It takes the two guys no time to unload and arrange. Once done Andee focuses on one of the pieces in the structural row. He stares at it for a moment than picks it up and takes it to Mykee.
"This looks like another section of that bubble." As he places it next to the other one.
"Yeah, look at that." Mykee points to the glass portion of it. "The break matches this one." And then slides them together. They are a match, and the new piece is less glass and more control board, but badly damaged.
"See, I know my tech too." Andee responds with a smirk to Mykee, but he is ignored. The young tech wiz is completely absorbed by the parts. Andee walks away to Tom's work table and picks up another binder, then joins Tom with the cataloging. Mirceu leans over Mykee, who is now fiddling with the white panel, trying to figure out how it would be positioned inside the bubble.
Andee stops his cataloging for a minute and starts studying the parts again. He is really concentrating on a few specific pieces. He then looks at the rest, one by one, visually inspecting them all. He walks back to a curved triangular piece, shaped like the tip of a talon that he had noticed earlier, and turns it over. Its other side is gleaming white and smooth.
"Hey Mykee. Look. I think this is a piece from ship 1." Mykee quickly looks over his shoulder then bolts to Andee, white panel in hand. He looks at the part. Turns it back and forth.
"It was the only white ship. Oh my god! What if we have parts from that ship here?" Mykee's voice rises with both excitement and shock.
"They could all be from that ship." Andee adds.
"Ho-lly crap!" Lifting up the mysterious panel in his hand. "This part! It's white!"
"Young man, your language." Old Tom warns, then continues on a different note. "What's so special about that ship?"
"It belongs to the pilot I rescued. It was the most amazing lightship we'd ever seen." Andee answers while Mykee bolts off back to the broken bubble.
"And to think, a few days ago we were dreaming about it, and now parts of it are right here in our hands." Mykee muses in amazement then snaps his head back towards Old Tom. "You sure you pulled this from the cracked bubble?" Mykee asks holding up the white panel.
"Son, I just picked it out from where it was lying. I think it was on top of that bubble." Old Tom responds but Mykee quickly turns to Mirceu.
"Where did you find this?" Still holding up the mystery panel.
"To be honest, I don't remember. It was dark, and couldn't see what color they were and...." Mirceu loses steam, but Mykee is already focused somewhere else. His eyes are locked on the broken bubble. He's staring at it so hard it looks like he could set it on fire with his glare. A moment later his eyes go back to the white panel in his hands. He inspects the wires.
"Were these cables connected Old Tom?" The old man just swings his head from side to side in the negative. Mykee then turns to Mirceu. "And you don't remember if this was connected to this bubble when you picked it up?"
"I'm pretty sure it wasn't. Them pieces of bubble had nothing hanging from them. I remember picking them up, cuz I was thinking maybe I shouldn't, they were all so broken up." Mirceu responds a bit more confided. Old Tom is no longer cataloging but watching the trio hovering over the broken oval bubble on the ground.
"Look." Mykee points to the metal edges of the transparent bubble. "These edges right there, they're blue, see. Ship 9 was blue, and it crashed to piece, just like 1. I can't find any which way for this panel to fit in here. In fact, it looks like a bigger version of that right there." And points to a small palm sized matte black surface that's cracked like glass, and surrounded by buttons and a control stick. "I think this panel is from 1." Mykee states confidently lifting up the white panel in his had.
"But the bubble separated. If that thing is from the bubble..." Andee cuts himself off and turns to Mirceu. "Did you climb up the mountain and collect the bubble where I rescued that pilot from?"
"No. I didn't climb nothing. I collected what I found around me, then hightailed back before I might get caught."
"I don't know man, if that piece fell out of that bubble..." Andee stops his words.
"I'm sure of it. I bet this is a display from inside the bubble and works just like a vidrom. Look." He points to the shattered mate-black piece inside the blue bubble. "See this cracked piece here. It looks just like the black screen on this panel, and it's right next to the control stick. And look how big this control panel is to that one. It's not from this ship."
"You might be right little brother. We could go get the bubble. I'm sure it's still up there."
"I don't think so." Mirceu interjects. "I went out there yesterday but I couldn't find nothing. The Bitani cleared everything, probably right after me. I really got lucky getting there first the night before."
"Wait no!" Mykee yells excitedly. "It shouldn't matter. We don't need that bubble. Even if it doesn't fit these are machines. The parts should work on either one, it just needs to be connected right." He twirls the panel in his hands. "Look, this thing has no damage. I bet all it needs is electricity. I bet that's what these wires are for. If we connect it, I bet it will work."
"That's a lot of bets there brother."
"We have to try it, what do we have to lose? What do you think Old Tom?"
Old Tom has been watching them this whole time. He cautiously approaches, binder still in hand.
"I'm an old man that's seen a lot, but that kind of tech talk is not in my vocabulary."
Mykee looks like he is itching from the inside out. He seems to be on the verge of something, but it is just not connecting.
"Generators!" Mykee blurts out. "The ships must have their own generators. Some kind of generators that make the electricity to power the controls. He rushes to the laid out parts. Starts inspecting each one with great concentration.
"Andee help me with this one." Andee rushes and gives his little brother a hand flipping it over. Mykee studies it. A minute later he starts shaking his head either displeased or unsure. He goes to the next part. This goes on for a while.
"I don't understand how you think you'll find something when you don't even know what it's supposed to look like." Andee finally breaks the silence.
"It's a machine... I have an idea. Help me Andee. Look for all the lose wires you see and show them to me." Both of them start looking for wires. Mirceu looks to Old Tom and gives him a 'I have no clue what's going on here' smirk. Old Tom stares at the boys with no reaction.
"There!" Mykee shouts. "Three wires. Black, red, and blue. Just like on the panel. I'm going to try it."
"Old Tom you think that's safe?" Andee asks turning to Tom.
"Hold on there boys." Tom walks to his table and picks up a pair of heavy gloves, and nudges to Andee. He rushed to the old man and grabs them.
"Those are insulating gloves. You always need to wear those around electricity." Tom ads.
"Here, I guess you'll be safe with these." Andee hands the gloves to Mykee.
Gloved, Mykee feverishly starts fiddling with the wires. He connects each color to its matching counterpart. Nothing. He fiddles with it. Nothing. He tries different color combinations. Still nothing. He lets loose a deflated long breath.
"Damn it! I though I had it."
"Language young man" Old Tom warns from the distance.
Andee looks at Mykee's sad face, than at all the parts around. He reaches out to another set of wires in a different part. One zaps him and he snaps his hand back.
"Hey, does it really have to be the same color? If it's from a different ship it might be..."
"Did that wire just zap you?" Mykee suddenly comes alive.
Mykee jumps over to the new part. It has three wires but these are all yellow. He starts randomly connecting them to the panel wires, but nothing. He changes pattern order, and gets a flash of light on the panel.
"There!" He touches the wires again in the same configuration. The mate black screen of the white panel lights up in color. "Ahhhh-ha-ha!"
"Whooa!" Both Andee and Mirceu shout in shock and awe. "Little man you did it!" Andee yells and grabs his brother in a hug. Mykee pushes him away too concentrated on his device. He carefully winds the wires so they stay connected.
For the next hour the brothers take apart the large piece until they uncover a black box, the size of a fist, from where the wires are coming out. It looks like a battery. They free it from the debris and tape it to the back of the panel. Mykee and Andee start studying the display. Mirceu is watching over their shoulders, but Old Tom is no longer in the place.
The screen is now lit up, covered in symbols and diagrams.
"Look, every time I touch one of these squares it opens up another window." The brothers fiddle with the display.
"So what do you think all this is?" Andee asks.
"Look-look-look. It is, I told you it was! Holly crap!" Mykee shouts excited.
"Oh my god little brother, you were right!" Andee shouts eyes ogling out of his head.
"What? What's he right about?" Mirceu jumps in shouting over their shoulders.
"Look, that's a schematic of the ship. And look at it's shape. It's ship 1. This panel is from Ricio's ship." Mykee answers giddy with excitement.
"Can I see that?" Old Tom's voice suddenly cuts the group in two, a bit startled by the sudden intrusion. Mykee hands him the display with the taped battery in the back. Old Tom looks at it. Flips through a few of the pages by sliding his fingers across the screen, then turns and takes a step forward, but trips, and tosses his arms up in the air. The panel flies out of his hands as Old Tom stumbles forward. Mirceu leaps after him, but Andee leaps away, diving over the floor and catches the panel just before it hits the ground. He turns onto his back, with the panel in his arms, and looks to Old Tom who is being held up by Mirceu. He looks right into the old man's eyes. They are cold and emotionless. He is hunched sideways, being held from falling forward my Mirceu. Mirceu helps straighten him up. Andee leaps up to his feet and hands Mykee the panel.
"Be careful with this thing. We're taking it home." Andee turns to Old Tom who is being helped to his chair by Mirceu and says nothing. "You OK Tom?"
"Let me get you a glass of water." Mirceu offers and leaves.
"Mykee, you ready to go?
"Yeah we got to take off. Why don't you wait for me outside."
"And I can take this?"
"Yes, it's yours." Mykee nearly giddy leaps as he rushes out of the building. Andee pulls up a chair next to Old Tom.
"What the hell was that?" Andee asks Old Tom with an accusatory tone.
Tom just looks at the ground between his legs.
"Tom, you didn't just drop that. You threw it. Why?"
"I don't know what you're talking about." Old Tom responds dismissively. "And why are you giving away my stuff?"
"Tom. Please don't do this to me. I trust you. You know how hard it is to trust. So many Carpati are brainwashed. We can't trust our neighbors. Not even family for some. You're family to me. Since dad vanished, you've always been there for me. Don't do this to me now."
Tom finally looks up and leans into Andee. "I'm not doing it to you. I'm doing it for you. You're young, and you want to know everything, but I'm old, I have seen everything, and let me tell you, some things are better left unknown. Trust me on this. I wouldn't say it if it wasn't true."
"What? You sound like the administrator of my school when he kicked me out. I can't accept that."
"I'm sorry but you'll have to."
"Are you afraid there's something on that display I shouldn't know?" Old Tom just looks away. "Then why did you show it to us?"
Shaking his head, Old Tom seems to struggle before he responds. "I made a mistake. I was trying to make your brother happy. I didn't think he'd figure it out. I thought it would make him happy to have it just as it was."
"What's wrong with how it is now?"
"I don't understand." Andee stares at him with a hard frown. "And that makes me mad."
"It's a Pandora's box, young Andee. Once you open it, you can never close it again. Nothing will ever be the same."
Andee grits his teeth. "I don't want it to be the same! This..." sweeping the area with his arms, "is not what I want. I want things to change. You can't do this to me. Not you. You're not Bitani. Why are you acting like them? Saying things that don't make sense. If you know something... anything, I need to know."
"No you don't."
"But I do! All I have is questions, and it's killing me. And what's worse, I can see that you have answers. I get the Bitani not letting us in, but you, why won't you let me it? It's killing me Tom. It's driving me crazy. I don't understand. Why am I not allowed to know? Why? What can I possibly learn that's so bad? What? Why do you think that torturing me like this is better?"
"Son, I want to tell you. There's so much I want to tell you, but... I can't."
"Why? Why can't you? Who's stopping you? Are there recorders in here watching your every move?" Andee asks and then looks up at every corner of the room.
Old Tom just shakes his head in the negative.
"What is it? I'm not a regular 17 year old, if you haven't noticed. I can deal with things. I can take care of myself."
"No you're not, and that's part of the problem."
"Ahhhhrrrr... you're killing me old man. You're killing me. You know they have me recorded?"
"What are you talking about?"
"When I rescued Ricio... and that ship crashed." Nudging to the arranged wreckage with his chin. "They recorded the whole thing and showed it up in the city. All the Bitani know me."
Old Tom is the one now baffled staring at Andee with disbelief.
"I'm not kidding. Remember Gono? I was with him at the Bitani Friendship Center this morning. He's getting a job in the city because of me."
"What?" Old Tom ask completely dumbfounded.
"Yeah, that's where I was this morning. I was supposed to go in there for a job too, but the guard wouldn't let me in. They got my name wrong. It didn't match."
Old Tom's glare is hard and locked on Andee. He seems to struggle to produce the next sentence. "What do you mean your name didn't match?"
"Some nonsense about Star and Starfighter."
Old Man Tom's eyes turn round as saucers. He looks horrified as he grabs Andy by his shoulders. "Where did you get that name?"
"I-that's how they had me listed. What's going..."
"What name did you give them?" Andee looks startled, puling away but Old Tom's grip on his shoulders is strong. "What name did you give them?" Old Tom snaps at Andee.
"What else? My name. I even handed them my citizens card."
"And the other name?"
"They said they were waiting for someone named Andee Starfighter, so they didn't let me in."
Old Tom's eyes are bulging out of his head. He looks horrified. He lets go of Andee and grabs the sides of his head in his hands, than wipes them down over his face as if trying to wash away the stress spelled out on it by his stone cold glare. Andee is looking at the old man perplexed, his frustration gone, replaced by total confusion.
"What's wrong Tom?" Andee asks baffled. "You look like you're staring at a ghost."