The Eighty-eighth Key, Chapter 69

88 68 neptune im

Harry’s tale is rapidly drawing to a close, so hang on tight.

[supertramp \\ know who you are]

88/69

Debra Sorensen watched the General as he strutted around the underground facility, and she concentrated on his ever-shifting aura. Unlike her father, or even Delbert Moloch, this man rarely displayed the oily black shimmers of overt evil that those other two had, yet even so she picked up patterns and colors that upset her. While he wasn’t exactly evil, he wasn’t the benign character he so often pretended to be—despite all his airs of calm passivity. But now, with Callahan’s and Goodman’s disappearance, his aura had flared once again, filling the space around his seething eyes with hideous green streamers.

Then she parsed his thoughts.

He was angry because a tracking device had failed. Because the tracking device could only follow people traveling back in time. But not into the future. He was, for some reason, now thinking about Franklin Roosevelt, the depression era president. But why? What could someone who had passed away almost eighty years ago have to do with the future? She struggled to remember Roosevelt and grew faintly disoriented when she thought she recalled meeting him recently, but when she saw Roosevelt in the General’s thoughts her sense of disorientation only grew more diffuse, almost like a heavy fog had settled over her. Then she saw huge, misshaped beings, squat triangular white-skinned things that moved with ponderous heaviness, and she saw the General talking with Roosevelt and one of these beings…

Krell. They called themselves Krell, and Debra wondered why that sounded so familiar?

She followed him to the huge orca pool on the lower level, and she watched the General’s aura as it shifted from red to green and finally to a gentle cool blue, so she naturally concluded that he came here to relax—but as she looked on he waded out into the water – and then just disappeared. 

A minute passed, then two, and she ran out and looked down into the peaceful abyss and saw…nothing. No orcas, and no General. He had simply disappeared.

She focused on the water and tried to follow his thoughts but she found that way blocked, as if someone was deliberately trying to keep her away from the General’s thoughts. But…who among the people in the underground complex was capable of that? No one she was aware of, with the possible exception of Brendon.

So she made her way up to the living quarters, and she found Brendan in the dining room reading a book and waving at the sky. She picked up an omelet and went to a nearby table and watched the boy, watched his ever shifting aura, but all she could make out was a simple veil of swirling cool blues. When she entered his mind and began sifting through his thoughts he stopped reading and looked up from his book for a moment, then he turned and looked at her.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“Me? Why…nothing. Nothing at all?”

Then she heard his thoughts, now directed at her: ‘You don’t belong here. Leave. Now.’

She looked away then finished her eggs and, now ignoring the boy, she left the room, doing her best to clear her mind.

‘So, I’m not the only one,’ she thought. ‘Is that was this place is all about? Corralling us all in one place so they—whoever they are—can keep us under lock and key?’ That would explain why the General was so upset about Callahan’s disappearance, wouldn’t it? ‘But, where did he go? And why weren’t there any orcas in the pool?’

+++++

Jim watched as Callahan and the woman were put into stasis, but he was still not sure this was the best way to deal with the two humans. Callahan’s abilities were just blooming, but it was the woman who presented the biggest threat. She’d jumped, admittedly while she slept, beyond his ability to track, which meant she’d left this galaxy—yet she’d returned to her cabin within minutes. If this was indeed true she’d exceeded everyone’s expectations. And if this proved to be the case, as it appeared to be, then these humans were indeed in a race against time.

How long would it take this species to fully evolve this latest ability? On a planetary scale? A hundred years? A thousand? And then what?

And then what, indeed.

That was the real question, wasn’t it?

Humanity had proven to be a predatory species almost without parallel, but now they were standing on the threshold of becoming members of a very elite group. There were, at present, only a handful of species in this galaxy capable of roaming the universe, so the question being posed wasn’t a trivial one.

Should they be stopped. Now. Before a sufficient number acquired the ability to jump as this human woman had. The Krell had already voiced their opinion: humans should be left alone to develop without interference. The Aerons, at least the Pinks among them, had also decided against any interference, while the Blues and Greens were actively trying to manipulate the outcome. The Sidions viewed humanity as a plague and wanted them destroyed, but for now their political leadership was divided on how best to accomplish this. Active intervention would draw a violent response from both the Krell and the Aerons and that might lead to open hostilities the likes of which hadn’t been seen in the galaxy for almost a million years.

Which left Jim’s people, the Centaurons, as the deciding factor. If the Centaurons and the Sidions formed an alliance, war might be averted but humanity would in short order be eradicated. If his people sided with the Krell and the Aerons, humanity might be saved but at the cost of open warfare, as the Sidions seemed unwilling to negotiate any outcome that didn’t include humanity’s obliteration. Jim’s task was therefore quite simple: to determine which side the Centaurons would take in this dispute he needed to develop an understanding of how potentially dangerous humanity could become if turned loose on the universe.

But there was one other concern. An even greater concern.

The Others. The deciders, the final arbiters, the group known as the Phage. 

There was evidence that the Others had detected humanity’s first infantile interferences with time, and they never allowed such species free reign. And no one tried to stop the Others, for they were simply too powerful.  If they were indeed coming to this solar system, time was now of the essence, and a decision could not be put off for much longer. 

He regarded the two humans in stasis with something akin to wonder. Few species evolved to permit travel at the Speed of Thought, and fewer still evolved that could bend the laws of Time, yet this species was on the edge of the abyss, among the few that had evolved both abilities, and at the same time. The reality of this development was almost beyond comprehension, because if left on their own these humans could, in time, evolve to challenge the abilities of the Others.

And that one simple fact, more than any other, was what had long filled Jim with a sense of wonder. But now, a molten sensation of dread filled his mind—for even as he stared at Callahan in the stasis chamber the human’s form began to pulse and shimmer…just before it disappeared.

© 2016-22 adrian leverkühn | abw | and as always, thanks for stopping by for a look around the memory warehouse…

[app \\ to one in paradise]

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