All Rights Reserved © 2018, Rick Haydn Horst
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
David and I had reached a low point. We hadn’t known who to trust with the information. We talked as we wandered around Venice for several hours, not noticing much of the scenery, and the fog that rolled in helped to keep us focused. We knew we couldn’t stop anyone outside our group from informing them of our whereabouts, such as a leak at Interpol headquarters. Within our group, however, David and I retreated to a more manageable size; we trusted Aiden and Maggie with the new information, but the inclusion of anyone else would have to come in time.
David contacted Aiden using Iris about eight o’clock. “Good morning, Aiden,” He tried to sound more chipper than he felt. “Have I disturbed you? Good. Rick and I want to invite Maggie and yourself to come with us this morning after you’ve finished breakfast. Great, let us meet in front of the hotel at nine o’clock. Please, bring your bug-finder with you. We’ll have to discuss that later. See you then.”
David and I waited in a nearby bar, whispering to one another as we ate, having tea, boiled eggs, fruit, and a few brioches. As I was starving, I felt like gobbling down everything I saw behind the counter.
“We need to go someplace with no people,” said David, “away from everything. Have you any idea where we might go?”
“Solitude is tricky here during the day,” I said, “but you can find it if you know how. I may have just the spot.”
When we met Aiden and Maggie in front of the hotel, David whispered a warning to say nothing aloud, but that we needed Aiden to check us all for bugs with his device. Their expressionless faces belying their deep concern, Aiden proceeded, and thankfully found no surveillance.
“No questions yet, I beg you,” I said. “We’re taking a little ride first.”
We located the proper vaporetto dock to reach the little island of San Giorgio Maggiore across the way. The island didn’t contain much else besides the large church with its complex of buildings, and some docks. When we arrived, we went straight into the sanctuary and didn’t bother with the artwork or the beautiful interior. We veered off to the left, halfway through, and down a long corridor to the entrance of the campanile, the bell tower. Few people visited there so early in the morning. We paid the fee walked up to the lift.
The morning sun illuminated the buildings along the promenade of the main island. The expanse of the lagoon lay before us, and a light wind blew over the parapet walls, further chilling the morning air. Aiden and Maggie didn’t even bother to look.
“What’s going on?” asked Aiden.
“Something’s wrong,” said Maggie. “This is too much trouble for good news.”
We told them everything, including how our adversaries had us followed.
“They intend to force us back to London if we wanted to go home,” I said.
Aiden began shaking his head in bewilderment. “They have no right to do that!”
“Authoritarians don’t care,” said David. “They want their desires fulfilled, whatever the expense.”
Aiden’s brow furrowed. “Bloody fucking hell! Why can’t these people just leave us alone?”
Maggie stood there in silence, but the line of her lips spoke of her anger.
Aiden held onto Maggie. “I just want us to go home.”
“I’m sorry,” David said to us. “We have something they want. We should have realized that leaving England wouldn’t necessarily make us safer, so let’s not underestimate who we’re up against, or how far they might go to get what they want.”
“What will we do?” Maggie asked.
“We don’t know exactly,” David said. “We can’t leave until Monday, so we’re vulnerable here, but I don’t want to alarm the others. If we should act as if anything has changed, they’ll know we’re onto them. For now, we keep our eyes wide open, and this information stays among the four of us. Tell no one else, not even Cadmar or Pearce. Unless things change, we meet only in the open air, and we check ourselves for surveillance if we should meet again. Okay?”
“Do you think it’s Julien?” Aiden asked.
“We don’t know,” David said.
“And because we don’t know,” I said, “we must continue to treat everyone as we have treated them. We cannot let on, in any way, that something is wrong. They will notice, they will ask, and we’ll have to make up a lie. That complicates matters. We should leave them in the dark. I know that presents a difficulty under the circumstances but remember the goal; we all want to go home.”
Aiden nodded, taking a deep breath.
“Okay, Maggie?” I asked.
“Oui,” she said.
The entire group gathered for an early lunch, much to my gratitude –brioche doesn’t go far. We ate at a little out-of-the-way Ümraniye Escort place recommended by the hotel. It seemed less touristy and more authentic than the ones on the main thoroughfare through Venice. As we ate, I looked at our group around the table. We had an excellent group. I honestly didn’t want to think any of them had informed them of us, and the possibility existed that they hadn’t. However, I wanted to go home, and I couldn’t afford to let my guard down. David once called Earth, a world of suspicion and duplicity, and I hadn’t felt that more than I did then.
After a day of tiring ourselves of Venice (something I didn’t think could happen to me), we returned to the hotel to discover that the seasick pills had arrived, and Cadmar reported that someone had “disturbed” his room, as he called it.
“Before I leave my room,” he said, “I began intentionally setting things in such a way that I will notice if someone moved it. They touched nothing else, but I left the drone case closed on the bed. The indentation on the bedcover has changed, and they rotated the case two degrees clockwise. So, when I looked through the casing, I saw the device inside it. I touched nothing and called the two of you.”
“Quite right, I’m glad you did.” David had squatted to study the case where it sat at eye level. He glanced up at Cadmar. “What does the device look like?”
He shrugged a little. “I’m not familiar with these things, so take my opinion for what it’s worth, but maybe like a bomb.”
“Oh, shit,” I said.
“If it is a bomb, it’s technologically advanced,” he said, “not the stereotypical clock attached to some dynamite.”
“Did they leave it sitting inside the case?” I asked.
“No, they placed it beneath the cushioning,” Cadmar said. “The drone could still fit inside the case.”
David looked up at me. “Do you know what I’m thinking?”
“If it’s not run, or chuck it off the balcony before it explodes,” I said, “then no.”
“Nothing so dramatic,” he said, rising to his full height. “It won’t explode, not yet anyway.”
“Why blow up an empty case?” Cadmar asked me.
“Okay, that makes sense,” I said. “So, what do you think, would it go off when Cadmar placed the drone inside or remotely?”
“It’s one or the other,” said David. “It’s not a timer. Whoever put it there couldn’t know when we placed the drone inside.” He contacted Aiden, our technology expert, and asked him to join us.
When he arrived, we informed him of the situation, and without a second thought, he incautiously opened the case.
“Should you treat it that rough?” David asked.
“It wouldn’t go off easily,” he said. “They do want the drone inside.” He searched for tampering where the cushion lining attached to the case.
“Cadmar,” he said, “I need you to look for any switch or pressure plate on the top or bottom of the device. Would you recognize it if you saw one?”
“Maybe, I can imagine what one might look like.” I saw Cadmar’s eyes change modes for the first time. He looked through the case at the device from several angles and could find nothing.
I sensed everyone holding their breath as Aiden pulled the lining away. Someone had created space beneath the padding that would surround the drone. A device, the size of a deck of playing cards, lay inside the cavity; it looked nothing like a bomb that I would recognize, and it seemed too large for a mere tracking device.
“That’s not a bomb,” said David. “What is that?”
“One moment,” Aiden said, studying the device. “No. It’s not a bomb –not in the traditional sense. And unless I’m mistaken, we’re looking at a miniaturized electromagnetic pulse generator.”
“Oh, I get it,” I said, “why blow up the drone when you can just fry it?”
“Can you disable it?” David asked.
“Why don’t we just fling it into the canal?” asked Cadmar.
We just stared at him.
“The window at the end of the hallway does overlook the canal,” said Aiden. “We could give it a good bung out the back.”
“That just further pollutes the water!” David said.
I leaned into him. “Trust me, no one will notice.”
We swung open the window at the end of the hallway and pushed back the wooden shutters. After watching the device make an unceremonious but satisfying kerplunk into the canal, we discussed the situation in Cadmar’s room. David took Cadmar into our confidence since the occurrence only made sense in the light of what he didn’t know.
“You took the news better than I did, Cadmar,” Aiden said.
“I’m uncertain about the British,” said Cadmar, “but we know how far the Americans will go.”
“I don’t understand why they’ve played nice so far,” I said. “In my experience, the American government typically takes and does whatever it wants.”
“I don’t understand it either,” said David. “After all, we’re just another valuable resource to exploit, but we can’t let them take Jiyū.”
“They’re like locusts,” said Cadmar. “They devour Şerifali Escort everything and move on.”
“Maybe the British have prevented the Americans from taking more extreme measures,” said Aiden.
“Possibly,” said David. “For now, let us extend this good fortune as far as it will go.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“They don’t know we’ve found the generator,” he said. “Let’s keep it that way. We say nothing to anyone. If they believe they have the upper hand, they may not try anything more extreme for now. That could provide the opportunity we need to get aboard the ship.”
“So, who did this?” Aiden asked.
“And why did they bother?” I asked. “Shouldn’t they have known that Cadmar could see through the case?”
“Unlikely. The Americans know Cadmar has synthetic eyes,” said David, “but unless one of us told them, they know nothing about them.”
“I wonder if they have CCTV here,” Aiden said.
“For security purposes, I asked when we arrived,” said Cadmar. “They don’t.”
“We’ve all divided up today,” I said, “any of the others in our group might have had the opportunity.”
“You think one of us told them our location?” asked Cadmar. “Did you suspect me too?”
“Not really,” said David, “but Rick and I thought it best to reassess who we could trust one at a time, to zero in on the perpetrator. No offense intended.”
“I’m glad you know,” I said.
“So, Pearce doesn’t know,” said Cadmar.
“Not yet,” said David. “Let us decide together to tell him. No unilateral decisions on anyone’s part, okay? Step by step and together.”
The visit to Venice proved less enjoyable than I anticipated. The rest of the weekend resulted in little more than passing the time and keeping an eye on everyone with us and around us. We questioned everything. Could we trust the ship? Might something happen en route? Would the authorities follow us in Japan, or worse, detain us upon arrival? I felt a similar amount of stress upon entering the UK for asylum with no home, no job, and no support system. Aiden said it well; we just wanted to go home.
Sunday night, I spoke with David after spending quality time together. We lay in bed, and I whispered into his ear. “I feel a compulsion to ask for something, but I know you will have reservations. I want you to think about this, but we don’t have a lot of time.”
“I’m listening,” he said.
“You know the Americans have turned a problem into a mess. They have made the situation on Earth volatile, and it will only get worse before it ever gets better. They know about the portal in London and its location, and they know a portal exists in Japan somewhere. They know how we intend to find it. The path out could become blocked to us all. I know you would have us smash and toss these rings into the ocean before we allow anyone free access to Jiyū.”
“Yes,” he said.
“I think you should recall the rest of our people to Japan, and we should, at least for a time, leave the humans here to resolve their own problems. They must grow at the pace they do. If by our presence, we intended to help them, we have failed, and we’ve placed Jiyū in a precarious position. Surely, another way to help them exists that doesn’t involve placing our people or Jiyū in danger. If our people don’t take the opportunity to leave, they may never see Jiyū again.”
For a moment, David lay quiet and still. “I placed them on alert for recall, but things have shifted out of our favor. We don’t know what will happen when we get to Japan. They could arrest us the instant we step off the ship. Our people won’t thank us for drawing them into a trap. They may not see Jiyū again, but in anonymity, they remain safe at their location.”
“You insisted upon the meaninglessness of your ambassador title,” I said. “Well, the circumstance has made you our ambassador to the humans on Earth, but to our people, you merely coordinate. Your job never included denying anyone their freedom to choose. That’s what the humans here do. I beg you to remember your leadership on this mission only extends to our little group, but to the rest of our people, you are neither their leader nor are you their master.”
He stared at me for a moment, then grabbed me into a tight hug. “I love you so much,” he said. “I didn’t know what to do. You’re right; I should leave it to their decision. It’s late; I’m sure Aiden is quite busy now. I’ll have him make an encoded post on the blog in the morning.”
On the morning of our departure at breakfast, we met a few pleasant surprises. It seemed the fellas of our group, apart from David and I, had gotten a haircut and a beard trim Sunday afternoon. David and I had dined alone in our room, so we missed the barber visit. While everyone looked tidier than before, Cadmar had the most dramatic change. The barber had turned the wild mass of hair and red beard into a complimentary coiffure of style and taste, with a neatly clipped beard. The professional barber Kurtköy Escort deserved much applause.
“How did you let them cut your hair without looking too closely at your eyes?” I asked him.
“We all went together,” he said, “and Maggie suggested I should pretend I couldn’t see, so I kept my eyes closed the whole time. Do you think Tamika will like it?” He sounded uncertain.
“I couldn’t say if Tamika will like it, but I like it,” I said. “Now, people can see what a handsome man you are.”
David showed me the message Aiden posted on the blog. The odd mixture of words and many symbols would have made little sense to me if I hadn’t already known what it should say. He assured me our people would understand.
After retrieving the drone and placing it inside the case, Cadmar kept a firm grip on it. We made our way down the promenade to Riva dei Sette Martiri, baggage in hand, including the box of seasick pills under Julien’s arm. We kept an eye out for trouble. Once aboard the Japanese ship, it would prove harder to reach us than on land, in both a physical and legal sense. We expected something to happen on the way, and naturally, they didn’t disappoint.
Upon approach, it grew more obvious which ship awaited us. While still some distance, we could see the ship didn’t fit the description of an ordinary ship. I had never seen a more massive yacht in Venice than the Torekkā Maru. Its innovative design looked sleek and more than modern. If concept yacht shows existed, it belonged there. It had six levels and appeared at least two hundred meters in length with a hull made of a metallic alloy.
The closer we came, the more we could see a small delegation of people in a bit of an altercation with the ship’s crew.
“Oh look, and just for us,” I whispered to David.
We stopped for a moment to assess the situation. In total, we saw ten people, both sides tried to get their people to stop fighting, and our arrival ended the scuffle. Our party consisted of two uniformed Interpol officers and three large crewmen from the ship. The opposition had two official persons –one each from the British and the Americans, and three, armed security officers in plain clothes. The Interpol officers wore body cameras that I later discovered streamed live over the Internet to our benefactors to prevent serious trouble. The ingenuity and forethought of Julien and his people continued to astonish me. I hated myself a bit, thinking we couldn’t trust him. If anything was going on behind Julien’s back, I began to believe he didn’t know.
“You see?” he asked. “You have friends.”
“Yes, and some enemies, too,” I said.
“We anticipated it,” he said.
We approached the ship, and I expected the delegation to swoop down upon us, but instead, Pearce walked to them and spoke in a faint voice. We didn’t hear what he said, but one of the men, the American, nodded his head, and then Pearce stood beside him.
“What’s going on?” asked Aiden. “What’s Pearce doing?”
We stood staring as if time had stopped; I didn’t know what had happened, but when Pearce stood beside them, it left me speechless.
“Mr. Levitt, I am Colonel Walker of the British Army, and this is Major Palmer of the United States Army. Please, forgive our lack of uniforms; we are not officially here. Let me say, it disappointed Her Majesty the Queen to hear you had left England. She looked forward to meeting you. But before you bother to board the ship, you should know that the Americans have neutralized the machine for finding the other portal if it exists. Major Palmer informs me that it’s quite dead. So, please, let us not continue this. Come back with me to London, and I’m sure we can plan for your safe return to Jiyū from the portal there. If we leave now, you could easily be home by nightfall.”
David ignored him.
“What is he talking about, David?” asked Julien.
“That will have to wait, Julien,” he said. “Chaps get aboard the ship.” Our people complied quickly, especially Cadmar, who held the drone. David turned his attention to Pearce, who remained at Major Palmer’s side. “What could they possibly have offered you?”
“You were why I loved Jiyū, David,” said Pearce, “but you could never outweigh the love for my family. I’m sorry, please, forgive me, Davi. They left me no good options.”
David slowly shook his head in disbelief.
“You’ll regret this if you leave,” said Major Palmer. “Your machine-“
“Is fine!” yelled David. He took my hand as we backed onto the gangplank and had no intention of turning our backs on them. The Interpol officers stood near the plank, barring further entry. “We found and removed the device Pearce planted in the case! There will be no deal! You cannot have us, and you most certainly will not have Jiyū!”
“There are only three goddamn million of you!” yelled Major Palmer. “And you have that whole planet to yourselves. We need resources and arable land.”
“You have your planet, and we have ours,” I said. “Why must you have both?”
“We don’t want it all,” said Palmer, “just some of it. We can pay you.”
“Pay…,” said David in disgust, “you don’t understand us. Your offer is unwelcome, and your money has no meaning there.”
“We could just take it from you,” said Major Palmer with menace.