C7: Chapter Three – Lost on Earth
Raindrops hit her head as she walked back to her house but Nico didn’t bother opening the umbrella. There was no rain on Th’Urn and she remembered the first time she experienced it on Earth. It had been a cool summer evening like this one and the water droplets tingled when they hit her scalp. She remembered being scared at first, especially when she saw other people carrying large discs over their heads to protect themselves, running indoors to escape the onslaught. Then she’d seen a little boy running down the sidewalk, ahead of his mother, jumping in puddles and laughing, and she realized the wet drops weren’t dangerous. It was one of many things she’d had to ask Anakin.
It had been nearly three years since she’d communicated psychically and it felt weird to do so with Bob. When she’d first arrived on Earth she’d found Anakin by calling to him psychically, but he had quickly warned her about the dangers and taught her how to speak with her voice. She hadn’t really liked talking but Anakin knew that the Empress would have to send scouts to find her. They might not have bothered looking for him but they would surely need to find the Empress-designate and they would start by tracking psychic conversations.
Anakin had settled in quite happily with Lisa Silverman, the astronaut who had visited Th’Urn. She had helped him learn the ways of Earth and had even secured a job for him as an expert on artificial intelligence with SETI, working in a more classified division than Bob’s. After so much time, both Nico and Anakin had decided the Empress wasn’t going to pursue her but would just train another as Empress-designate.
Now it was clear that this wasn’t the case. She arrived at her house and let herself in, pausing to look at her living room and kitchen. She loved this house. She loved the way it was decorated – the plump, overstuffed sofa she’d picked out from JC Penney’s, the artwork she’d bought from students at the arts festival two years ago, the books on the bookshelves lining an entire wall. There’d been so much to learn once she realized how little she knew. There was so much more to learn, so many more books to read. She didn’t want to leave this house or this planet.
She couldn’t go back. She couldn’t be the Empress.
She wondered whether Bob would help her or turn her in. Even if he was going to help her, she would need more help than that. She would have to contact Anakin now and might as well do so quickly since her soundwave silence hadn’t protected her after all.
Anakin, I need to talk to you. They’ve found me.
Reg Rosnik heard the ding from his computer signaling a new email but he didn’t check it right away. He was testing a program he’d written that would allow him to play streaming video without the network monitor catching it, which was important if he was going to watch the Steelers football game next Monday night when he had to work. He was still pissed about working that night. Finally, he clicked over to his email and saw a Code Green from Bob Price.
“Hey Larry!” he hollered to the next cubicle. “I just got a Code Green from Bob Price.”
Larry burst out laughing. “Well, drop everything and get right on that one.”
Reg laughed as he went back to his program. The Steelers game was more important than another Code Green from Bob Price that would turn out to be nothing. He finished keying in the code and started a test run. He switched back to the email and opened it. “Holy crap, Larry. Wait ‘til you hear this one. Bob’s Code Green is a pattern of silence.”
“You’re kidding, right,” Larry said, standing up to lean over the cubicle wall and get a look at Reg’s face.
“I swear I am not kidding. ‘The attached data file shows a unique pattern of silence.’ That’s his Code Green,” Reg said.
“It’s probably just a short in one of the transmitters. Holy cow. That’s pretty desperate,” Larry said, sitting back down. “I suggest you spend your time working on a Steeler’s program, my man.”
“I’m with you on that. I’ll just forward this big Code Green on to more important people than myself.”
“People who are important enough to work days and not miss Monday Night Football.”
“Yeah. Let’s see what Anakin does with it,” Reg said as he forwarded the email and went back to his football program.
Bob paced behind the sofa as the phone rang. Pick up, please be home, he thought. The only person he could talk to about any of this, or anything at all really, was his twin brother John. On the seventh ring, John said, “Hey Bob.”
“Oh, thank God you’re home,” Bob said, breathlessly. “You’re not going to believe what I have to tell you.”
“What? What’s wrong,” John asked, with an edge in his voice. It took a lot to get his brother upset, or excited, or whatever he was. He almost didn’t recognize the voice on the phone.
Just as Bob was about to speak, he stopped, realizing the enormity of the situation. Every spy movie he’d ever seen flashed through his mind and in his hand, the cell phone betrayed him.
“I can’t tell you on the phone. But I need your help. Can you come over right away?”
“I’ll be there in 15 minutes,” John said.
“Good, good,” Bob said, about to hang up. “Oh, and pack a bag,” he said quickly. “I might be going somewhere. And you might want to come with me.”
Anakin read the email twice. Then he stood up, walked across the room and back to his seat to read it a third time. He couldn’t believe it. He opened the data file and looked at the symbols of silence. It read like a symphony to him, but in a language he had long forgotten. Then, suddenly, a single serenade filled his being as he heard his name in a way he hadn’t heard or felt it in years. Anakin. It echoed within him for several still seconds as he swirled within himself, lost in memories.
Anakin, I need to talk to you. They’ve found me.
Slowly, he emerged from his reverie as her words reverberated with meaning. Yes, they had found her. And nothing would be the same for either of them again. He sat frozen in that moment, hoping that if he were still and emptied his mind of this knowledge, it would go away. Back to the way it was ten minutes ago, before he read the email, before he understood the message. But it was too late.
Anakin, I need your help. They’ve found me.
He replied, Nico, the Empress is dead.
Chapter Three by Cara Moulds