[Editor: The Busybody welcomes an old Peace Corps friend, Jeff Hinman, to share the first two chapters of his new science fiction novel. The novel is called The Fall of Treus, inspired by the fall of Troy which leads to the establishment of Rome. I’ve read about a third of the book so far, and am happy to promote it on my blog. Fans of the Romulus-Remus legends, Herbert’s Dune series, and even a dash of Asimov’s Foundation may enjoy this. Jeff currently resides in Germany, where he pastors a church. I’m looking very forward to the finished novel.]
The Fall of Treus
by Jeff Hinman
Captain Rom Aneus stood on the deck of the HMS Keeper; his eyes turned toward the sky. Above him the night flashed in stuttering red, white and yellow explosions; occasionally arousing faint applause from the crew. The Captain watched while posing, feet spread and hands clasped behind his back, his eyes shielded from the sun-bright flashes by a pair of dark goggles. Beneath him he could feel the battle platform gently rolling in the heaving seas.
“They’re pouring it on tonight,” the Lieutenant assigned as the Captain’s assistant said with practiced nonchalance.
Aneus glanced at the Lieutenant. “They do every Queen’s Day.”
“Do you think they’ll ever get over it?”
“It’s been three-hundred and twenty-five years,” the Captain said. “So, no I don’t think they will.”
A series of enormous flashes rolled across the sky, turning the night into blinding day, accompanied by very faint thunder. Aneus smiled at The Show.
“Thank the gods for The Barrier,” the Lieutenant said quietly. “Do you think they’ll try something special tonight?”
Captain Aneus could hear a twinge of anxiety in his assistant’s voice. “Of course,” he replied. “It’s an important anniversary.”
Another series of explosions lit up the sky. The Kreakians always bombed at night. Aneus assumed it was a psychological tactic on the part of the Kreakians. In the first decades of the bombing it succeeded in affecting the people of Treus who missed the stars and soothing quiet of the night. Depression and suicides increased during those first decades of the siege as fear coupled with the need for uninterrupted darkness affected the psyche of the Treusians. However, the people adapted. Though the possibility of annihilation always lurked in the back of every Treusian’s mind, after about fifty years of Kreakian futility the nightly bombing became part of life. After a few years, the bombing started to be referred to as “The Show”. Surgical implants were developed to shield eyes from the brilliant flashes as well as goggles and blackout shades. Most people had implants put in their children’s eyes at birth and some, such as Aneus, also wore protective goggles when directly observing The Show. Because The Barrier extended beyond the atmosphere of the planet, The Show was silent most of the time. Occasionally, a muffled sound of thunder would ripple through the air, but this was only during especially large displays of firepower.
“It must cost them millions for all those bombs and ships up there,” mused the Lieutenant.
Captain Aneus nodded. “I can’t imagine the cost. You’d think it would drain them after a while.”
“They are a big empire,” replied the Lieutenant.
“I wonder how big they are now?” Aneus said. “We have no idea anymore.”
“Big enough,” said the Lieutenant. He grinned and looked at Aneus, his eyes flashing from coal black to their natural brown each time a bomb lit up the sky. “Captain, why do you wear those goggles? There’s not been a case of blindness due to failed implants for decades now.”
Aneus watched the eyes of the Lieutenant instantaneously switch to full black as another series of bombs lit up the sky and then just as quickly switch back to their natural state. During those moments when the eyes would go black, the person he was looking at seemed to suddenly become something other than human. He found the affect unsettling. He wore the goggles to hide the fact he would often close his eyes during these moments when a person seemed to go from human to inhuman. Another staggered series of explosions took place. The Lieutenant’s eyes flickered between black and brown in rhythm with the explosions. Trying to suppress a shutter, Aneus turned his face back to the sky.
“I don’t want to be the first case of flash blindness in decades if something does go wrong,” Aneus said. “And I like the look of them.”
“I find them cumbersome,” the Lieutenant said. “My Grandmother wore them all the time even though she had implants.” He paused. “Not that I am comparing you to my Grandmother…sir.”
Aneus smiled thinly. “No offense taken.”
The light from the bombardment faded and full night finally descended upon the ship. A hush fell over the crew. Numerous fast-moving lights could be seen streaking across the night sky in formation. The Kreakian ships moved silently into a large circular pattern and assumed a geosynchronous orbit.
“Do you think they’re getting ready to head to the other side?” the first office asked.
The Captain shook his head. The formation was not something he had seen before. “We’re on the side with the capital city,” he said. “I think we might get our special treat pretty soon.”
As if on cue, sustained beams of light shot out from the ships and converged at the center of the circle, forming a spoked pattern. The central light grew in intensity then, as if drawn by a giant hand, seemed to pull back, straining the cords of light, and pause. Aneus found himself holding his breath as the thought of this finally being the moment when the Kreakians would successfully penetrate the Barrier went through his mind. Suddenly, the central light sprang forward out from the circle and hurtled toward Treus. It seemed to be falling directly toward Aneus’ ship, but in fact it was simply huge and every Treusian watching felt that the ball of light was falling directly on top of them wherever they were on the dark side of the planet.
With the flash of a hundred suns the night sky lit up. The brilliance seemed to spread over the top of the sky and down to the horizon like molten light being poured over the top of an upturned glass bowl. Aneus heard his assistant bark out a curse and unconsciously hold out his arms to steady himself. A thunderous boom could be felt in Aneus’ chest, louder by far than anything he had ever heard before. The brilliance lingered and grew for several seconds before finally beginning to dim. The sound of thunder faded and then all was quiet. The night sky reappeared and the formation of Kreakian ships could be seen sliding away into space. Captain Aneus was not sure, but it seemed that there were fewer ships than before.
After a few minutes the communications officer said in his earpiece, “Captain, we are receiving the King’s transmission.”
“Put it on speakers,” Aneus ordered.
The voice of King Numitor the Seventeenth resonated throughout HMS Keeper:
“My loyal friends and subjects – proud Treusians all! Once again, our friends, the Kreakians, have provided for us, on this three hundred and twenty-fifth Queen’s Day, a fine display of fireworks! We want to send our thanks to the Kreakian Empire for an especially rousing finish to this year’s celebrations. It was a finish which shall be talked about for at least a year until they come up with something which we are sure will be equally spectacular next year! We do note that it seems the Kreakians ended The Show with fewer ships than they started with tonight and we hope that the cost of the fireworks was not too high!
As Treusians, on this day we celebrate the love of our Queen for our beloved King; a love which has inspired our people for three hundred and twenty-five years! In keeping with tradition, we extend to the Kreakian Empire the hand of peace as we honor the love of our Queen.
Also, we extend our thanks to the men and women who serve, ever vigilant, in the royal military, and we extend our thanks to the gods for giving us the Barrier and the protection which allows to remain, forever and always, free.
May the gods bless you all in the upcoming New Year! Good Night!
A sudden rousing “Good Night!” could be heard throughout the ship as all the crew, including the Captain, responded to the traditional salutation. Then cheering broke out.
“That last one had some thunder with it!” exclaimed the Lieutenant with a wide grin.
Captain Aneus nodded then clapped the first officer on the back, “You have the bridge. Good Night!”
The Lieutenant snapped to attention. “Good Night Captain!”
Rem Aneus sat in his unadorned, white walled office, in downtown Massilia, reading through reports analyzing the weapon used by the Kreakians. Since Queen’s Day attack two weeks prior, Rem had only left his office three times to shower and change his clothes. Because of the limitations of being Treus-bound, information could only be gathered from telescopes, sub-orbital aircraft flying just beneath the Barrier, and listening to chatter and data transmitted intentionally and unintentionally from Kreakian vessels. Flying just under the Barrier was a mission reserved for the best pilots. While Treus possessed advanced drone technology, venturing beyond the Barrier due to miscalculation or malfunction could be a disaster. Rem was amused as he read the description of the weapon’s discharge by the pilot closest to the detonation. In typical military understatement of an “impressively large” explosion and “mild concern” felt by the pilot, Rem could tell that the aviator felt that he was going to meet the gods that night.
Rem’s phone rang on his desk. Since the removal of satellites over three hundred years ago, some Treusian technology had to revert back to older designs. Telecommunication was one of those technologies.
Rem picked up the phone.
“We have a problem,” a curt voice spoke into Rem’s ear.
“Good night Leon,” Rem replied politely. “What would that be?”
“We can’t talk about it on the phone. We need you at the observation level. Now.”
Rem sighed. “Listen Leon, I know we’re concerned the Kreakian attack led to a planetwide reverberation, but all of the scientists believe that they still have a long way to go before penetration. An impossibly long…”
“That isn’t what this is about,” Leon interrupted. “Get down to the observation level.”
Rem frowned. Leon was an uptight and difficult boss, but he sounded genuinely shaken. He paused for a moment to quickly flip through the report in front of him. Was there something he missed? “I’m on my way.”
Leon hung up without a further word. Rem placed the receiver on its cradle and hunched over the report. What did he miss? As an analyst he was expected to pick up details from various reports, put the details together, and forward any important conclusions upstairs. He had poured over scientific reports, pilot reports, even a report from his twin brother’s ship HMS Keeper, but had found nothing alarming, other than the reverberation. The fact the Kreakian weapon had caused the sound of thunder to roll planetwide had concerned the King and those in government, but that had since been dismissed as unimportant. Dramatic yes, but ultimately without any substance. The Barrier was not weakened in any way, no radiation leaks were detected, and no other atmospheric disturbances were reported. One scientist described the thunder as the beating of a drum. The Barrier experienced a vibration at the weapon’s discharge, which resulted in the sound of thunder, but the vibration was not a sign of peril.
Rem reviewed the size of the explosion and the energy generated. Without The Barrier the explosion would have devastated the continent of Gnossis, where the majority of the population lived, and was the location of the Royal court and capital of Sanoa. Data from various observation sites indicated that the size of the explosion must have caught the Kreakians off guard because at least three ships were destroyed and several others damaged. That the Kreakians were willing to sacrifice the lives of their own service men and women just to launch the weapon, disturbed Rem.
With a groan Rem stood up from his chair and stretched. He could get lost for hours as he poured over reports, his mind racing as he linked together separate incidents or unconnected bits of information to form a larger picture. He was good at what he did, and his expertise was noted by his superiors in the Treusian Intelligence Agency, much to the jealous dismay of his immediate supervisor Leon. Rem made his way to the observation level where all the information from land lines, radio telescopes, optic telescopes, electronic listening devices, and everything in between, were analyzed for threats to security and information about the Kreakians. Treusians may have lost the ability to communicate via satellite, but they were advanced in compensating technology and were capable of transmitting and relaying data efficiently.
Over the years Rem had pieced together information which led to the early detection of uprisings against His Majesties’ government and other smaller attempts at undermining the monarchy of Treus. None of his investigations had led to a conspiracy attempting to give the Kreakians the ability to penetrate The Barrier, but this possibility was foremost on the mind of all intelligence gathers and analysts. The military, while supposedly in place as a last defense against Kreakian invasion, was primarily used to keep His Majesties’ government firmly in place. This was a worthy goal in Rem’s estimation, for any upheaval could lead to losing track of materials produced and shipped around the globe. One shipload of material native to Treus falling into the hands of the Kreakians could be disastrous. If the result of vigilance meant a moderate curtailing of freedom of speech or movement or enterprise – then it was a price worth paying. However, there were some who disagreed with this assessment. Over the years some had challenged the King’s position and proposed ending Royal rule hoping it would placate the Kreakians. The logic to this argument was that the initial conflict between Treus and the Kreakian empire had to do with the Queen’s love and so, some believed, if the Royal line was taken out of power then Kreakian honor would be satisfied and their relentless bombing would end. Some even hoped that Treus could become a space faring civilization again and part of the galactic community.
Rem thought this line of thinking was wishful, dangerous, nonsense. He did all he could to ferret out any conspiracy threatening Royal rule. His brother Rom heartily agreed with Rem’s position and held the line as captain of a battle platform. In addition, like about third of the Treusian population, the Aneus family was related to the Royal family. Rem stood one hundred and third in line to the throne and Rom was one hundred and fourth. Rem did not often use his position for leverage but being close to the “top one hundred” had served him well. Certainly, his brother’s commission to the Keeper at a relatively young age had been influenced by his proximity to the throne. Men like Leon, who were not related to the Royal family, were jealously aware of the position to the throne their colleagues and subordinates possessed. Both Rem and Rom thought the obsession of one’s position to the throne was ridiculous, but interest in royal placement was an undeniable part of Treusian culture.
Rem rode the elevator down into the bowels of the TIA building. Disembarking at the subterranean level, he boarded a small subway which carried him deeper underground to the observation level. Staring into the dark he idly wondered why there were windows in a subway car that never saw the light of day.
“Hey Rem, you going to Observation?”
Rem turned to see Altain Sarr, a fellow analyst, sitting behind him. His normally laconic eyes were wide with anxiety and a ring of sweat stained his tight collar.
Rem nodded. “Yes, I got the call. You too?”
“Yeah, yeah.” He licked his lips quickly and asked, “What’s this about? Are we in trouble?”
Rem considered for a moment. He and Altain had collaborated on two projects within the last year which lead to military intervention. Was there an investigation of their assessments? Putting forth a scenario which led to faulty action carried heavy consequences. It was the risk every analyst took as they went up the ranks. However, Rem had not picked up on any chatter which concerned him regarding his assessments. He shook his head. “No, I don’t think so. I haven’t picked up on that.”
“Neither have I,” said Altain. He sat back in his seat and ran his hand over the sheen of sweat that glazed his balding scalp. “What then?”
“I think it has to do with the Queen’s Day attack,” Rem said quietly.
Altain leaned forward and lowered his voice to match Rem’s. “I’ve been going over data for the last two weeks. I haven’t picked up anything not already in the reports. I don’t think that anyone is lying about The Barrier. The Barrier isn’t threatened and won’t be threatened for the foreseeable future. You know how big that explosion was?”
Rem shifted to turn and face Altain, “Of course I do!” he whispered.
Altain held up a hand. “Sure, sure – no offense. Coming up with a weapon that could generate that kind of power had to take something out of the Kreakians. It’s pretty certain they lost three ships in the attempt. That’s well over a thousand of their people! It cost them dearly to launch this latest weapon, and I don’t think they have the capacity to go much bigger than that.”
Rem shrugged. “I don’t know if they can go bigger, but the cost to them is very high.” The subway came to a halt and Rem stood up along with Altain and the others in the car. “I guess we’ll find out.”
Rem and Altain stepped out of the subway car and walked down a narrow corridor with five other analysts. Rem wrinkled his nose at the collective stench of their nervous sweat. Rem took the lead to get away from the sharp smell of stress and pushed open the door leading to the observation level.
The narrow corridor opened into a wide, multi-tiered room, which held computers, maps, and dozens of men and women all hunched over their screens and talking on phones. Rem looked to find the one who had summoned him. He soon picked out Leon who was quietly, but sharply, rebuking a young woman whose large eyes glistened with barely held back tears.
“He’s in a good mood,” Altain muttered.
“As always,” Rem answered as he shouldered his way toward Leon. Rem was aware the small knot of analysts from the subway were following him like chicks huddled behind a mother hen.
Leon looked up; his face twisted with anger. His expression changed from anger to distain as he locked eyes with Rem. “There you are – finally. Follow me.” Spinning on his heel, Leon stalked toward a conference room followed by Rem and the other analysts.
Upon entering, Rem quickly scanned the room and counted thirteen analysts already seated, most of whom he had worked with before. In total there were twenty analysts in the room. He felt a wave of relief flow through him. The top twenty analysts were always called together in order to quickly go through information and look for patterns. Calling the top twenty usually meant there was an emergency, but it did not appear that he was in any trouble personally. Smiling inwardly, he took an open seat next to Altain.
“It’s a calling of the top twenty!” Altain whispered. “I didn’t know I was considered one of the top twenty!”
Rem could understand Altain’s excitement. He remembered the first time he had been called. He was both flattered and intimidated by the weight of the responsibility. “You’ve been doing good work Al,” he whispered.
Altain looked at him, his sleepy eyes suddenly masking his emotion. “We’ve been doing good work.” He then smiled slightly, “This is big!”
“Maybe,” Rem said then paused. “Probably.”
Leon stood in front of the nervous group and cleared his throat. “Good night!” He called out.
“Good night!” came the anxious response followed by an expectant silence.
Leon leaned his thin frame forward and tapped the podium gathering his thoughts. After a pause he looked at the group, his eyes again betraying disdain when he looked at Rem. Rem had often wondered why Leon loathed him. Of course, Rem had analyzed Leon and believed his hatred was rooted in insecurity regarding his own analytical ability coupled by a sense of inferiority because of Rem’s position to the throne. Of all the analysts under Leon, Rem held the closest position to the throne and was widely regarded as one of the best analysts in the TIA. Rem processed this information without pride – it was just a conclusion based on fact. Yet Leon had to be competent enough to hold his position as Director of Observation. Rem found himself adding this component into the analytical equation in his head.
Leon cleared his throat again. “This is a calling of the top twenty.” A few quiet gasps came from those called up for the first time. The Director of Observation was the only one who determined the top twenty and his assessment as to who was or was not included was immutable. “This is what you need to know. This meeting has nothing to do with the Queen’s Day attack. Empty your minds of that data.”
A noticeable physical shift took place as the analysts closed their eyes and began deep breathing exercises. Rem closed his eyes and emptied his mind of all the swirling computations of events, timing, and facts that had occupied him on conscious and unconscious levels for the past two weeks. He relaxed his shoulders and could smell the stress leaving the room as the air scrubber recycled and purified the air.
Leon continued to speak in a monotone. “Five hundred and sixteen years, three months and eleven days ago, at 6:30 am, the Gonwaian nation launched a vehicle into space to explore past our moons.
“Icarus 1,” one of the analysts said quietly. Rem nodded to himself. Gonwaian was the first space faring nation of Treus. It was before the time of the united monarchy of Treus.
“Yes, Icarus 1,” Leon droned. “It has been on the following trajectory for the past five hundred years,” he pointed to a projection. All the eyes of the analysts’ snapped open at the same time to briefly study the picture then closed again.
Five hundred and sixteen years, three months, eleven days five hours and twenty-three minutes’ corrected Rem in his head. Glancing at Altain, Rem could tell he was making the same correction in his mind as well. He closed his eyes.
“As our listening technology advanced, we were able to keep in touch with Icarus 1 over two centuries, then we lost touch. At the time the data received was nine months old.”
“So, Icarus is traveling at one thousand one hundred and eight point eight kilometers per hour” a female analyst intoned.
“Unless nine months is not an exact figure,” another added.
“We had contact for two hundred eleven years, six months, twelve days, three hours and forty-six minutes,” said Altain.
The analysts collectively nodded at the information.
“Is nine months an exact figure?” Rem asked doubtfully.
Leon cleared his throat. Rem wondered if he had a cold, was nervous, or had a more serious condition. Was Leon a smoker? Was it cancer? He began to analyze the depth and liquidity of the throat clearing.
“The exactness of the transmission time is not important. What is important is that we received a transmission from Icarus 1 three days ago.”
As if intentionally synchronized, all of the analysis’s snapped their eyes open.
“What was the mode of transmission?” one asked.
“Radio transmission,” answered Leon.
“Were there any indications that it crashed into a planet or hit an asteroid?” another asked.
“No,” answered Leon. “But our information is limited.”
“How long was the transmission?” someone asked seated behind Rem. “Is it still transmitting?”
Leon shook his head. “It was just an acknowledgment signal. It was only a few seconds.”
“Acknowledgment signal?” Rem said. “What was it acknowledging?”
“The codes are old,” Leon answered. “But it was the equivalent to “I am here.”
“What prompted this signal?” Altain asked.
“We don’t know,” Leon said. “It may not have been prompted.”
The female analyst spoke up. “If someone sent a signal from Treus, it must have been years ago. It would take a few years for the signal to reach the probe, which considering the fact we lost contact with Icarus 1 almost three hundred years ago, would be an almost impossible feat of tracking and engineering. Then the response from Icarus 1 would take years to reach us. It is most likely the result of a malfunction.”
Rem furrowed his brow. Why would the top twenty be brought into this? Then he knew. “You are concerned that the Kreakians could have intercepted the transmission from Icarus 1 and use the transmission to find it.”
A heavy silence filled the room as no one seemed to breathe. “Astute as always Mister Aneus,” Leon said quietly.
“Why was transmission from the probe allowed to continue?” Altain asked sharply.
Leon answered, “When Icarus 1 was launched there was no reason to think that it would ever pose any danger. We did not even realize The Barrier existed at that time. There was no way to turn it off. In fact, we did not want it to cease transmission. At the time we were hoping to make contact with some of the other colonies of legend. It was not until we tried to bring mineral samples from Gemini that we realized The Barrier existed.”
The Gemini mineral disaster was well known to all Treusians. As a Gonwaian ship attempted to re-enter the atmosphere with a hold full of minerals from Gemini, the closest planet to Treus, the minerals were torn out of the hold, destroying the ship. Fortunately, the ship was unmanned. The investigation into the accident led to the discovery of The Barrier.
“It is an unsophisticated signal being transmitted,” Altain said, “It could be picked up by the Kreakians…”
“But it would be difficult,” another added. “The signal is weak and from this distance it would take very sophisticated technology to find the signal let alone track its origin.”
“We do not know Kreakian technological capacity when it comes to intercepting radio transmissions,” Altain countered. “Nor the full extent of their empire. They could have listening posts closer to the probe than we do.”
“We do not know much about the Kreakians other than what we have been able to observe or hear over the years,” another chimed in.
Yet another spoke up. “We do not know how fast the Kreakian ships can travel. Could they track, find and retrieve Icarus 1 and then bring it back here? If they could, how long would it take? We need more information.”
“We do not have that information,” Leon said stiffly. Another silence descended on the room. Rem’s mind churned furiously.
“Do we know if the Kreakians can travel faster than light speed?” he asked.
Leon bowed his head and did not answer. Rem repeated his question. Leon looked at him, conflict dancing across his face. “I cannot answer that.”
“Cannot or will not?” another voice inquired with a hint of desperation.
Leon gave a look of impatience but said nothing.
A grumble of protest rolled across the room. “This is impossible. We do not have enough information to give any kind of meaningful analysis,” someone whined.
“It could be nothing,” Altain said. “There are many possibilities. The Kreakians finding Icarus 1 is one possibility but not the most likely. Most likely something caused a transmission which has gone unnoticed by the Kreakians.”
Leon nodded. “Yes, this is true. But you can understand how important it is for us to know what happened.”
One of the analysts repeated, “We do not have enough information.”
Leon sighed. He tapped a stack of thick folders on a table next to the podium. “Here is everything that is relevant. If you want to watch archival footage, everything has been routed to your workstations. If there is something you feel is missing, ask for it and we will get you the information. For the foreseeable future you will be working on this together.” Leon walked out of the conference room.
For half a minute no one in the top twenty moved. Then Rem stood and walked to the podium. He glanced through the folders and assessed how to go through the information. The top twenty were good at making analysis, but they needed direction. It was too much information for each one to read in its entirety, which would be ideal for finding threads and patterns, but it was a luxury not available if they were going to come up with results quickly. He split the twenty into four groups, gave the written information to three of them, and sent a group to their conference room workstations to review documentaries, archival footage, and lectures given on Icarus 1. It was a massive amount of information and Rem settled into his workstation and began to absorb the footage running it at four times the regular speed.
The top twenty worked for days, sharing and discussing information. Some, like Altain, took upon themselves the monumental task of reading all the information while others debated and discussed the probability of different scenarios. Rem listened to the discussions and arguments with one ear while he sifted through the data. There was something missing. It was like an itch at the back of his skull. Occasionally Leon would check on the progress and every time he was beseeched to deliver more information and more facts.
“We have not ventured into space for over three hundred years,” he pleaded. “We do not know much about Kreakian technology.” Leon’s evasiveness and vague answers did not sit well with analysts who believed that with enough information the right course of action could be discovered every time.
During the times Leon entered the room, Rem observed him closely. He concluded that Leon was indeed leaving some piece of information out of the equation. Some of the other analysts picked up on this as well but concluded it was too dangerous to discuss in the monitored conference room. However, knowing looks passed between them and unrest began to grow.
Finally, after a week of almost around the clock working, the top twenty were tired and irritable. They slept and ate at the TIA building and only occasionally showered. Many of the debates had turned to arguments and some of the arguments had come to blows. Mentally and physically exhausted, some of the analysts had fallen into a stupor, staring at the wall unresponsive to any stimulus. Rem knew that the top twenty had exhausted themselves and exhausted the information they had. When Leon came in Rem stood up.
“Leon, we are at an end,” Rem said. The chatter in the room died down. “We are prepared to give you several possibilities and the probabilities for these possibilities, but we cannot say for sure what has happened or give any recommendation of how to proceed.” He handed Leon a data chip.
Leon took it with a cold smile. “This is the best the top twenty could come up with? Possibilities and probabilities? I didn’t need you for that!” With a smirk he shook his head, muttered “useless” under his breath and left the room.
Rem watched him go then turned to the twenty. Knowing looks again passed between them. Something was being hidden but they did not dare to voice their thoughts out loud. If Leon was hiding information, then it would be more prudent for the twenty to not speculate. However, Rem felt it was his duty to speak frankly with his colleagues.
“I want to voice my thoughts on what many of us are thinking but do not dare discuss,” Rem declared. “I must if we are going to give a better analysis. I do not know if this piece of information is all we need to find an answer, but if we include it in our equations it opens up some possibilities and narrows down the probabilities.”
Several of the twenty who had given him knowing looks now glanced around the room uncomfortably and those sitting in a stupor slowly turned to Rem. Suddenly, the door burst open and Leon entered flanked by two armed guards.
“That’s enough!” he shouted. “You’re all finished! Go home!” He waved the data chip in front of him. “I have your analysis here! It’s all we need.”
The top twenty looked at Leon then to Rem. Leon yelled, “Don’t look at him! I told you to go home!” The two guards stepped forward and began to herd the group out of the conference room. Rem fell into line.
“Not you Rem,” said Leon. “I think you know that.”
Rem nodded. Leon looked at him impatiently and shook his head. “Follow me.”
Leon strode out of the conference room. Rem followed, acutely aware of the armed guard close on his heels.
Leon thrust open a plain white door that blended almost perfectly into the wall of the busy Observation Level. The room was stuffy and silent. Leon moved to sit behind a sleek black desk and waved Rem to a chair which sat a several centimeters lower than the chair across from the desk.
Leon waved to the guard, “You may go.” Then Leon steepled his hands in front of him and gave a thin smile of barely concealed contempt. “So, one hundred and three, what is it you think you know?”
Rem looked at Leon without emotion. To refer to another person’s position to the throne was considered to be in poor taste, even among friends. He tried to push down the anger that welled up but failed. “I know that you are threatened by me. Your analytical ability is limited, and you are jealous of my position to the throne. You are pathetically transparent in your envy.”
Leon flushed red. All attempt and concealing contempt fell away from his face. “And yet I am your superior.”
“I have been analyzing that fact,” Rem replied coolly.
“Your insecurity makes you pliable to the will of those whom you pander to in order to advance beyond the place your talent or societal status would normally take you. In short – you do as you are told without question or any hint of individual thought. It is a good quality to have in a subordinate one desires to control.”
Leon reddened further and laid his hands flat on the table. His eyes took on a cold, serpent-like quality. “Careful 103…”
Rem went on, “And yet, in spite of your contempt for those who are higher in ability or status, you cannot remove us from our positions because your controllers have deemed us useful. So, you manage those whom you hate but cannot be rid of.”
“Don’t be so sure Aneus.”
“I will remain in the service of the TIA for as long as your controllers deem necessary and you will have nothing to do with the decision to remove me. However, should the day of removal come, I am sure you will enjoy carrying out your master’s bidding.” Rem paused as he studied Leon’s face and body language. Rem was sure if Leon possessed the ability, courage, or perhaps foolishness, to act on his own he would leap over the desk and throttle him. Rem reflected that perhaps he had been foolish to express his opinion to Leon. His mind quickly fell into analyzing the last five minutes of his anger, his frustration, Leon’s offence, and their conversation. He concluded he should have kept his thoughts and opinions to himself. Maybe there was something to learn from Leon’s lacky ways after all.
“Nevertheless, this is not why you are here,” said Leon in a low, even tone. “What were you preparing to discuss in the conference room?”
Rem’s gaze shifted from a blank spot behind Leon’s shoulder back to the man himself. He set aside his self-analysis and stood.
“Sit,” Leon commanded.
“No,” Rem replied simply. “I find the attempt at intimidation to be demeaning and I need to have my thought’s focused.” Leon shifted in his seat but said nothing. Rem continued, “The obvious conclusion, given the data we were given and the information we were specifically not given, is that you know for a fact that the Kreakians have achieved faster than light technology. It may be true that you do not know how fast they can go, but you know they can go faster than light.”
Leon frowned as he slowly nodded his head. “You are correct. I was under orders not to confirm this, but you are correct.”
Rem paced across the room. “You were under orders not to confirm this information, but now you have given confirmation. Since you do not act with individualistic thought, you must have been ordered to confirm this conclusion only recently.” Rem glanced at Leon who stared at him, his lips tight and flushed of color, hate glittering in his eyes. Rem continued, “You have been given permission to confirm my suspicions order to placate me. Why would that be?”
A look of genuine puzzlement flashed across Leon’s face which was quickly replaced by an impassive mask. Leon said, “We will reconvene the top twenty tomorrow and you can begin analysis based on the confirmation of the Kreakian ability to travel faster than light.” He slapped his hands gently upon the slick obsidian desktop. “You may go now.”
Rem stood staring at Leon. He was sure that Leon did not know the truth that he had guessed, nor did he want to know. Leon was acting within his pattern. He had been allowed to confirm Kreakian faster than light capability, but Leon did not question why he had been given this permission. Rem knew why. Should he say anything? Expressing that which was being deliberately hidden was a dangerous game in the TIA. Was it worth the danger? Quickly Rem weighed out the likelihood that Leon’s office was monitored by his minders. It was a certainty. There was nothing said in the Observation Level that was not recorded and analyzed to reveal treason or dangerous conclusions. Rem took in a shaky breath.
“Leon, for the sake of the planet’s safety I have to inform you of an important fact which needs to be figured into our analysis. It is information that has been carefully kept from us as analysts and, I believe, from you as well, however it is an obvious conclusion.”
Leon stood and raised a cautionary hand. “Be careful One-oh-three. Analyze carefully your next course of action.”
Rem paused and the two men stood staring at each other. The silence of the room hung heavily. “I have weighed it out,” Rem finally said. “First, I am currently one hundred and first to the throne due to two deaths this week of some elderly and distant cousins. Next, I believe that Icarus 1 responded to a transmission from Treus, which means someone on Treus essentially sent a beacon to anyone listening as to the exact location of Icarus 1. Furthermore, and this is the most disturbing aspect of this conclusion, such a transmission could only be authorized by someone of very high authority with access to top secret information and technology.”
Leon reeled and rocked back on his heels as if slapped. “That’s impossible! Why would anyone on Treus place the entire planet at such risk? It’s an act of treason!”
Rem said nothing as Leon struggled to respond. He felt a surprising sympathy for Leon as his world collapsed around him and he desperately sought to exonerate himself by refusing to even consider the possibility of such high treason for the sake of those who might be listening to their conversation.
Leon sputtered his words. “High authority? Are you implying Royal involvement? Are you mad?”
“I do not have enough information to make that determination. There are a few different possibilities.”
Leon pounded his fist on his desk. “Enough! To even speculate such things is treason! To even consider the King’s involvement…” At that moment Rem could feel the pressure in the room change as the door opened up behind him. Leon looked past his shoulder and pointed to Rem. “Thank the gods you’ve arrived! This man is proposing very dangerous things! Take him away and place him under guard until he can be dealt with.”
Rem glanced over his shoulder and saw three armed guards and an older, imposing man standing in the door. “I am afraid you are both coming with us Leon,” the man said in a calm, deep voice.
Leon trembled and looked at Rem, his eyes sharp with bitterness. “You fool!” he hissed.
Rem calmly turned and made his way to the door flanked by two guards. His mind busied itself analyzing the likelihood that he would be made to disappear. He also included into the equation the likelihood that others in the top twenty, Altain in particular, might also be made to disappear for his indiscretion. He concluded that his future did not look bright. He heard Leon suddenly sob as they walked out of the office into an unknown future.