By J.A. ALFORD
Isaac whistled while he pushed the book cart down the deserted hallway. He let the tune drop off as he stopped outside the elevator door and looked around. Still clear. Detouring from his assigned route, he swiped a prism shaped key by a panel outside the elevator. The doors opened and he took it down to the basement. That was where they kept the unwanted and the unsightly.
“Doctor Welsh?” he called as he exited the elevator.
The place looked empty. It was dark and cluttered as usual. Light shone dimly from overhead lamps and electronic devices. He walked by the tables of experiments. Some things he recognized, like the pickled animal specimens. Other things were foreign to him. He stopped to examine some gadgets, the purpose of which he couldn’t guess. Most no doubt the doctor had invented. Isaac knelt down to look at one and when he stood up he had a slight shock. He was face to face with the warped image of the spectacled doctor. Doctor Welsh stepped out from behind the screen that had distorted his image and smiled at his young friend.
“Isaac, it’s good to see you. I missed you yesterday.”
Isaac nodded. “They’re doing more rounds lately it’s hard to sneak away.”
“Hmm. Must be difficult to find a moment for your art as well.”
Isaac shrugged. “It’s so hard to find materials that lately it seems pointless. I make pictures of better things I can see in my mind… but it won’t change our reality.”
The Doctor grabbed him by the shoulders and stared intensely into his eyes. “Isaac, you must never stop creating,” he said. “If we let them take away our ability to enjoy life then what is the point of having breath in our bodies.”
The doctor let him go and led the way further into the lab. Isaac followed hardly phased. Welsh was emphatic by nature. Isaac was always left to decipher which of the Doctor’s statements were really important when he replayed their conversations during the more boring aspects of his work assignment.
“Now Isaac, I’m finally ready to show you a project of my own.”
The doctor disappeared into a storage chamber then came out pushing a preservation cylinder on a dolly. He parked it by Isaac and then they both stared at the casket for the living.
“These things remind me of one of the books I hid,” Isaac said. “It’s like Snow White’s glass coffin,” he whispered stepping closer. The full length door of the cylinder was clear, but condensation coated its surface hiding the contents within.
“Who’s in there?” Isaac asked.
The doctor used his sleeve to wipe away the condensation and show the face of the cylinder’s prisoner. Isaac jumped back. Inside was the image of every child’s worst fears; what humankind had come to know as the embodiment of absolute and unbeatable tyranny.
“Is that… the Queen Laurent?” he asked knowing it was impossible.
Welsh smiled broadly. “Looks like her doesn’t it?” He stepped closer and looked in awe. “Exactly like her.”
“But, what did you do?” Isaac asked.
“I finally found her,” he said bending down and wiping away more of the droplets to reveal her wrist. He squinted at a bracelet inscribed with her name. “Now we have a real reason for hope.”
Welsh went to his desk and opened a program as he explained further. “She’s a political prisoner captured about two years ago. The seize order said that she sympathized with our plight. Imagine if she were giving orders rather than the Queen.”
“But it’s not possible,” Isaac said still examining the woman in the preservation cylinder. He bent down to look at the other section the Doctor had cleaned. “What’s that say on her wrist?”
“It’s her contact and health information. They all wear them on their planet. Very interesting place. They look like sisters by our perspective but this one is particularly like the Queen--in height, complexion, physique-- her exact double in every perceivable way.”
“It’s not possible.” Isaac repeated.
“It’s not possible now,” Welsh agreed as he continued to work. “But it was and so it is. And you are going to do it.”
Isaac wanted to say “Huh.” Instead he looked at the Doctor waiting for him to explain.
“My project is operational.”
“The converter they wanted you to build? I thought you’d never build it. You said it would only help them destroy us faster.”
“I didn’t, and I never would, but they didn’t need to know that. I needed to build two devices. The machine I just finished solves the locality problem.” He loaded another program then pulled out what looked like a watch from a drawer where they were charging. He handed one to Isaac. “Put one on. We can wake her, go back, explain what happened and then have her switch places with the Queen.”
Again the “Huh” look crossed Isaac’s face, but the doctor didn’t seem to notice.
“Well what if she doesn’t agree?” Isaac asked.
“Impossible. She already did.”
“You wear this,” Welsh said strapping the watch to Isaac’s wrist. “Now I’ll get you her address then you simply need to meet me at the flight station. We’ll come back here for the exchange and eradicate this reign of torment. I wish we could erase the Queen’s entire reign, but this will have to do.” He crouched down by the cylinder with a notepad.
“Wait you want to swap her out for the Queen?”
“That’s the plan.”
“Doc, I think you may have been down here too long.”
The doctor turned sharply to him. “Do you think that you’re working here by coincidence?” Before Isaac could answer an alarm went off. Doctor Welsh rushed back to his desk and pulled up the surveillance system. Isaac followed him and watched the screen in stunned silence.
“Darn. They’re earlier than I thought,” Welsh said. “What time is it? 14:36! I’ll stall them.” He ran from the room shutting the door behind him.
“Wait!” Isaac ran after him but the door was locked. He went back to watch the security footage and saw the doctor shutting doors behind him until he was finally confronted with the Queen’s defense force. Isaac turned from the screen knowing what was coming.
He opened the preservation cylinder, ripped the bracelet off the young woman’s wrist and ran for the back exit. The machine the doctor had been working on whirred as it charged up. Isaac was through the emergency exit door and up two flights of stairs when the door above him opened. He stopped dead as two defense agents entered the stairwell ready to fire. He closed his eyes and heard a beep as the timer on his wrist reset.
Isaac opened his eyes to the light of the outdoors. He blinked in the light of a planet two years in the past. All that Isaac registered was confusion. People walked by only glancing curiously once in a while. No one tried to imprison him. Something else was strange about all the people passing by but he couldn’t figure out what. He had to sit. He walked in a daze toward a bench outside a restaurant. He stopped to gaze up at the sign. It was in their alien captor’s language. That was no surprise since on his home planet everything had been switched to their language. He decided to go in.
Inside the restaurant was decorated with pastel pink and green stripes. It looked like a theme restaurant and smelled sweet. His mouth watered and still no one stopped him, so he sat down and a girl skated up with a menu. He froze in terror. She looked like the Queen except her hair was lighter brown, straight, very long and in pig tails that nearly reached her butt. Her complexion was lighter too, like fresh cream. He’d only seen a handful of alien faces. He had seen the Queen of course. Her image was plastered everywhere. Now and then he’d glimpsed a high ranking official but never up close. Everyone but the Queen wore a civilian veil or military helmet with an ominous reflective visor that blacked out their faces. He was gaping at the waitress and she gave him a curious look but offered the customary greeting in the alien tongue.
“Good day and good health to you. I’m Shauna and I’ll be helping you today.”
“Th-thank you,” he answered a little nervously in the same language. It came naturally since it was the only one legal for public use since he had been born.
“I’ll give you a moment to decide.” She went to help another customer while he looked at the menu. Even though he held the menu in front of his face he wasn’t seeing it. Cautiously he watched the waitress. She was taking another order. Clearly she wasn’t going to hurt him. It was like she didn’t even know he was a slave.
He replayed what Welsh said and tried to figure out his plan. The Doc wanted to get the political prisoner’s address, but she was from the Queen’s planet... He slid down in his seat and looked around. Could he be on the Queen’s planet? There were five other women in the restaurant. They looked friendly as they chatted over drinks and appetizers. Through the glass windows and doors people walked and roller-skated by on that warm afternoon. They seemed cheerful too and… all female. Of course to a human eye all the aliens appeared to be female. So he really was on their planet.
“That must be what you meant about solving the locality problem,” he said as if the doctor could hear him. “But how did I get here without a ship?” Isaac tried to remember everything that had just happened.
The Queen’s forces broke into the lab. They would figure out what Welsh had done and then they’d come after him. He sat up sharply realizing that they’d be able to find him because of the tracker.
Isaac grabbed the knife from the silverware set on the table and went to the “refreshing” room. Fortunately it was a single stall. He locked the door and went to the mirror. He turned his head to the side of his left ear and felt the small bump just behind his lobe. Then he looked away, grit his teeth and cut in.
The Queen arrives at lab
The Queen and her entourage pushed their way past the security guards to where her Senior Aide stood next to a strange gallon sized machine.
“What’s this, Gloria?” the Queen demanded.
“He finally did it.” The aide was her second in command when it came to everything besides defense. She was a smaller woman with tan skin, long straight black hair and a thin version of the face they all shared.
“Did what?” the Queen demanded again, noticeably more irritated.
“Welsh often spoke of time travel and must have used his grant to build such a device,” she began to explain.
“Why? What could he possibly do with it?” the Queen wondered to herself as hers was the only opinion she truly valued. “He’d still be weak, still human. Search the place and confiscate that machine. What’s the other one do?” she asked about a smaller machine that seemed built into the wall on the other side of the room.
“We don’t know yet, Ma’am.”
“Well shut it down and find out. Move it to my private collection.” She motioned for some guards to retrieve it.
“Pardon me ma’am,” her aide said, “but perhaps we should figure out how it operates first.”
“Hmm.” Gloria had learned that such a vague showing of interest meant she might get her way. The Queen was not slow to express displeasure or issue a dismissal, so her aide continued.
“It’d be embarrassing to turn it off and not know how to turn it on again. It seems integrated with a system encompassing the whole lab and it may prove useful to us. After all we only issued this human work permits because he produced better results than our own engineers.”
“Yes I seem to recall your report. The low level of their cognitive functions leave their minds open to pursue fanciful lines of thought readily dismissed by a higher functioning mind. Occasionally, this leads to engineering methods one of our own may have overlooked.”
“That wasn’t exactly my conclusion,” Gloria mumbled. Her findings in support of the humans were often altered to fit their party’s political agenda.
“Fine,” the Queen decided with no mind to Gloria’s last interjection. “Find out what it does and how to operate these two machines then report back to me ASAP.”
“Yes, Your Highness.”
The Queen left the room in a hurry leaving behind a wake of bowing loyal servants.
Isaac stands out
Isaac felt woozy from pain. The tracker he had pulled out wasn’t blinking so it still hadn’t been activated. He had considered dropping it down a drain then changed his mind. Instead he rinsed it off, cleaned himself up as best he could and went back outside with it clutched tightly in his hand. When it started flashing a red light that would indicate they were trying to trace his location. So long as it was unlit he knew they weren’t on to him and he could relax. Well, relax was too optimistic of a word. He didn’t have to panic, not yet. He tucked the tracker into his pocket.
When they did decide to come after him he’d toss it on someone else and throw them off his trail. The alien women walking by continued to stare. He needed to get somewhere quick and remembered the Doc’s plan. He pulled out the alien girl’s bracelet and squinted at it in the sunlight. 32 Desclair Ln. He walked to the street corner and looked for a sign. He had no idea where he was.
“Excuse me,” he said to the next person he noticed staring and quickly did a double take. It was another woman a different skin tone and hairstyle than the waitress but such similar features that they could be twins. “Umm,” he continued ignoring the coincidence, “could you direct me to Desclair Ln?”
“No…” she said. “But there’s a directory booth just across the street.”
“Oh yeah I see it now. Thanks.”
She smiled and turned to leave but suddenly stopped and asked him a question. “Are you going to a costume party?”
He looked confused for a second, and then finally took a good look at all the faces of the people he could see walking down the street or sitting outside the local shops. That was when he realized how much he stood out. Not only was he not female he didn’t look like them because they all had the same face.
“Ah yes,” he said.
“That’s the best flesh mask I’ve ever seen,” she said shaking her head and staring. “I mean it’s really good.” She looked him up and down. “In fact that’s the best costume I’ve ever seen. You really look out of this world.”
“Thanks,” he said and quickly hurried across the street before she looked too closely.
Thankfully the directory booth put him out of sight and was fully automated. He asked for the address. The automated voice responded promptly, “I have downloaded directions. If you do not have transportation there is a transport unit outside on the right, which will send you to the nearest public building.”
The afternoon peak at the Beauty Salon was dying down and Sonnet Arias had just finished her last customer for the day. The news played on the TV in the background as she removed her hairstylist smock and cleaned up her station. On the side of the salon which was dedicated to nails, her good friend Susan had also just finished.
“Thank you and good health to you,” she said hurriedly as her customer exited. Then the freckled brunette hustled over to the hairstylist chairs, completely ignoring Sonnet, so she could get a better look at the television.
“What’s the big deal?” Sonnet asked.
“It’s the big news conference about colonizing a new planet,” Susan said without taking her eyes off the screen. A cosmetologist from across the room named Cloe joined them. She was muscular and tall and had platinum blonde with red streaks compliments of Sonnet.
The hairstylist for the next chair wasn’t that interested in mainstream news. She was also tall but slim. She wore bright colors, styled her hair to match and usually had on headphones. Appropriately her name was Kaleido. She moved her client to the dryers and turned her music down. Then she sidled up next to Cloe. “Hey you got a snap shot of your latest masterpiece?” she asked.
“Of course.” Cloe showed her an image of her fantasy styled face make-up reminiscent of a Faberge egg on her handheld device.
“Nice. I want you to do mine for this party next week.”
Susan suddenly turned and shouted at them. “Everybody, be quiet! My girl is on.”
“What’s she worked up about?” Kaleido asked.
“She’s the Queen Laurent’s biggest fan,” Sonnet explained.
“Shhh this is history in the making. Do you know what they found? A green planet.”
“An inhabited green planet,” Kaleido said.
“Yeah right,” Cloe said then laughed. “You’re such a conspiracy theorist, Kaleido.”
Kaleido nudged Sonnet. “What do you think, Arias?”
She shrugged. “I think we’ll have to wait for proof, right?”
Kaleido looked at the TV and shook her head. “So young and naïve, Arias. I bet they’ve already been there and are just now telling us. It’s all secrets and lies.” For a moment they watched the Queen give her speech in silence.
Cloe looked from the screen to Sonnet and back again. “You know,” she said slowly, “you’re like her spitting image.”
“Me?” Sonnet said surprised. “Thanks, wasn’t she voted best looking public figure last year?”
Kaleido studied her too. Sonnet wore her hair in a short black hair in a bob which was pulled back in a little pony-tail and as usual she hadn’t bothered with makeup.
“Cloe, I think you’re right,” Kaleido agreed. “Leave it to the girl who studies facial features for a living. I never noticed.” She continued talking as she rummaged through some things at her work station. “But if you lengthen the hair, curl it up and change the makeup.”
“Like a bold red lip and long dark lashes?” Cloe suggested pulling a lipstick out of a pocket of her fully stocked apron and going to work on Sonnet.
Kaleido found the wig she was looking for and added the final touch. “And voila,” she said stepping back. “You’re totally her.”
Susan glanced over and did a double take. “Whoa that is pretty good.”
Sonnet sized herself up in the mirror that ran the full length of the wall behind their work stations. “Guess I know who I’ll go as for the next masquerade,” she said and grinned.
Susan and Cloe laughed then turned their attention back to the TV.
“Oh great, now I’ve got to rewind,” Susan said.
Kaliedo kept staring quietly at Sonnet as she played with the wig. “Aren’t you worried?” she asked Sonnet.
“Why?” Sonnet gathered some make-up remover and went to work on her face.
“There are stories…” Kaliedo began.
“Rumors,” Cloe said.
“Watch your show,” Kaliedo told her. Cloe smirked and continued watching the press conference with Susan. “There are real life accounts, okay, about how the rich hire Collectors to capture their doubles and have them suspended so they can’t steal their wealth or power.”
“Collectors are there to protect us,” Susan said with her back still turned. “Only criminals get suspended.”
“Psh, that’s what we’re told to think.”
“Well, I don’t think I look that much like her,” Sonnet said. “Besides I’m much younger than her too.”
“Yeah, but now that you’re an adult there’s not enough of an age difference to notice physically. Just imagine what her enemies could do with you. I bet she has,” Kaliedo said.
“With me? Please, you know I’m not into politics. Anyway it’s about time for me to go home.”
The news reel ended so Susan managed to pull herself away from the screen and give her friend a hug and a kiss on the cheek. “See ya Hun, and don’t forget to record your hours worked before you leave. We wouldn’t want your lights to go out.”
Sonnet laughed. “Right,” she glanced in the mirror again on her way to sign out. “Oh I almost forgot about your wig.”
“Keep it,” Kaliedo said.
“Sure, you can wear it at the party next week and let Cloe do your makeup. I bet we freak some people out.”
Sonnet smiled wide. “It’s going to be so fun. See you later,” she said thinking she would.
Isaac finds Sonnet
Isaac was acclimating to the novelty of near instantaneous transport via the transport pod the directory instructed him to use. He had seen guards and other aliens use it to go from one building to another but of course he had never been allowed in one. Now he simply put in the directions, stepped inside and as promised he was delivered to another pod in a library just a block or two from Sonnet Arias’ address.
After he walked to her house he stood across the street and checked the tracker. It was still off. Maybe they weren’t looking for him. Just steps from her front door and wondering how he would explain himself, Isaac heard a crash and the sounds of a struggle inside.
“Miss Arias!” he shouted banging on the door. He heard a cry for help and pushed on the door. It slid open. At first he didn’t see anyone. The complex opened up to a living room that was mostly navy blue. A staircase on the other side of the room led to bedrooms upstairs and that’s where the next shout came from. He ran up the stairs and when he reached the top Sonnet came rushing past him. “Watch out,” she shouted.
He turned around and saw a large mechanical claw coming after her. He barely had time to move to the side and it knocked him over as it went after her. She dove sliding down the stairs and the claw tore through right side staircase railing then snapped back returning to its unseen owner. As soon as it was past Isaac, he pushed himself into the nearest room and hid behind the door. A second later a Collector in their distinctive maroon uniform and black helmet ran past.
She jumped on the undamaged railing and slid down. Pushing herself off of the bottom of the railing, she flipped and landed in front of Sonnet who was almost at the door. Sonnet turned and ran the other way heading to the kitchen. Coolly the Collector followed her, walking casually. When the door closed behind the Collector Isaac followed them. The Collector already had one of Sonnet’s hands cuffed. The Collector turned immediately and a small ball emitting an electric shock shot out of her sleeve. He jumped out of the way landing hard on his side behind the kitchen table.
Sonnet took the opportunity to swing at the distracted agent, but the Collector easily caught her other hand and enclosed it in the cuffs.
By then Isaac was on his feet. He picked up a kitchen chair and swung it at the Collector just as she turned. Stunned by the hit, she fell to her knees. Not losing a second, Sonnet came from behind her and had the chain of her handcuffs around the Collector’s throat. The Collector flipped Sonnet over her shoulder slamming her down hard on her back. Isaac had already grabbed the next available item, a heavy crystal vase which he smashed against her helmet twice. The Collector wobbled. He dropped the vase and followed with a hit from another chair. She finally fell back, knocked out.
Isaac bent down next to Sonnet. Her eyes were shut in a painful grimace. His hand trembled inches from her face. He was afraid to touch her face. It resembled so exactly the terrifying Queen.
“You okay?” he asked. She nodded and opened her eyes but didn’t get up. “Wait here.”
Next he crouched over the Collector. He tapped the side of her helmet to raise the visor revealing her unconscious face. “She’s out cold, but I think she’s okay. Those suits are pretty strong,” he said as he moved on to pulling off her gloves.
“Got it,” he said coming back to Sonnet who had managed to sit up. He hit a button imbedded in the left glove and Sonnet’s cuffs unlocked. He helped her up and caught a light flashing out the corner of his eye.
“What’s that?” Sonnet asked holding a hand to the back of her head.
The light was coming from the Collector’s visor. He knew that code meant others would be coming. “Let’s go. It’s not safe here.” He grabbed her arm and helped her out of the house. He slipped on the left glove and walked down the street directing it at each vehicle until one responded. When the doors went up he pushed Sonnet toward it.
“Hurry, get in.”
“Wait, wait,” she said pulling away from him. “Who are you?”
“I’m the one who saved your life. Now get in. There might be more coming or she might be waking up.”
Sonnet glanced back at her home’s open door then overcame her hesitation. Isaac grunted as pain shot up from his hip when he bent to sit in the driver’s seat. His hands floated over the control panel and he remembered he didn’t know how to use their vehicles.
He turned to Sonnet. “We need a store, a big one with lots of people and supplies.”
“Okay.” She turned on the navigation system and set it for the nearest mega store.
“What’s this?” he asked as he scrolled through the different settings.
“Frequent destinations,” Sonnet said. “Okay, now you’re in the messaging system. What are you looking for?” she asked as he continued going through the records.
“Something… helpful,” he said.
“Hey, hold on.” She pushed his hand out of the way and mumbled out loud as she skimmed a message. “Threat to Queen…Sonnet Arias. Oh my gosh, it’s true,” she said staring at the words in disbelief.
He rubbed his hip where he had fallen on it in the kitchen. “What is it?”
“People say that the rich and powerful have doubles collected to protect their wealth and power. This proves it.” She shook her head and looked over at him. “Oh my gosh, are you bleeding?”
“Huh?” He suddenly became aware of something wet running down the left side of his neck. “Oh yeah and I’m pretty bruised up too.” He moved his hand from his hip and pulled his sleeve over his palm and pressed hard on the wound behind his ear which had opened up as he struggled with the Collector.
Sonnet looked from his wound up and down. “What are you?”
He looked at her wearily. “How much you know about planet classification 316.44?”
“That’s where they’re talking about building colonies... but some say it’s already inhabited. You’re from there aren’t you? That’s why you look so different.”
He nodded. “Your people, they’ve been there a lot longer than you think, sort of.”
The car parked. She looked out the window.
“The mega store. I’ll get you something for that.”
“I’ll go with you,” he said grimacing as he reached for the door.
“No,” she said stopping him. “You’re hurt and you kind of stand out. I’ll be back.”
Isaac watched her until she was out of sight. Then leaned back and closed his eyes. The next thing he knew he was waking up and Sonnet still wasn’t back. He wondered how long he’d been out and was getting nervous. He had just gotten out of the car when he saw her returning.
“What, didn’t you trust me?” she asked coming up to him.
He tried to smile.
“It took longer than I thought,” she admitted. She held up the shopping bag. “I got some extra things. Let’s go over there.”
They took a seat on a bench in a grassy area covered by the shade of a large tree. She took out a cap and a pair sunglasses and put them on him. “So people won’t notice right away.”
“What’s this?” he said taking a jacket out.
“Because you’re so... Well, you’re shaped different aren’t you?”
“Yes,” he pulled it on.
She sat down in the grass and leaned back trying to organize her thoughts.
He eyed her as he cleaned and bandaged his wound. “What are you doing?” he asked.
“I think better when I can be connected to nature.”
Isaac rolled his eyes. “Okay, do you think you can help me? You’re people have taken over our society and forced us into slavery. My good friend helped me come here so I could bring you back to help us.”
She shook her head. “What’s ‘slavery’? And how can I help you?”
“We’re forced to work for you. We have no freedom. You could come back and take the Queen’s place.”
Her eyes widened and she bit her lip nervously. “I can’t. I’d have no idea what to do. And this just doesn’t sound like an Afirien policy of colonization.”
“Then you explain what that Collector was doing at your house.”
She bit her lip again admitting nothing. “What did you do to your neck?” she asked.
“Took something out of it. It’s in my pocket.” He pulled out the small device. The tiny bulb was still out. He sighed with relief. “It’s not flashing so that means it’s not active. When it comes on I’ll know they’re here for me.”
“They?” She pulled herself back onto the bench intrigued.
“The Queen’s forces.”
“But that’s who we just fought off.”
“Not the ones from this time,” he explained. “The ones from my time.”
“Okay…” She collected the trash from his supplies and threw it in a nearby garbage bin. She walked back to the bench and stood with her hands on her hips. “Now what?” she asked.
“We need to get to headquarters.”
“You mean the Queen’s civil defense headquarters?”
“That’s not a place you can just book transport to.”
“I know and we probably need a security key. But I have an idea.”
They went back to the car and he began fiddling with the settings again. “How do I get back to recent destinations?”
“It’s right there. Can’t you read?” His silence answered her question. “Oh, sorry.”
“They don’t teach us to read, just to speak so we can follow directions. What was the last address before your house?”
“A Hotel. I don’t think that’s HQ.”
“No, definitely not. But maybe we can find something to lead us there.”
Pieces come together
Gloria had long been a trusted agent of the Queen but now she had sent a chief defense agent to “assist” her in the lab investigation. It unsettled Gloria but she proceeded as normally as possible. A couple of guards came over to her with an urgent message.
“Ma’am we found something.”
“I’ll go with you,” the defense agent said.
She followed them back to Doctor Welsh’s invention and one pulled out a panel of the wall beside it revealing the parts inside.
“This looks like a transport pod component,” she said kneeling to get a better look. “But it’s on a level I’ve never seen.”
“What do you mean, Ma’am,” the other guard, more soft spoken than the first, asked.
She stood up amazed and went back to the desk where a tech agent had pulled out Welsh’s files. The defense agent tailed her in silence. “Now I understand,” she said. “With these schematics it’d be able to transport one may be two life forms from this space about 1.5 sextiollion times the distance of an average pod.”
“But that’s light years away,” one of the group specializing in research technology commented.
“Well, he must not have finished. It’s not connected to a pod,” the technology assistant said.
“What’s this?” she asked pointing to another part of the design.
“I can’t believe it. It’s a remote transporter-locator I found same on the supposed time machine.”
“So if it did work…”
“He’d be able to transport whoever had the receiving device over time and the pod component would move them over space.”
“It’d require duel receiver modules,” Gloria thought aloud.
“Maybe a small portable one,” the researcher said searching through is computer. “It’s not possible, though. Not made by a human.”
“Excuse me,” a guard approached Gloria again interrupting her thoughts. “What should we do with the sleep cylinder?”
“What cylinder?” the defense agent asked.
“I’m sure it’s nothing,” Gloria said.
“We found it before the Queen came in and the Senior Aide here,” she said nodding at Gloria, “had us move it out of the way.”
“You did?” the defense agent asked her.
“It’s probably from another experiment. Obviously it has nothing to do with this.”
“Let’s see. We should have the 1st in Defense Command come in too, before we decide it’s nothing.”
Getting a good view of the lake
Lake View Inn was a fairly decent hotel several miles from any view of the lake with very poor security. Isaac was searching the room while Arias peeked nervously out the window.
“I don’t think anything’s here,” Isaac said disappointed.
“Collectors are known for being covert. You didn’t expect her to leave a security key and map on the nightstand did you?”
Isaac didn’t want to give up yet. “I’m going to check the drawers.”
Arais went back to the window. “I think we should get out of here they probably found her by now. They could track the car.”
“Nothing,” Isaac said.
“What is it,” Isaac asked joining her at the window.
She pointed down a street. Security cars were approaching silently but with lights flashing.
“Let’s go,” he said heading to the door.
By the time got to the stairs the officers were parking.
“We better go around back,” Arias whispered and they headed back the other way then took the stairs down two at a time.
“Hold on,” Isaac said holding her back before they could round the corner to the car. An officer was standing by it. “We’ll have to go on foot.”
Isaac and Sonnet headed away from the parking lot when they heard someone shout.
“You two, hold it!”
They looked back and saw a defense agent pointing at them. They looked briefly at each other and then ran.
“This way,” Isaac said leading them into a wooded area surrounding the hotel. They heard the crunch of the agent’s boots as she followed them into the woods.
Isaac spotted a good hiding place and pulled Sonnet with him into the hollow of a large tree. They saw the agent stop and look around just a few feet from where they were hiding. She was talking into her wrist, reporting back to another team member.
“I lost them, but they couldn’t have gotten far…Ok, I will continue to search until you get here.”
Isaac nudged Sonnet and whispered, “Let’s split up.”
She nodded in agreement.
“I’ll go first. You wait here for a minute.”
Isaac took off at a sprint, making noise so that the agent would follow him. He wasn’t sure how close she was. When he finally took a break, leaning his back against another large tree, all was silent. Then he heard a faint humming just before a metal claw on a chain cut through the right side of the tree level with his head.
He pushed off from the tree and started running in a new direction. Now he could hear the agent behind him. He looked back feeling out of breath. He saw her gaining on him, leaping easily over roots and pushing her way through low branches. When he turned back around he skidded to a stop holding his arms out to keep his balance.
He stopped just short of an edge that dropped down to a river. He was stuck and the agent didn’t see the cliff. She sent out the claw again. It snapped shut around his arm and knocked him off balance. His footing, already dangerously close to the edge, slipped. He fell over but the claw still had him.
The velocity of Isaac’s fall pulled on the agent. She pulled back on the claw but he was too heavy and she was sliding closer. Suddenly, she felt someone grab her around her waist. Sonnet had joined in the perilous game of tug of war. The skidding stopped but Sonnet’s leg was bent awkwardly trying to keep a good hold on the ground.
Below, Isaac started to swing. He tried to reach for the rock but there was no way to get a good handhold. Now that they had stopped sliding the agent tried turning slightly to handcuff Sonnet.
“Stop it,” she shouted. “What are you, nuts?”
“Sonnet Arias you are under arrest.”
Sonnet was trying to lean out of the agent’s reach. “You’re going to make me--” was all she had time to say before she fell. Her legs slipped under the agent’s knocking them both to the ground and they all went sliding over the edge.
The Queen is unhappy
The Queen was looking at her mirror image and barely restraining her anger.
“We thought you might want to see this political prisoner number 982-71a,” the Senior Defense Commander began her report but the Queen cut in angrily.
“I know who it is,” she said through clenched teeth.
“Her bracelet is missing,” the commander added.
“Her bracelet is missing and this is an operational time machine?”
“Ah yes, Your Highness,” Gloria answered. “We believe so.”
“Did you dismantle it yet?” she asked her most trusted assistant.
Gloria looked sick. “No Your Highness,” she said. “What the technicians determined -– and we’re not positive about this— is that the boy on the security footage may have been transported already. The defense wanted to investigate this further.”
“It could potentially be a serious threat, Your Highness,” the commander added.
“Can we use it?” the Queen said in a measured tone.
Gloria hated to answer but the fact was already known. “There is another watch. We might send someone back with it. We haven’t figured out all the settings yet.”
The Queen waved a hand shushing her. “Gloria, excuse us for a moment.”
Gloria nodded and bowed as she backed out of the room.
“Commander I entrust this to you,” the Queen said once Gloria had left. “Send our best back. I don’t want this getting… out of hand.”
“We’ll make sure it doesn’t Your Highness. I have a Collector in mind--”
“No. I’m afraid this time a Collector won’t do.”
She handed her a paper with a tracker code. “There will be two targets.”
“Yes Your Highness.”
The New plan
Isaac and Sonnet came out of the river arguing. They had lost the agent in the rapids and Isaac had slipped free of the claw. They scrambled over the rocky shore drenched and upset.
“You’re going to get killed,” Sonnet said wringing water from her clothes.
“I’m doing my best,” Isaac said collapsing on a boulder. “I was just a delivery boy this morning.”
“What!” she stood over him shocked and angry. He ignored her and emptied his pockets. A soggy lump of paper had encased the other contents of his pocket. He still had the tracker stuck in among his prism key, Sonnet’s ID bracelet and a bit of chalk he’d been using for his art.
Sonnet glanced at the pile. “You probably should have thrown that away too,” she said noticing the tracker’s blinking red light.
He looked down at the pile of his pocket’s contents and suddenly snatched it up.
“How long has it been going off?” he wondered.
“I don’t know,” Sonnet said sensing his panic. He stood up and ran back into the water, then pitched as far as he could down the river.
“We’ve got to hurry,” he said when he got back to Sonnet. “We wont’ have much time before they find us now.”
They started to head to the woods on the opposite side of the shore from where they fell.
“Anyway,” Isaac said as they approached the woods, “we’ve crossed the river and I think we lost her.”
“Maybe… What’s that sound?”
They turned just in time to see two electrified boomerangs coming at their heads. They ducked and the weapons swooped back across the river to their owner.
“I don’t think we lost her,” Sonnet said.
“They’re coming again.”
Isaac grabbed her hand and they ran into the cover of the woods. Soon they heard a familiar whirring. They fell to the ground as the boomerangs made another pass.
“I can’t even see her,” Isaac said. “How are those things finding us?”
“They’re probably just locked onto our heat signal,” Sonnet whispered as they found a hiding spot in the underbrush. “They can find us without her being able to see clearly so long as it’s in our general direction.”
They heard the whirring of the boomerangs again and lunged behind the protection of a tree just in time. Isaac peeked around as the boomerangs returned.
“They were closer that time,” he said.
Sonnet looked at him anxiously. “Even if we avoid the boomerangs, she’s going to figure out where we are by following their trail.”
Isaac put his back against the tree beside her and looked up as if searching for something. “Not if we find her first,” he said.
Sonnet looked puzzled but hopeful and waited for him to explain.
“Wait here,” he said. “Count to thirty then come out.”
He took a deep breath and then sprinted off while Sonnet sat shaken behind the tree. Then she started counting.
“28, 29…30.” It was her turn to take a deep breath and sprint away from the tree. She actually saw the agent maybe ten feet from her. The agent released the boomerangs. As Sonnet dodged them again she saw something else. Suddenly Isaac appeared directly behind the agent. He grabbed her from behind holding her close to him. As she struggled the second boomerang came whirring toward them. At the last second Sonnet flinched and didn’t see the impact. When she opened her eyes the agent was on the ground and Isaac was standing next to her. Sonnet ran over and hugged him.
“You’re okay,” she said relieved. “What were you thinking?”
“I was thinking that I have pretty good timing and I was right.”
They both smiled at his joke then Sonnet stepped back. “So we better go before the others get across the river.”
“Hold on,” he said kneeling by the agent. He patted her down and found a prism shaped key. He held it up triumphantly.
“Great so we have a security key,” Sonnet said. “And maybe it can get us into HQ, but we still don’t know where that is.”
“No but I have an idea about how we can get there.” In his other hand he held up a buzzing phone.
The next time traveler
She had no official title since her job did not technically exist. She was very good at what she could never admit doing. No one had evaded her, yet. The trace led to a river near a wooded area just outside the city. Either he was an impeccably good swimmer or had dumped the tracker. She saw commotion as she neared the site. Defense agents were sectioning off an area overlooking the river.
She flashed her false credentials and found the head of command.
“I’m after a dangerous fugitive,” she explained.
“We know,” the other woman said. She had the no nonsense expression and the air of fatigue of a seasoned vet. “We could have handled this.”
“I’m sure, and you’ve done a wonderful job so far. Were you trying to loose them? Some sort of additional training for the field agents?”
A young agent ran up before she could answer. She was holding a phone and looked excited. “Excuse me Chief, we have a call.”
“Not now,” she said.
“It’s the fugitive.”
“Arias?” The captain asked at full attention.
“No, the other one. She says she wants to make a deal.”
The Assassin grabbed the receiver. “It’s not a she. I’ll handle this.”
The civil defense headquarters
He was being brought in by two field agents who would pass him off to the defense guardian agents. Although he claimed he was going to lead them to where he had hidden Arias in exchange for safe passage home they weren’t treating him like an ally. One shoved him through the door while the other looked on indifferently. Seconds later Sonnet came out of hiding and approached the same door. In the ensemble borrowed from their last pursuer, she was indistinguishable from the other uniformed agents. She held her breath as she swiped the key. It worked.
Inside, she walked down the hallway as calmly as possible. Isaac and the guards were far ahead. She kept an eye on them through the tented visor of the agent’s helmet. They turned left. She nodded casually at another passing guard then picked up the pace to follow them.
She turned the corner and hit another locked door. She hoped the key still had clearance. She swiped it and the doors opened. After stepping through the doorway, she quickly scanned the area. It was like a reception room and there was a guard at a desk watching monitors. She looked up. Sonnet lifted her visor and approached smiling.
“Good day,” the guard said eying her curiously but not suspiciously.
“How’s it going?” Sonnet asked.
“The usual. Another interrogation’s going to start…Hey,” she said with a smirk, “anyone ever tell you, you look just like the Queen?”
Sonnet pulled out a stunner and shocked the guard until she passed out. Then Arias hopped over the counter and answered the question. “Yeah, and it’s really beginning to annoy me.”
The monitors showed only one occupied interrogation room. Isaac and the two guards were there. He was supposed to be stalling and it looked like he was running out of ideas. She memorized its location then headed back to the rooms.
Standing outside the door holding the stunner she didn’t really have a plan. She and Isaac hadn’t been sure what sort of situation they would be in. Sonnet figured the simplest approach was the best. She knocked on the door.
“Yeah, it’s open.”
She knocked again.
One more time, she thought.
“For crying out loud,” the guard said pulling at the door, “it’s open.”
The guard flung open the door and immediately got shocked until she fell to the ground. The second guard who had been hovering over Isaac turned pulling out her own stunner. Isaac shoved the table into her and Sonnet got off the first shot.
“Two and O,” she said as the other guard collapsed.
“Come on,” Isaac said going over to her and grabbing her arm. “We’ve got to go find the flight deck.”
“Flight deck? You mean for off planet travel?” she asked as he pulled her out the room.
They went back to the front desk and Isaac looked at the security monitors.
“Can we look at the rest of building from here?” he asked.
She scanned the keys. “There,” she said hitting one. A map came up on the center screen. “That’s the flight room,” she said pointing it out to him since he couldn’t read the label. “And that’s where we are, ‘Interrogation rooms.’ ”
He smiled at her. “It doesn’t look far.”
“Great.” She smiled too but not as broadly.
They used a borrowed key card and went up two floors. The doors opened on a corridor that led to the flight deck. They could see the ships down the hall and busy employees milling around. There were also several guards. Quickly, Sonnet grabbed Isaac like he was a prisoner. They went toward the flight deck where several large ships were docked.
“Whoa,” Sonnet whispered. “You could send a whole defense team in one of these.”
“That’s probably the plan,” Isaac said. He searched the room and saw a familiar man by a console under one of the ships. “I know him. It’s the Doc.”
The man disappeared behind a privacy screen next to the ship. They sneaked up to the area and followed cautiously. Doctor Welsh was the only one in the work space. He had his back turned and was busily gathering up some papers from a work desk.
“Doctor Welsh,” Isaac said softly.
The Doctor jumped nearly dropping the blueprints he was carrying. He turned and looked at them tensely. Sonnet pulled of her helmet and Isaac continued to speak.
“Dr. Welsh, my name is Isaac. We’re here to help you.”
The Doctor’s face began to relax and he set the papers back on the desk.
“You’re human,” he said slowly.
Isaac nodded. “It’s hard to explain but you sent me here to find her.” Arias stood silently next to Isaac and the Doctor scrutinized her.
“Who’s this?” he asked.
“Her name’s Sonnet Arias,” Isaac said.
“I’m the Queen’s double,” she explained.
Isaac did his best to explain that he had come from the near future with the help of one of Welsh’s experiments. Surprisingly Welsh didn’t seem shocked. Sonnet was the one confused. She had never heard his story before.
“Oh my gosh. This is crazy,” she said.
“I know but,” he stopped talking, getting an idea. He reached in his pocket and pulled out her id bracelet to convince her. She stared then took it from his hand and checked it against her own.
“How did you get that?”
“You were in a suspension cylinder and I grabbed it.”
Doctor Welsh seemed to be lost in his own thoughts.
“I’ve had an idea for sometime now about developing such a device, so that somehow we might prevent or end the Queen’s invasion,” he said.
“Well, whatever you’re working on it works,” Isaac said.
The Doctor looked like he’d had a sudden revelation and smiled slightly. “Your name’s Isaac?” he asked and Isaac nodded. “Isaac Velez… Do we work together, Isaac?”
Isaac laughed. “Oh no. I’m just the delivery boy. I delivered a part to you a few years ago and you always acted like I could be …something more, but I’m not.”
“My boy, that may be the assignment they gave you but I think you’re something special.”
“Me too,” Sonnet said.
“What time was it when you left?” Welsh asked.
“14h36. I remember because you said the guards were early.”
Welsh shook his head wide-eyed. “Incredible,” he said. “When I heard about the Queen’s assassination order for this girl, I had an idea but I couldn’t be certain—and now here you are. But I’m years away from fulfilling it.”
He had started rambling mostly to himself. Sonnet gave a pleading look to Isaac.
“Doctor,” he interrupted, “you said I should try to take her back home. That’s why we came to the flight deck. Can you get us out of here?”
The Queen waits impatiently
The Queen was staring at the cylinder; wondering why Sonnet was still there.
Gloria came and stood beside her.
“Did you figure out that watch yet?” the Queen snapped.
“Yes as we set it to send the Collector after him we realized it had to be preset with the return date. Assuming the boy’s is the same, she will have limited time to find him before he comes back.”
“Where will he come back?”
“Probably to the same location of his departure. However, the human doctor set it and he’s no longer able to tell us.”
“Fine we’ll be ready for him.
“Would you like me to have her put away?”
“No I want to see what happens.”
The race to escape
As Sonnet and Isaac were speaking with Doctor Welsh, a woman in official dress rushed into the work space.
“Doctor are you alright?” she asked before noticing the visitors.
Sonnet reached for the stunner.
“Wait,” the doctor said stopping Sonnet. “We can trust her. Gloria, what are you doing here?”
She was looking at the two strangers but answered him. “A security alert has been sent out to all guards and officials. I think it’s because of them.”
He smiled and grabbed her by the shoulders. “Gloria it worked.”
“Our plan, it can really succeed.”
She couldn’t decide who to stare at but settled on Arias, “Is that…”
“Her double, yes. We can prevent the assassination.”
Gloria put a hand to her earpiece as another message came in. “We have to get you two out of here.”
“But I still have many questions for you,” Sonnet said to the doctor.
“Then ask them quickly,” Gloria told her. “Boy, you come with me.”
Welsh grabbed a hooded cape from the back of his chair and they tossed it over Isaac.
Gloria led the way, making sure no one paid them any attention. Finally, she led him onto a ship where she opened a hidden panel. She pulled out a security key and handed it to him.
“This will give you the highest level security clearance,” she said. “With it you can get on a ship and get access to the piloting deck.” Then she pulled up a map. “We’re here,” she said pointing. “Every ship has basically the same layout. You want to get there. Then the girl should be able to read her way through the controls and get to automatic pilot…I wish I could go with you. I hope you make it.”
“We have to.”
“I have to go,” she said taking in another message through her piece. “I’ll make sure this area is clear for the next few minutes. Good health to you and long life.”
Isaac thanked her then made his way back to Sonnet and the Doctor Welsh.
“We have to go,” he said rushing her. “She’s covering for us.” Although they were in a rush he hesitated to leave the doctor. “Doctor Welsh…” At a loss for words he embraced the older man. “Good bye.”
“Good bye Isaac. I look forward to meeting you again.”
Isaac hurried to leave after that. He led Arias to one of the smaller passenger ships carefully staying out of sight and keeping her slightly behind him just in case.
“Isaac, I have to tell you something,” Sonnet whispered.
He shushed her. “This way,” he said. He used the key to override the ship’s locked doors.
“It’s like a whole other building,” she said once they were inside.
He took her hand and unlocked the door to the first corridor. Every corridor was separated by a door at regular intervals. In case of emergency a select hallway could be sectioned off. They practically ran from corridor to corridor following an intricate maze to get to the pilot room. Sonnet was out of breath when Isaac finally stopped. They could see through a window in the next door. Guards were coming from just a couple doors away.
“They’re coming,” Sonnet said. She took Isaac’s hands and turned him toward her. “You don’t have to worry.”
“We have to go back the other way,” he said pulling away. He unlocked the door behind them and they went back only to see guards coming from that direction too.
“It’s no use, Isaac.”
“Don’t say that.” He grabbed a tool from her uniform’s belt. “We’ll seal the door and find another way.”
“We’re trapped,” she said as Isaac sealed the door behind them. “But it’s ok.”
The guardian agents reached the door, leaned into it, kicked at it, but the seal held.
“Isn’t there an emergency hatch, a garbage shoot, something?” He felt along the walls and found a garbage shoot but it was too small. The guards had stepped away from the door.
“What are they doing?” he wondered.
Four of them were holding a large cylinder.
“It’s a massive claw,” Sonnet said.
They fired and the claw slammed into the door leaving a dent. The guard’s on the other side did the same with the same result. Isaac stopped watching.
“Maybe’s there’s a vent or something,” he said as the claws came again.
“Isaac, listen to me,” Arias began but just then a claw broke through the door and they had to jump to one side to avoid it. They stood on their knees and Sonnet held his hands.
“Look at me,” she said and he did. “This is it.” He shook his head but she continued. “You’re going to go back but I’m--”
She didn’t get to finish before a claw caught her around the waist knocking the wind out of her.
“No!” he tried to yank it off. Another came from behind him and he was caught too. The claws repelled pulling them in opposite directions.
“Sonnet,” he called. The next sound he heard was his watch beeping. He saw her being reeled in by the guards facing away from him. She struggled to get up and had turned to look at him when the beeping stopped and he was back.
“He’s returned,” Gloria reported dutifully.
The Queen smiled still looking at the girl frozen in time. “Without her I see.”
Gloria nodded then put a hand to her ear. “The guardians have him.”
“Ha,” the Queen said turning to her. “My enemies have failed. We will celebrate tonight.”
“Yes, Your Highness.”
The Queen turned and approached the cylinder. “I should have gotten rid of her two years ago.”
“But it’s illegal,” her assistant said.
“That’s why I didn’t do it. That and she somehow got misplaced,” she added under her breath.
“Ma’am, don’t you think it would be easier just to let them live with some freedom...”
“No!” She turned to her assistant with a hard, penetrating glare. “They’re hopelessly unable to govern themselves. You saw the conditions most of them lived in when we arrived. They’re much better off now. We’ve helped them return to their natural state of being. Don’t you agree?”
“Gloria, why don’t you go escort that boy to me?” The queen turned and went to the doctor’s work desk and picked up a sharp tool.
“Your highness, I--”
Gloria left and the Queen continued to examine the items on the desk. Her back was still turned to the cylinder as she chose an appropriate tool for the delicate procedure she had in mind. So, she completely missed the first time the girl’s eyes opened.
2 years and 21 minutes earlier
Sonnet surveyed the Doctor’s desk as they waited for Isaac and Gloria to return. She was working up the guts to ask her questions and trying to decide which were the most important.
“What’s ‘assassination?’” she asked. “You said the Queen ordered an assassination for me.”
“The Queen wants to end your life.”
She shook her head. “No, that’s not possible. It’s not allowed. Maybe she has the power to put me in suspended animation.”
“Trust me,” the doctor said. “If you’re not dead in the future it’s only due to some manipulation by those opposed to the Queen.”
Sonnet turned away and began looking at the work desk again.
“What are you working on now?” she asked.
“You’re people call them tools. Defense tools. Security tools.” He handed her one it was slim like a small pen. “Your people’s bio chemistry is so different. You age much more slowly and with less outward signs of aging than we do. It was quite a challenge working on these tools. Since killing is illegal in any case, most weapons cause paralysis or an unconscious state for a matter of seconds or many years. This is the one that first gave me the idea that I now know will bring Isaac here. It has two shots,” he said pointing to the one he had handed her. She was holding it up examining the little grooves and bumps on its surface. He pointed to a notch.
“Here you set the time for how long the sleep should last. You can set each shot for minutes, hours or years.” He twisted it while still in her hands. “Now the first one’s set for about the same time as on Isaac’s watch. Then you’d just jab it into the skin of the target. You try,” he suggested. “Set the second shot.”
Sonnet pursed her lips and shook her head. “I don’t like to use ‘weapons’ or tools. I’ve used them enough for one lifetime,” she said handing it back to him but he refused to take it.
“Keep it as a souvenir then.”
She slipped it into her pocket and leaned over the desk fidgeting with something else as she worked up the nerve to ask him about what was really bothering her.
“Doctor…I don’t know how all this works, but if Isaac is from the future and two years from now I’m in that cylinder, and that’s what made you send him back… How is it possible we get out of this?”
“That, my dear, is an excellent question.”
She crossed her arms and studied him. “Maybe…we don’t?”
At that moment Isaac came in and grabbed her. “We have to go.”
As they were running all she wanted to tell him was that it was pointless. But she just held his hand and ran. Soon it was nearly all over. They caught him and her and pulled them apart. She struggled to her feet, the claw still holding her to the spot and turned to look at him. She watched his pleading eyes disappear and she turned back to the guards. They had their batons charged and ready. “Please surrender,” one said.
She had nothing to defend herself but… the injector. She pulled it out, lifted it up. “Lower your hand.”
She did. She stuck it to her neck.
“Ohhh.” Her eyes rolled up in her head and her body crumpled to the ground, but her hand stayed in a tight fist around the injector.
When she awoke, she was immediately aware that the place was different. Many changes accosted her groggy mind all at once. She was standing or rather leaning but on her feet. She was stiff. Her bracelet was gone. Her hands were still balled up in fists. There was only one other person in the room. She blinked twice as the clarification came. The woman had her back turned but she wore the Queen’s official hooded garment and she was picking over strange tools.
Weapons, Sonnet thought. The Queen selected one that looked like a strange stunner and turned. Sonnet steadied her grip around the injector that had one more shot and shut her eyes.
Moments later Gloria led Isaac down the hall of the Doctor Welsh’s basement home.
“I’m to escort you,” she said in the boy’s own language because no agents would understand. Even so she whispered.
“What will she do to me?” he asked.
“You? I have no idea but she’s there alone with Sonnet in the cylinder and I have an idea what she wants to do to her.”
They came in to the Queen; Gloria, two guards and Isaac with his head hung in dejection. She turned around slowly from the cylinder.
“Let’s—” she said hesitantly. “Let’s dispose of this.” She waved a hand at the cylinder where a sleeping body lay. “Take her to storage,” she told the guards. “And you…gosh, we have to find a special place for you.” His head shot up and she smiled at him in a way that wasn’t menacing but familiar. “Let’s go. Lead the way Gloria.”
Gloria led him out. “What are you smiling about?” she whispered in his language.
As they reached the elevator the Queen made a sudden declaration. “I’ve been thinking about reexamining our position on the humans.”
Gloria nearly stumbled into the lift. “But you just said…”
“Are you in the habit of talking back to the Queen?” she asked beginning to enjoy her role.
“Good, then I can trust you to head this up?”
They got off the elevator and Gloria stopped in front of a long sleek vehicle. “This is your car, ma’am.”
“Oh, yes I know thank you.” She headed to the front.
“You have a driver ma’am.”
“Right, of course,” she said as the driver got out. “A slow one. Hurry and open the door,” the queen snapped.
The driver bowed and complied.
Gloria put Isaac in on the other side and then went over to the queen’s side. The queen rolled down the window.
“The driver will take you home. I’ll pick you up tonight to go to Headquarters as usual, Your Highness.”
The queen nodded.
“And ma’am” she added with a smile, “it looks good on you.”
Sonnet Arias smiled holding her head high. She put up her royal hood and the car window and headed home to whatever was waiting.