As promised - Part three of Steve's entertaining story
Part one - GO HERE
Part two - GO HERE
Mr Eston Is back.
Steve was a guest recently on the Scribbler. If you missed his previous visit and bio, please go here. Since then I’ve been visiting his website - www.sceston.ca - and reading his short stories. I really enjoyed Logbox and he’s kind enough to share it with us this week in three parts.
Part one - Sunday March 17
Part two – Tuesday March 19
Part three – Today
(Copyright is held by the author. Used with permission)
Nothing is the same.
For the first time in a long while, I think. I have thoughts, and I can’t control any of them. I’m thinking about escape…
Of all things: escape!
How ludicrous is that?
I can’t stop the thoughts.
I think about Garadia, about the Low Lands.
Even the Red Streets.
Can I allow myself to think about it as home?
It doesn’t end there.
I think about what I would do if I could return.
I would find the old brick tower. Make a bed there. Something small to start. Just a room or even the corner of a room. Maybe even use the same space that was mine before I left.
Then I would repair the place. Repaint. Rebuild.
I would need work. Something real. Something true. Something that could bring me stuff, stuff to trade.
There would be no cheating this time. I would play by the rules.
My brothers. I would search for their story, learn now what I should have known then.
More importantly, I would apologize. I would have many apologies to make.
It seems right.
It is a dream.
These hopes are never to happen. Even if I was to return one day, I could not go back to the Red Streets. It is a strange thing that the mind tries so hard to forget the bad, to make it bearable. Even if my head does not remember the reality, my heart knows it hasn’t changed.
Maybe I could look for Anedia’s family? Or some of her friends? I always wanted to go to the Floating City. We all despise it, but we all want to walk its streets.
There have to be some people who would remember her, who would have cared for her. Not her father. But her mother, surely. I realize I don’t even know if she had brothers, sisters…I could find them and give them this device.
Her voice is on it.
The recording stopped in disintegrating white noise.
The man looked down at the device on top of his desk. It was a box, grayish, showing marks of time and use, covered in scratches. It was not impressive, but it had survived where almost nothing else had.
“So this is it?” he asked, slowly spinning the drink in his hand. The transparent orange liquid swirled in circles, creating a miniature typhoon.
“It is,” said the woman sitting across from him, her legs crossed, her head high.
“Not what I had expected.”
The woman didn’t say anything. Her black suit was impeccable. Her short hair was moist, making the red streak in it look as if it was ablaze. She had just returned from the latest sweep.
“How can you be certain this is the source?” he asked.
“It is still transmitting,” answered the woman. “We don’t know how to stop it.”
He nodded, impressed.
The message had traversed a few billion kilometers to reach them, halfway across the system, loud and clear, on a secret frequency. Not only that, but the box had been constructed from a wide array of disparate materials and pieces. It looked like a logbox, but it was a distress beacon.
Their scientists, with all their knowledge and equipment, had not been able to stop the signal.
He took a sip and felt the satisfying burn as the liquid descended down his throat.
“You’ve analyzed the voice, I assume? Of the girl, and found it is the same as the one on the distress call?”
“We have, and it is.”
“What is her name?” Names didn’t stay easily with him.
“Yes, right. And you didn’t find her body?”
“No, we didn’t.” He heard regret there. “Based on the recording, it was to be expected. Her remains would have been dumped into space with other waste.”
“Did you crawl the data-sphere?”
“We have, using her voice pattern. We found her. As stated by the recording, she is a Promient of pure blood. She was studying frequency engineering. The daughter of Daram, ex-director of the innovation department of Bio-Ex. Her disappearance was reported by her mother on the first day of the sixth season, cycle 2453. Strangely, the request for help was retracted a few days later, this time by her father. We know she wasn’t found, so the father had other reasons for halting the search. The next season, the mother committed suicide by jumping off a tram on the northern fringes, falling through the clouds. A search party was sent to look for her, but the body was never recovered. The following cycle, 2454, an explosion hit one of Bio-Ex’s labs in the X quadrant. Daram was one of the 121 casualties. He had no surviving kin, and his estate, as well as all his assets and data, passed on to Bio-Ex.”
“The nature of the explosion?”
“Filed as accidental.”
“Staged,” he corrected.
He offered the woman a drink. She refused, as she had done a few minutes earlier. As she always did. He took a sip from his glass, savouring it, taking his time.
The whole matter was an incredible turn of events. They had been searching for the asteroid mines for years now, without luck. Just a season ago, he had been pressured to cancel the mission. The whole project was in jeopardy.
Then the distress call reached them. Out of nowhere. A single feminine voice asking for help, over and over.
“You realize,” he said, nodding at the small object on the desk, “that we would never have found this place without help?”
“I do,” admitted the woman. “I just wish you would have got here sooner.”
“I know,” admitted the man. His armada had answered, although not nearly as swiftly as he would have liked. Certainly not as quickly as the woman has responded. She was a loner. He had superiors to placate, politics to play. They had already discussed the matter, and she knew how grateful he was for her assistance. He wished he could also thank this Anedia personally. “How many were we able to free?”
“Five hundred and eleven. Half will recover with minor scars. A quarter are in especially bad shape. Of these, some have been altered or augmented. We suspect bio-experimentation. The other quarter are sick and weak, and some will probably not make it. We estimate the mine had over two thousand captives.”
The result was devastating. So many lost, not even counting their own. Yet it provided the proof they needed. The project would continue now. There was no doubt about that. Funding would flow in. More flying crafts would be provided. Resources. Technologies made available. There would be no limit.
But the cost had been terribly high.
“We should talk again before you leave,” he said. “Get some rest. Deserved rest.”
The woman stood and stared through the sole window of the office. The man followed her gaze. Far away, in the dark of space, the remains of the asteroids could be seen. The explosion had been powerful and had almost taken down their craft. The repair bots were outside, fixing and patching. The grinding could be heard and felt through the floor. It would be several more days before they would be able to fly again.
“This was only one of many,” she said. “It is said there are a thousand camps out there.”
“One at a time,” he said. “It is the best we can do.”
But he didn’t feel the confidence he was trying to convey.
“We’ll talk before I leave,” she said, turning away.
As the doors opened to let her out, a thought came to him.
“And this man,” he said, “this Nethu, what about him?”
The woman stopped and turned his way. For the first time since her return, she gave him a tired but genuine smile.
“We found him. The device was hidden under his cot, behind a loose stone. He lives.”
Thank you Steve for sharing your story.
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