Garjah tapped the screen on his transport. He tapped it again and growled.
“What?” I asked. I was sitting in the seat opposite him and Bouncer was crowded in close. To say the meeting hadn’t ended well was an understatement. Garjah was pulling an implacable unmoving object on the Kardoval, which scared me.
Everything I’d overheard, or was directly told before we’d arrived, was about how powerful they were and how much everyone revered and respected their unique abilities. Maybe I hadn’t spent enough time among the different Four Arms, interacting while they worked, to learn the difference but they seemed like any other group of leaders to me.
Cagey, willing to use deception and misdirection to achieve their aims, and secrecy above and beyond anything else. What was it that drove them, and the rest of Garjah’s species to want to remain so isolated?
No, it wasn’t all of them. Lenveval had said there was growing dissent to the isolation in recent generations. That meant those with the view hadn’t changed their mind and had passed it on to those they birthed. How many generations back? How many dissenters? Was this a biological imperative or a cultural development?
The scientist in me itched to find out more. The scared human, especially as the only human on an entire planet, wanted to find my own special place to hide. Lost in my thoughts, it took a quick change and turn to the right to jar me from them. We hadn’t made any abrupt turns before. “What? Where are we going? What’s wrong?”
Garjah’s entire body was tensed. “We are being followed.”
“And the evasion technique? It’s not like everyone doesn’t know where you live.”
“We are not going back to my house.” Garjah pulled up and we flitted away from the street level and into a maze of buildings I was amazed existed just behind the main thoroughfare. They were fanciful, angled, some with arches and others with towers that leaned in crazy angles.
And other transports were careening through them at speeds even greater than ours. Bouncer’s claws scrabbled against the floor as we tilted sideways, and I caught him in a vise grip around his chest. I draped him over my lap and clamped my lower arms over his back. To calm both of us, I rubbed his head and hushed him when he growled. The transport was silent, but the tension was thick enough to feel like an oppressive shield.
I tried to move and make as little noise as possible. All four of Garjah’s arms were moving at the same time, and he was operating the controls, tapping on the screen, and rapidly scrolling something on the edge of his seat. We narrowly missed being clipped by a stinger shaped skimmer that was emitting a harsh ripple of light in its wake.
Closing my eyes led to my stomach lurching with every unexpected movement, so I dealt with the abrupt stops to my heartbeat whenever I watched Garjah save us from a crash or make a turn skim divers in propel suits would be proud to execute on a professional course.
Nausea, the rapid changes to my blood pressure, and the acute stress of the entire day had tense my body to painful rigidity. I wanted to blast this entire culture and their crazy… “Stars bedamned!” I choked out the words as we came to an abrupt halt, nose down in a darkened parking cube.
“I haven’t had that much fun in ages.”
Fun? I was going to have bruises on my bruises. Bouncer was still growling. I would need more than two hands to count how often we’d almost died, so it was a good thing I’d evolved to grow two more. That made me think about the Kardoval and all the hypocrisy left behind.
“How is this fun? Your leaders sent people to follow us because my ship is looking for me, a reasonable action when someone goes missing by the way. You drove like an insane person; we could have died. A lot.”
“People can only die once in each mortal form.”
Dealing with his stolid logic was going to make me scream. “You know what I mean,” I said sharply. The faint smile on his face after that proved I was right.
“We may have to wait. This is the snarl; each building is prided on being unique, and the community likes being on the outskirts of the tranditionalists structure. Zoning is impossible, and so many of the building foundations and levels are supported together they can’t untangle the mess. Any who skim through the area is tagged for reimbursement to the sector. I’ve never hit another transport or even tapped a building.” Garjah was smug, but had he even heard what he just said?
“Tagged? Who oversees that? Who could intercept an image of our vehicle, tag it, and make it so we can’t fly out of here?”
“No one,” Garjah said.
“What—” I was cut off when we spoke at the same time. I loved a good mystery, the same as the next bored spacer without a planet to explore, but I wasn’t about to show my ignorance on this one. Thankfully, Garjah took pity on me.
“So we wait. When they give up, we’ll creep out, join the main thoroughfare and start traveling again.”
“Where?” I understand now the politics. The Kardoval and the opposition, the old and new were locked in a dance that repeated itself through history. Should we stay, or should we go? Hide or reveal ourselves?
Once upon a time, the Four Arms would have always said the Kardoval were right; but now enough had joined the ranks to actually create a strong opposition. Too many felt like the galactic was the right way to go; hiding behind shields lost all the benefits participating the wider universe would garner.
Because of course there’s an opposition that Garjah used to hunt down that we’re now running straight to. Made perfect sense.
Want more flash?