I rolled out of bed, wondering why I'd dreamed about chasing some kind of intruder. It made no sense. As far as I knew, there was no way I'd do anything like that. Guess I don't know much about myself.
After shaking the sleep from my eyes, I exited my sleeping alcove and headed to the communal kitchen, where I could smell something wonderful cooking. I had no idea what it was, but it looked good, and that was good enough for me.
Sara stirred the pot on the stove. Whatever it was, it looked thick and yellow in color. But the smell was divine. I couldn't help but close my eyes and take it in, probably with some kind of funny smile on my face. "Good morning," she greeted me as I entered the kitchen area. "Breakfast's just about ready. Would you mind checking in on Garret to see if he's coming?"
I was more than happy to oblige. My curiosity had returned from the mid-night wakening he'd caused. What had he learned in the two weeks he'd been away? There was definitely something to tell. He'd said as much. but what was it? And did it have anything to do with me?
I took a circuitous course towards his sleeping cave, trying to be quiet, in case he was still asleep. At least that's what I told myself. I had no real reason. It just felt like it would be good practice, though for what, I had no idea.
I could hear Garret breathing as I crept up to the entrance of his room. Was he still sleeping? No. The sound didn't seem consistent with sleep. Don't ask me how I knew. I just did.Was he meditating? Maybe. His breath was deep and controlled. Maybe he was praying, though I had no idea to whom.
"Ahem," I cleared my throat, giving him warning that I was there. It seemed the proper thing to do.
I could hear him move, his clothes rustling like water. If I closed my eyes, I could hear every sound he made, from the slight creaking of his joints to the slight shushing sound of him sliding off the bed. I could even tell that he was barefoot, even though his feet didn't slap against the ground. He was used to walking quietly as well.
After maybe half a minute, he was there at the entrance, peering out. "Ah," he said in response to my tentative smile. "I'm guessing Sarah sent you to fetch me?"
I nodded. Did anything get past this guy? Was he even fully human? Or was he like me? Something more? What exactly was I anyway? "Breakfast," I confirmed.
Garret nodded. "Right. Be there in a minute."
It took me a second to realize, after he'd reentered his space, that he'd only been wearing the bare minimum of clothing. My cheeks turned slightly red as I thought about his sculpted abs. He had a nice six-pack. And his chest wasn't too hairy, a definite plus. I had to shake my head vigorously to get the silly notion out of it.
"Well, we'll be waiting," I added lamely as I turned back to the kitchen. I didn't give him a chance to say anything in response, jumping to the nearest boulder in the path like an agile cat. Since I'd learned that I could move like some wild animal, jumping, running, and manipulating my body in grand acrobatic style, I took every opportunity to do so. But only when others weren't watching.
Before I reached visible space near the kitchen, I changed my romping stride for a more sedate one. My bare feet didn't seem to mind the occasional sharp stone. Maybe I should ask them for help in either finding or making a pair of flexible shoes.
I flounced into the dining area and took up my customary seat at the side facing the far wall. Since it was a square table, there really was no "head" or "foot", and no one seemed to care where anyone sat. Well, Lance liked his spot near the door, but that was probably because he could hear his forge fire best from there. "He's coming," I announced as Sara carried in the pot of yellow. I noticed that bowls had already been brought out for the hot cereal.
Sara put the pot down and pushed some hair out of her face. "Good. This stuff is a pain once it cools down, Congeals like drying glue."
I tried to not laugh at this comparison, but it certainly was apt. I'd noticed several dabs of the stuff that had hardened on the stove. It did look rather like a puddle of dried glue. "If it hardens, we could always try frying it up like a pancake," I suggested.
It looked as though Sara was considering the idea. "And maybe serve it with some flavoring," she added, nodding. "That would be a good way to not waste any. I think we'll try it, if there are any leftovers."
I mused at that. There usually weren't, but who knew? She'd made a lot. Maybe she thought Garret would be extra hungry. Maybe she was expecting guests, though she would have told us if she were. At least I thought she would.
Lance came in from his forge, smelling like hot metal and sulfur. He'd obviously already been to work for some time. I wondered just what time. I didn't usually see him up before Sara.
Several minutes later, Garret joined us, though we'd already started eating the grainy cereal. Whatever it was made of was delicious, almost light and a bit buttery, with just the right amount of sweet to not make it overpowering. Perhaps I needed lessons from Sara on cooking.
Garret filled his bowl and began eating. I had already finished my second and had to refrain from bouncing up and down in my chair in anticipation. It would be rude, or at least that's what I told myself. He would tell his news when he was ready. And in the middle of a meal wasn't that time.
Finally, after what felt like forever, Garret pushed his bowl aside and leaned back in his chair with a sigh. "That was good," he complimented as he wiped at the corner of his mouth where a fragment of cereal had collected.
By this point, I was ready to go up to him and throttle the answer out of him. He'd certainly taken his time eating. I could tell he was amused by my impatience as the corners of his lips turned up. I wasn't sure if I felt like a kid in a candy store or like someone waiting for a potential death sentence.
"Take pity on the poor girl," Sarah intoned. "Haven't you drawn this out long enough?"
Garret shrugged as he took his bowl to the sink, helping to clear the rest of the dishes. "Probably," he answered as he rinsed out the big pot. There were no leftovers.
Taking a cue from Sarah, I moved towards the more comfortable sitting area out in the open, waiting for Garret to join us. Without so much as having to go for him, Lance came over as well. It was almost as if he could sense that something was about to happen. That or he had some kind of listening device installed near his forge so he would know when to come.
Garret settled down into his cushioned chair, hands resting on his knees as he looked around the small circle we made. "It took me a couple of days to get to the surface and find our usual contact," he reported, looking directly at Sarah and Lance. "He wasn't in the usual place so it took some doing, but I found him."
"I hope that doesn't mean anything's wrong," Sarah commented with a look of concern.
The younger man shook his head. "Hard to say. He did seem rather distracted. Said we couldn't talk right off and had me wait in a safe house for the night. Sometime in the early morning, he came to get me."
I had no idea what this safe house was, but I gathered that it had not been a fun place to wait. Garret seemed more than happy to have left it, whatever it was. Images of a metal bunker in the ground filled my mind, though I wasn't sure why.
Garret cleared something from his throat before he continued. "The government's gotten more bold," he announced. "They're sending out more and more automatons into the streets, using them as police and the such. They're eliminating human jobs and replacing them, as we predicted would happen. Not just medical and military, but all jobs. 'It's almost like they don't trust us to make decisions for ourselves,' he said."
Lance and Sarah exchanged dark looks. Apparently they'd discussed something like this happening before now. I wondered what all they'd said about the matter, and how it related to everything now.
"I also heard," Garret continued, "about an unusual phenomenon that occurred not too long ago." He looked towards me. "It would seem that there was some kind of explosion in one of the outlying districts. Our contact wasn't sure if it was from something industrial or what, but he was sure no one had seen the like before.
"Trying to dig up more information, I moved on to that are and went to investigate. With more automatons on the streets, I had to resort to the tunnels, but I did come in contact with some of the other outposts underground. As far as they could tell, they were still secure."
Sarah breathed a sigh of relief, putting one hand to her heart. "That's a relief," she said and fanned her face. "With more automatons out, it's possible that they will discover one of the tunnels, though I hope not."
Garret shook his head. "Though they're sophisticated, and I did get to see one they'd captured and deactivated, I don't think they're quite up to that par just yet, but we can't be too careful."
Everyone seemed to be thinking about this prospect while I sat in my chair, trying not to squirm. Did that explosion he'd mention have anything to do with me? I did remember a bright light before waking up in that pitch black tunnel. Were the two incidents connected?
"What about the explosion," Lance spoke up, his voice as gruff as ever.
Garret's brows rose. "Ah, yes. I was able to determine that it was actually caused by some kind of crash, though no one seems to recognize the configuration or material of the ship. It seems to have burst apart on impact. Some witnesses claim it fell from the sky, like a great meteor falling to earth, but without the same blast radius one would expect from something that size."
He then went on to describe what others had told him about the ship. It had been silver, like liquid silver in color, and ovoid in shape. And when it impacted with the earth, witnesses said it seemed to splatter apart, which made it impossible to identify any components. Maybe it was designed that way. Maybe it wasn't a ship at all. Maybe it was just a giant hung of liquid rock that collided with our planet. Anything was possible.
"But I don't think it was just some meteor," Garret went on, negating my potential theory. "A few humanoid corpses were found inside the blast radius. They know they weren't human because their skin was an odd tint, and not from oxygen deprivation. They were a bit on the purple side."
Sarah looked surprised at this announcement. "But how is that possible? We've not had visitors from other planets in years, not since they put out that edict.
to be continued.....