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Authors: Dima Zales,Anna Zaires

Limbo (The Last Humans Book 2)

BOOK: Limbo (The Last Humans Book 2)
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Limbo
The Last Humans: Book 2

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is purely coincidental.

Copyright
© 2016
Dima Zales

www.dimazales.com

All rights reserved.

Except for use in a review, no part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.

Published by Mozaika Publications, an imprint of Mozaika LLC.

www.mozaikallc.com

Cover by Najla Qamber Designs

www.najlaqamberdesigns.com

Edited by Elizabeth from
arrowheadediting.wordpress.com
and Mella Baxter

e-ISBN: 978-1-63142-142-6

Print ISBN: 978-1-63142-143-3

1

I
’m walking
in the desert, sun beaming down on my skin. In the distance, I see a blue shimmer. Is it a mirage? I run toward it, and the shimmer quickly turns into an endless blue ocean.

I feel elated. I always wanted to see the ocean.

Suddenly, a bikini-clad, pixie-haired figure appears in front of me and says, “I wasn’t sure this would work, but I wanted to give it a shot. You’re dreaming right now, but I need you to wake up.”

Once I get over my surprise at her appearance, I realize she’s right. On some level, I suspected I was dreaming. After all, there aren’t any domes or barriers around me, and deep down I know that oceans and deserts don’t exist in Oasis.

The realization wakes me with a start.

The Dorm lights are dimmed to a barely noticeable luminescence. This tells me it’s not
morning yet.

“I’m sorry about intruding on your dream,” Phoe says. “I know it’s still early, but this is urgent, and we need to talk.”

Rubbing my eyes, I try to completely wake up.

Phoe is standing by my bed. Her usually smiling face is creased with worry lines. I have no way of knowing if she stood there like that all night. Actually, in the strictest sense of the word, she’s not standing there. I can see her due to her mastery of the Augmented Reality interface. The real Phoe—the Artificial Intelligence that is the ship—is everywhere.

As I become more awake, the things I learned yesterday replay in my mind: the Quietude I got for asking too many questions in the wake of Mason’s Forgetting, the Phoe-assisted escape from the Witch Prison, my shutting down of the Zoo, the IRES game that followed, running through the forest, flying on a disk, getting captured and almost killed, and playing the IRES game for the second and last time. More importantly, I remember the world-shattering revelations that followed, and this floods my mind with questions I didn’t think of the other day. For example, if we’re on a spaceship, where are we flying to? When will we get there? Why—

“I was actually working on answering those exact questions. Figuring out our location in the cosmos is one of my biggest priorities—after keeping us alive, that is.” Phoe looks at the door warily before glancing back at me. “Unfortunately, I still lack the computational resources required to figure out where we are. However, I found out how we can get those resources. Except, as I was trying to say, survival comes first, and there’s something you ought to see.”

Her tone generates a rush of adrenaline that evaporates the last remnants of sleep from my brain. Automatically, I let the morning Cleaning take care of my teeth as I put my feet into my shoes and extend my hand for a bar of Food. A small end table with a cup of water is already there. Must be Phoe’s work.

“Do I have time to eat or drink?” I mentally ask.

“Yes,” she says. “The danger is not immediate. It’s just something you have to see, and the sooner the better.”

I bring up a Screen to check the time—5:45 a.m. I could’ve slept for at least two more hours. I stuff half of the Food bar into my mouth and chew it greedily while mumbling about unnecessary sleep deprivation.

“We got lucky,” Phoe says, her gaze darting to the door again. “Their meeting happened in Virtual Reality space—my domain.”

“Who are ‘they’?” I mentally ask as I take a sip of water. “And what meeting?”

“You better see this with your own eyes.” She bites her lip. “I don’t trust language with something like this. It’s a notoriously inaccurate mode of communication. Plus, I need to see if your assessment agrees with mine.”

“Fine.” I dry-swallow the rest of the Food and wash it down with water, trying to keep my eyes off her lips. “I’m ready.”

“Your cave,” Phoe says curtly. With a straight face, she makes the double-middle-figure gesture she invented for me to get into the virtual environment—as if I’d ever forget it.

I inwardly smile as I think of what Liam would say if he woke up and saw me do this gesture. He’d probably assume I was flipping him off.

“Now, Theo.” Phoe’s voice is a harsh whisper.

Phoe’s body is no longer standing in front of me, so I do the gesture, aiming my middle fingers at where she
would
be standing were she still in the room.

If I had any remnants of sleepiness left, the ‘white tunnel’ experience would’ve definitively erased them.

Blinking rapidly, I look around my cave. There’s a jar of rat poison to my right, and to my left is a plastic bathtub of something foul smelling—maybe hydrochloric acid.

“Is it okay if I immerse you in a Virtual Reality recording?” Phoe asks.

I look at where her voice came from, prepared to shield my eyes. The last time I saw Phoe in my cave, she was shiny with some kind of divine light.

“Yeah, you don’t need to worry,” she says, and I see that she looks exactly the way she did in the real world, except her blue eyes radiate concern. She moves her hands down her curves. “I’ll take this shape when we’re here, especially in light of what we’re about to see.”

I keep staring at her as she runs her hand through her hair, making her carefully engineered pixie cut into a genuine mess of spikes.

“So is it okay if I immerse you in this recording?” she prompts. “Do you consent to that?”

I blink. “Why not?”

“Well, I promised not to do anything to your mind without your permission. For you to see this, I’ll have to patch you into—”

“Sure,” I say as curiosity quickens my pulse. “Do whatever you need to do.”

Phoe makes a gesture that resembles something an orchestra conductor might do. Instantly, my vision and hearing blur into white noise reminiscent of an ancient out-of-tune TV.

When the static clears from my senses, I’m no longer standing in my cave.

To the sounds of beautifully haunting music, I examine my surroundings.

The place looks like an ancient cathedral, except it’s much larger. Even St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, the biggest such structure I’ve read about, could fit inside this enormous hall many times over. The music vibrating through the air heightens my feeling of being small and insignificant.

“It’s organ music.” Phoe’s tense voice echoes in my head. “Bach’s
Toccata and Fugue in D minor
to be exact.”

“So this is Virtual Reality, like my man cave?” I make a mental note to add this piece to my list of favorites and hope that my life gets normal enough for me to just listen to music at some point.

“What you’re about to see originally happened in VR,” Phoe says. “But it’s different from your cave in that it’s not ‘live.’ You’re essentially seeing a surreptitious recording of the meeting. We’re lucky they met here, where I could intercept it.”

I scan the room for the source of the music. They used to have organ pipes in churches, but I don’t find instruments of any kind or any obvious religious décor. Still, the music and the ultra-high ceilings evoke the sense that I’m in some strange place of worship.

“Well, that and the kneeling Jeremiah.” Phoe’s voice comes from a few feet away from where I’m standing.

I glance in that direction, but she’s not there. Instead, I see what she’s talking about: a white-robed, white-haired figure that almost blends in with the shiny, pale floor. Sitting by the large stage-like slab of marble, the figure is in a prayer-like position that looks like the child pose we learned in yoga. Though I can’t see his face, I recognize Jeremiah instantly and feel violent urges toward him just as fast.

In my defense, the guy did torture me yesterday.

“Pay attention,” Phoe says in a clipped tone. “Here comes the part you don’t want to miss.”

In sync with her words, a figure of pure light illuminates the middle of the platform.

The figure is so bright and intense that I’m forced to shield my eyes with my hands. This is like staring at the sun, if the sun had a humanoid shape. I close my eyes and remove my hands. I can still see the brightness through my eyelids.

“You may rise,” the figure says, its voice sounding like it was crafted out of the organ music.

The brightness has dimmed, so I brave opening my eyes a sliver.

The figure is luminous but less so, and I can make out some details, like the fact that it’s scantily clad in something resembling a loincloth—and that it’s more accurate to say ‘it’ is a ‘he,’ at least judging by his muscular chest and shoulders. Of course, the human anatomy rationale breaks down when I factor in the creature’s giant dove-like wings, with each feather radiating thousands of watts.

“Envoy,” Jeremiah says once he’s on his feet.

“Keeper,” the being—the Envoy—replies in that same organ-sounding voice.

“You honor me with your presence,” Jeremiah says, but his tone sounds more ceremonious than deferential.

“Ever so formal,” says the Envoy and grants Jeremiah an angelic smile too beautiful for a male.

Jeremiah bows instead of replying.

“We’d like a report of recent goings-on,” the Envoy says, his inhumanly ancient eyes sparkling like blue diamonds.

“What would you like to know, Envoy?” Jeremiah asks evenly. “There hasn’t been much happening… at least nothing of note.”

“Is that so?” The Envoy’s beatific smile is gone.

“Well…” For the first time, Jeremiah sounds mildly wary. “We’re fully prepared for the upcoming Birth Day. The babies in the Incubators will be born on schedule, and the celebratory preparations are on track. The new generation of the Elderly received instructions on what to expect and were briefed about the Test…”

As he speaks, the Envoy’s features and the space surrounding him darken, as if he’s absorbed all the light he was previously emitting. The frown is like a strange mask on his ethereal face.

Jeremiah takes a step back.

“Nothing else you want to discuss?” The Envoy’s voice takes on those darker qualities that only organ pipes can produce. “Nothing to do with the Council?”

“I don’t understand,” Jeremiah says and audibly swallows. “What about the Council?”

“The Council meeting.” The melody in the Envoy’s voice grows increasingly frightening.

“What Council meeting?” Jeremiah’s voice breaks. “I already reported on the last one…”

The Envoy’s graceful hands squeeze into fists. There’s something thunder-god-like about the being’s eyes in that moment, causing me to wonder if he’s about to smite Jeremiah with a bolt of lightning. The look he gives the old man is like those legendary ones the ancients wrote about—deadly. I’m shocked Jeremiah isn’t a small pile of ash on the floor.

“I’d like to employ the Lens of Truth to ask my next question.” The Envoy’s musical voice hits its deepest bass note yet. “You remember what
that
entails?”

“You think I—” Blood leaves Jeremiah’s face, allowing him to blend in with the white marble floor. Then, as if thinking better of it, he says hastily, “Yes, of course.” Jeremiah puts his hand on his chest solemnly. “I consent to the Lens of Truth and swear to tell the truth and nothing but the truth.”

As Jeremiah says the last word, his hand falls limply to his side, and his eyes glaze over.

“Do you remember the Council meeting that happened mere hours ago?” the Envoy asks.

“I do not,” Jeremiah says in a zombie-like tone.

The Envoy’s fists unclench, his expression changing to one of confusion. “Has anything out of the ordinary happened since your last report?”

“No,” Jeremiah says. “The incident with Mason was the last noteworthy event, and that was concluded and reported on already.”

“Have you ever considered betraying your duty as the Keeper of Information?” The Envoy folds his wings around his body the way someone would a cape. “Have you ever considered using Forgetting on yourself, even though you ought not to?”

“No… and no.” Jeremiah’s voice is unnerving in its complete lack of emotion. “I have not Forgotten anything since I took over as the Keeper.”

“Except that if you did, you wouldn’t be lying,” the Envoy says. His melodious voice sounds disappointed. “A lie is not a lie if you don’t know you’re lying.”

Jeremiah stares at the being. I guess whatever this ‘Lens of Truth’ state is, when under it, Jeremiah needs to be asked a question if he is to respond.

“Are you aware that every formal Council meeting is automatically reported to us?” the Envoy asks.

Seems he also realized the need to pose a question.

“Yes.” Jeremiah’s face is completely blank.

“So, without an actual Council meeting, can you think of any other reason why we would receive such an automated report?”

“No.”

The Envoy gestures at Jeremiah in a hurried, jerky motion, and the old man’s eyes return to normal. I didn’t think he could get paler, but he manages it. His skin is almost translucent, with blue veins visible on his temples.

“Do you see?” the Envoy asks solemnly. “Do you see the enormity of it?”

“I do,” Jeremiah says, his lips quivering. “Someone made
me
Forget.”

BOOK: Limbo (The Last Humans Book 2)
6.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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