Read Skyland Online

Authors: Aelius Blythe

Tags: #religion, #science fiction, #space, #war

Skyland (10 page)

BOOK: Skyland
12.89Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Harper stared right back. He looked into the
pouchy grey eyes in the pouchy red face and clenched his teeth, and
pressed his lips closed against the mist the man blew towards him
on every angry breath. The end of the black cord around the pouchy
neck tapped against the table, dangling down as the man leaned
forward.

"Where is he?"

Harper's eyes fixed on the swinging cord.
"He is a priest. Why are you hunting a priest anyway?"
Find him
yourself.

"Answer the question."

"Why do you hunt a priest when you–"

"Answer the question!"

"Don't you have priests of your own? Do you
hunt them, too?"

"Where is he!"

"I don't know!"

"The Sky Reverends were behind the attack on
the second ship. Your father is a Sky Reverend."

"Yes, but I don't know–"

"Answer! We don't have time for this. There
are four other ships waiting to take refugees off of Skyland.
Unless we can secure them–"

"Four?" Harper shook his head, confused.
"There were nine, then this one left, then the second...."

"Three more on the ground were destroyed
when the second ship exploded above them. Only four remain in
tact."

One in the Sky and three on the ground...
They took out four ships in one swipe...
He felt sick. And
almost proud. Then sick again. "Look, I left the planet to get away
from my father."

"Then you cannot defend him!"

"I'm not."

"Then give us the information we need to
stop him. There are four other ships that may be blown to
pieces–"

"No doubt they will be."

The soldier was silent.

He straightened up. The hand that had been
on the table moved to his mouth, pinched a the lower lip between
two fingers. The mist on his breath came out in thin strands. The
pouchy eyes stared. Then,

"When?"

Harper shrugged.

Bang!
The hand slammed the table
again.

"When!"

"I don't know."

"Don't be stupid. You know that they
will
be attacked, you must have some idea of the plan."

"I don't."

"Your father is a Sky Reverend! They are
behind–"

"Yes they are."

"Do you understand that when they are
brought to court,
you
will be charged as an accessory?"

"I am not."

"You
know
about their plans. You
know
about–"

"I
didn't
say I knew their plans. I
just know their intentions. Flight is a sin against the Sky, and if
they can stop the ships from flying, then they will. Everyone knows
it! I don't know anything more. And I am
not
involved in
their plans."
Not anymore.

The soldier turned away. He paced the room
for a moment, looking back at Harper, then around at the air, then
up at the ceiling. One hand was a fist, the arm crossed over his
chest; the elbow of his other arm rested on it, its hand still
fiddling with his lower lip. Harper waited. He heard the angry
man's breath rush out through clenched teeth. The solder moved his
hands to the back of his head, as though he were laying down,
resting his head. He looked up at the ceiling again and pressed his
lips together. Then he looked back at Harper, the thin lips
widening in a tight line that could only have been an attempt at a
smile. It was creepy. When he spoke again, his voice was
calmer.

"Okay. So you're not in with their plans,
you're not on the same page as the rest of them–

"Not
the rest
. Only some."

"Right, sure. I get it. You feel
differently."

Harper narrowed his eyes and remained
silent. The man continued.

"So help us."

"How?"

"Tell us where they are."

"I can't."

"If you do not help us then you
are
no better than them!" The anger was creeping back, starting to
eclipse the creepy smile.

"I can't tell where the people you're
looking for are–"

"You
have
to kn–"

"But I can tell you where the dirt stores
are."

The man paused. He squinted at Harper.
"What?"

"I can tell you where the dirt is." Harper
flinched at his own words.

"What dirt?"

"The dirt they use to... don't you
investigate that kind of thing? If you've been watching the Sky
Reverends, how do you not–"

"What dirt!"

"The fertilizer, the fertilizer used for the
bombs. The special mixes, the most volatile compounds." He paused,
choked by his own treason. But the words kept coming. "I know where
the stores are kept."

"Where?"

"Beyond the brown fields, in a–"

The soldier held up a hand. Harper paused.
The solder looked up into the air, one hand resting on his ear. He
was listening to something. He nodded to someone on the other end
who couldn't see. "But–what? Okay.. okay." He turned back to
Harper. "Okay. You will come with us."

"What?"

"You will come with us."

"Where?"

"Back to Skyland."

Harper froze.
Abomination.
Abomination!
his father's voice echoed in his head. "I-I
can't."

"You will."

"Wha–why?"

The man laughed. "Hey, I'd stick you in a
cell transport and jettison you out to the nearest periphery
prison. But they say you're coming, so you're coming."

"Who?"

"None of your damn business."

"Why?"

The pouchy red cheeks stretched into a
smile. "So you don't double cross us. Lead us to a trap and you'll
be the first one in. Lie and we'll start this game again. Forget
who you're supposed to be helping, and you'll have a nice quiet
cell to help you remember."

"But my wife..."

"She will continue to the colony. You will
return with us to Skyland and help us find the Sky Reverends."

"The Sky Reverends? All of them?"

"You know we're looking for the animals that
did this."

"Not all the Sky Reverends were involved.
Only some. I will help you find the explosives, but if you're going
to chase down all our priests, I won–"

"You'll do what you're told."

Harper glared at the man.
Sure. Of course
I will...
"Will I be reunited with my wife after this is
done?"

"Yes. She will be taken safely to the
refugee areas on Den, and you can follow her once we are satisfied
that you have been helpful." He smirked. "And that you aren't a
threat."

"Fine."

"And Mr. Fields?"

"Yes?"

"Know that she will be looked after."

Harper's eyes narrowed and he nodded once, a
short, hard jerk of the head, his glaring eyes never leaving the
soldier's face.

Looked after... watched. She will be
watched.

 

 

Harper stood in the heat of the hallway. He
still shivered. His skin, his hands, his insides were still frozen
like the obsidian room. But the air of the ship around him was like
an oven after that place, and slowly, slowly it was working it's
way in. He opened his mouth wide and breathed out to see if any of
the white clouds lingered inside him. He was so cold it felt like
they should. But his breath was as invisible as it always had been
before.

One soldier stood silently behind his left
shoulder, waiting.

Harper shivered just a bit, crossed his arms
over his chest and walked down the hall. The sound of boots
followed him. They walked down the ships halls without talking,
down one metallic corridor, down another, around one corner, around
another.
Right, right, left, right, left, middle passage, left,
sliding doors, right, right.
He'd memorized the pattern on the
way. The ship was so huge and all the halls looked alike, it was
the only way he could get anywhere inside it.

They walked.

Every few minutes he glanced back to the
sound of the heavy boots tramping behind him.

They shouldn't be so loud

This wasn't the angry, red-faced man with
the black cord from the obsidian room. He had left Harper in the
care of one of the underlings – or Harper could only assume that
was what he was from the way the angry man had barked orders at
him. The soldier walking behind him now couldn't have been older
than Harper, and he was small. Stringy. Veins and muscles wrapped
around his thin arms and in between his bony joints, Harper
couldn't imagine how his steps could be so loud. Maybe the hard
matter of the ship magnified his footfalls. Or maybe the soldier
was deliberately stepping heavy, an imitation of his superior. Or
maybe it was just part of the soldier's image he put every morning,
like the dirt colored clothing.

Harper stopped.

So did the clomping boots.

The door to Harper's room stood open in
front of him. Zara lay on her side on the bed, both hands tucked
under her head. Her back was to the door and Harper couldn't tell
if she was sleeping or not.

He froze.

For a moment the thought of going in and
telling her that he was going
back
, after everything, that
he was going
back
to Skyland and she was going ahead to Den
alone... it was too much. He stood there, staring at the silky
black hair, watching her sides and chest move up and down just
slightly as she breathed – he was almost sure she was asleep now.
It was too much.

"Sir?"

What?
Harper turned around at the
strange title and looked at the young soldier who had spoken.

"Sir, would you like a moment alone?"

"Is that allowed?"

The soldier nodded. "Yes, sir."

He stepped back and Harper turned back to
the room.

He took a breath. One foot hovered in the
air, a half-step towards the open door.

You have to tell her.

But really he just wanted to hold her and
forget about the cold room and the angry, red-faced man and going
back to Skyland or going to Den, or anything that was outside of
this ship, this room, right now.

He went in.

He looked back at the young soldier who
smiled and leaned back against the opposite wall, looking in. He
didn't look angry, he didn't look threatening. He almost looked
curious. Harper closed the door, slowly, watching the young
soldier, as if daring him to stop him. But he didn't, and the door
snicked closed.

Harper turned away from the door.

Zara stood behind him.

Without a word she put her arms around him,
leaned into him, pressed her cheek against his chest. He couldn't
speak.

She is okay...

He hadn't believed it until he saw her.
Though he'd tried not to let it show in the obsidian room, the
angry man had scared him. Maybe not as much as the Sky Reverends,
but Harper didn't want to think of the red-faced soldier slamming
his fist on the table, threatening Zara. Now he saw her safe, the
tension that had grown in the cold room were eased.

But I will not see her...

At the thought of leaving her to continue on
to Den alone, Harper's nerves ratcheted up again. He rested his
head on hear clean hair, and over her head he glared up at the
black bulb in the corner of the ceiling.

The camera.

I said alone.

But the bulbs were everywhere in the ship,
in every hallway, every room that he had seen. He shifted,
detangling just slightly from the arms around him and sat on the
corner of the bed. Zara sat beside him.

He couldn't bring himself to tell her.

She continued to sit and mirror his silence,
her hand brushing over his back, reassuring him, or maybe herself.
Her lips brushed his shoulder, then she leaned in and rested her
forehead against his jaw. Against his arm he could feel the rise
and fall of her chest as she took in deep calming breaths.

Tell her.

He opened his mouth, closed it again, took a
breath. Then, "Are you okay? Did anyone come–"

"No." She shook her head and her hair
brushed back and forth against his neck. "I'm fine. Only
worried."

"There was nothing to worry about."

"I am worried about you."

"There was nothing to worry about," he
repeated.
Tell her.
"Don't you want to know what they
wanted?"

"I already know, don't I? They are after
your father. Your father and the other Sky Reverends."

"Yes." He sighed. "They are. And I need to
go with them."

"What?"

"They want me to go with them to help
them... investigate."

"But, Harper... your own father?"

"I will only help them find the soil. That
is all."

"You will not... you will not lead them
to..."

"How could I? He is my
father.
I will
show them the soil only. Nothing else." Again he glared up at the
dark bulb in the corner, though he wasn't sure if the cameras could
hear as well as see.
Listen to me,
he thought.
I told you
what I would do.

Zara pulled back and looked up at him. For a
moment she searched his eyes, then she nodded, and looked away, but
not before he caught the resignation in her eyes. The hopelessness.
He recognized it because he knew the same feeling must show in his
own face.

She looked back and smiled, a little sadly.
"You can't blame them, really. So many are dead... They only want
to make sure no more follow."

"So do I."

"Is that why you are helping them?"

"Yes. And because I don't trust them. How
can I let them go to Skyland with ships and weapons and no... no
knowledge of... "
How much knowledge should they have?
"...with no knowledge of the Sky or the Reverends and their
weapons? How can I do nothing?"

"But you said you will help them."

"Only to find the soil without harming
anyone, then to get out."

"Do you think they will be satisfied with
that?"

"No, but I will tell them nothing else! I
will help them with nothing else. They are not people we can
trust."

BOOK: Skyland
12.89Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

One by Kopans, Leighann
Pockets of Darkness by Jean Rabe
Bete Noire by Christina Moore
Rapture's Rendezvous by Cassie Edwards
Bloodlines by Alex Kidwell
Invitation to Ecstasy by Nina Pierce
Punished by Passion by Nottingham, Cara
Murder Fortissimo by Nicola Slade