Chapter 8 - The Hopes Of The Ancients

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The red light only had a chance to blink once when Eve opened a communication channel. The man with the Captain's jacket appeared in a video window.

"Hello Eve," he said.

"M'lord Captain," said Eve, her voice a soup of sarcasm.

"Mayor-Captain," the man corrected her "I'm an elected official."

"What are you still doing here?" asked Eve.

"I was going to ask you the same question," said the Mayor-Captain.

"I asked first," said Eve.

"We're waiting for you, Eve," said the Mayor-Captain "And you?"

"You're waiting for me?" she asked.

"I answered your question..." said the Mayor-Captain.

Eve closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and tried to explain.

"They, the Emperor really but everyone was going along with it, they were going to execute me. I didn't have time to come up with a plan and this is as far as I got."

"You got impressively far, all told. For what crime were you to be killed?"

"I don't know what for," said Eve.

Feelings of helplessness boiled inside her, but she was all out of tears.

"If you would like to come aboard, I extend to you an offer of my personal protection," said the Mayor-Captain "That might not mean much to you now but it seems to be the best deal you're going to get at the moment."

"You're getting out of here?" asked Eve.

"As soon as we can jump away without being traced," said the Mayor-Captain.

"Then I'll come with you," said Eve "For now."

"The Seraphim Bay is ready to receive you. I look forward to speaking to you in person."

Eve flipped off the channel and sighed.

* * *

For the first time since she began to pilot it Eve's Seraphim docked in a proper Seraphim Bay. Eve slid along the magnetic track and clicked perfectly into a waiting alcove. The procedure was as natural as flowing water.

Once she was settled the cockpit door hissed and opened. Eve remained seated inside her Seraphim.

The interior of the bay was a mess. The walls were covered with a patchwork of exposed cables and vacuum seals. Equipment littered the floor. The contrast from the relative tidiness of the Ray Bradbury was startling.

The Mayor-Captain was already waiting for her, along with some senior-looking technicians.

"Welcome to the Jules Verne, Eve," said the Mayor-Captain "Can I help you down?"

"I'm fine right here," said Eve.

"Still protective of your Seraphim, eh?" asked the Mayor-Captain, smiling "I can understand that. We can talk where we are. I'm already having quarters prepared for you but if you prefer I can have bedding brought down here."

"Thanks..." said Eve, unable to disguise the suspicion in her voice "You said before that you were waiting for me. I'm an imperial citizen who has tried to kill you all. We're enemies."

"That remains to be seen," interjected the Mayor-Captain.

"Why did you wait for me? And how did you know I'd be here to wait for?"

"The answer to your second question is simple: I made an educated guess. The answer to the first is more complicated," said the Mayor-Captain.

"I'm not going anywhere," said Eve.

"Let me ask you this: did you look at your Seraphim's starmap like I told you?"

"I did," said Eve "I didn't see what was so special about it."

"Oh, it is very special. It might just be the salvation of the human race."

"What are you talking about?" asked Eve.

"I'll begin at the beginning," said the Mayor-Captain "The ancient, nameless war that broke humanity so many generations ago had two sides, as any conflict does. Our ancestors made up the winning side. Most of our technology, the city-ships and the Seraphim and all of it, we inherited it all from those insane god-like beings."

"Everyone knows that," said Eve.

"What fewer people know," continued the Mayor-Captain "Is that some of the technology of the losing side survived as well. Not much, most of it was destroyed by our ancestors but some. Enough for my crew and I to retrieve fragments of data from their ancient records. We have evidence that by the end of the war they saw the writing on the wall. They knew their civilization was about to be destroyed. But they had a back-up plan. They created a new Earth. A living world capable of supporting human life and hidden away where our ancestors couldn't find it. The old humans did a good enough job of that, as you won't find their planet on any of our starmaps. We believe, however, that it might be on the starmap of your Seraphim."

"An ancient starmap to a living world?" asked Eve, utterly incredulous "That sounds like a fairy tale. You can't possibly believe that. What is this really about?"

"I don't believe our species is in a position to be skeptical about possible means of salvation. Let me ask you this: why did you leave the Ray Bradbury?"

Eve shot the Mayor-Captain a nasty glare.

"You know why. Because the Emperor ordered me dead," she said.

"Why do you think that is?" asked the Mayor-Captain "What's he afraid of? Could it be that the Emperor believe the same thing we do? He likely knows even more of the story than we do, and is afraid that a new world would break his power as Emperor of the Fleet."

"That's the Emperor you're talking about!" snapped Eve, almost instinctively.

"The man who ordered you to die despite your competence and loyalty," said the Mayor-Captain, matter-of-factly "The man who would hold back the progress of our entire species, leave us to rot away to nothing in order to preserve his decrepit little dynasty."

"That's just rebel-talk," said Eve "This is exactly what I expected from oathbreakers."

"Your loyalty is a virtue, Eve, but be sure that you don't misplace it."

"So this is why you all rebelled against the Emperor? Some ridiculous bedtime story about a living planet?"

"Yes," said the Mayor-Captain.

Eve snorted.

"Listen, Eve," said the Mayor-Captain "This Seraphim responds to you. As far as I'm concerned it is your property. We won't force you to do anything. But I implore you, in the name of future generations, to let us have a look at that starmap."

Eve rolled her eyes.

"I'm not going to hold my breath about any of this living planet nonsense but I guess it wouldn't hurt to let you take a look." said Eve "You just want the starmap right?" she added, skeptically.

"I understand you're protective of your Seraphim, we just want the map," replied the Mayor-Captain "This is Anna and Reuben" he indicated the technicians beside him "They can copy the starmap over in less than a minute and you can supervise the whole thing. Your Seraphim is just a Seraphim-"

Just a Seraphim? thought Eve.

"But the starmap inside it could change the course of history."

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