CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE (draft)

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CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE

“What?” Aeson Kass speaks in a hard voice of amazement. Once again, he’s been stunned. “Check again! And then re-check the calibration—” And then he continues the rest of the sentence in an angry torrent of Atlantean language.

Meanwhile, I am standing there in absolute confusion, and also filled with a sudden sense of inevitability.

My voice. . . .

Okay. . . . They’ve just found out something having to do with my voice. Which means, they have a means of knowing that I had something to do with the second shuttle landing? And maybe more? No, that’s impossible, how can they?

But I have no time to think because in the next instant I feel the heavy pressure of his fingers on my upper arm, painful even through the thickness of my jacket. And now I am being propelled forward with great force. Aeson Kass holds me in an iron vise and all three of us walk to the back of the room, while the other Atlanteans gather closer.

“What?” I manage to mutter. “What is happening?”

But he does not look at me, does not answer, merely pushes me roughly before a large piece of equipment that at present is beeping every other second.

The Atlantean scientist leans forward to adjust something on a console and along the lumpy metallic surface with multicolored lights. But Aeson moves him out of the way and takes over the equipment console. He presses things I have no way of describing—buttons, indentations, touch-surface maybe? And then he coldly turns to me.

“Sing the tones that you hear, now.”

“What? Why?”

“Sing!”

I hear a series of short notes. I take a breath and sing back what I hear. In the otherwise silent room, my voice suddenly sounds reedy and wimpy.

As soon as I am done, the equipment begins to beep once again.

Aeson frowns. He then does something to the machine, which resets the alarm.

“Again!” he says.

The machine plays notes. I echo them.

The machine beep alarm goes off, unmistakably in response to my voice.

There is a pause.

Aeson then resets the alarm and slowly turns to look at me.

“Candidate Lark,” he says in a dead voice, and his face, his eyes—they are terrifying. “You are under arrest for conspiracy, possible terrorist action, and murder.”

* * *

In the next few minutes I am taken into custody by security guards—after being handed over by the Atlanteans, after having Aeson Kass give me no other glance as he turns his back on me, his bearing hard like stone, and his expression cold as I have never seen it before.

My hands shake as I am led out through the double doors and into the long hallway. Somewhere in the middle of the hallway, the guards pause, and a door is opened.

I am shoved inside, and it’s a small holding cell, with bright overhead lights, a small square table and two hard chairs. A surveillance camera points at me from each of the four corners.

The door closes upon me and I am left alone.

For the first five minutes I stand motionless, gasping for air. My hands—my whole body—I am shaking. Fine tremors fill me, and a numbing cold settles inside my gut.

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