New Dagreb was on the move. Though the floor was designed to cushion the effects of movement, everyone in the snow globe city could feel the lurching, like a cruise ship making a turn. New Dagreb occasionally twitched, but this was different: anyone could tell that it was moving steadily and purposefully…somewhere.
The movement was enough to awaken Julia, who found herself strapped to the same table where she’d found Kenyatta. Her hands were bound to the same places on the cross with the same Wazgretco cuffs, but her legs weren’t bound. She immediately, instinctively hoisted up the lower half of her body, forming an upside-down “Y” with both feet pointed at the skylight.
Standing on her hands, she prepared for the trap door to hatch. No…they wouldn’t do that with her hands bound, because she wouldn’t fall.
Her legs…was she raped? No; she’d be able to feel the violation. But then why?…perhaps they were going to do it, and something changed their minds?
The cuffs felt…slightly loose? But wasn’t this Binto steel? Perhaps Kenyatta had loosened them when they were on him?
Oh, Kenyatta, you beautiful man, she thought. I love you and I’m not going to let them get away with this.
Aquinas and Godfrey left the chair within reach. Big mistake. Julia set herself, and then arced her body downward, turning her foot into a lethal weapon. She broke the antique chair into pieces.
That was a slight issue, because the chair legs fell all over the room, out of her range. Wángbā.
Julia thought for a moment. She flipped herself back onto the table, and used her feet to finish Godfrey’s suggestion: taking off her shirt. She had to rip it. Were they watching through a camera somewhere? Well, she still wore her bra. Besides, they were probably too busy steering New Dagreb, or else she would have seen them already.
Using one foot and one hand, Julia made her torn shirt into a lasso. Now she flipped off the table again, back onto her feet, though of course her hands were still bound on either side of the table. Swinging the lasso with her bound right hand, she tried to snag the nearest chair leg. She missed the first two times. Martina would have taunted her. She got it the third time.
Now she used it as a lever on her left cuff. Normally, wood on Wazgretco-modified Binto steel wouldn’t make sense. Julia realized that the volcano vapor had probably weakened the metal before Kenyatta was ever here.
Took a few minutes. While she worked it, she looked up through the skylight. Godfrey’s view of the volcano’s rock ceiling was shifting. As the dome drifted, the rock wall above her became less and less horizontal and more and more vertical, as befit an unthinkably large cone. New Dagreb was obviously moving toward the center of the volcano’s lava bed.
Then, finally, snap!
She worked on the other cuff. Julia also heard voices now, as though people were gathering in the street between the two mansions. If she hadn’t already had a way out, she might have screamed…though who would they believe, her or Aquinas?
The second cuff snapped as a thought snapped across her mind. Just because she wanted to be more proactive didn’t mean she had to go off half-cocked like her sister. In this case, she reflected that if Aquinas could hide that needle…
Wearing her torn shirt again, Julia joined the gathering throng. Staring up at the volcano, they barely noticed her. During other events, New Dagrebians had gathered in the central square. However, now they were all drawn to Dr. Aquinas’ house, and they didn’t look happy. Julia hoped she could use that to her advantage.
Suddenly, the whole city was struck by real, unfiltered sunlight. Like everyone else, Julia was accustomed to the artificial light, and the contrast was as though she had just removed her sunglasses – the sheer clarity was striking. Julia looked around at her fellow Dagrebians as though for the first time. They had knotted hair, sagging jowls, wrinkled faces.
Dozens, scores of people all turned up, and finally the entire population of New Dagreb stood on Dr. Aquinas’ lawn, all 219 of them. Well, 217: Kenyatta was now gone, and Aquinas wasn’t visible. Godfrey emerged from the Aquinas estate to address the crowd. He stood at the top of the doorway’s modestly raised staircase, making him about a meter higher than the crowd.
“What’s going on?” people yelled.
“What’s happening?” they shouted.
“Nothing bad,” Godfrey attempted to reassure them. “We are keeping the peace. But sometimes peace requires sacrifice.”
“Sacrifice of what?” Ezekiel yelled. Julia was heartened by this from her farm-mate. Dagrebians may be pacifistic, but they aren’t sheep.
“Well, in this case…” Godfrey looked as though he were suppressing a smile. “…our anonymity.”
The crowd’s voices surged in a cacophony of what?s and why?s. Julia saw that the snow globe was steering close to the middle of the lava bed. All of the volcano’s walls were many kilometers away. What an enormous place Olympus Mons was.
“People, people,” Godfrey spoke over them. “We are not sacrificing our isolation and independence. In fact, we’re doing this to preserve it.”
“Doing what?” people shouted, including Ezekiel. Julia spied Isabel, not joining in the catcalls. What would Isabel think if she told her what happened to Kenyatta? She’d probably call Julia a liar.
“Making a new friend,” Godfrey yelled back. “And I assure you, it’s not the government of Mars United.”
Julia wanted to attack or even kill Godfrey, but that’s the kind of thing her sister would do. Besides, if she struck now, the town would descend on her – the nightmare sim, dogpiled with no chance of escape. Julia’s mother told her that most of the time, if you give people enough rope, they’ll hang themselves. Julia hoped against hope that this was such a time, that no one would lose her life while she let this play out. Julia spotted Dr. Ramsey in the crowd. His expression suggested he was waiting for the right time to speak. Julia decided to follow that example.
“Who is it?” people were yelling. “Tell us now!”
Godfrey didn’t bother to reply. Instead he just looked up and smiled. Julia and the rest of the Dagrebians looked up as well, all the way to the caldera at the top of the mountain.
And then, as if on cue, the unimaginable: a spaceship floated into view, a ship whose circumference was almost as large as Mount Olympus’ caldera. No, it might have been larger, but there was no way to know how far above the rim it was floating. Many residents of New Dagreb screamed with terror. Some of them ran.
“People, people, people!” shouted Godfrey. “There’s nothing to be afraid of. Nothing! These people are friends. Friends!”
Julia wondered what had happened with the war. This had to be the mothership. Had it destroyed New Jerusalem? Were all her friends and family dead, like Kenyatta?
Julia saw that many of her fellow citizens were crying with terror. “Leader! Show us the leader!” she heard Schlomo and other say, the words choking in some throats. “We want our leader!”
“Look,” Godfrey called out, “Dad is a little busy right this minute. I’m your leader right now!”
The mothership slowly came to a rest above the top of the caldera. The ship blocked out almost all daylight, making the light in New Dagreb…a lot like it usually was. Julia remembered the news reports, but in person, it boggled the mind that humans had built a spaceship that was anywhere near 70 kilometers wide. As big as the top of Olympus Mons…and then Julia reckoned that might have been the point. Whenever men saw something that was one size, they had to make something that was larger. Same as it ever was.
The crowd in New Dagreb watched as a barely visible hatch opened on the ship’s bottom. It lowered dark, snaking black cables that were, Julia guesstimated, several kilometers long and probably thick enough to bear the weight of a suspension bridge. Finally they came to rest on the top of the snow globe with a thunk. Julia noticed that several people jumped as though prodded. What, did they expect to be electrocuted?
The crowd watched as the snow globe’s own roof hatch opened up. Julia saw it was the same one that she and Kenyatta and Isabel had slid through, six months before. Some kind of massive robot arm reached up from behind Aquinas’ house to pull the black cables through the roof. The cables kept stretching, and then finally stopped extending, their ends apparently “plugged in” somewhere behind Aquinas’ house. Wow. After seeing this, Julia would never again complain about plugging a computer into a router.
The ground beneath them all hiccupped for just a moment, and then Julia heard a pronounced hum, as loud as a dozen beehives. Next, Julia saw flickerings of lava just outside the dome’s walls, an indication that the volcano’s energy was being harnessed, even turned up a bit higher than usual. Obviously, Aquinas was using Olympus Mons to give energy to this ginormous spaceship.
“Why is this happening?” people were yelling.
“Who are we helping?” Ezekiel called.
“We want answers! We want answers!” a couple of older people said.
“Well then shut up!” Godfrey yelled. They did, leaving just the hum of the energy flowing through the cables. “Look, this is happening because the Mars United government over-reached. They went too far. Nine months ago, they bombed Melas. Now, we’re doing this to keep them – or anyone – from bombing us.”
“How did you know?” yelled Dr. Ramsey. “I thought we had no contact with the outside worlds.”
Godfrey gave the doctor a look that would have cut glass. “We found out through Isabel, remember?”
Dr. Ramsey was unbowed. “You arranged this interchange with this spaceship through Isabel?” Other people chimed in with “Yeah”s and “Yeah, how?”s.
Godfrey waited for people to quiet down.
“In the name of our defense, we made contact with a few friends on Earth. And these friends have guaranteed our independence in perpetuity. They just need our help with energy right now.”
More voices dissented loudly. Julia was happy she didn’t have to speak up. Ezekiel shouted, “Show us the contract!”
Schlomo yelled, “What’s to stop them from bombing us?”
Bridget called out, “How do you know they’re not allied with Mars United?” Bridget! thought Julia. Even Barbie-doll knows there’s trouble.
“As it happens, I have new information for you.” Godfrey was sweating. “Our friends have come from a massive battle against Mars United. And our friends came this close to victory.” He held his forefinger and thumb close together. “They just need a little more energy, and then we’ll be free forever.”
More grumbling. Schlomo asked, “Who are they?”
Ezekiel: “After they get their energy, what’s to stop them from destroying us?”
Isabel: “Why didn’t we just stay anonymous?” Isabel! You go, girl.
Godfrey cleared his throat. “Look, people, freedom isn’t free, all right? Just be glad this is the only thing we have to do. Our friends are not going to attack us…their whole principle is that Mars should be a group of independent states. We’re a perfect example of what Rhodes is talking about.”
The name Rhodes rippled through the crowd like a tsunami. He was known, even from 20 E-years before. The people in the crowd began to argue amongst themselves. Ezekiel yelled, “Rhodes is for war. We’re for peace!”
“Oh, grow up, Ezekiel,” spit Godfrey. “I mean…look, you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.”
“Who are these eggs?” Julia finally came to the front of the crowd. “Who are we helping to kill?”
Godfrey was stunned to hear her voice – Julia liked that. What she didn’t like was that he adjusted and now looked at Julia smiling like a lion watching a gazelle. “I thought you’d never ask. Turns out I’ve had a few recent texts from Rhodes, and your sister is dead. She tried to sneak onto that mothership up there, and they blew her away. As for your mother, we’ve got people in her war room. People you thought you could trust. But it turns out you can’t. I’m not going to run one of your fabulous simulations, but I’d say there’s about a 95% chance she’s dead already.”
The muttering crowd quieted down. They were reacting to Godfrey’s oddly gleeful tone as much as the words he was saying. Julia held in her sudden feeling of horror. She would not let Godfrey see her cry.
“Julia, you came here to divorce yourself from your family. I just helped finish the job. You should be thanking me.”
“I told you,” said Aquinas’ voice, “This isn’t the way.” As Aquinas appeared, parts of the crowd cheered.
“How would you know the way?” screamed Godfrey at his father. “You’ve done nothing to help my succession, you just keep talking…”
“Enough. Enough.” Aquinas put his hand on his son’s shoulder and looked out at the crowd. “People, you are my children, as much as Godfrey. I mean that. Any legacy I ever have will be because of you. I know this. And I am so grateful and humble for that.” He reached his hands akimbo, as though to hug them all. “Ah, my New Dagrebians. Brigadoonians, really. I love you. This is all for you. I should have told you sooner. In the last few minutes, I needed to be sure the ED-210 was working correctly. I have no excuse for my silence over the last few months except…I hoped it would not come to this. It might not have come to this. Their Prime Minister, Norine Maciel, fought very well. She fought them to the point where they needed more energy. But she’s likely dead, so we need worry about her no longer.”
Julia’s lip began to quaver. Doubts clouded her mind, and not just about whether she should strike or whether the town would destroy her. If I had stayed home, would all this have happened to Mars United? Of course it would have, she told herself, who do you think you are?
“That ship you see up there,” Aquinas continued, “is going back to Earth as soon as the war is won. They will leave Mars in the hands of Rhodes; they’ll get the trade terms they came for. But still, you all have very good reasons to wonder about our future security. And that’s why I want to reassure you. Julia has agreed to marry my Godfrey. The Maciel name is very powerful on Mars, even more powerful now that the rest of Julia’s family is dead. With Julia and Godfrey running New Dagreb together, Rhodes won’t dare to attack us. Say it with me, now, everyone: Peace, peace, peace…”
At least half of the people joined in: “Peace, peace, peace…” Julia felt like a damp sponge that had just been twisted inside out. Stop chanting, you people! she thought. But that’s how charismatic Aquinas was. We wanted to believe him. Even Julia wanted to, but…Julia looked at Godfrey. He was staring at her…her body. It was like he was already raping her with his eyes…
“Nooooooooooooo!!!!” screamed Julia. “No, no, no!!”
Instinct took over. Julia threw herself at Godfrey, right foot first. As he ducked, she intuitively switched to her left foot, which hit his mouth like a hammer. He fell down moaning. She might have broken his jaw.
“Stop this, now, Julia,” Aquinas grabbed Julia’s arm. “Remember what we said.”
Julia rolled her arm around and shirked off his hand. The whole crowd went ooooooooooooooohhhhhh. Julia wanted to slap him in the face, but at that moment she realized everyone would bury her. It was that unthinkable to rise up against the leader.
But his machine…
She ran sideways, off the lawn, in the direction of the back courtyard entrance and the machine. Behind her she heard Aquinas’ voice: “Stop her! Stop her! Don’t let her touch the ED-210! Stop her!”
Just as she rounded the corner and saw the statue in the distance, the crowd descended on her like snow on a high mountain. Wángbā, Julia thought, why did I teach these people how to fight?
Julia fell down in the dogpile. The nightmare sim, and no Martina or her mother to help her…