The Earthseed Chronicles Free to read science fiction blogfic

4May/120

1-7: Revelations

"Welcome back Ragnar, you are now logged in," Ion intoned cheerfully.

Besides the shock of having someone appear out of thin air, Arcelia was ill prepared to meet Ragnar Thorvalds. Not because of her apprehension to meet someone his age, which had been her main concern up until his appearance – no, she just wasn't ready to meet a man of his stature. He was not particularly handsome, yet he had the kind of raw beauty that you would expect from someone born in his age. He had a presence that seemed to fill the room. Everything about him, from the way he held himself to the perfection to which his beard was trimmed hinted at a mastery of life in general that was beyond Arcelia's imagination. She had met a number of men in her life, but he dwarfed them all by a long shot. She suddenly felt small and out of place. When he saw her, his expression changed from a pensive frown to a welcoming smile.

"Miss Zoya, it is a pleasure to meet you," he said with a voice that went right through her skin and into her bones. He had a deep voice that matched his raw look, with a hint of an accent that she could not quite place.

"Ragnar," she said, and realized with shock that she had used his first name. She felt herself blush even more, enough so to illuminate a small room she thought – at least her cheeks felt like they could. If he was offended, he hid it behind his charming smile. She managed to gather what was left of her composure, and got up to shake his hand. It was colder than she had expected, but he had a firm grip.

"How did you...?" She croaked, trying to distract her mind from him and waving her arms around in the direction of where he had appeared.

"In short, teleportation. It is an incredibly wasteful technology, which is why we only use it for emergencies. This seemed to qualify," he said, and looked at Anthea, who was bringing up several more of the decrypted documents on screen.

"You undoubtedly have many questions. Do you think you could bear to wait a while longer? I would like to have a look at these documents Anthea mentioned."

"Of course," she said, more than a little dumbfounded by the encounter.

He smiled at her, and went to embrace Anthea in a way that woke a peculiar kind of longing in her. No one had ever held her that way - so tight that you would think their aim was to meld into each other. It touched her so deeply that all her jumbled emotions welled up all at once, stemming from a lifetime of failed romances. It took all the self-control she could muster not to break into tears. She even forgot about the fact that she had just witnessed teleportation - a small miracle that would have nerds all over the planet wet their pants. She let herself glide back down onto the couch, trying very hard not to think.

"You are right, they are all there," Ragnar said softly. "Someone went to a lot of trouble to smuggle these files out, and it is surprising that they did not take something more damning. They cannot possibly try to go public with this; no one will accept even an impressive collection such as this as proof of our existence."

"Clearly we have to find out what the motive was, but for now I am more interested in who was behind all this. The fact that they chose to use Arcelia to get to the files is equally troubling. One could even think it was meant to mock us – using one of our own to get to us."

They were silent for a while, but Arcelia could virtually hear them think. Holding hands like two teenagers freshly in love, they were staring somewhere beyond the screen. They looked as if made for each other: they were the same height, and bore the same aura of confidence about them. Somehow the fact that a relationship like this could survive centuries – assuming they had known each other that long – was immensely reassuring. It was Anthea who finally broke the silence.

"We have no way to know for sure."

"Agreed," Ragnar answered. "We have to take precautions from here on, but otherwise this should not change anything, especially since whoever did this is most likely not aware that we know what they were after thanks to miss Zoya's initiative."

"I don't understand, there has to be a way to find out who tampered with those files. Ciphered files have access logs," Arcelia added on an impulse, and instantly regretted intruding into their conversation.

If either of them was annoyed by her interruption, they did not show it. "Yes they have, but nothing those logs tell us will be reliable. For all we know, one of the aims of the theft is to make us distrust each other. We cannot know for sure who copied the files, even with the logs. Impersonating someone by stealing his login is way too easy," Ragnar explained.

Arcelia blushed furiously. She knew this of course, and cursed herself for speaking too soon yet again. It was one of her failings; she would have to work on that. Way to go for a first impression, she thought and cursed herself silently once more.

"We will not let this make us paranoid, the trust we have between all members of the team was earned. It shall not waver until we find more tangible proof," Anthea added.

Somehow the mention of this team she had never even met suddenly made her painfully aware of the situation she was in, how quickly she had been uprooted out of her life in a matter of hours. ANd she had no idea what it was all about, nor who all these people were. A spark of anger managed to push through her jumbled feelings, with a tinge of fear. To hell with thinking things through, she decided.

"I'm sorry, but this is all a bit much to take in. You treat me as if you already knew me for a long time. The truth is, you are total strangers to me, and I don't even know what I am doing here - or why I agreed to come along in the first place," she said, suddenly wanting only to go home.

Ragnar looked at Anthea questioningly. She nodded, and turned to face Arcelia.

"You are right, I am sorry," Anthea said. "Usually we take all the time we need to ease new members into the team; we did not have that luxury with you. I think you know at least that we mean you no harm."

"All we ask is that you let us show you that we can be trusted," Ragnar added.

Anthea had shown her nothing but kindness, and if what she had shared with her earlier was in any way genuine, she knew she could trust her implicitly. She knew herself to be way too trusting though, so she was at a loss to decide how to proceed. Go ahead with Anthea and Ragnar and their team of 'immortal' world saviors or try to salvage her life on her own? Something told her that now that Anthea had slipped into her life, she was there to stay – regardless of what she herself wanted. She might actually be an immortal herself, and if there was any truth to it she would need help from her own kind to understand the implications. Staying with them meant heading into the unknown, but somehow that was more appealing now than going back to her regular job at the tax office, or to her wrecked apartment where bad people were possibly still lurking. Anthea and Ragnar were looking at her expectantly. She had to take a decision, and a part of her knew she had already reached one.

"Okay, but I will need a few things from home," she said. Then she realized she had no idea what she was supposed to do, where she would stay... her thoughts trailed off into the unknown. Anthea seemed to sense her distress, walked over and gently but firmly took both her hands in hers. It was so unexpected that Arcelia did not resist, and merely looked curiously at Anthea's hands holding hers. She felt that tingly sensation again, as she relaxed and her thoughts went agreeably numb.

"We will send someone over to fetch whatever you need. It is not safe anymore for you there, so for now you can stay at my place until we find a more permanent solution. We will have enough time to talk tonight," she said gently.

Arcelia nodded, focusing on the warm touch of Anthea's hands. It reminded her of their "kiss" earlier, and how it had felt to be in her thoughts. She understood that this was the same type of connection, except a lot more subdued compared to their previous exchange. Nevertheless, it felt good, her worries were still there but they were strangely abstracted. She could grasp them without actually feeling worry.

"This is strange. What are you doing?" She asked, her voice a lot softer than she had intended.

"I am filtering your emotions to take off their edge. I could not even start to explain how it works, because I do not fully understand it myself. I have gotten steadily better at it, however. How do you feel?"

She struggled to find a word that could qualify how she felt. "Serene. Floating."

"That's good," she said and smiled. "When I let go of your hands, your feelings will gradually become fully your own again. It will give you time to make sense of things at your own pace. Ragnar will drive us to my house; there we will have time to answer all your questions. What do you think?"

She thought that sounded just fine, so she told her so. As Anthea had said, when she let go of her hands, she felt her emotions grow stronger again, but for the moment she still had control. She could almost touch that small bubble of anger that still lived inside her, and somehow she knew she could choose to make it burst and let it infuse her again.

"Do you always feel this way?" She asked as they started to make their way out of Ion's room and back up in the elevator, Ragnar trailing behind them.

"No, but I can descend in that frame of mind when needed. It is a great tool to have; I started using it when I was little. It helped a lot to overcome the grief of losing my father – as well as help my mother overcome hers. At the time I did it unknowingly, it was only much later that I realized that not everyone can do this."

"It must be tempting to stay in it indefinitely," she said, trying to steer the conversation away from those old memories which seemed to be ever present in Anthea.

"Yes, I would lie if I said otherwise. It has a lot of advantages, the biggest one being able to coolly analyze situations and take decisions based more on thought than feelings. But some things you have to feel to their full extent to live," she said and furtively glanced over to Ragnar. He was smiling.

"You said that you descend into that frame of mind. What makes you say that it is a descent? For me it felt like a thick veil wrapping around everything, there was no movement involved," she said.

"That's a good question, I never thought about it. I think it is not really a movement; it is more a change in color. Everything becomes darker, like going down into a basement. I suppose that's why I instinctively associate it with a descent."

Arcelia marveled at the possibilities of being able to transcend feelings to take decisions with almost pure logic. She also understood one of the caveats: feelings shape all our decisions. Taking them out of the equation would make us less human. It reminded her of those hashed and rehashed science fiction topics revolving around ethics and artificial Intelligence. It gave her a new perspective on those ages old debates, making them sound a little less silly.

She barely noticed how Anthea led them to the car and how they slowly made their way through the heavy Madrid evening traffic to the other side of the city. Anthea and Ragnar were talking, but she did not focus on what they were saying. She was going over everything that had happened over the last 18 hours, from her meeting with Frank to Ragnar's teleportation. There were marvels beyond counting condensed into those few hours, and she was glad to be able to analyze them like this. Her feelings were growing stronger, but they did not interfere with her thoughts at all. Dismissing all the details for now, she studied the big picture. She saw clearly that the life she had known was over. This was a new chapter, and it was chock full of possibilities and adventure. It seemed that even her purely analytical mind was not above indulging in some romanticized fondness for danger and mystery.

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