The Earthseed Chronicles Free to read science fiction blogfic

22Jul/120

1-8: First Encounter

What Anthea had so nonchalantly called "her place" turned out to be a full-fledged mansion. Arcelia had been so deep in thought during the drive that getting there was a blur. Now she stood in the room that Anthea and Ragnar had shown her to for the night, and her awareness snapped back to the present. She could hear their subdued voices from beyond a large window showing an inner garden. She looked around; the room was luxurious. Not overly ostentatious, tasteful and functional. The bed itself was almost as large as the living room back in her apartment, and she had never felt anything quite like the texture of the bed sheets.

She should have felt Feeling slightly lost roaming these alien surroundings, but in truth she felt reassured. Despite the luxury the room had a cosy feel to it, and the one thing she needed most at that very moment was right there in front of her: a bathtub. It had been years since she had last taken a real bath – her apartment only had a shower. She looked out the window; Anthea and Ragnar had left, so she toyed with the idea for a bit and finally decided for a quick rinse. She turned on the water, undressed, threw her clothes carelessly into a heap on the floor and glided into the tub. The water was hot, but that was exactly what she wanted. It was decadent – outside temperatures were reaching 34°C, and she was taking a hot bath in the air conditioned interior.

Letting the heat soak her bones, she noted that she had forgotten how powerful a bath could be to relax. A shower never came close enough, not even if she tried to do it hollywood style by leaning her head and hands against the shower’s wall and letting the water run down over her head. Then again, usually people got murdered right after those scenes. She steered her thoughts away from the hectic happenings of the last days and discovered that her neck was still sore from the time she had spent upside down in her dresser. The hot water dulled it down, but it was going to be a bother for days to come. She wondered who had put her in there – possibly Frank. It was possibly to put her out of harm’s way, and she was thankful even if she did not entirely agree with how it was done.

The fact that someone hid her meant that there was more than one party involved – or there were different opinions within the group that was after the medical information on Anthea and the other “immortals”. Countless books and movies seemed to have robbed the word of its meaning. Immortality was still eluding the medical world, and immortal beings were still the stuff of legend - unless she dared believe what she had learnt from Anthea so far. Try as she might, she could not wrap her mind around it, much less being one herself. There was no way she could come to terms with a future that was frighteningly close to Highlander – seeing your friends grow old and die while you lived on (minus the kilt of course)? She had to laugh aloud, but it sounded hollow. No, it was crazy. These people had to be delusional.

“Arcelia?” It was Anthea. She hadn’t heard her come in. Had she even knocked?

“Uh, yes?” she said, her line of thought evaporating.

“We have sent some people to your apartment to retrieve your things, but I thought you might want to change before then. I chose some clothes for you; I will put them here on the bed.”

“Thanks”. That was a nice thought indeed.

“Take your time; come join us in the garden later if you wish.”

“Okay,” she said, then thought of something. “Uh, Anthea?”

“Yes?” She heard Anthea’s light footsteps approach, and she appeared in the archway. She smiled questioningly. She did not seem to be disturbed by any intimacy boundaries. Arcelia let herself slide a bit further into the hot water, hoping that her blush would be hidden by her already hot face.

There was no point in trying subtlety to approach the subject. “Are you really immortal?”

“No, I do not think so. I like to think of myself as being long-lived.”

“But you don’t age.”

“We usually stop ageing at around 35 years. Each of us aged slightly differently, but no one aged beyond 37 years. At that point the metabolism changes and cellular regeneration goes into overdrive. We still do not know exactly what triggers the change and how it all works.”

“When did you stop ageing?”

“In 1891. I was 34 years old. I remember the date because I met Nikola Tesla that year when he moved to New York. I felt the change in my body, but understood it only much later.”

Arcelia’s mind reeled. “Tesla… as in Tesla Coil?”

“Yes. He was a brilliant man. Driven, like all great minds are, but charming and a real gentleman.”

She frowned. If this was true, she would stop ageing in approximately eight years. Anthea’s gaze lingered on her, and she became even more self-conscious. She let herself slide deeper into the water until her chin dipped into the surface. She thought she saw a flicker of a smirk mixing into Anthea’s smile as she turned back around towards the garden.

“I am going back to see Ragnar,” she said.

“I’ll come over as soon as I’m done here.”

Anthea nodded, and went out.

If Anthea was delusional, she did not act like it at all – at least not in the way that Arcelia imagined a delusional person would. She was suddenly eager to finish bathing to get some more answers. She blushed furiously again when she got out of the tub and saw her sorry heap of clothes on the floor. Being messy at home alone was one thing, having a two centuries old lady see your mess was another altogether. She picked up the heap and put it on the bed; only marginally better, but still an improvement. The clothes Anthea had prepared for her were a little bit too large, especially the cleavage. She did not have enough to fill all that, but luckily the top had buttons.

The bathroom cabinet had a wide selection of makeup, with possibly more lipstick, eyeliner and blush than she had ever owned in her life. It was terribly tempting, but she had never been comfortable wearing makeup to begin with. She stared at the cabinet for a full minute, and decided to at least put on some lipstick. The colour was called “Pink Wink”, whatever that was supposed to represent. It was matte light pink, which someone had once told her complemented her eyes. She had always thought that the lips she was born with ought to complement her eyes just fine. She checked herself in the mirror, and wasn’t quite happy nor unhappy with the result as usual.

Her room had a sliding glass door that led into the inner garden, so she went looking for Anthea and Ragnar. The garden was much larger than she had thought at first, and the vegetation was tropical. It was a full-fledged botanical garden, complete with glass dome overhead. She shuddered to think of much this must cost to maintain, especially water-wise since prices were quite high in the city. She followed a small paved path all the way to the opposite end of the garden, but there was no sign of Anthea or Ragnar. She had crossed a fountain with benches on the way over, and as far as she could see it was the only spot where you could sit – maybe they were in the house? She decided to go back to the fountain.

Just as she started walking, a commotion ahead stopped her in her tracks. It had sounded like glass breaking, but as the vegetation muffled everything there was no way to be sure. Usually she would have dismissed it as someone dropping something on the floor, but instead her instincts made her jump into the undergrowth. It was strange, it was as if she could sense hostility coming from the direction she heard the sound, as well as from several other directions. She had never felt anything like it, and it scared the hell out of her. It was almost as if she could feel sources of hostile feelings move around her. It was when a man in military garb came into view on the path that she realized that he was one of the sources of hostility that she felt. She could feel him come closer, and she shrank back further into her hiding place. She dared not breathe as the man stealthily made his way past her on the path. She could not see him any more, but she could feel his hostility move just as the other hostility sources slowly converged on her. The garden was eerily silent, which only fuelled her fear. She thought that if she could be even more scared, she would faint.

Now that she knew what it was she felt, she could almost pinpoint exactly where the soldiers were. There was also a sort of colour to the hostility of each of them, and the strength of what she could only refer to as a kind of signal was continuously pulsating, the very structure of it changing continuously. It was mesmerizing, but she forced herself to think of something else. This was not the time to experiment, especially not with something so alien. For all she knew she could be telling these guys where she was. A small spider hurried up her sleeve, but she let it go wherever it pleased; it was not the time to go swatting spiders either. Besides, she was so cramped up with fear that she wasn’t even sure she could move at all.

Suddenly everything around her seemed to go out of focus, bending as if put through a distortion filter, and after a disconcerting flash of absolute nothingness, she was sitting in a featureless white room.

“Welcome back, Arcelia. You are now logged in,” Ion intoned cheerfully.

“What the-“ she was able to say, and realized that she was back in the basement of the Thorvalds Technologies subsidiary where she had first met Ragnar.

“Sorry for the confusion, we had to teleport you out,” Ragnar said from somewhere on her right.

The relief that flowed through her was ecstatic. She let herself slump on the floor, breathing deeply. She absently thought of captain Kirk being “beamed” out of a tight spot, and how he would have felt if it had been real. A few hours ago she did not know teleportation was a reality, and now it had already saved her life.

“No worries,” she said and saw the spider from earlier race away from her to try and find a better refuge. Was it the first spider ever to be teleported? Somehow the thought made her giggle uncontrollably. She heard Ragnar and Anthea talking animatedly, but she could not focus on what they were saying. She closed her eyes and thanked creation that she was alive.

“Arcelia, are you all right?” Anthea asked softly.

“Thanks a bundle for saving me,” she said, keeping her eyes closed. To her surprise, she realized that she could sense some of Anthea’s benevolence, just like she had felt the hostility of the men chasing them. She opened her eyes, and looked at Anthea, who was kneeling beside her.

“I could feel them. Feel their hostility” she said, some of the fear creeping back into her voice.

“You did? That’s... surprising” she said, visibly surprised. She exchanged a glance with Ragnar, who seemed to be almost as surprised. Arcelia looked at her questioningly.

“I think it means that your abilities are starting to awaken without outside help. It is a safeguard; usually one of us has to help you awaken them. Only the eldest among us were able to awaken our abilities on our own, and it was not a seamless process.”

“Why do mine awaken on their own then?”

“We do not know, but it does not bode well,” Ragnar said cryptically. A flicker of annoyance passed over Anthea’s face – possibly a topic they were not in sync on.

“What we were meaning to explain is that we are in a race. Not only us, but the entire human race – except that only we know about it so far. The fact that your abilities are awakening on their own could mean that the race is accelerating. It is a matter of debate within the team, but so far no one knows for sure.”

“A race to what, where?”

“Survival. Something is coming to earth from the depths of our universe, something bad. We do not know what it is, but the earth itself chose to create us to help humanity prepare for whatever is to come.”

Arcelia listened, but could not make much sense of what she heard. Possibly sensing her distress, Anthea placed a hand on her shoulder.

“Come, we must not stay here. We cannot teleport back to Lyon because our energy reserves are depleted, but the helicopter should be here any moment to take us to the airport. From there we will take the jet back to our headquarters.”

Arcelia nodded, and followed them back out of the basement. “Who were these guys?”

“We do not know yet.”

“Nor are we likely to, since we did not even capture one,” Ragnar said sullenly.

Anthea smiled at him. “Do not worry, something tells me they are not about to give up. You will get another chance.”

“I don’t understand. What do you mean by the earth created us?”

“It’s difficult to explain in words. You will understand it on your own once your abilities have fully awoken. I will try to explain the basics however: our planet has an awareness, and it sensed a threat coming from deep space. To defend against this threat, this awareness started experimenting with life on earth and eventually created us,” Anthea said as they emerged outside on the helipad. The helicopter was already there, the engine running.

Arcelia half shouted to cover the noise, “What are we supposed to do?”

“So far, we have been striving to achieve world peace and to stimulate technological advancement. We are trying to make the human race evolve faster, if you will – so that we have the means to defend ourselves whenever the threat hits us,” Anthea said as they sat down in the rear cabin of the helicopter. With the doors closed, the noise level decreased to a bearable level.

“What is the threat? When will it get here?” Arcelia asked as the Helicopter took off, moving her bowels in directions she felt were not entirely natural.

“We do not know. Gaia, as we have come to call earth’s awareness, does not know either. It does not think; it merely reacts instinctively.”

“This is crazy, how can an instinct create something as complex as people with abilities?”

“We do not know for sure, but we think that it has to do with the nature of Gaia itself. Its awareness does not come from the earth as you imagine it, but from the combined minds of all life living on it. This means that its intelligence is limited by the combined intelligence of all life forms. ”

“Meaning us.”

“Mostly, yes. But not only – we found proof of evolutionary experiments that predate homo erectus. Gaia might even have been the spark in man’s evolution. Anyway, as man evolved and became more intelligent, Gaia’s relative intelligence grew. This shows in the complexity of the experiments we were able to find and document. Even within our group and the small timeframe in which we were created, you can see big improvements.”

“Wow, okay. I’m not overly religious, but the word God comes to mind.”

Ragnar laughed. “Gaia is God, and we are its superhero angels.”

Anthea gave Ragnar a cold glare, but his laugh only changed into a smirk. “We have discussed Gaia’s role in human history at some length, but we can neither prove nor disprove that it influenced the creation of any religions,” she went on. “We all have a connection to Gaia once our abilities are fully awake, which enables us in a very abstract way to see what Gaia sees. I think it is not impossible that some other people in history were able to sense this as well without having any special abilities – and it would make for a very inspiring experience.”

“The fact is, after all these years we are still completely in the dark,” Ragnar interjected. “We do not have an inkling of a clue as to what kind of threat we are facing, or if there even is one. Gaia is not infallible – it made a lot of mistakes on the way. In a way, you can compare us to religious fanatics, living solely on blind faith.”

Anthea smiled wryly. “Ragnar is right. We have very little information all things considered, but we have learned a lot in the past few years. Every new member on the team helped us fill in some blanks, and I hope you will be able to do that as well.”

“How?” Arcelia managed to croak as her stomach seemingly turning upside down as the helicopter lurched sideways in a bout of turbulence.

“As I said, every one of us can, in a very limited way, see what Gaia sees. But we do not all see the same things; combining what everyone sees helps us get a better idea of what we are facing. I am hoping that you, being the latest generation, will be able to see more clearly than we do.”

“Ooookay. No pressure,” Arcelia said, not sure that the renewed feeling of sickness was coming entirely from the flight.

Ragnar laughed. “Not to worry, seeing what Gaia sees will come to you naturally – and Anthea can help you make sense of it.”

Arcelia nodded and leaned back, it was a bit too much to process in such a short time. Her cheeks were heating up, and she had come to trust that signal to know she had to rest a bit. It was just like the exhaustion she felt sometimes when she concentrated on a screen for too long. Anthea looked at her and nodded her understanding.

“We will get to the airport in a few minutes; you will be able to rest in the jet.”

Arcelia nodded back. She could see the lights of the airport in the distance, and focused on them. It was surreal… she had taken to the skies for the first time - which was supposed to be a big deal - but it was overshadowed to the point of insignificance by the fact that she was possibly immortal, and destined to play a role in mankind’s survival no less. She was going to think, “Why me?” but she had read way too many reluctant hero stories to fall into the cliché. Still, she did not know how to come to grips with it all. She would have to give it time, but she had a feeling she would not get much of that.

The jet that waited for them was one of those she had come to know from movies: small, but luxurious - the kind that mobsters or high government officials generally use. It did not have any markings beyond the usual identification number, which may or may not have been intentional to keep it nondescript. As they got on board and settled down in their seats, she could not help but wonder what the hell she was doing, and where it would take her. One thing was for certain however: her life was starting to resemble a blockbuster movie.

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