After breakfast the next morning, Claridee joined Mason and Counselor Anklin in the guest quarters to go over their plans for the day.
“Leader Fraster has gathered everyone who interacted with Proust and his group,” explained Counselor Anklin. “They may have noticed or overheard something that might prove useful so I’ll spend the morning questioning them.”
“What about us?” Asked Claridee.
“I want you and Mason to try and trace Proust’s route into the settlement. Look for any evidence of where a transport might have landed. After that, check the generators Proust delivered to see if we can learn anything from them.”
The three left the guest quarters with Counselor Anklin walking towards the settlement’s common building while Claridee and Mason headed in the direction Proust had come from. Although Wastrene wasn’t bitterly cold like Bendroff, to Mason it still felt like a late winter’s day on Earth. The sun tried to shine through the overcast skies, but only cast a hazy grey light over the landscape.
They scanned the ground looking for any evidence of the spikes used to hold a transport down after it landed. Finding a piece of metal sticking out of the ground, he called Claridee over. “Look at this.”
She gave it a quick glance. “Oh that’s just a piece of an old water pipe.”
“Are you sure?”
Her eyes narrowed and it sounded as if she was trying to be patient with him. “Yes, I’ve been farming since I was ten years old.”
“Sorry, forgot about that.”
They kept searching until reaching an area filled with large boulders.
“There’s no way a transport could have landed here,” observed Claridee. “Let’s head back and report to Counselor Anklin.”
Without having to search any longer, they were able to talk while walking back to the settlement. Claridee told Mason how she and her friends would hike in the nearby hills after they’d finished working in the fields. He tried to explain how he and his friends used to play video games, but she had no idea what he was talking about.
As they neared the settlement, Claridee looked over at Mason and asked in a low voice. “What’s it feel like to use your abilities?”
Mason was quiet as he considered the question. “The feeling of power going through you is incredinle, but also terrifying.”
“How is it terrifying?” She asked in a hesitant voice.
Mason didn’t want to scare Claridee, but wished he’d known what to expect. “It’s almost as if the power is trying to take over your will. Once you’ve used it once, the urge to use it again is always there.”
Claridee stopped walking. “But that feeling eventually goes away, right?”
Mason shook his head. “Not according to Counselor Anklin.”
“Did he tell you how to fight it?”
“He told me to remember that these abilities are only to be used to serve the people of Myscreth and,” gesturing around them, “the terrible destruction they produced.”
Claridee walked more slowly as she considered Mason words. “Sometimes I worry that once I learn to use my abilities, it will change who I am.”
Mason stopped walking. “I can’t deny feeling different, but it didn’t change who I am.”
Claridee gave him a quick hug. “Thanks. That makes me feel better.”
Before Mason could respond, Claridee resumed walking towards the settlement.
Once back in the settlement, they went to the generator building to examine the generators that Proust had brought to Wastrene. Walking into the building they saw the ten generators that provided electricity for the settlement. The sight of the generators running by themselves still looked funny to Mason, but with the ability to manipulate scientific laws he was beginning to understand that on Myscreth such wonders were commonplace.
All the generators, with the exception of the three new ones, were of different sizes and exhibited the dents and scratches consistent with being recovered from ruined cities. However, the three new generators were identical and looked as if they’d just come off the assembly line.
“That’s strange,” observed Claridee. “I’ve never seen generators in such good condition.”
“You’re right, all the others seem pretty banged up.”
She concentrated on the generators, but Mason had no idea why. He was about to ask what she was doing when she started speaking.
“At least from a structural mechanics standpoint, the new generators have the same type of modifications as the others.”
Mason looked at Claridee in surprise.
“How’d you do that?”
She looked at him quizzically. “It’s part of the training, didn’t you learn how to do it?”
He shook his head. “No. I must’ve missed that part. Counselor Anklin told me I had a lot more to learn, but I didn’t realize how much.”
She seemed to be deep in thought when a sudden look of comprehension appeared on her face.
“Mason, what areas of science need to be modified to make these generators work?”
Mason remembered Counselor Anklin explaining the process to him.
“Dynamics, structural mechanics, electrodynamics, and...”
“Thermodynamics!” they cried together.
“But, according to the papers that were found, Proust hadn’t yet trained anyone who was capable of modifying thermodynamics,” argued Mason.
“Clearly he must have finished training someone who can,” she speculated, pointing at the generators. “We’d better let Counselor Anklin know about this right away.”
Mason nodded. “I want to get a closer look at these generators first.”
He went over to the three new generators to see if there were any markings on them that might identify where they were from. Seeing a tag on the underside of one of the generators, he slid himself underneath to get a better view. While a model number was clearly visible, the words at the bottom of the tag were more difficult to make out. As his eyes adjusted to the dimness, he was able to read them clearly.
“Made in the USA,” he read.
He lay there stunned and had to read the tag again to make sure he hadn’t misread it. Claridee called out to him.
“What do you see?”
He came out from under the generator and slumped against a nearby wall. When he didn’t respond she asked again, this time more urgently.
“Mason, what did you see?”
“I think you’d better get Counselor Anklin. These generators are from Earth!”
Mason was still sitting on the floor when Claridee returned with Counselor Anklin. He quickly confirmed Mason’s assessment.
“Clearly Proust has been travelling to Earth to acquire equipment. And based on what I’ve learned today, Wastrene isn’t the only place where he’s made deliveries.”
Mason was confused.
“But how is that possible? I thought there was a size limit as to what could be transported.”
Counselor Anklin seemed embarrassed.
“No, that limitation is my own. Since I can modify both dynamics and relativistic physics, my abilities in each are less developed. For someone who can only modify relativistic physics, transporting these generators is entirely possible.”
Mason couldn’t help but think of his parents. “We’ve got to stop him.”
“We’ll have to find him first,” answered Counselor Anklin.
Returning to the guest quarters, they briefed Counselor Anklin on finding no evidence of a transport landing. He didn’t seem surprised.
“Just as I expected,” he answered glumly. “If Proust has someone who can manipulate relativistic physics, he wouldn’t need a transport. I’d just hoped you might find something that might help us locate him.”
“Well at least we now know that Proust must have trained someone to modify thermodynamics,” offered Claridee in a consoling tone.
Counselor Anklin nodded, looking thoughtful. “Yes, to modify the generators he’d have to have someone capable of that.” He paused, seeming to be lost in thought, before suddenly snapping out of his reverie. “I’m glad the two of you had the insight to recognize it.”
“It was really more Claridee than me,” interjected Mason.
She jumped in quickly, blushing slightly. “Actually, we figured it out at the same time.”
“And what did you find out?” asked Mason, eager to change the subject.
“Unfortunately, not much. However, a couple of people did overhear the two workers mention some other settlements. It wasn’t clear if these were settlements they’d already visited, or if they were ones they planned to visit.”
There seemed to be a hint of hopefulness in Counselor Anklin’s voice. “Even if there’s just one settlement they haven’t visited yet, we may have a chance of surprising Proust. However, we’ll have to act quickly.” He stood up, a determined look on his face. “Get packed - we’re leaving for Cranrine.”
Claridee was clearly disappointed to be leaving Wastrene so soon, but she recovered quickly. “I’ll go say goodbye to my parents.”
When the three of them met back in the guest quarters, Counselor Anklin concentrated producing a low hum and a flashing purple light on the wall. Once the light stopped flashing, the three of them stepped through.
They arrived on a flat plain outside of a settlement which contained only about twenty buildings. Beyond the settlement there was a small farming area illuminated by grow lights. It was noticeably colder and darker than it had been in Wastrene.
“It’s freezing; where on Earth are we?” asked Mason.
Claridee looked at him and cocked her head to one side. “Actually, we’re still on Myscreth, Mason.”
Counselor Anklin laughed. “Cranrine is located in the southernmost portion of the equatorial region. That’s why it’s so cold.”
Walking into the settlement they asked the first person they saw where the settlement leader’s residence was.
Counselor Anklin knocked once, but there was no answer. He continued knocking until it was finally answered by a short older woman who seemed annoyed at being disturbed.
“What is it you want?” she asked.
Counselor Anklin frowned slightly as he replied.
“I’m so sorry to disturb you, but I’m Counselor Anklin.” He then motioned at Mason and Claridee. “These are Trainees Claridee and Mason. I’m looking for Cranrine’s leader.”
Upon discovering who her visitors were, her face turned pale and she nearly tripped as she stepped back while bowing. She tried to speak, but no words came out. When her voice returned, she spoke in a low respectful tone.
“Please come in. My husband Grestern is the leader of Cranrine. He’s working in the fields right now, but I’ll go get him right away,” she offered in an anxious voice.
Counselor Anklin smiled at her. “Please don’t trouble yourself. Just let us know where we can find him since we have pressing business to discuss with him.”
His smile seemed to calm her as she pointed towards the farming area. “He’s at the main pumping station in the middle of the fields. You can’t miss it.”
“Thank you for your help,” he replied kindly before starting to walk away with Claridee and Mason following him.
As they drew nearer to the farming area, a group of people could be seen working near a small building. They were trying to lift a new pump motor into place.
Counselor Anklin hailed the group.
“Good afternoon. I’m looking for Leader Grestern.”
A rough-looking man looked over from the motor they were lifting and glared at them.
“I’m Leader Grestern. Who are you?”
“I’m Counselor Anklin.”
At his introduction, the others almost dropped the motor as they stared at him. The four quickly lowered the motor to the ground and bowed. Now that Counselor Anklin had their attention he continued.
“It was my understanding that Counselor Proust was to deliver some equipment here. I want to make sure it got here safely.”
Grestern looked at the pump motor they were trying to install.
“Yes, he was here a few days ago.” He wiped his brow and sat down. “He brought some lights, a generator, and this pump motor. He helped to install the generator, but told us he was too busy to help with the well pump.” He gave Counselor Anklin a challenging look. “No disrespect, but I thought the Council was supposed to be a bit more helpful.”
Counselor Anklin frowned. “That was clearly an oversight on Counselor Proust’s part. But I’m here now and will gladly help. Trainee Mason, please hold on to the motor while I raise it.”
He concentrated and the motor started to lift off the ground. As Mason held on to the motor he quickly scanned it for any marking and saw that it too was from Earth. He helped the others position it. Once they were ready, Counselor Anklin concentrated again and the motor slowly fell into place.
The group thanked Counselor Anklin. He turned to Leader Grestern.
“Did Counselor Proust say which settlement he was going to after Cranrine?”
“He didn’t say much of anything really. He and the two workers brought the equipment, installed the generator, and then left.”
“Did these two workers happen to be a young blonde-haired man with a limp and an older woman with graying hair?”
“That was them. Now it would be a great honor for our settlement if the three of you would stay for a celebration feast since we weren’t able to hold one for Counselor Proust.”
Counselor Anklin feigned disappointment.
“I wish we could stay, but we have several more settlements to check today. Hopefully we’ll be back this way again and enjoy your hospitality then. Come Mason and Claridee, we must be going.”
As they walked back towards the settlement Counselor Anklin and Claridee looked at Mason expectantly. “The motor was from Earth,” he muttered, not bothering to hide the anger in his voice. They walked the rest of the way in silence. Once back in the settlement they made their way to the generator building. Examining the generator brought by Proust, they saw it was identical to the ones in Wastrene.
Mason clenched his fists. “Proust must have gotten them from a warehouse to have so many of the same kind.”
Counselor Anklin scanned the generator room and shook his head. “I think we’ve learned all we can here. The next settlement to check is Stranoff.” He looked over at Mason. “At least it will be warmer there since it’s right on the equator.”
Counselor Anklin furrowed his brow in concentration as the familiar hum and purple light appeared. Soon they stood outside the settlement of Stranoff. Even though it was now late in the day there it was brighter and warmer than it had been in Cranrine.
As they approached Stranoff, Mason noticed that it was even larger than Wastrene, with almost two hundred buildings. However, Counselor Anklin seemed to know where he was going.
“I’ve been here many times before,” explained Counselor Anklin seemingly answering Mason unasked question. “I’ve known Leader Krastor for years. He’s a good man and I’m sure he’ll help in any way he can.”
Approaching the leader’s house they saw a man coming out. He was a tall lean man with reddish hair. He seemed much younger that the other settlement leaders whom Mason had met. When he saw Counselor Anklin, he gave a wide smile.
“Counselor Anklin, it’s so good to see you again! What brings you to Stranoff?”
The two men shook hands.
“Just here to check on some equipment deliveries. Have you had any equipment deliveries in the last few weeks?”
“No new equipment has arrived in almost two months, but we could certainly use some.”
“We’ll see what we can do. Let me introduce two of our trainees; Mason and Claridee.”
Mason and Claridee shook hands with Leader Krastor.
“I’d be pleased if the three of you would join me and my family for dinner this evening,” offered Leader Krastor.
Counselor Anklin looked over at Mason and Claridee. “Normally, I’d be happy to accept, but we’ve been visiting settlements since early this morning. I’m sure tomorrow will be just as busy, so we should probably turn in early. If you could just show us to the settlement’s guest quarters.”
“Of course, please follow me.”
As they walked to the guest quarters, Mason noticed that Counselor Anklin had a renewed spring in his step.
Once they were alone in the guest quarters, the three of them sat down to discuss their plans. There was a tangible sense of anticipation in Counselor Anklin’s voice as he spoke.
“Proust hasn’t been here yet, it’s the chance we’ve been waiting for.” He took out a sheet of paper and pencil and drew a rough sketch of the settlement. “When Proust arrived in Wastrene he used a cart to carry the equipment. Therefore, he’ll have to use one of these three roads,” which Counselor Anklin drew on his map, “to enter the settlement. Each of us will watch one of these entrances for any sign of Proust. We’ll have to keep ourselves hidden, but if either of you see anything suspicious, let me know at once.”
Mason spoke up. “When Proust arrives won’t Leader Krastor mention that you’re here?”
“No, I’ll speak with him tomorrow morning and ask him to not mention our presence here.”
Claridee seemed more hesitant while voicing her concern. “Counselor Anklin, don’t you think it might be a good idea to have the other members of the Council here?” He shook his head.
“I considered that, but if there were too many Council members here that might cause enough of a commotion to scare Proust away. Remember, we looking to track him, not capture him. Once we know where his headquarters are then we can notify the rest of the Council.”
“So how long are we going to wait here for Proust to show up?” asked Mason.
“Until he does,” answered Counselor Anklin without hesitation.
The following morning at breakfast, they finalized their plans. Counselor Anklin spoke between bites of food.
“I’ll watch near the road that enters the northern end of the settlement. Claridee, you take the road on the east and Mason you watch the road on the western side of the settlement.” He waved his fork for emphasis. “Keep out of sight; I want no chance of Proust seeing us if he shows up.”
“Understood,” replied the two trainees together. After breakfast the three of them set out for their assigned locations.
Reaching the western end of the settlement, Mason saw a storage building with some pallets stacked next to it. He decided it would be an ideal location from which to observe the road. Over the course of the morning, he watched people entering and leaving the settlement, but saw no sign of Proust or his workers. All he’d achieved from his morning of crouching behind the pallets was an aching back.
To relieve his boredom, he decided to practice the new skill Counselor Anklin had taught him. Now, as each person passed, he visualized them in his mind to see if an aura appeared. The only one he saw was a hazy red one around a small black-haired boy.
As lunchtime passed, Mason’s stomach started to grumble and he wished he’d thought to bring something to eat. However, his thoughts of hunger vanished as a young woman entered the settlement. She was of medium height, with her long dark hair tied in a ponytail. Mason guessed she couldn’t be more than twenty years old. He didn’t know why, but was certain he’d seen her before. She continued walking while cautiously scanning the area as if looking for something.
As he had with everyone else who’d entered the settlement, Mason checked for an aura. There was a brief instant of absolute blankness as he visualized her, but she was suddenly engulfed in a solid blue light. Mason nearly cried out in surprise.
He considered following the young woman, but knew that Counselor Anklin had to be told about her. Waiting for her to pass, he took off for the northern end of the settlement.
Reaching the edge of the settlement, he stopped and looked around.
“Mason, get out of sight,” hissed Counselor Anklin from behind a building.
Running over, Mason had to catch his breath before he could speak.
“A girl … a girl just entered the settlement and I saw a solid blue aura around her.”
“Are you sure? Are you absolutely certain?”
Mason nodded his head, still out of breath.
Counselor Anklin nodded. “Where is she now?”
“On the main road of the settlement.”
Counselor Anklin took off running, with Mason struggling to keep up. As they reached the main road, they stopped and peered around the corner of a building. Mason saw the woman about thirty feet away. She was walking towards the eastern edge of town. He nudged Counselor Anklin and pointed. “That’s her.”
Counselor Anklin stared at her. “You’re right, she can manipulate relativistic physics. You follow her and I’ll go around the back of the buildings to try and cut her off it she runs.”
Mason nodded and made his way onto the street, careful to stay near the buildings. He’d only gone a few steps when he noticed Claridee walking from the other end of the settlement. Seeing Claridee, the young woman froze. Mason tried to get back behind the building, but the young woman turned around before he could get out of sight. Seeing him, she started running towards the nearest building. Mason called out.
“Claridee, follow her!”
She began running after the young woman as Mason tried to catch up to them. Seeing Claridee gaining on her, the young woman began concentrating. The wall in front of her almost immediately began to hum and flash with a purple light. Claridee had nearly reached her when she jumped into the doorway.
Unable to stop, Claridee went through as the light vanished.
Reaching the wall too late, Mason pounded it in frustration. There was nothing he could do, Claridee was gone.
- Parker T. Allan
An engineer who enjoys writing something other than technical reports. Writing let's me share all the ideas floating around my mind. I hope my writing jump starts your imagination as so many books have done for me.
If you enjoy physics, check out https://physicswithcats.com/ for some fun stories which explain various physics topics.