CHAPTER FIFTEEN – Back to the Penthouse

I held my breath as I looked up and was surprised to find the dome-shaped creature wasn’t there. I walked forwards wondering where it had gone. Periclum disconnected himself from me and went up the stairs to check the bedroom. He then came back with his visor down and his invisibility off. “It’s nice here! Bit small for an environment, but nice!” He seemed happy to be looking around. “So is this what it is like to be living on Earth?” He continued as he went down the stairs and then opened the fridge. I just watched him like I was watching TV, numb to the situation. He had pulled out a sandwich and began eating. Then looked over in my direction. “James, take your cloak off!” I looked down at my screen and then without thinking pressed on the button to deactivate the cloak. Then I put my visor down.

It smelt fresh in there. It surprised me. Periclum came to me and handed me a sandwich. I held it with the suits gloves still on. I looked at it confused for a moment and then I looked at him. “Where did you get this from?” 

“That cupboard over there!” he pointed towards the fridge.

“This shouldn’t be fresh!” I replied to him, confused why the sandwich looked so good.

He looked at me for a moment, appearing to think while taking a bite out of the sandwich. “It could be an EMC machine that refreshes all the items in it every time you slept? I’m not sure James but then I haven’t ever seen food that has gone off in my life. Maybe this food is stale?” he said to me as he took another bite. “But hmm, it tastes so good and I am hungry!” 

I looked at the sandwich. Not sure what to expect. I smelt it. It smelt fine. I then nibbled it and the bread tasted fine. I then took a bigger bite and it was amazing. It was what I was craving. A prawn cocktail sandwich. My favourite. I didn’t realise I was so hungry until that moment. Periclum smiled at me with his eyes, then placed his hand on my arm. Afterwards he went to the door and once again took the panel off next to it. He began pulling out cables with one hand while eating with another. “It’s made of wood Periclum, I don’t think it will stop them!” I said to him. He turned around and looked at me with a smile in his eyes. “I think it will hold for a while!” 

I looked around the apartment and it looked like new. Everything was in its place, everything was clean. I felt relaxed because of it. The familiar view of New York out of the window with cars driving on the streets and food I recognised being in my hand. I sat down on the sofa and stared at the blank TV. I reminisced back to when I first awoke in this apartment. The aroma of the English Breakfast filled my senses. I got back up and began walking to the kitchen. I checked the fridge. It seemed I had everything I needed. 

Eggs, Mushrooms, Lincolnshire Sausages, Baked Beans, Tomatoes, Bacon and I wanted to fry some bread that I found in the cupboard. I got the frying pan, got out the oil and began. 

“James, what are you doing?” Periclum asked me as he approached. 

I looked at him, “I’m making an English Breakfast for us Periclum!” 

He looked at me, “hmm, is it tasty?”

“Oh, yes!” I said in reply.

I continued cooking, the aroma of the meal filling the room and making me feel more relaxed. The familiar whir of the extractor fan above the cooker making me feel more comfortable. While I was cooking this, I looked over and noticed Periclum type on his screen while pointing his hand towards different parts of the room.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“I’m scanning the room. You will want this data later. We can use it to make you feel more comfortable.”

I looked at him smiling, “Thanks, to be honest, the biggest thing that I am missing is the food. I am so happy to be eating something so familiar.”

“I will download that later, but that will require connecting to the EMC with my BCI and will attract the Stilla.” 

Nodding, I continued cooking as Periclum continued scanning. The sun was beaming through the window onto me as I cooked, and it made me feel relaxed. It felt like it could be a scorching summer’s day outside. I wanted to keep hold of this illusion that I was in fact on Earth and tried to make all of this as normal as possible. I finished cooking and gestured to Periclum to sit down at the Breakfast Bar. He struggled to climb the high bar stools but managed to sit down and look at me. I served him with some orange juice and the breakfast. Then served myself the same and came round to sit next to him.

I felt sick in my stomach with everything going on, but I was also hungry for recognisable food. I struggled to eat but forced myself, knowing that I needed it. Periclum seemed to enjoy the meal a lot and devoured it. He didn’t seem so phased by what was happening. 

“How are you so calm?” I asked, questioning his sanity.

“I have the suit” he replied. It was confusing for me. “James, I lived with these creatures for many months. I can’t remember much, but I can remember how stupid they can be with this suit. They don’t know where we are, we are invisible and you just proved that the suits are more than enough to fight if we need to.” I couldn’t argue with Periclums logic. Still, I couldn’t shake the feeling of nervousness, anxiety and sickness. These were the creatures that took me like a rag doll. Then trapped me, Caroline, and the rest of us refugees onto their awful ship. I wondered at that point if there were any survivors left behind. Periclum answered my question.

“I don’t think so!” he replied “I placed a bomb in every section where there were creatures from this ship.” 

“You killed them?” I asked, shocked.

“I made sure I scanned them before and it seemed like I got every one of them. Perhaps there were one or two that were left, but I don’t know. I did what I could. Anyway, if there were one or two left and I also materialised them on The Liberty. Then the Galactic Union would be after me and it doesn’t seem like they are.”

“But why did you have to kill them?” I asked.

“James, I scanned them. We materialised most of them on The Liberty. By Galactic Union law, you cannot be alive in two places at the same time. I had to kill everyone to materialise them alive.”

For a moment I was confused and then realised that it made sense. It still made me feel a little sick that all those people died, including myself. However, they lived. I looked at Periclum, “It will take me some time to get used to all of this.”

“It’s the same for most species that haven’t got EMC technology. It’s hard to comprehend.” I nodded in agreement with Periclum and he continued to eat his English Breakfast. I continued playing with mine. Once we had finished, Periclum went to the sofa and found a plug in the sofa’s side. He scanned it and then plugged his suit into it. I went to the other side of the sofa and then after a while of going through the menus on the suit, I did the same. We both laid down the sofa resting. I closed my eyes for a moment, but the world seemed to spin and it just made me feel more sick. Then I sat up, looking over at Periclum who seemed to fall asleep. 

I sat there for a moment, realising I was needing the toilet. Looking at the button that said, ‘clean user’, I wished I could get out the suit to go to the bathroom. I held it in and struggled to keep it back until I had to go. Soon using the button to clean myself up afterwards and feeling fresh.

The remote to the TV was in the centre of the sofa and it took some doing to reach it while the suit was plugged in. Reaching with my fingertips, I got it and turned the TV on. It felt good to be just relaxing and feeling normal. I decided that I needed a beer. Unplugging my suit, I went to the fridge. I found beer tucked away at the back of the fridge, grabbed one and sat down. It tasted just like the brand it said it was. I plugged the suit back in, sat back and relaxed. Beer in hand, TV showing a great show and there I was, like that, for a few hours. 

Periclum awoke and found me relaxing there with the TV on. “What is this?” he asked, still half asleep.

“It’s a science fiction TV show from Earth. They can go to planets through a wormhole that is created by them. Closing and opening them when they need it.” 

He rubbed his eyes as he looked at the show, “that would be impossible. The gravimetric forces would rip through any planet they created the wormhole on.” 

I passed Periclum a beer, “Brilliant story though!” I said in a confident tone.

“Sure, if you like fantasy!” Periclum said as he was looking at the beer. I took the beer back and opened it with the bottle opener. Then handed it back. He sipped a bit, “Bleh, it’s not very tasty!”

“It’s an acquired taste!” I said in reply as I sat back and relaxed watching TV. Periclum put his feet up on the sofa and watched TV with me for the next few hours. We had more beers and got a little drunk. Periclum found Earth culture to be strange, overly sexual, and violent. I tried to convince him that it was only entertainment and we didn’t go around doing all of this stuff. But then he pointed out the amount we had gone to war throughout our history. I had no choice but to agree with him. There was nothing I could say to a species that have been in space for so long and fled every time there was a conflict.

We ended our time in front of the TV with Periclum promising to show me Tuhingan technological entertainment. At that moment we agreed it was about time we got ready to go. We unplugged our suits which appeared to be full, took some crisps and chocolate bars from the cupboard. Then Periclum began downloading the EMC content into his BCI. We both were expecting the insects to find us. We went up the stairs, connected the cable between us, turned on the invisibility and waited on the inner balcony. 

“They should have detected us. It’s a matter of time and it looks as though this download will take around thirty minutes,” Periclum said as he was standing there.

“Thirty minutes!” I almost shouted back as it shocked me. 

“Yes, something is wrong. Let’s see if I can just adjust a few things.” He paused for a while and I sat down on the balcony as he was doing what he was doing. “There is so much information here. Shall I take your TV shows and Internet Websites, whatever that is?” 

“Oh yes, take everything you can!” I said to him, excited at the prospect of having all of this.

“Okay, it will be forty-five minutes download time for all of that!”

“I thought you said you would make it less!”

“I tried, but it didn’t work. Oh, wait. I think it’s another signal that is blocking this one. Let me just boost our signal…” I waited for him to continue, but he didn’t for a while. “James!” he said.

“What’s up Periclum?” 

“I think we will soon have company. That’s the bad news.” I looked at him with fear. “The good news is that I reduced the time this will take to fifteen minutes.”

“What do we do?” I asked him, worried about the possibilities that we will not get everything or they will overrun us. I look around as I ask and think back to all those movies where people walked along the ledge outside of the windows. Pressing themselves against the wall while trying not to fall to their death. Grabbing Periclum’s arm, I told him to come with me. Then closing the door to the bedroom behind me and turned off my invisibility. I needed to see my hands for the next task.

“James, what are you doing?” Periclum said.

“I have an idea, I want to see if it will work.” Opening the window, the noise outside hit me. There was a lot of traffic below and the wind was high. I looked under the window and noticed a large ledge that lead around the corner of the building. I began climbing up. “James! Where are you going!?” I heard Periclum say to me, worried. I look back and tell his invisible self to follow me. 

“I’m not good with heights.” He told me.

“It’s okay, I’m sure we are not high!” I throw out a vase from the windowsill to prove my point and it appeared to glitch out for a moment and then continue falling. “Ahh!” I say as I watch it continue to fall and then hit a parked car below. “Maybe it is high.”

“It isn’t” I hear Periclum say. “Did you see the way it glitches out!” He grabbed a lamp and threw it out of the window. At the moment it glitches out he said, “see that!” 

“Oh, yeah.”

“How high do you think we are from that point?” 

My eyes couldn’t stop watching the lamp continuing to fall and then hit the pavement below. Someone stops, looks up, and shouts at us for throwing stuff out of the window. We both watched this and then Periclum continued, “wow, they really did a lot for this simulation. But I know it’s not real. I must remember it’s not real. Move over!” Periclum was saying this as I saw his invisible outline get bigger and then I felt him push me. I moved along the ledge, beginning to feel dizzy myself. We hear a loud bang from behind us as we knew the Stilla were coming in. I turned my invisibility on and then asked Periclum to follow me.

We continued to the corner of the building and then as soon as I reached there and wanted to peer around the corner. I banged my head. An invisible barrier was preventing us from going any further. “I can’t go any further!” I said to Periclum. 

“Hmm, the wall of the room.” He replied.

I sat down on the ledge and could feel Periclum do the same. I looked down and felt dizzy from the height. Our feet dangled over the edge and I looked below us and noticed another ledge. The wind was powerful and blowing against us hard. I steadied myself against the wall and I could hear Periclum in my ear, “This isn’t real, it’s not real, it’s not real.” He kept repeating to himself again and again. 

“Periclum!” I said.

“What!?” he shouted back as the sound of the wind howling around the helmet almost drowned out his voice.

“Maybe we could jump down to the next ledge on the floor below us?” I shouted back.

“No way!” I heard him say just as I saw a Stilla come out from the window.

“I don’t think we have a choice! Look next to you!” I say as I look at it, crawling onto the ledge and looking around. It began going along the ledge in the opposite direction, but then a powerful wind gushed and blew it off. I heard Periclum gurgle a little and then he said, “Its great now that I am connected.”

“Was that you?” I ask him.

“It was, had to override some safety protocols to get it to do it. But so worth it!” 

I burst out laughing. “All right, so we’ll be okay.” The wind died down from around my ears fell calm. 

“All right, I have increased the wind speed around the windows, so it is blowing a gale into the apartment at the moment.”

“It feels like you have decreased it!”

“For us, yes, but not for the Stilla” I heard him gurgling again. I go over the ledge and cling to the side.

“James! What are you doing!?”

“I’m curious, Periclum! I want to know what the apartment below looks like!” The cable tightened between me and Periclum as I lowered myself over the edge. Clinging onto the ledge, the suit made it feel so easy. I forgot about the cable, though, and Periclum panicked.

“James, you’re pulling me!” I heard some scraping above me and figured that I was pulling Periclum with me. I then saw a chunk of the ledge fall and the outline of Periclum dangling on the edge. I saw him grab hold of the ledge again and dangle next to me. 

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“Yeah! No thanks to you!” 

I laugh a little as I see him dangling there. “These suits are amazing. I could dangle here all day.”

“Lets not! Lets get onto this ledge below us. We’ll count to three.”

I swung my legs and as I did, I look up to see a Stilla standing above us looking over the edge. “Okay Periclum, on the count of three!” I say, desperate to get away. “One, two, Three!” We jump together and land on top of each other on the platform below. “There’s a Stilla above us!” I said as soon as I composed myself and looked up. “I saw it James, increasing the wind speed around it now.” We continued on along the ledge. I heard the wind increase. We came to a window. Looking in, it just looked like a dark bedroom with no one in. 

I saw the glass break and the outline of Periclum jumping into the room. I followed him and just as we entered I felt the wind had increased even more outside. It was dark in this room with very basic furniture. A single bed against a wall with a basic bedside table. We moved into the next room in the apartment and it was an open plan, lounge, kitchen, dining room area. Periclum took a wooden chair from the table and sat down.

“James!” he began.

“Yeah!?”

“Let’s never do that again!” 

I laughed and Periclum gurgled. 

“How’s the download?” I asked.

“Almost done! Five minutes.” Periclum said. At that moment I saw a Stilla fall outside. 

“How do you think we can get out of here?” I asked, concerned about the fact that the only known door in or out is in the apartment above us.

“I have no idea!” Periclum said as he gurgled a little, I responded with a slight laugh. 

I walk over to the front door, dragging Periclum up out of his chair and bringing him with me. “What about here!” I say as I unlock it, turn the handle and open the door. I was then confronted with what looked to be a concrete wall and a large EMC turret pointing at me. 

“Guess they never expected you to open this door!” I heard Periclum say. 

“Guess not!” I replied.

“It gives me an idea though!” I heard him say. “It could be risky but what if we direct the EMC to disintegrate all the other sections of this environment except for this apartment?”

“Can you do that?” I ask.

“Sure, but it’s not like manipulating wind. I might get it wrong!” 

“What happens if you get it wrong?”

“We disintegrate along with everything else.”

“Well, no pressure, but don’t get it wrong then.”

“Okay, the download is finished. I’m just scanning to see if it’s complete.”

“How long will that take?” I asked that question because at that moment I saw a Stilla come down onto the ledge we were on before. Outside the windows.

“Not long, maybe two minutes.”

“Oh, well, I am unsure we have two minutes. Check outside!” 

“Oh, Bumhead!” As Periclum said that I saw his weapon become visible and then he fired it at the Stilla. It launched the Stilla backwards off the ledge and fell to what seemed like its death. “Lets sit down for a moment” I heard Periclum say. “Actually, lie down!” I laid on the floor, not sure what to expect. I began hearing wind and I could see the environment disintegrate outside. There was no more sky, the ceiling began coming away. Concrete walls appeared with large EMC turrets attached to them. Wind and dust picked up around, and I could feel a slight shudder in the building we were in. 

“Oh, no!” I heard Periclum say just as the floor fell. I must had hit my head hard because I blacked out.

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