CHAPTER TWENTY NINE – Regroup

We approached the group and they seemed happy to see us. 

“Are you guys okay?” Nuntium said in a compassionless way. He was with the group and approached us.

“Yeah, we’re fine!” Caroline replied.

“Shame about Adventum, however, I am glad that you are okay!” Nuntium said as he stared at me. I felt my skin crawl as I looked at him. I wasn’t sure how to take him, Caroline seems to feel it too.

“You seem to have settled well in the group!”

“Yes, but we should all stick close together from now on!” He looked between me and Caroline. “We wouldn’t want anything to happen to you!” 

“We wouldn’t want anything to happen to any of us!” I corrected him. 

“Yes, exactly!” Nuntium looked around at the group who were leaving. “We’d best get going with the group then!” On that, he left.

“Now I would understand if you were afraid of him, James!” Caroline said to me, I just looked at her. After which, we picked up our gear and headed out. 

We did the rest of the walk in silence. The small drones lit the way around us and we took our time as we headed towards the coordinates given to us by the mother. There was one moment though when I broke the silence.

“If we found out that Adventum had died, how is it we don’t know if this little girl has died?” I asked.

“We don’t know! Maybe her BMI chip was destroyed at the same time as her death.” The bold Tuhingan who refused me earlier to join the group said.

“Maybe she stayed hidden!” Another shy Tuhingan said. There were some gurgles from the other Tuhingan on that comment.

“Why would she hide in here? This place is terrifying!” The bold Tuhingan replied.

The shy Tuhingan then went into himself and we continued on.

After several hours of walking and small talk, we came across a small round clearing. 

The group walked into the centre of the clearing and many stood there while me and Caroline began searching our bags. Drones came over to us and I could see they dropped four large EMC machines onto the ground. They looked like four very large microwaves. Each of them then growing legs allowing them to be waist height for the users. Adapting each time a user of a different size approached the machine growing taller or shorter.

Flashes continued to come from the machines as they dragged out alien looking tents from the EMC device. It was a strange sight to see as they all dragged the tent out from the machine, unzipped the bag and then threw it to the ground. The tent grew outwards from the bag. It looked as though it inflated however it didn’t seem to fill with air. Rather, the poles just sprung out and pushed their way outwards until the skin of the tent was tight. Then once settled there was a sound much like several gunshots and the tent would rattle. 

Afterwards I saw the person approach the tent and shake it, checking that it was clinging to the ground. Which it seemed like it always was. The tent itself was quite large, once open it seemed to contain around four rooms all coming off from the centre. The owners would throw various pieces of equipment into the tent and then they threw out a bed that sprung up quicker than the tent did. It expanded with the sheets already on it.

They didn’t leave even a centimetre within or around the tent in darkness. The door was big, so when they opened it I could see inside. Meanwhile, I was struggling to push a pole into this Earth like tent.

“Isn’t this fun! I tried to find a tent similar to the Earth tents.” Caroline was telling me.

“Why, though! Theirs looks much easier to set up.”

“Come on, James! Where’s the challenge in that?” There was a moment of silence while we were concentrating on our different parts, trying to figure out how to set up the tent. We were finding it very hard. “This looked so much easier in the movies!” Caroline said in a childlike, upset tone. 

“The movies are never real!” I said to her. I felt the need to comfort her, “But this was an awesome idea. However, do you think we should get a tent like theirs?”

We both looked at the flattened tent on the ground at that moment. Realising its size wasn’t that impressive either. “Perhaps you’re right!” said Caroline in a defeatist tone. She seemed sad by the event. “Lets go over and ask for access to the EMC.”

The bold Tuhingan from earlier was sat next to the EMC machine. “What are you doing here? Giving up on your primitive tent?”

“We’re just wanting to use the EMC!” Caroline said as she approached. She then seemed to scowl at the Tuhingan. “Have you blocked us?” she asked.

“We don’t want to be serving your kind!”

“What kind is that?” she asked. 

“You know, the dangerous kind!”

“Come on Caroline, let’s use another machine!” I suggested.

“No James, we have come to use this one!” she replied.

“Well, some people are already using this one!”

Caroline looked around her to show that no one was using it right at that moment. “Who?” she asked.

The EMC materialised something inside its box. The Tuhingan stood up to open and pulled out a packet of some sort. He opened it, took a bite of the snack and sat down. He looked back up at Caroline and said, “Me!”.

This moment angered Caroline and she looked like she was about to lunge at the Tuhingan. I stopped her to prevent the situation escalating any more. “Enough, Caroline!” I said, “This isn’t helping us!” I looked around and was looking at everyone else staring at us. “We’ll use another!”

Caroline seemed to growl at that moment as she was expressing her displeasure as we moved to another machine. We disintegrated the old tent and materialised a new. We threw it to the ground and watched it grow and I felt happy that we had so much space for the two of us. 

Then we materialised all that we needed to sleep, cook and even go to the bathroom with. We had everything from a shower to a bed. 

A few of the others had set up a fire and were huddled around. Eating meals, playing instruments, drinking and having a good time. We used the EMC a lot that day and even disintegrated several things we had brought with us. We had materialised some nice clothes and got changed in the tent. Of course, getting changed with Caroline was always an exciting event.

I soon wanted Caroline and we had fun in the middle of this dark forest. With me trying to keep Caroline quiet. By the time we had come out, many had gone to bed and were sleeping. That included the bold Tuhingan. We got ourselves some alien meal and sat down by the fire on a camping chair. 

“I hope you enjoy your meal!” A voice from the other side of the fire came. We couldn’t quite make out who it was as the flames licked the sky and obstructed our view. 

“It’s very nice, thankyou!” I said in reply.

The Tuhingan that was speaking to us stood up and walked towards us with his chair in hand. “I hope you don’t mind me sitting here?” he asked as he placed his chair down next to me.

“Not at all! The space is yours!” I said in reply.

“You seem so nice!” This Tuhingan began as he was staring at me.

Feeling a little uncomfortable, I shifted in my seat. “Ehm, thankyou!” I said in reply.

“How come everyone is saying that you annihilated Periclum and yet you are free to wander The Liberty like you are not a criminal?”

I wasn’t quite sure how to answer his comment, and there was a small silence as I thought. “.. because I’m not a criminal?” I said in an uncertain tone.

“And people find it easier to find you innocent since you resemble the Rehew. Isn’t that right, Mr Celebrity?”

Never had I thought of myself as a celebrity and wanted nothing to do with that world. I was a scientist, am a scientist. Wanting to be famous for my discoveries, something I had done. Not this. “I never asked to be a celebrity!” I said to him.

“Yet, you are! I’m curious why everyone thinks you annihilated Periclum since you clearly didn’t. I mean, you are free!”

“James, don’t answer his questions!” Caroline interrupted. “He’s an aggressive journalist out to get his story on you!”

“Guilty as charged!” the journalist said in a grimacing way. “I am a journalist James and the primary reason I am here is because of you. I just want people to know the truth!”

“You seem to have a habit of twisting the truth in your articles. Your name is Fabula Narratus, is it not? There have been many complaints, some even damning you of making things up!” 

“I’m not here to make things up. Everyone has already said everything they could to damn James. I just want to know who he is. There is no piece I could profit from by saying what has already been said!” 

As Caroline was glaring at this Tuhingan, I thought perhaps it wasn’t such a bad idea to open up. “We are here to show people who I am, right?” Caroline then glared at me. “Well, it’s good that there is a journalist here! Spread the word!” She continued glaring at me.

“James, this Tuhingan will stretch the truth to where you will represent the worst monster that any Tuhingan can imagine!”

“I know how the media are, Caroline! I’ve had a lot of experience with them.” 

“What, on Earth? With your own race? You know how they would react, the Tuhingan are a different species to you. You do not understand how your actions will be perceived!”

“Could it get any worse?” I asked.

Caroline seemed to soften at my question. She looked deep into my eyes and seemed for a moment to fall in love with me again. She smiled, laughed a little, shook her head and then took a deep breath. “Fine.” She said as she looked into the air. “Tell him who you are!”

“You won’t regret it!” Fabula said.

“I hope we don’t!” Caroline replied to him in a stern tone. 

The conversation with Fabula went on for quite some time as he asked questions into my who I was. I found I was talking about the entire story from the point I left Earth. Earth for this journalist seemed like a boring place to be talking about. Nothing happened in my life until I was among the stars. I enjoyed talking with him. It felt as though some weight had been lifted in admitting to a lot of the mistakes I had made. 

The biggest thing I craved right at that moment was freedom. Freedom to live a mundane life that isn’t full of drama. Left to study something, anything. But not the life I was living right then. Fabula nodded and seemed to sympathise. Time passed and it was soon late as the fire was dying. We all decided it was about time to go to bed and everyone said, “Goodnight!”

There was everything we ever needed in that tent. We did the evening routine and settled down to bed. Everything felt luxurious and not like camping at all. Even the bed was heated and I felt so comfortable. That night, I slept well.

In the morning I received a worrying message from Elatio. When I saw the message, it worried me that I may have said something wrong the night before. But it appeared to be worse. It was a warning. 

‘I have been monitoring you from a distance. Encrypted this message as much as I could, however, you should set up what we were talking about before.’ I guessed he mean’t that I should connect to the device he gave me. The pebble device was left back at home. “I can protect you better if you do. It appears someone has hacked your data. I am researching it, but it looks like they are editing your digital copy! I’ll send you another message when I have more information.”

There was a second message from Elatio ready for me to read. When I opened it, it sent a pure panic through me. It read. ‘Someone is attempting to annihilate you! They have deleted your digital copy. Don’t die until you scan yourself again!’

It panicked me and so I forwarded the second message to Caroline as she slept. Immediately coming to her and shaking her awake. “Caroline, tell me what the message I sent you is about.”

“Originally from Elatio?” she said groggily. She seemed to squint into midair and then her eyes widened. “What!? Can this be true? How does Elatio know?” 

“I don’t know.”

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