CHAPTER TWENTY SEVEN – The Plan

“Why don’t you eat?” Caroline said as I was moving my spoon around the bowl of something resembling muesli. 

“I know I am going to be murdered again!” I said with absolute confidence.

“You won’t James! They need all the help they can get to find this child. Besides, we can always separate from the group.”

“To find ourselves lost and unable to get back?”

“Or to be eaten by something resembling a Lion” she joked, chuckling.

“Can that happen!?”

“James! Does it matter? You’ll be fine!”

I looked at her, trying to think how I should respond to her. I wanted to appear brave, even though I was terrified inside. Seeing those news articles made me feel so much more anxious than I ever did before. I felt like there was a genuine threat, instead of just the stress of not knowing what is going on most of the time. 

“We’re taking an EMC machine with us, right?” 

“Sure, I think they will come in on drones.”

“With batteries?”

“No, they would link it to The Liberties wireless power. But I’m not sure.”

“Ahh, good!” I said as I took my full bowl to the EMC machine, disintegrated it and then requested some cereal bar and a strange alien fruit that looks like dragon fruit.

“James, you should eat properly!”

“Let’s go!” I said as I observed Caroline had finished her bowl of strange muesli.

She sat there staring at me for a moment. “It’s early!”

“We can take our motorhome to take longer.”

“Then we’ll be late! Come on, James!” 

I had a desperate feeling of needing to do something, trying to avoid the thought of us doing this. Caroline wanted to prepare us for the journey. Wanted to make sure we had everything we needed on our back and materialised various items. Socks, pants, toothbrushes, tents, sleeping bags, even a bowl. 

“Caroline, we will have an EMC machine with us!” 

“Yes, but I want to experience real camping. Heavy bag on my back and then going out into the forest like it is the wilderness around The Alps.”

“How do you know what that’s like?”

“I saw a movie about it,”

“Oh, well, isn’t it easier just to get a drone to bring us an EMC machine when we are in the forest like the one that gave us this?” I may have been nervous, but I had my moments of clarity.

“Come on, James, it’s an adventure. We should pretend we don’t have this technology.”

I didn’t understand it, but I packed my bag. It was something to do.

After an hour of doing this and Caroline getting ready in the bathroom. We were ready. She put the bag on her back and then went outside into the overgrown garden. Caroline walked over to where there was a lot of space and stood in starfish position. I struggled out of the motorhome, stumbled over and asked her what she was doing?

“When getting scanned, stand in the same position.” I smiled at the moment and did as she asked. Dangling the walking stick from my hand as some drones were coming to us. Just like it did for Caroline, one drone came directly over to me. It hovered there facing me and the word “connecting…” was flashing in front of my eyes. “Connected” soon followed, then the word “Scanning…”

The drone then drifted around me, continuing to face towards me. I watched it in the corner of my eye as it went round, scanning me. It was moving around the top and then moved to the bottom.

“Not long now…” there was around a minute before her next comment. “… annd, done!” I saw in the corner of my eye her drone fly away as mine continued to circle me. There was a level in front of my eyes to tell me the scanning progress and it seemed to be stuck.

She looked at me and then at the drone. “Hmm, perhaps we will have to do a precision scan. So much has changed since your last! Maybe a little too much.”

“What do you mean? Isn’t this a precision scan?”

“No, just registering any changes in your body since your last scan.”

“Oh…”

“Not to worry. We’ll cancel this and then bring in the scanner for a precision scan.” 

Drones soon came carrying scaffolding and large boxes. Caroline began putting it together with the help of the drones. After placing all the large boxes into place she stood back to admire her handy work. I felt useless as all my contributions were just me stumbling around as I attempted to lift a scaffold. Caroline saw me and then declared that the drones could do that. Then didn’t let me do anything.

Either way, as soon as they built it she asked me to step into the centre. I had seen this scanner before when I first arrived on The Liberty. I realised that it was the same one and I knew what I should do.

After the scan, we went to the Pod Station and were soon on our way. 

From a distance, they looked friendly enough. A group of Tuhingans and two other types of aliens. There must have been a group of around fourteen of them talking amongst themselves. We saw them as we approached the flattened roofed Tuhingan house coming down the driveway. The ground was smooth underfoot since they made it of the same material as most of the roads.

Surrounding the house were grass fields and peaceful animals roaming in them. Everyone turned as we got close. No one said a word.

“Hi” Caroline said as I stood behind her like a sheepish dog. I tried to take a deep breath to present myself better. I breathed in and puffed up my chest and stood tall. No one answered, Caroline just continued to stare. I came round from Caroline.

“Hi, I’m James!” I said as confidently as I could with a little shake in my voice. They all just continued to stare.

“We know who you are!” A voice from behind the crowd said. A Tuhingan came through, nuzzling through people. “You are James Foreman, the Annihilator of Periclum and kidnapper of his brother.”

Well, all I thought at that moment was that this was already going so well. “I know I have made a mistake in the past and I am sorry for Periclum’s life being taken. He was my friend and I miss him a lot. Right now though, I have just come to make some amends by rescuing this missing child!”

“You’re not coming with us! We’ll find that child on our own without you!” The bold Tuhingan said to me.

“They are! Came a voice of the Tuhingan mother whose child was missing. She had just stepped out of the house. “The more help we can get, the better!”

“Well, they are going on their own!” announced the bold commentator. 

“It’s up to you what groups you form. Either way, I just want to find my child! This is a photo of my child, I doubt you will need it considering you won’t find anyone else in that forest. But regardless, this is her. If you see her, call the drones and disintegrate her.”

“What if she is still alive?” I asked as I was shocked at the thought she would just want to disintegrate her as soon as we found her.

“Doesn’t matter, I just want my original baby girl back before we lost her!”

“Ahh the old disintegrate and revert.” said the bold Tuhingan.

“I can’t live with a girl who has been through the trauma she must be facing right now.”

I found it hard to believe what I was hearing. The mother didn’t seem to care at all what her little girl was going through in that forest. She seemed to care more about finding her to destroy who she had become. She just wanted her innocent again. But I stayed silent and just nodded as the Tuhingans looked at me confused. 

The Tuhingan mother looked around, looking for anyone else wanting to comment. “Liberty security has assured me that the drones will reach you in the forest. This includes a request for an EMC or a request to disintegrate. I’m sending you all a map now, including the last known coordinates of my baby.”

It felt chilling to me to see the mother so relaxed about all of this. As if she had forgotten where she had placed her glasses and needed help to find them. It surprised me to find it all to be so casual. 

“Okay, I don’t think there is much more I can say. Go find my baby!” she announced as confident as a leader, leading a group of competent workers who knew what to do. I, however, felt anything but sure of what to do.

After she returned into the house, we all received the message containing the coordinates. 

“Hi!” A Tuhingan said as he had sneaked up on us while me and Caroline gave each other the disbelieving look.

“Hello!” I said back as I turned to look at the Tuhingan. This Tuhingan was dressed in bright rainbow coloured clothing. Every colour imaginable spread across their gown. It gave the immediate impression that this was not a serious person.

“My name is Nuntium, I would like to be in your party when we go into the forest if that’s okay?”

“We are more than happy to have you with us Nuntium, it’s nice to meet you.” Caroline said before I could even get a word in. I, however, still felt a little distrust towards this character. He seemed to be the only one who separated from the crowd and joined us. Without even defending us earlier.

“Isn’t this exciting!” he said as he looked around. 

I looked over and saw one alien staring at us. It was a great monstrous thing that had similarities to the devil. He had hooves for feet, great horns on his head. The only actual difference between this entity and the devil is that this entity was green. It walked over to us.

“Is it true that you are so dangerous?” it asked me.

“I don’t think I am. I try my best not to be.” I said with the best smile I could come up with. 

“I have met dangerous beings and you do not seem to be one of them!”

“He’s not!” Caroline said before I could say anything. “He’s the most honourable person I know.”

The beast crouched and stared at Caroline. “The Tuhingans know nothing of honour. All they know is to fear everything! I am in your party!”

“Ehh…” I said.

“We are more than happy to have you with us… what is your name?” Caroline said, interrupting me. 

“My name is Tu and what is yours?” He said with a deep roar in his voice.

“My name is Caroline. It’s very nice to meet you, Tu!”

I stared at the beast in apprehension, uncertain how this journey will go. 

Another Tuhingan came over to us. “You know, I always love an adventure. Many would avoid you, James, but I thought it would be nice to get to know you. The media have been so cruel to you and I want to see if it’s true.”

“Thanks, I guess?” I said as I looked at this small, skinny Tuhingan. He couldn’t help but bounce on the spot and looked gleeful. But I couldn’t help but feel apprehensive about everything and stared at him as I was trying to figure him out.

“Oh, it isn’t a problem. I have always been interested in criminals, even as a child.”

I nodded and then said in a patronising way, “This is going to be a long journey!” 

“My name is Adventum. Nice to meet you!” 

“Nice to meet you!” Caroline said in her most warm and welcoming tone.

There was a lot of commotion going on in the other group. Many people were talking amongst themselves in hushed tones and yet seemed to argue. A Tuhingan then came over to us. 

“We’ve decided to go all together. It’s not a good idea to separate into teams on the dark side of The Liberty. We have less chance of dying if we stick together! We’ll be heading out now and you guys can follow close behind.”

“Okay, thanks!” Caroline said for our group.

With that, the other group began moving off and we were following close behind all of us heading out, down the drive and then towards the Pod Station.T

“We need to turn on tracking for us, so the drones can find our bodies when we die.”

“If we die!” Caroline corrected him.

“No, we’ll definitely die!” The beast said in return.

“Great!” I replied, aspirated.

“It’ll be fun. Like rolling the dice, huh?” Adventum said as he hit me on the leg.

“I thought Tuhingans didn’t gamble?” Caroline said.

“We don’t but I know this big fella does!” he said as he bumped himself into Tu.

“Ugh, I have told you I dislike you doing this, Adventum!” The beast boomed.

Adventum looked up from his low place like a child looking startled, “I will always be afraid of you, Tu. You are monstrous but also the most awesome alien I know!”

“That’s because you don’t get to know the another Adventum!”

“Well, I will now James is here!”

“What about the reptilian over there?” Caroline asked as she pointed towards a creature that looked like a crocodile in a dress. It had two legs, two arms and scaly skin.

“Ahh, well, he and I don’t get along.”

“What happened?” Caroline asked Adventum.

“Well..”

“He threatened to come to Adventum’s house and urinate on all his furniture if he continued… How did he put it? Ah, if he continued being like a flea.” Tu said gleefully and began cackling. It was an awful sound to listen to but everyone could see Tu enjoying himself.

“It’s not funny! Stop laughing!” Adventum said in a child-like way. “It was frightening when he said it. He is vicious and vile creature. I don’t know why he hasn’t been shot for it!”

“He has!” Cackled Tu.

“Ooh, I hope this journey doesn’t cause me more ridicule! I’m trying to do this adventure to prove to others I am brave, you see. A lot of my family are scavengers and often come back with a lot of tales of their adventures. They always believe that I am the weakest of them all. I’ll show them after I return from the dark forest unscathed, alive and with that little girl!”

The conversations continued like this as we got into the pod. All four of us got into one pod and Nuntium went in with some others from the other group. Adventum continued to talk about himself and his life. It sounded boring as he spent most of his days at home, cleaning, working chores and often getting bullied by his brothers and sisters. He was very old to be with his parents and was the oldest child but he loved his family too much to go.

He was tired to being pushed around and wanted to make something of himself. Wanted to prove he can be more than just a cleaner in the house. However, when being asked by Tu why he doesn’t just move out, his reply was that he loves his family and can’t live without them. I wondered for a second why he didn’t just say the old age thing of, “I can’t afford it!” Then I remembered where I was.

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