It was a foggy evening. Ahithophel had travelled all the way from the capital, Ashrest to reach his destination. He was alone and tired and most of his journey had been on foot. There it stood though, his destination, a tiny blast door in a concrete archway barely visible in the gloom. Approach the door and knock the way I showed you, they will let you in. Ahithophel approached the door and knocked. An eternity passed in his mind, thoughts raced. What if they don’t want me? What if I’m not strong or smart enough? He shook his head and steeled his expression; he was wise for his young age and above average intelligence too.
Suddenly the heavy door swung open to reveal a tall Lacertan man in worn clothes covered by a thick leather duster.
‘What do you want boy?’ the man said assertively.
‘I wish to join you and live in Eridu.’
The man considered the boy's reply then smiled, ‘We always need new recruits, what is your name?’
‘Ahithophel sir.’ He said as respectfully as he could.
‘My name is Hushai, no need for the sir, those are for honourable men.’ Hushai paused, ‘and we aren’t particularly honourable here.’ Hushai gestured to Ahithophel to enter and shut the heavy door behind them.
The two Lacertans set off for the Hangar of Eridu; it was on the far side of the base so Hushai would be able to give Ahithophel a tour.
‘I am a leader here Ahithophel. I am one of quite a few; we govern Eridu and captain our ships when we conduct trade.’
‘So you govern independently of the Oligarchy?’
‘The Oligarchy governs every city on Aidin but not every city under Aidin.’
Just as Hushai finished the pair walked through a narrow door and onto a catwalk. The catwalk was bolted to the ceiling of the cavern. Ahithophel looked down and immediately felt vertigo. It was hundreds of metres to the cavern floor. Buildings as large as those in Ashrest spanned up to the height of the catwalk in places. Thousands of people could be seen scurrying along the narrow streets of the city beneath. The sound was overwhelming, voices carried from everywhere.
‘Welcome to Eridu Ahithophel.’ Hushai paused to allow Ahithophel to take it all in. ‘This is one of the main caverns; it is the closest to the Hangar and is therefore the busiest.’
Hushai ushered Ahithophel along. Ahithophel was far too distracted by the goings on of Eridu to make conversation with the man.
Eventually Hushai attracted Ahithophel’s attention enough to talk, ‘we are smugglers Ahithophel.’
‘I know.’ Ahithophel said unsurprised.
‘We smuggle Lacertan drugs and weapons onto Mars and smuggle precious Sociae items back to Earth. The Sociae smuggle goods too but because of Eridu we are the best at what we do. I am taking you to be appraised by the ship captains, any one of them can take you in if they wish.’
The pair reached the hangar, it was brightly lit. The landing zones were set up like truck loading bays, all parallel to each other and near a walkway to quickly move goods on and off the ships. Once again Ahithophel struggled to take in the view before him. At least fifteen medium sized ships of all different designs were in their bays, some ships weren’t even Lacertan.
Hushai called across the hangar his voice booming, ‘right we have a new recruit, they are hard to come by even nowadays. Who wants him?’ Everyone looked at Ahithophel, he was in his late teens and was clearly willing to work but no ship captain wanted him.
‘Too small for my liking,’ one of the larger captains said with distain.
‘He is smart, not strong. Even harder to come by,’ Hushai said encouragingly. After a while almost every captain had returned to his duties, after even longer Hushai and Ahithophel stood in the middle of the hangar completely ignored by any other Lacertan.
Hushai sighed, ‘come with me Ahithophel.’
Ahithophel felt a lump in his throat. He complied and followed the old Lacertan.
Hushai lead Ahithophel past tens of ships to the far edge of the Hangar and past it. The pair continued on to another hangar divided from the main hangar by a thin wall. Inside the individual hangar sat a large ship. Ahithophel awed. Before today the largest ships he had seen with his own eyes had been small shuttles launching from pads in the city. The large ship was diamond shaped with jagged nacelles on each side, they stowed deployable wings.
‘Let me introduce you to the Eridani.’
‘She is beautiful.’ Ahithophel said in a quietened voice as if he was physically humbled by the craft.
‘This is the ship you will be working on.’
Ahithophel looked at Hushai and grinned, ‘thank you sir, err Hushai, I will not let you down.’
‘I hope not, we will be leaving in two days, you will be apprentice to my tactical officer; familiarise yourself with the ships systems.’
Ahithophel nodded enthusiastically and ran up the loading ramp of the ship disappeared into the darkness of the Eridani.
Ahithophel woke up with a big grin on his face. He loved dreaming about when he first joined Hushai’s crew. It was so long ago now. Ahithophel was now a leader of Eridu, one of the last. He sat up in his bed and revelled in nostalgia. The peace was short-lived however as he was interrupted by Sheba rushing through his door.
‘Sir, the Oligarchy are going to address the World, they are starting soon, come to the hangar.’
Ahithophel considered scalding Sheba for barging in to his room but thought better of it. ‘Thank you Sheba, I will be down shortly.’
Sheba left Ahithophel to dress himself; he dressed simply in a pair of trousers and a long old shirt. He left his coat in his room and set off for the hangar.
Absalom saw Ahithophel enter the hangar and beckoned him to come up to where he was projecting the broadcast. Absalom had set up a projector above the hangar door to project the address onto the near wall of the large hangar.
‘What is going on?’ Ahithophel said to Absalom as he entered the room where Absalom had set up.
‘I don’t know, all anyone has been told is there is going to be an address regarding the fate of the Lacertan race.’
The crowd gathered in the hangar went silent as the screen lit up with the face of Saul, one of the younger members of the Oligarchy.
‘People of Aidin, it is with a heavy heart that I deliver this news, it has been predicted with almost certainty that an asteroid approximately 10km wide will impact Earth within the next 10 years.’ He was interrupted by the crowd who were immediately developing anger at this news. ‘Myself and the rest of the Oligarchy have assembled a team of relevant specialists to explore ways to avert this crisis; there is no need to panic. We are a strong people and will endure this disaster. We will give you more information as we acquire it, for now there is no need to panic.’ Saul left the stage and retired to the imposing stone government building. It was at times like this when Saul wished he hadn’t been chosen for membership of the oligarchy.
The Hangar erupted with anger, fear and frustration. Quickly the crowd began to turn mob-like.
‘Ahithophel, do something.’ Absalom said with concern.
Ahithophel pressed on the button to activate the loudspeaker in the Hangar. ‘People of Eridu!’ Ahithophel shouted to the people below, ‘we needn’t panic, we live under a mountain!’ the crowd stopped their disruption and made Ahithophel the centre of Attention. ‘We live here because we don’t agree with the Oligarchy and its regime; we rule our own city and make it a safe haven for any who seek it.’ the crowd murmured with agreement, ‘The Oligarchy are corrupt and lazy but they speak the truth. We must prepare. Since the Sociae civil war on Mars, trade with our Allies has been stagnating. We have diminished to a ghost of what Eridu once was. I propose we allow any willing to build up Eridu to its former glory, any willing should be granted safe haven from disaster here. What say you?’ The crowd cheered. ‘Let’s get to work then!’ Ahithophel said with enthusiasm.’ He put down the small microphone and looked at Absalom.
‘You are a genius Ahithophel; we can save millions of lives and restore Eridu to its former glory.’ Absalom said excitedly.‘We will still need Sociae help when the asteroid hits though.’ Ahithophel smiled at Absalom, ‘you and I can do this.’ Absalom grinned and patted Ahithophel on the back.