Anguish settled within Louisa. She groaned at the control panel, thumping the frosty walls at her thirtieth attempt, to key in the sequence Rufus used to open her door. Again and again she played with the control, striking fortune as the panel lit up in gold, the door slid open. A yelp escaped and Louisa fled her room relieved that the corridor was empty at that given moment. She took a right turn and began roaming the halls, hiding behind doorways, monuments and robotic machines polishing sterile floors to any Askan or alien passing by. Sighting three Askans dressed in black one piece uniforms, she followed them in hope that they may lead her to a shuttle or ship that could take her home.
Following them into an entrance tucked away, she found herself entering a food hall. Shouts and laughter echoed around her. Young Askans, dressed in long grey-silvery robes held a logo of two black lines coiled down one side massed around one large table, whilst military personnel, other Askans and aliens sat at smaller tables. Everyone’s focus drifted towards Louisa, few furrowed ridge brow. ‘Louisa, nice to see you make your way to the food hall, next time don’t leave your quarters alone. You would not like to lose what freedoms you have,’ an Askan said dressed in a one piece uniform.
‘What freedoms? How did you know I had left my quarters?’ Louisa asked pulling away from the Askans grasp on her arm as he led her to a table.
‘You forget to disarm the alarm, which set off as soon as you left your rooms’ threshold. Unfortunately for you, the alarm relayed to security, our surveillance tracked your steps. Your research team have been made fully aware.
‘Louisa,’ Rufus said walking with a familiar Askan in the black one piece military uniform. ‘Nice to see you up so early, you remember Trienz, he’ll ensure you get to the Academy for the trip to the Institute of Planets.’
‘Come on kiddo, let’s go before you get any more ideas.’
‘You can’t make me go. You have no right to keep me here.’
‘Now that’s where you are wrong..., just cooperate with us and you’ll make your short stay here a lot more comfortable,’ Trienz said taking Louisa’s arm.
Leaving the base they entered an open land of turquoise, and joined a path of white pebbles weaving in and out of boulders and away from the base. The bronze pyramid glittering against the rays of the sun.
The landscape of boulders and turquoise fields changed to trees that bore red leaves scattered upon the land. Metallic buildings of all shapes and sizes stood together, with numerous Askans and other beings travelling on their own business. She passed shops that sold clothes, strange gadgets that bore no resemblance to anything on Earth. There were small markets that lined streets where sweet smells drifted her way from baked produces of small loaf-like brown cakes.
‘This way Louisa, and stop getting distracted. I do not have all day,’ Trienz said. Placing both his hands on her shoulders directing her through the lanes, towards a walled complex that contained a number of silver shoe-boxed buildings. Green playing fields sat to the sides. Passing through open gates to this walled complex, Louisa walked through paved paths of grey stones that came to two glass doors that slid open as she and Trienz approached.
Students in their long grey-silvery robes hung around the entrance. Their focus drifted towards Louisa, hushed voices would murmur in the background.
‘Classes are not held in corridors be off, the lot of you,’ a tall imposing dark grey Askan said waving his hands toward the students littering the corridors. ‘And you must be Louisa, our visitor from Earth,’ he continued as his eyes assessed her.
‘Well I’ll see you later kiddo,’ Trienz said as he left her.
‘The trip shall not be till later this morning. So you’ll have to join a class for a short while, come.’
Louisa gave an unsure glance around her. A great amount of attention was paid towards her. Following the teacher, she was taken to the last door in the corridor. Entering, a screen floated central to square room as seats formed four single rows around the projection. Three grown Askans sat in one corner on a elevated desk, one waved Louisa in. ‘Take the free seat Louisa.’
She took her seat and travelled her gaze around the class. Hushed whispers and secret smiles spread across the class. Her stomach sank, and she brought her hair to one side trying to focus on the lesson being taught, but raised her head to meet grey eyes that remained staring. Don’t these Askans know that it is rude to stare? Louisa thought with a shake of her head. Her attention went to the screen in front that showed some star system.
‘Class please bring your attention back to the lesson, you’ll be able to talk to Louisa later on,’ the teacher said walking across the classroom at times physically moving the heads of students round to face the screen in front of them. ‘Now Futanus, since you seem to know everything already and have no need to pay attention to my class would you tell me the distance between the Milky Way and Zeta Reticula?’
‘I wouldn’t know sir, never been to this Milky Way, perhaps it’s better to ask Louisa,’ Futanus replied, a mate of his patting his back with a laugh.
‘Well perhaps you may learn a little more, if you sat with her. Come don’t make me ask you twice,’
Everyone shifted to the next seat leaving a chair empty next to Louisa. Futanus rolled his eyes and planted himself besides Louisa, his legs stretched out.
Flicking a glance towards Futanus he played with a panel on his seat arm - a screen floated in front of him. Futanus then leaned across Louisa and played with her own panel where a blue screen shot up in front of her displaying a yellow planet with several rings of gas round it.
‘Louisa enlighten us with your knowledge of how galaxies are formed,’ the teacher asked Louisa
‘Ummm...we have a big bang theory?’ Louisa said sinking into her seat as the class burst out into laughter.
‘Yes, your description relates to one way, but rather basic. Did you not study Astronomy back on your home planet? ’ the teacher asked sitting down at his desk. ‘Well never mind. You’ll find this programme very educational.’
Louisa gave a polite smile, drifting her attention to Futanus who was playing with the holographic projection before him. The central programme then froze, and a holographic picture of the first teacher she met stood central to the class room.
‘Those students who are going to the Institute of Planets, please make their way to the playing fields’. The class shot up and gathered at the door, chatter took over along with laughs.
‘Louisa, that includes you as well,’ one of the teachers said waiting for her being the last to leave her seat.
She nodded and followed the mass exit of students who headed out of the school and onto the green fields, to the side where a large black ship had landed. The school logo stretched across one side. Futanus ran ahead jumping onto a fellow student to his surprise. Other class mates laughed and merged into the group.
Yet, Louisa remained alone too afraid to join her class mates. Being one of the last to board the ship. She faced rows upon rows of seats on either side of the ship. The front row held the only empty seats, so she huddled herself to a window seat. Quick to claim the window seat, she glanced for a moment at the teachers that took their seats next to her. The ship’s door was closed by Askans in the black military, one piece uniforms. A blast sounded whilst the ship lifted off the ground. A flash occurred and tremors filed through the body work where Louisa found herself flung back into her seat - seconds had past till she was in orbit around Askar.
‘Futanus will you remain in your seat and please no shouting!’ the teacher next to her said pointing to different areas of the ship. ‘We will be at the Institute of Alien Affairs in around twenty minutes, until then you are to remain seated and enjoy the ride.’ The teacher turned to his colleague who shook her head and they both rested back into their seats.
Louisa faced a sea of blackness that held the occasional mother ship in orbit, flashes and ships that parked or travelled away at a snail’s pace. Twenty minutes had passed before a metallic three layered ringed ship came into vision with four arms connecting each ring separated by what looked like inches, but grew until space invaded the entire size of the window. Hundreds of smaller ships patrolled round its parameters, lights sparkled round the ships body work in a mixture of reds, blues, bright whites and yellows.
An Askan wearing a military uniform came out of a hiding spot, and approached the teachers who sat besides Louisa. ‘We are preparing for landing, any students that do are not full residents of Askar shall have to come with me to security, for additional checks.’
‘Yes there are five students who are either from Arinius or Gladiovor. Oh and plus this human besides me, who is here for research purposes.’
The Askan nodded in reply with a short glance towards Louisa, and then glanced around the ship, stopping at certain points. ’Very well, I shall come back to get the human, and the other students; they shall leave first with me. Then the guides will board and go through some basic rules and regulations before the visit to The Institute of Planets can begin.′
The collection of teachers smiled in response and relaxed. The ship taxied into a channel engulfed in darkness, bar the occasional lights that streamed into the port directing ships to landing bays lit up in red. Small silver orbs buzzed around, some had red lasers that passed over neighbouring ships scanning them before they shot off to other targets. A red light passed by the window, and stopped at Louisa, and began to scan her and then travelled away out of eye shot.
‘You’ve stirred interest in some of our defence probes,’ said the teacher sat next to her, three other defence probes came to the same window and scanned Louisa.
‘I don’t see any reason, even for this research being carried out on my race.’ Louisa said squinting with dots of light hovering over her body - her eyes squinted as they adjusted.
‘Well your people must be on the verge of space travel or have it already to require us to undertake research like this – bringing someone as yourself to our planet.’
Louisa gave a laugh, ‘humans have space travel – yeah to orbit around our planet - to go beyond? You guys are optimistic, we have not sent a human beyond our own moon yet! I think some investigations are somewhat misleading,’ Louisa said shaking her head as she watched the last probe fly away from her window.
‘Well it’s better to ask your research team about the reasons behind the research of your planet and race. Anyway you better go with that soldier Louisa.’
A sigh sounded as Louisa got up to meet the soldier that had gathered the other students that were not Askan. There were two students that were green with reptilian features; scales for skin, whilst the rest bore crimson leathery skin, yet all were humanoid.
‘Follow me,’ the soldier said leading the way out onto an enormous hall surrounded by marble like walls, the floor like space - pure black covered in reflections of colourful lights upon the ceiling shining down like stars. Into a large corridor they walked down and entered a large office with several military personnel sat at desks filing through papers from the two other school ships.
‘These are the only students that are not Askan residents?’ another guard asked getting up from his seat. The soldier gave a curt nod, and took a side step allowing the students to come forward. ‘Oh good we have some students from Arinius and Gladiovor. I don’t believe I have come across your species child, where do you originally come from,’ the Askan asked looking down to Louisa.
‘I’m from a planet called Earth sir,’ Louisa replied as she gained a few glances of interest by other members of staff sat around.
‘Where? I have not heard of this place called Earth. You better come with me,’ the Askan said. He led the way corridor after corridor to a high-secured office, where Askans in military uniforms lined up on guard duty. ‘Sir, the school has brought this child from somewhere called Earth,’ the Askan said to a member of a group.
‘So this is the human who has paid us a visit, Joive has taken a keen interest. May I ask have your people made contact with him, prior to coming to Askar – he seems to know quite a lot on your race than we do?’ the Askan said, stroking his chin as he leaned back onto a desk his forehead furrowed.
‘He does?...umm don’t mind me asking, but... who is Joive?’
At that the room roared with laughter, ’come child he is the Askan lead on the peace talks going on. I guess you have no knowledge of any contact between your planet and Joive. Never mind, if you did you may have been able to have seen him, too bad though. Take her back to your office, she can register there.′
‘Peace talks?’ Louisa asked.
‘Yes...how old are you child?’ the Askan asked as he returned to his original office.
‘What is a sixteen year old doing on a trip like this, yet alone in senior education? ’
‘Oh I was part of a research project, but my research team have been assigned to another project. So I needed to be kept out the way, hence why I’m here,’ Louisa said entering the office once again.
‘That’s fine, I’ll take you back to your class mates in a minute.’
Staring at the silver floor, Louisa waited to return to her class. But heard an echo of feet marched her way, right till they were behind her.
‘Are you Louisa, the human?’
Turning round Louisa nodded to another Askan, feeling her heart speed up.
‘Good, his Excellency wishes to meet you, as the first human to arrive on his ship. He shall even try to get you into a peace talk.’
‘Urgh, I think his Excellency is getting me mixed up with another race, honestly us humans, we haven’t gone beyond our moon, yet alone meet another race well... not formally,’ Louisa said her vision swarming round at those present. Joive must be confused ... we haven’t been visited...I mean the likes of men in black and what’s their base....area 51... it’s all sci-fi. Come on these people are not grey tiny people with big heads! They don’t even look like ET! Louisa thought looking to a smiling Askan in front of her.
‘Don’t worry human, your most fortunate, let me take you back and I can inform the teacher in charge of you.’
‘Very well,’ Louisa said shaking her head, as she ran her hand through her hair and followed behind into a hall full students chatting away, the other students who had gone off with her were reunited with their own friends. A guide tour stood on an elevated platform. His preying eyes roamed the hall, settling on students that were being disruptive.
‘Hmm hmm, can I have all your attention today, every student should have been allocated a group and guide for this tour. Should students be caught away from their tour groups, they will be returned to this arrival suite, until the tours have finished.’
’Well I’m afraid one student shall have an exception, this human has caught the interest of Joive, and she shall be taken to meet him in person when he is free. It is his expressed wish,′ the Askan who had escorted Louisa back said interrupting the tour guide coordinating things.
Louisa’s cheeks burnt with embarrassment as the entire hall of students focused upon her, halting at the edge of the mass of students. She brushed her fingers through her hair and faced away from the crowds. An occasional glance towards the Askan who escorted her back, and then to a teacher that came to her side.
‘You better join us then Louisa,’ a teacher said with his class behind. Futanus staggered behind with his mates, along with other fractions of the class.
A tight smile was all Louisa uncertain to the new development. She followed the rest of the crowd with their tour guide becoming a beacon for the group. Through black corridors they walked, lights lit the floor and ceiling as they walked by, certain corridors blocked off by barriers, others, guards stood on guard; their eyes would glance at the passing crowds, but rested on Louisa.
‘Gather round please, we have arrived in the Institutes museum where some documents and books on display are over several thousand years old. There are also paintings, ancient artefacts, plans of the original institute, peace treaties that all can be found around this museum. Why don’t you take time to go around the museum yourselves?’
Walking round Louisa stared down at the symbols she saw on the space ship and at the base. Lines of brown, reds and charcoal formed the strange symbols on ancient documents, whilst ancient portraits hung above her staring down at her, their eyes followed her as she moved round the room passing the time with boredom like so many of her class mates. Then the guide called out to the class to regroup where a theatre sat at the end of the museum. ‘Now we shall be visiting some conference rooms that have been used for the diplomatic meetings between Ariniuns and Gladiovons, we just need to wait for another group to finish first.’
‘What are these peace talks all about?’ Louisa asked a teacher nearby.
‘They need to agree on spaces boundaries, both lay claim to a few meteor belts - rich in minerals. There are other issues, but I’ll let the tour guide explain them to you - its gets too confusing for me.’
Yawning she leant against a wall, eying the area around her, the noise halted instantly. What the hell is going on here? Louisa thought raising an eyebrow. The teacher in front of Louisa bore glazed eyes – fixed in position. The teacher swallowed a gulp and spun Louisa round so that she too faced an Askan dressed in a robe of gold, whose eyes bore great darkness as they reflected; a mine of authority and superior being.
Behind him stood two further Askans one dressed in silver, the other dressed in blue who too bore the same eyes. A dozen Askan guards stood behind their eyes roamed through the numerous students for any hidden dangers and then rested on Louisa. Curiosity and interest rested in their gaze but held no darkness to their eyes, actually all the Askan guards had grey eyes with hues of blues, purples, greens and reds, like the teachers and other Askans Louisa had come across. Yet these three authoritative figures in front of her possessed eyes that were different and somewhat unusual, but who was she to judge what an Askan should look like?
‘Joive,’ the teacher behind Louisa mumbled taking Louisa’s arm and pulled her down to curtsy. The rest of the crowds followed suit and curtsies and bows travelled like a wave across the room.