A nod of approval was given by Joive, the two other Askans behind him nodded and waved a hand to those all around. Their gaze finally rested on Louisa, who stared down at her feet.
’Louisa, come, there is much to show you,′ Joive said, spinning around on his spot. ‘You have nothing to worry about, you shall be returned to your ship before it leaves. I thought you would like to escape the school trip and venture beyond the tour. So, why don’t we head off to the peace talks?’ His golden robe trailed behind him like those of his companions who shadowed behind, along with a dozen guards.
Louisa turned towards the teacher, who eagerly waved her on. Swallowing a nervous gulp, she brought her hair to one side and followed Joive. Through lit walk-ways they reached closed-off corridors by Askans, lined up in black uniforms. Salutes trailed before them as the guards moved apart and allowed entry to the restricted area, where the military presence increased. Salutes soon came from green scaled hands, or those that bore crimson leathery skin.
Eyes of various colours glared with interest on Louisa. The corridors bore numerous guards that walked around in groups carrying hand held screens, some nodded to Louisa’s company. A cold nudge from Joive touched her back and directed her down a corridor to her left, where a mass of Askans and aliens unknown hung round at two bronze doors.
‘It’s Joive,’ someone from the massed crowd shouted, the crowd soon dispersed and headed his way, flashes came from devices. ‘Joive, how likely is peace to be achieved?’ ....What are the demands of the Gladovians, the Aranions?′
Louisa raised a hand to shield her eyes from the glare, and those shouting questions.
‘Move away from the entrance to the peace talks,’ guards shouted forming two lines either side of Joive, Louisa and his companions. Feet clomped together as they progressed through the crowds forcing their way through, reaching the bronze doors a dozen guards stood in two lines. That in turn lined up along the guards already at either side of Joive. Two guards remained at the doors, and pulled them open, allowing entry into a dimly lit bronze room. A circle of chairs took centre stage, laid out in pairs, each was filled apart from one.
Joive went ahead and took the empty seat he patted the shoulder of the other Askan representative. The Gladovians sat to his right were reptilians, each wearing metallic black bands around their heads. To Joives’ left were the crimson Arinions with very tough-looking skin; scars etched down their arms and tattoos on one side of their faces. Everyone looked up with frowns on their faces.
‘Glad you were able to join us, Joive, even though you are late. I see you have one of the students,’ said the Gladovian, whose black metallic band was the thickest.
Joive smiled and took his seat whilst his two companions stood behind him, others hung around in the shadows of the walls and stationed guards. Directed by the Askan who wore the silver robe, Louisa stood to his side.
‘He has not missed much,’ said a watery voice from gills of an humanoid crustacean, where a pincher rose into the air.
Silencing a gasp, Louisa focused her sight to the floor where shadows rested. Looking up, she noticed there were still other races here that she could not make out, due to the dim lighting.
‘You wish to add another five years to this war? The Satire belt is out of the question, we shall not lose it. There is evidence that our people lay claim hundreds of years before you Arianians turned up...I will meet your other demands but not that.’
The reptilian who had greeted Joive tossed his chair backwards, his eyes narrowed as he waved his hands in the air and stomped up to the Arianions pointing a finger at them whilst he kept clenching his other hand into a tight fist. Others nearby got up and separated the parties, who now were shouting at each other. The reptilian was pulled away by his companion. Pushing his companion away, he stormed out of the room and left the delegates heaving heavy sighs.
Louisa watched the reptilians’ companion raise his claw-like hands, to his face as the door slammed shut.
‘I am sorry, Dario, your brother needs to be more accommodating to these talks,’ the unknown Askan spoke, he got up from his own chair and rubbed his face with his hands.
‘Let me speak with my brother, he can be very stubborn. But he really does mean to bring about an agreement – we all want peace,’ Dario said, hurrying after him.
‘Let’s call a break. We have been here over two hours my friends, so let’s have some refreshments and come back with cool heads,’ Joive’s colleague said and got up, exchanging a knowing looks with Joive.
Nudged out by the Askan standing next to her, she followed Joive into a private room where refreshments sat. ‘Louisa, help yourself,’ the Askan wearing the blue robe said, who got himself a hot drink and then started talking to his colleagues - mumbling stuff inaudible to Louisa. Joive joined them, making a few glances towards Louisa, who stood like a lost sheep.
‘Louisa, help yourself,’ the Askan wearing the blue robe said. He poured himself a hot drink, and then started talking to his colleagues - mumbling stuff inaudible to Louisa. Joive joined them, making a few glances towards Louisa, who stood like a lost sheep.
‘Louisa what do you think of the peace talk we just had?’ Joive asked whilst approaching her.
‘Peace talks?’ Louisa questioned. ‘They did not seem like peace talks to me – what are they fighting over anyway?’
Joive and his companions laughed at the comment, ‘I like your sense of humour, child,’ he said, patting her on the back. ‘Those Gladovians are not going to give up those mines in the asteroid belt that the Aranians claim is in their territory.’
‘Is that all they are fighting over?’ Louisa asked.
‘Oh no, Louisa, it’s a bit more complicated than that. Anyway, how long have you been on Askar?’ Joive asked.
‘Not long. A day or so, I think, but I must complain. You can’t just abduct people for the sake of research purposes. It’s not right.’
Joive laughed. So you humans do not abduct animals for study?′ he asked with a smile.
‘I do not think it is. You can’t complain because you have only been here for a short time,’ Joive said. He glanced at his two companions. ‘And when do you think they will return you?’
‘How am I meant to know?’ Louisa dropped her head and stared at a ball of green triangle fruits, its skin having thorns.
‘Here, try some,’ Joive said as he cut a fruit into three pieces. He then turned to his colleagues and, in hushed voices, they talked, with the occasional glance to Louisa. Smirks appeared across all three faces. Joive nudged his head towards the door and the Askan in the blue robe left the room, followed by the other.
Louisa stroked the back of her hand across her mouth wiping away the excess juices from the fruit, consisting of many seeds with lots of sweet, but sharp juices.
‘My colleagues have gone to do some work for me, but why don’t we take a walk around here? Perhaps I can introduce you to some important figures behind these talks. Or show you where some peace treaties and economic treaties that have been created,’ Joive said, leading Louisa out into a corridor.
Walking past portraits of past world leaders, patrons and other high-ranking people, Joive led her directly to a room full of paintings and a wooden table in the centre, figures carved out of the legs, supporting the thick rose coloured table top. The surface had a scene carved into it, where numerous people were signing documents. One particular character, pointed to a glass panel on the wall.
‘Come Louisa,’ Joive said, standing by the panel on the wall. ‘We have the original treaties on the formation of the Institute of Planets. The papers are over a thousand Earth years old,’ Joive said, pointing to some papers laid side by side, the ink faded, the paper yellowing in colour like teas stains. The actual writing had symbols she had seen everywhere since her abduction, plus other forms which were unreadable to her.
‘Sir, the Gladovians and Aranians are at each other’s necks. They are both threatening to end the peace talks. The aggression is far worse than in the meeting. Neither will see any sense. You have to calm them down, or else all is lost.’ Joive’s companion who wore the blue said, whilst the other wearing silver stood back and eyed the room.
‘Fine. I shall go. Louisa, you stay here, I shall be back when I am able to,’ Joive said, leaving with his company.
′Great, how long is this going to take?′ Louisa thought, yawning as she looked down upon the ancient documents in front of her. ’The Institute of Planets still seem to have the same problems that Earth has. They always start with a disagreement over land, gold, oil, money, religion or goodness knows what else!′ Louisa began to focus on the painting surrounding her. Each depicted papers being signed by different species. Yawning again, she heard a stampede of footsteps thumping their way to her. Hushed voices sounded, but one bore fear to its very core.
The door flung open, and Dario, panted and staggered to the table. He collapsed over the carved desk top. His torso lay flat, his breaths chain-sawed, as fluids collected in his mouth.
‘Hello?’ Louisa crept up and gently tugged at him.
‘Child... go to my brother ...we have a traitor in the heart of our peace talks. Joive... and his colleagues have their own... agenda. You... must warn my brother... they are not acting for our good... but theirs. What they hope to achieve... I do not know.’ Dario struggled with his words as he gasped for breath, his mouth spitting out green fluids.
‘What?’ Louisa said, unsure of this unreal situation. She stared down, shocked into silence. She felt her heart beat within her chest.
‘Go tell him... search for Gladovian guards, they will take you to him. You must go now! Something is gravely at odds. ...Something beyond everyone’s knowledge... a danger ...but what? Go...Go!’
‘But...but Joive, he ...he has brought me here... I can’t ...I...’ Louisa panicked - bile rose up her throat - her hands shook.
‘Go!’ Dario said as two daggers shot into the room and stabbed him. Dario let out a blood curdling scream. He remained motionless, flat on the table, green blood streaming out and a puddle collecting on the floor. Yellow eyes remained open as they glazed over and stared into nothing.
Louisa stood dumbstruck, her body trembled with shock, her legs gave way and she would have fallen had she not used the table to catch her balance. ‘Help, I need help here. Medical help, Dario’s been stabbed!’ Louisa shouted and ran to the door as the sound of footsteps pounded towards her.