Chapter 5 The Insurrectionist
I awakened once more to find Mary leaning over me, her hand on my shoulder. I blinked several times and stared up at her. She was fully dressed in her uniform, ready to leave.
“Hurry up, Conrad!” She shook me. “We have a lot of work to do today.”
I nodded and arose with little difficulty as I was accustomed to having restless nights, and the prior had certainly been one. I had remained awake most of the night as curiosity drove me to discover what that strange feeling was that I had experienced. In haste, I threw on my overcoat and grabbed my sword before leaving Mary’s room. She was quite jubilant as we walked down the corridor. She even held my hand which surprised me to say the least. It was apparent that her attitude toward me had changed drastically overnight. Perhaps Mary was so comfortable around me because she no longer feared her sister’s persecution. Yes, it should be said that I had won a great deal of respect amongst the Maidens after my victory over Daiva. I no longer received the contemptuous glances to which I had grown so accustomed.
“Will Edith be accompanying us?” I asked.
“Yes, she said that she would bring us lunch.”
I smiled. “Oh? And how do you know this?”
She faltered at my question and rolled her eyes, obviously trying not to reveal the scheme that she had no doubt devised with my sister.
“I assume that Edith had a hand in this?” I murmured.
“I don’t mind.” I laughed. “My sister is always interceding for me, especially in my social life. I have learned to appreciate it over the years.”
“Really?” She laughed quietly. “That’s funny. I asked Edith if what we were doing would bother you. She told me the same thing. Your sister really knows you, Conrad.”
I smiled and nodded in agreement.
“Yes, I would not doubt that she knows me better than I know myself.”
Mary laughed pleasantly.
“Besides, why would I mind that my sister is encouraging me to court such an intelligent and well-mannered young lady?”
Mary paused and gave me a most puzzled look.
“Well-mannered . . . Could you repeat that, Conrad? I don’t think I heard you correctly.” Mary asked, beginning to blush.
“Make no mistake. I am your apprentice, not your courtier. I will be returning to the Reich as soon as I am able.” I said flatly.
“Oh, so you’ll be taking our ship with you?” She stared down at the floor. “I guess it will be something to remember me by.”
Of course, the engineer was unaware of the sadness Mary felt upon hearing this.
“Have you already designed our vessel?” I asked. “Do you have an estimate of its parameters?”
She smiled, her mood lightening. “Well, I have the basics in mind, but I thought we could decide on the rest together. As for its parameters, the harder we work, the farther its limits will reach!”
“Then I shall put forth all of my knowledge and effort.” I said haughtily.
Mary smacked me on the back quite forcefully.
“Ha! You better pull your weight, Conrad,” she smirked, “otherwise, I might not let you use it at all!”
I frowned and rubbed my shoulder. “You needn’t worry about my contribution.”
Mary jumped ahead of me and began walking backwards.
“Oh, I know that you’ll do your part, Conrad, but I might just keep you here anyway.” she said, folding her hands behind her head.
I stopped suddenly.
“What?” I asked, becoming quite angry. “You cannot hold me prisoner in your world! Surely you would let us leave, at least for Edith’s sake?”
“Well, maybe I’ll let you go if you can catch me before we get to the hangar!” Mary ran off down the corridor, laughing giddily.
“What a senseless proposal! Are you a child, Mary?” I yelled, giving chase.
I continued running after her, receiving many confused glances from the passing Maidens. It quickly became apparent that Mary was much too fast for me to catch her. At last, I found hangar eight long after Mary had left my sight. It was a fair size, though it dwarfed in comparison to the hangar that housed Anwen’s flying fortress. There were some materials scattered about the room, such as steel plates, beams, and other components for the vessel’s hull. I began inspecting some apparatuses that were laid out across a table when all of a sudden, Mary descended upon me from behind. I slammed into the table, breaking several of the delicate instruments.
She laughed, tightening her grip around me. “It looks like you have to stay, Conrad!”
I threw her off of my back and wiped the bits of glass from my uniform.
I clenched my fists. “Could you have displayed more idiocy, Mary? After leading me on such a frivolous chase and destroying these precious instruments, you have done nothing but delay our project!” I yelled furiously.
She backed away, not in fear, but shame. She stared down at her hands folded, one over the other.
“And I don’t care what you do to try and hinder me from seeing my home again! I have a duty to the Reich, and I would die before forsaking it!” I concluded my outburst, gasping for breath.
Mary quivered and began to cry. It was certainly not the response I expected from her. I thought she would at least yell back, if not strike me. Seeing her so distraught, I abruptly came to my senses.
“Stop! Don’t apologize, Conrad.” Mary said, wiping her eyes. “I should have controlled myself, and it’s not my place to make any decisions for you.” She sighed. “I guess I just expected working with you to be like working with my father, but I understand the urgency of our project. I’m sorry.”
I walked over to Mary and took her hand. She gasped and looked up at me.
“That’s not true, Mary.” I frowned with guilt. “I am to blame, for my mind is like a machine. It does not tolerate any disruptions of my efficiency. Please, I want our time together to arouse memories of your father. He seems to have been the only joy in your life after all. We may work at our leisure, but know that I must leave eventually.” I sighed. “My sister and the Reich are all that I have.” I whispered, barely audible.
“All that you have?” She shook her head and smiled. “You have me, Conrad. I am in your debt for what you did last night. Unfortunately, from what I know of your sister, I believe that she will not return to your Reich, save with great bitterness. You may have to choose between Edith and your home. It seems that fate will not grant you both.” Mary said sorrowfully.
I was quite taken aback by this. The thought that Edith hated the Reich baffled me. Why would she hate our home? Is one’s country not to be held highest above all else? It went against all that the engineer knew and did not seem logical to him. I pondered the thought and formed a solution.
“If I cannot have Edith and my home then I will simply colonize one of your artificial planets and return to the Reich periodically with shipments of seren.” I said with sudden revelation. “That way, I can remain here with Edith and still do my part to serve my country.”
“Ha! Good luck with that!” Mary laughed. “You’ll be captured by the Gaelturi as soon as you leave the Matriarchy’s protection.”
I crossed my arms. “Then I will vanquish the Gaelturi and purge this world from their corrupt practices!” I smiled. “Though, I will need a vessel.”
She smirked. “We’ll just wait and see how that turns out. Now, let’s get to work.” Mary said excitedly.
She clasped my shoulder and walked back to the drawing table that was still coated in shattered glass. She cleared off a small part of its surface and set a small device on the table. I began inspecting it when an image of a schematic was suddenly displayed in the space above the table.
“Astounding!” I exclaimed. “Are these yours?”
“They are.” Mary said proudly. “I have a few presets, but I thought you might wish to make your own design.”
Oh, how excited the engineer was to hear this! To be able to design his own vessel with this sophisticated technology was a dream come true for him. The possibilities seemed endless! We spent the better part of the morning designing our vessel. I will not go into great detail on the ship’s construction, mostly because I do not remember much of it myself. I was a different man then, or better said, I wasn’t a man at all. Not by my hands was that vessel built, but by the hands of the engineer. It was around noon when we finished the designs.
Mary gazed at the schematics in wonder. “Wow! This shows promise, Conrad. I’m very impressed with your ingenuity.”
She then walked over and sat down against one of the crates.
“Thank you. I was simply trying to find a way to take advantage of the seren’s raw energy. It would be a shame to waste it.” I said proudly and sat down beside her.
Mary smiled at me and nodded in agreement. I glanced down at my palms, shimmering with sweat. I had long since removed my overcoat and could feel the weariness setting in on my mind. I was surprised to find that Mary was still wearing her full uniform, though this was not quite encumbering to start.
“Aren’t you hot, Mary?” I asked, touching her face. “Doing all that figuring was hard work, even for one of your abilities.”
Mary gaped at me when she heard this and became quite embarrassed. Perhaps my words weren’t the choicest.
“What? Conrad, are you asking me to undress?” She yelled, grabbing me by my collar. “Are you insane? What if someone saw us? What if my sister—”
Perhaps it was not the best response, but I actually began to laugh. I had not laughed genially in quite some time. In fact, I believe it was the first laugh of warmth I had experienced since the war.
She released me. “Conrad, I don’t understand. Why are you laughing?” She asked, her face reddening even more.
“My apologies. I had forgotten how bad you are for misinterpreting my words. I assure you I only wanted you to be comfortable, Mary.” I said, trying to compose myself.
Mary stared at me for a very long and awkward moment. I retained her gaze without speaking.
“You mean, you were only worried about me?” She murmured in a quavering voice.
“I was merely concerned for your comfort.” I indicated her cumbersome jacket. “You’re still wearing your officer’s jacket after all. I had no vulgar intentions, I promise.”
Mary promptly slapped my hand.
“And don’t touch me!” She looked away. “I mean, I’m fine, Conrad. You get used to it . . .”
“You get used to it?” I laughed. “None of the Maidens in the other hangar wore their jackets while they worked.”
She furrowed her brow. “Who cares what they do? I’m not like them! Honestly, Conrad, speak clearly! You made me look like a fool!” Mary yelled as she folded her arms.
“A fool?” I laughed. “You are no fool, Mary, and if you were then I would be an even greater one.” She gave me a confused look. “My tongue is quite thoughtless as well, and I was considered an outcast among my fellow scientists. We have a lot in common, you and I.”
Mary seemed to calm down at last. She laughed and grabbed my hand.
“Thank you, Conrad.” She smiled. “Edith was right. We were practically made for each other.”
“Edith said that, did she?” I laughed. “Well, I cannot deny that we are alike in many ways.”
Mary laughed with me and nodded in agreement. She then gave me an inquisitive look.
“Conrad, I know it may be rude of me to ask about your war, but is there a particular reason why you still wear your old uniform? Did your war really have that much of an impact on your life?” She looked down at her own uniform in disgust. “If our war were to end, I believe I would never wear this thing again.”
I thought long and hard on her question. Finally, I let out a great sigh and spoke.
“In truth, I don’t remember much of my war, but it was a turning point in my life. It aroused a sense of pride within me. The war gave me purpose.”
“Really?” She smiled. “What were you like before the war?”
I was shocked at her question, not because of what she asked, but because I truly could not remember much of my life prior to my service. I certainly could not remember any details concerning myself.
“I’m sorry Mary, but I can’t remember much about myself before the war. I guess I was similar to how I am now. I remember taking care of Edith throughout our childhood. Our uncle adopted us after a few years, but I still mostly tended to Edith. She was a weak child and I had to constantly watch over her.” I smiled as memories of my sister flooded back to my mind. “Though, I was not annoyed by her. We had been together all our lives and practically raised each other. Why do you ask?”
“I just wanted to know more about you, Conrad.” Mary sighed. “War can really change a person.”
“Yes, but our wars are much different from yours. In my time, war is seen as a glorious occasion to test one’s valor and courage. They are not struggles for survival as this one is.” I said guiltily.
Mary did not respond and simply stared down at herself.
“Yes, I believe my life could use another turning point . . .” I murmured under my breath.
Mary sat up upon hearing this. She seemed quite excited by my words.
“Are you serious, Conrad? What sort of change do you want?” She asked hopefully.
I frowned for I did not intend for her to hear my personal reflection. “Well, if there was anything I would change, I believe it would be my perception.” I said without hesitation. “As you know, my sight is quite base. I cannot see beyond that which is physically before me and is backed by science. My mind feels trapped in the realm of the factual.” I grunted. “I cannot stand it. I want to reach the realm of the figurative. I want to be able to interpret feelings, to experience these emotions, and above all, I want to enjoy my sister’s music, that music that is the manifestation of her heart and soul.” I let out a disparaging sigh. “All these years, she has played her music, and not once did I ever experience any feelings from it. Not once did I see any beauty in it. I saw only the scientific evidence behind her music. The only thing Edith has ever asked of me is that I enjoy her music, and I can’t even do that. I feel as though I am cheating her after all that she has done for me.”
Mary stared at me in awe.
“Wow . . . I never knew that your sister meant so much to you, Conrad.”
I looked up at her, but she would not meet my eyes.
She managed a smile. “If it makes you feel any better, I don’t think you need to change at all.”
I laughed pleasantly. “Thank you, Mary, but my heart is empty and I am blind. Who knows what will become of me if I do not awaken from this slumber?”
Mary sighed and arose shakily. She turned to face me, and I was shocked to see that there were tears in her eyes. I quickly stood up and began to speak.
“Conrad, you love your sister, don’t you?” Mary asked, cutting me off.
“Of-of course I love her. How could I not? Edith has helped me through every day of my life. She means everything to me.” I said solemnly.
“If you love your sister, then doesn’t that mean that you can comprehend emotions?” She asked.
I paused and thought long on her question.
I nodded. “I suppose you are right. Perhaps my mind is not completely closed off from the metaphysical. I have often experienced these strange feelings; especially, as of late, but my mind cannot identify them. They feel so strange and alien to me.” I frowned. “I apologize if I am confusing you, Mary, but all I can say is that the love I feel towards my sister goes far beyond a simple emotion. It is a part of my very being, something that even I can feel. I have no science to prove it, so I cannot understand it myself. That is the only explanation I can fathom.” I said speculatively.
Mary smiled once I was finished.
“I’m glad to hear that, Conrad. Like I said, I don’t think you need to change. You love Edith and she loves you. If you have love in your heart, what else do you need?”
I paused and gave Mary a stern look.
“And what of your heart?” I asked slowly. “Do you have love?”
Mary gasped and looked at me as if I were insane.
“Of course I have love in my heart, Conrad!” She yelled in protest. “My father is still alive. He has simply reached a higher plane of existence.” She smiled and looked up. “He is watching over me even now.”
“Yes, of course . . .” I murmured.
Mary began to speak again, but the door of the hangar suddenly opened. It was Edith, coming to bring us our lunch. She walked over to us and sat down with her basket.
“Good afternoon to you both! How is your work going?” Edith asked as she sat the basket between us.
“It has been . . . eventful.” I said, taking the basket and removing one of the sandwiches she had made.
Mary and Edith laughed at my response.
“It’s been great, Edith. We’ve already finished designing our vessel thanks to your brother’s creativity. I guess it also helped that we never disagreed on anything.” Mary said happily as she took a sandwich for herself.
We ate our lunch in silence. If my memory serves me, I believe it was a delicious meal, but the engineer took little pleasure in such things.
“If we continue like this, I believe we might have you both home by the end of the week.” Mary said with a smile.
Edith stared at her in shock.
“Really?” She sighed. “I’m not thrilled to hear that . . .”
“Yes, Mary said that you were having second thoughts on returning home.” I said, crossing my arms.
“Yes, I was, Conrad. I refuse to believe that we came here on our own accord. I believe that God has brought us here for a reason; besides, we have been given a chance to start over. It would be unwise to squander it.” Edith said with much conviction. She truly believed that our being here was divine intervention.
“A chance to start over?” I laughed. “I don’t believe I’ve ever heard anything more ludicrous! I will not forsake my home, Edith! These people are doomed! Nothing awaits us here but death!”
Edith rose to her feet and glared down at me. She could become so fearsome at times.
“You refuse to forsake our home, but you would forsake these people when you are their last hope for survival?” She stomped her foot. “These are your people too, Conrad, but you would run away before even offering your aid? You owe it at least to Mary for all that she has done for us! What has the Reich done for you that she hasn’t?” Edith yelled, appearing now to tower over me.
I looked over at Mary, but once again, she would not meet my eyes. Why this was, the engineer did not know. I sighed and spoke at last.
“I was wrong to question you, Edith, but did you ever consider the possibility that God is punishing these people?” She sighed and looked away. “Mary told me that billions were killed in a great war that lasted for centuries. Not only that, but these people created artificial planets, giving them a taste of God’s power. Now, this Gaelturi is pursuing a plan that they believe will allow them to become their own gods. Perhaps he plans to wipe these people out and start over.” I thought for a moment. “Though, despite what arguments you might have, I cannot deny that I am in Mary’s debt, and if she desires my aid then it will be given to her without hesitation. If not for her we would be trapped in this time forever.”
Edith did not seem satisfied, but she knew well that I would not forsake the Reich so easily. She sat down next to me, sulking. I looked over at Mary and she smiled.
“I don’t need anything, Conrad. Really, I don’t.” She stared down at herself in embarrassment. “If anything, I owe you for fighting Daiva yesterday. We will finish our ship and then you can leave. I’ll even let you take some of my father’s notes with you if you think it will help your Reich.”
Edith gave her a stern look, but she ignored her.
“However,” she continued, “I believe we have put in enough work today and I have other duties I must attend to. I’m sorry, Conrad. Maybe we can work some more this evening.”
Mary arose and took her projector that contained our designs.
“I understand.” I said flatly and rose to my feet. “I do intend to keep working well into the night.”
Mary smiled and left the hangar while Edith and I made our way back to our room. She said nothing to me during our walk nor after we had returned to our quarters. It was obvious that she was upset with me, but the engineer did not understand why. He felt no guilt for anything he had said. Such is his heart, not that of a man but of a machine.
Despite my long conversation with Mary, my mind was still at work, and I decided to experiment with several formulas that could be used to improve our vessel’s efficiency. Eventually, I fell asleep as my mind was accustomed to solving formulas just before resting. I awoke to find that it was late in the evening. Edith was gone. I assumed she was with her friends or perhaps practicing somewhere else as to refrain from disturbing me. I decided to return to hangar eight in order to continue working, even if Mary was not there.
I began my long walk down the corridor, occupying my mind by reviewing the formulas I had calculated. I was suddenly pulled from my world of figures when I heard Edith’s voice from around a corner. I leaned back against the wall and listened intently.
“I don’t believe this, Mary!” My sister whispered harshly. “You can’t give up now!”
There was a long paused before Mary spoke meekly, “I’m not giving up on Conrad, Edith.” She sighed. “I still want to help your brother, but I can’t save him. The only person he loves is you. You’re the only one who can get through to him.”
“Me?” Edith sounded quite flustered. “You’re sounding crazier by the minute, Mary! You hardly know my brother! Please, just give him time.”
“And how am I supposed to get to know him when he does not even know his own self?” Mary yelled with sudden vehemence. “I asked him about the war and he remembered nothing. He has no emotions at all.” Her voice was wet with tears. “What am I supposed to do?”
Edith sighed deeply and I felt a sudden tremor run through the wall as she struck it. I then heard that dreadful sound, the only thing that could ever make the engineer experience true sorrow: Edith’s weeping. I couldn’t remember a time Edith had ever shed a tear in my presence, save the day I left to fight in the war. She had always hated to cry before me, but now that she was unaware of my presence, she did not hold back. To hear her pitiful whimpering and to know that it was my actions that had caused such a tragedy, the grief would have been unbearable if I could have felt it. No, the engineer felt more confused than ashamed to hear my sister’s lamentations.
“I cannot do anything for Conrad! How am I to help him when I act as though he is still my brother? You didn’t know him before the war, Mary! To you, he is his own person, but to me, it is as though my brother is dead!” Edith cried in between her sobs.
I gasped, but quickly covered my mouth. The engineer could not fathom what he had just heard. My sister did not recognize him as her brother. Why? How had the war changed him so drastically?
“Calm down, Edith.” Mary whispered tenderly. “He’s still your brother. People change; you can’t help that. Neither of us can choose your brother’s path for him, but whatever path he does choose, you can walk alongside him to the end.” She laughed pleasantly. “I am quite thankful that your brother chose the path he did, for if he had done otherwise, we would have never met.”
There was a long silence before Edith spoke again, this time, with a steady voice.
“Thank you, Mary.” She sighed. “Those are wise words. I would never forsake my brother, but unless I can walk alongside him as you said, he will forever remain trapped as he is. Ironically, if I am to do that, I must first become content with the man he is now. Once I am, I will have no desire for my old brother. Perhaps that is all he needs—to know that he will always be my brother, regardless of what he becomes . . . But that is impossible.” Her voice grew dark. “How am I to be content with what my brother has become when he is not content with it himself? No, I must find a way to truly free my brother. I owe him my life, Mary. If it weren’t for Conrad, I would not be standing before you. I will do whatever it takes to save him, even give this life that he has fought and sacrificed so much to protect.”
I was about to reveal myself and tell Edith what a foolish thing that was to say, when Mary spoke, saying it with much more eloquence than I could have ever produced with my feeble tongue.
“Those are rash words, Edith. I think that Conrad would ask nothing of you, save that you stay by his side. He would never want you to give your life for him. I’m certain he would much rather stay the way he is than lose you.” I smiled, for she was right. ” “Your brother loves you, Edith, more than he could ever love me or even his Reich.” She paused. “In fact, he told me that all he wanted was to be able to enjoy your music. I think he may be more content than you realize.” Mary said warily.
Edith sighed. “He would be able to enjoy my music if he hadn’t changed.” Her tone became grim. “Though, if that is what he asks, then I will not fail to make it so. I swear that before Death claims either of us, Conrad shall enjoy my music.”
“Oaths are not taking lightly in the Matriarchy, Edith. Know that your fate has been decided. Again, I do not think that your brother would want you to do something so reckless.” Mary said, becoming frustrated. “He wants to give you the gift of being able to enjoy your music. He would never want you to harm yourself in order to please him.” Mary said sternly.
“Yes, but I am selfish Mary. I would rather die to free my brother than live to see him as he is now. I have taken my oath and will see it fulfilled. If it be by my death, then so be it.” Edith said flatly. “I’ll do whatever it takes to save him.”
I then heard heavy footfalls approach the corner where I was hiding. It had to be Edith. I thought of simply walking out in front of her and pretending that I had only just arrived, but I knew Edith would see through my ruse. I steeled myself and decided to face her honorably.
She emerged from the corridor. I gasped when her form became clear, for the moonlight from a nearby window shone on her face, revealing her countenance in all its depravity! Her eyes burned with a grim defiance that I had not known in even the most ardent of revolutionaries. Her scowl was that of a man who was willing to fight God Himself. Her stance was that of one who stood before the gates of Hell, not in fear, but in wrath, wishing to assail its walls and reduce it to ash. To my relief, this ghastly horror did not approach me, but instead, turned and walked off in the opposite direction. She walked as one with a great doom over them, tall and stalwart, giving none to the mighty and ready to subjugate the powerless that stood against her. Darkness was her raiment, fear, her weapon, and death, her judgment. If Edith thought that I was gone then she was certainly lost as well. If her old brother had forgotten himself then my sister assuredly shared the same fate. I had become the Engineer and she had become the Insurrectionist. We were both chained by our own passions: Edith with her rebellion against God, her desire to create her own world that neither He nor the Deceiver could touch, and I with my figures. She was a separatist, longing to depart from the universe altogether, where she could live in her own world and control her own destiny. I was a nationalist wanting to go home to my workshop. It was at this moment when I thought that I might never see my home again, for I was the one person that Edith wished to take with her into this new world, a world where neither God’s laws nor my laws of science bound us, a world where we held no obligation to anyone but each other, a world where she could repay her debt and I could enjoy her music. No, Edith was no longer my sister but an insurrectionist, revolting against Heaven and Hell alike.
Once she had left, I felt a shadow pass over me. My paralysis of fear left me and my will was released from her unwavering grasp. I immediately looked around the corner to find that Mary was gone as well. I was now faced with a decision: Find Mary and have her explain the situation to me, or follow Edith and try to stop her. I knew that the Insurrectionist was far beyond my influence and my efforts would be wasted on her. Without a moment’s hesitation, I resolved myself to find Mary and hopefully discover the best course of action. The sooner Edith had her brother back, the sooner I had my sister back.