Winds of Aerathiea

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Chapter 23; Rebekah's Discovery

Everyone was still lollygagging about the predicament they were in or talking about the crew that they had lost. The latter made Beka choke up for a second, but she composed herself and continued on down the hall. They were so preoccupied; no one would notice her. She found herself outside of an unmarked access way three floors up into the bowels of the ship. Since the electricity was out, she was counting on there not being any cameras around to record her. She quickly darted through the door and into the chamber beyond. Once past that door, the decor became decidedly more modern and industrial. The whole steampunk look was, after all, just a facade for the guests.

She pushed open an interior door and closed it silently behind her. She was now in the brains of the ship. Normally it would be sealed against any kind of intrusion with passcodes and keys, but she knew in an emergency, the system was designed to automatically unlock doors for safety reasons. The lights were dimmed in emergency mode. She knew they had been very low on power when they were pulled into the hole, but they had been on the other side for several hours in very bright sunlight so, the reserve batteries must have been charged by now. She looked around and quickly saw something very out of place. Where the power couplings came into the room was now a makeshift, intervening box with all the power running through it. What have we here? She thought to herself. Pulling a screwdriver out of her pack, she quickly removed the cover. You have got to be kidding me was the next thing that popped into her head. She quickly analyzed the circuits and made some adjustments.

Almost immediately, the lights in the computer room, that contained the metaphorical brain of Jules, came roaring back to life. She fired up a terminal screen, watched the neon colors as systems sprang back to life and changed from red to green as statuses started to do diagnostics. Troubling, some of the systems were taking longer than they should. She opened up another systems screen and looked at all the input/output statuses and info. It appeared everything was re-routed to the bridge. She quickly took care of that. She opened the source code.

Rebekah frowned when it asked for a password. Think… Think… Rebekah normally had an eidetic memory, but it had been three years since she had been looking over her dad’s shoulder. She brightened up and typed in Honorine and pressed the Enter key. The screen switched to routines and code. She quickly found what she was looking for and made the appropriate changes. When she hit Enter again, the lights returned to their former dull red glow. She put everything back where she found it and slipped out of the room unnoticed. It felt good to code again. She hadn’t had much of a chance to practice her computer skills since she had been on board. It was a good thing that she was even more of a computer prodigy than she was an engineer. She smiled smugly to herself and made her way aft past sickbay to their favorite map room.

She heard voices as she approached the room. It sounded like an adult was with them. She entered and found Marcus, Megan, Aaron, and Carol Weathers with them. Rebekah gave Carol a strange look. She wasn’t much older than they were and she had more often than not, co-conspired with them on many occasions though nothing like what Rebekah was getting ready to unveil to them. Everyone was looking at her. As she closed the door, a couple of people flipped on their flashlights, illuminating the room with an otherworldly glow. She felt the acid weighing in her gut as she prepared what she was going to say.

“Hey, Carol.” It was a start. Rebekah threw herself down on of the sofas in the room and pulled her pad out of her pack.

Aaron broke the silence first. “Do you mind telling us what this is about? We have a captain to find!” Rebekah was totally endeared to Captain Grumm ever since he first showed up at her and her dad’s door many years ago, but if there was anyone that loved him anymore, it would be Aaron.

Rebekah had never been more serious. “Please sit down, everyone. What I’m going to say is shocking and cannot leave this room. Do you understand me? It must not leave this room!” Tears began to run down Rebekah’s face and Carol rushed over to her side and sat down next to her. Carol gathered her up in her arms and hugged her as she began to tremble. With a faltering voice, she began to tell what she just discovered.

They all looked at her stunned. “Don’t you see? It has to be Kyton.”

“Let’s not jump to any conclusions, Beka,” said Marcus.

“How can we not? I swear to you what I saw.” Rebekah flipped the power onto her pad. “That makeshift power coupling was running right to the bridge. That means that someone killed the power from there, probably right when we needed it the most.” Rebekah was still shaking. It was one thing to lose all the people she really cared about, including her own father. It was something entirely different to think that it was a purposeful act.

“But how can we be sure it was Kyton?” Marcus really did look up to the man. Everyone had their loyalties, no matter how misguided or creepy.

“We cannot be one hundred percent certain, but I have some other things to show you too.” She pulled the book that she had found earlier out of her pack and laid it on the coffee table. She glanced at the screen on her pad.

“I found it in the captain’s quarters. His room is right down the hall from mine and his door was open when I walked by. I wanted to see if he needed any help.” Rebekah told them everything that had happened after Megan had left her earlier. She handed the book to Carol. The picture fell out again. Marcus picked it up and read:

Nicholas Grumm (left), Jonathan Waite (right), Neville _____, Aerathiea Expedition #2, Aug 1897

“Okay, so that Nicholas guy was Artie’s grandfather or something,” said Marcus.

“Great grandfather, I believe,” corrected Carol.

“Yes, I figured great grandfather,” responded Rebekah

“So, who are the other dudes?” asked Marcus

“That’s where it gets strange. That’s got to be Liam’s great, great grandfather or something,” blurted Rebekah.

“Maybe, but my gut is telling me there is a much deeper mystery,” replied Carol.

“What else is your gut telling you?” asked Megan.

“That somehow, Kyton engineered this and he knows a lot more than he is telling...”

“Okay, assuming you are right, what do we do now? How can we even get back to where we came from?” asked Aaron.

“I have no idea, but I bet if we found Artie, some things might become a lot clearer.” Rebekah glanced at her pad again. “Okay guys, Jules appears to be back online.” Let’s see what he knows.”

Rebekah looked at all the anticipating faces around her. She really knew how to work a crowd apparently. They were hanging on every word. “Well here goes nothing,” she said as she pushed the button.

“… cut power!” squawked a familiar, if not rattled voice from the speaker on Rebekah’s pad. “Oh, my…” “It’s dark…” “I’m floating…”

Marcus snorted, “Of course he’s floating, he’s an airship!”

Rebekah gave him a sour look. “Jules, can you hear me?” she continued. “Follow the sound of my voice.”

Marcus looked up “Seriously? Follow the sound of your voice?”

She replied back to Marcus, “Sounds strange, but yes. Remember, I know his programming. This ship seems like a physical space to him as much as it does to us and even though he can hear me, since all his other senses are still disconnected, it’s going to be very disorienting to him.” She turned back to the pad. “Jules, follow the sound of my voice!”

“Yes, I can hear you, Miss Peck. What happened? Why am I blind? Where is everyone? Where is the launch? I was trying to warn Zak!”

“One thing at a time, Jules. Warn Zak about what?”

“Power. We were almost out of power, but I was switching on more reserves. Did the launch make it?”

“We don’t know, Jules. What were you trying to warn Zak about?”

“Mister Davis rigged a manual override in the bridge. He led me to believe it was just to control the engines once we got them online. I never questioned. I should have questioned.”

“Jules, you are not making sense. What did Kyton do?”

“He cut all power exactly at the wrong time. I’m sure we had enough power to get the launch on board and with some tactful maneuvers, we could have pulled ourselves out, but he cut me off. I tried to warn Zak with the tiny bit of power that was left, but I don’t know if he ever got it.”

They all sat back stunned. Up until then, no one wanted to believe that their predicament had been engineered. Now, there was no question.

“Okay Jules, thank you.”

“Who is there with you, Miss Peck?” Jules asked. They all sounded off. Jules was audibly relieved. “Why can’t I see or hear anything else on the ship?”

The five of them took turns explaining everything that had happened so far.

“I didn’t want to risk turning on any sensors that someone downstairs might notice,” said Rebekah.

“Very wise of you Miss Peck. That is where you and your father depart. He is much more trusting of everyone.”

“Tell me about it!”

“Well, if you insist…”

“No, I meant that only as a euphemism… don’t actually do it.”

“Very well, Miss Peck. I am forwarding you a list of everything that can safely be turned back on without anyone noticing, at least for the time being. I like the ruse, making them think that I am still disconnected. I will play the part well. You know that my programming will not allow me to countermand either Artemis Grumm or the control key, but I’m betting that might have been the reason why the captain’s quarter’s was ransacked. No one has seen that key in a year. I think we can safely assume that Kyton Davis does not have it.”

“For now, we will assume that all control comes through this console and I will initiate with your control password of Honorine just to be safe. Ignore everything else.”

“That seems wise, Miss Peck.”

Rebekah opened another window and looked at the programming again. “Okay, I already routed command functions here. I also rewrote the status routines so that no one could see that the functions had been re-routed. Everything should look the same as it always did, just off or disconnected

“Beka, you’re a genius,” said the other kids.

Her fingers flew on the pad, typing furiously. “There you go Jules, have at it. You should have every camera and microphone functioning. I turned off any motion function or light so not to give you away. Also, only the ones that were directly powered through you are active. We don’t want them to detect a power drain once they figure out how to turn the power back on.”

“Good thinking. I see I also have bottom cameras and telescopes. “Oh, my… where are we?”

“We already told you. Now I want you do something for me. Cross reference the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and a book that the captain had in his possession.”

“You mean Lost Civilizations and the Fools Who Found Them… I’m completely with you Miss Peck. Artemis scanned that book into my memory when we first started this journey. Yes, I am gathering data and I surmise that it wasn’t a hoax or a boondoggle after all.”

“Why is that?”

“Because we are definitely floating inside the earth. In about fifteen minutes, I’ll be able to bring up a complete map and picture. Fascinating…”

“What is?”

“Forgive me, but you are either going to have to ignore me or be prepared for one shock or another, I’m afraid.”

“Why is that?”

“I just scanned creatures below us that appear to be directly from the Jurassic period or something similar. There is one herbivore below us that would measure thirty meters from nose to tail.”

“Very interesting, Jules, but we already know about the dinosaurs.”

“Oh, very well,” Jules said it like the air was being let out of his balloon.

“Well did you know about the people down there hunting it?”

“No. That… we didn’t know. However, we are going to be missed if we don’t get back out topside. We have to arrange a signal.”

“Do any of you have a commlink?” asked Jules of everyone in the room.

Marcus obliged. Since he was on many of the teams, he needed to be in contact.

“Please give it to Miss Peck.”

“Hey, I was entrusted with that,” complained Marcus.

Jules responded, “And now Miss Peck is.”

Megan snorted, “Dufus, its simple, get a new one. Tell them you lost it when we came through the storm.”

“Yeah, I guess.” Marcus grudgingly handed over the tiny earbud.

“Rebekah, please tell me the serial number.” Rebekah squinted at the tiny print under the flashlight and she knew she had it right when it buzzed in her hand. She almost dropped it. “We can use this to communicate. Two ways. Keep it in your pocket and I’ll buzz you if anything important comes up. If I can see you or hear you, I’ll know if you can talk or not. Get to a place where you can. If I see you put it in your ear, I’ll assume you can, and need to talk. I would suggest you all get commlinks if you can, I can network them all together so you can communicate with each other too.”

“Sounds like a plan,” said Megan.

“Two more things Miss Peck.”

“What’s that?”

“The launch… It’s about three hundred kilometers away and heading this way!”

The team let out a visible exclamation of relief.

“Can you make any contact with them?”

“Not by traditional means, I’m afraid. The bridge will notice any radio transmission. We’ll have to think of something else.”

“How long before they reach us?” Marcus asked.

“At the rate they are going, about four hours,” replied Jules.

Rebekah interjected, “Good, that gives us time to wave them away.”

“Wave them away? They could have casualties” questioned Megan.

Aaron jumped in, “Yeah, I see where this is going. Do you honestly think, knowing what we know, that Kyton will willingly let them back on board?”

Marcus said, “You have a point there, Aaron… a good point. So what do we do?”

Megan added, “I have an idea, Jules. What was the other thing you wanted to tell us?”

“I think I found the captain. I can’t be completely sure, but circumstantially, I assume it is.”

Rebekah asked, “Can you show us?”

The screen changed to a camera shot from another cabin. It was a two room suite and the camera was obviously in the main room and pointing into the bedroom. There lay someone in a bed with a bandaged head and an IV drip.

“I assume that Kyton arranged this so he could see the captain’s progress once the power was restored.”

“That bastard.” Carol was almost in tears.

“Remember Carol, we can’t let on what we know. We have to stick together and we can’t attract any attention.”

“Right… I know… It’s just so hard to see him lying there.” She looked back at the screen. “Oh my god, are those restraints?”

They all stood stunned, looking at the live feed over Rebekah’s shoulder. Captain Grumm was strapped down. He was sleeping now, but there were obvious signs that he had struggled with his restraints at some time.

Rebekah snapped out of it first. “Okay, well the first order of business, we have to warn away the launch. Marcus, come with me to the hangar and we will take care of that. Everyone else, try to get commlinks and get yourselves connected. We will have to assume the captain is alright for the moment. Megan, you and Aaron go find the captain when you get earbuds.” Jules supplied them with the cabin number of the camera. “Everyone, make yourself conspicuous in public spaces so that no one wonders where we are or what we are up to.” Rebekah stood up and switched her pad off.

“Wait, what do I do?” asked Carol, sensing her undercover skills might suddenly become more valuable.

Rebekah replied, “Oh, yeah. We are going to need allies, Carol, feel out Doctor Weaver. See if she can be trusted and let’s get her on board if we can. Just don’t be conspicuous about it.”

“Conspicuous? Why would I be any more conspicuous than you?”

“Because you are an adult?” replied Rebekah. “Okay Jules, it’s show time. We’ll go up and mingle and then head for the launch bay in about fifteen minutes. Make sure you don’t talk to us if there is anyone else around. It might be too obvious.”

Jules chimed in. “This is for everyone except Marcus; Your hair will cover the earbud if you just want to leave it in. I do miss the company.”

“We’ll see how it goes, Jules. Everyone get the earbuds first; we will rendezvous at the beta site in two hours. Also, let’s not all leave together.” With that, Rebekah opened the door and peeked out the door way. Seeing the coast was clear, she slipped through and headed up the hall.

The plan was a simple one. The radio transmitter and power supply on board the drones were totally autonomous. Since they normally flew the drones via pad and the pads could function disconnected from Jules, no one would be the wiser, if say, Marcus were to take one out and fly it under the excuse they were just scouting the alien countryside. Once they were far enough away from Empress, they would fly it over to the Becky Thatcher and try to make contact.

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