“P’ahti, p’ahti,” Kalli called as she barreled over to her father who was laying on one of the plush beds with his hand over his eyes, apparently trying to take a nap. Kalli seized his other hand and tugged it. “Can we go outside today? Please? Please please please.”
Cyrus slid his hand from his face and glanced over at Addy. She grimaced and he sighed. “Sorry, issyen,” said Cyrus, reaching over to ruffle her hair. “Not yet.”
Kalli let out a groan and returned to building her fort, though not without kicking one of the pillows in frustration first.
Across the room, Cyrus apparently gave up on his hopes of napping and sat up on the bed. Tiredly, he scratched his messy hair and unshaven face and for just a moment, he caught Addy’s eye. She smiled, just lightly, but he had already looked away. As if being trapped in an attic wasn’t already tense enough, the couple’s relationship was quite decidedly ‘on the rocks.’ They hadn’t mentioned it or discussed it (there were far more important things to worry about right now), but the conflict in their stuffy prison was palpable. Addy almost worried about the day they could finally get out of here and be on their way as they’d have to face it head-on.
Just then, there was a small knock on the attic door before it carefully pressed open and the familiar face of Eriaas peered into the room. More than ever, the man had become a welcome presence, at least as far as Addy was concerned. A break from the monotony of their trapped existence. He brought a genuine smile to her face.
“Any news from below?” she asked, not expecting much of an answer. The lead agent said something interesting, one of the minion agents was rude, someone made some particularly good coffee, were the usual sorts of updates he had. But today, there was a different look in his eyes. Today, something was unusual.
“Actually yes,” he said, his voice hushed. No one below would be able to hear them from here, yet he continued to whisper as he went on, “I overheard something”
Addy exchanged a glance with Cyrus who sat up straighter. “Overheard what?”
“What they’re looking for,” said Eriaas, coming further into the room. He patted Kalli on the head as he passed her and her fort. The girl flinched away from his touch and Addy couldn’t help but notice Cyrus’ proud smirk. She returned her attention to Eriaas as he sat down in an armchair and leaned forward, lacing his fingers together.
“They’re usually quite good about keeping their discussions private,” he explained. “Never in the house, you know. But they slipped up. Or perhaps they’ve grown lax. Regardless, just this morning I was returning from my run and Parnassé and some of her people were meeting in the dining room. I hovered out of the way for a bit to see what I could garner from the conversation.”
Infuriatingly, Eriaas went quiet, instead looking between them excitedly until Cyrus demanded, “Well? And?”
Eriaas’ good spirits were unwavering. “And they foolishly told me everything I needed to know.”
Addy caught Cyrus’ glare of frustration. It was her turn apparently. “Which was?” she pressed, far more gently than her partner had been.
Eriaas glanced over his shoulder as though to check no one was listening, before he leaned in closer and whispered, “The Transmitter.” Addy got the feeling that it was meant to be significant to them. That she was supposed to have a mindblowing ‘aha’ moment. But all she could manage was a polite, if confused, smile.
“Ah, I forget, you two aren’t from here,” Eriaas went on, brushing off his disappointment. “It’s a bit of a local legend. See, our little moon? Was the first terraform following the Division War. As such, it was home to some of the greats of post-Colonization. Leaders and politicians and visionaries all made their way here to start the Ellegian cluster we know today. And, though we’re not proud of it now, they took most of Archeti’s Origin era artifacts with them. One of those artifacts, supposedly, according to legend, is the Transmitter.”
Still, this was ringing no bells to Addy nor, as far as she could tell from the blank look on his face, to Cyrus. Ancient history had never been either of their strong suits. “The Transmitter is said to have come from the Ark itself,” Eriaas went on. “No one is clear on what it does, though speculation runs amok. Some say it can simply transmit messages more efficiently over much more space than we can today. Others say it can contact the Origin. Some even say it can summon forth a new Ark to ferry our people onward to the next Span.” Eriaas lifted his shoulders in a shrug. “It could just be a broken old artifact, for all we know. But clearly the Society believes it’s worth something at least. That’s why they’re here. That’s what they’re looking for.”
Addy propped up her chin on her fist. It sounded like something the Society could spare a handful of agents for. Legends had to come from somewhere after all and even if the device was, as Eriaas said, a useless lump of metal, the risk could be worth the minor loss.
“So is it here somewhere?” Addy wanted to know.
“On the moon? Maybe,” Eriaas answered. “But here?” He pointed to the floor. “Definitely not. They’re on the wrong side. If the damn thing is anywhere, it’d be in the Consulate archives on the other side of the globe.”
“Then why would they think it’s here?” Cyrus asked.
Eriaas just rolled his eyes dramatically. “Some idiot claimed that my house was built atop the old Consulate in an attempt to tear the land from me. I settled the matter out of court, but the rumor stuck. To this day I still get tourists stopping by looking for a museum. It doesn’t help that the actual archives are buried beneath centuries of real estate developments and dirt. I only know where it stood because I paid a brigade of archaeologists to locate it for legal leverage.”
Across the room, Cyrus opened his mouth to speak, but it was Kalli’s voice that rang out next. “O’rian!” she shouted in glee, standing by the window and bouncing up and down on her feet.
Both Addy and Cyrus frowned at her, but it was Addy who said, “No, your uncle’s not coming, issyen.” The girl was probably just tired of no one paying attention to her.
“Why don’t you just tell them they’re in the wrong place?” Cyrus went on. “Tell them they’re on the wrong side of the moon and they’ll leave and we can go.”
“I could do that,” Eriaas agreed, but Addy shook her head sharply.
“And lead them straight to wherever this thing actually is?”
“O’rian!” Kalli shouted again, earning her a “Hush” from Cyrus.
“What if it really is something significant?” Addy continued. “What if it gives them something we wish they didn’t have? They’re not exactly known for using moral judgment when it comes to technology.”
“O’rian!” shouted Kalli once more.
“No offense, Adds, but I’m more concerned with my family getting out of here alive than the Society finding some legend that probably doesn’t exist,” Cyrus muttered.
“Whatever you two decide, it’s up to you,” put in Eriaas just as Kalli stomped her feet and said again, “O’rian!”
Cyrus let out a heavy groan and pushed himself to his feet to join his daughter at the window. “What is it, issyen?” he cooed, sounding a little impatient as he picked her up and bounced her affectionately in his arms. “What’s the matter?”
He was starting to turn away when Kalli put her little hands on his face and forced his eyes towards the window she’d been looking out of. “O’rian!” she said again, definitively and this time, Cyrus went still.
A rush of panic ran through Addy. Oh gods, he didn’t. It would be just like Fiearius to run in here and try to save them despite their explicit wishes otherwise. But please, gods. “Tell me he didn’t…” she breathed, rushing from her seat to the window herself.
But Cyrus said, “No. No…not that uncle.” And when Addy looked out onto the path below at the two figures walking towards the house, she understood what he meant. It wasn’t Fiearius. It was Finn. And the small shape beside him? It couldn’t be…