Thoughtful - Chapter 6
The Last Battle
Persephone was slow on the stairs behind Lady, who was fending off questions from her crew as she made her way back up the stairs. They were naturally curious about the girl, and so Lady did her best to give them enough information to put their minds to rest, while also encouraging them to give Persephone some space until she was more up for meeting everyone. Eventually they hit the fifth floor of the Anhinga. Lady waited for Persephone to catch up, and then turned left and headed along a narrow gantry. As she followed Lady, Persephone tried not to feel overwhelmed by her new environment. The artworks on the wall, the polished metal, the noise from the conversations burbling above the hum of the engine. Focusing on Lady she was relieved when she saw her step into an open door. Stepping into the room itself, Persephone noted the warm wood of the furniture and the endless shelves filled with books. It was obviously a common theme throughout this vessel and they were hoarding as much literature as they could. Persephone smiled. She had never seen anything like it, but it made her feel safe. These were obviously her type of people.
‘Please take a seat,’ offered Lady, pointing to a gorgeous set of purple velvet chairs that were centred around a small, dark wood table. ‘I’ll get you some water.’
‘Thanks,’ said Persephone, reaching for the glass.
‘Before I begin, let me ask you, how much do you know about the Last Battle? How did the war start?’
‘Oh I can’t remember that, it was before I was born and you know we’re not…’
‘Allowed to talk about it? Yes, I know, it’s all meant to be a big secret, taboo subject, but why do you think that is?’
‘Because we …. lost?’ offered Persephone.
‘That would be a logical answer, but no that’s not it.’
‘Well, the answer to that is similar to the reason why you’re not allowed to show any sign of intelligence in the Overworld, or to read non-standard books, or to look for anything outside of the prescribed convention. They don’t want you to ask questions, or to look to the stars in the sky for anything more than they’re being pretty. Potential is something to be crushed before it leads to anything more. This is how they keep the status quo. The carefully drawn class lines, the worker and the “educators”, medics and of course the ruling members of the Government Politick.’
‘We’re not supposed to talk about it,’ Persephone repeated quietly.
‘I know this makes you uncomfortable but you’ve been brainwashed since birth to follow a certain way of thinking, you’re bound to feel awkward now that you’re mind is being confronted with another point of view.
‘When do you think the war ended?’
‘Hmmmm,’ Persephone thought for a moment, trying to think back to what she thought she remembered being taught at school, but there was only a blank space where such obvious knowledge should have been.
‘Exactly, you’re trying to recall something you think they taught you at school, but they’ve only planted the idea that you were told this information, but because it’s so boring, you feel you must have forgotten it right? The truth is the story behind the war is actually quite interesting, they just never revealed to you the facts because then you would…’
‘Ask questions,’ Persephone sighed. She was saddened to learn that she had been manipulated so easily, especially when she knew she was on the Clever side of the population scale.
‘Look, it’s not your fault, or your friends, classmates, even your parents, it’s just the way the system has been set up, to consolidate power above and limit the individual below. This has happened hundreds of time, across many cultures, it’s not a new concept, just slightly perfected. The war provided an opportunity to begin again from scratch, and new technology allowed the Government Politick influence to be spread quickly. If I told you the Last Battle ended less than 10 years ago, would you believe me?’
Persephone looked up at Lady in shock. The blood draining from her face. That would mean she had still been alive when it had taken place, but she remembered nothing about it.
‘That’s right, we were all part of it, and we’re the survivors.’
‘But … then where is the damage? The bombed out buildings, the destruction… surly we’d see it.’
‘You can re-build a city surprisingly fast if you put your mind to it, you have the right tools and the right amount of slave labour,’ Lady explained, ‘I think it took about 3 years before most of the remanence of the war was covered up, there are still hints of it though, the library beneath the new Commonpark is a good example…’
‘I’ve been there!’ Persephone interrupted excitedly, ‘that’s where I got the books from that I got….’ she trailed off sadly. That discovery had been at a high price.
‘At the end of the war, after we had surprisingly won, The Government Politick (often called the GP) harnessed the power of the wretched souls who had lost everything, and enslaving them forced them to rebuild the city. They were smart about it though, they made us all believe we were doing it for the good of the remaining human population. I lost my own parents to the rise of Londinium. They were considered expendable and they were working them to death. For their new rule to work, they needed to keep human numbers to a specific minimum. Resources like food and drinking water were scare. Thougtfuls, like myself, eventually realised what was happening and we began “disappearing”. Originally we ran away and hid in the Barrens, it was tough but we did OK. We found out there was much that the GP was lying to us about, including the fact that they were using banned Mellion tech to build their cities, and make their own lives easier.’
‘What is Mellion tech?’
‘A better questions would be who are the Mellions,’ prompted Lady.
‘OK, who are they?’
‘Mellions are a strange people, not from this planet, aliens They originally came from an Earth-like planet in the Galaxy 42z/64vunm, but that Galaxy has disappeared … it no longer exists, but so far we haven’t been able to figure out why, all that we know of the Mellions has come from what we have been able to decipher from the tech that we salvage from their ships, their weapons, and their bases. They were the ones who brought the Last Battle to us, they started the war, they wanted this planet for themselves because theirs was gone, and we were simply standing in their way. They didn’t even try to make contact with us, they came to destroy us and with weaponry and power we had never encountered before. Whole cities and towns were levelled, forests destroyed, water dried up or polluted.
At first we fought them with everything we had, but we were losing the fight badly. It was pathetic. The tide only turned when we were able to get hold of the Mellion’s own weaponry. Once we could use it, we turned it on them. There was also some sort of biological element involved, diseases their bodies could not hope to fight, plague and viruses we were long since accustomed to, we threw everything we had at them. Eventually we began to overcome them, but it was at such an enormous cost. Our planet was pock-marked by our violent encounters. There was very little that survived, and some places were reduced to nothing more than miasma and slime. Only a few habitable areas remained in the Overworld, and so the human race came together to work to make those places good places to live. Londinium is one of the surviving cities, Detroix is another. In all there are 13 habitable Overworld areas. Under the guidance of the GP we rebuilt where we could and finally it felt as though the human species had once again settled down. We continued on our previous path, believe it or not, and in those early days, education and knowledge were still prized, and not demonised as they are now. Then the GP decided that we could not go on the way we had before, and that certain groups should be isolated from others, or removed completely from the gene pool. The only reason for this was to create fear and control our remainders.’
‘Well, they said that we shouldn’t try to …. We shouldn’t hope for change… because that it will stir up hostility, between the … I mean the …. and the…. so we aren’t meant to say …. There is just the Law,’ Persephone tried to exaplain. For a moment she really thought she had understood, but she now she only looked confused.
‘See, any thought of doing anything differently than what is prescribed has been wiped from your mind, all that is left is obeisance and acceptance. But don’t feel bad, this was done to everyone left, anyone who didn’t escape to the Barren’s with us. We only know because they never got to us,’ Lady paused for a moment to get up and make herself a drink. Taking a sip of the rare whiskey, she continued.
‘Aside from deciding to simply white-wash this part of our history, they wanted to prevent it from happening again. The GP are essentially comprised of people who were once businessmen and career politicians, they care about money and power, and while terrestrial wars are good for business, fighting alien invaders just isn’t. No one profited from that war. For them the best solution was to ensure the Earth remained isolated, so to start with they looked for a scapegoat, and NASA was it. Well anything to do with space and science really. The GP banned all space research, even though the NASA scientists rightly pointed out that whether they did anything or not it really didn’t matter because every radio transmission and TV signal was making its way out into our Galaxy and beyond anyway. The GP didn’t want to hear it. They pinned the blame on Voyager, and that gold record filled with information about our planet and species. It was an invitation to invade us they railed and wrung their hands. But that was just the beginning. The GP decided we could live with the advances we’d already made and put a stop to scientific research on all levels. It was a dark day when we heard about that so called “presidential” decree, but the worst part about it was that they lied! They didn’t stop it, they just moved their “business” underground.’
‘But what do you mean they lied?’
‘Currently the Overworld is living in a weird kind of dystopian version of what we believe might be what was once called the Victorian era. You have access to certain kinds of luxuries and technology, but it’s all backwards when compared to how human kind was living before the Last Battle, we’re all in the dark. I mean just look at the Anhinga right? Compared to what you had up there this is positively futuristic, but it’s still nowhere near as advanced as what the GP experience in private. They have every luxury the human race could hope for, medical enhancements that allow them to live longer, machines to do their every bidding, vision-ware that allows them to see beyond what humans naturally can, except what we work hard to shield from their prying eyes. Everything they possess is what they have banned the masses from accessing. Now let me ask you … where do you think these developments come from?’
‘Mellions?’ asked Persephone tentatively.
‘Ah ha, but you are closer than you think. Partly it is them, and the rest comes from Thoughtfuls like you. Imprisoned under the cities in vast laboratories, which are really no more than dungeons, Thoughtfulls along with a few remaining Mellions work side by side to enrich the lives of the ruling class, the GP. They do what no one else can, they research and invent, and create new amazing things, but all on pain of death and torture. They are slaves.’
‘But that is horrible! No it can’t be true, you’re making it up, surely no one would do that to them, to any of us?’
‘No one wants to believe their life has become a reflection, something that looks alright from the outside but underneath is rotten through and through, but it is true Persephone, all of it.’
‘Then why have none of you done anything about it? Tried to free them? Change our future?’ Persephone almost demanded, tears stinging her eyes as she felt helpless and alone.
‘It’s still early days, we have thought about it, but we are still trying to survive ourselves,’ Lady explained calmly, she had encountered this kind of indignation before, she knew how to handle it. ‘You have to learn to walk before you can run, besides we can’t just walk into a secret research facility and break everyone out. We’d all be dead before we could even say hello! No, something like that needs planning, and we’d need help, we couldn’t do it alone. We’d need allies on the Overworld, and here in the Underworld. The Anhinga, as amazing as she is, she’s only one vessel and there are hundreds of Thoughtfuls trapped up there.’
‘Hundreds,’ Persephone whispered, ‘but what about the other subs then? Didn’t you say there was more of you out there?’
‘Well here’s the thing, we don’t all see eye to eye down here …. in fact some of us are downright hostile, the will to endure translates many ways, it makes some of us benevolent,’ and here Lady smiled and bowed her head gently before continuing, ‘while it turns others into ruthless bastards who will do anything to survive, even if it means killing their own.’
‘So you’re being hunted by both the GP and the other subs?’ asked Persephone.
‘Yes I’m afraid, and many of the other Commanders and Masters are as merciless as they come, brutal fiends who would strip my ship of everything they could, including the crew, and they would leave her nothing but a floating shell, ah ha! But only if they could catch us, or defeat us, I am sure I mentioned that the Anhinga is one of the best subs in the Underworld, with the best people on board?’ Lady smiled reassuringly.
‘But you all protect the Arbour?’ asked Persephone, furrowing her brow.
‘Yes, by some miracle we can all agree on that, though there have been those who have … not abided by the rues shall we say … but it did not end well for them, The Arbour also has a caretaker.’
‘I thought no one was allowed to make landfall there?’
‘No one, yes, but the caretaker is a machine, programmed to protect the Arbour at all costs, it is formidable defender – so far it has had a perfect success rate.’
Lady took a deep breath and relaxed back into her chair, seemingly coming to the natural break in her narrative. She looked intently at the young girl in front of her. She looked sick and pale. She needed to go back to bed.
‘OK, well I think that is enough for today, it’s time you were getting back to bed, you need rest.’
‘No, no I’m fine, really, I just need a minute to think, please I have so many quest …’
Persephone didn’t get a chance to finish her sentence as her brain decided it was time for a quick holiday to the land of unconsciousness. She blacked out and slumped down in her chair. Lady sighed, and got to her feet before walking over to her desk and pressing the button for the internal commsline, placing a call down to the medical bay.
‘Charlie, it’s Lady, I’m in my study, can you bring me a med-bed please? The new one’s gone beddy-byes.’
‘I see you’ve told her then, I’ll be right up,’ came the crackly reply.
‘Yeah well, it’s a lot to take in, I wish there was an easier way … what’s up with the commsline?’ Lady asked, concern in her voice. Normally the commsline was crystal clear.
‘Not sure Commander, that’d be a better question for Strychley.’
‘OK, I’ll leave you to come pick up the girl then, Persephone is her name if she wakes up, she’ll probably sleep for a decent few hours now though.’
‘Received, over and out,’ came the static-laden reply as Lady clicked off the comms line and turning on her heel strode from the room.