This is a continuation of a story begun in the post “Chapter 1. Part 1.” If you enjoy it, please like and share it with others!
CHAPTER 14: HUMAN SEE, HUMAN DO
After the argument over how to get into The Settlement, we packed up the camp as quickly as possible and headed off down the road toward the cliff’s edge. Thrump and Flye knew the most about The Settlement, and were giving me a crash course on how to fit in as we walked briskly down the road. Chak guessed it would take about two hours to get there on foot.
“It’s large enough that you can get lost in the crowd. I’d say there are about 1,500 people there now. They’ve been reproducing for many years,” said Thrump.
“The real problem you’re going to have is fitting in with the time. The first human was from eighteenth century England, so they speak English and they dress differently than you’re used to,” said Flye. She walked behind Chak and opened the flap of the backpack that was slung over his shoulder. She pulled out a tangle of little silver wires.
“I can help you with the translation part. This is something Brew and I had been tinkering with in the lab for a few years now. We were testing precognitive abilities with microchips and seeing how to tap into foresight. Remember how I told you everybody can see forward a little bit? Well we were working on some other way of controlling it, and using my foresight as the guinea pig, and this little gadget sort of came out as a byproduct.
“It straps inside your mouth to your jaw and this little flesh colored wire goes up through the nasal cavity into the little part of the brain that deals with foresight. To put it simply, it recognizes what you want to say, long before you ever start trying to say it, and then it sends electric pulses into your jaw to translate what you wanted to say into whatever language you want it to come out in. But because this all takes place precognitively, the translation is in real time. So basically this little gadget translates what you say while you say it.” I could tell Flye was alive with passion when she talked about inventing, although at the time I didn’t really understand a word of what she had said except the last sentence.
“So I wear that and it will make me speak English?” I asked.
“Yeah. I guess that’s one way to put it,” she said, obviously a little disappointed I hadn’t understood the ingenious invention. “Once you put it in, you won’t ever be able to take it out. I wear one all the time now actually.” She opened her mouth and tilted back so I could see a little silver wire stretched along her orange teeth. “I’ve never tested it on a human, but it should work. The Higher-ups told me to bring it along, so I have to think it was for this reason,” she said matter-of-factly. She handed the gadget to Thrump for him to put it on me, since she couldn’t get close due to the seed.
“As far as what to wear, if you take off your armor, your underclothes will fit in with their time period well,” Thrump said. “You won’t be able to carry a sword, but I think we have an extra pistol. You can carry that for some protection.”
“And what is a pistol?” I asked.
“Oh boy, that’s right. Well,” he paused and dug through the backpack just like Flye had and extracted two identical pistols. I know now that they were eighteenth century double barrel flintlock pistols, but back then I thought they were short, ornately carved, wood and metal clubs. Thrump held one up at arms length, aimed at Shishu’s head, winked at him, and pulled the trigger. A thunderclap erupted from the pistol, and Shishu’s cloaked head, in its intangible form, streaked slightly like smoke that’s caught a breeze. Shishu became solid again, shook his head back and forth, and continued walking.
“Another broad name for it is ‘gun.’ It launches these little metal balls called bullets, really, really fast in one direction and they go and tear something up when they land.”
“So it’s a really small but powerful bow and arrow for metal balls?” I asked.
“Yeah, that’s probably the best way to think of it for now,” said Thrump. “Just don’t point the end with the hole at anything unless you want to make a hole in it. Remember, the end with the hole, makes the hole.”
“Gotcha,” I said. “Anything else I need to know?”
“Remember, you’re just going to get information. You’re not trying to save Plink or Brew. Just discreetly find out where they are. We want to keep you as far out of harm’s way as possible. Right?” said Thrump, asking his question at the end more toward Chak than me.
“Right,” echoed Chak mindlessly as he marched on down the road.
We walked on and they gave me other tips and bits of information I would need for this undercover operation. I listened intently, learning as much as I could about The Settlement, but only truly understanding about half of what they said. Chak was right on with his two-hour estimate and the morning was officially upon us as we came in sight of the city. About half a mile from the front gate we left the road and traveled over to a section of the desert-like terrain that had huge rocks, which provided some shade. Thrump installed the translator in my mouth, which was quite painful for a second and then it felt like nothing was there at all. Chak was the one who gave me a final pep talk before I headed into the town.
“Don’t hurt yourself,” he said. We all could tell he was quite disheveled at the moment, so no one commented on the brevity of his speech.
I nodded and headed off toward the city with Dr. Lee resting on my shoulder. It was only when I reached the huge door separating the city from the outside that I realized Thrump and Flye had prepared me for everything I needed to do except actually getting into The Settlement. I looked around at the entryway on the road and there was nothing there to even suggest a course of action. I glanced at Dr. Lee who was peering up at the huge sand-colored wall. I could tell he was thinking the same thing I was. I was about to open my mouth when the door cracked open and I saw the town on the other side of the archway.
It crossed my mind again that all the cities had large walls and gates, and I wondered why that was momentarily, because they all seemed easily penetrable. The Syllogy had a blue goo that you could walk through without resistance, The City of Falling Water had a completely un-guarded cliff edge and waterfall by which to enter the city, making their guarded gate slightly useless, and now The Settlement just opened their gate for a complete stranger no questions asked. I was about to bring this up with Doctor Lee when I realized the gate hadn’t been opened for me.
I heard the sound of two horses beating their hooves on the dirt road behind me. I turned around and saw clouds of dust in the distance, and two horsemen riding toward the city, nearing me quickly. I darted in through the gate and glued myself to the wall to stay as far out of sight as possible. There were only two humans that I could see once inside the city and they were obviously waiting for the horsemen. They each held a rope with one end connected to a log for tying up horses just inside the gate.
Incredibly, they hadn’t seen me. I edged my way around the end of the door and behind it just as the two horsemen entered the archway. The two of them were talking and I heard them dismount and hand the reigns to the two men who had been waiting. The in-ear translator Chak had given me my first day in the Syllogy worked perfectly here as well, because I knew that they were speaking English, but I could understand it as if it were Greek.
“The well is coming along nicely. I just wish that the child had been more careful about where he was playing. He set back construction by about four days.”
“It’s not as if it matters anymore Charles. The boy is fine and you have plenty of help to get back on schedule. It’s a good thing Teleon was around to warn someone.”
“Frankly, I’m just glad Teleon didn’t worsen the situation,” I heard Charles say.
Their voices faded as they walked away, and I chanced a peek around the door to see which direction they were going. I saw their backs as they walked directly into the heart of The Settlement, away from the door. They both wore long over coats, and had shoulder length brown hair that protruded from under tricorne hats that matched their coats in color. I couldn’t see anything else about their appearance from the back but the other two men had left, so I snuck out from behind the door and followed them from a distance.
They walked further into the city and I started to see the signs of life. There were a few non-descript buildings no more than a story high on the outskirts of the city. As we went further in there were little shops and market stalls, and the buildings became more ornate and well made. Some reached three stories. We took a few turns here and there, and the final turn took us into a busy marketplace. This was obviously the commercial heart of the city. There were shops and stalls lining the large alley. The people crowding the area were dressed in a variety of styles.
It seemed that the more money one had, the slower they walked and the more layers of clothing they wore. The poorer in the bunch wore simpler clothes. I lost the two men in the hustle and bustle of the place and I realized that I was dressed more like the poor people, so I hunched my shoulders and frowned. Luckily, I hadn’t bathed in two days and I had just walked for two hours on a dirt road, so I fit the part well.
The crowd was so thick that I took the first opportunity available to escape to an outside edge where the crowd was thinner so I could assess the situation more clearly. I scanned the crowd for any reasonable opportunity to ask about Brew and Plink. None presented itself. I edged along the wall, keeping as far outside the crowd as I could and was confronted by a woman holding an ornately designed rug. She had bruises all over her arms, and by the state of her clothes and hair I could tell that she was a slave, and a poorly treated one at that. She was offering the rug to me and was halfway through pleading with me to purchase it when she stopped mid sentence.
Something changed in her face. Her eyes narrowed as she looked over my whole body and the interaction had just reached the point of awkward, when she startled me with her next word.
Want to keep reading? Go to the next section! >>> “Chapter 15.”