Bel must be the most intelligent of us at the institute; but if the subject is boys, she flunks real bad in that one.
TD in love with me? That is complete nonsense!
We hate each other since I was fifteen. Every time that brat keeps pestering me to get on my nerves.
There was not a single time that we meet that didn’t turn into a dangerous session of exchanging insults.
Present-day started the same way.
Yes, I can see us together in the future: holding each other, by our necks, in a tight grip to choke the other to death.
Belle is doing some kind of joke with me to get even?
That’s got to be it.
Or, she is trying, in her own innocent way, make me feel less sad by inventing this weird stuff.
Yet, that statement took me by surprise. I felt my legs bramble for a second.
Nah, forget it, Lauren, you can't have any feelings for that brat other than contempt.
But, I must admit he is not a piece to toss out, being tall dark-haired and handsome. If not for his annoying attitude he would be an interesting company. And if I think right, being honest with myself, TD has that forbidden appeal that I like in a guy.
Crank me! That is stupid. Damn you, Bel, now I feel weird.
I hope Belle didn’t notice the state of confusion that she put me in.
She is holding my hand in her lap.
I decide to cut off that crap talk before it sinks for real.
"Don't be a silly girl." I am starting to protest, but I realize an unwelcome warmth in my cheeks. I blushed when I heard her words.
That was unexpected.
There is no way to hide my face from her gaze. She is staring right in my eyes. Those blue eyes seem to be attempting to devour my soul. The witch...
“Stop it, Bel. Crank me if someone like Todd would have any interest in a problematic like me. What an absurd to think. And even if he did, I don’t have the slightest interest in that brat. You must have mixed some fairy dust in your Comet.”
“Yes, sweetie. Sorry to say that. I bet your face is reflecting the color red of the ambient then.” She knows that everything around us is tinted in a metallic silver-tone. She is almost laughing.
“Crank you! This is not going anywhere!! Ok, Bel as you said for everything there is a limit, you reached mine, please stop with this absurd!"
She sighs visibly frustrated, but she doesn’t let the discussion end like that.
“When you talk about Allan, everything is OK, right? It is like they used to say in old Earth days. We read about it in “Latino Cultures”. “Pepper is medicine when it is in the eye of someone else”, or something like that.”
“Pepper is soft in the eyes of another” at least that is how I think it was said
“So it was all a vengeance, Bellinda? Did you get mad at me for not sitting between you and your promised one? Bel I don’t want to fight you, and I am getting tired of this conversation. Let’s pretend for a moment that you are right, ok? What future a gang leader like TD would bring to us? It would be wreckage. Don’t you think I deserve someone a bit more stable? Besides that, we hate each other. He is always picking on me.”
“Well, who knows how love works in the hearts of man” she replies without thinking twice.
I hit her with my elbow. It is a harmless blow. My intent is not to hurt her, only to make her stop. I am not enjoying that conversation at all.
My display of aggression seems to catch the attention of some unwanted bystander. Now an anorexic woman in a white robe is approaching our bench. She knees close to us and starts talking. I recognize the blue cross tattooed on her bony forehead:
“Hello my lovelies, have you surrendered yourselves to the real maker of The Journey?”
What the wreck? A “Sailor of God”, everything that I needed to make this day better.
Besides my sarcasm, we act cool. Belle being the more polite of us both try to send the woman away in a gentler way than I would:
“Madam, we appreciate your gesture of goodwill. I don’t intend to be rude, but we are in the middle of something important here. And we don’t want to be interrupted right now.”
“Oh, you two are together!”
She gets up and looks down to us. A big fake smile appears below her skinny pointed nose. I bet she does that to everyone that she meets at the junction.
But she doesn’t stop talking:
“God bless your sacred union and make the journey to the promised land a safer one for you and your loved ones.” She gives us a small holo card with instructions and a few prayers. “Don’t forget to visit our church we bear no prejudice. Everyone is sacred in the eyes of the true Lord and Captain of the Seas in space. After all, our Lord gathered us from the dust to join him. Chosen ones in a holy journey for salvation” the woman fixes her grey eyes on Belle, that is looking angry at her. She notices and makes a measure before leaving.
Bel tries to protest and tell her that we are not a couple when she finishes preaching us, but the woman is already gone. She seems to have decided to convert a man holding a slim briefcase and carrying a kid in his arms a few feet away from us.
Belle sighs again and says:
“Those Sailors are everywhere. I have nothing against religion or religious people. Of course, I think they are wasting their time with something useless.” she changes her tone in the middle of her sentence.
“Did you see that huge church they built in the middle of the central dome? My brother said that it is almost the size of the EVO institute. I heard they intend to build one in every patch of the ship”
I shrug and answer not looking to her:
“Hah I would love to see they try to build one in patch C. I doubt the Columbus living there would agree with that.”
I am not angry with Bel. But, the holographic news in the middle of the station caught my attention. It is some sort of interview and a distinct man wearing formal attire is speaking to the host. He is sitting on a couch next to the reporter.
By the words that I heard, they have new information regarding the whereabouts of La Niña.
But what got my attention was the fact that my mother is sitting on another couch opposite the man. She is wearing a black and grey dress with a flat synthetic knee-long skirt. Her legs crossed and I notice that she is wearing her favorite black stilettos. She is very elegant. If not for the silver Columbus badge on her chest, we could mistake her for a famous businesswoman. She is listening carefully to what the man says with both of her hands resting in her lap.
The man is in some sort of crusade against La Niña...
“....we need to take care of our own crew. We, the citizens of the Immaculate need to care about ourselves. Remember what happened the last time our Vella trusted the other ones. Now the Niners appear from nowhere and ask for our help again? What about our own people? We are Imcers, a proud nation. Why would we change the course of our ship at the expense of our own resources to search for a doomed ship? We don’t even know if they are still alive.” the title below the man in the holo projection reads Simon Strand, Vella Reserve, C.E.O.
My mom gets up of her couch and her Columbus badge shines in her chest for a brief moment.
When her mouth opens she seems concerned.
Now the letters at the corner of the couch reads: Cecilia G. Ellis, Scientist, and Columbus Engineer.
She decides to speak not to the man and the host. She is using her time to address all the viewers:
“I more than anyone know what you mean Simon. You all know how much my family lost ten years ago. We are not here to celebrate anything but to remember and improve. In this exact same day, we and I mean all vellers, made a wrong turn towards the future. One that put a dirt spot in the heart of our society. Let’s be honest with ourselves. Can we look in the mirror every day if we put aside our own humanity? That is how we will be if we don't try to find out what is happening with our brothers and sisters."
“Lau, it is your mother!”, Belle seems to have noticed the projection, at last.
“I know, now shush”
I listen to my mom’s speech. She is very convincing.
I wonder if she is not running to another high position in Columbus. She seems like she is in a campaign.
“Can we forget that everyone inside the Immaculate has one or more relatives in the other vellas? It is very sad to see someone claiming that we are different. We can’t forget the blood we share. Think different is denying the existence of someone and exclude them off our own family. Let’s be rational. For more than one hundred years our ships are smooth sailing. Since our departure from Earth, the nuclear batteries are being charged. We have fuel to spare. But rest assured, there are no Niners, no Pinters, and certainly no Imcers. We are all Vellers and the fate of one is the fate of all. ”
I have to admit, my mother knows how to defend an opinion. But I am not so sure if it will be enough. The root of the hate proclaimed by this Simon guy lies deeper.
The real reason for the accident that killed my father is still unknown.
No one ever talks about the details of the incident: only about their consequences.
What we know is what was leaked to the public. No one survived a rescue attempt of a bunch of scientists and their experiment inside the main lab. Rumors spread all over the ship implied that the experiment carried on board of La Ninã was a forbidden one.
The biggest issue is that the blast took place inside the most important research labs onboard La Niña. The Founder’s Domme. The ancient scientific guild that built the Vellas in the Pacific Ocean hundreds of years ago. Before they got considered a bunch of political criminals, prosecuted and imprisoned by the Global Union.
Because of the involvement of the Domme in the accident, suspicions aroused everywhere. Some people claimed that the news and media about the accident were forged. Manipulated to protect some dirty secret of the Domme.
However, no one could prove anything against the Domme.
To public displease, the case was closed. Considered just an unfortunate accident with tragic consequences.
No one got the blame for the loss of twenty-three lives.
“This Simon guy, sounds like a Mutineer don’t you agree? Amazing how far lousy propaganda can reach” asks Belle when my mother stops talking.
“I don’t care much about politics Bel. Hey! Look my Squid is arriving at the junction. Belle, I need to go. I meet you and the guys later”
I kiss her forehead and head to the gate where a lot of passengers are converging with their luggage.
When I reach the ticket reader my smart lens gets online. There is a strange text message appearing in my virtual screen:
“Hello Dart, this is the Dartboard, what a wonderful coincidence that you are getting on board of this Squid. Hurry up and follow my instructions. The lives of everyone in the transport are depending on you! Act fast and sharp."
My reaction can't be different:
WHAT THE WRECK?!!!
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